Sunday, 20 July 2014

(202) July 21: Psalm 34-35 & Acts 22

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 attributes of God being affirmed.

To ponder:
Psalm 34 praises God for delivering David from Saul through his faked insanity (see title and 1 Sam 21v12-15). David begins calling the afflicted to exalt God with him, as he will act for them as he did David (34v1-3, 17-22). Here to “boast” describes the confidence of having God ready to act for our good (as Rom 5v1-11, where rejoicing can be translated boasting).
            David’s experience of God’s deliverance moves him to affirm that the faces of those who look to God are “radiant” in the sense that they are lit up with delight at what he does for them, and this is never darkened by the “shame” of finding their trust in God misplaced, suggesting they are rejected by him. Indeed, David was saved from “all” his “fears” and “troubles.” And so he states that the “angel of God encamps around those who fear him.” This pictures the angel who carried God’s authority and power and fought for Israel like an army surrounding the believer and ready to deliver him. Such truth was visibly seen by Elijah’s revelation of the horsemen of Israel (2 Kgs 2v11-12), and should encourage us that God’s resources are more than sufficient for our need.
            In the light of this David calls people to “taste and see that the LORD is good” in the sense of looking to him for refuge and tasting his goodness as he ensures they “lack no good thing” and are stronger even than lions (Ps 34v8-10). Yet, noting it is only those who “fear the LORD” who will experience this, David invites his hearers to come and be instructed on what that looks like. Essentially, it is to be “righteous,” seen in control of one’s tongue, turning from evil to good, and pursuing peace with others – all for God’s sake. David is adamant that God’s “eyes” are on such people to hear their cries, whilst opposing those who do evil – presumably those who act against the righteous. In adding God is close to the “broken-hearted” he seems to mean that he is ready to save those who are brought low by their troubles (34v18). Yet David is not denying the righteous will suffer. He certainly had his fill. No, he states they may have “many troubles” but the LORD in some ultimate sense will deliver them from them “all” so not one of their bones will be broken. And where he will condemn and punish the wicked, his “servants” who take refuge in him will not be condemned, but rather “redeemed” and so freed from death, perhaps implying freedom from condemnation too.
            Jesus exemplifies this truth in the fact that as the truly righteous one not one of his bones were broken (Jn 19v36). And in him, we are saved from death and condemnation, and ultimately raised in new bodies. So Peter quoted this psalm as encouragement to persecuted Christians to respond as the psalm commends, and in the knowledge that even though they might “suffer” now, they will “inherit a blessing.” This is not just to be alive to God, but looks also to the resurrection (1 Pet 3v8-22). If God doesn’t deliver his people from persecution now, he will then.
            Psalm 35 unpacks Psalm 34v7. David calls on God to “fight” against his enemies by having the “angel of the LORD” pursue them (35v1-6). His prayer is that those who seek his life would be shamed, turned back as easily as chaff is blown in the wind, and experience their trap for David actually work against them (35v4-8). This all stems from David’s sense of injustice. These people sought to harm him without cause (35v7). The sense is that they are charging him with something he didn’t do, claiming to have witnessed it (35v11, 20-21). And they were actually people David had sought to do good to, praying and fasting for them when they were ill (35v12-14), only to find them gather together to slander and mock him when he stumbled (35v15-16). One cannot but think of Judas – or of backbiting Christians within the church.
            As before, in seeking deliverance, David prepares himself to praise God amongst the worshippers for answering him. And what he wants is for God to vindicate him as innocent by stopping these men from gloating over him (35v22-26). Again, this concern stems from his particular role as God’s anointed. Such deliverance would show that he has acted justly as king and remains in God’s favour. And it patterns God’s vindication of Christ as his true king by raising him from the death his persecutors subjected him to, and then judging them. David’s call for those who delight in his vindication to praise God for it, therefore patterns our praise of God for displaying his righteousness by raising Christ. And this teaches why his resurrection was so significant: It did not only prove that God was for Jesus, vindicating his claim and showing he was truly righteous. It also displayed God’s commitment to what was right in not allowing someone who was so absolutely righteous and had entrusted himself to God, to remain dead. This is all deeply reassuring. In Christ, our resurrection will vindicate us before our despisers. And it is certain because God is faithful to his promise to deliver all who cry out to him.

Praying it home:
Praise God that he will vindicate his people before the world by raising them from death. Pray that in the knowledge of this you would respond to the hostility of others by seeking peace.

Thinking further:
None today.
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