PSALMS 1:1 – 3:8 and ROMANS 16:1–27
We are now going to begin a journey through the beautiful portion of scripture known as the Psalms. There is so much that can be gleaned and shared from any of them and we will seek to give the sense of the timing of the Psalm with the purpose of making personalized application for our day. The collection of David’s psalms was more than likely done by Ezra, the priest. He wisely chose to put this psalm first among the others. Do you notice how this psalm sounds like the opening to the Lord’s teachings on the Beatitudes? The primary theme of this psalm is how we can learn to live a righteous life in the midst of evil. This is especially applicable today as we look at the conditions of our present world. How can we maintain our testimony, how can we develop and grow in our faith when things around us are deteriorating? David serves up some very practical advice as our journey through the Psalms begins.
In verse 1 we see the need for separation in our lives from those who choose to not live for God. This can be difficult when we are in a work environment but we can choose whom we associate with at other times. It has been said that we are known by the company we keep. This is so true and we do well to heed to this truth. I have experienced this personally and know of its power. About a year after my salvation I was contacted by some old friends of mine. They spoke respectfully of my new found life but insisted there would be nothing wrong in meeting up on occasion for old time’s sake. Though I initially resisted their overtures there came the time when I found myself slipping back into older habits. The reason was due to spending more time with old friends. I did not influence them but rather their lifestyle influenced me resulting in my going down a very dangerous path. In short, I backslid and went back to my old ways. I do not blame my old friends, the blame is on me. I knew better and the lessons of that experience have never left me some 36 years later. The Lord was merciful in sovreignly changing my path. It is true; much can be said about a person by the company he or she keeps. The heart gravitates towards people and things that can satisfy its desire. Psa 1:1 is a profound foundational scripture into the Psalms. The 2nd verse is a strong follow-up. A person who meditates and delights in the law and ways of God will prosper. It is sad to see the Law being marginalized or misapplied in much of the church. David delighted in it; he saw it as perfect and more to be desired than gold (Psa 19:7, 10). Perhaps this is one of the reasons He is so beloved by God. The Lord highly esteems His law as seen in the following verse:
Mic 4:2 And many nations shall come, and say, Come, and let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, and to the house of the God of Jacob; and he will teach us of his ways, and we will walk in his paths: for the law shall go forth of Zion, and the word of the LORD from Jerusalem.
God’s law has the ability to transform us from who we are into what God wants us to be. It is not achieved by a legalistic adherence to rules but rather a love for what it represents. The law defines who God is; it defines who we are in light of God’s glory and it defines and gives strength to sin. Embracing the law helps us to see our need which can then inspire us to pray to God for grace so that we can become more like Him.
If we were to follow through in the above steps we then can be rooted into God’s purposes (vs 3-4). As our roots go deeper we tap a source that enables our leaves to be green through all seasons. The expression “fair weather Christian” is by no means a compliment. It suggests a person who is soulish and unstable. If we are rooted we have an ability to be fruitful and flourishing at all times. Failure to employ these keys will see a person being unstable and easily thrown off course. Good teaching and doctrine helps to ensure healthy growth. It will stand in the time of testing and not yield or give way when the storms come. Psalm 1 presents the two sides of good and evil in an easy and understandable contrast. Which of the two foundations do we resemble in Luke 6:46-49? Once that question is answered we will know which of the two groups from Psalm 1 speaks of us.
This psalm helps to give a glimpse of God, His greatness, His actions and how we are to relate to Him. Ever since Satan was cast out of heaven he has waged war against the kingdom of God to no avail. He now seeks to mobilize his wrath against God through the kings and the armies of the earth. Satan seeks to fill men with the same hatred and disdain that he himself has. The greater the army the greater sense of strength he feels. In spite of all this his efforts will always be in vain. The psalmist asks the question as to why do you continue to imagine such things? Satan knows he is doomed but the people and armies he empowers may feel otherwise. The reason is because they assess the situation through natural means. David is letting them know that is foolish to think that one can challenge God. Today, it is much the same way. The world is becoming increasingly anti-Christian with each passing day. People have no problem in mocking and spiting God. This message that David is conveying is so needed today. Man has no clue what they are doing and whom they are coming up against. There is no fear in the violation of God’s laws and precepts. This is the fruit of a lawless society. If it is this bad now at the time of David one can only imagine the foolish defiance that will be on display at the time of the 2nd coming.
In verse 4 it mentions that he that is in the heavens shall laugh at them and have them in derision. They have no idea how foolish they look in their evil plotting before a Holy God. This is instructive for us as well. I feel we take ourselves too seriously at times. The Lord takes such pleasure in people who can take Him at His Word and believe for the impossible. This is what impresses and moves the heart of God. If we go back to our account here it matters not how overpowering the enemy may look. God is not threatened nor in jeopardy.
David is well acquainted with Zion seeing that it was he who was able to bring the Ark of the Covenant to that holy hill (vs 6-7). It was at Zion where David established the Tabernacle which served as a resting place until Solomon built him a house later on. It is the place the Lord desires to inhabit more than any other dwelling place. It is at Zion where we become more acquainted with the holiness of God. It is at Zion today where you see much contention that attracts much of the world’s attention. One needs to look beyond the natural skirmishes to fully appreciate its full significance. It is out of Zion where the blessing of the Lord is directed (Psa 133:3). Ultimately, it is the place the Lord chooses to inhabit and it is the place that God makes available for every believer.
David was a man after God’s own heart which enabled him to have such intimate revelation of the Father and Son relationship. Who else would be in a position to make the statement seen in verse 7. Later in the psalms we will see David again having a high level of exposure in the inner working of the godhead.
Psa 110:1 A Psalm of David. The LORD said unto my Lord, Sit thou at my right hand, until I make thine enemies thy footstool.
Psa 110:2 The LORD shall send the rod of thy strength out of Zion: rule thou in the midst of thine enemies.
You can see similarities between these two psalms as it relates to Zion and the Son’s rule out of Zion. Only King David, a man who sought after the heart of God could have the ability to express such revelation. In verse 8 we are exhorted to ask the Lord for the heathen to be the inheritance of the church. This is a declaration of authority and it comes from the position of ruling from Zion’s holy hill. It is imperative that we understand the spiritual significance of Zion. It is not just God’s resting place but it is a position from where God and his saints rule and reign as kings and priests. It is from Zion where the saints of God rule and reign in the midst of God’s enemies. This is why this portion of real estate is so highly contested. The natural war that we see is a mere shadow of a greater conflict. When we begin to reflect upon these things it helps us to appreciate the cost involved in ascending God’s holy hill of Zion (Psa 15 and 24). It helps us to appreciate the value in pursuing the vision of Zion. May God place within our heart the same heart that David had for God; that we might have that all out pursuit for God and His ways. The call to Zion is available to all but will all be willing to pay the price? It is one thing to quote the familiar verse of asking the Lord for the heathen and the uttermost part of the world but it must be recognized that it only comes from the position of Zion. The cost of gaining this position is high but attainable; what it takes is a heart like David’s that longs after the things of God.
This psalm was penned at a most difficult period in David’s life. He had already sinned against God concerning Bathsheba and now he is in the position of fleeing from his son Absalom who is looking to seize the throne. David’s cry and anguish is one of the fruits of his sin which is now allowing his throne to become vulnerable. When David sinned a hedge of God’s protection was lifted; it gave the enemy an access he did not have before. Previously, David had been experiencing the blessings of ruling and reigning upon Zion as seen in Psalm 2 and Psalm 110. David is now in fleeing for his life as the conspiracy of Absalom’s rebellion takes hold (2 Sam 15:12). Even some of David’s close companions have abandoned him such as Ahithophel who was one of his wise counsellor’s. The enemy had gained advantage due to the sin of a man in a high position of authority. We must pray for those who are in leadership positions because they are on the front lines of intense battles that others often do not see. We as congregants and under shepherds do have a responsibility to uphold the arms of leadership.
In spite of David’s distress he still had the ability to summon up an inner strength to draw from the Lord as seen in verse 3. In fact, verses 3 and 4 represents one of the first songs I learned back in my charismatic days. These songs even have more meaning for me now having the added knowledge of its background. It speaks as to the quality of man that David was. Yes, he had sinned grievously before God resulting in him being in this position but he still could summon the “spirit man” within him to cry out to God. There were many who thought for sure his days were done and that there was no longer any hope (verse 2).
This Psalm, as well as many others are coming to life in light of the days we are living in. They are instructive to those of a seeking and tender heart. To fully appreciate Psalm 3 one needs to spend time at the period that it reflects (2 Sam 12-15). It is important to meditate and reflect upon this portion of scripture in order to extract the essence of Psalm 3. It looked like it was over for David, many abandoned him, Absalom asserted himself to become king, many of the people were with him and yet David still was able to cry unto the Lord. The Bible says that God did hear him and it was out of His holy hill where relief came. David when confronted with his sin immediately acknowledged his transgression. God forgave him but there were judgments and consequences that would come. David sinned while in his position at Zion but also found forgiveness in Zion. It was out of God’s holy hill where David was able to rest from his enemies (verses 5-6). It was out of God’s holy hill where God was able to arise on David’s behalf to thwart the usurper. Yes, God did answer David but remember it was at a great cost. It was his son who rebelled against him and it was his son who was slain in battle. This psalm helps us to appreciate the blessings of Zion but it does also give insight into the consequences of sinning in light as David did. May we be warned of the vulnerabilities of leadership even from the position of Zion but may we also be encouraged as to how David still triumphed in the end. Psalm 3 helps to give a beautiful window into many of the facets of Zion.
The Romans Road tour is about to come to an end. The journey through the past 15 chapters has been a comprehensive whirlwind of activity and experiences. The first three chapters which reflect the beginning of the tour saw everyone coming under the reality that there is not one who is righteous before God. Paul went to great lengths to drive this point home so that there was no misunderstanding. Yes, good works are to be encouraged and pursued but they do not and cannot make us righteous before God.
Isa 64:6 But we are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags; and we all do fade as a leaf; and our iniquities, like the wind, have taken us away.
Let’s try and put the first three chapters into today’s context. We see sin abounding everywhere yet you still see man trying to make an impact on what they perceive in doing good things. Have you noticed how many take strong interest in preserving the environment or helping to serve notice on the “so called” dangers of global warming? Princess Diana before she died was a spokesperson on the tragedies of landmines that were used in war. These noble acts will never save us no matter how much the world’s media touts ones service. Many of the people who are on the frontline of these causes are immoral and vain. These works can be likened to the “fig leaves” that Adam used to cover himself after he transgressed against God. The “fig leaves” were unacceptable then, they were unacceptable at the time of Paul and they are unacceptable today. The doing of good works does not save anybody! This is Paul’s message through the early stages of the tour.
We came to know that God sent His son to be our justification in chapters 4 and 5. We are justified by faith as we accept Jesus into our lives. It is a gift from God that requires a choice on our part to receive Him and His righteousness. In chapters 6-8 we saw the division and separation of two groups of passengers. There was the narrow road that few people opted for which acquainted the passenger with the full message of the Cross and its accompanying companions of the Law, Grace, Sin and the free will of Choice. The majority of the passengers took the easier route of the by-pass. It was here where some altered forms of doctrine and teachings became available. These doctrines accommodated the whims of these passengers which helped them to feel justified in not having to traverse the way of the narrow road. We saw the re-joining of the two groups from chapter 9 onwards but there was a noticeable distinction between those who travelled the narrow road as opposed to went the way of the by-pass. They had differing views and perspectives on some of the landmarks they encountered along the way.
Paul is now going to make some final comments as this tour comes to an end. He quickly gives a series of credits to many who have helped and assisted along the way. Paul was not a one man show. He credits several of the brethren as seen in verse 1-16. Paul may have been the primary spokesmen but he is the product of much prayer and support from many unknown names. In verse 17 he is emphatic about warning those who seek to bring division by way of doctrine and teaching. It can be assumed that there would be some among them who were not fully persuaded like Paul. (After all many opted for the by-pass) It is a picture of the last supper in the upper room when Jesus was with His disciples. There was one who sought to cause division by the name of Judas.
The final exhortation and promise is the beautiful statement Paul makes on the subject of Peace. It is a weapon, a significant weapon against the wiles of the devil. It is the peace of God that defeats and destroys Satan. His (Satan) strength comes when we are filled with fear, anger, lust, strife and many other maladies. If the peace of God is resident in our life he has nothing to feed upon; the peace of God starves him of his ability to inflict his agenda (vs 20). Paul makes a few more commendations before he closes. He prays that the grace of the Lord would empower them and keep them as they become established for his purpose. It is a prayer we all can say a hearty amen to for ourselves. May the message of the Roman’s tour be sealed within each of us. May we be those who avail of all of its promises by walking and travelling through its entirety; primarily the realities of the narrow path through Chapters 6-8.