Julian Freeman

Freed to live through the death of another.

Tag: David (page 1 of 2)

The Tenses of Faith

The Tenses of Psalm 63

Present Tense

O God, you are my God; earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you; my flesh faints for you as in a dry and weary land where there is no water.

Past Tense

So I have looked upon you in the sanctuary, beholding your power and your glory.

Present Tense

Because your steadfast love is better than life…

Future Tense

… my lips will praise you.

So I will bless you as long as I live; in your name I will lift up my hands.

My soul will be satisfied as with fat and rich food, and my mouth will praise you with joyful lips, when I remember you (when I remember you in the future!) upon my bed, and meditate on you in the watches of the night;
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There’s No Saviour Here

Preaching through Genesis has had me spending more time thinking about the narrative structure of the Old Testament lately. Last week as I was studying to preach Genesis 20-21 it struck me again that one of the main points of the whole Old Testament is also one of the simplest:

There is no human saviour, only humans who need one.

One of the very first things God does when humans sin is announce that he has a plan to bring  a saviour, who will be born of a woman, so that right from the beginning our hopes are raised. With each new covenant and each new child miraculously born in the line of promise we’re to ask in anticipation: Is this the saviour?

But the narrative structure of the Old Testament makes it clear again and again that no human can be a sufficient saviour. Every spiritual climax soon descends into disaster and the heroics of faithful men are quickly followed by failure.

Think about the pattern:
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Joy Invites Others In

Chasing Fish

Maybe it’s just because I’m a very simple man, but I find it astounding how much there is to be learned just from watching children. Just today I overheard my four year old rejoicing with her mother that she had completed her writing assignment for her ‘reading lesson.’ Stacey was excited with her, but that wasn’t enough. I heard the overjoyed little voice: ‘Can I go show Daddy?’ She received approval from her mother and came bounding up the stairs to my office.

That made me think. Why did she want to come show me? What did she stand to gain by showing me her lines of k’s, f’s, h’s, and m’s repeated over and over? She came to me because she was full of joy and wanted me share in it and to rejoice with her. There is something intuitive about joy that even a four year old understands: joy is never more wonderful than when shared. There’s something overflowing about true joy that compels us to invite others to join with us in our joy.

Which again made me think. Why am I so slow to evangelize? Why does it seem so forced? Why does corporate worship sometimes seem like a chore? Biblically speaking, I think it’s because I am not consistently finding my fullest joy in my God. If I was, my natural impulse would be to speak of it and to invite others to join in my joy.

Isn’t this what we see in Psalm 34?

I will bless the Lord at all times; his praise shall continually be in my mouth.
My soul makes its boast in the Lord; let the humble hear and be glad.
Oh magnify the Lord with me, and let us exalt his name together!

Do you see it? He calls on others to join in his joy! Then he testifies to how he found his joy:

I sought the Lord, and he answered me and delivered me from all my fears.
Those who look to him are radiant, and their faces shall never be ashamed.
This poor man cried, and the Lord heard him and saved him out of all his troubles.
The angel of the Lord encamps around those who fear him, and delivers them.

There it is! I sought the Lord, I cried to him, and he has heard me, answered me, protected me, kept me! He is good! And then again is a call to participate:

Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good! Blessed is the man who takes refuge in him!
Oh, fear the Lord, you his saints, for those who fear him have no lack!

And then the pattern repeats through the Psalm. What David is getting at there is the principle my four year old daughter showed me this morning. When we find true delight for our souls in something, we impulsively call on others to join in our joy.

So if I’m finding that evangelism seems a burden and worship seems a chore, perhaps I don’t need to think first about technique. Perhaps my first question should be, ‘Am I delighting in God? Is my joy really in him?’ Then I need to read the word, preach the gospel to my own heart, remind myself of how he has heard this poor man when I have cried to him.

If I am faithful to find my joy in him, I will speak to others, because joy invites others in. And do you know what? That kind of authentic overflow might just be the most effective technique out there for stirring the hearts of others.

A Cottage Meditation on Psalm 19

The heavens declare the glory of God

Being at the cottage is good for me. I have found that usually I’m able to meet with God pretty quickly when I feel close to his creation.

This week has been special for me. It is the first time that I’ve been at the cottage and studying for a sermon at the same time. I’ve been able to enjoy God in creation and delight in him in his word. The comparison is worth thinking about.

I think sometimes we treat nature like the place we need to go to be near God. For example, when was the last time you saw a Christian retreat centre in an urban setting? And it’s not hard to see why. God is very present in the beauty and serenity of the water, the clouds, the open skies, the sunsets, the hills, and the beautiful vegetation. God is here.

Psalm 19 reminds us that ‘the heavens declare the glory of God and the skies above proclaim his handiwork.’ That’s true. In nature we see God. But we often stop reading (or at least remembering) the psalm there, even though it definitely doesn’t end there.

The second half of Psalm 19 goes on to recount just how amazing the revelation of God is in his Bible, over and above the revelation of God in creation. And David, who knew what it was to be ‘out in nature’, was writing that before most of your Bible was written.

From verses 7-11 the specific wonders of the Bible are made known:

  • It revives the soul
  • It makes wise the simple
  • It rejoices the heart
  • It enlightens the eyes
  • It endures forever
  • It is righteous altogether
  • It is more to be desired than sweet things or expensive things
  • It warns
  • It rewards

No glimpse of nature can cause me to discern my errors. No beautiful sunset can declare me innocent or keep me back from sin. No mountaintop experience could ever make my words and thoughts acceptable in the sight of God. Only God will do those things, as I meet with him in the Bible.

I’ve experienced that this week. God is good. I’ve met with him and enjoyed him in creation, but his word is better. It alone gives the pure joy of the knowledge of God. The place I need to go to meet with him is not some remote vacation spot, it is the book he has given me.

Am I thankful for sunsets? You bet! Am I more thankful for the word than ever before? Absolutely.

Powlison’s Antipsalm 23

David Powlison writes an Antipsalm 23. He explains, ‘The antipsalm tells what life feels like and looks like whenever God vanishes from sight.’

I’m on my own.
No one looks out for me or protects me.
I experience a continual sense of need. Nothing’s quite right.
I’m always restless. I’m easily frustrated and often disappointed.
It’s a jungle — I feel overwhelmed. It’s a desert — I’m thirsty.
My soul feels broken, twisted, and stuck. I can’t fix myself.
I stumble down some dark paths.
Still, I insist: I want to do what I want, when I want, how I want.
But life’s confusing. Why don’t things ever really work out?
I’m haunted by emptiness and futility — shadows of death.
I fear the big hurt and final loss.
Death is waiting for me at the end of every road,
but I’d rather not think about that.
I spend my life protecting myself. Bad things can happen.
I find no lasting comfort.
I’m alone … facing everything that could hurt me.
Are my friends really friends?
Other people use me for their own ends.
I can’t really trust anyone. No one has my back.
No one is really for me — except me.
And I’m so much all about ME, sometimes it’s sickening.
I belong to no one except myself.
My cup is never quite full enough. I’m left empty.
Disappointment follows me all the days of my life.
Will I just be obliterated into nothingness?
Will I be alone forever, homeless, free-falling into void?
Sartre said, “Hell is other people.”
I have to add, “Hell is also myself.”
It’s a living death,
and then I die.

Sound too much like your life? Read Powlison’s whole article here.

HT: Between Two Worlds

A Few Thoughts on Friendship

Isn’t it funny how things just seem to come together in your life at different points in time to reinforce certain lessons in your mind? In my recent readings through 1 Samuel, I’ve been encouraged to think about friendship again.

David and Jonathan were friends. Fiercely loyal, loving, and dedicated to the good of the other, despite dire circumstances. They were immediately drawn to each other as men of kindred spirits, once Jonathan saw David slay Goliath. Both of them were men of valour and courage, whose love for each other remained loyal, even when it would have been easy to give up.

David reflected on the importance of friendship in Psalm 1:

Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers.

David says, the one who is approved by God is the one who does not surround himself with bad influences. In other words, his friends are full of wise counsel and godliness, quick to speak the word of the Lord.

Last night at prayer meeting, we read Proverbs 1. There David’s son Solomon also reflects the importance of one’s friends in a similar way:

My son, if sinners entice you, do not consent. If they say, ‘Come with us, let us lie in wait for blood; let us ambush the innocent without reason; … we shall find all precious goods, we shall fill our houses with plunder; throw in your lot among us; we will all have one purse’–my son, do not walk in the way with them; hold back your foot from their paths, for their feet run to evil, and they make haste to shed blood.

Again, this powerful truth is illustrated. The people you surround yourself with will influence you. Only the proud person thinks ‘I can hang out with whoever I want and I won’t be changed by them.’ That’s an unbiblical thought.

I was saddened a little while ago when I got to meet some friends of a friend of mine. His friends were spiritually (and otherwise) immature. Their conversation was godless and irreverent. I was saddened, because I was made to wonder what that said about my friend. Friendships and allegiances speak something about you, and they will inevitably influence you.

Friendships are important to God. In the New Testament James says that ‘friendship with the world is enmity with God.’

All that to say this: Are you intentional about your friendships? What types of people do you surround yourself with? Are you careful to seek out friends who will be an influence for good in your life rather than bad?

Are you deliberate in trying to be a good friend to those you are already friends with? Do you redeem conversations and turn them godward? 

A good friend is a good influence. Are you a good friend? Are you seeking them?

Psalm 16

In a previous post I suggested a four-level approach to interpreting some of the Psalms along the lines of redemptive-history. Here I hope to model that in an abbreviated form, using Psalm 16.

1. Read the Psalm as David sings.
David cries to God as king of God’s people, in dependence on him alone. As leader of the people his delight is in the saints (the holy ones). As their leader he won’t participate in the worship of idols which leads only to destruction. Rather, he will worship and follow the Lord, because in him he has beautiful inheritance (the promise of a son to sit on his throne). As a man after God’s own heart, David could indeed rejoice in the counsel and leading of the Lord. He knew that as a follow of Yahweh, he would not be abandoned to utter destruction, but that the Lord would finally redeem him. He looked forward to the ‘pleasures forevermore’ in the presence of God.

2. Read the Psalm as Israel sings.
The righteous of the people of Israel would rejoice that their king called on the Lord for help, and they would follow his example. The warnings of verse four (sorrows for following another God) contrasted with the promises of verses five and six (joy in God) served as general admonitions to each other to follow hard after their God, since there was no joy to be found elsewhere. As a people they could rejoice in the inheritance of the land that they had been promised. The Lord had given them his counsel in Torah and said he would dwell in their midst if they followed him. As a promise of God, they knew that the ‘holy one’ (those who were righteous) would not be abandoned by God in death, but would be saved from judgement.

3. Read the Psalm as Jesus sings.
In his human life, Jesus continually and perfectly sought refuge in his Father. The life that he had in himself was the Father’s life, the words that he spoke were the Father’s words, and the works that he did were what he saw the Father doing. He takes delight in the saints (the righteous) who hear his word and believe. He would not give in to the idolatry of the world, but perfectly fulfil the law in a perfectly pure life. His chosen portion and his lot were the person of his Father, through the mediation of the Spirit–his food and drink was to do the Father’s will. In a truer sense than any mere human could ever know, when Jesus spent whole nights in prayer he could sing ‘the Lord gives me counsel; in the night also my heart instructs me.’ Because God was at his right hand, he was not finally shaken–even through all his suffering. His faith in his Father did not waver, so he was glad and rejoiced, knowing that his soul and flesh would be secure in the end. As Paul saw in Acts 13.35, this generic ‘holy one’ who would not be abandoned is specifically and ultimately fulfilled in the ‘Holy One’ who is Messiah, crucified and then resurrected. He who is the Way, the Truth, and the Life endured the cross for the joy that was set before him–he can sing more than any other: ‘in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.’ He can sing this as the one who has entered into God’s presence in a way that none of us ever have or could.

4. Read the Psalm as Christians sing.
God, in Christ, is our only refuge from sin, Satan, and death. We have nothing but sin apart from the work of the Spirit of Christ, which he sent. The ‘saints’ are those who have been sanctified (set apart) by Christ’s blood–and in our church we delight. We know that the sorrows of those who run after other gods will multiply because we have seen the ultimate sorrow for sin: the cross of Christ. We know that God is for us, and we know we have a glorious inheritance in Christ: we have been blessed with all the blessings of the heavenly places, and God didn’t spare even his own Son, so how will he now not freely also give us all things? If he is for us, who can be against us? We surely cannot be shaken, because Christ was not and cannot be forsaken–we are ultimately secure. Since ‘the Holy One’ was not forsaken, we know that his ‘holy ones’ will not be forsaken; he has gone before us to make a way. Christ has secured for us pleasure forevermore and fulfilment of joy because he has prayed for us, that we would be with him, where he is, to see his glory and not die. There is therefore now no condemnation, but only joy in the presence of God.

What a glorious thought! What great reasons to sing!

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