57 “Lord, you are mine!
I promise to obey your words!
58 With all my heart I want your blessings.
Be merciful as you promised.”
Psalm 119:57-58, NLT
What certainty, and what confidence in these two verses. Within these verses we encounter a faith that excels over all that could disturb it. Verse 57 implies a pronounced boldness, “Lord, you are mine! I promise to obey your words!” Obedience for the Christian, can only settle us. We step into it, very much sure and confident of His love for our souls. “You are mine.” This can only be a distinct work of the Holy Spirit within our hearts.
We declare our love by our obedience. They are chained together like inmates on a Georgia prison farm. Love, and obedience should move as one.
There are two who are making promises. The psalmist promises to obey God’s words in v.57. And God in an active act will respond–a promise of a living mercy. Now all vows, or promises are part of any relationship of significance we have. We call this “devotion,” God devotes Himself first, and we in turn dedicate our lives in obedience.
The idea of ‘blessings’ must be worked into all of this wonder– “With all my heart I want your blessings.” Now if you feel you can skip this special touch, you may do so, but at your own personal loss. The Lord is quite patient, but both sin and Satan are quite aggressive. And the world will fight you ‘tooth-and-nail.” There is no such thing as uncontested territories. It’s not mere hyperbole when we say this. It is our opportunity to leave unreality for good–forever.
“Lord, whatever you want, wherever you want it, and whenever you want it, that’s what I want.” Richard Baxter
“Unless he obeys, a man cannot believe. ” Dietrich Bonhoeffer
9 The men of Ephraim, though armed with bows, turned back on the day of battle;
10 they did not keep God’s covenants and refused to live by his law.
11 They forgot what he had done, the wonders he had shown them.
In reading this passage I’m reminded of pithy sayings I’ve heard over the years such as, “Adversity not only builds character in a person; it reveals character.” The same has also been said about involvement in sports. I’d like to add a third to the collection: “Experiencing signs and wonders can change a person’s heart but it can also reveal what’s in a person’s heart.” We’ve all heard stories of agnostics, atheists, and lukewarm Christians who became devout followers of Christ after witnessing a miracle or a healing. However, sometimes hearts were left unchanged or a change occurred that didn’t bear lasting fruit.
As a young Christian I was mystified by the behavior of the children of Israel in the years that followed their deliverance from Egypt. They saw the Ten Plagues, the Red Sea divided, the manna from heaven, the pillar of fire at night, the cloud of protection by day, and water coming from the cleft rock. And yet with all these signs and wonders, they did not enter God’s rest in the Promised Land and remained a stubborn and rebellious people.
Jesus ran into a similar problem in his ministry and condemned entire towns because of it: “Woe to you, Korazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the miracles that were performed in you had been performed in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago, sitting in sackcloth and ashes. But it will be more bearable for Tyre and Sidon at the judgment than you” (Luke 10:13,14). Korazin, Bethsaida, and not to mention Capernaum, followed in the footsteps of the children of Israel.
After several years of being a Christian, my experiences with people and their responses to the supernatural agreed with the biblical narrative. While living in Minnesota, I met a couple whose youngest son was healed of a rare disease through a Christian ministry and it changed the whole family from having a tepid faith to whole-hearted devotion. And yet, in other cases, I’ve known people who, despite experiencing the supernatural, displayed a heart similar to the men of Ephraim. What they saw did not have long-term benefits for them and they faltered in the day of testing. The faith of some has even been shipwrecked.
In my time as a Christian, I have seen another group emerge that I believe is especially dear to Jesus: they have seen very little or no dramatic supernatural activity and remain devoted to and in love with Jesus all their lives. Thomas doubted the resurrection of Christ until he saw his Lord in the flesh. Jesus said,“Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed” (John 20:29).
We should all strive to be in this group of disciples, because, unlike the men of Ephraim, they will not turn back in the day of battle. We may feel like we will never belong to this group, but we can always ask Jesus, like the father of the boy possessed by an evil spirit, “Help me overcome my unbelief” (Mark 9:24). He will not deny us. He will not give us a snake when we ask for a loaf of bread.
“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.
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.
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)
17 Then he sent someone to Egypt ahead of them—
Joseph, who was sold as a slave.
18 They bruised his feet with fetters
and placed his neck in an iron collar.
19 Until the time came to fulfill his dreams,[a]
the Lord tested Joseph’s character.
20 Then Pharaoh sent for him and set him free;
the ruler of the nation opened his prison door.
21 Joseph was put in charge of all the king’s household;
he became ruler over all the king’s possessions.
22 He could instruct the king’s aides as he pleased
and teach the king’s advisers.
- 105:19 Hebrew ‘his word.’
Psalm 105:17-22, NLT
I would love to have lunch with Joseph. Of all the men and women in the Bible, Joseph would be at the very top of my list. Whenever somebody handles the Word, and mentions his name, my ears perk up and I listen closely.
Psalm 105 is more or less, vignettes from Israel’s rich history. These sketches provide a sense of faith, as it encounters obstacles– and as it follows God. This past history is meant to encourage those in the present, and to be prepared for the future.
When I first became a believer, some kind soul gave me a worn copy of “Foxes Book of Marytrs.” I devoured it. A sense of rootedness began to slowly build as I discovered the rich history of those who would give their lives for the Faith. Psalm 105 does much the same thing.
Vv. 17-18, ”Then he sent someone to Egypt ahead of them—
Joseph, who was sold as a slave.
18 They bruised his feet with fetters
and placed his neck in an iron collar.”
Joseph was being prepared. He would be inserted behind enemy lines. He would become “the tip of the spear.” No doubt though, slavery was a really lousy place to start. He could look down and see the iron shackles. He could reach up, and around his neck, he could feel the collar of a slave.
These are no small things. But perhaps the biggest and most painful was being caught ‘off-guard’ by his brothers, and sold to the slavers. If this were to happen to me– I would become bitter, angry and venomously hateful. I would’ve concocted scenarios where I would wreak revenge (revenge, oops, sorry that slipped out–I meant justice).
V.v 19-20, “Until the time came to fulfill his dreams,
the Lord tested Joseph’s character.
20 Then Pharaoh sent for him and set him free;
the ruler of the nation opened his prison door.”
I believe godly dreams are always linked to a noble character. When God instills something within you, it will come in “seed form.” It will be embryonic. It will need to grow and wait for the precise moment. We can be postured, placed in a forward area until the second is right.
Our impressions of what our dream looks like will almost never be what we thought. But, it will be better. Testing will work you over. You will feel like you just went 12 rounds with Mike Tyson. But you will learn things. God is doing something.
Joseph erupts from his cell. Everything is turned around in a moment. Joseph has been released by Pharaoh himself. The chains and collar are an afterthought (or are they?) He is raised to a prominence never seen before.
The dreams he had as a boy become real. And there is nothing quite like a dream come true!
25 I lie in the dust;
revive me by your word.
26 I told you my plans, and you answered.
Now teach me your decrees.
27 Help me understand the meaning of your commandments,
and I will meditate on your wonderful deeds.
28 I weep with sorrow;
encourage me by your word.
29 Keep me from lying to myself;
give me the privilege of knowing your instructions.
30 I have chosen to be faithful;
I have determined to live by your regulations.
31 I cling to your laws.
Lord, don’t let me be put to shame!
32 I will pursue your commands,
for you expand my understanding.
We are heading back to 119, and picking up where we left off. Verses 1-24 are available for perusal on this site using the search function on the home page.
As a teacher, I admit that Psalm 119 seems very big and cumbersome. Its a lot like having a circus elephant in your living room. It’s all jolly to begin with– but there are some challenging issues as well.
Psalm 119 is quite unique. Each verse is potent and exacting. As we read it we find it is quite choppy and it moves quicker than what we are used to. For many of us, we prefer the sweeping poetry of a Psalm 23 or 103. But this ain’t that.
But it is the most sophisticated chapter in the Bible. It is constructed around the 22 letters of the Hebrew alphabet. And each verse starts with the letter assigned to it. We call this an “acrostic.” (But only in Hebrew.) It the longest chapter, larger than some entire books of the Bible. The construction severely limits the author, as you may imagine.I am tingling with joy Of a glorious discovery: Continuous surrender Brings continuous freedom. Lord, I love being free! ~ Ruth Harms Calkin
V. 25, “ I lie in the dust;
revive me by your word.”
I’m sure we all have seen movies where the protagonist is wandering in the desert under a scorching sun. He has no water, and his strength is completely gone. He dramatically collapses, and looking up he sees the buzzards circling.
The verse makes us see our own desperation. But instead of water, we need to take in God’s Word. We crave and yearn for that which can restore us. The Bible speaks like nothing else.
V. 26, “I told you my plans, and you answered.
Now teach me your decrees.”
As you can see the psalmist does not take time with one metaphor. But jumps to the next.
The writer has been planning. He has been contemplating his future. A strategic understanding must be found, and communicated to the heart of God. An answer comes from the Throne Room.
We see that the psalmist craves instruction. His mindset and inclination is eager for the Father’s aid. In a way, he really want’s God to meddle with his life.
V. 27, “Help me understand the meaning of your commandments,
and I will meditate on your wonderful deeds.”
Understanding is a word connect to the idea of knowledge, discernment, perception, and impression. A multi-faceted word, the writer wants all of these things working.
There is a special way that truth is understood–it comes from God alone. Throughout history, men and women have sought to understand life without God. I’m somewhat of a history buff. Especially WWI history. The foolish and rash ignorance of world leaders was a travesty. (Its laughable, if it wasn’t so tragic.)
What is spoken here is meditation that is not eastern. There is a big difference. On one hand there is an emptying, a turning off of the intellect and rational. On the other, is a taking in of God’s Words. You could say that Eastern meditation is passive, while Biblical meditation is active.
V. 28, “I weep with sorrow;
encourage me by your word.”
Jesus taught in his Beatitudes the core movements of really walking with God. Below are the first three, Matthew 5:3-5,
3 “God blesses those who are poor and realize their need for him,
for the Kingdom of Heaven is theirs.
4 God blesses those who mourn,
for they will be comforted.
5 God blesses those who are humble,
for they will inherit the whole earth.”
When we begin to understand our sin, and unwholesomeness we start on a walk that is real and significant. God delights in the “dust dwellers.”
V. 29, “Keep me from lying to myself;
give me the privilege of knowing your instructions.”
How do we lie to ourself? One of the strongest impulses is to protect ourselves. It is a central urge we have. For many, the physical rules over the spiritual. Self-deception might be easier than deceiving others.
V. 30, “ I have chosen to be faithful;
I have determined to live by your regulations.”
The choice is made and we shouldn’t look back. Put your hand to the plow and keep moving. We make a decision in the heat of a moment. Then we think we can walk away from it.
“I have chosen– I have determined.”
V. 31, “I cling to your laws.
Lord, don’t let me be put to shame!”
Psalm 119 is the “Fort Knox” of God’s word. This psalm easily has a lifetime supply of gold in it. Laws are just one of eight different words that categorizes the promises of the Word.
Whenever this word “cling” is mentioned in the Bible; a certain image clicks in. I see someone out in the ocean, clinging to a life jacket. Are we sufficiently aware of our hopeless state without Christ?
V. 32, “I will pursue your commands,
for you expand my understanding.”
The word “pursue” is a very intense word. The writer doesn’t say, “I will wander in your general direction.” There can be a great case made for a single-minded devotion.
Having your mind-blown by God, our thinking doesn’t shrink, but it grows and expands. It is God who does these things.
The conclusion of Psalm 92, NLT.
12 But the godly will flourish like palm trees and grow strong like the cedars of Lebanon.
13 For they are transplanted to the Lord’s own house. They flourish in the courts of our God.
14 Even in old age they will still produce fruit; they will remain vital and green.
15 They will declare, “The Lord is just! He is my rock! There is no evil in him!”
What an ending. I do confess, I do like watching good movies– and the final scenes can make, or break a good movie. Is it believable, does it flow into the plot, does it carry us beyond the moment?
The very way this Psalm ends intrigues me. The perfect summary for this is found in verses 1-11, which we have already covered. Verses 12-15 is our ending point. We arrive here if we will just follow the conditions of the first 11 verses.
V. 12, “But the godly will flourish like palm trees and grow strong like the cedars of Lebanon.”
What audacity, what boldness! We must recognize that there is a certain place for these ‘flourishers.’ They just explode with a core central growth. We see them, but we are not intimidated. Instead they push us to a higher love.
The strength of us is that we can grow strong all the way through. That is just the way it works, and we take anything that we can get. Envision for a moment, the tallest cedars. I remember seeing for the first time the California Redwoods. It was astonishing, and I got a crook in my neck looking up all the time.
V. 13, “For they are transplanted to the Lord’s own house. They flourish in the courts of our God.”
No matter where we are, the Father will bring us closer to Himself. We may think we are “out-of-the-loop”. But He sees it all. He does “transplant,” but only within our true calling. And a “flourishing” is part of the package.
How do we process this? We are brought out of a senseless and desperate life, directly into a full life of intimacy with the Lord Jesus. In this place, we start to grow branches, and new buds. Life is not just a great idea–but it starts to flow through our very being.
V. 14, “ Even in old age they will still produce fruit; they will remain vital and green.”
Old age seems close to us. We age, and we determine that it works out to us in obsolescence and defeat. When we hit 60, we determine it is all over, and finished. God promises that as believers we will be green, and fresh–even in this crazy margin of age. But as it works out, we are incredibly “vital.”
I suppose that the truth of this can transform the way we see ourselves, and the way we live out our lives, Old-agedness can never be an excuse to backing out of a true and real spirituality.
V. 15, “ They will declare, “The Lord is just! He is my rock! There is no evil in him!”
Much of what I have shared with you is solid, but simple. We all end up at this verse though. From here we start to focus directly on all that is plain and level. After all, He is the rock and as we start to focus on this, we are ‘pulled’ into His presence.
We can see no evil in this, and yes it may seem we are in a kind of “pinball machine.” We are bound to voices that try to direct us into its version of deceit. We could be pulled even into “denial” of our faith. But never, or ever is there the slightest sense of evil that comes to us from God.
- Thrill Me, God: Psalm 92 (psalmslife.com)
- Why God’s way takes longer (christianpf.com)
- Is Your Worship Worthy? Psalm 92 (psalmslife.com)
- Psalms 91-95 (mybiblereadingplan.wordpress.com)
- Like Anointed Oxen: Psalm 92 (psalmslife.com)
- Flourishing by Association (bcong.wordpress.com)
- Daily Verse: Psalm 25:4-5 (faithfulprovisions.com)
- Psalm 134: Two-Way Blessings (urcpsalmody.wordpress.com)
1 When the Israelites escaped from Egypt—
when the family of Jacob left that foreign land—
2 the land of Judah became God’s sanctuary,
and Israel became his kingdom.
3 The Red Sea[a] saw them coming and hurried out of their way!
The water of the Jordan River turned away.
4 The mountains skipped like rams,
the hills like lambs!
5 What’s wrong, Red Sea, that made you hurry out of their way?
What happened, Jordan River, that you turned away?
6 Why, mountains, did you skip like rams?
Why, hills, like lambs?
7 Tremble, O earth, at the presence of the Lord,
at the presence of the God of Jacob.
8 He turned the rock into a pool of water;
yes, a spring of water flowed from solid rock.
- Psalm 114:3 Hebrew the sea; also in 114:5.
I have a confession. I always have been secretly intrigued by “superheroes.” They have such great names: Superman, Batman, the Flash, Iron Man, Wolverine, and Wonder Woman. They all have an arsenal of strengths and each with an assortment of special abilities and tricky moves.
Usually, there is a certain moment in a superhero’s life when they become “activated.” The gift suddenly comes alive, and they start to live their lives differently. The particular gift they have been bestowed with, starts to change the world around them.
We look at the children of Israel and we can see something (or is it Someone?) that makes them significantly different. Just in case you haven’t noticed, Israel does not have a normal history. The Old Testament says that God selected them because they were the least and weakest of all the nations of the earth.
“The Lord did not set His love on you nor choose you because you were more in number than any of the peoples, for you were the fewest of all peoples.”
V.1-2, “When the Israelites escaped from Egypt—
when the family of Jacob left that foreign land—
2 the land of Judah became God’s sanctuary,
and Israel became his kingdom.”
The weakest has been chosen, by the power of God. The psalmist replays the history for all to hear. These covenant people have metamorphosed into someone completely different. It’s the 98 pound weakling who suddenly becomes a linebacker for the Chicago Bears. Or the meek office boy named Clark who somehow becomes Superman.
There are two words that should ‘cue us up’– sanctuary and kingdom. Both words are used to communicate a sense of the special heritage and position of being “the called ones”.
As believers we must discover who we are. We are set apart as special. My wife has done this to our home. She has dishes that are used on holidays. I wouldn’t dream of using them to microwave a ‘bean-and-cheese burrito’. That simply is not their function.
V. 3, “The Red Sea saw them coming and hurried out of their way! The water of the Jordan River turned away.”
Formidable obstacles will submit to these “special people”. Water has always been used as a tactical barrier. But all of a sudden– with God leading, we see miracles happening. The Red Sea opens up, and the sea bed becomes a “super-highway.” And later on, the same would happen to the River Jordan.
As people of the New Covenant are led by our Savior Jesus through substantial issues. We all have our own versions of the “Red Sea.” We are brought out of slavery with promises of freedom and protection. Sometimes we just need a reminder of who we really are.
23 “He broke my strength in midlife,
cutting short my days.
24 But I cried to him, “O my God, who lives forever,
don’t take my life while I am so young!
25 Long ago you laid the foundation of the earth
and made the heavens with your hands.”
Psalm 102:23-25, NLT
I guess one might say, that the psalmist is having a “midlife crisis.” One part of this crisis, is thick with a feeling of brokenness. He feels the ragged edge of his life, a roughness that offers nothing, but a type of pain. We understand God’s love– but can we handle His discipline?
“But He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.” Therefore, I will most gladly boast all the more about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may reside in me.”
2 Corinthians 12:9-11
“Before God could bring me to this place He has broken me a thousand times.”
V. 23, “He broke my strength in midlife,
cutting short my days.”
Our human strength has its limits. And God doesn’t respect them. The psalmist describes the effort of God to demolish any strength we just might muster. His intention is very good. He only wants to bust us of our own strength.
Verse 23 explains why He is hard on us. Anything good we might generate has just been bulldozed under. Our lives have been shattered, and He is the culprit. He does this, in order to save us.
V. 24, “ But I cried to him, “O my God, who lives forever,
don’t take my life while I am so young!”
Crying out to Him is the way we make ourselves heard. The psalmist recognizes that God is indeed God. He only wants us to acknowledge Him.
In terms of the life the psalmist lives, he acknowledges God is fully and completely in control of it. He can prolong it, and He can end it, at His whim.
The psalmist is at the special place where God could simply stop his existence on earth. And we see him making a plea for mercy. It seems he wants God to make him a special case.
V. 25, “Long ago you laid the foundation of the earth
and made the heavens with your hands.”
There is an awareness of God’s creative sovereignty that the psalmist builds upon. He has an understanding that from the very beginning, God has put this planet on something very solid; a solid foundation of a commitment to us.
The psalmist looks up to the beautiful stars– he sees the Milky Way, and some bright planets. All that God has made, is visible and quite profound. He looks up at the stars, and everything he sees is a creative work of God’s hands– creating, and sustaining His masterpiece.
Simply, we can only anchor ourselves into all that He has done. When we embrace reality, we shape ourselves into people God wants, and seeks.
16 For the Lord will rebuild Jerusalem.
He will appear in his glory.
17 He will listen to the prayers of the destitute.
He will not reject their pleas.
18 Let this be recorded for future generations,
so that a people not yet born will praise the Lord.
Psalm 102:16-18, NLT
These words ooze a strong confidence, and deliberateness, and determination from the Lord to we His people. I suppose that is how He makes us solid, as we see, and hear, and read of all that He has done. His steadiness and faithfulness transmits the same to us. We can be sure, because He is very sure.
“[B]eing confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.”
Phil. 1:6, NIV
Guys! He is going to do it, He is sure of Himself. All of the works of God are decisive. Often He seems hidden behind the curtain, pulling spiritual levers, and pressing spiritual buttons. Through the eyes of faith we can see Him, working and serving, and bringing “many sons to Glory.”
V. 16, “For the Lord will rebuild Jerusalem.
He will appear in his glory.”
Rebuilding Jerusalem was the ministry of Nehemiah–but it was God’s first. God has a flair for the restoration of broken down things. Nehemiah rebuilt mostly physical walls. God extends this work to the spiritual as well. Ezra arrived and led the people with the Word. Until the spiritual is restored, the physical walls mean little.
Everything is overhauled and renovated. In a way, He captures our hearts with His enthusiasm for this work. He desires to energize us with the true zeal. The wall and six gates were rebuilt in just 52 days. There was a constant barrage of bluff from Jerusalem’s enemy. It’s said that these builders wore their clothes constantly, not even bothering to undress.
I have learned that “God’s glory” is a special thing. We can’t fabricate it. His glory is only present when He is there. If He leaves, we should follow Him as hungry and thirsty pilgrims of another world. We have arrived at a point where He is our “first love.”
V. 17, “He will listen to the prayers of the destitute.
He will not reject their pleas.”
With v. 16 in tow, we arrive at this precious promise. His certain preference is for the destitute. The poor and the weak and the easily confused have this in their favor– God has chosen them as “the special ones.” They get to go to the front of a very long line.
Their hungry prayers arrive ahead of everyone else. Special preference is given to them, which should make us aware of God’s presence and His favor. I think we should realize this, as it can effect the way they are treated. And the manner which God treats us.
“If a man shuts his ears to the cry of the poor, he too will cry out and not be answered.”
V. 18, “Let this be recorded for future generations,
so that a people not yet born will praise the Lord.”
I think the most powerful witnesses we can give is our “personal testimony.” Sermons, exhortations, and even prophecies seem to have a certain “shelf-life,” or an expiration date on them. But our own adventures, and personal experiences should extend to our children–and our children’s children.
I think every believer must deliberately transfer their story of faith to those who will need it. We need to be in it for the “long haul.” Other generations can be dramatically and significantly touched; we can pave the way for them.
- The Walls: Psalm 51:17-19, Conclusion (psalmslife.com)
- Crumbling Walls (jackieconfalone.wordpress.com)
- Psalms 102. The LORD’s Eternal Love. The Prayer Of A Troubled Youth (bummyla.wordpress.com)