Sunday, 27 July 2014

(209) July 28: Psalm 52-55 & Acts 27:26-44

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

To discover:­
As you read note how the perspective of final judgement should impact life now.

To ponder:
Edom” is a word play on Adam. The Old Testament concern with the destruction of Edomites (Num 24v18) therefore alludes to God’s judgement of all fallen humanity. This may be why the title of Psalm 52 notes it is in response to “Doeg the Edomite” betraying David. It means the psalm refers to all who do evil.
            It begins asking why the man boasts of his evil when he is actually in disgrace before God. As so often, his evil is seen in his plotting and deceiving (52v1-4). Yet David is confident God will snatch him away from life and bring him to “everlasting ruin” – a hint of hell (52v5). In saying the “righteous” will laugh then (52v6), David is not trivialising the seriousness of judgement, but noting how ridiculous wicked living is when one considers this (see Ps 2v4). The one who trusted his wealth and benefited from destroying others will be forever destroyed, whereas the righteous will forever flourish in God’s presence, trusting in his love (52v6-8). So David declares that he will praise God before his “saints” forever, and hope in his goodness (52v9). When faced by evil, the psalm brings a dose of realism as to the ultimate fate of the wicked and righteous, drawing us therefore to keep trusting and hoping in God.
            Psalm 53 is almost identical to Psalm 14 (see notes there), but for verse 5. As with a song one might compose today, it seems David has reworked a previous psalm for a new context. 53v5 suggests God’s people needn’t have feared the evildoers, as God enabled them to be victorious and so put them to shame. The psalm therefore looks to the day when believers will somehow execute justice on their oppressors at the final judgement (1 Cor 6v2, Rev 2v26-27), affirming that in the light of it, we need not fear man (Matt 10v28).
            Such deliverance is the theme of Psalm 54. David prays for God’s salvation and vindication that God is for him, in the face of ruthless men who, like the fool in Psalm 53v1, have no regard for God (54v1-3). Affirming God is his help, David prays that evil will come on those who slander him and destroy them. And in confidence he then promises to sacrifice a freewill offering and praise God for his goodness in delivering him from all his troubles and foes (54v4-7). Once more we must remember such prayers for judgement reflect a right provocation at the treatment of God’s anointed king, and are therefore right in their concern for justice. What the New Testament adds is a reminder to also pray for repentance in such folk that might instead lead to blessing (Lk 6v28).
            Psalm 55 is another prayer in the face of enemies, who insult David, hurt him, and cause the psychological trauma of him being distraught in contemplating the terror that may await him (55v1-5). He is particularly distressed that one of these enemies was his closest friend with whom he went to worship at the temple (55v13-14, 22). It’s an astonishing pattern fulfilled by Christ’s betrayal by Judas and then fear of what was to come when in Gethsemane.
            David acknowledges that if he had wings like a dove he would fly away to a place of safety from the storm (55v6-8). But rather than trying to do so, he prays, provoked at the impact the wicked are having on his city, Jerusalem. He pictures them as prowling day and night like preying animals, bringing violence, strife, hatred, abuse, threats and lies. So he asks God to confound their plans and cause their death, whilst stating how he is particularly moved to oppose what is happening because one of those involved was his friend (55v9-15). He then affirms that in terms of his future, he is confident of salvation. Reflecting the three times many Jews would pray (see Dan 6v10), he states how he cries out evening, morning and noon, and knows God hears his voice. So, just as has been God’s practice in the past, he will “ransom” David unharmed and afflict his enemies, who do not fear God (55v16-19). Yet, unable to forget his betrayal, David goes on to speak of how his friend “violated” his covenant – presumably the agreement of friendship itself, or some more formal alliance. Indeed, he spoke soothing words whilst war was in his heart (55v20-21). The psalm ends with David calling the congregation to cast their own cares on God, knowing he will never let them, if righteous, fall, but will bring death (the “pit of corruption”) to the wicked (56v22-23). In the light of that perspective, his conclusion that he chooses to trust in God moves us to also. Whatever we face in this life, on the last day we can be sure of justice for the wicked and life for the righteous.

Thinking further:
None today.

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