PSALMS 73:1 – 75:10 and 2 CORINTHIANS 7:1–16
A psalm of Asaph would signify one of praise and worship. He lived and ministered alongside David and was instrumental in aiding the praise and worship that went forth during David’s reign and sojourn. This Psalm has drawn considerable attention due to its message of why the wicked prosper when the righteous seem to suffer. It is something that cannot be reconciled in the natural. It really helps to prove what is in the heart of a person who seeks to do right while going through a trial. They struggle and yet marvel how the wicked effortlessly get by and even flourish. One of the best examples would be of Job; a righteous man who suffered greatly in his time of trial. It is one thing to suffer for the consequences of known sin yet another when there seems to be no reason. How do you explain it; how do you respond to it? David went through this ordeal as well. The more he was promoted the more he became a target and fugitive. The more he walked with God the more he began to understand His ways and purposes. It takes a man and woman of vision to be able to endure and carry on at such times. We can get through such periods as we stay close to those who have travelled that road; their experience and example can help sustain and help us to hold steady. One is tested and it is here where the enemy works extremely hard in seeking to bring frustration and despair. This psalm is not directed to the casual Christian but to those who truly have it in their heart to press into all that God has. Let’s allow this psalm to provoke all of us to help see the bigger picture so that we come to the same realization and conclusion of the Psalmist.
The Psalmist begins by stating how good God is to those who approach Him with a clean heart. We are reminded of the Beatitude which states the following: “Blessed are the pure in heart for they shall see God” (Math 5:8). All of Christianity is about the heart. This is why we should have an understanding of what the New Covenant represents. It is the law of God being written upon the fleshly tables of our heart. This helps to bring about a purity and cleanliness of heart. The law can get to the root of where all human sin originates. It is in the heart. In verse 2 the Psalmist speaks of his envying of the wicked due to their being prospered. We need to be reminded of verses that address this problem.
Pro 24:1 Be not thou envious against evil men, neither desire to be with them.
The Lord was one who would judge from understanding and not after the sight of his natural eyes. It is another reason why the Word must dwell richly within us; it provides perspective while helping us to see the bigger picture. The Psalmist continues his bewilderment as to why the wicked seemingly get away without being corrected and yet still prosper. Perhaps this is one of the primary distinctions between the wicked and the righteous. Consider these familiar verses from the Old Testament:
Job 5:17 Behold, happy is the man whom God correcteth: therefore despise not thou the chastening of the Almighty.
Pro 3:12 For whom the LORD loveth he correcteth; even as a father the son in whom he delighteth.
The Lord corrects the ones He truly loves. The correction may not seem pleasant at first but its long time fruit can never be measured. I am reminded of how my parents were quite strict with me when I was a boy. My other friends were allowed to do far more things than I could do. Now with the advantage of years I see it so differently. There were many things I was spared from because of their love and because of their needed correction brought into my life. I praise the Lord for their faithfulness in holding firm. God deals with us from a much bigger picture; He sees us and deals with us through the lens of eternity. It is in verse 17 where the Psalmist sees and understands. It is in the presence of the Lord where he can now see and understand the end of the matter. If we can learn to enquire of the Lord as to the end of any matter it will aid in being able to make right choices. Do we appreciate how much the Lord actually desires to be involved in many of our decisions in life? Do we let Him? Don’t you think He would honor the request of knowing what is in our best eternal interest whether it if for a life partner or other major decision? This helps to give perspective which then helps to explain why some seem to prosper while others do not. Let this Psalm serve as an encouragement to us. God can be trusted and desires that we come into that place of Rest and Trust.
This psalm seems to be written during the time of Israel’s exile in Babylon. Asaph was a contemporary of David so this Psalm would have been arranged by one of his offspring. The Babylonian captivity had been prophesied as far back as to the time of Moses (Deu 28:48-57). Jeremiah prophesied extensively of the coming captivity even to the point of knowing its duration (Jer 29:10). Still, even though you may have knowledge of God’s prophetic calendar the reality of the bondage is all too real. One begins to wonder if there will ever be relief. The Psalmist captures this sentiment in the first 11 verses of the psalm.
When the Babylonians came to purge the land they showed no respect for the heritage and temple arts of the sanctuary. We have recently seen similar incidents in Iraq where Christianity that dates back to the days of Jonah’s preaching at Nineveh have undergone desecrations. It has been reported that Jonah’s tomb has been ravaged by barbarians. The psalmist is echoing the prolonged agony of their ordeal; the anguish in not knowing when the bondage would end. What is alarming to me in reflecting upon this period is seeing how similar things are today. We have taken the things of God for granted for far too long. What would it be like to suddenly lose the ability to worship the Lord in church or to have all religious items like Bibles suddenly confiscated? What would it be like if one day we are forced to bow down to the idols and gods of this world? Do you think this is far-fetched? Israel had to be lamenting the things that they lost. The Ark of the Covenant, the glory, the direction and guidance of the priests are just a few of the things that were lost to Israel. They were guilty of taking God for granted and not heeding to prophets like Jeremiah, Ezekiel and others. Now all they can do is watch the enemies of God come into the land and desecrate the sacred. If only we could learn from their example.
In verses 12-23 the psalmist begins to make his appeal to God for deliverance as in times past. He begins to rehearse some of the great victories that God had wrought on behalf of Israel such as the parting of the Red Sea in their deliverance from Egypt. God not only delivered Israel but he judged Egypt and all of their gods. This will take place later in Babylon. The Lord allowed for His people to be taken captive and to be subject to their gods as a means of cleansing then from their idolatry. In verses 15-17 the Psalmist refers to the time when God caused the water to flow forth from the rock (Exo 17:6). When meditating upon God and the creation one cannot help but feel inspired and know that there is hope. These are ways where faith can be enlarged to help a people hold steady in times of discouragement.
The psalmist closes with a prayer to remember the works of the wicked and the foolish who take pleasure in blaspheming God. There is the cry to not be delivered into the hands of the cruel and wicked (vs 19). There was a promise made to those who would hearken to what God was speaking regarding the submitting to the captivity. God would even allow them to prosper while in the land but it was to those who heard and responded to His voice (Jer 24:6-7). This is a key for being able to survive and prosper in the midst of the judgements to come in our day. There is a place of protection provided we allow the Lord to draw us into the Holy Place. The Psalmist is looking to God to not be subjected to the cruelty of their oppressors. Another quality of the Psalmist is seen in his prayer for the poor who seem to have been left abandoned. Finally, he reminds the Lord of the words of the enemy that actually are a charge against God (vs 23). This is very similar to how Nehemiah prayed when he came under the attack of the enemy. His prayer and words should serve as a template in our approach to God when under attack. This is provided we are in alignment with His purposes.
Neh 4:4 Hear, O our God; for we are despised: and turn their reproach upon their own head, and give them for a prey in the land of captivity:
Neh 4:5 And cover not their iniquity, and let not their sin be blotted out from before thee: for they have provoked thee to anger before the builders.
If we are walking in God’s will we can then direct our prayer to God and not take personal offense. In short, they are coming against God and not just us. This is an important truth to lay hold of and it would serve us well in our place of battle.
In viewing this Psalm we can make application to the time of when Absalom and Adonijah sought to usurp the throne away from David. To me the key verse would be vs 6 which speaks of promotion that comes forth from God. Man will go to great lengths to try and assume his role or position in life but the question remains as to whether it is God ordained. Solomon had been declared to be the next king yet there were others who presumed to position themselves as the next to reign. This is noteworthy due to what the antichrist will seek to do in the last days. The great abomination will take place when he (antichrist) sits upon the throne in Jerusalem in the midst of the last 7 years (Math 24:15). In doing so he is declaring himself to be the Christ. It is a manifestation of what Lucifer sought to do when he rebelled against God in heaven. The antichrist will fail just as Absalom and Adonijah failed however he will have a period of reign through which he will deceive many. His reign will be marked by great power and demonstration of signs and wonders. Soon after the abomination he will turn his guns upon those who seek to uphold righteous standards. It will be at this time when his identity will be unveiled as well. God is not mocked, that which He has decreed will come to pass.
In the first two verses the Psalmist acknowledges the power of His presence. In His presence the power of God is displayed in conjunction with His righteous judgements. Our God is a God of justice, the kind of justice that is so lacking in today’s world. This would include the church. The more one walks with God the more one cries out for his righteous acts and ways. It seems that every day is filled with news of gross injustices taking place on a worldwide basis. It does put a longing in one’s spirit for true justice to prevail. It is critical that we allow God to enact His justice in our lives as we seek Him in humility so that we can be instruments of justice and compassion to others. In verse 3 we find the Lord as the one who upholds the world by His Word even when its elements begin to melt and dissolve (2 Pet 3:10-11). In verses 4-7 we come to the heart of this Psalm. It reflects the theme that Paul conveys in Rom 13:
Rom 13:1 Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God.
Rom 13:2 Whosoever therefore resisteth the power, resisteth the ordinance of God: and they that resist shall receive to themselves damnation.
God places people in positions of authority and they need to be recognized. How we respond to the authority figures over our lives speaks volumes of who we are. Do not try and assume a position that God has not given or attempt to obtain it prematurely? It is essential that we serve faithfully in whatever capacity we are called to.
Finally, the Lord makes clear that the horns of the wicked will be cut off. Remember when Dathan, Korah and Abiram sought to usurp the leadership role from Moses (Num 16)? God puts down some and raises up others; it is based on one’s willingness to hear and respond to what God is saying. May God help us to be found faithful in our appointed positions and roles.
2 Cor 7
The primary theme of chapter 7 is the atonement message. It is the message that deals with sin so that the people of God can be a separate people who have the blessing of knowing the Father in an intimate way. This reflects the promise(s) that Paul is speaking of in verse 1. There needs to be a cleansing of our vessel which would include idols or anything that would obscure the glory and presence of God. This is a portion in his writing where he seeks to get to the root of issues in their church and lives. It all centers on the Atonement message.
The problem is that we oftentimes struggle in acknowledging truth. The heart of God is that we come to that position of holiness. It is obtainable due to the work that Christ accomplished at the Cross. We see how important it is to have the Fear of the Lord as a means of helping to keep us in alignment. Remember the two pronged approach to sanctification? There needs to be a separation from the world and a separation unto God. There has to be something that dies so that something can come to life. Is it possible for the carnal Corinthians to come into this type of relationship with God? It is possible provided there is an understanding and application of the Feast of Atonement. If we learn to walk in the Fear of the Lord He will lead us into places that will deal with our inner nature. It is imperative to learn to be sensitive and respond properly at such times; failure to do so can result in forfeiture of an eternal work (Lev 23:29).
Paul was strongly exhorting them to receive the message that he had been conveying to them. He knew that what was being shared was coming from God so he called upon them to take good heed (vs 2-3). In verses 5-7 Paul speaks as to how glad he was in being able to receive Titus. When Paul first arrived in Macedonia he was unsure of his whereabouts in addition to not knowing the condition of the church. This caused him great unrest and concern. The first letter he wrote was hard hitting and he was greatly concerned for their welfare and how they would respond. The time came when Titus did meet Paul and it was a meeting filled with great joy. Paul was happy in seeing Titus and very happy in hearing the news that he was bearing; the news that the Corinthians took to heart the message shared in his first letter.
The church needed the revelation of sin and needed correction that Paul addressed in his first letter. It was a very serious breach and depending on how they responded could have destroyed the church. The truth no doubt hurt but it brought revelation and release. This attitude of repentance and godly sorrow paves the way for the Lord to work in unseen ways. God is limited when we resist His overtures and means of correction. Paul was naturally filled with great joy when he heard the report from Titus regarding their response to the letter. Paul even let them know as to how blessed Titus was in witnessing their response. This is the joy of repentance. The one who is forgiven and restored is obviously blessed but it is also a joy for those who are in authority who have administered correction. It is not an easy thing to do but the rewards and fruits cannot be understated. In spite of their issues and problems Paul had confidence in them. His confidence is now validated as he hears of the report. This would no doubt be a blessing to the church to know that in spite of their trouble Paul still believed in them. This is important in our individual lives as well. We have our shortcomings and weaknesses but a word of belief can go a long way. There are times when all a person needs is to know that one has confidence in them. May we bear this in mind when we have authority over people or situations; to encourage and minister in a way that brings people to repentance.