Exceeding Great and Precious Promises

img_5166Psalm 12:4-8

Music is an essential part of the worship of the Lord. As we look at the Psalms from time to time, I hope that each of us will not only accept this intellectually, but delight in songs of worship and praise emotionally and experientially. Although we only know the lyrics and not the music of the Psalms, we know from the superscriptions that they were intended to be sung, sometimes by choirs. To illustrate the dramatic involvement we should have when we read the Psalms, picture the cast of a Broadway musical or a great choir singing Psalm Twelve. The psalm opens with the cast or choir singing the opening four verses in a minor key. A certain hopelessness is generated that leaves the audience almost despondent. Who can stop the arrogant, malicious liars? Everything is ominously quiet as the audience ponders their fate.

Then suddenly, a very rich baritone voice breaks the gloom and sings in a major key the words of hope found in verse four. “Because of the devastation of the afflicted, because of the groaning of the needy, Now I will arise,” says the Lord; “I will set him in the safety for which he longs” (NASB). The psalm communicates the great truth that our deliverance comes from outside of human capabilities. Rescue comes from the Lord. It takes his powerful word to oppose and to overcome the lies, the malice, the pride of the ungodly. We might look at the situation and mourn, but the living God can speak and produce victory. As in the time of the Exodus, God observed the suffering of people and promised to act (Exodus 2:23-25; 3:7-8; 6:5). Someone might wonder, “Why doesn’t God act immediately?” Remember the plan of God. The time of rescue from Egypt came according the time that the Lord had announced to Abraham (Genesis 15:12-16). According to the same pattern, the time of rescue from the ungodly will come at the Lord’s appointed time. This gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all the nations, and then the end will come (Matthew 24:14 NASB). Until that time we live and wait in hope of the promised victory.

Next, a beautiful soprano voice rejoices in the promises of God. The words of the Lord are pure words; As silver tried in a furnace on the earth, refined seven times (Psalm 12:5 NASB). Listen to the voice delighting in the security of what God says. Part of the worship of God should involve remembrance of his promises. Think of the hymn that we know as “How Firm a Foundation”. Originally it was called “Scriptures Promises” and then as “Exceeding Great and Precious Promises” (from 2 Peter 1:2 KJV). Here is the opening stanza:

How firm a foundation, ye saints of the Lord,
Is laid for your faith in His excellent Word!
What more can He say than to you He hath said,
To you who for refuge to Jesus have fled?

We must live in faith on the pure words of God.

The psalm closes with a grand response to God’s precious promise from the whole choir or cast. You, O Lord, will keep them; You will preserve him from this generation forever. The wicked strut about on every side When vileness is exalted among the sons of men (12:7-8 NASB). With hope based on God’s word, his people can expect him to keep and preserve them. Has this changed the situation that induced the cry for help? In one sense, it hasn’t. When the people of this world exalt vileness, they will strut about, boasting that they can do whatever they want. But in another sense it has for God’s people, because they confidently anticipate the change, the new finality of the new creation in new heavens and a new earth. God will eternally keep us in his constant care.

The question is, “Are you willing to live in this firm hope?” We can all want “heaven now”. But our God is working out his plan of good news for all the people groups of the world. Our part is to pray and to spread the good news everywhere. Follower of Christ, you and I share in the assignment to tell others. Let’s pray for specific people to whom we can make known the way of salvation.

Grace and peace, David

Praise in a Broken World

IMG_3174Psalm 9:1-2

I will give thanks to the Lord with my whole heart;
I will recount all of your wonderful deeds.
I will be glad and exult in you;
I will sing praise to your name, O Most High.

Psalms nine and ten are companion pieces, telling two sides of what God does in his world to bring about the ultimate victory of his plan in Jesus the Messiah. (In fact, some versions, following the ancient Septuagint, combine them into one Psalm.) Both sides are just as real, and we need to hear both to be spiritually balanced. David, who experienced suffering and triumph, was used by God to write these psalms and to teach us to sing about both sides of reality. The Lord Jesus walked this same path (Philippians 2: 6-11). Today, we’ll listen to how Psalm Nine opens.

Before David talks about God’s rule in the world, he presents four active attitudes that we express in our relationship with the Lord of all. That might sound a bit redundant, but we must realize our responsibility to God. To follow the Lord requires us to follow him with praise and worship. In a broken world this will not simply happen. Many times we will feel far from desiring to praise our God and Father. The brokenness around us, which we can see every day, will seem too horrible. But hope (confident anticipation in God’s promises) will enable us to see more than the immediate situation we and others we love are in. Then we can act and praise.

  • Thankfulness heads the four active attitudes. When we do not thank the Lord for the many blessings he continually gives, it is a sign that our part of our relationship with God is faltering. One of the core issues of those in rebellion against God is a lack of thankfulness to the Creator (Romans 1:21, 25). Those who delight in God and his mercies willingly thank him for who he is and what he does for his people. Thanksgiving should be more than an item from a list about how to pray. It ought to flow from our hearts, the core of who we are.
  • Testimony follows thankfulness. When we appreciate God’s blessings from our hearts, we will want others to know. We will tell or recount them to others. “Wonderful deeds” translates a Hebrew word that is frequently used for the redemptive miracles that the Lord did for his people. For the people of God before Christ came, they would recount all God to make a people, including the events of the exodus and the giving of the Promised Land. For new covenant people, we can recount not only Christ’s miracles but the four core events of the good news: Christ’s crucifixion, resurrection, ascension, and the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. All four transform us, and so we should tell others about them.
  • Next is joy in the Lord. While it is easy to rejoice in circumstances, David sings about being glad because of the Lord himself. This is part of any healthy relationship. If you are in a friendship, you do not merely rejoice in the benefits of that friendship, but also in your friend. You enjoy being with your friend simply because he or she is your friend. If your joy is only in the pleasant circumstances God sends you, what will you do when your situation is suffering? Since David’s joy was in the Lord himself, he could exult in the Lord at all times.
  • Finally, David encourages artistic expression in praise. Specifically, he tells the Lord that he will sing praise to God’s name (a frequent way of speaking of God personally). Some people have been given beautiful voices, which are nice for the rest of us to listen to. And we ought to try to sing our best. But the point is to sing to the Lord. This is becoming a lost art in many churches, where people are entertained by a “praise team”. Surely, there is no problem with having people with skill lead others in singing, but today many are silent while a few up front sing. But the Lord desires to hear your voice joining in the overflowing joy of all he is and has done in our Lord and Savior.

Praise does not make the ugliness of a broken world disappear. It does not lessen suffering. But it is a very important part of our relationship with the Lord of all. May we all praise the Lord!

Grace and peace, David