Saturday, 12 July 2014

(194) July 13: Psalm 10-12 & Acts 17:16-34

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

To discover:­
As you read consider what David is struggling with.

To ponder:
It is likely Psalms 9 and 10 were originally one. Although we’ve seen David’s absolute confidence in God’s justice, we now feel his struggle with why God delays it, leaving the weak subject to the wicked (10v1-2). It’s a struggle we all face. David relates how the wicked man “boasts” about what he can have, “blesses” and so affirms the greedy, and “reviles” God (ie. speaks abusively of him), doing nothing to seek him (10v3-4). Indeed, his ways always seem to bring prosperity, and he presumes nothing will every shake that (10v5-6). And so he speaks curses, lies, threats and schemes, prowling on the helpless, telling himself God “has forgotten” or “never sees” (10v7-11). In the light of this David asks “why?” this is so, calling on God to remember and act for the helpless, because he does see, the victims commit themselves to him, and because he is the “helper of the fatherless” (ie. of the needy). David prays that God would call the wicked to account, and asks that he “break” their “arm” – meaning that he would make them powerless and so unable to do any more harm. He then concludes that God is king for ever, and so forever dispensing kingly justice (10v16). This means the nations will one day perish no matter what evil is done. Moreover, it means God hears the afflicted, encouraging them by “defending the fatherless and oppressed.” This may be an affirmation that whatever injustice is seen now, there will be justice in the end. This should encourage us in the present, as then “man will terrify no more” (10v17-18).
            The psalm is refreshing in its honesty. It differs from Job’s reflections by never charging God with injustice, but simply struggling with why he delays justice in the present. We might echo its words as we see evil rampant in the world, or even as we are oppressed. Ultimately the psalm leads us to continue to trust God to act justly, and be encouraged that whether that is seen now, it will be on the last day. Such an attitude must have encouraged Christ as he faced the injustice of his trial and death.
Continuing the theme, Psalm 11 sees David entrusting himself to God’s justice as he faces the wicked. It seems people are telling him to run away to safety (11v1). But he refuses to, just as Christ did (Mk 8v31-33). Although the wicked are metaphorically readying their weapons to harm him (the “upright”), he will remain and find safety in God (11v1-2). His reference to “the foundations” being destroyed, may suggest the whole order of Israel was falling apart, as it did when David’s rule was threatened by Absalom. At such times, “the righteous” can only look to the fact that God still reigns in his temple (either the tabernacle or heaven itself), and is certainly enthroned in heaven (11v4). And God sees everything. He “examines” the righteous and so sees they are for him. And he “hates” (ie. is opposed to) the wicked, and so will punish them. As poetry, 11v6 is not necessarily literal, but portrays this punishment like that of Sodom and Gomorrah (Gen 19v24), which is a paradigm for the final judgement (Lk 17v28-32). It is perhaps with this final justice in mind that David is sure that however terrifying things are now, the “upright” will “see” God’s face.
            With the rise of secularism and the turmoil of nations in our day, we can likewise feel the foundations of our own society are shaking. This Psalm reminds us God still reigns. So we can entrust ourselves to his protection, stand firm and remain serving him as David did. And whatever happens, we can look with anticipation to the clear, unmediated knowledge or sight of God’s glory and beauty that will be our everlasting joy in the final state. It will put all present sufferings in perspective (Rom 8v18).
            Psalm 12 also speaks powerfully to our contemporary situation in which it can seem “the godly are no more,” untruth reigns (12v1-2), and the godless freely strut about because what is “vile” is honoured (12v8). Again, the stark prayer that God “cut off” lying lips is meant as a request that he stops them from being able to continue their deception and their boasting that they are their own master – rather than subject to God (see Genesis 3). At this point, whether directly or via a prophet, it seems God actually answers David’s (12v5), perhaps in a vision. He declares that because of the oppression taking place, he will protect those in need. David adds that God’s words are utterly flawless (12v6), stressed by the image of silver refined “seven” times (the number of completion or perfection). So he is confident God will do as he says. Once more, he then looks ahead, affirming God will “always” keep “us” (ie. the godly that remain) safe from such people.
12v6 is yet another pointer to the fact that when Jesus described the scriptures as “God’s word” he would have assumed absolute perfection (Jn 10v35). But the point of the psalm is to point us to God when we feel godliness is almost extinguished. We do not have a prophetic promise for our generation, but we can still call on him to act.
Praying it home:
Praise God that he reigns no matter how desperate things seem to his people. Pray that he would revive the church bringing the godly to greater dominance in our nation.

Thinking further:
None today.
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