PSALMS 97:1 – 99:9 and GALATIANS 2:1–21
This Psalm gives a vivid picture of the 2nd Coming of Christ. The earth has been under the rule of Satan for several millennia culminating in the rule of the antichrist up till the time of the Lord’s return. There will be great rejoicing as righteous rule and judgment returns to the earth. The multitudes of isles speak of the gentile nations that have known the Lord during the church age that will rejoice at his coming. In verses 4-6 we see the lightening of his glory that will fill the earth at the time of His return. His coming will be seen by all as Jesus Himself declared in Math 24:30. There is nothing that will be able to stand before the presence of God; the mountains shall melt like wax and will tremble at His presence. There are many references in scripture that speaks of the brightness of His coming such as Hab 3:4-5.
Hab 3:4 And his brightness was as the light; he had horns coming out of his hand: and there was the hiding of his power.
Hab 3:5 Before him went the pestilence, and burning coals went forth at his feet.
Hab 3:6 He stood, and measured the earth: he beheld, and drove asunder the nations; and the everlasting mountains were scattered, the perpetual hills did bow: his ways are everlasting.
Is it not better to seek the Lord and learn to come into a place of intimate worship before these events take place? Is it not better to possibly be aligned with Christ at the time of His return? Now is the time to seek Him; to be intentional in our pursuit of Him so that we can become more like Him.
All who are idol worshippers will be ashamed at the time of His return. I feel this is a warning to many in the church who are consumed with so many different interests other than preparing for the Lord’s return. It will be then when people will come to know that they have been engaged in vain pursuits which now leaves them ill prepared for the momentous events that are about to take place. We need to seek the Lord to be cleansed from all idolatry; anything that would hinder our drawing closer to the Lord. Let us never forget that this was the downfall of Israel before their exile into Babylon.
In verses 8-12 we see the joys and blessings of Zion. The principalities and powers of the air that govern over nations have a power and authority but will prove no match for the Lord who is over all. There will be great rejoicing when the righteous God descends upon the earth at Zion with His judgments. The key is to have a love for God and a hatred for wickedness (Psa 45:7). The fruits of such a relationship will be gladness of heart and the ability to walk in the light (1 John 1:7). This Psalm should inspire us to pursue and embrace the Vision of Zion as we pursue after Holiness and His presence. There is a price to pay but the rewards are more than worth it.
This Psalm reflects the great deliverance and rejoicing of Israel after the battle against several enemy nations. This took place during the reign of King Jehoshaphat; it was a battle that saw Israel at a great disadvantage however the Lord brought forth a mighty victory. This battle was marked by the positioning of the singers being sent to the front lines. They praised the Lord in the beauty of holiness resulting in God fighting on behalf of His people.
2 Chr 20:21 And when he had consulted with the people, he appointed singers unto the LORD, and that should praise the beauty of holiness, as they went out before the army, and to say, Praise the LORD; for his mercy endureth for ever.
2 Chr 20:22 And when they began to sing and to praise, the LORD set ambushments against the children of Ammon, Moab, and mount Seir, which were come against Judah; and they were smitten.
This battle is a picture of the Lord’s return at the 2nd coming when he will again fight on behalf of His people. The people here attributed the victory to the Lord which is what they will again do at the time of His return. In this particular battle the Lord made known His righteousness to all which included the heathen nations. They took note and acknowledged that it was God who fought on Israel’s behalf. It is interesting to take note in how Israel is becoming increasingly isolated today. Even so called allies are making decisions that work against the interests of Israel. It will only increase in the lead up to the day of the antichrist. In the end God will fight once again for Israel and the entire world will take note and acknowledge that it was God who did so.
In verse 4 we see how all of creation responds when God moves in such power and splendour. There is a linkage of praise of triumphs between man, creation and angelic forces when God has gone up with a shout.
Isa 12:6 Cry out and shout, thou inhabitant of Zion: for great is the Holy One of Israel in the midst of thee.
There are certain musical instruments that are employed at such times that enhance the moment of triumph; instruments such as trumpets and harps (vs 5-6). In verse 7 all of creation joins in with praise. The Lord remarked concerning this on Palm Sunday when He rode into Jerusalem saying that even the stones would cry out if the people held back their voices (Lk 19:40, Rom 8:22). This thought is picked up in verse 8 where the hills break forth into joy which is similar to what Isaiah prophesied concerning the mountains and hills breaking forth into singing (Isa 55:12). In verse 9 we see the Lord’s return being quite different from when He was first revealed as the Lamb of God (John 1:30). He will return as a conquering king, destroying the antichrist and the kings of the earth while ushering in the 1000 year period of righteous rule.
The previous psalm depicted the Lord return’s at the time of the 2nd coming while this Psalm gives a picture of the Lord’s millennial reign in glory. The first two verses declare that the Lord is over all at Zion and that the nations of the earth come forth before Him in reverential fear. The thought of people trembling before the cherubim speaks of the anointing of the Fear of the Lord. Our God is a holy God who is calling each of us to a life of holiness. This is a decision we will need to make in our walk with God. As seen in Psalm 97 we need to have a love for God and a hatred for evil. Man is tested in this area with each passing day by the choices he makes. Our choices reflect what is truly in our hearts.
The theme of holiness continues through verses 3-4. It is a love and pursuit for holiness that enables man to draw closer to God. This is best illustrated through the Tabernacle of Moses and its 3 divisions (Outer Court, Holy Place and Holy of Holies). If man truly has the vision of Zion alive in his heart he will move past the outer court and take on priestly attributes in coming into the Holy Place and beyond. This truth is captured by the merchant man who was seeking after goodly pearls (Math 13:45-46). This man was intentional in his pursuit. This is the nature we need to have in going after all that God has for us.
In verses 5-7 the thought of holiness continues where examples of men like Moses, Aaron and Samuel are given as examples of those who loved the presence of God. Here again is another chorus sung years ago. It is a simple one with just a few words but its reverential tone always left an impact. It is a privilege in being able to come before His throne to worship Him; He is a Holy God. The fruits of their calling upon the Lord are affirmed in verses 8-9. God answered these men of intercession by forgiving their sins and healing them of plagues. At the same time He did move against those who helped to perpetuate the sin of idolatry amongst the people. This psalm ends by repeating that the Lord reigns upon the Holy hill of Zion and that He calls upon men to worship Him there in the beauty of Holiness.
Just as in chapter 1 Paul has to make clear his credentials as an Apostle due to the great damage the Judaizers had done in both discrediting Paul while teaching another gospel. There was urgency in this letter because of the need for truth to come forth. His approach is direct and to the point. In verses 1-10 Paul is undoubtedly referring to his appearance at the Jerusalem council which took place in AD 51. This is where he first met the 12 apostles under the urging of Barnabus. This event took place approximately 6 years before the problem that is now playing out among the Galatians. The Judaizers were claiming that the 12 apostles were opposed to Paul but he makes it clear that the right hand of fellowship had been extended to Paul at the time of the council. The Judaizers were a lying and deceitful bunch. They clearly saw Paul as a threat and did all they could to undermine his efforts. This account is recorded in Acts 15 and it was here where it was agreed that the Gentiles did not have to keep the Old Testament ceremonial law. The 12 were in agreement with Paul so it is actually the Judaizers who are the ones who are the problem. They (the Judaizers) were the ones who were seeking to place the traditions of ritual upon the gentiles. The Judaizers were denounced by the council in Acts 15:24. Still, even after this they went about doing all they could to discredit Paul. In the first 2 verses Paul recounts how the going up to the council came about. He had a revelation from the Lord that he should go and there were others who concurred. It was here where Paul convinced the Jewish leadership of the work God was doing amongst the gentiles and that they are not bound by ordinances. A consensus was gained at this council whereby all could go forth in unity on this former controversial subject. Paul was making clear to the Galatians that this matter was settled about 6 years earlier by the church leaders at Jerusalem.
Paul states an incident involving Titus at the time of the council. The Judaizers insisted upon Titus, who was a gentile that he had to be circumcised according to Moses Law. The council agreed that this was no longer required seeing they were under a new dispensation. Once again we can appreciate the tactics of Paul; he goes back a period of 6 years to validate the very things he is being charged with now by the Judaizers. This helps the Galatians to have a clearer perspective of the true picture. He goes on to say that the 12 apostles considered Paul an equal among them and one they were having no contention or difference with. In short, the Judaizers were lying and falsely accusing Paul before the church. One of the acts of charity that Paul demonstrated to the 12 and the people of Jerusalem was the raising up of funds for the poor and needy. He strongly advocated giving on behalf of the gentile churches for the Jews (2 Cor 9:1, Rom 15:26-27, Acts 24:17). This charitable act helped to further bond the Jewish and Gentile leaders together.
In verses 11-14 Paul speaks of an incident involving Peter that took place soon after the council. Peter was in Antioch having fellowship with the Gentile believers when he came to know of Jewish brethren of the circumcision coming through. He quickly withdrew from the Gentiles for fear of these men. Peter still had an element of fear within him on certain matters. Paul took him to task on this matter. Peter’s actions were in affect a denial of what took place at the council (Acts 15:9-11) and it adversely affected those who were with him. Peter had previously preached to the household of Cornelius while observing them being baptized in the Holy Ghost. He clearly knew better. Before we become too hard on Peter let’s first take a good look at ourselves. How well do we hold up under pressure? It is important to be honest about this now because the intensity of attack upon believers is going to increase. We want to be found faithful.
In verses 15-21 the Apostle Paul goes on to prove that both Jew and Gentile are justified by faith without the works of the Law. It was Christ who broke down the middle wall of partition that separated man from God, Jew from Gentile. Paul makes clear that even though the Jews were given the law that did not make them superior to the Gentiles. The Jews knew the Law but were unable in being able to uphold it. Paul makes a very similar argument when he writes to the Roman brethren (Rom 3:20). Paul again refers to Peter’s actions in stating that if we were to build again the thing that was destroyed he would be a transgressor. Peter had renounced the Law as a means of justification but he was rebuilding that which he tore down by worrying about offending the Jewish men of the circumcision. In verse 19 Paul speaks on a theme he makes in other places, particularly seen in Romans where he died to the Law and living now a life based by faith. This is the lead-in to one of the more well-known New Testament verses:
Gal 2:20 I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.
Gal 2:21 I do not frustrate the grace of God: for if righteousness come by the law, then Christ is dead in vain.
Paul had learned to crucify his flesh, to be dead to the law and his old life so that he would know a new life founded on faith. Paul, in doing this was not frustrating the work of grace but rather experiencing its power and fulfilment; allowing it to produce the righteousness of Christ within him. He strongly stated that the righteousness of God could not be produced by the Law but rather by grace through faith (Rom 1:17).