Easter Services

Easter Holy Week Services 2012

“Palm Sunday” April 1st 2012

 

Call to Worship:  Zechariah 9:9-10. 

?9?Rejoice greatly, O Daughter of Zion! 

Shout, Daughter of Jerusalem!

See, your king comes to you,

righteous and having salvation,

gentle and riding on a donkey,

on a colt, the foal of a donkey.

?10?Iwill take away the chariots from Ephraim

and the war-horses from Jerusalem,

and the battle bow will be broken.

He will proclaim peace to the nations.

His rule will extend from sea to sea

and from the River to the ends of the earth.

 

Bible Reading: Luke 19.28-36. 

?28?After Jesus had said this, he went on ahead, going up to Jerusalem. ?  29?As he approached Bethphage and Bethany at the hill called the Mount of Olives, he sent two of his disciples, saying to them, ?30?“Go to the village ahead of you, and as you enter it, you will find a colt tied there, which no one has ever ridden.  Untie it and bring it here. ?  31?If anyone asks you, ‘Why are you untying it?’ tell him, ‘The Lord needs it.’”

?32?Those who were sent ahead went and found it just as he had told them. ?  33?As they were untying the colt, its owners asked them, “Why are you untying the colt?”

?34?They replied, “The Lord needs it.”

?35?They brought it to Jesus, threw their cloaks on the colt and put Jesus on it. ?  36?As he went along, people spread their cloaks on the road.

 

Meditation

Why ride on a donkey; why not simply walk into Jerusalem?  Apart from boat trips across lakes, Jesus seems to have walked everywhere else during His ministry. 

There are three things we should note about kings riding on donkeys that would have been recognised by the people of our Lord’s time:

  1. Despite what has been often said, kings did ride donkeys – a donkey was the traditional mount of kings in the ancient Near East – so Jesus was making a claim of being a king; it was not a humble example He was setting. 
  2. There was a link with passages in the Old Testament which linked the arrival of a king on a donkey with his being the Messianic King – so Jesus was plainly stating that He was the Messiah the people had long waited for. 
  3. But the choice of mount for a warrior king was the horse.  By riding on a donkey it seems clear that Jesus was trying to counter the strongly held idea of who the Messiah would be and what He would do.

The people expected the Messiah to be such a warrior/king.  They wanted a leader to take upon himself the role of a new King David and rid the people of the yoke of Roman oppression and the re-establishment of the Jewish nation under a Jewish king.  Jesus came as the Prince of Peace whose mission was to bring about reconciliation – not through force of arms, but through the love of God. 

And so, the entry of Jesus into Jerusalem can be seen as the entry of the Kingdom of God into the world.  Just as Jesus entered into Jerusalem that first Palm Sunday, so He enters into hearts every day.  He enters the hearts of unbelievers who are unbelievers due to ignorance; He enters the hearts of those who have seen the folly and emptiness of atheism and have turned instead to the certainty and truth of God’s Word; He enters into the hearts of people who have attended church for many a year without fully understanding what Christianity is all about.  And thus the Kingdom is established and grows. 

It is interesting to note that we begin the week on the Mount of Olives and end the night of our Lord’s betrayal there also because, you see, one of the sections of the Mount of Olives is the Garden of Gethsemane

The Church Fathers saw the laying down of clothes – first on the back of the colt and then on the road as a symbol of how Christians have to lay aside their worldly ways and submit to the ways of Jesus.  Whilst this might be seen as somewhat far fetched, nevertheless the principle is a sound one.  And it raises the question: what have you surrendered and laid aside in order to serve Jesus?

2nd Bible Reading:

Luke 19.37-40. 

?37?When he came near the place where the road goes down the Mount of Olives, the whole crowd of disciples began joyfully to praise God in loud voices for all the miracles they had seen:

?38?“Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord!”

“Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!”

?39?Some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to Jesus, “Teacher, rebuke your disciples!”

?40?“I tell you,” he replied, “if they keep quiet, the stones will cry out.”

 

Meditation

Despite opposition to the gospel message; to Jesus upon whom the gospel centres; to the Church which is the custodian of the gospel in the world; and to God who is the source of all that is good and wholesome – and we see a lot of this in today’s world – the proclamation of the Gospel of Jesus Christ will continue. 

The religious authorities of the time were as afraid of Jesus as is the most rabid atheist of today – which is strange because, unlike our rabid atheists, these men claimed to believe in God and to know His Word.  But, perhaps this is a big part of their fear of Jesus.  If Jesus was who He said He was, their cushy jobs were on the line.  If “Newspoll” ran a survey in Jerusalem that day, it would be highly likely that it would show that Jesus, already, was more popular than they were. 

And so they tried to water down the matter: “Teacher, rebuke your disciples!”

But, you see, it just can’t be done – and for a very good reason: God won’t allow it

It is God’s plan to allow the whole world to know about Jesus and what He has done for them; it is God’s plan that,

?10?that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,

in heaven and on earth and under the earth,

?11?and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord,

to the glory of God the Father.

And so it is that, while there are those in the world who seek to quash the knowledge of and reverence for Jesus, we are to be the stones who are to cry out. 

Are you crying out, or have you allowed the demands of the ignorant and foolish to shut you up? 

3rd Bible Reading:

Luke 19.41-44. 

?41?As he approached Jerusalem and saw the city, he wept over it ?42?and said, “If you, even you, had only known on this day what would bring you peace—but now it is hidden from your eyes. ?  43?The days will come upon you when your enemies will build an embankment against you and encircle you and hem you in on every side. ?  44?They will dash you to the ground, you and the children within your walls.  They will not leave one stone on another, because you did not recognize the time of God’s coming to you.”

Meditation

Just as He did at the tomb of Lazarus, Jesus wept as He looked over Jerusalem from the Mount of Olives.  He wept because He knew what fate lay in store for it.  As had happened in the past, Jerusalem was to suffer – along with its inhabitants – for the people’s disobedience and sinfulness. 

In AD 70, the Roman forces, under Titus, would overrun Jerusalem and utterly destroy it and the temple there.  This time, however, the temple would not rise again.  Why?  Because the people had rejected God’s Messiah; they did not recognise Jesus for who He was, Immanuel – God with us! 

“If you, even you, had only known on this day what would bring you peace—but now it is hidden from your eyes.”

Jesus is the Prince of Peace.  True peace had come into their midst but, within a week, the people would cry out for Him to be crucified! 

Jesus came to bring peace between God and sinners through paying their debt to God that arose out of their sinfulness.  But they rejected Him. 

On the night of His betrayal, Jesus would say: ?27?Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you.  I do not give to you as the world gives.  Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.

Do you want this peace?  Do you want the peace of Jesus that comes through peace with God?  Do you want to stand before God on Judgement Day and be declared “Not guilty”?  Then claim Jesus as your Lord and Saviour today and that peace is yours. 

4th Bible Reading:

Luke 19.45-48. 

?45?Then he entered the temple area and began driving out those who were selling. ?  46?“It is written,” he said to them, “‘My house will be a house of prayer’; but you have made it ‘a den of robbers.’”

?47?Every day he was teaching at the temple.  But the chief priests, the teachers of the law and the leaders among the people were trying to kill him. ?  48?Yet they could not find any way to do it, because all the people hung on his words.

Meditation

We are constantly being told that we must run Church on a business footing; to manage it and finance it in the same way the world does.  But Jesus reminds us that the Church is different from the world.  The Church is devoted to God, not the world.  And so the Church is to run as God says it is to be run, and not as the world says it should. 

We are told that Church must be more entertaining if we want more people to come along.  But this ignores why God calls us to gather as a church; we don’t gather to be entertained and to be made feel good about ourselves – we gather to worship God.  There is nothing wrong with enjoying worship but, when worship denigrates to the level of cheap entertainment, it has lost its way. 

We are to come along to church so as to – as Jesus told the woman at the well – worship God in spirit and in truth.  We are not to come along to do as we wish; we are not to come along for cheap thrills; we are not to come along to feel comfortable in our lifestyles – especially if those lifestyles are not in accordance with godly living.  No, we come to offer to God a sacrifice of praise and worship.  Worship is not about us, it is about God!

How do you prepare yourself for worship each Sunday?  Why do you come along of a Sunday?  Do you come to church to get even more out of God than you already have?  Or, do you come along to church to give to God your undivided attention and to worship Him for who He is and for what He has done for you?  Are you satisfied with having had your sins forgiven and receiving the promise of everlasting life?  Or is this not enough for you and you want something more?

Benediction

Now to God Almighty,

                whose plans for us do not end in death;

to our Lord Jesus Christ,

who entered our world

so that we might enter his;

and to the Holy Spirit,

who works constantly in our hearts

preparing us for that great day,

be all our praise and love

until we meet Him face to face.  AMEN.

 

 

 

Monday 2nd April 2012

Psalms 1 & 2

Psalm 1

1Blessed is the man

who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked

or stand in the way of sinners

or sit in the seat of mockers.

2But his delight is in the law of the Lord,

and on his law he meditates day and night.

3He is like a tree planted by streams of water,

which yields its fruit in season

and whose leaf does not wither.

Whatever he does prospers.

 

4Not so the wicked!

They are like chaff

that the wind blows away.

5Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment,

nor sinners in the assembly of the righteous.

 

6For the Lord watches over the way of the righteous,

but the way of the wicked will perish.

 

The most common way of looking at Psalm 1 is to regard it as the choice of two ways to live.  One way leads to blessings from God and, ultimately, acceptance into Heaven where the “righteous” (meaning those declared righteous by God) will see God’s face for all eternity; the other way leads to rejection and being cast out of God’s presence for all eternity. 

But true though this interpretation is, it does leave us with a question, and that question is who is actually like a righteous person?

1Blessed is the man

who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked

or stand in the way of sinners

or sit in the seat of mockers.

2But his delight is in the law of the Lord,

and on his law he meditates day and night.

3He is like a tree planted by streams of water,

which yields its fruit in season

and whose leaf does not wither.

Whatever he does prospers.

If I were to ask you to name someone who perfectly fits this description, I have no doubt you would not be able to do so.  You would not name yourself because you know yourself well enough to know that you have fallen down in many of the areas described in the Psalm.  I doubt if you could name anyone else because, to be honest, you don’t know anyone else well enough to make such a judgement—and besides, if everyone else is like you (and you must suspect that they are), then the judgement you have passed on yourself is all too easily applied to others. 

And so the question remains, who is actually like this person described at the start of Psalm 1.  Well, to put you out of your misery I will tell you:  He is Jesus bar-Joseph – better know and Jesus Christ! 

Jesus – and Jesus alone – perfectly fits the description of this blameless; righteous; blessed man. 

And so, the Psalmist is saying (even though he did not know it at the time he wrote Psalm 1), that we are to walk with; stand with; sit down with; imitate; and emulate Jesus.  It is only as we become more Christ-like - more like Jesus the God-Man – that we can please God.  And we should please God don’t you think? 

Don’t you think that, since God the Father sent God the Son into the world to die for the sins of His people, that we should try to please Him?  It seems a fair thing to do doesn’t it?  After all, God has forgiven us for all our sins;  He has accepted the death of Jesus as having been in our place and, through that death, has forgiven and forgotten all our sins – removing them from us; placing them upon Jesus; and letting His death satisfy His justifiable wrath. 

So it should be our duty and delight to turn our eyes upon Jesus and learn about Him and learn from Him so that we can please our heavenly Father. 

  • How far have you progressed in doing this? 
  • How often do you walk through your life consciously seeking to display the presence of Jesus in your life to those around you? 
  • How often do you make your stand with Jesus when those around you are putting Him down? 
  • How often do you sit with Jesus and pray to Him; seek His wisdom; enjoy His presence; feel His peace; imbibe of His love and peace? 
  • Do you really delight in searching Scripture to see the wonder of God’s deeds with man and to truly know His laws?  Do you truly seek to live by His laws? 
  • Do you find yourself easily led astray by the wayward powers at work in the world today and the seductive persuasion of the mouthpieces of Satan? 

Perhaps you need to look to Jesus the God-Man whom we meet in Psalm 1. 

  • Do you ever practice meditation – but I don’t mean the empty-minded nor the self-centred type of meditation so familiar through Eastern gurus?  Do you ever meditate on God’s Word and God’s law?  Do you ever take a passage of Scripture and sit quietly with it: engaging with it mentally and spiritually; allowing God’s Word to lead you places you otherwise would not go?  Do you ever practice meditation upon God’s Word and God’s Law?

Perhaps you could start your meditation on Psalm 1 and see how it describes the God-Man, Jesus; two ways of Life and two destinies. 

 

 

 

Psalm 2

1Why do the nations conspire[1]

and the peoples plot in vain?

2The kings of the earth take their stand

and the rulers gather together

against the Lord

and against his Anointed One.[2]

3“Let us break their chains,” they say,

“and throw off their fetters.”

 

4The One enthroned in heaven laughs;

the Lord scoffs at them.

5Then he rebukes them in his anger

and terrifies them in his wrath, saying,

6“I have installed my King[3]

on Zion, my holy hill.”

7I will proclaim the decree of the Lord:

He said to me, “You are my Son[4];

today I have become your Father.[5]

8Ask of me,

and I will make the nations your inheritance,

the ends of the earth your possession.

9You will rule them with an iron sceptre[6];

you will dash them to pieces like pottery.”

 

10Therefore, you kings, be wise;

be warned, you rulers of the earth.

11Serve the Lord with fear

and rejoice with trembling.

12Kiss the Son, lest he be angry

and you be destroyed in your way,

for his wrath can flare up in a moment.

Blessed are all who take refuge in him.

What we see in this Psalm is the way the world rejects God and everything to do with Him.  In their heart of hearts, people know God exists, but in their minds they wage a constant battle to deny that existence.  This is, I believe, why so many of the prominent atheists in the world are such angry and aggressive people. 

1Why do the nations conspire

and the peoples plot in vain?

2The kings of the earth take their stand

and the rulers gather together

against the Lord

and against his Anointed One.

3“Let us break their chains,” they say,

“and throw off their fetters.”

The opening word of this Psalm is a valid one: “Why”.  Why do nations as a whole and people as individuals act in this way?  What is it that turns their hearts and heads away from God?  What is it about God’s love and grace that they find offensive?  What is it about an eternal life of peace, love and bliss that they find so repulsive? 

It can’t be anything but the age-old problem of human arrogance.  And that, also, goes a long way to explain the personalities of so many of today’s atheists.  They are arrogant and totally unwilling to humble themselves—even before God! 

What is God’s reaction? 

4The One enthroned in heaven laughs;

the Lord scoffs at them.

5Then he rebukes them in his anger

and terrifies them in his wrath, saying,

6“I have installed my King

on Zion, my holy hill.”

7I will proclaim the decree of the Lord:

He said to me, “You are my Son;

today I have become your Father.

8Ask of me,

and I will make the nations your inheritance,

the ends of the earth your possession.

9You will rule them with an iron sceptre;

you will dash them to pieces like pottery.”

Eugene Peterson in “The Message” puts the opening statement in this way: 

Heaven-throned God breaks out laughing.

At first he’s amused at their presumption;

Then he gets good and angry.

Furiously, he shuts them up: ]The Message]

Though those opposed to God puff themselves up; adopt grand postures; exaggerate their intelligence; denigrate their enemies; make out that they alone are the thinkers of the world; claim to be conquering the world for “rational thought” and all the rest of them, simply moves God to laugh at them.  I wonder how the arrogant atheists of the 21st Century would react if they knew God’s first reaction to them was to treat them as a joke?  But that is what He does.  They don’t worry Him one little bit! 

So, why get angry with them?  Simply because they carry of with their foolishness people who have a dire need for God but who are denied access to Him because of the atheistic propaganda being bandied about today.  People are being lost because of the need for self-importance of Dawkins and his crowd. 

6“I have installed my King

on Zion, my holy hill.”

Remember how we considered that one of the implications of the Triumphal Entry of our Saviour Jesus into Jerusalem was the ushering in of God’s Kingdom.  Well, that’s what being reflected here when God says He has installed His King on Zion.  The King He is speaking of, of course, is King Jesus. 

He said to me, “You are my Son;

today I have become your Father.

8Ask of me,

and I will make the nations your inheritance,

the ends of the earth your possession.

9You will rule them with an iron sceptre;

you will dash them to pieces like pottery.”

We see that this is no ordinary King by the way that God Himself describes Him as being His “Son.”  Not only is He God’s anointed King; He is God’s beloved Son and to this King-Son God the Father gives all the nations and all the peoples who stand against Him.  Their puffed-up egos mean nothing; their arrogant wailings are meaningless – they - will - be – crushed! 

10Therefore, you kings, be wise;

be warned, you rulers of the earth.

11Serve the Lord with fear

and rejoice with trembling.

12Kiss the Son, lest he be angry

and you be destroyed in your way,

for his wrath can flare up in a moment.

Blessed are all who take refuge in him.

God gives a final warning for His opponents to come to their senses.  If they take God on in a battle of wits, they go unarmed – they are simply fools who need to gain wisdom.  The writer of the Book of Proverbs wrote:

The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge,

but fools despise wisdom and discipline.  

It is interesting to note that the word used in this verse translated “fools” means one who is morally deficient.  And so, God says, get wise you morally bankrupt and spiritually deficient fools

12Kiss the Son, lest he be angry

and you be destroyed in your way,

for his wrath can flare up in a moment.

Blessed are all who take refuge in him.

Jesus is a wonderful Saviour; Jesus is a glorious friend; but Jesus is a dangerous enemy.  For those who take refuge in Him, there is blessedness and divinely-inspired joy, peace and love.  For His enemies, there is total rejection and eternal suffering! 

  • Have you ever wondered why there is such a resurgence a in radical atheism at the present time?  Have you ever wondered why so many the main proponents find it necessary to play the man and not the ball?  Have you ever prayed for them? 
  • If you put your involvement with the world n one side of a balance-scale, which side would drop down as being the one you are most involved with?  Is there need for a re-adjustment to your life? 
  • What does Jesus being King of Heaven and earth (and King of your heart) mean to you? 
  • As we draw one day closer to the events of Easter, what do you plan to do to prepare your heart for the worship of God throughout this period and for the rest of your life?

 

Benediction

Go forth into the world in peace;

be of good courage;

hold fast that which is good;

render to no one evil for evil;

strengthen the faint-hearted;

support the weak;

help the afflicted

honour everyone;

love and serve the Lord,

rejoicing in the power of the Holy Spirit.  AMEN.

 

 

 

Tuesday 3rd April 2012

Psalm 23

 

??The Voice from on High

27 "Now my heart is troubled, and what shall I say? ‘  Father, save me from this hour'?  No, it was for this very reason I came to this hour.  28 Father, glorify your name!"

Then a voice came from heaven, "I have glorified it, and will glorify it again."

29 The crowd that was there and heard it said it had thundered; others said an angel had spoken to him.  30

Jesus said, "This voice was for your benefit, not mine.  31 Now is the time for judgment on this world; now the prince of this world will be driven out.  32 But I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to myself.”  33 He said this to show the kind of death he was going to die.  John 12:27-33

 

 



 

Introduction

We can, perhaps, imagine the Psalmist being inspired by a time of worship in the Temple, or a quiet time of meditation and reflection on life.  Because we live lives that are so full of demands and distractions, times such as these are important so that we can draw apart from our busy-ness and reflect.  The failure to attend worship and to draw aside in quiet reflection robs us of the opportunity to mull over life and see the blessings we have received throughout our life—and the promised blessings that are still in store for us. 

Times such as these enable us to look at things from God’s perspective as opposed to our perspective.  And God’s perspective is vastly different to ours.  Our life-perspective is compartmentalised: time to sleep; time to eat; time to work; time to be involved with our hobbies and interests; time to worship and the like.  You will note in those compartments that each is defined by “time to ….”  And this is where God’s perspective is very different. 

Because God is eternal: He always was; He is; and He always will be, time – for God – is meaningless.  To God, the existence of history; the existence of the fleeting-present; the existence of the future, are all merged into a timeless “now.” 

And this is the perspective we are to bring with us as we read the Psalm.  Although it can be read in terms of past, present and future, its reality is bound up in the timelessness of God and the impact of God’s timelessness on our lives. 

When we bring this timeless perspective to bear on our lives, we can then appreciate the ever-present providence, grace and love of God in our life: past, present and future.  With this comes the peaceful, calm assurance that God has been with us (as we reflect on His past guidance – even in the deep, dark valleys); that He is present with us now; and that He will be with us always. 

Having purged our minds of a time-bound perspective, let us now turn to Psalm 23: 

Psalm 23

A psalm of David.

 

1The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not be in want.

2          He makes me lie down in green pastures,

he leads me beside quiet waters,

3          he restores my soul.

He guides me in paths of righteousness

for his name’s sake.

4Even though I walk

through the valley of the shadow of death,[1]

I will fear no evil,

for you are with me;

your rod and your staff,

they comfort me.

 

5You prepare a table before me

in the presence of my enemies.

You anoint my head with oil;

my cup overflows.

6Surely goodness and love will follow me

all the days of my life,

and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.

 

Meditation

The Lordis my shepherd

The Lord– the Lord is YHWH – the eternal King of creation; the Almighty; the all-knowing God; the God who is everywhere, but who is so great that creation is too small to contain Him.  This is the One before whom all must humbly fall – either willingly or forcibly.  But, how much better is it to fall before Him voluntarily in adoration and praise than to be forced to fall before Him in fear and trembling. 

My shepherd– This is a personal Psalm.  It is a Psalm every Christian can claim as his or her own.  It reminds us that, though God is “responsible” for all of creation; though the Lord has concern for all of creation; He also, willingly, graciously, lovingly accepts “responsibility” and concern for each one of us as individuals.  We are not looked upon by God in the same way as governments, economists and marketers do – as mere statistics; a conglomerate whole.  No, we are looked upon and loved by God as individuals.  Each of us – individually – is of importance and of concern to God.  He cares about you and He cares about me! 

I shall not be in want

Whilst there are many things that we say we want in our striving for success and material well being, God does not leave us without everything we really need in the spiritual realm.  These may be things we don’t recognise as being what we want, but God knows best. 

We may not have the biggest and most lavish house; we may not have state-of-the-art home entertainment systems; we may not wear the latest fashions; we may not have the most luxurious car; but we want for nothing in the things that really matter: forgiveness of sin; reconciliation with God; the promise of a glorious future with Him in Heaven. 

Matthew Henry puts it this way:

More is implied than is expressed, not only, I shall not want, but “I shall be supplied with whatever I need; and, if I have not everything I desire, I may conclude it is either not fit for me or not good for me or I shall have it in due time.”

He makes me lie down in green pastures / he leads me beside quiet waters

After this troubled life of ours is through, God has provided a lush resting place for us in Heaven.  There we will have no concerns or fears; there we will find true rest and peace; there we will have nothing to worry us. 

And, even in this life, God - through Jesus – provides rest: “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.”  Even in this life God – through Jesus – gives us peace: “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you.  I do not give to you as the world gives.  Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.”

This is because the Lord – our Shepherd – has come to us in Jesus: the Good Shepherd, and He provides us with rest, peace and certainty that all will be well.  The powerful words of Jesus assure us of this: “In this world you will have trouble.  But take heart!  I have overcome the world!”

He restores my soul

We take quite a battering in this life of ours.  Like sheep, who are cut by the thorns and sharp branches of life, we are cut by unkind words and deeds; like sheep who stray from the safe path, we stray from the pathway of righteousness; like sheep who stumble over rocks and fallen branches, we stumble over the temptations that are laid in our way by Satan; like sheep who fall into holes and ravines, we fall into pits of despair and depression.  But our Shepherd does not abandon us and leave us when we are hurt or lost.  He comes for us; He finds us; He restores us. 

He guides me in paths of righteousness / for his name’s sake

Can anyone doubt that we need such guidance?  We reflected last night on how we all fall short of the description of the person of righteousness as described in Psalm 1.  So, how comforting is it that God has undertaken to personally lead us back to the “paths of righteousness” – a path that has been cut, hacked and smoothed by none other than the Lord Jesus Christ who goes on ahead of us? 

With the path constructed and with God’s guidance, all we need do is to follow directions.  All we need do is to read and understand the greatest guide book ever written – the Bible – and to follow the instructions of the greatest guide ever – the Holy Spirit. 

But, we will find is easier and more comforting to submit if we recognise that, in doing so, we bring honour and glory to the One who loves us so much.  Again, this requires a change in perspective.  Our perspective must change from the world’s perspective to God’s perspective.  We need to lift our gaze from seeking to achieve what our human natures dictate towards achieving what God requires.  We need to recognise that we live to bring glory to God; and – because God will not allow His glory to be diminished – He will ensure that our lives are lived His way, thus attaining that which is best.  God knows what is best, and God will guide us to what is best when we follow His lead. 

Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will rear no evil.

Sometimes that phrase, “the valley of the shadow of death” is translated something like, “the darkest valley.”  It matters little.  I am sure we would all agree that there is no deeper or darker valley to be experienced by man than death.  But, despite this, we – as we consider our lives - recognise that there have been other deep, dark valleys.  They may have caused us deep concern at the time – even fear – but we are now able to look back on them, which means that we have passed through and are on the other side.  And it is God who has lead us through these times of darkness. 

And, of course, the promise is there that even that deepest valley of all: the deep, dark death-valley will also be passed through and we will emerge into the safe, secure presence of God—quite simply because we can say, with the Psalmist, that God is with us on that journey. 

In fact, as a result of taking the godly perspective of timelessness, we can say that, in effect, we have already passed through that valley. 

Your rod and your staff, they comfort me.

What are God’s “rod” and “staff”

Some say the “rod” was an instrument of authority and that it was used by shepherds to count, guide, rescue and protect sheep.  According to this definition, the “rod” is God’s authoritative symbol and the means of caring for His flock.  The “staff” is seen as an instrument of support, apparently implying that God – who has no need of support – gives it to us.  Another understanding of the “rod” is that it is used like a cudgel for defence of the sheep and the “staff” is the shepherd’s crook used for guidance, rescue and care. 

No matter how we understand or define “rod” and “staff” it is obvious that they are not used against us, but for us.  They don’t induce fear and trembling, but comfort and calm. 

You prepare a table before me.

There appears to be a shift away from the agricultural imagery to a more human one.  After all, one can’t imagine sheep sitting at a table!  But, never-the-less the intent is the same.  Whether the image is one of Shepherd/sheep or Host/guest, it still describes good things flowing from God to us. 

Many commentators – especially the Church Fathers – see this as an allusion to the Eucharist, or Lord’s Supper.  But, with our timeless, godly perspective, I think we can see this as demonstrating – as in verse 1 – God’s continual provision for our needs.  But, if we do want to bring the Sacrament of the Lord’s Supper into it, then we need to allow ourselves to float through timelessness and see that it represents all the Communion services we have ever participated in and all the Communion services we will participate in.  And, taking our timelessness even further, we need to see in it the Wedding Banquet of the Lamb which we will attend after the return of Jesus. 

In the presence of my enemies.

The natural human response to the presence of enemies is the well-known “fight or flight.”  But what do we see happening here?  The table is spread by our divine Host; we are seated at table as honoured guests; the enemy is present; yet we eat

We do not interrupt the feast to turn and berate our enemies; we quietly enjoy the repast.  We do not rise up in fury and attack the enemy; we quietly enjoy the repast.  We do not run away in fear from the enemy; we quietly enjoy the repast. 

We quietly enjoy the repast and leave the enemy to God to deal with. 

my cup overflows. 

This shows us that God is unstinting in the blessings He bestows.  In our current time, we are warned against waste: it pollutes; it squanders scarce resources; over-abundance by the few leads to deprivation of the many.  We are called upon to shorten the time we spend under the shower; we are told not to run the tap when we clean our teeth; for a time, we were even told: “if it’s yellow, let it mellow; if it’s brown, flush it down.”  Conservation is one of the catch-cries of the age. 

But, when it comes to God’s grace and provision, He is scandalously extravagant.  There is no scarcity to God’s grace; God’s love is “un-run-outable”; whatever God gives He gives in glorious abundance so that His people want for nothing.  No matter what God gives, He always has more in reserve! 

Surely goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life. 

Of course they will.  God desires that we live in His goodness and love over all time: past, present and future.  God willed this to be so before time began; He wills it to be so when time has ceased to exist.  God’s goodness and love – like His very essence – is timeless. 

God’s goodness and love has never been withheld from us – even though, at times, we may have perceived differently.  If this has been our perception, then that perception is wrong. 

God’s goodness and love is being bountifully poured out on us at this very moment. 

God’s goodness and love will be poured out upon us right throughout the endless future time.

And I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever. 

These words bring us to the end of Psalm 23.  But they continue to be unbounded by time because they bring us to the final reality that, for eternity, we will dwell in that place that Jesus has gone ahead to prepare for us. 

***   ***   ***

“I am the Good Shepherd”, Jesus said.  Thus Jesus appropriates to Himself the role of the Shepherd of Psalm 23.  Christ Jesus is in Psalm 23; Psalm 23 is all about Christ Jesus and His relationship to us, His sheep. 

In Christ Jesus we see – in human flesh – the role of God-Shepherd; He is our Shepherd/Protector/Provider/Host. 

Psalm 23 is all about Christ Jesus; and Christ Jesus totally fulfils Psalm 23. 

Some Questions to Meditate Upon

  • The shepherd rules over, guides, provides for and protects His sheep.  If we claim that the Lord is our Shepherd, do we fully submit to Him to rule over, guide, provide for and protect us?  Or, do we, often in subtle ways, restrict His control over our lives? 
  • Do we totally allow ourselves to rest in the love, grace, peace and protection the Shepherd offers?  Or do we go away from Him to seek these things in other people and things? 
  • Do we constantly praise our Shepherd for all that He is to - and for all that he does for - us? 
  • Do we fully trust our Shepherd – both in life and death? 
  • Is it our goal in life to live for His name’s sake so that our whole life brings glory and honour to Him? 
  • Are our hearts assured that we will dwell in the house of the Lord forever?

 

Benediction

Now to God Almighty,

                whose plans for us do not end in death;

to our Lord Jesus Christ,

                who entered our world

                                so that we might enter his;

and to the Holy Spirit,

                who works constantly in our hearts

                                preparing us for that great day,

be all our praise and love

                until we meet Him face to face.  AMEN.

 


 

[1]Or through the darkest valley

 

 

Wednesday 4th April 2012

Psalm 24

 

Jesus Heals the Lame in the Temple

 

14 The blind and the lame came to him at the temple, and he healed them.  15 But when the chief priests and the teachers of the law saw the wonderful things he did and the children shouting in the temple area, "Hosanna to the Son of David," they were indignant.

16 "Do you hear what these children are saying?" they asked him.

"Yes," replied Jesus, "have you never read,

"'From the lips of children and infants
you have ordained praise'?"

Matthew 21:14-16

 

 

 

Psalm 24 of David. 

 

1The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it,

the world, and all who live in it;

2for he founded it upon the seas

and established it upon the waters.

 

3Who may ascend the hill of the Lord?

Who may stand in his holy place?

4He who has clean hands and a pure heart,

who does not lift up his soul to an idol

or swear by what is false.[a]

5He will receive blessing from the Lord

and vindication from God his Saviour.

6Such is the generation of those who seek him,

who seek your face, O God of Jacob.[b]                      Selah

 

7Lift up your heads, O you gates;

be lifted up, you ancient doors,

that the King of glory may come in.

8Who is this King of glory?

The Lord strong and mighty,

the Lord mighty in battle.

9Lift up your heads, O you gates;

lift them up, you ancient doors,

that the King of glory may come in.

10Who is he, this King of glory?

The Lord Almighty—

he is the King of glory.                                   Selah

 

 

Meditation

Psalm 24 is a complicated Psalm.  It can be likened to an onion which has layer after layer of meaning that needs to be peeled away in order to reach its core.  Indeed, it is too complicated a Psalm to do real justice to in a meditation such as this, so I will be able to only touch on some things very lightly. 

1. Historical Level

One of the things that sets Psalm 24 apart from many other Psalms is that it is reasonably certain that it can be related to an historic event.  The event is recorded in 2 Samuel 6—David bringing the Ark of the Covenant into Jerusalem.  We will consider this aspect first of all. 

The last stanza of the Psalm (i.e. vv. 7-10) depicts the approach to the gates of Jerusalem and the cry that goes up:

7Lift up your heads, O you gates;

be lifted up, you ancient doors,

that the King of glory may come in.

As one would expect from the many spy dramas in books, movies and TV, there is a challenge to this cry:

8Who is this King of glory?

The necessarily correct reply is:

The Lord strong and mighty,

the Lord mighty in battle.

The gates are still closed, so the cry goes up again:

9Lift up your heads, O you gates;

lift them up, you ancient doors,

that the King of glory may come in.

And, again, there is a challenge:

10Who is he, this King of glory?

And, again, the necessary reply is made:

The Lord Almighty—

he is the King of glory.

But, of course, this is more than a spy story.  It is a solemn religious occasion.  The bringing of the Ark into Jerusalem symbolically means the coming of God into the holy city. 

The opening verses of the Psalm tell us about this God.

1The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it,

the world, and all who live in it;

2for he founded it upon the seas

and established it upon the waters.

God has proprietorial rights over the earth, quite simply because He created it.  And, what a creation it is.  As one commentator said:

The wise man builds on rock, the foolish on sand.  But who on water?  Considering the space within & between atoms, there is nothing truly solid in the universe.  Who but God could build with such fluid forces? 

It is God who created all; it is God who sustains all and so it is God - and God alone – who has absolute sovereign rights over it.  There is much debate in Australia at present over the mining tax.  It is said that the resources that lay under the surface of the Australian continent belong to us all and that those who mine them should pay the rest of us for the right of access. 

But really this is muddle-headed and wrong.  The mineral resources under Australia do not belong to Australians but to God.  We are, at best, custodians of them. 

As an aside, this has a lot to say about our use of the earth and how we should care for the environment.  We are God’s tenants and, hence, we are responsible to Him for how we deal with the earth, its resources and its climate.  As these things are discussed, how rare is it for this fact to be aired at all.  Every decision that is made relating to use of the earth should be made in reference to God and not to current inhabitants; future inhabitants or anything else.  We run the world on behalf of God and it is His will that should be the deciding factor in decisions.

But, back to the historical aspect of the interpretation of this 24th Psalm.  The coming of God into the midst of His people and the eventual placement of the Ark in the Temple on Mount Moriah naturally raises questions of access to God:

3Who may ascend the hill of the Lord?

Who may stand in his holy place?

And the reply (in terms faintly reminiscent of Psalm 1) is given:

4He who has clean hands and a pure heart,

who does not lift up his soul to an idol

or swear by what is false.

Pilate tried to absolve himself from guilt by washing his hands—an expression carried on to the present day when we say we wash our hands of a situation.  But having clean hands is not enough; it is mere external cleanliness as Jesus made clear when He was challenged over His disciples failure to wash their hands before eating:

17“Don’t you see that whatever enters the mouth goes into the stomach and then out of the body?  18But the things that come out of the mouth come from the heart, and these make a man ‘unclean.’  19For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander.  20These are what make a man ‘unclean’; but eating with unwashed hands does not make him ‘unclean.’”

It is important for a person’s hands to be clean (with the metaphorical meaning of not being involved in that which is unlawful or ungodly) but, ultimately, a man is pure only when his heart is pure.  Anyone who involves themselves with idolatrous action and worship is barred from God’s presence—as it is only truly possible to worship one god only. 

If we have hearts that are divided between competing gods each seeking our allegiance, the best we can do is to split that allegiance in the best way we can.  But this is not good enough for God.  God, as we have seen, has absolute right to be recognised as God of the universe which He created (including, of course, mankind).  As such anyone who has impure desires or motives; anyone who involves himself with idolatry and any form of falsehood is denied access to God’s holy presence. 

This leaves us in a parlous situation doesn’t it? 

2. End Times Level

But, let’s move on to another explanation of Psalm 24.  

There are some who see in this Psalm an eschatological level.  To consider this aspect takes quite some understanding of the various end-time positions of commentators—and there are many positions that can be taken.  Suffice it to say that some see the Psalm as referring to the events that will take place at the return of Christ; others see it as referring to after His return; some see in it the rapture; whilst others see the events between the rapture and the climactic Battle of Armageddon. 

In order to comprehensively cover these interpretations they need to be considered in the light of the millennial position taken by each commentator.  There are three positions taken here:

  1. Premillennial: meaning the Jesus returns before His thousand year physical reign on earth that some see in prophecy (especially Revelation); or
  2. Postmillennial: means that Jesus returns after His thousand year reign; or
  3. Amillennial: a position that rejects the idea of Jesus having a thousand year earthly reign at all.

Because it is so complicated, I am going to leave this matter alone. 

3. Christ in Psalm 24

Instead, we’ll move on to the important aspect of Psalm 24: how is Christ presented in it? 

There are many references to Christ in relation to creation—which, as we have already seen is the first matter considered in Psalm 24.  Perhaps the best known is in John chapter 1:

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.  2He was with God in the beginning.

3Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made.  4In him was life, and that life was the light of men.  5The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it.

10He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him.  11He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him.  12Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God—13 children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.

14The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us.  We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.

…. 18No one has ever seen God, but God the One and Only, who is at the Father’s side, has made him known.

Had we the time, we could look more deeply into how John 1 relates to Psalm 24 in many aspects apart from Christ in creation.  But, even a cursory look at John 1 makes it clear that, when we talk about God and creation, we cannot do so without including Christ Jesus in our considerations.  And so – even though he was not aware of the full import of his words - when David writes:

1The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it,

the world, and all who live in it;

2for he founded it upon the seas

and established it upon the waters.

he is writing of the Lord Jesus Christ.  And so, immediately, we can see Christ in the Psalm through His involvement in creation.  But there is more. 

When we come to the next stanza, we need to ask (as we did in Psalm 1) who it is that we are talking of. 

3Who may ascend the hill of the Lord?

Who may stand in his holy place?

4He who has clean hands and a pure heart,

who does not lift up his soul to an idol

or swear by what is false.

Adam, when he was created, was already in God’s holy hill—Eden.  He had no need to ascend it, he was there automatically.  But, of course, Adam fell and was banished from God’s holy hill.  Since Adam is our federal head – in other words, Adam stands for the entire human race – when he fell, we all fell with him.  And so it is that we are all banned from God’s holy hill and, if we wish to be in communion with God, we all need to climb that hill again.  But how can we?  

Do we fit the description of the one who can make that climb up the holy hill; do we fit the description of the one who can stand in God’s presence in that holy place?  Well, our answer to this question which is similar to Monday night’s question is the same—none of us are acceptable.  If we are to enter God’s presence we, somehow, need to find a way to match the description. 

So, who can the Psalm be referring to?  Who can we name who matches the description perfectly?  We all know: it is Christ Jesus.  

On the first Palm Sunday Jesus did, in fact, enter through the gates of Jerusalem and enter the courts of the Temple there.  We said, on Palm Sunday, that Jesus came as King.  But we also said that He came as a king coming in peace in that He rode on a colt and not a war horse.  But, that is only part of the story. 

7Lift up your heads, O you gates;

be lifted up, you ancient doors,

that the King of glory may come in.

Ah, yes.  Open up gates of Jerusalem so that the King of glory – the Lord Jesus Christ - might enter.  Open up gates of our hearts so that the King of glory – the Lord Jesus Christ – might enter. 

8Who is this King of glory?

The Lord strong and mighty,

the Lord mighty in battle.

Hold on; we have a problem here.  Jesus came as Prince of Peace, not a warrior-king.  How can this mean Him? 

The answer, of course, depends on whose side you are on.  If you are on God’s side; if you are one who seeks to honour, serve and glorify God through your relationship with the Saviour – King Jesus – then Jesus does come in peace.  He comes to gain your peace with God through the Cross. 

But, it is on that very Cross that Jesus does battle with the forces of Satan.  It is on that Cross that Jesus becomes The Warrior-King.  Have you ever noticed how the Cross resembles a sword?  The “King of glory” – Christ Jesus – came in strength and, in His might, He engaged in battle for your soul and mine with the usurper who contends with God in order to lay claim to them—Satan. 

9Lift up your heads, O you gates;

lift them up, you ancient doors,

that the King of glory may come in.

10Who is he, this King of glory?

The Lord Almighty—

he is the King of glory.

Psalm 24 introduces us to Jesus the King of glory.  In this Psalm we meet with the One who does battle on our behalf and, through His death, conquers.  What a strange plan God made.  Who but God could devise such a plan?  Who but the One who rules over all creation could work out a plan whereby – through the death of one – the lives of countless are saved? 

‘Tis mystery all!  the Immortal dies:

Who can explore His strange design?

In vain the first-born seraph tries

To sound the depths of love divine.

‘Tis mercy all!  let earth adore,

Let angel minds inquire no more.

It is a mystery.  But since Jesus is God in the flesh; since Jesus is the Suffering Servant; since Jesus is come in power; since Jesus has fought the ultimate battle; since Jesus has conquered the ultimate power of evil; since Jesus conquered that ultimate power of evil with the even greater power of love; since Jesus is the King of glory, the solution can be seen through the eyes of faith. 

It is a mystery, but one we need not worry about because Jesus, the King of glory of Psalm 24, achieves it.  Don’t worry about the mystery—simply, willingly accept the fact. 

Some Questions to Meditate Upon

  • Does the recognition of Jesus as the King of glory change your perspective and understanding of Him? 
  • Are you more comfortable with Jesus as the Prince of Peace or with Jesus the Warrior King? 
  • Are you more inclined to worship Jesus as warrior or peace-bringer?
  • Can you reconcile in your heart that Jesus can be both at the same time?

Benediction

 


[a]Or swear falsely

[b]Two Hebrew manuscripts and Syriac (see also Septuagint); most Hebrew manuscripts face, Jacob

  



 

 

 

Thursday 5th April 2012

The Sacrament of Holy Communion

 

Psalm 102

 

A prayer of an afflicted man.  When he is faint and pours out his lament before the Lord.

 

1Hear my prayer, O Lord;

let my cry for help come to you.

2Do not hide your face from me

when I am in distress.

Turn your ear to me;

when I call, answer me quickly. 

3For my days vanish like smoke;

my bones burn like glowing embers.

4My heart is blighted and withered like grass;

I forget to eat my food.

5Because of my loud groaning

I am reduced to skin and bones.

6I am like a desert owl,

like an owl among the ruins.

7I lie awake; I have become

like a bird alone on a roof.

8All day long my enemies taunt me;

those who rail against me use my name as a curse.

9For I eat ashes as my food

and mingle my drink with tears

10because of your great wrath,

for you have taken me up and thrown me aside.

11My days are like the evening shadow;

I wither away like grass. 

12But you, O Lord, sit enthroned forever;

your renown endures through all generations.

13You will arise and have compassion on Zion,

for it is time to show favour to her;

the appointed time has come.

14For her stones are dear to your servants;

her very dust moves them to pity.

15The nations will fear the name of the Lord,

all the kings of the earth will revere your glory.

16For the Lord will rebuild Zion

and appear in his glory.

17He will respond to the prayer of the destitute;

he will not despise their plea. 

18Let this be written for a future generation, 

that a people not yet created may praise the Lord:

19“The Lord looked down from his sanctuary on high,

from heaven he viewed the earth,

20to hear the groans of the prisoners

and release those condemned to death.”

21So the name of the Lord will be declared in Zion

and his praise in Jerusalem

22when the peoples and the kingdoms

assemble to worship the Lord. 

23In the course of my life[1] he broke my strength;

he cut short my days.

24So I said:

“Do not take me away, O my God, in the midst of my days;

your years go on through all generations.

25In the beginning you laid the foundations of the earth,

and the heavens are the work of your hands.

26They will perish, but you remain;

they will all wear out like a garment.

Like clothing you will change them

and they will be discarded.

27But you remain the same,

and your years will never end.

28The children of your servants will live in your presence;

their descendants will be established before you.”

 

Meditation

As with all passages of Scripture, to get a full picture of Psalm 102, we need to understand the times and situation in which it was written.  Whilst we can’t spend too much time on this tonight, it seems that it was written by someone in the depths of despair as calamity overtook him and, it seems, the nation.  He feels alone; deserted—even rejected.  But, in the midst of all this, he can reflect on the eternal nature of God together with His might and power.  It is in the very nature of God that our writer finds solace in the midst of depression.  The situation remains bad – even disastrous and potentially fatal – but, through his faith in God he is content to leave it to God to see him through. 

As such, it is a wonderful Psalm for us to meditate upon in times of affliction when we feel totally engulfed and helpless.  As does the Psalmist, we can take comfort in the fact that God is eternal in nature and in trustworthiness.  Troubles will come; troubles may not disappear; but God will carry us through! 

But there is more, because this Psalm is one of those recognised as being a Messianic Psalm.  Our warrant for taking Psalm 102 as being Messianic – or, about Christ – is that the New Testament book of Hebrews does just that by quoting these words and applying them to Jesus:

25In the beginning you laid the foundations of the earth,

and the heavens are the work of your hands.

26They will perish, but you remain;

they will all wear out like a garment.

Like clothing you will change them

and they will be discarded.

27But you remain the same,

and your years will never end.

The title of this Psalm is: “A prayer of an afflicted man.  When he is faint and pours out his lament before the Lord.”  And so it comes as no real surprise to find parallels with the life of Christ Jesus – the Man of Sorrows. 

1Hear my prayer, O Lord;

let my cry for help come to you.

2Do not hide your face from me

when I am in distress.

Turn your ear to me;

when I call, answer me quickly.

 

How often do we encounter Jesus in His loneliness?  It seems that even within His family life He was misunderstood and, possibly, ignored by His mother, brothers and sisters.  Remember the time when His family came to Him to take Him home because of their concern for Him and the way He was acting?  And remember how the incident elicited the response from Jesus whereby He pointed to those gathered around Him and said that they were His family—thus indicating His estrangement from the family He grew up in. 

And then there are the times when He drew aside to be alone for times of prayer.  Of course, He was in the presence of His heavenly Father at these times, but He was without human company. 

Remember Gethsemane?  How He was alone there – His disciples being fast asleep - as He poured out His heart in so much anguish that His tears fell like drops of blood as He faced up to the events that were quickly unfolding on that night of infamy. 

And then there was the agony of the loneliness on the Cross.  There not only had His disciples deserted Him, but He had the sense of rejection by His own Father:  “My God!  My God!  Why hast Thou forsaken me?”

3For my days vanish like smoke;

my bones burn like glowing embers.

4My heart is blighted and withered like grass;

I forget to eat my food.

5Because of my loud groaning

I am reduced to skin and bones.

6I am like a desert owl,

like an owl among the ruins.

7I lie awake; I have become

like a bird alone on a roof.

8All day long my enemies taunt me;

those who rail against me use my name as a curse.

9For I eat ashes as my food

and mingle my drink with tears

10because of your great wrath,

for you have taken me up and thrown me aside.

11My days are like the evening shadow;

I wither away like grass.

We don’t have time to push too hard so as to find absolute parallels in all of this Psalm and the events in Christ’s life (although some commentators have done almost that).  But, again, there is a pathetic parallel in this passage with the experience of the Messiah:  again the loneliness; the knowledge that things were moving relentlessly onwards to the Cross that would cut His life cruelly and painfully short; the restlessness of not having a permanent place to live; the sense of being cast aside, rejected and ignored. 

But, in the midst of all this, He turns to the Father and recognises His eternity:

12But you, O Lord, sit enthroned forever;

your renown endures through all generations.

13You will arise and have compassion on Zion,

for it is time to show favour to her;

the appointed time has come.

14For her stones are dear to your servants;

her very dust moves them to pity.

15The nations will fear the name of the Lord,

all the kings of the earth will revere your glory.

16For the Lord will rebuild Zion

and appear in his glory.

17He will respond to the prayer of the destitute;

he will not despise their plea.

The eternal God has always proved Himself faithful and there is no reason now to doubt that He will continue to be faithful into the future. 

17He will respond to the prayer of the destitute;

he will not despise their plea.

In the past God has heard the cry of His people and acted.

18Let this be written for a future generation,

that a people not yet created may praise the Lord:

19“The Lord looked down from his sanctuary on high,

from heaven he viewed the earth,

20to hear the groans of the prisoners

and release those condemned to death.”

21So the name of the Lord will be declared in Zion

and his praise in Jerusalem

22when the peoples and the kingdoms

assemble to worship the Lord.

He heard the cry of His people in Egypt; He heard their cry in exile in Babylon; He will hear their cry in all times of distress. 

19“The Lord looked down from his sanctuary on high,

from heaven he viewed the earth,

20to hear the groans of the prisoners

and release those condemned to death.”

This is to be praised – and our Psalmist – in the midst of his own tribulations does so and calls upon future generations to join with him. 

And all of this ties in with the situation Jesus was faced with.  Many times He spoke of the coming Easter events: of how He would be handed over to sinful men; falsely accused; falsely found guilty; abused; tortured; spat upon; ridiculed and – eventually – condemned to an early, painful death.  But He was also continually reminding His disciples that, on the third day He would rise again.  All of this: the agony; the desertion; the condemnation; the death; the ensuing life are reflected in our Psalm. 

Jesus knew all this but, in Gethsemane, and at other times, His humanity longed for it to be otherwise.  Alone in the Garden, He prayed: “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me.”  But, in His faithful trust in the Father to fulfil what He had promised, Jesus concluded,“Yet not as I will, but as you will.”

How well does this fit with this passage from our Psalm:

23In the course of my life he broke my strength;

he cut short my days.

24So I said:

“Do not take me away, O my God, in the midst of my days;

your years go on through all generations.

25In the beginning you laid the foundations of the earth,

and the heavens are the work of your hands.

26They will perish, but you remain;

they will all wear out like a garment.

Like clothing you will change them

and they will be discarded.

27But you remain the same,

and your years will never end.

28The children of your servants will live in your presence;

their descendants will be established before you.”

In faithful resignation, Jesus submitted to the will of the Father.  He had been promised life beyond death; He had been assured that this was the means of bringing many brothers and sisters into glory; and so He submitted to the Father’s will. 

Some Questions to Meditate Upon

  • Does this Psalm encourage you in your walk through life?  If so, how?  If not, why not? 
  • Do you feel a greater sense of trust towards God as a result of meditating on Psalm 102?  Why? 
  • Do you think that there are ways that you can change your outlook on life so as to trust God even more? 

Good Friday

Friday 6th April 2012

 “Eloi, Eloi, lamasabachthani?”

 

Call to Worship:  Isaiah52.13 – 53.12. 

13See, my servant will act wisely;

he will be raised and lifted up and highly exalted.

14Just as there were many who were appalled at him—

his appearance was so disfigured beyond that of any man

and his form marred beyond human likeness—

15so will he sprinkle many nations,

and kings will shut their mouths because of him.

For what they were not told, they will see,

and what they have not heard, they will understand.

 

53 Who has believed our message

and to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?

2He grew up before him like a tender shoot,

and like a root out of dry ground.

He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him,

nothing in his appearance that we should desire him.

3He was despised and rejected by men,

a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering.

Like one from whom men hide their faces

he was despised, and we esteemed him not.

 4Surely he took up our infirmities

and carried our sorrows,

yet we considered him stricken by God,

smitten by him, and afflicted.

5But he was pierced for our transgressions,

he was crushed for our iniquities;

the punishment that brought us peace was upon him,

and by his wounds we are healed.

6We all, like sheep, have gone astray,

each of us has turned to his own way;

and the Lord has laid on him

the iniquity of us all. 

7He was oppressed and afflicted,

yet he did not open his mouth;

he was led like a lamb to the slaughter,

and as a sheep before her shearers is silent,

so he did not open his mouth.

8By oppression and judgment he was taken away.

And who can speak of his descendants?

For he was cut off from the land of the living;

for the transgression of my people he was stricken.

9He was assigned a grave with the wicked,

and with the rich in his death,

though he had done no violence,

nor was any deceit in his mouth. 

10Yet it was the Lord’s will to crush him and cause him to suffer,

and though the Lord makes his life a guilt offering,

he will see his offspring and prolong his days,

and the will of the Lord will prosper in his hand.

11After the suffering of his soul,

he will see the light of life and be satisfied;

by his knowledge my righteous servant will justify many,

and he will bear their iniquities.

12Therefore I will give him a portion among the great,

and he will divide the spoils with the strong,

because he poured out his life unto death,

and was numbered with the transgressors.

For he bore the sin of many,

and made intercession for the transgressors.

 

1st Bible Reading:  Matthew 27.11-26. 

11Meanwhile Jesus stood before the governor, and the governor asked him, “Are you the king of the Jews?”

“Yes, it is as you say,” Jesus replied.

12When he was accused by the chief priests and the elders, he gave no answer.  13Then Pilate asked him, “Don’t you hear the testimony they are bringing against you?”  14But Jesus made no reply, not even to a single charge—to the great amazement of the governor.

15Now it was the governor’s custom at the Feast to release a prisoner chosen by the crowd.  16At that time they had a notorious prisoner, called Barabbas17So when the crowd had gathered, Pilate asked them, “Which one do you want me to release to you: Barabbas, or Jesus who is called Christ?”  18For he knew it was out of envy that they had handed Jesus over to him.

19While Pilate was sitting on the judge’s seat, his wife sent him this message: “Don’t have anything to do with that innocent man, for I have suffered a great deal today in a dream because of him.”

20But the chief priests and the elders persuaded the crowd to ask for Barabbas and to have Jesus executed.

21“Which of the two do you want me to release to you?” asked the governor.

“Barabbas,” they answered.

22“What shall I do, then, with Jesus who is called Christ?”  Pilate asked.

They all answered, “Crucify him!”

23“Why?  What crime has he committed?” asked Pilate.

But they shouted all the louder, “Crucify him!”

24When Pilate saw that he was getting nowhere, but that instead an uproar was starting, he took water and washed his hands in front of the crowd.  “I am innocent of this man’s blood,” he said.  “It is your responsibility!”

25All the people answered, “Let his blood be on us and on our children!”

26Then he released Barabbas to them.  But he had Jesus flogged, and handed him over to be crucified.

 

2nd Bible Reading:  Matthew 27.45-61. 

The Death of Jesus

45From the sixth hour until the ninth hour darkness came over all the land.  46About the ninth hour Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi,[2] lama sabachthani?”  —which means, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”

47When some of those standing there heard this, they said, “He’s calling Elijah.”

48Immediately one of them ran and got a sponge.  He filled it with wine vinegar, put it on a stick, and offered it to Jesus to drink.  49The rest said, “Now leave him alone.  Let’s see if Elijah comes to save him.”

50And when Jesus had cried out again in a loud voice, he gave up his spirit.

51At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom.  The earth shook and the rocks split.  52The tombs broke open and the bodies of many holy people who had died were raised to life.  53They came out of the tombs, and after Jesus’ resurrection they went into the holy city and appeared to many people.

54When the centurion and those with him who were guarding Jesus saw the earthquake and all that had happened, they were terrified, and exclaimed, “Surely he was the Son of God!”

55Many women were there, watching from a distance.  They had followed Jesus from Galilee to care for his needs.  56Among them were Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James and Joses, and the mother of Zebedee’s sons.

The Burial of Jesus

57As evening approached, there came a rich man from Arimathea, named Joseph, who had himself become a disciple of Jesus.  58Going to Pilate, he asked for Jesus’ body, and Pilate ordered that it be given to him.  59Joseph took the body, wrapped it in a clean linen cloth, 60and placed it in his own new tomb that he had cut out of the rock.  He rolled a big stone in front of the entrance to the tomb and went away.  61Mary Magdalene and the other Mary were sitting there opposite the tomb.

 

3rd Bible Reading:  Psalm 22. 

For the director of music.  To the tune of “The Doe of the Morning.”  A psalm of David.

 

1My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?

Why are you so far from saving me,

so far from the words of my groaning?

2O my God, I cry out by day, but you do not answer,

by night, and am not silent. 

3Yet you are enthroned as the Holy One;

you are the praise of Israel.[3]

4In you our fathers put their trust;

they trusted and you delivered them.

5They cried to you and were saved;

in you they trusted and were not disappointed. 

6But I am a worm and not a man,

scorned by men and despised by the people.

7All who see me mock me;

they hurl insults, shaking their heads:

8“He trusts in the Lord;

let the Lord rescue him.

Let him deliver him,

since he delights in him.” 

9Yet you brought me out of the womb;

you made me trust in you

even at my mother’s breast.

10From birth I was cast upon you;

from my mother’s womb you have been my God.

11Do not be far from me,

for trouble is near

and there is no one to help. 

12Many bulls surround me;

strong bulls of Bashan encircle me.

13Roaring lions tearing their prey

open their mouths wide against me.

14I am poured out like water,

and all my bones are out of joint.

My heart has turned to wax;

it has melted away within me.

15My strength is dried up like a potsherd,

and my tongue sticks to the roof of my mouth;

you lay me[4]in the dust of death.

16Dogs have surrounded me;

a band of evil men has encircled me,

they have pierced[5]my hands and my feet.

17I can count all my bones;

people stare and gloat over me.

18They divide my garments among them

and cast lots for my clothing. 

19But you, O Lord, be not far off;

O my Strength, come quickly to help me.

20Deliver my life from the sword,

my precious life from the power of the dogs.

21Rescue me from the mouth of the lions;

save[6]me from the horns of the wild oxen. 

22I will declare your name to my brothers;

in the congregation I will praise you.

23You who fear the Lord, praise him!

All you descendants of Jacob, honour him!

Revere him, all you descendants of Israel!

24For he has not despised or disdained

the suffering of the afflicted one;

he has not hidden his face from him

but has listened to his cry for help. 

25From you comes the theme of my praise in the great assembly;

before those who fear you[7]will I fulfil my vows.

26The poor will eat and be satisfied;

they who seek the Lord will praise him—

may your hearts live forever!

27All the ends of the earth

will remember and turn to the Lord,

and all the families of the nations

will bow down before him,

28for dominion belongs to the Lord

and he rules over the nations. 

29All the rich of the earth will feast and worship;

all who go down to the dust will kneel before him—

those who cannot keep themselves alive.

30Posterity will serve him;

future generations will be told about the Lord.

31They will proclaim his righteousness

to a people yet unborn—

for he has done it.

 

Meditation

Between the words of our Call to Worship this morning and Psalm 22 we have the most complete picture of the death of Jesus outside of the New Testament.  This is a marvellous thing to consider and it can only give rise to praise to God for the inspiration of His Holy Spirit in inspiring the writing and preservation of His Holy Word.  It is nothing short of miraculous.  How else can we explain these words written, in the case of Psalm 22, some 1,000 years before the events of Calvary and, in the case of Isaiah, only relatively speaking closer to the events by about 300 years! 

Speaking of Psalm 22, Martin Luther described it as the “Fifth Gospel” account of the crucifixion.  And who can argue? 

It is impossible to cover all the aspects of this Psalm in the time available to me this morning, which is a shame as it is a Psalm that rewards close attention.  I would draw your attention to the summary chart that is included with the Order of Service this morning so that you can take some time out to delve deeper than I can today. 

Even the superscription carries relevant meaning with it:

For the director of music.  To the tune of “The Doe of the Morning.”  A psalm of David.

The suggested tune – “The Doe [or, “Hind”]of the Morning” – bears closer inspection of itself.  The commentator Delitzsch relates it to: “the early light proceeding the dawn of morning, whose rays are likened to the horns of a hind.”  The hart and the hind (the male and female deer respectively) are often terms used on the books of prophecy to describe our Lord, so its use here could be relevant.  As we move on into the Psalm, we find that there are many animals mentioned that are natural enemies of deer.  Deer are among the most beautiful of God’s creatures, but they are largely defenceless.  Their main protection are a keen sense of smell and fleetness of foot. 

In the context of Psalm 22, the Doe is killed by the ravenous wild beasts, but yet, it lives! 

1My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?

Why are you so far from saving me,

so far from the words of my groaning?

2O my God, I cry out by day, but you do not answer,

by night, and am not silent.

We have here, of course, the famous words of Jesus from the Cross.  I doubt that it is possible for us to even begin to understand the agony and anguish that led our precious Lord to utter these words.  He was so used to being in intimate communion with the Father that this was truly alien territory for Him.  This is highlighted by these words:

9Yet you brought me out of the womb;

you made me trust in you

even at my mother’s breast.

10From birth I was cast upon you;

from my mother’s womb you have been my God.

11Do not be far from me,

for trouble is near

and there is no one to help.

For all His life, Jesus was in a relationship of the utmost intimacy with His Father, but now it is cries of agony and desertion that pour from His lips at the time of His greatest need.  What a consolation it is to realise that Jesus experienced this isolation from the Father so that we need never experience it!  It is another glorious example of how He suffered in our place. 

He remembers how God had always been there for generations past,

4In you our fathers put their trust;

they trusted and you delivered them.

5They cried to you and were saved;

in you they trusted and were not disappointed.

But here was Jesus, the One who had spent eternity past with God; who was with God at the time of creation; but He no longer had that intimacy.  Quite the opposite.  Because He was fouled with our sin, the Father turned His back on Him in disgust.  The Father could no longer look upon His precious Son because He was polluted by and reeked of our sins. 

6But I am a worm and not a man,

scorned by men and despised by the people.

7All who see me mock me;

they hurl insults, shaking their heads:

8“He trusts in the Lord;

let the Lord rescue him.

Let him deliver him,

since he delights in him.”

The One who was co-equal with God; the One who lowered Himself to associate with humanity by taking upon Himself humanity, was now nothing but a worm – something to be ignored, sneered at and squashed under foot.  People looked upon Him as He hung helpless on the Cross and had no compassion for Him; instead, they ridiculed and scorned Him.  

12Many bulls surround me;

strong bulls of Bashan encircle me.

13Roaring lions tearing their prey

open their mouths wide against me.

Some commentators take the term, “many bulls … strong bulls of Bashan” to mean the religious authorities who turned Him in.  The “strong bulls of Bashan” were a particularly vicious breed of bulls, surely an apt description of the viciousness of those who set their hearts and minds against Jesus and who would only be satisfied with His execution.  Later, when we read,

16Dogs have surrounded me;

a band of evil men has encircled me,

they have pierced my hands and my feet.

We can see in the allusion the Roman soldiers surrounding Him and piercing His hands and feet with the cruel nails.

14I am poured out like water,

and all my bones are out of joint.

My heart has turned to wax;

it has melted away within me.

15My strength is dried up like a potsherd,

and my tongue sticks to the roof of my mouth;

you lay me in the dust of death.

16Dogs have surrounded me;

a band of evil men has encircled me,

they have pierced my hands and my feet.

17I can count all my bones;

people stare and gloat over me.

18They divide my garments among them

and cast lots for my clothing.

The accuracy of the ordeal of a crucified person in this passage is all the more astounding when we remember that crucifixion was a Roman, not a Jewish means of execution – and one that did not come into being for many hundreds of years after the Psalm was written.  The accuracy of the description of our Lord’s crucifixion is clear to anyone who reads the Gospel accounts – and, again, I refer you to the table. 

But then comes a dramatic change in the Psalm:

22I will declare your name to my brothers;

in the congregation I will praise you.

23You who fear the Lord, praise him!

All you descendants of Jacob, honour him!

Revere him, all you descendants of Israel!

24For he has not despised or disdained

the suffering of the afflicted one;

he has not hidden his face from him

but has listened to his cry for help.

The ordeal of crucifixion continued to death.  But death was not the end.  The Messiah lived – and lives!  His roarings have been heard; His desertion is over:

24For he has not despised or disdained

the suffering of the afflicted one;

he has not hidden his face from him

but has listened to his cry for help.

Despair becomes delight.  As T. Ernest Wilson expresses it, “He was saved, not from death, but out of death.  Hallelujah!  He arose!”

And so praise, honour, glory and worship belongs to God who, through the sufferings of Jesus, has brought us from death to life everlasting. 

25From you comes the theme of my praise in the great assembly;

before those who fear you will I fulfil my vows.

26The poor will eat and be satisfied;

they who seek the Lord will praise him—

may your hearts live forever!

27All the ends of the earth

will remember and turn to the Lord,

and all the families of the nations

will bow down before him,

28for dominion belongs to the Lord

and he rules over the nations.

29All the rich of the earth will feast and worship;

all who go down to the dust will kneel before him—

those who cannot keep themselves alive.

30Posterity will serve him;

future generations will be told about the Lord.

31They will proclaim his righteousness

to a people yet unborn—

for he has done it.

“It is finished!”  The cry of conquest from the lips of our blessed Saviour from the vicious Cross of death brings with it joy unspeakable to you and to me.  For it truly is finished.  The rule of Satan in our lives is overcome; the wages of sin which is death has been paid by Jesus on our behalf.  All that spreads out before those who claim Jesus as their Saviour is the promise of eternity with Him in Heaven. 

Ann Ross Cousin wrote:

Jehovah bade His sword awake;

O Christ, it woke ‘gainst Thee.

Thy blood its flaming blade must slake:

Thy heart its sheath must be.

All for my sake, my peace to make,

Now sleeps that sword for me! 

Hallelujah!  What a Saviour! 

 

 

Easter Day

Sunday 8th April 2012.

 

 

Jesus Christ is Risen!

PRAISE THE LORD!

 

 

Call to Worship:  Psalm 118.15-24. 

15Shouts of joy and victory

resound in the tents of the righteous:

“The Lord’s right hand has done mighty things!

16The Lord’s right hand is lifted high;

the Lord’s right hand has done mighty things!”

17I will not die but live,

and will proclaim what the Lord has done.

18The Lord has chastened me severely,

but he has not given me over to death.

19Open for me the gates of righteousness;

I will enter and give thanks to the Lord.

20This is the gate of the Lord

through which the righteous may enter.

21I will give you thanks, for you answered me;

you have become my salvation.

22The stone the builders rejected

has become the capstone;

23the Lord has done this,

and it is marvellous in our eyes.

24This is the day the Lord has made;

let us rejoice and be glad in it.

 

1st Bible Reading:  Psalm 16. 

 

A miktam[8] of David.

1Keep me safe, O God,

for in you I take refuge.

2I said to the Lord, “You are my Lord;

apart from you I have no good thing.”

3As for the saints who are in the land,

they are the glorious ones in whom is all my delight.[9]

4The sorrows of those will increase

who run after other gods.

I will not pour out their libations of blood

or take up their names on my lips.

5Lord, you have assigned me my portion and my cup;

you have made my lot secure.

6The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places;

surely I have a delightful inheritance.

7I will praise the Lord, who counsels me;

even at night my heart instructs me.

8I have set the Lord always before me.

Because he is at my right hand,

I will not be shaken.

9Therefore my heart is glad and my tongue rejoices;

my body also will rest secure,

10because you will not abandon me to the grave,[10]

nor will you let your Holy One[11]see decay.

11You have made[12] known to me the path of life;

you will fill me with joy in your presence,

with eternal pleasures at your right hand.

 

Psalm 16

1. Introduction

Psalm 16 was written by King David.  But it cannot be about him.  Peter quoted it on the Day of Pentecost and Paul quoted from it in Antioch.  In both instances the Apostles made clear that David was dead and that his body remained in the grave where it decomposed.  Peter, in his address, described David as a “prophet” and so he is because, in writing this Psalm, as again both Peter and Paul made clear, he was referring to Jesus. 

The thing the Jewish leaders had feared had happened – Jesus was raised from the dead! 

Now, I am not going to go through a whole string of proofs of this fact of history.  I will simply say that, in the New Testament, the resurrection of Jesus is specifically stated over 100 times – some 23 times in Acts alone. 

This clearly flies in the face of those who would have us believe that Jesus did not physically rise from the dead, but that our Lord’s resurrection was simply a delusion or some type of propaganda made up by the Apostles for some obscure reason.  The fact of His physical resurrection was accepted without qualification from the earliest days of the Church – from the time when His body could have been produced were anyone able to do so, so as to disprove the witnesses to this fact. 

And I will go further and say that it is not an optional extra to Christianity; something a Christian is free to either accept or reject.  The Resurrection is a foundational doctrine of the Christian Faith.  As Paul said in the glorious dissertation on resurrection in 1 Corinthians 15:

12But if it is preached that Christ has been raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead?  13If there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised.  14And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith.  15More than that, we are then found to be false witnesses about God, for we have testified that he raised Christ from the dead.  … 17And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins.  18Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ are lost.  19If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are to be pitied more than all men.  [1 Corinthians 15.12-15; 17-19; NIV]

2. Christ’s Life of Dependency

So, Jesus is risen.  Praise God! 

But, the fact is that He need not have been raised from the dead.  If Jesus had faltered in any way; if Jesus had failed to do God’s will in any way; then He would still be in a grave somewhere in Jerusalem. 

The fact that He is not showed that He perfectly did everything God asked of Him; He perfectly obeyed every one of God’s commandments and laws.  And Psalm 16 gives us insight into the type of life Jesus led that allowed Him to be raised and, at the same time, shows us the type of life we should live—not in order to be saved, but out of gratitude for having been saved. 

So, what type of life did Jesus live?  As I said, Psalm 16 spells it out for us.

1Keep me safe, O God,

for in you I take refuge.

Jesus was totally dependent upon God.  He sought nowhere else nor did He seek anyone else during His mission.  Satan tempted Him to worship him and to short-circuit His mission for His own benefit—but Jesus said, “No!”  He would serve no one other than His heavenly Father.  It was in seeking His refuge in God that He came through the trials and misery of His mission.  Had He taken refuge in Satan that time in the wilderness, He would be dead now.  God, and God alone, could keep Him safe—and it is God and God alone who can keep us safe too. 

2I said to the Lord, “You are my Lord;

apart from you I have no good thing.”

Jesus knew very well indeed that all that is good and wholesome and beneficial comes from God:

The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not be in want.

These were no empty words to Jesus.  They were the solid base upon which He built His earthly life.  And it was because He built His life on this solid foundation that He was raised from the dead.  He lives now, because He utterly trusted God then. 

Is that our attitude to God?  Or, do we seek our “treasures” elsewhere? 

And then we come to our Lord’s attitude to the people of God:

3As for the saints who are in the land,

they are the glorious ones in whom is all my delight.

Jesus took great delight in dealing compassionately, graciously, generously and lovingly with God’s people.  He sought out the lost and despised; He healed those who came to Him; He drove out demons from the lives of those who lived in misery.  Just as He delighted in serving and trusting God, so He delighted in serving those whom God sent to Him. 

Do we have this desire in our hearts?  Are we constantly seeking ways to help our brothers and sisters?  Do we feel an unavoidable need to serve the lost? 

Jesus lived in an age of paganism.  When Rome conquered Israel, they brought with them their gods and set up temples and altars to them.  In Caesarea Philippi there was a pagan temple to Pan.  It was in that city that Jesus asked the disciples who people said He was.  There He was - with His followers – surrounded by paganism, and from the conversation He elicited from Peter the wonderful declaration, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God”

Jesus would have nothing to do with the paganism that surrounded Him—and He wanted to ensure that His followers had the same attitude.  There was nothing that came between Jesus and His Father: no pagan gods; no physical cravings; no material affluence; nothing!  He was solely devoted to His Father. 

Are we?  Or do we allow other things to come between God and ourselves?  Even though we may not fall down before pagan altars, do we, perhaps, fall down at the altar of the ungodly attitudes, desires, demands and lifestyle of this world? 

5Lord, you have assigned me my portion and my cup;

Sheer satisfaction with what God gave to Him marked our Lord’s life.  Whatever God set before Him He was satisfied with—even the Cross!  He didn’t want the agony of Golgotha; He prayed long and hard about this in Gethsemane; but He still fell in with the wishes of His Father. 

Whatever God assigned to His life – even the bitter cup of Calvary – Jesus was satisfied with. 

Are we?  Or do we always want something else; something more; something better? 

you have made my lot secure.

Despite the events in Jerusalem that first Easter Week, Jesus remained sure of His security.  Do you recall His words as the time drew near?

27“Now my heart is troubled, and what shall I say?  ‘Father, save me from this hour’?  No, it was for this very reason I came to this hour.  28Father, glorify your name!”  [John 12.27, 28; NIV]

Jesus wasn’t going on a picnic when He went to Jerusalem that last time; He wasn’t going to meet up with old friends and enjoy the Passover celebrations; He was going to die!  But, His trust in God was so great and He was so secure in His Father’s love, that He went on to His death. 

Do we have that same determination in life?  Do we trust God to be our refuge—a refuge in whom we know we can find security no mater what the world throws at us?  Or, is our trust in God just a little bit deficient? 

6The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places;

surely I have a delightful inheritance.

Again, we see Jesus satisfied with God; totally trusting in God; totally assured that God has done what is best and will do all that He could desire. 

Do we feel this assurance and satisfaction with our lot in life?  Or, do we want something else—“Not Thy will, but my will be done.”  Are we assured of the trustworthiness of God to the degree that we are willing to put up with trouble, strife, deprivation, scorn, and, perhaps, death knowing that Heaven awaits?  Or do we have niggling doubts? 

7I will praise the Lord, who counsels me;

even at night my heart instructs me.

8I have set the Lord always before me.

Because he is at my right hand,

I will not be shaken.

Jesus spent whole nights alone in prayer; at the time immediately before His betrayal He was in prayer; from His youth He was open to the Father’s instruction; He was always assured of the Father’s presence with Him; He always felt the Father at His right hand.  Therefore, He was not shaken

He knew that the Father was at His side every step of the way to Golgotha.  And, as we said on Friday, it was this that brought forth the heart-wrenching cry of dereliction from the Cross when the Father turned His back—not on Jesus, but on the foul sins He bore on that Cross; not Jesus’ sins, but your sins and mine. 

3. The Reward

We have seen a quick pen-sketch of the life of Jesus in the first eight verses of Psalm 16.  Now we turn to the miracle of miracles. 

9Therefore my heart is glad and my tongue rejoices;

my body also will rest secure,

10because you will not abandon me to the grave,

nor will you let your Holy One see decay.

11You have made known to me the path of life;

you will fill me with joy in your presence,

with eternal pleasures at your right hand.

We don’t worship a dead martyr.  We worship a living Saviour! 

Because Jesus did all that God called upon Him to do, the grave could not hold Him; death had no power over to Him. 

Jesus lived!  And Jesus lives!

And, because He lives, we will live too. 

We don’t have to earn eternal life by perfectly doing what Jesus did.  We can’t, even if we tried.  No, Jesus did it for us; as we live our lives in imitation of Him, we do so because He has won eternal life for us through the forgiveness of our sins. 

We do it because we want to make Him happy.  And we do it because it is the right thing to do. 

Praise be to God that we have an example to follow in the Lord Jesus Christ; but the greatness of that praise lies in the fact that our salvation does not depend on our doing what Jesus did so we can be forgiven.  No, we do what Jesus did simply because we want to.  Don’t we? 



[1]Or By his power

[2]Some manuscripts Eli, Eli

[3]Or Yet you are holy, | enthroned on the praises of Israel

[4]Or | I am laid

[5]Some Hebrew manuscripts, Septuagint and Syriac; most Hebrew manuscripts | like the lion,

[6]Or | you have heard

[7]Hebrew him

[8]Title: Probably a literary or musical term

[9]Or As for the pagan priests who are in the land | and the nobles in whom all delight, I said:

[10]Hebrew Sheol

[11]Or your faithful one

[12]Or You will make