Archive for February, 2008



Psalm 34:7

WEDNESDAY

NAU Psalm 34:7 The angel of the LORD encamps around those who fear Him, And rescues them.

NIV Psalm 34:7 The angel of the LORD encamps around those who fear him, and he delivers them.

KJV Psalm 34:7 The angel of the LORD encampeth round about them that fear him, and delivereth them.

Those who are afflicted have supernatural protection – none other than the Angel of the Lord is their protector. When it says that He encamps around the afflicted, the Hebrew tells us that He is surrounding or encircling them. God is never far from those in need. He is overseeing their welfare – even when we feel alone and abandoned in our troubles.

But not only does the Angel of the Lord surround the afflicted, He delivers them from their troubles. It does not say when He delivers, only that He is there surrounding them and coming at the most opportune time to their rescue.

And one more thought. This is a confidence that is limited only to those who follow the truth about God. While earlier the Psalm’s statements are directed in general to those who are afflicted, verse 7 gives us a qualifier – those who fear! Do you remember a few months back when we looked at the Fear of the Lord? The Hebrew word meant one who is afraid and who reverences. That Hebrew word is used here. Only those who follow God in truth are those who truly fear Him.

This verse shows the care and concern that God has for His people. It is a verse of comfort in the midst of distressing times.

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Psalm 34:4-6

TUESDAY 

NAU Psalm 34:4 I sought the LORD, and He answered me, And delivered me from all my fears. 5 They looked to Him and were radiant, And their faces will never be ashamed. 6 This poor man cried, and the LORD heard him And saved him out of all his troubles.

NIV Psalm 34:4 I sought the LORD, and he answered me; he delivered me from all my fears. 5 Those who look to him are radiant; their faces are never covered with shame. 6 This poor man called, and the LORD heard him; he saved him out of all his troubles.

KJV Psalm 34:4 I sought the LORD, and he heard me, and delivered me from all my fears. 5 They looked unto him, and were lightened: and their faces were not ashamed. 6 This poor man cried, and the LORD heard him, and saved him out of all his troubles.

The humble man seeks the Lord, ESPECIALLY when he is in desperate need.  Many times in America, when we come up against difficult times, we redouble our efforts being guided by the axiom – ‘The Lord helps those who help themselves’. I have heard this cited as a Proverb but have searched the Bible in vain to find it referenced as revelation from God.

When we seek the Lord when afflicted, He comes to our aid. In verse 4 He hears our cry and delivers us from our fears – something we cannot do especially in our hour of deepest need. In verse 5, those who seek the Lord when afflicted are never ashamed and are even expressing joy in the knowledge of God’s care for them.  In verse 6, when the afflicted cry out to the Lord, He hears them and saves them from their affliction.

We seek, we cry. God hears and God saves. Rather than being left on our own, God desires humble dependence upon Him.

Psalm 34: 1-3

MONDAY

In this week’s devotion, I will attempt a look at one of the Psalms, specifically Psalm 34:1-10. The superscription of the Psalm tells us that it is a Psalm of David and was written when he pretended to be insane in front of the Philistine King, Abimelech. It was not one of David’s most glorious moments. You can read about this incident in 1 Samuel 21. You will notice that the 1 Samuel text does not use ‘Abimelech’ but Achish in naming the king. While Achish was the name of the king, many scholars believe ‘Abimelech’ is a traditional dynastic title and point to Genesis 20; 21: Gen 22-34 and Gen 26 as examples of its use as a title rather than a specific name. I tend to agree.

Psalm 34 is an acrostic Psalm meaning that each verse begins with a successive letter of the Hebrew alphabet – just like Psalm 119.  This means that verse 1 begins with the Hebrew equivalent of the English letter ‘A’, the next verse begins with the equivalent to the letter ‘B’, etc.

There are eight stanzas with four major themes. Each theme is covered in two stanzas.  There is a ‘neat’ thematic break between verse 10 and 11 so we will look at the first 10 verses this week and break down the Psalm as follows: Monday verses 1-3, Tuesday verses 4-6, Wednesday verse 7, Thursday verse 8 and Friday verse 9 and 10.

NAU Psalm 34:1 A Psalm of David when he feigned madness before Abimelech, who drove him away and he departed. I will bless the LORD at all times; His praise shall continually be in my mouth. 2 My soul will make its boast in the LORD; The humble will hear it and rejoice. 3 O magnify the LORD with me, And let us exalt His name together.

NIV Psalm 34:1 Of David. When he pretended to be insane before Abimelech, who drove him away, and he left. I will extol the LORD at all times; his praise will always be on my lips. 2 My soul will boast in the LORD; let the afflicted hear and rejoice. 3 Glorify the LORD with me; let us exalt his name together.

KJV Psalm 34:1 <A Psalm of David, when he changed his behaviour before Abimelech; who drove him away, and he departed.> I will bless the LORD at all times: his praise shall continually be in my mouth. 2 My soul shall make her boast in the LORD: the humble shall hear thereof, and be glad. 3 O magnify the LORD with me, and let us exalt his name together.

 In this Psalm David demonstrates that the follower of God is ever ready to praise God whenever the Lord delivers them from trouble in answer to prayer. And these first three verses show a personal commitment to the continual praise of God as an encouragement to those who are afflicted to join in praise while they are in the midst of their affliction.

Godly leaders are not necessarily free from affliction. But godly leaders will lead others who are in affliction in the praise of God. They set the proper example (v1). The godly afflicted look past their affliction, which is temporary, to the foundation of their support  – the eternal God who is known as YHWH.  The godly who are afflicted encourage others (especially those who are also afflicted) to join with them in praising God (v2, 3).

We do not have to be ‘recognized’ leaders to set this kind of example. But we can be godly and lead by example of God’s praise whether we are afflicted or not.

Proving God’s at Work in You

FRIDAY

NAU Romans 12:1 Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship. 2 And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.

NIV Romans 12:1 Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God– this is your spiritual act of worship. 2 Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is– his good, pleasing and perfect will.

KJV Romans 12:1 I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. 2 And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.

Do you want confirmation that God is at work in you? Then stop being conformed by the values of the age we are living in, and let your minds be transformed by the Words of God found in the Bible! It’s simple! That is what Paul is saying at the end of verse 2. The highlighted phrase could be translated ‘for the purpose of proving your genuineness through testing! The word ‘prove’ in the Greek is dokimazo and means to be certified as genuine; to be tested and found worthy, therefore, to be approved.

This gives us a perspective on trials or tests in our life. Rather than being ‘signs’ that God is against us (as some health/wealth/prosperity speakers would have us believe), trials or tests in the hands of God are tools of refinement demonstrating to us and those around us of our genuineness as God’s possession!

So you have a trial in your life. If you are saturating your mind with God’s Word, you are being transformed to looking at life according to His will (rather than being conformed by the thinking of the age in which we are living). This transformed mind from God and His Word encourages us to handle the trial as His Word directs us. When we choose to handle the ‘trial’ as His Word teaches us, we are proving ourselves genuine followers of God!

And when we fail to follow His will in trials, are we not His children? Not necessarily. Remember, His children are those who first acknowledge their need of His Son and His work on the cross. If this is lacking then, we are not His. But if we do acknowledge our need of Jesus and His work on the cross, and fail in the trial, God’s Word provides the encouragement we need at our time of need – NIV 1 John 1:9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.!

One other thought as we close out the week on trials proving the genuineness of our faith. We often think of trials as insurmountable problems in our life. However, God looks at them differently. 1 Corinthians 10:13 tells us that trials (translated temptation in the English but the Greek word means either trial or temptation) are controlled by God and He will not ‘push’ us beyond our capacity to endure.

NAU 1 Corinthians 10:13 No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man; and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, so that you will be able to endure it

Spiritual Transformation

THURSDAY

NAU Romans 12:1 Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship. 2 And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.

NIV Romans 12:1 Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God– this is your spiritual act of worship. 2 Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is– his good, pleasing and perfect will.

KJV Romans 12:1 I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. 2 And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.

 
Yesterday we learned that Paul commanded us NOT to be shaped by the ‘age’ in which we are living. We are to avoid be molded by the rebelliousness which surrounds us. This is the negative expression of how to live.

But Paul gives us a positive expression as well – instead of being conformed by the age, we are to be TRANSFORMED by the renewing of our mind.  What does it mean to be transformed and how can that be accomplished?

Once again the Greek language is instructive. To be transformed (the Greek word metamorphao form which we get the word metamorphosis) literally means to be transfigured. This word is used to describe what Peter, James and John witnessed of Jesus Christ on the Mount of Transfiguration. At the transfiguration Jesus allowed His divine nature to demonstrate itself and He temporarily ceased showing His humanity.

We are to ‘transfigure’ ourselves as well, and while we cannot produce a spiritual body like Jesus did on the Mount, we can allow our actions to demonstrate the work of God in our lives. This involves renewing our minds – a process that must include DAILY exposure to and meditation upon God’s Word, the Bible! As we expose ourselves to God’s Word by reading it and meditating upon it, God’s Spirit does His work in transforming our way of thinking, modifying our desires (from selfish ones to God glorifying ones) that will manifest themselves in our behavior. WARNING: the process is slow accomplished over time so be patient with change – God certainly is.

Non Conformity

WEDNESDAY

NAU Romans 12:1 Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship. 2 And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.

NIV Romans 12:1 Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God– this is your spiritual act of worship. 2 Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is– his good, pleasing and perfect will.

KJV Romans 12:1 I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. 2 And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.

How can we live holy and acceptable so that we can offer ourselves as a living sacrifice to God? Paul tells us plainly in verse 2 of chapter 12 – do not conform to the world! While the encouragement in verse 1 is NOT a command, verse two has two commands – don’t be conformed…and be transformed (which we will examine tomorrow).

What does it mean to be conformed? The Greek means ‘to be shaped’ or ‘molded’. In other words we are not to allow the world to shape our thinking or actions.

What is the world? The Greek term translated as world means ‘age’. In order to understand the ‘world’, we must understand the Jewish concept of ‘age’. Their understanding included both time and influence. In Jewish thinking there are four ages – the Age of innocence when Adam and Eve lived in harmony with God; the present evil age (referenced in Galatians 1:4) that refers to the time from Adam and Eve’s expulsion from the Garden to the establishment of God’s Kingdom on earth – an age in which we are presently living; the time when the coming Kingdom of God is established on earth which Isaiah and Revelation tells us will last 1,000 years; and the eternal state which will come into existence after the millennial kingdom.

The present evil age is influenced by rebellion to God and His ways. Not only are we internally corrupted with sin (as Paul argues in Chapters 1-11) but the ‘age’ of rebellion encourages us to conform to its influences. Paul commands the justified sinner to stop allowing ourselves to be influenced by the rebellious age in which we live. We are not to be shaped by its influence and standards. Instead we are to be influenced by something else – which we will see tomorrow.

A Sacrifice that is Living, Holy and Acceptable to God

TUESDAY

NAU Romans 12:1 Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship. 2 And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.

NIV Romans 12:1 Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God-this is your spiritual act of worship. 2 Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is– his good, pleasing and perfect will.

KJV Romans 12:1 I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. 2 And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.

 
What does Paul mean by being a living sacrifice and how can that be accomplished? It is interesting to note that the word for ‘present’ or ‘offer’ is the same word used in the Septuagint (LXX) in Leviticus 16:7. There the word is used to describe what to do with the animals in the tabernacle – they are to be presented or offered as sacrifices to the Lord.

If you sacrificed an animal to the Lord, you had to take its life before placing its body on the altar. To offer or present a living animal on the altar to be burned with fire would be cruel.

Paul tells the justified sinner’ to present or offer his body to the Lord like the Old Testament sacrifice – except, instead of offering or presenting oneself physically dead, we are to make a living offering of ourselves to God. Not only are we presenting ourselves alive to God but as holy and acceptable. The Greek literally describes this sacrifice as a living, holy, acceptable one.

How do we offer ourselves not only as a living sacrifice to God but a holy and acceptable sacrifice? Paul has already told us in the first 11 chapters of Romans that we are unholy in God’s sight until we become ‘holy’ or’ acceptable’ by placing our confidence (i.e. faith) in the finished work of Christ on the cross. This justifies us (or, declares us righteous) in God’s sight. After being justified, Paul is encouraging us to not only offer ourselves as a holy sacrifice but to live holy. How this can be done will be examined tomorrow and Thursday.

But even after being justified, we continue to sin. If a good effort could not justify us as Paul argues in Chapters 1-11 before placing our faith in the finished work of Christ, then a good effort certainly cannot do the job after placing our faith in the finished work of Christ. While the immediate context does not tell us how the justified sinner is to deal with sin in his life, the Apostle John did in 1 John 1:9 – confess it and repent!

Paul continues his ‘encouragement’ to the justified sinner by saying that offering yourself as a holy, living, acceptable sacrifice to God is the logical expression of faith by the justified sinner (the literal translation of the phrase which is your spiritual service of worship!