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!

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9-10 (Chant Royal)

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Brutus’ fears and Cassius’ schemes
End in the new, same as the old;
The lowly’s hope a deferred dream,
Desire for light a thing too bold.
Is ambitious evil too great,
Succeeding Caesars for our fate?
Will our paths they light ablaze
In bloody pursuit for always?
Into the deaf pit fall our groans?
Will none for us a banner raise?
Yahweh in righteousness enthroned!

The painted dirks their owners bleed,
Prov’dence’s plans to them untold.
In sudden terror, tyrants scream
And face the Judge’s final scold.
Their boomerang’s arc strikes their pate;
Their foiled plans are the first berate.
Appointment with fear does not delay
When sent from the Ancient of Days.
He makes them know they’re clay, not stone;
Saving saints to secure their praise:
Yahweh in righteousness enthroned!

Never hidden find those who seek
The Name who survives tested gold.
They find His goodness ever green
Who empire’s tapestries He wove.
Thanks to Him should never abate;
New songs and words for Him create!
We long for Him to fill our gaze—
He who from Zion’s mountain reigns!
He who took on our flesh and bone
Is forever to us the same:
Yahweh in righteousness enthroned!

The heart, like children, hopeful, plays
In gladness found no other place.
The proof offered behind rolled stone:
He has declared His Son by name:
Yahweh in righteousness enthroned!

4-19-2016

What Are You Wearing?

Zechariah 3 records a vision given to the prophet, and it is one of the most poignant, hopeful images of grace in the Scriptures. Zechariah sees Joshua the high priest standing before the Angel of Yahweh (likely Jesus Himself here) and Satan is standing at Joshua’s right side.

Satan is in the position of accuser here, and he has plenty of material to work with. Instead of the robes designed “for beauty and for glory,” Joshua’s robes are filthy–the word signifies that they are soiled with excrement. Yahweh’s commands for purity, cleanliness, and holiness, particularly for the man serving as high priest, are clear and unequivocal. Joshua has no place standing before God like this. It is his shame, and he deserves to be consumed in wrath for it. No doubt, this is the substance of Satan’s accusations against him.

And yet, Jesus does something amazing: He orders Joshua’s filthy clothes to be removed from him and replaced with “splendid robes.” To drive the point home, He says to Joshua, “See, I have removed your guilt from you.” Satan the Accuser has lost all his ammunition; what more can he say when the trial is over? The verdict has been given, and there is no double jeopardy in the courts of Yahweh. This point is also seen in that Satan is neither seen nor heard from for the rest of the vision. Silence is golden–the marvelous silence of no condemnation.

With that context, then, reading Psalm 109 is horrifying. It is the stuff of nightmares–it is hell itself.

Set a wicked person over him;
let an accuser stand at his right hand.
When he is judged, let him be found guilty,
and let his prayer be counted as sin.
Let his days be few;
let another take over his position.
Let his children be fatherless
and his wife a widow.
Let his children wander as beggars;
searching for food far from their demolished homes.
Let a creditor seize all he has;
let strangers plunder what he has worked for.
Let no one show him kindness,
and let no one be gracious to his fatherless children.
Let the line of his descendants be cut off;
let their name be blotted out in the next generation.
Let his forefathers’ guilt be remembered before the LORD,
and do not let his mother’s sin be blotted out.
Let their sins always remain before the LORD,
and let Him cut off all memory of them from the earth (Psalm 109:6-16 HCSB).

The parallels with Zechariah 2-3 are striking.

Psalm 109 Zechariah 2-3
“let an accuser stand at his right hand” (109:6) “with Satan standing at his right hand to accuse him” (3:1)
“let no one show him kindness” (109:12) “The LORD replied with kind and comforting words” (2:13)
“let no one be gracious
to his fatherless children” (109:12)
“I have graciously returned to Jerusalem” (2:16)
“Jerusalem will be inhabited without walls because of the number of people and livestock in it” (2:4)
“let his forefathers’ guilt be remembered before the LORD” (109:14) “‘See, I have removed your guilt from you'” (3:4)
“let their sins always remain before the LORD” (109:15) “See,…I will clothe you with splendid robes” (3:4)
“I will grant you access among these who are standing here” (3:7)
 “Let a creditor seize all he has;
let strangers plunder what he has worked for” (109:11)
 “On that day, each of you will invite his neighbor to sit under his vine and fig tree” (3:10)

We also can’t ignore that Psalm 109:8 was the justification for replacing Judas as apostle. Thus, we are presented with two possible outcomes for our lives: Judas or Joshua.

Being born again means that Jesus has declared us to be unworthy of our filthy robes and worthy of His splendid robes. He has declared this to be true, and then He and the Father give the Holy Spirit to dwell within us to actually make us unworthy and worthy. Jesus does this because even though He was only worthy of splendid robes of holiness and righteousness, He takes our hateful, filthy robes of sin off of us and puts them on Himself. He wraps us in the splendid robes we had no business looking at, much less wearing.

“See, I have removed your guilt from you, and I will clothe you with splendid robes.”

“Then I heard something like the voice of a vast multitude, like the sound of cascading waters, and like the rumbling of loud thunder, saying:

Hallelujah–because our Lord God, the Almighty has begun to reign!
Let us be glad, rejoice, and give Him glory,
because the marriage of the Lamb has come,
and His wife has prepared herself.
She was permitted to wear fine linen, bright and pure.

For the fine linen represents the righteous acts of the saints. … The armies that were in heaven followed Him on white horses, wearing pure white linen” (Revelation 19:6-8, 14 HCSB)

So, what are you wearing?

More Legal Than Legal

Don’t assume that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill. For I assure you: Until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or one stroke of a letter will pass from the law until all things are accomplished. Therefore, whoever breaks one of the least of these commandments and teaches people to do so will be called least in the kingdom of heaven. But whoever practices and teaches these commandments will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. For I tell you, unless your righteousness surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Matthew 5:17-20 HCSB

Jesus’ primary opponents during His ministry were these scribes and Pharisees, the religious elite among the Jews. We can get a fairly comprehensive picture of them based on Jesus’ interactions with them and teachings against them, including here in the Sermon on the Mount.

The Pharisees were a sect that arose after the return from the exile. God’s judgment of sending them into exile proved to cure the Jews of external idolatry; unfortunately, the rise of the Pharisees produced a new wave of internal idolatry. Instead of worshiping the idol of other, they began the inexorable descent to worshiping self.

Continue reading “More Legal Than Legal”

Lady and the Tramp

The book of Proverbs has an extended introduction that lays the foundation for the actual proverbs that begin in chapter 10. In this introduction, Solomon pleads with his sons (and his readers) to grasp the necessity and immeasurable value of wisdom. To do this, he often personifies wisdom and folly (or foolishness) as women appealing for a hearing. Wisdom is a distinguished, elegant, beautiful woman who is as hard-working as she is graceful. Folly is, to put it bluntly, a skanky bimbo. Continue reading “Lady and the Tramp”

Who Signs Your Checks

Listen to your father who gave you life,
and don’t despise your mother when she is old.
Buy–and do not sell–truth, wisdom, instruction, and understanding.
The father of a righteous son will rejoice greatly,
and one who fathers a wise son will delight in him.
Let your father and mother have joy,
and let her who gave birth to you rejoice.

My son, give me your heart,
and let your eyes observe my ways.
For a prostitute is a deep pit,
and a forbidden woman is a narrow well;
indeed, she sets an ambush like a robber
and increases those among men who are unfaithful.
Continue reading “Who Signs Your Checks”