A Very Long Shadow: Psalm 32:1-5

A Maskil of David.

 1 Oh, what joy for those 
      whose disobedience is forgiven, 
      whose sin is put out of sight! 
 2 Yes, what joy for those 
      whose record the LORD has cleared of guilt,[b] 
      whose lives are lived in complete honesty! 
 3 When I refused to confess my sin, 
      my body wasted away, 
      and I groaned all day long. 
 4 Day and night your hand of discipline was heavy on me. 
      My strength evaporated like water in the summer heat. 
                         Interlude

 5 Finally, I confessed all my sins to you 
      and stopped trying to hide my guilt. 
   I said to myself, “I will confess my rebellion to the LORD.” 
      And you forgave me! All my guilt is gone. 

Psalm 32:1-5, NCV

What really is your source of joy? We can look and find many possibilities around us. Family, hobbies, work, music or art.  But there is far more than just that.  I believe that our deepest source of joy is the forgiveness of God for our sin. King David enters fully into this experience. I contend that joyful Christians  are those intensely aware of their salvation from sin.

This was St. Augustine’s favorite psalm, and he had it written on the wall next to his death bed, so he could read it over and over. This psalm is a “maskil,” which defined it as a teaching psalm. I think David saw his sins (2 Samuel 11) as something to be learned from. His evil was sufficient to bring him the death penalty, according to levitical law. He became an active teacher of redemption.

This is a companion psalm with Psalm 51. That psalm is a “jack-hammer” and this one is the shovel. There is a sharp breaking in  51. We learn how powerful repentance is really. But in 32 we clean the mess up. David is now our model, and from the nastiness of his past life will come life. Someone once wrote the truth as he saw it:

“We were all whores before Jesus touched and forgave us”

 

Commentary

V.1, communicates a blessing, or having special favor with God. If you don’t want blessing, your nuts! It is one of those things we are all searching for deep down, but now it has a name.  When you have it, nothing else will really matter. The word “joy” is actively used. And so is “disobedience” and “sin.” But the most significant word is “forgiven.”

V. 2, when you repeat yourself it is usually to make a point. It makes what your saying emphatic. There is wagon full of joy here. But it is only for “guilt cleared people.” Once I had a police record, and actually spent a night in jail. Things were put on my record, which was inviolable, I couldn’t change a thing on it.

V. 3-4, there seems to be a deep reluctance and a dark aversion to admitting our true state. We avoid doing this at all costs. We will not be labeled! But there are very clear consequences to this constant posturing. Our lives become hollowed out shells, full of darkness, sickness and grief. This is the price we pay to live a false life.

There is a real sense that God is in on this. It seems that He is concentrating on us, we are God’s target. All His arrows are meant for us, we turn and God is right on our tails. He is taking all the credit for this miserable state we’re in.

V. 5, perhaps this belongs in the special collection of wonderful verses. It is a sponge that is completely saturated with light. “Finally, I confessed…” There are limits to what we can handle. We end up agreeing with God. “Stopped trying to hide.” And we are such good hiders, we can hide so well we end up lost even to our own selves.

There is a profound sense of amazement here. Confession brings it to us. But to be so lost, and than found is staggering. It changes everything. “You forgave me! All my guilt is gone.” Realizing this will bring you incredible peace and joy. You will never, ever find it anywhere else.

 

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Lightning Rods: Psalm 34:19-22

lightning-1 19 The righteous person faces many troubles, but the Lord comes to the rescue each time. 20 For the Lord protects the bones of the righteous; not one of them is broken!

21 Calamity will surely overtake the wicked, and those who hate the righteous will be punished. 22 But the Lord will redeem those who serve him. No one who takes refuge in him will be condemned.

Psalm 34:19-22

“How frail is humanity! How short is life, how full of trouble!”

Job 14:1

“If you will call your troubles experiences, and remember that every experience develops some latent force within you, you will grow vigorous and happy, however adverse your circumstances may seem to be.”

John Heywood, (English Playwright and Poet, 1497-1580)

The conclusion of this psalm is a description of the believer’s troubles. I daresay there is as much tribulation and trial in the Bible as the subjects of grace and love. We will find a freedom in the Lord once we stumble upon this realization. It seems I am always in “hot water,” but it keeps me clean! “I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.” 

John 16:33

Commentary

V. 19, The righteous person faces many troubles, but the Lord comes to the rescue each time.”

To deny that there are difficulties for the believer is silly. We seem to generate new ones on a daily basis. This is God’s work bench. And He seems to be quite comfortable with this arrangement. Only He calls them “trials.” We shouldn’t think we will eventually mature and attain some powerful wisdom. (I wish this was so.) Maturity is not the absence of issues, but the result of going through them.

The Lord is into “search and rescue.” The rescue part is great! Each of His children have this knack (or grace) in their lives. This is the doctrine of “the perseverance of the saints.” God is active and in every situation He brings deliverance and extrication.

V. 20, “For the Lord protects the bones of the righteous; not one of them is broken!”

In the Midwest, almost every home and barn has at least one lightning rod. I have seen three or four on bigger barns. Since there are so many thunderstorms, people have to protect their homes from strikes. You haven’t lived until you have seen lightning hit these rods.

We are much like this. We seem to attract all kinds of things. We are afflicted, but we have hope. Nothing can remain broken.

“He comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others. When they are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us.”

2 Corinthians 1:4

V. 21, “Calamity will surely overtake the wicked, and those who hate the righteous will be punished.”

This awesome dynamic only works for believers. For those still separated from God, we should only expect trials to hurt and break. The unbeliever can only expect his/her trials to harm and injure. It is a sad thing to watch, but there are so many who are in pain. “The wages of sin is death.” I’m glad I’m no longer on that particular payroll.

V. 22, “ But the Lord will redeem those who serve him. No one who takes refuge in him will be condemned.”

Redeem and Refuge. Both words require some interesting initiative on our part as believers. The ‘redeem’ phrase puts out the idea of service. When we set our live to be His servants He runs out to meet us (a.k.a. “the Prodigal Son” in Luke 15.)

The ‘refuge’ phrase works off the idea of the cities of Refuge in the O.T. Someone guilty could flee to them for safety. What was literal in the O.T. is a figurative (or spiritual) in the N.T. We have committed sins, indecencies, and rebellious acts. But there is a rescuer, a redeemer most gentle and kind.

ybic, Bryan

Psalm 51:11-14, The Awful Pain of Sin

11 “Do not cast me from your presence
    or take your Holy Spirit from me.
12 Restore to me the joy of your salvation
    and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.

13 Then I will teach transgressors your ways,
    so that sinners will turn back to you.
14 Deliver me from the guilt of bloodshed, O God,
    you who are God my Savior,
    and my tongue will sing of your righteousness.”

Psalm 51:11-14, NIV

We now start to read a different ‘David’. His heart has dramatically changed from who he was in verse 1. He is now a different man. We have hoped and waited for this moment, and at this moment we can understand ‘a broken heart redeemed.’

A bumble bee will spread pollen from one flower to the next. In the same way, David spreads God’s goodness from person-to-person. He opens his heart, and we see someone who is quite authentic and real.

Commentary

V.11, Do not cast me from your presence
    or take your Holy Spirit from me.

I have to believe that David is thinking long and hard about Saul. Saul sinned against the Lord, and given repeated warnings to repent. He didn’t. And God left him.

David is remembering the ‘shell of a man’ that Saul became. David is very afraid.

V. 12, “Restore to me the joy of your salvation
    and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.”

Psalm 32 was written concurrently with this Psalm. In it we see the common theme regarding joy. Joy goes beyond happiness. It is strength that God gives to those who follow Him. Nehemiah instructed the people of God, “the joy of the Lord is your strength.”

David has tasted this joy, and nothing will ‘neverever’ compare with it. He can’t imagine his life emptied by God. To hold this joy is the greatest achievement a person can experience. David asks for a ‘willingness’ that he may implement this.

V. 13, “Then I will teach transgressors your ways,
    so that sinners will turn back to you.”

I used to think that David said this to manipulate God. A sort of an attempt to influence God with ‘good deeds.’ But now I don’t. This verse is deeper than that. The need for joy and its place in our lives transforms us into real witnesses.

“Catch on fire with enthusiasm and people will come for miles to watch you burn.”

Charles Wesley

V. 14, “Deliver me from the guilt of bloodshed, O God,
    you who are God my Savior,
    and my tongue will sing of your righteousness.”

David ‘knew’ what guilt was. Few people can murder another human being without ‘knowing’ the stain, and feeling the evil. You must be delivered from this, you can’t think that “time heals all wounds.” Time heals nothing, but God must intervene.

I believe the people who sing the best are those who have been forgiven the most.

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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

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

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

7 Where can I go from your Spirit?

Where can I flee from your presence?

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

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

9 If I rise on the wings of the dawn,

if I settle on the far side of the sea,

10 even there your hand will guide me,

your right hand will hold me fast.

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

and the light become night around me,”

12 even the darkness will not be dark to you;

the night will shine like the day,

for darkness is as night to you.

flourish-small

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Letters from Fawn Creek

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ybic, Jonathan

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

Psalm 78: 9-11: Turning Back in the Day of Battle

"White Feather" The Universal Symbol for Cowardice
“White Feather”
The Universal Symbol for Cowardice

 9 The men of Ephraim, though armed with bows, turned back on the day of battle;
10 they did not keep God’s covenants and refused to live by his law.
11 They forgot what he had done, the wonders he had shown them.

Psalm 78

flourish-small

In reading this passage I’m reminded of pithy sayings I’ve heard over the years such as, “Adversity not only builds character in a person; it reveals character.” The same has also been said about involvement in sports. I’d like to add a third to the collection: “Experiencing signs and wonders can change a person’s heart but it can also reveal what’s in a person’s heart.” We’ve all heard stories of agnostics, atheists, and lukewarm Christians who became devout followers of Christ after witnessing a miracle or a healing. However, sometimes hearts were left unchanged or a change occurred that didn’t bear lasting fruit.

As a young Christian I was mystified by the behavior of the children of Israel in the years that followed their deliverance from Egypt. They saw the Ten Plagues, the Red Sea divided, the manna from heaven, the pillar of fire at night, the cloud of protection by day, and water coming from the cleft rock. And yet with all these signs and wonders, they did not enter God’s rest in the Promised Land and remained a stubborn and rebellious people.

Jesus ran into a similar problem in his ministry and condemned entire towns because of it: “Woe to you, Korazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the miracles that were performed in you had been performed in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago, sitting in sackcloth and ashes. But it will be more bearable for Tyre and Sidon at the judgment than you” (Luke 10:13,14). Korazin, Bethsaida, and not to mention Capernaum, followed in the footsteps of the children of Israel.

After several years of being a Christian, my experiences with people and their responses to the supernatural agreed with the biblical narrative. While living in Minnesota, I met a couple whose youngest son was healed of a rare disease through a Christian ministry and it changed the whole family from having a tepid faith to whole-hearted devotion. And yet, in other cases, I’ve known people who, despite experiencing the supernatural, displayed a heart similar to the men of Ephraim. What they saw did not have long-term benefits for them and they faltered in the day of testing. The faith of some has even been shipwrecked.

In my time as a Christian, I have seen another group emerge that I believe is especially dear to Jesus: they have seen very little or no dramatic supernatural activity and remain devoted to and in love with Jesus all their lives. Thomas doubted the resurrection of Christ until he saw his Lord in the flesh. Jesus said,“Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed” (John 20:29).

We should all strive to be in this group of disciples, because, unlike the men of Ephraim, they will not turn back in the day of battle. We may feel like we will never belong to this group, but we can always ask Jesus, like the father of the boy possessed by an evil spirit, “Help me overcome my unbelief” (Mark 9:24). He will not deny us. He will not give us a snake when we ask for a loaf of bread.

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ybic, Jonathan

http://www.openheavensblog.com/

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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

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

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ybic, Bryan

The Verdict is In– Psalm 14:1-3

Verdict

Psalm 14

For the choir director: A psalm of David.

Only fools say in their hearts,
    “There is no God.”
They are corrupt, and their actions are evil;
    not one of them does good!

The Lord looks down from heaven
    on the entire human race;
he looks to see if anyone is truly wise,
    if anyone seeks God.
But no, all have turned away;
    all have become corrupt.
No one does good,
    not a single one!

Psalm 14:1-3, NLT

I remember it clearly. I was a student at Alaska Bible Institute, and got enmeshed in one of those “bull sessions” that periodically arise when there is far too much time, pizza and root beer.

The conversation rolled and we got on the subject of the depravity of man. Essentially, it is the doctrine that states that we are at best, evil and fallen into a sinful state. We are living in darkness and iniquity without hope. Only Jesus’ death and resurrection can save us and deliver us.

Commentary

V. 1, “Only fools say in their hearts,
    “There is no God.”
They are corrupt, and their actions are evil;
    not one of them does good!”

David is speaking directly to people who claim they are “atheists.” Within this belief system, there is an aggressive disbelief in any faith in an unseen God. There are also “agnostics” who are not sure that God can be known or understood.

This psalm states that all who state their unbelief are “fools.” There’s no ‘soft’ take here. A verse this bold gives us no real room for any compromise. Deep down we want to be pleasant, and make allowances– but that simply isn’t possible.

“The atheist can’t find God for the same reason that a thief can’t find a police officer.”

In Mathematics there is something called “the lowest common denominator.” What it is is the smallest positive integer that is a multiple of the denominators. According to David, the atheist is a complete fool at his core level.

There is a moral and spiritual decay that results in this foolishness. They are “corrupt,” and “evil,” and no good.

V. 2, “The Lord looks down from heaven
    on the entire human race;
he looks to see if anyone is truly wise,
    if anyone seeks God.”

I believe that we are in a constant state of evaluation. The entire 7 billion humans alive today go under the microscope. This close examination is not intrusive or invasive. God simply knows. He is completely aware of His created beings.

The Lord is seeking wisdom in the hearts of people. Wisdom, in my thinking is completely underrated. We think something else will substitute. I see wisdom as a mix of discernment, and comprehension, with a smattering of foresight and balance.

But– there is no one! This is where the doctrine of the depravity of man makes its entrance.

V. 3, “ But no, all have turned away;
    all have become corrupt.
No one does good,
    not a single one!”

The verdict isn’t good. We are slaves to sin, serving Satan with wild abandon. Most likely, we are not conscious of this arrangement. And even if we were it would change us very little. Sin is what we want, but it is certainly not what we need.

The good news is that He loves us. Jesus Christ lived, died and was raised from the dead. The Old Testament ingrained the deep sense of what is holy. But it also instilled an awareness of the sacrificial. Lambs died for the sins of people. And Jesus “the Lamb of God” substituted Himself in our place.

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ybic, Bryan

Dead Roses: Psalm 102:9-11

deadroses

I eat ashes for food.
    My tears run down into my drink
10 because of your anger and wrath.
    For you have picked me up and thrown me out.
11 My life passes as swiftly as the evening shadows.
    I am withering away like grass.

Psalm 102

When God starts dealing with a sinner’s heart, it can be pretty rough. Although He afflicts, God is careful how severely He touches His sons and daughters. He is gentle and kind even when He challenges us.

There is no such thing as “the brutality of God.” But at times, we might mistake His discipline as far too harsh. Heb. 12:5-6,

And have you forgotten the encouraging words God spoke to you as his children? He said,

“My child, don’t make light of the Lord’s discipline,
    and don’t give up when he corrects you.
For the Lord disciplines those he loves,
    and he punishes each one he accepts as his child.”

And actually, Hebrews 12 (the whole chapter) is a crash course on God’s position on discipline.

Commentary

V. 9-10, “My tears run down into my drink
10 because of your anger and wrath.
    For you have picked me up and thrown me out.”

Again, it’s all about the prophetic imagery. The psalmist describes the profuse tears that are gushing down. His cup is filled with his inconsolable sadness. The inference is that he is drinking his grief.

It seems that he traces all this misery back to the particular actions of God. “Your anger and wrath,” which is as about as specific you can get. I have thought about this, and a few certain issues come to mind.

  • Samson, strong– but made weak.
  • Job, the man who lost everything.
  • David, whose middle-aged indiscretions almost destroyed him.

I admit these aren’t perfect examples. They should at least be reflected on.

“For you have picked me up and thrown me out.” I just carried the trash out (with my wife’s ‘encouragement’). This bag was filled with unusable cans, table scraps, coffee grounds, and egg shells. Its aroma was quite pungent. The psalmist identifies with this.

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

The evening quickly becomes the night. It happens in less than an hour. Darkness comes fast, and, there is nothing you can do. The psalmist somehow senses the urgency, as we all should.

The grass has a definite ‘shelf-life.’ It will not last for long. As soon as it starts to grow, it begins to move to the inevitable. It becomes lush and green, but soon it will begin to droop and dry up.

But the psalmist truly does understand.

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ybic, Bryan

Faith Demands Tests: Psalm 102:3-6

Chemistry1
Our faith needs to be tested to prove its authenticity

3 “For my days disappear like smoke,
    and my bones burn like red-hot coals.
My heart is sick, withered like grass,
    and I have lost my appetite.
Because of my groaning,
    I am reduced to skin and bones.
I am like an owl in the desert,
    like a little owl in a far-off wilderness.”

Psalm 102:3-6, NLT

There is a deeper awareness that seasons our life with frailty and futility and emptiness. This is not some kind of bummer or downer. We arrive at this point, over time and some maturity, to feel this weakness. It can be very profound.

As I speed-read these four verses, I’m  become aware of the following.

  1. The verses all seem to be based on the same foundation.
  2. Metaphors change, but the message stays consistent.
  3. The Holy Spirit who directed the writing, has perfectly chosen each “visual.”
  4. As grim as it may seem, we all need to pass through these experiences.
  5. We really do need to use these words, phrases and metaphors to rightly make sense of our own issues. Like a physical key will open a specific door or lock– so these verses will open up, all that which is now closed.

Commentary

V. 3, For my days disappear like smoke,
    and my bones burn like red-hot coals.”

The imagery is everything. There is a heavy sense of loss, and things just seem to slip through our fingers. Nothing has a handle for us to grab unto. We are in a special place; it’s all sort of vague and bewildering. We are perplexed spiritually.

‘Fire in my bones’ is an intense picture of being consumed at the deepest level. This fire burns viciously and is hidden from casual contact. There are seams of coal in West Virginia that have caught fire underground, and they can’t be extinguished.

V. 4, “My heart is sick, withered like grass,
    and I have lost my appetite.”

Sick and withered. Sick– it’s like having the flu. Withered– clearly like a wilted bush in the desert. (If you had to pick one, which would you choose?) But the psalmist describes a person with both issues.

Loss of appetite is seldom a problem for me. I dearly love to eat. You can take me anywhere– Mexican, Italian, German, and Chinese. I like fried chicken and BBQ ribs. But the writer has no desire at all to eat. He doesn’t want any more cheese cake. There is a time to feast and ‘make merry’ but the psalmist wants none of it.

V. 5, “Because of my groaning,
    I am reduced to skin and bones.”

The spiritual has a direct effect on the physical. The writer is in pain, and he moans out of the depths of his soul. He carries affliction, deep inside. The physical is now involved, as he now has become a complete ruin. He is emaciated, no longer the man he used to be. Like the photos of little children in Uganda, totally wasted and in ruin. The spiritual condition will often reflect into the physical.

V. 6, “I am like an owl in the desert,
    like a little owl in a far-off wilderness.”

The psalmist has been ‘ransacking’ his vocabulary, trying to describe to us his present condition. He wants us to have a full and clear understanding of what he is facing.

These owls were fairly common. They are solitary and seek out solitary places. A “desert” in the scriptures is almost always used to describe a place of testing. A desert is a place of extremes. It is where plants struggle and water is scarce. The heat can be brutal and yet must be endured.

An insignificant “little owl” that lives in a far away wilderness, is the psalmist description of himself. In spite of the conditions, this is perhaps a very healthy view of oneself.

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ybic, Bryan