Saturday, 9 August 2014

(222) August 10: Psalm 88-89 & Romans 10

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 qualities of God that are extolled.

To ponder:
In Psalm 88 we see Heman (see title) crying out day and night to the God who saves for help (88v1-2). His troubles stem from God’s wrath, pictured by “waves” as in the flood (88v6-7, 16-17). Not only is he drawing close to death (88v3-5), but God has made him repulsive to his friends (88v8, 18). Here, the “dim” eyes of grief may speak of how in despair one cannot see any light of hope. So the psalmist calls on God, stating that God doesn’t do wonders for the dead, nor can the dead raise themselves to praise him or declare his love and faithfulness (88v9-12). Of course God raises those with faith from death. But Heman is stressing its finality with respect to what might be experienced on earth. He therefore cries out daily, every morning, asking why God rejects him and so hides his face (ie, his attention and favour) from him (88v13-14). 88v15-18 are instructive: Heman declares how he has suffered and been close to death and in despair even from his youth. This suggests his reference to God’s wrath may not be at a specific sin, but a way of describing suffering in general because it stems from God’s wrath on humanity because of the fall (see Gen 3). The psalm therefore reaffirms the lesson of Job. Even worshippers can suffer long term illness, loneliness and despair. The prayer helps such people vocalize their distress, cry out to God for help in this life, whilst hinting to the certain deliverance they will experience at the resurrection.
            Psalm 89 contrasts Psalm 88 by rejoicing in the certainty of God’s ultimate purposes for Israel. The psalmist declares he will make known God’s love and faithfulness in song through all generations - by virtue, one presumes, of this psalm (89v1-2). The idea of God’s love standing firm forever alludes to his commitment to grant David an everlasting throne (89v2-4). The psalm then moves to how the heavens praise God to the angels (holy ones) for his wonders and faithfulness. This probably refers to how the stars show not only God’s creative power but his faithfulness in maintaining the seasons for the good of humanity. The point is that God is to be feared even by the angels, as he is more awesome, mighty and faithful than they are (89v5-8). And so his powerful rule over the creation is detailed, together with the righteousness and justice his rule is founded on, and the love and faithfulness that go before him in his acts (89v9-14). So we are reminded that there is no greater king in the universe. Those who acclaim God and walk in “the light of his presence” (ie. according to his word and in awareness of him) are therefore blessed in the sense that they can rejoice in the knowledge that this divine king is for them – raising them up in honour and strength before others (89v15-18). He did this when Israel were faithful, and will do so supremely on the last day.
            This stress on God’s mighty power and righteous character is intended to assure us of how certainly he will keep his covenant with David. And so we then hear of how God appointed him as his king, promising him victory over his enemies. He is pictured as vice-regent over the land God gave – if not the whole creation. And he will know God as a Father, who will be his security and care. Indeed, God declares he is God’s “firstborn” and so the one with authority over all other kings of the earth. These statements are so exalted that they look beyond David to Christ, and this is confirmed when God also affirms his love and covenant with David will continue forever, meaning that David’s throne will too (89v19-29). This covenant is then restated in terms of God disciplining any of David’s descendents that break his law, whilst ensuring David’s line continues (89v30-37, see 2 Sam 7). For God to swear by his holiness, is to swear by his supreme purity, which guarantees he does not lie. The note about the moon, is probably that just as it appears every night as a faithful witness to God’s commitment to sustaining all things, so the continuance of David’s line will witness to God’s faithfulness to his covenant too. Jesus’ continual reign in heaven makes just this point.
            89v38-45 go on to speak as if God has rejected David. But elsewhere the psalm speaks of David in the past (89v19-20, 49), so this must refer to God rejecting one of his descendents or the line itself when the Southern Kingdom was conquered by Babylon. Whatever the case, God has acted in anger (as outlined in 89v30-32), effectively renouncing the covenant with David and casting the throne and splendour of this king to the ground. Of course, having recounted God’s covenant with David the psalmist knows this situation cannot endure, but nevertheless asks “how long” this anger will last (89v46). Indeed, like Simeon longing to see the Christ, he seems to want to see the monarchy restored before he dies (89v47-48), asking where now is the love and faithfulness God swore to David (89v49). As the psalm concludes we see it has flown from a heart grieved by how the nations have taunted the king – perhaps as he was captured and taken to Babylon. This implies “the servant” (89v50) refers to the king himself not the psalmist. We might well ask whether we feel such grief over how Christ is mocked, and such longing to see his rule fully established.
            89v52 ends this section of the psalms as previous sections have ended (see 41v13, 72v19).
Praying it home:                                                                                   
Praise God for his everlasting commitment to his promises. Pray that you would share the psalmist’s concern to see God’s everlasting kingdom.

Thinking further:
None today.

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