The Psalms: Living Life in the Light of Eternity

photo http://www.bbc.co.uk

Like Moses did for the children of Israel, the writers of the Psalms often contrast the Way of Life and the Way of Death and declare that the choices we make in this life have eternal consequences in the next. For example, in Psalm 1, after contrasting the path of righteousness with the path of sin, the psalmist tells us that the wicked:

“…are like chaff that the wind blows away. Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the assembly of the righteous. For the Lord watches over the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked will perish” (Psalm 1:4b–6).

This passage tells us that, on the Day of Judgment, the wicked will, so to speak, not have a leg to stand on, and will not be included in the heavenly assembly of the righteous. This sentiment is echoed  in Psalm 5:5. Such passages serve to motivate the reader to live his or her life in the light of eternity and to see others as eternal souls who have one of two destinies. In order to do this we must see life through the correct lens.

Too often we look at life through an Earthly Temporal Lens (ETL) and not a Heavenly Eternal Lens (HEL). Consider the story of the Rich Man and Lazarus in Luke 16: 19–31. If we look at that story through an ETL, the rich man is a winner, Lazarus is a loser; he is rich and Lazarus is poor; the rich man is first and Lazarus is last; he is a success and Lazarus is a failure; the rich man gets invited to exclusive cocktail parties while Lazarus is shunned. The biblical narrative, however, looks at the story through a HEL and the roles are completely reversed in heaven. Like the Laodicean Church in the Book of the Revelation, the rich man is poor, wretched, pitiful ,blind, and naked (Revelation 3:17). He is tormented in hell while Lazarus is cradled in Abraham’s bosom and there is an unbridgeable gulf between the two.

In many cases it is unwise for the believer to make judgments concerning the eternal destinies of the people we encounter in this life. We don’t know their hearts and we don’t know how they will react to the mercies of God in their final hour: it’s above our pay grade. However, we can, with the aid of the Holy Spirit, try to look through a HEL as much as possible and do everything we can to introduce them to our Redeemer, adorning the gospel with exemplary lives and speaking the truth in love.

 

ybic, Jonathan

 

 

Who Follows You? Psalm 145:4

 

Five Generations
Five Generations

4One generation shall commend your works to another,
    and shall declare your mighty acts.”

Psalm 145:4, ESV

The worship continues, as it should. Our last post, vv. 1-3 (http://psalmslife.com/2014/09/14/the-true-king-psalm-145/) has set the pace for us.

But this particular verse has a wonderful slant. It is praise that has been embedded into the framework of family. The idea of this generational dynamic is quite alien to us, living in the West. We stress the individual, with very little thought on our effect on close kin.

Commentary

V. 4, One generation shall commend your works to another, and shall declare your mighty acts.”

As we start to communicate trans-generationally, we find God’s work and activity in our lives passing to our children and grand-children. Our unique experiences with the Holy Spirit, the things we have learned and understood, are not lost– rather stay alive and aware. We give them a heritage, and a narrative of faith that enriches them.

“Life is but one continual course of instruction. The hand of the parent writes on the heart of the child the first faint characters which time deepens into strength so that nothing can efface them.” Unknown

My parents have given me much. Back in the 1970s they acted in faith and became hosts/sponsors of refugees from Cambodia. They took in a family into our little farmhouse. They encountered intense opposition and challenging obstacles. But my dad and mom stayed faithful to the Lord, inspite of daunting issues that dogged them. I learned about God by their life.

A father’s responsibility is not to make the child’s decisions, but to let the child watch him make his.” Ed Cole

Shoulders of Giants

When you communicate your experiences to the ‘church-to-come’ you will leave a legacy that will be a rich source of faith and hope. Because of you, they will stand on the shoulders of giants. The kingdom of our Lord will advance. And they will stand on your shoulders of faith.

Consider these verses–

“You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.” Deut. 6:7, ESV

“Come, O children, listen to me;
I will teach you the fear of the Lord.” Ps. 34:11

“He planted a witness in Jacob,
set his Word firmly in Israel,
Then commanded our parents
to teach it to their children
So the next generation would know,
and all the generations to come—
Know the truth and tell the stories
so their children can trust in God,”  Ps. 78:5-6, MSG

*

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The True King: Psalm 145:1-3

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

Psalm 145:1-3, CEB

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

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

Commentary

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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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.

 

Fantastically Solid: Psalm 111:7-8

Typical Ice-fishing shack

7 “All he does is just and good,
    and all his commandments are trustworthy.
They are forever true,
    to be obeyed faithfully and with integrity.”

Psalm 111:7-8, NLT

I seem to be in a place of learning “appreciation”— the study of God, through the majesty of the Word– the very promises– through acquired ideas of Him. We are starting to become gracious people and recognize the presence of grace.

Thankfulness is not confined to a holiday. It is the way we grow up in God. It is the main ingredient in this concoction of maturity.

“Thanksgiving is the language of heaven, and we had better start to learn it if we are not to be mere dumb aliens there.” A.J. Gossip

Note: This psalm is a Hebrew acrostic poem; after the introductory note of praise, each line begins with a successive letter of the Hebrew alphabet.

 

Commentary

V. 7, “All he does is just and good,
    and all his commandments are trustworthy.”

These twin ideas, “justice and goodness,” not only go together, but enhance each other. Being “just” without being “good” would be something awful. And to be good without being just would be very hard to imagine.

Everything God does is stellar. He is completely exceptional. And we can’t imagine all that it means. But, who’s complaining. It seems like I’m always reducing Him to my own level. It’s never too high, or too excessive. My understanding is far from complete.

“He manufactures truth and justice;
All his products are guaranteed to last—
Never out-of-date, never obsolete, rust-proof.
All that he makes and does is honest and true:”

(V. 11-12, Message)

I grew up in the 1960s in Wisconsin. The winters there are frequently below zero, with a nasty ‘wind-chill’ factor. But in the fall, people would get their ice fishing ‘shacks’ ready to await the go ahead of trekking out on the ice. People wanted to fish, but the ice thickness determined everything.

What God is, is quite solid. He is a “rock.” You can land a 747 on a Wisconsin lake in January, no problem at all, it’s like concrete. God and all He promises are even more substantial, “like a rock.”

V. 8, “They are forever true,
    to be obeyed faithfully and with integrity.”

Not just true, but “a forever-kind-of-true.” He is fully consistent, no cracks or ‘thaws.’ We on the other hand are unstable, liquid, weak. Even at our best we are vaporous. When we look about the spiritual landscape, strewn about with collapses and sin– the best of us, will admit to faults and sin.

God is so solid, and so true. Because of this, we have an obligation and a willingness to become people of a true integrity.

 

ybic, Bryan

What a God! Psalm 111:4-6

4 “He causes us to remember his wonderful works.
    How gracious and merciful is our Lord!
He gives food to those who fear him;
    he always remembers his covenant.
He has shown his great power to his people
    by giving them the lands of other nations.”

Psalm 111:4-6, NLT

If you are God, I suppose you can take things into your hands. (Who will complain?) Yet He does work in our hearts, to provoke in us the things He really wants. I suppose we put far to much weight on our own wills and efforts. The Father purposefully works so that we may remember. Discipleship, if I look at it, is as much of God’s work as it is our doing.

When we gaze into our own salvation, we will see hand prints that are not ours. They are God’s. He is working to bring us into heaven. It’s a long and deep journey, but He intends to bring us home. I’m glad. Very glad!

flourish15

Commentary

V. 4, He causes us to remember his wonderful works.
    How gracious and merciful is our Lord!

Romans 8:31 declares that God is with us. “What shall we say about such wonderful things as these? If God is for us, who can ever be against us?” He is energized by this final effort. He fully intends to bring us to His side. As I grow older, I see more and more of His security. He seems more sure of His effort than I am of mine.

The psalmist defines Him as “gracious and merciful.” We would do well to weigh out these words, and give them the significance they truly do deserve. These are “two ringers” and the Psalmist rings them loud and clear on his anvil.

K

V. 5, “He gives food to those who fear him;
    he always remembers his covenant.”

For everyone who fears the Lord there comes a meal; something good to eat. For us who inhabit the “first world” we can’t remember going without lunch. But it seems to me that the “food” that He gives us doesn’t originate from this world system. (Press on this idea, and some good will come of it.)

A god who keeps his covenant is worth His weight in gold.

K

V. 6, “He has shown his great power to his people
    by giving them the lands of other nations.”

I suppose power must be seem (and considered) before it becomes something valuable. The power can not be avoided, or deflected. God’s people do see it, and all of it is visible and quite truthful. I do believe He is blessed when we acknowledge this “great power.”

There is something very “tangible” about this next thought. God has designed reality to work out this. The “lands” have become something solid and real and tangible about the graciousness of God. He turns over these lands to His covenant people in order to communicate His grace and amazing power.

*

ybic, Bryan

Praise is How We Grow: Psalm 111:1-3

“Praise the Lord!

I will thank the Lord with all my heart
    as I meet with his godly people.
How amazing are the deeds of the Lord!
    All who delight in him should ponder them.
Everything he does reveals his glory and majesty.
    His righteousness never fails.”

Psalm 111:1-3, NLT

This is a teaching psalm that’s purpose is to instruct or educate. This Psalm is a strict acrostic, with each line having an “ABC…” pattern. The first line (V.1) is the Hebriac phrase, “Hallel-jah” which we use in English, but it means “praise the Lord”.

Psalm 111 was part of a group of hymns sung while celebrating the Jewish feast of Passover. It is very possible that Jesus sang this song with His disciples just before His arrest in Gethsemane.

Because this psalm is constructed so well and so precisely we can safely assume it should have a honor and reverence among both Jews and Christians.

Commentary

V. 1, “Praise the Lord!” I will thank the Lord with all my heart as I meet with his godly people.”

Why is praising God so important? Why should we thank Him? I suppose the answer can be found in His worthiness. Our relationship is with a Someone who is omnipotent, omnipresent, and omniscient. In other words, He is all powerful, present everywhere, and all knowing.

Verse 1 also carries the idea of an existing fellowship of the “godly.” When we meet with each other to worship and praise, we activate and fortify each other. The Holy Spirit gives His gifts, and we will find a way to encourage each one.

V. 2, “How amazing are the deeds of the Lord!”
    All who delight in him should ponder them.”

We are cordially invited to wrap our heads and hearts around “the deeds of the Lord.” These are actions that God has done. These are things creative and redemptive. Our past, present and future are full of them. These deeds can be understood by those who delight in God, and ponder what He is doing.

Pondering is not ‘a piece of cake.’ You have to be motivated to ponder, and that takes a certain discipline. This Psalm has praise embedded all through it– so perhaps that is where we must begin.

V. 3, “Everything he does reveals his glory and majesty. His righteousness never fails.”

When we are exhorted by our elders to seek the Lord, that is a good thing. But how do we start? Remember, this Psalm is a teaching psalm. If we only listen to it, very closely, we will understand what we are to do.

The writer explains that we seek God by looking at what God does. (His actions speak louder than words.) He is creative– stars and galaxies, hummingbirds and salmon, snowflakes and monsoons. He created people and culture– Africans and Asians, Eskimos and Puerto Ricans. Indeed the whole earth is filled with the glory of the Lord.

To love Him is to honor His acts. To ponder all that He has done, or is doing, to save us from our sins and free us from our bondage. What He did to free the Hebrew slaves from Egypt is the story of us all. We should be people of joy, set apart to the Glory of God.

ybic, Bryan

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.

‘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

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The Walls: Psalm 51:17-19, Conclusion

17 “The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit;
    a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.

18 Do good to Zion in your good pleasure;
    build up the walls of Jerusalem;
19 then will you delight in right sacrifices,
    in burnt offerings and whole burnt offerings;
    then bulls will be offered on your altar.”

Psalm 51:17-19, ESV

David is fully committed to Jerusalem. In spite of all the miserable complications his sin has pounded him with, the man is focused on the covenant people of God. David loves Israel, and he is quite passionate about Jerusalem.

In the Church age, we can’t point directly to the physical country and city like he did. However, the new covenant that comes through Jesus has added us to a “spiritual nation” of the faithful. We now have a valid connection with Israel and the capital city of Jerusalem. Abraham and Moses, and each “partriarch” now speak resoundly at us.

This can be a challenge for us. We seem so disjointed and scattered about. Yet, I have to believe that the opposite is true. Yes, we are a people of many different practices and ideas. The Church worldwide is culturally diverse, but has a central love for the Lord Jesus. For every believer, with a valid faith, each look to Jesus as the center of our faith.

Commentary

V. 17, “The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit;
    a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.”

It’s a bit of holy faith that can speak at the sacrificial efforts of the Jews with such awareness. King David has become quite aware that to offer a bull for sacrifice isn’t really enough. Rather, the heart of the sacrificer determines everything. Sin can never be overlooked, and somehow covered with ritual.

There must be a brokenness, and something called “contriteness.” This really is something that is formed within, we can’t fake it, we would be fools if we tried. It seems like God often focuses on the inside, before He looks at the outside.

When God sees your brokenness, your grief over the sin running rampant in your life, He responds to you. He only desires that you come to Him, really and properly.

V. 18, “Do good to Zion in your good pleasure;
    build up the walls of Jerusalem;”

David seems to be always thinking in corporate terms, even when his personal life has been turned-upside-down. I suppose he is thinking like a king, and pursues His people’s welfare. But this is also an astonishing certainty. “Please, God forgive me, but bless your people in wonderful ways.”

The “walls of Jerusalem” are key and sure. They exist to protect, define, and secure the grace of God in a secure place. Walls are also built to keep “undesirables” out. Being a city that counts on its walls to protect it means a lot of effort for many groups of people to build.

V. 19, “then will you delight in right sacrifices,
    in burnt offerings and whole burnt offerings;
    then bulls will be offered on your altar.”

Providing a certain strength to the peripheral  doesn’t mean at all, an acceptance of built-in sin. And this psalm puts the focus on God’s certain desires. “Delight” is a great word, which carries so much.

Sacrifices can be good. They put into the physical what also belongs in the spiritual. The sacrifice describes what the spiritual declares. Ideally, what bull I sacrifice should communicate my heart to God.

So much is embedded in these verses. Much can be seen, and much must be excavated. I just know you will do what is right.

*

ybic, Bryan

Psalm 133: Catching Lightning in a Bottle

pb-1309119-lightning2.photoblog900

www.earthporm.com

1 How good and pleasant it is when brothers dwell together in unity!

2 It is like precious oil poured on the head, running down on the beard,

running down on Aaron’s beard, down upon the collar of his robes.

3 It is as if the dew of Hermon were falling on Mount Zion.

For there the Lord bestows his blessing, even life forever more.

One wonders how often this chapter has been quoted and used in sermons and homilies since it was first written by David. My guess is hundreds of millions which makes it a bit daunting to try to post on it and say something fresh that doesn’t sound trite.

I like the King James Version for verse one: “Behold how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity!” One gets the sense that this is a rare and wonderful situation as if lightning has been caught in a bottle. It certainly had been for King David who had seen all manner of disunity: persecution from Saul before he was king, palace intrigue, treachery and betrayal from evil men, and worst of all, violent opposition and betrayal from his own son, Absalom. Unity was so wonderful to him that he compared it to the anointing oil on Aaron’s beard and the dew that falls of Mount Hermon. Both are symbols of blessing and the fullness of the Holy Spirit.

It certainly must be a wonderful sight to God. One of the things that brings the most amount of grief to parents is when their children don’t get along. Conversely, one of the things that brings them the most joy is when all their kids have a harmonious relationship. God the Father has the same heart. Proverbs 6:19b lists as one of the seven things God hates: “…a man who stirs up dissension among brothers.” Once again, David and God share the same heart.

One reason why the unity of the brethren is such a rare and beautiful thing is because of the weakness and fragility of the human condition. The Book of James asks the question “What causes fights and quarrels among you?” The writer answers that it is corrupt desires that rage within us. We want what we can’t have and then ask God for things with impure motives.

Think about how this plays out in a local church and the seeds of discord it sows. A church leader can be there for all the wrong reasons. He wants to build his own little kingdom rather than building the kingdom of God. The people are there for him instead of him being there for the people. Disunity will be the putrid outcome.

Another common scenario: three or four families have held power in a particular church for years. A new pastor or priest is installed and, being led of the Holy Spirit, wants to take the congregation in a new direction. These families now feel like their power is threatened and their misguided motives will taint everything they do. Again, next stop: Discord City.

Compare this with the model for unity the apostle Paul sets out in Philippians 2: 1–11. Here unity is cultivated and maintained by each person doing “nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves.” Humility is the fertile soil unity grows in. There are no shortcuts here; all pride and vanity must be crucified on the cross. The resurrection life that emerges out of this will be fragrant like the precious oil poured on Aaron’s beard. It will be refreshing, like the dew of Hermon.

Unity of the brethren is like catching lightning in a bottle. Without God it is impossible; Lord help our unbelief!

flourish-small

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

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

Psalm 145:17-18– A Very Certain Kindness

His kindness covers me

17″ The Lord is righteous in everything he does;
    he is filled with kindness.
18 The Lord is close to all who call on him,
    yes, to all who call on him in truth.”

Psalm 145:17-18, NLT

If you are going to have a God, I hope you choose the God of the Bible. He is full of kindness, and always is doing the right thing, He is consistent, dependable, steady and true.

Consistency is perhaps the most under-rated traits of His personality. We see so little of it in the world of men. He is unchanging and unfailing. He never gets up on the wrong side of the bed, and Mondays are just another day in the world of men.

Commentary

V. 17, “The Lord is righteous in everything he does;
    he is filled with kindness.”

We have never met anyone who is like this. Imagine having never sinned, or, never will sin. I’ve come to see that David is slicing through God’s character in these verses, and giving us just a small piece at a time. It’s really all we can handle.

David insists that the Lord God is “filled with kindness.” In Romans 2:4 Paul insists we get a grip on it,

“Don’t you see how wonderfully kind, tolerant, and patient God is with you? Does this mean nothing to you? Can’t you see that his kindness is intended to turn you from your sin?”

Kindness is far more than being nice and friendly. In the UK they have a “Kindness Day” every November 13th. I’ll occasionally see a bumper-sticker exhorting me to “Practice random kindness and senseless acts of beauty.”

Kindness has a central idea of being for the undeserving. Within Judaism the word is “mitzvah” of good things and blessings done to others. Judaism also teaches that God made the whole earth based on kindness.

V. 18, “The Lord is close to all who call on him,
    yes, to all who call on him in truth.”

I like cheddar cheese, and summer sausage. I  recently discovered that both taste better sliced thin. And I guess that’s what I’m doing here taking just a verse at a time. I also think that is what the psalmist is doing. Little slices of the heart of God.

In another place it says, “the nearness of God is my good.” Proximity to God brings Him closer to you. He draws us, and if we decide to obey, He then comes Himself to our lives.

“Calling on Him in truth,” means no duplicity— not a shred of manipulation. I always think of Nathanael being called to walk with Jesus in John 1:47-49.

 “Jesus saw Nathanael coming to Him, and *said of him, “Behold, an Israelite indeed, in whom there is no deceit!” 48 Nathanael *said to Him, “How do You know me?” Jesus answered and said to him, “Before Philip called you, when you were under the fig tree, I saw you.”

*

ybic, Bryan

Psalm 19: Stars and Scripture

night-sky-default-moon

1 The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands.

2 Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they display knowledge.

3 There is no speech or language where their voice is not heard.

4 Their voice goes out into all the earth, their words to the end of the world.

In the heavens he has pitched a tent for the sun,

5 which is like a bridegroom coming forth from his pavilion, like a champion rejoicing to run the course.

6 It rises at one end of the heavens and makes it circuit to another; nothing is hidden from its heat.

7 The law of the Lord is perfect, reviving the soul.

The statutes of the Lord are trustworthy, making wise the simple.

8 The precepts of the Lord are right , giving joy to the heart.

The commands of the Lord are radiant, giving light to the eyes.

9 The fear of the Lord is pure, enduring forever.

The ordinances of the Lord of the Lord are sure and altogether righteous.

10 They are much more precious than gold, than much pure gold;

they are sweeter than honey, than honey from the comb.

11 By them is your servant warned; in keeping them is great reward.

12 Who can discern his errors? Forgive my hidden faults.

13 Keep your servant also from willful sins; may they not rule over me.

Then I will be blameless, innocent of great transgression.

14 May the words of my heart and the meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, O Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer.

Once again, this is a psalm that someone could write a book on and its treasure trove of riches can be mined over and over in future posts. The first thing to be noticed about this passage is what abundant riches of revelation God has given us through (1) the starry host above us (vv. 1-6) and (2) the written word of God (vv. 7–11).

As someone who lives in a rural area in northeast Washington without the “light pollution” of the cities and suburbs, I  wholeheartedly agree with David that the heavens above us declare the glory of God. There are nights out here on the back deck of my cabin that truly feel like heaven is intersecting with earth and you half expect to see a host of angels descend out of heaven like they did for the shepherds at the birth of Jesus or maybe ascending and descending on Jacob’s Ladder.

I think ecological degradation makes Satan extremely happy because it robs the human species of this uplifting experience. Environmental issues are a political football that have been tossed around for decades but all Christians should agree that we are called to be be responsible stewards of the earth we have inherited. It redounds to our benefit: we see the face of God in the beauty of his creation.

In observing the grandeur and majesty in the Milky Way and the Orion Nebula, we get a glimpse of the grandeur and majesty of God. In seeing the intelligent design of how the heavens have been arranged, we brush up against the greatness of the Intelligent Designer. It’s just a shadow of a greater reality, but, even as a shadow, David is right in saying that they abundantly declare the incomprehensibly sublime nature of God. Centuries later in the New Testament, the apostle Paul would proclaim this in Romans 1:20:

“For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities–his eternal power and divine nature–have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse.”

Apparently atheists won’t have a leg to stand on when they appear before God in the hereafter. There’s plenty of evidence in the cosmos and on earth to believe in God.

The wondrous riches of God have also come to us through Scripture, his written word, that David gives different names– law, statutes, precepts, commands, and ordinances–that describe different dimensions of the word. The psalmist also revealed what salutary effects the word has on us: it revives our soul, makes us wise, gives joy to our hearts and light to our eyes, and admonishes the man and woman of God to stay on the straight and narrow.

Stars give us a general revelation of who God is; Scripture is more specific and also answers the question, “How then should we live?” Scripture also gives us the most important revelation: the life and teachings, death, burial, and resurrection of the One who created the starry host: Jesus Christ.

Every Christian who has had even just a few years logged in the kingdom of God can attest to how the Holy Spirit illuminating the written word has changed their lives. Just the other day I was under a lot of stress and was greatly helped by Psalm 20. A good time of Bible study can put a spring in your step and keep you from making mistakes you’ll regret later. We’ve all heard sermons that have changed our lives or have been transformed by a biblically–based book or a series of teaching  tapes or CDs rooted in the Holy Writ. Scripture truly is more precious than much pure gold (v.10) and is never more precious than when it is foreshadowing (Old Testament) or revealing Jesus Christ (New Testament).

What’s obvious to me in vv.12–14 is that David didn’t merely encounter truth about God through the starry host and Scripture, he encountered God himself. These two avenues of revelation were bridges to greater intimacy with God for David. This is evidenced by his preoccupation in these verses with hidden faults, willful sins, and wanting to be blameless before God in thought, word, and deed.

I’m convinced David beheld the holy face of God in the starry host and in Scripture, saw his own sin, and emerged wanting to please God in every area of his life. These twin sources of revelation were like a mirror that showed him his blemishes and hidden faults. May the same thing happen to us when we gaze into the riches of both the Book of Nature and the Book of Scripture.

 

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

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

Letters from Fawn Creek

ybic, Jonathan

http://www.openheavensblog.com/

Psalm 108:5-6: Wearing the Holy Spirits Vision

Benjamin Franklin’s Original Bifocals

Here are two versions of the same reference from Psalms 108. The first is from the English Standard Version (or ESV.) The second from the Contemporary English Version (or CEV.)

5 “Be exalted, O God, above the heavens!
    Let your glory be over all the earth!
That your beloved ones may be delivered,
    give salvation by your right hand and answer me!”

Psalm 108:5-6, ESV

5″Our God, may you be honored above the heavens;
    may your glory be seen everywhere on earth.
Answer my prayers and use your powerful arm
    to give us victory. Then the people you love
   will be safe.”

Psalm 108:5-6, CEV

I’m wearing bifocals now. And false teeth are probably in my future fairly soon. (I’m debating the pros and cons of “denture glue.”) If I had known I was going to live this long, I would have taken better care of myself.

Bifocals though are great, just to be able to see close up, and then far away. Two lenses give me just what I need. I don’t see double, or two different objects. But it is seamless and unified.

We have put on bifocals for Psalmslife today. Now we need to use them.

Commentary

V. 5, Be exalted, O God, above the heavens!
    Let your glory be over all the earth!”

This is David’s heart. He asks God to exalt Himself. He seems to have a strong concern for God’s reputation. If God exalts Himself, than (and only then) are we are blessed.

Our God, may you be honored above the heavens;
    may your glory be seen everywhere on earth.” 

To be concerned about God’s honor only strengthens the Church. We not only want Him to look good, but to do good. He is a good God, and we want everyone to know it. Wherever people go on this planet, they will be able to see the Glory of God. After all, it’s all about Him, isn’t it?

“For the earth will be filled
    with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord
    as the waters cover the sea.”

Habakkuk 2:14, ESV

V. 6,That your beloved ones may be delivered,give salvation by your right hand and answer me!” 

The ‘beloved ones’ speak of the Church– the saints whom God strongly loves. In David’s heart, the glory is the cradle of deliverance. When God is loved supremely, we commence a walk of freedom.

“Answer my prayers and use your powerful arm
    to give us victory. Then the people you love
   will be safe.” (CEV)

A prayer life is not about me; it effects every believer. The power of my prayer is that it touches God, who touches everyone. “Then the people you love will be safe.”

One should learn soon on how to accept “prayer assignments” from the Lord. He is recruiting an army that will step into vital places of the Spirit. People– neighbors, towns, states and even entire nations can be touched by God from your prayer closet. Just as a cobbler fixes shoes, and the carpenter builds a chair, so it is the work of every Christian to pray.

*

ybic, Bryan

The Things of the Earth Will Grow Strangely Dim– Psalm 73: 25, 26

earth

24 “You guide me with counsel, and afterward you will take me into glory.

25 Whom have I in heaven but you? And earth has nothing I desire besides you.

26 My flesh and my heart may fail but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.”

For many people, in the days of our youth, life has a certain allure. We have places to go, people to see, and things to do. Life is pregnant with the promise of seemingly limitless possibilities. However, with each new experience, we find that the persons, places, and things did not satisfy us like we thought they would.

As we’re experiencing this dissatisfaction, we may, at the same time, get bombarded by messages from the world telling us that something is wrong with us because the feelings we had in our youth are gone. Messages like “Carpe diem!” (Seize the day!), live each day like it is your last, and live life to the fullest are all well and good, but I suspect that many souls are using them for inspiration to try to capture the feelings that they had in their youth.

The world and its messages are passing away. The psalmist, Asaph, realized this and was looking to God for counsel (v.24). He knew that nothing on this earth could truly satisfy and made God his portion and sustenance (v.25, 26).

Augustine had it right when he said that “Our hearts are restless until they rest in you.” As the old saying goes, we have a God–shaped vacuum that only God can fill. Finite, created things–persons, places, things– leave us empty; only the infinite, Uncreated God can satisfy. As we gaze into his face, this truth is highlighted and we remember the old hymn:

Turn your eyes upon Jesus/

Look full in his wonderful face/

And the things of earth will grow strangely dim/

In the light of his glory and grace.

If the things of the world are growing strangely dim, we’re on the right track. If the world doesn’t feel like our home, we’re on the right track. That feeling is like the instinct within the salmon that drives it back to it’s native stream. Our native stream is heaven and we shouldn’t let the messages of the world sidetrack us from our journey.

 

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

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

Letters from Fawn Creek

 

ybic, Jonathan

http://www.openheavensblog.com/

Psalm 14:1: The Heart of a Fool

atheist-thought

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Blessings, Jonathan

*

Psalm 40: 1-3: Our Independence Day

freedom-broken-chains

1 I waited patiently for the Lord;
he turned to me and heard my cry.
2 He lifted me out of the slimy pit,
out of the mud and mire;
he set my feet on a rock
and gave me a firm place to stand.
3 He put a new song in my mouth,
a hymn of praise to our God.
Many will see and fear
and put their trust in the Lord.

For Americans, tomorrow is Independence Day. On this holiday we celebrate our independence from Britain and the tyrannical rule of King George. We honor the men and women who made sacrifices to preserve our liberty (e.g., people who serve in the military) and give thanks for the freedoms we enjoy that others in authoritarian and totalitarian regimes do not. For example, we should all be grateful that we can speak our mind without getting put in the Gulag or a concentration camp.

In the above text, David is also celebrating his independence day. No one knows for sure what he was delivered from–sin, sickness, sorrow, military trouble–but he is praising God for the victory. Additional to celebrating the  holiday tomorrow, it would behoove us all to give thanks and praise to God for all the independence days (plural) we’ve been so fortunate to enjoy. For each and everyone of us have found ourselves confined to slimy pits, mud, and mire.

According to Scripture we were slaves to sin and Satan, but we have been bought with the blood of Christ.  We are now translated from the kingdom of darkness to the kingdom of light. Our personal spiritual Declaration of Independence comes in many ways:

Sometimes it is financial and we experience his provision; other times it is an addiction and we are delivered to sobriety. Sometimes we are lonely and he brings us friends or a spouse; other times we mourn and he brings us comfort. Sometimes we are sick and he brings us his healing; other times we have been falsely accused and he works to exonerate us. Sometimes we are estranged from a loved one or friend and he brings us reconciliation; other times we have a “thorn in the flesh” and he removes it.

Whatever the case, be sure to take a moment this 4th of July and acknowledge all of his wondrous works and all the freedoms you enjoy because his mercies endure forever. When he said, “It is finished,” your own Independence Day began.

)

ybic, Jonathan

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Come visit me at http://www.openheavensblog.com/. I really think you will be blessed.

Psalm 40:5, The Limits of Grace?

goldcoins

“O Lord my God, you have performed many wonders for us.
    Your plans for us are too numerous to list.
    You have no equal.
If I tried to recite all your wonderful deeds,
    I would never come to the end of them.

Psalm 40:5, NLT

Sometimes when you are driving you see a pick-up coming toward you in the other lane. On it you see a banner and a flashing light. The sign on it reads “Oversize Load.”  This is the pilot truck that’s driving ahead to warn everyone of something very big coming. This 5th verse of Psalm 40 is a huge load to us believers. It is completely packed, and it stretches the seams. It is so full, that it seems as if it could explode.

This Psalm is David’s doing, he wrote it inspired by the Holy Spirit, for us. The entire Psalm is beautiful, and worth far more than silver or gold. But verse 5  sticks out to me. David’s entire tone is one of amazement, or incredulity. And God has already initiated it for us. We read of “wonders” and “plans” and “deeds” set in motion. This is what God does for His own. He is always active, setting good things in motion for everyone who loves Him (and the many who don’t yet.)

Then there is the inability of David to make an inventory of all this grace. Imagine an immense warehouse filled from top to bottom with shiny gold coins and rubies, diamonds and pearls. And then imagine something way more than that. Now you can see the dilemma of David. It is just too much. The warehouse of God’s grace cannot be fathomed by us, or even someone else.

I break out in a rash when come in contact with any leader or any person who insists on restricting the flow of grace. They design a committee to dole out mercy, piece by piece; when God wants to lavish it on us. Somehow we develop a stunted and pitiful faith when this happens– and it does happen. I think some leaders become bureaucrats who want a subtle control. They often don’t understand Grace– what it is, and all it does. Perhaps they are the new “money changers” in the Temple. But that is another story.

&

ybic, Bryan

kyrie elesion.

Light My Eyes, Psalm 13:3

lightmyeyes

“Look on me and answer, O LORD my God.
Give light to my eyes, or I will sleep in death.” 
 

Psalm 13:3, NIV

God is the sole developer of light.  He creates it and then assigns it to whom ever He chooses.  He is the proprietor and the sole creator of its properties.  Without Him actively bestowing light on us we would have no access to its power or its benefits .  He holds the exclusive patent.

As Adam’s progeny we have experienced a light moratorium.  We have been cut off from its many benefits.  Illumination, understanding and wisdom are just some of the essences of light.  When we have it, we are astounded that we lived without it, and we are amazed at the ignorance of our past days.

“The unfolding of your words gives light;
it gives understanding to the simple.”

Psalm 119:30, NIV

Darkened by our sin, we struggle throughout our blinded lives, unable to understand or grasp what is our real purpose.  Meaning completely eludes us.  However, we are directed by the Psalmist to open our hearts to the gracious gift of light.  It illuminates us, giving us a sense of what is real and how life unfolds.  That word “understanding” from our text is critical .  No matter how stupid and pathetic we have become, the Word of God penetrates our fog and gives us a sense of what is true, and what is real.

Let it unfold, let it open up in your understanding.  Like an umbrella on a foggy and rainy day, when it opens it will cover you.  Notice that the source of ‘lit-up’ truth emanates from the “words”.  Place yourself in His Word, let it pour over you and let it bring you to the the place of joyful acceptance.

The verse speaks of being “simple”.  That actually is a pretty descriptive of our condition, and reveals much of human history and “so-called” progress.  The word means “naive”.  History opened up shows people to be amazingly compliant and susceptible to dictators and men with power.  We seem to follow leaders with sinister and strange purposes and agendas. History shows it over and over.  We just can’t grasp what is true and what is real.

Jesus has come as the “Good Shepherd”. He stands at the door, and rings our doorbell. Those of us who are being led into His Grace and Truth are finding light.  He is revealing to us a definitive understanding of truth.  And we need truth desperately. Let Him lead you, today.

%“Glory in Christ and you can bask in His light forever.”   Woodrow Kroll

“If you have only a little ray of light, show out distinctly that you are for Him.”   G.V. Wigram

*

ybic, Bryan

Psalm 15: The True Israelite, # 1

image

Psalm 15 (NIV)

A Psalm of David

1 Lord, who may dwell in your sanctuary?

Who may live on your holy hill?

2 He whose walk is blameless

and does what is righteous,

and speaks the truth from his heart

3 and has no slander on his tongue,

who does his neighbor no wrong

and casts no slur on his fellow man,

4 who despises a vile man

but honors those that fear the Lord,

who keeps his oath even when it hurts,

5 who lends his money without usury

and does not accept a bribe against the innocent.

He who does these things will never be shaken.

Many biblical scholars regard Psalm 15 as a kind of “entrance liturgy” where those Israelites seeking to enter the temple court are made acutely aware by a temple priest what kind of conduct is necessary to enter these sacred precincts. God is holy and requires those who want to enter his temple and dwell in His presence to also be holy (Lev. 11:44). Jeremiah 7:5–7 echoes this Psalm in that the Lord tells his people that He will only dwell in the temple with them if they “do not oppress the alien, the fatherless or the widow and do not shed innocent blood or follow other gods…”

The person described in Psalm 15, who qualifies to enter God’s holy presence, is first and foremost a person of sterling character and integrity. Verse 2 shows that what he says and what he does are one in the same. Verse 3 reveals that he has control of his tongue and verse 4a and b disclose that his assessment of other people’s character is accurate and commendable. His dealings with others are above reproach concerning oaths, lending money (no interest), and taking bribes (v.5). Please notice how this list of qualities is weighted heavily towards how one treats their neighbor: Our access to the presence and fellowship of God is inextricably linked with how we fulfill the Golden Rule.

Talk radio show host and virtuoso thinker Dennis Prager, who is deeply committed to Judaism, says there is a strong tradition in his religion that our judgment and reward from God in the hereafter will be mostly based on how we treated other people.

In Dante Alighieri’s epic poem, The Divine Comedy, there is much focus on the Seven Deadly Sins–Pride, Envy, Anger, Sloth, Avarice, Gluttony, and Lust–as Dante himself, the protagonist, takes a journey through Hell, Purgatory, and Heaven. What’s relevant for our study is that in the poem, sins like Pride, Envy and Anger are regarded as worse than sins like Sloth because they take delight in harming others.

Think of Christ Himself dividing up the sheep and goats at the end of the age in Matthew 25:31–46. One group, the sheep, are granted eternal access to the presence of God while a second group, the goats, is eternally banished from the presence of God. The criteria that Christ uses for making this judgment is how each group treated others, specifically whether they extended works of mercy to the hungry, thirsty, unclothed, alien, prisoner, and the sick.

Think of a good parent’s heart and family dynamics. Few things grieve the heart of a parent more–or God the Father–than their kids fighting, doing harm to one another, or withholding love and care to a sibling because of indifference or malice. This observation leads to the question, “Why does the abuse or neglect of our brother grieve the heart of God so, even to the point, in certain cases, of denying a person fellowship with His wonderful presence? We’ll explore that question in part 2 of our study.

ybic, Jonathan

Father, Wedge Me In Somewhere

nesting-sparrow

Psalm 46

New Living Translation (NLT)

For the choir director: A song of the descendants of Korah, to be sung by soprano voices.[a]

1″ God is our refuge and strength,     

always ready to help in times of trouble.

So we will not fear when earthquakes come    

 and the mountains crumble into the sea.

Let the oceans roar and foam.    

 Let the mountains tremble as the waters surge!”  Interlude

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“Ever-present!” That is how another version words verse 1. I will not to have to hammer very long to get to the real point. It is as if these three verses were beautiful gems just waiting  on the ground. “Oh, look here! There is a diamond, and I saw a big ruby lying just over there!” The special promises of the Bible are just like that. I guess its just what holds our gaze.

The sons of Korah have compiled these verses for us to hold dear, close to our breasts. Korah was a family– a clan in the Jewish community. I’d like to believe that the composition of this Psalm knit them together in a profound way. (Their “family reunions” were not drunken brawls, where the police must be called in.) Rather they connected around the Word they had composed. Could it be that you are a son or daughter of Korah? I think that could be arranged. It would be a blessing.

These verses speak about the “secure security” we have in God. You’re the  98 pound weakling, with scoliosis– you wander the beach and very big bullies line up just to kick some sand in your face. And you really are sick of it. God has guaranteed our security. He now stands between us and them! And is always there, and ready to intervene.

The verses that follow all deal with calamities and natural disasters. In Mexico, I lived on the side of a volcano. I now live in Alaska with various earthquakes and tsunamis. I have been through hurricanes, tornados and floods. (I even went without coffee for three days.) But for God’s precious people, there will be triumph, even though there be at times considerable loss. We are not immune to bad things– we are just comforted and sustained in these terrible moments. We get comforted, when others can find none.

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ybic, Bryan