Hope in Eternity

When we find ourselves in dismay about the troubles surrounding us and the people that seem to be behind those troubles, Psalm 49 offers an answer for what ails us… though quite possibly not the answer that would satisfy our flesh. The psalmist writes about our hope for redemption in eternity.

Why should I fear in times of trouble,
  when the iniquity of those who cheat me surrounds me,
those who trust in their wealth
  and boast of the abundance of their riches?
Truly no man can ransom another,
  or give to God the price of his life,
for the ransom of their life is costly
  and can never suffice,
that he should live on forever
  and never see the pit.

Psalm 49:5–9

This is the path of those who have foolish confidence;
  yet after them people approve of their boasts.
Like sheep they are appointed for Sheol;
  death shall be their shepherd,
  and the upright shall rule over them in the morning.
Their form shall be consumed in Sheol, with no place to dwell.
But God will ransom my soul from the power of Sheol,
  for he will receive me.

Psalm 49:13–15

An initial response to these passages may be to disregard their lack of solution to our present trouble, but they remind me of Paul’s words in Romans 8:18: “I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.” Where we would seek an escape to what troubles us, God’s word reminds us that our hope is NOT provided this side of eternity. Our hope is in the rest he promises us when he commends us “well done good and faithful servant, come enter into my rest.”

Rest from what? Rest from a blessed life void of trouble? No, God calls us and grows us THROUGH our trials to persevere in and toward Him. What I love about these passages in Psalm 49 is that they offer no solution to the trouble, but remind us of our destination and the destination of those foolish enough to disregard the invitation of Christ.

But there’s a second thing about these verses that really gave me pause as I read them. First:

“Truly no man can ransom another, or give to God the price of his life, for the ransom of their life is costly and can never suffice, that he should live on forever and never see the pit.”

And then:

“But God will ransom my soul from the power of Sheol, for he will receive me.”

All this talk of ransom… He’s talking about Jesus! I know I shouldn’t be surprised by this anymore, but I am. The psalmist, clearly under the spirit’s leading, speaks of our great need for a ransom over 1,000 years before that ransom was made! He even elaborates that this ransom could come by no mere man, but then asserts that we will indeed be ransomed! I wonder sometimes: what would it have been like to live in a time preceding Jesus’ atonement, knowing that my sins are unforgivable and that pardon had not yet been made, but believing on God to somehow provide the payment required for my redemption? When Christ finally did arrive, what elation must have been felt by those who really understood what he meant and for HOW LONG we had been waiting for Him!

But coming back to our troubles (and trying to tie all this together): When Christ came there were many who missed Him because they weren’t looking for salvation. The Jews were looking for a king to save them from their troubles. Their troubles were seen as the oppression of Roman rule. Their REAL trouble was their depravity and separation from God, but they couldn’t see that. Jesus would look at the lame man lowered through the roof and forgive him of his sins instead of his handicap, because THAT’s what really mattered. He later healed him too, as he did so many others, but Jesus came to ransom us from sin and reconcile us to Himself, not to save us from our perceived trouble.

So when you are feeling you may never see freedom from your troubles, you are in a good place. You have the opportunity to turn your troubles over to God and accept that you may or may not see those troubles end in this life. Ask that God would help you find rest in the real prize to be had: eternal life in the presence of a fantastically loving God. Ask Him for an eternal outlook so that you not miss Christ as so many Jews did. Ask that He help you see the redemptive work HE has in mind, and not the answer you have in mind.

Finally, as a side note, I HIGHLY recommend you head over to GotQuestions.org to read about the sons of Korah, to whom authorship of Psalm 49 is attributed. They definitely have a thing or two to say about how God redeems us and works through us despite our sin. They are the descendants of a man named Korah whom God dealt with VERY harshly.

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It’s ALWAYS About Him

God started showing me something several years ago that has completely changed the way I read the Bible: Everything He does and everything He calls US to do is about Him. This may not come as much of a revelation to you, but it’s been a major revelation to me. Sure I’d always verbalized the idea that God is supreme, but I feel God has shown me how much that was mere lip service. In practice, my faith always bends in my favor. No doubt this is my flesh squirming for it’s place as head of the table, but God has been showing me more and more how truly self serving I am and how much credit I try and take from Him.

More recently it was pointed out to me that EVEN SALVATION is in fact not about me. It’s about Him. I was created that HE would receive glory. All of creation declares His glory. He set up a natural order to things that points to Him, and we were made within that order to also point to Him. But then we messed it up. I personally believe God placed the tree in the garden and the will to rebel in our hearts so that even in the redemption of our fall He would be glorified, but that is a topic for another time.

It does, however, bring me back to the point of why I’m writing this today. Our very salvation is in fact NOT about us, it’s about Him. I have seen this over and over and over as I’ve been reading the Bible over the past year, but this morning alone came across several more references and thought it worth sharing:

Psalms 23:3 – HE leads me in paths of righteousness for HIS name’s sake.

Psalms 25:7 – Remember not the sins of my youth or my transgressions; according to YOUR steadfast love remember me, FOR THE SAKE OF YOUR GOODNESS, O Lord!

Psalms 25:11 – FOR YOUR NAME’S SAKE, O Lord, pardon my guilt, for it is great.

Those are just from this morning’s reading, but I see it everywhere lately. I am quick to seek God’s blessing. I’ve sometimes made the mistake of thinking the point of Christianity is that WE not go to hell. I’ve even thought that was the reason Christ came… that WE would be saved!

But it simply isn’t true. Well, it’s true that he came to save us, but the PURPOSE in saving us is that He be glorified. The consistent theme that rings throughout scripture is that everything He does is that He be glorified. That He be made known. That His grace and goodness would be evident to all. Our very salvation is in fact not for us, but “for His name’s sake.” God’s purpose is that He receive glory.

This REALLY rubbed me the wrong way at first. Isn’t that selfish of Him? Why does He make everything about Himself? I recently read something that posed the follow up question: who else would we have it be about? Us? If God is truly almighty and there is none above Him, isn’t it only natural that everything ultimately be about Him?

If you’ve not seen this for yourself then I pray the Holy Spirit would open your eyes as you read to see how often this theme pops up. It almost screams in some passages. Look at this one:

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth.

In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will, so that we who were the first to hope in Christ might be to the praise of his glory. In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory.

Ephesians 1:3–14

Notice how pretty much every sentence in that passage follows a pattern? First it highlights a blessing/gift from God to us, then ends by qualifying that the gift is a for a PURPOSE: that He be glorified. That He be made great. The funny part to me is that my Bible gives this section the title: “Spiritual Blessings in Christ”. Isn’t that where our focus always lies? In what we get out of it? Paul is making a clear statement that while the blessing is for us, the subject is in fact Him. The purpose is ALWAYS Him.

God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8) Again, a verse like that draws our attention to the part about us, but WHY did He save us? To show Himself loving. The appropriate response to His blessing is to completely surrender ourselves to His will. His gift demands it of us! Yes, He absolutely loves us, and absolutely blesses us beyond measure, but that is in fact not the point.

HE is the point.