Monthly Archives: March 2018

Repentance

Meditations on the Psalms

Now therefore, O kings, be wise; be warned, O rulers of the earth. (Psalm 2:10 ESV)

God calls those who rebel against Him to repentance. All who mutiny against God and incite mutinous behavior in others face His unavoidable wrath and ultimately, annihilation. God commands them to turn away from their sin and rebellion because only the foolish continue to fight against the God who created them. Wisdom is a godly characteristic.

God uses two words to encourage these disobedient and obstinate leaders back to a relationship with Him. He tells the kings to be wise and the rulers to be warned. Wise means to be prudent, circumspect, have insight, understand the signs of the times and the thinking of the heart of themselves and others. Kings are to consider carefully their words, actions and judgments, looking for the perfect combination of prudence and application to bring the most honor to both themselves and their kingdom. Warned means to be chastened, admonished and instructed, corrected and disciplined. Rulers are to apply the rulings of the king to the people in a way which fulfills the intent of their sovereign.

Since both kings and rulers are under the authority of the King of kings and Lord of lords, the thinking of their hearts should reflect the intent of God, not themselves. This statement is an admonishment to return to serving God. God tells them to stop sinning.

On a Sabbath, early in His ministry, while in Jerusalem during a feast, Jesus spoke to an invalid at a pool called Bethsaida. Many invalids congregated there because of a superstitious belief an angel of God would come down occasionally, stir the waters of the pool, and the first person into the pool would be healed of their infirmity. Jesus approached only one of the invalids and healed him. He did not heal any of the others.

The man’s focus, his eyes, the thinking of his heart, was solely on the pool and its magical properties given occasionally by a supernatural being. Jesus asked the man, only this one man, “Do you want to be healed?” (John 5:6 ESV). Jesus asked the man if he wanted to be made whole and complete. The man’s response showed his complete defeat and hopelessness in every becoming healthy. “Sir, I have no one to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up, and while I am going another steps down before me” (John 5:7 ESV). He had been taught about the wrath of God against those who sinned. In the thinking of his heart, God made him this way because of some sin and under no circumstance would God undo what He had done. Nor did the invalid know who Jesus was. He clung to his superstitious, idolatrous belief and whined that no one cared to help him. Jesus healed the man instantly, telling him to “get up, take up your bed, and walk” (John 5:8 ESV).

When confronted by the religious leaders, the man who was healed still did not know Jesus by name. He had been healed on the Sabbath. He did not follow Jesus or cling to Him or devote himself to his benefactor. When Jesus withdrew Himself, the healed man did nothing to show his gratitude. Nor did he desperately search for Jesus. Instead, he went his way and was confronted by the Jews, probably the Jewish religious leaders, about carrying his bed, which was working and something verboten for any to do on the Sabbath. He admitted ignorance, pointing away from himself to the One who performed the miracle. His thinking in his heart was “don’t blame me. I’m only doing what I was told” not “he healed me, an invalid for 38 years.”

Jesus found the man again and spoke startling words to him. “See, you are well! Sin no more, that nothing worse may happen to you” (John 5:14 ESV). The implication of Jesus’ words is “look at what happened to you. You are healed by My authority. Stop sinning or you will find yourself exiled from the presence of God.” We know the man immediately went to those who accused him of working on the Sabbath and told them it was Jesus who healed him. From this testimony, the Jews decided to persecute Jesus for breaking their rules.

Here is the crux of the rebuke of Psalm 2:10. Use the thinking of your heart to come to a reasonable conclusion about your rebellion against God and stop sinning. Jesus began His ministry preaching repentance. However, God has been commanding people to repent since the fall of Man. No one is excluded from this call.

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Punishment

Meditations on the Psalms

You shall break them with a rod of iron and dash them in pieces like a potter’s vessel.” (Psalm 2:9 ESV)

Those who rebel against God face His judgment. Those who teach others to rebel, and lead them in their rebellion, face total annihilation. There is no wiggle-room in God’s courtroom.

Both to break and to dash them in pieces means to shatter to a point of destruction. That which is broken cannot be fixed and becomes useless. This statement is a direct answer to Psalm 2:3. “Let us burst their bonds apart and cast away their cords from us.” There is no hand strong enough to burst the bond, nor arm great enough to cast away God’s cords. God created people a particular way, giving them a nature and placing them within a universe of laws and boundaries which they cannot breach. Seeking to break the laws of nature has deadly consequences. Breaking the moral laws of God implanted within human nature as the image of God, has eternal, damning consequences.

Jesus is adamant about the effect of sin on people. Knowing temptation to sin comes naturally, because of the rebellion of the Deceiver and the corrupted nature of people, He still singles out special condemnation for those through whom the temptation is delivered.

“Whoever receives one such child in my name receives me, but whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a great millstone fastened around his neck and to be drowned in the depth of the sea.

“Woe to the world for temptations to sin! For it is necessary that temptations come, but woe to the one by whom the temptation comes! And if your hand or your foot causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life crippled or lame than with two hands or two feet to be thrown into the eternal fire. And if your eye causes you to sin, tear with two eyes to be thrown into the hell of fire. (Matthew 18:5-9 ESV)

Jesus’ disciples discussed among themselves who the greatest was in the kingdom. Such a question is arrogant and ignorant. They were speaking to Jesus, the Son of God. They had seen His works and heard His words. He is the King and the greatest in the kingdom. What earthly king would allow one of his counselors to ask such a question without quick and sure discipline and retribution. But Jesus did not come to hold Himself up. He came as a Servant, because that is His nature. Instead of pointing to Himself, He placed a small child in front of His disciples and told them “Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 18:3-4 ESV).

In Psalm 2, Jesus uses a parallel illustration to thrust home His point. Sin is judged harshly. God rains down His wrath upon those who cause sin and teach others, especially children, to sin. It would be better for the person who taught and led a child into sin to commit suicide than to finish instructing their student to the place the student becomes a teacher. It would be better to perform radical, maiming surgery than allow oneself to become enslaved by sin. Cut off your hand or pluck out your eye if either leads you to sin.

The implications of His teaching about sin is startling. Jesus is saying nothing in the world, nothing we do or want or desire is more important than God. To allow something which has no eternal value to control our lives and dictate our relationship with God is to rebel against Him. It is better to live a short life in extreme poverty with no hope of worldly success or continued physical survival, and know God, than to live in abundance and not know God intimately.

Either the person who follows God and His Son discipline themselves or God will discipline them. Either we give up the world and gain eternity or we give up eternity with God and watch the world fade away to non-existence when we face God at judgment.

This statement is a warning for those who teach and lead people to sin. You face total annihilation, your life and works become worthless, and your existence is consigned to a place away from the absolute source of life, which is God. Beware.

Heritage and Possession

Meditations on the Psalms

Ask of me, and I will make the nations your heritage, and the ends of the earth your possession. (Psalm 2:8 ESV)

God has set His Son on the throne, decreeing He is sovereign of all creation. He brought His Son into His creation as one made in the image of God yet without the sin which corrupts the nature of all other people. His name is Jesus Christ and God promises Him all creation is His. Jesus, the man, exercises dominion over creation the way Adam and Eve were assigned dominion over the earth. Yet, His dominion extends beyond the physical control of the world to governing and giving purpose to those in the world. To rebel against the Son is to rebel against God.

Ask means to inquire, to beg, to seek. Jesus uses a Greek word, which means the same as the Hebrew ask, when He tells His disciples to ask God to give them what they need to live in this world. “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened” (Matthew 7:8 ESV).  Make means bestow and is translated give. God will give these things to His Son, the King of kings, because Jesus seeks God with every ounce of His being.

What does God give His Son? He gives the nations and the ends of the earth. Nations is translated heathen and includes all people, not just the chosen of God. Everyone belongs to Him. Ends of the earth is everything on the earth. Jesus is given dominion over the earth and government over the people of the earth.

John, in the opening statements of his gospel, describes who Jesus is and that He came for a specific reason.

He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him. He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him. But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God. (John 1:10-13 ESV)

All people includes the Gentiles, disdained by the Jews at that time as unworthy of receiving the salvation of God. Simply being a descendant of Abraham does not guarantee a place in eternity with God, the Giver of Life.

But it is not as though the word of God has failed. For not all who are descended from Israel belong to Israel, and not all are children of Abraham because they are his offspring, but “Through Isaac shall your offspring be named.” This means that it is not the children of the flesh who are the children of God, but the children of the promise are counted as offspring. (Romans 9:6-8 ESV)

All people have the image of God and are worth His Son’s sacrifice. During His ministry, Jesus did not specifically try to draw attention to Himself but to God the Father, whom He served. He actively tried to discourage people from holding Him up as the answer to all their worldly problems. Instead, He focused His attention on their relationship with God, that the relationship could be reestablished and wholesome. He is confrontational but also compassionate. He is the benevolent King whose purpose is to bring those who are His into a righteous relationship with God.

This was to fulfill what was spoken by the prophet Isaiah: “Behold, my servant whom I have chosen, my beloved with whom my soul is well pleased. I will put my Spirit upon him, and he will proclaim justice to the Gentiles. He will not quarrel or cry aloud, nor will anyone hear his voice in the streets; a bruised reed he will not break, and a smoldering wick he will not quench, until he brings justice to victory; and in his name the Gentiles will hope.” (Matthew 12:17-21 ESV; see Isaiah 42:1-4)

Jesus created all things for Himself. By His word, all things are sustained. God established His authority over all things. This is not some future event but that which is done and completed in eternity, though we still await its completion in space-time history. To rebel against Jesus ultimately brings failure to those who rebel, for He cannot fail and will not abdicate His authority to another.

You Are My Son

Meditations on the Psalms

The LORD said to me, “You are my Son; today I have begotten you. (Psalm 2:7 ESV)

Who is the King God is sets over all, on His holiest hill, over those who rebel and war against Him? It is His Son, who is God the Creator.

Begotten means to give birth, to cause or assist in giving birth, to declare a birth. God is eternal, with neither beginning or ending. He began time and history when He created the heavens and the earth. He is omniscient, knowing all things from the beginning to the end of time, because He stands outside of and transcends time. He chose a means of embedding Himself into time by becoming a fetus and growing as any other person would grow, being born, with a childhood, maturing into adulthood. God chose to become one of those who rebelled against Him.

In Genesis, when Adam and Eve sinned, the first act of rebellion, God promised a Son who would come from her womb and would crush the Deceiver after It tried to kill Him. “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel” (Genesis 3:15 ESV). God does not make promises He has no intention of keeping or cannot fulfill.

700 years before the birth of Jesus Christ, Isaiah prophesied His coming. Nothing is too hard for God to accomplish. “Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel” (Isaiah 7:14 ESV). Immanuel means God with us. Jesus would be completely God and completely man the way God originally intended. He would have no sin and would never rebel.

Luke tells us about Gabriel, an angel of God, visiting Mary and telling her what would take place. She found favor with God and He chose her to carry the Son of God in her womb. At first, she questioned how this was possible, since she was a virgin. All things are possible with God.

And the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.”

And Mary said to the angel, “How will this be, since I am a virgin?”

And the angel answered her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy—the Son of God. (Luke 1:30-35 ESV)

While Paul and Barnabas were in Antioch, preaching the Gospel, they told the people about God’s prophecy of the coming Messiah. Speaking to the Jews of the city, Paul quotes Psalm 2:7. “And we bring you the good news that what God promised to the fathers, this he has fulfilled to us their children by raising Jesus, as also it is written in the second Psalm, ‘You are my Son, today I have begotten you’” (Acts 13:32-33 ESV).

The writer of Hebrews quotes Psalm 2:7 in describing Jesus Christ as God the Creator and Messiah.

He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power. After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, having become as much superior to angels as the name he has inherited is more excellent than theirs. For to which of the angels did God ever say, “You are my Son, today I have begotten you”? Or again, “I will be to him a father, and he shall be to me a son”? (Hebrews 1:3-5 ESV; see Hebrews 5:5; see reference 2 Samuel 7:14)

We shall see, as we continue these meditations on the Psalms, a theme regarding Messiah, God the Son. Here, God is declaring His eternal authority over creation and over those who think they can rebel against Him and succeed. They cannot succeed against God’s eternal will.

God’s Decree

Meditations on the Psalms

I will tell of the decree (Psalm 2:7 ESV)

All creation is bound by the laws of God. What is a decree? A decree is a legal ordinance prescribed by a ruling authority to resolve, to limit, or to fix and approve a specific required action. God is speaking in the first person about an action He has determined necessary which has already been done and finished. History, from God’s perspective, is complete and finished, even though people have yet to live it. He sees and knows what will happen. God is telling us about that which He decided in eternity to accomplish in space-time history.

King David desired to build a temple for God in Jerusalem, to house the ark of the Lord. Before he died God told him, through the prophet Nathan, that he was not the one who would build a temple for God. “When your days are fulfilled and you lie down with your fathers, I will raise up your offspring after you, who shall come from your body, and I will establish his kingdom. He shall build a house for my name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever” (2 Samuel 7:12-13 ESV). God decreed David not build the temple but that Solomon, David’s son, would build a house for God and the ark of God in Jerusalem. This is what happened in history.

From the beginning, when God created Adam in His image, He gave Adam a boundary. There was only one constraint placed upon him. He was to not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. “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 2:1 6-17 ESV). Adam was given dominion over the earth and everything on it. He was given the enjoyable responsibility of being fruitful and multiplying and subduing the earth. He was even given direction to care for everything, including the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. The only restriction place on him was that he did not have permission to eat from this one tree. If he ate from the tree he would die both physically, though not right away, and spiritually. Surely die is actually the word die twice. Die die.

When God brought His people out of Egypt, making them wander through the desert, He gave them laws and ordinances. He decreed they follow His laws. Exodus through Deuteronomy are a compilation of laws and the history of Israel from the time they entered Egypt until they entered the Promised Land. In two places the Ten Commandments, ten irrevocable statements of God about Himself and those who are His, are given, once at the beginning of their wanderings and then at the end. God is specific and pointed in His statements. They are to worship Him only and love each other. (See Exodus 20:1-17 and Deuteronomy 5:6-21.) These are immutable laws, absolute in the physical world and the eternal realm. They transcend space and time, and are upheld by God throughout eternity.

God’s decrees are not simple corporate mandates for nations and peoples to blindly follow. They are commands for each individual.

God leaves the Christian in the world as a testimony to the world about Him and His grace. Having the image of God gives the ability to naturally follow God and His will. For the Christian, having the indwelling Holy Spirit, because of the corruption of the vessel containing the image of God, gives the tools needed to live righteously in an unrighteous world. Christians do not try to be salt and light. They are salt and light.

You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people’s feet. You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven. (Matthew 5:14-16 ESV)

Following God’s laws and decrees are a natural ability for those created in the image of God. That He has to tell us His decree about His Son is a testament to the truth of rebellion and sin. God gives His written laws so there is no mistake about His absolute will. Go sent His Son, Jesus Christ, as irrefutable evidence of the need of Man and the grace of God toward those bent by sin. Jesus’ life is God’s decree about life

KING of Kings

Meditations on the Psalms

“As for me, I have set my King on Zion, my holy hill.” (Psalm 2:6 ESV)

God speaks, His words thundering His proclamation throughout heaven and earth. How can those rebelling against Him hear and ignore His dire and dreadful declaration?

If they are a king of a nation, it is because God said they would be king. If they are rulers, God made them rulers. Both kings and rulers work for God’s purpose first, whether they realize it or not. Pharaoh was God’s appointed servant and performed at His discretion. “But for this purpose I have raised you up, to show you my power, so that my name may be proclaimed in all the earth” (Exodus 9:16; see Romans 9:17). So, every other authority in the world serves at God’s pleasure for the time God has resolved and the purposes He has determined and will fulfill.

God sets His King over His dominion. Zion is another name for Jerusalem, which is the capital of Israel. Jerusalem was also known as Salem, then Jebus. David conquered the city, removing the Jebusites, changing its name to Jerusalem. He also called the city Zion, the city of David.

And the king and his men went to Jerusalem against the Jebusites, the inhabitants of the land, who said to David, “You will not come in here, but the blind and the lame will ward you off”—thinking, “David cannot come in here.” Nevertheless, David took the stronghold of Zion, that is, the city of David. (2 Samuel 5:6-7 ESV)

God declares Zion His holy hill, which is a sacred place to Him and those who are His. In Jerusalem, the temple was built to house the ark of the covenant. The people were commanded to come worship before God in Jerusalem at the temple. Jerusalem held the government and was the religious center of Jewish life. Yet, God does not live in Jerusalem but in the heavenly places. Jerusalem is a physical representation of a spiritual reality.

When God put His King in Zion, He welcomed His Son, who sits at God’s right hand. “But when Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God, waiting from that time until his enemies should be made a footstool for his feet” (Hebrews 10:12-13 ESV).

When standing before Pilate during His trial, before His crucifixion and resurrection, the Roman governor, the ruler of the land under the authority of the Roman emperor, declares he has sole authority to release or to crucify Jesus. “Jesus answered him, ‘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). Jesus recognized Pilates authority but also understood his limitations. Pilate would have no authority had God not given it to him. This is a common misunderstanding in the thinking of the hearts of those in the world. They believe God has nothing to do with them or any circumstance, acting as if He does not care.

Paul, instructing Timothy, succinctly states the issue, illustrated by this verse and the trial of Jesus before Pilate. Jesus is God. This makes Him King of kings and Lord of lords.

I charge you in the presence of God, who gives life to all things, and of Christ Jesus, who in his testimony before Pontius Pilate made the good confession, to keep the commandment unstained and free from reproach until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ, which he will display at the proper time—he who is the blessed and only Sovereign, the King of kings and Lord of lords, who alone has immortality, who dwells in unapproachable light, whom no one has ever seen or can see. To him be honor and eternal dominion. Amen. (1 Timothy 6:13-16 ESV)

Christ’s resurrection from the dead shouts at the world His authority over the world and command for all to repent.

God’s Judgment

Meditations on the Psalms

Then he will speak to them in his wrath, and terrify them in his fury, saying, (Psalm 2:5 ESV)

God always speaks to those created in His image. This does not mean those to whom He is speaking hear what He is saying. We limit speech to that which is verbal. Yet, every action of God, every creative act, every act of sustaining creation, speaks about who God is and what He has done.

Jesus Christ is called the Word, which means the speech of God. “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth” (John 1:14 ESV). Paul is even more clear in his declaration the heavens shout out what God has done so everyone can see.

For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. (Romans 1:19-20 ESV)

God does not hide Himself from those He created for relationship.

When God speaks, those He has created are commanded to listen and obey. “You shall have no other gods before me” (Exodus 20:3 ESV). Nothing created will usurp the place and authority of God.

This is why those who insist on rebelling against God, and teach and train others to resist Him, find themselves under God’s justified wrath. He will shout at them with all of the power and force needed to shut down their rebellion and declare He is God, their Creator. Again, God states His intent to not allow those who rebel to succeed in a parallel statement.

To speak means to declare, command, promise, warn and to put to flight. To terrify means to vex, dismay, disturb and be anxious. Wrath means nostril, as in snorting through the nose with disgust, while fury means heat and burning rage. The word is always used for God’s anger. When God speaks to these rebellious leaders they cannot ignore Him but will cringe in fear at His presence and words.

When God gave His commandments to Moses He spoke with them from a mountain and the people trembled in fear at His words.

The LORD spoke with you face to face at the mountain, out of the midst of the fire, while I stood between the LORD and you at that time, to declare to you the word of the LORD. For you were afraid because of the fire, and you did not go up into the mountain. He said: “‘I am the LORD your God, brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery. You shall have no other gods before me.” (Deuteronomy 5:4-7 ESV)

From the time man first rebelled against God until the end of time, God’s wrath builds against the thinking of people’s hearts. In the time of Noah, God decided to wipe out all people, except Noah and seven others, because of the corruption of the thinking of their hearts. He will do this again at the end of time. Isaiah tells us about God’s final judgment.

For behold, the LORD will come in fire, and his chariots like the whirlwind, to render his anger in fury, and his rebuke with flames of fire. For by fire will the LORD enter into judgment, and by his sword, with all flesh; and those slain by the LORD shall be many. (Isaiah 66:15-16 ESV)

Before God’s wrath is God’s grace. Having given each the image of God, even housed in a corrupt vessel, everyone has the tools needed to intimately know God. His Spirit tugs and pulls people away from sin, toward Him. Sin tugs and pulls people away from Him toward anything which is not Him. Surrounding and embedded in the struggle everyone has with sin is the true desire and work of God to recreate and reconcile all to Himself. “The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance” (2 Peter 3:9 ESV). Repentance is a grace of God given to those who turn away from sin even while living in a body that continues to sin and a world that demands all sin.

Everyone will stand before God’s judgment and hear the thinking of their hearts, whether they rebelled against Him in their disobedience or obeyed His command to identify with His Son. “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” (Revelations 20:12 ESV).