Striving to be Intimate: Psalms 73

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

Psalms 73,  ESV

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

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

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

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

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

Psalm 73

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

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

bry-signat (1)

 

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A Trained Warrior: Psalm 144:1-2

warrior

1 “Praise the Lord, who is my rock.
    He trains my hands for war
    and gives my fingers skill for battle.
He is my loving ally and my fortress,
    my tower of safety, my rescuer.
He is my shield, and I take refuge in him.
    He makes the nations submit to me.”

Psalm 144:1-2, NLT

This is an incredible Psalm. In spite of the many, many centuries, we still should peer into it to gain wisdom. David is writing truth to our souls. We read of his certain issues and concerns. For the Christian believer, this Psalm of David offers us enrichment and strength for us to be faithful in our trials.

Enamored, is David’s heart. It has been captured by God’s intense love and deep care. Dostoevsky once said this, “Once a man accepts Jesus, he has a disease that no one can cure.” His change in our souls is permanent and irrevocable. We simply can’t walk away.

Commentary

V. 1, “Praise the Lord, who is my rock.
    He trains my hands for war
    and gives my fingers skill for battle.”

There is absolutely nothing exceptional in any of us. Yet David becomes a “super-hero” because the Lord has decided on this. David is “trained” and understands that “my fingers are now skilled for battle.” All of this means warfare, and this we have to understand. And we must agree on this, this Psalm is all about “warfare.”

Our battles (in which we fight and sweat) are real. Yet they are first spiritual, and very seldom physical. Nevertheless, they are profoundly real. Ephesians 6 reveals the incredible reality of our spiritual conflict. Sparks fly as we advance forward, (spiritually speaking of course.) But they are no less real, or difficult.

V. 2, “He is my loving ally and my fortress,
    my tower of safety, my rescuer.”

My…my…my…my. The repetition of “my” is profoundly interesting. David has linked himself on the work of God. “My” reveals a sort of possession that David has with God Himself. He sees an “ally, a fortress, a tower and a rescuer.

At least, this is quite astonishing. To have the Almighty taking a deep response is incredibly responsive. God is now our ally– and our fortress– and our tower– and if we need it, a rescuer! What potency, what an incredible effort.

V. 2, “He is my shield, and I take refuge in him.
    He makes the nations submit to me.”

A shield is something that covers, and blocks many vicious arrows. A shield is definitely needed for all those involved in desperate battle. And when it gets a bit “out-of-hand,” we can take shelter in Him, as a “refuge,” a certain place of incredible safety.

  “The nations submit to me,” is a very bold statement. (Quite bold, actually.) But God’s power is never minimized by our personal weakness. He is constantly powerful and  tremendously concerned with us. However, the “nations” are a immense work that is directed against our Father. Rather then direct Himself  specifically, He makes us quite able to stand against this travesty.

This Psalm carries with it many fantastic wonderments. It can add many things to our simple faith. God certainly does this, and more. He brings us into a maturity that we on ourselves would never guess. Until we understand “warfare,” we can never understand faith.

This, dear ones, is a great Psalm. I hope you will read it, and you will take on the blessings that it brings. We certainly do need it.

***

ybic, Bryan

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

Where No Enemy Can Reach: Psalm 62:5-8

Chimney-Rock
Chimney Rock, Nebraska, U.S.

Let all that I am wait quietly before God,
    for my hope is in him.
He alone is my rock and my salvation,
    my fortress where I will not be shaken.
My victory and honor come from God alone.
    He is my refuge, a rock where no enemy can reach me.
O my people, trust in him at all times.
    Pour out your heart to him,
    for God is our refuge.    Interlude

Psalm 62:5-8, NLT

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Verses 5-6 are ‘almost’ duplicates with verses 1-2. I have used this thought before, but verses that seem repetitive suggest something to pay extra attention. I see them as ‘laminates.’ They come together, and become stronger.

Through these verses, David is exclusively focused on God’s excellence. His words are winsome and his zeal is admirable. David really doesn’t want to talk about anything else– he is the ultimate rarity: he is a God-intoxicated man.

y

Commentary

V. 5, “Let all that I am wait quietly before God, for my hope is in him.”

This is a repeat of verse 1. I think it is repeated as an emphasis for us. Waiting quietly is not easy for us. Our impatience and our pride sabotage the process. We just feel too self-important to wait for anyone.

V. 6, “He alone is my rock and my salvation,
    my fortress where I will not be shaken.”

This is a repeat of verse 2. When a songwriter finds a theme in his work, he’ll write it in a “chorus.” This chorus usually is repeated a few times through the song. Perhaps that is what is taking place through David, in this psalm?

V. 7, “My victory and honor come from God alone.
    He is my refuge, a rock where no enemy can reach me.”

David sees himself as being evaluated by God alone. Anything of value (victory, and honor) will come as a exclusive effort from the Lord. David isn’t going to look for these things anywhere else.

A refuge is a “place of safety.” It is the place of immunity, and a place of utmost protection. Back in verse 3, David disclosed details of murder plots. When your life is threatened you’ll need a safe place to go.

V. 8, “O my people, trust in him at all times.
    Pour out your heart to him,
    for God is our refuge. Interlude”

I think David is speaking as a king here, to his subjects. He advocates a constant trust in Him. He exhorts his people to pour out everything to God, and hold nothing back.

“For God is our refuge. Selah.” 

#

ybic, Bryan

*

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

 

The Lord-O-Sphere– Psalm 34:15-18

15 “The eyes of the Lord watch over those who do right; his ears are open to their cries for help. 16 But the Lord turns his face against those who do evil; he will erase their memory from the earth. 17 The Lord hears his people when they call to him for help. He rescues them from all their troubles. 18 The Lord is close to the brokenhearted; he rescues those whose spirits are crushed.”

Psalm 34:15-18

I call this “the Lord-o-sphere.” You will find each verse reveals something incredible about Him, the Lord phrase is clearly mentioned in each verse. That must be where we should begin our efforts to understand these verses– we belong in “the Lord-o-sphere.”

Jehovah God is not a mere tribal deity of the rag-tag Israelites. He is not a second tier God with aspirations to be more. Rather, He declares He is supreme, the Creator and Sustainer of everything we see and can’t see. This is never, ever negotiable or refutable. But there is more, and these verses will show them to us.

Commentary

V. 15, “The eyes of the Lord watch over those who do right;     

             his ears are open to their cries for help.”

We are not talking physical eyes, but much more. He easily observes all 7 billion of us on this planet. What He possesses is not a general sight, but one that can pick out His people, sifting and discerning them from others.

Eyes and ears. I suppose that eyes could be enough. But ears, well that means a lot. These ears are open, and attuned to the voices of those in trouble. All who cry to Him will get His help. He doesn’t wear a “hearing aid.”

V. 10, “ But the Lord turns his face against those who do evil;     

              he will erase their memory from the earth.”

Nowhere in the Bible do we see God unwilling to discern good and evil. To “turn your face against something” was to declare unacceptability and undesirability. God will have nothing to do with anything unholy. He cannot blend His heart with sin and darkness. “He resists the proud.”

The phrase, “erase their memory,” is the ultimate act. Because evil people are so entrenched in their sin, they will have no future in the Kingdom of God. They’ve chosen sin over all else, to replace Him. You could say that they have essentially renounced their citizenship in the Kingdom. They have no future.

V. 17, “The Lord hears his people when they call to him for help.    

              He rescues them from all their troubles.”

This verse should be understood in contrast with v. 16. He hears when you start to cry out for help. You are His people, and like a “good shepherd” He is there! All of heaven is energized, and then mobilized to intervene for your rescue.

“Troubles” can mean anything. I think of Satan with a very thick catalog that itemizes each pain and grief he can unleash on you. However, each trouble can be transformed by God, to be good and useful in your life.

V. 18, “The Lord is close to the brokenhearted;     

              he rescues those whose spirits are crushed.”

One of my favorite verses. I have struggled with many things, I have let sin rule me. I have had many bad moments. My physical and mental health have been broken. But rather than it distancing me from Him, I see Him drawing closer. Brokenness in His eyes is a true mark of beauty!

You are crushed when a vast weight presses you to the ground. It is such a weight that all you can do is crumble. There is nothing, from our viewpoint, good or delightful about being crushed. But… God coming to the rescue.

ybic, Bryan

Psalm 34:11-14, Listen to Me

11 Come, my children, and listen to me,
    and I will teach you to fear the Lord.
12 Does anyone want to live a life
    that is long and prosperous?
13 Then keep your tongue from speaking evil
    and your lips from telling lies!
14 Turn away from evil and do good.
    Search for peace, and work to maintain it.

Psalm 34:11-14, NLT

How much like a child are you? Children are packed full of innocence, teachableness, humility, honesty and faith. They are perfect examples for us as believers. These ‘little ones’ have a great deal to teach us. These verses are shaped around the idea of being eager to do what is best, and a childlike heart is our first step.

In our introduction to Psalm 34, we read the background of this incident, “A psalm of David, regarding the time he pretended to be insane in front of Abimelech, who sent him away.” This was a harrowing experience for him, we see David dusting off his improv skills, and acting very much like a mad man.  Crazy! An Introduction to Psalm 34 

In 1 Samuel 21:10-15, we find the narrative of this weird and wild situation. David is afraid, and fear is a powerful motivator. But, it is not sin. However, fear can and does lead to sinful acts. In a sense it is one of  the best mediums for sin to flourish. David survives and comes through this without stain or sin.

Commentary

V. 11, Come, my children, and listen to me,
and I will teach you to fear the Lord.”

Being a child is an intrinsic place for learning “godly fear.” This kind of fear, clean and good, is only really learned from this place. “Come” implies moving towards, and “listening” suggests becoming aware.

The fear of the Lord must be taught. I can teach my child about honesty, as he is not naturally honest. In much the same way, we really aren’t afraid of God, it takes sometime before we can really come to that point. David could have taught many different skills: archery, the spear, or the affairs of state. But instead he chooses to teach “children” the fear of the Lord.

“I can know if I truly fear God by determining if I have a genuine hatred of evil and an earnest desire to obey His commands.”  Jerry Bridges

V. 12, “ Does anyone want to live a life
that is long and prosperous?”

This strikes me as the “recipe” of a life of quality. What you believe has an effect on our earthly life. True religion should be teaching the saints to enter into this. We need to be concerned about how to live, and also how to die. This should be the aim of efforts the Church should be taking. We need to learn exactly how to make the best of both worlds.

V. 13, “Then keep your tongue from speaking evil
and your lips from telling lies!”

The tongue. So very much rests on this ability to speak! A quick scan of Scripture exposes the danger of words spoken out of a poisoned heart. We often corrupt everyone we meet with our tongue. The Book of James should be taken quite seriously by the Church. James 3:8,

“…but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison.”

 V. 14, “Turn away from evil and do good.
Search for peace, and work to maintain it.”

Reduce it all, and it comes to this. It’s funny how we complicate discipleship. It seems in some circles you need a Ph.D to figure it out.

Turn away. Do. Search. Work to foster peace. Essential things of intense simplicity. All is profoundly easy and yet incredibly challenging. But in this saintly effort, we will find the life we really want to live.

My sense is that the “fear of the Lord” is the imperative. Once this is established and growing, verse 14 follows. Fear God.

ybic, Bryan

Psalm 34:8-10: The Tastiness of God

Artist–Lynda Finch, http://lyndafinchart.com/prophetic-art.html

Taste and see that the Lord is good.
    Oh, the joys of those who take refuge in him!
Fear the Lord, you his godly people,
    for those who fear him will have all they need.
10 Even strong young lions sometimes go hungry,
    but those who trust in the Lord will lack no good thing.

Psalm 34:8-10, NLT

The verbs through these three verses are great–

  1. taste,
  2. see,
  3. fear
  4. and trust.

 Are you a taster, a see-er, a fear-er and a trust-er? These three verses provide us with much to consider. There will be solid and tangible growth as we work-out each one.

Promises are only as good as the “promiser.” If I promised you a million dollars next Friday, it would be extremely unlikely I could deliver. But if I was Bill Gates, and he made you that promise, then you could truly anticipate that promise being kept. (You probably would be out today buying a new BMW!)

Commentary

V. 8, “Taste and see that the Lord is good.
    Oh, the joys of those who take refuge in him!”

Tasting is one of our five basic senses. (It’s also a spiritual sense as well!) To taste something is an act of discernment. We taste spaghetti, and the first bites are just evaluating the chef’s work. But tasting is more than testing. It has to do with enjoyment. When we taste something that is very good, we usually go for “seconds.” It has brought us pleasure, and we tell others that its wonderful!

Faith is the souls taste. We need to be people who are always tasting the goodness of God. Each of us must experience this for ourselves. I can’t taste for you. Some birds regurgitate food for their young, and perhaps as a baby Christian we will need this, but it is obviously a very brief period. We are exhorted to find out for ourselves God’s goodness.

Seeing is the next critical word in this verse. It is another of our five senses. I have never seen Paris, or the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. I can only imagine. When we see something, we become connected with it. What we look at, gaze upon, will alter us. In some sense we become what we look at. The beauty of the Lord is a most wonderful thing for us to behold. He deeply wants us to come and dine.

V. 9, “ Fear the Lord, you his godly people,
    for those who fear him will have all they need.”

The fear of man, and the fear of the world can only be a crippling thing. It stunts us, turning us into victims and slaves. Some of us also carry phobias. I have “arachnophobia”  (a fear of spiders) which when viral when I lived with tarantulas in the deserts of Mexico.

We recognize anxiety to be one of the core emotions of fear. What makes you anxious? I think the only cure for fear, is more fear! Keep in mind that the world’s fear is craven, morbid and manipulating. The fear of God is clean and healthy. We aren’t to be “theophobic;” but “sinphobic.” We fear God with love as the center core.

V. 10, “Even strong young lions sometimes go hungry,
    but those who trust in the Lord will lack no good thing.”

David uses this metaphor of nature. Lions! Young and strong they are powerful. They are not known as “the King of Beasts” for nothing. They are not house cats (although my cat would beg to differ, lol.)  A lion must eat. They are the consummate predators, at the very top of the food chain. Yet, there is an insecurity. They must find red meat. Last weeks gazelle isn’t enough for todays hunger.

Believers who seek the Lord will never lack. Even the hard things provide a spiritual feast. It is His promise to you. It isn’t really logical, but it is spiritually true. The One who multiplied the loaves and fishes, turned water into wine, and fed the Israelites manna in the Wilderness intends to meet your every need. He hasn’t changed a whit.

aabryplain

The artist of the above art is Lynda Finch. She uses her talent to bless believers. Check her out. She has an online gallery, and you can buy her art–

http://lyndafinchart.com/prophetic-art.html

Psalm 23: The Shepherd is the Difference

Sheep

“The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.
    He makes me lie down in green pastures.
He leads me beside still waters.
    He restores my soul.
He leads me in paths of righteousness
    for his name’s sake.”

Psalm 23:1-3, ESV

Easily the most loved psalm.

I have waited for the longest time to take this on, but I wanted to do it justice. There is also another reason I’ve waited. I felt that so much had been written on Psalm 23, that there would be an “over saturation.” But I’m not so sure anymore that this is the case.

The writer is David. He is a young man who will someday be king. It seems that all shepherds must learn to be “sheep” to be any good at all.

Commentary

V. 1, “The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.”

This should be understood as a “declaration of faith.” It is not pretentious or manipulative. It is a straight forward announcement. I suppose David wants to boldly speak for God.

He is being protected from all harm. David refers to God as a shepherd, watching over his soul. Shepherds have three duties:

  1. protection,
  2. provision,
  3. and peace.

Not everyone makes a good shepherd. Some are better than others. David clearly is happy, because “the Lord is my shepherd.”

V. 2, “He makes me lie down in green pastures.
He leads me beside still waters.”

There is so much that is soothing about this verse. (I think of iced tea on hot summer’s day.) There are two key words: “makes me,” and “leads me.” The shepherd is quite understanding, and he works to provide for each one. There is time when he must make the sheep rest. They must feel secure.

“Green pastures” are quality places. We are incredibly blessed to be brought to this place. And “still waters” are the only water that sheep will drink. There is no current or cataract for us to be aware. We are so blessed to be be so taken care of in this way.

V. 3, “ He restores my soul.
He leads me in paths of righteousness
    for his name’s sake.”

We are dealing with solid realities here. Looking at this psalm nostalgically or sentimentally cuts the nerve of a verse that is really quite powerful. We can look at this psalm with ‘rose colored’ glasses, or we can put it to work.

We need soul restoration. We need to be put back together. It’s no secret that just living life damages us. It is also interesting to note, that only valuable things, masterpieces, are restored. We look to Him who continually restores our lives. I believe this is an ongoing process as we are being made new.

To be lead into real righteousness is an advantage. Often we try to ‘grind it out’ and make it happen. Many believers try to do this. But this verse stresses the point that He is in charge of our righteousness. He orchestrates it, and then brings it to pass. We are only righteous when He makes us so.

These first three verses of Psalm 23 are such a delight. But there is the old adage, “that familiarity breeds contempt.” I don’t think that is the case, but I do think that we’ve gotten ‘too familiar’ with this psalm. When we read it, we know what is going to happen next. But do we?

ybic, Bryan

Psalm 51: 16, 17: On Sin and Forgiveness

jogministries.wordpress.com

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.”

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The background of these verses is the familiar story of David’s fall from grace and subsequent confession, repentance, and forgiveness. David committed some big sins (lying, adultery, and murder) and his confession and repentance resulted in a big forgiveness from God that in turn resulted in his big gratitude and love towards God for his tender mercies.

In Luke 7:36–50 we have the story of the sinful woman who bathed Jesus’ feet with her tears and anointed his feet with alabaster. Jesus makes the point that this woman loves much because she has been forgiven much. We see this same dynamic at work in the life of Mary Magdalene who had been delivered of seven demons and had a sordid past.

I have to admit that some of my favorite Christians have been big sinners--people who had done some really bad things, knew they had done some really bad things, and walked in the gratitude and humility of a forgiven sinner. I like being around them because they are usually free of self–righteousness and I know they won’t judge me harshly for my flaws. Usually, the mercy and grace that God has extended to them, they, in turn, freely extend to others.

I have to wonder though what goes through some Christians minds. They have been Christians all their lives, and, though they aren’t perfect, have always been on the straight and narrow and have never or rarely strayed into what we would call gross sin or what Catholics call mortal sin. I’m sure some of them must wonder “Can I love God much even though I haven’t been forgiven much? Do I have to be like Mary Magdalene in order to love much?”

The truth is they have been forgiven much. My advice for these Christians is to pursue intimacy with the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. When you do this, you will enter the presence of God, and when you are in the presence of God, you will see that all your righteousness is as filthy rags. Our hearts are like a living room window that hasn’t been cleaned for a year. From a distance it may look okay, but, when we make a closer examination with the sun shining in, we see all the dirt, streaks, dead bugs, hand prints, and  hard water stains. This is what happened to Peter when he first met Jesus in the aftermath of catching many fish: “Go away from me, Lord; I am a sinful man!” To our knowledge, Peter wasn’t involved in some mortal sin; he was simply in the presence of the Lord. The same could be said of Isaiah in Isaiah 6:1–6.

Another piece of advice I would give these Christians is to broaden their definition of sin. I’ve noticed in some local churches over the years that a big deal is made when an unmarried high school girl in the church gets pregnant, but little is made of the church gossip, who, in my opinion, commits the greater sin. Sometimes Christians make a big deal about sexual sin and various addictions but overlook many of the “cold–blooded” sins: gossip, envy, self–righteousness, competition, religious idolatry, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions, etc.. These are gross sins too and should lead us to the same brokenness David and Mary Magdalene exhibited.

Therefore, when someone comes to your church for the first time, and, carries all the signs of coming out of a sinful lifestyle, you can look at them and say to yourself,”Hey, I’m going to go over there and greet that person. We have a lot in common.”

ybic, Jonathan

The Walls: Psalm 51:17-19, Conclusion

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

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

Psalm 51:17-19, ESV

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

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

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

Commentary

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

*

ybic, Bryan

Psalm 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.

*

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 2:10-12, Kiss the Son

10″ Now therefore, be wise, O kings;
Be instructed, you judges of the earth.
11 Serve the Lord with fear,
And rejoice with trembling.
12 Kiss the Son, lest He be angry,
And you perish in the way,
When His wrath is kindled but a little.
Blessed are all those who put their trust in Him.”

Psalm 2:10-12, NKJV

Kiss the Son should become our heart’s cry! Much can be learned if we’re willing to do this, and after all, it is his due.

These  three verses seem to deal with the tragic rebellion of our own hearts. Exhortations are being made, but we are not always willing to surrender, and the Psalmist resorts to a plaintive cry.  Keep in mind dear one, this is being written to Christians!

“Now then, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were pleading through us: we implore you on Christ’s behalf, be reconciled to God.”

1 Corinthians 5:20 

Commentary

V. 10, ” Now therefore, be wise, O kings;
Be instructed, you judges of the earth.”

Teachableness is hardly a character quality for a ruling monarch. I suppose a spiteful arrogance is much more seen. Being wise and teachable might be great in theory, but quite often things work against anything being put in practice. A king often sees himself above others, and hardly humble enough to correct.

These things are a choice we must make. We decide exactly how humble we will be. We make the decision to be wise, and to receive instruction. It’s up to you.

V. 11,  “ Serve the Lord with fear,
And rejoice with trembling.”

We are to do certain things, but with “modifiers.” We serve, but with fear. We rejoice, but with trembling.  Far to often, we won’t use these modifiers, (how often have you trembled when you were rejoicing in your worship time at church?)

Serving and rejoicing are both critical places to be. And “fear and trembling” turn our service and praise into things of great value to the Lord. After all, He is great and mighty, and we are puny and small. I doubt if there can be a true worshipper who is not a God fearer first.

V. 12, “Kiss the Son, lest He be angry,
And you perish in the way,
When His wrath is kindled but a little.
Blessed are all those who put their trust in Him.”

This is my favorite verse in Psalm 2. “Kiss the Son,” no matter what happens, or what brutal situation comes. Kiss Him. Your love at this point is critical, and it has more value than you realize. Find Him, and kiss Him.

There are sad and ugly things if you won’t. Perishing and a kindled wrath are things to anticipate if you refuse. I hope you won’t. There is a place of blessedness to everyone who places their trust in Him. This is a prime place to be, and nothing compares to it.

ybic, Bryan


Psalm 91, Take Cover!

Psalm 91

1 “Those who live in the shelter of the Most High
    will find rest in the shadow of the Almighty.
This I declare about the Lord:
He alone is my refuge, my place of safety;
    he is my God, and I trust him.
For he will rescue you from every trap
    and protect you from deadly disease.
He will cover you with his feathers.
    He will shelter you with his wings.
    His faithful promises are your armor and protection.
Do not be afraid of the terrors of the night,
    nor the arrow that flies in the day.
Do not dread the disease that stalks in darkness,
    nor the disaster that strikes at midday.
Though a thousand fall at your side,
    though ten thousand are dying around you,
    these evils will not touch you.
Just open your eyes,
    and see how the wicked are punished.”

The entire scope of this Psalm deals specifically with the strong security of the believer. It’s like wall—to—wall carpeting. Its very presence means an additional comfort. Insecurity is a deep need, and it reaches into so many of us. So many ask, “Does God still love me?”

It’s all about assurance, and having the security to know that He is desperately in love with my soul. Really, what more can I ask for? I’m unconditionally loved, and held close (what more can I ask for?) He provides me with the “complete package.”

Commentary

V. 1, “Those who live in the shelter of the Most High
    will find rest in the shadow of the Almighty.”

Key words— “living” and “resting.” Both of these words seem to suggest a long term commitment. This alone could be the source of much of our difficulty. We like the easy convenience of the microwave, and the “drive up” window. We not only want what we want, but we want it accelerated. We want it now, please!

But the Father has no intention of meeting us on these quick terms. He asks us for a commitment. And we want a fix. (Right now, please!) However, our desire to direct our own spiritual lives in this way will only get us “mucked up.” We don’t dictate, we can only situate.

V. 2, “This I declare about the Lord:
He alone is my refuge, my place of safety;
    he is my God, and I trust him.”

These kind of declarations are substantial. They have a profound meaning. Key words— “refuge” and “safety.” From just a pragmatic view, these are the ideal places to be. They meet us in that visceral spot. I suppose deep down, that is all any of us are looking forward to.

The last phrase, is the best. “He is my God, and I trust him.”  To trust someone is to place them in utmost confidence. We don’t expect any sort of deceit or ugliness from those we trust. When we say that we “trust God” we are really saying that He is trustworthy— all together faithful, in every way.

V. 3, “For he will rescue you from every trap
    and protect you from deadly disease.”

Key words— “rescue” and “protect.” Again provision is being made for every contingency. Traps and diseases. We mull these things through, and we realize that this is a”top notch”  first class security provision. He simply gives safety to everyone who calls to Him.

V. 4, “He will cover you with his feathers.
    He will shelter you with his wings.
    His faithful promises are your armor and protection.”

Key words— “cover” and “shelter.” There is a place beyond us which continues this wonderful protection. The imagery is obvious to those us from the farm. It is the mother hen covering her babies, her chicks. She is the most protective personality on the farm, especially when she has little ones.

“Faithful promises” assure us of the veracity of His Word. They can support your weight, completely. Here in Alaska, January is the month we can venture on the ice. The lakes are completely solid. We even have car races!

“Armor and protection.” No foe, no hassle, no evil enemy can touch us. The Father has made us completely impervious to anything evil, or threatening. I once had a curse pronounced on me by a self-proclaimed witch. But I just knew she was totally powerless, and I was protected by God’s love. I didn’t worry at all.

V. 5, ” Do not be afraid of the terrors of the night,  nor the arrow that flies in the day.”

I know this is all figurative, we read it and then understand it in this way. Terrors, and arrows. Night and day. No matter, I choose not to be afraid of whatever comes my way.

V. 6, ” Do not dread the disease that stalks in darkness, nor the disaster that strikes at midday.”

Evil has many ways to reach out and touch us. It comes hidden in the night, and visible during the day. But we really can’t retaliate against evil forces. Rather, we submit to God. We are told not to dread them.

V. 7, ” Though a thousand fall at your side,
though ten thousand are dying around you,
these evils will not touch you.”

My grandfather survived a brutal attack by the Nazis in Italy in ’44. In his company, only two survived. He and one other. As their position was overrun, he laid in a foxhole and pulled a corpse over him until the enemy passed.

I think of this and I’m both relieved and angry. But as we enter into life’s horribleness, we are told of a supernatural grace that protects us. Although we can’t be certain of being impervious to the dark, our hearts and souls are protected. Evil may attack and destroy very many, but you will not be touched.

V. 8, ” Just open your eyes,
and see how the wicked are punished.”

We are told to watch, and discern all that is happening. We are to see and evaluate what is taking place around us. We are never to be ostriches with our heads buried in the sand. Look, and see what is happening around you.

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 145:17-18– A Very Certain Kindness

His kindness covers me

17″ The Lord is righteous in everything he does;
    he is filled with kindness.
18 The Lord is close to all who call on him,
    yes, to all who call on him in truth.”

Psalm 145:17-18, NLT

If you are going to have a God, I hope you choose the God of the Bible. He is full of kindness, and always is doing the right thing, He is consistent, dependable, steady and true.

Consistency is perhaps the most under-rated traits of His personality. We see so little of it in the world of men. He is unchanging and unfailing. He never gets up on the wrong side of the bed, and Mondays are just another day in the world of men.

Commentary

V. 17, “The Lord is righteous in everything he does;
    he is filled with kindness.”

We have never met anyone who is like this. Imagine having never sinned, or, never will sin. I’ve come to see that David is slicing through God’s character in these verses, and giving us just a small piece at a time. It’s really all we can handle.

David insists that the Lord God is “filled with kindness.” In Romans 2:4 Paul insists we get a grip on it,

“Don’t you see how wonderfully kind, tolerant, and patient God is with you? Does this mean nothing to you? Can’t you see that his kindness is intended to turn you from your sin?”

Kindness is far more than being nice and friendly. In the UK they have a “Kindness Day” every November 13th. I’ll occasionally see a bumper-sticker exhorting me to “Practice random kindness and senseless acts of beauty.”

Kindness has a central idea of being for the undeserving. Within Judaism the word is “mitzvah” of good things and blessings done to others. Judaism also teaches that God made the whole earth based on kindness.

V. 18, “The Lord is close to all who call on him,
    yes, to all who call on him in truth.”

I like cheddar cheese, and summer sausage. I  recently discovered that both taste better sliced thin. And I guess that’s what I’m doing here taking just a verse at a time. I also think that is what the psalmist is doing. Little slices of the heart of God.

In another place it says, “the nearness of God is my good.” Proximity to God brings Him closer to you. He draws us, and if we decide to obey, He then comes Himself to our lives.

“Calling on Him in truth,” means no duplicity— not a shred of manipulation. I always think of Nathanael being called to walk with Jesus in John 1:47-49.

 “Jesus saw Nathanael coming to Him, and *said of him, “Behold, an Israelite indeed, in whom there is no deceit!” 48 Nathanael *said to Him, “How do You know me?” Jesus answered and said to him, “Before Philip called you, when you were under the fig tree, I saw you.”

*

ybic, Bryan

I Love the House! Psalm 84:1-4

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

 Psalm 84:1-4

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

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

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

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

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

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

ybic, Bryan

Tripping Over the Museum: Psalm 25:15–18

14 The Lord is a friend to those who fear him.
    He teaches them his covenant.
15 My eyes are always on the Lord,
    for he rescues me from the traps of my enemies.

16 Turn to me and have mercy,
    for I am alone and in deep distress.
17 My problems go from bad to worse.
    Oh, save me from them all!
18 Feel my pain and see my trouble.
    Forgive all my sins.

Psalm 25:14–18, NLT

These are delicate verses, each one is soaked with salty tears. We slam through them so quickly, and completely disregard the meaning and purpose. It would be like taking a 10 minute tour of the National Gallery in London.

The content of these five verses alone are made sacred by suffering. They seep blood and stink of sweat. Their source is found in a broken and hurting heart (which makes up most of the human race.) Take these four verses, and compare just then with any other religious texts. There is an obvious dearth between the Christian Bible and anything coming out of comparative world religions.

flourish-small

Commentary

V.14., Golly. The very well-being of this Psalm focuses on this  conspicuous fact. You just might say that our faith also depends on this– being a true friend with God. Indirectly this connects us with Abraham– he was known as “a  friend of God.” He also is brightly tutored into God’s covenant and His ways. (See James 2:23.)

V. 15,  the writer tells us things we must know about himself. There is a settled fact in his mind; he is always looking for the heart of God. He diligently continues to look at his Father’s eyes. I get the sense that this is one of those enduring habits he had decided to do “before” and he has trained his eyes to look. The idea is that there are “traps” just accentuate the urgent need. Traps only intensify the deep urgency of getting it right (and avoiding pain.)

V. 16, is  such a personal prayer to a personal God. (This is what I meant earlier when I talked about the superiority of the Christian writings.) The persistent question must be asked, “How personal is God to your soul?” Can you be this truthful or honest with Allah, or the Buddha? Are you just connecting on a superficial level, or our you in a true intimacy with the true God? Christians will talk about a “personal relationship with Jesus Christ.” This phrase tries very hard to make an intimacy real and authentic.

V. 17, ” My problems go from bad to worse.  Oh, save me from them all!”
Wondering  this will lead you through a lot of twisted theology, and logical anxiety. The stark reality is our faith was never meant to relieve us from the issues of living life. The psalmist seems to think that things may have gotten worse. I’ve read somewhere that birds in a cage will actually sing louder. It strikes me that the purpose of life is not to find your freedom– but your master. (We easily look for “so-called” freedom.)

V. 18, Feel my pain and see my trouble.  Forgive all my sins.”  Most of us would agree. We must put the “best foot forward.” We really try to clean up, and do the right things to be accepted by God. Hide the dirty dishes in the oven, and spray air freshener all over. But, this is pretty much unacceptable.

But acceptance by this (neurotic behavior) is never the basis for His love. It can’t be! We will never do enough good things to outweigh our bad. God has “junked” His scales, you will never see them in His courts. He will never measure the good you’ve done. And the all the bad– well, that has been dropped into the Mariana Trench.

“He will again have compassion on us;
He will tread our iniquities under foot.
Yes, You will cast all their sins
Into the depths of the sea.’

(Micah 7:19)

(“I want the presence of God Himself, or I don’t want anything at all to do with religion… I want all that God has or I don’t want any.” )
― A.W. Tozer

kyrie eleison, Bryan

(Lord, have mercy on us)

*

Something All Lit Up: Psalm 42

all-lit-up

“Oh Father, I want us to be swallowed up in this Psalm. Not that it’s a happy place to be. But to learn how to be in an unhappy place is what we need. And this Psalmist does it so well. He is miserable so well. I want You to teach Your people how to be struck down, well. How to be in turmoil, well. How to be downcast, well. How to have waves break over them, well. And the Psalms, and this one in particular, is so well suited to help us. So grant that we would know how to feel and how to think with You in the Psalms. Through Christ I pray. Amen”

~Dr. John Piper, referencing Psalm 42

Psalm 42 is a distillation of a wonderful theology. It is quite profound in the certain ways it understands God.

These 11 verses carry us into presence of God, and these 11 verses put us into His presence. What more could we ever want?

Vv. 1-3, establishes  the incredible hunger (whether or not we see it) we as humans have for God. Hunger and thirst are the particular desires, and these are strong needs. Don’t underestimate them. They’re quite intense.

Vv. 4-7, carries a special awareness of a cluster of memories. They somehow remember of how things once were, a long time ago. Any frustration, or discouragement should never become the very method of living. It’s  just temporary, and never something to lock down on. Too many believers could lose faith at this moment.

V. 8 presses on to us by God’s great love and power. He reacts to us, as we ourselves reacted in v. 1-3. He presses us, just like we insisted earlier.

V. 9-11, we work over the language of earlier verses. So much is simmering here, and so much to consider.  We do indeed to wrestle through so much resistance, but yet, it can be expected, if we are who we say we are.

All together, we see that the complete spectrum is covered. Psalm 42 meets us, in whatever frame of mind/heart we find ourselves. It’s precisely what we need, no matter where we find ourselves. We are His, because He wills us to be. His own love, carries us to His side. )

ybic, Bryan

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