Psalm 89:20–30; Isaiah 49:22–51:16; Colossians 1:1–14

Psalm 89:20–30: After hinting around about how God has chosen the man form the line of David to be king, he gets quite specific about why this should be so. The poet does this by saying he had a vision and continuing to write in God’s voice as God recounts the brilliant choice he made in choosing and anointing David as king:
Then did You speak in a vision
to Your faithful and did say:
“I set a crown upon the warrior,
I raised up one chosen from the people>
I found David my servant,
with my holy oil anointed him,
that My hand hold firm with him,
May arm, too, take him in.” (20-22)

This effusive tone continues as our psalmist describes God’s promises to David, including how God will strike down David’s enemies. Our poet now shifts to writing in the future tense, I take as a thinly veiled warning to those who would presume to put a non-Davidic king on Israel’s throne:
No enemy shall cause him grief
and no vile person afflict him.
And I will grind down his foes before him
and defeat those who hate him
My faithfulness and My kindness are with him,
and in My name his horn shall be lifted.” (23-25)

At this point David begins to take on mythic qualities that suggest to me that in his passionate inspiration, the psalmist was actually writing about the Messiah to come, which for us of course is Jesus Christ. This seems especially apparent in the words that David speaks as he calls out to God and in how God calls  him his ‘firstborn.’ (Or I may simply be over-interpreting here):
And I shall put his hand to the sea
and his right hand to the rivers.
He will call me: ‘My father You are,
my God and the rock of my rescue.’
I, too, shall make him My firstborn,
most high among kings of the earth.” (26-28)

Finally, a clear statement of the covenant God establishes with David—and we presume, David’s generational successors. It’s a contract with no end date, which is especially important to our psalmist:
Forever I shall keep My kindness for him
and My pact will be faithful to him.
And I shall make his seed for all time
and his throne as the days of the heavens.” (29, 30)

Beyond our psalmist’s political message we can clearly feel his passion for this cause and his sincere love for God and for David.

Isaiah 49:22–51:16: Speaking of God’s promises, there are plenty of them here as Isaiah writes of that bright future day when Judah is finally rescued by God himself:
But thus says the Lord:
Even the captives of the mighty shall be taken,
    and the prey of the tyrant be rescued;
for I will contend with those who contend with you,
    and I will save your children.” (49:25)

Moreover, Isaiah’s God promises a bad end for Judah’s enemies:
I will make your oppressors eat their own flesh,
    and they shall be drunk with their own blood as with wine.” (49:26a)

However, God is making it very clear—as he always does—that Judah’s woes are not something he sent to them, but rather this suffering is what they brought on themselves:
Where is your mother’s bill of divorce
    with which I put her away?
Or which of my creditors is it
    to whom I have sold you?
No, because of your sins you were sold,
    and for your transgressions your mother was put away.” (50:1)

Of course its the same for us: God does not create the awful situations in which we find ourselves. Except for natural disasters, our circumstances arise as a consequence of our own actions and sins. Of course in today’s therapeutic era the whole idea of sin and its consequences has been pretty much discarded. Instead, we have become a nation of self-proclaimed victims with all our woes cause by others or circumstances we cannot control. To which I can only reply, ‘Balderdash!’

God appears to be on a quest for righteous people who abandon their egos and place their trust fully in him:
Who among you fears the Lord
    and obeys the voice of his servant,
who walks in darkness
    and has no light,
yet trusts in the name of the Lord
    and relies upon his God?” (50:10)

The point is simple: we cannot choose to walk in the darkness of our own self-centered pride and expect God to rescue us. We alone are responsible for the choices we make.

As seems to be the unvarying rhythm of this book, its chapters and verses oscillate between the dark consequences of Judah’s sin and the wonderful future rescue that awaits those who follow God. Chapter 51 brims with the latter, For example:
I will bring near my deliverance swiftly,
    my salvation has gone out
    and my arms will rule the peoples;
the coastlands wait for me,
    and for my arm they hope.” (51:5)

and
So the ransomed of the Lord shall return,
    and come to Zion with singing;
everlasting joy shall be upon their heads;
    they shall obtain joy and gladness,
    and sorrow and sighing shall flee away.” (51:11)

This entire chapter is a brilliant poetic essay on the nature and outcomes of God’s salvation. We may talk a lot about salvation, but it’s worth reading this chapter—once again written in God’s voice—that goes down a level of abstraction and describes the almost ecstatic qualities of God’s comfort and his rescue:
I, I am he who comforts you;
    why then are you afraid of a mere mortal who must die,
    a human being who fades like grass?” (51:12)

and
The oppressed shall speedily be released;
    they shall not die and go down to the Pit,
    nor shall they lack bread.” (51:14)

This reading has helped me realize that salvation is not just a dry theological concept that once we’ve been saved it’s over and done and we just go on as before clutching a ticket to heaven in our hand. On the contrary, salvation is God’s continuous action in our lives and on our behalf—which is the engine of sanctification. Which of course is exactly what Jesus did for us and the Holy Spirit continues to do for us.

Colossians 1:1–14: As he has about Corinth, Galatia, and Philippi, Paul has received word at Rome about the situation at the church in Colossae. And as always, Paul opens his letter with a prayer: “ In our prayers for you we always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, for we have heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love that you have for all the saints, because of the hope laid up for you in heaven.” (3-5a)

Paul is the master of the psychological sandwich: praising people before calling them out about their problems and then concluding on an upbeat note. The book of Colossians follows this structure. These opening verses brim with optimism and praise for the folks at the church  in Colossae. Based on what he’s heard from a certain Epaphras, things seem to be going pretty well: “Just as it is bearing fruit and growing in the whole world, so it has been bearing fruit among yourselves from the day you heard it and truly comprehended the grace of God…and [Epaphrus]has made known to us your love in the Spirit.” (6,8)

Before he gets down to business, he provides his listeners, readers, and us with one of those Pauline nuggets that crisply summarizes the well-lived Christian life: “We have not ceased praying for you and asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of God’ will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so that you may lead lives worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, as you bear fruit in every good work and as you grow in the knowledge of God.” (9, 10) Prayer and a growing knowledge of God brings spiritual wisdom. And if we fail to practice those disciplines we should not be surprised when we remain spiritually immature and do not lead a life “worthy of the Lord.”

Paul also includes a profound theological summary of the Good News: “[God] has rescued us from the power of darkness and transferred us into the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.” (13, 14) For me, this verse really resonates with the much longer passage in today’s Isaiah reading about how God comforts and rescues us. Unlike Isaiah, who takes zillions of verses to say pretty much the same thing, Paul summarizes the wonderful truth in just a few well-chosen words.

 

 

 

 

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