Where No Enemy Can Reach: Psalm 62:5-8

Chimney-Rock
Chimney Rock, Nebraska, U.S.

Let all that I am wait quietly before God,
    for my hope is in him.
He alone is my rock and my salvation,
    my fortress where I will not be shaken.
My victory and honor come from God alone.
    He is my refuge, a rock where no enemy can reach me.
O my people, trust in him at all times.
    Pour out your heart to him,
    for God is our refuge.    Interlude

Psalm 62:5-8, NLT

flourish20

Verses 5-6 are ‘almost’ duplicates with verses 1-2. I have used this thought before, but verses that seem repetitive suggest something to pay extra attention. I see them as ‘laminates.’ They come together, and become stronger.

Through these verses, David is exclusively focused on God’s excellence. His words are winsome and his zeal is admirable. David really doesn’t want to talk about anything else– he is the ultimate rarity: he is a God-intoxicated man.

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Commentary

V. 5, “Let all that I am wait quietly before God, for my hope is in him.”

This is a repeat of verse 1. I think it is repeated as an emphasis for us. Waiting quietly is not easy for us. Our impatience and our pride sabotage the process. We just feel too self-important to wait for anyone.

V. 6, “He alone is my rock and my salvation,
    my fortress where I will not be shaken.”

This is a repeat of verse 2. When a songwriter finds a theme in his work, he’ll write it in a “chorus.” This chorus usually is repeated a few times through the song. Perhaps that is what is taking place through David, in this psalm?

V. 7, “My victory and honor come from God alone.
    He is my refuge, a rock where no enemy can reach me.”

David sees himself as being evaluated by God alone. Anything of value (victory, and honor) will come as a exclusive effort from the Lord. David isn’t going to look for these things anywhere else.

A refuge is a “place of safety.” It is the place of immunity, and a place of utmost protection. Back in verse 3, David disclosed details of murder plots. When your life is threatened you’ll need a safe place to go.

V. 8, “O my people, trust in him at all times.
    Pour out your heart to him,
    for God is our refuge. Interlude”

I think David is speaking as a king here, to his subjects. He advocates a constant trust in Him. He exhorts his people to pour out everything to God, and hold nothing back.

“For God is our refuge. Selah.” 

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ybic, Bryan

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Becoming Quiet For a Change: Psalm 62:1-4

A Place to Become Quiet

For Jeduthun, the choir director: A psalm of David.

1 “I wait quietly before God,
    for my victory comes from him.
He alone is my rock and my salvation,
    my fortress where I will never be shaken.

So many enemies against one man—
    all of them trying to kill me.
To them I’m just a broken-down wall
    or a tottering fence.
They plan to topple me from my high position.
    They delight in telling lies about me.
They praise me to my face
    but curse me in their hearts.” Interlude

Psalm 62:1-4, NLT

flourish14

David establishes the wonderful need we have, to be quiet– silence. He understands a great deal of things.

  • Who God is, and His heart for me,
  • being in a precarious position,
  • the extent of the conspiracy against him,
  • the deceitfulness of so-called “friends.”

 

Commentary

V. 1, “I wait quietly before God,
    for my victory comes from him.”

The Hebrew word for “wait” is “kawva.” It is a curious word. Its definition is “to bind together, by twisting.” For David, waiting could not be a passive condition. It had a far more active concept, that of “braiding.” When we “wait on the Lord,” we should be pliable, and soft. It is a time for us to be wrapping our hearts and minds with God, and the things of God.

When we think of “waiting” today, it’s pretty much a passive thing. We “wait” to see the doctor. We sit in a “waiting room,” reading old magazines until he (or she) is ready to see us. Very few people like waiting.

The verse also shows a coming “victory.” It is given to us freely and extravagantly. We certainly can do a single thing to be given such an incredible gift.

 

V. 2, “He alone is my rock and my salvation,
    my fortress where I will never be shaken.”

David sees God as a place of safety, security– a castle. I think that David was seeing God properly. Perhaps all of this crisis– over and over, is exactly what the Lord wanted. When crisis initiates a desperate heart, than it is worth it.

 

V. 3, “So many enemies against one man—
    all of them trying to kill me.
To them I’m just a broken-down wall
    or a tottering fence.”

Sobering, isn’t it. This is not a game, in David’s eyes. “So many enemies,” and the phrase, “kill me” is not melodrama. He’s not making this up, and he isn’t paranoid. He is a target for assassination.

I think what David was trying to say (with the last part of the verse), that many see him as vulnerable and weak. Tottering, especially, is an evocative word. It has the idea of being decrepit. In the eyes of his enemies, David is completely defenseless and totally assailable.

 

V. 4, “They plan to topple me from my high position.
    They delight in telling lies about me.
They praise me to my face
    but curse me in their hearts.” 

David understands how “coups” work. He realizes that slander, and lies are just the first step to remove David as king. He doesn’t trust anyone. He finds that those who are flattering him are telling him lies. They intend to deceive, that is their real purpose.

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ybic, Bryan

 

Psalm 51:11-14, The Awful Pain of Sin

11 “Do not cast me from your presence
    or take your Holy Spirit from me.
12 Restore to me the joy of your salvation
    and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.

13 Then I will teach transgressors your ways,
    so that sinners will turn back to you.
14 Deliver me from the guilt of bloodshed, O God,
    you who are God my Savior,
    and my tongue will sing of your righteousness.”

Psalm 51:11-14, NIV

We now start to read a different ‘David’. His heart has dramatically changed from who he was in verse 1. He is now a different man. We have hoped and waited for this moment, and at this moment we can understand ‘a broken heart redeemed.’

A bumble bee will spread pollen from one flower to the next. In the same way, David spreads God’s goodness from person-to-person. He opens his heart, and we see someone who is quite authentic and real.

Commentary

V.11, Do not cast me from your presence
    or take your Holy Spirit from me.

I have to believe that David is thinking long and hard about Saul. Saul sinned against the Lord, and given repeated warnings to repent. He didn’t. And God left him.

David is remembering the ‘shell of a man’ that Saul became. David is very afraid.

V. 12, “Restore to me the joy of your salvation
    and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.”

Psalm 32 was written concurrently with this Psalm. In it we see the common theme regarding joy. Joy goes beyond happiness. It is strength that God gives to those who follow Him. Nehemiah instructed the people of God, “the joy of the Lord is your strength.”

David has tasted this joy, and nothing will ‘neverever’ compare with it. He can’t imagine his life emptied by God. To hold this joy is the greatest achievement a person can experience. David asks for a ‘willingness’ that he may implement this.

V. 13, “Then I will teach transgressors your ways,
    so that sinners will turn back to you.”

I used to think that David said this to manipulate God. A sort of an attempt to influence God with ‘good deeds.’ But now I don’t. This verse is deeper than that. The need for joy and its place in our lives transforms us into real witnesses.

“Catch on fire with enthusiasm and people will come for miles to watch you burn.”

Charles Wesley

V. 14, “Deliver me from the guilt of bloodshed, O God,
    you who are God my Savior,
    and my tongue will sing of your righteousness.”

David ‘knew’ what guilt was. Few people can murder another human being without ‘knowing’ the stain, and feeling the evil. You must be delivered from this, you can’t think that “time heals all wounds.” Time heals nothing, but God must intervene.

I believe the people who sing the best are those who have been forgiven the most.

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ybic, Bryan

Psalm 51:3-5, Recognize the Rebel Within

3 “For I recognize my rebellion;
    it haunts me day and night.
Against you, and you alone, have I sinned;
    I have done what is evil in your sight.
You will be proved right in what you say,
    and your judgment against me is just.[a]
For I was born a sinner—
    yes, from the moment my mother conceived me.”

Psalm 51:3-5, NLT

In this life, we must understand our inner rebellion and  sin. We had better accept and agree with God on this basic matter. If we really are going to be truthful people we have to really focus on this fundamental understanding of our own depravity.

This is the first of seven of Psalms we call “penitential.” It is probably the best known of these seven. Psalm 51 can be broken down into subcategories. Of course, the title precisely cues us in the time David met with Nathan in 2 Samuel 12:1-14.

Commentary

V. 3, “ “For I recognize my rebellion;
    it haunts me day and night.”

David doesn’t cling to false platitudes. He is not deceived by creating a new image. He doesn’t care a whit about public relations. It may seem like he is being a little hard on himself. There are some that suggest that David may be too morbid, too moody. But you try to commit adultery, and than murder, then you can judge the entire scene.

But David has looked into a mirror, and he’s stepped away from it. He cannot forget what he saw. He sees his “rebellion” for what it really is– that he is warped and twisted. David can’t shake off this sense of shame and grief. He has committed adultery which has led to murder of one of his best generals.

V. 4, “Against you, and you alone, have I sinned;
    I have done what is evil in your sight. You will be proved right in what you say, and your judgment against me is just.

All of our sins are against God. Failure to see this results in a repentance that is premature, and deficient. This inadequate repentance will not change you, but only makes you feel somewhat better.

There is no doubt that David sinned terribly against Bathsheba, and her husband Uriah. What he did to them was so wrong, on so many levels. But, what about God? David’s selfishness, greed, lust offended God. Perhaps we need to tweak our concepts. The higher in status and power a person is, the greater the offense. All sin is sin against a holy God.

What David believed is that God could say what God wanted about him, and it would be right and true, for God cannot be otherwise. But rather than stubbornly avoiding God, David sees the positive and he chooses to honor God by his authentic repentance.

V. 5,For I was born a sinner—
    yes, from the moment my mother conceived me.”

David is not saying that his mother was immoral. Rather he is recognizing the depth of his own sin. (He knows who he is, he’s got this tattoo, “Born to Sin” on his biceps.)

ybic, Bryan

Psalm 137: 1–6: Discipline That Brings a Harvest of Righteousness

psalm137-400

Psalm 137

1 Beside the rivers of Babylon, we sat and wept
    as we thought of Jerusalem.
2 We put away our harps,
    hanging them on the branches of poplar trees.
3 For our captors demanded a song from us.
    Our tormentors insisted on a joyful hymn:
    “Sing us one of those songs of Jerusalem!”
4 But how can we sing the songs of the Lord
    while in a pagan land?

5 If I forget you, O Jerusalem,
    let my right hand forget how to play the harp.
6 May my tongue stick to the roof of my mouth
    if I fail to remember you,
    if I don’t make Jerusalem my greatest joy.

7 O Lord, remember what the Edomites did
    on the day the armies of Babylon captured Jerusalem.
“Destroy it!” they yelled.
    “Level it to the ground!”

In the background of this psalm, the children of Israel in 586 BC have been led into captivity to Babylon because of their obstinate rebellion and idolatry against the Lord. Their captors are taunting them by asking them to sing songs of Zion in a foreign land but this they cannot do. They are reaping what they sowed and are being disciplined by the Lord through their bondage in Babylon.

This is probably familiar territory for those of us who have walked with the Lord for several  years. Of the many trials that we endure in this life, at least some of them are the discipline of the Lord. At one time or another we all get taken to God’s woodshed. Here are some helpful guidelines to help us while we are in the disciplining process:

(1) Israel endured discipline during this time because they were the chosen people of God; we endure discipline because we are his beloved sons and daughters. Discipline reveals our identity. Hebrews 12:8 goes so far as to say that if we are not disciplined, then we are “illegitimate children and not true sons.”

(2) Discipline in not an end–in–itself; the purpose of discipline is restoration and reconciliation. This is why Israel would not let themselves forget Jerusalem because it represented home and the restoration of their fortunes. Again, Hebrews 12:11 tells us that discipline will produce “a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.”

It’s interesting to note that Israel had its own harvest of righteousness: after their exile in Babylon, there is strong evidence that the problem of foreign gods was never a widespread problem again for many years.

(3) While you are going through the discipline of the Lord, expect demonic opposition to increase in your life. Notice how Israel is tormented by their captors in verse 3. The Edomites also encouraged Babylon to do great harm to Jerusalem during the fall of Jerusalem.

The greatest strategy of the devil is this: convince the believer being disciplined that they are so defective and have sinned so greatly that they are not worthy of God’s tender mercies. This is a lie: his mercies endure forever. Remember Satan is called “the accuser of the brethren.”

(4) How much better it is to be disciplined now in this life, and be purified than to have to stand before Christ, without having gone through the Refiner’s Fire. Our weeping will endure for the night (this present life) but joy will come in the morning (eternity).

If you liked this post by Jonathan, you may also like his book ,Letters from Fawn Creek, that is available at this link:

https://www.tatepublishing.com/bookstore/book.php?w=9781628542035

Letters from Fawn Creek

 

ybic, Jonathan

When You Must Act Insane, Psalm 34

 A psalm of David, regarding the time he pretended to be insane in front of Abimelech, who sent him away.

I will praise the Lord at all times.
    I will constantly speak his praises.
I will boast only in the Lord;
    let all who are helpless take heart.
Come, let us tell of the Lord’s greatness;
    let us exalt his name together.

I prayed to the Lord, and he answered me.
    He freed me from all my fears.
Those who look to him for help will be radiant with joy;
    no shadow of shame will darken their faces.
In my desperation I prayed, and the Lord listened;
    he saved me from all my troubles.
For the angel of the Lord is a guard;
    he surrounds and defends all who fear him.

Taste and see that the Lord is good.
    Oh, the joys of those who take refuge in him!
Fear the Lord, you his godly people,
    for those who fear him will have all they need.
10 Even strong young lions sometimes go hungry,
    but those who trust in the Lord will lack no good thing.

11 Come, my children, and listen to me,
    and I will teach you to fear the Lord.
12 Does anyone want to live a life
    that is long and prosperous?
13 Then keep your tongue from speaking evil
    and your lips from telling lies!
14 Turn away from evil and do good.
    Search for peace, and work to maintain it.

15 The eyes of the Lord watch over those who do right;
    his ears are open to their cries for help.
16 But the Lord turns his face against those who do evil;
    he will erase their memory from the earth.
17 The Lord hears his people when they call to him for help.
    He rescues them from all their troubles.
18 The Lord is close to the brokenhearted;
    he rescues those whose spirits are crushed.

19 The righteous person faces many troubles,
    but the Lord comes to the rescue each time.
20 For the Lord protects the bones of the righteous;
    not one of them is broken!

21 Calamity will surely overtake the wicked,
    and those who hate the righteous will be punished.
22 But the Lord will redeem those who serve him.
    No one who takes refuge in him will be condemned.

Psalm 34

The “insanity” plea works. This particular Psalm was written by David when he was brought in by the Philistines and brought before their king. Intimidated, he suddenly began act out like someone crazy. Mental illness had some serious stigma attached to it. Some thought it to be contagious, or an omen of bad luck. Needless to say, David was able to deceive King Achish by his performance.

Here’s the historical setting from 1 Samuel 21.

10 “So David escaped from Saul and went to King Achish of Gath. 11 But the officers of Achish were unhappy about his being there. “Isn’t this David, the king of the land?” they asked. “Isn’t he the one the people honor with dances, singing,

    ‘Saul has killed his thousands,
    and David his ten thousands’?”

12 David heard these comments and was very afraid of what King Achish of Gath might do to him. 13 So he pretended to be insane, scratching on doors and drooling down his beard.

14 Finally, King Achish said to his men, “Must you bring me a madman? 15 We already have enough of them around here! Why should I let someone like this be my guest?”

1 Samuel 21:10-15

A couple of things you might want to consider as you read this through.insanity1

This song is an acrostic in the original Hebrew. That shows a lot of talent (and incredible effort) in its composition and form. It also tells me of the value and awareness that David had about his circumstances. He seems to understand that all he is experiencing is worth writing about. It has spiritual value for every generation.

There is also an ethical dilemma here. David is afraid. He starts to act insane, which is really deceit on his part. I think that he senses this ploy will probably save his life. But is this ok?

    1. No where does God condemn David’s actions. (But there isn’t approval either.)
    2. There are other precedents in Scripture for this kind of action.
    3. People understand that we live in an imperfect world, as imperfect people.
    4. Is David acting out of fear or faith? Was this behavior sanctioned by the Lord?

Psalm 34 doesn’t seem to have any direct link with David’s “insanity” per se, but there are undercurrents hidden through this psalm. They are really indirect though, more of a deflected influence.

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ybic, Bryan

Poor Joseph: Psalm 105:17-22

Josephs-brothers-slavery
Joseph is being prepared for his dreams

17 Then he sent someone to Egypt ahead of them—
    Joseph, who was sold as a slave.
18 They bruised his feet with fetters
    and placed his neck in an iron collar.
19 Until the time came to fulfill his dreams,[a]
    the Lord tested Joseph’s character.
20 Then Pharaoh sent for him and set him free;
    the ruler of the nation opened his prison door.
21 Joseph was put in charge of all the king’s household;
    he became ruler over all the king’s possessions.
22 He could instruct the king’s aides as he pleased
    and teach the king’s advisers.

Footnotes:

  1. 105:19 Hebrew ‘his word.’

Psalm 105:17-22, NLT

I would love to have lunch with Joseph. Of all the men and women in the Bible, Joseph would be at the very top of my list. Whenever somebody handles the Word, and mentions his name, my ears perk up and I listen closely.

Psalm 105 is more or less, vignettes from Israel’s rich history. These sketches provide a sense of faith, as it encounters obstacles– and as it follows God. This past history is meant to encourage those in the present, and to be prepared for the future.

When I first became a believer, some kind soul gave me a worn copy of “Foxes Book of Marytrs.” I devoured it. A sense of rootedness began to slowly build as I discovered the rich history of those who would give their lives for the Faith. Psalm 105 does much the same thing.

Commentary

Vv. 17-18,  “Then he sent someone to Egypt ahead of them—
    Joseph, who was sold as a slave.
18 They bruised his feet with fetters
    and placed his neck in an iron collar.”

Joseph was being prepared. He would be inserted behind enemy lines. He would become “the tip of the spear.” No doubt though, slavery was a really lousy place to start. He could look down and see the iron shackles. He could reach up, and around his neck, he could feel the collar of a slave.

These are no small things. But perhaps the biggest and most painful was being caught ‘off-guard’ by his brothers, and sold to the slavers. If this were to happen to me– I would become bitter, angry and venomously hateful. I would’ve concocted scenarios where I would wreak revenge (revenge, oops, sorry that slipped out–I  meant justice).

V.v 19-20, “Until the time came to fulfill his dreams,
    the Lord tested Joseph’s character.
20 Then Pharaoh sent for him and set him free;
    the ruler of the nation opened his prison door.”

I believe godly dreams are always linked to a noble character. When God instills something within you, it will come in “seed form.” It will be embryonic. It will need to grow and wait for the precise moment. We can be postured, placed in a forward area until the second is right.

Our impressions of what our dream looks like will almost never be what we thought. But, it will be better. Testing will work you over. You will feel like you just went 12 rounds with Mike Tyson. But you will learn things. God is doing something.

Joseph erupts from his cell. Everything is turned around in a moment. Joseph has been released by Pharaoh himself. The chains and collar are an afterthought (or are they?) He is raised to a prominence never seen before.

The dreams he had as a boy become real. And there is nothing quite like a dream come true!

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ybic, Bryan

Up On The Roof: Psalm 102:7-9

bird-on-the-roof

7″ I lie awake,
    lonely as a solitary bird on the roof.
My enemies taunt me day after day.
    They mock and curse me.
I eat ashes for food.
    My tears run down into my drink”

Psalm 102:7-9, NLT

“How are you?” People ask me this all the time. I almost always plunge into a miniature crisis, and in a nanosecond I try to craft an adequate response. And it very seldom is the real truth. Many times I’ll ‘flip it’ and ask them the same question, moving from the defensive to the offensive.

I don’t believe a person really knows their own heart in this. I’m sure we get fragments, and odd parts. But we know so little, and then we share that so poorly.

And there is always the time factor, how much should I share? Would I bore them with all of my issues? What is appropriate? How well do I know the person asking?

“O Lord, I know the way of man is not in himself;
It is not in man who walks to direct his own steps.”

Jeremiah 10:23

Psalm 102 is scripture for the afflicted. And all of the imagery, words and ideas become understood through those who see them with the eyes of suffering. Others may read, but the afflicted understand.

Commentary

V. 7,  “I lie awake,
    lonely as a solitary bird on the roof.”

Sleep is very therapeutic, it heals and erases many of our foolish deeds from the day before. Your computer has a “reset button” that gives you an opportunity to start over. Sleep often works the same way. It is a gift from God. For so He gives His beloved sleep.”  Ps. 127:2

But there is no sleep given to this little bird. He sits alone, with no companion. The loneliness is terrible, and he suffers through the night by himself. But, why is this little one so lonely?

There are other birds, and other places to go, so why this self-imposed attitude? I think the writer is describing clinical depression. He has isolated himself, and none can heal him. He sits alone, and broods.

V. 8, “My enemies taunt me day after day.
    They mock and curse me.”

This is not an isolated incident, it happens frequently. Three different words– taunting, mocking, and cursing. All 24/7– all the time. Often for the despondent there a sense of being persecuted, a paranoia that is part of depression.

These “enemies” here may, or may not be human. Often when scripture talks about our archenemies they speak of Satan and his demons. Our adversaries are supernatural and saturated with hatred.

“Stay alert! Watch out for your great enemy, the devil. He prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour.”

1 Peter 5:8, NLT

V. 9, “I eat ashes for food.
    My tears run down into my drink”

This isn’t part of the normal menu. But for the afflicted not much really is. Your caloric intake consists of cinders and soot. Tears fill your cup, and you drink and eat sadness and grief.

When affliction comes, and depression crushes, it is very helpful to strap ourselves to Psalm 102.

“The agony of man’s affliction is often necessary to put him into the right mood to face the fundamental things of life. The Psalmist says, ‘Before I was afflicted I went astray; but now I have kept Thy Word.‘”

Oswald Chambers

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ybic, Bryan

The Corner of Grace and Mercy: Psalm 35:22-25

22 “O Lord, you know all about this.
    Do not stay silent.
    Do not abandon me now, O Lord.
23 Wake up! Rise to my defense!
    Take up my case, my God and my Lord.
24 Declare me not guilty, O Lord my God, for you give justice.
    Don’t let my enemies laugh about me in my troubles.
25 Don’t let them say, “Look, we got what we wanted!
    Now we will eat him alive!”

Psalm 35:22-25, NLT

Confusion and frustrations are cousins, that frolic and play in your yard. They fit very well with each accommodating the other.

David  is smack dab in the middle of these two. He is incredibly frustrated, and has become powerfully vulnerable. Each verse mitigates a certain disaster. “Maybe it is true, the light at the end-of-the tunnel may be an approaching train.”

David teaches us that life isn’t always easy. Quite frequently we are confused and can only cry out to God– one that sounds more like a groan than coherent words.

Commentary

V. 22, O Lord, you know all about this.
    Do not stay silent.
    Do not abandon me now, O Lord.”

The Father is never caught off guard by an ignorance of our present moment. What He knows David knows. And God’s silence may suggest that David won’t be delivered. After all, there has been a whole lot of sin and unfaithfulness. These sins have only brought him confusion and despair.

“Do not abandon me now, O Lord.” Abandonment only seems logical after all. To have God “give up” on you is not an unreasonable issue. For Him to be faithful in spite of my continued sin and failure is actually the theological surprise. He has chosen not to relinquish us to the dark.

V.23, “Wake up! Rise to my defense!
    Take up my case, my God and my Lord.”

Imagine you have been arrested for a serious crime. You step into the courtroom and discover to your surprise, that your Father is your Judge. Your  attorney is Jesus, and He has fully paid your felonious crime.

It strikes me as a bit bold to tell God to “Wake up!” But there is an audacity in the life of a believer that we sometimes miss out on.

“So let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. There we will receive his mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it most.”

Hebrews 4:16, NLT

V. 24, “ Declare me not guilty, O Lord my God, for you give justice.
    Don’t let my enemies laugh about me in my troubles.”

“Either sin is with you, lying on your shoulders, or it is lying on Christ, the Lamb of God. Now if it is lying on your back, you are lost; but if it is resting on Christ, you are free, and you will be saved. Now choose what you want.”

Martin Luther

An old preacher once told me, that I really shouldn’t demand justice. But instead I should insist on mercy. The justice was poured on Jesus, and He has given forgiveness through His sacrifice.

V. 25, “Don’t let them say, “Look, we got what we wanted!
    Now we will eat him alive!”

From this point, this phrase in colloquial English would mean to “chew him up and spit him out.” It is an arrogant thing to say, and it is anchored in lot of pride. They are so sure of themselves, they feel pretty cocky.

ybic, Bryan

 

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Loving the Unlovely: Psalm 35:14-16

14 “I behaved as if grieving for my friend or my brother; I bowed down in sorrow, as one who bewails his mother.

15 But in my stumbling and limping they rejoiced and gathered together [against me]; the smiters (slanderers and revilers) gathered against me, and I knew them not; they ceased not to slander and revile me.

16 Like profane mockers at feasts [making sport for the price of a cake] they gnashed at me with their teeth.”

Psalm 35:14-16, Amplified

For today’s reading, I march out the Amplified Version (AMP.) It has a pretty dynamic history, and fills a niche of a translation that reveals shades and nuances of the original languages. (It can seem a “bit wordy” though for everyday reading.) It was built off the work of the ASV (1901) and its first edition came out in 1965. Since then, it has had over 30 printings.

The AMP handles these three verses quite adroitly and delivers much to strengthen our understanding.

David is a deeply troubled man. It seems he treats his enemies like dear friends. And his friends are sometimes overlooked. His love ‘kicks-off’ his vulnerabilities. I will use the term “idealistic” (but not ‘spacy’ or crazy.) You could say that he loves too much, and he refuses to call his old friends as the enemies they have become.

A love like this is truly astounding. It is called “agape” love in the New Testament. It is a special word that means that it loves its enemies in spite of being mistreated, ignored or slandered. It is a “Jesus style” of love, that His followers must share.

Commentary 

V. 14, I behaved as if grieving for my friend or my brother; I bowed down in sorrow, as one who bewails his mother.”

I suppose it would be useful to read my previous post from PL, The Dark Pain of Slander: Psalm 35:11-13 

David describes his painful grief over his enemies illness. This isn’t what people normally do. But David isn’t normal– he is supernatural as he grieves deep down. David taps into a vein of understanding that Jesus would declare centuries later. From Matthew 5,

“God blesses those who mourn,
    for they will be comforted.” (v.4)

“God blesses those who are humble,
    for they will inherit the whole earth.” (v.5)

“God blesses those who are merciful,
    for they will be shown mercy.” (v.7)

V. 15, “But in my stumbling and limping they rejoiced and gathered together [against me]; the smiters (slanderers and revilers) gathered against me, and I knew them not; they ceased not to slander and revile me.

David has now become a magnet for haters. They watch him stumble, and see him limp. They are drawn together to mock and slander. They have joy over seeing King David the Buffoon stumbling about.

Evil has its special way of organizing itself for evil purposes. Just as the Godly have special gifts and ministries, the evil ones have their specialties as well. Some will be liars, others will be murderers, adulterers, abusers and thieves. You could say that Satan has “gifted” them to do his work.

“These teachers oppose the truth just as Jannes and Jambres opposed Moses. They have depraved minds and a counterfeit faith. But they won’t get away with this for long. Someday everyone will recognize what fools they are, just as with Jannes and Jambres.”

2 Timothy 3:8-9

Just as Paul had been gifted, he encountered others as gifted, but to do evil. This should make a young pastor or missionary aware and careful of these evil counterparts. But Paul tells Timothy that this charade will not last long.

ybic, Bryan

The Dark Pain of Slander: Psalm 35:11-13

Norman Rockwell, “Gossip,” 1948

11 “Malicious witnesses testify against me.
    They accuse me of crimes I know nothing about.
12 They repay me evil for good.
    I am sick with despair.
13 Yet when they were ill, I grieved for them.
    I denied myself by fasting for them,
    but my prayers returned unanswered.”

Psalm 35:11-13, NLT

“Slander is worse than cannibalism,” St. Chyrosostom

It is so frustrating when you are misjudged. For the most part, we find ourselves on a discouraging treadmill to try to regain your reputation. It is one of the hardest things you will ever have to do. Proverbs 18:19, NLT,

“An offended friend is harder to win back than a fortified city.
    Arguments separate friends like a gate locked with bars.”

We are mixed-up in all of this because of their personal rancor or hostility. They imagine offences where none exist. In Psalm 59:3, David declares his frustration,

“They have set an ambush for me.
    Fierce enemies are out there waiting, Lord,
    though I have not sinned or offended them.”

Commentary

V.11,Malicious witnesses testify against me.
    They accuse me of crimes I know nothing about.

David becomes a ‘lightning rod’ for all kinds of malicious slander and gossip. His claiming that he has done nothing to merit such hatefulness. It maybe David was taken to court over some of these things: the words “witness,” “testify,” “accuse,” “crimes.” These all are words used in a criminal court.

“Malicious” is such a unhappy word; it means to be spiteful, noxious, nasty and vicious. These are strong words, and each one adds another layer of hatefulness, which David can’t do a thing about.

V. 12, “They repay me evil for good.
    I am sick with despair.”

What a hard place to be. People that you have been good to in all your dealings to them, turn on you. In times of apostasy, this kind of meanness will become the expected normal. Jeremiah 9:3-6,

“My people bend their tongues like bows
    to shoot out lies.
They refuse to stand up for the truth.
    They only go from bad to worse.
They do not know me,”
    says the Lord.

“Beware of your neighbor!
    Don’t even trust your brother!
For brother takes advantage of brother,
    and friend slanders friend.
They all fool and defraud each other;
    no one tells the truth.
With practiced tongues they tell lies;
    they wear themselves out with all their sinning.
They pile lie upon lie
    and utterly refuse to acknowledge me,”
    says the Lord.'”

One more thought. David said he was sick with despair. Often emotionally ill people are not considered sick by our standards. But they should be. And they should be helped.

V. 13, “Yet when they were ill, I grieved for them.
    I denied myself by fasting for them,
    but my prayers returned unanswered.”

David reveals the character of the Lord Jesus. When vilified, he blessed. When hurt by his enemies, David loves them. The natural man would consider that they were getting what was coming to them.

“You have heard the law that says, ‘Love your neighbor’ and hate your enemy. 44 But I say, love your enemies! Pray for those who persecute you!”

Matthew 5:43-44

“If your enemies are hungry, feed them.
    If they are thirsty, give them something to drink.
In doing this, you will heap
    burning coals of shame on their heads.”

Romans 12:20

One more thought. The Last Days are described as the most challenging in the history of mankind. One of its marks will be unloving, uncaring and ungodly people. David is one who loved even when he was mocked. Jesus prayed for His murderers from the cross.

 “I am warning you ahead of time, dear friends. Be on guard so that you will not be carried away by the errors of these wicked people and lose your own secure footing. 18 Rather, you must grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.”

2 Peter 3:17

ybic, Bryan

Crying and Hiding: Psalm 142:1

A psalm of David, regarding his experience in the cave. A prayer.

**

1 “I cry out to the Lord;
    I plead for the Lord’s mercy.”

Psalm 142:1, NLT

Sometimes troubles come to visit us in droves. It’s more than a simple hassle or two– rather it is devastating. It could be spinal meningitis, or a divorce. A car accident or a loss of a job. (Golly, I could go on and on.)

David is sitting in a cave. He is hiding. And he is completely overwhelmed by the twists his life has taken. He would never in a thousand years imagine it would end up like this. It all seems terribly out-of-control. And he is afraid.

Commentary

V. 1, I cry out to the Lord;
    I plead for the Lord’s mercy.”

“I cry out, and I plead.” This is the language of beaten and overwhelmed believer. About 20 years ago, I returned to my home state of Wisconsin for a visit. In a wild and weird sequence of events, I found out that I was being pursued by the police. I didn’t know it, but they had an outstanding felony warrant for my arrest.

I hid out over the weekend, and got really desperate with God. On my hands and knees I began to beg for mercy. I have never been so earnest, it was like I was being torn in pieces. My wife and kids were with me, and I had already been a full time instructor at ABI.

As I prayed, I broke through some major issues. It was agony. At times, all I could think of was going to prison. Losing my family, and my young ministry. But I needed to deal with the enormity of my sin that I committed 20 years earlier.

On Monday morning, I turned myself in. I stood with my lawyer (who I met an hour before.) I had committed everything over to God. I was ready to go to jail. It was frightening. The judge, after conferring with the lawyers, made his ruling. He quashed the warrant, and dismissed me of all charges.

The lawyer told me later that he had never seen such a turn of events. “That was a miracle!”

**

ybic, Bryan

Accused! Psalm 4:1-2

For the choir director: A psalm of David, to be accompanied by stringed instruments.

Answer me when I call to you,
O God who declares me innocent.
Free me from my troubles.
Have mercy on me and hear my prayer.

How long will you people ruin my reputation?
How long will you make groundless accusations?
How long will you continue your lies? Interlude

Psalm 4:1-2, NLT

Most of us have a history. We accumulate experiences and go through hard times. But it is important to remember the good times as well. But as we age, we draw from that reservoir of experience pretty much seamlessly. It is something fluid.

To understand your experiences puts you ‘smack-dab’ in the best place to start siphoning wisdom into your soul.  The Holy Spirit has volunteered to supervise your education. In 1 John 2:27 we’re told,

“But you have received the Holy Spirit, and he lives within you, so you don’t need anyone to teach you what is true. For the Spirit teaches you everything you need to know.”

We gain much from the Church. The elders predominently help us work through all of this. I’ve become convinced they are in place precisely to help you in life.

“If you young fellows were wise, the devil couldn’t do anything to you, but since you aren’t wise, you need us who are old.”

 Martin Luther

Commentary

V. 1, “Answer me when I call to you,
O God who declares me innocent.
Free me from my troubles.
Have mercy on me and hear my prayer.”

A couple of things I would like to emphasize.

  1. I don’t think David is attempting to instruct God, and help Him by this reminder. I believe David is reminding himself of all that God has done for him.
  2. To be declared innocent is a blessing. To be aware of it is quite profound and life altering.
  3. When it comes to your troubles, the Lord is really the only One who can bring you freedom inside.
  4. We never will outgrow ‘plain old’ mercy. We need it, He’s got it, we can have it.

David is amazing, it’s like he has this ‘built-in homing device’ that keeps him straight and true. Is he perfect? Hardly. But he is loved, and he is forgiven. David is asking for a “future grace” for what is just ahead. He bases his request on all the “past grace” he has received.

V. 2, “How long will you people ruin my reputation?
How long will you make groundless accusations?
How long will you continue your lies? Selah”

David is having to transit a minefield of antagonism and doubting hearts. There are those close to him that can’t get past David’s sin. So they accuse him, and believe the lies of the “dark one.” David’s sin of adultery and murder can never be forgotten in the minds of these people.

I admit that our ‘spectacular’ sins are a grievous thing. When we publicly choose sin we create a tremendous conflict in people’s hearts. For some inexplicable reason many “freeze you” into that place. It’s like you’ve been branded, or forced to wear a “scarlet letter” on your shirt for the rest of your life.

We can make it through times like this, if we refuse to defend or vindicate ourselves. A preacher long ago made this comment to his accusers, “I’m really not as bad as you think I am. Actually, I’m much worse.” I suppose a statement like that will put you in a good place.

ybic, Bryan