Freed to live through the death of another.

Tag: Fulfilment

A Friday Meditation on the Psalms

In keeping with our current theme, I wanted to post something on interpreting the Psalms today. That being said, I am scrambling to get up to the cottage, so I didn’t have time to write something new and thoughtful. But I came across this in my journal from a while ago, and it ‘just happened’ to be a meditation on one of the Psalms I’m reading today.

This is a model, but not an explanation, of one method that I’ve found helpful in interpreting and applying the Psalms to my heart. I pray through the Psalm using the ‘How Much More’ method.

The Psalms are reflections on living life before God under the law. They are offerings of praise and prayer to the God who has revealed himself in the Old Covenant. We, however, worship God in the New Covenant, so our worship–while it is still to the same God–is more informed, because God has been ultimately revealed in Christ. Our praise and prayer, then, must be a reflection of living life under the New Covenant.

The ‘How Much More’ method just finds a place where God has revealed an attribute of himself, or where the psalmist speaks of the deliverance or judgement of God, and says: ‘If this was true for them, how much more have we seen this in the New Covenant, now that Christ has come.’

What follows below is a journal entry. It’s a personal meditation from Psalm 34. Please only take it for what it’s worth. I highly recommend you read the Psalm before reading the prayer below.

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The psalmist makes his boast in the Lord and admonishes the humble because he has been humbled. He was delivered by the Lord’s mercy through his humiliation. How could he be proud? How could he boast of delivering himself by his might, worth, or wisdom? Far be it from me to boast of my salvation and my deliverance when I was humbled far beyond him.

David declares that he sought the Lord in his fears–and not without tears–and that God heard him and saved him from all his troubles. What were David’s troubles but earthly concerns and cares for his life? My God, these are dire, but what of my soul? If David should cry and seek with tears, then how much more should I? David was afraid of those who could kill the body, but I am numb to the fear of him who could destroy body and soul.

David found God’s deliverance super-abundant. The Angel of the Lord encamped and delivered him from his greatest needs. Therefore, he admonishes me today to taste and see. What can he mean by this except that I should call on the Lord in my fears and tears, even as he had done? He is confident of this: having tasted, none will be disappointed.

How true have I found this? Millions have called on the Lord in their distress and not been disappointed. The Angel of the Lord–Jesus Christ, God himself–encamps around me, delivering not just my body, but my soul from its greatest enemies: sin and death.

And now, Lord, I pray that in my current need, I would still find that as I taste, I find you good. My God, in your grace, be my delight, be my joy, be my soul’s rest. For you alone are Delight, Joy, and Sabbath. I know this because I have tasted.

To what shall I compare this heart of mine which restlessly seeks its joy? It is like a cup that must be filled by either air or liquid. As the filling of a cup with coffee expels the air, so my desire for you–when it fills my heart–expels every earthly desire. Likewise, if I fill my cup with air, it necessarily means there is no liquid present. My heart cannot be full of you and desires for this world, its toys, and its pleasures.

Or perhaps these things may be compared to a man’s appetite. Lord, I know that the only thing limiting my joy is my capacity for experiencing you. Just as a man at a buffet is limited only by the size of his stomach, so I find that my joy is only limited by my finite capacity for you who are Joy.

How can a man increase his joy in you? Only by experiencing you. As a man increases his appetite over time by eating, so my capacity for joy will only increase as I fill myself continually with you and your joy.

What a marvellous thought! I can taste and see, eat my fill, be completely satisfied in my eating, and all the while find that I am increasing my capacity for the joy I’ll find in you tomorrow. No wonder David says, ‘Taste and see..’.

The discipline of regularly finding my joy in God today is an investment. It secures a supply of joy for tomorrow. What a glorious God!

But then, how tragic to waste today…

Saving a People as an ‘Aside’

John MacArthur’s comments on all good Calvinists being pre-millennial has got me thinking again. But I definitely don’t agree.

Historic Dispensationalism stated outright that God’s plan to save the Gentiles now–in an age of grace–is an aside from God’s plans to save Israel and establish them as God’s people. Contemporary Dispensationalism, of course, would never use such crass terms, but to put forward the notion that God will return somehow to dealing with one nation again, after giving his gospel–which is the fulfilment of all the revelation given to Israel, and which is given in order to bring about the obedience of the nations–really is to suggest the same thing in perhaps more friendly terms.

I would suggest, however, that a simple reading of Galatians and Paul’s view of redemptive-history given there would suggest otherwise. From Adam to Abraham, God dealt with the nations. From Abraham on God dealt primarily with Abraham’s seed–a particular people group–but this seed was specifically prophesied as the one who will bring God’s blessing to all nations.

A little while later, God continues to deal with Israel alone and gives the Law, which they must obey; this Law is the standard by which they must live and be judged, it is what makes Israel distinct as God’s people. This Law, however, as Paul says, is fulfilled (as are the promises to Abraham) in Christ.

Why in the world, then, would we expect for God to go back to dealing with one nation alone? Wouldn’t that be to reverse of the working out of his plan in salvation-history?

Though I would never put it in these terms (tongue planted firmly in cheek), if we must view the saving of a particular people in salvation-history as an ‘aside’, wouldn’t it be Israel? If God’s original plan with Adam and then subsequently with Abraham (and I think it could be easily shown through Israel as well) is for ‘the whole world’, then why would he go back to dealing specifically with a covenant-people whose covenant has been rendered obsolete?

‘In Jesus’ name, amen.’

If you’ve been a Christian for any length of time, you’ve probably been forced to think through / discuss the issue of your closing words in prayer. If you’re like most contemporary evangelicals in the western world, you probably end most of your prayers with something along the lines of, ‘In Jesus’ name, amen.’

And again, if you’re like most contemporary Christians you’ve probably heard some preacher at some point in time go off about how praying this is more than just tacking Jesus’ name on to the end of a prayer, it means praying as he would pray, asking what he would ask, seeking his kingdom first.

These things are all very true and very good and very important to know. They all have a huge impact on how it is that we pray and what it is that we pray.

But today as I was reading 2 Chronicles I came across something interesting. If you reread Solomon’s prayer of dedication of the temple, just note how many times he refers to God’s name.

Over and over again, Solomon asks God that when his people pray toward that place (i.e. the temple, which we now understand to be Christ) and by his name, or for the sake of his name, or because of his name, that God would hear them.

This puts Jesus’ statements in a new light, altogether! If prayer, to the OT saint, was to be heard because it was concerned with the name (i.e. the character, the reputation, the fame) of God, then when Jesus says that we should pray in his name, he is putting his name on par with God’s… a drastic claim indeed.

Sure fits with what Paul says in Philippians 2, though, doesn’t it? The name which is given to Jesus is the name above all names… it is the name of God.

I don’t know how coherent that all is, but it sure seemed like good food for thought to me.

The Christ of Isaiah

In my own devotions I’ve just finished reading through the book of Isaiah. I must say that I think one of the reasons why our churches today are so weak and shallow, and have such a small view of God is that we don’t read our whole Bible. I know so many Christians who just simply don’t want to read the Old Testament for one reason or another. What a tragedy!

This time through Isaiah has been my favourite so far. Isaiah’s God is so wonderfully transcendent, yet so amazingly concerned for the poor; so profoundly righteous, so awesomely just; forever concerned with making the whole world to know that he–YHWH–is God, and there is no other.

One of the other things that really struck me this time is how much the apostle Paul quotes Isaiah. It’s amazing! I don’t know how I never noticed it before. And not just Paul, either–the New Testament authors seem to love the book of Isaiah. The cool thing is that so many times when an NT author quotes Isaiah it is to say some pretty remarkable things about our Lord Jesus. Here are just a few examples that stuck out to me the past couple of days.

  1. Isaiah 60.1-2, quoted in Ephesians 5.14. This passage in Ephesians 5 is cool because Paul takes a saying of Isaiah about YHWH and then directly applies it to the New Covenant believers in Ephesus, saying that all the truth of the person and holiness of God is found in the man Christ Jesus, who is none other than God himself.
  2. Isaiah 60.19-20, quoted in Rev 21.23 and 22.5. Make sure you read both of those references. In Isaiah the promise is given that in the New Jerusalem there will be no need of sun or moon YHWH (his specific, personal name) will be the light in that place for his people. In Revelation, John says that the glory of God–which is paralleled with the lamb of God (i.e., Jesus) will be the light. In other words, Jesus and YHWH are One. Now this is an obvious theme throughout Revelation, but it’s that much cooler when you read it in the context of Isaiah and all that you’ve heard over the past 60 chapters about the glory of God.

Too often we either don’t want to read our Old Testament or else we read it as quickly and superficially as possible because we think it has nothing to say to us. In reality, all its truth speaks of Jesus, who has everything to do with us if we claim to be Christians.

So get in the Word! Remember that every word is God-breathed and useful to us, so that we can be equipped to do the work of God that he has called us to.

I Love Scripture!

Yesterday I got to read through a portion of 1 Kings. My favourite part of what I read was Solomon’s building and dedication of the temple. After reading from Genesis all the way through to 1 Kings, it is a wonderful breath of fresh air!

I think sometimes we lose sight of just how momentous an occasion this really was. Finally… after slavery, the exodus, the 40 years of wandering, the failed conquest of the promised land, the pathetic time of the judges, the first king becoming a miserable failure, a lifetime of war and tumult under David… finally, peace! Finally, God’s people are able to construct a permanent fixture where God will be honoured and worshiped. It is the place where he has chosen to make his name dwell.

So Solomon has construction of the temple completed, he brings in the ark of the covenant, and offers his prayer of dedication. It’s a wonderful scene of celebration and worship of our God as innumerable sacrifices were offered. God is pleased to come down and dwell in his temple–so much so that the priests could not stand to minister in the Holy Place because the glory of YHWH filled the house.

The temple is the place where God dwells and where man can meet with him–the place where God and man dwell together. It is the place where God’s glory abides, where he reveals himself to his people.

Solomon’s prayer of dedication is then largely concerned with the request of God that whenever God’s people pray toward this temple–where God and his people can meet together, where God himself dwells–these prayers will be heard and answered. This is to be true, even when they have sinned, this will be the way they are to pray for reconciliation–pray toward the temple.

And so Solomon, the king, prays for his people. He intercedes for them before the Lord, pleading with God that their sins will be forgiven and that he will have mercy on them.

The glory of God had descended on this place, the Lord had met with his people and heard the prayers of Solomon–why? All of this is made possible–God’s people can approach God in his temple–because of the sacrifices they had made. They sacrificed before the ark as they brought it in, and once Solomon had prayed they offered more: 22,000 oxen, and 120,000 sheep as peace offerings to God.

But all of this was still imperfect, in some sense, because we see that where the holiness and the glory of God dwell, the priests still aren’t able to be. After a while, the priests are forced to leave the Holy Place where they ministered because of the presence of God.

Of course, what I love the most about all this is Jesus. Where was he? Where wasn’t he?! Jesus is the temple–the perfect meeting place of God and man. In him the fullness of deity dwells bodily. He said, ‘destroy this temple and I will raise it in three days.’ But of course, he was not referring to the temple of stone, but the temple of his flesh–where God and man truly come together. And because he is the fulfillment of the temple, he’s also the reason our prayers are offered freely to God now, because we pray through Christ.

But Christ is more than the temple and the reason our prayers are heard. He’s also the true Solomonthe true Son of David who will inherit the eternal throne and promises of God. As the true Son of David and the true King, Jesus is the one true intercessor for his people! Now he offers prayers to God on our behalf!

And of course, Jesus is the true sacrifice which makes God’s meeting with his people possible at all. Jesus is the perfect ‘once for all’ sacrifice for the sins of God’s people, that every single one of his people would be perfectly covered and able, finally, to meet with God.

And lastly, it has all been made perfect now, through Christ, because we no longer have to worry about imperfect priests, unable to draw near in the earthly temple, because the earthly temple was only ever ‘copy’ and a ‘shadow’ anyway! Now, Christ, who is the true high priest, draws near to God in the perfect, heavenly temple on our behalf.

I could go on and on, but this is too long already. What an absolutely wonderful God! What a wonderful Saviour! What a wonderful book that ties all these things so beautifully together. No wonder Christ said he’s the fulfillment of the whole thing! He well deserves the name that is above all names.

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