PSALMS 115:1 – 116:19 and EPHESIANS 2:1–22
The timing of this Psalm is believed to be during the time of the restoring of the 2nd temple after the exile of the children of Israel. This psalm (song) served as an encouragement to those who were seeking to bring restoration back to Israel. This psalm demonstrated the greatness of God in comparison to the heathen gods that were taunting and challenging the restorers. Though they were singing these praises to God the enemies did prove to be a formidable force in opposing the restorers. It was God’s time for them to return but the enemy will always go down fighting. At times his resistance is blatant and in your face while at other times taking a posture of subtlety. This was seen when the early restorers sought to re-establish the foundations as seen in Ezra 4. The enemies came along with intentions to infiltrate the work feigning interest in helping. Joshua the priest and Zerubbabel discerned their motives and called them out. The result was open resistance which stopped the work for about 15 years. It could well be around this time period where this Psalm was birthed.
The first 8 verses reflect the sentiments of the congregation as they cry out to God to return judgement against those who are mocking and taunting. This is when we must learn to hold steady and understand that God has His timetable. Our tendency is to react and respond quickly to injustices but in doing so we could be easily stepping into the enemy’s arena. Nehemiah knew well how to manage such situations. He certainly did not neglect the enemy but he did not let him get in the way of his purpose and mission. He also did not take the mocking of the enemy personally but realized that in fact he was mocking God (Neh 4:4). This was a lesson that the early restorers were beginning to learn. It is good to sing of the greatness of God in the midst of overwhelming circumstances. The Lord takes note and He does have a timetable when He will vindicate His own while destroying the enemy. The enemy oftentimes is a tool in the hand of the Lord in helping to perfect His own; he is a tool that can bring judgement as well. We see the importance of having a fresh and true perspective in all things. May God help us to see the bigger picture.
In verses 9-11 it appears that a response is being given to those who sang the first 8 verses. What is that response? It is to trust the Lord in all situations and to learn to walk in the Fear of the Lord. It is one of the greatest safeguards that a believer can have; especially in the midst of an evil and god-despising environment.
The priests go on in verses 14-15 to reassure the restorers that the Lord will indeed fulfil His promises that were made to Abraham. It is so important that we learn to walk in uprightness and do what we can to help prepare future generations to carry forth the seeds of promise. The promise to Abraham was given so many years before nonetheless they still are to be fulfilled. We need to sing about them and to confess them. This is what the priests were encouraging the congregations to do. It is now about 2600 years since the restorers were singing about the promises of God and we need to do the same. The promises still hold true and we need to learn from the example of the restorers.
In the last few verses (vs 16-18) we see two categories; two categories that will be prominent in the last days. There is one group who blasphemes God and end up in the pit while on the other hand there is the group that continually sings his praises. These are those who have learned to worship the Lord in Spirit and in Truth. Are we like those of the earth or those who sing concerning the God of the heavens?
This psalm depicts one who is acquainted with the pangs of death yet comes to know God’s deliverance. This is a mature prayer seeing that God is allowing one to taste of death’s door and hell’s fury. One of the greatest tactics of the enemy is his ability to sugar coat or diminish the reality of hell and eternal judgement. It is seen from the very beginning in his discourse with Eve (Gen 3:4). God can be called upon which we see in this Psalm on different occasions (vs 1-4). The Psalmist can declare the righteousness, graciousness and mercy of God due to his being delivered from death’s door. It is experiences like these that enable us to love God more and in turn learn to love people more. The Apostle Paul speaks of these qualities in many of his writings. He presents the steps to holiness by making mention of several “spiritual garments” that we can put on.
Col 3:12 Put on therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, bowels of mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, longsuffering;
Col 3:13 Forbearing one another, and forgiving one another, if any man have a quarrel against any: even as Christ forgave you, so also do ye.
The fruits of longsuffering and forbearance are developed through scenarios like the ones seen in this psalm (Psa 116). There is a price to pay and it requires a love for God and people. It requires an ability to see the bigger picture beyond the circumstantial here and now. These are garments and attributes of God that can become part of our spiritual DNA.
In verses 7-14 the Psalmist is in a state of great rejoicing due to his being granted such a great deliverance. He saw the great difference in how God can be trusted above men, especially when brought so low. It is such deliverances that can draw us ever closer to God; it is a treasure gained that comes no other way. Paul and many other leaders came to know the blessings in this level of relationship. “…That I might know the fellowship of his sufferings…” (Phil 3:10).
The closing verses speaks of how pleased the Lord is when His own come to the time of putting on immortality. There is a beautiful picture of this seen at the time of Stephen’s martyrdom. He is put to death after his concise but powerful Old Testament survey given before God’s enemies. As he looks up and sees the Lord sitting at the right hand of the Father it reminds me of a standing ovation being given to one of the Lord’s prized ambassadors. What an abundant entrance into eternity he had. May this be our desire and aim as well.
2Pe 1:11 For so an entrance shall be ministered unto you abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.
Paul hits on the theme of the power of sin. It is much more than just a three letter word. It is a destructive force that apprehends and controls its host. This is what each of us were born into as a result of Adam’s transgression. It is a destructive poison that can seem innocent or harmless at the first. It can be likened to a seed that has no threatening presence in its origin but soon grows into an uncontrollable colossus. This is why the ministry of John the Baptist needs to be observed and applied for our day. His ministry paved the way for the first advent of Christ and it serves as a type for the preparation of His 2nd coming. His ministry was one of repentance that was able to get to the root of the problem. “The axe is laid to the root” (Math 3:10). This is what the New Covenant is all about; the ability for the Law of God to get to the root of where all sin originates which is the heart. If the root of sin can be extracted it then positions us well to live a life of wholeness for God. In verse 1 Paul reminds the Ephesians that they have been delivered from the power of darkness as a result of what Jesus accomplished at the Cross.
In verse 2 we come to understand that this world has a pulse and language all its own. The spirit of this world (controlled by Satan) seeks each and every one to conform to its beat and message. Normally this would be hard to do if the church worldwide was strong, seeking God and upholding His values and laws. Not so today as we see lawlessness abounding everywhere; standards being eroded and changed to meet the demands of a “politically correct” Christianised culture. This is the devil’s domain and it will only further embolden his power and influence. The church must arise and once again resurrect the standards of God’s Laws. This is the battleground now playing out before us today. The reminders that Paul is presenting to the church still hold true. The culture and spirit that moves today’s world is contrarian to the ways of God and we must not allow it to take hold within the church. The key is to seek the Lord for a transformed mind and way of life. This can be achieved by focusing on the love that motivated God to send forth His Son to die for my sin and the sin of all mankind (vs 5-6).
In verse 7 we catch a glimpse of what eternity is going to be like. There will be a continual unfolding of His grace, His kindness and many other attributes that so richly define Him. There are so many limitations in this world and in our physical bodies that prohibit us from knowing Him in His fullness. He then goes on to say that it is the grace “enabling power” of God that saves us through faith. It cannot be worked up or earned; it is a gift that comes from God. There is nothing we can boast in seeing that it is purely the grace of God. Paul was acutely aware of this truth in knowing that it was grace and grace alone that made him the man that he was. The key though is appropriating the grace that God has made available. It is available to those who pursue and press into it by coming boldly to its altar and throne (Heb 4:16).
The subject of choice once again comes into the equation. We can either say yes to the dying of the flesh while growing in grace or we can choose to “fail” or fall short of obtaining the grace of God. This happens when we make allowance for bitterness or hardness of heart to manifest within us (Heb 12:15). God has called each of us to a task and for that task has provided available grace to achieve it. I personally feel we will be without excuse when we stand before God. That which God has called man to do will always have that measure of grace to accomplish it. The question is whether we appropriate that grace by faith when God speaks to us.
We are the Lord’s workmanship; His name is upon our lives so how well do we represent Him? A tailor or clothier puts his or her name on their article of clothing. That piece of clothing is their workmanship; it bears their name so they would ensure it is represented well. How much more true is this for one who is a child of God? We are called to bear His name; how is our representation of Him?
In verse 14 Paul makes the point of Jesus being our Peace who has broken down every wall of partition that separates God from man. When man sinned in the garden an immediate wall of separation came forth. That wall is called SIN. God loved man; He created man and had loving intimate fellowship with man up until that moment of disobedience. God hates sin and has no tolerance for it. The only way this wall of sin could be broken down was by way of a sacrifice costing the life of the Son of God who had to become man. Do we really know how costly our salvation truly is? Jesus willingly took upon the sin of all man and in doing so demonstrated how to fulfil the law and ordinances that man could not keep in the Old Testament. It was through this sacrifice that the wall of sin was destroyed paving the way for man to be reconciled to His God. Salvation cannot be earned by doing good works; it is the grace of God through faith that makes the way for us. It is the gift of God! Can you see how Paul was leading up to this point? The power of the Cross has as its ability to reach far and wide in reconciling man to God. As we allow the Holy Spirit to work within us we take on more of Christ’s nature. We then have the privilege of building upon the foundation of those who have gone before us. This is especially true as we move towards the last days. Can we really appreciate the awesome privilege and responsibility that we have in these last days? The patriarchs and prophets of old looked forward to the very day that is now upon us. We are called to build upon the foundation that has been so beautifully laid before us. How do we do this? In my case I simply look to build upon the foundation that my spiritual father (Dr. Brian Bailey) helped to establish. I also seek to honor my Pastor whom I have served under for over 35 years by helping to produce a love for God’s Word in people as he had done for me. These men have built upon foundations that others have given to them and they did so faithfully. We build line upon line, precept upon precept unto the perfect day. (Isa 28:10)That day is fast approaching!
“And these all, having obtained a good report through faith, received not the promise: God having provided some better things for us, that they without us should not be made perfect.”