Monthly Archives: February 2014

Psalms 108: Relying on God

Psalms 108 reiterates one of the most important themes that we should remember from this book.

Psa 108:12  Give us help from trouble: for vain is the help of man.

Psa 108:13  Through God we shall do valiantly: for he it is that shall tread down our enemies.

We can do nothing on our own or even with the help of other people. Don’t get me wrong, it is really nice when other people offer to help out. It feels good to have other people help you carry that heavy bookshelf down the stairs. However, I would argue that we need to take a slightly different perspective in order to actually understand what this passage is saying.

Let’s say that we want to do something that is against the will of God. Let’s say that we decide that we want to do something that God has determined He will not allowed. For example, even though there were multiple times where the Pharisees were conspiring to kill Jesus, He did not die until the time was right.

In this kind of situation, it doesn’t matter how many people you have involved on your side. In my example, most of the religious establishment was against Jesus, but that did not matter in the least.

It does not matter because all of the help in the world from humans is ultimately in vain if it is not within the will of God for something that happen. As we have seen in many other chapters, God is the ultimate conductor. He is in charge of everything, and it does not go well when His authority is challenged (think about the rebellion of Satan).

The basic fact of the matter comes back to where we want to place our alliances. We can decide to rely on humans, or we can decide to rely on God. One is going to work out better than the others.

Psalms 107: God is Good

Psalms 107 has a refrain that is repeated several times throughout the chapter.

Psa 107:8  Oh that men would praise the LORD for his goodness, and for his wonderful works to the children of men!

Again, we have seen a lot of this in the Psalms we have been reading, and as it bears repeating one more time. We ought to be praising God because of His goodness and because of the wonderful works that we have seen Him do.

In between this refrain, you get some of the reasons for why we ought to do this. Let’s go into one of them right now.

Psa 107:16  For he hath broken the gates of brass, and cut the bars of iron in sunder.

Psa 107:17  Fools because of their transgression, and because of their iniquities, are afflicted.

Psa 107:18  Their soul abhorreth all manner of meat; and they draw near unto the gates of death.

Psa 107:19  Then they cry unto the LORD in their trouble, and he saveth them out of their distresses.

Psa 107:20  He sent his word, and healed them, and delivered them from their destructions.

God has overcome sin. He has conquered it, and one day He will eliminate it from existence once and for all. Look at how the imagery is used. God has broken down the gates. It sounds an awful lot like prison to me, and all of us are trapped inside because we are fools. We are fools because of our sin nature, but we have this thought.

For some reason, we feel like we need to God. There is something within us that causes us to call unto God, and even though we had continually rejected Him up until this point, He is still willing to save us out of whatever problems we are trapped in.

I think that is a pretty good reason to celebrate the goodness and wonderful works of God. Salvation is an incredible privilege that humans do not deserve.

Psalms 106: We Need Forgiveness

I hope you remember what we have read about the history of Israel. You can pretty much sum it up by saying that the people of Israel would do something that would make God angry, but He would then forgive them. Psalms 106 is basically a reminder of several of these occasions. It talks about the people at the Red Sea, the wandering in the wilderness, the golden calf and many other difficult times in Israel’s history, but it is interesting how it all comes together near the end of the chapter.

Psa 106:43  Many times did he deliver them; but they provoked him with their counsel, and were brought low for their iniquity.

Psa 106:44  Nevertheless he regarded their affliction, when he heard their cry:

Psa 106:45  And he remembered for them his covenant, and repented according to the multitude of his mercies.

Psa 106:46  He made them also to be pitied of all those that carried them captives.

The pattern was always the same. The pattern is pretty much the same for each one of us as well. We try not to do things that are wrong, but every now and then we do stumble into some kind of sin. We might not be like Israel and start building golden idols in our backyards, but we can certainly build idols in our hearts for example.

Then, we cry out to God for forgiveness. At some point, we understand that we have done something wrong, and we recognize that we need God to help us clean up. Verse 45 in this context is talking about God’s promise with Israel in particular, but I would say that as Christians today, we also have promises from God, and He will remember them just as readily as He does in this example.

It is worth noting here that the word “repented” doesn’t mean that that God was somehow sorry about what had happened. It means more along the lines of “pitied.” The English Standard Version translates that as “relented.” I just wanted to point out that distinction because it seemed like an odd fit in this situation and that it was the people who were repenting rather than God.

I think that we have a tendency to put down Israel and say that we would never be that rebellious. If we had all the proofs that they had of the providence of God, certainly we would be even more obedient. However, we have quite a bit of proof, and that hasn’t made us to give up sin yet. We still need to rely on this wonderful promise of forgiveness since we would never make our own righteousness

Psalms 105: What God Has Done

History is an important teacher, and Psalms 105 highlights many important moments in the history of Israel. It starts with Abraham and goes down until Moses. Before we get to all of this history though, we have a very interesting introduction.

Psa 105:1  O give thanks unto the LORD; call upon his name: make known his deeds among the people.

Psa 105:2  Sing unto him, sing psalms unto him: talk ye of all his wondrous works.

Psa 105:3  Glory ye in his holy name: let the heart of them rejoice that seek the LORD.

Psa 105:4  Seek the LORD, and his strength: seek his face evermore.

Psa 105:5  Remember his marvellous works that he hath done; his wonders, and the judgments of his mouth;

Basically, before we talk about all of the exciting things that have happened in the history of Israel, let’s get one thing straight. We need to make sure that we are thanking God for everything He has done and recognizing His marvelous works.

I think that is something that we need to make sure we remember to do in our lives. Before we get to human achievement, we need to make sure that we are attributing everything to God first. Think about it this way.

God provided for Moses. He helped him divide the Red Sea for example. In one sense, Moses did indeed do something. He had the faith that God would be able to do it, and he was the one who physically stretched out his hand.

However, it would be ridiculous for us to say any of this about Moses if we started anywhere outside of God. Certainly, the faith of Moses was important and deserves remembrance in history, but we can’t just leave it there. God was involved and did more in that situation than Moses ever could have done on his own.

After all, what would have happened if Moses had all the faith in the world but God was not involved? He would have touched the water, nothing would have happened and the people of Israel would have gone back to slavery in Egypt.

God makes things happen in ways that we never could, and it makes sense that whatever we think back over our lives, it makes sense for us to look for what God has done. There are some things that we simply could not do on our own.

Psalms 104: The Architect

I have to admit, even though reading GK Chesterton can be a little bit dense, when you read things like Psalms 104, you can understand where he is coming from much more easily.

Look at some of these verses in this chapter (I want to jump around a little bit).

Psa 104:13  He watereth the hills from his chambers: the earth is satisfied with the fruit of thy works.

Psa 104:16  The trees of the LORD are full of sap; the cedars of Lebanon, which he hath planted;

Psa 104:21  The young lions roar after their prey, and seek their meat from God.

Notice the interesting things. The psalmist is attributing natural phenomenon directly to the hand of God. God is watering the earth, God planted the trees and God provides the meat for the lions.

However, we seem to have a naturalistic answers for all of these things. We know what makes it rain, we know how seeds get blown around and become planted in the earth, and we know how lions hunt animals that are below them. We have enough experimental evidence here on earth to be able to predict that these things happen through seemingly naturalistic reasons.

GK Chesterton had an interesting way to approach this question that is certainly consistent with the Biblical passage.

“It is possible that God says every morning, “Do it again” to the sun; and every evening, “Do it again” to the moon. It may not be automatic necessity that makes all daisies alike; it may be that God makes every daisy separately, but has never got tired of making them. It may be that He has the eternal appetite of infancy; for we have sinned and grown old, and our Father is younger than we. The repetition in Nature may not be a mere recurrence; it may be a theatrical encore” (p. 91).

God is certainly big enough to continue having an active involvement in nature. It may be that even though we think that naturalistic causes exist without God, God might still be behind it. Patterns in nature do not absolutely eliminate the existence of God. Perhaps the reason that everything fits together in such nice patterns is because God is behind it. Basically, that is one of the tenants of fine-tuning.

Psalms 103: Away from Our Sins

Psalms 103 is a great chapter for many purposes, but I think that we can pick up something very valuable particularly in the middle of it.

Psa 103:10  He hath not dealt with us after our sins; nor rewarded us according to our iniquities.

Psa 103:11  For as the heaven is high above the earth, so great is his mercy toward them that fear him.

Psa 103:12  As far as the east is from the west, so far hath he removed our transgressions from us.

Psa 103:13  Like as a father pitieth his children, so the LORD pitieth them that fear him.

Psa 103:14  For he knoweth our frame; he remembereth that we are dust.

I think that this is something that is one of the most amazing parts about God (although admittedly is really hard to I guess put that label on one characteristic). We receive an amazing amount of mercy. Keep in mind that God doesn’t owe humanity anything. It isn’t like He necessarily needs to forgive us. That is the whole point of verse 10. We haven’t received everything that we should have as a consequence for our sin, and the reason for that comes in verse 11.

He has done that because He is merciful towards them that fear Him. In other words, He is merciful towards people who revere, respect, love and give Him everything that He deserves (which I guess is everything).

Then, we get a really profound statement in verse 12. How far apart are the east and the west? Well, they are directional concepts rather than literal locations, and they are infinite in either direction. In other words, our sins are an infinite distance away from us once God has removed them. That is pretty amazing imagery to think about.

So, think about this one. Think about the power of forgiveness, and consider the amazing gift that God has given to anyone who will rely on Him. It is a pretty awesome that we have a God like this.

Psalms 102: The Unchanging God

I was in a little discussion with a guy on the Internet the other day discussing objective morality, and he decided to bring up a little thing called Euthyphro’s dilemma. I don’t know if you have heard of it, but it is basically from the writings of Plato and generally goes like this.

“Is the pious loved by the gods because it is pious, or is it pious because it is loved by the gods.”

Extend this to a discussion of morality concerning the Christian God, and it becomes something like this.

“Is morality loved by God because it is moral, or is it moral because it is loved by God.”

You can see the dilemma here. The first part of the dilemma is proposing that morality is perhaps something outside of God, but God likes it because He understands that it is moral. Under this premise, God would not have created morality, so for those of us who are Christians, we have a hard time with this one.

The other part is not much better because we now have a moral system where something is moral only of God prefers it at the time. I feel like this part is closer than the other part, but it is still wrong because it is subjective. We believe that morality is based on more than just the whim of God. There is something more to it than simply what God feels like on a given day.

You might wonder why I brought you here in a discussion of Psalms 102, but I have finally gotten there.

Psa 102:24  I said, O my God, take me not away in the midst of my days: thy years are throughout all generations.

Psa 102:25  Of old hast thou laid the foundation of the earth: and the heavens are the work of thy hands.

Psa 102:26  They shall perish, but thou shalt endure: yea, all of them shall wax old like a garment; as a vesture shalt thou change them, and they shall be changed:

Psa 102:27  But thou art the same, and thy years shall have no end.

Psa 102:28  The children of thy servants shall continue, and their seed shall be established before thee.

The two important facts to draw from this passage is that God is eternal and unchanging. That is why we have a hard time with that second premise. God doesn’t change who He is, so we as Christians can’t accept this system.

However, it seems as if we have to choose one. It seems that we have dilemma and that no other options. That is what they want you to think. In reality, I would argue that this is a false dilemma.

Let me try to explain this.

As Christians, we affirm that morality is part of the character of God. This handles both of the dilemmas presented above. On one hand, it is certainly not external to God. On the other hand, if God is unchanging is this verse from Psalms indicates, then it is not something based on a whim. Whatever was right for God yesterday is still right today. It is based on who God is rather than what God subjectively feels.

Do see how that works? This kind of false dilemma can be a powerful tactic because if you do not recognize that it is a false one, you are going to be stuck affirming a position that you don’t believe. In a debate, you really don’t want to do that. Recognize that there is a third option.

Psalms 101: Living a Good Life

Psalms 101 sounds like it is describing a pretty solid life. David is talking about all the things that he would do to live his life rightly before God. His entire list of items seem to be good, but there are two interesting things about this chapter.

First, this would be nearly impossible list to fulfill perfectly. For example, check out the three verses from the second half of the chapter.

Psa 101:5  Whoso privily slandereth his neighbour, him will I cut off: him that hath an high look and a proud heart will not I suffer.

Psa 101:6  Mine eyes shall be upon the faithful of the land, that they may dwell with me: he that walketh in a perfect way, he shall serve me.

Psa 101:7  He that worketh deceit shall not dwell within my house: he that telleth lies shall not tarry in my sight.

It would be practically impossible to avoid all of these people. In fact, for most of us, we might slip into these temptations ourselves from time to time. Think about having a proud heart. I try to avoid it, but I know that there are times when it does slip in there. I don’t want it to, but it does happen. Obviously, this is poetry, and David is describing how he wants to be. He is not necessarily describing the way that he is.

The second interesting part about this entire chapter is that there is no mention of salvation. It is not like salvation from God was a foreign concept to David. He had written about it in other Psalms. However, even if he did all of these things, his conclusion was not that he would receive salvation. He doesn’t mention salvation whatsoever. If he was able to follow these criteria, he would no doubt be living a life that would honor God. He would be doing a lot of what God would want him to be doing. However, salvation doesn’t seem to come by works, or I feel like this would have been the perfect place to mention that.

This is a good chapter. It is about the value of good works and how we ought to live. However, keep in mind that this is poetic, and it is descriptive of how David wants to live before God. In and of itself though, this standard does not lead to salvation.

Psalms 100: How to Praise

We made it to triple digits! Psalms 100 is a very concise hymn of praise to God, so I think we can handle talking about all five verses today.

Psa 100:1  A Psalm of praise. Make a joyful noise unto the LORD, all ye lands.

Psa 100:2  Serve the LORD with gladness: come before his presence with singing.

Psa 100:3  Know ye that the LORD he is God: it is he that hath made us, and not we ourselves; we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture.

Psa 100:4  Enter into his gates with thanksgiving, and into his courts with praise: be thankful unto him, and bless his name.

Psa 100:5  For the LORD is good; his mercy is everlasting; and his truth endureth to all generations.

Verse one sets the table by saying that everyone should praise God. It doesn’t specify just Israel right here. Everyone ought to praise God. This would differentiate him from many other ancient deities. Yes, the Jewish people were His chosen people, but He ought to be praised by the whole earth.

Verse two doesn’t add an awful lot other than reminding us that we need to come to worship God with the right attitude. We should come with gladness rather than with some sense of duty. We should have the right attitude and want to praise God.

Why should we do that? Verse three tells us the simple fact that God is real. He is our Creator, and we are His people. That goes right into verse four. Again, because of this, we ought to be praising. It should drive us to praise God as a result of all that He is for us.

Verse five provides another set of reasons to praise God. He is good, merciful and truthful. I don’t think I really need to argue why we ought to praise a being who characterizes those three qualities.

It was a rather simple chapter, but it does outline some good reasons to praising God and why we ought to do that. The next milestone since we hit triple digits is the halfway point of the Bible which is coming up soon!

Psalms 99: Answers to Prayer

Psalms 99 gives some examples of people who called upon the Lord. When they called upon the Lord, they received an answer.

Psa 99:6  Moses and Aaron among his priests, and Samuel among them that call upon his name; they called upon the LORD, and he answered them.

Psa 99:7  He spake unto them in the cloudy pillar: they kept his testimonies, and the ordinance that he gave them.

Now, it doesn’t specifically say what they called on God for, but maybe we can go back into the Bible and find what this might be referring to.

Moses called upon God several times as I remember, but here is one example for you.

Exo 32:11  And Moses besought the LORD his God, and said, LORD, why doth thy wrath wax hot against thy people, which thou hast brought forth out of the land of Egypt with great power, and with a mighty hand?

This was after Aaron and the other people had created the golden calf. Moses asked God to be merciful to the people of Israel even though they had been stubborn and disobedient. God immediately answered in this case and said that He would not destroy the people.

I had a harder time finding when Aaron was directly speaking without Moses beside him, but there was a time when the people of Israel were thinking of having a revolution against Moses and Aaron, and here is the prayer that the two men said.

Num 16:22  And they fell upon their faces, and said, O God, the God of the spirits of all flesh, shall one man sin, and wilt thou be wroth with all the congregation?

Again, God was very angry, and even though He could have easily destroyed all of the rebels in one shot, we see a similar prayer from Moses and Aaron. Most of the people had been deceived by the leadership which is why you get the verse above. They didn’t want everyone to be punished, and they received an answer from God that He would not destroy everyone. The earth did open up and devour the ringleaders, but again, we see an answer to prayer.

Finally, Samuel had a pretty cool situation. The Philistines were threatening to overtake Israel like they always seemed to be, and Israel was asking Samuel to pray to God on their behalf for His assistance.

1Sa 7:9  And Samuel took a sucking lamb, and offered it for a burnt offering wholly unto the LORD: and Samuel cried unto the LORD for Israel; and the LORD heard him.

1Sa 7:10  And as Samuel was offering up the burnt offering, the Philistines drew near to battle against Israel: but the LORD thundered with a great thunder on that day upon the Philistines, and discomfited them; and they were smitten before Israel.

Not surprisingly, we see that his prayer was answered. God prevented the invasion that had been coming to Israel.

So what?

I know that some people will deny this, and I don’t have time for a full-fledged defense of the historical reliability of the Bible, but if we take for granted that the Bible is at the very least a reliable historical document, we see records of prayers being answered.

People often say that prayer doesn’t work, but it seemed as if this Psalm is kind of encouraging people to investigate the evidence themselves. See, it worked for Moses, Aaron and Samuel among others. Using these kinds of drastic examples, it is easy to see that, if they are true, there is no doubt that God did them. They are pretty miraculous answers.