Wednesday, November 1, 2017

The Names of God: Father

I have heard it often said, that how one pictures their earthly father, is how one views the heavenly Father. There is some truth in that statement, however, that is not sufficient for me. I want to know the Father better and deeper. In my quest to know the Father, I have found books and references on Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit in abundance, but there seems to be a deficiency in resources on the Father—outside of Bible dictionaries and commentaries. So I am going to share as much with you as I can about the Father. I don’t know if it is possible to do that in one blog post, I will see how far I get.

There are three names for Father in the Bible; Ab, Abba, and Pater. Smith’s Bible Dictionary defines Ab as: (father), an element in the composition of many proper names, of which Abba is a Chaldaic form, having the sense of “endowed with,” “possessed of.” 

Easton Bible Dictionary describes the word Abba: This Syriac or Chaldee word is found three times in the New Testament ( Mark 14:36 ; Romans 8:15 ; Galatians 4:6 ), and in each case is followed by its Greek equivalent, which is translated “father.” It is a term expressing warm affection and filial confidence. It has no perfect equivalent in our language. It has passed into European languages as an ecclesiastical term, “abbot.” 

Finally, the third word for Father, Pater, in the KJV New Testament Greek Lexicon, defines the word in several forms; 1) generator or male ancestor; 2) metaph: the originator and transmitter of anything; one who has infused his own spirit into others, who actuates and governs their minds; one who stands in a father's place and looks after another in a paternal way; a title of honour as in teachers, as those to whom pupils trace back the knowledge and training they have received; the members of the Sanhedrin, whose prerogative it was by virtue of the wisdom and experience in which they excelled, to take charge of the interests of others; 3) a) God is called the Father: of the stars, the heavenly luminaries, because he is their creator, upholder, ruler; b) of all rational and intelligent beings, whether angels or men, because he is their creator, preserver, guardian and protector; c) of spiritual beings and of all men; d) of Christians, as those who through Christ have been exalted to a specially close and intimate relationship with God, and who no longer dread him as a stern judge of sinners, but revere him as their reconciled and loving Father; the Father of Jesus Christ, as one whom God has united to himself in the closest bond of love and intimacy, made acquainted with his purposes, appointed to explain and carry out among men the plan of salvation, and made to share also in his own divine nature by Jesus Christ himself and by the apostles.

Throughout the Bible, God is depicted as a father; the picture though, is rare in the Old Testament. In the Old Testament, God is called the Father of the nation of Israel {Deut. 32:6; Isa. 63:16; 64:8; Jer. 3:4, 19; 31:9; Mal. 1:6; 2:10}. He is also called the Father of specific individuals {2 Sam. 7:14; 1 Chron. 17:13; 22:10; 28:6; Ps. 68:5; 89:26}. In other places the imagery of a father is used rather than the term Father, {Exod. 4:22-23; Deut. 1:31; 8:5; 14:1; Ps. 103:13; Jer. 3:22; 31:20; Hos. 11: 1-4; Mal. 3:17}.

The usage for Father in the New Testament was use by Jesus; Father was His favorite term for addressing God. It flowed from the lips of Jesus some sixty-five times in the Synoptic Gospels {Matthew, Mark, Luke} and over one-hundred times in John. The exact term Jesus used is found three times in the New Testament {Abba-Pater Mark 14:36; Rom. 8:15; Gal. 4:6}. Jesus usage of Father in addressing God was unique in several ways. One, the rarity of this designation for God is striking. There is no evidence in pre-Christian Jewish literature that Jews addressed God 
as Abba.[1] 

Another reason this term is so unique is the intimacy of the term. Abba was reserved for children addressing their father. Earlier scholars and interpreters found the nearest English equivalent to be “daddy,” however, recently, it has been found to have been used by children and adults, as a result it is best to understand Abba as father rather than daddy.[2] This usage of the Abba Father was also unique because of the frequency of the metaphor in the Old Testament and other Jewish literature. It is found over 165 times in the New Testament and fifteen in the entire Old Testament. This was not only a way in which Jesus taught His disciples to address God, it was the only way. When teaching the disciples to pray, He instructed them, “Father, hollowed be your name” {Lk. 11:2}. The Greek-speaking Gentile churches in Galatia and Rome continued to address God as Abba.

I wrote earlier that one views their earthly father, is how they view their heavenly Father. If this is true, and you don’t have a good relationship with your earthly father, there is a deficiency in your relationship with God. How then can we get a healthy Biblical perception of the Father? We must remember, our earthly fathers are only a snapshot of who our true Father is. We cannot judge God by the example of our earthly fathers—whether they were good fathers or not.

When we address God as our Father, we come by relationship; no one can approach God as Father but by Jesus Christ His Son, and His sacrifice at Calvary {Jn. 14:6}. The love the Father has for all that He created is matchless. He loves us so much that He sent Christ to redeem and restore us.

Divine Fatherhood begins not with man, but with the Godhead, in whose eternal depths is found the spring of that Fatherly love that reveals itself in time. It is first of all in relation to the eternal Son—before all time—that the meaning of Fatherhood in God is made clear (John 1:18). In ‘God the Father’ we have a name pointing to that relation which the first Person in the adorable Trinity sustains to ‘Son’ and ‘Holy Spirit’—also Divine (Matthew 28:19). From this eternal fountain-head flow the relations of God as Father (1) to the world by creation;(2) to believers by grace.[3]  

Man was created so that his true nature resembles the Father, and revealed in sonship. Sin unfortunately, frustrated mans relationship with God, and now can only be restored by Christ’s redemption. That is why the place of sonship in the gospel is a privilege not to be taken for granted, and we should bow in humble worship at His love, “See how great a love the Father has bestowed on us, that we would be called children of God; and such we are. For this reason the world does not know us, because it did not know Him” {1 Jn. 3:1 NASB}. Our sonship was obtained by grace {Jn. 1: 12-13 NASB}, and through adoption by the Father {Rom. 8: 14, 19 NASB}. We are Sons of God which is true of no others. It is a relation, not of nature, but of grace. For this reason I bow my knees before the Father {Eph. 3:14}.

God our Father is the source of all life—all creation. Take time and admire all that God has created—the vast, beautiful, world—it would not exist without Him. God is the Father of Lights—the light of the natural world, the sun, the moon, the stars, shining in the heavens. “He is the light of reason and conscience; the light of His Law; the Light of Prophecy, shining in a dark place.”[4]

He lovingly corrects us, true discipline is always done out of love for His children {Heb. 12:3-11}, if He did not, we would not be true children. As our Father, He provides for our needs, and He desires for us to enjoy everything He has provided through His marvelous creation:

For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened. Or what man is there among you who, when his son asks for a loaf, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, he will not give him a snake, will he? If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give what is good to those who ask Him!” {Matt. 7:8-11 NASB}.

His provision is not only for our material needs, but for our spiritual needs as well. Jesus said that if we ask for the Holy Spirit, God will give Him abundantly. Luke’s Gospel gives a similar account:

For everyone who asks, receives; and he who seeks, finds; and to him who knocks, it will be opened. Now suppose one of you fathers is asked by his son for a fish; he will not give him a snake instead of a fish, will he? Or if he is asked for an egg, he will not give him a scorpion, will he? If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him?” {Luke 11: 10-14}.

The Father loves you so much; Sometimes it is hard to fathom. Whatever you have done and however far you have run from the Father, He will take you back. He is the ultimate model of forgiveness. He will stand out on the porch and stare down the road—waiting for you to come back to Him. Upon first glance of your return He will run to meet you. He will put a clean robe on your back and a ring on your finger {Luke 15:11-32}. He will protect you and shelter you. He will feed you and take care of you. He will wash you clean and restore you as His son or daughter.

The Return of the Prodigal Son by Rembrandt

God revealed through Christ that it is possible to have a personal relationship with Him that goes far beyond just acknowledging Him as the One who created us. We are children in God’s eyes and enjoy a special relationship and love that only a father and his children can share. We are no longer servants having a master, but sons and daughters having a Father.

But when the fullness of the time came, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the Law, so that He might redeem those who were under the Law, that we might receive the adoption as sons. Because you are sons, God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” Therefore you are no longer a slave, but a son; and if a son, then an heir through God” {Gal. 4: 4-7 NASB}.

[1] Walter A. Elwell ed., Baker Theological Dictionary Of The Bible (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 1996), 247.
[2] Ibid.
[3] James Orr, ed., “Father, God” in International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, 1915.
[4] Herbert Lockyer, All The Divine Names And Titles In The Bible (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1979), 67.

Saturday, October 28, 2017

Sabbath Sanctuary: He Holds Our Breath

God is wise and all-powerful. Who has opposed Him and come out unharmed?  He removes mountains without their knowledge, overturning them in His anger. He shakes the earth from its place so that its pillars tremble {Job 9: 4-6 HCB}.

He commands the sun not to shine and seals off the stars. He alone stretches out the heavens and 
treads on the waves of the sea. He makes the stars: the Bear, Orion, the Pleiades, and the constellations of the southern sky. He does great and unsearchable things, wonders without number {Job 9: 4-10 HCB}.

The life of every living thing is in His hand, as well as the breath of all mankind {Job 12:10}.
Don’t you know that ever since antiquity, from the time man was placed on earth, the joy of the wicked has been brief and the happiness of the godless has lasted only a moment? {Job 20: 4-5}

Take it from a man {Job} who was enduring terrible grief and suffering, that though the wicked seem to be wreaking havoc, and the universe appears to be a spinning ball of chaos⸺a place where mercy and justice are fleeting⸺The Almighty is in control. 

Rest in God this Sabbath weekend. Sit in His presence; admire His creation and offer Him worship for the mighty works of His hand. He has done great things for you.

Friday, October 13, 2017

The Feast of Tabernacles and The Tabernacle of David

Wednesday night at sundown, the Feast of Tabernacles drew to a close. This feast is my favorite to study because of the symbolism that speaks to the Lord’s person and ministry, who came and tabernacled with us. The reason I love examining the feasts, is to celebrate the Christology in them and the fulfillment of them in Christ. I do not “keep” the feasts, but I study them to gain an understanding of end-time events. Not all of the feasts have been fulfilled. The fall feasts, (The Feast of Trumpets, The Feast of Tabernacles, and the Day of Atonement), speak to future events.

 “Nothing that has yet taken place, answers to this season of festive joy; its answers are to be found in the future day of glory when Christ and His risen saints shall fill the heavens above, reigning and rejoicing over  the world.” [1]

For believers in Christ, He is our atonement, but there is coming a day when all Israel will look upon Him who they pierced {see Zech. 12:10} and receive Him as the Messiah.

Leviticus 23 describes the Lord’s command for the Feast of Tabernacles. The people are to build temporary tents, or as The NASB renders it, Booths; it is the Lord’s appointed time to remind the Israelites of their season in the wilderness, of living in tents, and how the Lord sustained them (Lev. 23:33-44). It is also a time to celebrate in awe and wonder that the Creator of the universe came to dwell with His people

God spoke to us in His Word through the Tabernacles of Moses, David, and the Temple of Solomon. They all speak to the life, work, and ministry of Jesus Christ. The Gospel of John uses the Feasts of Israel to demonstrate that Jesus is who He claimed to be—the Messiah, and the fulfillment of all the symbolism they contain.

On the close of the of the first day of Tabernacles, worshipers descend to the Court of Women where great preparations for the feast are made.[2] In the court there were four large golden menorahs (lampstands) each with four bowls. Four young men of priestly descent, climbed ladders with a pitcher of oil to fill the bowls. The Gemara (rabbinical commentary on the Mishnah) on this passage says, the menorahs were seventy-five feet high (Sukkah 52b).[3] “There was not a court in Jerusalem that was not lit up by the light of the ‘house of water-pouring.’”[4] This is the ceremony of the Illumination of the Temple, and the lampstands could be seen throughout Jerusalem.

It is in the sight of these large lampstands that Jesus heals a man born blind. Jesus is the fulfillment of the symbolism in the Feast of Tabernacles as the Light of the world. When He saw the blind man He said, “As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world” (Jn. 9:5). Jesus applies mud to the man’s eyes and instructs him to wash in the Siloam pool; the man followed Jesus’ instructions and was healed. It is no accident that water, blindness, and joy are symbols in the feast and in the ceremonies, and that they correlate with the events in Jesus’ ministry.

Just before the lighting of these lampstands the priest announces, “He who has not seen the joy of the place of water-drawing has never in his life seen joy.”[5] The ceremony was a time of great joy and celebration, and it happened in the light of the Temple court. “The Levitical orchestras cut loose, and some sources attest that this went on every night of the Feast of Tabernacles, with the temple area shedding its glow all over Jerusalem.”[6] This is the context for Jesus’ declaration, “I am the light of the World (Jn. 8:12). John, at the beginning of his testimony, declared Jesus to be the light of men (Jn. 1:4). The light has Old Testament allusions of the glory of the very presence of God in the cloud that led the people in the wilderness. This may have other allusions as well:

“That Jesus offers his light to the whole world, to all the nations, may suggest an allusion to Isaiah 42:6; 49:6. Walking in darkness (cf. Jn. 9:4; 11:9) is a natural metaphor for stumbling (Is. 59:10; Jer. 13:16), falling from the right way (Jer. 18:15; Mal. 2:8) or being destroyed (Ps. 27:2; Jer. 20:11).”[7]

The light may be an allusion as well to the Shekinah glory that filled the Temple (1 Kgs. 8:11). John uses this symbolism to testify to Jesus’ christological claim to be the light of God to the world. Jesus is the very embodiment of this feast.

The idea that Jesus is our Tabernacle, is support throughout Scripture. John 1:14 states that Jesus came and tabernacled (dwelt among us).  Peter and Paul both encourage us that our bodies are tabernacles as well {2 Pet. 1: 13-14; 2 Cor. 5:1-5}. Acts 7:44 and Heb. 9:2-8 affirm that the Tabernacle of Moses was a tent of habitation {Acts 7:44Heb. 9:2-8}, but that Jesus is a Tabernacle not made of men {Heb. 8: 1-6}.

Why was the Tabernacle of Moses built? Because God desired for them to make Him a sanctuary so that He can dwell among us (Ex. 25:8). He instructed the building of the tabernacle in order to establish and foster the covenant relationship between Him and man. The Ark of the Covenant, which rested inside the Holy of Holies, was where God’s glory dwelt. This also speaks of the ministry of Christ as He is the glory of the Father {Heb. 1:3}.

At the dedication of Solomon's temple during the festival of Sukkot, Solomon asked, “Will God indeed dwell on the earth?” (1 Kings 8:2, 27) This was fulfilled when Yeshua became flesh and dwelt (tabernacled) among us (John 1:14). At His first coming, He came to earth and dwelt among men for more than thirty years. He dwells in us now through the Holy Spirit. When He comes again, we will dwell with Him forever.

The Feast of Tabernacles came to be associated with eschatological hopes (cf. Zech. 14:16-19).”[8] Jesus was the fulfilment of the feast, however, it holds future eschatological implications as well. This Feast “represents the completed or finished work of God in both this present age in which we live and the lives of individual believers.”[9] The Feast of Tabernacles represents the Lord’s shelter in His future Tabernacle during the Kingdom Age. He will establish His Tabernacle in Jerusalem (see Ezek. 37:26), and the world will appear before Christ and worship Him (see Zech. 14:16-17). “Tabernacles is the one Old Testament feast that is specifically singled out for observance in the eschatological context of the testament of peace.”[10]

The Tabernacle of David
How then does this relate to the Tabernacle of David? Of the two tabernacles mentioned in Scripture (Moses and David), only one of them will be rebuilt. The Tabernacle of David.

Old Testament reference:

“‘In that day I will raise up the fallen booth of David, and wall up its breaches; I will also raise up its ruins and rebuild it as in the days of old; That they may possess the remnant of Edom and all the nations who are called by My name’ Declares the Lord who does this” {Amos 9:10-12}.

New Testament reference:

After they had stopped speaking, James answered, saying, ‘Brethren, listen to me. Simeon has related how God first concerned Himself about taking from among the Gentiles a people for His name. With this the words of the Prophets agree, just as it is written, ‘After these things I will return, And I will rebuild the tabernacle of David which has fallen, And I will rebuild its ruins, And I will restore it, So that the rest of mankind may seek the Lord, And all the Gentiles who are called by My name,’ Says the Lord, who makes these things known from long ago” {Acts 15: 13-18 NASB}.

David’s Tabernacle was simply a tent, pitched in Jerusalem on Mt. Zion. It is important to know that David’s Tabernacle and Moses’ Tabernacle were functioning at the same time. In 1 Samuel we read about the capture of the Ark of the Covenant, which represented God’s presence Himself, as it was taken into battle presumptuously. It was never again to return to the Tabernacle of Moses. However, the priestly service and sacrifices continued. King David, was a worshiper; a man after God’s heart. He desired to bring the Ark back to Israel to restore God’s honor and presence to its rightful place. David lived in Jerusalem and he wanted to make Jerusalem the “worship center of the world.” David set up a tent in Jerusalem to bring the Ark—God’s presence—to rest.  

In 1 Chronicles we read about David bringing the ark to the new Tabernacle. The Levites had purified themselves in preparation, and though sacrifices were not part of David’s Tabernacle, seven bulls and seven rams were sacrificed to the Lord, as the ark was moved from Obed-Edom’s house to its new resting place. It rested there for forty years until Solomon’s Temple. David’s Tabernacle was a new established order of worship. Moses’ Tabernacle did not have musicians and instruments. The form of worship was in obedience and sacrifice. In John 4, the Samaritan woman argued with Jesus about where the proper place of worship should be. The Samaritans worshiped at Abraham’s well, the Jews worshiped in Jerusalem. Jesus told her that true worship was not about a place, but worship must come from the heart: 

 Woman, believe Me, an hour is coming when neither in this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father. You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews. But an hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for such people the Father seeks to be His worshipers. God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth” {Jn. 4: 21-24}.

The rebuilding of the Tabernacle of David is not only speaking of the expansion of the Kingdom to the Gentiles, but also to a revival of the kind of prayer and worship that existed when David’s Tabernacle stood in Jerusalem.

The verse in Amos 9:10-12  tells us that God will reestablish David’s tent over both the Northern and Southern Kingdoms. David’s reign had been a protective covering (tent) over all the people of Israel. It fell with the split between the ten Northern tribes and the two Southern tribes {1 Kgs. 12}. The “tent” had been broken in two, but God promised to unite the two kingdoms again under David’s rule {Jer. 30:3-10; Ezek. 37:15-28; Hosea 3: 4-5}. This means the Jews and the Gentiles. The “remnant of Edom” and “all the nations who are called by My name,” directly reference the Gentiles.

“The united kingdom under its Davidic King will then become the source of blessing to all Gentiles. Edom, a nation perpetually hostile toward God’s people {cf. Num. 20:14-21; Ps. 137:7; Obad. 1}, and therefore representative of all Israel’s enemies, will become a sharer in the promises to David: Israel will possess the remnant of Edom {cf. Obad. 19}. In fact, all…nations will be brought under the dominion of the Davidic King, for they too bear God’s name.[11] David was a symbol and type of Christ; the Davidic Kingdom speaks to the Kingdom of Christ.

The Feast of Tabernacles is the one feast that the Bible declares that the remnant of all the nations that went against Jerusalem will celebrate in Jerusalem, Then it will come about that any who are left of all the nations that went against Jerusalem will go up from year to year to worship the King, the Lord of hosts, and to celebrate the Feast of Booths {Zech. 14:16 NASB}.

The depth and richness of the theological implications of the Tabernacle of David cannot be treated in one blog entry. Nor can the Tabernacle of David. The connection between the Feast of Tabernacles and the Tabernacle of David are remarkable to me. I have spoken before about eventually discussing the Tabernacle of David, and the Temple of Solomon, now that we are finished with the Tabernacle of Moses. More on the tabernacles will come.

[1] John Ritchie, Feasts Of Jehovah: Foreshadow Of Christ In The Calendar Of Israel (Grand Rapids: Kregel Classics, 1982), 67.
[2] Alfred Edersheim, The Temple: It’s Ministry And Services As They Were In The Time Of Christ (Peabody: Hendrickson Publishers, Inc., 1994), 224.
[3] David H. Stern, Jewish New Testament Commentary (Clarksville: Jewish New Testament Publications, Inc., 1992), 182.
[4] Edersheim, 224.
[5] D.A. Carson, The Gospel According To John (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1991), 337.
[6] Ibid.
[7] Craig S. Keener, The IVP Bible Background Commentary (Downers Grove: IVP Academic, 2014), 271.
[8] Andreas J. Köstenberger, Encountering John, 2 ed., (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2013), 90.
[9] Richard Booker, Celebrating Jesus In The Biblical Feasts (Shippensburg: Destiny Image Publishers, 2009), 141.
[10] Barton J. Payne, The Theology Of The Older Testament (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1962), 405.
[11] John Walvoord and Roy Buck, eds., The Bible Knowledge Commentary: Old Testament (Colorado Springs: David C. Books, 1985), 1451.

Sunday, October 1, 2017

Sabbath Sanctuary: Pray For The Peace Of Jerusalem

Pray for the peace of Jerusalem: “May they prosper who love you. “May peace be within your walls, And prosperity within your palaces.” For the sake of my brothers and my friends,
I will now say, “May peace be within you.” For the sake of the house of the Lord our God,
I will seek your good
{Ps. 122: 6-9 NASB}. 

Today is the The Day of Prayer for the Peace of Jerusalem. I encourage everyone on this Sabbath weekend, to take a moment and pray for the peace of Jerusalem. The Land of Israel is so amazing. I was there in 1992 and am growing anxious to return. There is something about being in Jerusalem that is hard to explain. But the experience will forever remain in my heart!

On the first Sunday of every October, hundreds of millions of people around the world join together to pray for the peace of Jerusalem. According to the DPPJ site, this event has quickly become the largest Israel-focused prayer event in history. The  day of prayer started in 2002 to raise global awareness and intercession for God's purposes in Israel. 

God has marvelous plans for the Jews and the land of Israel, written for us to remember and pray in His Word. Please take a moment today and pray that the Messiah be revealed to Israel, and that God’s purposes for His people come to fruition, and that truly, the peace that only the Messiah can give, will rest upon Israel. 

Rest in the presence of God this Sabbath weekend. Saturday at sundown completed the Day of Atonement, and now we look forward to the Feast of Tabernacles, which we will celebrate one day in Jerusalem with the Lord. 

You can check out the link for the Pray for Jerusalem Day here

Saturday, September 23, 2017

God is Omnipotent: Have Courage

There is nothing for which the children ought more earnestly to contend than the doctrine of their Master over all creation—the Kingship of God over all the works of His own hands—the Throne of God and His right to sit upon that Throne.” 1

The world in which we live is fallen. The times in which we are living are troubling. Destructive hurricanes; devastating earthquakes; terrorism; sociopathic dictators threatening their neighbors. New signs in the heavens—the like of which has not taken place before—September 23, 2017 is supposedly the end of the world. These times are not for the faint of heart. The birth pangs of the Last Days are growing stronger:

You will be hearing of wars and rumors of wars. See that you are not frightened, for those things must take place, but that is not yet the end. For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom, and in various places there will be famines and earthquakes. But all these things are merely the beginning of birth pangs” {Matt. 24:6-8 NASB}.

I take Jesus’ words to heart…I am not afraid when I see signs that the Bible warned us to look for. I can live without fear, even fear of the unknown, because of who God is. For the Lord is sovereign—over everything. He holds creation in His hand; He is watching over everything. Place your hope in the Lord and His Word:

 “Surely the Sovereign Lord does nothing without revealing his plan to his servants the prophets {Amos 3:7}.

God, after He spoke long ago to the fathers in the prophets in many portions and in many ways in these last days has spoken to us in His Son, whom He appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the world. And He is the radiance of His glory and the exact representation of His nature, and upholds all things by the word of His power. When He had made purification of sins, He sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, having become as much better than the angels, as He has inherited a more excellent name than they” {Heb. 1: 1-4 NASB}.

For by Him all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things have been created through Him and for Him. He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together {Col. 1: 16-17 NASB}.

I don’t worry about the events that I witness on earth, because He is sovereign, and I know that He is in control of everything, and that all things are working according to His will {Rom. 8:28}. This doesn’t mean that frightening things won’t happen. It doesn’t mean that destructive or devastating events won’t take place—it means that when they do I don’t worry—I pray:

Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.  And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” {Phil. 4:6-7 NASB}.

The peace of God which surpasses all comprehension. This is so amazing. God’s peace is beyond anything we can comprehend, so why be frightened? Jesus encourages us to trust Him—and trust Him I will—whatever comes or takes place in the heavens or in the earth.

The sovereignty of God is the exercise of His supremacy…being infinitely elevated above the highest creature.2 When I say that God is sovereign, it means that He is omnipotent. He is the Lord Most High. He is Lord of heaven and earth. He is subject to no one. His will is supreme. He is unrivaled in majesty. Unlimited in power. Unaffected by anything outside of Himself. “The Supremacy of God is the kingship of God, the Godhood of God. To say that God is sovereign is to declare that He is the Most High, doing according to His will in the army of heaven, and among the inhabitants of the earth…He is the Almighty, the Possessor of all power in heaven and earth, so that none can defeat His counsels, thwart His purposes, or resist His will {Ps. 115:3}. He is the Governor among the nations {Ps. 22:28}, setting up kingdoms, over throwing empires, and determining the course of dynasties as pleaseth Him best.” 3 He is the King of kings and Lord of lords {1 Tim. 6:15}. God is all powerful or Almighty. With God, all things are possible {Matt. 19:26}. God is sovereign over creation; He forms the unborn child in his mother’s womb {Ps. 139:13}. The Lord created the heavens {Jer. 32:17}. He decrees all things in accordance with His will {Eph. 1:11}. He is the beginning—everything starts with Him and ends with Him {Rev. 22:12-13}. He knows all and sees all; He sees the end from the beginning. He is all powerful and His purpose will be established:

Declaring the end from the beginning, And from ancient times things which have not been done, Saying, ‘My purpose will be established, And I will accomplish all My good pleasure’” {Is. 46:10 NASB}.

He does according to His will in the host of heaven And among the inhabitants of earth; And no one can ward off His hand Or say to Him, ‘What have You done?” {Dan. 4:35 NASB}.

The term omnipotence signifies that the Lord is all powerful. Though He is all powerful, He does nothing randomly. He is a God of order—He brings order from chaos. He created the universe ex nihilo—out of nothing. “This means that before God began to create the universe, nothing else existed except God himself.” 4 

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was formless and void, and darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was moving over the surface of the waters {Gen. 1: 1-2 NASB}.

God’s power is displayed in His character, “God is all-powerful and able to do whatever he wills. Since his will is limited by his nature, God can do everything that is in harmony with his perfections.” 5 There are then, a few things God cannot do, because they are contrary to His nature and character. That is why the definition of omnipotence is God’s ability to do “all His holy will.” He can do all things that are consistent with His character. He cannot go back on His Word {Jer. 1:11-13; 2 Tim. 2:13}; He cannot lie {Num. 23:19; Heb. 6:18}; In Titus 1:2 He is called the “unlying God” or the “God who never lies.” He cannot sin or have anything to do with sin {Hab. 1:13; James 1:13}. God cannot cease to exist, or cease to be God, or can He act in a way that is inconsistent with any of His attributes. God’s power is infinite, and the use of His power is qualified by His other attributes.

Why is God’s omnipotence important for us? God created you and me—we are the imago dei—His image bearers. He made us so that our lives display a faint reflection of His attributes. We do not have infinite power—only God has infinite power, but God has made us creatures with a will who exercise freedom of choice, and make decisions regarding our lives. Our will is not absolutely free like God’s will is, but He has given us relative freedom in our spheres of influence. When we use our will and freedom to make choices that please God and are consistent with His Word, we reflect His character and bring Him glory.

We are the light of the world and the salt of the earth—we are to dispel darkness {Matt. 5:14-16}. When terrible things happen, the Church must rise up. When we see the earthquakes, hurricanes, and tornadoes; when we see the darkness that seeks to envelop the earth, we must remember not to fear these things, but to pray and rest, knowing that God is in control and still inhabits His throne. Believers need to live and walk in the authority that God granted us in the cultural mandate {Gen. 1; Matt. 28}. Though we do not have infinite power, however, God has given us power to bring about physical, mental, spiritual, and persuasive power in our families, churches, and civil governments. When we act according to His will, we bring Him glory.  

Jesus promised us that we will have trouble in this world, “These things I have spoken to you, so that in Me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world” {Jn. 16:33 NASB}. He has overcome all the trouble we see. This doesn’t mean we won’t suffer the repercussions of terrible events, but it does mean that God did not leave His throne. Jesus is with us—carrying us through all the trouble we will witness on earth. The name of the Lord is a strong tower; The righteous runs into it and is safe {Prov. 18:10}. We are to be strong and courageous, and place our hope in Him—which we can easily do because He is sovereign and omnipotent.

For He was foreknown before the foundation of the world, but has appeared in these last times for the sake of you who through Him are believers in God, who raised Him from the dead and gave Him glory, so that your faith and hope are in God” {1 Pet. 1:20-21 NIV}.

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1. The Complete Works of C. H. Spurgeon, Volume 2: Sermons 54-106, # 77.
2. A.W. Pink, The Attributes Of God (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1975), 32.
3. A.W. Pink, The Sovereignty of God (Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth Trust, 1998), 20.
4. Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1994), 263.
5. Paul Enns, The Moody Handbook Of Theology (Chicago: Moody Publishers, 2014), 201.

Monday, September 11, 2017

Psalm To See Me Through: Psalm 27: Courageous Trust

A Psalm of Fearless Trust in God.  A Psalm of David. 

The Lord is my light and my salvation; Whom shall I fear? The Lord is the defense of my life;
Whom shall I dread?

When I was fourteen, I chose this verse for my confirmation graduation. I did not realize it at the time, but as I look back, this verse radically described my life. Elementary school is hard for most kids, but I had a particularly rough time. I spent my grade school years being ruthlessly picked on. My memories of second through eighth grades are miserable, with few exceptions. I remember feeling at the time, that God was my only friend.

As terrible as grade school was, and as mean as some of the kids were, they did not make death threats against me; I did not fear for my life. David faced real threats—threats that would have proved fatal had they succeeded. But David knew that the Lord was his light and salvation, he knew with all his heart that God was his defense. His confidence dispelled all fear. Whom shall I fear? is a rhetorical question. God was the defense of his life; nobody could harm him.

When evildoers came upon me to devour my flesh, My adversaries and my enemies, they stumbled and fell. Though a host encamp against me, My heart will not fear; Though war arise against me, In spite of this I shall be confident {vv.2-3}.

The reason David has full confidence in God to protect Him, is that the Lord has proven Himself faithful time and again. He is speaking about those who came against him in the past tense. He is declaring what God had done for him before in defeating his enemies; this fuels his praise and bolsters his conviction. The imminent threat will not move him, he remains confident that even if his enemy broke through the wall and came in, he trusts the Lord without fear. I shall be confident—the Hebrew means literally “in this I trust.”[1]

One thing I have asked from the Lord, that I shall seek: That I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, To behold the beauty of the Lord And to meditate in His temple {v.4}. 

When I read verse four, it causes me to think of a beautiful place, with a gorgeous view, one in which I could gaze for a long time, one that brings me rest and peace. David speaks of God’s sanctuary in this way. The house of the Lord is a place of peace and rest, and is also a place of refuge—a place to feel safe. David desires to spend the rest of his days in this beautiful house of peace and safety, and to gaze on the beauty of the Lord. To gaze on the Lord does not mean to catch a glimpse of Him once or twice, but it is rather a steady, sustained focus on the Lord and who He is—His person, not His hand; who He is, not what He can give. This is the best antidote for the fears that try to take our eyes of the One True God.  

“Note the singleness of purpose (one thing)—the best answer to distracting fears (cf. 1-3)—and the priorities within that purpose: to behold and to inquire; a preoccupation with God’s Person and will. It is the essence of worship; indeed of discipleship.”[2]

For in the day of trouble He will conceal me in His tabernacle; In the secret place of His tent He will hide me; He will lift me up on a rock. And now my head will be lifted up above my enemies around me, And I will offer in His tent sacrifices with shouts of joy; I will sing, yes, I will sing praises to the Lord {vv. 5-6}.

The sanctuary is a hiding place; a place of refuge. David knows the Lord will hide him there from the raging chaos of the world; the evil men that come against God’s anointed king. You and I should think of God and His sanctuary in the same way. It is His sanctuary where we gather to praise and worship Him for all He has done for us, and all that He will do in the future. We too, can trust Him without fear and in full confidence. It is by worshiping the Lord and praising Him for His faithfulness, and coming before Him in awe and wonder at who He is, that we are lifted up on a rock, above our enemies. Those who come against us lose when we approach the sanctuary, offer sacrifices to the Lord, and sing His praises with joy. The tent David speaks of is the Tabernacle of David which he pitched on Mt. Zion—it housed only the Ark of the Covenant—the place where God’s glory dwells.
Hear, O Lord, when I cry with my voice, And be gracious to me and answer me. When You said, “Seek My face,” my heart said to You, “Your face, O Lord, I shall seek.” Do not hide Your face from me, Do not turn Your servant away in anger; You have been my help; Do not abandon me nor forsake me, O God of my salvation! For my father and my mother have forsaken me, But the Lord will take me up {vv.7-10}

David began his prayer with confident trust and unswerving faithfulness, even though his life was being threatened by a host of enemies. Something changed in David’s disposition {v.7}; he began to pray anxiously that God would not forsake him. Who has not encountered a day like David? One moment we are full of faith, and the next we are crashing on the rocks. I have. But David reaches inside and encourages himself in the Lord in whom he has placed his trust many times. He prays that God not forsake him as his mother and father had. Most scholars agree that David’s mother and father forsaking him is most likely hypothetical. But it speaks to David’s mindset, he truly believes the only refuge he has is the Lord—everyone else has left him. How can a mother forget her son? Isaiah’s words come to mind:

Can a woman forget her nursing child And have no compassion on the son of her womb? Even these may forget, but I will not forget you {Is. 49:15 NASB}.

The Lord will take him up. This promise should encourage you as well. God will not forsake you or forget you. His love is far-reaching and never-ending.

Teach me Your way, O Lord, And lead me in a level path Because of my foes. Do not deliver me over to the desire of my adversaries, For false witnesses have risen against me, And such as breathe out violence. I would have despaired unless I had believed that I would see the goodness of the Lord In the land of the living. Wait for the Lord; Be strong and let your heart take courage; Yes, wait for the Lord {vv. 11-14}.

David’s confidence once again surfaced in the face of adversity. He encouraged himself to wait on the Lord. He knows God is faithful—and this goodness kept him from fainting under the oppression of the attack. David is not only a worshiper who seeks God’s face, but he is also a committed to following His statutes. He wants to live the way God wants him to, and he prays for the Lord to keep him on the right path.

David holds on to his faith in the Lord. Many of the psalms end with a victory praise, or an answered prayer, but here the psalmist stands in God’s sanctuary with his faith—his trust—to wait on the Lord. Here David exhibits courageous trust. There are times in life when it seems like all you have to hold on to is your faith; believing and trusting in God’s faithfulness. It takes courage to stand on your faith, and have confidence because you know the Lord and trust that He will not forsake you, even when you face adversity. Be strong and take courage…wait on the Lord.

To read all the Psalms in this series click here: Psalms To See Me Through

[1] Craig C. Broyles, Psalms (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 1999), 142.
[2] Derek Kidner, Psalms 1-72 (Downers Grove: IVP Academic, 2008), 138.