Psalm 33 – The Works of God

It is easy for us to become overwhelmed with the way the world is going as of late. We see the tragedies committed around the globe,  we see much turmoil and unrest, we see many things, but let us not be given over to despair, let us not be overwhelmed. But rather, let us remember that the LORD, he is God and he is still enthroned on high.

The Psalmist tells us that we should shout for joy to the LORD. Why? Because his word is upright and all his works are done in faithfulness. He says that the world is created by the LORD and that the LORD looks down upon it and his counsel stands forever, he does what is good and right to ensure the best out of his steadfast love. Why would we be given over to despair or fear if this is the case?

What we need is a better perspective on the world, when we see the tragedies and horrors of a sinful fallen world, we must remember that God is in control, that the LORD is working all things in accordance with his will, and that he acts out of his steadfast love. That means, when terrorists attack, Christians are murdered or we are reviled, the LORD is at work. Let us, instead of being filled with despair, be filled with praise for our God. For he has done all things wonderfully!

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The Glory of Suffering

1  My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?…
3  Yet you are holy…
6  But I am a worm and not a man…
9  Yet you are he who took me from the womb…
12  Many bulls encompass me…
14  I am poured out like water…
16  For dogs encompass me…
19  But you, O LORD, do not be far off…
22  I will tell of your name to my brothers…
25  From you comes my praise in the great congregation…
27  All the ends of the earth shall remember…
29  All the prosperous of the earth eat and worship…  (Psalm, 22:1–31, ESV)

Suffering and hardships can be hard to bear. At times we may feel like giving up. We wonder if there is any purpose to what is happening in our life. And these are very normal responses to suffering, and the reason these are typical responses is that we are very sorely lacking a biblical response to suffering. David experienced much suffering in his life and with poetical language, he describes the emotions of a person suffering greatly. Yet even in his description hear the hope constantly present.

David says that he has been abandoned by God, that God is so far from saving him, that he cries day and night but gets no response. Many of us have felt this way in our darkest of times. But hear David’s response, it is not to give up hope, or complain, he says that God is holy and enthroned, that God is to be trusted and those that cry to him are rescued. And this goes back again, David describes himself and his situation and then declares his hope in God. It is a stunning, to and fro, where David describes his situation, his state of existence, yet declares his trust and hope.

How could David do this? The key is, that for David, his state of existence did not define his position before God. Although he was surrounded by enemies and felt presently abandoned, he knew that his eternal position before God was secure. What this enabled David to do was to see and grieve because of his position and yet maintain hope and trust in God. And this would climax in the later verses where he is enabled to call the congregations and peoples to come and worship his God. Note that his situation has not changed, we are not told that he has been delivered, but rather, his hope in the future fact that he will be delivered enables him to call all people to worship the LORD.

Is this not the exact same thing Jesus did? Jesus cried our “my God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” Yet he had trust and hope in the fact that on the other side of the cross there was glory, this meant he could boldly continue, until the point of death, because he knew he would be vindicated by his Father. And because of Jesus, we have the same hope. Because Jesus endured our suffering and shame, we can endure all things in this world and look to our Father in Heaven who loves us, and know that though we remain in peril and plight now, a day will come when all things will be restored, where all wrongs will be made right.

The King and the Wicked

For you make him most blessed forever;
you make him glad with the joy of your presence.
For the king trusts in the LORD and through the steadfast love of the
Most high he shall not be moved. (Psalm 21:6-7, ESV)

You will destroy their descendants from the earth,
and their offspring from among the children of man.
Though they plan evil against you,
though they devise mischief, they will not succeed.
For you will put them to flight;
you will aim at their faces with your bows. (Psalm 21:10-12, ESV)

David tells us that the King:

  • Rejoices in the strength of the LORD
  • Exults in the LORD’s salvation
  • Trusts in the LORD
  • Receives his heart’s desire
  • Receives the request of his lips
  • Is blessed
  • Is given life
  • Shall not be moved
  • Receives glory through the LORD’s salvation
  • Receives splendour and majesty from the LORD
  • Is glad about the joy of the LORD’s presence

Is this not a description of the Lord Jesus Christ? Does any earthly king fit this description? There is only one man and one king who could ever fit this description and it is most assuredly Jesus. The wonder of all wonders is that we get included with him, that as our vicarious king, we are enabled to rejoice in the LORD’s strength, exult in the LORD’s salvation, trust in the LORD, receive our desires, receive our requests, are blessed, are given life, shall not be moved, receive glory through the LORD’s salvation, receive splendor and majesty, and are glad with the joy of the LORD’s presence. What a hope, what a joy, but consider the flip side, David tells us that the wicked man:

  • Will be found by the LORD
  • Hate the LORD
  • Will be swallowed in the LORD’s wrath
  • Will be consumed by fire
  • Their descendants will be destroyed
  • Will be put to flight
  • Will not succeed
  • Will have God aim at them with a bow

Do you look at this and shudder? Does it seem too much to bear? It is a terrifying idea, but it is a true idea. The reality is, David tells us that when we find our pleasure in the LORD and be satisfied by him, find our true longings in Jesus Christ we receive all these blessings from him. What we discover is that as we seek to be fulfilled by the LORD he does indeed fulfil us. But as long as we seek to find fulfilment in ourselves then we receive what we truly want, separation from God and his hand of wrath against us. There is no room for fence sitting, for seeking to pursue your own desires and receiving God’s blessing. It is one or the other, what will you choose?

Looking for a Heart’s Desire

May he grant you your heart’s desire
and fulfill all your plans!
May we shout for joy over your salvation,
and in the name of our God set up our banners!
May Yahweh (the LORD) fulfill all your petitions! (Psalm 20:4-5, ESV)

I think many of us have heard or said to another the word’s, “Remember, God wants to give you your heart’s desires!” However, for many of us who have heard that saying, the reality is, our desires are not given to us. Psalm 20 gives us a key to understanding why this is the case. Psalm 20 is a cry for the king to be blessed by Yahweh. And one of the cries of the people is that the king’s desires and plans would be fulfilled. This is where we realise our cries for our hearts desires to be met are so often wrong. We ask for the desires of our own hearts to be fulfilled. Yet what do the people ask for? They ask for the king’s desires.

This is the key, we need to be asking for the desires and plans for our king to be granted. And who is our king but the Lord Jesus Christ! If this was what controlled our requests, then our desires and requests will be answered. How can I emphatically say will? Because all of Yahweh’s plans are fulfilled in Christ, “For all the promises of God find their Yes in him.” (2 Corinthians 1:20)

Even when we turn to the ‘get your desires’ passage, Psalm 37:4, “he will give you the desires of your heart.” We find this truth is the same, consider what comes just before it, “Delight yourself in Yahweh” (Psalm 37:4). The point of the verse is that, if one finds his delight in Yahweh, then Yahweh will give him the desires of his heart. How can that be true? Because when one delights in Yahweh then he will find his desires begin to be conformed to the desires of God. Therefore, you will indeed gain your heart’s desire, because your heart’s desire will be for God. No one can say they find their delight in God while their desires are for earthly sinful pursuits.

Do you want to gain the desires of your hearts? Then you must come to the Lord Jesus Christ and find your desires in him, let Jesus be your desire, and when you do this, you will see wonderful things!

The Heavens Declares the Works of God

The heavens declare the glory of God,
and the sky above proclaims his handiwork.
Day to day pours out speech,
and night to night reveals knowledge. (Psalm 19:1-2, ESV)

There are times in our life when we need to be reminded that all things declare the glory of God. When you are surrounded by hard times, you need to look no further than to the creation of God to see the glory of God. Sometimes life is hard, well actually, more often than not life is hard. What we so desperately need is to fix our eyes on the God who created all things. For when we see his glory and how stupendous he is, we can relax and know that the one who created all these things is the same one who is looking over us and sorting all things in accordance with his will.

The question for us is are we looking to his glory or ours?

Satisfied by your likeness

As for me, I shall behold your face in righteousness;
when I awake, I shall be satisfied with your likeness. (Psalm 17:15, ESV)

This is a prayer of David. He cries out to his LORD for his enemies are many. David says that they have surrounded him, that they close their mouth to pity, they are like lions eager to eat him. Yet even with all of this, his heart cry is that when he awakes he will be satisfied with God’s likeness. Worth noting that David is not saying he will be satisfied by being like God, but rather he will be satisfied by seeking God’s likeness, image, representation, or form. In other words, no matter what is going on in David’s life right now, there is one thing, one thing that he longs for, it is for the face of God.

I remember hearing a story by Ray Cortese who said that he knew of a man whose wife died. The man had a small son, and for weeks after the death of this small boy’s mother, he would sleep in his father’s bed. Throughout the night as the father was sleeping he would roll over away from his son. His son because of the trauma would wake up, he would look to his father and only see his back. This small boy would proceed to wake his father up and say to him, “your face Dad, I need to see your face”.

I wonder how many of us live in this reality? How many of us need one thing, one thing more than anything else, the Lord’s face, the Lord’s presence near to us, for our joy and satisfaction. If we only have that one thing, we can live through all circumstances, we can live through anything if we only have the Lord’s face. This was David’s reality, he faced a tremendous amount of trauma, and yet he would be satisfied if he had one simple thing, the likeness of God when he awoke in the morning. This was real for David and he did not have the incarnation to look at, how much more, should we, who live after the incarnation, look for our satisfaction in the likeness of God? We can look and see Jesus in the gospels and all throughout his words and be deeply satisfied.

Your face, Lord, I need to see your face…

To be Satisfied in God

1 Preserve me, O God, for in you I take refuge.
2 I say to the LORD, “You are my Lord;
I have no good apart from you.”
3 As for the saints in the land, they are the excellent ones,
in whom is all my delight.
4 The sorrows of those who run after another god shall multiply;
their drink offerings of blood I will not pour out
or take their names on my lips.
5 The LORD is my chosen portion and my cup;
you hold my lot.
6 The lines have fallen for me in pleasant places;
indeed, I have a beautiful inheritance.
7 I bless the LORD who gives me counsel;
in the night also my heart instructs me.
8 I have set the LORD always before me;
because he is at my right hand, I shall not be shaken.
9 Therefore my heart is glad, and my whole being rejoices;
my flesh also dwells secure.
10 For you will not abandon my soul to Sheol,
or let your holy one see corruption.
11 You make known to me the path of life;
in your presence there is fullness of joy;
at your right hand are pleasures forevermore. (Psalm 16, ESV, emphasis mine)

One thing that has been impressed upon my mind as of late is the importance of finding our satisfaction in God. When we consider the story of redemption, one gigantic theme that runs throughout is the removal and restoration of our satisfaction in God. When Adam and Eve were created they were created with the express purpose of glorifying God. There are two aspects of glorifying God; worship (external glorifying of God) and satisfaction (internal glorifying of God). To worship is to express our praise towards God. To be satisfied is for God to be our greatest delight.

This is a beautiful self-feeding cycle. You find your delight in God because of what he does, so you express praise towards God because of the joy that is overflowing from within you. As you express praise towards God you find that you delight in him more, which causes you to worship him more, which in turn causes you to delight more. As I have been pondering this over the last few months I have begun to gain a ‘delight’ and ‘satisfaction’ radar in the Scriptures. What I am noticing is that over and over again, the Word of God talks about men and women finding their deep satisfaction in God. Psalm 16 is a classic example of this.

The Psalm is entitled by the editors of the ESV, “You Will Not Abandon My Soul”. Granted, there is a reference to this in verse 10. But do yourself a favour, go back to the Psalm above and re-read it. Look at those sections I have added emphasis to. I am serious, stop reading and go up and do it. Now consider, David (the author) says ten times, in one way or another, that his chief joy and satisfaction is found in the LORD. This Psalm is not about his soul not being abandoned – though this is undoubtedly true – it is about his soul finding pleasure in the LORD.

Too often we forget that the chief purpose of our redemption completed in Christ is not to get us into Heaven. Rather, it is to restore broken men and women into their place as worshippers of God. Let us apply our hearts with renewed vigour to finding our satisfaction, joy and contentment in the LORD, and to worship him out of what he has done for us.