Psalm 63 (Part Seven)

I will praise you as long as I live, and in your name I will lift up my hands. I will be fully satisfied as with the richest of foods; with singing lips my mouth will praise you (63:4-5 NIV).

Having presented the reason for his experience of praise in an unlikely place, David next described how that praise is expressed. Four ideas come to our attention.

  • God is the object of his praise. His relationship with the living God that included an experience of the Lord’s glory would certainly cause David to praise his God and none other. True praise is not merely participation in religious ritual. Anyone can do that, even the most wicked of humans. Praise to the Lord is the overflow of one’s heart in love, joy and gratitude.
  • David’s praise was expressed verbally in the form of music. He used the talents and skill that God had given him to paint musically a picture of God’s wonderfulness. While those blessed with musical gifts should use them for the glory of God, those lacking them should not neglect this important part of worship. God is the maker of art and beauty, and so we should use artistic means to make known his splendor. To fail to sing praises robs God of the glory that we ought to bring him. Sing to the best of the ability that he has given to you. Our Father knows that some of us were not blessed with musical talent. He still desires to hear our voices.
  • The praise of the Lord should be a constant, lifelong activity. How can we do otherwise when we are in a personal relationship with God, have experienced his glory, and know that his unfailing love is better than life?
  • We should notice the involvement of the physical body in worship. Here David wrote about the lifting up of his hands. There are times to worship and bow down. (Please don’t try to avoid lifting your hands by piously saying you worship quietly. I rarely see anyone on their knees, much less falling prostrate before the true and awesome God.) In the Bible we see people shouting, dancing, clapping, and clanging cymbals! There are times for exuberant praise. When was the last time anyone could say that clearly you joyfully and enthusiastically praised the Lord in public worship?

The third vital experience of the believer is the experience of satisfaction in the Lord. This is something that has been neglected by the typical believer in evangelical circles. Consider the popular Christian books. We have a host of books on “Christian fiction”, prophetic matters, and how to solve your personal problems and prosper. We have a growing number of special interest study Bibles. Dare I mention books about the Christian and politics? I think it is fair to say that most of these books say little about the living God and finding satisfaction in him. To feel good about the form of worship and liking the songs sung to us by “worship leaders” is very far from the experience of delighting in the Lord. We can become so concerned about how we feel about the music, the message, and the other stuff of a typical service that we do not think about worshiping God together as his people. While we will benefit from praise and worship when we do both in faith and love, our benefits are not the goal. We worship and praise in an overflow of our hearts to God. We responsively declare with the outer persons of our bodies and the inner persons of our hearts the greatness and surpassing worthiness of God. More on how this relates to our satisfaction in God next time!

Grace and peace, David

The Song of Mary

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Luke 1:46-56

God speaks; we listen and respond. But how do we listen and respond? Mary heard God’s message through the angel Gabriel and received affirmation of its truthfulness through her relative Elizabeth. Our text is her considered response to both. As is often noted, Mary’s words can be compared to those of Hannah, which she spoke about her son Samuel when she presented him for the Lord’s service (1 Samuel 2:1-10). Perhaps another time, we might compare the two. What we want to see is that Mary had thought about God’s word and through her words worshiped the Lord. This is a model for us: listen to the word of the Lord and then worship appropriately. How did Mary worship?

She exalted the Lord from her inner person (1:46-47). Her focus was on God. Though her heart was filled and thrilled with many wonderful thoughts, she sought to lift up her Lord first of all. Her words were the overflow of a heart (Matthew 12:34) devoted to the Lord. She took pleasure in glorifying God. She was glad in her Savior or Rescuer, as she saw God’s purpose of the salvation of her and her people begin to happen. Mary rejoiced!

She spoke about the reasons for her joy (1:48-49). She traced both back to God. The first is that God cared about her. Recognizing that God cares about us (1 Peter 5:7) is part of our ongoing personal relationship with God. God, who is high and exalted, truly cares for the lowly. He stoops to lift us up to the enjoyment of his glory. The second is that the Lord God acted in her life. He said not merely words of care, but he acted because he cared. By making Mary the mother of the Anointed One, the Mighty One did something far beyond her ability. A virgin could never conceive a child on her own. This led Mary to declare the special greatness of who and what God is: His name is holy, set apart above all others.

The mention of God’s acts for her caused Mary to praise God for his goodness to all his people (1:50-55). A torrent of observations of God’s might acts rushed forth from her soul:

  • God is merciful to those who fear or reverence him (1:50). This is the usual way of God through all generations of mankind. In her own family line, God was merciful to women like Sarah, Tamar, Naomi, Ruth, and Bathsheba, to mention only a few. A thousand years after David, Mary personally knew God’s mercy to her.
  • God acts by his mighty power (1:51). She knew that the Lord’s arm was never shortened (Isaiah 59:1). The Sovereign Lord is able to help his people; he is also able to scatter those who in their pride oppose him and his people.
  • The Lord reverses human expectations (1:52-53). Rulers are taken down, the humble are raised. Those poor and hungry eat and are filled, while those rich in this world starve. Power and wealth are supposed to solve everything on earth, but Mary sees the superiority of the Lord over earthly delusions. Consider how many powerful men have fallen in the last two months of this year.
  • The Lord is faithful to his covenant people. (1:54-55). Mary’s faith is strong. As she feels new life inside her, she is confident that the Lord who was sending his Son through her would fulfill the plans of God through him. The Seed of Abraham would come to fruition, and he would accomplish God’s covenant promises.

Do we think and meditate on God’s word when we hear it? As we do, our hearts ought to worship, because we also are the recipients of God’s covenant promises in Christ, and in him, they are always “Yes”. We ought to say a strong “Amen” in response (2 Corinthians 1:20). Can anyone reading say “Amen”?

Grace and peace, David

A Lesson in Praise (Part Two)

Psalm 145:1-3

I will exalt you, my God the King; I will praise your name for ever and ever. Every day I will praise you and extol your name for ever and ever. Great is the Lord and most worthy of praise; his greatness no one can fathom (NIV).

Proper worship requires a correct perspective (145:3). To use painting as an illustration again, can you paint a portrait or a landscape without some knowledge of what you’re trying to paint? Can you paint in the dark? How well can you paint with while wearing smudged glasses?

For this reason, we must know the reason for praise.

  • We have a perpetual reason for praise in the character of God. Consider this, does a weak, immature view of God cause weak, immature praise? If you love and know the living God, you ought to have much to say about him! Here is the foundation of David’s ongoing, daily commitment to praise. He was a human like we are. He had both good days and bad. He had joys and sorrows. But the source of his praise did not come from the varying circumstances of his life. They came from the being and character of the Lord.
  • Another reason is the awesome greatness of our God. We cannot fully search out the majestic greatness of God. God is too much to explore, since he is infinite. This does not mean that we do not explore. America is filled with scenic wonders. What a beautiful land we have! I do not expect to see this whole country. It’s too big. That does not stop me from viewing its beauty where I can look. Even so, as we explore the glory of God’s greatness, we will see new wonders.

Our praise is to correspond to its object. Give great praise to our great God. Ponder the scene in Revelation 5:9-14. And they sang a new song, saying, “Worthy are you to take the scroll and to open its seals, for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation, and you have made them a kingdom and priests to our God, and they shall reign on the earth.” Then I looked, and I heard around the throne and the living creatures and the elders the voice of many angels, numbering myriads of myriads and thousands of thousands, saying with a loud voice, “Worthy is the Lamb who was slain,
to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing!” And I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and in the sea, and all that is in them, saying, “To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb
be blessing and honor and glory and might forever and ever!” And the four living creatures said, “Amen!” and the elders fell down and worshiped
(ESV).

The God we praise is infinitely greater than the praise we are able to offer. We should search out God’s greatness, but after doing our best, we must confess it to be unsearchable.

George Whitefield, an evangelist during the First Great Awakening, used to say, “Anoint my stammering tongue to tell thy love immense, unsearchable.” We ought to have his desire to praise. A true believer does not need a “holy day” for an occasion to praise the Lord. While we should give thanks on Thanksgiving Day, every day is a day of thanksgiving, every day a day of praise. Observe also the repetition of David’s determination to praise God. Do we share his viewpoint?

Grace and peace, David

A Lesson in Praise (Part One)

Psalm 145:1-3

I will exalt you, my God the King; I will praise your name for ever and ever. Every day I will praise you and extol your name for ever and ever. Great is the Lord and most worthy of praise; his greatness no one can fathom (NIV).

Have you ever thought about everything our ancestors had to do to survive? A trip to Old Sturbridge Village or Plimouth Plantation can remind us of how much of their lives was dedicated to survival. Think of all that they had to make by hand. Except in museums and among survivalists, their skills are basically a lost art. Except on Thanksgiving Day, their praise and worship of God has been lost also.

As long as our higher technology endures, it doesn’t matter if we are ignorant of their basic survival skills in physical matters. It is nice to know about the past, but we don’t need to live in it. Yet we must realize that there is another area of life, the spiritual, in which our technological achievements provide us no help. We can operate things we have made: automobiles, automatic dishwashers and vacuums, online banking, entertainment devices, microwave ovens, and computers. The Pilgrims would be at a complete loss about what to do with them. But we do not know how to relate to the God who created us. We need a lesson in praise.

In the Bible the Holy Spirit has told us how we can know God and relate to him. He used men like David, the man after God’s own heart, to write about the way to praise God. In this psalm, David praises God for his glory and fame (1-7), his goodness (8-10), his kingdom (11-13), his providence (14-16), and his saving mercy (17-21). Let us listen attentively to what has been written about praising God for his glory and fame.

Proper worship requires full personal involvement (145:1-2). It begins with entering into a personal relationship with the living God. It is the wonder of being known by God and knowing God. We hear his voice in the Scriptures, and respond to him through faith by the Holy Spirit.

The foundation of this relationship is our union with Christ, in whom we are right with God by grace through faith. David understood it and gloried in it. However, to the one who does not work but trusts God who justifies the ungodly, their faith is credited as righteousness. David says the same thing when he speaks of the blessedness of the one to whom God credits righteousness apart from works: “Blessed are those whose transgressions are forgiven, whose sins are covered. Blessed is the one whose sin the Lord will never count against them” (Romans 4:5-8 NIV). Since his sins were forgiven, he could call the Lord my God the King. The fountain of praise bubbles with the joy of justification. David understood his place in this relationship. Though he was king of Israel, he knew that he had a King, the Lord God Almighty. The forgiven soul likes to kneel before the Throne of Grace and worship the King of grace.

Since he had a relationship with the living God, David acted as such a one should. We know that a husband and wife should treat each other with love and respect. They pledge these things to each other in the marriage covenant. In the context of this psalm, how does David teach us to treat God? He committed himself to praise forever. A new master plan is in place for the rest of his existence. He also committed himself to praise daily. A new, happy routine or habit was added to his life. The first commitment is the big picture. The second is each stroke of the paintbrush. An artist doesn’t usually paint the whole picture at one time. He or she consistently works toward the larger goal. So it is with our life with God. We walk with him daily, always grateful, while growing in gratitude.

Evaluate your own commitment to praise. Is there one? How well are you doing? To use the illustration, how consistently have you worked on the painting? Do your brushes need cleaned? Do you need to add some new colors?

Grace and peace, David

Psalm Nineteen (Part Three)

In the heavens God has pitched a tent for the sun. It is like a bridegroom coming out of his chamber, like a champion rejoicing to run his course. It rises at one end of the heavens and makes its circuit to the other; nothing is deprived of its warmth (Psalm 19:4c-6 NIV).

In this stanza, David teaches from a more particular example about the heavens. He says, “Consider how the sun is God’s servant to proclaim his glory!” With the poetic language of appearance (how things look to us in a figurative sense—this is not a science lesson), he compares the heavens to a tent that God has pitched for the sun. What a picture! The vast heavens are like a little tent for the little sun (which is really very large) to use. If you want to see a dynamic presentation of this, on YouTube watch “How Great Is Our God?” by Louie Giglio (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=azFFc20_Ub4&t=601s).  If this is so, then how great must be the God who pitched the tent for the sun!

The sun is compared to two people: a bridegroom and a champion runner. Everyday day the sun appears with the virile strength of a newly-married man. He is strong and happy. How much more so the Lord of creation! I used to run cross-country in high school. Yes, I find that surprising also. The most I would run a day was five miles and rather slowly. But I liked to watch truly skilled runners seemingly glide through the course. A high school race is far short of a twenty-six-mile marathon. The sun is also like a marathon runner. Look how effortlessly he runs his racecourse everyday. He enjoys the run, though his circuit is from one end of the heavens to the other. How much more vigorous and joyful is the Creator! And think, this bridegroom/runner has been doing this for thousands and thousands of years without rest for one moment. What then is God who made the sun?

David concludes this description of the sun with a telling phrase: “nothing is hidden from its heat.” Yes, all people everywhere understand the might of the sun. Ninety-three million miles away, and it still sufficiently warms our planet to sustain life! If this is so, then how much more powerful is the One who is Lord of all, who could make such a powerful servant? The calm consideration of this ought to drive all people everywhere to their knees before their Creator.

The sun may be like these things to us, but it is in fact just a very small part of the infinite God’s handiwork. What is so incredibly large to us is extremely small to him. It is his servant to proclaim the extent (“one end of the heavens … to the other”) and penetration (“nothing is hidden”) of his ruling power. Now if you cannot escape from the sun, how dare try to you hide yourself from the Holy One?

The sun with royal splendor goes forth to chant thy praise,
and moon beams soft and tender their gentler anthems raise;
o’er every tribe and nation the music strange is poured,
the song of all creation, to thee, creation’s Lord.
(Trinity Hymnal, #113)

 

Grace and peace, David

Humility Before God

dscn0073Psalm 115:1

Not to us, O Lord, not to us, but to your name give glory, for the sake of your steadfast love and your faithfulness! (ESV)

Worship does not come easily to the human heart. There are many reasons, but at the core is sin, the great evil that rejects God as God, refuses to love him foremost, and rebels against him and his ways. Sadly, we reject him as our Creator, Preserver, Ruler, and Holy One. We struggle with the Biblical idea that God alone is the cause, means, and goal of everything. For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen (Romans 11:36 ESV). You see, we want to be the goal of everything. We want our needs and desires to be satisfied. We want the world to go at our pace. We don’t want anyone or anything to disrupt our plans, because we must be happy! A simple way to evaluate yourself on this is to think about your plans for the Christmas season: people you want to be with, places you want to go, parties you want to attend, pleasures you want to experience, and presents you want to receive. Did you notice the recurring phrase? How many of them give preference to God’s glory and will?

Worship does not come easily to the human heart. Worship declares God’s worth and primary significance. How can we worship and bring glory to God?

  • We must know the God that we are to worship. True knowledge of God comes through Jesus Christ (cf. John 14:6). To know God, we must trust in the Lord Jesus Christ for salvation. We first must be rescued from our sin and selfishness.
  • We must humble ourselves before God. Mankind, He has told you what is good and what it is the Lord requires of you: to act justly, to love faithfulness, and to walk humbly with your God (Micah 6:8 HCSB). We cannot worship when we try to usurp his place or put other things in his place.
  • We must refuse praise that belongs to God. Not to us, O Lord, not to us… We like to be admired, congratulated and thanked. But we must make certain that God receives the praise, because apart from the Lord we can accomplish nothing of eternal significance (cf. John 15:5). Spiritual gifts are from the Spirit of God, and so we must honor God as we use them. This requires a conscious effort to honor the Lord.
  • We must become spiritually fruitful. My Father is glorified by this: that you produce much fruit and prove to be My disciples (John 15:8 HCSB). God desires to see us display the way of life that honors him, the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23).

The aim is that others might see and honor God’s steadfast love and faithfulness. Those who follow Christ Jesus are God’s covenant people. We belong to God. We give this testimony to the world. When we praise God for his actions in our lives, we point others toward him. For example, “I trusted God in my affliction, although people thought he had abandoned me. But look, I am here today! He has preserved me, he has met my needs! God is faithful; we can rely on his love!” During this Christmas season, let’s evaluate our aims. Do we strive to honor God? In the activities of a busy holiday season, do we make room in our hearts to worship?

Grace and peace, David

The Believer’s Happiness a Reason for Praise (Part Two)

img_4412Psalm 146:1-10

In this psalm, we read of praise to the true and the living God. The Lord’s praise ought always to be on our lips, but sometimes we might feel lethargic or even depressed. The psalmist knew this and spoke to his own soul to stir himself to praise. Next, the spiritually invigorated psalmist gave a warning, a warning against an empty hope. Do not trust in nobles, in man, who cannot save. When his breath leaves him, he returns to the ground; on that day his plans die (146:3-4 HCSB).

He warned against making a fatally wrong investment (146:3). A person’s faculty of trust or confidence is like the money of the soul. Be sure you make a wise and sound investment. People are prone to trust in human power, because we rely on our physical senses. Yet the Bible gives such confidence a bad rating (Jeremiah 17:5-6), and points us to a better place (Psalm 118:8-9). He explained the reason that human power is such a bad risk. It cannot save. Yes, even though the godless person sneers, every humans great need is to be saved or rescued.

The psalmist elucidated the reason for this warning (146:4). Humans are a bad risk, for we are victims of mortality. “His breath goes from his body, and his body goes to the grave. His spirit goes one way, and his body another. High as he stood, the want of a little air brings him down to the ground, and lays him under it.” [Spurgeon] Humans are a bad risk, because our plans do not outlast us. For long years a philosopher is hailed as the greatest thinker of the age. But then he dies. After he is dead, a new intellect appears who ridicules all the ideas of the former great one, who can no longer defend his views. Soon the dead philosopher is only remembered to be dismissed as incorrect. Therefore, who would put his money in a bank that was sure to fail? Who would invest in a company that soon was to go bankrupt? Yet many do this everyday. What a valuable asset we have: life given and sustained by God! Yet how easily we throw it away on the world that passes away. O my friends, especially my young friends, do not act so foolishly!

Eager to ensure the happiness of his readers and the honor of his God, the psalmist points us in the right direction. He gave reasons for the blessedness of the believers (146:5-10) Verse five is his thesis, the point he wants to convey and the truth for which he praises God. How happy is the man who has the living God as his help and hope! This is the last of the 25 or 26 times that this “blessed” formula occurs in the Psalms.

People whose help and hope is the Lord are blessed because…

  • The Lord is the Creator (146:6). The God who could create all things out of nothing is surely able to save and to uphold those who put their confidence in him. This is a sound investment, one with unlimited resources. The God who designed the universe surely understands how it operates. Therefore, we do not need to fear the as-yet-unseen. Investment counselors my make “educated” guesses about the economy of 2017, but no one really knows what will happen.
  • The Lord is the Controller (146:7-9). To continue our analogy, here is a company with a perfect performance record. The Christian has good and substantial reasons for trusting the Lord. First is God’s benevolence (146:7a-b). The Lord does what is good for his creatures (cf. Psalm 145:15-16). “For all grow hungry, man and beast, and it is God who satisfies their hunger, not the independent operations of the law of nature.” [Leupold] God is also able to reverse circumstances (146:7c-8b). God is able to help those in the greatest, most desperate need. The Lord “consoles the bereaved, cheers the defeated, solaces the despondent, comforts the despairing. Let those who are bowed to the ground appeal to him, and he will speedily up raise them.” [Spurgeon] These abilities are clearly seen in the Lord Jesus Christ (Luke 7:22; cf. Isaiah 35:5; 61:1). And God’s rule is righteous (146:8c-9). God loves those who do right. This should inspire confidence in God’s people as we live in a world where so many do wrong. He cares for those in poverty, and he opposes the wicked (Proverbs 19:21).
  • The Lord is eternal (146:10; cf. Exodus 15:18; Revelation 11:15). Here is a business that will never close or go bankrupt. Your spiritual money is safe here. In spite of all the bitter malice of the powers of evil, God’s kingdom endures forever. “There will always be a Zion; Zion will always have Jehovah for her King; for her he will always prove himself to be reigning in great power.” [Spurgeon] “They who have such an everlasting kingdom awaiting them in the end can afford to bear trials patiently, not yielding to despair on the way.” [Fausett]

All who have the Lord God as their help and hope listen! We have a great joy, a wonderful privilege, and a delightful responsibility. Let us join together to praise the Lord from the depths of our hearts. Our God is worthy of all our praise! To you without hope, there is good news in the Lord Jesus Christ. You may have his salvation today. He offers himself to you today. Do not refuse him. How happy you would be if Christ saved you today. This then would be your best Thanksgiving weekend ever! You will be surprised by the joy he gives, an inexpressible and glorious joy. Trust the Lord Jesus today!

Grace and peace, David

The Believer’s Happiness a Reason for Praise (Part One)

dscn3658Happy Thanksgiving!!!

Psalm 146:1-10

The closing psalms are the outposts of heaven. In the Psalms the ruin of sin has been discussed and the glory of God set forth over all. At the end of the collection, the Psalms conclude with praise to the Lord. “Come, rejoice with me; let us magnify his name together!” is a worthy theme for the ending of this collection of writings. This psalm of praise also has an instructional purpose: to urge people to put their trust in the Lord, for only then are we humans truly happy.

The psalm opens with determination to praise the Lord. Hallelujah! My soul, praise the Lord. I will praise the Lord all my life; I will sing to my God as long as I live (146:1-2 HCSB).

The writer provides a lesson in self-exhortation (146:1; cf. Psalm 103:1; 104:1). Spiritually, we must be self-controlled; that is, we must not allow the events and circumstances of life to dictate our spiritual tone. This requires us to talk to ourselves. “Why are you so depressed or lethargic, my soul? You are a child of the King, an heir of heaven, and one who will reign with Christ!” This involves the ministry of the Holy Spirit, as we will see in our series of articles about the Spirit of God. “O Holy Spirit, enlighten my eyes with the glory of my blessed Redeemer. Control me with the truth that is in Jesus, and then I will be self-controlled.” Practically, we must start here, because we will never be able to encourage others to praise the Lord until praise for him flows out of our own hearts.

We read of the response of the writer’s soul to his self-exhortation (146:2). A fire has been kindled in the psalmist’s soul. And not only is that true, but the fire has intensified so much that he resolves to praise God as long as he lives (cf. Psalm 104:33). This is like being “bit” by the physical fitness “bug”. Those bitten by it desire to do their selected activity repeatedly, whether it is swimming, walking, running, cycling, hiking, or skiing. (Let it snow!) When godly aspirations govern the soul, a person does not think about growing weary of them or of them ever losing their freshness. Even now, for example, I can sense the excitement of putting on the skis and taking off in eight to twelve inches of fresh powder. The problem is that too few have tasted the majesty, the glory, and the goodness of God, so that they long to praise him. Do you crave the glory of the Lord?

If your soul has been saved from eternal wrath, then come, let us praise God together! Certainly, we have something we can share together, because we know the joy of sins forgiven and the wonder of Christ’s perfect righteousness, and the Spirit living within as the Spirit of adult sonship. We cannot tell how long or short our lives may be, but as long as we live, we may glorify the Lord!

The key to such praise is knowing that God is yours—that he is in covenant with you in Christ by the blood of his cross. Can you say, “The Lord is my God; I will praise him forever?”

Grace and peace, David

Up and Down

dscn37922 Chronicles 20:26-37

One day I took Shelby, our old cockapoo, to the vet. During the visit the doctor and his assistant asked me about my sermon title for the week. I replied, “It’s ‘Up and Down’.” And the vet quipped, what is that about—the economy?” And I responded in jest, “No, it’s about the stock market.” Actually, this article is about neither, for which I am glad. Nor is the intent to provide a segue to talk about the negativity in our culture. For example, why don’t we say, “Down and up”? We naturally say, “Up and down,” concluding with the negative. I will leave the topic for those so disposed to ponder such esoteric matters. Instead, the title simply reflects what happened near the end of Jehoshaphat’s reign as king of Judah. By God’s grace, some positive events occurred, but by yielding to wrong desires in their hearts, some negative outcomes happened.

The blessing of the Lord acknowledged and extended (20:26-30). The people responded in praise (20:26-28).

  • They gathered to praise: a deliberate, planned praise. Some wrongly suppose that real praise must be spontaneous. It can be, but the Lord also delights in praise that flows from in planning, rehearsals and artistic compositions. It is good to plan special events of praise, such as a Thanksgiving Praise Service, in which everyone is encouraged to stand and tell others what the Lord has done for them.
  • They gathered to praise: an intense time of praise. Imagine giving yourself over to praise the Lord for a whole day! There could be times of singing, reading praise psalms together, and sharing about how the Lord has kept you and blessed you. Where does praise like this come from? It comes from the heart, because out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks (Matthew 12:34). They knew that the Lord had given them cause to rejoice (20:27). The reality of salvation from their enemies sparked this desire for praise. It is that same reality that ignites true praise in the people of God today.

How does this happen for us? It flows out from hearts thrilled by redeeming, cross-centered love, resurrection hope, and ascension joy. It happens as the Spirit of God takes what is true of the Lord Jesus Christ and makes it real, very real in our souls.

The Lord gave them peace (20:29-30). The message about the Lord’s victory produced fear in the unbelieving nations around them. God rules in the hearts of people. As he defeated the armies by a panic, so here he kept Judah in peace by producing great fear in the hearts of the ungodly. From Jehoshaphat’s perspective, the peace came as a gift from God. Every enemy is defeated, and they could rest. How we long for such days! Most of my life has been filled with two tragic wars: the Cold War and the War against Terrorism, in addition to Korea, Vietnam, the two Gulf Wars, and endless conflicts and civil wars around the world. How quickly that brief period of peace after the Cold War passed. Yet that is the character of the last days: wars and rumors of wars. Jehoshaphat and his people had a special blessing from God.

So then, we ought to praise the Lord for greatest peace, which is peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ (Romans 5:1). But do you have peace with God? Or do you feel a deep unrest in your soul, wondering if God is really on your side? You may have peace by believing in Jesus who died and rose again, in order that people might be right with God.

Sadly, there were false steps at the end (20:31-37). One was the incomplete reformation of religion (20:31-34). Jehoshaphat lived rightly in many ways. He sought the Lord, kept himself from idols, and tried to lead his people into total commitment to the Lord God. However, he could not accomplish two things. He failed to remove the high places, where sacrifices had been offered prior to the building of the temple. This led the people from the purity of worship that God demanded. You see, we may not worship God as we choose. The old covenant people were required to worship in Jerusalem at the temple with the sacrifices that God required. We who are God’s new covenant people must only worship God through Jesus Christ, our better temple, perfect priest and spotless sacrifice. Christ and the gospel are the focus of our ongoing relationship with God, and not a place nor a system of rituals. Today, the Reformation is still incomplete. Far too many who call themselves Christians still focus on their own “high places”, instead of the reality of Christ. Far too many seek God through ritualistic forms, instead of according to the Scriptures alone, by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone—to God alone be the glory! Let us pursue an ongoing reformation of faith and practice.

The real problem was that the people did not have a heart for God. The law could not give this. It only comes by grace, as the Spirit takes the Word and breathes life into people, so that they have a change of mind and believe in Jesus. Has this happened to you?

Almost unbelievably, Jehoshaphat made another alliance with the ungodly (20:35-37). You almost want to cry out as you read these final verses about Jehoshaphat, “No, he could not have done this! Didn’t he learn his lesson when he allied himself with Ahab?” Clearly, he had not learned. Does Jehoshaphat remind you of anyone you know very, very well… I mean yourself? Why are we so stubborn? Why don’t we learn? It is because we still have sin in us, and we fail to put it to death and to walk in faith, following Jesus Christ as Lord. We ought to live better, since we have the finished Bible and the indwelling Holy Spirit and the fellowship of other true believers. But too often we don’t. Jehoshaphat’s example is written for our instruction. These things happened to them as examples and were written down as warnings for us, on whom the culmination of the ages has come. (1 Corinthians 10:11 NIV).

So, what happened? The Lord sent another prophet who announced the Lord’s discipline on Jehoshaphat. His grand fleet would be destroyed by the Lord. And all his dreams of more wealth through trade disappeared! Why did he act so wrongly? This is a place where the Spirit doesn’t give us all the answers. He wants us to think. Instead of wondering why he failed, use this text as a springboard to think through the reasons that you fail.

What can we learn about such matters as persevering faith, submission to the Lord and his word, contentment with what God has supplied, and staying on mission? Look at that list and think about weaknesses on your life. Circle one of them. On your own, reread this entire account about Jehoshaphat and ask the Spirit to teach you what you need from your Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

Grace and peace, David

The Desire to Worship and Praise Fulfilled

dscn15662 Chronicles 20:20-30

November is the month of Thanksgiving, although I must admit that in a store yesterday, November 1, I heard Christmas music. Other customers remarked that it was too early. I agree. Why not some Thanksgiving music? But apart from hymns, Thanksgiving songs are rare. I once bought an album of “99 Thanksgiving Classics” to have playing in the background on Thanksgiving Day. Almost all were classical pieces; none were hymns. I could not figure out the connection with Thanksgiving, except that they were nice songs.

This month we should think about the opportunity to express our worship and praise to God. Jehoshaphat and his people found it in an amazing act of deliverance for his people.

It sprang from the obedience of faith (20:20-21); prompt obedience. They did what the Lord told them to do “early in the morning”. In this way, they imitated the obedient faith of Abraham (Genesis 22:3) when he took Isaac to the mountain. The Lord responded to his faith by providing a lamb in place of Isaac. God sets forth the examples of believing men and women in his word, in order that we might learn from their walk of faith. For example, read and meditate on Hebrews 11; think about the difficulties they faced; observe how they believed and obeyed.

The point is that they did not delay or procrastinate to obey the Lord. They did not wait till they had finished their “to do” list. They did not allow anything to distract them from believing and acting in conformity with God’s message to them.

Jehoshaphat encouraged his people to believe (20:20). He urged them to have faith in the Lord. Jehoshaphat pointed them to God who is able to save or rescue people. Let us clearly understand that walking out to the wilderness without weapons to face a vast army was foolishness, unless God could save. God was not calling them to a leap of faith, but to total reliance on his mighty power. Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power (Ephesians 6:10 NIV).

Jehoshaphat also urged them to have faith in the Lord’s prophets. Jehoshaphat pointed them to God’s message given through his prophets like Jahaziel (20:14-17). I repeat. Let us clearly understand that walking out to the wilderness to face a vast army without a message to do so was foolishness, unless God had spoken. The Lord does not tell us to invent ways that we suppose will bring salvation. He wants us to trust his way. Paul acted on God’s way during a difficult time of physical persecution. Though he suffered, he learned that God saved people through the gospel. For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes: first to the Jew, then to the Gentile. For in the gospel the righteousness of God is revealed—a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: “The righteous will live by faith (Romans 1:16-17 NIV). We need to relearn his confidence in our times.

An army of praise formed. After encouraging the people, Jehoshaphat decided to make the most of God’s promise by appointing men to sing to the Lord at the head of his army. This was acting in faith on God’s promise of victory. While the exact translation for the phrase “for the splendor of his holiness” is unclear, what is clear is the recognition of God’s holiness. God is over all, doing what is right, pursuing his glory as God. When you know that the Holy God is with you, you can sing!

What did they sing? They gave thanks to the Lord for his unfailing, covenant love. We can trace this song back to the time of David (1 Chronicles 16:7-36, especially verses 8-11 and 34-36), and from there to two other psalms (Psalms 105:1; 136:1).

Why do people sing to the Lord? We sing to the Lord when we are convinced that his promises are true. God has made his promises of eternal salvation true to us in the Lord Jesus Christ. For no matter how many promises God has made, they are “Yes” in Christ. And so through him the “Amen” is spoken by us to the glory of God. (2 Corinthians 1:20). Only when you know that your sins are forgiven and God has accepted you are you truly able to rejoice, give thanks, and sing! Can you rejoice in the Lord’s enduring love? Our goal is for you to become a person who rejoices in the Lord. Why should anyone rejoice in the Lord Jesus? We should rejoice because he has defeated our worst enemies: sin, Satan and death! How did this happen? It happened when he died on the cross for sinners and rose again the third day. Believe in him, and he will give you the free gift of eternal life.

Grace and peace, David