# 83 A journey through the Psalms. Psalm 16 Resurrection – The living God is God of the living, not the dead.

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In an article on the website  http://atheistfoundation.org.au, David Nichols writes on the subject of “life after death”. Among other things he confirms the “naked truth” that “every individual will eventually die.” So far, no problem with his argument! But from then on he gets more interesting. I presume referring to everyone else but atheists he says, “One of the very interesting parts of our makeup is the ability to live in a state of denial concerning things we do not wish to believe and a ready acceptance of that which we want to believe.” He then goes on to deny any possibility of there being any such thing as life after death. He states, “Countless billions upon billions of individual lives … have existed and died over the millennia. There is no evidence that any have returned to make credible the notion that an after-life exists, excepting in the fantasy stories [i.e. sacred books].”  He does concede that “Even though there is a case for religion being a necessary part of our social evolution, we have now reached a time when the use of reason and not superstition is the only hope of our happy survival.”  And then some rather surprising words: “Eons of ethereal teachings have primed us to want that which is not obtainable as of yet – eternal life … Maybe one-day science will overcome this “problem” to some extent, but right here and right now, regrettable as this is, we all must die and that is the end – goodnight.” And then, with words which could well be a religious creed, the author makes the big statement that “Reaching a full potential of life before death is only afforded to those who reject the notion of life after death.”

 

Well, as we saw in my last Post, even the Sadducee’s in Jesus time agreed with Mr Nichols about life after death.  In Mark’s Gospel we read that “Some Sadducees, the party that denies any possibility of resurrection” [i.e. life after death] came and questioned Jesus about marriage in the afterlife, something they did not believe in. But Jesus answered them, “You’re way off base, [probably what he might say to Mr Nichols] and here’s why: One, you don’t know your Bibles; two, you don’t know how God works. After the dead are raised up, we’re past the marriage business. As it is with angels now, all our ecstasies and intimacies then will be with God. And regarding the dead, whether or not they are raised, don’t you ever read the Bible? How God at the bush said to Moses, ‘I am—not was—the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’? The living God is God of the living, not the dead. You’re way, way off base.”                                                                                                                                           (Mark 12:18-27 Message)

 

But not so the psalmists. Listen again to David’s words in Psalm 16:

 

I keep my eyes always on the Lord.
With him at my right hand, I will not be shaken.

Therefore my heart is glad and my tongue rejoices;
my body also will rest secure,
10 because you will not abandon me to the realm of the dead,
nor will you let your faithful one see decay.

11 You make known to me the path of life;
you will fill me with joy in your presence,
with eternal pleasures at your right hand.
   (NIV)

 

Phil Moore, in his insightful book on the Psalms says:

 

“The last three verses of David’s song [Psalm 16:9-11] give one of the clearest prophecies about what happens beyond the grave. He proclaims that God will not abandon his body to she’ol, which…is a Hebrew word which can either mean the realm of the dead in general, or hell in particular. David is confident that he is a Hasid – one of God’s holy ones who have been saved by [God’s] hesed, or covenant mercy – and that death will never put an end to the friendship he has been granted with God. He knows that the Lord will not abandon his soul to hell or his body to decay, so he praises God that ‘you make known to me the path of life’ beyond the grave and ‘fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures’.”   (see references # 36)

 

What a wonderful truth that “death will never put an end to the friendship [we have] been granted with God” and that He will ‘fill [us] with joy in [his] presence, with eternal pleasures at [his] right hand.”

 

I am so glad that a much more authoritative person than Mr Nichols (who said, “we all must die and that is the end – goodnight”) said, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die.” (Jesus words in John 11:25) But more about this in my next Post.

 

Father, thank you that you are the God of the living and not the dead. Thank you that for all eternity we will enjoy your presence, your love, your goodness. Thank you that in you is life, and that in abundance. Thankyou that “Reaching a full potential of life before death is [in reality] only afforded to those who [understand] the [truth] of life after death.”  Amen.

 

 

# 83 A journey through the Psalms. Psalm 16 ecstasies and intimacies

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You make known to me the path of life;
you will fill me with joy in your presence,
with eternal pleasures at your right hand.   (Psalm 16:11)

 

Reading Psalm 16 reminded me of an interesting story in the Gospel of Mark chapter 12 when some religious leaders of the day (the Sadducees) tried to stump Jesus with a strange story and a tricky question. They should have known better! In the Message Bible it goes like this:

 

18-23 Some Sadducees, the party that denies any possibility of resurrection, came up and asked, “Teacher, Moses wrote that if a man dies and leaves a wife but no child, his brother is obligated to marry the widow and have children. Well, there once were seven brothers. The first took a wife. He died childless. The second married her. He died, and still no child. The same with the third. All seven took their turn, but no child. Finally the wife died. When they are raised at the resurrection, whose wife is she? All seven were her husband.”

24-27 Jesus said, “You’re way off base, and here’s why: One, you don’t know your Bibles; two, you don’t know how God works. After the dead are raised up, we’re past the marriage business. As it is with angels now, all our ecstasies and intimacies then will be with God. And regarding the dead, whether or not they are raised, don’t you ever read the Bible? How God at the bush said to Moses, ‘I am—not was—the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’? The living God is God of the living, not the dead. You’re way, way off base.”              (Mark 12:18-27 Message)

 

“All our ecstasies and intimacies then will be with God.”

 

An answer the Sadducess certainly were not expecting! But hadn’t they read the Psalms? I’m sure they had and most probably recited many of them daily. But sadly, they were “way off base”, they had missed out on some very important basics due to the two issues Jesus mentions here: “One, you don’t know your Bibles; two, you don’t know how God works.”

 

Over the next few Blog posts we will consider a couple of these truths, according to Psalm 16, that the Sadducees didn’t comprehend.

 

Firstly, the amazing truth that in God we can discover all there is to real intimacy in relationship, deep joy in our hearts and pleasure that is not just for a moment but lasts for eternity.

 

I remember as a young Christian reading some very inspiring stories of men and women of God who gave their lives totally to living for God  and serving him wherever he sent them. And I remember thinking that the secret of their lives was not only knowledge of God but their intimate relationship with God.

 

For example, Jim Elliot, who was killed, along with his colleagues, as they sought to reach a previously unreached Indian tribe in the rain forests of Ecuador. Today there is a church amongst the very people who killed these men.  Also Amy Carmichael, who travelled to India as a young single women to serve the children of India, some who were often used as temple prostitutes. She rarely returned to the UK and remained in India all her life founding the Dohnavur Fellowship which continues to this day. And the list goes on. In the midst of reading such stories I came across a Hymn which I’m sure they all knew and loved and its words describe, I believe, their heart’s desire. It says:

 

My goal is God Himself, not joy, nor peace,
Nor even blessing, but Himself, my God;
’Tis His to lead me there—not mine, but His—
At any cost, dear Lord, by any road.   (written by Francis Brook in 1895)

 

The author of this hymn, and the people I mentioned above, understood, unlike the Sadducees, both their “Bibles…[and] how God works”, and somehow had a foretaste of what it will mean when “all our ecstasies and intimacies then will be with God.”

 

And so it seems, did the psalmists.

 

Listen to David as he expresses his love for God and intimate relationship with him here in Psalm 16. He says:

 

“You are my Maker, my Mediator, and my Master, any good thing you find in me has come from you…

Lord I have chosen you alone as my inheritance, you are my prize, my pleasure, and my portion. I leave my destiny and its timing in your hands.

Your pleasant path leads me to pleasant places. I’m overwhelmed by the privileges that come from following you.

For you have given me the best! The way you counsel and correct me makes me praise you more…

Because you are close to me and always available, my confidence will never be shaken.

For I experience your wrap-around presence every moment. My heart and soul explode with joy – full of glory…

You bring me a continual revelation of resurrection life, the path to the bliss that brings me face to face with you.” (The Passion Translation)

 

Let me finish with the words of another Hymn which also expresses this same wonderful truth:

 

Once it was the blessing,
Now it is the Lord;
Once it was the feeling,
Now it is His Word.
Once His gift I wanted,
Now, the Giver own;
Once I sought for healing,
Now Himself alone.

(written by Albert B. Simpson 1843-1919, the founder of The Christian and Missionary Alliance)

 

Father, bring us into such rich fellowship with you that instead of seeking your blessings, we will seek you alone. May our goal in life be you alone and so like Paul be able to say, “…whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ and be found in him… I want to know Christ…” Amen.

 

 

# 82 A journey through the Psalms. Psalm 15 Walk – Run – Rest

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What does walking in the ways of God really look like? And what is the result of choosing such a lifestyle?

 

Of course, Psalm 15 is not an exhaustive summary of this, but a good place to start.

 

When we read this psalm a key word that comes to mind is “integrity”.

 

The dictionary definition is: “the quality or state of being complete or undivided.” Basically it is about being what you say you are and acting accordingly.

 

And the psalmist suggests that when one is walking in the ways of God then it is about integrity in all our relationships and particularly in the use of our words. He says:

 

The one whose walk is blameless,
who does what is righteous,
who speaks the truth from their heart;

whose tongue utters no slander,
who does no wrong to a neighbour,
and casts no slur on others;


Not always easy! In fact, the opposite is much easier and we need to be careful and disciplined in the way we talk to and about others constantly.

 

In the book “Crucial Conversations – Tools for Talking when Stakes are High” the authors suggest that “when conversations matter the most – that is, when conversations move from casual to crucial – we’re generally on our worst behaviour.” They continue, that  these interactions with another human being  have the following complex characteristics: “opinions vary…the stakes are high…and emotions run strong.”  We’ve all experienced them, and often felt sorry afterwards about how we handled them.  (Crucial Conversations by Kerry Patterson, Joseph Grenny, Ron McMillan and Al Switzler, published by McGraw-Hill 2012).

 

Kidner comments on the above Psalm 15:2-3 and suggests:

 

The word blameless “implies what is whole, or whole-hearted, and sound.” The word righteous “is fundamental to Old Testament morality”, i.e. doing what is right because it is the right thing to do! Then truth “means what is sure and trustworthy, not merely correct. What this man says is one with what he is.”       (see references # 29)

 

And all these positive traits manifest themselves in the opposite of the words slander (or even speaking words of scandal), doing (and saying) no wrong about another person and finally casts no slur (picking or raking up something discreditable and making it public). Sadly, all the things that the media and a lot of other human beings delight to do daily!  But to do these things is to not be walking in the ways of God. In fact the opposite to all this is described in Proverbs 10:12 when it says:

 

“Hatred stirs up dissension, but love covers over all wrongs.”

 

The psalmist continues that the one who walks in God’s ways:

 

despises a vile person
but honours those who fear the Lord;

 

Kidner suggests that his/her “allegiance is clear-cut…What looks at first sight as pharisaical…is in fact no more than loyalty. This man is not comparing himself with others , but giving his vote: declaring what he admires and where he stands.”

 

Then this person is also one who:
keeps an oath even when it hurts,
and does not change their mind;
 

It seems that such a person as described by the psalmist above is honourable in all his dealings with others. Not rash in making promises, but reliable when he has made a promise to fulfil it, or, as so often happens in life, willing to admit his inability to fulfil his promise and seeks forgiveness.

 

Such a person is one:

 

who lends money to the poor without interest;
who does not accept a bribe against the innocent.

 

In other words, he/she who helps the unfortunate but does not trade on their misfortunes. These words forbid extortion and encourage generosity to everyone.

 

And so the psalmist concludes:

 

Whoever does these things
will never be shaken.

 

“His place is assured. The thought penetrates beyond the threshold and the welcome [into God’s presence]; indeed the question of verse 1 spoke of dwelling rather than gaining admission, for the qualities the psalm described are those that God creates in a man, not those he finds in him.” (Kidner)

 

In a similar way Psalm 24 concludes:

 

They will receive blessing from the Lord
and vindication from God their Saviour.
Such is the generation of those who seek him,
who seek your face, God of Jacob.

 

And Isaiah 33

 

16 they are the ones who will dwell on the heights,
whose refuge will be the mountain fortress.
Their bread will be supplied,
and water will not fail them.

Your eyes will see the king in his beauty
and view a land that stretches afar.

 

And Jesus said:

 

17 Blessed are the pure in heart,
for they will see God.  (Matthew 5:8)

 

To conclude, (and to change the metaphor from walking to running) I read these words recently:

 

“There are two metaphors in the book of Hebrews which are especially relevant… These metaphors are the intertwining, balancing concepts of running with endurance the race set before us (Heb. 12:1-2) and being diligent to enter into God’s rest (Heb. 4:9-11). Simply put, we need to ‘run well’ and ‘rest well’.

Running well involves staying focused on Jesus, so that we are not distracted by anything which hinders our live with and work for him. Resting well means embracing the atoning work of Christ, so that in knowing his deep love for us, we can be at peace with and renewed in Him. Both of these concepts are foundational for our health throughout…” our lives desiring to walk in the ways of God.

(Quoted from chapter 30 ‘Running well and Resting well: 12 tools for Missionary Life’ in ‘Doing Member Care Well’ edited by Kelly O’Donnell published by William Carey Library 2002)

Father, we desire to walk in your ways in all our relationships. Help us to walk well, run well, rest well. Then we know, because of who you are, we will “never be shaken.” Never be moved, ever! Amen.