Colossians 1, Psalm 113, and our transcendentally majestic, personally loving God and Savior.

I am blessed to be working at Desiring God this summer, specifically at Children Desiring God, and we have staff devotional time every morning for about 15 mins.  A few days ago, the president of Desiring God, Jon Bloom, shared some thoughts on Colossians 1 as we have started studying that letter.  He made an insightful connection between Colossians 1 and Psalm 113, and the connection he made has served as a springboard for the ideas that follow.  These two passages work together to paint a beautiful picture of the transcendent and personal God and Savior we serve.

Colossians 1:15-23 says:

[15] He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. [16] For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. [17] And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. [18] And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent. [19] For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, [20] and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross.  [21] And you, who once were alienated and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds, [22] he has now reconciled in his body of flesh by his death, in order to present you holy and blameless and above reproach before him, [23] if indeed you continue in the faith, stable and steadfast, not shifting from the hope of the gospel that you heard, which has been proclaimed in all creation under heaven, and of which I, Paul, became a minister.

In this passage I see two major sections: vv. 15-20 and vv. 21-23.  Let’s break it down and take a moment to examine each of these passages specifically.

vv. 15-20:

[15] He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. [16] For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. [17] And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. [18] And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent. [19] For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, [20] and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross.

The “He” that begins verse 15 refers to Christ, the Son of God, who has been written about in vv. 1-14 of Colossians 1.  The primary message to be gathered from these six verses is, “Jesus is the transcendent, majestic Creator and Ruler of all things, ‘making peace by the blood of his cross.'”  In short, I summarized the description of Jesus in these verses as, “Transcendent Majesty.”  Paul wastes no words in these verses.  Nearly every word Paul writes, by the power of the Holy Spirit, is used to add to the transcendent majesty of the Son of God, our Savior, Jesus Christ.  This, one of the richest descriptions of the Lord Jesus in the entire Bible, is quickly followed by one of the most beautiful sentences of hope in the entire Bible.

vv. 21-23:

[21] And you, who once were alienated and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds, [22] he has now reconciled in his body of flesh by his death, in order to present you holy and blameless and above reproach before him, [23] if indeed you continue in the faith, stable and steadfast, not shifting from the hope of the gospel that you heard, which has been proclaimed in all creation under heaven, and of which I, Paul, became a minister.

This set of verses introduces the reader to the wondrous reality that the Transcendent Majesty that sits at the right hand of God has humbled himself and become our Personal Savior.  Don’t let those words “personal savior” become numb to you–for the love of God, do not take those words for granted.  The results of doing so are infinite.  The Transcendent Majesty of God is your Personal Savior.  The One who fashioned the stars with his hand has used that same hand to snatch you from the jaws of death and eternal despair.  What wondrous truth this is!  Amazing grace, how sweet the sound.

I certainly haven’t dont that whole passage justice, but let’s jump over to Psalm 113 and see the parallel and be encouraged by the unified testimony of the Word of God.

Psalm 113 says:

[1] Praise the LORD!
Praise, O servants of the LORD,
praise the name of the LORD!
[2] Blessed be the name of the LORD
from this time forth and forevermore!
[3] From the rising of the sun to its setting,
the name of the LORD is to be praised!
[4] The LORD is high above all nations,
and his glory above the heavens!
[5] Who is like the LORD our God,
who is seated on high,
[6] who looks far down
on the heavens and the earth?
[7] He raises the poor from the dust
and lifts the needy from the ash heap,
[8] to make them sit with princes,
with the princes of his people.
[9] He gives the barren woman a home,
making her the joyous mother of children.
Praise the LORD!

Again, I don’t want to break down each individual verse of this passage, but I want to chunk it into two major sections, vv. 1-6 and vv. 7-9.

vv. 1-6:

[1] Praise the LORD!
Praise, O servants of the LORD,
praise the name of the LORD!
[2] Blessed be the name of the LORD
from this time forth and forevermore!
[3] From the rising of the sun to its setting,
the name of the LORD is to be praised!
[4] The LORD is high above all nations,
and his glory above the heavens!
[5] Who is like the LORD our God,
who is seated on high,
[6] who looks far down
on the heavens and the earth?

This psalm, unsurprisingly, begins with a couple of verses of adoration and blessings to God.  The psalmist exhorts the readers to “Praise the LORD!”  Verses 2-3 exclaim blessings to the LORD and the psalmist insists that the name of the LORD be praised from the rising to the setting of the sun, or all the day long.  Then, I want to draw your attention to verses 4-6.  The LORD is high above all nations, and his glory is above the heavens.  The psalmist asks the rhetorical questions, “Who is like the LORD our God?” (v. 5).  Clearly, no idol can match the transcendence of the God of Israel.  Yahweh is seated on high, and get this, he “looks far down on the heavens and the earth.”  I found this to be profound.  I may very well be reading too much into this, but I don’t think I am.  Often, we talk about God, understandably so, as being “in heaven.”  And then, we think (or maybe it’s just me) that God resides in the heavens someplace, in the skies someplace–even if it’s 500 billion lightyears away, he resides in what we would call “the heavens.”  However, the psalmist accurately and intentionally grabs the ultimate transcendency of the LORD, he “looks far down on the heavens and the earth” (v. 6).  How huge is that?!  Our God, Yahweh, is attributed with a majesty that transcends all that is or ever has been.  I know this is a simple truth, but it is such a vital and profound one that cannot be forgotten.  Verses 7-9 of Psalm 113 captures a second attribute of our Lord.

vv. 7-9:

[7] He raises the poor from the dust
and lifts the needy from the ash heap,
[8] to make them sit with princes,
with the princes of his people.
[9] He gives the barren woman a home,
making her the joyous mother of children.
Praise the LORD!

Do you see it!?  The same transcendentally majestic God that is seated far above the billions upon billions of galaxies and stars that fill our skies reaches down and raises the poor from the dust and makes them sit with the princes of his people.  This is good news, friends!  God, the maker and sustainer of the heavens and the earth scoops us from the lowest of low places.  Verse 9 says, “ He gives the barren woman a home, making her the joyous mother of children.  Praise the LORD!”  Perhaps the most pathetic, detestable individual of the time, a barren woman, sees the favor of the most majestic King ever to exist.  Here we have a human whose perceived job at the time was to bear a son to carry on the line of the family, and she is incapable of doing the one thing a man would require of her at the time.  She likely has no status with the public, no use in the farm, and cannot bear children.  Yet God, in his righteousness and love, sees this woman made in his image, gives her a home and makes her a joyous mother of children.  What man may consider trash, God considers treasure.  How do we know this is right and good?  God, the most perfect and righteous being in the universe purposes to bless this woman.  God is not only full of Transcendent Majesty, he is a Personal Savior.  If this is not cause for rejoicing, I am not sure what qualifies.

Both the Old and New Testament testify to the Transcendent Majesty of our Personal Savior our faithful Father and his slain Son.  The same hands that fashioned the stars saves your soul.  “Praise, O servants of the LORD, praise the name of the LORD!” (Ps. 113:1)

-Chris

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6/14/12 Update from Minneapolis

Hello all,

I have been in Minneapolis for about a week and a half now.  I am thoroughly enjoying my work at Children Desiring God and I am surely blessed to be able to work with such encouraging and talented people every day of the week.  I hope whoever is reading this is having a wonderful summer thusfar and is finding it rewarding and productive.

I have been doing a lot of work assisting customers with any questions they have about the Children Desiring God curriculum and entering phone orders if folks call in to place them.  In addition to that I have done some creative work and will be starting some editing in the next week, most likely.  I really love working with all of these people; they’ve all been very welcoming and kind to me as I begin working here.

Unfortunately, there is no way I will be achieving the lofty reading goals I have set out for myself this summer, and while this is unfortunate, it is somewhat of a blessing that this is the case.  I am unable to read as much as I planned because I am hanging out with people outside of work more  than I expected,  which is a good thing!  I have become pretty involved at Bethlehem Baptist Church.  I will be attending church mainly on Saturday nights at the Downtown campus, I am in a small group that meets once a week, and I attend the South Site’s Wednesday Connection (basically a time of dinner, worship, and fellowship).  Also I am taking part in a Bethlehem Institute class on the Five Points of Calvinism (TULIP).  So I have been much more occupied than I thought I would be, thus limiting my reading time.

I have been attempting to run at least one mile every day after work and I am keeping track of my times each day in hopes of improving as the summer progresses.  I have really enjoyed this time of exercise because it helps me sort of unload all of my thoughts after a day of work (not that my job is too stressful, though).  After I run a mile I walk two and by the end of the summer I hope to be able to run all three with no problem (running hasn’t ever really been my thing).  After I get home from work and running, if it isn’t one of the nights I have something going on, I typically make a dinner of something like a Caesar salad and either a) a peanut butter sandwich b) a ham and cheese sandwich or c) microwavable pasta.  I’m on this kick where just about anything is good as long as I get my Caesar salad.  After dinner (7pm-ish) I typically start writing some devotional thoughts from throughout the day and poking around on some blog posts I found throughout the day but saved for later.  Then I finish my day with about a half hour to an hour of reading from my reading list which is still The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring.  I am thoroughly enjoying the book, but just don’t give myself enough time each day to power through it like I was powering through books at home throughout the day before I came up here.  I hope to almost have it done by the end of this weekend, however.  Also, if the NBA Finals are on, I typically watch those in the evenings, wishing I was back at home hanging out with the Brookside guys.

I had the opportunity to go to the Cubs/Twins game last Saturday at Target Field.  It was a wonderful afternoon at a beautiful ballpark–I really enjoyed it and hope to go back to watch the Twins play a couple of more times this summer (preferably for a little cheaper).  The Cubbies lost, but it was OK, it was still a great day for a baseball game.

In short, I’m really enjoying my time here in MPLS, but it certainly has taken some getting used to.  I miss Susie a whole lot and really wish she could be experiencing all of this with me, as she wishes I could be experiencing the joys of summer camp with her.  But, I write to her often and am blessed by her texts now and then throughout the day.  It certainly isn’t fun being apart from her, but it is clear that God is working to keep us content with where we are and what we’re doing.

I am thankful for the time I’ve had here so far, but I certainly can’t wait to get back to a little bit of summertime in Fort Wayne and then a final fall at TU.  I miss all of my friends and family a lot.  Be praying for contentment and a Christ-founded joy in my daily life.  I hope your summer is going well.

-Chris

P.S. I am told I have a little bit of an accent–a southern one.  My life is ruined.  I blame it on Upland, not Fort Wayne.  I want to inherit the Minnesoooota accent they got up here.