Ethan

A devotion of Psalm 89

Photo by Maksim Romashkin on Pexels.com

A maschil of Ethan the Ezrahite.

The beautiful name Ethan means ‘enduring.’ It’s root word means constant, continual, perennial, permanent, as well as hard, mighty, and strong. Ethan the Ezrahite was known for his wisdom. Wisdom is not just heady prowess, but skill applied in real life situations. Come along with me and grow in Ethan qualities.

1 I will sing of the mercies of the Lord forever: with my mouth will I make known thy faithfulness to all generations.

Photo by Oleg Magni on Pexels.com

A trait to focus on as you grow in Ethan-likeness is constancy. No matter where you are in life, and no matter what is going on, life will find you singing. That is powerful.

Do you sing? Quietly, loudly, well, not so well, it doesn’t matter. Throughout scripture, God admonishes us to sing. It is an expression of the infilling and outflowing of Holy Spirit, Ruach, meaning breath. As a believer singing is one of your primary languages.

“And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit, addressing one another with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart,”

Ephesians 5:18-19.

“Let the word of Christ dwell in your richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God,”

Col 3:16.

wind image *

If this is new territory for you, ask Holy Spirit to guide you in this realm as he breathes fresh breath into your lungs to be exhaled in song. It is a powerful state of existence. It pleases the Lord, and he uses it powerfully in and through your life to bless you and others. May you take this gift to your very deathbed. Sing to the young. Sing to your peers. Sing to the elderly. Your song is your comfort in the dark night, it is your celebration chant, it is your battle-cry. This is your story, Ethan, this is your song, praising your savior all the day long!

2 For I have said, Mercy shall be built up for ever: thy faithfulness shalt thou establish in the very heavens.

Mercy, chesed, is goodness, kindness, faithfulness. It is favor and beauty. That shall be set up and/or repaired forever in your life. Faithfulness, emunah, means firmness, steadfastness, truth, and stability. The heavens here, shamayim, refer to the visible heavens where we see clouds and celestial bodies. His mercy and faithfulness shall be permanently displayed in this lofty place to be seen by all, like an omnimax screen, and your singing is the sound track to that grand show.

Photo by Julia Volk on Pexels.com

3 I have made a covenant with my chosen, I have sworn unto David my servant,

4 Thy seed will I establish for ever, and build up thy throne to all generations. Selah.

God was crazy about King David. God is crazy about you. That is why he chose you. Psalm 18 bears powerful testimony to this.

The Lord lives, and blessed be my rock; And exalted be the God of my salvation,

The God who executes vengeance for me, And subdues peoples under me.

He rescues me from my enemies; You indeed lift me above those who rise up against me;

You rescue me from a violent man.

Therefore I will give thanks to You among the nations, Lord,

And I will sing praises to Your name.

He gives great salvation to His king, And shows faithfulness to His anointed,

To David and his descendants forever.

Psalm 18:46-50

God, the permanent Rock of Ages who lives forever is exalted and exalts David and his descendants. His primary seed was Jesus Christ, and you are the fruit to whom he gives his great salvation and shows his emunah.

5 And the heavens shall praise thy wonders, O Lord: thy faithfulness also in the congregation of the saints.

6 For who in the heaven can be compared unto the Lord? who among the sons of the mighty can be likened unto the Lord?

7 God is greatly to be feared in the assembly of the saints, and to be had in reverence of all them that are about him.

8 O Lord God of hosts, who is a strong Lord like unto thee? or to thy faithfulness round about thee?

9 Thou rulest the raging of the sea: when the waves thereof arise, thou stillest them.

O Lord, there is none like You among the gods, nor any works like Yours.

Psalm 86:8

Above the roar of many waters–the mighty breakers of the sea–the LORD on high is majestic.

Psalm 93:4

Who is like the LORD our God, the One enthroned on high?

Psalm 113:5

10 Thou hast broken Rahab in pieces, as one that is slain; thou hast scattered thine enemies with thy strong arm.

Rahab is the emblematic name for Egypt. It means to behave proudly, to act stormily or boisterously; arrogant. Egypt is symbolic for use of man’s strength, instead of God’s.

11 The heavens are thine, the earth also is thine: as for the world and the fulness thereof, thou hast founded them.

12 The north and the south thou hast created them: Tabor and Hermon shall rejoice in thy name.

13 Thou hast a mighty arm: strong is thy hand, and high is thy right hand.

14 Justice and judgment are the habitation of thy throne: mercy and truth shall go before thy face.

15 Blessed is the people that know the joyful sound: they shall walk, O Lord, in the light of thy countenance.

What joyful sound is this we blessed ones know? It is the marvel of constantly beholding his glory in creation and in the wonders that he constantly does. It is the sound of singing beneath the shadow of his wings when the world is going crazy. It is the melody of the bleating sheep behind our Shepherd, because we know his voice and we follow him. It is the tune of the light of favor upon us. Others cower, as they should, at the very thought of God looking at them. But not us, our hearts beat in joyful anticipation of breathing our last breath and beholding him face to face!

16 In thy name shall they rejoice all the day: and in thy righteousness shall they be exalted.

17 For thou art the glory of their strength: and in thy favour our horn shall be exalted.

18 For the Lord is our defence; and the Holy One of Israel is our king.

Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice!

Phil. 4:4

sorrowful, yet always rejoicing;

2 Cor. 6:10a

19 Then thou spakest in vision to thy holy one, and saidst, I have laid help upon one that is mighty; I have exalted one chosen out of the people.

20 I have found David my servant; with my holy oil have I anointed him:

21 With whom my hand shall be established: mine arm also shall strengthen him.

22 The enemy shall not exact upon him; nor the son of wickedness afflict him.

23 And I will beat down his foes before his face, and plague them that hate him.

24 But my faithfulness and my mercy shall be with him: and in my name shall his horn be exalted.

25 I will set his hand also in the sea, and his right hand in the rivers.

26 He shall cry unto me, Thou art my father, my God, and the rock of my salvation.

Of these grand promises to David and to Jesus Christ, you are a favored beneficiary of the rock of your salvation! Hallelujah!

*wind image from https://www.bing.com/images/search?view=detailV2&ccid=v2iUTkwb&id=08A08E5C4D20B84D293AAE31121C3586FE581439&thid=OIP.v2iUTkwbai0HK6RJLgdAogHaFj&mediaurl=https://th.bing.com/th/id/R.bf68944e4c1b6a2d072ba4492e0740a2?rik=ORRY%2foY1HBIxrg&riu=http%3a%2f%2fpre00.deviantart.net%2f1344%2fth%2fpre%2ff%2f2010%2f044%2fa%2fb%2felemental_sphere___wind__by_firststrawberrykiss.jpg&ehk=CEVphWPzibfX7U%2f4D7%2b%2bPvJqhmQ%2fXmRob6dq%2btEjuSk%3d&risl=&pid=ImgRaw&r=0&exph=774&expw=1032&q=Wind+Element&simid=608041470877001079&form=IRPRST&ck=F527E31F95B80935F2B88C88450A4ABF&selectedindex=13&adlt=demote&shtp=GetUrl&shid=6282bfcb-dccf-44c0-8e84-1642592f2407&shtk=RWxlbWVudGFsIFNwaGVyZSAtd2luZC0gYnkgZmlyc3RTdHJhd2JlcnJ5S2lzcyBvbiBEZXZpYW50QXJ0&shdk=Rm91bmQgb24gQmluZyBmcm9tIGZpcnN0c3RyYXdiZXJyeWtpc3MuZGV2aWFudGFydC5jb20%3D&shhk=83zpL2%2FpSqsHz7tmchEpBtpCSQomGzTEuhfRQoYxM0I%3D&shth=OIP.v2iUTkwbai0HK6RJLgdAogHaFj

Deepest Darkness

A devotion of Psalm 88

Photo by Engin Akyurt on Pexels.com

By dint of the frequency, intensity, or duration of suffering, one can easily speak as the sons of Korach did in Psalm 88. Heman was a talented and wise son known for his remarkable service to the king. He had a massive very musical family, active in Temple worship. Today I’ll parallel the Complete Jewish Bible (CJB) and the New International Version (NIV) to communicate Heman’s song, the saddest of all psalms.

If trouble knocks too often, or is too powerful, or lasts too long, our very souls become distorted by it. Our Will, Intellect, Desires, Emotions are then in danger of buying into lies because we want so badly to be relieved of the suffering. When you are oversupplied with troubles and your suffering is too frequent, too intense, or lasts too long, lean extra heavily on Holy Spirit, on the Word, and on your brothers and sisters in the faith. You need them desperately!

A song. A psalm of the sons of Korach. For the leader. Set to “Sickness that Causes Suffering.” A maskil of Heiman the Ezrachi.

CJB 1 ADONAI, God of my salvation, when I cry out to you in the night,

NIV 1 LORD, you are the God who saves me; day and night I cry out to you.

CJB 2 let my prayer come before you, turn your ear to my cry for help!

NIV 2 May my prayer come before you; turn your ear to my cry.

CJB 3 For I am oversupplied with troubles, which have brought me to the brink of Sh’ol.

NIV 3 I am overwhelmed with troubles and my life draws near to death.

I believe that just about any trouble we encounter is meant to slay us; to lay us in the ground in death. We have a sworn enemy of our soul. This determined thief comes but to steal, kill, and destroy. Fortunately for us, Jesus comes that we may have life, and have it to the full, (Jn 10:10.) Sheol is the underworld, the grave, hell. It is the place of no return, a place without praise of God with all its accessories and inmates. It is also known as Hades. Isn’t it interesting to think that if we are not praising God we are “practicing hell?”

CJB 4 I am counted among those going down to the pit, like a man who is beyond help,

NIV 4 I am counted among those who go down to the pit; I am like one without strength.

CJB 5 left by myself among the dead, like the slain who lie in the grave -you no longer remember them; they are cut off from your care.

NIV 5 I am set apart with the dead, like the slain who lie in the grave, whom you remember no more, who are cut off from your care.

For the Record

One of the connotations of the word ‘remember’ has to do with records. In our last lesson we learned that God is a record-keeper and that he goes by his records. I’m constantly teaching my boys to keep records when it comes to matters of getting paid for tasks they do. It really simplifies things come pay day. God believes that too. While it may be that the Hebrews believed that those in Sheol were forgotten by God, we could also read that they were not on the records.

CJB 6 You plunged me into the bottom of the pit, into dark places, into the depths.

NIV 6 You have put me in the lowest pit, in the darkest depths.

CJB 7 Your wrath lies heavily on me; your waves crashing over me keep me down. (Selah)

NIV 7 Your wrath lies heavily on me; you have overwhelmed me with all your waves.

CJB 8 You separated me from my close friends, made me repulsive to them; I am caged in, with no escape;

NIV 8 You have taken from me my closest friends and have made me repulsive to them. I am confined and cannot escape;

CJB 9 my eyes grow dim from suffering. I call on you, ADONAI, every day; I spread out my hands to you.

NIV 9 my eyes are dim with grief. I call to you, LORD, every day; I spread out my hands to you.

The dark depths of despair are a literal place of emotional despondency. There, God’s ire is a hefty weight immobilizing the chest. Pinned there, merciless waves batter the soul non-stop. As though that’s not enough, loved ones are nowhere in sight. This outlook is very different from our discussion of God as our mother when we studied Psalm 22 in February (Under the post titled You Lay Me in the Dust.) We are not mercilessly flung off to the side and abandoned. Even in horrific deaths, God gently lays us on the ground, as a mother lays her well-fed child, now sleeping, onto the crib.

CJB 10 Will you perform wonders for the dead? Can the ghosts of the dead rise up and praise you? (Selah)

NIV 10 Do you show your wonders to the dead? Do their spirits rise up and praise you?

CJB 11 Will your grace be declared in the grave, or your faithfulness in Abaddon?

NIV 11 Is your love declared in the grave, your faithfulness in Destruction?

CJB 12 Will your wonders be known in the dark, or your righteousness in the land of oblivion?

NIV 12 Are your wonders known in the place of darkness, or your righteous deeds in the land of oblivion?

Heman knows how much God cherishes praise.  He shifts gears and goes from complaint of his plight to a place of reasoning with God: Restore me and I will give you what you love! Deliver me and I will sing your praises and give you glory. Bible commentator Guzik describes Old Testament understanding of the afterlife as “shadowy” at best. He adds, “The book of Psalms expresses the agony, fear, and uncertainty of death’s doorstep. The singers in the psalms often know they can remember God and give Him thanks now, but don’t have the same certainty about the world beyond.” 2 Tim. 1:10 claims that by the appearing of our Savior Jesus Christ, death is abolished and he brought life and immortality to light through the gospel. There couldn’t be a better teacher to shine the light (Zahar) upon our dim understanding of heaven.

CJB 13 But I cry out to you, ADONAI; my prayer comes before you in the morning.

NIV 13 But I cry to you for help, LORD; in the morning my prayer comes before you.

CJB 14 So why, ADONAI, do you reject me? Why do you hide your face from me?

NIV 14 Why, LORD, do you reject me and hide your face from me?

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

With abandon, Heman unleashes the ‘whys.’ Rare is the man who does not go there in times of abject trouble. It is natural to greet the morning with a cry when one has been up all night in tears.

CJB 15 Since my youth I have been miserable, close to death; I am numb from bearing these terrors of yours.

NIV 15 From my youth I have suffered and been close to death; I have borne your terrors and am in despair.

CJB 16 Your fierce anger has overwhelmed me, your terrors have shriveled me up.

NIV 16 Your wrath has swept over me; your terrors have destroyed me.

CJB 17 They surge around me all day like a flood, from all sides they close in on me.

NIV 17 All day long they surround me like a flood; they have completely engulfed me.

CJB 18 You have made friends and companions shun me; the people I know are hidden from me.

NIV 18 You have taken from me friend and neighbor— darkness is my closest friend.

Photo by Elina Krima on Pexels.com

This is the saddest psalm indeed. We have seen consistently that when people call out to God, he answers. We cry, he answers. That has been the pattern we’ve observed all year. In this dismal song the only answer is darkness. Yet even in this darkness, Heman consistently clings to God, even as he sees him as the source of his affliction. His trust is in Adonai. His hope in Jehovah as his sole salvation was anchor deep and rock solid.

If you think “this is a depressing psalm,’ that means that you are to be envied. That is so because the truths expressed in this psalm obviously do not apply to your life. Thank your God for that, and remember one who might be in such a plight. I pray you never experience such deep despondency. And if you do, may your deepest darkness only serve to drive you ever closer to Jesus, our true closest friend.

I was Born There

A devotion of Psalm 87

1-2 High on his holy mountain stands Jerusalem, the city of God, the city he loves more than any other! (NLT)

Imagine someone leafing through a glossy magazine rating the best place on earth. It is gorgeous beyond compare and almost impossible to get to live there now. You come up to the awestruck reader and say, “I was born there!” Their wide-eyed wonder would transfer to you and your worth would instantly inflate in their estimation.

This passage calls Jerusalem or Zion God’s favorite place. He is its great leader and utterly delights in it. Strange though, Zion (Heb. Tsiyon)means a “parched place.” Its root means a monument signifying being conspicuous. Why on earth, no pun intended, would God choose a parched wilderness as his favorite place? Its past and future are monumental indeed as we shall see shortly. Moreover, Zion is reminiscent of us…

Physical Significance of Zion

Bible commentator David Guzik states, “Since God’s work happens in time and space, it had to happen somewhere, and God chose Jerusalem as the place where much of it happened.

· There Melchezidek, king and priest of God Most High, reigned and served.

· There Abraham was willing to offer Isaac on the mount of the Lord where His perfect sacrifice would be provided.

· There David, Israel’s greatest earthly king, reigned and made it the kingdom’s capital.

· There the tabernacle of God found its fulfillment and permanence in the great temple David designed and Solomon built.

· There the institutions of sacrifice, worship, and priestly service were established for centuries.

· There Jesus recognized and honored the city and observed the feasts and temple rituals.

· There Jesus died for our sins, was buried, and rose from the dead.

· There the church was born in a day at Pentecost.

· There the apostles served and sent out the Gospel.

· There God will establish the physical, geographic center of His ultimate kingdom upon earth.”

Jerusalem, the city of peace, is God’s foundation, his beginning point, and the epicenter of his dealings with mankind. It is God’s chosen headquarters – the Vatican City of his conclave. Its foundation is upon a rock and not upon sinking sand. It will never be shaken no matter who or what rises against it. It is a deep foundation. It is a strong foundation. Firm though the ages as the Ancient of Days. All other lands, nations, and powers shall wax and wane. This one alone sits secure upon the solid rock.

Spiritual Significance of Zion

It may not look like much now, especially when compared to other locales. It may be arid and God-forsaken looking and certainly would not quality for the ‘who’s who or where’s where’ list. It may barren sand and rock. But our God specializes in bypassing grand seeming things and bee-lining for apparent losers.

He has set his sights upon her and has great affection for her. He has declared that she is the best place on earth – she is the focal feature in the exclusive magazine Where’s Where. Much like we highlight the woman of the year or the man of the century, God highlights Jerusalem as the place of the ages.

3 O city of God, what wondrous tales are told of you! 4 Nowadays when I mention among my friends the names of Egypt and Babylonia, Philistia and Tyre, or even distant Ethiopia, someone boasts that he was born in one or another of those countries. 5 But someday the highest honor will be to be a native of Jerusalem! For the God above all gods will personally bless this city. 6 When he registers her citizens, he will place a check mark beside the names of those who were born here.

The Holy Register
Image result for roster

Romans 9:8 says that “not all of Abraham’s children are children of God, but only those who believe the promise of salvation which he made to Abraham.” Your spiritual ancestor, Father Abraham, finds his roots in that blessed land. His children of faith inherit that land. God has a register of that city. In it are names of its citizens. If you look really closely, you will see your name boldly written there if you share Abraham’s faith in salvation. So spiritually, you were born in Jerusalem. Zion, the chosen city in the chosen land, is your stomping grounds. What a great inheritance you have, beloved!

Photo by Emre Can Acer on Pexels.com

I love books. There is something sacred and mesmerizing about a room full of books. God is a meticulous librarian and record keeper. You are chosen by him, Jerusalem’s grand regent, and registered in its annals. Might these be among the books listed in Revelation 20:12, that holy library? “And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Another book was opened, which is the book of life. The dead were judged according to what they had done as recorded in the books.”

Citizenship

I frequently here people say, “People shouldn’t judge me, only God will judge me.” Fair enough. How will he judge you? If you were a city, what city would you be? Were you full of grandeur and achievements – London, Paris, New York? Were you fruitful and successful by the world’s standards – Melbourne, Nairobi? Were you a glitzy and glamorous city?

Circumcision

The Record Keeper bypasses all that and goes straight for Webb, Iowa or Gaston, Oregon. He chooses the parched land. The only requirement for citizenship in this chosen land is being a Jew. And proof of being a Jew is manifested by circumcision. “A person is not a Jew who is only one outwardly, nor is circumcision merely outward and physical. No, a person is a Jew who is one inwardly; and circumcision is circumcision of the heart by the Spirit and not by the written code. Such a person’s praise is not from other people, but from God,” Romans 2:28, 29. So while others would call you alien, God says you belong. While others call you parched, God calls you chosen!

Revel in these glorious excerpts from Romans 4:
“11 And he [Abraham] received circumcision as a sign, a seal of the righteousness that he had by faith while he was still uncircumcised. So then, he is the father of all who believe but have not been circumcised, in order that righteousness might be credited to them. 12 And he is then also the father of the circumcised who not only are circumcised but who also follow in the footsteps of the faith that our father Abraham had before he was circumcised.

13 It was not through the law that Abraham and his offspring received the promise that he would be heir of the world, but through the righteousness that comes by faith. 16 Therefore, the promise comes by faith, so that it may be by grace and may be guaranteed to all Abraham’s offspring—not only to those who are of the law but also to those who have the faith of Abraham. He is the father of us all. 17 As it is written: “I have made you a father of many nations.” He is our father in the sight of God, in whom he believed—the God who gives life to the dead and calls into being things that were not.

18 Against all hope, Abraham in hope believed and so became the father of many nations, just as it had been said to him, “So shall your offspring be.” 19 Without weakening in his faith, he faced the fact that his body was as good as dead—since he was about a hundred years old—and that Sarah’s womb was also dead. 20 Yet he did not waver through unbelief regarding the promise of God, but was strengthened in his faith and gave glory to God, 21 being fully persuaded that God had power to do what he had promised. 22 This is why “it was credited to him as righteousness.” 23 The words “it was credited to him” were written not for him alone, 24 but also for us, to whom God will credit righteousness—for us who believe in him who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead.”

Hallelujah!!

“But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, to an innumerable company of angels, to the general assembly and church of the firstborn who are registered in heaven.

Hebrews 12:22-23

7 And in the festivals they’ll sing, “All my heart is in Jerusalem.” (NLT)

7 As they make music they will sing, “All my fountains are in you.” (NIV)

Let’s close out these phenomenal truths with the words of one of my spiritual heartthrobs, Charles Spurgeon. Keep in mind the concept of heart/soul we have been studying and the thought that the heart is the wellspring of life (Pr. 4:23.)

“If all my springs are in God, then let all my streams flow to God. All the rivers run into the sea, because they all came from the sea. It was from the sea that the sun drew up the clouds which fed the thousand rills which fall into the rivers, and so the rivers run back to the sea. Let us do the same. What we have had from God must go to God.” Charles Spurgeon.

Good and Ready

A devotion on Psalm 86

I have juxtaposed the King James Version (KJV in red) and The Passion Translation (TPT in blue). Note the economy of words in the KJV. I used it as a child and it has a fond place in my heart. I enjoy reading other versions but find my heart inevitably wandering back to it.

  • Which version do you prefer? Why?
  • How accurate is TPT’s rendition compared to the KJV?
  • Point out unusual or wonderful (can be both) phrases that stand out to you.
  • Find and share an image that represents a concept you read here.
  • What have you learned or been reminded of about God in this passage?
  • Note the soul/heart concepts we have been studying and their beautiful application here.

1 Bow down thine ear, O Lord, hear me: for I am poor and needy.

1 Lord, bend down to listen to my prayer. I am in deep trouble. I’m broken and humbled, and I desperately need your help.

2 Preserve my soul; for I am holy: O thou my God, save thy servant that trusteth in thee.

2 Guard my life, for I’m your faithful friend, your loyal servant for life

 I turn to you in faith, my God, my hero; come and rescue me!

3 Be merciful unto me, O Lord: for I cry unto thee daily.

3 Lord God, hear my constant cry for help;

    show me your favor and bring me to your fountain of grace!

4 Rejoice the soul of thy servant: for unto thee, O Lord, do I lift up my soul.

4 Restore joy to your loving servant once again, for all I am is yours, O God.

5 For thou, Lord, art good, and ready to forgive; and plenteous in mercy unto all them that call upon thee.

5 Lord, you are so good to me, so kind in every way and ready to forgive,

    for your grace-fountain keeps overflowing, drenching all your devoted lovers who pray to you.

6 Give ear, O Lord, unto my prayer; and attend to the voice of my supplications.

6 God, won’t you pay attention to this urgent cry? Lord, bend down to listen to my prayer.

7 In the day of my trouble I will call upon thee: for thou wilt answer me.

7 Whenever trouble strikes, I will keep crying out to you,  for I know your help is on the way.

8 Among the gods there is none like unto thee, O Lord; neither are there any works like unto thy works.

8 God, there’s no one like you; there’s no other god as famous as you.

    You outshine all others, and your miracles make it easy to know you.

9 All nations whom thou hast made shall come and worship before thee, O Lord; and shall glorify thy name.

9 Lord Almighty, you are the one who created all the nations. Look at them—they’re all on their way!

    Yes, the day will come when they all will worship you and put your glory on display.

10 For thou art great, and doest wondrous things: thou art God alone.

10 You are the one and only God. What miracles! What wonders! What greatness belongs to you!

11 Teach me thy way, O Lord; I will walk in thy truth: unite my heart to fear thy name.

11 Teach me more about you, how you work and how you move,

    so that I can walk onward in your truth until everything within me brings honor to your name.

12 I will praise thee, O Lord my God, with all my heart: and I will glorify thy name for evermore.

12 With all my heart and passion I will thank you, my God!

    I will give glory to your name, always and forever!

13 For great is thy mercy toward me: and thou hast delivered my soul from the lowest hell.

13 You love me so much, and you have placed your greatness upon me.

    You rescued me from the deepest place of darkness, and you have delivered me from a certain death.

14 O God, the proud are risen against me, and the assemblies of violent men have sought after my soul; and have not set thee before them.

14 God, look at how these arrogant ones have defied me. Like a vicious band of violent men, they have tried to kill me.

    They wouldn’t worry for a moment that they were sinning against you!

15 But thou, O Lord, art a God full of compassion, and gracious, long suffering, and plenteous in mercy and truth.

15 But Lord, your nurturing love is tender and gentle.

    You are slow to get angry yet so swift to show your faithful love. You are full of abounding grace and truth.

16 O turn unto me and have mercy upon me; give thy strength unto thy servant and save the son of thine handmaid.

16 Bring me to your grace-fountain so that your strength becomes mine. Be my hero and come rescue your servant once again!

17 Shew me a token for good; that they which hate me may see it, and be ashamed: because thou, Lord, hast holpen me, and comforted me.

17 Send me a miraculous sign to show me how much you love me, so that those who hate me will see it and be ashamed.

    Don’t they know that you, Lord, are my comforter, the one who comes to help me?

Meet & Kiss

A devotion on Psalm 85

Photo by Anna Shvets on Pexels.com

This psalm reads like a salvation message from beginning to end while smacking of affection and intimacy. Lean in!

1 You, Lord, showed favor to your land; you restored the fortunes of Jacob.

Restoration is mentioned first to what was visible to the human eye – the land. The Hebrew word for ‘land’ is erets. It could refer to the whole earth, a specific nation or region, or even a field or ground. The land is symbolic of a people’s capacity to proudly live in peace and be productive. If you own nothing, own the land you live on and you will never be poor. It is fascinating to me that God chooses to manifest his favor and blessings on physical dirt.

2 You forgave the iniquity of your people and covered all their sins.

“As in the physical, so in the spiritual.” 1 Corinthians 15:46. As he restored the land of Israel after protracted periods of iniquity and punishment, so he forgave the people.

Forgive ‘nasa’ means to lift, bear up, or carry; it is to take away or carry off; it is to help, to lift up, to exalt; it is to spare or pardon. It also bears an interesting concept of marrying.

Iniquity, ‘avon’ (from the word ‘avah’ meaning a bend, twist or distortion) means depravity, evil, or sin.

Covered, ‘kasah’, means to fill up hollows. One covers to conceal something for dignity, for protection, and for beautification.

Sin, ‘chattaah’ refers to an offense as well as to its penalty.

3 You set aside all your wrath and turned from your fierce anger.

God compiles and gathers what was an overflowing outburst of passion (‘ebrah’ – wrath; a feminine term) and anger. He transitions and repositions from the broiling, kindled anger that is driven by displeasure and jealousy. Anger ‘aph’ actually refers to a face or nostrils denoting rapid breathing fueled by passion. Imagine God in his broiling fury, calming himself and returning to a place of experiencing pleasure from his children.

4 Restore us again, God our Savior, and put away your displeasure toward us.

5 Will you be angry with us forever? Will you prolong your anger through all generations?

6 Will you not revive us again, that your people may rejoice in you?

So far, the writer has invoked what God did in the past. Based on that history, he now invokes God to do the same for the current situation. It is wise to know what God has done historically. One can then use that as in a court of law as a precedence for what we can hope for.

7 Show us your unfailing love, Lord, and grant us your salvation.

What a beautiful, all-purpose prayer! No matter what tribulation one is enduring, we can pray this for them and know that he will answer. And speaking of salvation (‘yesha’  – safety, deliverance, victory), find Christ in the section that follows.

8 I will listen to what God the Lord says; he promises peace to his people, his faithful servants—

    but let them not turn to folly.

He will speak ‘shalom’ (completeness, safety, soundness, prosperity, quiet, contentment) to his people. As we keep our hearts focused on the Prince of Peace, we shall experience the rich list of components of shalom. And he reminds/warns us not to turn from that to foolishness or stupidity.

9 Surely his salvation is near those who fear him, that his glory may dwell in our land.

“Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved,” Acts 4:12.

10 Love and faithfulness meet together; righteousness and peace kiss each other.

“Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love… God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him,” 1 John 4:8, 16. At the end of the ages, our mighty warrior is named Faithful: “I saw heaven standing open and there before me was a white horse, whose rider is called Faithful and True. With justice he judges and wages war,” Revelation 19:11. Jehovah Tsidkenu refers to God our righteousness, ““The days are coming,” declares the Lord, “when I will raise up for David a righteous Branch, a King who will reign wisely and do what is just and right in the land. In his days Judah will be saved and Israel will live in safety. This is the name by which he will be called: Jehovah Tsidkenu.”

11 Truth springs forth from the earth, and righteousness looks down from heaven.

Truth ‘emeth’ is a feminine noun meaning firm, faithful, sure, reliable, and stable. Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me,” John 14:6.

12 The Lord will indeed give what is good, and our land will yield its harvest.

13 Righteousness goes before him and prepares the way for his steps.

This is a declaration of hope borne of trust in God and his capacity to do what is good. Because of his goodness, not because of our deserving, restoration and revival will come. And with it rejoicing and God’s pleasure.

“We are His portion and He is our prize

Drawn to redemption by the grace in his eyes

If grace is an ocean, we’re all sinking

So heaven meets earth like a sloppy wet kiss

And my heart turns violently inside of my chest…”

“Serve the Lord with fear and rejoice with trembling.

How He Loves Me, Jesus Culture.

Kiss the Son, lest he be angry, and ye perish from the way, when his wrath is kindled but a little. Blessed are all they that put their trust in him,” Psalm 2:11, 12.

Photo by Snapwire on Pexels.com

Go From Strength to Strength

A devotion on Psalm 84

Photo by Frank Cone on Pexels.com

1 How lovely is your dwelling place, Lord Almighty!

What a bright opening to this most delightful poem! Spurgeon calls it the “Pearl of Psalms.” It is as though you have just passed the threshold of a dear friend’s new home and you gush about their abode. How fortunate we are to be invited to be a part of this dwelling place. The preparations for the Temple were grand indeed and when the shekinah glory entered the sacred space, it was dizzying. It was a great picture of making his dwelling among men by sending Holy Spirit to abide in our hearts forever. Upon the union of the divine Spirit and our spirit at salvation, we dwell in him and he in us. That is the epitome of intimacy. That is the epitome of love and loveliness!

“One thing have I desired of the LORD, that will I seek after; that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the LORD, and to inquire in his temple.”

Psalm 27:4

2 My soul yearns, even faints, for the courts of the Lord;

my heart and my flesh cry out for the living God.

What does your soul crave today? Remember that your soul is WIDE, consisting of your Will, your Intellect, your Desires, and your Emotions. One of its foundations is desire. Wanting.  What are you pining for? The ‘soul’ is so tightly interwoven with the ‘heart’ that they are practically the same thing. The heart encompasses PAPDATE – your Passions, your Affections, your Purposes, your Desires, your Attitudes, your Thoughts, and your Emotions.

What would complete you? What consumes you so much that you pant for it? What invades your dreams? That’s an indicator of what you worship. Recalibrate your pointer, beloved. For anything other than Jesus that you desire like this will not fulfill, certainly not for long. He wired you that your most intense desires are met only in him. What your heart and flesh is crying out for is for the living God, not the passing and dead gods of this age.

This is why we must master our hearts/souls. They are the three-year-old in the store pitching a royal fit to get what they want. The bratty heart and flesh is as that child crying for what she just saw on aisle 7 and is certain she can’t live without. She flings herself to the ground and with everything within her, makes a show of it. Curb that friends. Walk away and leave her to make a fool of herself. Or grab her and abandon your almost full shopping cart. March her to the car to execute swift discipline. The words she needs to hear are simple “No,” or “Yes,” as the case may be. Do it a thousand times a day if you need to.

Ask Holy Spirit to nurture in you a holy spark for him and for things of God. Then do what you know you need to do to keep it burning till it’s a roaring fire that consumes you. This will be manifested in your relationship with God, your desire for his Word, and your love for fellow believers.

3 Even the sparrow has found a home, and the swallow a nest for herself,

    where she may have her young— a place near your altar, Lord Almighty, my King and my God.

Image result for swallow's nest

As a child, I watched swallows seasonally build nests in an outdoor of our home. They busied themselves fetching water to make mud which they then carried along with grasses and sticks to a favorable spot to start a home for the family. Sometimes the nests fell and cracked – and my heart with them. They went right back to building anew. I watched, spell bound as they darted back and forth, toiling for hours. They did this year after year, generation after generation, because they knew they had found a safe haven. This makes me think of our experiences in finding a church home.

May we crave it as a need to have fellowship with God and with believers. I’m not talking about an hour and a half on Sunday when we listen to someone talk at us and watch paid musicians entertain us. That is not church. What effort have you made to find like-minded believers to walk life with. Who sharpens you and pushes and stretches you in things of God. Who holds and upholds you? That is your church. Be as diligent as a swallow in finding that group. And if that nest breaks, by golly, get right back about the business of building another!

The great and small find refuge in his delightful presence. There we can be our most vulnerable. In our greatest moments of need, when we are spent and couldn’t help ourselves if we tried, Father will be our sanctuary, our soft place to land. He will be our place of protection from the weather and from the enemy. Close to him we will be, safe under the shelter of his wings. And while it’s intimately personalized for you, scoot over, because there will be brothers and sisters beside you there. His is a busy, cozy nest.

4 Blessed are those who dwell in your house;

Who are these fortunate ones? “Who may ascend the mountain of the Lord? Who may stand in his holy place? The one who has clean hands and a pure heart, who does not trust in an idol or swear by a false god,” Psalm 24 2-4. These are they that will feel at home in God’s presence. The problem with sin is it alienates us from God. I cannot indulge myself and my sinful desires and feel at home in his presence. I cannot drag my false gods onto his holy mountain. It is too tedious. Oh, I can “attend church” and sin with the best of them. But I can’t abide in intimate fellowship with my King and my God and simultaneously cherish sin in my heart. One will inevitably suffer ruin.

they are ever praising you.

To be with him is to be in awe of him. It is to ever be praising him. For there you constantly see and hear his goodness and his greatness. If you are looking to praise the pastor or the worship team, you are looking at the wrong thing. If you are miffed about the décor or the attendants, you are looking at the wrong thing. Look to Jesus alone. That’s what you came to do.

5 Blessed are those whose strength is in you, whose hearts are set on pilgrimage.

What is your strength in? What ability or possession do you have that gives you confidence, that defines you? You may have toiled for it and earned it. But it is not your strength. It can be taken from you in less than a moment. Not to mention that the strength to acquire it was a gift to you in the first place. May you lay it at Jesus’ feet as an offering.

“Blessed is the man whose strength is in thee; in whose heart are the ways of them.” KJV

The word ‘ways’ refers to a busy highway. We live in the world and must attend to matters of the world, but may we frequent the highway, commuting our hearts back home to God.

6 As they pass through the Valley of Baka, they make it a place of springs;

    the autumn rains also cover it with pools.

The Valley of Baka is a valley of tears, a dry and thirsty land. As we saw in Psalm 63, “You, God, are my God, earnestly I seek you; I thirst for you, my whole being longs for you, in a dry and parched land where there is no water. I have seen you in the sanctuary and beheld your power and your glory. Because your love is better than life, my lips will glorify you,” Psalm 63:1-3.

His presence will turn your mourning into dancing again. With him in the wilderness, your cup will overflow to springs and then to pools of living water. He has a long record of doing that for his children. Lean on him.

7 They go from strength to strength, till each appears before God in Zion.

A vibrant walk with Jesus means you go from glory to glory, from strength to strength. Despite hardships on your pilgrimage to heaven, despite trouble and terror, despite tears and fatigue, your soul can go from strength to strength.

“Do you not know? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He will not grow tired or weary, and his understanding no one can fathom. He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint,”

Isaiah 40:27-31.

8 Hear my prayer, Lord God Almighty; listen to me, God of Jacob.

9 Look on our shield, O God; look with favor on your anointed one.

10 Better is one day in your courts than a thousand elsewhere;

I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God than dwell in the tents of the wicked.

11 For the Lord God is a sun and shield; the Lord bestows favor and honor;

no good thing does he withhold from those whose walk is blameless.

12 Lord Almighty, blessed is the one who trusts in you.

For Shame

A devotion of Psalm 83.

Eve after the fall, by Rodin.

1 O God, do not remain silent; do not turn a deaf ear, do not stand aloof, O God.

2 See how your enemies growl, how your foes rear their heads.

When we walk in shame, we experience God as remaining silent, as turning a deaf ear to our plight, as standing aloof. We experience our enemies as growling like wild dogs that are closing in, and our foes as rearing their heads. Shame is an enemy of God. Shame is an enemy of God’s children. But it is a powerful tool in their lives that he uses to bring them back to his heart.

3 With cunning they conspire against your people; they plot against those you cherish.

4 “Come,” they say, “let us destroy them as a nation, so that Israel’s name is remembered no more.”

5 With one mind they plot together; they form an alliance against you—

6 the tents of Edom and the Ishmaelites, of Moab and the Hagrites,

7 Byblos, Ammon and Amalek, Philistia, with the people of Tyre.

8 Even Assyria has joined them to reinforce Lot’s descendants.

9 Do to them as you did to Midian, as you did to Sisera and Jabin at the river Kishon,

10 who perished at Endor and became like dung on the ground.

11 Make their nobles like Oreb and Zeeb, all their princes like Zebah and Zalmunna,

12 who said, “Let us take possession of the pasturelands of God.”

 Verses 9-12 are the backdrop of Israel’s national hero Gideon. We meet Gideon in Judges hiding in a cave against their dreaded enemies. Israel has been reduced to a weak band of cowering folks. Yet the angel of God greeted him, “Greetings, mighty warrior!” Gideon was perplexed by this greeting. It made no sense to a fearful, oppressed man. It seemed the enemy was having a heyday and God’s people were hiding in caves, attempting to live their lives there. You can read the amazing stories cited above in Judges 4, 6, 7 and 8. Note that the Israelites had experienced all this because of their rebellion against God, who had handed them over to their enemies for a lesson in humility and the fear of the Lord.

13 Make them like tumbleweed, my God, like chaff before the wind.

14 As fire consumes the forest or a flame sets the mountains ablaze,

15 so pursue them with your tempest and terrify them with your storm.

Yahwe is not stagnant, even when we can’t sense him. He is incredibly able to pursue and overtake his enemies. There is no wood that this fire cannot burn!

16 Cover their faces with shame, Lord, so that they will seek your name.

Asaph may be reflecting Israel’s personal experience of shame upon their enemies. When we walk in rebellion and arrogance against God, we demonstrate that we have no fear of him. He does not abide that, especially in his children. He hurtles all proud men to a place of humility, using humiliation if necessary. Shame is an important emotion that we should experience when we have done shameful things.

Humanism has a vendetta against shame. It focuses on toxic shame which keeps us mired in hopelessness and worthlessness, calling us bad people for having done bad things. It neglects the very important concept of productive shame. Indeed, people who are shameless in the face of having done bad things are  pathological. If we don’t experience shame when we err, we have a problem. It is a gift of God informing us that we have done wrong and need to right it.

The problem occurs when we consider this stepping stone to repentance as a camping spot or even a foundation to build upon. When we experience this powerful emotion, we are to run to God and to others to make things right. He wired us that way. All attempts to hide what we have done will result in distance between us and him and between us and others. Healing will not happen till we expose works of darkness.

Photo by Rachel Claire on Pexels.com

God makes a wonderful promise if we do that: “It is shameful even to mention what the disobedient do in secret. But everything exposed by the light becomes visible—and everything that is illuminated becomes a light,” Eph. 4:12, 13. As we expose our works of darkness, they become a light for someone else in darkness! That is the power of confession. That is my sole reason for writing Napping in Delilah’s Lap (https://tribalminded.com/about-3/). Read more about this exciting concept in chapter 24, The Purpose of Shame. Doing the hard, hard work of confession is a formidable agent of healing not only for you but for others.

17 May they ever be ashamed and dismayed; may they perish in disgrace.

18 Let them know that you, whose name is the Lord—

    that you alone are the Most High over all the earth.

Photo by OVAN on Pexels.com

Let the light in, beloved. As you do so, you’ll find incredible freedom from shackles that bind you.

The Great Assembly

A devotion on Psalm 82

1 God presides in the great assembly; he renders judgment among the “gods”:

The great assembly is one of appointed leaders of great authority. Is God revisiting their lifelong work and judging their judgements? Commentator Guzik suggests various entities as these gods (Elohim):

  • Yahweh of Israel. Elohim can mean many or grand
  • Pagan deities, the false gods of the nations
  • Angelic beings
  • Human judges who stand in God’s place to determine the fate of fellow humans

All authority is God-appointed. He appoints these executive agents to govern as he would govern. As we saw in Proverbs, that would entail doing what is right and just and fair – all the time. What or who do you have authority over? Talk to Holy Spirit about that appointment. Ask him to shine a light (Zahar) all around it and illumine your understanding of its scope. Where do you have any influence? Is it at home? Is it at work? Is it in the community? Ask him to give you great wisdom and understanding of it and to help you execute it supernaturally. Take that authority. With humility and a sense of accountability, own it. Do your very best with it. All too soon, you will be standing before him settling accounts.

2 “How long will you defend the unjust and show partiality to the wicked?

3 Defend the weak and the fatherless; uphold the cause of the poor and the oppressed.

4 Rescue the weak and the needy; deliver them from the hand of the wicked.

In commenting on this section, Luther said, “For here they [princes] find what lofty, princely, noble virtues their estate can practice, so that temporal government, next to the preaching office, is the highest service to God and the most useful office on earth.

And [King Jehoshaphat] said to the judges, “Take heed to what you are doing, for you do not judge for man but for the LORD, who is with you in the judgment. Now therefore, let the fear of the LORD be upon you; take care and do it, for there is no iniquity with the LORD our God, no partiality, nor taking of bribes.”

2 Chronicles 19:6-7

5 “The ‘gods’ know nothing, they understand nothing. They walk about in darkness; all the foundations of the earth are shaken.

Their short-sighted understanding is based on amassing favors and comforts for themselves here below. They taste a little power and think their authority starts and ends with them. They do not realize they are on assignment and will give account. They do not realize they are being trained to practice their skill in the heavenlies someday. As Paul challenged us greatly in this matter: “If any of you has a dispute with another, do you dare to take it before the ungodly for judgment instead of before the Lord’s people? Or do you not know that the Lord’s people will judge the world? And if you are to judge the world, are you not competent to judge trivial cases? Do you not know that we will judge angels? How much more the things of this life!” 1 Cor. 6:1-3.

All they see is here and now. Truly, they know nothing. May these truths cause us to shudder. Help us, Lord. Help our ‘gods’ walk and judge in your ways.

6 “I said, ‘You are “gods”; you are all sons of the Most High.’

7 But you will die like mere mortals; you will fall like every other ruler.”

Image result for body in a coffin royalty free

Positions of authority and power don’t make one human better or more important than another. We are all on a level playing field. We are all sons – the privileged and the destitute. We are all brothers. We are all our brother’s keepers. We are all feeble and fickle. We will all undergo life’s problems. We will someday lie immobile in a coffin or sit in an urn. All of us except those that get to be raptured.

8 Rise up, O God, judge the earth, for all the nations are your inheritance.

Grand Judge Jesus, you rule the world with truth and grace and make the nations prove the glories of your righteousness and the wonders of your love. Soon and very soon, you will ultimately rule all the earth, all nations, all peoples. How honored we are to have you rule over our lives now. How thrilled we are to bow the knee to you and confess you as Lord now. All too soon all men will have to do the same.

The Secret Place of Thunder

A devotion on Psalm 81

Photo by Philippe Donn on Pexels.com

1 Sing aloud unto God our strength: make a joyful noise unto the God of Jacob.

The Hebrew says Elohim uzeinu for God our strength and Elohei Ya’akov for the God of Jacob. This grand invocation is for us to burst out enthusiastically – a welcome relief from the grave and desperate passages we’ve been studying so far. Where David and Asaph have been lamenting heavily, Elohim uzeinu invites a different response.  He has repeatedly told us to call upon him in our time of trouble and he will deliver us. Now he’s prescribing a specific type of call – a joyful one. “And make it real loud,” he adds!

This music was commemoration of the wilderness experience. Have you had one of those this year? Then clear your throat. And this call is not only to the paid professional musicians. It is not only to those with amazing voices. It is not for the musically trained only. It is for the whole congregation to whole-heartedly erupt in gay, mirthful melodies, much like a child does. How freeing, how delightful, how celebratory, when we know that the Lord has brought us from Egypt to Canaan.

We are to expend our energy with this singing to the point of exhaustion. God knows there is something cathartic about this experience.

2 Take a psalm, and bring hither the timbrel, the pleasant harp with the psaltery.

A psalm or a zimrah means music, melody, or song. Frequently it is accompanied by a musical instrument. Woven into its meaning is the concept of making music. He wants us to make stuff up and sing it at the top of our lungs. It makes me think of spontaneous porch singing in the south – pots and pans and all. Step aside Bethel, step aside Hillsong, step aside Elevation, I’ve got a song of my own. Yup, I’m making it up as I go. It is pouring forth from a heart of praise and gratitude to Elohim uzeinu.

Enjoy this jamming gem from my homeland. https://youtu.be/OeFMVm2KZq8

3 Blow up the trumpet in the new moon, in the time appointed, on our solemn feast day.

Image result for blow the shofer

The new moon indicates a new month or a new beginning. It may specifically refer to the first day of the seventh month and the Festival of Trumpets. Yesterday we talked about revival and being renewed. When he rebuilds and renews us, then dust off the old trumpet and make it known. The priests were primarily charged with this task. They were not to demurely sit back and watch the singing and dancing. Commentator Guzik educates us on the priests making the trumpet (shofer) blast which was “to call God’s people together for their solemn feast day at the New Moon.”

4 For this was a statute for Israel, and a law of the God of Jacob.

God is very keen on his people gathering together for communal worship. So much so that he makes it a joyous event. He is mandating that we are going to have a good time. He has ordained it and we need to obey it. We need each other. We need to have positive experiences together. He makes a way for that to be the case.

5 This he ordained in Joseph for a testimony, when he went out through the land of Egypt: where I heard a language that I understood not

6 I removed his shoulder from the burden: his hands were delivered from the pots.

Elohim uzeinu went to Egypt with one sole purpose – to set us free from bondage. He delivered us from among those foreigners with their strange tongue. There we did not belong. We were like fish out of water. Our mighty man of war kicked down the walls that imprisoned us, unburdened, and unshackled us from our cruel task-master. He freed our hands from the drudgery of back-breaking tasks so they could play the lyre and the tambourine and dance in delight.

7 Thou calledst in trouble, and I delivered thee; I answered thee in the secret place of thunder: I proved thee at the waters of Meribah. Selah.

I posit that all trouble you have been in was meant to kill you. That fact that you are alive is testimony that God delivered you. You could have died from any ailment, any accident, any assault, but your Elohim uzeinu said, “not today, Satan!’ Thunder is a loud, mysterious noise. Yet it holds its secrets and mysteries. Though all around you can hear the frightening thunder, only you and your God know its secret place – and they wonder about you.

On Mt. Sinai, God met with Moses. The thunderous encounter was so foreboding that the Israelites asked that Moses meet with God and they not have to because they were so scared. Will you cower from meeting with God? Will you push your pastor or teacher forward to meet with him and later relate to you a filtered version of what was uttered? Or will you overcome your trembling and other reasons and press in  between the cherubim. Meeting with God is no small matter. It will cost you. What is it costing you?

Meribah brought a shiver up and down the Israelites’ backs. That was not a place that evoked pleasant memories. When things got hard, they had complained bitterly about missing Egypt. They accused Moses of bringing them out into the wilderness to die. Meribah means strife. God was getting weary of this grumbling, whiny, contentious crowd. In his fury, God provided a test. They failed miserably. Are you prone to grumbling? God despises it greatly. Ask him to help you identify it and eliminate it form your life. It is a blight upon your soul and many don’t even realize they do it. No wonder he places an interlude, selah,  here.

8 “Listen to me, O my people, while I give you stern warnings. O Israel, if you would only listen to me!

“Consider the kindness and sternness of our God…”

Romans 11:22

Elohim uzeinu is not fooling around. He is not making empty threats. He will not contend with his creation. He is not the parent that will be bossed around by a three-year-old. He will swat that soggy bottom – as hard as is needed. He will not share his godhood with man. He is the boss and we are not.  Listen up!

9 There shall no strange god be in thee; neither shalt thou worship any strange god

We think that strange gods are around and outside of us. The KJV homes right in on the problem. Any false god we erect is in us. God is speaking to our heart/soul matters. If Satan and the world didn’t proffer another temptation, we are quite well equipped to produce them on our own. In Napping in Delilah’s Lap, I posit that our hearts are like a Chinese sweat shop cranking out cheap imitations of God – our idols.

Photo by Timur Weber on Pexels.com

To worship (shachah) is to bow down. It is to prostrate oneself so as to make something else bigger than you. Nothing else in your life is to be bigger than God. What have you made bigger than you? What have you made bigger than God?

10 I am the Lord thy God, which brought thee out of the land of Egypt: open thy mouth wide, and I will fill it.

11 But my people would not hearken to my voice; and Israel would none of me.

Who lays claim to our various deliverances? Is it your charm, your good fortune, a wealthy relative? Is it education or science? From his secret place in the thundercloud, God says, “I don’t think so. It was I.” Then he invites us to taste and see that he is good. But frequently we turn our mouth away and fill it with ‘good’ things of our own making. Those things will be the death of us. We ignore and swiftly replace him.

12 So I gave them up unto their own hearts’ lust: and they walked in their own counsels. (KJV)

12 So I let them follow their own stubborn desires, living according to their own ideas. (NLT)

Image result for stubborn

This leaves me grief-stricken. God will not play tug of war with adulterous hearts. Hosea 4 describes the spirit of zanah that was in Israel and can be within us. It is a spirit of harlotry or prostitution. God, the legitimate lover of your soul has sole claim to our allegiance. Yet sometimes we flirt with other loves and swiftly replace him, even while pledging our allegiance to him. He will not abide that. “You want that?” he asks, “then have it.” As we learned recently, while what we pine for is still in our mouths, God will turn it into gravel or maggots. Friends, we must learn to say no to our hearts when they lead us astray. ‘Follow your heart’ is the WORST piece of advice ever!

13 Oh that my people had hearkened unto me, and Israel had walked in my ways!

14 How quickly I would then subdue their enemies!  How soon my hands would be upon their foes!

15 Those who hate the Lord would cringe before him; they would be doomed forever.

16 But I would feed you with the finest wheat. I would satisfy you with wild honey from the rock.”

Canaan was to be a few weeks journey from Egypt. It took them forty years. Forty, beloved. God promises that as we obey him and walk in his ways, he subdues and destroys our enemies. There are enemies that you are suffering under right now because of your disobedience. That will continue to be the case while you are prostituting yourself with your idol. Unfortunately, the consequences of your actions may follow you long after your encounter with that idol. When will we understand that God is sheltering us for our own good? He is not withholding good things from us. He is our hearty nutritious bread of life made of the finest wheat. He is the sweet, sweet wild honey from the rock. He is the good thing that he is saving us for! Break out in single-hearted devotion and song to your God.

Revive Us

For the director of music. To the tune of “The Lilies of the Covenant.” Of Asaph. A psalm.

1 Hear us, Shepherd of Israel, you who lead Joseph like a flock.

Photo by Paul Seling on Pexels.com

Did you know that in the psalms God is referred to as the shepherd only twice? Seems surprising, doesn’t it? The first time is in the beloved Psalm 23 and we encounter the second occurrence here. The subjects in this psalm are deep in a sea of trouble. Their very lives are endangered, possibly by an Assyrian invasion. At such a time, it is wise to remember that we are but lambs in a world of wolves. All the lamb knows is to bleat and to run to its shepherd who feeds it, protects and defends it, houses it, walks it, plays with it, helps it, raises it, and loves it.

Jesus, our ultimate shepherd, said, “But they [my sheep] will never follow a stranger; in fact, they will run away from him because they do not recognize a stranger’s voice… I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep… I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me… No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down and authority to take it up again. This command I received from my Father.” John 10:5, 11, 14, 18.

When the sheep are in distress, they need not focus on their sources of trouble. Their only place of focus needs to be on the shepherd. If their eye is on the shepherd and he is close by, they can abide any enemy, any difficulty, any troubler. Look to your shepherd, beloved. Look not to the wolves, look not to the mountain lions, look not to big bullying sheep. Plant your eyes on Jesus, behold his calm, determined face. Find your rest in him alone. Only then can we say with Jacob, “this is my God who shepherded me all my life,” Gen. 48:15, Hallelujah!

You who sit enthroned between the cherubim, shine forth

We refer not to the fertility gods, not to the weather gods, not to the prosperity gods, not to the moon or sun gods. There is only one shepherd of our souls. He sits. He does not pace frantically. He does not sleep. He sits – confident and able. In the tabernacle and in the reality of heaven he sat/sits between cherubim.

Wikipedia summarizes them well, their “faces peer out from the center of an array of four wings; these wings are joined to each other, two of these are stretched upward, and the other two cover their bodies. Under their wings are human hands; their legs are described as straight, and their feet like those of a calf, shining like polished brass. Between the creatures glowing coals that moved between them could be seen, their fire “went up and down”, and lightning burst forth from it. The cherubs also moved like flashes of lightning.” Their bodies are covered with eyes throughout. No wonder our passage today calls him to “shine forth” from between them.

The mighty cherubim overshadow the Mercy Seat and are not the chubby winged boys that our culture depicts them as. We first meet them guarding the Tree of Life in the Garden of Eden with a flaming sword. The Ark of the Covenant, a manifestation of God’s physical presence among the Israelites on the way to Canaan, was overshadowed by two of them. The prophet Ezekiel saw four of them bolstering God’s throne. God is described as “riding on the cherubim,” Ps. 18:10 and in our passage today, enthroned between the cherubim.

2 before Ephraim, Benjamin and Manasseh. Awaken your might; come and save us.

These three tribes were stationed on the west side of the tabernacle in the wilderness and were first in line, following the Ark of the Covenant when it was time to break camp and move. They would have had visual proximity to its glory by being the closest to it.

3 Restore us, O God; make your face shine on us, that we may be saved.

This is repeated three times. It is an invocation from a place of destruction or dismay. In order to be restored, one has to be broken or damaged. It is an invocation to be rebuilt. It is an invocation that he would turn his countenance towards his subjects with favor and that would be all the renewal they would need. A fascinating research project exposes deep distress in a baby when mum still-faces (doesn’t respond) when the baby attempts to engage. Take a look:

As we saw with the shepherd, if he makes eye contact with the sheep, the latter can endure anything. If God’s face shines on us, we will surely be saved, no matter the foe. If he still-faces us, we are doomed. He wired us that way!

4 How long, Lord God Almighty, will your anger smolder against the prayers of your people?

5 You have fed them with the bread of tears; you have made them drink tears by the bowlful.

6 You have made us an object of derision to our neighbors, and our enemies mock us.

Restore us, God Almighty;

make your face shine on us,

that we may be saved.

Ps. 80:3, 7, & 19

Despite copious tears from internal angst or mockery from the outside, if we keep our eyes on the Shepherd, we will be delivered and restored. He is not short on resources to rebuild what has been destroyed. Do not grieve what you have lost. Your creator God continues to create. He continues to “gives life to the dead and calls things that are not as though they were,” Rom. 4:17. He brings water from a rock and makes a way where there seems to be no way. He can do anything!

8 You transplanted a vine from Egypt; you drove out the nations and planted it.

9 You cleared the ground for it, and it took root and filled the land.

10 The mountains were covered with its shade, the mighty cedars with its branches.

11 Its branches reached as far as the Sea, its shoots as far as the River.

Creator God takes a vine cutting or start from Egypt and transplants it in Canaan after annihilating nations for it. It grows so grand that it overshadows mountains and mighty cedars, much like cherubim overshadow the Ark. If he can do that with a vine, what can he do with you?

12 Why have you broken down its walls so that all who pass by pick its grapes?

13 Boars from the forest ravage it, and insects from the fields feed on it.

14 Return to us, God Almighty! Look down from heaven and see! Watch over this vine,

15 the root your right hand has planted, the son you have raised up for yourself.

Though it grieves him tremendously because of his love for us, it is no great loss to God to ravage and tear down monumental things he has built. He can just turn around and build new ones. His pain comes from knowing that our disobedience hurts us. It creates a wedge between us and him. It impedes our fellowship with each other and our intercourse with him.

Note how personally Asaph implores God to guard the vine. He entreats based on the fact that God’s own right hand planted and established the vine. You are invested God, he seems to say. You raised this son this whole time, don’t cast him out now. For your own sake and your own glory. Yet we know that God does not need us. How blessed we are that he loves and wants us.

16 Your vine is cut down, it is burned with fire; at your rebuke your people perish.

17 Let your hand rest on the man at your right hand, the son of man you have raised up for yourself.

18 Then we will not turn away from you; revive us, and we will call on your name.

Your vine. Your people. Your right hand. The son you raised up for yourself. It doesn’t get more personal than that. Finally, the wayward son gets his perspective right. In our disobedience, we think that everything is about us. That’s where we’re wrong.  It is all about God, beloved. All. Always.

19 Restore us, Lord God Almighty;

    make your face shine on us,

    that we may be saved.