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Isaiah 55:8-9

Isaiah 55:8-9

Friday, July 20, 2018

INSIGHTS FROM THE LORD'S SUPPER

"Now as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and after blessing it broke it and gave it to the disciples, and said, 'Take, eat; this is my body.' 27 And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them, saying, 'Drink of it, all of you, 28 for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. 29 I tell you I will not drink again of this fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father's kingdom.'"  
Matthew 26:26-29


I recently received an assignment that led me to make a fresh study of the Lord's will concerning the Lord's Supper. Even when we have heard numberless studies, it is amazing what we can learn from a fresh study of the communion that Jesus set up to draw us together on the first day of the week and remember His death, resurrection, and promised return. I hope that you can find fresh insight with me in this study.  May God bless you. 

It is vital that we study and examine the different terms that the Bible uses for the Lord's Supper to understand the meaning of its observance.  It is important to stress that the Lord's Supper is not a literal "Supper."  In the New Testament, the terms for the Lord's Supper are frequently used in a symbolic non-literal way.  Since many insist that Jesus made the unleavened bread and the fruit of the vine literally His body and blood, they end up with inaccurate or erroneous conclusions.  I must stress that the Lord's Supper is not a meal to satisfy one's hunger.   Some in the religious world insist that the Lord's Supper must be a full meal to be eaten as part of their worship.  But, they don't accept that this is precisely what the apostle Paul was forbidding the brethren to do in 1 Corinthians 11Why?  Because he explicitly stated in 1 Corinthians 11:34 that "if anyone is hungry, let him eat at home—so that when you come together it will not be for judgment."  So if anyone is hungry, he must eat at home.  Notice that Paul drew a contrast between their manner of assembly and the correct manner that Jesus wanted.  Thus, the word "Supper" in our context does not imply a literal meal or an evening meal.  Some insist that the word literally suggests an evening meal, but this is not the case here, for the term stresses the importance of the meal and not the time of the day.  Nowhere in the New Testament do you find the early church taking the Lord's Supper at a particular time of the day.  In the Old Testament, the Passover feast involved various practices and was eaten in the evening, and it had no relationship to the Lord's Supper.  The Passover feast was not even taken on the first day of the week.  

The Lord's Supper is a symbolic meal that consists of ingesting small amounts of bread and fruit of the vine.  In the New Testament the term "Lord's Supper" is used only once and is found in 1 Corinthians 11:20. In 1 Corinthians 11:23-25, the apostle Paul reminds the brethren of what Jesus had previously taught them during the last Passover with His disciples.  Now in 1 Corinthians 11:17-34 Paul's issue is "breaking bread" referring to the Lord's Supper versus the breaking of bread, meaning a "common meal."  The circumstances of these two different types of meal were to be handled differently.  Indeed, we can see a contrast drawn here.  For Paul says in 1 Corinthians 11:20 that when they assembled together, it was impossible to eat the Lord's Supper.  Why?  Because they had replaced it with a common meal and were thus causing division.  They were to eat their common meals at home!   
"22 What! Do you not have houses to eat and drink in?...  34 if anyone is hungry, let him eat at home—so that when you come together it will not be for judgment. About the other things I will give directions when I come."  (Verses 22, 34).

Paul contrasted this with what they were doing concerning the Lord's Supper.  For they were to take the Lord's Supper as a local assembly along with other rules and proper procedures in the assembly.
"33 So then, my brothers, when you come together to eat, wait for one another— 34 if anyone is hungry, let him eat at home—so that when you come together it will not be for judgment. About the other things I will give directions when I come."  (1 Cor. 11:33-34).

Paul rebuked them saying, "When you come together, it is not the Lord's supper that you eat."  The apostle Paul corrected the Corinthian brethren for not eating the Lord's Supper when they came together as a church, for they were eating their own meal (One goes hungry, another gets drunk).  Paul had to rebuke them saying, "22 What! Do you not have houses to eat and drink in? Or do you despise the church of God and humiliate those who have nothing? What shall I say to you? Shall I commend you in this? No, I will not."  (1 Cor. 11:17-22).  It was impossible to eat the Lord's Supper the way they were doing it.  The word "Supper" is sometimes translated "feast," (Matt. 23:6; Mk. 6:21; 12:39; Lk. 20:46).  It refers to an important meal to honor a person or for a special occasion.  In John 12:2, Mary and Martha made a special supper to honor Jesus when He visited them.   The Lord's Supper is an occasion of special honor.  It is a supper of which we partake as part of our worship as a greater memorial meal to honor our Lord and Savior.  It is the Lord's Supper!  You see suppers were also banquets of feasts associated with weddings or other special events, (Revelation 19:9; Mark 6:21).  The Lord's Supper memorializes the death of our Lord Jesus Christ.  Our Lord Jesus commanded us to eat the bread in memory of His body and also to drink the cup in memory of His blood, (1 Cor. 11:24-25).  It is vital to stress what the term "The Lord's Supper" teaches us.  The Lord's Supper honors our Lord and remembers His death, resurrection and His sacrifice by which He gives us forgiveness of sins.

So to understand better the nature of the language, it is crucial that we review the Old Testament memorial feast, the Passover, which it was a symbol of the Lord's Supper.


I.   THE PASSOVER:

God sent Moses and Aaron to command Pharaoh to let the Israelites go into the wilderness to offer sacrifice.  But Pharaoh refused to let them go, so God sent ten plagues on the Egyptians.  The last plague was the death of the firstborn.  Thus, God commanded each Israelite family to kill a lamb or goat without blemish.  They were to sprinkle some of the blood on the doorposts and the lintels of their houses, (Exodus 12:3-7).  In Exodus 12:11-14 God said, 
"In this manner you shall eat it: with your belt fastened, your sandals on your feet, and your staff in your hand. And you shall eat it in haste. It is the Lord's Passover. 12 For I will pass through the land of Egypt that night, and I will strike all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, both man and beast; and on all the gods of Egypt I will execute judgments: I am the Lord. 13 The blood shall be a sign for you, on the houses where you are. And when I see the blood, I will pass over you, and no plague will befall you to destroy you, when I strike the land of Egypt.  14 'This day shall be for you a memorial day, and you shall keep it as a feast to the Lord; throughout your generations, as a statute forever, you shall keep it as a feast.'"

Now notice three different ways in which the term "pass over" is used in our Text:
  1. The "pass over" literally describes the act when God slew the firstborn of each of the Egyptian families but "passed over" the houses of the Israelites which had the blood on the door, (Exodus 12:13, 23, 27).  Here we see the literal meaning of the term, "pass over."
  2. The "feast" that the Israelites were to eat in Egypt and afterward each year was called the "Passover," (verse 11; Ezekiel 45:21; Lk. 2:41; 22:1).
  3. The "lamb" that was slain was also called the "Passover," (verses 21, 27; Lk. 22:7; 2 Chronicles 30:15; Ezra 6:10; Mk. 14:12).  

So when Moses spoke of the feast and the lamb as the "Passover," was he speaking of a literal "pass over"?  Absolutely not, for the literal "pass over" was God's act of passing over the firstborn, for it was a symbolic memorial to the literal act.

  • The Blood of the Covenant in Exodus:
In Exodus 24, the Israelites were at Mount Sinai where God gave the Law and declared the Ten Commandments as well as many other laws for them to obeyGod invited Moses, Aaron, Nadab, Abihu, and seventy of the elders of Israel, to worship Him.  Only Moses was allowed to come near God.  This action implies some critical principle that no one can worship God without a Mediator, for we are sinners.  And so, as the Israelites could not approach the mountain of God, neither can we.  When the Tabernacle was built, no one could pass through the veil into God's presence.  And just like them, we need someone to go before God on our behalf.  This could only be done with a Mediator.  So, when Moses declared all of God's words and laws, the Israelites answered with one voice saying, "All the words that the Lord has spoken we will do."  (verse 4).  They understood that God's Grace constrained them to obey.  Moses then wrote down all the words of God and His laws to them, and he built an altar for Him at the base of the mountain. "And Moses took half of the blood and put it in basins, and half of the blood he threw against the altar."  (Exodus 24:6).  Moses proceeded to take the blood of the animal, dividing it in half.  Half of the blood went into basins, and the other half was thrown against the altar.  The blood against the altar symbolized a divine transaction, for it did not go on the people but on God's altar Why?  Because God is the only one, who can grant forgiveness and atonement.

When Moses read the Law, the Book of the Covenant to them, they said, "All that the LORD has spoken we will do, and we will be obedient," (Exodus 24:7).  Isn't it amazing how they accepted the covenant laws without any complaining!  They answered with one voice saying that they will do and be obedient to God.  After this Moses "took the blood and threw it on the people and said, 'Behold the blood of the covenant that the Lord has made with you in accordance with all these words.'"  (Exodus 24:8).  I want to stress that verse 8 is the key verse that connects us to the New Testament. Moses then took the other half of the blood that was in the basins and threw it on the people saying,
“Behold the blood of the covenant that the Lord has made with you in accordance with all these words.” (verse 8).  The sprinkling of the blood implied the people's acceptance of the covenant to do all the LORD had spoken.  Thus the blood demonstrated their acceptance or validation of fellowship between them and God.  The blood of the Covenant was sprinkled on the altar and the people as a symbol of atonement.  The blood of the Covenant was available for them when they failed to keep the Book of the Covenant.  Notice what happened next. 
"9 Then Moses and Aaron, Nadab, and Abihu, and seventy of the elders of Israel went up, 10 and they saw the God of Israel. There was under his feet as it were a pavement of sapphire stone, like the very heaven for clearness. 11 And he did not lay his hand on the chief men of the people of Israel; they beheld God, and ate and drank."  (Exodus 24:9-11).

So, with the atonement made, the sprinkled blood and the people's acceptance of fellowship, they were able to see the glory of God.  After these actions, a covenant meal was offered.  A covenant meal was a common event in ancient times to solemnize and ratify an agreement between two parties.  We still see in our modern times, world leaders sharing a meal after a treaty or agreement.  So, let us consider the order of events before we go to the New Testament to apply this symbolism to the Lord's Supper.  
    1. First, the blood was shed or poured out.  
    2. Second, God offered atonement with the blood sprinkled on the altar.  
    3. Third, the Book of the Covenant was read to the people, who willfully made a covenant or commitment to obey which was symbolized by the blood that was sprinkled on the people.  
    4. Fourth, the Covenant was confirmed, approved and established between God and His people when the leaders of Israel ate and shared a meal.

II.   THE LORD'S SUPPER:
"23 For I received from the Lord what I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took bread, 24 and when he had given thanks, he broke it, and said, “This is my body, which is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” 25 In the same way also he took the cup, after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.” 26 For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord's death until he comes."  (1 Cor. 11:23-26).
  • The Purpose of the Lord's Supper:
Shortly before Jesus was arrested, put on trial and crucified, He took a moment while being in the upper room with His disciples to establish an important reminderJesus instituted the Lord's Supper with the little time He had left on this earth.  It is crucial that we understand the significance of the Lord's Supper since Jesus spent His last moments here on earth establishing this memorial. What we do when we partake of the Lord's Supper is of extreme importance.  So, what exactly are we doing when we partake of the Lord's Supper?  What must we be remembering?  How must we meet the commands that our Lord Jesus Christ left for us to follow?  We will consider these things as we study 1 Corinthians 11:23-34.

    • The Bread
      • This is My Body:
On the night when Jesus was betrayed, He took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and said, "This is My body."  I must stress Jesus is speaking metaphorically here.  There is no word in this Scripture that implies that Jesus was speaking of the bread literally turning into His body.  It would have made no sense to His disciples in the upper room when He made this statement.  Why?  Because His body was still present with them.  Jesus was saying that when they took and ate the bread as a remembrance of Him, the memorial, the bread represented His body.  Jesus said, "This is My body, which is given for you.  Do this in remembrance of me."  Jesus wants us to remember the sacrifice of His body.  Notice how well that ties with Exodus 24For the blood to be poured out first, the death of the perfect lamb must occur.  So, what exactly did Jesus want us to remember when He said that the bread represented His body?  Did He only want us to think about His physical body?  It will be absurd for Jesus to demand that from us since no one who is alive now has ever seen Jesus' physical body.  But we can discern and understand historically from the Scriptures the amount of suffering that Jesus engaged in on our behalf.  When we think about the body of Christ, we are thinking about the enormous sacrifice that Jesus undertook for us.  It is critical to stress the significance of Jesus' physical anguish that He suffered as an innocent man.  Jesus was sinless, not a criminal and had done nothing wrong to suffer such physical pain and humiliation!  Our Lord Jesus did not deserve all that He experienced as even Pilate himself admitted!!

There is so much more to consider when remembering the body of Christ.  In Philippians 2 we are reminded of Christ as being found in the appearance of a man, taking the form of a slave.  Indeed, this a shameful humiliation our Lord Jesus Christ had to suffer since His glory was suppressed so that no one could see the mighty glory of who He really was.  Since He took the form of a man, He had to humble Himself to do it.  Again, to remember the body of Christ is to remember the terrible shame that He had to carry for us.  For Isaiah 53:2-5 declares, 
"For he grew up before him like a young plant, and like a root out of dry ground; he had no form or majesty that we should look at him, and no beauty that we should desire him.  3 He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not.  4 Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted.  5 But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed."  

Indeed, this is a reminder to us of what the body of Christ had to suffer!  "He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed."  (1 Peter 2:24).  In our text, the body represents the shame, the humiliation and the suffering that Jesus had to endure when He came to earth in the form of a man, allowing His creation to put Him to death.  Thus, when we partake of the bread and remember His body, we must remember these essential elements.
      • Given for You:
Jesus did not only want us to remember the suffering that His body had to undergo but also the enormous sacrifice He had to make for each of us.  Carefully reflect on Jesus' words again found in Luke 22:19, "This is My body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of Me."  Some translations say, "which is broken for you."  It is important to stress that the reason why some translations don't use that phrase anymore is that many of the ancient manuscripts do not use the word "broken" in them.  But we must be careful not to misunderstand or misinterpret the phrase, "broken for you."  Why?  Because the body of Jesus was never broken according to the Scriptures.  We can obviously see this in John 19:32-36 when the Roman soldiers tried to break Jesus' legs to haste His death.  When the soldiers came to break His legs, they noticed that Jesus was already dead and thus did not break the legs.  The purpose of this was to fulfill what the Scriptures said, “Not one of his bones will be broken.”  (John 9:36).  For Jesus not to have one broken bone is a symbolic statement to show that He died in favor with God.  In the Old Testament when an animal died with broken bones, he was not an acceptable sacrifice for atonement to God.  A broken Jesus could have never been acceptable to God according to the Law.  Furthermore, the Old Testament describes the wicked as having their bones broken while the righteous will not.  We find this idea in Psalm 34It is extremely important that Jesus' bones not be broken to fulfill the prophecy.  In 1 Corinthians 11:24 notice that the bread is broken, for Jesus took the bread, broke it and said, “This is my body, which is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.”  The bread here represents His body.  When the Bible speaks of Jesus being broken, it is speaking metaphorically about the suffering and anguish that He had to endure for the death of His physical body.  However, His body was not broken in a spiritual and physical sense, for His body was raised from the tomb three days later.

    • Why Different Bread?
One may wonder why the bread is different and why it is unleavened bread.  In Luke 22:13-20, when Jesus instituted the Lord's Supper it was nearly the time for the disciples to make preparations to keep the Passover.  The Old Testament explicitly specified unleavened bread along with meat and bitter herbs, etc. So, Jesus instructed the disciples to make preparations for the Passover.  It was the day on which the Passover Lamb must be sacrificed for the people to be delivered.  Jesus commanded Peter and John to make preparations for the Passover.  This was the time when all Jews were commanded to come to Jerusalem.  The Law commanded a room in which the family could eat the Passover meal, keeping the regulations of the Law.  In verse 19, Jesus takes the bread.  The bread was to be unleavened bread during the Passover, for it symbolized the removing of filth and lawlessness. One of the preparations was to completely remove all leaven from the house and make the bread.
"3 You shall eat no leavened bread with it. Seven days you shall eat it with unleavened bread, the bread of affliction—for you came out of the land of Egypt in haste—that all the days of your life you may remember the day when you came out of the land of Egypt. 4 No leaven shall be seen with you in all your territory for seven days, nor shall any of the flesh that you sacrifice on the evening of the first day remain all night until morning."  (Deut. 16:3-4).  

Hence, when Jesus partook of the bread and gave thanks, He and His disciples used unleavened bread since all leaven must be removed from the houses in preparation for the PassoverWe Christians must follow this pattern of giving thanks for the offering of Jesus as the sacrifice for our sins to be set free from them.  Then Jesus proceeds to break the bread, giving it to His disciples while He was explaining the meaning of this act.  During the Passover meal, the bread represented affliction and suffering that they experienced while living in Egypt.  Who would have thought this bread was 1500 years old! 
    • The Cup:
What About the Cup?  Are we authorized to use cups or must we use only one cup?  Sadly, some brethren have divided the church over this doctrine demanding that the congregation use only "one cup" no matter how big.  Brethren, this is false doctrine!

In Matthew 26:27, Jesus said, "the cup."  In verse 29, He said, "this fruit of the vine" to explain "the cup."  We must allow the Bible to explain itself!  Some argue that "Drink from it, all of you," implies that every person must touch his lips to the one cup.  Indeed, if "cup" implies a literal material cup, then we must break it into pieces and drink the pieces.  With the "cup" we "bless" the "cup," we "divide" the "cup," we "drink the cup," (1 Cor. 11:27).  For the Lord Himself said, "whoever eats this bread or drinks this cup."  So how can anyone believe and teach that the "cup" is the physical container after reading these verses?  If that were the case, is the table of the Lord a literal table made of wood or metal?  Obviously not!  Hence, the "cup" means its contents, the fruit of the vine as Jesus said in Matthew 26:29.

      • This Cup is the New Covenant in My Blood:
Since the bread represents all that we have just described about the body of Christ, then what does the cup represent?  Do you think the cup symbolizes the same thing as the bread?  Let us carefully examine 1 Corinthians 11:25.

"This cup is the new covenant in My blood."  

Here, Paul is not saying that Jesus was only referring to His blood.  For if Jesus was implying that, then we can assume that we must also remember the same thing twice.  However, the cup in our text represents the covenant of His blood.  So, what does Jesus command us to remember each Lord's day when we partake of the fruit of the vine?  If we read this verse carefully with understanding, we can infer that the cup that we drink reminds us of the ratification and approval of the New Covenant that we are living under today.  This New Covenant could have never been put into effect without the blood of Jesus.  
"16 For where a will is involved, the death of the one who made it must be established. 17 For a will takes effect only at death, since it is not in force as long as the one who made it is alive. 18 Therefore not even the first covenant was inaugurated without blood."  (Hebrews 9:16-18).  

The Hebrew writer stresses how the covenant and the blood of Christ must be tied together.  The words, "new covenant" involves the blood that flowed from His side, His physical suffering and sacrifice.  So, we must think about the blood, when we think about the covenant that was inaugurated for us by His blood rather than His suffering.  The blood reminds us of the forgiveness of sins which is available only through the New Covenant.  Once again, the Hebrew writer states, 
"22 Indeed, under the law almost everything is purified with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins."  (Hebrews 9:22).  
"14 how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God, purify our conscience from dead works to serve the living God."  (Hebrews 9:14). 

The blood of Christ is not so much about the suffering, as it is about the forgiveness of sins that gives us life through Christ through the New Covenant.  The blood of Christ reminds us that we are dead to God because of our sins and how God made us alive through Christ.  We remember exactly how God rescued us from the dominion of sin, that we may be translated into His kingdom of Light, (Colossians 1:13).

The "blood of the covenant" calls to mind how the first covenant, the Law of Moses was established.  After Israel was given God's commandments, Moses sprinkled blood on the people and the Book. Then they were able to enter into a covenant relationship with God.  With the blood of Christ, we can enter into a covenant relationship with God.  The Covenant that was initiated by Christ' blood is the Covenant that gives us forgiveness of sins.  Even more, it is a statement that shows that we belong to Jesus, marked by His blood for obedience, (Hebrews 9:13-22).  Christ's death is portrayed as a sprinkling of blood for the new covenant that we are under.  Death is required for a "last will and testament" to be effective.  The sprinkling of blood symbolizes the atonement and forgiveness that was offered through the covenant. Jesus explains in Matthew's account that the fruit of the vine symbolizes the blood of the covenant that Jesus was soon to shed for the forgiveness of sins, (Matt. 26:27-28).  
"Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, to those who are elect exiles of the Dispersion in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia, 2 according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, in the sanctification of the Spirit, for obedience to Jesus Christ and for sprinkling with his blood: May grace and peace be multiplied to you. Thus, we must remember the Covenant that brings us back, reconcile us into a relationship with God. " (1 Peter 1:1-2).  

The apostle Peter ties obedience to Jesus and sprinkling with His blood.   Thus, we are bound by covenantal obedience by His blood.  We commit ourselves to the Lord as we partake of the cup which is Jesus' blood of the covenant.  This fits well with Paul's teaching in 1 Corinthians 11 about the Lord's Supper.
    • Proclaiming the Lord's Death:
In 1 Corinthians 11:23-25 the apostle Paul quotes what Jesus said when He instituted the Lord's Supper.  But notice what Paul said next.  "26 For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord's death until he comes."  (1 Cor. 11:26).  Paul sheds light on the symbolism of the bread and the cup.  When we focus on the blood of this covenant, we proclaim our commitment to obey our Lord until He comes again, even as Israel in Exodus 24 received the sprinkling of blood as they committed themselves to keep the covenant of God. I know you might say that Paul is not talking about a proclamation of our obedience but rather a proclamation of the Lord's death.  Just like the Passover was a reminder to the nation of Israel from Egyptian slavery and their redemption as they were led from such slavery to the promised land, so also by partaking of the Lord's Supper, we proclaim our freedom from the slavery of sin, Satan and death.  For as we remember our Lord's sacrifice and the covenant He gave us, we not only are sorrowful because of our sins and what they have done to Him, but we are proclaiming to one another and outsiders, celebrating our standing before God because of Christ's sacrifice.  By doing this, we are proclaiming to all that we are children of God and are redeemed by the precious blood of the Lamb!

In 1 Corinthians 11:27-32 Paul stresses what it really means to proclaim the Lord's death.
"27 Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty concerning the body and blood of the Lord. 28 Let a person examine himself, then, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup. 29 For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment on himself. 30 That is why many of you are weak and ill, and some have died. 31 But if we judged ourselves truly, we would not be judged. 32 But when we are judged by the Lord, we are disciplined so that we may not be condemned along with the world."

Here Paul is not talking about the number of cups that must be used or how quickly the elements must be passed or if the bread is prepackaged or homemade.  Paul is explicitly speaking about a thorough examination of ourselves when we eat.  Why?  Because when we partake of the Lord's Supper, we are making a declaration about the Lord's death and that we will obey whatever our Lord had commanded us to do.  The Lord's Supper is our proclamation to the world, to one another and the Lord that we will keep His covenant.  
  1. When we partake of the bread, we remember the body of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ who was sacrificed on the cross so that atonement could be offered to the world.  Our hearts must be focused on the death of our Lord Jesus.  
  2. When we partake of the fruit of the vine, we remember the blood of the covenant.  By doing this, we are declaring our agreement, acceptance, ratification, consent of the covenant, receiving atonement and faithfully proclaiming to do all that has been written in the Book of the Covenant.  The blood of Jesus is sprinkled on the people to indicate our fellowship with the Lord, for He died to bring forgiveness and salvation through the New Covenant.  Thus, atonement for our sins has been made, and proclamation must be made by us that we will do all that He has commanded us to do until He comes again.  

Therefore, Paul commands us to examine our hearts when we are partaking of the Lord's Supper.  Why?  Because we Christians, the redeemed, must take this special moment to discern and understand what we are professing as these elements are passed.  In doing this, we are declaring our commitment and faithfulness to this covenant.  For we are not just eating and drinking but proclaiming our Lord's sacrifice and death on the cross!  A death that gave us life to obey Him and to honor His Lordship.  We indeed are proclaiming our participation in His New Covenant with us.  We also proclaim our obedience to God's Grace given through our Lord's death.  So, we must judge ourselves that we may not fall under God's judgment, but dedicate ourselves to keep the covenant with your Lord.  We break the bread to participate in the body of Christ, and we drink the cup as our participation in the blood of Christ.

The Lord’s Supper not only looks back to that historical event, but it also looks forward to the hope of Jesus’ return. There is no great power in the redemptive death of Jesus without His resurrection and ascension and the promise of His return.  He comes again to take us home to be with Him forever, to give us the crown of glory and the joy of His presence!!  If we lose sight of this significance, our worship is hindered. If we are distracted by worldly cares or by numberless distractions that race through our heads, we must stop and think about what we are doing.  Jesus is worthy of our best, our deepest devotion!  The apostle Paul focuses on the manner that we take the Lord’s Supper (27).  Paul does not demand that we be worthy personally and individually to take the Lord’s Supper.  Some of us read the verse carelessly and refuse to take the Lord’s Supper because we don’t feel worthy. Some churches have been known to assemble for this purpose, then leave the elements untouched declaring that everyone feels too unworthy. Thus, they disobey the Lord, declaring a false humility. There is almost a boast in refusing the memorial.  Of course, no one is worthy of the sacrifice of Christ or even to untie the sandals of Jesus’ feet.  But you say, you have sins in your life that you have not corrected. What are you waiting for? Don’t you know, that even your prayers are an abomination to the Lord if you continue in your sins? Why do you sing praises to the Lord with unclean lips? Do you think that He is pleased?  The point of the verse is that the manner of taking the Lord’s Supper must be according to the principles that we are discussing in this chapter.  The solution to the problem is expressed in verse 28. “Let a person examine himself, then, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup.”   The key idea is expressed by various words, such as examine, discerning, judgment, weak, ill, died, judged, disciplined.  

Our security with God depends on our righteous and holy standing with Him. Throughout the Old Testament as well as the Revelation, the prophets present God with the “plumb line” or a “reed” measuring His people, (Amos 7:7-8; 2 Kings 21:13; Zechariah 2:1-5; 4:10; Isaiah 28:10-17; 34:11; Revelation 11:1; 21:15) We must “measure” ourselves, repent of what we are doing wrong both in our hearts and by our actions one toward another. God will certainly be watching and will condemn us if we don’t. We can lose our souls over how we observe the Lord’s Supper.  If we judge ourselves (31), and worthily observe the Lord’s Supper, God will not judge us. The question of God’s discipline in this context, together with the description of many as weak, ill, and even dead,  has always troubled me.  Clearly, Paul’s corrective words were disciplinary, and the Corinthians who were walking in carnality or immaturity were weak, ill and spiritually dead. Had God actually struck down some of the Corinthians like he did Ananias and Sapphira? We don’t have specific details about what had happened, so we are not free to speculate. The fact remains, the issues surrounding the Lord’s Supper are very serious. God loves us! He loves His little children who are injured by the carnality of their brethren. It matters when the communion and unity of the church are profaned.  

    • What is the Fruit of the Vine?
Does it really matter what we drink when we drink the cup of the Lord? Should the fruit of the vine be juice or alcoholic wine?  Why grape juice?  Why do we use grape juice instead of Coca-Cola, water, apple juice, milk or something else? We are not commanded to use fermented, alcoholic wine as the fruit of the vine in the Lord's SupperThe Bible teaches that it is sinful to drink even socially. It is absurd, out of place, to use that which is sinful when remembering the blood of Jesus that was shed to purchase us for God, (Acts 20:28; 1 Corinthians 6:20; 1 Peter 1:18,19).  It is vital that we stress that even though the Passover was a type of the sacrifice of Christ, there was absolutely no wine associated with its institution or observance until many, many centuries after God commanded this feast.   In 1 Corinthians 5, there is a significant reference to Christ as our Passover.  Our context is applied to church discipline and the matter of a brother who was committing the grossest of fornication (verse 1). Paul's remedy to the matter was to remove the sinning brother from the church, thus removing that leaven. His leaven was a bad influence on the Lord's church. Why remove it? So that they could be a new (clean) lump. We as Christians are to be unleavened (free from outside influences and impurities).  Therefore, leaven is portrayed as unwanted pollutants.  So why would God forbid a leavening influence in the church (the Body of Christ) and yet permit it in the bread (the body of Christ) or the fruit of the vine (the blood of Christ) as we keep the feast in an unleavened manner of sincerity and Truth (verse 8)?   And though Jews today and other religious groups use wine in their Passover feast, we must not conclude that we are authorized to do so in our Passover remembrance of Christ.   For such a conclusion is without any foundation whatsoever.

Wine was never used nor authorized in the New Testament.  Those who advocate fermented wine on the Lord's table find no solace. There are two main Greek words translated for wine. The first (oinos) is the usual word for intoxicating wine. The other (gleukos) is a word found only one time, (Acts 2:13) and is referred to as fresh-squeezed juice. It was sometimes called new wine.   When Jesus instituted the Lord's Supper, He said,  "28 for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. 29 I tell you I will not drink again of this fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father's kingdom.”  (Matthew 26:28-29).  Notice that Jesus explicitly commanded what they must drink and that was the fruit of the vine.  The fruit of the vine is grape juice, fermented or unfermented in the ordinary Jewish language.  Therefore, we must use the fruit of the vine, i.e., grape juice.

Jesus did not imply alcoholic wine. He simply implied the fruit of the vine. He used the word "fruit" which is also translated "offspring," as for example it was used when He rebuked the unbelieving people of His day saying, "Ye OFFSPRING of vipers, how can ye, being evil, speak good things? for out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh." (Matthew 12:34). And again, "Ye serpents, ye OFFSPRING of vipers, how shall ye escape the judgment of hell?"  (Matthew 23:33). This word is related to that which is generated or begotten. The only thing from a vine that is created or begotten is its berry or the juice from its berry, not alcohol. That is something that is produced as a by-product through a process.  Therefore, we conclude that the use of fermented, intoxicating wine on the Lord's table is not authorized and is therefore sinful.  Why?  Simply because there is no precedence for its use in the Old Testament.  Neither word for wine in the New Testament is associated with the Lord's Supper.  And because the fruit of the vine is explicitly that which is generated on the vine (the berry), not alcohol.  Hence, we must not pollute the Lord's Supper with any form of leaven (or yeast) in the bread which we eat nor in the juice which we drink. 

  • When Should We Have The Lord's Supper?
How often should Christians remember Jesus' death?  When should we eat the Lord's Supper? Should we commune on the first day of the week, Sunday or another day?   Indeed, these are very critical questions to answer since many religious groups and denominations eat the Lord's Supper (the unleavened bread and fruit of the vine), weekly, monthly, quarterly, on special holy days, annually or just when they feel like it.  We must carefully examine the teachings of Christ concerning the time and frequency of partaking of the Lord's Supper.  Sadly, some "churches of Christ" have begun taking the Lord's Supper on days other than what Jesus commanded, the first day of the week.  Some brethren have even dared to say that it is simply a matter of personal conscience, for it is not a matter of right and wrong.  Indeed, we must have Bible authority for everything that we do when serving God.  We must not under any circumstance participate in any practice unless it is authorized in the Gospel of Christ.  If God's Word commands us to do something, then we must do it just as He has commanded to do it and not change it.  Period!  Our worship to God is vain when it is based on human doctrines, (Matthew 15:9).  When we follow man-made doctrines that conflict with or differ from the Gospel, we are cursed by God, (Galatians 1:8-9).  When we refuse to abide in the teachings or doctrines of Jesus, we do not have God, for we must abide in Jesus' teachings to have the Father's approval, (1 John 9).  The Bible is our only complete and perfect guide to do everything that God wants us to do, (2 Timothy 3:16, 17; John 16:13; 2 Peter 1:3).  When God tells us what to practice, we must do it without arguing, for it is wrong to do something different even when He did not expressly say it.  If God says to do one thing, but then we do something else, we are following human doctrines, and of course, a different Gospel and our worship to God is in vain.  We don't have God.

God teaches us not just by commands and direct statements but also by example and "necessary inferences."  To abide in Jesus' teaching or doctrines, we must do His will in everythingGod states His will sometimes through direct commands and statements.  But other times, His will is taught by examples and by implications that force us to make the necessary conclusions to follow what is stated.  In 1 Peter 2:21, we read that Jesus left us an example that we must follow His steps.  Likewise, Paul gave us an example to follow as a patternThus, we must do the things seen and heard in Paul to imitate Christ as he himself imitated Christ.  We must exercise our senses in careful Bible study so that we can discern the Truth according to God's will.  We must listen to all things taught by Jesus, (Acts 3:22-23).  We must live by every word from God's mouth, (Matt. 4:4, 7).  Remember, that when Satan quoted passages to Jesus, Jesus quoted another passage to show the devil how he had misused the Scriptures, and so must we.  When we take all the information revealed in the Word of God on any given subject, we find that there is only one way revealed for doing a thing.  In doing this, we can rest assured that we are following the right pattern ordained by God.

    • Why Every Sunday?
Most religious groups or denominations do not partake of the Lord's Supper every week, even though they assemble on the first day of the week, which is Sunday.  The Lord's Supper is mostly kept once a year and even quarterly.  So, why do we partake of the Lord's Supper every Sunday?  In Acts 20:1-7, we are told when the New Testament church observed the Lord's Supper.
"After the uproar ceased, Paul sent for the disciples, and after encouraging them, he said farewell and departed for Macedonia. 2 When he had gone through those regions and had given them much encouragement, he came to Greece. 3 There he spent three months, and when a plot was made against him by the Jews[a] as he was about to set sail for Syria, he decided to return through Macedonia. 4 Sopater the Berean, son of Pyrrhus, accompanied him; and of the Thessalonians, Aristarchus and Secundus; and Gaius of Derbe, and Timothy; and the Asians, Tychicus and Trophimus. 5 These went on ahead and were waiting for us at Troas, 6 but we sailed away from Philippi after the days of Unleavened Bread, and in five days we came to them at Troas, where we stayed for seven days.  7 On the first day of the week, when we were gathered together to break bread, Paul talked with them, intending to depart on the next day, and he prolonged his speech until midnight."

In verses 1-6, Paul and his traveling companions left Philippi in Macedonia on a journey to Jerusalem after the days of the unleavened bread (the Jewish Passover, verse 6).  It took five days for them to go from Philippi to Troas.  Once they arrived there, the waited seven days.  In verse 7 the disciples came together (on the first day of the week) to break bread.  Paul preached to them and spoke to them until midnight.  Paul was planning to leave the next morning.  The term, "break bread" refers to the Lord's Supper as in Matthew 26:26; Mark 14:22; Luke 22:19; Acts 2:42; 1 Cor. 10:16 and 1 Cor. 11:23-24.  In some contexts, this phrase plainly refers to a common meal, (Acts 2:46) but it is not the case here.  For if this were a common meal, Paul would have violated his own teaching in 1 Cor. 11

In verses 8-16 during Paul's long speech, Eutychus fell asleep and fell out from a window and was killed.  But Paul raised him from the dead.  Afterward, Paul left at daybreak as planned, (verse 13).  They were hurrying to make it to Jerusalem by Pentecost, (verse 16).  They celebrated Pentecost fifty days after Passover, (Lev. 23:15-16).  They only had fifty days to make this journey, (verse 6).  

So, we conclude from Acts 20:1-7 that the Lord's Day is "the first day of the week."  I must stress that God teaches us by examples and not just commands.  The nature of the language in these verses indicates the frequency for the Lord's Supper, every first day of the week.  When God stated a time to do something in the Old Testament, such as keeping the Sabbath holy, it had to be done as frequently as that time occurs. By the same token, the first day of the week when Christ's disciples must come together to break bread should be our pattern every week.  The Gospel explicitly declares that the church, the disciples came together on the first day of the week to break bread.  So we must follow the example or pattern given to us by God when we come together to have the Lord's Supper.  Again, Acts 20 plainly explains that the disciples came together on the first day of the week, Sunday, to break bread.  We are not given no evidence that indicates that the church assembled together on any other day to break bread.  The evidence points to the first day of the week, for it was when they normally met.  Acts 20:7 is God's divine pattern of usual practice.  God has given us a memorial and has commanded us to observe itWe must believe and respect Bible examples when God commands us to participate in His authorized memorials, to come together to break bread each first day of the week.  God has told us when to do it and how often to do it.  Local churches must respect God's Word regarding the Lord's Supper.  You see in Acts 2:42 we are given an example regarding the Lord's Supper and assemblies.  The first congregation of God's new converts "continued steadfastly" in breaking bread and in the apostles' doctrine, prayer, etcThe breaking of the bread was not a common meal, but rather an act of worship.  I must stress that 1 Cor. 11 forbade having a common meal in worship meetings.  And though the phrase, "continue steadfastly" does not define how often the disciples observed the Lord's Supper, it does indeed tell us that it was a regular event commonly done among them and that they were practicing it diligentlySo we must follow the examples of the early church in the Bible to know how we must proceed, (Acts 20:6-7).  


CONCLUSION:

The Lord's Supper is called the "breaking of bread,"  (Acts 2:42; 20:7) and the "fruit of the vine," (Matt. 26:20) or "the table of the Lord," (1 Cor. 10:21).  The Lord's Supper was instituted "the night He was betrayed," (1 Cor. 11:23) and when they ate the Last Supper, (Matt. 26:17-20; Lk. 22:14-15).  In Mattew 26:26, Jesus established a special memorial while the apostles were reclining around the table in the upper room.  Matthew's account affirms that Jesus "blessed" the breadLuke's account declares that Jesus "gave thanks," (Luke 22:19).  And though the wording might be different, the concept is the same.  When Jesus "blessed" the bread, He gave "thanks" for it.  When Jesus "blessed" the bread, He was giving thanks for it, and it is our responsibility to give thanks also.  During the Passover feast, there was only one kind of bread that was allowed, unleavened bread, (Exod. 12:15).  That was the bread that Jesus specifically commanded that His disciples should eat. Therefore, we must use unleavened bread today in the Lord's Supper memorial, though the New Testament does not explicitly command it.  Another reason for using unleavened bread is that it symbolizes purity and hence is more appropriate to represent the sinless body of Christ, our Lord.  In Luke 22:10, Jesus said, "This is My body which is given for you; do this in remembrance of Me."  By Jesus declaring this, it demonstrated His purpose in distributing unleavened bread to represent His body.  He was establishing a memorial by which He wanted His disciples to remember Him and the great sacrifice He was about to make. He made the same statement later when He blessed the cup, (1 Cor. 11:25).  According to Acts 20:7, the early church gathered together on the first day of every week, Sunday, to remember Jesus' death, partaking of this memorial.  Today is no different. Each faithful Christian must do exactly the same thing in the assembly on the first day of the week.

The Lord's Supper is extremely important and thus must be done correctly and with the right frame of mind.  The apostle Paul warns us about partaking it in an unworthy manner.  Hence, we must partake of this extraordinary memorial of our Lord with solemnity and joy as we remember His death and the new covenant relationship we enjoy from Christ's blood.  When we partake of the Lord's Supper, we must look backward.  Why?  Because we must focus on the past, reflecting on Jesus death and crucifixion 2,000 years ago.  We must also reflect on the symbolic elements of the memorial (the bread and the fruit of the vine which represent His body and blood, 1 Cor. 11:23-25).  We proclaim the Lord's death on the cross when we partake of this very special memorial.  We must sorrow deeply when considering why Jesus died He did it for you and me!!  We must likewise consider Jesus' physical torture and what He went through for His enemies (sinners of this world, yes you and me!) when partaking of the bread and the cup.  So how are we proclaiming His death through such a memorial?  Simply by affirming our faith, that Jesus died for the sins of the world.  We must proclaim His death the rest of our lives as a proclamation of that Truth!  We must look forward when partaking of the Lord's Supper, that is to the future when Jesus our Lord will come again.  The Lord has commanded us to partake of this memorial on a weekly basis until we die or until He comes again, (1 Cor. 11:26).  We must rejoice, looking forward into the future knowing that this world is not our permanent home, for we know and wait for a better place, a heavenly home prepared for the faithful of the Lord.  

Partaking of the Lord's Supper reminds us that Christ will come again. We must look forward to the future judgment.  We must look inward when partaking of the Lord's Supper, that is, we must examine ourselves as we partake of this very special memorial in a worthy manner, (1 Cor. 11:27-29).  We must look into our hearts and judge ourselves.  Are we living holy and godly, the way we must?  Are we doing everything according to His authority?  We must discern the Lord's body, (verse 29), turning inward, and reflecting on the high price that was paid for our redemption at Calvary.  For if we don't do it this way, we are not partaking of the Lord's Supper correctly and we are not pleasing God.  We must give thanks to God the Father when we partake of the Lord's Supper for the great love He has shown us, (Col. 3:17).  We must offer prayers of gratitude and thanks for Christ's sacrifice and God's matchless love!  He has richly blessed us by providing a way to come back to Him and be reconciled and be saved through Jesus our Lord.

Jesus died to make atonement for our sins.  His great sacrifice of love must compel our hearts to proclaim what Israel proclaimed, "All that the Lord has spoken we will do."  We must keep everything in the new covenant, for we are commanded to do all as He has commanded us to do.  His blood frees us from God's wrath, the judgment we deserve because of our sins.  His blood demands that we love Him, serve Him and obey Him with all our heart, soul, mind and strength.  So each week when we assemble together, we are commanded to remember Jesus' body and the blood of the covenant, renewing our covenant commitment to the Lord as we strive to obey Him.  Jesus is our Passover, (1 Cor. 5:7) for He is our Deliverer.  His blood causes God's wrath to pass over us, for we do not receive what we deserve since Jesus has already given His life for us.  Our Passover has already been sacrificed, and we owe Jesus everything!!  Therefore, let us with a grateful heart remember this very special memorial every Sunday.  The Lord's Supper memorializes Jesus' death.  So we must honor the Lord and remember His death and sacrifice by which we may receive forgiveness of sins.  Hence, we must show our consecration to Christ, our separation from the world and our unity as members of His body.

May we honor Jesus our Lord when partaking of this very special memorial and be grateful for His sacrificial death on the cross for the forgiveness of our sins.  May we be reminded weekly of  Jesus' matchless love and sacrifice as we remember this memorial.  May we look forward to each week and strive not to forsake this memorial on every Sunday assembly.  May we partake of the Lord's Supper, giving thanks to God the Father for the great love He has shown to us. May we examine our hearts and partake of this special memorial in a worthy manner.  And may we practice His traditions faithfully and strive to teach them to others so that they are never forgotten.

We sometimes sing a very moving song to remember our Lord's sacrifice. It is entitled, "Alas, and did my Savior bleed?"  By Ralph E. Hudson


Alas, and did my Savior bleed, And did my Sovereign die;
Would He devote that sacred head For such a worm as I

Chorus,

At the cross, at the cross, where I first saw the light, 
And the burden of my heart rolled away,
It was there by faith I received my sight, 
And now I am happy all the day.

Was it for crimes that I have done, He groaned upon the tree?
Amazing pity, grace unknown! And love beyond degree.

Well might the sun in darkness hide, And shut his glories in,
When Christ, the mighty Maker, died For man the creature’s sin.

Thus might I hide my blushing face While His dear cross appears;
Dissolve my heart in thankfulness And melt mine eyes to tears.

But drops of grief can ne’er repay The debt of love I owe:
Here, Lord, I give myself away, ‘Tis all that I can do.

Luci

Thursday, June 28, 2018

JEHOVAH GOD, SHINE FORTH! PSALM 94

 "O Jehovah, thou God to whom vengeance belongeth, Thou God to whom vengeance belongeth, shine forth.  Lift up thyself, thou judge of the earth: Render to the proud their desert.  Jehovah, how long shall the wicked, How long shall the wicked triumph?"  
Psalm 94:1-3


Our Creator is a good and righteous God. Because He made us in such a way that we may choose to love Him and do what is right and good or ignore Him and do otherwise, our world is filled with wicked men and women who hurt and destroy the good that God wants. Our job as His faithful servants is to trust His ways and purposes when we cannot see the ultimate justice that He is bringing about. The day will come when all the righteous children of God will cry out, "Righteous and true are all your judgments!"  Psalm 94 presents our God in this light.

It is not easy to truly believe in God. Of course, it is easy to believe that God exists and that He is almighty and all-wise. The evidence is overwhelming in the Creation and the marvelous things that He has made. What makes it hard to truly believe is that we often see injustice that is not in harmony with the character of the God that we believe in. When the wicked afflict the righteous, we become impatient and wonder, "Can we truly trust our God?" That kind of doubt encourages us to disobey our Lord.

Psalm 94 focuses on the persecution of the faithful.  The wicked are selfish and proud.  They despise the way of Truth and those who pursue it.  One thing that struck me about this Psalm is that no matter how much wickedness, oppression, enemies, and evildoers cloud our lives, we have the assurance that our Jehovah God will triumph and shine forth.  The wicked will not defeat us if we genuinely call on Him to deliver us.  Our Jehovah God will bless His people and punish evildoers.

In this Psalm, we see a God of grace and love who upholds His faithful servants in any trial and who assumes the role of vengeance.  God's faithful children can rest assured that God will comfort and sustain them in their difficult time. God is not deaf or blind to unjust acts.  God knows everything, the ungodly acts of the unjust.  God calls them fools, for they cannot fool God, for He sees and knows everything.  He knows how worthless they are.  The unjust, the evildoers and those who defy God and His principles of righteousness will not escape God's righteous judgments and punishment. They will not destroy God's righteous onesfor He will rise up and not forsake His righteous ones.  And though our God is a God of love and mercy, He is also a God of vengeance.  A God who will rise up and act by bringing justice, and vengeance, for He does notice and He really cares.  What confidence, comfort and hope!

The Psalmist is especially calling for God to judge the proud that they may receive what they deserve.  It must not cause us any trouble or concern to ask God in prayer to give evildoers what is due to them, for He is a God of justice (vengeance).  When the righteous cry out to the Lord to shine forth, the wicked will not triumph!  I hope I can persuade you with the following words of encouragement when persecution, affliction, trouble, trials, and difficulties come your way.  I hope that you will hide yourself in the LORD our God and let Him sustain you, for He is the refuge for the righteous and the fortress for His faithful ones.  He will always be our only sure protection against anything or anyone that could possibly harm us! I certainly need these words of encouragement and assurance as much as you do!


I.   SHINE FORTH, GOD OF VENGEANCE!  (94:1-7) 
"O Lord, God of vengeance, O God of vengeance, shine forth!  2 Rise up, O judge of the earth; repay to the proud what they deserve!3 O Lord, how long shall the wicked, how long shall the wicked exult?4 They pour out their arrogant words; all the evildoers boast.  5 They crush your people, O Lord, and afflict your heritage.6 They kill the widow and the sojourner, and murder the fatherless;7 and they say, “The Lord does not see; the God of Jacob does not perceive."  

The Psalmist begins by describing God, not as a God of love and mercy but as a God of vengeance.  His appeal for judgment starts out with a complaint, for He is calling upon God to take His seat on His throne of glory and give the proud and wicked their just punishment. The word "vengeance" is from the Hebrew plural word,  נְקָמָה (neqamoth), that speaks of full and complete judgment.  He appeals to God in the urgency of his heart.  He pours out his feelings to God.  He calls on Him for three reasons:  to shine forth, to lift Himself up, and to render punishment.  Why? 
  1. Because God's judicial infliction of righteousness is His revenge.  
  2. Because God is the One who handles all vengeance.  
  3. Because God shines forth in the darkness, and as the Psalmist had cried out, darkness had taken over.  
And though God is righteous, He will according to His divine wisdom bring the wicked, the evildoers, into judgment.  The Psalmist is petitioning God to lift Himself up or to rise because it appeared to him that God was sleeping.  It appeared to the Psalmist that the wicked went free.  He wanted God to act and not be indifferent, but to punish the wicked.  He called on Him to carry out His vengeance and to deliver him from the hands of the evildoers.  He felt surrounded by them with no way out.  Does this sound familiar to you?  The Psalmist expressed his desire for the wicked to be stopped and not go free in triumph.  And since He knew that vengeance belongs to God alone, he wanted God to act by punishing the wicked.  The Psalmist cried out, "Jehovah, how long shall the wicked, How long shall the wicked triumph?"  The wicked around him were proud so He asked God, the Supreme Judgeto bring them before Him and demand that they give an account for their evil works.  The wicked around him were boasting about what they were doing.  The wicked were arrogant, selfish and vain.  The wicked enemies were destroying the Lord's nation.  "They crush your people, O Lord, and afflict your heritage."  

Have you noticed how often criminals and evildoers seem to have more rights than you?  If you agree, then this is your Psalm to read as you pray for God's deliverance.  Isn't it outrageous that the atheist questions our God's goodness and existence for allowing these evil doers to get away with evil?  But, there is one big difference between the one who believes in God and the atheist.  Although the Psalmist wondered when God was going to rise up and act, he knew quite well that God exists and is working on our behalf.  That is why he was pleading with Him to do the right thing and not hold back.

In verses 4-7, the Psalmist appears to be pleading with God to not allow the wicked to shine in their wickedness.  The wicked often appear to do evil freely or do as they please without any restraint.  In their freedom, they speak against our God, His Divine Word, and His church.  Not only are they free to do as they please by insulting their Creator and His statutes, but seem to find delight in oppressing, crushing, destroying and breaking God's children.  They are a hindrance to God's children.  They think that God does not care, or notice and that He is not looking at what they are doing.  Isn't it something that so many think this way when they sin?  In verse 6the wicked lack compassion.  "They kill the widow and the sojourner, and murder the fatherless."  They afflict the widow, the stranger and the fatherless by taking advantage of them. They can do that because the weak cannot defend themselves.  In verse 7, they say, “The Lord does not see; the God of Jacob does not perceive."  How cruel can they be?  Do they not have any consciences? How can they tolerate such actions?  Do they not know that they will have to answer to God, their Creator?  They believe that God does not see the wicked things that they are doing.  They recklessly say that God does not consider or understand what they are doing.  The wicked become persecutors, oppressors, murderers, proud, and boastful.  In today's society, the wicked will even teach our children that God does not exist, misusing and perverting science to affirm evolution with no other purpose than to deny their Creator and His creation.  We see this happening in our public schools and our universities.  We wonder why our children curse and deny their Creator!  What they do is cruel.  It exceeds their wickedness!


II.   THE LORD SEES!   (94:8-11)
"Understand, O dullest of the people!  Fools, when will you be wise?  9 He who planted the ear, does he not hear?  He who formed the eye, does he not see?  10 He who disciplines the nations, does he not rebuke?  He who teaches man knowledge— 11 the Lord—knows the thoughts of man, that they are but a breath."

In verses 8-11, the Psalmist charges the wicked saying, "Understand, O dullest of the people!  Fools, when will you be wise?"  He is urging the wicked to shine in understanding and wisdom.  The wicked do not understand because they do not care to know God.  He tells the wicked to be wise in their understanding because they appear to be unaware that God is the Creator of everything. The Psalmist voices three rhetorical questions which demand affirmative answers.

  1. "9 He who planted the ear, does he not hear?"  Since God created the ear, He can hear what they say.  The One who made our ears can hear the wicked things they say and do!  So, is God not also a God who hears and understands what happens in this world?  Do we not expect Him to have the same abilities with which He has made us?  
  2. "He who formed the eye, does he not see?"  Is it that hard to understand that the same God who made the "eye" for us to see, perceive and make judgments is the God who also sees, notices, discerns and judges?  Likewise, since He created the eye, He is certainly able to see the wickedness that they do.  
  3. "10 He who disciplines the nations, does he not rebuke?"  Are we not aware that the One who is the true Teacher of mankind, will also judge His people?  Indeed, God disciplines, corrects and judges His own children when they need it.  The God who judges others, will He not also judge His own children?  In like manner, our God teaches all men His knowledge, for He is the God of all knowledge and knows everything that is happening on earth.  "11 the Lord—knows the thoughts of man, that they are but a breath."  

Therefore, He has all power and authority to rebuke everyone and correct the wicked.  He assures us that He can punish the wicked and all their lawlessness.  Lest we forget, He Who created man, the ear, the eye and everything can with certainty know and search the heart of man and all his intentions.  He knows with certainty our thoughts.  He knows that man's thoughts are vain and fruitless.  He measures the thoughts of the wicked and finds them worthless and like a vapor.  For man's empty thoughts disappear quickly as does his breath. God knows everything!  Not only does He know everything, but He judges the thoughts, intentions, and actions of men.   We can rest assured that wickedness will not triumph. It will fail!  Those who dispute with God will fail, for righteousness will eventually triumph over lawlessness.  And although in their barren vanity, the wicked think in their heart that they will get away with their wickedness or lawlessnessGod is still in control, and He will chastise them!  And though God's judgment is not immediate, no one will escape it, for God will bring justice at the proper time.


III.   THE BLESSING OF GOD'S DISCIPLINE:   (94:12-15)
"12 Blessed is the man whom you discipline, O Lord, and whom you teach out of your law, 13 to give him rest from days of trouble, until a pit is dug for the wicked.  14 For the Lord will not forsake his people; he will not abandon his heritage; 15 for justice will return to the righteous, and all the upright in heart will follow it."
    • Blessings in Adversity:
In verses 12-17, the Psalmist stresses the need for the righteous to find blessings in life's difficulties.  He points out that blessings arise from hardship.  "12 Blessed is the man whom you discipline, O Lord, and whom you teach out of your law."  The word "discipline" or "chasten" in other translations includes all of life's discipline that leads us toward maturity. In this Scripture, the word "chastening" or "discipline" implies the teaching of God's Law.  The writer of Hebrews stresses the value of hard times calling it discipline, (Hebrews 12:3-13).  The Psalmist is also stating that God blesses men by teaching them His Law so that they will meditate on it with a willing and humble heart. In doing this, they can learn from Him WHO created the heavens and the earth, from Him who knows all our thoughts.  Can there be a better or more eminent Teacher?  Imagine all the knowledge He is willing to give us from His written Word.  It is too much for me to fathom!  All that He has revealed to us from that same Word so that we might obtain knowledge and wisdom and not perish.  Therefore, it is our duty to know the importance of that Word and be determined to read and study it with a humble heart.  God's Law is His instrument of instruction and method of teaching.  In our times of oppression and suffering, we learn from them as we endure them.  There are many hidden blessings when we choose to learn from our ordeals!

In verse 13the Psalmist prays to God to allow the sufferer to find some rest from the days of hardship as he patiently awaits God's judgment of the wicked.  He pleads, "3 to give him rest from days of trouble, until a pit is dug for the wicked."  He prays for a time of quiet rest and undisturbed peace.  God's purpose in revealing His Law, His Word, to us is to instruct us to live righteously and godly.  It will give us rest and peace in the days of adversity.  For judgment will arrest the wicked when God puts them in the pit.  We can rest assured that God will deal with the wicked at the time God deems best. The "pit" here is the wicked man who eventually receives the judgment of his wickedness.  Indeed, God provides relief from troubled times and we are never crushed beyond hope. (1 Corinthians 10:13).  God will make sure to give us rest in the days of trouble.  He will get us back on our feet before the next challenge comes.  God will punish the wicked, for a time will come when a pit is dug for them and will be ensnared for their sins.  We can rest assured that justice will come!

    • The LORD Keeps His Own:
In verse 14, the righteous look at persecution and hardship through the eyes of reassurance, for they know that God will not forsake them.  "14 For the Lord will not forsake his people; he will not abandon his heritage."  God has promised to take care of us, His inheritance, His chosen people and we must believe that!  God will not reject His own people, for He will not abandon His special possession.  And though at times it seems as if deliverance is delayed, and times are difficult, God will not abandon us.  So, when you find yourself wondering, frustrated and discouraged about God's apparent lack of judgment on the wicked, you need to go back and read His revealed Word to know Him better.  This will be the only way to know with certainty that He will give you rest.  How do I know that?  Because He will not forsake or abandon those who do His will.  He will not forsake us, for we are His inheritance.  Such promise of assurance and rest!  Have you ever felt the way that the Psalmist did when he thought that God had abandoned him?  I have!  It is at such times that I must force myself to think of all His precious promises that He has given us, promises that reassure and strengthen our faith because we are His inheritance.  He has promised not to abandon us in the days of adversity, anxieties, cares, and trials.  And I believe with all of my heart that He will never break His promises.  This ought to motivate us to walk by faith and not by sight!

In verse 15, God's righteousness demands that justice returns to the righteous and that they always seek it.  "15 for justice will return to the righteous, and all the upright in heart will follow it."  The Hebrew literally says, "Because unto righteousness judgment returns and after it are the upright of heart."  Vindication will always come to the righteous and the upright of heart can indeed depend on such a promise.  The faithful do not have to fear God's judgments, but rather rejoice, for His judgments will bring glory and honor to them!  The faithful can rely on God's faithfulness toward them.  The righteous can trust in God's ultimate victory in the end!  In time you and I will truly see judgment rendered for righteousness.  The upright in heart will follow righteousness.  It is their righteousness that makes them just, upright and honorable.  The word upright refers to posture or position.  How would the righteous, the guiltless and unashamed stand-up? They stand upright in spirit and heart.  Righteousness and justice will triumph!  We must not be shaken when justice and righteousness are delayed.  The righteous know they will triumph if they persist in doing righteousness.  What about the unrighteous, the guilty and the ashamed?   They can't stand upright!


IV.   GOD, OUR RESCUER:  (94:16-19)
"16 Who rises up for me against the wicked?  Who stands up for me against evildoers?  17 If the Lord had not been my help, my soul would soon have lived in the land of silence.  18 When I thought, 'My foot slips,' your steadfast love, O Lord, held me up.  19 When the cares of my heart are many, your consolations cheer my soul."'

In verse 16, the Psalmist reminds us that although at times it seems as if we are standing alone, we are not really alone.  “16 Who rises up for me against the wicked?  Who stands up for me against evildoers?"  God will indeed stand up for us.  God will be our companion when others (our closest friends) forsake us and are not standing with us.  Only our God is faithful enough to walk beside us to help us as we walk through the deepest valleys of trials.  Only He will sustain us, for He is our Rescuer.  He is the only One who will protect us from the wicked and will stand up against our enemies. There is no better Deliverer than our God!  We can confidently rely on Him.  Without His help, we can do nothing!  He is our Comforter who loves us with an unfailing love.  A love that will support us during our most difficult and trying times.  And though His disciples may falter during the hours of crisis and ordeal, He has promised that He will not abandon us.  When Paul was in prison, he said that all had abandoned him and that no one came to his defense and stood by his side, except the Lord who stood by him and strengthened him, (2 Tim. 4:16-17).  Oh, such words of comfort!

Indeed, verse 16 contains some excellent rhetorical questions:
  1. Who will protect us from the wicked?
  2. Who will stand up against our evildoers?
The resounding answer is no one, except our God, for He is our only Deliverer on whom we can confidently rely.  We would be nothing if our God did not help us, for He is the God of comfort.  He will be there to provide for us and deliver us with His unfailing love.  His unfailing love can indeed support us through our difficulties and ordeals.  The Psalmist surely knows the answer and expects us to know it as well.  Who will rise up for us?  Surely, Our God will rise up for us!  No other god will help but the True God.

In verses 17-19, the righteous of the LORD acknowledge that had it not been for God, they would have gone under.  "17 If the Lord had not been my help, my soul would soon have lived in the land of silence."  Had the LORD not held him up or helped him, he would have died.  The Psalmist refers to the grave as "the land of silence."   It is a metaphor that underlines the absence of any communication from the dead.  When the righteous suffer, they are confident that God is with them and is watching over them because of their faith and walk with God.  "18 When I thought, 'My foot slips,' your steadfast love, O Lord, held me up."  God manifests His providential care to His servant by making his journey a safe one.  When he feels that his foot is slipping, he is confident he can count on the LORD to rescue him, for he trusts that God's lovingkindness will supply his need.  The slipping foot here portrays those difficulties that could easily end in tragedy were it not for God's intervention.  God will hold us up or keeps us standing upright when we find ourselves in the midst of slippery places, finding it difficult to stand firm.  We clearly see that our God shines, that He is rising up and standing up against the wicked and all lawlessness, that He is our Ebenezer that Samuel spoke of in I Samuel 7.  In Samuel’s days, we see Israel during the darkest times of her history.  In those days, one of the fiercest enemies of the Jews, the Philistines, drew up in battle array against Israel, near Ebenezer.  As the battle spread, Israel was defeated and about four thousand men were killed on the battlefield, (I Samuel 4:2).  Needless to say, the Israelites could not understand what was going on.  They did not understand that the spiritual decline of the nation was forfeiting the protection and victory of Jehovah God.  When the elders sent for the Ark of the Covenant at Shiloh and they saw it coming into the camp, they all shouted with joy.  But there was a problem.  They were placing their trust in the magic of the Ark and not in the Almighty God Who dwelt above the Ark. This time they lost 30,000 as well as the Ark, (I Samuel 4:5-11).  God had given them conditional promises.  They had not kept or obeyed those conditions which were part of that covenant.  They had broken the covenant.  Since they had broken this covenant, God was not obligated to answer their prayers.

 In 1 Samuel 7:3-14, we read that Samuel tells Israel:
  • To return to their God with all their heart.
  • To remove their foreign gods from among them.
  • To direct their hearts to God, confessing their sins.
  • To serve God alone.  
All these things are part of repentance. They are a part of brokenness.  Samuel promised them deliverance if they had a heart of true repentance.  So they met those conditions for deliverance.   Now in the midst of all that, Samuel assembled all Israel at Mizpah that he might pray for them.    They had pled for Samuel to pray for them since they feared another attack of the Philistines.  He offered a whole burnt-offering in worship, and he cried to the Lord for Israel, and the Lord answered him.  As Samuel offered the sacrifice, crying out to God for Israel, the Philistines were getting ready to attack Israel.  God fought for Israel that day!  He confused them on the battlefield.
“Now while Samuel was offering up the burnt offering, the Philistines were gathering together to battle against Israel.  But God fought for Israel that day.  He thundered against them and confused them on the battlefield, so that they were badly beaten before Israel.”  

The LORD answered Samuel's prayer.   Let us consider God's answer to prayer and what Samuel did while he prayed to His God for their deliverance:

“Now when the Philistines heard that the sons of Israel had gathered to Mizpah, the lords of the Philistines went up against Israel. And when the sons of Israel heard it, they were afraid of the Philistines. Then the sons of Israel said to Samuel, 'Do not cease to cry to the Lord our God for us, that He may save us from the hand of the Philistines.'  Samuel took a suckling lamb and offered it for a whole burnt offering to the Lord; and Samuel cried to the Lord for Israel and the Lord answered him.  Now Samuel was offering up the burnt offering, and the Philistines drew near to battle against Israel. But the Lord thundered with a great thunder on that day against the Philistines and confused them, so that they were routed before Israel.  The men of Israel went out of Mizpah and pursued the Philistines, and struck them down as far as below Beth-car.   Then Samuel took a stone and set it between Mizpah and Shen, and named it Ebenezer, saying, 'Thus far the Lord has helped us.'  So the Philistines were subdued and they did not come anymore within the border of Israel. And the hand of the Lord was against the Philistines all the days of Samuel.  The cities which the Philistines had taken from Israel were restored to Israel, from Ekron even to Gath; and Israel delivered their territory from the hand of the Philistines. So there was peace between Israel and the Amorites.'"  (I Samuel 7:10-12)

God answered Samuel's prayer and helped the Israelites because:
  • They had repented of their sin.
  • They confessed their sin.
  • They rededicated themselves to the LORD.
  • They humbly asked for prayer. 
  • They wanted the LORD to fight for them, acting on their behalf.
  • Therefore, they behaved in a manner of repentance, acting for Him.
Going back to the Psalmist's words, "17 If the Lord had not been my help, my soul would soon have lived in the land of silence.  18 When I thought, 'My foot slips,' your steadfast love, O Lord, held me up.  19 When the cares of my heart are many, your consolations cheer my soul."'

If the LORD does not help us, our souls will dwell in deep dark silence.  We will be hopeless!  It is disturbing to see so many people in this world that are lost and know not the LORD's rest and deliverance.  When life hurls wickedness at them, they are overwhelmed with life's adversities and anxieties.  They seem to have no hope, rest, joy or deliverance for their lives.  This is sad!  Why?  Because they are sinking into an irreversible silence and darkness.  However, the good news for those, who love their LORD, know Him and have learned from Him from the Sacred Text, is that they have their LORD as their Ebenezer, their Helper.  His mercies are new every morning.  Certainly, His mercies carry and hold us up when our foot slips.  And although we might have a multitude of anxieties and cares, we find delight, comfort, refuge, peace, and strength in the LORD.  How does He comfort us in the midst of our anxieties, trials, and cares?  By putting delight and joy into our souls, because we know and are confident that He will judge righteously.  We know that He rules.


V.    THE LORD IS OUR FORTRESS AND REFUGE:   (94:20-23)
"20 Can wicked rulers be allied with you, those who frame injustice by statute?  21 They band together against the life of the righteous and condemn the innocent to death.  22 But the Lord has become my stronghold, and my God the rock of my refuge.  23 He will bring back on them their iniquity and wipe them out for their wickedness; the Lord our God will wipe them out."  
The final stanza of this Psalm takes us back to the beginning.  In verses 20-23the LORD shines for the upright in heart and against the wicked one.  The Psalmist tries to reason with God's heart and thinking.   In verse 20, the Psalmist asks, "20 Can wicked rulers be allied with you, those who frame injustice by statute?"  The word "throne" in our context implies a group of people or nations who are ruled by evil and bound to accomplish their wickedness at any cost.  Wickedness is described as having been put upon a throne, given honor a platform to exercise a destructive influence.  The Psalmists asks, Will God allow the wicked to build an evil strategy into the form of command or a statute?  Will God then approve the wicked when he pursues it as a national commitment or personal resolve?  Will He unite and work with such a strategy?  The Psalmist obviously implies that He will not. He declares that God's righteousness will prohibit Him from doing it!  His holiness will not permit it and be compromised.  His holy and righteous nature will not compromise with evil.  He will not and cannot have fellowship with wickedness or lawlessness.  It is against His righteous nature, (1 John 1:5-6).  In other translations, “the devices of evil by law,” which would imply that His throne has fellowship with wickedness.  The Psalmist knew God would not go for that.  So the question is, what evil were they conceiving by law?  The evil was in the laws they had made against the life of the righteous.  They condemned the innocent to death.  So, will God approve any law that advocates and legalizes a sinful way of living?  Of course not!   Why?  Because the righteous acknowledge that when human laws conflict with the laws of God, they must follow the laws of God, (Acts 5:29).

Verse 21, states that the righteous are often trampled under the heels of the wicked, because of their faithfulness to God and His divine order of life.  The righteous are usually attacked by others who oppose their righteous living.  The Psalmist says, "21 They band together against the life of the righteous and condemn the innocent to death."  The wicked condemn the innocent to death.  They come against the righteous, seeking to destroy their life. In verses 22-23, we notice the confidence the Psalmist has in the LORD, in His work.  He is confident that God will defend the cause of the righteous, that He is the Rock of our refuge, and that we are safe in His providential care.  Not only will He protect us but with confidence, we can say that He will cause the wicked or unrighteous to reap as they have sown.  He will cut them off in their wickedness.  How do the righteous respond when they're persecuted?  They respond by trusting in God and hiding themselves in Him, for He is our safe refuge from the storms that rise up against us.  Regardless of the severity of the storm, the righteous can rest assured that God will be their refuge.  "22 But the Lord has become my stronghold, and my God the rock of my refuge." Such powerful words of hope!  So why despair?  Our God is indeed our best "stronghold," and a cliff-like "rock" of "refuge."  God's righteous children can confidently put themselves in God's hands, for He is an invisible wall against all forces of destruction.

In verse 23God's justice will uncover the sins of the evildoers, and bring them down upon their heads.  "23 He will bring back on them their iniquity and wipe them out for their wickedness; the Lord our God will wipe them out."  We can rest assured that our God will turn or bring back the sins on the wicked.  He will destroy them!  You see, sin metes out its own punishment, for when we sow to the flesh, we must also reap what we have sown, (Gal. 6:7-8).  Evildoers will be punished for their sins on earth and will also be punished for their sins in eternity!  The lawless and the wicked must pass through two judgments:  the judgment of sin and the judgment of God's throne.   God's righteousness and moral law demand it!  A law He has built into this world and from which there is no escape.   And though one might escape from the law of gravity, it is not the same with God's Law or moral retribution.  The law, "whatever one sows, that will he also reap," (Gal. 6:7b) applies to more than personal giving.

Truly, the destruction of the wicked derives from two sources.  First, their sins will return to them, because what they intended to do to others will usually come back to them.   The destructive powers of evil (working through their own sins) will batter and destroy them.  Second, God will judge them in eternity.  God not only administers due punishment through His universal moral laws, but He also does it through His jurisdiction and lordship.  Justice will eventually come.  God will give us relief from our sorrows and from the evildoers who afflict us, for He will turn their sins upon themselves.  This leads us back to the beginning of this Psalm with the question:  "3 O Lord, how long shall the wicked, how long shall the wicked exult?  4 They pour out their arrogant words; all the evildoers boast."  The answer is that God will bring all humanity before His throne of righteousness and holiness to give account for their sins.  God will repay them for their sins, lawlessness and will be destroyed for their wickedness or lawlessness.  For He is the most righteous and just Judge!  We can confidently say, "Jehovah is on my side; I will not fear: What can man do unto me?"  (Psalm 118:6).  What hope and confidence in this truth! 


CONCLUSION:

The Psalms are undeniably beautiful!  They represent a rich tapestry of prayer and praise. Some reflect a texture of deep despair.  They glow with a deep peace and strength provided by our Lord. They exalt the Most High God. They express a range of human emotion and experience. They teach us how to improve our prayers that we might reach out to God from every imaginable experience. They help us find peace in the midst of turmoil.  Most of all, they help us grow deeper in our walk with our Lord.  The Psalms are my prayer book, for they help me learn how to love my God better, share my deepest fears and emotions with Him.  They strengthen my faith and help me to express my deepest emotions when I struggle to express them to God.  For me, the study of Psalms is an excellent way to enter God’s world of inspired and inspiring poetry!

Psalm 94 is a vivid portrait of the wicked, their attitudes and actions against God's righteous children.  This Psalm is a reminder of God's care and protection toward the righteous.  God sees His children as His own possession or inheritance, (94:5).  God regards those who seek first His kingdom and His righteousness as His responsibility.  As long as we His children remain within the circle of His will and fellowship, God will guide, protect and provide for us.  We can rest assured that He will!  God will not abandon the upright in heart, the righteous, for they are His inheritance.  He will vindicate the ways of the righteous.  He is a continual refuge and fortress to His godly ones.  He will take a stand against lawlessness or wickedness.  He is a shield for the righteous against all harm and wickedness.  His faithful children can rest assured that no evil will harm them.  God offers peace, comfort, and encouragement to the troubled heart.  Our God is like a caring and loving parent, for He extends His gracious hand to His children and covers them with His lovinkindness to sustain and keep them through their difficult times.  God provides His children times of rest from adversity.  God's goodness is amazing, for it is full, concrete and well balanced.  He is our Shepherd who covers all of our needs!

Psalm 94 teaches us that blessings are found in God's chastisement or discipline.  When we respond well to God's discipline, we demonstrate our good hearts as true children of God, (Hebrews 12:6).  God's discipline helps us to face our trials so that we might learn, mature and grow as we should.  Discipline has a humbling and softening effect, for it conditions our soul to heed the teachings of God.  Through adversity, our soul is being refined, polished and nourished for service to God's kingdom.  Our thorns make us more humble and cause us to look more consistently to God for strength Spiritual growth comes through the school of adversity.  When the school is over, and we graduate, we learn to be thankful for being chosen to be part of it.  We Christians must learn to rejoice and be glad through all of our experiences in life:  the pleasant ones and the adversities.  They build up a Christ-like spirit within us.

Psalm 94 is like a book about us, for it asks the question:  "9 He who planted the ear, does he not hear?  He who formed the eye, does he not see?"  If one should ask, What is God like?  He would simply turn to his body for the answer.  You see our hands, eyes, ears, and minds talk to us and teach us about the God who made us.  That same awesome God who made us and gave us our abilities can see all that is going on in this world in which we live!  He can hear our prayers.  He can speak to us and communicate His will through His revealed Word.  God has revealed in His Word an outline of what He wants us to do to accomplish His purpose for us.  The more we study about Him through His Word, the more we learn about what God is like.  We can reach to Him through His Word and His creation.

The godly can rest assured that persecution will come to them.  And though they might not be asked to die for their faith, they will at least be attacked for believing in God, (2 Tim. 3:12; Phil. 1:29).  Paul described persecution as an extension to Christ's sufferings, (Col. 1:24).  Psalm 94 gives us the answers to how we must respond to persecution and adversity.  The righteous must remember the following.
  • God will not abandon them in their time of trial.  
  • To look at the bright side, the blessings that come from our trials, persecution, and adversity.
  • To call on the LORD to carry out His justice and bring the wicked to judgment.
  • To commit to reading and studying God's Word to know Him better and find strength from it.
  • To keep following all righteousness with an upright heart.  
  • That our suffering, persecution and trying circumstances are God’s training tools.
  • That everyone will be repaid and that no one gets away with anything.  For the wicked will be judged, and the righteous will be vindicated.
  • That they can take comfort in God's consolations that He makes available for them.
  • That when afflictions come, it is good to remember that God will never side with evil.  Our righteous God will always be opposed to evil or lawlessness and will always stand with us against it.
  • Vengeance belongs to the LORD.
  • That evil comes back to haunt and punish those who commit it, (Rom. 6:23).
  • That God is our Creator, who will sustain us, for He is a refuge to the righteous and a fortress to the faithful.
  • He will always be our sure protection from anything that could possibly harm us. 
  • That Christ has told us that life in His kingdom must involve handling persecution and that we must go through fiery trials as citizens of God's kingdom.
  • That God is glorified when we endure hardship and those who oppose the King, His Kingdom, and His children.
  • That He knows the intentions of our heart and thoughts.  
  • That He is our Teacher and Master.
  • That He will give us rest.
  • That He will not abandon us.
  • That He will help us and hold us up.  
  • That He can carry us through. 
  • That hard times help us to learn the Way of the LORD. 
  • That the righteous find blessings in life’s difficulties and thorns.
  • That all these hard times, challenges and thorns will make us more reliant upon God.
  • That all this teaches us to be more diligent to follow God’s instructions. 
  • That God will cut off the wicked and their lawlessness. 
  • And finally, that the Father honors the righteous saying, "Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. 12 Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you."  (Matthew 5:11-12).

Those who invest their life defying God and His principles of righteousness will not escape His punishment.  God will not allow the wicked to destroy the righteous!  We must remember that vengeance belongs to the Lord.  The Psalmist speaks of the LORD who sent His only begotten Son to die for our sins.  He used His Son's death and His blood to save us from His judgment coming for the wicked.  The beauty of all this is that He has provided a rest for our dying souls.  Moreover, He has promised to give us rest from our days of anxiety, when they seem to overwhelm our hearts.  Why not take advantage of His death and blood?  Why be cast off and be judged by the Judge of all?  Why not admit that you have sinned and are in desperate need of a Savior to rescue you?

May the LORD rise and shine on us in our time of need that we may not lose heart.  May we trust Him patiently waiting until we see the fulfillment of His good and wise purposes.  And may we always remember that vengeance belongs to the Lord and not to us.

Luci