PSALMS 49:1 – 51:19 and 1 CORINTHIANS 15:29–58
This is another Psalm that was sung by the sons of Korah probably around the time of King Jehoshaphat who happened to be a teaching king. It is a call to give heed to the words that are about to come forth. They are words of wisdom and understanding and they are words that you will find the Lord Himself alluding to in the gospels. The spirit of wisdom and understanding will be essentials in order to navigate through the last days (Isa 33:6). The Psalmist speaks of inclining his ears unto parables which means that the Lord often hides truth and wisdom from the proud. We also see the blessing of anointed musical instruments as hidden sayings come forth at the playing of the harp. (vs 4) There is something about a stringed instrument that can bring a release of the prophetic or bring about a fresh sense of His presence.
In verses 5-15 the Psalmist speaks of the folly of the rich man who trust in their wealth; thinking they can buy or redeem a brother with money. This is the wisdom seen in the world; a wisdom that places an emphasis on wealth and material goods. They think their houses and life style will continue on forever. The Psalmist could easily be writing to our day. Our culture today is obsessed with personality in cult like worship. There is a desire to gain a name and fame in this life but for what eternal purpose? The moment such a person crosses their eternal threshold the realization will hit that their life long pursuit was in vain; their grave being like that of animals. It will be totally different for the upright in heart (vs 14-15).
In the final verses the Psalmist remarks that one should not envy or be jealous of the rich. He cannot take any of his riches with him. This thought is echoed in many other places such as Psalm 73. There are seasons when the wicked seemingly prosper and the righteous are left wondering why. The writer in psalm 73 came to understand their end when he came into the sanctuary (Psa 73:17). It is here where true perspective is gained; a place where one sees the end of the wicked while viewing the work of God from the bigger picture. It all comes down to one’s vision. May God help us to have the eyes of Abraham who looked for a city whose founder and maker was God.
This Psalm is one of instruction which is attributed to Asaph, who lived during the time of David. The primary message in this Psalm is to demonstrate the sacrifices and offerings that are acceptable to God. In Dr. Bailey’s commentary on the Psalms he divides this Psalm into 4 easily identifiable categories; they are as follows:
1) Glory of God manifested though Zion. (50:1-6)
2) The pleasing sacrifices of thanksgiving. (50:7-15)
3) The wicked reproved (50:16-22)
4) The way to glorify God (50:23)
The beauty of Zion is expressed as the place of perfection; the place that shines and the place where God dwells. Paul, the writer of Hebrews calls Zion the perfection of beauty where the spirits of just men have been made perfect (Heb 12:23). The fire of God is referenced in verse 3. This fire brings cleansing and it consumes the areas of hidden dross. In the Book of Revelation we see a description of the Lord as one who has eyes as flames of fire. (Rev 1:14) We see a picture of the 2nd coming illustrated in verse 4 where the Lord will judge His people. The beauty of the vision of Zion is that it presents God’s people the opportunity to have this work done, right here and right now. What a privilege this is if only the people of God could grasp it. A person who has the vision of Zion in their heart will respond when God comes knocking and searching. The Feast of Atonement helps to give clarity to this truth. In verse 6 we see the need for the people of God to first allow judgement to come into their own lives before they can be used to judge the world. This is a real problem today; many are so quick to judge situations and people without taking onto account their own lives.
The 2nd section of this Psalm deals with the sacrifices that are acceptable to God. It begins with the powerful declaration to give ear to what is about to be said. When you check out the scriptures you will find how vital it is to give ear to what God is about to say. The Lord is reproving the people for their offering of animal sacrifices. The Lord goes on to essentially say that he has no shortage of animals seeing that he owns the cattle on a thousand hills. The Lord is after obedience, not sacrifice (1 Sam 15:22). David said in Psalm 40 that sacrifice and offering is not what God requires but a delighting in doing His will. This results from the law being written upon the heart of a believer (Psa 40:8). This is the New Covenant Reality that God seeks after from His people. In verse 14 we see the importance of thanksgiving. It is an attitude of heart that speaks volumes to the Lord. It is especially true when we can still offer the thanksgiving of praise during times of distress and difficulty. This is a genuine sacrifice and it is one that proves pleasing to God.
In verses 16-22 we see the third section of the psalm which depicts the reproving of the wicked. These are words that seem to be targeted to those who reject or lightly regard the Truth. In other words it is given to those who once tasted of the light. These are people who teach and declare God’s statutes but do not keep them. It is vitally important to allow God to deal with our inward life before declaring God’s precepts and laws to others. David said that God desires truth on the inward parts which we will see in the next Psalm. There can come a time when ministers lay hold of false doctrine and teach others accordingly. This often results from a rejection of Truth along the way which then gives way to justifying one’s position. Such a person will not inherit the blessings of Zion; if not checked they may not well experience eternal life. False doctrines oftentimes results from a turning away from truth and then fashion teachings that help to circumvent that Truth. We then align with a people who do not pursue the true and living God. The case of King Solomon is a sad account which backs up this point.
Finally, the way to glorify God is to fill our mouths with thanksgiving and continuing praise. He is glorified in the midst of the congregation when a people are in unity. God knows the heart of His people and we must understand that he does not desire a serving God on our own term kind of mentality. He is longing for a people who will worship Him in Spirit and in Truth (John 4:24).
This Psalm is one of the most recognized of those which David had penned. The title is very clear as to the timing and application of its contents. It is at the time when David sinned with Bathsheba. There could be no more lower point in his life than this moment. Earlier, David was ruling as the beloved king over Zion and all of Israel in addition to enjoying being in the presence of God. He now has the realization of having sinned in a grievous manner. This Psalm captures well the deep sentiment residing within the king; he is a man who is clearly at the mercy of God. Will he find repentance from God and the potential for restoration? There are so many keys that can be derived from this Psalm that will help us in our understanding of the depths of God’s mercy and to whom it is given.
In verses 1-4 David immediately gets to the point of crying out for mercy. He recognizes that it is not merited but he cries out nonetheless. He acknowledges truth once he was presented with the reality of what he had done through Nathan the prophet (2 Sam 12:7). It has been stated on many previous occasions the importance of acknowledging the Truth and coming to the light. In doing this we are allowing the Lord access into our heart to do the needed work of repair. In searching the scriptures you see men and women distinguished in how they responded to Truth either about themselves or a situation. When Queen Esther responded to the Truth of the threats over Israel she responded by seeking the mercies of the king. God moved and worked on her behalf.
In David’s case it took a cleverly worded account by Nathan of a man who was robbed of his lamb. This allegory prompted a response out of David; this allegory actually pertained to him and he quickly adopted the position of acknowledging his sin. This is one of the keys to a life that finds favour with God. It is not enough however to just acknowledge sin, there must be fruits that warrant repentance. There also must be the willingness on God’s part to dispense His mercy. The highest revelation that God gave of Himself to Moses was that of mercy (Exo 34:6). We see mercy illustrated in the Tabernacle of Moses in the Mercy Seat, situated in the Holy of Holies. It covers the Ark of the Covenant which speaks of the presence of God; in the Ark contained the Law. God’s mercy covers the Law. We have also referenced Psa 25:10 on a number of occasions where it says of mercy and truth encompassing all the paths of the Lord. David was also able to point out that his sin was against God and that it will ever be before him (vs 3. David was informed by Nathan that God has forgiven his sin but there would be consequences; one of them being the fact that his sin will always be known. This is a tremendous judgement in of itself, David would always be aware of his sin but it will also be recorded in Holy Scripture. Still, it speaks to the greatness of God’s ability to restore as well as speaking to the greatness of David in being able to place himself in a position of receiving mercy and repentance. It affords us great hope when we go through our challenges in life, to know that we serve a compassionate and merciful God.
David is now well acquainted with God’s desire to see Truth established within the inward parts of man. This is what it means to know the Truth and to be set free as a result. It all goes back to the very beginning in Genesis where we are faced with a choice. We can either abide by the Truth and the reality of what God said concerning the Tree of the knowledge of good and evil or cling to the lie, deception and cover-up that Satan prescribes. Do we desire the Truth or love a lie? The answer to that question will be determined by what is in the heart. This is one of the reasons why David could be forgiven and restored in light of great sin. He had a heart that longed after God and it was something that God is always looking for (1 Sam 2:35, 1 Sam 13:14).
This heart cry is reflected in David’s prayer in verse 10 in his seeking after a clean heart. He longs for a renewing of his spirit and to not be cast away from His presence. This is what it means to walk in the Fear of the Lord. It is having a conscious awareness of His presence and not wanting to lose it. Do we have that measure of sensitivity to the Lord? We lose that awareness the more we entertain and make allowance for the things of the world. God slowly but surely is removed from the throne of our lives. We must do all we can to ensure this does not take place in our life. This is why the 1st commandment is to have no other gods before the living God.
David had that sensitivity renewed but how different it would have been if he would have maintained it earlier. It would have prevented and kept him from transgressing against God. We must have that same cry birthed within us in not having the Spirit of God taken away from us. We must never allow ourselves to take for granted the presence of the Lord. David paid a very high price for his sin and we need to learn and understand its consequences.
This psalm is summed up in verse 17 where David comes to know that the sacrifices of God are a broken and contrite heart. Yes, David’s sin was grievous but it allows us to see what God truly longs for from a sinner’s life. It is to come before Him in brokenness to the throne of grace. It is here where one is transparent and open before God in Truth; a position of pleading for mercy and healing. It is a posture that God responds too, a posture that enables him to be able to initiate the work of healing and restoration. This posture also conveys a picture of the Cross for it is there where a vulnerable man took upon Himself the sin of all mankind. Jesus, the broken bread was able to broker forgiveness and healing as the humble Lamb of God. David as the beloved King of Israel stepped into the depths of sin and eventually came to a place of brokenness. In like manner Jesus, as the Son of God chose to become the Son of Man, allowing himself to become sin. In one moment we see Him engaged and enjoying intimacy with his Father only to willingly step into sin and become broken for the sake of mankind. Psalm 51 is a penitential account of David’s experience after his sin and there is much for us to glean and appropriate for own lives.
1 Cor 15
This is the supreme text when it comes to the message of the resurrection. There were many deniers of the resurrection in Corinth yet Paul makes the case for its reality. Paul uses nature among other things to speak as to how a seed must be sown into the ground before it can bring forth new life. He makes clear that there are different levels of the resurrection as seen in the differing glories of the stars. The resurrection is central to the life of a believer because without it we would still be in our sins; death would not have been conquered (vs 56). Paul has a unique anointing in being able to tie the natural to the spiritual. What becomes clear is that God speaks more than we realize if we would only pause and allow our ears to hear what the Spirit is saying. Finally, Paul helps us to look at our lives through the lens of eternity. The short time we have upon this earth needs to be maximized, to extract all that God has made available. We only have this life to qualify, once it is over our eternal fate is sealed. As believers we do not want to settle for anything less than what God has created us for or to come to the end with the horror of failing to appropriate the grace that God has made available for us. There is a resurrection and it is the validation of all that Jesus spoke while walking upon the earth; it is a validation of the Father’s plan both for His Son and for His creation. “Because he lives, we can face tomorrow”
Paul, ever the student of the Old Testament alludes to several OT scriptures in verse 3 when speaking of Christ having to die for our sins (Exo 12:1-3, Num 21:8, Isa 53:5-9, Dan 9:26 and Zech 13:7). In verse 4 he then refers to several more OT scriptures that speak of his burial and resurrection (Psa 16:9-10, Psa 49:15, Jonah 2:1-10, Isa 26:19, Isa 53:9-10). The Old Testament is so full of examples that speaks to both the death and resurrection of Christ.
In verses 5-6 Paul makes references to the many witnesses who saw Christ after He rose from the dead. We are familiar with the disciples and some of the women who gave witness to his resurrection but Paul makes reference to at least 500 people who would have seen Him. That in itself should prove beyond a doubt that the resurrection is a reality. On the other hand look to the extremes the enemy will go to supress the Truth. It takes a lot of work and clever manipulation to try and hide what was clearly seen by many. This tactic exists today. Remember, Satan is the father of lies (John 8:44) as well as the suppressor of Truth. He goes to great lengths in attempting to invalidate God, His creation and Redemptive plan. It is God’s intent that we come to know the Truth and allow Truth to bring clarity and liberty to our lives (Joh 8:32).
Paul was among the primary unbelievers of the resurrection and yet had a personal visitation of the Lord while on the Damascus Road. This is why he is adamant in his teaching to the Corinthians; he knows what it is to be a sceptic but he also knows the reality of the Truth. In verses 9-10 Paul presents the true meaning of grace. He was one who persecuted the church in passionate zeal; it is said that he was responsible for approximately 10,000 incarcerated Christians many of whom died. His conversion took him from being a destroyer of Christianity to becoming one of it rebuilders. Is this the picture of grace that we see taught in many churches today? Paul is a product of grace; anything he achieves or ever will achieve is purely by the grace of God. Paul’s life is marked by contrasts and extremes giving him an ability to speak on the subject of the true grace.
In verses 13-18 Paul makes clear that without the resurrection death in the end would have prevailed. If Christ did not rise from the dead then sin would have prevailed and there would be no hope for our redemption. In my role as a Pastor I have had the privilege of ministering at many funerals. There is no denying the pain and sense of loss of a loved one but at the same time there is the joy in knowing that he or she is forever in eternity with the Son of God. (This is provided the deceased was a believer)
Paul uses many illustrations to enhance the truths of the resurrection. It is a subject that bears much study seeing that there is an order where Christ is the first fruits. It is the fulfilment of the Feast of First fruits which is referenced in Lev 23. This offering is acceptable to God the Father for the satisfying of His judgement against sin. In verse 29 Paul speaks to the importance of Baptism and for all that it represents. One is baptized into his death when plunged under water but is raised to resurrection life as he is brought back up. It is more than a symbolic act it is a declaration of faith that Jesus is indeed the resurrection and the life.
Paul warns the Corinthians to be careful of their associations. This is a repeated warning seen throughout the scripture. As Christians we will be affected by the people we associate with; it says something about who we really are. This was a Corinthian problem due to their heady knowledge and inbred pride. In verses 35-46 Paul is contrasting the natural with the spiritual and how one helps to validate the other. Every seed replicates itself in the growing process. If a Christian is weak and refuses to grow in this life it will have repercussions in eternity. In like manner if a believer is seeking God, allowing a work to be done in his or her life it will be reflected in the resurrection. This is why we should endeavour to finish strong and run the race to its length to obtain the prize. What we are in the natural will be reflected in the spiritual.
Finally, Paul emphasizes that through Christ we have victory over the grave. He has conquered sin and death; it is a revelation we need to allow to get deeply planted into our spirit. Death does have a power and a sting but when contrasted with the power of the resurrection it has no hold. It is more than just a knowing that the resurrection is true it is the power that it represents to all who call upon His name. When this revelation hits us in its fullness it will change the way we think and live. To God be the Glory!