Wednesday, August 19, 2009

The Gospel of God’s Messiah King

Concerning His Son Jesus Christ our Lord, who was born of the seed of David according to the flesh, and declared to be the Son of God with power according to the Spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead. (Romans 1:3-4)
This is the “gospel of God” to which Paul devoted his life, the good news promised by Israel’s prophet.

This good news is about the Son of God, Jesus Christ our Lord.
  • Son of God. In Psalm 2, God speaks of His Son in a very singular way. He is called “Anointed” (Messiah) in verse 2. God says of Him, “Yet I have set My King on My holy hill of Zion” (v. 6) and “You are My Son, today I have begotten You” (v. 7). God gives Him this promise: “Ask of Me and I will give You the nations for Your inheritance and the ends of the earth for Your possession” (v. 8). To the kings of the earth who have heretofore set themselves against the LORD and His Anointed (vv. 1-2), He now gives the invitation: “Serve the LORD with fear and rejoice with trembling. Kiss the Son, lest He be angry … Blessed are all those who put their trust in Him (vv. 11-12) (See my articles on Psalm 2).
  • Jesus. This is His name. It literally means “salvation.” Jesus is the Anglicized version of Iesous, which is the Greek translation of Yeshua, the Hebrew word for “salvation.” That is why the angel of the Lord said to Joseph, “You shall call his name JESUS, for He will save His people from their sins” (Matthew 1:21).
  • Christ. This is the Anglicized, Greekified version of the Hebrew Messiah, which means “Anointed One.” It is not Jesus’ last name, as many people seem to think, but a title that signifies that Jesus is the one promised by God, anointed by God to be the deliverer and King of Israel and all the world.
  • Lord. This does not mean “mister” or even simply “master.” Jesus is not one lord among many, He is “Lord of lords” (Revelation 17:14). In the Roman Empire, it was Caesar who was hailed as Lord, ruler over all, and when he died, he was thought to have ascended to heaven to be deified. But Paul turns all that on its head with his declaration that it is Jesus the Messiah who is Lord — King over all.
The good news is that Jesus was born of the seed of David according to the flesh. This statement does not merely establish the true humanity of Jesus, but identifies Him as the fulfillment of all God’s promises from the beginning (see The Gospel of the King). He is the seed of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, of the tribe of Judah and of the house of David. He is the promised Messiah King whom God would set to rule over all.

The good news is that Jesus was declared to be the Son of God with power according to the Spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead. This statement establishes that Jesus is indeed the Son of God, anointed to be King over all. The resurrection of Jesus from the dead demonstrates this to be so. The Jews believed there would be a general resurrection of the righteous at the end of the age, but here now was Jesus, Son of God and Son of Man, vindicated by God and shown to be righteous by His resurrection from the dead ahead of time by the power of the Holy Spirit. It signaled that the old age was coming to a close and the age of God’s kingdom was now beginning on earth.

This is the gospel of God Paul came to announce: Jesus is King and God has raised Him from the dead. It is this confession, this agreement in faith, by which we are delivered and restored and brought into proper alignment with God and His kingdom: “If you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved” (Romans 10:9). Blessed are all who put their trust in Him.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

The Gospel of the King

Paul, a bondservant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle, separated to the gospel of God which He promised before through His prophets in the Holy Scriptures, concerning His Son Jesus Christ our Lord, who was born of the seed of David according to the flesh, and declared to be the Son of God with power according to the Spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead. (Romans 1:1-4)
The apostle Paul was all about the gospel — God’s good news for the whole world. He understood himself to be a servant of Yeshua the Messiah, sent forth on His behalf and set apart for the express purpose of proclaiming this unique message.

This gospel comes from God. It was not Paul’s idea, but God’s. Paul was taken quite by surprise by it, blinded by the brightness of its glory — literally knocked to the ground by it (he gives testimony of this dramatic encounter in Acts 22 and 26).

God promised this good news through His prophets in the Hebrew Scriptures. Not just in a passage here or there, but all throughout. The whole movement of the Old Testament finds its fulfillment in this joyful announcement from God that Paul now delivered. We see this, for example:
  • In Genesis 3:15. Immediately after Adam and Eve rebelled, God promised that the seed of the woman would prevail over the seed of the serpent. This is known as the proto-evangelion, the first mention of the gospel.
  • In Genesis 12:1-3. God revealed His plan to make of Abraham (then called Abram) a great nation and promised him, “In you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.” He confirmed this promise by cutting covenant with Abraham in Genesis 15 and again with the sign of the covenant in Genesis 17.
  • In Genesis 26:2-4, 24. God confirmed this promise to Abraham’s son, Isaac: “In your seed all the families of the earth shall be blessed.”
  • In Genesis 28:14. God confirmed the promise to Isaac’s son, Jacob: “In your seed all the families of the earth shall be blessed.”
  • In Genesis 49:10. Jacob prophesied over his son, Judah, that from his tribe a king would come who would rule over all.
  • In 2 Samuel 7:12-16. God made covenant with King David, of the tribe of Judah: “I will set up your seed after you, who will come from your body, and I will establish his kingdom. He shall build a house for My name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever.”
  • In Jeremiah 31:33-34. God promised to make a new covenant with Israel which would be for everyone: “But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the Lord: I will put My law in their minds, and write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people. No more shall every man teach his neighbor, and every man his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ for they all shall know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them, says the Lord. For I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin I will remember no more.”
  • In Ezekiel 40-47. God gave Ezekiel a message for Israel, the vision of a new temple the Lord would make in His kingdom, to be His dwelling place on earth. From it would flow healing rivers in every direction.
  • In Daniel 7:13-14. God gave Daniel this vision: “One like the Son of Man, coming with the clouds of heaven! He came to the Ancient of Days, and they brought Him near before Him. Then to Him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom, that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve Him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and His kingdom the one which shall not be destroyed.”
These and many other Scriptures converge on God’s plan of redemption and restoration, and they are all fulfilled in Jesus the Messiah. After His resurrection, Jesus spoke with the Emmaus disciples about all the prophets had spoken. “Beginning at Moses and all the prophets, He expounded to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning Him” (Luke 24:27).

God has good news for the world — the gospel of the King — and it is fulfilled in Jesus the Messiah, in whom all the families of the earth shall be blessed.

Friday, August 14, 2009

The Prevailing Love of God

Oh, continue Your lovingkindness to those who know You,
and Your righteousness to the upright in heart.
(Psalm 36:10)
Exalting in the reach of God’s faithful love (vv. 5-6) and the abundant pleasures of that love (vv. 7-9), David now brings his song full circle to address the problem with which he opened up this psalm: wicked men and the evil they do (vv. 1-4). David is now moving from praise to petition: Continue Your lovingkindness to those who know You.

The Hebrew word translated “continue” means to prolong, stretch out, extend or draw. Young’s Literal Translation renders it as “draw out,” which is interesting, considering that the psalm writer describes the faithful love of God as a river and a fountain: Draw out of the fountain of life and the river of delights now to protect us from the wicked.

This love, this protection, belongs to those who know the Lord. To know Yahweh is to have regard for Him and His ways, which is what the wicked in verse 1 lacked. Those who love, honor and trust in the Lord can expect Him to deliver them when evil men come.

The righteousness of God is His justice. This prayer is for God to do justice — to set things right — for those who are upright, those who are doing what is good and right, in contrast to those who are doing what is evil. David now spells out his concern:
Let not the foot of pride come against me,
And let not the hand of the wicked drive me away. (v. 11)
Then, having placed this before the Lord, David has a vision of what he has just asked for — he sees it as a foregone conclusion:
There the workers of iniquity have fallen;
They have been cast down and are not able to rise. (v. 12)
When the faithful love of God arises to do set things right, the wicked and their evil deeds are no match. They go down for the count and are not able to get back up. This lovingkindness belongs to all who know, love and trust Him.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

The Abundant Pleasures of Divine Love

God, Your faithful love is so valuable
That people take refuge in the shadow of Your wings.
(Psalm 36:7 HCSB)
What love God lavishes on His beloved! It is precious and valuable, worth more than anything else in life. It is a refuge for all who come to Him — even for the wicked, if they would turn to Him. His love is not just a temporary shelter from the storm but an abode, a permanent dwelling place, for all who trust in Him. “He who dwells in the secret place of the Most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the Lord, He is my refuge and my fortress; my God, in Him I will trust” (Psalm 91:1-2). It is like a costly jewel, and David describes the splendor of its facets for those who know Yahweh:
  • They are abundantly satisfied with the fullness of Your house (v. 8). God flings open the doors of His house and invites us to partake of His table and enjoy His hospitality to our heart’s content. “He brought me to the banqueting house [treasure house, house of wine], and His banner over me is love” (Song of Solomon 2:4).
  • You give them drink from the river of Your pleasures (v. 8). God always intended for us to enjoy His pleasures. The Hebrew for “pleasures” is eden, as in the Garden of Eden. Heaven on earth! How is it that we settle for so much less when He offers us so much more?
  • For with You is the fountain of life (v. 9). God is the source of life. Jesus came that we might “have and enjoy life, and have it in abundance (to the full, till it overflows)” (John 10:10 Amplified Bible). It springs up like a fountain from a very deep place, pure and refreshing.
  • In Your light we see light (v. 9). God is the creator of light (Genesis 1:3) and the Father of Lights (James 1:17). Indeed, God is light (1 John 1:5). It is in Him that we see and know the glory of heaven on earth. Apart from Him there is only darkness.
The faithful love of God is not only a refuge and dwelling place for those who trust Him, but the source of satisfying abundance, sublime pleasure, overflowing life and the glory of everything that is good.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

The Reach of Divine Love

Your steadfast love, O LORD, extends to the heavens.
(Psalm 36:5 English Standard Version)
In the first stanza of this psalm, David described why the wicked to what they do (see The Heart of Transgression). But suddenly his focus shifts and he begins to sing of the steadfast love of the Lord. The Hebrew word for this love is hesed. It is the covenant love and mercy of God by which He has committed Himself to show kindness to His people. It is variously translated as “mercy,” “lovingkindness,” “faithful love,” and as in the ESV, “steadfast love.” In this psalm, it appears in verses 5, 7 and 10, each time opening a new stanza.

The second stanza describes the height and depth of this love: “LORD, Your faithful love reaches to heaven.” The love of God operates on behalf of those He loves according to His faithfulness, righteousness and judgments:
  • Faithfulness. (Hebrew, emunah), the trustworthiness of God to keep His word, the stability of God to keep His way, the steadiness of God to continue His works. It reaches “to the skies” (v. 5).
  • Righteousness. (Hebrew, tsedaqah), the rightness of God — He will always do with is right. It is “like the highest mountain” — rock solid (v. 6).
  • Judgments. (Hebrew, mishpat), the decisions and verdicts of God—they are always true. They are “like the deepest sea,” a wisdom that is richer, deeper, fuller than we can comprehend (v. 6). It is the justice of God that comes and sets things right.
The last line of verse 6 sums up this stanza: “O LORD, You preserve man and beast.” The Hebrew word for “preserve” is yasha, and speaks of salvation, liberation, deliverance and victory.

The steadfast love, faithfulness, righteousness and justice God has those who belong to Him is higher, deeper, greater than any adversity you will ever face.

Dead Reckoning

dead reckoning
“Reckon yourselves to be dead indeed to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 6:11).

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

The Heart of Transgression

Transgression speaks to the wicked deep in his heart;
There is no fear of God before his eyes.
(Psalm 36:1 English Standard Version)
David casts this psalm in four parts. The first (vv. 1-4) is about the motivations of the wicked. The Hebrew for the first line of the first verse is somewhat difficult to translate and there is a bit of variation among the existing Hebrew manuscripts. Consequently, there is a divergence among various translations: The NASB, the Amplified Bible, and the ESV render it like the above. The NIV, the HCSB and the NKJV translate it along this line: “An oracle in my heart concerning the wicked …” (NKJV).

Which ever translation is correct, the truth remains: Transgression is a matter of the heart. Neither God nor His precepts, nor anything external to a man cause make him to sin.
Let no one say when he is temped, “I am tempted by God”; for God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does He Himself tempt anyone. But each one is tempted when he is draw away by his own desires and enticed. Then, when desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, brings forth death. (James 1:13-15)
Nor can satan make a man sin, for no one could be tempted to do evil unless the desire was already present deep in his heart. Why is the desire for evil so deeply embedded in the heart of the wicked? Because he has no fear of God before his eyes.

The fear of God is regard for God and His ways, respect for the one who made heaven and earth. It is the recognition that life and everything good comes from Him, and that we were created to know and fellowship with Him. It is the dread of missing out on God, the source of all life and goodness.

Our eyes were meant to be full of God, to behold the splendor of His glory. But the eyes of the wicked are too full of himself to see anything beyond himself. He flatters himself too much to understood what is good and hate what is evil, much less to identify and turn from his twisted ways (Psalm 36:2).

The mouth of the wicked is full of malicious lies (v. 3). So also his heart, for as Jesus said, it is out of the abundance of the heart that the mouth speaks (Matthew 12:34). The wicked is indifferent to wisdom and therefore to doing good — the things that lead to stability, success, beauty and bliss (v. 3). Instead, he lies on his bed at night scheming how he might inflict his hate on others and he is intent upon doing what is evil (v. 4). It consumes him.

David begins this psalm very darkly. However, his focus is not on wicked men working evil deeds. They are merely a source of trouble he has identified. He does not allow them to eclipse his view of life. Now, having described the problem, he turns to the solution. The existence of wicked men and evil deeds in the world is a fact of life, at least for now. However, there is a greater truth at hand, which will ultimately prevail: The faithful love of God. That is what the rest of this psalm is about.

The faithful love of God is more powerful than the heart of transgression and the evil deeds of the wicked.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Surrounded by Faithful Love, Joyful Shouts

Therefore let everyone who is faithful pray to You
    at a time that You may be found.
When great floodwaters come,
    they will not reach him.
You are my hiding place;
    You protect me from trouble.
You surround me with joyful shouts of deliverance.
(Psalm 32:6-7 HCSB)

In Psalm 32, David expresses the deep happiness — the bliss — of being forgiven by God (v.1). There is no hiding out from God then, and no need to (v. 2). David had tried keeping his sin hidden, but it was tearing him up. Inside, he was brittle and dry, and his strength drained away “as in the summer’s heat (vv. 3-4). Then he turned to the Lord and acknowledged his sin, and to his joy discovered, “You took away the guilt of my sin” (v. 5).

Now he recognized that if God would do that for him, He will do that for anyone who quits hiding and turns to Him in faith. Though there is a time when God will bring forth justice into the world, there is still time for grace and mercy to be found. Then when calamity falls all around, those who are pardoned will remain.

There is a “hiding place,” a covering, a refuge, a secret place of safety. That hiding place is the Lord Himself. Before, David had been hiding from God but now he was learning to hide in God, for the Lord protects and preserves those who turn to Him. He watches over them like a shepherd, holding them near, to keep them in times of danger and guard them when adversaries and oppressors appear.

The Lord surrounds them with “joyful shouts of deliverance.” Not cries of fear. Not wails of despair. Joyful shouts of deliverance, the testimony of those who have seen the storm pass and find themselves still standing. They turned to the Lord and experienced His liberating power at every turn. They did not hide their sin from Him and they do not hide their praise from others — loud shouts and boisterous praise to the One who rescued them.

David did not hide his wrongdoing but confessed it to the Lord, and learned once again that “the one who trusts in the LORD will have faithful love surrounding him” (v. 11). The apostle John put it this way: “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is no in us. If we confess our sins. He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:8-9). “The blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin” (v. 7).

When we come out in the open with God, He surrounds us with faithful love and joyful shouts.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

The Table of Covenant Revelation

Praying in the psalms this morning, as is my habit, this passage became my meditation as I went to the Table of the Lord.
The LORD is good and upright;
therefore He shows sinners the way.
He leads the humble in what is right
and teaches them His way.

All the LORD’s ways [show] faithful love and truth
to those who keep His covenant and decrees.
Because of Your name, LORD,
forgive my sin, for it is great.

Who is the person who fears the LORD?
He will show him the way he should choose.
He will live a good life,
and his descendants will inherit the land.

The secret counsel of the LORD is for those who fear Him,
and He reveals His covenant to them.
My eyes are always on the LORD,
for He will pull my feet out of the net.
(Psalm 25:8-15 HCSB)
First, notice that it is out of His goodness that the Lord shows us His way. Being a sinner does not disqualify anyone from receiving it (or else we would all be in trouble). The real qualification is the humility of faith — believing God. Those who are humble are teachable, but pride and arrogance keep one from being able to receive anything from the Lord.

God entered into covenant with Israel, offering them many wonderful promises and benefits (see Deuteronomy 28:1-14). All who kept that covenant — the way of the Lord — would enjoy those promises and benefits. For God always keeps His word, and when He commits Himself, as He does in covenant, to show His “faithful love” (Hebrew, hesed, steadfast love and mercy — covenant love!), He will move heaven and earth to reveal it. It is out of this great love and mercy that He forgives sin.

Who is the person who “fears the Lord?” To fear the Lord is to live in awe of Him, to love and trust Him with all our hearts. To honor what He honors and hate what He hates, to treasure His favor above all things and avoid His displeasure at all costs, to take pleasure in His word, His will, His ways and His works. (Psalm1is another way of describing this, and its benefits; see Two Paths.)

To those who fear the Lord, He will reveal the path they should choose, the one that will lead to a good life, and their descendants will inherit the earth, the blessing of peace and prosperity in the land. He will reveal His secrets to them and they will see His covenant promises fulfilled on their behalf.

Israel was meant to receive all these blessings and benefits, not only to enjoy for themselves, but to reveal and extend the salvation of God to all the world. The problem, though, was that she kept turning away from God and needed to be delivered from the terrible exile she had brought upon herself.

That was a big problem, but God had a big solution. Very early on in the story, God promised a Messiah, an Anointed King who would come and not only rescue Israel but also gather in all the nations as well to enjoy the pleasures of God. This Messiah was revealed, historically, in the person of Jesus of Nazareth, the only one who ever faithfully fulfilled every obligation of God’s covenant with Israel. By His death on the cross and His resurrection from the grave, He destroyed the works of the devil and defeated every power that stands against humanity — not only for the Jews, but for all the nations of the world. It is not only the taking away of sin but also deliverance from the power of sin, and from every enemy of spirit, soul and body.

It is that victory we find portrayed in the Table of the Lord. Jesus’ body was given and His blood shed on our behalf and for our benefit. In it, the new covenant between God and His people, foretold in the Old Testament (see Jeremiah 31:31-34), was instituted.

At the Table of the Lord, our eyes are always on the Lord Jesus the Messiah, who has pulled our feet out of the net. The secret counsels of God and the new covenant He has instituted with us are revealed in the signs of the body and blood of King Jesus.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Two Paths

Blessed is the man
Who walks not in the counsel of the ungodly,
Nor stands in the path of sinners,
Nor sits in the seat of the scornful;

But his delight is in the law of the Lord,
And in His law he meditates day and night.
(Psalm 1:1-2)
Psalm 1 describes two different kinds of walks. Each represents a way of life. One way seeks after God, the other does not. The one who seeks after God takes great delight in His law (the Hebrew word is torah and means “teaching,” instruction for living well). It gives him counsel, guides him along a good path and seats him in a place where he is a blessing to others.

The other one follows the advice of people who habitually do evil. It leads him into a path that is harmful both to himself and those around him, and it seats him with those who only know how to mock what is good.

Two radically different ways, two dramatically different outcomes:
He shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water,
That brings forth its fruit in its season,
Whose leaf also shall not wither;
And whatever he does shall prosper.

The ungodly are not so,
But are like the chaff which the wind drives away.
Therefore the ungodly shall not stand in the judgment,
Nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous.

For the Lord knows the way of the righteous,
But the way of the ungodly shall perish.
(Psalm 1:4-6)
The one who diligently seeks after God, delighting in His ways and meditating continually on His instruction, finds great reward, not only in the life to come but also in this one. His life is well established, abundant and fruitful. He has something to offer for every season of life. He goes from prosperity to prosperity.

Not so for the one who walks in the way that is not God’s. His life becomes dry and dusty, like chaff, and is soon blown away with the prevailing winds. On the day when God comes to stand everything up and set everything straight, there will be no place for the evil man. He will not be found among those who are found doing what is right.

For God has great regard for those who do what is right, who “seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness” — God’s rule and reign and His way of doing and being right — and everything necessary for life will be added to them (Matthew 6:33). But for those who follow the counsel of the ungodly, stand in the path of evil and conspire with the mockers of everything good, there is nothing left except a wasted life and a dismal future.

Two radically different paths. Two dramatically different outcomes. In what will you delight?

Monday, August 3, 2009

Walking with God

Enoch walked with God; and he was not, for God took him. (Genesis 5:24)
The author of Hebrews comments on this unusual primeval event:
By faith Enoch was taken away so that he did not see death, “and was not found because God had taken him”; for before he was taken, he had this testimony, that he pleased God. (Hebrews 11:5)
The Greek word for “taken,” used in all three instances in this verse, means to transfer, transport, or translate. In other words, Enoch walked with God and ended up very differently than when He began. He was not just changed as to his spiritual condition, he even experienced a change in his physical state. God, who is Spirit, created the material universe, so physical reality is essentially a manifestation of the spiritual realm.

The Septuagint, an early translation of the Hebrew Scriptures into Greek, uses in Genesis 5:24 the Greek verb for “pleased” in place of the Hebrew word for “walked.” It signifies that Enoch did not merely happen to be accompanying God in this journey, but he actually pleased God in doing so — he was a delight to Him.

God had wanted to walk with Adam in this way. He came walking in the Garden in the “cool of the day,” looking for him (Genesis 3:8-9). But of course, Adam had already disconnected from God by his rebellion. It is significant that the “hall of fame of faith” in Hebrews 11 does not begin with, “By faith Adam …” Adam acted as he did precisely because he did not believe God.

But that is what pleases God — faith! As Hebrews goes on to say, “Without faith, it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him” (Hebrews 11:6). Faith is believing that God is, and that He rewards those who seek Him out. That pleases God, which is exactly what Enoch did. He walked with God in faith — and it changed his entire existence.

There is a way of walking in this world that can transport you into a higher reality, a new realm of living, a delightful fellowship with God. It is the way of faith — believing God.