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Peace

“And the peace of God that is better than anything the mind can comprehend will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

(Philippians 4:7)

In this world of chaos “with devils filled,” how often we yearn for this peace but find it fleeting. Yet, the answer is not to doubt God’s promises, but to seek them out, trusting in God’s hand to provide them. Oh, Heavenly Father, bring this peace that we desperately need in these chaotic hours.

Yet, notice too, as Paul writes, the purpose of this peace. We often speak about the “peace that passes all understanding,” but usually we stop there. That is not where Paul stops, though. Paul goes on to say that this peace is designed to protect our hearts and minds. And thus, when we forego this peace, it is fair to say that we allow our hearts and minds to be exposed to attack. How defenseless we often leave ourselves.

Thus, as you are tempted to fill your days, ask yourself what is needful for your spirit as well as for your flesh. If you are honest, you will recognize that we tend to spend far more time caring for the things of this world that will perish than that which is eternal. When we pursue the things of this world, the best peace we will find is that peace that the world can offer…which honestly, isn’t very much. But when we pursue the things of God we will find God’s peace, a peace that is infinitely greater than what our minds can even begin to comprehend.

Hope in the Name of God

“I will praise you forever, because of your work;

I will hope in your name, because it is good in the presence of your saints.”

(Psalm 52:11 [verse 9 in English translations])

 

And here, David, in the midst of the grief and sorrow of loss turns his heart to praise. What a remarkable statement and model for our lives we have in the character in this great king over Israel. How often we find ourselves stuck or absorbed by our grief that we can never find ourselves being pulled out of it; David says that even in the midst of this sorrow, he will give God praise because God has preserved his life and has promised to judge the wicked who have done these horrible things. Loved ones, God will avenge and will make right every wicked act that is done against the lives of his people; may we always follow David’s example and model that in our lives as we praise God in the midst of our crises.

A note should be made here in terms of the word “saints” in translation. Literally, the word that David uses is dyIsDj (chasiyd), which is derived from the word, dRsRj (chesed). The word dRsRj (chesed), as we have discussed above, refers to God’s covenant faithfulness to us despite our lack of faithfulness in return. Similarly, then dyIsDj (chasiyd) refers to those who are the object or recipients of God’s dRsRj (chesed). In the New Testament, the term a¡gioß (hagios —  literally, “holy ones”) is rendered as “saints,” yet it seems that the sentiment being communicated is rather similar, for indeed, just as there are none of us who are deserving of God’s faithfulness apart from His divine grace, so too, there are none of us who are holy, but instead we are made holy by God’s divine grace through the completed work of his Son, Jesus Christ.

And it is we, the saints, who have faith in the name of God almighty. Notice that the language referring to “the name” of God is singular. God has many names that are applied to him in scripture, but in a very real sense, these names are just aspects of his one true and Triune name: Yahweh — “I am.” When Jesus gives the disciples what we now know as the “Great Commission,” we find him using the same language once again in the context of baptism: “you shall baptize them in the Name of the Father and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit” (Matthew 28:19b). Notice that it does not say, “in the names” (plural), but “in the name” (singular). God may be three persons, but he is one in name. And hope is one of those funny little things. It does not exist in and of its own right, but hope must rest on something (a promise, a coming reality, the character of another, etc…). For the believer, we hope in the name of God for we know that he will not forsake his character or his promises to those who are his holy ones.

Beloved, it is in that hope that we can draw confidence and know that God is our fortress and our protector. He will allow us to grow up strong within his gates. He will defend us against our foes. And he will be the one who will avenge us of the wickedness that the ungodly do against us because of His name. Trust Him to that end.

The Sleep of the Beloved

 

“It is vain for you to get up early and go late to your dwelling,

Eating the bread of toil;

For he gives to his beloved sleep.”

(Psalm 127:2)

 

It may be granted up front that there is some discussion as to how to interpret the last line of this verse. Commonly it is rendered as I have done so here, but some would argue that it ought to be rendered, “for he provides for his beloved during their sleep.” Though the nuances of the psalm are changed within that translation, the essential meaning of the text remains the same. God provides for the needs of his beloved — and he does so in an abundantly wonderful way.

In the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7), Jesus speaks in much the same way. It is expected that the pagans will lay awake worrying all night, working long and thankless hours to provide bread for their families. Their idols are false creations of their own hands and imaginations. What benefit can a chunk of wood give me apart from helping to heat the house when I burn it in the fireplace? If I create something with my own hands, it contains no power to do anything but sit there. It has no life. One can draw no hope or assurance from such things.

But we worship a true and living God — one from whom we can draw assurances. He lives and is the God of the living (Matthew 22:32; Luke 20:38) and not of the dead; he gives us new life (1 Peter 1:3) and he gives us that life abundantly (John 10:10). And thus Jesus says to us, “why do you sit home and worry about what may or may not happen this week or even tomorrow?” Do we forget whom we serve? Our worry seems to betray that we do, yet to the beloved, God gives rest and peaceful dreams at night.

How often my dreams have been haunted by the cares of countless anxieties—anxieties that are projected in nightmarish ways. Yet, in prayer, there is rest for the soul. How often there has been tossing and turning rather than restful slumber; again, trust in God’s provision, believer, and you will find that rest will come. There is no need to fear what may transpire; our God is sovereign over all events (Ephesians 1:11) and has promised to work them all out for our good (Romans 8:28). What comfort there is in those divine promises to us! What rest we can find in that context!

For the believer, rest means more than sleep during the evening hours. Rest also includes rest from one’s enemies—the greatest of which are the spiritual powers of wickedness that roam this world like a roaring lion. They may roar, but we are held secure in the hands of our loving Savior (John 10:28-29); of what shall we fear? No, we are loved of God and true love casts out all fear (1 John 4:18).

Loved ones, sleep well and dream well of the glory of our God. He will provide for your needs because he loves you (Matthew 6:31-34); the pagans eat the bread of their sweat and toil—enjoy the restful sleep that your Father provides.

Pray for the Peace of Jerusalem

“You must pray for the peace of Jerusalem!

May those who love you rest at ease.”

(Psalm 122:6)

Beloved, how do you pray for the church?  The word that we translate as “pray” in this passage is the Hebrew word, la’v’ (shaal), which more literally refers to the way someone might plead or beg for something.  There is a sense of desperation in its tone.  Beloved, is this the way in which you pray for the church?  Do you plead with God for her purity and for her peace?  Are you committing yourself to intercede on her behalf, not just for her witness, but for her genuine peace as well.  Just as the psalmist is commending ancient Israel to do this for Jerusalem, how desperately important it is for us to do so for the church—both for our local congregations and for the witness of evangelical churches throughout the world.

But what do we mean by “peace”?  The term ~Alv’ (shalom) means more than rest from war or personal comfort without oppression, though certainly those elements are included and those elements should be at the heart of our prayer life.  Indeed, we should long for the day when the scoffers and nay-sayers who mock the church are brought into judgment and they can no longer tear down God’s people.  At the same time, the call for peace, in the Hebrew tongue also anticipated the coming of the Messiah (for the Hebrews today, it still does—at least in their mindset).  It is a longing for the great redeemer that God had promised to send to his people…though the Jewish people rejected Him.  And praise the Lord that the Jewish people rejected Christ, for this rejection made way for the Gospel to go out to us, the gentile believers!  When we see the mighty plan of God unfolded in this way, all we can do is to say with the Apostle Paul:

“Oh the depth of riches and wisdom and knowledge of God!

How unfathomable are his judgments and inscrutable his ways!”
(Romans 11:33)

Thus, when we pray for peace, we pray with the knowledge that God has already sent his Messiah in Jesus Christ and assured for us, his people, the peace that “passes all understanding” (Philippians 4:7) which will “rule in our hearts” (Colossians 3:15) and be a testimony of a mind that is set upon Jesus Christ (Romans 8:6).  Indeed, our Lord, said, “my peace I leave with you” (John 14:27) and it is because of this that our hearts need not fear or be troubled by the things of the world.  We have a confidence that the peace of God has been offered in part to us already and that there is a guarantee given to those who are trusting in Jesus Christ that such peace will be enjoyed in its fullness in the world to come, thus as we pray for that peace here and now, we also pray to hasten the day of our Lord’s return.  Indeed, “come Lord Jesus, come!” (Revelation 22:20).

Beloved, let us pray for the peace of the church so that our minds and hearts might rest assured.  There are many trials and difficulties that must be faced in this fallen world and there are many challenges that must be met, yet the church of Christ has been promised victory; let us be a part of that mighty day and engage the world’s lies with Truth, knowing that the Messiah has come and his name is Jesus Christ.

Sweet Spiritual Refreshment (Psalm 116:7)

“Return, Oh my life, to your resting place!

For Yahweh has ripened over you.”

(Psalm 116:7)

 

            We talked about the word vp,n< (nephesh) in verse 4, and how even though that word is sometimes translated as “soul,” it largely deals with the fleshly, physical aspect of life, which is why I think that it is more proper to translate it as “life” as I have done here and in verse 4.  What we do need to understand, though, is this language of “resting place.”  Usually when we speak of resting places, we think of the “final resting place”—namely, the grave.  And though we as Christians know that the grave is not our final resting place, either for our flesh or for our spirit, this has nothing to do with what the psalmist has in mind.  When he speaks of returning to a resting place in this verse, he is speaking of a place of safety and protection (Deuteronomy 28:65, Ruth 3:1).  The idea that the psalmist is expressing is that as a result of sin he has wandered from the safety of God’s house and his soul yearns to return to the blessings that are connected with God’s presence.

            This sentiment is echoed in the second half of this verse.  Many of our English translations have followed the King James and translated this passage as saying “for the LORD has dealt bountifully with you.”  The term that is used is the verb lm;G” (gamal).  This word is normally used in the context of something being brought to completion.  It can be used, for example, of a baby that has been or is being weaned or of fruit that is brought to full and complete ripeness.  In our case, the metaphor of ripe fruit seems to be what the psalmist is getting at.  Thus we have the picture of God being like ripe fruit (mellow, dripping with sweetness, and satisfying to parched lips) toward his people, satisfying their every need.

            When I was younger, I was not one who got very excited about ripe fruit.  I had my orange juice in the morning, but fruit was never something that I sought as a snack.  When I was in High School, I began working summers doing landscaping work for a couple of families in our community.  One of the perks of the job was that they provided me with lunch while I was working there.  I can remember how wonderful it was, after spending hours clearing brush in the summer heat, to come up the hill to the house and see a bowl of chilled, fresh fruit—especially the plums.  I still don’t think that there is anything more refreshing than a chilled plum on a hot, dry, summer afternoon.  This is the illustration that the psalmist is painting for us.  Sin separates us from the blessings of God and he yearns to be back in the resting place of God’s presence, with our Lord satisfying his parched soul.

            Beloved, is our Lord sweet like fruit to your lips?  Is it God’s word that you use to satisfy your parched soul?  If it is not, it needs to be, for there is no sweetness like the sweetness of God’s promises to the persecution and trial parched life of the believer.  Loved ones, quench your soul in God’s word; find your resting place in the arms of Christ.  Know the joys of forgiveness and redemption from the sins you deserve to be condemned for!

In Christ your Head, you then shall know,

Shall feel your sins forgiven;

Anticipate your heaven below,

And own that love is heaven.

-Charles Wesley