PSALMS 13:1 – 15:5 and 1 CORINTHIANS 4:1–21
This is another psalm penned by David when fleeing from the hands of Saul. It is patterned similarly to the previous psalms. In verses 1-4 David petitions God as to how long will the enemy hold sway over him. In the final two verses he again summons the spirit man and declares that God is merciful and is well able to see him through. He will sing praises unto God even though he is going through a struggle. His testimony is that God has dealt bountifully with him in spite of his current circumstances. This is a spiritual man; a man who had an ability to sing praises while in his prison. It is a picture of Paul and Silas when they were imprisoned.
Act 16:25 And at midnight Paul and Silas prayed, and sang praises unto God: and the prisoners heard them.
Act 16:26 And suddenly there was a great earthquake, so that the foundations of the prison were shaken: and immediately all the doors were opened, and every one’s bands were loosed.
What is it about songs and praise? This is the power of the psalms; they must be read with understanding of what was taking place. It must be remembered that these were words that were put to song. The song of Miriam was a powerful testimony after God opened up the Red Sea for all of Israel (Exo 15). This is why it is so much greater to sing songs of praise before the victory. This is why the tribe of Judah would be sent forth before many battles. There is a simple chorus from the charismatic days we used to sing which always brought a sense of triumph when singing it. It is taken from 2 Chr 20:20.
“Send Judah first and the battle will be won, send Judah first and the foe is overcome; singing praise to the Father and glory to the Son, Send Judah first.
David was honest with his feelings and his struggles before the Lord. You can see his soul expressing its frustration and longing over the delays of his deliverance. As we saw in other psalms there was strengthening that came into his spirit man which enabled a declaration of God’s ability to come through. David’s initial psalms serve as a textbook that helps the reader know the distinction between soul and spirit. Singing the song of the Lord builds up our most holy faith and enables God to come on the scene in a powerful way. David, like all of us had a soul and he expressed himself through his soul; at the end however the spirit man took the ascendancy. So should it be with us.
This psalm can be placed at the time of Absalom’s rebellion. In verse 1 we see similarities to what Paul spoke to the Jewish brethren in his letter to the Romans.
Rom 3:23 For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God;
This thought of the fool can also be likened to Nabal who had no regard for David and the things of God (1 Sam 25:10-11). There are many likeminded people today who think nothing of mocking and spiting God. This is the fruit of lawlessness and it is the environment that the antichrist will seize upon. In fact, Absalom is a very real type of the antichrist as he sought to take away the kingdom from David. He had opportunity to assert himself due to David’s sin. In the midst of this rebellion God still honoured and heard the prayer of David. One must try and absorb all that David was going through. He had the awareness of his sin and the reproach that came along with it. His kingdom was under assault by his own son resulting in his need to flee out of Jerusalem. In spite of this David still had a certain presence of mind in seeing the big picture. He knew full well the corruption of man and his tendencies even after his own sin. David found forgiveness and repentance and this is what distinguished him from the others.
It must be remembered that David had already the experience of reigning in Zion. He understood God as his refuge and His reigning in righteousness (vs 5). He was expressing frustration in seeing that men for the most part were not seeking after God. He also was amazed at the lack of godly knowledge seeing that the people were easy prey for the enemy’s devices.
Hos 4:6 My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge: because thou hast rejected knowledge, I will also reject thee, that thou shalt be no priest to me: seeing thou hast forgotten the law of thy God, I will also forget thy children.
The above verse helps to give understanding regarding the lack of true knowledge. Their priestly role is minimized and not properly understood. When there are deficiencies in these areas you will find a corresponding failure or weakness in the Law. The obvious result is lawlessness which is what is seen here. It bears repeating that the man of sin flourishes when there is the breakdown of standards. In the last days the man of sin is revealed right after the moment that the two witnesses are killed. One of those witnesses is Moses who we know from scripture was the lawgiver on the Lord’s behalf (Mal 4:4).
David is reflecting upon his reign upon Zion before his sin and longs for the return of righteous judgement. What was it about Zion that made it so special for David? We see several of its attributes in the next psalm.
This is one of the two psalms that make known the qualifications of ruling and reigning upon Zion (Psa 24). This would be one of the highlights of David’s life to date. He has come through his years of fleeing from Saul and is now about to have the privilege of bringing the Ark of the Covenant into Jerusalem and up to Zion. This is not only a significant moment for David but for Israel as well. It’s important to know some of the history pertaining to the Ark which speaks of the presence of God. The Tabernacle of Moses, once it was constructed housed the Ark of the Covenant in the most holy place. There came a time when Israel and its attending priests took the presence of God for granted. As the reign of the Judges was coming to an end they would seek God and the Ark in time of national distress. God would faithfully warn and then deliver Israel but they would soon go back to their ways. The time came when God said no more and the result was that the Ark left Moses Tabernacle at Shiloh and never returned. The Ark sojourned in the land of the Philistines for a season then came to Kirjath Jearim and to the house of Obededom. The period of the Ark being removed from Moses Tabernacle was about 50-60 years. God had been preparing a true king and priest who would capably bear His presence to a new resting place; the resting place of Zion. It symbolised something new for Israel and David had the honour and privilege of ascending the hill of Zion with the presence of God. David has just become king over all of Israel via his 3rd anointing. The Jebusites who represented the final foe to overcome has now been disposed. It is indeed a joyous event.
The significance of Zion goes beyond this event. It speaks of a vision and destination that God makes available for His people. Why Zion; why not anywhere else? Zion is the place that God has chosen for His habitation (Psa 132:12-13, Psa 87:2). Wouldn’t you like to be in that place as well? That popular Don Moen song comes to mind; “I just want to be where you are…” The Lord has chosen Zion for His dwelling place, it’s a place available and afforded to all but not all will qualify. There is a price and cost involved and we see some of those qualifications listed out in this psalm.
In verse 1 the question is asked, “who may dwell in God’s holy hill?” The invitation goes out to all but only a small percentage in the end will qualify. There will be a sequence of 15 different criteria listed in this Psalm and Psalm 24 that will need to be fulfilled. The first three criteria are seen in verse 2 where one has to walk uprightly, exhibit righteousness and speak the truth in one’s heart. The righteousness referred to is not the “imputed” righteousness received at salvation it speaks of a worked out or “imparted” righteousness that results from walking in uprightness. Don’t forget David wandered in the desert and wilderness in fleeing for his life from Saul. That period in his life taught him a dependence upon God; it’s what prepared him to be the priest (after the order of Melchizedec) who could bear the Ark to Jerusalem and unto Zion. How would we handle an experience like that; how would we respond to a Ziklag type of trial? David’s soul was tested through this time but David’s spirit man prevailed; he found ways to encourage himself even against all hope (1 Sam 30:6).
There are several other qualifications mentioned that we need to take note of. There is the warning in keeping our tongue in check, to not speak ill of others for personalized gain. Once again David proved himself in this area on several occasions. He had the opportunity to avenge himself of his adversary (Saul) on two occasions but he did not do it, he saw him as the Lord’s anointed. Think hard about these things because they represent some of the qualities and hallmarks of Zion. We will see several other psalms that will pertain to Zion. It deserves much of our attention due to all that it represents. We are all called to be kings and priests (Rev 5:10) and what we see with David at Zion is a clear picture of that calling. It is here where David stepped outside of his dispensation by being able to function as both a king (which was lawful seeing that he came from Judah) and priest. (He was not of Levi so how could he be a priest?) He is serving here as a type of Christ but he also is representing the greater priesthood of Melchizedec (Gen 14:18). What David is establishing at Zion is important; it has a last day precedent. We all can be partakers of this beautiful vision but we must be mindful of what is entailed. Zion represents a vision for the last day church and it is something that must be birthed in the heart of the believer (This one was born there Psa 87:6).
1 Cor 4
Chapter 4 is a follow on from the previous chapter. Paul is establishing his credentials as one who accounts himself before God. He sees himself as a steward; one who is called to be found faithful in his service and work before God. In verse 3 Paul was not despising being judged by the Corinthians or any other church but making the point that he holds himself to a much higher standard. Why is Paul going forth making these kind of statements? His words will be weighty being filled with much needed correction. It is easy to point out the fault in others but what about one’s own life? Are we guilty of the same or perhaps of even worse things? This is so common in man; to point out faults and wrong doing in others but not meting out the measure of judgement upon themselves. Paul is making it abundantly clear that the standard of accountability is much higher, in his case it is to God Himself. This thought is summarised by the Lord when he taught about righteous judgement (Math 7:1-5).
Paul makes a very important statement in verse 5 regarding when to judge certain situations. I feel we can link this statement with the parable of the wheat and the tares (Math 13:24-30). Our tendency is to immediately judge a situation once it becomes known. In many cases this would be appropriate however there are times where wisdom may dictate to not be so hasty. In moving prematurely we may do added damage to a person or others who may be adversely affected. This requires wisdom and the mind of the Lord. There are cases where judgement needs to be put forth immediately; there will be times when one may need to hold their fire so that the root can come to the surface so that the need can be more readily addressed. As mentioned above the parable of the wheat and tares should help to give a greater insight into this truth.
Paul now goes back to the earlier problem of holding certain church leaders in disproportionate esteem; saying I am of Apollos, I am of Paul etc. Paul is saying look at us and determine that this is not who we are and this is not how we minister or see ourselves. Look at us and see that our heart is for the brethren and the welfare of others. There are cult like figures in Christendom who actually thrive on being propped up; they are condescending to others while enjoying the limelight. Paul, Peter, Apollos and others were not like that at all. He invited the Corinthians to take a look at their lives and learn from their example of selflessness.
Paul is now going to draw a needed contrast between the Corinthians who were “living as kings” in contrast to himself, who as an apostle is a seeming spectacle to man. They were rich in the things of the natural, feeding upon the teachings of those who spoke to their inclinations while being puffed up in heady pride. They were exercising in many of the spiritual gifts but it was without order and without knowledge. One of the greatest impediments to the growth of the kingdom is “spiritual pride”. It is a real danger when taking into account the use of spiritual gifts. To try and bring correction into such an atmosphere is no small task. Who are you Paul, to speak to us, we have done quite well without you these past few years etc. Paul had credentials and he had some experience with them from a previous visit. They would have loved for Paul to write from a similar vein of kingship and authority but he countered with the message of the cross. The Cross was in fact the very tonic and remedy that was required for this carnal church. There was probably no other leader who could have brought in this needed message to the Corinthians than Paul himself. He had been tested and vetted through his journey and was in a position to speak to them accordingly.
In saying that he was a fool for Christ’s sake he was actually attacking their mindset and their god. They couched themselves in spiritual pride, just like many do today in not being aware of their true condition. If they really esteemed Paul then he was going to let them know how he ranked in comparison to themselves. He was a fool, a spectacle, the weakest amongst the strong, being defamed and so on. He did not do this in mockery or to shame them but to truly warn them of the coming dangers if they were to continue down this path. What was really the true problem here? In seeing the problem in the Corinthian church we will be fleshing a primary problem in today’s church. The primary problem was a lack of true spiritual fathers.
1Co 4:15 For though ye have ten thousand instructors in Christ, yet have ye not many fathers: for in Christ Jesus I have begotten you through the gospel.
To be an instructor in the things of the kingdom is a privilege and beautiful office but to be a father is something totally different. A true father and mother can give oversight and perspective; they can provide the bigger picture which will help shape the way one should live. Paul goes on to say in effect; let me be that father figure to you (vs 16). He then informs them that he is sending along Timothy, who is a beloved son of Paul to help and assist them. It is hoped that Paul would be able to follow up in due season to follow up on his letter. He then posts a question to them as to whether he would come to them with a rod or in love in the spirit of meekness. The answer to that question would be determined by how they respond to his letter of admonition. Is the “Corinthian” church of today suffering from similar issues? How about our own individual life? The question Paul is asking of the Corinthians is a question we need to ask of ourselves (Will it be the rod due to hearing and not doing or will it be in love and meekness, allowing God to bring correction to needed areas)? Let us consider carefully our response.