Today, Thursday July 20
God Wants Us to Obey Him
“You, Yourself, are to be feared; And who may stand in Your presence When once You are angry? You caused judgment to be heard from heaven; The earth feared and was still, When God arose to judgment, To deliver all the oppressed of the earth. Selah
Surely the wrath of man shall praise You; With the remainder of wrath You shall gird Yourself. Make vows to the LORD your God, and pay them; Let all who are around Him bring presents to Him who ought to be feared. He shall cut off the spirit of princes; He is awesome to the kings of the earth.”
The armies of the Assyrian King Sennacherib had surrounded Jerusalem and laid siege to it (Isaiah 37-38; 2 Kings 18-19). The leaders of the army were demanding that King Hezekiah and the people surrender. Hezekiah cried out to the LORD and put his trust in Him, and God answered his prayer by sending one angel and destroying 185,000 Assyrian soldiers in one night. Maybe Hezekiah remembered the promise in 2 Chronicles 16:9: “For the eyes of the LORD run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to shew himself strong in the behalf of them whose heart is perfect toward him.”
From this Psalm we learn several things that God wants us to do. God wants us to know Him (vv. 1-3). God wants us to trust Him (vv. 4-6). God wants us to fear Him (vv. 7-9). And God wants us to obey Him (vv. 10-12). We should first obey the Lord because of His love for us, and because we respond in love to His love. This is the theme of the whole book of 1 John. But another motivation to obey the Lord is that we fear His judgements. This is the theme of these last verses of Psalm 76 and the book of Jude in the New Testament.
“Make vows to the LORD your God, and pay them; Let all who are around Him bring presents to Him who ought to be feared” (v. 11). We tend to make vows to obey the Lord and live for Him in the midst of a crisis in our lives. We promise Him we will go to church, read our Bibles, change our ways, turn from our sins, forgive our enemies, if He will deliver us from our present crisis! I’m sure that is what the people of Jerusalem were doing when they were facing a terrible death at the hands of the Assyrian soldiers.
Now Asaph is reminding them to keep the vows that they have made and so should we! Over and over the judgments of God on evil and sin and upon the wicked are repeated throughout the Bible. The judgment of the great flood in Noah’s day that destroyed all the living creatures that had breath on earth. The judgment of God on Sodom and Gomorrah with hailstones of fire. The judgment of God upon Egypt with the 10 plagues and the drowning of Pharoah’s army in the Red Sea. The judgments of God upon Israel when they refused to repent.
God’s judgments should get our attention and call us to repentance and love for His mercy and forgiveness when He restores us. The book of Jude is the book just before the book of Revelation where we see the full wrath of God’s judgments poured out on the earth and its inhabitants in the seven-year tribulation period. When you read Jude’s short letter you get the sense that he is calling everyone to remember that God is a God of judgment, and we should repent and call others to repentance.
Jude concludes his letter with these words that sound like the last verses of Psalm 76. “But you, beloved, building yourselves up on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Spirit, keep yourselves in the love of God, looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life. And on some have compassion, making a distinction; but others save with fear, pulling them out of the fire, hating even the garment defiled by the flesh. Now to Him who is able to keep you from stumbling, And to present you faultless Before the presence of His glory with exceeding joy, To God our Savior, Who alone is wise, Be glory and majesty, Dominion and power, Both now and forever. Amen.” (Jude 1:20-25)
Instead of resisting the Lord, which is a losing battle, we should be grateful to Him for rescuing us (v. 9) and saving us from our sins. Asaph spoke to the Jewish believers and told them to keep the promises they made to the Lord when Jerusalem was in danger. How easy it is to make vows and not keep them! (Eccl. 5:1-6). The Lord's great victory should also have witnessed to the neighboring nations and motivated them to go to Jerusalem with gifts to worship Him. (See 2 Chron. 32:23.)
Psalm 76 begins at Jerusalem and its environs (vv. 1-6), then moves to the entire land of Israel (vv. 7-9), and now it reaches the whole earth (v. 12). There will be a day when the rulers of the earth will bow to Jesus Christ and worship Him as King of Kings (Isa. 2:1-4; 11:1; Rev. 19:11-16).
“Trust and obey, for there’s no other way to be happy in Jesus, but to trust and obey”!