Author Archive for John Thomson

27
May
20

psalm 98… joy to the world

Psalm 98 (which echoes Ps 96) is part of a series of Psalms (Ps 93-100) that celebrate the reign of God (Ps 93:1). In them, the Lord is king (98:6) and reigns, not simply in the general sense he has always reigned, but in a specific sense; God’s anticipated kingdom has arrived. The Lord has finally delivered Israel and will judge her enemies.

No doubt the Psalm had an initial context, however, it’s scope is so comprehensive that only the arrival of God’s anticipated eschatological (End-time) Kingdom can do it justice. The whole world is caught up in this event (v9).

In the NT, of course, we discover the anticipated Kingdom arrived with the First Coming of Jesus (Cf. Lk 16:16, 17:20, 21; Matt 13). With the birth of Jesus, the King, God’s promised salvation had come (Lk 11:20, 30-33, 68-79,2:29-32). In a few short years he would enter his own city, Jerusalem, the city of the great King, humbly riding, as Zechariah prophesied, on a colt the foal of a donkey. The people celebrated (Lk 12:12-16) as Zechariah had said they should.

Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion!

Shout aloud, O daughter of Jerusalem!

Behold, your king is coming to you;

righteous and having salvation is he,

humble and mounted on a donkey, (Zech 9:9).

God’s salvation was within their grasp. The Lord had come to his temple (Mal 3:1). The King of glory had entered Jerusalem’s gates (Ps 24). Yet, as sinful hearts have done since Eden, against all reason, the mood of the nation changed, celebration twisted to contempt, acclaim turned to animosity, and Israel rejected her Messiah preferring the hated gentile rule.

Pilate said to the Jews, “Here is your King!” 15 At this, they shouted, “Away with Him! Away with Him! Crucify Him!” “Shall I crucify your King?” Pilate asked. “We have no king but Caesar,” replied the chief priests. 16 Then Pilate handed Jesus over to be crucified, (John 19:15, 16; Cf. Lk 19:14).

For almost 2000 years Israel was given her preference. The majority of these years she was scattered amongst the nations, exiled from her own land (Deut 4:27, 28:64). Even now, although a nation in her own right, Israel is still very dependent on Western powers. She is surrounded by hostile nations intent on her destruction. Israel, whether she realises it or not, greatly needs salvation spiritually and in every other sense. She desperately needs her Messiah; she needs the Second Coming. Romans 11 says,

A partial hardening has come upon Israel, until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in. 26 And in this way all Israel will be saved, as it is written,

“The Deliverer will come from Zion,

he will banish ungodliness from Jacob”;

27 “and this will be my covenant with them

when I take away their sins.”

Presently, contrary to Israel’s expectation, it is the nations God is blessing with salvation. However, when God’s mercy to gentile nations is complete then he will once again have mercy on Israel. In the past she rejected her peace but God intends yet to be merciful; he will not cast away his people he has foreknown (Deut 30:1-10; Lk 19:41-44; Isa 9:6, 11:11, 60:1-22; Roms 11:2, 29-30; Ps 94:14; Jer 31:37).

In the meantime, Israel’s future is as precarious as it looks. She faces yet more suffering, severe suffering. The Bible calls it ‘the time of Jacob’s trouble’ (Jer 30:7; Deut 31:16-18). The nations it seems will turn on Israel seeking her annihilation (Zech 14:1-3). Many will die. Indeed only a remnant will survive (Zech 13:8-14:21). It will survive because God will cut short his judgements on the nation and Christ will return. It is this remnant that will see and believe (Roms 9). Zechariah writes in ch 12,13

And I will pour out on the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem a spirit of grace and pleas for mercy, so that, when they look on me, on him whom they have pierced, they shall mourn for him, as one mourns for an only child, and weep bitterly over him, as one weeps over a firstborn… (ESV) 1 “On that day there shall be a fountain opened for the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem, to cleanse them from sin and uncleanness.’

Christ’s return will be for Israel (and the believing pilgrim and persecuted people of God) salvation in the fullest sense of the word (Cf. Isa 60; Zech 10:6-12, 14:1-20; 2 Thess 1:4-10). Yet what will be salvation for redeemed Israel and the people of God will be judgement for the nations (Isa 60; Zech 12:1-9; Matt 25:31-46; Jer 30; 2 Thess 1:4-10).

This is, at least, how I understand Israel’s future, though I would not wish to be dogmatic. However, given this double arrival of God’s Kingdom (now, but not yet), the Psalm can be seen to describe God’s saving acts in both advents.

Rather like the vision of heavenly praise in Revelation 5, the psalm’s lens focuses first on the redeemed Temple worshippers (vv1-3 Cf. Rev 5:8-10) then pans out to to include the nations (vv4-6) and finally all of creation (vv7-9. Cf. Rev 5:11-14).

Vv1-3

1 Oh sing to the LORD a new song,

for he has done marvellous things!

His right hand and his holy arm

have worked salvation for him.

2 The LORD has made known his salvation;

he has revealed his righteousness in the sight of the nations.

3 He has remembered his steadfast love and faithfulness

to the house of Israel.

All the ends of the earth have seen

The psalmist calls for a ‘new song’. Songs were often written to celebrate and commemorate the Lord’s victory in battle (Isa 42:10; Deut 31:19; Judg 5:1; 2 Sam 22:1). The Lord was the divine all-powerful warrior, ‘the man of war’, who fought on Israel’s behalf (Ex 15:2-4; Deut 5:15; Isa 42:13, 59:15-19; Eph 4:7-10; Rev 19:11-16). Doubtless Israel’s salvation in the Exodus shapes the Psalmist’s language. Certainly Israel’s redemption from Egypt occasioned ‘a new song’. In a mighty and miraculous way God delivered Israel from Egypt (Ex 15; Deut 4:34). It was so self-evidently miraculous that the surrounding nations came to fear Israel’s God. (Ex 15; Josh 2:10,11; Roms 9:17).

The Exodus, of course, is a template for God’s eschatological deliverance (Isa 11:16, 42:14-17, 43:16-19, 52:1-12; Jer 23:7,8; Col 1:13,14). Indeed, God’s salvation, in whatever context, is a miracle and witnesses to his power. It was so at the Exodus and other occasions in Israel’s history. His warrior mettle is revealed too in the healing miracles of Jesus. In these, the saving powers of the age to come were revealed; Satan’s strongholds were being toppled (Lk 11:14-23). His saving power in righteousness is revealed, of course, supremely in gospel (Roms 1:16). God, in the gospel, is revealed to be just in declaring sinners righteous and delivering him from the Kingdom of darkness (Roms 3:21:26; Col 1:13,14). It was on the cross that the divine warrior fought the decisive battle to deliver his people (Col 2:15). It was an Exodus that far eclipsed that of Moses (Lk 9:31; Cf. Jer 23:7,8).

It is this victory, won by Jesus on the cross, declaring God’s righteousness, that secures the final salvation of God’s people (including believing Israel) at the Second Coming of Christ. Man has no righteousness; God’s own righteousness must save (Isa 1:26,27, 9:7, 46:13, 51:5, 59:16,17). Furthermore, God is proved to be righteous in maintaining his covenant promises to Israel (98:2; Cf. Neh 9:7,8). Thus God’s eschatological salvation, embracing the two advents, declares his righteousness and power. To the nations, indeed the whole of creation, he will be seen through the redemption of his people, to be a righteous God and Saviour (Isa 45:21).

The Psalmist celebrates the world-wide dimensions of God’s salvation (Cf. Isa 12).

Vv4-9

4 Make a joyful noise to the LORD, all the earth;

break forth into joyous song and sing praises!

5 Sing praises to the LORD with the lyre,

with the lyre and the sound of melody!

6 With trumpets and the sound of the horn

make a joyful noise before the King, the LORD!

7 Let the sea roar, and all that fills it;

the world and those who dwell in it!

8 Let the rivers clap their hands;

let the hills sing for joy together

9 before the LORD, for he comes

to judge the earth.

He will judge the world with righteousness,

and the peoples with equity.

So glorious is the final redemption, embracing all God has made, that the only fitting response is exuberant praise from a renewed creation (Isa 55:12; Roms 8:19; Rev 5:13).

We should note, that while the Psalm celebrates God’s salvation of his people from all their enemies this involves too the judgement of the ungodly. He comes ‘to judge the earth… with righteousness’ (Cf. Isa 11:3-5; Obd 1:15,16; Matt 25:31-46); Acts 17:31). We should also note that here again we have an example of what is found repeatedly in the OT. It is Israel’s God, the Lord, who wars on her behalf and who comes to reign and judge. Yet it is equally Israel’s Messiah, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the son given called ‘the mighty God’, who wars, reigns and judges (Gen 49:8,9; Isa 9;6,11:1-6, 42:1-18, 61:1-4; Cf. Num 2:3; Ps 110). The Lord is King (v6; Ex 20:33-38) and Messiah is King (Isa 9:6,7, 16:5; Jer 23:5,6). In the NT this enigma is explained; the Lord and Messiah are one and the same (Jn 1:1; Phil 2:5; Isa 43:11 and Tit 2:13; Hebs 1:8; Cf. Jer 23:5,6).

The salvation the Psalm celebrates is ours too. He who will rescue Israel has rescued us and has put a new song in our mouth (Ps 40:3). We have a song to sing forever (Rev 5) in the eternal kingdom of our God and of his Christ (Dan 2:44, 7:14; 2 Pet 1:11; Rev 11:15). Only an eternal song can do justice to this single-handed eternal victory of God (Isa 63:1-6). In the meantime we have Psalm 98, or perhaps better known, Issac Watt’s hymn based on Psalm 98,

Joy to the world, the Lord is come!

Let earth receive her King;

Let every heart prepare Him room

And heaven and nature sing

And heaven and nature sing

And heaven, and heaven, and nature sing

Joy to the world, the Savior reigns!

Let men their songs employ;

While fields and floods, rocks, hills and plains

Repeat the sounding joy

Repeat the sounding joy

Repeat, repeat, the sounding joy

No more let sins and sorrows grow

Nor thorns infest the ground;

He comes to make His blessings flow

Far as the curse is found

Far as the curse is found

Far as, far as the curse is found

He rules the world with truth and grace

And makes the nations prove

The glories of His righteousness

And wonders of His love

And wonders of His love

And wonders, wonders, of His love

22
May
20

psalm 102

Psalm 102

In Luke’s gospel we read, ‘And he said unto them, These are the words which I spake unto you, while I was yet with you, that all things must be fulfilled, which were written in the law of Moses, and in the prophets, and in the psalms, concerning me.’(Lk 24:24). The key to understanding Scripture is to grasp that it’s focus is Christ. God’s desire above all else is his own glory and that glory he has centred in Christ.

The psalms therefore, according to Christ’s own teaching, speak of him. It should not surprise us therefore that the psalms are frequently quoted in the NT as being fulfilled in some aspect in him. Apparently, the Psalms, is the most referenced book in the NT.

The Psalms therefore, while they may describe, at least in part, an immediate experience, stretch beyond that to things more ultimate. They are (in many cases at least) not simply or even principally personal; they are prophetic.

Psalm 102

Has been listed as a penitential psalm, which is odd as it has no confession of sin… yet the speaker is aware of being under God’s wrath. The psalm is a lament. The writer is in profound personal distress.

No historical situation is given, nor is the author named. Clearly Zion, or Jerusalem, is also in distress, though the speaker believes her rescue is imminent. One source suggests the psalm is set during the exile given the reference to Zion’s stones (v14) and the Lord building Zion (v16). Also the reference to the freeing of prisoners though Israel in exile were not condemned prisoners. (vv20,21). Whatever the original historical setting the psalm no doubt eclipses it with its prophetic lens. What is clear is that the writer cares deeply about Zion and anticipates her deliverance (v13), but apparently none for himself (v23,24). The Lord, it seems, will have pity on Zion but not on him (v13,14).

The NT teaches decisively that this psalm finds its fulfilment in Christ (Hebs 1:10). It is messianic; and indeed this Christian belief was shared by the teachers in Israel too. Given this, the overall thrust of the psalm becomes clear.

V1-11

The opening eleven verses contain a desperate cry to the Lord (1,2) and a description of the intense suffering being experienced (3-11). Messiah is experiencing the wrath of God.

Vv1,2… the plea

1 Hear my prayer, O LORD;

let my cry come to you!

2 Do not hide your face from me

in the day of my distress!

Incline your ear to me;

answer me speedily in the day when I call!

Vv3-11… the plight

3 For my days pass away like smoke,

and my bones burn like a furnace.

4 My heart is struck down like grass and has withered;

I forget to eat my bread.

5 Because of my loud groaning

my bones cling to my flesh.

6 I am like a desert owl of the wilderness,

like an owl of the waste places;

7 I lie awake;

I am like a lonely sparrow on the

housetop.

8 All the day my enemies taunt me;

those who deride me use my name for a curse.

9 For I eat ashes like bread

and mingle tears with my drink,

10 because of your indignation and anger;

for you have taken me up and thrown me down.

11 My days are like an evening shadow;

I wither away like grass.

The distress is palpable. Kidner summarises the sufferings as: ‘Fever, frailty, wasting, pain, sleeplessness, melancholy, rejection and despair’. Another writer says, his suffering is so great that it ‘withers body and spirit.’ God had taken Messiah up and appointed him to a task only to throw him down (v10) In the words of a parallel psalm, Psalm 89,

I will not lie to David.

36 His offspring shall endure forever,

his throne as long as the sun before me.

37 Like the moon it shall be established forever,

a faithful witness in the skies.” Selah.

38 But now you have cast off and rejected;

you are full of wrath against your anointed.

39 You have renounced the covenant with your servant;

you have defiled his crown in the dust.

40 You have breached all his walls;

you have laid his strongholds in ruins.

41 All who pass by plunder him…

44 You have made his splendour to cease

and cast his throne to the ground.

45 You have cut short the days of his youth;

you have covered him with shame. Selah (Ps 89:33-45 Cf. Ps 132: 11-18).

Messiah was promised a throne but given a cross. The God who chose him has forsaken him; he has hidden his face. Messiah is alone, like the owl in the wasteland or sparrow on the housetop. His soul is hollowed out. It seems, as often in the Psalms, we have an insight to the tortured thoughts of Messiah possibly in the days, perhaps even months leading up to the cross (Lk 12:50). And an insight particularly to the garden of Gethsemane and the cross itself. Surely we have here the spirit of the ‘strong crying and tears’ of which Hebrews speaks (Hebs 5:7). Messiah is the true righteous sufferer, taunted and derided. He knows the excruciating wrath but is without sin. It is all too easy to assume that in some way Christ’s divine knowledge and sure faith diminished the struggles of his humanity. The psalms reveal otherwise. In him, faith was pushed to limits none other has known. He pioneered faith (Hebs 12).

Suddenly in v12 the focus dramatically shifts. It is not Messiah’s own sorrows and suffering but Zion that becomes the focus. Zion, the city of the living God, the city of the great King (Ps 48:1,2). Messiah’s city. Zion where both God and Messiah had their throne. The epicentre and focus of God and His Davidic Son’s universal Kingdom. Zion, destined in grace to be ‘the joy of the whole earth’ (Ps 48:2). The Messianic King’s heart, even in his extreme distress, lies with Zion; Zion too is in distress. She and her people are under judgement.

12 But you, O LORD, are enthroned forever;

you are remembered throughout all generations.

13 You will arise and have pity on Zion;

it is the time to favour her;

the appointed time has come.

14 For your servants hold her stones dear

and have pity on her dust.

15 Nations will fear the name of the LORD,

and all the kings of the earth will fear your glory.

16 For the LORD builds up Zion;

he appears in his glory;

17 he regards the prayer of the destitute

and does not despise their prayer.

18 Let this be recorded for a generation to come,

so that a people yet to be created may praise the LORD:

19 that he looked down from his holy height;

from heaven the LORD looked at the earth,

20 to hear the groans of the prisoners,

to set free those who were doomed to die,

21 that they may declare in Zion the name of the LORD,

and in Jerusalem his praise,

22 when peoples gather together,

and kingdoms, to worship the LORD.

Here is light in his darkness. Whatever his future may be, Zion’s future is certain. The Lord reigns thus Zion will be blessed. He hears the prayers of those who care about Zion over the years (Isa 62:6,7). To them, destitute though they are, its stones, even the dust of its streets are precious. The Lord is gracious. He will pity Zion. He will himself build Zion (Hebs 11:10). Indeed the verb here is what some call ‘the prophetic perfect’… ‘the Lord builds up Zion; he appears in his glory…’. The event is so certain that it is described as having happened or happening. Messiah is sure the appointed time of Zion’s favour, her salvation, has arrived. In her redemption the Lord will be glorified. He will be her glory. The nations will see and fear the Lord. So confident is he that he wants his words recorded so that the Lord’s building of Zion will be celebrated by future generations. The promised kingdom will come. God’s will shall be done on earth as it is in heaven. And Zion will be the hub (Ps 2:6; 9:7-11, Jer 3:17;Isa 60-62).

It is clear these verses describe a rebuilding of Zion and the fortunes of Israel beyond any post-exile return. The prophetic voice is clear. The question for us is how these verses concerning Zion’s future glory is fulfilled. Do they refer to Israel’s salvation at the end of the age and a rebuilt Jerusalem on earth? Do they refer to the New Jerusalem that is above and in John’s vision will come down from heaven (Rev 21). Christians differ on these questions and I confess, I don’t know. There certainly appear to be prophecies in Scripture involving earthly Jerusalem at end of the present age.

Here I simply note the NT emphasis. In the NT, Messiah’s Kingdom has already come but is yet to come. The age to come, the age of the kingdom, has invaded the present. The reign of Messiah began when having made purification for sins he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high… all authority on heaven and earth is now his (Hebs 1:3; Matt 28; Eph 1). The heavenly Zion, the Jerusalem which is above, is presently being built, albeit in an unexpected way, and the nations are flowing into it, enjoying by faith its blessings (Gals 4:26). Gentiles upon faith are incorporated into Christ and ‘in him’ are heirs with believing Israel to the covenants of promise (Eph 2). God’s people presently are citizens of a heavenly country/city (Phil 3:20,2, Hebs 12:22). However, as with the Kingdom, the city’s full consummated resplendent glory belongs to the future (Rev 21). It is there fulfilment is complete. John sees the New Jerusalem coming down from heaven. He writes concerning it,

22 And I saw no temple in the city, for its temple is the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb. 23 And the city has no need of sun or moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and its lamp is the Lamb. 24 By its light will the nations walk, and the kings of the earth will bring their glory into it, 25 and its gates will never be shut by day—and there will be no night there. 26 They will bring into it the glory and the honour of the nations. 27 But nothing unclean will ever enter it, nor anyone who does what is detestable or false, but only those who are written in the Lamb’s book of life.

John’s heavenly city surpasses in excellence OT prophecies but it certainly seems to resonate with them (though there are discontinuities). The splendours the OT envisages for the eschatological Zion are found in John’s heavenly city (Cf. Ezek 47:1,12, 48:35; Jer 3:16,17; Isa 54:11,12, 60-62, 65:17–20; Dan 7:27; Zech 14:8; It clearly echoes the vision of Zion in this psalm. Be that as it may, however this prophecy is ultimately realised we know it will be surpassingly glorious for it is irradiated with the glory of God (v16).

In vv23,24a the focus sharply shifts again. Joy turns to lament.

23 He has broken my strength in midcourse;

he has shortened my days.

24 “O my God,” I say, “take me not away

in the midst of my days—

Zion has a glorious future but Messiah it seems won’t be there to share it. In all his distress, this no doubt cut the deepest. His life is cut short (Ps 89:45). The anointed one is cut off and has nothing (Dan 9:26). Zion and her King belong together (Isa 60,61) yet Messiah is about to die. It is hard to reconcile these words with Christ’s own clear understanding about his death and resurrection. But by the same logic it is hard to reconcile the ‘why have you forsaken me’ with his awareness of what the cross involved. Perhaps the answer lies in his perfect humanity, a humanity so overwhelmed by the crushing weight of divine wrath that the certainties he knew were temporarily all but blotted out. The following verses are a glorious contrast.

Vv24b-28

you whose years endure

throughout all generations!”

25 Of old you laid the foundation of the earth,

and the heavens are the work of your hands.

26 They will perish, but you will remain;

they will all wear out like a garment.

You will change them like a robe, and they will pass away,

27 but you are the same, and your years have no end.

28 The children of your servants shall dwell secure;

These verses are apparently presented differently in the Hebrew and Greek versions of the OT. The Hebrew text which many versions follow could be read as Messiah continuing to address God. He is transient but God is eternal. This is a possible reading though of less consolation to the writer who asks for life. The Greek version of the Hebrew Scriptures (around 300 BC) apparently makes clear the alternative reading which is the reading the writer to the Hebrews affirms. By this reading it is not Messiah addressing God but God addressing Messiah.

Into the darkness of his human soul produced by light occluding suffering shines the glorious truth that Messiah himself is the Lord to whom he cries. He is the creator, enthroned forever. He is the eternal God whose days shall never end. The Jesus of the NT is Jehovah of the OT. He is both the Son of Man and the Ancient of Days to whom he goes to receive a kingdom. He is the Lord who will secure Zion and keep his promises.

The NT teaches this truth one way or another again and again. The OT does too when the dots are joined; texts regularly attribute to both God and Messiah the same realities. Messiah’s future is secure. In him is life. He has authority to lay down his life and take it up again. God’s people are in fact his people. In fact, it is only because Messiah is the wrath bearer that Zion has a future. Future glory for Zion lay in his present distress though this is not within the focus of the psalm.

On the cross the cry of dereliction (My God, My God….) gives way to a triumphant ‘it is finished’ and ‘Father into your hands I commend my Spirit’. The blinding darkness has gone the response of heaven has been heard and believed. Messiah and his Kingdom are one. He and his legacy are certain. He is indeed heir of all things. God has (in prophetic perfect language at least) set his King upon his holy hill of Zion.

09
May
20

psalm 93… the Lord reigns

1 The LORD reigns; he is robed in majesty;
the LORD is robed; he has put on strength as his belt.
Yes, the world is established; it shall never be moved.
2 Your throne is established from of old;
you are from everlasting.
3 The floods have lifted up, O LORD,
the floods have lifted up their voice;
the floods lift up their roaring.
4 Mightier than the thunders of many waters,
mightier than the waves of the sea,
the LORD on high is mighty!
5 Your decrees are very trustworthy;
holiness befits your house,
O LORD, forevermore.

Ps 93

Psalm 93, introduces a series of Psalms (Ps 93-100) which celebrate the Lord as King. Its opening words introduce the theme that dominates these Psalms, ‘The Lord reigns‘ (93:1; 96:10; 97:1; 99:1).

Israel was frequently under threat in the OT. Her relative weakness compared to other nations made her, humanly speaking, vulnerable. Her source of security and peace of heart lay not in herself but in her God, in realising that however small the nation may be, her God was awesomely big. ‘The Lord reigns’ was her faith affirmation, her proclamation, and her announcement.

The implications of this reign are unpacked in the following psalms (94-100). Israel’s God was no mere tribal deity. He ruled everywhere and over everything. There was nothing vulnerable about Him or His reign.

Repetition runs through this Psalm. Notice he is twice described as ‘robed’. His majesty and reign is in no doubt. He and his throne are untouchable. If the world was stable and secure it was because God’s rule was secure. He had established it. His throne predated the world. It was, as God himself, eternal.

Yes, the world is established; it shall never be moved.
2 Your throne is established from of old;
you are from everlasting.

His reign, however, has been challenged. Since the fall, rebellious humanity and the powers of evil have been hostile to God. They have been relentless in their quest to dethrone God.

This seems to be the meaning of v3

3 The floods have lifted up, O LORD,
the floods have lifted up their voice;
the floods lift up their roaring.

The flooding seas express tumult and chaos and often depict rebellious humanity (Cf. Ps 65:6-8; 89:8,9; 124:1-5). The wicked, says Isaiah, are like the troubled sea (Isaiah 57:20). The poet’s repetition stresses the relentless building waves of opposition. The wicked thunder and pound and roar in their fury against the Lord.

Their challenge, however, is futile. The Lord retains his royal robes of Kingship. Indeed he clothes himself as a warrior. He ‘puts on strength as a belt’. The Lord is stronger than any and all who oppose (Ps 29). Chaos and disorder in whatever form cannot withstand God. Verse four responds with its own emphatic repetition,

Mightier than the thunders of many waters,
mightier than the waves of the sea,
the LORD on high is mighty!

However loud and fierce and apparently intimidating the defiance of evil appears at sea-level (where we experience it) it is puny and insignificant in the face of the might of the exalted Lord. Isaiah says in ch 17:12, 13:

12 Ah, the thunder of many peoples;
they thunder like the thundering of the sea!
Ah, the roar of nations;
they roar like the roaring of mighty waters!
13 The nations roar like the roaring of many waters,
but he will rebuke them, and they will flee far away,
chased like chaff on the mountains before the wind
and whirling dust before the storm.

We have seen recently how a little virus in the hands of the Lord can bring an arrogant world to its knees.

Yes, ‘The Lord reigns’. He has always reigned and he will always reign. Indeed as these psalms progress (93-100) it seems there is a future perspective in them (as is regularly the case in the Psalms). They are the celebrating voice of God’s redeemed people on the Day of the Lord; the Day, in NT language, when the Lord Jesus (for the Lord (Yahweh) of the OT, is the Jesus of the NT),

‘ is revealed from heaven with his mighty angels in flaming fire, inflicting vengeance on those who do not know God and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus.descends from from heaven bringing salvation to those who trust in him and taking vengeance on those ‘who know not God and obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ.’ (2 Thess 1:8).

The flood of evil and rebellion that has marked history will reach its permitted height then the Lord will return and it will be routed and crushed. The Lord who reigned over the storming seas in the gospels will quell all rebellion and tumult when he returns. Then, ‘kingdoms of the world will become the Kingdom of our God and of his Christ’ and the Lord will be King over all the earth (Zech 14:9). Then the people of God will proclaim with everlasting joy ‘the Lord reigns’.

It will be a glorious reign for the King’s decrees flow from his character. They are good and trustworthy suffused with holiness. Holiness always is fitting for God’s house. The glory of God in Israel’s temple was that of a glorious holiness. Christians today are that house personally (1 Cor 6:19) and corporately (1 Cor 3:16) and so are called to be holy. In the fully realised Kingdom God’s house will enjoy the full beauty of holiness forever (Cf. Rev 21:22 – 22:5).

This is our hope.Meanwhile, by faith today, when the waves pound and threaten, we affirm, ‘The Lord reigns’.

21
Apr
20

raised on the third day according to the scriptures

Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 15

‘ 3 For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, 4 that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures’

It’s interesting to note that Paul’s first plank for establishing the resurrection of Jesus is not his followers who witnessed it, powerful and important though their witness was, but the OT Scriptures. Central to the teaching of Jesus and the apostles was the belief that Jesus was the fulfilment of the OT Scriptures. Jesus taught his disciples how the OT pointed to him. He was its trajectory… its goal. He did not come in an historical or theological vacuum; Israel’s history and its theological significance led inexorably to him.

Reading the OT, it’s not too difficult to see how the death of Jesus is ‘according to the Scriptures‘. Abraham’s sacrifice of Isaac, the whole levitical sacrificial system of the Sinaitic covenant and Isaiah’s ‘suffering servant’ are obvious examples and there are many more.

The resurrection of Jesus, however, is not so immediately apparent. At Pentecost, Peter cites David in the Psalms as writing prophetically of the resurrection of Jesus (Acts 2:24-34). The Psalms, often describing an ideal Davidic King or a righteous innocent sufferer’, were not merely personal but prophetic. Indeed, in some cases, only a prophetic fulfilment makes sense (Eg Psalm 16, 45, 110 etc).

However, where does the OT teach that Jesus, the Messiah, would be raised ‘on the third day’ for Jesus as well as Paul insists it does (Lk 24:46)? Well, Jesus draws from Jonah the ‘sign’ that as Jonah (representing rebellious Israel) was three days and three nights in the whale’s belly (salvation through judgement) so ‘the Son of Man’ would be three days and night in the heart of the earth (Matt 12:40). We should not miss the corollary that after ‘death and resurrection’ Jonah is a prophet, not to Israel, but to Assyria, to the gentiles who unlike rebellious Israel, believed and repented (Cf. Roms 9-11). Jonah is a paradigm for Israel and for Jesus, the true Israel.

At Pentecost, when Peter cites to Jews in Jerusalem David’s prophecy of Messiah’s resurrection, was a Jewish feast fifty days after the festival of Passover and Firstfruits. The Passover and the slaying of the sacrificial lamb took place on the 14th of Nisan (March or April) in the Jewish Calendar, closely followed by ‘firstfruits’ on the 16th; three days later by Jewish counting. God stamped Messiah’s death and resurrection, including the time-scale between, at the heart of the Jewish religious festivals. Paul tellingly writes, ‘Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep.’ (1 Cor 15:20).

Jesus in Scripture is the true Son, the true Israel. He was Messiah, the King, and everything Israel ought to be but failed to be was realized in him – the beloved Son with whom God was delighted. He was the true Vine (an OT image of Israel) who brought pleasure and joy to the heart of God. In the gospels, Jesus parallel’s in his life the history of the nation. He is: the Hebrew male child to be destroyed; Israel called out of Egypt; Israel tempted in the wilderness; Israel in the land overthrowing in his teaching, miracles, death and resurrection the enemies who inhabit, defile and destroy it; on the cross, he is Israel in exile (abandonment) experiencing the cup of divine wrath because of sin before rising, judgement past, into the promise of God’s eternal blessing. Hosea speaks of this exilic judgement. He pleads with the unrepentant nation enduring exile and says in Ch 6:

1 “Come, let us return to the LORD;

for he has torn us, that he may heal us;

he has struck us down, and he will bind us up.

2 After two days he will revive us;

on the third day he will raise us up,

(ESV) that we may live before him.

No doubt the language had an idiomatic meaning (i.e. in a short time he will restore us), however, in Jesus, the true Israel, the exile of the cross gives way to life on the third day literally.*

There is yet another parallel that involves the third day. In Gen 22, Abraham is told you God to take his son (the son to whom all the divine promises belonged and apart from whom they would fail) and offer him as a sacrifice on a mountain God would show him. From that moment, in the mind of Abraham, Isaac was dead. Three days later, according to the narrator, they arrive at Moriah (the site of the future temple) where Isaac was to be sacrificed and just as Abraham was about to plunge the sacrificial knife into his son, God stayed his hand. Instead of Isaac, a ram caught in brush was offered. On the third day, Abraham, in a very real sense, received his son back from the dead. Hebrews 11 says,

17 By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac, and he who had received the promises was in the act of offering up his only son, 18 of whom it was said, “Through Isaac shall your offspring be named.” 19 He considered that God was able even to raise him from the dead, from which, figuratively speaking, he did receive him back.

With our Western mindset it is sometimes difficult to accept this apparently bizarre way of interpreting the Old Testament Scriptures. However, it was not in the least outlandish in first century Judaism. Jesus used conventional Hebraic principles of interpretation as he traced his messianic identity and mission in the OT for his disciples. Our Western ‘rules’ of interpreting must yield to those of Jesus and the apostles. When they do, the many Spirit intended historical parallels and adumbrations – types, shadows, models, call it what you will – of Messiah and his mission begin to reveal themselves… even details like resurrection on the third day.

Scripture is inspired. According to Jesus, it ‘cannot be broken‘. It strains in all its forms… like a woman in labour… towards Christ who is its fulfilment… the one who died, was buried, and raised on the third day according to the Scriptures thus confirming and authenticating his messianic credentials. He is indeed the Christ, the Saviour of the world.

* As the true Seed and Son (both ultimately singular Cf. Gals 3:16) to whom the promises are given and therefore the true Israel, all God’s promises to Israel are realized only in and through him. In him they are ‘yes and amen’. Only through faith in Jesus, the Messiah, will Israel the nation find identity, blessing and the fulfilment of the promises… only those believing in the true Israel are the true Israel. In the same way gentiles become heirs of all the promises because they too are united to Christ by faith who is the true son and heir.

12
Apr
20

psalm 131… a childlike trust

Psalm 131

1 O LORD, my heart is not lifted up;
my eyes are not raised too high;
I do not occupy myself with things
too great and too marvelous for me.
2 But I have calmed and quieted my soul,
like a weaned child with its mother;
like a weaned child is my soul within me.
3 O Israel, hope in the LORD
from this time forth and forevermore.

It is easy to get confident in the wrong way. I’m talking about the confidence that rises from a misplaced trust in self. It is good to have confidence in God who will enable in all things to which he calls us, but there is a sinful pride (a haughty spirit) that comes before a fall (Prov 16:18)

In this Psalm David is guarding his soul against the danger of fleshly pride. In part, he is remembering not to think more highly of himself than he ought (Roms 12:3). It is of course humbug to deny the presence of gifts that God has given us, however, remembering they are gifts guards us against pride.

It’s worth saying too that the Psalm is not condemning aspiration. Aspiration, subject to sober evaluation of self and of that to which we aspire, is a good thing. However, there is an overweening pride that fails to evaluate and fails to bring God into our thinking. The kind of pride that makes us dangerously wise in our own eyes (Prov 26:13).

David is guarding his soul against this kind of folly. There are times when we need to realise our limitations. There are questions in life that we must leave unanswered. God does not answer all our questions. What he reveals is for us to discover but there are many things to which the answer is hidden in God and is not for us to know. (Deut 29:29). He is the Creator we are but creatures.

At the moment Covid-19 is dominating our thinking. It is understandable that we may ask why God has allowed this virus (a biblical pestilence). Some answers are not hard to find. It is surely a wake-up call to a world that has turned its back on God and a church which is often heavily compromised (I speak from the perspective of the West). This much is not hard to see.

It is a warning, born out of tough love.

However, when we ask why God took this person but not that one answers are not given. The bereaved family will ask them out of their pain. Others may ask in bewilderment, and some out of arrogance, but answers will not be given. God’s ways are inscrutable… they are past finding out.

What we do know is that God is trustworthy. David turns away from questions that threaten turmoil and distress and determines to have a childlike trust. The kind of trust Jesus calls for in all who would belong to the kingdom of God (Matt 18:4)… indeed it is the faith of those who will be great in his kingdom.

The weaned child no longer is on a fretting search for food from its mother but is content simply to be where she is. It recognises its limitations but finds calm and contentment of soul in her nearness. There, all is well.

Spurgeon apparently said of the Psalm that it was, ‘One of the shortest psalms to read, but one of the longest to learn.’ May the Lord help us have this ‘weaned child trust’ at all times but particularly in these days where child-like trust rather than haughty self reliance and insistent questions is so necessary.

Let us, like Israel, ‘hope in the Lord.’

04
Apr
20

great is your faithfulness

Lamentations 3:21- 26

21 But this I call to mind,

and therefore I have hope:

22 The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases;

his mercies never come to an end;

23 they are new every morning;

great is your faithfulness.

24 “The LORD is my portion,” says my soul,

“therefore I will hope in him.”

25 The LORD is good to those who wait for him,

to the soul who seeks him.

26 It is good that one should wait quietly

for the salvation of the LORD.

These are words we probably all recognise. Songs and hymns have been based on them. For most of us, they are probably the only words we will know from the OT book of Lamentations. Yet it is their place in that book that gives them a particular potency.

They are virtually the only words of hope in a dark book. Lamentations is, as it’s name indicates, a book of laments. It is a harrowing read. Traditionally, ascribed to Jeremiah (Jer 9:1, 10), it mourns the desolation and destruction of Jerusalem as the vast bulk of Israel is taken into captivity leaving only the weak behind. It is a lament for a ruined Jerusalem.

Jerusalem symbolised Israel’s greatness. It was the capital city. It was the holy city. Jerusalem proclaimed God’s presence in blessing among his people (2:1, 15). It seemed inviolable (4:12). Yet it was destroyed. The reason, the writer confesses, was the unfaithfulness of Israel. This brought God’s judgement. Jerusalem personified acknowledges this.

(ESV) Is it nothing to you, all you who pass by?

Look and seek

if there is any sorrow like my sorrow,

which was brought upon me,

which the LORD inflicted

on the day of his fierce anger.

God judges those who claim to be his people. (The laments, no doubt, also give us insight to the sufferings of Jesus in his death. He is the true Israel, the godly man (3:1), who suffered the wrath of God, not for his own sins, but those of his people. The parallels are clear Eg. 1:17, 21; 2:15,16; 3:1-3, 14, 15, 30.). Jesus knows what it is to be harrowed.

The church is going through a harrowing, a judging, presently. What is the response of faith?

The writer writes from the perspective of faith. He is a godly sufferer. He recognises the righteousness of God’s judgements and describes them in graphic stomach-churning detail. Yet, precisely because this harrowing is from God, there is Hope. God may judge but he is faithful to his people and faithful to his promises. He will deliver his people. Jerusalem will yet be restored. God’s salvation will come.

And this hope is the hope of all God’s people who wait on him in difficult times. We await our salvation. We remember he is faithful. We rejoice in all his mercies, new every morning. We seek his face and find our peace there.

28
Mar
20

responding to trials… Coronavirus

Coping with our thoughts can be difficult in trying times. There are fears and concerns that can cross our minds that it is right to banish as unbelief. Our Heavenly Father knows our every need and we can trust him to meet it. However, when God brings us into trials, we should ask what he wants us to learn in it. I think most of us will have been asking that question in one form or another in recent days.

It is a difficult question to ask but in a sense it has been forced upon us. There are three possible responses to trials. Hebrews deals with them in ch 12. Here is an extract from that chapter.

My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord,

nor be weary when reproved by him.

6 For the Lord disciplines the one he loves,

and chastises every son whom he receives.”

7 It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons. For what son is there whom his father does not discipline? 8 If you are left without discipline, in which all have participated, then you are illegitimate children and not sons. 9 Besides this, we have had earthly fathers who disciplined us and we respected them. Shall we not much more be subject to the Father of spirits and live? 10 For they disciplined us for a short time as it seemed best to them, but he disciplines us for our good, that we may share his holiness. 11 For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.

Before considering the three responses to the Lord’s training, there are a couple of points to notice. When God brings difficulties to his people he is not acting as a judge to punish but as a father who trains his children. All his discipline is encircled by his love. We need never fear God’s discipline. We need only fear it’s absence. God trains all his children.

This is not to say that God’s discipline is enjoyable, it’s not. It is to be endured and involves pain (vv7,11). We rejoice that God loves us and is training us in godliness but we do not rejoice in the pain involved.

In the present trial we can respond in one of three ways.

1. We can treat it lightly (v5).

In other words, we won’t ask what the Lord may be saying to us. I’ve no doubt this pandemic is a wake-up call from the Lord to society. We pray that many will hear and turn to him in repentance and faith. However, many will refuse to listen. They will stifle the voice of the Spirit in all kinds of ways. I’ve no doubt that God is speaking to the professing Church too. There are glaring sins that some are willing to condone and champion in the name of Christ that God will surely judge. However, we must not think that in this God is speaking to the world and apostate elements in the church and not to us.

This is a time for Christians to reflect too. More of this in a moment.

2. We can be crushed by it.

We are crushed when we allow our faith to collapse within trials. The Hebrew Christians were in danger of doing this. Read the chapter. They were growing ‘weary and faint-hearted’. Their knees were drooping in the race (vv3,12). They were in a marathon race and taking their eyes off the prize… off their God… off the Lord. Every resource is in our God to run the race towards the finish. And what a finish there is. Eternal glory, rest and joy. A kingdom that cannot be shaken (v28).

Today our world is shaken. It will be shaken even more on the day of final judgement (vv25-27). But we who are trusting in Christ belong to a world to come… a universe eternally secure, a heavenly universe. Let’s keep this heavenly goal of eternal joy to the forefront of our minds. Let’s help each other to persevere in faith. Let’s look to Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of faith (12: 2). He took faith to new limits. He lived a life of total faith. He is both the model and object of our faith; let’s fix our eyes on him.

3. We can be trained by it (v11).

This is of course the proper response. We may ask ourselves if there is anything in our own lives that need sorted out and ask for grace to change. This is an area for discernment. I’m not talking about getting caught up in endless introspection and repeated scouring of our souls. I’m talking rather of a quiet calm humble asking of the Lord to show us if there are things that we need to address and then dealing with them. Remember God’s grace is lavish and he forgives us and enables us in all things. The devil on the other had wishes to endlessly accuse us. We must resist him.

If there are issues we deal with them by his grace and move on.

Undoubtedly, we are all learning that our lives and our comforts are much frailer than we thought. Things we thought secure aren’t really not so secure after all. We are finding the need to trust at a deeper level in lots of areas. Perhaps we are learning to mourn over sin in a new way… sin in the world… in the church. We shall be comforted (Matt 5:4). What a blessing to know the Lord is in control! What a blessing to know he is creating a new heaven and earth in which righteousness dwells! What a blessing we are in his hands. Yes, we may find this trial to be hard, even ‘painful’ (vv11) but afterwards it produces ‘the peaceable fruit of righteousness to those trained by it.’ Our training will bring the blessings of greater likeness to Christ. God wants us to share in his holiness. There will be joy and peace in this presently and eternal reward.

God bless




the cavekeeper

The Cave promotes the Christian Gospel by interacting with Christian faith and practice from a conservative evangelical perspective.

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