Sunday, 13 July 2014

(195) July 14: Psalm 13-16 & Acts 18

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

To discover:­
As you read consider on what grounds David calls on God to act.

To ponder:
Psalm 13 expresses the fact that David feels forgotten by God in the light of his enemies, no doubt because God has yet to help. The idea of “wrestling” in thought suggests he can’t stop thinking his predicament through, as so many do when worried. And he is clearly low of spirit, perhaps somewhat depressed (13v1-2). This may be why David calls on God for “light,” suggesting he feels in utter darkness and in need of hope – perhaps in danger of literal death (13v3). But whereas his enemies will boast and rejoice in overcoming David, he knows he will “rejoice” in God’s salvation. It will come because he trusts in God’s unfailing love that has been proved by his past goodness (13v5-6). The Psalm has a ring of Gethsemane. It encourages us when in turmoil to place our trust in God and find peace in him. And it reminds us that often it is his past goodness that can give us confidence of his future grace.
            Psalm 14 describes the equivalent of today’s atheists in Israel. They may not have actually denied the existence of God, but certainly lived as if he didn’t exist or denied his true nature (see Rom 1v21-25, 3v10-18). This was foolish, which denotes the opposite of wisdom – ie. the stupidity of refusing to fear or obey God. Such people nether seek him nor do good. And David is clear, but for God’s work in us, everyone is like this. Such foolishness is particularly seen in never learning. So these individuals continually devour David’s people and frustrate the poor without grasping that God is with the righteous and is their refuge. This means David’s prayer for God to save Israel (Jacob’s alternative name, 14v7) by restoring her fortunes, is probably a prayer for him to get rid of these fools, or change their hearts, so the people might be established and know joy. Such salvation comes from Zion (Jerusalem), as this is the place of God’s temple-presence. The psalm could be read as a prayer for revival of the church in any nation, but it is ultimately fulfilled in the exclusion of all such “fools” from God’s kingdom on the last day. With God’s people fully restored, joy and gladness will then reign.
            The negative diagnosis of everyone in Psalm 14 shows that in one sense the answer to the question that begins Psalm 15 is “no-one.” God’s sanctuary comprised the “holy” and “most holy” places within the temple. The latter was where God was especially present above the ark, and the former, where only priests could go to offer daily sacrifices. 15v1 therefore asks who is pure enough to come close to God, and looks to the qualities necessary to enter the sanctuary of heaven itself (Heb 9v24). Of course, only Jesus is pure enough – and we, only having been cleansed from sin through his death, and had his righteousness credited to us. Nevertheless, as people could enter the earthly sanctuary, in writing the Psalm David is probably wanting to encourage actual godliness too. Each quality is therefore worth deep reflection. They are expected of us, if we are those of true faith (see 1 Thess 2v10, Eph 4v24-5v20). Indeed, if we display them, we can be confident God is at work in us and so we will “never be shaken” (15v5).
            Psalm 16 is anther call for safety and refuge. And once again David hopes in future grace on the basis of God’s past goodness. First, he declares that he has nothing good but for God, and affirms his uprightness in delighting and so finding pleasure in God’s saints (holy ones), whilst refusing to join with or even speak of those who follow false gods - to their “sorrow” (16v2-4). Although we must befriend unbelievers, godliness is displayed in the joy of seeing people honour God and our reluctance to partner with wrongdoers. “Glorious ones” probably refers to the righteous as those who reflect God’s glory by imaging him.
            As previously, this all suggests David may be appealing to God on the basis of his own righteousness, ie. on the basis of knowing and loving God. So it is because David communes with God even in bed and has always looked to him, that he can be confident that God is at his right hand to defend and protect him (16v7-8). But David is also confident of this because God has already given him so much (16v6-7). Here, the language of land being apportioned to David is a description of the blessing he has received more generally.
            This all makes him joyful because he can rest “secure,” certain that God will save him from death. But the note of being in God’s presence with “eternal pleasures” (16v11) suggests he is certain of this even if he actually dies, implying resurrection. So Peter applies verses 9-11 to Christ’s resurrection in Acts 2v24-33. God inspired David so that his words and confidence look to the only one who would die and be raised without ever suffering “decay” (16v10). In Christ, we share his confidence too.

Praying it home:
Praise God that he has done all that is necessary for us to have eternal refuge in him. Pray through Psalm 14 for the church in your nation.

Thinking further:
None today.
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