Quality Control: Psalm 15

quality-control-approved

psalm of David.

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

Psalm 15, NLT

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

Commentary

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

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

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

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

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

Galatians 5:22

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

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

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

Galatians 5:16-17

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

God loves brokenness, He draws near to the humble.

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

bry-signat (1)

Advertisements

A Very Long Shadow: Psalm 32:1-5

A Maskil of David.

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

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

Psalm 32:1-5, NCV

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

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

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

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

 

Commentary

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

The Walls: Psalm 51:17-19, Conclusion

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

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

Psalm 51:17-19, ESV

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

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

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

Commentary

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

*

ybic, Bryan

People of the Crescendo: Psalm 51:15-17

15 “Open my lips, Lord,
and my mouth will declare your praise.
16 You do not delight in sacrifice, or I would bring it;
you do not take pleasure in burnt offerings.
17 My sacrifice, O God, is a broken spirit;
a broken and contrite heart
you, God, will not despise.”

Psalm 51:15-17, NIV

Crescendo is a gradual, steady increase in loudness or force. It is primarily a musical term that builds and builds in intensity. A great example is Rossini’s, “William Tell Overture” which often features cannons blasting as the opera peaks, at the end. (Trivia– It’s also the theme for the “Lone Ranger.”)

With this in mind, we can imagine Psalm 51 developing and building to these last several verses. You can see David growing in confidence and assurance. He now knows he is forgiven, and more. God has changed David’s heart. He is a different man than he was in verse 1.

Commentary

V. 15,  “Open my lips, Lord,
and my mouth will declare your praise.”

Who can really know what happens between a man and his God? Those who you think are doing quite well, aren’t– and those who you regard as “lost causes” are far more than that. God knows, and He isn’t telling.

When it comes right down to it, our worship of God is initiated, by God. He must “open our lips,” in order for us to start. It’s like a garden hose, the spigot needs to be opened for the water to flow. When we start to make our ‘praise declarations’ to the Lord we will discover salvation and healing for us (and others.)

V. 16, You do not delight in sacrifice, or I would bring it;
you do not take pleasure in burnt offerings.”

Often in our hearts we absorb a ‘mechanistic rigidity.’  What I mean by that is that we move externally, without moving internally. In David’s day, burning sheep and oxen as a sacrifice was the only way you operated. But David points out that God wants us to be a “living sacrifice.”

David doesn’t prohibit the sacrifice. He isn’t nullifying it at all. The very last verse in this Psalm clarifies the temple sacrifice.

“Then you will delight in the sacrifices of the righteous,
in burnt offerings offered whole;
then bulls will be offered on your altar.” Ps. 51:19

V. 17, “My sacrifice, O God, is a broken spirit;
a broken and contrite heart
you, God, will not despise.”

David had been given an awareness of a truth that few ever grasp. This is the crescendo I mentioned earlier. Things are getting louder and clearer. Worship is redefined now in sharper terms. David doesn’t point to a bull without any blemish, he claims to have all that God really wants.

The human heart, broken and saddened by its sinfulness, is prime ‘real estate’ for our Father God. He’s been looking for broken people to make His own.

*

ybic, Bryan

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 51:6-9, Give Me Back My Joy

joy

5 “For I was born a sinner—
    yes, from the moment my mother conceived me.
But you desire honesty from the womb,
    teaching me wisdom even there.

Purify me from my sins, and I will be clean;
    wash me, and I will be whiter than snow.
Oh, give me back my joy again;
    you have broken me—
    now let me rejoice.
Don’t keep looking at my sins.
    Remove the stain of my guilt.”

Psalm 51:5-9, NLT

These five verses press us with their intensity. We are starting to develop a true idea of the doctrine of repentance. As fallen people, we sub-consciously erode the ‘hard things’ that rub us the wrong way. Most of us still hold on the idea that we’re basically pretty good people. That dear one, is a lie.

King David commits adultery with Bathsheba. She is now pregnant. Her husband is a general in David’s army. David hatches a plan to save his neck. He conspires to have Uriah murdered after trying very hard to get him to have sexual relations with Bathsheba.

This man who wrote so beautifully Psalm 23 is really evil to the core.

Commentary

V.6,  But you desire honesty from the womb,
    teaching me wisdom even there.”

To be very honest, King David reveals a understanding of Gods love and mercy is directed at him. There is no escape, he must take it as he squirms out of trouble. But to be honest, he doesn’t have a clue.

His honesty is remarkable. All that proceeds from a close place, is true and sure. He is thinking that “wisdom” comes from a certain place. He can only accept and turn, directly clean;

 “wash me, and I will be whiter than snow.”

All of this comes out of the “deep presence of God.” The “whiteness” does come, at a specific moment in time. We do must come into a certain place, where we meet His active presence.

V. 8, “Oh, give me back my joy again; you have broken me—now let me rejoice.”

True brokenness will lead us through so much darkness and foolishness.  It seems we can only pretend, but never recover the amazing awareness of God, coming into His presence. We really understand this, or accept a presence quite beyond us.

V. 9, “Don’t keep looking at my sins.
    Remove the stain of my guilt.”

Somehow David understands how things work. His sin has become “front-line” news. Adultery and murder are definite “tipping points” that David can try only to explain.

David does feel a certain remorse. All that He brings, is something, an awareness of what is real.

ybic, Bryan

Psalm 51:3-5, Recognize the Rebel Within

3 “For I recognize my rebellion;
    it haunts me day and night.
Against you, and you alone, have I sinned;
    I have done what is evil in your sight.
You will be proved right in what you say,
    and your judgment against me is just.[a]
For I was born a sinner—
    yes, from the moment my mother conceived me.”

Psalm 51:3-5, NLT

In this life, we must understand our inner rebellion and  sin. We had better accept and agree with God on this basic matter. If we really are going to be truthful people we have to really focus on this fundamental understanding of our own depravity.

This is the first of seven of Psalms we call “penitential.” It is probably the best known of these seven. Psalm 51 can be broken down into subcategories. Of course, the title precisely cues us in the time David met with Nathan in 2 Samuel 12:1-14.

Commentary

V. 3, “ “For I recognize my rebellion;
    it haunts me day and night.”

David doesn’t cling to false platitudes. He is not deceived by creating a new image. He doesn’t care a whit about public relations. It may seem like he is being a little hard on himself. There are some that suggest that David may be too morbid, too moody. But you try to commit adultery, and than murder, then you can judge the entire scene.

But David has looked into a mirror, and he’s stepped away from it. He cannot forget what he saw. He sees his “rebellion” for what it really is– that he is warped and twisted. David can’t shake off this sense of shame and grief. He has committed adultery which has led to murder of one of his best generals.

V. 4, “Against you, and you alone, have I sinned;
    I have done what is evil in your sight. You will be proved right in what you say, and your judgment against me is just.

All of our sins are against God. Failure to see this results in a repentance that is premature, and deficient. This inadequate repentance will not change you, but only makes you feel somewhat better.

There is no doubt that David sinned terribly against Bathsheba, and her husband Uriah. What he did to them was so wrong, on so many levels. But, what about God? David’s selfishness, greed, lust offended God. Perhaps we need to tweak our concepts. The higher in status and power a person is, the greater the offense. All sin is sin against a holy God.

What David believed is that God could say what God wanted about him, and it would be right and true, for God cannot be otherwise. But rather than stubbornly avoiding God, David sees the positive and he chooses to honor God by his authentic repentance.

V. 5,For I was born a sinner—
    yes, from the moment my mother conceived me.”

David is not saying that his mother was immoral. Rather he is recognizing the depth of his own sin. (He knows who he is, he’s got this tattoo, “Born to Sin” on his biceps.)

ybic, Bryan

Psalm 51:1-2, Learning How to Repent

“For the choir director: A psalm of David, regarding the time Nathan the prophet came to him after David had committed adultery with Bathsheba.”

1 “Have mercy on me, O God,
    because of your unfailing love.
    Because of your great compassion,
    blot out the stain of my sins.
Wash me clean from my guilt.
    Purify me from my sin.”

Psalm 51:1-2, NLT

I’m starting to realize that if you’re not right with God, you’re wrong in everything else. I’m pretty sure that David felt the strain of his sin. Committing adultery and murder will leave its indelible mark.

This psalm is addressed to God. Actually, I’m a bit surprised that we can even read this, as it is quite intimate. But perhaps David realized his sin was public, and so must his repentance be. Too many people knew, and there was no way to put a lid on it.

Repentance is the concentrated activity of reviewing one’s actions and feeling contrition or regret for past wrongs.

Commentary

V.1, Have mercy on me, O God,
    because of your unfailing love.
    Because of your great compassion,
    blot out the stain of my sins.”

Think about it.

  1. David doesn’t make any promises.
  2. David knows God’s heart.
  3. David completely understands the condition of his own heart.

And now he asks for mercy. Mercy is a strong grace that is available to those who know they are rascals. We don’t deserve it. But God bestows it anyway.

I believe that this ‘mercy’ is on a case-by-case basis. Each of us must make this transaction with God. We have this Psalm to guide us into a deeper repentance.

“It’s Satan’s delight to tell me that once he’s got me, he will keep me. But at that moment I can go back to God. And I know that if I confess my sins, God is faithful and just to forgive me.”  Alan Redpath

This undertaking demands everything we have. It should never be sloppy or careless. We shouldn’t try to accelerate through this. We will only be re-routed by the Holy Spirit until we finally “get it.”

V. 2, Wash me clean from my guilt.
        Purify me from my sin.”

“Clean before my Lord, I stand. Not one blemish does He see.” There are so many who need to spend time on God’s washboard. Now is your time to be fully cleansed.

Repentance is a daily work because we commit sins everyday. There are sins of commission and of omission. We all do wrong things, and we also miss things we should have done.

“That is why the Lord says,
“Turn to me now, while there is time.
 Give me your hearts.
 Come with fasting, weeping, and mourning.”

Joel 2:12, NLT

ybic, Bryan

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

joy-happy-man

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

flourish-small

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

What To Do When You Are a Persecuted Minority, Psalm 3:1–8

tree-shiny

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

1 O Lord, how many are my foes!

How many rise up against me!

2 Many are saying of me,

“God will not deliver him.”

3 But you are a shield around me, O Lord;

you bestow glory on me and lift up my head.

4 To the Lord I cry aloud

and he answers me from his holy hill.

5 I lie down and sleep;

I wake again, because the Lord sustains me.

6 I will not fear the tens of thousands

drawn up against me on every side.

7 Arise, O Lord! Deliver me, O my God!

Strike all my enemies on the jaw;

Break the teeth of the wicked.

8 From the Lord comes deliverance.

May your blessing be on your people.

The historical background of this psalm is when David, fled Jerusalem because his son Absalom was coming to usurp his kingdom. Through cunning and treachery, Absalom had turned the hearts of a majority of the Israelites away from King David and toward himself. David must flee for his life; he, and those loyal to him, are now a persecuted minority. In commenting on the decline of Christian influence in the Bible Belt, Russell Moore, a prominent leader in the Southern Baptist Convention said,”...we are no longer the moral majority. We are a prophetic minority.”

When I was first married in Alaska, I went out and  worked as a laborer on a construction crew. I was the only Christian on the crew. and was reminded of that fact everyday through the other workers’ coarse language, and derisive comments about Christians. I admit, their use of profanity, and especially the f–word, as nouns, verbs, heard in adjectives, adverbs, etc., definitely showed unusual creativity. They really liked to “bait” me, by saying provocative things to see how I would react. As the Apostle Paul says, “In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted” (II Timothy 3:12).

What do we do, when we find that we are part of a persecuted minority? King David’s response is exemplary:

For David, who in such a furnace of affliction, what’s really in his heart was revealed. Character or virtue is not only formed in such adversity; it’s also revealed. Out of a heart of humility, David cried out in radical dependence on God and God heard him. In times of severe testing, we often turn to our idols, but David didn’t put his trust “in chariots, horses, alliances, or other nations” but in God alone.  But you and I must decide.

His extremity became God’s opportunity. His fervent prayer and desperate clinging to the Lord resulted in confidence in God’s protection, (v.3) And a peace of mind  while he slept and while he approached the battle (vv.5 and 6).

David was free of despair and could walk with his head held high (v.3b). And like all of God’s best friends, his concern was not just for himself but for the welfare of all of God’s people: “May your blessing be on your people” (v.8b).

David expected to be delivered and he was. Should the believer always have such expectations? Not really. Stephen, the first martyr in the Christian faith, didn’t. The Christians that were thrown to the lions in the Roman Coliseum didn’t. Think of the three children of Israel who were a persecuted minority, and were thrown into the fiery furnace by Nebuchadnezzar in Daniel 3. They told Nebuchadnezzar that whether God delivered them or not, they would not worship false idols. Not being delivered was a very real possibility to them.

What God wants more than anything else from us is not that we have an assurance of his deliverance; it’s that we have a heart that abandons itself to his providence and echoes his Son’s words: “Not my will but your will be done.”

Such a psalm should cause us, by the grace of God, to want to purge all that is nominal, lukewarm, half–hearted, and double–minded from our faith. As we go deeper into the last days and Christians become more of a persecuted minority even here in America, devout souls like David will stand firm in their faith but the lukewarm will have a tendency to compromise and cut deals with the “Absalom majority.” Unlike Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, they will bow to the gods of this present age. May God grant us the mantle and spirit of David so that we will remain faithful in the day of great testing.

&

ybic, Jonathan

Jonathan’s website is at http://www.openheavensblog.com. It is a good site, and worthy of your attention.

Psalm 14:1: The Heart of a Fool

atheist-thought

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Blessings, Jonathan

*

Psalm 84:10: Overcoming the Greatest Temptation

temptation-of-jesus

10″ Better is one day in your courts than a thousand elsewhere;
I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God than dwell in the tents of the wicked.”

This may be one of the most profound verses in the Psalms, if not in the entire Bible. In it David is saying that he would rather have the most humble place in the house of God than the highest position among the godless. This proclamation is the exact opposite of what Satan said in John Milton’s epic poem, Paradise Lost, “Better to reign in Hell, than to serve in Heaven.” What makes this passage so weighty is that it encapsulates the greatest temptation of created beings from before the creation of the world to the present day.

What temptation would cause Satan, an exalted angel who dwelled in the presence of the glory of God for eons before his fall from grace, to rebel and inaugurate his own kingdom of darkness? What enticement would cause a significant number of angels (probably one–third; see Revelation 12:4), who also dwelt in the exquisite splendor of God, to follow him in this rebellion? What temptation would provoke Adam and Eve, who lived in Edenic paradise in unbroken communion with God, to disobey God’s clear command and go their own way? What enticement led the nation of Israel, who had amazing, supernatural provision and a special relationship with the Almighty, to reject their Creator and worship other gods?

Satan, the fallen angels, Adam and Eve, and the nation of Israel all succumbed to the same temptation. It goes by different names but I will, for lack of a better word, call it godship. Godship is rooted in pride, the root sin of all sins, and its nature is to make oneself God and to pursue an autonomous existence apart from God and his will. It means taking God off the throne of our hearts, and, in self–exaltation, putting ourselves on that throne.

Satan and the fallen angels did this, and, in the spirit of Milton’s poem, essentially said, “Better to reign in Hell, than to serve in Heaven.” Adam and Eve made their proclamation of godship when they ate the forbidden food because they thought they would become like God, knowing good and evil. Israel’s sin of godship is vividly revealed in Judges 21:25, a passage that describes their entire history:

“In those days Israel had no king; everyone did as he saw fit.”

David’s proclamation in Psalm 84:10 is a watershed moment because he is gazing into the face of the history of fallen creation and is saying, ” I will not join the Rebellion; I will not commit the sin of godship; I would rather have the lowest place in the house of God than rule in the tents of the ungodly.” David would go on to commit egregious sins in his life (adultery, murder, etc.), but he was still a man after God’s own heart (Acts 13:22), and would not commit the most egregious sin of all: godship.

One reason Roman Catholics venerate Mary is because she also submitted herself to the will of God. She was told by the angel Gabriel that she would give birth to the Savior and said, “I am the Lord’s servant…May it be to me as you have said.”

After fasting for forty days and forty nights, the devil tempted Jesus to commit the sin of godship and live a life autonomous from God and his will. Jesus also stared into the face of the history of fallen creation and said, “Away from me, Satan! For it is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only'” (Matthew 4:11). He did this again during his Passion when he said to the Father, “Not my will but your will be done.”

Dear reader, by the grace of God, we can all follow in the footsteps of David, Mary, and especially our Lord. We can get up each morning, look into the mirror, and start our day by saying, ” Dear Lord, thank you for the gift of another day of life. By your grace I choose to be a doorkeeper in your house instead of taking my fate upon myself. I reject the deception of godship and choose to be your servant.”

&

ybic, Jonathan

O

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 51:14–17: What God Delights In

rebellion-seen
I am lost without you

14 Save me from bloodguilt, O God,
the God who saves me,
and my tongue will sing of your righteousness

15 O Lord, open my lips,
and my mouth will declare your praise

16 You do not delight in sacrifice, or I would bring it;
you do not take pleasure in burnt offerings

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

Both Psalms 32 and 51 are about David’s sorrow and repentance because of his adultery with Bathsheba and subsequent murder of her husband, Uriah the Hittite, who David purposely placed on the front lines of military battle, where he would surely die. In verses 14 and 15 he asks God for forgiveness for the murder (“bloodguilt”) so that he can sing of God’s righteousness and offer him praise. Derek Kidner, in his commentary on the Psalms, is helpful here in suggesting that David wants to extol God for his righteousness because he (David) sees God’s crowning achievement being making an egregious sinner like David righteous!

In verses 16 and 17 it’s obvious that King David has learned from his predecessor King Saul’s mistakes. This insight is often overlooked in sermons and commentaries. Saul was given clear instructions by God through the prophet Samuel to utterly destroy the Amalekites and he disobeyed these instructions. He spared Agag, king of the Amalekites, and the best of the livestock so he could offer sacrifices to the Lord. Samuel’s rebuke of Saul essentially said, “Don’t think these sacrifices impress God. Obedience is better than sacrifice. Your disobedience is similar to witchcraft and idolatry. Sacrifice is good but it means nothing if your heart isn’t right.”

The parallels to our present age are legion. Anytime someone is involved in religious activities–i.e. “sacrifices”–but their heart is wrong, they are following in the footsteps of Saul. One thinks of the Pharisees, both in the time of Jesus and now, who were/are more engaged in religious activities than anyone, but their hearts were full of pride and self–righteousness.

As a Roman Catholic, I often hear complaints from fellow parishioners about “cradle Catholics,” who were born into the faith, and do many of the right Catholic things–“sacrifices”–but their hearts are not humble and contrite and they are far from an intimate relationship with Christ. This is a kind of empty “cultural Christianity” that exists in every denomination.

Movements come and go within Christendom.  Some local churches emerge to ride the next big thing.  They become the most fashionable place to be involved. Sometimes the reason some of the members give their time, talent and treasure–“sacrifices”–to these churches is not to advance the kingdom of God; no, it’s because their involvement makes them feel hip and a part of a special group in comparison to all those boring, generic suburban Christians. And they get to rebel against their un–hip parents, who they are angry with, as part of a package deal!

What does David mean in verse 17 by saying that God wants a broken and contrite heart? Because Christ is the Bridegroom and we are the Bride (Matthew 25:1–13), sometimes it helps to understand biblical principles through the marriage relationship. When a husband has sinned against his wife and knows it, often he will engage in a flurry of activities–“sacrifices”– in order to extricate himself from the doghouse. Suddenly he’s bringing home flowers and candy and is doing home–improvement projects that she wanted done several months ago. However, what she really wants is not a whirlwind of goodwill gestures; no, what she really wants is an apology marked by humility and sorrow for what he did. She needs to know that he is truly sorry, not because his carelessness put him in the doghouse, but because what he did hurt, and was a sin against, her.

It’s never too late for the Pharisee, the “cultural Christian” or the “Christian hipster.” Or me, for that matter. We can still offer sacrifices that God will delight in if we come to him with a broken and contrite heart for the many ways we have offended him. “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted” (Matthew 5:4).

If you liked this post, you may also like Jonathan’s 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

Father, Wedge Me In Somewhere

nesting-sparrow

Psalm 46

New Living Translation (NLT)

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

1″ God is our refuge and strength,     

always ready to help in times of trouble.

So we will not fear when earthquakes come    

 and the mountains crumble into the sea.

Let the oceans roar and foam.    

 Let the mountains tremble as the waters surge!”  Interlude

^

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

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

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

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

%

ybic, Bryan

Broken Bones

Broken Arm
Broken Arm

“Make me to hear joy and gladness; that the bones which thou hast broken may rejoice.”

Psalm 51:8, KJV

“Make me hear sounds of joy and gladness;
    let the bones you crushed be happy again.”

Psalm 51:8, NCV

When I was five years old, I made a grand effort to fly. Jumping off the top bunk, I went one direction– down! Landing on my arm, it really hurt. Going to the E.R. they did a x-ray, and they couldn’t find anything wrong. The doctor told us that it was just bruised.

After a miserable three days, with my mom “exercising” my arm like the doctor suggested, it got worse. Back to the E.R. and after another x-ray, the doctor returned to tell us that the arm was indeed broken. Evidently it wasn’t spotted until then. I got a plaster cast, and a sling.

King David spoke about broken bones. For him, they were not physical. It was much worse. It was spiritual. He essentially collapsed with the torturous Bathsheba decision. The bones were snapped, and it left him in considerable pain. The whole affair came within inches of completely destroying him.

The chastening hand of God often settles on us. Rarely is the pain physical, it is worse. We seldom cope with this kind of discipline.

“We do not enjoy being disciplined. It is painful at the time, but later, after we have learned from it, we have peace, because we start living in the right way.”

Hebrews 12:11, NCV

Pretty much the entirety of Hebrews 12 will press us into a deeper understanding of truth. I encourage you to read it. Perhaps though, the most important thing is to realize that His love is always behind His discipline. Yes, He breaks bones. But He also mends those bones that have been broken.

“We may feel God’s hand as a Father upon us when He strikes us as well as when He strokes us. We often learn more of God under the rod that strikes us than under the staff that comforts us.”

Unknown Puritan

&

ybic, Bryan

The Verdict is In– Psalm 14:1-3

Verdict

Psalm 14

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.
No one does good,
    not a single one!

Psalm 14:1-3, NLT

I remember it clearly. I was a student at Alaska Bible Institute, and got enmeshed in one of those “bull sessions” that periodically arise when there is far too much time, pizza and root beer.

The conversation rolled and we got on the subject of the depravity of man. Essentially, it is the doctrine that states that we are at best, evil and fallen into a sinful state. We are living in darkness and iniquity without hope. Only Jesus’ death and resurrection can save us and deliver us.

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!”

David is speaking directly to people who claim they are “atheists.” Within this belief system, there is an aggressive disbelief in any faith in an unseen God. There are also “agnostics” who are not sure that God can be known or understood.

This psalm states that all who state their unbelief are “fools.” There’s no ‘soft’ take here. A verse this bold gives us no real room for any compromise. Deep down we want to be pleasant, and make allowances– but that simply isn’t possible.

“The atheist can’t find God for the same reason that a thief can’t find a police officer.”

In Mathematics there is something called “the lowest common denominator.” What it is is the smallest positive integer that is a multiple of the denominators. According to David, the atheist is a complete fool at his core level.

There is a moral and spiritual decay that results in this foolishness. They are “corrupt,” and “evil,” and no good.

V. 2, “The Lord looks down from heaven
    on the entire human race;
he looks to see if anyone is truly wise,
    if anyone seeks God.”

I believe that we are in a constant state of evaluation. The entire 7 billion humans alive today go under the microscope. This close examination is not intrusive or invasive. God simply knows. He is completely aware of His created beings.

The Lord is seeking wisdom in the hearts of people. Wisdom, in my thinking is completely underrated. We think something else will substitute. I see wisdom as a mix of discernment, and comprehension, with a smattering of foresight and balance.

But– there is no one! This is where the doctrine of the depravity of man makes its entrance.

V. 3, “ But no, all have turned away;
    all have become corrupt.
No one does good,
    not a single one!”

The verdict isn’t good. We are slaves to sin, serving Satan with wild abandon. Most likely, we are not conscious of this arrangement. And even if we were it would change us very little. Sin is what we want, but it is certainly not what we need.

The good news is that He loves us. Jesus Christ lived, died and was raised from the dead. The Old Testament ingrained the deep sense of what is holy. But it also instilled an awareness of the sacrificial. Lambs died for the sins of people. And Jesus “the Lamb of God” substituted Himself in our place.

*

ybic, Bryan

The Flourish: the Finish

The conclusion of Psalm 92, NLT.

12 But the godly will flourish like palm trees and grow strong like the cedars of Lebanon.

13 For they are transplanted to the Lord’s own house.     They flourish in the courts of our God.

14 Even in old age they will still produce fruit; they will remain vital and green.

15 They will declare, “The Lord is just! He is my rock!     There is no evil in him!”

What an ending. I do confess, I do like watching good movies– and the final scenes can make, or break a good movie. Is it believable, does it flow into the plot, does it carry us beyond the moment?

The very way this Psalm ends intrigues me. The perfect summary for this is found in verses 1-11, which we have already covered. Verses 12-15 is our ending point. We arrive here if we will just follow the conditions of the first 11 verses.

*

Commentary

V. 12, “But the godly will flourish like palm trees and grow strong like the cedars of Lebanon.”

What audacity, what boldness! We must recognize that there is a certain place for these ‘flourishers.’ They just explode with a core central growth. We see them, but we are not intimidated. Instead they push us to a higher love.

The strength of us is that we can grow strong all the way through. That is just the way it works, and we take anything that we can get. Envision for a moment, the tallest cedars. I remember seeing for the first time the California Redwoods. It was astonishing, and I got a crook in my neck looking up all the time.

V. 13, “For they are transplanted to the Lord’s own house.     They flourish in the courts of our God.”

No matter where we are, the Father will bring us closer to Himself. We may think we are “out-of-the-loop”. But He sees it all. He does “transplant,” but only within our true calling. And a “flourishing” is part of the package.

How do we process this? We are brought out of a senseless and desperate life, directly into a full life of intimacy with the Lord Jesus. In this place, we start to grow branches, and new buds. Life is not just a great idea–but it starts to flow through our very being.

V. 14, “ Even in old age they will still produce fruit; they will remain vital and green.”

Old age seems close to us. We age, and we determine that it works out to us in obsolescence and defeat. When we hit 60, we determine it is all over, and finished. God promises that as believers we will be green, and fresh–even in this crazy margin of age. But as it works out, we are incredibly “vital.”

I suppose that the truth of this can transform the way we see ourselves, and the way we live out our lives, Old-agedness can never be an excuse to backing out of a true and real spirituality.

V. 15, “ They will declare, “The Lord is just! He is my rock!     There is no evil in him!”

Much of what I have shared with you is solid, but simple. We all end up at this verse though. From here we start to focus directly on all that is plain and level. After all, He is the rock and as we start to focus on this, we are ‘pulled’ into His presence.

We can see no evil in this, and yes it may seem we are in a kind of “pinball machine.” We are bound to voices that try to direct us into its version of deceit. We could be pulled even into “denial” of our faith. But never, or ever is there the slightest sense of evil that comes to us from God.

*

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