Friday, 8 August 2014

(221) August 9: Psalm 84-87 & Romans 9

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 future the psalmist looks to in each case.

To ponder:
Psalms 84 and 85 stem from the descendents of Korah (see Num 16) who seem to have played a key role in temple worship. Psalm 84 opens declaring how lovely God’s dwelling place (temple) is. The psalmist yearns for it with soul, heart and flesh. The reason he does is because he yearns for the living God himself, and the temple courts are close to him (84v1-3). Indeed, he notes (perhaps with godly envy) that even birds find a home there (84v3). He then declares that those who dwell there are blessed because they get to praise God constantly, as did the Levites. Yet he also declares that pilgrims are blessed, with an image of rain following them on their pilgrimage, causing vegetation to flourish, and them to strengthen, perhaps as they are spiritually watered, until arriving at the temple in Zion (84v5-7). 84v8-9 then express how love of God is tied to the welfare of his king, no doubt because one of his roles is to promote worship. So the psalmist prays God’s favour on his anointed, before declaring that one day or the most menial job in the temple is better than a thousand days elsewhere or an abode with the wicked (84v8-10). This perspective stems from the fact that the LORD is a “sun” (causing flourishing) and “shield” (giving protection) to the upright, holding nothing back from them. So the one who trust in him is truly blessed (84v11-12).
            This psalm vocalizes the sort of longing the man of faith has for the closeness of God because of the joy of praising him and the blessing he bestows. The wonder for the Christian is that the gathered church and every Christian body is a temple of the Holy Spirit. So God is always close. Nevertheless, we long to experience his presence unadulterated by sin in glory. And, to us, a mere taste of this is of greater worth than anything the world might offer.
            Psalm 85 is written when Israel are experiencing God’s anger in some way (85v4-5). It recounts how God had forgiven and restored the people in the past (85v1-3), before praying he would restore and revive the nation again in his love (85v4-7). Nevertheless, it acknowledges God only promises peace to his “saints” (lit: holy ones) if they fear him and so don’t return to their folly. Then his glory will dwell in the land in the sense that he will be present at the temple and display his righteous commitment to his covenant promises by blessing the people with security and abundance (85v8-13). The pairings of 85v10-11 suggest that because faithfulness “springs forth from the earth,” it and the other initial virtues in each pairing probably refer to qualities in God’s people, expressing the fear of the LORD the psalmist commends. By contrast, because righteousness “looks down from heaven,” it and the second of each pair, which are faithfulness and peace, refer to acts of God that “meet” and “kiss” the qualities expressed by his people. It’s a marvellous picture of how God meets the faithfulness and righteousness he works in us, with his far superior faithfulness and righteousness, not least in ensuring we have peace with him. The psalm is therefore a prayer for the restoration and revival of the church that makes clear at the heart of this must be true and sincere repentance.
            Psalm 86 may be placed here to express at a personal level the sort of repentance necessary if one is to be restored. David faces some “trouble” (86v7, 14) and prays for God to guard his life and bring him joy in salvation, because of his devotion and faith (86v1-3). He relies on God’s forgiving love in asking this, and is moved to by contemplating the greatness of God’s deeds which will one day mean all nations worship him (86v5-10). But David’s love of God is seen by him not being content with simple forgiveness. He asks for God to not only teach him his ways, but give him an undivided and so wholehearted heart, so that he would forever fear and praise God for his loving deliverance (86v11-13). This is the desire and prayer of those for whom God really is first. The psalm ends with David modelling how to appeal to God on the basis of his revelation of himself (86v15, Ex 34v6-7) - here, by strengthening and saving David, which may be “the sign” he sought to shame his enemies (86v14-17). For Christ, this sign was his own resurrection.
            Psalm 87 also considers the honouring of God by the nations. It records the primacy of Zion as the “glorious” and “holy” city that God loves and dwells in (87v1-3), before declaring that the nations, and even Israel’s arch enemies, will one day “acknowledge” God; and those who do will be said to have been “born in Zion” (87v4-5). Indeed, the psalm suggests it is through these people that the LORD will “establish” and so build up the city, noting those “born” there as opposed to the others from these people groups. As for them? They will rejoice, declaring “all” their “foundations” are in Zion (87v7) – ie. it is the place on which their whole life is built.
            Zion corresponds to the people of God today, and so both to the church and the heavenly assembly. This psalm therefore speaks powerfully of the privileged position of equality with Christians Jews those of all nations can now enjoy as they come to acknowledge God through Christ and so are born again into the spiritual Zion. It is these whose names are recorded in God’s book of life.
Praying it home:                                                                                   
Praise God for the goodness he showers on those who fear him, whoever they are. Pray home Psalm 86v11-13.

Thinking further:
None today.

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