The Secret of Deliverance: Psalms 124

Life behind the fence

The Lord Saves His People
A song for going up to worship. Of David.

 1 What if the Lord had not been on our side? 
       (Let Israel repeat this.)
 2 What if the Lord had not been on our side 
       when we were attacked?
 3 When they were angry with us, 
       they would have swallowed us alive.
 4 They would have been like a flood drowning us; 
       they would have poured over us like a river. 
 5 They would have swept us away like a mighty stream. 

 6 Praise the Lord, 
       who did not let them chew us up. 
 7 We escaped like a bird 
       from the hunter’s trap. 
    The trap broke, 
       and we escaped.
 8 Our help comes from the Lord, 
       who made heaven and earth.

We can play “the what if game.” We can think backwards, and hit replay, and pretend alternate realities. What if, I didn’t join the army? What if I died on that last drunken spree, choking on my own vomit? Date that particular girl, go to a Bible college? These events could have happened. (But didn’t).

David asks an enormous “what if.” And this trip down memory lane examines what would of, (or could have) happened if God would have taken His hand off Israel as a nation.

Commentary

V. 1- 5, King David poses this question. He wants Israel to understand what he is saying. He forces the comment to repeat after him. He then re-frames the question in V.2. David wants his nation to think through this, “What if God had not stepped into the situation?”

I truly believe that we should occasionally do the same today. A moments pause to reflect on His grace and attending care. To understand that it was God’s grace that held us in place. All that He does for us is very good indeed.

The opposing forces of our malevolent enemy have a ministry. That ministry is too steamroll and crush. As a boy I remember having the same vivid dream, especially when I would have a fever. It was always the same, I was on a conveyor belt, and I couldn’t move. At the end of that belt was huge lugged rollers. I was going to be crushed to death. I can still remember the terror of being frozen to the moving belt.

There is a sense of being so overwhelmed by your enemies. The chosen metaphor is an intense flood, irresistible waters sweeping us downstream. Does Satan have this much power? I think he does. But if we focus on these first five verses we see that they are merely potentialities… what could have happened… if God had let go.

V. 6, “Praise the Lord, who did not let them chew us up.”  David is a very vivid writer, he had a flair of choosing the best images. We see God intervening, of wading into the flood, and preventing Israel from being devoured.

V. 7  “We have escaped like a bird from the snare of the fowlers; the snare is broken, and we have escaped!” ESV. I love this verse. “Escaped” is emphasized twice, the bird catchers have collected many birds, snared by a little food and a strong net. But something has just happened, and the birds somehow escape! Growing up I once went ice fishing with my grandpa. He would catch some beautiful fish, but I surreptitiously would slip them into the water to set them free. Somehow I think this is God’s heart.

V. 8, is the ultimate lesson of this psalm. It sums up everything wonderfully. There is help. The Creator who cares for us. He has ultimate strength.

 

ybic, Bryan

 

flourish12

Advertisements

Gaze Into a Servant’s Eyes: Psalm 123

Our Eyes Look to the LORD Our God
    A Song of Ascents.

 1 To you I lift up my eyes
O you who are enthroned in the heavens!
2 Behold, as the eyes of servants 
   look to the hand of their master, 
as the eyes of a maidservant 
   to the hand of her mistress, 
so our eyes look to the LORD our God, 
   till he has mercy upon us.

 3 Have mercy upon us, O LORD, have mercy upon us, 
   for we have had more than enough of contempt. 
4 Our soul has had more than enough 
   of the scorn of those who are at ease, 
   of the contempt of the proud.

Psalm 123:1-4, ESV

I don’t think we get the idea of a “community” lament. When we weep, we tend to cry alone. The idea of national grief has only once or twice affected this generation. I think of the attacks on 9/11. The pain polarized us, and we seemed to lament together.

This is one of the Psalms of Ascent. It had a specific use; as the memorized songs to be sung as the Jews travelling up to the Temple. Jerusalem was elevated above the surrounding terrain. While the pilgrims sang on the roadways, the Levites would sing the same songs on the steps up to the Temple. This group of 15 Psalms are collected for us as 120-134.

Commentary

V.1 Right away I look to the obvious. The reference to “eyes” repeated four times in just two verses, vv. 1-2. Eyes are organs exclusively dedicated for sight, complex eyes can distinguish shapes and colors. We can distinguish 10 million colors. Without them, we would be severely handicapped. But many seeing persons can’t always perceive and discern things as they should.

V. 2 The theme here is “servanthood”. The person who serves another has to be focused. We look to the hand, watching and anticipating the next move the master might make. He might raise the index finger on the right hand, he wants tea. A clenched fist means I’m ready for my lunch. We must see the link between servanthood and seeing. A good servant is one who can anticipate the master’s will.

V. 3, “Have mercy upon us, O LORD, have mercy upon us.” The mercy needs to be sought, for there is not automatic mercy. You should plead for it, if you are serious about getting it. There is a solid boldness of coming and asking, begging.

V.4 The world is hardly a tolerant and congenial place. We often get “our belly full”. Never expect to be loved and esteemed as a believer. And if it does happen. someone has a certain self-awareness. It will never be what you think. Our “enemies” are into what is easy and what strengthens their pride. That will make them dangerous.

1Bryybicsig

What Our Blessings Look Like: Psalm 128

A song for pilgrims ascending to Jerusalem.

 1 Happy are those who respect the Lord and obey him.
 2 You will enjoy what you work for, 
       and you will be blessed with good things.
 3 Your wife will give you many children, 
       like a vine that produces much fruit. 
    Your children will bring you much good, 
       like olive branches that produce many olives.
 4 This is how the man who respects the Lord 
       will be blessed.
 5 May the Lord bless you from Mount Zion; 
       may you enjoy the good things of Jerusalem all your life. 
 6 May you see your grandchildren. 

    Let there be peace in Israel.

Psalm 128, NCV

This one of “the Psalms of Ascent” for pilgrims to sing as the travel to Jerusalem for the high hold feasts. They would walk, most from more than 70 miles. They would travel in large groups for safety against robbers and brigands. They would sing in unison, or in “rounds” using these psalms.

For us, we are making a spiritual journey, also from a long distance. And we too, have songs to sing. We travel hopefully, in groups as well. It’s interesting to note that what we sing should be of sound theology and an edifying quality. The experience of singing the truth joyfully would teach and strengthen the whole family in the profound idea of covenant.

Commentary

V. 1, is interesting because joy and fear are both present. Your joy is a result of your fear.You experience them both together. All joy, or all fear, apart from each other will be a disruption for us.  Notice this was to help us follow Him, when the road was challenging.

V.2, If we fear, we will find joy. We will enjoy what we do. There will be fruit which is always a great thing. Not to have it is very miserable, as it will always mean that something is wrong. Usually, that something is from v.1. They link together like train boxcars.

V. 3, has much to do with a single word, “contentment.” A whole lot of problems and sadness come our way because we are no longer content or at peace with ourselves. Obviously, when we are not happy, we no longer enjoy our life. Depression and despondency will take us down and ruin us. (I know this, firsthand.)

Wife, and children all flourish and grow. Perhaps that is a strong indicator of your spiritual health.  Family that is thriving. Sitting at our dinner table is a real treat. I enjoy this greatly and I’m learning to love it more and more.

V. 4 declares that this is the blessing God gives. It is intensely familial. It’s odd, but some of us who are married with children are still single in our hearts, and minds. Often we isolate ourselves, and keep away from our families, and this is wrong. If we persist in this, we lose the deep blessing of God on our lives.

V. 5-6 are like a water faucet you can’t turn off. Cold, fresh water gushes from the spout and doesn’t stop refreshing. And actually, this is not far from the truth. The idea of continuance and constancy may seem improbable to us. But, its very hard to turn God off. He gives and gives; and sometimes getting a drink is like trying to drink from a fire hose.

ybic, Bryan

kyrie elesion.

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