Douglas Wilson – Real Forgiveness

INTRODUCTION:

Everyone knows that the Christian faith revolves around the forgiveness of sins. But because there is a gospel logic involved in it that eludes every form of carnal reasoning, we have to be careful to understand what is actually involved. What is real forgiveness?

THE TEXT:

“Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamour, and evil speaking, be put away from you, with all malice: And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you” (Eph. 4:31–32).

SUMMARY OF THE TEXT:

There are two ways of conducting life together. One of them is the enemy of life together, and the other is the true friend of life together. One drives us apart and the other knits us together.

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Douglas Wilson – Psalm 90: Bears All Her Sons Away

INTRODUCTION:

This psalm was composed by Moses, making it the oldest in the psalter. On top of that, it also makes it one of the oldest poems in the world. As you meditate on the phrases and connections here, keep in mind that the primary setting is most like the wilderness period. That setting helps to make sense of a number of these expressions.

THE TEXT:

Lord, thou hast been our dwelling place in all generations. Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever thou hadst formed the earth and the world, even from everlasting to everlasting, thou art God…” Ps. 90:1-17).

SUMMARY OF THE TEXT:

There is one basic division in the psalm. The first eleven verses make up the meditation (vv. 1-11), and the second half contains the petition or prayer (vv. 12-17). The Lord has been the dwelling place of His people in every generation (v. 1). Before anything was made in this world, God has been God, from everlasting to everlasting (v. 2). God is the one who turns man back to the dust from which he came (v. 3). A thousand years are nothing to Him (v. 4). Mankind is carried away by time, and carried off quickly (vv. 5-6). This is the consequence of God’s anger (v. 7). Our sins are right in front of Him (v. 8), and so it is our days speed by (v. 9). We live for 70 years, or maybe 80, and yet they are all gone (v. 10). Who understands the power of God’s anger (v. 11)? Teach us to number our days properly (v. 12). God, please return to us (v. 13). Our prayer is that You would satisfy us with Your mercy (v. 14). Make us glad according to the days of our affliction (v. 15). Manifest Your works to us (v. 16). And let the beauty of the Lord rest upon all these transient works, and establish them (v. 17).

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Doug Wilson – Psalm 89: Turreted in Mercies

INTRODUCTION:

In the previous psalm, Heman the Ezrahite poured out his complaint with seemingly no argument at all. In this psalm, another Ezrahite, a man named Ethan, has a strong complaint as well, but he mounts it on top of an unshakeable foundation of covenant promises. He comes before God with expectations and arguments.

THE TEXT:

“I will sing of the mercies of the Lord for ever: With my mouth will I make known thy faithfulness to all generations. For I have said, Mercy shall be built up for ever: Thy faithfulness shalt thou establish in the very heavens. I have made a covenant with my chosen, I have sworn unto David my servant, Thy seed will I establish for ever, And build up thy throne to all generations. Selah…” (Ps. 89:1–52).

SUMMARY OF THE TEXT:

Foundationally, we know that God will be absolutely faithful to His covenant with the house of David (vv. 1-4). Ethan then expands his vision, and spends some time praising the power, justice, and mercy of God (vv. 5-14). When a people have a God like this, then they are truly blessed (vv. 15-18). Covenants have terms, and Ethan delights to go over those terms in some detail (vv. 19-37). Having laid the groundwork for his petition, he then pours out his desire and petition (vv. 38-51). And with that, the psalm ends on a double amen.

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Douglas Wilson – Psalm 88: The Black Psalm

INTRODUCTION:

In a certain sense, all the psalms are Messianic, all of them point to Jesus. But because this psalm is particularly dark, some might want to argue that perhaps it is less the case here. But I think we should actually go the other way. This psalm is in fact dark, but consider the darkness Jesus went through for us. There may be lesser applications for us—wherever the Head is, the body is not far away—but we will consider this psalm as preeminently fulfilled in the moment when Christ was abandoned at Skull Hill for our sake.

THE TEXT:

“O Lord God of my salvation, I have cried day and night before thee: Let my prayer come before thee: Incline thine ear unto my cry; For my soul is full of troubles: And my life draweth nigh unto the grave . . .” (Ps. 88:1–18).

SUMMARY OF THE TEXT:

This dark psalm begins with the cry of faith—“God of my salvation” (v. 1). He is in great anguish, crying out day and night (v. 1). He wants his cry to come before the Lord because his soul is full of trouble and he is on the brink of death (v. 2). He is reckoned among those who descend to Sheol, down to the pit (v. 3). He is counted among the dead (vv. 4-5). He is in that pit because God has put him there (v. 6). The wrath of God rests upon him, and all the waves of God wash over him (v. 7). His friends and acquaintances have scattered (v. 8). He has called out to God daily, but to no effect (v. 9). Will the dead praise God (v. 10)? Will God’s lovingkindness and faithfulness be declared in the grave and underworld (v. 11-12)? He continues to cry out to God (v. 13). Lord, why do you cast me off? Why have you forsaken me (v. 14)? He has been ready to die from his youth on (v. 15). The fierce wrath of God overwhelms him (v. 16). God’s terrors envelop him like water (v. 17). God has ripped away from him those who are dear to him (v. 18). And abruptly the psalm ends there.

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Douglas Wilson – Psalm 87: Glorious Things of Thee Are Spoken

INTRODUCTION:

In this psalm we are encouraged to exult in the corporate realities of God’s salvation. God saves individuals one by one, but He never saves them to be alone. Just as we are not saved by good works, but rather to good works (Eph. 2:8-10), so also we are not saved by a crowd or a congregation, but we most assuredly are saved to a crowd and a congregation.

SUMMARY OF THE TEXT:

The physical city of God was in the holy mountains (v. 1). His heavenly Jerusalem is built on the holy mountains of His everlasting wisdom. The Lord Jehovah loves the individual dwellings of Jacob, but He loves the public assembly of His people more (v. 2). The city of God is glorious, and it is right to ascribe glory to her (v. 3). The psalmist then mentions a series of pagan powers which will be brought to worship the Lord, which will be “born” in Zion (v. 4). And of Zion itself, it will be said that men of eminence were born in her (v. 5). When the Lord Jehovah conducts His great census, He will be the one who marks that this one was born (again) there (v. 6). The musicians will be there, and all our springs will be in the Lord (v. 7).

HIS FOUNDATION IN THE HOLY MOUNTAINS:

The Temple that Solomon built was on Mt. Moriah. The Tabernacle of David, in which the sacrifices were largely musical, was on Mt. Zion. The tabernacle from the wilderness was on Mt. Gibeon (2 Chron. 1:3), about 6 miles northwest of Jerusalem. In a way, all of them merged into the Temple, and began to be known as Zion.

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Douglas Wilson – Psalm 86: A Token for Good

INTRODUCTION:

In this world, it is not possible to be a friend of God and not be in trouble with the world. Friendship with the world is enmity with God, James tells us (Jas 4:4). It goes the other way also. Friendship with God means that you will be constantly and regularly at odds with the world. This provides you with material to pray about.

THE TEXT:

“Bow down thine ear, O Lord, hear me: For I am poor and needy. Preserve my soul; for I am holy: O thou my God, save thy servant that trusteth in thee….” (Psalm 86:1–17).

SUMMARY OF THE TEXT:

The text divides into three sections, with an expression of confidence or gratitude at the conclusion of each (vv. 7, 13, 17). This psalm is a prayer of David, with God being addressed directly with petitions throughout.

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Douglas Wilson – Psalm 85: The Kiss of Salvation

INTRODUCTION:

God puts sinners back together, and God in His mercy puts backsliders back together again. How He does this is truly remarkable, and as we enter into the spirit of this psalm we find ourselves right at the heart of the gospel.

THE TEXT:

“Lord, thou hast been Favourable unto thy land: Thou hast brought back the captivity of Jacob. Thou hast forgiven the iniquity of thy people, Thou hast covered all their sin. Selah…” (Ps. 85:1–13)

SUMMARY OF THE TEXT:

The text divides this way. The first three verses recall the Lord’s mercies to Israel in time past (vv. 1-3). In the next section, the psalmist pleads with God concerning Israel’s current afflictions (vv. 4-7). He pauses in the next verse to resolve that he will hear what the Lord says to him (v. 8). And then, in the conclusion of the psalm, he rejoices in the salvation that he knows is coming (vv. 9-13).

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Douglas Wilson – Psalm 84: No Good Thing Will He Withhold

INTRODUCTION:

This is a psalm of pilgrimage—worshipers of God afar off are longing to be where they can worship Him at the place where He has set His name. They yearn to be at the place of worship, at his tabernacle, and the spirit of worship drives them there.

THE TEXT:

“How amiable are thy tabernacles, O Lord of hosts! My soul longeth, yea, even fainteth for the courts of the Lord: My heart and my flesh crieth out for the living God . . .” (Psalm 84:1–12).

SUMMARY OF THE TEXT:

The tabernacles of the Lord are altogether lovely, and yet He is addressed as the Lord of hosts, the God of armies (v. 1). The worshiper, removed from the place of worship, is heartsick and faint, and yearns to be in the courts of God. He is truly homesick (v. 2). Even the lowly sparrows and swallows are privileged to dwell in the tabernacles of God (v. 3). Everyone who dwells there is blessed (v. 4). For verse five, consider the rendering of the ESV. “Blessed are those whose strength is in you, in whose heart are the highways to Zion” (Ps. 84:5, ESV). Blessed is the pilgrim who is on his way to Zion. The valley of Baca was apparently a desolate place, but it was on the way to Zion, and generations of pilgrims had dug wells for themselves (v. 6). As they approach Zion, they are moving from strength to strength (v. 7). Their strength grows as they approach their goal. Lord God, hear. God of Jacob, listen (v. 8). God is invited to look upon the face of His anointed (lit. Messiah) (v. 9). One day in the courts of God is to be preferred to thousands outside (v. 10). And a lowly place with God is superior to the grandest heights the world could bestow on you (v. 10). The Lord God is both grace and glory, sun and shield (v. 11). No good thing is withheld from those who walk uprightly (v. 11). The man who trusts in God is truly blessed (v. 12).

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Douglas Wilson – Psalm 83: Silent Jehovah

INTRODUCTION:

Here is the last of the psalms attributed to Asaph. You might recall that we discussed how this could be Asaph himself, or someone descended from him, in the “school” of Asaph. This psalm is likely written by Jehaziel, a Levite descended from Asaph (2 Chron. 20:14). From the internal evidence, the episode referred to in the psalm is very likely the situation that God delivered Jehoshaphat from in his great dilemma.

THE TEXT:

“Keep not thou silence, O God: Hold not thy peace, and be not still, O God. For, lo, thine enemies make a tumult: And they that hate thee have lifted up the head . . .” (Psalm 83:1–18).

SUMMARY OF THE TEXT:

God is silent, and this is distressing because His enemies are not silent. They are in a tumult and so it is time for God to act (vv. 1-2). They have plotted against Israel in a crafty way (v. 3). The intent was to wipe Israel out, the intention was genocide (v. 4). Many nations have conspired against Israel (v. 5). The Edomites, the Ishmaelites, and the Amalekites were from the south. The Moabites, Ammonites, and Hagarenes were to the east. The Assyrians were to the north. The Philistines, Gebalites, and Tyrians were to the west. Israel was surrounded and in a desperate way (vv. 6-8). The psalmist prays that God would intervene as he had in the past against Midian (vv. 9-11; cf. Judges 7:25; 8:5). The enemies of God’s people had grand plans (v. 12), but the psalmist prays that they be made like tumbleweed (v. 13). He prays that God would take them out like a forest fire takes out wood (v. 14). He prays that a divine tempest would arise (v. 15). Fill their faces with shame (v. 16). And why? So that they might seek the name of God. Overwhelm them with confounded shame, and bring them low (v. 17). Again, why? So that men might know that there is only one with the name Jehovah, the God who is no longer silent (v. 18).

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Douglas Wilson – Psalm 82: God Among Gods

INTRODUCTION:

We come now to yet another psalm of Asaph. Unlike many psalms, this one is not directed to God. It speaks of Him, but the import of what is said is directed at rulers. This is an Old Testament instance of “teaching and admonishing one another,” although in this case directed at wickedness outside the covenant. But it is a word to be sung horizontally.

THE TEXT:

“God standeth in the congregation of the mighty; He judgeth among the gods…” (Psalm 82:1-8).

SUMMARY OF THE TEXT:

The psalm begins, for us at least, very cryptically. Elohim judges among the elohim (v. 1), doing so in the Council of El. His complaint against them is that they are unjust in their judgments (v. 2). Instead of what they have been doing, they should deliver those who are oppressed (vv. 3-4). When rulers rule wickedly, they blunder on stupidly in the dark, and they put everything out of joint (v. 5). God says that He had declared them gods (v. 6), but that now they will die the way that men do (v. 7). God is then invited to rise up, judge the world, and inherit all the nations (v. 8).

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