Striving to be Intimate: Psalms 73

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

Psalms 73,  ESV

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

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

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

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

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

Psalm 73

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

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

bry-signat (1)

 

Advertisements

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

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

Psalm 131: Like A Weaned Child

www.essentialbaby.com.au

1 My heart is not proud, O Lord, my eyes are not haughty; I do not concern myself with great matters or things too wonderful for me.

2 But I have stilled and quieted my soul; like a weaned child with its mother, like a weaned child is my soul within me.

3 O Israel put your hope in the Lord both now and forever more.

The vibrant spiritual life is defined by a relationship with God where we know who God is, who we are, and we know our limitations. He is the Creator, we are the creation. He is in heaven, we are on earth. And, as verse 2 of this psalm emphasizes, he is the parent and we are the weaned child. In verse 1 David says that he humbles himself and does not concern himself with great matters and things that are beyond his understanding. He knew that to do such a thing is the very moment when we begin to move from life to death.

This is what happened to Satan when he decided that being a high–ranking angel was not enough. He wanted to rule and reign like God himself. This is what happened to Adam and Eve when they decided that serving God in Eden wasn’t enough; they wanted to be like gods. This is what happened when Israel decided that God their Bridegroom was not enough; they decided to pursue other lovers (idols).

David saw this up close and personal with Saul. For Saul the simple command of Samuel to utterly destroy the Amalekites was not enough. He had to take things into his own hands, he had to concern himself with things that were beyond his understanding, and disobey Samuel’s command.

In contrast to all these examples of failure, David says that he has stilled and quieted his soul like a weaned child. He rests in the arms of his loving parent. He is dependent on that parent for everything. The child doesn’t try to leave the arms of the parent and concern himself with great matters that are beyond him. He snuggles into the grace and mercy of the parent and accepts his utter helplessness. He puts his complete trust in the parent.

In verse 3 David tells Israel to put their hope in the Lord. In an unspoken way, he was really encouraging them to be like a weaned child. In their history they had been just the opposite. Instead of a weaned child, they had been like a rebellious teenager–sullen, ungrateful, and disobedient. However, for David, it was a new day and he was calling them to a new relationship.

flourish-small

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

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

I Love the House! Psalm 84:1-4

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

 Psalm 84:1-4

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

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

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

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

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

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

ybic, Bryan

The God Who Won’t Go Away: Psalm 139:7–12

"Closer than a brother."
“Closer than a brother.”

7 Where can I go from your Spirit?

Where can I flee from your presence?

8 If I go up to the heavens, you are there;

if I make my bed in the depths, you are there

9 If I rise on the wings of the dawn,

if I settle on the far side of the sea,

10 even there your hand will guide me,

your right hand will hold me fast.

11 If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me

and the light become night around me,”

12 even the darkness will not be dark to you;

the night will shine like the day,

for darkness is as night to you.

flourish-small

Martin Luther was right when he said that “the entire Bible is contained in the Psalms.” In the Psalms, we find the same God who we find in the rest of the Bible, who, despite our sins and weaknesses, stubbornly and relentlessly sticks with us–the God who won’t go away. This God was fully revealed in the person of Jesus Christ who said that he is with us always, even unto the very end of the world (Matthew 28: 20).

In contrast, human relationships are fragile. People, for a variety of reasons, do go away. Sometimes, as in the case of my father who passed away a little over a year ago, it has nothing to do with anything they did or didn’t do. His father (my grandfather) died when he was 13. My brother and my father’s firstborn named Cary, who was neurologically handicapped, went on to be with the Lord in his early 50s, ten years before my father would join him. My mother would die three and a half years before he would. My father was well–acquainted with the fact that people go away.

Sometimes people go away because of something we did or didn’t do. Over the years, I’ve heard some people confess that they feel like other people like them until they get to know the real them and then they go away. They have difficulty keeping friends who will love them warts and all. I’ve also seen marriages and friendships where one of the friends or spouses go through major changes and the relationship doesn’t survive in the aftermath. Humpty Dumpty falls off the wall and can’t be put back together again. Someone goes away.

One human characteristic that the devil exploits is our tendency to project onto God flawed human qualities. The old joke is that in the beginning God created man in his image, and then, shortly thereafter, man returned the favor by creating God in his image. If the reader only gets one thing out of this post, let it be this: People may go away but God won’t go away. Please rest in his stubborn love.

Psalm 139:7–12 provides abundant evidence to that fact: no matter where we go, God is there. The Psalms are very comforting to me because God is there for David in every situation–in his ups and downs, virtues and vices, complaints and thanksgivings. David represents the human heart writ large and God will not forsake him. He commits egregious sins–adultery, lying, murder– but in his brokenness and repentance, God won’t go away.

So often, when we have it out with another person, someone goes away. Not God. David has it out with God over a variety of issues. He feels forsaken, complains about his enemies prospering, and questions God’s justice, but God is big enough to handle his darkest moments and stay with him. That’s one of the major lessons of the Psalms: God can handle the full fury of the human heart–it’s anger, desolation, questions, and despair– and not forsake that person unless he or she continually and willfully rejects and forsakes God for the rest of their lives. He doesn’t go away but we have a choice to go away.

Often when we have it out with God, in the aftermath, there is greater intimacy between us and the Lord. His ways are vindicated and we rest in his wisdom and mercy. This is much different than when we become embittered at God and our deep offence at him destroys intimacy. May we all guard our hearts against such bitterness and rejoice in the God who doesn’t go away.

If you liked this post from Jonathan, you may also like his new book, Letters from Fawn Creek, that can now be purchased at this link:

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

Letters from Fawn Creek

*

ybic, Jonathan

Please check out my other blog at http://www.openheavensblog.com/

The Real Mystery of His Face: Psalm 131

Childlike Trust in the Lord

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

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

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

Psalm 131, NLT

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

*

ybic, Bryan

Loving the Father’s House: Psalm 84

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

 Psalm 84:1-4

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

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

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

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

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

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

*

ybic, Bryan

Listen Up: Psalm 27:8-10

8 “My heart has heard you say, “Come and talk with me.”
And my heart responds, “Lord, I am coming.”
Do not turn your back on me.
Do not reject your servant in anger.
You have always been my helper.
Don’t leave me now; don’t abandon me,
O God of my salvation!
10 Even if my father and mother abandon me,
the Lord will hold me close.”

Psalm 27:8-10, NLT

Following the Lord is primarily a “heart” event. It differs from every other religion in that the “inside” is more important than the “outside.” The human heart is our rendevous point, it is holy ground where our lives combine with His and we are changed.

We were born to communicate with God Himself. No barriers, mediators, or priests. Just Him, and just me. The most important thing is for us to respond to Him when He speaks to us. He is a God who communicates; not wood or stone, nor requiring continual animal sacrifices, or incense.

And that is quite radical.

Commentary

V. 8, “My heart has heard you say, “Come and talk with me.”
    And my heart responds, “Lord, I am coming.”

Have you heard God’s voice? He loves to talk and communicate with us. It is through a transmission from Him that our hearts hear His voice. We were made to do this, it is our true calling. We must learn to hear Him, no matter what our circumstances may be. I suppose I could go out on a limb and say that this is the crowning achievement of our lives. Do we hear God’s voice?

Notice it is God who initiates this intimacy. (BTW, I like this translation.) We really should respond to Him when He shares. We have a real problem in the Church today. We have a lot of “deaf” Christians. They have not learned their basic lessons. They can’t hear God’s voice. We need to be retrained.

V.9 “Do not turn your back on me.
Do not reject your servant in anger.
You have always been my helper.
Don’t leave me now; don’t abandon me,
O God of my salvation!”

When we feel like we have failed the Lord, we become vulnerable. We feel sometimes that our relationship with Him is now tenuous. The psalmist however is craving intimacy or closeness with the Lord. His insecurity comes out of fear of being abandoned. Without God’s presence staying with us, things would go bad very quickly.

V. 10, “Even if my father and mother abandon me,
the Lord will hold me close.”

For most of us, the closest relationship we can have is with our parents. (And as a father, I have a powerful commitment to my kids.) But the intensity of my love is eclipsed by God’s love. There can no comparison.

The final point is this, “the Lord will hold me close.” This is intimacy, and this is good.

ybic, Bryan

Teaching the World to Sing: Psalm 67:1-4

Art by Lynda Finch

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

May God be merciful and bless us.
    May his face smile with favor on us.  Interlude

May your ways be known throughout the earth,
    your saving power among people everywhere.
May the nations praise you, O God.
    Yes, may all the nations praise you.
Let the whole world sing for joy,
    because you govern the nations with justice
    and guide the people of the whole world.  Interlude

This very liturgical psalm was part of the temple ceremony. Within it we learn much about entering the presence of God, after all that is its exclusive purpose. When we learn to read this way, we are tutored on how to behave in the presence of royalty.

This psalm was meant to be sung. It carries all those unique attributes that sets it apart. Most of Jewish temple singing was almost exclusively “antiphony.” What this means is the choir would alternate verses, each taking the lead from the other. They would also step up the temple stairs, while singing. All of it was done from memory. Often a musician would lead with a lyre, or what ever stringed instrument they had.

Commentary

V. 1, “May God be merciful and bless us.
    May his face smile with favor on us.  Interlude”

If you recognize this verse it’s because it is the High Priest’s blessing of Numbers 6:24-26. This prayer invokes God’s blessing on His people.

24‘May the Lord bless you
and protect you.
25 May the Lord smile on you
and be gracious to you.
26 May the Lord show you his favor
and give you his peace.’

Invocation is a powerful way of communicating God’s grace and kindness. It bestows prosperity and goodness, to worship God as good, to receive his goodness and announce it to others. The theme of “blessing,” saturates this definition.

However, it is not “magical,” but it is “covenant.” Our God is intensely committed to us through this mechanism. We celebrate His faithfulness, by our obedience to Him through His Word.

V. 2, “ May your ways be known throughout the earth,
    your saving power among people everywhere.”

Reading the blessing in V. 1, we find ourselves asking what our next step is to be.  Simply put, we are blessed so we can be a blessing. We really shouldn’t see ourselves as the “reason” God’s favor is given to us. V.2 is best understood as our prayer on behalf  of God for “people everywhere.” Many blaspheme God, because believers give out sin and darkness, instead of light.

V. 3, “May the nations praise you, O God.
    Yes, may all the nations praise you.”

This is the Christian worldview. And it is the nations that belong to Him. God doesn’t share the nations. I recently read an article that suggested that Haiti had satanic connections, and was therefore cursed. I find that very hard to believe. God loves people, He loves Haitians. God loves the culture of Haiti.

V. 4, “Let the whole world sing for joy,
    because you govern the nations with justice
    and guide the people of the whole world.  Interlude”

This is the direction we are heading. The countries have a certain destiny to fulfill. It’s ironic, but everyone is to sing. What started on the steps of the temple is meant to reverberate through to the nations. We are meant to sing.

ybic, Bryan

Art Courtesy of Linda Finch

http://lyndafinchart.com/index.html

God Inspired Holiness: Psalm 141:1—4, ESV

“O Lord, I call upon you; hasten to me!
 Give ear to my voice when I call to you!
Let my prayer be counted as incense before you,
    and the lifting up of my hands as the evening sacrifice!

Set a guard, O Lord, over my mouth;
     keep watch over the door of my lips!
Do not let my heart incline to any evil,
    to busy myself with wicked deeds
in company with men who work iniquity,
    and let me not eat of their delicacies!”

Psalm 141:1—4, ESV

I’ve gotten feedback, which is great, but it has been suggested that my posts are too long, and that maybe true. But I have decided to cut down the selection of verses handled to make it a bit easier on you. Teachers have a strong tendency to overwork their mules. LOL.

This is one of David’s.  We will just consider a couple of verses in this post.  There is a potency in these first verses. They are like “Miracle Grow” for our hearts and souls. After working it in the soil, everything gets very green, very fast.

Commentary

V. 1, I suppose “call” is the prominent word in this verse. When we decide to intiate contact with the Lord, we think it is we who start the dialogue. (There is a doctrine of Christian theology that teaches the doctrine of prevenient grace, which briefly stated means this, that very often before a man can seek God, God must first have sought the man.)

We are being sought, like a pesky salesman at our door, our Father is incredibly persistent. He wants in, and keeps ringing our bell, and won’t go away. He calls us, before we call Him. Continually throughout scripture, we are commanded to “seek the Lord.” But we are only responding to His efforts to reach us. God is always first.

V. 2,  Let my prayer be counted as incense before you,
    and the lifting up of my hands as the evening sacrifice!”

David equates his prayer with what was going on in the temple. Incense and  the sacrifice had a curious equivalence. Also, this would link his prayer life to the very essence of the priesthood. Prayer should be understood in this framework, but quite often we don’t acknowledge this reality. Offer a calf, or say a prayer, it is pretty much the same thing.

V. 3, Perhaps this is a weak point in his life. He is seeking help for guarding his heart and his mouth (don’t we all?)  and He goes directly into the presence of God for help. Quite often we need direct intervention on our tongue. The Almighty has to step in to restrain and guide our words.

V. 4, “Do not let my heart incline to any evil,
    to busy myself with wicked deeds
in company with men who work iniquity,
    and let me not eat of their delicacies!”

Some believers make their own personal holiness there primary life issue. They live to be holy, however this misses the mark. Now don’t get me wrong, holiness of life should be sought, but there is much more. The psalmist realizes that God must take quite a bit of responsibility. He is the active element in v. 4. He is doing the “heavy lifting” here. The desire that David has, all that he wants to happen is God’s action and grace. He works very hard to enable us to get through sin.

ybic, Bryan

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

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

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

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

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

Commentary

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

ybic, Bryan

Night Vision: Psalm 139:13-16, NLT

But even in darkness I cannot hide from you.
To you the night shines as bright as day.
Darkness and light are the same to you.

13 You made all the delicate, inner parts of my body
and knit me together in my mother’s womb.
14 Thank you for making me so wonderfully complex!
Your workmanship is marvelous—how well I know it.
15 You watched me as I was being formed in utter seclusion,
as I was woven together in the dark of the womb.
16 You saw me before I was born.
Every day of my life was recorded in your book.
Every moment was laid out
before a single day had passed.

Psalm 139:13-16, NLT

The known (and unknown) universe is thoroughly known by Jehovah God. After all He is the Architectural and Contractor of vast galaxies we have yet to discover. And there are billions.

http://www.wired.com/wiredscience/2011/12/universe-size/

Commentary

V. 12, invisibility will never be the lot of the believer. Even the blackest night is like a bright spotlight that easily penetrates the gloom of midnight. “Darkness and light are the same to you.” God will never be hampered by the loss of visibility or dullness of perception. He even catches the tiniest of details. .

V. 13, carries the bulk of scripture on personal creation. Each of are very exclusive, “one-of-a-kind” creatures. As a fetus in your mother’s womb, God knit you together. He actually crocheted you. Your brain, spine, and your hands and eyes, this is amazing!

V. 14, “Thank you for making me so wonderfully complex!
Your workmanship is marvelous—how well I know it.”

The idea of complexity really throws us as humans. As ideas and thoughts grow in intricacy we are forced to find outside help. My laptop that I’m writing on right now is incredibly smart. It does thousands of hard things very fast. David uses two words of interest– wonderful and marvelous.

V. 15, He is watching, seeing the little details of fetal development. Recently much has been made of babies being born in a test tube. The principle is alien to my thinking. But I also know that medical advances can take on a strange cast. I think about x-rays, blood transfusions and penicillin and how amazing it all seemed in its day. I suppose if it has “life” then God is involved.

V. 16, “You saw me before I was born.
Every day of my life was recorded in your book.
Every moment was laid out
before a single day had passed.”

There a sense of details being set up in advance, so a schedule is planned. God has given us an itinerary to follow.

1) There is an intimacy involved. 2) There is a book of records. 3) Things come in days– sequential and chronological. 4) This all has been a long time ago, by a God who loves us.

Ybic,

Bryan

Fully Known: Psalm 139:1-6, NLT

Psalm 139

For the choir director: A psalm of David.

O Lord, you have examined my heart
    and know everything about me.
You know when I sit down or stand up.
    You know my thoughts even when I’m far away.
You see me when I travel
    and when I rest at home.
    You know everything I do.
You know what I am going to say
    even before I say it, Lord.
You go before me and follow me.
    You place your hand of blessing on my head.
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me,
    too great for me to understand.

PSALM 139:1-6, New Living Translation (NLT)

“Familiarity breeds contempt, while rarity wins admiration.”  Apuleius

An essential maxim for anyone with social relationships (all of us.) This is a generality, but the closer we get to someone, the more they see of us. Our inward workings, motivations and character become visible to them. When we were children we have to learn our multiplication tables– and in the same way we learn how to evaluate others. This is a part of growing up.

We are both repelled and drawn to intimacy. When its good, there is nothing better. But when its bad it is awful. Our faith, if it is humble and true, sets us up in part for good things. But our sinful ego generates evil. Our proximity to a friend is often the “real” proving place for our spirituality.

Commentary

V. 1, we incur an examination from the Lord God through intimacy with Him. There is a regular exchange of understanding as we enter His presence. He studies us, He “majors” in us. Simply, He gets us.

V. 2, Again the Father is aware of the details of our life. He is cognizant of our movements, and the way we think and why we think.

“And the very hairs on your head are all numbered.” Matthew 10:30, NLT

V. 3, “You see me when I travel
    and when I rest at home.
    You know everything I do.”

David is profoundly touched by God’s ability to know Him. He applies this reality to his daily life and walk. You go to the store, and He sees. You go to the hospital and He fully understand. You will never catch Him off-duty or taking a coffee break. He sees every possibility and permutation we are capable of before we do it.

This is not a substitute for us not seeking Him however. Sure, God thoroughly  grasps us, but we need to know Him. We are to expend effort in this,

“Seek first God’s kingdom and what God wants. Then all your other needs will be met as well.”

Matthew 10:33, NCV

 To be known so intensively, so thoroughly is a profound experience. It can be somewhat unsettling at times. There is so much ugliness in just a single day. My hidden sin can’t be hidden, (we can screen it from our friends, but not from God.)

V.4, Probably the most damning evidence is found in our words. We can be flippant, sarcastic, disparaging, or even nonsensical and empty in what  we speak. If we can see the destructiveness to a degree, God sees and hears everything in its totality.

V. 5, “You hem me in, behind and before,
    and lay your hand upon me.

 There lies so much wisdom in this verse, for the idea is clear. We are centered right in the middle of His heart. We are surrounded, and He draws oh, so close to human beings. He “hems us in.” God stretches His hand, and rests it on us. The “laying on of hands” is an interesting doctrine. It involves the transmisson of something. But in David’s case it meant not only gifting, but honor and protection.

V. 6, presents the overall delight David has in all of this.  He is amazed that he is the center and focus of so much attention. It doesn’t seem possible, but it is real.

ybic,

       Bryan

Having 20/20 Vision: Psalm 25:8-14

“The Lord is good and right; 
       he points sinners to the right way. 
 9 He shows those who are humble how to do right, 
       and he teaches them his ways.
 10 All the Lord’s ways are loving and true 
       for those who follow the demands of his agreement.
 11 For the sake of your name, Lord, 
       forgive my many sins.
 12 Are there those who respect the Lord? 
       He will point them to the best way.
 13 They will enjoy a good life, 
       and their children will inherit the land.
 14 The Lord tells his secrets to those who respect him; 
       he tells them about his agreement.”

Psalm 25:8-14, NCV

Our views of God shape our daily living. If God is nothing more than a celestial judge, we will be shaped by that personal theology, and be angry and rigid people.  (Often, we won’t even realize it. But others will.) And if our theology says that God really does love me, I will become a person of kindness. What we decide about the Lord, and ourselves, is incredibly significant.

This psalm has the power to come alongside and “sculpt” our faith. Often I think of God as impassive or neutral when it comes to me. It’s like He’s this evaluator or auditor. He is inspecting me to see if I measure up.  He is cold-blooded, and emotionless as He monitors what I do with my faith in His Son.

Commentary

V. 8,  “Good and right” are actually pretty rare qualities. But if your God possesses them, you should be in pretty fine shape. God excels in goodness, and He outshines everyone in doing things right.

And v. 8 continues, “he points sinners to the right way. “ This is an active, roll up your sleeves kind of commitment. He isn’t confined to the sidelines, or the judge’s table. “What shall we say about such wonderful things as these? If God is for us, who can ever be against us?” Romans 8:31, (NLT) . Two words, two very different positions, now linked by an “is for”:

  1. God, creator and sustainer of everything. Completely full of compassion, power, goodness and justice.
  2. Us. Sinful, and depraved. “Missing the mark.”

We are now irrevocably linked. God and us. God and us, now forever connected.

V.  9, Note the phrases- “He shows” and “He teaches.” Will we let Him do what He wants? After all, He is a passionate teacher that loves to illustrate and instruct in His ways. But the word “humble” declares the status that is prerequisite or mandatory.  God loves humble people  (I mean He really, really loves them!)

V. 10, the NCV uses the word, “agreement.” Most versions use the better word, “covenant”. It does have the idea of agreement, or a contract, but one much more formal. It is between two parties instilling a permanent relationship. It was serious enough that blood had to be shed to validate it.

This is exactly what Jesus did. His sacrifice has the power to bring us into a covenant. Those of us who come to Him through this covenant will find an exclusive source of love and truth.

V. 11,  This is an direct appeal to God’s honor and reputation.  Father, “forgive my many, many sins.” We maybe tempted to hide some of them. But only full disclosure will bring full deliverance. Whatever is not brought into the light will go on to infest your life. Trust me, you will regret it.

V.12, to respect or to fear the Lord entails an active action or response. But there is another dimension. Celebrities will often hire a “life coach,” or someone to come alongside to guide them in their decisions and choices.

V. 13, what an incentive! It is a tangible and significant pursuit. Godliness is always profitable, and not just materially. Its essence is the blessing of the Lord, and an intimacy with Him. Also, there is an idea here, of my own obedience effecting my children’s future and destiny.

V. 14, “The LORD is a friend to those who fear him.  He teaches them his covenant” (NLT). To have the Almighty as a personal friend is an amazing thing, it sets you apart from any other claim or status. God choose to become your personal tutor, teaching you of such things that thinkers and philosophers have wanted to see into throughout the history of the world.

The Personality of God: Psalm 86:1-7

A Cry for Help

A prayer of David.

 1 Lord, listen to me and answer me. 
       I am poor and helpless.
 2 Protect me, because I worship you. 
       My God, save me, your servant who trusts in you.
 3 Lord, have mercy on me, 
       because I have called to you all day.
 4 Give happiness to me, your servant, 
       because I give my life to you, Lord.
 5 Lord, you are kind and forgiving 
       and have great love for those who call to you.
 6 Lord, hear my prayer, 
       and listen when I ask for mercy.
 7 I call to you in times of trouble, 
       because you will answer me. 

Psalm 86:1-7, NCV

We should never try to acquire knowledge to put a notch on our Bibles, but to understand Him. When we skim these verses in a general way we can only see it as a prayer.  The best kind of prayer is typically generated by any kind of deep crisis. King David is in trouble, and things are desperate.

These verses reveal a harried and hard-pressed man, who understands God. He also understands himself. And both are necessary to become intimate with the Lord God. I want to emphasize this. You need to discern both God’s heart, and than your place.

“We are at this moment as close to God as we really choose to be. True, there are times when we would like to know a deeper intimacy, but when it comes to the point, we are not prepared to pay the price involved.” 

J. Oswald Sanders

Commentary

V. 1, there is a deep sense of spiritual poverty, and awareness of our weakness. Once this is established we will find our authentic voice. And our prayers become supercharged, and can enter His throne room. Our weakness is a good thing, if it leads you to God.

V. 2, protection in a very dangerous world is a good thing. I need to know deep down that He has focused on me, and completely briefed on my situation. He is aware to the utmost of my needs.

V. 3, David had a consistent reliance on mercy. He knew it and called on the Lord through it.

V. 4, there is a sort of a barter transaction here. I give Him my life, and I can find the happiness waiting for me. This really fulfills life for me. It is not merchandising spirituality, rather it enhances it.

V. 5, these qualities are a triad  in which God’s deep presence flows to me. Kindness, forgiveness and the love that He possesses are the three ways in which we can relate to God.

V. 6,  perhaps this knowledge revealed to David has given him a hunger for prayer. And a desire for authentic prayer. If you had the ability to email the President of the United States, and you knew he read everyone you sent, wouldn’t that give you a boldness?

V. 7, there is that confidence here. There will always be “times of trouble.” Don’t let anyone tell you different. When a child is frightened of something scary, she runs to her father. The father reaches for his little one. This is the way discipleship is supposed to work itself out.

***

“To fall in love with God is the greatest of all romances; To seek Him, the greatest adventure; To find him, the greatest human achievement.”

Augustine