Advent Meditation: Psalm 67

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God, because He is Trinity, is by nature a blessing, giving, loving Being; in fact, He is love. He is blessing.

The Psalmist in Psalm 67 pleads for the grace of blessing, and he begs for a particular blessing for a particular purpose. He prays for God to “make his face shine upon us (Selah) so that your way may be known on earth, your salvation among all nations” (Psalm 67:1-2 CSB).

The fellowship of the Trinity is the one we are welcomed into by grace through faith. The Son ever lives in the light of the Father’s smiling face, and the Spirit is the Love proceeding from each to each. The Psalmist prays for that same light to shine on us—by grace, not merit—which is a staggering thing to ask for. It’s asking for the glory Moses saw, and possibly even what he was denied.

The purpose of this request is the spread of the fame of God’s way, which is salvation across the world. Fellowship with God, like the Trinity itself, is an invitational fellowship. Others are invited to delight and share in this love, and those who accept this invitation joyfully do so. It is an eternal feedback loop of joyful love and loving delight.

The blessings of the harvest are a living enactment of the harvest of worshipers who are to be included in the radiant face of God’s love and acceptance. Through the testimony and life of those already welcomed, those who have not yet accepted the invitation are told (and retold) the glorious good news that God’s love is real and available.

In this way, Psalm 67 is perfect for Advent. The glory of the LORD shone through the angels onto the shepherds, who were told good news—gospel—of great joy for all the people. In the Incarnation, the prayer of Psalm 67 receives a resounding, “Yes!” And from that firstfruit of shepherds, a mighty harvest of innumerable people is being reaped to this day.

Let all the peoples praise you, God,
let all the peoples praise you (Psalm 67:5 CSB).

Gloria in excelsis deo!

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Advent Meditation: Psalm 65

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For whatever reason, Psalm 65 leaped off the page as an Advent Psalm to me. The One who is worthy of praise, whose power is unparalleled, this God is the One who draws near to us with grace and blessing.

We have a tendency to ascribe praise beyond reasonable bounds or to those who are unworthy of it, and sadly, too often both at the same time. Only the God of Zion can legitimately claim profuse praise as His due: “Praise is rightfully yours, God, in Zion; vows to you will be fulfilled” (65:1 CSB).

This praiseworthy God welcomes people who are humble and trusting as they come before Him. They come, not because they are worthy or entitled by rights; in fact, the very opposite is true: “Iniquities overwhelm me” (65:3 CSB). The consistent experience of anyone in God’s presence is terror and dread—just ask Isaiah.

These unworthy people are welcomed into God’s presence because “only [He] can atone for our rebellions” (65:3 CSB). Again, ask Isaiah.

With their sins atoned for, these unworthy rebels become glad residents in the holy temple of God Himself! God tabernacling with men, atoning for their sins, satisfying their wayward hearts with the goodness of His house—how can these things be?

David will not allow a moment’s doubt as to God’s ability to make this happen:

You answer us in righteousness,
with awe-inspiring works,
God of our salvation,
the hope of the ends of the earth
and of the distant seas (65:5 CSB).

This tabernacling with men will be done in righteousness, atoning for sins in a perfect, finished way. It will be awe-inspiring to behold and meditate upon, for it will be the salvation of all who hope in Him, as far as the ends of the earth.

This will not be too hard for God. His power established the mountains and silences the roaring sea waves. Nations’ warring ceases at His word. If God can do that, how could we doubt His power?

But what about God’s desire? Sure, He has the ability to save men that they may dwell with Him, but does He want to?

YES!

He who waters the earth abundantly, who provides grain for the people, who “softens the earth with showers and blesses its growth” (65:10 CSB), who “crowns the year with His goodness” (65:11 CSB), will He not show love to those He so obviously cares for? God’s provision causes the earth itself to rejoice; will He withhold that joy from His own image, the pinnacle of His creation?

No, because God prepares the earth in this way. He prepares it for blessing the people, and He prepares the people for greater blessings than grain and new wine:

You have put more joy in my heart
than they have when their grain and new wine abound (Psalm 4:7 CSB).

One day, David’s Son will indeed “visit the earth” (65:9 CSB). He will come so that “those who live far away are awed by your signs” (65:8 CSB); He sends Persian magi signs in the stars so that they may worship Him, making “east and west shout for joy” (65:8 CSB).

May the Lord of glory, born in Bethlehem, who now reigns in glory, give us the seeds of eternal joy that will bloom when we truly, forever, live in His courts, satisfied with the goodness of His house, and the holiness of His temple!

He comes to make His blessings flow far as the curse is found!

Advent Meditation: Psalm 61

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Unlike the provincial deities of the ancients, Yahweh is not limited by geography. David boldly prays—desperate, yes, but bold—”from the ends of the earth,” and even when his boldness outstrips his strength (“when my heart is without strength”) he is still heard. Neither Tarshish nor Nineveh is beyond the LORD’s reach or earshot.

David then prays the prayer God loves to hear: I can’t, but You can; You lead the way.

Lead me to a rock that is high above me,
for you have been a refuge for me,
a strong tower in the face of the enemy (61:2-3 CSB).

David can’t get to the rock himself; God must take him there. God alone has been a refuge and a strong tower. God is the rock higher than David. The next verse makes this even clearer:

I will dwell in your tent forever
and take refuge under the shelter of your wings (61:4 CSB).

The allusion in Psalm 57 is more explicit here: God’s tent is the tabernacle, and the shelter of His wings would be beneath the cherubim and the mercy seat in the Holy of Holies.

The connection between the rock and the tent, then, is this: David can’t go into the Holy of Holies himself. God must come to him and lead him there. That’s precisely what He has done in the Incarnation: Jesus has come as the Great High Priest in Melchizedek’s line to rend the curtain and lead us into the New Jerusalem—Revelation’s Holy of Holies.

David celebrates the “heritage” given to every God-fearer. What is this heritage? It’s the king’s own inheritance, for we are “heirs of God and coheirs with Christ” (Romans 8:17 CSB)!

What king is this? The one whose “years span many generations,” who sits “enthroned before God forever” (61:6-7 CSB). This King who is God sits before God; the Word was with God and was God (John 1:1).

The King’s bodyguards are faithful love and truth. You have to go through them to get to Him. John also says that’s exactly how Jesus comes: full of grace and truth (John 1:17).

This King is Jesus, Emmanuel, the curtain-tearing High Priest who leads us into the shelter of the cherubim’s wings. This King is the one we serve, the one we sing of, and the one we sing to.

Joy to the world, the Lord is come!

Do Not Be Afraid (Petrarchan Sonnet)

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The herald militant appeared in light
In Wesley’s erstwhile welkin o’er the fold;
The herders’ drowsy darkness now like gold
Shone with the glory of the Lord of Might.
They made to scatter in their dreadful fright,
But lo, the Heav’nly Gospel, long foretold
Was on the angel lips that blessèd night.
The Burning Ones who, blushing, ever fly
Before Him Who Is and Was and Will Be
Now march, their banner-glories are unfurled:
For Him, who viewed, must make the viewer die
Has come as chubby babe both held and seen;
The Virgin holds the Word who made the world.

12-7-2017

Advent Meditation: Psalm 58

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This is from my journal meditation on Psalm 58. Psalm 58 is not a go-to passage for Advent, but perhaps it ought to be.

The world reels at the revelation of some new credible accusation of immorality or at the scope of injustice that still happens in our supposedly enlightened, evolved era. Slavery, rape, sexual assault, racism, and more all exist today and seem to thrive unabated. Christians are persecuted more than any other century in the Church’s history.

Rather than being on the “wrong side of history,” the Christian stands with the Judge of all the earth in the middle of history. It is not yet the end. Judgment will come one day, some day, but perhaps not today. It will still come, and that’s David’s foundation for Psalm 58.

Injustice is not a mirage nor misunderstanding; David refuses to be gaslighted by Satan or the wicked (58:1-2). We desperately need the reflex of asking, “Do you really speak righteously, you mighty ones? Do you judge people fairly?” and then honestly answering, “No, you practice injustice in your hearts; with your hands you weigh out violence in the land” (58:1-2 CSB).

The wicked are so from birth, and no charmer’s recorder can whistle a tune to charm them. They are deaf to the cries of those they oppress.

David trusts in God’s righteous judgment, both now and future. He prays that they would be broken and swept away from their oppressive ways.

The sight of righteousness will cause the saints to rejoice, since their long waiting has ended. Though it may not seem so now, one day, some day, we will know with visible certainty that “there is a reward for the righteous,” that “there is a God who judges on earth!” (58:11 CSB).

The problem is, we too are wicked from the womb, deaf to the charms of righteousness’ flute. We practice unrighteousness and injustice. We deserve judgment. The only way this can be a psalm of good news is if that judgment can be meted out, but not on us.

It’s not enough to simply not give justice; that gives no hope. That lets righteousness go unpunished.

Justice must be done and its wrath spent. However we avoid wrath, we still must be able to say at the end, “There is a God who judges on earth!”

That’s why the Incarnation matters. That’s why Advent matters. That’s why imputed righteousness (2 Corinthians 5:21) matters.

I deserve to be swept away, consumed by fiery wrath for my anger, selfishness, for all the immorality bound up in my heart.

Yet Jesus came, so that “the one who sanctifies and those who are sanctified all have one Father. That is why he is not ashamed to call us brothers and sisters” (Hebrews 2:11 CSB).

Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel has come to thee, O Israel!