In an age of individualism, Christians would do well to open our bibles and look at the testimony of Scripture: There are no solitary Christians. Persecuted? Yes. Imprisoned? Certainly. Banished? Undoubtedly. Solitary? Never. In fact, walking through the New Testament epistles, I am reminded of how little is addressed to the individual. The bulk of our New Testament canon is directed to the church, and even when an epistle is written to one, for example Timothy, it is for the sake of the church, and in the context of the local church, specifically. Even the Greek word ekklesia that we translate as “church” literally means “assembly.” No one assembles alone.
As a family, we look not to the transient whims of culture but the eternal Word of God to direct us. And like the psalmist, we lift our prayers to the Lord. To say that we are a blessed people is not to imply perfection but a perfect Savior, which is why, as his redeemed people, we can truly say,
Blessed is everyone who fears the LORD,
who walks in his ways!
When Samuel died, David was still on the run. Though anointed Israel’s future king, he was classified an outlaw by his in-law, Saul, the current king. Samuel’s death then was surely a blow to David’s morale; his authoritative representative and defender was dead. And so, for a time, the would-be-king lived like a fugitive, moving from place to place.
And so, in Christ we persevere, remembering that we have received the righteousness of God by his grace alone, and this same grace sustains us through this life. And we pray for those who persecute us, knowing the righteous Judge has justified us as righteous in Christ alone, and his gospel is freely offered to all who will believe.
While we are still assessing the worldwide issues that came out of the pandemic, for Christians, surely, we can agree that one of the key lessons learned was the value of corporate worship on the Lord’s Day. Perhaps we got a taste of what our brothers and sisters face in countries where they are not free to assemble in worship or even persecuted for it. How easy it is to take in-person, assembled worship for granted. You may remember, like me, the anticipation and excitement of returning to corporate worship with grateful hearts to praise the Lord together. Now, I want you to think back to that moment, and capture that in your memory, if you can. Because, that experience captures the essence of this psalm. Or, borrowing from this psalm, we could say that we were blessed to bless the Lord.
Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven” (Mt. 19:14). The analogy runs as an undercurrent through this psalm. We come not to the Lord as workers of anxious toil who have merited God’s favor but as children who bring nothing but need. He who is always working, worked on our behalf, becoming our eternal provision and protection through his life, death, and resurrection. And because of the work of Christ, we become children of God by grace through faith, gifts from our Father not our works (Ep. 2:8-9). And it is by God’s grace that we live out our faith in the blessed life he gives, working as unto the Lord, raising our children for his glory, and trusting always in his provision.
We often think of the sudden, supernatural appearance of the heavenly host in relation to Jesus’ birth, and rightly so. But in a sense, their explosion of praise is but a commencement of our continued celebration. For, we are not waiting like the Old Testament saints or even the angels, but “in these last days [God] has spoken to us by his Son” (Hb. 1:2) and has revealed his redemptive purposes in his church. So, let the angelic chorus continue, “Glory to God in the highest!”
The life of peace on earth is lived by prayer. When we feel wounded by lies and deceit, prayer directs our focus from ourselves to God, from self-pity to God’s glory. Obsessing over lies and deceit breeds bitterness; prayer fosters forgiveness.
Joy is not an achievement of the Christian life but a fruit of it. Nor is joy an acquisition but the produce of living by faith and obedience to the Spirit of Christ. Yet, some may feel as if joy is fleeting. If you are a Christian and wonder where your joy has gone, it would be wise to look to the robber baron of sin, your flesh. Like a thief who breaks in on Christmas Eve to steal all the presents under the tree, sin stealthily steals the gift of joy. And when we awake and realize it’s gone, we often look for it in all the wrong places.
This is of course good news for all who are in Christ and joyfully under his reign. But it is not good news for his enemies, all who reject his gospel freely offered, his righteous rule graciously given. And as Zion is the dwelling place of God, to whom Christ has given “the keys of the kingdom of heaven” and the authority to bind and loose on earth as in heaven (Matt. 16:19), all who reject the gospel of Christ’s church will be clothed with shame. But the love of God shines forth in his dwelling presence, for Christ and his body are one (1 Cor. 12:27). But where there is no love for Christ’s church, there is no love of God (1 Jn. 4:7-12). Therefore, for the love of God, “let us love one another” (1 Jn. 4:7a), enjoying the dwelling place and presence of the Lord forever.