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Angry? Is God Angry?


Psalm 80:4-7
4
O LORD God of hosts, how long will you be angry with your people’s prayers? 5You have fed them with the bread of tears and given them tears to drink in full measure. 6You make us an object of contention for our neighbors, and our enemies laugh among themselves. 7Restore us, O God of hosts; let your face shine, that we may be saved!

The Story: As in so many of his psalms, Asaph’s lyrics seem intended to shock his hearers. Did he really mean for the people to think that God was angry with them? After all, the people could point to all their material prosperity and argue exactly the opposite. And these were good times in Israel. Where was all this bread and drink of tears that Asaph was foisting upon them through the choir (see superscription)? But Asaph hoped to force the people to consider his words and to look within their souls. No, they were not at that time an object of contention among the nations; quite the opposite, in fact (1 Kings 10). But what Asaph foresaw, would come to pass soon enough, and, when it did, the people might be reminded to recall and sing his words—especially since he seems to have cast them in the melody of a folk or popular tune (“Lilies”—superscription). In King Hezekiah’s day, when the nation was definitely experiencing that which Asaph foresaw, he specifically instructed the worship leaders to use this and the other psalms of Asaph, in hopes of stirring the people to seek the Lord (2 Chron. 29:30). Notice how, in this stanza, the sense of urgency in Asaph’s prayer is increased by enlarging the refrain (“O LORD God of hosts”) ever so slightly.

The Structure: The Lord honored the prayers of Hezekiah and his worship leaders; might He honor them in our own day? We see more of what Asaph envisioned than did the nation in his day. It is evident that the Church today is becoming “an object of contention” to the unbelieving world. Animosity toward the Church and the faith of Christ is growing, in no small part because of our own failings and sin. Yet it’s hard for us, as it was for Israel, to believe that God might be angry with our prayers. But, considering the state of the Law of God in today’s churches—that it is scarcely taught and almost everywhere ignored—we might think otherwise. God regards as an abomination the prayers of those who neglect His Law (Prov. 28:9). We will know that our hearts have begun to incline to the Lord for revival when weeping and tears begin to fill our prayers, because of our woeful neglect of God’s Law, our faithlessness and hypocrisy, and our smug complacency when it comes to evangelizing a dying world.

Consider the prominence God’s Law has in your life and in the ministry of your church: Is there reason to wonder about how God might regard your prayers?

For more insight on reading the Psalms, get the book, How to Read the Psalms, by Tremper Longman III.

The Worldview Bible examines the teaching of Scripture according to the Story and Structure of Truth—the Framework of Christian Worldview—using only other Scriptures for illumination. Information about The Framework of Truth is available on this site. Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version, copyright 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

 

 
A Plea to the Shepherd King


Psalm 80:1-3
1
Give ear, O Shepherd of Israel, you who lead Joseph like a flock! You who are enthroned upon the cherubim, shine forth. 2Before Ephraim and Benjamin and Manasseh, stir up your might and come to save us! 3Restore us, O God; let your face shine, that we may be saved!

The Story: Psalm 80 shows us the heart of Asaph as he labors to lead the people in seeking God for revival. God, Asaph knows, cares tenderly for His people; He is their Shepherd, and He will not fail to lead them in paths of righteousness for His Name’s sake (Ps. 23). He is also their King and thus has power to accomplish what is necessary for their renewal. The congregation of Israel would know that God was in their midst; the ornate and glorious temple which Solomon had built was replete with reminders of this. But Asaph called for an intensifying of God’s presence—that He might “shine forth” and “stir up” His might. For the people of Israel were drifting from the way of the Lord and His salvation, as Asaph has been at pains to insist in all his psalms. Outwardly, all seemed to be going well for the nation (1 Kings 10). But appearances can be misleading. The sheen and might of God’s glory was being tarnished and compromised amid the growing prosperity and prestige of Solomon’s grandeur. The nation was in need of revival. Asaph calls for the Lord to shine His face on the people once again, a metaphor symbolizing the outpouring of God’s Spirit and a return to His sovereign Word and Law (cf. Ezek. 39:29; Ps. 119:135). Unless the God renews His Word and Spirit within the nation, its external glory will quickly be eclipsed.

The Structure: How easy it is to assess our spiritual condition by pointing to external factors—number of people in church, size of budget, number and variety of ministries, and so forth. All this can be misleading, however. The Church in our day has much in common with the nation of Israel to whom Asaph prophesied in song. Outwardly, everything seems booming; but inwardly the sheen and might of God are but little in evidence. Yet God is our Shepherd and King still, and His desire for us is that we might know more of His salvation and power. Yet we must seek these from Him through earnest, pleading prayer. Our Shepherd and King waits to revive and renew His Church, and to lead us into the world for a great awakening in our day; but we must seek Him earnestly in prayer if this is to happen (2 Chron. 7:14).

Does your church offer regular and urgent prayer for revival to the Lord? Do you?

For more insight on reading the Psalms, get the book, How to Read the Psalms, by Tremper Longman III.

The Worldview Bible examines the teaching of Scripture according to the Story and Structure of Truth—the Framework of Christian Worldview—using only other Scriptures for illumination. Information about The Framework of Truth is available on this site. Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version, copyright 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

 

 
Who Are the Saved?


Psalm 50:22, 23
22
“Mark this, then, you who forget God, lest I tear you apart, and there be none to deliver! 23The one who offers thanksgiving as his sacrifice glorifies me; to one who orders his way rightly I will show the salvation of God!”

The Story: God is not impressed with the mere form of godliness; He is looking for the power of true salvation and godliness, which leads to repentance and good works (2 Tim. 3:5; Eph. 2:10). Israel learned the hard way that it cannot play fast-and-loose with sin and expect to know the favor of the Lord. Asaph’s burden as a prophet of God was to speak Truth into a self-deceived community. On the outside, things may have looked good in Jerusalem of Asaph’s day. But hearts thanksgiving and lives patterned after the holy Law of God were decidedly on the decline. Would his words be too little, too late? Whether they were or not, Asaph preached them, leaving the results to God and His Spirit. So must we.

The Structure: The great need in the Church today is for preachers to call the people of God to repentance before the wrath of God falls upon a people who too easily accommodate the ways of the world in their lives and worship. We live in the times of renewal and restoration, and our calling is to embody the powerful converting and transforming work of God’s Word and Spirit. Where we will not, wickedness will increase, we will become used to it and presume on God’s holiness as we indulge all the more, and thus we will continue to set ourselves up for a visitation of judgment from the Lord (1 Pet. 4:7). We may fool one another for a season, and may even succeed in attracting large numbers of “seekers” to our compromised worship and lifestyle. But without gratitude and repentance the true salvation of God will not be found among even the most ardent confessors of faith in Jesus or the most active members of any church.

Is the Lord leading you to speak to your church’s leaders about any sins of compromise that may exist in your congregation?

Learn to pray the psalms. Order a copy of Eugene Peterson’s, Answering God: The Psalms as Tools for Prayer, from our online store.

The Worldview Bible examines the teaching of Scripture according to the Story and Structure of Truth—the Framework of Christian Worldview—using only other Scriptures for illumination. Information about The Framework of Truth is available on this site. Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version, copyright 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

 

 
A God Like Us


Psalm 50:21
21
“These things you have done, and I have been silent; you thought that I was one like yourself. But now I rebuke you and lay the charge before you.”

The Story: God does not always move immediately to redress wrongs within the community of faith. He works in His way and time, always giving men room to heed the striving of His Spirit (Gen. 6:3) and to come to repentance (2 Pet. 3:9). The downside of this, of course, is that those who become comfortable in their sins don’t always heed the convicting prodding of the Spirit (Jn. 16:8-11). The wicked in the congregation of Asaph’s Israel had persuaded themselves that if they could overlook their sins, so would God. God, they reasoned, was just like them, or how they perceived themselves—loving, understanding, tolerant, and not all that serious about sin. They were about to learn how wrong and misguided they had been. God is God, and He does not change His holy ways in order to accommodate our penchant for sin. They who presume to worship while harboring known sin in their lives will answer to the Lord, whether sooner or later.

The Structure: The appalling lack of discipline within churches today is encouraging a cavalier attitude toward sin on the part of many members. Wickedness in relationships, business, contracts, the Internet, and with respect to church vows is wickedness all the same. In our day, when God has been reduced in the minds of His people and His holiness is routinely flouted, the people of God can expect that, sooner or later, His holiness and justice will prevail. God loves His Church too much to tolerate her sin for very long. If we won’t discipline ourselves, then He will, and it will not be pleasant (Heb. 12:7-11). While all around us the effects of the fall continue to beguile and deceive lost men and compromised Christians, the Church must take seriously the call to repentance and renewal which are to characterize us as the community of redemption and restoration. Failure to do so can be catastrophic.

How do you know when the Holy Spirit is seeking to convict you of sin? What do you do at that point?

Learn to pray the psalms. Order a copy of Eugene Peterson’s, Answering God: The Psalms as Tools for Prayer, from our online store.

The Worldview Bible examines the teaching of Scripture according to the Story and Structure of Truth—the Framework of Christian Worldview—using only other Scriptures for illumination. Information about The Framework of Truth is available on this site. Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version, copyright 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

 

 
Wicked? Here?


Psalm 50:16-20
16
But to the wicked God says, “What right have you to recite my statutes or take my covenant on your lips? 17For you hate discipline, and you cast my words behind you. 18If you see a thief, you are pleased with him, and you keep company with adulterers. 19You give your mouth free rein for evil, and your tongue frames deceit. 20You sit and speak against your brother; you slander your own mother’s son.”

The Story: Shouldn’t we have expected that, if wicked people showed up to worship God, the gatekeepers and Levites would have turned them away? Apparently, here in the midst of God’s worshiping people, wicked folk were singing the hymns, reciting the creeds, and otherwise mouthing off as though they were members in good standing of God’s covenant community. Yet they were an undisciplined lot—no time for such things as prayer, meditation, fasting, and so forth. They forgot whatever they heard in worship as soon as they walked out of the building (v. 17). The wicked worshippers in Israel winked at all kinds of sin, from thievery to adultery to equivocation and lies (vv. 18, 19). And they bore grudges and harbored ill-feelings toward the people closest to them in life (v. 20). Israel needed to know that no amount of external propriety in worship can conceal the wickedness that is in our hearts before the searching eye of Him Who comes to examine and weigh our souls in worship.

The Structure: The sad state of church discipline and disciple-making in our day has brought about a situation in which many people come to church to worship God without having repented of sins. No one holds them accountable; everyone is so quick to overlook or forgive sins that no real sins are ever dealt with in a sanctifying manner. Are we in danger of being a people who gather each Lord’s Day to worship God, taking on our lips the various emblems and expressions of our covenant relationship with God, but, because of besetting sin, we find our worship rejected and ourselves in danger before the Lord?

Does your church’s service of worship include a time for confessing sin? Does your church practice church discipline? Why not ask one of your pastors or leaders?

Learn to pray the psalms. Order a copy of Eugene Peterson’s, Answering God: The Psalms as Tools for Prayer, from our online store.

The Worldview Bible examines the teaching of Scripture according to the Story and Structure of Truth—the Framework of Christian Worldview—using only other Scriptures for illumination. Information about The Framework of Truth is available on this site. Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version, copyright 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

 

 
What God Wants


Psalm 50:14, 15
14
“Offer to God a sacrifice of thanksgiving, and perform your vows to the Most High, 15and call on me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you shall glorify me.”

The Story: What God is seeking from His people involves external forms and elements of worship, to be sure, but not in the first instance. God, we know, looks on the heart (1 Sam. 16:7). Evidently, what God was looking for from His people was beginning to be in rather short supply in Asaph’s day. They were “faithful” in all the forms of worship, but their hearts were beginning to drift from Him, as evidenced by the absence of thanksgiving and the tendency not to carry through on their vows (v. 14). Moreover, this was a time of great prosperity in Israel, as we read in 1 Kings 10, and it may have been that the people were beginning to trust more in the growing might and wealth of the nation—and themselves—rather than in the unchanging might and eternal glory of God their Redeemer (v. 15). As we see in all his psalms, Asaph observes and weighs things that others merely wink at, and he is greatly concerned about the direction Israel’s leaders are taking them.

The Structure: Engaging the hearts in worship is very much a question of moment in churches today. But are we asking the question in the right way? In many ways it seems that what we want in worship—the kinds of experiences, feelings, moods, melodies, and activities that please us—are the guiding principles for what we do each week. But have we considered that God is looking on our hearts in worship? He is weighing our motives, assessing our tendencies and inclinations, and judging the whole bent and cast of our inner person. And what is He seeking? Gratitude, faithfulness, trust—these are the core elements of a heart that is pleasing to God. Our worship should be prepared and pursued in such a way as to foster and display such affections before the Lord Who comes to review our hearts.

Which aspects of the worship of your church focus on gratitude, faithfulness, and trust in the Lord? How do you express these to the Lord in worship?

Learn to pray the psalms. Order a copy of Eugene Peterson’s, Answering God: The Psalms as Tools for Prayer, from our online store.

The Worldview Bible examines the teaching of Scripture according to the Story and Structure of Truth—the Framework of Christian Worldview—using only other Scriptures for illumination. Information about The Framework of Truth is available on this site. Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version, copyright 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

 

 
All the Right Elements, But...


Psalm 50:7-13
7
“Hear, O my people, and I will speak; O Israel, I will testify against you. I am God, your God. 8Not for your sacrifices do I rebuke you; your burnt offerings are continually before me. 9I will not accept a bull from your house or goats from your folds. 10For every beast of the forest is mine, the cattle on a thousand hills. 11I know all the birds of the hills, and all that moves in the field is mine. 12If I were hungry, I would not tell you, for the world and all its fullness are mine. 13Do I eat the flesh of bulls or drink the blood of goats?”

The Story: God had appointed for Israel certain forms and elements for approaching Him in worship. These included prayer, sacrifices, washings, singing, hearing the Word of God read and proclaimed, and so forth. These external elements and forms were not given because God requires them. He needs nothing from us whatsoever (Acts 17:25). Each element of worship is intended for worshippers, to allow them to express their relationship and commitment to God in ways appropriate to who they are and Who He is. It appears that the people of Israel in Asaph’s day were doing quite well with the external forms of worship; God had not come to rebuke them because of these. But He had, indeed, come to rebuke them (vv. 7, 8). Their worship was comprised of all the right elements, but still God had issues with His people.

The Structure: In churches today, how do we determine which forms and elements to incorporate into our gatherings for worship? What criteria guide our decisions about songs, worship style, order of activities, and which activities to include? Are we primarily interested in doing things that will please the people who assemble for worship? Does God still have expectations of us as He did of His people in Asaph’s day? If we have not addressed these questions in the worship we offer the Lord, perhaps it’s time we do. The real issue in worship is not “Am I getting anything out of this?” but “Is what I’m offering in worship all that God requires, and is it pleasing to Him?” For many churches, careful consideration of such questions as these will reveal just how much the spirit of our man-centered age has affected the way we approach worshiping God – and much else besides.

Who prepares the worship service in your church? What criteria guide the thinking and planning of worship leaders? Why not contact one of them and see what you can find out?

Learn to pray the psalms. Order a copy of Eugene Peterson’s, Answering God: The Psalms as Tools for Prayer, from our online store.

The Worldview Bible examines the teaching of Scripture according to the Story and Structure of Truth—the Framework of Christian Worldview—using only other Scriptures for illumination. Information about The Framework of Truth is available on this site. Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version, copyright 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

 

 
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