Thursday, 28 August 2014

(241) August 29: Psalm 138-140 & 1 Corinthians 10:1-13

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

To discover:­
As you read consider why God’s knowledge of all things really matters.

To ponder:
In Psalm 138 David commits to praising God sincerely, from the heart. In saying this will be “before the gods” he may be referring to angelic beings or false gods, but the rulers of nations are most likely in mind (see 138v4). David’s praise is for God’s “love and faithfulness” which parallel his “name” (here, character) and “word” (ie. commitment to his promises). God has exalted these above all in the sense that he has shown them to be superior in their extent and perfection to anything that might be found in the creation. And David has experienced this in God giving him courage in answer to his prayers (138v1-3). So he calls all the kings of the earth to praise God when hearing his word and singing of his ways, because these things reflect his glory – the manifestation of his excellence (138v4-5). Again, in speaking to kings, he understands God’s promise to him will result in blessing the whole world. The aspect of God’s glory in mind, is how he humbly aids the lowly (looking on them) whilst rejecting the proud (so knowing them from afar), just as God preserved David in trouble and acted against his foes (138v6-7).
            So David builds our confidence that God will fulfil his purpose and promise to him, bringing about his everlasting and universal kingdom through one of his descendents (138v8, see 2 Sam 7v10-16). Moreover, the psalm reminds us that everything the world esteems is incomparable with God. So he is due worship from the rulers of the world, even if they don’t acknowledge him. Like David, we might praise him to them, telling them of his word that they might honour him too.
           Psalm 139 famously shows what David understood of God to give him such confidence. God has complete knowledge of everything about him: his actions, thoughts and awareness of the future in terms of what he would say (139v1-4). It is by knowing everything David does or might do, that God also controls his movements – hemming him in by his metaphorical hand, perhaps to firmly keep him from wandering into sin. And, as a lesson to us all, David acknowledges that such sovereign control on his life was too wonderful and lofty for him to understand (139v5-6). But it is disconcerting too, as it lays us wholly accountable for everything to God. With this apparently in mind, David asks where he might go to flee God’s Spirit or presence, and concludes that no matter how high, low or distant he goes, God will be there, and ready to guide and strengthen him to do what is right. He even sees David in darkness as if in full light (139v7-12). Jonah is the supreme example of all this.
            The reason for this comprehensive knowledge follows: Having knit David together in the womb, God knows not only his outer frame, but his inmost being – his personality. More than that, he preordained every day David would live as fixedly as if written in a book (139v13-16). The implication is that God knows exactly how David will act in any situation not just because he knows him so intimately, but because he has already determined that action – whether his desire to build the temple, or his adultery with Bathsheba and murder of her husband. We should remember that God does this in such a way that he does not sin himself, and that maintains our responsibility. So, despite knowing this, David readily asks for God’s help and guidance, and accepts and repents of his sin. How this works is certainly knowledge too lofty to attain!
            In the light of all this, David marvels at the vastness of God’s knowledge about him. These thoughts are precious, as David knows they mean he is never out of God’s mind and so can be confident that God will preserve his life each morning (139v17-18). And so he appeals to God’s knowledge of his righteous hatred of those who blaspheme, hate and rise up against God, asking him to slay them. He then ends, asking God to search and know him, and knowing he is blameless, lead him in the way that will mean life after death rather than the perishing of the wicked (139v19-24). Awareness of God’s omniscience is therefore important. It assures us that even our bad decisions are somehow part of God’s plan, that he is always attentive to us, and that he therefore knows the genuineness of our faith and love and so will fulfil his promises to us.
            Psalm 140 elaborates on David’s call for God to act against his enemies. He asks for rescue and protection, describing their words as poisonous because they bring harm by stirring up evil and war against David, seeking to trip and entrap him, no doubt by taking him captive (140v1-5). His prayer is on the basis that the LORD is his personal God, is sovereign and strong, has previously shielded him in battle, and acts justly for the poor, needy and righteous (139v6-7, 12-13). We would do well to reflect on such things to fuel our faith when we pray. As so often, David asks that the trouble his enemies are causing would come back on their own heads in some way, and that they would be destroyed. The references to burning coals and fire are probably metaphorical, but hint at hell.

Praying it home:       
Praise God for how constantly attentive to you he is, and so ready to act in love and faithfulness. Pray that you would be able to accept and be encouraged by his control of all things.

Thinking further:                             
None today.

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