Sunday, October 2, 2011

Psalm 146

Psalm 146, verses 5-9
A psalm of deliverance

"Happy is he who has the God of Jacob for his help, whose hope in in the LORD his God, who made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in in them; who keeps truth forever, who executes justice for the oppressed, who gives food to the hungry. The LORD gives freedom to the prisoners. The LORD opens the eyes of the blind; the LORD raises those who are bowed down; the LORD loves the righteous. The LORD watches over strangers; He relieves the fatherless and widow; but the way of the wicked He turns upside down."

The Jewish people had been awaiting their promised Deliverer since God's covenant with Abraham, some 2,000 years earlier, and had held onto the many prophesies of His coming found in Scripture, in the hope that theirs would be the generation who saw the fulfillment. David penned this psalm, as inspired by God, to describe this coming One who would be God in human flesh, bringing life and hope to a sin sick earth. He would deliver the abused, feed the hungry, free the prisoners, give sight to the blind, lift up the cast down, protect immigrants, aid single moms and kids without dads, and turn over tables. There are several similar passages in the Hebrew scriptures that also describe what the ministry of the Messiah of Israel was to look like. Isaiah 29:18 prophesies that the Messiah will heal the deaf and blind, and Isaiah 35:5-6 speaks of Him healing the deaf, blind, lame, and mute. Isaiah 42:7 and 61:1 likewise give a list of different signs that would be done by the Messiah that would enable those who knew the Bible to rightly identify Him as their long awaited deliverer. This compiled list was taught to all Jewish children in synagogue schools and was well known at the time of Jesus.

Jesus, upon returning to Nazareth after preaching about the Kingdom of heaven, was asked by the leaders of the synagogue to read from the Scriptures, as was the custom.  Opening up the Isaiah scroll, Jesus read chapter 61, verse 1, "The Spirit of the LORD is upon Me, because He has anointed Me to preach the gospel to the poor; He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and recovery of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed." He then declared to all present, "Today this Scripture is fulfilled in your hearing." (Luke 4:16-21) Jesus was very clearly announcing that He was the promised Messiah.

When John the baptist was imprisoned by Herod, he sent his disciples to Jesus to ask if He was indeed the Messiah. Given the clear declaration John made previously regarding Jesus as the Son of God and Saviour of the world (John 1-3), his question is at first surprising.  However, as we are given a record of Jesus' response as well in the text, we can ascertain more clearly John's intentions in asking such a question. Thus, when Jesus answered, "Go tell John the things which you hear and see: The blind see and the lame walk; the leapers are cleansed and the deaf hear; the dead are raised up and the poor have the gospel preached to them. And blessed is he who is not offended because of Me." (Matthew 11:5,6), John immediately would have noticed a missing item, for it was probably very much on his mind. Jesus answered with "the list", but it was an incomplete list. One very obvious sign was omitted.  Isaiah 42:7 says of the the Messiah, "... to bring out prisoners from the prison, those who sit in darkness from the prison house." John wasn't asking Jesus if He was really the promised Messiah; he already knew that. He was asking Jesus, in essence, "When are you You going to get to the freeing prisoner part? I've been down in this dungeon a while now."  Jesus answers him, in essence, "You already know who I am; the signs speak for themselves...but that particular sign you are hoping for from Me I will fulfill in a way you yet do not understand. Will you follow Me anyways?" Jesus again declared Himself to be Israel's long awaited deliverer, but in this passage, He begins to reveal just what kind of Deliverer He was.

As the promised Messiah, Jesus did fulfill every promised sign, including freeing the captives, but this one sign He fulfilled even more abundantly than everyone was expecting. Hoping merely for a political saviour who would restore the kingdom of Israel to the children of Israel, the Jews missed the ultimate fulfillment of the all the Messianic prophesies. Jesus didn't come to free political prisoners from physical prisons, but the souls of men and women from the slavery of sin. When Jesus spoke of this freedom to the Jews, they retorted, "We are Abraham's descendants, and have never been in bondage to anyone. How can you say, 'You will be made free?' Jesus answered them, 'Most assuredly, I say to you, whoever commits sin is a slave of sin. And a slave does not abide in the house forever, but a son abides forever. Therefore if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed.'" Jesus delivered mankind from a greater prison, our own sin. He freed us from both it's power and it's punishment. You see, sin causes death; for "the wages of sin is death..." (Romans 6:23) It is an eternal imprisonment. In Ephesians 4:8, Paul quotes Psalm 68:18, 'When He ascended on high, He led captivity captive," speaking of the captivity of death, by whom men were held captive because of their sin. Jesus brought the captivity of death itself into captivity.  How? Jesus conquered the grave! I Corinthians 15:54-57 says, "Death is swallowed up in victory. O Death, where is your sting? O Hades, where is your victory? The sting of death is sin, and the strength of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who give us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ." Jesus is the promised Messiah, who alone can deliver us from captivity. He not only fulfilled all the signs prophesied of here in Psalm 146 and all over in the book of Isaiah, but He fulfilled them more completely and eternally, I believe, than even the prophets themselves understood!  He gave sight to the blind, yes, but it is the eyes of my heart  that received the true healing. He made the deaf hear, but it is my ears that He has opened to hearing His truth that really matter. These bodies, though healed, will still pass away in death, but it is the healing of the soul that endures for all eternity. Jesus is the everlasting Messiah, whose greatest miracles are those which cannot pass away...

Getting Personal

When I placed my faith in Jesus as the "Christ", or Messiah...(literally "Saviour"), I was freed from my prison of sin; the eyes and ears of my heart were opened to things of the Spirit; my mouth became an instrument of praise and my feet messengers of the gospel; my past is forgiven and my pain healed. Jesus is my Messiah. Everyone who places their trust in Him as their Saviour, their Messiah, is likewise delivered from sin and death and given new life in Jesus the Christ. As part of His Church, the "body of Christ" on earth, we are designed to be His hands, feet, mouth, and heart to one another and the world. Christ is still fulfilling the signs of the Messiah through His body, the Church. He still seeks out the blind, the deaf, the lame, the captive.... Jesus reaches out to those who are aware of their need for a Saviour. He is the same yesterday, today, and forever. He found the sick, the sad, and the sinful, and He saved them. He didn't seek out the good citizens, the moral families, or the religiously devout; He went to the whores, the diseased, the racial outcasts, the debtors, the criminals, the polital sell-outs. He loved those who no one else did.  That was the sign that He was the Christ...and that is still the sign that we are His Church, the body of Christ.

Lord, send us to the unlovely, the hopeless, the discouraged, the afraid, the broken, the troubled, and the lost. May we be Your instrument on earth to minister Life and Love to all who desire to walk, receive sight, and be released from their chains. Send us out into the world to complete the work You began. May You live Your life through mine, and thus touch the lives of many. "For I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh, I live by faith in the Son of God who loved me and gave Himself for me." (Galatians 2:20) In the name of Jesus, Amen.

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