Music That Causes Earthquakes

A devotion of Psalm 100.

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1 Make a joyful shout to the Lord, all you lands!

The command for our business of the day is to make a joyful shout to the Lord. No matter what you’re going through, your first order of business is to make a joyful shout. He has been commanding us this for the last few days.

There was a man named Naaman, commander of the army of the king of Aram. He had leprosy. With much pomp, he went to see Elisha, a Israelite prophet renowned as a healer. Elisha told him to bath in the Jordan river seven times and he would be healed. Friend, look at this river. It’s an actual photo of the Jordan. Does it invite you to take off your clothes and jump in? Your sentiments might echo Naaman’s.

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“But Naaman went away angry and said, “I thought that he would surely come out to me and stand and call on the name of the Lord his God, wave his hand over the spot and cure me of my leprosy. Are not Abana and Pharpar, the rivers of Damascus, better than all the waters of Israel? Couldn’t I wash in them and be cleansed?” So he turned and went off in a rage,” 2 Kings 5:11, 12.

A lot of us are going through a hard time. Many are asking for prayer to overcome a spirit of heaviness that hangs over the land as anxiety, depression, and incredible stress from one source or another takes its toll. God claims to have a cure – go bathe in the Jordan river of joyful song.

You might read that and think, “Clearly you don’t understand, Hannah. If you knew how I was feeling, you’d have a more complex and reasonable answer for me.” So you read your devotion for the day, maybe hit like, and check it off the to-do list, no less unburdened than when we first arrived.

We want to see a doctor and get a prescription. We want to sit in counselling for a year. We want to sit and commiserate with someone who understands. We want a procedure. We want the pastor to come out and pray over us. We want to change jobs. We want to find a spouse; or find another spouse. We want our children to stop carousing. These cures are clinically proven with efficacy studies.

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Abana River

Are not Abana and Pharpar, the rivers of Damascus, better than all the waters of Israel? Couldn’t I wash in them and be cleansed?” Now there’s a river that invites me to jump in and swim!

How are the Abana and Pharpar rivers working for you? We have the best beds and the softest sheets on earth but we can’t sleep. We have the most comfortable cars, and shoes, and ergonomic seats at work yet have the most back pain. We have the best doctors and hospitals and consume the most drugs but we are the sickest. We have the most money and the greatest resources but we are ailing.

2 Serve the Lord with gladness; Come before His presence with singing.

Naaman’s servants went to him and said, “My father, if the prophet had told you to do some great thing, would you not have done it? How much more, then, when he tells you, ‘Wash and be cleansed’!” So he went down and dipped himself in the Jordan seven times, as the man of God had told him, and his flesh was restored and became clean like that of a young boy,” 2 Kings 3:13-14.

Beloved, I have a PhD in Christian counselling and I do not understand God! I don’t understand his ways and I do not understand his workings. What I do know is that he is God and I am not.

In our scientific brilliance and thinking, his ways seem ridiculous. But friends, they work. They work! Do you want to be restored? Try the prescription of joyful singing twice every hour for the next week and then come back and tell me you don’t feel better. We may need to adjust the dose (see the scale at the bottom of this post to determine dosing.)

Note that he doesn’t say listen to a song or have Christian music playing in the background. He says you sing. You make music. Now make it joyful music. Now shout it. I beg you to try it.

3 Know that the Lord, He is God; It is He who has made us, and not we ourselves;

We are His people and the sheep of His pasture.

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I thank God for all the amazing technological advances made in science. But science didn’t make you. Medicine didn’t make you. Psychology didn’t make you. Chemistry didn’t make you. God, who is all those sciences, did. The creator of your amazing brain knows the power of music to release serotonin and endorphins and dopamine. He knows that music induces movement. He knows that music is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy to replace your dismal thoughts with delightful, praise and gratitude-filled ones. He is God. He made us. He knows.

4 Enter into His gates with thanksgiving and into His courts with praise.

Be thankful to Him and bless His name.

Allow me to be your servant Naaman and lend me your ear. I beg you to try this cure for your leprosy.

“Let the word of Christ richly dwell within you as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God.” Colossians 3:16.

He tells us we are to be “speaking to one another with psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit. Sing and make music from your heart to the Lord,” Eph. 5:19.

“But giving thanks is a sacrifice that truly honors me. If you keep to my path, I will reveal to you the salvation of God.” Ps. 50:23.

5 For the Lord is good; His mercy is everlasting,

And His truth endures to all generations.

This is my story. This is my song. All I know is it works.

“About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the other prisoners were listening to them, suddenly there was a great earthquake, so that the foundations of the prison were shaken; and immediately all the doors were opened and everyone’s chains were loosed.” Acts 16:25, 26.

Please post your favorite hymn or song. Would you share one you have composed? We’d love to hear it and even sing it with you.

How is your singing measuring on the Richter scale?

Richter MagnitudesDescriptionEarthquake EffectsFrequency of Occurrence
Less than 2.0MicroMicroearthquakes, not felt.About 8,000 per day
2.0-2.9MinorGenerally not felt, but recorded.About 1,000 per day
3.0-3.9MinorOften felt, but rarely causes damage.49,000 per year (est.)
4.0-4.9LightNoticeable shaking of indoor items, rattling noises. Significant damage unlikely.6,200 per year (est.)
5.0-5.9ModerateCan cause major damage to poorly constructed buildings over small regions. At most slight damage to well-designed buildings.800 per year
6.0-6.9StrongCan be destructive in areas up to about 160 kilometres (100 mi) across in populated areas.120 per year
7.0-7.9MajorCan cause serious damage over larger areas.18 per year
8.0-8.9GreatCan cause serious damage in areas several hundred miles across.1 per year
9.0-9.9GreatDevastating in areas several thousand miles across.1 per 20 years
10.0+EpicNever recorded; see below for equivalent seismic energy yield.Extremely rare (Unknown)

(Based on U.S. Geological Survey documents.)

Of Cherubs & Priests

A devotion of Psalm 99.

1 The Lord reigns, let the nations tremble;

he sits enthroned between the cherubim, let the earth shake.

THE CHERUBIM: What are these prodigious creatures called cherubim. I’ll tell you right now that they are certainly not the chubby little angels flitting about or resting cutely on clouds that our culture portrays them as. Scripture frequently describes them and/or their roles.

Wikipedia summarizes cherubim 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.

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The monumental cherubim overshadow the Mercy Seat, God’s very presence and attend to him. Wherever he and they are, frightful flashes of lightning and peals of thunder tear up the atmosphere. 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. There, the priest offered incense and sacrificial blood.

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Ps. 18:10 and in our passage today portray God as enthroned between the cherubim. The prophet Ezekiel saw four of them bolstering God’s throne. God is repeatedly described as “riding on the cherubim” atop a cloud. It seems that clouds are the exhaust of this portable throne. In Psalm 18 we found him parting the heavens to come down to earth on a deliverance mission. He mounts the cherubim and flies, he soars on the wings of the wind.

2 Great is the Lord in Zion; he is exalted over all the nations.

3 Let them praise your great and awesome name— he is holy.

The term holy, quadosh, refers to something separate. God is like nothing else in creation. No one and no thing can even begin to compare to him. He is bigger, grander, wiser, more loving, more light, more inexplicable than anything our brilliant minds can conceive or imagine.

4 The King is mighty, he loves justice— you have established equity;

in Jacob you have done what is just and right.

In studying Proverbs earlier this year, we learned that it purposed to teach us to do what is right, and just, and fair. The verse above declares God as qualified to be the grand author of that amazing book.

5 Exalt the Lord our God and worship at his footstool; he is holy.

6 Moses and Aaron were among his priests, Samuel was among those who called on his name;

they called on the Lord and he answered them.

7 He spoke to them from the pillar of cloud; they kept his statutes and the decrees he gave them.

PRIESTS: Priests, kohen, mediate between God and man. They represent God to the people and the people to God as reconcilers. They were actively involved in teaching the scriptures, in offering sacrifices, in officiating religious ceremonies including health-related ones and other important roles. It is a wonder to me that the King calls us priests:

“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.

Peter got that wonderful idea from the Old Testament: “

And unto Me you shall be a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.’ These are the words that you are to speak to the Israelites,” Exodus 19:6. “For you are a people holy to the LORD your God. The LORD your God has chosen you to be a people for His prized possession out of all peoples on the face of the earth,” Deuteronomy 7:6; 14:2.

You are a priest, beloved, in the service of the Most High. You are among those that call upon the name of the Lord and invoke his power to act on behalf of men, women, and children he has entrusted to you. You are I serve under Jesus Christ, the ultimate High Priest. His intercession and your prayers are the incense, the sweet aroma that rises to God’s nostrils. His blood was presented and accepted “once for all” on the Mercy Seat and the curtain (his body) was torn so that all mankind can have immediate and direct access to God’s presence at any time without a priest.

When God created the Ark of the Covenant (not be confused with Noah’s Ark) and the Temple, he carefully gave instructions because these were prototypes of what was going on in heaven, as Paul teaches us. “For Christ did not enter into a man-made sanctuary that was only a copy of the true one. Rather, He entered into heaven itself, so as to present Himself before God [the Father] on our behalf,” Hebrews 9:24. God entrusted the Temple plans to faithful men like Moses and David because it was imperative that the image of Christ as our priest not be lost in translation. Jesus is the culmination of a plan made and played out over millennia.

“Then David gave his son Solomon the plans for the … temple. He gave him the plans of ALL that the Spirit had put in his mind… He also gave him the plan for the chariot, that is, the cherubim of gold that spread their wings and overshadow the ark of the covenant of the Lord,” 1 Chron. 28:11-18. “

8 Lord our God, you answered them; you were to Israel a forgiving God, though you punished their misdeeds.

9 Exalt the Lord our God and worship at his holy mountain, for the Lord our God is holy.

In our office as chosen kings and priests, we call, he answers. We call, he answers. We call, he answers. I love the point that verse 8 makes, though the Christian culture tends to downplay it. He may forgive our sins but the good father he is, he punishes our misdeeds. We have a narrow window of time, Beloved. For a limited time, we have this ministry: “In other words, God was reconciling the world to himself through Christ, by not counting people’s sins against them. He has trusted us with this message of reconciliation,” 2 Cor. 5:19. How are you doing as king and priest?

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With a Mighty Hand & an Outstretched Arm

A devotion of Psalm 98

1 Sing to the Lord a new song, for he has done marvelous things;

his right hand and his holy arm have worked salvation for him.

2 The Lord has made his salvation known and revealed his righteousness to the nations.

3 He has remembered his love and his faithfulness to Israel;

all the ends of the earth have seen the salvation of our God.

Scripture has much to say about God’s right hand and arm. Commentator Guzik teaches, “These are the instruments of God’s victory, the expressions of His skill and strength. As in Isaiah 52:10, the idea of His holy arm is that God has rolled up His sleeve to do His mighty work.” He quotes theologian Morgan adding, “these were the only instruments available for, or capable of working deliverance.”

The right side is indicative of a dominant hand and therefore of skill, strength, and power. To be someone’s right hand man is to be in a position of privilege, access, trust, and authority. From a young age, I have seen one prominent politician or another leaning over to the person on their right hand to whisper something. It could be a funny comment or a matter of national security.

Any promise God makes or action he takes by his right hand is an Ethan – mighty and rock-solid (https://tribalminded.com/2021/09/21/ethan-1/). The book of Deuteronomy is peppered with this wonderful phrase.  

“For ask now concerning the days that are past, which were before you, since the day that God created man on the earth and ask from one end of heaven to the other, whether any great thing like this has happened, or anything like it has been heard. Did any people ever hear the voice of God speaking out of the midst of the fire, as you have heard, and live? Or did God ever try to go and take for Himself a nation from the midst of another nation, by trials, by signs, by wonders, by war, by a mighty hand and an outstretched arm, and by great terrors, according to all that the LORD your God did for you in Egypt before your eyes? To you it was shown, that you might know that the LORD Himself is God; there is none other besides Him,”

Deuteronomy 4:32-35.

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Mighty miracles that are impossible without God’s intervention are wrought by his mighty right hand and outstretched arm. Unlike bulked up body builders who flex shiny, rippling muscles they spend all day in the gym for, God’s mighty hand and outstretched arm are for show and for work. He uses them to save or deliver his children from their enemies. “If I walk in the midst of trouble, you preserve me from the anger of my foes; You extend Your hand, and Your right hand saves me,” Psalm 138:7. “Save us and help us with your right hand, that those you love may be delivered,” Ps. 60:5.

Jesus is seated at God’s right hand, the ultimate place of favor, power, and authority. He has a front row seat to our lives as he did with Steven. It was there that he stood to cheer and welcome this first martyr home. It is from that place that he intercedes for us.

What is a fitting response to all this power? Because it is coupled with love and on a mission to set us free, joyful praise is the fitting response. He has done it before in our lives, over and over again. And he will do it again. He will continue to be our Way Maker, Promise Keeper, and the Light in the Darkness. Incorporate that wonderful phrase into your thinking and your prayer life. If we truly understood God’s mighty right hand and outstretched arm, our lives would erupt like the verses below:

4 Shout for joy to the Lord, all the earth, burst into jubilant song with music;

5 make music to the Lord with the harp, with the harp and the sound of singing,

6 with trumpets and the blast of the ram’s horn— shout for joy before the Lord, the King.

7 Let the sea resound, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it.

8 Let the rivers clap their hands, let the mountains sing together for joy;

9 let them sing before the Lord, for he comes to judge the earth.

He will judge the world in righteousness and the peoples with equity.

David’s End-Time Prophecy

A devotion of Psalm 97

1 The LORD reigns, let the earth rejoice; let the many coastlands be glad!

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If you have no other reason to be filled with joy today, you just found one! Just the fact that he is in control is reason for you to jump for joy. We rejoice because he is the mightiest. We rejoice because he is loving. We rejoice because he delights in us. We rejoice because he has a plan and it is a good one. We rejoice because he overcomes evil. We rejoice because he defeats the enemy. We rejoice because he defeats death and the grave. We rejoice because we shall be glorified. Our faith shall be turned to sight and we shall see him face to face. Rejoice, beloved. I will say it again, rejoice!

2 Clouds and thick darkness are all around him; righteousness and justice are the foundation of his throne.

3 Fire goes before him and burns up his adversaries all around.

4 His lightnings light up the world; the earth sees and trembles.

5 The mountains melt like wax before the LORD, before the Lord of all the earth.

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In scripture, the Lord repeatedly shrouds himself in clouds and thick darkness. Does he do so for our protection? Darkness can be just as dramatic as light. In Psalm 18, David paints a formidable picture of God, our amazing Cloud Rider on a mission to save his beloved. In his justice he takes care of all the bad guys and vindicates those who are righteous in him. It is a terrible sight for all mankind. But those who know him and are loved by him will sigh in relief that they are in his good books.

“He parted the heavens and came down; dark clouds were under his feet.

He mounted the cherubim and flew; he soared on the wings of the wind.

He made darkness his covering, his canopy around him— the dark rain clouds of the sky.

Out of the brightness of his presence clouds advanced, with hailstones and bolts of lightning,” vs. 9-12.

For those with spirit eyes to see, this happens regularly. Every time we pray, God intervenes in dramatic ways. For those who choose to see, he is riding clouds all day and all night long for us, for our children, for our friends, for his church – doing fierce battle and delivering his children from the hands of the enemy and from his snares. Never look at a cloud the same way again.

6 The heavens proclaim his righteousness, and all the peoples see his glory.

His righteousness, tsedeq, indicates his rightness. Its root word means justice and justification. All people will look at all things God has done and nod in assent saying he was right all along – in everything! That will make him all the more beautiful and splendid in our eyes. Then we shall be caught up in that glory as he shares it with us.

7 All worshipers of images are put to shame, who make their boast in worthless idols; worship him, all you gods!

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Psalm 96 taught us that idols literally mean “nothing.” They have no power, no comfort, no healing, no joy, and no purpose. They are void, naught, no. Why would we flee to them? The end thereof is shame, bush, meaning to be pale, disappointment, dryness, and delay. Why would we fling ourselves at those ‘graven images’ when all we get in return, no matter how much we love them, is ‘nothing?’ Let’s stop worshipping them and worship our all in all instead.

8 Zion hears and is glad, and the daughters of Judah rejoice, because of your judgments, O LORD.

This beautiful prophetic psalm paints God’s beloved rejoicing as a result of his judgements. He will judge and make all things right in the end. And it will not be delayed, though it sometimes appears to be. In that moment, we will see that even his timing is impeccable. We will see that he held out for the intensification of our glory and vindication and for the utter destruction of the wicked.

9 For you, O LORD, are most high over all the earth; you are exalted far above all gods.

“Higher than the mountains that we face

Stronger than the power of the grave

Constant through the trial and the change

One thing remains, yes, one thing remains…”

Gateway Worship

Trials and change can loom as large as mountains and seem just as stable and formidable. But God alone is our Ethan – our mighty unchanging fortress. These mountains shall melt before his presence like wax before a flame. Visualize that image and worship your God. (htk)

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Imagine all disease, all terrorists, all hate, all suffering, all sin, all addiction. All horrible things that dominate our landscape shall melt like wax – all of it! And we shall be caught up in that grand drama. Therefore, we can say with Job, in the worst of his brutal affliction, “I know that my redeemer lives, and that in the end he will stand on the earth. And after my skin has been destroyed, yet in my flesh I will see God; I myself will see him with my own eyes – I, and not another. How my heart yearns within me!” Job 19:25-27.

10 O you who love the LORD, hate evil! He preserves the lives of his saints; he delivers them from the hand of the wicked.

Father give us an aversion for evil. Help us hate it with everything that it within us. May the presence of Holy Spirit in us be as an allergy to wickedness. May it vex and irritate us so we want none of it.

I love the thought that he preserves and delivers our lives a thousand times a day if we are averse to evil.  Conversely, if we love evil, we find ourselves locked up in Satan’s snare again and again – or dead! Hating evil is God’s escape plan for us. If we hate lies, or pride, or sexual immorality, or callousness towards the suffering of human beings, he saves our lives over and over. If you find you have a propensity to cozy up to a particular type of evil, ask Holy Spirit to help you attack it like a mad person.

11 Light is sown for the righteous, and joy for the upright in heart.

12 Rejoice in the LORD, O you righteous, and give thanks to his holy name!

Rejoicing and thanksgiving are your modus operandus, beloved. How blessed you are to be called righteous, not because of what you’ve done or not done, but because of his amazing grace. “Rejoice in the Lord always, I will say it again, rejoice!” Phil. 4:4 and “He who offers a sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving honors Me; And to him who orders his way rightly [who follows the way that I show him], I shall show the salvation of God,” Ps. 50:23.

Healing in His Wings

A devotion of Psalm 96 NKJV

A Song of Praise to God Coming in Judgment

https://youtu.be/S-VJEzPf41w this wonderful song starts in Swahili and the following verses are in English. “Sifuni Mungu” means “Y’all praise the Lord.” “Imbeni” means “sing”. “Vyumbe vyote” means “all creatures.” Turn it up!

1 Oh, sing to the Lord a new song! Sing to the Lord, all the earth.

This beautiful morning dawns fresh outside my window, awaking from the under a blanket of cozy fog. We’ve never experienced it before. Fresh also are his mercies today. That should bubble up to a vigorous boil within us and erupt in song. A new song. For he is doing new things. Turn your words of praise into melodies. (htk)

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Last night my son James was practicing some sweet karate moves. I guess that when you’re cooking mac and cheese it’s a good time to practice moves because there’s significant down time. He knocked gently on my bedroom door to wake me up. To hear him tell it, “I was doing a tornado which turned into a crescent kick, into another crescent kick which hooked the metal part of the bar stool, which went flying across the room. I was praying it doesn’t fly through the sliding glass door. It was a really good crescent kick, just so you know.” The offending foot didn’t look or feel marvelous, so we prayed, iced, wrapped, medicated, and elevated it for the night.

This morning, I’m praising Jesus because it looks great, saying,

 “Creator and Healer of flying feet.

I bless you for James and his awesome moves.

His tornado persona, a weapon for your kingdom

Will expedites his victims to your mercy seat

His foot looks amazing which only proves,

You’re abounding in mercy and wisdom and then some.”

Now if one of you would strum me a tune and some additional lyrics, we’ll be in business.

Who is to sing to the Lord? All the earth – All people, all creation (trees, rivers, slugs, meadows, rocks, everything!)

2 Sing to the Lord, bless His name; Proclaim the good news of His salvation from day to day.

God’s salvation is his deliverance over our lives. Satan comes but to kill, steal, and destroy, Jesus daily snatches us from his snare. Proclaim, basar, means to publish, announce, to gladden with good news. That’s not the preacher’s job for 30 minutes on Sunday morning. That’s our job 24/7. Tell someone what he’s doing in your life. Do it till you’re annoying. (Many of us are hardly at risk of being annoying in this area and yet excel at it in others.)

3 Declare His glory among the nations, His wonders among all peoples.

In this day of internet super-communication, the world has shrunk to the size of a village. We have access to the nations and the good news that they need. In our group alone, we have folks representing 3 continents. That’s a glory and a wonder right there. Holy Spirit help us reach the world with the good news we have. You have expanded our territory – help us take it for you! Give us a heart to start where we are and spread it till the whole world knows.

4 For the Lord is great and greatly to be praised; He is to be feared above all gods.

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Our great God, clothed in glory and arrayed in splendor is to be vigorously praised and feared. He is a  consuming fire, the ferocious roaring Lion of the tribe of Judah, the dread champion warrior. He is not just to be merely “respected” as many westerners translate this term, yare’, though that applies. It means to quake in our pants in astonishment and terrible fright. That is the grand wonder that he loves us and that we can approach his presence with confidence.

5 For all the gods of the peoples are idols, But the Lord made the heavens.

6 Honor and majesty are before Him; Strength and beauty are in His sanctuary.

The word idol is eliyl and derived from the root ‘al. The latter means no, not, neither, nothing. Eliyl  thus means of nought, worthless, a thing that is good for nothing. So we go to our idols as a replacement for God and we find – nothing. No comfort, no joy, no lasting pleasure, no effective escape, no hope, no purpose. Nothing.

7 Give to the Lord, O families of the peoples, Give to the Lord glory and strength.

8 Give to the Lord the glory due His name; Bring an offering, and come into His courts.

9 Oh, worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness! Tremble before Him, all the earth.

To give, yahab, means to provide or ascribe. There isn’t much we can give to someone who made and has everything. Yet he invites us to ascribe to him glory and strength; the glory due his name (don’t short-change him,) an offering and our presence. Isn’t that great? He likes our presence. He says to us, Oh come!

10 Say among the nations, “The Lord reigns; The world also is firmly established, It shall not be moved; He shall judge the peoples righteously.”

The world is not at risk of decomposing despite man’s careless use of it. I’m not saying we should abuse our amazing earth. It makes my heart bleed to see the atrocity we’ve made of it. A few years ago I visited a tropical beach that was covered with high piles of plastic garbage. We’ve trashed this awesome gift we were given. Left to our own devices, we would have self-destroyed by now.

Photo by Mohit Parashar on Pexels.com

Whether you believe climate change is real or not, God will fit it right into his plans for us. Despite our best intentions, eventually the earth will go up in a ball of fire, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye. That will happen whether it’s pristine or wrecked. The climate we need to change is one of despair and complaining to one of praise! Let’s hold global summits about that.

11 Let the heavens rejoice, and let the earth be glad; Let the sea roar, and all its fullness;

12 Let the field be joyful, and all that is in it. Then all the trees of the woods will rejoice before the Lord.

13 For He is coming, for He is coming to judge the earth. He shall judge the world with righteousness, And the peoples with His truth.

There is joy unspeakable and full of glory. It brews and bubbles from the Holy Spirit on earth and in our hearts and flows out of our mouths as it does all creation. It makes for a raucous. It’s the greatest dance party on earth. All creation anticipates His Majesty. The ultimate Judge cometh to judge the world.

“Surely the day is coming; it will burn like a furnace. All the arrogant and every evildoer will be stubble, and the day that is coming will set them on fire,” says the Lord Almighty. “Not a root or a branch will be left to them. But for you who revere my name, the sun of righteousness will rise with healing in its rays. And you will go out and frolic like well-fed calves. Then you will trample on the wicked; they will be ashes under the soles of your feet on the day when I act,” says the Lord Almighty.

“See, I will send the prophet Elijah to you before that great and dreadful day of the Lord comes. He will turn the hearts of the parents to their children, and the hearts of the children to their parents; or else I will come and strike the land with total destruction.”

Malachi 4:1-3, 5,6.

O Come!

A devotion of Psalm 95

Today we will use the Bible in Basic English (BBE.)

1 O come, let us make songs to the Lord; sending up glad voices to the Rock of our salvation.

2 Let us come before his face with praises; and make melody with holy songs.

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No matter where you are in life or what you are feeling, you are invited to come into God’s presence. Nor do we drag our moaning, exhausted carcasses there. No, beloved. The very thought of entering into his presence with like-minded brothers and sisters rejuvenates us. It is a panacea for life’s deep dark places. It sparks joy unspeakable and full of glory to gather and glory in the beauty of Abba’s splendid face. Come for encouragement, come for cleansing, come for healing, come for teaching. Tune these words to a melody that Holy Spirit shall plant in your mind. Sing them over and over. Bring a sacrifice of praise unto the house of the house.

Call or text someone and say, “O come!” Your joy and other blessings will be multiplied by seeing their smiling, singing faces there. In a world spinning out of control, come to your Ethan – your stability, your might, your high place. We are the church. And where two or three are gathered in his name, there he is in the midst of us. The more the merrier. He has wonderful things planned for us there.

David said, “I was glad when they said unto me, “Come let us go to the house of the Lord,” Ps. 122:1. Don’t force them, but be so excited that they can’t help but wonder what you get there. What’s your mood as Sunday morning or whatever your gathering time is? Are you a grumpy grouch until you get to church and burst into a smile. That is not inviting. We’ve all heard of the hell-van that magically turns into the glory-van when it pulls into the church parking lot. Children see this fracturing and it repels their spirit. Your preparation and anticipation should be marked by joy and enthusiasm.  Ask Holy Spirit to help you with this.

3 For the Lord is a great God, and a great King over all gods.

Jehovah is the reason for all this hoopla. We can imagine the frenzy when a king is coming to town. That should be how tightly wound about our worship gatherings. He is grand, our Ethan, and greater than anything we know or love. Greater than anything that we wake up for all week. Greater than our problems that plague us in the world and in our personal lives. Great is the Most High King over any other allegiances we have. Greater than tasks that need to get accomplished on Sunday. Greater than contentions we’ve had with someone else we are tempted to avoid. O Come!

4 The deep places of the earth are in his hand; and the tops of the mountains are his.

5 The sea is his, and he made it; and the dry land was formed by his hands.

Are you in a Mariana Trench, 35,000 ft underground? You are in his hand. Are you on Mt. Everest, 29,000 ft above sea level? That lofty terrain is his. “Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence?  If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there. If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast,” Ps. 139:7-10.

One of our natural responses to pain is to disassociate from God and others, to separate ourselves, run away, and isolate. You are never outside his reach, beloved. Wherever you flee to, there he is. Indeed, he guides and guards you wherever you are running away from him to. Call upon him there, lean into him there. And ask him to lead you back to your home base. Ask him to dock you, like my Roomba does, when you are done with all your toiling – back into his presence with fellow believers. Fellowship and unity are of utmost importance.

6 O come, let us give worship, falling down on our knees before the Lord our Maker.

7 For he is our God; and we are the people to whom he gives food, and the sheep of his flock. Today, if you would only give ear to his voice!

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Modern day cultures get down on our knees to look for a lost item but we won’t get on our knees in the presence of the king. Scripture calls us to positions of humility such as this one in order to drive our hearts to a similar place of submission. Our souls quickly forget they are not the center of the universe and positions such as kneeling or lying prostrate recenter them. When was the last time you were on your knees for Jesus? He is the one we must grovel to, attend to, give heed to.

8 Let not your hearts be hard, as at Meribah, as in the day of Massah in the waste land;

9 When your fathers put me to the test and saw my power and my work.

In Napping in Delilah’s Lap, I describe the heart in a chapter called The State of the Heart – Sensitive or Sensual. Ps read that. Do we have tender hearts, sensitive to Holy Spirit, his promptings, his work, and his presence or are we so deeply indulging our senses that we’ve totally ignored and sidelined him? Many things cause a hardening of the heart but bitterness and unforgiveness take the cake on their own. They cause us to isolate and marinate in our juices and our hearts get tougher and tougher. Friend, let not your heart be hard. To do so is to test God. It is on you! Walk in obedience in this important area today. Forgive some people in your life for whatever they have done to you. God will take care of them and bring his justice about.

This passage was quoted three times in the book of Hebrews and attributed to Holy Spirit – Hebrews 3:7, 3:15, and 4:7. Each time, Paul uses the word ‘today.’ Beloved, don’t wait for tomorrow. Dad would sing a little ditty he said he learned in standard 3 (3rd grade,) “Whatever you have to do, do today. Tomorrow may not come.”

10 For forty years I was angry with this generation, and said, They are a people whose hearts are turned away from me, for they have no knowledge of my ways;

11 And I made an oath in my wrath, that they might not come into my place of rest.

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For forty years the Israelites roamed the desert because of complaining hearts. They did not believe God or his goodness. They wanted what they wanted when they wanted it. Grumbling is another ticket to a hard heart. Sometimes we do not even realize we are doing it. It is such a deplorable habit that it sparks anger in God over those he loves so deeply. Extricate the root of complaining wherever you see it in your life. Ask people to point it out.

Complaining is indicative of a heart that is swiveled away from God. This heart is like a fighting couple that turns their backs to each other in bed. We do this to God because of a lack of understanding and knowledge of his ways. We hold things against him but only end up hurting ourselves. His great gift to us is rest. We rob ourselves of it when we insist on doing things our way. Beloved, adore your God and bow your heart to him, his ways, and his timing. Only then will you know contentment and joy.

O come!

The Sticky Wicket of Judging

A devotion of Psalm 94.

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INTRODUCTION: Judgement and Wisdom

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What is a sticky wicket? A wicket is the surface used in the sport of cricket. The ground gets ‘sticky’ with mud after rainfall renders it difficult to play in. A sticky wicket is a metaphor used to describe a delicate or difficult situation. In the world today, the concept of ‘judging’ is a sticky wicket.

“Don’t judge me,” is a line we have all heard defensively coming from someone who has been called out for some wrongdoing. You may have uttered it yourself. The book of First Corinthians dries out the judgement wicket and guides believers in this delicate responsibility. Psalm 94, which I’ve paralleled in the KJV and the New Living Translation (NLT) below, has judgement principles to teach us too.

“But judgment shall return unto righteousness: and all the upright in heart shall follow it. Ps. 94:15 KJV

“Judgment will again be founded on justice, and those with virtuous hearts will pursue it.” Ps. 94:15 NLT

Wisdom is the wicket upon which judging is played. As we studied Proverbs this year, we learned that wisdom or prudence means skill. Skill is developed by proper training and repeated practice. Judgement, anakrino, is a forensic term meaning to examine, judge, investigate, search, sift, question, scrutinize, discern, discriminate, determine excellence or defects. It also means to take apart, estimate, question, and search. Judging entails investigating, sentencing, and executing a case or matter.

According to the Apostle Paul, the wisdom to be used in judgement is not human wisdom but godly wisdom as described in 1 Corinthians 1. Human wisdom is based on experts (teachers, philosophers, scholars) and is manifested in eloquence, persuasive words, knowledge, and impressive backgrounds such as noble birth, as depicted in chapter 2. These are things that appeal to and impress human nature.

Today we will tackle four things: the source of wisdom for judging; what the outcome of our judging should be; the importance of labels or identity; and settle whether we are to judge or not to judge.

THE SOURCE OF WISDOM FOR JUDGING

Paul calls us to be competent in the skill of judging, (1 Cor. 6:2.) God, who is so much grander than man that his weakness is greater than our greatest strength, and his foolishness wiser than our wisdom views the wisdom of this world as foolish in his sight, (1 Cor. 3:19.) Jesus Christ is the epitome of the wisdom and power of God. 1 Cor. 1:30 states Christ became our wisdom, and this is demonstrated with Holy Spirit power. We are to judge based on Holy Spirit power and judgement is not handed over to those with a pedigree such as education and status, but even to “men of little account” in the church (1 Cor. 6:4).

RESULT OF YOUR JUDGING

Judging using God’s wisdom results in knowing God (1:21,) and in zero boasting except in the Lord (1:31; 3:19-21.) On the other hand, human wisdom and judgement elevates some people and tears others down, resulting in boasting (1 Cor. 1:29; 4:6.) Ultimately, God destroys and/or frustrates human wisdom (1:19) so it comes to nothing (2:6.) Believer, judge your judging: are people coming to know God better through your judging and wisdom or are you elevating a human being or human establishment?

LABELS

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Labels are a wonderful tool for organizing. They work great for beans in a jar but not so much for humans. Human nature likes labels because by them we think we can accurately judge others. This causes two problems. First, we use outward appearances or behaviors. We label each other broadly as male or female; white or brown; smokers or non-smokers; educated or uneducated; church attenders and non-attenders; etc.

Secondly, we use temporal standards or those made by man and therefore subject to change e.g. liberal or conservative; pro-this leader or that; rich or poor; vaccinated or unvaccinated; immigrants versus natives; etc. We then attach incredibly heavy predefined weights to each of those and judge accordingly. As a result, we deem some people as desirable and others as not, some are called idiots and others ignorant; some superior, others inferior.

As believers the labels we are to use towards our fellow brothers and sisters are numerous as outlined in Scripture. Here is a small handful just from First Corinthians:

  • Sanctified in Christ Jesus (1:2, 6:11))
  • Called to be his holy people (1:2)
  • Washed (6:11)
  • Justified (6:11)
  • Bought with a price therefore not your own (6:20, 7:23)

Note well that these are gifted by grace so that no one can boast. Furthermore, they cannot be taken away from you, even based on “bad behavior,” however one may define that. These labels are the only ones that should be coming out of our mouths regarding believers for whom Christ died.

ARE BELIEVERS TO TO JUDGE OR NOT TO JUDGE?

Here are 10 Principles to go by:

  1. God is the ultimate judge

“O LORD, the God of vengeance, O God of vengeance, let your glorious justice shine forth!” Ps. 94:1 NLT. Further, he has handed this role off to Christ: “The Father judges no one, but has given all judgement to the Son,” Jn 5:22. Paul says in 1 Cor. 4:4b it is the Lord who judges me.

2. There is an appointed time for final judgement (1 Cor. 4:5.)

Many walk around today trying to determine who is a believer and who is not. Not only is this not our role, it also is not the time for that. Our job is to reach as many as possible with the saving gospel of Christ.

3. Judge yourself before you judge others

“But if we judged ourselves, we would not come under such judgment. Nevertheless, when we are judged in this way by the Lord, we are being disciplined so that we will not be finally condemned with the world,” (1 Cor. 11:31, 32.) While this passage refers to taking communion in an unworthy manner, scripture is chock full of examples calling us to examine ourselves and our hearts, which can be very deceitful.

4. Don’t judge based on conviction

Many people believe that because they feel strongly about a matter and therefore have a strong conviction, gut feeling, or burning in the bosom, their decision is the right one and so they can proceed with a clear conscience. This is yet another case of human wisdom, incorrectly but frequently robed by immature believers as God’s wisdom. Paul says, “My conscience is clear but that does not make me innocent,” 4:4a. This leads to people saying, “God told me.” Do you know that the penalty for saying that falsely was death by stoning? Why not rather say, “I believe,” or “I think.” This will actually earn you respect in the long run as people come to trust your lines of thought over time.

5. Don’t judge others’ spiritual standing or motives

As a human being, you do not have all the information or capacity to judge whether others are saved or not. You also must not judge others’ motives. By observation or experience, we think we know. “The man who thinks he knows something does not yet know as he ought to know,” (1 Cor. 8:2.) God alone knows the heart and its intentions. He “will bring to light what is hidden in darkness and expose the motives of men’s hearts.” He will then reward accordingly. (1 Cor. 4:5b.)

6. There are times we are to judge

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“What business is it of mine to judge those outside the church? Are you not to judge those inside? God will judge those outside. “Expel the wicked person from among you, (1 Cor. 5:12, 13.) When there is ungodly behavior, the body of Christ is to call it that and seek to restore the sinning brother to fellowship with God. “A little yeast works through the whole batch of dough, (1 Cor 5:6.) We are then to follow Christ’s mandate, if you notice something out of line, you approach a brother in love and humility. If he does not hear you or repent of obvious wrong, you take another brother or sister with you and meet with him again. If he won’t respond to that the whole church is to be involved. If he still won’t repent, excommunicate him.

This form of church discipline is rarely practiced. Note well that its goal is restoration to fellowship, not just to shame and ostracize a brother or sister from the body. The expulsion is like a sacrament, symbolic of the spiritual state of the brother who has turned his back to God by his behavior. Reconciliation will then symbolize a return to spiritual fellowship with God and others.

7. What about our rights?

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Paul is clear on the importance of the Christian’s rights. First, we are completely free and therefore have all the rights in the world. Second, we are to constantly give up our rights for the sake of the gospel. “Would you rather not be wronged? Why not rather be cheated?” (1 Cor. 6:7) This pertains to matters of dragging Christ’s name and image through the mud in the world’s eyes. We are not to sue one another but rather to have the church adjudicate our issues.

“Though I am free and belong to no one, I have made myself a slave to everyone, to win as many as possible. To the Jews I became like a Jew, to win the Jews. To those under the law I became like one under the law (though I myself am not under the law), so as to win those under the law. To those not having the law I became like one not having the law (though I am not free from God’s law but am under Christ’s law), so as to win those not having the law. To the weak I became weak, to win the weak. I have become all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some. I do all this for the sake of the gospel, that I may share in its blessings,” (1 Cor. 9:19-23.) Note that he is not doing this because he is a doormat but strategically to win the lost.

“I have the right to do anything,” you say—but not everything is beneficial. “I have the right to do anything”—but I will not be mastered by anything. You say, “Food for the stomach and the stomach for food, and God will destroy them both.” The body, however, is not meant for sexual immorality but for the Lord, and the Lord for the body,” (1 Cor. 6:12, 13.)

8. Let love override knowledge

“Knowledge puffs up, but love builds up. The man who thinks he knows something does not yet know as he ought to know. But the man who loves God is known by God, (1 Cor. 8:1b – 3.) It is knowledge that leads us to call each other names such as idiots or ignorant on any given matter. Remember the labels we are to call and think of each other by. These are based on love, primarily the love of Jesus and his finished work on the cross. Jesus said, “You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘You shall not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.’ But I tell you that anyone who is angry with a brother or sister will be subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says to a brother or sister, ‘Raca,’ is answerable to the court. And anyone who says, ‘You fool!’ will be in danger of the fire of hell,” (Mt. 5:21-22.)

9. Does the matter bring one closer to God?

Paul said, “food does not bring us near to God; we are no worse if we do not eat, and no better if we do,” (1 Cor. 8:8.) Because we are seated with Christ in the heavenly places, the focus of these scriptures is on our spiritual lives. Earthly things are gifted to us to use for spiritual purposes. Even something as basic as food is at our disposable to use to gain energy to do God’s work. You are free to eat whatever you want. Be wise about it though, knowing full well it affects you in many ways.

“Again Jesus called the crowd to him and said, “Listen to me, everyone, and understand this. Nothing outside a person can defile them by going into them. Rather, it is what comes out of a person that defiles them… “Are you so dull?” he asked. “Don’t you see that nothing that enters a person from the outside can defile them? For it doesn’t go into their heart but into their stomach, and then out of the body.” (In saying this, Jesus declared all foods clean,” (Mark 7:14-15, 18, 19.) “You say, “Food for the stomach and the stomach for food, and God will destroy them both,” (1 Cor. 6:13a.)

10. Invite people to judge you.

Iron sharpens iron. I may be smart but I’m only 5th grade smart. I love my Monday night group and in it I find myself iron among diamonds. They help me take apart my thinking and examine its elements. We must constantly surround ourselves with believers and invite them to speak into our lives. That goes for encouragement and for correction. How teachable are you? Are you open to being corrected? By anyone? We say we are but jump down our spouses’ throats when they correct us. Practice saying a simple thank you instead of the reflexive, “Well, you’re one to talk…”

“I speak to sensible people; judge for yourselves what I say,” (1 Cor. 10:15.) Live a life of open accountability.

CONCLUSION: Judge in humility

Anyone that knows me well is justified in calling me the nutty professor. I can never find my keys or my phone. You probably don’t want to carpool with me because I am quite likely to leave you, stranded, wherever we go. Even as a child, my mother said to me, “Teacher, I hope you work hard so when you grow up you can afford to pay people to follow you around and pick up after you.” So, we can blame her for this, God rest her soul. (See what I did there? 😉) I vex my husband to no end by forgetting to empty the K-cup in the coffee maker. He even wrote me a sign on it saying, “Remember?” You can only imagine the sublimity of my joy when, twice a year, he forgets to empty his K-cup and I send him a glorious text saying, “Remember?”

If you gain any pleasure in judging and confronting others, stop. Paul says we are to, “Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace,” (Ephesians 4:2-4.) Confrontation needs to hurt you as much or more than it will hurt the recipient. Don’t jump on people every single time they commit an offense. Recovery from ungodly behavior can take time.  Be patient. To judge a person is to take them apart somewhat and affects their dignity, their pride, their reputation, their way of doing things, etc. During and after your confrontation, help put them back together. Restore them to internal unity. Whatever calls for the confrontation is driving a wedge between them and you. Restore them to unity with you and then as much as you can, restore them to others. Prayerfully let Holy Spirit drive and direct you in all this.

But judgment shall return unto righteousness: and all the upright in heart shall follow it.

Psalm 95:15

“Nobody should seek his own good, but the good of others,” (1 Cor 10:23), especially their salvation.

Paul teaches, “Therefore do not let anyone judge you by what you eat or drink, or with regard to a religious festival, a New Moon celebration or a Sabbath day.  These are a shadow of the things that were to come; the reality, however, is found in Christ.  Do not let anyone who delights in false humility and the worship of angels disqualify you. Such a person also goes into great detail about what they have seen; they are puffed up with idle notions by their unspiritual mind.  They have lost connection with the head, from whom the whole body, supported and held together by its ligaments and sinews, grows as God causes it to grow.

 Since you died with Christ to the elemental spiritual forces of this world, why, as though you still belonged to the world, do you submit to its rules: “Do not handle! Do not taste! Do not touch!”? These rules, which have to do with things that are all destined to perish with use, are based on merely human commands and teachings. Such regulations indeed have an appearance of wisdom, with their self-imposed worship, their false humility and their harsh treatment of the body, but they lack any value in restraining sensual indulgence,” (Col. 2:16-23.)

Surf’s Up

A devotion of Psalm 93.

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1 The LORD reigneth, he is clothed with majesty; the LORD is clothed with strength, wherewith he hath girded himself: the world also is stablished, that it cannot be moved.

The word majesty invokes a picture of swelling up, increasing, lifting or mounting up, of good things. Spurgeon says, “What can give greater joy to a loyal subject than a sight of the king in his beauty? Let us repeat the proclamation, ‘the Lord reigneth,’ whispering it in the ears of the desponding, and publishing it in the face of the foe.” This verse speaks of splendor and awe that Yahweh inspires. Our mighty Ethan is rock solid and faithfully grand in goodness and power.

2 Thy throne is established of old: thou art from everlasting.

“Lord, thou hast been our dwelling place in all generations. Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever thou hadst formed the earth and the world, even from everlasting to everlasting, thou art God,” Ps. 90:1, 2. As commentator Guzik says, this is no upstart kingdom. It is not likely to fold up when hard times hit. It is before all things, determines all things, and will be standing tall and strong when all else dissolves.

3 The floods have lifted up,

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O LORD, the floods have lifted up their voice;

the floods lift up their waves.

4 The LORD on high is mightier

than the noise of many waters, yea,

than the mighty waves of the sea.

Do not miss the poetic structure and beauty of these verses. Gigantic swells mount and swallow up everything in their wake. They reflect the mounting up we saw in verse 1. They taunt and mock him, seeking to imitate his majesty. The breakers thunder, foam, and pound dramatically. They are deafening, unrelenting, unceasing. They march forth proudly to destroy, unstopped. But our God is mightier than that noise. With a whisper he shushes the winds and the waves and they obey his voice. He created them and they are but a representation of his bigness, his power, and his strength.

In the same way, the nations raise their mighty heads and roar threateningly. Chaos and destruction ensue. In history and today, trouble brews and bursts its banks. “You rule the raging sea; when its waves mount up, You still them,” Psalm 89:9.

5 Thy testimonies are very sure: holiness becometh thine house, O LORD, for ever.

Holiness entails being set apart. There is nothing like him. There is no comparison and no equal.

“O Lord, how great are thy works! and thy thoughts are very deep,” Ps. 92:5.

It is a Good Thing – Yada, Yada, Yada.

A devotion of Psalm 92

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A Psalm, mizmor, is a melody or instrumental music or a poem set to notes. It is derived from the word zamar meaning to sing, to praise, to make music, to celebrate in song, to strike a cord or part of a musical instrument, or to accompany by the voice. We’ll look at Psalm 92 paralleling KJV and NIV.

KJV 1 It is a good thing to give thanks unto the LORD, and to sing praises unto thy name, O most High:

NIV 1 It is good to praise the LORD and make music to your name, O Most High,

LORD, Yehovah is the proper name for God. It is used in compound and denoted in names beginning with the letters ‘Je’ or ending with ‘iah’ or ‘jah.’ Most High refers to Adonay, my lord, referring to a man or to God. It is derived from adon meaning firm, strong, lord, superintendent, master, proprietor, a husband, a king, or a father. In reference to God, Adonai is a parallel with Yahweh.

The term yadah is the translation for thanks. It literally means to hold out the hand and therefore to throw, shoot, or cast at or away – in our slang, we would say to chuck or hurl something; to confess the name of God – to use your tongue to throw the name of God; to revere or worship with extended hands.

KJV 2 To shew forth thy lovingkindness in the morning, and thy faithfulness every night,

NIV 2 proclaiming your love in the morning and your faithfulness at night,

To shew forth, nagad, is to make conspicuous, to front (stand boldly out opposite,) to manifest, figuratively to announce (always by word of mouth.) It is to expose, to predict, to explain, to certify, expound, or declare. Lovingkindness, chesed, is his goodness, kindness, or faithfulness. It also refers to piety, beauty, favor, mercy, and pity and can be a reproach or wicked thing.

We are to admire and advertise him thus at the break of day when the night ends and plan to do so on the morrow. Figuratively it speaks of bright joy after the night of distress.

Faithfulness, emunah, means firmness, fidelity, steadfastness, steadiness. It speaks of truth and security. This has been a powerful theme in the last few chapters we have studied. Night, layil, refers to the time of darkness and figuratively, to times of gloom.

So in the morning – literal or figurative – we announce, in song, that we knew he would bring us through the night. In the night, we proclaim that he will bring us safely to the light and newness of morning. And we do this every night without fail.

“Thou hast turned for me my mourning into dancing: thou hast put off my sackcloth, and girded me with gladness; To the end that my glory may sing praise to thee, and not be silent. O LORD my God, I will give thanks unto thee for ever,”

Ps. 30:11, 12.
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A lute

KJV 3 Upon an instrument of ten strings, and upon the psaltery; upon the harp with a solemn sound.

NIV 3 to the music of the ten-stringed lyre and the melody of the harp.

The psaltery, Nebel, is a skin-bag. It is derived from nabel which means foolish or senseless (remember Nabal in the Old Testament? He was Abigail’s husband famous for being foolish. He died of a stroke and King David married her;) to sink or droop when empty. Therefore, when full, it refers to the body of a lute, guitar, or other stringed instrument.

KJV 4 For thou, LORD, hast made me glad through thy work: I will triumph in the works of thy hands.

NIV 4 For you make me glad by your deeds, LORD; I sing for joy at what your hands have done.

KJV 5 O LORD, how great are thy works! and thy thoughts are very deep.

NIV 5 How great are your works, LORD, how profound your thoughts!

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Tell someone or say out loud to yourself that he has made you glad or blithe. What a great word! It means merry and filled with joy. To triumph is to be overcome and to cry out or shout for joy. It literally means to creak or emit a stridulous sound. I’ve never heard that word before. It means loud or a raucus. We are to make some noise about who he is and about what he has done!

KJV 6 A brutish man knoweth not; neither doth a fool understand this.

NIV 6 Senseless people do not know, fools do not understand,

A brutish man, ba’ar, has to do with being consumed, like cattle. It is to be dull-hearted, unreceptive; to feed, graze. To be consumed by fire or by eating. He is so consumed with his senses (sensual) that paradoxically he becomes senseless or insensitive to God. The word ‘know’ is the word yada again. A fool, kesiyl, means fat, arrogant, a dullard, stupid, or silly. He is thus because he does not understand, biyn – to discern or distinguish; to consider or have insight; to teach or instruct this.

KJV 7 When the wicked spring as the grass, and when all the workers of iniquity do flourish; it is that they shall be destroyed for ever:

NIV 7 that though the wicked spring up like grass and all evildoers flourish, they will be destroyed forever.

The wicked, rasha, are hostile to God and actively bad, condemned, and ungodly. They seem to thrive but are as calves being fattened for the slaughter.

KJV 8 But thou, LORD, art most high for evermore.

NIV 8 But you, LORD, are forever exalted.

KJV 9 For, lo, thine enemies, O LORD, for, lo, thine enemies shall perish; all the workers of iniquity shall be scattered.

NIV 9 For surely your enemies, LORD, surely your enemies will perish; all evildoers will be scattered.

Many evildoers partner in their respective enterprises to advance their evil. The drug world, prostitution, crime rings, gambling, etc have powerful connections as their lords network and shake hands in shady deals. They are all ba’ar, brutes being fattened for slaughter for their wicked deeds. These unions shall be scattered to the four winds and the alliances nullified.

KJV 10 But my horn shalt thou exalt like the horn of an unicorn: I shall be anointed with fresh oil.

NIV 10 You have exalted my horn like that of a wild ox; fine oils have been poured on me.

Your horn is your strength and power. I never noticed the word unicorn in the bible before. I thought it lived only in the fanciful realm of little girls’ imagination. Re’em refers to the great aurochs or wild bulls which are now extinct. It comes from a term meaning to be lifted up.  To be anointed, balal, means to overflow with oil, to be tempered – to bring to a proper, suitable, or desirable state by or as by blending or admixture.

Remember the Old Testament practice of pouring precious oil on the top of the priests heads so it ran down their beard and onto their robes? It prepared them for the work they were to do. It was a fore-shadowing, symbolic of the Holy Spirit being poured upon us to prepare us for service as the priests we are called to be – representing men to God and God to men, (1 Pe. 2:9.)

Jesus said, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, because He has anointed Me to preach the gospel to the poor. He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed. . . .” (Luke 4:18). The man Jesus needed the Spirit of the Lord to perform these functions. How much more do we need Holy Spirit to accomplish the same?

John W. Ritenbaugh adds, “Acts 10:38 reveals another aspect of this symbolism: “. . . how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power, who went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with Him.” Again, reference is made to anointing—an act normally done with oil—with the Holy Spirit, and Peter adds “with power,” a characteristic not included in Luke 4:18.”

What does this look like? “I remember my affliction and my wandering, the bitterness and the gall. I well remember them, and my soul is downcast within me. Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope: Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. [The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases, his mercies never come to an end.] They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. I say to myself, “The Lord is my portion; therefore I will wait for him.” (Lamentations 3:19-24.) Read the whole of that marvelous chapter. These popular words were spoken at a time of utter devastation. Jerusalem and the Temple had been destroyed and its people killed or trampled by the brutish Babylon. It was truly a time of night, yet the people sang to God in hope and anticipation.

Beloved, you are brought to your proper place of power and strength by anointing with the Holy Spirit. I love the emphasis on the freshness of the oil in our passage today. You are anointed for everything you need to do today. Every encounter, every experience, every emotion and thought is covered in this oil and you are elevated like a unicorn to meet it and trounce it. Lean on Holy Spirit, call upon him, and wright wonders in his name.

KJV 11 Mine eye also shall see my desire on mine enemies, and mine ears shall hear my desire of the wicked that rise up against me.

NIV 11 My eyes have seen the defeat of my adversaries; my ears have heard the rout of my wicked foes.

KJV 12 The righteous shall flourish like the palm tree: he shall grow like a cedar in Lebanon.

NIV 12 The righteous will flourish like a palm tree, they will grow like a cedar of Lebanon;

KJV 13 Those that be planted in the house of the LORD shall flourish in the courts of our God.

NIV 13 planted in the house of the LORD, they will flourish in the courts of our God.

KJV 14 They shall still bring forth fruit in old age; they shall be fat and flourishing;

NIV 14 They will still bear fruit in old age, they will stay fresh and green,

KJV 15 To shew that the LORD is upright: he is my rock, and there is no unrighteousness in him.

NIV 15 proclaiming, “The LORD is upright; he is my Rock, and there is no wickedness in him.”

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What glorious words and promises.  As we saw in Deut 34:7 last week, “Although Moses was one hundred and twenty years old when he died, his eye was not dim, nor his vigor abated.” He worked and accomplished amazing feats for God’s kingdom till the day he died.

He must have had a direct link to the fresh oil of anointing that invigorated, kept, and sustained him all his days. That same Spirit is available for you today. A fresh outpouring special for each of us. You dare not walk a minute of your life without it. Tell someone of the goodness of the Lord. Tell yourself, out loud, what he has done. Sing of his mercies and his favor. Sing of his goodness and his greatness. It is a good thing – yada, yada, yada!

Ethan II

A devotion of Psalm 89:27-52 a maschil of Ethan the Ezrahite

Yesterday we learned that 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. Yesterday we saw God’s amazing favor over Ethan’s life. Towards the end of our study today we see him fall from favor into a worst case scenario. Words in bold reinforce ‘Ethanian’ concepts.

27 Also I will make him my firstborn, higher than the kings of the earth.

28 My mercy will I keep for him for evermore, and my covenant shall stand fast with him.

29 His seed also will I make to endure for ever, and his throne as the days of heaven.

30 If his children forsake my law, and walk not in my judgments;

31 If they break my statutes, and keep not my commandments;

32 Then will I visit their transgression with the rod, and their iniquity with stripes.

33 Nevertheless my lovingkindness will I not utterly take from him, nor suffer my faithfulness to fail.

34 My covenant will I not break, nor alter the thing that is gone out of my lips.

35 Once have I sworn by my holiness that I will not lie unto David.

36 His seed shall endure for ever, and his throne as the sun before me.

37 It shall be established for ever as the moon, and as a faithful witness in heaven. Selah.

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An effective authority figure trains those under him such that the former need only speak once. A commanding officer should only have to command once before he is obeyed. A judge need only pronounce his judgement once. A parent should only need to speak once. Multiplied words dilute our authority. God swore once that he would not lie to David. He meant it and didn’t need to keep saying it. Father, teach us your ways of authority and help us to reduce the volume of words we use.

Where words are many, there is no lack of sin,

Pr. 10:19.

Fallen from Favor

38 But thou hast cast off and abhorred, thou hast been wroth with thine anointed.

Ethan paints a picture of God finally snapping in anger. Full of rage and disdain, he casts him off like an irate man clears the contents of a table with a sweep of his violent hand.

39 Thou hast made void the covenant of thy servant: thou hast profaned his crown by casting it to the ground.

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Things are falling apart. The covenant of favor that was carefully drafted and agreed upon has been nullified. A royal crown is normally stored in laser protected glass cases and borne on the softest of velvet cushions before placed on the royal head. Imagine that diadem being grabbed and carelessly cast to the ground. It is an affront to our sensitivities. If that symbol of royalty can be treated thus, then the royalty and all they stand for find themselves at risk of being similarly manhandled and thrust to the ground.

40 Thou hast broken down all his hedges; thou hast brought his strong holds to ruin.

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Personal space has a sacredness about it. We protect it diligently and choose carefully who may enter that space. Hedges exist for protection. They keep the good in and the bad out. They also indicate boundary lines and demarcate where one thing stops and another starts. Hedges imply the privilege of access to a person or their space. Broken down hedges speak of mayhem and tyranny. They mean that property, principles, and persons are trampled and violated.

The stronghold is a place of refuge. It is usually hidden, well-stocked, and a bastion of physical as well as emotional safety. Knowledge of its very existence offers a sense of stability and courage should life as you know it fall apart. Visualize running there in desperation only to find it has been discovered, ransacked, and destroyed.

41 All that pass by the way spoil him: he is a reproach to his neighbours.

To spoil, shasas, is to plunder, loot, and pillage. This is another symbol of anarchy and its accompanying distress. There is no more protection of your self or your property or space. You become a free for all. To reproach is to taunt, scorn, or shame. The object of reproach becomes a byword and is open game to insult from everyone, from the village drunk to insolent children.

42 Thou hast set up the right hand of his adversaries; thou hast made all his enemies to rejoice.

The right hand is a symbol of power and dominion. God determines who has power at any given time. He even allows the wicked to have it for a time. It is another affront to have enemies rejoice. Their derision adds insult to injury.

43 Thou hast also turned the edge of his sword, and hast not made him to stand in the battle.

Imagine putting on your reading glasses before reading a grand speech and finding that you’ve lost a lens. Imagine jumping off an aeroplane and going to pull on your cord and it breaks off. You are sunk. So it is to draw your sword to deal a deadly strike to a sworn enemy who is coming at you bent on your destruction, only to find that the edge of your sword, once sharp as a razor has been rolled in. You find yourself on the ground with his boot at your neck.

44 Thou hast made his glory to cease, and cast his throne down to the ground.

Your previous life of favor and splendor flashes before your eyes. Toppled like you, is your grand royal throne, your once stalwart symbol of security and authority.

45 The days of his youth hast thou shortened: thou hast covered him with shame. Selah.

Your strength and vigor are no more. No longer are you in your prime with its foot-loose ways and joys. Your heydays are over. Bent over, you bear your past years like a heavy sack on your back. Creaky misery marks every stiff step.

46 How long, Lord? wilt thou hide thyself for ever? shall thy wrath burn like fire?

47 Remember how short my time is: wherefore hast thou made all men in vain?

A moment of the Lord’s wrath feels like a lifetime to the soul. We live for the light of his countenance, so to seek him and not find his face provokes desperation that would drive one to their knees and make them rend their garments in psychic agony. If we knew when it might end, perhaps we could budget our meager reserves and endure. But the open-ended nature of the rejection seems insufferable. A moment of his wrath erases the memories and pleasure of a lifetime of favor.

48 What man is he that liveth, and shall not see death? shall he deliver his soul from the hand of the grave? Selah.

Thus, a hoarse Job cried in anguish,

“Why did I not die at birth, Come out of the womb and pass away?

Why were the knees there in front of me, And why the breasts, that I would nurse?

For now I would have lain down and been quiet;

I would have slept then, I would have been at rest,”

Job 3:11-13.

49 Lord, where are thy former lovingkindnesses, which thou swarest unto David in thy truth?

50 Remember, Lord, the reproach of thy servants; how I do bear in my bosom the reproach of all the mighty people;

51 Wherewith thine enemies have reproached, O Lord; wherewith they have reproached the footsteps of thine anointed.

52 Blessed be the Lord for evermore. Amen, and Amen.

To bless, barak, is to bow in adoration. It is astonishing that the curtain would close on this horror scene with that statemen. Paradoxically, this great lament ends with tremendous hope. Ethan invokes God’s impeccable memory. No matter his plight, no matter his end, he knows that the great Record Keeper is his only hope. Ultimately, God is his Ethan – his rock, his fortress and his deliverer; he is his shield and the horn of his salvation, his stronghold. Though he dies with his face in the dirt, he bows there, not to the enemy, but to Jehovah.

Unspoken is the knowledge that even though he should die at the hand of his enemy, he will yet live. He will only dip his toe in the icy waters of death but for a second. Then he can say in the land of the living or of the dead:

“I called to the Lord, who is worthy of praise,  

and I have been saved from my enemies.

The cords of death entangled me; the torrents of destruction overwhelmed me.

The cords of the grave coiled around me; the snares of death confronted me.

In my distress I called to the Lord; I cried to my God for help.

From his temple he heard my voice; and my cry came before him, into his ears.

He reached down from on high and took hold of me;

    he drew me out of deep waters.

He rescued me from my powerful enemy,

    from my foes, who were too strong for me,”

Ps. 18:3-6, 16, 17.

And THAT is why you are unshakable, Ethan.

“Truly my soul finds rest in God;
    my salvation comes from him.
Truly he is my rock and my salvation;
    he is my fortress, I will never be shaken.”

Ps 62:1, 2.

I have set the Lord always before me;
    because he is at my right hand, I shall not be shaken.

Therefore my heart is glad, and my whole being rejoices;
    my flesh also dwells secure.
For you will not abandon my soul to Sheol,
    or let your holy one see corruption.

You make known to me the path of life;
    in your presence there is fullness of joy;
    at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.

Psalm 16:8-11