Third Sunday in Advent : Rejoice!

image Our Advent watch comes closer and closer to the glorious day on which the Lord came to redeem His beloved by His sacrifice. Isaiah’s prophecy is often read during this celebration and the praise songs of chapter 12 give us the perfect words to exclaim our worship. The pair of psalms is a wonderful call and response to our hearts. First we rehearse the great gift of salvation we are given by our God alone,

Surely God is my salvation; I will trust and not be afraid.

The Lord, the Lord, is my strength and my song; he has become my salvation. (v2)

With this promise and truth embedded in our hearts our attitudes turn to joy. We are freed from having to enable our own salvation. We do not have to work for it – we cannot work for it. God alone is the source of our salvation and Jesus alone is our Savior. This truth becomes a well from which we can draw living water into our lives on a moment by moment basis. Whenever we feel dry, the well is available. We can draw up the bucket of God’s strength and our joy will be revived.

With joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation.

In that day you will say:

“Give thanks to the Lord, call on his name;

make known among the nations what he has done, and prolcaim that his name is exalted.

Sing to the Lord, for he has done glorious things;

let this be known to all the world.

Shout aloud and sing for joy, people of Zion, for great is the Holy One of Israel among you. (vv 3-6)

Say it. Shout it. Tell the world, the Lord has Come!

Image by jeffjose

Psalm 51 Create In Me a Pure Heart

David and BathshebaYou do not delight in sacrifice, or I would bring it; you do not take pleasure in burnt offerings.

The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit;

a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise. (vv 16 – 17)

This truth has very nearly become obsolete in the modern church. We have replaced contrition and brokenness with ministry busyness, our ‘offerings’ and church attendance. Sin has become rule-breaking rather than a personal affront; it has become external instead of internal. Repentance has become little more than ‘I’m sorry…’.

Psalm 51 is traditionally seen as being composed by David after his adultery with Bathsheba (2 Sam 11) and then being confronted by the prophet Nathan (2 Sam 12). We know how the single transgression of Bathsheba leads to further abhorrent behavior on the part of the King and we know all too well the horrible price that he pays for this string of evils. We don’t know how an exemplar like David can succumb to sin in this fashion but we do know that, if it can happen to someone so close to God it can happen to us as well.

Have mercy on me, O God, according to your unfailing love; according to your great compassion blot out my transgressions.

Wash away all my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin.

For I know my transgressions, and my sin is always before me. (vv 1-3)

Is God moved to offer pardon through this string of praise? Exclaiming God’s unfailing love, His great compassion, and His mercy, is this proclamation of what must be entirely self evident to Him what will invite Him to offer grace? He must view these prefaces to our admission of guilt much as we do our teenager’s statements that they love and respect our household standards: we ask them why they performed such and such and act if they hold such great respect for our rules? No, we should believe that God is moved when our hearts finally arrive at the core truth of our relationship with Him voiced in verse 4.

Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight, so that you are proved right when you speak and justified when you judge. (v 4)

We must restore the proper understanding of sin in our lives and in His Church. Sin is properly viewed as being personally enacted against God. We have been lured to see sin as an external act, sort of a third party action of simply breaking a rule in which no one gets harmed like running a few miles over the speed limit. No harm, no foul. This is not how God views sin however. He views each act against His holiness personally, as though we look Him in the eye and while defiling His throne. It becomes even more serious when imagine how God must see our sin in the shadow of the Cross.

Statistically, few people read these posts on the Psalms. More people are interested in the Calvinism-Arminianism argument or my posts on the Hebrews warning passages but my prayer is that more will take the time to at least return to their Bibles and prayerfully consider this Psalm. Doctrine is important and it is valuable time spent considering the facts and searching the scriptures for the truths that underlie the doctrines but this cannot be at the expense of our relationship with God and our personal holiness. Far more important in our lives should be a plea similar to David’s:

Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.

Do not cast me from your presence or take your Holy Spirit from me.

Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me. (vv 10-12)

Psalm 18 Pt 1 ~ The Lord is My Rock

I love you, O Lord, my strength.

The Lord is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer; my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge.He is my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.

I call to the Lord, who is worthy of praise, and I am saved from my enemies. ( vv 1 – 3 )

Such effusive praise is easily expressed in our moments of gratitude and joy as we revel in the grace that God has granted us in life. What of the more challenging times? Are we as able as David to continue to bless the Lord when it seems as though His hand has been withdrawn? The psalmist challenges our modern travails as he recounts his long running struggle with Saul.

There are three divisions to Psalm 18 and in the first David recounts the blessing of deliverance that God granted him from the hands of his enemies. He found himself as close to death as a human can be;

The cords of death entangled me; the torrents of destruction overwhelmed me.

The cords of the grave coiled around me; the snares of death confronted me. (vv 4-5)

but still his reaction, born of spiritual strength was to seek his redeemer;

In my distress I called to the Lord; I cried to my God for help.

From his temple he heard my voice; my cry came before his ears. (v 6)

Yahweh’s thunderous response is not measured and meek; he storms from heaven on the wings of the cherubim and whirling of the wind. Accompanied by lightning and the quaking of the mountains, God reaches down with his fist and scatters the enemies of His king. That same hand reaches out and pulls His beloved from the depths of his despair.

He reached down from on high and took hold of me; he drew me out of deep waters.

He rescued me from my powerful enemy, from my foes who were too strong for me.

They confronted me in the day of my disaster, but the Lord was my support.

He brought me out into a spacious place; he rescued me because he delighted in me. (vv 16 – 19)

You and I must trust that God would rush across the heavens to preserve us as well. This is one of the great challenges that we face but to continue to soak our souls in these words develops our David like confidence.

Spurgeon on Assurance of Salvation

Charles Spurgeon“I can understand a man doubting whether he is truly converted or not, but I cannot countenance his apathy in resting quiet till he has solved the riddle…How can you give sleep to your eyelids till you have known it? Not know whether you are in Christ or not; perhaps unreconciled, perhaps condemned already; perhaps on the brink of hell, perhaps with nothing more to keep you out of Hell than the breath that is in your nostrils, or the circulating drop of blood which any one of ten thousand haps or mishaps may stop, and then your career is closed–your life story ended…I entreat thee, I beseech thee, shake off this sluggishness. Ask the Lord to say unto thy soul tonight, “I am thy salvation.” He is able, and He is willing;…He will do it for you when you eagerly seek if from Him.” (Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit, vol 63)

Perhaps we all need to entreat and beseech a little more…