Thursday, 31 July 2014

(213) August 1: Psalm 65-67 & Romans 2

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

To discover:­
As you read consider what concerns the psalms express for the world.

To ponder:
These psalms affirm God is due praise not just from David, or Israel, but the whole earth. Psalm 65 begins with praise and the obedience of vows awaiting God in Zion – ie. Jerusalem, patterning that which is given him in the church. Why? Because God hears prayer, forgives sins, and blesses those he has chosen to “live in his courts” with good things (65v1-4). Whereas David may first have in mind the feasting on different tithes and certain offerings the chosen people enjoyed at the tabernacle, the wider psalm suggests he is looking more broadly to God’s provision throughout creation (65v9-13). So the tabernacle and its provision is a scale model of God’s “holy temple” – which could refer to heaven, but here may be the earth itself. So David can declare that “all men” will come to God at Zion (65v2), no doubt seeing the Abrahamic promise of the entire earth being blessed somehow fulfilled in God’s promise to give him an everlasting kingdom (Gen 12v2-7, 49v10). This is of course fulfilled as those of all nations come to Christ and the church.
            This move from Zion to the world is then seen when David follows his affirmation that God answers Israel with deeds of righteousness and salvation, by affirming him therefore as the hope of the “ends of the earth” (65v5). The reason is that he alone does mighty works by creation, and by stilling nations, causing people far away to “fear” his wonders (65v6-8). Indeed, the creation itself praises him at dawn and dusk (perhaps referring to the song of birds and animals). Moreover, as Creator God provides bountiful crops for people and grass for their flocks. In this way the meadows and valleys themselves “shout for joy and sing” in the sense that they metaphorically declare God’s goodness and generosity (65v9-13). The psalm would be great at harvest, enabling our praise of God as Saviour to be caught up with the creation’s praise of him as Creator. But it also affirms to all that God alone can be truly hoped in, and that he is both Almighty and kind (see Acts 14v15-17).
            Psalm 66 continues the theme, calling all the earth to joyful praise for God’s awesome deeds and power, that causes his enemies to cringe. The declaration that “all the earth” bows in praise had minor fulfilments when the likes of the Queen of Sheba and Nebuchadnezzar acknowledged God, but looks ultimately to those of all nations coming to faith in Christ and praising him for the gospel. Here, however, the call is to see his awesome deeds in leading Israel through the Red Sea, and preserving, testing and purifying her (the reference to fire and water) in her desert wanderings (66v5-12). So having brought her into the prison and slavery of Egypt, he finally brought her to the land as a place of abundance (66v11-12). And because of this, the whole earth are warned of God’s power and watchfulness over the nations, so that none rebel against him (66v5-7). We are therefore reminded of the futility of sin, and God’s ability to redeem us from slavery to it, bringing us to a new creation.
            The psalmist’s response (not David) to this universal perspective is personal worship. It seems God has recently delivered him from trouble. And so he will bring burnt offerings (stressing devotion to God and the need of atonement) and fulfil vows that he seems to have made to God when seeking his help (66v13-15). So the psalm ends with the psalmist calling the godly to come and hear how God answered his prayer – because of his love, but also because the psalmist didn’t cherish sin. This reminds us that God’s great acts of redemption affirm his ability to deliver us from any difficulty, provided we are truly repentant.
            Psalm 67 provides the link between Israel and the earth. The shining face of God denotes the display of his glory or nature, as when Moses descended from Sinai. The psalm therefore starts praying for God to display the excellence of his character in granting Israel grace (or favour) and blessing. But God had always promised that the blessing of Abraham’s descendents would be his means of blessing the world – through a particular offspring and ruler (Gen 12v2-7, 49v10). And so this prayer for blessing is so that God’s ways and salvation might be known amongst all nations, as he rules them through his king. And so the psalmist desires that all peoples praise God with joy because he rules them justly and guides them. This must first be a reference to his providential rule by which he tears down tyrants, and his guidance by which he leads peoples to much good. But it looks ultimately to God’s reign through Christ, in which he executes justice and leads his subjects. And now, as they experience his blessing, through them God’s ways and salvation are made known to the world. Here we might consider the note of “harvest” (67v6). It may simply refer to how God would bless Israel so the nation could thrive and therefore fulfil its purpose. But it could be referring to those fearing God from the ends of the earth as a harvest (see Jn 4v35-38).

Thinking further:
None today.

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