5 “Who can be compared with the Lord our God,
who is enthroned on high?
6 He stoops to look down
on heaven and on earth.
7 He lifts the poor from the dust
and the needy from the garbage dump.”
We often make comparisons. And I honestly think it is a good thing. When we compare one thing to another, we almost always choose the better over the inferior. Will it be Chinese or Mexican tonight? That depends. Do we attend this church or another? God lead me. Wear a sweater or a coat? Maybe a raincoat? Choices will often define us, whether they are small or large. We make 100s of them everyday.
The psalmist wants us to make a comparison. In his mind there is no one around that can come close to Yahweh, that sits on the throne supreme. But the psalmist asks the question anyway. He assumes that we will agree, and settle ourselves in this truth aware.
The question gets asked in verse 5. And the verses that follow (v.v. 6-9) are a true and accurate descriptions of our incredible God. Reading these will give God shape. These are profoundly remarkable, in scope and merit. He is an excellent God. He stoops and lifts the poor and needy. Most Sovereigns try to protect their thrones, and maintain an image of power and control. They clearly avoid any unscripted spontaneous contact with their “unwashed” multitudes.
Our Heavenly Father does not do this. Actually, He does the opposite. Truly remarkable.
“Lord who has mercy upon all, take away from me my sins,
and mercifully kindle in me the fire of the Holy Spirit.
Take away from me the heart of stone, and give me the heart of flesh,
a heart to love and adore you, a heart to delight in you,
to follow and enjoy you. For Christ’s sake. Amen.”
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.
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
“The Lord sustains them on their sickbed
and restores them from their bed of illness.”
Psalm 41:3, NIV
“The moment an ill can be patiently handled, it is disarmed of its poison, though not of its pain.”
Henry Ward Beecher
It is a general rule, that when you are sick– you become very vulnerable. I can attest to this having had more than my share of medical issues. And today, I’m smack dab in the middle of another one. It’s odd when one issue can open the door to another.
Ps. 41:3 is interesting. Especially for us who find themselves very sick. It is the “bedside promise” of our Lord’s presence. He is a visitor who comes to see us, to comfort and encourage us when we are flat on our backs. We are not alone, for He is truly our best companion. Typically our issues are disbelief and discouragement. We maybe in considerable pain, but for the most part that pain is a secondary issue. I can deal with the pain. My greater issues are this sense of intense abandonment. For the sincere believer, this can be frightening.
The choice of words here is perfect– “sustains and restores.” The Spirit’s ministry to us exceeds any antibiotic or surgical procedure. At my bedside, I will receive a spiritual treatment, that is administered by the wisest and greatest doctor who is present 24/7. He braces and bolsters me, effectively putting supports around me. He really does hold me in place. But He also restores. I have heard quite a few who have been ‘fixed up’ by their time in sickness or affliction. Some will look back fondly on their time of trial, because the Lord was restoring them.
My prayer for you dear one, is not that you are kept from affliction and sickness, but rather in your issues you discover a new sense of His amazing presence. This verse is one you can trust, and one you will need.
A psalm of David, regarding the time David fled from his son Absalom.
1 O LORD, I have so many enemies;
so many are against me.
2 So many are saying,
“God will never rescue him!”
3 But you, O LORD, are a shield around me;
you are my glory, the one who holds my head high.
4 I cried out to the LORD,
and he answered me from his holy mountain.
5 I lay down and slept,
yet I woke up in safety,
for the LORD was watching over me.
6 I am not afraid of ten thousand enemies
who surround me on every side.
7 Arise, O LORD!
Rescue me, my God!
Slap all my enemies in the face!
Shatter the teeth of the wicked!
8 Victory comes from you, O LORD.
May you bless your people.
8 Victory comes from you, O LORD.
Psalm 3:2 Hebrew Selah. The meaning of this word is uncertain, though it is probably a musical or literary term. It is rendered Interlude throughout the Psalms.
At the end though, the God of David does triumph. And since David trails so close behind, he too will understand victory. But none of this is easy, it certainly is not a “given.” David has to work through this “patch” of awful darkness, in order to get into the light.
V. 1, remember this, King David is being truly persecuted, and he isn’t paranoid. He understands being ostracized, and mocked as he walked down the street. There is as well, an idea of being hated by a whole lot of people. The word “many” is mentioned 3x in two verses. David is realizing the scope of all that he must endure. The slander, and mockery are intense. He seems to have become the ‘Richard Nixon’ of 1000 B.C.
V. 2, The people felt that David was beyond salvation. That he had simply sinned too much, and Absalom’s rebellion was just a reaping of what David had sown. He didn’t belong anymore in the “covenant of faith.” He was outside God’s love. This what the majority of people thought.
V. 3, 4, Pressed to the wall by this deep resentment, David makes his faith known. He declares that it is God who protects him, like a “shield.” He also pronounces that God is responsive to him; that God listens, and reacts to him. It seems that King David, who is mocked and villified by everyone, still has God’s ear!
V. 5, 6 There is peace, something special which is working through David’s life. This example of “sleeping” while people (10,000 enemies) encircle him is remarkable. Many of us would lose sleep if just one person is offended by us. But the masses David faced could have incapacitated him.
“I am not afraid.” This is an incredible declaration in the light of so much intense hatred. It is something bold, and confident, and perhaps a tad outrageous. But that is what grace is like to a watching world.
V. 7, 8, I suppose that this is a desire for justice. We agree that there is a right and a wrong. When we are “sinned against” we deep down want things to be restored. No one wants to live being hated and mocked. There is a profound sense, (it’s deep down ) and something innate. On several occasions I have experienced unjust situations, and am very much bothered to this day by those issues that have not been resolved.
In part one of our meditation on Psalm 15 we concluded by asking the question, ” Why does God’s heart grieve so greatly when His children do harm to one another?”
Part two simply states: The answer to this question is probably related to the truth that people are made in the image and likeness of God; they have incalculable dignity and worth. Because they are ‘God-like,’ to harm them with our words and deeds is in a sense to harm or offend God. Any parent knows that when their child has been slandered or cheated, they themselves feel slandered and cheated.
The Apostle John goes so far to say that “…anyone who does not love his brother, whom he has seen, cannot love God, who he has not seen” (I Jn. 4:20b). This is why Christ said, “If you do it to the least of these, you do it to me,” and why Mother Teresa of Calcutta was utterly convinced that her ministry to the poorest of the poor was really a ministry to Christ Himself.
Here’s how all this relates to Psalm 15— If someone harms their brother or sister in word or deed, they offend the entire Trinity– “Father, Son and Holy Spirit.” In doing so, they alienate themselves from God’s presence and will need confession and repentance of their sins in order to acquire forgiveness and re-enter that presence. David was familiar with these truths, and that’s why, in the aftermath of his adultery and committing murder, he said to God, “Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight” (Ps. 51:4).
Finally, I can now understand how many Christians, including myself, can be intimidated by Psalm 15. I can imagine a brother in Christ telling me, “Jonathan, I came from a very messed-up family. I’m not making excuses but I have a lot of unresolved anger because of what my parents said and did to me. Because of this, in the heat of the moment, I’ve said hurtful things to my wife that I can’t take back. I feel terrible about how I’ve hurt her and wonder if I’m forever separated from God’s presence. I certainly feel separated from hers.”
I would respond, “No, you’re not forever separated from the presence of God. The Psalms say, ‘His mercies endure forever.’ There’s a common teaching among practicing Catholics that God’s mercy is his greatest attribute and simply overwhelms all his other attributes (e.g., justice) just like the Pacific Ocean overwhelms a sea bass. I John 1:9 says, ‘If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.’ “ It’s good that you feel sorry about what you said, but let this sorrow lead to repentance and a real reconciliation with your wife. Please, dear one, make amends and always remember, His mercies are tender, unfathomable and inexhaustible. Put your trust in His unfailing love.”
David concludes the Psalm by saying that the person “who does these things will never be shaken.” The true Israelite will be at peace. This kind of believer will sleep well at night and can look himself in the mirror. He has evidenced his love for God by loving his brother. “There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear because fear has to do with punishment” (I Jn. 4:18). If we’re living right with God and our neighbor–i.e loving them, then what do we have to fear? The true Israelite has an inheritance in the kingdom of God that “is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit” (Rom. 14:17).
Psalm 15 (NIV)
A Psalm of David
1 Lord, who may dwell in your sanctuary?
Who may live on your holy hill?
2 He whose walk is blameless
and does what is righteous,
and speaks the truth from his heart
3 and has no slander on his tongue,
who does his neighbor no wrong
and casts no slur on his fellow man,
4 who despises a vile man
but honors those that fear the Lord,
who keeps his oath even when it hurts,
5 who lends his money without usury
and does not accept a bribe against the innocent.
He who does these things will never be shaken.
Many biblical scholars regard Psalm 15 as a kind of “entrance liturgy” where those Israelites seeking to enter the temple court are made acutely aware by a temple priest what kind of conduct is necessary to enter these sacred precincts. God is holy and requires those who want to enter his temple and dwell in His presence to also be holy (Lev. 11:44). Jeremiah 7:5–7 echoes this Psalm in that the Lord tells his people that He will only dwell in the temple with them if they “do not oppress the alien, the fatherless or the widow and do not shed innocent blood or follow other gods…”
The person described in Psalm 15, who qualifies to enter God’s holy presence, is first and foremost a person of sterling character and integrity. Verse 2 shows that what he says and what he does are one in the same. Verse 3 reveals that he has control of his tongue and verse 4a and b disclose that his assessment of other people’s character is accurate and commendable. His dealings with others are above reproach concerning oaths, lending money (no interest), and taking bribes (v.5). Please notice how this list of qualities is weighted heavily towards how one treats their neighbor: Our access to the presence and fellowship of God is inextricably linked with how we fulfill the Golden Rule.
Talk radio show host and virtuoso thinker Dennis Prager, who is deeply committed to Judaism, says there is a strong tradition in his religion that our judgment and reward from God in the hereafter will be mostly based on how we treated other people.
In Dante Alighieri’s epic poem, The Divine Comedy, there is much focus on the Seven Deadly Sins–Pride, Envy, Anger, Sloth, Avarice, Gluttony, and Lust–as Dante himself, the protagonist, takes a journey through Hell, Purgatory, and Heaven. What’s relevant for our study is that in the poem, sins like Pride, Envy and Anger are regarded as worse than sins like Sloth because they take delight in harming others.
Think of Christ Himself dividing up the sheep and goats at the end of the age in Matthew 25:31–46. One group, the sheep, are granted eternal access to the presence of God while a second group, the goats, is eternally banished from the presence of God. The criteria that Christ uses for making this judgment is how each group treated others, specifically whether they extended works of mercy to the hungry, thirsty, unclothed, alien, prisoner, and the sick.
Think of a good parent’s heart and family dynamics. Few things grieve the heart of a parent more–or God the Father–than their kids fighting, doing harm to one another, or withholding love and care to a sibling because of indifference or malice. This observation leads to the question, “Why does the abuse or neglect of our brother grieve the heart of God so, even to the point, in certain cases, of denying a person fellowship with His wonderful presence? We’ll explore that question in part 2 of our study.
“Sacrifice and offering you did not desire—
but my ears you have opened[b]—
burnt offerings and sin offerings[c] you did not require.
7 Then I said, “Here I am, I have come—
it is written about me in the scroll.[d]
Psalm 40:6, NIV
I am hard of hearing. I find I am constantly asking for people to speak up. At times I admit I just shake my head, and pretend I heard what was just said to me. I’ve been tested and I have significant hearing loss. Perhaps the years of rock concerts have taken there toll on my poor ear drums. And if the background noise is fairly loud I find myself in an auditory nightmare. But I am highly resistant to being fitted with a hearing aid.
David is writing about his hearing. Or, more precisely, his new found ability to hear. It would seem that the Father has given David the very real and significant ability to hear His voice. “My ears you have opened.” A work has been done in David’s life. He now has the supernatural ability to hear and listen to what the Lord is saying. I suggest that this is mot a casual or ordinary capability to the average person. This seems like a case when God has given David a special ability to hear what God is saying.
Open ears improve our service, and gives us wisdom, and a solid assurance. Many of us try hard to serve the Lord, but if we are spiritually deaf, we will constantly falter in this. Hearing as a sense is way too crucial to fake. Sometimes, I think the Holy Spirit has to resort to “sign” language to communicate to us. If we can not hear Him, how are we going to serve Him?
“My ears you have opened.” This suggests a true work of the Father. I once saw a poignant sequence of photos, which were taken of a boy whose hearing had been surgically restored. His face lit up, when he heard the voice of his father for the very first time. Somehow, I have to believe that this takes place when we hear Him spiritually for the first time.
Far too often, our hearing is blocked by the steady drone of background noise. There is too much noise, much is media driven. Temptation and sin create a bubble that filters out the Father’s voice. We are deafened by our own wrong choices and desires. Our spiritual hearing is compromised.
“Father, help us to hear you. Help us to do all that is necessary to tune your voice in. May our hearts receive your voice, that we may follow you even closer than we now do. In Jesus’ name.” Amen.
- Deafness and Hearing loss-Insights, Prevention, way forward (kobbyblay.wordpress.com)
- Five Common Myths about your Hearing (healthyhearing.com)
- 5 Unexpected Ways to Lose Your Hearing (healthyhearing.com)
- Psalm 40: Gratitude and Prayer for Help (daddyslittlebrat.wordpress.com)
21 Then I realized that my heart was bitter,
and I was all torn up inside.
22 I was so foolish and ignorant—
I must have seemed like a senseless animal to you.
23 Yet I still belong to you;
you hold my right hand.
24 You guide me with your counsel,
leading me to a glorious destiny.
25 Whom have I in heaven but you?
I desire you more than anything on earth.
26 My health may fail, and my spirit may grow weak,
but God remains the strength of my heart;
he is mine forever.
Psalm 73:21-26, NLT
Our hearts are unstable things. Our spiritual life is often in a turmoil. For many, the yo-yo is not much more than a toy to amuse a child. At any given time, it seems we can be in any given place. Only God truly knows how confused and tumultuous we get. Some intrepid photographer once put a bull in a china shop just to see what would happen. The pics are really funny, as the bull put on a raging show, blasting glass everywhere. The more he broke, the more agitated he became. Sometimes– I think about this.
Psalm 73 is like a silver trumpet. It sounds out many things. And when we get toward the end of the psalm we run smack dab into vv. 21-26. The writer has a big dose of self-awareness. Sometimes we can travel a long way with an imperfect faith, without ever realizing what the truth really is. Oh, dear one– these can be very good times. The psalmist realizes his ugly issues. He realizes that he has gotten bitter, and he has become very foolish.
For many of us with a strong set of religious principles, we deem this inconsistency as a complete and total failure. We see our stupid behavior and decide that God will never, ever accept that kind of person (whether its you, or someone else.) But, my Bible reads so much different! I’m told that,
”Yet I still belong to you;
you hold my right hand.” (v. 23)
Can a jerk follow Jesus? But more, can a bitter believer be held close, and loved so faithfully? When we begin to “really” see ourselves, we may often condemn what we see. Condemnation is one of the most insidious diseases of the spirit. The Holy Spirit saves his strongest medicine for us who are regularly sickened by this evil.
If you take a piece of white chalk, and you dip it into a cup of india ink. The chalk obviously absorbs the ink– it is porous. If you snap the chalk, and examine the inside, you will see that the ink has altered everything, this is how condemnation works. Once affected, we are very vulnerable to bitterness and confusion and guilt. We discover that our life is bracketed by the word, “if.”
Verse 23-25 speak loudly of a love that will never let you go. Never. Write down your sin, tally it up, “ Yet I still belong to you; you hold my right hand.” As sinners who have been redeemed by the blood of Jesus, “though our sins be as scarlet; they shall be as white as snow.”
10″ The years of our life are seventy,
or even by reason of strength eighty;
yet their span is but toil and trouble;
they are soon gone, and we fly away.
11 Who considers the power of your anger,
and your wrath according to the fear of you?
12 So teach us to number our days
that we may get a heart of wisdom.”
Psalm 90:10-12, ESV
(Actually, in order to scoop this up, you should read Ps. 90:7-17. I can honestly predict good thing emanating from your reading.)
I once attempted to carry Bibles into the village of Minto, Alaska in January 1985. Minto is small and isolated, and it is north of the Arctic Circle. In winter, it is a cold, beyond cold. We saw the temperature drop to a -30, with a windchill of -50 F.
When it gets this cold, the tires on your car freeze. They get flat spots, frozen rubber that keeps its shape. So you hear a clumping sort of sound when someone drives by. This is readily seen in Fairbanks.
Our car just had to breakdown in this frozen waste. We were quite isolated, we were the only vehicle in 50 miles. I tell you this. The cold was horrific. The dead car now was nothing more than a “windbreak”. Since the engine couldn’t run, the temp quickly plummeted. And I knew two things.
- One, I discovered that this kind of cold could quickly kill you.
- Second, I was going to die, as “a Bryan flavored popsicle.”
But we found a miracle. Twelve hours later, a singular snowplow right at the point of turning around, saw the red top of our little Toyota. The driver hesitated, and then decided to find out this mystery. He discovered us, and yes, we were quite close to dying. (No melodrama here folks, just keep moving).
“So teach us to number our days
that we may get a heart of wisdom.”
This is a Psalm of Moses, and we see him connect the dots. This particular verse should lift us up. Just the idea of enumeration should connect us to a deeply eternal watch. Moses is writing directly to the psalmist, and we must accept all that he has said.
Things are astonishingly brief for us. Even as believers (expecting something better) are never really content. We think that we deserve much more than this. But our life is shortened to a set of days, and we have no recourse but to take all that is given to us.
In 1985, in a beat-up Toyota Corolla I suddenly understood the issues. My life was negotiable. This was my certain moment, when I could really understand. We must “count our days”. Only the person who discovers his mortality, can really appreciate” eternal life”.
Its simple, really. We focus on the numbers, and the numerical count we have accrued. We can honestly do nothing less– and nothing more. It seems we are living on a tether, and we can only advance so far. But this is not a bad thing.
There is an “old world” idea of bravery. It’s not so popular lately. But we will only advance if we understand “bravery.” Courage is the only accepted currency in the spirituality of this moment, today. We will trust in the things He gives us.
- The Fellowship of the Saints (brokenbelievers.com)
- Respect Your Elders: 1971 Datsun 240Z Vs 2013 Scion FR-S (automobilemag.com)
- How Dark Could it Possibly Get? Psalm 88 (psalmslife.com)
- To Number My Days – Poetry (cathykilpatrickleadership.wordpress.com)
- Jesus, forsaken by God for us. (explorethestory.wordpress.com)
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,
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.
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.
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.
“Make me to hear joy and gladness; that the bones which thou hast broken may rejoice.”
Psalm 51:8, KJV
“Make me hear sounds of joy and gladness;
let the bones you crushed be happy again.”
Psalm 51:8, NCV
When I was five years old, I made a grand effort to fly. Jumping off the top bunk, I went one direction– down! Landing on my arm, it really hurt. Going to the E.R. they did a x-ray, and they couldn’t find anything wrong. The doctor told us that it was just bruised.
After a miserable three days, with my mom “exercising” my arm like the doctor suggested, it got worse. Back to the E.R. and after another x-ray, the doctor returned to tell us that the arm was indeed broken. Evidently it wasn’t spotted until then. I got a plaster cast, and a sling.
King David spoke about broken bones. For him, they were not physical. It was much worse. It was spiritual. He essentially collapsed with the torturous Bathsheba decision. The bones were snapped, and it left him in considerable pain. The whole affair came within inches of completely destroying him.
The chastening hand of God often settles on us. Rarely is the pain physical, it is worse. We seldom cope with this kind of discipline.
“We do not enjoy being disciplined. It is painful at the time, but later, after we have learned from it, we have peace, because we start living in the right way.”
Hebrews 12:11, NCV
Pretty much the entirety of Hebrews 12 will press us into a deeper understanding of truth. I encourage you to read it. Perhaps though, the most important thing is to realize that His love is always behind His discipline. Yes, He breaks bones. But He also mends those bones that have been broken.
“We may feel God’s hand as a Father upon us when He strikes us as well as when He strokes us. We often learn more of God under the rod that strikes us than under the staff that comforts us.”
For the choir director: A psalm of David.
1 Only fools say in their hearts,
“There is no God.”
They are corrupt, and their actions are evil;
not one of them does good!
2 The Lord looks down from heaven
on the entire human race;
he looks to see if anyone is truly wise,
if anyone seeks God.
3 But no, all have turned away;
all have become corrupt.
No one does good,
not a single one!
Psalm 14:1-3, NLT
I remember it clearly. I was a student at Alaska Bible Institute, and got enmeshed in one of those “bull sessions” that periodically arise when there is far too much time, pizza and root beer.
The conversation rolled and we got on the subject of the depravity of man. Essentially, it is the doctrine that states that we are at best, evil and fallen into a sinful state. We are living in darkness and iniquity without hope. Only Jesus’ death and resurrection can save us and deliver us.
V. 1, “Only fools say in their hearts,
“There is no God.”
They are corrupt, and their actions are evil;
not one of them does good!”
David is speaking directly to people who claim they are “atheists.” Within this belief system, there is an aggressive disbelief in any faith in an unseen God. There are also “agnostics” who are not sure that God can be known or understood.
This psalm states that all who state their unbelief are “fools.” There’s no ‘soft’ take here. A verse this bold gives us no real room for any compromise. Deep down we want to be pleasant, and make allowances– but that simply isn’t possible.
“The atheist can’t find God for the same reason that a thief can’t find a police officer.”
In Mathematics there is something called “the lowest common denominator.” What it is is the smallest positive integer that is a multiple of the denominators. According to David, the atheist is a complete fool at his core level.
There is a moral and spiritual decay that results in this foolishness. They are “corrupt,” and “evil,” and no good.
V. 2, “The Lord looks down from heaven
on the entire human race;
he looks to see if anyone is truly wise,
if anyone seeks God.”
I believe that we are in a constant state of evaluation. The entire 7 billion humans alive today go under the microscope. This close examination is not intrusive or invasive. God simply knows. He is completely aware of His created beings.
The Lord is seeking wisdom in the hearts of people. Wisdom, in my thinking is completely underrated. We think something else will substitute. I see wisdom as a mix of discernment, and comprehension, with a smattering of foresight and balance.
But– there is no one! This is where the doctrine of the depravity of man makes its entrance.
V. 3, “ But no, all have turned away;
all have become corrupt.
No one does good,
not a single one!”
The verdict isn’t good. We are slaves to sin, serving Satan with wild abandon. Most likely, we are not conscious of this arrangement. And even if we were it would change us very little. Sin is what we want, but it is certainly not what we need.
The good news is that He loves us. Jesus Christ lived, died and was raised from the dead. The Old Testament ingrained the deep sense of what is holy. But it also instilled an awareness of the sacrificial. Lambs died for the sins of people. And Jesus “the Lamb of God” substituted Himself in our place.
- I Must Have Mercy! Psalms 6 (psalmslife.com)
- How Dark Could it Possibly Get? Psalm 88 (psalmslife.com)
- O Lord, The Battle is Far Too Fierce: Psalm 70 (psalmslife.com)
- King David Discusses the State of Mankind in His Psalms (myviewandopinion.wordpress.com)