The Gospel for Real Life


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.


Christ in Psalms – 5

Psalm 5 can be broken up in at least three different categories: 1) David’s Requests, 2) The Consequences of the Wicked, and 3) The Blessings of the Righteous.

David’s requests are mentioned in verses 1-3, 8, 10 and 11.

Verses 1-3 are merely repetition of what David is about to do and say.  But, there is very important wording here.  He is asking and pleading for God to listen to him.  This is many times missing in the prayers that we make to our Father.  While Jesus says that God listens to His children, He also communicates that we need to go to Him with dependency.  The mere fact that David is pleading to God for Him to answer reveals that he is not arrogant in his attitude.  He can, in other psalms, boldy say, “Save me, O my God!” and “Arise, O LORD,” but he always asks that on the basis of God’s character – not ultimately on the basis of his own character.  David asks humbly and then expectantly looks up to God for an answer.

Verse 8 is a personal request.  David says, “Lead me, O LORD, in Your righteousness because of my enemies.”  This is a two-fold request which is summed up nicely at the end of verse 8: “Make Your way straight before my face” (see also Prov. 3:5-6).  What this means is that God will bring us to our expected end.  David expounds on that here by saying that we will only get to our expected end if the LORD – Yahweh, the covenant-keeping Creator – leads us every step of the way.  David is asking that God’s righteousness would be worked through his actions because of David’s enemies.  David seems to be asking that the Lord would lead him and work His righteousness through him so that God’s enemies would see that God’s path is right and just and best.  In other words, David wants God’s enemies to be put to shame in their sin and to see God’s Truth.

In verse 10, David asks that God would pronounce the wicked guilty, and he asks that a just punishment is given to them.  David wants their own sin to be their ruin and he prays that God would cast them away from His people.  This theology is also seen in the New Testament in Romans 1.

All this said, David’s requests do not end on punishment.  Instead he focuses on God’s design for human beings.  Verse 11 gives us David’s final request: let all who trust in Yahweh, rejoice.  David emphasizes the word joy three times.  When authors in the Old Testament times wanted to reiterate a fact, they would say something three times.  They didn’t have punctuation.  They didn’t have exclamation points.  They could not put a question-mark and an exclamation.  Instead, they would say something like, “Rejoice, shout for joy, be joyful!” God desires that we be full of joy.  If those who trust in God understand the severity of God’s punishment (which all of us deserve) then we ought to be people who are full of joy.

The next question one may ask is, “What does God’s punishment look like?”  That’s another theme David addresses: the consequences of the wicked (vv. 4-6, 9-10).  In order to understand the riches of God’s grace, we need to understand the horrors that our sins deserve.  David cries out against the wicked because they have turned against the Lord.  Since David is confident that God is righteous, he knows that the Lord will act righteously towards those who do not trust in Him.  A few points we see in verses 4-6 (which are similar to 9-11) are that 1) God takes no pleasure in wickedness, 2) Evil will not dwell with God, and 3) The LORD abhors the bloodthirsty and deceitful man.  This does not negate the chance they could repent and receive God’s eternal love.  This does not mean that God is not showing mercy to them even today in allowing them to experience many of His blessings.  But, the Bible does say that God’s wrath abides on such a one who has not turned to God through Christ.  In some mysterious way, God can hate and also display love towards unbelievers for a time.

The promise is that because the people are living this way, they will never dwell with God because evil will not dwell with God.  Some argue that God cannot be loving and send people to Hell; however, in the Scriptures, we see a portrait of people in Hell who continue to deny Him.  Hence, we can more fully understand a phrase like, “Cast them out in the multitude of their transgressions.”  Throughout all eternity, if you do not trust in the LORD, your sin will be yours.  It will cling to you and you will waste away in that sin for eternity – always being tormented, never finding relief because you cling to your sin.

This is justice.  And, as we see clearly in the Scriptures, this is what we all deserve because we are sinners, all our words are like a grave (see Rom. 3 where part of this Psalm is quoted).  Our most inward part of our being is destruction because we are sinners – hence Hell is our destination if we have not turned to Yahweh.

Is there any hope?  Yes, definitely!  The final piece of this Psalm that we need to see is the blessing of the righteous.  Again, since God is righteous in His very being, He will act righteously towards the wicked and also towards the righteous.  But, there is none righteous, no, not one!  Thankfully, as we saw in our study of Psalm 1, only Jesus could be considered righteous, and it is on the basis of His righteousness that we, too, can be declared righteous.  All blessings are given to Jesus, and we receive them by trusting in Him – the LORD.  As a result, we experience an infinite number of blessings from the eternal God.  “For You, O LORD, will bless the righteous; With favor You will surround him as with a shield.”

What are a few of the blessings this psalm tells us that we receive through the Messiah?  First, God hears the prayers of the righteous.  Even if we cannot come up with the words and we can only groan, God will answer us (note: “meditation” means “to groan”).  Second, unlike the wicked, the righteous enter into God’s house.  Third, those who trust in God have His steadfast, forever faithful, love.  In spite of our disobedience, God showers down a love that never wavers.  Fourth, believers can truly worship God because of His forgiveness.  David realizes that he deserves to be punished, yet he says, “But as for me. . . .”

Ultimately, it is God’s character and actions that matter – not ours.  We need Him.  David makes this more clear even in the names he uses to reference God: 1) O LORD, 2) My King, 3) My God.

He recognizes God is the covenant-keeping God of steadfast love towards His children.  He recognizes that He can’t solve all of life issues and can’t bring about true righteousness – only the King can do that as He reigns from His throne on high at the present time.  He realizes that this God is not just a God off in the distance but He is his God.  One commentator pointed out that in Hebrew, to call God, “my God” was the greek equivalent to saying, “Abba” (Longman, Tremper & David Garland, The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Psalms, p. 115).  It is no wonder that Jesus prays that way and we even find Paul calling God “Abba.”

So, what do we see of Jesus in this psalm?  Obviously, there could be a myriad of pictures of Jesus here.  I will touch on a few.  First, we see David, the anointed one, praying on behalf of those who trust in God. In John 17, we see Jesus, the Anointed One, praying on behalf of all who will trust in Him.  Second, we see that the LORD also refers to Jesus.  Salvation belongs to Him.  Through Jesus, we are saved.  He is the way, the truth and the life.  Third, we see that Jesus is also the King.  In Isaiah 6, Isaiah talks of God in the temple on the throne with the train of His robe filling the temple.  Then in John 12:41, the Scriptures say that Isaiah’s revelation was of Jesus’ glory.  Jesus is King. In this King, we can bring all of our cares – knowing that He will take care of us.  Fourth, we receive blessings through Jesus.  The last two lines can also be translated, “You will crown them with favor as with a shield.”  One commentator said, “From one hand the Lord extends his protection and favor, likened to a ‘shield’. . .; from the other hand he bestows his royal glory on the godly. . .” (Longman, Tremper & David E. Garland, The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, p. 119).

It is very true what the psalmist says.  Those who trust in the Lord are immeasurably blessed and have eternal blessing in store for them.

Rejoice, all those who trust in Him!

Rich or Poor – There Is So Much More!

This past Sunday, I preached from James 1:9-11.  In essence, this passages teaches us that there is more to be had that financial status.  The rich ought to not glory in their status as being rich and the poor ought to not think they’re less human simply because their poor.  Instead, both should rejoice in their heavenly status.  The rich should rejoice in their low status as slaves of Christ (which is really their salvation).  And, the poor should exalt in their high position in Christ (which is far greater than riches).

There are a couple of truths I want to point out regarding this passage:

1) This passage does not mean that the poor should just stay poor and that they are not in need of help.  This would be a wrong application of these verses, and James will get to that in the following chapters.  God is very concerned for the poor, and we ought to be as well.

2) This does not mean that the rich should hoarde their money.  Instead, the rich should realize their wealth does not save, and those in Christ should give more freely!  Again, James will pick up on these topics in the coming chapters.

3) How we spend our money (or view our monetary status) can reveal whether or not we truly love God or simply love the passing things of this world.  The is just one way we can see whether we’re buying into the mindset of the “double-souled” person.

4) Eternity is wonderful beyond our comprehension.  James says that the things of this earth pass away quickly.  Yet, we many times stand in awe of the things we see around us.  To me, that speaks to the everlasting beauty of eternity.  If you have trusted in the LORD – and you are a slave of God and the Lord Jesus Christ – you can look forward to a glorious future!

Christ in Psalms – 3

So far, we have seen that Jesus really is the Blessed Man and also that those who trust in the Anointed One are truly blessed.  As we approach Psalm 3, we find David communicating truth to our everyday situations when people turn against us and accuse us of not being blessed by God.

The situation surrounding this psalm is bleak.  Absalom has staged a coup, and David (along with some individuals) has left Jerusalem to hide for safety.  By the writing of this Psalm, Absalom probably has an army of somewhere between 12,000 to 20,000 individuals (2 Sam. 17:1, 11, 18:7).  People consider him a man of blood (2 Sam. 16:7-8).  People think Absalom is their answer – although Absalom stole their hearts (2 Sam. 15:6).  This psalm reveals another accusation that people make, “There is no help for him in God.”  David has heard the accusations.  These are very serious claims, and no matter how “spiritual” you are, this is an intensely difficult situation.  Have you ever found yourself in a situation where family members, church family or friends make false accusations against you?  Where do you turn?

This psalm begins by David calling out to the covenant-keeping God.  “LORD” is the Hebrew word for Yahweh.  This is the personal name of God.  Even though others are claiming that he has no hope in God, David continues to call out to God in personal terms.  Yet, that does not mean that he is not facing difficulty.  People have increased against him to trouble him and breed accusations against him.

Since this is a song for the people of Israel to sing, David is also writing this to allow us to ponder and meditate on similar situations in our own life.  While the meaning of the word “Selah” is not definitely known, many believe it to be a term indicating a musical interlude – calling people to ponder what was just written.  Therefore, David says, “People are rising up against me.  They’re saying I have no hope in you.  Now, people who are singing this, ponder this type of situation.  Ponder what it must be like.”

David then moves his attention away from temporal realities to eternal truth.  This should be a great encouragement to all of us who are reading because many times when we face difficulty, we simply re-direct our attention to something else temporal instead of truly meditating on God.  But God is Who we really need.  Therefore, David meditates and preaches the good news of God’s salvation to his own soul.  We see three things that David brings out:

  1. Yahweh is a shield about him.  The word “about” is a strong Hebrew preposition.  Therefore, David is saying that God’s shield is surrounding him with complete protection.  In God David finds real salvation, real protection.
  2. Yahweh is his glory.  This seems to mean that David finds his glory in the Lord.  He rejoices in God.  From an earthly perspective, there are many things that can bring happiness to our hearts, but in comparison to God, it all pales.  God is His child’s glory and joy!  Even this truth indicates to David that he is one of God’s children and that there is help for him in God.  The Bible says that we love God because He first loved us (1 Jn. 4:19).  If David loves God, then God obviously loves him.
  3. Yahweh lifts up David’s head.  This means that God takes away shame and disgrace and gives him the zeal to move forward.
David then goes on to repeat his time of prayer to the Lord.  He is confident that the Lord heard him from His holy hill.  This could be referencing David’s sorrowful lament in 2 Samuel 15:30.  If so, we know that nothing has changed from outward perceptions yet David is confident that God has heard his plea.  In the same way, we may not see situations change around us, but if we are God’s children.  If God is our shield, our glory and the lifter of our head, then we can be confident that God hears us even today from His holy hill (Heb. 12:22ff)!
What is the conclusion for David, and how should we respond if we find ourselves in circumstances like Psalm 3 describes?  David says we ought to be able to sleep.  This is one of the most vulnerable states in which we can put ourselves.  Yet David knows that if God is his shield, he can even sleep.  Even in less turbulent times, the only reason he awakes is because God sustained him.  So, why should he be afraid if literally ten thousands of people are set all around him?  God’s shield is stronger than his enemies.
Now David calls upon the Lord to make visible what he knows to be true.  And, we Christians today ought to have the same attitude.  Just as Jesus said, “Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven” (Matt. 6:10).  We ought to be crying out for God to act on His promises.  We ought to want God to do things that only He can do.  He has promised.  Now ask!
David’s confidence rises as he meditates on the defeat of the enemies.  They have been shamed (“struck on the cheekbone”) and have lost their control (“broken the teeth”).  While God’s enemies can kill, they do not have the power to eternally destroy.  Therefore, all of God’s enemies have been put to shame.  And, if we fast forward to the cross and resurrection, we see that most clearly (Col. 2:15).
David concludes all of this by saying, “Salvation belongs to the LORD.”  He again addresses Yahweh.  He is the God of salvation.  This phrase is also used in Revelation 7:10: “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb.”  The Scriptures are clear that God does not share His glory with any other yet the Bible makes clear that Jesus is also Yahweh (Joel 2:32, Rom. 10:13, Rev. 7:10).  Now, from our perspective, we clearly see that Jesus (the Christ) is the One from whom salvation flows, and since He grants salvation, we must run to Him for our comfort!
If anyone has really experienced this great salvation from the Messiah, they will pray like David, “Let your blessing be upon Your people.”  David still prays for the other Jewish people who have revolted against him.  He knows that God’s salvation is rich towards him, and God delights in rescuing others.  We must have the same attitude of humility.  We must revel in God and then pray that His power is evident in more majestic ways in circumstances of life and through saving others around us.

Living Theology Thoughts

This past Sunday (8/14), I preached on James 1:5-8.  One of the members of Ventura talked to me and brought out a point in the text that I thought was very encouraging.

In verse 5, James says that if we lack wisdom, we are to ask of God for that wisdom.  Then in verse 7, it says that the doubter should not expect to receive anything from the Lord because he is the the billowing sea.  It is very interesting and beautiful how James brings together the thoughts on God the Father and the Lord Jesus in verses 1, 5 and 7.  God the Father and God the Son are one.  We are commanded to go the Father for His good gifts, and it is through His Son that we receive them!

This is a similar point that I made in Psalm 2:8.  The Father says to the Son to ask of Him and He will give.  Then, in the New Testament we find exhortations to ask of the Father and we will receive.  I see two clear truths in this, 1) The Father gives gifts towards the Son, and 2) the Son calls us to trust in Him so that the Father will treat us like He does the Son.

The applications are many-faceted and astounding, and we can be confident that God will teach us these truths if we go to Him without a double-mindedness about Him.  Therefore, ask God for wisdom as you meditate on these truths and find hope in the Anointed One, the Lord Jesus (Ps. 2 & Jas. 1:1, 7).

Jesus in Isaiah 6

This is a post I wrote last year, but I still find it fascinating and wonderful.  I hope it encourages your heart to see Christ in all of the Scriptures!

When was the last time you read Isaiah 6? For me, this passage is familiar. It’s one of those passages that I hope will hit me more and more. I desire that I would be filled with the greatness and awe of God’s majesty, and this passage shows me just how majestic God is.
Recently I was listening to our Vintage Jesus series that the teens in our youth ministry are going through, and Mark Driscoll brought up a point that I had never seen before: The description of God in Isaiah 6 is the description of Jesus. As a conservative evangelical Christian, I know that God is Triune, but it just hit me more to realize how closely related the Persons of the Trinity are when I heard Driscoll share this verse:

Isaiah said these things because he saw his glory and spoke of him. – John 12:41

John is referencing Jesus in this verse. John is saying that Isaiah saw Jesus’ glory and hence spoke of Him. At what point in time did Isaiah see Jesus’ glory? It’s rehearsed in Isaiah 6.

In the year that King Uzziah died I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up; and the train of his robe filled the temple. Above him stood the seraphim. Each had six wings: with two he covered his face, and with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. And one called to another and said: “Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory!”

Jesus is not only the humble servant, but He is King of kings. He is the Holy Lord. He is the Mighty God whom seraphim continually worship. He is all-powerful. And, for anyone who trusts Him, He is their Savior!