Tag Archives: sin

Praise to the Most High God

I will give to the LORD 
the thanks due to his righteousness,
and I will sing praise to the name of the LORD,
the Most High. (Psalm 7:17 ESV)

For the first time in the Psalms, beginning with Psalm 1, God is given thanks for whom He is, and is praised, honored and worshipped. Thanks means to laud and praise. David gives thanks to the LORD for His righteousnessPraise means to sing, make music. David sings devotions to the name, the reputation, of the LORD. Then he calls Him Most High, a name of God which means as high up in the ranks as any can attain. God is the only god and there is no other as high as He. He controls all created things, which is everything in the heavens and in eternity.

God’s name, the Most High, is first used in Genesis to describe the position held by Melchizedek, the king of Salem, before God. “He was priest of God Most High” (Genesis 14:18 ESV). David calls God Most High here and then again in Psalm 9:2. “I will give thanks to the LORD with my whole heart; I will recount all of your wonderful deeds. I will be glad and exult in you; I will sing praise to your name, O Most High” (Psalm 9:1-2 ESV). These two verses thank God and offer Him praise, honor and worship. In between Psalm 7:17 and 9:2 is Psalm 8, considered a Messianic Psalm, devoted to declaring the works and wonders of God and His favor toward Jesus Christ, His Son. This progression in the Psalms suggests the order in which they are delivered is vital to our understanding of who Jesus is, what He did and how He felt while living in a sinful world as a Man.

God alone can claim true righteousness. He alone can state those He has created are righteous. Those who intimately know Him understand that He is the source and foundation for their righteousness, even when they are surrounded and attacked by enemies who would harm them because of their relationship with God. “Answer me when I call, O God of my righteousness! You have given me relief when I was in distress. Be gracious to me and hear my prayer!” (Psalm 4:1 ESV). Jesus is both true God and true Man. As God He is the source of all righteousness. As a Man He recognized that in God alone would any person be declared righteous and be directed in the way of righteousness, as they live in the midst of those who are enemies of God. “Lead me, O LORD, in your righteousness because of my enemies; make your way straight before me” (Psalm 5:8 ESV). Those who follow Christ face the wrath of the world and the Deceiver. Following Christ brings God’s love and compassion. Christ gives His righteousness to those who are His, covering them so that God sees the righteousness of Christ and not the blackness of their sin. “The LORD judges the peoples; judge me, O LORD, according to my righteousness and according to the integrity that is in me” (Psalm 7:8 ESV). His righteousness is given to those who are His and should bring shouts of thanksgiving and the joyful music. Those found in Christ, who take refuge in God, cannot be harmed by the Deceiver, those of the world and even their own sinful flesh. “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).

Who is the Most High? He is God and His Son is Jesus Christ. Gabriel came to Mary and told her God was blessing her and the world through her. She would give birth to the Son of God.

“And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.”

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

And the angel answered her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy—the Son of God.” (Luke 1:31-35 ESV)

Jesus Christ, born of a virgin, is fully God and fully Man. Scripture is filled with the evidence of His divinity. The most substantial evidence is His miracles and especially His resurrection from death. There are spiritual beings, fallen angels, who are demons, who recognized Jesus as God. “When he saw Jesus, he cried out and fell down before him and said with a loud voice, ‘What have you to do with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I beg you, do not torment me’” (Luke 8:28 ESV; see also Matthew 8:9; Mark 1:24-27; Mark 5:6-8; Luke 4:33-36; Acts 16:16-18).  These demons do not submit with joy and worship but cringe in fear and loathing. Those who belong to God worship God with joy and thanksgiving because of all He has done and is doing.

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Pregnant

Behold, the wicked man conceives evil 
and is pregnant with mischief
and gives birth to lies. (Psalm 7:14 ESV)
They conceive trouble and give birth to evil, 
and their womb prepares deceit. (Job 15:35 ESV)

There is a principle stated in this verse which works for good or for evil. It is the principle of creativity. Part of the image of God in Man is the ability to create, not ex nihilo, nor making a different substance out of an original substance, but the ability to think and find solutions to simple or vexing problems, to build and accomplish. When God created the universe, He created stuff out of nothing, ex nihilo. He then took that matter and energy which He created and from that stuff began forming other, different stuff. He created Man out of the dust of the earth (Genesis 2:7). Jesus, showing He is God yet found in the flesh of a man, created wine out of water (John 2:1-12). Originally, in the Garden of Eden, Adam and Eve were given control and dominion, part of the image of God, over the earth, to work it (Genesis 2:5) and subdue the earth (Genesis 1:28).

There are three steps to the principle of creativity. A person conceives an idea, which means to bring forth. In this verse the word conceives means to pledge or bind, to spoil or corrupt or offend. Because it is a wicked person creating the idea, the idea itself is designed to corrupt and destroy, to be evil, which means trouble, sorrow and idolatry. The wicked person conceives evil.

In the second step the idolatrous idea moves into full pregnancy. Pregnant means to bear or be with child. The wicked idea grows from the smallest seed until it is ready to be launched into reality. During this time, the idea gains strength and maturity, growing in its respective parts to cause trouble and mischief

Finally, the idea is given birth, born, brought forth, ready to cause as much damage as possible. It is lies, deception, falsehood, fraud. All idols are frauds because they steal from God that which is only His.

We see this scene played out in the Garden of Eden. It is the Deceiver, who has inhabited a serpent, who comes to Eve and plants a seed of doubt. “Did God actually say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree in the garden’?” (Genesis 3:1 ESV). Eve’s thinking was ready for this deception. She had been truthfully told by Adam, or told herself, that she could eat from any tree except the one tree of the knowledge of good and evil. The idea that she was to not touch the tree was not true. “We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden, but God said, ‘You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the midst of the garden, neither shall you touch it, lest you die’” (Genesis 3:2-3 ESV). She added words to God’s statement. God never told Adam to not touch the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Those who add to God’s words are lying to themselves and believing the lie. The Deceiver planted the seed of the lie and Eve watered it with her own lies. The result was a superstitious and suspicious belief that God was withholding something good from her. Adam and Eve acted in a rebellious manner and committed idolatry. She ate from the tree and gave some to her husband, who also ate. They placed themselves above God.

God gives good not evil. The Deceiver wants only evil, to corrupt all that is good. The same progression of creativity seen in the Psalm 7 is given by James, who refers to temptation as the idea conceived by evil desires which becomes sin. 

Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am being tempted by God,” for God cannot be tempted with evil, and he himself tempts no one. But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death. (James 1:13-15 ESV)

Temptation does not have to result in sin or wickedness. Jesus was tempted and did not sin. “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin” (Hebrews 4:15 ESV). God told Cain that sin wanted to own him and that he needed to war against the assault of sin. “If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door. Its desire is contrary to you, but you must rule over it” (Genesis 4:7 ESV). Temptation does not mean sin will follow. Cain relinquished control of himself to sin because he wanted to retaliate against God for accepting his brother’s sacrifice and not his. People want to sin and allow temptation to gain control of them and inspire rebellious action.

Jesus is adamant in His declarations that sin is ingrained and pervasive, controlling and enslaving every fiber of a person’s being, both physical and spiritual. 

Either make the tree good and its fruit good, or make the tree bad and its fruit bad, for the tree is known by its fruit. You brood of vipers! How can you speak good, when you are evil? For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks. The good person out of his good treasure brings forth good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure brings forth evil. (Matthew 12:33-35 ESV).

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.

Established

Oh, let the evil of the wicked come to an end, 
and may you establish the righteous—
you who test the minds and hearts, O righteous God! 
(Psalm 7:9 ESV)

Those who seek God and His righteousness are often troubled in their souls, mourning over the presence and consequences of the sin the see in themselves and in the world in which they live. They know and love truth and hate and abhor evil. Their prayers echo the prayer of Jesus in the Psalms that evil and wickedness would come to an end. To endmeans to cease, be no more, fail, as well as complete. God promises that sin, wickedness and those who rebel against Him, who are sinful and wicked, will come to an end. The wicked person will not cease to exist but will cease corrupting God’s creation with their evil.

God spoke about what will happen to His sinful enemies. They are excluded from His eternal presence and with those whom He has declared righteous. “Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous” (Psalm 1:5 ESV). Those who continue to rebel, even after commanded to repent and turn toward God, are given a warning about what will happen if they do not submit and serve Jesus. “Kiss the Son, lest he be angry, and you perish in the way, for his wrath is quickly kindled” (Psalm 2:12 ESV). Those who do not repent, continuing to fight against Him, in word and action, are eternally silenced. “For you strike all my enemies on the cheek; you break the teeth of the wicked” (Psalm 3:7 ESV). Those who would murder God, continually lying about Him, are consigned to a place of destruction, away from His presence. “You destroy those who speak lies; the LORD abhors the bloodthirsty and deceitful man” (Psalm 5:6 ESV). Though Jesus took upon Himself the punishment for sin, the wicked reject the command of the Holy Spirit to accept and abide in His grace. The evidence of their rejection is their continued, blatant sin. “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 5:10 ESV).

The wicked will come to an end and He will establish the righteous. To establish means to make firm, to stabilize, to fix and secure, to make enduring. Those who are righteous in Christ will enter His presence in eternity and never again face the corruption of sin and rebellion.

God knows the difference between those who live and revel in their sin and those who are drawn into His presence, who take refuge in Christ. To test means to examine and prove, to be put on trial and thoroughly scrutinized. Only God knows intimately the thinking of the hearts of all people. He tests the minds and hearts. “For the LORD knows the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked will perish” (Psalm 1:6 ESV). Peering deeply into the hearts and intentions of all people, God knows and sees the difference between those who hate Him and those who love Him.

For there is no truth in their mouth; their inmost self is destruction; their throat is an open grave; they flatter with their tongue. 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 5:9-10 ESV).

Jesus knew the hearts of those around Him, who challenged His authority and sought to murder Him. When He saw the faith of those who brought a paralytic to Him to heal, He forgave the paralyzed man of his sin. This irked the religious leaders who watched. They knew only God could forgive sin. To them, Jesus was simply a man and, they thought, sinful. Jesus knew their hearts. “And behold, some of the scribes said to themselves, “This man is blaspheming.” But Jesus, knowing their thoughts, said, ‘Why do you think evil in your hearts?’” (Matthew 9:3-4 ESV; see also Luke 5:22). Jesus then demonstrated His authority over sin by healing the man. Many people saw His miracles. They believed He could perform signs and wonders because they watched Him do great things. But, Jesus knew their hearts and that they sought only what they could control. Jesus would not allow anyone to control Him.

Now when he was in Jerusalem at the Passover Feast, many believed in his name when they saw the signs that he was doing. But Jesus on his part did not entrust himself to them, because he knew all people and needed no one to bear witness about man, for he himself knew what was in man. (John 2:23-25 ESV)

God is righteous and knows those who have relinquished control to Him and are righteous because of His Son.

Judge Me

The LORD judges the peoples; 
judge me, O LORD, according to my righteousness
and according to the integrity that is in me. (Psalm 7:8 ESV)

Jesus appears to issue a challenge to the Judge and the Prosecutor in His spiritual trial. He has already given permission to the Judge to deal harshly with Him if any sin is found in Him. Does God need His permission? Jesus rests in God upon His righteousness

“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, let the enemy pursue my soul and overtake it, and let him trample my life to the ground and lay my glory in the dust” (Psalm 7:3-5 ESV). 

Jesus has violated no law. Jesus requests God judge Him according to His righteousness and integrity. In every thought, motive, action and word, Jesus adheres perfectly to the eternal Laws of God. This is His righteousness. Jesus kept the Law, not because He had to, knowing the consequences of violating any Law. He kept the Law because He is the Law. He is righteous before God. He kept the Law because He loves the Law. His integrity, which is completeness, innocence, simplicity and uprightness, is founded on His eternal character as the Author of the Law.

Psalms begin by describing only One person, the Blessed Man. “Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers; but his delight is in the law of the LORD, and on his law he meditates day and night” (Psalm 1:1-2 ESV). He, the One righteous man, and He alone, shows God perfect love and delight. He intimately knows God is His righteousness. “Answer me when I call, O God of my righteousness! (Psalm 4:1 ESV). Because He is righteous, He is set apart for God and heard by God. “But know that the LORD has set apart the godly for himself; the LORD hears when I call to him” (Psalm 4:3 ESV). Jesus wants to be led by God in all His ways. “Lead me, O LORD, in your righteousness because of my enemies; make your way straight before me” (Psalm 5:8 ESV). The final outcome is God’s eternal blessing. God will not allow anything to happen to destroy the Blessed Man. “For you bless the righteous, O LORD; you cover him with favor as with a shield” (Psalm 5:12 ESV).

Jesus walked among a rebellious people without sinning because He is both God and a true Servant of God, Man the way God intended. He showed the evidence for His authority in every action and word. When He saw true faith in a person, He acknowledged that faith.

And when he saw their faith, he said, “Man, your sins are forgiven you.”

And the scribes and the Pharisees began to question, saying, “Who is this who speaks blasphemies? Who can forgive sins but God alone?” 

When Jesus perceived their thoughts, he answered them, “Why do you question in your hearts? Which is easier, to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven you,’ or to say, ‘Rise and walk’? But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins”—he said to the man who was paralyzed—“I say to you, rise, pick up your bed and go home.” (Luke 5:20-24 ESV)

His answer to those who question, challenge and accuse Him of sin, is that He is God. He alone can forgive sin. 

His enemies accuse Him of sin by working on the Sabbath and allowing His disciples to break the Sabbath command. Jesus responds to both accusations. “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath. So the Son of Man is lord even of the Sabbath”  (Mark 2:27-28 ESV). Jesus declares to those accusing Him of breaking the Law that He is the Author of the Law and the Creator of the universe. God first established the Sabbath observance on the seventh day of creation. On that day God declares His creation finished and He rests. He blesses the seventh day, making it a holy day. 

And on the seventh day God finished his work that he had done, and he rested on the seventh day from all his work that he had done. So God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it God rested from all his work that he had done in creation. (Genesis 2:2-3 ESV)

The integrity of the day is not in the outward observance of strict rules and regulations, followed to show God the self-righteousness of any person. The integrity of the day is found only in those who actually and naturally rest in God because He is at rest. Resting in God comes with a right relationship, had only by the sacrifice of Christ and the taking refuge in Him. He alone is both righteous and has complete integrity before God. Those found in Jesus, though accused of sin by the Deceiver, are declared righteous by God.

God, The Righteous Judge

The LORD judges the peoples; 
judge me, O LORD, according to my righteousness
and according to the integrity that is in me. 
(Psalm 7:8 ESV)

God is a benevolent Judge, who responds to sin according to laws based upon His eternal nature and character in both harsh and compassionate ways. God is omnipresent. He cannot abide even one sin in His presence in eternity.

Adam sinned when he ate the forbidden fruit. God warned Adam what would happen when he sinned. “You may surely eat of every tree of the garden, but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die (die, die) (Genesis 2:16-17 ESV). God said Adam would die die. Not only would Adam die physically, though not immediately, he would die spiritually. Spiritual death is being denied that which sustains spiritual life. Spiritual life is the presence and sustenance that is God. God did not immediately execute the death sentence against Adam, who continued living in the physical world. Adam lived 930 years and then physically died. God continued to have a relationship with Adam. But Adam’s sin brought both physical and spiritual death to all people. Not everyone who dies physically will die spiritually.

God compassionately prepared a means for those who sin even one sin to be restored to a righteous relationship with Him. From eternity God decided to send His Son to take upon Himself the sin of the people.

To judge means to contend or plead, to act as a legal magistrate by rendering a verdict and executing a sentence. Judge also means to govern. Justice and righteousness are fundamental to God’s eternal nature. God cannot be unjust or unrighteous. Nor can He render unjust or unrighteous decisions or acts in a way contrary to His eternal nature. We struggle with God’s actions and words because they do not seem fair. We equate fairness with justice. We cannot imagine God hating anyone He created in His image. This is because we do not understand the words “love” and “hate” as used by God.

As it is written, “Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.” What shall we say then? Is there injustice on God’s part? By no means! For he says to Moses, “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.” So then it depends not on human will or exertion, but on God, who has mercy. (Romans 9:13-16 ESV; cited from Malachi 1:2-3)

In Hebrew the word loved means to have human appetite for another, such as a friend or one with whom there is an intimate sexual relationship. This includes God’s love for a person, nation, and all people. The Greek the word is agapao, which is Godly love, which means to be well pleased and to love dearly. Hated is used in contrast to the word loved. God hated, which in Hebrew means to find odious, those persons who continue to rebel against Him after being commanded to return and obey Him. In Greek the word means to detest. God loves those who love Him and hates those who hate Him. Those who hate Him are released from His presence in eternity, driven away from God with whom they want nothing to do.

This does not mean God is controlled by either the love or hatred of those He has created. God acts with love toward those who love and obey Him. “If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love” (John 15:10 ESV). Conversely, God will act with hatred toward those who hate Him. In both cases God choses to act in a manner consistent with His holy, righteous and eternal character. God will judge people based upon the intentions of their hearts and their actions, which is the outward evidence of their hearts.

If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what shall a man give in return for his soul? For the Son of Man is going to come with his angels in the glory of his Father, and then he will repay each person according to what he has done. (Matthew 16:24-27 ESV)

Does judging someone according to the eternal laws of God based upon the evidence of their lives make God unjust? He created people in His image. That image is not contaminated with sin even though the vessel containing His image is corrupt. People are at war within themselves, irresistibly drawn toward Him because of His image in them. Yet, people are tugged and pulled away from God by sin, which is also in them. God makes a way in His compassion and mercy for those created in His image to come to Him through the covering of their sin by the blood of Christ. Those who reject God’s call, disobeying His command to repent, sin. One sin. There is a sin which is unforgivable. It is the rejection of the command to obey God given to each person by the Holy Spirit. “Therefore I tell you, every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven people, but the blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven. And whoever speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven, either in this age or in the age to come” (Matthew 12:31-32 ESV).

God loves those who follow Christ and they will live in His presence for eternity. Those who hate Christ, God will expel from His presence for eternity. God is righteous in His judgment.

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.