Walking with the Psalmist

Psalm 13 is a song of David, and a prayer for help in trouble. What I love about the psalms of David are the parallels to my own emotional ups and downs. Let's dive in.

1 How long, O Lord? Will You forget me forever?
How long will You hide Your face from me?
2 How long shall I take counsel in my soul,
Having sorrow in my heart all the day?
How long will my enemy be exalted over me?
— Psalm 13:1-2 (NASB)
Pixabay

Pixabay

Do you ever feel like David? Do you ever wonder where God is? Does it seem as though He has forgotten you or is hiding His face from you? Have you ever felt like you are the only person you can trust? Do you ever have days where all you can feel is sorrow, or maybe you feel nothing at all, simply numb? Have you felt as though a very real, but unseen enemy is out to get you? Or maybe your enemy is something or someone real, like cancer, a hard nosed boss or a bully. 

I have felt this way. The truth is, I think most of us have felt pretty much alone at some point or other in our lives. Sometimes, we carry burdens that we cannot share, which make us feel very alone and like the psalmist we cry out to God, "Where are you?"

3 Consider and answer me, O Lord my God;
Enlighten my eyes, or I will sleep the sleep of death,
4 And my enemy will say, “I have overcome him,”
And my adversaries will rejoice when I am shaken.
— Psalm 13:3-4 (NASB)
Pixabay

Pixabay

The psalmist asks God to consider his situation. David spent a good portion of his adult life running and hiding from his enemies. I'm pretty sure this song was born out of the frustration and exhaustion of not being able to live a normal life. 

You are probably familiar with the phrase, the new normal. Most often this phrase is used by someone who has encountered a major life change, either a job loss, loss of a loved one, physical limitation or other difficulty that makes life different than it used to be. I used to be able to eat whatever I wanted, whenever I wanted. I can't do that anymore. Now life is made up of looking at food labels, cutting my food in half so I don't eat too much and cutting out things I used to enjoy like donuts and ice cream. This is the new normal. 

I do not see anything wrong with asking God to consider us. We are His creation. Consider these verses:

Consider the ravens, for they neither sow nor reap; they have no storeroom nor barn, and yet God feeds them; how much more valuable you are than the birds!
— Luke 12:24 (NASB)
Pixabay

Pixabay

Consider the lilies, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin; but I tell you, not even Solomon in all his glory clothed himself like one of these.
— Luke 12:27 (NASB)
Photo credit  Rebecca Trumbull

Photo credit Rebecca Trumbull

The one who has every hair on our heads numbered can most certainly be bothered to consider us, when we cry out to Him. 

I think the psalmist was also praying for wisdom, or maybe he was just asking God to help him stay awake and keep vigilant watch for his enemies, lest they overcome him and he sleep the sleep of death. Either way we can ask God for help, whether it be for wisdom, or for physical strength. 

1 I will lift up my eyes to the mountains;
From where shall my help come?
2 My help comes from the Lord,
Who made heaven and earth.
— Psalm 121:1-2 (NASB)
I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.
— Philippians 4:13 (NASB)
But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him
— James 1:5 (NASB)

The last section of Psalm 13 is the upward swing.

5 But I have trusted in Your lovingkindness;
My heart shall rejoice in Your salvation.
6 I will sing to the Lord,
Because He has dealt bountifully with me.
— Psalm 13:5-6
Pixabay

Pixabay

There are four actions the psalmist does at the end of this song.

1. He remembers. He is speaking in the past tense, remembering other times the Lord has been faithful.

2. He trusts. He trusted in the Lord's lovingkindness in the past, and no doubt, will do so again. 

3. He rejoices. His heart rejoices in the Lord's salvation. We can derive from this statement, the psalmist has seen the Lord's salvation before. 

4. He sings. What a beautiful ending to a song that starts out at a rather low point. He can sing, because the Lord has dealt bountifully with him. 

What does this mean for you and I? First, I believe it is okay to ask God the tough questions. Where are you, God? How long will you keep quiet and not answer me? How long am I going to have to suffer? When will your deliverance come? God knows our frame. He also knows we don't see the whole picture, so I truly believe He understands and has compassion when we come to Him with our ceaseless questioning. Think about the many times your children or grandchildren come to you asking, why or when? Do you yell at them and tell them to be quiet? (Well, maybe once in a while, ha, ha). More often we answer with kindness and love. 

Secondly, I believe it is also alright to let God know we are at the end of ourselves. Consider and answer me, Lord, is a cry for help and reassurance, not a fist raised in defiance. God knows we hurt, sometimes in the deepest places of our being. There are people who suffer physically with pain we can't even imagine. There are people who hurt mentally or emotionally because of what others have done to them or to their family members. God knows our innermost hurts and struggles. 

Finally, I think the key is to follow the psalmist's example and not stay in that mindset of discouragement. Like him we need to choose to remember what God has done for us. We need to trust in the God whose lovingkindness is everlasting. We can rejoice in His salvation. Not only has He saved us from sin through His son Jesus Christ, but He has saved us from difficulties we cannot begin to imagine. Lastly, sing! Sing like no one is listening. Sing to bring the house down. If it is an age old hymn sing it with gusto. If it is singing along to your favorite Christian band, turn up the volume. 

Following David in his pattern of questioning, admitting and rejoicing we will be able to overcome. 

Walking with the Psalmist

When we take the time to look at the Psalms we can learn much about human behavior and about God. It is not my intent to look at every single Psalm, but pick and choose ones that have been meaningful to me in my walk with Christ. I grew up in a Christian home and made a commitment to Christ when I was twelve. Ever since I can remember, the Psalms were important to me. I have often felt that they enable the reader to see inside another human being and experience their emotions. While my spouse likes to jokingly call David, an emotional yoyo, many of the Psalms he penned were ones filled with the raw emotion of fear, guilt, anger and joy. 

In Psalm 1 we saw the comparison of the righteous man with the wicked. Today I would like to explore Psalm 8. This Psalm is titled, The Lord's Glory and Man's Dignity. It seems an appropriate header for a song that begins with the line, "O Lord, our Lord, how majestic is Thy name in all the earth..." (NASB) I thought this a beautiful Psalm to usher in the season of Spring and the coming of Easter. 

O Lord, our Lord,
How majestic is Your name in all the earth,
Who have displayed Your splendor above the heavens!
2 From the mouth of infants and nursing babes You have established strength
Because of Your adversaries,
To make the enemy and the revengeful cease.

3 When I consider Your heavens, the work of Your fingers,
The moon and the stars, which You have ordained;
4 What is man that You take thought of him,
And the son of man that You care for him?
5 Yet You have made him a little lower than God,
And You crown him with glory and majesty!
6 You make him to rule over the works of Your hands;
You have put all things under his feet,
7 All sheep and oxen,
And also the beasts of the field,
8 The birds of the heavens and the fish of the sea,
Whatever passes through the paths of the seas.

9 O Lord, our Lord,
How majestic is Your name in all the earth!
— Psalm 8 (NASB)

As usual, I like to pull the passage apart verse by verse.

Verse 1 

O Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth,

This verse sets the tone for the passage. David immediately establishes the order of authority. God is Lord. He is our Lord. David also points out, God's name is majestic in all the earth. God is Lord over all people and all the earth. This is completely understood when we believe that God is our creator. The Maker is the One who created it all and because of that He is our Lord. We are His creation. We are not on the same level as Him. 

It is unfortunate in today's world that God's name has become a tool to be used, rather than a name that is honored and glorified. I have heard, even people who claim to be Christians, use God's name in vain. There is a commandment for that remember?

You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain, for the Lord will not leave him unpunished who takes His name in vain.
— Exodus 20:7 (NASB)

God's name is majestic and should be spoken with reverence and love, not flippantly like so many others words in our language. 

Lake Erie, sunset

Who have displayed your splendor above the heavens.

When i first became familiar with this psalm, I thought this was a question. I am much more aware of proper punctuation and grammar now, This would read more smoothly in both the NIV and the ESV - 

You have set your glory
in the heavens.
— Psalm 8:1 b (NIV)
You have set your glory
in the heavens.
— Psalm 8:1 b (ESV)

It is, no doubt, God, who sets the sun and the moon in their places. He dropped each star onto that blanket of blackness like a child playing with glitter glue. He is the one who places the rainbow in the sky and the planets in their orbits. Any sunrise or sunset I am privileged to witness, my mind immediately recites this first verse. 

Verse 2

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Pixabay

From the mouth of infants and nursing babes You have established strength

It is fairly common for the Almighty God to use the weak things of this world to overcome the strong. 

But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong;
— 1 Corinthians 1:27 (ESV)

Jesus used children to explain the simplicity of getting into heaven. 

Truly I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child will not enter it at all.”
— Luke 18:17 (NASB)

Because of your adversaries, to make the enemy and the revengeful cease.

God did this, because of His enemy, more specifically Satan. Over 2000 years ago a baby was born and laid in a manger. That baby was the only one who had and still has the capacity to make the enemy and the revengeful cease! 

Verse 3

When I consider Your heavens, the work of Your fingers, the moon and the stars which You have ordained, 

The psalmist had no doubts about who created the world. He wasn't questioning the age of the earth or whether it was created in seven literal days or seven ages, he knew the world was the work of the One whose name was Majestic. He knew the moon and the stars were the work of His fingers. That knowledge made him shudder with humility.

Verse 4

What is man that You take thought of him and the son of man that You care for him?

The psalmist questions this God, whose name is Majestic, and so too should we. Who are we that God would take thought of us or that He would care for us? Yet He does. In fact....

Verse 5

Yet You made him a little lower than God

Whoa! Did you catch that? It doesn't say, He made us like pond scum. Evolutionists would like the world to believe that we came from just that, pond scum. But no! We are made only a little lower than God. How does that make you feel? It makes me feel all warm and fuzzy, but also very humbled. God made us with intentionality to be only a little lower than His majesty! 

And You crown him with glory and majesty!

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Pixabay

How about that? We get to be majestic too! He chooses to crown us with glory and majesty. Wow! That is really all I can say. Wow!

Verse 7 & 8

You make him to rule over the works of Your hands; You have put all things under his feet,

I know there are people who take issue with this idea. I believe we are to treat all of God's creation with respect and dignity. I also believe in managing the creation we have been given and taking care of it, so yes, I eat meat, my husband hunts and we cut the grass. The verse plainly says that all things are subject to us and we are to rule over the works of His hands. That does not mean we are to abuse or misuse. He gave us this responsibility and that is exactly how we should treat it, as a responsibility, not a free for all. 

The psalmist then goes on to list some of the things that are under our rule.

All sheep and oxen, and also the beasts of the field, the birds of the heaven and the fish of the sea, whatever passes through the paths of the seas. 

Pixabay

Pixabay

I am pretty sure when David penned these words he was thinking back to the story of Creation. He knew that man was made to take care of the earth and rule over it. This was a privilege and a joy. 

Finally, he bookends the psalm by repeating the opening phrase.

Verse 9

O Lord, our Lord, how majestic is Your name in all the earth. 

I think this is a lovely psalm to memorize or at least read over on occasion, especially as the seasons change. The dark, drab, cold months will be giving way to the warm rains, flowers and sunshine of spring and then summer. Let's try to remember how incredibly blessed we are to not only be able to enjoy His creation, but also that our position is meant to be only a little lower than the Creator Himself. That gives us worth, value and hope! 

Have a great day. 

 

 

 

Walking with the Psalmist

Last month I began a discussion on the first song in the book of Psalms in the Old Testament. While we do not know for sure who wrote this psalm, it is clear, by its inclusion in the Scripture, it is important. I explained that Psalm 1 describes two men, a righteous one and a wicked one. Last month I concentrated on the righteous man and found ten characteristics that a righteous man will have. This month, I want to look more closely at the wicked man.

1 How blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked,
Nor stand in the path of sinners,
Nor sit in the seat of scoffers!
2 But his delight is in the law of the Lord,
And in His law he meditates day and night.
3 He will be like a tree firmly planted by streams of water,
Which yields its fruit in its season
And its leaf does not wither;
And in whatever he does, he prospers.
4 The wicked are not so,
But they are like chaff which the wind drives away.
5 Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment,
Nor sinners in the assembly of the righteous.
6 For the Lord knows the way of the righteous,
But the way of the wicked will perish.
— Psalm 1:1-6 (NASB)
Pixabay

Pixabay

What sort of characteristics describe the wicked man.

1. They are not like the righteous man.

Verse 4 begins with the phrase, "The wicked are not so." It would logically follow that all of the traits that were listed to describe the righteous man are not traits the wicked man has. In other words this man does not love God's word, they hang out with other's who do not love God's word and they are not firmly rooted in God's law. 

2. They are like chaff.

What exactly is chaff? In this Old Testament context the word chaff was used to describe the outer hulls of seeds and other debris separated from the seed when threshing grain. Before the age of huge farm machinery, threshing was a laborious task done by hand on a threshing floor. The stalks of grain were beaten with a piece of wood called a flail. Chaff is not useful for anything and was thrown away. 

It might seem to us, calling a person chaff, is rather mean, but these words were inspired by a holy and righteous God. The point was to give us a comparison with no doubt involved. Righteous is righteous and wicked is wicked. 

3. They are driven away by the wind.

I think we can derive two ideas from this. First of all, the chaff in the threshing process was often swept up to blow away in the wind. It was meant to be discarded, just as our modern combine separates the chaff from the seed out in the field. Have you ever driven by a field when the combine is working and noticed a cloud of dust flying up in the air? That is not just dirt!

The second idea that came to my mind is, often people who do not know God are driven to and fro by the changing winds of life. They try anything and everything to fill the emptiness that exists inside of them and they most often are looking out for their own interests willing to step on others to feel fulfilled.

Pixabay - judgment

4. The wicked will not stand in the judgment.

The idea of judgment has become the elephant in the room. No one wants to talk about judgment. No one wants to discuss the consequences of sin. How often do you hear a sermon about sin, hell or the anger of a righteous God? Not as often as we used to, I'd venture to say. While I think we need to show love, wait for the right opportunities and reply with gentleness, we also can't stop talking about the idea that God is a holy and perfect God and we are not. That was and still is the reason Jesus became a man, walked on this earth, died on a cross and rose again. If we stop talking about judgment we might as well stop talking about Jesus. 

Jesus Christ is who differentiates us from all other religions. It is His blood that covers a righteous man and it is only His blood that allows the righteous man to stand at the final judgment. The wicked man will not stand because he has not recognized Christ as the way, the truth and the life.

For us to say, "I don't believe in hell or a judgment," is like saying, "Seventeen people didn't get shot at a high school in Florida." Just because it is terrible, doesn't mean our ignoring it or wishing it away makes it any less a reality. 

5. The wicked will not stand in the assembly of the righteous. 

I am not sure in this case whether it is similar to the judgment, they won't be able to, because their wickedness separates them from the righteous, or if it has to do with their own desire. The wicked do not want to stand in the assembly of the righteous. We have churches closing their doors at an alarming rate. For further info on this Dr. Richard Krejcir of churchleadership.org wrote an eye opening article titled Statistics and Reasons for Church Decline. Ken Ham of Answers in Genesis, wrote a book a few years ago titled Already Gone, which addresses the exodus of many young people from the church. If those who would be righteous aren't even staying in the assembly of the righteous, then the wicked certainly won't be drawn to the church. 

St. Albans Cathedral - England trip 2012

St. Albans Cathedral - England trip 2012

This is just my take on the verse. It is more likely that the wicked won't be able to stand in the assembly of the righteous because of their wickedness. 

6. The wicked will perish.

This isn't a pleasant thought. It might be easy to think of someone like Hitler perishing, because we could easily point out his wickedness, but the scripture is clear:

for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,
— Romans 3:23 (NASB)
For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.
— Romans 6:23 (NASB)
that if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved;
— Romans 10:9 (NASB)

While the standing of the wicked man compared to the righteous man is not pleasant, there is hope. If you are a Christ follower, then you are already familiar with that hope. You are also in a position to help someone who doesn't have that hope. Live your life in Christ out loud, so all the world can see. I leave you with these verses, which I will feature next week on my Mulling It Over column.

23 But refuse foolish and ignorant speculations, knowing that they produce quarrels.
24 The Lord’s bond-servant must not be quarrelsome, but be kind to all, able to teach, patient when wronged,
25 with gentleness correcting those who are in opposition, if perhaps God may grant them repentance leading to the knowledge of the truth, 26 and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, having been held captive by him to do his will.
— 2 Timothy 2:23-26 (NASB)

Three Little Commands - Rejoice Always

I just got back from visiting my mom for the weekend, so this post is going to be a bit late. On my drive home, I spent a little time praying, listening to music and thinking about this idea of rejoicing always. Like I have mentioned before, it seems to be much easier to rejoice when things are going smoothly.

Pixabay

Pixabay

Before I got on the road this morning my daughter texted me to let me know my grandson had been up most of the night vomiting. I was trying to get on the road early so I would be there to pick him up from school, now I didn't have to since she would be staying home from work to take care of him.

It is hard for my girl. She is a single mom and she relies heavily on me to help with childcare and other things that some times overwhelm her. As I drove through the  beautiful fall landscape I found myself praising God for that moment. The colors were absolutely stunning. Dark reds, bright reds, golden yellows, burnt orange and pale salmon, all praising their Creator for just being. Even though I felt worried about my grandson and my daughter (fear that now she'll get sick and miss another day or two of work), I found myself in awe of this God who formed our world with nothing but a word. 

fall leaves

The idea of rejoicing seems, almost, old fashioned. How often do you hear someone say, "I am rejoicing that I saved money at the grocery store today." Or how about, "I am so full of joy that I get to go to the dentist today." Webster defines rejoice as, "to give joy" (transitive verb) or "to feel joy or great delight" (intransitive verb). Joy seems to be most often associated with a special celebration like a wedding, winning the football game or having a baby. All of these things are momentary and when the celebration is over, we might be left feeling a little let down.

Pixabay

Pixabay

So what did Paul mean when he said, "Rejoice always...." (1 Thessalonians 5:16)? We can't be having constant parties and celebrations to keep our joy intact. That would get expensive and tiring. Our joy is to come from Christ Himself. 

celebration

If you look at the Old Testament you will find a pattern in which the people of God, the nation of Israel were on again, off again in their relationship with God. When they were off they usually ended up in captivity. God would always come back around, sending some warrior, or prophet to bring them back into a right relationship with him and lead them out of captivity. It was during these times of reconciliation that they rejoiced.

...and on that day they offered great sacrifices and rejoiced because God had given them great joy, even the women and children rejoiced, so that the joy of Jerusalem was heard from afar.
— Nehemiah 12:43 (NASB)

Ezra and Nehemiah are both good books to read in the Old Testament to see examples of God's mercy towards his people. Note in the above verse it was God that gave the people great joy. It wasn't their goodness, nor their sin that gave them great joy, it was God.

But I have trusted in Your lovingkindness; My heart shall rejoice in Your salvation.
— Psalm 13:5 (NASB)
I will rejoice and be glad in Your lovingkindness, Because You have seen my affliction; You have known the troubles of my soul,
— Psalm 31:7 (NASB)
For our heart rejoices in Him, Because we trust in His holy name.
— Psalm 33:21 (NASB)
Let all who seek You rejoice and be glad in You; And let those who love Your salvation say continually, “Let God be magnified.”
— Psalm 70:4

Those verses are just a few of the songs of King David that point to God as the source of our rejoicing. Rejoice in Him, let all who seek Him rejoice. This would imply that in order to rejoice always I need to be in His presence. I know, sounds crazy, right! How can we be in His presence always? We are busy people; working, taking care of kids, spending time with friends and family. Doesn't spending time in God's presence mean I have to be away from it all? Don't I need to go into a quiet room, after all it used to be called a "quiet time."

While it is beneficial to get away and spend time alone with God, we must also realize that is not the only time we have to spend with Him. God is omnipresent. That means He is everywhere, so He is with us all the time. All I have to do is talk to Him. Lest you think I walk around talking out loud all the time, the truth is I am very much an introvert. I get tired when there is too much talking and noise, or if I am around too many people for too long. 

Remember last week when I talked about taking every thought captive? Well, that applies to rejoicing always. I can be in God's presence in my head. I don't have to speak out loud. In that case, my thoughts can be Godward focused as often as I direct them there. That's where the difficulty lies. Taking every thought, the good and the bad, captive to the obedience of Jesus Christ. 

Only God can give us true joy. Only in Him can we truly rejoice. Yes, there are beautiful things in life that bring us joy, but they are temporary. The only way to rejoice always is to practice being in God's presence always. It is only in His presence that we fill all our springs of joy (Psalm 87:7).