Thursday, 24 July 2014

(206) July 25: Psalm 44-45 & Acts 25

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 Psalm 45 should encourage those feeling the confusion of Psalm 44.

To ponder:
Psalm 44 reflects on the mystery of God allowing the righteous to suffer. It begins with the congregation aware of how God drove out the Canaanite nations and established their fathers in the land, where they flourished. They acknowledge the victories were not by the sword, but by God’s arm (ie. power), and his willingness to look with favour on them (the “light” of his face”) according to his love for them as his people (44v1-3). 44v4-8 then express the individual reflections of the psalmist or congregation member. They declare God is their king through whom the people resist their enemies, and that they do not trust in their weapons but only in him, boasting of his favour and praising his name (44v4-8). But now they are confused, as it seems God has “rejected” and “humbled” them, causing their enemies to plunder them and scatter them amongst the nations. The note of God selling them for a pittance reflects the sense that they cannot see any purpose in what has happened, for the LORD hasn’t gained in any way (44v9-12). Nevertheless, the people are scorned and disgraced amongst the neighbouring nations, and the psalmist himself taunted - perhaps that God was not with him. And this “deep darkness” was despite the fact that the people had not broken God’s covenant or strayed from his ways (44v13-21). Indeed, it seems they are suffering in some way because of their faithfulness to God (44v22), possibly engaging in a battle he called them to. So the psalmist calls God to “awake” and not reject, hide his face from, or forget the people, but rise up and “redeem” (ie. free) them from their situation because of his covenant love (44v23-26).
            The mention of “scattering” doesn’t help us with the context of the psalm, as Israelites would have been taken captive to other lands at various times during their history. But whatever circumstances are in mind, today the psalm reflects the experience of Christians when suffering or persecuted. From their knowledge of God’s past deeds, they know he can deliver them, but wonder why he doesn’t, especially when his purposes don’t seem to benefit from the situation. Paul therefore fittingly applies the psalm to the believer’s hardships, but adds that we can nevertheless be sure that nothing we face can separate us from God’s love, which will eventually bring us to glory (Rom 8v35-39).
            Psalm 45 celebrates the marriage (see title) of a seemingly perfect king. It may have originally been written in exaggerated language for one of Israel’s kings, but under inspiration speaks of more. The psalmist begins affirming the importance of the topic (45v1), and then praising the king. He is excellent, gracious rather than harsh in speech and command, blessed, mighty and majestic. And he acts on behalf of truth, humility and righteousness, and so does what is just (45v2-4). The psalmist therefore wills that he subdues his enemies, declaring that his throne and kingdom of justice will last forever (45v5-6) – a reference to the Davidic covenant (2 Sam 7v10-14). Moreover, the psalmist affirms that because this king “loves righteousness” and “hates wickedness” God has shown him as supreme over others by the joy he has given him (45v7). The context suggests this joy is at the splendour that surrounds him, and particularly the “bride” at his side (45v8-9). Most intriguing, however, is that the king is called “God” whilst being exalted by “God” (45v6-7)! This is astonishing, and looks to the exaltation of the incarnate Christ because of his righteous obedience (Phil 2v6-11). He is ultimately the groom, and the church his bride (Jn 3v29). What a king this psalm reminds us we have!
            It continues calling the bride to consider the excellencies of the king and so readily forget and therefore leave her home in order to honour him as Lord and receive the gifts and favour of the nations that will follow (45v10-12). She is then pictured in her chamber, dressed in a glorious gown, before being led to the palace to marry the king, with her companions rejoicing. The psalmist then tells her how her sons will surpass the greatness of her fathers in being “princes,” and how he will perpetuate her memory forever, bringing her praise from the nations (45v13-17). For us, this all urges us to unreservedly and joyfully devote ourselves to Jesus, knowing that no-one could be more worthy of our love, and that, with him, we will eventually inherit the earth. Indeed, our children may well rule with us then, and our privileged status as Christ’s bride will mean honour for all time. But what is thrilling too, is to read that the king is enthralled at his bride’s beauty (45v11). In pondering our sin, that must look to the beauty of who we are in Christ, clothed in his righteousness and one day made perfectly righteous ourselves. The psalm calls us to cherish Christ, but also declares just how much Christ cherishes us. It is worth much meditation.
Praying it home:                                                                                   
Praise God for the excellencies of Christ outlined in Psalm 45. Pray that you would unreservedly devote yourself to him and know joy in doing so.

Thinking further:
None today.

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