Sunday, September 17, 2017

Hallelujah from the Psalms.


Psalm 22 is the prophetic insight into the crucifixion. “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” gives way to “praise” in verse 22. “Hallelujah” shattered the gloom of grief and the darkness of despair. “Hallelujah” flowed from the lips of Jesus as He praised His Father for the victory over torture and death. “Hallelujah” is the believers’ anthem of praise for the resurrection of Christ Jesus. 
There Jesus is depicted sharing the reality of His victory with His people. Hallelujah comes from ‘halal’ Jewish word for praise and ‘Jah’ means God. This word resonates throughout Scripture, and particularly in the Psalms. In this collection of 150, the psalm 22 about the crucifixion and resurrection leads the ‘Halal’ chorus. How fitting it is that they would point to the words which would flow from the lips of Jesus.
In the next verse we are invited to agree with what Jesus celebrated. ‘You who fear the Lord, praise Him; all you of the seed of Jacob, glorify Him, and fear Him, all you of the seed of Israel.’ Then, in verse 26 it says that those who seek the Lord shall praise Him and live forever. 
Christians have countless reasons for echoing the many ‘Hallelujahs’ found in the psalms. Psalm 56:4a ‘In God, I will praise His word in God I have put my trust…’. Do we honestly express a “Hallelujah” for the 66 books of the Scriptures? Within this library of God and from Him to us, we can understand Creation and Humanity and the chaos caused by Sin and Satan. More than that, we read of the Lord of Heaven coming to redeem repentant sinners, overthrow sin and death at the cross, offer a new start in life and journey with us to His glory. Psalm 119 is the psalm of praise for God’s Word and its influence within a life.
Those who have heard Handel’s majestic ‘Hallelujah Chorus’ from ‘The Messiah’ know the thrill it gives to the heart and mind. Handel tapped into the very essence of the Psalmist’s heart and expressed it with grace and power. It gives expression to how those with faith in and experience with Christ Jesus feel about the Lord and Saviour.  To quote the Psalmist again ‘I will praise the name of God with song, and magnify Him with thanksgiving’ (Ps 69:30). Those who know the transforming grace given by Jesus, His forgiveness, His peace and His promises, cannot help but sing His praises. We may be tone deaf, flat or melodic and exuberant but what the Lord hears is our heart. In turn I believe it makes us sound awesome in the ears of God the Father when we sing praises to God the Son.

The Psalms begins with the word ‘Blessed’ and closes with the word praise. In between are the experiences of God’s people across time. They are confronted with opposition, frustration, enemies, failure, catastrophes and demonic assaults. These are intended by the Devil to shatter God’s promise of being the ‘blessed’ person. What unfolds in the believer’s experience is the faithfulness of God in and through all those moments of pain and confusion. 
“Why are you cast down, O my soul? And why are you disquieted within me? Hope in God: for I shall yet praise Him, who is the health of my countenance, and my God.” Sure, we will wrestle with many issues throughout life but we tie ourselves to His unchanging grace and eternal Word. That is why we have hope. That is why we can sing “Hallelujah” even as tears flow, for God will not forsake us. The Psalmist even asked Him to collect his tears in a bottle and record them in Heaven’s book (Ps 56:8). I think it was so that later God would vindicate the Psalmist.  This caused the writer, David, to exclaim “In God will I praise (Hallelujah) His word” (verse 10).
The final five Psalms form a quintet of Hallelujahs. What a crescendo we enter into as we read them as a testimony of God’s faithfulness, the believer’s testimony and the declaration
of Faith. “Hallelujah” is proclaimed 20 times. I like to think that number represents 2x10. Two points to testimony and ten expresses God’s perfect order within His world. Are the closing 20 Hallelujahs the Psalmist’s overwhelming testimony and conviction to God’s perfect sovereign rule within a believer’s life? What do you think?

Hallelujah!
Copyright Ray Hawkins Sept 17 2017.

Sunday, September 10, 2017

God's library


Libraries are a fascinating place. So many words hiding behind covers, so many areas to explore. So much wisdom waiting to be found and stories to enjoy. When I visit a library I’m reminded of the quote from Ecclesiastes 12:12 ‘of making many books there is no end.’
When I look into the Book of books I notice that God has His own library. We have a list of some of the books in His keeping. We are aware of some of them from Revelation 20 where it says that on Judgement day He opens the books. One is the book of life, another the one about works and others unnamed. Would one of them be what Malachi 3:16 refers to as God’s book of remembrance? That recorded the names of those who feared the Lord met together to encourage each other. Why? For they lived in godless times.
There is also a book Daniel mentioned as being sealed up for it had God’s knowledge of History’s climax. Is it still a closed book? The answer is found in Revelation 5. The only person worthy to open it was Jesus. He alone had stood the test of righteousness on earth even when He took upon Himself the Sin of the World at the cross it couldn’t break His righteousness. Jesus smashed sin and death’s power.
How is that relevant to you, to me? It means everything. For we are told in Psalm 139 that the Lord God has a dossier on each of us. Imagine that, the good, the bad, the rotten and the sweet He has recorded about us. Even Jesus said that for our unfruitful, barren worthless words we will give account (Matthew 12:36). If that was all that the books contained we are men and women without hope. We may as well eat drink and be merry for tomorrow we die.
How fortunate we are to have in our library the Bible. For it says, in the words of Jesus “Be of good cheer”! How is that possible? Because, He has the power to blot out certain sections the Heavenly Father has written about us. Imagine that. Heaven’s library books about us can have wipe out applied. What power can erase, cover, smudge, blot out my falling short of God’s standard? What can remove those unfruitful words? Colossians 2:14, ‘Blotting out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to the cross.’
That’s an awesome declaration. That book has a nail through it. It also has blood stains covering our offenses against God. How did that come about for you, for me, personally? It isn’t automatic. It came to be because you knew you were under God’s wrath and judgement. What could be done by any of us to rectify the problem, placate God’s anger? Only one thing, the unblemished life of Christ who came to solve our problem by standing in our place of judgement. He took our sin and suffered our judgement and showed by His resurrection that He succeeded in His mission.
But, how did His achievement on your behalf, my behalf become ours personally? The importance of this is realised in a statement by Jesus. His disciples had come back from ministry to various villages. They had wonderful stories to tell about their conquest of the demonic forces. Jesus told them of an even greater reason to be thrilled. ‘Rather, rejoice because your names are written in Heaven’ (Luke 10:20). This took place when we made a deliberate choice summed up in Peter’s words to his people. ‘Repent you therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out…’ (Acts 3:19). Our names were added into a book called ‘The Lamb’s Book of Life’ (Revelation 13:8. 21:27). 
Now it is possible for us to know the smile of God over us. Now we can rejoice in and be humbled by the Psalmist’s words about our new relationship. ‘How precious also are thy thoughts unto me, O God! How great is the sum of them.’


Sunday, September 3, 2017

Dead People follow Christ.



It begins with a wrestle between wills in the spiritual equivalent of Gethsemane. Do I allow my will to die so that Christ’s will for me will prevail? The trouble is, I know when Christ prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane it lead to the cross. This is where Jesus wants to take me. Here is the implication of His invitation “Deny yourself, take up your cross and follow me!” Remember Jesus’ closing words at Calvary, “Into your hands I commend my spirit!” That is what I do when I take up my cross.

In essence, this taking up of Christ’s offer of discipleship is inseparable from Salvation. Such a spiritual commitment is expressed in the drama of baptism by immersion. Unfortunately, for some, being saved and becoming a disciple are two distinct experiences. Saved but stagnant, attending services not obeying commandments; lookers not followers; absconders not learners. Such folk are alive and active in their own will but indifferent to Christ’s call.

Disciples exhibit two phrases Paul expressed. One is: “I’ve been crucified; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me with Christ, and the life which I now live, in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for mw’ (Galatians 2:20).

Second one is: ‘I die daily’ (1 Corinthians 15:31b). Can you make a list of that to which your ‘Gethsemane’ calls you, if not daily, at least sometimes?

Those verses point to this reality: To be a disciple is to take up one’s cross and follow Christ. That then implies that only those who have been crucified, therefore dead to their own sovereignty, can be disciples. It is only such ‘dead servants’ who can be fruitful to the Father (John 15:4-8).

Christian discipleship begins with a cross and ends with a crown. Death to self-will, self-importance, to self-centredness allows Christ’s love, life and liberty to take root. The path Jesus walked in His humanity He blazed for us to follow. Fortunately, He keeps us company all the way.

Take up your cross.

The Lord’s insistent command,
“The cross is waiting your hand
Should you want to come, follow me,
You need to know the touch of Calvary.”

How can I the cross define?
Unseen, yet it rules my mind.
Jesus in Gethsemane
Portrayed the cost vividly.
There He prayed fervently
“Father, Your will be done!”  

 To carry my cross is my choice,
Faith’s obedience to His voice.
Ignore the cross, you walk alone. 2
 the Lord only chooses to own
Those who are identified
With Him, the Christ crucified.

 The cross is the Lord’s glory,
The centre of the Gospel story. 3
Christ’s life changing victory
O’er Satan, sin and death’s misery
Becomes our personal testimony
When we share His Calvary.4


1. Matthew 26:39. 2. Luke 14:27.  3. 1 Corinthians 1:18, 23-24.  4. Galatians 2:20.

©Ray Hawkins 13 August 2017.