Saturday, 19 July 2014

(201) July 20: Psalm 31-33 & Acts 21:15-40

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

To discover:­
As you read note the good things God is ready to give his people.

To ponder:
Psalm 31 is another call for deliverance that relies on God’s righteous commitment to do what is right for those who have taken refuge in him (31v1). The language of God as “rock” and “fortress,” acting for the sake of his “name” and so reputation is now familiar (31v2-5). David needs quick rescue as it seems his enemies have laid some kind of trap for him (31v2, 4). And so with the words Jesus would use at his death, David “commits” his “spirit” into God’s hands to “redeem” and so free him from his predicament. Again, affirming his hatred of the idolatrous and his trust in God, David reflects on God’s past faithfulness (31v6-8) and, in the light of it, appeals for his mercy. His strength has failed not because of sickness, but because of the slander and conspiracy of enemies that has even caused his friends to withdraw from him (31v9-13). But in faith he prays that his enemies would put to shame and not him, with their “lying lips” silence by death (31v14-18). As before, this would be for God’s face to “shine” on David in the sense of him having God’s attention and so benefit from the glory of his nature. He then declares the greatness of God’s goodness seen to be bestowed on those who seek refuge in him, and praises God for having received his love in rescue when besieged (31v19-22). So he urges the “saints” to love and hope in God, for he “preserves the faithful” and pays back the “proud” (31v23-24). Once more the psalm can be seen as a shadow outline of Christ’s later experience, whilst providing a frame for prayers we might pray. Above all, it reminds us that our trust and hope in God to provide refuge against death itself is well placed, as he is faithful, good and loving.
            Psalm 32 reminds us what is necessary to be saved from death. It declares the blessed happiness of those who are forgiven, which is to have their sins “covered” and not counted against them. It’s a profoundly reassuring affirmation of the absolute nature of God’s forgiveness. However, those who receive it are those who are also reformed, in whom there is therefore “no deceit.” (32v1-2). David recounts his own experience of this forgiveness. Whilst not confessing his sin, he seemed to acknowledge some physical affliction – or at least the sort of weakness that accompanies despair (31v3-4). But when he acknowledge and so admitted his sin to God with confession, God forgave his guilt. It is not stated, but the assumption is that his sufferings then lifted.
            Because of God’s great love, forgiveness really is that easy if we are sincere. And so David calls “the godly” (ie. those who love God, yet still sin) to call on God for this forgiveness whilst they can, confident that when the “mighty waters” of judgement (see the flood) rise, they will be protected in God as David is. 32v7 probably suggests his sense that as king amongst Israelite worshippers, God has surrounded him with songs of deliverance which they sing.
           In promising to “watch over you” (a plural you) 32v8-10 seems to be a word from God. He says how he will instruct his people, and his concern is that they “come to him” willingly rather than needing the force needed to turn the ignorant horse of mule. In context this probably means that if they trust him and repent quickly when they sin, they can be sure of his unfailing love. But if not, they may face the woes of the wicked in punishment as David did, in order to bring them to repentance (32v8-10). This warning stands for Christians too (1 Cor 11v27-33). In his patience, God’ may punish those who confess faith but do not turn from sin in order to bring them to repentance. Far better, however, to “rejoice in the LORD” (ie. in his readiness to forgive) as one of the righteous and upright in heart (32v11, Phil 4v4).
            Perhaps intentionally, Psalm 33 starts where Psalm 32 ends – rejoicing in the LORD, and with music. He is praised for his faithfulness in keeping his word, which reflects his righteous commitment to doing right, and is also seen in his worldwide commitment to justice (33v4-5). The whole world are therefore called to revere him as creator, for he “foils the plans of the nations” (presumably when they are unjust, 33v5) whilst his own plans endure forever (33v6-11). This is why one should trust in God not man. So “the nation whose God is the LORD” (ie. Israel) are blessed, for whereas an army, warrior or horse can’t save, God can. Indeed, from heaven he considers everything everyone does, with his “eyes” on those who fear him and so hope in his unfailing love in such a way as to ensure they are delivered from premature death (33v12-19). So the psalmist (not necessarily David, see title) declares he and those singing will “wait in hope” for God’s help, rejoicing that they trust him – no doubt because this means he is for them. They therefore pray for his “unfailing love” to rest upon them, in the sense of his being ready to act for their good (33v20-22). This psalm therefore affirms the benefits God’s people have over all others in the world. Through the gospel it is nothing less than freedom from death itself that he guarantees.

Praying it home:
Praise God for his love that stands ready to help, forgive and save us. Pray that you would remain truly repentant, and wait in hope for God to act, especially in times of trial.

Thinking further:
None today.
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