Monday, 28 July 2014

(210) July 29: Psalm 56-58 & Acts 28:1-15

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 grounds on which David seeks salvation and justice.

To ponder:
The context to the psalm is 1 Samuel 21v10-15 (see title). In it David displays the trust in God he commends. He therefore prays for mercy in the light of his many enemies’ constant attacks. Their “pride” may refer to their presumption in seeking to capture God’s anointed (56v1-2). These men twist what David has said, no doubt to justify their attacks, plotting and conspiring against him (56v5-6). Yet David contrasts God with mortal men, affirming that trust in the former means he need not fear the latter (56v3-4, 10-11). The note about praising God’s word may refer to God’s promises being the ground of David’s trust.
            And so David calls on God to bring down the nations in his anger – referring to God’s wider justice on all who oppose his king. Indeed, he asks God to record his tears, perhaps as a testimony against his enemies, or just so that God doesn’t forget him. Whatever the case, David is confident his enemies will turn back as God is “for” him; and he will therefore “walk before God in the light of life,” ie. live in uprightness for him (56v13, see Gen 5v22). So David will fulfil vows, which were probably vows of what he would do if God delivered him – perhaps in presenting the thank-offerings (56v12). This is another psalm that encourages us that our trials will not be forgotten by God; and that according to his word in the gospel, he will keep us and bring us to glory, whilst destroying those who might stand against us.
            Similar themes are brought out by Palm 57 (for context, see title and 1 Sam 24v1-4). The language of refuge under God’s wings is now familiar (57v1). But David cries out on the basis of God’s “purpose” – probably that of having David as his king, and Israel prosper under him. He states that God sends his “love” and “faithfulness” from heaven like guardians to rebuke those pursuing him. The sense may be that as God’s care of David is proved in his protection, Saul is by consequence rebuked for seeking his life. Certainly, titling God “Most High” affirms his authority over Saul as king. It was God’s purpose for Christ that ensured his resurrection, and this then rebuked those who had killed him (Acts 2v32-37).
            As before, David describes his enemies like animals with tongues and teeth like weapons. Again, he desires that God is honoured throughout the earth in his salvation (57v4-5, 11) – as he is now we read of it in scripture. And so, stating his heart is steadfast, David calls his soul to life to sing in awakening the dawn (a hint at a better day coming) and praising God’s lofty love and faithfulness so that the nations can hear. It is this same love and faithfulness to God’s promises that is seen in our salvation, and for which he is to be praised to the nations.
            Psalm 58 is about justice. Rhetorically, David highlights the injustice with which rulers rule the earth, and how the wicked go astray from birth like the snake that doesn’t listen to its charmer, and who speak lies like venom (58v1-5). It’s a striking image of humanity’s inherent inclination to wander from God’s ways, which itself stems from the first temptation by the snake of Satan (see also Jn 8v44). David’s prayer that God “break” the “teeth” of such people is for them to be disarmed (58v6). With great vividness, he also prays for them to disappear forever like water, have their plans blunted as arrows, and for them die in their own slime like slugs, and lose the opportunities of life like a stillborn child (58v7-8)! The meaning of 58v9 is very unclear, but may stress confidence that God will act quickly. The psalm then concludes with the justice of God punishing the wicked, and so avenging the righteous. And we are told this will not only bring the righteous joy, but is in fact a reward for their righteousness (58v10-11). The psalm therefore affirms the importance of final justice. And for those greatly oppressed, there is a real joy in this simply because it is right and therefore brings a moral satisfaction to the universe and peace to those previously weighed down by the sense of injustice they have suffered. In fact, it is something for which God will be forever praised (Rev 19v1-3).

Thinking further:
None today.

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