Hang It Up With Hope

A devotional of Psalm 137

This is a most visceral of psalms. It evokes deep anguish at its beginning, meager hope in its midst, and disgust by its end.

1 By the rivers of Babylon, there we sat down and wept, when we remembered Zion.

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Have you ever sat down and wept? Sometimes you have to shut all other processes out, including the capacity to even stand, before you commit everything you have and are to grief. The weeping depicted here is a deep bewailing, a bitter lament, and a sore bemoaning.

Rivers – nahar – means light, shining, beams, cheer, and the sheen and sparkle as of a running stream (Brown Driver Briggs Hebrew & English Lexicon and Strong’s). Rivers symbolize flow and prosperity. So if rivers symbolize levity and joy, why are the subjects weeping? The Israelites are in exile in the resplendent territory called Babylon. Babel means confusion by mixing.

Deep in the hearts of the Israelites lay an undying patriotism. Yet their sin had caused them to be plucked out of their beloved nation and thrust into Babylon. The Israelites who are to be consecrated to God have repeatedly and deliberately shunned their identity as the Chosen Ones, therefore, after much warning, God has reluctantly given them what they have coming.

“The blessing of the LORD makes one rich, and He adds no sorrow with it,” Pr. 10:22. The Israelites were dissatisfied with Lord’s blessings, and they pined for those of the world. They neglected to consider that the latter are paid for with the currency of sorrow. If we disobey God, we will pay with sorrow one way or another. As a result, you may find yourself in a physical state that is gorgeous, prosperous, filled with laughter and cheer and sparkle, yet spent with grief and weeping. This inner state drives us back in memory to appreciate what we had before we lost our focus. Here the memory of Zion causes disdain for this glorious place in which they find themselves.

2 On the willows there we hung up our lyres.

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The willow tree – arab – means to intermix, to meddle, to mingle. It means to traffic in, to exchange, to barter or to mortgage. A musician hangs up their instrument when they are done singing. We’ve noted the importance of singing and the repeated call in the psalms to do so. Indeed, the very word psalm means “a song.” These were frequently accompanied by instruments such as the harp or the lyre. These musicians were out of a song. Yet he hanging up of the instrument speaks to a hope of taking it down strumming it again someday. If you are in a dark place at this time beloved, don’t lose your song. If you must, hang up your lyre for a spell but hang it up with hope.

3 For there our captors required of us songs, and our tormentors, mirth, saying, “Sing us one of the songs of Zion!”

Bible commentator Maclaren notes, “So, like tipsy revellers, they called out ‘Sing!’ The request drove the iron deeper into sad hearts, for it came from those who had made the misery. They had led away the captives, and now they bid them make sport.”

This was likely a tormenting gesture. Even if it had come from the captors trying to cheer their captives up, it was a miserable flop. The captors may have seen the plight of the Israelites as a step up from their former existence, with all the decadence and pleasure of Babylon at their disposal. But the glitz was lost on the Chosen Ones. It brought them no pleasure. No treasure or worldly joy compares to, nor is worth the unceasing delight of being in God’s favor.

No treasure or worldly joy compares to, nor is worth the unceasing delight of being in God’s favor

Hannah TK

Believer, if you find yourself mixed up and intertwined with sin, flee, my friend. Return to your Zion – tsiyun­ – a parched place. It may seem like a parched place to the world which seeks to lure you to their “prosperity.” Your sin has exiled you. Your Father wants to free you. Remember you are chosen. Remember you are set apart. Extricate yourself from your alliances. Go home prodigal one. Run home to Jesus’ waiting, loving arms. Babylon, with all her splendor, has nothing for you.

Babylon, with all her splendor, has nothing for you, believer.

Hannah TK

4 How shall we sing the Lord’s song in a foreign land?

5 If I forget you, O Jerusalem, let my right hand forget its skill!

6 Let my tongue stick to the roof of my mouth, if I do not remember you, if I do not set Jerusalem above my highest joy!

Jerusalem is the capital of Israel and it means “teaching of peace.” Built within that title is the foundation of our Jesus, the Prince of Peace. Thoughts of him are our greatest thought. Worship of him is our greatest skill, our loftiest. May he be our sweetest song. May he be above our highest joy.

7 Remember, O Lord, against the Edomites the day of Jerusalem,

how they said, “Lay it bare, lay it bare, down to its foundations!”

This verse plays out like a street fight where a sibling sides with the bad guy instead of defending his member. The relationship of the Israelites and the Edomites began with the twins Jacob and Esau. Jacob was renamed Israel and the Edomites were the descendants of Esau. Edomites not only didn’t defend the Israelites against the Babylonians but heckled them on their way to exile.

8 O daughter of Babylon, doomed to be destroyed,

    blessed shall he be who repays you with what you have done to us!

9 Blessed shall he be who takes your little ones and dashes them against the rock!

Babylon was brutal in her treatment of conquered parties. They mercilessly pillaged, ravaged, and murdered.

“Today the fortresses of ancient Edom are a desolate waste, and the site of ancient Babylon is a ruin. God cannot be mocked.” Boice

STAND!

A devotional of Psalm 135

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1 Praise the Lord! Praise the name of the Lord, give praise, O servants of the Lord,

2 who stand in the house of the Lord, in the courts of the house of our God!

Remember that praise – halal – means to shine, to show off, to boast, to celebrate, to glory in. It is to make a fuss, nay, a loud and colorful raucous about something or someone. Now amplify that three times in that verse alone! Halal Jah!!

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We are called to be servants, nay, slaves, in the house of the Lord. There we labor in special service to a very special Master. For that we need special training. For that we need favor – supernatural equipping and approval for divine assignments. Psalm 104:4b teaches, “he makes his servants flames of fire.”  Can you see it with your spirit eyes? You, servant of the Most High are about as fiery as your master, the Consuming Fire of Deuteronomy 4:24 and 9:3. You are a formidable special forces servant of Jah. Amen! Whoever you’re working with today, whatever post he assigns you, do it with this identity about you.

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Oh, it only gets better. To stand – amad­ – takes its literal meaning and adds amazing connotations. It is to be in a standing attitude. It is to attend to. It is to stop moving or doing. It is to endure, to persist, and to be steadfast. In our study of Ps. 134:1, we saw “Behold, bless the Lord, all you servants of the Lord, who stand by night in the house of the Lord!” When others are done, you remain. When others tire and turn in you tarry. When the comforts and convenience and safety that daylight bring have set, you stand your ground. You are watchful, mindful, alert. You are not the slouching one. You are standing upright, erect. Nothing surprises you or catches you unaware. Your very arrival onto the scene, makes a scene, quiet as it may be. You rise up or rise against the foe and his ploys, which you are strategically aware of. Always, the theif comes to steal, kill, and destroy, John 10:10.

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What is your post today, servant? Where will Jah take you? Who will you see and touch. It is not routine or on accident. See it with spirit eyes. Show up. Stand up! With the power and authority of Jah, take a fiery, flaming stand. Things will not be the same once you show up on the scene. It’s not business as usual once you show up. The Spirit has anointed you as he had Jesus. “The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the afflicted; he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to captives and freedom to prisoners,” Lk 4:18. We discussed the anointing with oil as choosing you, appointing you, separating or sanctifying you, empowering you; and that oil represents Holy Spirit. And. We. Know. What. Happens. When. Oil. And. Fire. Mix. Look out, world! Look out, Satan!

Back in February Spurgeon taught us, “… the whole world shall be his house to me; and when I ascend into the upper chamber I shall not change my company, nor even change the house; I shall only go to dwell in the upper story of the house of the lord forever.” Friends, already we are raised with Christ and seated in the heavenlies with Christ. You already occupy heaven, God’s ultimate house, Eph. 2.:6.

3 Praise the Lord, for the Lord is good; sing to his name, for it is pleasant!

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Show off again, servant. This time in song. What are you going through? Sing. Is there joy? Sing. Is there anxiety? Sing. Is there sorrow? Sing! “And be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess; but be filled with the Spirit; speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord; giving thanks always for all things unto God and the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ; submitting yourselves one to another in the fear of God.” Eph. 5:18-21. Singing is your divine language. Singing is your battle cry. Sing. Sing. Sing. Raise a halleluya.

Turn off the radio.  Learn a hymn. Learn a chorus. Make up a song. Turn scripture into music. It will transform your life, especially in the watches of the night.

4 For the Lord has chosen Jacob for himself, Israel as his own possession.

“Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you, and ordained you, that ye should go and bring forth fruit, and that your fruit should remain: that whatsoever ye shall ask of the Father in my name, he may give it you,” John 15:16. And don’t forget 1 Peter 2:9 that teaches, “But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. When you proclaim the good news to the afflicted; when you bind up the broken-hearted; when you proclaim liberty to captives and freedom to prisoners, you are showing Jah off. You are causing a raucous in the heavenlies. You are standing your ground, flaming fire.

5 For I know that the Lord is great, and that our Lord is above all gods.

The word for great is rendered as a repetition – gadol, gadol – with flair to express grandeur, excellence, nobility, importance, and distinction. Say it with me, “Jah, you are gadol, gadol!” There is nothing and no one greater.

6 Whatever the Lord pleases, he does, in heaven and on earth, in the seas and all deeps.

7 He it is who makes the clouds rise at the end of the earth, who makes lightnings for the rain and brings forth the wind from his storehouses.

8 He it was who struck down the firstborn of Egypt, both of man and of beast;

9 who in your midst, O Egypt, sent signs and wonders against Pharaoh and all his servants;

10 who struck down many nations and killed mighty kings,

11 Sihon, king of the Amorites, and Og, king of Bashan, and all the kingdoms of Canaan,

12 and gave their land as a heritage, a heritage to his people Israel.

13 Your name, O Lord, endures forever, your renown, O Lord, throughout all ages.

14 For the Lord will vindicate his people and have compassion on his servants.

15 The idols of the nations are silver and gold, the work of human hands.

16 They have mouths, but do not speak; they have eyes, but do not see;

17 they have ears, but do not hear, nor is there any breath in their mouths.

18 Those who make them become like them, so do all who trust in them.

In Napping in Delilah’s Lap, I describe one of the horrors of idolatry as the fact that our idols make us like them. We go from being flaming arrow ministers to being snuffed out blocks of wood or cold metal. Sexual immorality, the epitome and the symbol of idolatry does this to us. “For on account of a harlot one is reduced to a loaf of bread, and an adulteress hunts for the precious life,” Pr. 6:26. Idolatry devalues you, it cheapens you. And then it kills you.

19 O house of Israel, bless the Lord! O house of Aaron, bless the Lord!

20 O house of Levi, bless the Lord! You who fear the Lord, bless the Lord!

21 Blessed be the Lord from Zion, he who dwells in Jerusalem!

Praise the Lord!

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Do not forget that bless – barak – means to kneel. When we kneel in the physical, we stand in the spirit. When we bow or submit to and trust God in the physical, we rise and soar in the spiritual. Teach your soul to barak  and your spirit to halal.  Burn forth, flaming warriors!

The Posture of Pleading & Praising

A devotional of Psalm 134.

1 Behold, bless the Lord, all you servants of the Lord, who stand by night in the house of the Lord!

It has been suggested that this was the parting blessing as the pilgrims left the temple. They called this section out to the priests who remained in the temple year-round. The priests were to represent men to God unceasingly. “In the tabernacle of meeting, outside the veil which [is] before the Testimony, Aaron and his sons shall tend it from evening until morning before the LORD. [It shall be] a statute forever to their generations on behalf of the children of Israel,” Exodus 27:21.

“Since this is addressed to servants of the LORD, this psalm shows us that praise should be added to all our work. We can imagine a temple guard asking, “Isn’t it enough that I do my work and stand watch through the night?” The answer is: “No, that isn’t enough. To all your work, add praise – bless the LORD, all you servants of the LORD,”” according to Bible commentator Guzik.

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Standing is work. It is frequently easier to sit. Standing at night is even more work, when the souls of men are in suspension. It requires self-denial, discipline, commitment, and a high calling.

Boice adds of the departing pilgrims, “As they leave the city, they are encouraged to know that the priests will be remaining behind to represent them at the temple and so they will be worshiping God there continually.” We are well represented at the temple. The earthly temple is the shadow of God’s Throne Room. We are well represented at the Throne Room.

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“Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us,” Romans 8:33, 34. One of my favorite pieces of scripture is Job 16:19-21: “Even now my witness is in heaven; my advocate is on high. My intercessor is my friend as my eyes pour out tears to God; on behalf of a man, he pleads with God as one pleads for a friend.”

Wow!

Are you a 24/7 worshipper of God? Are you a 24/7 intercessor? May we, the royal priesthood (1 Peter 2:9) the house of Aaron, take every opportunity, every waking moment to seek God’s presence not only for ourselves but for others.

2 Lift up your hands in the sanctuary and bless the Lord.

In prayer, we lift our hands as a symbol of having received blessings from above and in request of more. We are forever in need. We are forever receiving. We lift hands to plead and to praise.

Not everyone had access to the sanctuary. Only priests and Levites had this privilege. Furthermore, only the High Priest went to the Holy of Holies and that only once a year. It was a formidable and arduous responsibility. As Christians, each of us has full access right to the throne room any time, day or night. Holy Spirit show us how magnificent this privilege is. Quicken us to frequent it in our hearts and minds. May we not be those that neglect to acknowledge God at every turn. May we adopt this posture of constant pleading and praising.

3 May the Lord bless you from Zion, he who made heaven and earth!

God the maker of the universe calls us to bless him but he will not be outdone. He blesses us right back. While Zion was the epicenter of his presence, his blessings did not remain there but poured out lavishly from the temple and to each and every person individually as they departed. God is in the business of blessing – always. His word stands firm forever.

“Speak to Aaron and his sons, saying, ‘This is the way you shall bless the children of Israel. Say to them: “The LORD bless you and keep you; The LORD make His face shine upon you, And be gracious to you; The LORD lift up His countenance upon you, And give you peace.” ‘ “So they shall put My name on the children of Israel, and I will bless them.” Num 6:23-27. Lift your hands and receive it, Beloved!

There the Lord Commands a Blessing

A devotional on Psalm 133

1 Behold, how good it is, when brothers dwell together in unity!

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Look!

It is such a wonderful and rare thing that we must stop and marvel when we see it. My good friend Spurgeon says, “It is a wonder seldom seen, therefore behold it! It may be seen, for it is the characteristic of real saints – therefore fail not to inspect it! It is well worthy of admiration; pause and gaze upon it! It will charm you into imitation, therefore note it well!”

Good means pleasurable, excellent, the best, prosperity. Pleasant means sweet, delightful, lovely. Those terms remind me of the wonderful piece of scripture, “Finally, believers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable and worthy of respect, whatever is right and confirmed by God’s word, whatever is pure and wholesome, whatever is lovely and brings peace, whatever is admirable and of good repute; if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think continually on these things [center your mind on them, and implant them in your heart.” Philippians 4:8.

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What a rich blessing. We’ve learned that our senses are the gateway to sour soul. They are the sentinels of the heart.  Allow them to observe and let harmony right on in for depositing into our minds. This is how we nurture our mind, our heart, our soul. This is how we love the lord our God with all our heart, and soul, and strength and our brother as ourselves. It is good and pleasant.

Guzik makes an excellent point, “Not everything that is good is pleasant, and not everything that is pleasant is good. Unity among God’s people is such a remarkable blessing because it is both good and pleasant – and both to a high degree.” To which theologian Trapp adds, “Communion of saints is the next happiness upon earth to communion with God.” Revel in it, beloved!

2 It is like the precious oil on the head, that ran down upon the beard, even the beard of Aaron, that went down to the skirts of his garments.

“And you shall take some of the blood that is on the altar, and some of the anointing oil, and sprinkle it on Aaron and on his garments, on his sons and on the garments of his sons with him; and he and his garments shall be hallowed, and his sons and his sons’ garments with him,” Exodus 29:21.

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The word for precious – tob – is the same word as ‘good’ in verse 1. We know that this oil is costly and very special. That is why all that was needed was a sprinkling. It was used by hosts upon welcoming their guests to their home, to acknowledge the privilege of having them and to infuse a pleasant aroma upon the road-weary and not so fragrant guests in a culture where body odor may have been a fact of daily life.

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Further, the oil in the Temple was sprinkled on the high priest as an anointing or setting apart from what was evil and a consecration to God and what is holy. Oil is representative of Holy Spirit. Here, it is not just sprinkled but lavishly applied to overflowing till drips down Aaron’s beard and to his garments. Most Bible versions say it ran to the collar. KJV says it flows down to the skirts of his garment and skirts – peh – mean the mouth. Could it be as the mouth of a river, which is its ending point? If so, the oil flows not just to the collar but to the hem!

In the Hallel Psalms (113-118) we studied three groups of people God identified as greatly blessed:  the house of Israel, the house of Aaron, and those who fear the Lord. Let’s focus on Aaron here for a moment. Aaron was Moses’s brother. He and his descendants received the priesthood from God. Aaron means “light bringer.” It is the role of the priest to represent God, the light, to man who is in darkness. We made the point that you, believer in Jesus, belong to the house of Aaron. To that end, Jesus said, “you are the light of the world,” Mt. 5:14. Peter declares, “But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light,” 1 Peter 2:9. Amen, Aaron?

The massive band of pilgrims spends a lot of time together heading towards the Temple. I can see how fatigue and prolonged proximity among a passionate people can lead to relational flare-ups. Harmony is the oil, the lubricant of social intercourse among these weary travelers. As they near Jerusalem, they ascend the hill and finally the steps to the Temple, the very presence of God. Our verse said, It is like the precious oil on the head, running down on the beard, on the beard of Aaron, running down on the collar of his robes! As they do so, Holy Spirit – their expectant host descends to meet them. He is thrilled that his company has arrived, he runs down the steps, as it were, to greet and receive them. O, how sweet it is, and how prosperous!

In the New Testament, Jesus quotes Is. 61:1 and declares, “The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the afflicted; he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to captives and freedom to prisoners,” Luke 4:18. We take up his mantle when we go about the business of attending to these three mandates. The afflicted are in darkness, the brokenhearted are in darkness, the captives and prisoners and are in darkness. Turn on the light for them, Aaron!

3. As the dew of Hermon and as the dew that descended upon the mountains of Zion, For there the Lord has commanded the blessing, life forevermore.

Harmony is a function of unity which is our ultimate calling. Jesus prayed, “I do not pray for these alone, but also for those who will believe in Me through their word; that they all may be one, as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You; that they also may be one in ss, that the world may believe that You sent Me. And the glory which You gave Me I have given them, that they may be one just as We are one: “I in them, and You in Me; that they may be made perfect in one, and that the world may know that You have sent Me, and have loved them as You have loved Me,” Jn. 17:20-23.

We are called to nurture this unity by living at peace with one another, as much as it depends on us. That said, this unity is a gift of God and not an achievement on our part. We can’t drum it up. It is a blessing we receive from being in the family of God so that we enjoy deep affection and love for one another. Behold, how good and how pleasant it is when brothers dwell in unity!  It is like the precious oil on the head, running down on the beard, on the beard of Aaron, running down on the collar of his robes! It is like the dew of Hermon, which falls on the mountains of Zion! For there the Lord has commanded the blessing, life forevermore.

God’s Dwelling Place

A devotional of Psalm 132

1 Remember, O Lord, in David’s favor, all the hardships he endured,

2 how he swore to the Lord and vowed to the Mighty One of Jacob,

3 “I will not enter my house or get into my bed,

4 I will not give sleep to my eyes or slumber to my eyelids,

5 until I find a place for the Lord, a dwelling place for the Mighty One of Jacob.”

Who cares?

There wasn’t a physical place for the Ark of the Covenant to dwell. All saw that. One man cared about it. Not only did he care but that matter struck his heart. He felt so deeply about it that he vowed that he would not enter his house or get into his bed; he would not allow sleep to his eyes nor slumber to his eyelids till he found a suitable dwelling place for God’s presence. That’s determination!

Many issues surround us today. Who cares? Holy Spirit would you give us hearts that care enough to be burdened about specific issues so that we deprive sleep from our eyes and slumber from our eyelids until they are solved? What do you care about, believer? What do you desire?

If you care about something, it may soon consume you as zeal burns within you. The matter will become your obsession. This is a matter of the soul/heart/mind and the concepts of WIE -the Will, the Intellect, and the Emotions. Your desires will be to see the matter fixed. Your thoughts (focus, attention, planning, imaginings, meditations, etc.) will constantly be about it. Your emotions will orbit the matter. What is that for you, my friend? Anything? Ask Holy Spirit to make you passionate about something that he’s impassioned by, then put feet to that mission.

If nothing comes to mind, remember that your goal is to align your heart with God’s heart. In Psalm 69, David lamented, “Zeal for the house of God consumes me.” His son Jesus would pick up that lament in John 2. Start with caring about God’s house; about the gathering of believers; about the activities that happen when we assemble together at God’s feet; about the state of our hearts when we do so.

Keep in mind that this zeal may not be shared by others, including fellow believers. Your passion may very well be your undoing. Like Jesus and David, you may endure scorn, derision, and mockery for your fervor. That may be another way to think of your zeal consuming you.

Further, think of your heart as God’s dwelling place. Upon salvation, Holy Spirit is deposited in your heart and it becomes his new home. “Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you?” 1 Cor. 3:16. “What agreement has the temple of God with idols? For we are the temple of the living God; as God said, “I will make my dwelling among them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people.” 2 Cor. 6:16.

In other words, Holy Spirit moves into our desires, our intellect, and our emotions. This results in a major renovation, and we become new people. We gain or access new passions, new thinking, and new emotions than we did before.

6 Behold, we heard of it in Ephrathah; we found it in the fields of Jaar.

7 “Let us go to his dwelling place; let us worship at his footstool!”

8 Arise, O Lord, and go to your resting place, you and the ark of your might.

In the Wilderness, whenever the Israelites were ready to move on to their next camp, Moses would raise his staff and pray, “Rise up, O LORD! Let Your enemies be scattered and let those who hate You flee before You.” Numbers 10:25. At that time, God indwelt a tent, a temporary place. Likewise, Holy Spirit’s presence temporarily indwelt various people in the Old Testament but only as a camper. He came and went. Only in the New Testament do we see him permanently indwelling the believer. We become his dwelling place, his resting place.

9 Let your priests be clothed with righteousness and let your saints shout for joy.

“Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own,” 1 Cor. 6:19. “If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you.” Rom. 8:11.

Moreover, we are called priests of God. We can get passionate about being intermediaries between God and man. “For you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.” 1 Peter 2:9. We are called to be holy priests, clothed in righteousness. This concept is repeated in verse 16 below.

As priests, we are set apart. We are different from others. We are different from what we used to be. We are holy. We do not avail the members of our body as instruments of unrighteousness but as instruments of righteousness. Paul says, “Now this I say and testify in the Lord, that you must no longer walk as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their minds. They are darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, due to their hardness of heart. They have become callous and have given themselves up to sensuality, greedy to practice every kind of impurity. 20 But that is not the way you learned Christ!— assuming that you have heard about him and were taught in him, as the truth is in Jesus, to put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.” Ephesians 4:17-24.

10 For the sake of your servant David, do not turn away the face of your anointed one.

11 The Lord swore to David a sure oath from which he will not turn back:

“One of the sons of your body I will set on your throne.

12 If your sons keep my covenant and my testimonies that I shall teach them,

their sons also forever shall sit on your throne.”

13 For the Lord has chosen Zion; he has desired it for his dwelling place:

14 “This is my resting place forever; here I will dwell, for I have desired it.

15 I will abundantly bless her provisions; I will satisfy her poor with bread.

16 Her priests I will clothe with salvation, and her saints will shout for joy.

17 There I will make a horn to sprout for David; I have prepared a lamp for my anointed.

18 His enemies I will clothe with shame, but on him his crown will shine.”

Father God, we bless and praise you. Thank you for choosing us as your dwelling place. We do not deserve it and are honored. Light us up with holy passion for your body. May we take responsibility for appropriating the precious blood of Jesus so that our priestly garments are spotless. Help us hate sin and its stain. Help us choose holiness every time. Help us love each other for we are members of one another. Help us help each other. Help us spur each other on to good desires, good thinking, and right feeling. Arise O Lord, in your dwelling place!

Wean Your Own Child

A devotional on Psalm 131

This sweet little psalm packs a powerful punch and is a great delight to memorize and meditate on routinely. I use it to calm my soul when it is upset, and to turn it Godward when it is inward focused. My friend Spurgeon says, “It is one of the shortest Psalms to read, but one of the longest to learn.” Remember that the heart and the soul and analogous and refer to our WIE- the Will (desires), the Intellect, and the Emotions.

1 O Lord, my heart is not lifted up; my eyes are not raised too high;

I do not occupy myself with things too great and too marvelous for me.

I’m reading a marvelous book called With by Skye Jethani. It makes a compelling case that man attempts to live ‘over God.’ Modernism has written God off and even as Christians we can adhere to the Bible and its tenets but effectively leave God out of it. Someone asked, “if the Holy Spirit left your church, would anyone notice?” What a chilling and sobering question. I’m afraid the answer might be, “not really.”

Even a heart that confesses Jesus as Lord can be lifted up beyond Jesus. Our perceptions of his role and power can be diminished as we walk in our flesh and capacity. Self-sufficiency can mark our Christian walk while we pay lip-service to his lordship. A submitted heart is a rare thing indeed. Is yours one of those? Are your desires aligned with his? Is your thinking intertwined with his – your plans, your way of solving problems, your memories, your focus and attention? What about your emotions? Are they godly and constantly submitted. Is what makes you mad what makes God mad or are you internally fixated and driven by personal comfort? Do you delight in what he delights in? Do you fear man or do you fear God?

Have you taken up the role of trying to control your life, people around you, and outcomes? What things are you occupying yourself with, your finances? World peace? Your health? Relationships?

To what is your selfish ambition driving you? “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility let each esteem others better than himself,” Phillipians 2:3. Again, Spurgeon admonishes, “Fill your sphere, brother, and be content with it. If God shall move you to another, be glad to be moved; if he move you to a smaller, be as willing to go to a less prominent place as to one that is more so. Have no will about it.” To which Guzik adds, “He [David] did not set his focus on promotion or position above what God had appointed in the present season.”

Believer, the church and individual that desires to do great works for God may be easily misled by selfish ambition. Jesus already did the great work. Rest in that, love God, and serve man. The work is his, you are co-laborer. Find contentment in being a servant. Our culture values intellectual gymnastics and elevates knowledge. We forget that “… “knowledge” puffs up, but love builds up. If anyone imagines that he knows something, he does not yet know as he ought to know,” 1 Cor. 8:1b, 2.

Father, help me value love as much and more than I value knowledge. “Make it your ambition to lead a quiet life: You should mind your own business and work with your hands,” 1 Thess. 4:11. Then we can say with Jesus, “My food is to do the will of him who sent me, and to accomplish his work,” John 4:34. Is that your food, beloved?

2 But I have calmed and quieted my soul, like a weaned child with its mother; like a weaned child is my soul within me.

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Our soul is a regular barrel of monkeys. It is silly and excitable for any old reason. We must train this spiritual organ to submit to God and his ways. I liken an untrained soul to a seven-year-old behind the wheel. It is like a stubborn three-year-old who wants what she wants now. She is a danger to herself and others and needs strict, hands-on training. This volatile entity flares up and gets agitated, only making things worse. It is like running in a field of dry grass with a lit torch.

We must learn to soothe and shush our soul. Sometimes the solution is to hold it close and firmly till it calms down, not to give it what it wants or thinks it needs. Tell it it is well fed. Tell it all its needs are met in Jesus and that it can rest. Soothe it enough to lock eyes with Jesus and there find solace. It needs quiet, not more rousing noise and agitation. Lock those out. Sit in a rocking chair and speak quietly to it, slowly, meditatively, repetitively. Speak scripture to it and watch its tension dissipate. Watch it relax into the arms of its maker.

Guzik notes, “We regard the process of weaning as natural, but the child likely regards it as a battle. What David wrote of here was contentment with God that did not come naturally, but through victory over what comes naturally and the habits associated with previous experience.” Wow! Contentment does not come naturally. We have to override our desires in the training of our souls. We even have to override past experience. Morgan adds, “The weaned child with its mother is the child who has learned to be independent of that which seemed indispensible, and indeed was so at one time.”

Friend, this is your job. Don’t depend on outside agents to quiet your upset soul. Substances and habits can promise to soothe our seven-year-old for us. Don’t let them. The world and its ways will offer to calm the soul. Don’t let them. You take the reins. You tell it what to desire. You tell it what to think. You tell it what to feel. You wean your own child.

3 O Israel, hope in the Lord from this time forth and forevermore.

When God allows things or circumstances in our life that wean us from things we have relied on, we should never despise it. “Blessed are those afflictions which subdue our affections, which wean us from self-sufficiency, which educate us into Christian manliness, which teach us to love God not merely when he comforts us, but even when he tries us.”

Charles Spurgeon

Hope in God believer. He is your all in all.

Three verses never packed such a powerful punch…

A Greater Fear

A devotional of Psalm 130

1 Out of the depths I cry to you, O Lord!

This is one of the songs of ascents (Psalm 120-135) also known as the songs of degrees or songs of elevation. Pilgrims to the Temple approached it from the bottom of the hill then up the 15 steps. They came from a low place to this lofty place because “God is high and lifted up,” Isaiah 57:15.

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The concept of degrees or levels is hereby reflected. It’s one thing to be bugged by an issue and have it merely affect us superficially. It is another matter to be struck and rocked at your very core. That is where today’s psalmist is coming from. The attack has affected the very center, the heart and soul, a place of depth maybe even formerly unknown to the psalmist. It has brought him to a low, low place. It has plunged him into a deep, deep pit. “Out of the depths I cry to you, O Lord.” What a blessing that no matter how low we are, whether we took ourselves there or someone else did, the principle remains – “for everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord will be saved,” Rom. 10:13. “Our help is in the name of the Lord, who made heaven and earth,” Ps. 124:8.

“Where shall I go from your Spirit? Or where shall I flee from your presence? If I ascend to heaven, you are there! If I make my bed in Sheol, you are there! If I take the wings of the morning and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, even there your hand shall lead me, and your right hand shall hold me,” Ps. 139: 7-10. You call, he answers. You call, he answers. You call, he answers. That’s the relationship.

2     O Lord, hear my voice! Let your ears be attentive to the voice of my pleas for mercy!

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“In my distress I called to the Lord; I cried to my God for help. From his temple he heard my voice;    my cry came before him, into his ears.,” Ps. 18:6. This verse paints the reality of heaven when we call upon God. We don’t stand in long lines to get a few seconds of his attention. The cry of his children bypasses all lines. It is as though he has a special ear bug tuned to me and to you at all times. No matter what else he is attending to, he is completely tuned to you.

3 If you, O Lord, should mark iniquities, O Lord, who could stand?

The simple answer is no one. “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,” Rom. 3:23. “All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned everyone to his own way; and the LORD hath laid on him the iniquity of us all,” Isaiah 53:6. And as we saw yesterday, “Let God be true, and every human being a liar,” Romans 3:4a. When it comes to iniquities, we all fall flat on our faces in contrition. We are guilty as judged.

4 But with you there is forgiveness, that you may be feared.

But then look at your God. Tenderly, he stoops down to the woman who was not just accused but caught in the act of adultery. Whether she was set up or not, she was guilty as all get out, and brutally dragged before Jesus by her rabid accusers. She deserved death and they were loaded for bear. The mob of dignified religious leaders and the Pharisees said, “Teacher, this woman was caught in the act of adultery. In the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?” John 8:4, 5.

They were salivating for blood and ready to have it upon their hands. But it wasn’t her blood they were after, she was a just a pawn. It was his blood they sought!

Jesus promptly cut them at the knees and banished them in a few choice words. Those words have rung down through the centuries, “When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, “Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her,” v. 7. They left one by one. If those experts in the law couldn’t attain it by their works, we have no hope. We would turn and walk away too – guilty and hopeless. Or we can be like the woman and hear the words of life that have also rung down through the centuries, ““Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” “No one, sir,” she said. “Then neither do I condemn you,” Jesus declared. “Go now and leave your life of sin.” Jn 8:10b -11.

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She had come fearing for her life and she left with a better fear, the fear of God. She came within an inch of her life, met him who is a consuming fire, and lived to teach a whole new truth: “But with you there is forgiveness, that you may be feared.” Note his strong stance for her. Note his strong stance against her sin. “Consider the kindness and sternness of God,” Rom. 11:22.

5 I wait for the Lord, my soul waits, and in his word I hope;

6 my soul waits for the Lord more than watchmen for the morning, more than watchmen for the morning.

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To wait – qavah – is to expect and hope for. Figuratively it is to bind oneself to. Remember the intertwined cords of the wicked we learned about yesterday? If not, revisit that. To wait on God is to entwine ourselves to him. For our souls to wait is to shush them so they come into alignment with God’s. Our will or desires, our intellect, our emotions wait expectantly throughout our lives as we go about the business of training them to conform to God’s will, his intellect (attention, focus, plans, thoughts, memories, etc.), and his emotions. Lord, we want to have emotional responses like you have. We want to desire what you desire. We want to think your thoughts, mull over your memories, problem-solve like you do, and pay attention to what you pay attention to. We want to be just like you and we want that more than anything!

7 O Israel, hope in the Lord! For with the Lord there is steadfast love, and with him is plentiful redemption.

8 And he will redeem Israel from all his iniquities.

“My hope is built on nothing less. than Jesus’ blood and righteousness. I dare not trust the sweetest frame. but wholly lean on Jesus’ name. Refrain: On Christ, the solid rock, I stand; all other ground is sinking sand, all other ground is sinking sand.” Edward Mote (1834.) Turn it up and sing along!

For the Love of Israel

A devotional of Psalm 129

1 “Greatly have they afflicted me from my youth”— let Israel now say—

2 “Greatly have they afflicted me from my youth, yet they have not prevailed against me.

What a statement of valor. It is one thing to acknowledge what others have malevolently done to you and quite another to finish the sentence triumphantly by stating that they have not prevailed against you. In our study of Psalm 124 we saw that the overpowering party had numerous plans for your destruction but with the Lord’s protection, no matter what they did to you, they did not consume and destroy you. Reread that passage if you missed that crucial point.

Israel’s experience in Egypt is called “her youth.” Yet it is safe to say that even before that nation came about she was threatened with non-existence as shown in her delay in being birthed – in Abraham’s story. Once born, Guzik notes that “the Canaanites, the Philistines, the Syrians, the Assyrians, the Babylonians, the Greeks, the Romans, the Roman Catholics, the kings of Europe, the Muslims, the Czars, and the Nazis all have done their best to wipe out the Jews. Yet they remain.”

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In poetic repetition, the psalmist masterfully stresses the duress that this small nation of survivors has endured. My good friend Spurgeon says, “she makes a sonnet out of her sorrows, music out of her miseries.” We saw this melodious repetition in Psalm 124:1, 2, “If it had not been the Lord who was on our side— let Israel now say— if it had not been the Lord who was on our side when people rose up against us…” Many nations boast of great conquests, but this little band is marked by the miracle of her very survival. That ought to bring music to our lips and dance to our step

Theologian Maclaren teaches, “The right use of retrospect is to make it the ground of hope.” What fertile seed is affliction for showing us that when we walk in the shadow of the valley, we have a mighty deliverer. That feeds our memory bank so that next time we encounter adversity, we know that he has a record of coming through for his beloved. In the words of John Newton, “through many dangers, toils and snares, I have already come. Tis’ grace has brought me safe thus far, and grace will lead me home.” Hallel Jah!

3 The plowers plowed upon my back; they made long their furrows.”

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What dread to be splayed out while laid low? What harrowing dismay to experience the unforgiving plow digging up the flesh from one end to the other with the brutal lash of the whip? It is reminiscent of Jesus’ passion experience.

4 The Lord is righteous; he has cut the cords of the wicked.

God is righteous and man is not. God is right and correct and man is not. So, Paul can say with authority, “Let God be true, and every human being a liar. As it is written: “So that you may be proved right when you speak and prevail when you judge,” Romans 3:4. Cords were various branches intertwined to strengthen them, so they held fast. The cords of the wicked he will merely run through the chopper. They will be as effective as unplugging a machine in the middle of a job.

5 May all who hate Zion be put to shame and turned backward!

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Theologian Morgan taught, “To hate Zion is to hate God. To tolerate those who do so, is to be confederate with their wickedness.” To which Spurgeon adds, this is “…a proper wish, and contains within it no trace of personal ill-will. We desire their welfare as men, their downfall as traitors. Let their conspiracies be confounded, their policies be turned back.

6 Let them be like the grass on the housetops, which withers before it grows up,

7 with which the reaper does not fill his hand nor the binder of sheaves his arms,

Despite the deep furrows they dug in Israel’s back, her enemies have shallow roots which though the current season is lush and accommodating, the very next will burn them up and they’ll have nothing to show for all their furor. They will come to nothing. They will soon be a memory that even their place will not remember.

8 nor do those who pass by say, “The blessing of the Lord be upon you! We bless you in the name of the Lord!”

This is the richest wealth you can impart upon anyone. May it continuously flow from your mouth towards those that love the Lord and those that do not. Be a blesser and not a cursor. Use these words repeatedly today, tomorrow, and henceforth.

The Vine & The Olive Tree

A devotional of Psalm 128

1 Blessed is everyone who fears the Lord, who walks in his ways!

Many passages of scripture prescribe the fear of God as the beginning of knowledge or wisdom, (Psalm 111:10, Job 28:28, Proverbs 1:7 and 9:10,) and Ecclesiastes 12:13 states, “Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God and keep His commandments, For this is man’s all.” This is your purpose, the summation of your life goals. This verse ties in tightly with Psalm 128:1 in marrying the concepts of the fear of God and obedience to his Word. Fearing God isn’t only about an emotional state of terror towards him but a resultant lifestyle of seeking to please him.

My good friend Spurgeon says, “It is idle to talk of fearing the Lord if we act like those who have no care whether there be a God or no. God’s ways will be our ways if we have a sincere reverence for him: if the heart is joined unto God, the feet will follow hard after him.”

2 You shall eat the fruit of the labor of your hands; you shall be blessed, and it shall be well with you.

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Work is not a curse as many believe. It is indeed a blessing. The curse would be laborious work with minimal produce. Work is the calling of every man and woman. It is our blessing while we live. Theologian Trapp says, “Thou shalt reap and receive the sweet of thy sweat, whether it be of the brow or of the brain, according to the kind of thy calling.” Delight in your work, friends. Ask Holy Spirit to give you a love for your work and to help you see its sacredness. It is your blessing. May he endorse it and make it flourish.

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3 Your wife will be like a fruitful vine within your house; your children will be like olive shoots around your table.

4 Behold, thus shall the man be blessed who fears the Lord.

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These two fruits are rich symbols of the abundant life, the good life. Though they are frequently used, they are not necessities but luxuries. A wife and children are not necessities. God’s intention is that they be a precious blessing. They are to be a long-term, indwelling regularity like the grape vine and the olive tree which only bear richer fruit the longer they are established. That said, Guzik wisely adds, “These are not the only blessings of life, and God may give other blessings in compensation to those who fear the LORD.”

5 The Lord bless you from Zion! May you see the prosperity of Jerusalem all the days of your life!

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The lovely picture painted of a home life is set as a stalwart foundation for our communities. Strong and happy homes are for the good of a city. Theologian Morgan teaches, “The strength of any city lies in its strong family life. The true strength of the family issues from its ordering in the fear of the Lord.”

6 May you see your children’s children! Peace be upon Israel!

May peace be upon our children and their children and their children. Thus may peace be upon our neighborhoods and our cities and our nations.

Restored!

A devotional of Psalm 126

1 When the Lord restored the fortunes of Zion, we were like those who dream.

God’s restoration in our lives is as a dream. It seems unreal and inexplicable. Frequently it is hard to connect the dots of his favor. All we know is we were as those who slumber and now are wide awake.

2 Then our mouth was filled with laughter, and our tongue with shouts of joy;

then they said among the nations, “The Lord has done great things for them.”

Joy and singing are our anthem. They are the true mark of a Christian. You cannot know Jehovah and long persist in dreary drudgery. Laugh believer, rejoice redeemed. You are richly blessed indeed!

When God does amazing things for his children, onlookers cannot help but notice. Some may jeer but all acknowledge that a supernatural force is at work in our midst.

3 The Lord has done great things for us; we are glad.

May we in turn acknowledge that he has done great things. We must open our mouths are to be out with it. This is no place for silence.  This is no business for reticence. Arise, beloved. Tell of his goodness. Tell what he has done from the days of our spiritual fathers to this day.

4 Restore our fortunes, O Lord, like streams in the Negeb!

In the dry times of our lives, the Lord restores our fortunes like a wadi in the desert. Flash floods cascade torrentially in barren places resulting in unbelievable sprouting and blossoming.

5 Those who sow in tears shall reap with shouts of joy!

6 He who goes out weeping, bearing the seed for sowing,

shall come home with shouts of joy, bringing his sheaves with him.

Our pains and tears water the dry places and lead to harvests we cannot imagine. This is a promise. Your tears were not in vain. Your tears are not in vain. They are precious to your maker. So much so that he collects them. He treasures them. They are earning for you an eternal glory. You shall reap. You shall laugh again. Jump for joy believer!

Weep if you must. Travail if you must. Sometimes God’s intervention is like a flash flood in your life. Other times it includes labor and waiting as you co-labor with him. What is your seed? Are you faithfully sowing it? Are you caring for the sick, the hungry, the imprisoned? This is your calling, farmer. Are you comforting the broken-hearted and binding up their wounds? Are you sowing seeds of the good news, the eruptive joy of being known by a savior? Weep with them, hold them close. Check in on them.

You will come home with shouts of joy. You will have a harvest. It will be as a dream. You will have piles of sheaves and your rejoicing will know no bounds.