Expositional commentary on Scripture using an inductive exegetical methodology intent upon confronting the lives of Christians with the dogmatic Truths of God's inspired Words opposing Calvinism and Arminianism, Biblical commentary, doctrine of grace enablement, understanding holiness and wisdom and selfishness, in-depth Bible studies, adult Bible Study books and Sunday School materials Dr. Lance T. Ketchum Line Upon Line: November 2007

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Thanksgiving: Taste and See That the Lord Is Good!

Taste and See That the Lord Is Good!

We are told in the introduction to Psalm 34 that it was written in response to the circumstances surrounding the time that David fled from king Saul fearing for his life. David’s flight took him to a place where no one would have suspected he would go. He went to the Philistine city of Gath, which had been the hometown of the giant Goliath and who had been slain by David about a year previously (I Samuel 17:31-51).

The reference to “when he changed his behaviour before Abimelech” refers to the instance in I Samuel 21:10-15 when David pretended to be a madman before the Abimelech of the Philistines (king Achish; Abimelech is probably the Philistine title for their king. It comes from the Hebrew word Abiymelek (ab-ee-mel'-ek) meaning my father is king. David was given the presence of mind to pretend to be a madman. The Philistines believed madmen were possessed by spirits (gods to them). Therefore, they would never think of harming someone they thought was “mad.”

David was in a difficult position. His own king Saul was trying to kill him (I Samuel 21:10) and so in fled in fear of his life from Saul. In David’s flight of fear from Saul, he ends up in an equally dangerous situation before king Achish. David was in between the proverbial rock and a hard place. Yet God delivered him. It is out of the scenario of that deliverance that we have this Psalm of praise and thanksgiving to the Lord. It is David’s Hallelujah Chorus.

1 <<A Psalm of David, when he changed his behaviour before Abimelech; who drove him away, and he departed.>> I will bless the LORD at all times: his praise shall continually be in my mouth. 2 My soul shall make her boast in the LORD: the humble shall hear thereof, and be glad. 3 O magnify the LORD with me, and let us exalt his name together. 4 I sought the LORD, and he heard me, and delivered me from all my fears. 5 They looked unto him, and were lightened: and their faces were not ashamed. 6 This poor man cried, and the LORD heard him, and saved him out of all his troubles. 7 The angel of the LORD encampeth round about them that fear him, and delivereth them. 8 O taste and see that the LORD is good: blessed is the man that trusteth in him” (Psalm 34:1-8).

David knew he lived his life in the “valley of the shadow of death.” We all live our lives in the “valley of the shadow of death.” David knew that it was by the grace of God that he had escaped death’s grip once more. This Psalm is a sigh that releases both David’s fear and praise in the same breath. The words of this Psalm flow from a heart that has just been touched by the hand of God.

The construction of this Psalm shows us that God intends it to be used in the instruction of children. We know that because it is one of nine Alphabetical Psalms (the Hebrew alphabet has 22 letters in it). Each of the twenty-two (22) verses in this Psalm begins with a different letter of the Hebrew alphabet (these are not apparent in our English translations). Therefore, Psalm 34 is a Psalm of foundational truths.

This is a Psalm intended to instruct children (and baby Christians) in the matters of thanksgiving, praise and worship. The wise Christian will spend much time in Psalm 34 learning its instructions. The uniqueness of this Psalm is that it is intended to provide instruction in these matters as viewed from the perspective of the human experience bathed in the grace of God. Therefore, it is intended to teach that thanksgiving, praise and worship should be taught to our children through the vehicle of the everyday experiences of our lives and their lives. In David’s case, this event with king Saul and king Achish could have gone by without any acknowledgment that God’s grace was the source of David’s deliverance. Sadly, that is what often happens in the events of human history.

Each verse of this Psalm teaches a unique truth all by itself. As a child memorized a letter of the Hebrew alphabet, he also memorized the verse beginning with that letter. As he learned a letter of the alphabet, he learned a concept of truth that transported his thinking beyond the mundane of the mere education of facts to the Throne room of God.

In this, we find a God ordained philosophy of education that is critically lacking in our modern day philosophies of education. This involves the educator in connecting every thought and absolute to the Author of absolutes in God Himself. Creating this connecting link between truth and its Author is the central responsibility of the educator. Regardless of how much knowledge is taught to a child, if that knowledge does not result in the generation of thanksgiving, praise and worship in the one being educated and flowing to the Author of all truth, education has failed. Therefore, any system of education that fails to integrate facts (absolute truths) with the Creator and Author of those truths is an unscriptural method of education.

The responsibility to connect all truth to the Originator of those truths falls on the shoulders of parents. Although we may decide to put our children in the hands of another person to be educated, that does not abrogate our responsibilities to God in any way. In the critical responsibility of raising our children “in the nurture and admonition of the Lord” (Ephesians 6:4), we had better insure that the person educating our children holds to this God ordain philosophy of education.

This God ordained philosophy of education is what defines our parental responsibilities. This God ordained philosophy of education is also what defines our success or failure as parents. Regardless of what other successes we may achieve in this life, if we have failed to raise children to bring thanksgiving, praise and worship to God for every truth that exists in this world and then serve Him in holiness, we have failed as parents (educators of our children).

This God ordained philosophy of education should also be the ultimate goal of the church in its philosophy of education. This should be the ultimate goal of the home in its philosophy of education. It should also be the ultimate goal of the Christian School in its philosophy of education. It is also the reason why the education of your child in government schools is immediately doomed to failure. It is doomed to failure because in God’s philosophy of education, the educator weaves facts and faith together like a basket weaver. The faith factor cannot be added at some later point. It must be included at the same moment the fact is. They must be woven together.

We also must see that the factual aspect of education plays only a small part compared to the conceptual aspect of education. The conceptual aspect of education fixes our attention on the Creator. The alphabetical letter was important only in its use to communicate truth. The facts of education must centrally be seen as a vehicle to direct our attention to the Author of all truth. Historical or scientific truth does not exist in a vacuum. The central purpose of creation is to direct our attention back to the Creator in that the creation is nothing more than a reflection of His power and glory.

19 Because that which may be known of God is manifest in them; for God hath shewed it unto them. 20 For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse” (Romans 1:19-20).

That is the concept communicated to us in the words “taste and see that the LORD is good” in Psalm 34:8. It was David’s experience of God’s grace in the everyday struggle of his life that prompts him make this statement. All though it communicates a truth apart from the story of David’s predicament, its spiritual richness lies in the fact it is a real life testimony. It is the testimony of someone who did “taste and see that the LORD is good.”

We can talk about God and giving thanks, praise and worship to Him all day long, but a mere intellectual theology will never generate worship. Thanksgiving, praise and worship must come from the heart, not the head. That will only happen when a believer comes to know God experientially. Thanksgiving, praise and worship are not practices that can be worked up. They must flow from a heart that has seen God work and that knows it was God working. That seldom happens to Rocking Chair Christians.

That is what David is saying in Psalm 34:2, “My soul shall make her boast in the LORD.” The words “shall make her boast” are from the Hebrew word halal (haw-lal'), which literally means to shine. Get the verbal picture that David is weaving in with the facts of his story in the process of education. He is saying, “My soul shines on YAHWEH (the Self-existing One).” Every Hebrew child who learned the Hebrew letter Beth from this Psalm, also learned that his soul should shine on God.

Shining on God is the meaning of bringing God glory. That is the central function of all of God’s creation. We are to be a living testimony to His existence, to His power and to His glory. That was the living testimony of David’s life (soul). Our lives are to make God known as to Who and What He really is. We are to reflect the image of God in all that we say or do.

David says, “The humble shall hear thereof, and be glad.” The word “hear” is from the Hebrew word shama` (shaw-mah'). It means to hear with the intent of obeying. The “humble” are the poor, weak and needy. They shall hear the testimony of God’s power and begin to live a life of faith as well. They shall begin to weave their own basket of life out of the facts and faith of those who have already walked through “the valley of the shadow of death” under the Shepherd’s protection and care (Psalm 23).

In Psalm 34:3, David calls all believers to “magnify the LORD with me.” The word “magnify” is from the Hebrew word gadal (gaw-dal'). It means to grow to greatness. However, the greatness is not for personal fame or glory. The motivation for working to excel to greatness is to increase a person’s influence. Increasing influence is like increasing the wattage in your glory to God bulb. That is why this greatness (influence) is directed to “the LORD.”

To “exalt” the “Name” of God is to lift up His Name. When a person returns thanksgiving, praise and worship to God for every success in his life, he lifts up the Name of God like a victor’s banner in a parade. Although the whole army marched in that parade and received the glory of men for their victory, the banner bore the emblem of their king to whom their victory brought honor and glory. The king was their commander and chief. He paid their wages and provided their weapons. He gave them the leadership and direction to win over their enemies. David is saying, “To God be the glory.” He is saying, “Come and worship the LORD with me; join in my jubilation and share in my rejoicing. We have a great God.”

David says, “I sought the LORD, and He heard me, and delivered me from all my fears.” David is offering a testimony to God’s grace and power. He is setting a twofold example for us. First, here is what the Lord did for me. He is great. He is wonderful. He is able. Secondly, since He did this for a sinner like me, He will do it for a sinner like you if you will seek Him.

Notice that David’s deliverance was not just a matter of asking. Yes, answered prayer comes only to those who ask, however, God is not a Gum Ball Machine God. You just do not put your quarter in and get what you want. The word “sought” is from the Hebrew word darash (daw-rash'). It was a word that meant to seek deity in prayer and worship. David did not just pray to God because He was in trouble. David sought the Lord’s communion before He sought the Lord’s communication in answered prayer.

Most people really cheapen God’s grace when they use Him as a fire escape from the consequences of their own disobedience and sin. They expect God’s deliverance without even giving a thought to repentance, confession and seeking forgiveness.

David’s encouragement is to “taste and see that the LORD is good: blessed is the man that trusteth in Him.” When was the last time you stood up in the midst of God’s people and called them to join you in thanksgiving, praise and worship to the God of your salvation? When was the last time you spontaneously stood before a congregation and gave a testimony to what God did in your life that week, or that day or for anything for that matter? When was it? Is it because God hasn’t been doing anything in your life? Or, is it because you haven’t been doing anything with the life God gave you? If it is one of those two things, either way, it reveals a serious problem with YOU!

Friday, November 2, 2007

Holiness: A Purified and Peculiar People II

“1 But speak thou the things which become sound doctrine: 2 That the aged men be sober, grave, temperate, sound in faith, in charity, in patience. 3 The aged women likewise, that they be in behaviour as becometh holiness, not false accusers, not given to much wine, teachers of good things; 4 That they may teach the young women to be sober, to love their husbands, to love their children, 5 To be discreet, chaste, keepers at home, good, obedient to their own husbands, that the word of God be not blasphemed. 6 Young men likewise exhort to be sober minded. 7 In all things shewing thyself a pattern of good works: in doctrine shewing uncorruptness, gravity, sincerity, 8 Sound speech, that cannot be condemned; that he that is of the contrary part may be ashamed, having no evil thing to say of you. 9 Exhort servants to be obedient unto their own masters, and to please them well in all things; not answering again; 10 Not purloining, but shewing all good fidelity; that they may adorn the doctrine of God our Saviour in all things. 11 For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men, 12 Teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world; 13 Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ; 14 Who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works. 15 These things speak, and exhort, and rebuke with all authority. Let no man despise thee” (Titus 2:1-15).

The word “peculiar” in Titus 2:14 is the word that defines the objective of this text. All the instructive commands of verses 1-13 are intent upon producing this spiritual entity referred to as a “peculiar” person “zealous of good works.” The word “peculiar” is from the Greek word periousios (per-ee-oo'-see-os), meaning being beyond usual, i.e. special (one’s own). The idea is a person who lives in such a unique way that it is publicly evident he/she is a servant of God and is dedicated to living to please God. Each of the commands details how this peculiarity is defined and achieved. However, we MUST emphasize that the focus of the peculiarity is God ward, not man ward. Holiness and peculiarity are synonymous and synchronous.

Modern day Christians want an identity with the world and an identity with God. They have come to think they can have both. However, these two identities are incongruous (not harmonious in character). Thinking of peculiarity in musical terms is an apt way of viewing this distinctiveness. Peculiarity is what is necessary in our lifestyles that keep our lives in harmony with God and is what defines spirituality.

This is not merely an external application of Biblical principles. Their must be a true yielding of the body, soul and spirit to the indwelling Christ because we love Him and desire to please Him more than anything else in this world. The issue of peculiarity is not that we wish to identify ourselves as Christians to the world, it is that we want the world to immediately identify us as Christians by the peculiar way in which we live our lives. This is why identity (what we choose to identify ourselves with by the way we live, dress, entertain ourselves and provide for our daily needs) is critical to peculiarity. Modern day Christians look at these issues and merely seek to justify lifestyles according to the Word of God. The peculiar Christian looks at these issues thinking, how will the world view my Christianity and how will I maintain my spirituality, peculiarity, distinctiveness, or holiness if I identify my life with the practices of worldly people?

This epistle to Titus is one of the Pastoral Epistles. It instructs regarding the role of Pastors in the local churches that God has called them to shepherd. Uniquely, the text before us tells us that it is not primarily the role of the pastor to teach women. That role is delegated to the woman’s husband (if she has one) and to the older, more spiritual women in the congregation.

“34 Let your women keep silence in the churches: for it is not permitted unto them to speak; but they are commanded to be under obedience, as also saith the law. 35 And if they will learn any thing, let them ask their husbands at home: for it is a shame for women to speak in the church” (I Corinthians 14:34-35).

This context of this particular text refers to speaking in tongues. The word “silence” in I Corinthians 14:34 is from the Greek word sigao (see-gah'-o), which means to keep your mouth closed. Women were not allowed to speak in tongues. In I Timothy chapter 2 (another Pastoral Epistle), Paul gives further instruction regarding the role of women in the local assembly.

“11 Let the woman learn in silence with all subjection. 12 But I suffer not a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence” (I Timothy 2:11-12).

In this text, the word “silence” is translated from the Greek word hesuchia (hay-soo-khee'-ah). It means quietness. The intent is that women are to exhibit a meek and quiet spirit within the local church assembly. They should not be allowed to publicly challenge the teaching of a man or “usurp” his authority.

This is not popular teaching today, but I did not write the book. I am just God’s messenger boy and my responsibility is just to get the message accurately conveyed. The important thing here is that women recognize that this is God’s instruction and defines their peculiarity.

The word “likewise” of Titus 2:3 lays down three behavioral commands for women. The first is that they are not to be “false accusers.” These two words are translated from the Greek word diabolos (dee-ab'-ol-os). This word is frequently translated “devil” in the Bible. In the metaphorical sense, it refers to a person who becomes a partner in Satan’s work of accusing the brethren through gossip, slander and the dissemination of half-truths. In doing so, they oppose the cause of God.

It is not that men are not guilty of this kind of behavior. However, Satan seems to get a lot of mileage out of both men and women in this area and I agree that it is directly related to idle time.

Secondly, women were not to be “given to much wine.” The word “given” is the key word here. It is from the Greek word douloo (doo-lo'-o), which refers to becoming the slave of “wine” (grape juice) as a beverage. This command does not give permission to drink alcoholic wine in moderation. The word for “wine” is the Greek word oinos (oy'-nos). It can refer to either fermented grape juice or freshly squeezed grape juice. Since alcohol content could not be determined during this time in history, the drinking of grape juice was strictly restricted and even then it was watered down as much as five parts to one. To avoid any possibility of drunkenness, the Jewish priests were not allowed to drink any wine. Today, all believers are priests before God.

The drinking of “wine” was usually connected to idle time, much like the coffee clutch of our time. The link between the admonition against being “false accusers” and “much wine” is most probably related to the gossip that tends to be produced from idle time. Leisure time can be easily used of Satan if it is not guarded and protected against the carnal tendencies of the flesh to discuss the problems of our friends and neighbors. Have you heard is a dangerous way to begin a discussion.

Thirdly, spiritually mature Christian women should be “teachers of good things.” These words are all translated from the Greek word kalodidaskalos (kal-od-id-as'-kal-os). It is constructed from two Greek words: kalos (kal-os') meaning beautiful or excellent and didaskalos (did-as'-kal-os) meaning teacher. Together they mean a beautiful example of right living. The direction of their influence is defined by Titus 2:4, “That they may teach the young women . . .”

The intent of God’s instruction in this text is the creation of a positive peer pressure among women within the local church. The older, more spiritual women are to generate positive spiritual peer pressure upon the younger, less spiritual women by consistently doing what is right. Through the beautiful example (modeling) of the older, spiritually mature women in the church, the younger Christian women are to learn eight practical truths for holy living and peculiarity.

1. “To be sober” (sophronizo, so-fron-id'-zo), meaning to teach others to have self control
2. “To love their husbands” (philandros, fil'-an-dros). A woman loves her husband by being a godly woman, obedient to the plan and purposes of God for her life.
3. “To love their children” (philoteknos, fil-ot'-ek-nos). A woman loves her children when her goal is to raise them in the nurture and admonition of Christ and to be servants of the Lord.
4. “To be discreet” (sophron, so'-frone) referring to the curbing of her carnal desires
5. To be “chaste” (hagnos, hag-nos'), can refer to being clean, but probably refers more to personal purity that causes others to think highly of her for her moral values.
6. To be “keepers at home” (oikouros, oy-koo-ros'). The word in is purest sense means to be a guardian of all the matters pertaining to the household. It refers to the wife staying at home and taking care of the household affairs. During Bible times, it was the wife’s responsibility to care for the children and educate them, to shop for food, make clothing, prepare the meals, wash the clothes and keep the house clean. You can hire someone to do those things, but you cannot call that being a mother or a wife. Being a wife and a mother is a Biblical responsibility that cannot righteously be transferred to a surrogate.
7. To be “good” (agathos, ag-ath-os'), meaning to be good in the sense of being pleasant, agreeable, joyful and happy. In general, it means to be a good-natured person.
8. To be “obedient to their own husbands” (hupotasso, hoop-ot-as'-so). This is a Greek military term used to denote submission to the order of command. In non-military use, it was a voluntary attitude of giving in, cooperating, assuming responsibility, and carrying a burden. In the simplest terms, it means to submit voluntarily to another person.

“21 Submitting yourselves one to another in the fear of God. 22 Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord. 23 For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church: and he is the saviour of the body. 24 Therefore as the church is subject unto Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in every thing” (Ephesians 5:21-24).

We are rapidly losing this model of Biblical femininity in the American culture, as we rapidly become a matriarchal society. Due to the failure of Christian women and the advancement of the Woman’s Liberation Movement, we are rapidly seeing the demise of the typical family. Most families today are dysfunctional where a single or divorced woman is raising children born from one or more men who no longer live in the home or support the family. This is to what the Sexual Revolution and the Woman’s Liberation Movement has liberated women. Women are treated more like a piece of meat today then ever before in the history of our country.

The motivation for the spiritually mature woman to be the godly example to the younger women is “that the Word of God be not blasphemed.” One of the reasons young women do not develop into the kind of women God wants them to be is because the older women of the church are not being the examples they ought to be. If you are an older (more spiritually mature) lady in the church, when was the last time you sat down with a younger woman in the church and showed her what God expected of her regarding the way she dressed, the things she talked about, the way she should treat her husband and her responsibilities regarding raising her children and being a “keeper at home”?

“Young men likewise” are to be exhorted “to be soberminded” (Titus 2:6). “Exhort” is from the Greek word parakaleo (par-ak-al-eh'-o), which means to summon to one’s side for instruction. “Sober minded” is from the Greek word sophroneo (so-fron-eh'-o) meaning right thinking or right minded.

The teaching ministry of a local church is not relegated just to the pulpit or to the Sunday School classroom. Teaching is the responsibility of all mature Christians each moment of the day and through any vehicle of opportunity that might arise. The idea being conveyed in this text is that the spiritually mature believers in a local church are supposed to spiritually parent the younger, less spiritually mature believers. In most cases, this teaching role is being relegated almost completely to pastors.

When God reveals an inconsistency with His Word in the life of another believer, He does so because He expects mature believers to lovingly confront that inconsistency with the truth. That is what mature believers do when they see inconsistencies in the life of another believer.

“1 LORD, I cry unto thee: make haste unto me; give ear unto my voice, when I cry unto thee. 2 Let my prayer be set forth before thee as incense; and the lifting up of my hands as the evening sacrifice. 3 Set a watch, O LORD, before my mouth; keep the door of my lips. 4 Incline not my heart to any evil thing, to practise wicked works with men that work iniquity: and let me not eat of their dainties. 5 Let the righteous smite me; it shall be a kindness: and let him reprove me; it shall be an excellent oil, which shall not break my head: for yet my prayer also shall be in their calamities” (Psalm 141:1-5).

Every believer should be open to loving confrontation because of a desire to be a good testimony to the lost and a good example to other believers and wants the world to identify him/her as peculiarly Christian. It would be inconsistent with a hunger and thirst after righteousness in one’s life to be offended at another believer lovingly confronting any inconsistency in our lives with what defines peculiarity. The person that is offended by someone confronting an inconsistency in his life is really revealing himself as a “scorner” (mocker of truth) who lacks a desire for righteousness in his life.

“Reprove not a scorner, lest he hate thee: rebuke a wise man, and he will love thee” (Proverbs 9:8).

No one wants to be seen as peculiar. Peculiar is not a word most people like to have used to describe them. The fact is, how we live should appear peculiar to people living contrary to God’s instruction book. Peculiarity is normal Christianity. The lack of peculiarity is abnormal Christianity.