Tag Archives: David

The Beginning and the Ending

You have given him dominion over the works of your hands; 
you have put all things under his feet (Psalm 8:6 ESV)

Physical creation exists in space and time. Both space and time have boundaries, a beginning and an ending. Eternity is existence outside of space and time. Eternity has neither a beginning nor an ending. We cannot imagine eternity because of the limitations placed on us by the laws of creation. We know we have a beginning. Each person who lives began their life at a specific point in time, knowing that their physical life will also end at a specific yet unknown point in time.

Jesus, the Creator God, is omniscient and omnipotent, knowing the beginning and the ending of all things and controlling the direction, purpose and outcome of all things. This does not negate the responsibility of those created in His image to willfully obey His direction. Having foreknowledge does not necessarily mean predetermining the outcome. One of the most poignant examples in the Hebrew Scripture is the story of David saving the city of Keilah from the Philistines. Saul, who was pursuing David to kill him, advanced to besiege the city of Keilah. Through the priest Abiathar, David asks God if the people of the city would give him to Saul. “Then David said, ‘Will the men of Keilah surrender me and my men into the hand of Saul?’ And the LORD said, ‘They will surrender you’” (1 Samuel 23:12 ESV). David and his men left the city. God foreknew what would happen and told David. What God foreknew He did not predetermine. Omniscience and foreknowledge know what would happen as well as what does happen.

God knows from eternity and determines what will happen at the end of time. There is rebellion against God by the creatures God made for relationship with Him. These creatures, whether people or angels or other powers and authorities in the heavenly places, will ultimately recognize the eternal authority of God and His Son. Those who have rebelled against Him are cast away from His life-giving presence. According to Paul, they are destroyed.

Then comes the end, when he delivers the kingdom to God the Father after destroying every rule and every authority and power. For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. The last enemy to be destroyed is death. (1 Corinthians 15:24-26 ESV).

Paul uses the word destroy twice in these verses. Destroy means to make idle or ineffective, to cause to cease or put an end to, to terminate all discussion, and to sever or separate. All who rebel against God are ultimately severed from Him and will no longer cause sin to flourish. God will destroy every authority and power, stopping and silencing every rebel. The last enemy destroyed is death. None who are chosen by God and eternally live in His presence will spiritually die. He will complete His decree of separating the unrighteous from the righteous, according to the justice of His Son. 

God enthroned His Son as King of all creation, whether in the physical or spiritual realm. His Son’s authority is described as having all things under his feet. Not only is Jesus the King, but He is also the head of the Church, the Body of Christ. “And he put all things under his feet and gave him as head over all things to the church” (Ephesians 1:22 ESV). Peter tells us that His power and authority extend to all in heaven. “Who has gone into heaven and is at the right hand of God, with angels, authorities, and powers having been subjected to him” (1 Peter 3:22 ESV). Nothing that exists, either physically in the created universe, or spiritually in eternity will remain outside of His control. “Now in putting everything in subjection to him, he left nothing outside his control” (Hebrews 2:8 ESV).God owns everything He created and will not allow anything, especially those creatures given His image, to rebel against Him. God knows what would have happened and what will happen. 

Stilling the Enemy

Out of the mouth of babies and infants, 
you have established strength because of your foes, 
to still the enemy and the avenger. (Psalm 8:2 ESV)

Jesus regularly confronted the Jewish religious leaders about their unreasonable expectations of God and their false worship of Him. It was the children shouting “Hosanna to the Son of David!” (Matthew 21:9 ESV) who truly worshipped God, not the religious leaders with their legalistic, unscriptural traditions and unrighteous deeds. 

When God created Adam and Eve in His image they were innocent and teachable. They were God’s authority over the  world, given dominion. Their purpose was to learn about God by examining and learning about what God created. They were not created with a full understanding of God or their world, but had to grow and learn as they matured. They were childlike without being children. 

Children exclaimed over Jesus as He entered Jerusalem and taught in the temple. These children recognized who Jesus was, something the religious leaders refused to do. For the religious leaders, the traditional decorum of the temple excluded children, the poor and sinful, the physically imperfect or handicapped and any who did not, could not or would not adhere to their legalistic worldview. The religious leaders were the politically correct police of the first century. They were tyrants and God’s enemy.

Who is the enemy? Who is the avenger? How do the words of a child or baby still both the enemy and the avenger?

In the first part of this verse (Psalm 8:2) the word foe is used. A foe is anyone who physically or vocally tries to bind up, or shut up, those toward whom they are actively hostile. Up to this verse, the Psalms are filled with descriptions of the wicked and sinful person. There is one spiritual being who is totally depraved. He is the Deceiver who tempted Eve and Adam in the garden. Many are taught and trained by the Deceiver to stand against God. “Why do the nations rage and the peoples plot in vain? The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the LORD and against his Anointed” (Psalm 2:1-2 ESV). Foe is another word for enemy, those who violently oppose God. Ultimately, God’s foes are silenced and stilled by His judgment.

Jesus, speaking through David, poetically foretells the speech of a child will silence the aggressive and antagonistic teachings of God’s foes. To still means to cause to cease to act, to put an end to or destroy, and to cause to rest. The allusion is that not just any child or a number of children will do this but a specific child. God has already told us who this child is. In response to the raging of the nations and the leaders of the world, God establishes His Son as King of kings. “You are my Son; today I have begotten you. Ask of me, and I will make the nations your heritage, and the ends of the earth your possession. You shall break them with a rod of iron and dash them in pieces like a potter’s vessel” (Psalm 2:7-9 ESV). The child that will silence the enemy and the avenger is, of course, His Son, Jesus.

Isaiah gives a divine prophecy about the child, Jesus, the Son of God, who will lead the kingdom of God.

For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and of peace there will be no end, on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish it and to uphold it with justice and with righteousness from this time forth and forevermore. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will do this. (Isaiah 9:6-7 ESV)

We know who this child is. He is Jesus, who was incarnated as a child, who grew into a man who welcomed children and confronted the religious leaders.  Jesus, by His sacrifice, puts an end to the hostile war against God by His enemies. 

Out of the Mouths of Babes

Out of the mouth of babies and infants, 
you have established strength because of your foes, 
to still the enemy and the avenger. (Psalm 8:2 ESV)

Jesus began His life in the womb, was born and lived as a baby and an infant, growing through all the natural stages into adulthood. We have none of His recorded words as He grew, until He was twelve years old. The boy Jesus and His family traveled to Jerusalem during Passover and He stayed behind, speaking to the teachers in the Temple, listening and asking questions. His parents searched for Him for three days. When they found Him, Jesus’ responded with “why were you looking for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?” (Luke 2:49 ESV). Jesus did not suddenly become inquisitive and interested in spiritual matters at twelve. Luke tells us that as a child He impressed people. “And the child grew and became strong, filled with wisdom. And the favor of God was upon him” (Luke 2:40 ESV).

In this Psalm, the word babies means a child or a boy, and the word infants means a child who suckles or nurses. It was common for children to nurse until they were walking and talking and playing in the streets. Children express themselves in the most innocent manner, speaking truth, as they view truth, without inhibition or filters. As they learn to speak, they are taught what is appropriate and not appropriate to say from their parents and those around them. Every person is trained by their immediate family and surrounding culture. Yet, God declares that He establishes, which means to ordain or appoint. Strength, is personal, social or political power and might. God puts in children the desire to know Him. God does this because of His foes, those who would bind, tie up, or shut up the truth with their lies and hostility. It is not the socially accepted who are wise and understanding in the ways of God, but children. “I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that you have hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to little children; yes, Father, for such was your gracious will” (Matthew 11:25-26 ESV; Luke 10:21).

As Jesus entered Jerusalem during His last week, crowds followed Him, singing His praises. He went to the temple and cleansed it, driving out the merchants bought and sold, and the moneychangers, from the outer temple court. People came to Jesus so He could heal them. The children in the temple continued their refrain from His triumphant entry in Jerusalem. Everyone loved Him except the religious leaders.

“But when the chief priests and the scribes saw the wonderful things that he did, and the children crying out in the temple, “Hosanna to the Son of David!” they were indignant, and they said to him, “Do you hear what these are saying?” And Jesus said to them, ”Yes; have you never read, “‘Out of the mouth of infants and nursing babies you have prepared praise’?” (Matthew 21:25-26 ESV)

Jesus tells us that God reveals Himself to children and hides Himself from those who adopt the rebellious wisdom of the world, their own flesh and the Deceiver.  “I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that you have hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to little children; yes, Father, for such was your gracious will” (Matthew 11:25-26 ESV; see also Luke 10:21). In eternity, God’s kingdom is consummated as His original intent in creating Man in His image, with dominion over creation. Isaiah paints an image of the kingdom of God, led by Messiah who gives righteous judgments. “The wolf shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the young goat, and the calf and the lion and the fattened calf together; and a little child shall lead them” (Isaiah 11:6 ESV; see 11:1-10). Ultimately, it is Jesus who is eternally strong and eternally established by God to have victory over those who are His foes. 

Introduction to Psalm 8

Meditations on the Psalms

This is the first Psalm in the book of Psalms that sings God’s glory and majesty without responding to sin and rebellion of the wicked. The Psalmist, king David, does acknowledge the truth of man’s rebellion, but in a way that does not suggest the debilitating impact upon God’s creation. 

In this Psalm the Holy Spirit speaks in the third-person about God and God’s Son. The Spirit uses the proper name of God, YHWH, the Everlasting One, recognizing God’s preeminence over creation. God is Lord, which means firm and strong, the master and king, the Authority over all authorities. While all of the Psalms recognize God’s ultimate authority, they reveal an attitude of disdain those people who rebel against God show toward their Creator. In contrast to the wickedness of the rebellious, the Psalms also emphasize the blessedness of those who take refuge in Him. All of the Psalms are written by God the Son and poetically speak about His work in both redemption and judgment.

Psalm 8 is written for the choirmaster, or the chief musician, just as Psalm 4. David wanted the choirmaster to teach this Psalm to the people, to be performed under his direction, during times of worship. The instrument used is unknown, but is called a Gittith, possibly from the city Gath, a city where David left the Ark of God after the death of Uzzah. “So David But David took it aside to the house of Obed-edom the Gittite. And the ark of the LORD remained in the house of Obed-edom the Gittite three months, and the LORD blessed Obed-edom and all his household” (2 Samuel 6:10-11 ESV). The instrument Gittith is used for three Psalms, Psalm 8, 81 and 84.

We do not know why David composed this Psalm, other than his love for and worship of God. As a shepherd, the young David would live with his sheep, not leaving them at any time during the day or night. Watching sheep and keeping them safe, gave David time to contemplate the world in which he lived. His musical and poetic talents, inspired by the Holy Spirit, often resulted in a song. David intimately knew God and expressed himself, his love for and trust in God throughout his life.

Psalm 8 shows the absolute authority of God over all creation and the absolute authority given to Jesus by God over all creation. David recognizes the place of God over creation in the first and last declaration of His majesty.

Innocent

O LORD my God, if I have done this,  
if there is wrong in my hands,
if I have repaid my friend with evil
or plundered my enemy without cause, (Psalm 7:3-4 ESV)

David cannot make the claim stated by this verse. Though he is the author of the Psalm and did great things for Israel and for God, his hands were covered with blood. Both those who were David’s friends and enemies suffered at his hands. 

While a young man, after his induction into the service of Saul, David earned more respect and esteem from the people than the king. Saul, angry, and going insane at losing the honor that comes with the throne to any person, tried multiple times to kill David. Fleeing Saul, David declares to Saul’s son, Jonathan, his friend, his innocence. “Therefore deal kindly with your servant, for you have brought your servant into a covenant of the LORD with you. But if there is guilt in me, kill me yourself, for why should you bring me to your father?” (1 Samuel 20:8 ESV). In his early life there was nothing any could hold against David. Later in his life, after he ascends the throne vacated by king Saul’s death, is different. For example, David murdered one of his own soldiers, Uriah, a man supremely loyal to him, to cover up his adultery with the Uriah’s wife (2 Samuel 11). David knew his sin and repented (Psalm 51). He still continued to sin and then to repent.

Every person who has ever lived, or will ever live, sins and is guilty before God. God takes note of how we treat both our friends and our enemies.  Repaid means to deal out, to recompense and give bountifully. The word friend is actually not used in this verse put is a translation of a word that means those with whom we have a pledge and bond of peace. To repay a friend with evil, which means all the word implies, suggests a solemn agreement between two has been arbitrarily violated. Or what of his enemies, those who cause him distress and try to bind him, press hard against him, treat with hostility and harass him? Has he plundered them without cause, which means to deliver up to death or take away for an empty reason, for vanity, just because he can. His actions motivated by the intention of his heart, is focused on self, not focused God. Self becomes the standard by which others are measured and judged.

Jesus, speaking through David, asks God to examine His heart and judge His actions. The Son of God stands before God willing to face any test which would reveal any sin. “If I have done this,” if anything in me shows the evidence of “wrong in my hands,” which is iniquity, unrighteousness, injustice, violently criminal acts against God and other, carried out by any part of my being. Are there any sinful actions for which I am accountable? If sin is present at any time then there is sin in the heart that breeds more sin. In Psalm 7:3-4, Jesus is asking to God to let happen to Him that which happens to those who sin. “For there is no truth in their mouth; their inmost self is destruction; their throat is an open grave; they flatter with their tongue. Make them bear their guilt, O God; let them fall by their own counsels; because of the abundance of their transgressions cast them out, for they have rebelled against you. (Psalm 5:9-10 ESV).

There is One, the Righteous Man of these Psalms, who does not sin. He cannot sin. Though tempted by the Deceiver, weakened in His human flesh, surrounded by a world which tugs and pulls toward sin, He did not sin. Why is it important Jesus is sinless?

God taught His people that the physical animals sacrificed for sin must have no blemishes (see Exodus 12:5; Leviticus 1:3; Numbers 6:14). A sacrifice for sin is required to cover the sins of the one offering the sacrifice.  Annually, the blood of a lamb was poured out over the cover, the mercy seat of the ark, containing the broken Ten Commandments. God would look down and see the blood and not the laws which were broken and violated. Before the priest could do this for the people he had to cover his own sin. All people sin whether priests and kings and those who fall under their authority.

But when Christ appeared as a high priest of the good things that have come, then through the greater and more perfect tent (not made with hands, that is, not of this creation) he entered once for all into the holy places, not by means of the blood of goats and calves but by means of his own blood, thus securing an eternal redemption. For if the blood of goats and bulls, and the sprinkling of defiled persons with the ashes of a heifer, sanctify for the purification of the flesh, how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God, purify our conscience from dead works to serve the living God. (Hebrews 9:11-14 ESV)

Jesus had to be prefect so the sacrifice He offered would not first be for Himself. Only God is perfect and sinless, and Jesus is God in the flesh. No creature is capable of becoming sinless once sin corrupts his life. Jesus, God in the flesh, came specifically to die as a sacrifice for the sin of those created in His image. His death fulfills the requirements of the law. “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished” (Matthew 5:17-18 ESV). God’s law is not just the written, verbally declared commandments given in the Hebrew Scripture. God’s law is embedded in the hearts of those who are His. Intimate knowledge of the eternal law of God is given as an integral part of the image of God. “For when Gentiles, who do not have the law, by nature have the law. They show that the work of the law is written on their hearts, while their conscience also bears witness, and their conflicting thoughts accuse or even excuse them” (Romans 2:14-15 ESV). Those who sin know they sin. Jesus did not sin. Standing before God, He opens Himself to judicial examination, declaring His innocence of all wrongdoing, making Himself the only sacrifice worthy and capable of fulfilling the promises of God.

Trust

O LORD my God, in you do I take refuge; 
save me from all my pursuers and deliver me, 
(Psalm 7:1 ESV)

Trust is integral to faith. Without trust there is no faith. Faith is taking God at His word. God works and those created in His image see the evidence of His working, intellectually believing and knowing that evidence points to Him and only Him. He makes promises to those who are His, based upon His moral being. God is implicitly trustworthy in bringing those promises to fruition and reality. Those who intimately know God know that He will do what He says He will do. Finally, we obey His commands, knowing intellectually He will act and emotionally He will fulfill His promises. Faith is believing the evidence, trusting the Object and obeying His commands. Remove one of these three elements and faith is no longer faith. Trusting God assumes belief and obedience.

David sang a song to the LORD, reveling in Him and his deliverance from all his enemies. Probably written toward the end of 2 Samuel, this Psalm may have been composed early in the rule of king David, after the throne was taken from Saul in death and given to him. God rejected Saul because of his sin and selected another to take his place. “The LORD said to Samuel, ‘How long will you grieve over Saul, since I have rejected him from being king over Israel? Fill your horn with oil, and go. I will send you to Jesse the Bethlehemite, for I have provided for myself a king among his sons’”  (1 Samuel 16:1 ESV). God chose David, who was a man after His own heart. David ascended the throne according to the promises of God who, through Samuel, anointed him king.“The LORD is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer, my God, my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield, and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold and my refuge, my savior; you save me from violence” (2 Samuel 22:2-3 ESV). Two words are used for refugein this song. In whom I take refuge is the same word used in Psalm 7:1. 

The second word for refuge means an actual place where one can escape. In God’s presence is refuge, a secure place where no enemy may assault, breech or enter. In God’s presence is complete security. This is the third time the Psalmist has used the word refuge“Blessed are all who take refuge in him” (Psalm 2:12 ESV). “But let all who take refuge in you rejoice; let them ever sing for joy, and spread your protection over them, that those who love your name may exult in you” (Psalm 5:11 ESV). Refuge means to seek and flee to a place of protection, to confide and hope in the Only One able to fulfill what is promised. It is not the place of refuge we seek, but the act of knowing the One who offers and provides refuge.

Jesus delivered His last discourse, His final teaching for His disciples, in an upper room, after eating the last and first Passover. He knows what is going to happen within a few hours. By sundown the next day He will have been tortured to death. Jesus knows His disciples face desperate sorrow and persecution after He goes away.

Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also. And you know the way to where I am going. (John 14:1-4 ESV)

God has a place for all with Him. Our hope is not in anything the world has to offer and everything God promises. Where we face physical persecution in the world we live in eternal peace in God’s presence.

The Psalmist asks God to save him from all the pursuers, those who chasing and dogging his steps, to harass and persecute. him Those who are righteous are chased by those who hate them. The image is of an army following a retreating enemy to overwhelm and destroy them. Pharaoh chased after the Jews during their exodus, not wanting them to get away. God parted the sea so His people could gain their freedom from Egypt. “And the people of Israel went into the midst of the sea on dry ground, the waters being a wall to them on their right hand and on their left. The Egyptians pursued and went in after them into the midst of the sea, all Pharaoh’s horses, his chariots, and his horsemen” (Exodus 14:22-23 ESV). Though Pharaoh and his army chased Israel, they were destroyed because God protected His people. After David killed Goliath the army of Saul hunted down the Philistine army. “And the men of Israel and Judah rose with a shout and pursued the Philistines as far as Gath and the gates of Ekron, so that the wounded Philistines fell on the way from Shaaraim as far as Gath and Ekron” (1 Samuel 17:52 ESV). 

God alone promises peace for those He calls into His kingdom. He is trustworthy to fulfill the promises made to those who are His. 

Introduction to Psalm 7

A Shiggaion of David, which he sang to the LORD 
concerning the words of Cush, a Benjaminite. (Psalm 7:1 ESV)

Who is Cush, the Benjaminite? What did he say? Why was David concerned about the words of this man? What are the circumstances of the confrontation between Cush and David? When did this happen? There are many unanswered questions about Cush in Scripture. 

In the Hebrew Scripture Cush means one of three things. First, Cush is the country of Ethiopia, a land south of Israel. “The name of the second river is the Gihon. It is the one that flowed around the whole land of Cush” (Genesis 2:13 ESV). Secondly, Cush is a name, first used for a grandson of Noah, the son of Ham (see Genesis 10:6). Finally, cush means black and may refer to skin color. The tenor of this Psalm suggests the person David is speaking about has an unrighteous character. However, there easily could have been a person, a Benjaminite, named Cush who opposed and challenged David. If he is a person then he is mentioned in Scripture only here.

Cush spoke against David. His words, and even his business and occupation, were against David. He was a vocal, active opponent of David. David was the enemy of Cush. Very possibly, Cush may have been a servant of king Saul, who continued his loyalty and allegiance for Saul after his death and David’s coronation. Saul was a Benjaminite and Cush may have been a close relative. In any case, it appears that Cush violently accused, criticized and blamed David for something and David responded with a song to God.

We do not have every circumstance of David’s life recorded in Scripture. Nor do we have every circumstance of the life of Christ recorded in the Gospels. Neither the annals of the kings of Israel or the Gospels are designed as a biography of the people mentioned. We are given information about these people so we might know God and recognize how He works. David sinned, reaping the consequences of his sin. Jesus never sinned, yet, felt He the brunt of the eternal consequences of sin.

We know that the Deceiver (from Genesis 3) is also an accuser, who brings charges of wrongdoing against those who belong to God “day and night.” “Now the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God and the authority of his Christ have come, for the accuser of our brothers has been thrown down, who accuses them day and night before our God” (Revelation 12:10 ESV). We know that he (the Deceiver) lies and tempts people to walk away from the God who created them. He is a murderer and cannot speak the truth. “He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies” (John 8:44 ESV). From the beginning, when the serpent tempted Eve and Adam to rebel against God, the Deceiver has done everything he can to defeat God and destroy those created in God’s image.

David is speaking the words of Jesus in this Psalm. We know Jesus is the Son of God and the Son of Man. Speaking to Mary about the child she would bear, Gabriel called Jesus the Son of God. “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 1:35 ESV). Jesus called Himself the Son of Man and had authority to forgive sin. “But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins” — he then said to the paralytic— ‘Rise, pick up your bed and go home” (Matthew 9:6 ESV). God, in the Psalms, calls Jesus His Son and makes Him King over the rebels who would throw off His authority.“As for me, I have set my King on Zion, my holy hill.” “I will tell of the decree: The LORD said to me, “You are my Son; today I have begotten you” (Psalm 2:6-7 ESV). God’s decree includes giving Jesus, His Son, dominion over all creation (Psalm 2:8-9; Psalm 8:6-8). Yet, even though He is the Son if God with God’s full authority, people will still attack Him and those who identify with Him. 

The Sound of Weeping

Depart from me, all you workers of evil, 
for the LORD has heard the sound of my weeping. (Psalm 6:8 ESV)

Who are David’s foes? What have they done to make themselves his enemy? How has David’s enemies attacked him, causing him grief and agony? Those who rebel against God and His authority are David’s enemies. Those who reject the Son, refusing to kiss Him, are against him. “Now therefore, O kings, be wise; be warned, O rulers of the earth. Serve the LORD with fear, and rejoice with trembling. Kiss the Son, lest he be angry, and you perish in the way, for his wrath is quickly kindled” (Psalm 2:10-12 ESV). David’s enemies are those who fight against God by warring against those whom God has chosen as His own. Jesus’ enemies are those God created in His image, for service to Him, who He loves and blesses, but who refuse to obey and receive that which God offers. God’s enemies are His people.

Depart means to turn aside, to be removed, to take or put away, to come to an end. Workers of evil are those who actively cause trouble, wickedness, sorrow, who are idolaters. These are the people who teach those under their authority to actively rebel against God, to violate God’s laws and decrees, and to fight against their God given nature, becoming that which God does not intend. 

Why do the nations rage and the peoples plot in vain?  
The kings of the earth set themselves, 
and the rulers take counsel together, 
against the LORD and against his Anointed, saying,
“Let us burst their bonds apart 
and cast away their cords from us.” (Psalm 2:1-3 ESV)

They persecute those who are God’s because they hate God. They do the opposite of what God wants. God will drive them away and they will perish because His Son, who wept over them when He saw Jerusalem, will finally stop mourning and judgment will come.

Jesus, in several places, exposes the hypocrisy of those who say they love God but do not act loving. He uses the analogy of a narrow door to show how impossible it is to follow the path of the world into God’s presence.“Strive to enter through the narrow door. For many, I tell you, will seek to enter and will not be able” (Luke 13:24 ESV). The Master of the house will shut the door and though those outside beg and plead, suggesting they had done so much for the Master, He will send them away, rejecting their work as worthless, and turning them away. He will turn His back on them because they turned their backs on Him.“But he will say, ‘I tell you, I do not know where you come from. Depart from me, all you workers of evil!’”  (Luke 13:27 ESV, see Luke 13: 22-30).

In the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7), Jesus teaches the characteristics of the citizen of the kingdom of heaven. Those who recognize the truth of sin, who realize the consequences of sin and who relinquish control to God, will do those things that identify them as citizens of His kingdom. Those who claim citizenship yet do not show the evidence of change may claim God’s approval, but will not receive His blessing.

“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’” (Matthew 7:21-23 ESV)

Ultimately and eternally it is not whether the person says they know God but whether God knows them. God knows them because He is omniscient. He does not know them as a citizen because they are not, having refused His grace and command to obedience. In the thinking of their hearts they continue rebelling against Him.

God feels the greatest joy and the deepest sorrow. His Son felt the grief that came with being rejected by those He loves. His anger at the religious leaders boils over in the His proclamation against the Scribes and Pharisees who wield the authority of Moses (Matthew 23:2). Jesus warns the people against becoming like them because of their hypocrisy. The religious leaders want the people to look to them, even worship them, instead of God. They put heavy burdens on people, declaring it is God who wants His people burdened. They are like “whitewashed tombs, which outwardly appear beautiful, but within are full of dead people’s bones and all uncleanness. So you also outwardly appear righteous to others, but within you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness”  (Matthew 23:27-28 ESV). Jesus then laments over Jerusalem and the people He created in His image for relationship with Him.“O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing!” (Matthew 23:37 ESV). Jesus wants them to intimately know Him, as He cares for and loves them. They refuse. As He drew near Jerusalem that last week, His grief over the rebellion of His people distressed Him. He wept over Jerusalem (Luke 19:41). God hears the sound of His weeping. 

Grief and Hope

My eye wastes away because of grief; it grows weak because of all my foes. (Psalm 6:7 ESV)

Suffering comes to all in some form and intensity. People bring upon themselves suffering and pain. Others may cause suffering because of what they believe and their consequent actions. Suffering may happen because of sin from long ago or circumstances far out of the control of those in pain. Suffering may also come because of a person’s relationship with God. This comes from persecution and is called suffering for righteousness’ sake.

Jesus tells us to know we are blessed when we suffer for righteousness’ sake. We usually do not feel blessed.

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)

We feel weak. Suffering and persecution drains energy, motivation and brings hopelessness and helplessness. Yet, Jesus, in Matthew 5, uses the word blessed twice, often translated happy. The blessing or happiness does not come from the world, which is transient, but from God who is eternal. Fixing one’s attention upon the world and the things of the world can never bring eternal blessing. God gives that which cannot be taken away, available for those who are His, only in eternity with Him.

Still, facing death without hope of continued survival affects the physical body in startling ways. The senses may begin to shut down. Fatigue and lethargy grow, coupled with insomnia. Memory goes as forgetfulness sets in. Brain functions begin to shut down causing sight and hearing problems. Concentration disappears and the person begins missing obvious things happening around them. This is called depression.

Jesus was not depressed. David could have been. Hezekiah could have been. When faced with hopelessness, impending death with no hope of survival, a person may start shutting down physically. Everyone who belongs to God has the eternal hope He offers. Many do not recognize this hope because they are so captivated by the present.

To waste away means to fail or be consumed, to shrink. To grow weak means to advance in age, be removed, or to transcribe or write out one’s feelings at the end of a tumultuous experience. Grief is anger and provocation, frustration, especially with men and with God. Foes are those who cause distress, besiege, bind, press hard upon, are put in a straight and narrow place where there is no turning or fleeing. Enemies, waging war against anyone, will do all they can to besiege and trap, frustrate and stop, cause to fail. There is a war waging between righteousness and unrighteousness. The battleground is the thoughts of the hearts of men.

Hezekiah faced the Assyrians, who had just defeated the Northern Kingdom, driving its people away because of their idolatry. The king of Assyria then turned his attention to Judea and Hezekiah. Jerusalem was surrounded and faced ultimate defeat. The king of Assyria ridiculed and belittled God before the people. Hezekiah sought God and worshipped Him. God miraculously delivered Judea from the attack of the Assyrian. Isaiah told Hezekiah that God would fight for him. “That night the angel of the LORD went out and struck down 185,000 in the camp of the Assyrians. And when people arose early in the morning, behold, these were all dead bodies” (2 Kings 19:35 ESV). Hezekiah knew what God would do for him and the people he ruled who worshipped God. 

Later, when Hezekiah lay dying he became despondent and depressed. He wept and prayed and God answered his prayer by giving him 15 more years of life. Death was Hezekiah’s enemy. He would die but he was young, only 39 years old when he became sick to death. He had great wealth and sought the LORD. But he was afraid to die.Jesus faced death by torture. He was afraid of the process of dying, not of death itself. For death could not hold Him. He knew that once His body died He would be raised from the dead to never again die. He also knew His death would bring many into His eternal kingdom. None would come in without His death and resurrection. Jesus’ eyes became weak and wasted away in death because of His enemy. But, when His eyes would open again in His resurrection, His grief over sin would change to joy and His blessing would come to those who are His. 

Life or Death

For in death there is no remembrance of you; in Sheol who will give you praise? (Psalm 6:5 ESV)

God does not tell us much about eternity, either in or away from His presence. We can know being in His presence brings life and all of the peace and rest which comes with obedience and doing that for which people were created, and in Christ, re-created. We can also know those who exist outside of His presence, eternally absent from the source of life, are in agony and constant turmoil. These are simple and inadequate illustrations of the difference between heaven and hell. We know God will separate those who are His from those who continue willfully rebelling and sinning against Him.

God gives us clues about death, being separated from that which supports and maintains life. Death is the opposite of life. Death is non-life, removal from that which sustains life. In the physical world that which has life needs food, water and air. Remove any one of these three elements and life ceases, the organism dies and begins to decay. Sheol in the Hebrew is the equivalent of haides in the Greek, the grave, the pit, a place of no return, the place of the dead, the underworld. Both sheol and haides are considered hell by many. The place of the dead is not a place where those who die cease to exist but are conscious of who they are and their circumstances. 

David declares that those who have died have no remembrance of God and will not give Him praise. They will not remember Him nor thank Him or confess His greatness. This does not mean there is no consciousness for those in the grave. David is thinking of burial, the covering of dirt, entombing of a dead body, where it will decay. Those who knew the dead person can no longer hear their words or see their actions because in death they neither speak nor act.

Jacob uses the word sheol to describe what has happened to his son, Joseph, upon hearing the report of his death from his brothers. 

Then Jacob tore his garments and put sackcloth on his loins and mourned for his son many days. All his sons and all his daughters rose up to comfort him, but he refused to be comforted and said, “No, I shall go down to Sheol to my son, mourning.” Thus his father wept for him.(Genesis 37:34-35 ESV)

Those who have died are still under God’s control and government. Thus, the grave is an intermediate place between heaven and hell. Those who are wicked will eventually go to hell, away from God, the Giver of life, while those who are righteous will come into God’s eternal presence where they are sustained with life. Death and the grave bring mourning to those who remain alive. For those facing death there is tremendous fear of the unknown. They do not know what they are facing. 

King Hezekiah echoed David’s words as he lay dying, then wrote his own Psalm after he was healed, reflecting upon what God had done for him. When his body is placed in the grave he believed he would no longer praise God.

For Sheol does not thank you; death does not praise you;  those who go down to the pit do not hope for your faithfulness. the father makes known to the children your faithfulness” (Isaiah 38:18-19 ESV)

Jesus faced death. He saw beyond death. He spoke often about His own death but always continued speaking about His resurrection and what would happen because of His resurrection. During the last Passover week, Phillip and Andrew brought to Him a request by some Greek believers who wanted to see Jesus. Knowing His death would draw all men, Jews and Greeks, to Himself, He responded with a small parable. “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit” (John 12:23-24 ESV). Many Christians believe this parable speaks directly to people. It does not. Jesus spoke about Himself. The grain of wheat is Jesus. Falling to the earth is His death. Bearing fruit is His resurrection. He must die to bring all to Himself. His fruit is the ingathering of all those who are His. They are in Him. He is their refuge.

But what of those who are not in Him? Death becomes eternal separation from God. There is a separation of those who hate God and continue in their rebellion against Him, and those who love God and obey His command to come to His Son. Hell becomes a place of weeping and gnashing of teeth (see Matthew 8:12; 13:42, 50; 22:13; 24:51; 25:30; Luke 13:28). Those who hate life are sentenced to not have life. Death ends life.

Those who love Him will receive life. But only those who love Him more than they love their own life will receive life from God. “Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. If anyone serves me, he must follow me; and where I am, there will my servant be also. If anyone serves me, the Father will honor him” (John 12:25-26 ESV). For those who are separated out for God, physical death is not the end but the beginning of true life.