Isaiah 23:9 – The Lord of hosts has planned it, to defile the pride of all beauty,
To despise all the honored of the earth.

Isaiah is writing an oracle against the city-state of Tyre here, but of course his words apply far beyond Tyre. The issue here is not beauty itself, as if God hated beauty. He couldn’t hate beauty because he himself created it!

The issue—and doesn’t it always seem to come down to this—is pride. Tyre was prosperous and therefore proud because she thought her own effort and will had produced the beautiful city that existed, but of course this was not true. God was responsible for all of it, but the inhabitants of Tyre didn’t see it that way.

Is there anything so blind as pride in oneself?

The issue here is seeing ourselves and the world as they are in reality. Paul will write to the church in Corinth:

1 Corinthians 4:7
For who regards you as superior? What do you have that you did not receive? And if you did receive it, why do you boast as if you had not received it?

Paul is determined to yank down whatever pride we may have here because he fully understands that the proud simply cannot be followers of Jesus.

Pride must be continually put to death in us.

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Therefore, beloved, since you look for these things, be diligent to be found by Him in peace, spotless and blameless,and regard the patience of our Lord as salvation;” (2 Peter 3:14–15 NAS95)

Peter is writing here about the Lord’s return and why it appears “delayed” to the saints in his own day.  He tells them to look for these things, meaning, look for the return of the Lord and the end of history when Jesus calls his church to himself.

Peter tells the saints to be prepared, or perhaps we could better write this, be preparing. Our aim is to be found in him spotless and blameless. The word that is translated “be diligent” means “to make every effort to do one’s best.” [CWSB] I like this choice of words from Peter.  It demonstrates that:

  1. We have work to do.  We don’t just sit back and become spotless and blameless by a process of osmosis, we work out our salvation with fear and trembling. (Phil 2.12)
  2. We won’t do this work perfectly. Doing one’s best does not imply perfection.  We aren’t perfect yet, and we won’t follow Peter’s admonition perfectly, but that isn’t the point.  The point is to try, to work to be diligent at it.
  3. The work done in our lives comes ultimately from the Spirit of God working within us.  Paul says elsewhere after his own admonition to work out our salvation, for it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure. (Phil 2.13) What we cannot accomplish in our own strength, God can accomplish with his strength.

 

“Whom have I in heaven but You? And besides You, I desire nothing on earth. My flesh and my heart may fail, But God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.” (Psalms 73:25–26 NAS95)

Asaph—the author of Ps. 73—makes this grand statement of commitment to Yahweh that makes the heart sing when it is read. Besides you, Asaph writes, I desire precisely nothing else on earth. I recall someone somewhere once writing this statement as “Jesus plus nothing equals everything,” and it would seem that biblically Asaph would agree.  His desire, his portion?  Yahweh.  Notice that it isn’t Yahweh + as in Yahweh + wealth, or Yahweh + health, or Yahweh + a good family; it’s only Yahweh alone.

We honestly struggle with this formula because it seems that something else is always creeping back into our thinking—if I just had this position, then I would be satisfied and fulfilled; if I was just married to the right person, my life would be great!; if I was completely healthy, then I would be happy. Asaph is here to remind us that if we have Jesus, then we already have everything we could ever need, and everything that could ever truly satisfy us.

Matthew Henry comments here:

“The body will fail by sickness, age, and death; when the flesh fails, the conduct, courage, and            comfort fail. But Christ Jesus, our Lord, offers to be all in all to every poor sinner, who renounces all other portions and confidences…May we draw near, and keep near, to our God, by faith and prayer, and find it good to do so.”

 

 

May he vindicate the afflicted among the people, help the poor, and crush the oppressor.” (Psalm 72:4, HCSB)

This is taken from a psalm by King Solomon. It is a petition to Yahweh on behalf of the king, so in it we discover what a good king should be doing.  He should:

  1. Vindicate the afflicted among the people.  The word translated “vindicate” means literally “to judge,” but it is used in a much broader sense than that in Hebrew.  I think the translation I like the best here is “provide justice for” from the Lexham English Bible.  The poor and afflicted were [and are] inclined to have their rights trampled by the rich and powerful, a good king should not allow that to happen.
  2. Help the poor. The word translated help means “to save, to help, to deliver, to defend.” [CWSB] The poor need a champion that will stand for them against the forces that would crush them, the king should be that champion.
  3. Crush the oppressor. The word “oppressor” means “to oppress, to defraud. It refers to extorting or exploiting someone (Lev. 6:2[5:21], 4[5:23]), especially a servant.” [CWSB] The powerful and influential who are inclined to use their power to crush the poor, the king should crush them.

We recognize that these traits aren’t just limited to a good king, they should be indicative of anyone who loves Jesus.  His heart should be our heart, and his heart was especially with the poor, the weak, the afflicted, the oppressed and the powerless.

Let all who seek You rejoice and be glad in You; And let those who love Your salvation say continually, “Let God be magnified.”” (Psalms 70:4 NAS95)

David uses a classic technique of Hebrew poetry in this verse to connect two things together.  He uses parallelism [saying one thing, then connecting it with something else which expands on the first thing].  David draws a connection between all who seek you  and those who love your salvation.  In essence he is saying that all who seek Yahweh will also love his salvation, implying in the meantime, that whoever does seek Yahweh will indeed receive his salvation, and become a continual praiser of God in the process.

We have an interesting connection to this concept in the New Testament.  Jesus says: “All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out.” (John 6:37, ESV) Those who come to Jesus will receive Jesus, and this is guaranteed by God the Father himself.

We do not have to worry when we come to faith in Jesus, as if God’s promises might not apply to us, or as if heaven is full and it’s too late for us to get in.  Those who seek Him will find Him and those who find Him will love his salvation, and those who love his salvation, will praise him again and again and again, an endless and inexhaustible proclamation that we serve a God who is great, and who should be magnified because he is magnificent.

 

 

Those who sit in the gate talk about me, And I am the song of the drunkards.” (Psalms 69:12 NAS95)

You know your life has gone right into the dumpster when the drunks begin to make up and then sing songs about you.  David’s words are are very vivid and catching.  The reader can feel the emotion as David lays bare the troubles in which he finds himself:

I have sunk in deep mire, and there is no foothold; I have come into deep waters, and a flood overflows me. I am weary with my crying; my throat is parched; My eyes fail while I wait for my God.” (Psalms 69:2–3 NAS95)

I like how just when we get to the nadir of David’s sufferings, he suddenly shifts gears, in the very next verse after being the song of the drunkards:

But as for me, my prayer is to You, O LORD, at an acceptable time; O God, in the greatness of Your lovingkindness, Answer me with Your saving truth.” (Psalms 69:13 NAS95)

It’s important that we do not miss this.  Instead of accusing God [“Why didn’t you care for me?  Why did you put me in this situation?”] David relies on God; he prays to God; he praises God; he asks for God’s help.

When we become the song of the drunkards; when our lives become a byword to the people around us; when troubles just keep piling up into ever larger and seemingly more insurmountable difficulties, the answer is to turn even more to the Lord, to rely even more on him.

 

 

Therefore be patient, brethren, until the coming of the Lord. The farmer waits for the precious produce of the soil, being patient about it, until it gets the early and late rains. You too be patient; strengthen your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is near. – James 5.7-8

Three times in these two verses, James calls for his readers to be patient until the coming of the Lord. It would seem self-evident that the reason James calls for patience is because patience is required. The expectation of the new believers, indeed the expectation of the Church throughout history is that Jesus could return at any moment, but he tarries.

Patience was required, because God was not acting as quickly as these new believers had assumed that he would, so they had to live both expecting Jesus’ imminent return, but going about their lives—which were not all that good with persecution and pressure from the powers that were—in a manner that pleased God.

God calls us to the exact same way of living; on the one hand with the eager expectation and hope that Jesus will return soon—Maranatha! Come, Lord Jesus—and on the other hand, the patient endurance of our lives now. When we patiently wait for Jesus’ return, and patiently endure the (possible) suffering now, we are pleasing our Father.