February 2013 • Volume XIV, Issue 10
God’s Way Is in the Sanctuary (1)
In the opening half of Psalm 77, Asaph is grievously
afflicted. What is it that troubles him? Is it some
terrible illness or grievous sin? Is it the opposition
of God’s enemies or the slandering of his name or the
declension of the church?
If you read this Psalm, you will see that we are not
told. It simply uses words like "trouble" or being
"overwhelmed," but it does not specify the source of his
distress. That the nature of Asaph’s trouble is not
revealed might somewhat disappoint us, although it
should not. Since our heavenly Father has not told us,
we do not need to know. In fact, this is the very point:
whatever our affliction, we can identify with the
Psalmist and put ourselves in his place.
So what is the first thing Asaph does in his distress?
He prays—the right thing to do! "In the day of my
trouble I sought the Lord" (2). Verse 1 adds that Asaph
"cried" out to God with his "voice." The word "voice" is
used twice, emphasizing that this was not merely mental
but oral prayer. Asaph’s passionate desires were spoken
aloud to God.
What was the result of these fervent prayers? Asaph
declares, "My soul refused to be comforted" (2). He
received no consolation. He experienced no comfort in
his heart and soul. Have you ever had this, beloved? No
comfort! No comfort, even after many earnest prayers!
Still distressed and downcast and dispirited in soul
after seeking the Lord! This creates a second problem
for the believer: "What is wrong with my prayers? Why
does not God hear? Does He not care?"
This brings us to the next thing that Asaph tried: he
thought upon God. The Psalmist reckoned that this would
bring relief, and it does, if done in the right way and
in the right spirit and in God’s good time. But what
happened here? "I remembered God, and was troubled: I
complained [i.e., meditated], and my spirit was
overwhelmed" (3). Asaph remembered, mused and meditated
upon the Lord, His character, His rule over all things,
His purposes and ways.
The result? He was "troubled" (3) and further
distressed! His situation was now worse! His "spirit was
overwhelmed" (3), so that he was crushed and confused
even more. Why was this? First, he was upset and
distressed over his initial affliction. Then he was
tired and disconsolate after his earnest "night" prayers
brought no comfort (2). Now he has hard thoughts of God
and a certain amount of bitterness towards the Almighty.
In such circumstances, his meditations upon God are
easily led astray by Satan and bring not relief but only
further distress so that the Psalmist is overwhelmed.
Have you ever felt like this? Your mind is in a turmoil.
Your thoughts go round and round in circles. There seems
no way out. Your spirit is overwhelmed.
Perhaps Asaph can find some relief through sleep? You
know how it goes sometimes. You are upset for things are
not going well, but after a good night’s sleep, things
do not look half as bad. After becoming overwrought,
rest restores us once again to sober, right-thinking.
But poor Asaph exclaims, "Thou holdest mine eyes waking"
(4). The eyelids are the watchmen or guardians of our
eyes. They protect our eyes (and our whole bodies) by
closing each night to give us sleep. But there was no
sleep for Asaph, no rest for his weary body and no
repose for his over-wrought mind. And it was God who was
doing it! In His providence, which governs absolutely
all things, God would not let him sleep. Asaph was so
distressed and tormented with anguished thoughts that he
could not fall asleep. And he knew that God was in
sovereign control over this too!
This tiredness and mental stress made things worse.
Asaph complains, "I am so troubled that I cannot speak"
(4). Sometimes our weariness is so great that it is too
much of an effort to talk, or perhaps it means that
Asaph is so distressed that he did not want to speak
with other people.
In desperation, the Psalmist tried to comfort himself by
thinking of the church in the past: "I have considered
the days of old, the years of ancient times" (5). He
reflected upon the ancient church’s history: Israel, the
patriarchs, the antediluvians. He went way back looking
for wisdom from the past, but received no comfort.
Then Asaph recalled better days in his own personal
history. "Maybe," he thought, "this will encourage me."
"I call to remembrance my song in the night" (6), those
good times with the Lord when the Psalmist went to bed
singing His praises with joy and gladness. In itself,
this is a good thing to do in times of distress, like
many of the other things Asaph tried. But these things
must not be done in a spirit of complaint or grumbling
or out of self-pity (Ecc. 7:10).
Next, Asaph engaged in self-examination: "I commune with
mine own heart: and my spirit made diligent search" (Ps.
77:6). But mixed in with Asaph’s cogitations and
questions was a certain measure of doubting God: "Will
the Lord cast off for ever? and will he be favourable no
more? Is his mercy clean gone for ever? doth his promise
fail for evermore? Hath God forgotten to be gracious?
hath he in anger shut up his tender mercies?" (7-9). You
see the mess into which the Psalmist has gotten himself?
He is questioning God’s favour (7), mercy (8), grace (9)
and tender mercies (9) and, thus, God’s covenant promise
(8) so that he feels "cast off" (7).
But Asaph is not wholly unbelieving. The child of God
never totally loses his faith. He may feel cast off in
the present. Currently, he may not experience God’s
covenant mercies but the Lord will always bring all of
His sons and daughters back.
We are on dangerous ground if we question God’s gracious
favour, because in God’s mercy and promise in Jesus
Christ lies all our salvation. To cut ourselves off from
these (totally and finally) is damnation. See how far
the Psalmist has gone since his initial trouble? To echo
Asaph from one of his earlier Psalms, "But as for me, my
feet were almost gone; my steps had well nigh slipped"
(73:2). "Almost gone"—almost, but not quite!
That "almost" (but not quite) is a testimony to
Jehovah’s preservation of His saints, so that sometimes
it is only by the skin of his teeth that the child of
God hangs on. Believe God’s promises in Jesus Christ! Do
not give way to your doubts and fears and worries and
self-pity! Never start on that downward spiral,
beloved! Rev. Stewart
The King Preaching the Kingdom
Question: "In Luke 9:2, Christ sent His disciples to
preach the kingdom of God, yet a few verses later He
says, ‘Tell no man that thing,’ i.e., that He is the
Christ. How do you square preaching the kingdom without
telling folk who is the King? Was it a matter of telling
them to repent and trust in a Messiah to come without
actually identifying Him?"
The passage referred to reads as follows: "And he sent
them to preach the kingdom of God, and to heal the sick"
It is not clear to me to what passage the questioner
refers when he adds, "Yet a few verses later He says,
‘Tell no man that thing,’ i.e., that He is the Christ."
The closest I can come to the reference is in Luke 9:21.
This command of Jesus was given under entirely different
circumstances. Jesus and His disciples were in Caesarea
Philippi; Jesus asked His disciples, "Whom say the
people that I am?" (18). When the disciples told him
that various people thought that He was John the Baptist
or Elijah or a resurrected prophet (19), Jesus asked
them, "But whom say ye that I am?" To this query Peter
made his crucial confession as the spokesman of the
disciples: "The Christ of God" (20).
It was in that connection that Jesus "straitly charged
them, and commanded them to tell no man that thing"
(21). But Jesus Himself explains the reason for this
command: "The Son of man must suffer many things, and be
rejected of the elders and chief priests and scribes,
and be slain, and be raised the third day" (22).
In other words, Jesus did not want the disciples telling
others who He was because the time for His suffering and
death had not yet come. Jesus knew that the end of His
earthly life was to be on Golgotha and that He was to
die for the sins of His people, but He also knew the
time. The time was, as Jesus so often expressed it, His
"hour." It was impossible that He die before that time.
Further, the ground on the basis of which He was killed
by the Jews was exactly His claim that He was what Peter
confessed Him to be. While Jesus had sovereign control
over all things, including the time of His death, He did
not want to provoke the Jews with His specific claim to
be the Christ, the Son of the living God. When the time
came to affirm that before the Sanhedrin, Jesus boldly
confessed that He was indeed the Christ, God’s eternal
Son (Matt. 26:63-64). But He could not yet make that
public and from His own lips, for it would only
aggravate the Jews and prompt them to capture and kill
Him before His "hour" came, if they could.
Undoubtedly, the Jews suspected that He was the Christ,
God’s own Son, but they ought not be unnecessarily
provoked by Jesus’ own claim.
In passing, we may note that Peter’s confession was the
heart of the issue between Jesus and the unbelieving
Jews. They had no quarrel with Christ when He used the
name, Jesus. They could even have tolerated His
miracles—if His miracles had not won Him the favour of
the people and deprived these wicked leaders of the
honour they thought they had coming. But when Jesus
insisted that His miracles, deeds and words revealed
that He was the One sent by the Father, they took issue
with Him. They knew full well that to be the promised
Messiah, the Christ, meant also that He was the Son of
But I have not yet fully answered the question. I
believe that the question alludes to the fact that
Scripture records strange and unexpected commands Jesus
made to those upon whom He had performed miracles that
they should not tell anyone. Why not?
Commentators and students of Scripture have debated the
answer to this question for many, many years. Perhaps
there is no easy answer. In many instances, the people
who were so commanded went out anyway and spread far and
wide what Jesus had done for them. In other instances,
Jesus specifically commanded those on whom He performed
a miracle to spread the word abroad (Mark 5:18-20).
It is my opinion that Jesus commanded people to keep
silence about who He was and what He had done, because
many people, even those who experienced a miracle of
healing, did not understand the true meaning of the
miracle and did not understand the work of Christ in the
establishment of His kingdom. Even the disciples, after
the resurrection, misunderstood the nature of Christ’s
kingdom. They were constantly thinking in terms of an
earthly kingdom—something like the postmillennialists
today (Acts 1:6). If the disciples did not understand
until after Pentecost, we can hardly expect that the
people understood before Pentecost.
So Jesus, who knew that the people would spread abroad a
wrong conception of the kingdom, told them to keep quiet
about it lest they propagate these incorrect ideas.
Jesus’ preaching that the kingdom was near could very
well be done without entering into an elaborate
description of the nature of that kingdom, specifically
that it was heavenly. The true nature of the kingdom
would be made clear after Pentecost when the Spirit was
It seems to me that people did know that Jesus was the
King of the kingdom He preached. The triumphal entrance
into Jerusalem proved it. But the nature of that kingdom
was not fully understood, not even by the disciples. If
people wanted to talk to others about the miracle that
had been performed on them, and related that miracle
with the fact that the kingdom was near, it was better
that they did not do so rather than give a garbled idea
of that kingdom. Prof. Hanko
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