Ezekiel was a messenger to many different people for many different reasons, but much of what he ended up speaking against was the problem of idolatry. In Ezekiel 23, he was called to speak to both the people of Israel and the people of Judah. The people of Israel had wandered away from God earlier after the split of the kingdom, but Judah had remained more faithful. However, we had now come to a point in history where Judah had also fallen.
Eze 23:22 Therefore, O Aholibah, thus saith the Lord GOD; Behold, I will raise up thy lovers against thee, from whom thy mind is alienated, and I will bring them against thee on every side;
Eze 23:23 The Babylonians, and all the Chaldeans, Pekod, and Shoa, and Koa, and all the Assyrians with them: all of them desirable young men, captains and rulers, great lords and renowned, all of them riding upon horses.
Eze 23:24 And they shall come against thee with chariots, wagons, and wheels, and with an assembly of people, which shall set against thee buckler and shield and helmet round about: and I will set judgment before them, and they shall judge thee according to their judgments.
Eze 23:25 And I will set my jealousy against thee, and they shall deal furiously with thee: they shall take away thy nose and thine ears; and thy remnant shall fall by the sword: they shall take thy sons and thy daughters; and thy residue shall be devoured by the fire.
I think that there is a powerful lesson here for us. The nation of Judah had indeed been blessed by God. However, even with all of the evidence leading them to believe that it was worthwhile to follow God, they still wandered away.
Here is a little thought experiment. As we know, Zedekiah was the King of Judah when the Babylonians came. There were 19 kings by my count between the reign of David and the reign of Zedekiah.
We know that David died approximately in 970 BC and Jerusalem fell in approximately 586 BC. That is 384 years of spiraling downhill. While there certainly were some improvements along the way, the trajectory was generally downhill until it hit rock bottom.
It is a shame though. You think about a nation that was on top of the world. David was a man after God’s own heart, and although he certainly had many, many flaws, he led Israel in the ways of God. They were a nation that valued and worshipped God. They then became a nation that was about to be judged by God for falling away to idols.
It kind of makes you think of another nation that was founded in Biblical principles but continually slid away for approximately 400 years. We need revival.
Isaiah 31 continues the theme we talked about yesterday. We hear more about what happens when people decide to go off on their own and totally disregard the role that God ought to play in their lives.
Isa 31:1 Woe to them that go down to Egypt for help; and stay on horses, and trust in chariots, because they are many; and in horsemen, because they are very strong; but they look not unto the Holy One of Israel, neither seek the LORD!
Isa 31:2 Yet he also is wise, and will bring evil, and will not call back his words: but will arise against the house of the evildoers, and against the help of them that work iniquity.
Isa 31:3 Now the Egyptians are men, and not God; and their horses flesh, and not spirit. When the LORD shall stretch out his hand, both he that helpeth shall fall, and he that is holpen shall fall down, and they all shall fail together.
Verse three virtually puts everything on the line. The Egyptians are human; they are not gods. That’s pretty much what it comes down to. If there is such a thing as God and if that God is the way that the Bible describes Him, then humans clearly cannot satisfy those requirements. For an obvious example, no human is omnipresent.
We basically then have a dichotomy. We can either trust in God, or we can trust in something else. You might ask why we can’t do half-and-half. Why can’t I trust in myself, and then when things get difficult, I will go to God?
That is a lot of what we see from David in the Psalms. He always seemed to be asking God to help him find his way back to a right relationship. He knew that it ultimately could not be a human thing; he had to go to God to make that happen.
I think that this has a lot of relevance for us today. We still have far too many people, Christian or not, who rely on their own strength or other personal characteristics when they actually should be placing that trust in God. Like David in Psalms, we can’t say that we will trust in God halfway. It becomes an entire commitment.
Psalms 142 was apparently written while David was hiding in the caves presumably from Saul unless that type of hiding happened at other times in his life. This was obviously a difficult time for him, and I can only imagine the stress that running for his life created. He knew that he needed to look for divine assistance because relying on himself or other people wasn’t working out all that well.
Psa 142:4 I looked on my right hand, and beheld, but there was no man that would know me: refuge failed me; no man cared for my soul.
Psa 142:5 I cried unto thee, O LORD: I said, Thou art my refuge and my portion in the land of the living.
I am not going to say that I have experienced this level of human abandonment. I know that there are people that care about me, and I am incredibly grateful for that. However, I think that the general premise applies across the board.
Even if we have these people who care about us, they still cannot care about us on the level that God does. The difference is that people cannot be our refuge. Other people are not watching over the entire world. Sure, our friends and family can come alongside us and support us when we have difficult times. They can encourage us, and they can love us. I don’t want to diminish that whatsoever. That is a very important thing that we are called to do for one another.
However, God is different. He has the power to do what no human can do. He also has the perspective to see what we might not be able to see. For example, I know that it is a cliché, but I do believe that difficult times can be used by God to make us better people. I think that we learn through trials. We might not understand everything at the time, but as the eternal God, He is able to help us through that time and teach us what we ought to learn.
Again, I don’t think I have experienced the entire abandonment that David had felt in this Psalm, but despite that, I think we can all relate to the sentiment. Having a relationship with God is different than having a relationship with other people.
Today’s topic from Psalms 140 is rather obvious. There are people out there who want to mess with your life. There are people who might not like you for whatever reason, and sometimes it is even unprovoked. Maybe you did nothing “wrong”, but someone just doesn’t like your personality or the way you go about your everyday life.
How are we supposed to handle these people? We can try to be nice to them; in fact, we should be nice to them. However, that doesn’t necessarily solve our problem. We still might have to deal with these people. As nice as we are, we need a plan as to how we are going to handle these situations.
Psa 140:4 Keep me, O LORD, from the hands of the wicked; preserve me from the violent man; who have purposed to overthrow my goings.
Psa 140:5 The proud have hid a snare for me, and cords; they have spread a net by the wayside; they have set gins for me. Selah.
Psa 140:6 I said unto the LORD, Thou art my God: hear the voice of my supplications, O LORD.
Psa 140:7 O GOD the Lord, the strength of my salvation, thou hast covered my head in the day of battle.
It is interesting that David went directly to God. That tells me a few things. First, it tells me that David believed that God was able to be actively involved in his life. He didn’t believe in a God who was simply a great clockmaker.
Second, this tells me that David believed that God was more powerful than humanity. If God was able to protect David from the enemies that he could not protect himself from, then it seems as if logic necessitates that God is more powerful than both David and his enemies.
Finally, it tells me that God cares about people. David kept coming back to God because he understood that God cared about him. It was a good place to put his trust because it had never failed him before, and he knew that God would not fail him in the future.
We can learn a lot from this chapter about how to handle difficult people in our lives. Mainly, we bring the problem to God. He is involved, He is powerful, and He cares about us. The evil fades away in comparison to our God.
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.
We get excited about college basketball. As a fan, you love to see the underdog come from behind and do something that nobody believed was possible. You don’t know how it happened, and you don’t know necessarily why it happened, but it ultimately did happen.
If you think about that, Israel was kind of in a similar position through most of their history. They should have been wiped off the map multiple times, but for some reason they continued surviving. Even when they ended up being captured, they were not utterly destroyed even though many countries had the opportunity to exterminate them. What was going on here? Psalms 124 explains it pretty well.
Psa 124:2 If it had not been the LORD who was on our side, when men rose up against us:
Psa 124:3 Then they had swallowed us up quick, when their wrath was kindled against us:
Psa 124:4 Then the waters had overwhelmed us, the stream had gone over our soul:
Psa 124:5 Then the proud waters had gone over our soul.
Psa 124:6 Blessed be the LORD, who hath not given us as a prey to their teeth.
Why was Israel so successful? They had God with them, and that made the difference. I don’t really know how much more I can say beyond that. I can’t say that Israel tried harder. I can’t say that Israel was morally superior. I can’t say that Israel had a spectacularly trained army that dominated all opponents.
Any of those things could be hypothetically true, but notice that that is not what was highlighted in this passage. The difference was made through the power of God.
Some people would argue that this is simply some kind of bizarre twist on the “God of the gaps.” We might not know how Israel survived, Israel did survive, and therefore it must be God behind it. Certainly, David would argue that since he was the author of this Psalm.
However, even if you are not ready to take that as an argument, unless you have some kind of presuppositional bias against the existence of the supernatural, you certainly cannot rule out God being the source of the difference. I would go as far as to say that it is reasonable to believe that there was something supernatural about this situation, but we at least cannot say that it was absolutely impossible.
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 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 89 talks a lot about the covenant that God made with David. As a refresher, let me grab that for you so that we have some common ground to build off of.
2Sa 7:13 He shall build an house for my name, and I will stablish the throne of his kingdom for ever.
2Sa 7:14 I will be his father, and he shall be my son. If he commit iniquity, I will chasten him with the rod of men, and with the stripes of the children of men:
2Sa 7:15 But my mercy shall not depart away from him, as I took it from Saul, whom I put away before thee.
2Sa 7:16 And thine house and thy kingdom shall be established for ever before thee: thy throne shall be established for ever.
We can see some of this quoted in this Psalm directly, and I have to admit that this is a controversial one. After all, the Bible itself records times when the Israelites were taken, and it did not seem like the throne was too well-established.
How can we possibly say that his kingdom would be established forever when we have definitive evidence that that wasn’t the case?
I think that we can approach this question in a few different ways, but let’s work on that a little bit.
Psa 89:31 If they break my statutes, and keep not my commandments;
Psa 89:32 Then will I visit their transgression with the rod, and their iniquity with stripes.
Psa 89:33 Nevertheless my lovingkindness will I not utterly take from him, nor suffer my faithfulness to fail.
Psa 89:34 My covenant will I not break, nor alter the thing that is gone out of my lips.
Let me try to illustrate this with an example. Let’s say that I own a house. I have told you that I am going to establish myself in that house forever. I plan on living there forever, and that is always going to be my house.
However, what if I decide to go on vacation? Maybe something stressful is happening at work, and I need to get away for a temporary reprieve? Does that invalidate everything that I told you before?
Hardly. I am still established at my home. My home has not stopped being my home. Just because I am away from my home does not mean that it is not my home.
I think we are dealing with a very similar situation here. As part of the covenant, God did say that Israel could be punished for their problems, but the establishment of this throne would never depart. This is like me saying that I will live in that house forever. I have established my dwelling at that location.
That doesn’t mean that I can never leave that dwelling ever again, and it doesn’t mean that there had to be an active king sitting on the literal throne in Israel at all times.
If that was true, then how could Jesus have fulfilled this prophecy? Jesus sits on the throne now, but it is not like there is a literal chair in Israel that He physically sits on. The establishment of the throne is the creation of the position. Some people were punished because of their activities, but the position did not disappear. Now, the position is occupied by One who will never transgress and have reason to be disciplined.
Psalms 86 is a prayer from David, and he certainly covers a lot of ground in that. He praises God for who He is, asks God for safety and he even gets around to defending monotheism. Let’s talk about that today.
Psa 86:7 In the day of my trouble I will call upon thee: for thou wilt answer me.
Psa 86:8 Among the gods there is none like unto thee, O Lord; neither are there any works like unto thy works.
Psa 86:9 All nations whom thou hast made shall come and worship before thee, O Lord; and shall glorify thy name.
Psa 86:10 For thou art great, and doest wondrous things: thou art God alone.
The first verse sets up a kind of cause and effect relationship. When I have problems, I will call upon God because He will answer me. There is a certain level of trust there that is it a result of I have to assume David’s past. The reason he called upon God is because he knew God would answer. The way to know that is to have previous experience.
Then, he goes on to say that none of the other gods are like God, and no one can do what God can do. These are actually two separate claims. First, we hear that no other god is like God. Second, we hear that no one, human or deity, can do what God can do. I believe the first part of goes back to verse seven. I choose to call on God because God will answer me. Therefore, God is unique among all of the other gods.
Beyond that, no one can do what God can do, and I think that ties back to verse seven. God will answer you in a way that no one else could. Again, this is something experiential. David knew a lot of people, and he knew God. He knew that there was something different about working with God, and the difference was that he received an answer.
Verses nine and ten are prophetic. All nations are going to come and worship God because He is great and does wonderful things. I don’t really want to get into prophecy right now, but it does imply that in the end, there will be only one left who is worth worshiping. That is the end of verse ten. In the end, God will be acknowledged as the one and only God.
So, let’s recap. I said that this passage was going to be a defense of monotheism. God will answer prayers, and He is the only one who does anything like that among all the other gods. This is what David had seen as a result of his experience on earth. Because He was the only God who was able to do these kinds of things, we get these prophetic verses where everyone ultimately has to realize that God is the only one. David is basically saying that the rest of them are simply going to pass away, and God is going to remain as the one and only God.