Category Archives: Bible

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!

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.

Confidence in despair

Psalm 6

This Psalm finds David at a low point. He is ailing, weary, depressed. We’re given no context for his situation, though it seems he is expecting wrath and discipline, so we can assume he is feeling the need to repent from some sinful action. Exaggeration is common in the psalms to really emphasis the emotion, so it is possible that the physical symptoms David describes are just an example of that, or it could also be that he is feeling sick with guilt, that his sin has caused a physical reaction.

He is calling out for grace and mercy. He appeals to God’s goodness by using the covenant name, LORD, Yahweh. He calls on God’s steadfast love. He is in the depths of despair, and yet is confident of God’s answer. In an effort to rid himself of the enemies who are tormenting him, he sends them away, declaring: “The LORD has heard the sound of my weeping. The LORD has heard my plea; the LORD accepts my prayer.” Even though his situation may not have changed yet, David knows that he has been heard, and he knows that God is just and will respond to his cry.

Sin has consequences in our lives, but repentance restores our relationship with God, because He is merciful and will always forgive us when we ask. He always answers when we call to him. We can come to Him with confidence, even when times are tough, and know that we will be heard. We can trust in His steadfast love and trust Him for justice.

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The way of righteousness

Psalm 5

This is one of the many Psalms which includes the instruction: “For the choirmaster” (or director of music in other translations). It is thought that these Psalms were meant to be included in the collection of works for use in Israel’s worship services, making it an act of corporate worship. For some reason it often surprises me to see this annotation, as I get used to thinking of the Psalms as personal prayers and songs, and individual crying out to God in different situations. While that is definitely true of many of the Psalms, it is striking how many are labelled as congregational, reminding us that our faith is not an individual affair, but one requiring fellowship for growth, in the good times and the bad.

Psalm 5 is titled “Lead me in Your righteousness” in my Bible, and this is David’s prayer throughout the Psalm. He addresses his application first of all to the LORD, using God’s covenant name, which emphasises His goodness, but in the next verse David calls on “my King and my God” to highlight God’s authority over him and His greatness. David has an attitude of humility – he is making the right sacrifices and waiting for God to act. He wants to be right with God. He knows what displeases God – boasting, evil, deceit, bloodthirstiness – and he knows that God’s unfailing and abundant love has made it possible for us to be right with Him. He also recognises that the right response to God’s holiness is fear and respect.

The next verse (8) intrigued me: “Lead me, O LORD, in your righteousness/because of my enemies/make your way straight before me” – why because of his enemies? Was it because they were trying to lead him astray, or he was worried about his anger towards them leading him to sin? Or was it so that they would have no ammunition against him, as he would be living God’s way? Or could it be because he wanted to show them a better way to live? As I thought about this, I realised that though these are different interpretations of the same phrase, they actually don’t contradict each other – any or all of these thoughts could be accurate. David may very well have mixed emotions and motives when thinking about those who stood against him! What is clear, though, from verse 10, is that David is handing the situation over to God, and letting Him deal with them, instead of trying to seek his own vengeance. This is a pattern we see time and again in the Psalms – let God be God and let go of our own agenda.

The Psalm ends with a promise of the blessings for those who seek refuge in God, and seek after righteousness – they will be made righteous and they will be protected and favoured, and their response will be to praise.

So, what’s the takeaway from this today? First, to take requests to God freely, appealing to His goodness but with a right respect for His authority. Second, remember that God is holy and hates sin – be repentant, be humble, and seek after righteousness. Third, trust Him for justice when others seek to hurt you, but also by your actions show them the way of grace and righteousness. Finally, remember God’s unfailing love and seek refuge in Him.

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