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 9 and be found in him… I want to know Christ…” Amen.