PSALMS 4:1 – 6:10 and 1 CORINTHIANS 1:1–31
This is a psalm of David during a time of distress. One of the most challenging times for David was soon after he was anointed king over Israel. We need to remember that Saul was still king but became envious of David after the people were ascribing ten thousand unto David and thousands unto Saul. David was anointed to become king but he was now in the process of being prepared for ruling as a king. His primary nemesis was his own father in law the king. Through his wandering period of fleeing from the king, David was being enlarged and prepared. This is how enlargement takes place in one’s life. It is now, perhaps while fleeing from Absalom that David is able to draw on his experiences of times past. It is the Lord who is the glory and lifter of David’s head.
David understood the message of separation and was one who was able to distinguish himself from others. He had a heart that sought after God and had the assurance that the Lord hears the cry of such a person. It is a much needed lesson for the church today. The cry in the last days is to separate and to come out from the ungodly. There is so much of the world today that has crept into the church. We are living in a season of harvest; it is a harvest of both the wheat and the tares. This can have a both a corporate and personal application. When reading the parable of the wheat and tares you see that there is a separation at the time of harvest. The wheat comes to maturity in conjunction with the tares; there are appointed angels that bundle and gather them together. It is a season when there needs to be a separation. The same principle can be seen in the 7th kingdom parable of Math. 13 of the great net. It is a harvest of both good and bad fish. Soon afterwards there is a separation of the good fish from the bad. We have the chance to acknowledge personalized tares in our lives that have matured; issues that may have been a struggle or stronghold that have now come to ripeness. We can seek the Lord to have these impediments harvested from our lives. A believer who allows this work to be done in their life will be able to get the attention of God; their prayers will be heard (vs 4).
There is the need to be introspective concerning our own heart. It is important that we take time to be still and transparent before the presence of God. It has been said on a number of occasions but it bears repeating concerning the relationship he had with God. He availed his heart before God; he did not hide nor cover up ( Psa 26:2, 139:22). When he sinned he was able to immediately acknowledge his transgression. This is one of the key attributes of David. In verse 5 he instructs the listener to put on or offer up the sacrifices of righteousness. David shows us the way in how we can come into a position of an imparted, worked out righteousness.
This is one of the criteria that distinguishes the two different groups in the church today. There are those who are satisfied to live their Christian life on a casual “serving God on their own term” basis. The two groups can be distinguished by the 5th and 6th kingdom parable from Math 13. There is a man who finds a treasure and rejoices in it and sells that treasure to buy a field (Mt. 13:44). The 6th parable shows a man who “seeks” for that one pearl of great price. The parables seem similar but they are very different. We need to progress from parable 5 to parable 6. A believer who seeks God with all their heart will be found of him. This is the quality we see in David in Psalm 4. The fruits of such a pursuit are seen in the last few verses. There is great joy and gladness and a season of increase. This speaks of the Feast of Tabernacles which is the last great feast about to take place. It is represented by the 7th Kingdom parable of the great net in Math. 13. The Feast of Tabernacles has several names many of which are captured in the words of David in the closing verses of Psalm 4 (The Feast of Joy and gladness, The Feast of Rest and the Feast of Ingathering and Increase).
I cannot help but start singing the Maranatha version of this song as I read the first three verses. That is the beauty of the Psalms; they were written as songs and it is so refreshing for me to read these psalms and be able to put many of them to song. They should be sung in our churches on a more regular basis. (this is my opinion) Can you see the assurance that David had that God would hear his prayer? What a relationship he had with God and it serves as a template for us. One of the things we see about David was that he was a meditator upon God, His Word and His Law (Psa 1:2). This in turn helps to bring to the surface the things we can commune with God upon. It helps to shape our form and manner of prayer. This kind of intimacy gives an assurance of God hearing our cry; it helps to ensure a focus and clearly directed appeal unto God. The Bible makes clear that what we think and meditate upon will determine what we become. Our mind is the battleground where the enemy seeks to do great damage. If our mind is encumbered with many burdens, concerns or distractions it will minimize our overall effectiveness. We see that David was one who directed his prayer to God in the morning. The Lord Jesus Christ was one who communed with His Father long before the breaking of the day. These encounters with His Father helped to refresh and revive Him as well as to direct His steps for the day. It sounds like very good counsel for each of us.
There is a developing theme already being seen in the psalms we have looked at. God does not tolerate evil doers and those who work iniquity (vs 4-5). God takes strong issue with those who work deceitfully. This is not only applying to those outside the kingdom but it is a message to those who do such things within the church. We must never presume upon God or take His presence for granted. This certainly was not the posture that David took. In verses 7 and 8 David states his approach to God as one that is taken in mercy and in the fear of the Lord. He certainly had no casualness about his method of worshiping God; it was reverential and in godly fear.
David was mired in a land filled with enemies who were not seekers of God. His prayer was that God would lead him in righteousness and clarity of path (vs 8). He was well aware of their devices and intents; they were flatterers and men who worked deceit (vs 9). He prayed that their counsels would fail. This is exactly what happened to Ahithophel when he counselled on behalf of Absalom. This was once a man who spoke as an oracle of God. David had the assurance that God would bless the righteous with favour and joy; it is to those who learn to put their trust in the Lord.
This psalm can be seen in two parts. In many ways it is a summation of what we saw with Job. The first seven verses depicts David in a state of despair as he laments his condition. There is an expression of confusion, weakness and vexation of Spirit which was very similar to what Job went through in his trial. The primary difference between David and Job is that David is suffering under the consequences of known sin. This period is after his sin with Bathsheba perhaps around the birth of the child that eventually died (2 Sam 12:16).
This would be the first of his penitential psalms where he sought forgiveness and restoration. This psalm is further amplified in Psalm 51 where the heart of David cries out for deliverance from his sin. He pleads with God to not take away His presence and Holy Spirit from Him. David’s sin was grievous but he did not hide from God. He had a longing to have a purified and cleansed heart (Psa 51:10-12). This goes back to something we noted about Job. He was not like Adam in seeking to hide or cover himself from God (Job 31:33). This is one of the primary keys into the successes of these men. They were willing to be transparent and open before the Lord. God in turn is able to demonstrate His redemptive and restorative qualities through someone like David who had greatly sinned. It serves notice to us in how we are to live our lives before God. It helps us to know that God is not limited in His ability to forgive and restore in our lives provided we learn to walk in the Fear of the Lord. One of the biggest dangers seen in today’s church is the casual regard people have for the presence of God. This is nothing new since it was the modus operandi that Israel subscribed to in their relationship with God. This was especially seen during the reign of the Judges.
David had ascended the hill of Zion and had been ruling over all of Israel for some time. He had known the blessings of Rest from his enemies and the joy of daily ministering in the presence of God. He basked in God’s abundant favor. In a moment of weakness he let down his guard and now everything had changed. One indiscretion which led to another has now placed him into this affliction. He knew the reasons for it but he still held on and pleaded for mercy. He sees the enemy now prospering and taking advantage of his sin. He is suffering and the nation is now vulnerable. Can you hear the pleading cries of his desperate heart? It is important to reflect upon what had just happened with David. His lesson should instruct us to walk in a holy fear and trembling before God. We should always pray the portion of the Lord’s Prayer that speaks of not being led into temptation. There are preventatives that can be taken; we do not have to go down the road that David did. He had a large heart and was able to find forgiveness and restoration but it is a road and price we can avoid. Lord, help us to be proactive in always seeking you to go before, prepare our paths and keep us from stumbling. David could have learned from Job’s example in the area of viewing the opposite sex.
Job 31:1 I made a covenant with mine eyes; why then should I think upon a maid?
In verses 8-10 we see David expressing confidence in God’s ability to deal with his enemies who were gloating over his weakened state. His sin did allow the enemy an open door into Israel nonetheless we see God still vindicating David and Israel. There will be similar scenarios that will play out with Solomon a bit later on but he will not be as fortunate. David, in spite of his sin has come to a place of knowing that God has heard his cry and supplication. What a wonderful God we serve who is able to lift up someone like David from his pit and yet vindicate him against all enemies. God is able to do the same for us but we must have a heart that seeks for mercy and forgiveness; a heart that loves his heart and walks in the Fear of the Lord.
1 Cor 1
The letter(s) to the church in Corinth goes beyond the addressing of issues of this church and its time period. It has strong relevance for today. The problems that Paul will be addressing are very much the same problems that continue to exist. Paul wrote this letter around 55 AD during his two year period in Ephesus while on his 3rd missionary journey. He was prompted to write due to a letter he received from people who were associated with Chloe’s household (1 Cor 1:11). We can say that the Corinthian church was a very carnal one; they were immature as believers and in need of strong instruction. We will see similarities between the Corinthian church and its modern day equivalent as Paul addresses some critical issues. Paul’s direct approach and method of handling issues needs to be observed because it is needed today.
Paul gives his authorship of this letter by claiming to be “a called” apostle through the will of God. He could certainly make that claim. There were many false teachers beginning to be seen in the early church so it was necessary to assert apostolic credentials. It was certainly not because Paul was caught up in titles. He demonstrated his authority in being able to speak to their need. He was well acquainted with the people and customs of Corinth having spent a period of about 18 months there on a previous occasion. His opening statements (vs 1-9) to the church help to provide insight into areas of their need. Like most of his greetings to other churches, Paul commended the grace and enabling power of God to them. They were a people who were sanctified in Christ Jesus but have not yet come to know the work of sanctification in their own lives. Paul, in his introduction went on to say that they have the “call” to be saints (vs 2). The truth of the matter was that the Corinthian church was very carnal and in need of correction and instruction. Though they may have been carnal they were willing to step out into some of the gifts as we shall later see. The problem was a lack of order which resulted in chaos and a loose interpretation of Christian conduct. It is because of this behaviour that many churches have shied away from functioning in the gifts of the Holy Spirit. They did not want to become like the Corinthians. The teaching of Cessation theology can be attributed to this in part. This doctrine suggests that the gifts of the Holy Spirit ceased after the period of the early church. The term “Corinthian” is often given as a derogatory term to those who seek to operate in the gifts while promoting the Baptism of the Holy Spirit. It’s true, there was chaos and loose interpretation of Biblical values but it does not dismiss the validity and importance of the gifts and fruits of the Holy Spirit. Paul will use this as an opportunity to not only correct their error but to demonstrate the potential of moving in the gifts.
In verses 10-16 Paul addresses the need for unity amongst the Corinthian body. There were divisions on many fronts. What were some of the areas of contention? The brethren were claiming to be disciples of some of the church leaders. Some were laying claim to Peter, some laying claim to Paul and their ultimate authority and then there were the super spiritual that said they were of Christ (vs 12). Please do not think this to be an early church Corinthian problem. Paul and Peter would never subscribe to such foolishness but the people began to anchor around the personality as opposed to the true message they brought. There is a danger in getting caught up in “cult like” mentality towards a particular leader and or organization. The problem oftentimes is not the leader (although it can be) but with the person who can make such a leader become a “god” like figure. This in no wise reflects the functioning of the Holy Spirit. He is the administrator and distributor of gifts and anointings. The Holy Spirit does not magnify one at the expense of the other. The Corinthian church, as we shall see is a work in progress. Their problems and shortcomings do not dismiss what God intended for them and for us. The enemy always seeks to take advantage and exploit divisions, especially when it is seen in the body of Christ.
In verses 17-21 we see Paul doing what he does best. He speaks of the Cross which is a message that many found foolish and offensive and takes it to a whole new level. He speaks of the Cross as being the wisdom of God and a message that confounds the so called wise. This is an interesting way of introducing his message of correction to the Corinthians. Let’s think about what Paul is saying. He is taking the message of the Cross and presenting it in terms of profound wisdom and understanding. He did not see it as weakness but saw it as the power of God displayed. He was neither ashamed nor intimidated by its message. Can we not make the same application as it pertains to the Corinthians, especially to the wise men of today’s church? Is it possible to look at the foolishness of the Corinthian behaviour and yet see the potential and power of what they were espousing? They were not living wise and they certainly were not bringing glory to God in some instances but that does not nullify the Holy Spirit, His gifts and His working. The Cross, like the Corinthian, seem like foolishness to some but when taken to its length is in fact the power and glory of God. The message of Paul’s letter to the Corinthians is not so much the misdemeanours of the church. He will and does address them. It is a window into the person of the Holy Spirit. This message should never get lost in the midst of the controversial issues that get fleshed out in this epistle. Paul will use this vulnerability that is seen in the church and present the remedy while opening our eyes to the beautiful person of the Holy Spirit. This is the genius of Paul and it needs to be appreciated. He is the most adaptable person (in my view) of any Biblical character in the Word of God.
Paul concludes this opening chapter by elaborating on how God chooses the foolish things of the world to confound the wise. He emphasizes the point that we are in Christ Jesus and that there is the opportunity to be made into wisdom, righteousness and sanctification. That is the potential. A baby is not birthed as a full adult but needs to go through a maturation process. The Corinthian church is in baby form seeking to exercise itself in the gifts without spiritual parental oversight. You do not hand the keys of a car to an 8 year old and expect for there not to be some sort of casualty. In like manner you don’t cease the production of cars because 8 year olds cannot handle them. The issue is not the car it is the development and maturation of the driver. The Holy Spirit, His gifts coupled with the Baptism of the Holy Spirit is not the issue of concern rather it is the user who needs to mature. The gifts and working of the Spirit are not to be discarded because of immature Corinthians. Paul as the parental overseer is about to be that father figure for the church. He will take their foolishness and present to us profound wisdom and power that is to be found in the Holy Spirit and His gifts.