PSALMS 129:1 – 131:3 and PHILIPPIANS 2:1–30
There has been a nice progression in recent Psalms in the ascent towards Zion. The previous chapter spoke of the blessings of Peace and one would expect an added blessing as the journey continues. The Psalmist here comes into a place of suffering that is realized that in reality brings blessing to others. This is what the suffering of Christ accomplished on our behalf. By His stripes we are healed and our sins atoned for. Jesus suffered greatly in His body but it brought great benefit, encouragement and strength to others. The Psalmist is experiencing the same thing here. This is what we call vicarious suffering. There are many different kinds of suffering that a Christian may come to know in His walk with God. One can suffer for their own sins. One can suffer to learn obedience as did Christ (Heb 5:8). One may suffer so as to become more acquainted with the fellowship of Christ’s suffering. Finally, one may suffer for the purpose of bringing other people through a time of difficulty.
The first three verses highlight some of the experiences that the children of Israel had come to know. The Bible makes clear that there will be periods of suffering for believers but it also gives the promise that God will bring them through (Psa 34:19). We see the strong prophetic picture that points to Christ in verse 3. It is an apt description of the brutality placed upon Jesus. The key to overcoming trials and periods of suffering is to adopt a right attitude at all times. It requires strength of character and vision in able to plough through. Christ’s sufferings were for our benefit so that we could be brought into a deeper level of relationship with Him. It is a theme that Paul picks up in his letter to the Colossian church. There is a life flow that comes forth that can bring healing and strength to others. Paul made a similar statement in his letter to the Corinthian church (2 Cor 4:12). Paul made mention that death worked in him which released life unto others. There is a great price to be paid in being a true priest of the Lord.
There will be those who despise the message of Zion, particularly in the last days when the standards of God will again be lifted high (Num 16). We will see the Korah’s, the Balaam’s and the Cain’s rising again in spirit in the last days (Jude 1:11). How is it possible for Moses and Elijah to be killed by the antichrist? Is it because they are not strong enough? Is it due to a certain weakness on their part or is that the antichrist and his followers are stronger? Jesus could have easily dismissed those who had a part in His death. His death was the fulfilment of scripture and He chose to acquiesce to the will of His Father. I feel we can pretty much say the same thing about Moses and Elijah. It is God’s intention for them to be overcome, just as Christ was but then to rise again (Rev 11:7-12). When Jesus began to elevate the standard He lost many of His followers. Is it possible for a similar re-enactment in these last days? It is the end that counts and what matters most is that the will of the Father is accomplished. God is the defender of Zion; He will fight for her and promote her and promote those who seek to have a part of this inheritance. It is a choice; a high price was paid and it is a journey that cannot be taken lightly. Let’s believe God to open these truths afresh and believe for that Zion blessing from God and that we in turn be a blessing of God to others through our lives.
The ascent unto Zion is paved with another road that goes deep into a valley type experience. The contrasts at work here can really take a toll and one must be prepared for a similar sequence. This Psalm can be compared to Psalm 23 which speaks of the portion of the journey that leads through the valley of the shadow of death. Why does the Lord allow for such periods of anguish and suffering in a believer who has in their heart to move towards Zion? The fruits of such suffering are that a fresh cleansing can be realized. The depth of depravity that lurks within man only comes forth at such times. Jeremiah came to know the wickedness of his own heart as he journeyed onward with God (Jer 17:9). We saw this with Job as well. God was able to take Job who was a righteous man and bring him to a place of greater righteousness. The process of becoming righteous is a journey through much suffering and pain. The inner flesh resists such a process and fights tooth and nail in maintaining its claim over a life. In the end it is the mercy of God that makes allowance for such seasons in our lives. He is there to ever encourage us through to the end. It is at such times when a deep consecrated cry is made unto the Lord. These are the kind of prayers that God is after. It can be likened to the cry and prayer of Hannah when she was in a state of barrenness where she was misunderstood by all (1 Sam 1). As noted before it takes a depth of character and vision in being able to come through such times. It is also a time when the Anointing of the Fear of the Lord becomes tangible and real.
In verses 1-4 the cry of the afflicted comes before the Lord. It is a cry of one who is desperate and in need of a fresh touch. It is the cry of one who knows that the Lord is merciful and that if true inventories were to be taken concerning his life there would be no hope. The stench and reality of the sin nature is at war with a holy and righteous God. There is the desire to be set free from its grasp but it can only be done so through God’s mercy. There is also the realization that there is forgiveness with God and that it is needed.
The above verses put to flight many of the doctrinal positions taken in the church today. There are those who would contest that God would never allow suffering. There would be those who would criticize or misunderstand the work of grace taking place in such a pilgrim. There is the danger of trying to assess the work of God through natural means. This kind of experience makes no sense in the natural; it is difficult to reconcile.
The next four verses are critical in knowing how to respond at such times. There needs to be a knowing that God has His own timetable and that He is faithful to come through at the appointed time. There is the danger of making a premature decision when under stress and attack. The enemy works overtime in trying to thwart the plan and purpose of God. Penninah, who served as Hannah’s rival as the other wife of Elkanah tried to provoke Hannah to become bitter over her barrenness (1 Sam 1:5-6). The enemy will try to provoke a response in the flesh; a response that will circumvent the plan and purpose of God. It is at such times when we need to remember the promises of God and hold tightly to them that we remember that God is Faithful and True in all of His ways. It is a battle of great intensity but it will hopefully bring forth a prayer of heightened consecration; the kind of prayer that brings forth a “Samuel” type promise.
As one goes on in their Christian walk there must be a guarding against pride. This was one of the primary catalysts in the downfall of Lucifer. He was a beautifully anointed cherub who allowed ambition and pride to lay hold of him. This is one of the reasons for valley type experiences as seen in the previous few psalms. The times of suffering and anguish help to keep us humble and ever dependent upon the mercies of the Lord. God desires that we grow more into His likeness and ways; to know his heart and His glory. The apostle Paul was ever mindful of God’s grace and mercy as he grew in his relationship with God.
1 Cor 15:10 But by the grace of God I am what I am: and his grace which was bestowed upon me was not in vain; but I laboured more abundantly than they all: yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me.
In verse 1 David understood that there were things that were beyond him; things that were not meant for him to know so he did not pursue after them. We are called to have a seeking nature in our pursuit of God however there are boundaries; there are things best not pursued at given times. The secret things belong to the Lord and we must never try to push or force God to make known things that are not meant for us at a given time. At the time of the end there will be an increase of revelation released to the saints. Our focus should be to grow in greater intimacy with the Lord which will result in coming to know the heart and intent of the Lord. The tendency of many is to seek to know revelation before knowing the Revelator. The Lord will make known His secrets to those who have placed a priority on knowing Him and His ways.
Amos 3:7 Surely the Lord GOD will do nothing, but he revealeth his secret unto his servants the prophets.
It is God’s intention to reveal His secret things to those who walk closely with Him but there are times when He holds back. It may be that they are not ready to receive it or it would not be in their current interest.
John 16:12 I have yet many things to say unto you, but ye cannot bear them now.
I feel to place a bit of emphasis on this point due to how easy it can be to get caught up in matters that may be a bit beyond us. It is important that we be vigilant concerning the end times but not to be over speculative. In going beyond these boundaries we can end up going off the course that God has placed before us. David recognized this potentiality and made sure he did not fall into this trap. He sought after the heart of God and the rest came to him naturally. This is the best advice for us as well. The more we seek to know God the more we will come to know the heart of God. In knowing the heart of God we come to know His burden which will help us to be in a position to fulfil His will and mandate.
The mystery of the Incarnation is expressed in the opening portions of this chapter. Before Paul gets into the meat of what Jesus did in becoming man at the incarnation he spends time developing the thought of having the mind of Christ. Humility is a key in being able to receive more from God. It is important that we seek to adopt a lowliness of mind mentality for the purpose of keeping us in check while helping to ensure that pride does not rear its ugly head. We are about to be introduced into one of the most profound truths presented to man. The mind-set we are called to adopt is the mind-set that the Lord employed when He came to earth to become a man. It is a mind-set that is renewed and sensitive to the things of God. It is the mind-set that Paul spoke to the church at Colossae (Col 3:12-lowliness of mind) as well as in other places. There are strongholds of self and pride that lurk in the mind and if not addressed will find expression through our life in other ways. The mind we need to seek to adopt is the mind that was in Christ when He came to earth as man.
What was prominent in the mind of Christ at this time was that He fulfilled the will of His Father. He did not seek to hold onto reputation, position or fame. Here was the co-creator of the whole world willingly letting go of his title and position in order to please His Father. Let this mind be in you, let it be in me. In doing this Jesus became a man; humbled and obedient even unto His death. He took on the form of a servant and lived the majority of His earthly life veiled and hidden in preparation for His destiny with the Cross. What a great Saviour we serve! It should be noted here that Jesus never ceased being the Son of God but he willingly relinquished His prerogative as the Son of God.
Heb 7:25 Wherefore he is able also to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by him, seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for them.
Heb 7:26 For such an high priest became us, who is holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners, and made higher than the heavens;
This means we have the ability to become like Him. Jesus being the Son of God died as a man; we as man in dying to self, accepting Jesus into our lives as Saviour have the ability to become sons and daughters of God. At the time of creation man was created after His image. The finished work of the Cross provides man the opportunity to become like God as we learn to die to self, walk in the light as He is in the light and allowing the blood to do its eternal work (1 John 1:7). The key in this chapter is that we learn to adopt a “lowliness of mind” mentality. It counters pride and positions us to receive more of His life changing grace.
There will come a time when every knee will bow and every tongue confessing that Jesus Christ is indeed Lord (vs 10-11). Let us come into that place of worship and love for him today. It will be an awesome scene, a dreadful scene for those who have mocked and scorned the name of the Lord when they come to the place of acknowledging Him as Lord at the time of the judgement.
In verse 12-18 Paul addresses the thought of working out our salvation. What does this mean? When we are born again we are “imputed” to be righteous in the sight of God. This means that when God looks at us He sees us as righteous through the righteousness of His Son. We still have an inner man that has a corrupt nature that needs to be addressed and dealt with. The working out of our salvation requires acts of obedience on our part. A good example is when we go through the waters of Baptism. This act does not save us but it is an act of obedience that enables the Lord, through the Holy Spirit to do a greater work in our lives. The same is true when we are baptized in the Holy Ghost. These are steps and acts of obedience that we choose to take which then allows God to work in a deeper way in our lives. If we continue to allow the Lord to work internally within us we come to the place where the “righteousness of God “is then worked out within us. This is a process of walking in the light as He is in the light which makes allowance for the blood of Jesus to do a deeper work of cleansing in our lives.
All through this process we need to seek the Lord in helping to place within us a desire and delighting to do His will (vs 13). It is not meant to be a compulsion but rather a delighting.
Psa 40:8 I delight to do thy will, O my God: yea, thy law is within my heart.
This is the offering that God is after, a sacrifice that is well pleasing unto Him. It is a life that expresses the goodness of God in the midst of a crooked and perverse environment; the kind of world we see ourselves living in today.
In verses 19-24 Paul speaks of Timothy as a beloved son and one whom he would like to send to them to help strengthen and encourage them. He became the right hand man of Paul and one whom Paul could trust and rely upon. Timothy was one who served the interests of Paul in every way; he was a true spiritual son of the apostle. He related to Paul during both his good times and bad sticking alongside him every step of the way. Another quality seen in Timothy which is required in today’s leadership is that of loyalty; the willingness to serve selflessly in another man’s work. To the extent one is loyal under another man’s leadership will be to the extent that he or she experiences loyalty under their leadership. This blesses and reinforces the strength of any ministry and helps it to grow and become fruitful. The Philippian church was fruitful and Paul was willing to release his best asset (Timothy) in order for them to become even more fruitful. This was another strength of the Apostle Paul; he was always willing to give his best for the sake of others. I have seen numerous churches through the years hold on to their best people instead of releasing them into the field. One church comes to mind that had had so many quality people within it but seldom released to help or encourage the body of Christ at large. The result was stagnation and great disappointments. Paul was not like this, he was kingdom minded and always willing to give his very best.
In closing this chapter Paul mentions another saint to the church by the name of Epaphroditus. He was a man who well represented the Philippian church. He also was a man who suffered greatly while with Paul and yet willingly served him faithfully. Paul commended this brother to the church making known how blessed the church was to have someone like him as part of their family. He encourages them to receive him warmly when he returns.