Reflections From PSALM (139): “THOUGHTS ON ME AND GOD—THE SUBJECT/OBJECT DISTINCTION”

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For quite some time, I’ve considered teaching/preaching from this majestic text of Psalm 139 (and have).  The intimacy with which the psalmist experiences God in his omnipotence, omniscience, omnisapience and omnibenevolence is baffling.  The psalmists’ awareness that he can’t hide from the LORD is daunting and soothing.  The former obtains if I’m His enemy, the latter if I’m His child.

As I meditate on this passage what jumps out is the subject/object dynamic between the Creator and the creature.  While obvious from the text, this Creator/creature distinction seems to be increasingly being lost in many of our Christian churches that are vastly man centered when considering reality, rather than God obsessed.

It’s the Biblical worldview alone that demonstrates an intimate relationship between the creator and the creature.  Atheists don’t believe that any such God exists; Monists in any such distinctions; Polytheists don’t believe in any such monotheism; Islam doesn’t believe such intimacy is possible with the Creator but the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob is unlike the rest.

Many in Christendom often live like the Atheist to the detriment of God’s gospel in Christ.  This injures the soul because it detaches us from the Designer who alone always knows what’s best for us.

Back to the subject/object distinction where the psalmist uses terms like; you, your, me, my and I, which according to my count these pronouns are used 49 times.  This type of accentuation can’t be overstated for monkeys, crows, lions nor rats, can boast of such a relationship.  Because contra naturalistic notions that we are here by chance accident in time, humans alone have been created in God’s image and said communication is unique to their interaction.  This interplay between the Creator and the creature has been around since Adam and Eve, is awesome in scope and has far reaching ramifications.  Let’s consider the following observations.

First, this is a declaration of humility and praise between the rescued Israelite and His God—the LORD—the covenant name of God where; “I will be their God and they shall be my people” is fleshed out.  This comes from David, the man after God’s own heart who often was a man seeking only his desires (E.g., seen in his interaction with Goliath/Uriah and Abigail/Bathsheba).  Regardless, whatever was good in David’s heart was the result of God’s work in his life which this psalm reveals.

Second, the LORD has qualities that absolutely stupefy the writer.  The LORD does the following: (v.1) searched…known me; (v.2) know when (time) I sit…I rise up, understand my thought from afar; (v.3) scrutinize my path…when I lie down…intimately acquainted…all my ways; (v.4) before a word is on my tongue…Behold…you know it all; (v.5) enclose me behind/before…laid Your hand is upon me; (v.6) such knowledge is too wonderful for me…too high, I cannot attain to it.  Without getting into the minute details of these verses, what is clear is that the LORD knows the psalmist (and me) more intimately than I know myself.  As a result, the writer is utterly humbled, baffled and elated.

Verses 7-18 seem to further explain the wonderment of the psalmist and the gratitude that springs from his soul as he meditates on these wondrous truths of the Creator with whom he is in covenant.  This covenant God of David is committed to assuring his child makes it safely home (v.24)

Third, in light of God’s magnificence the psalmist adores the LORD and thus hates God’s enemies.  He wants them destroyed because the psalmist is God’s friend, he has chosen a side…something everyone does (Vv.19-22).  Did David have a beatific vision?  Did he “see” the God of the covenant such that he grasped the awesomeness of Yahweh?  I think so.  But David does not end his contemplations here with “wipe out Your enemies”, but with, “have mercy on me a sinner…” (Vv.23-24)

Scripture instructs us that in His light we see light.  Once we were aliens and strangers to the covenant and promises of Israel but now as Gentiles have been grafted into the vine who is Christ Jesus the Lord.  David begins the psalm by stating what God has already done, “searched me and known me…(v.1) and now he’s petitioning God to do the same as in past times:

Search me, O God, and know my heart; try me and know my anxious thoughts.  And see if there be any hurtful way in me, and lead me in the everlasting way.” (Vv.23-24)

 This seems to be illustrative of Mathew 7:5 where Jesus instructs disciples in the proper way to make judgments: “first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.”  First things first…but we tend to neglect this principle.

God knows full well (as the psalmist indicates) that we are too easily inclined to look outward in making judgments rather than inward first, while ignoring the inward maladies of our souls.  David, after asking God to deal with His enemies, asks God to deal with his own sins.  What a model of humility and courage, of insight and resolve, of soberness and action.

The man of God understands that he stands naked before the LORD only by mercy.  He understands that but for God’s mercy, he’d be one of God’s enemies.  This supreme magnificent stupendous author of life desires to be intimate with His people.  As David said, so I state, “such knowledge is too wonderful for me!”

(SDG)

 

Reflections From PSALM 38: “Yahweh is Always Present to Rescue His Own–Regardless of Their Weaknesses”

jewish-captives-lyreThis Psalm is somewhat daunting at the reading.  Anxiety in the heart can crush the soul of man.  Often this is caused by our own iniquity and its effects have a way of reducing our dignity as image bearers to sub-animalistic:

 “O Lord, rebuke me not in Your wrath, And chasten me not in Your burning anger. For Your arrows have sunk deep into me, And Your hand has pressed down on me. There is no soundness in my flesh because of Your indignationThere is no health in my bones because of my sin.”  (Vv.1-3)

 Sin brings God’s displeasure and can effect our health.  Whatever the sin was, it certainly weighed David down such that it utterly sapped his strength (Vv.4-12).  It’s as if the Psalmist is living a nightmare in color.

But even though his strength is gone he still looks to You LORD.  Even when the wicked are scheming to take his life, he chooses to trust God for rescue.  Consider the text:

“Yes, I am like a man who does not hear, And in whose mouth are no arguments.  15 For I hope in You, O Lord; You will answer, O Lord my God.”  (Vv.14-15)

 The man after God’s own heart is teaching us that even when our own strength fails, and we’re overcome by sin, nevertheless the Creator, the One who makes covenant with His people is an ever present faithful Deliverer.  His enemies hated David because he chose the good, he followed God (Vv.19-20) and thus his cry for deliverance is heard from the throne of grace.

May I look to You LORD when the day of trouble arrives, may my trust in Your steadfast love be renewed daily, and may You LORD receive me into Your loving arms when my time on earth is finished.

(SDG)

Reflections From PSALM 35: “RESCUE FOR THE RIGHTEOUS EQUALS DESTRUCTION FOR THE WICKED”

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THE LYRE & THE SCROLL

“Contend, O Lord, with those who contend with me;
Fight against those who fight against me.”
(V.1)

As I slowly plod through the Psalter there’s a dear heartbeat, a tender exchange between the writer and the LORD.  There’s a rich loyalty toward God and a protection given by the Most High for His people.  It is increasingly precious to my soul.

This exchange is often seen in the valley of despair where peril is the backdrop and terror is real, but the Psalmist nevertheless cry’s out to the LORD.  It’s a microcosm of Israel’s exodus from Egypt repeated: Israel’s enemies are God’s enemies and there’s a covenant loyalty that God, unlike his people, never breaks.

Why do I read these pages and weep?  Above all reasons, is that the LORD’s manifest mercies by delivering His own from peril demonstrates His commitment to love wayward hearts.  David’s life is in danger, people want to kill him, he’s being maliciously slandered and thus he looks to the LORD for rescue like little chicks who look to their mother hen for protection and sustenance.

The pattern of this Psalm goes from petition (Vv.1-8) to praise: “And my soul shall rejoice in the Lord; It shall exult in His salvation.” (Vv.9-10).  Then it goes to comparison between David and his enemies.  His enemies repay him evil  “Malicious witnesses rise up against me” for good when they were sick…my prayer kept returning to my bosom” (Vv.11-16).

Then again he returns to petition: LORD, how long will you look on?”.  David knows God sees these injustices done to him and his soul is burdened, thus he looks to the LORD and cries for deliverance with no further delays (V.17).  This again is followed by praise and thanksgiving (V.18).  It’s as if David knows god will eventually rescue him and he anticipates the praise he will offer when the rescue is realized.  But David’s petition is not arbitrary, consider the wisdom of his cry:

“Do not let those who are wrongfully my enemies rejoice over me; Nor let those who hate me without cause wink maliciously.” (V.19)

David doesn’t ask God to deliver him because he’s guilty, but precisely because he’s innocent and God knows it well (Vv.19, 20-21, 22).  Moreover, much in the same way the Psalmist cries out to God in (Ps.139:19-24) so too here, he asks God to: “Judge me, O Lord my God, according to Your righteousness, And do not let them rejoice over me.” (V.24).  David shows us how to entrust ourselves to the all-powerful, all-knowing, all-wise God and thus we can rest.

This is another example of an imprecatory prayer where the writer asks God to do justice on his enemies for the sake of the Name and to have mercy as well because of the Name.  Being God’s enemy or child will determine our end.  When the righteous cry out  for deliverance, it will assuredly come, but so will the destruction of the wicked.  That’s why I say “rescue for the righteous equals destruction for the wicked—His enemies.”

Reflections From Psalm 34: Models of Prayer

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The Scriptures and particularly the Psalms are filled with deep theology and how it’s to be applied in everyday living.  This Psalm specifically teaches us much about how to pray in the midst of difficult times, it gives us a “blueprint” to follow.

First, there’s a resolve to be thankful before God always: “I will bless the LORD at all times…” (Vv.1-3).  Gratitude for who He is and what He has done is a mark of humility and clear thinking between the Creator and the creature.  The former is self-existent, the latter utterly dependent on His good graces to exist.  Thus, this is an appropriate way to come before the great I AM.

Second, there’s a reminder to persistently pray to God: “I sought the LORD and He answered me…” (Vv.4-7).  Too often we lack tenacity when pursuing God and thus forfeit the reality of answered prayer.  Jesus said that men ought always to pray and not faint.  To live contrarily demonstrates that we really don’t trust in the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.  After all, He’s the God of the living and not of the dead.  Nothing honors God more than when his creatures trust in Him.

Third, there’s an enticement to delight in God for He’s worthy to be praised because He hears our prayers, therefore: “O taste and see that the LORD is good…” (Vv.8-10).  How incredible that unlike all the other “gods” of the nations who: have ears but can’t hear, have eyes but can’t see, have feet but can’t walk, have mouths but can’t talk, and finally are the creation of the creature, how unbelievable that the One who upholds the universe personally, interacts with His people truly, and can be experienced by them, beckons them to “taste and see that the LORD is good”.  That’s what is tasted and seen: communion with the living God!

Fourth, there’s an impartation of wisdom for youth’s from God: “Come, you children, listen to me; I will teach you the fear of the Lord” (Vv.11-14).  Adults need wisdom, but youths all the more because of their lack of life experience.  God says He’ll give it if His voice is heeded.  This hearkens to Solomon’s purpose for the book of Proverbs 1: “to give youths knowledge and discretion.”  Is this an awesome alternative to sex, drugs and rock’n roll?  Yes but much more for the former leads to death, the latter to true life.

Fifth,  there’s a leading into the LORD’s presence: “The eyes of the Lord are toward the righteous… The Lord is near to the brokenhearted” (Vv.15-18).  Too often the loneliness that would swallow us up can be defeated by remembering that God has not forsaken us, even in the worst of times (E.g., The Babylonian Captivity).  David knew this well and even in the depths of despair he could confidently say, “The Lord is my light and my salvation; Whom shall I fear?  The Lord is the defense of my life; Whom shall I dread?” (Ps.27:1).  This text releases believers to be bold as a lion not timid as a turtle.

Sixth, there’s a reminder that the righteous do suffer: “Many are the afflictions of the righteous, But the Lord delivers him out of them all… The Lord redeems the soul of His servants, And none of those who take refuge in Him will be condemned” (Vv.19-22).  When Jesus laid down the conditions of discipleship it was, “Die to self and live for Me—the cross is the road to redemption where Christ and not self is king”.

What an amazing God! Who can compare?! Our God is an awesome God tender and mighty, shrewd and compassionate, just and merciful!  To God alone Be the glory both now and forevermore.

(SDG)        

THE LYRE AND THE SCROLL Reflections from The Psalms

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PSALM (20-25)

I’m stunned and delighted at God’s word.  It is ever present to me and new as I gaze into what I have previously read.  There’s a deep comfort I experience when the Psalmist cry’s out to God as if he were in my shoes.  Why I stay away from the word of God for prolonged periods of time and especially the Psalms is baffling to me.

Regardless, God is faithful to speak kindly, deeply, and in enigmatic ways to my soul as I peer into His eternal truth.  First, in Psalm 20 there’s a prayer for God, the LORD to answer in the day of trouble, to send help from His sanctuary, to remember your faithful worship, grant your heart’s desire and fulfill all your petitions (Vv.1-4), the end of which is boasting in the God of the covenant and not the creature’s strength (Vv.7-9).

Life is filled with troubles, unlike the nonbeliever, God’s covenant people have Him as the resource for peace in spite of the opposition and when we are tempted to doubt, the written word brings back the reality of this truth.

Second, in Psalm 22 there’s a cry for God’s nearness in times of horrible distress which depicts the weightiness of the crucifixion, but no answer is given.  Yet the Psalmist writes:

Yet You are holy,
O You who are enthroned upon the praises of Israel.
In You our fathers trusted;
They trusted and You delivered them.
To You they cried out and were delivered;
In You they trusted and were not disappointed.

In all this and the horrors of crucifixion the writer continues and says:

24 For He has not despised nor abhorred the affliction of the afflicted;
Nor has He hidden His face from him;  But when he cried to Him for help, He heard.

God may seem like He’s forsaken you in your affliction, it may seem that your tears and groans are ignored by Him, but that’s not the case.  He is the God who is there and even the very hairs of your head (Jesus said) the Father has counted.  This should comfort us greatly in a world where so often, to most people we seem not to matter.

Third, in Psalm 25 has a litany of insights among which is: “The secret of the Lord is for those who fear Him and He will make them know His covenant” (V.14).  This Christian journey is long and treacherous at times the peril certainly seems about to doom us if not for the word of the LORD.  Note that He makes His secret known to us who fear Him.  Herein is knowledge, wisdom and the straight path.  This is a great prayer to offer in our pursuit for insight.

To love God I must know him through His word.  To know God I must love Him through His word.  When it’s all said and done, the knowledge of God and the love of God come through His word which in the fullness of time came in the person of Christ Jesus in order to obliterate the hostility previously damning us.  To God be the glory!

(SDG)