Monthly Archives: January 2018

Sinless One

Meditations on the Psalms

Blessed is the man … nor stands in the way of sinners (Psalm 1:1 ESV)

Secondly, the person who is righteous before God is not a sinner. He is sinless. Sinners are those with the predisposition and internal bent to rebel. There whole being is built to fight against God. They can do nothing but defy God. They are on a road leading them away from God. To stand in the way of the sinner is to be on the road which leads away from God.

Nor does this blessed Man stand with the attitude of, or being the servant of, those who move purposefully away from God. The way is that which defines them, not just their lifestyle, whose journey and manner of living is as a sinner. To stand is to steadfastly take an unmovable position where, no matter the assault, the person will not budge. They are intractable. Whatever it is that sinners do, the blessed man does the opposite.

When Jesus was tried by the world, the second of the three juries was the Roman Governor, Pontius Pilate. He was a leader of convenience, caring nothing for anyone but himself. Pilate is mentioned only a few times in the Gospels and then mostly during the trial of Jesus. Luke tells us Pilate was the Governor of Judea (see Luke 3:1). Jesus was told Pilate slaughtered a group of Galileans and mingled their blood with a sacrifice yet Jesus did not focus on the outrage of the Governor but on the reality of sin and the need for repentance.

There were some present at that very time who told him about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices. And he answered them, “Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans, because they suffered in this way? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.” (Luke 13:1-3 ESV)

All four Gospels record the interaction between Pilate and Jesus. Perhaps the most revealing exchange is when Pilate asked Jesus a sarcastic and disingenuous question. Jesus told the Governor those who love and embrace truth would follow Him. Pilate contemptuously asked “what is truth?” (John 18:38 ESV). Jesus did not answer him, nor does Scripture suggest Pilate waited for an answer. He cared nothing for truth, deciding to do what he wanted without being encumbered by moral obligation.

Pilate declared Jesus innocent yet, at the insistence of the Jewish leaders, had Him scourged and crucified. Turning Jesus over to the Roman guard, who equally cared nothing of a man’s guilt or innocence, Jesus was cruelly mocked before they tortured Him to death.

So when Pilate saw that he was gaining nothing, but rather that a riot was beginning, he took water and washed his hands before the crowd, saying, “I am innocent of this man’s blood; see to it yourselves.”

And all the people answered, “His blood be on us and on our children!” Then he released for them Barabbas, and having scourged Jesus, delivered him to be crucified.

Then the soldiers of the governor took Jesus into the governor’s headquarters, and they gathered the whole battalion before him. And they stripped him and put a scarlet robe on him, and twisting together a crown of thorns, they put it on his head and put a reed in his right hand. And kneeling before him, they mocked him, saying, “Hail, King of the Jews!” And they spit on him and took the reed and struck him on the head. And when they had mocked him, they stripped him of the robe and put his own clothes on him and led him away to crucify him. (Matthew 27:24-31 ESV)

Pontius Pilate shows the depths of the hold of sin on human nature. Pilate stood in judgment against the Son of God, found Him innocent and then put Him to death. Pilate obstinately stood on his sin, on the path moving away from God, even when confronted with absolute truth and the Son of God in the flesh.

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Against Wickedness

Meditations on the Psalms

Blessed is the man who …. walks not in the counsel of the wicked, (Psalm 1:1 ESV)

There are three parallel thoughts which follow this declaration of happiness and supports the contention that the person spoken of has a righteous standing before God. Only Jesus Christ is perfectly righteous before God and only He fits the description which follows. These are actions the Man avoids because of His righteous relationship with God.

First, the person who is righteous before God is not wicked and does not think like a wicked person. Wicked means ungodly, and describes those who have decided to mutiny against God. They are guilty, and proud of their guilt, of their campaign against God. Counsel means purpose and advice. These ungodly people not only have thought through their rebellion but instruct others to defy God, justifying rebellion against God to those willing to listen.

This man does not walk with, come to or associate with anyone whose council or purpose for living is to increase their wickedness, criminal activity, or moral evil. He is godly and never listens to the counsel or associates with those who are ungodly, except to confront them of their godlessness with His godliness.

When people walk in the counsel of someone, some teaching or worldview, it is because they think they can determine the direction and purpose of their lives. Someone who walks with God follows Him, being directed by how He has created them, seeking to strengthen the relationship for which they were created. Those who walk in the way of the world follow the countless directions of the world, their own flesh and the devil.

As Jesus faced His passion, He was judged by those in the world according to the standards of the world. There were three juries before whom He stood. First, were those who accused Him of blasphemy, the religious leaders of the nation of Israel. If there were any in the world who actively taught people to rebel against God it was those who were tasked to teach the truths of God.

From the time Jesus appeared on the scene, teaching repentance and the advent of the kingdom of heaven, the religious leaders of Israel opposed Him. They believed His teaching usurped their traditional power and authoritative place. Finally, even after witnessing Jesus’ words and deeds, they decided and conspired to murder Him. He, who had done nothing wrong and taught the truths of God, was eventually murdered by the religious leaders using the Romans as their tool of execution.

Now the chief priests and the whole council were seeking false testimony against Jesus that they might put him to death, but they found none, though many false witnesses came forward. At last two came forward and said, “This man said, ‘I am able to destroy the temple of God, and to rebuild it in three days.’”

And the high priest stood up and said, “Have you no answer to make? What is it that these men testify against you?” But Jesus remained silent. And the high priest said to him, “I adjure you by the living God, tell us if you are the Christ, the Son of God.”

Jesus said to him, “You have said so. But I tell you, from now on you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of Power and coming on the clouds of heaven.”

Then the high priest tore his robes and said, “He has uttered blasphemy. What further witnesses do we need? You have now heard his blasphemy. What is your judgment?”

They answered, “He deserves death.” Then they spit in his face and struck him. And some slapped him, saying, “Prophesy to us, you Christ! Who is it that struck you?” (Matthew 26:59-68 ESV)

Israel’s religious leaders were looking for any excuse to have Jesus murdered by the Romans. Any excuse would do. Every charge brought against Jesus was a lie because those who are ungodly refuse to see and acknowledge truth. It was the religious leaders of Israel who sanctioned wicked counsel against God.

Jesus stood alone against these wicked religious leaders.

The Blessed Man

Meditations on the Psalms

Blessed is the man (Psalm 1:1 ESV)

Blessed means happy. The Hebrew word conveys a mental, emotional and physically content state, where all things work together without conflict. Life is good. There is especially no conflict between the person and God, for the relationship is one of righteousness, not rebellion. While happiness may be viewed as distinctly emotional, this Man’s happiness reveals the Man’s true identity. The Man’s essential self is happiness. It is who He is. Only Jesus Christ fit this description. No one else can because of sin.

Man means a person, or a specific individual, such as a servant or a great and mighty man. Happiness comes to the person whose life is characterized by a right relationship with God.

Jesus Christ is the Word of God and the Author of all Scripture. In the Psalms, God speaks to the world through His Son. From the moment Adam sinned, God had already decreed and planned to send His Son to ransom fallen Man and crush the head of the Deceiver (see Genesis 3:15). He sent His Son into the world as Man the way Man was originally intended. Jesus’ life in this world was meant to glorify God and He alone fulfilled that purpose.

At the beginning of Jesus’ earthly ministry, He was baptized by His cousin, John the Baptizer, who was prophetically chosen as the forerunner for Messiah by God. As Jesus was baptized, God spoke verbally to Him and to the people who witnessed His baptism.

And when Jesus was baptized, immediately he went up from the water, and behold, the heavens were opened to him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and coming to rest on him; and behold, a voice from heaven said, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.” (Matthew 3:16-17, ESV)

In the Psalms, beginning with Psalm 1, we see the deepest thinking of the heart of God about His Son, and about those who belong to God because of the work of Christ.

The Deceiver – Part Two

Meditations on the Psalms

Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers. (Psalm 1:1 ESV)

In Genesis 3 we see the Deceiver, in the guise of a serpent, speaking to the first woman about a boundary God had placed upon the first man, Adam. God had placed a single restriction upon Adam by telling him to not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. “And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, ‘You may surely eat of every tree of the garden, but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die’” (Genesis 2:16-17 ESV). God then created a woman, Eve, out of the man. It was the woman who was tempted to rebel against God and then the man who actually rebelled. However, it is the Deceiver who inserted the catalyst into the minds of the Adam and Eve to rebel against God.

While reasoning with the Eve, The Deceiver lied, suggesting the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil had some superstitious, magical quality which would make her as wise and knowledgeable as God. She looked at the fruit and saw it was “good for food,” appealing to her fleshly need for nourishment, that it was a “delight to the eyes,” appealing to her worldly perception, and that it was “desired to make one wise,” a complete lie of the Deceiver, also known as the devil (Genesis 3:6 ESV).

All of the trees of the garden were beautiful and good for food. She had permission to eat from any other tree, but the Deceiver focused her attention upon this one tree because of its forbidden status. She believed Its words that God was deliberately withholding something from her that was good and desirable. One the other hand, the man did what she suggested. Both ate but it was the eating of the man which brought spiritual separation from God to all, not the eating of the woman.

From this account, we discover the first physical act of rebellion against God from those who are created in His image for intimate relationship with Him. However, the temptations of the Deceiver suggest It, also created by God but without the image of God, had already actively and purposefully rebelled against Its Creator. We can only assume answers to the question of why God allowed this creature to rebel against Him and then allowed It to tempt the first people. We can know the Deceiver hates God and will do everything in Its power to undo, corrupt and destroy that which God has done. It is at war with God and stands diametrically opposed to all that is God.

So, in Psalm 1 we see a righteous Man and those who follow Him, and a Deceiver and those who follow It. Those who follow the righteous Man are identified with Him. He is Jesus Christ, the second Adam. Jesus Christ actively draws people to Himself. His death and resurrection freely gives those who follow Him right standing before God even though none except Jesus can do anything righteous. Those who belong to Him will live with Him for eternity.

On the other hand, the Deceiver has many who identify with It, even though It cares nothing for them and wants them crushed. The Deceiver is a malevolent leader whose entire motivation and intent is to destroy anything and everything which shows God’s will, justice, righteousness, holiness, truth and goodness. Those who follow It are led to annihilation and will exist outside of God’s life-giving presence, for eternity.

The Deceiver – Part One

Meditation on the Psalms

Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers; (Psalm 1:1 ESV)

There is another creature in Scripture leading the rebellion against God. It is the Deceiver. Who is the Deceiver? There are allusions in Scripture but little information is definitive. It, the Deceiver, created by God for service to Him, rebelled against God, seeking to usurp His authority in eternity. It is also known as Satan, the devil, the old serpent, tempter, ruler of this world.

Jesus tells us three things about the “ruler of this world” (see John 12:31; 14:30; 16:11). Ruler means commander or leader. The KJV uses the word “prince.” World means the earth, its inhabitants, including and incorporating all of the rebellious citizens of that which was created by God. Jesus is referring to the world in which He came and we live. Thus, the ruler of this world is the commander or leader of those who are in rebellion against God in this world.

Jesus is not suggesting the Deceiver is royalty, or owns the world, but that It is a usurper, a created being instrumental in planning and executing a coup. He tells us ultimately the Deceiver is cast out, a future action for us but a completed action from God. “Now is the judgment all, of this world; now will the ruler of this world be cast out” (John 12:31 ESV).

Secondly, the ruler of this world came to corrupt Jesus and tried to kill Him, but could do nothing to God the Son. “I will no longer talk much with you, for the ruler of this world is coming. He has no claim on me,” (John 14:30 ESV).

Finally, the ruler of this world has already been tried, judged and sentenced. “The ruler of this world is judged” (John 16:11 ESV). While Jesus gives the Deceiver the status of ruler of the world, Its rule is at the pleasure of God and is taken away at His discretion.

Do not think the Deceiver is the king or ruler of hell. People don’t like to think about or conceive of hell. Some take a morbid curiosity and begin building ideas about what hell is like based upon the poetic and allegorical descriptions in Scripture. Sometimes Jesus refers to Gehenna, a place outside of Jerusalem because of its association with the detestable god Molech and the abominable practice of burning children alive as a sacrifice to Molech.

Gehenna is translated as hell. This little valley was where everything detestable was thrown, whether garbage or unwanted corpses. Whatever was tossed into this valley was burned. A perpetual stench arose from the valley. Hell is worse than this place. But, the Deceiver is not its ruler.

Hell is the place of eternal punishment. Hell is separation from God. It was made for the Deceiver and the fallen angels. “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels’” (Matthew 25:41 ESV). But, it is also an eternal place where those who rebel against God and die in their sins are consigned.

“I tell you, my friends, do not fear those who kill the body, and after that have nothing more that they can do. But I will warn you whom to fear: fear him who, after he has killed, has authority to cast into hell. Yes, I tell you, fear him!” (Luke 12:4-5 ESV).

A Righteous Man

Meditations on the Psalms

Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way  of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers; (Psalm 1:1 ESV)

In the Psalms, God speaks to everyone in the world about His Son, Jesus Christ. God speaks in the first person in Psalm 1. He is describing a man who is righteous before Him.

Man is singular but can refer to Mankind as a singular group of people, all created in the image of God. Most often man refers to one person such as a husband, servant, great person, champion. As described in this verse, the man is sinless and never surrenders to any impulse to rebel against God.

Unlike modern English tenses, which express past, present and future, Biblical Hebrew views action as either completed or not completed. The man described in Psalm 1 does not, nor will ever, rebel against God and His moral code, but has accomplished the exact opposite by upholding God’s absolute will. All of his obedient actions toward God are complete and finished.

Many see themselves in this Psalm because they want to see themselves. If Psalm 1 is about anyone it is about either those who are in complete rebellion against God or a man in complete submission to Him and those who identify with that man. Psalm 1 speaks about one person who has no sin, who hates sin and refuses to participate with anyone or anything that leads to sin.

Paul is adamant in his assessment of the spiritual condition of all people. Everyone is facing the judgment of God and under His condemnation because of their rebellious nature.

What then? Are we Jews any better off? No, not at all. For we have already charged that all, both Jews and Greeks, are under sin, as it is written:

“None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God. All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one.” (See Psalm 14:1-3 and Psalm 53:1-3)

“Their throat is an open grave; they use their tongues to deceive” (See Psalm 5:9).

“The venom of asps is under their lips” (See Psalm 140:3).

“Their mouth is full of curses and bitterness” (See Psalm 10:7).

“Their feet are swift to shed blood (See Proverbs 1:16);

in their paths are ruin and misery, (See Isaiah 59:7-8);

and the way of peace they have not known” (See Luke 1:79).

“There is no fear of God before their eyes” (See Psalm 36:1) (Romans 3:9-18 ESV)

God blesses the man who does not rebel against Him but works tirelessly to seek His will and intimately know Him. This describes only one person who has ever lived. Only Jesus Christ has perfectly done all God wanted without sinning. Every other person who has ever lived has rebelled against God.

Only Jesus Christ is perfect and only He has kept the law of God perfectly. Because of His perfection He is righteous before God and the only One able to bring those who are rebelling to repentance and belief into God’s presence.

But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it— the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. (Romans 3:21-25 ESV)

If this Psalms shows anything about individuals it shows who each person serves and with whom each person identifies. Even though every person is responsible for their own actions, thoughts and words, they are still controlled by sin and the desire to rebel against God. He will not forsake those who seek Him. He may not remove them from the temptations they face but He will enable them to confront and subdue the temptations with the confidence of knowing to whom they belong. People are blessed by God as they are identified with Jesus Christ, the only sinless One blessed by God.

Introduction to Psalm One

Meditations on the Psalms

[This is the beginning of a series of my thoughts on the Psalms.]

Introduction to Psalm 1

In the Psalms, we see two spiritual entities, one struggling with the other, with their respective followers. One, the Deceiver, is at war with the other, God the Creator, having begun the conflict and obsessively refusing to end or concede defeat. God fights an unsought war with every necessary tool, eternally knowing His victory is assured. His opponent also fights with every deceptive trick and contrivance available, knowing it has no chance of victory. It is a war which should not have happened but is raging and cannot be stopped until the time is right. It is the Deceiver, a created being, rebelling against God, the Creator of His foe.

War should bring fear and trembling to every sane and reasonable person. In war is destruction and death. There is no safety and security in a war zone. There is constant terror and unsought courage, debilitating fear and selfless bravery, premeditated loss from destruction and deliberate self-sacrifice. War brings out the worst in people. War brings out the best in people.

Why would any created being wage war against the Creator, knowing there was no hope of victory, knowing at the end of the conflict it would face utter destruction? Would this knowledge not change the face of war? Would not tactics and strategies change? There is no hope of victory for the Deceiver, and no chance of surrender because judgment is irrevocably and eternally decreed. Still, the war rages.

This is not a war as physical, space-time history would define war. In war, there are sides of combatants fighting to control people, land or whatever is at stake. There is ultimately a winner and a loser. All sides will suffer loss but eventually one side will capitulate to the other and sue for terms of peace, or a cessation of conflict. Or, one side will so totally dominate the other the overshadowed side will face annihilation.

This war is not in heaven. It is not an eternal struggle but has an end. It is on Earth. Though it is two spiritual beings, one eternal and omnipotent and the other having a beginning and powerful but still not God, the war is fought in space-time.

Over what is the rebellion being raged? Ultimately, there is no prize. God, existing before the beginning and after the end of time, is the object of the Deceivers wrath. But God is not a prize which can be won or lost. Temporarily, the trophy is the souls of people made in the image of God, whom God loves. Those who belong to Him cannot be lost while those who rebel against Him cannot be saved.

But do not think anyone born is a passive participant or an innocent bystander. Nor think any person choses sides. Every person born is thrust into the war against God, for the sinful bent and corruption of Man propels all away from their Creator. Yet, God’s image drives each person toward God. It is a true war, with eternal consequences fought within the soul of each person given the image of God while inhabiting a vessel corrupted by sin.

Those who are known by God are the battlefield, continually threatened and assaulted by those who do not belong to God. Most in the world will not even recognize there is a war raging. It is not an awareness of position for or against God which defines the war. It is the justice and righteousness of God judging those who rebel against God, which sets the stage. The war we face moment by moment is a rebellion against God and all He represents.

There is only one champion. His name is Jesus Christ. He is God who was born in flesh as a righteous, sinless man. He took upon Himself the punishment for rebellion and sin for all so all might be reconciled to God. He, and He alone, has fought the war and claimed victory over the consequences of sin, not just the entities who rebelled against Him.

Still, the Deceiver, knowing its own end is annihilation, eternal separation from that which creates and sustains life, is bent on wreaking as much havoc and destruction as possible. There is no prize. It, the Deceiver, is called the prince, or ruler, of this world but it is not the king and supreme ruler of hell. God still rules hell, for it is a place He created for those who rebel against Him, beginning with the Deceiver.

Psalm 1 describes the conflict and ultimate resolution between the only Righteous One, and those who are His, and the Deceiver, and those who follow it.