Wednesday, 16 July 2014

(198) July 17: Psalm 22-24 & Acts 20:1-16

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

To discover:­
As you read note why God is to be praised in each psalm.

To ponder:
Jesus applied Psalm 22 to himself (22v1, Mat 27v46, 22v16, 18, Jn 19v23). But it was first of David and sung in Israel. However it is clear that because the Christ was to be a descendent of David, God inspired David in such a way that the psalm portrays a pattern in his experience that more profoundly and exactly fits the experience of Jesus. We shouldn’t therefore jump too quickly to Christ. It is because his life patterns that of David to which the psalm originally applied, that he is proved to be the long awaited Davidic king.
            The psalm expresses a sense of God-forsakenness at unanswered prayer (22v1-2). Obviously, by the time Jesus prayed these words, God had answered him by strengthening him in Gethsemane. By quoting them, he was however identifying with how David felt, pointing us to the wider truths of the psalm, and vocalizing the horror of separation from God that was rightly the penalty for sin.
            David is confused as his fathers trusted God and were delivered, yet despite the fact that he has trusted God from “the womb,” he is being mocked and despised like a “worm” (22v3-11). So the righteous king is suffering as the unrighteous should. And his sufferings are vividly portrayed as the attack of wild animals and the disintegration of the body (22v12-21). In the original context “they have pierced my hands and my feet” may be metaphorical (as 22v14-15), describing David’s enemies had kept David from acting. In Christ, however, this was experienced literally. Likewise, with the dividing of David’s garments, which may have originally referred to the plundering of his royal wardrobe.
            As “the afflicted one,” David calls on God to rescue him (22v19-21). And he is so confident he has been heard that he commits to praising God to the congregation of Israel, calls on all who “fear” God to praise him for the deliverance, and promises to fulfil his vows by feeding the poor (22v25-26), who will in turn praise God – no doubt for giving them such a righteous king. Again, praise is to the fore. For us, this is because God rescued Jesus by raising him from death, and has established him as his perfectly righteous king for our benefit.
            As we’ve seen with previous psalms, this one ends in wider focus. Reflecting God’s promise to Abraham (Gen 12v1-3), David sees God’s ultimate purpose through the davidic line is that all nations come to worship him as the divine ruler. So David expresses confidence all peoples will turn to God and bow down, the rich will hold religious feasts in celebration, the dead will kneel too, and future generations will proclaim God’s saving righteousness to those who come after them (22v27-31). It seems a somewhat excessive response to God’s deliverance of David, but entirely fitting when one considers Jesus. As his death and resurrection is proclaimed generation by generation, those of all nations come to worship the Lord.
            Psalm 23 is equally famous. David was a shepherd, making this a model for kingship, in which the king would care for, lead and be ready to die for the good of his people. But God is David’s shepherd. He leads him in a way that refreshes him, and guides him in righteousness (no doubt by his law). This is for God’s “name’s sake” as the righteousness of the king brings honour to God as the one who gave him to Israel. And David can say that even facing death he does not fear as his shepherd is with him. The “rod” was to protect the sheep from wild animals (1 Sam 17v35), and the “staff” to gather and direct them. 23v5-6 probably portrays confidence of a victory celebration in the presence of enemy captives, the “anointing” with oil to God’s welcome and perhaps reaffirmation of David’s authority, and the overflowing “cup” to his abundant provision and blessing. So in the face of battle, David is certain because God is his shepherd, that “goodness and love” will always follow him, and he will remain in God’s house (ie. a worshipper at the tabernacle). Once more, the psalm patterns the experience of Christ who was rescued from death to dwell with his father in the heavenly temple forever. And because we are united to him, it rightly comforts us too as we battle with evil, sin and death. Indeed, Jesus is now our shepherd, and so will lead us to where he is (Jn 10v11-18, 14v1-4).
            Psalm 24 includes similar sentiments to Psalm 15 (see notes there). Only those who “seek God” by seeking to obey and please him, can enter his presence and be blessed and vindicated (ie. declared to be righteous). As Jesus said: “Blessed are the pure of heart, for they shall see God” (Matt 5v8). But here, their privilege is to welcome the return of the LORD himself as he enters Jerusalem after battle (24v7-10). He is no-one less than the creator of the earth (24v1-2) and so glorious, strong and mighty. One can imagine this sung by the faithful as the ark was carried in to the city. One can also imagine the praise of heaven as Christ ascended after his victory, and the praise of us all that will greet him on his return. 

Praying it home:
Praise God that he is victorious over all that stands against him. Pray for God’s help in proclaiming Christ’s death and resurrection to the next generation.

Thinking further:
None today.
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