PSALMS 123:1 – 125:5 and EPHESIANS 6:1–24
There is a consistent theme of mercy that is threaded through this Psalm. We sing songs that speak of the mercies of the Lord which are new every morning but do we fully appreciate its value? It has been noted on several occasions that the mercy of God is the highest revelation of God that is given to man (Exo 34:6). The Mercy Seat is over the law as seen in Moses Tabernacle in the holy of Holies. We are dependent on His mercies and we need to know how to be merciful unto others. The Psalm begins with an utter dependence upon God similar to a servant looking on to the hands of his master. Our eyes need to look towards the Lord and only the Lord. This is a similar description of what was seen in a previous psalm. We need to keep pressing into God in the way we pray without giving up. There needs to be prevailing prayer; the kind of prayer that keeps going forth until it is answered.
We must also be aware that there will be a continual scorning from the proud and boastful who oppose the godly. This is what is being seen today as churches and church groups seek to raise godly standards in the midst of evil. In John Bunyan’s Book entitled “Pilgrim’s Progress” Christian and his friend Faithful have to journey through a place known as Vanity Fair. They draw the ire of the crowds and people who are merchandising their wares and themselves in defiance of godly principles. Is this not a picture of what we see today? Will we have the courage to stand by our convictions or will we just acquiesce towards insignificance? The key for each of us is that we daily learn to cry out for the mercies of the Lord.
Though we may be believers in Christ we should never underestimate the power of the enemy. Satan is a defeated foe but he is far more powerful than we are in our natural state. It is only through Christ and His power that we can take authority over him. There are many natural enemies that can prove overwhelming as well. David acknowledged this on two occasions in this psalm where he states “unless the Lord had been on our side…” there would have been defeat. I suppose that each of us would have testimonies where we saw the intervention of God on our behalf in some precarious situation. There are angels that have a ministry of watching over the saints. If we are faithfully seeking the Lord we can have the assurance that He is able to deliver us. The Lord often walked right through crowds of people who wanted to kill Him but it was not yet His time. The danger comes when we choose to walk outside the counsel and boundaries of God. It all comes down to knowing that God has placed a call over each and every one of our lives. As we seek to faithfully walk in that call we should not be surprised at the opposition that will come. This Psalm applies to those who seek the Lord with a whole heart; having assurance that we are in the will and plan of God. The force of the enemy is quite descriptive in this Psalm but David was able to declare the deliverance and ability of God to break his power. He closes this Psalm pretty much where he began; declaring that his help comes from the Lord who has made heaven and earth.
This is the 6th psalm of ascent on the pilgrim’s journey to Zion. These psalms provide a progressive picture of ascending the hill of Zion. The Lord reigns in Zion as seen in many other places (Psa 87, 132:12-14). He equates His name with that of Zion which in turn helps us to understand how highly esteemed this dwelling place is. It is seen in Mic 4 and in Isa 2 where it speaks of a people who come to the hill of the Lord. It is out of Zion where His Law goes forth and it is out of Jerusalem where the Word of the Lord is released. It is at Zion where we are taught of His ways and learn to walk in his paths. There is stability and security in Zion. The Lord inhabits Zion and surrounds His people now and forevermore. The dwelling place of Zion makes no allowance for iniquity (vs 3) and the people who dwell there do so from a position of authority and Rest. It is to the upright in heart who receive the benefits of the Lord; who receive His goodness and favour. One who ascends the hill of Zion is one whose heart has been circumcised and fine tuned into the ways of the Lord.
These truths are most precious as we take note of the instability of these last days. One of the truths that is emerging in these last days is that there is an eroding of the middle ground. One will either be on fire and all out for God or indifferent to His holy things which can result in such a person heading down a crooked pathway towards iniquity. Notice in verse 5 that if a person has leanings towards the crooked path God will end up leading them to go with the workers of iniquity. This should put the fear of the Lord in each of us to always seek to walk in His ways. At the same time we have the precious promises of Zion that have meaning and application for our lives today and for all of eternity.
Paul continues his theme from chapter 5 where he first spoke of ones’ walk with the Lord. He then built upon that foundation as he introduced the subject of marriage. He elaborated on the responsibilities that a wife has to her husband and then followed up with the awesome accountability a husband has for his wife. It is a portrayal of the love relationship that Christ has for the church. As chapter 6 begins he speaks of the children’s responsibility to the parent’s. The children are to obey their parents and he cites the first commandment with promise (Honour thy father and mother). There is the promise of long life in doing so. This is one of the admirable attributes I have noted in my own father. His parents separated when he was about 12 years old and lived apart the balance of their lives. My father still looked after them, especially when they reached their old age. He served them honourably to the end and I have always admired this in my dad.
Instruction is then given to the fathers to not provoke their children to wrath. What does this mean; how can this point be interpreted? As parents great wisdom is required in knowing how to bring up their children especially in today’s consumer conscious society. There is the need to provide for the children but not to spoil them. There is the need to challenge children to do their best without over-pressurizing them. In too many societies today children are being pushed beyond their emotional capacities resulting in rebellion, indifference and in extreme cases suicide. The joys of childhood are stripped away in lieu of their being able to compete effectively in a redefined world. As parent there has to be the ability to know how to nurture and raise children. It is no easy task and it requires much prayer and investment into young lives. Paul then speaks to servants and workers that they are to serve honourably; not just pleasingly before men but as on to the Lord. This kind of service reveals the kind of heart that is pleasing to the Lord. You find very similar exhortations of Paul to the church in Colossae along the very same lines.
The familiar verses of our spiritual armour are brought forth in verses 10-18. This makes abundantly clear that we are in spiritual warfare. Since chapter 3 onwards the Apostle Paul has helped to lay a strong foundation in showing how we can stand and fight effectively against the enemy and his devices. It first requires an intimate relationship with God; an ability to hear and obey His voice. Secondly, our marriages and family life must be in order. If there are breakdowns or points of entry for the enemy he will find and exploit them. There must be an awareness and vigilance on the part of the believer; an ability to perceive and see a bigger picture. Once these things are in order by the grace of God we are in a position of strength where we can stand and be prepared for battle. Make no mistake; it is a battle and we better be prepared and be up for the challenge. It is here where we seek to be empowered in the strength of the Lord. One of the 7 spirits of God is the Spirit of Might which is an attribute designated for the qualified saint. Samson demonstrated great physical strength against the Philistines which helps us to appreciate its spiritual component. The whole armour of God is required, not just portions. Paul makes this clear and further states that the battle that is to be undertaken is not against flesh and blood enemies but rather spiritual principalities and powers in high places. In verse 13 the point of having done all to stand can be a reference to the foundations Paul spoke of from chapter 3 through chapter 4 verse 10. In verse 14 we must be armed with the Truth. How many times have we shared about having a love for truth, embracing the truth etc? This is followed by having a love for righteousness; it is likened as a breastplate upon the warrior soldier. Do we really have a hunger and thirst for truth and righteousness? If we hedge or compromise in these areas for the purpose of not offending people we leave a door wide open for the enemy to have an entrance. We then must be faithful in sharing the gospel of peace by the way we live and walk. Our confession and talk must be backed up with a life that reflects God’s values.
The enemy will seek to destroy with his intimidating prowess so as to diminish and remove any measure of faith to arise. It is faith that accomplishes God’s will and agenda because without it we cannot please God (Heb 11:6). We must be students of the Word of God and stand on those things that God speaks from his Word. It is the medium God uses for faith to materialize (Rom 10:17). We must then confess what God is saying (Rom 10:8-10). How can we expect to quench the fiery intimidating darts of the enemy if we do not take seriously God and His Word? Our minds must be covered with the helmet of salvation and to withstand all those darts. Then we are to take the sword (God’s Word) and use it as an offensive weapon against the enemy. Up until now everything done has been from a defensive position. At the appropriate time we are take the sword and wield it in wisdom against the devil and deliver mortal blows to him and his devices. The picture of Christian fighting Apollyon in Pilgrim’s Progress provides a vivid example of this exchange. Christian seems to be taken blow after blow and at times seems like he is about to be overwhelmed; then at the appropriate time he plunges the sword into his adversary.
At the end we are to be those who are continually in prayer. The battle may be won for a time but a heightened vigilance and perseverance is required in going forward for all saints. Never underestimate the tenacity of the enemy; he fights to the end because he knows his time is limited. Paul ends this epistle like the way he ends many others. He speaks peace, love and faith to the brethren. He encourages them by saying he looks to send Tychicus to them to make known unto them all things as well as bringing comfort. His final words are pretty much the same words he used to open this epistle; that the grace and love of the Lord be with each of them in all sincerity. The letter to the church at Ephesus is a letter that speaks to the church of our day.