Julian Freeman

Freed to live through the death of another.

Tag: Psalms (page 2 of 3)

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.

A Thought on Imprecatory Psalms

Imprecatory Psalms are those Psalms we have in the Bible where the psalmist calls out for God’s judgement and curses on those who have done evil. The perpetual problem for Christians is, ‘How do we take these Psalms? Do we still use them? Can we really say these things about people? Are we supposed to desire God’s judgement on others?’

These are tough questions, indeed, and this is a topic that deserves far more thought than I’ll give it today. But in my own meditation this afternoon I’ve realized this:

Because God is righteous judge, who is altogether just, it is never wrong for us to long for justice.

Our problem, however, is that we don’t know what justice is.

Sure, we think we do. But the reality is that what we think of when we think of justice generally has more to do with what assuages our sense of ‘wrongness’ than it does with what establishes God’s ‘rightness’.

The downfall of simply thinking in imprecatory categories for those who work evil is that we’re all workers of evil. All of us have sinned and deserve God’s judgement. Any good in us is only because of the image of God impressed on us and the grace of God worked in our hearts. Any sense of justice we have is only present because God has given it to us. How then can we boast about our righteousness and another’s evil and long for them to be judged when we too deserve to be judged?

Ultimately, we must all beg mercy from God–yes, for the evil we’ve committed, but also because we don’t know what his justice established would really look like. Who could have guessed that he would use a cross to show his righteousness (Rom 3.21-26)? Who could have guessed that the innocent being slaughtered for the guilty would accomplish perfect justice (2 Cor 5.21; 1 John 2.2)?

Can I pray that someone would be damned?

It seems that the better question would be, ‘How can I pray for God’s justice to be shown?’ If David prayed for God’s justice, if Jesus came to accomplish God’s justice, and if God was so determined to show his justice that he crushed his Son, then I should be concerned with seeing it accomplished too. But I need to pray with humility. The cross, like nothing before, shows me that I understand very little of the vastness and comprehensiveness and complexity of God’s judgement–and his passion for showing mercy even in the midst of judgement. That’s a vastness, comprehensiveness, and complexity that I don’t get.

So we must be cautious. Pray for justice, yes, we must! But presuming to know what that justice looks like is a far bigger step. For now I’ll pray that God would cause his name to be revered as holy (Matt 6.9) however he sees fit, whether in the damnation or salvation of a particular sinner, I cannot know.

Why Do You Hide Yourself, God?

50 MILLION REMEMBERED — The Memorial to the Missing at the Baptist Building stands in mute testimony to the 50 million lives that have been lost to legalized abortion since 1973. Each penny in the Memorial represents one of the 50 million babies that has been killed since the U.S. Supreme Court struck down state abortion laws and opened the door to abortion nationwide during the entire nine months of pregnancy. (Photo by William H. Perkins Jr.)

50 MILLION REMEMBERED — The Memorial to the Missing at the Baptist Building stands in mute testimony to the 50 million lives that have been lost to legalized abortion since 1973. Each penny in the Memorial represents one of the 50 million babies that has been killed since the U.S. Supreme Court struck down state abortion laws and opened the door to abortion nationwide during the entire nine months of pregnancy. (Photo by William H. Perkins Jr.)

The heading for Psalm 10 in the ESV reads, ‘Why Do You Hide Yourself?’ As I read through this Psalm the other morning, I couldn’t help but lament the millions of babies lost over the years before ever taking their first breath.

If there was ever a time for Christians to sing imprecatory psalms, it is when considering horrific photos like this one; when we come face to face with the reality of the consequences of the lawmakers, politicians, policy-makers, doctors, and propagandists who lead our people into such abominable sin.

Psalm 10

Why, O Lord, do you stand far away?
Why do you hide yourself in times of trouble?

In arrogance the wicked hotly pursue the poor; let them be caught in the schemes that they have devised.
For the wicked boasts of the desires of his soul,
and the one greedy for gain curses and renounces the Lord.
In the pride of his face the wicked does not seek him; all his thoughts are, “There is no God.”
His ways prosper at all times; your judgments are on high, out of his sight; as for all his foes, he puffs at them.
He says in his heart, “I shall not be moved; throughout all generations I shall not meet adversity.”
His mouth is filled with cursing and deceit and oppression; under his tongue are mischief and iniquity.
He sits in ambush in the villages; in hiding places he murders the innocent.
His eyes stealthily watch for the helpless; he lurks in ambush like a lion in his thicket;
he lurks that he may seize the poor; he seizes the poor when he draws him into his net.
The helpless are crushed, sink down, and fall by his might.
He says in his heart, “God has forgotten, he has hidden his face, he will never see it.”

Arise, O Lord; O God, lift up your hand; forget not the afflicted.
Why does the wicked renounce God and say in his heart, “You will not call to account”?
But you do see, for you note mischief and vexation, that you may take it into your hands;
to you the helpless commits himself; you have been the helper of the fatherless.
Break the arm of the wicked and evildoer; call his wickedness to account till you find none.

The Lord is king forever and ever; the nations perish from his land.
Lord, you hear the desire of the afflicted; you will strengthen their heart; you will incline your ear to do justice to the fatherless and the oppressed, so that man who is of the earth may strike terror no more.

Father, forgive me for not caring that you call yourself the ‘helper of the fatherless.’ Forgive me for not making a difference. Is my sin of silence–when I know better–not also an abomination in your sight?

Delight and the Word of God

Warning: If you look down at the text below, you may see sheer volume and be tempted to not bother reading this post. The point of blogs is to appeal to people with short attention spans–this I know. But, let me urge you to read on through the end of this post.

Any post I would write that’s this long probably isn’t worth your time. But this is merely a collection of verses from Psalm 119. These are words that God himself has spoken; they are worth your time.

In thinking about delight this week, I came to read Psalm 119, and was amazed by what I saw. 

Have you ever considered the relationship between the Word of God (your Bible) and delight? David did. At length.

Read the verses below and watch how his affections (his emotions, his passions) are stirred by the Scriptures. Does this reflect your heart? I know I’ve got a long way to go. But man, was this a blessing to think about!

——–

Ps 119 14 In the way of your testimonies I delight as much as in all riches.

Ps 119  16 I will delight in your statutes; I will not forget your word.

Ps 119  20 My soul is consumed with longing for your rules at all times.

Ps 119  24 Your testimonies are my delight; they are my counselors.

Ps 119  35 Lead me in the path of your commandments, for I delight in it.

Ps 119  40 Behold, I long for your precepts; in your righteousness give me life!

Ps 119  43 And take not the word of truth utterly out of my mouth, for my hope is in your rules.

Ps 119  46 I will also speak of your testimonies before kings and shall not be put to shame,  47 for I find my delight in your commandments, which I love.  48 I will lift up my hands toward your commandments, which I love, and I will meditate on your statutes.

Ps 119  49 Remember your word to your servant, in which you have made me hope.  50 This is my comfort in my affliction, that your promise gives me life.

Ps 119  52 When I think of your rules from of old, I take comfort, O LORD.

Ps 119  69 The insolent smear me with lies, but with my whole heart I keep your precepts;  70 their heart is unfeeling like fat, but I delight in your law.  71 It is good for me that I was afflicted, that I might learn your statutes.  72 The law of your mouth is better to me than thousands of gold and silver pieces.

Ps 119  74 Those who fear you shall see me and rejoice, because I have hoped in your word.

Ps 119  81 My soul longs for your salvation; I hope in your word.  82 My eyes long for your promise; I ask, “When will you comfort me?”

Ps 119  92 If your law had not been my delight, I would have perished in my affliction.  93 I will never forget your precepts, for by them you have given me life.

Ps 119  97 Oh how I love your law! It is my meditation all the day.

Ps 119  103 How sweet are your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth!

Ps 119  111 Your testimonies are my heritage forever, for they are the joy of my heart.

Ps 119  113 I hate the double-minded, but I love your law.  114 You are my hiding place and my shield; I hope in your word.

Ps 119  119 All the wicked of the earth you discard like dross, therefore I love your testimonies.

Ps 119  123 My eyes long for your salvation and for the fulfillment of your righteous promise.

Ps 119  127 Therefore I love your commandments above gold, above fine gold.

Ps 119  131 I open my mouth and pant, because I long for your commandments.

Ps 119  136 My eyes shed streams of tears, because people do not keep your law.

Ps 119  139 My zeal consumes me, because my foes forget your words.  140 Your promise is well tried, and your servant loves it.

Ps 119  143 Trouble and anguish have found me out, but your commandments are my delight.

Ps 119  147 I rise before dawn and cry for help; I hope in your words.  148 My eyes are awake before the watches of the night, that I may meditate on your promise.

Ps 119  158 I look at the faithless with disgust, because they do not keep your commands.

Ps 119  161 Princes persecute me without cause, but my heart stands in awe of your words.  162 I rejoice at your word like one who finds great spoil.  163 I hate and abhor falsehood, but I love your law.

Ps 119  165 Great peace have those who love your law; nothing can make them stumble.  166 I hope for your salvation, O LORD, and I do your commandments.  167 My soul keeps your testimonies; I love them exceedingly.

Ps 119  171 My lips will pour forth praise, for you teach me your statutes.  172 My tongue will sing of your word, for all your commandments are right.

Ps 119  174 I long for your salvation, O LORD, and your law is my delight.

I Will Remember You

Below is something I wrote for my devotions over six years ago now, and I just happened to stumble across the file on my computer tonight. A lot has changed in my life since I wrote it, but one thing remains the same: my God. He who held me then, has held me every day since, and keeps me now. My love for him has only  grown as I have beheld his steadfast love and faithfulness over these past six years.

I hope this blesses you in some little way, as it blessed me tonight in preparation for gathering to worship with God’s people tomorrow.

——-

Therefore I will remember You
– Psalm 42:6

Amidst the blackness of the deepest depression of his soul, the psalmist brings to mind the character of His God. It is not God’s will for His people to always know ease and comfort. The Lord is like a good father, disciplining the children He loves. This world has not known a mighty servant of God who has not endured much trial and hardship. Moses and Elijah both fled to the wilderness for fear of human threats. David was chased from his own kingdom by his own son, who was intent on taking his life. John appeared from the wilderness and was beheaded. Christ suffered rejection all His life, and the climax of His ministry and the extent of His love led Him to His death.

Likewise, it is through many trials that we must enter the Kingdom of God. Curse the soul who thinks he deserves better! Rather we should, with the Apostle, count it a blessing to partake in the sufferings and persecutions of Christ! When our weakness is strong, and our strength is weak, we must remember our God.

Oh my soul, why are you downcast? Has not God been gracious? Even in Jordan–even on the heights of Hermon and Mount Mizar–God has been gracious in preserving me! Though the waves and breakers swept over me–though the waterfalls of life have threatened to drown me–yet here I am!

When I am overpowered, I must remember His power. When I am weak, I must remember His strength. When I am hopeless and starved for love, I must remember that my God is Love, and the source of the only true hope. When faithless, he is faithful; when weary, he is rest; when restless, he is comfort.

Have I forgotten this night that my God is all that I am not? Am I guilty of believing that He could not supply my wants and needs? Though the waves and breakers roar, though the waterfalls and tides are crushing, I will not be swept away. The Lord’s grace preserves me. My strength fails, but His grace is sufficient for me, and His power is perfected and shown true in my weakness. If the Lord is more glorified in my suffering, may I die a thousand martyr deaths! If God be glorified, may I be weaker than a child. But Lord, preserve me and pull me through. For without Your grace I could not stand.

But now, Christian, stand tall! For He who is able to make you stand is He who is faithful to continue on the good work that He began in you, until the telling Day of Christ.

Bob Kauflin on David Powlison on the Imprecatory Psalms

Bob Kauflin (lead worshiper at Covenant Life Church) has posted notes on what looks like it was an awesome session from the WorshipGod ’08 Conference. He’s also got a link to download the mp3 of the sermon.

Check it out: David Powlison on the Imprecatory Psalms

(Isn’t it interesting how much Powlison looks like he’s imprecating someone? You gotta love a preacher that gets into character.)

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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