Out of Sight: Psalm 32:1-3

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“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,
    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.”

Psalm 32:1-3, NLT

This psalm has a personal contrast. King David has an understanding of the extremes, going from elated joy to deep sorrow. He experienced both first-hand. He describes the joy in plain terms.

“Oh, what joy for those
whose disobedience is forgiven,
whose sin is put out of sight!” (v. 1).

David never denies his sin and guilt. However, he is aware of the mercy God has for him; he is indeed guilty of the sin of a murderous adultery. He has irrevocably harmed several people and that sin will affect his entire life.

And yet, David comes out clean and true. His sins have been forgiven, and forgotten. (Pretty remarkable, isn’t it?)

“Yes, what joy for those
    whose record the Lord has cleared of guilt,
    whose lives are lived in complete honesty!” (v. 2).

Joy is the true response to confessed and forgiven sin.

The guilt may have been great, but there is no sin immense enough to thwart God’s mercy. And their is no transition time; sort of a purgatory where you must prove yourself worthy. Grace is grace; we don’t know why or how it comes, but it brings joy to our souls. That joy of forgiveness fuels our new walk of obedience. That joy is needed to power your new life in Him. joy-of-the-lord

 “When I refused to confess my sin,
    my body wasted away,
    and I groaned all day long.” (v.3).

I encourage you to reread David’s story of his sin in 2 Samuel 11-12. This is a sad and evil act by David; motivated by sexual lust, he betrays everyone close to him. Perhaps he felt like being a king gave him certain rights to bed with Bathsheba, and murders her husband. Verse 3 must be understood as the pressure he endured living with sin unconfessed and unrepented.

We have this beautiful psalm of joy reminding us, that “the joy of the Lord is my strength.”

 

aabryplain

 

 

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Psalm 149:1–4: Entering the Worship Service in Heaven

1 “Praise the Lord. Sing to the Lord a new song, his praise in the assembly of 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 tambourine and harp.

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

 

Every Christian at one time or another in his or her walk with God find themselves just going through the motions. Giving to charity is reduced to cutting a check, evangelism becomes a “have to” instead of a “want to,” and praise and worship look an awful lot like what Isaiah described as drawing close to God with our lips but our hearts are far from him. Usually when this happens one of the important ingredients that is missing is faith.

For example, in many psalms like Psalm 149:1–4, we are exhorted to praise and worship the Lord, but this exercise can become lackluster if we don’t believe or forget that, in doing so, we are entering into a worship service in heaven. We have both feet planted on the earth but also are, in both a mystical and real way, simultaneously worshipping God in heaven with all the angels and saints that have gone before us.

When the psalms talk about worshipping God in his temple, the writers are talking about the Temple of Jerusalem. In Revelation 4 and 5, the curtain is pulled back and John the apostle is shown what worship looks like in heaven. What’s striking is that what we see in Revelation 4 and 5 is similar to the figures and fixtures that we find in the Jerusalem Temple:

  • the Throne (ark, 2 Sam. 6:2);
  • the seven torches (menorah, Exodus 25: 31–39);
  • the winged creatures (cherubim, Ezek. 1:10);
  • the glassy sea (I Kings 7: 23–26);
  • the golden bowls (I Kings 7:50),
  • the Lamb (Ex. 12:21), etc. *

The Temple of Jerusalem was an earthly representation of the sanctuary of God in heaven. Therefore, when the Old Testament saints worshipped God in their Temple, they were glorifying God simultaneously in the heavens. How much more is this a reality for those of us who are under a new and better covenant!

Through faith this truth is written on our hearts and turns our mechanical worship into a dynamic reality. Our God is so merciful that if we lack this faith, we can come to him and say, “Help me with my unbelief.” He will give us a gift of faith, so that we can enjoy our dual citizenship, both here on earth and, more importantly, in heaven.

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*This post was informed by the Ignatius Catholic Study Bible of the New Testament in it’s notes on the Book of the Revelation on page 498.

 

If you liked this post by Jonathan, you may also want to check out his new book, Letters from Fawn Creek, at this website:

http://lettersfromfawncreek.tateauthor.com/2014/03/22/his-name-is-mercy/

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

For example, in Psalm 149:1–4, we are exhorted to praise and worship

 

Psalm 51:11-14, The Awful Pain of Sin

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

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

Psalm 51:11-14, NIV

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

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

Commentary

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Charles Wesley

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

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

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

*

ybic, Bryan

Psalm 126: Bringing in the Sheaves

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1 When the Lord brought back the captives to Zion, we were like men who dreamed.

2 Our mouths were filled with laughter, our tongues with songs of joy.

Then it was said among the nations, “The Lord has done great things for them.”

3 The Lord has done great things for us, and we are filled with joy.”

4 Restore our fortunes, O Lord, like streams in the Negev.

5 Those who sow in tears will reap with songs of joy.

6 He who goes out weeping, carrying seed to sow, will return with songs of joy, carrying sheaves with him.

Psalm 126:1-6

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Like Psalm 137 the historical background of this psalm is Israel returning from years of captivity in Babylon. For Christians today, captivity can mean many things that are not physical. It may mean bondage to a particular sin that really has become an addiction. It may mean the reality of a loved one who doesn’t believe and is a slave to the world, the flesh, and the devil. It may be a prolonged trial that we didn’t cause or maybe one that we did. Captivity has many faces.

In verses 2 and 3 the people of Israel are so blessed by their release that they feel like they are in a dream. Their fortunes have dramatically changed and other nations have taken notice and confess that they are experiencing divine favor. The blessing of the Lord’s deliverance has been exceedingly above what they could ask for or think. Sometimes because of the disappointments of life, we become pessimists and don’t have faith for such a blessing. Something good happens and we sit around waiting for the other shoe to drop. Often this can limit what God can do in setting the captives free because our unbelief negates the power of God. Jesus couldn’t heal or perform miracles in his hometown because of unbelief. Lord, help our unbelief.

We also need to remind ourselves that most captivities don’t last forever. Tradition indicates that a major saying in Solomon’s arsenal of wisdom was “This too shall pass.” He knew that whether we are in a time of blessing or trial that it wouldn’t last forever. The addiction you have now will probably become a vanquished foe months or years from now. The trial you have now will probably become yesterday’s news next month. This too shall pass.

In verse 4, the psalmist asks God to restore their fortunes again like streams in the Negev. The Negev is actually a dry river bed. Why is the writer asking for this; hadn’t they already experienced a wonderful deliverance? He’s asking this because God’s work in their life is far from over. The recovering alcoholic who is now clean and sober knows there is much more work to do if he is to remain sober and become all that God wants him to be. The couple who almost divorced but is now experiencing a marriage renewal knows that God still has much to do in their lives besides keeping them out of the divorce courts. Water in the Negev is a miraculous happening and we will need his supernatural grace until the day we die.

Verses 5 and 6 talk about sowing in sorrow and reaping in joy, planting with tears but later harvesting with great happiness. Another way of summing up this passage is to say, “No birth without travail.” Monica cried many tears during her prayers for her pagan son Augustine who would go on to become one of the greatest church fathers. I know a mother who cried many tearful prayers several years ago for a son bent on destruction. He is now a solid, mature Christian and devoted family man. Often there is much mourning over our own sins before we are delivered of them which Paul calls “a godly sorrow that leads to repentance.” This repentance is a harvest of righteousness born of sowing seeds with tears.

ybic,

Jonathan

Psalm 19: Stars and Scripture

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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/

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

Broken_Hearted_by_HopelessSoul

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

Psalm 63:2–5

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Letters from Fawn Creek

ybic, Jonathan

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

The Real Complexity of Happiness: Psalm 1:1-3 and 16:11

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1 Blessed (happy, fortunate, prosperous, and enviable) is the man who walks and lives not in the counsel of the ungodly [following their advice, their plans and purposes], nor stands [submissive and inactive] in the path where sinners walk, nor sits down [to relax and rest] where the scornful [and the mockers] gather.

2 But his delight and desire are in the law of the Lord, and on His law (the precepts, the instructions, the teachings of God) he habitually meditates (ponders and studies) by day and by night.

3 And he shall be like a tree firmly planted [and tended] by the streams of water, ready to bring forth its fruit in its season; its leaf also shall not fade or wither; and everything he does shall prosper [and come to maturity].

 

Psalm 1:1-3, Amplified Bible

11 “You will make known to me the path of life;
In Your presence is fullness of joy;
In Your right hand there are pleasures forever.”

Psalm 16:11

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In the very first verse of this passage, a more accurate translation than “Blessed” is “Happy.” Happy is the man or woman who does these things. The same is true in the Beatitudes in Matthew 5:1–12. It is more accurate to say “Happy are the poor in spirit for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” In meditating on the above passages and others, I was reminded what a complex issue happiness is and thought a few observations may bring some clarity:

(1) Because I know and have known Christians with mental illness and neurobiological imbalances, I find it very insensitive to tell these believers, “Hey, simply do these three things and you will be happy.” Instead we need to honor the cross they carry and encourage them to be “wounded healers” with the people God brings into their lives. They are, in some ways, the mourners who will be comforted in the life to come and don’t need “Job’s Comforters” to make matters worse.

(2) We need to be on our guard that we don’t get into a “Come to Jesus and he will make you happy” philosophy. Our relationship with Jesus is not a means to some end; it is an end–in–itself. We’re called to be like Mary who sat at his feet, not the members of the crowd who were there for the loaves and fishes or the next entertaining miracle.

(3) If we do buy into (2), we may get offended at God because happiness is not guaranteed in this life, only in the next life. Along with Christians who have neurobiological imbalances, what about Christians who are being persecuted and even tortured in other countries? Haitian Christians or believers in sub–Saharan Africa who haven’t had a thing to eat for three days? Christians who are in constant pain because of an injury or illness?

happiness-key-small(4) However, for people that do not have these special circumstances, there is, in general, an inheritance of happiness that awaits the believer. There is joy in his presence and eternal pleasures at his right hand (Psalm 16:11). The kingdom of God is not about eating and drinking, but is an inheritance of righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit (Romans 14:17). Study after study (see Gross National Happiness by Arthur Brooks) offers compelling evidence that spiritually engaged (I mean prayer, Bible reading, church attendance) Christians have much higher levels of happiness than their secular counterparts.

(5) What was said in (4), can have profound consequences for every day decisions in the ‘shoe–leather’ of life. For example, we may be tempted to pass on a morsel of gossip to a friend about someone who we find arrogant and annoying. Our primary motivation for not doing this would be that such an action dishonors God, whose name we represent, and simple trafficking in hearsay can damage someone else’s name and even can break one of the Ten Commandments by bearing false witness.

A secondary motivation is that such an action will diminish our own happiness because of the conviction and guilt we will experience in the aftermath. It is not selfish to consider your own happiness in making these daily decisions no more than was it selfish for Thomas Jefferson to write about “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” in the Declaration of Independence. 

(6) One reason that it is not selfish is because being a consistently happy person is a concrete way to serve others–family, friends, acquaintances, co–workers, etc.. People, in general, like to be around upbeat, grateful people with positive attitudes especially in a culture more and more characterized by ingratitude and entitlement. May the joy we experience in God’s presence be contagious and passed on to others!

 

If you like this post by Jonathan, you may also like his new book, Letters from Fawn Creek, that can be purchased at this link:

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

Letters from Fawn Creek

8

ybic, Jonathan

Even When I Don’t Feel Grateful: Psalm 100:1–2

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1 “Shout joyfully to the Lord, all you lands;

2 Worship the Lord with cries of gladness; come before him with joyful song.”

I must admit sometimes, that when I encounter psalms of thanksgiving or exhortations in Scripture to be thankful, I just balk at the idea,

I simply don’t feel thankful. Then I remember that the Christian faith isn’t based on my feelings, but it is an act of my will which is empowered by the Holy Spirit. So many happy Christian couples will testify that love is a choice. Once the heightened feelings of the newlywed days are over, you will have many days when you will have to put aside your feelings. You will choose to love your spouse, even without those feelings. Please, you need to see this as well. Thanksgiving is also a choice, and it is a spiritual discipline that must be practiced with regularity.

When I finally shake off my spiritual stupor, I find there are at least three different kinds of gifts for which I am grateful. The first are what I call pleasant gifts. These are things like God’s provision, protection, and deliverance. A delicious meal, an entertaining DVD, a walk in the woods, an enriching friendship, making love, the pleasure of learning something new, and satisfying work, are all pleasant gifts that cause us to give thanks.

Second, there are the painful gifts that many of us, and certainly myself, often struggle to recognize as gifts. These are all the experiences that involve adversity and pain whether it be physical, emotional, psychological, and/or spiritual. They are gifts because of the effects they have in our lives. As C.S. Lewis said, “pain is sometimes God’s megaphone” that he uses to get our attention, and keep us on the straight and narrow.

Fiery trials purify our character just as gold is refined in the fire. Painful gifts create fertile soil for intimacy with God, as we are driven to his side for comfort and guidance. Sometimes adversity will leave emotional and spiritual wounds. From these wounds we should heal others as wounded healers.

Third, there is the gift of eternal life. This is our most precious gift. We may feel like a magnet for trials, and seem to be pelted with adversity from every direction,  but knowing this, that our lives are short–lived and we evaporate like the fog in the noonday sun. If we know Christ, we have our sins forgiven and eternal life. But if we have Christ, we have everything forever!

There is no greater gift than this, and it should be a source of great rejoicing. It is the great hope of heaven. “We are blessed with every blessing in the heavenly realms,” (Ephesians 1:3). “Eye hasn’t seen, nor has ear heard, nor has entered into the mind of man what God has prepared for them that love him”, (I Corinthians 2:9). This is  the hope that sustains us during our struggles here on earth. They are passing ‘like a shadow.’ This is the main reason I suppose, that despite our tribulations, we can enter “his gates with thanksgiving in our hearts, and his courts with praise.”

 

If you like this post by Jonathan, you may also like his 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

The Stickiness of Shame, Psalm 34:5

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

Psalm 34:5, NLT

I keep circling this Psalm like a vulture over carrion. I look hard, step back and then refocus on it again. It’s mighty tasty stuff, and I have no real desire to walk from this fine cuisine, I have selected verses 5 for our focus. It’s just an appetizer though.

V. 5a, “Those who look to him for help will be radiant with joy.” This is cause and effect, as we focus on God something remarkable happens, No doubt about it, there will come a time when your circumstances turn into very hungry boa constrictors, You will find that escape is not an option– and the boa has no real intention of letting you go free. What will you do then?

Well David faced this same exact kind of trial. From the heart of this a seeking heart needs to look at God. This is easy to say but hard to do, especially in the heat of things. There is the idea of becoming radiant.  This is a characteristic born out of a hard struggle. It isn’t “fairy dust” that is sprinkled on you. I believe it is far more than that. Joy seems to be the linch pin here. I have found that you can go along way on joy. It would make the “energizer bunny” envious.

V. 5b, “No shadow of shame will darken their faces.” (This is the second part of verse 5.) This is how I understand this. I think of a very large rock, like at Stonehenge or Easter Island. Let’s call that rock “shame.” Shame comes on a sunny day and drops its shadow over everything it can. But shame is much more than a shadow. It affects us emotionally, and spiritually and some see it on a physical level as well. It is immensely destructive,  a little bit goes along ways.

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Gosh, I hope this  blesses you– and anyone you share it with, I am battling in the “hot place” right now, of clinical depression and Hepatitis. I simply have little energy, and all I really want to do is sleep. I originally intended to handle v.v., 6-7, but that seemed to be far too optimistic as I “stepped” into verse 5. I’m sorry, I wanted to do more for you my readers. I pray for you all often.

ybic, Bryan

kyrie elesion.

When You Must Act Insane, Psalm 34

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Psalm 34

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

Here’s the historical setting from 1 Samuel 21.

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

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

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

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

1 Samuel 21:10-15

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

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

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

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

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

$

ybic, Bryan

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.

Lord! You Are All Mine– Psalm 119:57-58

glorious-light

57 “Lord, you are mine!
    I promise to obey your words!
58 With all my heart I want your blessings.
    Be merciful as you promised.”

 Psalm 119:57-58, NLT

What certainty, and what confidence in these two verses. Within these verses we encounter a faith that excels over all that could disturb it. Verse 57 implies a pronounced boldness,  “Lord, you are mine! I promise to obey your words!” Obedience for the Christian, can only settle us. We step into it, very much sure and confident of His love for our souls. “You are mine.” This can only be a distinct work of the Holy Spirit within our hearts.

We declare our love by our obedience. They are chained together like inmates on a Georgia prison farm. Love, and obedience should move as one.

There are two who are making promises. The psalmist promises to obey God’s words in v.57. And God in an active act will respond–a promise of a living mercy. Now all vows, or promises are part of any relationship of significance we have.  We call this “devotion,” God devotes Himself first, and we in turn dedicate our lives in obedience.

The idea of ‘blessings’ must be worked into all of this wonder– “With all my heart I want your blessings.” Now if  you feel you can skip this special touch, you may do so, but at your own personal loss. The Lord is quite patient, but both sin and Satan are quite aggressive. And the world will fight you ‘tooth-and-nail.” There is no such thing as uncontested territories. It’s not mere hyperbole when we say this. It is our opportunity to leave unreality for good–forever.

flourish-small,

“Lord, whatever you want, wherever you want it, and whenever you want it, that’s what I want.”   Richard Baxter

“Unless he obeys, a man cannot believe. ”  Dietrich Bonhoeffer

*

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

Living With an If, Psalm 73

if

 

21 Then I realized that my heart was bitter,
    and I was all torn up inside.
22 I was so foolish and ignorant—
    I must have seemed like a senseless animal to you.
23 Yet I still belong to you;
    you hold my right hand.
24 You guide me with your counsel,
    leading me to a glorious destiny.
25 Whom have I in heaven but you?
    I desire you more than anything on earth.
26 My health may fail, and my spirit may grow weak,
    but God remains the strength of my heart;
    he is mine forever.

 

Psalm 73:21-26, NLT

 

Our hearts are unstable things. Our spiritual life is often in a turmoil. For many, the yo-yo is not much more than a toy to amuse a child. At any given time, it seems we can be in any given place. Only God truly knows how confused and tumultuous we get. Some intrepid photographer once put a bull in a china shop just to see what would happen. The pics are really funny, as the bull put on a raging show, blasting glass everywhere. The more he broke, the more agitated he became. Sometimes– I think about this.

 

Psalm 73 is like a silver trumpet. It sounds out many things. And when we get toward the end of the psalm we run smack dab into vv. 21-26. The writer has a big dose of self-awareness. Sometimes we can travel a long way with an imperfect faith, without ever realizing what the truth really is. Oh, dear one– these can be very good times. The psalmist realizes his ugly issues. He realizes that he has gotten bitter, and he has become very foolish.

 

For many of us with a strong set of religious principles, we deem this inconsistency as a complete and total failure. We see our stupid behavior and decide that God will never, ever accept that kind of person (whether its you, or someone else.) But, my Bible reads so much different! I’m told that,

 

 “Yet I still belong to you;
    you hold my right hand.” (v. 23)

 

Can a jerk follow Jesus? But more, can a bitter believer be held close, and loved so faithfully? When we begin to “really” see ourselves, we may often condemn what we see. Condemnation is one of the most insidious diseases of the spirit. The Holy Spirit saves his strongest medicine for us who are regularly sickened by this evil.

 

If you take a piece of white chalk, and you dip it into a cup of india ink. The chalk obviously absorbs the ink– it is porous. If you snap the chalk, and examine the inside, you will see that the ink has altered everything, this is how condemnation works. Once affected, we are very vulnerable to bitterness and confusion and guilt. We discover that our life is bracketed by the word, “if.”

 

Verse 23-25 speak loudly of a love that will never let you go. Never. Write down your sin, tally it up, ” Yet I still belong to you; you hold my right hand.” As sinners who have been redeemed by the blood of Jesus, “though our sins be as scarlet; they shall be as white as snow.”

*

ybic, Bryan

 

Transparent Pages, Ps. 31:6-8

cropped-gold-dune6.jpg

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

Psalm 31:6-8, NLT

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

^

ybic, Bryan

God’s Night Shift: Psalm 134

temple-etching

Temple Guards, Praise the Lord

A song for going up to worship.

134 Praise the Lord, all you servants of the Lord,
    you who serve at night in the Temple of the Lord.
Raise your hands in the Temple
    and praise the Lord.

May the Lord bless you from Mount Zion,
    he who made heaven and earth.

Psalm 134, NCV

This remarkable Psalm is part of an elite group known as “the Psalms of Ascent.” These 15 were sung as the congregation of Israel went up the steps of the temple in Jerusalem. They would sing each in “rounds” with each other. As you can well imagine, this made the ascent slow, but meaningful.

As you read the three verses, I get a picture of worshippers turning back and blessing the Levites. This takes place at the very end of the day. The Levites, and other godly ones who lived in the Temple, (remember Anna and Simeon, in Luke 2?)

Commentary

V. 1, “Praise the Lord, all you servants of the Lord,
you who serve at night in the Temple of the Lord.”

The first significant thought is “Lord” mentioned three times. The word is the recognition of someone’s status and standing. We call Him Lord, because He is that (and more).

The second has to deal with the Levitical “night-shift.” They served and guarded the Temple during the wee hours of the night. They probably cleaned, stacked wood, sharpened knives and maintained the Holy Place with its needs.

There was no real glory working the night shift. There were no people to serve. The crowds were for the day shift. (Here’s a weird thought– think “Disneyland at 2:00 a.m.”) There was also a contingent of non-Levite people ministering to the Lord as well. They had no duties, and only the priests could serve through their work.

V. 2 “Raise your hands in the Temple
and praise the Lord.”

I’ve worked nights before. It’s a real adjustment. You never feel like you’ve had enough sleep, and it is really hard to be positive and cheerful.  I could get pretty grouchy at times.

But an exhortation is given, a shout and a blessing as the crowds leave. “Raise up your hands– and praise Him!” It is as the work, although necessary, would be secondary. The worship however, was primary. We need to hear that.

V. 3, “May the Lord bless you from Mount Zion,
he who made heaven and earth.”

To be blessed (made “lucky”) by our Creator and Lord is pretty profound. As a kid who read a lot, I think of “fairy dust.” I know better now, but to be blessed by God is deeply significant.

To summarize, I believe this Psalm is speaking of those in the church who are doing “hidden service.” No one sees them really. They go about there duties quietly, and purposefully. The only recognition is from God– who sees all.

I must encourage you to keep on. There are more than you think who see your hidden ministry to the Father.

*

ybic, Bryan

Loving the Father’s House: Psalm 84

1 How lovely is your dwelling place,
O Lord of Heaven’s Armies.
2 I long, yes, I faint with longing
to enter the courts of the Lord.
With my whole being, body and soul,
I will shout joyfully to the living God.
3 Even the sparrow finds a home,
and the swallow builds her nest and raises her  young at a place near your altar,
O Lord of Heaven’s Armies, my King and my God!
4 What joy for those who can live in your house,
always singing your praises.

 Psalm 84:1-4

There are some things that leave an indelible mark inside, deep on our souls.  For me, one instance I remember staying at Simpson College on Silver Ave. in San Francisco in June, 1986.  The dorms were empty and I had a whole floor to myself.  The campus was gorgeous.  I found a little “mom and pop” corner market nearby which had a awesome deli. Here I could buy cold cuts, cheese, braunschweiger  and fresh sourdough bread.   I returned to my room to build my sandwich.  I remember the windows were open and a beautiful breeze was there.  Good food, warm sun, flowers in bloom and the Holy Spirit are about ready to intersect in my life.

It was simply a moment I captured and savored.  Everything seemed to coincide, it was magical in the best sense of the word.  It was beautiful, that is all I can say.  That time in that dorm room has become a crystalline moment that I will never forget.  Right there, it seemed I fell in love, not with a girl, but with a moment in time and place.

That nostalgia is thick on the shoulders of the writer of Psalm 84.  He remembers and savors the memories of his visit to the temple.  He was given something in that particular moment that  would haunt him for the rest of his life.  In his thinking, the beauty of the temple could never ever be the same again.  The beauty of that experience was inviolable and true and could never be duplicated.  But it was his, and he would never forget.

God gives us moments, wrapped in wonder and awe.  His presence is very likely the ‘tipping point’ in these.  When He is present, a connecting link is made and we receive grace.  We will longingly look back on these moments when grace was so close.  The psalmist has the same hunger.  These moments in the temple which so blessed have also in a way, ruined him.   Special times of God’s presence have resulted in a sanctified dissatisfaction with the present.

When we finally make our way to Jesus, life takes on a curious wonder.  When the rain finally comes to the barren desert, an explosion of life bursts out.  In the exact same way, our lives get very green and lush.  This is in contrast to our dry and desperate life without His presence.

I am hungry for His presence.  I want to be in the center of wherever He is at.  I admit that His grace and love has spoiled me.  But the love of Jesus does this.  Normal life seems to be in ‘black & white,’ He turns it into a vibrant color.  The psalmist begs to be returned to the temple.  He wants to be there, with you, more then anything.

*

ybic, Bryan

Like Anointed Oxen: Psalm 92

anointed-with-oil

Psalm 92:8-11, New Living Translation

But you, O Lord, will be exalted forever.
Your enemies, Lord, will surely perish;
    all evildoers will be scattered.
10 But you have made me as strong as a wild ox.
    You have anointed me with the finest oil.
11 My eyes have seen the downfall of my enemies;
    my ears have heard the defeat of my wicked opponents.

Strengthening and weakening. The world, as we know it is being shuffled and sorted. The very things that we think are wonderful, and praiseworthy, mean nothing at all to God. Enemies fall down, and can’t get up. Ultimately they’re defeated by their own wickedness.

The psalmist has dedicated this entire psalm to be read every Sabbath day. (Remember this fact, as it helps us understand what we are reading.) There were two services–morning and evening. I believe this would of been read publicly at both. The Sabbath accomplished three things– a public gathering of the faithful, an opportunity to pray, and a chance to worship Jehovah.

Commentary

V. 8, “But you, O Lord, will be exalted forever.”

This is not a self-confidence– it is a confidence in God. There is a humongous difference. As believers, we are to function from this awareness of God’s majesty and glory. They say that if you want to go places, just hook yourself to a ‘shooting star.’ And then you can go anywhere. In grace He pulls us to travel with Him.

Exalted forever! It buries in our hearts a profound sense of worship and hope, which endures without any end at all. It just keeps going, and going, with neverending joy. Our faith is not equipped with a ‘pause button’ so we can take a break, and get away from it all.

V. 9, “Your enemies, Lord, will surely perish;
    all evildoers will be scattered.”

Cemented into place is a real awareness of what happens to the active ‘haters of God.’ It’s interesting that no names are mentioned; after all that isn’t the writer’s place. But that doesn’t nullify any awareness of how things are working out. Evildoers will certainly end up in a very bad place.

V. 10, “But you have made me as strong as a wild ox.
    You have anointed me with the finest oil.”

Comparisons are made. On one hand we observe the wicked perishing–and on the other is the enriched place of verse 10.

Strong as an ox! Able to carry much, and plow as well. A strong ox was a great thing to have, and it’s likely a good ox would double the value of the farm. In a way, the modern equivalent would be a brand new tractor.

Anointed with the finest! Very few people would merit this ‘beauty treatment of the soul.’ Anointing sealed a person, and set them apart for life. In a weird way it was like inferring a title– baron, a duke, a lady or a knight. But it also was like a rabbit’s foot (that actually worked). But anointing wasn’t magic. It was divine favor. (Which is much better!)

“The Lord keeps you from all harm
    and watches over your life.
The Lord keeps watch over you as you come and go,
    both now and forever.”

Psalm 121:7-8

V. 11, “My eyes have seen the downfall of my enemies;
    my ears have heard the defeat of my wicked opponents.”

Obliquely I would say v. 1o, makes v. 11 possible. Did you see the shift? It’s now “my enemies” and “my wicked opponents.” That subtle change between your enemies and my enemies has powerful implications.

This shift is also seen in “my ears” and “my eyes.” It seems in a sense the lines are being blurred a little; the boundaries are not as distinct. I can only conclude that the anointing that preceded this changed everything. Perhaps, maybe, the baptism of the Holy Spirit changes a person forever?

&

ybic, Bryan

recite-16592-2119051878-1tgzu9p

Remember the Exodus: Psalm 114:1-3

God's View
God’s View

When the Israelites escaped from Egypt—
    when the family of Jacob left that foreign land—
the land of Judah became God’s sanctuary,
    and Israel became his kingdom.

The Red Sea[a] saw them coming and hurried out of their way!
    The water of the Jordan River turned away.
The mountains skipped like rams,
    the hills like lambs!
What’s wrong, Red Sea, that made you hurry out of their way?
    What happened, Jordan River, that you turned away?
Why, mountains, did you skip like rams?
    Why, hills, like lambs?

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

Footnotes:
  1. Psalm 114:3 Hebrew the sea; also in 114:5.

I have a confession. I always have been secretly intrigued by “superheroes.” They have such great names: Superman, Batman, the Flash, Iron Man, Wolverine, and Wonder Woman. They all have an arsenal of strengths and each with an assortment of special abilities and tricky moves.

Usually, there is a certain moment in a superhero’s life when they become “activated.” The gift suddenly comes alive, and they start to live their lives differently. The particular gift they have been bestowed with, starts to change the world around them.

We look at the children of Israel and we can see something (or is it Someone?) that makes them significantly different. Just in case you haven’t noticed, Israel does not have a normal history. The Old Testament says that God selected them because they were the least and weakest of all the nations of the earth.

“The Lord did not set His love on you nor choose you because you were more in number than any of the peoples, for you were the fewest of all peoples.”

Deut. 7:7

Commentary

V.1-2, “When the Israelites escaped from Egypt—
    when the family of Jacob left that foreign land—
the land of Judah became God’s sanctuary,
    and Israel became his kingdom.”

The weakest has been chosen, by the power of God. The psalmist replays the history for all to hear. These covenant people have metamorphosed into someone completely different. It’s the 98 pound weakling who suddenly becomes a linebacker for the Chicago Bears. Or the meek office boy named Clark who somehow becomes Superman.

There are two words that should ‘cue us up’– sanctuary and kingdom. Both words are used to communicate a sense of the special heritage and position of being “the called ones”.

As believers we must discover who we are. We are set apart as special. My wife has done this to our home. She has dishes that are used on holidays. I wouldn’t dream of using them to microwave a ‘bean-and-cheese burrito’. That simply is not their function.

V. 3, “The Red Sea saw them coming and hurried out of their way! The water of the Jordan River turned away.”

Formidable obstacles will submit to these “special people”. Water has always been used as a tactical barrier. But all of a sudden– with God leading, we see miracles happening. The Red Sea opens up, and the sea bed becomes a “super-highway.” And later on, the same would happen to the River Jordan.

As people of the New Covenant are led by our Savior Jesus through substantial issues. We all have our own versions of the “Red Sea.” We are brought out of slavery with promises of freedom and protection. Sometimes we just need a reminder of who we really are.

*

ybic, Bryan

He Looked Down: Psalm 102:19-22

Crowd in the rain
Crowd in the rain

19 Tell them the Lord looked down
    from his heavenly sanctuary.
   He looked down to earth from heaven
20     to hear the groans of the prisoners,
    to release those condemned to die.
21 And so the Lord’s fame will be celebrated in Zion,
    his praises in Jerusalem,
22 when multitudes gather together
    and kingdoms come to worship the Lord.

Psalm 102:19-22, NLT

The movie “Roots” is on the tube. I have never seen it before, and it is quite provocative. The scenes on the slave ship, and the slave market where Africans were auctioned off are brutal and vicious. It didn’t seem possible for such evil being afflicted on a people.

I also have been reading this psalm and thinking about God’s certain awareness of both the condemned, and the prisoner. I know His heart is breaking as He watches every mean and wicked action against these sufferers.

There are 7 billion people alive on planet Earth today. Slavery, and prostitution are rampant. Drug addiction and crime seethes into every corner– corrupting and confusing. In fact, if we could weigh all the sin in the world committed in the last five minutes it would bury us.

This thought fits, but may need work to make it real. Bob Pierce, who wrote, “Let my heart be broken by the things that break the heart of God.”

And, it is something that Mother Teresa once said, “May God break my heart so completely that the whole world falls in.” – Mother Teresa

Commentary

V. 19, “Tell them the Lord looked down
    from his heavenly sanctuary.
   He looked down to earth from heaven.”

God is always on alert, watching and looking. He is all-seeing, from a sweat shop in China, to the homosexual in Miami. No dark corner in an alley in Rio can block what He sees. He sees 24/7, and never takes a nap.

His HQ is what we call a “sanctuary”– that is, a position of perfect peace and serenity. But this doesn’t infer to isolate. Rather it seems the very opposite is true, as He looks, and grieves over it all.

V. 20, “to hear the groans of the prisoners,
    to release those condemned to die.”

Have you ever groaned? I went to Dictionary.com and quickly looked it up. The noun form of groan is, “a low, mournful sound uttered in pain or grief: the groans of dying soldiers.

Prisoners groan–a sob, a cry, a whimper. But people being people, one must adapt and become inured to the dull pain that confinement brings. You adapt to stay alive, even when life gets difficult.

The last phrase in this verse, “to release those condemned to die.”  This explains the effort of God to see people liberated. He loves to parole those who will turn to Him. We think this release is physical. But I’m reasonably sure it is a spiritual release as well. If you find Christ, “you are free indeed.”

V. 21, “And so the Lord’s fame will be celebrated in Zion,
    his praises in Jerusalem,”

There is nothing quite like praise of one who has been “scraped off the bottom” and given life. I love worshiping with scoundrels and misfits. They are authentic, they understand being held in dark bondage. They know “a jumping kind of joy.” They party in the Presence of their Redeemer.

V. 22, “when multitudes gather together
    and kingdoms come to worship the Lord.”

You know, I think worship is what our life is all about. In this verse we witness the discovery of a common mission. A young believer in New Delhi, and the quiet elder of a church in Cornwall, have little in common. But worship. Worship is the “true coin of the realm” which we all share.

This verse speaks of both “multitudes” and “kingdoms.” Jesus redeems us one by one–but we all gather to worship together.

*

ybic, Bryan

Let’s Get Cracking! Psalm 102:16-18

Rebuilding_of_Warsaw_(1945)

16 For the Lord will rebuild Jerusalem.
    He will appear in his glory.
17 He will listen to the prayers of   the destitute.
    He will not reject their pleas.

18 Let this be recorded for future generations,
    so that a people not yet born will praise the Lord.

Psalm 102:16-18, NLT

These words ooze a strong confidence, and deliberateness, and determination from the Lord to we His people. I suppose that is how He makes us solid, as we see, and hear, and read of all that He has done. His steadiness and faithfulness transmits the same to us. We can be sure, because He is very sure.

“[B]eing confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.”

Phil. 1:6, NIV

Guys! He is going to do it, He is sure of Himself. All of the works of God are decisive. Often He seems hidden behind the curtain, pulling spiritual levers, and pressing spiritual buttons. Through the eyes of faith we can see Him, working and serving, and bringing “many sons to Glory.”

V. 16, “For the Lord will rebuild Jerusalem.
    He will appear in his glory.”

Rebuilding Jerusalem was the ministry of Nehemiah–but it was God’s first. God has a flair for the restoration of broken down things. Nehemiah rebuilt mostly physical walls. God extends this work to the spiritual as well. Ezra arrived and led the people with the Word. Until the spiritual is restored, the physical walls mean little.

Everything is overhauled and renovated. In a way, He captures our hearts with His enthusiasm for this work. He desires to energize us with the true zeal. The wall and six gates were rebuilt in just 52 days. There was a constant barrage of bluff from Jerusalem’s enemy. It’s said that these builders wore their clothes constantly, not even bothering to undress.

I have learned that “God’s glory” is a special thing. We can’t fabricate it. His glory is only present when He is there. If He leaves, we should follow Him as hungry and thirsty pilgrims of another world. We have arrived at a point where He is our “first love.”

V. 17, “He will listen to the prayers of the destitute.
    He will not reject their pleas.”

With v. 16 in tow, we arrive at this precious promise. His certain preference is for the destitute. The poor and the weak and the easily confused have this in their favor– God has chosen them as “the special ones.” They get to go to the front of a very long line.

Their hungry prayers arrive ahead of everyone else. Special preference is given to them, which should make us aware of God’s presence and His favor. I think we should realize this, as it can effect the way they are treated. And the manner which God treats us.

“If a man shuts his ears to the cry of the poor, he too will cry out and not be answered.”

Proverbs 21:13

V. 18, “Let this be recorded for future generations,
    so that a people not yet born will praise the Lord.”

I think the most powerful witnesses we can give is our “personal testimony.” Sermons, exhortations, and even prophecies seem to have a certain “shelf-life,” or an expiration date on them. But our own adventures, and personal experiences should extend to our children–and our children’s children.

I think every believer must deliberately transfer their story of faith to those who will need it. We need to be in it for the “long haul.” Other generations can be dramatically and significantly touched; we can pave the way for them.

*

ybic, Bryan