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Crucified Before the Foundation of the World

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Thursday, May 11, 2017

Psalms 101-105

Psalms 101

This Psalm was written by David. I have not found any indication of his age when he wrote this. It could have been in his innocent youth, or it could have been after the confession of his tryst with Bathsheba. In either case, it proclaims David's intention to live a sin free life. From my own experience, I would guess this was written before he committed adultery and arranged the death of Uriah.

He begins with praise and then goes on to detail the matters of selfishness and arrogant behavior he will not tolerate.  He includes the behaviors he will not allow in his household. He focuses briefly on the things his eyes behold. What we see, we sometimes imitate. Beware what you watch, for it may inhabit you.

He denounced faithlessness and perverse people and their actions. He put the slanderers and the haughty in the same classification. These judgments make me think he had not yet experienced the general sins of the population, for these things are everywhere and evident in all people.

I applaud his intention not to associate with the unwholesome and to separate himself from those who commit evil, but he seems to think he can tell at a glance who is worthy to be respected. Maybe in later years he moderated his opinion and became more forgiving.

Return to his opening lines. He valued God's love and justice. His intent was to let that be his guide for life. May we follow in that goal. 

Psalms 102

The author of this Psalm is not identified beyond the description of him as afflicted and in distress. The Psalm begins with a litany of his anguish and vivid descriptions of his anxiety from vs. 1 through 11. In vs. 12 he changes his focus to note the attributes of God.

He begins with pleas to be heard. He beseeches God to see his problems and hear his cries.  He feels his time escaping. He describes the pain he feels in his soul as a bodily sensation. He can't enjoy his food and it tastes like ashes. He is losing weight and describes himself as "skin and bones." He compares himself to a desert owl. In ancient literature, the owl is bad omen forecasting evil times and consequences.

He groans aloud in distress. He seems to indicate this is somehow shameful. He has enemies who use his name like a curse. His distress is so compelling that he has lost all his companions, he likens himself to a bird on a roof. He is alone. He has no friends or support. God, too, has abandoned him. His drink is mingled with tears. He has no recourse. God's wrath is directed toward him, and God has thrown him aside. He sees the darkness closing in and he senses he has no hope.

In vs. 12 he returns to the praise of God and His glory. He is still conscious of his own weakness, but God will endure and restore Zion. I assume this Psalm was written after the return from bondage and Exile. The writer mentions the destruction of the city, Even in the destroyed state, God's people still love for stones. He is confident that God will arise and have compassion on Jerusalem. Her appointed time has come.

Many nations will fear the Lord when he appears in His Glory.
He broke my plans, I yield to Him, He cut short my life, and like the earth, my time will end. You, Lord, will stand forever. The descendants of your faithful will worship you forever.


Psalms 103

In this Psalm, David is the writer, and he is speaking to himself. He addresses his own soul. He lists the characteristics of God, the continuous benefits God freely bestows. Then he makes a summarizing statement: God brings righteousness and justice to the oppressed and all are provided for.  The King James Version is worded slightly differently: "Bless the Lord, O my soul." It is a plaintive cry of one who is alone, God is his only resource. 

He goes into detail about God's love toward us and the lengths he goes to to insure our forgiveness and make us aware of His everlasting love. David's metaphors are, both memorable and revealing. He compares God's love toward the wayward sinners to the love of a father for his minor children. We are so conscious of our own lives and ambitions we feel imortal, but God knows that we are dust. When the wind blows on us we are gone, but God remembers us and promises us a future of joy and glory.

David closes the Psalm with one more injunction to his soul to praise the Lord.


Psalms 104 

There is no attribution of authorship in Psalms 104, but it fits very well with the ones that come before it. It praises and glorifies God's power and majesty.

The writer describes God wearing light like a garment. I like the metaphors used in this Psalm. The clouds are his chariot and he rides on the wings of the winds. Flames of fire are his servant. We feel very powerful when we find ways to use the power of natural elements, but to God, these elements are his servants. They obey his commands. The Psalmist describes them as orderly and obedient to God's design, yet they are still beyond our reach. I am amazed at the scientific descriptions that account creation as a product of evolution without input from God, but when they behold a new finding in a telescope or a microscope, they exclaim "Oh, God, look at that!" Even denying the power or action of God, they still have no other way to express their wonder and amazement.

May we who know and seek His communion also revel in the wonder of his works.


Monday, April 24, 2017

Psalms 96-100

Psalms 96

There is no notation of authorship.
This Psalm is totally praise. The writer praises God in singing, and he calls for a new song. He calls for the worshippers to praise God's salvation. He calls us to declare His deed among the nations.
He is great and worthy of praise. 

The Psalmist is excited about the glory and reverence of God. He reminds us that the gods of other nations are idols not worthy of reverence, but the Lord made heaven and earth. Splendor and majesty surround Him and strength and glory are his sanctuary.

Assign glory and honor to God. The writer uses the word "ascribe" to emphasize the authority we should place on the name of God.
He calls us to bring an offering into His courts. He does not want burnt offerings, but a contrite heart is the sacrifice he asks us to bring.

He calls us to proclaim His works among the nations, to repeat the facts of his glory and His blessing, to be attentive to His creation. We are to rejoice before him and bring honor and glory to His name. He will judge the earth.


Psalms 97

Again, the author is not noted.
He declares God's authority and power. God is cloaked in darkness, righteousness, and justice. Fire goes before him. The earth trembles, the mountains melt, and all see his majesty.

The people of the whole earth see His majesty, and those who love the Lord hate evil. Zion and Judah rejoice and light shines on the righteous.  Rejoice in the Lord and Praise His holy name.

Psalms 98

Psalms 98 returns to the praise of God with song and the author uses the voice to magnify the glory and salvation God offers to the people of the earth. He mentions shouts and jubilation as acts of worship.
He also calls for making music on the harp and the blast of the ram's horn and trumpets.

Let the sea resound, and everything in it, and all who live in the world. Let the rivers clap their hands and the mountains sing for joy. All this rejoicing and celebration comes in honor of God's judgment of the world in righteousness.

Psalms 99

Psalms 99 describes and gives details of God's power to rule Heaven and earth. There is no place where He is not in control. The author lists individuals in the history of Israel who played a part in God's plan, but the glory and honor belong to God alone. This Psalms is compact and powerful claiming God's absolute control.

Psalms 100

This Psalm is noted to give grateful praise.
It is used often in worship and is powerful to remind worshippers of the power and majesty of God. Reading it communally, or individually, is an appropriate introduction to formal worship, to prepare for a service with your community of believers. 

Take time to dwell on the meaning of the phrases and enter with joy and gladness to be in His presence.

Saturday, April 15, 2017

Psalms 91-95

Psalms 91

This is one of the better-known Psalms. It is often read and recited for reassurance and encouragement in times of trouble. It uses a bird metaphor to remind the believer of the care of the Lord for the one who is in need of defense and covering.

There are, indeed, dangers around us, but, with God, they will not come near. The believer does have a responsibility in this event. He must believe and claim God as his dwelling place. When your faith is in Him, He extends his protection to you.

Because the believer has put faith in God, He is moved to protect and deliver the faithful from impending disaster. We are not to test God or seek His protection when we are not called by Him to a place of risk.

God intends to honor the faithful and blesses him with long life and Salvation.

Psalms 92

This Psalm is a tribute to music as a testimony to God. The writer is not recorded by name, but it is possible the writer was David or some member of the Temple choir.

He mentions the harp and the ten-stringed lyre as tools of worship. He also includes the voice as important in proclaiming God's works.
He lists joy and gladness as results of God deeds that are worthy of celebrating in song.

The writer celebrates the value of singing and music by citing the growth and strength of those who worship God. The Lord is my Rock, and there is no wickedness in him.

Psalms 93

Psalms 93 proclaims the majesty of God. It notes God's strength and the security of the creation he established. The writer hears his voice in the sounds of the sea, but God is mightier than the sea.

God's statutes stand forever. Holiness adorns God's house for endless days. I think that means forever.

Psalms 94

Psalms 94 opens claiming God to be an avenging force. He calls on God to rise up and pay back the proud. The writer names the sins the arrogant commit on the weak, the widow, and the foreigner. They deny that God's sees their behavior. They pour out arrogant words and the evildoers are full of boasting. He calls them "senseless fools," and he begins to address them calling to their attention that the one who made ears and eyes sees and hears them.

He uses rhetorical questions to probe their hearts and minds. "Does he who disciplines nations not punish?

In vs. 12 he begins a passage of praise for God's discipline and righteousness. The righteous of God will be your foundation. When my foot was slipping, your unfailing love supported me.

When anxiety overwhelmed me, your consolation brought me joy. He closes the psalm in the confidence that God's judgment is righteous and his love everlasting.

Psalms 95
This Psalm praises God from beginning to end. The call to the people is continuously reminding them of the times when they tested God and he proved faithful to hear them. He brought them through the Desert Wandering and gave them a land.

Come let us sing to the Lord. Let us bow down and worship. God called them and offered them rest. He said, "Do not harden your hearts."

He still calls to us. He still wants us to enjoy the glory of His Kingdom. Don't be wayward and arrogant. God is merciful and gracious. He is the Rock of our Salvation.

Read these Psalms and rejoice in God's goodness to us.
  

Sunday, April 9, 2017

Psalms 86-90

Psalms 86

This prayer of David is deeply sensitive and addresses his most profound needs. I was struck by the phrase in vs. 11. I find I need that "undivided heart" like David did. I have many concerns and needs pulling at my attention, but I pray to be focused on God and his glory so that I may serve Him wholly. 
I don't have foes like David did. No armed soldiers are lining up for battle, but the people and needs in my life pick at my desire to be totally devoted to God and His calls to me.

Vs. 15 through 17 reassure me of God's thoughts and intentions toward me. He abounds in love and His mercy and grace are ever extended toward me. I can see God's blessing on my life every day, and I am comforted by His joy and glory.

Psalms 87

This Psalm was composed by the author known as the Sons of Korah. There were three descendants of Korah. I don't know if they collaborated or if all of them used this designation.

Psalms 87 is a tribute to the City God called his own. Jerusalem was built on Mount Moriah and had been a place of importance as far back as Melchizedek, Genesis 14:18-20. In vs. 3 he addresses the City, recounting her glorious history.

Rahab was a woman of Jericho who hid the spies Joshua sent to search out the land before the people crossed the Jordan. She was given sanctuary with them in return for her protection of the spies. Babylon was the capital city of Assyria. Both these references have been used to refer to Egypt even though neither one has a political connection.

He lists other cities from history that are important as reference points to identify Jerusalem. Philistia, Tyre, and Cush are compared to Jerusalem, but they fall short of the glory of Jerusalem. He exalts' the fountains of Jerusalem. Water was always the important item when building a city. Jerusalem had all the important elements. 

 Psalms 88

This is written by the Sons of Korah directed to the Choirmaster to the tune of "The Suffering of Affliction." It is labeled as a Maskil, or, in some way instructive.

He cries out to God for his help and compassion. He fears he is going to die, and he asks God if the dead praise him. He still seeks God's guidance and help, but he seems to be without any hope but God.

He feels God has deserted him. He does not have a friend or neighbor to call on. He says God hides his face and darkness is his closest friend. In vs. 11 he mentions destruction and Abaddon. Abaddon represents destruction and the place of Sheol, the equivalent of Hell.

Psalms 89

This Psalm is written by Ethan the Ezrahite, which may be the same person as Jeduthun. He may have been a musician in David's court. This Psalm is longer than some, though it is not the longest. It is a Psalm of praise and adoration of God and His power.

He praises God's love which stands firm forever and his faithfulness to all generations.

The Heavens praise you, Lord. Who is like you, Lord God Almighty.

You rule over the surging sea. When the waves mount up, you still them. You founded the earth and all that is in it. Your arm is endowed with power. Your hand is strong and your right hand is exalted. I read this as a reference to Jesus as God's right hand.

He sees righteousness and justice as the foundations of God's throne and love and faithfulness going before him.

He pays tribute to David as God's anointed king of Israel. David is a metaphor for Jesus as the Son who will rule over His creation. His enemies will fall before him. God's faithful will be upon him, and through God's name, His power will be exalted. His throne will last as long as heaven endures.

If his sons sin and rebel, I will punish them, but my love will be with them forever.

Praise be to the Lord forever.

Read this Psalm and remember the promises of God to the loved ones of Jesus.

Psalms 90

This Psalm is notable for 2 reasons. It is the beginning of the fourth book of Psalms, and it was written by Moses.

I believe this was written at the end of Moses' life. He could not have seen the wisdom and patience it shows until he had walked with the Children of Israel in the desert. It also shows he walked with God in the desert for 40 years. 

Many memorable verses in this Psalm speak of God's love to us and reveal his patience and guidance in difficult places. 

A thousand years are like a day that has just passed or like a watch in the night. We don't need to fret over the time we feel we have wasted. God has it written in his log. It's new every morning.
Our days may come to seventy years or eighty, but teach us to number our days that we may gain a heart of wisdom

Make us glad for as many days has you have afflicted us. Show us your deeds and your splendor. May your favor rest upon us. Establish the work of our hands.

Vs. 17 pleads for the favor of God to rest upon us. The word translated favor may also be translated as beauty. I like that. May the beauty of God rest upon us as we learn to exhibit a heart of wisdom

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Psalms 81-85

Psalms 81

This Psalm was authored by Asaph or dictated to him by David. It is directed to be accompanied by the gittith, a stringed instrument brought from Gath by David.

This Psalm calls Israel to rejoice, strike up the band.
He continues with repeated instruction to join in the fun.
This is the day to howl at the moon.
Asaph cites the victories of Israel and the triumphs of God.

In vs. 6 Asaph hears a voice claiming He had removed the burdens from Israel, He freed their hands.

He had answered their cries, but they would not obey.
I brought you out of Egypt. 
I am the Lord your God.
My people would not listen to me.
So I let them have their own way.

How quickly I would deal with their enemies and turn their foes.
I would feed them with the finest wheat and satisfy them with honey from the rock.

The land would be productive and even the rocks would provide a place for beehives. 

I am a Christian, so I read this as related to Jesus. He said, "I am the Bread of Life, so to me, wheat is code for bread. Honey from the rock means Jesus is the Rock and he represents honey, nourishment, sweet and tasty.

Psalms 82  

Psalms 82 is a severe criticism of human judicial systems. Asaph takes judges to task for their favoritism of the wicked and unjust. He portrays the judges as "gods,"  but they do not honor the law. They seek favor from those who hold power over the fatherless, the weak and needy. These "gods" know nothing; they are without understanding.

These are still mortals who will die like every other human. He calls God to rise up and judge the earth and these men who have corrupted the righteousness of God will share in the judgment.

Psalms 83

In Psalms 83, Asaph calls God to defend Israel against her foes. He lists the nations that surround Israel and names foes from her history as an illustration of the need for resistance. Sisera was the commander of Jabin's forces.  He met Israel's army in the Kishon Valley and was defeated by Barak when Deborah was Judge of Israel. Sisera died at the hand of Jael when he entered her tent demanding help.

He prays for God to make them like chaff before the wind. Leave them disgraced and ashamed before God. Let them know that you are the Lord, the Most High over all the earth.

Psalms 84

This is a Psalms of the Sons of Korah. Korah was a grandson of Kolath. Kolath had been a conspirator in a rebellion against Moses. He was punished for his unbelief. (See Numbers 16) Korah mentioned here is a descendant of Korah who died as a result of his disbelief. There are three sons of Korah who were commissioned by David to be custodians of the Tabernacle.

In this Psalm, there is abundant evidence of reverence toward God and faith in His presence and protection. 

Read it and renew your faith.

Psalms 85

Psalms 85 from the Sons of Korah.
This psalm cites Korah's faith in the provision of God for the people of Israel. He calls on God for the needs of the people and sometimes for his personal faith. He speaks to God about their needs and pleads for God to guide them into righteousness so they do not fall into sin.

He claims unity between love and faithfulness, and, similarly between, peace and righteousness. When we practice one, the other is the expected result.

He calls us to live in accordance with God's plan and not turn to folly that his peace will live in our land.

Monday, March 27, 2017

Psalms 76-80

Psalms 76

Psalms 76 is a song by Asaph to be accompanied by stringed instruments.

Asaph opens this Psalm with praise and exaltation of God. He names Jerusalem as God's home and his habitation as Mount Zion. He describes a scene after a battle where God was victorious. He broke the weapons brought against Him, and He stands radiant with light. The warriors lie defeated. The horses and chariots are still.

Asaph says God alone is to be feared. Who can stand before him when He is angry. He rose in judgment and the land was quiet. He saved the afflicted.

God's wrath against mankind brings praise to Him. Make vows to God and keep them. He breaks the spirit of rulers. He is feared by the kings of the earth.

Psalms 77

This Psalm is notable for several reasons. It was written by Asaph. It was written for Jeduthun (this may mean it was meant for Jeduthun's choir or for his direction). For more information about Jeduthun refer to 1 Chronicles 16.

Asaph begins the psalm pleading for God's help in a time of distress and weakness. He could not sleep and he was destitute and without resources. He felt he had been deserted by God.

In vs. 10 he remembers God's blessing and comfort from previous times. He begins to recite the blessings from God and reclaim strength from it. He began to reclaim the power of those former deeds. He proclaims God as the one who performs miracles. What God is like our God? 

As he reveres God, he begins to reclaim his strength from God and he remembers how God had led his people by the hands of Moses and Aaron.


Psalms 78

Psalms 78  is a maskil of Asaph.

This psalm is a historical account of Israel from the time they came out of Egypt to the kingship of David. Asaph recounts the major events and trials in Israel's history. He is amazed at God's deliverance of the rebellious people and also at their continuous disobedience. He cites the ways God tried to insulate them from error; the teaching from the priests and the instruction by the parents so that the next generation would not fall into sin.  

All this He offered to protect the people from the effects of sin and pollution, but they would not be loyal to him and refrain from worshipping idols. He did not totally destroy them. He was always ready to forgive and restore Israel. In vs. 57 he compared them to a faulty bow. They were unreliable. They did return to him when they saw His anger. He abandoned the Tabernacle at Shiloh and sent the Ark into captivity. The priests were put to the sword and the widows could not weep.

Asaph closes with the account of David, whom God took from the sheep pens, a man of integrity, to be the Shepherd of Israel.

Read this Psalm and recognize your own failures in the face of God's love and generosity toward you.


Psalms 79

Psalms 79 was written by Asaph.

This Psalm laments the destruction of Jerusalem. I don't know if the psalm was written by someone named Asaph at a time after the Israelites return from captivity, or if it was a prophetic writing composed in David's time. In either case, is it graphic and heart-felt. Dead bodies of the servants of the Lord are left as refuse. Asaph says they are objects of derision. He questions God. How long will you be angry?

He pleads for mercy repeating the question, "How long will you be angry?" He calls God's attention to the groans of the people who are the sheep of His pasture. He pleads for preservation and promises praise to God who can deliver vengeance.

Psalms 80

This Psalm of Asaph  is set to the tune of  "Lilies of the Covenant" with special note to the Director of Music.

This Psalm returns to the theme of destruction and conquest. Again, we don't know if it was written as a prophesy or a historical event. It is safe to assume the Asaph that served David did not live to see the conquest by Nebechadnezzar. I don't know what other event it could refer to.

Asaph cites destruction in several quarters. He pleads for God, the Shepherd of Israel, to come to help them. He calls on God to shine forth that they may be saved.

Then he prompts God with a question: How long will His anger smolder against them? They have eaten the bread of tears and drunk tears by the bowlful. They have been held in derision by their neighbors.

He returns to the plea that God would save them. He introduces a new metaphor: a vine from Egypt transplanted and nurturned to provide shade, but now the wall is broken and strangers pick its grapes. Boars will ravage it. Insects feed upon it. The root you planted has been burned. In verse 15 he menioned a son, but this can mean a branch has grown to sustain the vine. Maybe he means Solomon. 

He closes with a refrain that ran throughout the Psalm. Restore us Lord God Almighty, make your face to shine upon us , that we may
be saved.

Read it from the Bible to enjoy Asaph's words and emotions.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Psalms 71-75

Psalms 71

I found no attribution of authorship in this Psalm, but it sounds very similar to the Psalms of David in the references to God as his rock and his refuge. The author looks to God for help and safety in perilous times. He continually praises God for his protection and rescue. 

In vs. 9 he looks forward to the time of aging weakness when he fears his strength will have withered and his enemies are still conspiring against him. He is confident God will still be his savior and his enemies will die in shame.

In vs. 20, he admits that he has had many profound and bitter troubles, but God has been gracious to restore his name and honor. He praises God's righteousness and enduring comfort.

He promises to sing of God's faithfulness with the lyre and the harp. His testimony will be filled with praise for God's righteousness all the day long.

In Matthew Henry's Commentary, he does credit both Psalms 71 and 72 to David. Psalms 71 concerns David in his old age and 72 is David's prayer for Solomon when he becomes King of Israel.

Psalms 72

David had been king for 40 years, and he knew the difficulty of being a good king. He sought wisdom and righteousness for Solomon in his reign. 

He begins by asking God to provide wisdom and righteousness in Solomon's heart. Being king is not as easy as it looks.

Then he asks for the natural elements to bring blessings to the nation. Water for good crops is just the beginning. He calls for righteousness and defense for afflicted people and salvation for the children of the needy.

He prays for his territory to increase, that he will rule "from sea to sea and from the River to the ends of the earth."(For details of the succession to the Throne, see I Kings 1 and 2.)

Matthew Henry's Commentary says this is the last Psalm David wrote when he was dying. It is not the last as they are organized in the Book of Psalms. 


Psalms 73

Psalm 73 begins the third book of Psalms. It is a Psalm of Asaph. Asaph was David's Director of Music. He wrote 12 Psalms so he was skilled in language as well as music. His works include Psalms 50 and 73 through 83. One authority posed the possibility that the psalms he wrote were dictated by David, but that was one person's opinion, and not generally accepted.

This psalm shares the attitude of many in the modern world. Satan paints an inviting picture of the life of the wealthy and powerful, and Asaph was almost taken in by it. He envied the arrogant and he almost went for that kind of security.

He was troubled by his own thoughts, and he felt he had betrayed his office. When he went to the Sanctuary of God, he saw their final destiny. Money and power were deceptive and God alone was his strength. His greed for power and money had made him a brute beast, but in God, he was restored, and with the Sovereign Lord as his refuge, he would stay near God and tell of his deeds.


Psalms 74

Psalms 74 is noted as a maskil of Asaph, but the description it contains is confusing. It could mean the Psalm is prophetic describing the destruction Nebuchadnezzar would bring on the Temple. The other option is the Psalm was written by a man named Asaph after Israel returns from captivity. The Psalm is a called a maskil which means it is a "golden psalm" and is intended to be instructional.

Asaph begins by addressing God with questions about why he has rejected Israel and directed his anger at them. He reminds God that the people he saved have been attacked by his foes in the place where Israel had worshiped him. He goes on to describe the destruction of the Temple and the humiliation of Israel. He laments that God has given no sign of hope and they are destitute. The prophets were all killed. 

Asaph cites no signs of hope, but he retains his faith that God is still able to restore Israel. In vs. 12, he launches into a list of God's acts that saved them in the past. In vs. 22, he implores God to show his power again: "Rise up, O God, Defend your cause." He does not doubt God's authority or ability to rescue Israel from His adversaries.


Psalms 75

A Psalm of Asaph. To the tune of "Do Not Destroy." A song.

This Psalm opens with an invocation of praise. 

Very quickly, Asaph quotes God with His affirmation of power and control and warnings to the arrogant. No one can boast in God's presence. Asaph echoes His claim. 

Moreover, God holds a cup the wicked will drink from. They will consume it to the dregs, but the Horn of the righteous will be lifted up. We have the chance to choose where will be at that time.