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Wednesday, June 29, 2016

PSALM 96
 the tail end of the Psalm, the one that is wag-happy.
for June 30th...

 
"Let the heavens be glad,
and let the earth rejoice;
Let the sea roar, and all it contains;
Let the field exult, and all that is in it.
Then all the trees of the forest will sing for joy
Before the Lord,
for He is coming;
For He is coming to judge the earth.
He will judge the world in righteousness
And the peoples in His faithfulness."
(verses 11-13)


 
Let's just take one itty-bitty thing out of each part of the verses:
Can't you just feel it,
The twinkle from a star being glad,
The pebbles tumbling along the path rejoicing?
Can't you just hear it,
the pounding of every salty drop in the sea,
 waves clapping in a roar?

 

Joy bursting forth with
The wildflowers blooming and the field mice exulting,
and all the pine trees gladsome singing?

 
"There will, in the first place, be joy in the presence of the angels of God."
(Matthew Henry)

 
"There are who by heaven understand angels;
by the earth, men;
by the sea, troublesome spirits;
by trees and fields, the Gentiles,
who were to believe...
The meaning is, that as the salvation was universal, so he would have the joy to be universal.
He incites all creatures to rejoice for Christ's coming both for the first and the second;
for the first, in which He consecrated all things;
for the second, at which He will free all things from corruption."
(Adam Clarke)

 
 
In other words, the whole of creation is bound in slavery to corruption, ever since Adam and Eve were kicked out of the Garden for their sin.  Have you ever thought of the ground, the plants, the animals, the sea and the sky as longing, groaning?  No wonder everything will break wide open into exulting, gladness, and joyful singing when He comes again.  In this way, the whole of creation is sanctified, set apart for His use in His time and will praise Him when unleashed. We are the caretakers and bear some responsibility towards the wonders God has made for us, but ultimately, it is God Himself who will redeem it.
 

"For the anxious longing of the creation waits eagerly for the revealing of the sons of God.
For the creation was subjected to futility, not of its own will,
but because of Him who subjected it, in hope
that the creation itself also will be set free from its slavery to corruption
into the freedom of the glory of the children of God.  
For we know that the whole creation groans
and suffers the pains of childbirth together until now."
(8:19-22)
 
 
 

PSALM 96 continued...

"the beauty of holiness" 

 
 

 
Okay, these verses contain the whole of my Christian understanding
and what my life is based upon.
It is like the peak of the highest mountain that can possibly be climbed.
So sit and rest and enjoy the view.  Hopefully you will see things you have not seen before.



First is the warm-up verse...

Glory


"Ascribe to the Lord the glory of His name;
Bring an offering, and come into His courts."
(verse 7)
 
Ascribe can also mean give.  But in one sense it is as the old hymn says, "Nothing in my hands I bring, but only to the cross I cling."  Or even more simply, the old poem by Christina Rosetti, "What can I give Him poor as I am? ...Give Him my heart.  One commentator even suggested  this word for offering is that our gift is bloodless, as contrary to the sacrificial system because the Lamb of God once and for all made the ultimate sacrifice for us.  Thus, what we bring is a different kind of gift.



 
Adam Clarke says, "It is a debt; and a debt, in equity, must be paid.  The honour due His name is to acknowledge Him to be holy, just, true, powerful..Defraud not His name of the least honour...Approach not before the Lord empty, as the Jews were commanded, to which the prophet alludes: They had their sacrifices, and we also have our spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God through Jesus Christ...These are the sacrifices of a contrite heart; bring these when you enter into His courts..."


 
If we skip over the main verse that I want to examine, verse 9, look ahead at verse 10...
 
"Say among the nations, 'The Lord reigns...'"

 
In the most ancient versions, it reads something like, "'Say among the nations, the Lord ruleth by the wood,' meaning the cross.  Justin Martyr accuses the Jews of having blotted out this word out of their Bibles, because of the evidence it gave of the truth of Christianity.  It appears it did exist anciently in the Septuagint; or at least in some ancient copies of that works. ..The reading is still extant in the ancient Ronan Psalter, and in some others, 'The Lord reigns by the wood of the cross.'  My old Scottico-Latin Psalter...seems to refer to it in the paraphrase: 'For Criste regned efter the dede on the crosse.'" (Adam Clarke) (For Christ reigned after His death on the cross is my paraphrase.)  I think it is beautiful reading, "the Lord ruleth by the wood."




 

 
 
 
So as "Splendor and majesty are before Him, Strength and beauty are in His sanctuary...we are to 'Ascribe to the Lord the glory of His name;" and to "Bring an offering, and come into His courts."  Our offering is clinging to His rule by the wood, to His cross to cling.   This is why the later part of verse 9 says, "Tremble before Him, all the earth."


 
But here's the jewel, verse 9
 
"O worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness."
 
 
Beauty.
 
Holiness.
 
Worship.
 
The whole world and the garden was a picture of perfect beauty in Creation.  In the Beginning even Adam and Eve were the climax of His glorious creativity, that is, before the Fall.  The Fall began to smudge, taint, stain this beauty.  Until heaven we will not see the perfection of what God intended for us.  However, in this life there is this mystery of a call to worship in the beauty of holiness.  It is a reflection upon Whom we worship.  However, it is also a call, an order to us to worship somehow by joining and even being  "IN the beauty of holiness."  How can we come into His presence otherwise?  This is where all of Christianity has had its tug of war with dirty rags or perfection of heart. 

 
In the Old Testament, this could only be pictured by the putting on of the specially clean robes with ornaments of the High Priest who would enter into the Holy of Holies once a year.  Yet this Psalm was written some think upon the occasion of David bringing the Ark of the Covenant back to the Temple to reside in the Holy of Holies.  

 
Charles Simeon says, "The ark was a very eminent type of that adorable word; who in due time became flesh and dwelt among us.  God dwelt in a bright cloud, the Shechinah, the visible symbol of His presence...Even the vail of the temple itself was to be rent in twain to approach the very mercy-seat of the Most High.  To this David here invites the Gentile world;  Not David himself would have dared to enter into the sanctuary which was then standing, into the 'holy place'...The tabernacle and the temple are indeed long since swept away; nor is there in existence a vessel that belonged to either.  But if the symbol of God's presence is removed, is God Himself therefore gone?...What was there in the temple of old which we do not possess?...What we enjoy as far excels in beauty and in holiness all that they possessed."

 
John Wesley says: "Beauty-Clothed with all the gifts and graces which are necessary in God's worship."

 
In Isaiah we see the prophet struggling with worshipping with this impossibility,
 
"I saw the Lord sitting on a throne,
lofty and exalted,
with the train of His robe filling the temple.
Seraphim stood above Him...And one called out to another and said,
"Holy, Holy, Holy, is the Lord of hosts,
The whole earth is full of His glory...
Woe is me, for I am ruined!
Because I am a man of unclean lips,
And I live among a people of unclean lips;
For my eyes have seen the King,
the Lord of hosts.
Then one of the seraphim flew to me,
with a burning coal in his hand
which he had taken from the altar with tongs.
And he touched my mouth with it and said,
'Behold, this has touched your lips;
and your iniquity is taken away,
and your sin is forgiven."
(Isaiah 6:1-3, 5-6)  


 
This is the beauty of holiness that a purifying fire can cleanse our lips to worship.  Nothing of works but a giving of our  hearts which God purifies to worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness.
 
Joseph Coute, 1874 wrote,



"Shall I call holiness an attribute?  Is it not rather the glorious combination of all His attributes into one perfect whole...combine in the dazzling white radiance of His holiness.  This, therefore,
is rather the intense whiteness, purity, clearness, the infinite lustre and splendor of His perfect nature, like a gem without a flaw...that it is so frequently associated with the Divine Beauty...Beauty is a combination of elements according to the laws of harmony;...How high and glorious, therefore must be the beauty of this attribute which is the combination of all His infinite perfections...the image of God is clear and pure in the human heart."

 
Leigh Richmond, 1772-1827 wrote,
 
"Whatever we can understand as meant by the beauty of holiness, we can see is the attributes of God, whether we consider them in all their harmony...There is a holy separation, a beautiful character of holiness...in character, feelings and conduct; these are all the various fruits and graces; and so the man becomes beautiful in holiness."
 
 
 
Personally, I am a visual person.  I love, love, love beauty that God has created, love it like an addiction.  However, in people, there is a falseness when beauty is only skin-deep.  There is no true beauty unless it is inward as well as outward.  It makes no sense to me and is sad to see Christians attack the concept of holiness as if it is a false claim by believers by denying the beauty of holiness in His people.  It is only by the grace of God, and is a gift which the majority of Christianity refuses to accept.  It is the contrast of "the rule of the wood," the ugly horror of the cross to the beauty of holiness which it made possible. 

 
If God calls us to worship in the beauty of holiness,
He can cleanse us, purify us to make it possible.  It only takes a willing heart
and a belief that it is possible.
 
"There is a peculiar beauty about godly old age,
the beauty of holiness."
Alexander Smith
 
"God took out all that was not patient and kind,
and came and shut Himself in."
Fox

"Let me be a woman, holy through and through, asking nothing but what God wants to give me, receiving with both hands with all my heart whatever that is."
Elisabeth Elliot


"He does not want a girl who trifles with Christianity,
He wants a woman who is radically given to Christ. 
He does not want a girl who prays tepid, lukewarm prayers. 
He wants a woman who lives in defiance of the powers of hell. 
He does not want a girl who is self-adorning with the latest fashion and trends. 
He wants a woman who is adorned with the inner jewelry of Christ--given holiness."
Leslie Ludy


"He disciplines us for our good,
that we may share in His holiness."
Hebrews 12:10

Come share His holiness!
 
 


Tuesday, June 28, 2016


PSALM 96 continued...
 


 
"Sing to the Lord, bless His name;
Proclaim good tiding of His salvation from day to day.
Tell of His glory among the nations,
His wonderful deeds among al the peoples.
For great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised;
He is to be feared above all gods.
For all the gods of the peoples are idols
(non-existent things),
But the Lord made the heavens.
Splendor and majesty are before Him,
Strength and beauty are in His sanctuary."
(verses 2-6)
 

 

 
This proclaiming is "to 'shew forth'...'to declare,' Carry good news; the gospel of glad tidings...
He shews forth His salvation, which He has conferred on mankind by Christ.  Salvation was a glorious work, full of wonders.  And this was to be evangelized, as before to the Jews, by the prophets;--so now, to all people, by the apostles."
(Adam Clarke)

 

 
Think of exhibit A:
 
"And when they had seen this, they made known the statement which had been told them about this Child.  And all who heard it wondered at the things which were told them by the shepherds...And the shepherds went back, glorifying and praising God for all that they had heard and seen, just as had been told them."
(Luke 17, 18, 20)
 
 
Do we need to go back to shepherd school?  Yeah, I know, the sing, sing, singing was done by the angels and not so much by a bunch of unshaven guys in bathrobes, but still they made known, went back glorifying and praising God for all that they had heard and seen, just as had been told them.  Do we do this?


 
In other words, it doesn't just take wise guys to illuminate the world in what Scripture tells us.  It takes average, okay, below-average Joes like us to be willing to declare, to shew forth, to carry good news.  Even a child is able to lead them.  The Gospel means good news.  When Jay was a young lad, he said, "I know, we are the paper boys and God is the paper with the Good News!"  Okay, so roll 'em up, rubber band it and give it a toss out in an unbelieving world.  Good News isn't a one-time thing either.  It's new every day.  That's why it's called "news."
 



Adam Clarke goes on to say "The Lord is great, Great in power, wisdom, goodness, mercy, dominion, riches;--great in every way of greatness...What is praise-worthy in any king may be found superlatively in Him."

 

 
"He is to be feared above all gods; for He can cast body and soul into hell.  They, though called gods, can do neither good nor hurt; the devils, who set them up, believe that he is above them, and they tremble...He is above all gods.  If there be other gods, shew their works; produce the heavens they have made, or the earth they have framed."

 

 
Not that too many of us are tempted to bow down to idols that sit on our coffee tables, but Adam Clarke goes on to say, "The prophet elegantly derides the heathenish gods, and the heathen for fearing them.
1.  For the multitude of them,--for they were many; which is contrary to the nature of God, who must be but one, for there can be but one Supreme.
2.  For their division:--one of the Ammonites; another of the Moabites; one of the Philistines; many of the Assyrians, Egyptians, Greeks, Romans; their gods were according to the number of their cities; --three hundred Jupiters, thirty thousand deities.
3.  They were elilim (vanities, emptinesses, things of nought) not Elohim,  Their power was not universal as the power of God ought to be.
4.  Lastly, in the opposition, which plainly shews the difference between God and idols.  They are but the work of men's hands.  Our God is a Creator; He made the heavens, and all that is contained in and under them.  He, then, is terrible, and to be feared; not those diminutive, vain, unprofitable gods of the nations...

 
He now sets forth His Majesty to the eye of the subject and stranger: --Honour, majesty, strength, beauty."
 
Hmm, vanities, emptinesses, things of nought.  These are our idols.  Which should we choose, the  Splendor of our Creator or dust?  When God blows into dust, a man was created.  When we blow into dust, we just get a puff of dust that irritates the eye.

 
 
 
 

 
"Splendor and Majesty are before Him,
Strength and beauty are in His sanctuary.."
 
"Does this refer to the cloud of His glory that preceded the ark, in their journeying through the wilderness?  Some say this Psalm was written to be sung when the ark was once again brought into Jerusalem." (Adam Clarke)  But even more, it is prophetic of the glory of the coming Gospel of Christ.

 
Or as Matthew Henry says, "...heaven's happiness is a glory to be revealed."
 
More on His strength and beauty and the rest of this Psalm to come...

Monday, June 27, 2016

PSALM 96

 

"Sing to the Lord a new song;
Sing to the Lord, all the earth.
Sing to the Lord, bless His name;
Proclaim  (shew forth) good tidings
of His salvation from day to day."
(verses 1-2)


 
O sing, sing, sing,
"To the honour of the Trinity.
(Bellarmine)


 
"A song of peculiar excellence...He has done extraordinary things for us, 
and we should excel in praise and thanksgiving...The song to be sung must be new. 
New, for a new benefit;
--new, to be sung by a new people;
--new, as being on a most excellent subject."
(Adam Clarke)

 
"Three times we are here called to sing unto the Lord;
that is, 'Bless His name, speak well of Him, that you may bring others to think well of Him.' 
A new song is a product of new affections."
(Matthew Henry)

 
Early Blue Grass Singers, the Carter Family,
June Carter Cash's mother, aunt, and uncle:
we accidently came across their place tucked way back in a holler in Hilton, Virginia.
 


 
I've about given up on becoming part of a Gospel Blue Grass Band to sing, sing, sing in harmony, but I still must have a new song every single day.  No exception.  This means, I must go before God in His Word and receive something new and fresh everyday, like the quail and manna in the desert, sustenance.  As I've shared before, my cousin's discipline for her children when they were young was to send them to their room, and they couldn't come out until they had a song in their heart and a smile on their face.  That would be a good discipline for us as well.


 
Then if we are singing, somebody might hear.  We are told to proclaim, to shew forth, to declare His salvation.  This is one way to make it new, to be sung by a new people.  As I sat writing at my laptop while a couple of boys were playing crazy games on the Xbox in the living room with my son, I was struck by the fact that though most all his neighborhood friends  are Christian, here sat one young man with no Christian background whatsoever, a heathan. 


So, what is our responsibility?  To shew forth, to declare, or to at least invite him again to church.  This is a young man who just showed up one day on his bike with a backpack, one who had ridden in from somewhere, I'm not quite sure where or how he found our house.  He seems like a nice, polite kid.  But what about his future, his eternal future?   I tried to at least sweeten the pot by saying he could sit with our son in the sound room where he runs to the power point for the service (not bad for a kid who barely has a fifth grade reading level).  So far, he has not been allowed by his parents whom we have not met, but we will not give up.  (I will also remind the boys of their responsibility to be good witnesses by not cheating on their video games ganging up on him.)


 
The other way the song will be sung new is that the depth of God's most excellent subject can never be fully explored.  It is deeper than the deepest depths of the ocean or the vastest reaches of the mysteries of the universe.  He is unfathomable.  His mercies are new every morning, every single, morning.  Think of it as God gleefully waiting until we wake up to show us something brand new every day, one of His treasures.  What if we shrug Him off, don't make time to listen, to see.  Sometimes what He shows us is a pinprick of light in dark times we are walking in when we would rather walk alone.   Maybe it is as far away as a twinkling star.  Maybe He sits there with His hand on the lightswitch just waiting.  Sometimes it is a joy about to burst us so wide open that we cannot contain it.  Whatever it is, it is something to be sung about. 

 
Well, there's a lot more coming in this Psalm, but I need to think on this some more, about sing, sing, singing, to get in harmony with the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  Now there's a band to join! 

 
 
 
 


Saturday, June 25, 2016

PSALM 95 continued...
 
Listening to the Shepherd, or not...
 



 
"O come, let us worship and bow down :
let us kneel before the Lord our Maker.
For He is our God; and we are the sheep of His hand.
Today if ye will hear His voice,
Harden not your heart, as in the wilderness
When your fathers tempted me, proved me,
and saw my work.
Forty years long was I grieved with this generation,
and said, 'It is a people that do err in their heart,
and they have not known my ways
Unto whom I sware in my wrath,
that they should not enter into my rest.'"
(verses 6-11)
 



 
This is an, Oh, my!  It begins in beauty and ends in a dire warning. 
 
"Let us kneel before the Lord our Maker."
*"Let us crouch, or cower down, bending the legs under as a dog
in the presence of his master, who solicitously waits to receive his commands."
 


 
"For He is our God; and we are the sheep of His hand."
*"He has taken us for His own...
He feeds and governs us, and His powerful hand protects us."
 
In the New Testament, Jesus is called the Good Shepherd and He says...
 


 
"But you do not believe, because you are not of My sheep. 
My sheep hear My voice, and I know them,
and they follow me
and I give eternal life to them,
and they shall never perish;
and no one shall snatch them out of My hand.
My Father who has given them to Me, is greater than all;
and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father's hand."
(John 1027-29)
 

 
I believe in free will, even in sheep.  We choose to listen to His voice and follow or harden our hearts in disobedience and wander away.  We are the sheep of His hand, yet this passage is a warning to what can happen with the example of the Hebrew children who perished in the wilderness because of the hardness of their hearts.  Nothing can snatch us from His hand, but He will not hold onto those who would pry away from His grasp and crawl away from His care.  Disobedience and rebellion, "obstinate refusal," cancel out God's promises as in shown in these verses.
 
"To-day if ye will hear His voice."
*"To-day--you have not time to lose--to-morrow may be too late. 
God calls to-day; to-morrow He may be silent...



as if he had said, 'Seeing you are in so good a spirit, do not forget your own resolutions, and harden not your hearts, as your fathers did in Meribah and Massah, in the wilderness; the same fact, and the same names as are mentioned Exodus 17:7 ("because of the quarrel of the sons of Israel, and because they tested the Lord, saying, 'Is the Lord among us, or not?'")  When the people murmured at Rephidim, because they had not water; hence it was called Meribah, contention or provocation, and Massah, temptation."

 
"When your fathers tempted me."
*"Tried me by their insolence, unbelief, and blasphemy."
 
"They proved me."
*"There they saw my works;--they saw that nothing was too hard for God."
 
"Forty years long."
*"They did nothing but murmur, disbelieve, and rebel...
During all this time God was grieved by that generation."
 
"It is a people that do err in their heart."
 Or, according to the Chaldee, these are a people whose idols are in their hearts. 
At any rate they had not God there.
 
"They have not known my ways."
*"The very 'to know,' is used here...They knew God's ways well enough:
but they did not like them; and would not walk in them."

Oh, here goes the old Psalter once again...
"These wretched men, were gifnen to the lufe of this lyfe:
knewe noght my ways of mekenes, & charite:
for thi in my wreth I sware to thaim;
--that es, I sett stabely that if thai sal entre in till my rest'--
that is they shall not enter into my rest.



 
*"This ungrateful people did not approve of God's ways; they did not enter into His designs;--
they did not conform to His commands,--they paid no attention to His miracles ("for I brought them water out of the rock, and gave them bread from heaven, and flesh also."), and did not acknowledge the benefits which they received from His hands; therefore God determined that they should not enter into the rest which He had promised to them, that is, provided they were obedient, they should inherit the Promised Land.  So none of those who came out of Egypt, except Joshua and Caleb (not even Moses), entered into Canaan; all the rest died in the wilderness, wherein, because of their disobedience,God caused them to wander forty years."

 
Living on the edge outside of the fence.
 
*"It is well known that the land of Canaan was a type of heaven; where, after all His toils, the good and faithful servant is to enter into the joy of His Lord...Paul hence takes occasion to exhort the Jews, Hebrews 4:2-11, to accept readily the terms offered to them by the Gospel.  He shews that the words of the present Psalm are applicable to the state of Christianity; and intimates to them, that if they persisted in obstinate refusal of those gracious offers, they likewise would fall, according to the same example of unbelief."

 
*Are quotes from Adam Clarke
 
Thus, the last warning:
 
"Today if you hear My voice,
Do not harden your hearts as when they provoked Me
as in the day of trial in the wilderness."
(Hebrews 3:8 quoting this Psalm)
 
Nothing worse than a sheep with a hardened heart.
It will not listen to the shepherd's voice
and will be lost forever in the wilderness.

 
It comes down to the choice of a hardened heart.
It is not the shepherd's fault as the parable Jesus told:
"Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep which was lost!"
(Luke 15:6)
No wonder the picture in our hearts is the young lost lamb,
not the stubborn old ram.


 
Truly, truly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep....
The thief comes only to steal, and kill and destroy;
 I came that they might have life, and might have it abundantly.
(entering into His rest) 
I am the good shepherd; the good shepherd lays down His life for the sheep."


 
Or as Jesus said, "and the sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name,
and leads them out.  When he puts forth all his own, he goes before them, and the sheep follow him because they know his voice.  And a stranger (stranger-danger) they simply will not follow, but will flee from him, because they do not know the voice of strangers"
(John 10:3-11)

 
Yeah, I'm talking to ewe!

 
How can we refuse and ignore the great Shepherd who has laid down His life for us,
the One who knows us by name?