PSALMS 79:1 – 81:16 and 2 CORINTHIANS 9:1–15
This Psalm can be placed during the time of the Babylonian captivity. It is very similar to Psalm 74. Asaph gives a description of the conditions of the captivity in verses 1-4. His descriptions are sobering due to his knowledge of the way things used to be. He was acquainted with God and the splendour of his interactions with Israel through the generations. He is now lamenting their current state; all because of their sin and idolatrous ways. This is a scenario that is beginning to be seen today. It was not that long ago when we can remember God being honoured and celebrated within the nation. I can fondly remember singing songs that spoke of God, even in public arenas. We would sing patriotic songs that noted God in many of our public school assemblies. Things are totally different today. What will it be like when more of our religious freedoms are taken away? It is coming and we better be ready and prepared. Christianity is primary target number 1 on the enemy’s hit list. The Bible makes clear that the last days will be filled with violence and anti-Christian bias. We must begin to adopt the attitude seen in Abraham where he looked for a city whose founder and maker was God. I am not saying that we give up and acquiesce; on the contrary we are to do all we can to stand and hold firm. The Lord is preparing a victorious bride (Rev 19:8). Asaph’s lament in the first 4 verses will be our lament as well but better days will be soon forthcoming. We must understand what the scriptures say concerning the last days.
In verses 5-12 Asaph turns his attention to the enemy. He pleads with the Lord to move against the enemies of Israel. The Babylonians desecrated the temple and the holy things of God. How repugnant and distressful this had to be to those who went into captivity. Their God was now being mocked and reviled with impunity. They stood powerless as they could only think back to the way things used to be. Asaph is able to well capture this sentiment in his writing or songs that are being penned. How careless Israel has become in taking their relationship with God for granted. They had so many warnings throughout the generations but still gave no heed. All of this could have been avoided if they only had allowed the words of Moses to sink in into their spirit. If they would have only kept the commandments and statutes of God they would have been preserved. (Deut) Once again this helps us to appreciate the meaning of the New Covenant, to have the laws of God written and engraved upon the fleshly tables of our heart. This would keep sin in check since all the issues of life come forth from the heart (Pro 4:23). All Asaph and the captives can do now is to look to God to move against their enemies. The time will come but for the moment the enemy appears to be in the ascendancy.
Luke 22:53 When I was daily with you in the temple, ye stretched forth no hands against me: but this is your hour, and the power of darkness.
In verse 13 Asaph looks forward to the day of the Lord’s great delivery. It is an anticipated time that we all can look forward to as the Lord takes control and dominion over the kingdoms of this world. Until that time there will be battles and seasons of pain and anguish; our focus however is to look forward to the kingdom that is coming and declare the praises that will ring forth throughout the whole of eternity.
This is a psalm that was written at one of the times of Israel being in distress. It has been suggested that this would have been one of the Assyrian incursions against the 10 northern tribes. The Assyrians eventually overran the 10 tribes of Israel but in this plea to God they were given respite. There was a time when God answered the prayer of Israel during the reign of Jeroboam II.
2 Ki 14:25 He restored the coast of Israel from the entering of Hamath unto the sea of the plain, according to the word of the LORD God of Israel, which he spake by the hand of his servant Jonah, the son of Amittai, the prophet, which was of Gathhepher.
Verse 1 speaks of Joseph whose was the predominant leader of what was later to become the northern kingdom. It is addressed to the chief shepherd (The Lord) who was positioned within the veil, the holiest of all in the tabernacle arrangement. This prayer is priestly in nature. It is a prayer that recognizes that a people have turned their back on God and now are asking the Lord to allow an opportunity for them to be turned back to God. It is a recognition that one cannot just presume to turn back; it is a sovereign act of grace that can make this happen. This is one of the few times where God intervened on behalf of the northern kingdom due to their wicked rule of kings but this prayer represents a maturity of intent. Perhaps this is one of the reasons why God responded in a positive way. A priestly prayer is one where the priest accepts responsibility on behalf of the people. In other words sin is acknowledged, not excused or easily dismissed. This type of prayer gets to the root of sin’s life flow allowing it to be cut off and removed. It is the type of prayer that needs to go up before the Lord today.
The psalmist acknowledges that God has not been answering their prayers primarily due to their iniquity. The Bible makes clear that God will not regard iniquity if it is in the heart of the people (Psa 68:18). His prayer seems to indicate an understanding for the ways in which God deals with His people (vs 4-6). In verse 7, 14 and 19 the Psalmist pleads with the Lord to turn again his heart back towards His people. He reminds the Lord how He had faithfully led Israel out of Egypt and how his nation was beloved in His eyes. The power of Psalm 80 is in the heart of the psalmist who is offering this priestly prayer to the Lord on behalf of a rebellious and sin filled people. Many years ago I have heard this Psalm put to music and it so stirred me. It is a Jewish song and it so captured the sentiment of what is being conveyed in its message. This prayer is more than a petition to God to heal and forgive and it is filled with emotion, grief and sense of longing for God to once again turn His heart to His people. It recognizes its transgressions and deserved judgments but still looks to the chief shepherd positioned in the Holy of Holies to be merciful one more time. We do well to note the historical context of this Psalm but even more so to note the writer and priestly quality seen in this prayer. I feel God takes note of such prayers as well as noting the priests who offer them up.
Ezek 9:4 And the LORD said unto him, Go through the midst of the city, through the midst of Jerusalem, and set a mark upon the foreheads of the men that sigh and that cry for all the abominations that be done in the midst thereof.
This psalm reflects some of the history of the children of Israel. It has similarities to Psalm 78 though not as detailed in its content. It begins with the period of time from the exodus out of Egypt. The wonder of God’s deliverance is highlighted in the first three verses. It is so hard to visualize what this must have been like after being in bondage for several hundred years. In one moment the Red Sea opens up allowing for safe passage for Israel and then returns to its borders as it destroys the oppressors of Egypt. The song of Moses and Miriam gives a glimpse as to how glorious this must have been. It was not long after their deliverance that God introduced the law to Israel and it was here where they refused to give heed. The law was offensive and not something they were willing to subscribe to. They informed Moses to represent them before God. In spite of their early complaints and unwillingness to embrace His law he still met with them in time of trouble (vs 7).
Through it all God was seeking for Israel to hear and obey His voice but they followed after their own lusts. They went after other gods in violation of the very first commandment that God gave to them (vs 9). Still, after all the Lord had done for Israel they would not hearken unto His voice. Here is the danger of a continual refusal to hear and respond to God’s voice. It results in God eventually answering them according to what is in their hearts. Their own counsels become their compass and guide. The psalmist captures the lament of God in verse 13 in His longing for Israel to have only heard His voice and walk in His ways. God would have destroyed their enemies and established them as a beacon and example to all the other nations. The problem was that Israel wanted to be like the other nations instead of being the example that God wanted them to be (Eze 5:5).
There is no blessing that God would have withheld from them. There would have been a sense of permanence that God would have brought to them as opposed to being fugitives and foreigners in a distant land. Once again it all comes down to their disobedience and failure to keep His laws and walk in His ways. That is all God is after and you see this repeated on numerous occasions throughout scripture. Do you think it still holds true today? Absolutely, it frustrates, even angers me when church leaders make statements to the effect of no longer being under the law with an added sense of being able to serve God on our terms. Do we think we are better or exempt from the demands that God placed upon the people of the Old Testament? The truth of the matter is that we are more accountable and to be held to a higher standard. How do we think we will escape the consequences of what Israel of old did if we do the same things? We have greater light and we have available grace that they did not have. Can we not hear the consistent pulse of God’s exhortation in hearing His voice and walking in truth? The more I read and examine these verses the more I fear and tremble. Lord, please teach all of us the Fear of the Lord that we walk in wisdom.
2 Cor 9
Paul continues on the theme of giving as seen from the previous chapter. Paul was going to bring some Macedonians with him when he next visited and he wanted them to be prepared to follow through in their pledged giving efforts. He had boasted to the Macedonians of their generosity to the saints only to discover that they have not been keeping it up. Their testimony had actually inspired the Macedonians in the giving that they have been providing for the saints. Paul was not asking for their giving so that he would personally benefit but rather that they would become known for their generosity and that they would come to know of its blessings.
The law of sowing and reaping is covered in verses 6-7. It is a law of nature seen in nature and it is a law of the Spirit. What we sow today we will reap another day. What manner of fruits do we sow? What kind of words do we speak concerning people? Do we smile and maintain a pleasant disposition? Are we selfish in our motives and thoughts? Depending on how we respond to the above questions will have a direct determination on what we will reap in the future.
This is certainly true when it comes to financial giving. How we give and how much we give is a reflection of what is in our heart. If we can come to the place of seeing God as already given to us all that He could in His Son it will help us in the area of our giving. We quickly realize that we could never out give the Lord and anything we give back to Him is but a token of love and appreciation on our part. We rob God when we do not practice tithing and giving but we are also robbing ourselves the benefits that derive from it. When we major on giving we give up “self-serving” motives and intents; our heart becomes enlarged towards the needs of others and the kingdom. The hand of God is free to move and accomplish His pleasure without restriction of human wants that can suffocate kingdom initiatives. Sadly, much of the teachings seen in today’s doctrines contribute towards this mentality. It is a “Cain” based Christianity that goes through the motions of providing an offering but with the inward motive of personal benefit. It is a type of Christianity and offering that God will reject because it is not faith based and rooted in the true spirit of giving. May God help us to properly distinguish between these two offerings so that we are among those who provide the Lord with our very best. Remember, this kind of attitude and motive is a reflection of God the Father willingly offering His Son for all of mankind.
God makes clear that every grace will abound if we are found to be faithful in giving. This is especially true if we learn to sow from both our abundance and need. The purpose and motive for being blessed should be that we might be a blessing to others. If we sow abundantly into the harvest we shall reap abundantly (Psa 67:1-2). It is important to sow into people and projects that would be deemed worthy investments. We need to have a keen ear in the Spirit and allow Him to guide us in our area of giving. The first area of giving would be to the church by way of offerings and tithes.
We must always remember that it is God who gives seed to the sower and it is God who gives the increase. It begins and ends with God; our part is to faithfully distribute that which God has entrusted to us. If God has called one to be a minister that minister must be faithful to nurture that calling. This would include devoting time, prayer and energy to the study of God’s Word to help ensure a sowing of ones best. The Lord then takes that sown seed and produces the fruit in the hearts and ears of the hearers. The fruit that comes forth will then be to the benefit of others. This is what it means when the Bible says that the Word of God will not return unto Him void (Isa 55:11).
Finally in being faithful in the area of giving we are demonstrating that we are being doers of the Word and not hearer’s only. Paul is sending forth this reminder to the Corinthians’ to build upon their earlier history of giving. It is not enough to be known as a church that flows in spiritual gifts but it is even better to have a reputation in being generous in things pertaining to the kingdom. It opens the door for the Lord to be generous and open handed with those who love to give. May God help for us to glean the precious lessons from these chapters on giving so that we can present before the Lord an “Abel” offering; one who learns to give their very best.