Hope in God

Posted by on Mar 31, 2011 in The Gospel and the Christian Life, What We Write About


Psalm 5 is another individual lament, and the first instance of a psalm with prayers for the personal downfall of the enemies. Such Psalms have in view a situation where one is faced with bloodthirsty and deceitful prosecutors. David is the author of this Psalm.

Explanation of Psalm 5

As is common in the laments, the psalm opens by calling out to God. The tone is one of urgency and expectation. Some psalms speak of the Lord as King have in mind his rule over all his creation. Others, such as this one, refer to him acting as king over his people. The Davidic kingship, when it functioned properly did not usurp either king or divine kingship, though a faithless king could lead to God punishing the people (1 Samuel 8:7; 12:12-15).

The singer praises God for loving what is right. The argument of the psalm is that the success of these persecutors would contradict the biblical view of God’s commitment to righteousness. The terms describing evil and evildoers are status words; that is, they describe people who reject God’s kingship, as well as denoting the behavior that stems from such rejection.

The phrase “abundance of your steadfast love” comes from Ex. 34:6, the basic confession of Old Testament faith, describing the Lord’s benevolence. Paul uses Psalm 5:9 in romans 3:13 as part of his argument that both Jews and Gentiles are under the power of sin. These prayers describe the judgment that must eventually fall on those members of God’s people who harden themselves to persecute the godly, because to harm the godly is to attack God. The request, then, is for God to vindicate his commitment to his people, here in this life for all to see. Prayers of this sort generally carry the unstated assumption that the evildoers will not repent and seek forgiveness. This psalm closes by expressing the assurance enjoyed by the faithful. The song prays that the truly faithful, in contrast to the evildoers, will always rejoice in the Lord and be assured of his care and protection.

Hope in God

The most important lesson contemporary humans can take from Psalm 5 is that human hope is grounded in the character of God- a character that is constant and does not change regardless of the ebb and flow of human circumstances. The righteous- those who take refuge in God- find hope in God’s holiness both because he is incompatible with evil and because he is relentlessly good.

The believer finds hope in God and refuge there because, despite the rampant evil that characterizes our world and even gains a foothold in our own lives, God is not unconcerned with evil or injustice. Even less is he their author. That is why the faithful throughout the ages, when faced with the implacable evil of pain, suffering, oppression, and injustice, are able to call confidently on God for redress, as the psalmist does in Psalm 5. As Christians we may be somewhat disconcerted by the harsh imprecations heaped on the enemy by the righteous. We feel constrained to moderate our anger and sense of injustice after the words of Jesus, “Bless those who persecuted you” (Luke 6:28; Rom. 12:14). But the psalmist’s words call us to remember that Jesus was never afraid to call evil what it was or to take a firm stance of condemnation against all of its forms. We too must take evil seriously, aligning ourselves with God’s essential character of holiness.

As believers we must also trust and proclaim the relentless goodness of God that will never allow evil to have the last word. The biblical message is consistent in affirming that the world as we know it is broken and does not represent the full intention of the Creator. God is not the author of evil we experience, nor is he unconcerned or unable to respond. The mystery of continued suffering and evil does not undermine the psalmist’s confidence that god’s full intent and purpose for humanity and all creation is good and blessing. Even Job ultimately confessed that the God he encountered was sovereign over creation and worth holding in to despite the clamoring voices of pain and suffering.

In the final analysis the psalmist sides with Job. His hope is grounded not in the swirling press of circumstance but on the unchanging sovereign of God. Yahweh is the psalmist’s king and god (v.2), as he is ours. He is the King who establishes justice and security. He is the sovereign who leads us in the paths of righteousness and divine blessing. Let all who take refuge in Him be glad.


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The Practice of the Presence of God

Posted by on Mar 30, 2011 in The Gospel and the Christian Life, What We Write About


Psalm 4 expresses quiet trust amid troubling circumstances, combining the categories of individual lament and confidence >Many take this as a companion to Psalm 3, because 4:8 seems to echo 3:5. If there is a connection, the past tense of 3:5 sets it in the morning, while the future tense of 4:8 sets it in the evening; any further connection is speculative.

Explanation of Psalm 4

You have given me relief in verse 1 between two urgent request is similar to the rhetoric of 3:7: past experience emboldens the faithful to confident prayer. The singer turns form his prayer to address in 4:2-3 those who slander the pious; such people should know that the Lord has set his favor upon the faithful and will listen to their prayers. The idea with “set apart” in 4:3 is that God sets his special attention and affection on a person or a people in order to distinguish them.

The Hebrew word “Hasid” is an adjective form of steadfast love (Hesed). This term variously rendered “godly,” “saint,” “faithful one,” and “holy one” in the Psalmists, refers to those who have genuinely laid hold of God’s steadfast love; here it is singular, to stress that each faithful member of the people may have this confidence.

The singer in Psalm 4:45 tells the godly not to give into the anger that would lead them to take revenge; instead they must remain steadfast in their worship and trust. The way to prevent sin is to ponder and be silent: that is, reflect on how the Lord has shown himself trustworthy. This does not discourage the faithful from using legal recourse when necessary; instead it speaks against personal revenge that circumvents the law and consumes the lives of the vengeful (Eph. 4:26).  The singer finishes in 4:6-8 by offering ap lea to the Lord. E ach godly person is to see himself giving the plaintive cry of v.6 and is to find the answer in remembering all that the Lord has done for him (vv.7-8).

The Practice of the Presence of God

This psalm is a call to practice the presence of God. When Brother Lawrence wrote his small book with that title over a century ago, it offered the shockingly simple insight: that rather ordinary persons could experience God as presence in the midst of the ordinary activities of their lives. The key to experiencing god is not withdrawal from ordinary life into the extraordinary life of prayer, meditation and fasting offered by the monastery or covenant. Rather, Brother Lawrence taught that the key was to constantly place one’s mind and heart upon God in the midst of the ordinary and so to transform one’s common duties and activities into the uncommon moments of prayer and communion with God. Knowing God, then, becomes an abiding conversation with the God who is always present and waits our acknowledgement of that presence through heartfelt communication with him.

Like the opponents in the psalm, we are often tempted to equate God’s presence in our lives with experiences of personal benefit-or, in some instances, with the experience of punishment for some personal sin. As a result, when we experience pain and trouble and can discover no sinful reason for the experience, or when life runs on with an almost interminable sameness, we sometimes conclude that God is distant, removed and unknowable- that “he is not working for us.” Consequently we may feel free-sometimes almost driven to discover what does work! Like the psalmist’s opponents, we may find ourselves seeking a lie. No, not the ancient pagan fertility deities that challenged Israel’s loyalty, but the things we hope that will fill the void and end the pain. Money, power, sex, drugs, control, prestige, relationships are all things we turn to in ordre to provide a barrier against the droughts and famines of our lives.

The strong and popular influences of our own society and time, such as the media, commercialism, politics, business, professional athletics, and even some forms of the church, have been caught up in the pragmatic focus of what works for me. We cannot avoid being bombarded through all of our senses with the message that we are the center of our universe and that our purpose is to use any method available that promises the security and benefit we deserve. Too infrequently does God play any part in the pragmatic methodologies we use in our quest for personal benefit. When he does, there is often a manipulative edge to our approach. Like the psalmist’s opponents, our sacrifices often seek to bend God to our will. “You have promised,” we say, “therefore, you must..”

By contrast the ability to make the “right sacrifices” that the psalmist envisions grows from a right and intimate knowledge of the God to whom we offer our gifts. Taking our eyes off ourselves and our own benefit and placing our aim entirely on knowing God as he truly is and deserves to be known completely rewrite the equation of relationship with God so that personal benefit and pragmatism are no longer at the center of it.

Pain does not become pleasure, nor does hunger become satiety. God does not twist our world so that wrong becomes right. But with God at the center, there exists a rightness that is not obliterated by want or pain. It is not the kind of that that rejoices in hurt, but a faith that faces the reality of pain with Job’s steady confidence: “Though he slay me, yet I will hope in him” (Job 13:15).


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Living a blameless life

Posted by on Mar 28, 2011 in The Gospel and the Christian Life, What We Write About


A variety of settings for Psalm 26 have been suggested, such as a prayer for public exoneration offered by someone seriously or falsely accused of wrongdoing; or perhaps part of an entrance liturgy by which pilgrims came into the sanctuary. There is scant evidence for any of these, though the latter is helpful because it links the theme with that of Psalms 15 and 24. That is, the psalm mirrors for those who attend worship what the ideal covenant participant should actually look like. Some have taken the claims of innocence here as a kind of self-righteous boasting, but this is a mistake. First the mention of God’s steadfast love and faithful in Psalm 26:3 are a clear echo of Ex. 34:6, and show that divine grace is the foundation for holy living; similarly, the references to worship in God’s house (Ps. 26:6-8) indicate that the covenantal means of grace, with their focus on atonement and forgiveness, are in view, and third, singing this psalm serves to enable worshipers more and more to like and embrace the ideal of faithful covenant membership- but it does not make achieving that ideal a precondition for true worship.

Explanation of Psalm 26

For God to vindicate the worshiper is for God to distinguish between the faithful and the impious. The faithful are those who take the covenant to heart, and who are as a general pattern of life have walked in their integrity and have trusted in the Lord without wavering. They also keep God’s steadfast love before their eyes and walk in God’s faithfulness- meaning they live by the grace revealed in Ex. 34:6.

The Psalm in Psalm 26:4-8 describes some of the features of the faithful covenant participant: he refuses to join with the unfaithful (hypocrites, evildoers, wicked) in their crooked schemes, because he renounces their values and he aims to take in part in public worship with moral innocence and with delight. Psalm 26:9-10 amplify the prayer for vindication in v.1, namely, the desire to be treated differently from the unfaithful. The person who owns the ideal described in Psalm 26:11-12 who determines to walk in his integrity, may be sure of God’s continuing care.

Living a Blameless Life

The psalmist claims to have led a “blameless” life in Psalm 26:1, 11. This does not mean a perfectly sinless life but a life grounded in the fear of the Lord- an acknowledgement of one’s absolute dependence on the gracious mercy of God. The psalmist unpacks to an extent what it means to live life blamelessly. We need to understand what this means in order for us as believers to live faithful lives before God.

First we need to trust in Yahweh without wavering. The first element of blameless living is an attitude of unwavering trust in God. This foundational attitude undergirds all we think, say and do. Unwavering trust enables us to do things we might not ordinarily attempt. Sometimes this may mean we remain still and wait for God rather than relying on our own strength (Psalm 27:14). Other times it might encourage us to leap out in faith.

Second, living a blameless life means walking continually in the Word of God. The second element the psalmist describes is related to the first. An unwavering trust in God leads one to shape one’s life continually by recourse to God’s truth. What makes for a balance life is to commit oneself to a continual relationship with God. The psalmist claims to walk around continually immersed in the character of God. This kind of relationship rubs off on others so they too become reliable, loyal individuals.

The third aspect of living a blameless life is avoiding evil associations. In contrast to continual associations with a reliable God, the psalmist avoids enduring linkages with those whose lives repudiate the faithful displayed by God. We are not talking about actual or even redemptive association here. Jesus purposefully associated with sinners as a way of revealing god’s love for them while calling them to repentance and salvation. The verbs employed in these verses of Psalm 26 ysh (sit, dwell) bw’ (enter in, have dwellings with) describe more extended, intimate relationships. If one is walking continuously in the presence of God’s reliable love, then the lifestyle of the deceitful, hypocrites, evildoers, and the wicked is no longer attractive.

The fourth aspect of living a blameless life is loving Christ’s Church. The one who is blameless is one who loves the dwelling place of god. Immersing oneself in the things of God and avoiding those things that counter or undermine his purposes make entering his presence more appealing.

Where we live and where we spend our time has a lot to say about who we are and what we value. Do we love the house where God dwells?? Or are we content to rub shoulders with the rich and famous, who seek pleasure, power and wealth as the defining values of their lives? This psalm calls us to reflect on our own lives. If we were to open our lives up to the honest examination of heart and mind described in Psalm 26:2, would we find the same indicators of a blameless life that the psalmists claims? What changes would you have to make to be able to say, “I walk continually in relationship with your enduring reliability?

The final aspect of living a blameless life is living a confident life. The psalmist is so confident that we may wonder how we could ever gain such confidence in our own acceptability to God. Whenever we are forced to take a close look at the interior of our lives, we may not see much enduring value there. Thankfully we are not talking about earning God’s acceptance through perfectly righteous behavior here. We know enough if we are honest to dismiss that possibility from the start. Our only hope is the same kind of “unwavering trust” our psalmist speaks of in Psalm 26:1.

Our trust should be in what Paul calls “the righteousness from God” (Rom. 3:5, 21-24)- the righteousness god confers on those who accept the salvation offered through Jesus Christ. Such righteousness (diakaiosyne) is a legal term similar to that used in the Old Testament (seqaqah). Humans receive “righteousness” from God in that they are declared not guilty by God and thus legally justified. As Romans 5:1-5 makes clear, this righteousness gives us confidence to stand in the presence of a holy god without fear and to anticipate with great joy the hope of the glory of God.


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Around the Blogs 3/28/2011

Posted by on Mar 28, 2011 in Academic Work

Daily Bible Reading: Exodus 16, 1 Samuel 10, Job 4, Psalm 67, Proverbs 4, Isaiah 66, Luke 19, 2 Corinthians 7, Colossians 4, and Revelation 9.

Talking Technology with Tim Challies: http://trevinwax.com/2011/03/24/talking-technology-with-tim-challies

Honoring the Persecuted Give it all away: http://www2.lifeway.com/secretchurch/index.php/blog/details/post/honoring_the_persecuted_give_it_all_away/

Handling Conflict in Marriage: http://thegoodbookblog.com/2011/mar/25/the-perfect-storms-handling-conflict-in-marriage/

Quote of the Day:  ‎”They who truly come to God for mercy, come as beggars, and not as creditors: they come for mere mercy, for sovereign grace, and not for anything that is due”~Jonathan Edwards


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