Tuesday, 19 August 2014

(232) August 20: Psalm 116-118 & 1 Corinthians 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 it is that God is to be praised for.

To ponder:
In Psalm 116 we see love of God flowing from his deliverance of us. So because the LORD answered the psalmist’s prayer for mercy, he will call on him always (116v1-2). He was overcome by anguish, being close to death, and so called on the name of the LORD for salvation (116v3-4). And because God saved him, the psalmist can declare that he is gracious, righteous and compassionate, and that he protects the simple-hearted (ie. those who are straightforward in their trust in him) – (116v5-6). Moreover, he can tell his soul to be at rest, as God has been good and so rescued him from death to “walk before him.” This phrase describes an intimate friendship with God in which one lives in his presence, before his sight, and to bring him honour (116v7-11). The psalmist’s declaration in his dismay that “all men are liars” may be a confession that he began to doubt people’s testimony to the faithfulness of God. Alternatively, as the context is his belief, it may actually be an expression of faith, refusing to accept the fact that everyone was telling him he was going to die. The rest of the psalm is devoted to how the psalmist can repay God for his goodness. The answer is to take in his hands the “cup” (celebratory gift) of salvation, and so receive all God gives by calling on him; and in the temple, to fulfil his vows to serve God for delivering him from the chains of death, and sacrifice a thank offering to him (116v12-19). It’s a reminder we need to ensure we have received and drunk of God’s salvation, before responding by serving him in the church, and offering of our bodies as living sacrifices (Rom 12v1-9).
            Though short, Psalm 117 looks to the fulfilment of God’s promise regarding Israel’s monarchy (Gen 49v10) in calling all nations to praise him for his enduring love and faithfulness. In essence then, it is the call of the gospel, affirming the right of the Christian to call those of other peoples and religions to Christ.
            Psalm 118 describes the fulfilment of Psalm 117 as the Davidic king is pictured victorious over the nations. It calls Israel, the priesthood and all who fear God to thank him for his enduring goodness and love (118v1-4). By including the latter category it therefore widens the assembly of worshippers from Israel to those who honour God from the nations. The psalmist (presumably one of Israel’s kings) then describes how God delivered him from the nations who were attacking him. And so he no longer fears what man can do as God is with him. He can therefore declare it is better to trust God than man or even princes (118v5-14). He goes on to speak of the joy in victory resounding in the tents of the righteous (presumably his army) because of what God’s “right hand” (ie. arm of power) had done. The psalmist had been disciplined by experiencing a degree of hardship, but not been given over to death. And so he commits to proclaiming the victory God had given him (118v15-18). He therefore calls for the “gates of righteousness” (in context probably the temple) to be opened so that he can give thanks. And here he declares the stone the builders rejected has become the capstone – the most important stone that holds the building together (118v19-24). His point is that he, the one who was rejected, by God’s “marvellous” doing, has become in victory the very one who should be honoured – paving the way for Christ to refer this principle so appropriately to himself (Matt 21v42). And so he prays for God’s continuing salvation and success on him and the people, before being pictured in the temple declaring God’s blessing on all who come and join him in the name of the LORD – to thank him for the victory (118v25-26). He declares how the LORD (YAHWEH) is the true God and has caused the light of his glory to shine on Israel in this great and good act. Again, he then calls worshippers to join in the festal procession up to the altar (symbolising God’s presence) with “boughs in hand.” This suggests the psalm may have been used at a key feast day, or perhaps when days of celebration for victories were announced (see also, 118v24). The waving of branches was a means of celebration like the waving of flags. The psalm ends with the psalmist affirming God is his God and so he will thank and praise him. He also calls the worshipper to do so just as in verse 1.
            We can now see how fitting it was for the Jews to wave their branches and declare “blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord” when Jesus entered Jerusalem as we celebrate on Palm Sunday. It seems they had to some extent grasped that Jesus was the long awaited Davidic king. But what they hadn’t grasped, was that he wasn’t coming having already conquered, but in order to do so at the cross. Moreover, at this time he wasn’t coming to thank God for victory at the temple, but to cast out those who were defiling it. Indeed, once there, it was not those who considered themselves righteous, but the blind and lame who came and joined him, received his blessing in healing. And it was children who expressed praise (Matt 21v8-16). Of course, Jesus’ ultimate celebration of the victory God gave him would have been in the heavenly temple after his ascension. And from there he declares God’s blessing on all who come in God’s name, to join him in everlasting praise and thanksgiving.
Praying it home:                                                                                   
Praise God for the great victory he has won for you through Christ. Pray that you would respond as the psalmist in Psalm 116.

Thinking further:                             
None today.

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