Thursday, March 15, 2007

Under His Wings...

Psalm 91

He will cover you with his feathers,
and under his wings you will find refuge;
his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart.
You will not fear the terror of night,
nor the arrow that flies by day,
nor the pestilence that stalks in the darkness,
nor the plague that destroys at midday. (4-6)

This Psalm is often seen as a messianic Psalm, for two reasons. One is because it seems to point to someone other than your average Israelite (including David), and the other because it includes a passage that Satan used to tempt Jesus. Satan had taken Jesus to the top of the temple, and said to him, "If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down. For it is written: " ‘He will command his angels concerning you, and they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.’"

Of course, Jesus replied back with better from Deuteronomy 6:16. It's known today that a sign the Israelites were expecting of the messiah was that he would be able to jump off the top of the temple and angels would come to rescue him. They probably took this also from Psalm 91, but Jesus refused to do this, even though it would have shown the whole world he was truly the messiah. In this case, he proves himself to be God's own son by obeying his Father, saying, "it is written; you shall not put the LORD, your God, to the test".

But what else might Jesus have been up to? Many of today's teachers say that Jesus was proving himself in wilderness, and indeed it's obvious that he was. But what's even more remarkable is that in that same Psalm that Satan used to tempt Jesus, it says, "For he will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways". (Ps 91:11) This line, I think, is important because later on, on Maundy thursday night, Jesus said as the temple guards were preparing to arrest him...

"Put your sword back in its place," Jesus said to him (one of his companions), "for all who draw the sword will die by the sword. Do you think I cannot call on my Father, and he will at once put at my disposal more than twelve legions of angels? But how then would the Scriptures be fulfilled that say it must happen in this way?" (Mt 26:52-54)

Here, we have Jesus saying he could call out for help, but refuses so that the scripture would be fulfilled. He could call, but he didn't. Isn't it remarkable that only a short while before a ministering angel was there in the garden with him? (Luke 22:43) Jesus, while being tempted by Satan, turned down the help of angels, even if it were to show all the world he is the Messiah. Here, Jesus turned down the help of angels... to show the world he truly is the messiah!

Jesus said, many times, that he came to fulfill the law and the prophets. (Mat 3:15, 4:14, 5:17, 8:17, 12:17, 21:4, Jn 12:38, 13:18, 15:25). He also said, he came to be a ransom for many. (Mat 20:28, 1Ti 2:5-6, Heb 9:15). His entire life, from start to finish, was about fulfilling the righteous demands of God, even to the cross itself and death on Golgotha for all. Each time he turns down the gifts that God would give his only son, whether it's food in the wilderness, or angels to rescue him, or riches or the world, or life itself... he turns it all down, suffering instead in our place, taking our sins, our trials, our torments, our hunger... Just as the prophet said, "Surely he took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows" (Is 53:4) And because of this, we can now have the promises of God in the Psalm:

Just as it says, "For he will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways". Guard our hearts and minds in the true faith unto life everlasting. This, for our lenten season, we see your glory and sacrifice, and recieve the promises ever in your name, Amen.


David said...

I'm not sure about the "turned down God's gifts" part of your post. Is bread to eat or worldly riches really a gift if it is offered by satan in a moment of human weakness?

I know what you are saying with this post and I agree, but there is a lot to consider here.

Great post, really makes one think. By the way, I hope you don't mind but I added a link to your blog on my site so that others might enjoy reading it as well.

Matthew said...

No, I don't mind at all. I think I added your link, I'll check after I reply this comment. I'm flattered that you would think my meager musings worth reading let alone believe someone else might also.

When I refer to God's gifts, I'm refering to Luther's explanation of the fourth petition in the Lord's prayer.

"Give us today our daily bread."

What does this mean?

To be sure, God provides daily bread, even to the wicked, without our prayer, but we pray in this petition that God may make us aware of his gifts and enable us to receive our daily bread with thanksgiving.

What is meant by daily bread?

Everything required to satisfy our bodily needs, such as food and clothing, house and home, fields and flocks, money and property; a pious spouse and good children, trustworthy servants, godly and faithful rulers, good government; seasonable weather, peace and health, order and honor; true friends, faithful neighbors, and the like.

I would say to the question of whether something is a gift if it were offered by Satan as a temptation, the answer would have to be yes. Each thing that God gives us is easily used by Satan to tempt us. Just as riches do not automatically condemn the rich young ruler, but rather the idolotry of riches is what condemns him.

This same issue came up in the ealier days of the church concerning the Lords supper being offered by fallen priests. The questions was, is the supper still valid even when given by a priest who later admits to being apostate or some other condition, and the churches response was, yes it is. Even if the elements are given to you from Satan's steaming claw, the supper is still valid because it's dependent on God and not Satan.

And also, since Jesus was fasting to begin with, he was most definately denying himself of the gifts that God gives every living creature, as the Psalmist says, "The eyes of all look to you, and you give them their food at the proper time. You open your hand and satisfy the desires of every living thing." Jesus had every right to eat bread, and indeed a quick and easy miracle would have went a long way to making his life easier in his ministry as well. But rather, he turned to the scriptures and said, "man does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God".

Thanks again.

the big test

Since someone, somewhere, has seen fit to deprive the world of Issues etc and take a huge bite out of confessional Lutheranism at the same time, I will not take up the mantle of working to see that those who did it answer for their actions.
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