Just Understanding is OK: Psalm 137

Israelites in Captivity

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

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

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

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

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

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

Commentary

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

bry-signat (1)

Gaze Into a Servant’s Eyes: Psalm 123

Our Eyes Look to the LORD Our God
    A Song of Ascents.

 1 To you I lift up my eyes
O you who are enthroned in the heavens!
2 Behold, as the eyes of servants 
   look to the hand of their master, 
as the eyes of a maidservant 
   to the hand of her mistress, 
so our eyes look to the LORD our God, 
   till he has mercy upon us.

 3 Have mercy upon us, O LORD, have mercy upon us, 
   for we have had more than enough of contempt. 
4 Our soul has had more than enough 
   of the scorn of those who are at ease, 
   of the contempt of the proud.

Psalm 123:1-4, ESV

I don’t think we get the idea of a “community” lament. When we weep, we tend to cry alone. The idea of national grief has only once or twice affected this generation. I think of the attacks on 9/11. The pain polarized us, and we seemed to lament together.

This is one of the Psalms of Ascent. It had a specific use; as the memorized songs to be sung as the Jews travelling up to the Temple. Jerusalem was elevated above the surrounding terrain. While the pilgrims sang on the roadways, the Levites would sing the same songs on the steps up to the Temple. This group of 15 Psalms are collected for us as 120-134.

Commentary

V.1 Right away I look to the obvious. The reference to “eyes” repeated four times in just two verses, vv. 1-2. Eyes are organs exclusively dedicated for sight, complex eyes can distinguish shapes and colors. We can distinguish 10 million colors. Without them, we would be severely handicapped. But many seeing persons can’t always perceive and discern things as they should.

V. 2 The theme here is “servanthood”. The person who serves another has to be focused. We look to the hand, watching and anticipating the next move the master might make. He might raise the index finger on the right hand, he wants tea. A clenched fist means I’m ready for my lunch. We must see the link between servanthood and seeing. A good servant is one who can anticipate the master’s will.

V. 3, “Have mercy upon us, O LORD, have mercy upon us.” The mercy needs to be sought, for there is not automatic mercy. You should plead for it, if you are serious about getting it. There is a solid boldness of coming and asking, begging.

V.4 The world is hardly a tolerant and congenial place. We often get “our belly full”. Never expect to be loved and esteemed as a believer. And if it does happen. someone has a certain self-awareness. It will never be what you think. Our “enemies” are into what is easy and what strengthens their pride. That will make them dangerous.

1Bryybicsig

The Walls: Psalm 51:17-19, Conclusion

17 “The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit;
    a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.

18 Do good to Zion in your good pleasure;
    build up the walls of Jerusalem;
19 then will you delight in right sacrifices,
    in burnt offerings and whole burnt offerings;
    then bulls will be offered on your altar.”

Psalm 51:17-19, ESV

David is fully committed to Jerusalem. In spite of all the miserable complications his sin has pounded him with, the man is focused on the covenant people of God. David loves Israel, and he is quite passionate about Jerusalem.

In the Church age, we can’t point directly to the physical country and city like he did. However, the new covenant that comes through Jesus has added us to a “spiritual nation” of the faithful. We now have a valid connection with Israel and the capital city of Jerusalem. Abraham and Moses, and each “partriarch” now speak resoundly at us.

This can be a challenge for us. We seem so disjointed and scattered about. Yet, I have to believe that the opposite is true. Yes, we are a people of many different practices and ideas. The Church worldwide is culturally diverse, but has a central love for the Lord Jesus. For every believer, with a valid faith, each look to Jesus as the center of our faith.

Commentary

V. 17, “The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit;
    a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.”

It’s a bit of holy faith that can speak at the sacrificial efforts of the Jews with such awareness. King David has become quite aware that to offer a bull for sacrifice isn’t really enough. Rather, the heart of the sacrificer determines everything. Sin can never be overlooked, and somehow covered with ritual.

There must be a brokenness, and something called “contriteness.” This really is something that is formed within, we can’t fake it, we would be fools if we tried. It seems like God often focuses on the inside, before He looks at the outside.

When God sees your brokenness, your grief over the sin running rampant in your life, He responds to you. He only desires that you come to Him, really and properly.

V. 18, “Do good to Zion in your good pleasure;
    build up the walls of Jerusalem;”

David seems to be always thinking in corporate terms, even when his personal life has been turned-upside-down. I suppose he is thinking like a king, and pursues His people’s welfare. But this is also an astonishing certainty. “Please, God forgive me, but bless your people in wonderful ways.”

The “walls of Jerusalem” are key and sure. They exist to protect, define, and secure the grace of God in a secure place. Walls are also built to keep “undesirables” out. Being a city that counts on its walls to protect it means a lot of effort for many groups of people to build.

V. 19, “then will you delight in right sacrifices,
    in burnt offerings and whole burnt offerings;
    then bulls will be offered on your altar.”

Providing a certain strength to the peripheral  doesn’t mean at all, an acceptance of built-in sin. And this psalm puts the focus on God’s certain desires. “Delight” is a great word, which carries so much.

Sacrifices can be good. They put into the physical what also belongs in the spiritual. The sacrifice describes what the spiritual declares. Ideally, what bull I sacrifice should communicate my heart to God.

So much is embedded in these verses. Much can be seen, and much must be excavated. I just know you will do what is right.

*

ybic, Bryan

Psalm 137: 1–6: Discipline That Brings a Harvest of Righteousness

psalm137-400

Psalm 137

1 Beside the rivers of Babylon, we sat and wept
    as we thought of Jerusalem.
2 We put away our harps,
    hanging them on the branches of poplar trees.
3 For our captors demanded a song from us.
    Our tormentors insisted on a joyful hymn:
    “Sing us one of those songs of Jerusalem!”
4 But how can we sing the songs of the Lord
    while in a pagan land?

5 If I forget you, O Jerusalem,
    let my right hand forget how to play the harp.
6 May my tongue stick to the roof of my mouth
    if I fail to remember you,
    if I don’t make Jerusalem my greatest joy.

7 O Lord, remember what the Edomites did
    on the day the armies of Babylon captured Jerusalem.
“Destroy it!” they yelled.
    “Level it to the ground!”

In the background of this psalm, the children of Israel in 586 BC have been led into captivity to Babylon because of their obstinate rebellion and idolatry against the Lord. Their captors are taunting them by asking them to sing songs of Zion in a foreign land but this they cannot do. They are reaping what they sowed and are being disciplined by the Lord through their bondage in Babylon.

This is probably familiar territory for those of us who have walked with the Lord for several  years. Of the many trials that we endure in this life, at least some of them are the discipline of the Lord. At one time or another we all get taken to God’s woodshed. Here are some helpful guidelines to help us while we are in the disciplining process:

(1) Israel endured discipline during this time because they were the chosen people of God; we endure discipline because we are his beloved sons and daughters. Discipline reveals our identity. Hebrews 12:8 goes so far as to say that if we are not disciplined, then we are “illegitimate children and not true sons.”

(2) Discipline in not an end–in–itself; the purpose of discipline is restoration and reconciliation. This is why Israel would not let themselves forget Jerusalem because it represented home and the restoration of their fortunes. Again, Hebrews 12:11 tells us that discipline will produce “a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.”

It’s interesting to note that Israel had its own harvest of righteousness: after their exile in Babylon, there is strong evidence that the problem of foreign gods was never a widespread problem again for many years.

(3) While you are going through the discipline of the Lord, expect demonic opposition to increase in your life. Notice how Israel is tormented by their captors in verse 3. The Edomites also encouraged Babylon to do great harm to Jerusalem during the fall of Jerusalem.

The greatest strategy of the devil is this: convince the believer being disciplined that they are so defective and have sinned so greatly that they are not worthy of God’s tender mercies. This is a lie: his mercies endure forever. Remember Satan is called “the accuser of the brethren.”

(4) How much better it is to be disciplined now in this life, and be purified than to have to stand before Christ, without having gone through the Refiner’s Fire. Our weeping will endure for the night (this present life) but joy will come in the morning (eternity).

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

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

Letters from Fawn Creek

 

ybic, Jonathan

What Our Blessings Look Like: Psalm 128

A song for pilgrims ascending to Jerusalem.

 1 Happy are those who respect the Lord and obey him.
 2 You will enjoy what you work for, 
       and you will be blessed with good things.
 3 Your wife will give you many children, 
       like a vine that produces much fruit. 
    Your children will bring you much good, 
       like olive branches that produce many olives.
 4 This is how the man who respects the Lord 
       will be blessed.
 5 May the Lord bless you from Mount Zion; 
       may you enjoy the good things of Jerusalem all your life. 
 6 May you see your grandchildren. 

    Let there be peace in Israel.

Psalm 128, NCV

This one of “the Psalms of Ascent” for pilgrims to sing as the travel to Jerusalem for the high hold feasts. They would walk, most from more than 70 miles. They would travel in large groups for safety against robbers and brigands. They would sing in unison, or in “rounds” using these psalms.

For us, we are making a spiritual journey, also from a long distance. And we too, have songs to sing. We travel hopefully, in groups as well. It’s interesting to note that what we sing should be of sound theology and an edifying quality. The experience of singing the truth joyfully would teach and strengthen the whole family in the profound idea of covenant.

Commentary

V. 1, is interesting because joy and fear are both present. Your joy is a result of your fear.You experience them both together. All joy, or all fear, apart from each other will be a disruption for us.  Notice this was to help us follow Him, when the road was challenging.

V.2, If we fear, we will find joy. We will enjoy what we do. There will be fruit which is always a great thing. Not to have it is very miserable, as it will always mean that something is wrong. Usually, that something is from v.1. They link together like train boxcars.

V. 3, has much to do with a single word, “contentment.” A whole lot of problems and sadness come our way because we are no longer content or at peace with ourselves. Obviously, when we are not happy, we no longer enjoy our life. Depression and despondency will take us down and ruin us. (I know this, firsthand.)

Wife, and children all flourish and grow. Perhaps that is a strong indicator of your spiritual health.  Family that is thriving. Sitting at our dinner table is a real treat. I enjoy this greatly and I’m learning to love it more and more.

V. 4 declares that this is the blessing God gives. It is intensely familial. It’s odd, but some of us who are married with children are still single in our hearts, and minds. Often we isolate ourselves, and keep away from our families, and this is wrong. If we persist in this, we lose the deep blessing of God on our lives.

V. 5-6 are like a water faucet you can’t turn off. Cold, fresh water gushes from the spout and doesn’t stop refreshing. And actually, this is not far from the truth. The idea of continuance and constancy may seem improbable to us. But, its very hard to turn God off. He gives and gives; and sometimes getting a drink is like trying to drink from a fire hose.

ybic, Bryan

kyrie elesion.

Everyone Shout! Psalm 100

A Call to Praise the Lord.   A psalm of thanks.

 1 Shout to the Lord, all the earth.
 2 Serve the Lord with joy; 
       come before him with singing.
 3 Know that the Lord is God. 
       He made us, and we belong to him; 
       we are his people, the sheep he tends. 

 4 Come into his city with songs of thanksgiving 
       and into his courtyards with songs of praise. 
       Thank him and praise his name. 
 5 The Lord is good. His love is forever, 
       and his loyalty goes on and on.

Psalm 100:1-5

This is a “good” psalm, in the sense that it is fairly easy to read through, and it doesn’t make things too terribly difficult to think out its purposes. And yet, we do come across things that require a certain attentiveness.

Commentary

Vv. 1-2 pronounces our need to shout. Shouting is something we do when things get very bad, or at least when we desperately need assistance. We only shout when the present moment is collapsing around us. We think that if we should shout, it will make us a “shouter.” We don’t want to live with that label.

Shout, and “serve.” Our thinking can deal with serving. It is much better than shouting. Serving is to be done with “joy.” There is something to being a joyful servant. The secondary part of verse to pushes the need for us to sing. This also can create issues. We really find it hard to sing, from our heart, spontaneously. Perhaps our rigidity and stiffness are taking roles they should never have taken in the first place.

V. 3 is a key verse. It essentially is a thought that explains, but it also declares. It does well in both of these dual purposes. When it “explains” we start to grip vv. 1-2. When it “declares” we find that we have just now taken up the challenge. There is a deep idea of a stepping into the attack, and accepting an objection against the evil one.

There is also the idea of being sheep who are carefully watched and tended. The verse declares we are people, and sheep, which He is tending. The parallels between the natural and the spiritual should lead us into a more enhanced understanding of His love for us. Just as the earthly shepherd cares and protects, so the Shepherd is fully aware of us.

V. 4 is a condensed understanding of worship. The intensity within v. 4 presses, and we praise and thank with the best of them. As we step into the boundaries of Jerusalem, we pick up the chant of worship. We have been led through so much, what we sing is only the starting step. He has covered us, and brought us through such terrible difficulties. There comes an essential awareness of His care over our souls.

V. 5,  “The Lord is good. His love is forever, and his loyalty goes on and on.” This is the “king verse” of this psalm. The ideas come together, “goodness, love, and loyalty.”  The three together make a wonderful blend. They enhance each other, you might say that each one brings out the best in the others. There is no reason to pick them apart, or try to focus on just one. They all belong together under God’s protective care.

*

ybic, Bryan

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

He Looked Down: Psalm 102:19-22

Crowd in the rain
Crowd in the rain

19 Tell them the Lord looked down
    from his heavenly sanctuary.
   He looked down to earth from heaven
20     to hear the groans of the prisoners,
    to release those condemned to die.
21 And so the Lord’s fame will be celebrated in Zion,
    his praises in Jerusalem,
22 when multitudes gather together
    and kingdoms come to worship the Lord.

Psalm 102:19-22, NLT

The movie “Roots” is on the tube. I have never seen it before, and it is quite provocative. The scenes on the slave ship, and the slave market where Africans were auctioned off are brutal and vicious. It didn’t seem possible for such evil being afflicted on a people.

I also have been reading this psalm and thinking about God’s certain awareness of both the condemned, and the prisoner. I know His heart is breaking as He watches every mean and wicked action against these sufferers.

There are 7 billion people alive on planet Earth today. Slavery, and prostitution are rampant. Drug addiction and crime seethes into every corner– corrupting and confusing. In fact, if we could weigh all the sin in the world committed in the last five minutes it would bury us.

This thought fits, but may need work to make it real. Bob Pierce, who wrote, “Let my heart be broken by the things that break the heart of God.”

And, it is something that Mother Teresa once said, “May God break my heart so completely that the whole world falls in.” – Mother Teresa

Commentary

V. 19, “Tell them the Lord looked down
    from his heavenly sanctuary.
   He looked down to earth from heaven.”

God is always on alert, watching and looking. He is all-seeing, from a sweat shop in China, to the homosexual in Miami. No dark corner in an alley in Rio can block what He sees. He sees 24/7, and never takes a nap.

His HQ is what we call a “sanctuary”– that is, a position of perfect peace and serenity. But this doesn’t infer to isolate. Rather it seems the very opposite is true, as He looks, and grieves over it all.

V. 20, “to hear the groans of the prisoners,
    to release those condemned to die.”

Have you ever groaned? I went to Dictionary.com and quickly looked it up. The noun form of groan is, “a low, mournful sound uttered in pain or grief: the groans of dying soldiers.

Prisoners groan–a sob, a cry, a whimper. But people being people, one must adapt and become inured to the dull pain that confinement brings. You adapt to stay alive, even when life gets difficult.

The last phrase in this verse, “to release those condemned to die.”  This explains the effort of God to see people liberated. He loves to parole those who will turn to Him. We think this release is physical. But I’m reasonably sure it is a spiritual release as well. If you find Christ, “you are free indeed.”

V. 21, “And so the Lord’s fame will be celebrated in Zion,
    his praises in Jerusalem,”

There is nothing quite like praise of one who has been “scraped off the bottom” and given life. I love worshiping with scoundrels and misfits. They are authentic, they understand being held in dark bondage. They know “a jumping kind of joy.” They party in the Presence of their Redeemer.

V. 22, “when multitudes gather together
    and kingdoms come to worship the Lord.”

You know, I think worship is what our life is all about. In this verse we witness the discovery of a common mission. A young believer in New Delhi, and the quiet elder of a church in Cornwall, have little in common. But worship. Worship is the “true coin of the realm” which we all share.

This verse speaks of both “multitudes” and “kingdoms.” Jesus redeems us one by one–but we all gather to worship together.

*

ybic, Bryan

Let’s Get Cracking! Psalm 102:16-18

Rebuilding_of_Warsaw_(1945)

16 For the Lord will rebuild Jerusalem.
    He will appear in his glory.
17 He will listen to the prayers of   the destitute.
    He will not reject their pleas.

18 Let this be recorded for future generations,
    so that a people not yet born will praise the Lord.

Psalm 102:16-18, NLT

These words ooze a strong confidence, and deliberateness, and determination from the Lord to we His people. I suppose that is how He makes us solid, as we see, and hear, and read of all that He has done. His steadiness and faithfulness transmits the same to us. We can be sure, because He is very sure.

“[B]eing confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.”

Phil. 1:6, NIV

Guys! He is going to do it, He is sure of Himself. All of the works of God are decisive. Often He seems hidden behind the curtain, pulling spiritual levers, and pressing spiritual buttons. Through the eyes of faith we can see Him, working and serving, and bringing “many sons to Glory.”

V. 16, “For the Lord will rebuild Jerusalem.
    He will appear in his glory.”

Rebuilding Jerusalem was the ministry of Nehemiah–but it was God’s first. God has a flair for the restoration of broken down things. Nehemiah rebuilt mostly physical walls. God extends this work to the spiritual as well. Ezra arrived and led the people with the Word. Until the spiritual is restored, the physical walls mean little.

Everything is overhauled and renovated. In a way, He captures our hearts with His enthusiasm for this work. He desires to energize us with the true zeal. The wall and six gates were rebuilt in just 52 days. There was a constant barrage of bluff from Jerusalem’s enemy. It’s said that these builders wore their clothes constantly, not even bothering to undress.

I have learned that “God’s glory” is a special thing. We can’t fabricate it. His glory is only present when He is there. If He leaves, we should follow Him as hungry and thirsty pilgrims of another world. We have arrived at a point where He is our “first love.”

V. 17, “He will listen to the prayers of the destitute.
    He will not reject their pleas.”

With v. 16 in tow, we arrive at this precious promise. His certain preference is for the destitute. The poor and the weak and the easily confused have this in their favor– God has chosen them as “the special ones.” They get to go to the front of a very long line.

Their hungry prayers arrive ahead of everyone else. Special preference is given to them, which should make us aware of God’s presence and His favor. I think we should realize this, as it can effect the way they are treated. And the manner which God treats us.

“If a man shuts his ears to the cry of the poor, he too will cry out and not be answered.”

Proverbs 21:13

V. 18, “Let this be recorded for future generations,
    so that a people not yet born will praise the Lord.”

I think the most powerful witnesses we can give is our “personal testimony.” Sermons, exhortations, and even prophecies seem to have a certain “shelf-life,” or an expiration date on them. But our own adventures, and personal experiences should extend to our children–and our children’s children.

I think every believer must deliberately transfer their story of faith to those who will need it. We need to be in it for the “long haul.” Other generations can be dramatically and significantly touched; we can pave the way for them.

*

ybic, Bryan

Finding Our Certain Home: Psalm 102:12-14

God's-way-sign

11 My life passes as swiftly as the evening shadows.
    I am withering away like grass.

12 But you, O Lord, will sit on your throne forever.
    Your fame will endure to every generation.
13 You will arise and have mercy on Jerusalem—
    and now is the time to pity her,
    now is the time you promised to help.
14 For your people love every stone in her walls
    and cherish even the dust in her streets.

Psalm 102:12-14, NLT

Immutability, and its handmaiden, stability– are core attributes of the Lord God. He will never change, and I seriously doubt we fully understand His concrete permanence.

“God is not a man, so he does not lie.
    He is not human, so he does not change his mind.
Has he ever spoken and failed to act?
    Has he ever promised and not carried it through?”

Numbers 23:19, NLT

But He is also quite tractable and approachable. Gentleness and kindness are also at the core. In some sense, (imperfect, I know) He is like a “laminate.” Different layers are brought together, and bonded, to form a perfect piece even stronger than the first piece.

Commentary

V. 12, “But you, O Lord, will sit on your throne forever.
    Your fame will endure to every generation.”

The previous verse (v. 11) directly declares the transient nature of human beings. When we are born, and shortly thereafter the news is broken. I am going to die. This knowledge drives people insane or addicted. I have a temporary residency card, that will be revoked in a few years.

But God is different. He has an eternal throne. Again, we struggle to understand what that means. It has no beginning– and it has no end. It just goes on and on into infinity, a 1,000,000 years– or a 1,000,000,000 years. Time will cease to be a measurement, as it’s now obsolete.

V. 13, “You will arise and have mercy on Jerusalem—
    and now is the time to pity her,
    now is the time you promised to help.”

God stands up, full of kindness and mercy for His covenant people. The word pity is used, and defined it is the, “kindly sorrow evoked by the suffering, distress, or misfortune of another.”

The psalmist speaks of a time for pity, and a time to help. He also refers back when our steady, immovable God made a promise to help. This is an awesome boon and benefit. It’s like a “get out of jail free card.”

God promises to do many things for His people. But He is not a “genie in a lamp.” He is not magic, and He does not give us three wishes; and that is it. We are very foolish if we base our faith on this. Ultimately, we are saved because He stood up, intervening in this world, to bring us to His side.

It is very, very hard to accept this idea that He actually loves us. We seem to vacillate to extremes– either, He loves me and I can never do anything wrong, or He hates me and I’m just treading water until I am officially judged.

V. 14, “For your people love every stone in her walls
    and cherish even the dust in her streets.”

We are “His people,” at least all of us who are in a blood covenant with Him, through Jesus Christ.

There is a deep awareness of our certain place in His capital city. We should be people of “memories.” A certain heavenly nostalgia, and a sense of a future hope surges through us. Somehow, we are connected through “space and time,” to a definite spot. A certain gratitude and an appreciation begins to finally flow through us.

*

ybic, Bryan

Lightning Bolts That Scatter: Psalm 144:5-8

5 “Open the heavens, Lord, and come down.
    Touch the mountains so they billow smoke.
Hurl your lightning bolts and scatter your enemies!
    Shoot your arrows and confuse them!
Reach down from heaven and rescue me;
    rescue me from deep waters,
    from the power of my enemies.
Their mouths are full of lies;
    they swear to tell the truth, but they lie instead.”

Psalm 144:5-8, NLT

Divine intervention is fantastic news for some; others, not so much. I think of the many different times God interrupted people clearly and directly (e.g., Noah and the Flood; or Jesus’ many miracles) and we always see an ‘interference’ of love, salvation and deliverance.

When the Lord enters into our ‘space and time,’ wonderful things happen. Our churches should declare that reality. Perhaps our ushers should be handing out life-preservers, and our pews should have seat belts, and air-bags for the congregation. Pastors would do well to wear ‘crash helmets.’ If we really do believe God is about ready to intervene in our world, wouldn’t it be good to be prepared? “He is mighty, and awesome is His deeds.”

Commentary

V. 5-6, “Open the heavens, Lord, and come down.
    Touch the mountains so they billow smoke.
Hurl your lightning bolts and scatter your enemies!
    Shoot your arrows and confuse them!

David sees that God’s intervention is crucial. He expresses his faith in the Lord who steps in, and then all kinds of crazy things happen. He is not a tame God. He is love that is wild and intense.

For me, there is an obscurity or maybe, “primitiveness” to these verses. They seem a bit simple in the light of our more sophisticated and cosmopolitan faith.  Lightning bolts seem rather outdated.

V. 7-8, ” Reach down from heaven and rescue me;
    rescue me from deep waters,
    from the power of my enemies.
Their mouths are full of lies;
    they swear to tell the truth, but they lie instead.”

“Reach and rescue.” Our enemies are powerful, they have flooded in and it seems like they will overwhelm us. We are being attacked on every side. In the days of King Hezekiah there was a similar situation,

 “Be strong and courageous! Don’t be afraid or discouraged because of the king of Assyria or his mighty army, for there is a power far greater on our side! He may have a great army, but they are merely men. We have the Lord our God to help us and to fight our battles for us!” Hezekiah’s words greatly encouraged the people.”

2 Chronicles 32:7-8, NLT

There is a cornucopia of verses that overflow out of scripture. Here’s one more,

“Those who trust in the Lord are as secure as Mount Zion;
    they will not be defeated but will endure forever.
Just as the mountains surround Jerusalem,
    so the Lord surrounds his people, both now and forever.”

Psalm 125:1-2, NLT

ybic, Bryan

The Messiah Enthroned: Psalm 2:4-6

4 “But the one who rules in heaven laughs.
    The Lord scoffs at them.
Then in anger he rebukes them,
    terrifying them with his fierce fury.
For the Lord declares, “I have placed my chosen king on the throne
    in Jerusalem, on my holy mountain.”

Psalm 2:4-6, NLT

When we read this, we are made very much aware that the conspiracies of the lost are of no consequence. He sees, He acknowledges them,  and then He laughs. Whatever they conjure up is of very little significance. He is aware, but is never vulnerable.

We hear a laughter coming from the throne. The Father is amused at the efforts of men, who seek to dispose of Him. There is something comical about what they are doing. It is a joke. There are many who believe they can dismiss God, and they try very hard to nullify and to sidetrack His presence.

Commentary

V. 4, “But the one who rules in heaven laughs.
    The Lord scoffs at them.”

He is a ruler. His rule and reign is never, ever threatened by the machinations of men. There is absolutely not a single thing that we can do about it. Our strategies are only an amusement to heaven. We try so hard to “zero” out Him, but He continues to influence, and rule over us.

This is disturbing to secular man. We have developed over time, a society of complete resistance to the ‘idea’ of a God. Teachers and philosophers have advanced ‘workable’ ideas to dethrone Him. We encounter this militant attitude on a daily basis.

V.5, ” Then in anger he rebukes them,
    terrifying them with his fierce fury.”

This is a strong and active response to those who have tried to hijack our civilization, and turn from Him enmass. There is a laughter, but with it an anger.  We shouldn’t minimize His reaction. We may love Him for many things, but are we really aware of a wrath that is ‘terrific’ to those in opposition?

Over time and through many centuries, we have cultivated this ‘fear’ of God. We simply do not see Him as He really is anymore. If we believe that God exists at all, we make Him out to be an insensitive ogre, malicious and beastly. There are few that understand His true nature.

V. 6, “For the Lord declares, “I have placed my chosen king on the throne in Jerusalem, on my holy mountain.”

There is an agenda, that we seldom understand. It has to do with God deciding and then willing His choice of King. He has fixed the messiah on a throne. This is a place ‘fit for a chosen king.’ This particular King is not to be trifled with, He rules completely even in spite of our shrill protestations.

This verses are ‘messianic’ even if we are not. They teach us that the Kingdom of God is not a democracy. We can’t vote on a ‘messiah.’ It is not our decision to make. The choice has already been made. Period, end of discussion.

ybic, Bryan