Psalm Nineteen (Part Seven)

Psalm 19:12-14

But who can discern their own errors? Forgive my hidden faults. Keep your servant also from willful sins; may they not rule over me. Then I will be blameless, innocent of great transgression. May these words of my mouth and this meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer (NIV).

The last three verses of Psalm Nineteen show David’s response to God’s revelation. We should always remember that Biblical knowledge has been given to affect the way we live. It is one thing to know the truth about the God who speaks through his creation and in the Holy Scriptures and even to sing about this in worship. It is another to humble oneself before God and his message and let it teach, correct and rebuke us. David closes this psalm with the practical application of the knowledge of the Scriptures.

“Who can discern his errors?” To ask the question is to answer it. Those who know God and his message best will have some understanding of their errors, but none of us can truly discern all our errors in the complexity of all that we are: heart, soul, spirit, mind, conscience, etc. As we view ourselves Biblically, which means in Christ and his grace, we make progress in self-discernment, but still much escapes us. Perhaps this is a reason that the saints who have walked with God the closest have the most tender conscience of their sinfulness. Repeated living in the light produces a richer fellowship with God and the forgiveness of sins (1 John 1:7). “Many books have a few lines of errata at the end, but our errata might well be as large as the volume if we could but have sense enough to see them. Augustine wrote in his older days a series of Retractions; ours might make a library if we had enough grace to be convinced of our mistakes and to confess them” (Spurgeon).

“Forgive my hidden faults.” This one phrase speaks volumes about the spirituality of the believer’s experience and our absolute need to be saved by free grace alone. First, let us consider the meaning of hidden or secret faults.

  • Some sins are hidden because of our ignorance of God’s will (whether through spiritual inexperience, sitting under inadequate or false teaching, laziness, distraction, etc.) or of an unwillingness to acknowledge an attitude or action as sinful. Too often we try to paint our sins as virtues. “I’m not stingy, but prudent and thrifty!” This hides them to ourselves and to the less spiritually discerning. “Many have unknown sins, as a man may have a mole on his back and himself never know it” (Thomas Adams, quoted by Spurgeon).
  • Some sins are hidden because others do not see them. They are sins “behind closed doors” that others might see if they were present.
  • Some sins are hidden from any physical observation because they are spiritual sins, such as lust or greed. A rules-centered spirituality never touches these, because there is no need to change inwardly and still maintain an outward religious or spiritual testimony. However, consider Matthew 5:27-28; 23:25-28; Ezekiel 14:3-4,7.

Grace and peace, David

The Godly Person Looking at Life (Part Two)

Psalm 36:1-12

Next, David turns his attention to the character of God (36:5-9). When we think of all that God is, well we might say, “Here is a whole world to explore” (Kidner). David directs those who listen or read to three specific areas.

Consider the Lord’s immeasurable love and faithfulness (36:5). These two qualities of God are joined in various places (cf. Psalms 57:3; 61:7; 86:15; 89:14; 115:1; 138:2). How can you think of love apart from faithfulness? There is no need for uncertainty about God’s character. David wants us to fill our souls with the grandeur of God’s love and faithfulness. Go outside on a clear night; gaze upon the wonder of deep space; understand that God’s love and faithfulness reach beyond what you can see and comprehend.

Ponder God’s incalculable righteousness and justice (36:6a). We see these two joined in other places (Psalms 33:5; 89:14; 97:2). Have you ever seen the Rocky Mountains? Great mountains are “firm and unmoved, lofty and sublime” (Spurgeon). Mighty winds disturb them not, and so nothing affects God’s righteousness and justice. “Not even to save his elect would the Lord suffer his righteousness to be set aside. No awe inspired by mountain scenery can equal that which fills the soul when it beholds the Son of God slain as a victim to vindicate the justice of the Inflexible Lawgiver” (Spurgeon).

Survey the Almighty’s active involvement with his creatures (36:6b-9).

  • God preserves life. Since the fall, we pursue destruction, but God keeps life going, constantly providing and restoring the balances of nature.
  • His love is precious. Think of valuable coins and costly jewels. The regalia of a mighty emperor is a shabby rag compared to the love of God. The value of God’s love surpasses all! What can be compared to having the almighty, eternal, all-wise, everywhere present, Sovereign Lord fully committed to love and cherish you?
  • He provides secure shelter. We can hide under the shelter of his wings (cf. Ruth 2:12; Matthew 23:37) during life’s scariest times. Sometimes we all need a hiding place. We need to be kept safe until the storm passes by. Listen my friend; the Lord Jesus invites you to find refuge under his wings. Why will you tremble naked and defenseless before sin, condemnation, and death? Run to Jesus while you may!
  • He gives abundant joy. Since sinners are at war with God, they view him as sour and dour, as full of gloom and doom. But when we see God’s justice forever satisfied in the cross of Christ, we understand his kindness and sternness (Romans 11:22). God is good and joyful; at his right hand are eternal pleasures (Psalm 16:11). When we trust him, we may drink from his river of delights.
  • He is the source of life and light. God is self-existent, having life in himself. He chooses to give life to his creatures. To have life, we must connect with God himself. This happens when you turn from your sin and trust in Christ for salvation. In a world of darkness, God is light in the full biblical meaning of purity, clarity, truth and joy.

Life apart from the living God is very uncertain and troubled. But why continue in that path? You may have joy and peace as you trust in Jesus Christ!

This produces the response of prayer (36:10-12). This prayer flows out from the truth already presented. Three ideas in his prayer:

  • A request for love and justice (36:10). We need both. We were made to experience and to share the love of God. Our lives are empty apart from his love and sharing it with others. As we live forever with the Lord, we will know more and more of how infinite his love is. And we will share this with others loved by the Lord. It won’t just be “God and me”; it will be “God and us”. And we need his righteousness at work to put our world to right. So much is wrong now! This is like the days of Noah; violence fills the earth.
  • A request for protection from the wicked (36:11) – Since we are frail, we need God to protect us from those who would harm us. “Our best defense against violence is still prayer” (Leupold).
  • An affirmation of faith (36:12) – David concludes with a look to the future. He talks about the destiny of the wicked. Many times, it seems as if evil is sure to win. But this verse calls us to look to the end of God’s story. The Sovereign Lord will triumph, and we will share in his final victory!

Keep these two contrasts before your view: the wickedness of the sinner and the incredible goodness of God. The way of life is to turn from sin and trust the life and joy giving Savior. Call on him without delay. We need to share the God of faithful love and righteous justice with others. We will have many opportunities, if we are able to stir ourselves to action. Warmer weather is on the way. We can invite others over for dinner, to go for a walk together, to attend a ball game or an outdoor concert together, or perhaps to go on a day trip together. Go where people are gathering, like some of the new town centers or special evenings in the gardens.

Grace and peace, David

The Godly Person Looking at Life (Part One)

Psalm 36:1-12

God knows that we all need to make sense out of the world we live in. He has designed us to be interpreters of reality, so that we bring honor to him by sharing his joy. Many events are difficult to explain, especially as they upset our personal part of the world. You can observe this daily as people gives their opinions in social media, in the mass media, in small social circles, in one’s family, or person to person. The issue might be as small as someone’s illness or a family’s interpersonal struggles, or as large as a blizzard or an earthquake. We all want to make sense of the world around us.

This psalm is given to help us. It does not explain everything, but zeroes in on God and wicked people in the events. David wrote that he had received an oracle or revelation about people who live in sin and for sin. We should remember that sin is rejection of God, refusal to love God, and rebellion against God and his ways. So, David tells us more about how sin affects people. Then he brings in a dramatic contrast with the goodness of God, because we also need to know about the true God to interpret life. This will lead him to respond to both truths. Let us listen to what the Spirit of the Lord says through him.

David spoke of the character of the wicked. I have a message from God in my heart concerning the sinfulness of the wicked: There is no fear of God before their eyes. In their own eyes they flatter themselves too much to detect or hate their sin. The words of their mouths are wicked and deceitful; they fail to act wisely or do good. Even on their beds they plot evil; they commit themselves to a sinful course and do not reject what is wrong (36:1-4 NIV).

A wicked person is anyone who is not rightly related to God by faith. They live according to their own ideas and reject being personally involved with the living God. They do not fear God (36:1b). There are only two ways to live. Either God is in your thoughts and you deeply respect him, or you have no room for God in your worldview and have no fear of him. These are two opposite ways of looking at life. The wicked person laughs off any ideas of God and responsibility to him. This is the characteristic of all sinners (cf. Romans 3:9-18).

They have wrong perceptions of reality (36:2). Two factors in the inner person of their hearts drive how they look at the world.

  • Conceit – The wicked person practices self-flattery. “How wise I am! I can see things that others can’t. I can handle this!” With a million such thoughts their view of self is warped. Oh yes, some do this in a more refined and sophisticated way, as they listen to counselors, coaches, colleagues or college professors. But each one deeply believes that he or she is the final judge of right and wrong, good and evil.
  • Deceit – This produces self-deception. When your world and life view blames everyone and everything but yourself, and when you’ve set yourself above everything, how can you be helped or corrected? You are right by your own definition—even if your personal world is collapsing.

Wicked people wreck their world (36:3). They do it by distorted communication. As Jesus told us, people communicate out of their hearts (Luke 6:45). So out of their mouths come deceit, blame shifting, bitterness, anger, hate, impatience, profanity, vulgarity, etc. They also do it by refusing to act wisely or to do what is good. Here is fanatical devotion to evil. How can you help someone who knows they are destroying their life or the lives of others and don’t care? Why not? Because they would rather enjoy evil than good.

They are devoted to evil (36:4). They hatch plots on their beds (cf. Micah 2:1). As they review their day as they get ready to sleep, their thoughts relentlessly pursue how tomorrow can bring more personal pleasure, without regard for God or others who might get in their way. They fail to reject what is wrong. They might know something is wrong, but they just can’t stop pursuing it. All sin is addictive. The sinner believes that the next experience will be a better and longer lasting buzz.

No sinner wants to hear this about himself or herself. It isn’t flattering. We all want a mirror that will make us look great, instead of flabby, pale, wrinkled and overweight. The truth hurts, but we need to know it. We need to know the truth about ourselves and others. That is why God gives us this revelation—to help us. Are you listening to God? This weekend, read God’s word and listen to what your Creator says to you!

Grace and peace, David

A Prayer During Affliction (Part Two)

Psalm 25:16-22

The living God is deeply interested in our lives. Though the Lord knows us fully, he invites us to open our lives to him in personal friendship. In these verses, we see that David in faith presented his requests to God

David started with his great spiritual need. He wanted to be sure of God’s favor. He wanted his sins to be taken away. It is too easy in our troubles to forget our sins. But David was spiritually wise, even if he had offended God greatly. (We are unsure when he wrote this psalm.) We have the assurance that God takes our sins away, because Christ is the Lamb of God (John 1:29). We depend on Christ alone and our sins are gone!

Affliction can come on us for a number of reasons, including our union with Christ in his sufferings, the glory of God, the fact that we live in a world cursed because of sin, and getting attacked in spiritual warfare. In addition, we may suffer discipline because of our personal sin (cf. Heb 12:4-13). In this psalm, David displayed an ongoing awareness of his need for forgiveness of his sin (25:7, 11, 18). To cry to God for our sins to be taken away is “the cry of a soul that is more sick of sin than of pain, and would sooner be forgiven than healed” (Spurgeon). Perhaps this is the deeply piercing sliver that is festering in your heart? Do you want prosperity more than spiritual cleansing? God wants your heart, but do you want God’s gifts more than God alone? Are you God-centered or self-centered?

David wanted God to “turn to” him. Picture two lovers in a quarrel. Can you see how while they are upset, they turn their backs to each other? Now David desired to see God’s face again. In reality, the source of any quarrel with God is always in ourselves. When our sins are confessed, there is nothing to prevent full fellowship with God.

David prayed for grace in his affliction. He sought God’s friendship in his loneliness (25:16). Feeling abandoned and lonely in is no new experience in this world. Sometimes, our dearest friends desert us, or merely move away, or we lose them through death. So, we turn to others, expecting them to feel our pain, but they don’t! The disappointment is extreme. The ache in the soul is painful and not easily mended.  This is when we must dare to draw near to God in fresh, new ways.

David needed to be freed from the anguish ensnaring him because of multiplied troubles of heart. There are seasons in life when troubles do not seem to end. One follows another in apparent endless succession. It is like body surfing and being tossed by the waves when the sea is rough. You are smacked by one wave and struggle to catch your breath before the next one pummels you. The current won’t seem to let you go, and you start to despair of escape! Then you need the Almighty God to lift you up!

He asked to be rescued from his many enemies (25:19-20). We live in an evil world where some people are bent on destroying others. The godly do not have to do anything against the ungodly; the mere existence of Christ’s followers is excuse enough for all sorts of hatred and malice. Persecution of Christians grows daily in our world. We should not be shocked, but we should pray seriously for God to deliver his people.

David prayed for God’s people (25:22). He remembered that he was not the only one in a difficult situation. Many of God’s people are in equal or greater distress than you and I may be currently in. This does not make our affliction less! That is not the point! We are not talking about some kind of trite “misery loves company”. No, we are talking about unselfishly remembering our union with others in Christ. “Sorrow had taught the psalmist sympathy, and given him communion with the tried people of God; he therefore remembers them in his prayers” (Spurgeon). “We are never to become so immersed in our own problems as to forget the needs of all God’s saints.” [Leupold] Why should you pray for other believers? They are God’s friends, and shouldn’t you be concerned about the friends of your best friend?

Knowing Christ brings us into a spiritual family, in which we no longer live for ourselves, but for God and one another. Show the Father’s compassion and reach out to one another today! Pray for one another daily.

Grace and peace, David

A Prayer During Affliction (Part One)

Psalm 25:16-22

We live in a world of troubles. As painful as it might be, think with me on this theme for a few moments. People suffer from fire, flood, storms and tropical storms, drought, landslides, earthquakes, and occasionally volcanic eruptions. Some people live in anguish because of disease or serious disabilities. Others find their lives in turmoil because of wars, terrorism, civil unrest like riots and looting, economic recessions, oppression by tyrants, or religious persecution. And still others suffer spiritually and emotionally through guilt, depression, betrayal, loneliness, anger, abuse, fear and disappointments. No one is exempt from affliction—no one.

The Bible talks much about afflicted people. “If you were to take out of the Scriptures all the stories that have to do with poor, afflicted men and women, what a very small book the Bible would become, especially if together with the stories you removed all the psalms of the sorrowful, all the promises for the distressed, and all the passages which belong to the children of grief! This Book, indeed, for the most part is made up of the annals of the poor and despised” (Spurgeon, Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit, Vol. 32, p. 301). Think about how much of the Bible talks about a young man sold as a slave who suffers in prison in Egypt. And what of that baby boy, left to die in the river, and yet whose life is spared, only to lose forty years of his life in the wilderness, and then who spends most of his next forty listening to the bitter complaints of an ungrateful people. We read many chapters of a man who loses all his children and property, and then suffers from a dreadful disease, only to have his best friends accuse him unmercifully of being wicked. The Bible tells us of two widows, suffering in poverty and uncertain of their future. And have you read of a despised boy, left out in the fields to tend sheep? He becomes a hero, but then runs for his life for years, while having to care for other oppressed people. And we haven’t even begun to talk about a prophet whose only food came from ravens and a destitute widow, about women who longed for children, but who for long years were childless, or about a homeless teacher, who was mocked and eventually killed by those who hated him. And these are those favored by the God of heaven! Yes, it seems to me the Bible is a book for afflicted people and his plan for them. And listen to these words. But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. He chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before him (1 Corinthians 1:27-29 NIV).

Yes, God cares about the afflicted, and he invites us to draw very near to him in our suffering. He is so desirous of our approach that in his word, he even gives us the words to say to him in our anguish of heart. Let us, therefore, listen to this prayer with an understanding of God’s great compassion for us.

In this song, we hear an intensely personal approach to God. The psalmist David had meditated upon his friendship with God; now he acted upon it. We must know how to interact with God as his friend. David referred to himself some seventeen times in these verses! Notice the first-person pronouns I, me and my. After exalting God in worship, he boldly spoke as a friend in need. He or she who worships well can fellowship well. David expected God to be personally interested in his troubles. He was not of the opinion that we must only pray for God’s concerns or the needs of others. But having put God first, David was not ashamed to present his neediness to God. He knew that in this unequal friendship, he could depend upon God’s real awareness of and deep compassion for him. If this doesn’t convince you, meditate on Christ’s revelation of God’s compassion (cf. Matthew 9:36).

David used two pleas to persuade God to act for his benefit. He pleaded his trust in God (25:20-21). Notice the phrase “in you” (cf. 25:2-3, 5). Faith is a God-focused activity. It is consciously relying on the all-powerful God to be directly and personally involved in one’s life. It is looking out of oneself to God. He pleaded his miserable condition (25:16-18). Notice the words he piles up in this appeal: “lonely… afflicted… troubles… anguish… affliction… distress.”  But notice what David understood. He knew that he did not need to instruct God about what to do for him. He only wanted God to “look upon my affliction” and he was confident of help. Why is this enough? He knew the character of the God that he relied on (cf. Exodus 3:5-8).

Grace and peace, David

Psalm Nineteen (Part Six)

They are more precious than gold, than much pure gold; they are sweeter than honey, than honey from the honeycomb. By them your servant is warned; in keeping them there is great reward (Psalm 19:10-11 NIV)

In verses ten and eleven David declares the value of the Scriptures and the great help he had obtained from them. Here we learn the tastes and felt needs of a godly person. They show that God the Spirit had used his word effectively in David’s heart, and help us understand why God called David “a man after my own heart” (Acts 13:22 NIV).

Leaving his pattern of the previous three verses, David closes his praise of the Holy Writings by telling of their “absolute desirability and sweetness” (Leupold). The Bible is truth that both enriches the soul and satisfies the heart. Notice how David uses two phrases to set forth the exceeding greatness of the Word. It is more precious than gold, but he cannot stop there, so he adds, “than much pure gold.” Let’s take a look inside the ‘Fort Knox’ of God’s revelation. What do you see? You see what surpasses piles of pure gold. The Lord invites you to lay claim to all of this treasure that you desire. But what good is money if you have nothing to eat? Well David says, “Look again here is something sweeter than honey,” and then he dangles the jar before your tongue and says, “than honey from the comb.”

“As spiritual treasure is more noble than mere material wealth, so should it be desired and sought after with greater eagerness. Men speak of solid gold, but what is so solid as solid truth? For love of gold pleasure is forsworn, ease renounced, and life endangered; shall we not be ready to do as much for love of truth? … Trapp says, ‘Old people are all for profit, the young for pleasure; here’s gold for the one, yea, the finest gold in great quantity; here’s honey for the other, yea, live honey dropping from the comb’” (Spurgeon). “Well then may we count those the sweetest hours which are spent in reading the holy Scriptures; well may we say with the prophet, Jer 15:16, ‘Thy words were found, and I did eat them; and they were the joy and rejoicing of my heart’” (Watson, A Body of Divinity, pp. 36-37).

The Scriptures are a means of God’s grace. “Gold is of the earth, earthly; but grace is the image of the heavenly. Gold is only for the body and the concerns of time; but grace is for the soul and the concerns of eternity” (Henry). So then, if we are wise, we do well to make substantial investments of our resources in what will be for our eternal good. The earthly market is destined to collapse. How much better to invest in the heavenly market that promises a certain, eternal return on all that you invest in it.

This section closes with a response to the Lord about the benefit that David had received from the Scriptures. The Hebrew text conveys the idea that David reviewed how the law of the Lord had affected him; that is, not only is this happening now, but in the past it has happened. David could speak from his own experience. The Word warns of the spiritual dangers we all face. The wise person takes it for his daily mentor and lifelong guide. The Lord does not leave people to wander without warning near the brink of woe. He has spoken; in fact, the Word shouts warnings to us! But the Scriptures not only warn; they also promise comfort. The idea, as has often been stated, is not that we should keep the Scriptures in order to gain reward in a legalistic manner. Many miscarry in this manner! Instead, the idea is that we find in keeping God’s word (not merely in memorizing it or knowing its content) that we do gain great reward. How much joy, peace and hope the Bible sets before us! And every believer knows in experience the reality of this reward, and we look forward to more! “If there be so much to be had in the wilderness, what then shall be had in paradise!” (Brooks)

Grace and peace, David

Thinking about God and His Friendship with His People (Part Five)

Psalm 25:8-15

Our focus in this series concerns God as the friend of his people. The Lord is good and upright, he forgives great sin, and he confides in his people. We are now considering how to respond to God’s friendship. What does God expect of us in friendship? This text mentions four ways to express friendship with God (humility, obedience, godly mindedness and fear of the Lord). Last time we learned that we express friendship with God by being humble before him (25:9).

Let us think, next, about a matter that troubles many: friendship and fear of the Lord (25:12, 14).

Their concern can be traced to a misunderstanding of 1 John 4:18. There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love (ESV). What they overlook is that John is talking about having fear on the Day of Judgment. That fear is cast out by the love of God set forth in Christ’s propitiatory sacrifice (1 John 4:8-17). However, it is still very clear that we are to fear God (Luke 12:4-5; 2 Corinthians 7:1; Hebrews 12:28-29; 1 Peter 2:17). That a correct fear of God is consistent with friendship with God is clearly seen in our text (25:14).

What does it mean to fear God as part of friendship with him? Consider the relationship between knowing God and fearing him. The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is insight (Proverbs 9:10 ESV). In this connection, we can say that the fear of the Lord is the inner responsiveness to learn of the Lord in his majestic greatness. So then, if we are learning God, as he has revealed himself in nature and in the Scriptures (cf. Psalm 19), what are we learning? People who learn the Lord carry with them a deep awareness or awe or reverence for God’s infinity, transcendence, immanence, power, wisdom, holiness, grace and love. Let’s think of some truths that God reveals about himself. Read and meditate on the texts below and pray for the Spirit of God to cause you to react in awe of your covenant Lord. God (is):

  • the First and the Last. I am the Living One (Revelation 1:17-18)
  • the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God (1 Timothy 1:17)
  • Holy, holy, holy… the whole earth is full of his glory (Isaiah 6:3)
  • the Rock, his works are perfect, and all his ways are just. A faithful God who does no wrong, upright and just is he (Deuteronomy 32:4)
  • from everlasting to everlasting (Psalm 90:2)
  • (does) not change (Malachi 3:6)
  • wonderful in counsel and magnificent in wisdom (Isaiah 28:29)
  • the Judge of all the earth (Genesis 18:25)
  • His wisdom is profound, his power is vast. Who has resisted him and come out unscathed? (Job 9:4)
  • is in heaven; he does whatever pleases him (Psalm 115:3)
  • Who is like the LORD our God, the One who sits enthroned on high, who stoops down to look on the heavens and the earth? (Psalm 113:5-6)
  • is God in heaven above and on the earth below. There is no other (Deuteronomy 4:39)
  • is not far from each one of us (Acts 17:27)
  • works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will (Ephesians 1:11)
  • eyes are too pure to look on evil… cannot tolerate wrong (Habakkuk 1:13)
  • does not change like shifting shadows (James 1:17)
  • does as he pleases with the powers of heaven and the peoples of the earth. No one can hold back his hand or say to him: “What have you done?” (Daniel 4:35)
  • everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him (Hebrews 4:13)
  • from him and through him and to him are all things (Romans 11:36)

As we learn the Lord and communicate with him by faith, we will experience a deeper, richer, more vibrant friendship with him.

As we experientially learn who the Lord is, various characteristics will develop in us, though perhaps at unequal rates from believer to believer.

  • We cherish an awesome sense of God’s infinite greatness and excellence. Consider a scene from heaven (Revelation 15:1-4). We can see this in our time, for example, in many of the newer worship songs. An unexpected event has occurred through these songs. Where there has really been the desire to worship God, they have become the doorway for many to a more Biblically correct and mature theology. As people have studied God’s revelation of himself, they have come to regard God as far greater than they ever have previously to that study. We could say that such people become “treasure hunters”. Once they get a glimpse of God’s surpassing value and brilliance, they start out on a quest for more of it. They avoid what hinders them finding the treasure. Are you a “treasure hunter” of God’s glory in Christ?
  • We come to a conviction that God’s favor is the greatest of all blessings and his disapproval is the great of all evils. In other words, we take God seriously, living consciously in his presence.
  • This leads us to seek practically God’s favor as our chief good, and to avoid his disapproval. This remakes the way we live in this present age (2 Corinthians 5:9-11). For example, a missional attitude flows from the fear of the Lord.

How is your growth in perceiving the greatness of the Lord? Are convictions in your inner person about God remaking your ideas, values, and attitudes? What new godly choices have you made? We all must think practically. Let’s avoid the trap of merely listening to the word, while not doing it.

Grace and peace, David

Psalm Nineteen (Part Five)

The law of the Lord is perfect, refreshing the soul. The statutes of the Lord are trustworthy, making wise the simple. The precepts of the Lord are right, giving joy to the heart. The commands of the Lord are radiant, giving light to the eyes. The fear of the Lord is pure, enduring forever. The decrees of the Lord are firm, and all of them are righteous. They are more precious than gold, than much pure gold; they are sweeter than honey, than honey from the honeycomb. By them your servant is warned; in keeping them there is great reward (Psalm 19:7-11 NIV).

In this section, David lifts up the Scriptures, God’s special, written revelation, to those who listen to his song. Remember that the Psalms were written to be sung. God loves art. He designed us to delight in music and to make music. David uses six predicate adjectives that tell us what the Scriptures are. Four of these are somewhat synonymous, which serves to emphasize the quality of God’s message. It is perfect, right, radiant and pure. The Bible covers all aspects of life about living in the presence of the living God, of knowing him and pleasing him, and of relating rightly to other people. There are no imperfections in the Bible, since it is the message of the perfect, righteous Lord. This is one of the foundations of the doctrine of the inerrancy of the Scriptures. God does not lie, and he is all-wise, making mistakes in his revelation impossible. Most of the supposed errors in the Bible are really failures by people to understand the text or stem from people’s disagreement with God about his ways. The rest are basically a lack of information about matters that we suppose the Lord should have told us more about! Many of these have “disappeared” over time as additional archaeological and historical investigation have constantly demonstrated the perfection of the Scriptures.

The other two predicate adjectives (trustworthy and sure) proclaim the reliability of God’s word. In a world of constant change and corruption, we have a dependable foundation for our faith and hope. All of these adjectives “move in a different world from the compromise, insincerity and half-truths of human intercourse” (Kidner).

Next, we observe that David uses six verbal phrases to set forth four ways the Scriptures affect people, and then he praises the word of God in two ways.

  • The Bible “revives” or “turns” the soul (the whole self or person). “Making the man to be returned or restored to the place from which sin had cast him” (Spurgeon).
  • God’s word “makes wise” those who need to be taught the right way to live and the correct attitudes to have (cf. 2 Timothy 3:15; Psalm 119:130). “The beginning of conversion, and so all along, the increase of all grace to the end, is expressed by wisdom entering into a man’s heart” (Goodwin).
  • The Scriptures “give joy” to the heart (the totality of our inner nature). God has a means for making us glad—the teaching of his word. As we reach his understanding of life and bow before him and his purposes, our emotional outlook is transformed. Notice the progression. When we are turned back to God and made wise, joy returns to the person. Joy is a by-product of God’s free grace. The tragedy of the human race is in seeking for joy in empty boxes.
  • God’s message also “gives light” to the eyes. Light in the Scriptures usually means either holiness or accurate knowledge. The eyes are “used to express knowledge, character, attitude, inclination, opinion, passion and response…a good barometer of the inner thoughts of a man” (TWOT). If we listen to God’s voice in his written word, our approach to living will be changed in an observable manner. If we look at the sun, our eyes will go blind, but if we gaze steadily at the light of God’s word, our spiritual sight grows stronger and clearer.
  • The Bible “endures forever.” When all else fails and passes away, a firm foundation remains (Matthew 24:35). The opinions of the wisest men of one generation are discarded as useless trash by the next. Each generation is in love with its own wisdom, only to be called fools by those who follow. How different is the Bible! Throughout the generations its accurate portrayal of life remains constant.
  • The last phrase, which is very difficult to put into English as a verb form, also is a praise of God’s word. Perhaps we can say it is “being righteous altogether.” In all its parts, each and everyone, it shines with being right; that is, it has the same character as God.

Please read the above verses from Psalm Nineteen over and over. Let their music permeate your heart. Think about them, rejoice in them, and choose the ways of God by them.

Grace and peace, David

Thinking about God and His Friendship with His People (Part Four)

Psalm 25:8-15

Previously in this series, we have thought about God as the friend of his people. The Lord is good and upright, he forgives great sin, and he confides in his people. Next, we want to consider how to respond to God’s friendship. We must remember that this is an unequal friendship. The awesome Creator and Controller of all wants to be our friend, yet he is God. Therefore, we must always realize that he is God, and not try to pull him down to our level.

This text mentions four ways to express friendship with God (humility, obedience, godly mindedness and fear of the Lord). In this article, we learn that we express friendship with God by being humble before him (25:9).

Humility is hard for postmodern people to come to terms with. Certainly, people claim to be turned off by arrogant, pushy people. Yet, since people like to think they can interpret the world in agreement with their own ideas and preferences, arrogance is fueled by their core values. This results in humility being interpreted as weakness. From a Christian world and life view, humility is valued and essential. How do we attain humility before God? Two ideas:

  • By having a correct view of God (Hebrews 11:6; 1 Timothy 1:17) – We cannot be a friend of the living God, unless we know him as he has revealed himself to us in the Bible. Until we are convinced of his majestic holiness, we will struggle with his right to do as he pleases (cf. Romans 9:20-21), and this will hinder our friendship with God. “You are God; you are God!”
  • By believing that righteousness before God is only through the gospel (Philippians 3:4-9). Too many try to develop a relationship with God based on their religious efforts; that is, by keeping the rituals and rules of religion or spirituality. Paul knew religion quite well, and he rejected all he could do in favor of relying on Christ and his righteousness to be right with God.

Is your friendship with God based on the grace of God in Christ? Only those who rely on Christ alone for salvation are accepted by God (cf. Ephesians 1:5-6).

How is humility expressed? Humility is expressed by an active faith in God (1 Peter 5:6-7). Faith acknowledges God’s almighty power and is willing to wait for God to lift the believer up in his time. Until that time comes, he or she casts every anxiety on God. We see examples of this in the life of Abraham. Consider how Abraham humbly obeyed God by faith.

  • The Lord said to Abraham, “Leave your country, your people and your father’s household and go to the land I will show you.” What did Abraham do? “So Abram left, as the Lord had told him” (Genesis 12:1, 4).
  • Abraham was distressed greatly, because Sarah wanted him to get Hagar and her son Ishmael out of their household. God tells him, “Listen to whatever Sarah tells you…” What did Abraham do? Early the next morning he sent Hagar and her son away (Genesis 21:11-14).
  • The Lord said to Abraham, “Sacrifice Isaac there as a burnt offering.” What did Abraham do? Early the next morning, he took Isaac to the appointed place (Genesis 22:1-19).

In our lives, there are four special occasions that require us to especially humble ourselves before the Lord.

  • In times of visible confusion in the world (cf. Psalm 46:2-3, 6). How does the person of faith humbly respond? “The Lord Almighty is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress” (Psalm 46:7).
  • In times of amazing, divergent variety in the conditions of believers. Think about this. “Some under persecution always, — some always at peace; some in dungeons and prisons, — some at liberty in their own houses; the saints of one nation under great oppression for many ages, — of another, in quietness; in the same places some poor, in great distress, put hard to it for daily bread all their lives, — others abounding in all things; some full of various afflictions, going softly and mourning all their days, — others spared, and scarce touched with the rod at all; — and yet, commonly, the advantage of holiness and close walking with God lying on the distressed side” (Owen, Works, Vol. 9, p. 114). Why does God deal so differently with his people whom he loves? “Who can, now, with an eye of reason, look upon them, and say they are all the children of one Father, and that he loves them all alike? Should you come into a great house, and see some children in scarlet, having all things needful, others hewing wood and drawing water, — you would conclude that they are not all children, but some children, some slaves: but when it shall be told you that they are all one man’s children; and that the hewers of wood, that live on the bread and water of affliction, and go in tattered rags, are as dear to him as the other; and that he intends to leave them as good an inheritance as any of the rest; — if you intend not to question the wisdom and goodness of the father of the family, you must resolve to submit to his authority with a quiet subjection of mind. So is it in the great family of God; nothing will quiet our souls, but humbling ourselves to the law of his providence” (Ibid, p. 115).
  • In times when their circumstances change suddenly. At sunrise, life seems wonderful, but before twilight comes, one’s life seems ruined beyond recovery. Yet how does humble faith respond? Job said, “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I will depart. The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away; may the name of the Lord be praised” (Job 1:21).
  • In times of deep, continual, apparently hopeless suffering. But how does humble faith respond? It says as Joseph said to his brothers, “You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives” (Genesis 50:20).

In all things, the humble friend of God rests on the revealed truth that God is righteous, in control, and wise. “When darkness veils his lovely face, I rest on his unchanging grace… When all around my soul gives way, he then is all my hope and stay.” Bow in humble dependence before your God this day.

Grace and peace, David

Psalm Nineteen (Part Four)

The law of the Lord is perfect, refreshing the soul. The statutes of the Lord are trustworthy, making wise the simple. The precepts of the Lord are right, giving joy to the heart. The commands of the Lord are radiant, giving light to the eyes. The fear of the Lord is pure, enduring forever. The decrees of the Lord are firm, and all of them are righteous. They are more precious than gold, than much pure gold; they are sweeter than honey, than honey from the honeycomb. By them your servant is warned; in keeping them there is great reward (Psalm 19:7-11 NIV).

The creation bears witness to the glory of the I AM, but if we are to know the Sovereign Lord of whom creation testifies, if we are to know how we may be right with him and do his will, we need more. For this reason, David turns from general revelation to special revelation. He takes us to the Holy Scriptures, which he calls by a number of names: law, statutes, precepts, commands, fear, and ordinances. All of which combine to say that God the Creator is also God the Communicator. He has spoken to mankind through his written word.

In the first two stanzas about creation, the I AM was called “God,” Elohim, once. In the third stanza about the Scriptures, he is called “LORD,” YHWH, six times. For now he speaks as covenant Lord—the One who approaches mankind “person to person,” who graciously calls rebellious people to himself.

Verses 7-9 follow a pattern. First, there is a descriptive name for the Scriptures; second, the possessive phrase “of the LORD is used;” third, there is an appropriate predicate adjective; and fourth, David speaks of a beneficial effect or other praise of the Scriptures.

Let us start by considering the descriptive names for the Holy Scriptures that David uses.

  • law” — This word is about used 221 times in the Old Testament Scriptures. Its basic meaning is teaching. When we hear the word “law,” our minds move in the legal-political sphere, but this word means law in the sense of authoritative instruction from God. “In addition, the book of Deut itself shows that the law has a broad meaning to encompass history, regulations and their interpretation, and exhortations.” [Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament, TWOT] Due to various theological presuppositions, various writers become confused when they read this verse, thinking of either “the moral law,” or “the ten commandments,” etc. Neither does it mean the law covenant given at Sinai. Here “law” refers to the Scriptures, the inspired, written revelation of God.
  • statutes” — This word is perhaps better translated as “testimony.” It is used many times in this sense; for example, in referring to the Ark of the Covenant, the Tabernacle, or the Tablets of Stone. Exodus 24:12; 31:18; 32:15; 34:29. “This word is always used in reference to the testimony of God.” [TWOT] It is as God, rather than claiming “executive privilege,” allows himself to be examined on the witness stand. But in this case, it is God himself taking the initiative to make known testimony about himself, his will, and his redemptive activity. God testifies about himself, and about what man should do or has failed to do. For example, read 1 Corinthians 10:1-13.
  • precepts” — This “is a general term for the responsibilities that God places on his people.” [TWOT] God orders us to do various things and forbids us to do others. It is his voice of authority to us about how to use our lives.
  • commands” — This has the idea of “the instruction of a teacher to his pupil” [TWOT], Proverbs 2:1; 3:1. It is used of the Ten Words. Exodus 24:12.
  • fear” — This is an unusual way of referring to God’s word. David uses a word to describe the Holy Writings that speaks of the effect they are intended to create in the hearts of those who listen to them. This is the “awe or reverence for God that is the basis for real wisdom.” [TWOT] Job 28:28; Proverbs 9:10; 15:33. The Scriptures may not be treated as abstract principles, but as God’s message that is intended to transform our thinking, feeling and decision-making.
  • ordinances” — “Represents what is doubtless the most important idea for correct understanding of government—whether of man or by man or of the whole creation of God … an ordinance of law.” [TWOT] These are the judicial decisions or verdicts God has given for human situations. Final authority! See Deuteronomy 33:10, 21; it is used 16 times in Psalm 119.

“Together, these terms show the practical purpose of revelation, to bring God’s will to bear on the hearer and evoke intelligent reverence, well-founded trust, detailed obedience.” [Kidner] Read through these verses a few times to receive the cumulative impact of their description of God’s special revelation. Consider what each one means for your world and life view and way of life. How will they transform your view of God’s word?

Grace and peace, David