Paul’s Psalm 44

February 2, 2010

Reading through Romans 8 the other day I noticed that Paul quotes Psalm 44:22 in the middle of his argument:

 8:35 Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will trouble, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? 8:36 As it is written, “For your sake we encounter death all day long; we were considered as sheep to be slaughtered.” 8:37 No, in all these things we have complete victory through him who loved us! 8:38 For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor heavenly rulers, nor things that are present, nor things to come, nor powers, 8:39 nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in creation will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Paul in this chapter has been discussing our relationship with God, through Christ, and the inability, now as sons of God, to be separated from God. We now call out, “Abba!” and are kept in this relationship. In this relationship then Paul asks if anything out there can possibly separate us from God, whether “trouble, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword?” (v.35) and then Paul quotes the psalm. So let us take a little look at the psalm that Paul quotes.

Psalm 44, the psalm quoted in Romans, begins with the psalmist recounting God’s provision and watching over the people of Israel: “You, by your power, defeated nations and settled our fathers on their land; you crushed the people living there and enabled our ancestors to occupy it.” But then at verse 9 the psalm switches the mood: “But you rejected and embarrassed us! You did not go into battle with our armies,” and we see God’s hand turning away from the people of Israel. In the midst of the psalmists lament of God’s handing over of the Israelites we get the verse Paul quotes: “Yet because of you we are killed all day long; we are treated like sheep at the slaughtering block” (Psalm 44:22). As the psalmist discusses distress, persecution, danger, and swords he points out that he and his people are like sheep being slaughtered. From this persecution the psalmist calls God to rouse himself, to protect his people.

Paul then seems to make this connection now that because Christ has come, because we are now drawn into relationship with the Father, unlike the psalmist we now no longer fear the sword, the danger, the persecution, the distress. Paul takes the psalmist’s lament and turns it around, showing that the one the psalmist had been waiting for, the salvation from his enemies has now come and that no enemy, or sword, or persecution can separate us from God. Paul is building his argument from the OT and showing that what they had been waiting for has now come, and nothing can separate us from God’s salvation. We no longer wait, for we have now seen God rouse from his sleep and “rescue us because of [his] loyal love!” (Ps. 44:26)

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Pentecost Acts 2:1-47

June 3, 2009

Again, just a type version of a recent study we did over here; this time over Acts 2 on Pentecost Sunday.

Four verses of action (Ac. 2:1-4) require a whole chapter of explaining.  Four verses of action filled with intriguing imagery and occurrence that have goaded many to wonder at the Old Testament connections of the event.  The feast of Pentecost is underway.  A time when the “firstfruits of the harvest” are brought in and celebrated (Dt. 16:9-11).  The sound of wind or spirit (what a wonderfully ambiguous word!) without presence of wind draws us back to the creation story (Gen 1:2, 2:7).  The tongues of fire remind us of YHWH’s leading of his people through the wilderness (Ex. 13:21).  The coming of the Spirit recalls Moses’ longing “that all the Lord’s people were prophets”  (Nu 11:29).  And the varying languages spoken in the tongues of “every nation under heaven” and their confusion are both reminiscent of the Tower of Babel (Gen. 11).

Frankly, its not surprising those who witnessed the event responded as they did.  Confusion: “How is this happening?” (Ac. 2:7).  Questioning: “What does this mean?” (2:12).  And skepticism, or even cynicism: “They’re drunk!” (2:13).

And so, amid such thoughts, Peter stands up to preach a three point sermon, each revolving around Old Testament quotations.  As I’ve studied the passage, it seems the theme of Peter’s message is stated in his first point/quotation: we are in the last days. Here’s how I see Peter’s message breaking down:

Point #1 Acts 2:14-21 – The Spirit is here (Jl. 2:28-32)–therefore, the last days have come, restoration is here and the firstfruits of the great harvest of God are already being brought in! (Note: Pentecost vs. the desolation of Joel 1-2:11)

Point #2 – Acts 2:22-32 – Death is already being defeated (Ps. 16:8-11) in Jesus’ body–therefore, Jesus is living proof that death and all his friends are already being condemned by the life that is already available in Jesus!

Point #3 – Acts 2:33-36 – Jesus is already reigning (Ps. 110:1)–therefore, how will you live, in these last days, when life is finally being restored?

The implications of the message are simple.  How will you reorient your life around the current reality Peter has just declared?  Will you live as if the end were not already so near?  Will you live in the death you have always known?  Will you choose slavery to the old masters?  Or, will you live these last days enjoying life under the great King?