PSALMS 94:1 – 96:13 and GALATIANS 1:1–24
It is difficult to pinpoint the author and time period of this Psalm but there is no difficulty in identifying with its message. The Psalmist is going through a period of being overwhelmed by the enemy. He is asking the question as to how long will the wicked be in control and in the ascendancy. There is the cry for vengeance to be spilled out upon the foe. It is reminiscent of the crying out of the martyrs who wait for the avenging for their lives that were taken.
Rev 6:10 And they cried with a loud voice, saying, How long, O Lord, holy and true, dost thou not judge and avenge our blood on them that dwell on the earth?
There is a time and season when the enemy is prevailing; an added sense that his reign will carry on indefinitely. It is particularly painful for those who have suffered greatly at his expense over a long period of time. It seems like it will never end. It is at such times when we need to be reminded that vengeance belongs to God and that he will repay (Rom 12:19). We must never lose sight that God is sovereign and that He does all things well. If we respond prematurely to the enemy in the flesh we may undermine something that God is purposing. David recognized this in Saul’s relentless pursuit of him and when he had the chance to avenge his adversary he yielded to God. He was able to see God as being over his foe and as a result did not touch God’s anointed. We must be assured that God will repay but it must be on His terms and in His timing.
In verses 5-6 we can see to the extent that the enemy will work. He abuses the widow and fatherless. The psalmist was probably well acquainted with the Lord’s sentiments towards the widow and fatherless and seeks to stir up God’s wrath against those who participate in such atrocities. We know the Lord is aware of these things but the prayers of godly people who petition the Lord accordingly comes before His throne as incense. This is the responsibility of the saints of God; to faithfully pray and intercede on behalf of the oppressed and needy and trust the Lord to respond on their behalf.
One of the characteristics of God’s enemies is that they become emboldened in their evil deeds when judgment is not immediately forthcoming. This is seen in verses 7-11 where there is a sense of invincibility where there activities will not be noticed or that there will be no consequences as a result of their actions. This is true in our day as evil seems to be winning the day. With the passing of each new day it appears that evil is triumphing over good. Lord how long will this continue; how long will wickedness prevail over the righteous? The psalmist can put modern day language to this Psalm and ask the very same question today. Lord, how long?
The remedy has always been the adherence and love for the Law of God (vs 12-15). What a blessing it is to learn these lessons at a young age and have them applied.
Prov 6:20 My son, keep thy father’s commandment, and forsake not the law of thy mother:
Prov 6:21 Bind them continually upon thine heart, and tie them about thy neck.
Prov 6:22 When thou goest, it shall lead thee; when thou sleepest, it shall keep thee; and when thou awakest, it shall talk with thee.
Prov 6:23 For the commandment is a lamp; and the law is light; and reproofs of instruction are the way of life:
Was not this the instruction of God given to Moses throughout the Book of Deuteronomy? It all really comes down to these truths. People today are so desirous in hearing a Word from God but how many are willing to hear His voice in the area of instruction above?
The Psalmist recognizes that unless the Lord rises up against the enemy there is no hope. He reflects upon the times when God has been his help. This reflection helps to put things back into its true perspective. He remembers how merciful the Lord has been to him and it brings comfort in the midst of the current storm around him. In the end the workers of iniquity continue to make their own laws in violation of the Holy God (Isa 24:5). Such people can never associate with God or have communion with him. The changing of God’s ordinances opens all kinds of doors which allows for wickedness to gain a further foothold; it makes a way for him to even gain access to the church. Still, his time will come to an end and the saints of God will be vindicated.
This Psalm is referenced twice in the Book of Hebrews by the Apostle Paul as coming from David. It begins with triumphant songs of praise for who He is. It is so important to come before His presence with thanksgiving even when things may not be going well. We also do well to think and meditate upon His creation both in the heavens and the seas. What other god can do such things? If we can learn to adopt this attitude on a daily basis and come before Him with joyful praise it will make a difference in our lives.
The praise then takes on a posture of humility as David bows before the Lord in worship (vs 6). The bowing of the knee is the greatest expression of submission to the one who is worthy. One day every knee will bow down and confess that Jesus Christ is Lord. We have the privilege of choosing to willingly bow down before the Lord our Saviour as an act of love and submission to Him. It will be a sobering experience for those who knew not the Lord in eternity when they come to the place of acknowledging Him.
The familiar verse of hearing and responding to God’s voice is mentioned in verse 7. We must seek to cultivate a heart of being open before the Lord; a soft heart that discerns and receives the things that God is saying. If our heart is indifferent or hard the voice of the Lord will have minimal effect (If any). The Lord speaks in so many different ways but it’s ultimately the condition of our heart that determines whether we hear, receive and respond. Israel of old heard the voice of the Lord on many occasions but in the end turned a deaf ear to His commandments. The results proved disastrous for them and we would do well to learn from their example.
If our hearts become hardened we then will become offended. It will prevent us from knowing the ways of God and it will prohibit us from entering into the holiest of all. This is one of the keys in understanding the distinction between Moses and the children of Israel.
Psa 103:7 He made known his ways unto Moses, his acts unto the children of Israel.
This attitude of heart also prevented Israel from entering into their Rest or inheritance. After 2 years of wilderness wandering they came to Kadesh Barnea and failed in the opportunity that God was presenting to them. This was their 10th test and they failed it because they failed all of the other day to day tests in the leading up to this moment.
Num 14:22 Because all those men which have seen my glory, and my miracles, which I did in Egypt and in the wilderness, and have tempted me now these ten times, and have not hearkened to my voice;
This is what happens in failing to hear and respond to God’s voice. The heart becomes hardened and indifferent. It may not seem like a big deal at first but a continual refusal to hear and respond becomes habitual. The day will come when the big test or opportunity presents itself and the question is whether we will respond and press in. “Today if you hear His voice, harden not your hearts”. Let us seek the Lord TODAY to have both a hearing ear and a responding heart that is soft and pliable.
There is a similarity to 1 Chronicles 16 when David brought the Ark of the Covenant up to Jerusalem. We can assume from this that David would be the author of this Psalm. It was a song of triumph as Israel was about to enter into a whole new realm of glory. Since this is David it presents to us a picture of what the millennial reign of Christ will be like. He is a type of the true king/priest that will be seen in the last days. Moses was a leader who brought Israel out of their bondage in Egypt to the border of the Promised Land. He was the law giver and will return alongside Elijah in the last days as one of the Two Witnesses (Rev 11). Joshua was a leader who brought Israel across the Jordan and into their inheritance. We are living today as part of this generation; learning to fight the enemies within and without so as to become end time warriors. David had the privilege of bringing up the Ark from its years of obscurity and establishing it upon the Holy Hill of Zion which serves as a picture of the 2nd coming period of Christ. The song being sung in this Psalm may well reflect the sentiment of the last day saints.
There will be new songs that will be sung as a result of this experience. This is also seen in Revelation where certain songs are sung by a group of overcomers (Rev 14:3). Like the Songs of Miriam and Moses that were sung at the time of the Exodus there will be songs birthed in the lead up to and during the period of the millennium. In verses 4-5 we have a picture of what Israel came to know at the time of the Exodus. God moved in their midst and in doing so He judged their gods. The plagues were not only judgments upon Pharaoh and the rebellious Egyptians they were also upon the gods they worshipped. This is why such emphasis is placed in having no other gods before the Living God. An idol is not limited to an object or small statue, it can be any number of things that distract and take the place of God in our lives. There is a spirit that motivates and draws attention behind many of these modern day pursuits and we must be able to recognize them and not be enslaved by its power. An atmosphere of true worship will go a long way in helping to keep the focus upon the One who is worthy. The distinctions that separate God from idols are seen in verse 6. It refers to God’s honor, His majesty, strength and beauty. These can be readily discerned, observed and worshipped through the working of the Holy Spirit.
In verses 7-8 there is the exhortation to give unto the Lord which builds upon the opening verses of singing unto the Lord. I can make an application concerning singing and giving unto the Lord from a situation recently observed in Myanmar. We had wonderful times of worship throughout the week of Bible classes. The northern regions of Myanmar had been going through horrific flooding affecting over 1 million people. Throughout the week donations and mobilization for relief to these regions were coming into the church as part of an effort to help those in need. The enthusiasm of the local church was palpable as they mobilized funding and relief efforts in going to those regions to help. Many of those who were singing the song of the Lord during our times of worship were planning to give unto the Lord in practical ways of assistance; some even going to those regions to work. I was very touched in how the people were responding to their fellow countrymen in need. This is the church at its best and I feel reflects well the intent of what this psalm portrays.
Interestingly the theme of holiness was presented during the week of teaching in Myanmar. David led the people of Israel into a new realm of worship before the Lord in his tent at Zion. It all came down to the heart that he had for God. The same is true for us as we journey forward in our walk with God. David had a heart for worship and he sets the standard for each of us as we prepare for his return. It is a very high standard but it is achievable as we come to know and apply the qualifications for ruling and reigning upon Zion. Are we willing to separate from the worldly attractions for the purpose of having communion with the Lord? What is in our heart will ultimately determine where our allegiances will be. In the closing verses (11-13) we have a picture of God’s creation anxiously awaiting for the manifestation of God upon the earth; the question remains as to whether this is true of us.
It is a common theme for Paul to identify himself as an apostle when introducing himself to a particular church which in this case would be the saints in Galatia. He makes it clear that this is not a title given by man but of God. He feels to do so because of the many false teachers that had permeated the church who were introducing a different gospel. Just as he experienced with the Corinthians he is having a similar problem with the Galatian church. There were those being easily moved away from the true faith by other teachers. Paul has no problem asserting his credentials as an apostle and we can see the reason for his doing so. It was also common for Paul to speak of the abundant grace of God as he introduced his letters. These words are not mere formalities but help to establish the primary reasons for his writing. In the case of the Galatians church it was so that they could be delivered from the sins of their evil world (vs 4). As we progress through this book we will discover that the Galatians were being influenced by Judaizers who were legalists in their approach in serving God. This runs contrary to the message of grace which Paul was establishing at the base of his letter in verse 3. He expresses amazement in how easily they have been removed from the true grace into another gospel. It is noteworthy in seeing how the subject of grace has been abused through the years of the church age; it still is true today.
Paul was empathic in declaring His service and allegiance to Christ which was in stark contrast to the message being brought forth by others. The false teachers, as we shall see were reverting to Old Testament rituals which were done away with through Christ. Christ, through grace gives the means to fulfil the law but the false teachers were emphasizing the letter of the law through the works of the flesh. These teachers were at war with Paul because it ran counter to their beliefs and way of life; it challenged their authority and credibility as leaders. Paul rehearsed how he was once one of them; even more zealously so (vs 13-14). He knew where they were coming from having at one time being among them. He then mentions how God saw to it to separate him for the purpose of his call, even while he was in the womb. He comments that it was an act of grace on God’s part when separated for this call from the womb. (You can see in these few verses hints of some of the revelation he received for his letter to the Romans) He goes on to further explain some of the training he received from the Lord in his early years as a believer (vs 16-19). The revelation he received did not come from flesh and blood but by the Lord and by His spirit. Though he became acquainted with the men of Jerusalem like Peter, James and John it was not through them that he received the revelation of Christ as the Galatians were asserting. He was well received in Syria and Cilicia (Acts 9:30) and made a brief visit to Jerusalem afterwards (Acts 11-12). He refers to his reputation being talked about as one who once persecuted the church who is now out propagating on their behalf. It was through this ministry that God was being glorified (vs 24). This was due to the recognition in how the grace of God had changed the apostle. He puts emphasis on this grace throughout this epistle making clear that its grace alone that makes all the difference. It is grace that serves as the antidote for the legalism of the law which the church was grappling with through the false teachers. The message of grace is a glorious one but note how misunderstood it was in Paul’s day. It appears that after 2000 years the message of grace is still highly controversial with its accompanying array of false teachers. Like Paul may we be those who serve as a true example of this unique treasure.