Monday, 18 August 2014

(231) August 19: Psalm 112-115 & 1 Corinthians 1

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 blessings that flow from trusting God.

To ponder:
Psalm 112 is an acrostic like Psalm 111, and continues where it left off, outlining the blessings received by the one who fears the LORD and so delights in his commands (112v1). They are described throughout as “righteous” and therefore gracious, compassionate, upright, generous and just (112v4-5). These are qualities supremely displayed in Christ and to be emulated by us as his people. We need to be reminded, however, that the blessings in this psalm reflect God’s particular covenant promises to Israel as a paradigm of the kingdom to come. So the children of such people will be mighty – ie. significant, and their family rich (112v2-3). However, being part of this world order, they won’t be exempt from trouble. But in darkness, light will dawn for them, as God will come to their aid (112v4-5). So they will never be shaken, which seems to mean they will never be overly anxious about possible bad news, but able to maintain a steadfast heart in the face of life’s potential difficulties because they trust the LORD (112v6-8).
            Could we say the same? Paul applies 112v9 to God supplying the Christian so he can in turn give to the needy (2 Cor 9v9). This reflects the context in this psalm. It is because the righteous trust God to provide for them (112v3) that they can be so generous to others. The theme throughout is that like God (111v3) the “righteousness” of those who fear the LORD will “endure forever.” This may refer to their acts having an ongoing impact, but the stress is probably on them always being remembered before God (112v6). This means that for God to lift up their “horn” (112v9), is for him to cause them to be honoured in their lifetime and in memory. But it also looks to their being raised and honoured in glory for all time. By contrast, the wicked man will gnash his teeth in annoyance as he looks on at their exaltation, and his longings will come to nothing (112v10). Jesus uses this language to describe the torment of those in hell as they see the righteous enjoying the kingdom (Lk 13v28). The psalm therefore commends the fear of the LORD in the strongest terms.
            Psalm 113 calls people to praise God forever and everywhere (113v1-3). In the Hebrew mind greatness is often equated with being raised up to a height (see Is 6v1). God is therefore exalted above all nations in the sense that they witness his glory (ie. the display of his excellence) above the heavens (skies) as they look up at the universe. And he is so high and great that he has to stoop down from his throne to look at the heavens let alone the earth (113v4-6). None are therefore like him. Yet his greatness is also seen in the fact that, although so high and exalted, he does look down, and cares for the needy – indeed, he comes down in Christ for them (113v7-9). Their being seated with princes was seen when Nehemiah shared his table with the poor, and the barren woman having children, when God answered Hannah’s prayer. These are not always givens in this life, but reflect God’s readiness to act for those who look to him. However, all such people will one day be seated with Christ and freed from all physical infirmity. We rarely consider how astonishing it is that the Creator of our infinite universe would be so intimately concerned with the needy. God is truly worthy of all praise.
            Psalm 114 briefly recounts how God redeemed his people from Egypt, making Judah (where Jerusalem was located) the place of his sanctuary (the temple), and wider Israel the place of his rule (dominion). The creation itself is pictured as trembling at his presence – the Red Sea and Jordan fleeing as the water parted to let the people through, and the Sinai mountains skipping with earthquake when the people received the law. The point is that although God’s presence is good, as when he gave Israel water from the rock, it is also to be feared (114v7-8). These truths must also be held in balance in terms of God’s presence in Jesus and by his Spirit.
            Psalm 115 prays that God not Israel would be glorified, and for his love and faithfulness. He is then contrasted with the false gods of the nations. Assuming Israel must worship a visible idol, they ask where he is, and the answer is that he is in heaven – and sovereign, doing whatever he pleases. By contrast, their idols are made with body parts that cannot do anything. And those who make or trust them, will become like them in becoming lifeless too (115v1-8). So Israel are urged to trust in the LORD (not idols) as their help and shield, in the knowledge that according to his promise, as Maker, he will bless all those who fear him with “increase.” In the light of previous psalms and the immediate context, this “increase” probably refers to riches, descendents and health, moving the people to fulfil their particular calling in being given the earth – that of praising God (115v9-16) for his love and faithfulness (as verse 1). The psalm therefore contrasts those who trust in false gods and so will die, and those who trust in the LORD and will therefore be blessed and praise him for ever. In our pluralistic culture this reminds us of the futility and danger within other religions.
Praying it home:                                                                                   
Praise God for being willing to act for the needy despite his awesome majesty. Pray that you would seek his glory and not your own.

Thinking further:                             
None today.

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