Sunday, 24 August 2014

(237) August 25: Psalm 124-127 & 1 Corinthians 7:1-24

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

To discover:­
As you read consider the benefits of God being on the side of his people.

To ponder:
Psalm 124 is another psalm stressing one’s need of God, acknowledging that if he hadn’t been on Israel’s side when attacked by enemies, they would have been destroyed and swept away. It therefore praises God for not letting his people be metaphorically ripped apart like prey torn by the teeth of the predator; but instead enabling them to escape like the bird from the bird-hunter’s snare. Once again, then, David can declare the people’s help is in “the name of the LORD,” ie. in his authority and character. And because he is the Maker of heaven and earth, there is no limit to the help he might give. This psalm raises obvious questions as we see Christians suffer terribly under persecution today. But it is not a promise that we will always escape such things. Consider how Christ, James and Stephen were all martyred. Rather, it is a celebration for times when God does provide such escape, and as such, celebrates our final rescue from all evil in the gospel.
            Psalm 125 ties trust in God to Jerusalem, as it is because of God’s covenant promises to David, which centre on the city, that he acts for the people. So those of faith are unshakeable and protected like Mount Zion is. The point is that it is the faithfulness of the same God which guarantees both. Obviously Jerusalem did fall to Babylon. But that was because of Israel’s sin, and so down to God fulfilling the warnings of his covenants, not to any inability in him to grant what he promises in this psalm. Indeed, the psalm itself acknowledges that the sceptre (rule) of the wicked will at times dominate Israel’s land. But it affirms God will not allow it to “remain” and so lead the righteous to do evil. And so again and again in Israel’s history he restored a more godly rule, and after exile brought his people home. The psalm ends praying for the Lord to do good to the upright, in context, by granting them peace and protection from evil in the land. It also affirms that any who do turn to “crooked ways” during any times the wicked rule, will share the fate of evildoers. It therefore warns us that whilst we live in a world under the temporary rule of Satan and those who follow him (Jn 12v31, Eph 2v1-3), we must not be drawn into their ways, but wait patiently for when Jesus returns to establish his kingdom enabling the meek to inherit the earth.
            Psalm 126 remembers the return from exile in Babylon to Zion. It describes how the returnees felt like they were dreaming, and were filled with laughter and joyful praise. Even the watching nations (presumably those in and around the land) acknowledged the great things God had done for Israel. All this suggests the psalm was written by one of the exiles. And he recognizes that although God had fulfilled his promise through the prophets to bring his people back, much of what they spoke was not yet a reality. He therefore prays God would restore the fortunes of the people like streams that transform desert into vegetation. And he pictures God’s people “sowing” the seed that is to grow – a picture perhaps of their rebuilding the temple to restore true worship, or of the people seeking to shape their lives and society on God’s law. They do it with tears, no doubt at the spiritual barrenness of Jerusalem (as in Ezra 3v12), just as a farmer might sow in tears after his crop had been destroyed. Yet they do it confident too, that there will be a joyful harvest. In all this, the psalm therefore looks to the ultimate fulfilment of God’s promises in Christ. We look back to the wonder not just of the return from exile, but the life, death and resurrection of Christ. Yet we still pray for the full restoration of God’s people, sharing the gospel and living in godliness as we weep over the devastation of the world and even church; yet confident of the joyful harvest when all God’s people will be gathered into his perfect kingdom.
            Psalm 127 is placed carefully to keep the people relying on God not themselves as they seek the restoration of the kingdom. As a psalm of Solomon, the “house” it refers to being built is most likely that of the temple (as in 2 Samuel 7v11-13). The three other elements to the promise were a secure land, a prosperous people and an everlasting dynasty. Reflecting this, the psalm affirms that even though the people should seek to build up the temple, stand guard over the city, and work for food, it is only by the LORD’s doing that the the temple be built, the city remain secure, and sufficient food grow so that the worker can sleep (127v1-2). For us, the psalm therefore affirms faith and patience in God’s promises now fulfilled in Christ. Indeed, as we seek to work at the different aspects of their fulfilment by building the church, protecting God’s people against sin and falsehood, and going about our daily work, we are reminded our efforts are futile without prayerful reliance on him.
            The psalm goes on to affirm that children are not a given, but a gift from God (the sense of heritage and reward). The description of them as like “arrows” enabling a man not to be shamed when contending with his enemies at the gate (127v3-5) shows that the promise of an everlasting dynasty is now in mind. In giving sons to Israel’s king, God gives princes who the king can deploy like a warrior his arrows, so they can fight with him against Israel’s enemies. Christ is just such a son to God, deployed in the incarnation to defeat evil on his behalf. And our children are a gift, to be raised in godliness to fight the good fight alongside us.
Praying it home:       
Praise God for being on the side of his people with all that means for our present and future. Pray that you would prayerfully rely on him in all things, and particularly in raising your children.

Thinking further:                             
None today.

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