Category Archives: Psalms

Psalm 35, Part II — God Delights in Our Well-Being!

Ruthless witnesses come forward;

they question me on things I know nothing about.

They repay me evil for good

and leave me like one bereaved.

Yet when they were ill, I put on sackcloth

and humbled myself with fasting.

When my prayers returned to me unanswered,

I went about mourning

as though for my friend or brother.

I bowed my head in grief

as though weeping for my mother. (v. 11-14)

I am very convicted by David’s heart for others.  When they were sick, he fasted for them, and mourned and wept for them.  Am I practicing this type of love?  My friend lost her job.  Am I fasting and grieving with her?

This passage in Ps. 35 is a good one to encourage all of us to love sacrificially.

  • Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth.”  I John 3:18
  • “I have no one else like Timothy, who genuinely cares about your welfare. Phil 2:20

Psalms 35 goes on —

Rescue me from their ravages,

my precious life from these lions.

I will give you thanks in the great assembly;

among the throngs I will praise you.

It was very important to David that when God answered his prayers, he would thank and praise God publicly.   David said in II Samuel 22:49-50 that he would not only praise God in front of his fellow Jewish believers, but he would praise God in the hearing of the pagan nations.

You exalted me above my foes;

from a violent man you rescued me.

Therefore I will praise you, Lord, among the nations;

I will sing the praises of your name

David knew that he needed to praise, so that people would see God through him.

Today, we still need to help people see the glory of God through praise and thanks for how he is personally working in our lives.  In fact, it is our purpose.

But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.  I Peter 2:0

“I give water in the wilderness, rivers in the desert to give drink to my chosen people, the people whom I formed for myself that they might declare my praise.”  Isa 43:20b-21

As we go about our days, let’s tell others the latest story of how God has answered our prayers.  Let’s glorify God more!

Ps. 35 ends with this passage:

May those who delight in my vindication

shout for joy and gladness;

may they always say, “The Lord be exalted,

who delights in the well-being of his servant.”

My tongue will proclaim your righteousness,

your praises all day long.

I love where David says that God delights in the well-being of his servant.  Here are some other translations of that verse:

  • who delights in giving peace to his servant.”
  • he wants his servant to be secure.
  • Who delights in the prosperity of His servant.
  • who delights in the welfare of his servant!

What an amazing God we serve!  His heart’s desire, his great pleasure, is in taking care of us and helping us to do well.  He wants us to be secure, and at peace.  This is a theme throughout the Bible.

  • I will make an everlasting covenant with them: I will never stop doing good to them,  Jer. 32:40
  • If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!  Matt 7:11

May this encourage us.  God loves to work for our good.  When he does, let us praise him publicly.  And let this motivate us to actively work for the good of others, as David did.

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Psalm 11 — When the World Goes Haywire

world-gone-mad3

It’s appropriate that the psalm I am discussing today in my series on Psalms is Psalm 11.  Today is the inauguration day for Donald Trump, and in my lifetime, I can’t remember such a crazy time.  People are either aghast at the behavior of Trump, or they are aghast at the behavior of those against him. It seems like the world has gone haywire!

David, who wrote Psalm 11, also felt like the world had gone haywire.  For him, the situation was that King Saul, the king he followed and fought for, the king who was his father in law, had suddenly turned against him and was trying to kill him. (I Samuel 19)  One moment David was just minding his own business,  playing the lyre, and the next moment he was dodging a spear thrown at him by the monarch!  He tried to go home,which should have been safe, but his wife convinced him to hightail it out of there.  Which was good, because he just missed Saul’s men, who came to his house to do him ill.

So what do you do when the things get wonky, when injustice reigns, and you fear for the future?

You look to imitate the heart of David, who started Psalm 11 by declaring, “In the Lord I take refuge. How then can you say to me: “Flee like a bird to your mountain.”

David’s attitude was, “Why should I run away?  My confidence comes from God.  I trust in him to keep me safe, not in my own actions.”

Of course, David did flee.  But he did so with the belief that his life was in God’s hands, not Saul’s.

I like how the New Living Translation words verses 3 and 4:

The foundations of law and order have collapsed.

What can the righteous do?”

But the Lord is in his holy Temple;

the Lord still rules from heaven.

David’s message?  GOD IS IN CONTROL.  Nothing, not even the collapse of the world around him, would shake his faith in that.

And David also placed his confidence in his belief that God would execute justice.  Psalms 11 goes on to read,

[The Lord] watches everyone closely,

examining every person on earth.

The Lord examines both the righteous and the wicked.

He hates those who love violence.

He will rain down blazing coals and burning sulfur on the wicked,

punishing them with scorching winds.

David knew that every wicked act would be punished.  And when we read the Bible, we see that God did bring down many evil nations.  The reference here seems to be to Sodom and Gomorrah, which God wiped out through fire.  God’s angels told Lot, who was living in Sodom, “We are going to destroy this place. The outcry to the Lord against its people is so great that he has sent us to destroy it.

It sometimes doesn’t seem like it, but God sees evil, and will deal with it, either in this life, or in the one to come.

Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. Gal 6:7

David ended the psalm with this statement:

For the Lord is righteous, he loves justice;

the upright will see his face.

David couldn’t do anything about King Saul and his army except pray and put his faith in God’s righteousness.  And then the most important thing he could do was to keep doing right, himself.

I’m not saying David didn’t fight for justice.  He did. He stood up to Goliath! He ran off the Philistines who were harassing the Israelites of the town of Keilah, as I related in my last blog.  There are many other examples.

But David knew that the most important battle was the one he fought internally, the one he fought to maintain his integrity and trust in God.  He knew the reward for fighting this battle was the greatest one that could be achieved:  maintaining the favor of God.

He knew the sweetest thing was to have the blessing of Numbers 6:23-24  ‘“The LORD bless you and keep you; the LORD make his face shine on you and be gracious to you; the LORD turn his face toward you and give you peace.”

To David, seeing God’s face meant that God’s countenance would continue to shine on him.  It meant, as Matthew Henry explained in his commentary of Numbers 6, To be under the almighty protection of God our Saviour; to enjoy his favour as the smile of a loving Father, or as the cheering beams of the sun; while he mercifully forgives our sins, supplies our wants, consoles the heart, and prepares us by his grace for eternal glory; these things form the substance of this blessing, and the sum total of all blessings.”

So things were a mess.  It must have been hard for David not to get carried away with ranting about all the wrongs and injustices!  But David retooled his thinking to be focused on God.

What do you do when the things get wonky, when injustice reigns, and you fear for the future ?  I want to enjoin you to fight the wrongs, and stand up for justice.

But your primary focus should always be on fighting for your own integrity, so nothing gets in the way of experiencing the greatest treasure, the blessedness of a relationship with God.

Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God. Matt 5:8

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Psalm 54 – Self Reliant or God Reliant?

Appreciating Psalm 54 is all about knowing what was happening when it was written.  The notes for the psalm explain that it was written, “When the Ziphites had gone to Saul and said, ‘Is not David hiding among us?’”

So we have to read about David’s encounter with the Ziphites.  This story is in the last part of I Samuel 23, but we can get an even better picture of what’s going on by reading the whole exciting chapter!  I know, I know.  You’re short on time.  I’ll summarize it for you.

David at this point is with a group of about 600 men who have thrown in their lot with him.  They are playing a deadly game of hide and seek with Saul and his army.  And then David hears that the Philistines are raiding one of the Jewish border towns, Keilah,and stealing their grain.

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Man from Kielah entreating David to help.

David has such an awesome heart.  He wants to take his band of men and rescue the people of Kielah.  But his guys are like, “What?  We’re quaking in our boots because Saul’s army is breathing down our necks, and you want to take on the whole Philistine army?”  So David consults the Lord, twice, and the Lord assures him that he will totally win.

Thus they engage in a skirmish with the Philistines.  David’s forces pound them and free the town of Kileah. Yay!

Of course, just as his men feared, this puts David on Saul’s radar.  Saul’s rubbing his hands together with glee, thinking, “Ha!  I have David in a walled in city now.  Now I can finally get him!”

walled-in-city

Walled in city

Saul sends his army in that direction.  David realizes Saul is coming, and knows this will put the people of Kielah in a dicey situation.  Will they stand with him, or give him over to their king?  He asks the Lord, and the Lord lets him know it’s time to cut and run.  So David and his men manage to slip away before Saul’s army arrives.  They hightail it to the hill country of Ziph.

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The hills of Ziph — a pretty hostile environment!

Foiled, Saul’s army keeps looking for David to no avail, because God is helping David out.  But then the residents of Ziph betray David, and clue Saul in to David’s location.  Armed with this new information, Saul closes in on David.  He’s on one side of the mountain and David’s on the other.  It seems like it’s all over.  David will finally be captured.  And then, just in the nick of time, Saul gets an urgent message that he has to go fight the Philistines.  So he and his army exit the area.  Whew!

Here’s the first half of the psalm David wrote when he was going through all of this:

Come with great power, O God, and rescue me!

Defend me with your might.

Listen to my prayer, O God.

Pay attention to my plea.

For strangers are attacking me;

violent people are trying to kill me.

They care nothing for God.

Can’t you just pictures the situation from what David says here?  He’s like, “Please help me, God.  And I’m going to need you to bring the big guns because I’m in this barren desert place, and it’s not just Saul and his army who are after me, now the local bad guys, who don’t even know me, are against me!”

Psalms 54 goes on:

Surely God is my help;

the Lord is the one who sustains me.

Let evil recoil on those who slander me;

in your faithfulness destroy them.

I will sacrifice a freewill offering to you;

I will praise your name, Lord, for it is good.

You have delivered me from all my troubles,

and my eyes have looked in triumph on my foes

Notice how proactive David believes God will be.  God is the one who will help him, defend him, deliver him, sustain him, and destroy the enemy.  Not once does David ask God for the ability to do these things himself.  He believes God will do them.

In the end David says his eyes have looked in triumph on his foes. He could have been remembering past victories given by God.  But I like to think David wrote this at the end of the present story.  I envision his scouts coming and reporting, “We can’t figure it out, but Saul’s army is headed the other way.  They’re leaving.”

David does a fist pump. “Yes! Praise God!” And he turns and shouts to the hills, as if the people of Ziph can hear him, “Hey, chumps.  You thought you were going to mess with me, but you were messing with the Lord!  You picked the wrong side!”

It’s fun to think about, but whatever happened, we know that David gave God the total glory.   He attributed victory to the Lord, and exalted him.

So here are four things we can take away from this story and psalm:

Pray before taking action.  When we’re making decisions about which way to go, we need to remember to first pray about it and ask God for guidance.

Be God reliant, not self reliant.  David didn’t depend on his own wisdom or power.  He put all his eggs in God’s basket.  God was his resource for guidance.  God was his strategy.  God was his weapon. God was his solution.

Let not the wise boast of their wisdom

or the strong boast of their strength

or the rich boast of their riches,

but let the one who boasts boast about this:

that they have the understanding to know me. . . (Jeremiah 9:23-24a)

Deliverance often comes when things seem at their worst. David wasn’t rescued until the 11th hour.   It’s often the same for us.  I was just thinking over my life, and remembering some of the most encouraging ways God acted.  Some of the greatest things from God came on the heels of my greatest times of trial.

I have an illustration I want to share.  Last year we had some tremendous blessings in our church, but there were also some challenging times.  In the fall, several of our members who were dear friends and hard workers moved away or quit coming.  And then another church started meeting at the same hotel where we had been meeting for the past eight years.  We were happy to share our space.  But this church took up the common areas, and played loud music that invaded our services.  Loud bass was vibrating while we were trying to take communion.

It was a low point.  We saw the writing on the wall — we would have to find a new place to meet.  We prayed that we could somehow find a location that would be cheap, close to the interstate, and amenable to us bringing food for fellowships. This was a tall order!

And then, out of the blue, our women’s leader, Marge, was getting a rental car and happened to see the VFW building next door.  “I wonder if we could rent that?”  she said to  herself.  It took a lot of tracking down to find the right person to talk to, but when we did, they said they were looking for renters!

So two weeks ago we had our first service in our new location, and we loved it!

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It was warm and homey.  We had coffee and snacks as we fellowshipped.   What had seemed like a setback had turned into a new start.  Our hearts were full of gratitude to God.

And that brings me to my last point about Psalms 54 —

Give total glory to God.  When things work out, let David be our inspiration.  Let’s break out into wholehearted praise!  How can we give the credit to anyone or anything but the Lord?  It is God who gives us the victory. He will continue to do so, as we completely rely on him.  And when he does, we will lift up his name with thanksgiving.

But thanks be to God, who in Christ always leads us in triumphal procession, and through us spreads the fragrance of the knowledge of him everywhere.  II Cor 2:14a

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Ps 142 – God Knows My Path

The next psalm in the series of psalms in chronological order is Ps. 142.  Just like Psalm 57, it was written when David was hiding away from his enemies in a cave.

The big feeling I get out of this psalm is that David was feeling pretty trapped.

In the path where I walk people have hidden a snare for me. . .

rescue me from those who pursue me, for they are too strong for me.

Set me free from my prison, that I may praise your name.

David knew if he stepped out of the cave, his adversaries were poised to capture or kill him.

ambush

He felt overwhelmed, cornered, confined, like there was no place to turn.

Sound familiar?  I can certainly relate.  Sometimes I don’t like the situation I’m in, but I can’t see a way out.  I can’t see a good option.  It feels horrible.  I cry out to God, “How could you put me here?”

trapped3

But David also says this one thing in verse 3 that is so heart lifting:

When my spirit faints within me, you know my way!

I did a little Hebrew word study of this phrase.  First, it reads, “my spirit faints.”  Some translations word this as “When I was overwhelmed.”  It definitely carries a feeling of being weak and powerless, of wanting to give up because the odds seem so great.

Next, it says that God knows the way.  The word for “know” here is “yada.”  Yada is more than just a head knowledge.  Yada is knowing by experience.  You can look at a map and say you “know” the way.  But once you drive it over and over again, you “yada” the way.  You can “know” someone if you’ve met them.  But if you’ve spent a lot of time together, you “yada” them.

Finally, the verse says God knows the way.  To me, this isn’t just like God knows our path.  It’s like God knows our Path with a capital “p,” his route for us.

Putting this all together, it’s like God has a course marked out for us that he’s intimately familiar with, because he’s designed each turn and ascent.  It’s also like God knows us through and through, and custom made this course just for us.

So it gives me a lot of comfort to think that when I am overwhelmed and feel like there’s no good way to turn, I’m actually in the place God put me.  I’m on a road to somewhere good, I just can’t see it.  It’s scary, but it’s not scary to God.  He knows exactly where he’s taking me.

guiding-blind-person

God guides us, kind of like we would guide a blind person.

I’ve been listening to a series of messages by John Lusk on “Increase Our Faith.”  He talks about how we all come to points in our life when the way forward seems impossible.  At that point, we can either compromise our convictions or pray, as Jesus’s disciples did, “Increase our faith!”

Prayer bridges the gap between impossible and possible.  It puts our hand in God’s hand, so he can show us the way he has planned for us.

You know, Psalms 142 is one of the psalms that is actually named in the notes as a prayer. In the whole thing, David is telling God that he feels trapped, but he believes God knows the way forward.  And we know now that God did take David forward to use him in great ways.  The Messianic line was established through him.

God knows the way forward for us as well.  He has dreams for us.  He has plans and designs because he formed us.  He knows us inside and out, and knows how to use us in great ways.

We just need to hold tightly to him and say, “My spirit is faint within me, but you know my path!”

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Psalm 57 — Finding Refuge

Have mercy on me, my God, have mercy on me . . .

This is how Psalm 57 starts, which is the next psalm in the  series I’m writing on the Psalms in chronological order.  Psalm 57 was written by David when he was holed up a cave, hiding from Saul’s soldiers.

cave

I imagine it was real downer to be there, stuck in the dark, cut off from the world.

So as David started praying to God there, what did he pray first? Did he catalog all the ways that God should work?  No, he begged, “Have mercy on me.” He wanted this so much, he said it twice.

This challenges me!  I’ve been going nonstop since before Thanksgiving.  I have a backlog of unprocessed emotional baggage; feelings screaming for attention.  I want to whine and fill God’s ear with requests.

emotional-baggage

But instead, what I need to do is get on my knees, put my face to the ground and remember who I am before the Lord.  The only real thing I can ask for is mercy.

Let this illustration burn into me, the one Jesus gave about a Pharisee and a tax collector who went to pray:

The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other people–robbers, evildoers, adulterers–or even like this tax collector.  I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.’

“But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’

“I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.”  Luke 18:13-14

I am such a Pharisee!!  It’s so much about me.  I am so preoccupied with trying to  do the right thing so I can feel good about myself.  More than that, I am so focused on praying for what I think should happen.  I exude pride, not humility.

David goes on to write, “for in you I take refuge,” And then says, “I will take refuge in the shadow of your wings until the disaster has passed.”

Oh, this is what my heart craves, a refuge.  But even though I know that it can be found in God, it doesn’t click.  So I’m trying to understand how David could so completely and confidently find a safe place in God.

And as I meditate on it,  I’m realizing that David wasn’t just seeing God as a haven.  He was putting his trust in the God who had a solid history of always protecting and caring for his people. Look at this passage in Deuteronomy 32 and how it describes God’s actions towards the Israelite nation:

He (God) found him (Israel) out in the wilderness,
        in an empty, windswept wasteland.
    He threw his arms around him, lavished attention on him,
        guarding him as the apple of his eye.
    He was like an eagle hovering over its nest,
        overshadowing its young,
    Then spreading its wings, lifting them into the air,
        teaching them to fly.
    God alone led him;
        there was not a foreign god in sight.
    God lifted him onto the hilltops,
        so he could feast on the crops in the fields.
    He fed him honey from the rock,
        oil from granite crags . .

God is like a bird that shelters its young. That bird would also be committed to feeding its young and fiercely protecting them.

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eagle-feeding-young

So David knew that God felt a loving responsibility and obligation toward him.  He knew God would be there for him.  THAT is how he took refuge in God.

And that is how I can take refuge in God as well.  By learning to believe that God is faithful to me.

As the psalm goes on, it helps me to realize this.  Here is what David says next.  I’m listing several translations of this verse:

I call upon the God Most High; to the God who completes what he began in me. ISV

I cry out to God Most High, to God who fulfills his purpose for me. NLT

I cry out to God Most High, to God, who vindicates me. NIV

I will cry to God Most High, To God who accomplishes all things for me.  ASV

No matter which translation is correct, they all say that God would act on David’s behalf.  I love this thought.  God’s not going to just sit in heaven.  He’s going to get up and do something for his people.

What really helps my heart is knowing that it is God who is doing the work, not me.  When I work, I make a mess of things. How wonderful it is that I can come to God and know that he WILL work his good purpose in spite of my mucking about!

It reminds me of this verse:  “And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.”  Phil. 1:6

But the thing is, for God to work, I have to first humble myself, as David did.  I have to stop thinking I know how things should be done.

I have to vacate my own refuge, my own way of trying to control and make the world safe, and make God my refuge in every way.

It’s sort of like the story of the three pigs.  I need to leave my house of sticks and go to the house of bricks!

three-little-pigs

I tend to be overwhelmed.  I think about all that’s going wrong, all that needs to change, all that needs to be done.  On one hand, I come up with plans to fix it, and on the other, I despair because my efforts seem to have bungled things.

How much I need peace!  The irony is that I need a refuge because I haven’t made God my refuge.

When will I learn that true peace comes from humility, not performance?  It comes from surrender, emptying myself before God, and having faith that he will work.

“And that is what we should seek for — to go on our faces before God until our hearts learn to believe that the everlasting God Himself will come in to turn out what is wrong, to conquer what is evil, and to work what is well-pleasing in His blessed sight.”  (Andrew Murray, Absolute Surrender)

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Psalm 56: Grief and Goodness

mother

Eighteen years ago today, my mother passed away.  Even after all these years, I am unutterably sad and miss her so much.

My mother was such a bright light in my life.  I felt like I was different and didn’t fit in, but she got me.  She thought I hung the moon.  She thought my children were awesome.  She always saw the best in others.  She made my burdens lighter, both by pitching in and helping, and by making me feel better when I felt down.

It’s so hard to not have that anymore.

Today is the funeral for my dad’s brother, Uncle Bill.

uncle-bill

He was a special person in my life, and I know he meant the world to his family.  He raised not only his daughter, but was really a big part of raising his granddaughter and his two great grandchildren.

Life can be devastating at times.  It can feel like our heart is getting raked over ground glass.

As I’ve been reading through the Psalms in chronological order, I see how this was true for David.  Here is part of the next psalm in the series, Psalm 56:

Be merciful to me, my god.  For my enemies are in hot pursuit; all day long they press their attack. . .

All day long they twist my words; all their schemes are for my ruin.

They conspire, they lurk, they watch my steps, hoping to take my life. . .

Record my misery; list my tears on your scroll — are they not in your record?

This Psalm was written at the same time as the last psalm I wrote about, Ps. 34.  David was fleeing Saul’s soldiers, and ended up in Gath, which was a Philistine kingdom.  The servants of the king there recognized who he was, so, in desperation, he started acting crazy.  His ploy worked, and by God’s grace, he was allowed to go on his way.

David recorded what he was feeling as he went through this: sorrowful, betrayed, cornered, mistreated.  Emotions to which we can all relate.

But then he wrote this:

I am under vows to you, my God; I will present my thank offerings to you.

For you have delivered me from death and my feet from stumbling,

that I may walk before God in the light of life.

I love these verses!  They encourage my heart.

But the thing is, I don’t think David had been delivered from his tough situation when he wrote them.    I believe he was remembering about other times he was saved from peril:  “You have delivered me.”  He was basically saying, “God, even though I am in a dicey situation, I will remember who you are and what you have done, and present thank offerings to you.”

It reminds me Philippians 4:6, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.”

We HAVE to pray with thanksgiving, no matter how tough the situation is.  More than that, we need to give thank offerings.  Our life needs to be one of constant service, because we are so grateful for God and what he has done, even though we feel miserable at the present time.

Right now, at Christmas, we are feeling all warm and fuzzy at the birth of Jesus.  We think of the stable, the star, the shepherds and wise men.

nativity

Yet when the wise men came, they set in motion a terrible situation.  Herod found out from them that a Jewish king was being born, and to eliminate a threat to the throne, he put all of the boys ages two and under to death.

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God rescued Jesus from this massacre, but it was a tragic time.

There always seems to be a juxtaposition of deliverance and tragedy.

The same is true for us.  It usually feels like what Dickens wrote in Tale of Two Cities, “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.”

There are always blessings in the midst of adversity.  If we are alive today, we must be thankful.  We can think of all we’ve lost, and it is unbearably painful.  Yet somehow through all of it, we know that God is also good.  We can see the milestones of his goodness in our life.

I’ve had times when I could have died.  I almost drowned when I was young.  When I was in college. I was leaning over, trying to use a staple gun, and it wouldn’t work, and then I discovered it was upside down, and if it had been working, I would have shot myself in the head.  It still gives me a cold feeling to think about it.

I believe God preserved me.  I don’t know why it is the time for some to pass, and not for me, not for others.  But I have been delivered, and now, as the psalm says, “I may walk before God in the light of life.”

That is my job today, to walk with God in this vibrant vitality that we call life.

To walk with grace.  To honor my mother, my uncle, and all whose stories are complete.

I pray that the chapter God and I write today will be a good one.  And I pray that amidst my grief, and troubles and worries, I find the vein of God’s goodness, and cling to it, as David did, in trembling soberness and purposeful gratitude.

Outside my front door, my camellias are blooming.  It’s winter, and much of the vegetation is dead.  Yet they are alive and bursting with beauty.

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That’s what God calls me to do today: be alive and beautiful, even as I mourn. I don’t know if I have tomorrow.  But God has given me this time and I vow to make the best of it.

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Psalm 34 — Praising At All Times

What a harrowing time it was when David wrote Psalm 34!  He was fleeing for his life.  He tried to hide in some region called Gath, but people there were wise to him.  So David started acting like he was stark raving mad!  Here’s how the Message version describes it:

When David realized that he had been recognized, he panicked, fearing the worst from Achish, king of Gath. So right there, while they were looking at him, he pretended to go crazy, pounding his head on the city gate and foaming at the mouth, spit dripping from his beard.  I Sam 21:13

Can you imagine?  David really threw himself into his performance.  He was smashing his noggin on things and slobbering.  It would have been funny to watch, if it wasn’t so scary!

And in the midst of all of this, he wrote something astounding:  “I will praise the Lord at all times.” (Ps 34:1)  How could he write this while he was in fear for his life?  He could because he wasn’t fixated on his troubles, he was fixated on the awesomeness of God!

Several years ago I put the first part of Psalm 34 to music.  Here is the first stanza of my rendition:

I will praise the Lord at all times

His praise will always fill my voice

My soul will boast in the Lord

The righteous will hear and they’ll rejoice

Oh magnify the Lord with me and lift high his name in harmony.

Join with me to praise the Lord, exalting his name with one accord.

I love that David was determined to not only keep praising God, but to even boast in him, even magnify him.  That means that David kept on singing about how magnificent God was, and the more he did, the greater God became in his eyes.

Do I do that? Do I magnify God?

It has been a challenging week for me. I found out that my daughter and grandkids are moving to Chicago.  My beloved uncle in New Mexico passed away.  Another family member is going through some struggles.  My emotions are all over the place.

So what do I need to do?  I need to do what David did!  I’ve been working on being thankful, but I need to take that a step further and praise God more and more!  I need to start boasting that he is with me, and he’s going to take of me and my problems.  I need to get others to praise him with me for all the incredible things he has done and will do.

I sought the Lord and he replied, delivered me from all I dread

Those who look to him are radiant, and shame shall never bow their head.

Just as David could be radiant when he was in mortal danger, I can have a heart of joy when I focus on God, and not my problems.

And David was right to be radiant.  He knew God was the deliverer, and God did deliver him by allowing him to escape Gath unscathed.

“Achish said to his servants, ‘Look at the man! He is insane! Why bring him to me? Am I so short of madmen that you have to bring this fellow here to carry on like this in front of me? Must this man come into my house?’ David left Gath and escaped to the cave of Adullam.”  (I Sam 21:14- 22:1a)

Will God deliver me as well?

The poor man cried, the Lord heard him, delivered him from all his woes.

The Lord’s angel encamps around the men who fear him, he rescues those.

Taste and see that the Lord is good and blessed is the man who takes refuge.

Lions grow weak and hungering, but those who seek God lack no good thing.

Isn’t it incredible to think of an angel protecting us on all sides, vigilant and ever ready?

Why then am I so insecure, so fearful?  Why do I navigate life like I’m walking through a minefield?  Why do I hunker down and protect myself?

God is the only protection that works!  Can I taste and see that he is good? Can I walk towards him instead of retreating and hiding?  Can I climb trustingly into his invisible arms?

And who among you desires life, and longs to age and see many good days?

Then keep your tongue from all evil words, and let no falsehood from your lips stray.

What a minute!  David is changing directions here.  The focus has moved from looking at the greatness of God, to looking at what a man’s behavior should be.  The song I wrote ends with the couplet above.  But the psalm David wrote goes on in this vein:

Turn from evil and do good; seek peace and pursue it.

The eyes of the Lord are on the righteous, and his ears are attentive to their cry;

but the face of the Lord is against those who do evil, to blot out their name from the earth.

David had to have be thinking about his own life, thinking of the battles he fought to not give into the dark side, to not be hateful, to not be overwhelmed with anger and bitterness.

David must have seen how God took care of him as he held onto his integrity.  This motivated him to rally others to fight for their integrity as well.  “Good leads to good, and bad to bad!” he exhorted them.

Evil will slay the wicked;

the foes of the righteous will be condemned.

The Lord will rescue his servants;

no one who takes refuge in him will be condemned.

It sounds like a no brainer.  Of course we need to keep doing the right thing.  So why is it hard?  Why is there a spiritual principle of entropy?  We do we blink and find ourselves going the wrong way?

For me, I get tired and overwhelmed.  I start slacking on taking the positive steps.

So these words of Psalm 34 are a great reminder.  As Galatians 6:7 says, “Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows.”  If I let up the fight and give into the dark side, there will be repercussions.

As I close this blog, I want to talk about two lines of the psalm near the end that have been puzzling me.

The Lord is close to the brokenhearted

and saves those who are crushed in spirit.

The lines seem like they don’t fit in.  David’s done such a good job of praising God, and talking about how God takes care of the righteous.  I have the impression that David has it figured out and feels great in spite of his challenges.

Then he talks about the brokenhearted and crushed in spirit. Whoa.  This is gut level raw.  It’s like the hidden pain in David’s heart erupts.

And as I meditated on these words, in the end, they rang true.  David had to leave his wife and his best friend.  He left his home and his career.  His former friends and family were stalking him.  He was forced to run from place to place, and do things to survive like bang his head against walls.  His anguish went deep.

Trusting in God doesn’t instantly mend a broken heart.  It helps, but we still bleed inside.

I would have been different than David.  I would have told myself, “God is awesome.  So you’re supposed to have faith and be doing better.  Don’t let yourself give into despair.”

But David was the opposite.  He let it out and gave name to his pain.  He saw that his pain showed him how desperately he needed God.  He was confident that God wouldn’t be repelled by his mess of emotions, but would instead draw closer to him.  He knew God’s heart would be moved to help him.

That inspires me more than anything.  Yes, I want to magnify God.  Yes, I want to do the right thing.  But what I really want is to be gut level honest with God and say that I hurt.  I’m scared.  I feel lost and abandoned.

And when I do, I want to hear God saying, “It’s okay.”  I want to feel him drawing me into his embrace.  I want to know that he’s marshaling his heavenly armies to deliver me.

That is what truly inspires me to praise God without ceasing.

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Filed under Battle Against Evil, Glory Above All, Gratitude, Psalms, Strength in God