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Series Title: Going Up with the Psalms of Ascent (chapter 20)

 

These edited transcripts are taken from Dwight's most loved audio series, Highways in Their Hearts. Click here to see the downloadable audio version in our online store.

 

We just looked at a pilgrimage principle from Psalms 129 & 130 that is so challenging. No one wants to face hardship and pain. But it is an all too real part of the human experience and we must be prepared to cling to God when we don't understand what's going on or why. I want to talk about another idea from these texts which is equally challenging.


As you near the very holy place of God's presence and power, your iniquity is exposed.


If you, O LORD, should mark iniquities, O Lord, who could stand? (130:3)


As you learn to delight in drawing near to the presence of your faithful Father, you come into the penetrating light of His love and justice. He is holy, holy, holy and the closer you get to Him, the greater the blemishes appear. You are, like Isaiah, being "searched out."


Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts! (Is 6:5)


This is a paradox of the Kingdom. As you come near to God in your spiritual pilgrimage, you come to a place where—by His holy grace—He reveals your true heart as he sees it. And it feels like you are sinking in the miry clay of your iniquities. Simon Peter fell down at Jesus’ knees, saying, “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord.” (Luke 5:8)


As I have taught you before, iniquity is an important word. It comes from the Hebrew root avah, which means to bend, twist, or distort. Iniquity is a mystery. It comes from within and is called selfishness and rebellion. It is the undisciplined human spirit refusing to submit to the will, purposes, and directions of the Almighty God, Creator of Heaven and Earth.


Jesus said, “What comes out of a person is what defiles him. For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, coveting, wickedness, deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride, foolishness. All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person.” (Mk 7:20-23)


God wants you to go His way, but you want to twist it to get your own way, maybe at times slightly and at other times grossly. But the end is always the same—you want what you want when you want. Me too.


Worse, under the guise of religion, we want God to bless what, from His perspective, is selfishness and rebellion.


Here is what we fail to realize. Iniquity separates us from the presence of God; sin exiles us from the power and glory of His presence. It is at the root of idolatry. And like Israel before us, we exile ourselves from the presence and the power of God by indulging it.


Iniquity (avon) is a unique word because it connotes both sin (the misdeed) and related punishment (the consequences). Because it is one of the final and most difficult hurdles to cross on your journey up to the City of God, I want you to understand it with the proper biblical balance and discernment.


Iniquity isn't easy to see because not only is it sold to us as normative in culture, but it has effectively pervaded our churches today. We even have a figure of speech for ministers when they speak "evangelistically." It means they are exaggerating and we chuckle when we say or hear it. What an indictment. We accept they are twisting the truth, distorting reality, playing loose with facts. Iniquity, not humility, is symptomatic of the church in our day and age.


Isaiah gives us a memorable picture of iniquity: All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned—everyone—to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all. Your rebellion and mine reaped an unspeakable punishment, taken by Jesus on the cross. He was pierced for our transgressions; He was crushed for our iniquities; He bore the sin of many (Isaiah 53).


With help from God's Spirit, we must examine ourselves.


But be careful you don't go off into the deep end of constant inward introspection, one of the chief characteristics of the Western mindset. Introspection is not the biblical way. In fact, it can be another form of self-centeredness. Your heart is deceptive, capable of justifying even the most egregious actions. Most of the time you can't understand yourself and your motives until you look back in hindsight and think: good grief, I didn't even know that was working in me.


So if not introspection, what is the biblical way? Ask God, in prayer, to show you what is going on. Let Him examine and question you so that you can confess and change. Pray with the psalmists; search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts! And then, Have mercy on me, O God, according to your steadfast love, wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin!


I tremble to think of praying that and meaning it, but I tremble more at not praying that and remaining at a distance from my Father in Heaven.


Before His throne of grace, make a decision to turn from iniquity to humility.


You are turning from your way to His Way. Humility is strength in submission. It is not thinking less of yourself; it is thinking about yourself less. It is surrendering to a Master who says, Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls (Mtt 11:29). Practicing humility is not easy, but it is the antidote to iniquity.


As in all things, Jesus of Nazareth is our help and our example. He embodies humility in word and deed.

  • I have come not to do my will, but the will of him that sent me (Jn 6:38)

  • My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to accomplish his work (Jn 4:34)

  • I do not seek to do my will, but the will of him who sent me (Jn 5:30)

  • Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do. (Lk 23:24)


My dear brothers and sisters, don't stop now. In Jesus, let us pray and praise as we press on into the presence of our great God.


O Israel, hope in the LORD!

For with the LORD there is steadfast love [hesed, grace],

and with him is plentiful redemption.

And he will redeem Israel

from all his iniquities.

- Psalm 130:7-8


Previous Post | Next post on March 2, 2024


 

Want to go deeper? Click here to explore audio seminars by Dwight A. Pryor.


Interested in taking one of our dynamic online courses? Click here.

 

This study is from a professionally produced transcription of the audio recording. It was edited for readability by the team at JC Studies.


Dwight A. Pryor (1945-2011) was a gifted Bible teacher of exceptional clarity and depth who earned the friendship and admiration of both Christian and Jewish scholars—in the United States and Israel—as well as the respect and appreciation of followers of Jesus around the world. His expertise in the language, literature, and culture of Israel during the life and time of Jesus and the early church yield insights that nourish every area of faith and practice.


Dwight founded JC Studies in 1984 to edify the people of God. Click here to explore over fifty of his audio and video seminars.

Series Title: Going Up with the Psalms of Ascent (chapter 19)

 

These edited transcripts are taken from Dwight's most loved audio series, Highways in Their Hearts. Click here to see the downloadable audio version in our online store.

 

Learning to trust God is of paramount importance. We are to base and build our lives upon His Word as Jesus did and teaches us to do.


Yet when we carefully study the holy text, we encounter a suffering Messiah. We read about the apostles and other men and women of great faith experiencing trials and tribulations, facing hardships and sufferings, sometimes even unto death. This leads to a profound truth that we must wrestle with.


We sanctify (honor as holy) the Name of God by enduring trouble just as much as being delivered from that trouble.


I want you to see that our theology must be big enough to encompass the whole of the biblical text, not just strategically selected scriptures. We must stand upon God's Word from Genesis to Revelation, believing He is constantly working for the good in every situation for those who respond to His call to love Him with all their hearts.


Think of it this way: spiritually speaking, kingdom people are engaged in warfare (Eph 6:10-13). Without a complete or adequate biblical theology, our faith forebearers would have failed to pass on the faith—and so will we. TV preachers and bestselling authors talk about going from glory to glory, victory to victory, but there is no overcoming unless there is something to overcome.


To have victory means you must first go to battle. And battles are messy: there are wounds, hardships, and casualties.


You must first go through the valley to get to the mountain peak. If your theology is only a mountain-top theology, when you face the valley of the shadow of death, your faith will crumble because your theology can't support it. But if you grasp, at a deep heart level, that God has not forsaken you, then you can proclaim with the psalmist, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. As you endure trial and persist in clinging to God, He is honored and glorified.


This is the stuff of pilgrimage, of having a highway in your heart to go up into the very presence of the Living God. To make the arduous journey, we must prepare to face hardship and pain. Are we any better than our master?


My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death (Mark 14:34).


I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world, you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world (John 16:33).


Or his first followers?


For it has been granted to you that for the sake of Christ you should not only believe in him but also suffer for his sake, engaged in the same conflict that you saw I had and now hear that I still have (Philippians 1:29-30).


Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice insofar as you share Christ's sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed. Yet if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in that name (1 Peter 4:12-13, 16).


You are those who have stayed with me in my trials (Luke 22:28).


Study the whole subject of faith in the Bible, and you will see it is typically spoken of in the context of trials and tests. The classic example, or archetype, if you will, is Abraham, the father of the faithful (Heb 11:8-12, 17-19).


The faithfulness of faith proves its mettle under the heat of affliction.


Most of us are like teabags. Our true colors come out when we get into hot water, and those colors aren't pretty. I'm including myself here. At times, I am such a weak disciple that the least little thing can put me in depression for days. How is that honoring God? But—by His grace, because He is faithful—I keep pressing on, and I think that does honor Him. Faithfulness is the victory that overcomes the world.


Suffering can be a purifying force. What I mean is this. In times of prosperity, when things are good, we pray with our lips; in times of distress, when things are bad, we pray with our hearts.


God can use suffering for the good in our lives, creating spiritual value by cleansing and disciplining to help us grow up in our most holy faith. Hardship can purify us from selfish purposes and activities. It can teach us not to lean so much on ourselves and others. It can bring us to more complete dependency on Him. But I have calmed and quieted my soul, like a weaned child with its mother; like a weaned child is my soul within me (Psalm 131:1).


The Hebrew word for humility comes from the same root as the word for affliction. Affliction can humble you, and God exalts the humble.


The composer of Psalm 130 speaks out of hardship and distress, from the depths of outward and inner despair. The Hebrew here literally means you don't have a foothold. It's like you are in deep waters and have nowhere to put your feet. Do you know that feeling? So does your Father in Heaven.


Out of the depths I cry to you, O LORD!

O Lord, hear my voice!

Let your ears be attentive

to the voice of my pleas for mercy!

If you, O LORD, should mark iniquities,

O Lord, who could stand?

But with you there is forgiveness,

that you may be feared.

I wait for the LORD, my soul waits,

and in his word I hope;

my soul waits for the Lord

more than watchmen for the morning,

more than watchmen for the morning.

O Israel, hope in the LORD!

For with the LORD there is steadfast love,

and with him is plentiful redemption.

And he will redeem Israel

from all his iniquities.

- Psalm 130



 

Want to go deeper? Click here to explore audio seminars by Dwight A. Pryor.


Interested in taking one of our dynamic online courses? Click here.

 

This study is from a professionally produced transcription of the audio recording. It was edited for readability by the team at JC Studies.


Dwight A. Pryor (1945-2011) was a gifted Bible teacher of exceptional clarity and depth who earned the friendship and admiration of both Christian and Jewish scholars—in the United States and Israel—as well as the respect and appreciation of followers of Jesus around the world. His expertise in the language, literature, and culture of Israel during the life and time of Jesus and the early church yield insights that nourish every area of faith and practice.


Dwight founded JC Studies in 1984 to edify the people of God. Click here to explore over fifty of his audio and video seminars.

Series Title: Going Up with the Psalms of Ascent (chapter 18)

 

These edited transcripts are taken from Dwight's most loved audio series, Highways in Their Hearts. Click here to see the downloadable audio version in our online store.

 

We are using the Psalms of Ascent to explore principles for growing in Christ-likeness. They symbolize making our way up to the holy place where God's presence dwells.


The more difficult aspects of pilgrimage occur, fittingly, near the end of this grouping (120-135). The closer you get to God, the more intense the light of His love shines upon the uncleanness in your heart. That is the paradox. In some respects, the nearer you come, the farther you feel from Him. Why? Because the closer you get to him and the compelling force of His love, the more painful is the recognition of that which separates you from Him—sin.


Out of the depths I cry to you, O LORD!

O Lord, hear my voice!

Let your ears be attentive

to the voice of my pleas for mercy! (Psalm 130:1-2)


In Psalm 129, we see an individual speaking, yet it is as if the nation is speaking. "Greatly have they afflicted me from my youth"—let Israel now say—"Greatly have they afflicted me from my youth, yet they have not prevailed against me." The psalmist speaks individually about Israel's communal experience of adversity. Indeed, this tiny nation has known hardship for generations, more than any other group.


There is an ominous prophecy in Genesis 15 in which the LORD puts Abraham into a deep sleep. Thick and dreadful darkness comes upon him, and God says: Know for certain that your offspring will be sojourners in a land that is not theirs and will be servants there, and they will be afflicted for four hundred years (vs. 13). To my mind, this thick and dreadful darkness is something that has accompanied Israel throughout history.


Why have these people, chosen by God, experienced so much hatred and violence through the years? Because, as Paul reminds us, They are Israelites, and to them belong the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the worship, and the promises. To them belong the patriarchs, and from their race, according to the flesh, is the Christ, who is God over all, blessed forever. Amen.


The existence of the Jewish people reminds the powers of darkness that God keeps His promises and that their day of reckoning draws near.


Despite the Egyptians, Philistines, Syrians, Assyrians, Chaldeans, and Persians, Israel endures. In times ancient and modern, through persecution and suffering, libel and slander, pogroms, and the ultimate heinous act of evil, the Holocaust, Israel endures. Yet they have not prevailed against me!


So it is for followers of Jesus, then and now. The church has known persecution: property confiscated, families imprisoned, bodies burned at the stake or thrown to wild beasts—and yet the Church of the Living God endures. All of this teaches that faithfulness overcomes the world. Enduring is victory. Not letting opposition, persecution, hardship, or even death stop God at work in your life as an individual and together as a people gives Him glory.


The principle of enduring applies uniquely in our 21st-century Western world. In a rather crude play on words, here is what I mean. Following Jesus means there are times of glory and times of gory. This idea directly contrasts what seems to have infected many of our Christian traditions: a health and wealth gospel.


This false, so-called prosperity gospel has taken a truth about the unshakeable nature of faith to such extremes that it is heresy. These mistaken teachers give the impression that if you have the proper belief or information and hold to it with enough determination, then all your gory will disappear, and life will be nothing but glory.


The more strident of these voices in our midst dare to say that if Paul had just had more faith, he would not have had to endure all his trials and sufferings. All the apostles and martyrs would not have undergone imprisonment, torture, and death if they had just had more faith.


Not only is this kind of thinking unbiblical, it is, in fact, harmful.


For it has been granted to you that for the sake of Christ you should not only believe in him but also suffer for his sake, engaged in the same conflict that you saw I had and now hear that I still have (Philippians 1:29-30). For Paul, these are not idle words but knowledge gained from experience; his and the psalmists, Greatly have they afflicted me.


The events in Paul's life (enumerated in 2 Cor 11:22- 28) were not due to his lack of faith. Just the opposite, they were due to his great faithfulness to God's call upon his life. Walking with God is not all glory. In the Kingdom, suffering can be honorable and transforming.


It grieves me to encounter people, as I often do, who are suffering from affliction and hardship. They hear this false gospel being preached (typically in America) and hope for a miraculous deliverance in whatever form they need. If it doesn't happen immediately, they are made to feel that it didn't because of their lack of faith or their unbelief.


It is maddening.


So they leave with feelings of condemnation, guilt, and inadequacy, all piled on top of the suffering they already bear. They feel they failed to receive the preacher's promises because they needed more faith. They are in worse shape than before. Is that the God Jesus taught us to call Father?


The issue is not how much you believe but how determined you are to follow Christ regardless of personal hardship.


It is not about the glory of your great faith but rather your faith in a glorious God. Our Father is looking for faithfulness in you. Make no mistake: He is your deliverer and will liberate you fully on His holy timetable.


We read Bible events and condense them, losing track of the enormous expanses of time. Moses gets a mighty call from God, but then what happens? He must go into the desert for forty years. How many of us would be willing to wait forty years in preparation before we go out and exercise our ministry?


My friends, Jesus' Kingdom movement would be dead if this heretical doctrine was taught and believed as orthodoxy through the centuries. History teaches that when this kind of theology comes up against times of oppression and testing, it fails every time.



 

Want to go deeper? Click here to explore audio seminars by Dwight A. Pryor.


Interested in taking one of our dynamic online courses? Click here.

 

This study is from a professionally produced transcription of the audio recording. It was edited for readability by the team at JC Studies.


Dwight A. Pryor (1945-2011) was a gifted Bible teacher of exceptional clarity and depth who earned the friendship and admiration of both Christian and Jewish scholars—in the United States and Israel—as well as the respect and appreciation of followers of Jesus around the world. His expertise in the language, literature, and culture of Israel during the life and time of Jesus and the early church yield insights that nourish every area of faith and practice.


Dwight founded JC Studies in 1984 to edify the people of God. Click here to explore over fifty of his audio and video seminars.

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