J.C. Ryle on Christ in the Psalms

A Greater than David is here!

We have probably little idea how much deep truth is contained in the book of Psalms. No part of the Bible perhaps is better known in the letter, and none so little understood in the spirit. We err greatly if we suppose that it is nothing but a record of David’s feelings, of David’s experience, David’s praises, and David’s prayers. The hand that held the pen was generally David’s. But the subject matter was often something far deeper and higher than the history of the son of Jesse.

The book of Psalms, in a word, is a book full of Jesus Christ—Christ suffering—Christ in humiliation—Christ dying—rising again—Christ coming the second time—Christ reigning over all. Both the advents are here—advent in suffering to bear the cross—the advent in power to wear the crown. Both the kingdoms are here—kingdom of grace, during which the elect are gathered—the kingdom of glory, when every tongue shall confess that Jesus is Lord. Let us always read the Psalms with a peculiar reverence. Let us say to ourselves as we read, “A greater than David is here.”

Sad Hearts Sing – The Walk to Emmaus

Prayer:  O God, open the eyes of our hearts to see You  for who you are today – the risen Savior who conquers all of our enemies.  Renovate our unbelieving hearts so that they burn with devotion and love for our risen Savior and Lord.

I don’t know about you, but  I still get chills every time I read this narrative on Jesus’ walk to Emmaus in Luke 24:13-35.  It still amazes me that the first afternoon and early evening of Jesus’ resurrected life was spent with two obscure people.

Hope deferred makes the heart sick, hope disappointed assaults our ability to trust the plan and promises of God.  I still remember the pain of our miscarriage in 1991.  The bright hopes of holding a new baby in your arms dashed and destroyed.   I still remember the despair and depression that gripped my heart when job opportunities closed one by one and I was without a ministry assignment for a year in 1996.

What does our Lord do when his follower’s hearts are gripped with despair and discouragement?

  • What does our risen Lord do?  Jesus draws near to his despairing, hopeless people.  Jesus joins his depressed and confused followers on their journey (vv.13-24).

The hopes of Cleopas and the other disciple were dashed and destroyed.  Their hearts were gripped by sadness and gloom. They were disillusioned. We get the impression that these men were discouraged and disappointed because God did not do what they wanted Him to do. That which causes these disciples despair should have been the surest ground of their hope –  the dying of the Lord Jesus. They had expected that Jesus would usher in the Messianic kingdom, and nothing of the sort happened at least for those guided by the eyes of sight and not the eyes of faith!

 

What was their basic problem? They did not know and believe all that the prophets had written about the Messiah. They saw the Messiah as a conquering King, but they did not see Him as a Suffering Servant. As they read the Old Testament, they saw the glory but not the suffering, the crown but not the cross. Like many who would come after the, they were blind to the total message of the Bible… that the cross precedes the crown.

  • Why does he do it?  For what purpose does He draw near? Our living Lord joins us in the journey for two fundamental purposes:  To make Himself known and to renovate our hearts (vv.25-35).

The living Christ reveals Himself for who He is – the Risen Savior who has conquered sin, death, hell and the devil.  How does He make himself known to us? By opening His Word and sharing His table.

He opens the scriptures, for they testify of him.  The expounding of those scriptures which speak of Christ has a direct tendency to warm the hearts of his disciples, both to convert and comfort them.  The crucial function of interpreting the Scriptures is to reveal Christ, His sufferings and glories to follow from all of the Scriptures – Moses, the Prophets, and the Psalms.

The word of God defined and structured Jesus’ life.  How did Jesus come to understand that he was the Christ?  God whispering in his ear”  No, but by reading the Bible.  He read the O.T. and discovered his identity.  v.27.  All of its parts point to Jesus Christ.

Imagine the greatest Teacher explaining the greatest themes from the greatest Book and bringing the greatest blessings to men’s lives:

Perhaps Jesus started at Genesis 3:15, the first promise of the Redeemer, and traced that promise through the Scriptures. He may have lingered at Genesis 22, which tells of Abraham placing his only beloved son on the altar. Surely He touched on Passover, the levitical sacrifices, the tabernacle ceremonies, the Day of Atonement, the serpent in the wilderness, the Suffering Servant in Isaiah 53, and the prophetic messages of Psalms 22 and 69. The key to understanding the Bible is to see Jesus Christ on every page. He did not teach them only doctrine or prophecy; He taught “the things concerning Himself” (Luke 24:27).

Cleopas would have thought about isaiah 53:3-4…Is that the kind of Redeemer we want?

Two things about Jesus in v.26 – It was necessary for the Messiah to SUFFER (TO DIE).  It was necessary for the Messiah to RISE.

What do you have to know to be a Christian?  You have to know that Jesus died and that Jesus rose again and that it is for you.

Why was it necessary for Jesus to suffer?
Because of who you and I are. We are rebels.  Our envy, pride, our using our status and material wealth in improper ways…  our antagonism towards God.   We are not neutral.

Because of God’s demand for justice.  Man’s rebellion against God had to be justly punished.  God’s son could only pay such a high price (Isaiah 53:5-6)  But He was pierced through for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; The chastening for our well-being fell upon Him, And by His scourging we are healed. All of us like sheep have gone astray, Each of us has turned to his own way; But the Lord has caused the iniquity of us all to fall on Him.

Iniquities – wicked actions willingly done.  Trespasses/transgressions – moving and living outside the safe boundaries of God’s law. He had to be perfect to make an adequate and perfect sacrifice for our sins. Only if he died, could he be man’s redeemer.

Because of God’s love for us. The willful rebellion of man… the righteousness judgment of God and the infinite love of God.  It is staggering that God should love sinners.

 

We buy ugly houses.  Totally renovate them and made them beautiful.  That’s you and me.  God buys ugly people with his blood at the cross and he loves us into beauty.  He renovates us at the cost of his own body and blood.  He transformed those who are overwhelmed with iniquity and conforms us into the image of His beauty. It’s the tale as old as time – beauty and the beast.  The only way for the beast to be free of his beastliness is for beauty to love Him unconditionally.

Why was it necessary for him to rise again? Jesus physically rose again to demonstrate God’s victory over death.  Some scholars say that it doesn’t really matter that Jesus rose from the death.  It is a metaphor for new life, the cycle of spring. This type of Easter Bunny Christianity will not rescue you at death’s door. Death is the result of sin in this world and we will only be delivered from its finality and curse through faith in a crucified, risen Savior.

John Updike summarizes it well in his Seven Stanzas of Easter: “Make no mistake: if He rose at all, it was as His body; if the cells’ dissolution did not reverse, the molecules, reknit, the amino acids rekindle, the Church will fall.”

Let us not mock God with metaphor and analogy making of the event a parable, a sign painted in the faded credulity of earlier ages. Let us walk through the door.

Jesus physically rose again so that you might experience new life now. Their hearts burned. They enjoyed real fellowship and communion with the living God. They finally experienced joy in the midst of their sorrows.

He meets them at his table and is revealed to them in the breaking of bread. Blessed art thou O God.  Maybe they saw the nail marks in his hands.  When the bread was broken.

 

  • What are the results? There are at least four results…

Obstructed eyes are opened. Jesus is alive and He is right here with us.  The reference to their eyes is reminiscent of the correlation of sight with understanding, faith, and salvation.  Luke 1:78-79; 2:30; 6:39-42; 10:23; 11:34; 18:35-42; 19:42; 4:18-19.

Slow hearts are turned into burning hearts.  There is a complete reversal of emotions.   Unbelieving, obtuse people are made to burn in devotion for Christ. How frequently I have been slow of heart of believe the promises of the Lord in His Word!  I have failed frequently in orienting myself fully around Jesus’ teaching.

Gospel Community – A fractured community is drawn back together. When the women’s testimony to the resurrection is dismissed by the disciples, fractures begin developing in their company.  They all begin to drift away from their high hopes and the community of discipleship. Cleopas and his friend return to the community of disciples to bear witness to Jesus’ resurrection.

Gospel Communication – Bold witnesses – It is the duty of those to whom Christ has revealed himself to let others know what he has done for their souls. Notes what the two men do after their encounter with the risen Christ. When you are converted, instructed, comforted, you go and strengthen your brothers.

 

 

How are Christ’s followers prepared to be his witnesses of all these things?  Possibility (vv.1-12) gives way to probability (13-35)  and probability to actuality (vv.36-49) and then to resolution (vv.50-53).

Praying to Our Rock of Refuge – Psalm 71

Psalm 71:3 – Be to me a rock of refuge, to which I may continually come; you have given the command to save me, for you are my rock and my fortress.

O Lord, you are a rock of refuge to which we may continually come.

May the guilty come and find release from the shackles of sin. For you are a God who delights to forgive the sins of your people.
May the lonely come and find genuine friendship with the one who sticks closer than a brother. For you said that you would not leave us as orphans but that you would come to us.
May the fearful come and find your intimate shepherding care and presence. For you have told us to fear no evil for you are with us and your rod and staff comfort us.
May the tempted come and find deliverance because you have been tempted just as we are yet without sin and you are willing to come to the aid of those of us who are tempted.
May the weary come and find rest. For you have said, Come to me all you who are weary and heavy laden and you will find rest for your souls.
May the despairing come and find hope and a renewed commitment to persevere
May the doubting come and find a renewed capacity to trust you and your promises. For we acknowledge our struggle with unbelief and ask you to increase our faith.
May the grieving come and find comfort. For you are the Father of tender mercies and the God of all comfort.
May the joyful come and find their gratitude increased for your manifold blessings. For you supply us with every good gift to enjoy.

We pray this in the name of the One who is our only Rock and Fortress, Jesus Christ our Lord, AMEN.

 

How Does the Lord Fulfill His Purpose for Us?

In Psalm 57:2, David declares who He worship and why he worships amidst great affliction and difficulty:

“I cry out to God Most High, to God who will fulfill his purpose for me.”

It is most assuring to know that God has a plan and will fulfill it. David is on the run from a ravenous King Saul. It would have been very tempting to view Saul as thwarting God’s plan to make David King of Israel.

Here’s an important question: How does the Lord often fulfill His purpose for us?

My devotional guide shares these important insights:

1. “Yes., God does “fulfill His purpose” for us.

2.  He often uses other people to do so; but

3.  They aren’t always the people we would choose to help us.”

It concludes that these are “important things to remember when you find yourself hiding out in a cave” (One Year Through the Psalms by William and Randy Petersen)

The God Who Walks with His People – A Prayer

Jesus_Walking_on_WaterLord,

You walk on the vault of heaven (Job 22:14) and on the wings of the wind (Psalm 104:3). Yet, You say that you will also walk among your people… be their God and take them to be your people (Leviticus 26:12).

You walked in the Garden of Eden in the cool of the day, pursuing man who had fallen into sin, rebellion and the clutches of the enemy. Enoch of old walked with you, and he was not for you took him (Gen. 5:24). Noah walked with you – a righteous man, blameless in his time (Gen. 6:9). You declare to Abraham: “I am God Almighty; walk before me and be blameless” (Gen. 17:1).  Lord, you test your people on whether they will walk in your instruction (Manna- Exodus 16:4). You’re a God who breaks the bars of our ‘other’ yokes so that we may walk erect. (Lev. 26:13). You walked in the midst of the camp of the journeying Israelites to deliver them and defeat their enemies for them (Deut. 23:14).

Your walking among your people is an impetus for living a life that pleases You. You warned your people of old that if you saw anything indecent among them, you would turn away from them (Deut. 23:14). Let us so cherish Your presence among us that we turn away our eyes from worthless things or anything that would supplant You from the place of supremacy in our hearts.

When we walk through the valley of the shadow of death, we don’t fear any evil for You are a shepherd who walks with and before your people (Psalm 23:4)!

We are those who naturally walk (conduct our lives) in darkness (Isaiah 9:2) due to our sin and its attendant consequences. Grant us Lord, the grace to heed the invitation to: “Come, house of Jacob, and let us walk in the light of the Lord.” (Isaiah 2:5). Thank you for giving us your Spirit to speak to us, and show us how and where to walk. “Your ears will hear a word behind you, ‘this is the way, walk in it,’ whenever you turn to the right or to the left” (Is. 30:21). The redeemed of the Lord are those who walk on “the highway of holiness (Is. 35:8)… This points forward to the return from exile… joyful shouting… everlasting joy… with sorrow and sighing fleeing away.

Lord, show me how to wait and hope for you…. Give me that new strength. I want to mount up like an eagle. Grant renewed strength so that I can run and not become exhausted. You say that you renew Your people in such a way that they will walk and not become weary (Isaiah 40:31).

Thank you, Lord, for being a God who promises to be with us when we pass through the waters and flooding rivers. When we walk through the fire, we will not be scorched, nor will the flames burn us (Is. 43:2).

At times when we walk in darkness, and do not have the light of your guidance and do not sense the light of your presence, we must trust in the name of the LORD and rely upon our God (Isaiah 50:10). How often I have walked in the way that is not good—following my own thoughts. Thank you Father, for persisting in sparing not Your hands to welcome a rebellious person like me (Is. 65:2).

How easy it is to walk after and pursue those things that do not profit spiritually and eternally (Jer. 2:8). We have walked after emptiness and have become empty (Jer. 2:5). Like your people of old, there is something in my heart that resists walking in the ancient paths… paths that Jeremiah says that lead to finding rest for my soul (Jer. 6:16). Your Word declares that when I persist in walking after other gods (idols), it leads to personal ruin. The number one problem that keeps me from walking with you is that I walk after the stubbornness of my own heart. (Jer. 9:14; 13:10; 16:12; 23:17).

Lord, you continue to remind us what is good and what the Lord requires of us… to love kindness, to do justly (justice) and to walk humbly with You our God (Micah 6:8).

According to the promise of Jesus: If we follow Him, we will not walk in darkness because we will have the light of life (Jn. 8:12).

Lord, give me grace today to walk in newness of life (Rom. 6:4)… to walk by faith and not by sight (2 Cor. 5:7)… to walk by the Spirit (Gal. 5:16)… to walk in the good works that You have prepared in advance for us to do (Eph. 2:10)… to walk in a manner worthy of the gospel (4:1)… to walk in love (5:2)… walk as children of light (5:8)… exercise care in how we walk so that we walk wisely (5:15)… to walk as Jesus walked (Col. 2:6 & 1 Jn. 2:6)… to walk in the light (1 John 1:7).

Lord, grant us the great joy of seeing our own children walking in the truth (3 John 4). You are the one who walks among your lampstands… your churches (Rev. 2:7). May we be found faithful to the end… walking in your ways and your truth. At the end, we and all nations shall walk by the light of Your glory that illumines the heavenly city (Rev. 21:24).

Maranatha! Come O Lord and walk among us. Be our God and take us to be your people.

Amen!

Praying Psalm 1 and 2

Psalm 1 –

Father, oh to be the blessed and fulfilled man of this Psalm.  May this portrait of a life of wisdom be the compelling desire of all of our hearts.  Free us from conducting our lives and making our decisions based upon the advice of those who are hostile to you.  May we be kept from the downward spiral of walking, standing, and sitting with those who are called “wicked” … those who oppose Your rule and your Word.

May we have a growing discomfort with sin — in our own lives, in the lives of our family members, and our church, and our culture.  May our delight be in Your Torah.  Ignite our hearts with a desire to meditate upon Your Word with regularity, with intentionality and with resolve.  As a result, may our lives look like the tree and not the chaff.

May we not be driven about by the winds of our circumstances and emotions, but may we be rooted and watered by the streams of Your abundant goodness and steadfast love.  Would you prosper O Lord all that we do today?  May our lives be fruitful for you…godly character and lips that are quick to express thanksgiving and praise to you. May others be brought into the kingdom of Your dear Son through our influence.

Give us the assurance that we will stand on the last day in your presence only because another was judged on account of our sin – Jesus Christ the truly blessed and righteous One. For Him we give you thanks and praise, AMEN.

Psalm 2 –

Gracious Father, thank you for the future hope that all the nations that rage against You will become the inheritance of the Messiah. You have given to Your Son our Savior the ends of the earth as His possession.

He declares triumphantly that all authority in heaven and on earth is rightfully His.  Based upon that authority, we pray that you would supernaturally cause a massive ingathering of souls who would come to a saving knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ.  Have mercy upon them, open blind eyes like you did long ago, pour the wine of your love and Word on calloused, stony hearts.  Raise up a group of young people throughout the world who devotedly kiss Your Son as Savior and Lord. May they serve You with fear and rejoice with trembling as they contemplate your loving reign in their hearts as King, but also as a just judge who will come again with a rod of iron to break all those who resist Your reign. AMEN.

When You Walk through Times of Spiritual Darkness

In today’s contemporary church, we speak little about the subject of spiritual darkness, but in the older tradition it was very different. It was recognized that at times God can sovereignly bring upon us episodes of spiritual darkness, in which what is sensed is his absence rather than his presence, his displeasure rather than an assurance of his love and of one’s own future happiness with him.

Sometimes these moments are wake-up calls regarding overdue behavioral changes, and sometimes they are simple tests of fidelity, imposed as a kind of workout through which the saints emerge stronger than before.

Detailed evidence as to what such desertion or abandonment feels like, why God inflicts it, and how to handle it, is found in the Psalms (see 38, 42, 88, 119:67, etc.), in the book of Job and in one key verse from the pen of  the evangelical prophet, Isaiah.

I preached on the passage from Isaiah 50 this past week. Chapter 50, verse 10 says: “Who is among you that fears the LORD, that obeys the voice of His servant, that walks in darkness and has no light? Let him trust in the name of the LORD and rely on his God.”

Matthew Henry describes how it is that Christians sometimes walk in darkness:

“When their evidences for heaven are clouded, their joy in God is interrupted, the testimony of the Spirit is suspended, and the light of God’s countenance is eclipsed. Pensive Christians are apt to be melancholy, and those who fear are always apt to fear too much.”

He prescribes the two-fold cure from Isaiah 50:

He that is thus in the dark,

(1.) Let him trust in the name of the Lord, in the goodness of his nature, and that which he has made known of himself, his wisdom, power, and goodness. The name of the Lord is a strong tower, let him run into that. Let him depend upon it that if he walked before God, which a man may do though he walk in the dark, he shall find God all-sufficient to him.

(2.) Let him stay himself upon his God, his in covenant; let him keep hold of his covenant-relation to God, and call God his God, as Christ on the cross, My God, My God. Let him stay himself upon the promises of the covenant, and build his hopes on them. When a child of God is ready to sink he will find enough in God to stay himself upon. Let him trust in Christ, for God’s name is in him (Exodus 23:21), trust in that name of his: The Lord our righteousness, and stay himself upon God as his God, in and through a Mediator.

Augustus Toplady crystallized this cure for us in the below hymn text that he wrote during the days of the Evangelical Revival:

Blest is the man, O God,

That stays himself on Thee;

Who waits for thy salvation, Lord,

Shall thy salvation see

 

When we in darkness walk,

Nor feel the heavenly flame,

Then is the time to trust our God,

And rest upon his name.

 

Soon shall our doubts and fears

Subside at his control;

His lovingkindness shall break through

The midnight of the soul

 

His grace will to the end

Stronger and brighter shine;

Nor present things, nor things to come

Shall quench the life divine.