Friday, April 15, 2005

Burdens or Benefits?

Blessed be the Lord,
Who daily loads us with benefits,
The God of our salvation!
Selah.
(Psalm 68:19)
“Who daily loads us with benefits.” That’s how the King James has it, and the New King James. The NIV and the NASB have, “Who daily bears our burden(s).”

So, which is it? Burdens or benefits?

The Hebrew text is a bit enigmatic here, as it does not use the word for either “burden” or “benefit.” In fact, there is no noun used there at all, only a verb. Young’s Literal Translation brings that out: “Blessed is the Lord, day by day He layeth on us.” The Message has it, “Day after day He carries us along.”

The verb for “load” (“Who daily loads us with benefits”) can mean loading on, but it can also mean to take up a load. So we’re back where we started.

Certainly, it is a great benefit when the Lord takes up our burdens for us. That is exactly what Jesus did for us at the Cross — He took up our sins upon Himself so that we don’t have to bear them any more. Isaiah 53 also speaks of Jesus bearing our sicknesses and carrying our pains (v. 3; see also Matthew 8:17) and says that by His stripes we were healed (v. 5).

Jesus is the Christ, the Messiah, the Anointed One (they all mean the same thing). Isaiah shows us the anointing and what it means: “It shall come to pass in that day that his burden will be taken away from your shoulder, and his yoke from your neck, and the yoke will be destroyed because of the anointing oil” (Isaiah 10:27).

We see this echoed in Jesus’ words: “Come unto Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light” (Matthew 11:28-30). Jesus exchanged the heavy yoke of oppression for His yoke, which is easy because He bears it with us.

So, maybe it’s “Who daily bears our burdens.”

On the other hand, there is more to our salvation than what Jesus bore for us. There are also the things He has given to us, and these, too, are great benefits — too great and too many for me to do them justice here. But David sums up the wonderful benefits of the Lord in Psalm 103:
Bless the LORD, O my soul,
  And forget not all His benefits;
Who forgives all your iniquities,
  Who heals all your diseases,
Who redeems your life from destruction,
  Who crowns you with lovingkindness and tender mercies,
Who satisfies your mouth [desires] with good things,
  So that your youth is renewed like the eagles.
(Psalm 103:2-5).

So maybe it’s, “Who daily loads us with benefits.”

In the context of Psalm 68, we see God portrayed as a conquering King ascending to His throne: “You have ascended on high, You have led captivity captive; You have received gifts among men” (Psalm 68:18). But how does that play into verse 19?

Paul quotes this passage in Ephesians 4, referring to the Ascension of the Lord Jesus Christ and how He gave gifts to His body, the Church:
But to each one of us grace was given according to the measure of Christ’s gift. Therefore He says:

“When He ascended on high,
He led captivity captive,
And gave gifts to men.”
(Ephesians 4:7-8)
Wait a minute — doesn’t that just create another problem? I mean, Psalm 68 says He received gifts and Ephesians 4 says He gave gifts. It really is no problem, though, when you understand the triumphal return of a conquering king. He was not only greeted by the people, but he was also given gifts and tribute. Then, in turn, he would give out those gifts to others who, for example, supported him in battle. So there was both receiving and giving of gifts.

So maybe, in the context of receiving (and giving) of gifts, it is, “Who daily loads us with benefits.”

Perhaps it is best to think of it as two sides of the same coin. And whichever one you are feeling the need for most on any given day, burden-bearing or benefit-blessing, that’s the one you can look to the Lord for. Whichever way you take it, remember that it is daily — day after day, God is faithful to bear our burdens and to bless us. So why not look to Him for both — every day.

Here’s one more thing — and to me, it is the most exciting thing. We’ve seen how Jesus fulfills this passage either way, both bearing our burdens and blessing us with benefits. But I want you to notice that His name is even embedded in this text. The last line of the verse reads, “The God of our salvation.” The Hebrew word for “salvation” here is yeshua, and that is the Hebrew name for Jesus.

For every need, God has a provision. Claim it.
For every burden, God has a benefit. Receive it.
For every problem, God has a promise. Believe it.

Blessed be the Lord, who daily bears your burdens and loads you with benefits, the God of your salvation — Jesus! Selah on that for a while.