Tag Archives: kingdom of heaven

“Hosanna to the Son of David!”

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 stood in the outer temple court, encircled by the blind and lame, many of whom He healed. Children, cried out in the court “Hosanna to the Son of David!” (Matthew 21:9 ESV). They were surrounded by the remnants of the money-changers and merchants Jesus had just driven way. The chief priests were also there, witnessing the challenge to and destruction of their traditions and authority. They fumed. Jesus quoted this verse from Psalm 8 to them as a rebuke to the thinking of their hearts.

Jesus rode into Jerusalem on a donkey, the traditional mount of a king. The people witnessed His royal entry and shouted their praise for Him. “And the crowds that went before him and that followed him were shouting, ‘Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!’” (Matthew 21:9 ESV, also Mark 11:9-10). They exclaimed over Him like He was a king. Then, Jesus entered the temple and violently drove away those who were buying and selling in the court, desecrating the House of God, His Father’s House. Children followed Him into the temple and continued calling out praise and exclaiming over Him. The priests, who allowed the desecration of the temple by sanctioning the selling of animals and the exchange of money, were indignant with the words and loudness of the children. “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?’” (Matthew 21:15 ESV). Jesus knew exactly what the children were saying. They were worshipping God. “Yes; have you never read, “‘Out of the mouth of infants and nursing babies you have prepared praise’?” (Matthew 21:16 ESV)

Children hold a special place before God. They are teachable and trainable. Until they are trained to not listen to God, children willingly seek Him and want to be near Him. It isn’t until they grow and are taught to turn the wisdom of God upside down that they begin to rebel against God. Jesus recognized the simple, untainted by the world, values of the child. “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). Yet, Jesus also knows that people who rage against Him were once children who had been taught to hate God and anything having to do with God. 

Earlier, Jesus settled an argument among His disciples by stating the importance of being childlike and the danger of corrupting any child by teaching them how to sin.

At that time the disciples came to Jesus, saying, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” 

And calling to him a child, he put him in the midst of them and said, “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. 

“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! (Matthew 18:1-7 ESV)

Being childlike is important to God, so much so that He first revealed Himself to the world as a baby. God tells us that His Son would be born. “The LORD said to me, “You are my Son; today I have begotten you” (Psalm 2:7 ESV). His birth as a human child was announced to a small group of shepherds by Angels.

And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with great fear. And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. (Luke 2:9-11 ESV)

Hosanna is an exclamation of adoration and means to save now. Before the angels disappeared from the sight of the shepherds the sang “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!” (Luke 2:14 ESV). Jesus entered Jerusalem to the praise of people who adored Him and was followed by children who continued the refrain. Praise for God cannot be stopped or silenced. All creation will declare His glory.gels

Conclusion to Being Poor in Spirit

Poverty of spirit is truthful knowledge of self, reflected and exposed by God’s revealing light. This is the recognition of sin. Those who deny even one sin, one “little” or “inconsequential” sin are not truly poor in spirit. However, none of us can be poor in spirit under our own power or determination. Therefore, poverty of spirit is itself a gift, or grace, from God. Throughout, He must do everything. 

Those who are poor in spirit are characterized by a personal admission of and ownership of that sin. They recognize the reality of sin in themselves and in the world in which they live. This recognition is intellectual, leading to the emotional hatred for sin and conversely, a love for anything which is not sin, especially the truth. While the intellectual is the first step toward God, the emotional is the second. It is difficult to separate the two. However, the intellectual admission of sin and its reality is primary. There has to be an understanding of what sin is as well as what it does. 

Being poor in spirit has nothing to do with physical, tangible wealth. Nor does being in physical poverty indicate a person is poor in spirit. Someone who is extremely wealthy may have all the evidence of being poor in spirit while someone who is in the depths of physical poverty has all the evidence of being self-righteous and rich in spirit. 

Since God originally designed man to have a relationship with Him, and since that relationship was broken because of the introduction of sin, those who are rich in spirit will say they have no need of God. Need of God for all things physical and spiritual is the defining characteristic of being poor in spirit. No one can do anything for themselves. Everyone is dependent upon God completely for their lives. His common grace holds all together. 

This attitude of not needing God, or not wanting to need God, is called pride. Anything which refocuses our vision away from the One who provides all we need, want and desire, suggesting we can do anything for ourselves, is also known as idolatry. God demands those who are poor in spirit accept the depravity of all, including themselves. He also demands everyone recognize the animosity they have toward their Creator even though sin inhibits their ability to see that animosity. I don’t want to do what God wants. I don’t want to be with Him. I don’t want to even think I need Him. Still, God calls people back to Himself. Any who come to Him, becoming poor in spirit, do so under His direction and in His strength and at His will. Even this must be admitted by the person who is poor in spirit

Even those who have been called by God and are claimed by Him struggle with sin and its reality and hold on their lives. Every Prophet of God, while proclaiming the truth of God, were surrounded by the sin of the people. Even they sinned. Those who walked with Jesus while He was on earth, those who saw Him die and those who saw Him raised from the dead, continued to struggle with sin. While being poor in spirit is certainly exemplified by the six people mentioned, how they shut themselves up, called themselves sinful, fell on their faces, this need not be true for everyone. Being poor in spirit is admitting the reality of personal sin after a long life of living for God. 

Being a citizen of the kingdom of Heaven is a position given by grace, by God to those who first and foremost are poor in spirit.

Truth

Reposted

Whoever believes in the Son of God has the testimony in himself. Whoever does not believe God has made him a liar, because he has not believed in the testimony that God has borne concerning his Son. (1 John 5:10)

Each citizen of the kingdom of heaven lives on the eternal foundation of the person of Jesus Christ. Not only created by God in His image but recreated by God in the likeness of Christ, the citizen lives the truth of eternity. Perhaps the most critical aspect of being poor in spirit is the devotion to truth and the hatred of any lie. You will see the evidence of a person’s life by how they handle the evidence of the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Anyone who says or acts like they do not need God are as far away from being poor in spirit as possible. They are self-righteous in spirit and are not being honest with themselves or the world.

One of the characteristics of someone who is poor in spirit is the brutal, intellectual honesty they have toward themselves and those around. This honesty begins with the intellectual knowledge of the reality of sin and the discovery of God’s absolute authority over creation. Ultimately, God will not allow any to ignore Him. He will allow those rebelling against Him to continue in their rebellion. He will confront them with their need of Him throughout their life. But, when a person begins to lie to themselves and refuses to recognize the lie, their minds become set and impenetrable. God can do anything but will not do everything. He will not reach into a person’s mind and change it for them. Man, made in the image of God and, even with a corrupted image, has the ability to think reasonably through his experiences and know the God who is tugging at him.

Poverty of spirit is a combination of recognizing sin, recognizing God, and recognizing the truth of rebellion against God.  All are intellectual activities.

Look for a moment at how corrupted intelligence works. Everything touched by sin will turn the truth around, on its head, backward, reversed, in-side-out. Those who do not want to say there is a God or sin will not believe in God even if someone is raised from the dead (see Luke 16:31, the parable of the rich man and Lazarus). Others, who want to believe something, change the truth to fit their own imaginations bringing a counterfeit peace where there is no true peace with God. 

Peace manufactured from a lie is easily shaken, stolen and destroyed. Trust built on a lie and not on the Object who created everything offers only empty promises of peace. “For from the least to the greatest of them, everyone is greedy for unjust gain; and from prophet to priest, everyone deals falsely. They have healed the wound of my people lightly, saying, ‘Peace, peace,’ when there is no peace” (Jer. 6:13; see also Jer. 8:11). Jeremiah spoke to an obstinate people told falsely they were not sinning, the invaders were not coming as a judgment from God because of their idolatry, that they need not worry or show concern for their place, things and future. Ezekial is even more blunt about those who accept the lie as truth.

Therefore thus says the Lord GOD: “Because you have uttered falsehood and seen lying visions, therefore behold, I am against you, declares the Lord GOD. My hand will be against the prophets who see false visions and who give lying divinations. They shall not be in the council of my people, nor be enrolled in the register of the house of Israel, nor shall they enter the land of Israel. And you shall know that I am the Lord GOD. Precisely because they have misled my people, saying, ‘Peace,’ when there is no peace.’” (Ezek. 13:8-10)

Still others want to believe but are tugged and pulled away, finding reasoned excuses to change their thinking, because their thinking is more immediately attractive than the alternative. All want to control through imagination, all want to believe the lie because it is easier to control than truth.  Even the lie has a kernel of truth, just as mythology has a kernel of true history. You will begin to understand Jesus’ parable of the soils in Matthew 13 when you see how those around you, even yourself, falsely think of the truth.  If someone thinks they know the truth, but do not, then it is impossible to show them the truth without first destroying their imagined reality. 

Jesus’ main point at this stage is to not dwell upon the consequences of sin but its reality. It is not to beat one’s self up over sin but to just admit sin exists. “Addicts” cannot be “cured” until they first honestly recognize the problem triggering their “addiction.” This problem is not that something controls them but that they control it to the point of being unwilling to give up the substance. They want to use the substance and have lied to themselves about the substance controlling them. Few are forced to abuse substances. They consciously decide to smoke, drink, abuse drugs and people and things until their “habit” is so ingrained they have to want to stop more than they wanted to start.

We are bent by sin and judged for sins. When Adam fell, rebelling against God, sin corrupted the nature given by God for all who would follow. We have a sin nature, a bent away from God toward self. We also sin and are held responsible for sin by God. Both the sin nature and the actual sins of the thinking of our hearts make intimacy with God impossible. He acts to reconnect intimately with everyone through the sacrifice of His Son. Those who are poor in spirit recognize the sin nature in themselves and the fact they sin and are responsible for the thinking of their hearts which inspire their sin. Recognizing sin and the absolute inability to change is the first step to being recreated by God and fit for eternity. We must believe God is true and speaks the truth always and in all circumstances and experiences.

Blessed are the Poor in Spirit: Introduction

Reposting on the Sermon on the Mount

Introduction

Blessed are the poor in spirit, 
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. (Matt. 5:3)

What does a Christian look like? How do they act? 

In the first few verses of Matthew 5 Jesus gives the defining characteristics of the citizen of the Kingdom of Heaven. He begins by blessing those who are “poor in spirit.” Those who are poor in spirit are those who recognize the truth of sin in themselves and the world and hate sin. Conversely, someone who is poor in spirit will passionately love God and relentlessly seek truth.

Being poor in spirit means hating sin, first in self, and then in the world.

Jesus describes the citizen of the kingdom of heaven by defining the absolute difference between those who do not know they are under the control of sin and those who do. Sin turns the thinking of the heart around, pointing the sinner away from God. Sin affects the core of the person, revealing itself in every action, word, attitude and hidden motivation. God is more interested in who the person is within the thinking of their hearts than in what they do. However, what a person does shows the evidence of whom they are. 

Ultimately, Christians have both the image of God and the likeness of Christ. God’s image, given to Adam and Eve, is included in the likeness of Christ. However, the likeness of Christ is not necessarily included in the image of God. Though we have the image of God we are corrupted, bent away from our created nature. We are separated from the One who created us in His image. Those with like images are uniquely suited for an intimate relationship. Sin has broken the relationship God desires with us. To remedy this broken relationship God recreates those who are His into the likeness of Christ. We are not fixed, patched or repaired. We are completely changed as if we were never broken. Christ’s likeness, like the image of God, is a freely given and indistinguishable part of every person redeemed by God. 

For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified. (Rom. 8:29-30)

Having a deep, whole, awareness of sin is the first piece of evidence of being “poor in spirit. I am not speaking about understanding the consequences of sin. Coming to grips with the consequences of sin is discussed in the next chapter. Too often Christians jump over the fact of sin and settle smugly on the easily comprehended consequences because they believe these consequences are easier to control. Sin’s consequences are important but are not the beginning. 

Just and Righteous

God is a righteous judge, 
and a God who feels indignation every day. (Psalm 7:11 ESV)

Psalm 7 poetically presents as a closing statement in a legal trial with God as the presiding judge. God is both just and righteousness. He is just in that He adheres to and upholds the laws of His nature and those laws which He has put in place to govern His creation. He is righteous in that He lives perfectly according to His laws and expects His creation to follow those laws. In the beginning, God created people and endowed them with His image, which gives them the tools needed to know, understand and act according to the nature of God in their every endeavor. Man, Adam and Eve, and all who follow, rebel against God, refusing to acknowledge Him as the eternal Lawgiver and breaking His laws. Since the laws broken are based upon Himself, He is the only One with the authority to judge those who broke the laws. “God is a righteous judge”  (Psalm 7:11 ESV).

God blesses the Righteous Man whose “delight is in the law of the LORD, and on his law he meditates day and night” (Psalm 1:2 ESV). As the eternal government of His creation, God judges the kings and rulers of the world who teach and train their people to rebel against Him by enthroning His King, His Son, Jesus Christ. “As for me, I have set my King on Zion, my holy hill” (Psalm 2:6 ESV). Those found in Christ, His righteous King, who take refuge in Him are declared righteous and comprise the citizens of the Kingdom of Heaven.

Does God feel? Does God have emotions? Can we understand His emotions as we understand ours? God feels indignation every dayIndignation is anger, an expression of irritation and rage, a defiant posture, a denouncement and curse. God is enraged at the violation of His law, which is a direct assault on His character and being. There is never a moment in space-time history where God relaxes His hatred for sin. “For you are not a God who delights in wickedness; evil may not dwell with you. The boastful shall not stand before your eyes; you hate all evildoers. You destroy those who speak lies; the LORD abhors the bloodthirsty and deceitful man” (Psalm 5:4-6 ESV).

Jesus felt. He wept over Jerusalem (Luke 19:41). He showed His physical anger over the desecration of the temple by the religious leaders who allowed merchants in the temple courts (John 2:15; Matthew 21:13). He condemned the religious leaders for their hypocritical lives (Matthew 23). He felt deep emotions at the tomb of Lazarus (John 11:35). He had compassion on the hungry, the sick, the disabled, the demon possessed and the dead. Jesus, as Man, felt the full range of emotions given all people. Emotions are part of the image of God in Man, therefore, God also has and feels emotions. The difference is between us and God is neither God nor Jesus as a Man is corrupted by sin. Their emotions are pure and righteous. Our emotions are tainted by sin.

God hates evil and sin yet loves the one who commits evil and sins. His compassion for the sinful does have a boundary yet knows no end. Those who continue to reject Him, even after receiving the grace of His forgiveness through the sacrifice of Christ, have no other path into His presence.

For it is impossible, in the case of those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, and have shared in the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the age to come, and then have fallen away, to restore them again to repentance, since they are crucifying once again the Son of God to their own harm and holding him up to contempt. (Hebrews 6:4-6 ESV)

As part of the image of God, our emotions are directional and like warning flags, which tell people when they are in God’s will or tempted to sin against God. Those who take refuge in God may feel joy and love toward God. Those who are facing temptation or have fully embraced sin, feel fear and anger and guilt. Many philosophies have taught we should not trust our emotions. When corrupted by sin, nothing we do conforms to the original intent God had for Man, including our emotions. Those filled with the Holy Spirit have an Interpreter who directs and confronts and counsels the citizen of His kingdom. We are given spiritual tools in the image of God. We are given the Holy Spirit, who is God Himself, embedded in a recreated being stuck in a sinful physical body.

God wants those who are His to hate sin as much as He hates sin. We are to hate sin in the world and to hate sin in those who exist around us. We are to hate sin in ourselves and purge sin from our lives. At the same time, we are to love those who are in the world, created in the image of God and loved by Him. We are to hate sin every day. We hate sin because He hates sin.  Conversely, like God, we are to love people as He loves them. We can only accomplish this though the work of the Holy Spirit giving us the discernment we need to recognize sin yet love those who sin, who are created in God’s image.

Gathered to God

Let the assembly of the peoples be gathered about you; 
over it return on high.
(Psalm 7:6-7 ESV)

All people are naturally attracted to the presence of God because of His image in them. Yet, surrounded by those who hate God, driven by a corrupted body that rebels against God and tempted by the Deceiver, coming into His presence is impossible. Sin drives away people from God. His Spirit calls, motivates and empowers those who are His to obey and they flee the attacks of the world to find refuge in Him. Only in Christ will any enter His presence, for Christ has carried the burden of their sin and reconciled them to God. Their foes come against them and God arises and lifts up Himself and awakens in triumph against His enemies.

The assembly of the peoples is the congregation of God. Throughout history God has wanted His people to gather around Him. In the Garden of Eden, a place where He walked with Adam and Eve, His intent was for them to reproduce and fill the world with people, with whom He would walk. There were no wicked, rebellious, sinful people in this assembly.“Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous; for the LORD knows the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked will perish” (Psalm 1:5-6 ESV). God will not allow evil in His presence. Those who are His will be gathered about Him, which means to turn, to go around, to surround and encircle, to change their direction. When God calls those in rebellion, His call is to repentance and faith. Before any can repent they must recognize the truth of sin, which is a walking away from God, then realize the consequences of sin, which is separation from Him, the eternal source of life. Repentance is changing direction because of the consequences of sin. Once there is repentance, which is turning away from sin, there is faith, which is turning toward God. But such faith is nothing until there is obedience to the will of God, which is a resolute walking toward Him. True faith involves the whole person, the mind, the emotions and the will, and must have the direction of the Holy Spirit. No one returns to God without His Spirit drawing them to Himself.

In the Hebrew Scripture, when God brought His people out of Egypt, He gathered them around Him by tribe and family. Within the center of the encampment was the tent of meeting. “The people of Israel shall camp each by his own standard, with the banners of their fathers’ houses. They shall camp facing the tent of meeting on every side” (Numbers 2:2 ESV). God’s people gathered around God, their refuge, who lead them out of captivity and the enslavement of the Egyptians.

In the Gospels we read people naturally followed Jesus wherever He was, gathering around Him.

And he went throughout all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom and healing every disease and every affliction among the people. So his fame spread throughout all Syria, and they brought him all the sick, those afflicted with various diseases and pains, those oppressed by demons, those having seizures, and paralytics, and he healed them. And great crowds followed him from Galilee and the Decapolis, and from Jerusalem and Judea, and from beyond the Jordan. (Matthew 4:23-25 ESV)

People followed Jesus because He performed miracles, healed the sick and, on occasion, fed them. They followed Him because of His teaching, healing and feeding them. They followed Him because He is God in the flesh and they are just naturally drawn to Him. But many stopped following Him when He challenged them to true repentance. Jesus made following Him hard.

It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh is no help at all. The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life. But there are some of you who do not believe.” (For Jesus knew from the beginning who those were who did not believe, and who it was who would betray him.) And he said, “This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted him by the Father.” After this many of his disciples turned back and no longer walked with him. (John 6:63-66 ESV)

God reigns over His people, the citizens of the kingdom of heaven. Those who will not, by faith, submit to His authority, will not enter His kingdom. Over His kingdom and His people, He will return on high, which means to resume His eternal, rightful place of authority. People who rebel against Him cannot intimately know Him as the God of the universe. He has no place in the thinking of their hearts. Those who are drawn into His presence, who are chosen by Him, struggle to make Him the center in their physical lives. But, at the end of time, when God finally judges sin, and the Deceiver, and the world of people in rebellion against Him, He will fling away from His presence all evil. Then, even those who rebel will recognize His true, eternal place over all. 

God, The Deliverer

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

There is only One God.

In the beginning of time, before there was anything, there was God. He is uncreated, existing eternally. God is not constrained by time or anything created which is bound by time. “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was without form and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters” (Genesis 1:1-2 ESV). 

Theology finds a reasonable doctrine of the Trinity within Scripture. God is Three in One yet exists as One God in three persons. God, the Father, who created all things through His Word, God the Son, who brought all things into existence, and God the Spirit, who breathes into creation making it alive. Creation points to God. 

Man, created in the image of God, is the greatest evidence for the truth of God. “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth” (Genesis 1:26 ESV). There is only One God and all of creation points to Him. Man’s image, with all of the intricacies of the image, both spiritual and physical, is ageless evidence of the truth of the reality of God.

David begins Psalm 7 with a declaration of God. “O LORD, my God.” He declares God’s name, YHWH, first used 11 times in Genesis 2. His name is known from the beginning of time. David uses a combination of two words to describe God. YHWH means existing one. God alone existed before anything else. He adds the word elohiym, which means divine one, God, ruler and judge, but may also be used for the lesser gods and idols worshipped by people who hate God. Thus, God, the Existing One is given as a name and proper title of the only true God.

Only One God has the power and ability to deliver from sin and from the enemies of those who are citizens of His kingdom. To deliver means to tear away, strip off, snatch off, recover, rescue. Those who pursue with the intent of overtaking and destroying are relentless in their goal to hound and capture those who are their enemies. For the enemies of God are God’s enemies and are enslaved by sin. [T]he wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually” (Genesis 6:5 ESV). They can do nothing but sin. Like Cain, sin captures people. “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 4:7 ESV). Sin’s desire is to totally possess every person. God cannot abide sin in His presence. “For you are not a God who delights in wickedness; evil may not dwell with you” (Psalm 5:4 ESV). There is a war between those who are God’s and those who are not God’s. On one side all die, for sin takes no prisoners. The other side is filled with those rescued and delivered from sin.

We are citizens of the kingdom of heaven, not of the dark, worldly, rebellious kingdom ruled by sin. We are chosen by God, set apart by the Spirit of God, covered with the blood of Christ. As citizens of His kingdom, our allegiance and commitment is to follow and obey Him. Peter writes to all Christians in the known world. “Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ. To those who are elect exiles of the Dispersion in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia, according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, in the sanctification of the Spirit, for obedience to Jesus Christ and for sprinkling with his blood” (1 Peter 1:1-2 ESV). As citizens of God’s kingdom, we are at war with our own flesh, with the world and with the Deceiver, who wars to separate everyone from God.

Eternity is our home. God will finally deliver us from the world that continually attacks and pursues us to do us harm. Still, God has left us in the world for two reasons. We are to witness about Him and His wonder and power. He is also preparing us for eternity with Him. As citizens of His kingdom our every action shows we are His. “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). God created us for Himself. He will not leave us or abandon us but will rescue and deliver us from the assaults and relentless pursuit of our enemies.

COVERED

For you bless the righteous, O LORD; you cover him with favor as with a shield. (Psalm 5:12 ESV)

God blesses the righteous. In Psalm 1, God blesses a righteous man. “Blessed is the man who walks not …”  (Psalm 1:1 ESV). This opening statement of the Psalms points to the One Man who has never done anything wicked or sinful. There is only One. His name is Jesus Christ, the Son of God. If anyone else is righteous before God it is because they are found in Christ. They take refuge in Him. God blesses those in Christ because He blessed Christ and what happens to the Son of God happens to those in Him. “Therefore, the wicked will not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous; for the LORD knows the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked will perish” (Psalm 1:5-6 ESV).

How does God bless the Righteous One and those found righteous in Him? He will cover Him, which means to surround and to give a crown. Not only does God protect Him, spreading His “protection over them” (Psalm 5:11), those in Christ, but He gives Him a crown, seating Him in Zion. “As for men, I have set my King on Zion, my holy hill”  (Psalm 2:6 ESV).Where God’s King is, so are His citizens.

Favor  is goodwill, acceptance, delight and pleasure. A shield  is a buckler and can also mean something piercing, a hook or barb. A shield is a defensive weapon designed to stop any attack without qualification. God does not even allow an attack to occur but hooks those who hate Him and leads them away from His presence.

God will allow nothing into eternity that conflicts with His ultimate will and purpose. His presence is enough to keep all protected from sin, from the Deceiver, and the world that draws people away from Him. There is no danger in His presence. There is peace and rest given to all whom he draws to Himself. Those found in Christ are protected and secure in their being and place before Him.

Throughout Jesus’ last week, after He entered the Temple and violently drove out those who desecrated His Father’s house, He challenged and was challenged by the religious leaders. They questioned Him, His authority, and His reason for acting violently against them. He challenged them, telling them parables meant to convict and draw out their sin so they might see their sin and repent. Just before launching into a long, multi-pronged accusation of them, Jesus asks them a simple question. Whose son is the Christ? “Jesus asked them a question, saying, ‘What do you think about the Christ? Whose son is he?  They said to him, ‘The son of David’” (Matthew 22:41-42 ESV). They rightly answered. Messiah, the anointed One, the Son of God, known as Christ, is a descendant from the lineage of King David. He is a Man, as God originally created Man, without sin and with the character and personality of a servant, as Adam was created. 

Jesus then asks them other questions. “How is it then that David, in the Spirit, calls him, Lord, saying, “‘The Lord said to my Lord, “Sit at my right hand, until I put your enemies under your feet”’? If then David calls him Lord, how is he his son?” (Matthew 22:43-45; see Psalm 110:1, Acts 2:34-35, Hebrews 1:13). How can Messiah be a son of a sinful man? How can Messiah be a man at all?

They were confounded. “And no one was able to answer him a word, nor from that day did anyone dare to ask him any more questions”(Matthew 22:46 ESV). They challenged God to debate. They sought to impose their traditions and will upon Him whom they are designed to serve. They refused to accept the words and works of the Man standing before them aware of the miracles He had performed, doing that which only God could do. Messiah was standing before them and they rejected Him.

David wrote the Psalms as prophecies of Messiah, of Christ. David’s heart reflected the thinking of the heart of Jesus. Though they hated Him and put Him to death, He fulfilled God’s ultimate, eternal purpose, and lives, reigning in eternity over His kingdom. His citizens are with Him. God’s blessings are on them because of Jesus. His blood covers them with His righteousness, protecting them. Christ’s blood is the only defense against sin, stronger than any fortress, impenetrable, a shield of God’s favor and protection.

The Narrow and Straight

Lead me, O LORD, in your righteousness because of my enemies; make your way straight before me.(Psalm 5:8 ESV)

There is a spiritual pathway that leads to God’s Kingdom. It is narrow, sometimes meandering, straight in other places, steep in some, and impossible to traverse without the leading and direction of the Holy Spirit. People start their journey along this route carrying everything they deem valuable. As they walk, they lose stuff that has no eternal value. At the end of the path is a gate, small and narrow which allows only the traveller called by God to enter. They may carry nothing through that gate which belongs in the world. Their old self cannot enter, either. 

“Truly, I say to you, only with difficulty will a rich person enter the kingdom of heaven. Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.” (Matthew 19:23-24 ESV; see Mark 10:24-25, Luke 18:24-25)

In the world is a highway leading away from God. It is fast and wide, and accommodating to all. As people move along this freeway they pickup stuff, adding to their burden, refusing to abandon anything they deem valuable and necessary to their life. Surrounded by many, who jostle and fight for position, they move en mass toward anything that is not God. At the end of the road is a gate, wide and inviting, going to a place where God cannot be known by any who enter. 

“Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few.”(Matthew 7:13-14 ESV)

Jesus cleared the Temple at the beginning of His ministry and then again just before His crucifixion and resurrection. He made Himself known, angering the Jewish religious leaders because of His brazen actions and outrageous claims. They were His enemies, foes and rivals, opponents and antagonists. They were against Him in everything He did. It was common knowledge among the people of Jerusalem that the religious leaders wanted to murder Jesus. “Some of the people of Jerusalem therefore said, ‘Is not this the man whom they seek to kill?’”  (John 7:25 ESV). Everything Jesus did rankled and irritated those who hated Him. Even when Jesus healed sick and maimed people, they became enraged.

Surrounded by such malevolence, Jesus sought God’s will. He prayed for God’s righteousness. This Psalm speaks to Jesus’ desire to know God under the harshest circumstance. “Lead me, O LORD, in your righteousness because of my enemies; make your way straight before me” (Psalm 5:8 ESV). To lead, or to be led, means to be guided, to bring to a place with purposeful intent. Righteousness is the rule of law of the King and Sovereign, God’s decrees founded on God’s eternally pure character. Straight means level and smooth, to be perfectly right according to law, directed without mistake or purposeful deceit. Before me means face, presence, person, in front of, as in leading by the hand someone who cannot lead themselves. Jesus is praying that God prepare the way, clear the obstacles which would trip or hinder, and direct His words, actions and motivations, to ultimately bring Him before God, the destination of every spiritual journey.

One of the major themes of the Psalms is the confrontation of those who are righteous against those who are unrighteous. God blesses the man, Jesus Christ, and all who take refuge in Him, because He, and they, do not walk “in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers”   (Psalm 1:1 ESV). His enemies conspire against Him, teaching and training those under their authority to actively rebel against God. They surround Him. But He is not afraid, even when the intent of His enemies is His murder. “I will not be afraid of many thousands of people who have set themselves against me all around” (Psalm 3:6 ESV). He challenges them in the thinking of their hearts. “O men, how long shall my honor be turned into shame? How long will you love vain words and seek after lies?” (Psalm 4:2 ESV). His resurrection is the ultimate victory over their rebellion. “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 2:11-12 ESV).

Jesus does not just pray this for Himself but for all who are identified with Him. “Blessed are all who take refuge in him” (Psalm 2:12 ESV). Those who trust Him, that He will deliver what He has promised, are hidden in Him. What happens to Him happens to them. Where He goes they are. God’s house is in eternity. As Jesus walks toward God’s house, a spiritual path, those who are in Him go with Him into God’s presence. God gave Jesus the purpose and task of drawing those who love Him into His life-giving presence. We carry nothing with us but, for a short time, His cross, which is our cross.

And he said to all, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it. For what does it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses or forfeits himself?  (Luke 9:23-25 ESV)

Alien Immigrants

Studies in First Peter

To those who are elect exiles (immigrants) of the Dispersion (1 Peter 1:1 ESV)

Our true home is not in this world but in eternity with God. Those who are citizens of His kingdom think differently about God, about themselves and about the world in which they live, than those who are citizens of the world. Peter uses the word exiles, people who are foreigners or aliens (parepidemos), to show the focus of the Christian remaining on God the Father.

In the first section of his letter, 1:1-12, Peter affirms it is God the Father who determines to provide and assure salvation for each citizen of His kingdom. He guarantees their place with Him in eternity and gives protection while they His live in a corrupt world.

When most people think of the word exilesthey imagine persons displaced by war or natural disaster, whose home or country is so violently attacked or destroyed they can no longer safely live there. Or, they think of someone who, for political or criminal reasons, has been forcibly removed from their home country as a punishment. For those displaced by war the exile flees for their own safety. Those punished are forcibly removed from their country. But this is not what the Greek word (parepidemos) means. A better translation is either alien or immigrantor both. An immigrant may have had to flee their country because of persecution or war. But immigrants usually want to come to a new country to live and to become a citizen of that country. They purposefully move from one country and culture, which was theirs, to another country and culture they make theirs.

According to Thayer’s exile (immigrant) (parapedimos) means one who comes from a foreign country to live side by side with those who are natives of the host country. They are foreigners who live in a strange place. “Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, To those who are elect exiles(read immigrants) of the Dispersion in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia” (1Peter 1:1 ESV). In the context of 1 Peter 1:1, Christians are those who hold citizenship in heaven while living their lives on earth. Peter is writing to all Christians, but especially the Jews, who are part of the dispersion, the Diaspora. They are Jews scattered throughout the nations of the known world. Currently, the term Disapoa may also refer to Christians scattered throughout the world. Christians have dual citizenship. While living on earth the Christian lives according to the customs and culture of the nation in which they reside while remaining constantly aware of their citizenship in heaven.

The writer of the letter to the Hebrews couples the word alien immigrant with the word xenos. “These all died in faith, not having received the things promised, but having seen them and greeted them from afar, and having acknowledged that they were strangers (xenos) and exiles (parapidemos) on the earth” (Hebrews 11:13 ESV). Xenosmeans foreigner or stranger, or someone who is not familiar with the country in which they find themselves. They are not immigrants, though they are alien. Thus, the writer of Hebrews describes those who wait patiently and faithfully for God to act and consider themselves strangers even while they are living in the culture of a host country.

Jesus describes the citizen of the kingdom of heaven as both 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 5:13-16 ESV)

God does not physically separate out those who are His from the world though He does separate them out as His. He disperses them throughout the world as witnesses of the Gospel. Christians live in the world as full citizens of the kingdom of God, temporarily removed from their true home, which is in eternity with God.