June 10, 2006 § Leave a Comment
There are three things that I notice right away when reading this psalm:
- The most obvious is the pain one feels when a “friend” betrays you,
- David wasn’t as brave as people have come to believe, and
- A day is described as such: “evening, morning, noon.”
I don’t want to beat the first point to death. If we all haven’t been there, we will at some point – it’s guaranteed. When we go through such a time, it’s nice to know others went through it as well, that we can turn to this psalm for some support, and that God will never betray us.
Take a look at some of the language David uses to describe his state, and wonder, is this the great leader of Israel?
- “I shudder at the enemy’s shouts, at the outcry of the wicked…”
- “My heart writhes within me, the terrors of death come upon me, fear and trembling overwhelm me, and shuddering grips me.”
- “How far I would escape, and make a nest in the desert!”
It’s with some surprise that I read those verses. Hey, all that happened is that he got slandered! There are a lot of things that are a lot scarier, right? If he reacts like this to slander, how will he react when enemy troops surround Jerusalem? He’s the king, he should show some backbone.
Please don’t misunderstand me. I’m not trying to slander David’s memory. The point I’m trying to make, is that he was able to be the great leader he was through God. We can see for ourselves that he wasn’t very brave, or at least in this particular instance, he wasn’t all there. But the one right thing he kept doing is trusting upon God. Take a look at this: “Unload your burden onto Yahweh and He will sustain you; never will he allow the upright to stumble.” (verse 22) He’s got his priorities straight, and this gives us hope. There are plenty of us, myself included, who aren’t brave or courageous, either consistently, or at certain times when the chips are down. But if we trust in God, we, like David, can get through the tough times, and things will be alright.
Now, take a look at verses 16 and 17, which I quoted at the beginning: “For my part, I appeal to God, and Yahweh saves me; evening, morning, noon, I complain and I groan.” The NJB has a footnote for verse 17, and it’s this: “The hours of prayer, Dn 6:11.” Evening, morning and noon were the times when the Israelites would pray to God. What does this have to do with us? Well, how do we describe the day? We say morning, noon and evening. David says evening, morning and noon. He does it because that was the normal progression of a day back then. The day started when the sun went down and the previous day ended. There was night, then the day, including morning and noon. When evening came, the next day began.
This same succession is found in Genesis: “God said, ‘Let there be light,’ and there was light. God saw that light was good, and God divided light from darkness. God called light ‘day’, and darkness He called ‘night’. Evening came and morning came: the first day…” This is found in verses 5, 8, 13, 19, 23 and 31 of the first chapter of Genesis, and these verses bring us to verses 1-3 of the second chapter of Genesis: “Thus heaven and earth were completed with all their array. On the seventh day God had completed the work He had been doing. God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on that day He rested after all His work of creating.”
We are to discover two things from these descriptions of the succession of a day. The first is that the day rightfully begins when the sun goes down, not at midnight. That’s a concocted idea and took seed when people wanted to find a clean division between each day, one that occurred at precisely the same, all the time. It may be good for time-keeping, but it’s not Biblically correct. The second is that the proper day of rest is on the seventh day – the Sabbath, or Saturday. God established this at the beginning of the world, and His people have followed this desire of His throughout time. Adam, Noah, Abraham, Israel, David and Jesus Christ followed it. Even the early Christians followed it, until very misguided people decided to change it, against God’s will.
We would do well to follow God’s will, not people’s whims, and we’d be much better off if we’d trust in Him completely, as David did, at countless times in his life.
May 12, 2006 § Leave a Comment
At first sight, this psalm sings the praises of Mount Zion and the old, powerful Jerusalem, in particular of God’s protection and blessing upon the city. And I don’t think it’s a mistake to interpret it that way.
Yet there is another way in which one could look at this psalm. Like in Psalm 46, there are certain clues which point to it as a prophetic description of the new Jerusalem described in Revelation, God’s city, which will descend from heaven to crown the newly re-made earth. Let’s look at them:
- “… in the city of our God, the holy mountain, towering in beauty, the joy of the whole world… the settlement of the great king; God Himself among its palaces…” (verses 1-2)
- “What we had heard we saw for ourselves in the city of our God, in the city of Yahweh Sabaoth, which God has established for ever.” (verse 8)
- “Both your name and your praise, God, are over the whole wide world…” (verse 9)
- “Go round Zion, walk right through her, count her bastions, admire her walls, examine her palaces, to tell future generations that such is God; our God for ever and ever, He is our guide!” (verses 12-14)
Now let’s look at Revelation and compare, verse by verse:
- “I saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride dressed for her husband… In the spirit he carried me to the top of a very high mountain, and showed me Jerusalem, the holy city, coming down out of heaven from God.” (Revelation 21:2, 10)
- This is a promise yet to be fulfilled, but this prophecy mentioned in verse 8 of Psalm 48 is detailed clearly in chapters 21 and 22 of Revelation, where the new Jerusalem is described. I encourage you to read both. When we, those who hope to be saved, will see it, we’ll be able to say that “what we have heard we saw for ourselves in the city of our God…”
- “Look, here God lives among human beings. He will make His home among them; they will be His people, and He will be their God, God-with-them… The world of the past has gone… ‘Look, I am making the whole of creation new… I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End.” (Revelation 21:4-6)
- “It had all the glory of God and glittered like some precious jewel of crystal-clear diamond. Its wall was of a great height and had twelve gates; at each of the welve gates there was an angel, and over the gates were written the names of the twelve tribes of Israel… The curse of destruction will be abolished. The throne of God and of the Lamb will be in the city; His servants will worship Him, the will see Him face to face, and His name will be written on their foreheads… They will reign for ever and ever.” (Revelation 21:11-13, 22:3-5) Again, I recommend you read these entire chapters to see the full descriptions.
As you can see, it’s not a stretch to think of Psalm 48 as a prophetic psalm, describing the New Jerusalem. The parallels are quite strong, and I’m sure if I looked, I’d find them in the book of Daniel as well.
April 24, 2006 § Leave a Comment
I like how the contrast between the evildoers and God is set up in this psalm. In the first section (verses 1-4), they are introduced, and from the looks of things, they’re a handful. Yet in verse 5, God comes into the picture, and they simply fade away – poof! and they’re gone. Try and find a mention of them in verses 5-10.
The evil aren’t set up as the antithesis of God, and in that sense, it’s a true portrayal. That’s what I like. When one reads the psalm, God’s goodness and “faithful love” is so big, it obliterates any trace of them. We, the faithful, can take comfort and refuge “in the shadow of Your wings,” David writes. God becomes our life support system. It is in Him that we can find protection and life.
Can there even be an antithesis to God? Don’t fall for the obvious answer. Think about it, and I think you’ll reach the same conclusion as I do. Everything and everyone else in the universe is God’s creation. Just like there is no peer to God, there can be no enemy as big as Him.
I think this realization is very helpful when we are faced with problems caused by evildoers or otherwise. If it’s people who are causing us grief, we would do well to remember that they’re just people, no matter how highly placed or how influential they are. They’re still just people. And if we have a hunch we’re dealing with more than people, it still doesn’t matter. We have God on our side. He trumps everything and everybody. If He’s with us, who can be against us?
April 2, 2006 § Leave a Comment
“My birthright, my cup is Yahweh,” David writes in verse 5. It is interesting how he regards his relationship with God. He sees it as his inheritance. Leaving aside Levitical implications, it is worth it to think how we have a sinful nature by birth – since we are born in sin – and how we also inherit a relationship with God at birth. It is our right for the taking. Never let anyone say they didn’t inherit anything! Along with the poison, we get the antidote!
The promise made in Psalm 15:5 is reiterated here in verse 8: “I keep Yahweh before me always, for with him at my right hand, nothing can shake me.” But isn’t this the hardest thing? When I fall, I am ashamed to go back to God. If I’ve just let Him down when I knew better, how dare I show my face to Him again? But there’s the catch! I must, we must, if we’re to gain forgiveness and salvation! The old adage is, when you fall off the horse, you get right back on again. It’s the same in our lives. No matter how many times we fall, if we go right back to God, He will receive us. The important thing is to go back, no matter how horrible we feel, and to ask for forgiveness. Take it back to the promise made in verses 4 and 5 of this psalm! If God is our birthright, it’s our right to appeal to Him for mercy and forgiveness when we fall. Furthermore, it’s our duty! What is said of a king who abdicates? That he forgets his duties! When one is born to be a king and doesn’t do the job, it’s sad indeed. When we’re born with the right to be with God, and we don’t take advantage of it, how much sadder it really is!
If we do take advantage of our birthright, then we can reap the benefits outlined in verses 9 through 11: “So my heart rejoices, my soul delights, my body too will rest secure, for you will not abandon me to Sheol, you cannot allow your faithful servant to see the abyss. You will teach me the path of life, unbounded joy in your presence, at your right hand delight for ever.”
March 24, 2006 § Leave a Comment
This psalm reaffirms the power to be found in praising God. I love the promise made in verse 2: “Whoever keeps singing of your majesty higher than the heavens, even through the mouths of children, or of babes in arms, you make him a fortress, firm against your foes, to subdue the enemy and the rebel.” Who wouldn’t like to be strengthened, made into a fortress, against His enemies, even if it takes doing it through the mouths of children, or babes? I know I would!
Another well know passage is contained in this psalm: “Yet you have made him little less than a god…” The KJV says, “a little lower than the angels.” How wondrously we were created, and yet how little value we place on ourselves… We readily engage in behaviors that make God and the angels shudder and turn away. We debase ourselves to the utmost, and imitate the animals. Indeed, most of us even believe we evolved from the animals… They equate analogy with genealogy, and insult God by excluding Him from the picture. It’s ideas like these that discourage people, and give them an excuse to behave the way they do these days. We would do well to remember our divine Creator, and to remember that the same fingers that shapes the heavens also shaped us. We owe Him thanks and gratitude!
March 18, 2006 § Leave a Comment
How futile are all of the efforts of people, put together! What this psalm makes clear is that no matter what we do, God’s will prevails in the end. Kings and princes may “plot together against Yahweh and His anointed,” yet God will “break them, shatter them like so many pots.” There is nothing we can do to change what God has already ordained will happen to this world, and has revealed to us through prophecy. God’s will is timeless and indestructible.
Now this doesn’t mean that we don’t have free will. This psalm proves it. Obviously, people are free to choose their way, and really, there are only two ways. You can go against God, and end up “shattered”, or you can go with God, and end up “blessed”. It’s a simple, binary choice. You are either with God (1) or you are not with God (0), in which case, you end up with the chaff I mentioned in yesterday’s blog entry.
Rightfully so, this psalm enjoins us to “come to [our] senses” and to “learn [our] lesson”. Yes, the language sounds intimidating, but it’s meant to be that way in order to help us realize the gravity of the situation. We may think nothing of God now, when we can enjoy ourselves, and lose our senses in all this world has to offer, but there will come a time of reckoning, when we will face God at the final judgment, and there our “way [will truly] come to nothing.” It’s not that God relishes punishment. But after letting this wicked world run its course, He’s going to have to stamp out evil once and for all, and establish a new earth, a perfect one, like the one before the devil tempted Eve in the Garden of Eden. Except this time, everyone on the new earth will have seen what the devil can do, has rejected evil ways, and won’t be tempted any more. Sin will no longer exist, and neither will the devil. Only those people who love God and His law can go there. And so He gives us a simple, binary choice: will you join Me, or end up destroyed? There can be no middle ground; there are only two possible choices. What will our choice be?
February 28, 2006 § Leave a Comment
I think Psalm 19 can be divided into two functional sections, for the purpose of discussing it. The first goes to verse 6. I’m going to write about it today.
David found the heavens to talk in no uncertain terms about their Creator. Nowadays, scientists find it hard to see God in nature and in the skies. Perhaps it’s a case of not seeing the forest for the trees. We’ve gotten so good at examining the minute processes and building blocks of everything, that we have a hard time stepping back and putting it all together. We see similarities between us and other animals, and instead of lauding God for being efficient and using common building blocks wherever possible, we think we evolved from some monkey or other such primitive thing. We look at the skies, see the movements of the stars, examine the composition of the gases and different elements that make them up, and try to guess how many billions of years they’ve been around, and how much longer they might be around, when our own lifetimes are so insignificant in duration. Shouldn’t we focus on gripping God’s promise of entering heaven and living forever? I think then we’d be better equipped to see how long the stars have really been around, and how much longer they’ll be around.
I’ve got the short answer for you, anyway: everything has been around and will be around as long as God wills it. David was able to see this, and was able to admire God’s handiwork, as manifested in the heavens and on the earth. Granted, he thought the sun moved around the earth, not the other way, but we can forgive him that, because he saw the bigger picture. He saw that God provided the sun, the stars and the moon, and placed the earth in its proper orbit for our benefit, that things might work as they do, and tell of Him by day and night.
June 8, 2002 § 6 Comments
Every time I sin, I am amazed that God has chosen to give us free will. I am one who does not believe in predestination. How can I? Every minute of my life, with every decision that I make, I get to choose whether I want to act based on God’s principles, or the principles of pleasure and sin. And these decisions are what make our destiny. In essence, we make our destiny. We decide whether we want to be on God’s side or on the other side.
The teenager who sleeps around and becomes pregnant wasn’t predestined for it. The drunkard who dies of cirrhosis wasn’t predestined for that. The preacher who sins with prostitutes and thus ruins a life’s work of bringing people to God wasn’t predestined for it either.
The king who kills one of his most faithful servants to hide the fact that he has slept with his wife and gotten her pregnant was not predestined for it. That king’s son, who after a life of glory on God’s side, decides to worship idols because his wives coax him into doing it wasn’t predestined for it either. Do you know whom I’m talking about here? They are David and Solomon.
If you strive against sin and ask for God’s help, the Lord will strive with you. But you have free will, which means you can always choose to sin. What you have to understand is that it all goes on in your mind. Your body has nothing to do with it. Your body does whatever your mind lets it do.
Let me tell you what the progression of thought is from righteous living to sin. It goes from “This temptation doesn’t even exist for me, God has changed me so much that I don’t even want to think about it” to “What is this thought doing in mind, it has no place there!” to “My God, please clear my mind of these evil thoughts” to “I have to resist this temptation” to “I’d like to yield to this temptation but I shouldn’t because the Bible says it’s wrong”, and finally to “I cannot possibly resist this temptation, it’s too strong for me”.
The moment when you switch your thoughts from the Lord to yourself, the Lord stops striving with you and you are left to face the sin alone. Then it’s only a matter of time before you commit that sin. Let me make that clearer. The moment you say “I have to resist this temptation”, you are already lost. You have just stopped relying on God and are now relying on yourself. This happens out of reflex, and it’s hard to spot. That’s why I made such a case about watching your thoughts in one of my previous articles entitled “Never Let Go“. Look where relying on yourself has gotten you if you compare your life with God’s mirror, the Ten Commandments, or with the life of Christ. Your life and my life are truly “dirty rags”, as the Bible says. Look where Adam and Eve got by relying on their own powers of reasoning when it came time to resist temptation.
Remember that you are dealing with very smart and superior beings. You are dealing with fallen angels who have been studying you since the moment you were born. They know you better than you will ever know yourself. They have through repeated temptations built inside you chords of sin that they know how to resonate whenever they want. And when these chords resonate, you will not be able to resist temptation UNLESS your focus is away from yourself and pointed to God. It is only by relying on God’s power and mercy that you can overcome sin. It is only by continually thinking on Him and reading His word that you can keep your mind on Him. And when your mind is on Him, your body will also obey.
The key decision, the ONLY decision that you and I have to make is to choose God over temporal inducements such as pleasure, glory and other such things that will not profit you in the long run. Pleasure is by nature a short-lived experience, and you must always seek new pleasure or it soon gets old. Glory is likewise a hungry animal. You must continually feed it or it will end up eating you instead. Every morning, every night, and every time you think about a decision, say this in your mind, or out loud: “I choose God over this world. Lord, please guide my life now and forever.” See what happens over the course of days or weeks. You will be amazed with the results.
But you have to make that decision. God will not make you say it. God cannot make you say it. It is against His nature to force anyone to do anything. You have complete free will. The Lord certainly won’t force you to do good. There are those who believe that you can resist sin by obeying the law, like the Pharisees of old. You cannot gain victory over sin by blind obeisance of the law. You have to obey His law, but you have to truly love it. If you don’t you cannot truly obey it. True obeisance to the law comes from love of God that extends to love of His law. Otherwise it is a yoke upon your neck, a burden to bear.
It’s not, “I shouldn’t do this because the law forbids it.” No! You shouldn’t do something because you can’t even think of committing that act. It is beyond your desires, beyond even your dreams. When the only way you can think of living is through God’s law, then you will be able to resist sin. It is all a state of mind. Instead of playing a game by the rules, you play the game because you love it, all the while respecting the rules. That’s the vital difference between a true Christian, and one who says he is a Christian because he goes to church and reads the Bible.
Do you know what the initial exercise of free will and of love of God’s law was? It happened in the Garden of Eden. It was the simplest test one could devise. But leave it to us to make it complicated. I have read tens of useless and misguided interpretations of this situation. If they have frustrated me, imagine how they could have frustrated God. He made it so simple so we could understand it, yet 6000 years later, most of us still manage to botch it up somehow. Let’s take it from the top.
The only law that God gave to Adam and Eve was they could not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil: “But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.” (Genesis 2:17) It doesn’t get simpler than this. The definition of original sin was this: eating from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Why did God choose a tree, or one with fruits for that matter? He didn’t do it so we could become confused, that’s for sure. Look at what the Bible says: “And the Lord God took the man, and put him into the garden of Eden to dress it and to keep it.” (Genesis 2:15) And look at this verse too: “And God said, Behold, I have given you every herb bearing seed, which is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree, in the which is the fruit of a tree yielding seed; to you it shall be for meat.” (Genesis 1:29)
I ask you again: Why did God choose the fruit of a tree? Because Adam and Eve’s diet consisted of fruits and vegetables, and they also worked with and around trees all day long. God wanted them to make a clear decision about Him and His law. He could have chosen as a test of their faith that they could not pick a flower that grew on the top of the highest mountain and only flowered for three days a year, but would that have been a true test? No! This also speaks to those who for thousands of years now have chosen to alienate themselves from humanity so they could better serve God. These would either go into the wilderness or would become monks. Removing yourself from the world, from temptation, is not the answer. If your graduation test from medical school would consist of a single question that asked you for the answer to 2+2, would that qualify you to work as a doctor? No, it wouldn’t.
In much the same way, Adam and Eve needed to prove their faith to God by making a clear decision about which side they were on. They had the power of free will, and what easier way to exercise it than to say no to eating the fruit of a tree? It’s not that they were simpletons and couldn’t handle a harder test. But this test touched them where it mattered: in their daily activities. I hear people complaining of temptation where it matters most, of how they’re tried right where it hurts. Wake up and realize that it’s going to be like that for all of God’s children, young or old! Both God and the devil want you to make a clear decision about which side you’re on, so you’d better be ready! God doesn’t want a half-hearted Christian! God clearly says this: “So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth.” (Revelations 3:16) God wants to you make a clear choice for Him. That is why he gave you and me the power of free will. It’s time we all exercised it to the fullest!