22nd June 2021- Canvey Methodist Church Bible Studies

Boundary Lines- Restrictions, Constraints and Freedom In Christ.


 

Psalm 16.  A miktam[a] of David.

 

1 Keep me safe, my God,

    for in you I take refuge.

2 I say to the Lord, “You are my Lord;

    apart from you I have no good thing.”

3 I say of the holy people who are in the land,

    “They are the noble ones in whom is all my delight.”

4 Those who run after other gods will suffer more and more.

    I will not pour out libations of blood to such gods

    or take up their names on my lips.

5 Lord, you alone are my portion and my cup;

    you make my lot secure.

6 The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places;

    surely I have a delightful inheritance.

7 I will praise the Lord, who counsels me;

    even at night my heart instructs me.

8 I keep my eyes always on the Lord.

    With him at my right hand, I will not be shaken.

9 Therefore my heart is glad and my tongue rejoices;

    my body also will rest secure,

10 because you will not abandon me to the realm of the dead,

    nor will you let your faithful[b] one see decay.

11 You make known to me the path of life;

    you will fill me with joy in your presence,

    with eternal pleasures at your right hand.

Footnotes:

 

a.Psalm 16:1 Title: Probably a literary or musical term

b.Psalm 16:10 Or holy

 

Comment: 

Psalm 16 is a prayer psalm of King David’s. It is entitled Michtam, which some commentators translate as meaning “a golden psalm”, a very  

precious one, more to be valued by us than gold, yea, than much fine gold. Why should this be?

The answer lies in the way that David, in speaking of his own “walk with God” manages to also speak prophetically and plainly of Christ and his resurrection; about Jesus, who is the true treasure hidden even in the field of the Old Testament.

What is the evidence for this? It comes from the pen of St Paul who, in Acts2:25-27 quoted King David’s words from psalm16:8-11, as applying to Jesus:

 

“Acts 2:25-28 New International Version (NIV)-  25 David said about him (Jesus):

“‘I saw the Lord always before me.

    Because he is at my right hand,

    I will not be shaken.

26 Therefore my heart is glad and my tongue rejoices;

    my body also will rest in hope,

27 because you will not abandon me to the realm of the dead,

    you will not let your holy one see decay.

28 You have made known to me the paths of life;

    you will fill me with joy in your presence.’[a]

 

One of the key phrases that leaps out to me when I read Psalm 16 is that contained in verse 6 when King David acknowledges, in an attitude of Praise, that God has so planned his life that “6 The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; surely I have a delightful inheritance”.

 

In other words, King David, having lived a life with so many ups and a considerable number of downs, so many highs and so many lows, is still able to look back and see God’s touch upon his life; how God had been laying down the pathways, placing protective barriers into place and and even awarding him chains of office. 

 

Perhaps as we come out of lockdown, we may be able to trace a similar path. 

 

The presence of Jesus in the situation or individual life is what makes the difference. Think about the many references to God’s action through his people - a golden divine thread of love that seeks to encourage, encompass, protect and deliver. 

 

King David used the word “line” to describe God’s direction for Him, but we could equally look at words such as cord, bind, and chain to see God’s heart and intentions. All are used in Scripture in these ways. 

 

God ultimately has the authority over all things. Humanity may think that it can control every aspect of the world and of life, but clearly, this is not the case. 

Dear Job, in reflecting upon all the calamities he had endured concluded much the same. The Lord really is the Lord of all

 

Job 38:31 “Can you bind the chains of the Pleiades? Can you loosen Orion’s belt

 

God’s heart, though, is to restore and to heal communities and people, and ultimately that is the gift that he brings to each of us in Jesus both in this life and the next, where every tear will be wiped away and all pain confined to the past.

 

Psalm 147:3 He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.

 

We see in Scripture how God has brought about release, where the chains have been chains that bind rather than lines that helpfully mark borders or boundaries.


 

“Isaiah 52:2 New International Version (NIV)-  2 Shake off your dust; rise up, sit enthroned, Jerusalem. Free yourself from the chains on your neck,  Daughter Zion, now a captive.

 

Acts 12:7 Suddenly an angel of the Lord appeared and a light shone in the cell. He struck Peter on the side and woke him up. “Quick, get up!” he said, and the chains fell off Peter’s wrists.


 

 

Matters of Justice are also to be of concern us as we continue to undertake the work of Jesus in the world.

 

Isaiah 58:6 New International Version (NIV).  6 “Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen:  to loose the chains of injustice. and untie the cords of the yoke,

to set the oppressed free and break every yoke?

 

What may be the areas of injustice that should concern us in today’s world?


 

Some chains mentioned in scripture are to do with honours bestowed upon individuals. You may remember Daniel, he of the Lions den and the fiery furnace. In boldly standing firm for God he went from bound captive to honoured “wise counsellor”.

J

Daniel 3:24 Then King Nebuchadnezzar leaped to his feet in amazement and asked his advisers, “Weren’t there three men that we tied up and threw into the fire?” They replied, “Certainly, Your Majesty.


 

Daniel 5:16 New International Version (NIV)- 16 Now I have heard that you are able to give interpretations and to solve difficult problems. If you can read this writing and tell me what it means, you will be clothed in purple and have a gold chain placed around your neck, and you will be made the third highest ruler in the kingdom.”

 

Similarly as we serve God faithfully now, we too are promised blessings by God, a robe of righteousness through Jesus' sacrifice for us, His peace that passes understanding, a deep joy in life and one of many rooms in heaven in God’s closer presence . 

 

There are boundaries, though, that God marks out. At God’s direction, King Solomon marked the inner Sanctuary of the temple with a chain. 

 

1 Kings 6:21 New International Version (NIV)- 21 Solomon covered the inside of the temple with pure gold, and he extended gold chains across the front of the inner sanctuary, which was overlaid with gold.

 

There are clearly some places where it is not wise to go. For those with long memories, you may recall that the safe swimming area at Canvey SeaFront was marked by a line of Tree Sampling’s placed about 200 to 500 yards from the shore. Small children and even adult swimmers were warned never to swim beyond these saplings as the currents from the shipping lanes would drag you under the waves or be so strong as to prevent safe return to the places started out from.

 

Similarly Scripture warns us to keep away from danger areas. Here are St Paul’s observations on these boundaries.

 

Galatians 5:1-25; New International Version (NIV)- Freedom in Christ

5 It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery. 2 Mark my words! I, Paul, tell you that if you let yourselves be circumcised, Christ will be of no value to you at all. 3 Again I declare to every man who lets himself be circumcised that he is obligated to obey the whole law. 4 You who are trying to be justified by the law have been alienated from Christ; you have fallen away from grace. 5 For through the Spirit we eagerly await by faith the righteousness for which we hope. 6 For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision has any value. The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love. 7 You were running a good race. Who cut in on you to keep you from obeying the truth? 8 That kind of persuasion does not come from the one who calls you. 9 “A little yeast works through the whole batch of dough.” 10 I am confident in the Lord that you will take no other view. The one who is throwing you into confusion, whoever that may be, will have to pay the penalty. 11 Brothers and sisters, if I am still preaching circumcision, why am I still being persecuted? In that case the offense of the cross has been abolished. 12 As for those agitators, I wish they would go the whole way and emasculate themselves!

Life by the Spirit.  13 You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh[a]; rather, serve one another humbly in love. 14 For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.”[b] 15 If you bite and devour each other, watch out or you will be destroyed by each other.

16 So I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. 17 For the flesh desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the flesh. They are in conflict with each other, so that you are not to do whatever[c] you want. 18 But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.   19 The acts of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; 20 idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions 21 and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.  22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. 24 Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. 25 Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. 26 Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other.

 

I rather like the way in which the boundaries of safety, ie the sea walls, were built into the heraldic crest of Canvey Island when it was introduced on January 5th 1971. Incidentally it was the mother of one of our Sunday School Children who won the competition that was held to determine the best heraldic motto for Canvey’s Crest. Her winning entry was, Ex Mare Dei Gratia, “From the sea by the grace of God”.

 

 

By way of explanation the shield on the cred forms a kind of heraldic map showing a green diamond, representing the island, surrounded by the blue and white waves of the Thames Estuary together with emblems referring to former industries. For almost a thousand years Canvey was renowned for its pastures and the large flocks of sheep they sustained, in fact it has been recorded that some 4,000 sheep were on the island in 1592. An offshoot of this dairy farming was the manufacture of cheeses from the ewes' milk and for a brief period this was the main source of income for the island.

The fat-tailed sheep in the arms was a breed common on the island. From the earliest times the oyster fisheries of the Essex coast have been of great commercial importance and fame, one of these oyster beds, lay between Canvey Island and Leigh Marsh and is referred to by the oyster shells. Another activity on the island, recalled by the white drops in the arms, was salt extraction, which is thought to date back to the Roman period, the remains of earthenware evaporation pots and other vessels used for storage and the transport of brine have been found on the island.

The voided gold escutcheon with its embattled inside represents the sea wall, the seven crenelations refer to the previous seven main drainage sluices.

The cottage represents those which were built to house the Dutchmen working on land reclamation, two of which remain and one of which is now a museum.

The motto 'EX MARE DEI GRATIA' menas "From the sea by the grace of God".


 

What are the protective walls that God puts around us?

St Paul in Ephesians6:10-20, suggests the shield of faith amongst other things:

 

“The Armor of God- 10 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. 11 Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. 12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. 13 Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. 14 Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, 15 and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. 16 In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. 17 Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. 18 And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people. 19 Pray also for me, that whenever I speak, words may be given me so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel, 20 for which I am an ambassador in chains. Pray that I may declare it fearlessly, as I should”.


 

Two more suggestions from Holy scripture that involve cords and chains that we are exhorted to use in our walk of faith.

 

Firstly In Hebrews 6:19 New International Version (NIV), we are encouraged to have hope 

 

“19 We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm andm secure. It enters the inner sanctuary behind the curtain”,

 


 

And then finally, in Colossians 3:14 New International Version (NIV) we are exhorted to put on love first and last. 

 

“14 And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity”.

 

 Chains, cords, lines, are given as assurances, boundaries and points of release from oppression and injustice.

 

Charles Wesley in his hymn “And can it be concluded triumphantly. 

“My chains fell off, my heart was free. I rose went forth and followed thee”.

 

May God Bless us all as we do the same..


 

Colin