Tuesday, 29 July 2014

(211) July 30: Psalm 59-61 & Acts 28:16-31

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

To discover:­
As you read note why David expresses the confidence he does.

To ponder:
Psalm 59 is another call for deliverance from bloodthirsty men who conspire against David, despite his innocence (59v1-4, see title and 1 Sam 19v11). Again, David calls God to rouse himself, and looks more broadly to him exercising justice against the nations (59v5). At this point the psalm seems to move from the specific to the general. David describes his oppressors as in other psalms (59v6-7, 14-15), but speaks of God not only laughing at them, but the nations – no doubt because of how ridiculous it is to stand against his anointed (59v8). So David watches for God as his strength and fortress, confident he will go before David so that David can gloat over his slanderers. Once more, what seems like spiteful language may simply be intended to reflect the futility of opposing God’s king, as the LORD is Israel’s “shield” and so protection (59v9-11). Interestingly however, David wants God to only gradually reduce his enemies before bringing about their death. This is so that his people will not miss what God is doing, and his rule would be known throughout the earth (59v11-13). We have seen this sentiment throughout. Even in his distress, David prays God would answer him only in the way that would bring him most glory – just as Jesus did in Gethsemane. It’s a challenge to mould our concerns on God’s priorities.
            The psalm ends declaring that whereas in “the evening” David’s enemies “snarl” and then howl when not satisfied with food – ie. David’s downfall, David knows that he will “sing” in “the morning,” having survived the night, praising God as his refuge, strength and fortress.
            For the background to Psalm 60 see 2 Samuel 8 (and title). David begins with God’s anger against Israel, which has brought desperate times of defeat (60v1-3, 10) not mentioned in the historical narrative. Yet David can also say that God had now raised a “banner” of battle for “those who fear” him. In other words, he is fighting for the upright (60v4). For this reason David prays that God would deliver them as those he “loves.” He then records a message from God that came from the sanctuary, probably via a prophet or High Priest (60v6). God declared how in triumph he would distribute the land to the east of the Jordan, and how the other tribes are his possession, armour and means of rule. By contrast, the enemy nations are also his, but described in more servile ways (60v6-8). The mention of the land east of the Jordan suggests this message may have come in the days of Joshua, promising that Israel would take the land. It affirms that God owns everything and so is able to do with it as he pleases. And it is on this basis that four hundred years later David states that God will bring him to Edom (the sign of victory for Israel, Num 24v18), praying for God’s help because that of man is worthless, and confident that with God Israel will be victorious. The psalm is an example of how to pray according to God’s word. We are not promised specific lands, but God has promised that the church will fill and then one day inherit the earth. With this in mind, we can pray that Christ would bring many under his rule through the gospel.
            Psalm 61 could be read as David praying for himself, framing a prayer for future kings, or as a prayer for the king God promised who would reign forever (2 Sam 7v10-14). 61v2 pictures David away from Jerusalem and so from the dwelling place of God in the tabernacle. This means “the rock” that is “higher” is most likely the hill on which Jerusalem is built, portraying it as a place of refuge above the conflicts and concerns David is suffering. So David is praying that God would bring him home to his special place of safety. For us this might be a prayer to find safety amongst the church or in the ultimate sense in glory.
            David’s heart is “faint” – perhaps with depression or exhaustion, but more likely with fear and longing for God (see 61v4). So he prays on the basis of God having been his refuge and protecting tower against enemies. But he also prays on the basis of God’s purposes for him: God has heard David’s vows – perhaps to rule righteously; and he has given David the people as his personal inheritance to look after (again, 2 Sam 7v10-14). So David asks for long life and an everlasting reign in God’s presence, protected by God’s love and faithfulness. And he commits to ever praising God and fulfilling his vows – again, perhaps regarding his rule (61v6-8). Jesus could be sure of God’s deliverance because of God’s purposes for him, and in him we can too – as God has destined us to rule the new creation as his people.

Thinking further:
None today.

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