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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My Lifeguard: Psalm 54

For the choir director: A psalm of David, regarding the time the Ziphites came and said to Saul, “We know where David is hiding.” To be accompanied by stringed instruments.

Come with great power, O God, and rescue me!
    Defend me with your might.
Listen to my prayer, O God.
    Pay attention to my plea.
For strangers are attacking me;
    violent people are trying to kill me.
    They care nothing for God.  Selah

But God is my helper.
    The Lord keeps me alive!
May the evil plans of my enemies be turned against them.
    Do as you promised and put an end to them.

I will sacrifice a voluntary offering to you;
    I will praise your name, O Lord,
    for it is good.
For you have rescued me from my troubles
    and helped me to triumph over my enemies.

Psalm 54, (NLT) 

All of us are facing a considerable, unrelenting assault. It really doesn’t matter if you are a believer, or not. One of my favorite “Far Side” by Gary Larson is two deer talking in the woods. One of them has a humongous target on his chest. The other comments, “Bummer of a birthmark, Larry.”

We are all born marked. We each have something on us we can’t get rid of. Think of it as a  bull’s-eye,  that the enemy has trained his spiritual weaponry upon. This occupied planet, full of deep darkness and black sin, is a dangerous place to live. We are being stalked.

David touches on this in this particular psalm. He knows physically which we can know spiritually. That there is a violence that focuses on me. Something quite wicked that will show me no mercy or pity.

Commentary

V. 1 puts us at a point of dependency in all of this. Martin Luther, in his best hymn wrote,

“A mighty fortress is our God, a bulwark never failing;
Our helper He, amid the flood of mortal ills prevailing:
For still our ancient foe doth seek to work us woe;
His craft and pow’r are great, and, armed with cruel hate,
On earth is not his equal.”

This is the very first thing we must assimilate. On our own, Satan will chew us up, and spit us out.

V. 2, having the ear of God is what we should truly covet. We must have His attentive ear. We must be heard! “God! Please listen to me. Look at me, I need you desperately.”

V. 3, this is no fairy tale world full of glee and flowers. David grasps the situation without illusion. People want to kill him, to assassinate him. He isn’t being paranoid or deluded. He has a big target on him. He is hated and despised.

V. 4, “But God is my helper.
    The Lord keeps me alive!”

Praise has an element of boastfulness in it. That is its compelling power. When you stand in this remarkable Grace, you can face down anything. Perhaps David at this moment is remembering his showdown with the giant, Goliath. That was a bold approach then, and now another one is now needed.

V. 5,  “May the evil plans of my enemies be turned against them.
   Do as you promised and put an end to them.”

Not only is our enemy defeated, but his planning and strategies actually work against him. When we were in language school in McAllen, Texas, my young son came down with a terrible fever. Lynn and I were quite anxious, we were completely broke. There was no money for a visit to the ER. Zilch. I went upstairs to his room. I got down on my knees at his bedside, and I began to pray. When I laid my hands on him, he was burning up. So I prayed some more, pleading for God’s intervention. A few minutes later, I laid my hands on him again, and he was completely cool! It was God’s miracle (It certainly wasn’t mine). My faith soared.

V. 6, When joy is present, really there, there is no such thing as a demanding sacrifice. We give, without counting the cost. When I am truly grateful, I will feel no pain, and never consider any issues of value.

V. 7, ” For you have rescued me from my troubles
and helped me to triumph over my enemies.”

Two phrases that connect like puzzle pieces; “rescued me, and helped me.” When I think about this, I think of a lifeguard watching swimmers on a beach. He’s on duty, and on the beach all have his complete focus. Everyone is under His care.

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The True King: Psalm 145:1-3

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“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

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

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

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

 C.S. Lewis

Commentary

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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A Trained Warrior: Psalm 144:1-2

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

I Must Have Mercy! Psalms 6

A Prayer for Mercy in Troubled Times
For the director of music. With stringed instruments. Upon the sheminith. A psalm of David.

 1 Lord, don’t correct me when you are angry; 
       don’t punish me when you are very angry.
 2 Lord, have mercy on me because I am weak. 
       Heal me, Lord, because my bones ache.
 3 I am very upset. 
       Lord, how long will it be? 

 4 Lord, return and save me; 
       save me because of your kindness. 
 5 Dead people don’t remember you; 
       those in the grave don’t praise you. 

 6 I am tired of crying to you. 
       Every night my bed is wet with tears; 
       my bed is soaked from my crying. 
 7 My eyes are weak from so much crying; 
       they are weak from crying about my enemies. 

 8 Get away from me, all you who do evil, 
       because the Lord has heard my crying. 
 9 The Lord has heard my cry for help; 
       the Lord will answer my prayer.
 10 All my enemies will be ashamed and troubled. 
       They will turn and suddenly leave in shame.

 

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This is the first seven “penitential” psalms written by David. Residing within each psalm the themes of regret, and contriteness, brokenness and self reproach. However, you could say these emotions are the engines that push David’s faith, especially at this particular moment.

Many of us understand these, at least to some degree. These psalms are especially prized by those of us in ‘liturgical services’, with some of these seven read aloud every Sunday. The first few verses of this work contain words like “correction” and “anger.” (The NCV also uses the word “punish.”)

In Hebrews 12, we see that God definitely intervenes into the lives of His own. He corrects, working to adjust us according to His will. The basis of this is relationship between a Father, and a son or daughter. There is harsh correction at times, as we learn how to behave. If He loves you, and you are His son, you will be corrected. Love and discipline are working together, side by side.

 

Commentary

V. 1, Correction and punishment have become very significant issues to David. They begin to engage him and he is aware that things can get quite turbulent.  Anger on any level can warrant our attention. But when God gets angry, it can be lethal.

V. 2, 3 mercy is a very precious commodity at this moment. And it is all that he wants.  Mercy is never deserved, it can’t be earned, it just is given. It is clemency and generosity blended together. David knows this about God, and he “plays the mercy card.” David knows God, he just doesn’t always obey Him.

“How long will it be?” shows a desire to get things on track, and soon.  Waiting for God to decide can be traumatic. Separation from Him is profoundly painful.

“The golden rule for understanding in spiritual matters is not intellect, but obedience.”

    Oswald Chambers

V. 4,  5 these verses fit together like puzzle pieces. David, when faced with his own depraved actions, turns and calls out for deliverance from the consequences. The key word in v. 4 is “kindness.” And this is exactly what he is aiming for.

The obvious meaning is that death and the grave end all possibility of change. The word is “Sheol.” A Hebrew word describing the grave, where the unsaved are placed when they die. Once there, you are “locked in” with no possibility of changing. Ultimately, it is the complete divorce from God’s presence and that without remedy.

V. 6, 7  Crying. Crying. Crying, Crying. It appears that remorse and grief are now the whole of David’s theology. And David is fatigued by it. Grief is exhausting. It is so intense and consuming, it wears you out. Jesus in the NT had much to say about grieving our sin. About brokenness, and mourning. He made it the starting point of a real Christian life.

“God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pains: it is His megaphone to rouse a deaf world.”

C.S. Lewis

V.8 is a needful stop in a believer’s life. We must pull into this place. It is here that separation takes place. I leave the world by deliberate choice. I have no intentions of following sinners in their rebellion.  “I see dead people” was a line from the movie, “The Sixth Sense. Sadly, it works well here.

V.  9, 10 we see the use  in verse 9, of the past tense. And I must say that this is a relief. Mercy has been shown, but only when it is appealed to.  There is a deep confidence that is quite opposite of some earlier verses.

David shines a spotlight on the strategies of evil people who have afflicted him. He enjoys the idea of evil being stripped and defeated. Today, I think it is completely appropriate to include your spiritual enemies in this equation, and throughout the psalms when this is mentioned.

*

ybic, Bryan

 

A Very Long Shadow: Psalm 32:1-5

A Maskil of David.

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

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

Psalm 32:1-5, NCV

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

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

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

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

 

Commentary

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Escaping Death, Psalms 116

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Thanksgiving for Escaping Death

 1 I love the Lord, 

       because he listens to my prayers for help.
 2 He paid attention to me, 
       so I will call to him for help as long as I live.
 3 The ropes of death bound me, 
       and the fear of the grave took hold of me. 
       I was troubled and sad.
 4 Then I called out the name of the Lord. 
       I said, “Please, Lord, save me!” 

 5 The Lord is kind and does what is right; 
       our God is merciful. 
 6 The Lord watches over the foolish; 
       when I was helpless, he saved me.
 7 I said to myself, “Relax, 
       because the Lord takes care of you.”
 8 Lord, you saved me from death. 
       You stopped my eyes from crying; 
       you kept me from being defeated.
 9 So I will walk with the Lord 
       in the land of the living.
 10 I believed, so I said, 
       “I am completely ruined.”
 11 In my distress I said, 
       “All people are liars.” 

 12 What can I give the Lord 
       for all the good things he has given to me? 
 13 I will lift up the cup of salvation, 
       and I will pray to the Lord.
 14 I will give the Lord what I promised 
       in front of all his people. 

 15 The death of one that belongs to the Lord 
       is precious in his sight. 
 16 Lord, I am your servant; 
       I am your servant and the son of your female servant. 
       You have freed me from my chains.
 17 I will give you an offering to show thanks to you, 
       and I will pray to the Lord.
 18 I will give the Lord what I promised 
       in front of all his people, 
 19 in the Temple courtyards 
       in Jerusalem. 

    Praise the Lord!

Really, no one knows for sure who the writer of Psalm 116 was. Some advance the idea that it was Hezekiah,and others firmly believe it was David. What I see that it was probably the former, but hey– all I know it was a godly man with a holy perspective regarding many things.

This Psalm is quite profound. It also has a deep awareness of things that are significant. We see that the writer has a discernment and awareness to see his heart and the things that are important. Psalm 116 is a masterpiece, the writer “shapes” things that are significant, and then he intends to let us know what he has been processing. And it’s a beauty!

Because of the length of this particular psalm I will simply attempt to think about it in a broader  sense.

Commentary

V.1 is a declaration to the world of his relationship to the Father. Things are quite obvious and exceptionally clear about things that really matter. The psalmist puts tremendous value on an attentive deity.

Vv. 2-4, comes directly at us,  the writer seems to be terribly aware of two things. The first, is the Father’s awareness of his cry. He is sadly desperate and quite aware that everything he calls out for, hinges on the Father’s action on his behalf.

The Father builds within him a confidence and assurance. The writer fully understands the myriad of attack on his soul. He sees cords that are wrapped on him. These cords are quite problematic, and to emphasize this situation he develops a deep and sincere “fear of death and dying.” Many believers, who are aware and sure, “hiccup” at this point. Death can never be handled without faith. But there is a breakthrough of sorts. He pierces his own apathy and finds his voice.  Quivering and quavering his voice is heard in the halls of heaven, “Please, Lord, save me!” 

Vv. 5-7 creates an assurance of the character of God. All that he knows about Him is that He can be trusted, no matter what! The key words are “kind”, “right” and “merciful”. This knowledge does not come to us except by the dealings of God inside our hearts.

V. 8 illuminates the realization that God has intervened, “saved” and “stopped” and “kept”. These are not minor things. They all require an action of God. He is the only one who can intervene. All I can say, is that His active presence changes everything.

V. 9 is the quiet sense of a person who is trusting the Father to be the Father.

V. 10-11 are difficult. They don’t work out smoothly in our New Testament theology of faith. Today, when we read them they are chopped up and rather odd. I suppose we can try to milk “the old cow” but I don’t think we will get much.

V. 12-14 shouts “gratitude”. Somehow the work of the Holy Spirit has done something. The writer jumps into this place where he enters his gratitude and appreciation of everything that has been done for him. He seems eager to show the goodness that has now come his way. There is a sense here of declaring to others the work of God inside his heart. If necessary he will do this publicly.

V. 15, this is indeed a revelation. Many of us wrestle almost continually with the subject of “death.” In hard moments, we struggle quite deeply (and yet subliminally) with dying. It is the dog who can’t stop nibbling at our heels.

V. 16 is nothing less then a declaration. In the mind of the writer, he knows his place. He won’t reach for the “top shelf”. He absolutely understands who he is and isn’t. Such a work is being done that he would never ever dream of being someone he really isn’t.

V. 17 is his declaration that the Father has done an exceptional work inside. The writer knows this, and he just won’t let it slide away. His life becomes deeply saturated with “thanks” and “prayer.” And then I say “whoa!” My own life is quite shallow, and it comes no where close to the psalmist

V. 18, “I will give the Lord what I promised  in front of all his people” Sometimes we , out of necessity, punch out the things which are not only important, but quite significant. “Giving” is a key word. And “promised” is another. (Strange, they are so close to each other, in this verse.) But the writer doesn’t process these issues, he only flows with them.

V. 19 focuses us at whatever might happen. The writer completely understands the importance and the significance of God’s Temple in Jerusalem. In a sense, he solidifies this particular place, as the accurate arena where all of the above is processed and configured. It all ends with a “praise to the Lord.” I suppose that ultimately this is the place we all end up. We are “praiser’s” or we are not.

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

 

flourish12

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

flourish20

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.” 

#

ybic, Bryan

*

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

 

A ‘Forever’ Kind of Reign: Psalm 93

Psalm 93

The Lord is king! He is robed in majesty. Indeed, the Lord is robed in majesty and armed with strength. The world stands firm and cannot be shaken. Your throne, O Lord, has stood from time immemorial. You yourself are from the everlasting past. The floods have risen up, O Lord. The floods have roared like thunder; the floods have lifted their pounding waves. But mightier than the violent raging of the seas, mightier than the breakers on the shore—  the Lord above is mightier than these! Your royal laws cannot be changed. Your reign, O Lord, is holy forever and ever. flourish14
Those Israelites taken into captivity needed most desperately was an understanding of His sovereignty. The psalmist complies and delivers. What we have in Ps. 93, is something diplomatic, quite subtle but bold. The psalmist  (probably King David) insists that we recognize the presence of God in our daily lives.
This Psalm declares the reality of God’s rule over us. He is exclusively in charge, and it is His will that dictates our reality. What He decides to control is us, and our redeemed understandings.
Commentary V. 1, I suppose we should equate the majesty of God with the strength of God. The fact of His rule over us is based on His certain majesty. The fact of being majestic has a great deal to a personal strength over the environment one must face. We accept that God created, and that He sustains the world, as we understand it. What He has done, will never be undone, until He decides. The earth maintains a certain and specific orbit, it doesn’t wander around like a common meteorite. It has been placed into a certain position by God, and it stabilizes our reality.
V. 2, the throne of God is the reigning influence in the entire universe. The implication of this verse has to do with something “forever” and eternal. He really does rule over everything. This hasn’t really ever been reasonably contested. He is a power, the power that takes the ultimate control over everything in our history as humans.
V.3, the best this planet can offer is most often seen in the power and majesty of the seas. Immense and unknown, the ocean covers  75% of earth’s area. But it is controlled. It is something we must acknowledge. He rules over it. He controls it, perhaps a bit  like a lion tamer in a cage with a lion. Only more so. When we do accurately envision Him, we will see Someone totally and magnificently in control.
V. 4, extends this idea, and amplifies it. Interesting, “mightier” is repeated 3x in this verse. The psalmist understands something beyond human comprehension. The specific issues that God faces, He is supreme. Never defeated or even sidetracked. He is a force, that is beyond any equal, yet He is much more.
V. 5, all that He determines is completely beyond objection. It is a fact! We should accede this, and bring ourselves to submit to it.

 “Your reign, O Lord, is holy forever and ever.”

 

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

 

 

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

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 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

Psalm 34:8-10: The Tastiness of God

Artist–Lynda Finch, http://lyndafinchart.com/prophetic-art.html

Taste and see that the Lord is good.
    Oh, the joys of those who take refuge in him!
Fear the Lord, you his godly people,
    for those who fear him will have all they need.
10 Even strong young lions sometimes go hungry,
    but those who trust in the Lord will lack no good thing.

Psalm 34:8-10, NLT

The verbs through these three verses are great–

  1. taste,
  2. see,
  3. fear
  4. and trust.

 Are you a taster, a see-er, a fear-er and a trust-er? These three verses provide us with much to consider. There will be solid and tangible growth as we work-out each one.

Promises are only as good as the “promiser.” If I promised you a million dollars next Friday, it would be extremely unlikely I could deliver. But if I was Bill Gates, and he made you that promise, then you could truly anticipate that promise being kept. (You probably would be out today buying a new BMW!)

Commentary

V. 8, “Taste and see that the Lord is good.
    Oh, the joys of those who take refuge in him!”

Tasting is one of our five basic senses. (It’s also a spiritual sense as well!) To taste something is an act of discernment. We taste spaghetti, and the first bites are just evaluating the chef’s work. But tasting is more than testing. It has to do with enjoyment. When we taste something that is very good, we usually go for “seconds.” It has brought us pleasure, and we tell others that its wonderful!

Faith is the souls taste. We need to be people who are always tasting the goodness of God. Each of us must experience this for ourselves. I can’t taste for you. Some birds regurgitate food for their young, and perhaps as a baby Christian we will need this, but it is obviously a very brief period. We are exhorted to find out for ourselves God’s goodness.

Seeing is the next critical word in this verse. It is another of our five senses. I have never seen Paris, or the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. I can only imagine. When we see something, we become connected with it. What we look at, gaze upon, will alter us. In some sense we become what we look at. The beauty of the Lord is a most wonderful thing for us to behold. He deeply wants us to come and dine.

V. 9, “ Fear the Lord, you his godly people,
    for those who fear him will have all they need.”

The fear of man, and the fear of the world can only be a crippling thing. It stunts us, turning us into victims and slaves. Some of us also carry phobias. I have “arachnophobia”  (a fear of spiders) which when viral when I lived with tarantulas in the deserts of Mexico.

We recognize anxiety to be one of the core emotions of fear. What makes you anxious? I think the only cure for fear, is more fear! Keep in mind that the world’s fear is craven, morbid and manipulating. The fear of God is clean and healthy. We aren’t to be “theophobic;” but “sinphobic.” We fear God with love as the center core.

V. 10, “Even strong young lions sometimes go hungry,
    but those who trust in the Lord will lack no good thing.”

David uses this metaphor of nature. Lions! Young and strong they are powerful. They are not known as “the King of Beasts” for nothing. They are not house cats (although my cat would beg to differ, lol.)  A lion must eat. They are the consummate predators, at the very top of the food chain. Yet, there is an insecurity. They must find red meat. Last weeks gazelle isn’t enough for todays hunger.

Believers who seek the Lord will never lack. Even the hard things provide a spiritual feast. It is His promise to you. It isn’t really logical, but it is spiritually true. The One who multiplied the loaves and fishes, turned water into wine, and fed the Israelites manna in the Wilderness intends to meet your every need. He hasn’t changed a whit.

aabryplain

The artist of the above art is Lynda Finch. She uses her talent to bless believers. Check her out. She has an online gallery, and you can buy her art–

http://lyndafinchart.com/prophetic-art.html

Psalm 34:4-7, Of Tailors and Cobblers

Prayer of the Abandoned Man
© Matthew Fitzke
http://www.matthewfitzke.com

4 I prayed to the Lord, and he answered me.     He freed me from all my fears. Those who look to him for help will be radiant with joy;     no shadow of shame will darken their faces. In my desperation I prayed, and the Lord listened;     he saved me from all my troubles. For the angel of the Lord is a guard;     he surrounds and defends all who fear him.”

Psalm 34:4-7, New Living Translation

flourish20

“As is the business of tailors to make clothes and cobblers to make shoes, so it is the business of Christians to pray.” —  Martin Luther

Our lives as Christians should be our occupations, and the work that we do should be prayer. A farmer has a craft or a vocation, a welder has his profession. We, as people of faith are to be laborers of prayer.

“To be a Christian without prayer is no more possible than to be alive without breathing.” — Martin Luther

Within these four verses we hear David (ringing like a brass bell) calling us to pray. He extensively lists the benefits of coming into the presence of the Lord. They are quite extensive and completely attainable.

Commentary

V. 4,  I prayed to the Lord, and he answered me. He freed me from all my fears.”

Fear (of whatever, or whomever) can only be overcome by prayer. Perhaps fear is allowed so we start praying. My life has been threatened several times. A few of those times I really sought the Lord. The result was a supernatural gift of peace, joy and freedom which made no sense at all on a natural level.

V. 5, “Those who look to him for help will be radiant with joy; no shadow of shame will darken their faces.”

Radiance is a fine word. Often it comes wrapped in trouble, threats and difficulties. It is delivered to our door by special couriers, and it comes by God. When it arrives we find out exactly how human we are. Every Gethsemane will have an angel to minister to us.

Dark faces are the opposite of radiant ones. Shame is the opposite of joy. If we think about this, we realize that our faces are truly the “barometer” of our hearts. We are more readable than we think.

V. 6, “In my desperation I prayed, and the Lord listened; he saved me from all my troubles.”

David never really strays far from this theme of desperation does he? The word implies despair and lostness. Perhaps only desperate people find God? If you can’t admit you are quite lost, you can’t really be found.

“Troubles.” I wish they they didn’t exist. I have protested to the Lord regarding the excessive quota I have received. It hardly seems equitable in my mind. Job once wrote, “Man is born for trouble.”

V. 7,  For the angel of the Lord is a guard; he surrounds and defends all who fear him.”

Aren’t angels great? They are like God’s “Secret Service.” They have many duties to perform, and one of them is protecting you and I. The ESV uses the phrase, “encamps around.” The implication is of a perimeter guard around the believer. Your protection is assured. And they are there for a reason. I suppose they’re guarding something God considers quite valuable.

ybic, Bryan

 

Full Throttle Praise: Psalm 34:1-3, NLT

1 “I will praise the Lord at all times.
    I will constantly speak his praises.
I will boast only in the Lord;
    let all who are helpless take heart.
Come, let us tell of the Lord’s greatness;
    let us exalt his name together.”

Worship should be something we do all the time–it is a perpetual focus on the Lord God. David refers to a lifetime of continual praise. But what does this “look” like? How is this done? Is this realistic?

I would suggest that our definition should adjust to broaden “praise and worship.” If you think about it, praise and worship is far more than Sunday morning at your Church. (And yet that is a major part of it.) There must be an eagerness on Monday afternoon and on Tuesday morning.

Commentary

V. 1, “I will praise the Lord at all times.
    I will constantly speak his praises.”

“All times,” “constantly speak,” must elevate our standards of praise. There is a certain fervency, and desire that compels David in his approach to his life. I find it fascinating that he says twice, “I will.”  Sometimes we end up weakening the will seeing it as “bad Christianity.”

Our wills are simply “brothers” to obedience. We dare not extract will from our lives. There is an obedience, subject to faith that will allow us to become “fire Christians.”

V. 2, “I will boast only in the Lord;
    let all who are helpless take heart.”

This is a great verse! When we praise our Lord, do we boast? It is nothing more then “bragging” or “showing off” our God to a watching world. (And it’s entirely biblical!) This bragging in David’s context, belongs to God exclusively.

Being helpless suggests weakness understood. People will dismiss you if your weak and pathetic. David exhorts that those who are feeble and incapable, to take heart–God has not forgotten you, by no means.

V. 3, “Come, let us tell of the Lord’s greatness;
    let us exalt his name together.”

David was a shepherd long before he was a king. He never lost those skills from working out in the pasture. We see him gathering people, of bringing them for a common purpose.

Perhaps our gathering times could be strengthened, by these two vital words– tell and exalt. Both of these are potent words for a heart that is His.

ybic, Bryan