Today we continue our look into the Psalms focusing on how God tolerates no rivals. Which in essence is a song book of 150 poems compiled by different authors over 1000 years to be used in corporate worship. The first Psalm was written by Moses (90), the last was written during the exile, and David wrote 73 of them. They are all prayers, some filled with praise and thanksgiving, some worries and woes, some prophetically point to Jesus, and some are a combination of all three. Psalms is like a corporate diary filled with the outpouring of emotion – positive and negative. And as such this collection gives us insight into how the Israelites saw God and themselves and helps us better understand the whole OT. But rather than looking at individual Psalms we have been Looking at wholistic themes.
The Story So Far
The first theme we looked at was the “supreme kingship” of God. Meaning He is the Great King over everything, everywhere, all the time – past present and future: all is His and under his rule. As King it was Yahweh’s responsibility to protect, provide for, and practice justice to maintain order throughout his whole kingdom. We see evidence of this thinking in our Psalm today: in verses 1-3
We investigated this further in our second theme: The Avenger of Blood. Not only did kings of the ANE have the right and responsibility to protect their people they were required to ransom them when they are taken prisoner and then take vengeance on their enemies. Therefore, as the Great King enthroned in heaven, Yahweh also has the right, power and authority to wield judgement. Again, we see evidence of this in today’s psalm verses 7-19.
We also looked at how God did this even more comprehensively through Jesus on the cross. Fulfilling what was written in Deut. 32:43: Christ has made atonement for his people, he has avenged the blood of his servants, and he has taken vengeance on his enemies: Satan, death and sin.
But then we were left asking “How Long” must we endure waiting for God to act i.e. swoop in and save, restore and take vengeance. In the 3rd theme we acknowledged there is “our timing” and there is “God’s timing”. We identified whilst God doesn’t necessarily cause our suffering, he allows it. Why? For His purposes. In the waiting we saw that God is working and regardless of the outcome, He is victorious, and He is glorified. And again, we see evidence of this theme in today’s Psalm verses 4-6.
- No Rivals
Today we are looking at another theme stemming from God’s title, “The Great King”. As supreme ruler, Yahweh gifted his people with the law to help us live in right relationship with him and each other. Let’s look at the first in the law list. Exodus 20:1-4
The Ten Commandments
20 And God spoke all these words:
2 “I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery.
3 “You shall have no other gods before me.
4 “You shall not make for yourself an image in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. 5 You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, 6 but showing love to a thousand generations of those who love me and keep my commandments.Exodus 20:1-4
- I am God – The Great King
- We are bound in covenant relationship
- I tolerate No rivals.
Most of us here could easily say, “That’s cool, I believe in the One True God. Father Son and Holy Spirit. I do not have a problem with this.” Yes?
There is only One
From the time God called the Israelites into his family, they have caused friction because of this law. We know historically, especially during the Roman Empire, Jews were the bane of their ruler’s existence. So much so, Caesar worship was compulsory for everyone except the Jews. They were given leniency, but they were also considered naïve and stubborn.
It is the same for us today, we are labelled arrogant, narrow-minded and legalistic for claiming there is only One way to salvation, One Truth and One God.
David Seccombe—Minister, Scholar and Author writes of his personal experience in this blog post on the 10 Commandments:
I used to believe in God, and I prayed. But I did not like to think he would exclude anyone. Most people treated me well, so I rejected the Bible’s teaching about sinfulness. People were basically good. “My God would never judge anyone,” I heard one woman say, and that was how I thought. I disliked the narrowness of Christians. Particularly, I disliked the idea that it was necessary to believe in Jesus. I could pray without him. God was nice: he liked what I liked and disliked what I disliked; Jesus was an unnecessary complication. Only later did I realize that my God was a product of my imagination. He was everything I wanted him to be. He was an image of me, and totally harmless. But suddenly he started making demands on my life, and this I could not handle. I eventually saw that the true and living God could only be known, if he made himself known; you can’t make him up. And then I saw that the way he had made himself known was by becoming a man in the person of Jesus. Jesus is the true image of God, and he is a living person, not an idol.1
My Way or The Highway.
I suspect we may all be able, with a clear conscience, swear we do not worship idols. We may be able to follow that up by declaring we do not worship any false gods. That in our lives, God has no rivals.
But before we go on, let’s look at what a god is: A thing accorded the supreme importance appropriate to a god. eg. Don’t make money your god.
So, anything we accord supreme importance to is a rival to The Great King. For instance, an addiction. This week in the Alpha course, Nicky Gumble spoke about addictions and God’s power to break them. We may not associate addictions with gods, but they sit in that place of being accorded supreme importance. Our addiction may not be lethal or illegal and therefore not really be an issue. How can caffeine, or chocolate, or exercise, or social media addictions hurt anyone?
Chocolate. “If you love me, you’ll give up chocolate.”
Any addiction rivals our relationship with God.
Anything that comes between us and God is a rival. Have you ever said, “Anything but that, God. You can have anything but that.”? We might have been referring to the safety and wellbeing of our children, or families, our jobs, our reputation, our physical and or mental health. My mum always said she feared for people when they said this, that they were testing God. Essentially, we’re saying, I love you Lord, but only this far. You cannot take that from me. But God wants it all—and if it is important—especially that. For He tolerates no rivals.
So, we need to ask ourselves, are there any relationships we place higher than our love of the Lord. Anyone whose opinion, time, consideration, or regard we value higher than God’s?
What about ourselves? Our pride?
We have recently celebrated the Commissioning of our Church building and had representatives from every part of our community from the political to inter denominational. We applauded the success of the event because we know the only way a diverse group of sinful, broken people living in a broken and fallen world can get along in harmony is by the power of the Holy Spirit. It is His testimony of his presence and power.
But what happens when God’s family doesn’t get along with each other. When we, as Jeff challenged us that day, don’t “strive to be like the one we follow”. What happens when there is infighting, bitterness, and barriers? When God is pushed to the background and our pride and hurt feelings take centre stage?
When the world watches us fight and bicker with others in our Christian family, we are demonstrating to the world there is nothing different about us. We are not set apart, holy, or different because we are not living in right Relationship with God and each other and we have set our pride up as a Rival for God’s rightful place in our lives.
David’s life revealed through his writing demonstrates continual right relationship with God. We know he was a sinner; he was guilty of murder, adultery and pride. Yet, he could declare he was blameless before God. Today we saw more evidence of this in verses 20-24. I think it’s pretty fair to ask how he figured this. Seriously, the guy broke at least 4 of the top 10 laws.
But in the OT, blameless doesn’t mean sinless. David was in covenant relationship with God. Typically, in the ancient Near East, a Promissory Covenant bound the master to the vassal unconditionally to protect, provide for, and justice. And the Obligatory Covenant bound the vassal to be faithfully obedient to the master1. David was faithful to the covenant relationship he had with God, he was obedient to the law of God, and when (not if, but when) he erred, he came back and confessed to God with a broken heart.
God knew David was a sinner; he was a human being. But it was what he did with his sin under the covenant requirements is what made blameless. And it was where God sat in David’s life that made him righteous: God was accorded supreme importance in and over all things. Over himself, his family, his work, his skills… and his pride. We saw this in verses 31-34.
David himself was a great King, yet to read his psalms he was merely a humble servant reliant on the rule, power, protection and provision of God. He did not place himself above his station, he didn’t even claim his station with God. He was servant. And as such went to God for vindication and vengeance, even though he had an army on standby.
At times, we want to have all the rewards that come with a relationship with God, but we don’t like the consequences of the covenant agreements – Promissory and Obligatory. Or perhaps we like to be in a relationship with a god we can define and keep in a box—not one who is an independent, uncontrollable Great King, Creator God, Ruler of the Universe. Living under a god like this is scary because it requires supreme surrender and extreme trust, especially when we don’t like, agree with, or understand his ways.
But as always, we have a choice. It is the only thing we can exercise in our own strength. We can choose relationship with God—and all that entails, or relationship with the world. We can’t have them both—like oil and water, light and dark—they just don’t mix. If we choose God; The Great King, Supreme Ruler, Creator God, Sustainer, Redeemer, Saviour, Avenger of Blood, then we need to accept that he will accept no other gods before him, nothing can be accorded supreme importance in our lives other than him, because He is a jealous God and tolerates no Rivals. And nor should he.