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.

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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

Ethan I

A devotion of Psalm 89

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A maschil of Ethan the Ezrahite.

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

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

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

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

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

Ephesians 5:18-19.

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

Col 3:16.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

You rescue me from a violent man.

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

And I will sing praises to Your name.

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

To David and his descendants forever.

Psalm 18:46-50

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Psalm 86:8

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

Psalm 93:4

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

Psalm 113:5

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Phil. 4:4

sorrowful, yet always rejoicing;

2 Cor. 6:10a

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Deepest Darkness

A devotion of Psalm 88

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

For the Record

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I was Born There

A devotion of Psalm 87

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

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

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

Physical Significance of Zion

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

· There the apostles served and sent out the Gospel.

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

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

Spiritual Significance of Zion

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

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

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

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

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

Citizenship

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

Circumcision

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

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

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

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

Hallelujah!!

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

Hebrews 12:22-23

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

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

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

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