What the Bible says about
(From Forerunner Commentary)
It was surprising to discover two new things in this passage. The first is that while Christians usually choose Psalm 23 as their favorite psalm, Jews often choose Psalm 15. The second is that the Hebrew of the phrase "who shall dwell" does not suggest "living in," but rather "visiting with"—that is, being acceptable to come into God's presence. In other words, the psalm has at least an equally strong present tense application as it does a future one.
It is essential, therefore, for us to consider whether God allows us to visit Him, and thus whether He hears our prayers. The person who has these qualifications most certainly will be heard. In him is no false way at all, no pretense, no deceit, no gossip, no guile, and no hypocrisy. He has no hollow friendships, nor does He give vain compliments. His heart, hand, and tongue are in unison in believing and doing truth. This is a model for all of us to strive to reach.
Proverbs 25:19 instructs us, "Confidence in an unfaithful man in time of trouble is like a bad tooth and a foot out of joint." Faithfulness always indicates a person who deals truthfully; he can be trusted. Yet, dealing with unfaithful people is usually painful because one never knows whether they will come through. Thus, our evaluation of ourselves comes down to this question: How can God trust us if we are not striving to be honest now?
II Corinthians 4:1-2 sets a standard:
Therefore, since we have this ministry, as we have received mercy, we do not lose heart. But we have renounced the hidden things of shame, not walking in craftiness nor handling the word of God deceitfully, but by manifestation of the truth commending ourselves to every man's conscience in the sight of God.
Paul's proclamation fits right into the description of the acceptable person in Psalm 15. Our responsibility is to manifest truth. We must make honest and diligent use of God's gracious gifts without craftiness. Is our way Christ's way and therefore acceptable to God? Can we say that we have nothing to do with hidden and shameful methods?
Paul is not saying that we act with unscrupulous cleverness, but that we do not adulterate truth in any form at all. By making truth clear, whether in word or deed, we commend ourselves both to human conscience in the sight of God and please Him at the same time. We should be childlike and open, leaving as little room as possible for people to misinterpret our motives, misunderstand our actions, or twist our words out of their real meaning.
Does it make any difference what people think of us? Some take the approach that "I'm going to do what I want to do, and what others think doesn't matter." However, it matters very much to God. If it did not, He would not show such concern in His Word regarding being a good witness for Him. Nor would He warn us about protecting our reputation—or His—because much of our effectiveness in witnessing depends on our being trustworthy.
Keeping the ninth commandment begins with not letting our deceitful heart trick us into doing anything less than what is honest and true in God's sight, regardless of what we think men might discern from what we say or do. To do this, we may have to override strong internal drives to make ourselves look good, but doing what is right is something that must be done to remain pure and glorify God.
John W. Ritenbaugh
The Ninth Commandment
In God's presence—in an intimate relationship with Him—is the source of every good, righteous, and positive attitude and act. Because the justifying work of Jesus Christ gives us access to God, prayer brings us near so He can give these things, and we can receive them.
This can be illustrated in a simple way. We have probably been in the close presence of a person of positive, uplifting attitudes, who radiates enthusiasm, zeal, confidence, gentle humor, and determination. On the other hand, it is likely we have also been in the presence of someone who wears a sour countenance, seethes with anger, trembles in fear, wallows in lethargy, or whines about his "victimization" at the hands of unseen people or forces. What happens to our attitude in either situation? Unless we resist, we tend to respond to the strength of the other's attitudes. A literal, spiritual transference of attitude takes place.
What happens if we are some distance from either of these persons, or even if near, we are completely disinterested? It does not affect us in the least. Why? Because we are neither near enough nor interested enough to be affected.
It is the spirit of these people radiating out from them that influences and perhaps even changes our spirit. This also gives insight into why we carnally reflect Satan's spirit: It permeates our environment. Similarly, prayer to God through Jesus Christ brings us into the very presence of the most positive, righteous, and unchanging attitudes that exist in the entire universe!
God greatly desires us to have the qualities of His Spirit, and being in His presence is one way He accomplishes this. This is why people can leave God's presence in prayer and feel peace, joy, or confidence—or humble and chastened because God has led them to remorse and repentance.
John W. Ritenbaugh
The Beatitudes, Part Three: Mourning
When a person is in ordinary trouble and needs help, does he not seek out someone who has more of whatever it takes to help him overcome his situation? The need may be as simple as an additional hand or a bit more physical strength, or it could be something more complex like wisdom, a specialized skill, practical expertise, or community influence. The helper's power may simply be that he or she has more experience in the area of need. The need may be legal, so contacting a lawyer is a wise move. If the need is medical, seeing a doctor makes sense. One would consult an auto mechanic if the car needs to be repaired, etc. We frequently seek the powers of others.
Psalm 62 instructs us that the supreme power in all creation is God. In verse 1, David begins to express this fact by saying that from God comes salvation, that He is our Deliverer from trouble, implying that it should be to Him that we run. In verse 2, God is our rock, meaning our foundation and source of stability, who keeps us grounded and free from unreasonable anxieties. He is also our defense; He can deflect attacks in ways humans cannot provide.
Verses 3-4 are said to David's attackers, who were attempting to undermine his reputation before the public while also seeking a way to assassinate him. He warns them that their lies will prove to be their undoing.
In verses 5-7, David turns his attention back to himself, trying to encourage himself by resolving to wait patiently upon God as his only trustworthy hope. In verse 7, he reminds us that God is our glory: We take pride in Him for all that He is. He can give us favor even before those who may be against us. He is our refuge, an unqualified place of safety in any circumstance. In verse 8, he exhorts others - friends, companions, and supporters - urging them to pray because God is a solid place of refuge in our times of trouble.
Five times in this brief, twelve-verse psalm, he exhorts himself or instructs us that God is the only sure place of refuge and of help in times of need. How can God be and do all these things? David names Him as our Rock, Salvation, Defender, Refuge, and Glory. He can hold all these titles because, as David says simply in verse 11, "Power [or strength] belongs to God."
This confronts us with a major reason why God is the only One we can rely on fully in our time of need. Power is not only something God possesses, but when we come to understand it, all power belongs to Him. All power flows from Him, and He gives it to whomever He will. God not only has power as a possession, but He can use it in any situation or distribute it as He sees fit! Who can fight God or gainsay His choice of whom He chooses to give it to? Who has sufficient power to nullify God's doing of anything He desires to accomplish?
Notice that in Psalm 62:11 the word "belongs" is in italics, meaning it was added by the translator. It is not a wrong addition but appropriate. It is as though He owns it; it is His to use and/or distribute as He alone sees fit. It begins to open an awesome thought to consideration: Nobody has power unless God provides it for his use.
Understanding this truth makes David's exhortation in verses 9 and 10 more understandable. Compared to God, men are so puny as to be nothing. They may appear strong on the surface, but with our powerful, trustworthy Resource, we do not have to retaliate stupidly or be overwrought by anxiety.
This powerful Being is on our side by His choice! We have not earned it.
John W. Ritenbaugh
Power Belongs to God (Part One)
When David says in Psalm 62:11, "God has spoken once, twice . . .," He is using a Hebrew idiom that means, "I have heard this repeatedly." Practically, it means God's will always decides the outcome of whatever is in dispute, whatever hangs in the balance. Who can resist Him?
We need to look more closely at the word "power," or as some translations read, "strength." Power is defined in The Reader's Digest Oxford Complete Word Finder as "having the ability to act, influence" and "a particular faculty of body or mind, capability." This usage opens another exciting avenue, taking the meaning of power from mere brute, overwhelming force into such qualities as the powers of love, intellect, wisdom, understanding, vision, logic, energy, eloquence, wealth, authority, privilege, prerogative, control, mastery, persuasion, forgiveness, and so on into every area of activity.
Is there any kind of need in which God is not superior to any alternate source we could seek out to provide help? In Psalm 62, David suggests that, when we need help in time of trouble, why not just go right to the top? Is not our Father willing to provide these things for us?
Then in verse 12, David adds yet another quality of our powerful God that we need to consider. God not only renders to every one according to his deeds, implying punishment, but He is also merciful - in fact, the very pinnacle of love! Even His sometimes-painful correction is an act of love.
The entire psalm briefly and generally explains why we should trust God: To those who believe, no one is more qualified and trustworthy. Broadly, David is saying that God's power and willingness to act according to His purpose is the very foundation of a believer's practical application of his faith in Him.
There is far more to God being the Source of the powers that we need to serve Him and become prepared for His Kingdom. He has made available many powers, ones that we may take for granted yet have nevertheless been provided for our benefit.
Recall that the Israelites sang in Exodus 15:2, "The Lord is my strength." In a poetic way, they meant that we do not have strength, but God does, and He uses it for our benefit. God has not called the wise of this world (I Corinthians 1:26), but on the other hand, Jesus Christ lives in us, and He is the power of God and the wisdom of God (I Corinthians 1:24). He is our High Priest, who has the responsibility before God to lead us prepared into the Kingdom.
The concept of strength or power has many facets that we have not yet explored. Deuteronomy 8:11, 14, 16-18 says:
Beware that you do not forget the LORD your God by not keeping His commandments, His judgments, and His statutes which I command you today . . . when your heart is lifted up, and you forget the LORD your God who brought you out of the land of Egypt, from the house of bondage; . . . who fed you in the wilderness with manna, which your fathers did not know, that He might humble you and that He might test you, to do you good in the end - then you say in your heart, "My power and the might of my hand have gained me this wealth." And you shall remember the LORD your God, for it is He who gives you power to get wealth, that He may establish His covenant which He swore to your fathers, as it is this day.
That wealth is power is an easily recognized concept. "Wealth" is used in this context to represent all evidences of prosperity and well-being. We tend to think of wealth in terms of material things like the size and location of our home, the cost of our automobile, or the fashionableness of our clothing. However, there is more to prosperity than material goods.
The concept developed in this passage also includes qualities like good health, sound-mindedness, and the level and breadth of our education - elements common to prosperous cultures. It includes things such as understanding and having the opportunity to perceive what is happening in this world from a godly point of view. All of these and many more are powers available to us. In other words, "wealth" is not limited to material things. It includes our health, the disposition in which we live our lives, the liberties we enjoy, and the opportunities available to have those things whether or not we have actually taken advantage of them.
For example, Solomon said, "Of making many books there is no end" (Ecclesiastes 12:12). The tremendous volume of information available in books is beyond our comprehension. Of course, not all the power contained in this information is good, but God has made it available.
In addition, God can prosper us by giving us favor in the eyes of others. He opens doors to bring us goodwill because power belongs to Him, and He uses it as it pleases Him. No potential help is beyond His power!
In many cases, these things come to us as byproducts of His fulfillment of promises He made to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Are we using them, and if not, why not? God's fulfilling of His promises provides us with potentially valuable experiences, which are lavished on us simply because we live in an Israelitish nation. Each nation of modern Israel has its own peculiar wealth of beauty. Most of us have noticed and compared the barrenness of Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Iraq on television with the fruitfulness of our nations. This beauty, along with its productivity and liberties, are included in the concept of "wealth."
He provides these things and uses them to benefit us at all times because it pleases Him to do so. Powers are not always given because we please Him. Deuteronomy 8 is a warning against pride. We must humble ourselves, never forgetting that we are created and that we live by the gifts He provides. Remember, Jesus says, "Without Me you can do nothing" (John 15:5). This awesome statement is made by the One described by Paul as "upholding all things by the word of His power" (Hebrews 1:3). Jesus means, in reference to God's purpose, that we could do nothing spiritually without what He adds to our labors. Yet, these verses also tell us where to go to receive the help that we perceive we need.
John W. Ritenbaugh
Power Belongs to God (Part One)
This prophecy refers to the Millennium and beyond, when Satan will be bound and thus rendered ineffective in spreading his evil attitudes. At that time, God will repair the damage—first done in the Garden of Eden and in every human heart since—by replacing man's human nature with His Spirit. He will work to change man's heart from a hard, unyielding one to a soft, humble one that will be eager to hear and obey God.
Notice that Ezekiel prophesies that God's Spirit will cause people to walk in His statutes and to keep His judgments. God's Spirit provides both motivation and strength to do what is good and right. We do God's work—believing, obeying, overcoming, growing, producing fruit—not by our power and abilities but by His Spirit (Zechariah 4:6). It is readily, freely, abundantly available to those who have believed, been baptized, and received the earnest of the Holy Spirit through the laying on of hands.
But that is not the end of the matter. We must continue to request God's presence in us, our daily Bread of Life, by His Spirit. We must ask, seek, and knock, constantly pursuing God, His Kingdom, and His righteousness (Matthew 6:33). If we do this, He promises to add "all these things," our daily needs.
Jesus tells His disciples just before His arrest, "I am the vine, you are the branches: He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing" (John 15:5). If we request His presence in us each day and obey Him in faith, we will, by His power, produce astonishing spiritual growth.
Ask and It Will Be Given
The tension between God's keeping a secret and sharing it with others mirrors another basic dichotomy, His presence and His absence. God's presence (or His messengers') is revelatory, while His absence perpetuates the “mystery of godliness,” which the apostle Paul speaks about in I Timothy 3:16.
This same apostle pointedly tells us one of the ways God reveals Himself. Anglican clergyman J.B. Phillips captures the spirit of Paul's comments nicely:
Now the holy anger of God is disclosed from Heaven against the godlessness and evil of those men who render truth dumb and impotent by their wickedness. It is not that they do not know the truth about God; indeed he has made it quite plain to them. For since the beginning of the world the invisible attributes of God, e.g. his eternal power and deity, have been plainly discernible through things which he has made and which are commonly seen and known, thus leaving these men without a rag of excuse. They knew all the time that there is a God, yet they refused to acknowledge him as such, or to thank him for what he is or does. Thus they became fatuous in their argumentations, and plunged their silly minds still further into the dark. (Romans 1:19-21, The New Testament in Modern English)
One of the design-characteristics of God's creation is its ability to reveal the power and divinity of its Creator. It does that so clearly, Paul emphasizes, that mankind has no excuse whatsoever to deny His existence. Whether these wicked individuals instruct about astronomy in an Ivy League university's lecture hall or write a book about theology, their arguments, Paul says, are fatuous—mindless and silly.
Charles Whitaker (1944-2021)
Clouds (Part One): A Really Special Cloud
Sometimes we might be misled not to give God His due by failing to comprehend what this verse is saying. "Upholding" just does not give the impact of the Greek, giving us the impression of God as a sort of Atlas figure or as a watchmaker who wound His creation up and then walked away. Wuest's Amplified New Testament translates this word as "sustaining," indicating an ongoing operation. Sustaining not only gives the impression of support but also of continuous maintenance and providence. The Amplified Bible also catches the essence by adding "maintaining, guiding and propelling."
What this statement illustrates is the continuous, minute-by-minute, year-by-year, century-by-century, eon-upon-eon generation of the enormous, awesome, prodigious amounts of power necessary to keep His creation operating. The very stability of the creation speaks of His continuing involvement. He did not just create and walk away with everything operating according to impersonal law.
Genesis 1:3 sets the pattern for the revelation of His governance: "Then God said, 'Let there be light;' and there was light.'" His sovereignty over the inanimate creation is stated very simply: He speaks and light appears. In verse 9, He speaks, and the waters are gathered into one place, revealing dry land. Since water seeks its own level, this passage indicates that God determined where He wanted the water to go, thus it shows Him shaping and managing His creation.
God says in Genesis 6:17, "And behold, I Myself am bringing the flood waters on the earth, to destroy from under heaven all flesh in which is the breath of life; and everything that is on the earth shall die." The Flood was not a natural occurrence. In Genesis 11:5-8, it was God who confused the languages and scattered the families of men over all the earth, and the early chapters of Exodus clearly reveal God's involvement in the plagues on Egypt. In the latter example, God even actively supervises who receives the plague and how they are affected (Exodus 9:22-26).
Exodus 10:21-23 confirms God's active involvement in the affairs of men and His use of the inanimate aspects of His creation to bring about His will:
Then the LORD said to Moses, "Stretch out your hand toward heaven, that there may be darkness over the land of Egypt, darkness which may even be felt." So Moses stretched out his hand toward heaven, and there was thick darkness in all the land of Egypt three days. They did not see one another; nor did anyone rise from his place for three days. But all the children of Israel had light in their dwellings.
Thus the Bible clearly shows that God is now exercising His sovereignty over His creation and will continue to do so beyond the return of Jesus Christ, even in the area of inanimate things like the weather and ground. Blessing or cursing is an act of His sovereignty conditioned to our response to Him. He is not merely passively paying attention and responding as He sees fit, but even more so initiating actions to bring His people to His desired end.
John W. Ritenbaugh
The Sovereignty of God: Part Four
Praying to the Father, through Jesus Christ, brings us into the presence of the most holy, positive, righteous, peaceful, serving, giving, humble, merciful, and unchanging attitudes and character that exist in the entire universe! The notes at Psalm 16:11 demonstrate a simplified effect of this in how the attitudes of people we spend time with affect us. Whether that person's attitude is positive or negative, unless we resist or our attitude is strong, our attitude tends to echo the strength of the other's attitudes. If the other is personally close to us—especially if we deem the relationship important to us—the effect of the transfer of attitudes intensifies. Similarly, physical nearness also intensifies the effect.
This is why men reflect Satan's spirit. Satan "broadcasts" it over our entire environment here on earth, thus, we are always "near" it. In fact, God has willed that at this time it will have no strong competition among the unconverted. Even we cannot entirely escape its influence; even when in God's presence, we can bring that spirit with us.
Notice that Hebrews 10:22 says, "[L]et us draw near. . . ." Nearness enhances the transfer of the qualities of God's Spirit, and He greatly desires we have these qualities because they will make us like Him. Being in His presence is a primary way this is accomplished. This is why a person can leave God's presence in prayer at peace, full of joy, or filled with confidence—or on the other hand, chastened, having been led to remorse and repentance. Drawing near to God has little to do with distance and everything to do with deepening our relationship with Him. As this occurs, prayer begins to change things—us.
John W. Ritenbaugh
The Sovereignty of God: Part Nine
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