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Psalms 31:9-18 Have Mercy On Me

Posted by adventbiblestudy on December 21, 2013


Psalms 31:9-18 NLTse Have mercy on me, LORD, for I am in distress. Tears blur my eyes. My body and soul are withering away. (10) I am dying from grief; my years are shortened by sadness. Sin has drained my strength; I am wasting away from within. (11) I am scorned by all my enemies and despised by my neighbors– even my friends are afraid to come near me. When they see me on the street, they run the other way. (12) I am ignored as if I were dead, as if I were a broken pot. (13) I have heard the many rumors about me, and I am surrounded by terror. My enemies conspire against me, plotting to take my life. (14) But I am trusting you, OLORD, saying, “You are my God!” (15) My future is in your hands. Rescue me from those who hunt me down relentlessly. (16) Let your favor shine on your servant. In your unfailing loverescue me. (17) Don’t let me be disgraced, O LORD, for I call out to you for help. Let the wicked be disgraced; let them lie silent in the grave. (18) Silence their lying lips– those proud and arrogant lips that accuse the godly.

 

This is one of the most difficult prophecies to find the New Testament texts describing its fulfillment. Reading through the texts it seemed as if it was referring to Jesus just before His arrest. Some of the key words seemed to point to Jesus before He was executed. Jesus was in distress, withering, dying of grief, and sad. On the cross Jesus was drained of strength and wasting. He was scorned, despised and ignored. His enemies conspired and plotted against Him. Of course God rescued Him. It seemed only a matter of using key words to find matching texts. Much to my surprise, there were no texts describing the event I assumed Psalm 31 pointed to. I used key words to search the New Testament and found some interesting texts, but they didn’t match the introduction and summation for Psalm 31 except for one. The texts I found was actually the last fulfillment I would have thought of and was linked by a single word.

 

Galatians 2:1-6 NLTse Then fourteen years later I went back to Jerusalem again, this time with Barnabas; and Titus came along, too. (2) I went there because God revealed to me that I should go. While I was there I met privately with those considered to be leaders of the church and shared with them the message I had beenpreaching to the Gentiles. I wanted to make sure that we were in agreement, for fear that all my efforts had been wasted and I was running the race for nothing. (3) And they supported me and did not even demand that my companion Titus be circumcised, though he was a Gentile. (4) Even that question came up only because of some so-called Christians there–false ones, really–who were secretly brought in. They sneaked in to spy on us and take away the freedom we have in Christ Jesus. They wanted to enslave us and force us to follow their Jewish regulations. (5) But we refused to give in to them for a single moment. We wanted to preserve the truth of the gospel message for you. (6) And the leaders of the church had nothing to add to what I was preaching. (By the way, their reputation as great leaders made no difference to me, for God has no favorites.)

 

Wasting is the only key word in Psalm 31 linking it to wasted in Galatians 2. Look at how the context of the two sentences agree. Sin has drained my strength; I am wasting away from within. I wanted to make sure that we were in agreement, for fear that all my efforts had been wasted and I was running the race for nothing. Put yourself in Paul’s position. He gave up his high position as a Pharisee and hopes of climbing the political ladder within the church to follow Jesus. Paul completely changed his life around after Jesus appeared to him. Later he spent three years alone learning at Jesus’ feet. After preaching for a time, Paul sees strange things happening. Many of the Jews want to return to the old traditions. Paul is shown how some infiltrated the early church in an effort to draw them back to Judaism. After all the time and effort Paul put into his ministry, he saw everything slipping away – going back to the old ways he escaped from. Paul knows what going back to the old way meant. First its following the commandments, then man made laws, finally back to animal sacrifices… which more than distracts from Jesus’ sacrifice, they nullify it. The goal of the spies was to destroy any belief in Jesus’ resurrection. Of course Paul felt drained and wasted.

 

It takes more than one related word to establish a match. As I prayed about this study, remember prayer is a large portion of every study along with listening – I was reminded of a basic Bible Study rule – always look back. I was surprised what I saw when I looked back at the previous studies.

 

Psalms 17:1-15 Hear My Plea

David pleads with God to listen to his prayer. Jesus teaches His disciples how to pray and the role prayer will take in their ministry.

 

Psalms 18:1-27 Lord is My Rock

David’s prayer is a prophecy of Jesus’ death on the cross. The leading priests plot, arrest Jesus, try, convict Him, and take Him to Pilate. They do everything they can to blemish Jesus so He could not be an acceptable sacrifice for God.

 

Psalms 22 Why Have You Abandoned Me

Another of David’s prayers pointing to Jesus on the cross. This prophecy and its related New Testament texts combine to show the emotional side of the cross.

 

Psalms 27:7-14 Hear Me As I Pray

Filled with questions why the disciples could not see why Jesus had to die on the cross, David’s next prophecy shows us the comfort Jesus tried to give His disciples before His arrest.

 

Psalms 29:1-11 Honor the LORD

David’s prophecy leads us to 2 Peter where we see how God’s voice is in control of the message. Peter explains how God provided everything in His Word to make His message simple and complete.

 

Psalms 30:1-12 Rescue Me

David’s Psalm leads us to the message given to His disciples to teach, “He is risen.” This prophecy takes us through all four Gospels looking at and comparing all the details about Jesus’ resurrection.

 

Psalm 31 shows us how Jesus’ simple message will be distorted. It’s amazing when we look at how God recorded the prophecies about Jesus’ ministry in this particular order. This is also another lesson showing us how God is in control and how we need to rely on His Spirit to lead us in the right direction. The right direction is deeper than we can imagine. What goes through your mind when you think about the right direction God leads you on? Most of what I heard taught seldom goes beyond being good, treating people right, and sometimes keeping the law. Is that all our Infinite God wanted to teach? Is that what Jesus taught? You have to pay attention. Man is created in God’s image. Most of the time I hear claims, man was created in God’s image, like it’s in the past tense. Like it no longer applies to us. I got news for you – we are still in God’s image. Notice what God did with Adam. He named all the animals in the world. God showed Adam every one of them. What about the sun, moon, and stars? Don’t you think God answered questions about those and all the plants? There was only a little bit mentioned about any law in Eden. It seemed Adam knew how to act and the difference between right from wrong. Otherwise we would see a few chapters in Genesis where God had to teach Adam and Eve how to act. We find one rule mentioned. God told Adam to stay away from one tree. It was called the tree of knowledge of good and evil. Did that tree have some sort of power? How could Adam and Eve be created in God’s image if they didn’t know right from wrong? Is it possible for us to live life without knowing good and evil? Like many other things in life and the Bible, it appears difficult to comprehend. Just as hard as it is to think God only wants to teach this world on on level. No matter how young a child is, they are taught a number of subjects in the same day. Why would God, known as the Father teach only one subject? Here we’re learning how to study His Word, a subject few people consider important. Not knowing how God arranged His Word is like having a school that does not teach language skills, reading or writing. Paul is making the point, it just doesn’t make sense to teach law to a class who does not know how to read. Paul wants to make sure the church knows how to hear and recognize God’s voice before learning the depth of His message. Church leaders relying on the old traditions insist new comers have to master the law before they are clean enough to listen to God. They have the sequence reversed. In reality, those leaders want people to listen to them.

 

That’s what the Jewish spies wanted to do. They wanted people to know and follow the law before being accepted. They had no intentions of leading people to God or establishing a relationship with His Spirit, because they had to relationship to work or teach from. The spies’ only concern was to introduce and maintain tradition which was their interpretation of the law, what we refer to as doctrine today. Paul knew, “They wanted to enslave us and force us to follow their Jewish regulations.” The only reason Paul knew this is because he knew the real message. Our previous study revealed the message, “Jesus is risen.” When we look back to see how the author led into this story, we would expect to find Paul clearly explaining the message he’s telling the Galatians to preserve. “Jesus gave his life for our sins, just as God our Father planned, in order to rescue us from this evil world in which we live. All glory to God forever and ever! Amen.” (Galatians 1:4-5 NLTse). It’s such and important message Paul also tells the Galatians how he received it. “Dear brothers and sisters, I want you to understand that the gospel message I preach is not based on mere human reasoning. I received my message from no human source, and no one taught me. Instead, I received it by direct revelation from Jesus Christ.” (Galatians 1:11-12 NLTse).

 

Paul tells us this for a reason. The spies came in with one deception. Paul knew other deceptions were on the way. He knew the enemy was not going to slow down or give up. Paul had no way of knowing what future deceptions Satan was going to use. If Paul knew, Satan would accuse God of interfering with his freedom. But Paul could prepare all future generations of believers by telling them the one and only reliable source of truth is Jesus Himself. Paul could have talked to Jesus’ disciples to get the story of His life and ministry, but he didn’t. Paul went directly to Jesus’ feet. This symbolizes two vital points. The path to Jesus is open to all of us. Now we can finally understand exactly why the gospel writers were consistent and honest in their account of the facts. One of the most prominent facts is the disciples didn’t understand the message until after Jesus gave His life and rose from the grave. Still not immediately after Jesus rose from the tomb. When Mary and the other women told them, “Jesus is risen,” they still doubted. Many of them doubted when Jesus stood in front of them. After Jesus explained everything, they still asked Jesus when He was going to take His kingdom and throne. They still expected an over throw of the Roman government. If Paul could not trust the disciples to teach him the message, what makes you think you can trust anyone to study the message for you and accurately deliver it? You have to pay attention to what’s in scripture. If Paul saw the message was that important and Jesus took time to teach Paul, why are we wasting time? Why isn’t God’s family getting out the message? The only reason we can find is, not enough people are going directly to Jesus for the message they have to hear from Him.

 

Even though the lesson is clear in the introduction to Galatians, we owe it to ourselves to be sure. We’re required to compare the introduction of Psalm 31 to Galatians 2. Because the prophecy in Psalm 31 leads us to the introduction in Galatians 2, we also need to compare the Introduction for Psalm 31 to see if the context agree.

 

Psalms 31:1-5 NLTse O LORD, I have come to you for protection; don’t let me be disgraced. Save me, for you do what is right. (2) Turn your ear to listen to me; rescue me quickly. Be my rock of protection, a fortress where I will be safe. (3) You are my rock and my fortress. For the honor of your name, lead me out of this danger. (4) Pull me from the trap my enemies set for me, for I find protection in you alone. (5) I entrust my spirit into your hand. Rescue me, LORD, for you are a faithful God.

 

Here’s another important Bible Study rule. When comparing introductions look at them carefully. “O LORD, I have come to you for protection; don’t let me be disgraced. Save me, for you do what is right.” Look at the beginning of David’s prayer telling God he is coming to Him for protection. An important rule of Bible Study is to look back at the previous texts to see how or why the author led into the prayer. “You have turned my mourning into joyful dancing. You have taken away my clothes of mourning and clothed me with joy, that I might sing praises to you and not be silent. O LORD my God, I will give you thanks forever!” (Psalms 30:11-12 NLTse). Now you can see why Psalm 31 begins with David’s praise to God.

 

The introduction of Galatians chapter 2 shows another important Bible Study rule to learn and remember. “Then fourteen years later I went back to Jerusalem again.” Notice the sentence structure. God’s Spirit should be asking you, fourteen years after what? The sentence structure here commands you to look back. When we look back we find it is fourteen years after Paul studied alone with Jesus. Comparing this to Psalm 31 shows us the effect studying scripture with Jesus had on Paul. “I have come to you for protection; don’t let me be disgraced. Save me, for you do what is right. Turn your ear to listen to me; rescue me quickly. Be my rock of protection, afortress where I will be safe. You are my rock and my fortress. For the honor of your name, lead me out of this danger.” Looking at the context in Galatians, we see how the instructions Paul received from Jesus gave him protection and lead him out of the danger he faced. Paul didn’t listen to mere humans or go to them for advice and he was not about to compromise when he went back to Jerusalem. The so called leaders couldn’t intimidate Paul, because he was sure of the message he received directly from Jesus.

 

We see this lesson emphasized when we compare the key words. David used the key words protection and safe. Paul used the key words message and preaching. On a spiritual basis the two combined teach us protection and safety is found when the right message is preached. We get the message to preach from Jesus. Notice how Paul never attempted to tell any of the churches he wrote to the full story he understood. Paul only shared what God’s Spirit told him to share – what they were prepared to accept. The same is true today. Never forget – you received the individually customized message for a person or group from Jesus. We still owe it to ourselves to study so God’s Spirit can show us what we’re ready for. Part of our obligation is to look at the full lesson. Which leads us to a comparison of the summations.

 

Psalms 31:21-24 NLTse Praise the LORD, for he has shown me the wonders of his unfailing love. He kept me safe when my city was under attack. (22) In panic I cried out, “I am cut off from the LORD!” But you heard my cry for mercy and answered my call for help. (23) Love the LORD, all you godly ones! For the LORD protects those who are loyal to him, but he harshly punishes the arrogant. (24) So be strong and courageous, all you who put your hope in the LORD!

 

Galatians 2:18-21 NLTse (18) Rather, I am a sinner if I rebuild the old system of law I already tore down. (19) For when I tried to keep the law, it condemned me. So Idied to the law–I stopped trying to meet all its requirements–so that I might live for God. (20) My old self has been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, butChrist lives in me. So I live in this earthly body by trusting in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. (21) I do not treat the grace of God as meaningless. For if keeping the law could make us right with God, then there was no need for Christ to die.

 

David introduced an important word in his summation, love. “Praise the LORD, for he has shown me the wonders of his unfailing love.” Paul also added the same word. “So I live in this earthly body by trusting in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” Paul repeats the word law to draw attention to it. It’s strange how many people misunderstand Paul’s letter and take his summation out of context. Remember the introduction and summation for chapters both focus on the same subject and lesson. “I went there because God revealed to me that I should go. While I was there I met privately with those considered to be leaders of the church and shared with them the message I had been preaching to the Gentiles.” Paul sums up his message when he wrote about how Jesus loved him and gave His life. What’s so hard about that message? Why do people have this insane need to add rules and regulations to it? Why is Paul’s message so simple? Because Paul believes, not only believes but knows the best way for anyone to learn is directly from Jesus. But the so called leaders insisted they go back to the old ways. How far back? After leaving Egypt, God told Israel about His plans to make them a nation of priests. That was right after God gave them them His law, His ten commandments. They all claimed they would follow the laws, but later changed their mind. Now after Jesus came here, died and restored the role of priest to everyone along with adding details of God’s plan for salvation, some of the religious leaders claim they need to go back to old concept of living up to the law for salvation. Paul tried to explain how he died to thelaw and stopped trying to meet all its requirements–so that he lived for God. This seems to be a difficult concept for some people to comprehend. When we look at the context, it is easier to understand. We have to know what laws and why Paul died to them. As usual, we look back at the previous texts to see how Paul led into his statement about the law.

 

“You and I are Jews by birth, not ‘sinners’ like the Gentiles. Yet we know that a person is made right with God by faith in Jesus Christ, not by obeying the law. And we have believed in Christ Jesus, so that we might be made right with God because of our faith in Christ, not because we have obeyed the law. For no one will ever be made right with God by obeying the law.” But suppose we seek to be made right with God through faith in Christ and then we are found guilty because we have abandoned the law. Would that mean Christ has led us into sin? Absolutely not! Rather, I am a sinner if I rebuild the old system of law I already tore down. (Galatians 2:15-18 NLTse).

 

Paul is writing to the Jews he is working with. He’s trying to get them to understand the concept of Jesus’ sacrifice and resurrection. Some of the Jewish leaders in the church still insist on working their way into Heaven by keeping the law. Which law? Paul tells us it’s the law he helped to tear down. When Paul was arrested they accused him of not keeping God’s law. Paul assured them he never preached against God’s law but against the long list of rules and regulations the Jewish teachers added. That’s what the Jewish spies that crept in were trying to add. “Love the LORD, all you godly ones! For the LORD protects those who are loyal to him, but he harshly punishes the arrogant. So be strong and courageous, all you who put your hope in the LORD!” The love David prophesied about is fulfilled in Christ. “And we have believed in Christ Jesus, so that we might be made right with God because of our faith in Christ, not because we have obeyed the law. For no one will ever be made right with God by obeying the law.”

 

Its amazing how God not only saw problems creeping up in the early church, but wrote prophecies about it. Then again, why would it seem unusual? When we look down through history, we see God gave warning after warning. God warned about Isaac’s and Jacob’s sons. Before entering the promised land, Moses told Israel how they would eventually turn so far away from God they would go back to captivity. God also told them how He would restore the nation. Israel never rose to the glory it saw with strong leaders like Joshua and David. The promised land always pointed to Jesus’ return. God made it clear it doesn’t come by ignoring His law. It’s not earned by keeping His law. We enter by following Jesus, like Israel followed the pillar of fire, and were supposed to have faith in the Rock that traveled with them. The point is, Jesus was always with them. Always trying to reach and teach them. Paul isn’t teaching a new concept. He’s only putting the old message in words he hopes we’ll understand. Paul’s introduction mentions circumcision which leads us to a number of stories. One that explains one of the fundamental spiritual aspects of circumcision is in the beginning of Joshua.

 

Standing on the shoreline of the Jordan river, Joshua received explicate instructions from God. Isreal arrived at the height of the flood season. There was no way a single Israelite could cross the river. If Israel attempted to cross as a group they would all be swept away like ants. Water extended out beyond the natural shoreline with swift currents. Everything in the water’s path was swept away. Stately tress which stood their ground for generations were carried away by the unprecedented flood. News traveled fast throughout the region. News about Israel’s approaching army were exaggerated. Kings dispatched scouts to assess the situation. Reports were provided with mixed outlooks. It appeared their god of the water and river was offering protection for the masses against an army with numbers to large to describe. Exaggerations of both Israel’s army and the obstacle they faced were abundant.

 

After the death of Moses the LORD’s servant, the LORD spoke to Joshua son of Nun, Moses’ assistant. He said, “Be strong and very courageous. Be careful to obey all the instructions Moses gave you. Do not deviate from them, turning either to the right or to the left. Then you will be successful in everything you do. Study this Book of Instruction continually. Meditate on it day and night so you will be sure to obey everything written in it. Only then will you prosper and succeed in all you do. This is my command–be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid or discouraged. For the LORD your God is with you wherever you go.” (Joshua 1:1, 7-9 NLTse). Israel needed a strong leader. God knew what it would take. It wasn’t an easy job to take over for Moses. God knew He had to establish Joshua was Israel’s new leader. God had a plan.

 

As Joshua looked across the Jordan river, the promised land only a few steps away, he knew God had a plan. God told Joshua to have the priests carry the ark to the edge of the water then step in a few feet and wait. That’s all God told them to do is wait. Notice what’s missing in the story in Joshua? Israel didn’t question Joshua like they did to Moses. Neither did they mistrust God. Like Joshua, they waited to see what He was about to do.

 

When we look at those texts we see the phrase ark of the covenant is repeated a number of times. Covenant means an agreement. Here we also see a perfect example of how one book leads into another. Moses closed out Deuteronomy by telling Israel what was expected of them when they crossed into the promised land. They were expected to follow God’s law. In exchange they would be given a land flowing with milk and honey. That was one of the promises. The New Testament tells us milk represents the beginning of understanding God’s Word. David tells us God’s Word is sweeter than honey. How sweet your words taste to me; they are sweeter than honey. (Psalms 119:103 NLTse). The promised land will be filled with God’s Word directly from Him. Once we cross over from this world to Heaven, of course we’ll talk to God and hear every word from His mouth. The same is true when we pray the right prayer and listen to God’s Spirit now. We cross over from this world to a spiritual promised land. Not the fulfillment of God’s promise, just a taste. Moses also told the Levites they were supposed to look out for and teach people to respect and help the stranger, fatherless, and widows. This shows the results of keeping God’s law.

 

As the ark was carried up to the waters of the Jordan, the waters parted. God did this for a number of reasons. He did it to show His power and glory. That’s too easy to see. He also did it to show Israel how He chose Joshua as their new leader. That one is also too easy to see. There was more. God also did it to show the people in the land He was in control and stronger than their gods of the waters and river – gods they sacrificed their sons and daughters to. When we look at the context in Joshua chapter one, we see the main focus of the book is to cross over and posses the land. We also see the connection between receiving the land and keeping God’s commandments. When we look back at Deuteronomy, we see how the land was equally divided. Everyone got their fair share of land. Leaders didn’t receive a larger portion than others. When the ark stood on the banks of the Jordan, it showed that God’s power is available to everyone who keeps the law of His covenant. But how many do? We all sin. We all fall short. The only way we have out of this world is through Jesus who told us, “I tell you the truth, anyone who believes in me will do the same works I have done, and even greater works, because I am going to be with the Father.” (John 14:12 NLTse). Joshua goes on to teach us far greater lessons than what we’ve seen so far.

 

Following simple Bible Study rules we see in Joshua chapter 3 how God used the ark of the covenant to show His power over the waters of Jordan. The key words are repeated a number of times. Water can also represent people. Why are they crossing the Jordan river?

 

In Joshua chapter 4 the words stones, ark of the covenant, and command are repeated. God is telling them to build a simple memorial once they cross the river so they’ll remember the day God stopped the flood waters and to tell their children when they ask what those stones meant. Lessons are meant to be handed down. Lessons on the law, God’s power and how it’s available to all of us when we obey.

 

Joshua chapter 5 repeated the word circumcised a number of times. This was one of Paul’s concerns in Galatians chapter 2. We learn one of the most valuable Bible Study lessons when we look at each these stories as a whole and compare what we find. On the other side of the Jordan river things looked hopeless. As soon as Israel crossed the river, God put them in another hopeless position. Remember the story in Genesis 34 when Jacob’s sons had all the men in Shechem circumcise themselves? Only a few of Jacob’s sons attacked and killed every man in the city. Joshua and Israel find themselves in the same position as Shechem. Israel just moved from one hopeless situation to another. The lesson of being helpless is repeated to teach us a lesson. When we look ahead we see how God had Israel march around Jericho’s walls for seven days. The same number of days this world is supposed to last. Walls often represent governments and man made laws. You can look that up yourself. You need the practice. God’s telling us not to worry about what governments are doing. He has all that under control. We see that message at the end of Joshua chapter 5. When Joshua was near the town of Jericho, he looked up and saw a man standing in front of him with sword in hand. Joshua went up to him and demanded, “Are you friend or foe?” “Neither one,” he replied. “I am the commander of the LORD’s army.” At this, Joshua fell with his face to the ground in reverence. “I am at your command,” Joshua said. “What do you want your servant to do?” The commander of the LORD’s army replied, “Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy.” And Joshua did as he was told. (Joshua 5:13-15 NLTse).

 

Jericho could have attacked and wiped Israel out in a matter of hours if Jesus, the commander of the LORD’s army had not been standing between them. As soon as Israel entered the promised land, Jesus changed His form from a pillar of fire to a man. As soon as we decide to put our faith and trust in God and leave this world to enter the spiritual promised land, Jesus appears as a personal Savior, a man who came here to die for our sins. A point Paul stressed in his letter to the Galatians. We all go through vulnerable states in this world before we enter into a close personal relationship with Jesus. We need our own simple stones to erect as a memorial to remember. We need to remember so we don’t forget to tell our children about our personal journey. We also need to remember so we have compassion on strangers, the fatherless, and widows, everyone who wants to hear the message. We’re not supposed to go out on our own attacking governments, institutions, or individuals. Look what happened to Israel when they attacked the small town of Ai. They were humiliated. Jesus had to remind Joshua, He was there to fight the battles and lay the plans. We need to learn those lessons. Paul gave the Galatians the same lesson. Some of the leaders wanted to institute rules and regulations they thought were necessary. They wanted to pick and choose which battles to fight. Paul knew they couldn’t see how vulnerable they really were. Paul knew the so called leaders of the church had not crossed over the spiritual river, obstacles in their lives to find out how helpless they really were. The so called church leaders hadn’t been spiritually circumcised – put in a state to see how quickly they can fall. Neither could they see Jesus in the flesh. Paul knew what we have to give up to sit at Jesus’ feet and learn from Him. After seeing it in scripture, Paul wondered how he missed those symbols all those years he spent as a Pharisee. How long are we going to play Pharisee before we admit how hopeless we really are? We should be busy enough fighting our personal battles against sin without worrying about what rules and regulations others should follow. We also have to look to Jesus to lead us in the battle the world puts us in by constantly trying to draw us away from our relationship with Him and His Word. It took Paul three years alone with Jesus to get ready to preach the right message. How many years have you been working at it?

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