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Crucified Before the Foundation of the World

"Crucified before the foundation of the world." What does that mean? How could that even happen? Historians and archaeologists ta...

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.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Psalms 66-70

Psalms 66

This Psalm is not attributed to an author, but it is characteristic of other praises written by David and other writers. It is called to the attention of the Choir Director.

It calls for joyful singing and praise. It is refreshing to see the Biblical command to engage in joyous celebrations of God's blessing and praise. In vs. 3, God's deeds are described as "terrible," but other translations milder descriptors. The Holman translation says "awe-inspiring," and the NIV says "awesome." The KJV says "awesome and fearfully glorious." These alternate words do not make God less mighty or powerful, but they emphasize God's might and power without the reference to terror. 

In verses 8-12, he cites instances in Israel's history where God preserved them and renewed his commitment to them.

In verse 5 the author issues an invitation to "come see what the Lord has done," then he goes on to list some of those mighty deeds. He does not minimize the testing of the Israelites but praises it. God has a purpose in testing. He wants his people to be pure and righteous.
I have heard method of refining gold and silver compared to the refining process in God's interaction with individuals and with the nations. The raw metal is heated until it is liquid and the impurities can be removed.

When the refiner can see his face reflected in the molten metal, it is ready for use. God wants us to be pure in the same way. He wants us to reflect his character and his actions. Don't regret God's refining process, but understand he has a greater purpose in your life.
The author points to the offerings and the sacrifices of Israel as evidence of obedience, but the sacrifice God blesses is the repentant heart. God has listened to his prayer and has not removed his steadfast love. 

Psalms 67

Psalms 67 is a straightforward prayer for all the nations.  In the beginning, he seeks God to be gracious. Pretty quickly he calls on the people to recognize God's blessing and receive their praise. The author recognized the blessings God has bestowed and calls people to join in his prayer of thanks. 

The last two verses recap the message: receive blessings and give thanks and praise.

Psalms 68

Psalms 68 is attributed to David. It is a song and a psalm directed to the Director of Music. It is listed as a Messianic Psalm by some theologians because of references to the King and His personal suffering

This Psalm identifies the power and majestic acts of God in the history of Israel. In the first three verses, David describes the power of God toward his enemies as scattered and confused and without strength against God. The righteous rejoice before him.
Vs. 4-6 continue the story of rejoicing for the righteous because God blesses His people, becoming a father to the fatherless and a defense for widows. He makes one comment on the plight of the rebellious: They will live in a sun-scorched land.

Vs. 14 refers to a location that is difficult to determine now. In the KJV it is spelled Zalmon.  In other Bible translations it is spelled, Salmon. The location is uncertain and is often confused with other sites.  Mount Zalmon was a woody area near Shechem(Judges 9:46). Mount Salmon, or Zalmon, was a high hill that often received heavy snow, hence the reference to the "the kings scattered on the mountain like snow" in vs. 14.

David enters a discussion of the habitat of God indicating he dwells on a high mountain. He mentions Mount Bashan and Sinai.
In vs. 19, he calls for praise because God bears our burdens and saves us. Then he shifts to a mortal response to war.

The description of the King's procession is grand. The congregation applauds and calls for shows of strength and might. He calls on the congregation to sing praises and acknowledge the glory of God in the heavens. He no longer sees God as residing on the mountain but in Heaven.
Read it and rejoice in His power.

Psalms 69

Psalms 69 is a psalm of David to the tune of "Lilies." It is considered a Messianic Psalm.

In this psalm David experiences threat and persecution. It sounds like he was in danger of death. It could have been during a military campaign. Or it could be a metaphor for the constant threat he felt from enemies in his court. As a Messianic Psalm, it details the threat Jesus felt from the public.(Compare Luke 24:4; Matthew 26:14)
David is conscious of his human frailty. Sometimes he has denied fault, but here is freely confesses a lack of connection with the people. They hate him without a reason. Jesus said, "Beware when all men speak well of you."

As a Messianic Psalm, Psalms 69 looks to prophecies of the Second Coming for fulfillment.

Psalms 70 

A Psalm of David. For the Director of Music. A Petition.

David has prayed this Psalm before. Now with the repetition, he is bringing to God's notice the success he had the first time, and the relief he expects again. This is not idle repetition, but a reminder to God that he is consistent and faithful.

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Psalms 61-65

Psalms 61

Psalms 61 is attributed to David and is intended to be sung with accompaniment by stringed instruments.

It begins with a dramatic plea for God to hear his cry. He calls out from a distant place; perhaps he is in battle or seeking safe journey in the desert. In the desert, elevation is an advantage. He asks for the defense of a higher place of safety. This has become a blessed refuge for those who know Jesus. David knew the truth of Jesus as the Rock. "The Rock that is higher than I" made its way into our musical heritage. Many references to "The Rock" speaks of Jesus and his abiding presence and place of safety in our times of distress. "The Rock of Ages," "Standing on the Solid Rock," "a stone of stumbling and a rock of offense," "the stone the builders rejected has become the capstone," these references from the Old Testament point to Jesus before his incarnation.

Another metaphor claims our attention in vs. 4: " I long to dwell in your tent forever and take refuge in the shelter of your wings." This metaphor speaks to a warmer image than the majestic high rock. Dwelling in God's tent and finding safety under the covering wings of a mother bird are softer than the hard, heavy rock. The maternal instincts of the bird protect from cold and even shield from rain or snow. The tent and shelter provide a different aspect of protection than the rock image.

David prized the heritage from his family's worship of God. He sought God's blessing on the King. I am assuming this Psalm was written before David became King.

He closes with praise to God and a promise to fulfill his vows.

Psalms 62

For the Director of Music. For Jeduthun. A Psalm of David.
The notations are difficult because the meanings have been lost. Jeduthun may be the name of a Levite who served in the Temple. It may mean the Psalm was intended for his choir or his interpretation. He had sons who were also musicians so the notation may have had special meaning for his style of music or his methods of performance.

David's emphasis is on rest of God. He is conscious of those who would attack him, but he is sure of a place of safety. He points out that men, highborn or lowborn, are unreliable. Only God is faithful. Matthew Henry's commentary points out that the two things in vs. 11 are not different items, but that David heard it twice, once in his ear and then again in his heart or soul.

God's rewards, like his love, are unfailing. 

Psalms 63

This Psalm of David identifies the time it represents as David's time in the desert hiding from Saul.

The image of thirst in the dry, parched desert, to be satisfied by the presence of God is the opening. He praises God, recalling the times when he beheld His power and glory in the sanctuary. He remembers praising Him in the watches of the night and in the shelter of His wings.

David is confident that God will protect him and his enemies will be destroyed. Then there is vs. 11. He seems to have forgotten that the one who wants to kill him is the king. Is David remembering Saul before his paranoia set in, before the spear was thrown? I am very uncomfortable when I find an error, any kind of inconsistency in scripture. There are ways to back out of this confrontation. Perhaps David is projecting forward to the time when he will be King. Or the time before Saul sought to kill him. I don't know how others see this. I take the rest of the Psalm without reservations, but this takes some rationalization. I leave it to you, Dear reader, take your best shot.

Psalms 64

This Psalm of David describes the damage inflicted by cruel words, by those who "sharpen their tongues like swords." He describes the conspiracy of those "who encourage each other in evil plans."

"God will shoot them with his arrows." "God will turn their own tongues against them and bring them to ruin."

"The righteous will rejoice in the Lord and take refuge in him."

This Psalm is reassuring to those who are besieged by problems and verbal assaults. It is a source of comfort to who those who need reassurance in the face of public opinion. We do not need to respond to bitter and insulting diatribes when we are innocent. God will undertake for us.  The upright in heart will glory in the Lord.

Psalms 65

Psalms 65 is a litany of reasons for praising God, of ways in which He blesses us, and of some of the ways the goodness of the earth's bounty provide for us.

In reading it you will recognize God's attention to our needs and his provision for our comfort. The Psalm is labeled as a song and it is directed to the attention of the Director of Music. We have no insight into the way music was performed in David's time, but with these notes, I feel this may have had special meaning to David. David always expresses thanks and praise, but in this Psalm, he expresses no negative thoughts. He is not fearful of enemies or evil events. It's all good. Use it to remind yourself of all your blessings and benefits.  
Scripture quotes are from The Apologetics Bible, the Holman Translation.