April 14th 2019: Dave Evans

Dave Evans - April 2019Psalm 75

The rise and fall of nations and civilisations is documented in a whole host of books, explaining why such civilisations as the Romans have risen and fallen. Yet, the truth is, as we turn to the Bible, there is one fundamental cause. The Psalmist in Psalm 75 points us to the great truth that God riles and judges. It is God who rises up and casts down. It is a sombre theme, yet the Psalm begins and ends with praise. The one who rules and is above all things is the one who draws near to His people.

The Psalm has a collective voice as the congregation are gathered (verse 1). In verses 2-5 God Himself speaks. In verses 6-8 Asaph, the preacher, takes up the theme. The Psalm ends with an individual voice, a testimony.

The Psalm is to strengthen and comfort God’s people. Yet it contains a solemn warning to those who are far from God. You either respond with joy and thanksgiving or fear and dread if you are far from God.

The collective response (verse 1). If you’re a believer you know the Lord Jesus Christ is your Lord, so we can lift our voices in thanksgiving. The Psalmist tells us our God is near to us. God gives us cause to thank Him because He is near, at hand. He is omnipresent – in all places in all times. To His people He is there to guard them, to protect them.

In the congregation of Asaph’s nation, the people could delight in Him. They give thanks because they can recount His great deliverances. Of course, for the people of the Old Testament the one great act of redemption was their deliverance from slavery in Egypt. We, as believers today, can join in this thanksgiving as we recount the wondrous deeds of God. We can rejoice in full realisation of redemption in Jesus, not just the Passover of the Israelites. Christ came to redeem us, to ransom us, so we are all able to lift our voices in thanksgiving. God is near us and has delivered us.

Suddenly the voice changes. While the people give thanks, God is now heard to speak (verses 2-7). As believers, we have to confess our thanksgiving is not as it ought to be. Sometimes, doubt, anxiety and fear creeps in. We face our own trials; society is increasingly antagonistic to faith. We may ask where God is in all of this? We need to turn to passages like this, where God speaks words of assurance to our souls. He is on the throne, working for us. We rejoice in the knowledge that God is ruling and reigning. His plans are never overthrown, never delayed. It is God alone who determines the timing of world events. It is God who holds not only the stars in His hands, but the very heart of people. Psalm 102.

 “Behold, I will make known to you what shall be at the latter end of the indignation, for it refers to the appointed time of the end.” (Daniel 8:19).

‘But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons’ (Galatians 4:4-5)

In this Psalm, God says ‘At the set time that I appoint, I will judge with equity’ (Psalm 75:2). His set time refers to His judgement. God is ever in control. He will act at His appointed time, whether judgement on a particular nation or individual or at the end of time.

It seems the church of Christ suffers when the world does not. But there is a day coming when God will judge. Questions will arise, why does it seems God will delay His judgement? There are two reasons. Firstly, God’s delay is a measure of His kindness; enemies are given time to repent, to seek forgiveness and be saved (Romans 2). Secondly, as men and women refuse to turn to God, God is waiting until that day when their sin is full to the brim.

Words of assurance are given to God’s people in verses 2-3. Though things seem to be falling apart, God is in control. When everything else seems to fail, He remains a sure foundation.

We read in verses 4-5 of those still in sin. God says, through the Psalmist, ‘Don’t boast, don’t shake your fist to God, don’t tell Him what you want. Don’t flex your muscles in the face of God.’ Here’s a challenge for us; where are we? Is there pride in our heart to submit to God’s rule and reign? Do our desires and ambitions come before God? The Lord Jesus Christ told a solemn parable of a rich young farmer. Don’t seek the riches of this world.

In verses 6-8 the voice changes again. Asaph, the preacher speaks. Here’s a model of what the preacher’s role is. Asaph doesn’t come with soothing words, like false prophets of Jeremiah’s day. What Asaph does is  take God’s words and applies them further. The message is don’t boast in your own strength, it is not from the East, West or wilderness. Your success comes from God alone, who lifts up and casts down. Those who walk in pride, God is able to abase (Psalm 2:1-4).

As we hear God’s word there is a far greater concern. Today, our government is in total confusion. There is a message for each and every one of us; there are days coming when there will be an eternal lifting up or casting down of our bodies, ‘For in the hand of the Lord there is a cup with foaming wine, well mixed, and he pours out from it, and all the wicked of the earth shall drain it down to the dregs’ (Psalm 75:8). As in so many parts of the Bible, this picture of a cup brimming over is a picture of God’s final judgement.

In all the solemnity we come to this final, individual testimony. ‘But I will declare it forever; I will sing praises to the God of Jacob. All the horns of the wicked I will cut off, but the horns of the righteous shall be lifted up, (Psalm 75:9-10).

Here, the believer rejoices to take up God’s word. Who are the righteous? Our thoughts surely are taken forward to the life of our Lord Jesus Christ and that night before He was crucified, in Gethsemane, experiencing the beginning of His suffering (Mark 14:32). There, the Lord Jesus Christ looks into this cup and knows He must drink it. In His holy soul He trembles. Yet He does God’s will. At Calvary He drank that cup to the very last drop. It is He who rode into Jerusalem on that donkey, as an altogether different king to the one people imagined. He is the one who will come to judge in equity and righteousness on that great day. We, as believers, can rejoice in the Psalm. That’s the glory of the gospel. None of us deserve anything yet there is a lifting up to glory itself, to look on our Saviour, face to face. Are you able to rejoice? If not, you face God’s judgement alone.

March 30th 2018: Good Friday: Gareth Edwards

Gareth Edwards - March 18“My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” Matthew 27:46

During the Crucifixion Jesus gave seven sayings, which were not merely random words to what was happening. It was a commentary about the meaning and purpose of His death. This saying, the middle of the seven sayings, is perhaps the most revealing. It’s a cry that is awesome. It should fill our souls with a sense of dread. It is power, it is poignant – the cry of dereliction as the Lord suffers the punishment of our sin. It’s a cry that deifies all definition, a moment between God the Father and God the Son, a cry of the Son of God in His human nature as He experiences the wrath of God against our sin.

Sin and Judgement:
The cry tells us the Saviour really suffered at the hand of His fate as he bore the judgement for our sins. Three hours prior to this cry darkness covered the land from noon to 3 p.m. (Matthew 27:45). The sun is normally at its height, yet darkness engulfed Jerusalem. This was prophesied in Amos 8:9 many centuries before, ‘”And on that day,” declares the Lord God, “I will make the sun go down at noon and darken the earth in broad daylight.”’  Darkness is a symbol of judgement (Isaiah 5:30, 60:2, 2 Peter 2:17). The darkness of that day tells us that the wrath of God is being poured out on His Son for our sin. This is the only time ever that God the Father turned His back on His Son for our sins.  The torment of Jesus wasn’t just physical. What no-one else ever endured was the agony of eternal judgement griping the soul and drawing it into the deepest darkness of hellish pain.

The reality of judgement is God loved no-one more than He loved His only begotten Son. Divine love continued when the Son added to His divine nature and became man. God does not hold back on pouring His judgement on His Son. That terror engulfs all who die without faith in Christ. This judgement will be visited upon our sins one way or another. If we have not yet come to know Jesus Christ as our Saviour, then the terror expressed by Jesus is a terror we will know. Sin is a terrible offence. Such is its evil in the sight of God that our sin could not be forgiven until God the Father unleashed all the horror of hell against His Son.

Substitute of Atonement:
Jesus here is our substitute, taking our place, becoming us and taking liability for us. He suffered for us, He died in our place. He became us as He bore our sins. He does not address His Father in His usual way as He now stands in our place, fully identifying with us, as He cries, “My God.” He atones for our sins. He pays the penalty for our wrong doing. We are the perpetrators deserving of God’s judgement. Jesus steps in and bares that judgement. For those dreadful hours God saw Jesus not as His Son, but saw Him as being you and me. He poured out upon Him the punishment for us. Justice is satisfied and mercy is made available to us. He dies specifically taking my punishment in His love for me. It is an illogical love. Why should He love me so? In my sin I am a hideous, deformed creature, deserving nothing but the implementation of God’s wrath against me. Yet, Jesus loved me so and substituted Himself, takes my judgement, atones for my sin. What a price it was! What a payment was made! An infinite payment! We simply cannot begin to understand what it cost the Lord Jesus Christ to hang upon that cross. No words in all the languages can express what it meant. What a Saviour He is. He willingly took our place. That’s why it’s Good Friday.

A cry of hope and joy:
“My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” Although this is a cry of dereliction, it is also a cry of hope and joy. These words were written many centuries before the crucifixion, in Psalm 22, a prophetic psalm which speaks of the sufferings of the coming Messiah. It gives a detailed, graphic description of crucifixion – before crucifixion was perfected by the Romans. It is a psalm that looks forward to the events of Calvary. Jesus uses this psalm as a commentary on His own death. He is now experiencing what Psalm 22 prophesied. But Psalm 22 ends in hope and joy. It is a psalm that speaks of the Messiah not only in suffering but also in triumph. The Saviour confidently knows that He would not be abandoned forever and will triumph and know the joy of resurrection. He knew this as He said, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit!” (Luke 23:46). He knew He would arise again. He told His disciples this three times. He knows that as He endures the suffering of agony of body and soul, it is the way to triumph, to hope, to joy.

It is a cry of dereliction but it is not a cry of defeat. Here lies hope and joy for each one of us. What hope have you got in the face of death? What joy can there possibly be when confronted with the reality of judgement, what hope is there in death? That Jesus Christ died and paid in full the price for our sin, thereby affording to each one of us forgiveness, allowing us to experience the mercy of God’s love and triumph over death. A sure and certain hope that in Jesus Christ our sins have been forgiven. God the Father, having judged Him, can no longer judge us for that sin. The joy – being reconciled with God if we come and trust in Jesus Christ. There is no other way for us to return to God, to enjoy fellowship with God. The only thing that can bring true joy is knowing God. So it is Good Friday.

“My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” This saying is central to what forgiveness means. It teaches us the reality of our sin and God’s judgement, but it assures us that atonement is made. Jesus, as our substitute, takes our place, bore our guilt so hope and joy is ours. May it be our personal understanding of what it all means and may this fill us with love for Christ and joy in our salvation.

 

November 5th 2017: Gareth Edwards

20991230_1910562232550470_632853575_oExodus 10: 21-29      The Darkness of Disobedience

‘Then the LORD said to Moses, “Stretch out your hand toward heaven, that there may be darkness over the land of Egypt, a darkness to be felt.”’ (Exodus 10:21).

Like plague three and six, this plague comes without warning as Moses does not speak to Pharaoh in advance of the event. This plague strikes at the very heart of the Egyptian belief system. Their chief deity, the creator-god, was Amon-Ra, the sun god of whom Pharaoh was an incarnation. In the famous Egyptian writings The Book of the Dead it is said of Amon-Ra “I am he among the gods who cannot be repulsed.” But here he is repulsed and his life-giving rays, as the Egyptians believed, are extinguished replaced by darkness which spoke of death, judgement and hopelessness. Yahweh extinguishes all trace of Amon-Ra and pharaoh, the so-called incarnation of this deity, is defeated.

Pitch Darkness:

As Moses stretches out his hand to the heaven a terrifying darkness engulfs Egypt. The intensity of the darkness is shown by three things:

  • It was so dense that it could be felt or it seems you could touch it (v21)
  • It was ‘pitch darkness’ (v22) literally ‘dark darkness’ or the deepest sort of darkness they had ever experienced.
  • They could not see one another nor even move it was so dark (v23). It was so dark it appears they couldn’t even find or light torches or candles.

They could not see an inch in front of their noses and it was as if they had all been struck blind. This terrifying state of affairs lasted for three days signifying it was no momentary experience or passing inconvenience. This all-embracing darkness would have filled them with a sense of doom as it spoke of judgement, curse and death.

Yet, where the Israelites lived there was light (v23). When it turned night in Goshen the Hebrews were able to light torches and candles in their homes. In the Old Testament light signifies God’s covenant blessing such as prosperity, peace and justice. Whilst the Egyptians were engulfed in fearful darkness, the Israelites rejoiced in the light.

Applications:

The terrible spiritual darkness which sin brings to men is matched by the darkness of God’s judgement against sin. ‘The fifth angel poured out his bowl on the throne of the beast, and its kingdom was plunged into darkness.’ (Revelation 16.10). In their sin men are blind to the truth and condemned to an eternity of darkness.

The darkness when Christ hung upon the cross symbolises His taking the penalty of our sin upon Himself as He is judged in our place. Consequently, we now rejoice in the light of the gospel in the grace of God in the Lord Jesus Christ.

Animals for Sacrifice:

Such is the terror of this plague Pharaoh recalls Moses and says all the Israelites can go to worship the Lord in the wilderness. However, he is still not willing to fully submit to the Lord’s demands. He says the Israelites must leave behind all their livestock. Knowing they could not survive for long without their animals it would compel them to return.

Perhaps Pharaoh thought they could capture and sacrifice wild animals, but the principle that sacrifice had to cost the one offering it had been established in Eden and remained central to the worship of God throughout Israel’s history. ‘Then Ornan said to David, “Take it, and let my lord the king do what seems good to him. See, I give the oxen for burnt offerings and the threshing sledges for the wood and the wheat for a grain offering; I give it all.” But King David said to Ornan, “No, but I will buy them for the full price. I will not take for the LORD what is yours, nor offer burnt offerings that cost me nothing.” So David paid Ornan 600 shekels of gold by weight for the site.” (I Chronicles 21: 23-25).

Moses replies they need their animas to undertake sacrifices God requires but they don’t yet know how many will be needed. Perhaps God will require them to sacrifice all their animals and so Moses insists they will not leave a living thing behind, not even a single hoof!

Applications:

The amazing thing about God’s grace is that at Calvary the sacrifice was made by the Lord who paid such a high price that we might be forgiven. It cost Him everything and us nothing.

However, in response to the extravagance of God’s grace we are to surrender all to Christ, withholding nothing but presenting ourselves as living sacrifices in His service. ‘I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. (Romans 12:1-2).

Romans 12-2

Angry Finale:

Once again we are told God hardened Pharaoh’s heart. Even this great calamity does not bring the king to his knees in repentance. Even the demonstration of God’s sovereign power vanquishing Amon-Ra does not cause him to capitulate.

There is no mention this time of Pharaoh asking Moses to intercede before the Lord on his behalf. Instead, there are vindictive words and angry threats. Pharaoh throws Moses out with a warning ringing in his ears that the next time Pharaoh sees him hen will have him killed.

Pharaoh’s reply (v29) is full of confidence. Yet, Pharaoh is right; a time is soon coming when Moses will not see him ever again. There will be one more encounter with Pharaoh after which the Israelites will leave Egypt for good. Pharaoh has had his last chance and before long the final judgement of God will devastate his household and the land.

Applications:

It is amazing how those who face the direct and indirect consequences of their sin can blame God for their sufferings. Deep seated hostility to the Lord is found in many a heart despite the Lord’s goodness in His common grace and in affording people the opportunity to repent.

We are reminded that when Jesus was verbally abused He did not reply in kind and when falsely accused He offered no defence as He willingly accepted the punishment due for the guilt of our sin.