Tuesday, 15 July 2014

(197) July 16: Psalm 19-21 & Acts 19:21-41

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 ways God’s mighty power is seen.

To ponder:
The famous Psalm 19 begins affirming God’s revelation of his “glory” (ie. manifestation of his excellence) in the “heavens” (meaning sky). Constantly they “proclaim” his works - presumably the numberless stars that mark the night and the various weather patterns seen by day. And so, no matter what someone’s language, all people everywhere receive knowledge of God the Creator – that he is mighty, beautiful, and good - as the stars regulated the season and the weather enabled crops to grow. The focus on the “sun” stresses its glory, like the splendour of a bridegroom, and its universal benefit, as “nothing is hidden from its heat.” So, God’s own majesty and kindness is known by all people. Perhaps there is also a suggestion that he awaits their response as a groom awaits his bride.
            Further revelation is however needed for this. It is scripture that brings the soul good (19v7-11). It is perfect, trustworthy, right and radiant, giving renewal, wisdom, joy, and sight in how to live. And so, God’s law is to be cherished like treasure or sweet honey, as it brings the “fear of the LORD” which endures forever. By this means it therefore warns against wickedness and grants “reward” for obedience. In the light of this, David is convicted of his sin and so asks for God’s forgiveness, and his restraining help (19v12-13), praying that in what he says and the thoughts of his heart, he would be pleasing to God (19v14). The psalm therefore tells us the way to righteousness is to cherish and obey scripture, whilst praying for God to work within us. By this means it teaches how we should respond to his glory as displayed throughout the world.
            Psalm 20 begins with a congregational concern that the LORD help and protect his anointed king, and from his “sanctuary” in Zion as before. The grounds for their appeal are the king’s godly devotion, displayed in his sacrifices and offerings (20v3). The prayer that God would give “the desire of your heart” refers to the king’s battle plans and so desire for victory (20v4-5 and 21v1-2), in which the people promise to rejoice. In anticipation of that victory, the psalm goes on to affirm “the LORD saves his anointed,” and that whereas those who trust in the tools of war fall, the congregation trust in “the name” (ie. character and authority) of their God and so will rise and stand. Christ does not need our prayers for his help and protection, but we are still to pray for his progressive victory over evil and death. Moreover, the psalm ensures we trust God as we do this, not in formulae or people.
            Psalm 21 looks back on the victory God might have granted in response to Psalm 20. David rejoices because God has granted his desire and request in giving him his victories. Not only has he been blessed with being made king and being kept alive, but he has been given a promise that his descendents would reign for ever (21v4, see 2 Sam 7v10-14). Moreover, he has “glory” and “splendour” through his victories – ie. acknowledgement and honour from others. He also has the “eternal blessing” of joy in God’s presence (ie. at the tabernacle where God dwelt), knowing that because he trusts God, he has God’s love and will never be shaken by opposition. Of course all this originally expressed David’s gratitude. But, prophetically, it also speaks of Christ, who has conquered, been crowned, and who literally lives forever, receiving the honour of nations and eternally rejoicing in God’s presence. In the light of this, although David’s affirmation that God will seize and consume those who plot evil against him (21v8-12) would have originally referred to those who stood against David as God’s anointed, it speaks also of the final judgement of those who oppose God by opposing Christ (2 Thess 1v7-9). The final prayer that God be exalted (21v13) is therefore the heartbeat of the psalm. For God to give his king victory is for he himself to be honoured above all for his mighty strength in judging the wicked and so establishing his kingdom of righteousness.

Praying it home:
Praise God for using his power to execute justice and establish his kingdom. Pray that you would trust him alone for victory over evil, and therefore prayerfully cherish and obey the scriptures so that you would overcome sin.

Thinking further:
None today.
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