Day #186: Daily Bible Reading Plan - July 2nd
Scripture Reading: Psalms 78 - 80 …
It's an often-overlooked verse, perhaps because it appears so close to a very familiar verse, where Jesus tells the disciples to wait in Jerusalem until they are empowered by the Holy Spirit to be His witnesses … but Acts 1:6 is a verse that sets the stage for the entire period of time from the ascension of Jesus into heaven until His return. As Jesus was about to ascend into heaven, His disciples asked a question: "Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?" (Acts 1:6). Jesus answered, "It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by His own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth" (Acts 1:7-8).
Jesus didn't say that they were wrong, that the kingdom would not be restored to Israel, but rather, pointed them toward their mission until that time arrived, according to God's plan, both for Israel and for the world. This is extremely important because today many, even in the church, believe that God has forsaken Israel, the physical descendants of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. But our Psalms for today indicate once again that God has a plan to restore Israel, to bring a remnant back to Him and to display His glory through this people group whom He chose for Himself. At the present time God is gathering people from every tribe, nation and tongue through the Gospel of Jesus Christ, the Jewish Messiah, the Savior of the world (not ALL people, but people from every nation), but there will be a future time when Jesus Himself will reign IN Jerusalem!
Asaph apparently wrote his psalms after the destruction of the temple (79:1), and it appeared that God had rejected His people. The cause of God's anger was clear: Israel had failed to obey God's commands and to trust in Him. God speaks through Asaph in Psalm 78:1: "O my people, hear my teaching; listen to the words of my mouth …" The people were supposed to teach "the next generation" what God had made known to them (1:3-4) so that they would know God and trust in Him (1:7). But "they did not keep God's covenant and refused to live by His law. They forgot what He had done, and the wonders He had shown them" (78:11).
The consequences were obvious: "The LORD was very angry; His fire broke out against Jacob, and His wrath rose against Israel, for they did not believe in God or trust in His deliverance" (78:21-22). Tragically, many who take the name of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the Messiah, the Redeemer God sent to save us from His wrath through the sacrifice of Himself on the cross, FAIL to acknowledge that He alone is God. These have not learned from Israel's example. "In spite of all this, they kept on sinning; in spite of His wonders, they did not believe" (78:32).
"Time after time He restrained His anger and did not stir up His full wrath" (78:38). Apart from God's mercy, Israel would have ceased to exist. The fact that the physical descendants of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob exist as a people and as a nation in the very land God promised to Abraham and his descendants 4,000 years ago is evidence enough of God's intention to fulfill every promise He has ever made, not only to Israel, but to all who believe in Jesus Christ, the Messiah, the Anointed One, the KING!!
In Psalm 79, Asaph cries out that the nations "have defiled Your holy temple, they have reduced Jerusalem to rubble" (79:1). Of course, God knew this. It was His discipline on a people who had turned their backs on Him. "How long, O LORD? Will you be angry forever?" Asaph asks. Then he declares, "Help us, O God our Savior, for the glory of YOUR Name; deliver us and forgive our sins for YOUR Name's sake" (79:9). "Then we Your people, the sheep of Your pasture, will praise You forever; from generation to generation we will recount Your praise" (79:13).
There is a future time coming when God will pour out His Spirit on the descendants of Jacob and they will confess Jesus as Savior and Lord. In the meantime, we who believe in Jesus are called and empowered to be His witnesses and to proclaim the Gospel to Jews and to Gentiles, trusting in the power of God to draw those whom He has chosen to Himself. Like Israel, we have been given the privilege of knowing God, loving God, worshiping God and serving God. It is our greatest joy to exalt the name of Jesus and to call people to draw near to God to find forgiveness and life through Him.
But we, those who are part of Christ's body, the Church, have NOT replaced Israel in God's plans. Psalm 80 is a plea to God specifically for the restoration of His people, Israel. Three times, Asaph writes, "Restore us, O God: make Your face shine upon us, that we may be saved" (80:3,7,19). This is what the disciples were thinking of when they asked in Acts 1:6, "Is it NOW?! … Are You at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?" Jesus came to be KING over the Jews, over all of Israel, over all the world!
At the end of Psalm 80 there is an amazing statement made in verse 17: "Let your hand rest on the man at Your right hand, the son of man You have raised up for Yourself." This is amazing because in verse 15 Israel is called "the son You have raised up for Yourself," but here there appears to be a double reference: first to Israel as God's chosen people, but also to the One who would be descended from Israel, who would be THE "Son of Man." Through Him Israel will be restored! "THEN we will not turn away from YOU; revive us and we will call on Your name" (80:18).
Whether this is a direct reference to Jesus, or simply to Israel as God's chosen people, Jesus IS the promised "seed of the woman" (Genesis 3:15), the promised "Seed" of Abraham, the "Son of David" and the "Son of Man." Through Him God WILL restore Israel as His chosen people, for we who are Gentiles are "grafted in" to the root (Romans 11:17-24). And all of this is about the God of Israel … OUR God.
The Psalms were written to glorify God, to encourage God's people, to call them back to Him and to teach them. As you read them, continually ask yourself, as with the rest of Scripture, "What does this teach me about the one true God?" Pray that His Spirit will open your mind and heart to understand that your life's purpose is found in knowing and serving God, and as you learn more about Him and put your trust in Him alone, you will find your identity as one of His people and your joy in making Him known. Praise God, from whom all blessings flow!
"Our Father in heaven, by Your will You have created us and by Your plan You have redeemed a people for Yourself. As You chose Israel to be Yours, so Your promises will all be fulfilled one day through Your Son Jesus Christ. I thank You for Your grace to me in revealing Yourself through Your Word and Spirit and calling me to be one of Your children. May my life be a testimony to all who may hear that there is a God in Israel, and that You are MY God, too!! In Jesus' name, Amen"