Imagine Jesus and His men celebrating Passover in the upper room the night He was to be betrayed. If they followed common practice, before they shared the meal, they sang psalms 113-114. If you look at these song lyrics, they are powerful words of praise to the powerful God who saves.
They begin of course with the “Hallelujah” that serves as the theme of this section of Psalms (113-118). “Who is like the Lord our God? He raises the poor from the dust. The Lord is high above all nations. Praise the Lord!” are some of the phrases of praises. In #114 the emphasis is God’s mighty power that was able to defeat the greatest nation of earth (Egypt), makes the sea flee, the river retreat, the mountains and hills trip over themselves. God’s presence causes the very earth to quake, and He can bring water from the rocks.
All this on the night before God in the flesh would be tortured and killed for all to see. Interesting, isn’t it, what Jesus sings of before that takes place? The unmatched power of God!
I wonder if we mess up when we only sing songs we are in the mood to sing at the moment? If in tough times we only sing the blues, how are we preparing ourselves for what is coming? Is there not great strength to be gained from singing of the power and salvation of God, at the very time that power seems distant, and salvation appears doubtful? Jesus did this.
“Mood-worship” might well rob us of the very blessing we need to endure the trial we face. Consider the example of our Lord.
The book of Psalms is an incredibly rich and diverse collection of Biblical material for the spiritual life. The book is actually a collection of collections, we might say. There are sections of related psalms, for instance, Psalm 120-134, the Songs of Ascent. This is my favorite section personally and I have written and taught on this beloved collection often in my years in ministry.
Another collection that is starting to “grow” on me is a little section called the “Hallel”-psalms, running from 113-118. “Hallel” is of course a shortened form of the word “hallelujah,” which is Hebrew for “Praise Yahweh” or “Praise the Lord.” Now, this is a great section for a lot of reasons, but I want to look at them with you here from one primary standpoint. By tradition, these 6 psalms were sung by Jews at the time of the feast, in particular at Passover time. More specifically, it is said that the family would sing psalms 113-114 before the Passover meal began, and then the rest of them after they had shared the meal. Remember that Passover is a celebration of salvation, a remembrance of the Exodus event, God’s delivering Israel from Egyptian slavery with His mighty arm.
This might be interesting historical information, but why is it even more relevant and powerful for living today? Consider Jesus’ celebration of Passover. Jesus of course was a Jew, as were the 12 disciples. On the night before Jesus was crucified, He celebrated Passover with his disciples in the upper room. We tend to think of this more as His instituting of the Lord’s Supper – “Do This In Remembrance of Me.” But never forget, originally, this was a Passover meal.
If they followed common practice, Jesus and his men sang the Hallel before they ate the meal, though the gospel writers do not give this detail. This would mean Psalm 113 and 114. After the meal, we know that they “sang a hymn” before going to Gethsemane – Matthew 26:30; Mark 14:26. This hymn could well have been Psalm 115-118 – in whole or in part.
What do these psalms say, in addition to “praise the Lord!”? Would it not be helpful and insightful and instructive to know the words of Scripture on Jesus’ heart as he steeled himself for what lie ahead, and as He tried to prepare His disciples for the coming shock? In the next few posts, I would like to explore this in a bit more detail. I hope you will check back and follow along this trail with me!
When we think of the final judgment, we usually think of the infinite throng of humanity down through the ages standing before the Great White Throne of God and receiving what is due them for the deeds they did or did not do while in the body. Perhaps we think of ourselves as individuals, bowing the knee before the Father, and seeing God searching out our name in the Lamb's Book of Life. Maybe we think of Matthew chapter 25 and the picture of judgment Jesus painted where God separates people left and right, sheep and goats, saved and unsaved.
And it is true, all of this. But there is even more to judgment, in fact. Did you know that God also will judge the gods? What do I mean? Consider Numbers 33:1-4. This is an account of the children of Israel leaving Egyptian slavery - walking out of Egypt to the place God had prepared for them. The language of the text is quite dramatic (and, in a sense, horrific) when it says that as they walked out, they passed by the Egyptians, now busy burying their firstborn, slain in the 10th and final plague that led to the exodus.
One day after the first Passover, Israel left Egypt "triumphantly" by the power of God, while massive burials are taking place all over the most powerful nation on earth. This was a terrible judgment from the Lord upon the people of Egypt, from great to small. But that wasn't all the judging that had happened. Notice the closing phrase - ""On their gods also the Lord executed judgments." What gods? The "mighty" gods of Egypt. God judged the gods. Through the plagues, God confronted the power of the so-called gods of the Egyptians, and defeated them all thoroughly.
In the same way, at the final judgment, God will not only deal with individuals like you and me and the guy down the street - God will also deal with the gods of this world. You name them, they are all around us. Things people worship, things they devote themselves to, give their time and money to, adore and lust after, ignore the One True God for. God will deal with them all. He will judge them. He will expose their fraud. He will defeat them finally and fully. In the end, only God will stand. He will be all in all, for eternity.
Here is an example of great Kingdom work being done right now, and it's connections with the past...
[this was published earlier this month]
At the end of World War II, President Roosevelt planned to visit with Winston Churchill and Joseph Stalin at the Yalta Conference half way around the world. He commissioned a Second Lieutenant to come up with a means to enable him to communicate back to the White House. That Second Lieutenant came up with the tool of short wave radio. That young man was Brother Maurice Hall. At the end of the war, he realized by taking President Roosevelt’s voice half way around the world, we could cover the globe with the gospel using short wave radio. Thirty seven years later, Station KNLS went on the air in Anchor Point, Alaska, July 23, 1983.
I bring you greetings from Brother Maurice, now 98 years old. I spoke this past Sunday at the La Habra, CA Church, a longtime church donor, and he was able to come and also have lunch with me. His health is good and his mind is ok most of the time. His family has several ladies who take care of him most of every day preparing him large meals three times a day. He is able to talk and ask about all of you and broadly smiles when we discuss our work. He is one of our founders and one of our important ties with the past. He was also involved with the beginning of Michigan Christian College, spent time as a missionary to Vietnam and France, along with being a part of the beginning of World Christian Broadcasting.
Be prayerful about and thankful for Brother Maurice Hall. Please share this story and picture with your friends and church family.
Andy Baker, President/CEO
World Christian Broadcasting
Norman Cates shared the humorous story of a guy who prayed this prayer every morning: "Lord, if you want me to witness to someone today, please give me a sign to show me who it is."
One day he found himself on a bus when a big, burly man sat next to him. The bus was nearly empty but this guy sat next to our praying friend. The timid Christian anxiously waited for his stop so he could exit the bus. But before he could get very nervous about the man next to him, the big guy burst into tears and began to weep. He then cried out with a loud voice, "I need to be saved. I’m a lost sinner and I need the Lord. Won’t somebody tell me how to be saved?" He turned to the Christian and pleaded, "Can you show me how to be saved?" The believer immediately bowed his head and prayed, "Lord, is this a sign?"
Are you looking for a "sign" to start sharing the gospel? Far too many are seeking signs, aren't they? If I recall, our Lord had a bit of a problem with that (Luke 11:16, 29-30).