Monthly Archives: February 2018

The LORD’s Anointed

Meditations on the Psalms

against the LORD and against his Anointed, saying, (Psalm 2:1-2 ESV)

It is against God the people of the earth rage and rebel. YHWH, the proper name for God, is used. His Anointed is Messiah. The progression of their hatred begins with God, who is untouchable, moves to the person of Jesus Christ, who experienced the full wrath of the people, was murdered and was raised from the dead, and is finally directed against Christians, who are the representatives of God the world can touch. It should not surprise Christians who experience suffering for righteousness’ sake.

Jesus tells us that following Him will bring suffering for righteousness’ sake, just because we follow Him. In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus ends His description of the citizen of the kingdom of heaven with the reality of the hatred of the world. Those who are and carry the characteristics of the citizen of the Kingdom of Heaven will be hated and persecuted by the world.

Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you. (Matthew 5:10-12 ESV)

After Jesus chose His twelve disciples, He prepared them and then sent them out to preach repentance for kingdom of heaven is at hand. His instructions are detailed. They were to allow nothing to keep them from teaching and preaching His words.

Beware of men, for they will deliver you over to courts and flog you in their synagogues, and you will be dragged before governors and kings for my sake, to bear witness before them and the Gentiles. When they deliver you over, do not be anxious how you are to speak or what you are to say, for what you are to say will be given to you in that hour. For it is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you. Brother will deliver brother over to death, and the father his child, and children will rise against parents and have them put to death, and you will be hated by all for my name’s sake. But the one who endures to the end will be saved. When they persecute you in one town, flee to the next, for truly, I say to you, you will not have gone through all the towns of Israel before the Son of Man comes.

A disciple is not above his teacher, nor a servant above his master. It is enough for the disciple to be like his teacher, and the servant like his master. If they have called the master of the house Beelzebul, how much more will they malign those of his household. (Matthew 10:17-25 ESV)

It is not against the Christian, who is feeling the brunt of the persecution, the world rages. It is against God and His Messiah, Jesus Christ. Christians identify with Christ and since the world cannot murder Christ again it does the next best thing by persecuting and murdering those who represent Christ.

Why would anyone want to invite persecution? Those who are servants of God know God intimately. They have recognized their sin and rebellion against Him and realized the consequences of their corrupt nature. They have relinquished control of their lives to Him who gives life and begin pursuing Him through the direction of the Holy Spirit. They become wholly His, abandoning themselves and whatever they might have in this world for eternal life. Drawn toward God they cannot imagine returning to the futile and sinful thinking of the heart of those in the world.

When people rebel, it is against God and His Son. When any come to Him it is at the direction and command of God and His Son. Our action toward those who persecute the Christian, ourselves included, is to love them, showing them the light of God through our lives lived in righteousness. We are the salt and light of the world (see Matthew 5: 14-16). Our lives are meant to draw people toward God, not drive them away.

Peter, who fully experienced the persecution of the world, tells us “Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul. Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable, so that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation” (1 Peter 2:11-12 ESV). It is toward God, the object of the wrath of the world, that our lives direct the world, so the world might “glorify God on the day of visitation.”

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Why Do the Nations Rage?

Meditations on the Psalms

Why do the nations rage and the peoples plot in vain? The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, (Psalm 2:1-2 ESV)

All peoples and nations fight against God. God asks Why? For what reason are the nations doing this? How did they come to the place where such thinking of their hearts is justified? What has God done to illicit a violent and consuming belief followed by insidious action? Why?

Nations refers to a large group of people or locusts or other animals and refers to all countries. Some translations use the word heathen instead of nations. People refers to the individuals of each nation. Rage means to scheme a tumultuous mutiny and plot in vain means to moan or mutter, to devise and imagine idle and empty thoughts. Thus, large groups of people, whole communities and societies, collectively believe and promote wrong thinking and violence against God.

God penetrates to the heart of the mutiny by identifying those who instigated such thinking. It is the leaders and teachers training the people. The kings of the earth set themselves means the kings of the entire planet who have planted their feet firmly, stationing themselves to take a stand. The rulers take counsel together means those who carry the weight and burden of leading the people daily have laid a foundation and seated themselves close together to consult and decide the actions of the entire group. Thus, the national leaders have listened to their counselors who have all agreed their position and place before God is unacceptable.

What king would allow his subjects to rebel in such a fashion? What ruler would discover and allow a conspiracy to develop in their presence? Do they not know before whom they are speaking and thinking and conspiring? No king would allow this to happen. Kings would squash the conspiracy and put the conspirators to death, or at least replace them with those who are loyal and support him and his authority. Why do any think God will allow rebellion against Him?

Peter and John, after the ascension of Jesus, found themselves before the people of Jerusalem declaring the resurrection of Jesus. Several times they were confronted by the same religious leaders who had condemned Jesus. As they entered the Temple they encountered a lame man begging for money. Instead of giving him money they healed him in the name of Jesus in front of crowds of people.

And he took him by the right hand and raised him up, and immediately his feet and ankles were made strong. And leaping up, he stood and began to walk, and entered the temple with them, walking and leaping and praising God. And all the people saw him walking and praising God, and recognized him as the one who sat at the Beautiful Gate of the temple, asking for alms. And they were filled with wonder and amazement at what had happened to him. (Acts 3:7-10 ESV)

After this miracle and while Peter and John were teaching, the religious leaders sent guards to arrest them and bring them before the same High Priest who arrested and executed Jesus, using the Romans as executioners. Peter spoke to the assembled counsel of religious leaders about their complicity in arresting Jesus and His death, but also about His resurrection. Also, before them, stood the man healed of his lameness. They threatened Peter and John, telling them to no longer teach Jesus and released them.

When relating their experience to the rest of the disciples they prayed and quoted from Psalm 2:

“Sovereign Lord, who made the heaven and the earth and the sea and everything in them, who through the mouth of our father David, your servant, said by the Holy Spirit,

“‘Why did the Gentiles rage, and the peoples plot in vain? The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers were gathered together, against the Lord and against his Anointed’—

for truly in this city there were gathered together against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, along with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, to do whatever your hand and your plan had predestined to take place.” (Acts 4:24-28 ESV)

All leaders of all nations are fighting against the eternal God and against His Son, Jesus Christ.

Introduction to Psalm 2

Meditations on the Psalms

God tells us bluntly the entire world is fighting against Him, not only refusing to obey Him but actively conspiring against Him. Psalm 2 takes up the theme of Psalm 1, expanding and explaining the extent of the war raging against Him, and by extension, against those who are His.

God speaks in the first person of His completed actions. Psalm 2 begins with God asking a rhetorical question, then He answers His own question with statements of eternal truth found in the rest of the Psalm. Though the Psalm does not speak directly to idolatry, those who are in authority, who teach and train others, instruct their students in the worship of idols because they refuse to worship God. Idolatry is replacing that which only God is and does with anything not God. Those who insist upon setting up for themselves useless idols in the place of the eternal God find themselves destroyed, along with their idols. God will not tolerate continued rebellion, or those who teach and train others to rebel.

Jesus is given all authority over the peoples, kings and rulers of the world. All people mutiny against His authority, refusing to acknowledge Him as King or Creator. All people build up idols to take His place. These idols are blatant creations of their own minds, the thinking of their own hearts, so they might imagine they control their own destinies. How foolish.

Kings carry authority to make and uphold laws. Yet, even kings of the world cannot change that which is set in eternity. They may decree something different than what God has established but they cannot change reality or truth. It is the duty of kings and rulers to uphold truth, not to change truth to suit their individual ends and desire. Idolatry, at its basest level, is the individual changing the truth of God into a lie and saying the lie is true.

“What profit is an idol when its maker has shaped it, a metal image, a teacher of lies? For its maker trusts in his own creation when he makes speechless idols! Woe to him who says to a wooden thing, Awake; to a silent stone, Arise! Can this teach? Behold, it is overlaid with gold and silver, and there is no breath at all in it. But the LORD is in his holy temple; let all the earth keep silence before him.” (Habakkuk 2:18-20 ESV)

Jesus instructs His disciples to not adhere to the teaching of those whose sole intent is to usurp the authority and place of God. “Watch and beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees” (Matthew 16:6 ESV; see Matthew 16:5-12). Initially, His disciples did not understand these words.

They watched Jesus feed thousands, taking the food available and creating more food for the people. Jesus did that which only God can do, creating one substance out of another. God created Adam out of the dust of the earth (see Genesis 2:7). He then created Eve out of the rib of the man (see Genesis 2:22). By creating lots of food out of a little food Jesus showed He is God. He then told His disciples to beware of the teaching of those who value tradition over the words of God. Their teaching would lead people away from Him, not toward Him. Jesus thunders severe words against those who lead astray people created in the image of God.

“But woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you shut the kingdom of heaven in people’s faces. For you neither enter yourselves nor allow those who would enter to go in. Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you travel across sea and land to make a single proselyte, and when he becomes a proselyte, you make him twice as much a child of hell as yourselves. (Matthew 23:13-14 ESV)

Standing before Pilate, who thinks he has greater authority, Jesus declares those who brought Him for execution face greater condemnation. “You would have no authority over me at all unless it had been given you from above. Therefore he who delivered me over to you has the greater sin” (John 19:11 ESV).

Psalm 2 addresses those with worldly authority, placing them directly under the eternal authority of God and warning them of the consequences of rebellion.  God set His Son, Jesus Christ, on the everlasting throne, placing Him over all in the heavens and in the created universe. This is not a debatable fact.

Righteous

Meditations on the Psalms

for the LORD knows the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked will perish. (Psalm 1:6 ESV)

Righteousness is shown by thought, motive and action. Those who are righteous will think in a righteous way. They will do righteous acts. Their motivation for righteousness will come from their love for God because of His love for them. Created in His image, righteousness is a natural, integral element of the essence of people. However, sin corrupted the vessel making it impossible for people created by God to think and act in a righteous way. It is the thinking of the heart which is known through the actions of the will which shows to whom the individual gives allegiance.

Conversely, those who are wicked are betrayed by their actions. Their motives are known by their actions, or in some instances, their inaction. Sin is not just an action. Sin is also notorious for the willful decision to not confront or restrain evil. Even the corrupted person has the uncorrupted image of God and knows when a motive, thought and action is unrighteous. Wickedness is the willful giving oneself permission to think and act in an ungodly way, justifiably condemned by God.

Jesus, just before His passion, spoke about the final judgment of God. In Matthew 24 and 25 He gives a chilling description of what will happen before and during this final judgment. God, the Son of Man, will finally separate those who are His from those who are not His. He “knows the way of the righteous” and will bring them into His presence. He knows “the way of the wicked” brings His righteous judgment as He drives them from His presence.

When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne. Before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. And he will place the sheep on his right, but the goats on the left. Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. (Matthew 25:31-32 ESV)

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)

And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life. (Matthew 25:46 ESV)

God’s righteous judgment is based upon the thinking of the hearts of all people measured against His divine moral law. Read the entire Matthew 24-25 passage. You will see throughout God separating one from another, those who love Him from those who hate Him. Those who love God, doing that which is driven by the righteous thinking of their hearts, will be persecuted by those who are driven by ungodliness and sin. Wickedness will grow and try to overwhelm and destroy righteousness. But, Christ will return to gather to Himself those who are His and to banish from His presence those who war against Him by attacking the righteous.

Jesus illustrates His teaching through the parables which follow. All of the parables speaks about the deepest motivations of the thinking of the hearts of each person. The parable of the ten virgins show those who consciously pursue their relationship with Him versus those who lazily believe they have to do nothing. The parable of the talents illustrates those actively serving God through abandoned devotion to Him are blessed. Those who refuse to serve Him with what He has given lose that which was initially given and their lives. Jesus illustrates this in other places describing salt losing its saltiness. “Salt is good, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is of no use either for the soil or for the manure pile. It is thrown away. He who has ears to hear, let him hear” (Luke 14:34-35 ESV). God judges the thinking of the heart based upon the evidence of the life.

We are engulfed in a war where those who hate God actively and purposefully choose to rage against Him. Since they cannot touch God they actively and purposefully rage against those who are His. Read carefully the passage in Matthew 5:31-46 and you will see God identifying with people, just as He did trough the physical life of His Son. God’s righteous judgement is against those who refuse to act in a righteous way but instead embrace the world and its refusal to pursue righteousness in every way.

Separation

Meditations on the Psalms

Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous; (Psalm 1:6 ESV)

God gives another parallel statement about the ultimate end of those, beginning with the Deceiver, who rebel against Him and do that which is unrighteous. Stand is a different word than used in the first verse and means to fix oneself, to endure, to validate and prove. Judgment is to stand before a court, to declare your case and receive the judgment and sentence. Congregation is a gathering and righteous means right, correct, justified.

Those who are wicked will not prevail as they present their case before God. Those who are sinners are not included in the community of those who are righteous before God. Since the basis for righteousness is identity with God the Son, Jesus Christ, nothing done by the righteous qualify them for inclusion in the community of believers standing before God.

And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Then another book was opened, which is the book of life. And the dead were judged by what was written in the books, according to what they had done. … And if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire. (Revelation 20:12, 15 ESV)

God separates those who are righteous in Jesus Christ from those who disobey His command to follow Christ and continue in their rebellion and sin. Scripture is filled with separation. From the beginning of Genesis to the end of the Apocalypse, God continually separates from Himself those who rebel against Him. Yet, there is even more to separation, which seems like a normal function of the created universe.

In the beginning God separated light from darkness. He separated day from night. He separated waters from waters and the expanse above from the waters below. He separated one species from another, plants and trees and herbs, each with seed according to its kind. He separated animal from animal, fish and birds and the beasts of the field and the livestock. He separated seasons from seasons. He separated Man from the rest of creation, giving Man dominion over the earth.

He made a garden and placed Man in the garden and told him to not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil lest he be separated from both physical and spiritual life. When man rebelled, God separated Adam and Eve from Himself, from the garden and from each other. He separated Cain from his family when he murdered his brother. He separated Noah from the rest of humanity, whom He then put to death in a flood.

He separated out Abraham, then Isaac then Jacob. He separated out Moses and Joshua. He separated Israel from the rest of the people of the earth, not because Israel was special but because through the people of Israel would come His Son. He separated out David from his brothers, Solomon and the line of Judah. He separated the northern kingdom from the southern kingdom, then He separated the northern kingdom from Israel forever.

He separated out His Son, the disciples, the Church from the world.

Scripture is filled with separations. It is no wonder Psalms begins with a hard separation between the righteous and the wicked.

Separation is a spiritual and eternal principle, woven into the spiritual laws of eternity and natural laws of the physical universe.

Judgment

Meditations on the Psalms

The wicked are not so, but are like chaff that the wind drives away. (Psalm 1:4 ESV)

God is still speaking in the first person but those about whom He is speaking has changed from one blessed Man to everyone who rebel against Him. Some people, declared righteous by God, continue to exhibit rebellious characteristics. Others, steeped in rebellion, continue to hate God and do all in their power and strength to fight against Him. Those who obey God are covered by the blood of Christ, having obeyed the command to eat from the living tree of life. Those who disobey God deliberately rebel against His specific command to eat from the tree of life.

Beginning with Adam and Eve, all people fight God. Man’s rebellion grew with our first parents first children. Cain killed His brother Abel because God accepted the sacrifice of Abel.

And the LORD had regard for Abel and his offering, but for Cain and his offering he had no regard. So Cain was very angry, and his face fell. The LORD said to Cain, “Why are you angry, and why has your face fallen? If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door. Its desire is contrary to you, but you must rule over it” (Genesis 4:4-7 ESV).

God spoke to Cain. “Sin is crouching at the door.” His conversation with Cain was personal and intimate. His words were not just a warning but counsel on how to overcome and control the motivation to ungodliness which plagues everyone. Desire means to long for or crave. The word contrary is assumed in the translation. Literally, “it’s desire toward you” is how the words should read. This makes no sense to us unless we grasp the meaning of the word desire. Sin obsesses over total control, almost as if sin has a personality. Sin must have everything contrary to God. Sin’s desire is so absolute Cain would have killed God if he could have. Instead, he killed his brother, a man created in the image of God. In this passage we shown the image of God in Cain is still strong and able to control his rebellious desires.

Cain’s countenance at God’s rejection reveals the wickedness in his heart. He did not want to control sin but to release himself to the control of sin. Cain lost himself in wickedness and ungodliness. From Cain to Noah the wickedness of men grew to the place where everyone, except Noah (and then even he rebelled against God in many ways), actively hated their Creator.

The LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. And the LORD regretted that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him to his heart. So the LORD said, “I will blot out man whom I have created from the face of the land, man and animals and creeping things and birds of the heavens, for I am sorry that I have made them.” (Genesis 6:5-7 ESV)

God, the Creator of all, has the authority to bring His creation to a space-time end. He controls creation, sustaining creation by His will. He made creation for Himself, giving man His image so people might intimately know Him. When people consciously decide to not know Him it is His prerogative to bring their lives to an end. This does not mean they cease to exist but their physical lives cease, and with the cessation of their lives comes the end to their active rebellion.

God uses a metaphor in Psalm 1 for the lives of the wicked. Their lives and accomplishments are chaff, which is the dried husks of grain. Inside the husk is the seed, which is edible. People remove the husk from the grain in a process called winnowing. They toss the grain and husk into the air. Lighter in weight, the wind blows the husks away while the heavier grain falls back to the ground. Thus, the grain is separated from the husk so that what is left is usable. The works of then wicked have no value because of their identity with sin, and are separated for eternity from those whose works do have value because of their identity with Christ.

Speaking about Jesus, John the Baptizer uses almost the same metaphor. “His winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing floor and gather his wheat into the barn, but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.” (Matthew 3:12 ESV)

Eternal Success

Meditations on the Psalms

In all that he does, he prospers. (Psalm 1:3 ESV)

Who is He? He is the man blessed by God, Jesus Christ. Every motivation, act and word He does or utters brings eternal success because His strength and fruitfulness comes from abiding in God’s will. Prosper means to advance and make progress. He is successful, not as the world suggests success, which comes from sin and ungodliness. But, as God defines success, which is found in His person and will.

In my opinion, there are three elements to the formula for defining success, either in the world or in eternity. First, does the thing done have substance? Can it be counted? “Zero” is nothing. “One” is something. Secondly, does the thing with substance have a quality? Is the quality good or bad, shoddy or exceptional? Everything has a quality. But, substance and quality does not make successful. Finally, how long does the quality thing last? Does it last for time or for eternity? Only that which exists for eternity qualifies as successful.

In our world, only the Word of God, that is Jesus Christ, and people will continue to exist for eternity. Jesus is eternal. People, created in the image of God, have a beginning but are not created to cease to exist. Being separated from God does not mean the person will cease to exist but will be separated from that which sustains existence. Substance existing without sustenance is supreme failure.

Jesus did many things for people. While John the Baptizer was in prison, before he was murdered by Herod, He sent his disciples to ask if Jesus was Messiah.

And Jesus answered them, ‘Go and tell John what you hear and see: the blind receive their sight and the lame walk, lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear, and the dead are raised up, and the poor have good news preached to them. And blessed is the one who is not offended by me’” (Matthew 11:4-6 ESV).

Facing the High Priest before His crucifixion, Jesus spoke again about His words and actions.  Nothing He did or said was done in private. Everything He did and said was open to scrutiny and verification by those who heard and saw Him, including of the religious leaders who were condemning Him.

“I have spoken openly to the world. I have always taught in synagogues and in the temple, where all Jews come together. I have said nothing in secret. Why do you ask me? Ask those who have heard me what I said to them; they know what I said.”

When he had said these things, one of the officers standing by struck Jesus with his hand, saying, “Is that how you answer the high priest?”

Jesus answered him, “If what I said is wrong, bear witness about the wrong; but if what I said is right, why do you strike me?” (John 18:20-23 ESV).

They crucified Jesus, using the weapon of the Romans to brutally murder Him. Then He rose from the dead, resurrected to never again face death. He fulfilled all He was given to do by God for the redemption of people from God’s wrath. Everything Jesus did was eternally successful and advanced the will of God. “We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him. For the death he died he died to sin, once for all, but the life he lives he lives to God” (Romans 6:9-10 ESV).

Everything Jesus did, from creating the world and it contains, to the people He made in the image of God, is eternally successful. We may also say that all He did glorified God. Man was created to serve God. Jesus came as fully man the way man was originally intended, with those eternal qualities which make a servant a servant. He who is fully God “emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men” (Philippians 2:7 ESV). Everything Jesus does prospers eternally.