We Are the ‘Word People’: Psalm 119:1-8

“The entrance of Your words gives light; It gives understanding to the simple.” Ps. 119:130

א Aleph

 1 Blessed are they whose ways are blameless, 
   who walk according to the law of the LORD. 
2 Blessed are they who keep his statutes 
   and seek him with all their heart. 
3 They do nothing wrong; 
   they walk in his ways. 
4 You have laid down precepts 
   that are to be fully obeyed. 
5 Oh, that my ways were steadfast 
   in obeying your decrees! 
6 Then I would not be put to shame 
   when I consider all your commands. 
7 I will praise you with an upright heart 
   as I learn your righteous laws. 
8 I will obey your decrees; 
   do not utterly forsake me.

Psalm 119:1—8, NIV

This psalm has many unique characteristics.

#1, there are 22 paragraphs. Each one focuses on a single letter of the Hebrew alphabet.

#2, And to make it even more interesting, every verse in that paragraph begins with that same letter. Example vv. 1 — 8 all start the verse with the appropriate letter of the alphabet.

#3, There is a complexity in this psalm, which we certainly don’t see in English; but we do see it in the original Hebrew.

#4, There is an obvious awareness of the Law, or “torah.” But there is a total of nine other synonyms that have a connection to the ‘Torah’. They’re other translations of these words— law, statutes, ways, precepts, decrees, commands, promises, word. These are all different words, each have a different connotation. And they are changeable. I suppose this has to be is a divine intelligence beyond our comprehension, and far beyond our human ability to manipulate. God’s ‘fingerprints’ are all over this psalm.

Commentary

V. 1 — 2, the word “blessed” is used. But that is only the core idea. It has the broad idea of peace, confidence, and happiness in one’s new place or position. There is a place, but it seems to come to the blameless. And just so you know, being blameless is not being sinless. We sin, constantly. But we can be blameless in that place. V.2 has put an emphasis on two verbs— keeping, and seeking.

V. 3, “They do nothing wrong,” as far as I can see the believer is lifted out of a lifestyle of hopeless sinning. It is no longer the compelling momentum that energizes us. We are now to be walking the avenues that the Lord has made for us.

V. 4,  God has taken an active role in our salvation. We can look at His precepts as a burden, or as a help. They word, “obey” gets used.  (I suppose that that word obedience is the ‘neutron bomb’ of theological terms.) Yet, it is a necessary attitude if we want to lived blessed lives.

V. 5, Is an ejaculatory cry for deliverance. It has the spirit of Romans 7 all over it. The heart that is truly following God will understand this, it is the profound desire to be more like Him. Our spirits should yearn to be like our Father in heaven.

V. 6, deep inside the writer of this psalm should be a kindred spirit for us. The driving thought in this verse is that of having a true heart, a faithful heart. In a sense the psalmist realizes there is a day of accountability and judgement for himself.

V. 7, When I read this verse I have a wonderful sense of the mechanism of Christian transformation. We see praise building as the disciple is obeying, and vice versa. Obedience is linked into praise; and praise builds obedience! One feeds the other, and they are both strengthened.

V. 8, Here we see “commitment.” We observe the hungry heart of the psalmist to obey. “Obey” is always his critical word for us. In his mind this is the pivot on which everything turns on. There exists a holy resolve to comply and to heed His will.

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‘Fear God Onlye’: Psalm 62:9-10

 

Lintel, a house in Edinburgh, Scotland

9 “We humans are only a breath;
    none of us are truly great.
All of us together weigh less
    than a puff of air.
10 Don’t trust in violence
or depend on dishonesty
    or rely on great wealth.”

Psalm 62:9-10, CEV

If the truth be told, our perception of value and significance as persons is totally “whacked!” Many of us point to our wealth, achievements, our talents, education or even our sex appeal as the evidence we have arrived (and should be envied!) We may admit to a few “character flaws,” but after all, our innate charm overrides all of this.

We will cling to this self-centered facade with all our might. We add to it, enhance it; we become our best PR department. Money becomes the first measure of achievement. Fame is perhaps the second. These are things we learn quickly in life. We never realize that this is a delusion.

One of the Bible’s favorite metaphor is that humanity is grass. In a dozen or so references we find this stated. Here are two–

“Our days on earth are like grass;
    like wildflowers, we bloom and die.”

Psalm 103:15, NLT

As the Scriptures say,

“People are like grass;
    their beauty is like a flower in the field.
The grass withers and the flower fades.”

1 Peter 1:24, NLT

Other metaphors are used as well. Men are compared to dust, worms, grasshoppers, tenants in a house of clay and chaff. None of these is a reason to gloat about.

To be fair, we should see that mankind has several unique roles in scripture. None of these should be diminished or reduced in any way.

  1. We are all equal in God’s eyes, Prov. 22:2
  2. We are created in the image of God, Gen. 1:27
  3. We have dominion over the created world, Psalms 8:6
  4. We are spiritual beings, Job 32:8
  5. We have infinite value, 1 Peter 1:18-19

Commentary

V. 9, “We humans are only a breath;
    none of us are truly great. All of us together weigh less
    than a puff of air.”

David continues to remind himself that this is how things really are. This understanding of people enables him to rest and trust in God alone.

“Only a breath.” When we breathe we are pretty much unaware of what we are doing. We draw in air, and we push it out– quite oblivious to what we are doing. I do this 14-18 times every minute, and it never requires me to be aware (unless I choose to, like right now, lol.)

Weight is compared to reputation or glory. A ‘weighty’ person, in our opinion, is one with an great amount of influence or a solid reputation.

But notice the verse says, “All of us together.” Pile up all of humanity throughout our history– with our artists, doctors, scientists, theologians and the like, and it is nothing! It actually goes into negative numbers. “Less than nothing.”

This is healthy place to be. Aware of the frailty of man, and not to be intimidated or influenced by their presence. I know that this was the place where David stood.

V. 10, “ Don’t trust in violence
or depend on dishonesty
    or rely on great wealth.”

With the understanding we have from verse 9, this verse makes excellent sense. There are three issues, and also three responses. Violence, dishonesty, great wealth. And trust, depend, rely. Don’t do it, the verse emphasizes.

The reality, I suppose, is that any sin might have been used. These three are what David is having to deal with at that particular moment.

I think that “fearing God” has a lot to do with “not fearing man.” When you finally see the “vanity of vanities” (Eccl. 1.) you just don’t have room in your soul for being fearful of powerful people.

#

ybic, Bryan

&

Psalm 34:8-10: The Tastiness of God

Artist–Lynda Finch, http://lyndafinchart.com/prophetic-art.html

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.

Psalm 34:8-10, NLT

The verbs through these three verses are great–

  1. taste,
  2. see,
  3. fear
  4. and trust.

 Are you a taster, a see-er, a fear-er and a trust-er? These three verses provide us with much to consider. There will be solid and tangible growth as we work-out each one.

Promises are only as good as the “promiser.” If I promised you a million dollars next Friday, it would be extremely unlikely I could deliver. But if I was Bill Gates, and he made you that promise, then you could truly anticipate that promise being kept. (You probably would be out today buying a new BMW!)

Commentary

V. 8, “Taste and see that the Lord is good.
    Oh, the joys of those who take refuge in him!”

Tasting is one of our five basic senses. (It’s also a spiritual sense as well!) To taste something is an act of discernment. We taste spaghetti, and the first bites are just evaluating the chef’s work. But tasting is more than testing. It has to do with enjoyment. When we taste something that is very good, we usually go for “seconds.” It has brought us pleasure, and we tell others that its wonderful!

Faith is the souls taste. We need to be people who are always tasting the goodness of God. Each of us must experience this for ourselves. I can’t taste for you. Some birds regurgitate food for their young, and perhaps as a baby Christian we will need this, but it is obviously a very brief period. We are exhorted to find out for ourselves God’s goodness.

Seeing is the next critical word in this verse. It is another of our five senses. I have never seen Paris, or the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. I can only imagine. When we see something, we become connected with it. What we look at, gaze upon, will alter us. In some sense we become what we look at. The beauty of the Lord is a most wonderful thing for us to behold. He deeply wants us to come and dine.

V. 9, “ Fear the Lord, you his godly people,
    for those who fear him will have all they need.”

The fear of man, and the fear of the world can only be a crippling thing. It stunts us, turning us into victims and slaves. Some of us also carry phobias. I have “arachnophobia”  (a fear of spiders) which when viral when I lived with tarantulas in the deserts of Mexico.

We recognize anxiety to be one of the core emotions of fear. What makes you anxious? I think the only cure for fear, is more fear! Keep in mind that the world’s fear is craven, morbid and manipulating. The fear of God is clean and healthy. We aren’t to be “theophobic;” but “sinphobic.” We fear God with love as the center core.

V. 10, “Even strong young lions sometimes go hungry,
    but those who trust in the Lord will lack no good thing.”

David uses this metaphor of nature. Lions! Young and strong they are powerful. They are not known as “the King of Beasts” for nothing. They are not house cats (although my cat would beg to differ, lol.)  A lion must eat. They are the consummate predators, at the very top of the food chain. Yet, there is an insecurity. They must find red meat. Last weeks gazelle isn’t enough for todays hunger.

Believers who seek the Lord will never lack. Even the hard things provide a spiritual feast. It is His promise to you. It isn’t really logical, but it is spiritually true. The One who multiplied the loaves and fishes, turned water into wine, and fed the Israelites manna in the Wilderness intends to meet your every need. He hasn’t changed a whit.

aabryplain

The artist of the above art is Lynda Finch. She uses her talent to bless believers. Check her out. She has an online gallery, and you can buy her art–

http://lyndafinchart.com/prophetic-art.html

Psalm 34:4-7, Of Tailors and Cobblers

Prayer of the Abandoned Man
© Matthew Fitzke
http://www.matthewfitzke.com

4 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.”

Psalm 34:4-7, New Living Translation

flourish20

“As is the business of tailors to make clothes and cobblers to make shoes, so it is the business of Christians to pray.” —  Martin Luther

Our lives as Christians should be our occupations, and the work that we do should be prayer. A farmer has a craft or a vocation, a welder has his profession. We, as people of faith are to be laborers of prayer.

“To be a Christian without prayer is no more possible than to be alive without breathing.” — Martin Luther

Within these four verses we hear David (ringing like a brass bell) calling us to pray. He extensively lists the benefits of coming into the presence of the Lord. They are quite extensive and completely attainable.

Commentary

V. 4,  I prayed to the Lord, and he answered me. He freed me from all my fears.”

Fear (of whatever, or whomever) can only be overcome by prayer. Perhaps fear is allowed so we start praying. My life has been threatened several times. A few of those times I really sought the Lord. The result was a supernatural gift of peace, joy and freedom which made no sense at all on a natural level.

V. 5, “Those who look to him for help will be radiant with joy; no shadow of shame will darken their faces.”

Radiance is a fine word. Often it comes wrapped in trouble, threats and difficulties. It is delivered to our door by special couriers, and it comes by God. When it arrives we find out exactly how human we are. Every Gethsemane will have an angel to minister to us.

Dark faces are the opposite of radiant ones. Shame is the opposite of joy. If we think about this, we realize that our faces are truly the “barometer” of our hearts. We are more readable than we think.

V. 6, “In my desperation I prayed, and the Lord listened; he saved me from all my troubles.”

David never really strays far from this theme of desperation does he? The word implies despair and lostness. Perhaps only desperate people find God? If you can’t admit you are quite lost, you can’t really be found.

“Troubles.” I wish they they didn’t exist. I have protested to the Lord regarding the excessive quota I have received. It hardly seems equitable in my mind. Job once wrote, “Man is born for trouble.”

V. 7,  For the angel of the Lord is a guard; he surrounds and defends all who fear him.”

Aren’t angels great? They are like God’s “Secret Service.” They have many duties to perform, and one of them is protecting you and I. The ESV uses the phrase, “encamps around.” The implication is of a perimeter guard around the believer. Your protection is assured. And they are there for a reason. I suppose they’re guarding something God considers quite valuable.

ybic, Bryan

 

Crazy! An Insane Introduction to 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.

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.

10So 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.

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.

We’ll comment specifically on this psalm in the upcoming posts (Lord willing.)

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.

*

ybic, Bryan

Psalm 2:10-12, Kiss the Son

10″ Now therefore, be wise, O kings;
Be instructed, you judges of the earth.
11 Serve the Lord with fear,
And rejoice with trembling.
12 Kiss the Son, lest He be angry,
And you perish in the way,
When His wrath is kindled but a little.
Blessed are all those who put their trust in Him.”

Psalm 2:10-12, NKJV

Kiss the Son should become our heart’s cry! Much can be learned if we’re willing to do this, and after all, it is his due.

These  three verses seem to deal with the tragic rebellion of our own hearts. Exhortations are being made, but we are not always willing to surrender, and the Psalmist resorts to a plaintive cry.  Keep in mind dear one, this is being written to Christians!

“Now then, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were pleading through us: we implore you on Christ’s behalf, be reconciled to God.”

1 Corinthians 5:20 

Commentary

V. 10, ” Now therefore, be wise, O kings;
Be instructed, you judges of the earth.”

Teachableness is hardly a character quality for a ruling monarch. I suppose a spiteful arrogance is much more seen. Being wise and teachable might be great in theory, but quite often things work against anything being put in practice. A king often sees himself above others, and hardly humble enough to correct.

These things are a choice we must make. We decide exactly how humble we will be. We make the decision to be wise, and to receive instruction. It’s up to you.

V. 11,  “ Serve the Lord with fear,
And rejoice with trembling.”

We are to do certain things, but with “modifiers.” We serve, but with fear. We rejoice, but with trembling.  Far to often, we won’t use these modifiers, (how often have you trembled when you were rejoicing in your worship time at church?)

Serving and rejoicing are both critical places to be. And “fear and trembling” turn our service and praise into things of great value to the Lord. After all, He is great and mighty, and we are puny and small. I doubt if there can be a true worshipper who is not a God fearer first.

V. 12, “Kiss the Son, lest He be angry,
And you perish in the way,
When His wrath is kindled but a little.
Blessed are all those who put their trust in Him.”

This is my favorite verse in Psalm 2. “Kiss the Son,” no matter what happens, or what brutal situation comes. Kiss Him. Your love at this point is critical, and it has more value than you realize. Find Him, and kiss Him.

There are sad and ugly things if you won’t. Perishing and a kindled wrath are things to anticipate if you refuse. I hope you won’t. There is a place of blessedness to everyone who places their trust in Him. This is a prime place to be, and nothing compares to it.

ybic, Bryan


Psalm 88:1-7, A Painful Darkness

Posted on September 28, 2012 by  • Posted in believerdepressiondiscipleshipmental illnesspain,Serving Mentally Ill Christiansspiritual lessonsunderstanding • Tagged , • Leave a comment • (Edit)
 

1 “O Lord, God of my salvation,
I cry out to you by day.
I come to you at night.
2 Now hear my prayer;
listen to my cry.
3 For my life is full of troubles,
and death draws near.
4 I am as good as dead,
like a strong man with no strength left.
5 They have left me among the dead,
and I lie like a corpse in a grave.
I am forgotten,
cut off from your care.
6 You have thrown me into the lowest pit,
into the darkest depths.
7 Your anger weighs me down;
with wave after wave you have engulfed me.
       Interlude”

Psalm 88:1-7, NLT

  

I needed this today. Yesterday I went to the doctor and am still asked to stay on my meds. A bit discouraged as I still look for a “magical cure.” Today, I feel like I’m running a marathon with ‘leg weights’ on. And I thank God for David’s depression.  “Thank you God for letting this happen to your servant David!”

This particular Psalm is radically different than the others.  This Psalm has no kind words, and no praise to God for deliverance.  It is a singularly sad song.  Imagine if you will, a huge stone fortress in the mountains.  Every room has a door, and every room a window.  All except one.  No light enters.  There is no entrance or exit, no way to get free.  Ps. 88, would describe living that experience.

I like my Psalms to be strengthening or encouraging.  But then comes this one!  Life unravels and frays.  Everything scrambles and gets confusing. Life comes apart on me.  The thought of being one who is irretrievably lost and damned, tunnels into my thinking, like a strange kind of worm, assaulting my thinking.  The despair is beyond belief, I have no words to describe its special variety of darkness.  But anyone who has walked into this hell will understand.

Am I ‘less’ a Christian because of this vicious despair?  Some would say so.  David in verse 1-2, calls out to God.  (I guess this what you are supposed to do).  There is a sense of consistency in his cry.  In verses 3-5, we see him evaluating his position.  Again, there is a underground current of despair.  There is simply no help, no deliverance for him.

And in verses 6-7 is a painful recognition that God is doing all of this.  It’s a bitter and painful place to be.  There are no explanations why life has gotten so nasty and bitter and out-of-control.  But one thing that Psalm 88 does quite well, it is a trusty mirror that shows you stripped of any dignity that you have left.  I think that there must exist a faith behind your faith.  (If that makes any sense at all?)

There is so much embedded in the Psalms.  Comfort, faith, victory and hope are what we find,  and more.  But in Psalm 88, we find a black pearl, the only one of its kind.  Somehow, we dare not leave it behind, just because we don’t understand it.  I’m convinced that it has tremendous power to the disciple in endless pain.  Just vocalizing this Psalm does something to us.  These words help.  This Psalm is ours.  God has provided it for us. We must include it in our theology.

*

ybic, Bryan

A King On the Run: Psalms 141

1 Lord, I call to you. Come quickly. 
       Listen to me when I call to you.
 2 Let my prayer be like incense placed before you, 
       and my praise like the evening sacrifice. 

 3 Lord, help me control my tongue; 
       help me be careful about what I say. 
 4 Take away my desire to do evil 
       or to join others in doing wrong. 
    Don’t let me eat tasty food 
       with those who do evil. 

 5 If a good person punished me, that would be kind. 
       If he corrected me, that would be like perfumed oil on my head. 
       I shouldn’t refuse it. 
    But I pray against those who do evil. 
 6 Let their leaders be thrown down the cliffs. 
       Then people will know that I have spoken correctly: 
 7 “The ground is plowed and broken up. 
       In the same way, our bones have been scattered at the grave.” 

 8 God, I look to you for help. 
       I trust in you, Lord. Don’t let me die. 
 9 Protect me from the traps they set for me 
       and from the net that evil people have spread.
 10 Let the wicked fall into their own nets, 
       but let me pass by safely.

Psalm 141, NCV

There are several themes coursing through this Psalm of David. Having some awareness of his “ups and downs” really helps. As a young man, he faced the giant Goliath, which was a very bold thing to do. He then also went on a killing spree that raised him to the rank of general. He was pretty much registered as a lethal weapon. But very suddenly, King Saul got very paranoid, and David had to get out of town, really fast.

Commentary

V. 1 comes as an urgent cry. Often desperation will make us believers, and I think that instead of avoiding pain we should be embracing that which forces us to get on our knees.

V. 2 is a lesson. David knew he couldn’t return. He was in a wilderness. And yet he deeply wanted to replace his past worship with the best he could do out in the “boondocks.”

caduce2
Kings on the run

V. 5 is really about the role of the Church. It’s one thing to rebuke or exhort another, but what about the recipient? We need that hungry eagerness for correction, and love the wealth that comes to us as we grab a hold of a hard word.   To be in this place, can be hard, and yet wonderful.  (see Prov. 29:1; 1Tim. 5:20)

Vv. 6-7 are hard verses. The verses in the beginning are clear and thoughtful. The commentaries I looked at don’t agree. But they are “imprecatory” in nature. That means they pronounce judgement. And I suppose since the Psalms are “songs, prayers and spiritual songs” they are composed of metaphor, figurative language, and simile. It can be a harrowing experience trying to read in a literal/logical way.

Vv. 8-10 shows us sincere poetic sense. David realizes that there are traps and nets, and these could be real I suppose, but my thinking is they are figurative. Today, we might think, booby traps or land mines, but these are not literal, but they are quite real. The enemy certainly can harm us in a figurative sense, but he insists that we face him in other ways.

This Psalm is a true beauty among all other psalms. It is authentic and heart-focused. I invite you to read and learn why the Holy Spirit has decided to keep it just for you. I’m very sure it will be quite amazing.

ybic, Bryan

The Unfailing Love of God: Psalm 63:2–5

Broken_Hearted_by_HopelessSoul

2 I have seen you in the sanctuary and beheld your power and glory.
3 Because your love is better than life, my lips will glorify you.
4 I will praise you as long as I live and in your name I will lift up my hands.

Psalm 63:2–5

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When David was in the Desert of Judah, he made an amazing statement. He said that knowing God’s love was better than life. Only here in the Old Testament is anything prized above life itself. We find a similar passage in Ephesians 3:14–19 when the apostle Paul prays that the Ephesians will know the many dimensions of the love of God and, as a result, be filled with all the fullness of God. Nothing in this life is more wonderful than the experiential knowledge of God’s love for us, that he delights in us and holds us close in his arms as sons and daughters of God.

In just a casual survey of the Psalms, I found several references to the “unfailing love of God”: 6:4; 13:5; 33:18,22; 119:41; 147:11. Truly, one of the central dramas of David’s life was trusting in the unfailing love of God despite evidence to the contrary. In the furnace of affliction, whether it be in a military battle, opposition by evil men, or the betrayal of his own son (Absalom), David needed to trust in the unfailing love of God even if he didn’t feel that love. His faith superseded his feelings.

In the muck and mire of his own egregious sin with Bathsheba– against God involved an unholy trinity that reeked of adultery, lying, and murder, David, in repentance and contrition, had to trust in the unfailing love of God for his forgiveness, and reconciliation with God ( see both Psalm 32 and 51). Like the apostle Paul, he knew that nothing could separate him from the love of God, but sometimes our greatest doubts about this come when we feel our own sins stand between us and God and we doubt that his mercies endure forever. Dear believer, his mercies do endure forever!

We all know John 3:16– it declares that “God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son” to die for it. We accept the concept of God’s love for us in our sin before conversion but often struggle with experiencing his love for us in our sin after conversion.

One of the bad fruits of not trusting in the love of God is that we take things into our own hands. If I’m concerned about one of my kids walking away from the Lord and don’t  trust in God’s unfailing love, then I will become what people call a “helicopter parent” that is hovering constantly over their child’s life, meddling in their affairs in such a way that will drive them away from the kingdom of God. If I trust in God’s love and that he is in control, I won’t do this. There’s still no guarantee that my child will serve God, but at least that meddlesome influence has been removed and I can stand before the Lord with a clear conscience.

We must love and trust, when unbelief seems to be our only transportation.

If you liked this post, you my also like Jonathan’s new book, Letters from Fawn Creek, that is now available to buy at this link:

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

Letters from Fawn Creek

ybic, Jonathan

Check out the good doctor J at his own blog, http://www.openheavensblog.com/

Tripping Over the Museum: Psalm 25:15–18

14 The Lord is a friend to those who fear him.
    He teaches them his covenant.
15 My eyes are always on the Lord,
    for he rescues me from the traps of my enemies.

16 Turn to me and have mercy,
    for I am alone and in deep distress.
17 My problems go from bad to worse.
    Oh, save me from them all!
18 Feel my pain and see my trouble.
    Forgive all my sins.

Psalm 25:14–18, NLT

These are delicate verses, each one is soaked with salty tears. We slam through them so quickly, and completely disregard the meaning and purpose. It would be like taking a 10 minute tour of the National Gallery in London.

The content of these five verses alone are made sacred by suffering. They seep blood and stink of sweat. Their source is found in a broken and hurting heart (which makes up most of the human race.) Take these four verses, and compare just then with any other religious texts. There is an obvious dearth between the Christian Bible and anything coming out of comparative world religions.

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Commentary

V.14., Golly. The very well-being of this Psalm focuses on this  conspicuous fact. You just might say that our faith also depends on this– being a true friend with God. Indirectly this connects us with Abraham– he was known as “a  friend of God.” He also is brightly tutored into God’s covenant and His ways. (See James 2:23.)

V. 15,  the writer tells us things we must know about himself. There is a settled fact in his mind; he is always looking for the heart of God. He diligently continues to look at his Father’s eyes. I get the sense that this is one of those enduring habits he had decided to do “before” and he has trained his eyes to look. The idea is that there are “traps” just accentuate the urgent need. Traps only intensify the deep urgency of getting it right (and avoiding pain.)

V. 16, is  such a personal prayer to a personal God. (This is what I meant earlier when I talked about the superiority of the Christian writings.) The persistent question must be asked, “How personal is God to your soul?” Can you be this truthful or honest with Allah, or the Buddha? Are you just connecting on a superficial level, or our you in a true intimacy with the true God? Christians will talk about a “personal relationship with Jesus Christ.” This phrase tries very hard to make an intimacy real and authentic.

V. 17, ” My problems go from bad to worse.  Oh, save me from them all!”
Wondering  this will lead you through a lot of twisted theology, and logical anxiety. The stark reality is our faith was never meant to relieve us from the issues of living life. The psalmist seems to think that things may have gotten worse. I’ve read somewhere that birds in a cage will actually sing louder. It strikes me that the purpose of life is not to find your freedom– but your master. (We easily look for “so-called” freedom.)

V. 18, Feel my pain and see my trouble.  Forgive all my sins.”  Most of us would agree. We must put the “best foot forward.” We really try to clean up, and do the right things to be accepted by God. Hide the dirty dishes in the oven, and spray air freshener all over. But, this is pretty much unacceptable.

But acceptance by this (neurotic behavior) is never the basis for His love. It can’t be! We will never do enough good things to outweigh our bad. God has “junked” His scales, you will never see them in His courts. He will never measure the good you’ve done. And the all the bad– well, that has been dropped into the Mariana Trench.

“He will again have compassion on us;
He will tread our iniquities under foot.
Yes, You will cast all their sins
Into the depths of the sea.’

(Micah 7:19)

(“I want the presence of God Himself, or I don’t want anything at all to do with religion… I want all that God has or I don’t want any.” )
― A.W. Tozer

kyrie eleison, Bryan

(Lord, have mercy on us)

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You Are Being Mocked: 1 Samuel 17

 

From 1 Samuel 17

Young David stood and looked at Goliath ‘face-to-face.’  Physically there was hardly a comparison.  Goliath was almost 10 feet tall, a warrior since birth, armed to the teeth, we read of his armor–he was like a human tank!  David was nothing,  a pesky boy, nothing more.  Goliath preened and strutted into the field of battle with real and solid experience, and David was stepping up for his first try.

Goliath begins to blaspheme.  He boasts and mocks.  In his mind he is superior.  His arrogance knows no bounds.  The center of the universe is the Philistine army, and he is their champion.  Nothing can compare, the glory is his, for he believes he is the ultimate warrior on planet Earth.

“As the Philistine moved closer to attack him, David ran quickly toward the battle line to meet him.  Reaching into his bag and taking out a stone, he slung it and struck the Philistine on the forehead. The stone sank into his forehead, and he fell facedown on the ground”. 

1 Sam. 17:48

I find David to be exceptional.  His reaction to the human mountain of Goliath was to run directly at him.  This is astonishing.  Goliath is a human wood-chipper.  Everyone who has faced him has been destroyed.  There have been no survivors to speak of.

Many of us face a giant called “despair”.  He has marched out on the field of battle confident of his ultimate triumph over us.  We have been tutored that there are enemies that can destroy us.  We’ve been indoctrinated to accept the inevitable slavery with a spirit of sheep-like meekness.

For some reason, the concept of going to war has not been passed on to us.  The ‘enemy-giant’ of despair is real and brutal.  Our destruction is inevitable in his mind.  Despair believes he will destroy us.  Its just a matter of time. As soldiers, we are inclined to stay in the safety of the camp. In the Army, we spread among ourselves the GI wisdom, “Never volunteer for anything.”

So many believers, cowed and intimidated, surrender to the boastings of the giant Despair.  Hope, and faith are leeched out of our being, and we become a empty spiritual shell.  The “warfare” dimension gets nullified, and soon irrelevant.  Despair reaches us and has the full intention of taking total control.

David ran to the battle.  He passed through the dark lies and defeated hearts to approach Goliath.  There was no passiveness or doubt to cloud his mind.  David took a spiritually aggressive position, he took on the confusion and ran directly at the giant Goliath.  His spirit was untouchable.

As believers, we desperately struggle and foolishly pout.  We turn our hearts over to despair.  We become available to the enemies workings.  And the confidence we might have through faith is dissipated into doubt and confusion.  But the victory we have in Christ allows us the liberty, through the Blood of Him who defeats our goliath of despair.

*

ybic, Bryan

When The Fear Gets Too Much: Psalms 143

Psalm 143:

A Prayer Not to Be Killed, or Something Worse

A psalm of David.

1 Lord, hear my prayerlisten to my cry for mercy. Answer me because you are loyal and good.

The writer stresses the truth that God listens.  A listening God is a God of wonder.  Elijah on Mt. Carmel had focused the people on a hearing God who was the real God.  The writer then reveals his trust in the inherent goodness of God.   He listens, He never ever puts His phone on call forwarding. We will reach Him, 24/7 everyday.

2 Don’t judge me, your servant, because no one alive is right before you.

We are all in the same predicament, we are sinners.  The writer doesn’t need to be convinced of this.  All he can do is appeal to God. He knows his place though–a servant of the Lord.  He understands that he is what he is.  He accepts what is real, and doesn’t try to pretend otherwise.

3 My enemies are chasing me; they crushed me to the ground. They made me live in darkness like those long dead.   4 I am afraid; my courage is gone.

We all have enemies.  They are the satanic evil spirits that are the wholesalers of evil and its devices and they mean to harm us.  David feels the pursuit, and his paranoia must have doubled.  These sinister antagonists get close enough to strike at him.  He confesses fear.   His life has been far too influenced by their dark ministry.  He is being pressed to the point of being overwhelmed.

5 I remember what happened long ago; I consider everything you have done. I think about all you have made.   6 I lift my hands to you in prayer. As a dry land needs rain, I thirst for you.  Selah

The psalmist has a spiritual history to ponder.  He thinks of all the past events and draws out his strength.  He “remembers” in the truest sense of the word.  It is good if we can just remember all of the issues and battles that we have already faced. Verse 6 declares his proper response to v. 5.  The hands go up, and he imagines himself to be a desert–dry and desolate.  He thirsts (desires) not for rain, or an oasis, but for the Lord God.  

7 Lord, answer me quickly, because I am getting weak. Don’t turn away from me, or I will be like those who are dead.

The writer has evaluated his situation, he is weak and he is dying. His spiritual pulse is “weak and thready.”  This seems to be a deteriorating condition.  He is discerning enough however to draw conclusions.  Doctors tell us that hearing is the last faculty to depart a dying man.  Perhaps to a spiritual man, discernment is the last to go?  Somehow we know what the truth is until we are completely senile (spiritually, that is).

8 Tell me in the morning about your love, because I trust you. Show me what I should do, because my prayers go up to you.

The writer affirms his personal connections to the Lord.  Love should be an intimate word, saturated with hope and a future.  This love comes as a result of trust/faith (the word, “because” is key).  The psalmist requests help for his particular situation.  He sees his prayers, like arrows reaching heaven.

9 Lord, save me from my enemies; I hide in you. 10 Teach me to do what you want, because you are my God. Let your good Spirit lead me on level ground. Save me…teach me…lead me.

A “triune” aspect of the Spirit’s work.  Each believer can realize this ministry.  He is like a bodyguard, a tutor, and a professional guide to each of us.  Verse 10…”level ground”; nothing is harder on a tired soldier then marching on hilly terrain.  Flat and level is the best, and its not wrong to ask for an easier path.   Sometimes we stumble because we haven’t asked for level ground.

11 Lord, let me live so people will praise you. In your goodness save me from my troubles. 12 In your love defeat my enemies.Destroy all those who trouble me, because I am your servant.

This should be the cry of the Christian heart–let me be an example that will lead others to worship.  Let me be a reason to them to sing, and give you glory.  Notice that God’s goodness is specifically pointed out to be the starting point for salvation. “Since He is good, I will be saved”.  In verse 12 we are reminded that out of that matrix of love, God can conquer.  “God so loved the world”…John 3:16.  Love is the reason, and not just a vague, general sense of love but a love that rolls up its sleeves and jumps in and pounds my enemies.

flourish-small Text taken from New Century Version (NCV) The Holy Bible, New Century Version®. Copyright © 2005 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. If this post has been a blessing to you, and you would like me to do more of this, won’t you let me know.  Thanks!

ybic, Bryan

Facing a Wall: Psalm 18:29

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“In your strength I can crush an army; with my God I can scale any wall.”

Psalm 18:29, NLT

 

“With your help I can attack an army. With God’s help I can jump over a wall.”

Psalm 18:29, NCV

David understood the issues.  He knew instinctively what he was facing.  He would be confronting a spiteful and malevolent troop, that wanted nothing but death.  It was a concentrated hatred, an evil directed right after him.  ‘A troop’ that would try to deny him any victory whatsoever.

There was a sense that God had to be involved.  David was very perceptive.  He fully understood that it was only through God’s active help would he ever advance against the enemy.  As he hurled his armies toward the troop, he knew that any victory was going to have to be God’s victory.

There was absolutely no room for confusion or doubt.  He went forward because God told him to.  God had given him the ability to advance against the enemy.  He adds an interesting personal dimension– ‘with my God I can scale a wall’.

The ultimate defense was the wall.  If it was tall enough– and strong enough– it was the almost perfect barrier against any attack.  David was claiming that God was giving him complete access to the enemies strength.  A wall could be pretty incredible — and quite formidable.  But David was making his faith impenetrable.

“Therefore, put on every piece of God’s armor so you will be able to resist the enemy in the time of evil. Then after the battle you will still be standing firm.”

Ephesians 6:13, NLT

wall-tinyPsalm 18 pushes us to a place where we honor God by present victories.  You and I advance against satanic darkness.  The Holy Spirit has equipped and protected us against the dark one.  We already have the victory against him.  We must advance by faith, resting in confidence of our God against the prince of darkness.

“You have established a new relationship with the powers of darkness. Whatever you were before you were a Christian… you are now a sworn foe of the legions of hell. Have no delusions about their reality or their hostility, but do not fear them. The God inside you terrifies them. They cannot hurt you, but they can still seduce, and they will try.”

John White

&

ybic, Bryan

kyrie elesion.

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

Psalm 19:7 and Psalm 51:6: The Wisdom of the Word, part 2

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In our journey from initial conversion to Christ to our last breath on earth, like a seasoned sea captain, we will need wisdom to avoid shipwreck and get our boat safely into harbor. Wisdom will help us be aware of Satan’s strategies and how to respond to them. Scripture will make the simple wise (Psalm 19:7) and Christ the Word will teach us wisdom in our innermost being (Psalm 51:7).

Take the issues of unity and division, for example. A good rule of thumb is this: What Satan wants to divide, God wants to unify; and what Satan wants to unify, God wants to divide. In recent decades, we’ve had more teaching in the Church on the first half of this statement than the second.

We’ve had clarion calls to unity in many different areas of life: marriage, family, work, race relations, between the sexes, Christians within a local church, Christians in different denominations, world religions, nation to nation, etc.. There’s been no shortage of sermons or books on the importance of unity. However, the truth that where Satan wants to unify, God wants to divide, is sometimes overlooked.

For the wise man or woman who is immersed in Scripture and engaged in an intimate relationship with Christ, sometimes God will come to them like a sword or a scalpel and will divide an area of their life that Satan has combined, fused, or unified. Scripture and Christ the Word of God will visit them and be “living and active, sharper than any two–edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and spirit, of joints and marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart” (Hebrews 4:12).

Notice that when Christ visits the Seven Churches in the Book of the Revelation, he has a “sharp two–edged sword in his mouth” (Revelation 1:16). Here are three examples of that sword at work:

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One problem I saw frequently in the pastorate was when people fused their view of God with their view of a dysfunctional parent. Put another way, if they had a father who was distant, angry, abusive, vindictive, controlling, manipulative, and/or neglectful, it was easy for them to see God the Father this way. This is right out of Satan’s playbook; he loves to unify a person’s experience of an unhealthy parent with their concept of God.

However, the wise person who is immersed in Scripture and engaged in an intimate relationship with Christ will be able to separate the two. The written Word will come to them as a scalpel and separate God from the parent with passages like this:” But you, O Lord, are a compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness” (Psalm 86:15). Christ the Word, who is Love, will also come to them with a sword in his mouth and separate the false union they’ve forged with their parent and God.’

Satan also loves to combine real discipleship with false discipleship. Many Christians have experienced churches that are more driven by law than grace. Instead of resting in their identity as loved children of God and having discipleship flow out of that, through self–effort and religious performance they try to earn their identity as loved sons and daughters.

The wise person, who knows both Scripture and Christ, will ultimately escape this toxic union. The Epistle to the Galatians will visit them and separate true discipleship from false with its message of our true identity in Christ. Christ the Word will come to those crushed by the law and speak tenderly to them, “Come to me all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart and you will find rest for your souls” (Matthew 11:28, 29).

Satan loves to unify the concept of success with biblical faithfulness. A particular church may be preaching a false gospel of material gain, but since they’re the biggest church in town, the unwise will esteem the leadership of that church to be both successful and faithful. In reality they are successful, but are not faithful to the gospel. Rick Joyner says that God allows these churches to be blessed but he doesn’t inhabit them. Immersion in Scripture and knowing Christ defines the true gospel, separates faithfulness from success, and exposes these impostors for who they really are.

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ybic, Jonathan

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Psalm 84:10: Overcoming the Greatest Temptation

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10″ Better is one day in your courts than a thousand elsewhere;
I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God than dwell in the tents of the wicked.”

This may be one of the most profound verses in the Psalms, if not in the entire Bible. In it David is saying that he would rather have the most humble place in the house of God than the highest position among the godless. This proclamation is the exact opposite of what Satan said in John Milton’s epic poem, Paradise Lost, “Better to reign in Hell, than to serve in Heaven.” What makes this passage so weighty is that it encapsulates the greatest temptation of created beings from before the creation of the world to the present day.

What temptation would cause Satan, an exalted angel who dwelled in the presence of the glory of God for eons before his fall from grace, to rebel and inaugurate his own kingdom of darkness? What enticement would cause a significant number of angels (probably one–third; see Revelation 12:4), who also dwelt in the exquisite splendor of God, to follow him in this rebellion? What temptation would provoke Adam and Eve, who lived in Edenic paradise in unbroken communion with God, to disobey God’s clear command and go their own way? What enticement led the nation of Israel, who had amazing, supernatural provision and a special relationship with the Almighty, to reject their Creator and worship other gods?

Satan, the fallen angels, Adam and Eve, and the nation of Israel all succumbed to the same temptation. It goes by different names but I will, for lack of a better word, call it godship. Godship is rooted in pride, the root sin of all sins, and its nature is to make oneself God and to pursue an autonomous existence apart from God and his will. It means taking God off the throne of our hearts, and, in self–exaltation, putting ourselves on that throne.

Satan and the fallen angels did this, and, in the spirit of Milton’s poem, essentially said, “Better to reign in Hell, than to serve in Heaven.” Adam and Eve made their proclamation of godship when they ate the forbidden food because they thought they would become like God, knowing good and evil. Israel’s sin of godship is vividly revealed in Judges 21:25, a passage that describes their entire history:

“In those days Israel had no king; everyone did as he saw fit.”

David’s proclamation in Psalm 84:10 is a watershed moment because he is gazing into the face of the history of fallen creation and is saying, ” I will not join the Rebellion; I will not commit the sin of godship; I would rather have the lowest place in the house of God than rule in the tents of the ungodly.” David would go on to commit egregious sins in his life (adultery, murder, etc.), but he was still a man after God’s own heart (Acts 13:22), and would not commit the most egregious sin of all: godship.

One reason Roman Catholics venerate Mary is because she also submitted herself to the will of God. She was told by the angel Gabriel that she would give birth to the Savior and said, “I am the Lord’s servant…May it be to me as you have said.”

After fasting for forty days and forty nights, the devil tempted Jesus to commit the sin of godship and live a life autonomous from God and his will. Jesus also stared into the face of the history of fallen creation and said, “Away from me, Satan! For it is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only'” (Matthew 4:11). He did this again during his Passion when he said to the Father, “Not my will but your will be done.”

Dear reader, by the grace of God, we can all follow in the footsteps of David, Mary, and especially our Lord. We can get up each morning, look into the mirror, and start our day by saying, ” Dear Lord, thank you for the gift of another day of life. By your grace I choose to be a doorkeeper in your house instead of taking my fate upon myself. I reject the deception of godship and choose to be your servant.”

&

ybic, Jonathan

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Transparent Pages, Ps. 31:6-8

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 I hate those who worship worthless idols.
I trust in the Lord.
I will be glad and rejoice in your unfailing love,
for you have seen my troubles,
and you care about the anguish of my soul.
You have not handed me over to my enemies
but have set me in a safe place.

Psalm 31:6-8, NLT

God’s promises are like watching a sunrise. It is beautiful, and they somehow work inside of us. Wise and patient eyes realize they are seeing something amazing, and it’s good. These three verses overlay each other. When I was a boy, I was fascinated by books that had transparent plastic pages. These pages would fold over on each other. I remember seeing the human body. You see the bones, but if you flip one of these pages– you could see the circulatory system imposed over the bones, and you can add the nervous system and see that as well. Pretty heady stuff for an eight year old boy. This was old school anatomy.

David wrote these verses, and they belong together.  “I hate those who worship worthless idols. I trust in the Lord.” This verse deals with the subject of discernment. The ability to distinguish between certain things, is not always seen as a positive. I cannot remove the stigma of this word– “hate.”  In the NT we’re anchored to this idea of love. But in Ps. 139:22,

“Yes, I hate them with total hatred,
    for your enemies are  my enemies.”

Hatred is a dangerous emotion. It’s has a handle, just like a suitcase. It can be controlled by the Holy Spirit, or manipulated by Satan. As believers, we should be aware of this possibility. Hatred has a place. Romans 12:9 is a ready verse, “Don’t just pretend to love others. Really love them. Hate what is wrong. Hold tightly to what is good.” We must walk a tightrope here; it will require wisdom and awareness. But I’m also very confident in the Holy Spirit’s ability to assist you in this matter.

The next verse carries with it an intense blessing. It is also a verse that folds into “our picture book.”

“I will be glad and rejoice in your unfailing love,
for you have seen my troubles,
and you care about the anguish of my soul.”

Being truly glad is the waiting room for believers. It is an active state of a humbled heart. David is thrilled. He is quite aware of having God’s focus– he knows that he is incredibly loved. God has taken on the trials and burdens of David. David’s personal anguishes are taken up by the Lord.

“You have not handed me over to my enemies
but have set me in a safe place.”

David truly believes this. He thinks that this is a truly blessed state to be in. The deep realities of “what could have been” are factored into this awareness. God could have easily sent David to his doom. David is aware of what might have been.

These three verses, (vv. 6-8) snuggle together, like those “Russian nestling dolls.” One inside of the other, inside another. Or like our original metaphor–  multiple transparencies coming together to give us a clear view of David’s real truth.

^

ybic, Bryan

How Dark Could it Possibly Get? Psalm 88

My life is full of troubles, and I am nearly dead. They think I am on the way to my grave. I am like a man with no strength.” 

Ps. 88:3-4, NCV

A Study of Psalm 88

As  I read Psalm 88, I suddenly realized the dark depths it took.  It is bleak and grim.  I believe it to be the only psalm there is without a reference to praise.  Not a single “hallelujah” graces this portion of scripture. It is the “black hole” of the Psalms.

But why?  And why has God chosen to leave it where just anybody can read it? This psalm is a masterpiece, but it has been exclusively painted with hues of black.  A word chosen by it’s author is the word, “darkness.”  Is it appropriate? Time after time, I’ve read this, looking for just a glimmer of light.

“Heman the Ezrahite, the apparent composer, was seriously depressed. Maybe he was also chronically ill. Or maybe, like many, he battled almost constantly against a relentless darkness. We honestly don’t know.

But he said he had been this way since his youth (v. 15). He felt abandoned by God (v. 14), his beloved (v. 18), and companions (v. 8). He was desperate and his prayers seemed to be going unanswered (vv. 13-14). He was so overwhelmed that he felt close to death (vv. 3, 15).”

 –John Piper

So! Why has God decided to include this in the canon of scripture?  Obviously, writing psalms was probably a fashionable and a religious exercise, and we can safely conclude that hundreds of Psalms never made it into this book we call the Bible.  Undoubtedly, most of these ‘rejects’ were sincere, and heart-felt.  The deep instinct of a spiritual man or woman is to reflect and share their pilgrimage.

Saturated with despair, and then glazed with desperation,  we must extend the human condition and just accept that things are not always what they should be.  We must conclude that this darkness is within our capability and experience.  It could happen to you, or anyone! You are vulnerable. We all could slide into the dark.

The darkest psalm is really a ‘nightlight.’  It exists to give us hope.  There is a broad range of conditions the human heart will encounter.  Psalm 88 is within the realm of possibility for those who are of the Faith.  We probably will need to expand our ideas of what is possible, and not what is accepted.  Those of us who know deep down the “blackness of darkness” have just started to savor the light.

“…even the darkness is not dark to you; the night is bright as the day, for darkness is as light with you”

Psalm 139:12

&

Kyrie Eleison.

ybic, Bryan

Dead Roses: Psalm 102:9-11

deadroses

I eat ashes for food.
    My tears run down into my drink
10 because of your anger and wrath.
    For you have picked me up and thrown me out.
11 My life passes as swiftly as the evening shadows.
    I am withering away like grass.

Psalm 102

When God starts dealing with a sinner’s heart, it can be pretty rough. Although He afflicts, God is careful how severely He touches His sons and daughters. He is gentle and kind even when He challenges us.

There is no such thing as “the brutality of God.” But at times, we might mistake His discipline as far too harsh. Heb. 12:5-6,

And have you forgotten the encouraging words God spoke to you as his children? He said,

“My child, don’t make light of the Lord’s discipline,
    and don’t give up when he corrects you.
For the Lord disciplines those he loves,
    and he punishes each one he accepts as his child.”

And actually, Hebrews 12 (the whole chapter) is a crash course on God’s position on discipline.

Commentary

V. 9-10, “My tears run down into my drink
10 because of your anger and wrath.
    For you have picked me up and thrown me out.”

Again, it’s all about the prophetic imagery. The psalmist describes the profuse tears that are gushing down. His cup is filled with his inconsolable sadness. The inference is that he is drinking his grief.

It seems that he traces all this misery back to the particular actions of God. “Your anger and wrath,” which is as about as specific you can get. I have thought about this, and a few certain issues come to mind.

  • Samson, strong– but made weak.
  • Job, the man who lost everything.
  • David, whose middle-aged indiscretions almost destroyed him.

I admit these aren’t perfect examples. They should at least be reflected on.

“For you have picked me up and thrown me out.” I just carried the trash out (with my wife’s ‘encouragement’). This bag was filled with unusable cans, table scraps, coffee grounds, and egg shells. Its aroma was quite pungent. The psalmist identifies with this.

V. 11, “My life passes as swiftly as the evening shadows.
    I am withering away like grass.”

The evening quickly becomes the night. It happens in less than an hour. Darkness comes fast, and, there is nothing you can do. The psalmist somehow senses the urgency, as we all should.

The grass has a definite ‘shelf-life.’ It will not last for long. As soon as it starts to grow, it begins to move to the inevitable. It becomes lush and green, but soon it will begin to droop and dry up.

But the psalmist truly does understand.

&

ybic, Bryan

People of the Faith: Psalm 145:19-21, Conclusion

19 “He will fulfill the desire of those who fear Him;
He also will hear their cry and save them.
20 The Lord preserves all who love Him,
But all the wicked He will destroy.
21 My mouth shall speak the praise of the Lord,
And all flesh shall bless His holy name
Forever and ever.”

Psalm 145:19-21, NKJV

I must admit, this Psalm seems too good to be true. And I’m quite suspicious when things seem that way. Seldom am I wrong when it comes right down it. I’ve avoided scams and charlatans. I’m one of those people who have grown up with a real fear of being ‘taken for a ride.’

But suspiciousness is not listed as a ‘gift of the spirit.’ The closest we come to it is in the gift of “self-control.” (And I need more of that!)

Miracles and promises can’t be treated this callously by believers. Faith has to be present in order to receive the things God has fixed for us. “But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him,” Hebrews 11:6.

Faith is meant to be a simple response to God and His Word. If we are ‘hardened’ it means the Lord has to break up our ‘concrete.’ (And He is exceptionally thorough and faithful in His dealings with us.)

Commentary

V. 19, He will fulfill the desire of those who fear Him;
He also will hear their cry and save them.

To have ‘fulfillment’ we must turn to God. Only He has what we really need.  The fear of God is to be present in our lives. The second part of this verse deals with His responsiveness. We have His personal ‘cell number,’ direct to Him. The amazing thing in all of this, He wants it so! There is no reluctance or regret on the Lord’s part.

V. 20, “The Lord preserves all who love Him,
But all the wicked He will destroy.”

The stakes are high, and the ‘spiritual’ is the critical thing. I think that “love” is really the central matter. Love like this cannot be false or pretend. It has too be real, authentic and impervious to the world’s constant pull.

I also think that ‘wickedness’ is the logical and moral state opposite of love. It is the sinister counterpoint, and the opposite of God’s heart.

V. 21, “My mouth shall speak the praise of the Lord,
And all flesh shall bless His holy name
Forever and ever.”

We live in a world that is being sifted. Often the prophets would use the imagery of threshing floor. The grain would be brought in, still on the stalk. Through several different methods they would completely separate the grain from the chaff. This metaphor is how we process our lives.

The confidence of David is seen. David blesses God, and he understands this to be his eternal destiny. Blessing God will be his full time job!

*

ybic, Bryan