Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Psalm 46

"God is our refuge and strength" (vs. 1-3)--This beautiful psalm is one of great encouragement; I've often read it at funerals and encouraged the downtrodden to read it. In times when our life is stormy, He is our refuge. He can provide strength. He is "very present" when we are in trouble. These are words of comfort, indeed. And because of this, there is no catastrophe so great that we cannot meet it. The earth being removed, etc. of verses 2 and 3 are hyperbolic. If there is no reason to fear the most awesome and frightening of calamities, then there is no reason to fear the relatively minor disturbances of our lives.

The city of God (vs. 4-7)--Rivers meant life in the ancient world, especially in a hot, desert climate where people scraped along to make a living by agricultural means. So the "city of God" has not only "a river" but also "streams," and they "make glad" (v. 4). God's holy place is there (v. 4) and He is in its midst. That city will "not be moved," and from the earliest moments of the day, "God shall help her" (v. 5). The wicked can rage all they want to, but all it takes for the earth to melt is the voice of God (v. 6). Again, He is "with us, our refuge” (v. 7).

"Behold the works of the Lord" (vs. 8-11)--The psalmist then counsels us to take the time to think on what the Lord has done. He can make "desolations" in the earth (v. 8), but also cause wars to cease (v. 9). This thought would be especially relevant to a small nation like Israel which was surrounded by cruel, heartless, pagan enemies. The Lord "will be exalted among the nations" (v. 10). He is the one, true God. The song ends with a repetition of verse 7: "The Lord of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our refuge" (v. 11).

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Psalm 45

The overflowing heart (vs. 1)--This psalm is Messianic. Not only is part of it quoted in Hebrews 1, but, even though we are dealing with poetical language, the descriptions in this chapter could hardly apply to any man, poetry or not. The psalm opens with a prologue; the "inditing" of the KJV simply means "overflowing." And indeed, our hearts should overflow when we think of the glories of the Savior.

Various descriptions of the Messiah (vs. 2-9)--He is "fairer than the sons of men," whose lips (messages) are full of grace, and thus He is blessed forever by God (v. 2). He is mighty and majestic "because of truth, humility, and righteousness" (vs. 3-5). He is, indeed, God (v. 6), Who rules "forever and ever," with a "scepter of righteousness." This is the passage that is quoted in Hebrews 1:8-9 and applied to Jesus. Note that, contrary to Jehovah's Witnesses' doctrine, Christ is truly God. But in Psalm 45, we also get an interesting insight into the triune nature of deity: "Therefore God, your God, has anointed You" (v. 7). Jesus is God, yet in the scheme of redemption worked out in heaven, He is, in effect, "outranked" by the Father (cf. I Cor. 11:3). This, of course, is only a temporary arrangement designed for accomplishing the salvation of man. The Father sent the Son Who sent the Holy Spirit. There is no inequality or superiority here, any more than man is "superior" to woman. Different roles have been assigned to make various tasks easier and more efficient. This Messiah is "scented" with the most fragrant spices (v. 8), and worthy of praise by the highest and noblest (v. 9). The daughters of kings are His servants.

Exalt and worship Him (vs. 10-17)--The theme of verse 9 is expanded through much of the rest of the psalm. The "daughter" of verse 10 might be the "kings' daughters" of verse 9, though there is a plurality in verse 9 that is lacking in verse 10. Regardless, He is so exalted that the "daughter" is commanded to "forget your own people also, and your father's house." Our highest allegiance is to be to Him (Luke 14:26). He desires us, too, but we should "worship Him" (v. 11). Again, that language cannot apply to man, even poetically; only God is to be worshipped. As they should, the rich and the powerful honor Him in various ways (vs. 12-15). His "sons" shall be "princes in all the earth" (v. 16), and He will be remembered and praised "forever and ever" (v. 17). A beautiful psalm lauding the virtues and worthiness of Jesus, the Christ.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Psalm 44

The Lord's assistance in conquering Canaan (vs. 1-3)--"Assistance" might not be a strong enough word. Certainly He worked through His people, but the psalmist, correctly, gives Jehovah most of the credit: "You drove out the nations with Your hand" (v. 2). "They did not gain possession of the land by their own sword, nor did their own arm save them; but it was Your right hand, Your arm, and the light of Your countenance, because You favored them" (v. 3). It's a good place to begin a review of any life--the guidance of the Lord.

Trusting in God for victory (vs. 4-8)--Since He led Israel of old to victory, He can do the same for subsequent generations. He is the King Who can "command victories for Jacob" (v. 4). It is through His aid that enemies will be defeated (v. 5). We should not trust in our own devices (v. 6), but acknowledge that it is He Who was "saved us from our enemies" (v. 7). Thus, our boast is in Him, and we will "praise Your name forever" (v. 8). Israel was a national, as well as spiritual, entity, and thus the constant reference to "enemies" throughout the Psalms is literal and physical in character. Putting this on a more personal relevance for us, our great "enemy" is Satan. And it is through the Lord's assistance only that we can defeat Him.

All is not well (vs. 9-16)--The Psalmist here gives us a marvelous view of what our attitude ought to be. The first eight verses provide no hint that something might be wrong. The Lord has been instrumental, in times past, in leading His people to victory, and thus deserves to be praised. Regardless of what happens in life "Jehovah is worthy to be praised" (Ps. 18:3). But in the current case, "You have cast us off and put us to shame" (v. 9). Indeed, we have another fine example of palilogical parallelism..."You...You...You...You...You..." This is for ease of memorization. All of these matters are synonymous. The Lord had cast them off (v. 9), made them run from their enemies (v. 10), left them as weak as sheep (v. 11), sold them for "next to nothing" (i.e., they were worthless in His sight, v. 12), made them a reproach (v. 13) and a byword (v. 14). Dishonor and shame followed (vs. 15-16). The circumstance behind Israel's current miserable state is not recounted. The writer, having attributed past glories to the Lord, now attributes the current distress to Him as well. Jehovah is active, and near, in our lives. We must never forget that. And He does as He sees best for us.

"We have not forgotten you" (vs. 17-23)--This is questionable. Certainly, there were always faithful people in Israel, but they were nearly always in the minority. The account of Israel's history, as recorded in Judges through II Chronicle, is not one of faith and devotion to God. But, the psalmist claims that they had not "dealt falsely with Your covenant" (v. 17), "nor have our steps departed from Your way" (v. 18). Regardless of the accuracy of those statements, the Lord had turned against them (v. 19). The writer is somewhat confused. If they had been unfaithful and idolatrous, Jehovah would know it--"for He knows the secrets of the heart" (v. 21). "Yet for Your sake we are killed all day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter" (v. 22). Paul quotes this passage in Romans 8:36 in reference to the persecution God's people might endure; but that is no indication that God no longer loves us. I do not believe this verse makes this psalm refer strictly to the Christian age. Paul is simply saying that the circumstance of the early church was similar to that in Psalm 44.  I think part of the application here is to realize that, even in those times in our lives when we believe we are doing the best we can for Him, there will be anguish and sorrow.  And we won't know why God is allowing it to happen.  Or, more appropriately, bringing it upon us.

"Why do you hide your face?" (vs. 23-26)--There is no resolution to this song. The writer does not understand why the Lord is doing what He is doing, not if they had been faithful to Him. They had been humbled (v. 25), so "redeem us for Your mercies' sake" (v. 26). Show how merciful You are by delivering us from this current troubles. Again, we see a psalm that is so very relevant to our own lives. We do not know why things happen in our lives--good and bad--but through it all we should praise God and request His aid in times of sorrow and suffering.