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Thursday, December 31, 2009

God's Provision and Israel's Waywardness

1 Sing aloud unto God our strength: make a joyful noise unto the God of Jacob.

2 Take a psalm, and bring hither the timbrel, the pleasant harp with the psaltery.

3 Blow up the trumpet in the new moon, in the time appointed, on our solemn feast day.

4 For this was a statute for Israel, and a law of the God of Jacob.

5 This he ordained in Joseph for a testimony, when he went out through the land of Egypt: where I heard a language that I understood not.

6 I removed his shoulder from the burden: his hands were delivered from the pots.

7 Thou calledst in trouble, and I delivered thee; I answered thee in the secret place of thunder: I proved thee at the waters of Meribah. Selah.

8 Hear, O my people, and I will testify unto thee: O Israel, if thou wilt hearken unto me;

9 There shall no strange god be in thee; neither shalt thou worship any strange god.

10 I am the LORD thy God, which brought thee out of the land of Egypt: open thy mouth wide, and I will fill it.

11 But my people would not hearken to my voice; and Israel would none of me.

12 So I gave them up unto their own hearts' lust: and they walked in their own counsels.

13 Oh that my people had hearkened unto me, and Israel had walked in my ways!

14 I should soon have subdued their enemies, and turned my hand against their adversaries.

15 The haters of the LORD should have submitted themselves unto him: but their time should have endured for ever.

16 He should have fed them also with the finest of the wheat: and with honey out of the rock should I have satisfied thee.
--Psalm 81 KJV Bible

This psalm is associated with the Feast of Tabernacles, also called the Feast of Booths. This was a festival lasting seven days and concluding with a holy convocation. During the festival, the people constructed and lived in booths or huts made of branches, commemorating God's provision for them in bringing them out of Egypt and through the wilderness (Leviticus 23:33-44).

The song opens with a summons to praise, continues with an exhortation to remember, and concludes with a call to repent. Some suggest the psalm may have been written in the rebellious Northern Kingdom of Israel around 750 BC, shortly before the time of the profit Hosea.

The psalm description says it is a song of Asaph. Asaph was an outstanding musician who lived in the time of King David (Nehemiah 12:46). Asaph's father was Berechiah (1 Chronicles 6:39). David had appointed Asaph as a minister of music for the tabernacle (1 Chronicles 15:16-19) and Asaph's descendants were also official temple musicians (Ezra 2:41). Asaph was sometimes described as a "seer," or a prophet (2 Chronicles 29:30). Psalms 50 and 73 through 83 are attributed to Asaph, or perhaps written for Asaph to perform. The beautiful psalms of Asaph describe the world round us in a clear way, remind us that God cares for us, cause us to learn from events, and remind us of the greatness of God. Since the Asaph of David's time was long dead, the psalm may have been written by or for Asaph's descendants in his honor, or it may have been written by or for a contemporary who was also named Asaph.

The description of the psalm also says that it is "for the Gittith," but it is uncertain just what that is. The Hebrew word is derived from "Gath," which was a common place name in Israel and the surrounding area. Examples include Gath of the Philistines, one of five Philistine city-states established in northwestern Philistia, Gath-Gittaim, Gath Carmel, and others. A person from Gath is called a Gittite, and a Gittith may have been a tune or instrument associated with one of those places.

The Hebrew "selah" is used in verse 7 of the psalm. The word is thought to be a musical notation to the choir director and musicians. It loosely translates as a break in the song or an instruction to pause and reflect, perhaps with a musical interlude. Some translators suggest the phrase "stop and listen." Others say that a more concise translation would be "let those with eyes see and with ears hear." The word "selah" has been compared to the word "amen" in that it stresses to the listener the importance of the preceding passage. The word "selah" is used in thirty-nine of the psalms.

In verses 1 through 5, the psalmist calls the people to praise God. The people are called to sing and shout joyfully. They are also called to play the timbrel, the lyre, the harp, and the trumpet--a ram's horn, called a shofar. The blowing of the shofar at the full moon (fifteenth day) of the seventh month signaled the beginning of the Feast of Tabernacles. God established the ordinance so that the people would remember when they lived among the Egyptians.

In verses 6 through 10, the psalmist encourages the people to remember. When the people called to God for help, God rescued them from Egypt, lifted their burden, and provided for them in the desert, including the giving of water at Meribah (Exodus 17:1-7). Since God had done such great thing for the people, they should not worship the false gods of other nations.

In verses 11 through 16, the psalmist calls the people to repent. The psalmist recalls how the people suffered in the past because they did not obey God's commands. If the people would obey God, He would both defend the righteous and defeat the wicked.

Father, I so easily forget Your blessings. Forgive me. Help me to stay focused on You in the good times as well as the bad.

-

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Forgive, Revive and Restore

1 Give ear, O Shepherd of Israel, thou that leadest Joseph like a flock; thou that dwellest between the cherubims, shine forth.

2 Before Ephraim and Benjamin and Manasseh stir up thy strength, and come and save us.

3 Turn us again, O God, and cause thy face to shine; and we shall be saved.

4 O LORD God of hosts, how long wilt thou be angry against the prayer of thy people?

5 Thou feedest them with the bread of tears; and givest them tears to drink in great measure.

6 Thou makest us a strife unto our neighbours: and our enemies laugh among themselves.

7 Turn us again, O God of hosts, and cause thy face to shine; and we shall be saved.

8 Thou hast brought a vine out of Egypt: thou hast cast out the heathen, and planted it.

9 Thou preparedst room before it, and didst cause it to take deep root, and it filled the land.

10 The hills were covered with the shadow of it, and the boughs thereof were like the goodly cedars.

11 She sent out her boughs unto the sea, and her branches unto the river.

12 Why hast thou then broken down her hedges, so that all they which pass by the way do pluck her?

13 The boar out of the wood doth waste it, and the wild beast of the field doth devour it.

14 Return, we beseech thee, O God of hosts: look down from heaven, and behold, and visit this vine;

15 And the vineyard which thy right hand hath planted, and the branch that thou madest strong for thyself.

16 It is burned with fire, it is cut down: they perish at the rebuke of thy countenance.

17 Let thy hand be upon the man of thy right hand, upon the son of man whom thou madest strong for thyself.

18 So will not we go back from thee: quicken us, and we will call upon thy name.

19 Turn us again, O LORD God of hosts, cause thy face to shine; and we shall be saved.
--Psalm 80 KJV Bible

At the time of the conquering of the land of Canaan, the twelve tribes of Israel were Reuben, Simeon (Levi), Judah, Issachar, Zebulun, Benjamin, Dan, Naphtali, Gad, Asher, Ephraim, and Manasseh. The first ten tribes were descendants of the sons of Jacob and the last two were descendants of the sons of Joseph, who were also grandsons of Jacob. Each tribe was allotted land. The descendants of Jacob's son Levi did not receive a territory, but instead received a collection of cities scattered throughout the nation. Simeon's land allotment was adjoining Judah, and was eventually absorbed into Judah, possibly during the reign of Saul or David. The combined territories were known as the Kingdom of Israel. Four kings reigned over the entire kingdom: Saul, David, Solomon, and Rehoboam. While Rehoboam was king, the country split into two kingdoms. The southern kingdom, which remained loyal to the royal line of David and was still ruled by Rehoboam, was composed of the territories originally occupied by Benjamin, Judah and Simeon. This became the Kingdom of Judah. The rest of the territories became the northern Kingdom of Israel. It has been suggested that this psalm was written against the background of the Assyrian conquest and captivity of the northern Kingdom of Israel (2 Kings 17:1-23). The psalm reveals the shock that event had in Jerusalem (where the Asaph singers lived). Now exposed to Assyria on the north, the people of Judah cry to God as the Shepherd of His sheep and to God as Husbandman of His vineyard.

The psalm description says it is a song of Asaph. Asaph was an outstanding musician who lived in the time of King David (Nehemiah 12:46). Asaph's father was Berechiah (1 Chronicles 6:39). David had appointed Asaph as a minister of music for the tabernacle (1 Chronicles 15:16-19) and Asaph's descendants were also official temple musicians (Ezra 2:41). Asaph was sometimes described as a "seer," or a prophet (2 Chronicles 29:30). Psalms 50 and 73 through 83 are attributed to Asaph, or perhaps written for Asaph to perform. The beautiful psalms of Asaph describe the world round us in a clear way, remind us that God cares for us, cause us to learn from events, and remind us of the greatness of God. Since the Asaph of David's time was long dead, the psalm may have been written by or for Asaph's descendants in his honor, or it may have been written by or for a contemporary who was also named Asaph.

The psalm description also says it is to be performed according to “Shoshannim Eduth”--Hebrew, meaning "lilies, a testimony." This is possibly the name of a melody to accompany the psalm.

In verses 1 through 7, the psalmist records the cry of the people of Judah to God as the Shepherd of His sheep. In verse 1, the psalmist refers to “Israel” and “Joseph.” At different points in Scripture the writers use the names “Israel,” Jacob” and “Joseph” to represent all of the people of Israel.

In verses 8 through 19, the psalmist records the cry of the people of Judah to God as Husbandman of His vineyard. In verses 8 through 10, the psalmist records how God transplanted the vine of Israel from Egypt and spread it throughout Canann. God clear ground for the vine and it grew tall and spread wide. In verse 11, the psalmist notes how the people of Israel were spreading to the Mediterranean “Sea” and to the Euphrates “River.” The psalmist then expresses dismay, wondering why God has allowed his vine to be cut down and destroyed. In verse 17, the psalmist asks for God's hand to be on Israel, which the psalmist describes "the son of man." this is a reference to Exodus 4:22, where God describes Israel as His first-born son.

In verses 3, 7 and 19, the psalmist asks to be restored. This seems to be more than just a cry for national restoration. Verse 18 appears to be a confession of sins and a desire for spiritual revival.

Father, help me to learn from the mistakes of others. Give me insight to understand their faults--not for their condemnation, but for my betterment in your service.

-

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Do Not Forget Us Forever

1 O god, the heathen are come into thine inheritance; thy holy temple have they defiled; they have laid Jerusalem on heaps.

2 The dead bodies of thy servants have they given to be meat unto the fowls of the heaven, the flesh of thy saints unto the beasts of the earth.

3 Their blood have they shed like water round about Jerusalem; and there was none to bury them.

4 We are become a reproach to our neighbours, a scorn and derision to them that are round about us.

5 How long, LORD? wilt thou be angry for ever? shall thy jealousy burn like fire?

6 Pour out thy wrath upon the heathen that have not known thee, and upon the kingdoms that have not called upon thy name.

7 For they have devoured Jacob, and laid waste his dwelling place.

8 O remember not against us former iniquities: let thy tender mercies speedily prevent us: for we are brought very low.

9 Help us, O God of our salvation, for the glory of thy name: and deliver us, and purge away our sins, for thy name's sake.

10 Wherefore should the heathen say, Where is their God? let him be known among the heathen in our sight by the revenging of the blood of thy servants which is shed.

11 Let the sighing of the prisoner come before thee; according to the greatness of thy power preserve thou those that are appointed to die;

12 And render unto our neighbours sevenfold into their bosom their reproach, wherewith they have reproached thee, O Lord.

13 So we thy people and sheep of thy pasture will give thee thanks for ever: we will shew forth thy praise to all generations.
--Psalm 79 KJV Bible

Like Psalm 74, this song describes the fall of the kingdom of Judah, the fall of the city of Jerusalem, the destruction of the temple, and Babylonian captivity of God’s unfaithful people. These events were accomplished in 586 BC by the armies of Babylonian king Nebuchadnezzar (2 Kings 24:17-20; 2 Kings 25:1-21; Jeremiah 52:12-24). In the song, the psalmist laments the desecration of Jerusalem and pleads for God to destroy Israel's enemies.

This is described as one of the imprecatory psalms. An imprecation is the act of calling down a curse that invokes evil. The imprecatory psalms contain an invocation of judgment, calamity, or curse against one's enemies who are viewed as enemies of God. The Major Imprecatory Psalms include psalms 69 and 109. Others are psalms 7, 35, 55, 58, 59, 69, 79, 109, 137, and 139 (some include in this list psalms 5, 6, 11, 12, 35, 37, 40, 52, 54, 56, 83, and 143). It is thought that the purposes of these imprecations are, depending on the psalm, to do one or more of the following: (1) to demonstrate God's just and righteous judgment toward the wicked, (2) to show the authority of God over the wicked, (3) to lead the wicked to seek the Lord, or (4) to cause the righteous to praise God. In the New Testament, Jesus quoted from them in John 15:25 (Psalms 35 and 69), the Apostle John references Psalm 69 in John 2:17, and the Apostle Paul quoted from Psalm 69 in his Letter to the Romans (Romans 11:9-10; Romans 15:3).

The psalm description says it is a song of Asaph. Asaph was an outstanding musician who lived in the time of King David (Nehemiah 12:46). Asaph's father was Berechiah (1 Chronicles 6:39). David had appointed Asaph as a minister of music for the tabernacle (1 Chronicles 15:16-19) and Asaph's descendants were also official temple musicians (Ezra 2:41). Asaph was sometimes described as a "seer," or a prophet (2 Chronicles 29:30). Psalms 50 and 73 through 83 are attributed to Asaph, or perhaps written for Asaph to perform. The beautiful psalms of Asaph describe the world round us in a clear way, remind us that God cares for us, cause us to learn from events, and remind us of the greatness of God. Since the Asaph of David's time was long dead, the psalm may have been written by or for Asaph's descendants in his honor, or it may have been written by or for a contemporary who was also named Asaph.

In verses 1 through 5, the psalmist laments the desecration of Jerusalem by the armies of Babylon. He describes the destruction of buildings and the temple. He also recalls the strewn bodies of the dead that were left for the scavengers. The psalmist realizes that God is angry with His people, but He prays that God's anger will not burn against them forever.

In verses 6 through 13, the psalmist pleads for God to destroy Israel's enemies. In verses 8 and 9, the psalmist appeals to God's mercy. In verse 10, the psalmist appeals to God's honor. In verses 11 through 13, the psalmist appeals to God’s righteousness, asking God to destroy the wicked so that the righteous who remain can praise God’s authority over the wicked.

In verses 6 through 13, the psalmist pleads for God to destroy the ungodly nation of Babylon because they brought down Judah, Jerusalem and the temple. In verses 8 and 9, the psalmist appeals to God's mercy, asking God to not hold against this generation the sins of their ancestors. In verse 10, the psalmist appeals to God's honor, asking God to not allow the ungodly nations to disrespect the authority of God. In verses 11 through 13, the psalmist appeals to God’s righteousness, asking God to destroy the wicked so that the righteous who remain can praise God’s judgment over the wicked.

Father, when I mess up, remind me that it not only reflects badly on me, but also on You. Please forgive me and help me to better so that You are glorified.

-

Never Forget

1 Give ear, O my people, to my law: incline your ears to the words of my mouth.

2 I will open my mouth in a parable: I will utter dark sayings of old:

3 Which we have heard and known, and our fathers have told us.

4 We will not hide them from their children, shewing to the generation to come the praises of the LORD, and his strength, and his wonderful works that he hath done.

5 For he established a testimony in Jacob, and appointed a law in Israel, which he commanded our fathers, that they should make them known to their children:

6 That the generation to come might know them, even the children which should be born; who should arise and declare them to their children:

7 That they might set their hope in God, and not forget the works of God, but keep his commandments:

8 And might not be as their fathers, a stubborn and rebellious generation; a generation that set not their heart aright, and whose spirit was not stedfast with God.

9 The children of Ephraim, being armed, and carrying bows, turned back in the day of battle.

10 They kept not the covenant of God, and refused to walk in his law;

11 And forgat his works, and his wonders that he had shewed them.

12 Marvellous things did he in the sight of their fathers, in the land of Egypt, in the field of Zoan.

13 He divided the sea, and caused them to pass through; and he made the waters to stand as an heap.

14 In the daytime also he led them with a cloud, and all the night with a light of fire.

15 He clave the rocks in the wilderness, and gave them drink as out of the great depths.

16 He brought streams also out of the rock, and caused waters to run down like rivers.

17 And they sinned yet more against him by provoking the most High in the wilderness.

18 And they tempted God in their heart by asking meat for their lust.

19 Yea, they spake against God; they said, Can God furnish a table in the wilderness?

20 Behold, he smote the rock, that the waters gushed out, and the streams overflowed; can he give bread also? can he provide flesh for his people?

21 Therefore the LORD heard this, and was wroth: so a fire was kindled against Jacob, and anger also came up against Israel;

22 Because they believed not in God, and trusted not in his salvation:

23 Though he had commanded the clouds from above, and opened the doors of heaven,

24 And had rained down manna upon them to eat, and had given them of the corn of heaven.

25 Man did eat angels' food: he sent them meat to the full.

26 He caused an east wind to blow in the heaven: and by his power he brought in the south wind.

27 He rained flesh also upon them as dust, and feathered fowls like as the sand of the sea:

28 And he let it fall in the midst of their camp, round about their habitations.

29 So they did eat, and were well filled: for he gave them their own desire;

30 They were not estranged from their lust. But while their meat was yet in their mouths,

31 The wrath of God came upon them, and slew the fattest of them, and smote down the chosen men of Israel.

32 For all this they sinned still, and believed not for his wondrous works.

33 Therefore their days did he consume in vanity, and their years in trouble.

34 When he slew them, then they sought him: and they returned and enquired early after God.

35 And they remembered that God was their rock, and the high God their redeemer.

36 Nevertheless they did flatter him with their mouth, and they lied unto him with their tongues.

37 For their heart was not right with him, neither were they stedfast in his covenant.

38 But he, being full of compassion, forgave their iniquity, and destroyed them not: yea, many a time turned he his anger away, and did not stir up all his wrath.

39 For he remembered that they were but flesh; a wind that passeth away, and cometh not again.

40 How oft did they provoke him in the wilderness, and grieve him in the desert!

41 Yea, they turned back and tempted God, and limited the Holy One of Israel.

42 They remembered not his hand, nor the day when he delivered them from the enemy.

43 How he had wrought his signs in Egypt, and his wonders in the field of Zoan.

44 And had turned their rivers into blood; and their floods, that they could not drink.

45 He sent divers sorts of flies among them, which devoured them; and frogs, which destroyed them.

46 He gave also their increase unto the caterpiller, and their labour unto the locust.

47 He destroyed their vines with hail, and their sycomore trees with frost.

48 He gave up their cattle also to the hail, and their flocks to hot thunderbolts.

49 He cast upon them the fierceness of his anger, wrath, and indignation, and trouble, by sending evil angels among them.

50 He made a way to his anger; he spared not their soul from death, but gave their life over to the pestilence;

51 And smote all the firstborn in Egypt; the chief of their strength in the tabernacles of Ham:

52 But made his own people to go forth like sheep, and guided them in the wilderness like a flock.

53 And he led them on safely, so that they feared not: but the sea overwhelmed their enemies.

54 And he brought them to the border of his sanctuary, even to this mountain, which his right hand had purchased.

55 He cast out the heathen also before them, and divided them an inheritance by line, and made the tribes of Israel to dwell in their tents.

56 Yet they tempted and provoked the most high God, and kept not his testimonies:

57 But turned back, and dealt unfaithfully like their fathers: they were turned aside like a deceitful bow.

58 For they provoked him to anger with their high places, and moved him to jealousy with their graven images.

59 When God heard this, he was wroth, and greatly abhorred Israel:

60 So that he forsook the tabernacle of Shiloh, the tent which he placed among men;

61 And delivered his strength into captivity, and his glory into the enemy's hand.

62 He gave his people over also unto the sword; and was wroth with his inheritance.

63 The fire consumed their young men; and their maidens were not given to marriage.

64 Their priests fell by the sword; and their widows made no lamentation.

65 Then the LORD awaked as one out of sleep, and like a mighty man that shouteth by reason of wine.

66 And he smote his enemies in the hinder parts: he put them to a perpetual reproach.

67 Moreover he refused the tabernacle of Joseph, and chose not the tribe of Ephraim:

68 But chose the tribe of Judah, the mount Zion which he loved.

69 And he built his sanctuary like high palaces, like the earth which he hath established for ever.

70 He chose David also his servant, and took him from the sheepfolds:

71 From following the ewes great with young he brought him to feed Jacob his people, and Israel his inheritance.

72 So he fed them according to the integrity of his heart; and guided them by the skilfulness of his hands.
--Psalm 78 KJV Bible

The psalm description says it is a song of Asaph. Asaph was an outstanding musician who lived in the time of King David (Nehemiah 12:46). Asaph's father was Berechiah (1 Chronicles 6:39). David had appointed Asaph as a minister of music for the tabernacle (1 Chronicles 15:16-19) and Asaph's descendants were also official temple musicians (Ezra 2:41). Asaph was sometimes described as a "seer," or a prophet (2 Chronicles 29:30). Psalms 50 and 73 through 83 are attributed to Asaph, or perhaps written for Asaph to perform. The beautiful psalms of Asaph describe the world round us in a clear way, remind us that God cares for us, cause us to learn from events, and remind us of the greatness of God. Some suggest the psalm was written by the prophet Isaiah, who lived through the fall of the territory of Ephraim in 720 BC. If this was the case, the Asaph of David's time would have been long dead and the psalm might have been written by or for Asaph's descendants in his honor.

The psalm description also states that this is a “maskil”--Hebrew, meaning “a hedge.” In the context of the psalms, it is thought to mean either a contemplative or teaching psalm, or a psalm written in a clever way. Thirteen psalms are described as "maskils." they include 32, 42, 44, 45, 52-55, 74, 78, 88, 89 and 142.

The psalm is the story of God’s people until the time of King David. In the song, Asaph recites the early history of the nation in order to warn future generations against a repetition of unfaithfulness. He invites the people to recall the provocation of God in the wilderness experience, their ingratitude during the Exodus, and their unfaithfulness during the period of the judges.

In verses 1 through 11, Asaph invites the people to listen. In verse 2, Asaph describes his teaching as a "parable," sometimes translated as a "proverb," and as a "dark saying," sometimes translated as a "riddle." Basically, the psalmist is sharing important information for living, but in a way that requires careful listening and some explanation.

In verses 9 through 11, Asaph explains that, like cowards, the people retreated from obedience to God's law. Even the archers of Ephriam turned away.

In verses 12 through 39, Asaph recalls the provocation of God in the wilderness experience. In verse 12, Asaph states that God performed wonders before the Israelite fathers in "Zoan." The city of Zoan, later the site of the city of Tanis, was a capital city in the northeastern section of the Nile River Delta in Egypt. The same area is the site modern-day village of San el-Hagar. Zoan was known for its learned and wise men. Pharaoh held court in Zoan at the time of his interviews with Moses and Aaron regarding the children of Israel. In verse 25, Asaph explains that while in the wilderness the people ate an abundant supply of manna--food from heaven that was, according to Asaph, good enough for angels. In verse 33, Asaph describes the futility of the deaths of the rebellious people, as they died over 40 years of wandering in the wilderness.

In verses 40 through 55, Asaph recalls the people's ingratitude during the Exodus from Egypt. They chose to forget the things God had done for them.

In verses 56 through 72, Asaph recalls the people's unfaithfulness during the period of the judges. In verse 61, Asaph describes how God allowed the capture of the Ark of the Covenant by the Philistines. The passage in 1 Samuel 4:1 through 7:1 describes how, after seven months, the Ark was returned to Israel and placed in the care of Eleazar, son of Abinadab. In verse 72, Asaph explains that the hope of the nation rested on God's new choices of "Judah" (replacing Ephriam), "Zion" (then in enemy hands), and David (a shepherd boy).

Father, I thank You for all You have done for me. I praise You and I pray that I never forget Your deeds or grow cold to doing Your service.

-

Friday, December 25, 2009

God is Still There

1 I cried unto God with my voice, even unto God with my voice; and he gave ear unto me.

2 In the day of my trouble I sought the Lord: my sore ran in the night, and ceased not: my soul refused to be comforted.

3 I remembered God, and was troubled: I complained, and my spirit was overwhelmed. Selah.

4 Thou holdest mine eyes waking: I am so troubled that I cannot speak.

5 I have considered the days of old, the years of ancient times.

6 I call to remembrance my song in the night: I commune with mine own heart: and my spirit made diligent search.

7 Will the Lord cast off for ever? and will he be favourable no more?

8 Is his mercy clean gone for ever? doth his promise fail for evermore?

9 Hath God forgotten to be gracious? hath he in anger shut up his tender mercies? Selah.

10 And I said, This is my infirmity: but I will remember the years of the right hand of the most High.

11 I will remember the works of the LORD: surely I will remember thy wonders of old.

12 I will meditate also of all thy work, and talk of thy doings.

13 Thy way, O God, is in the sanctuary: who is so great a God as our God?

14 Thou art the God that doest wonders: thou hast declared thy strength among the people.

15 Thou hast with thine arm redeemed thy people, the sons of Jacob and Joseph. Selah.

16 The waters saw thee, O God, the waters saw thee; they were afraid: the depths also were troubled.

17 The clouds poured out water: the skies sent out a sound: thine arrows also went abroad.

18 The voice of thy thunder was in the heaven: the lightnings lightened the world: the earth trembled and shook.

19 Thy way is in the sea, and thy path in the great waters, and thy footsteps are not known.

20 Thou leddest thy people like a flock by the hand of Moses and Aaron.
--Psalm 77 KJV Bible

This is a lament psalm. In the song, the psalmist calls for help and takes comfort from history. First, the psalmist describes something bad that God allowed to happened either to the psalmist or to God's people. The psalmist then wonders whether this means that God had forgotten his people. The psalmist then recalls that God gave help in the past. Finally, the psalmist resolves that if he is patient, he will see God's help again.

It has been suggested that the psalmist may have read the Book of Habakkuk before he wrote this psalm. The people of the time of the prophet Habakkuk could not understand why God would not help them. Habakkuk told the people they must have faith, believing that one day God would send help.

The psalm description says it is for “Jeduthun,” one of the choir directors appointed by David to lead public worship. Jeduthun is mentioned elsewhere, including 1 Chronicles 16:41 and 1 Chronicles 25:1-3. Three psalms reference Jeduthun--Psalm 39, Psalms 62 and Psalm 77.

The psalm description also says that it is a song of Asaph. Asaph was an outstanding musician who lived in the time of King David (Nehemiah 12:46). Asaph's father was Berechiah (1 Chronicles 6:39). David had appointed Asaph as a minister of music for the tabernacle (1 Chronicles 15:16-19) and Asaph's descendants were also official temple musicians (Ezra 2:41). Asaph was sometimes described as a "seer," or a prophet (2 Chronicles 29:30). Psalms 50 and 73 through 83 are attributed to Asaph, or perhaps written for Asaph to perform. The beautiful psalms of Asaph describe the world round us in a clear way, remind us that God cares for us, cause us to learn from events, and remind us of the greatness of God. Since the Asaph of David's time was long dead when the armies of Assyria attacked Jerusalem, the psalm may have been written by or for Asaph's descendants in his honor, or it may have been written by or for a contemporary who was also named Asaph.

The Hebrew "selah" is used in verses 3, 9 and 15 of the psalm. The word is thought to be a musical notation to the choir director and musicians. It loosely translates as a break in the song or an instruction to pause and reflect, perhaps with a musical interlude. Some translators suggest the phrase "stop and listen." Others say that a more concise translation would be "let those with eyes see and with ears hear." The word "selah" has been compared to the word "amen" in that it stresses to the listener the importance of the preceding passage. The word "selah" is used in thirty-nine of the psalms.

In verses 1 through 10, the psalmist calls for help. The psalmist is so disturbed that he is unable to sleep. In verses 7 through 9, the psalmist explains the reason why he is troubled: He wonders whether God has rejected His people. Has God forgotten them? Has God become too angry to care about them?

In verses 11 through 20, the psalmist takes comfort from history. He carefully considers God's past deeds for His people. In verses 16 through 20, the psalmist notes God’s parting of the sea and defeat of the armies of Egypt. The psalmist uses these events as an example of God's awesome feats of the past and to suggest what God will do for His people in the future.

Father, when I think it cannot get any worse, comfort me. Remind me that in good times and in bad times, You are with me. You will never leave me or forsake me

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Thursday, December 24, 2009

Advent: 1 Days to Go

In this installment of our Christmas adventure, God with us...

35 Again the next day after John stood, and two of his disciples;

36 And looking upon Jesus as he walked, he saith, Behold the Lamb of God!

37 And the two disciples heard him speak, and they followed Jesus.

38 Then Jesus turned, and saw them following, and saith unto them, What seek ye? They said unto him, Rabbi, (which is to say, being interpreted, Master,) where dwellest thou?

39 He saith unto them, Come and see. They came and saw where he dwelt, and abode with him that day: for it was about the tenth hour.

40 One of the two which heard John speak, and followed him, was Andrew, Simon Peter's brother.

41 He first findeth his own brother Simon, and saith unto him, We have found the Messias, which is, being interpreted, the Christ.

42 And he brought him to Jesus. And when Jesus beheld him, he said, Thou art Simon the son of Jona: thou shalt be called Cephas, which is by interpretation, A stone.

43 The day following Jesus would go forth into Galilee, and findeth Philip, and saith unto him, Follow me.

44 Now Philip was of Bethsaida, the city of Andrew and Peter.

45 Philip findeth Nathanael, and saith unto him, We have found him, of whom Moses in the law, and the prophets, did write, Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.

46 And Nathanael said unto him, Can there any good thing come out of Nazareth? Philip saith unto him, Come and see.

47 Jesus saw Nathanael coming to him, and saith of him, Behold an Israelite indeed, in whom is no guile!

48 Nathanael saith unto him, Whence knowest thou me? Jesus answered and said unto him, Before that Philip called thee, when thou wast under the fig tree, I saw thee.

49 Nathanael answered and saith unto him, Rabbi, thou art the Son of God; thou art the King of Israel.

50 Jesus answered and said unto him, Because I said unto thee, I saw thee under the fig tree, believest thou? thou shalt see greater things than these.

51 And he saith unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Hereafter ye shall see heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of man.
--John 1:35-51 KJV Bible

The title “Son of Man” links Jesus to the earth and His mission as God’s Messiah. It was Jesus’ favorite designation for Himself. Scripture records Jesus using it over 80 times. The title is based on a dream of Daniel (Daniel 7:13-14). The title emphasizes Jesus’ lowliness and humanity, His suffering and death, and His future reign as King.

When Jesus tells Nathanael he will see “heaven open,” Jesus is using symbolism. Jesus is telling Nathanael that he, and others will experience the open fellowship with God, available to followers of Christ.

When Jesus tells Nathanael he would see “the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of Man,” many are reminded of Jacob’s dream at Bethel, in which he saw a ladder that reached to heaven with the angels ascending and descending upon it (Genesis 28:12). Christ is that ladder, the way from earth to heaven, the way heaven sends messages to the world and the way we must go to reach it. Jesus is the Mediator through which God the Father communicated with mankind. Because of Jesus Christ, the “Light” shining in our dark world, we have a connection to God; God is with us. In Hebrew, Immanuel.

A very Merry Christmas to all!

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Advent: 2 Days to Go

In this installment of our Christmas adventure, God’s witness testifies to the “Light”...

29 The next day John seeth Jesus coming unto him, and saith, Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world.

30 This is he of whom I said, After me cometh a man which is preferred before me: for he was before me.

31 And I knew him not: but that he should be made manifest to Israel, therefore am I come baptizing with water.

32 And John bare record, saying, I saw the Spirit descending from heaven like a dove, and it abode upon him.

33 And I knew him not: but he that sent me to baptize with water, the same said unto me, Upon whom thou shalt see the Spirit descending, and remaining on him, the same is he which baptizeth with the Holy Ghost.

34 And I saw, and bare record that this is the Son of God.
--John 1:29-34 KJV Bible

When John announces Jesus, John describes Him as the Lamb of God. This is a reference to the Passover lamb (Exodus 12:3) and Isaiah’s prophecy of the Messiah (Isaiah 53:7), which are linked to this metaphor.

Those who paid attention to John would have noted that John did not just reference the sins of Israel, but to the sins of the entire world.

Next time, God with us...

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Thanks for God’s Mighty Power

1 In Judah is God known: his name is great in Israel.

2 In Salem also is his tabernacle, and his dwelling place in Zion.

3 There brake he the arrows of the bow, the shield, and the sword, and the battle. Selah.

4 Thou art more glorious and excellent than the mountains of prey.

5 The stouthearted are spoiled, they have slept their sleep: and none of the men of might have found their hands.

6 At thy rebuke, O God of Jacob, both the chariot and horse are cast into a dead sleep.

7 Thou, even thou, art to be feared: and who may stand in thy sight when once thou art angry?

8 Thou didst cause judgment to be heard from heaven; the earth feared, and was still,

9 When God arose to judgment, to save all the meek of the earth. Selah.

10 Surely the wrath of man shall praise thee: the remainder of wrath shalt thou restrain.

11 Vow, and pay unto the LORD your God: let all that be round about him bring presents unto him that ought to be feared.

12 He shall cut off the spirit of princes: he is terrible to the kings of the earth.
--Psalm 76 KJV Bible

This psalm is a hymn of thanksgiving. It records the voice of the people, the victory of God, and the vows of the people.

This psalm is thought to be from the time when King Sennacherib of Assyria attacked Jerusalem in 701 BC, during the reign of Judah's King Hezekiah (2 Kings 18:13-19:37; Isaiah 36-37). Like Psalm 75, this song is thought to be part of the victory celebration which followed the defeat of the Assyrians.

The psalm description says it is to be performed on "Neginoth." This Hebrew expression is interpreted as "stringed instruments." this direction is used in Psalm 4, 6, 54, 55, 61, 67, and 76.

The psalm description says that it is a song of Asaph. Asaph was an outstanding musician who lived in the time of King David (Nehemiah 12:46). Asaph's father was Berechiah (1 Chronicles 6:39). David had appointed Asaph as a minister of music for the tabernacle (1 Chronicles 15:16-19) and Asaph's descendants were also official temple musicians (Ezra 2:41). Asaph was sometimes described as a "seer," or a prophet (2 Chronicles 29:30). Psalms 50 and 73 through 83 are attributed to Asaph, or perhaps written for Asaph to perform. The beautiful psalms of Asaph describe the world round us in a clear way, remind us that God cares for us, cause us to learn from events, and remind us of the greatness of God. Since the Asaph of David's time was long dead when the armies of Assyria attacked Jerusalem, the psalm may have been written by or for Asaph's descendants in his honor, or it may have been written by or for a contemporary who was also named Asaph.

The Hebrew "selah" is used in verses 3 and 9 of the psalm. The word is thought to be a musical notation to the choir director and musicians. It loosely translates as a break in the song or an instruction to pause and reflect, perhaps with a musical interlude. Some translators suggest the phrase "stop and listen." Others say that a more concise translation would be "let those with eyes see and with ears hear." The word "selah" has been compared to the word "amen" in that it stresses to the listener the importance of the preceding passage. The word "selah" is used in thirty-nine of the psalms.

In verses 1 through 3, the psalmist records the voice of the people acknowledging God's victory. Here the psalmist uses the terms "Salem" and "Zion," both of which refer to Jerusalem.

In verses 4 through 10, the psalmist records the victory of God. When God arose to judge the unrighteous, He stripped and slew the mighty.

In verses 11 and 12, the psalmist records the vows of the people. They will give sacrifices of vows in return for God’s favor upon the people. Among the world leaders, God will cut off those with a spirit of pride.

Father, Your power is awesome. I am humbled by your greatness. I praise You now, as all peoples will one day.

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Advent: 3 Days to Go

In this installment of our Christmas adventure, Jesus is tempted by Satan...

1 Then was Jesus led up of the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted of the devil.

2 And when he had fasted forty days and forty nights, he was afterward an hungred.

3 And when the tempter came to him, he said, If thou be the Son of God, command that these stones be made bread.

4 But he answered and said, It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God.

5 Then the devil taketh him up into the holy city, and setteth him on a pinnacle of the temple,

6 And saith unto him, If thou be the Son of God, cast thyself down: for it is written, He shall give his angels charge concerning thee: and in their hands they shall bear thee up, lest at any time thou dash thy foot against a stone.

7 Jesus said unto him, It is written again, Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God.

8 Again, the devil taketh him up into an exceeding high mountain, and sheweth him all the kingdoms of the world, and the glory of them;

9 And saith unto him, All these things will I give thee, if thou wilt fall down and worship me.

10 Then saith Jesus unto him, Get thee hence, Satan: for it is written, Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve.

11 Then the devil leaveth him, and, behold, angels came and ministered unto him.
--Matthew 4:1-11 KJV Bible


12 And immediately the spirit driveth him into the wilderness.

13 And he was there in the wilderness forty days, tempted of Satan; and was with the wild beasts; and the angels ministered unto him.
--Mark 1:12-13 KJV Bible

Satan tempts Jesus in the hope of causing Him to sin. This would thwart God’s plan for man’s redemption by disqualifying Jesus as Savior. But remember that the Holy Spirit led Jesus to the test. God’s purpose was to prove His Son to be sinless and thus a worthy Savior. It is clear that Jesus was actually tempted, but it is also clear that Jesus remained sinless.

When Satan tempted Jesus to make food in order to satisfy His hunger, Jesus responded by quoting Deuteronomy 8:3. By this Jesus affirmed the truth that God’s Word satisfies our most significant hunger.

When Satan tempts Jesus to make a show of power to the people, Satan quotes Psalm 91:11-12. But Satan did not accurately quote the passage, omitting a phrase which was not suited to his purpose. This is a classic example of an individual quoting Scripture out of context in order to suit their own purpose. Jesus responds by quoting Deuteronomy 6:16, warning Satan to not try the patience of God the Father or God the Son.

For his third temptation, Satan puts aside the battle of Scripture and offers Jesus a shortcut of sorts. In this temptation we are reminded that Satan is the prince of this world and may bestow earthly power on whomever he chooses. But this offer of power is hollow. It pales in comparison to all that God will give to His triumphant Son. Jesus responds to Satan by quoting Deuteronomy 6:13, a reminder that only God it to be worshipped.

Next time, God’s witness testifies to the “Light”...

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Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Our Strength and Our Righteous Judge

1 Unto thee, O God, do we give thanks, unto thee do we give thanks: for that thy name is near thy wondrous works declare.

2 When I shall receive the congregation I will judge uprightly.

3 The earth and all the inhabitants thereof are dissolved: I bear up the pillars of it. Selah.

4 I said unto the fools, Deal not foolishly: and to the wicked, Lift not up the horn:

5 Lift not up your horn on high: speak not with a stiff neck.

6 For promotion cometh neither from the east, nor from the west, nor from the south.

7 But God is the judge: he putteth down one, and setteth up another.

8 For in the hand of the LORD there is a cup, and the wine is red; it is full of mixture; and he poureth out of the same: but the dregs thereof, all the wicked of the earth shall wring them out, and drink them.

9 But I will declare for ever; I will sing praises to the God of Jacob.

10 All the horns of the wicked also will I cut off; but the horns of the righteous shall be exalted.
--Psalm 75 KJV Bible

This is a communal thanksgiving psalm. In the song, the psalmist praises God who will judge the earth, warns the wicked of this judgment, and vows to praise God.

Many suggest that this psalm is set around the time that King Sennacherib of Assyria attacked Jerusalem in 701 BC, during the reign of Judah's King Hezekiah (2 Kings 18:13-19:37; Isaiah 36-37).

The psalm description says that it is a song of Asaph. Asaph was an outstanding musician who lived in the time of King David (Nehemiah 12:46). Asaph's father was Berechiah (1 Chronicles 6:39). David had appointed Asaph as a minister of music for the tabernacle (1 Chronicles 15:16-19) and Asaph's descendants were also official temple musicians (Ezra 2:41). Asaph was sometimes described as a "seer," or a prophet (2 Chronicles 29:30). Psalms 50 and 73 through 83 are attributed to Asaph, or perhaps written for Asaph to perform. The beautiful psalms of Asaph describe the world round us in a clear way, remind us that God cares for us, cause us to learn from events, and remind us of the greatness of God. Since the Asaph of David's time was long dead when the armies of Assyria attacked Jerusalem, the psalm may have been written by or for Asaph's descendants in his honor, or it may have been written by or for a contemporary who was also named Asaph.

The psalm description says that it is to be set to "Al-tashheth"--Hebrew, meaning “do not destroy.” It is thought to be the title of a melody to which the psalm was to be performed. This reference appears in Psalms 57, 58, 59, and 75.

The Hebrew "selah" is used in verse 3 of the psalm. The word is thought to be a musical notation to the choir director and musicians. It loosely translates as a break in the song or an instruction to pause and reflect, perhaps with a musical interlude. Some translators suggest the phrase "stop and listen." Others say that a more concise translation would be "let those with eyes see and with ears hear." The word "selah" has been compared to the word "amen" in that it stresses to the listener the importance of the preceding passage. The word "selah" is used in thirty-nine of the psalms.

In verses 1 through 3, the psalmist gives thanks and praise to God for His wonders. The psalmist then speaks for God, stating that at the proper time God bring righteous judgment, and that when earth is shaken by it, God will steady it.

In verses 4 through 8, the psalmist warns the wicked of God’s judgment. The psalmist warns the wicked to not lift up the “horn,” by which he warns them to not boast proudly, vaunting their strength. The psalmist then states that this arrogance approaches Jerusalem from the north--the direction from which the army of the Assyrians would approach. The psalmist tells that God will judge them, pouring out His cup of wrath for all the wicked to drink down to the dregs.

In verses 9 and 10, the psalmist vows to praise God forever. God will cut off the "horns"--the strength--of the ungodly, but God will exalt the strength of His righteous.

Father, when I am cut down, I am reminded that I can do nothing in my own strength. You are the One who saves me. I must rely on You for all. I thank You and praise You.

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Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Advent: 4 Days to Go

In this installment of our Christmas adventure, the baptism of Jesus...

13 Then cometh Jesus from Galilee to Jordan unto John, to be baptized of him.

14 But John forbad him, saying, I have need to be baptized of thee, and comest thou to me?

15 And Jesus answering said unto him, Suffer it to be so now: for thus it becometh us to fulfil all righteousness. Then he suffered him.

16 And Jesus, when he was baptized, went up straightway out of the water: and, lo, the heavens were opened unto him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove, and lighting upon him:

17 And lo a voice from heaven, saying, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.
--Matthew 3:13-17 KJV Bible


9 And it came to pass in those days, that Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee, and was baptized of John in Jordan.

10 And straightway coming up out of the water, he saw the heavens opened, and the Spirit like a dove descending upon him:

11 And there came a voice from heaven, saying, Thou art my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.
--Mark 1:9-11 KJV Bible


21 Now when all the people were baptized, it came to pass, that Jesus also being baptized, and praying, the heaven was opened,

22 And the Holy Ghost descended in a bodily shape like a dove upon him, and a voice came from heaven, which said, Thou art my beloved Son; in thee I am well pleased.
--Luke 3:21-22 KJV Bible

Jesus began His public ministry by coming to John to be baptized. Though Jesus was without sin, He wanted to identify Himself with John’s message of righteousness. Following His baptism, the Holy Spirit descended on Jesus, providing special power for Jesus’ public ministry. The events described in these passages are the first public presentation of God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit--the Trinity.

Luke described the descent of the Holy Spirit by comparing it to a dove. At that time, the dove was used as a symbol for all types of virtue. In His later ministry, Jesus instructed His disciples to be as innocent as doves (Matthew 10:16).

Next time, Jesus is tempted by Satan...

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The Cost of Begin Unfaithful

1 O God, why hast thou cast us off for ever? why doth thine anger smoke against the sheep of thy pasture?

2 Remember thy congregation, which thou hast purchased of old; the rod of thine inheritance, which thou hast redeemed; this mount Zion, wherein thou hast dwelt.

3 Lift up thy feet unto the perpetual desolations; even all that the enemy hath done wickedly in the sanctuary.

4 Thine enemies roar in the midst of thy congregations; they set up their ensigns for signs.

5 A man was famous according as he had lifted up axes upon the thick trees.

6 But now they break down the carved work thereof at once with axes and hammers.

7 They have cast fire into thy sanctuary, they have defiled by casting down the dwelling place of thy name to the ground.

8 They said in their hearts, Let us destroy them together: they have burned up all the synagogues of God in the land.

9 We see not our signs: there is no more any prophet: neither is there among us any that knoweth how long.

10 O God, how long shall the adversary reproach? shall the enemy blaspheme thy name for ever?

11 Why withdrawest thou thy hand, even thy right hand? pluck it out of thy bosom.

12 For God is my King of old, working salvation in the midst of the earth.

13 Thou didst divide the sea by thy strength: thou brakest the heads of the dragons in the waters.

14 Thou brakest the heads of leviathan in pieces, and gavest him to be meat to the people inhabiting the wilderness.

15 Thou didst cleave the fountain and the flood: thou driedst up mighty rivers.

16 The day is thine, the night also is thine: thou hast prepared the light and the sun.

17 Thou hast set all the borders of the earth: thou hast made summer and winter.

18 Remember this, that the enemy hath reproached, O LORD, and that the foolish people have blasphemed thy name.

19 O deliver not the soul of thy turtledove unto the multitude of the wicked: forget not the congregation of thy poor for ever.

20 Have respect unto the covenant: for the dark places of the earth are full of the habitations of cruelty.

21 O let not the oppressed return ashamed: let the poor and needy praise thy name.

22 Arise, O God, plead thine own cause: remember how the foolish man reproacheth thee daily.

23 Forget not the voice of thine enemies: the tumult of those that rise up against thee increaseth continually.
--Psalm 74 KJV Bible

This psalm was written against the backdrop of the fall of the kingdom of Judah, the fall of the city of Jerusalem, the destruction of the temple, and Babylonian captivity of God’s unfaithful people. These events were accomplished in 586 BC by the armies of Babylonian king Nebuchadnezzar (2 Kings 24:17-20; 2 Kings 25:1-21). In this song, the psalmist relates the nation's cry for help, the conditions of the havoc, and the confidence of their hope.

The psalm description says it is a song of Asaph. Asaph was an outstanding musician who lived in the time of King David (Nehemiah 12:46). Asaph's father was Berechiah (1 Chronicles 6:39). David had appointed Asaph as a minister of music for the tabernacle (1 Chronicles 15:16-19) and Asaph's descendants were also official temple musicians (Ezra 2:41). Asaph was sometimes described as a "seer," or a prophet (2 Chronicles 29:30). Psalms 50 and 73 through 83 are attributed to Asaph, or perhaps written for Asaph to perform. The beautiful psalms of Asaph describe the world round us in a clear way, remind us that God cares for us, cause us to learn from events, and remind us of the greatness of God. Since the Asaph of David's time was long dead, the psalm may have been written by or for Asaph's descendants in his honor, or it may have been written by or for a contemporary who was also named Asaph.

The psalm description also states that this is a “maskil”--Hebrew, meaning “a hedge.” In the context of the psalms, it is thought to mean either a contemplative or teaching psalm, or a psalm written in a clever way. Thirteen psalms are described as "maskils." they include 32, 42, 44, 45, 52-55, 74, 78, 88, 89 and 142.

In verses 1 and 2, the psalmist relates the people's cry to God for help. Why has the Shepherd cast off His sheep? You chose us long ago, redeemed us and established us on Zion (Jerusalem) where you dwelt (in the temple).

In verses 3 through 11, the psalmist relates the conditions of the havoc. The enemy has destroyed Your temple in Jerusalem, chopping it down bit by bit like a tree in the forest. They then burned what was left, confident that they had destroyed Your place of worship. They have desecrated Jerusalem with their idols and their decorations. Your prophets are now gone. When will you grow tired of their insults and destroy them?

In verses 12 through 23, the psalmist relates the confidence and hope of the people. God has long been our ruler and deliver. He divided the sea and destroyed Pharaoh and his army, making them food for the birds and beasts of the desert. God brought forth water in the desert for His people. God made the day and night and they are His. He made the earth and the seasons. God, remember that the wicked and foolish have done great wrongs against You and Your people. Don’t turn the innocent over to the predator. Remember your covenant with Your people. Let Your people return with honor to Your promised land.

Father, when I disgrace You; when I fail You, correct me. Show me what I’ve done wrong, and bring me back to serve you better.

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Sunday, December 20, 2009

Advent: 5 Days to Go

In this installment of our Christmas adventure, the time comes for the witness to the “Light”...

1 In those days came John the Baptist, preaching in the wilderness of Judaea,

2 And saying, Repent ye: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.

3 For this is he that was spoken of by the prophet Esaias, saying, The voice of one crying in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make his paths straight.

4 And the same John had his raiment of camel's hair, and a leathern girdle about his loins; and his meat was locusts and wild honey.

5 Then went out to him Jerusalem, and all Judaea, and all the region round about Jordan,

6 And were baptized of him in Jordan, confessing their sins.

7 But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees come to his baptism, he said unto them, O generation of vipers, who hath warned you to flee from the wrath to come?

8 Bring forth therefore fruits meet for repentance:

9 And think not to say within yourselves, We have Abraham to our father: for I say unto you, that God is able of these stones to raise up children unto Abraham.

10 And now also the axe is laid unto the root of the trees: therefore every tree which bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire.

11 I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance. but he that cometh after me is mightier than I, whose shoes I am not worthy to bear: he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost, and with fire:

12 Whose fan is in his hand, and he will throughly purge his floor, and gather his wheat into the garner; but he will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire.
--Matthew 3:1-2 KJV Bible


1 The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God;

2 As it is written in the prophets, Behold, I send my messenger before thy face, which shall prepare thy way before thee.

3 The voice of one crying in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make his paths straight.

4 John did baptize in the wilderness, and preach the baptism of repentance for the remission of sins.

5 And there went out unto him all the land of Judaea, and they of Jerusalem, and were all baptized of him in the river of Jordan, confessing their sins.

6 And John was clothed with camel's hair, and with a girdle of a skin about his loins; and he did eat locusts and wild honey;

7 And preached, saying, There cometh one mightier than I after me, the latchet of whose shoes I am not worthy to stoop down and unloose.

8 I indeed have baptized you with water: but he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost.
--Mark 1:1-8 KJV Bible


1 Now in the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar, Pontius Pilate being governor of Judaea, and Herod being tetrarch of Galilee, and his brother Philip tetrarch of Ituraea and of the region of Trachonitis, and Lysanias the tetrarch of Abilene,

2 Annas and Caiaphas being the high priests, the word of God came unto John the son of Zacharias in the wilderness.

3 And he came into all the country about Jordan, preaching the baptism of repentance for the remission of sins;

4 As it is written in the book of the words of Esaias the prophet, saying, The voice of one crying in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make his paths straight.

5 Every valley shall be filled, and every mountain and hill shall be brought low; and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough ways shall be made smooth;

6 And all flesh shall see the salvation of God.

7 Then said he to the multitude that came forth to be baptized of him, O generation of vipers, who hath warned you to flee from the wrath to come?

8 Bring forth therefore fruits worthy of repentance, and begin not to say within yourselves, We have Abraham to our father: for I say unto you, That God is able of these stones to raise up children unto Abraham.

9 And now also the axe is laid unto the root of the trees: every tree therefore which bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire.

10 And the people asked him, saying, What shall we do then?

11 He answereth and saith unto them, He that hath two coats, let him impart to him that hath none; and he that hath meat, let him do likewise.

12 Then came also publicans to be baptized, and said unto him, Master, what shall we do?

13 And he said unto them, Exact no more than that which is appointed you.

14 And the soldiers likewise demanded of him, saying, And what shall we do? And he said unto them, Do violence to no man, neither accuse any falsely; and be content with your wages.

15 And as the people were in expectation, and all men mused in their hearts of John, whether he were the Christ, or not;

16 John answered, saying unto them all, I indeed baptize you with water; but one mightier than I cometh, the latchet of whose shoes I am not worthy to unloose: he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost and with fire:

17 Whose fan is in his hand, and he will throughly purge his floor, and will gather the wheat into his garner; but the chaff he will burn with fire unquenchable.

18 And many other things in his exhortation preached he unto the people.
--Luke 3:1-18 KJV Bible


19 And this is the record of John, when the Jews sent priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask him, Who art thou?

20 And he confessed, and denied not; but confessed, I am not the Christ.

21 And they asked him, What then? Art thou Elias? And he saith, I am not. Art thou that prophet? And he answered, No

22 Then said they unto him, Who art thou? that we may give an answer to them that sent us. What sayest thou of thyself?

23 He said, I am the voice of one crying in the wilderness, Make straight the way of the Lord, as said the prophet Esaias.

24 And they which were sent were of the Pharisees.

25 And they asked him, and said unto him, Why baptizest thou then, if thou be not that Christ, nor Elias, neither that prophet?

26 John answered them, saying, I baptize with water: but there standeth one among you, whom ye know not;

27 He it is, who coming after me is preferred before me, whose shoe's latchet I am not worthy to unloose.

28 These things were done in Bethabara beyond Jordan, where John was baptizing.
--John 1:19-28 KJV Bible

At the time of John’s ministry the Roman Empire was ruled by Tiberius Caesar, the adopted son of Augustus Caesar. Tiberius ruled from AD 14 to 37. The three sons of Herod the Great ruled portions of the whole previously ruled by their father. And Pontius Pilate was the Roman governor of Judea. Annas was high priest from AD 6 to 15. Caiaphas was the ruling high priest from AD 18 to 36.

John preached his message in the wilderness of Judea was a barren wasteland extending along the western shore of the Dead Sea. John was calling the people to repent. Repentance is a change of mind that bears fruit in a changed life. John preached that the kingdom of heaven was at hand. This is the rule of heaven over the earth. The Jewish people of Christ’s day were looking for the Messiah’s kingdom to be established on the earth, and this is what John proclaimed. The eventual rejection of Christ by the people delayed its establishment until the second coming of Christ.

John also preached that the people should be baptized. The Jews practiced self-immersion as a form of baptism, but John immersed others as a witness to their repentance. This was a form of identification. John’s baptism was a sign of an individual’s acknowledgement of his need of repentance for the remission of his sins.

Members of the Pharisees and the Sadducees came out to where John was preaching. The Pharisees were the most influential of the Jewish sects. Though they held orthodox doctrines, their zeal for the Mosaic law led them to a degenerate, though strict, outward observance of both law and their equally authoritative--in their own eyes--interpretations of it. They knew the Scriptures, tithed, fasted, prayed; but they were also hypocritical, self-righteous, and the foremost persecutors of Jesus. The members of the Sadducees came largely from the priesthood and upper classes. They were the anti-supernaturalists of Christ’s day. They denied the truth of bodily resurrection, of future punishment and reward, and of the existence of angels. Though they upheld the written law of Moses, they were opposed to the oral traditions observed by the Pharisees. They were the party of the high-priestly families of Jerusalem with direct interests in the apparatus of temple worship and generally collaborated with the Roman rulers. They opposed Christ as vigorously as the Pharisees and were condemned by Him as severely, though not as frequently.

John condemned the people for claiming to have Abraham as their father. The common teaching of the day said that the Jews participated in the merits of Abraham, which made their prayers acceptable, helped in war, atoned for sins, appeased the wrath of God, and assured a share in God’s eternal kingdom. Consequently the people were startled when John and Jesus preached the necessity of personal repentance.

John used the image of a winnowing fork God’s judgment of the people. A winnowing fork is a wooden shovel used for tossing grain against the wind after threshing so that the lighter chaff would be blown away, leaving the kernels to settle in a pile. The repentant were kernels that were gathered and the unrepentant were the chaff that was blown away.

Next time, the baptism of Jesus...

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Do Not Envy the Wicked

1 Truly God is good to Israel, even to such as are of a clean heart.

2 But as for me, my feet were almost gone; my steps had well nigh slipped.

3 For I was envious at the foolish, when I saw the prosperity of the wicked.

4 For there are no bands in their death: but their strength is firm.

5 They are not in trouble as other men; neither are they plagued like other men.

6 Therefore pride compasseth them about as a chain; violence covereth them as a garment.

7 Their eyes stand out with fatness: they have more than heart could wish.

8 They are corrupt, and speak wickedly concerning oppression: they speak loftily.

9 They set their mouth against the heavens, and their tongue walketh through the earth.

10 Therefore his people return hither: and waters of a full cup are wrung out to them.

11 And they say, How doth God know? and is there knowledge in the most High?

12 Behold, these are the ungodly, who prosper in the world; they increase in riches.

13 Verily I have cleansed my heart in vain, and washed my hands in innocency.

14 For all the day long have I been plagued, and chastened every morning.

15 If I say, I will speak thus; behold, I should offend against the generation of thy children.

16 When I thought to know this, it was too painful for me;

17 Until I went into the sanctuary of God; then understood I their end.

18 Surely thou didst set them in slippery places: thou castedst them down into destruction.

19 How are they brought into desolation, as in a moment! they are utterly consumed with terrors.

20 As a dream when one awaketh; so, O Lord, when thou awakest, thou shalt despise their image.

21 Thus my heart was grieved, and I was pricked in my reins.

22 So foolish was I, and ignorant: I was as a beast before thee.

23 Nevertheless I am continually with thee: thou hast holden me by my right hand.

24 Thou shalt guide me with thy counsel, and afterward receive me to glory.

25 Whom have I in heaven but thee? and there is none upon earth that I desire beside thee.

26 My flesh and my heart faileth: but God is the strength of my heart, and my portion for ever.

27 For, lo, they that are far from thee shall perish: thou hast destroyed all them that go a whoring from thee.

28 But it is good for me to draw near to God: I have put my trust in the Lord GOD, that I may declare all thy works.
--Psalm 73 KJV Bible

This psalm begins Book III of the Psalms. This book includes Psalm 73 through Psalm 89.

The psalm description says it is a song of Asaph. Asaph was an outstanding musician who lived in the time of King David (Nehemiah 12:46). Asaph's father was Berechiah (1 Chronicles 6:39). David had appointed Asaph as a minister of music for the tabernacle (1 Chronicles 15:16-19) and Asaph's descendants were also official temple musicians (Ezra 2:41). Asaph was sometimes described as a "seer," or a prophet (2 Chronicles 29:30). Psalms 50 and 73 through 83 are attributed to Asaph, or perhaps written for Asaph to perform. The beautiful psalms of Asaph describe the world round us in a clear way, remind us that God cares for us, cause us to learn from events, and remind us of the greatness of God.

In this song, Asaph finds the answer to why the wicked prosper and contrasts the destiny of the wicked with that of the righteous.

In verses 1 through 14, Asaph understands why the wicked prosper.
In verse 1, Asaph praises God for the answer. He then recounts his problem, stating that he nearly stumbled in his faith when seeing the material success and wealth of the wicked. They demonstrate all of the characteristics that God hates, even mocking God, yet they thrive. Because of their example, the righteous were tempted to follow them in corruption.

In verses 15 through 28, Asaph then compares the destinies of the wicked and the righteous. Upon communing with God, Asaph realized that the wicked are suddenly destroyed in the end. In contrast, the righteous have constant fellowship with God all of their lives. And after death, the righteous are with God in glory.

Father, I, too, find myself at times envious of the the godless who succeed and prosper. Please forgive me. Fellowship with You is far better. And even that is nothing when compared to eternity with You in glory.

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Saturday, December 19, 2009

Advent: 6 Days to Go

In this installment of our Christmas adventure, Joseph, Mary and Jesus again visit the temple...

41 Now his parents went to Jerusalem every year at the feast of the passover.

42 And when he was twelve years old, they went up to Jerusalem after the custom of the feast.

43 And when they had fulfilled the days, as they returned, the child Jesus tarried behind in Jerusalem; and Joseph and his mother knew not of it.

44 But they, supposing him to have been in the company, went a day's journey; and they sought him among their kinsfolk and acquaintance.

45 And when they found him not, they turned back again to Jerusalem, seeking him.

46 And it came to pass, that after three days they found him in the temple, sitting in the midst of the doctors, both hearing them, and asking them questions.

47 And all that heard him were astonished at his understanding and answers.

48 And when they saw him, they were amazed: and his mother said unto him, Son, why hast thou thus dealt with us? behold, thy father and I have sought thee sorrowing.

49 And he said unto them, How is it that ye sought me? wist ye not that I must be about my Father's business?

50 And they understood not the saying which he spake unto them.

51 And he went down with them, and came to Nazareth, and was subject unto them: but his mother kept all these sayings in her heart.

52 And Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favour with God and man.
--Luke 2:41-52 KJV Bible

According to Deuteronomy 16:16, all Jewish men were required to attend the temple at Jerusalem at Passover, Penetecost, and the Feast of Tabernacles. From what we can tell, Joseph was diligent to fulfill his duties, and apparently Mary attended the observances with Joseph on at least some of these occasions, even though the women were not required to do so. Jesus’ trip to the temple at age 12 may, or may not, have been His first. Either way, this trip was a special event. When a Jewish boy reached the age of 13, he was initiated fully into religious life, becoming a “Bar Mitzvah”--Hebrew, meaning a “son of the commandment.” Usually a boy attended the festivals in Jerusalem one year before this point in order to gain greater understanding of his new responsibilities. Based upon Luke 2:40, we know that Jesus had been growing and learning the privileges and responsibilities that went along with Jewish manhood. At this point in Jesus’ life we do not know the full extent of Jesus’ growing awareness of His special place in God’s plan. But over the next few days Jesus must have experienced some special revelations about God and Jesus’ relationship to Him.

Jewish custom dictated that teachers sat in the temple courts during Passover and entered into discussions with the people. Jesus joined the people and followed in this practice of hearing teachers and asking questions. This process was the usual educational method of that period. But Luke 2:47 tells us that the teachers were amazed by Jesus’ understanding. And Jesus must have been very engrossed in the process, because it seems that once He arrived, He did not leave when His family left.

Over the years, Jesus must have become a very obedient son, and Mary and Joseph must have become very trusting in Jesus’ obedience. When the time came for the family to begin the journey back to Nazareth, Mary and Joseph expected that Jesus departed on time with the large caravan and that, though they did not see Jesus, He must have been somewhere with extended family or friends. It took them a full day of traveling to realize that Jesus was not with them, and another full day to travel back to Jerusalem to search for Him. Imagine the anxiety of Mary and Joseph as they searched for God’s Messiah, who had been placed in their care while he grew.

When Mary and Joseph finally found Jesus in the temple, they expressed their exasperation at His apparent laps in obedience. Jesus seemed puzzled by this, explaining that He would have be about His Father’s business and wondering why they did not understand this. It seems that while Jesus understood all too well the significance of becoming a “son of the commandment,” Mary and Joseph did not--at least, not consciously. In obedience to their wishes, Jesus returned with them to Nazareth and continued to grow in wisdom and stature and in favor with God and man. That is, until His time finally came.

Next, the time comes for the witness to the “Light”…

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The Reign of the King

1 Give the king thy judgments, O God, and thy righteousness unto the king's son.

2 He shall judge thy people with righteousness, and thy poor with judgment.

3 The mountains shall bring peace to the people, and the little hills, by righteousness.

4 He shall judge the poor of the people, he shall save the children of the needy, and shall break in pieces the oppressor.

5 They shall fear thee as long as the sun and moon endure, throughout all generations.

6 He shall come down like rain upon the mown grass: as showers that water the earth.

7 In his days shall the righteous flourish; and abundance of peace so long as the moon endureth.

8 He shall have dominion also from sea to sea, and from the river unto the ends of the earth.

9 They that dwell in the wilderness shall bow before him; and his enemies shall lick the dust.

10 The kings of Tarshish and of the isles shall bring presents: the kings of Sheba and Seba shall offer gifts.

11 Yea, all kings shall fall down before him: all nations shall serve him.

12 For he shall deliver the needy when he crieth; the poor also, and him that hath no helper.

13 He shall spare the poor and needy, and shall save the souls of the needy.

14 He shall redeem their soul from deceit and violence: and precious shall their blood be in his sight.

15 And he shall live, and to him shall be given of the gold of Sheba: prayer also shall be made for him continually; and daily shall he be praised.

16 There shall be an handful of corn in the earth upon the top of the mountains; the fruit thereof shall shake like Lebanon: and they of the city shall flourish like grass of the earth.

17 His name shall endure for ever: his name shall be continued as long as the sun: and men shall be blessed in him: all nations shall call him blessed.

18 Blessed be the LORD God, the God of Israel, who only doeth wondrous things.

19 And blessed be his glorious name for ever: and let the whole earth be filled with his glory; Amen, and Amen.

20 The prayers of David the son of Jesse are ended.
--Psalm 72 KJV Bible

The psalm description says it is a psalm of Solomon, son of David and king of Israel following David's death. Though the description implies that Solomon wrote the psalm, some suggest that David wrote the psalm for Solomon. Psalm 127 is the only other psalm attributed to Solomon.

This royal psalm historically references the reign of Solomon, but it is also considered a Messianic psalm--prophetically referencing the ideal King, God's Messiah, Jesus. In this psalm, the king prays that his reign will be characterized by righteousness, peace, power, compassion, and prosperity.

In verses 1 through 4, the king prays that his reign will be characterized by righteousness. It will abound so greatly that even the desolate regions will bring forth blessings. The young, the afflicted and the needy will be defended from oppressors.

In verses 5 through 7, the king prays that his reign will be characterized by peace. The king will live and reign forever. His reign will be a blessing that renews the land like showers that water the earth. Righteousness will flourish and there will be eternal peace.

In verses 8 through 11, the king prays that his reign will be characterized by power. The king will rule the entire earth. Even those that live in nomadic regions will acknowledge his rule. In verse 9, the king prays that his enemies will "lick the dust"--a symbol of utter defeat. For the competitor, a contemporary version of this phrase might be to "eat my dust." All of the nations will bring tribute to the king. All of the nations’ leaders will bow down and serve the king.

In verses 12 through 15, the king prays that his reign will be characterized by compassion. The king will defend those that have no defender. He will help those who have no helper. He will have compassion on the poor and needy and he will save their souls. The oppressed are precious to the king--he will rescue them from violence and evil. The king will live forever, receive gifts, and be prayed for and blessed all the day long.

In verses 16 through 17, the king prays that his reign will be characterized by prosperity. Fruit and Grain will be so abundant that they will even grow on the mountain tops. The king’s name will endure and grow forever, all will bless themselves in his name, and all nations will call him blessed.

Verses 18 through 20 are concluding notes of praise to God. They close Book II of the Psalms, which began with Psalm 42. Verse 20 notes the end of the psalms ("prayers") of David. David was the chief author of Book II, though not the only one. Another benediction for David may be found in 2 Samuel 23:1-4.

Father, I look forward to the coming reign of Your Son. May He will reign in righteousness, in peace, in power, with compassion, and in prosperity. I thank You and I praise You.

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Friday, December 18, 2009

Advent: 7 Days to Go

In this installment of our Christmas adventure, Mary and Joseph return to Judea and Nazareth...

19 But when Herod was dead, behold, an angel of the Lord appeareth in a dream to Joseph in Egypt,

20 Saying, Arise, and take the young child and his mother, and go into the land of Israel: for they are dead which sought the young child's life.

21 And he arose, and took the young child and his mother, and came into the land of Israel.

22 But when he heard that Archelaus did reign in Judaea in the room of his father Herod, he was afraid to go thither: notwithstanding, being warned of God in a dream, he turned aside into the parts of Galilee:

23 And he came and dwelt in a city called Nazareth: that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophets, He shall be called a Nazarene.
--Matthew 2:19-23 KJV Bible


39 And when they had performed all things according to the law of the Lord, they returned into Galilee, to their own city Nazareth.

40 And the child grew, and waxed strong in spirit, filled with wisdom: and the grace of God was upon him.
--Luke 2:39-40 KJV Bible

In his gospel, Luke omits the stirring events that took place between the visit of the shepherds and the family’s return to Nazareth. He may have done this because Matthew gave such a full account.

On the death of Herod the Great, the Romans divided his kingdom among his three sons. Archelaus was given Judah and Samaria, Antipas was given Galilee and Perea, and Philip was giving Northeast Palestine. Archelaus was a bloody king and ineffective in the eyes of Rome. Caesar Augustus removed and banished Archelaus to Gaul in AD 6, and Judea was brought under direct Roman rule.

Jesus' parables and preaching often made use of events that were familiar to the people in order to bring His lessons to life. For this reason, some suggest that the brutal Archelaus was thinly disguised as the nobleman in Jesus' parable of the ten minas (Luke 19:11-26).

Being called a “Nazaren” was probably a synonym for “contemptible” or “despised” since Nazareth was a most unlikely place for the residence of the Messiah. This attitude can be seen in Isaiah 53:3 and Psalm 22:6.

Next time, Joseph, Mary and Jesus again visit the temple...

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The Old Preaching to the Young

1 In thee, O LORD, do I put my trust: let me never be put to confusion.

2 Deliver me in thy righteousness, and cause me to escape: incline thine ear unto me, and save me.

3 Be thou my strong habitation, whereunto I may continually resort: thou hast given commandment to save me; for thou art my rock and my fortress.

4 Deliver me, O my God, out of the hand of the wicked, out of the hand of the unrighteous and cruel man.

5 For thou art my hope, O Lord GOD: thou art my trust from my youth.

6 By thee have I been holden up from the womb: thou art he that took me out of my mother's bowels: my praise shall be continually of thee.

7 I am as a wonder unto many; but thou art my strong refuge.

8 Let my mouth be filled with thy praise and with thy honour all the day.

9 Cast me not off in the time of old age; forsake me not when my strength faileth.

10 For mine enemies speak against me; and they that lay wait for my soul take counsel together,

11 Saying, God hath forsaken him: persecute and take him; for there is none to deliver him.

12 O God, be not far from me: O my God, make haste for my help.

13 Let them be confounded and consumed that are adversaries to my soul; let them be covered with reproach and dishonour that seek my hurt.

14 But I will hope continually, and will yet praise thee more and more.

15 My mouth shall shew forth thy righteousness and thy salvation all the day; for I know not the numbers thereof.

16 I will go in the strength of the Lord GOD: I will make mention of thy righteousness, even of thine only.

17 O God, thou hast taught me from my youth: and hitherto have I declared thy wondrous works.

18 Now also when I am old and greyheaded, O God, forsake me not; until I have shewed thy strength unto this generation, and thy power to every one that is to come.

19 Thy righteousness also, O God, is very high, who hast done great things: O God, who is like unto thee!

20 Thou, which hast shewed me great and sore troubles, shalt quicken me again, and shalt bring me up again from the depths of the earth.

21 Thou shalt increase my greatness, and comfort me on every side.

22 I will also praise thee with the psaltery, even thy truth, O my God: unto thee will I sing with the harp, O thou Holy One of Israel.

23 My lips shall greatly rejoice when I sing unto thee; and my soul, which thou hast redeemed.

24 My tongue also shall talk of thy righteousness all the day long: for they are confounded, for they are brought unto shame, that seek my hurt.
--Psalm 71 KJV Bible

It is not certain who wrote this psalm. Whoever it was, they seem to have been very familiar with the psalms of David, because several portions of this psalm are reflected in those of David, compare Psalm 31:1-3 (Psalm 71:1-3); Psalm 22:9-10,11 (Psalm 71:5-6,12); Psalm 35:4,26 (Psalm 71:13); Psalm 36:6 (Psalm 71:19); Psalm 38:12,21-22 (Psalm 71:10-11,12); Psalm 40:5,13-14 (Psalm 71:17,12-13) and Psalm 70:1,5 (Psalm 71:12). Some suggest that the psalmist was the prophet Jeremiah, who lived about 400 years after David. In this song, the psalmist cries for help, prays for deliverance because of a confidence based on God’s lifelong care for him, and resolves to continue praising God.

In verses 1 through 3, the psalmist cries to God for help. He asks that God acknowledge the faithfulness of the psalmist continue to protect him.

In verses 4 through 13, the psalmist prays for deliverance because of a confidence based on God’s lifelong care for him. In verse 7, the psalmist states that he has become a mockery of many, a term sometimes described as “a wonder” or “a marvel.” The psalmist states that he has strongly and joyfully relied on God since he was young. Now that enemies are again plotting against the psalmist, he asks God to not desert him in his old age.

In verses 14 through 24, the psalmist resolves to continue praising God. He will praise God and preach of the uncountable mercies of God to the younger generations for the rest of his life.

Father, You are great and mighty. Even when I am persecuted, encourage me to preach of You to the younger generations to the end of my days.

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Thursday, December 17, 2009

Advent: 8 Days to Go

In this installment of our Christmas adventure, Herod’s wrath is unleashed...

16 Then Herod, when he saw that he was mocked of the wise men, was exceeding wroth, and sent forth, and slew all the children that were in Bethlehem, and in all the coasts thereof, from two years old and under, according to the time which he had diligently inquired of the wise men. Then was fulfilled that which was spoken by Jeremiah the prophet, saying,

18 In Rama was there a voice heard, lamentation, and weeping, and great mourning, Rachel weeping for her children, and would not be comforted, because they are not.
--Matthew 2:16-18 KJV Bible

Herod the Great was guilty of many brutal acts during his reign as king of Judea. He solved many of his problems by executions and assassinations. In his family alone, Herod killed his brother-in-law, his wife and two of his sons. From the time that Herod heard from the magi of the coming of a “new king,” Herod probably considered this problem no different than any other problem he had gruesomely resolved.

When Herod realized that the magi had left the country without returning to tell him what he wanted to know, his brutality may have received some encouragement. Herod kept to his original plan, but expanded it a bit. Instead of one child, Herod ordered the execution of all the boy babies in the region of Bethlehem that were age 2 years and younger. Matthew tells us that this was based on the time that the magi first saw the “star.” This may not mean that the magi first saw the “star” 2 years earlier. Herod, in his effort to be thorough, may have increased the magi’s number just to be safe.

It has been suggested that since Bethlehem was a small village, the number of male children under the age of 2 years, would probably not have exceeded twenty. This number would not have included the few babies in the surrounding region that were also executed.

Mathew quotes the words of Jeremiah (Jeremiah 31:15), which depicted the wailing at the time of Israel’s exile. Matthew viewed that calamity and Herod’s new atrocity as part of the same broad picture.

Next time, Mary and Joseph return to Judea and Nazareth...

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A Cry for Help

1 MAKE HASTE, O GOD, TO DELIVER ME; MAKE HASTE TO HELP ME, O LORD.

2 Let them be ashamed and confounded that seek after my soul: let them be turned backward, and put to confusion, that desire my hurt.

3 Let them be turned back for a reward of their shame that say, Aha, aha.

4 Let all those that seek thee rejoice and be glad in thee: and let such as love thy salvation say continually, Let God be magnified.

5 But I am poor and needy: make haste unto me, O God: thou art my help and my deliverer; O LORD, make no tarrying.
--Psalm 70 KJV Bible

This psalm of David is an urgent prayer for help. This psalm is very similar to Psalm 40:13-17. And most of the psalm can also be seen in Psalm 35:4, 21, 26 and 27. Because David was in danger many times in his life, it seems that David considered these words important enough to repeat. Two other examples of psalms being repeated are Psalms 14 and 53 and Psalms 57, 60 and 108.

Like Psalm 38, this is described as a psalm to bring to remembrance. One possible meaning is that the term was a reference to the act of laying a request before God so that He is continually reminded of it.

In verses 1 through 5, David urgently asks for God's help. David wonders why God seems to be delaying, from David's perspective. He asks God to hurry. David asks that God make ashamed and confused those that are after David and that mock him. Though troubled, David rejoices in God and encourages all the righteous to do the same. David humbly confesses his weakness and asks that God strengthen him and save him quickly.

Father, when I am in desperate need of Your help, remind me that You are always with me and You know what I am going through. I only need to turn to You. I thank You and I praise You.

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Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Advent: 9 Days to Go

In this installment of our Christmas adventure, Joseph, Mary and Jesus flee from Bethlehem to Egypt...

13 And when they were departed, behold, the angel of the Lord appeareth to Joseph in a dream, saying, Arise, and take the young child and his mother, and flee into Egypt, and be thou there until I bring thee word: for Herod will seek the young child to destroy him.

14 When he arose, he took the young child and his mother by night, and departed into Egypt:

15 And was there until the death of Herod: that it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord by the prophet, saying, Out of Egypt have I called my son.
--Matthew 2:13-15 KJV Bible

After the magi had gone, Joseph received a warning from God in a dream: King Herod wanted to find and kill the child. According to God’s instructions Joseph immediately gathered is family and began the roughly 50-mile journey to Egypt. There the family would wait until God told Joseph that it was safe to return.

Egypt was the nearest of the Roman provinces that was independent of Herod’s influence. Thousands of Jews were living there at the time. It is both ironic and poetic that while Egypt had been a place of bondage for the children of Israel, it was a place of refuge for the Christ Child. Matthew makes reference to the words of the prophet Hosea, who foretold in one statement that while God had called his spiritual children out of Egypt, God would also call His own Son out of Egypt (Hosea 11:1).

Next time, Herod’s wrath is unleashed...

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The Suffering of the Servant

1 Save me, O God; for the waters are come in unto my soul.

2 I sink in deep mire, where there is no standing: I am come into deep waters, where the floods overflow me.

3 I am weary of my crying: my throat is dried: mine eyes fail while I wait for my God.

4 They that hate me without a cause are more than the hairs of mine head: they that would destroy me, being mine enemies wrongfully, are mighty: then I restored that which I took not away.

5 O God, thou knowest my foolishness; and my sins are not hid from thee.

6 Let not them that wait on thee, O Lord GOD of hosts, be ashamed for my sake: let not those that seek thee be confounded for my sake, O God of Israel.

7 Because for thy sake I have borne reproach; shame hath covered my face.

8 I am become a stranger unto my brethren, and an alien unto my mother's children.

9 For the zeal of thine house hath eaten me up; and the reproaches of them that reproached thee are fallen upon me.

10 When I wept, and chastened my soul with fasting, that was to my reproach.

11 I made sackcloth also my garment; and I became a proverb to them.

12 They that sit in the gate speak against me; and I was the song of the drunkards.

13 But as for me, my prayer is unto thee, O LORD, in an acceptable time: O God, in the multitude of thy mercy hear me, in the truth of thy salvation.

14 Deliver me out of the mire, and let me not sink: let me be delivered from them that hate me, and out of the deep waters.

15 Let not the waterflood overflow me, neither let the deep swallow me up, and let not the pit shut her mouth upon me.

16 Hear me, O LORD; for thy lovingkindness is good: turn unto me according to the multitude of thy tender mercies.

17 And hide not thy face from thy servant; for I am in trouble: hear me speedily.

18 Draw nigh unto my soul, and redeem it: deliver me because of mine enemies.

19 Thou hast known my reproach, and my shame, and my dishonour: mine adversaries are all before thee.

20 Reproach hath broken my heart; and I am full of heaviness: and I looked for some to take pity, but there was none; and for comforters, but I found none.

21 They gave me also gall for my meat; and in my thirst they gave me vinegar to drink.

22 Let their table become a snare before them: and that which should have been for their welfare, let it become a trap.

23 Let their eyes be darkened, that they see not; and make their loins continually to shake.

24 Pour out thine indignation upon them, and let thy wrathful anger take hold of them.

25 Let their habitation be desolate; and let none dwell in their tents.

26 For they persecute him whom thou hast smitten; and they talk to the grief of those whom thou hast wounded.

27 Add iniquity unto their iniquity: and let them not come into thy righteousness.

28 Let them be blotted out of the book of the living, and not be written with the righteous.

29 But I am poor and sorrowful: let thy salvation, O God, set me up on high.

30 I will praise the name of God with a song, and will magnify him with thanksgiving.

31 This also shall please the LORD better than an ox or bullock that hath horns and hoofs.

32 The humble shall see this, and be glad: and your heart shall live that seek God.

33 For the LORD heareth the poor, and despiseth not his prisoners.

34 Let the heaven and earth praise him, the seas, and every thing that moveth therein.

35 For God will save Zion, and will build the cities of Judah: that they may dwell there, and have it in possession.

36 The seed also of his servants shall inherit it: and they that love his name shall dwell therein.
--Psalm 69 KJV Bible

The psalm description suggests that this is a psalm of David, but this is not certain. Some think the song was written by the prophet Jeremiah about 400 years after David, and that the psalm description indicates that the song is to be included in the collection that David began. Others suggest that perhaps David wrote the original psalm and Jeremiah added to it. Whatever the case, it seems that the psalmist told the people what God wanted them to hear, the people did not like it, and the people took out their rebellious anger on the psalmist as a substitute for God. This is a lament psalm, the psalmist outlines his despair because of persecution, his desire for the punishment of his enemies, and his declaration of praise to God.

Some have described the psalmist as a "whipping boy"--an innocent servant of royalty who is designated to be beaten when a royal personage does something the people did not like. The people could not touch the royal, so they would strike the whipping boy as a substitute. In this respect, the greatest whipping boy in the Scriptures is Jesus Christ. This is considered a Messianic psalm in that it has many prophecies about God’s Messiah that were fulfilled in the earthly life of Jesus. Many Christians annually recite this psalm as part of their observance of Good Friday.

Psalm 69 is one of the most quoted psalms in the New Testament. The quotes may not always match exactly because the writers referenced the Greek Old Testament rather than the Hebrew Old Testament. References include verse 4 (John 15:25), verse 8 (John 1:11), verse 9 (John 2:17; Romans 15:3), verses 12 and 20 (Matthew 27:29), verse 21 (Matthew 27:34; Mark 15:23), verses 22 and 23 (Romans 11:9), and verse 25 (Acts 1:20).

This is one of the imprecatory psalms. An imprecation is the act of calling down a curse that invokes evil. The imprecatory psalms contain an invocation of judgment, calamity, or curse against one's enemies who are viewed as enemies of God. The Major Imprecatory Psalms include psalms 69 and 109. Others are psalms 7, 35, 55, 58, 59, 69, 79, 109, 137, and 139 (some include in this list psalms 5, 6, 11, 12, 35, 37, 40, 52, 54, 56, 83, and 143). It is thought that the purposes of these imprecations are, depending on the psalm, to do one or more of the following: (1) to demonstrate God's just and righteous judgment toward the wicked, (2) to show the authority of God over the wicked, (3) to lead the wicked to seek the Lord, or (4) to cause the righteous to praise God. In the New Testament, Jesus quoted from them in John 15:25 (Psalms 35 and 69), the Apostle John references Psalm 69 in John 2:17, and the Apostle Paul quoted from Psalm 69 in his Letter to the Romans (Romans 11:9-10; Romans 15:3).

The psalm description says to present the psalm on the "Shoshannim"--Hebrew, meaning lilies. While it is not certain, this is possibly the name of a musical instrument or the name of a wedding tune to be used with the text.

In verses 1 through 4, the psalmist paints the picture of a drowning man who cries to God to be saved. The "water" is actually the many enemies of the psalmist that hate him for no reason and that demand he return to them what he did not take.

In verses 5 through 12, the psalmist confesses that he has sinned and asks that God not punish the people for his wrongdoing. The enemies of God cannot touch God, so they instead hurt God's servant, the psalmist. The psalmist wept, fasted, prayed, and wore sackcloth as a symbol of his repentance, but his actions were ridiculed in public by his family, his friends and his enemies.

In verses 13 through 19, the psalmist repeats some of his pleas to God from verses 1 through 4. In verse 15 and 18, the psalmist asks God to keep his soul from falling into Sheol, the place that all souls went after death—the psalmist does not want to die. In verse 19, the psalmist acknowledges that God is aware of all that the psalmist is going through.

In verses 20 and 21, the psalmist states that he is sick, heartbroken and no one will comfort him. Instead, his enemies give him poison (gall and vinegar) for food and drink. Matthew says that at the crucifixion of Jesus the people tried to give Jesus vinegar and gall to drink, but He did not drink it (Matthew 27:34). Mark says that it was myrrh mix with vinegar, offered to dulled Jesus’ pain, but he did not drink it (Mark 15:23).

In verses 22 through 28, the psalmist asks God punish his enemies for what they have done to him. The psalmist asks that the food and drink of his enemies becomes a trap for them, as they intended for him. The psalmist asks that their eyesight dim, that they develop palsy, that God’s anger burn against them and leave them homeless, and that God not include them with the righteous, who are blessed by God.

In verses 29 through 33, the psalmist asks God to save the psalmist from his afflictions. The psalmist will then sing praises to God which will be more pleasing than sacrifices. The psalmist is confident that God hears the poor and those in prison.

In verses 34 through 36, the psalmist encourages all creation to praise God. The psalmist describes how God will rebuild the nation. This portion is thought to be prophetic of the works of God’s Messiah during His millennial reign.

Father, when I must correct a fellow believer, help me to do so in love and for Your sake, not mine. And when I am corrected, help me to receive the correction in love and humility, knowing that it comes from You.

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