PSALMS 117:1 – 118:29 and EPHESIANS 3:1–21
This Psalm is the shortest of all others nonetheless it conveys two powerful messages. First is the fact that all nations and people are to praise Him. It is quoted by Paul in his letter to the Romans (Rom 15:11). The Gospel is to be preached to all nations. This exhortation is an encouragement to missionaries who faithfully carry the mandate to foreign fields. This broad declaration will serve as a good foundation to Psalm 118 where the mercies of the Lord are proclaimed to endure forever. There will come a time when all nations and people will come to the Lord in Jerusalem to worship and pay homage to Him. The Lord is kind and merciful and it is His pleasure for all people to taste of His goodness. It is a needed message in today’s deteriorating world.
Secondly, there is the declaration of His Truth enduring forever. This is a subject that will forever be unfolding. Jesus is the Truth so it behoves us to come to the place of embracing and knowing Truth. It is one of the ministries of the Holy Spirit in leading people into Truth (John 16:13). We need to honestly ask the question as to what we do with Truth. How do we respond to Truth when it challenges and confronts our inner being? David came to know that God desired “truth” on the inward parts.
“Behold, thou desirest truth in the inward parts: and in the hidden part thou shalt make me to know wisdom.” (Psa 51:6)
David came to know of this “truth” the hard way. He paid a most heavy price but what a treasure and revelation it is. We do well to imitate David’s method of prayer in availing his heart before God. We do well to learn from his mistakes and errors. The truth of the Lord will require a response wherever it goes forth. It is either a choosing to embrace its message or a choosing to ignore and discard it. It is the Lord’s desire and intent that we come to know the Truth and experience its liberty (John 8:32). One of the ways in which this is achieved is by continuing in the Word (John 8:31). The Truth of God is everlasting and it will prevail!
It has been said that Martin Luther found this to be his favourite Psalm due to its message of strength and comfort. He came to know great trials and persecutions and it was mainly this Psalm that helped to bring needed relief. It is the last of the Hallelujah Psalms that began in Psalm 113. There are those who conjecture that David’s was its author due to the overriding theme of God’s mercy. It was a subject David was well acquainted with and one which he constantly noted.
The opening verses serves as a call to the nation of Israel to praise the Lord. We saw this in the previous Psalm where God’s praises were to go forth throughout the whole of the earth. The highest attribute of God is Mercy which is prominently cited. Let the mercy of the Lord endure forever is mentioned in each of the first 4 verses. It is the first characteristic of His nature that He revealed to Moses as He walked by before him (Exo 34:6). Our God is a merciful God and we need to constantly cry out for more of it. Mercy is God’s prerogative to give; it can never be assumed. We also need to be careful in how we define mercy. God’s ways are far different than ours and He often “moves in mercy” in ways we would not think. It is because He knows the end from the beginning. We must learn to trust in His mercy and not to be quick to try and always figure things out.
In verses 5-6 we see the confidence that David had in God. The enemies perched against him were real and formidable but he knew that God was sovereign and over all things. Of course we all know that nothing is too hard for the Lord but can we believe it when going through a trial? David could and he saw that the enemy could not do anything to him unless God permitted it. If God is on our side who then can triumph over Him? We do need to ensure that we are walking uprightly before God.\
David continued in his theme of God being able to destroy those who opposed him. There were times when he was totally surrounded by the enemy, especially during the period of fleeing from Saul, yet the Lord brought forth the victory. He is quite descriptive in expressing how the enemy gathered around him likening them to many bees. It does not matter; David was able to war against them through God. He is sharing his experience from the past and his example was meant to encourage and inspire others. The danger at such times is seeking the help of man instead of God. King Asa did this in his later years to his detriment, as did others. As we learn to lean upon the Lord in the small areas of life we can depend upon Him for the much bigger things. It all must begin with a measure of trust in God.
In verses 14-17 we see a song that is very similar to the song by Israel at the time of the Exodus (Exo 15). David was now singing a similar song as he and Israel came to know the mighty delivering power of the Lord. David was brought to death’s door as a result of his sin with Bathsheba but still the Lord preserved him. He was chastened sore because of his transgression but he was not given over to death. David is singing of that fact and rejoicing in God’s mercy upon him. He once again proclaims the righteousness of God as he looks to once again go into the gates of the Lord. David was a great man; even after his sin he had an ability to pursue and press on in God. It came however at a very high price.
The Psalm now goes Messianic as it speaks of Jesus who would one day be rejected by His own; specifically the scribes and Pharisees. He is the head and chief Cornerstone. This verse is referenced by Jesus in Math 21:42 and Mark 12:10-11. The Apostle Peter also makes reference to this verse in 1 Pet 2:7. It is so amazing to see how David is able to flow into such prophetic fulfilment, especially as it pertains to Christ. In verse 24 we see a chorus that should be sung at the beginning of every day. Each and every day is a gift from the Lord and it is to be celebrated. Even in times of distress we should learn to rejoice and sing of His praises. If we practice this daily it will become a habit that will position us to have a healthy daily walk with the Lord. As we do this we will have a joyful and buoyant heart throughout the day, helping us to overcome adversities with a song in our heart. The Psalm closes the same way it began with the declaration that states the Mercies of God enduring forever and forever.
The greatness of God’s love is expressed through this chapter. The depth of God’s love knows no limits. I certainly experienced His great love for me when I first got saved. What a moment that was when in the midst of my rebellion and sin God reached down and touched my life. It is forever etched in my memory. A few years later I began to slide down the slippery road of the backslider. It started slow but it quickly picked up steam as I went back to being like I was before salvation. It was one night in March of 1982, while in the midst of sin God reached down again with an even greater revelation of His love. It was so real and strong that even though there was no ability to love myself God was still overflowing me with His love. It was so strong that it served as a catalyst in being able to make needful changes in my life. It was a love so undeserved yet still it was there. God’s love should never be taken for granted but at the same time it is not be underestimated. Paul captures this beautifully in this chapter.
Paul begins by declaring himself a prisoner of Jesus Christ who is suffering on behalf of the gentiles. He was in a prison but he saw God as being sovereign and over all things. Rome may have been holding him but it was God who was allowing it. What a perspective to have; it changes how we view situations. Think of how each of us have benefitted from Paul’s being in prison. His letters and writings have brought life and instruction to so many. If he were always to be a free man we would not have the benefit of great wisdom and life changing truths such as seen here in this letter. Paul recognized his responsibility in stewarding the message of grace properly. It was the message of the New Covenant that countered much of the Judaist teaching making its rounds around Asia.
Paul was being given exceptional revelation regarding the hidden mystery of Christ. It was a knowledge that had been hidden during the time of the Old Testament but to be revealed now through Paul. This is also true for the church in the last days. Daniel was told to seal up the vision until the time of the end (Dan 12:3-4). We are beginning to see fresh truths open up as we approach the last days. Such revelation though comes with a price. God is looking for a people like Paul who can be entrusted to properly appropriate the hidden mysteries of Christ.
One of the initial hidden mysteries that was revealed to Paul at the commencing of the early church was the revelation of the gentiles being brought into the promise. This was unheard of and unspeakable amongst the Jews even though it was foretold in the Old Testament. All one needs to do is go back to the promises made to Abraham. In verse 7 Paul touches on the subject of his ministry. It is God that has called him to this work; it was not merited. We are responsible for allowing God to release from within us the gifting’s He has given. If we allow the flesh to dominate and we take the things of God for granted we limit His ability to fulfil His pleasure. The key is to avail ourselves daily to the apportioned grace that God has made available. It is a choice! Paul was able to be so used by God because he allowed God full and unobstructed access. God cannot and will not work beyond our will. We are His workmanship and delight. Paul was well aware of his past and saw himself as undeserving of the measure of grace that God has given to him. This is why he was acutely aware that it was unmerited. He had been forgiven much and he is certainly making the most of it.
In verse 10 we see the one of the primary functions of the true church; it is to manifest the manifold wisdom of God. This is why church services are so important. It is the means that God uses to speak revelation and spiritual mysteries. It is also a place where spirit beings gather to hear the wisdom of God brought forth. We should be aware that our services will often have many other visitors that we cannot see. It is imperative to uphold our leaders and pastors in prayer; that they be faithful ministers and stewards in their responsible position. In verse 12 Paul makes clear that we can approach God with confidence and that we will be received lovingly by Him. Naturally, we want to approach Him in sobriety and reverence.
Paul returns to the theme of tribulation that he is suffering on their behalf which we saw at the beginning of the chapter. A true shepherd suffers long over his sheep. Paul did not just have the burden and responsibility of one church but many churches. In each letter he writes in a specific way to address their true need. He never fashioned a “once for all” type of teaching like so many do today. Paul was personally invested in each church he wrote to. He established many of them and did all he could to carry them through by suffering on their behalf. Paul could do this because he identified with the Ephesians and other churches as a “family”. I feel we underestimate the power of a family that functions properly in harmony. If God is its head and the husband and wife seek to live honourably it results in a powerful impact. We have noted on several other occasions in how the enemy seeks to divide. This is his primary mission whether it be in homes, in our churches or both. He is empowered when a people are divided. Paul endeavoured to keep the unity and family like relationships with those whom he served. This should be our aim as well; a strong family will help ensure a strong church; a church filled with His wisdom that has the ability to express the wondrous depths of God’s love.