Paradigm Shift: Psalm 8:1-5

Understanding things for the first time

To the Chief Musician. On the instrument of Gath. A Psalm of David.

1 “O Lord, our Lord,
How excellent is Your name in all the earth,
Who have set Your glory above the heavens!

Out of the mouth of babes and nursing infants
You have ordained strength,
Because of Your enemies,
That You may silence the enemy and the avenger.

When I consider Your heavens, the work of Your fingers,
The moon and the stars, which You have ordained,
What is man that You are mindful of him,
And the son of man that You visit him?
For You have made him a little lower than the angels,
And You have crowned him with glory and honor.”

Psalm 8:1-5, NKJV

As I read this over and again, I was particularly struck by the power we have to extol God. And that is truly remarkable! We can make Him great, and then expand that greatness into the world around us. We can choose to reflect His glory, and kingdom. That is quite amazing, to give our Father that attention.

We influence others by our witness and worship.  It’s when we esteem Him, that we finally begin to announce His ascendancy and preeminence in our world. Now we know that we don’t adjust Him by doing this. For He is completely unchangeable and sovereign.  But certainly your worship and obedience somehow matters!

Commentary

V. 1, “O Lord, our Lord,
How excellent is Your name in all the earth,
Who have set Your glory above the heavens

Out of the mouth of babes and nursing infants
You have ordained strength,
Because of Your enemies,
That You may silence the enemy and the avenger.

David as a king is vital not only to his kingdom— but, the Kingdom. I believe he understands that he can influence the universe by what he declares. The word David chooses from his Hebrew vocabulary is “excellent.”  This word is defined as, ‘to possess outstanding quality or superior merit; remarkably good.’

V. 2, gives us a paradigm shift of focus. It isn’t just the universe (v. 1). Rather it is a complete (and totally) different direction. It’s now on babies, and nursing infants. These are frankly the most weak and vulnerable in our society. David takes us through the magnificent complexity of the planets and stars, right into the homespun innocence of a nursery, cribs and teddy bears.

When I consider Your heavens, the work of Your fingers,
The moon and the stars, which You have ordained,
What is man that You are mindful of him,
And the son of man that You visit him?

David now shifts back to the physical universe. He would’ve been very aware of the stars as he shepherded his flock. The Milky Way was a spectacular display of a creative power over his head. He saw the orderly movement, and attributed it to a Creator. David had no telescope, so he could only see maybe ‘one billionth’ of what we see today with our Hubble Telescope.

David does have a profound question though. He thinks through this display of magnificent creation to “man.” Why, and what is man? How can this Creator even slightly consider a human baby? And why does it matter even? These must be asked if we are to be people of integrity and truth.

V.5  ” For You have made him a little lower than the angels,
And You have crowned him with glory and honor.”

David both answers his questions, and expands them out further. He understands the theology of a creative order. However he makes it seem a trifle fantastic. Just a little lower— and yet crowned! David is perplexed and hopeful, at the same time.

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The True King: Psalm 145:1-3

ingodshands-13
“I will lift you up high, my God, the true king.
    I will bless your name forever and always.
I will bless you every day.
    I will praise your name forever and always.
The Lord is great and so worthy of praise!
    God’s greatness can’t be grasped.”

Psalm 145:1-3, CEB

The spirit of David opens up this psalm incredibly upbeat. He is wild and quite fervent as he unleashes his praise of God. In the past, he has been hammered many times by dark forces. And yet, David continues to praise in a way that some would consider way too excessive.

Praise has changed David. He has discovered much through trials and obstacles he has encountered. He is not bitter, but better. He has not been mauled, but amazed by the grace that has been given freely to him.

Commentary

V. 1, “I will lift you up high, my God, the true king.
    I will bless your name forever and always.”

King David loves to praise his God. He calls Him the “true king.” I suppose “true” is the operative word. God is royal, and He astonishes us beyond our focus.

The idea of “blessing His name” isn’t really a part of our western mindset. It may seem to be extraneous and doubtful. But David understands something. He can impart this directly to the presence of God. He really believes he can convey “goodness” to a God who is already good and true.

V. 2,  I will bless you every day.
    I will praise your name forever and always.

I suppose we are seeing something that drives David further. David is focused on delivering his blessing directly on the Lord. He is blessing when so many are cursing.

I think that this verse directs us a to an admirable consistency of faith. But David presses us in this psalm to focus on a worthy God, who deserves a daily acknowledgement. David shepherds us into the concreteness of our belief.

“Forever and always. Simply understood, we must realize we are offering up something quite eternal and everlasting. David understands that his faith is fairly understood. (But understanding doesn’t mean acceptance). But certainly, there is a grace that punches into our malaise. We suddenly understand a grace that is beyond us.

V. 3,  The Lord is great and so worthy of praise God’s greatness can’t be grasped.”  It seems David is running on an understanding of this worthy God. David is focused on “greatness” and “worthiness” of God. Simply, the understanding this deep awareness will change us completely. He turns us “upside down.”

“Can’t be grasped,” propels us into a deep awareness of His goodness. We see it, and then we try to focus, but our silliness and foolishness deflects so much. And yet it pushes us into an ignorant place. Humility will bring us directly into His presence. (But that may seem very hard.)

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Psalm 14:1: The Heart of a Fool

atheist-thought

1 “The fool says in his heart, “There is no God.” They are corrupt, their deeds are vile; there is no one who does good.”

Polls indicate that 90–92% of Americans still believe in God. Over 2,500 years ago, David said you were a fool if you didn’t believe. Recently as I looked at evidence for a finely tuned universe, I had to conclude that to not believe today, in light of this evidence, makes you more of a fool than in David’s day. The factors and the constants in the universe have to be incomprehensibly precise to support life. This points to an Intelligent Designer who created the universe.

For example, if the moon was just a little bit closer to the earth, the tides would sweep over the continents; if it was just a little bit further away, the tides would be so weak that they would not flush out the tidal estuaries that are so vital to fish breeding areas.

Gravitational force and electromagnetic force are finely tuned. If they were changed just one part in 10 to the 40th power, both biological life and the existence of stars would end.

If there’s even the tiniest of deviations in the earth’s gravity, axial tilt, rotation period, magnetic field, crust thickness, oxygen/nitrogen ratio, carbon dioxide, water vapor, or ozone level, life would not be possible.

This led former atheist and legendary scientist Sir Fred Hoyle to say, “…commonsense interpretation of the facts is that a super-intelligence has monkeyed with physics, as well as chemistry and biology, and that there are no blind forces in nature.”

There seems to be a blindness in modern atheism that denies the obvious. Perhaps Thomas Aquinas, the greatest theologian of the Catholic Church, was summing up atheism for all times and seasons when he said, “To one who has faith no explanation is necessary. To one without faith, no explanation is possible.” 

It’s interesting that David followed his declaration of the foolishness of atheism by saying, “They are corrupt, their deeds are vile; there is no one that does good.” I know atheists and agnostics who are ethical people, and, sadly, sometimes more ethical than some Christians I’ve known. At the same time, the bloodiest regimes of the 20th century–Stalin, Mao, Pol Pot– that accounted for the deaths of approximately 100 million people, were atheistic. They are now on the scrap heap of history and their foolishness is exposed for all to see.

To sustain the belief that there is no God, atheism has to demonstrate infinite knowledge, which is tantamount to saying, “I have infinite knowledge that there is no being in existence with infinite knowledge.”  Ravi Zacharias

 

Blessings, Jonathan

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Figuratively Speaking: Psalm 114

figspeak
Image courtesy of http://resepilates.com/

The mountains skipped like rams,
    the hills like lambs!
What’s wrong, Red Sea, that made you hurry out of their way?
    What happened, Jordan River, that you turned away?
Why, mountains, did you skip like rams?
    Why, hills, like lambs?

Tremble, O earth, at the presence of the Lord,
    at the presence of the God of Jacob.
He turned the rock into a pool of water;
    yes, a spring of water flowed from solid rock.

Psalm 114:4-8, NLT

The figurative often makes your message palatable and infuses it with hidden understanding. We encounter the Word of the Lord in a deeper way by embracing it’s “color commentary”.

It’s like your favorite book, with good illustrations. In my mind’s eye, when I was a child, I have memories of a big illustrated Bible. It had these great pictures that I still savor. (Like a drawing of the spies returning carrying a huge ‘grape cluster’ on a pole between them).

Commentary

V. 4, “The mountains skipped like rams,
    the hills like lambs!”

The literalist would have a ‘dickens of a time’ understanding this. The psalmist however, engages us in metaphor and the figurative. A towering mountain was the symbol of established power. There is an innate strength and soundness about a craggy mountain.

The writer of this psalm understood nature’s joy at God’s salvation of Israel. To see a lamb or a sheep leaping about gives the observer insight that would help him grasp the relief creation itself has. Some might say it was only an earthquake, but others recognize God’s hand in it.

V.5, “ What’s wrong, Red Sea, that made you hurry out of their way?
    What happened, Jordan River, that you turned away?”

Again–poetry rules the psalmists roost. Figurative language is being used here to be the container of truth. When I read this verse(s), a little picture leaps up in my mind’s eye. I “see” an old lady jumping out from the front of a big bus. I see a powerful river suddenly turn 180 degrees so a path is made. As we visualize both we start to engage the Word.

V. 5 strikes me as sarcastic, with a bit of mockery thrown in for good measure. It also seems to be flavored to be on ‘the gloating side’, infused with an “I-told-you-so” attitude.

V. 6, “Why, mountains, did you skip like rams?
    Why, hills, like lambs?”

“Why” is said once, and repeated again. Why is a good question to ask. It depends on context, but it can be the hardest of the interrogatives to answer.

As a matter of fact, this is an interrogation. (It doesn’t justify ‘waterboarding’ though.) There exists a cross-examination that forces truth out in the open. It is a demand that the real reason not be toyed with or be disregarded.

Much of our Christian walk seems to involve embracing what is real, and renouncing what is false.

Vv. 7-8, “Tremble, O earth, at the presence of the Lord,
    at the presence of the God of Jacob.
He turned the rock into a pool of water;
    yes, a spring of water flowed from solid rock.”

“Trembling” or shaking, is the furthermost thing a mountain would do. And that is precisely the point. The “presence of God” (mentioned twice), means God is there–right smack in the middle of things.

And He has been transformative.  He makes solid rock ‘morph’ into water for His thirsty ones. This becomes a definite point of praise. He indeed does “great things.”

*

ybic, Bryan

Lord of the Starfields: Psalm 102:23-25

starfields

23 “He broke my strength in midlife,
    cutting short my days.
24 But I cried to him, “O my God, who lives forever,
    don’t take my life while I am so young!
25 Long ago you laid the foundation of the earth
    and made the heavens with your hands.”

Psalm 102:23-25, NLT

I guess one might say, that the psalmist is having a “midlife crisis.” One part of this crisis, is thick with a feeling of brokenness. He feels the ragged edge of his life, a roughness that offers nothing, but a type of pain.  We understand God’s love– but can we handle His discipline?

“But He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power  is perfected in weakness.”  Therefore, I will most gladly boast all the more about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may reside in me.”

2 Corinthians 12:9-11 

“Before God could bring me to this place He has broken me a thousand times.”

Smith Wigglesworth

Commentary

V. 23, He broke my strength in midlife,
    cutting short my days.”

Our human strength has its limits. And God doesn’t respect them. The psalmist describes the effort of God to demolish any strength we just might muster. His intention is very good. He only wants to bust us of our own strength.

Verse 23 explains why He is hard on us. Anything good we might generate has just been bulldozed under. Our lives have been shattered, and He is the culprit. He does this, in order to save us.

V. 24, “ But I cried to him, “O my God, who lives forever,
    don’t take my life while I am so young!”

Crying out to Him is the way we make ourselves heard. The psalmist recognizes that God is indeed God. He only wants us to acknowledge Him.

In terms of the life the psalmist lives, he acknowledges God is fully and completely in control of it. He can prolong it, and He can end it, at His whim.

The psalmist is at the special place where God could simply stop his existence on earth. And we see him making a plea for mercy. It seems he wants God to make him a special case.

V. 25, “Long ago you laid the foundation of the earth
    and made the heavens with your hands.”

There is an awareness of God’s creative sovereignty that the psalmist builds upon. He has an understanding that from the very beginning, God has put this planet on something very solid; a solid foundation of a commitment to us.

The psalmist looks up to the beautiful stars– he sees the Milky Way, and some bright planets. All that God has made, is visible and quite profound. He looks up at the stars, and everything he sees is a creative work of God’s hands– creating, and sustaining His masterpiece.

Simply, we can only anchor ourselves into all that He has done. When we embrace reality, we shape ourselves into people God wants, and seeks.

*

ybic, Bryan

An Innate Sense of God Almighty: Psalm 4:6-8

There are many who say, “Who will show us some good?
     Lift up the light of your face upon us, O Lord!”
You have put more joy in my heart
    than they have when their grain and wine abound.

In peace I will both lie down and sleep;
    for you alone, O Lord, make me dwell in safety.

Psalm 4:6-8, ESV

Overall, I would suggest that quite a few people have an innate sense of God. They will posture and be dramatically opposed to Him, but this is mostly a magnificently constructed ‘smoke-screen.’ Take it deep down however, and they almost believe.

We desperately want God’s favor, but things don’t go beyond that. We know we need shelter, but not at the expense of our “freedom.” We have a vague understanding of His love, but we insist on our own autonomy.  It seems that we can never ‘relax’ but we are always being judged. This is not the environment for faith to grow.

Commentary

V. 6, “There are many who say, “Who will show us some good?
     Lift up the light of your face upon us, O Lord!”

The “many” is  certainly good news. But it seldom translates into something life changing. Seeking Him is never a hobby, or a possible move toward respectability. What we are dealing with is a superficial faith that is barren and infertile.

Men love the idea of God. And there is considerable effort to accommodate His presence  (but almost  never His call ‘to be holy.’) We desperately want to be good, but never really godly.  We take what we want, and avoid the rest.

V. 7  “You have put more joy in my heart than they have when their grain and wine abound.”

Joy is really the outcome of a surrendered life. Joy must start from God, and it then flourishes in our hearts. David is making a comparison here.  He understands the excited joy over the exceptional harvest. It is indescribable, the thrill of having a super abundance, within the character of God.

Joy is a wonderful place, it is a very deep sense of happiness, mixed with obedience. We must understand, that God is really the only one who can bring us joy. He is the exclusive source and purveyor of joy. We must meet His terms if we are to experience it.

V.8, “In peace I will both lie down and sleep;
    for you alone, O Lord, make me dwell in safety.”

We have considered joy, now we must consider peace. For me, coming to the point of having ‘peace with God’ was very powerful. After many years of warfare and conflict against God, I arrived at a place where peace was waiting. We signed the treaty, and peace now ruled.

When we ‘sleep’ we are quite vulnerable. We curl up in a ball, and we lose consciousness  and awareness. We become quite vulnerable. But we are assured that we will be safe and secure, even in this vulnerable and sensitive place. His definite peace will be a real and substantial guard for us, and over us.

***

ybic, Bryan

Use the Handle: Psalm 67:5-7

 “May the nations praise you, O God.
    Yes, may all the nations praise you.
Then the earth will yield its harvests,
    and God, our God, will richly bless us.
Yes, God will bless us,
    and people all over the world will fear him.”

Psalm 67:5-7, NLT

It seems to me that there is five groups of people, both different and both pretty significant. We can list them-

    1. ‘the nations’ (repeated twice, in v. 5 )-
    2. ‘the earth’-
    3. ‘God’-
    4. ‘us’-
    5. and the world’s people.

These should be thought through. Identifying them opens these last verses of Psalm 67 for us. Each of the five has an identity, or a position that is distinct from the others. If we take a minute, we will flow through these verses, collecting wisdom and insight.

Our List

The nations- are the world’s organized governments. Political countries with a common economy, society and military. They gather around a flag, and a constitution.

The earth- or the land. Physical and consists of mountains, forests, rivers and natural resources. Basically everything God has created.

God- there is just one, who created all we see. Everything is His, and He sustains it all by His power and might. He is the starting point of truth, but God has always existed and will forever exist. He needs to be understood as a “trinity of three,” yet one.

Us- you and me. We are rebels and God’s enemies before our salvation. He has made us a new and distinct group, called the church. We are learning all about God, through His “family.” We’re connected to each other through the power and energy of the Holy Spirit. And we have a destiny or future.

The world’s people- are those under Satan’s rule. They are ‘contested.’ They don’t really understand until they are “born-again.” And even then it is still takes a dump truck of truth to open their eyes. “But God so loved the world, He sent His only Son…” (John 3:16)

I hope this isn’t rigid or dull. I hope it does organize in a flexible and thoughtful manner.

ybic, Bryan

Check out the first part, http://psalmslife.com/2012/06/16/teaching-the-world-to-sing-psalm-671-4/

Let’s Get It Right: Psalm 8, NLT

“In the beginning…”

O Lord, our Lord, your majestic name fills the earth!
    Your glory is higher than the heavens.
You have taught children and infants
    to tell of your strength,[b]
silencing your enemies
    and all who oppose you.

When I look at the night sky and see the work of your fingers—
    the moon and the stars you set in place—
what are mere mortals that you should think about them,
    human beings that you should care for them?[c]
Yet you made them only a little lower than God[d]
    and crowned them[e] with glory and honor.
You gave them charge of everything you made,
    putting all things under their authority—
the flocks and the herds
    and all the wild animals,
the birds in the sky, the fish in the sea,
    and everything that swims the ocean currents.

O Lord, our Lord, your majestic name fills the earth!

Psalm 8, NLT

This psalm is hopelessly impregnated with a sweet significance. We read the words, and the sentences to understand. The implications and consequences have a way of turning everything upside down. In this sense it is subversive, working inside of us, until it does what the Spirit has assigned it to do.
Looking at the Word as a prescription can be quite healthy. Thirty years ago I had a counselor who once wrote her Bible verses on a pad—  just like a physician would do.  I would take the recommended verses home, read and pray. I valued them, because I felt they were for me. (Perhaps more Christian counselors  and pastors should try this?)
Commentary
V. 5 “Yet you made them only a little lower than God
    and crowned them with glory and honor.”
We have been engineered and placed under God Himself. This is my position in creation. It is true whether I believe it or not. “Made” and “crowned.” Both words are considerably significant. To me, being made is all about humility and limitations. I belong to Him. And wearing a crown makes me noble— royalty. As a believer I must exercise that authority that God has given me.
V. 6, “ You gave them charge of everything you made,
    putting all things under their authority—
 The created world has a master, and that must be considered. And yet we discover that some of creation is hostile to us. Man- eating tigers, venomous snakes, and disease-causing microbes are just the start. We seem to be in opposition to much of creation.
This was never meant to be. Even though we are placed in this position of noble/servant, things aren’t going swimmingly well for us. Much is explained here:
“For all creation is waiting eagerly for that future day when God will reveal who his children really are.20 Against its will, all creation was subjected to God’s curse. But with eager hope, 21 the creation looks forward to the day when it will join God’s children in glorious freedom from death and decay. 22 For we know that all creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time.”
Romans 8
V. 7— 8, “the flocks and the herds
    and all the wild animals,
 the birds in the sky, the fish in the sea,
    and everything that swims the ocean currents.
God’s ideal was that creation would have an order, and that we should be responsible for leading the created world. This was upset when men chose to sin, and rebelled against the Lord.
V. 9, “O Lord, our Lord, your majestic name fills the earth!”
Everything ends up in worship. We may struggle with sin, struggle with theology, and struggle with the Church. But all of this can benefit us, if we end up worshipping.
There is much here that we should see. And I trust that the Holy Spirit would advance His truth in your lives. I leave you with this verse.
 Put on your new nature, and be renewed as you learn to know your Creator and become like him.
Colossians 3:10

ybic, Bryan

Footnotes:
  1. Psalm 8:1 Hebrew according to the gittith.
  2. Psalm 8:2 Greek version reads to give you praise. Compare Matt 21:16.
  3. Psalm 8:4 Hebrew what is man that you should think of him, / the son of man that you should care for him?
  4. Psalm 8:5 Or Yet you made them only a little lower than the angels; Hebrew reads Yet you made him [i.e., man] a little lower than Elohim.
  5. Psalm 8:5 Hebrew him [i.e., man]; similarly in 8:6.