In theory, there are bazillion different ways God could have made the world and everything in it. We know, God being God and perfect and all, his creation began its existence perfect too. We also know sin changed all that; for duration of this age, ongoing combat between seed of serpent and seed of Woman. All conflict we actually observe is the outworking, the overflow of warfare occurring in world we cannot see – the spiritual one. It is very real, incredibly powerful, and invisible – beyond detection by our present physical senses.
Consider for moment what would be like if God had chosen one of those other ways to make everything, a way that came with no understanding of the past. A world in which God expects his children to trust him for all things but without any foundational evidence of his power, or his commitment to use that power on our behalf. But doesn’t Bible say “we walk by faith, not by sight”? Yes, it does. However,… that statement is forward-looking – we walk into the future by faith. That faith has foundation in the past that we know by sight.
God’s Word tells us plainly and repeatedly of God’s work, ways that he has acted to bring about his purpose in the world. God wasn’t obligated to reveal that to us; he could have done all his work on spiritual level, not explained it, told us to just trust him. Instead he’s given examples in retrospect of “God at work” – inspired accounts of tangible evidence in physical world of God’s power exercised on behalf of his people. That clear witness to real evidence gives us confidence that he will exercise his power on our behalf in spiritual realm.
Each time we are told authoritatively: “see that, it was God at work”, our faith in God goes up a level or two. When we experience parallels in own lives or see in lives of others – circumstances and outcomes that have no explanation other than God, it builds our faith a little stronger. Our Psalm recounts both by allusion and direct statement evidences from Israel’s past of God’s working on their behalf and concludes with call to praise and worship our awesome God.
A. providence of God v.1-6
Q7: What are the decrees of God?
A7: The decrees of God are, his eternal purpose, according to the counsel of his will, whereby, for his own glory, he hath fore-ordained whatsoever comes to pass.
Q8: How doth God execute his decrees?
A8: God executeth his decrees in the works of creation and providence.
God has rested from work of creation, has not rested from works of providence; even if we didn’t know otherwise:
John 5:17 But Jesus answered them, “My Father has been working until now, and I have been working.”
in his works of providence God
scatters his enemies, makes them powerless, defends his people solely with his presence (1-2)
makes his people rejoice by his presence, by exercising his power, by displaying his majesty – in other words, showing them favor; is definitely cause for worship and praise
cares for widows and orphans and the lonely and needy – protects the innocent and helpless; God’s glory and majesty don’t diminish his compassion
God’s providential care of individual revealed more fully in NT
God works both immediately and mediately to care for his own; for example:
immediately in salvation – drawing individual to himself in father/child relationship, adopting into family, guaranteeing an inheritance
mediately through the church – moving people into local church families, supplying physical, emotional and spiritual needs through brothers and sisters, through those whom he has gifted to the church
should come as no surprise to read James 1:27 “Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.”
hints in OT: Rahab – given new home and family when all others were destroyed at Jericho; Ruth – same deal after death of first husband
faith-building: when we see a sinner converted into a saint, people added to our church family, needs of those in single-parent homes met, recognize parallel with Biblical record, faith gets stronger
B. power of God v.7-19
in the wilderness (7-10)
parting the Red Sea, destroying Pharaoh’s army clearly God’s power at work; modern skeptics try to find non-miraculous explanation – eyewitnesses knew what was going on!
pillar of cloud/pillar of fire – provided direction, signified God’s presence as it rested on tabernacle; so long as pillar accompanied people, were safe from enemies
God’s presence to communicate with Moses at Sinai rattled the people and the mountain; people had no delusions, knew it was God shaking the mountain:
Ex. 20:19Then they said to Moses, “You speak with us, and we will hear; but let not God speak with us, lest we die.”
daily manna, water from the rock, quail in abundance obvious demonstrations of both God’s providential care and power
in the Promised Land (11-14)
dry crossing of flood-stage Jordan River – given as sign that God would fight their battles (Josh. 3:10)
Jericho – marching and trumpets to flatten the city, certainly not a strategy they would have learned in military school
against Amorites at Gibeon (Josh. 10:11-13) – hailstones that killed more than the sword, 24 hours of daylight
Dagon’s face plant, twice – 1 Sam. 5:1-5 – Philistine god tipped over, then “dismembered” in presence of Ark of the Covenant
in the Kingdom (15-17)
obvious manifestation of presence and power at dedication of Solomon’s temple – 1 Ki. 8:10-11 God’s glory so filled the temple priests could not carry out their duties
continued and repeated evidence of God working on behalf of his people: miracles performed through ministry of Elijah/Elisha; Sennacherib’s army of 185,000 destroyed
even when God’s people found their rest, were settled into routine of formal society, God still demonstrated his sustaining power day by day
C. progress and program of God v.18-32
everything alluded to in first half of psalm done for benefit of recipients, Jewish people; also done for benefit of God’s people in all ages – just as God has done in the past, he will do in future
much of first half demonstrated in physical ways what God would also accomplish in spiritual real
establishing his people in promised land looks toward heaven; defeating human armies anticipates defeat of Satan and his allies; God’s presence in temple prefigures his presence among his people by indwelling Spirit and also heaven
so, how’s he gonna do that?
focus shifts in v.18: Messiah takes center stage; how do we know that? Paul says so in Eph. 4:8 ascribing this text to Lord Jesus
just as God’s people by his providence and power left captivity in Egypt and advanced to occupy Canaan
so God’s people by power of Christ and provision purchased by his life and death leave captivity in sin and advance to occupy his Kingdom in the world
Lord Jesus has ascended to his throne, “As great conquerors of old led whole nations into captivity, so Jesus leads forth from the territory of his foe a vast company as the trophies of his mighty grace.” CHS
gifts he received as result of his victory he now dispenses to his Church – establishing/equipping/enabling her to carry out his purpose and program until his return
remainder of psalm resounds with victory: God our savior, delivering from death, conquering his enemies, enabling his people to overcome their enemies
clearly all that is accomplished comes about by power and strength of God working through his people – v.21, 28
like previous psalm, this one sees inclusion of Gentiles as integral part of God’s plan – v.31-32
D. praise of God v.32-35
time is coming when the Lamb’s victory will be final, all creation will know and acknowledge the outcome
Rev. 12:10Then I heard a loud voice saying in heaven, “Now salvation, and strength, and the kingdom of our God, and the power of His Christ have come, for the accuser of our brethren, who accused them before our God day and night, has been cast down. And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, and they did not love their lives to the death. Therefore rejoice, O heavens, and you who dwell in them!”
even though we will be on victorious side, it is God, his strength, his power who accomplishes the goal (34)
any strength and power God’s people have comes exclusively from God – for that he deserves their praise
his awesome power and majesty deserve praise from all his creatures
First verse of psalm parallel to Num. 10:35So it was, whenever the ark set out, that Moses said: “Rise up, O LORD! Let Your enemies be scattered, And let those who hate You flee before You.” Was the ark that led procession through wilderness, placed within most holy place when they stopped to rest.
“As the ark was carried in gladness and triumph, and borne within the holy of holies, to be a mystery and a marvel, and at the same time a cause of strength and source of power to Israel, so is our Lord and Saviour ascended above the heavens and passed within the veil, to give strength and power, mercy and pardon, grace and salvation, unto His people.” Plain Commentary
We have confidence that Lord Jesus has passed within the veil because of faith-building provided by written record of God’s works. That record plus all we have experienced of his power and faithfulness supply an endless supply of material for praise of our awesome God.