Wednesday, 13 August 2014

(226) August 14: Psalm 99-102 & Romans 13

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

To discover:­
As you read consider how the life of faith is displayed.

To ponder:
Psalm 99 begins reaffirming the message of previous psalms. God reigns over all from Zion. He is described sitting between the cherubim on the ark, as a picture of the reality in heaven. And in the light of his rule the nations should tremble and praise him for his holiness - ie. that he is set-apart from all things in his majesty and purity (a key theme, 99v1-3, 5, 9). From verses 4-5 the sense is then of the nations being called to worship God on earth (his footstool, Is 66v1), for his holiness expressed in acting justly and fairly for Israel, by answering the prayers of Moses, Aaron and Samuel in forgiving Israel her sins, even though punishing her to some degree (99v6-9). 99v8 could refer to the three men. However, it is more likely a reference to Israel as the men are portrayed in a positive light, it is stressed Moses and Aaron were priests, referring to their mediation for Israel when faced with God’s wrath, and Samuel was not obviously punished for any sin. 99v7 stresses the close relationship these men had with the LORD to be able to intercede for the people. They kept his laws and he spoke to them from the cloud (a generalization, as he spoke to Samuel in visions). The point is that the world is to honour God for his holiness displayed in his justice and mercy throughout Israel’s history (and supremely at the cross), just as we have been doing as we’ve read through the Bible.
            Psalm 100 does what Psalm 99 desires. It’s another particularly well known psalm. The whole earth are called to worship the LORD with gladness and in the knowledge that it is he who is God (not the gods of the nations), and that it is he who formed Israel as his people. As before, “the sheep of his pasture” speaks of his care for them and the land (pasture) he provided for them (100v1-3). Because of this, all are called to enter the temple with thanksgiving for God’s goodness, love and faithfulness to his covenants, that continues through all generations (100v4-5). Historically, the psalm is called the “Jubilate” and has rightly been used when God’s people gather for worship, as this is to gather as the temple of the Holy Spirit to give thanks to God for making us his people and granting us the land of the new creation - all because of his covenant faithfulness now fulfilled in Christ.
            In Psalm 101, David expresses this praise in a more personal way. He commits to singing of God’s love and justice, but also leading a blameless life as he waits for God to “come” to him, as we wait for Christ (101v1-2). For David, he may have been waiting for a particular deliverance. His blamelessness is seen in a number of things: not looking at (or perhaps contemplating) any “vile thing,” hating and so having nothing to do with the evil the faithless do, silencing those who slander others (perhaps by a rebuke), not putting up with the proud, appointing only the faithful rather than deceivers as his servants, and daily exercising justice as king in silencing and banishing the wicked (100v3-8). Here, “the morning” may refer to the time David set apart to consider cases.
            So David aims at the perfect rule exercised only by Christ, who is personally pure, resists temptation, confronts those who slander, humbles the proud, calls believers into his service, and who will one day judge, excluding the wicked from his kingdom. The psalm shows that such blamelessness is evidence of a life of true worship and devotion to God. And as those who reign with Christ, it challenges us to emulate such blamelessness where our responsibilities pattern his. Indeed, not “looking at any vile thing” is a particular word for a world immersed in visual media.
            Psalm 102 is the prayer of an “afflicted man” (title). The call for God to hear and not hide his face is because the psalmist is withering away in both body and heart because of illness, or perhaps famine. This has left him isolated and lonely (102v6-7), and taunted by his enemies who no doubt rejoice to see him suffer (102v1-8). He therefore mourns (102v9), regarding himself as under the specific wrath of God. The context suggests this could be wrath directed at the nation, bringing about general hardship within which the writer is suffering. He therefore affirms God sits enthroned and, in response to the prayers of the destitute like himself, will arise in compassion and rebuild Zion before appearing there in glory (102v10-17). Initially this may have looked to God taking his place again within the temple, but ultimately speaks of the building of the church between the first and second comings of Christ.
            Because of this hope, the psalmist states the nations and their kings will revere God. Indeed, he wants his words recorded so that future generations may praise God for restoring Zion. He pictures his brought about by God looking down from heaven and coming to the aid of prisoners, perhaps in exile. The psalm then jumps to the goal of salvation history where the peoples and kingdoms of the world assemble in Zion to worship God (102v18-22). It ends affirming how heaven and earth will perish, but God will remain the same (see also Heb 1v10-12), and so his servants can be confident that through faith their children will live in his presence (102v23-28). Those who suffer are therefore encouraged with a snapshot of the great end of history, and with assurance that they can share in it.

Praying it home:                                                                                   
Praise God for his justice and mercy expressed in salvation. Pray that you would live a blameless life of faith.

Thinking further:                             
None today.

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