Paradigm Shift: Psalm 8:1-5

Understanding things for the first time

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

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

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

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

Psalm 8:1-5, NKJV

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

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

Commentary

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Get Ready For Your Exam: Psalm 138:23-24

“God, examine me and know my heart;
       test me and know my anxious thoughts.
 24 See if there is any bad thing in me.
       Lead me on the road to everlasting life.”

Psalm 138:23-24,  NCV

 

“Examine me |  Test me | See me | Lead me.”  When we think about an examination, we are never happy or relaxed about it.  In our thinking an examination could mean the exposure of weakness.  And that is exactly what we want to avoid.  Funny though, the psalmist puts himself under the microscope.  He invites full disclosure, he anticipates God’s x-ray machine.  He wants it.

But his life isn’t perfect or complete.  There are fears, and anxieties laying deep inside his heart.  Many times this would divide us, and split us from Him.  Anxiety will often become a strong wall, that would grow into an issue of some significance.  The psalmist moves into God’s presence.  So much in him had to be extracted.  Understanding that the Father is incredibly aware of us is only the first step.

Examine me |  Test me | See me | Lead me.  Four words that we must get to know.  The Christian life “pivots” on these four words. The four brought together, get dynamically linked into our hearts.  These four concepts will become quite critical as we come closer to Him.  There is a synergy, when the elements of discipleship are mixed together.  For example, if we extract “the examine me” part of this equation, we will not be able to conclude the situations we face very effectively.

I once made a couple loaves of bread where I mistakenly substituted sugar instead of flour.  I was frustrated because the lump of dough, was not responding.  So what did I do?  I added more “flour” which was really powered sugar, from the unmarked canister.  Later, what I buried in the backyard was a big lump of something that would never, ever work.   Not even if I wished it very hard.

Discipleship must always be intimacy at its a basic level. 

That takes God examining my life, full disclosure of everything.  We need to be intimate, by being astonishingly open to Him.  The things we share will be confidential.  And it will also be essential.

“May it be the real me who finds the real You.”

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No Apologies— Psalm 14

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For the choir director: A psalm of David.

Only fools say in their hearts,
    “There is no God.”
They are corrupt, and their actions are evil;
    not one of them does good!

The Lord looks down from heaven
    on the entire human race;
he looks to see if anyone is truly wise,
    if anyone seeks God.
But no, all have turned away;
    all have become corrupt.[a]
No one does good,
    not a single one!

Will those who do evil never learn?
    They eat up my people like bread
    and wouldn’t think of praying to the Lord.
Terror will grip them,
    for God is with those who obey him.
The wicked frustrate the plans of the oppressed,
    but the Lord will protect his people.

Who will come from Mount Zion to rescue Israel?
    When the Lord restores his people,
    Jacob will shout with joy, and Israel will rejoice.

Psalm 14, NLT

It seems that v.1 monopolizes this particular psalm of David. It is as a bold and clear statement on atheism that you can find in all of scripture. Psalm 14:1 is the ‘go-to’ verse for dealing with those pesky unbelievers. It defines and declares unequivocally the foolishness of those who won’t believe.

But this psalm has six other verses! They aren’t as well known as verse 1, but they certainly are valuable to us. Simply put, they are significant as well.

Commentary

V.1,  “Only fools say in their hearts,
    “There is no God.”
They are corrupt, and their actions are evil;
    not one of them does good!”

The human heart is the seat of either faith or unbelief. It operates by the decision of the will, and it effects our actions. Whatever is in our hearts leaks out into what we do. David passes an opinion on atheism— it only ends in folly, and the consequences of ‘no-faith’ are a twisted and a corrupted life.

David makes no apologies for verse 1. It is an analysis of what he sees and comes from his experiences.

V.2-3, “The Lord looks down from heaven
    on the entire human race;
he looks to see if anyone is truly wise,
    if anyone seeks God.
But no, all have turned away;
    all have become corrupt.[a]
No one does good,
    not a single one!”

God is always watching. We see each other on such a superficial level— we really can’t see more than ‘skin deep.’ But God can, and does. To go further— the entire human race is infected with the sin of unbelief. God makes the effort to do a detailed search; only to find a complete absence of wisdom. There are simply no ‘worthy’ people on planet Earth.

V.4-5, “Will those who do evil never learn?
    They eat up my people like bread
    and wouldn’t think of praying to the Lord.
Terror will grip them,
    for God is with those who obey him.”

I think David is perplexed by the presence of evil. He sees it triumph over goodness, at least temporarily. The basic unteachableness of unbelievers poses a problem. In this confused world it is the believers in God who are often the victimized.

V.6-7, “The wicked frustrate the plans of the oppressed,
    but the Lord will protect his people.

Who will come from Mount Zion to rescue Israel?
    When the Lord restores his people,
    Jacob will shout with joy, and Israel will rejoice.

Again— no apologies. The wicked are alive and well on planet earth. The people of God will be given protection (which is something the unbelievers don’t have.) The ‘rescue helicopters’ have been dispatched, and His people will be saved. A full scale restoration will commence; there will be no more sin (other verses tell us this.) Joy is to become the overwhelming characteristic of those who are being fully redeemed.

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Hostile Territory: Psalm 61

To the choirmaster: with stringed instruments. Of David.

 1 Hear my cry, O God, 
   listen to my prayer; 
2 from the end of the earth I call to you 
   when my heart is faint. 
Lead me to the rock 
   that is higher than I, 
3 for you have been my refuge, 
   a strong tower against the enemy.

 4 Let me dwell in your tent forever! 
   Let me take refuge under the shelter of your wings! 
                         Selah

5 For you, O God, have heard my vows; 
   you have given me the heritage of those who fear your name.

 6 Prolong the life of the king; 
   may his years endure to all generations! 
7 May he be enthroned forever before God; 
   appoint steadfast love and faithfulness to watch over him!

 8 So will I ever sing praises to your name, 
   as I perform my vows day after day.

Psalm 61

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As human beings we live our lives under assault.  As we grow up very little gets communicated to us about spiritual warfare.  The stark realities of heaven and hell are seldom passed down to us. Evil remains abstract; it never becomes personal. Until.

Psalm 61 was written by David, who understood pretty clearly the evil that wanted to destroy him. He was someone who understood the vicious nature of reality. It seems that David wrote this song while he was running from his son. But there are only a couple of hints for that, nothing more. Ps. 61 is meant for the pursued soul, it is designed not to be autobiographical. The details may change from person to person, but we all live in hostile territory.

“There is no neutral ground in the universe; every square inch, every split second, is claimed by God and counter-claimed by Satan.”

 C.S. Lewis

Commentary

V. 1, have you ever talked to someone about something very important, but they aren’t listening? So, you raise the volume a bit, and put more energy behind your words.

V. 2, describes the vast scope of prayer, and its potency and clout. Even out there, teetering on the edge, God hears. David knows exactly where he needs to be. A rock that is way beyond me in scope and size. The “high ground” of the presence of God.

V. 3,  “for you are my safe refuge,  a fortress where my enemies cannot reach me” (NLT). In the Army, I learned tactics of “cover and concealment.” Essentially it’s to put yourself in the place of safety. It’s actually a great skill to have. High ground, thick walls, and out of the weather were all prime ways to find it. David announces to God, that He is his safe place. David has irrevocably put his trust in Him.

V. 4, Here are dual images that work together. God is to be a tent we live in, and wings to hide under. A hen opens up her wings, just enough for the chicks to collect. Now a chicken is not very formidable on our level. But God is. Under His wings we are in the safest place possible.

V. 5, isn’t really a popular truth today. Vows seem antiquated and part of the Old Testament.  But I think that is a bit harsh. We make vows when we get married. It’s a promise made before God and God’s people. Those vows are exceptional words of true commitment.

V. 6-7, we hear David speaking of himself in the “third person.” I think that this reveals a lot of humility. He doesn’t demean or diminish himself here, but in the light of what he knows its quite refreshing. David knows now what is of value, and what isn’t.

V. 8, within this verse we see David establishing a way of life. Vows and praises! Furthermore, David wants God to understand exactly how he intends to supervise his life from this moment on. He fully intends to be an eager servant in the ways of the Lord.

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A Trained Warrior: Psalm 144:1-2

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1 “Praise the Lord, who is my rock.
    He trains my hands for war
    and gives my fingers skill for battle.
He is my loving ally and my fortress,
    my tower of safety, my rescuer.
He is my shield, and I take refuge in him.
    He makes the nations submit to me.”

Psalm 144:1-2, NLT

This is an incredible Psalm. In spite of the many, many centuries, we still should peer into it to gain wisdom. David is writing truth to our souls. We read of his certain issues and concerns. For the Christian believer, this Psalm of David offers us enrichment and strength for us to be faithful in our trials.

Enamored, is David’s heart. It has been captured by God’s intense love and deep care. Dostoevsky once said this, “Once a man accepts Jesus, he has a disease that no one can cure.” His change in our souls is permanent and irrevocable. We simply can’t walk away.

Commentary

V. 1, “Praise the Lord, who is my rock.
    He trains my hands for war
    and gives my fingers skill for battle.”

There is absolutely nothing exceptional in any of us. Yet David becomes a “super-hero” because the Lord has decided on this. David is “trained” and understands that “my fingers are now skilled for battle.” All of this means warfare, and this we have to understand. And we must agree on this, this Psalm is all about “warfare.”

Our battles (in which we fight and sweat) are real. Yet they are first spiritual, and very seldom physical. Nevertheless, they are profoundly real. Ephesians 6 reveals the incredible reality of our spiritual conflict. Sparks fly as we advance forward, (spiritually speaking of course.) But they are no less real, or difficult.

V. 2, “He is my loving ally and my fortress,
    my tower of safety, my rescuer.”

My…my…my…my. The repetition of “my” is profoundly interesting. David has linked himself on the work of God. “My” reveals a sort of possession that David has with God Himself. He sees an “ally, a fortress, a tower and a rescuer.

At least, this is quite astonishing. To have the Almighty taking a deep response is incredibly responsive. God is now our ally– and our fortress– and our tower– and if we need it, a rescuer! What potency, what an incredible effort.

V. 2, “He is my shield, and I take refuge in him.
    He makes the nations submit to me.”

A shield is something that covers, and blocks many vicious arrows. A shield is definitely needed for all those involved in desperate battle. And when it gets a bit “out-of-hand,” we can take shelter in Him, as a “refuge,” a certain place of incredible safety.

  “The nations submit to me,” is a very bold statement. (Quite bold, actually.) But God’s power is never minimized by our personal weakness. He is constantly powerful and  tremendously concerned with us. However, the “nations” are a immense work that is directed against our Father. Rather then direct Himself  specifically, He makes us quite able to stand against this travesty.

This Psalm carries with it many fantastic wonderments. It can add many things to our simple faith. God certainly does this, and more. He brings us into a maturity that we on ourselves would never guess. Until we understand “warfare,” we can never understand faith.

This, dear ones, is a great Psalm. I hope you will read it, and you will take on the blessings that it brings. We certainly do need it.

***

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.

Psalm 127:1: Unless the Lord Builds the House

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1 Unless the Lord builds the house, its builders labor in vain.

Unless the Lord watches over the city, the watchman stand guard in vain.

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There are definitely situations we run into in life where we say, “If God’s in it, it will happen.” This passage should be a good safeguard against pride because it talks about our success and protection coming from the Lord. We could add to that list our health, talents, treasure, and good name in the community. Every good gift comes down from the Father of Lights (James 1:17). The earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof (Psalm 24:1). We are helpless, contingent beings and are upheld by the word of his power (Hebrews 1:3). In him we live and move and have our being (Acts 17:28). These passages are tonic for the malady of arrogance and put us in our place as weak, dependent creatures whose every breath comes from the Almighty. We may think we built the house, but we really didn’t.

Local churches and the Church Universal are sometimes called the house of God. Individual Christians are also called the house of God. What’s often overlooked in all these cases is that just because a house is blessed by God doesn’t mean that God inhabits that house. This concept I learned from the ministry of Rick Joyner of Morning Star Ministries. Think of the time of Ezekiel. The temple in Jerusalem was well-furnished and carried out all the rituals and sacrifices, but, because of egregious sin, the glory left the temple (Ezekiel 10–12).

In some local churches and denominations, there is a sacred trinity: Budget, Building, and Attendance. If all three of those are in good shape, it is assumed that God is blessing the work and that he is in it. He may be blessing it but he is not necessarily inhabiting it. Ever go to a highly successful church but feel something is missing? You may be impressed with the church in many ways, but you can’t say what Jacob said at Bethel: “Surely God is in this place!” Ever been in a church that is struggling in the areas of budget, building, and attendance but you left there rejoicing after having encountered the presence of the Living God?

When people don’t discern the difference between the two churches, it usually reveals an idol of success in their heart. They are so smitten with building, budget, and attendance they forgot to notice that Someone was not in attendance: God.

ybic, Jonathan

Psalm 3:1-4: Tricky Currents

A Psalm of David when he fled from Absalom his son.

 “Lord, how they have increased who trouble me!
Many are they who rise up against me.
Many are they who say of me,
There is no help for him in God.”  Selah

But You, O Lord, are a shield for me,
My glory and the One who lifts up my head.
I cried to the Lord with my voice,
And He heard me from His holy hill.”  Selah

Psalm 3:1-4, NKJV

There is an unholy tragedy when a son and a father are at odds. Perhaps Absalom believes that David has grown corrupt and wicked, and that he is to take David’s place. There is the matter of David’s secret sin with Bathsheba, and his murder of Uriah. A few years later, Absalom become a murderer himself, I suppose, like father, like son.

Gossip had spread, and many allied themselves with Absalom. Completely losing the support of the people, David took what he could and fled into the Judean Wilderness. David simply could not go to war against his son.

These are Shakespearean themes. And they are very human ones as well. David could be impulsively evil, and yet we can see moments bursting out of light and faith. Perhaps we know people who are much more consistent than David, but few as devout, after all, “He was a man after God’s own heart.”

Commentary

V. 1, “Lord, how they have increased who trouble me!
Many are they who rise up against me.”

David is quite clear on this, if there is a momentum of the Spirit, there is a riptide as well. It was pulling him out. He couldn’t find the strength or purpose to resist its pull. There was just too many enemies. The current was just too strong to fight.

David must have evaluated, and quickly realizes he is no longer “the Golden Boy of God.” He is universally hated and despised. No one bothers to  see his repentance from adultery and murder. The prophet’s rebuke, and David’s broken heart are hidden from most.

V. 2, “Many are they who say of me,
There is no help for him in God.”  Selah

I am sure that many said the same about me, and I understand being reviled and denounced. Sometimes in theology there really is no room for rascals. I don’t fit in with the “nice people.”

“God! Look! Enemies past counting! Enemies sprouting like mushrooms,
Mobs of them all around me, roaring their mockery:
“Hah! No help for him from God!” Ps. 3:1-2, (MSG)

It’s easy to set up people in our Churches to “guard” the door (figuratively, of course.) We have found a comfortable spot; we don’t want  to have to move, and we really don’t want any “broken down” old sinners stopping in. Because the Holy Spirit won’t judge, we will!

David is being rejected because the people can’t accept his forgiveness and repentance. His enemies are talking, “Did you hear about David, our king? He murdered Uriah! They whisper to each other, and David becomes “the O.J. Simpson” of his day.

V. 3,  But You, O Lord, are a shield for me,
My glory and the One who lifts up my head.”

David is clinging to all that he has– God! The ‘postures’ of God are quite amazing. Jehovah protects, and David glorifies. David is aware of his head being lifted up, just like a child. But all that David has working for him, is the Lord God Almighty.

There is such a tenderness, an awareness of being protected, just the word, for shield, has the idea of a shield that encircles. It was like a ‘tube’ of protection for David. He was protected on all sides. This would be David’s only real support. Will it be enough?

V. 4,  I cried to the Lord with my voice,
And He heard me from His holy hill.”  Selah

Think of responsiveness here. My voice activates Him, and He turns directly to me at the initial sound of my cry. There is bold fact is that He is ‘cued’ into me. He anticipates all that I say. This alone is a wonderful place to be.

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It’s Getting Noisy Down Here, Psalm 83:1-3

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“O God, do not be silent!
Do not be deaf.
Do not be quiet, O God.
2 Don’t you hear the uproar of your enemies?
Don’t you see that your arrogant enemies are rising up?
3 They devise crafty schemes against your people;
they conspire against your precious ones.”

Psalm 83:1-3, NLT

Someday, someone is going to invent a tactile/sensory function for the Psalms. I’m thinking of a whole audiovisual experience that you could download. You could reach out and feel the dampness of a cave, or smell the incense burning at the Temple Mount. That would be pretty cool. But I suppose in a way, God has given us an imagination for these things. We just need to practice, and learn to use it.

V. 1, Right out of the chute, this Psalm starts us off. We hear someone stepping forward before the Lord. And it sounds like this person has a real issue with God. Or at least His silence. But it really, truly does trouble the Psalmist, enough so is that he defies religious protocol and etiquette, steps up and unloads. The speaker is quite disturbed by how quiet God seems to be, the silence itself is disturbing. Is He deaf? Why don’t you say something? Anytime Lord– we are waiting!

When you “mash” these three verses together, I get the distinct feeling that the Psalmist wants God to “go nuclear.” (I don’t think the speaker would object in the slightest.) In v.2, the writer moves from making direct statements (v. 1), to asking serious questions (v. 2). But these questions are those that are “leading” in nature. They are asked with the idea that the answer is very obvious. (Its like asking a five-year old if he wants chocolate ice cream– of course he does!)

The words, “uproar,” “arrogant” and “uprising” are some pretty inflammatory words. But these are on the “front burner” for the Psalmist, and he uses them to persuade God to act. As I think of this one’s boldness, I think I would distance myself from him. I would be scared of the lightning strike that would be inbound any moment. (Or maybe the “ground opening up and swallowing trick.”) But I suppose the lesson would be for us always to come forward step up, and speak out. “Always speak the truth, even if your voice shakes.”

V. 3, “They devise crafty schemes against your people; they conspire against your precious ones.” God’s own people have always been attacked by evil, crafty people. It started when Cain slew Abel, then came Noah, Lot, and then Joseph got his turn. Evil and wickedness has always tried to destroy every godly soul. One of the key words is “conspire.” My dictionary tells me that the verb form is “to agree together, especially secretly, to do something wrong, evil, or illegal.” It is always evil, (although I suppose one might be a “conspirator of good,” but I think that might be pushing it.)

The truth is that “light and night” are serious factors. They are locked with each other. We think we can stand aside, relax and avoid the carnage, but all of a sudden we realize, “Hey, this is about me; at least, it seems like it, and the Book of Ephesians. But in chapter 6, we clearly see a serious war, and the armor necessary to survive. Wow, maybe my heart is at the center of this mess?” The answer is obvious, “You better believe it.”

“A final word: Be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. 11 Put on all of God’s armor so that you will be able to stand firm against all strategies of the devil. 12 For we are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places.”

Ephesians 6:10-12, NLT

&

kyrie elesion, Bryan

(Lord, have mercy on me.)

You Made Me Strong and Brave: Psalm 138

A psalm of David.

 1 Lord, I will thank you with all my heart; 
       I will sing to you before the gods.
 2 I will bow down facing your holy Temple, 
       and I will thank you for your love and loyalty. 
    You have made your name and your word 
       greater than anything.
 3 On the day I called to you, you answered me. 
       You made me strong and brave. 

 4 Lord, let all the kings of the earth praise you 
       when they hear the words you speak. 
 5 They will sing about what the Lord has done, 
       because the Lord’s glory is great. 

 6 Though the Lord is supreme, 
       he takes care of those who are humble, 
       but he stays away from the proud. 
 7 Lord, even when I have trouble all around me, 
       you will keep me alive. 
    When my enemies are angry, 
       you will reach down and save me by your power.
 8 Lord, you do everything for me. 
       Lord, your love continues forever. 
       Do not leave us, whom you made.

The themes in this Psalm are like ripe plums on a tree. These eight verses combine to provide us with a myriad of reasons why we should worship God with thanksgiving.

Commentary

Verses 1-3, David is very thankful. This energizes his heart to truly worship. This thanksgiving is the backbone of real worship. Sometimes we can go to church, and we haven’t really reflected on the deep goodness of God. There needs to be “a first work”, a preliminary effort that prepares us to “bow down facing your holy Temple”. People can cry out “legalism!” But it really isn’t if our hearts are full already.

I do like verse 3, very much! There is a quickness, and an alacrity pulsating within the deep heart of God. He jumps right up to come to your heart. David talks about being “strong and brave”. As a warrior he would value both greatly. If you haven’t known this yet, you will. God is the “great instiller.”

Verses 4-5 David is thinking about other kings, but he has a sense that Jehovah God is no mere tribal deity. Worship can’t just be an Israel thing. Not hardly, for Kings of the whole earth are invited. David does not confine God to a little role affecting Jerusalem only.

In verse 5, David does realize that worship starts with God blessing people; not people blessing God to get more from Him. The pagan gods had to be appeased first. Our God gives first (with no appeasement necessary.)

Verses 6-8 stipulate what God does for people. We see that He thinks a whole lot about us. The primary key is humility. On my right to God, all powerful and supreme– on my left are simple, humble ones. It seems to me that things really start cooking (spiritually) when both are in their proper places.

V. 6, “but he stays away from the proud.” Pride is such a loathsome thing. I don’t think we really understand this. It is universal and saturates everything. And it stinks.

V. 7 I do love this. I have been such a twisted and dark person. And yet the impossible has happened! God has intervened, and will intervene to help me stand up. I know all about “trouble.” And quite a bit about the hatred of “my enemies”. Satan’s anger at me, has been superseded by God’s delight in me.

The last verse, v. 8. “Lord, you do everything for me. Lord, your love continues forever. Do not leave us, whom you made.” Doing–Loving–Abiding. And actually considering the deep scope of these three words, we would be hard-pressed to find any loopholes.

*

kyrie elesion, Bryan

(Lord, have mercy on us.)
 
 

Psalm 23:1: I Shall Not Want

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1 “The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not be in want.”

Recently I heard an Irish Catholic priest challenge his congregation after reading Psalm 23 by asking, “You know the psalm but do you know the shepherd?” It’s a question I must ask myself everyday. Do I know the Shepherd and trust him to meet my needs–“I shall not want”– or do I depend more on created things (idols) to fulfill me?

Perhaps one of the greatest lies perpetrated on the human race by the devil is that he doesn’t exist. In this deception, he is able to kill, steal, and destroy in an anonymous capacity, and let others take the blame. He always works best in the shadows.

Perhaps one of the greatest lies perpetrated on Christians is that we need to pursue something we already have. Sometimes I will catch myself in idolatry and feel a lot like a man who has 100 billion dollars in a savings account but goes out and robs a bank because he’s afraid he won’t be able to make this month’s mortgage payment. Other times, when I become over attached to some created thing, I feel like a man who leaves his wife for another woman but finds out that the grass isn’t greener on the other side and that he had everything he needed in the first relationship.

That’s the foolishness of idolatry for the Christian: trying to get something from an idol that has already been given to us from God. We have a Shepherd that can meet our physical, emotional, and spiritual needs–“I shall not want”–but we just look somewhere else.

This is what happened in the Garden of Eden. The Lord was Adam and Eve’s Shepherd. All of their needs were met in this Edenic paradise. Everything the serpent promised them theyrecite-19175-1419221276-1r86qx7 already had.

He promised them that they would be like gods. They already were like “gods” in the sense that they were the highest order of God’s creation. He promised them that they would become wise, but they already had wisdom inherent in their harmonious relationship to God. They reverenced God and that’s the beginning of wisdom.

As much as God meets our needs during our earthly journey, we will not be completely satisfied until we get to heaven. As Augustine says, we were created for heaven and won’t be totally fulfilled until we get there. We live in a foreign country now as aliens, but in heaven, we will be home. We get the salad, appetizer, and bread now, but in heaven we will get the steak, baked potato, lobster and New York cheesecake for dessert. We are engaged to Christ the Groom now but in heaven there will be the Marriage Supper of the Lamb.

The bridge between our earthly existence and the hereafter is Hope. One thing we can do when idolatrous urges come upon us is to ask God to replace them with hope, a looking forward to heaven when all our deepest needs will be completely satisfied. “The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want”–both on earth and in heaven.

*

ybic, Jonathan

image can be purchased from the artist, http://www.etsy.com/listing/107662512/the-lord-is-my-shepherd-lamb-on-shoulder

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

Disarming Sickness, Psalm 41:3

dust_in_the_wind_by_eikoweb

“The Lord sustains them on their sickbed
    and restores them from their bed of illness.”

Psalm 41:3, NIV

“The moment an ill can be patiently handled, it is disarmed of its poison, though not of its pain.”

Henry Ward Beecher

It is a general rule, that when you are sick– you become very vulnerable. I can attest to this having had more than my share of medical issues. And today, I’m smack dab in the middle of another one. It’s odd when one issue can open the door to another.

Ps. 41:3 is interesting. Especially for us who find themselves very sick. It is the “bedside promise” of our Lord’s presence. He is a visitor who comes to see us, to comfort and encourage us when we are flat on our backs. We are not alone, for He is truly our best companion. Typically our issues are disbelief and discouragement. We maybe in considerable pain, but for the most part that pain is a secondary issue. I can deal with the pain. My greater issues are this sense of intense abandonment. For the sincere believer, this can be frightening.

The choice of words here is perfect– “sustains and restores.” The Spirit’s ministry to us exceeds any antibiotic or surgical procedure. At my bedside, I will receive a spiritual treatment, that is administered by the wisest and greatest doctor who is present 24/7. He braces and bolsters me, effectively putting supports around me. He really does hold me in place. But He also restores. I have heard quite a few who have been ‘fixed up’ by their time in sickness or affliction. Some will look back fondly on their time of trial, because the Lord was restoring them.

My prayer for you dear one, is not that you are kept from affliction and sickness, but rather in your issues you discover a new sense of His amazing presence. This verse is one you can trust, and one you will need.

&

ybic, Bryan

Psalm 15: The True Israelite, # 2

wonderfulray
In Psalm 15, He focuses on us

 

In part one of our meditation on Psalm 15 we concluded by asking the question, ” Why does God’s heart grieve so greatly when His children do harm to one another?”

Part two simply states: The answer to this question is probably related to the truth that people are made in the image and likeness of God; they have incalculable dignity and worth. Because they are ‘God-like,’ to harm them with our words and deeds is in a sense to harm or offend God. Any parent knows that when their child has been slandered or cheated, they themselves feel slandered and cheated.

The Apostle John goes so far to say that “…anyone who does not love his brother, whom he has seen, cannot love God, who he has not seen” (I Jn. 4:20b). This is why Christ said, “If you do it to the least of these, you do it to me,” and why Mother Teresa of Calcutta was utterly convinced that her ministry to the poorest of the poor was really a ministry to Christ Himself.

Here’s how all this relates to Psalm 15— If someone harms their brother or sister in word or deed, they offend the entire Trinity– “Father, Son and Holy Spirit.” In doing so, they alienate themselves from God’s presence and will need confession and repentance of their sins in order to acquire forgiveness and re-enter that presence. David was familiar with these truths, and that’s why, in the aftermath of his adultery and committing murder, he said to God, “Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight” (Ps. 51:4).

Finally,  I can now understand how many Christians, including myself, can be intimidated by Psalm 15. I can imagine a brother in Christ telling me, “Jonathan, I came from a very messed-up family. I’m not making excuses but I have a lot of unresolved anger because of what my parents said and did to me. Because of this, in the heat of the moment, I’ve said hurtful things to my wife that I can’t take back. I feel terrible about how I’ve hurt her and wonder if I’m forever separated from God’s presence. I certainly feel separated from hers.”

I would respond, “No, you’re not forever separated from the presence of God. The Psalms say, ‘His mercies endure forever.’ There’s a common teaching among practicing Catholics that God’s mercy is his greatest attribute and simply overwhelms all his other attributes (e.g., justice) just like the Pacific Ocean overwhelms a sea bass. I John 1:9 says, ‘If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.’  “ It’s good that you feel sorry about what you said, but let this sorrow lead to repentance and a real reconciliation with your wife. Please, dear one, make amends and always remember, His mercies are tender, unfathomable and inexhaustible. Put your trust in His unfailing love.”

David concludes the Psalm by saying that the person “who does these things will never be shaken.The true Israelite will be at peace. This kind of believer will sleep well at night and can look himself in the mirror. He has evidenced his love for God by loving his brother. “There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear because fear has to do with punishment” (I Jn. 4:18). If we’re living right with God and our neighbor–i.e loving them, then what do we have to fear? The true Israelite has an inheritance in the kingdom of God that “is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit” (Rom. 14:17).

&

ybic, Jonathan

Psalm 15: The True Israelite, # 1

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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

God, Motivate Me– Psalm 119, ה

megaphone-god

ה He

33 Teach me, O Lord, the way of your statutes;
    and I will keep it to the end.
34 Give me understanding, that I may keep your law
    and observe it with my whole heart.
35 Lead me in the path of your commandments,
    for I delight in it.
36 Incline my heart to your testimonies,
    and not to selfish gain!
37 Turn my eyes from looking at worthless things;
    and give me life in your ways.
38 Confirm to your servant your promise,
    that you may be feared.
39 Turn away the reproach that I dread,
    for your rules are good.
40 Behold, I long for your precepts;
    in your righteousness give me life!

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Again, this is an acrostic. It is painstakingly put together and embedded with the 22 letters of the Hebrew alphabet. Each letter will have eight verses. And each verse begins with the letter assigned to it. For example, today’s post is the Hebrew letter is  ה , or He– the eight verses (see above) each begin with the letter “He”.

There are some references in the Hebrew Talmud about “he.” It is a special letter. A few suggest that two letters were brought together to be used by God to form the entire universe. Paired up it constructs “the divine name” of God. In Psalm 33:6, we read–

“By the word of the Lord the heavens were made,
and by the breath of his mouth all their host.”

I suppose Psalm 119 can be compared to a ‘literary’ tapestry– many threads meticulously woven into something with so much beauty, it takes your breath away when you see it. It is a masterpiece of unparalleled exquisiteness and elegance.

Commentary

He

Vv. 33-34, “Teach me, O Lord, the way of your statutes;
    and I will keep it to the end.
34 Give me understanding, that I may keep your law
    and observe it with my whole heart.”

If we just look at the verbs, we will go along way toward an understanding.

  1. Teach me
  2. I will keep
  3. Give me
  4. I will observe

As a believer, God commits Himself to provide me with what I need. He is a teacher, and a giver. He infuses us with wisdom and understanding.

And as a disciple I finally can give what He really wants. I plan to keep, and observe. He gives, and I commit. Its a bit like a “give and take” scenario. But we don’t earn or deserve anything. We receive from Him far more than we could give.

Vv. 35-36, “Lead me in the path of your commandments,
    for I delight in it.
36 Incline my heart to your testimonies,
    and not to selfish gain!”

We must be led. We are on this journey you see, but it will take His work to direct us. The commandments should delight us. The rebellion which is innate in each of us really hates this.

Inclination means a motivation, or a proclivity within. It describes a disposition where we really do want to follow, we really do! In a sense we see a sort of ‘magnetism’ that effects us, pulling us to Him. “Selfish gain” is a bit vague, but it is anything that lifts us up, when it is really all about Him.

Vv. 37-38, “Turn my eyes from looking at worthless things;
    and give me life in your ways.
38 Confirm to your servant your promise,
    that you may be feared.

My eyes are constantly roving, and unfortunately they gravitate toward “worthless things.” These are things which have little or no value. There is a strange sort of spiritual seduction here. We need God’s help in controlling this. If we don’t we will be in bondage to sin.

Confirmation is a sort of an implanted promise that reassures us. Without it we are a real mess. We each are capable of much wickedness. But when God’s hand is on us, confirming us– it is then we start to have a healthy fear of God. And that is a very good thing.

Vv. 39-40, “Turn away the reproach that I dread,
    for your rules are good.
40 Behold, I long for your precepts;
    in your righteousness give me life!”

The “reproach” is coming from our enemies, both spiritual and fleshly (vv. 22, 42, 51). It seems that we are the most hated– and the most loved people. The verse seems to suggest that we need God’s work to “turn away” this nastiness.

The Holy Spirit refocuses us, recalibrating us. We start to “long for” the things He speaks to us. If we let Him work, we will discover true life. And once you taste that life, it will ruin you for the vain morsels of this present age.

&

ybic, Bryan

God Never Plays “Hide & Seek”: Psalm 102:1-2

Come out, come out. Wherever you are!
Come out, come out. Wherever you are!

Do Not Hide Your Face from Me

A Prayer of one afflicted, when he is faint and pours out his complaint before the Lord.

102 “Hear my prayer, O Lord;
let my cry come to you!
Do not hide your face from me
    in the day of my distress!

Incline your ear to me;
    answer me speedily in the day when I call!”

Psalm 102:1-2, NLT

Affliction is the most common experience we will share. It seems that it is our natural environment, because we can be found there most of the time. Afflictions vary in intensity– from the casual, day-to-day stuff to the catastrophic. It’s good to be reminded of our common situation. It helps, a little.

I chose this psalm because of content and ‘heart.’ A quick read will reveal issues not normally discussed or pondered. It’s sort of like ‘super-gluing” your hand to the horn of an enraged rhino. You’re not sure where he’s going, but you’re going to get there very shortly.

Bible study is like that for me. The text I happen to be thinking about has incredible power. I sense it and I handle it, and I pray. Once I attach myself to the text, anything can happen. Responding to the Word can be exhilarating.

Commentary

V. 1, “Hear my prayer, O Lord;
let my cry come to you!”

Someone once said that just as breathing is to our physical bodies, prayer is the same to our spiritual ones. We must breathe. As a kid I remember having “breathing contests.” We would hold our breath for as long as it took to win. Weird, huh?

There is a definite need, as sure as anything, for each of us to fellowship with “the God of all comfort”.

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort those who are in any trouble, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.”

2 Corinthians 1:3-4, NKJV

There is a heart-cry that comes out of the spirit of the believer. The Hebrew word chosen in verse 1 is one of the most intense found. It’s not just “whimpering”, but it goes far beyond that. This “cry” is strenuous and strong. It is the cry of a broken heart.

The psalmist does not intend to waste his sorrows. The pain he is feeling may just rip him into two; but he knows and believes that it has eternal value and everlasting purpose. (He knows this because he has faith).

Our faith was never meant to be spiritual medals and ribbons for decoration. Rather faith is a life boat we are swimming to reach. It is what I call, “the desperation factor”.

V. 2,  “Do not hide your face from me in the day of my distress!

Incline your ear to me; answer me speedily in the day when I call!”

God does not play “hide and seek” with our hearts and souls. He absolutely loves it when His children are desperately looking for Him. He does not play tricks on us. We may have to walk in the dark, and have to listen through the cacophony of competing voices. But He is so close, “His eye is on the sparrow’.

There are often “time factors” that He uses. We will learn to wait. But waiting is first– never “passive.” We don’t need to go into a “spiritual hibernation” because things are quiet. Second– waiting does not mean “abandonment”.

The three Hebrew children stood in the furnace. This is the way they did executions back then. They stood in faith of a God who heard their prayers. They might as well have been standing in their bathrooms, as the fire couldn’t even singe them. The were so ‘insulated’ they didn’t even smell smokey.

But the king, peering through the walls of the furnace, could see a fourth man. The Lord God was quite present, even in this place of death.

*

ybic, Bryan

God in Control: Psalm 145:12-13

He is fully in control

12 “They will tell about your mighty deeds
    and about the majesty and glory of your reign.
13 For your kingdom is an everlasting kingdom.
    You rule throughout all generations.

The Lord always keeps his promises;
    he is gracious in all he does.”

Psalm 145:12-13, NLT

Gosh, I do love this Psalm. The more I handle it (Actually the more it handles me,) the more excited I get. Just so you know, I just don’t sit down and try to write this blog. I need and hope for”lightning to strike!” Fortunately, just reading and thinking, often brings the inspiration I sort of insist on.

I guess it’s good to love the Word. Before I was saved, I read a lot of “Heavy Metal” and Edgar Allen Poe. Now, the Word pretty much absorbs my thinking. However, what we read can often shape our lives. What are you reading, right now?

Commentary

V. 12, They will tell about your mighty deeds
    and about the majesty and glory of your reign.”

This is a “consuming” verse. It burns the ‘understanding’ reader. It’s obvious that “mighty deeds” has become all important. But it gets better, the phrase, “the majesty and glory of your reign” holds enough glory to stun even the skeptic (and I love skeptics!)

The verse describes a select people who love to talk about God’s “mighty deeds.” And unless you’re only on the peripheral you can not stand and shout about them. You have to understand them ‘first-hand.” You need to connect, before you communicate.

We can only share what we know. When a skeptic gets a whiff of ‘unreality’ they will move on to something else. You gotta be real! “The majesty” is there for you to discover. (The “Glory” shouldn’t be far behind.) But when is Presence touches you, I guarantee you will never, ever be the same.

“Reign” is an exceptional thought. It refers to being a king. Kings rule (that’s what they do best.) It suggests control, protection, and oversight. There is an awareness a king has of how their authority would enhance their citizens well-being. A good king is careful, and at his best he is observant. His rule is gauged on his peoples ‘well-being.’

V. 13, “For your kingdom is an everlasting kingdom. You rule throughout all generations.

The Lord always keeps his promises;
he is gracious in all he does.”

Sweet!

I guess “everlasting” is the best word of the bunch. When we think of this, we should carry the idea of permanance. It’s not going to end, never-never. We have the option of being involved in this “Kingdom” if we want. “Generations” is another good word. (And actually, both words strengthen each other.)

David goes on, and clarifies the appropriateness and elegance of our God. He is indeed very gracious. And in this, He is profoundly faithful. (You can count on this.) He is genteel and extremely aware at the same time. He is concisely careful with our hearts. The writer of Psalm 145 understands this, and he ‘cements’ himself into a place where God dwells.

&

ybic, Bryan

A Solid and Steady Love: Psalm 62:11-12

11 Once God has spoken;
    twice have I heard this:
that power belongs to God,
12     and that to you, O Lord, belongs steadfast love.
For you will render to a man
    according to his work.

Psalm 62:11-12, ESV

This portion exudes confidence. The Lord God is totally and completely in control. When we come to Him, we can expect someone who has our good in mind, and He doesn’t change, falter or fluctuate. He is the steadiness of the steady.

We conclude Psalm 62. We have learned much and been brought into the place of understanding. When this psalm rules the heart and mind of the Christian believer, we penetrate the darkness that desperately wants to swallow us up.

Commentary

V. 11, “Once God has spoken;
    twice have I heard this:
that power belongs to God,”

The New Living Translation says this– “God has spoken plainly,
and I have heard it many times: Power, O God, belongs to you;” Without a doubt, God has exhausted every option He has to explain Himself and what He definitely desires from us.

I suppose the real issue here is “power.” Who really has it, and who is just pretending and blustering. Having power over the salvation of men should be a radical encouragement to us. He focuses all His energy on bringing us home safely and victoriously.

David understands exactly how candid the Lord has been with Him. He has spoken “plainly.” David has heard the message many times. After several attempts, the ‘lights’ suddenly go on. Suddenly, he understands.

V. 12, “and that to you, O Lord, belongs steadfast love.
For you will render to a man
    according to his work.”

God holds the “copy-write” on steadfast love. He has a patent on it, and a “steadfast love” belongs to Him exclusively. It belongs to Him, and it is His certain possession. All we might understand about Him declares a steady and solid love.

The distinct idea in all of this should be our solid focus on an unshakable love that has decided to hold us in place– safe and secure.

The last part of verse 12 declares to us a powerful principle. God is monitoring, and evaluating the things we do and all that we say. He fully intends to give every person the results of their actions. We can not escape this principle.

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ybic, Bryan

God Has Really Big Feet: Psalm 108:10-13

10Who will bring me to the fortified city?
    Who will lead me to Edom?
11 Have you not rejected us, O God?
    You do not go out, O God, with our armies.
12 Oh grant us help against the foe,
    for vain is the salvation of man!
13 With God we shall do valiantly;
    it is he who will tread down our foes.”

Psalm 108:10-13, ESV

As believers we all have expectations.  In this Psalm, the mind of David is clear and aware– and it is essentially focusing on whether God will be present (or not?). David has seen a lot in his life. And after our life is all sifted, we should be asking, “how close was God to me?”

“With God we shall do valiantly” is most certainly a profound statement. It is pretty much saturated by an intense faith. It declares that we are now enabled to face anything life decides to throw at us.

Commentary

V. 10, “Who will bring me to the fortified city?
    Who will lead me to Edom?”

David’s question has been cloaked in the metaphors of his day. Today we need to break out our study books to define things for us. But the contemporaries of David would have instantly understood the question.

The “fortified city,” or Edom was the very place of concentrated evil. It was always a source of disruption and pain for Jerusalem. I suppose we could make the comparison between Iran and the USA.

Terrorism and dealing with advanced weaponry are just two of the issues. There are also real religious and social incompatibilities. We face core ideas where we are diametrically and irreconcilable opposed to each other.

The question is this– how do we oppose a fortified city? Or take on the greatest threat to our nation’s prosperity and well-being?

V. 11, “ Have you not rejected us, O God?
    You do not go out, O God, with our armies.”

This statement clarifies King David’s greatest fear. The absence of God in the heart of his nation terrifies him. It is a nightmare when God withdraws His presence from His people.

Yes…Israel does have an army. And I’m sure it was the equal (more or less) with any other kingdom’s army. It would be good to remember that as a boy David faced Goliath. There was something quite solid inserted in his thinking. It had to do with a faithful God acting on Israel’s behalf.

V. 12, “ Oh grant us help against the foe,
     for vain is the salvation of man!”

David refuses to stay in verse 11. He pushes into v. 12. He refuses to accept the false “alternate reality” of an absent God, but instead he forges out this cry for divine help.

This man David was the boy who faced Goliath, the giant. Obviously, Goliath was the superior warrior. He was experienced after many encounters in combat. Never defeated, he was ‘the human wood-chipper.’ And when David defeated him, it was a victory of monumental proportions. And David would never, ever be the same.

I’m reasonably certain that Israel had generals trained in their version of “West Point.” I’m reasonably sure they had a diplomatic presence reaching out for alliances and treaties. But in all these gyrations and preparations, King David refused to put any confidence in them.

V. 13, “With God we shall do valiantly;
    it is he who will tread down our foes.”

A most remarkable verse. It has a definite value far beyond David’s situation, it chisels out a principle that has as much, (or more) significance today.

“With God.” “Do valiantly.” There is something quite heroic about any person that chooses to “walk by faith, and not by sight.” Valiant ones are not necessarily stronger or smarter, rather they know they are weaker. They have relinquished anything that keep them following their Father into victory.

“Tread down” can be understood as ‘trampling or stomping.’ It is the ultimate act of victory, with the enemy under our feet. It reveals the sense of total victory over them. And we must see, it is God’s feet doing the crushing.

“When we pray for the Spirit’s help … we will simply fall down at the Lord’s feet in our weakness. There we will find the victory and power that comes from His love. ”  

Andrew Murray

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ybic, Bryan

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A Battle Hardened God: Psalm 35:1-3

1 “O Lord, oppose those who oppose me.
    Fight those who fight against me.
Put on your armor, and take up your shield.
    Prepare for battle, and come to my aid.
Lift up your spear and javelin
    against those who pursue me.
Let me hear you say,
    “I will give you victory!”

Psalm 35:1-3, NLT

Our God is a warrior. V.1

There is a need in both the physical and spiritual world for protection against evil forces. You cannot have victory without conflict. V. 1-2

We have a “champion” who is determined to defeat our enemies. Victory is never won alone. V.2

As mere ‘flesh-and-blood’ we simply cannot survive a spiritual assault on our sphere of physical understanding. Our nation, communities, homes, churches, families, marriages, and even our souls have been targeted by something quite evil. V. 2-3

It’s God’s activity that will deliver us. It is also His victory that He gives to us who follow Him with a faith that leads to obedience. V. 4

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“When we pray for the Spirit’s help … we will simply fall down at the Lord’s feet in our weakness. There we will find the victory and power that comes from His love.”   Andrew Murray

“Take your stand on the Rock of Ages. Let death, let the judgment come: the victory is Christ’s and yours through Him.”   D.L. Moody

ybic, Bryan