This Week’s Readings
Monday, July 9: Sick day. Sorry!
Tuesday, July 10: Psalms 46-49; Proverbs 16
Wednesday, July 11: Isaiah 1-5
Thursday, July 12: Isaiah 6-10
Friday, July 13: Isaiah 11-15
I couldn’t stay caught up Friday or Monday, so I’m doing the commentary on Psalms 46-49 and Proverbs 16 today. Sorry about that. We’re making good time for the year, anyway.
The overall year’s plan is here.
Verses 1-3 give some circumstances under which we will not be afraid because we trust in God. If mountains slip into the sea, and the sea roars and foams is the main example the sons of Korah use.
When I read verses like that, I ask myself if they are true for me. I run the events through my mind. What would I do? How would I react? Would my physical life matter to me, or would I say, "It is far better to depart and be with Christ"?
Verse 4: There is a river whose streams make the city of God glad. This is not a physical river. This is the river Jesus spoke of:
He who believes in me, as the Scripture says, out of his belly will flow rivers of running water. (Jn. 7:37)
Verses 5-7: It is the power of God that can cause us to be courageous in the face of mountains slipping into the sea. When he raises his voice, the earth melts!
John Wesley, one of the greatest evangelists of the modern era (1700’s), was brought to a real, powerful, and spiritual faith because of a group of people who did not fear during a major storm at sea. When Wesley sought the source of their power, he wound up with the power to shake England and America with the sound of his voice.
That is one of my favorite historical stories because the Christians that did not fear in the midst of the storm were Moravian Brethren, from a relatively small but spiritually powerful group begun by Count Zinzendorf in the 1600’s. Count Zinzendorf had provided a home on his land to a small group of Hussites, Christians who had been influenced by Jan Hus (John Huss), a Bohemian preacher from the 1300’s who was burned alive by the Roman Catholic Church.
In that way, the small group of people that Jan Hus was able to influence in the 1300’s led to the large amounts of people that the Moravian Brethren were able to influence in the 1600’s and 1700’s and even larger amount of people that to this day were and are influenced by John Wesley and his writings.
A great psalm of praise from the sons of Korah.
When the Israelites saw that God was with them, they recognized him as King over all the earth and all nations. When God was not with them, when they were under judgment for their sins, they still saw God as King over all the nations.
That is not always true for us. We have a lot more options now. Atheism and agnosticism can be looked upon as respectable, intellectual positions. We can explain everything (we think) with science.
But God is King over all the earth even now.
Like then, however, he works through his people.
We don’t doubt that wherever Jesus went, there was the kingdom of God and there was the power of God. We doubt that for ourselves, however, despite the fact that Jesus told us that rivers of living water would flow out of our bellies if we believed in him.
Let us praise with this psalm and acknowledge God as King over all the earth even today. Then let us bring this great King, who has made us his house, everywhere we go, and go wherever he sends us.
Mount Zion is the church. It is the city of the great King, and we are that city. We are his dwelling place.
It is beautiful in elevation, rising above the troubles of this earth, and it is the joy of the whole earth.
At least it should be. Let us believe, and let us ascend to the heights God calls us to!
But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to an innumerable company of angels. You have come to the general assembly and church of the firstborn, who are written in heaven, to God, the Judge of all, and to the spirits of righteous men made perfect; to Jesus the mediator of the new covenant, and to the blood of sprinkling, which says better things than the blood of Abel. (Heb. 12:22-24)
In verses 4-8 we see the power of the city of God when she is displayed in majesty. Even assembled kings cringe and flee in terror of her glory.
Have you ever experienced the power of an anointed, holy gathering of God’s people, who have given themselves both to Jesus and to each other? I have, and the power is just as the psalmists describe here. Enemies quake when they have to face the majesty of the glory of God resting upon and shining through the people of God.
In verses 9-12 we see the source of that power. His people have been in the midst of the temple, dwelling on the lovingkindness of God. They are praising him to the ends of the earth. They are rejoicing.
Those verses then let us know exactly what is meant by the city of God. "Count her towers"; "consider her ramparts"; "go through her palaces."
Those towers, ramparts, and even palaces are people. We need to look at, think about, and spend time with the people of God, being not only built up by the work of God in them, but even awed by the majesty of God in them. We want to be able to tell it to the next generation.
For this, says the psalmists, is God. He can be found dwelling in his people, making himself known in their power and their deeds.
In verses 1-8, the sons of Korah let us know that the redemption of a man’s soul is costly. It can’t be obtained with wealth. We know now that the cost of a man’s soul is the suffering and death of the Son of God. A high price indeed!
You don’t find too many verses that speak about eternal life in the Hebrew Scriptures, even though it is central to the New Covenant and thus to the apostles’ writings. In Psalm 49, though, you find direct references. They [the sons of Korah] mention living eternally in verse 9, and then in verse 15 they express confidence that God will redeem their souls from Sheol, which is the same as Hades, the place of the dead.
This is one of the most forward looking of the Psalms. It does not simply honor riches, nor promise the righteous that they will have riches on this earth. Instead, it points out that the riches of the unrighteous do them no good once they die, whereas the righteous can hope that God will receive them, delivering their souls from Sheol.
Proverbs 15 and 16 have always been my favorite set of proverbs in the book of Proverbs. I don’t normally comment a lot on Proverbs, but I did quite a bit on Proverbs 15 in my last post.
Let’s see if I can leave you a little more to your own reading in Proverbs 16.
Verse 4: Now this is a proverb that can be difficult to chew on! God made everything for his own purpose, even the wicked for the day of evil. Of course, this should be a self-evident truth, but we don’t like to think that way about God. God foreknows everything. He knew that some would choose the way of righteousness and obedience and that others would not. According to Proverbs 16:4, it was his purpose to create a world in which there would be a day of judgment and retaliation for those who have done evil (and, of course, a day of reward for the righteous).
Verse 6: Lovingkindness and truth can atone for iniquity? Do we believe this?
It is true. The real problem we humans have is described in Romans 7. We can’t walk in lovingkindness and truth without divine intervention. Jesus did not come because there was no other way to atone for iniquity except his death. He came because the price for our redemption was his life. The Law could tell us what was right, but it couldn’t give us the power to do what is right (Rom. 7). But what the Law could not do, God did, and he did it by sending his own Son in the likeness of our sinful bodies, as an offering for sin. The result was that, following Jesus into his death in baptism, we would rise to a new life in him, empowered by the Spirit of God to fulfill the righteousness that the Law contained (Rom. 8:3-4).
All the terminology I just used is unusual in Christian circles today, but much of that last paragraph is direct quotes from Scripture. Today, we have been confused into thinking that God needed Jesus to die so that he could feel free to forgive people’s sins. Not so. God was merciful from the very beginning. Jesus sacrificed himself for us, not God.
By the grace of God, available under the New Covenant, which was put into force by Jesus’ blood, sin’s power over us is broken (Rom. 6:14). Thus, we can walk in lovingkindness and truth, and we find that love will cover a multitude of sins (1 Pet. 4:8), just as Proverbs 16:6 says it will.
Verse 7: When a man’s ways please the Lord, the Lord will make even his enemies to be at peace with him. This does not tell us that he will make his own enemies be at peace with us. The type of enemies who killed Jesus will kill us, too, if they get a chance to do so without repercussion. But our own enemies, God will help us with those.
Verse 9 is a famous verse. We plan, but it’s the Lord who makes our steps fall where they may.
Verse 16: Just want to highlight this: How much better it is to get wisdom than gold!
Verse 17: The highway of the upright is to depart from evil. This sounds just like 1 Peter 3:10-12: "He that would love life and see good days, let him … depart from evil and do good."
Verses 18-20: Well known verses concerning pride and humility.
Verse 21 was sent to me in a text from a friend once on a day when I was asking God whether to be strong or understanding with someone I needed to talk to. Should I rebuke or encourage was what I was praying. Proverbs 18:21 told me, "The wise in heart will be called understanding, and sweetness of speech increases persuasiveness" (NASB).
Verses 22-24 add on to verse 21. Lord, teach us to become wise in our speech!
Verse 25 is the same as Proverbs 14:12. It’s in Proverbs twice, perhaps we should give it twice as much attention!
I like the KJV of verse 28. It is a "whisperer" who separates the best of friends. In the church let us not only avoid being but also beware of whisperers, for they will separate Christians not just from one another but from their Lord as well.
Verses 29-31 can be read (should be read?) as an extension of verse 28. There are perverse men, whisperers, violent men, those who wink, and those who purse their lips. Careful of such men. So often, the answer to these farmers of doubt and division is found from the gray-haired man, the old fuddy-duddy who hasn’t caught up to modern life and is still walking in the ancient ways.
I’m going to stop there and get started on Isaiah 1-5. Thanks for your patience!