I Must Have Mercy! Psalms 6

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

Commentary

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

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

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

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

    Oswald Chambers

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

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

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

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

C.S. Lewis

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

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

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

*

ybic, Bryan

 

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The Secret of Deliverance: Psalms 124

Life behind the fence

The Lord Saves His People
A song for going up to worship. Of David.

 1 What if the Lord had not been on our side? 
       (Let Israel repeat this.)
 2 What if the Lord had not been on our side 
       when we were attacked?
 3 When they were angry with us, 
       they would have swallowed us alive.
 4 They would have been like a flood drowning us; 
       they would have poured over us like a river. 
 5 They would have swept us away like a mighty stream. 

 6 Praise the Lord, 
       who did not let them chew us up. 
 7 We escaped like a bird 
       from the hunter’s trap. 
    The trap broke, 
       and we escaped.
 8 Our help comes from the Lord, 
       who made heaven and earth.

We can play “the what if game.” We can think backwards, and hit replay, and pretend alternate realities. What if, I didn’t join the army? What if I died on that last drunken spree, choking on my own vomit? Date that particular girl, go to a Bible college? These events could have happened. (But didn’t).

David asks an enormous “what if.” And this trip down memory lane examines what would of, (or could have) happened if God would have taken His hand off Israel as a nation.

Commentary

V. 1- 5, King David poses this question. He wants Israel to understand what he is saying. He forces the comment to repeat after him. He then re-frames the question in V.2. David wants his nation to think through this, “What if God had not stepped into the situation?”

I truly believe that we should occasionally do the same today. A moments pause to reflect on His grace and attending care. To understand that it was God’s grace that held us in place. All that He does for us is very good indeed.

The opposing forces of our malevolent enemy have a ministry. That ministry is too steamroll and crush. As a boy I remember having the same vivid dream, especially when I would have a fever. It was always the same, I was on a conveyor belt, and I couldn’t move. At the end of that belt was huge lugged rollers. I was going to be crushed to death. I can still remember the terror of being frozen to the moving belt.

There is a sense of being so overwhelmed by your enemies. The chosen metaphor is an intense flood, irresistible waters sweeping us downstream. Does Satan have this much power? I think he does. But if we focus on these first five verses we see that they are merely potentialities… what could have happened… if God had let go.

V. 6, “Praise the Lord, who did not let them chew us up.”  David is a very vivid writer, he had a flair of choosing the best images. We see God intervening, of wading into the flood, and preventing Israel from being devoured.

V. 7  “We have escaped like a bird from the snare of the fowlers; the snare is broken, and we have escaped!” ESV. I love this verse. “Escaped” is emphasized twice, the bird catchers have collected many birds, snared by a little food and a strong net. But something has just happened, and the birds somehow escape! Growing up I once went ice fishing with my grandpa. He would catch some beautiful fish, but I surreptitiously would slip them into the water to set them free. Somehow I think this is God’s heart.

V. 8, is the ultimate lesson of this psalm. It sums up everything wonderfully. There is help. The Creator who cares for us. He has ultimate strength.

 

ybic, Bryan

 

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Psalm 34:4-7, Of Tailors and Cobblers

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

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

Psalm 34:4-7, New Living Translation

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

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

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

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

Commentary

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

ybic, Bryan

 

Broken Bones

Broken Arm
Broken Arm

“Make me to hear joy and gladness; that the bones which thou hast broken may rejoice.”

Psalm 51:8, KJV

“Make me hear sounds of joy and gladness;
    let the bones you crushed be happy again.”

Psalm 51:8, NCV

When I was five years old, I made a grand effort to fly. Jumping off the top bunk, I went one direction– down! Landing on my arm, it really hurt. Going to the E.R. they did a x-ray, and they couldn’t find anything wrong. The doctor told us that it was just bruised.

After a miserable three days, with my mom “exercising” my arm like the doctor suggested, it got worse. Back to the E.R. and after another x-ray, the doctor returned to tell us that the arm was indeed broken. Evidently it wasn’t spotted until then. I got a plaster cast, and a sling.

King David spoke about broken bones. For him, they were not physical. It was much worse. It was spiritual. He essentially collapsed with the torturous Bathsheba decision. The bones were snapped, and it left him in considerable pain. The whole affair came within inches of completely destroying him.

The chastening hand of God often settles on us. Rarely is the pain physical, it is worse. We seldom cope with this kind of discipline.

“We do not enjoy being disciplined. It is painful at the time, but later, after we have learned from it, we have peace, because we start living in the right way.”

Hebrews 12:11, NCV

Pretty much the entirety of Hebrews 12 will press us into a deeper understanding of truth. I encourage you to read it. Perhaps though, the most important thing is to realize that His love is always behind His discipline. Yes, He breaks bones. But He also mends those bones that have been broken.

“We may feel God’s hand as a Father upon us when He strikes us as well as when He strokes us. We often learn more of God under the rod that strikes us than under the staff that comforts us.”

Unknown Puritan

&

ybic, Bryan

O Lord, The Battle is Far Too Fierce: Psalm 70

For the director of music. A psalm of David. To help people remember.

 1 God, come quickly and save me. 
       LORD, hurry to help me.
 2 Let those who are trying to kill me 
       be ashamed and disgraced. 
    Let those who want to hurt me 
       run away in disgrace.
 3 Let those who make fun of me 
       stop because of their shame.
 4 But let all those who worship you 
       rejoice and be glad. 
    Let those who love your salvation 
       always say, “Praise the greatness of God.” 
 5 I am poor and helpless; 
       God, hurry to me. 
    You help me and save me.” 
       Lord, do not wait.

Psalm 70:1-5, NCV

“As in all warfare, the two essential elements in victory are knowing your enemy and knowing your resources.”

Sinclair B. Ferguson

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Welcome to the war! It’s very seldom that a new convert realizes what we are all up against. Not to put too fine a point on it, but you have become a target for hell to shoot their arrows at. What was never an issue before, now becomes an universal adjudication.

There is a nasty viciousness about Satan’s attacks. We look into his kingdom and see such hostility and spite that it takes your breath away. David saw it also. He was able to write cogently and forcefully about what he had experienced. What we have here in Psalm 70 is nothing less then a “first person” account of a war that’s going on for David’s very soul.

Commentary

V. 1, there is a plea of desperate alacrity in this verse. There is a deep earnestness to David’s words. Figuratively, he has been pinned down by the enemy, and is making an urgent call for help. It’s typical for a soldier under a withering assault will cry out to be saved.

V. 2, Sometimes we start viewing the darkness as a kind of foggy philosophy of ‘anti-god’ protoplasm. But David won’t do that. His enemies are real, and they possess solid identities. They can be forced to be backed down. And yet David can’t push these bullies away, and so we see him on the radio to HQ for divine intervention.

V. 3, I can just imagine God hearing these words from David. I can see the hint of a smile that the Father has for such audacity and zeal. I can hear Him say, “Now that’s my boy!” The Father releases His power on those who are desperate.

V. 4, Now David doesn’t remain in this same place. We see him getting up and advancing directly into worship. (I always wanted to get a tattoo, “Born to Worship.”) David finds his footing enough to exhort and encourage his brothers and sisters. Warfare does that to you, David understood where everything was leading to.

V. 5, This verse always struck me as being out of sequence. V. 4 after all seems to be the pinnacle. This arrangement though creates a real sense of the cyclical nature of spiritual warfare. In a certain sense we will never see a final battle in our lifetimes. There will always be high places to tear down, and towering giants to kill. But our Helper is just a prayer away. Thank God.

*

Kyrie Eleison.

ybic, Bryan

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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

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

 

Praise Him More: Psalm 113

1 Praise the Lord
    Praise him, you servants of the Lord; 
       praise the name of the Lord.
 2 The Lord’s name should be praised 
       now and forever.
 3 The Lord’s name should be praised 
       from where the sun rises to where it sets.
 4 The Lord is supreme over all the nations; 
       his glory reaches to the skies. 

 5 No one is like the Lord our God, 
       who rules from heaven, 
 6 who bends down to look 
       at the skies and the earth.
 7 The Lord lifts the poor from the dirt 
       and takes the helpless from the ashes.
 8 He seats them with princes, 
       the princes of his people. 
 9 He gives children to the woman who has none 
       and makes her a happy mother. 

Praise the Lord!

Psalm 113, NCV

This particular Psalm simply sizzles. It has within it, an inherent sense of God’s majesty, and glory. When we read it, we shouldn’t really read as much as we should be worshipping. The word “praise” is mentioned and indirectly on a dozen occasions. When we actually start praising Him, so much can happen. We have no idea.

One of the very essential issues is the need for humility. Servanthood    really does become a certain factor, we see the humble rushed up to take a deeply significant place. As we gaze on these dear ones, we should be challenged, and look toward the very possibility of absorbing some of their contagion.

The Psalmist is a deep worshipper. He posits the question through out his declarations– who is like our God? Vv. 2-3.

 “The Lord’s name should be praised 
       now and forever.
 3 The Lord’s name should be praised 
       from where the sun rises to where it sets.”

He basically realizes that “praising” God has got to be paramount among His creation. We must praise, “or else the rocks will cry out.” God has a reputation, and we can diminish it, or extol it. We have the choice, and a decisive opinion. Perhaps this is the vitality that the “heavenly realms” represents.

Vv. 4-6 truly comes with weight. These verses are obese, and we read them with the “fat” they come with. The Father is pursuing us, and pronouncing His reality– which is glory! His glory revealed is like explaining electricity to an Amazonian tribesman. They simply can’t comprehend what you are talking about. Until they are zapped!

Vv. 7-8 takes us quite deep into the behavior of the Lord God. The poor are lifted up into a place that is exceptional. We just might suggest the “people of the dirt” will become “people of the glory”. Imagine this quantum leap– dirty people are now full of His glory!

Vv. 8-9, to be made into this place is both outrageous and unreal. We move out of the filth and dirt, and given beautiful clothes, (Luke 15). We are suddenly and astonishingly recreated into truth and beauty. We are irrevocably ugly, and now made into people of beauty. We are now “seated with princes.” We really can’t reason through this.

V. 9 carries a gentleness and intimacy with it, and as we absorb it we can deeply understand the deep, deep heart of God. His very nature is now displayed. He loves to bless. To give to her who has no children, a child. This is amazingly rich, and our Father has a deep delight in making impossibilities very possible.

Psalm 113 carries with it a deep density of revealed truth. As we approach it, we find that it approaches us. When we read it, and think (and pray) it through, we discover many things. And perhaps the biggest is our new desire to worship Him. “Praise the Lord.”