Friday, 11 July 2014

(193) July 12: Psalm 7-9 & Acts 17:1-15

Ask God to open your mind, heart and will to understand, delight in and obey what you read.

To discover:­
As you read note how God’s kingly nature is displayed.

To ponder:
Again, David is seeking refuge, but from a particular enemy (“Cush,” see title), who may be leading others. His cry is for deliverance before they destroy him (7v1-2). Yet key in David’s prayer is his ability to call on God as a witness to his innocence. So he can pray that “if” he has done evil or robbed his foe, then God can let his enemy take his life (7v3-5). But knowing his innocence he then prays for God to rise in anger and justice against his enemies. 7v7 suggests David sees this as a component of God’s wider justice of all peoples (perhaps at the final judgement). In the light of that he calls God to judge him according to his righteousness (ie. the fact that he is upright), and more broadly to end the violence of the wicked and make the righteous (ie. faithful Israelites) secure. And he can declare that God is his shield specifically because of his wider commitment to save the “upright in heart” – distinguishing those who genuinely love God, from those who are just outwardly moral. David is adamant that as a “righteous judge” God daily expresses his wrath with deadly weapons, and this is seen by the fact that the wicked end up harming themselves. And we do see this: many end up disillusioned or depressed, some find their schemes backfire, and others end up the victims of violence (7v14-16). So David can thank and praise God for his righteousness, here meaning his commitment to doing right with respect to justice.
            Although perfect justice will come at Christ’s return, the Psalm suggests we can appeal to God’s justice when we plead with him for ourselves or others. Moreover, we should see the fall of tyrants or criminals as a working out of that justice in the present as a forestaste of God’s ultimate justice to come. So whatever God’s purposes in permitting evil to some degree now, he doesn’t just allow it. He often judges it.
            Psalm 8 famously portrays the “majesty” (ie. kingly splendour) of the LORD in terms of the cosmos (“heavens” here refers simply to the sky). There God displays his “glory” (ie. the display of his excellence), so that, as we saw in Job, the majesty of who he is (his “name”), is known throughout the earth (8v1). The praise from the lips of children may therefore refer to their instinctive awe at the immensity of the universe (meaning the sky) as it points to God. It is unclear how this silences the foe and avenger – perhaps by rendering them without excuse for ignoring the reality of God when even simple children recognise it (see Rom 1v18-20).
            In the light of God’s cosmic work, David marvels that God condescends to think about and even care for human beings. Indeed, as in Genesis 1-2 man is a little lower than angels, but a kingly vice-regent to God, “crowned” with glory and honour – ie. something of God’s own excellence in imaging him. In our fallen state, we see this fully displayed only in Christ, whilst we wait to experience it fully ourselves in the creation to come (Heb 2v5-9). The point seems to be that as humanity are made by God to rule over the entire creation, his glory is displayed both in the wonders of the universe above and in the role of human beings below. As we ponder both, we should gain an appreciation of just how magnificent a king God is, and join David’s praise.
            Psalm 9 is a commitment to God, to tell of his wonders by praising him with joy (9v1). No doubt David means that as he sings, those who hear, hear of what God has done. This is a key component to praise in the church (Eph 5v19). Strikingly, the works David will sing of are God’s acts of justice. First, he has upheld David’s cause so that his enemies turn back. Second, God destroys the wicked more broadly too. Here David is probably looking to the final judgement. And so he declares God’s eternal reign in justice, and how we will judge rightly and so be a place of safety for the oppressed who know, trust and seek him (9v7-10). David therefore calls people to praise God and proclaim his deeds to the nations, describing him as enthroned in Zion in the sense that he dwells in a special way in Jerusalem. In the light of God previously dealing with David’s enemies and his commitment to aiding the needy, David goes on to call on him for deliverance from current enemies who have brought him close to death. His motivation is a concern to praise God with joy in Jerusalem for saving him (9v13-14). David is so consumed with God’s honour, that it is his priority even when at death’s door. It encourages us to be as concerned with testifying to God’s acts in our life – supremely that of saving us from sin, Satan and death through Christ.
            David ends again reflecting on how the acts of the wicked (this time the nations) act like a boomerang, bringing themselves harm. Once more, this, is an act of God’s justice (9v15-16). Affirming that although the nations that forget God will suffer the grave, God will never forget the needy, he then prays for justice against the nations, so that men will not “triumph” but know they “are but men” (9v19-20). So the great need is for God to check and humble the wicked. We might echo these sentiments in praying against oppression today.

Praying it home:
Praise God for his justice expressed in the present and to be completed in the future. Pray that he would thwart the plans of wicked nations and protect the needy.

Thinking further:
None today.
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