Praise the Lord – Psalm 148:1-6

All Creation Should Praise The Lord

1 Praise the Lord.

Praise the Lord from the heavens;
praise him in the heights above.
2 Praise him, all his angels;
praise him, all his heavenly hosts.
3 Praise him, sun and moon;
praise him, all you shining stars.
4 Praise him, you highest heavens
and you waters above the skies.

5 Let them praise the name of the Lord,
for at his command they were created,
6 and he established them for ever and ever-
he issued a decree that will never pass away.

Powerful Praise

The Psalmist commands that all creation praise the Lord!  God is worthy of all praise and honor and glory.  The majesty of God is being called to remembrance by the Psalmist as he ponders how great God’s creation truly is.  And then the Psalmist begins to call individual parts of creation in the heavens to join him in his praise of God:

  • All Angels
    • Angels throughout the Bible have praised God.  We are instructed in the word of God that four creatures surround the throne of God and continually praise Him day and night, forever and ever:
    • 6 Also in front of the throne there was what looked like a sea of glass, clear as crystal.

      In the center, around the throne, were four living creatures, and they were covered with eyes, in front and in back. 7 The first living creature was like a lion, the second was like an ox, the third had a face like a man, the fourth was like a flying eagle. 8 Each of the four living creatures had six wings and was covered with eyes all around, even under its wings. Day and night they never stop saying:

      “‘Holy, holy, holy

      is the Lord God Almighty,’

      who was, and is, and is to come.”

      9 Whenever the living creatures give glory, honor and thanks to him who sits on the throne and who lives for ever and ever, 10 the twenty-four elders fall down before him who sits on the throne and worship him who lives for ever and ever. They lay their crowns before the throne and say:

      11 “You are worthy, our Lord and God,
      to receive glory and honor and power,
      for you created all things,
      and by your will they were created
      and have their being.”

  • Heavenly Hosts
    • The Psalmist then entreats the Heavenly Hosts to join:
    • Solar System
      • The Sun and the Moon are called to praise God.
    • Silvery Stars
      • All of the stars in the sky are called to praise God.
    • Highest Heavens
      • There were three heavens according to the Jews.  The first heaven was the clouds.  The second heaven was the great expanse of the Universe where the sun, moon and stars existed.  The highest heavens was where God’s throne exist, in the spiritual realm.  Here, the highest heavens were called to worship God.  Any aspect of heaven apart from angels was also called to worship God.  Today, that would be both heaven itself, and all the captives who were freed and now are in the presence of our Lord, Jesus Christ.
    • Wispy Waters
      • The waters above the skies is a bit of a mystery.  Is the Psalmist referring to the clouds?  Thunderstorms? Jet streams?  This is not very clear here, but by inference it is referring to any aspect of the sky that is not air.

Created by Command

The Psalmist reminds us that God has created everything through His spoken word by command.  We are to remember that we are created creatures, and the creators has the authority over the creation.  Because of the beauty, perfection (before the fall), and the ongoing care and involvement of our Creator, creation itself is called to praise God.

And as Jesus said:

37 When he came near the place where the road goes down the Mount of Olives, the whole crowd of disciples began joyfully to praise God in loud voices for all the miracles they had seen:

38 “Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord!”

“Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!”

39 Some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to Jesus, “Teacher, rebuke your disciples!”

40 “I tell you,” he replied, “if they keep quiet, the stones will cry out.”

Forever Faithful

God has established the heavens, including the Sun, Moon, and stars forever.  When the Son of Man returns in Glory, He will purify them of the curse of sin, wiping away their shame and replacing their groaning with rejoicing in the One who created them, forevermore crying out in praise to The Lord God Almighty, Maker of Heaven and Earth, and thus restoring that which once was before the fall of Adam.  For God is faithful in all that He does, and He has promised to restore that which was tarnished by sin.

A Qualifying Question

Let’s ask a question:  Am I praising God as I should?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, Thank You for reminding me of Your goodness, faithfulness, and creativity.  Help me to praise You as You deserve.  Even in my most terrible circumstances, give me the same heart-attitude that You gave to Paul when He was praising You in song while shackled in prison.  May my praise to You be pleasing to Your ears, and may it lift my heart.  Help me to be filled with Your joy, that I may have the strength to do all that You command me to do, and be.  This I ask in Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Want more?  Why not try A. B. Simpson or A. W. Tozer?

 

 

Shock and Awe by God – Matthew 27:44-54

God Announces Significant Events With Signs and Wonders

45 From noon until three in the afternoon darkness came over all the land. 46 About three in the afternoon Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” (which means “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”).

47 When some of those standing there heard this, they said, “He’s calling Elijah.”

48 Immediately one of them ran and got a sponge. He filled it with wine vinegar, put it on a staff, and offered it to Jesus to drink. 49 The rest said, “Now leave him alone. Let’s see if Elijah comes to save him.”

50 And when Jesus had cried out again in a loud voice, he gave up his spirit.

51 At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. The earth shook, the rocks split 52 and the tombs broke open. The bodies of many holy people who had died were raised to life. 53 They came out of the tombs after Jesus’ resurrection and went into the holy city and appeared to many people.

54 When the centurion and those with him who were guarding Jesus saw the earthquake and all that had happened, they were terrified, and exclaimed, “Surely he was the Son of God!”

Drape Divided

At three o’clock local time in Israel, on April 3, 33 C.E.*, the temple veil was torn in two.  This is significant for several reasons.

First, the temple veil kept the innermost part of the temple, the Holy of Holies (in the Greek, the naos), separate from the rest of the temple.  It was holy – set apart for God and God alone.  Only the high priest could enter this area, and only once a year to perform the yearly sacrifice for sin for the Israelites.  When the veil was torn in two, it symbolically announced the arrival of the time that Jesus had foretold to the Samaritan woman at the well:

21 “Woman,” Jesus replied, “believe me, a time is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. 22 You Samaritans worship what you do not know; we worship what we do know, for salvation is from the Jews. 23 Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. 24 God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in the Spirit and in truth.”

Indeed – the time had come when all true worshipers would worship in truth and spirit.

Secondly, the veil was torn from top to bottom.  This signified that it was God who tore the veil, and not man.  God was the one who now changed the relationship between man and Himself.  No longer would there be a separation between God and man, requiring that people come to the temple to worship.

Thirdly, God changed the location of the temple.  The naos** was the location where the presence of God dwelt.  Up until the time of the death of Jesus, this was the tent of meeting or the Holy of Holies in the temple.  Now, God dwells in each believer.  God has forsaken the vessels built by man and is now inhabiting the vessel built by God – the believer’s body.  The temple is no longer a building but the very bodies God has given us:

Don’t you know that you yourselves are God’s temple** and that God’s Spirit dwells in your midst?

Enormous Earthquake

When God makes a statement, He generally tends to do it either softly (the still, small voice), or with a lot of panache.  On this day, God used a LOT of panache.  Not only did the veil hiding the Holy of Holies tear from top to bottom, but there was a great earthquake.  God wanted to make sure He got EVERYONE’S attention.  Signs in the Sun, Moon, and stars were going on, and if people weren’t paying attention, they would miss it.  God ensured that everyone in Israel would be stirred to attention to what had just happened.

Boulders Broken

Not only did the ground shake, the boulders shook as well.   They Bible says that the rocks were rent in two – the rocks had cried out and bore witness to the sorrow of the death of the Son of God.  Having no clothing to rent (tear apart), they tore themselves apart.

Death Defied

Not to be outdone, God wanted everyone to know that this was no ordinary day of events.  God raised the dead from their graves and sent them into Jerusalem.  The dead had risen – only The Lord God Almighty has the ability to raise the dead.  This day would not be soon forgotten by those who had witnessed it.  And just to make sure, God ensured that the centurion and others who were guarding Jesus on the cross bore witness when they cried out, “Surely he was the Son of God!”

Heavenly Hosts

And God, who does not change, made sure that this event had a heavenly sign as well.  When the Moon rose that night, it was a full blood Moon, as prophesied by Joel***.  But the most interesting part was that at exactly 3:00 PM Israel local time, when Jesus gave His last breath, the Moon went into eclipse.  The people of Israel would not have seen the Moon until about 6:00 PM.  And when they did, they would have seen that the Woman rose with the Moon at her feet, and the twelve stars crowning her head.  But this time, she was not clothed with the sun.  She came in darkness, the most blackest darkness as befitted the death of the most Holy Son of God.  And the Moon, which first rose as a new, white-as-snow crescent Moon at the conception of Jesus by the Holy Spirit in Mary, a life just starting, now rose as full Moon, stained blood-red with Jesus’ death, a life fully lived.

A Qualifying Question

Let’s ask a question:  Am I paying attention to the signs that God is placing in the sky with the Sun, the Moon, and the stars?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, You are faithful in all that You do.  You show us signs and wonders when You do significant things.  Help us to be a people who pay attention to Your word, and what You are doing.  Give me a sense of urgency in my heart for what troubles Yours, and help me to bring about Your plan that You have put into place to tell the world about You, Your Son, our sin, and Your desire to reconcile with us here on Earth rather than at the White Throne seat of judgment, where we will no longer have any chance to settle our debt with You.  Father, You are a holy and just God who cannot tolerate sin.  Thank You for the sacrifice of Your Son, Jesus Christ, for my sins.  Make my heart ache as I watch those who do not know you.  Give me a sense of purpose and boldness, that I too would testify about Jesus as Peter did at Pentecost and before the Sanhedrin.  And Father, help me to pay attention to the signs that You are giving that Jesus is coming soon.  For wherever there is a carcass, there the vultures will gather.  This I ask in Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Want more?  Why not try A. B. Simpson or A. W. Tozer?


Notes – This blog has been edited for clarity.

*Fred Larson has definitively identified April 3, 33 C.E. as the day of the death of Christ.  Using logic and clues from the Bible, he was able to accurately determine the date.  Using the software program Starry Night, Fred Larson was able to corroborate that this was the day by confirming that a blood Moon – a full lunar eclipse – occurred on this day as well.

**  The Greek word used here is naos, the same word that is used for the Temple’s innermost sanctum, the Holy of Holies.  God had Paul use this word because it was the only part of the temple that God could reside in.  It was declared holy – set apart for God’s plans and purposes.  In the same way, we are set apart as well.  Paul later reminds us of this in Romans 12:1-2:

1 Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. 2 Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.

*** The sun turned to darkness is interesting.  From the perspective of the Earth, the Moon turned to blood.  If you were able to stand on the Moon and look at the Sun (a REALLY COOL feature of the Starry Night software program!), you would see that the sun was now in full eclipse as well – it would appear as black as sackcloth.  When Jesus died on the cross, and He cried out, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?”, God the Father withdrew His presence, power, glory, and His holy light from His One and Only Son.  And indeed, from Jesus’ perspective (the Moon was blood-red, indicating that it was representative of Christ’s condition and position, so the Sun would represent God the Father’s position and condition in relation to the Son), the light had indeed turned to darkness. (Special thanks to Fred Larson for spelling this out in his movie, “The Star of Bethlehem“.)

Sovereignty of God – Joshua 10:12-14

God Is Sovereign Over All The Universe

12 On the day the Lord gave the Amorites over to Israel, Joshua said to the Lord in the presence of Israel:

“Sun, stand still over Gibeon,
and you, moon, over the Valley of Aijalon.”
13 So the sun stood still,
and the moon stopped,
till the nation avenged itself on its enemies,

as it is written in the Book of Jashar.

The sun stopped in the middle of the sky and delayed going down about a full day. 14 There has never been a day like it before or since, a day when the Lord listened to a human being. Surely the Lord was fighting for Israel!

Celestial Commotion

In these latter days, it takes a lot to get our attention.  We are constantly surrounded by the miraculous with technology.  People are so overwhelmed, they often fail to react when something truly amazing happens.  Each new iteration of technology brings awe and wonder to us as we are dazzled by the seemingly impossibility of it.  Robots performing automated surgery?  That was the stuff of science fiction 30 years ago.  How about cars that drive themselves?  That again was Sci-Fi relegated to movies like “Minority Report“.  Smart bombs, drones, gene therapy, missions to mars – just fifty years ago, these were mere dreams.  But now they assault us every day, as we wait for the next great thing to happen.

So what if the Sun and the Moon stopped in their tracks in the sky?  Would that capture your attention?  It should.  This type of thing just doesn’t happen every day.  It would cause people to fear for their lives that the end of the world was at hand.  People would flock to churches, hoping that God’s wrath was not upon them.  And those who were on the other side of Planet Earth, would be plunged into a much longer darkness than before, wondering if the Sun would every shine again.  Our concept of how the Universe worked would be severely shaken.  What we have taken for granted for generations -millennia – would be thrown out the window.

Powerful Prayer

It is recorded here that this was the only time, EVER, in the Old Testament, that the Lord God Almighty listened to the command of a man.  Joshua, in the power of the Holy Spirit of God, in the presence of God and man, commanded the Sun and Moon to stop until Israel had avenged itself on its enemies.  Never before, nor after, had God listened to the command of a man.  Until Jesus:

He [Jesus] replied, “Because you have so little faith. Truly I tell you, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.” [Caption added for clarification]

We must remember that faith is closely tied to submission and obedience.  Submission and obedience is the outward sign of our faith.  For if we did not believe, we would not be foolish enough to wait upon God for action.

God would not honor a person who desired to be fabulously wealthy and who said to a pile of rocks, “turn into gold!” for personal gain.  It is the power of God in faith through submission and obedience that would cause these things to happen.  Greed, envy, and every other base and vile attitude of the heart would prevent such a thing from happening.  However, if it is the will of God, for His glory, and for  His purposes, surely it would come to pass.  We are not to abuse the wonderful gift that we have been given:

1 What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you? 2 You desire but do not have, so you kill. You covet but you cannot get what you want, so you quarrel and fight. You do not have because you do not ask God. 3 When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.

4 You adulterous people, don’t you know that friendship with the world means enmity against God? Therefore, anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God.

Intervention for Israel

God, in causing the heavenly bodies to behave in a nature contrary to what the laws of physics would dictate, would certainly have caused fear and horror in the eyes of Israel’s enemies.  God surely fought for Israel that day.  God surely fights for Israel today.  And God will surely fight for Israel for all eternity, for Israel is the chosen people of God.  He will not abandon them, or allow them to be scattered ever again to the four winds.

God has fulfilled His prophesy, and no one and nothing will ever prevail against her again.  And when she turns her heart fully towards God, those who seek to rob her of her land, her sovereignty, and her lifeblood, will surely be punished in a manner that will strike fear into the heart of every human being alive.  Centuries ago, it might have taken months or years for the world to know what happened in lands far away.  But now, technology gives us instant access to events that transpire in real-time and vividly, soon to be with live 3D visual effects and perhaps even 4D realism.  The destruction of the enemies of Israel will be available to be watched by nearly everyone on this planet with access to a television or the Internet.

A Qualifying Question

Let’s ask a question:  Am I trusting in the sovereignty of God?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, You have shown us Your mercy and grace, and provided us with these wonderful accounts of what You have done in the past so that we may know who You are.  Give me the strength to wait upon You for Your timing in all my circumstances.  Help me to remain faithful in affliction and times of difficulty.  Uphold me and carry me when my body and spirit are too weak to continue.  Help me to always look to You for my help.  Father, You have done miraculous things for Your people in the past, and You are the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow.  You have adopted me into Your family, and I pray dear God that You would help me.  Amen.

Want more?  Why not try A. B. Simpson or A. W. Tozer?