Benefits // Playing Catch-Up, Part II (117-118/365)

I will not be afraid of many thousands of people

who have set themselves against me all around.

Arise, O LORD!

Save me, O my God!

For you strike all my enemies on the cheek;

you break the teeth of the wicked.

Salvation belongs to the LORD;

your blessing be on your people! Selah

Psalms 3:6-8

It must be quite the burden to be hated by a majority of people. It’s a bigger challenge, still, to say that you would not be intimidated by them, that you would not be afraid of them.

And while it is fine and dandy for us to keep going to the next verse, something struck me – it must be something utterly inhuman to LOVE these thousands of people, who have set themselves against you all around. To love them, not only as a collective group of enemies, but to love them deeper – as in, to know each and every one of them by name, understanding all they have in their minds and all that they’re going through. It’s inhuman, to know all of this and to realize that it all is against you, and to say that you love them anyway.

And not only to love them enough to understand why they hate you and to be done with it, but to go even further by way of allowing them to strike you in the cheek, even if you know for a fact that you can rain down retribution upon them, the likes of which have never been seen in all of the history of humanity.

Looking at this set of verses in the light of the finished work of Christ would have us understand that God may break the teeth of the wicked, but instead, in the fullness of time, He sends no less than His own begotten Son to them, to us. And we did far more than just to strike Him on the cheek. No, He lay down His life, intentionally baring Himself to be subject to the worst that this reality could ever do to Him… We who were doomed to die because of sin, gave Him such a sinful spectacle of death, on a cross, not only to die physically, but by way of ruining reputation and breaking the mind.

And He KNEW that all of this was coming for Him, yet took all of it anyway. Why? Well, while we’re on it, I’d like to think He was thinking of verse 8. He knew that salvation came from Him alone, and by what He was doing, He was bestowing blessing upon us all – yes, the greatest blessing we could all ever have: Reconciliation.

The gentile Pilate presented the beaten, scourged Christ to the mob, and the High Priests among them cried out for His crucifixion. Jew and Gentile had His life in their hands, and both brought Him to the cross. Thousands set themselves against Him, and even through all of this, you could imagine the peace and power present in Him as He told Pilate – His kingdom was not of this world. No fear, no anxiety… just a presentation of the Truth that had Pilate questioning his own notions of it.

It’s nice to look through the Psalms, and eventually see how it all would link up to Christ and His finished work. We dive into the Scriptures from a position of being saved by Grace, only to be brought back to the same Grace as we meditate upon these words. And what’s nice about all of it is, at least in my case, that we could never grow weary of talking about it. No, on the contrary, the more we talk about it, the more we are actually brought out of weariness. When we try to realize the infinite implications of the birth, death, resurrection and ascension of Christ, the fatigue we feel in our minds and bodies wouldn’t feel as intense as they would be if they were the only things on our minds.

But the thing is, when we do feel fatigue, fear, regret, anxiety, and so on… we would do very well to look at all of it in the light of Christ.

It’s always a nice song to remember, a timeless tune to have in our minds, in and out of all that’s going on in this world: What a Friend we have in Jesus.

Bless the LORD, O my soul,

and forget not all his benefits,

who forgives all your iniquity,

who heals all your diseases,

who redeems your life from the pit,

who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy,

who satisfies you with good

so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.

Psalms 103:2-5

Whenever I stumble upon this set of verses, Verse 2 in particular, I am reminded of my brother from another mother – His name is Jonas, and he’s based in Kuwait right now, but we do make time to catch up over the phone, through the wonders of the interwebs.

Jonas was very clear in sharing to me, at least after one meeting of the mens’ fellowship where we all usually bond, that we really shouldn’t forget all His benefits. For one thing, the other side of that coin is to remember all of His benefits.

In a world and a reality full of pitfalls, let us remember His benefits.

He forgives all your iniquity. Christ became our iniquity – He became our sin, and by His death, not only has sin been forgiven, but utterly slain and separated from us. There’s a thought – Sin was crucified – nailed to the cross, rendered immobile, humiliated and separated. Separated, just as Christ cried out to God, ‘why have You forsaken me?’ – if sin was a person, it would feel cut off; Christ separated us from this old man.

But it doesn’t stop there. Just as the east is separated from the west, so our sin was taken away from us. But on the other hand, we have been made righteous, just as Christ and us have been made so close to each other, that we are one. Understand that because of what He has done He has brought us far more than forgiveness of our iniquities… No, He became sin, that we become His righteousness.

He heals all our diseases. I’m still on the fence with this one. Seeing so many believers die from sickness, I couldn’t agree with that set of words on their own.

The way I see it, I believe He has healed us of all our diseases, but according to His terms, and not necessarily matching the way we understand healing. I’d like to think that the psalmist was deliberate in saying ‘disease’ instead of illness, sickness, etc. because Christ, who is the Prince of Peace, puts our minds at ease… and in the process, heals all of our dis-ease. Call it a stretch, but I believe that to be true.

I mean, I’ve spoken to sick people about exactly that – how, in spite of their infirmity, Christ paid such a great price to ensure that the everlasting love of God is poured out upon us. From the top of my head I could remember saying this to a dentist suffering from lung cancer – the father of a good family of friends. I’ve shared it to a man in life support, who had his leg amputated after being in a terrible car accident. In both cases, even if I did share the Gospel, they died anyway.

But I could also remember saying this to a mother, who at the time was enduring a bitter breakup with her husband, and was also afflicted with a fungal infection to her lungs. I shared with her in the ICU, and I walked out of there, thinking that her body was due to expire any moment. I was wrong. She bounced back after a couple of days, and is still alive to this very day. Now, I couldn’t take credit for her recovery… but I firmly believe that the Gospel brought her back to us.

Sharing all of this, I’m just led to say that Christ has healed all of our diseases – which means all the disease that affects our entire being, beyond our physical bodies. He has purged our beings of the sin that leads to death. That’s the healing I believe is needed, and that’s the healing I believe Christ has given us.

And speaking of sin that leads to death…

He redeemed our life from the pit. The wages of sin is death, and by becoming sin, He took all the death we deserved. He took all the oblivion, the entropy associated with sin. And that’s the thing. If He didn’t lay down His life, we were doomed – not only to die, but to oblivion, and entropy. We would lose all meaning. I can’t think of a fate worse than what was painted – everlasting torment – than just to live, to die.

But it was Christ became our sin and died. And that wasn’t enough – death could not hold Christ down, so He rose again, and so we rose again. He walked out of the grave, and took us out of the pit. We gained all meaning by the resurrection of Christ. Oh, that’s beautiful.

And speaking of gaining all meaning…

He crowns us with steadfast love and mercy. All of our endeavors fall short of any sort of meaning without Christ. Christ has raised us back up as new creations, and we essentially have Him as our literal Meaning… And since He Himself is the representation and demonstration of God’s everlasting love and endless mercy, so our meaning as new creations is to celebrate same said love and mercy in our own lives. We did not know Him, and we were nowhere near His grace… but then, through Christ, we were not only given, but crowned – adorned – with God’s steadfast love and mercy.

We could say we’re ambassadors for Christ, as a lot of preachers would like to share. We’re emissaries. But I do like the idea of how we’re crowned. And it’s not like we crown ourselves – no, we’re crowned, we’ve been adorned with Christ. To say we’re crowned, it’s like people see it without any effort on our part to project it. We are living celebrations of the love and mercy of God. And what’s more is we may be clothed with righteousness according to other accounts in the Scripture but it says it here that we ought to consider that it’s placed upon our head – as if to say that our thoughts, feelings and actions now flow out of us in love and mercy.

He satisfies us with good, so our youth is renewed like the eagle’s. I used to hear about how eagles went away to ‘die’; Not surprising that I heard it first from a preacher but apparently at some point eagles not only molt their feathers but they also tear our their claws and strike and smash their beaks on rocks, stripping themselves and getting rid of their ‘tools’; they would take time so that everything would grow back.

Now I don’t really know if any of that is true, but the way I see these verses now, I would say that we wouldn’t have to go through the process of smashing our own beaks… see, the thing here is that it’s Christ who lay His life down, and in the exchange, we died with Him. So as He rose from the dead, so we rose, renewed… but before jumping into claiming how we are renewed, now I would say that because we now are crowned with steadfast love and mercy, we see the glory of God in all things, and we are therefore satisfied with not only good, but the best – eternal life with Christ. Did that make any sense? The reason why we ought to see ourselves and our entire beings as renewed is because Christ has already earned what’s best for us – reconciliation with God, right standing with Him, and union with Christ, forever.

Friends, we have a great privilege in the body of Christ to see all of Scripture, from Genesis to Revelation, through the lens of the finished work of Christ. Granted, some of what I may say here may not necessarily come out the best way I wanted it to, but the point is, it’s all overflowing inside that I couldn’t just keep it all in. It’s my prayer that all of us would just continue to find our footing, our standing in this world, jumping into the Word without fear, and taking on the world without hesitation.

God bless us all.

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