Tuesday, June 17, 2014

"Enter God's sanctuary … then you'll understand!"

Day #172:  Daily Bible Reading Plan - June 18th

Scripture Reading:  Psalms 72 - 74 …

When people don't understand God it's usually because we are trying to look at things from our own perspective, rather than God's!  Let's face it, there are things about God and His world and His ways that we will never understand.  God even tells us so:  "'For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,' declares the LORD.  'As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts'" (Isaiah 55:8-9).  God is wiser than we are.  But He is not an unfeeling God who just does what He wants without thinking of the consequences.  He does what is right … all the time.  He knows what we need and He promises to accomplish His purpose for His glory and for the good of those who believe in Him.

And so we have this collection of songs and prayers that we call the Psalms.  At first read, they may appear to simply express the thoughts and emotions of people just like you and me; yet, in them is contained deep truth about God and about life and about hope and so many other topics that are important for you and me to grasp - to really understand.  Each of our Psalms today contain such vital truth.

Reading Psalm 72 is confusing if you don't understand who Solomon is writing about.  Solomon was a great king in Israel.  His father, David, was even greater in God's eyes.  But Solomon says some things here that could not possibly apply to any earthly king!  He begins by praying, "Endow the king with Your justice, O God, the royal son with Your righteousness" (72:1).  That could apply to Solomon, the son of King David.  But then he goes on to say, "He will endure as long as the sun, as long as the moon, through all generations" (72:5).  That cannot refer to any human king!

And there's more:  "He will rule from sea to sea and from the River to the ends of the earth" (72:8).  "All kings will bow down to Him and all nations will serve Him" (72:11).  "May His name endure forever …  All nations will be blessed through Him, and they will call Him blessed" (72:17).  And he concludes, "Praise be to the LORD God, the God of Israel, who alone does marvelous deeds.  Praise be to His glorious name forever; may the whole earth be filled with His glory.  Amen and Amen" (72:18-19).

Could this Psalm possibly be talking about anyone but JESUS??!!  He is the "King of Righteousness" and He is the only King who will endure as long as the sun and moon - and longer!  He will rule over all the earth and all kings will bow down to Him and all nations will serve Him.  His name will be blessed for His glory will fill the whole earth!!  Solomon was inspired by the Holy Spirit and was writing about Jesus almost a thousand years before He was born.  Of course, Jesus already was because He is God!  Read through Psalm 72 again, this time thinking about Jesus.  This is a testimony to Him!  When your mind is on God and the things of God, reading His Word makes more sense, for the same Spirit that inspired the writers to write the words gives wisdom and understanding to those who seek Him.

Which leads to Psalm 73.  Asaph, the writer of the next few Psalms, begins Psalm 73 with a testimony and then reveals how easy we can slip into discouragement when our minds and hearts are not where they should be:  focused on God.  He says, "Surely God is good to Israel, to those who are pure in heart" (73:1).  So far so good!  "BUT as for me, my feet had almost slipped; I had nearly lost my foothold.  For I envied the arrogant when I saw the prosperity of the wicked" (73:2-3).  Wow!  Who has not been there?!  Who has not at least thought, if not expressed the feelings in words, "God, why does it seem like those who don't know you have an easier life than I do?!"

Asaph is honest when he expresses his feelings:  "Surely in vain have I kept my heart pure; in vain have I washed my hands in innocence" (73:13).  In other words, why try to do things the right way when those who do things wrong seem to "get ahead"?  Have you had these thoughts?  Have you said these words, or similar ones?  Have you asked the questions?  Have you presented your complaint to God?  Maybe you are there right now.  Perhaps the circumstances of your life appear unfair because you have put your hope in God and you feel like He has let you down.  Listen carefully to what God wants you to hear today …

"If I had said, 'I will speak thus,' I would have betrayed Your children.  When I tried to understand all this, it was oppressive to me … TILL I entered the sanctuary of God" (73:15-17).  When the Psalmist turned to God and set His mind on what he knew about God and allowed the Spirit of God to give him wisdom, he understood that God was not finished yet … either with his circumstances or those of the wicked.  The wicked walk on slippery ground and it is only a matter of time before they face the consequences of their sinful rebellion against God.  God sees it all and He WILL deal with sin, either in this life or in eternity - or both.

And what about believers?  What about those who truly know God and who love God and who are seeking to follow His ways?  Listen to this testimony … to our testimony … and I pray to YOUR testimony:  "Yet, I am always with You; You hold me by my right hand.  You guide me with Your counsel, and afterward You will take me into glory.  Whom have I in heaven but You?  And earth has nothing I desire besides You.  My flesh and my heart may fail, but GOD is the strength of my heart and my portion forever!" (73:23-26).  If you would memorize some verses of Scripture, make it these!!

This testimony leads to Asaph's conclusion:  "Those who are far from You will perish; You destroy all who are unfaithful to You.  But as for me, it is good to be near God.  I have made the Sovereign LORD my refuge; I will tell of all Your deeds" (73:28).  Have you entered the sanctuary of God and listened to Him speak to You through His Word?  No wonder that another Psalm says, "Your Word is a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path" (Psalm 119:105).  Right now, where you are, no matter what your circumstances, you can enter into God's presence in prayer by faith in Jesus and pour out your heart to Him.  But don't forget to listen!  Too often we present our requests (complaints, desperate cries and wants) to God, but don't hear what He says.  We need to be students of His Word for in His Word GOD SPEAKS!!

And finally, Psalm 74 expresses more questions that when taken along with Psalm 73 have already been answered.  The temple was destroyed by enemies, but GOD cannot be destroyed!  Men can burn God's earthly sanctuary (74:7), but they cannot touch His heavenly one; and one day God will establish His sanctuary on the new earth and the King of Righteousness will reign forever.  By faith in Jesus you and I can enter God's sanctuary TODAY!  "But you, O God, are MY King from of old; YOU bring salvation upon the earth" (74:12).  "It was YOU" …  who did great and mighty things before.  It is YOU who do them today.  And it is YOU who will do them in the future, until Your kingdom comes and Your will is done on earth as it is in heaven!!

THAT must be our prayer … the prayer Jesus taught His disciples to pray.  We will never understand all the events in our lives and in the world around us, but this we KNOW:  God is ruling over it all and when we enter into His sanctuary and gaze upon His majesty, all the rest will be forgotten, as Isaiah writes in Isaiah 65:17:  "Behold, I will create new heavens and a new earth.  The former things will not be remembered, nor will they come to mind."  Enter God's sanctuary today and find the peace you are looking for.

"Heavenly Father, it is so comforting to know that You ARE the Sovereign LORD in whom we may find refuge and strength.  Keep me close to You and help me to set my heart and mind on things above, where Jesus is seated at Your right hand.  And remind me, in those times when I forget and become confused and worried, that Jesus is still on the throne and the angels are singing … and give me grace to join them in praising You, my God.  In Jesus' name, Amen"

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