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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.”

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Funny Friday

This is an oldie but a goodie!

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>

What Would It Look Like to Orbit the Earth?

Colonel Jeff Williams—a member of the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod—has seen this first hand. He has orbited the earth over 2,800 times, more than any person in history. He has also captured more photographs of earth than any person in history. You can view his 2006 photos and biblical reflections and commentary in the book The Work of His Hands: A View of God’s Creation from Space. He says, “Spaceflight definitely gave me a new perspective on the world around us and provided a transcendent view of things above and beyond the immediate elements of life . . . viewing the earth from space brought a new significance to the truth of many familiar biblical texts.” You can look inside the book here.

Click here to see more images of God’s creation from space: What Would It Look Like to Orbit the Earth?.

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.

Children and Secondhand Stress

“I love my kids dearly and play with them and do special things with them and try to teach them the Bible and discipline them when they disobey. But I can also be impatient. And that’s a sin. I needlessly exasperate them at times. And that’s a sin too.

So I took note of these paragraphs from Bryan Caplan who has written a sometimes-right-on, sometimes-head-scratching, non-Christian, pro-big family book on parenting:”

Read more from Kevin DeYoung here: Children and Secondhand Stress.