Monday, August 31, 2009

Psalm 67 from the Sons of Korah

I love this rendition of Psalm 67 from the Sons of Korah. How wonderful that even in the Old Testament the Lord desired to bring the world into a right relationship with Him!

Loving the Poor --- Search the Scriptures: Psalm 41

Psalm 41 (English Standard VersionO LORD)

Be Gracious to Me
To the choirmaster. A Psalm of David.

1 Blessed is the one who considers the poor!
In the day of trouble the LORD delivers him;
2the LORD protects him and keeps him alive;
he is called blessed in the land;
you do not give him up to the will of his enemies.
3The LORD sustains him on his sickbed;
in his illness you restore him to full health.

4As for me, I said, "O LORD, be gracious to me;
heal me, for I have sinned against you!"
5My enemies say of me in malice,
"When will he die, and his name perish?"
6And when one comes to see me, he utters empty words,
while his heart gathers iniquity;
when he goes out, he tells it abroad.
7All who hate me whisper together about me;
they imagine the worst for me.
8They say, "A deadly thing is poured out on him;
he will not rise again from where he lies."
9Even my close friend in whom I trusted,
who ate my bread, has lifted his heel against me.
10But you, O LORD, be gracious to me,
and raise me up, that I may repay them!

11By this I know that you delight in me:
my enemy will not shout in triumph over me.
12But you have upheld me because of my integrity,
and set me in your presence forever.
13 Blessed be the LORD, the God of Israel,
from everlasting to everlasting!

Amen and Amen.


I want to focus on verse one of this psalm:
Blessed is the one who considers the poor!
In the day of trouble the LORD delivers him;
Kings in Israel had a special responsibility to care for the poor of the land. Since David was God’s king, he understood his special responsibility to care for the poor of Israel.

But why was this kind of blessing promised to the person who cares for the poor? The same blessing that opened the first book of the Psalter now closes it. In Psalm 1 we read:
Blessed is the man
who walks not in the counsel of the wicked,
nor stands in the way of sinners,
nor sits in the seat of scoffers;
2but his delight is in the law of the LORD,
and on his law he meditates day and night.
Blessing, according to Psalm 1, comes from being in a right relationship with God. But now in Psalm 41, the last psalm of book 1, we are taught that blessing comes from a right relationship with our neighbors, and particularly, the poor.

The first and greatest commandment to love God cannot be divorced from the second commandment like it, namely, to love our neighbors. Jesus said, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”

But why are the poor especially emphasized for special concern? Why should we love the poor?

The first, and most basic reason to love the poor is that they are created in God’s image. All human beings, rich and poor, are to be loved because they bear God’s image. No human being is so marred by sin that we cannot see something of the divine image imprinted on him or her. When we love people made in God’s image, we show that we have regard for the One in whose image people are made. Implicit in Scripture’s teaching about the poor, and love for our neighbor, is the idea that we are created in God’s image. This truth is taught for example in Proverbs 14:31:
Whoever oppresses a poor man insults his Maker,
but he who is generous to the needy honors him.
The second reason to love the poor especially, is that the poor are uniquely identified with the Lord. The poor are symbolic of our true condition before God. All human beings are poor before the Lord. He created us. He sustains us. We are dependent on him every moment we live. Our very existence stems from his good pleasure, for he is the source of our next breath and heartbeat.

Not only is this dependence true physically, but it is also even more true spiritually. As Jesus taught us, we are all spiritual beggars before the Lord. His salvation cannot be earned by us, for we are spiritually bankrupt. “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”

The poor, in a symbolic sense, are very much like little children. Little infants, because of their complete dependence on their parents, are perfect pictures of how we enter the kingdom of God. Jesus said, “Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven” (Mat. 18:3). The only way anyone enters, or remains in, the kingdom of God is to acknowledge his complete poverty and absolute dependence on what God’s Son accomplished for us through his perfect life, death, and resurrection. Through his cross we are forgiven. Through his perfect life we are justified. Like a poor man or a little infant, we cannot enter the kingdom of God by ourselves. We are totally dependent on the person and work of the Son of God.

Already in the Psalms, the poor are closely identified with the people of God. By the time you get to the New Testament, this perspective is continued and deepened. The poor are a synonym for the people who belong to the Lord Jesus Christ. And, since the Lord identifies with his people in such a close way, how we treat fellow Christians is how we treat the Lord himself. This is why Jesus could say:
“Whoever receives you receives me, and whoever receives me receives him who sent me. . . . And whoever gives one of these little ones even a cup of cold water because he is a disciple, truly, I say to you, he will by no means lose his reward" (Mat. 10:40, 42).
Does this transformation of the poor from a literal understanding to a more figurative understanding abrogate our responsibility to the literal poor? No. The apostle Paul summarizes the Christian position well when he says in Galatians 6, “So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith.” Or, again, in 1 Thessalonians 5: See that no one repays anyone evil for evil, but always seek to do good to one another and to everyone.”

Psalm 41 in conjunction with Psalm 1 shows us that faith is a vital thing. Faith in the Lord will lead to good works for the benefit of others. Love for God will result in love for our neighbor, especially our poor neighbors, and even more, our fellow neighbors who are poor in spirit.

Monday, August 24, 2009

The Lord's Definition of Pride --- Search the Scriptures: Psalm 40

Psalm 40:4 (New International Version):

4 Blessed is the man
who makes the LORD his trust,
who does not look to the proud,
to those who turn aside to false gods.


I have been going through the book of Psalms commenting on each psalm as I go. But my intention is not to comment on everything I learn! Instead I want to focus my comments on just a point or two from each psalm.

This verse from Psalm 40 particularly caught my attention. What struck me is how differently the Lord defines pride as compared to our culture.

The most striking feature of Hebrew poetry is parallelism. Here is the definition of parallelism from the ESV Literary Study Bible: “[
Parallelism is] any successive series of phrases or lines that have the same grammatical format, such as ‘whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely’ (Phil. 4:8). More technically, parallelism is the verse form in which virtually all biblical poetry is written. While there are specific types of the verse form of parallelism (antithetic parallelism, synonymous parallelism, synthetic parallelism, climactic parallelism), the overriding idea that covers all of them is this: parallelism consists of two or more lines that form a pattern based on repetition or balance of thought and grammar and/or syntax.”

In verse 4 we have parallelism. The line “who makes the Lord his trust,” is parallel to the line “who does not look to the proud.” Furthermore, “the proud” are parallel to “those who turn aside to false gods.”

Do you see how helpful parallelism can be? This sort of poetry gives its own definitions! In verse 4, the person who makes the Lord his trust is also the person who does not look to the proud. And who exactly are the proud? The proud are those who turn aside (from the Lord) to false gods.

In our culture, we usually define the proud as those who are too certain of their opinions. People who claim to know the truth are often times considered proud. Any kind of certainty is associated with pride in our society. The humble person is considered to be the person who keeps an open mind.

Now I am not saying that such a person cannot be proud, but the Lord would have us change our definition of pride to match his! And, the Lord’s definition of pride has two aspects according to Psalm 40:4:

  1. The proud person has “turned aside” from the Lord and his ways and Word. The proud person is the person who does not follow the Lord!
  2. The proud person is following someone or something other than the Lord! Human beings have to serve and follow something, and if that something is anything other than the Lord, that is the very definition of pride!

In short, anyone who does not follow the Lord as he has been made known in his Word is proud. To have any god before the Lord is the essence of pride.

Do you see how differently the Lord defines pride? The Lord defines pride in reference to himself.

How do you define pride? Are you willing to submit to the Lord’s definition of pride? Even more importantly, are you willing to turn from following your own heart and eyes to follow the Lord? His heart is trustworthy for he proved his love by sending his beloved Son to die for you. His eyesight is perfect for in his perfect wisdom he knows what is best for your life. Won’t you abandon your pride, humble yourself, and resolve to follow the Lord Jesus Christ all the days of your life? Why continue to be proud, for “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.”

Sunday, August 16, 2009

David's Troubles and Jesus Christ

Psalm 39 (English Standard Version)

What Is the Measure of My Days?
To the choirmaster: to Jeduthun. A Psalm of David.

1I said, "I will guard my ways,
that I may not sin with my tongue;
I will guard my mouth with a muzzle,
so long as the wicked are in my presence."
2I was mute and silent;
I held my peace to no avail,
and my distress grew worse.
3My heart became hot within me.
As I mused, the fire burned;
then I spoke with my tongue:

4"O LORD, make me know my end
and what is the measure of my days;
let me know how fleeting I am!
5Behold, you have made my days a few handbreadths,
and my lifetime is as nothing before you.
Surely all mankind stands as a mere breath!

6Surely a man goes about as a shadow!
Surely for nothing they are in turmoil;
man heaps up wealth and does not know who will gather!
7"And now, O Lord, for what do I wait?
My hope is in you.
8Deliver me from all my transgressions.
Do not make me the scorn of the fool!
9 I am mute;

I do not open my mouth,
for it is you who have done it.
10 Remove your stroke from me;
I am spent by the hostility of your hand.
11When you discipline a man
with rebukes for sin,
you consume like a moth what is dear to him;
surely all mankind is a mere breath!

12 "Hear my prayer, O LORD,
and give ear to my cry;
hold not your peace at my tears!
For I am a sojourner with you,
a guest, like all my fathers.
13 Look away from me, that I may smile again,
before I depart and am no more!"


David is troubled in this psalm. His trouble stems from:
  1. The scorn of the wicked (v. 1, 8). He is afraid that his complaints might be used by the wicked to dishonor his Lord. So David resolves to remain silent in their presence.
  2. Death and the brevity of life (v. 4-5). The older we get the more we realize how short this present life is!
  3. The vanity of life (v. 6). We strive to make money but in the end we cannot take it with us. We leave this world as naked as we came into it. Nothing lasts!
  4. His own sin (v. 8). David had transgressed the commandments of the holy God.
  5. The wrath or disfavor of the Lord (v. 9-11, 13).

All of the above problems flow from our sin. If our first parents had not sinned, there would be no such thing as the scorn of the wicked, death, the vanity of life, or the disfavor of God. All of these things that trouble us stem from sin.

This world, stained by sin, is not the way it is supposed to be, and it seems to me we have two choices as we face it. We can either deny sin and its consequences or we can face up to it.

It takes courage and faith to face up to sin and its consequences, in our lives, and in the world. It is easier to deny sin and death. It is easier to ignore the Lord and that “little” problem of his disfavor. This easy and broad way is the way of the wicked. It is the way Jesus spoke of when he said, “For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many” (Mat. 7:13).

But there is a better way. It is the way David takes, and speaks about when he says in verse 12:

I am a sojourner with you,
a guest, like all my fathers.

What did David mean, when he called himself a sojourner --- a guest? David was identifying himself with the people of God, who have always known that their true home was not in this fallen, sin-stained world, through which they pass through as sojourners and guests. But rather their true home is in a new world that the Lord himself is establishing and will establish in the future. Hebrews 11 talks about this new world and the people who seek it as their true home, in this way:

“These all died in faith, not having received the things promised, but
having seen them and greeted them from afar, and having acknowledged that
they were strangers and exiles on the earth. 14For people who speak thus
make it clear that they are seeking a homeland. 15If they had been thinking
of that land from which they had gone out, they would have had opportunity
to return. 16But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly

This better country is founded by Jesus Christ. All of the problems that troubled David, Jesus has overcome through his death and resurrection which has established this new home for the people of God. If we go through the list above, each problem that troubled David has either been solved or will be solved in the new country that is coming:

  1. The scorn of the wicked will be no more because no one who is wicked will be allowed to enter that heavenly country: “But nothing unclean will ever enter it, nor anyone who does what is detestable or false, but only those who are written in the Lamb’s book of life” (Rev. 21:27).
  2. Death and the brevity of life have been overcome by Christ’s death and resurrection: “God, 9 who saved us and called us to a holy calling, not because of our works but because of his own purpose and grace, which he gave us in Christ Jesus before the ages began, 10and which now has been manifested through the appearing of our Savior Christ Jesus, who abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel . . .” (2 Tim. 1:9-11).
  3. The vanity of life and our inability to store up riches on earth find their solution in Christ: “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, 20 but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal” (Mat. 6:19-20).
  4. Our sin and our transgressions of God’s law can be forgiven through the blood of Jesus Christ. Even more, we can be justified by the perfect righteousness of Jesus Christ.
  5. The wrath or disfavor of God has been removed from us because our Lord bore that wrath himself on the cross. In Christ we have the Father’s favor. We should not look at our illnesses or deaths as evidence of his wrath, but rather as our Father’s loving discipline so that we might share in his holiness and attain that better country the people of God have always looked for. With David, we can say:

    I am a sojourner with you,
    a guest, like all my fathers.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Christ's Experience of Psalm 38 --- Search the Scriptures

Psalm 38 (English Standard Version)

Do Not Forsake Me, O LORD
A Psalm of David, for the memorial offering.

In today’s devotional, I have inserted miscellaneous comments on the verses. This psalm gives us much to consider, for it foreshadows the sufferings of Jesus Christ on our behalf. Mark Futato writes:

“Jesus experienced the pain of Psalm 38 to depths that none other has or ever will.”

1O LORD, rebuke me not in your anger,
nor discipline me in your wrath!

The Lord is either your Judge who condemns you or your Father who disciplines you in love. All people are in one of these two situations. Our sin deserves God’s wrath. Jesus Christ bore the Father’s wrath on the cross so that we might have God as our Father and not as our Judge who must condemn us because of our transgressions of his law.

Is God your Father or your Judge? The way to know is what you do with His Son. Those who trust in Christ as God’s beloved Son sent from heaven to bear their sins and be their Lord can be sure that God is their Father, rather than their Judge who condemns them.

2For your arrows have sunk into me,
and your hand has come down on me.

In verses 2-10 we have a description of David’s suffering on account of his sin. The verses speak of David’s greater Son who suffered on account of our sin. The “arrows” and the “hand” speak of God’s judgment. Jesus bore that judgment for us and in our place, so that we might never have to bear that judgment ourselves.

3There is no soundness in my flesh
because of your indignation;
there is no health in my bones
because of my sin.

Often times in Scripture physical diseases are emblematic of the diseases of the soul. Sin has disordered our souls, and brought about a myriad of spiritual diseases. Christ so loved us that he “was made sin for us” (2 Cor. 5:21), so that by his stripes we might be healed (Is. 53:5).

4For my iniquities have gone over my head;
like a heavy burden, they are too heavy for me.

George Horne’s comment on this verse is instructive:

“Sins and sorrows are here, as in many other places, represented under the image of mighty waters rolling incessantly over the head of the person sunk into them and by their accumulated weight depressing him, so that he can no more rise above them. Let us meditate on that deep and tempestuous ocean, into which we were the means of plunging the innocent Jesus.”

5My wounds stink and fester
because of my foolishness,
6I am utterly bowed down and prostrate;
all the day I go about mourning.
7For my sides are filled with burning,
and there is no soundness in my flesh.
8I am feeble and crushed;
I groan because of the tumult of my heart.

Sin and its consequences is a loathsome thing. Sin is the worst mass-murderer the world has ever known, for the wages of sin is death. Sin and its work in our souls is compared to a festering wound in verse 5. Sin causes us to be “bowed down” to the earth through shame and a guilty conscience. Because of sin we are unable to look to haven with confidence and joy. How we should hate sin and the misery it has caused in the world. But consider that Christ was willing to bear our sin and our shame for our sake. He was willing to endure these things so that we might be restored and freed from the consequences of our sins. Again listen to Horne, as he writes:

“Sin is the wound of the soul, which must be washed with tears of repentance, cleansed by the blood of Christ, and healed by the Spirit of the Holy One.”

9O Lord, all my longing is before you;
my sighing is not hidden from you.
10My heart throbs; my strength fails me,
and the light of my eyes—it also has gone from me.
11My friends and companions stand aloof from my plague,
and my nearest kin stand far off.

Verse 11 reminds us how Jesus was abandoned even by his own disciples. Even those who followed him to the cross stood far away from him.

12Those who seek my life lay their snares;
those who seek my hurt speak of ruin
and meditate treachery all day long.
Verse 12 reminds us of the enemies of Christ, and how he was opposed by the leaders of the nation.
13But I am like a deaf man; I do not hear,
like a mute man who does not open his mouth.
14I have become like a man who does not hear,
and in whose mouth are no rebukes.

These verses remind us of how patiently Christ bore the cross. 1 Peter 2:22-23: "He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth. 23 When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly."

15But for you, O LORD, do I wait;
it is you, O Lord my God, who will answer.
16For I said, "Only let them not rejoice over me,
who boast against me when my foot slips!"
17For I am ready to fall,
and my pain is ever before me.
18I confess my iniquity;
I am sorry for my sin.

Horne writes:

“The surest way to have our weakness strengthened, and our sin forgiven, is to acknowledge and confess both, and this we need not be ashamed to do, when we consider, that he, who is the Lord, stong and mighty, took our infirmities; and the King of righteousness bare our sins in his own body, on the tree."

19But my foes are vigorous, they are mighty,
and many are those who hate me wrongfully.
20Those who render me evil for good
accuse me because I follow after good.

The life of David and the life of Christ give us testimony to the spiritual war that continues to rage in this world. This war was declared by God himself in the garden (Gen. 3:15), saw its first skirmish in the lives of Cain and Abel (Gen. 4), was fought out in the lives of the prophets (Mat. 5:11-12), and culminated in the cross of Christ.

But the war continues today, and all who follow good, i.e., Jesus Christ will experience this warfare in terms of the “hate” of the world (John 15:18-19). But let us overcome in the battle as David and Jesus did, by doing “good” and praying for the conversion of those who have not yet welcomed the Father and the Son into their lives.

The intensity of the battle leads us to the final words of the psalm:

21Do not forsake me, O LORD!
O my God, be not far from me!
22 Make haste to help me,
O Lord, my salvation!

Here is the beginning of my post. And here is the rest of it.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Creation, the Cross, and God's Glory!

This afternoon I did something I haven't done in years: I laid down, propped up on my elbow, under a nice shady tree. I was waiting for Bobbi to pick me up, since we are down to one car this week. Our daughter (Corrie) has our second car with her as she visits Chicago.

As I sat there i noticed a little flower, smaller than the size of my thumb. In Nebraska these little white flowers, which are probably some sort of weed, are terribly plentiful. I used to pick them as a kid and pick all of the petals off. Most of them are now brown, but a few have not yet faded.

As I picked the petals, I was struck by the amazing complexity of this one little flower. There were 33 petals on one, 31 on the other --- I decided not to count a third! Inside each petal were three more petals, and inside the four petals where about 6 or 7 tiny yellow stems. It is truly amazing how complex and beautiful these tiny flowers are that we barely notice!

Then I looked, and there was a similar little flower, but it was pink. It had 43 petals, and again, inside the petals were these minute yellow stems. As I pulled the delicate petals they came out so easily, and left a little socket where each petal had been connected. Their texture was so soft. I don't think human beings have ever manufactured a texture like this! But this flower was clearly a weed---maybe it was a cocklebur. Its leaves were amazing. The design on just one of its leaves was so intricate, and on the stem of the plant were thousands of whispy, white strands maybe a sixteenth of an inch long.

Then along came a bee. The bee moved from flower to flower, doing whatever it was doing. Soon it was gone. Thirty seconds later a monarch butterfly showed up. He (or she!) would land on a flower, stay there 15 seconds, fly around in a seemingly haphazard way, and then light on another flower. Soon the butterfly flew out of my range of sight and was gone.

In the meantime, an ant had climbed up on my arm. I brushed him off wiith my hand, and then thought, I should've looked at him closely too. While I was trying to find the ant, I noticed another little creature on my hand. This little guy was really small, about the size of a 10 font capital letter. His antennae were probably three times longer than his entire little body. I thought to myself, can you imagine this creature the size of me!

Just then I noticed another little flower in the dry patch of grass I had chosen to sit in. This flower was a little larger than the other ones I looked at. It had just one white petal in a sort of square shape. Yet within the one square there were five or six perforated disvisions, which made the flower easy to tear apart, sort of like the perforation of paper towels. The middle part of the flower again had little pistols, but they were white and black, with two longer completely white pistols. As I was looking at this flower, the bee returned, or maybe it was another bee --- I forgot to ask! The way it flew was amazing. This bee could make maneuvers that would put the best helicopter to shame. I went back to my square white flower but as soon as I did Bobbi pulled up and my little encounter with nature was over.

So, what's the point of all of this? Well, I couldnt help thinking in the midst of my petal-pulling how amazing all of this is. Sometimes I hear people talk about nature and it's all about function. This animal or plant serves this function in this eco-system. This plant or animal evolved in this way in order to serve this function. But while function is fine, it seems to me that none of the creatures I looked at were that vital. I have a feeling ecosystems would survive without the little flowers I looked at this afternoon. In fact, they are all beginning to fade in the Summer's heat. It seems to me that what we humans tend to miss is the beauty and wonder of all of this. It's not primarily about function but about glory!

But whose glory? Who does this beauty serve? It all serves the triune God, the creator and sustainer of the heavens and the earth. All of these things, even these insignificant little creatures exist to give Him pleasure. It's not about function---its about the glory of God. The world around us is charged with the glory of God!

One of the reasons we don't see the wonder of what's around us is that we are so surrounded by miracle upon miracle, we grow accustomed to all of it. The wonders of tiny bugs or intricate, little flowers or the marvelous flights of a bee are so commonplace that we lose sight of how amazing all of this is.

But the main reason we don't see the wonder and glory of God in his creation is sin. Sin blinds our eyes to the theater of God's glory that is the creation.

How do sinful human beings reconnect with this God? Although Jesus Christ is in every blade of grass and every beam of sunlight, that is not where God has willed us to find Him for eternal life. For this abundant life, God has willed that we find Him in the cross of His Son. Go to the cross, and then you will be reconciled to God. And, if you go to the cross and are reconciled, there will be an added benefit: you will begin to see the glory of God in his creation, for the psalmist was right, "The whole earth is full of his glory!"

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Five Key Themes to Help us Live as Christians in Psalm 37 --- Search the Scriptures

Psalm 37

As we conclude our look at Psalm 37, I want to look at five themes seen in this psalm.

One important theme in this psalm is the theme of trust. Trust, of course, by its very nature must have an object. The object of trust for the Lord’s people is the Lord himself. Look at the verses that focus on trusting the Lord:

• Verse 3: Trust in the LORD

• Verse 5: trust in him

• Verse 7: Be still before the LORD and wait patiently for him

• Verse 9: those who wait for the LORD

• Verse 34: Wait for the LORD

• Verse 40: they take refuge in him

Flowing from this trust in the Lord are good deeds or righteousness. The Lord’s people who trust in the Lord also do good:

• Verse 3: Trust in the LORD, and do good;
dwell in the land and befriend faithfulness.

• Verses 5 and 6: trust in him, and he will act.
He will bring forth your righteousness as the light

• Verse 21: the righteous is generous and gives

• Verse 26: He is ever lending generously

• Verse 27: Turn away from evil and do good

• Verse 30: The mouth of the righteous utters wisdom

• Verse 34: Wait for the LORD and keep his way

How do we know what is good? Since we are supposed to do good, what will guide us as to what exactly is good? Two verses point us in the right direction for moral guidance:

• Verse 31: The law of his God is in his heart;
his steps do not slip.

• Verse 34: Wait for the LORD and keep his way

Where will the strength come from to do good? It is one thing to know what is good and another thing do it, so where will the strength come from? Notice all of the references in Psalm 37 to the land:

• Verse 3: dwell in the land and befriend faithfulness

• Verse 9: those who wait for the LORD shall inherit the land

• Verse 11: the meek shall inherit the land
and delight themselves in abundant peace

• Verse 18: The LORD knows the days of the blameless,
and their heritage will remain forever

• Verse 22: those blessed by the LORD shall inherit the land

• Verse 29: The righteous shall inherit the land
and dwell upon it forever

• Verse 34: Wait for the LORD and keep his way,
and he will exalt you to inherit the land

How do we interpret all of these verses about the land? As Christians we no longer live in a geographical territory called Israel, so how should we look at these kinds of verse about the land.
I would suggest that the New Testament has “Christified” the land. Jesus is the fulfillment of the land. Instead of dwelling in the land and cultivating faithfulness, now we dwell in Christ and cultivate faithfulness.

There is also a future element to the land. So many of the verses above speak of the land in terms of inheritance. As Christians we are looking forward to a renewed heaven and earth. So there is a sense in which we can associate the land with the age to come---the resurrection age Jesus has ushered in through his suffering and death.

In Psalm 37, Jesus is the ultimately righteous one who suffers at the hands of the wicked. It appeared as though the wicked triumphed over him because he was put to death. It appeared that God did not come to Jesus’ rescue. But on the third day Jesus rose from the dead as the firstfruits of a new land---a new age. As Christians, by faith, we already dwell in this new resurrection age!

So putting this altogether, here are some of the key themes of this psalm:

1. Trust or faith in the Lord is the fundamental, bedrock attitude of believers. In New Testament terms it is faith in God’s beloved Son. Faith unites us to Christ and keeps us connected to him.

2. Doing good flows from faith. If we are united to Christ, then we cannot help but do some good to others. Jesus is the vine, and his branches will bear fruit.

3. Guidance as to what is good comes from God’s Word. We learn what is righteousness and how to live in the Lord’s way through his law/instruction.

4. Jesus Christ, the righteous sufferer, whom the Lord saves by way of resurrection to usher in a new age that invades the present evil age.

5. The strength to live for the Lord comes from the Lord himself. As believers we are “in Christ.” Already we dwell by faith above with Christ. We are members of the resurrection age---the age of life in the Spirit.

Here is the beginning of my post. And here is the rest of it.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Two Questions to Check the Health of Your Soul

Psalm 37:14-22

He Will Not Forsake His Saints
Of David.

14The wicked draw the sword and bend their bows
to bring down the poor and needy,
to slay those whose way is upright;
15their sword shall enter their own heart,
and their bows shall be broken.

16 Better is the little that the righteous has
than the abundance of many wicked.
17For the arms of the wicked shall be broken,
but the LORD upholds the righteous.

18The LORD knows the days of the blameless,
and their heritage will remain forever;
19they are not put to shame in evil times;
in the days of famine they have abundance.
20But the wicked will perish;
the enemies of the LORD are like the glory of the pastures;
they vanish—like smoke they vanish away.

21The wicked borrows but does not pay back,
but the righteous is generous and gives;
22for those blessed by the LORD shall inherit the land,
but those cursed by him shall be cut off.

The apostle Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 15, “What do I gain if, humanly speaking, I fought with beasts at Ephesus? If the dead are not raised, “Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die.””

Paul’s point is that what we believe about the future will affect how we live in the present. If I believe what Jesus taught, namely, that there will be a resurrection of all people, some to a resurrection of judgment and some to a resurrection of life, then that ought to make a difference in how I live in the present! Here are Jesus’ own words: “An hour is coming when all who are in the tombs will hear his voice and come out, those who have done good to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil to the resurrection of judgment” (John 5:28b-29).

In these verses from Psalm 37, the future judgment of the wicked and future blessedness of the righteous is seen again and again. The wicked will be raised to a resurrection of judgment:

  • v. 15: their sword shall enter their own heart,
    and their bows shall be broken.
  • v. 17: For the arms of the wicked shall be broken
  • v. 20: But the wicked will perish;
    the enemies of the LORD are like the glory of the pastures;
    they vanish—like smoke they vanish away.
  • v. 22: but those cursed by him shall be cut off

On the other hand, the righteous will be raised to a resurrection of life:

  • v. 18: The LORD knows the days of the blameless,
    and their heritage will remain forever
  • v. 22: those blessed by the LORD shall inherit the land

Knowing the future resurrection either to judgment or blessing makes a difference in how a person lives here on earth. The most noticeable contrast in lifestyle is in the attitude of the wicked and righteous toward money and possessions. In verse 21 we see the contrast:

The wicked borrows but does not pay back,
but the righteous is generous and gives.

There is a stinginess that characterizes the wicked, and a generosity that characterizes the righteous. Why?

The wicked only have this life, therefore they must grasp and hold on tightly to the things of this world. They have no hope for the future. As verse 22 says, they will be cut off.

But the righteous know there is something more important than this life. They are looking forward to being with the Lord they love and serve in a new earth. The little conjunction for in verse 22 gives the reason for the generosity of the righteous: “for those blessed by the Lord shall inherit the land.” The Lord will bless them richly in the resurrection. That future blessing is already theirs by faith, and it makes them desire to use their money and possessions to bless others, just as the Lord has blessed them.

Do you remember the story of Cain and Abel? Why did Cain hate his brother Abel? It was because Abel had the Lord’s blessing, and he did not. Genesis 4:4b-5: “And the Lord had regard for Abel and his offering, but for Cain and his offering he had no regard. So Cain was very angry, and his face fell.”

May I suggest that this is the same reason the wicked are attacking the righteous (“the poor and needy . . . the upright”). The ancient pattern continues. The eschatological (end of the age/future) judgment and blessing of the Lord has already invaded the present. That future blessing or judgment affects our treatment of God’s people and our use of the things of this world.

From this portion of God’s Word ask yourselves two questions. These two questions are a guide to the health of our souls:

  1. What is your attitude toward money and possessions---are you generous and giving?
  2. What is your attitude toward Christ’s people? Yes, his people are full of imperfections in this life, but do you hate them or love them?

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