Just Understanding is OK: Psalm 137

Israelites in Captivity

 1 By the rivers in Babylon we sat and cried 
       when we remembered Jerusalem.
 2 On the poplar trees nearby 
       we hung our harps.
 3 Those who captured us asked us to sing; 
       our enemies wanted happy songs. 
       They said, “Sing us a song about Jerusalem!” 

 4 But we cannot sing songs about the Lord 
       while we are in this foreign country! 
 5 Jerusalem, if I forget you, 
       let my right hand lose its skill.
 6 Let my tongue stick to the roof of my mouth 
       if I do not remember you, 
    if I do not think about Jerusalem 
       as my greatest joy. 

 7 Lord, remember what the Edomites did 
       on the day Jerusalem fell. 
    They said, “Tear it down! 
       Tear it down to its foundations!” 

 8 People of Babylon, you will be destroyed. 
       The people who pay you back for what you did to us will be happy. 
 9 They will grab your babies 
       and throw them against the rocks.

When you get to this Psalm, you need to grip the idea that there is a revolving link. There is something that makes you swirl back to verse 1. It’s a link that brings us from the end to the beginning. A certain revolution that seems circular. When we get to the end of this psalm, we are shunted back to the beginning. There is a certain connection that takes us into a spiritual connection, and then demands we reconnect and do it all over again.

I suppose that we hate the idea.  We start, and then insist on a conclusion, we like to be tidy, and somehow we think completeness makes us spiritual.  But in 137, we discover we are a loop, in this sense. We read it over and over, but honest believers, but we can’t grip onto a true discipleship.

Commentary

VV. 1-2 establishes certain things. There is a kind of nostalgia here. A powerful sadness is acknowledged. Desperation is the theme of this moment. Memories can be good, and yet be savagely painful. The viciousness of all of this makes us act in strange ways. We hang our harps up on the trees. We don’t want anything to do with life in captivity. There is a bitterness in this new world of slavery.

V. 3,  there will be an awful antagonism, and those who order us about have no idea. Pain is afflicted by ‘their’ falseness. Undoubtedly, this isn’t intentional, and they seem so sincere, but savagely brutal. Perhaps might does make right, in seems so in this case.

V. 4 bring us issues of a self-recognition. What Babylon asks from us, is simply not possible. It is not within us to sing in captivity.

V. 5, is a reasonable declaration. There is an intense connection between a man’s religion and all that he is. What marks us at the start, identifies us at the end. You could say, “we are who we have always been.”

V. 6 is a very certain concept. It has to deal with, of “what could be.” The reader has to keep the orientation right. So much seems “airborne.” Completely in flux. But that’s ok.

V.7, has a residual awareness of a deep wounding that happened in the past. The ugliness and pain will continue to be acknowledged. Whether the past will keep being understood is completely up to us.

V. 8 is actually an understanding of a certain action against what is so evil. Nothing escapes, or can even be rationalized. We take the things that come to us, and there is a certain awareness of a “right & wrong” that simply can’t be diminished or reduced. It is now “locked in.”

V. 9 carries something quite tragic and immensely sad.  I won’t push this too much. The pain of such happenings carries an ugly and vicious sadness. There is far too much grief here. The slaughter of innocents, is brutal and difficult. Perhaps the inclusion of this, has come as a result of all that has happened out of the terrible pain of seeing this happen to themselves. Grief has many funny ways as it is absorbed, but that will never make it easy.

And now we cycle back to verse 1. We are brought through all of this. We start over, and then over again. None of us, will ever get complete answers. But I guess that this is ok.

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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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The Blessed of God: Psalm 112:1-3

“Praise the Lord!
Blessed is the man who fears the Lord,
who greatly delights in his commandments!
2 His offspring will be mighty in the land;
the generation of the upright will be blessed.
3 Wealth and riches are in his house,
and his righteousness endures forever.”

Psalm 112:1-3, ESV

It seems that never has so much blessing rested on so little effort.

Fearing God and the delight of obedience would be reasonably easy; given what we understand about God. Following Him are should be quite winsome and inviting and altogether attractive. It should be easy. But our hearts are profoundly wicked, and we soon trade righteousness for sin’s disobedience.

Our trade for sin could be compared to the Lenape Indians selling Manhattan Island in 1626 for $24.00 of trinkets and costume jewelry. We trade for “the fleeting pleasures of sin” for comparatively far less (Heb. 11).

But the  theme of vv.1-3 is much more positive. It ‘s like a flickering neon light that blinks in our darkness. It’s quite obvious if it is there.

This psalm is an acrostic poem, each line beginning with the successive letters of the Hebrew alphabet. This reveals to me the great care and craft in the author’s heart as he wrote.

Commentary

V. 1, “Praise the Lord!
Blessed is the man who fears the Lord,
who greatly delights in his commandments!”

Hallelujah! The Hebrew word for ‘praise God.’ Three words that matter the most,

  1. praising, (the area of worship)
  2. fearing, (the area of obedience)
  3. delighting, (the area of enjoying God deeply)

These are the three ‘must-haves.’ Your spiritual well-being depends on these. Expand it further, and it pushes into blessing.

Blessing really is what we seek for ourselves, and our families, and our neighbors. In my thinking it is being enriched, or favored and uses a great metaphor of a flourishing tree. Psalm 1:4,

“He is like a tree
    planted by streams of water
that yields its fruit in its season,
    and its leaf does not wither.
In all that he does, he prospers.”

“Greatly delighting” is somewhat like joy (on steroids!)

V. 2, “His offspring will be mighty in the land;
the generation of the upright will be blessed.”

Believing believers open their lives up to tremendous blessing. But they also exude a powerful influence over others. Israel was promised this in Lev. 26:8,

“Five of you shall chase a hundred, and a hundred of you shall chase ten thousand, and your enemies shall fall before you by the sword.”

Faith would infuse them, and they would be able to do wonders. God shared His strength with those who made a decision to honor Him. But in reverse, it would be terrible. People would scatter like scared rabbits at just the rumor of an enemies approach. In Lev. 26:17,

 I will set my face against you, and you shall be struck down before your enemies. Those who hate you shall rule over you, and you shall flee when none pursues you.”

V. 3, “Wealth and riches are in his house,
and his righteousness endures forever.”

However, this is a Psalm of Blessing! That blessing can be tangible, but it is also something quite spiritual. Something happens to the soul of anyone who intends to fear and honor Jehovah. Many of us understand this.

A curse on the other hand, is also something we know. Having been ‘lost in sin’ I understand living life devoid of God’s special grace. It was an empty and futile way of life.

***

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Who Follows You? Psalm 145:4

 

Five Generations
Five Generations

4One generation shall commend your works to another,
    and shall declare your mighty acts.”

Psalm 145:4, ESV

The worship continues, as it should. Our last post, vv. 1-3 (http://psalmslife.com/2014/09/14/the-true-king-psalm-145/) has set the pace for us.

But this particular verse has a wonderful slant. It is praise that has been embedded into the framework of family. The idea of this generational dynamic is quite alien to us, living in the West. We stress the individual, with very little thought on our effect on close kin.

Commentary

V. 4, One generation shall commend your works to another, and shall declare your mighty acts.”

As we start to communicate trans-generationally, we find God’s work and activity in our lives passing to our children and grand-children. Our unique experiences with the Holy Spirit, the things we have learned and understood, are not lost– rather stay alive and aware. We give them a heritage, and a narrative of faith that enriches them.

“Life is but one continual course of instruction. The hand of the parent writes on the heart of the child the first faint characters which time deepens into strength so that nothing can efface them.” Unknown

My parents have given me much. Back in the 1970s they acted in faith and became hosts/sponsors of refugees from Cambodia. They took in a family into our little farmhouse. They encountered intense opposition and challenging obstacles. But my dad and mom stayed faithful to the Lord, inspite of daunting issues that dogged them. I learned about God by their life.

A father’s responsibility is not to make the child’s decisions, but to let the child watch him make his.” Ed Cole

Shoulders of Giants

When you communicate your experiences to the ‘church-to-come’ you will leave a legacy that will be a rich source of faith and hope. Because of you, they will stand on the shoulders of giants. The kingdom of our Lord will advance. And they will stand on your shoulders of faith.

Consider these verses–

“You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.” Deut. 6:7, ESV

“Come, O children, listen to me;
I will teach you the fear of the Lord.” Ps. 34:11

“He planted a witness in Jacob,
set his Word firmly in Israel,
Then commanded our parents
to teach it to their children
So the next generation would know,
and all the generations to come—
Know the truth and tell the stories
so their children can trust in God,”  Ps. 78:5-6, MSG

*

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The True King: Psalm 145:1-3

ingodshands-13
“I will lift you up high, my God, the true king.
    I will bless your name forever and always.
I will bless you every day.
    I will praise your name forever and always.
The Lord is great and so worthy of praise!
    God’s greatness can’t be grasped.”

Psalm 145:1-3, CEB

The spirit of David opens up this psalm incredibly upbeat. He is wild and quite fervent as he unleashes his praise of God. In the past, he has been hammered many times by dark forces. And yet, David continues to praise in a way that some would consider way too excessive.

Praise has changed David. He has discovered much through trials and obstacles he has encountered. He is not bitter, but better. He has not been mauled, but amazed by the grace that has been given freely to him.

Commentary

V. 1, “I will lift you up high, my God, the true king.
    I will bless your name forever and always.”

King David loves to praise his God. He calls Him the “true king.” I suppose “true” is the operative word. God is royal, and He astonishes us beyond our focus.

The idea of “blessing His name” isn’t really a part of our western mindset. It may seem to be extraneous and doubtful. But David understands something. He can impart this directly to the presence of God. He really believes he can convey “goodness” to a God who is already good and true.

V. 2,  I will bless you every day.
    I will praise your name forever and always.

I suppose we are seeing something that drives David further. David is focused on delivering his blessing directly on the Lord. He is blessing when so many are cursing.

I think that this verse directs us a to an admirable consistency of faith. But David presses us in this psalm to focus on a worthy God, who deserves a daily acknowledgement. David shepherds us into the concreteness of our belief.

“Forever and always. Simply understood, we must realize we are offering up something quite eternal and everlasting. David understands that his faith is fairly understood. (But understanding doesn’t mean acceptance). But certainly, there is a grace that punches into our malaise. We suddenly understand a grace that is beyond us.

V. 3,  The Lord is great and so worthy of praise God’s greatness can’t be grasped.”  It seems David is running on an understanding of this worthy God. David is focused on “greatness” and “worthiness” of God. Simply, the understanding this deep awareness will change us completely. He turns us “upside down.”

“Can’t be grasped,” propels us into a deep awareness of His goodness. We see it, and then we try to focus, but our silliness and foolishness deflects so much. And yet it pushes us into an ignorant place. Humility will bring us directly into His presence. (But that may seem very hard.)

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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

flourish15

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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flourish-61

A Trained Warrior: Psalm 144:1-2

warrior

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

Psalm 144:1-2, NLT

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

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

Commentary

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

***

ybic, Bryan

Out of Sight: Psalm 32:1-3

joy

“Oh, what joy for those
    whose disobedience is forgiven,
    whose sin is put out of sight!
2 Yes, what joy for those
    whose record the Lord has cleared of guilt,
    whose lives are lived in complete honesty!
3 When I refused to confess my sin,
    my body wasted away,
    and I groaned all day long.”

Psalm 32:1-3, NLT

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

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

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

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

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

Joy is the true response to confessed and forgiven sin.

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

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

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

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

 

aabryplain

 

 

We Grow, Somehow: Psalm 111:9-10 (the Conclusion)

9He has paid a full ransom for his people.
    He has guaranteed his covenant with them forever.
    What a holy, awe-inspiring name he has!
10 Fear of the Lord is the foundation of true wisdom.
    All who obey his commandments will grow in wisdom.”

“Praise him forever!”

 

Today, when someone says, “I work security,” we have a tendency to think of a “mall cop.” Someone who works for minimum wage, who thinks he/she is the ‘FBI.’ They thrive on greasy donuts and black coffee, with ego/control problems as they ride around on their “Segway.”

He is the One, who brings us security. He is not a “mall cop” by any means. He has no ego to protect, and prefers “loaves and fishes” over donuts. Yet, it is He who has decisively intervened over His own people.

Commentary

V. 9, “He has paid a full ransom for his people.
    He has guaranteed his covenant with them forever.
    What a holy, awe-inspiring name he has!”

A “full ransom.” This implies that a “cut-rate” bargain could of been negotiated, but it would only leading to doubts whether the transaction was really legitimate in the first place. (One never knows about these “back room” deals in a smoke-filled rooms.) But, we are assured that the full ransom has been paid.

The solid guarantee is the “forever-kind.” It is a definite improvement (by far) than we have ever encountered. For the discerning heart, we realize that all of this is an astonishment. We deserve nothing but have been given everything! And of course the word, “forever” intensifies everything.

The verse finishes with a spiritual flourish! What a holy, awe-inspiring name he has!”  It directs us back to consider, the worthiness of He who has done so much for us. Good worship comes out of that kind of thinking.

 

V. 10, “Fear of the Lord is the foundation of true wisdom. All who obey his commandments will grow in wisdom. Praise him forever!”

The truth has been definitely established in many other verses of scripture. “To fear God,” is the distinct point where we might start to consider being blessed. If you have no fear, you will remain forever lost and confused. The originating point for us is the fear of God.

The wisdom comes in the sense of growth. It is intrinsically tied with the idea of obedience to His requirements (or commandments.) Obedience gets a lot of “air play” in the Word. Obedience doesn’t save, but to obey means you have really have been saved.

I hope Psalm 111 has been a blessing to you. The entire series is archived on this website.

@

ybic, Bryan

 

Praise is How We Grow: Psalm 111:1-3

“Praise the Lord!

I will thank the Lord with all my heart
    as I meet with his godly people.
How amazing are the deeds of the Lord!
    All who delight in him should ponder them.
Everything he does reveals his glory and majesty.
    His righteousness never fails.”

Psalm 111:1-3, NLT

This is a teaching psalm that’s purpose is to instruct or educate. This Psalm is a strict acrostic, with each line having an “ABC…” pattern. The first line (V.1) is the Hebriac phrase, “Hallel-jah” which we use in English, but it means “praise the Lord”.

Psalm 111 was part of a group of hymns sung while celebrating the Jewish feast of Passover. It is very possible that Jesus sang this song with His disciples just before His arrest in Gethsemane.

Because this psalm is constructed so well and so precisely we can safely assume it should have a honor and reverence among both Jews and Christians.

Commentary

V. 1, “Praise the Lord!” I will thank the Lord with all my heart as I meet with his godly people.”

Why is praising God so important? Why should we thank Him? I suppose the answer can be found in His worthiness. Our relationship is with a Someone who is omnipotent, omnipresent, and omniscient. In other words, He is all powerful, present everywhere, and all knowing.

Verse 1 also carries the idea of an existing fellowship of the “godly.” When we meet with each other to worship and praise, we activate and fortify each other. The Holy Spirit gives His gifts, and we will find a way to encourage each one.

V. 2, “How amazing are the deeds of the Lord!”
    All who delight in him should ponder them.”

We are cordially invited to wrap our heads and hearts around “the deeds of the Lord.” These are actions that God has done. These are things creative and redemptive. Our past, present and future are full of them. These deeds can be understood by those who delight in God, and ponder what He is doing.

Pondering is not ‘a piece of cake.’ You have to be motivated to ponder, and that takes a certain discipline. This Psalm has praise embedded all through it– so perhaps that is where we must begin.

V. 3, “Everything he does reveals his glory and majesty. His righteousness never fails.”

When we are exhorted by our elders to seek the Lord, that is a good thing. But how do we start? Remember, this Psalm is a teaching psalm. If we only listen to it, very closely, we will understand what we are to do.

The writer explains that we seek God by looking at what God does. (His actions speak louder than words.) He is creative– stars and galaxies, hummingbirds and salmon, snowflakes and monsoons. He created people and culture– Africans and Asians, Eskimos and Puerto Ricans. Indeed the whole earth is filled with the glory of the Lord.

To love Him is to honor His acts. To ponder all that He has done, or is doing, to save us from our sins and free us from our bondage. What He did to free the Hebrew slaves from Egypt is the story of us all. We should be people of joy, set apart to the Glory of God.

ybic, Bryan

The Secret of Deliverance: Psalms 124

Life behind the fence

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

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

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

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

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

Commentary

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

ybic, Bryan

 

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‘Fear God Onlye’: Psalm 62:9-10

 

Lintel, a house in Edinburgh, Scotland

9 “We humans are only a breath;
    none of us are truly great.
All of us together weigh less
    than a puff of air.
10 Don’t trust in violence
or depend on dishonesty
    or rely on great wealth.”

Psalm 62:9-10, CEV

If the truth be told, our perception of value and significance as persons is totally “whacked!” Many of us point to our wealth, achievements, our talents, education or even our sex appeal as the evidence we have arrived (and should be envied!) We may admit to a few “character flaws,” but after all, our innate charm overrides all of this.

We will cling to this self-centered facade with all our might. We add to it, enhance it; we become our best PR department. Money becomes the first measure of achievement. Fame is perhaps the second. These are things we learn quickly in life. We never realize that this is a delusion.

One of the Bible’s favorite metaphor is that humanity is grass. In a dozen or so references we find this stated. Here are two–

“Our days on earth are like grass;
    like wildflowers, we bloom and die.”

Psalm 103:15, NLT

As the Scriptures say,

“People are like grass;
    their beauty is like a flower in the field.
The grass withers and the flower fades.”

1 Peter 1:24, NLT

Other metaphors are used as well. Men are compared to dust, worms, grasshoppers, tenants in a house of clay and chaff. None of these is a reason to gloat about.

To be fair, we should see that mankind has several unique roles in scripture. None of these should be diminished or reduced in any way.

  1. We are all equal in God’s eyes, Prov. 22:2
  2. We are created in the image of God, Gen. 1:27
  3. We have dominion over the created world, Psalms 8:6
  4. We are spiritual beings, Job 32:8
  5. We have infinite value, 1 Peter 1:18-19

Commentary

V. 9, “We humans are only a breath;
    none of us are truly great. All of us together weigh less
    than a puff of air.”

David continues to remind himself that this is how things really are. This understanding of people enables him to rest and trust in God alone.

“Only a breath.” When we breathe we are pretty much unaware of what we are doing. We draw in air, and we push it out– quite oblivious to what we are doing. I do this 14-18 times every minute, and it never requires me to be aware (unless I choose to, like right now, lol.)

Weight is compared to reputation or glory. A ‘weighty’ person, in our opinion, is one with an great amount of influence or a solid reputation.

But notice the verse says, “All of us together.” Pile up all of humanity throughout our history– with our artists, doctors, scientists, theologians and the like, and it is nothing! It actually goes into negative numbers. “Less than nothing.”

This is healthy place to be. Aware of the frailty of man, and not to be intimidated or influenced by their presence. I know that this was the place where David stood.

V. 10, “ Don’t trust in violence
or depend on dishonesty
    or rely on great wealth.”

With the understanding we have from verse 9, this verse makes excellent sense. There are three issues, and also three responses. Violence, dishonesty, great wealth. And trust, depend, rely. Don’t do it, the verse emphasizes.

The reality, I suppose, is that any sin might have been used. These three are what David is having to deal with at that particular moment.

I think that “fearing God” has a lot to do with “not fearing man.” When you finally see the “vanity of vanities” (Eccl. 1.) you just don’t have room in your soul for being fearful of powerful people.

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ybic, Bryan

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Where No Enemy Can Reach: Psalm 62:5-8

Chimney-Rock
Chimney Rock, Nebraska, U.S.

Let all that I am wait quietly before God,
    for my hope is in him.
He alone is my rock and my salvation,
    my fortress where I will not be shaken.
My victory and honor come from God alone.
    He is my refuge, a rock where no enemy can reach me.
O my people, trust in him at all times.
    Pour out your heart to him,
    for God is our refuge.    Interlude

Psalm 62:5-8, NLT

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Verses 5-6 are ‘almost’ duplicates with verses 1-2. I have used this thought before, but verses that seem repetitive suggest something to pay extra attention. I see them as ‘laminates.’ They come together, and become stronger.

Through these verses, David is exclusively focused on God’s excellence. His words are winsome and his zeal is admirable. David really doesn’t want to talk about anything else– he is the ultimate rarity: he is a God-intoxicated man.

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Commentary

V. 5, “Let all that I am wait quietly before God, for my hope is in him.”

This is a repeat of verse 1. I think it is repeated as an emphasis for us. Waiting quietly is not easy for us. Our impatience and our pride sabotage the process. We just feel too self-important to wait for anyone.

V. 6, “He alone is my rock and my salvation,
    my fortress where I will not be shaken.”

This is a repeat of verse 2. When a songwriter finds a theme in his work, he’ll write it in a “chorus.” This chorus usually is repeated a few times through the song. Perhaps that is what is taking place through David, in this psalm?

V. 7, “My victory and honor come from God alone.
    He is my refuge, a rock where no enemy can reach me.”

David sees himself as being evaluated by God alone. Anything of value (victory, and honor) will come as a exclusive effort from the Lord. David isn’t going to look for these things anywhere else.

A refuge is a “place of safety.” It is the place of immunity, and a place of utmost protection. Back in verse 3, David disclosed details of murder plots. When your life is threatened you’ll need a safe place to go.

V. 8, “O my people, trust in him at all times.
    Pour out your heart to him,
    for God is our refuge. Interlude”

I think David is speaking as a king here, to his subjects. He advocates a constant trust in Him. He exhorts his people to pour out everything to God, and hold nothing back.

“For God is our refuge. Selah.” 

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ybic, Bryan

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Becoming Quiet For a Change: Psalm 62:1-4

A Place to Become Quiet

For Jeduthun, the choir director: A psalm of David.

1 “I wait quietly before God,
    for my victory comes from him.
He alone is my rock and my salvation,
    my fortress where I will never be shaken.

So many enemies against one man—
    all of them trying to kill me.
To them I’m just a broken-down wall
    or a tottering fence.
They plan to topple me from my high position.
    They delight in telling lies about me.
They praise me to my face
    but curse me in their hearts.” Interlude

Psalm 62:1-4, NLT

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David establishes the wonderful need we have, to be quiet– silence. He understands a great deal of things.

  • Who God is, and His heart for me,
  • being in a precarious position,
  • the extent of the conspiracy against him,
  • the deceitfulness of so-called “friends.”

 

Commentary

V. 1, “I wait quietly before God,
    for my victory comes from him.”

The Hebrew word for “wait” is “kawva.” It is a curious word. Its definition is “to bind together, by twisting.” For David, waiting could not be a passive condition. It had a far more active concept, that of “braiding.” When we “wait on the Lord,” we should be pliable, and soft. It is a time for us to be wrapping our hearts and minds with God, and the things of God.

When we think of “waiting” today, it’s pretty much a passive thing. We “wait” to see the doctor. We sit in a “waiting room,” reading old magazines until he (or she) is ready to see us. Very few people like waiting.

The verse also shows a coming “victory.” It is given to us freely and extravagantly. We certainly can do a single thing to be given such an incredible gift.

 

V. 2, “He alone is my rock and my salvation,
    my fortress where I will never be shaken.”

David sees God as a place of safety, security– a castle. I think that David was seeing God properly. Perhaps all of this crisis– over and over, is exactly what the Lord wanted. When crisis initiates a desperate heart, than it is worth it.

 

V. 3, “So many enemies against one man—
    all of them trying to kill me.
To them I’m just a broken-down wall
    or a tottering fence.”

Sobering, isn’t it. This is not a game, in David’s eyes. “So many enemies,” and the phrase, “kill me” is not melodrama. He’s not making this up, and he isn’t paranoid. He is a target for assassination.

I think what David was trying to say (with the last part of the verse), that many see him as vulnerable and weak. Tottering, especially, is an evocative word. It has the idea of being decrepit. In the eyes of his enemies, David is completely defenseless and totally assailable.

 

V. 4, “They plan to topple me from my high position.
    They delight in telling lies about me.
They praise me to my face
    but curse me in their hearts.” 

David understands how “coups” work. He realizes that slander, and lies are just the first step to remove David as king. He doesn’t trust anyone. He finds that those who are flattering him are telling him lies. They intend to deceive, that is their real purpose.

*

ybic, Bryan

 

The Fork in the Way: Psalms 1

Two Paths

Blessed is the man
    who walks not in the counsel of the wicked,
nor stands in the way of sinners,
    nor sits in the seat of scoffers;
but his delight is in the law of the Lord,
    and on his law he meditates day and night.

He is like a tree
    planted by streams of water
that yields its fruit in its season,
    and its leaf does not wither.
In all that he does, he prospers.

Psalms 1:1-3, ESV

There is nothing more to say.  These verses describe a profound awareness between two kinds of people.  It is imperative that we work within the Psalm, as it adroitly handles the issues of life and death. If we drop the ball, we are close to losing the war.

This Psalm is “true blue”.  It essentially reduces the complexity of our lives, and breaks things down to the lowest common denominator.  The simplicity that is flowing through this Psalm is a true tonic for our hearts.

When I read it, I often trip myself up with its easiness, and clarity. Typically, I will find myself in a religious quagmire of confused Christianity. What the Holy Spirit intends as simple, I convert into a sort of particle physics. As He clarifies, I complicate.

The wicked are not so,
    but are like chaff that the wind drives away.

Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment,
    nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous;
for the Lord knows the way of the righteous,
    but the way of the wicked will perish.

Psalms 1:4-6

Here’s the second fork. We find ourselves wandering the road of wickedness. There is chaff everywhere. The wind blows and nothing is really rooted or fixed. Insecurity is the currency of all those travelling this journey. We should realize that life is quite temporary on this path.

Perhaps this is far too simple for some. But the clarity is a welcome one.  The concepts of the Gospel are filled with directness and ease, little children grab a hold of things that philosophers and theologians long to pick-up for themselves.

This Psalm is astringent, but it is also kind. It is quite clear (simple) and it really does set the table for the 149 other Psalms.  We will start to realize that the writers will use very obvious metaphors and similes.  You could say that the psalmists have a 3rd grade reading level, and not be far from the truth.

This is your Psalm. I encourage you to take ownership of it.  But remember you must descend before you can ascend.

ybic, Bryan

 

 

Lightning Rods: Psalm 34:19-22

lightning-1 19 The righteous person faces many troubles, but the Lord comes to the rescue each time. 20 For the Lord protects the bones of the righteous; not one of them is broken!

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

Psalm 34:19-22

“How frail is humanity! How short is life, how full of trouble!”

Job 14:1

“If you will call your troubles experiences, and remember that every experience develops some latent force within you, you will grow vigorous and happy, however adverse your circumstances may seem to be.”

John Heywood, (English Playwright and Poet, 1497-1580)

The conclusion of this psalm is a description of the believer’s troubles. I daresay there is as much tribulation and trial in the Bible as the subjects of grace and love. We will find a freedom in the Lord once we stumble upon this realization. It seems I am always in “hot water,” but it keeps me clean! “I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.” 

John 16:33

Commentary

V. 19, The righteous person faces many troubles, but the Lord comes to the rescue each time.”

To deny that there are difficulties for the believer is silly. We seem to generate new ones on a daily basis. This is God’s work bench. And He seems to be quite comfortable with this arrangement. Only He calls them “trials.” We shouldn’t think we will eventually mature and attain some powerful wisdom. (I wish this was so.) Maturity is not the absence of issues, but the result of going through them.

The Lord is into “search and rescue.” The rescue part is great! Each of His children have this knack (or grace) in their lives. This is the doctrine of “the perseverance of the saints.” God is active and in every situation He brings deliverance and extrication.

V. 20, “For the Lord protects the bones of the righteous; not one of them is broken!”

In the Midwest, almost every home and barn has at least one lightning rod. I have seen three or four on bigger barns. Since there are so many thunderstorms, people have to protect their homes from strikes. You haven’t lived until you have seen lightning hit these rods.

We are much like this. We seem to attract all kinds of things. We are afflicted, but we have hope. Nothing can remain broken.

“He comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others. When they are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us.”

2 Corinthians 1:4

V. 21, “Calamity will surely overtake the wicked, and those who hate the righteous will be punished.”

This awesome dynamic only works for believers. For those still separated from God, we should only expect trials to hurt and break. The unbeliever can only expect his/her trials to harm and injure. It is a sad thing to watch, but there are so many who are in pain. “The wages of sin is death.” I’m glad I’m no longer on that particular payroll.

V. 22, “ But the Lord will redeem those who serve him. No one who takes refuge in him will be condemned.”

Redeem and Refuge. Both words require some interesting initiative on our part as believers. The ‘redeem’ phrase puts out the idea of service. When we set our live to be His servants He runs out to meet us (a.k.a. “the Prodigal Son” in Luke 15.)

The ‘refuge’ phrase works off the idea of the cities of Refuge in the O.T. Someone guilty could flee to them for safety. What was literal in the O.T. is a figurative (or spiritual) in the N.T. We have committed sins, indecencies, and rebellious acts. But there is a rescuer, a redeemer most gentle and kind.

ybic, Bryan

The Lord-O-Sphere– Psalm 34:15-18

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

Psalm 34:15-18

I call this “the Lord-o-sphere.” You will find each verse reveals something incredible about Him, the Lord phrase is clearly mentioned in each verse. That must be where we should begin our efforts to understand these verses– we belong in “the Lord-o-sphere.”

Jehovah God is not a mere tribal deity of the rag-tag Israelites. He is not a second tier God with aspirations to be more. Rather, He declares He is supreme, the Creator and Sustainer of everything we see and can’t see. This is never, ever negotiable or refutable. But there is more, and these verses will show them to us.

Commentary

V. 15, “The eyes of the Lord watch over those who do right;     

             his ears are open to their cries for help.”

We are not talking physical eyes, but much more. He easily observes all 7 billion of us on this planet. What He possesses is not a general sight, but one that can pick out His people, sifting and discerning them from others.

Eyes and ears. I suppose that eyes could be enough. But ears, well that means a lot. These ears are open, and attuned to the voices of those in trouble. All who cry to Him will get His help. He doesn’t wear a “hearing aid.”

V. 10, “ But the Lord turns his face against those who do evil;     

              he will erase their memory from the earth.”

Nowhere in the Bible do we see God unwilling to discern good and evil. To “turn your face against something” was to declare unacceptability and undesirability. God will have nothing to do with anything unholy. He cannot blend His heart with sin and darkness. “He resists the proud.”

The phrase, “erase their memory,” is the ultimate act. Because evil people are so entrenched in their sin, they will have no future in the Kingdom of God. They’ve chosen sin over all else, to replace Him. You could say that they have essentially renounced their citizenship in the Kingdom. They have no future.

V. 17, “The Lord hears his people when they call to him for help.    

              He rescues them from all their troubles.”

This verse should be understood in contrast with v. 16. He hears when you start to cry out for help. You are His people, and like a “good shepherd” He is there! All of heaven is energized, and then mobilized to intervene for your rescue.

“Troubles” can mean anything. I think of Satan with a very thick catalog that itemizes each pain and grief he can unleash on you. However, each trouble can be transformed by God, to be good and useful in your life.

V. 18, “The Lord is close to the brokenhearted;     

              he rescues those whose spirits are crushed.”

One of my favorite verses. I have struggled with many things, I have let sin rule me. I have had many bad moments. My physical and mental health have been broken. But rather than it distancing me from Him, I see Him drawing closer. Brokenness in His eyes is a true mark of beauty!

You are crushed when a vast weight presses you to the ground. It is such a weight that all you can do is crumble. There is nothing, from our viewpoint, good or delightful about being crushed. But… God coming to the rescue.

ybic, Bryan

Psalm 23: The Shepherd is the Difference

Sheep

“The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.
    He makes me lie down in green pastures.
He leads me beside still waters.
    He restores my soul.
He leads me in paths of righteousness
    for his name’s sake.”

Psalm 23:1-3, ESV

Easily the most loved psalm.

I have waited for the longest time to take this on, but I wanted to do it justice. There is also another reason I’ve waited. I felt that so much had been written on Psalm 23, that there would be an “over saturation.” But I’m not so sure anymore that this is the case.

The writer is David. He is a young man who will someday be king. It seems that all shepherds must learn to be “sheep” to be any good at all.

Commentary

V. 1, “The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.”

This should be understood as a “declaration of faith.” It is not pretentious or manipulative. It is a straight forward announcement. I suppose David wants to boldly speak for God.

He is being protected from all harm. David refers to God as a shepherd, watching over his soul. Shepherds have three duties:

  1. protection,
  2. provision,
  3. and peace.

Not everyone makes a good shepherd. Some are better than others. David clearly is happy, because “the Lord is my shepherd.”

V. 2, “He makes me lie down in green pastures.
He leads me beside still waters.”

There is so much that is soothing about this verse. (I think of iced tea on hot summer’s day.) There are two key words: “makes me,” and “leads me.” The shepherd is quite understanding, and he works to provide for each one. There is time when he must make the sheep rest. They must feel secure.

“Green pastures” are quality places. We are incredibly blessed to be brought to this place. And “still waters” are the only water that sheep will drink. There is no current or cataract for us to be aware. We are so blessed to be be so taken care of in this way.

V. 3, “ He restores my soul.
He leads me in paths of righteousness
    for his name’s sake.”

We are dealing with solid realities here. Looking at this psalm nostalgically or sentimentally cuts the nerve of a verse that is really quite powerful. We can look at this psalm with ‘rose colored’ glasses, or we can put it to work.

We need soul restoration. We need to be put back together. It’s no secret that just living life damages us. It is also interesting to note, that only valuable things, masterpieces, are restored. We look to Him who continually restores our lives. I believe this is an ongoing process as we are being made new.

To be lead into real righteousness is an advantage. Often we try to ‘grind it out’ and make it happen. Many believers try to do this. But this verse stresses the point that He is in charge of our righteousness. He orchestrates it, and then brings it to pass. We are only righteous when He makes us so.

These first three verses of Psalm 23 are such a delight. But there is the old adage, “that familiarity breeds contempt.” I don’t think that is the case, but I do think that we’ve gotten ‘too familiar’ with this psalm. When we read it, we know what is going to happen next. But do we?

ybic, Bryan

Psalm 127:1: Unless the Lord Builds the House

67daniel.blogspot.com

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

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

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

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

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

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

ybic, Jonathan

Psalm 51: 16, 17: On Sin and Forgiveness

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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.”

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The background of these verses is the familiar story of David’s fall from grace and subsequent confession, repentance, and forgiveness. David committed some big sins (lying, adultery, and murder) and his confession and repentance resulted in a big forgiveness from God that in turn resulted in his big gratitude and love towards God for his tender mercies.

In Luke 7:36–50 we have the story of the sinful woman who bathed Jesus’ feet with her tears and anointed his feet with alabaster. Jesus makes the point that this woman loves much because she has been forgiven much. We see this same dynamic at work in the life of Mary Magdalene who had been delivered of seven demons and had a sordid past.

I have to admit that some of my favorite Christians have been big sinners--people who had done some really bad things, knew they had done some really bad things, and walked in the gratitude and humility of a forgiven sinner. I like being around them because they are usually free of self–righteousness and I know they won’t judge me harshly for my flaws. Usually, the mercy and grace that God has extended to them, they, in turn, freely extend to others.

I have to wonder though what goes through some Christians minds. They have been Christians all their lives, and, though they aren’t perfect, have always been on the straight and narrow and have never or rarely strayed into what we would call gross sin or what Catholics call mortal sin. I’m sure some of them must wonder “Can I love God much even though I haven’t been forgiven much? Do I have to be like Mary Magdalene in order to love much?”

The truth is they have been forgiven much. My advice for these Christians is to pursue intimacy with the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. When you do this, you will enter the presence of God, and when you are in the presence of God, you will see that all your righteousness is as filthy rags. Our hearts are like a living room window that hasn’t been cleaned for a year. From a distance it may look okay, but, when we make a closer examination with the sun shining in, we see all the dirt, streaks, dead bugs, hand prints, and  hard water stains. This is what happened to Peter when he first met Jesus in the aftermath of catching many fish: “Go away from me, Lord; I am a sinful man!” To our knowledge, Peter wasn’t involved in some mortal sin; he was simply in the presence of the Lord. The same could be said of Isaiah in Isaiah 6:1–6.

Another piece of advice I would give these Christians is to broaden their definition of sin. I’ve noticed in some local churches over the years that a big deal is made when an unmarried high school girl in the church gets pregnant, but little is made of the church gossip, who, in my opinion, commits the greater sin. Sometimes Christians make a big deal about sexual sin and various addictions but overlook many of the “cold–blooded” sins: gossip, envy, self–righteousness, competition, religious idolatry, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions, etc.. These are gross sins too and should lead us to the same brokenness David and Mary Magdalene exhibited.

Therefore, when someone comes to your church for the first time, and, carries all the signs of coming out of a sinful lifestyle, you can look at them and say to yourself,”Hey, I’m going to go over there and greet that person. We have a lot in common.”

ybic, Jonathan