Wednesday, 9 July 2014

(191) July 10: Psalm 1-3 & Acts 16:1-15

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

To discover:­
As you read consider how each Psalm paints a portrait of Christ.

To ponder:
Each Psalm deals with those who are “blessed” – ie. experience joy from God. The first is of the man who keeps himself apart from the wicked. To walk, stand and sit (1v1) implies increasing intimacy with those who sinned and mocked the things of God then just as they do today. Instead, the righteous are intimate with God’s law, which comprised God’s commands, and perhaps the first five books of the Old Testament. They so “delight” in it that they constantly chew over it, and experience it act upon them like water to a tree. So it refreshes them and enables them to bear the fruit of righteousness “in season” – ie. in God’s good timing, and appropriate to the situation faced. This is where the Christian who seeks to please the Lord finds joy.
Job has shown us the promise of prospering (1v3) is a generalization not an absolute. But it portrays the fact that the Christian who delights in God’s word finds wisdom that betters their parenting, relationships, work life etc. More than that, because they know God, he often aids success in their endeavours as he did Joseph and Daniel. Yet there is a second reason to heed the urgings of this Psalm. The righteous are contrasted with the wicked, who are like worthless and transient “chaff.” This was the unwanted waste that was separated from wheat at the harvest by the wind, and then thrown away or burnt. The implication is that at the final judgement, the wicked will be discarded and perish too, and so be separated from the final assembly of the righteous, whose deeds the Lord will have seen because he “watches over” them (1v6, see Matt 3v11-12).
Psalm 2 is incredulous at the pointlessness of kings and so nations standing against God by standing against his anointed king. Originally this may have applied to Canaanite peoples seeking to throw off Israelite rule (2v3), but reflects the desire of all peoples to live apart from God’s authority. To God who is “enthroned in heaven” and so sovereign over the universe, this is laughable, because of his absolute power (2v4). In anger at the sin displayed in opposing him, he therefore declares that he has installed his king, who should therefore be honoured. “Zion” refers to Jerusalem, which was built on a hill. It is “holy” in the sense that it is set-apart as the centre of God’s rule on earth through Israel’s kings. The psalm reassures us no earthly power can overthrow God’s purposes or people.
The early believers applied the psalm to those who opposed Christ and the church (Acts 4v25-30). Indeed, the New Jerusalem represents the church within which Christ reigns. God’s command is that he is as a father to Israel’s kings (see Heb 1v5), meaning that they were to reign in obedience to him, with his kingly authority, and with his blessing. If they did, he was willing to exercise his power to bring the whole earth under their possession, reign and firm justice (2v7-9), just as he will under Jesus and we who reign with him (Rev 19v15, 2v27). So as then, rulers and governments today would be “wise” to “serve the LORD” and “kiss” (ie. cherish, honour and obey) his son and king, and so escape destruction for opposing them. Indeed, refuge from this justice, and blessing too, is found only God’s king (2v12).
Psalm 3 reflects David’s response to God when Absalom opposed him (2 Sam 15v13-17v24). It therefore reflects the truth of Psalm 2. People assumed God would not rescue David from the many who stood against him, but he was confident that God would protect and restore him to a place of honour (3v3), no doubt because of God’s promise that David would be king. On this basis, David therefore cried for help. Jesus could be similarly confident of God raising and exalting him. And although God doesn’t promise to deliver us from hardship in life now, we can be confident that he will eventually deliver us in Jesus from sin, death and so suffering.
God is said to answer from his “holy hill” (Jerusalem) because that was the visible place of his presence in the tabernacle (later temple). David’s faith in God’s promise meant he was aware of God’s protection every morning he woke in safety, and confident that no size of army could overcome him. He could therefore echo Moses cry for God to arise and defeat his enemies (Num 10v35), where “breaking teeth” implied rendering them harmless so they couldn’t bite. David finishes generalizing from his experience. By declaring God delivers, and praying for his blessing on Israel, we are encouraged that God is well able to answer our prayers and grant us joy. And he will certainly do so on the last day.
Praying it home:
Praise God for the reassurance of knowing none can thwart his purposes. Pray that you would meditate on his word and pray according to his promises.

Thinking further:
To read the NIV Study Bible introduction to the Psalms, click here.
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