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Posts Tagged ‘The waters’

We are in 1 Peter 3:20-21 today. This is a passage that teaches us about what water baptism means. It talks about,

“. . . when God’s patience waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was being prepared, in which, a few, that is, eight persons were brought safely through water. Baptism, which corresponds to this, now saves you, not as a removal of dirt from the body but as a pledge to God from a good conscience through the resurrection of Jesus Christ . . .”

We learn several things from this passage.

1. Baptism is a water crossing

 We see this is the phrase – “brought safely through water.” We have seen before how going through the Red Sea was a water crossing, which has five parts to it that teaches us about the meaning of water baptism. Today we see that Noah and his family’s crossing of the flood waters is also a picture of water baptism in five parts.

Peter tells us that baptism “corresponds” to Noah’s  going through the waters of judgment to new life on the other side. The word “corresponds” is actually “type.” It is a type of baptism, that is an event that points forward to something in the future, which is its counterpoint. They are interconnected.

And so first we have the story of Noah and the ark:

Noah

  • The flood waters represent judgment and death, sent to destroy humanity.
  • But God provided the ark and then sent the waters of  judgment away, saving Noah and his family.

There are five parts to this water crossing: 1. Noah left behind the old corrupt world; 2. Noah was set free from judgment and destruction. He and family passed through the waters unharmed; 3. Noah received the sign of new life/ a dove (think of Jesus’ baptism where the Spirit came as a dove); 4. Noah began a new humanity, it was a new start and a new community; 5. Noah committed to do God’s will – the Noahic covenant found in Genesis 8 and 9.

Well, as Peter says, Christian water baptism corresponds to this.

Baptism

  • We have the waters of judgment and death.
  • But God provides Jesus to save us from the waters – from Satan and death.

And we have the same five components: 1. We leave our old life in the world behind; 2. We are set free from judgment and destruction; 3. We receive new life, the Holy Spirit; we are born anew; 4. We are part of a new humanity in Christ, the second Adam; 5. We commit to obey God. This is the symbolic meaning of baptism. This is what we are expressing when we are baptized.

Also, Peter points out that –

2. In both cases God provided a means of salvation

First, there is the ark “in which, a few, that is, eight persons were brought safely through water.” God told them to build this and gave them the plan and then God sent the waters away.

Second, Peter is saying, you are saved . . . “through the resurrection of Jesus Christ . . .” God provides Jesus to us, who has overcome Satan and death and all that the deep waters represent. And through his victory we can be saved from all this. 

Finally, Peter mentions –

3. What those who are saved need to do – trust and obey

For Noah it was building the ark and then getting in it when the rains came. This was an expression of his trust in and obedience to God.

For us it is “a pledge to God from a good conscience.” Now this phrase is translated in different ways but this is the one that fits here. The word can mean request, but it can also mean a profession or pledge. It was used in legal settings to to seal contracts.

So baptism is a pledge or promise to God; it is an expression of our faith in and obedience to God. It is covenantal. And this pledge comes “from a good conscience” – that is, sincerely, from the heart, without reservations.

Finally, and lest there be any misunderstanding, Peter says, “baptism . . . now saves you, not as a removal of dirt from the body but as a pledge to God from a good conscience.”

It is not, of course, the act of baptism as a physical washing that saves. It is our faith and commitment to obey that connects us to Jesus, who saves. And this faith and commitment is properly expressed in baptism as a public declaration of allegiance to Jesus. In the act of baptism we publicly connect ourselves to Jesus, who is our ark, who saves us from the waters and gives us new life. He has overcome Satan and death and we overcome through him.

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Today we are looking at Psalm 29 and its message about the glory and strength of God. As we will see, the basic idea of this psalm is that there are many evidences of God’s glory and strength in his displays of power over his creation. And because of this all should rightly acknowledge God’s glory and strength.

You have a handout of an outline of Psalm 29.

 Ascribe to the Lord glory and strength

1Ascribe to the Lord, O heavenly beings, ascribe to the Lord glory and strength. 2Ascribe to the Lord the glory due his name; worship the Lord in the splendor of holiness.”

This is a call to worship, but a very specific one. It is calling “the heavenly beings” to praise God. It is directed at them.

Who are these? Literally it says the “sons of God.” This is a phrase that is used in the Old Testament to speak of the angels or they are even called “gods,” who are under Yahweh and do his bidding (Psalm 103:20; Job 1:6). They are sometimes referred to collectively as God’s “divine council” (Psalm 82; 89:5-7). Some of these sons of God are also those worshipped by the nations as gods (Deuteronomy 32:8) and are thus given glory beyond their measure.

So here we have a call for these heavenly beings to give proper worship to Yahweh, the one true God.

They are to “2Ascribe to the Lord the glory due his name.” God’s glory and strength far surpass that of these heavenly beings, glorious as they may be. And they are to give God his due.

Also, they are to “worship the Lord in the splendor of holiness.” God’s holiness refers to God’s utterly unique greatness. It refers to God as the one who is higher and better and more glorious than anything that he has created. And God in his holiness is “splendid” or “beautiful.” Have you ever thought of God as beautiful?

The Psalm goes on to spell out some of the ways in which God is so great.

But first we need to note that it does so by speaking of –

God’s coming in thunderstorms

As a kid I loved the thunderstorms that would roll through the south like clockwork in the Summer. I was in awe of such displays of power with the ground shaking thunder, the lightning, wind and rain.

As we have seen, when God rescued Israel from the Red Sea, God is portrayed as coming in a great storm. And we saw this recently reflected on in Habakkuk 3 which talks about this same event (Exodus 14; Psalm 77:16-20)

Yahweh is the great God who is above all – in the sky, as it were, who can display his glory in powerful storms. (Although not all storms are of God – Mark 4:35-39).

The phrase “the voice of the Lord” is used 7 times in this Psalm. And it is referring to the thunder, lightning and wind of a powerful storm. His majestic and powerful  voice is heard in the sounds of a great thunderstorm.

Alright, with this background in mind –

Why should these heavenly beings glorify God?

1. Because of God’s power over the waters

3The voice of the Lord is over the waters; the God of glory thunders, the Lord, over many waters. 4The voice of the Lord is powerful; the voice of the Lord is full of majesty.” And then also in  10The Lord sits enthroned over the flood.”

Once again, the waters refer to the powers of evil, chaos and death. These verses portray God as in full control of the waters.

– God overcame the waters at the time of creation. He separated them into the waters above the above the sky, where the rain comes from and the waters below on the earth, in the seas – Genesis 1:7.

– And God overcame the waters again at the time of the flood, restraining them after he had used them, putting them back in the boundaries that he ordained, above in the sky and in the sea – Genesis 6.

Our Psalm pictures God as above the waters, like a thunderstorm would be over the Mediterranean sea. Such storms show that God is still in control of the waters. They are a display of his continued dominance and power over the deep. God is still in control of the chaos, and this chaotic world. God is still in control of the powers of evil and death.

And this is a power that the sons of God do not have. As Job 41:25 says of Leviathan, the sea serpent who is the personification of the waters, “When he raises himself up the gods are afraid.” So the heavenly beings must acknowledge Yahweh’s superiority over them.

Next, God should receive praise 2. Because of God’s power over all that is exalted on this earth.

5The voice of the Lord breaks the cedars; the Lord breaks the cedars of Lebanon.” And then also, 9The voice of the Lord twists the oaks and strips the forests bare.”

I just finished cutting up some limbs that came down in our yard from a storm a few months ago. And still have a limb hanging from a storm several years ago that is too high for me to get. And we have all seen how a powerful storm can damage and destroy trees.

But the point is not just that God has this power, trees can represent that which is tall and lofty, what is strong and exalted in this world. Isaiah 2 talks about how God will come against all that is proud and lifted up, and they will be brought low before him. And Isaiah 2:13 specifically says that he is coming “against all the cedars of Lebanon, lofty and lifted up; and against all the oaks of Bashan.”

All that is powerful and exalted in this world is as nothing before the power of God.

Finally, God should be glorified 3. Because of his power over all of Israel.

6He makes Lebanon to skip like a calf, and Sirion like a young wild ox. 7The voice of the Lord flashes forth flames of fire.” He lights up Lebanon. As the lightning and thunder come, Lebanon is like a young animal that runs and skips, here out of fear of the storm. And Mt. Sirion, also called Mt. Hermon, does the same.

8The voice of the Lord shakes the wilderness; the Lord shakes the wilderness of Kadesh.” The thunder, which as we know, can make the ground shake under our feet, shakes Kadesh and the surrounding wilderness.

When we look at the geography of this it is really talking about all of Israel.

  • Mt. Hermon or Sirion is on the northern border of Israel and
  • Kadesh is on the southern border.

So God’s power is over all of Israel, from its northernmost point and beyond, to its southernmost point and beyond.

And then we have in vs. 9-10 –

The response of the heavenly beings to God’s power

9And in his temple all cry, ‘Glory!’ 10The Lord sits enthroned over the flood; the Lord sits enthroned as king forever.”

The temple here is most likely God’s heavenly temple, where these heavenly beings are.

In response to the glorious, powerful and majestic voice of the Lord in the storm, they cry out with their own voices, “Glory to God!” They recognize the Lord as the king he is, and that he reigns forever.

And then finally –

The Lord can give us strength and peace

11May the Lord give strength to his people! May the Lord bless his people with peace!”

This isn’t just an add on at the end. This is where we come into this Psalm.

This same God who has power over all things, is the one who takes care of his people. And so he can give us strength when we need it; when we are weak; when we are overwhelmed. The Lord can help us through.

This same God who has power over the chaotic waters, is the one who can give us peace in this chaotic world that we live in. We can have wholeness, settled calm and experience true life.

And so I encourage you to see these from God, who is the source of all our strength and peace and God’s people.

William Higgins

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