PSALMS 55:1 – 57:11 and 2 CORINTHIANS 1:1–24
This is an instructive Psalm of David that is written after his sin with Bathsheba. We have commented on numerous occasions on how David suffered greatly for his transgression. This Psalm gives further evidence and insights as to just how painful it was. It was not God’s intent that David would sin but there are areas of acquaintance he would come to know that Jesus experienced. Let’s consider the subject of betrayal. It has to be one of the more painful ordeals that a believer goes through. It often happens when there is an intense battle or struggle taking place; this then makes the matter even worse. The first known betrayal took place in heaven at the time of Lucifer’s rebellion. This beautifully created anointed cherub took issue with God and sought to position himself above Him (Eze 28, Isa 14:13-14). His influence was immense as he convinced 1/3 of the angels to join in this rebellion. One can only speculate how God was affected by this but it was rebellion and betrayal in its fullness.
David is now suffering under the consequences of his sin and now finds that a loyal and beloved friend has turned on him (Psa 55:12-14). This experience of David will be very similar to that which Christ came to know through Judas. It was in the Lord’s darkest hour where the actual betrayal took place. David’s experience helps to pave the way in our understanding of that which the Lord encountered. David said that such an act would not be so hard to deal with if it was an enemy or casual acquaintance but this was a trusted and dear friend. This helps us to understand that before the fall the relationship between Lucifer and God must have been a special one. We tend to only think of Lucifer in negative terms and rightfully so but he was once a beautiful and anointed creation. David was once very close to Ahithophel, the one who ultimately turned on him. Jesus spent several years teaching and ministering personally to Judas, holding nothing back. Yet, Ahithophel and Judas turned on their acquaintances when they were most vulnerable.
If we are to be those who seek to enter into the fullness of all that God has for us we then must expect to have similar encounters. It is painful and it is real and it is the part of the process in becoming more acquainted with the fellowship of His sufferings. In our early years in India an elderly godly woman visited us and later prophesied to me that there was a Judas in our midst. At the time I had no idea or sense of whether this was true but over time that word came to pass. It is painful to think that one would seek to gain personal advantage at a time of vulnerability. The fruit of such pain is coming to know a measure of what God Himself experienced at the time of the heavenly rebellion; it also helps to appreciate what David and our Lord went through as well.
The added pain of David’s situation is that his son was prominent in the rebellion that was taking place against him. This was not a natural enemy that was coming against David but it was his own son who was using this opportunity of vulnerability to strike hard against his leadership. His words (Absalom) were smooth in his approach to the people. He was stealing their hearts by speaking to what was in their heart. This is a clear tactic of the enemy as seen from the very beginning in the garden. He strikes when there is vulnerability. Eve was separated from her husband and it was here where the serpent made his move. Adam was not assuming his proper role. The words of the soon coming antichrist will resemble that of Absalom’s (2 Sam 15) when the opportune time presents itself. Once again, it was not God’s intent that David would sin but through his suffering he becomes more acquainted with the suffering Christ. It was not God’s intention that man would fall in the garden but through his fall man has the opportunity to become more like God through Christ. In making the above comments let us never forget the extreme cost that was paid in helping this to become a reality.
Through it all David continues to put his trust in the Lord. He knows he is at the mercy of God yet he knows that he has been forgiven and has the promise of restoration. David relies on God’s faithfulness as seen through the years as an anchor of hope for deliverance in his current station. Yes, he is wounded and in deep despair but the spirit man in David is still alive with the ability to subjugate the soul. His final words speak volumes of the greatness of the man. “…but I will trust in thee.”
David is once again in need of God’s help and deliverance while under the assault of the enemy. There must be an appreciation for the relentless attacks of the enemy. He does not yield or give up easily. David was marked by Saul because of envy but he was also marked by the enemy because of the call that was upon his life. God uses human vessels to help bring his purposes to pass; in like manner the enemy uses human proxies to withstand God’s purposes. David is dealing with flesh and blood foes but it must be recognized that there are spiritual forces backing them. The Apostle Paul makes this clear in his 2nd letter to the Corinthians:
“ For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty to the pulling down of strongholds.” (2 Cor 10:4)
Another clever tactic of the enemy is his ability to wrest the words of God’s people (vs 5). We need to avoid getting into debates because in many circumstances it serves as the devil’s arena. Have you noticed in presidential debates how one side seems to get easier questions while the other is heavily scrutinized? This is very typical in US politics. There is a time to use the sword of the Spirit but it must be wielded skilfully. The Word of the Lord is the sword of the Spirit and it is to be used under His guidance and direction. Study carefully the gospels and see how the Lord utilized the sword; take note when he said “It is written”. Jesus established His doctrine and teaching from the Word of God and so should we. It is a sad testimony when people of other faiths can quote more of scripture than most Christians. David was one who knew His God so he was able to battle through in his many times of opposition.
One cannot help but admire the trust that David had in the Lord no matter how great his difficulties. He knew that God would come through even at the times when the enemy was in hot pursuit. I believe God loves to be trusted by His own and takes great delight in delivering them from their distress. David’s soul has been delivered from death in the past and he knows that the same God is able to deliver him once again. Let us take great courage from David’s example in this psalm; to know Him and Trust Him at all times.
Here we see David fleeing from Saul and in doing so cries out to the Lord for mercy. In verse 1 there is the sense that David understood the times and seasons of difficulties. He cries out for the mercies of God until the calamities be overpast. I remember as a boy many strong thunderstorms in the night. The loud cracks of thunder would strike fear into my heart and it seemed like they would never end. Overtime I came to know that the storm would end and I would anxiously wait for them to pass. When the battle and persecution is on it is real and it is intense; until it ends David would cry out for mercy. He had God’s perspective in situations and was able to target his prayer accordingly. In verse 3 there is another reference to God’s mercy and truth. Do you recall the beautiful verse from Psa 25:10? “All the paths of the Lord are mercy and truth unto such that keep His covenant and testimonies”. We need to capture what this verse entails. David understood it as seeing God above all things. This is why he could seek the Lord continually for His mercies. He was a man who loved truth. There must be a balance between the two because Truth in itself can kill. On the other hand we can be extreme in mercy without truth and what you will eventually end up with is lawlessness. Remember, the key to the paths of the Lord being mercy and truth is in the keeping of God’s law and testimonies. This is clearly conveyed in the Holy of Holies where the Ark of the Covenant is overlaid by the mercy seat. What is contained in the Ark; it is the law of testimony.
In verses 3 and 7 we see familiar verses that are often sung in church services. The declaration of God being exalted above all the earth and the heavens. What a beautiful perspective to have in the midst of great difficulties. This was no ordinary struggle due to his life being in constant danger. As mentioned in the previous Psalm the enemy of our soul works in conjunction with evil men to hinder and or destroy God’s people. In verse 6 we see what oftentimes happens with the devices of the enemy; he falls into his own trap. This is what happened to Haman in his desire to destroy the Jews. This is what happened to those who plotted against Daniel for his faithful testimony (Dan 6).
David had the ability to fix his heart upon the Lord; God was his focus and aim. In other places David would speak of his “one desire” to dwell in the house of the Lord. This meant more to him than anything. It is a longing David had in both the good and difficult seasons he had in his life. In verses 8-9 David is again speaking to his soul; to awaken the soul and spirit man to sing praises to the most high. He makes use of his psaltery and harp. One of the blessings of reading and writing on the Psalms is the number of songs that I have sung through the years that have come from Scripture in Song books. These books were called psalters and what power they conveyed in singing them. They once again need to be revisited. The thought of Mercy and Truth is brought forth a 2nd time in verse 10. The mercy of God is great unto the heavens and the Truth is great unto the clouds. Can you see how mercy once again covers Truth? Indeed, Oh Lord, send forth your Mercy and Truth.
2 Cor 1
This letter was written around the end of autumn in the year 57 AD from Philippi. Paul had previously spent about 18 months at Corinth in the foundation stages of the church. He taught extensively during this period (Acts 18:1-17). When he wrote his first letter the Corinthian church would have been 5 years old. It was a very fruitful church especially when you look at the numbers involved. It has been approximated that about 10 percent of the population had turned to Christ. One of the greatest concerns of Paul when he wrote the first epistle was on the issue of judgement involving the church. The future hinged on the outcome of how the church would respond to Paul’s very strong indictment on this matter (1 Cor 5:1-5). Remember, the church was actually boasting in their tolerance of such sin which is something that is not uncommon amongst some churches today. It will be Titus who will bring the news of how the Corinthians handled this matter (2 Cor 7:6-14). The tone of this 2nd letter is much milder than the first. Paul, in his zeal and love for the Corinthians did not hold back in his first letter; he knew where they were heading if they did not quickly change course. The words that Titus brought him comforted him greatly. The following verse from Proverbs comes to mind when summarizing the approach that Paul took in writing these two epistles:
“Faithful are the wounds of a friend…” (Pro 27:6)
There are some other concerns that Paul will address in his 2nd letter; some are among them who are claiming to be apostles who were undermining their faith, there were still factions which sought to divide the church and there were others who challenged the authority of Paul. Once again we see the fatherly nature of the apostle coming forth as he writes to a church he deeply loves.
In chapter one we see Paul once again establish his credentials as an apostle who has the authority to write to the Corinthians and to all of Achaia which is southern Greece. We also see that Timothy is with him at this time. It is good to note the father/son relationship that Paul and Timothy had. Timothy had ability to speak and work on Paul’s behalf as the kingdom of God was expanding. This is true discipleship training and it also serves as a good model for succession planning in various aspects of ministry.
Paul is going to convey God as one who is able to comfort in any situation. As we receive the comforting hand of God upon our life we will have the ability to comfort others. In my role as a pastor I have often referred to this verse when conducting funerals. This is an attribute of God that must be cultivated in the church. How can we come into such a position and ministry of comfort? It is to the extent we have experienced it for ourselves when going though times of trouble and tribulation. The true ministers must be acquainted with the sufferings of Christ (Phil 3:10). To know the fellowship of His sufferings. This was how God the Son was able to effectively intercede for man; He had to become man and come to know what it was like to be a man. As priests and ministers we need to have a taste of the sufferings that Christ endured so that we can minister comfort to others.
In verse 6 we come to understand why prominent men and women went through periods of suffering in their lives. Their example brings strength and encouragement to others. How many times have you drawn encouragement from the trials of Joseph, David and many others? Paul was saying that he suffered at times for their good. This is what vicarious suffering entails. It is suffering in one’s body for the purpose of bringing life and strength to others. Think of Paul while he was in a prison and the many letters he wrote. He suffered and yet the Word of God was not bound; it was penned and released so that the surrounding churches would be blessed. His letters still resonate some 2000 years later in blessing each one of us.
Paul again refers to the troubles in Asia. Earlier in his closing remarks in the first letter he spoke of open doors challenged by many adversaries (1 Cor 16:9). This opposition must have taken on many different forms. Paul battled against many enemies both spiritual and physical but had an ability to press through because of his faith in the one who was raised from the dead. God is not limited and what a blessing it is when we can tap into that reality in those times of deep pain and tribulation. Paul was profound in his teaching and ability to convey the gospel but he was simplistic and sincere in the manner in which he led his life. He could be bold because his conscience was clear. This is a far greater strength than we realize. Our minds need to be free and uncluttered from worldly wisdom and its ways. It can plague and hinder God’s working in our lives and in the lives whom we seek to minister too (vs 12).
Paul makes clear that the promises of God and His Word are not yea and nay. In other words God is faithful and true; He may not answer according to our timetable but He responds according to His wisdom. God may delay for a season because it is for a good reason. We must come into that relationship with God where we can trust Him no matter what the circumstances may be. Our tendency is to push or force the hand of God to act. This is the fruit of human wisdom that cannot reconcile some of the ways and dealings of God. It is this kind of presumption where false doctrine can materialize. It is the injection of man’s wisdom into the purposes of God which in the end may violate what God intends. It is here where the counterfeit anointings can begin to surface which then give a measure of validity to what is taking place. We must be discerning and we must be patient in allowing God to move and work according to His pleasure. Paul informed the church that he delayed his coming unto them due to the matter of judgement. If he were to come earlier he would have had to apply the rod of discipline. He waited to see their response to his first letter of correction. I feel God oftentimes is the same way with us. He gives His people ample opportunity to make amends in areas of disclosed sins. He warns through his Word, His prophets and other means so as to get our attention. If we respond in humility and contrition God then can work repentance through us. If we continue to ignore His pleas to turn from our sins we will later face the consequences. God delays oftentimes for the purpose of giving His people the ability to turn. Paul was doing the same thing with the Corinthians. As we progress through this epistle we will see the fruits of Paul’s first letter to the church.