Lent Spent with the Psalms Day Two

imageMost of us know the sense of depression that weighs on us when we feel as though our words with God are met with silence. Maturity tells us that He says much through the silence. Perhaps it is to wait or a sign for us to draw nearer, to drape ourselves in holiness and creep closer to hear the whispered responses. The silence of the Lord can also be a result of something that we have allowed to interfere with the conversation. It might be something that is tarnishing our holiness, something that displeases the Father who will wait until we have purged it.

David issues a plea seeking an end to the silence in Psalm 28. Should God continue in His quiet ways, all hope would be lost.

To you I call, O Lord my Rock;

do not turn a deaf ear to me.

For if you remain silent, I will be like those who have gone down to the pit. (v1)

When His voice is again heard in the wind or in our hearts, we rejoice. God has heard our cries. This shouldn’t strike us as odd since He has known of and planned for our need for a Savior since the creation. The first Easter was no random event. It was a debt that God demanded of Himself in love. Are we squandering the price He paid?

Grace and peace to you.

  image infandum

Psalm 62 I Find Rest in God Alone

The Solid Rock

The framing of Psalm 62 serves us well in our prayer life. When we consider the forces that array against us and take them to God in petition, our faith should remind us that all is well in control, that we have placed our trust in an unmovable Rock.

My soul finds rest in God alone; my salvation comes from him.
He alone is my rock and my salvation; he is my fortress, I will never be shaken. (vv 1-2)

One thing God has spoken, two things have I heard:
that you, O God, are strong, and that you, O Lord, are loving.
Surely you will reward each person according to what he has done. (vv 11-12)

The psalmist wonders aloud how long the evil will attempt to topple him. If David is writing, he may be at an advanced age or suffering from another ailment. Some suggest that this prayer fits the period in which Saul is attempting to destroy him. In either case he contrasts the two-faced nature of these men with the steadfast security of God. While they may have his mortal life held under siege, constantly on the edge of death, the Psalmist proclaims that the soul rests on the strong foundation of God. Nothing can shake it.

Lowborn men are but a breath, the highborn are but a lie;
if weighed on a balance, they are nothing; together they are only a breath. (v9)

Take the long view my friends. Our current struggles are but a wisp of wind. They will pass away in the eternal scope of our glorification. We need not dwell on those who come against us. In fact, we would be justified in being please at being chosen to bear these travails. That discussion, however, is for another day. Today we raise our hands and hearts and give thanks for the solid foundation on which our lives are lived.

image by t2o8m2005

Psalm 60 With God We Will Gain the Victory

imageYou have rejected us, O God, and burst forth upon us; you have been angry – now restore us!

You have shaken the land and torn it open; mend its fractures, for it is quaking. (vv 1-2)

Those who read the Psalms devotionally or at random often fail to notice exactly how much of the Psalter is composed of pleas for restoration and paeans to God’s faithfulness in doing so, ‘one more time.’ In verse after verse the psalmist is hemmed in by his enemies and threatened with destruction. He raises his eyes and voice to the heavens and asks God where he is in this time of travail. In every instance, the same answer comes back: “I am here.”

Our lessons in coming to this observation are twofold. The most difficult of the two is to come to the realization that God will turn away from us during different seasons of our lives. The duration may be brief or endure for a long time but the scriptures clearly demonstrate that we risk the the turning of His Face.

You have shown your people desperate times; you have given us wine that makes us stagger. (v3)

Whether the purpose be our redemption through repentance and the subsequent restoration or to enable a larger purpose in His plan, God may cause us to suffer. Do we trust Him in this struggle? Are we willing to be sacrificed for the larger purpose of an eternal plan. To God, our lifetime is but a second; to us it is an eternity of testing. Surely He knows this but can we learn this lesson and shift our perspective into eternity, lifting our eyes from the rocky ground in front of our feet?

The second of the lessons enables us to endure the first. We can trust in God completely. We can dismiss worry and erase our doubts knowing that He is perfectly good and that whatever state we find ourselves in perfectly aligns with His eternal course for history.

But for those who fear you, you have raised a banner to be unfurled against the bow. (v4)

We can unfurl the banner of the gospel, swath ourselves in the good news, and march forward. If our rejection is brought about our own behaviors we can turn from them and seek the restoration that God willingly extends. If our separation is a part of the larger purpose we can be faithful, knowing the ultimate good will come of it. As the Psalmist shouts,

With God we will gain the victory, and he will trample down our enemies. (v12)

Image by ronny andre

Psalm 58 May They Not See the Sun

imageBreak the teeth in their mouths, O God; tear out, O Lord, the fangs of the lions!

let them vanish like water that flows away; when they draw the bow, let their arrows be blunted.

Like a slug melting away as it moves along, like a stillborn child, may they not see the sun. (vv 6-8)

The Bible is no stranger to violence whether it be retribution against sin-stained men by God or the broken interactions between men. Many are critical of Christianity and use the violence as proof that their is either no God, or that God cannot be as holy as He is made out to be since He is associated with various violent acts. The psalms do not escape this history and in certain passages, the imprecation of the prayer against his enemies places us in an odd position. The Christian is challenged to justify words such as these in the light of the Beatitudes  or the admonition to put away thoughts of an eye for an eye (Mt 5:38-42).

We must be cautious in our approach to these psalms and not confuse the violent fantasies of the author with the righteous actions of God. In order to show the depravation against which he rails, David attempts to portray a similar level of violence in judgment to that which is being measured out by the unrighteous rulers. Though they may have personally injured David, he is not seeking to justify a personal vendetta. Rather, he is seeking only to restore righteousness to the land and the hyper-violence he portrays is to serve as a warning to the wicked of their coming judgment which he entrusts to God alone.

The righteous will be glad when they are avenged, whey they bathe their feet in the blood of the wicked.

Then men will say, “Surely the righteous still are rewarded; surely there is a God who judges the earth. (vv 10-11)

This psalm is about trust, trust that God will see to it that righteousness prevails. The imagery that David utilizes affects our sensitivities differently than it may have to original listeners. He seeks in all of the warning and cries for justice not to destroy the unrighteous but instead, to render them impotent. To break out the teeth of the ravenous beast is to release its prey from certain destruction. To watch watch water evaporate harmlessly is to prove the ultimate fate of evil while their blunted attacks bounce harmlessly to the ground. Perhaps, as David voices, it would be better for the wicked had they never been born.

Prayer When God is Distant

When the struggles and disappointments of life pile one upon another our minds can wander easily into the territory of “where is God?” Not being naive, we all know that He has not promised a life of ease, with all of the bumps and dips smoothed out before use. Rather, a life of trouble lies before us, sometimes growing greater the closer we draw to God and away from the world. How we react as we face the travails is indicative of how our maturity is proceeding and perhaps, how much further it needs to go.

David offers a valuable scriptural lesson in this arena. Faced with unprovoked attacks he pleads with the Lord for a greater understanding in Psalm 22. He begins with this lamenting cry to the heavens:

My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?

Why are you so far from saving me,

so far from the words of my groaning?

O my God, I cry out by day, but you do not answer,

by night, and am not silent.

Does David truly believe God has forsaken him after all that he had seen and experienced? He recalls the Patriarchal and nation history that both precedes and includes his own:

Yet you are enthroned as the Holy One;

you are the praise of Israel.

In you our fathers put their trust;

they trusted and you delivered them.

They cried to you and were saved;

in you they trusted and were not disappointed.

Especially mindful of the fact that that trust in the Lord  was always properly placed, David appropriately praises God despite his immediate troubles, knowing that God so willed it, he too could be saved. This pattern continues as David openly pours out his troubled heart while never blaming God for his condition or situation. Each struggle in David’s mind is countered by an infinitely superior trust in the goodness of God and faith, that good or bad, the events and challenges in our lives deserve nothing but praise to the God who oversees it all. Even if his personal situation were not to improve, David knows that the overarching good of all the world will be seen to be the Lord, and for this He is to praised through the groans and tears.

Posterity will serve him;

future generations will be told about the Lord.

They will proclaim his righteousness

to a people yet unborn—

for he has done it.