PSALM 82 TALK: JUDGES AND RULERS UNDER GOD’S JUDGMENT

PSALM 82 TALK: JUDGES AND RULERS UNDER GOD’S JUDGMENT

 (A Psalm that explores the way in which those who rule over us and judge us in our courts must be God’s agents of justice and fairness and if they don’t then they will be judged by God harshly and with greater strictness.)

INTRODUCTION

 Both Paul and Peter who lived and wrote letters to the churches of their day did so under the often unfair and brutal rule of the Roman Empire who hated Christians and even put them to death for simply daring to believe in what they saw was a strange and dangerous religious faith.

Yet both Paul and Peter demanded in their letters that Christians obey all earthly rulers and leaders because God put them there to rule over us. Paul says this to the church in Rome in Romans 13: 1 – 2,

Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. Consequently, whoever rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves”.

Peter says something similar in 1 Peter 2: 13 – 14,

Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every human authority: whether to the emperor, as the supreme authority, 14 or to governors, who are sent by him to punish those who do wrong and to commend those who do right”.

This is an amazing instruction for Christians to follow in the context of living under brutal and often hostile government rule yet both Paul and Peter knew their bibles or shall we say Old Testament just as Jesus did.

I believe Psalm 82 is one part of the Old Testament that probably helped shape Paul and Peters understanding of the Christian attitude to Governing authorities. We know that Jesus certainly knew it as he quoted from verse 6 when dealing with criticism from the Jewish leaders of his day recorded for us in John 10: 35 – 36,

“Jesus answered them, “Is it not written in your Law, ‘I have said you are “gods”’? 35 If he called them ‘gods,’ to whom the word of God came—and Scripture cannot be set aside— 36 what about the one whom the Father set apart as his very own and sent into the world? Why then do you accuse me of blasphemy because I said, ‘I am God’s Son’?”

Jesus is interpreting the use of one of the main names for God, “Elohim” found in both verse 1 and in verse 6 as referring to religious leaders in Israel. There are many scholars today who say that this word “Elohim” is actually meant to be referring to literally “gods” and therefore must be referring to Angelic beings that God has appointed in heavenly places to rule over kingdoms of this world.

I however go along with Jesus interpretation that this is referring to human judges and rulers and there is other Old Testament backing for this interpretation as well. For instance Exodus 21: 6 and Exodus 22: 8 – 9 use the Hebrew word “Elohim” for judges and Joseph Benson makes this helpful comment about Exodus 21: 6,

“In the original, gods, magistrates being often so called as the visible representatives of God upon earth”.

 This idea will make the position of anyone who judges or rules over us a very high calling and I think this is the biblical concept that Paul and Peter both knew and applied in their teaching to the churches of their day. When you lead or teach others, the bible teaches that you will be judged with greater strictness as James says in James 3: 1,

“Not many of you should become teachers, my fellow believers, because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly”.

Judges and Rulers and those who take positions of leadership in the church are in a special position made possible by God himself and in their judging and ruling they are like ‘gods” or are acting on God’s behalf and so if they fail to perform as God requires them to then they are under greater judgment for doing so.

We all know that even today judges and leaders do fall to the temptation of corruption and fail to judge and rule with justice and fairness, as we know God does and Asaph knew this too.

Asaph inspired by God himself wrote a short but very powerful Psalm condemning the unjust and immoral judges and rulers of his day. Here Asaph is acting more like a prophet than a leader of music in the Temple. Spurgeon writes,

“Asaph no doubt saw around him much bribery and corruption, and while David punished it with the sword, he resolved to scourge it with a prophetic psalm”.

I have found already that the Psalms of Asaph often feature the theme of God’s judgment on his people and the world and this Psalm is no different as it features the theme of God’s judgment on those who seek to judge and rule over us.

I hope we will learn what God has to say to us and particularly those who act as judges and leaders both in the Church and outside of it about how they are to truly be “gods” that is to judge and rule as God judges and rulers.

With this in mind I have broken this Psalm down this way:

  1. 1- 2 GOD THE JUDGE OF JUDGES AND RULERS
  1. 1 God the judge of judges and rulers
  2. 2. God’s charges against the corrupt judges and rulers
  1. 3 – 5 HOW JUDGES AND RULERS NEED TO BE LIKE GOD
  1. 3- 4   God defends the defenseless
  2. vs. 5 The judges and rulers walk in darkness
  1. 6- 8   GOD’S JUDGMENT ON THE JUDGES AND RULERS
  1. 6 – 7   God’s judgment on the judges and rulers
  2. vs. 8   God’s judgment on all mankind.
  1. 1- 2 GOD THE JUDGE OF JUDGES AND RULERS

Psalm 82 is very short as it only has 8 verses but I have broken it down into three sections to help us understand what it teaches us. I have even broken each section into two parts as well. The two parts of the first section are:

  1. 1 God the judge of judges and rulers
  2. 2. God’s judgment of judges and rulers
  1. 1 God the judge of judges and rulers

This Psalm does not waste both time and words in making its point and the first verse of this Psalm is no different as it simply says,

“God presides in the great assembly; he gives judgment among the “god’s”

This verse has two tricky concepts to interpret:

  1. God presiding over the great assembly
  2. Judgment among the “gods”

Once I understand what each of these two concepts means then this verse and the whole Psalm opened up to me in what it is saying and teaching us. So lets have a close look at each of these two concepts.

  1. God presiding over the great assembly

Here Leupold points that the Hebrew word for “great assembly” is “edhah” which he writes,

“Frequently applied to the congregation of Israel”

 I found this more detailed rundown of the meaning of this Hebrew word in the Old Testament in Easton’s Bible Dictionary, I have kept the bible references in for you to check if your interested,

“The congregation were summoned together by the sound of two silver trumpets, and they met at the door of the tabernacle (Numbers 10:3). These assemblies were convened for the purpose of engaging in solemn religious services (Exodus 12:27; Numbers 25:6; Joel 2:15), or of receiving new commandments (Exodus 19:7 Exodus 19:8 ). The elders, who were summoned by the sound of one trumpet (Numbers 10:4), represented on various occasions the whole congregation (Exodus 3:16; 12:21; 17:5; 24:1 )”.

 So when God’s people gathered together as a united congregation of believers, we have,

 “The great assembly”

 God was they’re presiding over it and verse 1 declares God is presiding over it in judgment.

 I can remember being taught in the past that when we gather for worship as a congregation of believers God is present with us indeed the New Testament teaches that Jesus is present, as Jesus taught in Matthew 18: 20,

“For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them.”

This is a solemn thought that when we meet as Christians we are not alone spiritually but Jesus is with us and when I go to church either as a participant or one who takes some form of leading I always pray that God and in fact Jesus through his Holy Spirit will lead us.

I have had the opportunity from time to time to visit other churches and share in the presentation of the message or in song and I have been amazed time and time again how God has answered my prayer for the Holy Spirits leading discovering how all the different elements of the worship service have fitted so well together and helped us all focus on what God obviously wanted us to learn and share through that worship service.

Finally there will be a great assembly in the future, which of course will be in heaven. This idea appears particularly in the book of Revelation but I like how the writer to the Hebrews speaks of this great heavenly gathering of the assembly of all believers in Hebrews 12: 22 – 24,

“But you have come to Mount Zion, to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem. You have come to thousands upon thousands of angels in joyful assembly, 23 to the church of the firstborn, whose names are written in heaven. You have come to God, the Judge of all, to the spirits of the righteous made perfect, 24 to Jesus the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel”

 Note how the writer to the Hebrews speaks at the end of verse 23 that presiding over that great heavenly assembly is God himself who is described among others things as the judge of all.

God one day will judge everyone including those who judge and rule over us and this is what verse 1 of Psalm 82 is referring to.

  1. Judgment among the “gods”

We come then to the very tricky term “god’s” which I have already stated is one of the Hebrew names for God, “Elohim”. In the past all reformed teachers interpreted this word as referring to human judges and rulers but in more recent times many have moved away from this interpretation to a more literal interpretation as I found Tremper Longman 111 who’s commentary on the Psalms I always find helpful but here Longman writes,

“Sometimes the Hebrew term gods is used to refer to all spiritual beings, not just the one God who created everything and everyone, including other gods.”.

 He goes on to conclude,

“Gods could refer to Angels and demons. Thus, the picture the psalmist summons for our minds is God addressing his angelic assembly”.

 Longman sights Job 1: 6ff as an example of this kind of heavenly assembly.

However this does not seem to match how Jesus himself understood the use of the term “god’s (“Elohim”) in this Psalm.

As I pointed out in my introduction there is plenty of examples of how this term “gods” was used of earthly judges in the nation of Israel like Exodus 21: 6 and Exodus 22: 8 – 9.

It makes more sense to me that Asaph has these earthly judges and rulers in his sights here in verse 1.

One problem of Longman and others interpretation is what then is the biblical consequences of saying that Angels and Demons actually oversee and control judgments on earth.

They certainly do influence our spiritual battles in this life as Paul taught in Ephesians 6: 12,

“For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms”.

But I don’t think the bible teaches in any way that corrupt and evil judges and rulers can blame fallen angels for their corrupt and evil practices.

In fact the rest of this Psalm clearly identifies how judges and leaders will be under God’s judgment if they exploit and judge and lead wrongly particularly the weak and powerless of this world.

So verse 1 then is saying very clearly that God sits in judgment over the assembly of Israel in judgment and judges the judges and leaders. God promises to do this one day for both the church and this world.

Paul makes this final judgment of everyone very clear in his address to the Athenian philosophers in 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 everyone by raising him from the dead.”

How should that affect us today?

I think it should affect us in two ways:

  1. It should act as a warning to how we lead others in this world
  2. It should lead us to warn others of God’s coming judgment
  1. It should act as a warning to how we lead others in this world.

We can be involved in leadership of others in many ways. Even the humble but important Sunday school teacher is a leader of others and he or she has a very important role to play in the development of faith in the Lord Jesus Christ for those who attend there Sunday School classes.

Understanding that one day we will have to stand before God and give an account for what we have done in this life should be a sobering thought for all of us to consider as Paul speaks of this in 2 Corinthians 5: 9 – 10,

“So we make it our goal to please him, whether we are at home in the body or away from it.

 10 For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each of us may receive what is due us for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad”.

  1. It should lead us to warn others of God’s coming judgment

The second affect of the certain coming judgment of God should have on us is the need to find ways of warning others about this coming judgment. James make this point at the end of his letter and writes in James 5: 19 – 20,

“My brothers and sisters, if one of you should wander from the truth and someone should bring that person back, 20 remember this: Whoever turns a sinner from the error of their way will save them from death and cover over a multitude of sins”.

When James speaks here of saving someone from death he is referring to the eternal death that will comes in the final judgment of God.

I read in preparation for this Psalm talk a very interesting sermon by Paul Fritz preached in 2004 called, “Why we must warn people of God’s judgment” and he makes this very good point,

“If you knew that a poisonous snake was crawling around in your back yard, it would be most cruel to allow your children to go out and play. Similarly, God wants us to warn others of the dangers of sin in the world, the flesh and the devil that seek to bring death and destruction to everyone who does not heed God’s warning to repent from their sins and turn to Christ as their Savior and Deliverer from the wrath of God that is to come”.

 How should we do this?

We all hear of the damage done by the so called “Fire and prime stone preaching” and people say they don’t like Christians shoveling the bible down their throats but I think Peter gives us the way of how we are to preach and warn others of both God’s judgment and his wonderful salvation from it in 1 Peter 3: 15 – 16,

“But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, 16 keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander”.

So clearly verse 1 present the fact that God is the judge of all earthly judges and rulers and he now sits in judgment over all of them.

  1. vs. 2. God’s charges against the corrupt judges and rulers

 Now God begins his problems with these earthly rulers and judges. He, we might say is not happy with their performance. They are supposed to be his agents of justice and rule like gods on earth but they are abusing their positions for their own selfish aims. Verse 2 simply says,

“How long will you defend the unjust and show partiality to the wicked?”

 This verse starts with a question any solid reader of the Psalms will be very familiar with,

“How long?”

 These two words appear as a question in many Psalms but this is the first time in the book of Palms that this question is attributed to God himself. Usually the Psalm writer is suffering so much and wants it to stop he asks God, “How long”?

Tremper Longman 111 explains the use of these two words in this Psalm this way,

“”How long is a question often asked of God, here the question implies that matters have gone on long enough and should come to a end”.

God is saying then how long are you judges and rulers going to continue to do two corrupt things and these two corrupt things are his charges against them, they are:

  1. Defend the unjust
  2. Show partiality to the wicked

Lets look at each of these two charges a little closer.

  1. Defend the unjust

All through the time of the prophets which is also the time of the Kings of Israel and Judah corrupt Kings and judges are being condemned by God through the words of the prophets, Isaiah speaks of this condemnation of what he calls elders and leaders of the people in Isaiah 3: 13 – 14,

“The LORD takes his place in court; he rises to judge the people. 14 The LORD enters into judgment against the elders and leaders of his people: “It is you who have ruined my vineyard; the plunder from the poor is in your houses”.

 Note how Isaiah picks out the leaders attitude and actions to the poor and how they exploit them and so they defend the unjust.

Jeremiah spells out this oppression of the poor and defenceless even more in Jeremiah 7: 5 – 7,

“If you really change your ways and your actions and deal with each other justly, if you do not oppress the foreigner, the fatherless or the widow and do not shed innocent blood in this place, and if you do not follow other gods to your own harm, then I will let you live in this place, in the land I gave your ancestors for ever and ever”.

Micah pin- points this injustice in Israel in his time and lays the blame squarely at the feet of the rulers or leaders of Israel in Micah 3: 1 – 3,

“Then I said, “Listen, you leaders of Jacob, you rulers of Israel. Should you not embrace justice, you who hate good and love evil; who tear the skin from my people
and the flesh from their bones;

who eat my people’s flesh, strip off their skin and break their bones in pieces; who chop them up like meat for the pan, like flesh for the pot?”

 Leupold points out that,

“God is the guardian of justice, He watches over the administration of it”.

 Now he has had enough of the injustice he sees in Israel. Israel’s demise in 740 BC at the hands of the Assyrians and Judah’s demise at the hands of the Babylonians in 587BC came about because God had had enough of Israel and Judah’s corrupt practices of justice.

  1. Show partiality to the wicked

Going hand in hand with the defending the unjust goes this next charge God lays against the Judges and Rulers of Asaph time and that was showing partiality to the wicked. Later even in Judah most of the kings and rulers their became corrupt and failed to administer true justice. The prophet Jeremiah is told to go and say this to the Kings and rulers of Judah, Jeremiah 22: 1 – 5,

“This is what the Lord says: “Go down to the palace of the king of Judah and proclaim this message there: ‘Hear the word of the Lord to you, king of Judah, you who sit on David’s throne—you, your officials and your people who come through these gates. This is what the Lord says: Do what is just and right. Rescue from the hand of the oppressor the one who has been robbed. Do no wrong or violence to the foreigner, the fatherless or the widow, and do not shed innocent blood in this place. For if you are careful to carry out these commands, then kings who sit on David’s throne will come through the gates of this palace, riding in chariots and on horses, accompanied by their officials and their people. But if you do not obey these commands, declares the Lord, I swear by myself that this palace will become a ruin.’”

 Notice who these corrupt leaders exploit to gain power and wealth they pick on and exploit the defenseless people in society, the foreigner, the fatherless and the widows. In the next two verses these people plus the poor will be the targets of oppression and being shown partiality in favor of the wicked more powerful people in society.

We see this today subtly in the west but blatantly in the third world in poorer countries in the contents of Africa, South America, Asia and the middles east. I have seen and heard of this type of exploitation first hand myself in countries I have visited in South East Asia where ruthless corrupt leaders enjoy lining their own pockets at the expense of the poor. These leaders will face God in judgment one day and then they will realise how out of step they were with the God of the universe.

Outside of the west Christians are in a minority in many places and they suffer at the hands of corrupt and powerful Governments who seek to not only exploit them but in some places destroy them as well. Paul and Peters command to respect and obey the Government must be a real challenge for Christians in these countries today.

So Asaph sees judges and rulers not acting, as God would want them to act in how they judge and lead but acting in the opposite way to his ways of judging and ruling.

In the church we must be careful especially our leaders must not take on the worldly attitude of showing partiality to the rich and powerful.

Interestingly James saw this problem in his day way back in the early days of the Christian church because he speaks of it in his letter to the churches he knew in his day in James 2: 1 – 4,

“My brothers and sisters, believers in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ must not show favoritism. Suppose a man comes into your meeting wearing a gold ring and fine clothes, and a poor man in filthy old clothes also comes in. If you show special attention to the man wearing fine clothes and say, “Here’s a good seat for you,” but say to the poor man, “You stand there” or “Sit on the floor by my feet,” have you not discriminated among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts?”

Notice how James calls showing partiality becoming,

Judges with evil thoughts”

Which is exactly God’s charge against the judges and leaders expressed here in verse 4.

The church should act as a counter culture showing the world how God wants it to be like especially in how its leaders operate and how all people from all walks of life are loved and accepted when they attend any of our church meetings.

  1. 3 – 5 HOW JUDGES AND RULERS NEED TO BE LIKE GOD

 My title for this second section was my original title for this whole Psalm as I think using the “Elohim” (gods) title for earthly judges and rulers is because God wants these people to act like him and for him on earth in their judging and ruling. They obviously don’t so Asaph spells out for us how these judges and rulers should lead and don’t, which shows us how God obviously rules from heaven. Then in the second part of this second section Asaph tells us where the earthly judges and rulers stand with him because of how they are currently operating as judges and rulers.

This means my two parts for this second section are:

  1. 3- 4   God defends the defenseless
  2. vs. 5 The judges and rulers walk in darkness

 Lets now look at these two parts of this section in more detail.

  1. 3- 4   God defends the defenseless

Both verse 3 and 4 as I have already stated spell out how God actually wants this world judges and rulers to operate. In verse 3 he says,

“Defend the cause of the week and fatherless; maintain the rights of the poor and oppressed”.

 Right through the whole bible God is presented as a God who cares for and wants us to care for the poor and powerless people of this world.

Part of the more detailed run down of the Law of God given to Moses speaks of how Israel God’s people are to treat the poor and powerless people in their communities, we see this in verses like Deuteronomy 15: 7 – 8,

“If there is a poor man with you, one of your brothers, in any of your towns in your land which the LORD your God is giving you, you shall not harden your heart, nor close your hand from your poor brother; but you shall freely open your hand to him, and shall generously lend him sufficient for his need in whatever he lacks”.

This open hearted attitude to the poor was rarely seen in the Jewish world and like the rest of the world’s cultures the poor are the ones who get exploited the most with outrages interest loans and even worse by people taking advantage of them to become even richer.

Again all of the prophets picked up Israel’s sin of exploiting the poor, like the prophet Amos who picks up the terrible depravity of Israel in his day and how the exploitation of the poor and oppressed was ripe in Amos 2: 6 – 7,

This is what the Lord says: “For three sins of Israel, even for four, I will not relent.
They sell the innocent for silver, and the needy for a pair of sandals. They trample on the heads of the poor as on the dust of the ground and deny justice to the oppressed. Father and son use the same girl and so profane my holy name”.

 In the previous section when I spoke of Christians not acting with partiality to the poor I quoted from James chapter 2 and in the next verses of that letter, verses 5 – 7 James spells out why we must love and accept the poor,

Listen, my dear brothers and sisters: Has not God chosen those who are poor in the eyes of the world to be rich in faith and to inherit the kingdom he promised those who love him? But you have dishonored the poor. Is it not the rich who are exploiting you? Are they not the ones who are dragging you into court? Are they not the ones who are blaspheming the noble name of him to whom you belong”.

James is saying here God loves the poor and it is mainly the poor he has called into his kingdom to become spiritually rich. He even goes as far as to say that many Christians are pampering to the rich yet it is some of the rich who are opposing them and even dragging them into court, obviously as there way of persecuting the Christians of that time.

Then we read in verse 4 something similar,

“Rescue the weak and needy; deliver them from the hand of the wicked”.

The kind of leadership God wants the judges and rulers to have is foreign and looks weak from this world’s view of how we want our leaders and judges to act like. Let me explain, note how this verse says we are to,

“Rescue the weak and needy”

I cannot remember a leader of any country recently speaking of sending out into the world people who would rescue week and needy people. Sometimes the propaganda

Spun by countries who invade or send troops to fight in other countries justify these actions by saying they are doing it to liberate poor or oppressed people but sadly usually the real reasons for there military actions is for some form of economic gain for themselves.

I recently heard a very right wing politician in my country Australia proposing we should cut almost all economic aid to overseas countries because she believed charity should begins at home and we should spend most of our aid money on helping the poor of our own country and not others. The problem with this is we are one of the richest countries in the world and the state of even our own poor is what many counties would consider as being rich.

I am not saying we should not spend money on the poor and down and outs of our own country but not at the expense of helping other far worse off countries than us.

It is sadly the non -government sector of our country particularly those who have a Christian connection who actually send more people out into the world to help recue the weak and needy not with military aid but humanity aid like aid workers and funds for economic assistance. I really like the aid to poor countries that helps the poor of those countries actually find ways of making money for them and I have seen on my mission trips to Myanmar direct positive results of this kind of aid work and money.

Then the second half of verse 4 says,

 “Deliver them from the hand of the wicked”

This is a great description of what God has done for us in Christ. God has through the work of Christ delivered us from the hand of the wicked. We have been saved from death and been delivered from the hands of evil forces. As the writer to the Hebrews puts it in Hebrews 2: 14 – 15,

“Since the children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity so that by his death he might break the power of him who holds the power of death—that is, the devil— 15 and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death”.

 With all this in mind how are judges and leaders in this world to be like God in their judging and ruling?

We have a great answer to this in the example of Christ who is the perfect model for Godly leadership that must be modelled and practiced by his church on earth and it can be summed up in one great term, “Servant Leadership”.

What does servant- hood leadership look like then?

 I would like to look at one passage of scripture to answer this question of how we are to be servant leaders in Christ’s church today.

The passage of scripture and what I want us to learn from it is:

Servants not Lords (Mark 10: 41 – 45)

Lets have a closer look at this passage and what it has to say about servant – hood leadership.

Mark 10: 42 – 45 is an excellent passage on servant leadership because it is Jesus teaching on the subject something he continually modeled through his life and ministry. It comes as an answer to two of the disciples, James and John asking Jesus a question which came from their fallen human desire to be Lords in heaven sitting next to Jesus as he rules the universe.

In verse 37 they ask Jesus,

“Let one of us sit at your right and the other at your left in your glory?”

 Jesus answer to this desire for the disciples to be Lords in heaven is our passage, Mark 10: 42 – 45,

42 Jesus called them together and said, “You know that those who are regarded as rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. 43 Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, 44 and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all. 45 For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

I want you to notice three things from this passage:

  1. Worldly leaders lord it over others (vs. 42)
  2. Christian leaders serve those they lead (vs. 43 -44)
  3. Christian leaders follow the example of Christ (vs. 46)

Lets look briefly at each of these:

  1. Worldly leaders lord it over others (vs. 42)

Jesus speaks of those in the general world, those who are not following God and his Savior Son Jesus Christ as operating as leaders this way, vs. 42,

“You know that those who are regarded as rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them”.

We all have experienced this kind of leadership even in the workplace where our bosses ruthlessly Lord it over us driving us with threat and bully tactics to perform as they want us to perform. Sadly I have heard people say of work or political leaders who seek to show others compassion, trust and delegation in those they lead as being weak leaders.

One secular management job I had years ago for only six months turned into a nightmare for me because my superiors kept goading me into getting tuff with my staff by making life difficult for them by telling them they had to perform better or else they would be sacked or demoted. I was eventually sacked from this job myself for a number of reasons and one was because I was considered a week boss.

The sad reality of that experience was that my staff responded wonderfully to my leadership style but unfortunately I also made some serious mistakes in my work, which led to my demise in that position. When I left all my staff expressed great sorrow for my going and thanked me for the great encouragement I had given them in the short time I was their manager.

Jesus saw no room in his church for this worldly way of leading others and is condemning this form of Christian leadership style by speaking of it as how leaders in the world or outside of the church lead others.

  1. Christian leaders serve those they lead (vs. 43 – 44)

Jesus then tells us how he wants us to lead others with these words,

Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, 44 and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all.

Jesus is telling his disciples he wants them to be servant leaders and not to lord it the people they lead.

I came to understand what that might look like when I was a very young Christian and one of the ministers of the church I attended at that time came to me before the young peoples fellowship group started and asked me to sweep the floor. He did not order me to do it but said, “Here Jim is another broom come and help me sweep the floor”.

This young minister was practicing servant – hood leadership and what he did that night had a big impact on my understanding of how I should lead others in the Church.

  1. Christian leaders follow the example of Christ (vs. 46)

This last point relates directly to the Psalm we are studying, the Judges and Rulers Asaph is speaking of in his Psalm acted in a anti – God manner by oppressing the week and the poor and showing partiality to the wicked.

Jesus example was the opposite he makes that clear by what he said in verse 46,

For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

Jesus came from the right hand of God in heaven, he was the supreme Lord of everything and yet he came into this world not to Lord it over others but rather to serve others by giving his life on the cross so that those who believe in him might have the forgiveness of their sins and have the gift of eternal life.

Jesus servant – hood leadership led him to the cross where he gave his life as he says in verse 46 as a ransom for many.

So as Christians we are to show the world how God wants judges and rulers or anyone in a position of authority to act and then we can be truly “gods” on earth.

Peter taking up the teaching of Jesus puts it this way in 1 Peter 5: 1 – 4,

“To the elders among you, I appeal as a fellow elder and a witness of Christ’s sufferings who also will share in the glory to be revealed: Be shepherds of God’s flock that is under your care, watching over them—not because you must, but because you are willing, as God wants you to be; not pursuing dishonest gain, but eager to serve; not lording it over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock. And when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that will never fade away”.

 I Like the words of the modern Hymn of Graham Kendrick that expresses so well what servant – hood leadership is all about:

THE SERVAN KING

From heaven you came helpless babe
Entered our world, your glory veiled
Not to be served but to serve
And give Your life that we might live

 CHORUS:

 This is our God, The Servant King
He calls us now to follow Him
To bring our lives as a daily offering
Of worship to The Servant King,

 There in the garden of tears
My heavy load he chose to bear
His heart with sorrow was torn
‘Yet not My will but Yours,’ He said

 Come see His hands and His feet
The scars that speak of sacrifice
Hands that flung stars into space
To cruel nails surrendered

 So let us learn how to serve
And in our lives enthrone Him
Each other’s needs to prefer
For it is Christ we’re serving

  1. vs. 5 The judges and rulers walk in darkness

Asaph then gives us God’s sad indictment of the judges and rulers of his day with these words,

“They know nothing, they understand nothing. They walk about in darkness; all the foundations of the earth are shaken”.

 This indictment contains three elements:

  1. They are ignorant and lack understanding
  2. They walk in darkness
  3. They cause the society to be disrupted

Lets then have a closer look at each of these three elements of God’s indictment on the judges and rulers of his day.

  1. They are ignorant and lack understanding

God says of these wicked judges and rulers,

“They know nothing, they understand nothing”

 If we came before a judge today and we were told that this judge happened to be clueless and lacked understanding of both the law and life we would feel like we had little chance of getting justice. This is how both the judges and rulers were like in Asaph time.

Allan Harman writes,

“They lack the very qualities that should have been paramount in their work as judges and rulers”.

Spurgeon makes this point even clearer,

“A wretched plight for a nation to be in when its justices know no justice, and its judges are devoid of judgement. Neither to know his duty nor to know it is rather the mark of an incorrigible criminal than a magistrate”.

 When judges and rulers look away from God and stop fearing him then they are on a slippery slope into clueless incompetence. Proverbs 1: 7 says,

“The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and instruction”.

These judges and rulers were acting as though God did not exist and their actions as judges and rulers was in direct contradiction to the revealed word of God little wonder they knew nothing and lacked understanding.

Jesus made it clear how we can know the truth or have real understanding in John 8: 31 – 32,

“If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. 32 Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”

  1. They walk in darkness

Not knowing anything and lacking understanding leads to the next indictment against these judges and rulers namely,

“They walk about in darkness”.

 Darkness is the result of turning form the God of light and this is image used in number of places in the scriptures to describe this. Proverbs 2: 12 – 15 describes how these wicked judges and rulers operated and why they walked now then in darkness,

“Wisdom will save you from the ways of wicked men, from men whose words are perverse,13 who have left the straight paths to walk in dark ways, 14 who delight in doing wrong and rejoice in the perverseness of evil, 15 whose paths are crooked
and who are devious in their ways”.

Jesus came into the world to bring us out of spiritual darkness as John 1: 4 – 5,

“In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it”.

However John 3: 19 – 20, tells us,

“This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. 20 Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that their deeds will be exposed”.

But the next verse tells us the way out of this darkness,

21 But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what they have done has been done in the sight of God”.

So as Christian leaders we need to walk in the light and John later in his first letter to churches he was ministering to spells this out a bit more in 1 John 1: 5 – 7

“This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light; in him there is no darkness at all. If we claim to have fellowship with him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live out the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin”.

When Christian leaders and churches move away from the light of God’s word then they too like these wicked judges and rulers in Psalm 82,

“Walk about in darkness”.

  1. They cause the society to be disrupted

The third and last indictment by God of these wicked judges and rulers is,

“All the foundations of the earth are shaken”.

 James Coffman explains this expression with these words,

“This simply means that with a corrupt judiciary, Israel’s foundation as a nation was already in a very precarious condition. No nation can long survive when the judiciary becomes corrupt”.

Many countries in the past and even today have had their foundations shaken by their corrupt courts and leadership. Massive movement of refugees is taking place in our world today because people are fleeing cruel unjust regimes where the idea of justice is a cruel joke and the corrupt leadership of their countries only offer instability and even death to its ordinary citizens.

Such is the darkness of the world we live in and only the message of the Gospel can really change these countries predicament as Paul tells the Roman church in Romans 1: 16 – 17,

“For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes: first to the Jew, then to the Gentile. 17 For in the gospel the righteousness of God is revealed—a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: “The righteous will live by faith.”[

  1. 6- 8   GOD’S JUDGMENT ON THE JUDGES AND RULERS

We come then to the last section of this Psalm, which is three verses, that nails down God’s judgment on the corrupt and wicked judges and rulers of Asaph day. I have broken this final section into two parts as well and they are:

  1. 6 – 7   God’s judgment on the judges and rulers
  2. vs. 8   God’s judgment on all mankind.

 Lets have a closer look at each of these two parts to this final section.

  1. 6 – 7   God’s judgment on the judges and rulers

We have this second reference to the judges and rulers of Israel being “gods” (“Elohim”) and this reference is the one that a lot of commentators who interpret the word “Elohim” – gods literally make their decision to do so. I think this is the reference Jesus is speaking of in John 10: 34 – 35. He could be also referring to the use of “Elohim” – gods in the two references in Exodus (Exodus 21: 6 and 22: 8-9), which is speaking of Jewish judges.

In any case I go with Jesus interpretation of the idea of ‘gods” being human judges and rulers and not angelic beings or demons. This interpretation has helped me open up this Psalm and so I will continue with this view in understanding what verse 6 is telling us.

Verse 6 and 7, reads like this,

“I said, “You are ‘gods’” you are sons of the Most high. But you will die like mere men; you will fall like other rulers”.

 I see two main things that God is teaching us in these two verses:

  1. Judges and Rulers are in a privileged but responsible position
  2. Judges and Rulers who fail to act like God will be judged

Let me now explain and expound what I mean in these two main ideas.

  1. Judges and Rulers are in a privileged but responsible position

If verse 6, as Jesus interpreted it, is referring to judges and rulers as “gods” and “sons of the most high” then this means that those who judge us and rule over us are in a very privileged and responsible position.

I mentioned at the start of this Psalm talk the way in which Paul and Peter spoke of how we as Christians should respect and obey our earthly leaders. Paul even says in Romans 13: 1, that we must submit to the governing authorities,

“For there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. Consequently, whoever rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves”.

Paul is saying those who rule over us have been put their by God and in a sense they act as “god’s” over us. They are supposed to administer laws and justice in this world. In 2 Timothy 2: 1 – 4 Paul urges Timothy and the church or churches he leads to pray for those who rule over us. His prayer request for kings and those who have authority over us is so that the society we live in might have peace and the opportunity for or men and women to come to God, through Jesus Christ our saviour,

“I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people— for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. This is good, and pleases God our Saviour, who wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth”.

It is sad to realise that many countries even in our world today have people in authority there who outlaw the opportunity for Christians to share the Christian Gospel and even put Christians in prison for doing it or worse have them executed for doing it. God’s judgment and condemnation in the next verse applies to these governing authorities.

So anyone who exercises power and authority over others is an earthly leader who must exercise this power and authority the way God wants them to do it. My advice to Christian brothers and sisters who live in countries where the gospel proclamation is banned by the governing authorities is to follow Pauls advice and example and that is to first of all pray for those who rule over you. Then follow the advice if Jesus gives us in Mark 12: 17,

“Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s”

This means we must be law abiding citizens but when it comes to the preaching of the Gospel so that men can be saved we must obey God first in this matter and continue to find ways of spreading his message in this most dangerous and difficult situation.

We must do this with another piece of advice from Jesus in Matthew 10: 16,

“I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves”.

Even in the church we must be respect and obey our leaders something mentioned a number of times in the New Testament but I like how the writer to the Hebrews puts it in Hebrews 13: 17,

“Have confidence in your leaders and submit to their authority, because they keep watch over you as those who must give an account. Do this so that their work will be a joy, not a burden, for that would be of no benefit to you”.

This is something I have had to repent for in the past when my disagreement with ministers in my church in the past got out of hand and I have sinned in this matter. Again if we have a minister we disagree with then we should first of all pray for them and then maybe lovingly approach them to discuss this.

However if a minister started preaching heresy or worse gave up the bible as God’s final authority then I would obey God and would be forced to leave that church and join one where the minster was preaching from God’s word correctly. This praise God has never happened to me except when I have been on holidays in a strange place and attended a church that had moved away from the word of God.

  1. Judges and Rulers who fail to act like God will be judged

We come then to God’s final word of judgment on the judges and rulers of Asaph time and we find this in verse 7,

“But you will die like mere men; you will fall like every other ruler”.

 These rulers who were to be like god on earth administering his justice and love were we learnt in the previous verse acted corrupted without justice and care for the poor and weak as God wanted them to so they now face God’s judgment.

Note they face God’s judgment, those who take on being God’s agents of judgment like the extreme Muslims will face God in judgment as James says in James 4: 17,

 “There is only one Lawgiver and Judge, the one who is able to save and destroy. But you—who are you to judge your neighbour?”

 And Matthew 7: 1 – 3,

“Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.

 “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye?”

So these judges and rulers of Asaph day and any judge or ruler of any day who does not perform his or her duties with justice and love will die just like any man or women in this world. They will fall into the hands of God the judge of everyone as Paul declared to the philosophers in Athens in 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 everyone by raising him from the dead.”

 Death then is the great leveller of all men and women as both the high and mighty and the lowly of this world suffer the same fate, death. The difference then to how we end up after God’s judgment is not determined by your financial status, or social position in this life but rather where we stand with God. Corrupt and unloving judges and rulers in this life will face a just and loving God in the next and as Hebrews 10: 31 says,

“ It is a dreadful (or fearful) thing to fall into the hands of the living God”.

Judges and rulers hold a privileged and responsible position in this life but with the privilege and responsibility comes greater scrutiny and judgement by God as James 1: 3 says,

“Not many of you should become teachers, my fellow believers, because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly”.

And as all the prophets of Israel and Judah implied on a number of occasions like Micah in Micah 3: 1 – 4,

Then I said,” Listen, you leaders of Jacob, you rulers of Israel. Should you no embrace justice, 2 you who hate good and love evil; who tear the skin from my people and the flesh from their bones; who eat my people’s flesh, strip off their skin
and break their bones in pieces; who chop them up like meat for the pan, like flesh for the pot?” Then they will cry out to the Lord, but he will not answer them. At that time he will hide his face from them because of the evil they have done”.

Finally the corrupt religious leaders of Israel and Judah are also signalled out by the prophets as well for God’s judgement, like Ezekiel 34: 7 – 9,

 “‘Therefore, you shepherds, hear the word of the Lord: As surely as I live, declares the Sovereign Lord, because my flock lacks a shepherd and so has been plundered and has become food for all the wild animals, and because my shepherds did not search for my flock but cared for themselves rather than for my flock,

therefore, you shepherds, hear the word of the Lord: 10 This is what the Sovereign Lord says: I am against the shepherds and will hold them accountable for my flock. I will remove them from tending the flock so that the shepherds can no longer feed themselves. I will rescue my flock from their mouths, and it will no longer be food for them”.

Jesus also condemned the religious leaders of his day in New Testament passages like Matthew 23 and I would like to share just verses 33 – 36 here to show how they too face God in judgment for the miss use of their privileged position on earth,

“You snakes! You brood of vipers! How will you escape being condemned to hell? 34 Therefore I am sending you prophets and sages and teachers. Some of them you will kill and crucify; others you will flog in your synagogues and pursue from town to town. 35 And so upon you will come all the righteous blood that has been shed on earth, from the blood of righteous Abel to the blood of Zechariah son of Berekiah, whom you murdered between the temple and the altar. 36 Truly I tell you, all this will come on this generation”.

Jesus is also speaking of God’s judgement that fell on Jerusalem and the Temple in AD 70, which came about in these religious leaders generation.

Those of us who teach and take on leadership then in the Christian church must do so with the warnings of Psalm 82 and other scriptures in mind. Pauls principle for Christian leaders and teaches is well summed up by his word to the younger Timothy in 2 Timothy 2: 15,

“ Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth”.

  1. vs. 8   God’s judgment on all mankind.

 Asaph in this last verse turns his attention to the judgment of all mankind and writes,

“Rise up, O God, judge the earth, for all the nations are your inheritance”.

But what prompted Asaph to pray for God’s Judgment on all mankind?

Maybe Asaph once he realised that Israel’s judges and rulers where under God’s judgement maybe he thought of the state of the world at large, which he would have known, was full of corrupt and unjust judges and rulers so with this in mind he calls on God to Judge everyone.

Asaph knew his bible and if he lived during the time of any prophet of Israel he would have known that God would one day judge everyone as Isaiah 26: 21,

“See, the LORD is coming out of his dwelling to punish the people of the earth for their sins. The earth will disclose the blood shed on it; the earth will conceal its slain no longer”.

 So Asaph prays for this judgement to come for all the earth. He speaks at the end of this that all nations are God’s inheritance. Spurgeon explains this as,

“The time will come when all races of men shall own their God and accept him as their king”.

 This final word of prophesy is fulfilled in the coming of the true King of all the earth, Jesus Christ and through him all the earth or people from every nation will be God’s inheritance as Spurgeon speaks of in his explanation of this term.

Jesus in his first coming opened up a way for people of every nation to come to God. Through his death and resurrection he could now draw all men unto himself as Jesus predicted he would in John 12: 32,

“And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.”

For this reason Jesus commands all his followers to, Mark 16: 15 – 16,

“Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation. 16 Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned.

 Finally in Jesus second coming this prophecy of Asaph is completely fulfilled as Paul teaches us in Philippians 2: 9 – 11,

Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name,10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth,11 and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father”.

Paul is speaking hear about the final judgement something he spoke of in Athens in 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 everyone by raising him from the dead.”

Should Christians like Asaph pray for God’s judgment to come?

The answer to this is we already do pray for this as part of Jesus model prayer we call the Lords Prayer he taught us to pray in Matthew 6: 10,

“Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven”.

Praying for God’s kingdom to come on earth has a double meaning.

Firstly God’s kingdom can come through our going out into the entire world with the Gospel message-calling people of every nation to come to Jesus as their Savoir a king.

Secondly praying for God’s kingdom to come is praying for Jesus to return to earth and bring about God’s final judgement and of course the resurrection from the dead for all believers to enjoy their inheritance with God forever.

I close as I usually do with an original poem and a final word of prayer.

 GOD JUDGE THE JUDGES

(Based on Psalm 82)

 God judge the judges of this world

God judge those who rule over us.

Look upon their often-unjust deeds

Help them see they failed to trust

In you Lord above

Who wanted them to be

Your instruments of love.

 

Defend the weak and poor Oh Lord

Despite the strong who rule over them.

Uphold the rights of the oppressed

Who are often hurt and condemned

By cruel unjust regimes

That persecute the poor

With their evil schemes.

 

Chorus:

Come Now Jesus to this world

May your banner be unfurled

The banner of your mighty love

That came to us from God above

When you died for us

Upon the cross.

 

Shine your light in this dark world Oh God

The light you have given through the sending of your son.

When he came to earth as one of us

And through his death our life was won.

Help us Lord to see

The wonder of your love

You gave to us so free.

 

Help us God to be your sons today

And may we show the world the way back to you.

Put down the mighty who persecute

And oppose the message that is true.

May all opposition go

That stands in our way

To preach the Gospel true.

 

Chorus:

Come Now Jesus to this world

May your banner be unfurled

The banner of you judgment

That from heaven will be sent

When you come again

To judge all men.

 

By: Jim Wenman

 

PRAYER:

Dear father in heaven may you judge those who judge and rule over us unjustly. May those who persecute your often down trodden people be stopped so that they can live in peace and have opportunity to preach your wonderful Gospel where they live. Help us to pray for those who lead us and help us to be your instruments of peace and love in this often dark and hostile world. This we pray in Jesus Name Amen.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

PSALM 81 TALK: WORSHIP THE GOD WHO SAVES AND PROVIDES

PSALM 81 TALK: WORSHIP THE GOD WHO SAVES AND PROVIDES

 (A Psalm that explores the nature of true worship, which should be joyful, God centered, focused on what God has done for us in saving us and should show itself in daily trust and obedience to God and his word. If we do worship God this way his promise it to provide abundantly for our daily physical and spiritual needs.)

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

INTRODUCTION

 When I was in my early twenties I was part of a five piece folk / Gospel group that sang and performed in many churches. This group had three men and two women and the group was made up of a double bass player, two guitarists, a beautiful female lead singer and I played a tambourine to give us some percussion backing. We sang beautiful four part harmonies and all our songs either praised the God of the bible or presented his Gospel message.

One night we played and sang at a special youth service at my church and after the service a lady who was a regular member of the congregation came up to me and snatched the tambourine out of my hand and threw it on the church floor and said to me, “How dare you bring this Godless loud instrument into my church”. At the time I was so surprised and upset I simply picked up my tambourine and walked out of the church and went home.

After studying Psalm 81 I now know forty -five years later what I should have said to that lady. I should have pointed out that nowhere in the bible do I read of organs but I do find a lot of references to tambourines, guitar like instruments called lutes and trumpets. So far as being loud the Old Testament worship that God told his people to do was both loud and very joyful. Then I could have opened my bible and read to her the first three verses of Psalm 81,

Sing for joy to God our strength; shout aloud to the God of Jacob!
Begin the music, strike the tambourine, and play the melodious harp and lyre.

Sound the ram’s horn at the New Moon, and when the moon is full, on the day of our festival”.

I’m not suggesting the church should now ban organs and what I call not so loud melodic music. As a matter of fact I changed the church service I now attend some five years ago for a number of reasons and one was that the service I had attended for a number of years, which was the evening young people’s service had music that just got to loud for me with electric guitars, drums and microphone singers. Now I am one of the music leaders at a morning service that has minimal musical accompaniment, organ, double bass and sometimes violin and features more four-part harmonies, something I am good at helping to provide.

The point is God ordained worship in the Old Testament was very joyful but it also strikes me as being very loud and beyond that it demanded faith and obedience by those who took part in it.

Psalm 81 like Psalm 50, both written by a man named Asaph are worship Psalms and give us vital clues to how God wants us to worship him.

The original Asaph and indeed his many descendants in the nation of Israel played important roles in worship services of their day. They were Levites who were full time musicians and worship leaders. As we read of in a number of places from the time of David, Hezekiah, Josiah and Ezra (after the return from exile) like 1 Chronicles 25: 1 – 2,

“David, together with the commanders of the army, set apart some of the sons of Asaph, Heman and Jeduthun for the ministry of prophesying, accompanied by harps, lyres and cymbals. Here is the list of the men who performed this service:

From the sons of Asaph:

 Zakkur, Joseph, Nethaniah and Asarelah. The sons of Asaph were under the supervision of Asaph, who prophesied under the king’s supervision”.

Note how this reference speaks of Asaph prophesying under the king’s supervision which is probably a reference to his inspired writing of Psalms some of which became Temple worship songs and then Psalms found in the book of Psalms like Psalm 81 which we are now looking at.

When and why Asaph or one of his descendants wrote this Psalm we simply don’t know but certainly the Psalm fits well with a man who was involved in both the playing of Temple music and the singing of it as well.

The Psalm features a call to worship, a description of whom we should be worshipping, why we should worship him, what are the dangers of not worshipping him properly and what are the benefits of worshipping him properly.

With this in mind my breakdown for this Psalm goes like this:

  1. 1 – 5 WORSHIP GOD JOYFULLY
  1. 1 – 3 A call for joyful worship
  2. 4 – 5 The God who saves demands this worship
  3. 6 – 10 WORSHIP THE GOD WHO SAVES
  1. 6 – 7  Worship God who saves his people from bondage
  2. 8 – 10 Worship God only
  1. 11 – 16 WORSHIP THE GOD WHO PROVIDES
  1. 11 – 12 The people who failed to worship God only
  2. 13 – 16 Worship God and he will provide for us abundantly
  1. 1 – 5 WORSHIP GOD JOYFULLY

The Psalm starts with a clear call to worship and Asaph probably was part of the calling of the people to worship either in singing or at least in providing musical accompaniment. So lets have a look at his great call to worship which I have broken into two parts.

  1. 1 – 3 A call for joyful worship
  2. 4 – 5 The God who saves demands this worship
  1. 1 – 3 A Call for joyful worship

The two characteristics of worship in this call to worship are joyful loud music to a God who is described as “Our Strength” and “the God of Jacob”.

So in this first part of this first section we will look at:

  1. The God who this praise should be directed to (vs. 1)
  2. The type of worship and praise he demands (vs’s 2 – 3)
  1. The God who this praise should be directed to (vs. 1)

So lets have a look first at these two descriptions of God that this joyful loud music should be directed to, the first verse contains these two descriptions and it says,

“Sing for joy to God our strength; shout aloud to the God of Jacob”.

 The two descriptions of God are:

  1. Our Strength
  2. The God of Jacob
  1. Our Strength

This description of God was a favorite of David as we see for instance from two examples of David using it in Psalm 18: 1,

“I love you, O Lord, my strength”

And Psalm 28: 7,

“The Lord is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in him, and I am helped”.

 David faced many times and even years of both physical and spiritual attack, like his eight years on the run from King Saul and in his later years attack from his very own rebellious son Absalom. So David needed the strength and protection of God and he got that and for that he often praised God.

Israel as a nation often faced both physical and spiritual attack and when they truly trusted in God they received it so here in this call to worship God in Psalm 81, Asaph calls on the people of Israel gathered at the Temple to worship God to sing joyfully to God who is their strength.

Asaph will soon point to the way God was Israel’s strength by the way he brought them out of bondage, gave them the law at Sinai and led them victoriously into the Promised Land.

Moses acknowledged God’s strength in helping him and his people Israel escape the clutches of their Egyptian enemies in his song of praise in Exodus 15. This song was sung after they crossed the red sea and saw the mass killing of their enemies. We read this in Exodus 15: 2,

“The Lord is my strength and my song; he has become my salvation. He is my God, and I will praise him”.

God is our strength as Christians as well and Paul makes this clear in Ephesians 6: 10 where he speaks of how we are under attack from great and powerful evil spiritual forces and he says in this in that context,

“Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power”.

 We might be under attack from powerful spiritual forces but in the Lord we are made strong and for that we to should worship God with joyful praise. Paul praises God for his strength with these words in Philippians 4: 13,

“I can do everything through him who gives me strength”.

  1. The God of Jacob

We then read the second description of God at the end of verse 1,

“Shout aloud to the God of Jacob”.

 This is another favored description of God by David and indeed other Psalm writers like Asaph and the Sons of Korah. It is first an alterative name for Israel, as Jacob became Israel. As we see in a later Psalm 105: 10,

“He confirmed it to Jacob as a decree, to Israel as an everlasting covenant”.

 David uses the God of Jacob when he seems to feel humanly week and vulnerable like Psalm 20: 1,

“May the Lord answer you when you are in distress; may the name of the God of Jacob protect you”.

 A Son of Korah uses the term God of Jacob when he was writing at a time when the Nation of Israel was under attack and very vulnerable in Psalm 46: 7,

“The Lord Almighty is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress”.

 The biblical meaning of the name Jacob is;

“Holder of the heel” or “supplanter” (behind the name.com)

Given to Jacob at his birth when he was born clutching his brother’s heel seeking to pull him back so he could be the first born rather than his twin brother Esau. Jacob for most of his life lives as a rebellious son. He lives like this unto he has a strange encounter with God or one of God’s angels recorded for us in Genesis 28.

After Jacobs wrestling with God’s angel and being made to have a permanent limp from an injured hip, God gives him a new name Israel, which means;

May God prevail, He struggles with God” (behind the name.com)

This event in Jacobs life with its corresponding name change represents a turning point in the life of Jacob and I think lies behind the often use of the name “God of Jacob”. God then is even the God of the rebellious Jacob who he transforms into Israel the one who God now prevails in.

We to as Christians are only God’s children because of God’s grace; we are rebellious sinful people who God has saved because of his love or grace to us in the Lord Jesus Christ. Paul speaks of our unworthiness to be saved because of our sin and then says we are saved by God’s power given to us because of his grace in Christ Jesus our Lord in Ephesians 2: 1 – 5,

“As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our flesh and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature deserving of wrath. But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved”.

We are now the new Israel of God as Paul declares in Galatians 6: 10,

“Peace and mercy to all who follow this rule, even to the Israel of God”.

So we should shout praise to our God, the God of his people Israel now made up of people from every nation as Paul declares in Galatians 3: 26 – 28,

“So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith, 27 for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. 28 There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. 29 If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise”.

  1. The type of worship and praise he demands (vs’s 2 – 3)

So we then see what type of praise this strong God of his people Jacob demands and we read of this in verses, 2 – 3,

“Begin the music, strike the tambourine, play the melodious harp and lyre. Sound the ram’s horn at the New Moon, and when the moon is full, on the day of our feast”.

I mentioned in my introduction that 45 years ago a women at the church I attended grabbed my tambourine I had played in a small folk / Gospel group and threw it on the floor calling it a Godless noisy instrument. I could get this reaction from a number of churches today and even a modern Jewish Synagogue would probably react this way to a tambourine.

In an excellent article on the Internet by a man named Bob Williams called “Origins Origins of Christian Worship, Bob speaks of the demise of instrumental music in the Synagogue system with these words,

“A significant difference is seen between the dramatic worship exhibited in the temple (both the first and the second) and the restrained and subdued gatherings in the synagogues. While the focus in the temple seemed to be mainly upon exuberant worship and praise through sacrifice and music (both vocal and instrumental), it seems that the main focus in the synagogues was not so much upon public worship, but rather upon instruction in the Law. The worship of the synagogues was apparently limited to recitation of prayer, chanting of the Psalms, and Bible reading and instruction”.

 Unfortunately much of early Christian church followed the lead of the Jewish Synagogue system of prayer and chanting of Psalms except it seems very early Christian churches that Paul helped set up did for a while explore the kind of musical worship styles God had ordained in the Old Testament. We pick this up in the famous quote of Paul in Ephesians 5: 18 – 20,

“ Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit, 19 speaking to one another with psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit. Sing and make music from your heart to the Lord, 20 always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ”.

There has always been what I call “kill joy anti music people” in the church and it is a fact that what we now know as modern hymn singing was not made legal in the Church of England 1750 up to them only Psalms were chanted in Church services and hymns were restricted to meetings outside of official service.

Yet here in Psalm 81 verse 2, we read of many other instruments other than tambourines being used in Temple worship like, harps and an instrument called a lyre, which is a ancient form of guitar type instrument as we read in verse 2,

“Begin the music strike the tambourine, play the melodious harp and lyre”.

Then in verse 3 we read of even noisier instruments being used in this loud and joyful musical worship, the “rams horn”,

“Sound the ram’s horn at the New Moon, and when the moon is full, on the day of our Feast”.

 In my church we have a member who is now a missionary in Africa named Graham who often played an excellent trumpet at church services he attended. Sometimes when we were singing a rousing hymn of praise Graham would step forward and blast away on his trumpet. To some members of the church this was very uplifting but others would cringe and sometimes complain of the noise Graham’s trumpet made.

I often thought, when Graham played his trumpet in the church of the many references to heaven where great trumpet playing takes place and wondered how anti trumpet playing christens would cope with heaven when loud trumpet playing starts.

Particularly when the Lord returns we read in Matthew 24: 30 – 31,

“Then will appear the sign of the Son of Man in heaven. And then all the peoples of the earth will mourn when they see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven, with power and great glory. 31 And he will send his angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of the heavens to the other”.

Which reminds me of the great old hymn I can hear Graham helping to play that goes,

“When the trumpet of the Lord shall sound, and time shall be no more,
and the morning breaks, eternal, bright and fair;
when the saved of earth shall gather over on the other shore,
and the roll is called up yonder, I’ll be there.

 Refrain:
When the roll is called up yonder,
when the roll is called up yonder,
when the roll is called up yonder,
when the roll is called up yonder, I’ll be there”.

When that trumpet blasts what will those anti trumpet players say then maybe they will put in a complaint to the Lord himself saying get rid of that loud music its not biblical.

So far as the designation of what feast or festival this is for I found that it seems like a toss up between The Festival of the Passover and the Festival of The Tabernacle. The fact is both festivals were celebrated around the same time of the year and both could be argued to fit the context that follows. The Passover celebrates God’s great deliverance from Egypt and the Tabernacle Festival or festival of booths or tents remembers the Israelites wilderness wanderings when the nation lived in tents for 40 years before God led them into the Promised Land.

Allan Harmon suggests that maybe this Psalm was used in the Temple worship for all Jewish festivals and lists them (Exodus 23: 15 – 16, 34: 18 – 22, Deut. 16: 16 and 2 Chronicles 8: 13).

My reflection on this verse is bound up in the thought of how God ordained many festivals and special days of remembrance in the Old Testament and yet the Christian church probably only has two festivals Christmas and Easter. Extreme groups like The Jehovah Witnesses want both banned as they believe they have strong pagan links although I cannot for the life of me see how Easter is Pagan when it is bound so closely in the Gospels to the Jewish Passover when Jesus was crucified and rose from the dead.

The ancient Hebrews had lots of regular special days of remembrance to help them to think of what God had done for them in the past and what he had done for them in the present like the Harvest Festival.

Jesus instituted a remembrance service of the breaking of bread and drinking of wine to remember his death on the cross for us but this is something we should do regularly when we come together as a church to worship God.

Let me remind you what Jesus said about this in Luke 22: 19 – 20,

 “And he took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me.”

20 In the same way, after the supper he took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you”.

Paul picks up this in his letter to the Corinthians to correct bad practice there in the area of the Lords Supper in 1 Corinthians 11: 23 – 26,

“For I received from the Lord what I also passed on to you: The Lord Jesus, on the night he was betrayed, took bread, 24 and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, “This is my body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of me.” 25 In the same way, after supper he took the cup, saying,

“This cup is the new covenant in my blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me.” 26 For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes”.

I read recently an academic lady who converted from Protestantism to Catholicism on the grounds that Jesus literally meant we were drinking his blood and body in his words at the last supper. However Jesus does say here that it is to be done in remembrance of him and to force Jesus into saying he actually wants us to believe we are eating his body and drinking his blood is silly and as dangerous because it led the church into idolatry worship in the middle ages when Christians began to focus on the supposed mystical elements of the communion and not on what they represented namely Christ death for our sins on the cross.

  1. 4 – 5 The God who saves demands this worship

This worship and festival or maybe festivals and the way they are to be conducted in the sense of worship are not made up by man but verse 4 says they where instituted by God himself, verse 4 says,

“This is a decree for Israel, and ordinance of the God of Jacob”.

 The books of the law, the first five books of the bible lay down by God himself speaks of the many festivals he wanted his people to have. The festival of the Passover, which has special significance to the Christian Church, is laid down in Exodus 12. Also this is called the Festival of Unleavened Bread in Exodus 23: 15.

So God in Deuteronomy sets down this festival and the Tabernacles 16: 1 – 17 and it focuses on God’s guiding of his people through the wilderness to the Promised Land.

Both these festivals were instituted by God for the people of Israel to remember what God had done for them in the past and should have helped them continue a close devotion to God as verse 5 of the Palm implies,

“He established it as a statue for Joseph when he went out against Egypt, where we heard language we did not understand”.

 The last part of this verse has given commentators many headaches in seeking to interpret,

“Where we heard language we did not understand”.

It seems that this expression is either speaking about God’s language which the people could not understand or the language of their Egyptian overlords.

The idea of it being God speaking could be that the ordinary people around Mount Sinai only heard thunder and the blowing of trumpets when Moses spoke with God, Exodus 19: 16 – 19,

“On the morning of the third day there was thunder and lightning, with a thick cloud over the mountain, and a very loud trumpet blast. Everyone in the camp trembled. 17 Then Moses led the people out of the camp to meet with God, and they stood at the foot of the mountain. 18 Mount Sinai was covered with smoke, because the Lord descended on it in fire. The smoke billowed up from it like smoke from a furnace,

and the whole mountain trembled violently. 19 As the sound of the trumpet grew louder and louder, Moses spoke and the voice of God answered him”.

If the expression,

“Where we heard language we did not understand”.

Is speaking about the foreign language the Egyptians spoke then this is speaking about how Israel was trapped in a foreign land where they did not understand the language of those who ruled over them.

Psalm 114 verse 1 speaks exactly about this,

“When Israel came out of Egypt, Jacob from a people of foreign tongue”.

Deuteronomy 28: 49 speaks of God’s judgment on his people in the future if and when they turn away from following him in terms of a nation coming against them speaking a language they will not understand,

“The Lord will bring a nation against you from far away, from the ends of the earth, like an eagle swooping down, a nation whose language you will not understand”.

This last idea fits well to what Asaph will speak about later in the Psalm in verses 11 to 13 where we will see that God’s people actually failed to worship God correctly because they turned to pagan or non-God of the bible worship practices.

Also the expression,

“Where we heard language we did not understand”.

Being the language of their oppressors in Egypt fits well into the verses that follow this verse that speak of God delivering Israel from their bondage in Egypt.

Again I think of the Lords Supper as Jesus remembrance instituted sacrament and realise afresh that our focus of remembrance instituted by God is to focus on how Jesus has delivered us from the bondage of sin and death by his sacrifice for our sins on the cross.

As Paul told the Corinthians in 1 Corinthians 11: 26,

“For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes”.

  1. 6 – 10 WORSHIP THE GOD WHO SAVES

Asaph after focusing us on the strong God of Jacob descendants his people who are to worship him in loud joyful praise now moves on in the next section to tell his worshippers they are to worship the God who has saved them. The reason why their God deserves such great joyful praise is because he has saved them.

I have broken this second section down into two parts as well:

  1. 6 – 7   Worship God who saves his people from bondage
  2. 8 – 10 Worship God only
  1. 6 – 7   Worship God who saves his people from bondage

Asaph wants his worshippers to focus not just on the God of Jacob their ancestor but on the God, who saved them out of the bondage of slavery in Egypt, verse 6 reads,

“He says, ‘I removed the burden from their shoulders”

 This is phrased as God speaking directly and what God says is a clear declaration of how he delivered his people from slavery in Egypt.

The Egyptians put a heavy burden on the people of Israel as they grew and prospered in the land of Egypt, Exodus 1: 8 – 11 tells us exactly what happened to the people of Israel in Egypt and what the Egyptians did about it,

“Then a new king, to whom Joseph meant nothing, came to power in Egypt. “Look,” he said to his people, “the Israelites have become far too numerous for us. 10 Come, we must deal shrewdly with them or they will become even more numerous and, if war breaks out, will join our enemies, fight against us and leave the country.”

11 So they put slave masters over them to oppress them with forced labor, and they built Pithom and Rameses as store cities for Pharaoh”.

The next expression in verse 6,

“Their hands were set free from the basket”,

I think refers to how the Egyptians during the time Moses and Aaron went to Pharaoh to ask him to let their people go and Pharoah’s reaction was as Exodus 5: 6 – 14 records,

“That same day Pharaoh gave this order to the slave drivers and overseers in charge of the people: “You are no longer to supply the people with straw for making bricks; let them go and gather their own straw. But require them to make the same number of bricks as before; don’t reduce the quota. They are lazy; that is why they are crying out, ‘Let us go and sacrifice to our God.’ Make the work harder for the people so that they keep working and pay no attention to lies.”

10 Then the slave drivers and the overseers went out and said to the people, “This is what Pharaoh says: ‘I will not give you any more straw. 11 Go and get your own straw wherever you can find it, but your work will not be reduced at all.’” 12 So the people scattered all over Egypt to gather stubble to use for straw. 13 The slave drivers kept pressing them, saying, “Complete the work required of you for each day, just as when you had straw.” 14 And Pharaoh’s slave drivers beat the Israelite overseers they had appointed, demanding, “Why haven’t you met your quota of bricks yesterday or today, as before?”

So I think this expression,

“Their hands were set free from the basket”,

Is a reference to the people taking baskets out into the fields to collect straw for brick making, which made the burden on the people shoulders even heavier.

Then in verse 7, Asaph says God says,

“In your distress you called and I rescued you out of a thundercloud”.

 Which seems to be a strange expression for the Exodus story as no mention of thundercloud is mentioned in the Exodus account except for the 7th Plague when God sent on Egypt of Hailstones obviously from a fierce thunderstorm.

Leupold suggests that this could be,

“An expression that refers to the guiding cloud which guarded and guided Israel”.

 Exodus 14: 19 – 20 speaks of how God used the pillar of cloud to protect the Israelites from the approaching Egyptian army,

“Then the angel of God, who had been travelling in front of Israel’s army, withdrew and went behind them. The pillar of cloud also moved from in front and stood behind them, 20 coming between the armies of Egypt and Israel. Throughout the night the cloud brought darkness to the one side and light to the other side; so neither went near the other all night long”.

The thundercloud could also refer to the cloud that came over Mount Sinai when God cam down to meet with Moses, Exodus 19: 16,

“On the morning of the third day there was thunder and lightening with a thick cloud over the mountain, and a very loud trumpet blast. Everyone in the camp trembled”.

 This fits the idea of God answering or speaking out of the thundercloud and then the final phrase fits into events that took place just before and after the meeting of God with Moses on Mount Sinai for it concerns the giving of water out of the rock at a place called Meribah, the final phrase in verse 7 goes like this,

“I tested you at the waters of Meribah”.

 This incident at Meribah recorded in Exodus 17: 1 – 7 and a similar account of water from a rock in Numbers 20: 1 – 13 although some scholars think these could be two separate incidents.

In verse 13 of Numbers 20 we read these words,

“These were the waters of Meribah, where the Israelites quarrelled with the Lord and where he showed himself holy among them”.

 The problem of lack of water in the desert wanderings is seen as a test in the words of Psalm 81 verse 7 and of course Israel failed the test because we have just read that instead of trusting God they quarrelled with the Lord and doubted his ability to provide for them.

God’s release of his people’s bondage from slavery in Egypt is taken up by a number of New Testament writers as an image of what God has done for us in Christ. Paul speaks of the image connection with what happened to Israel in the Exodus and what has happened to us in Christ through his death and resurrection in 1 Corinthians 10: 1 – 5,

For I do not want you to be ignorant of the fact, brothers and sisters, that our ancestors were all under the cloud and that they all passed through the sea. They were all baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea.

They all ate the same spiritual food and drank the same spiritual drink; for they drank from the spiritual rock that accompanied them, and that rock was Christ. Nevertheless, God was not pleased with most of them; their bodies were scattered in the wilderness”.

Notice how Paul speaks of Christ as being “that rock” a reference to the rock from which the water flowed at Meribah. Paul goes on to give us a warning about rebelling against God and idolatry which Psalm 81 will pick up next so I will quote from this second section of 1 Corinthians 10 when we deal with this.

For now we should always thank God for how Jesus has lifted the burden of sin from our shoulders by his death for our sins on the cross. We should realise that God has heard our cries of distress from the slavery of sin and God has rescued us from death and given us the gift of eternal life, which we will enjoy fully in the Promised Land of heaven itself.

As Paul declares in Galatians 5: 1,

“It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery”.

 Paul explains what he is speaking of here even more clearly in Romans 6: 19 – 23,

“I am using an example from everyday life because of your human limitations. Just as you used to offer yourselves as slaves to impurity and to ever-increasing wickedness, so now offer yourselves as slaves to righteousness leading to holiness. 20 When you were slaves to sin, you were free from the control of righteousness. 21 What benefit did you reap at that time from the things you are now ashamed of? Those things result in death! 22 But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the benefit you reap leads to holiness, and the result is eternal life. 23 For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord”.

  1. 8 – 10 Worship God only

The worship song takes a strange turn as it now deals with the people of Israel’s sin and rebellion hinted at in the last phrase of the previous verse,

“I tested you at the waters of Meribah”.

God tested Israel in the wilderness at Meribah and of course they failed the test. Now Asaph speaks of three things that the worshippers singing this song must always keep in mind concerning sin and rebellion:

  1. They must heed God’s warnings (vs. 8)
  2. They must worship God (vs.9)
  3. They must remember what God did for them in the past (vs.10)

Lets then look a little closer at each of these things the worshippers of the God of the bible must always keep in mind.

  1. They must heed God’s warnings (vs. 8)

The first thing the worshippers of the God of the bible must keep in mind is his constant warnings. Verse 8 says,

“Hear, O my people, and I will warn you – if you would listen to me O Israel!”

 God continues to speak in the first person and Asaph here is speaking as a prophet who often said things like,

“Thus says the Lord” or “This is what the Lord says” (for example Isaiah 44: 6)

And what does the Lord say here in Psalm 81 verse 8?

He says first be warned,

“Hear, O my people, and I will warn you”.

 Many times and on many occasions God warned his people about sin and rebellion but over and over again Israel did not head God’s warnings. Israel is called among other things a stubborn and stiff necked people, like when they made the Golden Calf to worship in the wilderness God said to Moses in Exodus 32: 9,

“I have seen these people, the Lord said to Moses, and they are a stiff-necked people”.

 Or later before the fall of the Northern Kingdom Hosea says this about Israel in Hosea 4: 16,

“The Israelites are stubborn, like a stubborn heifer. How then can the Lord pasture them like lambs in a meadow”.

 We too must always heed the many warnings the bible gives us. Paul gives many warnings to Christian believers like his warning against listening to people in the church who teach false teaching in Ephesians 5: 6 and 7,

“Let no one deceive you with empty words for because of such things God’s wrath comes on those who are disobedient. Therefore do not be partners with them”.

 There are many other warnings in the New Testament and when we come upon them we must take careful note of them and make sure we heed them or we to will be guilty of being like Israel a stubborn and stiff-necked people.

 Asaph then says we must listen to God,

“If you would listen to me O Israel!”

 To avoid being stubborn and able to hear God’s warnings we must first listen to what God is saying. Israel’s long history teaches us what happens to people who fail to listen to God and his word.

Paul warned Timothy about how the church will see false teaches who will arise in the church because the people in the church will not listen to sound teaching or to put it another way teaching that is not true to the bible.

He writes in 2 Timothy 4: 3 – 4,

“For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths”.

Myths here are teachings about God that do not come from the word of God. It is strange to see that we see even today in the church these false teachers and what do they say about bible believing Christians they say they believe in myths. They claim that the bible is but myths and legends. Even when this kind of teaching is dressed up in high -brow academic theological study we must be wary and on our guard.

So what does Paul say we must do to combat this?

First he tells Timothy in the verse before this, verse 2, to,

“Preach the word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage—with great patience and careful instruction”.

Even when good sound bible teaching is not popular we are to push on in preaching God’s word because it is the only hope for our hearers to be truly saved.

Then in the verse following this warning verse 5, Paul says to Timothy,

“But you, keep your head in all situations, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, discharge all the duties of your ministry”.

Many will not listen to the message of the bible because as Paul says, verse 3,

“People will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear”.

But Timothy is to preach the word in season and out of season and to seek to correct, rebuke and encourage. To keep his head when under pressure from the false teachers and to continue preaching the Gospel so that some people will listen and come to the Lord, which is what Paul means when he speaks of doing the work of an evangelist.

  1. They must worship God (vs.9)

Then God re-states a paraphrase of the first and second commandment in verse 9,

“You shall have no foreign god among you; you shall not bow down to an alien God”.

 The actual first two commandments go like this in Exodus 20: 3- 5.

“You shall have no other gods before me.

“You shall not make for yourself an image in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me”.

 It is interesting that this first and second commandment is singled out here but this a Psalm that deals with worship and the first fundamental rule of true biblical worship is that God and God alone must be worshipped. That God we worship must be the God of the bible and no image of him can or should be made.

Also it would seem that the people of the time Asaph was originally writing this to where dabbling in worshipping other Gods and were making idols to worship them. Particularly the Northern Kingdom of Israel by the time of their judgment had come they had virtually turned themselves over to pagan or non biblical worship as we read in 2 Kings 17: 16 – 17,

“They forsook all the commands of the Lord their God and made for themselves two idols cast in the shape of calves, and an Asherah pole. They bowed down to all the starry hosts, and they worshiped Baal. 17 They sacrificed their sons and daughters in the fire. They practiced divination and sought omens and sold themselves to do evil in the eyes of the Lord, arousing his anger”.

I saw the danger of idol worship first hand on my big retirement trip through Europe four years ago and in Spain I joined a large crowd of people through the back of a church to squeeze through a small chamber where we were able to see a statue of Mary called, “The black Madonna”. People virtually worshipped this idol and I felt sick by the sight of such blatant idolatry in a so-called Christian church.

I’m sure people will say I am being very narrow minded but when true biblical worship of God is replaced by idol worship I would rather have my narrow mind then have to face God on the day of judgment with a big open mind that is thrown in hell.

Idol worship comes in a lot of forms and even when we put so much effort into our bodies to make them beautiful we might be practicing a form of idol worship as what we put our time and money into most is really now our God.

The care and upkeep of our human bodies is right and positive as Paul says that our bodies are actually Temples of the Holy Spirit but we need to get our priorities right if we want to avoid the trap of making something other than God our idol. Jesus tells us how we can do that in Matthew 33 and 34,

 “But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. 34 Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own”.

  1. They must remember what God did for them in the past (vs.10)

Then Asaph tells his worshippers through God speaking in his Psalm these words in verse 10,

“I am the Lord your God, who brought you up out of Egypt”.

 These words are part of what is called the preamble to the Decalogue or 10 Commandments which goes like this in Exodus 20: 3,

“I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery”.

This is what supposed to have inspired the people of Israel to actually keep the 10 commandments.

The salvation God had just performed or did for Israel when he got them out of slavery in Egypt, when he opened up the red sea for them to cross and when he made that sea close on their enemies the Egyptians to destroy them making it possible for them to escape to the Promised land.

Many years ago a bible study I was in was discussing the need for the people of our country to heed the 10 commandments of God. The young minster that was leading our study then shocked us by saying no the 10 commandments only will have any hope of being kept when people first hear the Gospel message and then respond to it. He went on to point out that the 10 commandments were given to Israel after they were saved out of Egypt and not before.

This is the teaching of the New Testament and particularly Paul as we see him arguing for in Romans 6: 27 – 31,

“Where, then, is boasting? It is excluded. Because of what law? The law that requires works? No, because of the law that requires faith. 28 For we maintain that a person is justified by faith apart from the works of the law. 29 Or is God the God of Jews only? Is he not the God of Gentiles too? Yes, of Gentiles too, 30 since there is only one God, who will justify the circumcised by faith and the uncircumcised through that same faith. 31 Do we, then, nullify the law by this faith? Not at all! Rather, we uphold the law”.

 Notice how Paul saw that true faith in Christ becomes the drive or desire to keep the law.

The ten commandments also play a role in bringing people to the message of Christ because they show us how far from God we really are, they show us our need to be saved and finally they show us why Jesus had do die on the cross because our failure to keep God’s law which must be paid for.

Paul also speaks of this particularly in his letter to the Galatians, as we see in Galatians 3: 23 – 25,

“Before the coming of this faith, we were held in custody under the law, locked up until the faith that was to come would be revealed. 24 So the law was our guardian until Christ came that we might be justified by faith. 25 Now that this faith has come, we are no longer under a guardian”.

  1. 11 – 16 WORSHIP THE GOD WHO PROVIDES

 We come then to the third and final section of this Psalm on worship of the God of the bible. We have seen how we should worship him because he is a God who saves. However we have also heard the warning from God himself that if we don not worship only him there would be a dire consequence.

Now we will see that God people did not heed this warning and what that will bring about but at the same time we are told that if we heed God’s warning and rightly worship him he will provide for us abundantly. I have broken this final section into two parts as well.

  1. 11 – 12 The people who failed to worship God only
  2. 13 – 16 Worship God and he will provide for us abundantly
  1. 11 – 12 The people who failed to worship God only

Strangely now in a song for worship Asaph continuing speaking as God’s spokesman says the people have failed to listen and submit to God and the dire consequences of this a made clear.

First then lets look at verse 11 which tells us the people failed to listen to God,

“But my people would not listen to me: Israel would not submit to me”.

 In verse 7b God called on the people to listen to him and his word,

”If you would but listen to me O Israel”.

 Cougan Collins sums this awful condemnation of Israel this way,

“After everything God did to make it possible for the children of Israel to be free from Egyptian bondage, His people would not trust him enough to take heed to His words. Since God created us with a free will they chose to set their hearts against God”.

 Asaph has already alluded to Meribah at the end of verse 7 where the people failed to trust in God to provide water in the desert. He alluded to the making of the golden calf an image of a foreign God in verse 9 and now he says this is because his people would not listen and also as the second half of verse 11 says,

“Israel would not submit to me”

 Or we can say failed to submit to God.

God longed for his people to truly follow him and he cleared the way for this to happen but the people failed to submit to God and even worse they chased after other God’s instead.

The prophet Hosea brings this message home so clearly and he has to bear a adulterous wife who represents Israel chasing after other God’s yet God tells Hosea to continue to love his wife like God continued to love his faithless people. We see this in a verse like Hosea 3: 1,

“The Lord said to me, “Go, show your love to your wife again, though she is loved by another man and is an adulteress. Love her as the Lord loves the Israelites, though they turn to other gods and love the sacred raisin cakes.”

Then in verse 12 we read how God reacts to Israel’s rebellion,

“So I gave them over to their stubborn hearts to follow their own devices”.

These are very familiar words to a New Testament reader as we read in Romans 1: 24 – 31 Paul uses the expression “God gave them over” three times as an expression of what God did when we all sin.

It is as though God says, you wont to live without me, you want to go your own way, then go and face the consequences of doing that and the consequences are great as we will see in the last part of this Psalm.

God gives that damming description of the people of Israel in this verse, they are people with,

“Stubborn hearts”

They had so much given to them by God yet it was a though they threw it all back in God’s face and chased after the own desires and abominable religious practices.

We too as Christians need to make sure we truly submit to the God of the Bible and not stray into worldly worship practices and Godless ways of living. The devil is always seeking to bring down the true witness of Christ’s church and we need to always be on our guard and take up the word of advice James gives us in James 4: 7,

“ Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you”.

  1. 13 – 16 Worship God and he will provide for us abundantly

Stephen J. Cole who helped me greatly in understanding the message of Psalm 80, my previous Psalm talk to this one has a very interesting angle on this Psalm, which is very applicable to this last part of this Psalm. He believes this Psalm is about wasted years or wasted opportunities, he writes,

“In Psalm 81 God laments over what might have been. As He ponders the history of Israel, His chosen people, God mourns over what He could have done for them and through them, if only they had obeyed him”.

So in this last part the idea of what might have been is the main theme of these verses. We will look at how God promises to help his people abundantly if they would only obey him and worship him correctly.

We will look then at three things in these last four verses:

  1. How God’s people can gain God’s abundant blessing (vs.13)
  2. God’s abundant blessing of victory over our enemies (vs.14 – 15)
  3. God’s abundant blessing of a good life (vs. 16)
  1. How God’s people can gain God’s abundant blessing (vs. 13)

What did God want his people to do?

We have already seen a lot said about this in this Psalm,

In verse 8 we read of how God wanted his people to listen to him and his word and heed his many warnings.

In verses 9 and 10 we read how God wanted his people to worship only him.

Now in verse 13 he answers the question even more directly he says,

“If my people would but listen to me, if Israel would follow my ways”.

God simply wants the allegiance he deserves as we have seen from this Psalm a how much God had done for his people already.

In verses 5b to 7 we read of how God led his people out of bondage and through the desert and on into the Promised Land. For this God simply wanted his people to submit to him as verse 11 states.

This verse, verse 13 reminds me of the famous verse I quoted in my last Psalm Talk that dealt with the theme of revival, 2 Chronicles 7: 14,

“If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land”.

So God longs to bless us and he has the power and ability to do so but what stops him from doing this is our sin and disobedience. Stephen J. Cole puts it simply this way,

“The way to avoid a wasted life is to walk in obedience to the Lord”.

Sadly Israel did not often do this but there were a few times when an occasional King in Judah did lead his people into a time of obedience to the Lord. Three kings stand out in this way to me David, Hezekiah and Josiah and these three kings led Israel through wonderful prosperous times.

Note they did still faced great challenges and even attacks from their enemies but through obedience to God they proved God’s help and blessing in so many ways. Even when David was on the run from his rebellious son Absalom he says this in Psalm 3: 3 and 4,

“But you are a shield around me, O Lord; you bestow glory on me and lift up my head. To the Lord I cry aloud, and he answers me from his holy hill”.

As Christians we have the same call to faith and obedience to the Lord based on how much God has done for us in The Lord Jesus Christ. Jesus made this clear in John 14: 23,

“Jesus replied, “Anyone who loves me will obey my teaching. My Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them”.

Paul had much to say about this and there is no better example of this than his words to the church in Philippi in Philippians 2: 12 – 13,

“Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed—not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence—continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, 13 for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfil his good purpose”.

  1. God’s abundant blessing of victory over our enemies (vs.14 – 15)

The main blessing Israel needed constantly from God was victory over their many enemies. The history of this fallen world is littered with stories of nations and cultures being overrun and destroyed by their enemies. One great miracle of history is how God has preserved the small nation of Israel over such a long period of time.

However God’s special nation of Israel was over run by mighty foreign nations like Assyria, Babylon and Rome.

So verses 14 and 15 speak of very real and important blessings Israel needed from God. So if they would simply submit to God and obey his word,

“How quickly would I subdue their enemies and turn my hand against their foes! Those who hate the Lord would cringe before him, and their punishment would last forever.”

 This might seem like a vain promise of God, as we know that the Assyrians in 720BC defeated the people of Northern Kingdom known as Israel and the southern kingdom of Judah was defeated by the Babylonians in 587BC.

However God’s promise of his blessing of victory over his people’s enemies if they would but simply obey him is proven by what happened in Judah in the year 701BC. During this time only 19 years after the fall of the Northern Kingdom the mighty powerful Assyrian army besieged the city of Jerusalem.

However during this time the book of 2 Kings chapters 18 – 20 tell us the story of a God obeying King named Hezekiah who looked to God for help and protection during this siege and who saw how in one night of terror God killed thousands of Assyrian soldiers and caused the withdrawal of the army of Assyria never to return again.

Because of the faith and obedience of King Hezekiah Judah and later Josiah Judah existed for another 114 years unto finally the reigns of evil non God honouring Kings led the people of Judah into adulatory practices again bringing down on them the punishment of God in the form of another world super power of that time known as Babylon.

God did subdue the mighty Assyrians by his own hand on that terrible night in 701BC. For the Assyrian invaders it was a terrible night but for the people of God that night was a night of blessing because they were the faithful people of God who lived in Jerusalem. 2 Kings 19: 35 – 37 records God’s victory over Judah’s enemies this way,

“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! 36 So Sennacherib king of Assyria broke camp and withdrew. He returned to Nineveh and stayed there.

 37 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”.

 The history of the Christian church is another miracle of history as it too started in a small way in Jerusalem and from 12 or so faithful followers of Jesus Christ it eventually grew into a massive movement of faith and obedience to God. However the Christian church has had to face many great enemies which the bible teaches are part of a great spiritual battle even fought in high places, Ephesians 6: 12,

“For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms”.

This might seem like a battle the church of Christ cannot win just as the people of Jerusalem might have thought in 701BC when they faced the power and might of the Assyrian army. However like them if we trust in the Lord and seek to be obedient to him the words of Psalm 81: 15 can be true for us as well,

Those who hate the Lord would cringe before him, and their punishment would last forever.”

 Paul makes it clear where our strength and help comes from in the great spiritual battle we face in Ephesians 6: 10,

“Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power”.

 And how we have this mighty power to see off Satan himself is made clear by James in James 4: 7 – 10,

 “Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Come near to God and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Grieve, mourn and wail. Change your laughter to mourning and your joy to gloom. 10 humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up”.

  1. God’s abundant blessing of a good life (vs. 16)

Finally we come to the final verse of the Psalm, which could be used by those who preach a prosperity Gospel to advocate their false teachings. God is promising it appears the blessing of a good life in these brief words of this verse,

“But you would be fed with finest of wheat; with honey from the rock I would satisfy you”.

 There is a point to God’s physical blessings on true believers as well as his obvious spiritual blessings. Jesus says this John 10: 10,

“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full”.

 Or as some translations put it “Abundant life” which is not just the promise of eternal life when we die but abundant life now.

I mentioned three Kings of Judah who definitely turned to God in obedience and faith, David, Hezekiah and Josiah and they all had great victories over powerful enemies but even in this they still faced great difficulties and problems in their lives the difference was God helped them all in their difficulties and problems.

David for instance faced times of enormous difficulty on at least two occasions in his life. He faced up to eight years of being hunted down by King Saul before he became king and he faced a couple of months at least of being on the run with a large group of family and close friends when his eldest son Absalom sought to kill him and his family and close friends.

Yet in both of these times of enormous difficulties David proved the promise of God’s blessing to those who truly trust in him.

Even the provision of food and shelter was given to David through God’s blessing on him at that time. We know that Psalms 3 and 4 were written by David when he was on the run from Absalom and possibly Psalm 5 was written then also.

In Psalm 4 verses 7 and 8 David writes of God’s protective blessing on him and he even compares himself to his enemies whose grain and wine abound yet he believed he was far better of spiritually and physically than his enemies who would face the judgment of God for what they had done.

He writes,

“You have filled my heart with great joy than when their grain and new wine abound. I will lie down and sleep in peace for you alone, O Lord, make me dwell in safety”.

 Not long after this we read in 2 Samuel 16: 1 – 2 of how God provided the food David and his family and close friends needed,

“When David had gone a short distance beyond the summit, there was Ziba, the steward of Mephibosheth, waiting to meet him. He had a string of donkeys saddled and loaded with two hundred loaves of bread, a hundred cakes of raisins, a hundred cakes of figs and a skin of wine.

The king asked Ziba, “Why have you brought these?”

Ziba answered, “The donkeys are for the king’s household to ride on, the bread and fruit are for the men to eat, and the wine is to refresh those who become exhausted in the wilderness.”

 So my point is this God will bless anyone who has truly turned to him not only spiritually but physically but I am not saying this means we will all become materially rich or we will have a easy life for God does not promise this.

He promises to feed us even in difficult times Stephen J. Cole makes this interesting point about the expression,

“Honey from the rock”

 “God promises to satisfy them with honey from the rock. Rocks are harsh, unpromising things when it comes to feeding the hungry. The desert where Israel wandered had lots of rocks and not much else. Who would expect anything satisfying from a rock? But God can bring honey from the rock to satisfy his people. The bees would go into the cracks of the rocks and store their sweet honey, which oozed out.

 Cole goes on to explain this image this way,

“It’s a picture of how the Lord can bring sweetness and nourishment for his people even in adversity. He doesn’t always take away the rocks, but He can make them drip with honey”.

I once met a hard working minister who worked faithfully for God in a very poor and rundown area of Sydney. He was used by God to bring many people there to the Lord but he said many of the families who came to the Lord moved away within a few years of their conversion. This was because when they came to the Lord they stopped drinking and gambling and gave up smoking and quickly they either got jobs or better jobs and this made them so much better off and they could then move their families to far safer and affluent suburb of Sydney.

You see getting right with God and obeying his word brings material and well as spiritual blessings to those who do it. Jesus promises life and life in abundance for those who truly come to him.

Jesus also said in Matthew 6: 33 and 34,

“But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. 34 Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own”.

God promises to bless his people spiritually and physically if they listen, turn and submit to him but apart from the times of those 3 great kings of Judah God’s people did not do this.

Asaph uses his Worship hymn then to call his people to joyful worship because of what God had done for them but he ends using his hymn to warn the people about not properly worshipping him and what the consequences of not worshipping properly are and what the blessings are for those who truly put God first in their lives and live in faith and obedience to him.

Paul has a great call to worship of his own in Romans 12: 1 – 2, which goes like this,

“Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will”.

I close as usual with a poem and a prayer,

 

COME NOW AND WORSHIP

(Based on Psalm 81)

Gather round people and worship the Lord

Sing now to God who gave us his word.

Praise him joyfully for he makes us strong

Shout out his message to everyone.

 

Chorus:

 

Come now and worship

Jesus as Lord

He has saved us

And given us his word.

 

Take up your instruments to play now his song

Praise now Jesus who can save anyone.

Sound now the trumpet and bang now the drum

Help us to worship God’s wonderful son.

 

Chorus:

 

God has established a way back to him

It is through Jesus who’s saved us from sin.

Just like the Israelites of long ago

God has delivered us from a mighty foe.

 

Chorus:

 

Hear now O people and now be warned

Make sure you listen so you wont be scorned.

Worship God only or face his judgment

Have faith in Jesus and God will relent.

 

Chorus:

 

Turn back to God if you’ve fallen away

God will accept you if you turn now and pray.

He wants to feed us in everyway

Come now to Jesus and know his love today.

 

Chorus:

 

Come now and worship

Jesus as Lord

He has saved us

And given us his word.

 

By: Jim Wenman

 

 PRAYER:

 We come now Lord together to worship you for you are the one who makes us strong. We joyfully sing your praises and exalt you name forever. Thank you father in heaven for sending down Jesus to die on the cross for our sins. We now know that Jesus made the way back to you. We submit ourselves to you afresh knowing that you long to bless us and we look to you now to help us live the lives you want us to live. In Jesus Name we pray Amen.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

PSALM 80 TALK: A SONG FOR REVIVAL OF GOD’S PEOPLE

PSALM 80 TALK: A SONG FOR REVIVAL OF GOD’S PEOPLE

 (A psalm which opens up the need for and source of true God centered revival for God’s church today.)

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

INTRODUCTION

 In my course of research and study for this Psalm I came across an excellent explanation of the Psalm and its application to Christian revival in a article written by Steven J. Cole called “Praying for Revival” published on the internet in 2009. I will quote from this article a few times during my own explanation and application of this amazing Psalm.

Cole makes it clear as the Psalm does that Revival of God’s people is not something we can do or engineer as Cole states clearly with these words,

“Revivals are a sovereign work of God that effect many at the same time.”

 Our connection to true revival is in the areas of prayer or pleading with God to do it and in the preaching of the word of God and people rightly responding to that message, as God demands. These two areas of human activity thread there way through the entire Psalm.

Psalm 80 contains the name Asaph as its writer in the Hebrew Heading yet again it could not have been the original Asaph who lived and wrote in the time of David and Solomon as this Psalm seems to indicate that it was set in the time of the divided kingdom of Israel as it speaks of the Northern Kingdom tribes in verse one. This means that a descendant of Asaph wrote this Asaph Psalm like a number we have already looked at already.

It also seems to feature things relevant to the Northern Kingdoms problems around the time of it’s conquest by the Assyrians in 722 B.C although it could have been written in the years leading up to that conquest as nations like Assyria whittled away at portions of the northern kingdom over many years.

However the Psalm also speaks of things unique to the southern kingdom known as Judah with the reference to Benjamin in verse 2 and the unique design of the Ark of the Covenant in verse one which was located in the southern kingdom in Jerusalem.

I like Steven Coles theory of the authorship and what lies behind it, he writes,

“It may have been penned by a poet in the south who had witnessed the destruction of the north and was concerned that the same enemies not conquer the south”.

 It is interesting that a man named Asaph appears in the story of the unsuccessful Assyrian siege of Jerusalem in 701BC and we read of him and two other men taking the message of the Assyrian commander to King Hezekiah in 2 Kings 18: 37.

“Then Eliakim son of Hilkiah the palace administrator, Shebna the secretary, and Joah son of Asaph the recorder went to Hezekiah, with their clothes torn, and told him what the field commander had said.”

Psalm 80 is both a Lament Psalm and a song as it is written in the form of a prayer of complaint and it has a refrain or chorus that appears three times in the Psalm, vs. 3, 7 and 19. This made the breakdown of the Psalm very easy so with the theme of A song for revival and these three refrains or choruses my breakdown is:

  1. 1 – 3 REVIVE YOUR CHOSEN PEOPLE
  1. 1 – 2   The shepherd of his people who is enthroned in heaven
  2. 3         Revival Chorus 1 – Restore us
  1. 4 – 7 REVIVE YOUR DOWNTRODDEN PEOPLE
  1. 4 – 6   The smoldering anger of God
  2. 7         Revival Chorus 2 – God Almighty
  1. 8 – 19 REVIVE YOUR TRANSPLANTED PEOPLE
  1. 8 – 17 Revive the vine God planted
  2. 18 -19 Revival chorus 3 – The results of Revival

 Finally I will also be referring to a great old hymn during this Psalm talk called “Revive your Church of Lord” written by Albert Midlane who lived between 1825 – 1909 and would have been part of the 3rd Great Awakening of the church in England and America between 1850 – 1900. I will use this hymn as its verses relate to teaching in the Psalm.

To kick this off I offer the first verse as a kind of setting of the scene for what we are about to learn,

Revive your church, O Lord,
In grace and power draw near;
Speak with the voice that wakes the dead,
And make Thy people hear.

May we be all awoken from our sleep by the voice of God that wakes the dead so that we might be revived by his power and grace through the study of this Psalm.

  1. 1 – 3 REVIVE YOUR CHOSEN PEOPLE

 So we start our look at this ancient song, which is a prayer for God to revive us with its first verse, which is our verses 1 and 2 and the first chorus which is our verse 3 which then forms the two parts of this first section of this Psalm.

  1. 1 – 2   The shepherd of his people who is enthroned in heaven
  2. 3         Revival Chorus 1 – Restore us
  1. 1 – 2   The shepherd of his people who is enthroned in heaven

 This first part of the first section has two wonderful poetic images of God and his people, which are:

  1. The shepherd of his people
  2. Their God who is enthroned in heaven

Lets now have a closer look at each of these two poetic images:

  1. The shepherd of his people

 The Psalm, prayer or song starts with the words,

“Hear us, O Shepherd of Israel”.

 I have noted a number of times already in my Psalm talks on the Psalms of Asaph that this concept of God being Israel Shepherd and Israel being God’s sheep as a distinctive feature of these Psalms. In the last Psalm we read of it in the last verse, verse 13,

“Then we your people, the sheep of your pasture; will praise you forever; from generation to generation we will recount your praise”.

 Now Asaph or a descendant of Asaph prays to God addressing him as the,

“Shepherd of Israel”.

I have pointed out before that this concept of God being Israel’s shepherd appears right throughout the bible and first appears clearly in Genesis 48: 15 – 16 which is Jacobs blessing to his sons Joseph, Ephraim and Manasseh who’s names appear in these first two verses of this Psalm, Jacobs blessing then,

“May the God before whom my fathers Abraham and Isaac walked, the God who has been my shepherd all my life to this day, the Angel who has delivered me from all harm – may he bless these boys. May they be called by my name and the names of my fathers Abraham and Isaac, and may they increase greatly upon the earth”.

 This first reference of God leading Jacob like a shepherd leads his sheep and is incorporated into his blessing for his three sons Joseph, Ephraim and Manasseh and its connection with the term being used at the opening of this Psalm and the mention of the three brothers Joseph, Ephraim and Manasseh is no coincidence. The writer of Psalm 80 is asking for Jacobs blessing to be on the descendants of these boys the Northern Kingdom of Israel. They are in such a terrible state and desperately need God’s shepherd like leading.

We must also mention that Asaph includes the name Benjamin but he too is related directly to the other three boys as the youngest brother and last child of Rachel who is often associated with the Northern Kingdom but became the second tribe of the smaller southern kingdom when the Kingdoms divided.

Benjamin could be seen as a buffer tribal area between the two Kingdoms and I’m sure much of its northern area suffered similar problems to the Northern Kingdom during the Assyrian invasions.

No matter how terrible the people of Israel became, no matter how far they wandered from the sheepfold, from truly following God as their shepherd they were still considered by God to be his chosen people.

Jeremiah speaks of fallen Israel in terms of the shepherded people of God and God as the shepherd and writes in Jeremiah 31: 10 – 11,

“Hear the word of the Lord, you nations; proclaim it in distant coastlands:
‘He who scattered Israel will gather them and will watch over his flock like a shepherd.’ 11 For the Lord will deliver Jacob and redeem them from the hand of those stronger than they”.

Sadly as David points out in his famous shepherd Psalm, Psalm 23: 4b, the Shepherd carries a Rod and staff,

“Your Rod and your staff they comfort me”.

Sometimes the Shepherd had to use his rod or staff to prod and probe his sheep when they became wayward and sometimes some foolish sheep wandered so far from their shepherd he could not save them.

All through the Old Testament God seems to have a remnant that remains faithful to him or returns to him and Jeremiah makes direct reference to God’s remnant sheep in Jeremiah 23: 3,

“I myself will gather the remnant of my flock out of all the countries where I have driven them and will bring them back to their pasture, where they will be fruitful and increase in number”.

This prayer in Psalm 80 will be answered by God but not with a mass turning to God as we see in unusual times of revival but in the sure reality of a remnant that God will preserve and many years later this chosen remnant will to return from the Babylonian exile and will feature people mainly from the southern Kingdom of Israel but I’m sure mixed among them would have been a even smaller remnant group of Northern tribal members.

We know from the New Testament and particularly from Jesus teaching in John 10 that God has now established a new chosen people made up of people from every nation on earth. Jesus says this about his new enlarged sheepfold and how through his death on the cross he would establish this new flock of God’s sheep in John 10: 14 – 18,

“I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me— 15 just as the Father knows me and I know the Father—and I lay down my life for the sheep. 16 I have other sheep that are not of this sheep pen. I must bring them also. They too will listen to my voice, and there shall be one flock and one shepherd. 17 The reason my Father loves me is that I lay down my life—only to take it up again. 18 No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down and authority to take it up again. This command I received from my Father.”

 We to can fall away from following the Good shepherd and we to need to return to following him both as individual believers and as a church for both can and have fallen away many times and in ways over the centuries since Christ established his church on earth once and for all on the day of Pentecost.

The church throughout its long history has had to be revived from time to time and Albert Midlane’s hymns second verse captures well this often-desperate need for revival,

Revive your church, O Lord,
Disturb this sleep of death;

Give life to smouldering embers now

By Thine almighty breath.

  1. Their God who is enthroned in heaven

The second poetic image is in verse 1b

”You who sit enthroned between the cherubim, shine forth”.

This seems to be a direct reference to the Ark of the Covenant as Tremper Longman 111 points out,

“God is also the one who sits enthroned above, the cherubim, a reference to the cherubim who extended their wings with their heads down over the Ark of the Covenant (Exodus 25: 10 – 22)”

But Longman goes on to point out that,

“The ark is also the portable symbol of God’s presence, and it often accompanied the army into battle”.

What this Ark of the Covenant symbolized was then a reality in heaven as Isaiah caught a vision of in Isaiah 6: 1 – 4,

“I saw the Lord, high and exalted, seated on a throne; and the train of his robe filled the temple. Above him were seraphim, each with six wings: With two wings they covered their faces, with two they covered their feet, and with two they were flying. And they were calling to one another: “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord Almighty; the whole earth is full of his glory.” At the sound of their voices the doorposts and thresholds shook and the temple was filled with smoke”.

Isaiah’s vision saw 6 winged angels while the Ark of the Covenant had two winged angels but both present the concept of God being enthroned in heaven surrounded by heavenly hosts as Psalm 80 verse 1 speaks of. Allan Harman draws on the concept of these Angels, Cherubim being on the mercy seat and makes this conclusion,

“The idea is probably more than simply that God is enthroned above the mercy seat. He is seated on his heavenly throne. From there he is asked to come and execute judgment and lead his people as of old, restoring them to their former position”.

Then at the end of verse 1 Asaph prays,

“Shine forth”

Asaph wants the shepherd of Israel, who sits on the mighty throne of heaven to shine forth as the God of the bible is often seen as a God of light, as David declares in Psalm 27 verse 1,

“The Lord is my light and my salvation”

And Deuteronomy 33: 2,

“The Lord came from Sinai and dawned over them from Seir; he shone forth from Mount Paran. He came with myriads of holy ones from the south, from his mountain slopes”.

Asaph wants God to shine forth again on his people Israel who was facing the darkness of the Assyrian invasion. They are also in the darkness of their many sins that has effectively cut them off from the God of light.

Jesus declared in John 8: 12,

“I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”

 But John tells us in John 3: 19,

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

So Jesus wants us to turn from darkness, the darkness of this sinful fallen world and follow him the light of the world who came from the great God of light to bring us his light so that it can now shine forth in us.

Great revivals of the past were always times when great light, understanding of God shine brightly in the dark world of there times and so today we need God’s light to shine forth again and bring us out of darkness into God’s glorious great light.

Finally Asaph prays at the end of verse 2,

”Awaken your might; come and save us”.

 Tremper Longman 111 writes,

“Until now it is as if God has been asleep, but now he calls on God to awaken and come to rescue them from their enemies”.

 David combined the God of light with his salvation in Psalm 27: 1,

“The Lord is my light and my salvation”

When this God of light revealed himself in the history of Israel it was usually in his acts of Salvation. For 400 years of so Israel remained trapped in the bondage of slavery in Egypt but then it must have seemed like God awoke and raised up Moses and Aaron who God used to shepherd his people out of bondage and into eventually the promised land.

Now Asaph wants God to awaken yet again to save his people in the north from the terrible darkness and destruction of the Assyrian invasions. He wants God to come and save them.

However we know from history that these people of the Northern Kingdom had fallen so far from the light of their God that God instead of Salvation was awakened to Judgment.

Once the final judgment of God came on the Northern Kingdom in 722B.C under the Assyrian king Shalmaneser we read the horrible dark sinful state Israel had become in 2 Kings 17: 16 – 17,

“They forsook all the commands of the Lord their God and made for themselves two idols cast in the shape of calves, and an Asherah pole. They bowed down to all the starry hosts, and they worshiped Baal. 17 They sacrificed their sons and daughters in the fire. They practiced divination and sought omens and sold themselves to do evil in the eyes of the Lord, arousing his anger”.

So Asaph prayed for Israel to be restored and maybe a remnant did come back to God and his word and escaped into the southern Kingdom of Judah at that time which was saved from the Assyrian invasion but for the vast majority of the Northern Tribes their fate because of their many sins was death or exile into Assyria.

We too as Christians must take God and his word serious because if don’t then God will awaken on us in Judgment instead of Salvation. John sets forth clearly the two ways, Judgment or Salvation in the verses that follow the famous John 3: 16 and this is what he teaches us in John 3: 18 – 21,

“Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son. 19 This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. 20 Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that their deeds will be exposed. 21 But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what they have done has been done in the sight of God”.

  1. 3         Revival Chorus 1 – Restore us

This bring us to the first use of the chorus of this prayer or song and here it reads this way,

“Restore us, O God; make your face shine upon us, that we may be saved”.

 This chorus contains three main elements:

  1. The call for Restoration or Revival
  2. The use of the priestly blessing of God’s face shinning
  3. The call for salvation

Lets look a little closer as each of these three elements:

  1. The call for Restoration or Revival

The word restore and revive are similar in meaning. One dictionary tells us that Restore means,

To bring back into existence or use; reestablish”.

While it says that revive means,

“To bring back to life or consciousness; resuscitate”

It offers further meaning for the word revive as,

“To give new health, strength, or spirit to”.

Israel needed all this and more as morally as well as spiritually it had fallen so far from God and his word. Today I hear and read of churches that had fallen so far from God and his word that they accepted and practice immorality like homosexual relationships forbidden in the bible. They teach anything other than the bible in their services and they accept and use non- believers in their worship services who promote secular music instead of music that honors God and his word.

These churches like ancient Israel need restoration – being brought back to God’s word and revival – brought back to life and spiritual health.

Even churches in the first century needed to be reminded of walking in the light of God’s word and John had to write to churches in his day who had let false teaching take place and as a result loose living entered their churches. In 1 John 1: 5 – 7 he starts to call the church or churches he was working with back to the word of Christ and living in the light of that word in their daily lives,

“This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light; in him there is no darkness at all. If we claim to have fellowship with him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live out the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin”.

Even these first century churches needed God’s work of restoration and revival in their member’s lives.

So the first concept of Asaph revival chorus is a call for God to restore and revive his people.

  1. The use of the priestly blessing of God’s face shinning

Then he uses in his chorus words that all Jewish people both ancient and modern are very familiar with the priestly Aaron blessing found in Numbers 6: 25,

“The Lord make his face shine upon you and be gracious to you; the Lord turn his face toward you and give you peace”.

 This blessing would have been used many times in the Temple services Asaph was involved in as a Levite leader of worship.

So he takes up part of this priestly blessing and uses it this way,

“Make your face shine upon us”

 What does it mean to have the face of God shine on us?

Leopold makes it clear how he interprets this idea in the chorus with these deceitful words,

“Let Thy gracious attitude be reflected in a countenance that reflects Thy good will”.

 Deuteronomy speaks of the judgment of God as God turning his face away from us or hiding his face from us, Deuteronomy 31: 18,

“And I will certainly hide my face on that day because of all their wickedness in turning to other Gods’.

 David linked God’s blessings to his face being shining on us in Psalm 67: 1,

“May God be gracious to us and bless us and make his face shine upon us”.

 Jesus strongly implies that looking into God’s face brings us not only blessings but help and protection as well in Matthew 18: 10,

“See that you do not look down on one of these little ones. For I tell you that their angels in heaven always see the face of my Father in heaven”.

 Finally in the darkest of times what we need is the light of God’s face shining on us, which could be called the smile of God. When David wrote Psalm 4 he was on the run from his angry snarling face son who sought to kill him but David looked to God during this dark difficult time and wrote Psalms 3, 4 and possibly 5 in response to his predicament.

In Psalm 4 verse 6 David speaks of the anger of his enemies and counters these angry snarling faces with the shining face of God, which he believed he could receive through prayer,

“Many are asking, “Who can show us any good?” Let the light of your face shine upon us, O Lord”.

 David seems to immediately receive the blessing of God’s face shining on him almost as he prays for it for the next verse we read,

“You have filled my heart with greater joy than when their grain and new wine abound”.

 David is saying here that even though he is out in the wilderness sleeping rough with no food or wine to drink he because he has God and his blessing on him is far happier than his enemies who have lots of precious food and wine to drink.

  1. The call for salvation

 The third and final part of Asaph revival chorus is the words,

“Come and save us”.

 This is a call for God to save the Northern Tribes from the destruction of the Assyrian invaders. He believes that only God can restore and revive these people and only God’s face shinning on them can bring them blessing and protection and now only God can save them.

This is a major concept or idea in Steven J. Cole paper on “Praying for Revival”, he writes,

“Genuine revivals begin when through the preaching of the Word, the Holy Spirit convicts people of their spiritual apathy and sin. At the same time, He opens their eyes to get a new glimpse of the holiness of God and of his wrath against sin”.

 What Cole is speaking of here is real salvation the kind that brings people to Christ and leads them on to active Christian service.

When God shinned his face on Israel they were being saved not Judged as David declares in a Psalm of thanks recorded in 1 Chronicles 16: 11 – 13,

“Look to the Lord and his strength; seek his face always. 12 Remember the wonders he has done, his miracles, and the judgments he pronounced,13 you his servants, the descendants of Israel, his chosen ones, the children of Jacob”.

His face shone on Israel when they were a nation of slaves in Egypt and he saved them out of bondage and then, 40 years later established them in The Promised land of Egypt. Asaph in his chorus wants God to do it again,

He wants a restoration or revival of Israel, he wants God’s face to shine on them, his good favour and grace to come upon them so that they can be saved.

Spiritually speaking we all need to be saved and this chorus is a good pattern for our own prayers for spiritual revival of our nation and our world.

Stephen Cole makes the wonderful connection between this Old Testament request for salvation and what I would call the New Testament connection that relates to us today with these words,

“In the Old Testament salvation often refers to physical deliverance from enemies. But there is also a spiritual element, in that the reason the nation was in danger from its enemies was that they had turned from the Lord”.

Cole goes on to point out that,

They knew the Jewish rituals and customs and practiced them religiously, but their hearts were far from God. So the psalmist’s cry for God to save them was at least in part a cry for him to save the people from sin and judgment”.

Cole concludes,

“But when the Spirit sends genuine revival, they see their need of Christ, repent of their sins, and are genuinely saved”.

I close this section with the next verse of Albert Midlane’s hymn, “Revive your Church, O Lord”.

Revive your church, O Lord

Exalt your precious name;

And, by your Holy Spirit come

And set our love aflame.

  1. 4 – 7   REVIVE YOUR DOWNTRODDEN PEOPLE

 This Psalm is a corporate Lament or complaint Psalm so now Asaph song moves into full lament / complaint mode.

I have broken this second section into two parts again. The first part is what I see as another verse of the song and the second part is that revival chorus again which has one major change to it, which I will comment on extensively.

  1. 4 – 6   The smoldering anger of God
  2. 7         Revival Chorus 2 – God Almighty
  1. 4 – 6   The smoldering anger of God

This second verse of what I believe is an ancient song contains a very familiar phrase,

“How long”.

 The start of this verse actually says,

“O Lord God Almighty, how long”

 “Lord God Almighty” could be translated, God of hosts – “Yahweh, God of armies” or “God who rules among the hosts of heaven” according to the commentator Joseph Benson. I will comment much more on this in my look at the second time the chorus comes up in this Psalm in verse 7, in the second part of this section.

For now I will focus on the phrase, “How long”.

We have come across this same Phase 7 times already in the Psalms (Ps. 4: 2, 6:3, 13: 1 -2, 35: 17, 62: 5, 74: 10 and 79: 5 and we will see it used four more times in future Psalms, 89: 46, 90: 13, 94: 3 and 119: 84.

So what does it mean and why does it come up so much in the Psalms?

Tremper Longman 111 answers the first question really well, what does it mean?

He writes,

“The phrase indicates that the sufferer has been long in his pain and sees no terminus in sight”,

 He goes on to explain,

“He appeals to God’s pity, suggesting that perhaps enough is enough”

 The problem of the invasion of the Northern kingdom of Israel went on for a number of years between 740BC to 722BC a period of 18 years or so and it would have been both a very difficult time to live through and also a very frustrating time thus the call to God,

“How long”

 This phrase is a popular phrase in the Psalms because so many of the Psalms are Psalms of Lament or complaint and they deal with very difficult days of either personal or national agony of both mind and spirit. The writers of the Psalms are calling out to God, “Howl long” will I suffer this or that problem in my life.

I think we can all relate to this cry for answers in our lives when we face times of testing and difficulty. Recently I had a terrible night of almost constant vomiting from a 48-hour stomach bug and that night seemed so long and agonising as I suffered hour on hour of pain and discomfort. I wondered that night, “How long” was it going to last.

One night of sickness pails into insignificance to days, months or even years of suffering I know some people have had to endure. Even during my one night of pain and discomfort I prayed desperately to God for it to stop.

Some might ask, why does God allow us to go through pain and suffering?

I don’t think there is a simple answer to that question and I will only point you to my Psalm talk on Psalm 6 which does contain a more detailed attempt at a answer to that question but for now all I will do is offer two encouraging quotes from the New Testament with a brief comment of each one.

  1. Hebrews 12: 2 – 3,

“Fix our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart”.

The writer to the Hebrews is saying when you have to suffer as a believer fix your eyes or focus on who Jesus is and what he endured for us, which was so much more painful and difficult than we would ever have to face. Jesus did it because he knew that by doing it he could achieve so much for us.

  1. Romans 8: 18,

“I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us”.

Paul is saying that no matter what we might have to suffer now is nothing compared to the glory we will eventually have in heaven. Men and women in the past have had to endure terrible deaths for their faith in Christ but they were able to endure that often because they knew where their suffering death would lead them to, the glory of being with Christ forever in heaven.

So Asaph now uses three expressions to express how the people of Israel are suffering and are being downtrodden and those expressions are:

  1. Their prayers are met with God’s smouldering anger (vs. 4)
  2. Their tears are their food and drink (vs. 5)
  3. Their enemies mock and hold them in contempt (vs. 6)

 Lets have a closer look at each of these three expressions,

  1. Their prayers are met with God’s smouldering anger (vs. 4)

Verse 4 says,

“How long will your anger smoulder against the prayers of your people”.

 Steven J. Cole writes,

“The psalmist mentions in verse 4 that God was even angry with the prayers of His people! The Hebrew literally says that He was smoked with them”.

 When someone in a comic or cartoon is depicted as being angry he often has smoke coming off his head.

The people were praying about the Assyrian problem yet God was both not answering these prayers and was even angry the people were praying them.

Why was God responding to his people’s prayers with anger”?

The answer lies simply in the way the people were praying to God at that time which is described for us in 2 Kings 17: 16 – 17,

“They forsook all the commands of the Lord their God and made for themselves two idols cast in the shape of calves, and an Asherah pole. They bowed down to all the starry hosts, and they worshiped Baal. 17 They sacrificed their sons and daughters in the fire. They practiced divination and sought omens and sold themselves to do evil in the eyes of the Lord, arousing his anger”.

Yes they were making earnest prayers but they were offering them to the God of the Bible using unbiblical worship and prayer techniques that even included the sacrifice of children. Some ancient cultures reasoned that God would listen to their prayers if they were willing to sacrifice their very own children.

The practice of child sacrifice was associated in the ancient world with the worship of fertility God’s like Baal and Molek and we read God’s reaction and condemnation of children offered to Molek in Leviticus 20: 2 – 5,

“Say to the Israelites: ‘Any Israelite or any foreigner residing in Israel who sacrifices any of his children to Molek is to be put to death. The members of the community are to stone him. I myself will set my face against him and will cut him off from his people; for by sacrificing his children to Molek, he has defiled my sanctuary and profaned my holy name. If the members of the community close their eyes when that man sacrifices one of his children to Molek and if they fail to put him to death, I myself will set my face against him and his family and will cut them off from their people together with all who follow him in prostituting themselves to Molek”.

The 2 Kings 17 passage mentions more than just child sacrifice was used for the Northern tribes to pray to God it included pagan shaped idols and even divination or other Satan inspired practices were employed in their prayers.

So God’s anger smoked against these prayers.

We as Christians certainly would not even think of offering up prayers to God using child sacrifice but when we consider what these ancient Israelites were doing was incorporating non biblical worship practices that non God of the bible believers were using around them to worship and pray to the God of the bible then we can see that even today some Christians do this.

I mentioned in another Psalm talk that my wife and I went to a Sunday Church worship service in Canada last year called a Jazz service.

This service featured a jazz group that played secular jazz music and the church bulletin even bragged that none of the jazz band players were believers. The message the minister gave was at best vague and had little to do with the word of God and the whole service was a celebration of man’s accomplishments in the field of jazz music.

This service left me cold and even angry that a secular jazz concert was promted as a worship service and I wondered what God thought of such a service.

I thought of the very words of Paul during this service in 2 Timothy 4: 2 – 5,

“For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths. But you, keep your head in all situations, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, discharge all the duties of your ministry”.

I left that church quickly after the service and chose not to speak with anyone there, as I knew no matter what I said I would have been shouted down as a narrow- minded bigot. Maybe that’s how the Israelites in the Northern Kingdom saw the many prophets God raised us to warn them of God’s anger and coming judgment for their many sins that included non- biblical worship practices.

  1. Their tears are their food and drink (vs. 5)

We then read these words in verse 5,

“You have fed them with the bread of tears; you have made them drink tears by the bowlful”.

This is of course a poetic description of the state of the people in the North of Israel during those 18 years or so of invasion by the Assyrian aggressors. One of the main ways ancient armies conquered the many walled cities they cam up against was by siege. During the last King of Israel’s rule, King Hoshea we read that Shalmaneser the Assyrian king who led the last invasion of Israel did this, 2 Kings 17: 5,

“The king of Assyria invaded Samaria and laid siege to it for three years”.

Ancient walled cities like Samaria tried to withstand the siege tactics with great stores of food and water but a siege of three years would easily outlast the best of preparations and both food, water and even wine would have been in short supply.

So verse 5 using the image of tears as food and water is a vivid way of portraying what it would have been like during this three -year siege of Samaria.

It also would fit as a good poetic picture of the entire Assyrian 18 year invasion of Israel as much suffering would have gone on like people eating and drinking tears instead of food and water or wine. Allan Harmon writes,

“Trouble and sorrow are pictured as being their daily food, so that tears substituted for bread and drink”.

Sometimes we might suffer because of our sins which the bible calls God’s discipline and the famous passage on this in the New Testament is Hebrews 12: 5 – 11,

“And have you completely forgotten this word of encouragement that addresses you as a father addresses his son? It says,“My son, do not make light of the Lord’s discipline, and do not lose heart when he rebukes you, because the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and he chastens everyone he accepts as his son.”Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as his children. For what children are not disciplined by their father? If you are not disciplined—and everyone undergoes discipline—then you are not legitimate, not true sons and daughters at all.

Moreover, we have all had human fathers who disciplined us and we respected them for it. How much more should we submit to the Father of spirits and live! 10 They disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; but God disciplines us for our good, in order that we may share in his holiness. 11 No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.

Let me say that I am not advocating that all suffering is a result of God disciplining us for some specific sins but when we are suffering it would be good for us to search our heats and minds and see if there is some unconfessed sin so we can truly come back to God and have his face shine on us again with blessing and help.

  1. Their enemies mock and hold them in contempt (vs. 6)

Finally this lament or complaint to God speaks of the contempt and mockery these Northern Israelites copped during God’s judgment on their many sins, verse 6 reads like this,

“You have made us a source of contention to our neighbours, and our enemies mock us”.

Allan Harmon sees this verse as speaking of the actual Assyrian invaders themselves with this comment,

“God was using the surrounding nations to bring judgment upon his own people”.

A few years on from this the southern Kingdom would suffer the same fate of their northern neighbours through the invasion of the Babylonians who by then had acted as God’s judging agents against the Assyrians. The previous Psalm to this, Psalm 79 was set in the context of the fall of Jerusalem to the Babylonians and verse 4 of that Psalm reads,

“We are objects of reproach to our neighbours, of scorn and derision to those around us”.

I mentioned in my comments on this in my last published Psalm talk that the Babylonians were known to enlist soldiers from nations they conquered so other nations through these soldiers could have directly conveyed the reproach and scorn to the people of Jerusalem during that great siege and invasion.

Likewise the Assyrians did the same as did in later years the Romans, they offered conquered nations the opportunity of joining their great armies to fight for them.

Maybe here in verse 6 the contempt and mockery comes directly from these foreign soldiers in the Assyrian army.

Even today the Christian church is held in contempt and is mocked when its members are seemed to or actually have been caught out to sin or hypocrisy.

The New Testament warns the church about the danger of making a bad witness amongst non-believers. Peter encourages his readers to live good lives among non-believers in 1 Peter 2: 12,

“Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us”.

We could easily turn this verse around and see the seriousness of not living good lives among non-believers and see that this would not glorify God but could help to bring down the idea of God and that would have awful consequences for us on the day God visits us which is obviously the day of judgement.

I have had to speak to non-believers over the years that mock me because I dare believe in a God and a faith in that God that is the same as the faith a former friend or family member supposedly had who did the wrong thing by them.

All I can say to such people is, “Christians are not perfect they are just forgiven” as the famous car bumper sticker says. Then all I can do is try and show them the love of Christ they obviously did not receive or see in that former friend or family member.

  1. 7   Revival Chorus 2 – God Almighty

We read again in verse 7 the chorus of what I believe is an ancient Hebrew song and a writer of poems particularly poems for songs we call lyrics I know both the function and value of a really good chorus.

The function of the chorus is to sum up the main point of the song in a simple and attractive fashion. The verses develop the ideas and message of the song but the chorus seeks to capture the central main message of the song.

On a recent teaching trip to Myanmar I took with me a number of new songs that I thought had simple but catchy choruses with the view of getting my hearers mainly young Bible or Theological students who at best had English as a second language to sing with me the chorus. One song was a great hit and I had many students singing the catchy chorus of this song. It was my song for my Psalm 57 talk called “God’s love and faithfulness”. The chorus goes like this,

God’s love and faithfulness

In Jesus we see.

God’s love and faithfulness

He’s always with me.

This song proved the value and importance of a good catchy chorus as this chorus represented my main New Testament application of my understanding of Psalm 57 and I could hear students leaving the lecture hall or church humming my songs chorus and even muttering its words.

Asaph wrote his chorus we learnt the first time it appeared with three main elements:

  1. The call for Restoration or Revival
  2. The use of the priestly blessing of God’s face shinning
  3. The call for salvations

He even sneakily uses what all Hebrews in the past and present know very well the priestly blessing of Aaron from Numbers 6: 25,

“The Lord make his face shine upon you and be gracious to you; the Lord turn his face toward you and give you peace”.

The one difference of this chorus here in verse 7 compared to verse 3 is a special name of God,

“God Almighty”

 I mentioned in my discussion of this name when it appeared in verse 4,

“Lord God Almighty” could be translated, God of hosts – “Yahweh, God of armies” or “God who rules among the hosts of heaven” according to the commentator Joseph Benson”.

So Asaph slips into his chorus, which is a call for God to Restore or revive the people of Israel and particularly the people of Israel in the Northern Kingdom, a significant powerful name for God.

Albert Barnes draws this conclusion for the use of this special name for God here in this chorus,

 “This indicates greater earnestness; a deeper sense of the need of the interposition of God, indicated by the reference to his attribute as the leader of hosts or armies, and therefore able to save them”.

 The reasoning goes is that if God is the ruler and leader of the heavenly hosts then he is far greater and more powerful than any human forces like these Assyrian invaders.

So far as our prayers for revival we need to remember that we are constantly caught up in a great spiritual battle as Paul tells us in Ephesians 6: 12,

“ For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms”.

These evil forces are seeking to stop true return to God and his word. Paul knew that his God was far greater and more powerful than any force in heaven and earth and that is why he encourages us to fight this battle with the power, strength and protection of God himself, Ephesians 6: 10 – 11,

“Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. 11 Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes”.

The Devil will do his best to stop the church being revived but with the power of God and his word, Ephesians 6: 16 – 17,

“In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. 17 Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God”.

And with real and sincere praying in the Spirit of God, Ephesians 6: 18,

“And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people”.

Revival and restoration of God’s church can come today.

I close this second section of this Psalm with the words of Albert Midlane’s fourth verse of his hymn Revive your Church, O Lord.

Revive your church, O Lord

Give us a thirst for you,

And hunger for the bread of life

Our spirits to renew.

  1. 8 – 19 REVIVE YOUR TRANSPLANTED PEOPLE

 We now move into the third and final section of the Psalm, which could easily be two sections as it is 11 verses long but uses one poetic image throughout it, The Vine.

So this final section is divided into two parts:

  1. 8 – 17 Revive the vine God planted
  2. 18 -19 Revival chorus 3 – The results of Revival
  1. 8 – 17 Revive the vine God planted

 I will break this final section into two aspects of the vine. We will look at verses:

  1. 8 – 11 The transplanted vine
  2. 12 – 17 The destruction of the transported vine.

We move now to the well used bible image of the vine representing God’s special people cultivated by God himself. I say well used because it appears in a number of places in the Old Testament and of course it is in the New Testament at the start of Jesus teaching in John 15.

In the Old Testament the vine image first appears in Genesis 49: 22, which is part of Jacobs blessing for his 12 sons and verse 22 is his blessing on Joseph,

“Joseph is a fruitful vine, a fruitful vine near a spring, whose branches climb over a wall”.

 Which seems to be the reference Asaph has in mind in this third section of his song because he started his song speaking of particularly Joseph being led by God his Shepherd and now he speaks of the vine God brought out of Egypt and then of the breaking down of the wall the vine climbs over.

Other references to Israel being God’s vine can be found in Isaiah 5: 1 – 7, Jeremiah 2: 21 and Hosea 14: 7.

So let’s look at what Asaph has to say in the two parts of this third section that deal with Israel being God’s transplanted vine.

  1. 8 – 11 The transplanted vine

Verse 8 begins Asaph description of God’s transplanted vine,

“You brought a vine out of Egypt; you drove out the nations and planted it”.

 Israel as a nation with a homeland owed its existence to God alone. God moved Jacobs growing family into Egypt and over a 400 year period this family developed into a large tribe but they were for a long time in Egypt a tribe of slaves. Then God miraculously saved them out of Egypt.

God then led this tribe of people through the wilderness, blessing them with even more members of this tribe and by the time he led them into the Promised Land this large tribe had become a small nation with a homeland.

So the image of Israel being a transplanted vine is very appropriate and God being the gardener of this vine or nation is also very real and instructive. Jesus makes this image very real for us, the church which is the grafted on branches of his vine or chosen people. Jesus says in John 15: 1,

“I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener”.

 Up unto the coming of Jesus the Jews where exclusively God’s chosen people but this was broken down by the coming of Jesus who through his death on the cross for our sins has established a vine or chosen people that is made up of people from every nation on earth as Paul declares in Galatians 3: 28 – 29,

“There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. 29 If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise”.

At the end of Paul’s letter to the Galatians he speaks to the church their, made up of both converted Jews and Gentile (non- Jews) and says this, Galatians 6: 16,

“Peace and mercy to all who follow this rule, even to the Israel of God”.

So Paul understood that God’s vine – his special chosen people were now because of what Christ had done on the cross the Church of Jesus Christ the New Israel of God.

In verses 9 – 11 Asaph then spells out in more detail how God actually transplanted his special people, the vine. We will see two ways God transplanted this vine – nation:

  1. He cultivated the ground (vs. 9)
  2. He made it grow prosperously (vs. 10 – 11)

Lets look at these verses a little more deeply,

  1. He cultivated the ground (vs. 9)

Verse 9 makes a simple but clear description of how God actually transplanted the nation of Israel from slaves in Egypt to the Promised Land by preparing the way for them to do it,

“You cleared the ground for it, and it took root and filled the land”.

 Like a good gardener God did a lot of work on the ground the vine was put in to make sure it took root and grew successfully. When I was a Youth worker in a church in a large housing area out side of Sydney I learnt the value of good garden cultivation. The Youth Worker I replaced lived in the Youth workers cottege burnt over many years rubbish in the house’s backyard. This meant I had a pile of mature potash in my yard. My next store neighbor an older retired non Christian man one day asked me if he could have some of my pot ash for his vegetable garden.

I said yes if he came in and taught me how to grow vegetables. The man did and he showed me how to prepare the ground using the potash and fertilizer and I grew many wonderful vegetables for the next three years I lived in that house.

Verse 9 is telling us that God went before the armies of Israel and helped clear the ground of the Promised Land so that this ground preparation helped Israel develop into a large and prosperous nation.

Jesus did not just use the horticultural analogy of the vine to convey spiritual truth he also used for instance the horticultural image of Harvesting a crop to speak of the great cultivation God has done for us in the souls of men and women and how he wants us to be his harvesting workers, Matthew 9: 37 – 38,

“Jesus then said to his disciples, ‘The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field”.

Albert Barnes makes this interesting and informative comment on this verse,

“The harvest truly is plenteous … – Another beautiful image. A waving field of golden grain invites many reapers and demands haste. By the reference to the harvest here, he meant that the multitude of people that flocked to his ministry was great. The people expected the Messiah. They were prepared to receive the gospel; but the laborers were few. He directed them, therefore, to pray to the Lord of the harvest to send forth reapers. God is the proprietor of the great harvest of the world, and he only can send people to gather it in”.

  1. He made it grow prosperously (vs. 10 – 11)

Both verse 10 and verse 11 speak of how prosperous God helped his vine – his chosen people to grow in his Promised Land.

“The mountains were covered with its shade, the mighty cedars with branches. It sent out its boughs to the sea, its shoots as far as the river”.

 The prosperity of the growing vine is now described in the form of the extent and strength of its growth. It covered a wide area and the area this vine covered is a poetic description of the land of Israel at the height of its existence, probably during the later reign of David and particularly in the reign of his son Solomon.

The northern extent of Israel was the area we now call Lebanon, which is poetically described in verse tens reference to the famous cedar trees that grow there. The eastern border is poetically described in verse 11 by the mention of the sea, the Mediterranean sea and the river in the same verse poetically represents the western border, which is of course is the river Jordon.

The strength of the nation Israel at its height of existence is poetically spoken of as the branches of the vine being as big as the branches of the cedar tree in verse 10. Israel owed the extent of the land to the cultivation work of their God, the God of the bible.

The church owes its existence growth in this world also to God and not our work. Paul makes this clear to the Corinthian church in 1 Corinthians 3: 6,

“I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God made it grow”.

 Many church growth experts today emphasize the role we play in seeing the church grow and we certainly have a role to play but what they often fail to emphasize is that only God can make it grow so we must depend on him in prayer for revival and growth.

  1. 12 – 17 The destruction of the transported vine.

We come then to the second half of the vine – God’s chosen people image and now the positive nature of this image changes to a very negative one. I have broken the verses in this section into three parts,

  1. The brake down of God’s transplanted vine (12 – 13)
  2. A call for God to re-grow his transplanted vine (14 – 15)
  3. God’s judgment on his transplanted vine (16 – 17)

Lets then have a closer look at each of these three parts:

  1. The brake down of God’s transplanted vine (12 – 13)

Asaph then asks a rather desperate question of God in verse 12,

“Why have you broken down its walls so that all whom pass by pick its grapes?”

 This question is not answered directly here but verse 4 seems to say Asaph knew the answer because verse 4 asks another question that really is a form of statement of the spiritual problems Israel had at this time,

“How long will your anger smolder against the prayers of your people?”

 Asaph knew they had turned from the God of the bible and his clear directive for prayer and worship not to be pagan prayer and worship that included things like child sacrifice and idol worship. The people of Israel through their rebellious sin had become morally and spiritually bankrupt. Therefore God allowed foreign powers like Assyria to invade it.

These foreign powers are represented here in verse 12 by the term,

“All whom pass by pick its grapes”

 The image of the vine growing on a wall and the wall being broken down could also have a double meaning or idea as the walled cities of the Northern Kingdom like its capital Samaria would have had their walls broken down as the invaders first lay siege and then broke down their walled defenses as they were overrun by them.

 These foreign invaders are also spoken of in verse 13,

“Boars from the forest ravage it and the creatures of the field feed on it”.

 The boar or pig is a good image of a foreign invader as pork was a forbidden food for Israel to eat and the idea of wild boars or pigs feeding on the people from Israel would have been a horrifying thought to a person from Israel in that time.

Creatures of the field feeding on God’s chosen people, grapes from the vine God planted is a image spoken of in the previous Psalm 79 verse 2b which I believe describes the invasion of the Babylonians of Jerusalem,

“As food to the birds of the air, the flesh of your servants to the beasts of the earth”.

 God’s judgment is not a pretty sight and Jesus gave lots of warning to God’s judgment to come like Jesus speaking of God’s judgment that is coming being like trees being cut down and thrown in the fire in Matthew 3: 10,

“The ax is already at the root of the trees, and every tree that does not produce fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire”.

 Jesus speaks of God’s pruning of the vine – his chosen people, the Church in John 15: 2,

“He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit”.

 Then in the same verse he speaks of positive pruning for those who do bear fruit,

“While every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful”.

 This obvious word of encouragement for Christians who go out into the world to serve God and help others come to Christ.

This success of bearing fruit is not a individual thing but comes as we, the church – the true vine – God chosen people unite in Christ and work together for him as John 15: 4 says,

“Remain in me, and I will remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me”.

  1. A call for God to re-grow his transplanted vine (14 – 15)

Then the main theme of Asaph song, revival or restoration re- appears in verses 14 as he calls to God to grow the broken down transplanted vine again,

“Return to us, O God Almighty! Look down from heaven and see! Watch over this vine”.

 This verse suggests that what has happened or is happening to Israel in the North appears to be like God leaving them. Indeed God did not stop the Assyrian invasion of the Northern Kingdom as he did not stop the Babylonian invasion of the Southern Kingdom years later. So the call,

“Return to us, O God Almighty”

 Is a fair thing to call for from God as Israel compared to the super powers of its day like Assyria was outgunned in every way. Assyria had both superior numbers of soldiers and resources. It would be like New Zealand today trying to defeat the USA or even defend itself against a full on attack from US forces.

However if God chose to answer that call, he the Lord Almighty or The Lord of Heavenly Hosts would make an enormous difference as he did some twenty years later. The smaller southern Kingdom in 701BC faced the mighty Assyrian army when they lay siege of Jerusalem. God fought for them with his Angel of death and thousands of Assyrians were killed and the Assyrians were sent packing back to where they cam from never to bother Judah again.

God in 701BC looked down from heaven and saw not just his chosen people – transplanted vine in great trouble but he heard their desperate genuine prayer for help that came from a true faith in him by their King Hezekiah.

Hezekiah’s reaction to the siege and the challenge the Assyrian commander made to him and his God is recorded in 2 Kings 19: 1 – 4,

“When King Hezekiah heard this, he tore his clothes and put on sackcloth and went into the temple of the Lord. He sent Eliakim the palace administrator, Shebna the secretary and the leading priests, all wearing sackcloth, to the prophet Isaiah son of Amoz. They told him, “This is what Hezekiah says: This day is a day of distress and rebuke and disgrace, as when children come to the moment of birth and there is no strength to deliver them. It may be that the Lord your God will hear all the words of the field commander, whom his master, the king of Assyria, has sent to ridicule the living God, and that he will rebuke him for the words the Lord your God has heard. Therefore pray for the remnant that still survives.”

Hezekiah could react like this because he was a king who truly trusted in the God of the bible and sought to worship him correctly and also sought to obey his laws as we read of in 2 Kings 18: 5 – 8,

“Hezekiah trusted in the Lord, the God of Israel. There was no one like him among all the kings of Judah, either before him or after him. He held fast to the Lord and did not stop following him; he kept the commands the Lord had given Moses. And the Lord was with him; he was successful in whatever he undertook. He rebelled against the king of Assyria and did not serve him. From watchtower to fortified city, he defeated the Philistines, as far as Gaza and its territory”.

It is interesting that in 701BC one of the court officials who brought the message of what the Assyrian commander to king Hezekiah was named Joah and is called a son of Asaph, 2 Kings 18: 37, which means he was probably a direct descendant of Asaph and could be the Asaph who wrote this Psalm.

So Asaph our writer of Psalm 80 wants God to return to his people Israel but what he does not say or ask for is for Israel to return to God. Hezekiah proved what true turning to God could lead to. God told Solomon how true revival can come to God’s chosen people in 2 Chronicles 7: 14,

“If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land”.

 Israel in the north stopped being the kingdom of priests to the world when they adopted worldly religious practices and ways of living so as God’s vine they stopped being fruitful, Steen J. Cole says this,

“The analogy of Israel as God’s vine implies that they were to bear fruit for him. God complains that Israel as His vine has only produced worthless grapes”.

 So God broke down the supporting wall and foreign invaders ate the grapes on the vine. Now he will not go back on his acts of judgment so he will not return to his people to save hem.

Verse 15 makes it even clearer whom Asaph wants God Almighty to help,

“The root your right hand has planted the son you raised up for yourself”.

 Allan Harmon sheds great light on this tricky verse with these words,

“The Psalmist pleads with the divine gardener to come and take care of his own precious plant that he placed in the garden of Canaan”.

 The son here is another poetic term for the nation of Israel were also known in the bible as The Children of God, Deuteronomy 14: 1,

“You are the children of the Lord your God”.

 In other places they are literally called God’s Son, as Asaph will declare in Psalm 82: 6,

“I said, ‘You are “god”; you are all sons of the Most High”.

 This idea of us being God’s children through Christ and Paul even speaks of us as God’s children and heirs of his kingdom in Romans 8: 16 – 17,

“The Spirit Himself testifies with our spirit that we are children of God, 17 and if children, heirs also, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him so that we may also be glorified with Him”.

This is because as followers of Christ who are now made up of both Jews and non – Jews, people from every nation on earth we are God’s new chosen nation and royal priesthood who take the message of God’s love and salvation to the world as Peter makes it clear in 1 Peter 2: 9 – 10,

But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God’s own possession, so that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light; 10 for you once were not a people, but now you are the people of God; you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy”.

  1. God’s judgment on his transplanted vine (16 – 17)

Asaph has just pleaded for God to return to Israel in the north and save them, God’s transplanted vine but he seems to come back to the reality of Israel’s situation which is they are suffering God’s judgment because of there many sins, verse 16 reads this way,

“Your vine is cut down, it is burned with fire; at your rebuke your people perish”.

 Sin is a serious business and God takes it very seriously. Today sinning seems to be considered fun and even acceptable which was probably the case in Asaph day particularly in the northern kingdom.

When people today suffer because of their sins they so quickly turn on God and blame him. They refuse to accept the fact that sin is unacceptable to God and he must judge it. Paul makes this clear in a passage like 2 Thessalonians 1: 8 – 9,

He will punish those who do not know God and do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. They will be punished with everlasting destruction and shut out from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might”.

This idea of being cut off from God is expressed in verse 16 as,

“Cut down”.

 Maybe the people of the Northern Kingdom and later the southern Kingdom of Judah took their privileged position as God’s chosen people for granted. I’m sure that many people in the Northern Kingdom still thought they were still serving God but bit by bit as they mixed non biblical worship practices with the ones God had laid down they quickly drifted from true faith in him.

The New Testament warns even Christians of the dangers of religious compromise and the danger of drifting away from God. I like these words in Hebrews 2: 1 – 3 on this,

“We must pay the most careful attention, therefore, to what we have heard, so that we do not drift away. For since the message spoken through angels was binding, and every violation and disobedience received its just punishment, how shall we escape if we ignore so great a salvation? This salvation, which was first announced by the Lord, was confirmed to us by those who heard him”.

The people of Northern Israel ignored even God’s prophets who warned them over and over again against the danger of turning from God to the worship of idols, for not obeying his laws and for using non -biblical worship practices that even included child sacrifice.

For this they were God’s vine cut down and thrown in the fire of his judgment. God rebuked his people for their sins and that meant they perished at the hands of the Assyrian invaders.

Then Asaph gives us a very strange verse, verse 17,

“Let your hand rest on the man at your right hand, the son of man you have raised up for yourself”.

I found Joseph Barnes very helpful in understanding the first part of this verse namely,

“Let your hand rest on the man at your right hand”.

 Barnes writes,

“Let thy hand be upon the man of thy right hand – Luther renders this, “Let thy hand guard the folks of thy right hand, and the people whom thou hast powerfully chosen.” The right hand is the place of honor; and the phrase “the man of thy right hand” means one who occupies such a position of honor”.

 Israel as God’s chosen people were in fact then the people who were in the privileged position of being on God’s right hand.

Jesus is spoken of being raised and ascended to this privilege position of the right hand of God as Paul says in Romans 8: 34,

“Who is he that 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”.

 So Asaph calls for God to help his special people who are at his right hand.

But what does the next expression, “the son of man you have raised up for yourself” mean?

Some commentators see the term, “Son of man” and immediately think of Jesus who favored that description of himself in the Gospels. This would mean that this part of the verse is a reference to the Messiah but again Joseph Barnes clears this up with these words,

“It is true that the appellation “the Son of man” was a favorite designation which the Lord Jesus applied to himself to denote that he was truly a man, and to indicate his connection with human nature; but the phrase is often used merely to denote a man. Here it refers to the king or civil ruler”.

 So I think like Barnes that this phrase is a reference to the king the God designated ruler of the chosen people of God who sit at the right hand of God.

We know that Israel in fact once they split into the Northern Kingdom rejected the God appointed king that was of the line of David. However even in the divided kingdom of Israel their kings were appointed by God as we read for instance in 2 Kings 9: 1 – 3,

“The prophet Elisha summoned a man from the company of the prophets and said to him, “Tuck your cloak into your belt, take this flask of olive oil with you and go to Ramoth Gilead. When you get there, look for Jehu son of Jehoshaphat, the son of Nimshi. Go to him, get him away from his companions and take him into an inner room. Then take the flask and pour the oil on his head and declare, ‘This is what the Lord says: I anoint you king over Israel.’ Then open the door and run; don’t delay!”

 The connection then of this verse and the idea of the Messiah is that all the kings of the Northern Kingdom including Jehu turned out to be failures in the eyes of God and only ended up leading the people astray into idol worship and other wicked practices.

It would be through a descendant of the great king David that this would change and that descendant was of course the Lord Jesus Christ. Revelation 17: 14 makes it clear who this great coming king will be. It is Jesus and he will lead us all to ultimate victory over all God’s great enemies,

“They will wage war against the Lamb, but the Lamb will triumph over them because he is Lord of lords and King of kings—and with him will be his called, chosen and faithful followers.”

  1. 18 -19 Revival chorus 3 – The results of Revival

I have decided to include verse 18 with this final revival chorus as it acts as the perfect bridge to the final chorus. Just as many modern songs have a bridge that links ideas in the verse to as chorus or another verse so verse 18 does this here.

Verse 18 says,

“Then we will not turn away from you; revive us, and we will call on your name”.

 The word then obviously links the ideas of this verse with what he has already said or better still asked God for. He asked God to do four things in the verses leading up to this verse and they are:

  1. Return to Us (vs. 14a)
  2. Look down on us (vs.14b)
  3. Watch over (vs. 14b)
  4. Let your hand rest (vs. 17)

If God does this Asaph says they will do three things:

  1. We will not turn from you
  2. We will be revived
  3. We will call on your name

Lest have a quick look at each of these three things;

  1. We will not turn from you

Unfortunately the Old Testament proved over and over again what Asaph says he and the rest of the nation will do does not usually happen. This is because over and over again the people of Israel were helped and delivered from their enemies and over and over again they went back to sin and disobedience.

The book of judges sets down this pattern of turning away from God and God acting judgment through a non Israelite invader or uprising, the people turn to God for help and God raises up a judge and frees the people from their enemies and then they responded to this by turning back to their rebellious ways.

Judges 2: 18 – 19 sets down this sad but all so true pattern of the people of Israel during the time of Judges,

“Whenever the Lord raised up a judge for them, he was with the judge and saved them out of the hands of their enemies as long as the judge lived; for the Lord relented because of their groaning under those who oppressed and afflicted them. 19 But when the judge died, the people returned to ways even more corrupt than those of their ancestors, following other gods and serving and worshiping them. They refused to give up their evil practices and stubborn ways”.

This pattern did not stop when God ended the time of the Judges but it continued on through the time of the kings of Israel and Judah.

  1. We will be revived

Certainly if God chose to revive his people they would be revived and were revived on a number of occasions during their long history. However as I have already pointed out often this turning back to God did not last long and soon the people slipped back to pagan worship and ways as Judges 2: 19 told us,

19 But when the judge died, the people returned to ways even more corrupt than those of their ancestors, following other gods and serving and worshiping them. They refused to give up their evil practices and stubborn ways”.

This has been true of the Christian church throughout its long history revival or renewal has happened but it did not last and the church continually fell back into worldly ways.

This speaks to me of our great need for the love and power of the Lord Jesus Christ for without him we are merely dead in out sins. Stephen J. Cole says this,

“We need to understand that salvation is not a human thing, where a person of his own will decides to ask Jesus into his heart. Salvation is when God imparts new life to dead sinners. He changes their hearts so that they believe and obey”.

The reality is this is something that needs to happen to people of each generation and it only comes through the preaching of the word of God and particularly the message of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. When one generation comes along and turns away from the word of God and that Gospel message then that generation and the next misses out on the power of God and his word. As Paul says to the younger Timothy towards the end of his life and ministry, 2 Timothy 2: 8 – 10,

Remember Jesus Christ, raised from the dead, descended from David. This is my gospel, for which I am suffering even to the point of being chained like a criminal. But God’s word is not chained. 10 Therefore I endure everything for the sake of the elect that they too may obtain the salvation that is in Christ Jesus, with eternal glory.

  1. We will call on your name

Finally in this bridge to the final singing of the chorus we read the words,

“And we will call on your name”

 What Israel was doing wrong Asaph says they will now do right, that is instead of calling on the name of Baal or some other false God they will call on the God of the bibles name.

This was an admirable desire but Israel we know failed to do this as they continued right to the end to turn back to the God of the Bible and call on his name not just with their lips but by their deeds as well.

It was James, the half brother of Jesus who gave us the wonderful and practical teaching of putting our faith into action of proof we actually have true faith in God.

He speaks of this a couple times in his little but power packed letter. I like the way he speaks of it in chapter 2: 18 – 26,

“But someone will say, “You have faith; I have deeds.” Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by my deeds. 19 You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that—and shudder.20 you foolish person, do you want evidence that faith without deeds is useless? 21 Was not our father Abraham considered righteous for what he did when he offered his son Isaac on the altar? 22 You see that his faith and his actions were working together, and his faith was made complete by what he did.

 23 And the scripture was fulfilled that says, “Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness,” and he was called God’s friend. 24 You see that a person is considered righteous by what they do and not by faith alone.

25 In the same way, was not even Rahab the prostitute considered righteous for what she did when she gave lodging to the spies and sent them off in a different direction? 26 As the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without deeds is dead”.

So Asaph might say:

“We will call on your name”

However the people of the Northern Kingdom of Israel failed to do so and for that God’s judgment in the form of the Assyrian invaders came upon them in 722BC.

Finally we come to the actual revival chorus for the final third and final time in verse 19,

“Restore us, O Lord God Almighty; make your face shine upon us, that we may be saved”.

 I remind you again the three elements of this chorus:

  1. The call for Restoration or Revival
  2. The use of the priestly blessing of God’s face shinning
  3. The call for salvation

I wont go over these three elements again but simply commend what I said earlier in the talk.

I close with one more final quote from Steven J. Cole, the final verse of Albert Midlane’s hymn Revive my Church, my own original revival for God’s people song and a prayer.

“Jesus is the one who brings true and lasting revival to his people. Like the Psalmist, we may or may not see revival in our day. But we should still pray earnestly. The ultimate fulfillment of our prayers for revival will be when Jesus comes in power and glory to reign”.

 Revive your church, O Lord

And let your power be shown;

The gifts and graces shall be ours

The glory yours alone!

REVIVE YOUR PEOPLE NOW

(Based on Psalm 80)

Revive your people now

And lead us every hour

Be our shepherd, savior King

And save us now to sing.

 

Chorus:

 

Restore us God above

And show us now your love

Shine on us your face O Lord

And save us by your word.

 

Revive your people now

And help us Lord each hour

To battle this worlds many sins

O help us Lord to win.

 

Chorus:

 

Restore us God above

And show us now your love

Shine on us your face O Lord

And save us by your word.

 

Revive your people now

And give us now your power

Help us to produce fruit for you

And remain always true.

 

Bridge:

 

O Jesus work in us

To be a blessing Lord

By taking your message to the world

And proclaim your mighty word.

 

Chorus:

Restore us God above

And show us now your love

Shine on us your face O Lord

And save us by your word.

 

By: Jim Wenman

PRAYER:

 Father in heaven we pray that you will revive your church today. Renew us by your Holy Spirit through your powerful word. Give us a new vision of who you are and what you have done for us in your Son Jesus Christ. Help us to turn from our many sins and understand afresh that they are all forgiven in Christ Jesus our Savior and our Lord. Help us to take the message of the Gospel to the world and may your Spirit open the hearts of the people who hear this message so that they also can know your wonderful life changing love. In Jesus name we pray Amen.

 

PSALM 79 TALK: THE GLORY OF THE FORGIVING GOD

PSALM 79 TALK: THE GLORY OF THE FORGIVING GOD

 (A Psalm that explores the horrors of God’s judgment on his peoples many sins and looks to God’s glory as the only hope for forgiveness and restoration)

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

 INTRODUCTION

 I remembered recently a story I used a lot in my children and youth ministry days that explains the Gospel message so well. It tells the story of a young man who is living a life that is simply out of control. This young man comes from a loving family yet he continually disobeys his parents and does many selfish and foolish things. One night the young man decides to steal an expensive new car and as he drives the car madly that night he smashes up the car and ends up locked up by the local police.

The next morning the young man is taken before a magistrate who turns out to be his very own father. The young man admits his guilt to his father and his father passes sentence on his son and gives him the maximum penalty of the payment for the smashed car plus a $20,000 fine or he will spend the next 2 years locked up in juvenile prison.

The magistrate then takes off his court robes and goes down to the bailiff and pulls out his bank card and pays for the car and the $20,000 fine he imposed on his son setting his son free from all charges.

This what God has done for us and many of the New Testament writers call Jesus paying for our sins on the cross as the greatest expression of God’s glory as the writer to the Hebrews says in Hebrews 2:9.

“But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels, now crowned with glory and honor because he suffered death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone”.

 Paul makes it clear in a number of places that we are only saved from God’s wrath because of the glorious deeds of Christ on the cross, Romans 5: 9,

“Since we have been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God’s wrath through him”.

 Psalm 79 makes an appeal to God’s glory as the grounds for his people’s forgiveness and deliverance,

“Help us, O God our Savior, for the glory of your name deliver us and forgive our sins for your name sake”.

 This Psalm was definitely written a long time after the previous Psalm 78 as it deals with the destruction of Jerusalem and its Temple by the Babylonians in 587BC while Psalm 78 concludes with the instillation of the Kingship of David and the setting up of the Tabernacle / eventually Temple in Jerusalem.

Yet both Psalms are said to have been written by a person named Asaph. I spoke of this problem in my introduction to Psalm 74 which I believe was written around the same time by a man named Asaph and this is what I said about the authorship of that Psalm,

“The historical bible character called Asaph lived during the reigns of David and Solomon not during the invasion of the Babylonians.

 However we read in a number of places that at the time of the return from exile around 539BC descendants of Asaph emerged taking prominent places in the worship of these returning Jews. Ezra 3: 10

 “When the builders laid the foundation of the temple of the Lord, the priests in their vestments and with trumpets and the Levites (the sons of Asaph) with cymbals, took their places to praise the Lord as prescribed by David king of Israel”.

 One of these “Sons of Asaph” or one of their fathers probably wrote this Psalm a few years before the return from exile. This Asaph, the writer of the Psalm would have been part of a very small remnant of true believers left behind in Israel as we read in 2 Kings 25: 11 – 12,

 “Nebuzaradan the commander of the guard carried into exile the people who remained in the city, along with the rest of the populace and those who had deserted to the king of Babylon. 12 But the commander left behind some of the poorest people of the land to work the vineyards and fields”.

The writer of this Psalm, Psalm 79 is probably the same person who wrote Psalm 74 and would then be a descendant of the original historical figure of Asaph. We cannot know this for sure but it is a plausible explanation of who this Asaph was.

The Psalm starts with a very awful description of what God did in judgment to Judah and Jerusalem in 587BC through the invasion of the Babylonians and then moves into a prayer for restoration and forgiveness for the people of Judah. The Psalm is a classic corporate lament which simply means complaint which like most Laments Psalm ends in some form of praise to God as we see in verse 13 a promise of future praise if God answers the writers request for deliverance and forgiveness.

I hope you will learn from this Psalm first the seriousness of sin in the face of God’s certain judgment. Then I hope you will see the wonderful glory of God in the person of Jesus Christ who died for our sins on the cross so that God’s penalty for our sins could be totally paid for and we can then be forgiven of all our sins like the young man in the story had his penalty paid by his very own father who had just given his son the maximum penalty for his crimes.

My breakdown for this Psalm is:

  1. 1 – 4 GOD’S TERRIBLE JUDGMENT OF SIN
  1. 1 – 3 The horror of God’s judgment
  2. 4       The disgrace of God’s judgment
  1. 5 – 8   A PRAYER FOR GOD’S FORGIVENESS
  1. 5 – 7 A plea for God to turn away from his judgment
  2. 8       A plea for God’s forgiveness
  1. 9 – 13 FORGIVENESS AND THE GLORY OF GOD
  1. 9 – 11   Forgiveness and God’s glory
  2. 12 – 13 Judgment and praise
  1. 1 – 4 GOD’S TERRIBLE JUDGMENT OF SIN

This Psalm opens with a graphic picture of what God did to Judah and particularly its capitol Jerusalem when he chose to finally to judge his people for their many sins. We saw in Psalm 78 how Israel in the north had turned away from God and chose to worship the manmade Canaanite God’s. This involved worship prostitution and child sacrifice and in the time of King Manasseh only a couple of kings before the Babylonian invasion we read this terrible description of how bad things got in Judah, 2 Kings 21: 2 – 6,

“ He did evil in the eyes of the Lord, following the detestable practices of the nations the Lord had driven out before the Israelites. He rebuilt the high places his father Hezekiah had destroyed; he also erected altars to Baal and made an Asherah pole, as Ahab king of Israel had done. He bowed down to all the starry hosts and worshiped them. He built altars in the temple of the Lord, of which the Lord had said, “In Jerusalem I will put my Name.” In the two courts of the temple of the Lord, he built altars to all the starry hosts. He sacrificed his own son in the fire, practiced divination, sought omens, and consulted mediums and spiritists. He did much evil in the eyes of the Lord, arousing his anger”.

So the full expression of the anger or wrath of God against his peoples many sins is now described in verses 1 to 4 and I have broken this first section of the Psalm into 2 parts:

  1. 1 – 3 The horror of God’s judgment
  2. 4       The disgrace of God’s judgment
  1. 1 – 3 The horror of God’s judgment

The Psalm starts with a simple but devastating description of what God’s judgment looked like in Asaph time, verse 1,

“O God, the nations have invaded your inheritance; they have defiled your holy temple they have reduced Jerusalem to rubble”.

So, the Nations which of course is Babylon who enlisted soldiers from the many nations they conquered to fight for them invaded Judah which the opening verse calls, your inheritance, and this is a link with the last Psalm in verse 71, which says,

“To be the shepherd of his people Jacob, of Israel his inheritance”.

God chose the tiny nation of Israel to be his special people who would be a kingdom of priests to the world, Exodus 19: 6,

“You will be for me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation”.

This invasion of Israel by the Babylonians then focuses on what happened in this judgment of the Nation in Jerusalem.

The other day I saw a short documentary on a recent archeological dig on part of Jerusalem that revealed the devastation the Babylonians did to Jerusalem at that time. They found badly burnt building materials and many arrowheads indicating a great battle had taken place and stated that the evidence fits perfectly what the bible describes happened to Jerusalem at that time.

Part of that biblical description goes like this, 2 Kings 25: 8 – 12,

“On the seventh day of the fifth month, in the nineteenth year of Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon, Nebuzaradan commander of the imperial guard, an official of the king of Babylon, came to Jerusalem. He set fire to the temple of the Lord, the royal palace and all the houses of Jerusalem. Every important building he burned down. 10 The whole Babylonian army under the commander of the imperial guard broke down the walls around Jerusalem. 11 Nebuzaradan the commander of the guard carried into exile the people who remained in the city, along with the rest of the populace and those who had deserted to the king of Babylon. 12 But the commander left behind some of the poorest people of the land to work the vineyards and fields”.

So the Temple, which represented the centre of God’s revelation to his people and through them, the world was destroyed or as Asaph put it was defiled. Allan Harmon points out that,

“The Tabernacle / Temple was intended to be a revelation of God’s holiness”.

But once the temple of the God of the bible is mixed up with false God’s worship and anti bible practices then it ceases to be a holy place that points to the God of the bible. This is part of the great sin of Israel and now Judah not only in worship practices but also in ways of living they became an anti witness to the God of the bible.

Once the Christian church moves away from the bible and its message and directives it to ceases to be a true witness to the world. Even a casual look at church history will tell you Christ church has given up the bible on many occasions and like Israel / Judah ceased to be a true witness to the God of the bible and has also suffered God’s certain judgment.

Like the church in Pergamum in the first century of the church who are spoken of in the Book of Revelation who tolerate false teaching, worship idols and who practice sins of sexual immorality and who are warned by God that if they don’t change he will come to them in judgment, Revelation 2: 14 – 16,

“Nevertheless, I have a few things against you: There are some among you who hold to the teaching of Balaam, who taught Balak to entice the Israelites to sin so that they ate food sacrificed to idols and committed sexual immorality. 15 Likewise, you also have those who hold to the teaching of the Nicolaitans. 16 Repent therefore! Otherwise, I will soon come to you and will fight against them with the sword of my mouth”.

In verses 2 we have an even more horrific picture of the scene in Jerusalem after the Babylonians had devastated it,

“They have given the dead bodies of your servant as food to the birds of the air, the flesh of your saints to the beasts of the earth”.

Way back in the book of Deuteronomy God warns his people about what would happen if they turned from his covenant and did not keep his laws and Deut. 28: 26 says this,

“Your carcasses will be food for all the birds and the wild animals, and there will be no one to frighten them away”.

Even the prophets like Jeremiah warned of this in Jeremiah 7: 33,

“Then the carcasses of this people will become food for the birds and the wild animals, and there will be no one to frighten them away”.

But the people did not listen and even laughed off the warning of the prophets and in Jeremiah 26: 7 – 9, we read of how the people not only rejected Jeremiah’s message but sought to kill him because he dared speak it,

“The priests, the prophets and all the people heard Jeremiah speak these words in the house of the Lord. But as soon as Jeremiah finished telling all the people everything the Lord had commanded him to say, the priests, the prophets and all the people seized him and said, “You must die! Why do you prophesy in the Lord’s name that this house will be like Shiloh and this city will be desolate and deserted?” And all the people crowded around Jeremiah in the house of the Lord”.

Note also that even though the picture Asaph paints of the devastation in Jerusalem of dead bodies of the many people there, they are still called “God’s servants and even saints meaning they are still God’s people but sadly God’s people who are now suffering God’s judgment for their many sins.

The final awful picture Asaph paints in verse 3 is that of not being even able to be buried,

“They have poured out blood like water all around Jerusalem, and there is no one to bury the dead”.

The Babylonians would not allow what inhabitants are left in Jerusalem to bury the dead. This meant that they were left to rot in the streets a fate even worse than animals. Spurgeon simply says,

“What woe is here”.

So what does this picture of God’s devastating horror of God’s Judgment have to say to us today?

I have picked out three things:

  1. God takes sin serious
  2. Sin’s punishment is death
  3. Even Christians must take the fact of God’s judgment seriously

Lets have a quick look at what the New Testament says about each of these three things.

  1. God takes sin serious

By this I mean that God hates sin and cannot tolerate it. This is because of what God is like, he is holy as Isaiah learnt when he is brought into God’s presence in Isaiah 6: 3,

“Holy, Holy, Holy is the Lord Almighty the whole earth is full of his glory”.

Gotquestion?org says this about the holiness of God,

“God’s holiness totally saturates his being. His holiness epitomizes his moral perfection and his absolute freedom from blemish of any kind.

Psalm 92: 15 declares,

“Proclaiming, ‘The Lord is upright, he is my rock, and there is no wickedness in him”

Therefore because we all sin (Romans 3: 23) we are all separated from God as Isaiah 59: 2, says,

“But your iniquities (sins) have separated you from your God, your sins have hidden his face from you, so that he will not hear”.

This means that God must deal with sin and he does this, apart from Christ and what he has done for us, through judgment as the bible declares in a number of places like Isaiah 26: 21,

“See, the LORD is coming out of his dwelling to punish the people of the earth for their sins. The earth will disclose the blood- shed on it; the earth will conceal its slain no longer”.

 So when we read of God’s terrible day of judgment upon his peoples many sins when the Babylonians invaded Judah in 587BC we should be reminded of how serious the consequences of sin is in the eyes of the Holy God of the bible.

  1. Sin’s punishment is death

The terrible picture these opening verses of Psalm 79 present is a picture of great death and destruction. It is a picture of God’s people of that time lying around the streets of Jerusalem dead and the birds and wild animal feeding on their bodies.

Death only entered mankind’s world because of sin and rebellion to the rule of God as Genesis 3: 19b says,

“Until you return to the ground, since from it you were taken; for dust you are and to dust you will return”.

 Even modern often-atheistic science says that we are made up of the basic elements of the universe, the dust of the earth as the bible puts it.

From Genesis 3 onwards we see the continuing cycle of sin and death in our world and Paul makes it clear why this is in Romans 6: 23a,

“The wages of sin is death”.

 Our sin brings only death and on a wider scale in our world the sins of the whole world bring to it death and destruction.

So when we read these opening verses of Psalm 79 we should not be surprised that Judah’s many sins brought them death and destruction.

  1. Even Christians must take the fact of God’s judgment seriously

As I have already pointed out the people of Judah and Jerusalem in the opening verses of Psalm 79 are called there,

“Your servants” or “God’s servants” (vs. 2a)

 And,

“Your Saints” or “God’s saints” (vs. 2b)

 Saints here probably means the people set aside to serve God but these people who are God’s special people as the opening verse also indicates as “God’s inheritance” are suffering God’s great judgment.

They had been given the law of God, the unique revelation of God and had been chosen to be his priests or mediators of God’s message to the world as Exodus 19: 5 – 6 says,

“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.”

Note how this reference says, “Now if you obey me fully and keep my covenant”

Then you will have this great privileged position and job to do. However we know that for a number of generations leading up to the fall of Judah and Jerusalem the people of God did not obey him or keep his covenant. So God brought down on them his terrible judgment in the form of the successful Babylonian invasion.

We must keep this in mind as Christians as we through Christ are now God’s chosen people and a royal priesthood as Peter says in 1 Peter 2: 9 – 10,,

“But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. 10 Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy”.

Yes because of the mercy of God in Christ we should not fear the final judgment to come but Paul indicates that after we escape that final judgment there will be a judgment of kinds for Christian believers, Paul speak of this in 2 Corinthians 5: 10,

“For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each of us may receive what is due us for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad”.

So when we read these opening verses of Psalm 79 we should remind ourselves that we have a high calling as the people of God and God will hold us to account for that high calling on the day of judgment.

  1. 4       The disgrace of God’s judgment

In verse 4 Asaph speaks of the disgrace this terrible judgment brought upon the people of that time as God used Israel in the past to judge the sinful nations around them but now they were being judged most terribly by their own God. Verse 4 says,

“We are objects of reproach to our neighbors, or scorn and derision to those around us”.

Psalm 137 verse 7, speaks of how the Edomites derided the people of Judah at that time,

“Remember, Lord, what the Edomites did on the day Jerusalem fell. “Tear it down,” they cried, “tear it down to its foundations!”

The Babylonians were famous for enlisting soldiers from nations they had conquered to fight for them and maybe some of the Edomite soldiers in the Babylonian army were there on the day Jerusalem fell to the sword and were heard saying, “Tear it down, tear it down to its foundations”.

 However Edom would face a far more thorough and permanent judgment as the Book of Lamentations records, Lam. 4: 22,

 “Your punishment will end, Daughter Zion; he will not prolong your exile.
But he will punish your sin, Daughter Edom, and expose your wickedness.”

This scoffing and derision of Judah / Israel at this time goes even deeper than a national disgrace as it would have most certainly would have been an attack on the God of Judah/ Israel as well, as James Coffman points out in his commentary on this verse and verse 10 and the words in that verse,

“Where is their God”

“The object of the taunting neighbors was to claim a triumph over the God of Israel. Among all the nations of antiquity, any disaster that overcame a people always considered as proof that the God or gods worshipped by that people had no power to protect them”.

Even today when noted Christians fail to live up to the high calling they profess to have those who oppose the Christian faith use that as a way of saying how can they still say that God really exists when his so called followers do that kind of thing.

I think that many active atheists today are people who as a child have been victims of negative witness of supposed followers of God in some form or another.

Jesus warned his followers about the danger of false witness particularly when it effects children on a number of occasions and I refer here to just one instance of this in Matthew 18: 6,

“If anyone causes one of these little ones—those who believe in me—to stumble, it would be better for them to have a large millstone hung around their neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea.

Israel in the north and now Judah in the south were both judged by God because they had failed to live up to their high calling as I mentioned earlier is stated in Exodus 19: 6,

“You will be for me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation”.

God had warned them right from the start how he would judge them harshly if they turned away fro him to other God’s and failed to keep his covenantal laws. In the end the message to the nations would be that the God of Israel or as I call him the God of the bible judges sin even the sins of his own special people.

Interestingly way back in the time of Moses what actually happened in the great judgment of the people of Judah and Jerusalem was spoken about, recorded in Deuteronomy 29: 24 – 28,

“All the nations will ask: “Why has the Lord done this to this land? Why this fierce, burning anger?”

 25 And the answer will be: “It is because this people abandoned the covenant of the Lord, the God of their ancestors, the covenant he made with them when he brought them out of Egypt. 26 They went off and worshiped other gods and bowed down to them, gods they did not know, gods he had not given them. 27 Therefore the Lord’s anger burned against this land, so that he brought on it all the curses written in this book. 28 In furious anger and in great wrath the Lord uprooted them from their land and thrust them into another land, as it is now.”

So the Christian church today must take this teaching of how God deals with not following God and his word seriously as we too could find ourselves being used as an example to non believers of how God hates disobedience and sin even in the lives of his own people like he did long ago to Israel and Judah.

  1. 5 – 8   A PRAYER FOR GOD’S FORGIVENESS

Asaph Psalm 79 then changes from a description of God’s judgment on Judah particularly Judah in 587BC to a desperate prayer for forgiveness for the people of that time. I have broken the first part of this prayer into two parts as well:

  1. 5 – 7 A plea for God to turn away from his judgment
  2. 8       A plea for God’s forgiveness
  1. 5 – 7 A plea for God to turn away from his judgment

Tremper Longman 111 points out that this prayer of Asaph uses two words, “How Long” used in prayers in the Psalms some 10 times (Psalm 4: 2 – 3, 6: 3, 13: 1 – 2, 35: 17, 62: 2, 74: 10, 80: 4, 89: 46, 90: 3 and 119: 84). He goes on to say that this,

“Indicates that the sufferer has been long in his pain and sees no terminus in sight”

So lets look at the start of this prayer which I see is asking for God to turn away from his anger or judgment and judge those who are being used to judge them.

Verse 5 starts this prayer with the words,

“How long, O Lord? Will you be angry forever? How long will your jealousy burn like fire?”

So this is the opening words of Asaph prayer, which actually uses the words, “How long” twice. Is asking how long will this terrible judgment on Judah and Jerusalem last. He knows God will stop the judgment of his people but he wants to know when will it end and how long do he and the people left alive have to endure it.

This is a very real prayer I’m sure we all have prayed at one time or another. When we are suffering from some kind of illness we might pray how long will we have to endure this before we have good health again.

Or we might have to endure some kind of persecution from someone or from a group of people and we might pray during that time, How long will we have to endure this.

I can remember when I was a young man I worked for a large Australian Insurance Company and for nearly two years before I left that work to study in a Bible College I suffered continual persecution from many of my non-believing workmates. He suffering this persecution caused me seemed to go on for a long time but it was only a very short period of time in the scheme of my life since then.

We can take to heart and be encouraged by the words of Peter about suffering because of our faith in Christ in 1 Peter 3: 14 – 16,

“But even if you should suffer for what is right, you are blessed. “Do not fear their threats]; do not be frightened.” 15 But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, 16 keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander”.

But the people in Asaph time were not suffering because what is right or for what they were doing was right but they were suffering because of their many sins and the many sins of their recent ancestors.

So the answer to the question of how long was simple as the great prophet of this time, Jeremiah prophesied in Jeremiah 29: 10,

This is what the Lord says: “When seventy years are completed for Babylon, I will come to you and fulfill my good promise to bring you back to this place.

Asaph does not seem to be aware of Jeremiah’s prophecy as either Jeremiah had not yet made this prophecy when Asaph wrote Psalm 79 or because this prophecy was made in a letter by Jeremiah to the exiles in Babylon and Asaph was not aware of it because he was not with the exiles in Babylon but was left with the remnant of the poor people the Babylonians had left back in Israel.

In this opening verse of the prayer Asaph certainly acknowledges why God’s judgment had come upon him and his people because he speaks of what has happened as being a product of God’s jealous burning anger against them.

This is a direct reference to words in the book of Exodus and Deuteronomy warning against turning from God to other God’s like Exodus 34: 14,

“Do not worship any other god, for the Lord, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God”.

And Deuteronomy 11: 16 – 17b,

Be careful, or you will be enticed to turn away and worship other gods and bow down to them. 17 Then the Lord’s anger will burn against you”.

Then in verses 6 and 7 Asaph prays that God’s anger will turn on Israel / Judah’s enemies,

“Poor out your wrath on the nations that do not acknowledge you, on the kingdoms that do not call on your name; for they have devoured Jacob and destroyed his homeland”.

 These two verses seem to be a direct quote of Jeremiah 10: 25 and many commentators ask why?

My answer to this is simple, the quote from Jeremiah 10: 25 seems to come from the early days of Jeremiah’s long ministry as a prophet and no doubt Asaph was fully aware of Jeremiah’s ministry and even words. This means that Asaph could have easily borrowed Jeremiah’s words to use in his prayer in Psalm 79.

Much of Psalm 79 seems to echo many other parts of scripture and this could mean that Asaph was a student of God’s word both from the distant past and recent past by the words of the prophets of his time, Jeremiah and Ezekiel and even not to far back, Isaiah.

All of these prophets speak of the coming judgment on even Babylon who at the time of Asaph writing seemed an unstoppable power in the world of that time.

However God will judge Babylon through the Mede’s and Persians and this will come about according to the prophet Jeremiah after 70 years of captivity in Babylon as we read in Jeremiah 25: 12 – 14,

“But when the seventy years are fulfilled, I will punish the king of Babylon and his nation, the land of the Babylonians, for their guilt,” declares the Lord, “and will make it desolate forever.

13 I will bring on that land all the things I have spoken against it, all that are written in this book and prophesied by Jeremiah against all the nations. 14 They themselves will be enslaved by many nations and great kings; I will repay them according to their deeds and the work of their hands.”

Jeremiah also speaks of this judgment on Babylon as a judgement on their God’s in Jeremiah 50: 1 – 3,

This is the word the Lord spoke through Jeremiah the prophet concerning Babylon and the land of the Babylonians:

“Announce and proclaim among the nations, lift up a banner and proclaim it; keep nothing back, but say, ‘Babylon will be captured; Bel will be put to shame, Marduk filled with terror. Her images will be put to shame and her idols filled with terror.’
A nation from the north will attack her and lay waste her land. No one will live in it; both people and animals will flee away.

However Asaph can at best only look forward to this judgment on the Babylonians because it did not take place unto 70 years of exile in Babylon had passed.

So Asaph asks “How long” will it take, not knowing Jeremiah’s prophecy of 70 years and also he at the time of Babylon’s devastating attack on Judah and Jerusalem sought the lord in prayer for God’s judgment to come on this powerful enemy.

Interestingly Jeremiah predicts that in 70 years or so time the people of God will seek the Lord yet again for a way back to Jerusalem and the Promised land, Jeremiah 50: 4 – 5,

“In those days, at that time,” declares the Lord, “the people of Israel and the people of Judah together will go in tears to seek the Lord their God. They will ask the way to Zion and turn their faces toward it. They will come and bind themselves to the Lord in an everlasting covenant that will not be forgotten”.

So I can picture the Jews in exile in Babylon praying prayers like Asaph is praying in Psalm 79, asking God to end their suffering in Babylon because of their previous many sins and asking God to judge their great enemy Babylon so that they could return to their God given homeland.

Asaph speaks of what the Babylonians have just done in verse 7,

“For they have devoured Jacob and destroyed his homeland”.

 Here again is the other name for Israel, Jacob the man who became known as Israel once he stopped wrestling with God and sought to God’s way (Genesis 32: 22 – 30). This very human name for the nation and its homeland appeals I think to the mercy of God who saved and used an often-rebellious man like Jacob and used him to make the great nation of Israel.

These verses bring to light yet again the issue of whether we should pray for God’s judgment to come on our enemies known in theological terms as imprecatory prayers. I have spoken many times on these in previous Psalm talks where we have come across these types of prayers.

Rather than quote myself yet again on my own views on imprecatory prayers I would like to quote part of a helpful article I found on the internet by a man named William Ross who wrote his article after the beheading of 21 Christian men by ISIS and after the continued persecution of Christians in Syria prior to his writing this article in March 2015,

Ross makes these two excellent points in his article,

First, we must recognize God’s sovereignty in acting out his own justice on evil. To be sure, until that judgment, Jesus commands us to love our enemies, to pray for them, even to bless them (Luke 6:27-28; Rom. 12:20; 1 Pet. 3:9). Jesus spoke more about love than bearing the sword (Matt. 10:34-35; Luke 12:51-53). In similar fashion, Paul instructed Christians to “bless and do not curse” our persecutors (Rom. 12:14).

 But this instruction does not prohibit calling evil what it is, and desiring that God deal with it promptly and specifically. We see this most clearly in Revelation 6:9-10 where the heavenly martyrs call out for justice and vengeance. Theirs is an intensely personal concern: they ask God to avenge “our blood upon those who dwell on earth.” It is important to note that while the heavenly martyrs are issuing a personalized imprecation, it is nevertheless divinely mediated. Their imprecation is qualified by the sovereignty and agency of God himself to answer their prayer.

 Second, we must distinguish between cursing our personal enemies ourselves (Col. 3:8) and calling upon God to curse his enemies. This distinction is evident in Romans 12:14. While Paul instructs us not to curse others, he does not prohibit asking God to pour out his justice. The distinction is subtle but important. In the former we condemn men on our own terms and make ourselves gods; in the latter we beseech the King and recognize his holiness and our finitude.

 In that sense, when making specific imprecation, we must always balance “Father, save the lost!” with “Father, pour out your wrath upon evil!” The contingency that holds together these two ideas properly submits to God’s sovereignty—his justice and mercy—without assuming that only one of the two options will bring him glory. Paul does not shy away from personal imprecation as he puts this principle to use in 1 Corinthians 16:22: “If anyone has no love for the Lord, then let him be accursed!” (cf. Gal. 1:8-9). As Christians redeemed by Christ, we can simultaneously recognize the forgiveness of our own sin and the fact that sin itself grounds our appeal for God’s judgment.

  1. 8       A plea for God’s forgiveness

Now the Psalm and Asaph prayer makes a major shift from God’s anger and judgment to God’s forgiveness and this shift is set in the light of God’s judgment in that Asaph now seeks God’s mercy and forgiveness to stop God’s judgment continuing to be upon him and his people.

Verse 8, simply says,

“Do not hold against us the sins of the fathers; may your mercy come quickly to meet us, for we are in desperate need”.

 So this verse looks at two important biblical issues:

  1. The sins of the fathers
  2. The mercy and forgiveness of the God of the bible

Both these issues seem to echo a very important declaration of God in Exodus 34 when he passed in front of Moses at the time of the giving of the law at Mount Sinai. We read this in Exodus 34: 6 – 7,

“And he passed in front of Moses, proclaiming, “The Lord, the Lord, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin. Yet he does not leave the guilty unpunished; he punishes the children and their children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation.”

So in the light of these words of God in Exodus 34: 6 -7 lets have a look at these two important issues:

  1. The sins of the fathers

The second half of Exodus 34: 7, says,

“Yet he does not leave the guilty unpunished; he punishes the children and their children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation.”

This part of the verse picks up the idea of God’s attitude to those who continue to disobey God and how God reacts to that. God chooses to not overlook or leave unchecked the sins of those who rebel against him and his law and unfortunately their sinful behavior has implications for their future generations.

Sadly life bears out this truth that if ones father is a selfish evil man the likelihood of his son following his example is very strong and often that son for some reason seeks to top his fathers level of selfish evil.

This principle of continuing godlessness can and is often broken once a person in one of the generations of a family breaks this cycle which usually comes about by the amazing grace of God entering into the life of the person who turns from his fathers wicked example and goes God’s way in his life.

Once a person turns to Christ away from the example of his non-believing parents then the first part of the Exodus 34: 7 comes into play,

“Maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin”.

Asaph is asking then in verse 8 for God to break his usual way of dealing with the sins of the fathers as he knows that a number of generations up to his own had turned away from God and went after other God’s instead and in doing so they had broken many other laws that God had commanded them to do.

Asaph is asking God to deal mercifully with him and his nation. He knows that in no way do they deserve God’s mercy but as we will see in the next important point of verse 8, his God, the God of the bible is also a merciful God.

  1. The mercy and forgiveness of the God of the bible

So the second important point or truth of verse 8 is expressed in the words,

“May your mercy come quickly to meet us, for we are in desperate need”.

This I think echo’s well the first part of God’s declaration of himself in Exodus 34: 6,

“The Lord, the Lord, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness”.

Asaph knew his bible; he knew what the God of the bible was uniquely like, yes he is a holy God who hates sin and must punish it but he is also a loving God who is slow to anger and is abounding in love and faithfulness. He is a God who over and over again by his actions revealed his loving nature to his people Israel.

Israel never deserved to be saved out of Egypt yet God in his mercy and love did it miraculously for them. Israel never deserved a Promised Land yet God in compassion and love gave it to them.

Israel never deserved to be the people God who he made himself known to giving them the law and the Tabernacle / Temple in Jerusalem yet God in his abounding love and faithfulness gave it to them.

On the basis of this kind of God Asaph asks for God’s mercy to stop the terrible judgment God had brought on them and to allow them to again be blessed by God in the Land he had given them.

We as Christians have a far better understanding of the God of the bible and his amazing love for us. We have the revelation of God’s son who came into the world to save us from our sins on the cross.

Asaph says he needs God’s mercy because they were in desperate need of it. Their desperate need was because they had lost the Promised Land to the evil invaders in the form of the Babylonians. He needed it because massive numbers had been slaughtered in the streets of Jerusalem. He needed God’s mercy because thousands of his countrymen had been dragged off to exile in Babylon and only a small number of very poor people were left in a dark desolate land.

We need God’s mercy or grace because without what Christ did for us on the cross we are powerless and trapped in our sins, Romans 8: 3,

“For what the law was powerless to do in that it was weakened by the sinful nature, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful man to be a sin offering”.

 So now we come to the end of the first part of Asaph prayer for his people trapped in the awful judgment of God because of his generation and former generations great sins. From this simple request to the loving God of the bible for mercy Asaph will then move to a final request for this God of love and salvation to help him and his people and this final plea for forgiveness and salvation will be asked for to bring glory to the name of God.

  1. 9 – 13 FORGIVENESS AND THE GLORY OF GOD

So we come to this final section, which I find contains some remarkable insights into the God of the bible, how we should ask for his love and forgiveness and why we can be confident that the God of the bible will hear us and save us from our sins.

I have broken this final section into two parts as well:

  1. 9 – 11   Forgiveness and God’s glory
  2. 12 – 13 Judgment and praise
  1. 9 – 11   Forgiveness and God’s glory

I would like to look at this part in actually two sections:

  1. Forgiveness and God’s glory stated and explained
  2. Forgiveness and God’s glory applied
  1. Forgiveness and God’s glory stated and explained

We come then to what I think is both the most remarkable and most instructive verse of this Psalm verse 9.

 I would like to comment on the three great ideas this verse presents to us:

  1. The God of the bible is a saving God
  2. The God of the bible saves to bring glory to his name
  3. The God of the bible is a glorious God by name
  1. The God of the bible is a saving God

It seems either odd or remarkable that Asaph should speak of his God in his prayer as a saving God when he is in the middle of this God’s judgment on his nation.

He has told us in verses 1 – 4 what had just happened to particularly Jerusalem where the Babylonians had just raised the city to the ground and it was now a pile of ruins. He has just told us that many dead Israelites lay scattered all over the place and no one could even find time to bury them.

So how can Asaph now start praying to God for salvation calling him a saving God?

Asaph can do this because his view of God did not rely on his experiences good or bad but on what he knew about God from his word.

We have seen that already his prayer so far has echoed many well -known statements of scripture and from these he drew the idea that his God, the God of the bible was a loving, merciful and now saving God.

He knew that Israel only existed because God made them a nation through Abraham, Isaac and as he alludes to in verse 7, Jacob. He also knew that Israel only existed because God had saved her out of the bondage of slavery in Egypt.

So he calls out to God in verse 9 with the words,

“Help us, O God our Savior”.

We like Israel don’t deserve God’s love, we like Israel deserve as Paul says in Romans 6: 23, the wages of sin which is death.

But we know from the bible what our God is like because we know what John says in John 3: 16,

“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”.

And as Paul says in the second half of Romans 6: 23,

“But the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord”.

Our God, the God of the bible is a saving God and he is unlike any other presentation of God in any other religion.

Other faiths, like Islam present a God of vengeance and judgment but not a God of love and there only hope is that they can do enough acceptable religious practice laid down in their holy book that will convince there God of vengeance to accept them into paradise on the great Day of Judgment.

Buddhist present a life of suffering that will not lead to God because to them he does not exist and there only thought of salvation is if they live a good life giving up worldly things and helping others who are suffering they will have a better life in their next life in the endless cycles of life.

So all other faiths teach what we must do to get right with God or how we are saved. However the Christian faith based on the message of the bible proclaims what God has done for us rather than what we can do for God. This is because the bible clearly teaches we cannot do anything to save ourselves because of our sinful nature and therefore God had to send Jesus to save us.

Bible believing Christians believe that God is a saving God and all we have to do is turn back to him and accept what he has done for us in Christ Jesus to be saved.

This is a message that runs right through the bible and here in Psalm 79 it comes up in the words of verse 9 when it says,

“Help us, O God our Savior”

  1. The God of the bible saves to bring glory to his name

Asaph shows us again he knew his bible and the concept of the glory of God particularly seen in his acts of Salvation which seeps through the whole bible and no better example of this is found in the song Moses sang after he delivered Israel out of Egypt opening up the red sea and then closing it on their Egyptian enemies. It is Exodus 15 verse 11 – 13 that Moses speaks of the glory of God particularly in contrast to, may I say other ideas about God,

“Who among the gods is like you, Lord?

Who is like you— majestic in holiness, awesome in glory, working wonders?

 12 “You stretch out your right hand, and the earth swallows your enemies.
13 In your unfailing love you will lead the people you have redeemed.
In your strength you will guide them to your holy dwelling”.

Note how Moses attributes this great act of the saving God as,

“Awesome in glory, working wonders”.

Asaph knew that his people did not deserve to be saved because of anything they had to offer, as they were nothing more than unworthy sinners under the justifiable judgment of God. So he appeals to his God in verse 9 to save them from this judgment in these words,

“For the glory of your name”.

He has already indicated in verse 4 how other nations viewed them,

“We are objects of reproach to our neighbours, of scorn and derision to those around us”.

And in the next verse he asks,

“Why should the nations say, “Where is their God?”

So Asaph does not want God’s great glorious name brought down because God had to judge his generation’s sins and the sins of the generations before it.

As I said God’s glory has been linked many times with his acts of a saving God of love in the Old Testament. Isaiah a couple of generations before this prophesied of the coming Messiah and in Isaiah 40: 3 – 5 he speaks of the work of John the Baptist preparing the way of the Lord in verses 3 and 4,

A voice of one calling: “In the wilderness prepare the way for the Lord ;
make straight in the desert a highway for our God.

Every valley shall be raised up, every mountain and hill made low;
the rough ground shall become level, the rugged places a plain”

 Then in verse 5, Isaiah speaks of the coming of the Messiah this way,

“And the glory of the Lord will be revealed, and all people will see it together.
For the mouth of the Lord has spoken.”

Jesus embodied the glory of the Lord as he was God’s word become flesh and he glorified God when he went willingly to the cross to pay for our sins and win eternal life or shall we say eternal homeland for those who put their faith in him.

Many New Testament passages could be quoted here but here are two of my favourites,

  1. John 17: 1 – 5,

“After Jesus said this, he looked toward heaven and prayed: “Father, the hour has come. Glorify your Son, that your Son may glorify you. For you granted him authority over all people that he might give eternal life to all those you have given him. Now this is eternal life: that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent. I have brought you glory on earth by finishing the work you gave me to do. And now, Father, glorify me in your presence with the glory I had with you before the world began”.

Note how Jesus prayed this prayer the night before his crucifixion and so he saw the way of the cross as firstly the way he brought glory to God on earth and secondly the way he would regain eternal glory for himself and all his followers.

  1. Hebrews 2: 9 -10,

“But we do see Jesus, who was made lower than the angels for a little while, now crowned with glory and honour because he suffered death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone.

 10 In bringing many sons and daughters to glory, it was fitting that God, for whom and through whom everything exists, should make the pioneer of their salvation perfect through what he suffered”.

Note how in this passage the writer speaks of how Jesus gave up the glory of heaven by becoming a man and then by suffering death, death on a cross so that he might be crowned with glory and give his son’s and daughters (of faith) glory with him in heaven.

  1. The God of the bible is a glorious God by name

Finally we have the last phrase of verse 9,

“Deliver us and forgive our sins for your name’s sake”.

 So we have learnt so far that God’s glory is linked to his nature of being a saving God and he actually brings glory to himself when he acts in love and salvation particularly when he acted in love and salvation in the person of his son on the cross. Now we come a full circle and learn that Asaph wants God’s deliverance and forgiveness for his people to be for God’s name- sake or to glorify God.

The bible presents the concept that there is only one God but he has many names and it is said there are over 900 names and titles for God in the Old and New Testament. A Web site called “All About” says this about the names of God,

 “The Names of God used in the Bible act as a roadmap for learning about the character of God. Since the Bible is God’s Word to us, the names He chooses in scripture are meant to reveal His true nature to us”.

 Here in Psalm 79 verse 9, Asaph is praying that the God of the bible might save his people by delivering them and forgiving their sins and that this might be done to glorify the name of God.

Jesus is called many names in the New Testament and many of these names are linked to both who he is and what he did for us in saving or delivering us from death to life by saving us from our sins.

When Mary was told of how she would give birth to a special child from God by the angel Gabriel she was told some of the names Jesus will be known by and all these relate to both who he is and what he would achieve, Luke 1: 29 – 33,

“ Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. 30 But the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary; you have found favour with God. 31 You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus. 32 He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, 33 and he will reign over Jacob’s descendants forever; his kingdom will never end.”

So Asaph wanted his peoples salvation from the judgment of God in the guise of the Babylonian invasion and exile to glorify God’s name or character and we have seen through Jesus how God has saved us from our sins and by doing that Jesus has glorified God.

In fact Jesus is both the glory of God and the means by which God is glorified as Hebrews 1: 3 says,

“The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word. After he had provided purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven”.

 So we can conclude that the God of the bible is a glorious God by name and through us Paul says we are to do everything to glory of God, 1 Corinthians 10: 31,

“So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God”.

Taking our lead from our Lord and Savior who did everything to glorify his Father in heaven even going to the cross where he demonstrated once and for all the great and glorious name of the God of love.

  1. Forgiveness and God’s glory applied

In verse 10 and 11 Asaph applies his desire for glory to go to God. He knows God is a glorious God and is far greater and stronger than any other supposed God of the nations around his. So the terrible defeat of his nation in that time would have led the victors and other nations who heard of it to question the power and ability of the God they believed and trusted in. So Asaph prays in verse 10a,

“Why should the nations say, “Where is their God?”

 Victories over nations in Old Testament times and right up to the Christians era would have been seen as victories of the God’s of the victorious nation over the God or God’s of the defeated nation.

So terrible was the destruction of Judah and Jerusalem by the Babylonians Asaph suggests other nations might have even asked, “Where is their God?”

The answer of course is he was there in judgment opening up the way for the Babylonians to have that victory. As hard as this might be to accept it is true to scripture like, Jeremiah 33: 4 – 5,

“For this is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says about the houses in this city and the royal palaces of Judah that have been torn down to be used against the siege ramps and the sword in the fight with the Babylonians: ‘They will be filled with the dead bodies of the people I will slay in my anger and wrath. I will hide my face from this city because of all its wickedness”.

So the God of the bible is a great and glorious God but as we have learnt he is a Holy God and a jealous God so when his people over a number of generations turned away from him to pursue other God’s his holiness led to his anger and judgment.

This is the amazing point I want to make hear what we see on the cross is God’s anger and judgment of sin falling on his beloved son who became sin for us so that the anger and judgment of God can be removed from us. As Paul declares in 2 Corinthians 5: 21,

 “God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God”.

In my introduction of spoke of the story of the young man who stole a new expensive car and smashed it up then faced his very own father the next day in court. The father, a magistrate finds his son guilty and passes on his son the maximum penalty for his crimes and then pays the penalty for his son. That’s what God has done for us and we deserve to be treated like the Jews were in Jerusalem in 587BC but God in his love has provided a way for us and that way is through the death and resurrection of his son.

So far as people asking, “Where is their God”?

This is often said today when Christians face great problems and difficulties or when some form of natural disaster kills many. The answer I think that is the best we can give to that is I don’t think God is in different to suffering when he was willing to send his very own son to this world to die for our sins on the cross.

God works in human history to bring about his judgment on sinful people but he equally works in human history to bring about his salvation and hope for the fallen world we live in.

Asaph wants God to reveal his glory through the defeat of the Babylonian enemy as he prays in verse 10,

“Before our eyes, make known among the nations that you avenge the outpoured blood of your servants.”

 Asaph prayer is answered but it takes 40- 50 years or so before the Babylonians are overrun by the Persian’s in 539BC led by their king named Cyrus and a few years later Persians allow Jews to return to Judah and Jerusalem. From the start of the first taking of exiles to Babylon to their return from exile is around 70 years which we have seen was predicted by Jeremiah in Jeremiah 25: 12 – 14,

“But when the seventy years are fulfilled, I will punish the king of Babylon and his nation, the land of the Babylonians, for their guilt,” declares the Lord, “and will make it desolate forever. 13 I will bring on that land all the things I have spoken against it, all that are written in this book and prophesied by Jeremiah against all the nations. 14 They themselves will be enslaved by many nations and great kings; I will repay them according to their deeds and the work of their hands.”

So as the nations heard of the defeat and destruction of Judah and particularly Jerusalem by the Babylonians in 587BC they would have heard of the destruction of the defeat of Babylon and their cities destruction in 593BC. So as Asaph prayed for the avenge of the outpoured blood of God’s servants so it came to pass through the hands of the conquering Persians.

The book of Revelation has a reference to God avenging the spilt blood of Christian martyrs in Revelation 6: 5 – 11,

“When he opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain because of the word of God and the testimony they had maintained. 10 They called out in a loud voice, “How long, Sovereign Lord, holy and true, until you judge the inhabitants of the earth and avenge our blood?” 11 Then each of them was given a white robe, and they were told to wait a little longer, until the full number of their fellow servants, their brothers and sisters, were killed just as they had been.

Right up to this present time some Christians have been martyred for their faith in Christ like the 30 Christians beheaded in Libya by ISIS in April 2015. This will not go unnoticed by God and will be part of God’s great day of reckoning alluded to in this reference of Revelation 6.

Then we have one final verse in the application of forgiveness and God’s glory applied, verse 11,

“May the groans of the prisoners come before you; by the strength of your arm preserve those condemned to die”.

This is Asaph making a final plea for the forgiveness of God to come on his people who have been under the judgment of God for their many sins. He speaks of the groans of the prisoners, which is probably a reference to those of his countrymen dragged off in chains to exile in Babylon. These people were not locked up in Babylon but under the Babylonians they were not allowed to return to their homeland making them virtual prisoners in the land of the Babylonians.

Jesus was fully aware of his mission on earth and we see this for instance in his preaching in the Synagogue in Nazareth where he reads a small part of the prophet Isaiah and proclaims that he was full filling that prophecy today, the passage he refers to is Isaiah 61: 1 – 2 and it the Synagogue incident is recorded in Luke 4: 16 – 21,

“He went to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, and on the Sabbath day he went into the synagogue, as was his custom. He stood up to read, 17 and the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was handed to him. Unrolling it, he found the place where it is written:

18 “The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free, 19 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.

20 Then he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant and sat down. The eyes of everyone in the synagogue were fastened on him. 21 He began by saying to them, “Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.”

Note how the Isaiah passage speaks of,

“He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners”.

 This I believe is not speaking of letting criminals free from jail but rather as the whole passage is speaking of is a freedom from spiritual bondage, which is what the mission of Jesus, was all about.

Paul speaks of freedom from our spiritual bondage in Romans 7: 24 – 25,

“What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death? 25 Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord!”

Finally Asaph asks,

“By the strength of your arm preserve those condemned to die”.

It seems at the time of writing Asaph knew of even more Israelites who the Babylonians had condemned to die and Asaph is pleading to God on their behalf. He wants God to spare these people by the mighty strong arm of the Lord. We know from the bibles historical texts like 2 Kings 25 many people lost their lives at the hands of the Babylonians and many others were forced into exile in Babylon and yet a smaller number of much poorer people were left in the now desolate land, 2 Kings 25: 11 – 12,

 “Nebuzaradan the commander of the guard carried into exile the people who remained in the city, along with the rest of the populace and those who had deserted to the king of Babylon. 12 But the commander left behind some of the poorest people of the land to work the vineyards and fields”.

These left behind poorer people would have suffered a cruel often-deadly existence under the rule of the Babylonians left in Judah to control them. So Asaph plea for some of these people to escape death at the hands of their captives was not hard to understand.

Paul speaks of our freedom from God’s condemnation of our sin in Romans 8: 1 – 4,

“Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death. For what the law was powerless to do because the flesh weakened it, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh to be a sin offering. And so he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fully met in us, who do not live according to the flesh but according to the Spirit”.

  1. 12 – 13 Judgment and praise

I like the idea of putting these final two verses into the context of glorifying God and so verse 11 is about how the Babylonians must be punished for what they did to God’s people because they did what they did not for the glory of God but for their own glory and the glory of their false God’s.

Finally verse 13 is a promise to praise or glorify God for carrying out his judgment on Israel’s enemies. So lets look at each verse a little bit more under the headings of:

  1. God’s complete judgment on his enemies (vs. 12)
  2. God’s people promise of eternal praise (vs. 13)
  1. God’s complete judgment on his enemies (vs. 12)

I call this God’s complete judgment on his enemies because Asaph prays for God’s pay back on the Babylonians and all those who supported them to be sevenfold,

“Pay back into the laps our neighbors seven times the reproach they have hurled at you, O Lord”.

Leupold points out the significance of the number 7 mentioned here,

“Seven is the number from days of old to designate completeness of retaliation”.

He gives us the bible reference of Genesis 4: 15 to back this up,

“But the Lord said to him, “Not so; anyone who kills Cain will suffer vengeance seven times over.” Then the Lord put a mark on Cain so that no one who found him would kill him”.

Interestingly this number seven comes up in the gospels in Matthew 18: 21 – 22, where Peter is reported to ask Jesus how many times should we forgive a brother,

“Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? Up to seven times?”

22 Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.”

Jesus goes on to then tell Peter and those listening in the parable unmerciful servant which makes it clear that no matter how much wrong another does to us if we know the glorious forgiveness of God for all our sins then this should empower us to forgive our brothers and sisters in this life.

Psalm 79 verse 12 speaks of the power and the glory of God’s judgment on sin but Jesus speaks of a greater glory of God namely his great forgiveness of sin.

So what should characterise the New Testament believer in Christ?

The second part of verse 12 says simply,

“The reproach they have hurled at you, O Lord”.

As I have already stated the Babylonians did what they did to Judah and particularly Jerusalem not for the glory of God even though God was used them to judge his people’s many sins. No the Babylonians were working for their own glory and even worse the glory of their false Gods.

So Asaph wants God to judge this great reproach or terrible attack on his people that the Babylonians hurled at them.

Attacks on Christians today, particularly in the area of the world we call the middle east could rightfully cause us to pray the same thing to happen to those attackers who are working for the glory of their supposed God. However I don’t think this is what Jesus wants us to do or pray for.

As Jesus says clearly in Matthew 5: 43 – 44,

You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbour and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,

Jesus wants us to combat the evil our enemies hurl at us not with hate and fiery vengeance but with glorious love. He goes on to explain why we must love and pray for our enemies in verses 45 – 48,

 That you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. 46 If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that?

 47 And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? 48 Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly father is perfect”.

If we meet hate and ignorant violence with hate and vengeance then we are no better than the people who attack us. Jesus wants us to know his glorious love in our lives and to show that to everyone including our enemies.

We must seek to conform to the love and glory of our great and glorious savoir Jesus Christ as Paul encourages us to do in 2 Corinthians 4: 4 – 6,

“The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel that displays the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. For what we preach is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, and ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake. For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness, made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of God’s glory displayed in the face of Christ”.

So far as what God did concerning the prayer of judgment on the Babylonians we have Jeremiah 50: 1 -3,

“This is the word the LORD spoke through Jeremiah the prophet concerning Babylon and the land of the Babylonians: 2 “Announce and proclaim among the nations, lift up a banner and proclaim it; keep nothing back, but say, ‘Babylon will be captured; Bel will be put to shame, Marduk filled with terror. Her images will be put to shame and her idols filled with terror.’ 3 A nation from the north will attack her and lay waste her land. No one will live in it; both people and animals will flee away”.

This prophecy was for filled by the Medes and Persians, the next great super power of that time and note two things here:

Firstly the defeat and destruction of Babylon includes the supposed God’s of Babylon Bel and Marduk.

Secondly Babylon’s destruction was complete and no more would habitation be in that part of the world again.

The concept of Babylon is used in the book of Revelation as a picture of the judgment and destruction of all evil or on all those who seek to stand against and oppose God, Revelation 18: 1 – 3,

“After this I saw another angel coming down from heaven. He had great authority, and the earth was illuminated by his splendour. With a mighty voice he shouted:

“‘Fallen! Fallen is Babylon the Great!’ She has become a dwelling for demons
and a haunt for every impure spirit, a haunt for every unclean bird, a haunt for every unclean and detestable animal.

For all the nations have drunk the maddening wine of her adulteries. The kings of the earth committed adultery with her, and the merchants of the earth grew rich from her excessive luxuries.”

So we as Christians need to show the world the glory of the Gospel of Jesus Christ and the love and forgiveness that flows from that and leave the judgment of God to God which we know will come in the return of Jesus Christ to this world.

  1. God’s people promise of eternal praise (vs. 13)

The final verse raps up this corporate lament as most lament Psalms do with a note of praise. This note of praise could be called giving God the glory he deserves, the verse reads like this,

“Then we your people, the sheep of your pasture, will praise you forever; from generation to generation we will recount your praise”.

 The Asaph Psalms seem to feature the concept of Israel being like sheep and God being their shepherd as we have seen this concept in Psalms 78: 71 – 72, 77: 20, 74: 1 and even in the final Psalm of Asaph Psalm 83: 12. Why this is we will never know but these Psalm were written we believe by the original man known as Asaph and by some of his descendants the concept of the sheep farming of their day had much to say about how God led and protected his people.

Asaph in this Psalm sees Israel or what is left of her in Judah as the sheep of God’s pasture. God then is their shepherd and a shepherd of those days as in Jesus day cared intimately for their flocks, which were much smaller than modern flocks of sheep we have in countries like my own, Australia and our neighbours New Zealand.

Maybe Asaph and his descendants loved David’s great Psalm, Psalm 23 which expresses so well God’s special relationship with his people in the 4 verses,

“The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing.He makes me lie down in green pastures,
he leads me beside quiet waters,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”.

The words in verse 4 would have held special significant application to what the people of Judah and Jerusalem went through recently before this Psalm was composed,

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”.

They faced truly what the Psalm calls “the darkest valley” or as other translations call it, “the valley of the shadow of death”. Just as many Christian funerals find comfort in the sad time of the death of a recent love one.

The New Testament does offer God’s comfort in any dark time of life to all true believers but note the promise of God’s protection and help is only offered to those who have come to Christ in faith as John 10: 27 – 30,

“My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. 28 I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one will snatch them out of my hand.

29 My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand. 30 I and the Father are one.”

However here in verse 13 of Psalm 79 Asaph wants God’s special people, “the sheep of your pasture” to “Praise you forever”.

 How could Asaph possibly think the people left after the devastating Babylonian invasion might praise God forever?

The answer I think to that is two fold:

  1. He wants them to praise God in the context of his judgment upon their enemies
  2. He wants them to praise God to give him the glory he deserves

Let me explain a bit further what I mean by these to reasons to praise God.

  1. He wants them to praise God in the context of his judgment upon their enemies

The key to this idea is the little word, “Then”, that starts this final verse of Psalm 79 for it links the praise Asaph wants to give God with the request to judge sevenfold the Babylonians and all those who supported them.

Sadly we see some of the Muslim extremist falling into the deadly trap of seeing themselves as agents of judgment of the God they believe in. Jesus makes this very clear in Matthew 7: 1 -2,

“Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you”.

Paul takes up this teaching of Jesus and makes some interesting application of it in Romans 12: 17 – 21,

“Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. 18 If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. 19 Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,’ says the Lord. 20 On the contrary:

 “If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink.
In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.” 21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good”.

So the judgment business is God’s alone and anyone who seeks to take this sole right of God away from God will according to Jesus words in Matthew 7: 1,

“Will be judged”

Paul says the Christian way is to love our enemies and to overcome evil with good. I have heard that many Muslims have been helped to come to Christ through Christians showing them love as this is what ultimately impresses all people the glorious love of God expressed in Christ and what he has done for us on the cross.

  1. He wants them to praise God to give him the glory he deserves

This I think is implied because of what Asaph said in verse 9,

“Help us, O God our Savior, for the glory of your name; deliver us and forgive our sins for your name’s sake”.

 For Asaph and the people of his time the only hope of deliverance from the Babylonians was by the judgment of God to come upon them and then the people will have the opportunity to return to Judah and be build Jerusalem.

Which of course happened 30 or 40 years after this Psalm was written when the Persians invaded Babylon in 539BC. Then what Asaph wanted the people to do could be done, namely,

“Praise you forever”

 James Coffman points out that,

“For eighteen centuries, the Jews have recited this psalm upon the 9th day of the Jewish month Ab, commemorating the two destructions of Jerusalem (by Babylonians in 8587 B.C and by the Romans in A.D 70”).

 Hopefully they give God the glory or praise for the fall of both the Babylonian and Roman empires that made the return to the Promised Land of God possible.

I for one see greater significance in giving God the glory or praise for a far greater release from bondage, the freedom from the bondage of sin that Jesus won for us on the cross.

I offer one final New Testament reference that speaks of what Christ has done for us on the cross, why we must always look to him and why he alone deserves our endless praise and glory, Hebrews 2: 9 – 15,

“But we do see Jesus, who was made lower than the angels for a little while, now crowned with glory and honour because he suffered death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone.10 In bringing many sons and daughters to glory, it was fitting that God, for whom and through whom everything exists, should make the pioneer of their salvation perfect through what he suffered. 11 Both the one who makes people holy and those who are made holy are of the same family. So Jesus is not ashamed to call them brothers and sisters.12 He says,” I will declare your name to my brothers and sisters; in the assembly I will sing your praises.”13 And again,” I will put my trust in him.” And again he says,” Here am I, and the children God has given me.”14 Since the children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity so that by his death he might break the power of him who holds the power of death—that is, the devil— 15 and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death.”

 I close as usual with a poem and a prayer.

TO THE GLORY OF THE LORD

(Based on Psalm 79)

 

Chorus:

 

Live for the glory

The glory of the Lord

Tell the world the story

Of the glory of Lord.

 

How long must this world suffer

The anger of the Lord.

Please help your chosen people

To remain true to your word.

Forgive our many sins

And help us now to see

The glory of the Lord

In God’s mercy given free.

 

Chorus:

 

Don’t hold our sins against us

Have mercy on us Oh Lord.

Please help us Oh God our Savoir

For the glory of you O Lord

Deliver us and forgive us

Through your love

That came down through Jesus

From heaven above.

 

Chorus:

 

Why should people dare to say

Where is your God today?

Please help them to realise

That for there sins one day they’ll pay.

May our groans for peace be heard

Through your mighty arm

Lead your people on

And bring down this world’s strong.

 

Chorus:

 

May we praise your name Oh Lord

May we glorify your name above.

We are your sheep you shepherd us

As you lead us with your love.

So we praise you for your glory

Shown to us

Through the cross of Jesus

Who is the one we now trust.

 

Chorus:

 

Live for the glory

The glory of the Lord

Tell the world the story

Of the glory of Lord.

 

By: Jim Wenman

 

PRAYER:

 Dear father in heaven thank you for the wonderful message of your glory shown to us in the death of your dear son on the cross to save us from our sins. Help us to live to your glory as we take the message of your love to this dark and fallen world. Help us to always realise that you have promised to judge this world one day but through your great love you have provided a way for us to know your forgiveness through the giving of your son for us as a perfect sacrifice for our sins. Help us now to live to the praise and glory of him forever more. In Jesus Name we pray Amen.