Monday, February 16, 2009

The Image of God

Paul says in Ephesians 5:1 that we are to be imitators of God as dear children. Psalm 111 and 112 give us a beautiful picture of how this works.

These two psalms are intimately tied together. There are three ways we see this. First, they are both acrostics. That means the lines in the Psalms begin with successive letters of the Hebrew alphabet. (line 1 begins A, line 2 begins with b, etc.) Second, Psalm 112 begins where Psalm 111 ends. Psalm 111 ends with "the fear of Yahweh is the beginning of wisdom and a great understanding have all those who do his commandments." Psalm 112 picks up on this theme stating that the "man who fears Yahweh will be blessed, who delights greatly in His commandments." The third way these two psalms are tied together is the numerous phrases repeated in both psalms. Here is a list with the same Hebrew words being underlined.

Psalm 111:2: The works of the Yahweh are…studied by all who take pleasure in them.
Psalm 112:1: Who [the righteous man] delights greatly in His commandments

Psalm 111:3 His (Yahweh) righteousness stand forever
Psalm 112:3 & 9: His [the righteous man] righteousness stands forever

Psalm 111:4: Yahweh is gracious and full of compassion (merciful)
Psalm 112:4: [The righteous man] is gracious and full of compassion (merciful)

Psalm 111:4: Yahweh has made wonderful works to be remembered
Psalm 112:6: The righteous will be an everlasting

Psalm 111:5: Yahweh has given food to those who fear Him
Psalm 112:9: He [the righteous man] has given to the poor

Psalm 111:5,9: Yahweh will be forever mindful of his covenant/He has commanded his covenant forever
Psalm 112:6: Surely he [the righteous man] will never be shaken (Literally, “forever, not be shaken/moved)

Psalm 111:7: The works of Yahweh's hands are verity and
Psalm 112:5: He [the righteous man] will guide his affairs with

Psalm 111:8: They [God’s works and precepts] stand forever and ever.
Psalm 112:8: His [the righteous man] heart is established

There are several interesting items of note in these comparisons. First, the works of the Lord and the commandments of the Lord are delighted in by the righteous. (111:2 and 112:1)

Second, a comparison of 111:4 and 112:6 shows that man is one of the great works of God that will be remembered. The righteous man is a memorial to the Lord.

Third, the man of God is as unmovable as the covenant of the Lord. Just as the covenant will not be forgotten, so the man of God will not be forgotten. (111:5, 9 and 112:6)

But what is most striking about this comparison between Psalm 111 and 112 is that attributes that are the Lord's in Psalm 111 are then attributed to the man who fears the Lord in Psalm 112. The man who fears God becomes like God.

Most stunning out of all these is verses 3-4 of both psalms. Psalm 111:3-4 makes perfect sense to us. Of course, God's righteousness endures forever. Of course, God is gracious and full of compassion. But when we get to Psalm 112 we see that the man who fears the Lord is God's image bearer. He looks like God. His righteousness endures forever and he is gracious and full of compassion. In other words those who believe in God and worship Him rightly begin to slowly take on His character.

Here we should pause and think about how we speak of Christians, including ourselves. Would any of us ever say that our righteousness endures forever? Would any of us ever say that we are gracious and full of compassion? My guess is that we would not. We fear that we may sound proud or that we are trusting in our works. This could be the case. But it could also be the case that we are finally beginning to see ourselves as God sees us. We are finally beginning to talk like the Bible talks. Because of the work of Christ we are a people who fear the Lord and delight in His commands. By His Spirit and His Word we are a people whose righteousness will endure forever. We are clothed in Christ and thus we are a righteous people who are being shaped into the image of Christ. Let us believe and not doubt this great truth.

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Let the saints be joyful in glory, let them sing aloud on their beds, let the high praises of God be in their mouth, and a two edged sword in their hand, to execute vengeance on the nations, and punishments on the peoples; to bind the kings with chains and their nobles with fetters of iron. Psalm 149:5-8