Monday, 14 July 2014

(196) July 15: almsPsalm 17-18 & Acts 19:1-20

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

To discover:­
As you read consider the qualities in God David affirms.

To ponder:
Once more in Psalm 17, David appeals to God on the basis of his personal righteousness and so is confident of God’s answer (17v1-8). What is new is the insight that he does so because for God to answer would be to “vindicate” him as upright (17v2) in contrast to his enemies. It is an appeal for God to affirm that he remains with David as his anointed king because David honours him (see 2 Sam 7v9-16). To this end, David asks God to see, probe, examine and test him, affirming he is has not been deceitful, nor slipped from following God’s words (17v4-5). He therefore asks God to demonstrate the “wonder” of his love by saving him as he does those who take refuge in him: To be kept as “the apple” of God’s eye, is to remain the centre of God’s attention and delight. To be hidden under “the shadow” of his wings, refers to the place of safety the chick has under its mother (17v8). In Christ, these wonderful images apply to us too.
            David sees his enemies as those with hardened hearts and arrogant speech, who prey on him like a lion. In asking God to “confront” them, he declares their reward is what they enjoy in this life (17v14), which suggests the second half of verse 14 could actually be a call for them to have their fill now (as in the ESV). By contrast, David’s reward is to see God’s face. This was something only Moses seemed to do in the life (Num 12v6-8), meaning that David must be looking to when he “awakes” from death in resurrection (17v15). This ultimate perspective is what comforts the believer when faced with the injustice of seeing the wicked prosper and oppress them.
            The setting of Psalm 18 is David’s escape from Saul. Verse 1 is moving when spoken by the mighty and manly David. He declares his “love” for God, ie. his devotion to God as the one he cherishes above all, not least because of God’s strength in delivering David as the psalm describes. Our deliverance and the other goods God grants us should elicit our love and devotion too.
            The metaphors of 18v2 reflect God’s strength, with the horn denoting the strength of a beast. Those of 18v4-19 then describe God’s deliverance. David was almost drowned and entangled in death, when he called to God, who heard from his “temple” (heaven or the tabernacle). The account in 1 Samuel says nothing of the earthquake, fire, storm and lightening David describes (18v7-15). But the poetry affirms the God who saved David was the God of Sinai, where these effects were seen, and that his act for David was truly awesome and mighty. It was as if God “reached down” from heaven and “drew” David out from his drowning (18v16-17), placing him in a “spacious place” of safety. All this can also be said of God’s rescue of Christ and us in him, from Satan as the false ruler of the world.
            In the light of the previous psalm, the note that God “rescued” David because he “delighted” in him (18v19) refers to David’s uprightness as the reason for that delight (see 18v20-24). And David applies this principle beyond himself (18v25-29). Although we are forgiven and counted righteous in Christ, God’s willingness to answer prayer is still to some extent dependent on our personal righteousness (Jam 4v3, 5v16-18). He acts for the faithful, blameless, pure and humble, and is against the crooked and haughty (18v25-27).
            So David affirms God has kept the light of his life burning and turned the darkness of his situation to light (18v28). And he is confident that because of who God is, with his help, David will be victorious and not fall (18v29-36). He then recounts how God enabled him to crush his foes and set him up as the ruler of nations – presumably the Canaanite peoples David conquered (2 Sam 5-8, esp. 8v11-12). As this had not yet happened when David fled from Saul, David must have added this section later, or simply be looking ahead in faith to what God would do. Whatever the case, in response David praises God and commits himself to praising him “among the nations” for the victories and kindnesses he has been given as God’s “anointed” king – and for those God will continue to give his descendents according to his promise (2 Sam 7v10-14). The psalm therefore teaches how much more God will establish his perfectly righteous Christ as ruler over all nations, as he is doing now through the gospel. As those who share in that rule, it also affirms God’s acts should elicit not just love from us, but praise too. Moreover, it teaches how this should naturally overflow into evangelism as we praise God to the nations for all he has done through and for Jesus, David’s greatest descendent.

Praying it home:
Praise God for establishing Christ’s rule over all nations, and the deliverance and good he has given you in him. Pray that you would be active in praising him to others.

Thinking further:
None today.
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