Monthly Archives: March 2014
Psalms 139 is a very well-known passage, and I know that you have probably heard it read a million times. It tells us all about how we can never go anywhere where God is not. Obviously, that is an incredibly comforting thought for those of us who are Christians. It is nice to know that God will always be with us.
However, since you have heard this one so much, let’s talk about something a little bit different. Let me give you a few verses.
Psa 139:17 How precious also are thy thoughts unto me, O God! how great is the sum of them!
Psa 139:18 If I should count them, they are more in number than the sand: when I awake, I am still with thee.
These verses are interesting. It makes me think about God thinking. It makes me think about how we want to know everything. We want to know why things happen the way they happen. It is ridiculous how much time we spend every day in thought. It seems as if there is some kind of debate over the number of thoughts that we have per day, but the fact of the matter is that we have a lot.
On top of that, the human mind is a pretty amazing thing. It is complicated, and it is capable of processing so much information.
Now, think about the comparison. David is saying that he loves God’s mind. If he tries to think about the volume of thoughts that God is able to comprehend, he simply can’t do it. God’s mind is that much greater than ours.
I simply think that this is an interesting concept that helps put everything in perspective for me. I want to know everything. I want to learn things. I think that is a healthy desire.
However, even if I was able to perfectly fill my mind with as much information as humanly possible, my mind would still not be able to comprehend everything that God is able to handle.
This is humbling. Maybe I can make this passage come to mind if I start to think a little bit too highly of my own abilities.
Psalms 138 was obviously written to praise God, and there was one verse that particularly stood out to me.
Psa 138:7 Though I walk in the midst of trouble, thou wilt revive me: thou shalt stretch forth thine hand against the wrath of mine enemies, and thy right hand shall save me.
I don’t know about you, but this verse makes me think about how much protection we really have. I kind of hesitate to do it, but it is interesting to hypothetically think about what would happen if there wasn’t that protection from God?
People often times argue that they can’t believe in a God who would allow evil. However, we know that God protects us. What if God did not do that? What would happen to our earthly experience?
Now, keep in mind that in this is a thought experiment. Without God, I do not think that human life would be here in the first place. However, for the sake of the argument, I am pretending that humanity could somehow exist in the first place without God.
It is no secret that humans are capable of quite a bit of evil. We can do terrible things to each other, and we even do terrible things to ourselves. We do terrible things to the environment, and we do terrible things to the other creatures that live here with us.
The bottom line is that we are not some kind of ideal life form. Perhaps you will want to argue with me on this one, but I really think that it doesn’t take too much thought to realize that humans are capable of evil.
What if we were hypothetically left to our own devices? What if there was not a God above who provided that protection?
Again, I do not believe that this condition of existence has ever occurred. However, for the sake of the argument, if the Christian God did not exist in the way that we believe He does, I think that you would find a lot more evil in the world.
Jas 1:17 Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning.
If it is true that every good thing comes from God, then what would we be left with without God?
I think the implications are pretty clear. If God is everything that we say He is, then this protection is pretty remarkable.
Psalms 137 was obviously written during a very upsetting time for the Israelites. They were captives in Babylon, and the people were telling them to sing a song that they used the sing when they were at home in Israel. This request was not taken very well.
Psa 137:3 For there they that carried us away captive required of us a song; and they that wasted us required of us mirth, saying, Sing us one of the songs of Zion.
Psa 137:4 How shall we sing the LORD’S song in a strange land?
Psa 137:5 If I forget thee, O Jerusalem, let my right hand forget her cunning.
Psa 137:6 If I do not remember thee, let my tongue cleave to the roof of my mouth; if I prefer not Jerusalem above my chief joy.
I had a little bit of trouble thinking about this passage at first. Jerusalem should not be your top joy; God should be the top joy. However, the more I thought about it, the more I realized that Jerusalem was more than just a city made out of stones.
Jerusalem was the heart of the Promised Land. It was a large part of the promise that was given to the people of Israel by God. Because of their disobedience, they temporarily lost that piece of land, but Jerusalem was the earthly centerpiece of that promise. It had a lot more value than an average city. God gave them the land, and Jerusalem was the capital.
Beyond that, the Temple was in Jerusalem. It was the main place where you would worship God. I understand that you can worship God anywhere, but the Temple was very important for the people of Israel at that time. The chief priest communicated with God through the Holy of Holies for all the people at specified times. Needless to say, Jerusalem was important for that reason as well.
Jerusalem was so much more than just a city. It was an important way for all of the people to worship God and interact with God. It seems to me that that is what we are talking about here. God is still the chief joy, but Jerusalem was a very important part of the relationship that God had with the people of Israel. That relationship was central, but Jerusalem was the symbol of that relationship.
Psalms 136 involves a history of the great things that God has done for Israel. We see everything from the escape from Egypt to the parting of the Red Sea, the establishment of Israel and His provision for and this young nation.
The more interesting part about this chapter is that every single verse ends with the same phrase “for his mercy endureth for ever.” It is obviously a main point that was trying to be communicated here. It was the refrain that brought everything else together.
The word mercy here could also be translated as kindness. This Psalm is all about remembering what God has done and remembering His great kindness to do what He did.
I think that we could learn a lot from this approach. I have talked about it before, and I will probably talk about it again, but we need to have this grateful mindset. We need to remember that God is good, and we need to remember that He gives so much to us.
I just wrote about worship, and a huge part of worship is that thankfulness and recognition. It is putting God in the spot that He properly deserves in our lives. He ought to be the most important thing, and having this attitude of constant praise and reverence will remind us to keep Him there are and not try to find a replacement.
I know that it is easy to say, but this can be difficult to live out. In this chapter, we hear all kinds of great things that happened Israel. It is easy to praise God when things are working out very well. It is easy to thank God for giving me a job or helping me make a new friend.
It is a lot harder to keep this attitude things are going badly. I entirely respect and understand that. I’m the same way. It is a lot harder to actually practice this. However, we are told that God’s mercy endures forever. If His mercy endures infinitely, then He is still the same even during the bad times.
As a result, if God is the same, then we ought to praise Him just the same even when we don’t feel like it.
In Psalms 135, we hear about the exceptionalism of God. We hear about what sets Him apart from all other gods, and then you get near the end of the chapter and you come across this passage which really blew me away.
Psa 135:15 The idols of the heathen are silver and gold, the work of men’s hands.
Psa 135:16 They have mouths, but they speak not; eyes have they, but they see not;
Psa 135:17 They have ears, but they hear not; neither is there any breath in their mouths.
Psa 135:18 They that make them are like unto them: so is every one that trusteth in them.
I love this passage. Basically, there is a comparison in this chapter being made between all the great stuff that God has done, and this is how the other gods are described.
I had to think about this, and I was trying to think of an exception to the rule. However, when you think about the Greek pantheon for example, the gods certainly have superpowers, but in terms of personality and actions, they are very human. I don’t know a lot about Hinduism, but the little bit I do now seems to fit in with this theme as well. The millions of deities certainly do have powers that humans don’t have, but many of them do it like humans. I think that is what he is talking about in verse 18.
Contrast that to the God of the Bible. A major point of God is that He is substantially different humans. He is a perfect type of being that we can never be. His ways are not our ways. We might not understand everything that He does even though we accept that He does indeed do those things. Our God is not confined to our imagination but is by definition infinite. We cannot comprehend infinity.
I like this comparison quite a bit. It illustrates a major dichotomy in worldviews. If you look at gods that I would argue are man-made, you see a striking similarity to human nature. If you look at the God of the Bible, you find people who are separated from God and need the Perfect Sacrifice of Jesus Christ to bridge the gap.
Psalms 134 seems to be pretty straightforward on the surface. When we worship God, we are blessing Him.
Psa 134:1 A Song of degrees. Behold, bless ye the LORD, all ye servants of the LORD, which by night stand in the house of the LORD.
Psa 134:2 Lift up your hands in the sanctuary, and bless the LORD.
Psa 134:3 The LORD that made heaven and earth bless thee out of Zion.
Now, this may take a little bit of explanation because how is it possible for lowly human beings to bless the ultimate God of the entire universe? After all, when I think about blessings, I think about all of the amazing things that God does for us. I think about a blessing as something that comes in one direction.
However, Psalms 134 is interesting. It tells us to bless God by lifting our hands. If you look at the Strong’s Numbers, the word bless has the connotation of adoration. This is a picture of worship. We are adoring God, and we are lifting our hands.
Does our worship benefit God in any way? I am not convinced that it does. God can never be any better than He already is. Our worship does not make Him love us anymore. God is love by default, and He already loves humanity as much as He possibly can.
What then is the purpose of this worship? Why should we bother?
First of all, we are commanded to worship. If we believe that the Bible tells us how we ought to live, then we must worship. If God commanded it, we ought to do it. However, even if you don’t want to grant that as a good enough reason (even though you should), there is another reason to worship God.
When you worship something, you make it very important. You put it in a privileged position in your life. God ought to occupy that position in our lives. Love the Lord your God with all your heart. If you love God with all your heart, He is obviously in the top position. When we worship God, we are putting God where He belongs in our lives, and we are actively trying to live out that command.
Worship is important. We are commanded to do it, and it helps us give God the glory that He deserves. It also helps us recognize the position that God ought to hold in our lives.
Psalms 133 is pretty self-explanatory. It is only three verses long, so I will give you all three of them.
Psa 133:1 A Song of Ascents. Of David. Behold, how good and pleasant it is when brothers dwell in unity!
Psa 133:2 It is like the precious oil on the head, running down on the beard, on the beard of Aaron, running down on the collar of his robes!
Psa 133:3 It is like the dew of Hermon, which falls on the mountains of Zion! For there the LORD has commanded the blessing, life forevermore.
It is a good thing when Christians get along. That should be pretty obvious, but it is kind of a shame that there are many people who need to listen to this advice much more closely.
I certainly understand that there are some people we might just have a hard time getting along with. Personalities don’t always fit together well, and it might feel natural to disagree with whatever they say just because you don’t like them.
However, when the Bible tells you that it is good for all brother to get along and be united, you know that it is something that we ought to do, but you might not know why.
I think a big reason that we need to get along is because we are all part of one body, and we all bring something different to the table. If you read 1 Corinthians 12, you can read about this more in depth, but the point is that we all have different talents and gifts that complement those of other people.
We might not agree on every little point of doctrine, and we certainly might have personalities that don’t fit together very well. However, as Christians, we are called to work together for the glory of God. Of course, we are still allowed to disagree at times, but remember that it is a good thing when we all work together to advance the kingdom of God.
Psalms 132 seems to have a Messianic feeling in the middle of it. I am not 100% sure if it was intended that way, so feel free to disagree with me below, but listen to how everything fits together very obvious and powerfully.
Psa 132:11 The LORD swore to David a sure oath from which he will not turn back: “One of the sons of your body I will set on your throne.
Psa 132:12 If your sons keep my covenant and my testimonies that I shall teach them, their sons also forever shall sit on your throne.”
Notice that there is a condition here for the occupancy of the entire throne. There was a kind of moral responsibility that needs to be fulfilled.
It says that if the sons of David want to be on the throne forever, they need to keep the covenant of God. That is significant. That changes the entire ballgame.
The reason that I argue that this is somewhat Messianic is because Jesus fulfills the condition, and He has earned the reward already. First of all, he was in the lineage of David. That seems to be necessary from verse 11.
However, the more important part is from verse 12. He is the one who is able to live a life without sin. He is the one who we also know is sitting at the right hand of God forevermore.
Do you at least where I am thinking on this one? We have passage that tells us that a child of David has the potential to establish an eternal throne based on following the law of the Lord. I know of only one person who was able to do that, and I figured I would point that out today.
Psalms 131 is awfully short, but we learn a lot about pride.
Psa 131:1 A Song of degrees of David. LORD, my heart is not haughty, nor mine eyes lofty: neither do I exercise myself in great matters, or in things too high for me.
Psa 131:2 Surely I have behaved and quieted myself, as a child that is weaned of his mother: my soul is even as a weaned child.
Psa 131:3 Let Israel hope in the LORD from henceforth and for ever.
It seems like the third verse is somewhat disconnected from the first two. The first two talk about David trying to be humble. He is trying to keep his perspective right. We hear a lot in the Bible about being humble before God, and this passage seems to fit the theme perfectly. However, how do we connect that to the final verse about Israel trusting God?
I certainly agree that Israel should trust in God. That’s a no-brainer. Most of the Old Testament seems to be telling Israel that be they need to be coming back to God or remaining close with God. Again, this is a very popular topic, and we talked about it before.
I think that the main connection comes from the fact that when you are humble, you recognize that your hope is not in yourself. You are willing to say that you might not have every answer in the world, and you are willing to admit that you might be wrong at times.
If we have hope but not from ourselves, and then it necessarily has to come from somewhere else. Of course, if you don’t have any hope, then you don’t need a source for it. However, I think that most people put their hope in something, and David is advising that it would be wise for Israel to put their hope in God.
Obviously, this is not the most deeply developed argument. It is only three verses, but this is not a difficult point to take. If you are humble enough to realize that you are not your own hope and if you recognize that you do have some kind of hope in something, God is the best place to put that hope.
I think that we can take forgiveness for granted, but when you read Psalms 130, you have to think about how great a privilege it really is.
Psa 130:3 If thou, LORD, shouldest mark iniquities, O Lord, who shall stand?
This verse is very adequate starting point. There is no possible way that we would be able to stand up to all of our sins. I don’t think it is very hard for most of us to think about times that we have messed up or done something wrong. As unfortunate as it is, it is hard to deny that reality.
Psa 130:4 But there is forgiveness with thee, that thou mayest be feared.
Psa 130:5 I wait for the LORD, my soul doth wait, and in his word do I hope.
Psa 130:6 My soul waiteth for the Lord more than they that watch for the morning: I say, more than they that watch for the morning.
Psa 130:7 Let Israel hope in the LORD: for with the LORD there is mercy, and with him is plenteous redemption.
Psa 130:8 And he shall redeem Israel from all his iniquities.
Despite all of that sin that I just talked about, there is forgiveness in God. This chapter never says that we need to have under a certain number of bad marks in order to qualify for forgiveness. It simply says that forgiveness is in God. Our hope for forgiveness is placed in the one who rules the universe and created everything.
It really is an amazing gift if you think about it. God is certainly not obligated to forgive us. He would be well within His rights to say that we don’t deserve forgiveness. We should reap the consequences of the lives that we have created. However, God did not do that. He provided His Son as a perfect sacrifice to forgive all the rest of humanity for all time.
It is pretty amazing that we have that hope.