What a God! Psalm 111:4-6

4 “He causes us to remember his wonderful works.
    How gracious and merciful is our Lord!
He gives food to those who fear him;
    he always remembers his covenant.
He has shown his great power to his people
    by giving them the lands of other nations.”

Psalm 111:4-6, NLT

If you are God, I suppose you can take things into your hands. (Who will complain?) Yet He does work in our hearts, to provoke in us the things He really wants. I suppose we put far to much weight on our own wills and efforts. The Father purposefully works so that we may remember. Discipleship, if I look at it, is as much of God’s work as it is our doing.

When we gaze into our own salvation, we will see hand prints that are not ours. They are God’s. He is working to bring us into heaven. It’s a long and deep journey, but He intends to bring us home. I’m glad. Very glad!

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Commentary

V. 4, He causes us to remember his wonderful works.
    How gracious and merciful is our Lord!

Romans 8:31 declares that God is with us. “What shall we say about such wonderful things as these? If God is for us, who can ever be against us?” He is energized by this final effort. He fully intends to bring us to His side. As I grow older, I see more and more of His security. He seems more sure of His effort than I am of mine.

The psalmist defines Him as “gracious and merciful.” We would do well to weigh out these words, and give them the significance they truly do deserve. These are “two ringers” and the Psalmist rings them loud and clear on his anvil.

K

V. 5, “He gives food to those who fear him;
    he always remembers his covenant.”

For everyone who fears the Lord there comes a meal; something good to eat. For us who inhabit the “first world” we can’t remember going without lunch. But it seems to me that the “food” that He gives us doesn’t originate from this world system. (Press on this idea, and some good will come of it.)

A god who keeps his covenant is worth His weight in gold.

K

V. 6, “He has shown his great power to his people
    by giving them the lands of other nations.”

I suppose power must be seem (and considered) before it becomes something valuable. The power can not be avoided, or deflected. God’s people do see it, and all of it is visible and quite truthful. I do believe He is blessed when we acknowledge this “great power.”

There is something very “tangible” about this next thought. God has designed reality to work out this. The “lands” have become something solid and real and tangible about the graciousness of God. He turns over these lands to His covenant people in order to communicate His grace and amazing power.

*

ybic, Bryan

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Becoming Quiet For a Change: Psalm 62:1-4

A Place to Become Quiet

For Jeduthun, the choir director: A psalm of David.

1 “I wait quietly before God,
    for my victory comes from him.
He alone is my rock and my salvation,
    my fortress where I will never be shaken.

So many enemies against one man—
    all of them trying to kill me.
To them I’m just a broken-down wall
    or a tottering fence.
They plan to topple me from my high position.
    They delight in telling lies about me.
They praise me to my face
    but curse me in their hearts.” Interlude

Psalm 62:1-4, NLT

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David establishes the wonderful need we have, to be quiet– silence. He understands a great deal of things.

  • Who God is, and His heart for me,
  • being in a precarious position,
  • the extent of the conspiracy against him,
  • the deceitfulness of so-called “friends.”

 

Commentary

V. 1, “I wait quietly before God,
    for my victory comes from him.”

The Hebrew word for “wait” is “kawva.” It is a curious word. Its definition is “to bind together, by twisting.” For David, waiting could not be a passive condition. It had a far more active concept, that of “braiding.” When we “wait on the Lord,” we should be pliable, and soft. It is a time for us to be wrapping our hearts and minds with God, and the things of God.

When we think of “waiting” today, it’s pretty much a passive thing. We “wait” to see the doctor. We sit in a “waiting room,” reading old magazines until he (or she) is ready to see us. Very few people like waiting.

The verse also shows a coming “victory.” It is given to us freely and extravagantly. We certainly can do a single thing to be given such an incredible gift.

 

V. 2, “He alone is my rock and my salvation,
    my fortress where I will never be shaken.”

David sees God as a place of safety, security– a castle. I think that David was seeing God properly. Perhaps all of this crisis– over and over, is exactly what the Lord wanted. When crisis initiates a desperate heart, than it is worth it.

 

V. 3, “So many enemies against one man—
    all of them trying to kill me.
To them I’m just a broken-down wall
    or a tottering fence.”

Sobering, isn’t it. This is not a game, in David’s eyes. “So many enemies,” and the phrase, “kill me” is not melodrama. He’s not making this up, and he isn’t paranoid. He is a target for assassination.

I think what David was trying to say (with the last part of the verse), that many see him as vulnerable and weak. Tottering, especially, is an evocative word. It has the idea of being decrepit. In the eyes of his enemies, David is completely defenseless and totally assailable.

 

V. 4, “They plan to topple me from my high position.
    They delight in telling lies about me.
They praise me to my face
    but curse me in their hearts.” 

David understands how “coups” work. He realizes that slander, and lies are just the first step to remove David as king. He doesn’t trust anyone. He finds that those who are flattering him are telling him lies. They intend to deceive, that is their real purpose.

*

ybic, Bryan

 

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

 

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

People of the Crescendo: Psalm 51:15-17

15 “Open my lips, Lord,
and my mouth will declare your praise.
16 You do not delight in sacrifice, or I would bring it;
you do not take pleasure in burnt offerings.
17 My sacrifice, O God, is a broken spirit;
a broken and contrite heart
you, God, will not despise.”

Psalm 51:15-17, NIV

Crescendo is a gradual, steady increase in loudness or force. It is primarily a musical term that builds and builds in intensity. A great example is Rossini’s, “William Tell Overture” which often features cannons blasting as the opera peaks, at the end. (Trivia– It’s also the theme for the “Lone Ranger.”)

With this in mind, we can imagine Psalm 51 developing and building to these last several verses. You can see David growing in confidence and assurance. He now knows he is forgiven, and more. God has changed David’s heart. He is a different man than he was in verse 1.

Commentary

V. 15,  “Open my lips, Lord,
and my mouth will declare your praise.”

Who can really know what happens between a man and his God? Those who you think are doing quite well, aren’t– and those who you regard as “lost causes” are far more than that. God knows, and He isn’t telling.

When it comes right down to it, our worship of God is initiated, by God. He must “open our lips,” in order for us to start. It’s like a garden hose, the spigot needs to be opened for the water to flow. When we start to make our ‘praise declarations’ to the Lord we will discover salvation and healing for us (and others.)

V. 16, You do not delight in sacrifice, or I would bring it;
you do not take pleasure in burnt offerings.”

Often in our hearts we absorb a ‘mechanistic rigidity.’  What I mean by that is that we move externally, without moving internally. In David’s day, burning sheep and oxen as a sacrifice was the only way you operated. But David points out that God wants us to be a “living sacrifice.”

David doesn’t prohibit the sacrifice. He isn’t nullifying it at all. The very last verse in this Psalm clarifies the temple sacrifice.

“Then you will delight in the sacrifices of the righteous,
in burnt offerings offered whole;
then bulls will be offered on your altar.” Ps. 51:19

V. 17, “My sacrifice, O God, is a broken spirit;
a broken and contrite heart
you, God, will not despise.”

David had been given an awareness of a truth that few ever grasp. This is the crescendo I mentioned earlier. Things are getting louder and clearer. Worship is redefined now in sharper terms. David doesn’t point to a bull without any blemish, he claims to have all that God really wants.

The human heart, broken and saddened by its sinfulness, is prime ‘real estate’ for our Father God. He’s been looking for broken people to make His own.

*

ybic, Bryan

Psalm 51:10-11, Clean and Loyal Hearts

A Clean Heart

10 “Create in me a clean heart, O God.
    Renew a loyal spirit within me.
11 Do not banish me from your presence,
    and don’t take your Holy Spirit from me.”

Psalm 51:10-11, NLT

God is a Creator, and that is quite profound. The powerful act of creating should not be lost on us. In Genesis, we see God at His creative best. He makes stars and oceans. Dogs and dandelions. Grapes and giraffes. Everything– out of nothing. And He is our maker!

“In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.The earth was without form and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters.”

Genesis 1:1-2, ESV

God created. And God hovered. And every physical thing appeared, sequentially. Many think they understand this, I’m not one of them. I don’t understand, but I trust and believe, and that is enough.

Commentary

V. 10, Create in me a clean heart, O God.
    Renew a loyal spirit within me.”

Only God has the ability to re-create and re-new the human heart. We certainly don’t. We hear David asking for a miracle– of transformation. The work is an inside job that slowly works to the outward. It is not a outside job working its way to the inside. (Believe me, I’ve found this out.)

Clean and loyal hearts are rare and precious. You don’t see them everyday. It takes a great deal of effort, which Jesus has done on a certain cross long ago. It is as if the creative work of Genesis 1 is being repeated when we truly believe in Jesus by faith.

 “Therefore if any person is [ingrafted] in Christ (the Messiah) he is a new creation (a new creature altogether); the old [previous moral and spiritual condition] has passed away. Behold, the fresh and new has come!”

2 Corinthians 4:17, AMP

The NT Greek word for creature is a word we translate into English as “species.” The word is understood as biological classification. But here, something most radical has taken place. It is now a “spiritual classification.” We are so different now that we are new beings on this planet!

V. 11, “Do not banish me from your presence,
    and don’t take your Holy Spirit from me.”

David needs to be close to God. Can you or I really understand this passion? This unsinkable desire, unwavering and unflappable is driving David to God.

David cannot imagine living a life without an intimacy with the Lord God. To be without Him is incomprehensible.  He begs not to be discarded, and driven away. To live without the Holy Spirit isn’t really life at all.

This hungry passion for God, the Re-creator is what keeps most Christian rascals from damnation. It seems once you have been touched by the Spirit, you will never be the same again.

*

ybic, Bryan

Psalm 51:6-9, Give Me Back My Joy

joy

5 “For I was born a sinner—
    yes, from the moment my mother conceived me.
But you desire honesty from the womb,
    teaching me wisdom even there.

Purify me from my sins, and I will be clean;
    wash me, and I will be whiter than snow.
Oh, give me back my joy again;
    you have broken me—
    now let me rejoice.
Don’t keep looking at my sins.
    Remove the stain of my guilt.”

Psalm 51:5-9, NLT

These five verses press us with their intensity. We are starting to develop a true idea of the doctrine of repentance. As fallen people, we sub-consciously erode the ‘hard things’ that rub us the wrong way. Most of us still hold on the idea that we’re basically pretty good people. That dear one, is a lie.

King David commits adultery with Bathsheba. She is now pregnant. Her husband is a general in David’s army. David hatches a plan to save his neck. He conspires to have Uriah murdered after trying very hard to get him to have sexual relations with Bathsheba.

This man who wrote so beautifully Psalm 23 is really evil to the core.

Commentary

V.6,  But you desire honesty from the womb,
    teaching me wisdom even there.”

To be very honest, King David reveals a understanding of Gods love and mercy is directed at him. There is no escape, he must take it as he squirms out of trouble. But to be honest, he doesn’t have a clue.

His honesty is remarkable. All that proceeds from a close place, is true and sure. He is thinking that “wisdom” comes from a certain place. He can only accept and turn, directly clean;

 “wash me, and I will be whiter than snow.”

All of this comes out of the “deep presence of God.” The “whiteness” does come, at a specific moment in time. We do must come into a certain place, where we meet His active presence.

V. 8, “Oh, give me back my joy again; you have broken me—now let me rejoice.”

True brokenness will lead us through so much darkness and foolishness.  It seems we can only pretend, but never recover the amazing awareness of God, coming into His presence. We really understand this, or accept a presence quite beyond us.

V. 9, “Don’t keep looking at my sins.
    Remove the stain of my guilt.”

Somehow David understands how things work. His sin has become “front-line” news. Adultery and murder are definite “tipping points” that David can try only to explain.

David does feel a certain remorse. All that He brings, is something, an awareness of what is real.

ybic, Bryan

Psalm 51:3-5, Recognize the Rebel Within

3 “For I recognize my rebellion;
    it haunts me day and night.
Against you, and you alone, have I sinned;
    I have done what is evil in your sight.
You will be proved right in what you say,
    and your judgment against me is just.[a]
For I was born a sinner—
    yes, from the moment my mother conceived me.”

Psalm 51:3-5, NLT

In this life, we must understand our inner rebellion and  sin. We had better accept and agree with God on this basic matter. If we really are going to be truthful people we have to really focus on this fundamental understanding of our own depravity.

This is the first of seven of Psalms we call “penitential.” It is probably the best known of these seven. Psalm 51 can be broken down into subcategories. Of course, the title precisely cues us in the time David met with Nathan in 2 Samuel 12:1-14.

Commentary

V. 3, “ “For I recognize my rebellion;
    it haunts me day and night.”

David doesn’t cling to false platitudes. He is not deceived by creating a new image. He doesn’t care a whit about public relations. It may seem like he is being a little hard on himself. There are some that suggest that David may be too morbid, too moody. But you try to commit adultery, and than murder, then you can judge the entire scene.

But David has looked into a mirror, and he’s stepped away from it. He cannot forget what he saw. He sees his “rebellion” for what it really is– that he is warped and twisted. David can’t shake off this sense of shame and grief. He has committed adultery which has led to murder of one of his best generals.

V. 4, “Against you, and you alone, have I sinned;
    I have done what is evil in your sight. You will be proved right in what you say, and your judgment against me is just.

All of our sins are against God. Failure to see this results in a repentance that is premature, and deficient. This inadequate repentance will not change you, but only makes you feel somewhat better.

There is no doubt that David sinned terribly against Bathsheba, and her husband Uriah. What he did to them was so wrong, on so many levels. But, what about God? David’s selfishness, greed, lust offended God. Perhaps we need to tweak our concepts. The higher in status and power a person is, the greater the offense. All sin is sin against a holy God.

What David believed is that God could say what God wanted about him, and it would be right and true, for God cannot be otherwise. But rather than stubbornly avoiding God, David sees the positive and he chooses to honor God by his authentic repentance.

V. 5,For I was born a sinner—
    yes, from the moment my mother conceived me.”

David is not saying that his mother was immoral. Rather he is recognizing the depth of his own sin. (He knows who he is, he’s got this tattoo, “Born to Sin” on his biceps.)

ybic, Bryan

Psalm 131:1: Relax, You Don’t Need to Know Everything

www.australianhumanitiesreview.org

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.”

No one can deny that knowledge is essential in our progress in the kingdom of God. For example, if a husband is wondering how he should relate to his wife, Ephesians 5:22–33 will be very helpful in exhorting him to lay down his life for her as Christ did for the church. Scripture, church tradition, experience, reason, other people, and the guidance of the Holy Spirit all provide us with knowledge that helps us navigate the tricky waters of a fallen world.

However, there are times in life when we encounter situations where knowledge gives way to mystery. We must humble ourselves and confess with David that something is simply beyond our comprehension. If our heart is proud we will have a difficult time with this, because, in saying “I don’t know,” we feel like our stature is diminished. If we’re a person that always has to be in control, we will have a hard time embracing mystery because saying “I don’t know,” makes us feel like we are out of control. There are times in our walk with God when he wants our restful trust of him more than understanding a situation and knowing exactly what to do.

Here are some common situations that believers face where knowledge should give way to mystery:

(1) Guidance. The psalmist says that the word is a lamp unto our feet and a light unto our path. In biblical times this lamp would illuminate the path for a person only a few feet ahead of where they were walking. The word is a lamp not a high–powered searchlight that lightens the path 100 feet down the trail. In a certain situation, God may show you what to do for that day and that day only. You may not have the benefit of divine guidance for next week, next month, or next year.

(2) Ministering to Hurting People. When people go through trauma (e.g., loss of a loved one) or suffer loss, often one of the most damaging things we can do is explore the question why it happened. The truth is often we really don’t know the reason why. At times like this people don’t need our theological and philosophical reflections; they need a caring and loving presence. They don’t need Job’s awful comforters; they need wounded healers.

(3) Judging Others. Let’s say it comes to light that a woman we barely know was unfaithful to her husband and had a six month affair with another man. There’s nothing wrong with us assessing that behavior as sinful because it is sinful. However, after that it is best to suspend judgment because you don’t many of the details. Perhaps the husband had such a pattern of neglect and abuse in the marriage that it created fertile soil for adultery. Perhaps she had a terrible childhood that also made her predisposed to such behavior. We don’t know her heart; only God knows her heart and, therefore, should render judgment in the situation. Practice mercy and God will be merciful to you.

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

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

Letters from Fawn Creek

ybic,

Jonathan

Psalm 108:5-6: Wearing the Holy Spirits Vision

Benjamin Franklin’s Original Bifocals

Here are two versions of the same reference from Psalms 108. The first is from the English Standard Version (or ESV.) The second from the Contemporary English Version (or CEV.)

5 “Be exalted, O God, above the heavens!
    Let your glory be over all the earth!
That your beloved ones may be delivered,
    give salvation by your right hand and answer me!”

Psalm 108:5-6, ESV

5″Our God, may you be honored above the heavens;
    may your glory be seen everywhere on earth.
Answer my prayers and use your powerful arm
    to give us victory. Then the people you love
   will be safe.”

Psalm 108:5-6, CEV

I’m wearing bifocals now. And false teeth are probably in my future fairly soon. (I’m debating the pros and cons of “denture glue.”) If I had known I was going to live this long, I would have taken better care of myself.

Bifocals though are great, just to be able to see close up, and then far away. Two lenses give me just what I need. I don’t see double, or two different objects. But it is seamless and unified.

We have put on bifocals for Psalmslife today. Now we need to use them.

Commentary

V. 5, Be exalted, O God, above the heavens!
    Let your glory be over all the earth!”

This is David’s heart. He asks God to exalt Himself. He seems to have a strong concern for God’s reputation. If God exalts Himself, than (and only then) are we are blessed.

Our God, may you be honored above the heavens;
    may your glory be seen everywhere on earth.” 

To be concerned about God’s honor only strengthens the Church. We not only want Him to look good, but to do good. He is a good God, and we want everyone to know it. Wherever people go on this planet, they will be able to see the Glory of God. After all, it’s all about Him, isn’t it?

“For the earth will be filled
    with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord
    as the waters cover the sea.”

Habakkuk 2:14, ESV

V. 6,That your beloved ones may be delivered,give salvation by your right hand and answer me!” 

The ‘beloved ones’ speak of the Church– the saints whom God strongly loves. In David’s heart, the glory is the cradle of deliverance. When God is loved supremely, we commence a walk of freedom.

“Answer my prayers and use your powerful arm
    to give us victory. Then the people you love
   will be safe.” (CEV)

A prayer life is not about me; it effects every believer. The power of my prayer is that it touches God, who touches everyone. “Then the people you love will be safe.”

One should learn soon on how to accept “prayer assignments” from the Lord. He is recruiting an army that will step into vital places of the Spirit. People– neighbors, towns, states and even entire nations can be touched by God from your prayer closet. Just as a cobbler fixes shoes, and the carpenter builds a chair, so it is the work of every Christian to pray.

*

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.

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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

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ybic, Jonathan

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

You Made Me Strong and Brave: Psalm 138

A psalm of David.

 1 Lord, I will thank you with all my heart; 
       I will sing to you before the gods.
 2 I will bow down facing your holy Temple, 
       and I will thank you for your love and loyalty. 
    You have made your name and your word 
       greater than anything.
 3 On the day I called to you, you answered me. 
       You made me strong and brave. 

 4 Lord, let all the kings of the earth praise you 
       when they hear the words you speak. 
 5 They will sing about what the Lord has done, 
       because the Lord’s glory is great. 

 6 Though the Lord is supreme, 
       he takes care of those who are humble, 
       but he stays away from the proud. 
 7 Lord, even when I have trouble all around me, 
       you will keep me alive. 
    When my enemies are angry, 
       you will reach down and save me by your power.
 8 Lord, you do everything for me. 
       Lord, your love continues forever. 
       Do not leave us, whom you made.

The themes in this Psalm are like ripe plums on a tree. These eight verses combine to provide us with a myriad of reasons why we should worship God with thanksgiving.

Commentary

Verses 1-3, David is very thankful. This energizes his heart to truly worship. This thanksgiving is the backbone of real worship. Sometimes we can go to church, and we haven’t really reflected on the deep goodness of God. There needs to be “a first work”, a preliminary effort that prepares us to “bow down facing your holy Temple”. People can cry out “legalism!” But it really isn’t if our hearts are full already.

I do like verse 3, very much! There is a quickness, and an alacrity pulsating within the deep heart of God. He jumps right up to come to your heart. David talks about being “strong and brave”. As a warrior he would value both greatly. If you haven’t known this yet, you will. God is the “great instiller.”

Verses 4-5 David is thinking about other kings, but he has a sense that Jehovah God is no mere tribal deity. Worship can’t just be an Israel thing. Not hardly, for Kings of the whole earth are invited. David does not confine God to a little role affecting Jerusalem only.

In verse 5, David does realize that worship starts with God blessing people; not people blessing God to get more from Him. The pagan gods had to be appeased first. Our God gives first (with no appeasement necessary.)

Verses 6-8 stipulate what God does for people. We see that He thinks a whole lot about us. The primary key is humility. On my right to God, all powerful and supreme– on my left are simple, humble ones. It seems to me that things really start cooking (spiritually) when both are in their proper places.

V. 6, “but he stays away from the proud.” Pride is such a loathsome thing. I don’t think we really understand this. It is universal and saturates everything. And it stinks.

V. 7 I do love this. I have been such a twisted and dark person. And yet the impossible has happened! God has intervened, and will intervene to help me stand up. I know all about “trouble.” And quite a bit about the hatred of “my enemies”. Satan’s anger at me, has been superseded by God’s delight in me.

The last verse, v. 8. “Lord, you do everything for me. Lord, your love continues forever. Do not leave us, whom you made.” Doing–Loving–Abiding. And actually considering the deep scope of these three words, we would be hard-pressed to find any loopholes.

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kyrie elesion, Bryan

(Lord, have mercy on us.)
 
 

When The Fear Gets Too Much: Psalms 143

Psalm 143:

A Prayer Not to Be Killed, or Something Worse

A psalm of David.

1 Lord, hear my prayerlisten to my cry for mercy. Answer me because you are loyal and good.

The writer stresses the truth that God listens.  A listening God is a God of wonder.  Elijah on Mt. Carmel had focused the people on a hearing God who was the real God.  The writer then reveals his trust in the inherent goodness of God.   He listens, He never ever puts His phone on call forwarding. We will reach Him, 24/7 everyday.

2 Don’t judge me, your servant, because no one alive is right before you.

We are all in the same predicament, we are sinners.  The writer doesn’t need to be convinced of this.  All he can do is appeal to God. He knows his place though–a servant of the Lord.  He understands that he is what he is.  He accepts what is real, and doesn’t try to pretend otherwise.

3 My enemies are chasing me; they crushed me to the ground. They made me live in darkness like those long dead.   4 I am afraid; my courage is gone.

We all have enemies.  They are the satanic evil spirits that are the wholesalers of evil and its devices and they mean to harm us.  David feels the pursuit, and his paranoia must have doubled.  These sinister antagonists get close enough to strike at him.  He confesses fear.   His life has been far too influenced by their dark ministry.  He is being pressed to the point of being overwhelmed.

5 I remember what happened long ago; I consider everything you have done. I think about all you have made.   6 I lift my hands to you in prayer. As a dry land needs rain, I thirst for you.  Selah

The psalmist has a spiritual history to ponder.  He thinks of all the past events and draws out his strength.  He “remembers” in the truest sense of the word.  It is good if we can just remember all of the issues and battles that we have already faced. Verse 6 declares his proper response to v. 5.  The hands go up, and he imagines himself to be a desert–dry and desolate.  He thirsts (desires) not for rain, or an oasis, but for the Lord God.  

7 Lord, answer me quickly, because I am getting weak. Don’t turn away from me, or I will be like those who are dead.

The writer has evaluated his situation, he is weak and he is dying. His spiritual pulse is “weak and thready.”  This seems to be a deteriorating condition.  He is discerning enough however to draw conclusions.  Doctors tell us that hearing is the last faculty to depart a dying man.  Perhaps to a spiritual man, discernment is the last to go?  Somehow we know what the truth is until we are completely senile (spiritually, that is).

8 Tell me in the morning about your love, because I trust you. Show me what I should do, because my prayers go up to you.

The writer affirms his personal connections to the Lord.  Love should be an intimate word, saturated with hope and a future.  This love comes as a result of trust/faith (the word, “because” is key).  The psalmist requests help for his particular situation.  He sees his prayers, like arrows reaching heaven.

9 Lord, save me from my enemies; I hide in you. 10 Teach me to do what you want, because you are my God. Let your good Spirit lead me on level ground. Save me…teach me…lead me.

A “triune” aspect of the Spirit’s work.  Each believer can realize this ministry.  He is like a bodyguard, a tutor, and a professional guide to each of us.  Verse 10…”level ground”; nothing is harder on a tired soldier then marching on hilly terrain.  Flat and level is the best, and its not wrong to ask for an easier path.   Sometimes we stumble because we haven’t asked for level ground.

11 Lord, let me live so people will praise you. In your goodness save me from my troubles. 12 In your love defeat my enemies.Destroy all those who trouble me, because I am your servant.

This should be the cry of the Christian heart–let me be an example that will lead others to worship.  Let me be a reason to them to sing, and give you glory.  Notice that God’s goodness is specifically pointed out to be the starting point for salvation. “Since He is good, I will be saved”.  In verse 12 we are reminded that out of that matrix of love, God can conquer.  “God so loved the world”…John 3:16.  Love is the reason, and not just a vague, general sense of love but a love that rolls up its sleeves and jumps in and pounds my enemies.

flourish-small Text taken from New Century Version (NCV) The Holy Bible, New Century Version®. Copyright © 2005 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. If this post has been a blessing to you, and you would like me to do more of this, won’t you let me know.  Thanks!

ybic, Bryan

You Have Chosen Wisely– Psalm 113:5-7

5 “Who can be compared with the Lord our God,
who is enthroned on high?
He stoops to look down
on heaven and on earth.
He lifts the poor from the dust
and the needy from the garbage dump.”

St. Ambrose c. 340-397
St. Ambrose
c. 340-397

We often make comparisons. And I honestly think it is a good thing. When we compare one thing to another, we almost always choose the better over the inferior. Will it be Chinese or Mexican tonight?  That depends. Do we attend this church or another? God lead me. Wear a sweater or a coat? Maybe a raincoat? Choices will often define us, whether they are small or large. We make 100s of them everyday.

The psalmist wants us to make a comparison. In his mind there is no one around that can come close to Yahweh, that sits on the throne supreme. But the psalmist asks the question anyway. He assumes that we will agree, and settle ourselves in this truth aware.

The question gets asked in verse 5. And the verses that follow (v.v. 6-9) are a true and accurate descriptions of our incredible God. Reading these will give God shape. These are profoundly remarkable, in scope and merit. He is an excellent God. He stoops and lifts the poor and needy. Most Sovereigns try to protect their thrones, and maintain an image of power and control. They clearly avoid any unscripted spontaneous contact with their “unwashed” multitudes.

Our Heavenly Father does not do this. Actually, He does the opposite. Truly remarkable.

pflourish-smallre

Ambrose’s Prayer

“Lord who has mercy upon all, take away from me my sins,

and mercifully kindle in me the fire of the Holy Spirit.

Take away from me the heart of stone, and give me the heart of flesh,

a heart to love and adore you, a heart to delight in you,

to follow and enjoy you. For Christ’s sake. Amen.”

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ybic, Bryan

Just Give Me Jesus: Psalm 42:1-6

Wishing to Be Near God

For the director of music. A maskil of the sons of Korah.

 1 As a deer thirsts for streams of water, 
       so I thirst for you, God. 
 2 I thirst for the living God. 
       When can I go to meet with him?
 3 Day and night, my tears have been my food. 
    People are always saying, 
       “Where is your God?”
 4 When I remember these things, 
       I speak with a broken heart. 
    I used to walk with the crowd 
       and lead them to God’s Temple 
       with songs of praise. 

 5 Why am I so sad? 
       Why am I so upset? 
    I should put my hope in God 
       and keep praising him, 
       my Savior and 6 my God. 

    I am very sad. 
       So I remember you where the Jordan River begins, 
    near the peaks of Hermon and Mount Mizar.

These verses ask that we truly understand a “seeking heart.” Unless we are in this specific frame of mind we will never understand. This has to be the precursor of all that follows. And only an adoring heart can enter these private chambers. These rooms can only be opened with a special key– humility blended with worship.

Have you ever been really thirsty? I mean  bone-dry, parched, dehydrated. It seems that all you think about is a big glass of sweet tea, with ice cubes! Psalms 42 is a very accurate description of a heart that only wants God. There is nothing on this planet that draws a desperately thirsty heart like His presence.

Commentary

V. 1, 2  David compares himself to a desperate deer, that is driven to the clear streams of water. Funny, but deer are very reliant on a water source, much more than other animals. They will stay close to their water. David described his need for God in these terms. Are you thirsty? The living God is your soul’s real source.

V. 3, there is a profound sadness in David’s words. There are far too many people who will mock and discourage his deep need for God. Tears are David’s only response. Lots of tears. They cynically demand to know, “where is your God?” There will always be resistance, no matter what. What it works in us though is rich and true.

V. 4, is an active memory of things– the way they used to be. However it is only heart-broken nostalgia set ablaze. The enemy, he pushes us into an amnesia. We no longer think clearly about things. But David remembers his response, of travelling into His presence. What he remembered was glorious, he sang and danced as he led God’s dear people. But there is a caveat; we can only truly worship what we love and respect.

V.  5, David processes things as he looks inside. He asks himself certain questions. He doesn’t ask real questions. As he knows true answers. He talks about “sadness.” And a grief that can’t be assuaged.  He makes comments that will never be understood apart from “trial.”

V. 6. only develops things that would be “sadness.” Our grief would only irrigate this understanding. David truly understands sadness, and everything he embraces is full of sadness and woe. But David penetrates past his deep grief, and God’s presence meets him on the way. All that we see at this point is sadness. We must accept all that we can. We can only take the things that come too us.

“God blesses those who mourn,
    for they will be comforted.”

Matthew 5:4, NLT

ybic, Bryan

Psalm 51:14–17: What God Delights In

rebellion-seen
I am lost without you

14 Save me from bloodguilt, O God,
the God who saves me,
and my tongue will sing of your righteousness

15 O Lord, open my lips,
and my mouth will declare your praise

16 You do not delight in sacrifice, or I would bring it;
you do not take pleasure in burnt offerings

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

Both Psalms 32 and 51 are about David’s sorrow and repentance because of his adultery with Bathsheba and subsequent murder of her husband, Uriah the Hittite, who David purposely placed on the front lines of military battle, where he would surely die. In verses 14 and 15 he asks God for forgiveness for the murder (“bloodguilt”) so that he can sing of God’s righteousness and offer him praise. Derek Kidner, in his commentary on the Psalms, is helpful here in suggesting that David wants to extol God for his righteousness because he (David) sees God’s crowning achievement being making an egregious sinner like David righteous!

In verses 16 and 17 it’s obvious that King David has learned from his predecessor King Saul’s mistakes. This insight is often overlooked in sermons and commentaries. Saul was given clear instructions by God through the prophet Samuel to utterly destroy the Amalekites and he disobeyed these instructions. He spared Agag, king of the Amalekites, and the best of the livestock so he could offer sacrifices to the Lord. Samuel’s rebuke of Saul essentially said, “Don’t think these sacrifices impress God. Obedience is better than sacrifice. Your disobedience is similar to witchcraft and idolatry. Sacrifice is good but it means nothing if your heart isn’t right.”

The parallels to our present age are legion. Anytime someone is involved in religious activities–i.e. “sacrifices”–but their heart is wrong, they are following in the footsteps of Saul. One thinks of the Pharisees, both in the time of Jesus and now, who were/are more engaged in religious activities than anyone, but their hearts were full of pride and self–righteousness.

As a Roman Catholic, I often hear complaints from fellow parishioners about “cradle Catholics,” who were born into the faith, and do many of the right Catholic things–“sacrifices”–but their hearts are not humble and contrite and they are far from an intimate relationship with Christ. This is a kind of empty “cultural Christianity” that exists in every denomination.

Movements come and go within Christendom.  Some local churches emerge to ride the next big thing.  They become the most fashionable place to be involved. Sometimes the reason some of the members give their time, talent and treasure–“sacrifices”–to these churches is not to advance the kingdom of God; no, it’s because their involvement makes them feel hip and a part of a special group in comparison to all those boring, generic suburban Christians. And they get to rebel against their un–hip parents, who they are angry with, as part of a package deal!

What does David mean in verse 17 by saying that God wants a broken and contrite heart? Because Christ is the Bridegroom and we are the Bride (Matthew 25:1–13), sometimes it helps to understand biblical principles through the marriage relationship. When a husband has sinned against his wife and knows it, often he will engage in a flurry of activities–“sacrifices”– in order to extricate himself from the doghouse. Suddenly he’s bringing home flowers and candy and is doing home–improvement projects that she wanted done several months ago. However, what she really wants is not a whirlwind of goodwill gestures; no, what she really wants is an apology marked by humility and sorrow for what he did. She needs to know that he is truly sorry, not because his carelessness put him in the doghouse, but because what he did hurt, and was a sin against, her.

It’s never too late for the Pharisee, the “cultural Christian” or the “Christian hipster.” Or me, for that matter. We can still offer sacrifices that God will delight in if we come to him with a broken and contrite heart for the many ways we have offended him. “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted” (Matthew 5:4).

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

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

Letters from Fawn Creek

 

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ybic, Jonathan

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.

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Kyrie Eleison.

ybic, Bryan

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The Flourish: the Finish

The conclusion of Psalm 92, NLT.

12 But the godly will flourish like palm trees and grow strong like the cedars of Lebanon.

13 For they are transplanted to the Lord’s own house.     They flourish in the courts of our God.

14 Even in old age they will still produce fruit; they will remain vital and green.

15 They will declare, “The Lord is just! He is my rock!     There is no evil in him!”

What an ending. I do confess, I do like watching good movies– and the final scenes can make, or break a good movie. Is it believable, does it flow into the plot, does it carry us beyond the moment?

The very way this Psalm ends intrigues me. The perfect summary for this is found in verses 1-11, which we have already covered. Verses 12-15 is our ending point. We arrive here if we will just follow the conditions of the first 11 verses.

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Commentary

V. 12, “But the godly will flourish like palm trees and grow strong like the cedars of Lebanon.”

What audacity, what boldness! We must recognize that there is a certain place for these ‘flourishers.’ They just explode with a core central growth. We see them, but we are not intimidated. Instead they push us to a higher love.

The strength of us is that we can grow strong all the way through. That is just the way it works, and we take anything that we can get. Envision for a moment, the tallest cedars. I remember seeing for the first time the California Redwoods. It was astonishing, and I got a crook in my neck looking up all the time.

V. 13, “For they are transplanted to the Lord’s own house.     They flourish in the courts of our God.”

No matter where we are, the Father will bring us closer to Himself. We may think we are “out-of-the-loop”. But He sees it all. He does “transplant,” but only within our true calling. And a “flourishing” is part of the package.

How do we process this? We are brought out of a senseless and desperate life, directly into a full life of intimacy with the Lord Jesus. In this place, we start to grow branches, and new buds. Life is not just a great idea–but it starts to flow through our very being.

V. 14, “ Even in old age they will still produce fruit; they will remain vital and green.”

Old age seems close to us. We age, and we determine that it works out to us in obsolescence and defeat. When we hit 60, we determine it is all over, and finished. God promises that as believers we will be green, and fresh–even in this crazy margin of age. But as it works out, we are incredibly “vital.”

I suppose that the truth of this can transform the way we see ourselves, and the way we live out our lives, Old-agedness can never be an excuse to backing out of a true and real spirituality.

V. 15, “ They will declare, “The Lord is just! He is my rock!     There is no evil in him!”

Much of what I have shared with you is solid, but simple. We all end up at this verse though. From here we start to focus directly on all that is plain and level. After all, He is the rock and as we start to focus on this, we are ‘pulled’ into His presence.

We can see no evil in this, and yes it may seem we are in a kind of “pinball machine.” We are bound to voices that try to direct us into its version of deceit. We could be pulled even into “denial” of our faith. But never, or ever is there the slightest sense of evil that comes to us from God.

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ybic, Bryan

God Never Plays “Hide & Seek”: Psalm 102:1-2

Come out, come out. Wherever you are!
Come out, come out. Wherever you are!

Do Not Hide Your Face from Me

A Prayer of one afflicted, when he is faint and pours out his complaint before the Lord.

102 “Hear my prayer, O Lord;
let my cry come to you!
Do not hide your face from me
    in the day of my distress!

Incline your ear to me;
    answer me speedily in the day when I call!”

Psalm 102:1-2, NLT

Affliction is the most common experience we will share. It seems that it is our natural environment, because we can be found there most of the time. Afflictions vary in intensity– from the casual, day-to-day stuff to the catastrophic. It’s good to be reminded of our common situation. It helps, a little.

I chose this psalm because of content and ‘heart.’ A quick read will reveal issues not normally discussed or pondered. It’s sort of like ‘super-gluing” your hand to the horn of an enraged rhino. You’re not sure where he’s going, but you’re going to get there very shortly.

Bible study is like that for me. The text I happen to be thinking about has incredible power. I sense it and I handle it, and I pray. Once I attach myself to the text, anything can happen. Responding to the Word can be exhilarating.

Commentary

V. 1, “Hear my prayer, O Lord;
let my cry come to you!”

Someone once said that just as breathing is to our physical bodies, prayer is the same to our spiritual ones. We must breathe. As a kid I remember having “breathing contests.” We would hold our breath for as long as it took to win. Weird, huh?

There is a definite need, as sure as anything, for each of us to fellowship with “the God of all comfort”.

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort those who are in any trouble, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.”

2 Corinthians 1:3-4, NKJV

There is a heart-cry that comes out of the spirit of the believer. The Hebrew word chosen in verse 1 is one of the most intense found. It’s not just “whimpering”, but it goes far beyond that. This “cry” is strenuous and strong. It is the cry of a broken heart.

The psalmist does not intend to waste his sorrows. The pain he is feeling may just rip him into two; but he knows and believes that it has eternal value and everlasting purpose. (He knows this because he has faith).

Our faith was never meant to be spiritual medals and ribbons for decoration. Rather faith is a life boat we are swimming to reach. It is what I call, “the desperation factor”.

V. 2,  “Do not hide your face from me in the day of my distress!

Incline your ear to me; answer me speedily in the day when I call!”

God does not play “hide and seek” with our hearts and souls. He absolutely loves it when His children are desperately looking for Him. He does not play tricks on us. We may have to walk in the dark, and have to listen through the cacophony of competing voices. But He is so close, “His eye is on the sparrow’.

There are often “time factors” that He uses. We will learn to wait. But waiting is first– never “passive.” We don’t need to go into a “spiritual hibernation” because things are quiet. Second– waiting does not mean “abandonment”.

The three Hebrew children stood in the furnace. This is the way they did executions back then. They stood in faith of a God who heard their prayers. They might as well have been standing in their bathrooms, as the fire couldn’t even singe them. The were so ‘insulated’ they didn’t even smell smokey.

But the king, peering through the walls of the furnace, could see a fourth man. The Lord God was quite present, even in this place of death.

*

ybic, Bryan

God Has Really Big Feet: Psalm 108:10-13

10Who will bring me to the fortified city?
    Who will lead me to Edom?
11 Have you not rejected us, O God?
    You do not go out, O God, with our armies.
12 Oh grant us help against the foe,
    for vain is the salvation of man!
13 With God we shall do valiantly;
    it is he who will tread down our foes.”

Psalm 108:10-13, ESV

As believers we all have expectations.  In this Psalm, the mind of David is clear and aware– and it is essentially focusing on whether God will be present (or not?). David has seen a lot in his life. And after our life is all sifted, we should be asking, “how close was God to me?”

“With God we shall do valiantly” is most certainly a profound statement. It is pretty much saturated by an intense faith. It declares that we are now enabled to face anything life decides to throw at us.

Commentary

V. 10, “Who will bring me to the fortified city?
    Who will lead me to Edom?”

David’s question has been cloaked in the metaphors of his day. Today we need to break out our study books to define things for us. But the contemporaries of David would have instantly understood the question.

The “fortified city,” or Edom was the very place of concentrated evil. It was always a source of disruption and pain for Jerusalem. I suppose we could make the comparison between Iran and the USA.

Terrorism and dealing with advanced weaponry are just two of the issues. There are also real religious and social incompatibilities. We face core ideas where we are diametrically and irreconcilable opposed to each other.

The question is this– how do we oppose a fortified city? Or take on the greatest threat to our nation’s prosperity and well-being?

V. 11, “ Have you not rejected us, O God?
    You do not go out, O God, with our armies.”

This statement clarifies King David’s greatest fear. The absence of God in the heart of his nation terrifies him. It is a nightmare when God withdraws His presence from His people.

Yes…Israel does have an army. And I’m sure it was the equal (more or less) with any other kingdom’s army. It would be good to remember that as a boy David faced Goliath. There was something quite solid inserted in his thinking. It had to do with a faithful God acting on Israel’s behalf.

V. 12, “ Oh grant us help against the foe,
     for vain is the salvation of man!”

David refuses to stay in verse 11. He pushes into v. 12. He refuses to accept the false “alternate reality” of an absent God, but instead he forges out this cry for divine help.

This man David was the boy who faced Goliath, the giant. Obviously, Goliath was the superior warrior. He was experienced after many encounters in combat. Never defeated, he was ‘the human wood-chipper.’ And when David defeated him, it was a victory of monumental proportions. And David would never, ever be the same.

I’m reasonably certain that Israel had generals trained in their version of “West Point.” I’m reasonably sure they had a diplomatic presence reaching out for alliances and treaties. But in all these gyrations and preparations, King David refused to put any confidence in them.

V. 13, “With God we shall do valiantly;
    it is he who will tread down our foes.”

A most remarkable verse. It has a definite value far beyond David’s situation, it chisels out a principle that has as much, (or more) significance today.

“With God.” “Do valiantly.” There is something quite heroic about any person that chooses to “walk by faith, and not by sight.” Valiant ones are not necessarily stronger or smarter, rather they know they are weaker. They have relinquished anything that keep them following their Father into victory.

“Tread down” can be understood as ‘trampling or stomping.’ It is the ultimate act of victory, with the enemy under our feet. It reveals the sense of total victory over them. And we must see, it is God’s feet doing the crushing.

“When we pray for the Spirit’s help … we will simply fall down at the Lord’s feet in our weakness. There we will find the victory and power that comes from His love. ”  

Andrew Murray

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ybic, Bryan

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Loving the Unlovely: Psalm 35:14-16

14 “I behaved as if grieving for my friend or my brother; I bowed down in sorrow, as one who bewails his mother.

15 But in my stumbling and limping they rejoiced and gathered together [against me]; the smiters (slanderers and revilers) gathered against me, and I knew them not; they ceased not to slander and revile me.

16 Like profane mockers at feasts [making sport for the price of a cake] they gnashed at me with their teeth.”

Psalm 35:14-16, Amplified

For today’s reading, I march out the Amplified Version (AMP.) It has a pretty dynamic history, and fills a niche of a translation that reveals shades and nuances of the original languages. (It can seem a “bit wordy” though for everyday reading.) It was built off the work of the ASV (1901) and its first edition came out in 1965. Since then, it has had over 30 printings.

The AMP handles these three verses quite adroitly and delivers much to strengthen our understanding.

David is a deeply troubled man. It seems he treats his enemies like dear friends. And his friends are sometimes overlooked. His love ‘kicks-off’ his vulnerabilities. I will use the term “idealistic” (but not ‘spacy’ or crazy.) You could say that he loves too much, and he refuses to call his old friends as the enemies they have become.

A love like this is truly astounding. It is called “agape” love in the New Testament. It is a special word that means that it loves its enemies in spite of being mistreated, ignored or slandered. It is a “Jesus style” of love, that His followers must share.

Commentary 

V. 14, I behaved as if grieving for my friend or my brother; I bowed down in sorrow, as one who bewails his mother.”

I suppose it would be useful to read my previous post from PL, The Dark Pain of Slander: Psalm 35:11-13 

David describes his painful grief over his enemies illness. This isn’t what people normally do. But David isn’t normal– he is supernatural as he grieves deep down. David taps into a vein of understanding that Jesus would declare centuries later. From Matthew 5,

“God blesses those who mourn,
    for they will be comforted.” (v.4)

“God blesses those who are humble,
    for they will inherit the whole earth.” (v.5)

“God blesses those who are merciful,
    for they will be shown mercy.” (v.7)

V. 15, “But in my stumbling and limping they rejoiced and gathered together [against me]; the smiters (slanderers and revilers) gathered against me, and I knew them not; they ceased not to slander and revile me.

David has now become a magnet for haters. They watch him stumble, and see him limp. They are drawn together to mock and slander. They have joy over seeing King David the Buffoon stumbling about.

Evil has its special way of organizing itself for evil purposes. Just as the Godly have special gifts and ministries, the evil ones have their specialties as well. Some will be liars, others will be murderers, adulterers, abusers and thieves. You could say that Satan has “gifted” them to do his work.

“These teachers oppose the truth just as Jannes and Jambres opposed Moses. They have depraved minds and a counterfeit faith. But they won’t get away with this for long. Someday everyone will recognize what fools they are, just as with Jannes and Jambres.”

2 Timothy 3:8-9

Just as Paul had been gifted, he encountered others as gifted, but to do evil. This should make a young pastor or missionary aware and careful of these evil counterparts. But Paul tells Timothy that this charade will not last long.

ybic, Bryan