Psalm 103:7: On the Outside Looking In?

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Moving toward Him, and home

7 “He made known his ways to Moses, his deeds to the people of Israel.”  Psalm 103:7

A person can have a generous grandfather who lives in a different country and never really get to know them. The grandparent sends money and gifts for their birthday, Christmas, and high school graduation. They may even get a sweater from the grandparent during winter and a fishing pole during summer and have a brief phone conversation once a year because long distance phone rates are high. After a lifetime of this, it becomes apparent that the grandchild knows the deeds of generosity of the grandfather but doesn’t really know him personally. There’s no intimacy; the grandchild merely knows him “from the outside looking in.”

This analogy is fitting when comparing Moses’ relationship with God and the vast majority of the children of Israel after they left Egypt. Moses’ heart is revealed in Exodus 33:13 when he asks God:

“If you are pleased with me, teach me your ways so that I may know you and continue to find favor with you. Remember that this nation is your people.”

The heart of the vast majority of Israelites was revealed when they left Egypt. When life did not live up to their expectations, they complained to Moses and wanted to return to Egypt, where they would get their fill of fish, cucumbers, melons, leeks, garlic, and onions.

These two stories highlight the difference between Moses and the children of Israel: Moses sought an intimate relationship with God as an end–in–itself  while, for most of the Israelites, God was a means to an end. The latter were very similar to the crowds who followed Jesus around because they wanted to get their fill of the loaves and fishes. They knew the acts of God but not his ways. They were into the gifts but not the Giver.

Matthew 7:21–23 is a breathtaking passage because it talks about people who cast out demons and performed miracles in Christ’s name, but Jesus said he did not know them and called them evildoers. Many during the time of Moses saw the acts of God and didn’t know God personally; Jesus predicted that there would be people who would perform the acts of God and not know him.

These are all sobering passages that drive one to take a searching moral and spiritual inventory of one’s soul. However, this should all be counterbalanced with the truth that God’s grace is amazing and that his mercies endure forever. To a lukewarm church (Laodicea) that did many things that Christ found offensive, he still reached out to them with an invitation of intimate fellowship:

“Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me” (Revelation 3:20).

What’s sometimes overlooked is that this invitation was extended in this passage not to secular people but to church–going Christians. The same opportunity is offered to us every day: to not only know God’s acts but to know his ways, to be on the inside looking out and not on the outside looking in.

If you liked this post, you may also like Jonathan’s book, Letters from Fawn Creek, that is now available at this link:

https://www.tatepublishing.com/bookstore/book.php?w=9781628542035

Letters from Fawn Creek

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Poor Joseph: Psalm 105:17-22

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Joseph is being prepared for his dreams

17 Then he sent someone to Egypt ahead of them—
    Joseph, who was sold as a slave.
18 They bruised his feet with fetters
    and placed his neck in an iron collar.
19 Until the time came to fulfill his dreams,[a]
    the Lord tested Joseph’s character.
20 Then Pharaoh sent for him and set him free;
    the ruler of the nation opened his prison door.
21 Joseph was put in charge of all the king’s household;
    he became ruler over all the king’s possessions.
22 He could instruct the king’s aides as he pleased
    and teach the king’s advisers.

Footnotes:

  1. 105:19 Hebrew ‘his word.’

Psalm 105:17-22, NLT

I would love to have lunch with Joseph. Of all the men and women in the Bible, Joseph would be at the very top of my list. Whenever somebody handles the Word, and mentions his name, my ears perk up and I listen closely.

Psalm 105 is more or less, vignettes from Israel’s rich history. These sketches provide a sense of faith, as it encounters obstacles– and as it follows God. This past history is meant to encourage those in the present, and to be prepared for the future.

When I first became a believer, some kind soul gave me a worn copy of “Foxes Book of Marytrs.” I devoured it. A sense of rootedness began to slowly build as I discovered the rich history of those who would give their lives for the Faith. Psalm 105 does much the same thing.

Commentary

Vv. 17-18,  “Then he sent someone to Egypt ahead of them—
    Joseph, who was sold as a slave.
18 They bruised his feet with fetters
    and placed his neck in an iron collar.”

Joseph was being prepared. He would be inserted behind enemy lines. He would become “the tip of the spear.” No doubt though, slavery was a really lousy place to start. He could look down and see the iron shackles. He could reach up, and around his neck, he could feel the collar of a slave.

These are no small things. But perhaps the biggest and most painful was being caught ‘off-guard’ by his brothers, and sold to the slavers. If this were to happen to me– I would become bitter, angry and venomously hateful. I would’ve concocted scenarios where I would wreak revenge (revenge, oops, sorry that slipped out–I  meant justice).

V.v 19-20, “Until the time came to fulfill his dreams,
    the Lord tested Joseph’s character.
20 Then Pharaoh sent for him and set him free;
    the ruler of the nation opened his prison door.”

I believe godly dreams are always linked to a noble character. When God instills something within you, it will come in “seed form.” It will be embryonic. It will need to grow and wait for the precise moment. We can be postured, placed in a forward area until the second is right.

Our impressions of what our dream looks like will almost never be what we thought. But, it will be better. Testing will work you over. You will feel like you just went 12 rounds with Mike Tyson. But you will learn things. God is doing something.

Joseph erupts from his cell. Everything is turned around in a moment. Joseph has been released by Pharaoh himself. The chains and collar are an afterthought (or are they?) He is raised to a prominence never seen before.

The dreams he had as a boy become real. And there is nothing quite like a dream come true!

*

ybic, Bryan

Remember the Exodus: Psalm 114:1-3

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God’s View

When the Israelites escaped from Egypt—
    when the family of Jacob left that foreign land—
the land of Judah became God’s sanctuary,
    and Israel became his kingdom.

The Red Sea[a] saw them coming and hurried out of their way!
    The water of the Jordan River turned away.
The mountains skipped like rams,
    the hills like lambs!
What’s wrong, Red Sea, that made you hurry out of their way?
    What happened, Jordan River, that you turned away?
Why, mountains, did you skip like rams?
    Why, hills, like lambs?

Tremble, O earth, at the presence of the Lord,
    at the presence of the God of Jacob.
He turned the rock into a pool of water;
    yes, a spring of water flowed from solid rock.

Footnotes:
  1. Psalm 114:3 Hebrew the sea; also in 114:5.

I have a confession. I always have been secretly intrigued by “superheroes.” They have such great names: Superman, Batman, the Flash, Iron Man, Wolverine, and Wonder Woman. They all have an arsenal of strengths and each with an assortment of special abilities and tricky moves.

Usually, there is a certain moment in a superhero’s life when they become “activated.” The gift suddenly comes alive, and they start to live their lives differently. The particular gift they have been bestowed with, starts to change the world around them.

We look at the children of Israel and we can see something (or is it Someone?) that makes them significantly different. Just in case you haven’t noticed, Israel does not have a normal history. The Old Testament says that God selected them because they were the least and weakest of all the nations of the earth.

“The Lord did not set His love on you nor choose you because you were more in number than any of the peoples, for you were the fewest of all peoples.”

Deut. 7:7

Commentary

V.1-2, “When the Israelites escaped from Egypt—
    when the family of Jacob left that foreign land—
the land of Judah became God’s sanctuary,
    and Israel became his kingdom.”

The weakest has been chosen, by the power of God. The psalmist replays the history for all to hear. These covenant people have metamorphosed into someone completely different. It’s the 98 pound weakling who suddenly becomes a linebacker for the Chicago Bears. Or the meek office boy named Clark who somehow becomes Superman.

There are two words that should ‘cue us up’– sanctuary and kingdom. Both words are used to communicate a sense of the special heritage and position of being “the called ones”.

As believers we must discover who we are. We are set apart as special. My wife has done this to our home. She has dishes that are used on holidays. I wouldn’t dream of using them to microwave a ‘bean-and-cheese burrito’. That simply is not their function.

V. 3, “The Red Sea saw them coming and hurried out of their way! The water of the Jordan River turned away.”

Formidable obstacles will submit to these “special people”. Water has always been used as a tactical barrier. But all of a sudden– with God leading, we see miracles happening. The Red Sea opens up, and the sea bed becomes a “super-highway.” And later on, the same would happen to the River Jordan.

As people of the New Covenant are led by our Savior Jesus through substantial issues. We all have our own versions of the “Red Sea.” We are brought out of slavery with promises of freedom and protection. Sometimes we just need a reminder of who we really are.

*

ybic, Bryan

Fall Out Shelters: Psalm 27:5-7

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

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

Psalm 27:5-7, NLT

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

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

Commentary

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

***

ybic, Bryan

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