I experienced something this past week that I am sure many of you have experienced before. While I was reading Psalm 50 earlier this week, I was suddenly reminded very clearly of something that happened many years ago – 21 years ago, to be exact. I am not sure why I started to read this particular Psalm. Maybe it was because we have reached the end of the 50 day period leading up to Shavuot. Or maybe it was because I recently shared a verse from this Psalm with someone who turned 50. Whatever the case may be, when I started reading, I started to relive something that happened 21 years ago. It was also around this time of the year, in the middle of a night when I could not sleep and decided to get up, go to my study and just spend some time there reading from Scriptures. That night I started reading the exact same Psalm 50 and I was surprised (or I should rather say: dumbfounded and overwhelmed) by the words of Psalm 50:16 and 17, implying that a group of people who were taking Yahweh’s covenant in their mouths (in other words: His own people, converted and saved people!) were guilty of “hating instruction” and “casting Yahweh’s words behind them”. It is not the time now to go into more detail of what happened during and after that night, 21 years ago, but as many of you know, that night was the beginning of a process in which Yahweh lifted me out of the comfort-zone of being a Dutch Reformed minister (because I was unable to “hair-lift” myself!) and took me on a path back to his instructions and his words and his ways.
Although Psalm 50, for the greater part, is a Psalm speaking of Yahweh’s disappointment in his people (“you hated instruction”; “you cast my words behind you”; “you were pleased with the thieves among you”; “you took part in the activities of adulterers”; “you spoke against your brother”; “you forgot your Elohim”) it is truly a Psalm of redemption and salvation. In the 15th verse Yahweh is clearly showing his desire to redeem and to rescue his people: “Call upon Me in the day of distress – let Me rescue you, and you will esteem Me.” In the 22nd verse Yahweh tells his people that they should take the necessary steps to avoid ending up like people “with no one to deliver (them)” and in the 23rd verse we hear these amazing words: “Whoever offers praise, esteems Me; and to him who prepares his way (or “orders his way rightly”; or “goes the right way”; or “is upright in his ways”; or “sets his foot on the way”), I will show the deliverance of Elohim.”
In Acts 2, on the day of Shavuot, when thousands of people came together in Jerusalem to celebrate the feast of Shavuot or the feast of Weeks or the feast of the 50th Day, the message of Kepha (Peter) was also a message of the deliverance of Elohim. He started his message quoting from Joel 2 and especially the words of verse 32: “Everyone who calls on the Name of Yahweh shall be saved” and when he was done, the people were “pierced in their hearts”, asking “Men, brothers, what shall we do?”, upon which Kepha answered: “Repent, and let each one of you be immersed in the Name of Y’shua Messiah for the forgiveness of sins.” Looking back, we may see this Shavuot-event in Acts 2 as one of the many times throughout Scriptures when Yahweh fulfilled the promise He made in Psalm 50:23 – “I will show you the deliverance of Elohim”.
Through the ages, people have continuously narrowed down (and watered down) the promise of Psalm 50:23 and other similar promises. When it comes to the deliverance of Elohim or seeking salvation in the Name of Yahweh, people tend to prefer a message that is short and sweet and to the point. The first prize would be if it can be outlined in 4 simple steps of salvation, or 4 spiritual laws, or 4 mileposts on the road to heaven. Maybe, without speaking it out, people are thinking that when Kepha said “repent” (literally “return”), he was telling his hearers to return to another Elohim, to another system of deliverance altogether. A system of deliverance that sidesteps everything that had been taught before and cuts right down to the basics of Y’shua who died for the sins of this world. The reasoning is more or less as follows: Times have changed, the civilizations have changed, the world has changed. How can the words spoken several centuries ago, still be taken seriously in our time? These people fail to understand the true nature of the deliverance of Elohim.
Psalm 50:23 says Yahweh will show or reveal his deliverance to those who set their feet on the right way. “I will reveal my salvation to whomever continues in my way” (ISV); “I will reveal my power to deliver those who obey my commands” (Net Bible). So where do the 4 easy steps come in? Or do we have to look for a few more steps – maybe 6 or 7? No, it is completely unrelated to steps or something you can tick off on a checklist. You won’t find a quick-fix or a perfect recipe or magic formula for salvation in Scriptures! Yahweh will only reveal his redemption to those who do not despise his ways. It is all about a choice to walk in the ways of Yahweh – obeying his commandments, taking seriously his prophesies and believing in his Son Y’shua who set the perfect example of walking in the ways of Yahweh and who is unmistakably the Messiah the prophets spoke about. When we repent and accept forgiveness in the Name of Y’shua, we do so without abandoning the ways of Yahweh. Yahweh did not send Y’shua to this world to introduce a new way or a new avenue of belief. No, He sent Y’shua to enable people to return back to the ways of Yahweh.
Some people will object to Psalm 50:23 by saying deliverance and salvation is a free gift and it is therefore wrong to suggest we should first walk in the ways of Yahweh before we can receive the deliverance of Yahweh. It should be the other way around, they would say: First the deliverance, and then the walking in the ways of Yahweh, for our salvation is only possible through the favour of Yahweh. They are right, of course. Salvation and redemption are only possible through the favour of Yahweh. No doubt about that. But Psalm 50 reminds us of the fact that Yahweh is looking at our hearts to see if we have the desire to walk in his ways (as opposed to: only looking for a quick fix) – a principle that we can clearly see in the attitude of Mosheh in Exodus 33:13 “And now, please, if I have found favour in Your eyes, please show me Your way, and let me know You, so that I find favour in Your eyes.” We can clearly see here that there is first of all a desire in Mosheh’s heart to walk in the ways of Yahweh and come to know Him better (“please … please … show me your way and let me know You”). But at the very same time, Mosheh recognizes that it is only by the favour of Yahweh that he can come to know the ways of Yahweh (“If I have found favour in your eyes … show me your way”). But this is not where it all ends, because for Mosheh the deepest motivation in his prayer and his petition before Yahweh, is not a selfish desire for deliverance or salvation (or any kind of quick fix) but a sincere longing to come to know Yahweh and his ways – for what reason? Answer: “So that I may (once again) find favour in your eyes!” It all started with the favour of Yahweh. But is also ends with the favour of Yahweh, because our biggest accomplishment in this world is NOT being able to say “I am saved!”, but rather: “I have found favour in Yahweh’s eyes!”
Shavuot is a celebration of the good things we have received from Yahweh’s hand, among which the receiving of the Torah should be at the top of the list. But let us remind each other today that it is also a celebration of having found favour in Yahweh’s eyes – the fulfillment of the words spoken by Kepha on perhaps the most famous Shavuot festival of all: “For the promise is to you and to your children, and to all who are far off, as many as Yahweh our Elohim shall call unto Himself – or, as this may also be understood – as many of those that have found favour in Yahweh’s eyes” (Acts 2:39).