Monday, 25 August 2014

(238) August 26: Psalm 128-131 & 1 Corinthians 7:25-40

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 qualities commended for the worshipper.

To ponder:
Psalm 128 expresses the blessedness (ie. happiness) of those who fear the LORD and therefore walk in his ways, ie. in obedience. These are the blessings of the covenant (Deut 28-30): good harvests (eating the fruit of one’s labour) and so prosperity, and many healthy sons (128v1-4). Such promises were general and not guaranteed. Hannah experienced bareness (1 Sam 1). Nevertheless, the psalm encourages us to see the benefits we receive because of our work and the joys of family as blessing from God. However, they look to the greater blessings of the new creation. And the psalm points to this. It prays the worshipper would be blessed by God from Zion – the place of the temple and so of his presence. It also prays he would enjoy long life and therefore see his grandchildren. But by praying he would see Jerusalem prosper, the psalm longs for the Christ who would establish God’s kingdom in its fullness (128v5-6).
            Psalm 129 prays that those hating and so standing against Zion might be turned back in shame. It affirms that although Israel has always been oppressed (ie. from her youth), she has never been conquered (129v1-2). Her sufferings are described like long furrows made by a plough. But the psalmist can declare that because God is righteous, always doing right by his promises and people, he has always cut Israel free from the metaphorical cords with which the wicked have sought to bind her and so make her captive (129v3-4). Here the psalmist prays Israel’s enemies might become as weak, scarce and transient as the thin grass that might grow on the roof of a house in his day (129v5-7). The blessing of 129v8 is probably that declared during harvest. So by desiring passes by not say it, the psalmist is simply reaffirming his desire that those who hate Zion be like withering grass rather than mature wheat, and not experience God’s blessing. We might see this psalm fulfilled in Jesus, who identified with Israel’s sufferings by enduring the lines of a whip like the furrows of the plough, before being cut free from the cords of death. In this, the psalm declares God’s judgement on those who stand against him and against his body, the church. Nevertheless, the Christian is still called to pray God’s blessing on their enemies, not least by praying they would turn from their sin. 
            In Psalm 130 the psalmist cries from the depths of despair for mercy. In a model of gospel humility he accepts he could not stand before God if God kept a record of his sins (130v1-4), suggesting his despair is at his guilt or some penalty he is suffering because of it. But he knows God is ready to forgive. His statement that because of this God is to be feared, may refer to the fact that forgiveness makes it worthwhile fearing God, as those who do receive his mercy. And so the psalmist “waits” for the LORD - ie. for him to act by bringing him out of his trial. His anticipation is even greater than that of the city watchman waiting for the morning of a new day when the dangers of the night have passed (130v5-6). And in this, the psalmist hopes in God’s word. This is to trust God for forgiveness and salvation on the basis of his revelation of himself and his covenant promises to restore all who repent (Deut 30). From his experience the psalmist then urges all Israel to hope in the same way for God to redeem (free them) from the guilt and penalty of “all” their sins, because his unfailing love means he grants “full” redemption (130v7-8). This suggests the psalm may have been composed or sung during the exile. Whatever the case, it enables us to confess our sin and seek God’s mercy and salvation on the basis of his gospel promise that forgiveness is ours through the death and resurrection of Christ. It also assures us that God’s great love guarantees “full” forgiveness. Its corporate conclusion makes it particularly appropriate for corporate confession.
            Psalm 131 also moves from the personal to the corporate, as David elaborates on humility. It is to seek a modest and simple life, not being proud or restlessly trying to be great, but to know the peace and contentment of the “weaned” child who has moved beyond crying for its mother’s milk, to be certain of her faithful supply. Cultivating such things is a discipline in which one actively stills one’s soul. And it is to this David calls Israel to before God. Jesus reaffirmed the child as the model of faith, and Paul taught these same virtues on the model of Christ (Phil 2v3-11, 4v12, 19). As with David, such humility doesn’t require one to withdraw from doing great things when the Lord requires them of us, but is to withdraw from seeking greatness in itself (as Matt 20v26-29). It is to live a life of service and trust in God.

Praying it home:       
Praise God for his readiness to forgive and bless the repentant sinner. Pray that he would enable you to still your soul so that you live in modesty and contentment, trusting God’s sovereign control and provision.

Thinking further:                             
None today.

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