Psalm 67 Make Your Face to Shine Upon Us

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God will bless us, and all the ends of the earth will fear Him. (v7)

A week has passed this year since the glorious rising of the sun (Son) on Easter morning yet the world does not fear God. The greatest blessing imaginable has been given in the resurrection of the Living Christ, the invitation of salvation and yet the earth does not fear God. Those around us do not fear God because they do not see the living Christ in us.

The psalmist concludes Psalm 67 with this affirmation but it is the early lines of the liturgical form that can have a greater affect on our lives. As we pray these words and absorb them into our souls they have the power to transform. To know God’s face shines upon us is one thing, to exhibit that reality to others is the affirmation that transforms the world. It shows in our trust and obedience, our love and extension of grace. Jesus lives. He lives in me.

May God be gracious to us and bless us

and make His face to shine upon us,

that your ways may be known on earth,

your salvation among all nations. (vv 1-2)

 

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The Voice of the Psalms

imageThe Voice is an interesting translation project unlike the others currently available. The bible market has been dominated by literal, word for word and paraphrase translations, all produced by scholars working in the ancient languages and seeking to produce a Bible that aligns closely with the original apparatus while smoothing the syntax to varying degrees. While some translations have been idiomatically freer, few translation committees have taken the input of artists, poets and authors of fiction and given them free reign to retell God’s story in the scriptures. The Ecclesia Bible Society does, and its work is to create a series of new translations for modern readers. The scriptures that result from the project are meant to appeal to a current day audience by retelling the story using modern language and imagery that brings inspiration to modern ears similar to that the Hebrew poetry brought to ancient listeners.

The Voice of the Psalms is a ‘retelling’ of the Psalter that intends to restore the beauty of the original Hebrew poetry for the modern reader. I tend to be conservative in my approach to the Bible and the translations that I will use in the pulpit or for teaching but I can appreciate a Bible in a different voice that offers benefits for my devotional life. The Voice is just such a translation. By and large, the Psalms in The Voice are faithful to the structure and pace of an ESV or NIV with re-phrasings or rewordings to bring out a depth that straight translation might not highlight.

A familiar example that readers can compare is the 23rd Psalm, which many will know by heart. The NIV verses are:

The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not be in want.

He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, he restores my soul.

He guides me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake. (vv 1-3)

The Voice verses read:

The Eternal One is my shepherd, He cares for me always.

He provides me rest in rich, green fields beside streams of refreshing water.

He soothes my fears;

He makes me whole again, steering me off worn, hard paths to roads where truth and righteousness echo His name. (vv 1-3)

The Voice’s poetic presentation offers a new approach to a well known scripture. Devotional reading of familiar passages can be empty as they threaten to leave our heart by rote rather than with prayerful consideration. The Voice encourages us to pause, to consider the language and images, and perhaps to find the freedom to write the psalms to the Father in our own language.  The book won’t accompany me to preach except for illustrative purposes but I feel very comfortable in recommending this  volume for personal prayer and reading. God is blessed when the creativity embedded in His people is released.

 

This volume was graciously provided by Thomas Nelson for review.

Lent Spent with the Psalms Day Three

imageThe focus of Lent is often on the deprivation that Christians volunteer to engage. The question “what are you giving up for Lent?” is often an introductory comment heard. I believe when we answer this question and go no further, we diminish the depth of this season of the Church year. To see the days as simply a fast from something runs dangerously close to self glory in unsophisticated eyes, even though this is not our purpose in the response. A better response perhaps is to say simply, “I am relieving myself of those things that fall between God and me.” Today we turn to Psalm 126 for a brief reminder of why we rid ourselves of worldly burdens.

The Lord has done great things for us, and we are filled with joy. (v3)

That single verse sums up our life in Christ. Even if the only(!) thing He ever did for us was to open the avenue for a restored relationship with Him, we would know unending joy. Earthly blessings and daily sufferings would both vanish in the passing of time as we process the magnitude of what we have been given to us through Calvary. We have been brought back from the wilderness.

When the Lord brought back the captives to Zion, we were like men who dreamed.

Our mouths were filled with laughter, our tongues with songs of joy.

Then it was said among the nations, “The Lord has done great things for them.” (vv 1-2)

Let one person know see this joy today so that they too can say, the Lord has done great things for you.

Grace and peace to you.

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Psalm 60 You Have Been My Refuge

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Hear my cry, O God; listen to my prayer. (v1)

It seems appropriate that the first post of this new year returns our attention to the psalms. This brief entry in the psalter reminds us in the simplest fashion of the consistency and permanence of the God in which we have faith. He was not like the arbitrary and capricious gods of the peoples who surrounded Israel whose demands and favor changed from day to day depending on their mood. Yahweh is today as He was yesterday and will be tomorrow.

From the ends of the earth I call to you, I call as my heart grows faint;

lead me to the rock that is higher than I.

For you have been my refuge, a strong tower against the foe. (vv 2-3)

In three couplets (2-3,4-5,6-7) the psalmist professes his confidence in the strength and protection of the God he longs to make his abode with. He states his mortal weakness and contrasts it with the eternal strength of God. In his weak state, David asks only that he be allowed a small place at the edge of the shadow of God’s outstretched wings. For this privilege he will respond in eternal praise.

Then will I ever sing praise to your name and fulfill my vows day after day. (v8)

Amen.

Psalm 52 In Your Name I Will Hope

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Why do you boast of evil, you mighty man? Why do you boast all day long, you who are a disgrace in the eyes of God? (v1)

The worshipper looks aghast at the wicked man boasting of his deeds. He knows there is going to be vengeance and that the retribution is not always going to come from the hands of man. He remembers the stones heaped on Achan and the burning sulfur that had rained down on Sodom. Those who had previously shaken their fists at God and continued in their evil had paid the price and he was confident that the price would ultimately be paid by all evildoers as well.

The Psalmist recounts over many verses the evil that men do and the price that will be paid. He saves his fiercest condemnation for the end of his rant:

Here now is the man who did not make God his stronghold but trusted in his great wealth and grew strong by destroying others! (v7)

Though our corrupted hearts never cease to imagine new ways of visiting evil on one another, there is no greater failure than to not recognize that one cannot be a god unto himself. Despite your health, wealth, and status, God will always be God and you will not. He demands our obedience and worship and craves our love and to not deliver these things to the king is our ultimate corrupt act.

David leaves a final image of the upright man who is eternal in life and righteous in character. He know his place and his God.

But I am like an olive tree flourishing in the house of God; I trust in God’s unfailing love for ever and ever.

I will praise you forever for what you have done; in your name I will hope, for your name is good.

I will praise you in the presence of your saints. (vv 8-9)

I too will praise you Lord, alone and in the presence of your saints…

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Psalm 42 – My Soul Thirsts for God

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As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, O God.

My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When can I go and meet with God? (vv 1-2)

Being oppressed by the enemies of God is a theme that abounds within the Psalter. The purpose of the repetition is to give voice to the question that continues to nag us to this day; where is God as trouble closes in around us. Has He abandoned us, do we no longer enjoy His favor? Foolish thoughts, but thoughts we must admit to entertaining.

To fill our minds with the joy of our moments of worship brings comfort and a reminder that God does not forget us. We can be assured that He is always near and worthy of our hope and belief.

These things I remember as I pour out my soul: how I used to go with the multitude, leading the procession to the house of God, with shouts of joy and thanksgiving among the festive throng. (v4)

Meditation on this truth brings the psalmist and us to the same conclusion:

Why are you downcast, O my soul?

Why so disturbed within me?

Put your hope in God , for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God. (v5)

The oppression and suffering that the psalmist refers to is not of the random type. He recognizes that God’s hand has allowed it, if not brought it upon him. His allusion to the flow from above that washes over him.

Deep calls to deep in the roar of your waterfalls; all your waves and breakers have swept over me. (v7)

The ultimate goodness of God’s totality does not escape him. Ultimately and despite current suffering, praise is the only response to the hand of God.

By day the Lord directs his love, at night his song is with me—a prayer to the God of my life. (v8)

 

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Psalm 28 The Lord is the Strength of His People

The Lord is the strength of His people, a fortress of salvation for anointed one.

Save your people and bless your inheritance; be their shepherd and carry them forever. (vv 8-9)

Read this psalm backwards. By doing so you will discover a contrasting pattern to our human priorities. The psalmist praises the great glory of God, linking Him to shepherd of Psalm 23 and intercedes on behalf of God’s people similar to the cry in Psalm 25.

Praise be to the Lord, for he has heard my cry for mercy.

The Lord is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in him, and I am helped.

My heart leaps for joy and I will give thanks to him in song. (vv 6-7)

The Lord is so good to His people, to those who trust Him. We are moved to ask, what have we to fear then? Is there a hint of doubt in the opening verses of this prayer? When we read from the beginning, the pleas of David mirror our own concerns that God might not hear us, that he might have turned away.

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.

Hear my cry for mercy as I call to you for help, as I lift up my hands toward your Most Holy Place. (vv 1-2)

The plea is subtle but important. As David voices his wish to be heard by God, he does not doubt but rather, praises Him by saying that the absence of His voice alone is like being dragged to the pit. To say that we are nothing without the immediacy of God’s presence and His all encompassing holiness is praise of a better quality than some of the prom songs that we lift up to him on Sundays. Our foremost act of worship is to recognize hell as being His absence. Though there may have a time in our lives when we sought to escape Him, to know His closeness and then discover it gone is the worst imaginable fate.

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