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Following on from my last post - Psalms are about Christ.   They tell of the interaction between the LORD, the King through Whom He rules, the righteous who hide in Him and the wicked who rebel. 

These interactions are pictured from many angles.  But one key perspective is for the King Himself to speak.  This most often happens in the Psalms 'Of David'.

Of course all the kings reigned under the knowledge that they were simply throne-warmers for the King to Whom universal tribute was due. (Gen 49:10)  But David was the most idealized of these kings.  The Messiah is often spoken of simply as David.  (e.g. Ezekiel 34:23f; 37:25).  And David himself is aware of his idealized role.  Just before his death he said: "The Spirit of the LORD spoke through me; His word was on my tongue." (2 Sam 23:2)  He didn't speak better than he knew, but he certainly spoke better than he lived. In the Psalms the king most often spoke as The King.  The anointed one spoke most often as The Anointed One. 

Peter confirms this for us in Acts 2.  Even when David spoke in the first person he was speaking the words of Christ (see Acts 2:25).  Quoting Psalm 16, Peter makes it clear that David was not describing his own experience. (Paul underlines this in Acts 13:36-37).  Rather, David "was a prophet and knew that God had promised him on oath that he would place one of his descendants on his throne. Seeing what was ahead, he spoke of the resurrection of the Christ" (Acts 2:30-31).

Does this mean that such Psalms have no application to David?  No of course they do - but such application runs from Christ to David rather than David to Christ.  This is the nature of the whole of David's life -  from shepherd boy to rejected ruler, to reigning king to his death, he is a shadow of the Coming King.

This is my understanding anyway.  Whether you take the Psalms from David to Christ or Christ to David, I hope we can all agree that the emotions and experiences of 'The King' are ultimately taken up and owned by Christ.

All of this is just a precursor to what I really want to discuss...  What do we do with the Psalmist's intense desire for the LORD?

On one level that's simple - copy it.  Be challenged by it.  Be inspired by it.  Seek it for yourself.

Well, yes, ok.  But here's the question - what do I do when I don't earnestly desire the LORD?  Because maybe once or twice in your life your white hot devotion to God has dipped below the zeal of the Psalmist.  What do you do then?

Here's the first level of my response:  When I don't desire God, first I need to see that Christ does.  And He does so for me.

What do I mean? 

Well take a favourite Psalm of mine: Psalm 63

Here the Psalmist says:

 1 O God, you are my God,
       earnestly I seek you;
       my soul thirsts for you,
       my body longs for you,
       in a dry and weary land
       where there is no water.

 2 I have seen you in the sanctuary
       and beheld your power and your glory.

 3 Because your love is better than life,
       my lips will glorify you.

 4 I will praise you as long as I live,
       and in your name I will lift up my hands. 

Now be honest, doesn't some part of you go "Really?  Have I really beheld His power and glory?  Really?  Have I in the past and will I in the future praise Him so wholeheartedly?  Really?  As long as I live?  Am I perjuring myself here??"

But friend, read on to the final verse...

 11 But the king will rejoice in God

These are the words of the king - the king on whose lips are the words of The King.  And He has beheld the power and glory of the LORD in the ultimate sanctuary.  He is the ultimate, white-hot Worshipper of God.  These words are not a guide to human worship so much as a window onto divine worship. 

So what should be our response?

Sit back and be awed by The King's desire for the LORD.  You don't yet feel such intense passion.  Well alright.  In the deepest sense you never can match His devotion.  But let the King's worship be enough for you.  Don't despise his devotion like Michal (2 Sam 6:16).  Simply allow your King to offer what you cannot summon up yourself.  Know that He offers in your place a worship you could never initiate.  And if the Praise-Worthy does not elicit your praise, let the Praise-Giver show the way.  In ourselves we could never work up the right response.  In Christ we see what reckless and joyful abandon to God looks like. 

He is like the first Dancer onto the floor, moved by the Music, laughing and clapping and dancing as we never could.  The more you watch Him dance, the more your foot starts to tap, then you start clapping.  Pretty soon you'll link arms and join in.  The Music itself should get you on the dance floor.  But in fact the Music never does - not really.  It's the Dancer who inspires, who links arms and who leads.

Read Psalm 63 again.  And add your own Amen.  For now that is enough.  If these words were simply the prayer diary of an ancient near eastern ruler, your Amen would mean nothing.  If these were just passionate words from an inspired and inspiring devotee they could only judge your apathy.  But they're not.  This is the worship of The King.  Your King.   This is Christ your Substitute, your Priest, your Vicarious Worshipper.  He bears your name on His heart as He comes before the LORD in joyful abandon.  For now just allow Him to offer the praise you cannot find in yourself.  In time you'll join the dance.

 

For more on Christ offering worship on our behalf, here's a half hour talk I gave recently.

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Isaiah's servant songs are:

  1. Isaiah 42:1-7
  2. Isaiah 49:1-6
  3. Isaiah 50:4-9
  4. Isaiah 52:13-53:12

Now in the songs, the servant is clearly a figure who acts on behalf of the people.  He is a covenant for the people (42:6).  He will bring Jacob and Israel back to the LORD (49:5,6).  His word is the word the people should fear (50:10). He is rejected by the people yet suffers on their behalf (all of chapter 53).

Yet "servant" is also mentioned in and around these songs:

Isaiah 41:8,9 (You O Israel are my servant)

Isaiah 42:19 (Who is blind like my servant)

Isaiah 43:10  (You are my witnesses and my servant)

Isaiah 44:1,2  (Jacob my servant)

Isaiah 44:21  (My servant O Israel)

Isaiah 45:4  (Jacob my servant)

Isaiah 48:20  (His servant Jacob)

Here 'servant' refers to Israel/Jacob. 

Actually this is nothing new in Isaiah.  Jerusalem for instance can stand either for the corrupt, faithless generation under the LORD's judgement or the centre of a new heavens and new earth that lies beyond the judgement.  Jerusalem is both the problem and the hope!

In a similar way the servant of the LORD is Israel.  The people really should be the LORD's faithful witness, judge, light, salvation etc.  Yet earthly Israel is a crushing disappointment.  Nonetheless the hope is not apart from Israel.  The hope is the TRUE ISRAEL.  This Ideal Israel is what the songs set before us.  He takes a hold of old Israel and sweeps it up into His own triumphant work as Witness, Judge, Light, Salvation etc.  Servants do that - they stand for the people - see Moses or Job for instance. In fact this Ideal Servant is spoken of as the King of Isaiah 6 (cf 52:13) - High and lifted up.  The true King sums up in Himself His people and acts on their behalf.  His victory is their victory. 

And so the people may lament the servant Israel, yet at the same time they sing about THE TRUE ISRAEL, the Ideal Servant, the KING who stands in their place and acts as Israel.  He is their hope and the Light for we Gentiles.

Anyway that seems to be the sort of interpretation of 'the Servant' which takes seriously both sets of verses - the songs and the surrounding references. 

The one interpretation we should laugh off is the one that says "Foolish ancient people only understood half of these verses and so had no idea that there would be an individual Ideal Servant to stand for blind Israel.  It takes a later re-reading to understand that there is an individual Ideal Servant, Jesus".   No, no. No need for such chronological snobbery thank you very much.

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By the way - has anyone read or heard anything good on the Servant Songs??  Please do let me know in the comments.

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The excellent Marc Lloyd has posted the juciest quotation on Christ the Mediator of all revelation.  It's from Ronald Wallace's book Calvin's Doctrine of Word and Sacrament.  Here he is summarizing Calvin's view especially of christocentric revelation in the OT.

The Mediator of all revelation between God and man in the Old Testament is the Word of God, the second person of the Trinity, the same Christ who became incarnate in Jesus of Nazareth. Throughout the whole national history of Israel, it was always He, the Son of God, who dealt with His people in judgement and mercy, bringing them, with His Presence in their midst, light and life and salvation. Calvin asserts positively that Christ, the Word of God, who "remains with God perpetually one and the same and who is God Himself" (Inst 1:13:7), was "always the bond of connection between God and man" (Comm on Gen 48:15), and "the source of all revelations" (Inst 1:13:7), being "always present in all the oracles" (Comm on Gen 16:10). He is equally emphatic in the frequent negative assertion, "Never did God reveal Himself outside of Christ" (Comm on Jn 5:23). "Nor indeed, had any of the saints ever had communication with God except through the promised Mediator." (Comm on Ex 3:2) "God formerly manifested Himself in no other way than though Him." (Comm on Gen 48:15) God never otherwise revealed Himself to the Fathers "but in His eternal Word and only begotten Son" (Comm on Is 6:1). The whole story of the Old Testament is thus the story of how Christ, the Word of God, breaks in upon the life of those whom He has chosen to make his people, and confronts them in these veiled forms through which they can come to know His nature and have communion with Him....

The frequent appearances of the "Angel of the Lord" as the representative of God to the Old Testemant Fathers, and as a guide of the people throughout their history is a sign that Christ is always fulfilling His Mediatorial office of saviour and revealer, and uniting even then the members of His Church to Himself as the Head through whom they are joined to God Himself. Calvin, following the "orthodox doctors" (Inst 1:13:10) on this point, identifies the "chief angel" who appears among the other angelic visitors to earth with "God's only begotten Son who was afterwards manifest in the flesh" (Comm on Ex 14:19). Even then He performed in a preliminary fashion "some services introductory to His execution of the office of Mediator" (Inst 1:13:10). "There is then no wonder," says Calvin, "that the Prophet should indictriminately call Him Angel and Jehovah, He being the Mediator of the Church and also God. He is God, being of the same essence with the Father; and Mediator, having already undertaken His Mediatorial office, though not then clothed in our flesh so as to become our brother; for the Church could not exist nor be united to God without a Head" (Comm on Zech 1:18-21). "The angel who appeared at first to Moses, and was always present with the people during their journeying, is frequently called Jehovah. Let is then regard it as a settled point that the angel was Son of God, and was even then the Guide of the Church of which He was the Head" (Comm on 1 Cor 10:9).

Calvin’s Doctrine of the Word and Sacrament (Edinburgh, Scottish Academic Press, 1995) first edition 1953, pp8-10

 

I bang the same drum (endlessly) here.  For more quotes in support from the big guns go here.  Or read Bible Overview, especially appendix 2.

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Hi all,

I'm on holiday at the moment which is why no radio contact.  Just thought I'd let you know that at the local church I visited here in Wales there was this enigmatic entry in the notice sheet:

Intercessor:

There will be no Intercessor this week.

So if things have been going a bit pear-shaped this week you'll know why.  Jesus is taking a much earned post-Easter break.  No intercession till next week I suppose. 

I'm being mischievous you know...

 

1

What would happen if God really laid hold of you?  How do you respond to that prospect?

Do you fear the idea - worried about how He will treat you up close and personal? 

Do you long for it - maybe then you'd break free from the ruts you've been stuck in?

Well Christmas means that God has already gotten His hands on you!

"Surely it is not angels who He lays hold of but it is the seed of Abraham He lays hold of." (Heb 2:16)

At Christmas, Jesus Christ lays hold of His people - the seed of Abraham.  In fact, as the Seed of Abraham, He comprehends in Himself the totality of His people, like a Vine comprehends its branches.  Jesus assumes our humanity and in doing so draws us into Himself.  This is a comprehensive 'laying hold of'!

Jesus does not come to offer advice.  He does not come to direct us in righteous paths.  He does not make possible our living for God.  Instead, as the Seed of Abraham, He lays hold of His people and wrenches them from the clutches of sin, the world and the devil.  He sums up and puts away their sin on the cross and rises as the Vindicated Servant.  Now He is enthroned at the Father's right hand - taking with Him the humanity He assumed. 

Christ has placed His hands on us in the most radical and thorough-going way.  He has commandeered the totality of our existence.  We may wish that He had a more 'hands-off' approach.  We may want to cast ourselves as free agents who can consider whether or not to offer Jesus our allegiance.  But when this Word comes to us we realize that we are already claimed, already grabbed, already Man-handled by Jesus.  He has gotten His hands on us and He has worked an incredible salvation in us. 

Now we find ourselves caught up in His life, His death, His resurrection and His ascension.  Our life is hidden with Christ in God (Col 3:3).  God has gotten hold of our life and done in us what we could never do ourselves - what we could never dream of doing!  And His purposes in doing this are entirely for our blessing (just read about His purposes in the context: Heb 2:14-18).  We have nothing to fear from this 'Man-handling' and everything to be thankful for.

As you look into the manger this Christmas, look with irrepressible hope.  There, in the face of Christ, you see not only the Father's self-giving love.  There also you see yourself.  There in the manger is your humanity laid hold of by Immanuel.  God has gotten hold of you, permanently, irreversibly.  Christmas guarantees it.

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This is a short introduction I gave to our church prayer meeting held on Wednesday night...

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Job 16:19-20

19 Even now my Witness is in heaven; my Advocate is on high. 20 My Intercessor is my Friend as my eyes pour out tears to God;

I have to tell you that you were all late for the prayer meeting.  I want you to seriously consider the fact that you all came late to the prayer meeting.  And last month, you were late to the prayer meeting.  And the month before that.  In fact, you are always late to prayer.

Because the real prayer meeting, the heavenly prayer meeting, has begun before we ever join in.

Job here speaks of his heavenly Intercessor.  Job has a friend in high places.  And this friend prays for him ‘Even now'.

Jesus Christ is described many times as our Intercessor.  Because intercession (prayer) is one of the key things Jesus does for us as our High Priest

The High Priest of the Old Testament tabernacle system would, once a year, take the blood of the atonement sacrifices and take them through the curtain and into the Most Holy Place - the dwelling place of God Himself.  There He would sprinkle the blood before the LORD and make atonement for the sins of the people.  Now that's wonderful enough, but one of the things the High Priest was wearing was a breastplate in which were 12 stones.  Engraved on the 12 stones were the names of the sons of Israel.  Exodus 28 says this:

29 "Whenever Aaron enters the Holy Place, he will bear the names of the sons of Israel over his heart (on the breastpiece of decision) as a continuing memorial before the LORD.

So this is the picture: The High Priest makes atonement for His people and in doing so He carries His people on His heart before the LORD.  The people are remembered before the LORD because the High Priest carries them on His heart.

Now the Old Testament tabernacle system was only a multi-media presentation.  It pointed forward to the time when Jesus Christ would enter into heaven itself to make atonement and intercede for His people.  In the Old Testament, the High Priest got into the Most Holy Place and got out again quickly, lest he die in the presence of this Holy God.  But Hebrews 7 contrasts that with Jesus' priesthood.  It says:

"because Jesus lives for ever, he has a permanent priesthood. 25 Therefore he is able to save completely those who come to God through him, because he always lives to intercede for them."

Jesus always bears us on His heart before the Father.  He always remains before the LORD.  He is our Intercessor - always praying for His people.

We are always late to prayer.  Because Jesus is always ahead of us.  Our prayer is the Amen to His ceaseless intercession!

Now let's just look at our passage and learn a little something about out Heavenly Intercessor.  He's given four names here:

First: He is the Witness.  It's legal language, and here we have what you might call a Star Witness.  While Satan may be called the Accuser in Scripture, Job knows a Witness for the defence.  And He's a Witness with the very best reputation.  Here is a Witness who will be listened to on High, because He belongs on High.  The case for the defence can rest because this Star Witness has given unimpeachable testimony.

Second: He is the Advocate.  We're still in legal territory here.  John also calls Jesus ‘the Advocate' in 1 John 2:1.  He is not only the Star Witness, He's also the Star Barrister.  That's so important in court.  Because if you're on trial, how do you look to the Judge?  You look as good as your lawyer.  If your lawyer is good, you look good.  The Christian looks very good in the court of heaven.  Their Witness and their Advocate is flawless.

Third: He is the Intercessor.  Christ doesn't just witness or advocate, He prays. He petitions, He intercedes.  Jesus said to Peter, "I have prayed for you that your faith will not fail."  (Luke 22:32)  And the LORD Jesus prays similarly for you.  And He prays, as Job says (v19) ‘even now'.

Fourth:  He is my friend.  All of this would be nothing if not for the fact that Christ is our friend.  We don't simply have a Lord in High Places, we have a friend in High Places.  There is One who loves you more than you love yourself.  He is the One interceding for you ‘even now.'

Finally.  You might think that all this would make you not want to pray.  Perhaps you think: ‘Why should I bother praying if Jesus is doing the job?'  This thought doesn't occur to Job.  He makes the opposite conclusion - because He has such a Witness, Advocate, Intercessor and Friend on High therefore his eyes pour out tears before God.

When we understand that our High Priest has given us such access to the throne of grace then we will pour out our hearts to God.  Before Christ made friends with us, prayer could only ever be a wish list or a religious rite - and who knows whether our words just bounce off the ceiling.  But now, carried on Christ's heart, assured of a hearing, now we can pray.  Now we can call the Almighty God ‘Abba, Father'.  Now we are invited into the ultimate prayer gathering.  We may have turned up late, but we are very welcome.  And all our prayers become the Amen, to Christ's heavenly intercession.

Heavenly Father, we approach You because Your Son, our Brother has become our Priest.  We praise and thank You because He ever lives to intercede for us.  Send the Spirit of Your Son now into our hearts, that same Spirit of Christ, who calls out ‘Abba, Father.'  Draw us into your life of prayer.  Help us this evening to know the privilege and joy of joining in with Christ's intercession.  Answer our prayers not because of our own righteousness but only because Christ our Witness on High intercedes for us.  It's in His Name we pray,  Amen.

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For audio sermons of mine and some others I highly recommend go here

.

This is a short introduction I gave to our church prayer meeting held on Wednesday night...

.

Job 16:19-20

19 Even now my Witness is in heaven; my Advocate is on high. 20 My Intercessor is my Friend as my eyes pour out tears to God;

I have to tell you that you were all late for the prayer meeting.  I want you to seriously consider the fact that you all came late to the prayer meeting.  And last month, you were late to the prayer meeting.  And the month before that.  In fact, you are always late to prayer.

Because the real prayer meeting, the heavenly prayer meeting, has begun before we ever join in.

Job here speaks of his heavenly Intercessor.  Job has a friend in high places.  And this friend prays for him ‘Even now'.

Jesus Christ is described many times as our Intercessor.  Because intercession (prayer) is one of the key things Jesus does for us as our High Priest

The High Priest of the Old Testament tabernacle system would, once a year, take the blood of the atonement sacrifices and take them through the curtain and into the Most Holy Place - the dwelling place of God Himself.  There He would sprinkle the blood before the LORD and make atonement for the sins of the people.  Now that's wonderful enough, but one of the things the High Priest was wearing was a breastplate in which were 12 stones.  Engraved on the 12 stones were the names of the sons of Israel.  Exodus 28 says this:

29 "Whenever Aaron enters the Holy Place, he will bear the names of the sons of Israel over his heart (on the breastpiece of decision) as a continuing memorial before the LORD.

So this is the picture: The High Priest makes atonement for His people and in doing so He carries His people on His heart before the LORD.  The people are remembered before the LORD because the High Priest carries them on His heart.

Now the Old Testament tabernacle system was only a multi-media presentation.  It pointed forward to the time when Jesus Christ would enter into heaven itself to make atonement and intercede for His people.  In the Old Testament, the High Priest got into the Most Holy Place and got out again quickly, lest he die in the presence of this Holy God.  But Hebrews 7 contrasts that with Jesus' priesthood.  It says:

"because Jesus lives for ever, he has a permanent priesthood. 25 Therefore he is able to save completely those who come to God through him, because he always lives to intercede for them."

Jesus always bears us on His heart before the Father.  He always remains before the LORD.  He is our Intercessor - always praying for His people.

We are always late to prayer.  Because Jesus is always ahead of us.  Our prayer is the Amen to His ceaseless intercession!

Now let's just look at our passage and learn a little something about out Heavenly Intercessor.  He's given four names here:

First: He is the Witness.  It's legal language, and here we have what you might call a Star Witness.  While Satan may be called the Accuser in Scripture, Job knows a Witness for the defence.  And He's a Witness with the very best reputation.  Here is a Witness who will be listened to on High, because He belongs on High.  The case for the defence can rest because this Star Witness has given unimpeachable testimony.

Second: He is the Advocate.  We're still in legal territory here.  John also calls Jesus ‘the Advocate' in 1 John 2:1.  He is not only the Star Witness, He's also the Star Barrister.  That's so important in court.  Because if you're on trial, how do you look to the Judge?  You look as good as your lawyer.  If your lawyer is good, you look good.  The Christian looks very good in the court of heaven.  Their Witness and their Advocate is flawless.

Third: He is the Intercessor.  Christ doesn't just witness or advocate, He prays. He petitions, He intercedes.  Jesus said to Peter, "I have prayed for you that your faith will not fail."  (Luke 22:32)  And the LORD Jesus prays similarly for you.  And He prays, as Job says (v19) ‘even now'.

Fourth:  He is my friend.  All of this would be nothing if not for the fact that Christ is our friend.  We don't simply have a Lord in High Places, we have a friend in High Places.  There is One who loves you more than you love yourself.  He is the One interceding for you ‘even now.'

Finally.  You might think that all this would make you not want to pray.  Perhaps you think: ‘Why should I bother praying if Jesus is doing the job?'  This thought doesn't occur to Job.  He makes the opposite conclusion - because He has such a Witness, Advocate, Intercessor and Friend on High therefore his eyes pour out tears before God.

When we understand that our High Priest has given us such access to the throne of grace then we will pour out our hearts to God.  Before Christ made friends with us, prayer could only ever be a wish list or a religious rite - and who knows whether our words just bounce off the ceiling.  But now, carried on Christ's heart, assured of a hearing, now we can pray.  Now we can call the Almighty God ‘Abba, Father'.  Now we are invited into the ultimate prayer gathering.  We may have turned up late, but we are very welcome.  And all our prayers become the Amen, to Christ's heavenly intercession.

Heavenly Father, we approach You because Your Son, our Brother has become our Priest.  We praise and thank You because He ever lives to intercede for us.  Send the Spirit of Your Son now into our hearts, that same Spirit of Christ, who calls out ‘Abba, Father.'  Draw us into your life of prayer.  Help us this evening to know the privilege and joy of joining in with Christ's intercession.  Answer our prayers not because of our own righteousness but only because Christ our Witness on High intercedes for us.  It's in His Name we pray,  Amen.

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For audio sermons of mine and some others I highly recommend go here

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