a new world coming

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Psalm 10

As I mentioned last week, Psalms 9 and 10 were most likely originally one psalm, and thematically, as well as structurally, there are a lot of similarities. David focuses here in this second part on the attitude and character of a wicked person, and how they may seem to prosper for a time, but shows that God is attentive to the cries of the oppressed and will bring justice.

Sometimes it seems that God just does not care. Sometimes it seems that the world is going to the dogs, evil people are threatening the innocent and everything just feels really messed up. Many situations nationally and worldwide spring to mind. David felt the same way. He describes for us a typical evil person: boastful, greedy, arrogant, deceitful, foul tongued, murderous, scheming and thieving.

Now, I’ll be the first to admit that on occasion I can show any or all of these characteristics, but there is one right at the centre of David’s list, in verse 4, that is the key characteristic: ‘In the pride of his face, the wicked does not seek Him, all his thoughts are, “There is no God.”’

It is not what we do that makes us righteous or wicked, it is whom we believe in.

Because the truth is that God does see everything that goes on in the world. He does hear when we cry out to Him in pain and anguish. It breaks His heart to see the horrible things humans do to each other and to the planet. And when we cry out to Him, He will always respond. He will bring comfort with His presence, which is the thing we need most, and sometimes He will bring answers to our questions and relief to our distress.

I can’t answer the question of why there is suffering in the world, why evil seems to prosper or why there are natural disasters, diseases and wars. But David gives us an answer: one day this will all end. In verses 16-18 he says: ‘The Lord is king forever and ever; the nations perish from his land. O Lord, you hear the desire of the afflicted; you will strengthen their heart; you will incline your ear to do justice to the fatherless and the oppressed, so that man who is of the earth may strike terror no more.’

God’s kingdom is coming. In some ways it is here already, little glimpses can be seen in the kindnesses we show to each other, when we imitate Jesus and sacrifice our selves to help those in need. We don’t do this to seek approval from God or to be made right with Him. We do this because we have been made right with Him by trusting Him and we want to love others because of the love He has shown us.

A few years ago I heard a talk given by the Rev Graham Cray at the Soul Survivor summer festival. One thing he said has stayed with me ever since, and for me it sums up this Psalm beautifully:

“God does not call us to be holy just to please Him. It does please Him, the Bible makes that clear, but He calls us to be holy so that the world sees the new world that’s coming right in the midst of the old world that’s broken.”

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The Name and character of God

Psalm 9

Psalms 9 and 10 were originally one Psalm, so consider this post like to be like the first of a two-part episode of your favourite show (or any show, I’m not assuming you like my blog more than anything else you read online…). Together the structure of the two Psalms forms an acrostic poem, with each stanza beginning with the next letter of the Hebrew alphabet, and there are several other Psalms that follow this pattern.

David, in this Psalm, tells us he is continually praising the LORD, the Good God, and telling people of what He has done. He is thankful, for God has overcome David’s enemies – those who are not righteous cannot stand in the presence of a Holy God. God is a righteous judge who rebukes those who persist in wickedness. He rules over the earth. David makes it clear that God will judge the earth and that He loves justice to be done, but he also wants us to know that God is a safe haven, a refuge, for those who seek after Him and want to know Him. He says to God: “those who know your name put their trust in You”. (v10)

This made me reflect on what names we know God by. I’ve said before, and will say many times in the future, that when we see God called ‘God’ in the Bible it is a translation of the word Elohim, which refers to God’s greatness, as in the first chapter of Genesis when God’s creative power is established. When we see the word ‘LORD’ used, written all in capitals, it refers to God’s covenant name, Yahweh, which is used to emphasis His goodness. The clearest example of this is Exodus 33/34, when Moses asks to see God and God says that He will pass by Moses and declare His name over Him. And this is what happened: ‘The Lord descended in the cloud and stood with him there, and proclaimed the name of the Lord. The Lord passed before him and proclaimed, “The Lord, the Lord, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, but who will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children and the children’s children, to the third and the fourth generation.” And Moses quickly bowed his head toward the earth and worshiped.’

Notice how long God’s name is?! Because knowing God’s name is about more than knowing what to call Him. Knowing God’s name means recognising His character: His love, His grace, His mercy, His compassion, His faithfulness, His forgiveness, His judgement. And Moses’ response to hearing God’s name is the same as David’s, and is what ours should be: worship. Recognising the truth of what God’s character is like can only lead us to praising Him and telling others of His goodness and greatness. Seek Him, and lead others to Him.

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and I think to myself, what a wonderful world…

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Psalm Eight

This short Psalm is packed full of the wonder of God. The very first verse emphasises God’s goodness, by using His covenant name, Yahweh, LORD, but also His majesty by using the name Adonai, translated as Lord. We are also told what He rules over – all the earth and in the heavens display His glory and majesty for all to see. Even the very youngest of God’s creation can recognise the wonder of what He has made and praise Him for it, and through His creative power He has shown His authority.

This Psalm is deep, and I love it. David sits, pondering the wonder of creation, all the amazing things God has made and how tiny we are in the scope of it all, and yet, and yet, God cares about us. God cares about people, He is concerned with our everyday. He has given us such a high status in creation, and charged us with caring for His earth. He has honoured us and given us the great privilege of stewardship over the world He has made, over domestic and wild animals, fish and birds. We need to think about what we have done and are doing with this great responsibility entrusted to us.

God is good, but He is also Lord, the master of creation – the maker/owner, I once heard it put. His Name is majestic and He deserves glory, this is shown in creation. He created the universe, but He still cares about us, mankind, and has given us honour and responsibility. He has given us authority on the earth, we are His stewards.

In my mind this means we should be helping the earth to continue to display God’s glory, nurturing the planet and sharing the resources. Instead, we flawed human beings tend to plunder the earth and take what we can get with little concern for those we share the planet with – animals or other humans.

So I think it’s time for a challenge – what one thing can you do this week to help take better care of the planet? It could be as simple as reusing paper or recycling it instead of just throwing it in the bin. It could be only buying locally produced products for a while, or donating unwanted items to charity instead of chucking them away. For me it’s water – I’m going to make a real effort to waste less water this week: shorter showers, less water for washing up, not running the tap unnecessarily. This is a way of saying thank-you to God for the amazing earth He created for us, by taking better care of it.

So please share your ideas for looking after the planet!

In Pursuit

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There is a path

a road

laid out in front of me

 

It twists

It turns

Sometimes the path seems to go back on itself

and I feel like I’m walking in circles

 

Sometimes a road block appears

and I try to scramble over it

and I fall

and pick myself up

and dust myself off

and try to climb again

(or go around it)

 

Sometimes the road forks

and I have to choose

left or right

right or left

but I can trust that

either way

will take me where I need to go

(although I know one way may be quicker)

 

Sometimes the darkness falls

and I can’t see the way ahead

and I just have to keep

stepping on

one foot in front of another

trusting that You will guide me

 

In pursuit of my dreams

In pursuit of Your plans

There are twists and turns

Roadblocks and forks

and sometimes dark valleys

But I can keep on

knowing

“Your Word is a lamp to my feet

and a light to my path”

A judge who loves

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Psalm 7

This psalm was written by David in what seems to have been a difficult situation. It is not clear exactly who Cush was, he doesn’t seem to be mentioned elsewhere in the Bible, but as a Benjaminite it is likely he was an ally of King Saul, who spent a lot of time and energy trying to kill David…

It is a similar theme to some of the other Psalms we have seen already. David cries out to the “LORD my God” – emphasising both God’s goodness and greatness. He is asking for God’s protection, seeking refuge. David is being accused of wrongdoing. He knows that if he had done what is being said of him, he would deserve punishment and disgrace, but he is clear in himself that he has done nothing wrong, and calls on God to defend him. He is seeking God’s justice, as he knows God is just. He wants God to show His power for the people to see. David makes it clear that God will save the righteous but will pour out wrath on the wicked and unrepentant. As with so many of his Psalms, David comes round to praising God at the end. He knows who will save him, where he can find refuge. He knows who to thank.

So what do we learn from David today? It is clear from this Psalm that God is a just judge. He protects the righteous and innocent, but punishes those who do not repent. But again, this shows His mercy – that He allows us so many opportunities to repent, to turn from our selfishness and call on Him for forgiveness. God hears when we call and is a refuge for those who have faith in Him.

We must recognise that wrongdoing deserves punishment. If we believe in Jesus, however, we can rejoice because He has taken the ultimate punishment for our sins. We may still have to deal with the consequences of our mistakes, and there may be pain as we learn discipline to try to avoid sin in the future. But, God is our source of comfort and our place of refuge, and He always deserves our thanks and praise.

Like David, we can and should turn to God in times of trouble and seek His righteousness. We need to acknowledge when we do wrong and repent, turn back to God. We can gracefully encourage others to do the same. We must always remember that God is just and one day He will judge the earth. Finally, ultimately, we must praise God for His love.