Tuesday, July 27, 2010

The Mighty Man and the Humble Man of Psalm 52

Reading:   Psalm 52  
Why do you boast of evil, O mighty man? The steadfast love of God endures all the day. 2Your tongue plots destruction, like a sharp razor, you worker of deceit. 3You love evil more than good, and lying more than speaking what is right. Selah
4You love all words that devour, O deceitful tongue. 5But God will break you down forever; he will snatch and tear you from your tent; he will uproot you from the land of the living. Selah (Psalm 52:1-5)
On Sundays we are going through the book of Proverbs. This Sunday we covered the subject of Gossip and Slander... the twin brothers of evil speech. One key truth we talked about might be stated: gossip and slander are contrary to the very nature of the Gospel itself, and therefore are one of the most destructive forces against it, and are an assault on God. I believe we can pick up on that truth here in Psalm 52 as well.
Who is this “mighty man” of Psalm 52? If you look at the description in the title of this psalm you will find that this is a psalm of David, “When Doeg the Edomite had gone to Saul and told him: 'David has gone to the house of Ahimelech [the priest].'” Now I am not sure whether the title's are “inspired” or always accurate, but Doeg certainly fits the picture. Of course, the Psalms are purposely vague at times, because they are intended to be used by believers of all times in many situations.
In the case referred to with Doeg, David had gone to the town of Nob, to Ahimelech the priest, to get food and, hopefully a weapon. As it turns out Ahimelech had the sword of Goliath there and he gave it to David along with the consecrated bread. You may remember that David has been on the run from Saul who is attempting to unjustly kill David. And during this scene Doeg the Edomite shows up and later reports on this to Saul. At Saul's command, Doeg has a blood-fest and slays 85 priests that day. Undoubtedly, these men would have been unarmed and defenseless against this heinous crime. (1 Samuel 21, 22)
Doeg was certainly the “mighty man” that day, yet I think he represents more than just one man at one time in history. The mighty man might well be taken as the world's forces against the humble man—ultimately, Jesus Christ. This slanderous tongue of Psalm 52 is the stream of lies and destruction that have arrayed themselves against God and His people throughout the ages. They find their high point at the trial of Jesus Christ, our High Priest, when he is falsely accused and in a mock trial delivered over to death. It is important to keep in mind, though, that even in this grand miscarriage of justice, God allowed our sin to be placed on Christ that we might be set free. The slanderous tongue of Psalm 52 finds expression today as people, even Christians, engage in attacking the body of Christ.
The “mighty man” of Psalm 52 is the slanderer and gossip who goes about destroying the unity of the body of Christ to which we have been called to make every effort to maintain (Ephesians 4:3). When properly responded to, we become like Christ. We can rejoice because we know,
Woe to you when all men speak well of you, for that is how their fathers treated the false prophets.” (Luke 6:26)
The humble man implied in Psalm 52 is Christ, and those who, in being joined with Him, are responding in love to the attack of slander and gossip.
Jeremiah 9 describes how the people of God had, in that time, descended into the pit of gossip and slander to the point that Jeremiah was so grieved he would write (Jeremiah 9),
1Oh, that my head were a spring of water and my eyes a fountain of tears! I would weep day and night for the slain of my people. 2Oh, that I had in the desert a lodging place for travelers, so that I might leave my people and go away from them; for they are all adulterers, a crowd of unfaithful people.
Then Jeremiah tells us why they are “all adulterers, a crowd of unfaithful people.”
3"They make ready their tongue like a bow, to shoot lies; it is not by truth that they triumph in the land. They go from one sin to another; they do not acknowledge me," declares the LORD. 4"Beware of your friends; do not trust your brothers. For every brother is a deceiver, and every friend a slanderer. 5Friend deceives friend, and no one speaks the truth. They have taught their tongues to lie; they weary themselves with sinning. 6You live in the midst of deception; in their deceit they refuse to acknowledge me," declares the LORD.
And it is in this context that we find the glorious gospel pointing promise of Jeremiah 9:23-34, which Paul later quotes in 1 Corinthians 1.
This is what the LORD says: "Let not the wise man boast of his wisdom or the strong man [same as the mighty man of Psalm 52] boast of his strength or the rich man boast of his riches, 24but let him who boasts boast about this: that he understands and knows me, that I am the LORD, who exercises kindness, justice and righteousness on earth, for in these I delight," declares the LORD.
The mighty man, the one who has his “wisdom” that he must share, the one who has power to divide and cause division by a deceiving tongue, should not boast in his power. Rather, he should turn his attention to the LORD's kindness, justice and righteousness on earth...to the things God delights in. God delights in compassion, humility, forgiveness, and forbearance; God delights in Christ and Christ-likeness. May we only boast that we know this God in Jesus Christ who has forgiven our sins, and may we view others, and their sins through this same lens.
By God's kindness, my experience of the body of Christ is largely one of love and peace. Rarely have I encountered the kind of attacks we often hear of in our stories of gossip and slander. But I have seen first hand the destructive power of the tongue, and I pray the church would not end up being its own worst enemy. There are plenty of willing participants outside the church who would gladly destroy it and testify against it; may we not join forces with them and become a Doeg. It would be much better to be amongst the 85 slain... to be with the crucified Savior.
So as we pray through Psalm 52, even if we are not experiencing gossip and slander ourselves, we might well know that many in the church are under attack by these twin enemies. Pray for them, lift them up and pray God strengthen them through this psalm.

Love the Gospel, Live the Gospel, Advance the Gospel,

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Why the New Jerusalem Has Streets of Gold

Reading:  Revelation 21     

In Revelation 21 we find a visionary description of the bride of Christ.
2I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. 3And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. 4He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” 5He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!”...
10And he carried me away in the Spirit to a mountain great and high, and showed me the Holy City, Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God. 11It shone with the glory of God, and its brilliance was like that of a very precious jewel, like a jasper, clear as crystal. 12It had a great, high wall with twelve gates, and with twelve angels at the gates. On the gates were written the names of the twelve tribes of Israel. 13There were three gates on the east, three on the north, three on the south and three on the west. 14The wall of the city had twelve foundations, and on them were the names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb. ... 18The wall was made of jasper, and the city of pure gold, as pure as glass. 19The foundations of the city walls were decorated with every kind of precious stone. The first foundation was jasper, the second sapphire, the third chalcedony, the fourth emerald, 20the fifth sardonyx, the sixth carnelian, the seventh chrysolite, the eighth beryl, the ninth topaz, the tenth chrysoprase, the eleventh jacinth, and the twelfth amethyst. 21The twelve gates were twelve pearls, each gate made of a single pearl. The great street of the city was of pure gold, like transparent glass.
What a description of the city of God. Indeed God is making everything new. This New Jerusalem is not at all like the old. But, there are some connections... some correlations such that you can recognize what He is talking about.
For instance, a city is made up of people. And the New Jerusalem, like the old, is described as a city... a place of gathered people. And in the Old Jerusalem there was a temple, where God dwelt in the middle of the city. That temple had jewels much like those described in the foundations of this whole city, for here God dwells in the whole city.
And then we get to the fact that the very street itself is of pure gold. People have concluded a lot of things about that. For instance, here we think gold is of supreme worth, where as there it is used for asphalt. And there is truth in the difference of values there, but the point of the text in mentioning gold (for instance it is used throughout the city, not just the street per vs. 18) seems to be that this city is glorious and of great value...even the streets are of gold.
As with most of the book of Revelation, understanding it comes by understanding the Old Testament. Most of the images and symbolism are carried forward from the Old Testament. In the Old Testament we find something else about the temple, which is now true of the whole city.
1 Kings 6:29-30 On the walls all around the temple, in both the inner and outer rooms, he carved cherubim, palm trees and open flowers. 30He also covered the floors of both the inner and outer rooms of the temple with gold.
The temple, the dwelling place of God, had gold floors. Now, in the New Jerusalem, God isn't dwelling merely in a temple in the middle of the city, but in the whole city. Therefore the whole city is the temple, so to speak, and so the streets (think floors) are made of gold.
Of course, we know the city, the bride of Christ, built upon the foundation of the apostles is the church of the Living God, the New Jerusalem, the dwelling place of God. What a glorious picture and description of what God is making us to be.
Love the Gospel, Live the Gospel, Advance the Gospel,

Thursday, July 8, 2010

How a Psychic Might Teach You to Trust the Gospel

Reading: 1 Samuel 28     

Okay, admittedly an odd title... but it got your attention. The story of Saul and his encounter with the witch of Endor is one of those strange accounts in scripture that can raise a lot of questions. I don't have many answers to the questions usually raised, but there is one thing that is quite clear in the text, and that is the truth that not even death can stop the Word of God from being fulfilled. It is this point that the text is making; not telling us something about mediums.

1In those days the Philistines gathered their forces to fight against Israel. ...3Now Samuel was dead, and all Israel had mourned for him and buried him in his own town of Ramah. Saul had expelled the mediums and spiritists from the land. 4The Philistines assembled and came and set up camp at Shunem, while Saul gathered all the Israelites and set up camp at Gilboa.
5When Saul saw the Philistine army, he was afraid; terror filled his heart. 6He inquired of the LORD, but the LORD did not answer him by dreams or Urim or prophets. 7Saul then said to his attendants, "Find me a woman who is a medium, so I may go and inquire of her." "There is one in Endor," they said. 8So Saul disguised himself, putting on other clothes, and at night he and two men went to the woman. "Consult a spirit for me," he said, "and bring up for me the one I name." ...11Then the woman asked, "Whom shall I bring up for you?" "Bring up Samuel," he said. (1 Samuel 28:1-11)
Samuel was dead; Saul was scared. Saul inquired of the Lord but didn't get an answer. It is wise to be careful, if we are seeking to know God's will, not to have the mentality of, “I will do whatever it takes to know what God wants.” Saul would have done well to be content with God's quietness. When the medium, the psychic, if you will, succeeded in bringing Samuel up, which seemed to surprise her more than anyone, here is what happened.
15Samuel said to Saul, "Why have you disturbed me by bringing me up?" "I am in great distress," Saul said. "The Philistines are fighting against me, and God has turned away from me. He no longer answers me, either by prophets or by dreams. So I have called on you to tell me what to do." 16Samuel said, "Why do you consult me, now that the LORD has turned away from you and become your enemy? 17The LORD has done what he predicted through me. The LORD has torn the kingdom out of your hands and given it to one of your neighbors—to David....19The LORD will hand over both Israel and you to the Philistines, and tomorrow you and your sons will be with me. The LORD will also hand over the army of Israel to the Philistines.” (1 Samuel 28:15-19)
Death doesn't stop the Word of God. Samuel may have been dead, but the Word he had spoken in 1 Samuel 15:28 was still alive and coming to pass. Saul didn't need a new word from God, he had a word and not even death could change it.
What about us? Do we have a word from the Lord? Absolutely! The Gospel is God's promise to us that even though we die, yet shall we live! (John 5:24; 11:26) God's promise is that He will never leave you nor forsake you (Hebrews 13:5) and that nothing can separate you from the love of God in Christ (Romans 8:39). In the midst of your battles, trust in that word, and don't set yourself to seek a new word. God may use many ways to reinforce that word—words of encouragement may well be included (1 Corinthians 14)—but it is important not to require of God some new word. This demand for a “fresh word” in a moment like this may merely be an expression of doubt in God's once spoken, always true word, the Gospel!
Love the Gospel, Live the Gospel, Advance the Gospel,