Paradigm Shift: Psalm 8:1-5

Understanding things for the first time

To the Chief Musician. On the instrument of Gath. A Psalm of David.

1 “O Lord, our Lord,
How excellent is Your name in all the earth,
Who have set Your glory above the heavens!

Out of the mouth of babes and nursing infants
You have ordained strength,
Because of Your enemies,
That You may silence the enemy and the avenger.

When I consider Your heavens, the work of Your fingers,
The moon and the stars, which You have ordained,
What is man that You are mindful of him,
And the son of man that You visit him?
For You have made him a little lower than the angels,
And You have crowned him with glory and honor.”

Psalm 8:1-5, NKJV

As I read this over and again, I was particularly struck by the power we have to extol God. And that is truly remarkable! We can make Him great, and then expand that greatness into the world around us. We can choose to reflect His glory, and kingdom. That is quite amazing, to give our Father that attention.

We influence others by our witness and worship.  It’s when we esteem Him, that we finally begin to announce His ascendancy and preeminence in our world. Now we know that we don’t adjust Him by doing this. For He is completely unchangeable and sovereign.  But certainly your worship and obedience somehow matters!

Commentary

V. 1, “O Lord, our Lord,
How excellent is Your name in all the earth,
Who have set Your glory above the heavens

Out of the mouth of babes and nursing infants
You have ordained strength,
Because of Your enemies,
That You may silence the enemy and the avenger.

David as a king is vital not only to his kingdom— but, the Kingdom. I believe he understands that he can influence the universe by what he declares. The word David chooses from his Hebrew vocabulary is “excellent.”  This word is defined as, ‘to possess outstanding quality or superior merit; remarkably good.’

V. 2, gives us a paradigm shift of focus. It isn’t just the universe (v. 1). Rather it is a complete (and totally) different direction. It’s now on babies, and nursing infants. These are frankly the most weak and vulnerable in our society. David takes us through the magnificent complexity of the planets and stars, right into the homespun innocence of a nursery, cribs and teddy bears.

When I consider Your heavens, the work of Your fingers,
The moon and the stars, which You have ordained,
What is man that You are mindful of him,
And the son of man that You visit him?

David now shifts back to the physical universe. He would’ve been very aware of the stars as he shepherded his flock. The Milky Way was a spectacular display of a creative power over his head. He saw the orderly movement, and attributed it to a Creator. David had no telescope, so he could only see maybe ‘one billionth’ of what we see today with our Hubble Telescope.

David does have a profound question though. He thinks through this display of magnificent creation to “man.” Why, and what is man? How can this Creator even slightly consider a human baby? And why does it matter even? These must be asked if we are to be people of integrity and truth.

V.5  ” For You have made him a little lower than the angels,
And You have crowned him with glory and honor.”

David both answers his questions, and expands them out further. He understands the theology of a creative order. However he makes it seem a trifle fantastic. Just a little lower— and yet crowned! David is perplexed and hopeful, at the same time.

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My Lifeguard: Psalm 54

For the choir director: A psalm of David, regarding the time the Ziphites came and said to Saul, “We know where David is hiding.” To be accompanied by stringed instruments.

Come with great power, O God, and rescue me!
    Defend me with your might.
Listen to my prayer, O God.
    Pay attention to my plea.
For strangers are attacking me;
    violent people are trying to kill me.
    They care nothing for God.  Selah

But God is my helper.
    The Lord keeps me alive!
May the evil plans of my enemies be turned against them.
    Do as you promised and put an end to them.

I will sacrifice a voluntary offering to you;
    I will praise your name, O Lord,
    for it is good.
For you have rescued me from my troubles
    and helped me to triumph over my enemies.

Psalm 54, (NLT) 

All of us are facing a considerable, unrelenting assault. It really doesn’t matter if you are a believer, or not. One of my favorite “Far Side” by Gary Larson is two deer talking in the woods. One of them has a humongous target on his chest. The other comments, “Bummer of a birthmark, Larry.”

We are all born marked. We each have something on us we can’t get rid of. Think of it as a  bull’s-eye,  that the enemy has trained his spiritual weaponry upon. This occupied planet, full of deep darkness and black sin, is a dangerous place to live. We are being stalked.

David touches on this in this particular psalm. He knows physically which we can know spiritually. That there is a violence that focuses on me. Something quite wicked that will show me no mercy or pity.

Commentary

V. 1 puts us at a point of dependency in all of this. Martin Luther, in his best hymn wrote,

“A mighty fortress is our God, a bulwark never failing;
Our helper He, amid the flood of mortal ills prevailing:
For still our ancient foe doth seek to work us woe;
His craft and pow’r are great, and, armed with cruel hate,
On earth is not his equal.”

This is the very first thing we must assimilate. On our own, Satan will chew us up, and spit us out.

V. 2, having the ear of God is what we should truly covet. We must have His attentive ear. We must be heard! “God! Please listen to me. Look at me, I need you desperately.”

V. 3, this is no fairy tale world full of glee and flowers. David grasps the situation without illusion. People want to kill him, to assassinate him. He isn’t being paranoid or deluded. He has a big target on him. He is hated and despised.

V. 4, “But God is my helper.
    The Lord keeps me alive!”

Praise has an element of boastfulness in it. That is its compelling power. When you stand in this remarkable Grace, you can face down anything. Perhaps David at this moment is remembering his showdown with the giant, Goliath. That was a bold approach then, and now another one is now needed.

V. 5,  “May the evil plans of my enemies be turned against them.
   Do as you promised and put an end to them.”

Not only is our enemy defeated, but his planning and strategies actually work against him. When we were in language school in McAllen, Texas, my young son came down with a terrible fever. Lynn and I were quite anxious, we were completely broke. There was no money for a visit to the ER. Zilch. I went upstairs to his room. I got down on my knees at his bedside, and I began to pray. When I laid my hands on him, he was burning up. So I prayed some more, pleading for God’s intervention. A few minutes later, I laid my hands on him again, and he was completely cool! It was God’s miracle (It certainly wasn’t mine). My faith soared.

V. 6, When joy is present, really there, there is no such thing as a demanding sacrifice. We give, without counting the cost. When I am truly grateful, I will feel no pain, and never consider any issues of value.

V. 7, ” For you have rescued me from my troubles
and helped me to triumph over my enemies.”

Two phrases that connect like puzzle pieces; “rescued me, and helped me.” When I think about this, I think of a lifeguard watching swimmers on a beach. He’s on duty, and on the beach all have his complete focus. Everyone is under His care.

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Hostile Territory: Psalm 61

To the choirmaster: with stringed instruments. Of David.

 1 Hear my cry, O God, 
   listen to my prayer; 
2 from the end of the earth I call to you 
   when my heart is faint. 
Lead me to the rock 
   that is higher than I, 
3 for you have been my refuge, 
   a strong tower against the enemy.

 4 Let me dwell in your tent forever! 
   Let me take refuge under the shelter of your wings! 
                         Selah

5 For you, O God, have heard my vows; 
   you have given me the heritage of those who fear your name.

 6 Prolong the life of the king; 
   may his years endure to all generations! 
7 May he be enthroned forever before God; 
   appoint steadfast love and faithfulness to watch over him!

 8 So will I ever sing praises to your name, 
   as I perform my vows day after day.

Psalm 61

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As human beings we live our lives under assault.  As we grow up very little gets communicated to us about spiritual warfare.  The stark realities of heaven and hell are seldom passed down to us. Evil remains abstract; it never becomes personal. Until.

Psalm 61 was written by David, who understood pretty clearly the evil that wanted to destroy him. He was someone who understood the vicious nature of reality. It seems that David wrote this song while he was running from his son. But there are only a couple of hints for that, nothing more. Ps. 61 is meant for the pursued soul, it is designed not to be autobiographical. The details may change from person to person, but we all live in hostile territory.

“There is no neutral ground in the universe; every square inch, every split second, is claimed by God and counter-claimed by Satan.”

 C.S. Lewis

Commentary

V. 1, have you ever talked to someone about something very important, but they aren’t listening? So, you raise the volume a bit, and put more energy behind your words.

V. 2, describes the vast scope of prayer, and its potency and clout. Even out there, teetering on the edge, God hears. David knows exactly where he needs to be. A rock that is way beyond me in scope and size. The “high ground” of the presence of God.

V. 3,  “for you are my safe refuge,  a fortress where my enemies cannot reach me” (NLT). In the Army, I learned tactics of “cover and concealment.” Essentially it’s to put yourself in the place of safety. It’s actually a great skill to have. High ground, thick walls, and out of the weather were all prime ways to find it. David announces to God, that He is his safe place. David has irrevocably put his trust in Him.

V. 4, Here are dual images that work together. God is to be a tent we live in, and wings to hide under. A hen opens up her wings, just enough for the chicks to collect. Now a chicken is not very formidable on our level. But God is. Under His wings we are in the safest place possible.

V. 5, isn’t really a popular truth today. Vows seem antiquated and part of the Old Testament.  But I think that is a bit harsh. We make vows when we get married. It’s a promise made before God and God’s people. Those vows are exceptional words of true commitment.

V. 6-7, we hear David speaking of himself in the “third person.” I think that this reveals a lot of humility. He doesn’t demean or diminish himself here, but in the light of what he knows its quite refreshing. David knows now what is of value, and what isn’t.

V. 8, within this verse we see David establishing a way of life. Vows and praises! Furthermore, David wants God to understand exactly how he intends to supervise his life from this moment on. He fully intends to be an eager servant in the ways of the Lord.

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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

We Grow, Somehow: Psalm 111:9-10 (the Conclusion)

9He has paid a full ransom for his people.
    He has guaranteed his covenant with them forever.
    What a holy, awe-inspiring name he has!
10 Fear of the Lord is the foundation of true wisdom.
    All who obey his commandments will grow in wisdom.”

“Praise him forever!”

 

Today, when someone says, “I work security,” we have a tendency to think of a “mall cop.” Someone who works for minimum wage, who thinks he/she is the ‘FBI.’ They thrive on greasy donuts and black coffee, with ego/control problems as they ride around on their “Segway.”

He is the One, who brings us security. He is not a “mall cop” by any means. He has no ego to protect, and prefers “loaves and fishes” over donuts. Yet, it is He who has decisively intervened over His own people.

Commentary

V. 9, “He has paid a full ransom for his people.
    He has guaranteed his covenant with them forever.
    What a holy, awe-inspiring name he has!”

A “full ransom.” This implies that a “cut-rate” bargain could of been negotiated, but it would only leading to doubts whether the transaction was really legitimate in the first place. (One never knows about these “back room” deals in a smoke-filled rooms.) But, we are assured that the full ransom has been paid.

The solid guarantee is the “forever-kind.” It is a definite improvement (by far) than we have ever encountered. For the discerning heart, we realize that all of this is an astonishment. We deserve nothing but have been given everything! And of course the word, “forever” intensifies everything.

The verse finishes with a spiritual flourish! What a holy, awe-inspiring name he has!”  It directs us back to consider, the worthiness of He who has done so much for us. Good worship comes out of that kind of thinking.

 

V. 10, “Fear of the Lord is the foundation of true wisdom. All who obey his commandments will grow in wisdom. Praise him forever!”

The truth has been definitely established in many other verses of scripture. “To fear God,” is the distinct point where we might start to consider being blessed. If you have no fear, you will remain forever lost and confused. The originating point for us is the fear of God.

The wisdom comes in the sense of growth. It is intrinsically tied with the idea of obedience to His requirements (or commandments.) Obedience gets a lot of “air play” in the Word. Obedience doesn’t save, but to obey means you have really have been saved.

I hope Psalm 111 has been a blessing to you. The entire series is archived on this website.

@

ybic, Bryan

 

Fantastically Solid: Psalm 111:7-8

Typical Ice-fishing shack

7 “All he does is just and good,
    and all his commandments are trustworthy.
They are forever true,
    to be obeyed faithfully and with integrity.”

Psalm 111:7-8, NLT

I seem to be in a place of learning “appreciation”— the study of God, through the majesty of the Word– the very promises– through acquired ideas of Him. We are starting to become gracious people and recognize the presence of grace.

Thankfulness is not confined to a holiday. It is the way we grow up in God. It is the main ingredient in this concoction of maturity.

“Thanksgiving is the language of heaven, and we had better start to learn it if we are not to be mere dumb aliens there.” A.J. Gossip

Note: This psalm is a Hebrew acrostic poem; after the introductory note of praise, each line begins with a successive letter of the Hebrew alphabet.

 

Commentary

V. 7, “All he does is just and good,
    and all his commandments are trustworthy.”

These twin ideas, “justice and goodness,” not only go together, but enhance each other. Being “just” without being “good” would be something awful. And to be good without being just would be very hard to imagine.

Everything God does is stellar. He is completely exceptional. And we can’t imagine all that it means. But, who’s complaining. It seems like I’m always reducing Him to my own level. It’s never too high, or too excessive. My understanding is far from complete.

“He manufactures truth and justice;
All his products are guaranteed to last—
Never out-of-date, never obsolete, rust-proof.
All that he makes and does is honest and true:”

(V. 11-12, Message)

I grew up in the 1960s in Wisconsin. The winters there are frequently below zero, with a nasty ‘wind-chill’ factor. But in the fall, people would get their ice fishing ‘shacks’ ready to await the go ahead of trekking out on the ice. People wanted to fish, but the ice thickness determined everything.

What God is, is quite solid. He is a “rock.” You can land a 747 on a Wisconsin lake in January, no problem at all, it’s like concrete. God and all He promises are even more substantial, “like a rock.”

V. 8, “They are forever true,
    to be obeyed faithfully and with integrity.”

Not just true, but “a forever-kind-of-true.” He is fully consistent, no cracks or ‘thaws.’ We on the other hand are unstable, liquid, weak. Even at our best we are vaporous. When we look about the spiritual landscape, strewn about with collapses and sin– the best of us, will admit to faults and sin.

God is so solid, and so true. Because of this, we have an obligation and a willingness to become people of a true integrity.

 

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

Praise is How We Grow: Psalm 111:1-3

“Praise the Lord!

I will thank the Lord with all my heart
    as I meet with his godly people.
How amazing are the deeds of the Lord!
    All who delight in him should ponder them.
Everything he does reveals his glory and majesty.
    His righteousness never fails.”

Psalm 111:1-3, NLT

This is a teaching psalm that’s purpose is to instruct or educate. This Psalm is a strict acrostic, with each line having an “ABC…” pattern. The first line (V.1) is the Hebriac phrase, “Hallel-jah” which we use in English, but it means “praise the Lord”.

Psalm 111 was part of a group of hymns sung while celebrating the Jewish feast of Passover. It is very possible that Jesus sang this song with His disciples just before His arrest in Gethsemane.

Because this psalm is constructed so well and so precisely we can safely assume it should have a honor and reverence among both Jews and Christians.

Commentary

V. 1, “Praise the Lord!” I will thank the Lord with all my heart as I meet with his godly people.”

Why is praising God so important? Why should we thank Him? I suppose the answer can be found in His worthiness. Our relationship is with a Someone who is omnipotent, omnipresent, and omniscient. In other words, He is all powerful, present everywhere, and all knowing.

Verse 1 also carries the idea of an existing fellowship of the “godly.” When we meet with each other to worship and praise, we activate and fortify each other. The Holy Spirit gives His gifts, and we will find a way to encourage each one.

V. 2, “How amazing are the deeds of the Lord!”
    All who delight in him should ponder them.”

We are cordially invited to wrap our heads and hearts around “the deeds of the Lord.” These are actions that God has done. These are things creative and redemptive. Our past, present and future are full of them. These deeds can be understood by those who delight in God, and ponder what He is doing.

Pondering is not ‘a piece of cake.’ You have to be motivated to ponder, and that takes a certain discipline. This Psalm has praise embedded all through it– so perhaps that is where we must begin.

V. 3, “Everything he does reveals his glory and majesty. His righteousness never fails.”

When we are exhorted by our elders to seek the Lord, that is a good thing. But how do we start? Remember, this Psalm is a teaching psalm. If we only listen to it, very closely, we will understand what we are to do.

The writer explains that we seek God by looking at what God does. (His actions speak louder than words.) He is creative– stars and galaxies, hummingbirds and salmon, snowflakes and monsoons. He created people and culture– Africans and Asians, Eskimos and Puerto Ricans. Indeed the whole earth is filled with the glory of the Lord.

To love Him is to honor His acts. To ponder all that He has done, or is doing, to save us from our sins and free us from our bondage. What He did to free the Hebrew slaves from Egypt is the story of us all. We should be people of joy, set apart to the Glory of God.

ybic, Bryan

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

People of the Crescendo: Psalm 51:15-17

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

Psalm 51:15-17, NIV

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

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

Commentary

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

*

ybic, Bryan

We Have Done Wrong: Psalm 106

6 We have sinned just as our ancestors did. 
       We have done wrong; we have done evil. 
 7 Our ancestors in Egypt 
       did not learn from your miracles. 
    They did not remember all your kindnesses, 
       so they turned against you at the Red Sea.
 8 But the Lord saved them for his own sake, 
       to show his great power.
 9 He commanded the Red Sea, and it dried up. 
       He led them through the deep sea as if it were a desert.
 10 He saved them from those who hated them. 
       He saved them from their enemies,
 11 and the water covered their foes. 
       Not one of them escaped. 
 12 Then the people believed what the Lord said, 
       and they sang praises to him. 

Psalm 106:6-12

This particular Psalm resists any kind of easy exegesis. We come and face this part of scripture, but it seems far too bulky. There are way too many verses that we have to deal with. But, there are segments residing within this psalm. But for the most part, they seems to be vaguely repetitious. A pattern develops– a situation is presented, the people take it, and then the people fall. This is repeated, over and over. But consistency can never be achieved, and this is the theme of 106. However— obedience should. We should want to obey in the specific area God is dealing with us on.

Our Father God is not to blame when we sin, He has pulled for us and given us all that He can. But you and I can become quite foolish, and when we do, we sabotage His grace, and short-circuit His power to work. We can be quite ignorant when we do this. We can do this intentionally if sin becomes alluringly close.

Verses 6-7, are “recognition” verses. There are certain things that must be understood before we can ever venture forward. Even our “repentance” needs to be examined closely. The infection of evil will even reach this particular point. The enemy spreads his disease, even without our knowledge.

Verse 8, explains very much. It seems that God is pushing His reputation ahead. What He does with this is profound. He absorbs all of the ugliness, and pain and darkness. He is a sponge. He absorbs all the dark and sinister things that fix themselves on our heart and soul. V. 8 explains to us what has just happened.

Verse 9, takes us into a powerful triumph over darkness. But focus, He is responsible for this! Verses 10-11 are important. The overriding issue here is “salvation”. Everything God does is designed to bring us to this point. Any first-year seminary student knows what “salvation” is. Being saved means we are ushered into safety, love and complete security. We pass through destruction, and arrive through it amazingly complete and whole.

Verse 11, completes the thought. Our deepest enemy is completely saturated with disaster. He is now nullified.  

Verse 12, Worship is one of those things which is first to come, and the last to leave. There is a certain awareness and realization that starts to develop. Very often we insist on knowing the “whys and wheres” before we face down the evil and darkness. But, if it doesn’t end up in worship, no one is going anywhere.

ybic, Bryan

Psalm 133: Catching Lightning in a Bottle

pb-1309119-lightning2.photoblog900

www.earthporm.com

1 How good and pleasant it is when brothers dwell together in unity!

2 It is like precious oil poured on the head, running down on the beard,

running down on Aaron’s beard, down upon the collar of his robes.

3 It is as if the dew of Hermon were falling on Mount Zion.

For there the Lord bestows his blessing, even life forever more.

One wonders how often this chapter has been quoted and used in sermons and homilies since it was first written by David. My guess is hundreds of millions which makes it a bit daunting to try to post on it and say something fresh that doesn’t sound trite.

I like the King James Version for verse one: “Behold how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity!” One gets the sense that this is a rare and wonderful situation as if lightning has been caught in a bottle. It certainly had been for King David who had seen all manner of disunity: persecution from Saul before he was king, palace intrigue, treachery and betrayal from evil men, and worst of all, violent opposition and betrayal from his own son, Absalom. Unity was so wonderful to him that he compared it to the anointing oil on Aaron’s beard and the dew that falls of Mount Hermon. Both are symbols of blessing and the fullness of the Holy Spirit.

It certainly must be a wonderful sight to God. One of the things that brings the most amount of grief to parents is when their children don’t get along. Conversely, one of the things that brings them the most joy is when all their kids have a harmonious relationship. God the Father has the same heart. Proverbs 6:19b lists as one of the seven things God hates: “…a man who stirs up dissension among brothers.” Once again, David and God share the same heart.

One reason why the unity of the brethren is such a rare and beautiful thing is because of the weakness and fragility of the human condition. The Book of James asks the question “What causes fights and quarrels among you?” The writer answers that it is corrupt desires that rage within us. We want what we can’t have and then ask God for things with impure motives.

Think about how this plays out in a local church and the seeds of discord it sows. A church leader can be there for all the wrong reasons. He wants to build his own little kingdom rather than building the kingdom of God. The people are there for him instead of him being there for the people. Disunity will be the putrid outcome.

Another common scenario: three or four families have held power in a particular church for years. A new pastor or priest is installed and, being led of the Holy Spirit, wants to take the congregation in a new direction. These families now feel like their power is threatened and their misguided motives will taint everything they do. Again, next stop: Discord City.

Compare this with the model for unity the apostle Paul sets out in Philippians 2: 1–11. Here unity is cultivated and maintained by each person doing “nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves.” Humility is the fertile soil unity grows in. There are no shortcuts here; all pride and vanity must be crucified on the cross. The resurrection life that emerges out of this will be fragrant like the precious oil poured on Aaron’s beard. It will be refreshing, like the dew of Hermon.

Unity of the brethren is like catching lightning in a bottle. Without God it is impossible; Lord help our unbelief!

flourish-small

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

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

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

Benjamin Franklin’s Original Bifocals

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

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

Psalm 108:5-6, ESV

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

Psalm 108:5-6, CEV

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

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

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

Commentary

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

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

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

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

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

Habakkuk 2:14, ESV

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

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

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

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

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

*

ybic, Bryan

3..2..1..We Have Worship! Psalm 108:1-4

With God We Shall Do Valiantly

A Song. A Psalm of David.

108 “My heart is steadfast, O God!
    I will sing and make melody with all my being!
Awake, O harp and lyre!
    I will awake the dawn!
I will give thanks to you, O Lord, among the peoples;
    I will sing praises to you among the nations.
For your steadfast love is great above the heavens;
    your faithfulness reaches to the clouds.”

Psalm 108:1-4, ESV

Today, we peer down this well of Psalm 108. It is deep, but that depth protects it from the heat of the sun. It holds a sweet water that quenches our spiritual thirst.

One issue for anyone looking at the Psalms is apparent repetition of vv, 1-5 which you can read in Psalm 57. And, vv. 6-13 are lifted from Psalm 60. I’ve read a few scholars (and pastors) who usually are pretty perplexed. But for me, I think of laminating wood to make it much stronger, and I think that this is worth considering.

I figured we’ll take about five posts to do 108 properly. We could easily do more, as the Word always continues to give more and more than we expect. It is always fresh and a real joy to share with you like this.

Commentary

V. 1, “My heart is steadfast, O God!
    I will sing and make melody with all my being!”

To be a worshipper doesn’t mean you play guitar or piano well enough to join a worship team and stand up on a stage. The first mention in the Word of a worship instrument was a “knife.”

“Then Abraham said to his young men, “Stay here with the donkey; I and the boy will go over there and worship and come again to you.”

Genesis 22

I would like to ask every worship leader, “Do you understand the “ministry of the knife?”

The implication of verse 1 is that we are the instrument of worship. I make music, “with all of my being.” Guitars are merely auxiliary. Worship that is done with the heart, doesn’t need them. (But it is nice to have them.)

V.2, “Awake, O harp and lyre!
    I will awake the dawn!”

This a weird idea, but it appears that our musical instruments, just being objects can “wake up.” They are inanimate objects that the worshipper uses, and they must “come to life” with the touch of a worshipping musician.

The dawn was very early. And all through scripture we see it as a time of “urgent expectation.” The dawn is a propitious time, and God always seems to honor it above any other time of the day.

V. 3, “I will give thanks to you, O Lord, among the peoples;
    I will sing praises to you among the nations.”

Thanks and praises. Peoples and nations. These ideas form a ‘methodology’ of worship.  “To you” is the focal point in that methodology. It’s all about Jesus. Always Him, past-present-future.

It’s worth noting that our “evangelism” be fueled by our worship and praise. I worked the streets in San Francisco as a ‘street evangelist.’ I was full-time for three years, and I encountered many different kinds of outreach.

Perhaps the most effective was getting a street closure permit and setting up a worship team right out there on the street. There was a festival feeling as the team played, and believers would mingle. The band would play for hours, and many good things happened.

V. 4, “For your steadfast love is great above the heavens;
    your faithfulness reaches to the clouds.”

Dimensions are used– primarily of extreme heights. It is used in this sense to express definition. How do I truly explain God’s love for me? (Or for you, for that matter?)

This metaphor is David’s particular favorite…”above the heavens (not just to the heavens, but above them.) Also, the sterling quality of this love shows up in the word “steadfast.” It endures, and endures, and then endures even more. And 20,000 years from now, our vocal chords will just be getting warmed up.

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ybic, Bryan

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

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Psalm 137

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Letters from Fawn Creek

 

ybic, Jonathan

You Made Me Strong and Brave: Psalm 138

A psalm of David.

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

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

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

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

Commentary

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

*

kyrie elesion, Bryan

(Lord, have mercy on us.)
 
 

Just Give Me Jesus: Psalm 42:1-6

Wishing to Be Near God

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

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

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

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

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

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

Commentary

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

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

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

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

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

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

Matthew 5:4, NLT

ybic, Bryan

Father, Wedge Me In Somewhere

nesting-sparrow

Psalm 46

New Living Translation (NLT)

For the choir director: A song of the descendants of Korah, to be sung by soprano voices.[a]

1″ God is our refuge and strength,     

always ready to help in times of trouble.

So we will not fear when earthquakes come    

 and the mountains crumble into the sea.

Let the oceans roar and foam.    

 Let the mountains tremble as the waters surge!”  Interlude

^

“Ever-present!” That is how another version words verse 1. I will not to have to hammer very long to get to the real point. It is as if these three verses were beautiful gems just waiting  on the ground. “Oh, look here! There is a diamond, and I saw a big ruby lying just over there!” The special promises of the Bible are just like that. I guess its just what holds our gaze.

The sons of Korah have compiled these verses for us to hold dear, close to our breasts. Korah was a family– a clan in the Jewish community. I’d like to believe that the composition of this Psalm knit them together in a profound way. (Their “family reunions” were not drunken brawls, where the police must be called in.) Rather they connected around the Word they had composed. Could it be that you are a son or daughter of Korah? I think that could be arranged. It would be a blessing.

These verses speak about the “secure security” we have in God. You’re the  98 pound weakling, with scoliosis– you wander the beach and very big bullies line up just to kick some sand in your face. And you really are sick of it. God has guaranteed our security. He now stands between us and them! And is always there, and ready to intervene.

The verses that follow all deal with calamities and natural disasters. In Mexico, I lived on the side of a volcano. I now live in Alaska with various earthquakes and tsunamis. I have been through hurricanes, tornados and floods. (I even went without coffee for three days.) But for God’s precious people, there will be triumph, even though there be at times considerable loss. We are not immune to bad things– we are just comforted and sustained in these terrible moments. We get comforted, when others can find none.

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ybic, Bryan

Your Face is Shining on Me: Psalm 67

For the director of music. With stringed instruments. A psalm. A song.  “Make Your Face Shine Upon Us”

 1 May God be gracious to us and bless us 
   and make his face to shine upon us, 
                         Selah

2 that your way may be known on earth, 
   your saving power among all nations. 
3 Let the peoples praise you, O God; 
   let all the peoples praise you!

 4 Let the nations be glad and sing for joy, 
   for you judge the peoples with equity 
   and guide the nations upon earth. 
                         Selah

5 Let the peoples praise you, O God; 
   let all the peoples praise you!

 6 The earth has yielded its increase; 
   God, our God, shall bless us. 
7 God shall bless us; 
   let all the ends of the earth fear him!

This dear one, is what we call a “liturgical” song, it’s a classic. The author was most likely a Levite, one of the priest’s assistants, but he had a gift for this. The song had been created for Israel, for the profound purpose of bringing and guiding God’s covenant people into a special place. I suppose we all could use the help in this.

Two “Selahs”. I believe this is our first contact with this term in our study. We don’t grasp the meaning, but a Hebrew psalmist would. Actually almost every school boy would understand this. But it keeps everyone aware that we are reading songs (but you don’t read them, you sing them!)  These are lyrics, people. You got to sing them, even if you annoy your neighbors. And so singing is perhaps what we should being doing, and less reading. 

Our lives don’t do that, we would vastly prefer reading or studying. The musical part of us, is to a large degree, atrophied and crippled.  Back in the day, I was a student in a small Bible college. One class was something fiendishly called “Music Conducting.” Now I’m tone-deaf, and furthermore have the musical rhythmic acumen of a tree sloth. I passed the class due to the incredible kindness of my instructor, who understood my calling to someday be a pastor; and she couldn’t bear to be the one to fail me.

Commentary

V.1, and bring out the howitzers! No one does this better and more intensely than writer of Ps. 67. Key words are “graciousness and blessing.” If we wake up tomorrow without these two graces,  we would definitely know it. The writer uses the phrase, “make his face to shine upon us”. This is taken from the Priest’s Prayer we find in Numbers 6:24-26, I’m using the Message Bible here.

24 God bless you and keep you, 
25 God smile on you and gift you, 
26 God look you full in the face 
           –and make you prosper.

Blessing, and then keeping: Smiling, and then gifting: Caring, and then making you prosper. Additionally the word for “God” is “Jehovah.”  That was the name He chose to use with His own people. The Levitical Blessing was a wonderful place to pray (or sing!) like this.

V. 2-3 places the deep-seated need to take God on a “world tour.”  However v. 1 tells us that this special friendship between God and His people needs to be genuinely figured out first. But the vision is universal– for everyone, everywhere. The joy just oozes out, like a very saturated and soggy sponge.

V. 4 doesn’t seem to have the charismatic personality of its brother in v.1. But neither is it to be trifled with. It places everything God wants to do, with all that He intends. My brother John Piper, has used v. 4 as the title of his book on World Missions, “Let the Nations Be Glad.” Great book, see DesiringGod.org.

V. 5 repeats v.3. It doesn’t compete with it, or supersede it in anyway. Maybe I need two feet to be mobile– a right and a left? Perhaps it made sense lyrically, or even musically?

V. 6 is well done as you would appreciate living in an agrarian society like Israel. It’s often seems like these guys are from Iowa, they know what a manure spreader looks like (and how it smells). Everything in terms of surviving or feasting was from the land. God’s presence, His name, and His deep care was a measurable and tangible blessing. Theology is reduced and perhaps, most appreciated by the poor farmer watching a tornado bypass his property.

V.7, is as sure of itself you could ever get. Boldness, without cockiness. Confidence, without arrogance. Steady, like a rock.

*

ybic, Bryan

God’s Night Shift: Psalm 134

temple-etching

Temple Guards, Praise the Lord

A song for going up to worship.

134 Praise the Lord, all you servants of the Lord,
    you who serve at night in the Temple of the Lord.
Raise your hands in the Temple
    and praise the Lord.

May the Lord bless you from Mount Zion,
    he who made heaven and earth.

Psalm 134, NCV

This remarkable Psalm is part of an elite group known as “the Psalms of Ascent.” These 15 were sung as the congregation of Israel went up the steps of the temple in Jerusalem. They would sing each in “rounds” with each other. As you can well imagine, this made the ascent slow, but meaningful.

As you read the three verses, I get a picture of worshippers turning back and blessing the Levites. This takes place at the very end of the day. The Levites, and other godly ones who lived in the Temple, (remember Anna and Simeon, in Luke 2?)

Commentary

V. 1, “Praise the Lord, all you servants of the Lord,
you who serve at night in the Temple of the Lord.”

The first significant thought is “Lord” mentioned three times. The word is the recognition of someone’s status and standing. We call Him Lord, because He is that (and more).

The second has to deal with the Levitical “night-shift.” They served and guarded the Temple during the wee hours of the night. They probably cleaned, stacked wood, sharpened knives and maintained the Holy Place with its needs.

There was no real glory working the night shift. There were no people to serve. The crowds were for the day shift. (Here’s a weird thought– think “Disneyland at 2:00 a.m.”) There was also a contingent of non-Levite people ministering to the Lord as well. They had no duties, and only the priests could serve through their work.

V. 2 “Raise your hands in the Temple
and praise the Lord.”

I’ve worked nights before. It’s a real adjustment. You never feel like you’ve had enough sleep, and it is really hard to be positive and cheerful.  I could get pretty grouchy at times.

But an exhortation is given, a shout and a blessing as the crowds leave. “Raise up your hands– and praise Him!” It is as the work, although necessary, would be secondary. The worship however, was primary. We need to hear that.

V. 3, “May the Lord bless you from Mount Zion,
he who made heaven and earth.”

To be blessed (made “lucky”) by our Creator and Lord is pretty profound. As a kid who read a lot, I think of “fairy dust.” I know better now, but to be blessed by God is deeply significant.

To summarize, I believe this Psalm is speaking of those in the church who are doing “hidden service.” No one sees them really. They go about there duties quietly, and purposefully. The only recognition is from God– who sees all.

I must encourage you to keep on. There are more than you think who see your hidden ministry to the Father.

*

ybic, Bryan

Worship Practice Starts Now: Psalms 150

Praise the Lord with Music

 1 Praise the Lord! 

    Praise God in his Temple; 
       praise him in his mighty heaven. 
 2 Praise him for his strength; 
       praise him for his greatness.
 3 Praise him with trumpet blasts; 
       praise him with harps and lyres.
 4 Praise him with tambourines and dancing; 
       praise him with stringed instruments and flutes.
 5 Praise him with loud cymbals; 
       praise him with crashing cymbals. 
 6 Let everything that breathes praise the Lord. 

    Praise the Lord!

Psalms 150, NCV

There exists an orchestra here, a certain symphony of praise. So many are escorted into this, and yet not enough are praising Him. These six verses give us a deep variety of instrumentation to choose from. Everything must be accepted, and brought into this certain place of blessing Him loudly.

There are 12 certain approaches listed in this psalm. Twelve ways to worship, who go on to create a deep harmony within each other. None of us operate on our own, but as believers are ushered into music practice. All of a sudden, we are much more than “spiritual musicians.” We are quite corporate, or at least should be.

Recently, I’ve gotten hooked on the Jazz musician, of Miles Davis. His work seems to be always a conundrum of a jazz and blues, but always several instruments working together, weaving a wonder that is exquisiteness at it’s best. He teaches me of how the Church weaves a certain connection between people.

Psalm 150 brings everything together, as we read it we should think “together.” We have “worship tools” that enhance what we want to do. Harps, tambourines, and flutes are some of what we play. All are invited as we excel in something more than the mundane or ordinary. We will never be elevator music or “Muzak.”

Psalm 150, the last psalm should really be the first psalm. (But I won’t make a federal case of it.) The throne room of God is not simply a visual place– it is just as much an auditory one. We do see things, but we also hear things, which are wonderful in themselves. Get ready dear ones, for a concert which will not disappoint, that is going on, without us, in the heavenly places.

*

ybic, Bryan