Friday, October 21, 2016
“A Song of degrees
They that trust in the LORD shall be as mount Zion, which cannot be removed, but abideth for ever.” (Psalm 125:1)
Those who trust in the Lord are as solidly placed and secure as one of the mountains. They need have no fear of being knocked out of their place of destroyed.
“As the mountains are round about Jerusalem, so the LORD is round about his people from henceforth even for ever.” (Psalm 125:2)
Jerusalem is surrounded by mountains, forcing anyone who attacks to use different tactics. Huge frontal attacks are impossible. They are forced to attack along smaller fronts that are easier to defend. God surrounds his people just as completely with his power, protecting them from their enemies.
“For the rod of the wicked shall not rest upon the lot of the righteous; lest the righteous put forth their hands unto iniquity.” (Psalm 125:3)
Because of God’s protection, Satan and the world’s forces are unable to bring their full power to bear to pressure Christian into sin. I Corinthians 10:13 tells us, “There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it.”
An opposing army might well be so powerful Israel could have no hope of victory, such as when Zerah of Ethiopia threatened with more than a million man army in II Chronicles 14. Thanks to God’s power, they were never able to gain control because God gave Israel a way to win. Many times we experience things beyond our capabilities but God enables us to get the victory.
“Do good, O LORD, unto those that be good, and to them that are upright in their hearts. As for such as turn aside unto their crooked ways, the LORD shall lead them forth with the workers of iniquity: but peace shall be upon Israel.” (Psalm 125:4-5)
Those who endeavor to do what is right can expect God’s blessings. Those who persist in doing wrong will wind up in hell just like everyone else who insists on doing evil. The people of God will live at peace in spite of the wicked who attack. We don’t have to win the victory ourselves. It doesn’t matter that the forces of evil are stronger than we are, they are not stronger than God.
Thursday, October 20, 2016
A Song of degrees of David.
“If it had not been the LORD who was on our side, now may Israel say; If it had not been the LORD who was on our side, when men rose up against us: Then they had swallowed us up quick, when their wrath was kindled against us: Then the waters had overwhelmed us, the stream had gone over our soul: Then the proud waters had gone over our soul.” (Psalm 124:1-5)
In David’s day, Israel was surrounded by countries at least as large and powerful as Israel, most of whom wished to appropriate Israel’s land, and groups such as the Amalekites, the Midianites, and the Edomites were closely related. A coalition of these forces would have been vastly stronger then Israel was, especially if they enlisted the help of various ethnic groups living inside Israel.
Several groups invaded them with the intention of wiping Israel off the map. Time after time, God miraculously stopped them. Had he not done so, Israel would have ceased to exist as a nation long before David became king. They would have been wiped out as a people, or absorbed into other cultures. Their very existence was a testimony of God’s power and blessing, just as it is today.
“Blessed be the LORD, who hath not given us as a prey to their teeth. Our soul is escaped as a bird out of the snare of the fowlers: the snare is broken, and we are escaped. Our help is in the name of the LORD, who made heaven and earth.” (Psalm 124:6-8)
David was extremely appreciative that God had not allowed them to take Israel like a coyote catching a rabbit. They felt like a bird that had been caught in snare, panicked, until the snare broke and they escaped. They were experiencing a tremendous relief at their escape, and they understood it was Jehovah, the self-existent one who had given them their freedom, through faith in his name. No human alliance or other god had the power to save them, and they could not do it themselves.
In the same way, it is only God’s power that saves us from eternal damnation. There is nothing we can do save ourselves. Titus 3:5-6 tells us, “Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost; Which he shed on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Saviour.” No religious organization or other God can save us either. Acts 4:12 states, “Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.”
Wednesday, October 19, 2016
A Song of degrees.
“Unto thee lift I up mine eyes, O thou that dwellest in the heavens. Behold, as the eyes of servants look unto the hand of their masters, and as the eyes of a maiden unto the hand of her mistress; so our eyes wait upon the LORD our God, until that he have mercy upon us. ” (Psalm 123:1-2)
David describes their attention to God as a servant watching his master, or a lady’s maid watching her mistress. Few of us have been in that situation, but imagine a nurse assisting a doctor with surgery. The nurse focuses on wht the doctor is doing, constantly ready to hand him a different clamp or scapula or such away blood so he can see what is needed. We need to be giving God a similar level of attention, especially since we are the ones being operated on. We don’t want to let our attention wander until the operation is complete.
“Have mercy upon us, O LORD, have mercy upon us: for we are exceedingly filled with contempt. Our soul is exceedingly filled with the scorning of those that are at ease, and with the contempt of the proud.” (Psalm 123:3-4)
Our beliefs and practices are attacked almost daily by those around us, encouraging us to forget our standards and go along with their agenda. When we refuse, we are called fools and worse, by those who spend their lives in pleasure and those who consider themselves smarter and better than others. . Sometimes we begin to feel really discouraged and are tempted to quit. In those times we especially need God to show his mercy and love for us. Those are the times when we need focus on him the most. Unfortunately, it is also the time when it is easiest to focus on the problems and overlook what he is doing.
Tuesday, October 18, 2016
A Song of degrees of David
“I was glad when they said unto me, Let us go into the house of the LORD.” (Psalm 122:1)
It is wonderful to meet with my brothers and sisters in a place where we spend time with other people from our family, reminiscing and sharing the things we have done together, sharing our dreams and the things we learn day by day and enjoying the times we have had together with our parents. The pleasure is only possible because of the things our parents have done to enable us to have those experiences.
For the Christian, coming to the Lord’s house ought to be the same as going back to a happy home and visiting with one’s parents and siblings. It ought to be a time of sharing and enjoyment, because of the Things God and Christ have done for us. In David’s day that meant going to the Temple in Jerusalem. Today, it means going to our local church.
“Our feet shall stand within thy gates, O Jerusalem. Jerusalem is builded as a city that is compact together: Whither the tribes go up, the tribes of the LORD, unto the testimony of Israel, to give thanks unto the name of the LORD. For there are set thrones of judgment, the thrones of the house of David.” (Psalm 122:3-5)
Jerusalem was built as a place for the people to worship God. It was the site of the temple, but it was also the site of Israel’s earthly government, and all the tribes came together, at least three times a year to worship and praise God. In addition they came to Jerusalem for help in settling disputes and to learn what God commanded. It was an illustration of the role the church should play in a Christian’s life.
“Pray for the peace of Jerusalem: they shall prosper that love thee. Peace be within thy walls, and prosperity within thy palaces. For my brethren and companions' sakes, I will now say, Peace be within thee. Because of the house of the LORD our God I will seek thy good.” (Psalm 122:6-9)
David advised the people to pray for the peace of Jerusalem, that it would prosper for the sake of His friends and relatives, and because it was where they worshipped God. Paul encourages Christians to pray in similar fashion for our countries and communities in I Timothy 2:1-4. “I exhort therefore, that, first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men; For kings, and for all that are in authority; that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty. For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour; Who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth.”
Unfortunately, some have focused so much on David’s instruction to the Jews to pray for Jerusalem they have neglected to pray for their own churches, communities, and leaders.
Monday, October 17, 2016
A Song of degrees
“I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills, from whence cometh my help. My help cometh from the LORD, which made heaven and earth.” (Psalm 121:1-2)
The God who created Heaven and Earth had chosen Mount Zion, the place where the Temple was located as his special place. It is where David went to consult the Lord. He expects God to send the help he needs at the proper time, and he wants to sing for joy as a result.
“He will not suffer thy foot to be moved: he that keepeth thee will not slumber. Behold, he that keepeth Israel shall neither slumber nor sleep.” (Psalm 121:3-4)
He knows that God will protect him from his enemies, and also that he will give him the power to avoid falling into sin. He will not fall asleep or neglect his job. As Christians, we are not depending on our own faith and power to keep us saved. I Peter 1:3-5 tells us, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, which according to his abundant mercy hath begotten us again unto a lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, To an inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven for you, Who are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.”
We are kept by the power of God, and as Jesus said in John 10:27-30, there is no human power capable of breaking his hold. “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me: And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand. My Father, which gave them me, is greater than all; and no man is able to pluck them out of my Father's hand. I and my Father are one.” There is no danger of us losing our salvation.
“The LORD is thy keeper: the LORD is thy shade upon thy right hand. The sun shall not smite thee by day, nor the moon by night.” (Psalm 121:5-6)
The Lord will protect us from even minor physical problems so that we don’t even have to worry about a sun burn or an inability to sleep at night because the moon is too bright. While we still suffer those things in the physical world, they will be completely eliminated in eternity.
“The LORD shall preserve thee from all evil: he shall preserve thy soul. The LORD shall preserve thy going out and thy coming in from this time forth, and even for evermore.” (Psalm 121:7-8)
It is the Lord who keeps us saved, and he is able to keep us from sin through the Holy Spirit’s power. He will direct our paths, starting at the present time and throughout eternity. I John 3:8-9 says, “He that committeth sin is of the devil; for the devil sinneth from the beginning. For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that he might destroy the works of the devil. Whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin; for his seed remaineth in him: and he cannot sin, because he is born of God.” The word translated commit here refers to a pattern or lifestyle of sin. Different words are used for a single or unintentional sinful act.
I Corinthians 6:9-11 points out that a wicked lifestyle is evidence a person will not be saved. “Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, Nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you: but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God.” While that may have been what we were before, when we became a Christian, we became a new creature, and that old lifestyle is taken away. The Holy Spirit keeps us from going back to it.
Friday, October 14, 2016
A Song of degrees.
“In my distress I cried unto the LORD, and he heard me. Deliver my soul, O LORD, from lying lips, and from a deceitful tongue.” (Psalm 120:1-2)
We live in a society where lying is considered acceptable, at least on the part of politicians and government officials. Proverbs 26:28 warns, “A lying tongue hateth those that are afflicted by it; and a flattering mouth worketh ruin.” Hilary Clinton’s statements about Trump supporters being deplorables and her comments to the media that Democratic voters were stupidprompted a poll of government officials in Washington to see what their attitude toward the common people was. Only six percent of them considered the American people smart enough to be bothered with the facts. Their lying just confirms their disdain for the Average American.
Saul had spread lies about David to turn the people against him, and for years David lived under the constant threat of execution because of Saul’s irrational hatred. He asked God to deliver him from the lies and deceit that sought to destroy him.
“What shall be given unto thee? or what shall be done unto thee, thou false tongue? Sharp arrows of the mighty, with coals of juniper.” (Psalm 120:3-4)
Because he studied God’s word, David knew, “Lying lips are abomination to the LORD: but they that deal truly are his delight,” as Proverbs 12:2 tells us. He asked what those who lied about him expected to gain by their lies, because as we see in Proverbs 21:6 lying to get and advantage ultimately suicidal. “The getting of treasures by a lying tongue is a vanity tossed to and fro of them that seek death.” As David describes it, People will turn on them, physically killing them or verbally destroying them.
In the long term things will be even worse. Revelation 21:8 warns, “But the fearful, and unbelieving, and the abominable, and murderers, and whoremongers, and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars, shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone: which is the second death. They will be hated here on earth, then spend eternity in prison, surrounded by the worst criminals of all time, and suffering the worst conditions imaginable.
“Woe is me, that I sojourn in Mesech, that I dwell in the tents of Kedar! My soul hath long dwelt with him that hateth peace. Ps 120:7 I am for peace: but when I speak, they are for war.” (Psalm 120:5-6)
David felt like he was living among the ancient warlike tribes of ancient Russia and Mongolia, or the Bedouins and other Arabic groups, for whom raiding and warfare was, and in many cases, still is a way of life. Saul and his army had no interest in making peace, wanting only to kill David. They viewed his efforts to make peace as a sign of weakness and pushed even harder, determined to kill him. Treaties were only a tool to gain an advantage and would be broken without hesitation. Saul and his supporters definitely didn’t act like they were God’s people.
Thursday, October 13, 2016
“I cried with my whole heart; hear me, O LORD: I will keep thy statutes. I cried unto thee; save me, and I shall keep thy testimonies. I prevented the dawning of the morning, and cried: I hoped in thy word. Mine eyes prevent the night watches, that I might meditate in thy word.
Hear my voice according unto thy lovingkindness: O LORD, quicken me according to thy judgment. They draw nigh that follow after mischief: they are far from thy law. Thou art near, O LORD; and all thy commandments are truth. Concerning thy testimonies, I have known of old that thou hast founded them for ever.” (Psalm 119:145-152)
From the time he was young, David had trusted in the Lord, and was determined to keep his word. He promised to obey as long as God kept him alive to do so. He got up before dawn to pray and think about God’s word, and frequently woke up during the night with it on his mind. He asks that God would hear his prayers in his loving kindness and settle his concerns according to his mercy and righteousness. The wicked were not concerned with God’s laws, but David believed they were eternal and sought to follow them.
“Consider mine affliction, and deliver me: for I do not forget thy law. Plead my cause, and deliver me: quicken me according to thy word. Salvation is far from the wicked: for they seek not thy statutes.
Great are thy tender mercies, O LORD: quicken me according to thy judgments. Many are my persecutors and mine enemies; yet do I not decline from thy testimonies. I beheld the transgressors, and was grieved; because they kept not thy word. Consider how I love thy precepts: quicken me, O LORD, according to thy lovingkindness. Thy word is true from the beginning: and every one of thy righteous judgments endureth for ever.” (Psalm 119:153-160)
David asks that God consider the trials he was experiencing, and deliver him because he was serving God. The wicked had rejected God’s salvation, but God’s mercy was great, and David felt sorry for his persecutors because would not obey God. He asks God to consider how he had struggled to follow the law, believing it was eternally true, and that its principles are eternal.
“Princes have persecuted me without a cause: but my heart standeth in awe of thy word. I rejoice at thy word, as one that findeth great spoil. I hate and abhor lying: but thy law do I love.
Seven times a day do I praise thee because of thy righteous judgments. Great peace have they which love thy law: and nothing shall offend them.
LORD, I have hoped for thy salvation, and done thy commandments. My soul hath kept thy testimonies; and I love them exceedingly. I have kept thy precepts and thy testimonies: for all my ways are before thee.” (Psalm 119:161-168)
Saul had tried to execute David, even sending messengers to other countries to try to have him killed, and when he fled to the Philistines, David was forced to act as if he were insane to avoid being killed. In spite of that, David was still in awe of God’s word and rejoiced at his promises.
Everyday he was reminded repeatedly how much God had blessed him for his obedience. As a result, he never gave up hope and turned away, no matter how discouraged he became. Instead, he kept expecting god to keep his wordand kept on doing as God had said. He knew God was aware of everything he had done and believed he would reward him accordingly.
“Let my cry come near before thee, O LORD: give me understanding according to thy word. Let my supplication come before thee: deliver me according to thy word.
My lips shall utter praise, when thou hast taught me thy statutes. My tongue shall speak of thy word: for all thy commandments are righteousness. Let thine hand help me; for I have chosen thy precepts. I have longed for thy salvation, O LORD; and thy law is my delight.
Let my soul live, and it shall praise thee; and let thy judgments help me. I have gone astray like a lost sheep; seek thy servant; for I do not forget thy commandments.” (Psalm 119:169-176)
David realized he had not kept God’s law perfectly, but he had not broken it deliberately. He asks that God forgive him for the times he had strayed, and hear his prayer for life and protection so that he could praise the Lord. He also asks again that God help him understand his way so that he did not stray so easily. He loved the law and wanted to learn more.