Our Judge: O Give Thanks!

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See the God Who Judges All – Psalm 50:1-6

Psalm 50, a psalm written by Asaph, a choir director and music composer in King David’s day, speaks of who God is as Judge. He gives us six very distinguished attributes of this Judge. First, God is the Almighty One. This exordium of names for God: Elohim, El, YHWH or Yehovah, speaks of who God is. Elohim means “Almighty” and is the same word used in Genesis 1:1. El means “revered One” and He is the only One for whom we should show absolute reverence. YHWH or Yehovah means “Being” and His being is sure and true. This points to the One who is perfect and just to be Judge of all.

Second, God is the beauty of Zion. God is the glorious One who is the bright spot from whence the brighteness of the Divine manifestation spreads forth like the rising sun. Wherever God is, beauty resides. He is the most aesthetically pleasing beauty there is or ever will be. Yes, we see beauty in nature, in people, in crreation, but no beauty like the One who is the Creator of all of these.

Third, God is a consuming fire. God’s glory goes before Him. Fire and storm are harbingers of the Lawgiver of Sinai who now appears as Judge. As His glory goes before Him, fire threatens to consume the evildoers and the storm threatens to drive them away like chaff. His glory shows the consuming power He holds within Himself.

Fourth, God is above all as Sovereign. God summons all people from everywhere, both the good and the evil, the righteous and the unrighteous, and all of the heavenly hosts to come and witness His judgment. He is going to judge His people along with those who do not belong to Him.

Fifth, God gathers His covenant people to Himself. God has made a covenant with His people and they have honored Him by keeping the covenant through the sacrificial laws of the Old Testament. However, He must punish, and first by words in order to warn them against the punishment by deeds. They are gathered before Him–the accused, His godly ones–to answer this Divine tribunal. They are named as His “godly ones.” And He is going to express to them His reproof and His testimony against them.

Sixth, God’s righteousness is exalted by the heavens. Now, while the accused are gethered  to Him, the poet hears the heavens solmenly acknowledge the righteousness of God the Judge. They cry out the praises of their Maker while reiterating the difference between man and God. God is righteous and man suffers with unrighteousness in their hearts. Therefore, God is now sitting in judgment, the heavens declaring that He is the Righteous One who is Judge. Nothing further is now wanting to the completeness of the judgment scene; the action now begins.

See Who God Judges – Psalm 50:7-21

God judges His people first. God is the One who speaks and testifies against His own people. He commands His people to listen to Him speak, and when God speaks, He commands, Hear! In other words, He says, You better pay attention! He has this right to call His people to listen to Him and to stand face to face with them. He has given them all things as Elohim, God Almighty! He is God of His people and there is no other.

But God does not judge them for their sacrifices. They are following through with their duty to continually offer burnt sacrifices thereby making atonement for their sin. They continually, without intermission, give sacrifices. God, however, does not have need of animals. He is never hungry like man is hungry. He has no carnal desires as we do. Rather, what God desires is for His people to see Him and to worship Him with their whole heart! What He desires is not mere animal sacrifices, but a sacrifice of thankfulness. The burnt offerings are an outward expression of what the inward expression of thankfulness should be. His people are merely going through the motions and this is the indictment that God is making against His people.

God desires for His people to call out to Him in their time of trouble. They are going through the motions, and therefore, He says that He is willing to rescue them if they repent of their sinfulness. And when we call out to Him, He does rescue! We in turn then glorify Him and bring thankfulness to Him for His rescuing.

God judges the wicked. God does not just look to the sinfulness of His own people, but He also knows the hearts of the wicked. He has summoned all peoples–righteous and unrighteous–so now the wicked are also in His courtroom. They have no desire for discipline or instruction. They are religious perhaps, but nothing concerns them when it comes to a right relationship with God. Rather then live immorally and thievery is a part of their lives. They use words to cut and frame deceit. They delight in adultery and speaking gossip and immoral things about and to others. They even go against their own families by bringing reproach to them. And why is this? Because they first cast behind them the word of God, thereby casting God away from themselves. They are far away from Him. They may be religious, but their piety means nothing as even with His own people. The difference is that the wicked are evildoers and they are not God’s people–His godly ones, His faithful ones. They are sinners who are far away from God.

Yet, these evildoers believe that God is just like them. They project on God what they believe He is like. They believe He is like them and therefore dismiss their sin as if God delights in them and in their deeds. They never give mind to the reality that He is nothing like them. They are unrighteous, He is righteous. They think they are sovereign over their own lives while God is Sovereign over all. They delight when others join them in their sin while He takes no delight in fools to sin against Him. And in thinking that God is like them, this allows them to do under the cloak of their dead knowledge whatever they believe. For just as a man is in himself, such is his conception also of his God. But God does not nor will He ever encourage this foolishness, this idea. God will set before the eyes of the evildoers, who practically and also in theory deny the Divine holiness, the real state of his heart and life, so that he shall be terrified at the indictment just handed to them by Almighty God.

See How God Judges According to Thankfulness – Psalm 50:22, 23

The wicked will not be delivered from the judgment of God. Those who forget God rely upon outward works. They forget God and sink into licentiousness. They are warned of the final execution of the sentence which they deserve. They think their works will earn them points with Holy God, but it does not. However, their works are as dead as their faith. James 2:17, 22, 24, 26 says, Even so faith, if it has no works, is dead, being by itself…You see that faith was working with his works, and as a result of the works, faith was perfected…You see that a man is justified by works and not by faith alone…For just as the body without the spirit is dead, so also faith without works is dead. This means that the dead knowledge that produces dead works comes from a dead faith. This is the way of the evildoer. Conversely, living knowledge of the godly ones, God’s people, produce good works that come from a righteous faith by the grace of God.

The righteous will be delivered and will be shown salvation. God delights in our thanksgiving. He loves when we give honor to Him. His desire is for His people to live their lives in righteousness. And when we live for His honor and for His glory, then He give the full reality of His salvation to us and to all who believe! He delights in Himself and delights in us delighting in Him. He expects our hearts, not just our actions. Our actions–our outward expressions–come from hearts of thankfulness–the inward expression. This is God’s delight, this is God’s desire.

Have you called out to God to rescue you from your sin? Have you called out to Him to take you from the troubles of your sin? When you call out to Him, believing that Jesus Christ died according to the Scriptures, was buried, and was raised again accorind to the Scriptures, then the Bible tells us that He shall certainly save us.

What you godly ones: Have you given thanks to God for the salvation He has given you? He has given us His salvation which is the Gospel of Jesus Christ, the power of God unto salvation (Romans 1:16). We have believe, therefore, from our hearts, let us give thanks continually for all that He has done, what He is doing, and what He intends to do.

The Wrath Against Jesus

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Wrath is defined as “strong, stern, or fierce anger; deeply resentful indignation; ire.” I am sure that some have faced wrath. It comes in waves at times by people who may hate you or despise you. It comes when something that you’ve done causes such grief for the other person that sometimes they will be wrathful toward you–holding deep resentful indignation at your very presence. However, the wrath that we face is nothing compared to the wrath that Jesus Christ faced. He faced the wrath of people from all walks of life and even to this day faces the wrath of people who claim to not believe He is the only way to get to heaven. Not only does He face the wrath of people, but Jesus also faced the wrath of His Heavenly Father.

The Wrath of Men

See first how the guards mocked Jesus Christ after they nailed Him to the Cross. Luke writes in his gospel, The soldiers also mocked him, coming up and offering him sour wine, and saying, “If you are the king of the Jews, save yourself!” (Luke 23:36, 37) They were jeering at Him, making fun of him, being sarcastic toward Him. After He had been so weakened by the beating He endured, they nailed His hands and His feet to the Cross–a cruel form of death devised by the evil men of Rome. After crucifying Him, placing His Cross at the placed called Golgotha (which means Place of the Skull), these same guards offered Him wine mixed with gall to drink (Matthew 27:34). The gall would have sedative properties and sometimes would be given as a poison for the one being crucified. But Jesus refused to drink of this bitter cup. They then proceeded to divide His clothes by throwing dice. That is, they were placing bets as to who would win Jesus’ blood soaked clothes. He knew that His death was necessary even in the face of mockery from the guards.

See next how two thieves were crucified next to Jesus and how they showed their wrath toward Him. One was on the right and the other on the left of Him. Luke 23:40 records the words of one of the criminals: Aren’t you the Christ? Save yourself and us!” He was saying these words in mocking way. The text in the Greek language indicates that this thief was being sarcasting, unbelieving as to whom he was speaking. He in essence was denying the very Person of the Lord Jesus Christ with his jeering. These outlaws were against Jesus, and yet Jesus knew that His death was necessary even in the face of the wrath he faced from the one theif. At least one of them asked Jesus to remember him that day. In other words, he was believing Jesus Christ to be his Savior. And what Jesus’ response? Luke 23:43 says, I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise.

See how the crowds of people raged against Jesus Christ while He was crucified. They defamed Him and shook their heads at Him (Matthew 27:38). They misinterpreted His saying that the temple could be destroyed and in three days He would rebuild it. They sneered at Him saying, You who can destroy the temple and rebuild it in three days, save yourself! If you’re God’s Son, come down from the cross!” Notice the enticement to prove Himself as the Son of God when they said if you’re God’s Son. It sounds very much like the devil in Matthew 4:3, 6 when he tempted Jesus to turn the stones into bread because He had been fasting for forty days and nights. Then the devil tried to have Him prove to him and others that Jesus was truly God’s Son by throwing Himself off a cliff and having angels act as His parachute to bring Him to a soft landing. This would certainly prove to people all over that He truly is God’s Son. But Jesus would have none of the enticements from the devil or even the people who were wrathful toward Him. Rather, He knew that were He to take Himself off the Cross, although He could save Himself, He would then not be able to save anyone else–even those who were mocking Him, jeering at Him, sneering at Him, hurling insults and beating Him. Jesus knew that His death was necessary even in the face of these who did not believe Him.

See how the chief priests and scribes were revealing their wrath toward Jesus Christ. First, they were wrathful because He claimed to be the king of the Jews (Matthew 27:11). Second, they were wrathful toward Jesus Christ because He claimed to be God’s Son (Matthew 27:43). The idea in the Greek text is that they were bullying Him, making fun of Him while He was dying on the Cross. They were looking at Him, pointing at Him, and denying His Lordship, His Kingship, His dominion over everything. After all, how could this One who claimed to be a king die on the Cross? How could this blasphemer not be put to death by claiming His Sonship of God? In their estimation, Jesus Christ deserved death. And it Jesus knew that His death was necessary even for the religious leaders of His day.

The wrath of man toward Jesus Christ even wags its ugly head today–jeering, sneering, mocking, and denying.

The Wrath of God

Then we see how God the Father poured out His wrath on His only begotten Son. Jesus cries out with a loud voice, Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” Translated from the Aramaic, My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?” (Matthew 27:46) Jesus Christ, after taking our sin upon Himself, became sin on our behalf (2 Corinthians 5:21). It was by Jesus Christ’s shedding of His own blood that sins are forgiven (Ephesians 1:7). It is His willing obedience to go to the Cross (Philippians 2:5-8). All the while He was doing what His Heavenly Father had planned for Him to do accoridng to His good pleasure and for His glory (Ephesians 1:6, 9, 12, 14). At the moment that Jesus Christ took the sins of the world upon Himself, this is when He faced something that He had never faced before: the forsaking of His Father. The One with whom Jesus had perfect fellowship for eternity was now being abandoned to die on the Cross. But think not that this was something He disdained; rather, Hebrews 12:2 says that this is the joy set out for Him  that he endured the Cross, disregarding the shame, and now has taken His seat at the right hand of the throne of God. Hebrews 12:3 then says, Think of Him who endured such opposition against Himself by sinners, so that you may not grow weary in your souls and give up. He willingly gave Himself to die on the Cross in obedience to His Father so that He could save us from our sin.

The wrath of God toward Jesus Christ He endured was no smal feat. For the death that He died was the wages of sin (Romans 6:23). There was no other way for these wages to be paid. John 3:16 says, For this is the way God loved the world: He gave His one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life. God the Father gave His only begotten Son, Jesus Christ, so those who believe will ahve eternal life. We would not have eternal life had Jesus Christ saved His own life. We would not have eternal life had Jesus Christ not willingly had given His life as a payment for our sins.

Jesus Christ endured the wrath of man (and still does, although He died for all), and certainly endured the wrath of His Heavenly Father on our behalf. Of course the story does not end here. We still have the truth of His resurrection from the dead.

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A Mighty Fortress

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A mighty fortress is our God, a bulwark never failing; Our Helper He, amid the flood of mortal ills prevailing; For still our ancient foe doth seek to work us woe; His craft and pow’r are great, and, armed with cruel hate, On earth is not his equal.

Martin Luther’s battle-hymn Ein’ feste Burg took its sstarting point from Psalm 46, catching its indomitable spirit but striking out in new directions. The defiant tone suggests that it was compsoed at a time of crisis, which makes the confession of faith doubly impressive. Although the crisis is left unidentified by Luther, Psalm 46 speaks to the various crises we face and how God is our refuge, strength, and a present help in a time of trouble.

The title of this psalm is found in the words For the choir director. A Psalm of the sons of Korah, set to Alamoth. A Song. Although this does not appear as the first verse in the English translations, it is in the Hebrew text. The sons of Korah are listed as music leaders in 2 Chronicles 20:19. They are also seen in Number 26:58. They wrote Psalm 42, 44-49, 84-85, and 87-88. This song has been incorporated in the Songs of Zion because of the centrality of Jerusalem in its message. Moreover, Alamoth would indicate that this is written for higher voices, sopranos perhaps or young female verses.

Did we in our own strength confide, our striving would be losing, Were not the right Man on our sid, the Man of God’s own choosing: Dost ask who that may be? Christ Jesus, it is He; Lord Sabaoth, His Name, from age to age the same, And He must win the battle.

God is in the tumult! Psalm 46:1-3

In the midst of chaos, God is there! Notice how Psalm 46:1 begins: God. All things begin with God and all things end with God. His name in the Hebrew is Elohim which means Almighty. He is the supernatural being who originated and rules over the universe. This name is used in Genesis 1:1, “In the beginning God [Elohim] created the heavens and the earth.” The sons of Korah know that it is God who is in the midst of the chaos and it is He who is in control. Consider this: It would be much worse if God was not in the midst of the tumult!

What we do learn about God in this verse is that He is our refuge. He is our security. He is the One to whom we run when trouble comes into our lives. God is also our strength. He is the One who can handle the pains of life through us. The word strength in the Hebrew can also be translated as fortress. A fortress is walled, and it brings security to those within the walls. It keeps the enemies from coming into the city. It keeps the enemies penetration from happening and causing troubles. We also see that God is a very present help in trouble. He is an abundant help in trouble. He is a present help in trouble. He is in the midst of our trouble providing for us in a few ways: 1) He provides a way of escape; 2) He provides a way of strength; and, 3) He provides a conclusion to the trouble that befalls us.

This is why Psalm 46:2, 3 tells us that we do not have to be afraid or feel anxious or apprehensive about the situations in which we find ourselves. We do not have to be afraid if the earth should change, if the mountains slip into the heart of the sea, if the waters roar and foam, if the mountains quake at its swelling pride. God is in control of all of Creation. There is nothing that has ever been out of God’s sovereign control. He controls all of His Creation with His spoken word (cf. Hebrews 1:1-4). And the psalmist then says SelahSelah means to take a pause, to reflect, to be refeshed with what was just spoken or sung. It’s refreshing to know that God is our refuge, our strength, our present help in times of trouble. And notice that He is present with us at this very moment.

And though this world, with devils filled, should threaten to undo us, We will not fear, for God hath willed His truth to triumph through us; the Prince of Darkness grim, we tremble not for him; His rage we can endure, for lo, his doom is sure, One little word shall fell him.

God is in His city! 46:4-7

The city of God is where the Most High dwells. There is peace that inhabits the city of God, namely because the presence of the Most High. God will not allow her walls to fall down. When He speaks, the people of the earth lose courage to stand against Him. Even though other nations would fall, Jerusalem will be safe. Even though other nations will roar against Him, Jerusalem will be safe. For what reason? God is our fortress! He controls the unseen armies of heaven. He is a Person to whom His people can flee for refuge when enemies attack. The Bible teaches us in Habakkuk 2:20 that God is still on His throne which indicates that He is ever ruling, ever in charge, ever in control.  And for this reason, the enemies of God’s people quake.

That word above all earthly pow’rs, no thanks to them, abideth; The Spirit and the gifts are ours through Him Who with us sideth; let goods and kindred go, this mortal life also; The body they may kill: God’s truth abideth still, His kingdom is forever.

God is in the earth! Psalm 46:8-11

The psalmist then turns his attention to the works of God. He takes us to review the in our minds’ eyes the Lord’s deliverances of His people (Psalm 46:8). He has caused Israel’s enemies to become a wasteland. The armies of the enemies have been destroyed. It is God who causes wars to cease and He is the One who breaks their bows and their weapons. In other words, He fights for His people while at the same time providing protection for them.

The psalm ends with the Lord’s presence being with His people. He is with us. He is present. He is our refuge right now. He is our strength right now. He is a present help in times of trouble right now. It is now that the Lord dwells in us through His Holy Spirit (cf. 1 Corinthians 6:19-20).

Praise be to God who is our refuge, our strength, and our present help in times of trouble.

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