PSALMS 126:1 – 128:6 and PHILIPPIANS 1:1–30
The theme of this Psalm is the turning of captivity. There are seasons of captivity in the life of a believer. For Israel, their period of captivity was being exiled to Babylon for 70 years. Joseph had a period of captivity but when his word came everything changed (Psa 105:19) It all seems worth it in light of the glory and joy that accompanies the release. It is a different story however when going through such a time. A psalm like this one can bring hope and encouragement seeing that there is an end. Captivity can accomplish many things provided we can see God at work throughout. Are you going through a struggle today that seemingly has no end? Let this Psalm bring encouragement and strength and that desire to press on through.
In verse 1 the ones who were captive likened their release to the fulfilment of a dream. The unbridled joy of having everything turned in their favor is something that cannot be put into words. There is joy, laughter and singing that not only affects them but even the heathen cannot deny the Lord’s hands upon them. This may be one of the greatest witnessing tools of the last days when the world takes notice of the hand of God upon His own. There will be those who are filled with indignation and rage but there will be many that will be drawn by God’s display of glory upon the church.
Isa 61:9 And their seed shall be known among the Gentiles, and their offspring among the people: all that see them shall acknowledge them, that they are the seed which the Lord hath blessed.
The turning of captivity, when it happens, is often with great suddenness. It is at times when it seems like it will never end when God instantly turns the tide. We saw this with Joseph when he seemed to be totally forgotten. In God’s appointed time he allowed Pharaoh to have a dream which served as the catalyst for his release. We must hold steady when everything is working against us. Hold fast to God’s Word and promise. Like the mighty streams from on high it takes mere moments before they flood the lower levels; so it is with God when He turns the tide of captivity.
In verse 5-6 we have the principal of sowing and reaping presented. The season of sowing is hard work. There is the planting of small seeds which in the natural have no visible significance. A farmer who sows has vision in knowing that one day these seeds will materialize in fruit. This is the approach we need to have in our walk with God. The parable of the sower helps to bring these verses into perspective. A sower sows seed but there are two primary questions to be asked; what kind of seed is sown and to what kind of ground is it sown into? There were many who rejected the message that God gave to Israel concerning the captivity in Babylon. God gave them the promise that if they heard and received the message of captivity he would then bring them out again with the following promises: He would plant them and no man would be able to pluck or uproot as well as having a heart that knows His heart (Jer 24:7). These are very precious promises and one can only imagine the great joy and rejoicing among the people who took part. There comes a day when the tears that have been sown will return as precious fruit for the glory of God.
The spiritual progression from captivity to Zion continues as this Psalm centers on the building up of a spiritual house. This happened figuratively to Israel but it also has a personalized application of the building up process that takes place in our lives. The work of Restoration that Jesus accomplished at the Cross is a completed one and it provides the believer with the opportunity to experience the fullness of its benefits. The building up process takes place after a season of being broken down such as David was when he was at Ziklag. Here is the king having already been anointed to be king being chased and pursued for his very life. Ziklag represented a turning point for David. It was here where he summoned the Spirit man within him to lay claim over his troubled soul and emotion (1 Sam 30:6). In a short time God had David established upon the throne over all of Israel at Zion (2 Sam 5:12). God built him a sure house but it was after his prolonged wilderness fleeing from Saul. God certainly wants His people to build up strong individual houses that are comprised of fruitful children but there is a larger spiritual component in these verses. God desires that we raise up spiritual children to help build upon the foundation so that the vision will propagate that God has given to us.
In our fellowship we look to build upon the foundation that was faithfully laid by Dr. Brian Bailey. In laying the foundation he also promoted the vision of Zion and had in his heart to raise up teachers of righteousness. One quick look at the church world today and you can quickly see how needed this ministry is. Dr. Bailey did not have children in the natural but the spiritual children that he and his wife produced are numerous and spread worldwide. It should be our aim to seek to do the same with our natural and spiritual seed.
The spiritual truth of having many children is further elaborated in verses 4-5. Children here are likened to many arrows being prepared in a quiver to be one day shot forth towards an appointed mark. The Lord was likened to an arrow being hidden and polished in the quiver of His Father before the day of His unveiling at the river Jordan. This was a preparatory process taking place over a period of about 18 years. It is a hidden season but it is a crucial one that helped prepare that arrow (Christ) to be sharp and polished for His appointed task. This is also true for each of us as believers. This is why having a vision is so important.
We put so much emphasis today on immediate success that oftentimes makes it difficult for this process to be enacted. The fulfilment of a true vision takes time and it will be filled with challenges and testing’s. This is why Bible schools are needed so that the teaching of God’s Word can go forth with power and authority. In Isa 49:1-2 we have the account of the arrow being hidden in the quiver until the appointed time. This is a prophetic picture of Christ and part of the work was the preparation of His mouth being a sharp sword to declare the works and counsel of His Father. This is the manner of the building up process that God looks to bring into our lives as well. Our God is a God of Restoration and we must begin to see this attribute of God take place within our homes. The marriage strains are increasingly becoming an issue in the church as are relationships between parents to children. If we do not seek the Lord to be the healer in our homes then how can we see it on a national and international scale? This picture of restoration where the Lord begins the rebuilding process on behalf of His beloved Israel is a most needed message for the church today. The remedy for breakdowns in homes and relationships is for the Lord be the one who does the rebuilding. This will require priests and leaders who have vision and the ability to communicate that vision and carry it through. The Word of God and the teaching of it must be front and center in church and family activity. This is ground zero; it is where it all begins. There must be recognition that the battle is an intense one requiring commitment and an enduring spirit. It must also be recognized that it is the Lord is the builder and He will do so provided we let him. Unless the Lord build the house and the city all efforts will be in vain. It is time for the Restoration of all that which is broken and under strain of breaking. Lord, help us to be the modern day restorer that helps to aid in ushering in your kingdom.
This Psalm helps us to appreciate some of the benefits that comes from allowing the Lord to build up our respective houses (Natural and Spiritual). The blessings and benefits comes to those who have allowed the Lord to be part of the rebuilding process. If there are breakdowns in a marriage it then requires the parties to commit to working together. It begins by humbling ourselves before the Lord and seeking His help, direction and guidance. This is aided by having an ability to walk in the Fear of the Lord (vs 1). This will help to ensure that we walk in His ways while having an ability to hear His voice. Some of the benefits are as follows:
1) Enjoying the fruits of their labours (vs 2). This was a blessing that was elusive to Solomon in his later years. There is nothing better than being able to enjoy the fruits of a day’s labour. How many cases do we come to know where people of means are unhappy and miserable at the end of their lives? It is a gift to be able to enjoy the fruits of one’s labour. One does not have to possess material wealth and goods to be happy; this does not define true happiness it is something that comes from God. (There is nothing wrong in being wealthy it should not however be that which defines us or our happiness) We do well to read one of Solomon’s laments on this subject (Eccl 2:11).
2) The fruitfulness of the family (spouse and children vs 3). One of the pillars of any strong and vibrant society is a strong family unit. This institution has been under severe attack but it is time to see a resurrection of family relationships once again. This is what the Restoration period represents; a restoring of relationship with God resulting in a restoring of relationship among families, churches and societies.
3) The blessings that pour forth out of Zion. We must bear in mind that Zion is the place of the Lord’s dwelling place. We have seen that there is a cost in attaining unto this vision but is it not worth it? This is why right doctrine is so important. A shallow self-serving gospel will not get us there. Sadly this is the kind of teaching that many are opting for today. It is cleverly camouflaged amongst a measure of truth to help give it some validity. The blessings associated with Zion should inspire anyone to seek to pay whatever price required in order to have the privilege of dwelling in the place where the Lord has chosen His habitation.
4) The blessings of Peace are also associated to those who allow the Lord to build their respective houses. Jeremiah had this revelation while being in a captive situation. The Lord gave him the promise of an abundance of peace and truth (Jer 33:6). He paid a price; in fact he was in prison for a 2nd time (Jer 33:1). How do you think Jeremiah feels today after about 2700 years have passed? Do you think he feels that his captive situation was worth it? Do you think his being maligned for his truthful prophetic message in lieu of other voices speaking easier doctrines was worth it in the end? What about us today? The vision and costs associated with Zion may not be popular but they are enduring (Jer 30:17-19). The promise of an abundant and enduring peace is given to those who aspire to all that God has; to those who walk in the anointing of the Fear of the Lord.
This is one of the letters that Paul wrote from a Roman prison. He introduces himself as servants of Jesus Christ along with Timothy. What a beautiful way to present himself before the Philippian church. This church had minimal problems; it was a church that gave Paul great joy in so many areas. This epistle will concentrate on 5 primary themes. They are as follows:
1) The need for unity
2) The Blessings of suffering
3) The mind of Christ
4) The first resurrection
5) The Peace of God
What do you say to a church that has very few problems? You keep presenting before them a higher vision. A church that is solid and doing well is in a position to gain higher heights and this is what Paul is looking to address. We see Paul’s striving for a better resurrection and he conveys this truth to the church. He speaks of how Christ came to become a man and laid aside His divine prerogatives. It is important to note that Paul was in his sixty’s when he wrote this epistle having accomplished so much in his life already. Still, he was pressing on for more while having a revelation that he had not yet finished his course (3:13-14).
Paul discovered Philippi while on his 2nd missionary journey. He responded to the Macedonian call after being restrained by the Spirit on a number of occasions from going further into Asia. The church started through Lydia who was a merchant woman of that vicinity. What started as a simple house gathering grew into one of the more influential churches that Paul ever helped to establish. Let us not despise the day of small beginnings.
Paul wrote this letter as if he was writing to friends; there is no apostolic title given in his introduction as seen in most of his other letters. He had a very strong affinity to Philippi. In verses 3-5 we see a declaration of Paul’s thankfulness for each and every member of the church. This is a very good attitude to have as a Pastor because it helps to develop the Love of God for each member of the flock. This is by no means easy. There will be those who will cause trouble, disappointment and frustration. The Lord oftentimes makes allowance for this to help develop long-suffering and forbearance in the heart of the Pastor. The blessings of good fellowship are part of the fruits that come with a God appointed congregation. Let us never underestimate the strength and encouragement that can come as a result of other members. This is one of the reasons why we are told to not forsake the assembling together of church brethren as we see the last days approaching (Heb 10:25).
In verse 6 we come to understand that God is a finisher and we can be thankful for this attribute as He promises to complete the work begun in us provided we allow Him to do that work. He is Alpha and Omega and we can be assured that He is a God who finishes that which He starts. In each of our lives He has started something unique and precious. We honor Him and bring glory to His name when He is able to have free reign in our lives. It may take longer than we might like but be assured He is a finisher. Paul was looking for the church to grow in knowledge and in their ability to judge righteously (vs 10). We see this throughout the Word of God where God looks to have His people grow in knowledge. It is one of the 7 spirits of the Lord (Isa 11:2-3) and it will be one of the key components in establishing stability in the last days (Isa 33:6).
Paul now speaks of the blessings of suffering in verses 12-20. That term does not even sound right but he makes the case for that which can be gained through seasons of God appointed suffering. He picks up on this theme in other epistles as well such as his letter to the Colossians. No one likes to suffer but there is an opportunity in becoming acquainted with aspects of Jesus Christ that can never be known otherwise. He will elaborate on a few of these points. Note the attitude of Paul in verses 12-13 in taking opportunity to witness to the prison guards he was chained too. He took advantage of every situation and saw it as an opportunity in making great use of it. He was bound in prison but the Word of God was not bound (2 Tim 2:9). His testimony while in prison emboldened others to present the gospel in their respective places. Sometimes our greatest witness to others is when we can be triumphant in difficult situations. People do take note and draw strength. We must never give up and always hold true to the verse from Romans that makes the case that all things work together for good (Rom 8:28). It was Paul’s intention that Christ would be magnified in his body at all times and in any given matter. This truth is worthy of meditation so that its message can be integrated into the inner fibre of our being; Christ crucified and exulted through us.
We see a bit of Paul’s heart in verses 21-26 where he addresses the question as to whether he would go and be with Christ or to stay behind for the benefit of the church and its people. Did he really have the ability to make this determination or was he just sharing his innermost feelings and thoughts? It was not a flippant remark but it goes to show the level of love he had for the Philippian brethren. He recognized that they needed his example and further input. It also speaks to the heart of Paul in how he sought the interest of others above himself. This is a driving force that propelled Christ in being able to go to the Cross. What an example for all of us today especially while living in a self-filled society. One of the best ways in being able to die to the desires of the flesh is to focus upon the needs of others. It takes the attention away from seeking to fulfil the lusts of the flesh while placing emphasis where it is really needed. Paul loved people and allowed his life to be a vehicle for touching and instructing multitudes; by way of his teaching and by way of his suffering on their behalf.