The Gospel for Real Life

Faith

Christ in Psalms – 8

David sings praise to God because of His creative work and His interaction with His creatures – specifically human beings.  David reveals who He is praising.  He is praising the LORD, Yahweh, the God who redeems people.  The Redeemer is majestic.  Then he calls God, “our Lord.”  You’ll notice in your Bibles that this word, “Lord” is not all capitalized.  That is because it is a different word in the Hebrew text.  It is the word, “Adonai.”  Adonai is more of a title meaning “Master.”  This means that this powerful Creator is the Redeemer and the Master!  Notice that David does not just say, “Oh LORD, Lord, how majestic.”  David says, “our Lord.”  When those two Hebrew words are put together, it’s a formal address to the King.  Therefore, David is saying that the Redeemer is also the King.  In addition, David calls Yahweh majestic.  The term majestic is a royal attribute that means mighty.  Majestic seems to have connotations of awe in association to one’s revealed strength.  God truly defines the word majestic.  His strength made the stars, the galaxies, the earth.  And, His glory (i.e. – “name”) is majestic all over the earth.  Because of these truths, David desires to praise the Lord.

The second half of verse one further expands on the truth of God’s kingship.  David says that God has set his glory above the heavens and also revealed in all of creation.  What a beautiful picture that is!  If people saw perfectly, their eyes of faith would constantly be pointed upwards to the majestic God.

In a somewhat similar fashion to the original creation story, David moves from the broad creation to the pinnacle of creation – human beings.  Over the last several weeks, we’ve been learning about the fallenness of human beings and the difficulty that even the Psalmist has faced, and in this Psalm David directs his focus to the intent of God to silence the enemy.  Sin was not a part of garden of Eden to begin with.  Since God is still involved in this world, He is very gracious with it, and His goal is to silence the enemy.  This is going to happen someday.  We’ve read the previous Psalms which point to that glorious return of Jesus when wickedness will be wiped away.  And that is a glorious thought for the believer, but what about today?  How can we be confident today that God will wipe away sin?  Obviously God has promised it; therefore, it will happen.  But, God has displayed the glory of this promise by revealing it on this earth.  Let’s look at verse 2: “Out of the mouth of babes and nursing infants You have ordained strength, Because of Your enemies, That You may silence the enemy and the avenger.”[1]  What does David see as a sign of God’s faithfulness to put an end to wickedness?  Answer: The strength of future generations.  This word for “strength” has the sense of being a bulwark and also carries with it connotations of praise.  Instead of God wiping the earth completely clean, God continues to bring children into this world – revealing to us that He is working to complete His plan.

In the amazing rule and plan of God, we see the enormous and very small objects that God cares for.  David again meditates on this amazing rule of God in the heavens and declares that the heavens are the work of God’s fingers.  These huge stars in space are merely the work of His fingers – indicating the vastness of God.  It is no wonder that David quickly moves to say, “what is man that you are mindful of him, and the son of man that you visit him” (v. 4).

Even the wording in verse four is very important.  David uses two phrases to describe humanity.  He says “man” and then “son of man.”  Remember, David has been meditating on the fallenness of humanity.  Psalm 8 is redirecting back to Psalm 1 and the intent of humanity.  The word “man” is a poetic word for human beings in their frail existence (The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, p. 140).  The phrase “son of man” is a special phrase that refers to man’s relationship to God Himself.  As one commentator put it, “Humans are by nature ‘earthlings,’ and yet they are the particular objects of God’s attention” (TEBC, p. 140).  If we go back to the beginning of God’s creation, before Adam and Eve sinned, why would God pay so close attention to them?  He did not need them.  He enjoyed perfect community within Himself in the Trinity for all eternity.  God’s relationship to humans provide a unique privilege.  Yet, as we’ll see in future psalms, the word “man” and “son of man” are used to display that humans have become corrupt, failing in following through on God’s mandates towards them (11:5, 14:3); however, God, in His abundant grace, is still mindful – meaning that he remembers humans.  He thinks on humans.  He “visits” or “cares for” us.  Instead of visiting Adam and Eve with judgment.  He visited them by clothing them.  Instead of visiting the human race with only wrath, He visited humanity on this earth and absorbed the wrath of God in our place.  He is continually concerned for humanity – even sinful humanity!

While human beings are broken, they still displayed a semblance of the image of God.  That image has been granted to them by God and verses 5-8 reveal this truth.  Sadly, humans tend to go to one of two extremes.  I remember reading a theology book that talked about human beings natural tendency to either think too highly or too low of themselves.  This verse makes two things clear.

  1. We are not God.  This verse says that humans have been set a little lower than “the heavenly beings.”  This could be an accurate translation of the Hebrew; however, the Hebrew word is “Elohim.”  This is also the word for “God.”  This word is used of God at the beginning of Genesis and I think in the context of this Psalm, “God” might be a better translation of this word.  We are a “little lower” than God.  This phrase “little lower” actually means to be deprived of something.  It’s not simply that we’re just a little bit under God, but it’s that we lack divinity!  That’s significant.
  2. This psalm also teaches us that we are also not animals.  All animals are under our domain.  We are not called to be violent for violence sake.  We are to use animals in such a way that displays God’s glory.  Animals help us with farming, food, companionship, and many other things.  Yet, we are over the animals.

This psalm sets things straight.  God has crowned mankind with glory and honor.  To crown is to set apart and elevate something.  The King of Creation has crowned humanity to be His Ambassadors, and we need to recognize that human beings even in their fallen state (not seeking His glory) are still crowned with some semblance of glory and honor.  They are fallen image bearers, but they are image bearers nonetheless, and they are tasked by God to fulfill the qualifications of one who is crowned by God.

What does all of this have to do with Jesus?

We’ve seen that God’s blueprint for humanity is being torn to shreds by human beings – including our own selves.  As I mentioned a moment ago, Jesus entered into the human scene.  He became a human being to visit this earth in order to fulfill and be the representative for human beings.  In order to get a fuller understanding of this psalm, let’s look at how the New Testament authors quote this psalm.

15 But when the chief priests and scribes saw the wonderful things that He did, and the children crying out in the temple and saying, “Hosanna to the Son of David!” they were indignant 16 and said to Him, “Do You hear what these are saying?”

And Jesus said to them, “Yes. Have you never read,

‘Out of the mouth of babes and nursing infants

You have perfected praise’?

17 Then He left them and went out of the city to Bethany, and He lodged there. [2]

The Word of God was being fulfilled when Jesus was walking into Jerusalem in triumph.  Jesus’ enemies were indignant at what was taking place and yet Jesus says that the children are right in praising Him.  The children, the weak and the vulnerable, are ones who are rejoicing in the culmination of Yahweh’s rescue plan.  The chief priests and scribes, on the other hand, are proving themselves to be the enemy.  When we see these verses from a saving perspective we see all the more clearly that those who are dependent like children on the Lord find a sure refuge (Matt. 18:3).  When God’s children call out on the Lord, it also shames the enemy.

One more passage in the New Testament we must mention:

5 For He has not put the world to come, of which we speak, in subjection to angels. 6 But one testified in a certain place, saying:

“What is man that You are mindful of him,

        Or the son of man that You take care of him?

7      You have made him a little lower than the angels;

        You have crowned him with glory and honor,

        And set him over the works of Your hands.

8      You have put all things in subjection under his feet.”

For in that He put all in subjection under him, He left nothing that is not put under him. But now we do not yet see all things put under him. 9 But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels, for the suffering of death crowned with glory and honor, that He, by the grace of God, might taste death for everyone. [3]

While Psalm 8 is a passage for us as humans, telling us how we ought to be and act, we know we’ve failed.  Hebrews 2 reveals to us that Jesus stepped into the cesspool of humanity and became the representative of humanity.  Philippians 2 says that Jesus humbled himself and became a human being.  And, God the Father was very mindful of Jesus.  Jesus, the Son of Man, was taken care of by God.  Jesus was made a little lower than the angels for a time, and according to verse 9 he was crowned with glory and honor because of his suffering death.  Upon His resurrection, Jesus was vindicated as the Messiah and He rules and reigns today as the Risen Lord of all – everything being subjected to Him.  He, tasting death for everyone, provides life to all who come to Him in faith.  Therefore, God is not only majestic in creation, but He is majestic in salvation!

Jesus fulfills the blueprint of humanity.  And, He is the representative of all who call out to Him!  Won’t you call out to Him?  He’s ruling over all, revealing His glory.  Jesus has appeared.  He is the perfect Mediator!  He relates to the human race and is God!  Meditate on His glorious splendor.


[1] The New King James Version. 1982 (Ps 8:2). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

[2] The New King James Version. 1982 (Mt 21:15–17). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

[3] The New King James Version. 1982 (Heb 2:5–9). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

Advertisements

That Kind of Faith

In James 2:18-26, we enter into one of the most controversial texts in the entire Bible.  In verse 1 of this chapter, James discusses the importance of holding the faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.  He then talks about how that faith in Jesus must result in actions.  In verse 17, James states his thesis for his readers: “So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.”  The phrase “by itself” could also be translated “in itself.”  In other words, people who simply trust in their faith, not in the One to whom that faith is pointing, really have a dead faith.  James is clear that “that faith” (or, that kind of faith) does not experience salvation.

Now we enter more controversy.  Verse 21 starts off by saying, “Was not our father Abraham justified by works.”  Anyone who has been in the school of Christianity for pretty much any length of time probably sees an apparent problem in this text.  It seems as though James is saying that we are made righteous by works.  Hence, we come into a right relationship with God based on the good works we do.  When we read verse verse 24, we have an even greater contrast with the Apostle Paul’s writings.

James 2:24 – “You see that a person is justified by works and not by faith alone.”

Romans 3:28 – “We maintain that a man is justified by faith apart from works of the Law;”

Look at the similar construct of the passage.  What are James and Paul saying?  Are they saying totally contradictory things?  And, if so, can the Bible be trusted?  Or, should James or Paul be out of the Scriptures because one of them is lying?  Thankfully we can glean a few things from this passage, but let me say this first: just because people use the same word, that does not mean they are saying the same thing.  For example, in chapter one, we studied about trial and temptation.  In the Greek language, trial and temptation are the same word.  Based on the context, this word can either mean something that is good for us or it can mean something that is dangerous if not fought against.  It’s the same Greek word for lust and desire.  Based on the context, it can mean something bad or it can mean something good.

If we look at the context of James’ letter, I believe James makes his point very plain.  James is correcting people’s understanding of the mantra “Faith Alone.”  Some people’s tendency is to say, “We can continue in sin that grace may abound” (an idea that even Paul is against).  James is seeming to show irony by saying, “You’re faith alone is really a faith that’s all alone (a faith in itself).  Therefore it is dead.”  He’s not denying the importance and value of faith alone as declaring us righteous before God (as we’ll see in a moment), but he is denying that you can have faith and no works proceeding from that faith.  There are a couple of reasons why works are necessary, according to James: 1) God promised to make us a firstfruit offering (Jas. 1:18) and 2) There is going to be a judgment and God’s mercy is going to triumph on His children’s behalf in granting forgiveness and, by implication, obedience (Jas. 2:12-13).

In order for James to drive his point home, he moves on with an illustration about Abraham offering up Isaac to be an offering to God.  This story tells us that God commanded that Abraham take his son to an altar and sacrifice him there.  While Abraham had the knife in the air to kill his own son, God stopped him and said, “Now I know that you fear God.”  James says the following of this scenario: “You see that faith was active along with his works, and faith was completed by his works;  and the Scripture was fulfilled that says, ‘Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness’—and he was called a friend of God” (vv. 22-23).

James says that this scenario happened for two reasons.

  1. Verse 22 states that this scenario with Abraham happened as a necessary of true faith’s goal of completion.  Faith desires to be whole; therefore, Christians cannot make excuses for sin in their life (Jas. 1:4).  Instead, they must fight (Jas. 1:12-15)!  James is clear that faith comes first, and true faith has an objective of overseeing the process of having good works.  Faith cannot grow apart from these godly actions.
  2. Verse 23 gives another answer as to why Abraham went through this scenario: so that the Scripture might be fulfilled that Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness.  In other words, James again is saying that God declares people righteous when they believe and that righteousness must be lived out.  God does not save someone without giving them the promise that they’ll live out that salvation.  What’s interesting is that between the time that Abraham believed to the time that Abraham offered Isaac, there was sin that took place.  And, there was unbelief.  But, Abraham’s belief grew through testing and finally came to this great test of faith in God.  Instead of questioning God, he did what God commanded even though he did not fully understand what God was going to do.

This situation can also relate to the Jewish Christians in their trials of being dispersed and persecuted (Jas. 1:1).  They’re going through a significant test.  Are they going to continue to sin and declare that they had a fake faith or are they going to prove that they have had a true faith?  James says to them, “You see that a person is justified by works and not by faith alone” (v. 24).  This word for justify is different from Paul’s primary usage.  It is probably the same sense that Jesus gives it in the book of Matthew in chapter 11:19, where it says, “Wisdom is proved right by her actions.”  “Proved right” is the word “justify.”  Therefore, we could say that a person is “proved right” by works and not a faith that is alone.  Abraham believed God and it was counted to him as righteousness.  God said he was righteous, and that righteousness manifested itself in growing works – not perfection, but a growing obedience to God which leads to maturity (aka – perfection).

This truth is the same for believers today.  God has made a promise to us.  He is merciful towards you.  Trust in the Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory, and obey by the grace God has given you!


Christ in Psalms, 7

David has been falsely accused by “Cush – a Benjamite” and he is seeking God’s justice in this temporal situation.  From a literary perspective, this psalm could be tied together almost like a sandwich (technically, this psalm forms an “inclusio.”)   Verses 1-3 and 17 are like the bread – sharing similar themes.  Verses 3-5 and 14-17 are the cheese and verses 6-13 are the meat.  We will approach this psalm from that perspective.

In verses 1-3, we find that deliverance comes from the Lord – providing stability to the believer.  Many times in the midst of false accusations, people are tempted to quickly turn to others around them and say, “Did you hear about what happened to me?  Those people are such liars!”  Sometimes, people might mope around in fear – never wanting anyone to approach them or even allow them to see the light of day.  In and of themselves, neither of these responses are truly helpful.  Psalm 7 reveals that our greatest hope is found in the Lord.  David refers to the Lord as “my God” and the One in whom he puts his trust.  Again, the phrase “my God” is similar in tone to the Greek phrase “Abba! Father!”  It is a term of intimacy.  David further reveals this closeness by saying that God is his refuge.  Since God is David’s God and the One who protects David, David explains his need for God’s justice to be displayed at the present time.  False accusations are rising up against him and are tearing him apart much like a lion tears apart its prey.  In these verses, David does not say, “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.”  Instead, David confesses the pain these words have caused, and calls on God to act accordingly – on behalf of His child.  Words do have power, and people need to realize that power and act appropriately (see Jas. 3:1-12).

In verse 17, we see the conclusion of someone who finds refuge in the Lord.  Since the Lord is righteous and good towards His children, David can rejoice!  Note that David refers to Yahweh (aka – the LORD) as the Most High.  This phrase was first mentioned in Genesis in the interaction between Melchizedek and Abraham (Gen. 14).  This phrase is “descriptive of the universal rule of God, to whom his subjects sing praise” (The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, p. 135).  Having seen that all the Old Testament Scriptures point to the Messiah, and that Jesus is LORD, we also see that the phrase “Most High” prefers to Jesus as well.  Therefore, we praise Jesus!  He suffered unjustly.  Jesus was lied about.  Jesus endured the wrath of God on the behalf of sinners (Rom. 3:21-26).  Then the Bible says that we ought to share in His sufferings (Rom. 8).  But, the Bible does not stop there either.  The Bible says that He is ruling and reigning today.  He is the One Who is worthy (Eph. 4:8, Heb. 1:3).  He sits at the right hand of the Father today – ever living to make intercession for us, while preparing a place for us, and also enjoying the praises of the heavenly hosts (Jn. 14:3, Heb. 7:25).  This God is the God who has rescued David, and this God is the God who has rescued many throughout the ages!  Therefore, if God be for His children, who can be against them (Rom. 8:31)?  Rest your case at His feet.

Since God is the judge, David is able to entrust his enemies and even himself at God’s judgment.  These truths we find in verses 3-5 and 14-16.  In verses 14-16, we find the description of the wicked.   Here are a couple of truths we find in David’s description: 1) “The wicked brings forth. . . .”   Jesus says that it is not the things outside of us that makes us filthy, it is what is inside of us that reveals our filth (Matt. 15:10-20).  This means that by nature we can only sin unless the grace of God enters to save us, 2) Within our own selves, human beings have an adulterous relationship against their Creator and bring about trouble and falsehood.  Every human being was created in the image of God to glorify Him, and every human being somehow steals that glory for themselves by not actively giving to God the glory due to His name, 3) Death is the ultimate end of the wicked because their actions pursue an existence apart from God (see Lk. 16:19-31 for an example of a man who still tries to be in control in Hell).

All this said, David is not merely hoping for judgment on others.  David really pleads for God’s righteous judgment to be displayed – even if that means for God to discipline David.  Keep in mind, David believes he is innocent.  He also knows that he is the Lord’s anointed (Ps. 2), but he realizes that God’s justice is more important.  If he is wrong in this situation, God must reveal that.  We see this truth communicated in verses 3-5.

David uses the dynamic use of three – “if, if, if.”  He does not believe he is guilty, but if he is, he asks that he would be overtaken because justice must be seen in this scenario.  Many times, we humans plead for mercy.  We often think that mercy means no consequences for our actions.  That can definitely be the case, but mercy also includes God’s abundant love towards His children to mold them into His image more and more.  If a more severe consequence would keep His child from being conformed to God’s image, He will not allow it.  If God’s child needs that consequence to be molded into His image, He’ll grant it – even if that means taking away things that you have worked hard for (hence David praying for his honor to lay in the dust).  These are very strong words, and for that reason, I think this is why we find the word “Selah” here and nowhere else in this Psalm.

We have seen so far that God is the judge and that everyone will be judged by Him.  Now we see more clearly that God will judge rightly (vv. 6-13).  David again uses the dynamic use of “three’s” by asking for the Lord to arise, lift up, rise up.  He believes he is innocent in this earthly matter and he is seeking God’s deliverance.  There are three truths we see from verse six: 1) David seeks for God’s anger towards sin be displayed clearly, 2) David believes the enemy’s rage is so intense that they need to be stopped and shamed, 3) David believes that God’s faithfulness to His children requires that God answer him in this scenario.

In verses 7-8b, David addresses what I believe to be future reality.  Basically David is saying, “continue to reveal your judgment on this earth since everyone will someday be judged around Your throne.”  One commentator said, “. . .all of God’s judgments in this life are dress rehearsals for the final judgment” (The Preacher’s Commentary, p. 72).  David quickly returns to his specific situation in verse 8b.  He asks the Lord to judge his actions justly.   Verses 12-13 talk about God’s direct punishment towards the wicked in sharpening His sword and making His bows ready.  There will be a day when wickedness will come to an end (Rev. 19).  At that final judgment, the righteous LORD will test hearts and minds.  For all the righteous, Jesus will be their defense and their righteousness.  And, since God is a just judge, He will justly punish the wicked (Rev. 20:10).

Now, where does this psalm point us to today?  I cannot help but be reminded of Romans 1-3.  Everyone is a sinner (Rom. 3).  There are areas of innocence in earthly matters.  God cares about those matters, and we ought to pray that His will be done on earth as it is in Heaven (Matt. 6).  But with regards to our innocence in the heavenly courts, everyone is wicked.

Thankfully, Jesus enters the Heavenly Courts.  The book of Zechariah gives a wonderful story of Joshua (the High Priest) coming into God’s courts with dirty clothes and God placing His clean robe on Joshua – symbolizing forgiveness (Zech. 3).  In the same way, Jesus died and shed his blood on behalf of sinners so that they might have a robe of righteousness placed on them.  Jesus enters the Heavenly Courts and says, “Judge them according to my righteousness, and according to my integrity within me.”  When those who have been saved get to the judgment, we ought never to say, “Lord, didn’t we do many wonderful works in your name” as a means of gaining access into eternal life (Matt. 7:21-23).  To those people God says depart from me.  Instead, we ought to say with the song-writer, “I need no other argument or plea.  It is enough that Jesus died, and that He died for me” (Eliza Hewitt, My Faith Has Found A Resting Place; see also Gal. 2:20).

So, what does David’s response to false accusations teach us?  We too ought to remember God’s judgment, entrust ourselves to Christ and then focus on our glorious eternal future.  In the final judgment there is either going to be people who believe on Jesus or people who have rejected Him.  For those who believe, there will be glorying in Him with great admiration!  We will say that God is our righteousness, our defense and our salvation.  God’s children will say with verse 17 of this psalm, “I will praise the LORD according to His righteousness, And will sing praise to the name of the LORD Most High.”


Jesus Satisfies People’s Hunger

Have you ever really wanted something to eat so bad, you could almost taste it? Maybe you’ve gone out to a restaurant and you order a steak or a burger or a salad that you’ve been craving all day. Finally, the food arrives. You eat it. You’re satisfied. Your meal was a success!

Have you ever had a similar situation with trials? Think about it. You placed your order in with God.  You ask for relief and satisfaction.  You just want them to be over. The hunger pains for God (and relief) are getting stronger, and yet God doesn’t seem to be coming to you. You may be learning some from His Word, but for some reason God is making you wait.

Mark 8 brings some particularly helpful insights for the hungry soul.

In those days, when again a great crowd had gathered, and they had nothing to eat, he called his disciples to him and said to them, “I have compassion on the crowd, because they have been with me now three days and have nothing to eat. And if I send them away hungry to their homes, they will faint on the way. And some of them have come from far away.” (Mark 8:1-3)

A couple of truths jumped out to me. The first of which is this: Jesus cares about people.  This shouldn’t come as a shock, but many times I can get a thought that Jesus just wants me to buck up, try harder, and work for God’s approval. Obviously I often feel weak when these thoughts control me. So, in the margin of my Bible, I wrote, “Jesus cares when you’re exasperated.” The reason I wrote it that way is because Jesus was concerned not only that the people hadn’t eaten food, but he was concerned at the consequences of not eating. In other words, if those people didn’t eat on that day, they would faint. Their physical bodies would “give up.”

The second truth I saw was that Jesus could have fed the people on the first or second day. He could have fed them all of the days. But, He didn’t feed them until the third day.

The third truth I saw was that Jesus gave more than enough food to satisfy each person. “And they ate and were satisfied. And they took up the broken pieces left over, seven baskets full.”

Listen carefully here. If you have trusted in Jesus, you are one of God’s children (Rom. 8:17).  Therefore, if you find yourself in a dry season, know that God knows what you can bear. You may be in the first day and your hunger for God is known through growling. You may be in the third day and you are getting worried about the spiritual journey ahead. You may not be growling for food, but you feel weak and you know if you take too many more steps, you’ll faint. Be confident about this: Jesus cares. He cares that you’re exasperated. He doesn’t want you to faint on your walk with Him. He knows how many “days” you can bear. While you might feel hungry now, there’s going to be a time when he feeds you to the full and you will be satisfied with more than enough food. Then, one day in Heaven, you will say, “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us” (Rom. 8:18).

Believers, keep looking to the Savior who truly cares for you and entrust yourself to the faithful Creator (1 Pet. 4:19)!  If you have never trusted in the sacrifice and resurrection of the Messiah, my encouragement is basically the same.  Stop leaning on your own ways to save you and entrust yourself to God and His salvation plan (1 Pet. 4:19, Jas. 1:7-10).

For all who have been saved by God, His promise stands:

“I will never leave you nor forsake you” (Heb. 13:5 b).


Christ in Psalms – 6*

Whether you’ve gone through extremely dark seasons of depression or you’ve never thought about the shady side of the street, this passage can help each of us understand more of God’s mysterious ways in the lives of believers.  This passage of Scripture can help us to heed the words of Spurgeon (a man who dealt with depression very deeply at times), “Reader, never ridicule the nervous and hypochondriacal, their pain is real; though much of the [malady] lies in their imagination [thought-processes] it is not imaginary.”

There was a man who lived in the 1700’s named William Cowper.  He wrote many hymns: “There Is A Fountain Filled With Blood,” and “God Moves In A Mysterious Way” are just two.  Cowper was plagued with depression most of his life, and John Newton was a great friend of his – constantly coming alongside of him to encourage him in Christ.  At one point in time, Cowper wrote the following:  “Loaded as my life is with despair, I have no such comfort as would result from a supposed probability of better things to come, were it once ended … You will tell me that this cold gloom will be succeeded by a cheerful spring, and endeavour to encourage me to hope for a spiritual change resembling it – but it will be lost labour.”  Some of you have felt that way before.  Some of you might think that now – wondering if God will ever bring you spiritual vibrancy again.

Whether you are a John Newton personality or you tend to be more like Cowper, Psalm 6 can teach us much as we see how God works in individuals.  And, as has been the goal throughout this study, we find ultimate hope as we are pointed to the Messiah!

Verses 1-3 deal with the psalmist’s plea for mercy on the basis of his own self.  In verse 2, he declares that he is weak, and therefore in need of mercy.  The phrases “in your anger” and “in your wrath” (v. 1) are emphasized in the Hebrew.  The point is not that David thinks God shouldn’t discipline him.  The point is that David seems to think that God has gone too far and he is experiencing God’s wrath.  David seems to think that he may lose the salvation he was so confident he had (see Ps. 5:7).  His depression is causing him to lose sight of reality.

What I find so amazing in all of this is that while he feels as though God’s wrath may be towards him, he cannot stop praying.  This is very important in all believers.  Even though they feel slain by God, they continue to follow after Him and seek Him through prayer.  A believer’s faith is like a hot ember in their soul that cannot be put out completely.

In David’s initial plea for mercy, he asks on the basis of his weakness.  The word “weak” in verse 2 metaphorically refers to strong things becoming weak.  Think about the Titanic becoming weak, although it was built as an “unsinkable ship.”  Think about the walls of Jericho.  Think about people as they experience physical trauma like a stroke.  David places himself in this category.  He was very strong, but he has become weak in the midst of despair, and he cries out, “How long, O LORD?”

In verses 4 and 5, David makes a plea for God’s mercy on the basis of God’s mercy.  This is vital for a believer to do in the midst of depression.  D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones wrote a book on depression and he said one of the biggest problems he sees in the lives of believers is that they spend far too much time listening to themselves instead of preaching to themselves (read more here ).  In this psalm, David focuses his attention, for a moment, off of himself as a reason for attaining mercy, and he calls on the faithfulness of God.  He calls God to return to him.  It is as if David feels like God has turned away from him, and he is pleading for God’s face to shine on him once again.  In Psalm 5:7, David says God’s mercy is his security and hope in all abundance, and he is right.  In the Hebrew, the word mercy has a lavish meaning.  As one children’s book says, the LORD’s mercy is His “never stopping, never giving up, unfailing, always and forever love.”  So, the logic follows that if God’s love is unfailing, then how could God leave David?  God made a promise, and God must be true to His own character (see also Jas. 1:18).

David then says, in verse 5, that there will be no public worship of God (i.e. – “remembrance”) in death and no gratitude in Sheol.  I believe that a man who is depressed and believes he is under the wrath of God also seriously thinks he is going to experience Hell.  In verse 5, David is pleading with God, basically saying, “You saved me so that I would worship and declare You to others.  Keep your promise.”

In verses 6-7, David describes a little bit of the background to the current situation he finds himself in.  He is groaning, crying wherever he goes and his eyes are tired from the oppression he is feeling.  Verse 7 indicates that his despair has arisen either because of enemies or it is being sustained because of his enemies.  Either way, in many scenarios, depression has a spiritual and physical explanation.  For the believer, we also have to remember that our enemies are not only past, present or future circumstances, but they are also demonic forces (Eph. 6:12).  These enemies can cause extreme weight to our soul so that we are groaning – not even having words to speak because the pain is so deep.

In verses 8-10, David immediately turns the corner.  I do not think that circumstances have changed, but I think David has been strengthened by God to preach truth to Himself.  David’s looked at his situation.  He’s recalled God’s faithfulness and in boldness he commands his enemies to depart.  This is kingly speech that is much like Jesus’ statement in Matthew 7:23.  In Christ, believers can have that same humble boldness against our enemies through prayer.  David uses the dynamic use of “three” in this psalm.  To say something three times is a symbol of perfection and completion.  So, David reiterates that the Lord has heard and will receive his prayer.  In God’s timing, an answer will come that will result in David’s rescue.  He does not know when, but he knows that it will come.  As a result, his enemies ought to flee.  God is for him, no one else can be against him (Rom. 8:31).  John Bunyan, the writer of Pilgrim’s Progress and a man who struggled with depression for at least 8 years of his life says this, “Say to your soul, ‘This is not the place nor the time for despair. As long as my eyes can find a promise in the Bible, as long as I have life and breath, I will wait for mercy, I will fight against doubt and despair.’”

Now, does this psalm point us to the Messiah?  You may study this psalm finding a great source of encouragement that a man after God’s own heart struggled so deeply; however, do you realize that Jesus, and the pain He experienced, can minister to your soul in far greater ways than David and his pain?

Do you see Jesus weeping over Jerusalem?  Do you see the Savior when He was hungry and tempted in the wilderness by Satan himself?  Do you see Jesus in the Garden of Gesthemane?

We humans sometimes tend to prefer to lighten the intensity of Jesus’ pain in the garden by saying, “Well, He’s God.  Of course He knew He was going to be ok.”  Our response to that thought ought to be, “He was fully human.”  The Bible said that He was experiencing such trauma of soul that he bled out of the sweat glands on His face.

When I hear David saying, “Rebuke me not in your wrath,”  I hear Jesus saying, “Lord, let this cup pass from me.”  Yet Jesus was not going to experience being back at the right hand of the Father until He experienced the punishment for the sins of myriads of people.  Then Jesus experienced the Father forsaking Him: “My God, my God, why have You forsaken me?”  He literally experienced the horrors of Sheol on the cross.  With that, He breathed His last.  And, the Bible says that Jesus died.

How could Jesus have died?  How can there be any remembrance of God in death – especially the death of the Messiah?  How can there be any thankfulness given to God in the grave?  These questions are legitimate, and they’re answered by Jesus’ resurrection just a few days later.  He rose from the dead in order to give victory!  And, for those who are despairing and despondent, the Word says that He ever lives to make intercession for us.  Hebrews 7:24-25 says, “But He, because He continues forever, has an unchangeable priesthood. Therefore He is also able to save to the uttermost those who come to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them.”  Jesus is the perfect High Priest and He is risen and lives to make intercession for you so that you would endure even in the midst of despair.  And, if You are God’s child, He hears your prayers, too.  We know this because as Hebrews 4:15-16 says, “For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin.  Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.”  His discipline does not seem pleasant at the time (Heb. 12:11).  It is painful.  Some receive that pain much more than others.  If that is you.  I desire to encourage you in the sovereign greatness of God, the all-sacrificing love of Jesus and the eternal power of the Holy Spirit to trust in God.  He will sustain You.  God’s grace is sufficient.  Entrust yourself to Him and embrace whatever trials He allows.  Remember that His wrath is never towards His children.  He has heard your cries, and someday you will be with the Father in Heaven for all eternity and you will agree with the Apostle Paul’s statement, “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us” (Rom. 8:18). Seeing God face-to-face and being encompassed by His glory in Heaven will overshadow your years of pain and despair.

So, whether you are a hurting, despairing Christian or a hurting, despairing unbeliever – turn to the Savior.  Repent of trusting in yourself and things around you and trust in the loving Messiah who came to rescue you.  He will give needed strength to endure.  He does this because Jesus laid aside peace with God on the cross.  Jesus laid aside the strength of being the Sovereign Lord by coming to this earth.  He laid aside hope while He was enduring the wrath of God in your place.

Turn to the Lord.  Your enemies will flee, and you will find that He has always been turned towards you.

*Depression affects people physically and spiritually.  This overview of Psalm 6 primarily addressed depression from a spiritual standpoint.  If you are experiencing or know someone who is experiencing depression, I would also recommend that you consider medicine as a viable option.  Medicine can be a good, common grace of God to help some people in the midst of dark times. Read more about Christianity and depression from an author and professor, David Murray, in this book, “Christians Get Depressed, Too.”</em>


Gospel-Centered Love in Marriage

Russell Moore has written a piece talking about the recent statement that Pat Robertson said regarding a spouse with alheizmers.  I do not want to focus so much on what Robertson said as much as what Moore writes regarding marriage.  What Moore presents is an encouraging and challenging focus on the gospel and how it shapes our view of true love in marriage.

It’s easy to teach couples to put the “spark” back in their marriages, to put the “sizzle” back in their sex lives. You can still worship the self and want all that. But that’s not what love is. Love is fidelity with a cross on your back. Love is drowning in your own blood. Love is screaming, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me.”

You can read the entire article at Christianity Today’s website.


Jesus Learned Obedience

“Although he was a son, he learned obedience through what he suffered. And being made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation to all who obey him,” (Hebrews 5:7-9, ESV)

This passage, at face value, can seem to be full of confusion. I mean, how can the perfect Son learn obedience? What kind of encouragement are in these words? What does this teach us about Jesus?

Well, think of it this way. Think of learning how to read or write or do math problems. A teacher can tell you how to work the problems, and if you learn from her correctly, you will do exactly what she says. In a similar way, Jesus was taught by his earthly parents and the Father Himself. I every situation, Jesus was learning what obedience looked like, and He perfectly obeyed. He also used what He learned so that He could withstand the greatest trial – His death.

Think on this with amazement. God the Son submitted to being a human and learning obedience! Can we even fathom the depths of His love in doing this? The writer of Hebrews goes on to say that he was made perfect. That means that Jesus, through all His life, proved Himself as the Preeminent One to be worshipped and adored.

From all of these facts, we must see the beauty of Jesus. He was a man who had pains. He had to learn obedience, and through all of this, He reverenced God. Because of these realities, Jesus can truly “sympathize with our weaknesses” (Heb. 4:15). He knows where each of us are at today. He knows what you’re struggling with. He also confidently opens His arms up to you so you also can run and find refuge, hope and strength to obey!

Jesus learning obedience, His suffering and His perfection relates to your real life right now. Look to Him and submit your soul to the One who truly cares for you.

“Dear Lord, You endured suffering by simply becoming a human being. But, in order to experience the fullest extent of obedience, you desired to come to this earth and suffer for the sins of men! Now we can come to Your presence boldly with praise. Let us find rest and comfort in Jesus, the perfect source of eternal salvation. Amen.”