# 84 A journey through the Psalms. Psalm 16 “The resurrection of Christ is the cornerstone of Christianity.”

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“The resurrection of Jesus Christ separates Christianity from all other religions. Christianity without the literal, physical resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead is merely one religion among many. “And if Christ is not risen,” said the Apostle Paul, “then our preaching is empty and your faith is in vain”. (1 Corinthians 15:14) Furthermore, “You are still in your sins!” Paul could not have chosen stronger language.”   (www.studymode.com/essays/The-Cornerstone-Of-Christian-Faith)

 

And, by the inspiration of God, David celebrated this truth centuries before the event. In Psalm 16:10 he says:

 

“…you will not abandon me to the realm of the dead,
nor will you let your faithful one see decay.” (Psalm 16:10)

 

This verse is quoted in the NT and it is interpreted by the writers of the NT as a prophetic word concerning the resurrection of Jesus. In Acts 2 Peter is preaching to the crowd and he says:

22 “Fellow Israelites, listen to this: Jesus of Nazareth was a man accredited by God to you by miracles, wonders and signs, which God did among you through him, as you yourselves know. 23 This man was handed over to you by God’s deliberate plan and foreknowledge; and you, with the help of wicked men, put him to death by nailing him to the cross. 24 But God raised him from the dead, freeing him from the agony of death, because it was impossible for death to keep its hold on him. 25 David said about him:

“‘I saw the Lord always before me.
Because he is at my right hand,
I will not be shaken.
26 Therefore my heart is glad and my tongue rejoices;
my body also will rest in hope,
27 because you will not abandon me to the realm of the dead,
you will not let your holy one see decay.
28 You have made known to me the paths of life;
you will fill me with joy in your presence.’

29 “Fellow Israelites, I can tell you confidently that the patriarch David died and was buried, and his tomb is here to this day. 30 But he was a prophet and knew that God had promised him on oath that he would place one of his descendants on his throne. 31 Seeing what was to come, he spoke of the resurrection of the Messiah, that he was not abandoned to the realm of the dead, nor did his body see decay. 32 God has raised this Jesus to life, and we are all witnesses of it. 3Exalted to the right hand of God, he has received from the Father the promised Holy Spirit and has poured out what you now see and hear…36 “Therefore let all Israel be assured of this: God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Messiah.”

As we continue reading in the book of Acts we then come across Paul and his companions in “Pisidian Antioch [where]…on the Sabbath they entered the synagogue” and preached the good news of Jesus the Messiah. He spoke of Jesus’ death and that “they took him down from the cross and laid him in a tomb. 30 But God raised him from the dead…

32 “We tell you the good news: What God promised our ancestors 33 he has fulfilled for us, their children, by raising up Jesus

34 God raised him from the dead so that he will never be subject to decay… As God has said…

“‘You will not let your holy one see decay.’  [Psalm 16]

36 “Now when David had served God’s purpose in his own generation, he fell asleep; he was buried with his ancestors and his body decayed. 37 But the one whom God raised from the dead did not see decay.

38 “Therefore, my friends, I want you to know that through Jesus the forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you. 39 Through him everyone who believes is set free from every sin…”     (Acts 13)

I think that sometimes as 21st Century Christians we easily forget the vital importance of the resurrection in relation to the Good News we preach. But if Paul spent the whole of 1 Corinthians 15 (58 verses!) on this one particular subject, then it seems to me we should make it more of a priority in our preaching. As he says, “If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are to be pitied more than all men. BUT Christ has indeed been raised from the dead…death has been swallowed up in victory…thanks be to God. He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” (1 Corinthians 15: 19, 20, 54, 57)

Let me conclude with the summary of this psalm in the words of Tremper Longman, who says, “The Psalmist is aware that he needs God in order to be safe in this world, so he calls out to him to keep him safe. The rest of the poem expresses his deeply felt confidence in God’s good gifts and ability to provide the security that he needs. At the end, he asserts God’s ability to keep him safe even from death itself…a voice that expresses hope in life after death…this text provides an Old Testament background to the belief in the afterlife that comes to full blossom in the New Testament with its teaching on bodily resurrection.” (see references # 30)

Thank you our Father for the hope that is ours in Christ. Hope not only in this life but for all eternity. Teach us then to live well, to “stand firm, [to] let nothing move [us]. Always [to] give [ourselves] fully to the work of the Lord, because [we] know that [our] labour in the Lord is not in vain.” (1 Corinthians 15:58)  Amen

# 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.