Archive for March 31st, 2010

Psalm 1: The Degeneration of the Sinful Man

I just found Charles Spurgeon’s “Treasury of David” stuff online, and if everything is as interesting as this first dive into Psalm 1, I’m excited to continue reading these! Within the exposition that Spurgeon does on this chapter is a really interesting portrait of a sinful man and what must be done to keep from going down this path. Let’s look at just the first 2 verses:

“Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the ungodly,
Nor stands in the path of sinners,
Nor sits in the seat of the scornful.

But his delight is in the law of the Lord,
And in this law he meditates day and night.”

What is interesting is how quickly the man can degenerate according to this passage. Note the verbs used in the first verse. First the man simply walks, then he stands (or perhaps a better way to think about it is that he both STOPS and stands) and finally he sits. This illustrates how sin so easily ensnares us, as someone who is not focused on the Lord and His Word can move so quickly from a passer-through to stopping to see what’s going on to finally joining in to the world of sin.

What is also of note is that at each level the company becomes increasingly worse to involve oneself with. Initially it is only the ungodly, which could mean simply those who are lost and have no knowledge of God. From there, the company becomes sinners, or those who deliberately do things against the will of God, with some awareness of the wrong they are doing. Lastly, the company becomes the scornful, or those who openly mock the truth of the Word of God, and some may even go so far as to attempt to explain away the Lord. The further away one gets from God (which can be directly correlated with how much time is spent seeking God), the easier it gets to act not only in ignorance to God but in direct opposition to His commands.

So how does one escape such company? Verse 2 gives a pretty clear answer. One has to delight in the law of the Lord. Notice that it is not just “the Lord,” but rather “the law of the Lord.” As Spurgeon points out, this man is not under the law, but rather in it. This man is someone who not only loves the Lord, but also keeps His commandments (John 14:15) and does so with delight (Colossians 3:23).

A friend passed along a blog post written recently about frustration concerning those who feel they are saved based on one single experience but show no evidence of God’s fruit in their lives. The “blessed man” of Psalm 1 is a Berean; his fruit is shown as he meditates on the law day and night.

Think of the New Age movement’s practice of meditation. What does it entail? You must block out all distractions and immerse yourself in the process. The idea behind Biblical meditation is similar; you must dive deep into the law, and if you are immersed in such law “both day and night,” odds are you have a better shot of keeping His commandments and avoiding the type of company talked about in verse one.

Lord, give us the desire to delight in Your Word, and help us to put aside all distractions to focus on the glory of the things You’ve spoken to us. Help us to not merely be hearers of Your Word, but also to take action and to put it on our minds both day and night. Amen.

Jesus — Of Judah

I had a weird mental pathway today to my topic. I was thinking about looking for a commentary on Judges to see if anyone else had some interesting takes on the man Jephthah was, which led me back to my blog yesterday. I remembered Rahab and wondered if any other women would be worth mentioning in this group. Certainly some might say Ruth or Esther could be included, perhaps Hannah or Sarah or even Bathsheba. However, one crossed my mind that little is known about: Tamar. Would Tamar be worthy of such an honor? We know she was Judah’s niece and tricked him into sleeping with her to conceive a child that would be his heir, since her husband and husband’s brother were both killed by the Lord.

That put another question in my mind. Judah slept with his niece, who was masquerading as a prostitute. And yet it is this man from whom Jesus chose to be a descendant. Looking at the tribes of Israel and the men from which they came, one would suspect that Jesus would come from the line of Joseph, or perhaps Levi, since He is described in Hebrews as “High Priest,” and the Levites were the priests. But no, Jesus is the “lion of the tribe of Judah.” Why did He choose (and it most definitely was a choice; I have no desire to debate the sovereignty of God in this post) the lineage of Judah?

It got me thinking about what we really know about Judah. For starters, his name lends more to the future Messiah as one of his descendants. The name Judah is derived from the Hebrew word for praise. Joseph comes from the Hebrew for may he add, while Levi comes from the Hebrew for attached.

After Judah’s birth, we don’t hear about him again until his incident with Tamar. Genesis 38 tells this story, but at the end, it is noteworthy that Judah keeps the promise he made to Tamar in attempting to bring her a goat and honoring the cord and seal he gave to her as his sign, even though he says, “She is more righteous than I.”

However, Judah’s greatest contribution to the book of Genesis comes in chapters 43-44. Due to the famine, Jacob sends his sons (minus Benjamin) to Egypt to buy grain, and when they come to their brother Joseph (not recognizing him), they are sent back with orders to bring Benjamin with them, and Simeon is imprisoned until they come back. Judah at this point emerges as the leader and asks that Benjamin be entrusted to his care. You would think this would be the request of the firstborn, but no, Judah was 4th in line. Judah takes on the responsibility of caring for the young and inexperienced Benjamin.

As the story continues, when the brothers return Joseph secretly plants a silver cup in Benjamin’s grain sack to force Benjamin to stay in Egypt. Judah then does something that up to this point has not been done in the book of Genesis: he sacrifices himself for the good of his younger, inexperienced brother. He pleads with Joseph to let him be the one imprisoned, since Benjamin is entrusted to his care. Joseph can no longer contain himself, reveals himself to his brothers, and they lived happily ever after (er, mostly; those living in the time of Moses might disagree with the move to Egypt).

So what qualities does Judah show in his short time in Genesis? (1) He honors a covenant that he made, (2) he emerges as leader of his “people,” (3) he takes responsibility for the weak and inexperienced, and (4) he offers himself as a sacrifice for the weak, so that the weak won’t be separated from his father forever.

Anybody see the parallels between Judah and Jesus? While Judah was not perfect, he was the best example of what Jesus came to fulfill. Simeon was chosen to be imprisoned first, but he and Levi both stained their father’s name by attacking the town of the man who raped their sister. Reuben, when Joseph was sold by his brothers, merely protested but did not step in himself. No, Judah was the man who showed the character that was later made even more perfect by Jesus Christ. It is only fitting that God chose to personify Himself in the lineage of such a man who, not blameless by any stretch of the imagination, did what needed to be done to protect and bring honor to his own.