Josiah’s Passover & The Lord’s Supper

This week we wrap up our series Great Is Thy Faithfulness. We’ve taken an overview of the Hebrew Scriptures through the lens of God’s faithfulness. We’ve discovered that Yahweh keeps his promises regardless of what we humans do. We also discovered that our actions affect the way God’s faithfulness impacts us. When we live the life he calls us to then his faithfulness is a blessing. When we live contrary to his faithfulness, our sinful actions have painful consequences. This is what we saw the last two weeks as we looked to the 8th century BC in the prophecies of Hosea and Isaiah. The sin of Israel and Judah will bring painful consequences to the people, but God will remain faithful to heal and to save when they repent.

This week we turn to 2 Kings 22 and look at the story of Josiah. About 100 years after Hosea and Isaiah the 8 year old Josiah became king. Following the wicked reigns of his father and grandfather, Josiah chose not follow in their footsteps. We read that he was much like King David, and today is recognized as the 2nd greatest Davidic king.

All of Jerusalem had forgotten Yahweh. His temple had fallen into disrepair and had become the site of worship for Baal, Asherah, and star worship. Josiah ordered to restore the temple of Yahweh, and during that restoration a copy of the Torah was found (presumably Deuteronomy). Nobody knew about God’s word, or what to do with it. When Josiah heard the Torah read, he ripped his robes and sent his advisors to the prophet Huldah to confirm if what they were reading was true. 

The female prophet told these men that indeed the word of Yahweh was true and the punishment foretold in the Torah was coming. But she also had a word of peace for Josiah because of God’s appreciation for his heart. This destruction would come upon Jerusalem, but because of Josiah’s repentant heart, it would not happen during his lifetime.

Josiah calls all the people of Judah and reads aloud the Torah (as prescribed in Deuteronomy). When the people heard the words of Yahweh, they all pledged themselves to keeping the covenant. All of the idols and instruments of pagan worship were destroyed and removed and Josiah issued this decree:

“Celebrate the Passover to the LORD your God, as it is written in this Book of the Covenant.” – 2 Kings 23:21 NIV

In celebration of the renewed hearts and renewed commitment to Yahweh, the people eat the Passover.

Every Sunday at our gathering, we renew our hearts, we renew our commitment to Yahweh, and we eat the Lord’s Supper, a reapplication of the Passover by Jesus on the night he was betrayed (Mk. 14:16ff).

This week as we gather to worship, let us recommit to the mission and the covenant that Yahweh has made with us. And then let us eat the Passover of Jesus.

Sermon Text for 11/24/19 – 2 Kings 22:1-23:23; Mark 14:16-25

Daily Psalms – Psalm 76

Daily Psalm Reading – Psalm 76-80

Thank you to those who have reached out over the last week. It was pretty crazy with travel and family commitments. But now we return to our (mostly) daily posts from Psalms. Today we focus on Psalm 76.

Psalm 76 is a song of peace and salvation, though it may not look like it upon initial reading. It’s easy to read about Zion here and think this song is only about Jerusalem, the promised land, or some battle fought there. But we forget that Zion serves as a symbol for God’s sovereignty in all times and all places. That includes the world we live in today, as well as the new heavens and new earth to come (Rev. 21:1-4).

With this view of the Psalm, we are introduced to a God who is sovereign and is on a mission!

There he shatters the bow’s flaming arrows,
the shield, the sword, and the weapons of war.

Psalm 76:3 CSB

Where God is sovereign (which is everywhere) he is in the business of peace. This includes caring after the widow, orphan, and foreigner (Deut. 10:18), but also includes ending, and eliminating war (Isa. 2:4). It is God who shelters us and shatters the enemies efforts.

In verse 6 the psalmist reminds us of God’s efforts in the past, specifically the Exodus when Israel couldn’t fight, but God fought for them hurling horse and rider in the sea (Ex. 15:1). We are reminded through verses 7-10 of God’s might and justice that cannot be stopped (“Who can stand before you?”). And finally the summarizing point of the psalm:

Make and keep your vows
to the LORD your God;
let all who are around him bring tribute
to the awe-inspiring one.
He humbles the spirit of leaders;
he is feared by the kings of the earth.

Psalm 76:11-12 CSB

We must respond to the fact that God is sovereign in all the world! This isn’t some nugget of knowledge to stash away in our brains for future use. This is a call to live our lives in submission to him. God’s sovereignty should affect our interactions with others, our approach to the world, our pursuit of peace, the way we lead, the way we govern, the way we worship…the list is endless. God’s sovereignty should touch every aspect of our lives. And if it doesn’t, then we are living in rebellion against God. I’d like to share a quote from the New Interpreter’s Bible Commentary on this psalm:

“…Psalm 76 is finally an invitation to live under God’s sovereignty (v. 11), to adopt God’s values and God’s ways (vv. 8-9). But to stand for justice and peace in a world filled with war and injustice requires a particular understanding of sovereignty. God’s sovereignty is exercised not as sheer force but as the power of love. The world does not understand this kind of power, but it is power nonetheless (see 1 Cor 1:25). The invitation in v. 11 is ultimately an invitation to respond to God’s love.”

New Interpreter’s Bible Commentary – Vol. III, pg. 514

We have been invited to stand with God, or stand against him. To live under his reign, or in opposition to it. The choice is ours. To quote the old hymn, “What will your answer be?”

DAILY PSALM – PSALM 121

Daily Psalm Reading – 121-125

I lift up my eyes to the mountains—
    where does my help come from?
My help comes from the LORD,
    the Maker of heaven and earth.

Psalm 121:1-2 NIV

Saturday night in our family devotional we discussed Romans 14:7-8. The question I asked of my family was, “What is our only hope in life and death?” Answer: Our Savior, Jesus Christ.

Yesterday as I gathered to worship with my church family, I was reminded of these verses. We sang a newer song called In the Harbor (All Will Be Well) where I was reminded once again that we have no hope unless we are anchored in the Lord.

This morning begins the songs of ascent in our psalm reading. The first song of ascent, Psalm 121 reminds me once again that my help comes from Yahweh.

This psalm is antithetical to diest view. If you are unfamiliar with the term, deists believe there is a divine being, but he is completely removed from the world and has nothing to do with it. A popular illustration of this view is this god as a clockmaker. He makes the clock, winds it, sits it on a shelf, and has nothing more to do with it. This is not our God!

Each phrase of the psalm reminds us of Yahweh’s involvement in our lives. He won’t let our foot slip (v. 3), he watches over his people (v. 4), he gives us shade (v. 5), keeps us from harm (v. 6), watches over our lives (v. 7), and will do so forever more (v. 8).

Don’t believe the lie that God is in retirement, no longer in the God business, or not involved with us in any way. That view is inaccurate and unscriptural! He is the only source of our hope. He is the only one who cares for and sustains us. Without him we would be nothing, but in him we have everything we need. As the old song says, “There is a God, He is alive, in Him we live, and we survive.”

My prayer is that we all see God at work in our lives, in our families, and in our communities today. Look for him, for he is there!

Daily Psalms – Psalm 112

Daily Psalm Reading – Psalm 111-115

The most common command in all of Scripture is “do not fear.” Psalm 112 is a juxtaposition of fear.

Praise the Lord.
Blessed are those who fear the LORD,
    who find great delight in his commands.

Psalm 112:1 NIV

What does it mean to fear the LORD, especially when we’re commanded so often to not fear? Are we supposed to cower, afraid that this all powerful God is just waiting to smite us? Perhaps if we are enemies of God this is an appropriate “fear,” but not for those who love him and have committed their lives to him.

One of the definitions of this word is “to stand in awe of, reverence, honor…” The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom (Ps. 111:10), and it’s the end of all other fear. As John reminds us God is love (1 Jn 4:8), and perfect love drives out all fear (1 Jn 4:18).

If we are right before God we will not be fearful of our lives before him, but we will stand in awe and reverence before him knowing full we we are not deserving. Proper “fear” before Yahweh will lead to caring for the poor and seeking justice (Ps. 112:5, 9). Proper “fear” of Yahweh leads us to fear nothing else! (v. 6-8). To “fear the LORD” is to love him with all your heart, soul, mind and strength, and to love our neighbor as ourselves (Mk. 12:29-31).

I have known far too many Christians that face the end of life terrified of the end for fear of what God might do. This is not the “fear” we are called to. We are to live boldly in the grace we have received, and fearlessly serve our Lord in the midst of a world that hates him. The fear of the LORD drives out all fear. The fear of the LORD enables us to do what we cannot do on our own.

If you are a child or God, washed in the blood of Jesus, you have no reason to be terrified. But you are called to fear the LORD!

Daily Psalms – Psalm 106

Daily Psalm Reading – Psalm 106-110

Psalm 106, in many ways, is the “other side” of Psalm 105. Where 105 calls us to recount the blessings that God has given us, Psalm 106 calls us to acknowledge our sins by telling the story of our failures.

We have sinned, even as our ancestors did;
    we have done wrong and acted wickedly.

Psalm 106:6 NIV

While harm can come from ruminating on our failures, acknowledging them in recognition of God’s grace is important. Here the Psalmist starts with praise (v. 1-3), petition (v. 4-5), confession (v. 6), and then begins the story.

The first episode recounts God’s salvation. Even though Israel forgot forgot Yahweh, he did not forget them. He saved them out of slavery and defeated the Egyptian army. Israel saw the might of Yahweh and believed! (v. 6-12)

From here the psalmist recounts many of the episodes that led to Israel’s exile. “How did we get here?” This is the confession that the psalmist makes: Yahweh asked us to do these things and time after time we did not. But that’s not the end of the story!

Once again the psalmist returns to the grace of Yahweh, and tells of his goodness, mercy, and future favor.

Many times he delivered them,
    but they were bent on rebellion
    and they wasted away in their sin.
Yet he took note of their distress
    when he heard their cry;
for their sake he remembered his covenant
    and out of his great love he relented.
He caused all who held them captive
    to show them mercy.

Psalm 106:43-46 NIV

How does this captivity come to an end? It isn’t anything that the people do, but the unmerited favor of God. It is God’s faithfulness to his covenant! Our faithlessness does not nullify God’s faithfulness! (Rom. 3:3-4) He is faithful! And because of God’s faithfulness, we have hope in him for salvation!

Save us, LORD our God,
    and gather us from the nations,
that we may give thanks to your holy name
    and glory in your praise.

Psalm 106:47 NIV

Once again, we end on a petition for rescue, not for our own benefit, but for bringing glory to Yahweh in praise. He alone is our hope. He alone is our salvation. He alone rescues us, and so we give thanks to him in praise.

It is good to tell our story. It is good to remember our past. How did we get here? Where are we going? These questions recall God’s continued blessings and our continued need for them. We must never think we have “arrived” in our walk with God, but always remember, analyze, and adjust our walk as we move forward. Yahweh is good and faithful. Don’t forget this. Live accordingly.

Praise be to the Lord, the God of Israel,
    from everlasting to everlasting.
Let all the people say, “Amen!”
Praise the Lord.

Psalm 106:48 NIV

Daily Psalms – Psalm 95

Daily psalm reading – Psalm 91-95

Psalm 95 is one which many of us can “sing,”, or at least the first two thirds of it. Come, let us sing for joy to the Lord (vs. 1-5), and Come, let us worship and bow down (vs. 6-7) have both been set to music many different times, and made their way into many congregations in the 90’s and early 2000’s.

But our familiarity with the psalm usually stops there. Verses 7b-11 really don’t lend themselves to modern song as much as the beginning of the psalm, and yet they’re vital to understanding the importance of this work.

I think the story is familiar to most who have read the Hebrew Scriptures, even if the names are not. In Exodus 17 the Israelites are traveling through the desert being lead by Yahweh when they settle in a place called Rephidim. There the Israelites needed water. But instead of asking Yahweh for water (keep in mind he has already done amazing miracles before them), they grumbled against Moses and questioned the reality of Yahweh’s presence among them!

Yahweh tells Moses and the elders of Israel what to do. They take a staff and strike the rock at Horeb and water poured forth. Now read the words of Moses:

And he called the place Massah and Meribah because the Israelites quarreled and because they tested the Lord saying, “Is the Lord among us or not?”

Exodus 17:7 NIV

Yahweh had set them free from slavery by crippling Egypt through 10 powerful plagues, parted the Red Sea for the Israelites to cross on dry land, destroyed Pharaoh’s army, led them with a pillar of fire and cloud, appeared to them on Mount Sinai…I could keep going. Yahweh appeared everywhere, and constantly took care of them, and yet when they needed something they doubted his presence?

It’s really easy for us to sit here and cast stones towards the Israelites wondering how they missed the presence of God in their lives. And yet we do the same thing, don’t we? We have the most prosperous and existence in all of human history, and when something doesn’t go our way we question his presence as well.

The admonition of this psalm is for us to worship Yahweh, to declare his praises, to acknowledge that everything around us is his because he made everything! When we understand that he has made and cares for everything, won’t he care for you as well? Aren’t you just as valuable to him as anything else he has made? Isn’t he our Good Shepherd?

Today, if only you would hear his voice…

Psalm 95:7b NIV

Are you listening for God’s voice today? Are you seeking his presence? He is with you, and will never leave you. Worship recenters us on that. Remembering the Creator cares for the creation does that as well. We can have peace and trust his provision, if only we will hear his voice. Blessings.

Daily Psalms – Psalm 45

Daily Psalm Reading – Psalm 41-45

Today’s psalm reading concludes Book 1 of Psalms (Pss. 1-41) and begins Book 2 (Pss. 42-72). This Book begins by reflecting on hope for the future, and a return to the Temple in Zion. There is also a great deal of Messianic hope in these psalms, which is most obvious in Psalm 45.

Psalm 45 was originally a secular psalm written for a royal wedding between the king of Israel and what is almost certainly a foreign wife (v. 10-12). A flat reading of the text can see the secular roots and leave someone to wonder why a psalm praising an earthly king and his wife are included in the psalter. The reason lies in how it was read and interpreted later.

After the fall of the monarchy in Israel, this psalm came to be understood as a foreshadow of they type of ruler the Messiah would be. This can be clearly seen in Scripture because when the Hebrew writer wants to tell his readers about Jesus, he does so by quoting Psalm 45:6-7. So instead of reading this psalm by focusing on its secular roots, let us look at it the way the Jews, and early Christians read it – as a reflection on the Messiah, whom we believe is Jesus.

Anointing (lit. messiah) language is present in several places in the text. This begins with the lips (understood words) that are anointed with grace (v. 2). The anointed one is clothed in splendor and majesty, and is mighty with a sword (see Rev. 19:11-16). The anointed one will seek truth, humility and justice, just like Yahweh wants his people to do. (Mic. 6:8) The nations will be placed below his feet. (Lk. 20:41-44) He is fragrant with myrrh, aloes and cassia. (Jn. 19:39)

We understand the Messianic references, but I want us to see how we, followers of Jesus, are viewed in the psalm. We are the royal bride adorned in gold (v. 9). We are called to forsake any other earthly relationship for our Anointed King (v. 10). Our king finds us beautiful, worthy of gifts and favor (v. 11-12). We are adorned with the finest robes and led joyfully into the King’s presence (v. 13-15).

Did you realize that Jesus views you this way? That you are not some stray dog he had mercy on. You are his chosen bride! (Eph 5:22-33, 2 Cor. 11:2, Rev. 19:6-9) No matter your faults, no matter your failures, seek him because he loves you and has chosen you! Even when you were still a mess, he chose you! (Rom. 5:8)

Today, walk with King Jesus and keep your head held high, because you are his chosen one! Tell your story today because all are invited to the wedding banquet of our King.

I will perpetuate your memory through all generations;
therefore the nations will praise you for ever and ever.

Psalm 45:17 NIV

Daily Psalms – Psalm 38

Daily Psalm Reading – Psalm 36-40

Have you ever felt guilty for being honest with God? Have you ever felt like you are supposed to say nice things and be thankful, but really all you want to do is complain? You’re not alone.

Psalm 38 is designated as a “petition.” Mostly it’s a complaint, but the main petition is found in verses 21 & 22:

LORD, do not forsake me;
do not be far from me, my God.
Come quickly to help me,
my Lord and my Savior.

Psalm 38:21-22 NIV

The psalmist blames Yahweh for the state he is in. “Your arrows have pierced me, and your hand has come down on me.” (v. 2) It’s “your wrath” that has caused my suffering. (v. 3) After many verses of lamenting his lowly state come these words:

LORD, I wait for you;
you will answer, Lord my God.

Psalm 38:15 NIV

We’re dealing with a moody 4 year old daughter at the moment who sometimes decides she doesn’t want to say a prayer. I reminded her tonight that it’s ok if you’re mad, or sad, or unhappy…tell God that in prayer. Yet I find so many adults who don’t believe they can be honest when talking to the Creator of the the universe, as if he didn’t know how you felt already! Why not just be honest with him? It’s what we see the most in this section of the psalms.

But as we move through the psalter you begin to notice that there are more psalms of praise than lament. It’s as if the psalter as a whole is teaching us that even when it’s hard, even when you don’t want to, and even when all you want to do is cast blame, pray anyway! This practice, especially when it’s hard, molds us into the kind of person Yahweh wishes us to be.

Prayer is less about asking for what you want, and more about becoming who God wants.

So, happy or sad, thankful or angry…have you talked to God today?

Daily Psalms – Psalm 29

Daily Psalm Reading – Psalm 26-30

Today we spend a little time meditating on Psalm 29 which many scholars believe to be the oldest psalm we have. This belief comes from finding very similar songs written to Baal by the Canaanites, and it appears that the Canaanite text has been reclaimed and rightly reappropriated to honor Yahweh.

Baal was known as the god over storms and fertility. If anything grew it was because Baal provided the fertility. If rain came it was because Baal made it so, and his voice was heard in the thunder of the storm. There was a belief amongst the Canaanites that they could manipulate Baal to do what they wanted by worshipping at the right time and in certain ways. They believed they could do certain things to obligate Baal to give them what they asked for. (Sadly some who follow Christ believe this as well.)

Psalm 29, however, takes everything that the Canaanites believed and flips it on its head. It isn’t Baal who does anything! It is Yahweh, and Yahweh alone who controls everything in the universe, and we are reminded of his name 18 times in this psalm alone!

Everything that comes from powerful storms: floods, thunder, tremors, lightning, destruction in nature – all of it subject to Yahweh. Blessings, strength, peace? All from Yahweh! Baal has no place in the discussion because it is Yahweh who does all of these things.

Let’s take a moment and focus on how our world views these things. Where do storms come from? We could look at scientific answers, but the general person on the street would attribute it to “Mother Nature.” How do we get rain? Hope the patterns found in “Mother Nature” will bring it about.

Our society, in large part, has done what the Canaanites did in attributing the power evident in the universe to created things. Humans can control a lot of things (or at least we pretend we can.) We can control our schedules, what crops we grow, where we want to build roads, where we want to travel, etc. We have amazing control over our world, but we cannot control the weather. Truth be told we can’t even accurately predict it most of the time.

Psalm 29 reminds us that we are not in control. No matter how hard we try, to matter what spells or chants we recite, no matter how many prayers we pray; we are not in control. Yahweh alone is in control. The only one who can control the weather is the only one in control of everything else.

And what should the response of creation be?

Ascribe to the Lord, you heavenly beings, 
ascribe to the Lord glory and strength. 
Ascribe to the Lord the glory due his name; 
worship the Lord in the splendor of his holiness. 

Psalm 29:1-2 NIV

May Yahweh give you strength and bless you with peace.

Daily Psalms – Psalm 23

Daily Psalm Reading – Psalm 21-25

Today our meditation is on Psalm 23, perhaps the most famous passage of Scripture, and one that our western experience doesn’t really understand. We don’t live in a shepherding culture, and we certainly don’t live in the landscape of rural Israel. But that’s the context in which this passage speaks most clearly.

We often read this psalm with images of God’s abundant blessings. “I lack nothing” seems to indicate “I have everything I want!” “Green pastures” seems to indicate a feast of epic proportions in belly deep alfalfa hay. But have you ever seen pictures of Israel? Do we really understand what David is writing here?

Keep in mind that Psalms 20-23 are Messianic in nature; they describe the coming (returning) Messiah and how he would live. Did Jesus have all the physical possessions he wanted? Was his a wealthy and luxurious existence? Something seems to be off with our American understanding of this famous psalm.

If you look at the picture I have attached to this post, you will see the “green pastures” of Israel. Look closely. Do you see the sheep grazing on the hillside? Can you see the little tufts of green grass on the hillside in the desert? These are the green pastures of David’s world, of Jesus’ world, and of Psalm 23.

In the desert that is very little water and virtually no grass, yet this is where you can raise sheep in Israel. Each night a strong wind from the west blows humid air from the Mediterranean Sea against the hot desert hills and the condensation occurs. Overnight this moisture causes green tufts of grass to sprout that in the morning provide grass for the sheep, but by mid afternoon the sun has scorched everything there. Unless the sheep are in the right place at the right time they will have nothing to eat.

Do you know the most common cause of death in the desert? Drowning. Seriously, I’m not making this up! Though it doesn’t rain in the desert, it pours in the mountains and the mountains cannot absorb the water. These torrential runoffs stream through dry riverbeds (wadi’s) into the desert. Often there is water left over in the bottom of these wadi’s, and that’s the problem. When you attempt to get water out of these wadi’s you leave the rock often get stuck in the miry mud that is left.

People drown like this every year because they see water, their thirst in the desert drives them into these wadi canyons and when 70 feet of floodwater rushes through the canyon at once they cannot get out. Desert people will tell you instead to get your water from springs, also known as “still” or “quiet waters.” In these places there is no danger.

So who knows where the grass will appear in the morning? Who knows the difference between flood waters and quiet waters? The sheep? No, it’s the Shepherd that knows these things. So what does it mean to have Yahweh as your shepherd? And what what might happen if we don’t listen to our Shepherd?

I could write about this psalm all day, but hopefully I’ve provided enough to get you thinking. Here’s a couple of takeaways. First, read this psalm with the cultural and geographical information from above and see what David might be saying. Is he saying we will have everything we want because we follow Yahweh, or is he saying we don’t have to worry because because the Shepherd will always give us just what we need when we need it? The words of Jesus seem to echo here as well!

“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body or what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes?…But seek first the kingdom and his righteousness, and all theses things will be given to you as well.”

Matthew 6:25, 33 NIV

Second, if Psalm 23 is Messianic in nature, then read this as if Jesus were speaking. Can you see his story here? And finally, read this in your voice. What does it mean to dwell in the house of Yahweh forever? What does it look like to dwell in his house now?

May Yahweh bless you as you spend time wrestling with his word today. Shalom.