Tag Archives: persecution

Vocabulary of War

If a man does not repent, God will whet his sword; 
he has bent and readied his bow;
he has prepared for him his deadly weapons,
making his arrows fiery shafts. (Psalm 7:12-13 ESV)

Why would anyone want to invite the wrath of God upon themselves? Why would anyone willfully rebel against Him? This is exactly what both angels and people have done. God commands people to repent of their sin and rebellion against Him. God will establish the righteous after He tests their minds and hearts (Psalm 7:9 ESV). God commands people turn away from that which tempts and trains them to rebel, and turn toward Him. 

God demands repentance. God never asks people to repent. To repent is to turn, to come or go back, to lead away from one thing and toward another, to be restored. God makes repentance possible when He delivers over Jesus’ life as a means of righteously fulfilling the requirements of His law for those created in His image. God’s eternal compassion is on full display on the cross. “Turn,

O LORD, deliver my life; save me for the sake of your steadfast love” (Psalm 6:4 ESV). His enemies turn away from Him, ashamed by what they have done. “All my enemies shall be ashamed and greatly troubled; they shall turn back and be put to shame in a moment” (Psalm 6:10 ESV). Either they turn to God at His command, or they turn away from God at His judgment.

God will not simply turn rebellious people away from His presence. He will fight and war against them. David uses words of war to describe God’s assault on those who actively rebel against Him and His authority. He will sharpen His sword, bend and make ready His bow, using arrows that are fiery shafts. God creates and implements new instruments of death, designed to kill, not maim. Those who are steadfast in their assaults and attacks will feel God’s full wrath.

Joshua faced the pre-incarnate Christ as he surveyed Jericho before the fall of the city. Joshua encountered a man standing with a drawn sword.

When Joshua was by Jericho, he lifted up his eyes and looked, and behold, a man was standing before him with his drawn sword in his hand. And Joshua went to him and said to him, “Are you for us, or for our adversaries?” 

And he said, “No; but I am the commander of the army of the LORD. Now I have come.” 

And Joshua fell on his face to the earth and worshiped and said to him, “What does my lord say to his servant?” (Joshua 5:13-14 ESV)

Jesus, the Commander of the Lord’s Army, does not take sides between two warring factions of people. He stands for God against all sin. His mission, while living as a man, was to command people repent of their sin and turn toward God. Speaking about people who died by accident or by the hand of a despotic leader, Jesus tells those who are following Him, they must repent or they will also die a spiritual death. In Luke 13 He uses the same phrase twice. “No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish” (Luke 13:3, 5 ESV). Repentance is not an option. Repentance is commanded and obedience is expected.

The world carries superstitious opinions about God, believing the God of the Old Testament, the Hebrew Scriptures, is a God of wrath, while Jesus, the God of the New Testament, is a God of love, peace and forgiveness. Scripture is filled with God’s compassion toward His people and wrath toward His enemies. Jesus did not come to bring peace to everyone. He came to separate those who are His from those who hate Him and rebel against Him. “Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword” (Matthew 10:34 ESV). Those who follow Jesus must pick up their cross, which is His cross, and be willing to die to this world to live for God. Those who hate Jesus will persecute those who walk with Him. Since they cannot persecute and murder God they will do what they can to those who are God’s. Even members of a family will fight against each other. “And whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it” (Matthew 10:38-39 ESV). Those who follow Christ must completely abandon themselves to Him. Obedience is expected and carries no merit before God. Disobedience brings God’s wrath.

War terminology is used in this Psalm because we are engaged in war. Those who hate God, His enemies, want to destroy all God has created and subvert all God’s purposes for His creation. The Deceiver does not care about winning, knowing he has already lost the war. Those people who fight against God think they can win. Their view of God is superstitious and unreasonable. God fights for Himself, not for us. Yet, we receive the benefit of His compassion and mercy, freely given though our time in this world.

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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. 

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. 

Refuge

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)

When threatened people stand and fight, shake in fear, paralyzed and unable to move, or flee to a protected place. A refuge  is a trusted place where those who belong to God flee from danger, knowing His protection is guaranteed. However, God’s refuge is not a physical place. He does not take people out of the world when they are in danger. Those who are in Christ are hidden in His Son, filled with His Spirit, and guaranteed eternal life. God blesses those in Christ because He blesses Christ, the only One who lived a full life in the flesh and never sinned. “Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sit in the seat of scoffers” (Psalm 1:1 ESV). Those in Christ are in God’s refuge. “Blessed are all who take refuge in him”  (Psalm 2:12 ESV).

Finding refuge in God through Christ brings eternal joy, even when surrounded by temporal chaos. They not only rejoice, which is to make glad, but they ever sing for joyEver  means from ancient times into eternity, indefinite and unending. To sing for joy means to give a ringing cry out of perpetual gladness. Those who face the wrath of the world because of their relationship with God in Christ will endure persecution for righteousness’ sake. 

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)

Living in the world and facing persecution does not feel like having God’s protection. Trust, which is part of the description of a refuge, is an emotional response to the sure promises of God and integral to a healthy, whole faith. He has promised those who are His eternity with Him, where there is no sin. “Evil may not dwell with you” (Psalm 5:4 ESV). In the refuge of His eternal presence is His protection, a hedge or fence, woven together, strong beyond comprehension. Nothing that is not of God gets through this barrier. “In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory”  (Ephesians 1:13-14 ESV).

God protects those who love Him. We often do not see His protection. When He allows us, those who are His, to feel the brunt of persecution for righteousness’ sake, it may seem He has withdrawn His refuge and abandoned us to the world. Yet, being in Christ means that what happens to Christ happens to us, and what happens to us happens to Christ. Jesus endured the cross for our sake and bids us take up our cross, which is, in reality, His cross, and follow Him. “Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple” (Luke 14:27 ESV). Our identity with Christ is complete. Our obedience to God is a natural result of our being in Christ. He who raised Christ from the dead will also raise us and bring us into eternity with Him. Nothing this world can do will separate us from Him.

What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword?   (Romans 9:31-35 ESV)

When Jesus entered Jerusalem on His way to cleansing the Temple, a crowd of people filled with children sang out “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). Some Pharisees standing there told Jesus to rebuke His disciples and stop them from singing out to Him. “He answered, ‘I tell you, if these were silent, the very stones would cry out’” (Luke 19:40 ESV). After driving out the people desecrating His Father’s House, the children continued to sing “Hosanna to the Son of David!” (Matthew 21:15 ESV), causing the indignation of the chief priests. Those who love God cannot help but sing out in joy. They exult in Him, which is to give glory, rejoice, act triumphantly, and take the greatest pride. He is everything. 

Misunderstood

Alien-Immigrants and Strangers

Beloved, I urge you as aliens and strangers to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul (1 Peter 2:11).

Christians live as both alien-immigrants in the world and as strangers, visitors just passing through the world, picking up those things needed for eternity.

Peter’s letter has three sections. Section one is chapter 1:1-12. God the Father works eternally in the lives of those who are alien immigrants in the world. Section two is from chapter 1:13 through chapter 2:10. The Holy Spirit has set apart the Christian and they are strangers in the world looking forward to their home in eternity.

Finally, the third section is in 2:11-5:14, the work of God the Son is made known through both suffering (for righteousness’ sake) in the world and with obedience to the Divine will. Peter combines both words (parapedemos and paroikos) into one phrase (2:11) to show the essential dichotomy faced by Christians as they live in a world which causes their suffering while remaining obedient to Jesus Christ, their Lord and Savior, who also suffered for them.

Scripture recognizes the difference between the alien-immigrant and the stranger, between those who accept the host county as their own or those who are just passing through using the host country to meet their needs. During the exodus, in the Hebrew Scripture, God is clear on His position concerning the alien-immigrant and the stranger in the larger context of His people. As the nation of Israel was exiting Egypt, God commanded them to eat a Passover feast, and to celebrate this feast and their miraculous release from slavery by the powerful hand of God.

And the LORD said to Moses and Aaron, “This is the statute of the Passover: no foreigner shall eat of it, but every slave that is bought for money may eat of it after you have circumcised him. No foreigner or hired worker may eat of it. It shall be eaten in one house; you shall not take any of the flesh outside the house, and you shall not break any of its bones. All the congregation of Israel shall keep it. If a stranger shall sojourn with you and would keep the Passover to the LORD, let all his males be circumcised. Then he may come near and keep it; he shall be as a native of the land. But no uncircumcised person shall eat of it. There shall be one law for the native and for the stranger who sojourns among you.” (Exodus 12:43-51 ESV)

Foreigner means the son of an alien or someone who does not consider Israel their home, either by birth or by decision. No person who refuses to identify with God or His people may eat and celebrate the Passover. Non-native people can celebrate the Passover. A servant or slavewho is circumcised, and by circumcision has identified with Israel, may eat the Passover. This is an important distinction. God recognizes the difference between those who are separated out from the world and dedicated to Him, and those who are separated from Him and identify with the world. The Passover was an annual celebration of remembering those who are God’s being saved from death as the Destroying Angel kills all the first born of those people who are in rebellion against God. In this case it is the Egyptian, and any who were in the borders of Egypt during the last plague.

Peter calls the Christian alien-immigrants and strangers. “Beloved, I urge you as alien-immigrants and strangers to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul” (1Peter 2:11). Those who identify with Christ are citizens of the kingdom of heaven, temporarily residing as citizen of an earthly kingdom. They are refugees, unable to return to their real home until the war is over and God calls them home. Their attitude is one of knowing they are different yet accepting the citizenship in a place without embracing all of the cultural norms of the citizen of that place. They are displaced for a time and placed by God where they are His witnesses. They are the parapedemos.

But, Christians are also the paroikos, the stranger who is temporarily in a place to gain what they can before returning home. God is preparing the Christian for eternity and uses the trials and persecutions of the world to form the Christian into a spiritual being fit for eternity with Him. Because Christians are not citizens of the world and do not identify with the cultural traits of the world, the world and those in the world hate them, are suspicious of them and disdain them.

Christians live their lives in dichotomy. On one hand they live and vote and act like citizens of an earthly kingdom while knowing they are not. Our home is in eternity with God but we must act like our temporary lives in the world have significance and purpose. On the other hand, we reject the morality and culturally acceptable practices of the world when they conflict with God’s will. We act like our temporary lives in this world and the things we have and collect have no eternal value because we look forward to an inheritance that is eternal. Is it any wonder Christians and Christianity is misunderstood, compromised and disparaged?

Peter, Suffering for Righteousness’ Sake

Studies in First Peter

Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ  (1 Peter 1:1 ESV)

John 21:18-22

Three times Peter denied Christ before those who murdered Him. Three times Jesus commissioned Peter to care for His Church. Peter received his marching orders, given a specific directive and mandate to teach and care for those who follow Jesus.

Jesus also hints to Peter what will happen in his future. While Jesus gives general predictions about what some Christians may suffer because of their relationship with Him, Peter receives a strong, pointed indication of how he will die. He feared standing before the authorities, who accused Jesus of blasphemy, desiring to kill Him. Peter ran when confronted by a mob and lied when confronted by a servant girl. Jesus taught His disciples that they would stand before authorities and to not worry about what they would say.

Beware of men, for they will deliver you over to courts and flog you in their synagogues, and you will be dragged before governors and kings for my sake, to bear witness before them and the Gentiles. When they deliver you over, do not be anxious how you are to speak or what you are to say, for what you are to say will be given to you in that hour. For it is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you. (Matthew 10:17-20 ESV)

Jesus indicated that Peter would die in the same way Jesus had died, by crucifixion. But, Jesus was standing before Peter, resurrected from death, telling him these things. Peter would stand before the authorities and speak to them about his relationship with Christ. He would not deny Christ or lie about that relationship. And he will suffer the same death His Master suffered.  “Truly, truly, I say to you, when you were young, you used to stretch out your hands, and another will dress you and carry you where you do not want to go” (John 21:18 ESV). Peter would suffer for righteousness’ sake.

John wrote his gospel after Peter’s death. His next statement is parenthetical. “(This he said to show by what kind of death he was to glorify God)” (John 21:19 ESV). John lived a long life of witness and persecution, finally being exiled toward the end of the century, to the island of Patmos where he died. His brother, James, was the first martyr of the disciples, murdered by Herod, who also imprisoned Peter. “He killed James the brother of John with the sword, and when he saw that it pleased the Jews, he proceeded to arrest Peter also” (Acts 12:2-3 ESV). Peter was miraculously delivered from prison by angels (Acts 12:6-11). It was not time for him to die. All people will die only when God determines their lives in the world are completed.

Jesus gave Peter the same command here that He had given when He called the disciples. “And after saying this he said to him, ‘Follow me’” (John 21:19 ESV). Jesus expects absolute obedience to His commands from the person called. We are not afforded the luxury of comparing ourselves with others. Nor does Jesus command groups to follow Him. His summons is for the individual. We are called to stand alone before the authorities and give our witness of Jesus. When Peter turned and asked about another disciple, Jesus once again rebuked him. He did not want to go alone but, in the end, was willing. Death is an individual thing. Though large groups die together each dies separately. “When Peter saw him, he said to Jesus, “Lord, what about this man?” (John 21:21 ESV).

There were two parts to Jesus’ answer. First was the will of God. That God has a purpose for each person becomes evident in this statement. That His purpose for one may affect others and does not preclude the demand all obey. “If it is my will that he remain until I come, what is that to you? You follow me!” (John 21:22 ESV). Jesus has told His disciples they must pick up their crosses and follow Him. “And whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me” (Matthew 10:38 ESV; see Matthew 16:24, Mark 8:34, Luke 9:23-24, Luke 14:27).

Secondly, Jesus reiterates the command for Peter to follow Him. “You follow me!” (John 21:22). It does not matter what others do or believe. It does not matter what happens to others. They are responsible to God. Each is responsible for their actions, motivations, thoughts and words. If they follow Jesus, good. If they do not follow Jesus, you must. Our following Jesus is not dictated by the circumstances we encounter in the world but by His call and our obedience.

My God and My Lord

O LORD, how many are my foes! Many are rising against me; many are saying of my soul, there is no salvation for him in God. (Psalm 3:1-2 ESV)

Jesus Christ speaks in this Psalm, praying to His Father, while living as a Servant among the fallen people of the world. He expresses, in the first person, His experiences about some of the persecutions He endured while walking the earth as the Second Adam. During His ministry, the religious leaders continually badgered Him about His lack of respect for the traditions they espoused. Jesus’ responses showed His interest was in leading people into a relationship with God over their legalistic adherence to non-Scriptural rules.

The beginning verses of this Psalm mirror the beginning verses of Psalm 1. While parallel statements are meant to emphasize and drive home the thoughts and feelings of the Psalmist, it is not coincidental these same statements reflect the same situations. In Psalm 1 God describes the only One who is Blessed by Him, Jesus Christ, because He alone lived a righteous life. In Psalm 3, He who lived the righteous life and is blessed by God describe the circumstances of persecution by those who hate God.

Psalm 3

Psalm 1

  • how many are my foes!
  • Many are rising against me;
  • many are saying of my soul, there is no salvation for him in God.
  • Who walks not in the counsel of the wicked
  • Nor stand in the way of sinners
  • Nor sit in the seat of scoffers.

Jesus prays with familiarity to God, addressing Him by His proper name, YHWY. He who created all things speaks to He who has always existed, the Existing One. His relationship with God is intimate. The Jews were afraid of speaking God’s proper name, changing it to LORD, or Adonai, so they would not violate the third commandment, or statement of God, about taking His name in vain. “You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain, for the LORD will not hold him guiltless who takes his name in vain” (Exodus 20:7 ESV; see Deuteronomy 5:11). Jesus cannot misuse the name of God because He is God. Those who love God cannot misuse His name.

During His ministry, Jesus habitually left His disciples for a short time to pray, climbing mountains or finding other secluded places. He did this often, sometimes at night while the disciples slept or after sending them off on a task. For one of these prayer times, Jesus took with Him three of His disciples. “And after six days Jesus took with him Peter and James, and John his brother, and led them up a high mountain by themselves. And he was transfigured before them, and his face shone like the sun, and his clothes became white as light” (Matthew 17:1-2; see Mark 9:2-13, see Luke 9:28-36 ESV). This is the only time in Scripture which shows the evidence of Jesus transfigured while He prayed. Three men saw and gave eye-witness testimony of what occurred. However, there is no reason to believe every time Jesus prayed in seclusion He was not transfigured. He is the Son of God, sent into the world as a Servant. He may have been transfigured each time but we cannot know because there were no other witnesses.

What do the disciples hear while on the mountain with Jesus? They hear God speak. He tells them that Jesus is His Son. “He was still speaking when, behold, a bright cloud overshadowed them, and a voice from the cloud said, ‘This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to him’” (Matthew 17:5 ESV). What has God already said in Psalm 2? “I will tell of the decree: The LORD said to me, “You are my Son; today I have begotten you” (Psalm 2:7 ESV). We are hearing Jesus the Son speak to God the Father in an intimate and loving way.

Jesus prays, telling His Father that which is of the utmost importance to the blessed Man. He reveals His heart in a vulnerable and unguarded way to God and to all who read the Psalms. Only in God is there salvation.

Jesus does not walk in the counsel of the wicked, who are His foes. He does not stand in the way of sinners, those who rise against Him. He does not sit in the seat of scoffers, those who would suggest God cannot save Him. He is the Righteous Man who has God’s complete attention and love. Though His foes are everyone in the world God will hear and answer His prayer. He is the One Man to whom God does listen.