Who does the Lord Love and Who does the Lord Oppose? #322

Happy Friday, friends! Our Bible readings today include 1-2 Chronicles, Amos 2, Psalms 146-147 and Hebrews 8. We are going to begin with 1st Chron….- Oh dear – I’ve just received a bulletin that the National Weather Service has issued a particularly dangerous situation Mispronunciation of Hebrew names Warning for today’s podcast. This is not a watch and not a drill. it is confirmed that since there will be about 5,000 names in 1st and 2nd Chronicles that there will be mispronunciations of names all across the countywide viewing area. Listeners are advised to take cover – particularly cover your ears, because it could get bad. Even though I’ve had several graduate classes in Hebrew, I know that I am not up for the task of properly pronouncing all of the names in these two chapters…so we will have them at the end, rather than the beginning, in order for some of you to have time to flee to your weather shelter, closet, or underground bunker. You have been warned!

A sobering question to think about today – our two Psalms passages are going to reveal much of the character of God – in particular, they will remind us about the kind of person that God cares for, supports and rescues, and the kind of person that God opposes, frustrates and ultimately destroys. We are going to learn today what doesn’t impress God and what sort of person God values and, as we have mentioned before, God isn’t impressed with the kinds of things that impress most humans, as we see in Psalms 147:10-11

10 He is not impressed by the strength of a horse;
he does not value the power of a warrior.
11 The Lord values those who fear him,
those who put their hope in his faithful love.

This is simple,  but profound – the mighty heroes of the world, the one’s that capture everyone’s attention – these people don’t impress God. He is no more impressed by the strength, charisma, power, wealth and might of a particular human than you are impressed by a particularly impressive ant. In our own strength and power, there is nothing we can do that can impress God…but the Lord values and rescue those who FEAR Him and put their HOPE in Him. This is a significant truth, and worthy of pondering.

Another truth to rejoice in: Even though God is vast and infinitely powerful, He uses His power on behalf of the weak and helpless, and His power against the oppressor and the wicked:

Our Lord is great, vast in power;
his understanding is infinite.
The Lord helps the oppressed
but brings the wicked to the ground.

Psalms 147:5-6

Let’s go ahead and read our Psalms passage today, paying good attention to all that we can learn about God’s character.

I am particularly touched today by Psalms 146:6-9

He remains faithful forever,
executing justice for the exploited
and giving food to the hungry.
The Lord frees prisoners.
The Lord opens the eyes of the blind.
The Lord raises up those who are oppressed.
The Lord loves the righteous.
The Lord protects resident aliens
and helps the fatherless and the widow,
but he frustrates the ways of the wicked.

This is such an insight into the character of God! He is forever faithful – He executes justice on behalf of the exploited, and takes care of the hungry and the blind and the oppressed. He protects foreigners and helps those who are orphans and widowed – those literally unable to care for themselves. He frustrates the ways of the wicked also. This whole section reminds me of Jesus’ teaching in Matthew 25:31-46, the first passage I ever preached on in ‘big church.’

31 “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne.32 All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate them one from another, just as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats.33 He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on the left.34 Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. 35 “‘For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat; I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink; I was a stranger and you took me in;36 I was naked and you clothed me; I was sick and you took care of me; I was in prison and you visited me.’ 37 “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink?38 When did we see you a stranger and take you in, or without clothes and clothe you?39 When did we see you sick, or in prison, and visit you?’ 40 “And the King will answer them, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’ 41 “Then he will also say to those on the left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels!42 For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat; I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink;43 I was a stranger and you didn’t take me in; I was naked and you didn’t clothe me, sick and in prison and you didn’t take care of me.’44 “Then they too will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry, or thirsty, or a stranger, or without clothes, or sick, or in prison, and not help you?’ 45 “Then he will answer them, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’46 “And they will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”

Matthew 25:31-46

I note here that Jesus is not a social justice warrior, and is not promoting socialism, or anything political – He is revealing the Father’s values and teaching His followers to engage in the kind of ministry that the Father would call us to – whatever we do for those who are the least in our society – we are doing as ministry directly to Jesus…one of the most profound truths in the Bible. As we just read a few days ago, “Though the Lord is exalted, he takes note of the humble; but he knows the haughty from a distance.” Psalms 138:6  Sometimes we humans are the opposite of this, right? We want to take note of the prideful, haughty and self-important, and basically know the humble people from a distance, because they aren’t popular, or impressive, or seemingly important…and yet God has opposite values, as reflected in the character of Jesus:

29 Take up my yoke and learn from me, because I am lowly and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.

Matthew 11:29

Of these Psalms, Spurgeon writes:

Which executeth judgment for the oppressed. He is a swift and impartial administrator of justice. He is never a respecter of persons. He is the friend of the down-trodden, the champion of the helpless. Which giveth food to the hungry. All food comes from God; but when we are reduced to hunger, and providence supplies our necessity, we are especially struck with the fact. Let every hungry person lay hold on this statement, and plead it before the mercy-seat, whether he suffer bodily hunger or heart hunger. The LORD looseth the prisoners. The Lord brought Israel from the house of bondage. Jesus is the Emancipator, spiritually, providentially, and nationally. As faith in Jehovah becomes common, freedom will advance in every form; especially will mental, moral, and spiritual bonds be loosed, and the slaves of error, sin, and death will be set free. Well may the loosened ones be loudest in the song!
8. The LORD openeth the eyes of the blind. Jesus did this very frequently, and hereby proved himself to be Jehovah. How often is the mental eye closed in moral night! And who can remove this dreary effect of the fall but the Almighty God? This miracle of grace he has performed in myriads of cases, and it is in each case a theme for loftiest praise. The LORD raiseth them that are bowed down. This also Jesus did literally. Jehovah consoles the bereaved, cheers the defeated, solaces the despondent, comforts the despairing. Let those who are bowed to the ground appeal to him, and he will speedily upraise them. The LORD loveth the righteous. He gives to them the love of content, communion, and reward. Loved ones, you must never pause from his praise whose infinite love has made you what you are!
9. The LORD preserveth the strangers. Many monarchs hunted aliens down, or transported them from place to place, or left them as outlaws unworthy of human rights; but Jehovah made special laws for their shelter within his domain. He relieveth the fatherless and widow. These excite his compassion, and he shows it in a practical way by upraising them from their forlorn condition. The Mosaic law made provision for these destitute persons. But the way of the wicked he turneth upside down. The wicked man’s way is in itself a turning of things upside down, and the Lord makes it so to him providentially: everything goes wrong with him who goes wrong.

J. I. PACKER, “Introduction,” in Psalms, Crossway Classic Commentaries (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 1993), 359–360.

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