Tag Archive | Psalms

Faith or Flounder

“My steps had nearly slipped.
For I was envious of the arrogant
when I saw the prosperity of the wicked.”
Psalm 73:2-3

Our focus and our faith matter.

Wrong Focus = Destruction

It was when the psalmist was envious of people that had stuff that he didn’t have that he nearly fell. When we see a representation of the “good life” that we don’t have, it can make us discontent and even angry at God.

It makes me think of Instagram. Instagram is notorious at giving a very false lens on life. Not only are pictures edited and filtered, they’re staged. They’re set up beforehand so everything is just right. The pictures are also specifically picked to portray the perfect picture behind the perfect life.

If we focus on other people’s lives, or pictures of their “perfect” lives, it will often lead to discontentment. We will think they have it all. And we will think our life stinks.

That’s essentially what happened to the psalmist. “[Their] steps had nearly slipped.” Why? Because they were “envious of the arrogant when [they] saw the prosperity of the wicked” (Ps. 73:2-3).

Faltering faith can be a result of focus. The psalmist nearly slipped not because they began to doubt the existence of God. Nope. That’s not what it was. They began to doubt the goodness of God because someone else was apparently living the “good life;” living the life they themselves wanted to live.

There was no logical argument. The issue was “kardialogical,” from desire of the heart. The psalmist was envious, jealous of someone else’s prosperity, and upset that others have “no pangs until death” (v.4). That is what nearly caused the downfall. He thought, “All in vain have I kept my heart clean” (v. 13). It’s pointless because I don’t get the enjoyment I desire but only suffering (v. 14).  

Right Focus = Delight

The psalmist couldn’t understand and was tiring of considering what he thought was unfairness on God’s part (v. 16), until something happened. The psalmist “went into the sanctuary of God” (v. 17). Then his perspective radically shifted. That was when he “discerned their end” (v. 17). He saw things differently from the viewpoint of the coming Judgment. The wicked may enjoy life now but they will be “destroyed in a moment, swept away utterly by terrors” (v. 19).

The psalmist realized that though there may be suffering in this life, what is of utmost importance is the next life. The psalmist knew that after this life God would receive him to glory (v. 24). We have to have faith that that is true and focus on that truth or it will be our destruction. If we do have right focus, however, it will be our delight. The psalmist said, “There is nothing on earth that I desire besides you” (v. 25).

If we just focus on Instagram we’re going to want insta satisfaction. But there is a life that comes after this life. And it is eternal. As Jim Elliot said, “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose.” We need to have the right focus, a focus on eternity.

“He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose.”

Jim Elliot

Let’s have focus on that truth. Let’s remember that our flesh and our heart will fail, but God is the strength of our hearts and our portion forever (v. 26). And let’s make the Lord God our refuge and let’s tell of His works (v. 28).

Justice and the Just One

I was considering the word and concept of justice today so I looked up the definition of “justice.” The search returned a few definitions that stuck to me: “moral rightness,” “the quality of being just,” and “moral principle determining just conduct.” To understand or seek justice then, we need to have an idea of what it means to be “just” or “moral.” We have to have a “moral principle” whereby we can measure “just conduct.”

In America today we have calls for justice. Justice is right and good. Christians especially are called to do justice and love mercy (Micah 6:8). Do the majority of Americans, however, know what “moral principle” we are basing our measurements of “just conduct” on? Do most Americans believe that there is a “moral principle” that guides us? If so, can most Americans articulate where our “moral principle” comes from?

It seems to me if the foundation for “moral principle” has eroded then justice does not have a foundation upon which to stand. Thus, I say this not because I am not for justice, I say this because I am for justice.

Perhaps with our calls for justice in America, we should also consider the foundation of justice: moral principle. Perhaps we should consider if justice can have a steady place on which to perch.

Perhaps we should also hear calls to return to moral principle and the bedrock of truth. Without truth, calls for justice ring empty.

I believe there is a basis for justice. Because I believe there is truth.

Jesus Himself actually said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life” (John 14:6). Jesus is truth made tangible. He lived and walked justice. He is in reality what everyone should be and live.

I believe in justice and that we have a “moral principle determining just conduct” because the LORD has given it to us. Because He is righteous and “He loves righteous deeds” (Psalm 11:7) and “hates the wicked and the one who loves violence” (Psalm 11:5).

“O LORD, you hear the desire of the afflicted; You will strengthen their heart; You will incline your ear to do justice to the fatherless and the oppressed, so that man who is of the earth may strike terror no more.”(Psalm 10:17-18).

Layout your Lament to the LORD (Psalm 10)

The Bible teaches us that we can layout our lament[1] to the LORD. We can cry out to Him for help or to honestly share our disillusionment. Lament psalms make up around a third of the book of Psalms and is the most numerous type of psalm within Psalms.[2] And so we see, “The vast majority of psalms were written out of a real-life struggle of faith.”[3]

The Bible teaches us that we can layout our lament to the LORD. We can cry out to Him for help or to honestly share our disillusionment.

Here we’re looking at Psalm 10.

Cry for Help (v. 1)

The first thing we see the psalmists does in this psalm is cry out for justice. “Why, O LORD, do you stand far away? Why do you hide yourself in times of trouble?”

We too can take our honest wrestling to the LORD. In fact, that is what we must do. We must bring our laments to the LORD.

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The Resurrection and Our Hope No Matter What

What is the correct response to the coronavirus? Should we have fear or faith?

Well, the answer to that question depends on where you’re coming from and your understanding of this world…

The Bible teaches Christians that through Christ, no matter what we face, we can have faith. We can have hope.

Reflecting on the resurrection of Jesus helps us have faith. It helps us see that we have a solid, untouchable hope.

In Acts chapter 2, Peter refers to Psalm 16 which is a Psalm that king David wrote. Psalm 16:27 says, “For you will not abandon my soul to Hades, or let your Holy One see corruption.” In Peter’s message he said: Friends, I can confidently tell you something about king David: He is both dead and buried, and his tomb is with us today (Acts 2:29). David is dead and his body rotted.

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Not Afraid, Really?…

Photo by JR Korpa 

“I will not be afraid of tens of thousands of people who have set themselves against me on every side” (Psalm 3:6).

This verse by itself makes no sense and is even dangerous. I would be afraid and very afraid if thousands of people had it out for me. This would especially be the case if they were on every side. 😬

How could the psalmist write this? Why would David, the author, be so puffed up? It seems he’s either arrogant or amazingly naive.

Of course, with anything that’s written, no less the Bible, context is absolutely vital!

What we did not see yet about Psalm 3 is that David had already written, “I cried to the LORD, and He answered me” (v. 4). And so David could rest even in the midst of a very scary situation. David says, “I lay down and slept; I woke again, for the Lord sustained me” (v. 5).

In the midst of all the many difficulties we face, may we with David confess: “Salvation belongs to the LORD” (v. 8). May we cry out to the LORD for help. May we take comfort knowing that He is our shield (v. 3). And then May we rest in His powerful and capable care.

An Imprecatory Prayer

God, You are good and You do all things well.
You are a God of justice and power.
Bring justice, we ask.
This land is full of evil.
People disregard people made in Your image.
People capture other people
and use them and abuse them.
O’ LORD, may that not be!
People plot and carry out senseless acts of violence
O’ God, bring justice!
Destroy the destroyers of the earth,
Destroy those who destroy Your good creation.
Pour out Your anger on those who have no regard for You and Your law.
Why should they escape?!
O’ Lord, regard and repay their wrongs!
This world cries out for justice!
And Father, Your sons and daughters,
whom You purchased with the blood of Your precious Son,
are disregarded
and slaughtered like lambs.
O’ God, regard Your servants, Your sons, Your daughters.
Protect, we plea!
For Your glory!
You deserve the nations crying out Your praise!
Bring that about, we plead.
Father, may all who refuse the salvation offered through Jesus,
who is the wrath-absorbing-sacrifice,
receive Your right and holy wrath.
And Father, we thank You for Christ!
Without Him we would be damned.
We are not better than those for whom we ask for justice.
It is but by Your grace and mercy that you have made us righteous and new.
Yet, even while we have Your grace and even Your Spirit,
we struggle with sin.
So, even as we call out for justice, Lord grant us grace and mercy for those who wrong us.
You are the Judge, vengeance is Yours.
And so, we trust You.
We trust that all those who do not receive Your grace through Jesus Your Son
will receive Your wrath from His hand.
So, Father, make us merciful and forgiving, even as we trust in Your justice.
It is through Jesus our Great High Priest that we come and bring these requests.
Amen.

The Ascension

“The LORD says to my Lord:
‘Sit at my right hand,
until I make your enemies your footstool.’
2The LORD sends forth from Zion
your mighty scepter.
Rule in the midst of your enemies!
3Your people will offer themselves freely
on the day of your power,
in holy garments;
from the womb of the morning,
the dew of your youth will be yours.
4The LORD has sworn
and will not change his mind,
‘You are a priest forever
after the order of Melchizedek.’
5The Lord is at your right hand;
he will shatter kings on the day of his wrath.
6He will execute judgment among the nations,
filling them with corpses;
he will shatter chiefs
over the wide earth.
7He will drink from the brook by the way;
therefore he will lift up his head.”
—Ps. 110 (cf. Acts 2:33-36)

As we saw in the previous post on the resurrection, Peter looked at Psalm 16 and showed how Jesus’ resurrection was foretold. In Acts 2 Peter goes on to show that Jesus is now at God’s right hand, as Psalm 110 foretold. Jesus Himself had quoted from Psalm 110 and stomped His critics (see e.g. Matt. 22:41-46). And when you look at 110:1 it’s not surprising that they were stomped.

So, we see that Jesus is at God’s right hand until… Until He makes His enemies His footstool. That means that Jesus is coming back—and the New Testament repeatedly says soon—to bring judgment, and pervasive peace through that judgment.[1]

Jesus’ death and resurrection shows that He is indeed the Lord and Messiah.[2] As the Lord and Messiah, He is coming back soon to vanquish every foe and establish His forever reign of peace. In His second coming, He will bring the Kingdom that was expected at His first coming.  Read More…

The Death

“When the righteous cry for help, the LORD hears
and delivers them out of all their troubles.
18The LORD is near to the brokenhearted
and saves the crushed in spirit.
19Many are the afflictions of the righteous,
but the LORD delivers him out of them all.
20He keeps all his bones;
not one of them is broken.
21Affliction will slay the wicked,
and those who hate the righteous will be condemned.
22The LORD redeems the life of his servants;
none of those who take refuge in him will be condemned.”
                                                                        —Ps. 34:17-22 (cf. Jn. 19:28-37)

 

The Righteous One was not delivered. The Righteous One was afflicted and slayed. The Righteous One was condemned, condemned to die the terrible death of a criminal and slave.

Jesus was slaughtered. But it was not a senseless slaughter.

As the centurion nearby Jesus acknowledged, something more was going on behind the scenes. The centurion would have observed many deaths and many crucifixions. And so, he is in a unique position to recognize the purity and power of Jesus. The centurion said, “Certainly this man was innocent and the Son of God! (Lk. 23:47/Matt. 27:54; Mk. 15:39)

The centurion responded in that way after he saw Jesus call out and say, “It is finished. Father, into your hands I commit my spirit!” and breathe his last (Jn. 19:30/Lk. 23:46). The centurion must have been amazed by Jesus’ composure and everything else that had taken place surrounding Him. The centurion may have seen the way Jesus treated His enemies (Lk. 23:34), His promise to the criminal on the cross (v. 43), His prayer to God (v. 46), not to mention the ominous darkness (v. 44).[1]

Jesus’ death was not senseless, but according to Scripture. The Righteous One was slain in between two criminals. Jesus was, as Isaiah says, “numbered with the transgressors.” Yet in being cursed Jesus was carrying out a rescue plan that had long since been written (Rev. 13:8). “When He was hung on the cross, He took upon himself the curse for our wrongdoing. For it is written in the Scriptures, ‘Cursed is everyone who is hung on a tree’” (Gal. 3:13).

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The Committal

“For you are my rock and my fortress;
and for your name’s sake you lead me and guide me;
4you take me out of the net they have hidden for me,
for you are my refuge.
5Into your hand I commit my spirit;
you have redeemed me, O LORD, faithful God…
13For I hear the whispering of many—
terror on every side!—
as they scheme together against me,
as they plot to take my life.
14But I trust in you, O Lord;
I say, ‘You are my God.’”
—Ps. 31:4-5, 13-14 (cf. Lk. 23:46-49)

Jesus’ life was bathed in the language of the Psalms. Yet, when Jesus quotes Psalm 31 He doesn’t quote it exactly. Instead, He says, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit” (Lk. 23:46).[1] And so, Jesus’ dying moment was one of trust in His Father. Jesus trusted as He taught us to pray (“Our Father in heaven…”—Matt. 6:9-15). Jesus trusted as He brought a way for us too to go to the Father (Jn. 14:6).

And so we see that Jesus who cries out in despair—trusts God.[2] And we see He laid His life down. Jesus committed Himself into the care of His Father[3] and said, “It is finished” (Jn. 19:30) and breathed His last. Jesus was in control of His life, and He laid it down. The fact that no one took His life from Him but that He laid it down[4] also implies that He is able to “take it up again” (Jn. 10:17).

It is because Jesus trusted God His Father in His life and in His death, and because He freely laid His life down, that we have access to the Father. Jesus makes a way for us by being the perfect sacrifice. Jesus always perfectly trusted God.

So, through Jesus we can have God as our Father. We can go to Him in prayer as Jesus taught us (Matt. 6:9-15). We don’t have to be anxious like unbelievers because we know that we have a heavenly Father who knows all that we need (v. 32). And we can be assured of our Father’s love and care for us because He loved us so much that He sent Jesus (Jn. 3:16).

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The Trial and Mocking

“Let not those rejoice over me
who are wrongfully my foes,
and let not those wink the eye
who hate me without cause.
20For they do not speak peace,
but against those who are quiet in the land
they devise words of deceit.
21They open wide their mouths against me;
they say, ‘Aha, Aha!
Our eyes have seen it!’”
                                —Ps. 35:19-21 (cf. Matt. 27:24-34)

Jesus is on trial. He who calmed the storm and reached out and touched and healed lepers is on trial. Jesus could have answered as God had once before when He was questioned.

He could have said, “’Who is this that darkness counsel by words without knowledge?!” (Job 38:2). He could have said, “Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth?! (v. 4). Do you make the sun rise? (v. 12). Can you send forth lightening? (v. 35). Do you give the horse his might? (39:19). Is it by your understanding that the hawk soars? (v. 26).

And yet the One who created the universe by the word of His power and holds it together (Heb. 1:3), is on trial and even mocked. And the people cry out: “Crucify, crucify Him!”

Jesus is hated without cause (Ps. 35:19; 69:4) and people are wrongfully His foe because He never did a single thing that was wrong (1 Pet. 2:22; Heb. 4:15; 1 Jn. 3:5). And so, because He has never done anything wrong, He is attacked with lies and words of deceit (Ps. 35:20; 69:4). Jesus’ accusers said, “Aha, Aha! Our eyes have seen it!” (Ps. 39:21). But they hadn’t. They hadn’t because Jesus was without sin.

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