Scripture Meets Science in Music

A devotional of Psalm 149

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1 Praise the Lord! Sing to the Lord a new song, his praise in the assembly of the godly!

Music is a powerful medium that God endowed us with. Novelty of any kind strikes fresh cords in our nervous system and causes shockwaves in our brains as neuronal activity gears up. We learn much more deeply when music is involved. So, it’s impactful to hear music; doubly impactful to sing the music yourself; quadrupled impactful to sing in a group, especially with people you love; and exponentially so when the music is new. Yet again, science lines up with scripture in confirmation.

2 Let Israel be glad in his Maker; let the children of Zion rejoice in their King!

Have you reason to be glad today? Many say no. Look at the state of the world. Look at the plight of my marriage or my bank account, my children or my health. Well, I propose to you an evergreen gladness that won’t depend of earthly matters. Rejoice in your king over your status or provisions. We deposit our gladness and joy in corrupt banks and marvel when we are robbed. Practice being glad in your Maker. The return is high and guaranteed.

3 Let them praise his name with dancing, making melody to him with tambourine and lyre!

These commands seem flippant. They are not. Your Maker knows the power of music and its capacity to transform you. Add to that the power of movement. As an occupational therapist, I frequently teach that we actually have six senses, not five. Movement is the sixth sense. Through it we experience and interpret the world.

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Wholistic teachers like Montessori believed that movement should always be paired with mental activity for maximum effect. In child development, there is intense motor activity with much mindful engagement. As we get older, we disassociate movement from learning. We are taught to sit still like good boys and girls. We get to go outside for a few minutes every few hours. This grossly robs the nervous system of the capacity for optimal learning. Children aren’t just “messing around” or “just playing” when they move in space. They are collecting vital information on the environment and how they can impact it, and it them. Some researchers call it “disembodiment of experience in relation to knowledge in western culture”.  We do humanity a disservice when we cap that.

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Research also shows, “that children make intuitively purposeful movement responses to music without encouragement. Building on these findings it is important to investigate the possibility of learning through movement to music, of gaining new knowledge, new representations to further musical learning…”

Yet again, the Lord has a prescription that compounds the experience. Put an instrument in the hand of the singer and dancer. It can be a “simple” instrument such as a shaker or tambourine that doesn’t need much skill. The body knows just what to do with it. It can also be a more sophisticated instrument that requires mastery. Either way, the Lord says to pick one up and move your body. “Let them praise his name with dancing, making melody to him with tambourine and lyre!”

4 For the Lord takes pleasure in his people; he adorns the humble with salvation.

Isn’t it delightful to watch a roomful of children having a good time singing and dancing their hearts out? The Lord experiences similar pleasure in his people. I love how he calls us his people. What a sense of belonging and identity that endows us with. As we humble ourselves like children in his presence, he lifts us up, he delivers us, he gifts us, he restores us.

5 Let the godly exult in glory; let them sing for joy on their beds.

Because you seek after him and are affiliated with him, he calls you godly. Isn’t that priceless? That is your heritage and your identity. For that reason, he sets you apart and calls you saint. The word exult – alaz – means to jump for joy. This is to happen in abundance. Glory – kabod – means abundance, riches, reputation, but mostly it means weighty. It is repeated for emphasis kabod kabod. In other words you are to do some crazy fancy footwork. That’s your baseline. You just bust a move from time to time. A lot.

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You are also to sing on your bed. The King James Version says we are to sing aloud on the bed. When he awakes you in the night hours, it is not to count sheep. It is no to lie there fretting and fussing. He has a great idea: sing aloud! Take this back to verse one and start over. Your melody is your weapon. Use it!!

6 Let the high praises of God be in their throats and two-edged swords in their hands,

7 to execute vengeance on the nations and punishments on the peoples,

8 to bind their kings with chains and their nobles with fetters of iron,

9 to execute on them the judgment written! This is honor for all his godly ones.

Praise the Lord!

Ancient Israelites went out to war led by choirs of singers. The importance of music in all spheres of life cannot be understated. I’ll soon be teaching on strongholds. There are invasive and native strongholds. This is one of your strongholds, believer. Music within you is as a war-time bunker loaded with ammunition. It is strategic in its view and position. When the enemy comes in like a flood, may he be met with a musical barrage. It will decimate his troops quick-stat. Whatever your two-edged sword is, soldier, its impact is amplified by high praise.

Your high praise beckons and deploys heavenly hosts to your side for back-up. It binds up enemy kings and battalions with chains and fetters of iron. It renders judgement upon the ungodly. This is your honor beloved, your – hadar. It is your splendor and your majesty, it is your beauty and your excellency. Open the eyes of your heart and ask Holy Spirit to give you a glimpse of this.

If you Hear Nothing Else

A devotional of Psalm 148

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Today we get to wear God’s polar glasses and try on praise from their perspective. We saw last time that he is a God who pans opposites so that no one falls outside his parameters. Young and old, male and female, free and slave, kings and subjects, heights and depths, multitudes and few, hot and cold, dry and wet, light and dark, the fruitful and the ornamental, the flying and the creeping, the tame and the wild.

God created all things. Jesus, “is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For by Him all things were created that are in heaven and that are on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers. All things were created through Him and for Him. And He is before all things, and in Him all things consist,” Colossians 1:15-17. It is him we are to praise.

1 Praise the Lord! Praise the Lord from the heavens; praise him in the heights!

2 Praise him, all his angels; praise him, all his hosts!

3 Praise him, sun and moon, praise him, all you shining stars!

4 Praise him, you highest heavens, and you waters above the heavens!

5 Let them praise the name of the Lord! For he commanded and they were created.

6 And he established them forever and ever; he gave a decree, and it shall not pass away.

The first reason we are to praise him is that he is our creator.

7 Praise the Lord from the earth, you great sea creatures and all deeps,

8 fire and hail, snow and mist, stormy wind fulfilling his word!

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On our last study we saw that everything in creation exists to fulfill God’s word. We learned that his word “runs fast.” Isaiah taught that it shall not return to him void. We saw that it is as the rain that falls and unfailingly causes things to grow. His word is always on an errand, and it always achieves the purpose of that errand. Our God is always about power, promise, provision, and purpose. Those four words are as good as the four corners of a cash note that you can take to the bank.

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Fold that note and put it in your wallet. Take it out and use it often: power, promise, provision, and purpose. The way to cash in the note is by the words of your mouth. Words are God’s agent for production of those 4 Ps. That is why you must carefully watch the words of your mouth. God created the universe with his words. We do the same things. Indeed, “From the fruit of a man’s mouth his stomach is satisfied; he is satisfied by the yield of his lips. Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruits. Life and death are in the power of the tongue,” Pr. 18:20, 21. Life and death, people. Did you catch that? Life and death are in the power of your tongue!

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Your tongue is an agent. It is an armament. It is a tool or a utensil. Your mouth is like a loaded gun. Use it responsibly. Use it masterfully. Learn to use it to speak life where life is needed. Learn to use it where death is needed. Align it carefully with scripture and become a master at wielding that weapon. Ask Holy Spirit to teach you what that means in your life. May his creating and sustaining power, promise, provision, and purpose be fulfilled in your tongue and with your lips. May it be fulfilled in your life and in the lives over those who speak.

In this chapter, the focus is on praise. May you become fluent in the language of praise. The best way to learn a language is to immerse yourself in the culture, have a coach, and open your mouth to speak their words in context. Surround yourself with people who speak praise. Look for opportunities to speak praise in context – and every context is a praise context.

9 Mountains and all hills, fruit trees and all cedars!

10 Beasts and all livestock, creeping things and flying birds!

11 Kings of the earth and all peoples, princes and all rulers of the earth!

12 Young men and maidens together, old men and children!

13 Let them praise the name of the Lord, for his name alone is exalted; his majesty is above earth and heaven.

14 He has raised up a horn for his people, praise for all his saints, for the people of Israel who are near to him.

Praise the Lord!

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The second reason to praise God is that he has raised up a horn for us. A horn – qeren – is a symbol and a mainstay of power. It is a beast’s defense and its highest peak. It’s root word – qaran – means to shine or send out rays. Your horn, believer, is praise. It is your strength, your defense, your high place. It is where you shine. It is where you bring forth light for yourself and for those around you. It is where you show off your God and showcase him. You have to be standing pretty close to him to reflect his light.

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The closer you are to him the brighter you shine. The closer you are to him the more brilliant are his power, his provision, his promises, and his purposes for you. Cozy up to the Word of God as outlined in scripture by the power of Holy Spirit. His name is Jesus. “Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit,” 2 Cor. 3:17-18.

I pray that this study of psalms this year has brought you closer and closer to him. Its precepts have been astounding and life changing for me, and I pray they have been for you too. As we draw to a close, the passages are distilling the most important parts. If you hear nothing else, hear this: praise, praise, praise. May that be your focus and your drive this week and in the new year. You can’t go wrong.

His Word Runs Swiftly

A devotional of Psalm 147

This song underscores a theme in my mind – Jah is is a God of opposites. His eyes have a micro and a macro lens.

1 Praise the Lord! For it is good to sing praises to our God; for it is pleasant, and a song of praise is fitting.

When you raise your hands in devotion; when you open your mouth in adoration, when you raise a melody to God oh you look good, Beloved. It fits you like a flattering garment and shows off the best of you. You should wear that more often! We saw in Ps. 133 that not everything that is good is pleasant and not everything that is pleasant is good, but those two attributes came together regarding harmony, and here they come together regarding praising God.

2 The Lord builds up Jerusalem; he gathers the outcasts of Israel.

3 He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.

4 He determines the number of the stars; he gives to all of them their names.

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The micro lens of God causes him to see the downcast and brokenhearted. The dejected and disconsolate are bent down. They are drawn downward and inward themselves in their misery and pain. They may curl up into the fetal position in self-preservation. Jehovah rapha restores and mends the breaks. He thoroughly makes them whole. He firmly wraps and compresses their injury. He does the same with their sorrows and their hurts. He thus stretches them into shape as one sets a broken bone.  His goal is to restore them to a state of praise as in verse one.

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The macro lens of God pans out to the mysterious grandeur of our known universe and beyond. There he sees clearly a billion trillion stars and tracks each one. With our most sophisticated scientific instruments, we behold but a bucketful in an ocean of them. To determine – manah – means to weigh out, to allot officially, or to enumerate. He knows intimately the identity and character of each one.

5 Great is our Lord, and abundant in power; his understanding is beyond measure.

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When my oldest son was a few years old, he learned the first part of this verse. I told him that whenever he was in trouble, he could say those words and God would rescue him by strengthening his soul no matter what happened. I remember well his little hands clasped tightly together, saying, “Great is the Lord and mighty in power.” May he remember and say them to his dying day. Truly God’s understanding – tabun (intelligence, reason, knowledge, insight, skillfulness, and wisdom, all of which constitute the soul/heart/mind of God) is beyond calibrating. Adopt that lovely verse for yourself and may it be your final breath as well.

6 The Lord lifts up the humble; he casts the wicked to the ground.

Our God of opposites has a plan for the humble as we’ve seen throughout the psalms and he has a sure plan for the wicked.

7 Sing to the Lord with thanksgiving; make melody to our God on the lyre!

8 He covers the heavens with clouds; he prepares rain for the earth; he makes grass grow on the hills.

9 He gives to the beasts their food, and to the young ravens that cry.

10 His delight is not in the strength of the horse, nor his pleasure in the legs of a man,

11 but the Lord takes pleasure in those who fear him, in those who hope in his steadfast love.

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What tender care he proffers to his creation: clouds for the heavens, rain for the earth, grass for the hills, food for the beasts and the ravens. Yet his humble heart is not easily impressed by what impresses us. The power of a steed or the strength of a man are lost on him while we ooh and aah. But O, he has one the delights and pleases him. It is he who fears him and hopes in his love. Rare is that man or woman or child who trembles at the mention or the thought of Jah. So great and mighty and powerful that we shudder. So majestic and beyond description yet attending to mere man that we marvel at his goodness. “The Lord has remembered us; he will bless us; he will bless the house of Israel; he will bless the house of Aaron; he will bless those who fear the Lord, both the small and the great,” Ps. 115:12, 13.

12 Praise the Lord, O Jerusalem! Praise your God, O Zion!

13 For he strengthens the bars of your gates; he blesses your children within you.

14 He makes peace in your borders; he fills you with the finest of the wheat.

Here is a 4 “S” stand of God.

  • Security for our dwellings
  • Succession by blessing our children
  • Succor in our land and homes so we enjoy his gift of peace
  • Sustenance in his faithful provision.

15 He sends out his command to the earth; his word runs swiftly.

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What a mysterious verse this is. God unleashes or sows or shoots forth his imrah – speech or utterance. This is his talk, what he says, promises, declares, and determines. This word – or dabar – is synonymous with the aforementioned imrah but adds the concept of an associated errand or action. It is word and action wrapped in one and entails power, promise, provision, and purpose. It is to say a thing or to word a work.

There is a lovely passage that we should all memorize, “For as the rain comes down, and the snow from heaven, and do not return there, but water the earth, and make it bring forth and bud, that it may give seed to the sower and bread to the eater, so shall My word be that goes forth from My mouth; it shall not return to Me void, but it shall accomplish what I please, and it shall prosper in the thing for which I sent it,” Isaiah 55:10-11.

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We just learned that he forms clouds for the heavens, rain for the earth, grass for the hills, food for the beasts and the ravens. That precipitation does not need to return to him. It comes down on an errand of God’s choosing. It comes down on an errand and it accomplishes that mission. It comes down like an arrow shot by a skillful warrior. It is rightly aimed, swift, and always hits its target dead on. It bolsters the soul and all its functions.

His is not just imrah but dabar. The spoken word is the agent. The mission is the radical transformation of the individual soul as well as ministry on earth, meeting the needs of men, women, and children. It shoots straight into the heart of man and transforms it, aligning one’s will (desires, passions), intellect, and emotions with those of God. It provides security, succession, succor, and sustenance for the individual and for those that the speaker declares these things over.

Paul said, “Finally, brethren, pray for us, that the word of the Lord may run swiftly and be glorified…” 2 Thessalonians 3:1a. What exactly is this word? It is the Word, Jesus Christ himself. “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made,” John 1:1-3. Verse 14 adds, “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.”

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Heb 1:3, 4 teaches about Jesus, “who being the brightness of [His] glory and the express image of His person and upholding all things by the word of His power, when He had by Himself purged our sins, sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, having become as much superior to angels as the name he has inherited is more excellent than theirs.” Both New Testament passages show that even as Jesus Christ, he was word and action wrapped up in one. It was creation work. It was salvation work. It was exposing the Father to us. In all three areas he accomplished what God pleased and prospered in the thing for which he was sent.

16 He gives snow like wool; he scatters frost like ashes.

17 He hurls down his crystals of ice like crumbs; who can stand before his cold?

18 He sends out his word and melts them; he makes his wind blow and the waters flow.

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This Fall, the Lord has been teaching me about fire since we studied Psalm 104. He immersed me in verse 4 which says, “he makes his angels ministering spirits, his ministers flames of fire.” It is therefore catching to me that he focuses on cold in this section. We studied the function of fire.

What is the function of cold? There are plants that will not grow unless they lie dormant in cold temperatures for extended periods of time. Cold also kills off harmful pests during winter months. The cold season allows the ground to lie fallow and rest before becoming verdant in the Spring. Cold temperatures keep vast waterbodies frozen in ice as reserves for the whole earth. What other benefits of cold can you think of?

19 He declares his word to Jacob, his statutes and rules to Israel.

20 He has not dealt thus with any other nation; they do not know his rules. Praise the Lord!

God declares – nagad – his word to Jacob and Israel. Nagad means to announce, to inform, to proclaim, to confess, to affront, to predict, to manifest, and to show forth. All this is fulfilled in Jesus Christ. That is why he was the first priest to sit down, his work well accomplished. That is why as he breathed his last, he said, “it is finished,” John 19:30. Only for physical and spiritual Israel has he done those. This choosy God has not dealt thus with any other nation. Bow at the feet of the seated Christ and praise him for his finished work.

The Magnum Opus

Psalm 146-150 marks the grand finale of the psalms which crescendo in praise, upon mounting praise, upon high, high praise!

A devotional on Psalm 146

1 Praise the Lord! Praise the Lord, O my soul!

2 I will praise the Lord as long as I live; I will sing praises to my God while I have my being.

The soul has no greater purpose than to praise the Lord. This is the ultimate in the concept of worship. My will, desires, passions, and motivations lift Jah up. My intellect with its focus, alertness, plans, problem-solving, humor, thinking, memories and recollections, wisdom and understanding, meditations and reflections, calculations and evaluations, words received and transmitted, and much more all are to lift Jah up. My emotions of joy and affection, fear and anger, excitement and anticipation, jealousy and hope are all to lift Jah up. Hallel Jah!

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Determine to do this. Resolve to have this be your way of life during your few days here on earth, most of which may already be spent. Indeed, to praise is to live. If you are living and not praising, what are you doing that is of any worth?

3 Put not your trust in princes, in a son of man, in whom there is no salvation.

4 When his breath departs, he returns to the earth; on that very day his plans perish.

The most powerful men, princes, have influence and clout. But they are like the dancing dolls at sales car lots. No sooner is the motor that inflates them turned off, then their frail fabric flails to the ground and all their actions and animated dancing come to naught. The son of man, adam, means the ‘earth born.’ All men, even the loftiest, are here by the grace of a breath. A mere breath, beloved. In due time, the owner of the breath recalls it, the earth born lump of flesh returns to its earth and becomes a small pile of dust, and his plans know him no more. Truly his life is but a vapor.

Three weeks ago, a beloved family member went into the hospital coughing up blood. An avid hunter, he had had a wonderful Fall season. Yesterday, he breathed his last breath. The family is reeling from the shock of it. Right before Christmas no less. I wonder what his plans were… They are no more. Ps. 144:4, “Man is like a breath; his days are like a passing shadow.”

5 Blessed is he whose help is the God of Jacob, whose hope is in the Lord his God,

The more your help is in the God of Jacob, the happier you are. The more your hope is in the Lord your God and less in man, the happier you are.

6 who made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, who keeps faith forever;

Man can create grand schemes and even accomplishments, but he can only keep faith for so long. Who are you waiting on to help you? Who owes you help? Who are you paying to help you physically, emotionally, financially, mentally? Don’t put all your weight on that foot. He who trusts in man chews on a broken tooth and stands on a broken foot, Pr. 25:19. Stand instead on the solid rock that is Jah. He alone keeps faith forever.

7 who executes justice for the oppressed, who gives food to the hungry. The Lord sets the prisoners free;

8 the Lord opens the eyes of the blind. The Lord lifts up those who are bowed down; the Lord loves the righteous.

9 The Lord watches over the sojourners; he upholds the widow and the fatherless, but the way of the wicked he brings to ruin.

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“All our various kinds of hunger are doors for God to come into our spirits.” Maclaren. Our great, mighty God cares for us, mere lumps of clay. In his grandeur, he is full of compassion, and tender kindness towards us. He ministers to us and oozes love for us. He advocates for us, frees us, feeds us, guides us, uplifts us, guards us, and provides for us. And he knows how to take care of the wicked to boot. Lift up your hands and let him in.

10 The Lord will reign forever, your God, O Zion, to all generations. Praise the Lord!

Blessed!

A devotional on Psalm 144

1 Blessed be the Lord, my rock, who trains my hands for war, and my fingers for battle;

2 he is my steadfast love and my fortress, my stronghold and my deliverer,

my shield and he in whom I take refuge, who subdues peoples under me.

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This section of this marvelous psalm reminds me of Psalm 18. I will outline many parallels in the two passages. The latter is a most comprehensive song of the desperate plight of a man in the hands of his merciless enemies and the Lord wrighting an incredible deliverance for him. It starts much like Ps. 144, “I love you, O Lord, my strength. The Lord is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer, my God, my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield, and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold,” vs. 1 and 2.

“For who is God, but the Lord?
    And who is a rock, except our God?—
 the God who equipped me with strength
    and made my way blameless.
 He made my feet like the feet of a deer
    and set me secure on the heights.
 He trains my hands for war,
    so that my arms can bend a bow of bronze.” Ps 18:31-34.

3 O Lord, what is man that you regard him, or the son of man that you think of him?

4 Man is like a breath; his days are like a passing shadow.

A male house fly lives for 15 days and  female for 25; a hummingbird about 4 years; a dog about 10 years; a horse about 25; an elephant about 65 years; and a human, about 80 years. To the Lord, that is about as long as from the moment you took your last breath till now. From the last one till now. And it’s over.

Despite the relative brevity of man’s life, God has extremely high regard for him. Of course, we are talking about all aspects of the human body, soul, and spirit. We know that the soul and spirit live on after the body passes away. Historically, man has despised the body in various ways and held it in very low esteem. The creator God values even the body so much that after our death, he will renew it and give us a new one. God loves bodies. It is no wonder then that the world bombards us with messages that criticize it mercilessly and attempting to modify it. Scripture teaches that we are “fearfully and wonderfully made,” Ps. 139. He likes variety in the body. Our body is the playground or the canvas on which our faith plays out.

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God not only inhabits our bodies, but our bodies embody him. He personalizes this so much with your body, and with the bodies of others as well. When you feed or cloth or visit someone in need, that you do unto him! This embodiment means that whatever you are using your body for today, Christ is doing that today. Listen in on Paul in 1 Corinthians 6:12-19:

“Some of you say, “I have the right to do anything.” But not everything is helpful. Again some of you say, “I have the right to do anything.” But I will not be controlled by anything. Some of you say, “Food is for the stomach, and the stomach is for food. And God will destroy both of them.” [in other words, eat all you want.] But the body is not meant for sexual sins. The body is meant for the Lord. And the Lord is meant for the body. By his power God raised the Lord from the dead. He will also raise us up. Don’t you know that your bodies belong to the body of Christ? Should I take what belongs to Christ and join it to a prostitute? Never! When you join yourself to a prostitute, you become one with her in body. Don’t you know this? Scripture says, “The two will become one.” (Genesis 2:24) But whoever is joined to the Lord becomes one with him in spirit.

Keep far away from sexual sins. All the other sins a person commits are outside the body. But sexual sins are sins against their own body. Don’t you know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit? The Spirit is in you, and you have received the Spirit from God. You do not belong to yourselves. Christ has paid the price for you. So use your bodies in a way that honors God.”

5 Bow your heavens, O Lord, and come down! Touch the mountains so that they smoke!

“He bowed the heavens and came down; thick darkness was under his feet. He rode on a cherub and flew; he came swiftly on the wings of the wind. He made darkness his covering, his canopy around him, thick clouds dark with water. Out of the brightness before him hailstones and coals of fire broke through his clouds,” Ps. 18:9-11.

6 Flash forth the lightning and scatter them; send out your arrows and rout them!

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Psalm 18:13, 14 continues, “The Lord also thundered in the heavens, and the Most High uttered his voice, hailstones and coals of fire. He shot his arrows and scattered our enemies. He sent great flashes of lightning and chased the enemies away.”

7 Stretch out your hand from on high; rescue me and deliver me from the many waters, from the hand of foreigners,

“He reached down from heaven. He took hold of me. He lifted me out of deep waters. He saved me from my powerful enemies. He set me free from those who were too strong for me,” Ps. 18:16, 17.

8 whose mouths speak lies and whose right hand is a right hand of falsehood.

9 I will sing a new song to you, O God; upon a ten-stringed harp I will play to you,

10 who gives victory to kings, who rescues David his servant from the cruel sword.

11 Rescue me and deliver me from the hand of foreigners, those mouths speak lies and whose right hand is a right hand of falsehood.

“You saved me when my own people attacked me. You made me the ruler over nations. People I didn’t know serve me now. People from other lands bow down to me in fear. As soon as they hear me, they obey me,” Ps. 18:43, 44. Note the use of the term foreigner in Psalm 144:11. While Israel was the nation God chose to love, he has always included foreigners in his love plan. Any that love him he is quick to embrace into his fold. To be a true foreigner is to be one whose heart is turned away from God and holds little esteem for him. It does not acknowledge, recognize, or honor him. It ignores and rejects him. It is estranged from him. Isn’t it appalling to think we could warm the seats at church every Sunday morning and yet be in this state of heart?

12 May our sons in their youth be like plants full grown, our daughters like corner pillars cut for the structure of a palace;

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13 may our granaries be full, providing all kinds of produce; may our sheep bring forth thousands and ten thousands in our fields;

14 may our cattle be heavy with young, suffering no mishap or failure in bearing; may there be no cry of distress in our streets!

My homeland of Kenya is coming up on an election year. Tensions are mounting between various political parties and pundits anticipate it may be a heated election. I am currently praying this section of scripture over my beautiful, beloved land, which has occasionally been embroiled in chaos as tribal clashes boiled over. Cries of distress accompanied blood shed on the streets. We don’t ever want that again. Please pray with me for Kenya.

15 Blessed are the people to whom such blessings fall! Blessed are the people whose God is the Lord!

Hallal Jah!

Loved Like Crazy

A devotional of Psalm 139

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1 You have searched me, Lord, and you know me.

Our greatest need is to be sought after and to be known. Only God perfectly pursues us, understands us, knows us. Thank you Father for that marvelous truth. He sees us exactly as we are, he accepts and loves us, and draws us in for a hug. He does so even when we are the woman caught in adultery, or the prodigal son returning from a long stint of debauchery.

2 You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar.

3 You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways.

4 Before a word is on my tongue you, Lord, know it completely.

5 You hem me in behind and before, and you lay your hand upon me.

6 Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too lofty for me to attain.

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Note the concepts of the soul/heart/mind of God here: he knows, he perceives, he discerns. His senses are focused on you. He sees you, hears you, feels you. He desires you. He is alert to you, focuses on you, fills your thoughts in divine intellectual intercourse. He is overjoyed by you, delights in you, is jealous for you. He loves you! He knows you in and out and is thrilled at his handiwork, his masterpiece that is ____________ (insert your name here.) He likes you a lot.

I cannot even begin to fathom God’s involvement in my life.

7 Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence?

8 If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.

9 If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea,

10 even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast.

11 If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me and the light become night around me,”

12 even the darkness will not be dark to you; the night will shine like the day, for darkness is as light to you.

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God is love itself. Nothing can separate us from the love that is God. Even when we desire to disassociate ourselves from him, he, as it were, guides us in running away from him. We couldn’t even do that ourselves if we tried. All our vain and foolish attempts at separation from our life-giving, oxygen are thwarted by his love for us. Even when we reject and despise him, he remains our source, our all in all. We use his gift of strength to shake our fist at him. We use his gift of intellect to disprove him. We use his good gifts to distract us from him. The spotlight of his love is forever trained on us.

13 For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb.

14 I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.

15 My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place, when I was woven together in the depths of the earth.

16 Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in your book

 before one of them came to be.

17 How precious to me are your thoughts, God! How vast is the sum of them!

18 Were I to count them, they would outnumber the grains of sand— when I awake, I am still with you.

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God fashioned and designed you. As a knitter knits one stitch at a time and creates a marvelous garment, so God formed every cell in the secret place. He didn’t just start watching you either. He oversaw every step of every process from the formation of your father’s exact sperm, through its desperate journey to meet your mother’s exact egg and fuse into an explosion of life at just the right time on his calendar. He oversaw that with the mesmerized delight of a schoolboy following a swimming tadpole in a shallow pool.

Furthermore, God thinks of you a lot! He just won’t quit. If the angels didn’t like you, they’d tire of hearing about you and how special you are.

19 If only you, God, would slay the wicked! Away from me, you who are bloodthirsty!

20 They speak of you with evil intent; your adversaries misuse your name.

21 Do I not hate those who hate you, Lord, and abhor those who are in rebellion against you?

22 I have nothing but hatred for them; I count them my enemies.

23 Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts.

24 See if there is any offensive way in me and lead me in the way everlasting.

We are to love the Lord our God with all our heart, and all our soul, and all our strength according to Deuteronomy 6:5.  The word strength means with everything we have and are; with vehemence; with muchness. The word offensive or wicked in verse 24 above is otseb, meaning pain or sorrow; an idol. God’s desire for us is intimate relationship. My idols I fashion cause offense and keep me from experiencing or understanding the fullness of his love for me. May I bare my heart to him that he may remove the stench of idolatry and teach me to pursue him, know him, love him – the lover of my soul.

The Lord will Fulfill His Purpose for Me

A devotional on Psalm 138

1 I will praise you, O Lord, with my whole heart; before the gods I will sing your praise;

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What a grand way to wake up every day! What a noble declaration and resolution! Praise here is the word yadah illustrated by casting a stone or an arrow. It is the shooting up of hands in worship and thanks. This believer commits to train and dedicate the entirety of his heart, mind, and soul – WIE – his Will (desires), his Intellect, and his Emotions. All of them are to praise God. Those that step out of line he shall wrangle back in place to make them obedient to Jesus Christ.

The gods elohiym are angels, idols, rulers, and judges. We are familiar with its use to denote our triune God.

2 I bow down toward your holy temple and give thanks to your name for your loving kindness and your truth, for you have exalted your word above your name.

Theologian Trapp says, ““Wheresoever I am, the face of my soul shall turn, like the needle of a dial, by sacred instinct, towards thee.” I love the thought of identifying east wherever I am. From thence shall come Lord soon and very soon. In humble worship may I frequently orient my soul to God

God’s track record of lovingkindness (Heb. chesed) – goodness and kindness holds hands with God’s truth (Heb. emeth.) This latter term refers to stability, faithfulness, sureness, firmness, and trustworthiness. Those are worthy of praise indeed.

God magnifies and promotes his word (Heb. imrah) higher than his shem – reputation, position, honor, and authority. You can take his word to the bank. Further, this word is God’s power in your mouth and on your lips. We win the souls of fellow men with our words (Is. 52:7). We conquer and overcome the enemy by the blood of the lamb and the testimony of our word (Rev. 12:11.)

3 On the day I called, you answered me; my strength of soul you increased.

The psalmist’s reliance on God is not unfounded. It is built one block at a time; one experience at a time. Our souls can and should go from strength to strength every day. The more we align our WIE with God’s word and heart, the stronger we get. “It is God who arms me with strength and makes my way perfect,” Ps. 18:32.

4 All the kings of the earth shall give you thanks, O Lord, for they have heard the words of your mouth,

5 and they shall sing of the ways of the Lord, for great is the glory of the Lord.

6 For though the Lord is high, he regards the lowly, but the haughty he knows from afar.

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  • My friend Spurgeon says, “If this Book be not the real solid foundation of our religion, what have we to build upon? If God has spoken a lie, where are we, brethren?” That strikes the soul like a sword. In John 6:60-70, Jesus watched as many disciples walked away from his teaching. He then turned to the 12 and said, “You do not want to leave too, do you?” to which Simon Peter answered, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We have come to believe and to know that you are the Holy One of God.” Peter spoke for us all saying Jesus was the greatest king, the only one worth living and dying for. If we didn’t live and die for Jesus, there was nothing else worth living and dying for.
  • We have seen consistently that song erupts in the wake of God’s activity. How is your song quotient today, friend?
  • God boasts about his love for the lowly. He esteems them greatly and identifies with them. “You save the humble but bring low those whose eyes are haughty,” Ps. 18:27.

7 Though I walk in the midst of trouble, you preserve my life;

you stretch out your hand against the wrath of my enemies, and your right hand delivers me.

8 The Lord will fulfill his purpose for me; your steadfast love, O Lord, endures forever. Do not forsake the work of your hands.

Jah oversees me, preserves me, shields me, and rescues me with skill and strength (right hand.) He has a plan for my life and nothing with separate me from him or thwart his plan from unfolding in my life. This is the plenary panacea for anxiety. Our anxious thoughts arise from thinking that things won’t go as planned. “Then what shall we do?” we worry. This gives me tremendous peace for myself, for my children, for my spouse, my friends, for everyone. The Lord will fulfill his purpose for me. That’s a rock-solid promise we can stand and live on!

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!