Quality Control: Psalm 15

quality-control-approved

psalm of David.

Who may worship in your sanctuary, Lord?
    Who may enter your presence on your holy hill?
Those who lead blameless lives and do what is right,
    speaking the truth from sincere hearts.
Those who refuse to gossip
    or harm their neighbors
    or speak evil of their friends.
Those who despise flagrant sinners,
    and honor the faithful followers of the Lord,
    and keep their promises even when it hurts.
Those who lend money without charging interest,
    and who cannot be bribed to lie about the innocent.
Such people will stand firm forever.

Psalm 15, NLT

Some commentaries view this Psalm as a kind of an initiation for worshippers in the Jewish temple. A process that must be taken before the worshipper can offer up his sacrifice. The person just didn’t saunter in and slap up a lamb on his own accord. He most likely was ‘interviewed’ by the priest who was on duty at the time, before he could enter.

Commentary

V.1,  Who may worship in your sanctuary, Lord?
    Who may enter your presence on your holy hill?”

God’s grace is free, but it is not cheap. Often we feel like God’s presence is like a candy store, it’s full of the tastiest things— and we are children who have been given full liberty to gobble down whatever (and whenever) we want. No rules, a ‘free-for-all.’ David asks the question, “Who may worship…?”

Vv.2-3, “Those who lead blameless lives and do what is right,
    speaking the truth from sincere hearts.
   Those who refuse to gossip
    or harm their neighbors
    or speak evil of their friends.”

Verses 2-5 are a description of the ideal worshipper. These verses describe an inward holiness that must supersede legalism. If we are counting on adhering to a legalistic code that is all of these things— we will fail. We cannot do these things on our own. It takes the Holy Spirit inside. It is His fruits growing in the interior that enable us to please God. Every Christian’s heart is a ‘green-house’ producing good things for the master gardener— we are to be, fruitful.

22 But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things!

Galatians 5:22

Vv. 4-5, “Those who despise flagrant sinners,
    and honor the faithful followers of the Lord,
    and keep their promises even when it hurts.
Those who lend money without charging interest,
    and who cannot be bribed to lie about the innocent.
   Such people will stand firm forever.”

Now the “works of our flesh” make us unacceptable and unable to “enter in.” Galatians 5:19-25 are a description of an unholy man or woman. We “work” in our flesh in a very awful way. We lie, cheat, get drunk, murder, steal, and lust all because we refuse to be filled with the Holy Spirit.

“So I say, let the Holy Spirit guide your lives. Then you won’t be doing what your sinful nature craves. 17 The sinful nature wants to do evil, which is just the opposite of what the Spirit wants. And the Spirit gives us desires that are the opposite of what the sinful nature desires. These two forces are constantly fighting each other, so you are not free to carry out your good intentions.”

Galatians 5:16-17

The ideal worshipper isn’t perfect yet. But under the direction of another, (the Holy Spirit) we will meet God’s ‘quality control.’ As we are infused with the Spirit we will begin to see holy fruit growing. But be aware: God’s presence will never be shared with a person filled with the works of the flesh— no matter how pious and sincere we might want to be. You truly can not please God in this way.

God loves brokenness, He draws near to the humble.

Admitting your sin, confessing it will open up the door into His presence. He is Holy, and we are not, but He truly wants to us to change. We take off our nasty rags, and receive the white robe of righteousness by faith.

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A Very Long Shadow: Psalm 32:1-5

A Maskil of David.

 1 Oh, what joy for those 
      whose disobedience is forgiven, 
      whose sin is put out of sight! 
 2 Yes, what joy for those 
      whose record the LORD has cleared of guilt,[b] 
      whose lives are lived in complete honesty! 
 3 When I refused to confess my sin, 
      my body wasted away, 
      and I groaned all day long. 
 4 Day and night your hand of discipline was heavy on me. 
      My strength evaporated like water in the summer heat. 
                         Interlude

 5 Finally, I confessed all my sins to you 
      and stopped trying to hide my guilt. 
   I said to myself, “I will confess my rebellion to the LORD.” 
      And you forgave me! All my guilt is gone. 

Psalm 32:1-5, NCV

What really is your source of joy? We can look and find many possibilities around us. Family, hobbies, work, music or art.  But there is far more than just that.  I believe that our deepest source of joy is the forgiveness of God for our sin. King David enters fully into this experience. I contend that joyful Christians  are those intensely aware of their salvation from sin.

This was St. Augustine’s favorite psalm, and he had it written on the wall next to his death bed, so he could read it over and over. This psalm is a “maskil,” which defined it as a teaching psalm. I think David saw his sins (2 Samuel 11) as something to be learned from. His evil was sufficient to bring him the death penalty, according to levitical law. He became an active teacher of redemption.

This is a companion psalm with Psalm 51. That psalm is a “jack-hammer” and this one is the shovel. There is a sharp breaking in  51. We learn how powerful repentance is really. But in 32 we clean the mess up. David is now our model, and from the nastiness of his past life will come life. Someone once wrote the truth as he saw it:

“We were all whores before Jesus touched and forgave us”

 

Commentary

V.1, communicates a blessing, or having special favor with God. If you don’t want blessing, your nuts! It is one of those things we are all searching for deep down, but now it has a name.  When you have it, nothing else will really matter. The word “joy” is actively used. And so is “disobedience” and “sin.” But the most significant word is “forgiven.”

V. 2, when you repeat yourself it is usually to make a point. It makes what your saying emphatic. There is wagon full of joy here. But it is only for “guilt cleared people.” Once I had a police record, and actually spent a night in jail. Things were put on my record, which was inviolable, I couldn’t change a thing on it.

V. 3-4, there seems to be a deep reluctance and a dark aversion to admitting our true state. We avoid doing this at all costs. We will not be labeled! But there are very clear consequences to this constant posturing. Our lives become hollowed out shells, full of darkness, sickness and grief. This is the price we pay to live a false life.

There is a real sense that God is in on this. It seems that He is concentrating on us, we are God’s target. All His arrows are meant for us, we turn and God is right on our tails. He is taking all the credit for this miserable state we’re in.

V. 5, perhaps this belongs in the special collection of wonderful verses. It is a sponge that is completely saturated with light. “Finally, I confessed…” There are limits to what we can handle. We end up agreeing with God. “Stopped trying to hide.” And we are such good hiders, we can hide so well we end up lost even to our own selves.

There is a profound sense of amazement here. Confession brings it to us. But to be so lost, and than found is staggering. It changes everything. “You forgave me! All my guilt is gone.” Realizing this will bring you incredible peace and joy. You will never, ever find it anywhere else.

 

Escaping Death, Psalms 116

death1
Thanksgiving for Escaping Death

 1 I love the Lord, 

       because he listens to my prayers for help.
 2 He paid attention to me, 
       so I will call to him for help as long as I live.
 3 The ropes of death bound me, 
       and the fear of the grave took hold of me. 
       I was troubled and sad.
 4 Then I called out the name of the Lord. 
       I said, “Please, Lord, save me!” 

 5 The Lord is kind and does what is right; 
       our God is merciful. 
 6 The Lord watches over the foolish; 
       when I was helpless, he saved me.
 7 I said to myself, “Relax, 
       because the Lord takes care of you.”
 8 Lord, you saved me from death. 
       You stopped my eyes from crying; 
       you kept me from being defeated.
 9 So I will walk with the Lord 
       in the land of the living.
 10 I believed, so I said, 
       “I am completely ruined.”
 11 In my distress I said, 
       “All people are liars.” 

 12 What can I give the Lord 
       for all the good things he has given to me? 
 13 I will lift up the cup of salvation, 
       and I will pray to the Lord.
 14 I will give the Lord what I promised 
       in front of all his people. 

 15 The death of one that belongs to the Lord 
       is precious in his sight. 
 16 Lord, I am your servant; 
       I am your servant and the son of your female servant. 
       You have freed me from my chains.
 17 I will give you an offering to show thanks to you, 
       and I will pray to the Lord.
 18 I will give the Lord what I promised 
       in front of all his people, 
 19 in the Temple courtyards 
       in Jerusalem. 

    Praise the Lord!

Really, no one knows for sure who the writer of Psalm 116 was. Some advance the idea that it was Hezekiah,and others firmly believe it was David. What I see that it was probably the former, but hey– all I know it was a godly man with a holy perspective regarding many things.

This Psalm is quite profound. It also has a deep awareness of things that are significant. We see that the writer has a discernment and awareness to see his heart and the things that are important. Psalm 116 is a masterpiece, the writer “shapes” things that are significant, and then he intends to let us know what he has been processing. And it’s a beauty!

Because of the length of this particular psalm I will simply attempt to think about it in a broader  sense.

Commentary

V.1 is a declaration to the world of his relationship to the Father. Things are quite obvious and exceptionally clear about things that really matter. The psalmist puts tremendous value on an attentive deity.

Vv. 2-4, comes directly at us,  the writer seems to be terribly aware of two things. The first, is the Father’s awareness of his cry. He is sadly desperate and quite aware that everything he calls out for, hinges on the Father’s action on his behalf.

The Father builds within him a confidence and assurance. The writer fully understands the myriad of attack on his soul. He sees cords that are wrapped on him. These cords are quite problematic, and to emphasize this situation he develops a deep and sincere “fear of death and dying.” Many believers, who are aware and sure, “hiccup” at this point. Death can never be handled without faith. But there is a breakthrough of sorts. He pierces his own apathy and finds his voice.  Quivering and quavering his voice is heard in the halls of heaven, “Please, Lord, save me!” 

Vv. 5-7 creates an assurance of the character of God. All that he knows about Him is that He can be trusted, no matter what! The key words are “kind”, “right” and “merciful”. This knowledge does not come to us except by the dealings of God inside our hearts.

V. 8 illuminates the realization that God has intervened, “saved” and “stopped” and “kept”. These are not minor things. They all require an action of God. He is the only one who can intervene. All I can say, is that His active presence changes everything.

V. 9 is the quiet sense of a person who is trusting the Father to be the Father.

V. 10-11 are difficult. They don’t work out smoothly in our New Testament theology of faith. Today, when we read them they are chopped up and rather odd. I suppose we can try to milk “the old cow” but I don’t think we will get much.

V. 12-14 shouts “gratitude”. Somehow the work of the Holy Spirit has done something. The writer jumps into this place where he enters his gratitude and appreciation of everything that has been done for him. He seems eager to show the goodness that has now come his way. There is a sense here of declaring to others the work of God inside his heart. If necessary he will do this publicly.

V. 15, this is indeed a revelation. Many of us wrestle almost continually with the subject of “death.” In hard moments, we struggle quite deeply (and yet subliminally) with dying. It is the dog who can’t stop nibbling at our heels.

V. 16 is nothing less then a declaration. In the mind of the writer, he knows his place. He won’t reach for the “top shelf”. He absolutely understands who he is and isn’t. Such a work is being done that he would never ever dream of being someone he really isn’t.

V. 17 is his declaration that the Father has done an exceptional work inside. The writer knows this, and he just won’t let it slide away. His life becomes deeply saturated with “thanks” and “prayer.” And then I say “whoa!” My own life is quite shallow, and it comes no where close to the psalmist

V. 18, “I will give the Lord what I promised  in front of all his people” Sometimes we , out of necessity, punch out the things which are not only important, but quite significant. “Giving” is a key word. And “promised” is another. (Strange, they are so close to each other, in this verse.) But the writer doesn’t process these issues, he only flows with them.

V. 19 focuses us at whatever might happen. The writer completely understands the importance and the significance of God’s Temple in Jerusalem. In a sense, he solidifies this particular place, as the accurate arena where all of the above is processed and configured. It all ends with a “praise to the Lord.” I suppose that ultimately this is the place we all end up. We are “praiser’s” or we are not.

ybic,

Bryan

 

The Snare of the Fowler: Psalms 91

caged-bird (1)

“Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High
    will rest in the shadow of the Almighty.
I will say of the Lord, “He is my refuge and my fortress,
    my God, in whom I trust.” 

Psalm 91:1-2, NIV

This psalm focuses on intimacy.

Throughout the entire chapter we see personal pronouns used. In contrast to other psalms that are directed to the nation, this one is written to an individual. This personal focus makes this a favorite psalm for many.

Shelter and shadow, refuge and fortress are the opening ‘word pictures’ used very elegantly. The psalmist writes what he knows, and it is apparent that he understand the needs of the human spirit, and for protection. Each of these four words creates a common link between believers. Each of us need a working understanding of all four protections.

Dwelling, resting and ‘saying’ are necessary elements for the word pictures to work. I should ‘dwell’ in God’s sheltered care. All too often, I wander out past the security of the Lord (or maybe I’m lured out?) But there is safety in having God so close to us. His proximity is for my protection.

“Surely he will save you
    from the fowler’s snare
    and from the deadly pestilence.
He will cover you with his feathers,
    and under his wings you will find refuge;
    his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart.”

Psalm 91:3-4

silhouette-bird-on-branch-grangerV.v. 3-4, maintains its personal or familiar tone. ‘Save you’ (salvation) is far more that a theological term.  For the psalmist however, it’s not about ‘doctrine’; rather the psalm is an embrace. He is rescued from the trap, and the sickness that seems so contagious never touches him. Moving from metaphor to metaphor, he engages our imaginations to ‘see’ God’s salvation. The writer knows his stuff.

The Lord is pictured as a protective bird that covers his chicks (Ex.19:4). We have a sure confidence as we gather together in that warm and safe spot under His wing. Whatever is after us has to go through God first. His presence is formidable. In His company is found our only safety.

“What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies.”

Romans 8:31, 33

It appears that all of heaven is rallying for your well-being. You are sure of this based on your faith in God’s own word. He has ‘busted us’ out of a dark cage, and now defends you against all your enemies. And that is a very good thing.

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Psalm 119:165: When His Heart Becomes Our Heart

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“Great peace have they who love your law, and nothing can make them stumble.”

Psalm 119:165

This passage tells us two things about people who love the law of God:

  • they will have great peace and,
  • a spirit that cannot get offended

The absence of peace is worry, anxiety, and even fear. Believers often  experience these disturbances of the soul when they don’t really believe that God is in control of their lives and that all things really do work for good to those who love God and are called according to his purpose. (Or they may experience these emotions through no fault of their own because they have a chemical imbalance).

It’s often overlooked that even though some believers really do believe that God is in control, they still experience diverse anxieties because deep down they don’t really believe God loves them.They think he relishes the opportunity to rain on their parade. I’ve known of Christians who had physical ailments who said, “I know God can heal me but I feel like he doesn’t like me and doesn’t want to heal me.” This kind of heart characterized many of the Israelites in Deuteronomy 1:26, 27 who balked at God’s command to take possession of Canaan land. Moses spoke to them and said:

But you were unwilling to go up; you rebelled against the command of the Lord your God. You grumbled in your tents and said, ‘The Lord hates us; so he brought us out of Egypt to deliver us into the hands of the Amorites to destroy us.'”

Reading, meditation, and study of Scripture or the law is a bridge to intimacy with God. Put another way: knowing and loving the Word (Scripture) often, though not always, leads one to knowing and loving the Word (Jesus Christ). This leads to peace because you become intimate with the one who passionately loves you and is in control of your life. Scripture tells us that his eye is on the sparrow and that the hairs of our heads are numbered. We are precious to him (see Psalm 139). When this is written on our hearts, we then rest in his providential love and can say with Mary, the Mother of God, when she was told by the angel Gabriel that she would give birth to Jesus:

“…Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word” (Luke 1:38, NAB).

Loving the law or Scripture can also lead to cultivating a spirit that cannot be offended at God or other people. Through the Holy Writ we come to know that “it is a dreadful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.” In C.S Lewis’ The Chronicles of Narnia, the character Aslan, who is Christ, is good but he is not safe. What Scripture teaches us is that we cannot give God a script for our lives and expect him to fulfill it like putting our order in at a restaurant. He is not our Shield and ‘Butler.’

In Hall of Fame of Faith in Hebrews 11:32–38, our lives may turn out to be like the heroes who conquered kingdoms, shut the mouths of lions, quenched the fury of flames, escaped the edge of the sword or they may turn out to be like the saints who were tortured, faced jeers and flogging, imprisoned, stoned, and were sawn asunder. Scripture teaches us to have a heart that can accept either of these outcomes and resonates with Job who said:

“Though he slay me, yet will I hope in him…” ( Job13:15)

When you love the Bible, you also love the difficult sayings of the text. This prepares you for anything life may dish out and gives you a heart that cannot be offended. You grow to love the One who was rejected by his own creation, abandoned (temporarily) by his Father on the cross, and suffered an unspeakably brutal death by asphyxiation on the cross. But he never became offended or embittered. His heart becomes our heart as we love his word and encounter the vicissitudes of life.

 

 ybic, Jonathan

 

 Jonathan’s own website is at http://www.openheavensblog.com.

One Solitary Verse: Psalm 23:5

Eat up!
Eat up!

“Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over.”

Psalm 23:5

The six verses of Psalm 23 are truly a wonder. Even the secular world acknowledges their powerful presence. What they contain can’t be found anywhere else. This psalm exists to encourage the faltering and fearing. The heart of a ‘broken’ Christian can find solace and comfort in each verse; the peace given truly lights our darkness like nothing else. Yet verse five is my favorite. The Father is revealed as the “hostess with the mostess.”  A waiting table is set for us. I assume it is full of wonderful things– things that are delicious and delightful. It looks inviting. And we are His guests.

“In the presence of mine enemies,” tells me that I’m not dining alone. The word for ‘presence’ is literally ‘in the face of.‘ Satan is so aware of our blessings. Also note: the enemies are plural. This motley bunch have become witnesses of God’s grace and mercy on a sinner. I am a man who feasts while they can only watch.

To be ‘anointed with oil’ evokes the Shepherd’s care for His sheep. The oil would not only be medicinal, but also defining. It would define ‘ownership.’ Only His sheep would receive this tender care. And again, the enemies see this.

“My cup runneth over,” is the ultimate blessing. We find ourselves being given the best metaphor of an overflowing life. I once picked apples and used a five gallon bucket; I had so many apples the bucket wouldn’t hold them all. That’s the way the Kingdom of God works. We’re always blessed with a ‘super-abundance.’ And all is grace.

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Psalms 149: 1–4: More Thoughts on Entering a Heavenly Worship Service

1 Praise the Lord. Sing to the Lord a new song, his praise in the assembly of the saints.

2 Let Israel rejoice in their Maker; let the people of Zion be glad in their king.

3 Let them praise his name with dancing and make music to him with the tambourine and harp.

4 For the Lord takes delight in his people; he crowns the humble with salvation.

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An observation was made in a post published on April 5, 2014, called Entering a Heavenly Worship Service that when the writers of the Psalms talk about worshipping in the temple, they mean the Jerusalem Temple. Secondly, the post took a look at what the apostle John saw in Revelation 4 and 5 when the curtain was rolled back and he witnessed the worship service that was going on in heaven.

What was striking was that the figures and fixtures one finds in the Jerusalem Temple in the Old Testament, one also finds in the heavenly worship service in the last book of the Bible: a Throne, seven torches (menorah), a sacrificial Lamb, golden bowls, etc.. The profound conclusion that we can draw from this is that when both the Old Testament saints and especially the believers under a new covenant worship God here on earth, they are in some mystical and very real way joining the worship service in heaven. They have a dual citizenship.

When this is embraced by faith, it should turn hollow, mechanical worship into a dynamic experience. To thoroughly compare Psalm 149:1–4 with Revelation 4 and 5 would take several posts so I will limit my observations to three things:

(1) When you worship God at your local church, always remember you are coming to the Throne of Grace.

Look at the language in verse 4: ” For the Lord takes delight in his people; he crowns the humble with salvation.” This is the language of grace. In Revelation 4:1, the apostle John looked and beheld an open door in heaven. In Revelation 4:3, there is an exquisite rainbow around the throne that hearkens back to the covenant of Noah when God promised never again to flood the earth. Again, these are images of God’s grace and compassion and mercy on our lives.

I realize that what I just wrote has been repeated so often from pulpits and from worship leaders that it may sound like a cliché; however, I still meet Christians from time to time who are bound by the fetters of legalism, guilt, and shame and can’t seem to find the Throne of Second Chances (and third chances and fourth chances and fifth chances…ad infinitum). If you’ve done some big sinning, what a blessing 1 John 1:9 is for you:

“If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just, and will forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”

Hebrews 4:12 tells us to draw close to the Throne to find mercy and grace in a time of need.I know this is basic Christianity but I never get tired of hearing the good news. We may get tired of asking for forgiveness but God never gets tired of granting it. Wanting to enter into the heavenly worship service can be good motivation for confession, repentance, and making things right with the people in our lives so that we can draw near to God and better experience his delight in us.

(2) When you enter the heavenly worship service, your worship will be directed towards God the Creator.

Check out Revelation 4:11:

“Worthy are you, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they existed and were created.”

We owe God our very existence. It is better to exist than not to exist and God deserves our praise for all that entails–the pleasant gifts, the neutral gifts, and the painful gifts–because it is all working for good in order to conform us to the image of his Son.

Psalms 149:2 tells Israel to rejoice in their Maker. When we look at the creation we see the glory of God and it causes us to bow before him in the light of his Beauty, Goodness, and Truth. A majestic mountain range reveals a majestic God; a vast ocean displays his infinity and all the flora and fauna remind us that he is the Living God who sustains all things by the word of his power.

(3) When you enter the heavenly worship service, your worship will be directed towards God the Son who according to Revelation 5:10 was slain and ransomed men from every tribe and tongue and people and nation.

Psalm 149:4 says that we are to praise God “who crowns the humble with salvation.” All we need to do to elicit praise and worship in our lives is think about our lives before Christ and after Christ and think about what it would be like to be eternally separated from God for eternity. All we need to do is meditate on the incomprehensible love of God who endured such a heinous death to bring us into relationship with him and gladly usher us into a worship service that will go on for all of eternity.

ybic, Jonathan