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.

***

bry-signat (1)

Fantastically Solid: Psalm 111:7-8

Typical Ice-fishing shack

7 “All he does is just and good,
    and all his commandments are trustworthy.
They are forever true,
    to be obeyed faithfully and with integrity.”

Psalm 111:7-8, NLT

I seem to be in a place of learning “appreciation”— the study of God, through the majesty of the Word– the very promises– through acquired ideas of Him. We are starting to become gracious people and recognize the presence of grace.

Thankfulness is not confined to a holiday. It is the way we grow up in God. It is the main ingredient in this concoction of maturity.

“Thanksgiving is the language of heaven, and we had better start to learn it if we are not to be mere dumb aliens there.” A.J. Gossip

Note: This psalm is a Hebrew acrostic poem; after the introductory note of praise, each line begins with a successive letter of the Hebrew alphabet.

 

Commentary

V. 7, “All he does is just and good,
    and all his commandments are trustworthy.”

These twin ideas, “justice and goodness,” not only go together, but enhance each other. Being “just” without being “good” would be something awful. And to be good without being just would be very hard to imagine.

Everything God does is stellar. He is completely exceptional. And we can’t imagine all that it means. But, who’s complaining. It seems like I’m always reducing Him to my own level. It’s never too high, or too excessive. My understanding is far from complete.

“He manufactures truth and justice;
All his products are guaranteed to last—
Never out-of-date, never obsolete, rust-proof.
All that he makes and does is honest and true:”

(V. 11-12, Message)

I grew up in the 1960s in Wisconsin. The winters there are frequently below zero, with a nasty ‘wind-chill’ factor. But in the fall, people would get their ice fishing ‘shacks’ ready to await the go ahead of trekking out on the ice. People wanted to fish, but the ice thickness determined everything.

What God is, is quite solid. He is a “rock.” You can land a 747 on a Wisconsin lake in January, no problem at all, it’s like concrete. God and all He promises are even more substantial, “like a rock.”

V. 8, “They are forever true,
    to be obeyed faithfully and with integrity.”

Not just true, but “a forever-kind-of-true.” He is fully consistent, no cracks or ‘thaws.’ We on the other hand are unstable, liquid, weak. Even at our best we are vaporous. When we look about the spiritual landscape, strewn about with collapses and sin– the best of us, will admit to faults and sin.

God is so solid, and so true. Because of this, we have an obligation and a willingness to become people of a true integrity.

 

ybic, Bryan

We Are the ‘Word People’: Psalm 119:1-8

“The entrance of Your words gives light; It gives understanding to the simple.” Ps. 119:130

א Aleph

 1 Blessed are they whose ways are blameless, 
   who walk according to the law of the LORD. 
2 Blessed are they who keep his statutes 
   and seek him with all their heart. 
3 They do nothing wrong; 
   they walk in his ways. 
4 You have laid down precepts 
   that are to be fully obeyed. 
5 Oh, that my ways were steadfast 
   in obeying your decrees! 
6 Then I would not be put to shame 
   when I consider all your commands. 
7 I will praise you with an upright heart 
   as I learn your righteous laws. 
8 I will obey your decrees; 
   do not utterly forsake me.

Psalm 119:1—8, NIV

This psalm has many unique characteristics.

#1, there are 22 paragraphs. Each one focuses on a single letter of the Hebrew alphabet.

#2, And to make it even more interesting, every verse in that paragraph begins with that same letter. Example vv. 1 — 8 all start the verse with the appropriate letter of the alphabet.

#3, There is a complexity in this psalm, which we certainly don’t see in English; but we do see it in the original Hebrew.

#4, There is an obvious awareness of the Law, or “torah.” But there is a total of nine other synonyms that have a connection to the ‘Torah’. They’re other translations of these words— law, statutes, ways, precepts, decrees, commands, promises, word. These are all different words, each have a different connotation. And they are changeable. I suppose this has to be is a divine intelligence beyond our comprehension, and far beyond our human ability to manipulate. God’s ‘fingerprints’ are all over this psalm.

Commentary

V. 1 — 2, the word “blessed” is used. But that is only the core idea. It has the broad idea of peace, confidence, and happiness in one’s new place or position. There is a place, but it seems to come to the blameless. And just so you know, being blameless is not being sinless. We sin, constantly. But we can be blameless in that place. V.2 has put an emphasis on two verbs— keeping, and seeking.

V. 3, “They do nothing wrong,” as far as I can see the believer is lifted out of a lifestyle of hopeless sinning. It is no longer the compelling momentum that energizes us. We are now to be walking the avenues that the Lord has made for us.

V. 4,  God has taken an active role in our salvation. We can look at His precepts as a burden, or as a help. They word, “obey” gets used.  (I suppose that that word obedience is the ‘neutron bomb’ of theological terms.) Yet, it is a necessary attitude if we want to lived blessed lives.

V. 5, Is an ejaculatory cry for deliverance. It has the spirit of Romans 7 all over it. The heart that is truly following God will understand this, it is the profound desire to be more like Him. Our spirits should yearn to be like our Father in heaven.

V. 6, deep inside the writer of this psalm should be a kindred spirit for us. The driving thought in this verse is that of having a true heart, a faithful heart. In a sense the psalmist realizes there is a day of accountability and judgement for himself.

V. 7, When I read this verse I have a wonderful sense of the mechanism of Christian transformation. We see praise building as the disciple is obeying, and vice versa. Obedience is linked into praise; and praise builds obedience! One feeds the other, and they are both strengthened.

V. 8, Here we see “commitment.” We observe the hungry heart of the psalmist to obey. “Obey” is always his critical word for us. In his mind this is the pivot on which everything turns on. There exists a holy resolve to comply and to heed His will.

God, Motivate Me– Psalm 119, ה

megaphone-god

ה He

33 Teach me, O Lord, the way of your statutes;
    and I will keep it to the end.
34 Give me understanding, that I may keep your law
    and observe it with my whole heart.
35 Lead me in the path of your commandments,
    for I delight in it.
36 Incline my heart to your testimonies,
    and not to selfish gain!
37 Turn my eyes from looking at worthless things;
    and give me life in your ways.
38 Confirm to your servant your promise,
    that you may be feared.
39 Turn away the reproach that I dread,
    for your rules are good.
40 Behold, I long for your precepts;
    in your righteousness give me life!

flourish-small

Again, this is an acrostic. It is painstakingly put together and embedded with the 22 letters of the Hebrew alphabet. Each letter will have eight verses. And each verse begins with the letter assigned to it. For example, today’s post is the Hebrew letter is  ה , or He– the eight verses (see above) each begin with the letter “He”.

There are some references in the Hebrew Talmud about “he.” It is a special letter. A few suggest that two letters were brought together to be used by God to form the entire universe. Paired up it constructs “the divine name” of God. In Psalm 33:6, we read–

“By the word of the Lord the heavens were made,
and by the breath of his mouth all their host.”

I suppose Psalm 119 can be compared to a ‘literary’ tapestry– many threads meticulously woven into something with so much beauty, it takes your breath away when you see it. It is a masterpiece of unparalleled exquisiteness and elegance.

Commentary

He

Vv. 33-34, “Teach me, O Lord, the way of your statutes;
    and I will keep it to the end.
34 Give me understanding, that I may keep your law
    and observe it with my whole heart.”

If we just look at the verbs, we will go along way toward an understanding.

  1. Teach me
  2. I will keep
  3. Give me
  4. I will observe

As a believer, God commits Himself to provide me with what I need. He is a teacher, and a giver. He infuses us with wisdom and understanding.

And as a disciple I finally can give what He really wants. I plan to keep, and observe. He gives, and I commit. Its a bit like a “give and take” scenario. But we don’t earn or deserve anything. We receive from Him far more than we could give.

Vv. 35-36, “Lead me in the path of your commandments,
    for I delight in it.
36 Incline my heart to your testimonies,
    and not to selfish gain!”

We must be led. We are on this journey you see, but it will take His work to direct us. The commandments should delight us. The rebellion which is innate in each of us really hates this.

Inclination means a motivation, or a proclivity within. It describes a disposition where we really do want to follow, we really do! In a sense we see a sort of ‘magnetism’ that effects us, pulling us to Him. “Selfish gain” is a bit vague, but it is anything that lifts us up, when it is really all about Him.

Vv. 37-38, “Turn my eyes from looking at worthless things;
    and give me life in your ways.
38 Confirm to your servant your promise,
    that you may be feared.

My eyes are constantly roving, and unfortunately they gravitate toward “worthless things.” These are things which have little or no value. There is a strange sort of spiritual seduction here. We need God’s help in controlling this. If we don’t we will be in bondage to sin.

Confirmation is a sort of an implanted promise that reassures us. Without it we are a real mess. We each are capable of much wickedness. But when God’s hand is on us, confirming us– it is then we start to have a healthy fear of God. And that is a very good thing.

Vv. 39-40, “Turn away the reproach that I dread,
    for your rules are good.
40 Behold, I long for your precepts;
    in your righteousness give me life!”

The “reproach” is coming from our enemies, both spiritual and fleshly (vv. 22, 42, 51). It seems that we are the most hated– and the most loved people. The verse seems to suggest that we need God’s work to “turn away” this nastiness.

The Holy Spirit refocuses us, recalibrating us. We start to “long for” the things He speaks to us. If we let Him work, we will discover true life. And once you taste that life, it will ruin you for the vain morsels of this present age.

&

ybic, Bryan

Dusty Believers– Psalm 119, ד Daleth

psalm-119-graphic

ד Daleth

25 I lie in the dust;
    revive me by your word.
26 I told you my plans, and you answered.
    Now teach me your decrees.
27 Help me understand the meaning of your commandments,
    and I will meditate on your wonderful deeds.
28 I weep with sorrow;
    encourage me by your word.
29 Keep me from lying to myself;
    give me the privilege of knowing your instructions.
30 I have chosen to be faithful;
    I have determined to live by your regulations.
31 I cling to your laws.
    Lord, don’t let me be put to shame!
32 I will pursue your commands,
    for you expand my understanding.

We are heading back to 119, and picking up where we left off. Verses 1-24 are available for perusal on this site using the search function on the home page.

flourish-small

As a teacher, I admit that Psalm 119 seems very big and cumbersome. Its a lot like having a circus elephant in your living room. It’s all jolly to begin with– but there are some challenging issues as well.

Psalm 119 is quite unique. Each verse is potent and exacting. As we read it we find it is quite choppy and it moves quicker than what we are used to. For many of us, we prefer the sweeping poetry of a Psalm 23 or 103. But this ain’t that.

But it is the most sophisticated chapter in the Bible. It is constructed around the 22 letters of the Hebrew alphabet. And each verse starts with the letter assigned to it. We call this an “acrostic.” (But only in Hebrew.) It the longest chapter, larger than some entire books of the Bible. The construction severely limits the author, as you may imagine.

I am tingling with joy
Of a glorious discovery:
Continuous surrender
Brings continuous freedom.
Lord, I love being free!
 
~ Ruth Harms Calkin
 

Commentary

DalethThis is the 4th letter in Hebrew. Each 8 verses assigned to Daleth begin with the letter Daleth. This is pretty fantastical if you try to transfer this alphabet pattern to English.

V. 25, “ I lie in the dust;
    revive me by your word.”

I’m sure we all have seen movies where the protagonist is wandering in the desert under a scorching sun. He has no water, and his strength is completely gone. He dramatically collapses, and looking up he sees the buzzards circling.

The verse makes us see our own desperation. But instead of water, we need to take in God’s Word. We crave and yearn for that which can restore us. The Bible speaks like nothing else.

V. 26, “I told you my plans, and you answered.
    Now teach me your decrees.”

As you can see the psalmist does not take time with one metaphor. But jumps to the next.

The writer has been planning. He has been contemplating his future. A strategic understanding must be found, and communicated to the heart of God. An answer comes from the Throne Room.

We see that the psalmist craves instruction. His mindset and inclination is eager for the Father’s aid. In a way, he really want’s God to meddle with his life.

V. 27, “Help me understand the meaning of your         commandments,
    and I will meditate on your wonderful deeds.”

Understanding is a word connect to the idea of knowledge, discernment, perception, and impression. A multi-faceted word, the writer wants all of these things working.

There is a special way that truth is understood–it comes from God alone. Throughout history, men and women have sought to  understand life without God. I’m somewhat of a history buff. Especially WWI history. The foolish and rash ignorance of world leaders was a travesty. (Its laughable, if it wasn’t so tragic.)

What is spoken here is meditation that is not eastern. There is a big difference. On one hand there is an emptying, a turning off of the intellect and rational. On the other, is a taking in of God’s Words. You could say that Eastern meditation is passive, while Biblical meditation is active.

V. 28, “I weep with sorrow;
    encourage me by your word.”

Jesus taught in his Beatitudes the core movements of really walking with God. Below are the first three, Matthew 5:3-5,

“God blesses those who are poor and realize their need for him,
    for the Kingdom of Heaven is theirs.
God blesses those who mourn,
    for they will be comforted.
God blesses those who are humble,
    for they will inherit the whole earth.”

When we begin to understand our sin, and unwholesomeness we start on a walk that is real and significant. God delights in the “dust dwellers.”

V. 29, “Keep me from lying to myself;
    give me the privilege of knowing your instructions.”

How do we lie to ourself? One of the strongest impulses is to protect ourselves. It is a central urge we have. For many, the physical rules over the spiritual. Self-deception might be easier than deceiving others.

V. 30, “ I have chosen to be faithful;
    I have determined to live by your regulations.”

The choice is made and we shouldn’t look back. Put your hand to the plow and keep moving. We make a decision in the heat of a moment. Then we think we can walk away from it.

“I have chosen– I have determined.” 

V. 31, “I cling to your laws.
    Lord, don’t let me be put to shame!”

Psalm 119 is the “Fort Knox” of God’s word. This psalm easily has a lifetime supply of  gold in it. Laws are just one of eight different words that categorizes the promises of the Word.

Whenever this word “cling” is mentioned in the Bible; a certain image clicks in. I see someone out in the ocean, clinging to a life jacket. Are we sufficiently aware of our hopeless state without Christ?

V. 32, “I will pursue your commands,
    for you expand my understanding.”

The word “pursue” is a very intense word. The writer doesn’t say, “I will wander in your general direction.” There can be a great case made for a single-minded devotion.

Having your mind-blown by God, our thinking doesn’t shrink, but it grows and expands. It is God who does these things.

&

ybic, Bryan