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Our Art Should Praise God

December 30, 2023

In Psalm 149, we see the Psalmist’s continuation of his call to “praise the LORD” (verse 1). Praise to the Lord is to be continually offered up – we should not cease to praise Him. We recall from our reading of Revelation 14:3 that John saw the “144,000 witnesses standing with the Lamb on Mt. Zion and singing a new song before the throne.” Effectively, “new songs” that promote the eternal praise of our God are to be composed and sung “in the assembly of the saints” (verse 1). Our Creator, having made us in His image, endowed in us the ability also to create, and He expects us to use our creative gifts in various ways that lead to His honor and glorification. In this Psalm, we see evidence that God blesses creativity – “Let the saints rejoice in this honor” (verse 5). It is an honor to honor the Lord. We are to “rejoice in our Maker, and be glad in our King” (verse 2). These references, though primarily for the nation of Israel, have application for all believers, for "He crowns the humble with salvation” (verse 4). “The praise of God [should] be in our mouths” (verse 5), and – if in our mouths – then ever in our hearts. More than 100 verses of Scripture recognize God’s blessing on the various creative arts; here, two art forms are specifically mentioned – “dancing and making music” (verse 3). God’s purposes for establishing man’s creativity relate to art forms that elevate and add beauty to our world – our art should also praise God. This implies the possibility and existence of art that is perverse – which God does not bless. We see in this Psalm that “praise of God in our mouths” can also be “a double-edged sword” to rebuke unbelievers (cf., verses 6-9). God has an effective way of using our artistic forms to communicate His redemptive message that convicts people of their sin. Indeed, may we apply our artistic talents for His glory and honor.

In Revelation 20, we come to the final section of the book. In verses 1-3, John speaks of an angel who holds the “key to the Abyss and a great chain” (verse 1). In verse 2, the angel seizes Satan; to prevent any misunderstanding about this being, John described him in three ways – “the dragon, the ancient serpent, the devil” – and then names him. The angel binds him and throws him into the Abyss – locks and seals it over him – “to keep him from deceiving the nations” for a thousand years (verse 3). This could not be more descriptive. This moves the action into the millennium – when “Christ shall rule on earth for a thousand years” (cf., verses 4-5). We have absolutely no reason to interpret this any other way than literally – six times – John repeats for us the time frame of a “thousand years” (cf., verses 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, and 7). In verses 7-10, John tells us that “when the thousand years are over” (verse 7), Satan will be released for a short period to deceive the nations, which will gather for the final battle. We see that “the devil” will be “thrown in the lake of burning sulfur – where, for the last thousand years, the beast (Antichrist) and the false prophet had been thrown – to be tormented forever” (verse 10). Thus comes Satan’s defeat and ends his deception and dominion. This action is followed by the judgment of the unredeemed dead – “according to what they had done as recorded in the books” (verse 12). Along with “death and Hades, those whose names were not found in the book of life, were thrown into the lake of fire” (verse 15). Reading this, it behooves us to ensure that we know the Lord personally – that our names are indeed recorded in the book of life.

Yesterday, in Nehemiah 9, we encountered the predicament of the people of Israel – that they confessed their enslavement because of their sin which caused them great distress (verses 36-37). Today, in Nehemiah 9:38 - 11:21, we see the promise they make to the Lord, and subsequently, a long list of the participants who made that promise. They agreed to “separate themselves from neighboring peoples” (10:28); not to exchange “daughters in marriage” (10:30); and not to buy or sell on the Sabbath (10:31). Twice, they agreed to be responsible to uphold their promise, but later, we will see that this agreement was problematic. Chapter 11 informs us that the Israelites “cast lots to bring one out of every ten to settle in Jerusalem” (verse 1). The rest of the chapter records a list of various people who “lived in the towns of Judah” (11:3 - ff.). We see here that God takes a personal interest in and a concern for the distribution of His people as they resettle the land after their exile. All our readings today emphasize our need to be instructed by our God, and to remember the promises we make. How important it is that we strive to maintain a close relationship with our Father.

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