March 17, 2010

To Live is Christ — praising God

Some say the Old Testament is for the Jews and the New Testament is for Christians, even limiting that to people who live in the western world. The verses that I’m studying this week say otherwise.
Praise the Lord, all you Gentiles! Laud Him, all you peoples! For His merciful kindness is great toward us, and the truth of the Lord endures forever. Praise the Lord! (Psalm 117:1–2)
Besides being the shortest psalm, the shortest chapter in the Bible, and the middle chapter in the Bible, this psalm was written several hundred years before Christ was born and before Christianity became the faith of His followers. Notice what it says.

First, the Gentiles or non-Jews are called to praise the Lord, not just the Old Testament people of God. The word LORD is in all caps, signifying that the original Hebrew word is YHWH. This is the name God gave for Himself to Moses at the burning bush. In Exodus 3:14, it reads I AM in English, signifying God’s self-existence and eternality. This name was considered so sacred by the Jews that they should pronounce it. They inserted the vowels from Adonai (Master or Lord) to remind themselves to pronounce LORD when reading Scripture, instead of saying Yahweh.

Further, the Jewish people were called God’s people because He choose to reveal Himself through them. However, this revelation was never intended for them only. It has always been God’s intention to redeem people from all over the world, not only Jews or Christians, but all nations. That is why He commands all to praise Him.

Second, He is kind toward all people also. Jesus commands His followers to love their enemies that we might be sons of our heavenly Father, “for He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust” (Matthew 5:45). God’s grace not only allows sinners to live when death is the penalty for sin, He also blesses all of us in many ways, including sunshine and rain.

Third, His truth endures forever. It isn’t truth for North Americans, or truth for those who choose to believe it. It is truth that will outlast all the critics and skeptics. The Bible says, “The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God stands forever” (Isaiah 40:8).

When I read these words, I always think about the opening verses in John’s Gospel. They describe Jesus as the Word of God. God spoke — and it was written (the Bible), but His Word also became flesh and lived among us — Jesus Christ. It is this Word of God, written or living and described as truth that will endure forever. The Word is eternal because it totally and forever the expression of our eternal God.

Lofty thoughts for today, thoughts suitable for the Most High God, or at least as suitable as I can muster. Praise His Name.!

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