Sunday, August 14, 2016


Reflection on the Old Testament: Psalms

 

“For the redemption of their souls is costly, and it shall cease forever—that he should continue to live eternally, and not see the Pit,”—Ps. 49:8-9, NKJV

“A man who is in honor, yet does not understand, is like the beasts that perish,”—Ps. 49:20, NKJV

In Psalm 49, the psalmist reminds man of their mortality and the fact that, though they may amass great wealth and become prosperous on earth, they will eventually die and their prosperity will be left to others. The psalmist encourages us to consider our eternity and to remember that, though we may live our lives in honor and prosperity, neither our morality nor our wealth will save us from “the Pit.” “For the redemption of their souls is costly”—too costly for us to purchase. “But God will redeem my soul from the power of the grave, for He shall receive me,”—Ps. 49:15. Only God is able to redeem our souls, through Christ crucified. Men may attempt to redeem their own souls, through their own morality or by other ungodly means, or they may immerse themselves entirely in the pleasures of the physical realm and ignore the spiritual realm altogether, but they cannot avoid death—and what a wretched eternity awaits those who have no spiritual foundation! “Though while he lives he blesses himself (for men will praise you if you do well for yourself), he shall go to the generation of his fathers; they shall never see light,”—Ps. 49:18-19. The only path to eternal life, the only means of spiritual redemption, is Christ and Him crucified. Those who do not understand or accept this have no hope for their eternity, but will surely perish, cut off from all that is pure and good. “A man who is in honor, yet does not understand, is like the beasts that perish,”—Ps. 49:20. Deliver your soul to the only One who can truly save—let Jesus Christ secure it, for He has paid the price.

It is strange that Psalm 58, which is, essentially, a prayer for the destruction of the wicked, is “set to ‘Do Not Destroy’” (see Ps. 58:title). But why does David desire the wicked to be destroyed? Perhaps because he desires destruction to cease.

Wickedness invariably produces strife, chaos, and, yes, destruction. Most, if not all, of the time, to end destruction, the root of the destruction must be destroyed. To bring about peace, when humans are involved, there must first be war. On the other hand, what is true destruction? Is it not generally defined as a laying waste of something complete or good? Yes, in this context, as in many others, the destruction spoken of is the result of wickedness—wickedness which must be judged.

With this outlook, David’s psalm being set to “Do Not Destroy” is completely appropriate. He is pleading for wickedness to be eradicated—for strife to cease, and peace to ensue.

“Surely the wrath of man shall praise You; with the remainder of wrath You shall gird Yourself,”—Ps. 76:10, NKJV.

In and of itself, this verse is rather difficult to understand. How can “the wrath of man” praise God, or be a garment of glory for Him? The cross-reference in my NKJV Bible indicated Rom. 9:17, in which Paul quotes Ex. 9:16, “For the Scripture says to the Pharaoh, ‘For this very purpose I have raised you up, that I may show My power in you, and that My name may be declared in all the earth.’” This cross-reference puzzled me at first, but then it struck me (I will leave to the interpretive reader to decide what “it” was): the pervading theme of God’s dealings with Egypt, and specifically the Pharaoh, was to “show His power” through signs and wonders, exhibited only as a result of Pharaoh’s wrath and hardness of heart. God’s tendency to reap good from evil, to thwart the enemy by backfiring his own works against him, permeates all of Scripture, and, indeed, our daily life. But although God is capable of turning evil purpose into good outcomes, He still judges sin and prepares severe consequences for sinners. As I said before, the reaping of good from evil, the use of men’s wrath to praise God, is an offensive blow toward Satan, dealt upon him time and time again, and, indeed, once and for all on Calvary. We, as Christians, should certainly never challenge God to use our sin for good—abominable thought! God never “uses” sin, but thwarts it, and through its defeat, He is praised. “Surely the wrath of man shall praise You; with the remainder of wrath You shall gird Yourself,” Ps. 76:10.

Reflections on the Old Testament: Job and Psalms

 

“The LORD rewarded me according to my righteousness; according to the cleanness of my hands He has recompensed me. For I have kept the ways of the LORD, and have not wickedly departed from my God. For all His judgments were before me, and I did not put away His statutes from me. I was also blameless before Him, and I kept myself from my iniquity. Therefore the LORD has recompensed me according to my righteousness, according to the cleanness of my hands in His sight.”—Psalm 18:20-24, NKJV

In the above verses, the psalmist seems to be boasting of his own righteousness, and “the cleanness of his hands,” saying, essentially, that God delivered him because of his purity.

But before we denounce this as pride, let’s take a look at Psalm 16:2, where David says: “O my soul, you have said to the LORD, ‘You are my Lord, my goodness is nothing apart from You.’” This verse provides an extremely direct answer to the puzzlement over Ps. 18:20-24. If we combine all these verses, we are able to see the whole truth:

David recognizes God as his Lord, and the source of all goodness. As a man who follows God, he recognizes that his own goodness is entirely dependent upon God. Therefore, when he “boasts” of his righteousness, he is, in truth, praising God for the goodness He has placed in him, which has saved him from destruction.

 

“But now He has worn me out; You have made desolate all my company. You have shriveled me up, and it is a witness against me; my leanness rises up against me and bears witness to my face. He tears me in His wrath, and hates me; He gnashes at me with His teeth; my adversary sharpens His gaze upon me. They gape at me with their mouth, they strike me reproachfully on the cheek, they gather together against me. God has delivered me to the ungodly, and turned me over to the hands of the wicked.”—Job 16:7-11, NKJV

“Many bulls have surrounded Me; strong bulls of Bashan have encircled Me. They gape at Me with their mouths, like a raging and roaring lion. I am poured out like water, and all My bones are out of joint; My heart is like wax; it has melted within Me. My strength is dried up like a potsherd, and My tongue clings to My jaws; You have brought Me to the dust of death. For dogs have surrounded Me; the congregation of the wicked has enclosed Me. They pierced My hands and My feet; I can count all My bones. They look and stare at Me. They divide My garments among them, and for My clothing they cast lots.”—Psalm 22:12-18, NKJV

Being alienated from God by sin is the plight of man without Christ. Christ cut Himself off from God when He became sin for us on the cross. The Messiah’s outcry, therefore, in Psalm 22:12-18 matches that of Job in Job 16:7-11. In this respect many other verses in the book of Job can also be correlated to Christ’s suffering, if we but look for them. The climactic point of such a comparison is that Christ’s suffering ends in victory over mankind’s doom, i.e., since Christ already suffered spiritual death, and overcame it, our own spiritual death, which would otherwise be unavoidable, is now nullified through our belief in Christ.