Lord, You Are the Most High

Psalm 97

What is real and who decides? May sound like one of those questions intellectual giants argue about for days on end, something average people don’t need to worry about. Without giving it much thought, average people (including us) make those sorts of decisions multiple times a day. Are those clothes really dirty or can they go in the drawer? Is the telephone ringing or are you hearing things? And what about the truck you see coming when you’re at the end of the driveway; is it a real one? In some situations, not a big deal if we reach wrong conclusion, make a wrong decision. Isn’t too serious if the clothes get washed an extra time. Making the wrong call about the dump truck can be disastrous.

For a lot of life, we can safely rely on our senses to provide data we need to make good decisions. Thank the Lord for that! Are times when that isn’t the case, though. Our perception of something is faulty, our senses can’t be trusted. The fault can lie in number of places. Can be our sensory receptors are malfunctioning – fail to register presence of something real or they send wrong signals (something is there when it isn’t). The car is making a funny noise we can’t hear; picture on the wall looks terribly crooked but isn’t.

Senses, even when functioning according to design, can be fooled. Funny mirrors at the carnival purposely designed to distort the image reflected in them. Pictures drawn with optical illusions included. Impressionists count on being able to sound like someone they are not. Those are “innocent” deceptions, intended to amuse or entertain. Then there are the intentional and harmful deceptions – purposeful distortion of reality for the other person’s gain. A strategic paint job, creative odometer adjustment, two sets of books for the business or to log time on the road.

Several years back, took up study of Biblical Worldview in Sunday School. First branch – Theology; asks question “is there a God and what is God like?” Answer – God is Ruler, Relational, Righteous. Second branch – Philosophy; asks question “What is real and what is true?” Answer – Reality consists of two parts – the natural universe and the supernatural realm.

Five senses designed to work in realm of natural universe. But how about with regard to the supernatural? If all of reality consists of both natural and supernatural, we have a problem. We are by design, in present mode of existence, unable to perceive accurately some of what is going on in natural world; can directly perceive none of what happens in supernatural realm. Means we must rely on someone who does have accurate and comprehensive knowledge and perception of reality.

Why is all that important? If we are to accurately understand and interpret what is going on in world around us, must begin with what is declared as true in God’s Word. What does God’s Word say is true and how does what I perceive and experience fit into that truth? Do your Bible reading and daily devotions first, then read the newspaper; not other way round. Is especially necessary when much of the world seems turned upside down.

God in his Word makes it plain there is tension between physical and spiritual realities, the two realms that make up all that is real. Tension began with the First Gospel in the Garden:

Gen. 3:15I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring.”

Even though we don’t have capacity to fully perceive it, there is a true reality; it’s described for us in the Bible. When we recognize that tension between physical and spiritual realities in light of what God says is true reality, we should respond in a particular way.

A. tension between physical and spiritual realities v.1-8

how it looks

certainly throughout history, have been ups and downs; but, in last 150 years sure looks like evil is marching forward

civil war, war between nations, world wars; attacks on private property and citizens; pedophiles in church, wolves in financial markets, expansion of euthanasia, rampant drug trafficking and sex trafficking; seemingly unstoppable spread of Islam and its associated violence

then there is injustice – corruption at all levels of governments, courts that have lost their way, agencies and individuals with agendas who prey on the vulnerable

hard to find much evidence of good prevailing over evil, a place where life is better today than it was X years ago

there’s overwhelming appearance of evil people gaining in power and territory, using fear and violence to push their agenda forward

the church

even the church seems to be in retreat both within and without; in country after country church is at mercy of the culture, not leading the culture

culture decides what is standard of belief and practice, church goes along: what to believe about the Bible; alternate lifestyles; models dealing with origins and the universe

culture decides it’s not safe to express Christian viewpoint publicly, either by word or by reputation, church acquiesces – is supremely evident in how missions efforts are conducted abroad

if we consider only what we can perceive with our senses, sure looks like the other side is winning; right now, doesn’t look good for stopping advance of evil, much less pushing it back and recovering lost territory

vs. how it is

reality is – God Rules (1); what we can perceive directly only a portion of all reality; Bible’s view of all reality is God is in charge, actively governing his creation according to his eternal purpose

God is hidden from us (2); his ways and his present workings are clouded in mystery, beyond our ability to see directly

God is ruling his creation with righteousness and justice even though it appears just opposite to us

God is dealing with his enemies (3) and will continue to do so; have it on authority of his Word elsewhere that God will turn his enemies’ evil against them to destroy them

how they do act vs. how they should act

true for both righteous and wicked – God’s creation apart from the people recognizes his presence and authority and acts accordingly – the earth trembles, mountains melt, heavens declare the truth (4-6)

if brute beasts can recognize God’s authority, pagans ought to at least acknowledge his existence and be ashamed of their idolatry (7); instead they persist in their evil ways and rejection of the true God

God’s people, the righteous, since they know God, have and understand his Word, ought to be different; but….here’s the question: do God’s people think and act in light of verse 1?

evil people act like their king is in charge, too often the righteous act as if they agree; instead should act like the true King, God himself, rules over all his creation; should not act as though the battle has been lost, just hanging on till the end

B. true reality v.9

For You, LORD, are most high(5945)above(5921) all the earth; You are exalted(5927)far above(5921) all gods. (all 4 words from same root, ‛âlâh)

“The Psalmist limits all other excellency in such a manner, as to leave no room for questioning that all majesty is comprehended in God only. This was the case more eminently when God manifested himself in his only-begotten Son, who is the express image of himself. Before that period his greatness was less apparent, because he was less known.” Calvin

people on this side of “hinge of history” have double witness to majesty and greatness of God – written Word and Living Word

God is the “I Am”, the one who will be as he always has been; not only is God unchanging in his being, he has given up none of his prerogatives

God is in charge of and governing his world just as much today as in the Garden, at the Red Sea and Sinai, in the second Garden the first Easter morning

God is just as powerful and majestic as he was at Creation, at Jesus’ ascension, and as he will be on that Day

true reality, even though concealed in part from us right now is

He rules and governs the men of this world. He sits in all the councils of men, though they see Him not. He orders all their decrees; there is no decree which can pass, unless God gives His vote. Watson

C. three imperatives – hate evil, rejoice, give thanks v.10-12

those who love the Lord called to behave in particular way; in light of what has just been declared about God, his majesty and power, his universal rule over his creation, then…

hate evil – don’t just avoid it, determine to have no relationship with it; oppose evil, detest evil, be as far from evil as you are close to God

to keep that kind of distance from evil requires total trust in God for provision and preserving

primary weapon in opposition of evil: prayer that is informed by truth of reailty from God’s Word

when God hears, heeds and answers prayer, he brings together spiritual forces to wage war against evil on his own behalf and for good of his people – God will direct battle in dimension we cannot perceive to deliver his people from evil

the righteous are to rejoice in the Lord – not to be a “siege mentality”, just hanging on until reinforcements come or God takes me home

are to rejoice in God and his character – his wisdom and righteousness and justice – even when we don’t comprehend how he’s working it all out

Jesus’ final bequest to his followers included joy, his joy, in full measure

John 15:11 “These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.”

John 16:24 “Until now you have asked nothing in my name. Ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full.”

and we are to give thanks – impossible to do regularly and sincerely if we only look at life from human perspective

to give thanks, to praise God for what he is doing in the world requires seeing reality from God’s perspective, through lens of the Bible

it’s always good to ask for more insight and understanding: “Lord help me see you at work in the world”

In the context of this psalm, the rejoicing in the Lord of the righteous is based, primarily, on the fact that God is king. In this case our joy is, in fact, stimulated by circumstances. Or rather, our interpretation of the circumstances brings us closer to reality. We are often the victims of the devil’s brainwashing and it is difficult to see through the appearance of things. The reality is found in Christ, as Paul says. Nobody ever expressed this so beautifully as the prophet Habakkuk: “Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the LORD, I will be joyful in God my Savior.”

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