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Introduction to Personal Bible Study - Videos (2007)

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Wednesday, August 30, 2023

God's Mercy is the Undoing of Death in Resurrection for All Who Believe in Any Age

Behold, the eye of the Lord is on those who fear Him,
On those who hope in His mercy,
To deliver their soul from death,
And to keep them alive in famine.
Our soul waits for the Lord;
He is our help and our shield.
For our heart shall rejoice in Him,
Because we have trusted in His holy name.
Let Your mercy, O Lord, be upon us,
Just as we hope in You.
-Psalm 33:18-22

When we seek to glean truth from God's word, we have to mine on several levels. But no matter the level, if we do not seek to "rightly divide the Word of Truth" (2 Tim 2:15) we will miss truth on the one hand or we may slip into confusion and doubt on the other.

No matter how often I try to get away from speaking about the plague of "heaven/hell" and "saved/lost" theology (reading every book, chapter, and verse through those false dichotomies) which permeates the professing church, I am almost daily confronted with these errors flowing out of Evangelical Christianity (the only cohort with whom I am concerned). 

As I have covered the larger topic here and elsewhere (podcasts posted below), I want to examine Psalm 33 in light of these errors and in light of right division. When we interpret scripture, we seek to be consistent. Consistent to audience and hope. That is, to whom is it speaking (directly) and what hope is before them. 

  • Is it an individual or a group? 
  • Are they of the nation or outside he nation?
  • Is God dealing with a nation or all of mankind in the age?
  • Is the hope before us earthly or heavenly?

In Psalm 33, we have the writer addressing God as Creator

By the word of the Lord the heavens were made,
And all the host of them by the breath of His mouth

God, as Creator, focuses us clearly on the seen heavens and earth (Gen 1:1). In the fist two millenia of the story of man, there is no promise of a "nation" or a "land." The hope is the restoration of Paradise lost in Adam and salvation from the curse of death. It is only when the Lord chooses Abraham that he reveals his plan for a land, a nation, and an earthly priesthood (removed from the heavenly priesthood of Melchizedek). 

The Psalmist is looking at all Creation. What should not be lost here is that God always had a plan for the Gentile nations. Before Abraham, all scripture knows is God's plans for all men. No nation above any other. When God chose Israel, he did not abandon the Gentile. His plan for the earth and the earthly Kingdom connected it made provision for the Gentiles. Israel was to be the twelve wells of water for the 70 palm trees (Exodus 15:27).

We note again that the Lord Jesus Christ came to confirm the promises made to Israel in regard to the land and the earthly kingdom and priesthood. He tells us, in no uncertain terms, that he "was not sent except to the lost sheep of the house of Israel” (Matthew 15:24). And he came to confirm the promises to the same people. 

As the Apostle Paul notes in Romans 15:8-12 this two-fold ministry and plan of the Lord:

Now I say that Jesus Christ has become a servant to the circumcision for the truth of God, to confirm the promises made to the fathers, and that the Gentiles might glorify God for His mercy, as it is written:

“For this reason I will confess to You among the Gentiles,
And sing to Your name.”

And again he says:

“Rejoice, O Gentiles, with His people!”

And again:

“Praise the Lord, all you Gentiles!
Laud Him, all you peoples!”

And again, Isaiah says:

“There shall be a root of Jesse;
And He who shall rise to reign over the Gentiles,
In Him the Gentiles shall hope.”

The House of Israel and the House of Jacob are central to both the Old (Exodus 19) and the New (Jer 31, Heb 8) Covenants. God's plans for the earth are centered on these people and their nations.

In Psalm 33 the lens is pulled back. While God was dealing with men through Israel in that age (no Gentile is seen in scripture unless he comes in contact with Israel or with a Jew), God has never stopped dealing with all nations. 

The Lord looks from heaven;
He sees all the sons of men.
From the place of His dwelling He looks
On all the inhabitants of the earth;
He fashions their hearts individually;
He considers all their works.

God has always seen all nations and has always seen every individual. Scripture deals with the hope placed before men in the restoration of Paradise until the plan for a nation at the head is revealed. The hope from Abraham to the end of the Acts was God's plan of an earthly, righteous kingdom of priests via the nation of Israel. But as scripture lays out the plan of God and his dealings with Israel (and the Covenants given to Israel for the land and the earth), he continues to see all men. This is brought out by the Psalmist.

Behold, the eye of the Lord is on those who fear Him,
On those who hope in His mercy,
To deliver their soul from death,
And to keep them alive in famine.
Our soul waits for the Lord;
He is our help and our shield.

We have a change here toward the end of the Psalm. The focus turns from "those who fear Him" to "our soul" and "our shield." But let us stay on the thoughts for those who fear Him of any nation. We first note that these are those who "hope in His mercy." This is the gospel of grace that has been declared since God spared Adam after he sinned. A righteous man needs no mercy, only the sinner needs mercy. The germ of this truth is found in the declaration of God in Genesis 3:15.

This section of Psalm 33 finishes with a dual identity (as I see it). The Psalmist identifies with ALL men who need His mercy (for all have sinned and come short of the glory of God). And the Psalmist stands here for Israel who also need the Lord's mercy for the nation surely failed the Lord.

In there, we see that every man needs the mercy of God to have his soul delivered from death. What would this mean in a "saved/loss" theology? From what is God "delivering" the "soul?" We can read verse 19 two ways, but either way, the "soul" dying is before us.

One who has God's mercy has the certain hope that his soul (his being) will be delivered from the state of death that all men experience. That deliverance will come when the hope of resurrection is experienced. How this was mercy was to be secured was not fully understood. Blood had to be shed, and God would supply a substitute in his mercy, but this was only seen in type before Christ. But we see the hope of resurrection and immortality (dual freedom from the death of the soul) in Christ!

For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality. So when this corruptible has put on incorruption, and this mortal has put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written: “Death is swallowed up in victory.”

“O Death, where is your sting?
O Hades, where is your victory?”

The sting of death is sin, and the strength of sin is the law.  But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.

-1 Cor 15 

We see clearly in Christ what the Psalmist saw in God's mercy. He knew the Lord is merciful. He knew the Lord forgives sin. He knew the Lord would deliver his soul (life) from death (grave and Hades), but he had to look forward. We look back to the finished work of the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ!

If we turn back to Psalm 32, we see the Psalmist rejoicing in the knowledge of sins forgiven. This is BEFORE the "New Covenant" of Jeremiah was revealed. That covenant is not "salvation by grace," for God has saved by grace from the beginning. 

1 Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven,
Whose sin is covered.
2 Blessed is the man to whom the Lord does not impute iniquity,
And in whose spirit there is no deceit.
3 When I kept silent, my bones grew old
Through my groaning all the day long.
4 For day and night Your hand was heavy upon me;
My vitality was turned into the drought of summer. Selah
5 I acknowledged my sin to You,
And my iniquity I have not hidden.
I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the Lord,”
And You forgave the iniquity of my sin. Selah

So, it is the "soul" that is saved from "death" by grace through faith. Once again, scripture testifies that the hope of all in Adam is the hope of resurrection in Christ.

For since by a man came death, by a Man also came the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ all shall be made alive.

-1 Cor 15:21-22

The New Covenant does not create salvation by grace, it has always been there. The New Covenant for "O Virgin of Israel" (Jer 31) and the security of rescue from death are both sealed by the complete work of Christ, but remain independent truths,