Striving to be Intimate: Psalms 73

23Nevertheless, I am continually with you;
   you hold my right hand.
24You guide me with your counsel,
   and afterward you will receive me to glory.
25 Whom have I in heaven but you?
   And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you.
26 My flesh and my heart may fail,
   but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.

Psalms 73,  ESV

Continuity is a medicine for us who are always on the edge of losing control. But the promise is for a continuous presence.  There is no flickering, or no jumping about.  God is steady.  He does not flit or fluctuate.  He is always, and forever, constantly focused with you.

He provides guidance, ‘free of charge’.  We can experience many confusing days.  We make the attempt to walk through them, but we quickly grasp our ineptitude.  It goes very much better when He is speaking into our hearts.  Since He is present with us on a continuous basis anyway, let us turn to Him for direction.

There is a realization in verse 25.  An understanding of who and what is real.  The psalmist has an ‘umbilical cord’ attached to heavenly places.  This feeds him and gives him a radical strength to stand up and ‘to be’.  He is completely over with the things of this earth.  He desires only heavenly things, that which really matters after looking down the long corridors of eternity.

In verse 26 he admits a desperate weakness.  He understands the foolishness of his flesh.  He knows that it is pathetic  and feeble.  There is absolutely nothing he can do about this.  He has tried and tried repeatedly.  His heart is like a colander that drains away all the grace and mercy that comes.  We can hold nothing.  But, there is a profound realization that God is strengthening his heart.  He has done this on an eternal level.  What this means is this:  He has touched me and by that touch has made me eternal, like Him.  “Eternal life…” John 3:16.

 27For behold, those who are far from you shall perish;
   you put an end to everyone who is unfaithful to you.
28But for me it is good to be near God;
   I have made the Lord GOD my refuge,
   that I may tell of all your works.

Psalm 73

Proximity determines everything.  Some will bounce to the other end of the spectrum.  But being close to Him confers life.  Moving away from Him brings nothing but certain death.  The issue in this Psalm is of ‘unfaithfulness’.  This is a biggie.  Being unfaithful means treachery, and a wagon load of deception, for good cause.  But down deep it implies ‘denial’.  But unfaithfulness is an umbrella word or concept.

The Psalmist again deals with proximity.  The closer we come, the further our unfaithfulness recedes.  (But don’t give up!). The Psalmist applauds his nearness to God.  He realizes that by taking refuge in God there is something that must be ’made’.  There is some effort that must happen.  He makes God his refuge.  The Lord God is now a  bomb shelter or a covering for our souls.  He continues this process with the deep commitment to sharing ‘the works of God’.  We carry that with us– the seeds of our redemption.

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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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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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Despondency and David’s Theology: Psalm 73

For those on the mat wrestling, things can move very fast.  Our adversary is strong, and he knows us too well.  He is counter-intuitive and knows the moves needed to pin us to the floor.  He is dangerous.  And he despises us. I get bewildered and rattled by his attacks.  He knows how to pressure me at just the right time, and he refuses to follow the rules. He is no gentleman, rather you might say that he is both a cheater and a bully.

Of course I am talking about Satan and his dark team of demons.  I will not dispute their reality with you.  There is almost as much scriptural support for his existence as there is for Jesus’.  His hostility is  toward God and His people, and his viciousness cannot be camouflaged.  Evil is real, and believe this– Satan has a terrible, and ugly plan for your life. He wants to impose it on you.

As a mentally ill Christian, my depression quickly morphs into despondency.  When I sink to that level I start to abandon hope.  It’s like I’m in a lifeboat and decide that I should abandon it and tread water on my own.  Despondency is not rational and just a little bit is deadly. David knew all about desperation.

He had been chased by his enemies, and maneuvered into the most difficult of situations.  To observe him at a distance we would say that “there is no hope for him in God.”  Nothing for him in God’s thinking.  Nothing. In the Book of Life, the angels have used “white-out” to delete the name of David, Son of Jesse. I

t would be so easy to make this judgement.  For David was a moral failure; he was an adulterer and a brazen killer.  David had sinned deeper and more intensely than Saul ever had.  Saul seems to be mentally ill, while David just presumes God will forgive him. Join with the crowd, “There is no hope for him in God!”  No hope, none, nada.

Yet I am always with you; you hold me by my right hand.

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

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

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

–Psalm 73

David defied the theological teachers of his day.  He embraced the Lord God with a desperate passion.  It was not orthodox or logical.  You could say it was disturbing.  But David would not let go of God!  He hung on, and continued to sing in faith, in spite of logic.

I encourage you besieged brother, and embattled sister.  Hold on to Him, even if it defies logic and theology.  Seek His promises with a fervency, open your heart to Him with a passion.  Remember that sin can and will destroy you.  It is part of Satan’s stratagem.  Sing in the cave, and never lose hope. Never.  

For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.”

Jer. 29:11

ybic, Bryan

Psalm 34:11-14, Listen to Me

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

Psalm 34:11-14, NLT

How much like a child are you? Children are packed full of innocence, teachableness, humility, honesty and faith. They are perfect examples for us as believers. These ‘little ones’ have a great deal to teach us. These verses are shaped around the idea of being eager to do what is best, and a childlike heart is our first step.

In our introduction to Psalm 34, we read the background of this incident, “A psalm of David, regarding the time he pretended to be insane in front of Abimelech, who sent him away.” This was a harrowing experience for him, we see David dusting off his improv skills, and acting very much like a mad man.  Crazy! An Introduction to Psalm 34 

In 1 Samuel 21:10-15, we find the narrative of this weird and wild situation. David is afraid, and fear is a powerful motivator. But, it is not sin. However, fear can and does lead to sinful acts. In a sense it is one of  the best mediums for sin to flourish. David survives and comes through this without stain or sin.

Commentary

V. 11, Come, my children, and listen to me,
and I will teach you to fear the Lord.”

Being a child is an intrinsic place for learning “godly fear.” This kind of fear, clean and good, is only really learned from this place. “Come” implies moving towards, and “listening” suggests becoming aware.

The fear of the Lord must be taught. I can teach my child about honesty, as he is not naturally honest. In much the same way, we really aren’t afraid of God, it takes sometime before we can really come to that point. David could have taught many different skills: archery, the spear, or the affairs of state. But instead he chooses to teach “children” the fear of the Lord.

“I can know if I truly fear God by determining if I have a genuine hatred of evil and an earnest desire to obey His commands.”  Jerry Bridges

V. 12, “ Does anyone want to live a life
that is long and prosperous?”

This strikes me as the “recipe” of a life of quality. What you believe has an effect on our earthly life. True religion should be teaching the saints to enter into this. We need to be concerned about how to live, and also how to die. This should be the aim of efforts the Church should be taking. We need to learn exactly how to make the best of both worlds.

V. 13, “Then keep your tongue from speaking evil
and your lips from telling lies!”

The tongue. So very much rests on this ability to speak! A quick scan of Scripture exposes the danger of words spoken out of a poisoned heart. We often corrupt everyone we meet with our tongue. The Book of James should be taken quite seriously by the Church. James 3:8,

“…but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison.”

 V. 14, “Turn away from evil and do good.
Search for peace, and work to maintain it.”

Reduce it all, and it comes to this. It’s funny how we complicate discipleship. It seems in some circles you need a Ph.D to figure it out.

Turn away. Do. Search. Work to foster peace. Essential things of intense simplicity. All is profoundly easy and yet incredibly challenging. But in this saintly effort, we will find the life we really want to live.

My sense is that the “fear of the Lord” is the imperative. Once this is established and growing, verse 14 follows. Fear God.

ybic, Bryan

We Have Done Wrong: Psalm 106

6 We have sinned just as our ancestors did. 
       We have done wrong; we have done evil. 
 7 Our ancestors in Egypt 
       did not learn from your miracles. 
    They did not remember all your kindnesses, 
       so they turned against you at the Red Sea.
 8 But the Lord saved them for his own sake, 
       to show his great power.
 9 He commanded the Red Sea, and it dried up. 
       He led them through the deep sea as if it were a desert.
 10 He saved them from those who hated them. 
       He saved them from their enemies,
 11 and the water covered their foes. 
       Not one of them escaped. 
 12 Then the people believed what the Lord said, 
       and they sang praises to him. 

Psalm 106:6-12

This particular Psalm resists any kind of easy exegesis. We come and face this part of scripture, but it seems far too bulky. There are way too many verses that we have to deal with. But, there are segments residing within this psalm. But for the most part, they seems to be vaguely repetitious. A pattern develops– a situation is presented, the people take it, and then the people fall. This is repeated, over and over. But consistency can never be achieved, and this is the theme of 106. However— obedience should. We should want to obey in the specific area God is dealing with us on.

Our Father God is not to blame when we sin, He has pulled for us and given us all that He can. But you and I can become quite foolish, and when we do, we sabotage His grace, and short-circuit His power to work. We can be quite ignorant when we do this. We can do this intentionally if sin becomes alluringly close.

Verses 6-7, are “recognition” verses. There are certain things that must be understood before we can ever venture forward. Even our “repentance” needs to be examined closely. The infection of evil will even reach this particular point. The enemy spreads his disease, even without our knowledge.

Verse 8, explains very much. It seems that God is pushing His reputation ahead. What He does with this is profound. He absorbs all of the ugliness, and pain and darkness. He is a sponge. He absorbs all the dark and sinister things that fix themselves on our heart and soul. V. 8 explains to us what has just happened.

Verse 9, takes us into a powerful triumph over darkness. But focus, He is responsible for this! Verses 10-11 are important. The overriding issue here is “salvation”. Everything God does is designed to bring us to this point. Any first-year seminary student knows what “salvation” is. Being saved means we are ushered into safety, love and complete security. We pass through destruction, and arrive through it amazingly complete and whole.

Verse 11, completes the thought. Our deepest enemy is completely saturated with disaster. He is now nullified.  

Verse 12, Worship is one of those things which is first to come, and the last to leave. There is a certain awareness and realization that starts to develop. Very often we insist on knowing the “whys and wheres” before we face down the evil and darkness. But, if it doesn’t end up in worship, no one is going anywhere.

ybic, Bryan

Psalm 91, Take Cover!

Psalm 91

1 “Those who live in the shelter of the Most High
    will find rest in the shadow of the Almighty.
This I declare about the Lord:
He alone is my refuge, my place of safety;
    he is my God, and I trust him.
For he will rescue you from every trap
    and protect you from deadly disease.
He will cover you with his feathers.
    He will shelter you with his wings.
    His faithful promises are your armor and protection.
Do not be afraid of the terrors of the night,
    nor the arrow that flies in the day.
Do not dread the disease that stalks in darkness,
    nor the disaster that strikes at midday.
Though a thousand fall at your side,
    though ten thousand are dying around you,
    these evils will not touch you.
Just open your eyes,
    and see how the wicked are punished.”

The entire scope of this Psalm deals specifically with the strong security of the believer. It’s like wall—to—wall carpeting. Its very presence means an additional comfort. Insecurity is a deep need, and it reaches into so many of us. So many ask, “Does God still love me?”

It’s all about assurance, and having the security to know that He is desperately in love with my soul. Really, what more can I ask for? I’m unconditionally loved, and held close (what more can I ask for?) He provides me with the “complete package.”

Commentary

V. 1, “Those who live in the shelter of the Most High
    will find rest in the shadow of the Almighty.”

Key words— “living” and “resting.” Both of these words seem to suggest a long term commitment. This alone could be the source of much of our difficulty. We like the easy convenience of the microwave, and the “drive up” window. We not only want what we want, but we want it accelerated. We want it now, please!

But the Father has no intention of meeting us on these quick terms. He asks us for a commitment. And we want a fix. (Right now, please!) However, our desire to direct our own spiritual lives in this way will only get us “mucked up.” We don’t dictate, we can only situate.

V. 2, “This I declare about the Lord:
He alone is my refuge, my place of safety;
    he is my God, and I trust him.”

These kind of declarations are substantial. They have a profound meaning. Key words— “refuge” and “safety.” From just a pragmatic view, these are the ideal places to be. They meet us in that visceral spot. I suppose deep down, that is all any of us are looking forward to.

The last phrase, is the best. “He is my God, and I trust him.”  To trust someone is to place them in utmost confidence. We don’t expect any sort of deceit or ugliness from those we trust. When we say that we “trust God” we are really saying that He is trustworthy— all together faithful, in every way.

V. 3, “For he will rescue you from every trap
    and protect you from deadly disease.”

Key words— “rescue” and “protect.” Again provision is being made for every contingency. Traps and diseases. We mull these things through, and we realize that this is a”top notch”  first class security provision. He simply gives safety to everyone who calls to Him.

V. 4, “He will cover you with his feathers.
    He will shelter you with his wings.
    His faithful promises are your armor and protection.”

Key words— “cover” and “shelter.” There is a place beyond us which continues this wonderful protection. The imagery is obvious to those us from the farm. It is the mother hen covering her babies, her chicks. She is the most protective personality on the farm, especially when she has little ones.

“Faithful promises” assure us of the veracity of His Word. They can support your weight, completely. Here in Alaska, January is the month we can venture on the ice. The lakes are completely solid. We even have car races!

“Armor and protection.” No foe, no hassle, no evil enemy can touch us. The Father has made us completely impervious to anything evil, or threatening. I once had a curse pronounced on me by a self-proclaimed witch. But I just knew she was totally powerless, and I was protected by God’s love. I didn’t worry at all.

V. 5, ” Do not be afraid of the terrors of the night,  nor the arrow that flies in the day.”

I know this is all figurative, we read it and then understand it in this way. Terrors, and arrows. Night and day. No matter, I choose not to be afraid of whatever comes my way.

V. 6, ” Do not dread the disease that stalks in darkness, nor the disaster that strikes at midday.”

Evil has many ways to reach out and touch us. It comes hidden in the night, and visible during the day. But we really can’t retaliate against evil forces. Rather, we submit to God. We are told not to dread them.

V. 7, ” Though a thousand fall at your side,
though ten thousand are dying around you,
these evils will not touch you.”

My grandfather survived a brutal attack by the Nazis in Italy in ’44. In his company, only two survived. He and one other. As their position was overrun, he laid in a foxhole and pulled a corpse over him until the enemy passed.

I think of this and I’m both relieved and angry. But as we enter into life’s horribleness, we are told of a supernatural grace that protects us. Although we can’t be certain of being impervious to the dark, our hearts and souls are protected. Evil may attack and destroy very many, but you will not be touched.

V. 8, ” Just open your eyes,
and see how the wicked are punished.”

We are told to watch, and discern all that is happening. We are to see and evaluate what is taking place around us. We are never to be ostriches with our heads buried in the sand. Look, and see what is happening around you.

ybic, Bryan


Psalm 55:1-3– Targeted by Evil

For the choir director: A psalm of David, to be accompanied by stringed instruments.

1″ Listen to my prayer, O God.
Do not ignore my cry for help!
Please listen and answer me,
for I am overwhelmed by my troubles.
My enemies shout at me,
making loud and wicked threats.
They bring trouble on me
and angrily hunt me down.”

Psalm 55:1-3, NLT

I used to hunt deer as a boy in Wisconsin. Deer season was one of the highlights of my life. I would literally dream of “the hunt”– of big 8 point bucks hanging in our garage.

These three verses of Psalm 55 were written when David was being hunted by men. He was the quarry, and they were the predators.  It was a savage hunt, and there was “no mercy” to be had.

We live in a world that the Prophet Micah described as this,

“The godly has perished from the earth,
    and there is no one upright among mankind;
they all lie in wait for blood,
    and each hunts the other with a net.” -Micah 7:2, ESV

There are quite a few verses which convey the very same sentiment. Particularly we find Proverbs telling us, “Deliver yourself like a gazelle from the hand of the hunter, And like a bird from the hand of the fowler.” (Prov. 6:5). We simply can not escape this metaphor of the hunted. It explains much about this world.  Revelation 18 tells us of the “Babylonian” system of merchants who trade in gold, ivory, cinnamon,“and bodies and souls of men.” That frightens me.

I zipped through “The Hunger Games” trilogy. In a ugly and gory twist,  we find that the protagonist must survive a battle in an arena. Perhaps the popularity of the books and the movie, will bring fresh understanding to a generation of young people. Evil wants your head on a pike.

Commentary

V. 1, ” Listen to my prayer, O God.
Do not ignore my cry for help!

See David come into the presence of the King, he enters the throne room with an earnest plea. He is seeking divine intervention; his desire is that God would move his personal crisis to the “front burner.” David refuses to be ignored.

We have the same right (maybe more so) than David. We have Jesus, our high priest, making intercession for us. Romans 8 reveals that “God is for us.” The Holy Spirit is empowering each believer. Our prayers will be heard!

V. 2, “Please listen and answer me,
for I am overwhelmed by my troubles.”

There are some in the ranks of believers who just won’t acknowledge trouble. I sympathize. Perhaps they are partly right. I do not want trouble, without Jesus standing alongside of me. He is my Friend, and my Savior. Bitter things become sweet when He is present.

We have a listening God. He is a the One who answers. I hate answering machines, “Leave a message, we’ll get back to you.” The Kingdom is not run in this manner. He “picks up” and you can speak directly with Him.

V. 3, “My enemies shout at me,
making loud and wicked threats.
They bring trouble on me
and angrily hunt me down.”

Evil seems very energetic at times. It is both verbal and also active. Pressure and intimidation are our enemies essential nature. David had become a definite target,”numero uno.”

Imagine walking down your street. The hatred is incredible, with people shouting, mocking and hissing at you. They surround you, full of spite and meanness. This is what David faced. It was imperative that he come into his Father’s presence. When your life is full of poisonous snakes, this is where you need to go.

ybic, Bryan

His Hands Hold Me: Psalms 16

 Psalm 16

1 Protect me, God, 
       because I trust in you. 
 2 I said to the Lord, “You are my Lord. 
       Every good thing I have comes from you.”
 3 As for the godly people in the world, 
       they are the wonderful ones I enjoy.
 4 But those who turn to idols 
       will have much pain. 
    I will not offer blood to those idols 
       or even speak their names.

 5 No, the Lord is all I need. 
       He takes care of me.
 6 My share in life has been pleasant; 
       my part has been beautiful.

Psalm 16:1-6,  New Century Version

This Psalm is profound, and the themes it discusses are definitely significant.  The Psalmist has a steady and direct confidence in all that swirls around him.  He knows that God is available and perched to protect him.  To a certain extent he thinks that as he gives himself over to Him, he will be protected and watched over.  He sees that God’s innate goodness is available to the needs his soul has.

We operate and function completely surrounded.  There is no way we can diminish God’s goodness.  It’s the way He functions–He will never be bad, but only and completely good.  The Psalmist goes on to proclaim the wonderfulness of God’s people.  They are outstanding, they are terrific.  He loves those who belong to Him.  The Psalmist understand these two incredible concepts:  God’s goodness and God’s people.  These two resources will help him deal with the future.

The Psalmist abhors the falseness of idolatry.  When you have truly experienced the reality of God, just being with  idols will truly bring you to despair and futility.  In the piercing light, we cannot imagine a substitute.  He knows that God rules and directs.  The Psalmist will not budge or falter.  God sits on the throne, exclusively, and He doesn’t share it with an idol.  Nothing can change that, especially no false maneuvering or manipulation here on earth.  He will still be God.  The Psalmist speaks,

No, the Lord is all I need. 
       He takes care of me. 
 6 My share in life has been pleasant; 
       my part has been beautiful.”

He has a “razor’s edge” understanding of all that has been given him.  God Himself is his source.  God is the well he draws water out of.  God is the complete source of all his needs.  Can you say that?  Will God, your Father provide for you when you struggle so hard and so poorly?

As we analyze this Psalm, we are brought into this sense that the believer has been led into a confidence, and an assurance of God’s exceptional goodness.  The writer clearly speaks of “pleasantness” and “being beautiful.”  Without a doubt, these key words will adjust to us, and assist us to savor His grace.  He has made things to be pleasant and beautiful.  We must take this confidence, and weave it into our lives.

 

ybic, Bryan

Your Face is Shining on Me: Psalm 67

For the director of music. With stringed instruments. A psalm. A song.  “Make Your Face Shine Upon Us”

 1 May God be gracious to us and bless us 
   and make his face to shine upon us, 
                         Selah

2 that your way may be known on earth, 
   your saving power among all nations. 
3 Let the peoples praise you, O God; 
   let all the peoples praise you!

 4 Let the nations be glad and sing for joy, 
   for you judge the peoples with equity 
   and guide the nations upon earth. 
                         Selah

5 Let the peoples praise you, O God; 
   let all the peoples praise you!

 6 The earth has yielded its increase; 
   God, our God, shall bless us. 
7 God shall bless us; 
   let all the ends of the earth fear him!

This dear one, is what we call a “liturgical” song, it’s a classic. The author was most likely a Levite, one of the priest’s assistants, but he had a gift for this. The song had been created for Israel, for the profound purpose of bringing and guiding God’s covenant people into a special place. I suppose we all could use the help in this.

Two “Selahs”. I believe this is our first contact with this term in our study. We don’t grasp the meaning, but a Hebrew psalmist would. Actually almost every school boy would understand this. But it keeps everyone aware that we are reading songs (but you don’t read them, you sing them!)  These are lyrics, people. You got to sing them, even if you annoy your neighbors. And so singing is perhaps what we should being doing, and less reading. 

Our lives don’t do that, we would vastly prefer reading or studying. The musical part of us, is to a large degree, atrophied and crippled.  Back in the day, I was a student in a small Bible college. One class was something fiendishly called “Music Conducting.” Now I’m tone-deaf, and furthermore have the musical rhythmic acumen of a tree sloth. I passed the class due to the incredible kindness of my instructor, who understood my calling to someday be a pastor; and she couldn’t bear to be the one to fail me.

Commentary

V.1, and bring out the howitzers! No one does this better and more intensely than writer of Ps. 67. Key words are “graciousness and blessing.” If we wake up tomorrow without these two graces,  we would definitely know it. The writer uses the phrase, “make his face to shine upon us”. This is taken from the Priest’s Prayer we find in Numbers 6:24-26, I’m using the Message Bible here.

24 God bless you and keep you, 
25 God smile on you and gift you, 
26 God look you full in the face 
           –and make you prosper.

Blessing, and then keeping: Smiling, and then gifting: Caring, and then making you prosper. Additionally the word for “God” is “Jehovah.”  That was the name He chose to use with His own people. The Levitical Blessing was a wonderful place to pray (or sing!) like this.

V. 2-3 places the deep-seated need to take God on a “world tour.”  However v. 1 tells us that this special friendship between God and His people needs to be genuinely figured out first. But the vision is universal– for everyone, everywhere. The joy just oozes out, like a very saturated and soggy sponge.

V. 4 doesn’t seem to have the charismatic personality of its brother in v.1. But neither is it to be trifled with. It places everything God wants to do, with all that He intends. My brother John Piper, has used v. 4 as the title of his book on World Missions, “Let the Nations Be Glad.” Great book, see DesiringGod.org.

V. 5 repeats v.3. It doesn’t compete with it, or supersede it in anyway. Maybe I need two feet to be mobile– a right and a left? Perhaps it made sense lyrically, or even musically?

V. 6 is well done as you would appreciate living in an agrarian society like Israel. It’s often seems like these guys are from Iowa, they know what a manure spreader looks like (and how it smells). Everything in terms of surviving or feasting was from the land. God’s presence, His name, and His deep care was a measurable and tangible blessing. Theology is reduced and perhaps, most appreciated by the poor farmer watching a tornado bypass his property.

V.7, is as sure of itself you could ever get. Boldness, without cockiness. Confidence, without arrogance. Steady, like a rock.

*

ybic, Bryan

Completely Understood: Psalm 139

1 Lord, you have examined me 
       and know all about me.
 2 You know when I sit down and when I get up. 
       You know my thoughts before I think them. 
 3 You know where I go and where I lie down. 
       You know everything I do. 

Psalms 139:1-3, NCV

A surprising bit of information is discovered as we work through this psalm.  It can be a bit unnerving to be so this visible–to be this well known.  Most would rather hang out in the shadows, to be obscure.  Who really wants the notoriety of visibility? I once met a missionary who wore a handkerchief over his face.  He had been a victim of skin cancer from many years serving in the desert. But we also have been terribly disfigured in our fallenness.

For us who live this life in mental disorder, the nature of our life is chaos, mixed with disaster, and sprinkled with abject boredom.  It can seem we are always on the edge of the wheels coming off our wagon. But I do find an upside.

There’s an old jazz tune written by George Gershwin in 1926, “Someone to Watch Over Me.”  Built into us by our Maker, is an innate need to be completely known and understood. We need to be ‘figured out,’ and then accepted. There is inside of us a longing to be watched over.

These three verses use the word, “know” five times.  The writer of Psalms 139 was incredibly touched by this revelation.  He richly understood this fact, and he latched on to all that it meant.  There is an amazing ministry of knowing that you are fully known.

The way I see it, we perpetuate (or diminish) this serious clarity of being entirely visible, and known. And yet we are transparent in His eyes.  He perceives us deeper than we can see ourselves.  God knows us down to the bottom.  I have read that there are fish, in the deepest seas, that their bodies are completely transparent.  When you look at them, you can see their bones.  That’s us. Everything is seen and known by the One we call God.

This psalm, numbered 139 out of 150, carries an idea of a “knowing God.”  He will never be hindered by a faulty understanding of ‘what really is.’ He grasps it fully; and yet it isn’t some theoretical doctrine. Instead He links this understanding with our welfare.  Simply put, our lives are now intersected with a perfect/complete knowledge of exactly where we are.  (I sort of think it’s a kind of a spiritual GPS).

To be known completely, through and through, is a true blessing.  He understands us, even when we don’t understand ourselves.  He plummets the depths of our sin, our ignorance and our confusion for an answer.  To be honest, we are hardly forthcoming about our many issues.  Yet He pushes beyond all our ‘hang-ups’ and excuses, He grasps what really matters.

Because He is love and mercy, His intrusion into our secret thoughts isn’t anything that will challenge or concern us.  He loves us, despite of everything He knows about us.  At best we are duplicitous scum-rascals. What He knows is filtered through His love.  That dear one, is remarkable.

What God knows about us, is never something He manipulates on us. He doesn’t “blackmail” us, or maneuver us, based on His perfect knowledge of us. His love for us, would never allow this. When we do come to Him, He doesn’t receive us with any issues that some would consider quite evil and perverse.  His love for you is beyond astonishing.

^

ybic, Bryan

The Real Mystery of His Face: Psalm 131

Childlike Trust in the Lord

 A song for going up to worship at Jerusalem. A psalm of David.

Lord, my heart is not proud;
    my eyes are not haughty.
I don’t concern myself with matters too great
    or too awesome for me to grasp.
Instead, I have calmed and quieted myself,
    like a weaned child who no longer cries for its mother’s milk.
    Yes, like a weaned child is my soul within me.

O Israel, put your hope in the Lord—
    now and always.

Psalm 131, NLT

The Christian, the struggler, and the mentally ill should become avid and fanatical readers of the Psalms.  Some of us will need to take meds, that is true.  But the Psalms are pretty much required as well.  We diligently need to take a physical dose of our daily medication.  For believers, Psalm 131 is a spiritual dose that is just as mandatory, and just as necessary.

This particular Psalm is unique, and deeply insightful.  It begins its work in us right at the start; the superscription.  “A song for going up to worship,” and it strikes me that a work must happen inside of my heart.  It is a preparation that will take me higher, and help me see God more clearly. I need to worship. That is viewed by some as an option. We know it is critical. We must worship.

Verse 1 states the certain issue we have; it is called ‘pride.’  What David says seems to be a very arrogant and audacious thing to say.  There is a truism that you think you’re humble, you’re not.

A church once gave an elder a medal for humility.  But they had to take it away, because he wore it everywhere. To claim you are suddenly liberated from pride, knowing ears perk up.  It is almost always a sign of danger. Perhaps it might happen, but don’t hold your breath.

Take it at face value, King David states that he has a real contentment with limitations and weakness.  It appears that he has been freed from the vicious cycle of needing to be the center of everything, ‘in the mix,’ and a quite a very significant person.  But he admits his ignorance, and something quite significant works its way into us through this psalm.

There exists a definite place where we must renounce “ambition.”  Are you content to be the simple servant now, and delay the accolades and praise until you get to heaven?

Some make themselves, literally sick by the deep dark quest to be important.  In verse 2, we connect with some astonishing imagery.  A baby!  I am like a little baby being held by my mom. It’s not an issue of sophistication, but simplicity.  Of having limits, but never any applause. How can this be?!

The word in Hebrew, isn’t “baby,” (as in newborn) but baby, but more like a small toddler.  A “weaned” child more is a better translation.  A weaned child no longer needs his mom’s milk. You can guess that it makes the child more content.  He doesn’t fuss, or nuzzle his mothers breast, demanding his food.  The child no longer receives his nourishment this way.  There is a contentment, a simple desire just to be with mom, just because he wants to. This is a significant step into maturity.

To me, verse 2 is the centerpiece of Psalm 131.  OK, let’s apply this spiritually.  There was a time when it was necessary for me to have my mother’s milk. I screamed and would throw a terrible tantrum if she didn’t feed me from her breast.  I would starve if she didn’t give me her milk. For all practical purposes, it seems we use God to get what we need.  But we grow, and move into this new maturity.

David is saying that we need to emulate his example.  Now we come into God’s presence– just to be with Him.  That’s all.  So simple.  As a child, we just want to be where He is at.  We have no ulterior motives, there is no manipulation.  We seek His face, and not what is in His hands.

If we connect the dots, we find that we land right back to the opening superscription.  This is an amazing concept of worship– the real kind.  As a struggler, a rascal and mentally disabled, I must start at the beginning– again and again and again.  I have to worship. And I can only do this until I become a little boy again.  I finally realize I must throw ambition and pride overboard. And at this point, I must rest in Him.

*

ybic, Bryan

Loving the Father’s House: Psalm 84

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

 Psalm 84:1-4

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

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

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

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

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

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

*

ybic, Bryan

Fall Out Shelters: Psalm 27:5-7

5 “For he will conceal me there when troubles come;
    he will hide me in his sanctuary.
    He will place me out of reach on a high rock.
Then I will hold my head high
    above my enemies who surround me.
At his sanctuary I will offer sacrifices with shouts of joy,
    singing and praising the Lord with music.

Hear me as I pray, O Lord.
    Be merciful and answer me!”

Psalm 27:5-7, NLT

When God starts to intervene in our lives, we will find peace and hope waiting for us. It doesn’t matter if we are in a penthouse in Manhattan, or in a prison cell in Egypt— it has nothing to do with circumstances. His Spirit is not restricted by  anything like this.

But we also have become targets. This psalm focuses on Lord’s protection of His own.

Commentary

V. 5, For he will conceal me there when troubles come;
    he will hide me in his sanctuary.
    He will place me out of reach on a high rock.”

At first glance, notice “He will” is used 3x in a single verse. It is a theme for us (and a good starting point.) Concealed, hidden and placed.

  • First, there is a realistic sense of incoming conflict. David expects it.
  • Second, there is One who intends to take direct intervention in our lives. David is not alone, by no means.

Years ago, we had “fall out shelters.” In school we were told how to “duck and cover” under our desks. In David’s time, the Sanctuary was his place to take cover. David would go there when things became critical.

Our natural inclination is to hide ourselves. But these verses declare God’s extreme efforts to do what is necessary for us. He insists that He does the hiding, the deliverance of our lives. The Father demands we rest, and turn all over to Him.

“A high rock” is a place of supreme protection. He lifts us up, and puts us in an invulnerable spot. What should I do? Just relax and let Him do what He feels is appropriate.

V. 6, “ Then I will hold my head high
    above my enemies who surround me.
At his sanctuary I will offer sacrifices with shouts of joy,
    singing and praising the Lord with music.”

“I will,” is mentioned twice in this verse. It implies vision and dedication. A distinct frame of mind is necessary. This isn’t made by some blase relaxed attitude. We decide to “hold our heads high.”

Yes, we are surrounded by enemies. We are in a hostile environment. So much is concentrated directly on us from the evil one. The “sanctuary” has become the place we can meet with Him. Joy, singing and praising are what happens to people who have been exposed to His presence.

There is more sophistication here then in other verses. The concept of “singing” is presented. When we sing, we start taking a position. We may not be in tune. But we do bless Him, regardless. We need to honor Him, and then to let Him cover us.

V. 7,  “Hear me as I pray, O Lord.  Be merciful and answer me!”

His answers are more astute, and more profound than anything we might dream of.  Even though David loves and serves God, he never presumes on the Father’s care or attention.

David appeals to God’s mercy. All who are merciful will understand completely. He comes directly to me, with a distinct mercy and grace. And I push this through a solid understanding of His kindness and goodness.

***

ybic, Bryan

888

A Table Near My Enemies: Psalm 23:4-6

4 “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
    I will fear no evil,
for you are with me;
    your rod and your staff,
    they comfort me.

You prepare a table before me
    in the presence of my enemies;
you anoint my head with oil;
    my cup overflows.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me
    all the days of my life,
and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord
     forever.”

Psalm 23:4-6,  ESV

There are places on earth where one finds highly enriched ore – gold, silver and platinum. Spots like this are rare, but known and usually exploited. Miners tunnel deep to extract riches from the ground.

I think this is what Psalm 23 is like. Although there are riches throughout the Word, on occasion we find a concentrated spot like this. In many spots it’s like it just lays on the surface, just waiting for us to come by, and find it. Psalm 23 is a very good place to dig deep.

Commentary

V. 4, Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
    I will fear no evil,
for you are with me;
    your rod and your staff,
    they comfort me.”

We all will make this walk through this valley. The psalm doesn’t try to make us think otherwise. But it is only death’s shadow we see. Nothing more.

And here we see “the power of the presence.” We will never make this scary trek alone. We have a comforter, guide and protector that walks with us side-by-side. Again, the psalmist is relating to the Lord as his constant and steady shepherd (v. 1). Jesus uses the “rod and staff” to protect us, and to correct us. All He does, He does to “comfort me.”

V.5,  You prepare a table before me
    in the presence of my enemies;
you anoint my head with oil;
    my cup overflows.”

Effort is made to make us aware of His love. We look around and see a table set, waiting for us. We also see our enemies are close by, but we are untouchable. We eat in peace and are filled.

For dessert we have rich oil poured on our heads. Only kings and priests and healed lepers are anointed.  (And I suppose we are all three.) We also have a cup, and its completely filled. We are abundantly provided for.

V. 6, “Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me
    all the days of my life,
and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord
     forever.”

Such assurance! In verse 1 we saw this same sort of confidence. I once saw someone walking their two dogs on leash. It struck me how “goodness and mercy follows me” around. My life has been confusing and complicated, but I must agree with David. I have been followed by a very merciful goodness.

The last sentence, “I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever” is magnificent. Again, and again, David has such awareness and assurance. He is convinced he knows right were he belongs. You will find him in the ‘house of the Lord.’

ybic, Bryan

The Conditional “If”: Psalm 91:9-16

Psalm 91:9-16

If you make the Lord your refuge,
    if you make the Most High your shelter,
10 no evil will conquer you;
    no plague will come near your home.
11 For he will order his angels
    to protect you wherever you go.
12 They will hold you up with their hands
    so you won’t even hurt your foot on a stone.
13 You will trample upon lions and cobras;
    you will crush fierce lions and serpents under your feet!

14 The Lord says, “I will rescue those who love me.
    I will protect those who trust in my name.
15 When they call on me, I will answer;
    I will be with them in trouble.
    I will rescue and honor them.
16 I will reward them with a long life
    and give them my salvation.”

 (Psalm 91, NLT)

The word “if.” For such a small and stunted word, it wields incredible power. It almost implies “uncertainty” or it can mean something is “conditional.” “If you do this, then that will happen to you. Using an “if” implies so much.

God’s Word uses “if” a lot. Promises are often given with stipulations attached. It’s all grace, solid and true. But it means that there is a bit of human response necessary. “If you come here, I will give you a slice of pie.” The prospective “pie eater,” must stop what he is doing, and come into the kitchen, to get his pie.

Commentary

V. 9, “If you make the Lord your refuge,
if you make the Most High your shelter,”

V. 10, “no evil will conquer you;
no plague will come near your home.”

This verse stipulates that “if you do this” then you will experience an immunity from evil and the “plague.”  Two key words— “refuge” and “shelter.” Both words are related, they mean, “asylum, defense, harbor, sanctuary.” Many centuries ago, the idea of hospitality was taken very seriously. If you came to my humble home, you would get all that I could give. I was socially responsible for your care. I would protect you, and help you.

It may be obvious to some, but the word “if” suggests decision. I take “shelter” in God’s presence, He commits to protecting me and meeting my legitimate needs. These are tremendous promises of protection, but they are conditional promises.

V. 11, ” For he will order his angels
to protect you wherever you go.”

I like “angels.” Very strong, and intensely good they are assigned to everyone who seeks refuge in God’s presence. Angel’s are part of God’s Secret Service, they are given certain tasks to perform, and to watch out for each of us. It’s good to have friends in high places!

V. 12, “They will hold you up with their hands
so you won’t even hurt your foot on a stone.”

This is to a large degree figurative (but that doesn’t mean its less true!) But the figurative language activates our imaginations. We get this mental picture of a man walking with an angelic escort down a rocky path.

V. 13, “You will trample upon lions and cobras;
you will crush fierce lions and serpents under your feet!”

Lions and serpents are exceedingly dangerous. To come up on one suddenly is to invite an attack. While serving on the mission field I once stepped on a rattlesnake. Another time I came extremely close to a cougar. Both encounters pumped some serious adrenaline.

V. 14, “The Lord says, “I will rescue those who love me. I will protect those who trust in my name.”

This is truly a verse of wonder. And it is also conditional. Two key words— “rescue” and “protect.” God is speaking here! He really values “love” and “trust.”

V. 15, “When they call on me, I will answer;
I will be with them in trouble.
I will rescue and honor them.”

God doesn’t use an “answering machine,” when we call on Him He “picks up” our call. And its nice that He is with us. Inevitably we get into hot water, but He is right with us in it.

V. 16,  “I will reward them with a long life
and give them my salvation.”

Two phrases— “reward them” and “give them.” I’m guessing that a long life appeals to you. Personally I should have died, 20 or 30 times I have brushed death, and each time God protected me.

 

ybic, Bryan


The Messiah Enthroned: Psalm 2:4-6

4 “But the one who rules in heaven laughs.
    The Lord scoffs at them.
Then in anger he rebukes them,
    terrifying them with his fierce fury.
For the Lord declares, “I have placed my chosen king on the throne
    in Jerusalem, on my holy mountain.”

Psalm 2:4-6, NLT

When we read this, we are made very much aware that the conspiracies of the lost are of no consequence. He sees, He acknowledges them,  and then He laughs. Whatever they conjure up is of very little significance. He is aware, but is never vulnerable.

We hear a laughter coming from the throne. The Father is amused at the efforts of men, who seek to dispose of Him. There is something comical about what they are doing. It is a joke. There are many who believe they can dismiss God, and they try very hard to nullify and to sidetrack His presence.

Commentary

V. 4, “But the one who rules in heaven laughs.
    The Lord scoffs at them.”

He is a ruler. His rule and reign is never, ever threatened by the machinations of men. There is absolutely not a single thing that we can do about it. Our strategies are only an amusement to heaven. We try so hard to “zero” out Him, but He continues to influence, and rule over us.

This is disturbing to secular man. We have developed over time, a society of complete resistance to the ‘idea’ of a God. Teachers and philosophers have advanced ‘workable’ ideas to dethrone Him. We encounter this militant attitude on a daily basis.

V.5, ” Then in anger he rebukes them,
    terrifying them with his fierce fury.”

This is a strong and active response to those who have tried to hijack our civilization, and turn from Him enmass. There is a laughter, but with it an anger.  We shouldn’t minimize His reaction. We may love Him for many things, but are we really aware of a wrath that is ‘terrific’ to those in opposition?

Over time and through many centuries, we have cultivated this ‘fear’ of God. We simply do not see Him as He really is anymore. If we believe that God exists at all, we make Him out to be an insensitive ogre, malicious and beastly. There are few that understand His true nature.

V. 6, “For the Lord declares, “I have placed my chosen king on the throne in Jerusalem, on my holy mountain.”

There is an agenda, that we seldom understand. It has to do with God deciding and then willing His choice of King. He has fixed the messiah on a throne. This is a place ‘fit for a chosen king.’ This particular King is not to be trifled with, He rules completely even in spite of our shrill protestations.

This verses are ‘messianic’ even if we are not. They teach us that the Kingdom of God is not a democracy. We can’t vote on a ‘messiah.’ It is not our decision to make. The choice has already been made. Period, end of discussion.

ybic, Bryan

Becoming Friendly With God: Psalm 139:19-24, NLT

19 “O God, if only you would destroy the wicked!
Get out of my life, you murderers!
20 They blaspheme you;
your enemies misuse your name.
21 O Lord, shouldn’t I hate those who hate you?
Shouldn’t I despise those who oppose you?
22 Yes, I hate them with total hatred,
for your enemies are my enemies.

23 Search me, O God, and know my heart;
test me and know my anxious thoughts.
24 Point out anything in me that offends you,
and lead me along the path of everlasting life.”

King David is a passionate man, he expresses his heart. When we read what he has penned, we will often scratch our heads. To a certain extent, those of us more practical and literal will often mis-interpret what has been written by our own concepts. I hardly think he is blood thirsty, or even vindictive– but he does have a deep hunger for the Lord.

Sometimes you and I might seem to be overreacting, and perhaps we are. It seems that if God is not our passion– our “first love”, we end up in a worse place. Vv. 23-24 is an essential truth to the life of a Christian believer. We need to plug into its power.

Commentary

V. 19-20, There is the real world out there that we must connect with on “believer level.” It is vicious, corrupt, capricious and very evil. The certain agents (disciples of the dark one) constantly press us without a respite. Constantly we have to understand that a dark evil pushes, but our Father strengthens.

Out of this idea, we start to see “forms,” or individual faces. We see and feel the hatred that Uncle Bob has for us. His proud spirit has never bended his knee to the Lord Jesus. Uncle Bob comes with an arrogance and pride, without the slightest inclination toward spiritual things. We must oppose that spirit. The more vocal he gets, the more we must stand our ground. He is an enemy to the people of God, and we can’t wish otherwise.

Within these two verses, we discover an aggressive militancy against God’s kingdom. It tells us of blasphemy and murder, of wickedness and hatred. There is no doubt that people like this must face the consequences of their vileness.

V. 21-22, O Lord, shouldn’t I hate those who hate you? Shouldn’t I despise those who oppose you?  Yes, I hate them with total hatred, for your enemies are my enemies.”

Hatred is mentioned in each verse.  And this should be our starting point. The dictionary defines hatred as ” intense dislike or extreme aversion or hostility.”  Perhaps, sometimes we could label “hatred” as a definite negative. But that isn’t always true. The psalmist implies that there is plenty of room for such a normally sinful emotion.

David so identifies himself with God, that he can sense the hatred that others have against  the Lord. In a real way, David allies himself so closely to Him, that he will take up the issues that the Lord God must deal with. I suppose that this thinking is part of what it means to being a “friend of God.”

Evil can never be tolerated or entertained. For the person who is following closer and closer, there has to be a growing hatred against sin, even in its primitive form. I suppose at a basic level, what we are doing is painting “black all that is black, and avoid the human inclination to try to cover it with another coat of white paint.

Vv. 23-24, These verses are quite remarkable. To me I see a willingness to be fully examined, from top to bottom. I once was involved in purchasing a 54′ sailing ship for a ministry among the Pacific islands. The vessel had to be thoroughly “surveyed”  before anything at all could be done. The inspector had to be checked out from hull to mast before we could make the purchase.

When we become believers, we find that we face a continual examination.In these verses “anxiety”  is a very important issue. Anxiety develops from “a fear of not being wanted.” This anxiety is insidious, it is at war with what is real– that I am loved and completely accepted.
In v. 24 we raise the bar to the place where my sin offends God. David wants to avoid this kind of life. If we ask and seek the Lord to cover us, it is only proper and logical that we aggressively avoid anything that may offend Him. When you come before a king, you shower and dress appropriately. That is just the way it works.

ybic, Bryan

His Dear Spirit: Psalm 139:7-12

7 Where can I go to get away from your Spirit? 
       Where can I run from you? 
 8 If I go up to the heavens, you are there. 
       If I lie down in the grave, you are there.
 9 If I rise with the sun in the east 
       and settle in the west beyond the sea,
 10 even there you would guide me. 
       With your right hand you would hold me. 

 11 I could say, “The darkness will hide me. 
       Let the light around me turn into night.” 
 12 But even the darkness is not dark to you. 
       The night is as light as the day; 
       darkness and light are the same to you. 

Psalm 139:7-12, NCV

 Living with someone who has answers for everything is quite frustrating. “The-know-it-alls” can be very bothersome, especially when they are on a roll. They are compelled to share everything they know on any subject they can think of.

Our heavenly Father knows and comprehends everything. He is fully observant and exceptionally aware . Nothing catches Him by surprise. And this remarkable God is now thinking and focusing on you. In the light of this– what can we say?

Commentary

V.7, the psalmist is curious, he elevates God (and never reduces Him). The very fact that God is so active is something quite profound. He completely understands you. Perfectly.

V.8, focuses on the range of His understanding. He sees all and is quite focused on us. No matter where we go, He has already proceeded us. He moves ahead of us, and we have no comprehension. (And if we do, it is fully in His mercy.)

V.9-10,  “ If I rise with the sun in the east 
       and settle in the west beyond the sea,
 10 even there you would guide me. 
       With your right hand you would hold me. “

“Compass talk.”  What is the circumference of love? We find ourselves wrapped in a solid kindness. God is quite active in our hearts. His close presence challenges us directly. Thinking through this particular verse, we do realize that He does rule over us.

 V. 11-12, “I could say, “The darkness will hide me.
Let the light around me turn into night.”
12 But even the darkness is not dark to you.
The night is as light as the day;
darkness and light are the same to you. I could say, “The darkness will hide me. 

       Let the light around me turn into night.” 
 12 But even the darkness is not dark to you. 
       The night is as light as the day; 
       darkness and light are the same to you. “

There is a definite sense of God engaging us. He simply doesn’t resort to moving  us into His presence. Any darkness we have is not from Him. All that we consider a blessing has a deep work inside of us. The dark and the light are significant to us. We advance by a brutal kind of excellence.

“Darkness and light are the same to you,” Simply put, we comtain a profound presence in all that He desires. We focus on what He gives. We determine His dear and special grace. And we are blessed.

There is a Precious Promise

I trust in Him.

There is no doubt. Each of us carry a profound awareness of a special promise. Somehow, we make it possible, and I don’t know why. As we start to process these things, we settle into the Father’s grace. His love for us is exceptional. We turn and take.

Oh, so much tangles us up. We step into confusion, and we don’t realize all that has truly blessed us. I do rest in Him, and I do rest in Him. Everything I have is His.  Please dear one, make His love soar.

What can I say? I do try to mobilize everything that really blesses me. Everything, truly blesses me. I rest in His presence. What He desires brings me through a lot of confusion. I do rest in Him.

 

 

Praise Him More: Psalm 113

1 Praise the Lord
    Praise him, you servants of the Lord; 
       praise the name of the Lord.
 2 The Lord’s name should be praised 
       now and forever.
 3 The Lord’s name should be praised 
       from where the sun rises to where it sets.
 4 The Lord is supreme over all the nations; 
       his glory reaches to the skies. 

 5 No one is like the Lord our God, 
       who rules from heaven, 
 6 who bends down to look 
       at the skies and the earth.
 7 The Lord lifts the poor from the dirt 
       and takes the helpless from the ashes.
 8 He seats them with princes, 
       the princes of his people. 
 9 He gives children to the woman who has none 
       and makes her a happy mother. 

Praise the Lord!

Psalm 113, NCV

This particular Psalm simply sizzles. It has within it, an inherent sense of God’s majesty, and glory. When we read it, we shouldn’t really read as much as we should be worshipping. The word “praise” is mentioned and indirectly on a dozen occasions. When we actually start praising Him, so much can happen. We have no idea.

One of the very essential issues is the need for humility. Servanthood    really does become a certain factor, we see the humble rushed up to take a deeply significant place. As we gaze on these dear ones, we should be challenged, and look toward the very possibility of absorbing some of their contagion.

The Psalmist is a deep worshipper. He posits the question through out his declarations– who is like our God? Vv. 2-3.

 “The Lord’s name should be praised 
       now and forever.
 3 The Lord’s name should be praised 
       from where the sun rises to where it sets.”

He basically realizes that “praising” God has got to be paramount among His creation. We must praise, “or else the rocks will cry out.” God has a reputation, and we can diminish it, or extol it. We have the choice, and a decisive opinion. Perhaps this is the vitality that the “heavenly realms” represents.

Vv. 4-6 truly comes with weight. These verses are obese, and we read them with the “fat” they come with. The Father is pursuing us, and pronouncing His reality– which is glory! His glory revealed is like explaining electricity to an Amazonian tribesman. They simply can’t comprehend what you are talking about. Until they are zapped!

Vv. 7-8 takes us quite deep into the behavior of the Lord God. The poor are lifted up into a place that is exceptional. We just might suggest the “people of the dirt” will become “people of the glory”. Imagine this quantum leap– dirty people are now full of His glory!

Vv. 8-9, to be made into this place is both outrageous and unreal. We move out of the filth and dirt, and given beautiful clothes, (Luke 15). We are suddenly and astonishingly recreated into truth and beauty. We are irrevocably ugly, and now made into people of beauty. We are now “seated with princes.” We really can’t reason through this.

V. 9 carries a gentleness and intimacy with it, and as we absorb it we can deeply understand the deep, deep heart of God. His very nature is now displayed. He loves to bless. To give to her who has no children, a child. This is amazingly rich, and our Father has a deep delight in making impossibilities very possible.

Psalm 113 carries with it a deep density of revealed truth. As we approach it, we find that it approaches us. When we read it, and think (and pray) it through, we discover many things. And perhaps the biggest is our new desire to worship Him. “Praise the Lord.”