Forgiveness: The Name of the Lord

Today’s reading is Psalm 32.

Open up just about any commentary on Psalm 32 and you’ll find an explanation of the three terms used to describe lawlessness: transgression, iniquity, sin (in the ESV). After distinguishing the three, most commentators will go on to say the distinctions really don’t matter. This threefold description is simply supposed to prompt us to recognize sin in completeness and in all its forms can be forgiven. I have no doubt that is true. But I wonder if we are missing the real point in this triumvirate description of lawless behavior.

What really makes these three terms stand out is they are exactly the terms used when Yahweh revealed the full meaning of His name to Moses:

The Lord, the Lord, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, but who will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children and the children’s children, to the third and the fourth generation.

Exodus 34:6-7

Psalm 32, like so many other psalms, is a meditation on the name of the Lord. It is a meditation with application. Let’s think of it this way. Having read Psalm 1, you can imagine why someone might keep silent about their sins. They might hope if they are silent about them, they won’t get noticed. They definitely don’t want to attract attention to all those moments when they stood in the way of the sinners, do they?

Yet, when I know Yahweh’s name, I will be clamoring to confess to Him. His very name is Forgiveness. I don’t have to hide my lawlessness. He is the God of mercy and grace, of steadfast love and covenant faithfulness. I don’t have to fear that if I uncover my sins, He will hang on to them forever. It’s in His very name, His very nature to cast those sins away from me. Praise the Lord!

Today’s reading is Psalm 32.

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Channeling Moses

Today’s reading is Psalm 27.

Bible trivia: I asked the Lord to let me see His face. He set me on the rock. He covered me. I saw his goodness. I asked the Lord not to abandon me, but to go with me. Who am I?

That’s right! I’m Moses. We can read about this in Exodus 33-34. Israel had sinned with the golden calf and the Lord was threatening to abandon them. Moses interceded and asked to see the Lord’s glory. God explained no one could see His face and live, so He placed Moses in the cleft of the rock, covered him, then passed by and let him see His goodness. Finally, He agreed that he would go with Moses and Israel. Now, here’s the really cool part. God demonstrated His presence in Exodus 40 by having His glory fill the tent of meeting. By day it was a pillar of smoke, by night a pillar of fire.

But wait! Psalm 27 shows that it is David too. David is channeling Moses in this psalm. Why was David so completely confident in his Psalm 27 prayer? Because he knew what kind of God he served. He knew how the Lord had worked with Moses, he was certain God still worked that same way. He knew the Lord would let him see His goodness. He knew the Lord would set him on the rock and cover him with protection. He knew the Lord would not forsake and abandon him but bestow His presence and favor. It’s what God does. It’s what God has always done. It’s what He still does. Praise the Lord!!!

Tomorrow’s reading is Psalm 27.

PODCAST!!!

Click here to take about 15 minutes and listen to the Text Talk conversation between Andrew Roberts and Edwin Crozier sparked by this post.

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Your Holy One

Today’s reading is Psalm 16.

Who is God’s holy one? David was glad, rejoiced, and felt secure because he knew God was not going to abandon him to Sheol. That is, God wasn’t going to hand David over to death. He was going to maintain David’s life. This was important. How many of the psalms express a fear of death? (Psalm 13 anyone?) But in this psalm, David is in a moment of great faith. He knows because the Lord is at his right hand, death is nothing to fear. It’s important to recognize this primary application, because this application is the one that applies to you and me. We can have this exact same joy and security. God will preserve our life. He will not abandon us to death. He will not allow us to see corruption. There is no other place than God that will give us this blessing. But why? How does that even work? Didn’t David actually die? Didn’t his flesh actually see corruption? Yes. What are we to make of that? There is actually a marker in this text that should make us stop and scratch our head, pointing us to something or someone beyond David. Did you notice the grammatical shift in the middle of vs. 10? From vs. 5-10, David speaks of “my” chosen portion, “my” cup, “my” lot, lines fallen to “me,” “I” have a beautiful inheritance, the Lord gives “me” counsel, the Lord is always before “me,” He is at “my” right hand, “my” heart is glad, “my” flesh dwells secure, “my” soul will not be abandoned to Sheol. But then it is “your” holy one who will not see corruption. Did you see the shift? Doesn’t this shift almost pave the way for thinking David is now talking about someone else? Whether he knew it or not (we can argue about that for days), David was talking about someone else. He was talking about Jesus. Peter and Paul both tell us this (Acts 2:25-33; 13:35-37). We can’t visit Jesus’s tomb. We can’t dig up His remains and do a DNA test. Why? Because God did not let His Holy One see corruption. Before His body started to corrupt and decay, God raised it up. But how does this fit back into Psalm 16? The real reason David’s soul or ours will not be abandoned to Sheol is because God would not allow His Holy One to see corruption. It is not simply that God will not allow those He has made holy to see corruption. It is because Jesus, the true Holy One, was not abandoned to Sheol, we who have Him always at our right hand will neither see corruption. And this is, in fact, the greatest blessing we are looking for. Sure, God can give us food. He can give us money. He can give us friends. He can give us good health. All of this is good. Thank God for all of these things. But the greatest blessing is what is coming when this life is over. When this life is over, our life isn’t over. God didn’t let Jesus see corruption; He didn’t abandon Jesus to the realm of the dead. He won’t do that to us who are in Jesus either. Praise the Lord!

Next week’s reading is Psalm 17.

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Earth Dwellers

Today’s reading is Psalm 10.

Psalm 9 ended with “Let the nations know that they are but men!” Psalm 10 ends with “…so that the man who is of the earth may strike terror no more.” I love the way Warren Wiersbe describes these folks. He calls them “earth dwellers.” I get it. We all dwell on the earth. But that doesn’t mean we have to be earth dwellers. We can be heaven dwellers even while we live on this planet. We can put our faith in God, we can surrender to Him. When we do, by the blood of Jesus Christ, we will be raised up to sit in the heavenly places with Jesus Christ far above every rule, authority, dominion and power. Our citizenship will be in heaven. We will be transferred into the kingdom of His light. Of course, for this to happen, our minds, our thoughts, our values, our desires must look to the heavenly. We must meditate on things above, not on things of the earth. We must look forward to the glory of God and not be distracted by the earthly distractions and pleasures. Oh sure. The earth dwellers do get to have fun. They have a good time, often at the expense of the heaven dwellers. But, the Lord hears the cries of the heaven dwellers. The Lord will win, He will judge. And only the heaven dwellers get…well…the kingdom of heaven. Don’t get distracted. Seek the kingdom first, foremost, and forever.

Next week’s reading is Psalm 11.

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Jesus: A Little Lower than the Angels

Today’s reading is Psalm 8.

David looked back to Adam and gave glory to God. However, the Hebrews author looks through Psalm 8 forward to Jesus and gives glory to God. In Hebrews 2:5-9, the author makes the psalm about Jesus. There is no indication that anyone in Jewish history read Psalm 8 messianically. Yet, the proclaimer of Hebrews does. And what is the point? Do you remember in yesterday’s devotion when we recognized there is a little part of us that recognizes Adam failed in his dominion? Do you recognize that part of us which reads Psalm 8 and says what we have in this creation doesn’t seem very much like dominion? I mean, sure, we can domesticate cattle for food, dogs for pets, and even some lions for entertainment. But Leviathan? Even God tells Job we have no dominion over Leviathan or Behemoth. And then there are the hurricanes we can do nothing about, the raging forest fires we can’t control, the earthquakes we cannot calm down. As amazing as it was, Adam was given dominion. But he failed in that dominion and all creation was subjected to futility. But it was subjected in hope. It was looking forward to the true Adam who would have true dominion. You know, the true Adam who could speak storms into silence and walk on water. It is looking forward to the conquering Adam that will ultimately even have dominion over death. And when we see that, we see Jesus. It is amazing that Adam was exalted to the level of just lower than the angels. It is equally amazing that Jesus was humiliated to the level of just lower than the angels. And how was He crowned with glory and honor? Was it by exercising power and authority? No, it was by becoming completely vulnerable. It was by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. And in suffering that death, He took the great debacle of Adam’s dominion and redeemed it such that many sons can be brought to the glory that Adam lost. Jesus is all that Adam was intended to be and more. Just as Adam lost the glory for his sons through his sin and defiled dominion, Jesus restores the glory of the sons of man. Amazing! Why is God mindful of man? Because of the true Son of Man who redeemed us from all our failed dominion by His successful submission.

Next week’s reading is Psalm 9.

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O Kings, Be Wise

Today’s reading is Psalm 2.

Be wise! But how? By serving the Lord with fear. Every one of us who have ever read the Proverbs should nod in recognition. After all, the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. But did you notice how this psalm and its wisdom parallels the first psalm? In Psalm 1, the way of the wicked will perish. In Psalm 2, those who don’t kiss the Son will perish. In Psalm 2, those who take refuge in the Anointed Son/King of God will be blessed. In Psalm 1, those who meditate on God’s Law are blessed. In Psalm 1, the blessed man refuses the counsel of the wicked, the way of the sinner, and the seat of the scoffer. In Psalm 2, the kings do the exact opposite. They rage against the Lord and revel in the counsel of one another. I will say as I have said before, I have no idea why the psalms in general are in the order they are in. However, I believe I know why these first two psalms are the first two. They are the doorway to the entire wisdom of the psalmody. There is the Lord’s Law and the Lord’s Leader. They go hand in hand. Wisdom and blessing are found in the Lord’s King and the Lord’s Covenant. Any other way is death and judgment. Without this understanding, no psalm, in fact no text in the Bible, can make true sense. It is no wonder that under the New Covenant, both the Scripture and the Savior are called the Word of God.

Tomorrow’s reading is Psalm 2.

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Sent to the Gentiles

Today’s reading is Acts 26.

Okay, okay, I know we all already know Jesus was sending Paul to the Gentiles. We’ve beaten to death what a wonderful blessing that is for us today. However, do you realize Luke has finally made something clear to us that he hadn’t in the previous recounting of this event? In the initial account of Paul’s conversion (Acts 9:1-18), Luke doesn’t reveal Jesus telling Paul what his mission will be. Rather, He tells Ananias. In Paul’s recounting of his conversion in Acts 22, he doesn’t reveal that Jesus made this plain on the road to Damascus either. In fact, Ananias doesn’t make it very plain. Rather than saying, “You will go to the Gentiles,” he says, “You will be a witness for him to everyone…” Sure, that includes the Gentiles, but Paul doesn’t make the commission to the Gentiles plain until he reports about his vision of Jesus in Jerusalem some time later. However, in this third account of Paul’s conversion, we learn that Jesus told Paul from the very beginning what his mission was going to be. It is all about going to the Gentiles. None of this is a contradiction. None of this is Paul mixing up the story. Rather, we see that there is a bigger picture of rhetorical progression Luke is working on as he orders these narratives. He has included this repetition of Paul’s conversion with an increasing emphasis on going to the Gentiles until he reveals that it was Jesus’s goal for him from the very beginning to drive home one of the main points of Acts. In general, the Jews are not accepting the gospel. It is moving to the Gentiles. And the Jews are going to be judged for their rejection. If any Jews wish to be saved from the coming judgment on their nation, they had better get with the program, surrender to Jesus, and accept Gentiles into the fold. This whole book is going to end with that message. Luke’s planning may be subtle, but this rhetorical tool is effective. The gospel is going to the Gentiles. That wasn’t a backup plan. That wasn’t a fill in the gap idea. It was always Jesus’s intent for that to happen. Praise the Lord!

Tomorrow’s reading is Acts 26.

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Cleansed by Faith; Saved by Grace

Today’s reading is Acts 15.

The circumcision party was saying, “The Gentiles should be saved the same way we are, by keeping the law.” Peter responds, “Not at all. Rather, we are saved the same way they are, by grace through faith.” And once again we see that Peter’s gospel is exactly the same as Paul’s. This is exactly what Paul says in Ephesians 2:8-10. There is no Petrine Christianity versus Pauline Christianity. There is simply Christianity. Christians are those who believe Jesus (keep in mind everything we have already learned in prior readings about what is entailed by belief). Because they believe in Jesus, they gain access to the saving grace. Whether we are raised as Jews or Gentiles we all have this exact same offer. God wants to give us salvation. Will we believe Him? Will we believe Him enough to follow Him?

Tomorrow’s reading is Acts 15.

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The First Church Council?

Today’s reading is Acts 15.

We’ve all read it. There is a big debate in Jerusalem. By the time it is done, they all agree that Gentiles don’t have to be circumcised. A letter is written to explain the decision and sent out to all the churches. And there you have it. The very first church council. It was the very first meeting of church representatives under the auspices of the mother church debating, figuring out, and voting to determine church doctrine and practice. Or is it? Go back and read it again. Is that really what happened here? Not at all. Paul and Barnabas do not go to Jerusalem to find out what to teach about circumcision or to help decide what to teach about it. They go to Jerusalem because folks from that congregation had come to Antioch (and gone to other Gentile congregations) teaching what they both knew to be false doctrine. They went to Jerusalem to find out why folks were coming from that congregation teaching this error. It led to a public discussion and debate that included the apostles, elders, and maybe even the entire congregation. However, they weren’t debating in order to decide what they were going to teach, they were debating to uncover what the Holy Spirit had already revealed on the matter. This is no church council and this is no creed book. This is what happens when one church’s members start impacting another’s with error. They get together and talk about it. Praise God in this case everyone was willing to submit to truth. If only that would happen every time we have these kind of disagreements.

Today’s reading is Acts 15.

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Who Was David Talking About?

Today’s reading is Acts 2.

Peter quotes Psalm 16:8-11, from the writings of David. When we read Psalm 16, it certainly seems David was talking about himself. Of course, in talking about himself, we recognize there is hyperbole; that is, exaggeration used to clarify or highlight the point. David wasn’t saying he personally would never die or that his body would never be buried. In reference to himself, he was discussing the great blessing of life God gave David by protecting him and delivering him from his enemies. God delivered him from Goliath, from Saul, from Absalom, from so many enemies who would have dragged David down to death. However, we cannot apply these statements literally and absolutely to David. As Peter points out, he could actually take the Jews there in Jerusalem on the day of Pentecost to the very spot where David was buried. Thus, Peter says, David wasn’t actually talking about himself, but was talking about the ultimate descendant of his that God would place on the throne. That descendant would not remain in the realm of the dead. That descendant would be raised from the dead. That descendant, Peter says, is Jesus. Peter was not asking the people to believe Jesus was raised from the dead because of what David said in Psalm 16. Rather, he was asking people to believe his testimony as an eye-witness and that the people should recognize Peter and the apostles as valid eye-witnesses because of the amazing miracles that had surrounded their preaching on that day. He is quoting David in Psalm 16 to say, “I know what I’m saying about Jesus sounds odd, but we should have known something like this would happen. David said it would. Believe David. Believe me. Believe the signs.” Who was David talking about? Now that we’ve seen Jesus rise from the dead, we know exactly who he was talking about. He was talking about Jesus. Believe Jesus.

Tomorrow’s reading is Acts 2.

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