God, Jonah, and the City (Part Three)

Jonah 1:3-4

Then the Lord sent a great wind on the sea, and such a violent storm arose that the ship threatened to break up (1:4 NIV).

We see in the book of Jonah God’s awesome compassion for people everywhere. This includes cities of people, cities where we might encounter much wickedness. This is not because city people are more wicked than suburban or rural people. Humans are sinful wherever we live. I have observed great wickedness in the burbs and the country. We see much wickedness because there are many people in the city, who take pleasure in each other’s sin (cf. Romans 1:32). An avalanche of sin can more easily occur. Yet in his mercy God chose to show his matchless mercy to wicked Nineveh.

But Jonah ran away from the Lord and headed for Tarshish (1:4 NIV). Jonah will later explain his reason for his disobedience (4:2). It was a terrible reason, and we will look at it in a later post. Now, let’s concentrate on the facts of his defiance of God’s word. In doing this, we seek to learn from his errors. Our sins tend to develop in patterns. They start from our hearts, and then we do similar actions.

When we sin, we seek to avoid God’s presence. Jonah ran away from the Lord… He wanted to flee from the Lord. We see this pattern as early as Adam and Eve (Genesis 3:10). The pattern is sin, guilt, fear, and hide. When we feel guilty, we don’t want to be in God’s presence or with his people. If someone begins to be absent from your local gatherings, they could be working or ill or caring for someone or other legitimate reasons. However, their absence could indicate that they are running away from the Lord. Let’s reach out to one another if we see this happening.

When we sin, we find circumstances that are favorable to our flight from the Lord. He went down to Joppa and found a ship going to Tarshish. He paid the fare and went down into it to go with them to Tarshish from the Lord’s presence (1:3 CSB). Jonah was intent on one thing, though it was the wrong thing. Being focused and zealous is good, if you are headed in the right direction. Otherwise, you simply run farther and farther from where you ought to be. Jonah went to a port, where he could find a ship that was going in the opposite direction from Nineveh. And surprise, he found one! Too often we hear of people praying for something that is contrary to God’s word, and when they find circumstances that aid their rebellion, they piously claim, “I prayed about it, and God answered my prayer!” Please don’t play such games with God and his people. The Lord knows what you’re doing, and wise Christians living in obedience do also. Also, when we find the circumstances we want, we will pay the price to pursue them. Sin can be a costly endeavor.

When we sin, God will pursue us (1:4). When he comes after us, there is no predicting what he will do. Yes, this ought to scare us. Think of the warning connected with the Lord’s Supper. For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment on himself. That is why many of you are weak and ill, and some have died.  But if we judged ourselves truly, we would not be judged. But when we are judged by the Lord, we are disciplined so that we may not be condemned along with the world (1 Corinthians 11:29-32 ESV). The Lord will discipline his genuine children (Hebrew 12:4-11). No discipline seems enjoyable at the time, but painful (Hebrews 12:11a CSB). We should rejoice greatly, because often the pain of discipline received is far less than we deserve. But none of it is enjoyable. God cares about us. He cared about Jonah and his mission. The Lord sent a great wind. The true and living God can use all creation as sheriffs and marshals to go after his wayward people.

Let us learn from Jonah. God cares about the people set apart to his glory. He will not let us remain comfortably in our sin. He wants us involved with him on his mission. What is God now doing in your life to get you involved?

Grace and peace, David

Follow by Email

God, Jonah, and the City (Part Two)

Jonah 1:1-3

God sent Jonah to preach against Nineveh, the leading city of the Assyrian Empire, because of its wickedness. This was a difficult mission, and the rest of the book presents Jonah’s reluctance and God’s perseverance in this task. God told Jonah to call out Nineveh for its sin. They were cruel, violent, and oppressive. They had made life miserable for God’s people. It was not something that would have been easy to do. It was not what Jonah wanted to do. We need to evaluate ourselves. Are we reluctant to fulfill our mission of making disciples of all nations? What are we currently doing?

Like Jonah, we can invent alternatives to what God wants us to do about the city. Jonah’s alternative was to run away from the mission God gave him. Here are some unhelpful alternatives that Christians take in our time.

  • We set up our own little sub-cultural fortress. We protect ourselves from the city because it is evil. Once every twenty years, we might go out on a mission trip, hurl our “gospel grenades” into the city, complain that they are hardened in sin because they don’t respond to unloving methods, and quickly retreat into our safe little Christian hiding places.
  • We can forget the wickedness of the city and become part of it. In trying to reach the city, some have become enamored by its ideas and practices. Only a life committed to the centrality of the cross of Christ can help you avoid this, if you venture into the city. Evil is powerful, and we need the expulsive power of a great desire to resist it. That greater desire is Christ (cf. 1 Corinthians 2:2).
  • We can use the city to satisfy our desires, avoiding its more repugnant evils, but forgetting what we’re supposed to be doing in the city.

The Lord wants us to live among the people of rebellious cities and preach against their wickedness. To do this, we must be living among them, so that we know how evil is ruining them, and being close to be able to give them hope in Christ (1 Peter 3:13-16).

Here are eight ways to start to influence the city:

  • Eat with non-Christians – invite them to your home or go out to dinner with them
  • Walk, don’t drive – walk around your neighborhood; be seen by people and talk to them as you have the opportunity
  • Be a regular – go to the same places and get to know people there
  • Share a hobby or activity with non-Christians – check your local library for information
  • Talk to your coworkers – how hard can this be?
  • Volunteer in non-profit organizations – this is a natural way to help people in need and partner with others at the same time
  • Participate in community activities – some communities have little happening, but perhaps yours does
  • Serve your neighbors – keep your eyes and ears open

Please think about the following. Jonah disobeyed the Lord by running in the opposite direction from Nineveh. In the process, he went away from the presence of the Lord (3:3 ESV). I boldly suggest that if we’re not doing one or more things on the above list, or activities like them, then we are running from “our Nineveh” just as Jonah did from his.

Grace and peace, David

Follow by Email

God, Jonah, and the City (Part One)

Jonah 1:1-3

In God’s Word we have his message about God himself, who we are, and how to live in his presence and with one another. This message tells us how to be right with him, how to fulfill our purpose of glorifying God by enjoying life with him, and how to live with each other in God-honoring community. Please guys, when you hear the word community, do not think of sitting in a living room sharing a collection of warm fuzzies. Think of sharing life with some good friends while hiking in the mountains! I hope you know the satisfaction of sitting down at the top of a mountain after a long hike and being glad in what you accomplished together. Our lives should be like the adventure of a strenuous walk with the living God. One of our challenges in our time is to restore a proper experience of community, in which God-created manhood and womanhood are honored.

God cares about community, so much so that his goal for renewed human is a city in which he lives forever with his people. But we are not talking about that final city in this series of posts. Our subject will be the present cities of humanity and our relationship to them. This subject is of interest to me, since I live in either our nation’s seventh largest metropolis or the largest megalopolis (New York and Philadelphia and all their burbs), whichever you prefer. The Lord speaks to this theme in various places in the Bible. One of them is the book of Jonah.

Most people know about Jonah because of “Jonah and the whale”. This displays a common level of Biblical ignorance, because the book does not mention a whale, but that “the Lord provided a great fish to swallow Jonah” (1:17 NIV). This understanding avoids needless controversy and wasting time and leaves the matter where it should be—with the sovereignty or ruling power of God. That is one of the themes of the book of Jonah. Other key ideas are: Jonah as a type of Christ’s death and resurrection (cf. Mt 12:38-41), God’s purpose of evangelism of all peoples, and the sin of racism or ethnic hatred. The first two are commonly discussed in most churches that claim to be biblically based, though many of them do not like to hear about the sovereignty of God in salvation. The third theme was politely redefined and a special group of Christians (missionaries) invented to “deal with it”. Yet the third and the fourth go together, and the fourth is avoided like the plague. May this article help us to reenter the discussion on all of these!

The Lord evaluates the conduct of the city. Now the word of the Lord came to Jonah the son of Amittai, saying, “Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and call out against it, for their evil has come up before me.” (1:1-2 ESV). God does observe the wickedness and evil that people commit. Everyone and everything is fully visible to him (Hebrews 4:13). At this point, we must maintain a biblical viewpoint about cities. A city is not something inherently sinful, because God himself is preparing a city to share with us (Hebrews 11; Revelation 21-22). A city can be for the glory of God. Tim Keller pointed out that a city provides certain advantages:

  • It is a place of refuge and security. People who have various disadvantages can find help in a city that they cannot find in other places, for example, good medical care. They can more easily find others who can understand their problems.
  • It is a place of human development. God created mankind to subdue the earth, and in the eternal city we read of people bringing the glory of a renewed humanity into it and serving God there.
  • It is a place to meet God. He brings people from all backgrounds and ways of life into cities to meet him. A study of the book of Acts shows the plan for urban ministry. Most of the people who were Christians in the time of the early church lived in the cities of the Roman Empire. In 1900 the world’s five largest cities at that time (London, New York, Paris, Berlin, and Chicago), were in the western world and centers of evangelistic activity. But in the twentieth century Christians left or lost the city, and the rest as they say is history.

However, a city can be a place of great wickedness, as was the case in Nineveh. The passage of time has removed the chief city of the Assyrian Empire from our vocabulary of terror. If you can think of the centers of genocide in the twentieth century and terrorists in the twenty-first century, you will have some feeling of the revulsion that the typical Jew in Jonah’s time had for Nineveh. As Tim Chester points out, “There is a flipside to the potential of the city. Human rejection of God spoils cities.

  • A place of refuge becomes a place of escape from social constraints and escape from God
  • A place of influence becomes an influence for evil
  • A place of opportunity becomes a place of exhaustion and pressure as we all try to make it or hold on to what we have”

When I moved to my present area over twenty-two years ago, the suburb I then lived in was on the very edge of the metro area. Now, it is well beyond it. My present suburb is gradually becoming more urbanized, like it or not. The city is coming your way, too! Therefore, we must grow in our understanding of the benefits and problems of living in a city. We should run toward, not from, the new opportunities that cities present followers of Jesus Christ.

Grace and peace, David

Follow by Email

John and His Message (Part Two)

SAMSUNG

Luke 3:7-9

He then said to the crowds who came out to be baptized by him, “Brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath? Therefore produce fruit consistent with repentance. And don’t start saying to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father,’ for I tell you that God is able to raise up children for Abraham from these stones. The ax is already at the root of the trees. Therefore, every tree that doesn’t produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire” (CSB).

John the Baptist did what the Lord called him to do. He went out in the desert and proclaimed a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins (Luke 3:3 CSB). It seemed like an unlikely and unpromising place to start a great work of God, such as the coming of the Messiah was promised to be (cf. Isaiah 35.) However, God’s ways are not our ways (cf. Isaiah 55:8). Who would go out into the desert to hear a preacher? The Lord did everything to make sure that John’s ministry would not rest in the power of man but the power of God. This is what most contemporary churches need to hear, because their “back door is as big as their front door.” Human schemes are no substitute for God’s word, prayer, and the power of the Holy Spirit. Some churches will do some sort of “40 Days of Prayer” program, be excited during it, and then… “We prayed for forty days, revival didn’t come, so let’s try something else.” That was not what John the Baptist did. He went out to the desert, preached the Lord’s message, and God sent the people. Crowds came to be baptized by him with a baptism of repentance. So then, what were John’s sermons like?

He did not try to please people (3:7). You do not please people by calling them a brood of vipers! Imagine entering any contemporary church and being a viper, which is clearly symbolic of being an evil person. The crowds in our time would not stay; they would walk out. Contemporary churches are ashamed of sin and afraid to call people sinners. They want everyone to feel comfortable. They want to be thought well of in their local community. They want everyone to like them. John the Baptist lacked such concerns. Please listen carefully. I am not talking about being rude and obnoxious. We ought to welcome people with joy. But that must never obscure the truth of the sinfulness of all people everywhere. We must tell people who they are in the presence of the holy God. That is what John was doing as he preached to his people. He was not afraid to challenge people “in his church” that they might actually be a brood of vipers! How would you react if your pastor dared to say something similar in your local church this Sunday?

He told people to change (3:8). Repentance is a change of mind, as we said in our previous post in this series. Repentant people think differently in their hearts about God, themselves, sin, Christ, and the way of salvation. This inward turn produces changes in people, both internally (ideas, attitudes, expectations, etc.) and externally in the behavior. The repentant person changes the way they walk and talk. By the way, many professing Christians need to stop using the substitute obscene and profane language they use to color their speech. So that no one misses the point, I mean all the substitute “F” words and “bathroom” words. Consider Ephesians 4:29; 5:4; Colossians 3:8. Crude speech is not the right means to lead others in godly ways. The fruit of repentance is godliness, the character that shows that a person is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator (Colossians 3:10 NIV). It is the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23) and “the new clothing” of the new person (Colossians 3:12-17). It is what we add to our faith (2 Peter 1:5-8 NIV).

He turned people from false hopes (3:8). As the last of the old covenant prophets and the forerunner of the new age, John warned the people not to trust in their ethnic heritage. Far too many rely on their descent for assurance that God accepts them. The people of God in the new covenant are only repentant believers in the Lord Jesus Christ. Your physical heritage counts for nothing in God’s sight (John 1:11-13; Romans 2:9; 3:23; 9:6-8; Colossians 3:11). What does count is the grace of God freely given through Jesus Christ. In him, you can be part of the people of God!

He warned them of the wrath to come (3:9). Yes, John did not make people feel comfortable. He wanted all outside of God’s grace to feel very uncomfortable! Again, the contemporary church doesn’t want to offend anyone. Political correctness rules the day, unless it is something distasteful to their own political agenda, but that is another subject. People do not want to hear of the fires of the wrath of God. They are like people whistling as they pass a cemetery, but in this case, it is not a cemetery but hell itself. The are like toddlers playing “peekaboo”, assuming that if they don’t hear about hell, it doesn’t exist. John told the crowds the truth. We do not help people by failing to tell them their very serious problem before the throne of God.

John the Baptist was faithful to his mission. May we be faithful to the mission the Lord Jesus has given us (Luke 24:45-47).

Grace and peace, David

Follow by Email

Psalm Eighteen (Part Four)

Psalm 18:7-19

The earth trembled and quaked, and the foundations of the mountains shook; they trembled because he was angry (18:7 NIV).

In this psalm, David taught his people to sing with him about God’s deliverance of him, so that they might have confidence that God would bring full deliverance one day through the Lord’s Anointed, the Messiah. He previously declared the desperate situation he was in. Next, he pointed out in marvelous poetic pictures God acting to rescue him.

We gain our identity from big events in our lives. In birth, we enter this world and a family. That family gives us our name and forms our basic ideas, expectations, habits, and morals. It can take our God-given personality and either nurture it or twist it. When a man and a woman join in marriage, they give what they are to each other, and they form a new family identity, which in turn will nurture the new partners or twist them.

God gives us a new identity when he saves us and makes us part of our people. Our new identity comes from the event of redemption. God intends it to form us increasingly into his image, as we walk with each other in newness of life. Sadly, what we learn and experience with others in a local fellowship of believers can distort us from what our likeness to God ought to be. If you’re with people that are greedy or angry or judgmental or shallow, you will be influenced by their attitudes and behavior. In this new covenant age, the redemptive event is what Jesus Christ accomplished on the cross and his resurrection. We ought to be gospel formed people. Our identity then influences how we think and act: You are not your own, for you were bought at a price. So glorify God with your body (1 Corinthians 6:19b-20 CSB). Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God (Colossians 3:1 NIV). The truth of the gospel sets the direction of our way of life.

In the old covenant, the event of redemption was the exodus from Egypt, including the crossing of the Red Sea and the receiving of the law covenant at Sinai. Much of what we hear about the old covenant people Israel in the Prophets and the Writings flows from the exodus. It gave them their identity. They were a physically redeemed people. Why did I go into this matter? It matters because David wrote about his deliverance from the hand of all his enemies and from the hand of Saul (see the heading of this psalm) through the “lenses” of the exodus. He used the language of the crossing of the sea and the giving of the law to talk about how the Lord rescued him.

We can speak of poetic language and metaphors, but this is more than that. It is personal and redemptive. David understood that the God of the exodus and Sinai was the Lord who delivered him. It was the God who redeemed his people from their enemy Egypt who delivered David from his enemies.

In our next post on this psalm, we want to look at the imagery that David used from the exodus and Sinai. But at this point, let us examine ourselves. Do we consciously think of ourselves as redeemed people? Does the truth of the gospel events permeate our world and life view? Do we act as people set free by Christ? We have a lot to glory in. Let us move forward with the joy of redeemed people. But the redeemed shall walk there. And the ransomed of the Lord shall return and come to Zion with singing; everlasting joy shall be upon their heads; they shall obtain gladness and joy, and sorrow and sighing shall flee away (Isaiah 35:9b-10 ESV).

Grace and peace, David

Follow by Email

John and His Message (Part One)

Luke 3:1-6

He went into all the vicinity of the Jordan, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins (Luke 3:3 CSB).

Luke presented the true story of God’s glory in Jesus Christ as it occurred: in human history. He wanted Theophilus and every reader to know the certainty of the things you have been taught (Luke 1:4 NIV). The Lord wants us to have assurance and bold conviction about his person, word, and redemptive activity. Too often believers waver, faltering with   lack of confidence, which hinders our prayers, witness, and walk with the Lord. What did Luke do to bolster the conviction of the readers of the Gospel of Luke?

Luke informed his readers of the place in history of God’s story (3:1-2). Before the creation of modern calendars, people kept track of the years by the reigns of earthly rulers. This way of telling the years is not as exact and easy as calendar years, but it is accurate. While we are on the subject, we should not expect ancient writers to conform to our standards of precision. They thought and wrote according to the tools and methods they had available, and that is the only standard that we can hold them to. Some ‘biblical critics’ are anachronistic, which makes their complaints ridiculous. Beware of such stuff on television or other media. Luke started with the Roman emperor and added regional rulers to give us an accurate time setting for the ministries of John the Baptist and Jesus.

Luke told us about the origin and nature of John’s message (3:2-3). The message focused on the need for repentance. What is repentance? It is a change of mind about God, oneself, sin, Christ, and the way of salvation that produce a change in a person’s way of life. The change starts in the inner person of the heart, which works out through our words and actions. The internal change must be present first. John called people to repent and to make an outward testimony of their change of heart by being baptized, which is to be immersed in water. Jesus requires this testimony of his followers (Matthew 28:19). If you haven’t given this testimony yet, you ought to as soon as possible in your local church. Talk to your pastors and elders.

As is often pointed out, there is no precedent for this baptism in the Old Testament Scriptures. Why did John do this? He preached this, because the word of God came to John (3:2 NIV). At the dawn of the new covenant age, God had the forerunner of the Messiah proclaim a new identity marker for the people of God, who would come from all nations. No longer would God’s people be known by keeping the requirements of the law (the old covenant). Instead, they would be known as a people of repentance. They are a people that take God seriously, humble themselves before the Lord, seek to live in a way that honors God, focus on Christ their Lord, and depend upon Jesus for eternal life.

Luke linked John to a prophecy in the Isaiah in the Old Testament Scriptures (3:4-6). A new day arrives with John, but God had planned it from ancient days. As Isaiah announced God’s good news, he told of a man who would come before the Messiah to prepare the way for him. His ministry would occur in the desert places, rather than the cities. People would need to leave their comfortable homes to hear about the Coming One. They would also need to make radical changes, which is shown by the metaphors of the roads, mountains, and valleys. Again, John is the herald of the new age that the Messiah would bring. All mankind will see God’s salvation.

In our time, the good news is running all over the world as never before! People from all nations are being saved. To whom are you taking the good news?

Grace and peace, David

Follow by Email

Psalm Eighteen (Part Three)

Psalm 18:4-6

The cords of death entangled me; the torrents of destruction overwhelmed me. The cords of the grave coiled around me; the snares of death confronted me. In my distress I called to the Lord; I cried to my God for help. From his temple he heard my voice; my cry came before him, into his ears (NIV).

Next, David sang about the desperate situation from which the Lord had rescued him. We don’t know the tune to which these words were sung, but a minor key would have been a good choice. In this broken world there are many times that we will be melancholy and downcast. This is unpleasant. David was not ashamed to write about the dark times of his experience. He wanted his people to face cold, gloomy reality.

This is very unlike some of the songs I learned in Sunday School in my childhood. Here is a one: “I’m in right, out right, up right, down right, happy all the time. I’m in right, out right, up right, down right, happy all the time. Since Jesus Christ came in and cleansed my heart from sin, I’m in right, out right, up right, down right, happy all the time.” I assume that the teachers wanted Sunday School to be a warm, welcoming place. And after World War II, the Korean War, and during the Cold War, they themselves probably wanted to escape from the horrors of life. However, the song did not present an accurate view of life or what the Lord promised his people in their walk with him. The point is not to fill the hearts of children with terror, but it is to say what is accurate.

Accuracy about life and God’s ability to deliver fill this psalm. David started the song on a positive note. Then, in the verses quoted above, he described the reason God’s might was needed to rescue. In the English of the NIV, depressing “D” words pile up to make his point: death… destruction… distress. The word translated grave is the Hebrew Sheol, the invisible realm of the dead, from which only the Lord can deliver. David piled up words to announce that he was totally dependent on God, apart from his mighty power, he was certain to die. Until we understand our desperate need, we will not cry out to the Lord to save. David wanted people to feel how bad his case was. Unless the living God had intervened, he was dead.

In this apparently hopeless situation, David did what people who believe in God do. He prayed. Notice again the personal relationship he claimed with God: I cried to my God for help. Because he knew God, he brought his requests to God. He knew that God heard him. From his temple he heard my voice; my cry came before him, into his ears. God has compassion on us in our trials. He may not answer the way we want or expect, but he does act as we pray. David wrote to give God’s people words and ideas for us when we cry out to the Lord. He wanted them to know that in the bleakest times, God hears and cares and helps his people. Don’t give way to despair. God might well have closed one way for you. But he who will not lead you one way will lead you another, as you trust in him. Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not rely on your own understanding; in all your ways know him, and he will make your paths straight (Proverbs 3:5-6 CSB).

Grace and peace, David

Follow by Email

Consistency

Colossians 1:29

To this end I strenuously contend with all the energy Christ so powerfully works in me (NIV).

My wife and I each have a car, which we need to get to the places God has called us to go. This is hardly an amazing fact, but the cars have different keys. My key will not start hers and vice versa. I carry both sets of keys on one ring, and this provides a time for contemplation, since when I’m in my car, I have a push button start. Her car requires the insertion of the key into the ignition switch. Since I drive my car more often, it is easy to reach for the button rather than inserting the key when I’m in her car. Habit is a good gift from God, but it doesn’t replace thinking.

We live in a world in which we are taught from infancy to do things for ourselves and to be self-reliant. This also is good, because Sharon and I expected our children to tie their own shoes, as soon as possible. But self-reliance can easily become twisted by sin to become reliance on ourselves, instead of trust in God. There is a “fine line” where this happens. You cannot draw it on a map or describe it in a book. We might talk about this a long time in a small group and not reach a definite conclusion. Life is not lived by acting in conformity with manuals for behavior. But that is not the topic of this post. Instead, it concerns more simply serving the Lord consistent with his glorious person.

It is far too easy to carry the “keys” of worldly self-reliance into service for the Lord. Programs, the performance of “worship teams”, form of “church government”, rituals, buildings, training for ministry leaders, and so on occupy center stage in the conversations and planning meetings of local churches. “If we would do what that successful church does, then we would enjoy the same success” is a widespread attitude, regardless of how it is nuanced. I am not arguing for untrained leaders, dirty and uncomfortable buildings, and woeful music. However, I am addressing an attitude that is far too pervasive and dominant.

Our Lord invested time in training the apostles for the work he called them to do. He gave instructions on how to do it. But part of his instruction concerned the need to rely on him for spiritual power. I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing (John 15:5 NIV). We all need to return to “Christ-reliance”. We all need to… excuse me while I use a ‘four-letter-word’… We need to pray.

In his letter to the Colossians, Paul provides examples of prayer to that church. He began that short letter with along section on thanksgiving and prayer (1:3-14). He asked for prayer (4:2-4). He pointed out how the founder of their church wrestled in prayer for them (4:12). What does prayer have to do with all this?

Prayer is a believer’s conversation with his or her God. We come as his adult children, friends, and coworkers. We acknowledge to accomplish spiritual good that we require his almighty power. We want to serve the Lord with all the energy Christ so powerfully works. There is simply no other way that we can accomplish anything of spiritual and eternal value. It brings great joy to see the Lord at work in the lives of many people. When a person begins to live according to Christ (cf. Col 2:8 ESV), it is an artwork of spiritual beauty. Godly ideas, attitudes, words, and actions flow out from him or her, as the Spirit forms Christ in them. This is what we long for, but it is beyond our ability. Only the power of God can produce godliness.

We must pray.

Grace and peace, David

Follow by Email

Psalm Eighteen (Part Two)

Psalm 18:1-3

For the director of music. Of David the servant of the Lord. He sang to the Lord the words of this song when the Lord delivered him from the hand of all his enemies and from the hand of Saul. He said: I love you, Lord, my strength. The Lord is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer; my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold. I called to the Lord, who is worthy of praise, and I have been saved from my enemies (NIV).

David spoke God’s words to his people. He let them know the truth about their covenant Lord, the living God. In this song (always remember that the psalms were intended to be sung), he also wants them to feel the greatness of their God. He wants them to delight in the reality of all that God had made known to them. Too often believers have heard the poor counsel, “You shouldn’t be feeling that way. Now stop emoting like that and do this list of actions.” That is not how the Father in heaven speaks to us in his word. Listen to what the Spirit led David to write.

David related to God in an intensely, special way. He used the word “my” nine times about God in these three verses. We do this about people we love constantly: my father, my mother, my brother, my sister, my child, my grandchild, and my friend. We claim them as ours. Love naturally “hugs” those that we love. David was not ashamed to interact with God personally, even when writing a worship song. Hopefully, the point is obvious, but in case it’s not, when we sing in public worship, we reach out to claim our special relationship with God. Be bold; God likes it when we’re bold (Hebrews 4:16).

David expanded on previous revelation about God. The Lord in his word reveals himself in a progressive manner, building upon what he has already said in the past. Some people try to “find the whole Bible” in Genesis 1-12, or they say that “this passage is the Bible in miniature”. Never is correct. In the Scriptures, God made himself known bit by bit, carefully building on what he previously declared, until the fullness of his revelation in Christ as made known in the New Testament Scriptures. For example, God gave types and shadows of the Messiah in the writings before he came, which the writings after his death and resurrection explain more fully. In this psalm, David calls God his “Rock” a few times. This name from God comes from three texts in the Torah (Gen 49:24; Deuteronomy 32:4, 31). The best known opens the Song of Moses, which Christians today should know much better than we do (cf. Revelation 15:3). The Rock, his work is perfect, for all his ways are justice. A God of faithfulness and without iniquity, just and upright is he (Deuteronomy 32:4 ESV). When we are familiar with this verse, we can see that David works this text out through the remainder of this psalm. In other words, part of what David sings is his meditation on Moses’ song. Ponder Colossians 3:16 in this context about what we ought to be doing when we sing in church. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalm s and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God (Colossians 3:16 ESV, my emphasis).

David’s descriptive names of the Lord flow out from his experience of God and his protection during his years of trial and suffering. God is his strength, fortress, deliverer, refuge, shield, horn of salvation, and stronghold. Read through David’s life in 1 and 2 Samuel up to this point, and listen to various psalms that he wrote about his troubles, and you will discover these concepts coming out from what he lived. Using what God has made known about his name, we likewise can speak of our God in this way. Though our life situations will be different from David’s, yet we can see, for example, that he has been our deliverer in many ways. We can sing to the Lord our experience of who he has been in our lives. As we read God’s word, these ideas will begin to pop out in our praise. Develop your relationship with God, as David modeled it in this psalm.

Grace and peace, David

Follow by Email

Psalm Eighteen (Part One)

Psalm 18:1-3

For the director of music. Of David the servant of the Lord. He sang to the Lord the words of this song when the Lord delivered him from the hand of all his enemies and from the hand of Saul. He said: I love you, Lord, my strength. The Lord is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer; my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold. I called to the Lord, who is worthy of praise, and I have been saved from my enemies (NIV).

The Psalms tell the story of God’s reign in song. They show God at work through his anointed king, usually David, and great David’s greater son, the Anointed One (Messiah). At times, we hear of David’s struggles, sin, sorrows, and repentance. At others, we are called to join in the celebration of God’s victories, which involve the salvation and deliverance of his people from their enemies.

In Psalm Eighteen, David celebrates how God had delivered him from the hand of all his enemies (title of the psalm). At a quick glance we might assume that this referred to the end of his life, but nearly the same words are said when he became king over all Israel, following years of struggle with his father-in-law, Saul, and other rebels against God’s choice of David as his king (2 Samuel 7:1). David is about thirty-seven at the time he wrote this. He had ruled over Judah for seven and a half years, but finally, the Lord had set him up as king over all Israel. A study of 2 Samuel 7 will show that the Lord made a covenant with David, that the Messiah would come from him. Then end of this psalm is definitely Messianic, as we will see.  David’s great task became restoring the worship of the living God in Israel. To do this, he wrote many songs for public worship. Notice how the title informs us that this psalm was for the director of music. Since the Lord had brought David through many troubles to the throne, David rejoiced about God doing the same thing for Israel through the Anointed One. He glorified God, calling himself only the servant of the Lord.

Observe that David sang to the Lord the words of this song. The heart of a person set free has a song. The believer sings to the Lord. He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God. Many will see and fear, and they will trust in the Lord (Psalm 40:3 CSB). Thanksgiving for mercy and grace received causes those set free from sin and death to worship. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God (Colossians 3:16 ESV).

David wanted his people to share his joy, and to prepare them to trust the Lord throughout difficult times that would certainly come. The key to all this is his love for the Lord (18:1). David was a man after God’s own heart (1 Samuel 13:14; Acts 13:22). He set his inner person on seeking the glory of the Lord. He wanted everyone to rejoice in God’s overflowing goodness, and so he gave himself to compose songs for worship for his own soul and for others to sing with him.

Are our hearts filled with songs for the Lord? Are we thankful for how he has delivered and continues to deliver us? If our songs are absent or faint, we ought to examine ourselves to find the cause of our spiritual disorder. The life of faith is meant to be a walk of thanksgiving and joy! David sought to rekindle this in his people. May our souls be filled with refreshing experiences of God’s goodness to us!

Grace and peace, David

Follow by Email