PSALM 54 TALK: HONOURING THE NAME OF GOD (Trusting in the revealed character of God)

PSALM 54 TALK: HONOURING THE NAME OF GOD

(Trusting in the revealed character and promises of God no matter what life brings us)

 A talk to encourage Christians to face the trials and difficulties of life confident that they are trusting in a great God of love who promises to help and sustain them at all times.

THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide”.

 INTRODUCTION

Recently I heard an interesting talk by a representative of the organisation called, “Voice of the Martyrs” a Christian organisation that helps and supports Christians living in countries where they are persecuted. It was disturbing to learn from the speaker that Christians suffer persecution in more than 50 countries in the world today. He spoke of examples of Christian persecution where people had been killed, Churches had been destroyed and many people had been displaced from their homes simply because they dared believe in the Christian faith.

Some might ask: If God loves his people why does he allow them to be persecuted?

This is a question any Christian could ask when any kind of trouble or difficulty comes on them.

The bible never presents the idea that believers will avoid problems and difficulties in this life. In fact all the main New Testament writers present the idea that problems and difficulties are a normal part of the Christian life and God uses them to mould us into true people of faith and to test our faith. As Peter teaches in 1 Peter 1: 6 – 9,

In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may result in praise, glory and honour when Jesus Christ is revealed. Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the end result of your faith, the salvation of your souls”.

 David did not have an easy life in fact most of his Psalms are set in the context of great difficulty. The general background to the first two books of Psalms is stated in Psalm 2: 2,

“The kings of the earth take their stand and the rulers gather together against the Lord and against his Anointed One”.

 Psalm 54 and its historical context is an excellent example of the conflict David was promised as the Lords anointed. The Hebrew heading for the Psalm reads,

“For the director of music. With stringed instruments. A maskil of David. When the Ziphites had gone to Saul and said, ‘Is not David hiding among us’”

 This maskil (inspired teaching) Psalm of David was written during the eight to nine year period when David was on the run from King Saul who sought to destroy him as he knew he had been passed over by God as king for David. The actual incident of David’s run from Saul is identified as the time’s the Ziphites betrayal of David to King Saul when David sought refuge in their city called Keilah. The land of the Ziphites is in the south of Israel close to the land of the Philistines. David had fought for the Ziphites against the Philistines and they then betrayed him on at least two occasions. This is recorded in 1 Samuel 23 and we read about the second Ziphite betrayal in 1 Samuel 26.

Why these Israelites turned on David especially after he had fought for them against the Philistines is not known. However it seems that it is part of the conflict he was told he would experience in Psalm 2: 2. This conflict would not only come from the pagan kings outside of Israel but will also come from opposition to his kingship within Israel as well.

We believe that David wrote Psalm 31 with this incident in his mind as well (see Psalm 31 Psalm talk for more details).

Psalm 54 features, the name of God:

Verse 1: “Save me, O God, by your name”

 Verse 6: “I will praise your name; O Lord for it is good”

 Also the Psalm features the three main names for God:

  1. Elohim: The general name for God that features in the second book of Psalms and appears in Psalm 54 three times in verses 1 – 3 and at the start of verse 4 when it says,

“Surely God (Elohim) is my helper”

  1. Adonai: The name of God usually translated as “Lord” in English bibles and literally means, “Master or Owner” appears in the second part of verse 4 where it reads,

“The Lord (Adonai) is the one who sustains me”

  1. Yahweh: Which features in the first book of Psalms and is the Covenant name of God given to Moses by God at the burning bush in Exodus 3 and is said to mean something like, “He is” or “He causes to be” thus the English bible translation reads, “I am who I am”. It appears in Psalm 54 in verse 6 where we read,

“I will praise your name; O Lord (Yahweh) for it is good”

 Jesus taught us to Hallow or Honour the name of God in his model prayer for all true believers in Matthew 6: 9 and Luke 11: 2.

So I have decided that the main theme of this Psalm is “Honouring the name of God” and I have divided this Psalm into three sections based on the concept of honouring the name of God.

I hope we will learn how the name of God, which is his revealed character, is a great support and comfort when we face difficulties in this life.

  1. PRAYING IN THE NAME OF GOD (1 – 3)
  1. BEING HELPED BY THE NAME OF GOD (4 – 5)
  1. GIVING PRAISE TO THE NAME OF GOD (6 – 7)
  1. PRAYING IN THE NAME OF GOD (1 – 3)

David stars this Psalm with the words,

“Save me Oh God”

 From the situation David found himself in Keith in the land of the Ziphites described for us in 1 Samuel 23 David is in a very dangerous situation. He has been betrayed by the Ziphites, probably conveyed to him by Abiathar the son of the chief priest of Nob called Ahimelech who was killed by Deog the Edomite at King Saul. Abiathar recently joined David in Keilah after narrowly escaping the clutches of Deog himself. David is in danger of being trapped in Keilah and so he cries out to God for help or salvation. He spells out how much danger he is in, in verse 3,

“Strangers are attacking me; ruthless men seek my life – men without regard for God”.

 Even though the Ziphites and Saul and his soldiers are not strangers or “aliens” by their actions they are acting like strangers or foreigners. They are also acting like they are Godless or people who have no regard for God. The ruthless and merciless killing of the priests of Nob proved how much Saul and his followers which now included the Ziphites had fallen away from God.

 However David links his request for help and salvation in Keilah with these words,

“Save me, Oh God, by your name:”

 What does David mean by the words, “By your name”?

I believe praying in the “Name” of God means we are seeking to appropriate 3 great truths we know about God:

  1. God’s revealed character
  2. God’s might and love
  3. God’s promises to always care for us
  1. God’s revealed character

 I have spoken before in other Psalm talks about how “names” in the bible and in the ancient Israel culture actually meant something. They revealed something about the person and in this case God’s name reveals what he is really like. In another talk I spoke of how Jacob got his name and on a web page called, “behind the name” I came across this excellent explanation of Jacob’s name:

“Jacob (later called Israel) is the son of Isaac and Rebecca and the father of the twelve founders of the twelve tribes of Israel. He was born holding his twin Brother Esau’s heel, and his name is explained as meaning “holder of the heel” or “supplanter”.

 Jacob revealed throughout his life that he lived up to his name as he was a selfish and grafting character who did anything he could to be the number one son in his father’s house. However later in his life God met Jacob in the form of a man who Jacob wrestled with and would not let go. Through the man Jacob wrestled with God touched Jacob on his hip and he became partially crippled. This meeting with God changed Jacob and in fact humbled him and he got a new name, Israel, which means something like “May God prevail”.

The Old Testament presents many names for the one God of heaven and earth and these names backed up by the revealed acts of God show us that God’s name really does mean something special. On another excellent web page called, “Got a Question? Org.” I picked out 10 of the special names for God and their individual meanings,

  1. EL, ELOAH: God “mighty, strong, prominent” (Genesis 7:1; Isaiah 9:6)
  1. EL SHADDAI: “God Almighty,” “The Mighty One of Jacob” (Genesis 49:24)
  1. YAHWEH-JIREH: “The Lord Will Provide” (Genesis 22:14)
  1. YAHWEH-RAPHA: “The Lord who heals” (Exodus 15: 26)
  1. YEHWEH-NISII: “The Lord our banner” (Exodus 17: 15)
  1. YAHWEH-MIKADDESH: “The Lord who Sanctifies”, “Makes Holy” (Leviticus 20: 8)
  1. YAHWEH-SHALOM: “The Lord our peace” (Judges 6: 24)
  1. YAHWEH-TSIDKENU: “The Lord of Righteousness” (Jeremiah 33:16)
  1. YAHWEH-ROHI: “The Lord our Shepherd” (Psalm 23:1)
  1. YAWEH-SABAOTH: “The Lord of Hosts” (Isaiah 1:24 and Psalm 46:7)

This is not a complete list of the special names for God in the bible but please note if you look up the references the “got a Question.org.” quotes you will see that each of these special names for God is linked to an intervention of God into the history of Israel. Therefore God always backs up his names with actions that flow from his divine character.

In the New Testament we have many special names for Jesus Christ like:

  1. JESUS: “Savoir” or “Save his people from their sins” (Matthew 1:21)
  1. CHRIST: “”Messiah” or “Anointed One” (Matthew 1:16)
  1. IMMANUEL: “God with us” (Matthew 1:23)

These are just three of the main names of Christ in the New Testament and they too are backed up by what Jesus actually did for us.

In the Gospel of John Jesus takes up the covenant name for God, Yahweh or “I am” and gives us 7 new insights into who he is and what he has done for us. The seven new insights are:

  1. Bread

“I am the bread of life; he who comes to me shall not hunger.” John 6:35

  1. Light

“I am the light of the world; he who fallows me shall not walk in the darkness, but shall have the light of life.” John 8:12  

  1. I am the Gate

“I am the gate; if anyone enters through me, he shall be saved, and shall go in and out, and find pasture.” John 10:9

  1. I am the Good Shepherd

“I am the good shepherd; the good shepherd lays down His life for His sheep.” John 10:11

  1. I am the Resurrection and Life

“I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in me shall live even if he dies.” John 11:25

  1. I am the Way, Truth, Life

“I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father, but through me.” John 14:6

  1. I am the True vine

“I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser.” John 15:1  

The divinity of Jesus Christ is further illustrated in John 8:58.

“Jesus said, “Truly, Truly, I say to you, before Abraham was born, I am”, which means that Jesus existed before His human life on earth”.

So when we pray in the name of God we are linking ourselves to the revealed character of God that all the names of God back up by his actions reveal to us.

  1. God’s might and power

David knew the power and love of God on many occasions in his life and often referred to them in his many Psalms in the bible, liked Psalm 31: 7 and 8,

“I will be glad and rejoice in your love, for you saw my affliction and knew the anguish of my soul. You have not handed me over to the enemy but have set my feet in a spacious place”

These words of Psalm 31 could fit so well the situation David found himself in Keilah and this is another reason why I believe that Psalm 31 was written around the same time or at least with this incident in David’s life in mind. In verse 1 David also asks,

“Vindicate me by your might”

David also sees his God who he is praying to as not only loving but mighty and powerful as well. This is the God David not only prays to when he faces the giant Goliath but who he trusts in as he twirls the rock in the sling that helped by God brings the giant down. We might say David had giant killing faith but it was not David’s faith that was giant killing but it was who his faith was in that made the difference.

David had a strong belief backed up by his knowledge of the bible and his continual experience of God. He had learnt that God could be relied upon to save him because he believed that this God had revealed himself as both mighty and loving.

In the New Testament we have a new and greater insight into this God of might and power who sends to earth his ultimate revelation of himself. Jesus continually shows us his might or power and love throughout his entire ministry on earth. He healed the sick revealing might and power over sickness, cast our demons showing he had might and power over the forces of evil, he stilled the storm showing he had might and power over nature and he raised people from the dead showing he had might and power over death. However he did all this as an act of love, curing the sick, clearing the soul of evil invasion, stilling the storm to save his disciples from drowning and raising the dead because he had love and compassion for those who suffered the power of death. Jesus showed love at all times during his earthly ministry.

Finally the one great driving force for Jesus, his prime mission on earth was to die on the cross. Listen to his words in Matthew 20: 28,

“Just as the Son of man did not come to be served, but to give his life as a ransom for many”.

In the cross we see all the main attributes or character of God to the full. We see the justice of God in that Jesus gave his life to pay for our sins. We see the love of God in that he did it to save us from our sins. This was something he did not have to do but he did because he loves us.

Finally we see the power or might of God in the cross because it is the power of God to save.

Paul knew this very well because on the number of occasions in his letters to the churches he spoke of the cross and its message which he called the Gospel as the power of God to save us. At the end of the first chapter of his first letter to the Corinthians he says in verse 17,

“For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel – not with words of human wisdom less the cross of Christ be emptied of its power”.

So when we pray in the name of Christ we pray in the mighty power and love he has won for us through his death and resurrection.

  1. God’s promises to always care for us

 David knew that God had called him to a difficult job but he also knew that God promised to help him and in fact fight for him against his enemies. I mentioned earlier that the underlining context of many of David’s Psalms is Psalm 2: 2,

“The kings of the earth take their stand and the rulers gather against his Anointed one”

This Psalm not only sets up the promise of the conflicts David would face in the future but offers the promise of God to care for David by fighting for him. We read in Psalm 2: 3 – 12

“Let us break their chains,” they say, “and throw off their fetters.”The One enthroned in heaven laughs; the Lord scoffs at them. Then he rebukes them in his anger and terrifies them in his wrath, saying, “I have installed my King on Zion, my holy hill.” I will proclaim the decree of the LORD: He said to me, “You are my Son: today I have become your Father. Ask of me, and I will make the nations your inheritance, the ends of the earth your possession.   You will rule them with an iron scepter; you will dash them to pieces like pottery.” Therefore, you kings, be wise; be warned, you rulers of the earth. Serve the LORD with fear and rejoice with trembling. Kiss the Son, lest he be angry and you be destroyed in your way, for his wrath can flare up in a moment. Blessed are all who take refuge in him”.

Jesus saw his ministry and mission on earth mirrored by the life and words of David recorded in the Psalms. In fact the words in verse 7 of Psalm 2 are for filled in the baptism of Jesus as we see in the words of Matthew 3: 16 and 17,

“As soon as Jesus was baptized, he went up out of the water. At that moment heaven was opened, and he saw the spirit of God descending like a dove and lighting on him, and a voice from heaven said, “This is my Son, whom I love: with him I am well pleased”.

Jesus like David did not take the easy path in his life as we saw before in the fact that Jesus came to serve and give his life as a ransom for many. Jesus had one great focus in his ministry his death on the cross but he too knew that his death was not the end. Listen to how Jesus prepared his disciples for his death to come in Matthew 16: 21 – 22,

“From that time on Jesus began to explain to his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things at the hands of the elders, chief priests and teachers of the law, and he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life”

Jesus calls us as well to the way of suffering or difficulties when he says in Matthew 16: 24,

“Then Jesus said to his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me”.

However Jesus does not desert us in our daily “keilah” type situations but offers us his promise to always be with us to save and care for us. Listen again to the tremendously comforting words of Christ in Matthew 11: 28 – 29,

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls, For my yoke is easy and my burden is light”

When we pray in the name of Jesus we are also claiming his many promises of help and care even in the most difficult times of life.

  1. BEING HELPED BY THE NAME OF GOD (4 – 5)

 Now that David has prayed and trusted in the name of God, his revealed character he now claims the help and victory he has in and through the God he trusts in. Sometimes prayer is something we need to do to remind ourselves of who we are trusting in. Prayer also is a practical way of demonstrating to God that we do trust in him. Sadly I am just like everyone when it comes to prayer. When I am going through great difficulty I pray a lot but when things seem to be going well I often forget to pray. At least by setting aside a small part of the day for prayer no matter what is going on in our lives is a good way of forcing ourselves to pray regularly.

We have learnt that David wrote this Psalm around the time of his narrow escape from Saul in the town of Keilah and he would have been in much prayer at this time owing to his very difficult circumstances. The twenty third chapter of 1 Samuel records both the difficult situation David found himself in Keilah and how David made practical steps in pray to find the will of God for him there. Now David in verse 4 makes an amazing statement of faith,

“Surely God is my help; the Lord is the one who sustains me”.

I pointed out in the introduction that David uses two different names for God in this verse, Elohim and Adonai and this is not an accident but is something quite intentional. So I will look at this verse in two parts:

  1. The Elohim Part

     And the,

  1. The Adonai Part

I will then look at verse 5 which I call,

  1. Divine Retribution in the name of God
  1. The Elohim Part

First of all God (Elohim) is to David a God who loves to save and protect his people.

Therefore David has confidence to believe that God will save him by helping him out of the supposed trap of Keilah. He claims the help probably before it actually comes and this is true faith in action as the writer to the Hebrews says in Hebrews 11: 1,

“Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see”.

Some teach we can name and claim anything we want in life but this is not what this verse or any other verse in the bible is teaching us. We can only be certain of what God has promised to do for us in the bible. We therefore claim a specific promise in the bible. It has been said that there are 3573 promises in the bible. However it is important for us to realize that with most promises God gives us a condition that must be for filled. Let me illustrate take the promise in Philippians 4: 19,

The promise:

“And my God will meet all your needs”

The condition:

“According to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus”

So a correct claiming of this would go something like:

God will supply my every need (note not my want) according to what Christ has won for us. It is in fact according to the will of the father through Christ.

David claims the many promises God gave him about his help and protection and makes the statement:

Surely God is my help”

  1. The Adonai part

In the second half of verse 4 David writes,

“The Lord (Adonai) is the one who sustains me”

I mentioned in the introduction that the “Adonai” name for God means something like “Master or Owner”. David sees his God as his master or Lord and we must confess Jesus as our Lord according to Paul in Romans 10: 9,

“That if you confess with your mouth, Jesus is Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved”.

Kidner rightly points out that David sees,

“God’s hand behind all human help”

God is Lord of life and the universe, as David claims in Psalm 19: 1,

“The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the works of his hands”

Yet David goes further than seeing God asjst Lord of the universe but also Lord of his life. He declares that this “Adonai” or master:

“Is the one who sustains me”

The old spiritual song says:

“He’s got the whole world in his hands”

It also says,

“His got you and me brother in his hands”

David did not just mouth the names of God; he lived by them because he believed he was constantly helped by the name or the very character of God. Over and over in Psalms of David I have looked at so far David makes statements like we find in Psalm 33: 5,

“The Lord loves righteousness and justice; the earth is full of his unfailing love”

Often David cries out to the unfailing love of God for help in the difficulties of his life, as he does in Psalm 40: 11,

“Do not withhold your mercy from me, O Lord; may your love and your truth always protect me”.

Yes David proved over and over again that not only is God his helper but he is his very sustainer. At any time during the eight or nine years David was on the run from King Saul his life could have been taken but God stepped in on many occasions to help and sustain him. The story of David’s escape from the certain trap in Keilah was only one more example of this.

  1. Divine Retribution in the name of God

What did David want God to do for him in Keilah specifically?

Verse 5, tells us:

“Let evil recoil on those who slander me; in your faithfulness destroy them”.

This verse is another example of a feature of the Psalms of David namely what is called an imprecation, which is a prayer or request to God to call down God’s judgment on our enemies. I came across this for the first time in Psalm 5: 10, which reads,

“Declare them guilty, O God! Let their intrigues be their downfall. Banish them for their many sins, for they have rebelled against you”.

I would like to quote my own words from my explanation of this verse in my Psalm 5 talk and the issue of imprecatory prayers for the Christian,

“Verse 10 – Is David’s actual prayer for God’s judgment to come upon his enemies, this is called in theological cycles as imprecation which is a term which means invoking evil or judgment on someone. There are many examples of imprecation in the Psalms and these Psalms are often called Imprecatory Psalms. This raises the issue in my mind of whether we should pray this way when we deal with God’s enemies today. Jesus taught us to love our enemies and pray for them, Luke 6: 27 – 29,

“But I tell you who hear me: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. If someone strikes you on one cheek, turn to him the other also. If someone takes your cloak, do not stop him from taking your tunic”.

However we also know from the teaching of Christ and the rest of the New Testament that God has appointed a day that all men will be judged, Acts 17: 31,

For he has set a day when he will judge the world with justice by the man he has appointed. He has given proof of this to all men by raising him from the dead.”

This means that when we read David praying for God to deal with his enemies like he does here in verse 10, who are also God’s enemies we should think of this in the context of the final judgment to come. Martin Luther pointed out that when we pray in the Lord’s prayer, “Thy Kingdom come”, we are praying for God’s day of Judgment to come as well.

However interestingly I did read an article on the net by a man named Dr Peter Hammond, called “Praying for Justice” and he points out that in the many persecuted parts of the world prayers like David is praying here are prayed in places were Christians suffer major and terrible persecution. Here is a small extract from that article,

“Despite the fact that 90 of the 150 Psalms include imprecations (prayers invoking God’s righteous judgment upon the wicked) such prayers are rare in the average Western church. However, amongst the persecuted churches these prayers are much more common”.

Praying Against the Persecutors

Amidst the burnt out churches and devastation of Marxist Angola I found the survivors of communist persecution – including the crippled and maimed, and widows and orphans praying for God to strike down the wicked and remove the persecutors of the Church. I was shocked – yet it was Biblical (Even the martyrs in heaven pray)”.

“How long, Sovereign Lord, holy and true, until you judge the inhabitants of the earth and avenge our blood?” (Revelation 6:10).

The initiator of the communist persecution in Angola was Agestino Neto. Described as a “drunken, psychotic, Marxist poet”, Neto had been installed by Cuban troops as the first dictator of Angola. He boasted that: “Within 20 years there won’t be a Bible or a church left in Angola. I will have eradicated Christianity.” Yet despite the vicious wave of church burning and massacres it is not Christianity that was eradicated in Angola but Agestino Neto. Neto died in mysterious circumstances on an operating table in Moscow”.

Even though David often prayed for God’s judgment to catch up to his enemies he never actually sought to carry out that judgment on Saul and those who followed him. In fact David had at least two occasions to kill Saul when he was on the run but does not do it saying 1 Samuel 24: 6,

“The Lord forbid that I should do such a thing to my master, the Lord’s anointed, or lift my hand against him, for he is the anointed of the Lord”.

Recently I was in a bible study where we were discussing the words of Judas Iscariot in John 12: 4- 6 and how Jesus knew Judas would betray him yet he treats Judas with the same love he had for the other 11 disciples who where faithful to him.

David’s prayer in verse 5 of this Psalm actually asks for divine retribution for his enemies who slander his good name in Israel. He asks for their evil to recoil or backfire on them.

He then calls yet again on the character or name of God to deal with them,

“In your faithfulness destroy them”.

Calvin writes,

“His confidence of obtaining his request was grounded upon the circumstances that God could no more deny his word than deny himself”.

The bible makes it clear God cannot let sin go unpunished and this is why his divine nature, his faithfulness and justice sent Jesus to die for our sins on the cross so that Paul can claim in Romans 6: 23,

“For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord”.

David requested for particular help for his desperate plight in Keilah based on his understanding of the name or character of the God he trusted in.

3.GIVING PRAISE TO THE NAME OF GOD (6 – 7)

 This brings us to the final two verses of this short but amazing Psalm 54, which are like so many other final verses of a Psalm of David, a word of praise.

This praise is directed like the rest of the Psalm to the mighty name of God. Verse 6 says,

“I will sacrifice a freewill offering to you; I will praise your name, O Lord, for it is good”.

I would like to speak about three issues concerning praising the name of God that are raised in these last two verses:

  1. God’s name should lead us to biblical worship (vs. 6a)
  2. God’s name should cause us to give him praise (vs. 6b)
  3. God’s name should lead us to declare his salvation for us (vs. 7)

 God’s name should lead us to biblical worship (vs. 6a)

David declares in verse 6a his intention of offering a freewill sacrifice in praise to the name of God,

“I will sacrifice a freewill offering to you”.

David was faithful to the God given forms of worship laid down in the first five books of the bible known as the Torah or law of God. The form of worship laid down here is that of sacrifice in the sanctuary of God which after David’s time became the Temple of God under the rule of King Solomon.

This promise of biblical worship would not be able to happen for a number of years as David at the time of writing has been banished from Jerusalem where sacrificial worship can only take place.

Interestingly both Psalms 50 and 51 seem to question the validity of sacrificial worship. Psalm 50: 6 – 13 reads,

“I do not rebuke you for your sacrifices or your burnt offerings, which are ever before me. I have no need of a bull from your stall or of goats from your pens, for every animal of the forest is mine, and the cattle on a thousand hills. I know every bird in the mountains, and the creatures of the field are mine. If I were hungry I would not tell you, for the world is mine, and all that is in it. Do I eat the flesh of bulls or drink the blood of goats?”

Psalm 51: 16 reads,

“You do not delight in sacrifice, or I would bring it; you do not take pleasure in burnt offerings”.

On both these occasions David is revealing the short comings of Old Testament worship as it did not obtain full pardon and forgiveness of sins but rather looked forward to the full salvation of God to come in the deeds of the Messiah, who we know is Jesus Christ our Lord.

David does not condemn Old Testament sacrificial worship in both Psalm’s 50 and 51. In fact in Psalm 50: 14 and 15 he writes,

Sacrifice thank offerings to God, fulfil your vows to the Highest, and call upon me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you will honour me.”

And in Psalm 51: 17 he writes,

“The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise”.

David is pointing out that God does not look at the outward forms of worship of the worshipper but rather God looks at the heart of the worshipper and what is motivating the worshipper that is his real concern.

We to must worship God in a biblical way and the New Testament sets down what writer to the Hebrews calls for us to worship God as the new and living way made possible by the death and resurrection of Christ, Hebrews 10: 19 – 25,

Therefore, brothers and sisters, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is, his body, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near to God with a sincere heart and with the full assurance that faith brings, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching”.

Jesus said to the women at the well in John 4: 23, 24,

“Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshippers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for they are the kind of worshippers the Father seeks. God is spirit and his worshippers must worship in spirit and in truth”.

So through the perfect and final sacrifice of Christ on the Cross we can come to God and worship him in our hearts in spirit and truth and the Hebrews verses teach that this is not to be just an individual activity but something we should do with others, spurring one another on to love and good deeds.

So if we want to truly worship God as he is, his name and character we should join with other like minded Christians and worship him in spirit and truth. This will involve both our hearts and minds and God’s revealed word the bible where we find the truth about God.

  1. God’s name should cause us to give him praise (vs. 6b)

David might have had to wait up to eight years before he could for fill his vow to worship God biblically, by sacrifice in the sanctuary in Jerusalem but he could do the second part of his vow to God in verse 6 anytime and anywhere. This second part of verse 6 reads like this,

“I will praise your name, O Lord, for it is good”

When David knew God has saved him from the trap of Keilah he had only one reaction and that was to praise his God. If he actually penned the Psalm before he was saved from Keilah then his words are words of faith made in anticipation to God’s great rescue of his plight. David got out of the city of Keilah safely but soon after this the people of Keilah, the Ziphites betrayed David again. They told King Saul of David’s where a bouts in their territory. We read in 1 Samuel 23: 24 – 29 of yet another close shave David had with Saul and his army. David and his men where on one side of a mountain and Saul and his men where on the other side and both seemed destined to meet when their two paths crossed but God again saved David by causing Saul and his men to break off the chase owing to an attack by the Philistines in another part of the land.

This story of treachery by the Ziphites on two separate occasions and David’s escape made possible by the providential hand of God forms the background to this Psalm according to the Hebrew heading at the top of the Psalm.

Non believers often talk about luck and would say David was just a lucky person but David would not have called his narrow escapes from certain death at the hands of King Saul as luck. True believers like David do not believe in luck but we believe in the providential hand of God that often using ordinary events of life to guide and protect us.

This providential hand of God in the life of David always led him to praise the known name or character of his God. The apostle Paul taught and lived out this teaching during his life and ministry for our Lord. Here are two examples of Pauls teaching on praising God in our daily lives:

1 Thessalonians 5: 16 – 18,

“Be joyful always, pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus”.

Ephesians 5: 18 – 20,

“Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another with psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit. Sing and make music from your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.

I like the second reference because it contains three interesting aspects to praising God as we know him.

First it is the contrast to the ungodly activity of getting drunk. Many people seek to find a state of happiness and wellness from getting drunk but Christians are encouraged by Paul to find this in praising God in the company of other believers.

Secondly this passage teaches us the role and purpose of music in praising and worshipping God. Paul encourages us to use Psalms, hymns and spiritual songs in our praise of him.

Thirdly and finally Paul like David speaks of his praise of God being in the name of our God and for Paul that was, “in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ”. Our praise of God is not aimless but is directed to our Lord who has done so much for us and promises to do even more.

  1. God’s name should lead us to declare his salvation for us (vs. 7)

The final verse of this amazing short Psalm rounds off David’s praise for his God who is about to or already has saved him yet again from the deadly clutches of King Saul, verse 6 reads;

“For he has delivered me from all my troubles, and my eyes have looked in triumph on my foes”.

Spurgeon neatly and eloquently sums up what David is saying here when he writes,

“David lived a life of dangers and hair breadth escapes, yet he was always safe. In the retrospect of his very deliverance he feels that he must praise God and looking upon the mercy which he sought as though it were already received”.

David did not live an easy life but because he had to rely on God so much he lived a remarkable life. Some Christians react negatively to problems and difficulties in life as though they thought that when you become a follower of Christ you will be wrapped up in cotton wool and only good things will come your way. Nothing could be further from the truth as I pointed out in the introduction all the great New Testament writers speak of the role of suffering in the Christian life. They all seem to suggest that suffering as a Christian should give us joy.

James says this about the role and place of suffering in the Christian life with these amazing words in James 1: 2 – 4,

“Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything”.

On my last mission trip to Myanmar, Burma I fell very ill to a strange illness during my first week there. Before I started my mission trip I had prayed for good health so that I could be able to teach the word of God to hungry believers there but I got sick. As I lay in my hotel bedroom on the second night of my illness I wept in prayer to God for help and deliverance and the next day I was able to rise from my sick bed and continue my work for him. I was able to make contact with home through the internet and I was humbled to learn that many people back home were praying for my recovery. I was able to preach at a service the night before when I was very weak and sick and I learnt a powerful lesson which I think Paul expresses in 2 Corinthians 12: 9 – 11,

“But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong”.

David lived for eight to nine years facing what seemed like certain death at the hands of King Saul and his testimony is well described in the words of this last verse of Psalm 54,

“For he delivered me from all my troubles”

God has delivered us from the clutches of death caused by our many sins by sending The Lord Jesus Christ to die on the cross. Troubles, the bible teaches all one way or another originates in the problem of sin and the greatest “trouble” we all must face is death itself. Yet for the true believer God has delivered us from even death. Listen to the amazing words of Paul spelling this out in Romans 8: 31 – 39,

 “What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things? Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies. Who then is the one who condemns? Christ Jesus who died—more than that, who was raised to life—is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? As it is written:

“For your sake we face death all day long;
we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.”

No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord”.

Like David we too then should praise God with the same words he used here in verse 6,

“For he delivered me from all my troubles”

Finally David closes his Psalm with these words,

“And my eyes have looked in triumph on my foes”

These words are definitely words spoken using the eye’s of faith. His eye’s might have seen a small but significant triumph over his enemies in the city of Keilah but a few days later these same enemies caused him trouble again. Also because the incidents with the betraying Ziphites happened early in David’s time of being hunted by Saul he did not have complete triumph over those foes for probably nine long years. If we also consider that even after David became king he still had a whole life of difficulties caused by vicious enemies. He faced a further 47 years before he could say he triumphed over his foes by passing from this life to be with God forever.

The same kind of thing can be claimed by us; yes we are saved once we put our faith in trust in Christ. However we are continually being saved by God as he uses the struggles and difficulties of this life to change us to be more and more like Christ. Finally one day we will be finally and totally saved when we pass from this life into glory.

Even in his earthly life David saw with his own eyes the triumph of his foes but the complete triumph of all his foes could only been seen by the eyes of faith. This is because God has appointed a day when there will be a final judgment. All believers can only see that day using eyes of faith but let me give you a glimpse of that day through the eyes of God’s word, Revelation 20: 11 – 15,

“Then I saw a great white throne and him who was seated on it. The earth and the heavens fled from his presence, and there was no place for them. And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Another book was opened, which is the book of life. The dead were judged according to what they had done as recorded in the books. The sea gave up the dead that were in it, and death and Hades gave up the dead that were in them, and each person was judged according to what they had done. Then death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. The lake of fire is the second death. Anyone whose name was not found written in the book of life was thrown into the lake of fire”.

I close as I usually do with a poem and a prayer,

TRUSTING IN THE NAME OF GOD

I trust in the mighty name of God

For it is the power of God to save.

The name of Jesus lifts me up

From the depths of sins dark grave.

 

God hears the prayers of all those who trust

In the name of the mighty Lord above

He is the one who sent his Son

To reveal to us great love.

 

Many try to bring God’s people down

For God they have no regard.

But God helps those who trust in him

In Jesus he’ll save and guard.

 

Surely God is our great help in life

He’s made promises to love us

He sustains our lives through trials

So in God we must trust.

 

God will repay the evil men do

For his great judgment day will come

But those who trust in Jesus death

Will be saved yes everyone.

 

I aim to worship the name of God

For he is good as his name declares

Praise his name he is marvellous

He always listens to prayers.

 

I trust in the mighty name of God

For God always delivers me

Even when troubles surely come

In Christ there is victory.

 

By: Jim Wenman

 

PRAYER:

 Dear father in heaven w honour and praise your mighty name for you are the one who made heaven and earth and who made us to enjoy you and worship you forever. Thank you for sending your dear Son to die for our sins on the cross so that we might be able to be forgiven of our many sins and also be able to relate to you again. Help us to glorify your name in all that we do and say so that others might know your love as well. In the mighty and wonderful name of Jesus we pray, Amen.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Advertisements

PSALM 53 TALK : GOD IS REAL AND ALIVE (An answer to the question: Is there a God?)

PSALM 53 TALK : GOD IS REAL AND ALIVE

 (A reasoned and biblical answer to the question: Is there a God?)

A talk designed to help people who do not know there is a God find that unknown God for themselves.

“THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide”.

INTRODUCTION

I got quite a surprise recently when I was involved in a discussion on face book on the question of is there a God? It started with a statement about religion’s being allowed to teach their faith in public schools today. The discussion was started by a good friend of mine, who does not believe in the existence of God. He posted the following statement with a picture of the actor Gene Wilder in the character of Willy Wonka in the famous film Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, the caption read:

“You want to see religious studies in Schools?

All Religions or just yours”

The surprise was the very vicious attacks by some atheist’s, one person made these comments,

“All religion is delusion and lies. So, you want to teach delusion and lies in schools? All delusion or just yours?

And

“All deities are fiction and fantasy, but religions are toxic and dangerous and serve only to fool the gullible into thinking that death is not the end of life and only cause artificial difference and barriers between people. God’s are what your Government needs to persuade men to die in profitable wars”.

I wanted to take issue with lots of what was said but ended up only making a rational comment about the original statement that in Australia and New South Wales, my state, we practice freedom of religion and all faiths have access to our public schools to teach their beliefs and parents choose what faith class they attend and that the atheist’s can choose to have their children go to no religious classes. This is the law in New South Wales because in the early days of the state churches gave up many of their schools to public education but insisted the right to come into the schools to teach children their faith in what has become known as “Scripture Classes”.

Some of the comments of the atheist reminded me of things Carl Marc’s and the communist movement taught, which was an aggressive atheistic anti God anti religion regime. At the time this facebook discussion was taking place I was reading and studying Psalm 53 which is almost an identical to Psalm 14 and both Psalms start with the words:

“The fool says in his heart, “There is no God”.

Because Psalm 53 and 14 are so alike I decided to use this study as a reasoned but Biblical answer to the question:

Is there a God?

If you want to read a more detailed exposition of these Psalms please read my Psalm talk on Psalm 14 also published on my Web Blog page : www.jimwenman.wordpress.com

WHY ARE PSALM 14 AND 53 SO ALIKE AND YET BOTH OF THEM ARE PUBLISHED IN THE BOOK OF PSALMS?

Before I present my answer to the question, Is there a God?

I would like to answer the question:

Why are Psalm 14 and 53 so alike and yet both of them are published in the book of Psalms?

Other Psalms in book two also seem to be written from the same experience of David like Psalm 34 and 56 as the Hebrew headings suggest. In my introduction to the second book of Psalms I spoke of how there seems to have been two separate early books of Psalms developing independently. Each book of Psalms has its own unique characteristics. The first book for instance features the covenant name of God, Yahweh while the second book features the general Hebrew name for God, Elion. The Psalms in book one seem to be mainly Psalms of David written in his life time while the second book feature both David Psalms and Psalms by other authors like The Son’s of Korah and some of these Psalms seem to have been written or edited in a much broader time frame from David’s life time right up to the time of the Exile to Babylon.

Both Psalm 14 and 53 are said to be Psalms of David but 53 has some changes particularly the change from Yahweh to Elion and a complete re- working of verse 5 which reads in Psalm 53 this way,

“There they were, overwhelmed with dread, where there was nothing to dread. God scattered the bones of those who attacked you; you put them to shame, for God despised them”.

Derek Kidner makes this comment about this verse,

“This may well give the clue to the change i.e. the psalm in the form here celebrates a miraculous deliverance through a sudden panic descending on the enemy”.

The best suggestion I came across for what historic and miraculous event Psalm 14 was changed for is the story of the Assyrian attack on Jerusalem (721BC) in 2 Kings 18: 9ff. Here we read of a Assyrian named Sennacherib not only besieging the city of Jerusalem but issuing a challenge to the validity of the God of Israel who is the God of the bible with these words, 1 Kings 18: 31 – 35,

 “Do not listen to Hezekiah. This is what the king of Assyria says: Make peace with me and come out to me.

Then each of you will eat fruit from your own vine and fig tree and drink water from your own cistern, until I come and take you to a land like your own—a land of grain and new wine, a land of bread and vineyards, a land of olive trees and honey. Choose life and not death!

“Do not listen to Hezekiah, for he is misleading you when he says, ‘The Lord will deliver us.’ Has the god of any nation ever delivered his land from the hand of the king of Assyria? Where are the gods of Hamath and Arpad? Where are the gods of Sepharvaim, Hena and Ivvah?

Have they rescued Samaria from my hand? Who of all the gods of these countries has been able to save his land from me? How then can the Lord deliver Jerusalem from my hand?”

We will learn a little later on in this study how God entered into human history to make himself known in the Salvation of the people of Judah and Jerusalem at that time.

So it seems that the context of the great deliverance in 721BC inspired a unknown editor of the second book of Psalms to do a small re-write of David’s original Psalm 14 and because 14 was written in the context of the merciless slaughter of the priests of Nob by Doeg which was the context of the previous Psalm, Psalm 52, Psalm 53 was placed by the final editors of the second book where we find it today.

We know from the Dead Sea scrolls that books 1, 2 and 3 of Psalms were set and complete by the time they were copied which is over 200 years before Christ and 100 to 200 years after the return of Israelites to Jerusalem from captivity in Babylon.

HOW DO YOU KNOW THERE IS A GOD?

I would now like to open this Psalm in the context of an answer to the question of:

How do you know there is a God?

I have divided my answer up into 3 Parts:

1.  THE GENERAL REVELATION OF GOD TO ALL PEOPLE (1a)

 

 

2.  THE BIBLICAL FACT THAT REBELLION OF GOD (SIN) BLINDS MAN’S SIGHT OF GOD (1b – 3)

 

3. THE FACT THAT GOD HAS ENTERED INTO HUMAN HISTORY TO REVEAL HIMSELF (4 – 6) 

 

  1.  THE GENERAL REVELATION OF GOD TO ALL PEOPLE (1a)

 

The opening words of both Psalm 14 and 53 are a real challenge to all people who seek to advocate that there is no such thing as God and the spiritual realm. The opening words simply say,

“The fool says in his heart, “There is no God”

The atheists and agnostics I mentioned at the beginning of this talk give you the impression that to believe in God is a very foolish thing to do.

This is the line you hear all the time. On an internet site I came across a site called “Choosing Hats” (Biblical Apologetics to the Glory of God) I found this good summary of what many atheists are saying today,

“If you were to buy into atheist propaganda on the Internet you would have no choice but to conclude that Christians are some of the most ignorant, irrational, dishonest, deluded idiots on the planet. In short if you are a Christian, then you are stupid. You can substitute whatever other derogatory term you would like in the place of stupid. The point is that something is seriously wrong with the idiots who believe these nonsensical fairy tales, etc. etc. You have heard it all before. You get the point”.

Verse 1 of both Psalm 14 and 53 tells us the opposite that those who say in their hearts there is no God are actually the fools.

Who is right and why?

I would like to set down three reasons why I believe it is not foolish to believe in God:

1.  Many former smart and intelligent atheists have become God believers

2. The creations order and complex design points to an intelligent designer or God

3. All human cultures have a sense of God and morality written in their hearts.

 

 

  1.  Many former smart and intelligent atheists have become God believers

 

My first point is my counter to the idea some atheists present that no intelligent person could actually believe in God. In fact I discovered many lists of former non believers who are very intelligent people who came to some kind of belief in God. I have narrowed my list down to six people to give you an idea of the extent of intelligent people who have changed from non belief to a strong belief in the existence of God.

Although Albert Einstein is not one of my list, Einstein did believe that behind the natural world was something like the idea of a God but this God was not personal as some religions present. I found an article on the internet that had a number of great quotes from Einstein that gives us a good idea of his actual God beliefs,

“Behind all the discernible concatenations, there remains something subtle, intangible and inexplicable. Veneration for this force is my religion. To that extent, I am in point of fact, religious.”

“Every scientist becomes convinced that the laws of nature manifest the existence of a spirit vastly superior to that of men.”

“Everyone who is seriously involved in the pursuit of science becomes convinced that a spirit is manifest in the laws of the universe – a spirit vastly superior to that of man.”

“The divine reveals itself in the physical world.”

“My God created laws… His universe is not ruled by wishful thinking but by immutable laws.”

“I want to know how God created this world. I want to know his thoughts.”

“What I am really interested in knowing is whether God could have created the world in a different way.”

“This firm belief in a superior mind that reveals itself in the world of experience, represents my conception of God.”

“My religiosity consists of a humble admiration of the infinitely superior spirit, that superior reasoning power forms my idea of God.”

Now my six former atheists or non believers who became believers are:

  1. Michael Reiss – British bioethicist, educator and journalist who was brought up in a strong agnostic family and came to faith in God later in his career.
  2. Tamsin Greig – British actress raised as an atheist and then converted to Christianity at age 30.
  3. Peter Hitchens – Journalist who was an active Trotskyite communist who converted to Christianity later in his life.
  4. C.E.M Joad – English philosopher whose arguing against Christianity, from an agnostic perspective earned him criticism from T.S Elliot and he came to faith in God later in his life largely through the influence of an Oxford Don named C.S. Lewis..
  5. C.S Lewis – Oxford professor and writer of the famous, “Chronicles of Narnia” and “Mere Christianity” was a strong non believer but came to a sure faith in Christianity after many years of struggle and study with the question of God’s existence.
  6. Francis S. Collins MD PHD – American Physician – geneticist who worked on research on disease gene’s who became a Christian believer as a result of Philosophical and scientific considerations. I know a atheist could produce a equally impressive list of people who have gone the other way, turned from belief to non belief but my point here is to show that belief in God is not a non intellectual exercise. That men and women of the past and present of great intelligence have come to a firm belief in the existence of God.

2.  The creations order and complex design points to a designer or God

 

I made sure that my list of non believers who became God believers contained men who are involved in scientific research. Another common misconception is that people who are into the study of science simply could not have faith in the existence of God. This is because of the often silly debate that often rages about the problem some people see with modern scientific discoveries and the Bibles account of creation in the book of Genesis. I think this only comes about when Christians try to make the bible a science text book and science tries to use some of its findings as a proof that the bible is wrong. Some evolutionist also use the theory of evolution as an explanation of what created the world namely chance changes of mutant creatures going from the simple to the complex. This process is driven by natural selection.

My position on this is that once you see the Bible as the answer to the, who? and the why? questions of creation and science as the continuing explanation of how God did it then there is no controversy.

The book of Genesis simply starts with the words, “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth”. It presents a simple but powerful picture of God speaking and things happening. We must remember this is God inspired literature written thousands of years ago and can and has been understood by people of all ages and intellect. If God inspired Moses to write the full scientific explanation of how God made everything the book would be endlessly long and no one would have understood it even today.

The story goes on to say that mankind is the pinnacle of God’s creation and that man and women were put in charge of the earth to care for it and rule of it and at the same time have a special relationship with its creator in whose image they were made.

In Psalm 19 verse 1 David declares,

“The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the works of his hands”.

So if this is true we can see the finger prints or evidence of this creator in every part of the creation. This is what Einstein believed when he is quoted as saying,

“Behind all the discernible concatenations, there remains something subtle, intangible and inexplicable. Veneration for this force is my religion. To that extent, I am in point of fact, religious.”

The creation which includes all we can see and all we cannot see without giant telescopes or powerful microscopes is truly amazing, complex and well designed. Science could not exist without the fact that our universe is run on involved laws and principles and the only other alternative to a designer or God is random chance over an incredible time period. This is actually saying order and laws came out of chaos.

This is what Einstein believed when he said,

“My God created laws… His universe is not ruled by wishful thinking but by immutable laws.”

The often laughed at argument of the monkey typing randomly on a type writer over billions of years producing a Shakespearian play is not a silly analogy for believing in an ultimate designer creator as opposed to random acts of chance of matter transforming itself over Billion of years and ending up with things like a complex human body.

I will now look at three amazing facts about the creation to make my point that the wonder and order of the creation points to a God which some Christians call the process of “Intelligent Design”.

1. The Earth – The earth is so far the only planet or place in the universe where life has been found. It exists in a perfect position from the sun and even a slight change in that position would render the earth unable to sustain life. The earth contains oxygen and water and both these elements perfectly combine to help sustain life.

 

Now the earth could have arrived where it is by accident but so far that accident has not been repeated anywhere else in the known universe.

Once we or science witness or see something amazing in our world we only have two possible answers to how that came about.

1.  It developed over Millions of years by blind chance

Or

2. It developed over Millions of years by the hand of powerful and intelligent designer we call God.

Some suggest that maybe we will find a different kind of life somewhere else in the universe but so far this is only speculation and helps fund millions of dollars into all kinds of space research.

What if we do find other forms of life?

Maybe they too will point to the same God – designer that made and designed our amazing and beautiful earth.

2. The Human body – Most forms of life on earth has some form of a body but the human body is like an amazing well designed machine that is far more intricate than the most sophisticated human machine produced so far. Take just how our brains work, on a Web page called, “Astonishing Science Spectacular Museum – Who am I” I read these known facts about the working of the human brain:

“Your brain is the hub of your nervous system. It is made up of 100 billion nerve cells – about the same as the number of trees in the Amazon rainforest. Each cell is connected to around 10,000 others. So the total number of connections in your brain is the same as the number of leaves in the rainforest – about 1000 trillion”.

Yes many other forms of life have brains but how could random chance produce them as well? It takes an awful lot of faith to believe that our human body is a result of chance happenings over Millions of years. Yes we have evidence for changes within different forms of life over a long period of time but it takes a big leap of faith to argue that this chance – change process ended up with the incredible and complex human body.

3.  DNA AND ITS CODE THAT POINTS TO AN INTELLIGENT DESIGNER

 

In my discussion on the creations order and complex design pointing to a designer or  God I started with a large example, the earth and moved to something smaller, the human body and now I would like to look at one of the smallest important aspects of all life, DNA. I owe a lot of my informed information here to the work of Stephen C. Meyer who wrote the book, “Signature in the Cell”. Stephen is a Cambridge educated philosopher of Science and is currently the director of The Centre for science and culture at The Discovery Institute.

Meyer was interviewed by The Biola Magazine in 2010 after Meyer gave a lecture at The Biola University, L.A. USA. He responded to a number of questions but his main idea of how DNA points to an intelligent designer came up in the question:

What would be your main argument for the evidence of intelligent design in the cell?

Meyer’s answer follows,

“Well, the main argument is fairly straightforward. We now know that what runs the show in biology is what we call digital information or digital code. This was first discovered by (James) Watson and (Francis) Crick in 1957, Crick had an insight which he called “The Sequence Hypothesis”, and it was the idea that along the spine of the DNA molecule there were four chemicals that functioned just like alphabetical characters in a written language or digital characters in a machine code. The DNA molecule is literally encoding information into alphabetic or digital form.

And that’s a hugely significant discovery, because what we know from experience is that information always comes from intelligence, whether we’re talking about hieroglyphic inscription or a paragraph in a book or a headline in a newspaper. If we trace information back to its source, we always come to a mind, not a material process. So the discovery that DNA codes information in a digital form points decisively back to a prior intelligence”.

So the finger prints or evidence of God or The Designer is visible from the large things of creation right down to some of its smallest unseen realities like the DNA code of all cells.

3.  All human cultures have a sense of morality written in their hearts

 

It is a very interesting fact that all human cultures have some form of religion or belief system. This belief system develops moral codes of behaviour. This is explained in the bible by particularly the teaching of Paul in the early chapters of Romans. Like Romans 2: 14 – 15,

“(Indeed, when Gentiles, who do not have the law, do by nature things required by the law, they are a law for themselves, even though they do not have the law, since they show that the requirements of the law are written on their hearts, there consciences also bearing witness, and their thoughts now accusing, now even defending them).”

Behind Pauls argument here is that the law given on Mt Sinai to the people of Israel is God’s ultimate moral code expressed clearly to the Jews first and through them everyone in this world. However Paul also argues that non Jews, Gentiles who have not heard God’s expressed moral code have the God’s moral code as part of their very make up as human beings. This I believe is part of what it means to be made in the image of God.

There is the myth of the “Noble Savage”, which seems to suggest primitive people lived and live free of moral behaviour. However this is simply not true as all cultures even so called primitive ones have rules and regulations that help them operate as a distinct tribe or nation.

Both the search for some form of religious reality and moral behaviour I think is in fact evidence that we are all both moral and spiritual beings like the God who made us.

Why there are so many different forms of religions and morality expressions will be addressed in the next section of this Psalm talk.

           Conclusion

So the first verse of both Psalm 14 and 53 say that,

“The fool says in his heart, “There is no God”

Many atheists argue that people who believe in God are foolish because modern science and thinking has proved that there is no God or spiritual world.

However as we have seen many very smart and intelligent people have looked at and thought about deeply the question of “Is there a God” and have come up with the answer that there is a God.

I spoke of six examples of former atheists who changed their minds to become God believers. The sort of evidence they considered was addressed in the second part of this section.

2.  THE BIBLICAL FACT THAT REBELLION OF GOD (SIN) BLINDS MAN’S SIGHT OF GOD (1b – 3)

 

               Atheist’s also like to throw up two supposed problems that show that believing in the existence of God is foolish.

Those two problems are:

  1. If there is a God why are there so many different religions that don’t agree what God is like and how you can know him?
  2. If you believe in a God who has revealed himself why can’t everyone see or know him?

These verses then are a great answer to the atheist’s questions and I have divided this answer into three parts:

1.  Turning away from God produces moral decline (vs. 1b)

2.  God himself cannot find true faith in mankind (vs.2)

 

3.  Spiritual blindness is a result of sin – rebellion to God’s rule (vs.3)

 

 

  1.  Turning away from God produces moral decline (vs. 1b)

 

As I said in the last section of this talk all human cultures have some form of religion and moral codes of behaviour. However as many atheists rightly point out these religions are vastly different to each other and some of the moral codes promote or encourage what the bible would call immorality like the Mayan / Aztec culture’s of South America practiced human sacrifice as part of their worship of their God’s. The so called morality of human culture could be seen in a lot of ways as corrupt and vile and this is what verse 1b says,

“They are corrupt, and their ways are vile; there is no one who does good”.

The state of all human’s hearts and minds has been called “totally depraved”, that expression means that every part of our thinking and actions has been affected by sin. Some people do not like the term “total depravity” so it has been suggested that another expression can also describe it as “total inability”. The sin disease of the heart and soul of all men and women commenced in Genesis 3 when the original man and women chose to ignore God’s expressed law and go their own way. Isaiah 64: 6 describes what the rebellious hearts of all human beings is now like,

“All of us have become like one who is unclean, all our righteous acts are like filthy rags; we all shrivel up like a leaf, and like the wind our sins sweep us away”.

So David speaks of how all our ways are, “corrupt” and “vile” and as Isaiah spoke of, “no one does good”. Our rebellion to God then makes us morally bankrupt and as David puts it in verse 3 which Paul quotes in Romans 3: 10 – 11

“Everyone has turned away, they have together become corrupt; there is no one who does good, not even one”.

This moral and spiritual rebellion has a terrible effect on us and our world leading to all kinds of problems and difficulties. Even God’s faithful followers cannot escape the fall out of sin and its consequences in this life. However we will see in the last section of this Psalm talk that God has provided an answer to the sin problem we all face.

2.  God himself cannot find true faith in mankind (vs.2)

 

The dark and terrible problem of moral and spiritual depravity or inability in this world is something God is well aware of as David says in verse 2,

“God looks down from heaven on the sons of men to see if there are any who understand, any who seek God’.

Does he find anyone who understands and seeks God?

The answer lies in the next verse which starts with the words,

“Everyone has turned away from God”

Mankind was made in God’s image, namely with a soul or a spiritual side to our makeup but our spiritual side has become messed up and darkened by sin or rebellion to God. God cannot find in us by nature faith and obedience to him. God sees what we see and what the atheists like to point out: confusion about who God is and what he is like.

Why are there so many religions in the world?

The answer is “sin” or rebellion to God which confuses a clear and true understanding of who God is and what he is like. Paul puts it this way in Romans 1: 21 – 23,

“ For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like a mortal human being and birds and animals and reptiles”.

This rebellion of God’s rule in our lives will even lead some to try and deny God’s very existences. If God does not exist they think then they can live as they want to live which simply reveals they are in rebellion to God’s rule in their there lives.

God looks down and sees this rebellion and some ask, well if this is so why doesn’t he stop this?

The answer is he does and ultimately will stop it with the final judgment of mankind. When this happens there will be no more opportunities of escaping the terrible consequences of this judgment of God as Peter says in 2 Peter 3: 9,

“The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance”.

3.  Spiritual blindness is a result of sin – rebellion to God’s rule (vs.3)

 

So we come to the final answer to the atheists questions of:

  1. If there is a God why are there so many different religions that don’t agree what God is like and how you can know him?
  2.  If you believe in a God who has revealed himself why can’t everyone see or know him?

And verse 3 presents clearly that the turning away from God is not just a problem of the original human’s on earth but everyone has led to this terrible plight,

“Everyone has turned away, they have together become corrupt; there is no one who does good, not even one”.

This is the bibles picture of the darkness and moral and spiritual decline of humanity.

We are simply groping around in the dark when it comes to knowing what God is like and this groping and I think sometimes craving for God creates the many religious ideas this world has produced.

I have not got time to present a detailed description of other religions so I will only attempt here to give you a brief description of how two of the other great religions of this world are in fact an illustration of what I just said.

1.   Buddhism

Buddhism was started by a man named Siddhartha Gautama in 624BC. Siddhartha was a privileged prince in a royal family in part of Nepal and at 29 decided to give up all his privileges and become a monk dedicated to a fugal life of meditation. Siddhartha saw terrible poverty and suffering and sort an answer to this. Siddhartha was sitting under a Bodhi tree in Gaya India when he got his first inspiration for his teachings which he called, “The path of Enlightenment” which is the basis the Buddhist religion. Siddhartha became known simply as Buddha which means, “The Awakened One”.

The Buddhist religion does not believe in God instead they believe that our souls are trapped in an endless cycle of reincarnation and that following the path of enlightenment will lead to a higher life in the next. The aim of a practicing Buddhist is to achieve Nirvana, where suffering and the desires that causes suffering have come to an end with the completion of the cycle of birth and death.

So Buddhism is mankind seeking after release from a life of suffering to the perfect state of peace.

2.   Islam

 

Islam was started by a man named Abual Qasim Muhammad, known simply as Muhammad in 610 AD. When Muhammad was around 40 years old he became very disillusioned with life in Mecca where he witnessed much lawlessness, immorality and confused worship of either evil spirits or many God’s. Muhammad devoted himself to prayer in a cave outside of Mecca where he claims he was given God’s word by the Angel Gabriel which eventually became The Quran (Islam’s holy scriptures).

Basically these scriptures teach what Muslims call the 5 Pillars of faith. These pillars of faith are:

  1. Testimony of Faith – There is only one God and Allah is his name and Muhammad is his prophet. (It is believed that the name Allah was originally the name of the pagan Mecca God of the moon).
  2. Prayer – Believers must pray five times a day and face Mecca when they pray.
  3. Charity – Believers must give to charity at least once a year.
  4. Fasting – Believers must fast during the month of Ramadan – this is the month it is believed Muhammad first received the message of God from the Angel Gabriel.
  5. Pilgrimage – Believers should go on a Pilgrimage to Mecca at least once in their lives during the time of Hajj.

Muslim’s believe that going to paradise when we die is determined by God according to a person’s keeping of the teachings of the Quran summed up by the five pillars of faith.

So we can see that again like Buddhism Islam is the attempts of a man desperate to find some kind of spiritual reality in the dark spiritual world he found himself in. We will see in the next section that the true Christian faith is very different to all other religions and is in fact the only answer to the dark spiritual world we live in.

3.THE FACT THAT GOD HAS ENTERED INTO HUMAN HISTORY TO REVEAL HIMSELF (4 – 6)

David has presented up to verse 3 a fairly grim picture of mankind and it’s foolishness who have turned away from God and become corrupt and sinful. This is what both Siddhartha Gautama the founder of Buddhism and Muhammad the founder of Islam saw in their world’s and sought to answer. Now in verse 4 this dark and hopeless picture begins to change. In short we will see in this final section the truth that we cannot find God ourselves so God has to find us. That God has not just made this world and then after seeing the mess we’ve made of it deserted us. In fact God has entered into human history to bring hope and light.

I have divided this final section into three sections:

1.  God will not ignore evildoers (vs. 4)

2.  God can and does enter human history to save us and deal with evil (vs.5)

3.  God has made our salvation through the Nation of Israel (vs.6) 

 

  1.  God will not ignore evildoers (vs. 4)

 

Some might think that people who do evil acts in this life will get away with it. Nothing is further from the truth. The God of the bible is both holy and just and one day everyone will face him in judgment.

Paul puts it this way in Romans 1: 18 – 20,

 “The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of people, who suppress the truth by their wickedness, since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse”.

David puts it this way in verse 4,

“Will the evildoers never learn – those who devour my people as men eat bread and who do not call on God”.

David’s statement here is like he is saying:

You Godless people just cannot get it God knows what you are doing particularly to those who believe and who you persecute. God knows and will not overlook it and the next verse says what God has done about it.

          2.   God can and does enter human history to save us and deal with evil (vs.5)

 

Both the Jewish and Christian faiths are what are called Revealed Religions which means they are based on what God has said and done in human history. Islam as we just saw claims to be a revealed religion through the revelations of the Angel Gabriel to Muhammad but this is hard to prove as it hangs on the word of Muhammad alone. However Jewish and Christian religious scriptures came about from God’s direct entry into human history witnessed by many people which can be backed up by evidence outside of them.

As I said in the introduction the difference between Psalm 14 and 53 is mainly here in verse 5. We believe that this is because Psalm 53 is a later edited re-write of David’s original Psalm 14. This re-write took place after a great victory by God over a Godless and powerful enemy. The verse reads:

“There they were, overwhelmed with dread, where there was nothing to dread. God scattered the bones of those who attacked you; you put them to shame for God despised them”.

As I said in the introduction this verse relates to the incident in Jewish history when in 701BC Sennacherib an Assyrian king invaded Judah and besieged the city of Jerusalem and issued this challenge to the people on the wall,

“Do not listen to Hezekiah, for he is misleading you when he says, ‘The Lord will deliver us.’ Has the god of any nation ever delivered his land from the hand of the king of Assyria? Where are the gods of Hamath and Arpad? Where are the gods of Sepharvaim, Hena and Ivvah? Have they rescued Samaria from my hand? (2 Kings 18: 32 – 34).

It seemed on that day that Judah like the northern kingdom of Israel which is referred to as Samaria by Sennacherib would fall to his mighty power. But Hezekiah after consulting the great prophet Isaiah held true to faith in God in the face of overwhelming difficulty. Isaiah foretold Hezekiah that God would defend Jerusalem and will send Sennacherib and his defeated army back to Assyria. The very night Isaiah prophesises of the Assyrian defeat we read in chapter 19 of 2 Kings these words in verses 35 – 37,

“That night the angel of the Lord went out and put to death a hundred and eighty-five thousand in the Assyrian camp. When the people got up the next morning—there were all the dead bodies! So Sennacherib king of Assyria broke camp and withdrew. He returned to Nineveh and stayed there.

One day, while he was worshiping in the temple of his god Nisrok, his sons Adrammelek and Sharezer killed him with the sword, and they escaped to the land of Ararat. And Esarhaddon his son succeeded him as king”.

Note how Psalm 53 verse 5b says,

“God scattered the bones of those who attacked you; you put them to shame, for God despised them”.

There is however a Assyrian account of this campaign found in 1830 and called, The Sennacherib Prison, which gives a different slant on this event. It speaks of how Sennacherib destroyed 46 cities (towns) in Judah and frightened off some support troops.

It simply says that Sennacherib terrified King Hezekiah but returned to Assyria and later made him pay a large tribute. There is no mention of why he returned and certainly it does not speak of thousands of his troops being killed in a night of great sickness. However Wikipedia says this about Assyrian records,

“Assyrian government records tend to commonly take the form of propaganda claiming their own invincibility, with the result that they rarely mention their own defeats or heavy casualties. However, the Hebrew Bible’s suggestion that Jerusalem was victorious rather than defeated, is corroborated by the Jewish historian Josephus”.

Those who are sceptical l of the many divine interventions of God into human history recorded in the bible always work hard trying to find some kind of physical explanation of the events. They look for ways of using archaeological discoveries to discredit the bible’s historical accuracy. They of course never mention when archaeological finds seem to back up the bibles accounts and also I have read of cases when archaeological evidence seemed to suggest the bible’s account was wrong and later further finds have helped to change this to actually support the bibles account. A good example of this is the archaeological evidence for the bibles account of the fall of the city of Jericho at the time of Joshua. The first major archaeological excavations of Jericho in 1907 – 1909 seemed to say the bibles account of the fall of Jericho’s was that which led to that cities destruction was false however a further more thorough excavation by a British archaeologist in the 1950’s found that the bibles account fitted the ruins they examined. I read this interesting observation of the Jericho site,

“What caused the strong walls of Jericho to collapse? The most likely explanation is an earthquake. But the nature of the earthquake was unusual. It struck in such a way as to allow a portion of the city wall on the north side of the site to remain standing, while everywhere else the wall fell”. (Christian answers.com)

Of course we know Rahab’s house was spared and it was in one of the walls and this must have been on the north wall. The archaeological dig also discovered that the fragments of fallen wall showed signs of burning another fact in the bible account in the book of Joshua.

So the story of the bible is a story of God entering into human history over a long period of time and making himself known to his special people, the Israelites. The New Testament is the climax of this special revelation of himself and in the last section we will explore this in some detail.

The editors of the second book of Psalms must have had another look at Psalm 14 after the amazing events of 701BC and realised the special relevance of what it was saying in the context of the Assyrian kings arrogant anti God of Israel rant and then the amazing intervention of God into this dark and dangerous hour. They saw the judgment hand of God first hand and wrote the words of verse 5a,

“There they were, overwhelmed with dread, where there was nothing to dread”.

Sennacherib was so cock sure he was invincible and he literally put his fist in the face of the God of the bible to show how weak and in affective he was. However he was overwhelmed with dread, where there seemed no need for dread. Those who oppose God and his people today need to learn this lesson as well.

            3.  God has made our salvation through the Nation of Israel (vs.6)

 

We come then to the last verse of this re-write of David’s Psalm 14 and both Psalms have almost the same words for this verse except the “Yahweh” name for God in Psalm 14 and the “Elion” name for God in Psalm 53. You can look at the section in the introduction “Why Psalm 14 and Psalm 53 so alike and yet both of them are published in the book of Psalms?” for why this is so.

The last verse then, reads,

“Oh, that salvation for Israel would come out of Zion! When the Lord restores the fortunes of his people let Jacob rejoice and Israel be glad!”

I sought to answer the question:

If there is a God why are there so many different religions that don’t agree what God is like and how you can know him?

In the section that explained that spiritual blindness is a result of sin – rebellion to God’s rule (vs.3)

I referred to the teaching of the bible and this Psalm particularly in verse 3 and the early chapters of Romans that our rebellion to God’s rule has caused us to become spiritually blind. I also sought to point out that all “religions” are a desperate attempt by mankind to reach up to God and that all religions present some kind of system of religious activities you must do to know God or find peace in death like the Buddhist “Nirvana”.

Both David here in Psalm 14 and 53 and Paul in the book of Romans present that “Spiritually” we are powerless to save ourselves. When I was a very new and young Christian I was helped greatly by a book called, “How to be a Christian without being religious” by Fritz Ridenour. A review of this book on the internet summed up the central message of this book with these words,

“Since the days of the Early Church, Christians have struggled to find a way to be ‘good’-to please God by their own efforts. They end up carrying a burden God never intended them to bear. And what’s more, their brand of Christianity ends up looking like any other religion of the world-bound by joyless rules and rituals. Fritz Ridenour’s study of the book of Romans provides an antidote to the pharisaic spirit and shows that Christianity is not a religion but a relationship. It is not man reaching up, but God reaching down. Every Christian can enjoy his or her birthright when they realize who they are in Christ. The result is a life full of hope, joy, power and potential”.

The key words in the last quote are, “it is not man reaching up, but God reaching down”. In the last verse then of Psalm 14 and 53, David cries out for God to act in salvation,

“Oh that salvation for Israel would come out of Zion”

David looked forward to the Saving act of God to come to everyone through God’s special nation of Israel and we look back to the saving act of God for not only the nation of Israel but for everyone. The most well known verse in the New Testament says,

“ For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life”.

The coming of Jesus is the fulfilment of what God promised throughout the entire Old Testament. It is God coming down to bring us spiritual light and salvation. Seven hundred years before the coming of Christ David longed for salvation to come out of Zion. Zion is one of the special names for the Holy city of Jerusalem and it was in Jerusalem Jesus came and preached the message of Salvation and just outside that city he was crucified and through that act of love he won for us the forgiveness of our sins and eternal life with God.

The first chapter of John’s gospel presents the three main elements of God’s revelation of himself:

  1. Jesus is God’s word or power that created everything: John 1: 1 – 2,

“In the beginning was the word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning”.

2.  Jesus is God’s declaration of who he is and what he is like: John 1: 4- 5,

“In him was life, and that life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it”.

         3.  Jesus is God come in the flesh to reveal God’s glory: John 1: 14,

 

“The word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only who came from the Father, full of grace and truth”.

As I said before God’s word, which up to the coming of Jesus is a special history of a nation called Israel which God created long ago for a special mission to the whole world. David knew that his nation had a special relationship with the true God of heaven and earth and this is why he goes on to say in the last verse of Psalm 14 and 53,

“When God restores the fortunes of his people”

God created this nation out of one family, Abraham and right from the beginning the bible makes it clear how God wants people to relate to him. In Genesis 15: 6 we read the basis of Abrahams relationship with God,

“Abram believed the Lord, and he credited it to him as righteousness”.

So Israel was called and made through the faithful response of Abraham and later their mission to the world is made clear to Moses in Exodus 19: 5 – 6,

 “Now if you obey me fully and keep my covenant, then out of all nations you will be my treasured possession. Although the whole earth is mine, you will be for me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.’ These are the words you are to speak to the Israelites.”

Of course the story of the bible is that this special Nation showed over and over again that they could not fully obey the covenant and in fact they often turned away from God and his word and worshipped other (false) God’s.

David knew this and this is why he calls out to God in the last verse of Psalm 14 and 53,

“Oh, that salvation for Israel would come out of Zion! When the Lord restores the fortunes of his people let Jacob rejoice and Israel be glad!”

So God has made this Salvation possible in the death and resurrection of Christ. We then looking back to this are children of Abraham too because if we believe in what Jesus has done for us we have the same relationship with God Abraham had as Paul taught in Galatians 3: 26 – 29,

“So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise”.

Finally David completes both Psalm 14 and 53 with these words,

“Let Jacob rejoice and Israel be glad”

These words seem to be a bit confusing, is not Jacob and Israel the same person?

Well in one sense they are and in another, they are not. Let me explain, Jacob became Israel later in his life because God changed his name from Jacob, “the supplanter” to Israel, “he who prevails with God”. You see for most of Jacob’s life he was like all of us before we know the love and power of the Lord of heaven and earth; we graft and push for our own way in life. However one night Jacob wrestled with God, represented in the form of a man and Jacob would not let go of this man. So God through this man touched the hip of Jacob and made him partially crippled and from that day on he was a changed man and God called him Israel the father of the nation of Israel.

So David never wants his people or us to forget that Jacob became Israel and he wants us to be glad once we know the salvation of the Lord.

So the big difference between the Christian faith to all other faiths and religions is that it presents the idea that we cannot reach or know God from our own efforts and deeds. Rather God has reached down to us to save us through the sending of his Son who died for our sins on the cross and rose from the dead to give us the gift of eternal life. This new and abundant life starts once we truly turn to him from sin and put our faith or trust in him.

CONCLUSION

I come then to final question non believers often ask.

But how do you know that the bible is true?

Many today argue that the bible is not much more than fairy tales.

I listed at the beginning of this talk many people who were non believers who became firm believers in a God. Some of these people came to a personal relationship with God through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.

I left two men off my list to provide an answer to the question:

How do you know that the bible is true?

The first man’s name is Frank Morison who wrote the book, “Who Moved the Stone?”

Frank was a Journalist who sought to prove that the Resurrection of Christ was nothing but a Myth. He believed that if he could prove that the resurrection is a myth than the rest of what the bible says is also a myth. His extensive study of the evidence moved him from an active aggressive non believer to a sincere believer in God through Christ.

One man named Lee Strobel wrote this about Frank Morrison’s book, “Who Moved the Stone”.

“I owe Morison a great debt of gratitude. ‘Who Moved the Stone?’ was an important early link in a long chain of evidence that God used to bring me into his kingdom. Morison’s stirring intellectual exploration of the historical record proved to be an excellent starting point for my spiritual investigation”.

The other non believer of God and the bible who became a believer and eventually Christian apologist is Josh McDowell. You can read Josh’s moving testimony on a web blog page entitled, “My Story: Josh McDowell”, just put that title into “Google Search” and you can read the full story yourself.

Basically Josh’s story is that as a young man before he went to University he attended church etc. but did not find in the churches he attended or visited the deep answers he wanted to know about, who he is? And Why he existed?” and “Where was he going?”

He concluded that religion did not hold the answer to his deeper questions of life. He even argued against the idea of God and took great delight in putting Christians down. However Josh found life meaningless and he realises now that his happiness in life then depended on his circumstances. When life was going well he was happy but when life threw him difficulties and disappointments he was unhappy.

One day at University he noticed a small group of eight students and two faculty members who called themselves Christians having a small meeting but who seemed different. He decided to attend some meetings with them and he found that they were people who seemed to know who they were and where they were going.

One day at one of these meetings the topic turned to God which Josh had heard them speak of before, this time however Josh let them know what he thought of the idea of God and people who believe in such things, he said to the group,

“Christianity, Ha! (I blustered) That’s for unthinking weaklings, not for intellectuals”.

Yet Josh was deeply curious why these people seemed so interestingly different.

What happened next I will let you hear in Josh’s own words,

So I turned to one of the students and I said, “Tell me, why are you so different from all the other students and faculty on this campus? What changed your life?”

Without hesitation or embarrassment she looked me straight in the eye, deadly serious, and uttered two words I never expected to hear in an intelligent discussion on a university campus: “Jesus Christ.”

“Jesus Christ?” I snapped. “I’m fed up with religion. I’m fed up with church. I’m fed up with the Bible.”

Immediately she shot back, “I didn’t say religion, I said Jesus Christ!” She pointed out something I had never known: Christianity is not a religion. Religion is humans trying to work their way to God through good works. Christianity is God coming to men and women through Jesus Christ.

Then my new friends issued a challenge I couldn’t believe. They challenged me to make rigorous, intellectual examinations of the claims of Jesus Christ–that He is God’s Son; that He inhabited a human body and lived among real men and women; that He died on the cross for the sins of humanity; that He was buried and was resurrected three days later; and that He is still alive and can change a person’s life even today”.

Josh then set out to show these Christians how wrong and silly their beliefs were. He started with the Bible to show how it is an unreliable record and this would help their Christian beliefs to crumble. Josh spent months of study on this and even dropped out of university to devote himself to this study.

I will let Josh tell you what he found in his own words,

“Finally I could come to only one conclusion: If I were to remain intellectually honest, I had to admit that the Old and New Testament documents were some of the most reliable writings in all of antiquity. And if they were reliable, what about this man Jesus, whom I had dismissed as a mere carpenter?

I had to admit that Jesus Christ was more than a carpenter. He was all He claimed to be.

Not only did my research turn me around intellectually, but it also answered the three questions that started me on my quest for happiness and meaning”.

Josh MacDowell eventually became a believer like the members of the group he sought to discredit. He went on to become a powerful preacher and apologist of the Christian faith. He wrote many books on the evidence of the reliability of the bible records and the claims of Jesus Christ God’s ultimate answer to life’s deepest questions, books like, “More than a Carpenter” and “Evidence that demands a verdict”.

So what evidence is there to say that the bible is not just a made up book by the church in the third or fourth century?

There are many answers I could give to this but I have chosen my three most favourite ones:

 

 

                   1.  The bible has more physical manuscript evidence than any other ancient book

                   2.  The bible has many outside textual evidence for its claims of being historical

                    3.  The bible reads and sounds like an authentic piece of historical writing

 

 

1.   The bible has more physical manuscript evidence than any other ancient books

 

Whitney T. Kunihold the President of Scripture Union USA makes this amazing observation about the bible and quotes the historian F.F. Bruce in his statement,

 “There are way more copies of the biblical manuscripts, with remarkable consistency between them, than there are for any of the classics like Plato, Aristotle and Socrates.  “There is no body of ancient literature in the world which enjoys such a wealth of good textual attestation as the New Testament.”  F.F. Bruce, The New Testaments are reliable.”

Just look at a few actual facts about the bible:

  1. The Old Testament – In the 1930’s a major archaeological find was “The Dead Sea Scrolls” and they contained much of the Old Testament copied down by a Jewish community called, “Qumran” and this large find of ancient scrolls contained many portions of the Old Testament. Some of the copies date back to 300 years before Christ yet they match very closely what we call the Old Testament today some 2,000 years later.

2. The New Testament – There are some 20,000 old manuscripts that go back as early as 100 – 199AD. This is an overwhelming number compared to any other ancient historical book as Whitney T. Kunihold pointed out. There is a fragment of Johns Gospel that contains John 18: 31 – 33 which could be as early as 100AD not far from when we believed John a disciple of Christ actually wrote his Gospel.

        2.  The bible has many outside textual evidence for its claims of being historical

Many might say that this simply does not do it for them because all the writers of the New Testament could have conspired together to write the fiction of Jesus Christ as historical?

However the bible has dozens of non bible and non believing writers speaking of Christ and what happened to him. I will give two examples:

  1. Jewish historian of Jesus time known as Flavius Josephus who wrote this about Jesus Christ,

“About this time there lived Jesus, a wise man, if indeed one ought to call him a man.  For he was one who performed surprising deeds and was a teacher of such people as accept the truth gladly. He won over many Jews and many of the Greeks. He was the Messiah.

And when, upon the accusation of the principal men among us, Pilate had condemned him to a cross, those who had  first come to love him did not cease.  He appeared to them spending a third day restored to life, for the prophets of God had foretold these things and a thousand other marvels about him.  And the tribe of the Christians, so called after him, has still to this day not disappeared”. (From a book he published in AD. 93)

2. Cornelius Tactus (AD 115) Who was the first Roman Historian who mentioned the life of Christ when he wrote about how the Christians in Rome were blamed by Nero for the great fire of Rome and where subsequently persecuted for it, he writes,

“Nero created scapegoats and subjected to the most refined tortures those whom the common people called ‘Christians’….Their name comes from Christ, who, during the reign of Tiberius, had been executed by the procurator Pontius Pilate” (Annals 15:44)”.

Other early writers to mention Christ and his early followers are Suetonius, Thallus, Pliny the Younger and Lucian.

3.   The bible reads and sounds like an authentic piece of historical writing

 

The sceptical position about the Bible and the life of Jesus Christ is that is a myth made up long after the time of Christ by the church. I went on a tour of Europe five years ago and our tour guide simply said that the New Testament was a piece of fiction made up by the church in the fourth century to give validity to their doctrines and the power it gave them. Of course the church did finalise what we call the canon, an authorised and recognised list of books that it formally accepted as truly inspired in the second council of Trullan of 692 although it was nearly universally accepted in the mid 300’s.

The idea that the bible both Old and New Testament is nothing more than myth is simply not sustainable when you drop your prejudice and simply read it. The bible presents its hero’s and characters with flaws and foibles. It is certainly not flattering to both Jews in the Old Testament or early Christians in the New Testament. Many other books were suggested to the canon of the New Testament but they did not pass the test of being actually written by eye witnesses to the events of Jesus life and ministry. If you read them they do read like a myth or fairytale. However the accepted books of the bible read as though they are a factual account of the events their writers witnessed.

The one character in the bible who looks very different is Jesus Christ but he of course did things like miracles and rising from the dead that backed his claim that he is God’s Son who came from heaven to earth.

There is a logic, beauty and depth to the bible’s teaching that convinces me that the bible is what it claims to be, inspired by God, 2 Timothy 3: 16,

“All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work”.

CONCLUSION

I know I have not convinced sceptical non believers that there is a God from this detailed answer to the question of if there is a God or not.

I know this because the bible tells me that sin or rebellion to God has blinded all people to the truth about God as Paul says in Romans 1: 18,

“The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all godlessness and wickedness of men who suppress the truth by their wickedness”.

Jesus also spoke about this, like his words in John 3: 19,

“This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil”.

However I hope I have given a sound enough reason for my faith that might cause some to investigate a little more the claims of the bible and its liberating message of Salvation through the work of Christ.

The final and for me most important reason why I believe in God is because of my own personal experience of God. My life is not one of drudgery and fear but is a life of joy and fulfilment. Yes I have and will face pain and difficulty in my life but like David I know that God is with me and to him I can turn for help and assistance even in my darkest hour. Just as David wrote in Psalms like Psalm 23 where he speaks of being guided by God through good times and bad, Psalm 23: 1 – 4,

“The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing. He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, and he refreshes my soul. He guides me along the right paths for his name’s sake. Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me”.

I recently attended the funeral of a close Christian friend and even though we will miss him greatly we know where he is now. I once read a bumper sticker that read,

“Eternity is a long time to be wrong”

My challenge to all non believers is don’t simply dismiss the claims of the Christian faith as presented by the bible but take up the challenge that Jesus offers us all in Matthew 7: 7,

“Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you”.

I close as I usually do with a poem and a prayer,

 

I KNOW THERE IS A GOD

You say that I am such a fool

Because I believe in God

Then tell me why there’s order

On the earth and sky above

Did something come from nothing?

And why is there such design?

You either believe in eternal matter

Or an eternal God who shines.

 

Chorus:

I know there is a God

I spoke with him today

I know him because he loves me so

And answers when I pray

He helps me through good times and bad

He sent his Son to die

And when he rose in victory

He proved he’s not a lie.

 

People have turned and gone their way

They don’t serve God above

Their lives have become so corrupt

They fail to see God’s love

Sin has made them blind to God

They grope within the dark

Never seeing what God is really like

That’s how religions start.

 

Chorus:

I know there is a God

I spoke with him today

I know him because he loves me so

And answers when I pray

He helps me through good times and bad

He sent his Son to die

And when he rose in victory

He proved he’s not a lie.

 

God will judge this world one day

Our sin must have its pay

Sin deserves the death of those

Who seek to live their way.

God has come to this world

To make it clear to all

That he is real and wants to save us

To save us from our fall.

 

Chorus:

I know there is a God

I spoke with him today

I know him because he loves me so

And answers when I pray

He helps me through good times and bad

He sent his Son to die

And when he rose in victory

He proved he’s not a lie.

 

Oh that people might see God’s love

His saving love to all

For his Son surely came

To save us from our fall

He showed us what God is like

He made a way for us

He surrendered his life upon the cross

Forgiving those who trust.

 

Chorus:

I know there is a God

I spoke with him today

I know him because he loves me so

And answers when I pray

He helps me through good times and bad

He sent his Son to die

And when he rose in victory

He proved he’s not a lie.

 

PRAYER:

 

Father in heaven thank you for sending you’re only Son into human history to make a way for us to come back to you. Thank you Father for the sacrifice of your Son on the cross for us and we claim the free forgiveness his death has won for us. Help us now to stop serving ourselves in this life and instead turn and serve you out of love for you. Help those who are still in darkness and do not know you to turn from following their own way and see you great liberating gift of love. In Jesus name we pray, Amen.