Daily devotional, 11th of July 2013.
What a morning this has been so far! I woke up with some surplus of energy, don’t know why… Maybe because I had a super charged week with the two basketball teams I coach… Anyways, I read Psalm 89 and Ecclesiastes 8 this morning, but I have to be honest, I was so immersed in the 89th Psalm that I didn’t want to read anything else. I wanted to have the chance to really grasp and memorize some of the verses in it. What a beautiful Psalm! And what a mystery it is to unfold the meaning behind the verses, when the Psalmist uses verses to talk about David and Jesus interchangeably! Bear in mind before you read along, this will probably be the longest post of them all so far. About 2000 words from here on. I’m warning you because once you start, you won’t want to stop in the middle! It’s beautiful! Oh well, at least I think it is.
I felt like a lot of people might not get the picture about Jesus on the first read, specially because it demands a bit of prior knowledge about the history of Christianity and the unfolding of the Old Testament into the New Testament to capture this picture on Psalm 89, Ready? Let’s go.
In the first verses , Ethan, the Psalmist in this case, wrote a few verses that became one of the most popular songs in the Christian world in the last 10 or so years… “I will sing of your love… Forever…” I’m sure you’ve heard it many times before in church… He then finishes verse two with a great affirmation, proving that God’s loyalty is basically everlasting! Great way to start!
In verse 5 we see something potentially weird: “The heavens praise you…” How is that possible? I believe that he could be saying the same thing as Paul was saying when he starts writing to the Romans; that the stars, the earth, the universe and just the way things are display the glory of God, therefore, praising Him. He then unfolds to a very familiar picture of angels praising and worshiping God in heaven time after time, like prophets had seen in visions, like John sees in Revelation and etc. I wish we could all have some visions like that… I’m sure it would help a lot in our own convictions… But hey, if we’re creative enough, we can see all of that right here in the Bible!
He affirms on verse 13 that God is a winner, Victory is His, always! What a great affirmation to say that we serve a Victorious God and not a loser god… Trust me, when the war starts (or is close to the end for the matter) and things get scary, you want to be on the winner’s side! I know I do!
Verse 14 and 15 are a great ground for understanding the foundations of the so called kingdom of God. “The kingdom of God is built on truth and justice. Love and faithfulness are servants before his throne…” I want you to think about this statement for a while.
A lot of people justify their disobedience and unfaithfulness by affirming that God is love, and we must just love and exercise no rulership, no authority, no discipline… Basically, they advocate living in moral chaos and complete denial of God’s standards in exchange for a poor interpretation of 1 John 4:8 (God is love…)
Is God love? Yes, He is, and no one could love us more than He did and does. But He is also a just God, a faithful God and a just God will never let something worth punishment go unpunished. Yes, Jesus did pay the price for us, so we’re free, but that does not imply we can do whatever we want and live in disagreement with God Himself. Go read Romans and I’m sure you will understand this paradox through the debates Paul draws with himself in his rhetoric.
Note that this verse says that His kingdom is built on justice and truth. I could write a whole message on these two words alone, but I won’t. It will be suffice to say that the foundation of His kingdom is based on the justice; that sin must be judged and therefore, as it says in Romans 6:23 “the wages of sin is death”. That being the first premise, because of the foundation of justice, we’re condemned to death, because according to Romans 3, Psalm 53 (which says basically the same thing) and a few other passages, we are all sinners! Yep, that’s right, all of us, even the pope, even Mother Teresa, even Ghandi, even Mandela, good and bad people according to our standards, Hitler, Schindler, Mussolini, famous philanthropists and artists, the simple common person living next door, the pastor of your church, the bishop somewhere else, the Rabbi, Christians, Buddhists, Hindus, Muslims, EVERYONE!!!We are all sinners, therefore, deserving of the penalty of death.
The good news is that God decided, because of his own will, kindness, love and mercy to pay that price for us, so we gave His son Jesus (the only one who was never a sinner, He was perfect) to pay the price for all of us (That’s again, John 3:16). In more theological/ legal terms, we could say that Jesus was our atonement, expiatory sacrifice, that satisfied the wrath of God towards us sinners deserving of death and put us back in the place where God no longer will see our sins during the trial (judgement) but He will see the atonement made by Jesus Christ! Amen! Thank you God for your mercy! We can only be thankful!
The second premise of this verse is the foundation of faithfulness. God is faithful even when we’re not. And it is based on the justice and the faithfulness of God that we can trust Him with closed eyes that He will finish what He started and He will hold up to his end of the deal. That faithfulness imply that we’re supposed to be faithful in return, not because it earns us favour, which we already have (see verse 15 of Psalm 89) but in gratitude for His immensurable mercy that saved us.
From verse 19 to 30 is where the beautifulness of this poetic scripture takes place. Ethan moves interchangeably and so softly between David and Jesus in these verses, that it is almost impossible to notice the changes. When you read these verses, if you apply them to either David or Jesus, they both work. And that’s a lesson for all beginners… Poetic scriptures and prophecies, sometimes have a hidden meaning behind them. A meaning that not even the authors would know, but that God used as pointing arrow to future events. A meaning that we could only understand now, because we have the whole picture painted in front of us.
In this case, Ethan had not seen any vision of Jesus or the future, like Isaiah did (for example), so he wouldn’t know yet that Jesus would be portrayed in his Psalm. He wrote about David, and probably (most likely) even before David had died. So you can see he was distressed and worried about the future of the kingdom, specially worried about the promise God made to David in regards to an everlasting kingdom, power, rulership, authority, protection, blessings and etc.
When we read words such as “I will make his family continue forever” or “I will not break my agreement with David” or “I will never change what I said” we can see David and Jesus. But here is a funny one: “I will put him in charge of the sea…”
Yeah, David was a king and could probably control who would come in and out, even through the ships in the sea approaching his territory… But if we look really deep, we will see something else… Here is a passage that will make you understand why this Psalm talks about David and Jesus at the same time: Matthew 8:27 “…Who is this that even the seas obey him?” After a storm, Jesus calms the seas and the disciples were amazed and scared, so they ask that question…
Now, doesn’t that make much more sense to apply Psalm 89:25 to Jesus than to David alone? I think it does…
From verses 30 to 32 God goes through a brief exposition of conditional love for disobedient people, but unconditional love for His chosen one, and again, that’s a big mystery.
Back in those days, Israel had a conditional relationship with God (I have t o be very careful in saying this, because in Romans 9 we see that the covenant was really unconditional, however, they didn’t know that at the time, hence God finishes the initial covenant in Deuteronomy 30 with a conditional proposition).
Even though they were a chosen nation, there were times when God punished them for their disobedience or unfaithfulness (read Numbers 16:1-40 for one of those few examples). So, even though they were chosen, they were not 100% guaranteed their salvation. It was conditional. You obey me, and I will protect you (I’m paraphrasing God here…). Similar to war covenants where the more powerful nation would offer mercy to the weaker one in exchange for their loyalty (and some taxes o f course… And here, thousands of years ago, exploitation of fellow humans started based on power, money and etc… Let’s save that for another post shall we?).
But God points to the future in these verses, to the time when Jesus will seal a covenant that has no conditions attached to it. Like we say: “no strings attached” (again, I must be very careful when saying this to avoid giving the impression that following Jesus might be the easiest thing you’ve ever done. It won’t be…
Jesus came and paid the price no one could pay, for us. He was and is not only our Saviour, but also our big brother. Once He has done that, the covenant was morphed into an unchangeable covenant. There is no condition anymore, because now, we didn’t chose to get into this covenant, He chose us. We didn’t do anything to deserve it, because He saved us in our most utter condition of sinners, by His grace alone, through faith in Him imputed to us by Him (WOW, I know, complicated right? How about some 200 hours of study on what’s called sola gratia/ sola fidelis???)
We can’t do anything to keep the covenant, as we keep sinning and turning our backs on God, but as He promised here, because “He will never take His love from Him – Psalm 89:34” (David/ Jesus) And because we are one with Him/ in Him (read John 17 to understand that) we are granted our secure spot.
From verse 38 to 45 it was finally the part that I was emotional about. As I read through it this morning, I could sense some tears building on the back of my eyes. It felt like I could see the scene before it happened. It might sound heretical, but I felt like I was placed inside Jesus’ mind on the cross on that Friday about 2000 years ago and inside His human side mind, he was questioning: “why have you forsaken me, why did you forget about your promise, please, I can’t take this anymore… They are mocking me, can’t you see Dad??? They are beating me so hard that my whole body doesn’t even respond… You said I would reign but I’m perishing… My wounds hurt, I’m being humiliated… My mother is suffering by seeing me like this… What have I done to this people? I came to bring them good news and they reject it and want to kill me… I don’t get it”
This is just a collection of possible thoughts he might have had before he screamed “Elahi (or Eloi) Elahi (or Eloi), Lama sabachthani!” on the cross, meaning, “My God My God, why have you forsaken me?”
I felt the distress, of course, not the pain, but I was saddened by the fact that Ethan’s words in this Psalm would become the pavement on which Jesus would walk in the future…
“How long will this continue”, Ethan asks, referring to the kingdom of David being persecuted and destroyed. In my head I was repeating: “3 days son, 3 days”. It was like the conversation between Ethan and God referring to David was serving to me as a conversation between Jesus and God in which I was placed in the middle to hear the questions and answers, so Jesus could be saying: “How long Dad, how long?” and God silently enough for me to hear it but not loud enough for Jesus to perceive would say: 3 days… 3 days and then we’re done! Victory, Joy and Blessings after 3 days… Hang in there son, I’m with you. I never left you! I’ve always been here. You can’t feel it, but I’m here, I’ll prove it to you… Just give me 3 days…”
And we know the end of the story don’t we? After 3 days, He resurrected, defeated death and God was glorified in His overcoming! Wow, what a story!
And for that and that alone, I will finish with the last part of the Psalm 89.
“Praise the Lord forever! Amen and Amen!”