Featured Post

Crucified Before the Foundation of the World

"Crucified before the foundation of the world." What does that mean? How could that even happen? Historians and archaeologists ta...

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Psalms 31-35

Psalms 31

This is another of David's Psalms. It sounds like he has been in battle. He uses metaphors that relate to military engagement. He sees God as his refuge and his fortress. He claims righteousness as he deliverer.

We will do well to see the traps that are set for us as an assault on our relationship with God. In vs. 5 I hear an echo from the Cross. In every situation we can always resign our own effort in favor of delivery by the Spirit of God.

David is ever conscious of his position. He senses the shame of rejection by God and the people as worse than death. He hates the idea of idols and resorts always to God as his refuge. 

He always returns to the shelter of God's presence praising God for his abundant love and protection. O, the wonders of His love. Toward the end of the Psalm he addresses the people, calling them to faithfulness and obedience for God will not abide the unfaithful.

Psalms 32

This Psalm is called a Maschil. The word Maschil is used to describe an instruction for skillful musicians. The Psalm contains some direction or instruction in piety, also. This one instructs us in how to value and accept forgiveness.

I think I have read somewhere that this Psalm refers to David's sin recorded in 2 Samuel 24 and 1 Chronicles 1-17 but not all authorities recognize that reference. 

The Psalm does discuss the release from guilt and joy of forgiveness in detail. Vs 1 is often quoted in prayers and instructions on forgiveness.

Vss. 3 and 4 give the best reason for making confession. In trying to keep the sin secret, it destroys the one who is hiding it. Habakkuk 3:15 witnessed the wrath of God in vengeance and rottenness entered his bones too. When you are counted among the sinners, you have no strength to defend. Then your only recourse is confession.

Vs. 6 points the way. The Godly shall pray. God is the hiding place(vs. 7).
Don't be like the stubborn mule that is restrained by a bit, but has no understanding.(Vs. 9)

Vs. 11 describes the way to joy and fulfillment. Read the Psalm and follow its advice.

Psalms 33

This Psalm is not identified by author. It is a song of praise and joy. It credits God with creation and a bird's eye view of mankind.

 The Psalm praises the musical instruments common at the time. The harp, the psaltery, and an instrument with ten strings are mentioned.

The Psalmist praises the Lord for his control of the world and its various aspects: the physical features, governments, human insight.

This Psalm contains many oft-quoted verses and phrases: vs 3 Sing to the Lord a new song,... vs.4 the word of the Lord is right, and all his works are done in truth. Vs. 18 Behold the eye of the Lord is upon those who fear him, upon those who hope in his unfailing love vs. 20 we wait for the Lord, He is our help and our shield. (quotations from the NIV) Read and reflect on God's promises and remember his love and mercy or loving kindness.

Psalm 34

This Psalm of David records David's dependence on the Lord when he sought help because of Saul's attacks on him.

Verse 1 reminds me of I Thess. 5:18. Even in bad times and with fearful events, it is still appropriate to praise God. We offer praise, not for what is happening in our lives, but for God who is our strength and shield.

Vs. 7 reminds us that God's angels are available when we go to Him in prayer. David is in trouble. He is in the presence of a king who is able to kill him or bring destruction on him at any moment. He is fearful, but God gives him assurance. He fakes out Abimelech by pretending madness. 

I see the hand of God in delivering David from Saul and even from Abemelech, but I can't recommend playing insanity! It is a hard act. Most people can't do it especially when they are facing people who know what insanity looks like.

David kept his eyes on God and was obedient, and God brought him through. That's the part we need to remember.

Psalm 35

Psalm 35 sounds like David is still in the sights of Saul. He prays for God to fight for him and to confound his enemies. His enemies had lied about him and charged him with things he knew nothing about. He had been kind to them, but they had rejected his help.

In vs. 17 he charges God, "How long will you look on, Lord? These people devise evil against the innocent. Lord, don't keep silent."(my translation). He calls on God to prompt the people to believe in his righteousness and he gives praise to God for his faithfulness.

Read my comments first if you like, then read the Bible and see if I missed anything, or read Psalms and then check out my comments. Either way, be sure to honor the Bible first and see if I help you understand or if I'm getting in your way. David was a pretty good writer as poets go.

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Psakns 26-30

Psalms 26

David is almost braggadocios in this psalm. He begins with humility asking for vindication, but he continues with a litany of his righteous behavior. He recites his own virtues always ending with his testimony of God's love and faithfulness. I am writing these comments on the Psalms during the Christmas season, so forgive me if I get lost in the Spirit of Christmas.

I don't recommend this pattern for prayer. It is too easy to name the places where your actions are laudable and skip over the places where your behavior might not have met God's standard. 

There are gems of praise that bear repeating: vs. 3   I have always been mindful of your unfailing love
    and have lived in reliance on your faithfulness.

vs. 6and 7 "I... go about your altar, Lord,
proclaiming aloud your praise
    and telling of all your wonderful deeds."

vs. 8 "Lord, I love the house where you live,
    the place where your glory dwells."

 In vs. 11 he comes back to a place of repentance: deliver me and be merciful to me. 

In vs. 12 he closes with: " in the great congregation I will praise the Lord."

I love to read the praises and experience the emotions David's words bring. He reminds us of the importance of praise and joy in a time of sometimes foolishness and frivolity.  Don't let Christmas dissolve into bright lights and wrapping paper.

Psalm 27

David uses the rhetorical question well. In this Psalm he challenges the reader to look at his own situation and compare it with the virtue of God's presence. There is no fear when God is his resource. 

David does not fear the armies of the enemy; their wickedness is the primary weapon. David stands secure in God's presence, for their own treachery is their downfall.

His guide is his heart which still calls out to God. He desires to be in the House of the Lord. In it he finds shelter and security. Several references to slander and verbal assault are mentioned, and David finds strength in music, the words reassure him and the melody recalls the Lord's presence.

He closes with a final benediction to cheer the heart of a fearful companion: be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord. 

Psalms 28

In this Psalm David focuses on the pain and destruction of the words people use to injure and destroy. 

He equates words with deeds; when there is malice in the heart, evil follows. He asks God to bring the evil on the ones who harbored it in their hearts. 

He closes with a final prayer of support for the people. Vs. 9 Save your people and bless your inheritance;
    be their shepherd and carry them forever.

Read it for yourself and create your own testimony of praise.

Psalms 29

The KJV says "Give to the Lord, O ye Mighty, give unto the Lord glory and strength," while the NIV uses "ascribe" instead of "give." Either word seems weak to me. I read it more as an injunction to recognize the power and glory and strength of the Lord and give praise to Him. My own interpretation means we need to see these values as present in God and our purpose is to celebrate and acknowledge them.

In verse 3 he brings the "voice of the Lord" into our notice. I guess I think of thunder as one evidence of God's voice. I know the scientific definition of thunder excludes God's activity, but this is a personal thing.

Cedars of Lebanon were prized in the ancient world for buildings and boats. They were imported to Egypt and planted there as a resource for future building before 1100 bce.

Sirion in vs. 6 is Mount Hermon. All the metaphors emphasize the power and majesty of God. Read it and remember where he is powerful in your own life.

Psalms 30

This Psalm is notable for several reasons. It is a Psalm of David. The title says it is for the dedication of his palace. He desired to build the Temple but God did not allow it. He goes on to detail the reasons he praises God at the dedication of this palace.

David was a man of war and he had faced many enemies. It is easy to see why he would be thankful and sensitive to God's protection, but he also gives thanks for healing. I don't know of a time of illness, but surely that is possible.

Vs. 5 is often quoted by those in distress: "weeping may endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning."

We like David are confident when things are going well, but when the tides turn against us, we lose hope and sometimes faith. Then it's time to remember what God has done for us in the past and claim His victory. We cannot be silent when we recall His glory and blessings.

Share His joy everywhere and rejoice in Christmas and the Birth of the Savior!

Sunday, December 11, 2016

Psalms 21-25

Psalms 21Image result for praise the lord images

David is not hesitant to praise God for his victories and success in battle. He rejoices in the power he exercises as King of Israel and the benefits he enjoys, but he counts all of it in relation to the joy of residing in the presence of God.

At the end of verse 2 the word Selah appears. Authorities do not have a consistent explanation of what it means. I had assumed it noted a section or change in theme or cadence, but that was just my own interpretation. One translator claims it is a musical direction.

Verse 8 changes from David's praise of God's help to him to wrath and retribution against God's enemies. God brings consuming fire and the drawn bow against those who are not yielded to him. He closes with verse 13 giving praise to God's might and strength.

Psalms 22 

This is one of the Psalms of David. Instructions to the choir director say it should be sung to the tune of "Doe of the Morning."
This is one of several psalms designated as Messianic Psalms because it deals with details and emotions related to the life of Christ. The first verse is partially quoted by Jesus on the Cross Luke 15;34. I have heard and read many interpretations and approaches to this. Some people say that Jesus knew all things including the mind of God about the events and realities of the crucifixion. Others say he was as human on the cross as all of us would be and the pain was a present and tormenting physical sensation. It is easy to get the varying opinions by a simple google search. Here you'll only get my take on it.

Verse 22 marks the shift from the horrors of thirst, wrenching pain, and abandonment to the release of stress and joy of praise.

"Eloi, Eloi" sounds like the name of Elijah or the Greek rendering Elias, and a bystander thought Jesus was calling on the prophet. We should not be surprised that he was familiar with the scriptures, especially those which prophesied about him. He knew who he was and how the word referred to him. Matt. 27:46, Mark 15:34

I am convinced that Mary told the child Jesus the story of his birth and her visit by Gabriel. Verses 9 and 10 provide David's understanding of the relationship the Messiah would have with God. From the womb he was already established as God's Son. Perhaps he learned these verses from the time he was 12 or before, that charted the course he would take.  

Crying out to God in the midst of his loneliest hour gives us deep insight into his isolation. Perhaps he reflects on the night prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane where he was also alone. The thieves who were also being crucified questioned why he didn't do something to end the suffering. Verses 3-5 calls back some of Israel's challenges to become a nation that followed God.  

Jesus did not hesitate to follow God's direction, but he did recognize what it would be and accepted the role he would play in God's plan.
He sees the crowd at the cross as "bulls" and "lions" who torment and tear at his flesh.

When he was born. the forces of evil had already attacked him. Nero sought him to kill him, and only the escape into Egypt spared his life. His birth in a stable exposed him  to diseases like Tetanus. 

David's description pictures him as without strength or power. The medical description indicates he would be totally exhausted and without even strength to speak. There are only seven times he spoke at all from the cross. Most authorities say he died from lack of breath. The weight on the shoulders caused his lungs to compress and he was unable to expand them. The nails in his hands were probably not in the palms but the wrist joint. His feet were probably nailed in the heel or Achilles tendon which gave him no support from his legs. Probably the shoulders, hips and possibly knees were dislocated, but no bones were broken.

Thirst would have been tormenting vs.15. His prayer is for God to deliver his soul. He sees them arguing over his clothes.

Then suddenly he is ready to declare God's name to his" brethren in the midst of the congregation."(vs. 22-31)." He praises the Lord because He heard him. He reassures those who depend on God and calls them to declare His righteousness to a people that shall be born.

Psalms 23

This is probably the best known and quoted Psalm in the collection of Psalms. David was a shepherd before he was a warrior and king. He translated his experience to a metaphor everyone could understand. The Lord is my shepherd is an arresting beginning. 

Sheep are dumb. They are not as self-sufficient as horses or cattle. They need the shepherd. They will eat in the pleasant pasture, but they do not follow a path that leads to plenty. Cows are better at choosing a place to graze close to water. Sheep depend on the shepherd to find a still pool from which to drink because the will not drink from flowing streams.

The shepherd's staff is used to protect the sheep from varmints and lift them if they call into a crevasse in the rocks. There is a location in Israel called the Valley of the Shadow of Death. It is a dangerous place for sheep.

The closing benediction is reassuring and uplifting to us as we struggle with life's trials and challenges. Forever is a long time. I claim this promise of His grace and preservation.

John 10:1-18 gives a detailed explanation of the metaphor of the Good Shepherd. The Good Shepherd is one of the I Ams found in the Gospel of John.

Read Psalms 23 for your self and be blessed.

For a fuller explanation of a shepherd's life click here to read the Basque Shepherd's description.

Psalms 24

Psalms 24 is the third in a series of Messianic Psalms. It offers a fuller description of the Kingdom of Heaven with Jesus as its supreme head. David emphasizes His holiness and righteous character. All who come here will be like Him and will be blessed.

Psalms 25

This Psalm of David is an acrostic and you will find it has the right number of verses: 22. There are 22 letters in the Hebrew alphabet and each verse begins with a succeeding letter. The poem focuses on one of David's favorite themes, his trust in God.

Some commentators think David suffered with depression. He often expresses conviction and sorrow for his sins in Psalms. It seems understandable to me that he feels threatened considering his position as a warrior and the King of Israel.

As is his custom, the end returns to praise and shelter in the protection of God.  Read it and see for yourself.

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Psalms 16-20

Michtam is a word used to describe a song or poem with highly valued content. Sometimes it is translated as "golden" and indicates it is precious as gold, denoting a composition so precious as to be worthy to be engraven on a durable tablet for preservation; or, as others render, "a psalm precious as stamped gold," (Easton's Bible Dictionary) Michtam may also have been a musical reference or instruction.

Psalms 16

David seeks God and puts his trust in Him. Then he seeks other people who trust in Him. He avoids those who worship and sacrifice to other gods. He knows their problems will increase because they are not following after the true God.

He claims the Lord as his by inheritance. Now it is his turn to call for obedience. He recognizes God's counsel and instruction. The good things of life are in God's hands.

Come take of his bounty and the rejoice of his presence.

Psalms 17

It is possible to be distraught and suffer anguish even when we have committed no sin or error. Circumstances in life may bring pressure and anxiety, even to the righteous. David went to God with this kind of need. We don't need to heap criticism and guilt on ourselves, but it is still God who has the resources to soothe and strengthen us.

Examine your actions and make sure you don't have any sin to confess or any mistakes to correct, then leave it in God's hands.
Satan does take advantage of weakness in the Spirit.

Verse 7 reveals the place of safety and reminds us of God's constant watchfulness:

Show me the wonders of your great love,
    you who save by your right hand
    those who take refuge in you from their foes.

Keep me as the apple of your eye;   

I really love the reference to God's right hand. It is used many times in both the Old Testament and the New. The Right Hand indicated authority and power. In Latin, the left hand implies harmful or sinister motives. The right hand means approval. Jesus is seated at the right hand of God.

David sets a role model for us. He will not confront his enemies, but he asks God to act for him. He goes into detail about the actions of the evil enemies. He builds a convincing case against them, but he leaves the retribution to God. We will do well to follow his example.

Psalms 18

Psalms 18 describes David's praise of God in the case of his deliverance from Saul. This needs a little refresher course on the previous events in David's life. 

Saul was the first king of Israel, but he was disobedient and presumptuous, and God told Samuel he would be rejected. Samuel tried to claim forgiveness and repentance for Saul, but when he continued in his arrogance, Samuel anointed David to succeed him.(1 Samuel 16) Saul was still King, and David was still herding his father's sheep. The Spirit of the Lord had departed from Saul. An evil spirit tormented Saul, so they sought for a musician to play a lyre to calm him when this happened. Someone knew about David's skill in music and they sought him out. 

David impressed Saul. He was helpful with the vexations from the evil spirit and he was good company. He brought with him, wine, bread and meat. Saul received relief and David went home.

Chapter 17 of 1 Samuel tells the story of David and Goliath, and Saul is reminded of the brave and talented young man.

David was given command of troops and was successful in his campaigns. (1 Samuel 18) Saul grows jealous of David's success. Saul promised David his daughter Michal marriage.  Both Michal and Jonathan warned David and helped him escape Saul's anger. David never tried to kill Saul though he had opportunities.

David ran from the attack of Saul for years recounted in the rest of 1 Samuel. The death of Saul is recounted in both 1 Samuel 31 and 2 Samuel 1 giving different details.                                                         
Saul and his three sons were found and the Philistines claimed victory. David weeps for his friend Jonathan and lamented for Saul and his sons.
 Read Psalms 18 and look for indications of his loyalty to Saul and his praise for God.

Psalms 18:2 contains many words that reflect David's mindset: God delivered him using a fortress, shield, and stronghold. He recalls the years of threat from Saul in terms of the a struggle for life. Psalms 18:3-5 detail the constant fear he experienced from Saul's men.

There are hints in the Psalm of natural events that plagued David during the time in the wilderness when he was hiding and running from Saul.  He speaks of thunder and lightning. I envision a storm that put his life at risk. (Vs. 13&14)

He says God drew him out of "deep waters" in vs. 16.  I did not find a place in the test of 1 Samuel that can traced to these events, but in the years he spent as a fugitive, surely these are possible.

Read Psalms 18 for a richer understanding of David and his worship of God.

Psalms 19 

Psalms 19 praises the evidence of God's message in the work of nature and the voice of  nature that echos without words. He praises the laws and statutes of God who evidence is in the natural world. 

He uses a poetic device which defines the attribute of God's law and an explanatory phrase that follows: "The statutes of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart;the commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes."

This Psalm may be more familiar that some, but recognition may rest in a few of the metaphors rather than a complete reading.

Verse 14 is a benediction often used independently. Read it and find your own reason for placing value on it.

Psalms 20

Psalms 20 is a plea for deliverance from trouble. David is confident of God's attention to those who are loyal to him. His words are reassuring to anyone who is faithful to God.

Vs. 4 is a favorite: May he give you the desires of your heart. This forces the reader to examine the desires of the heart. Are they pure? Are the desires of your heart something God can endorse? Don't assume He can violate his own nature to do as you ask. 

Sometimes people claim that righteousness is a method of gaining God's favor without confession and repentance. The other side of that question is equally as valid: When we are acting in defiance of God's love or grace should we expect to receive his commendation?

Don't take my word for it. Read the Psalm and examine your own heart. The let your own words be examined in the light of His answer.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Psalms 11-15

Psalms 11

David helps us understand the ways to take refuge in the Lord. He will not be a bird that flies to the mountain. He sees the wicked with the bow aimed and the arrow fixed to the string. They lurk in the shadows to fire at the righteous.

What can the righteous do when there is destruction all around? Retreat to God. God  looks on the earth and sees the righteous and the wicked. He judges between them.

I guess it makes me uncomfortable to consider judgment. I think of God as merciful and forgiving, but I must also remember that He is righteous and calls us to follow in His way. 

Psalms 12

This Psalm is accompanied by the Sheminith which may be an instrument, and expresses the lowest notes of male voices. This may be to lend a sad and foreboding tone to the message,

David criticizes people who pay lip-service to righteousness, but lie to the righteous. He calls us to honesty and truth, and denounces those who flatter and manipulate with words. The wicked are everywhere when vile men are exalted.

Psalms 13

David is depressed. He complains to God that He has hidden His face and forgotten him. 

David wrestles with his own thoughts and the specter of his enemy overshadows him.  He begs God to give light to his eyes else he will be lost in death. He fears his enemy will gloat over his defeat.

He seems to open his mind to see God's unfailing love, and his heart rejoices in God's salvation. Now he sings praises for God's bountiful goodness.
David knows how to praise and worship. Listen to him! Learn from him!

Psalms 14

The director of music is directed that this is to be performed in the order of David's Psalms. We don't know if this to a tune or rhythm, but apparently it was significant.

Psalms 14 challenges those who doubt God's interest and attention in the affairs of men. It is the Fool who scoffs at God that is in error. A fool is one who is morally deficient, without direction. 

It has become popular in modern culture to claim honest and admirable character, but deny respect or honor of God. People seem to want to "be a good person" without any standard or system of values or restriction on behavior.

In this Psalm David declares these men to be hopelessly lost. "They are altogether become filthy."(KJV) We often use fool to mean silly or lacking in understanding, but here it means depraved. In this instance it means deliberately blind to the absolute proclaimed truth of righteousness. 

Frederich Nietzsche was the Prussian philosopher who proposed the notion that God is dead because of the treatment of humans. God is dead and we have killed him. We must find some other foundation for our society since there is no base to rest on now.

David recognized the philosophical argument, but he also saw the flaw in the argument. Human reasoning is not sufficient for the task. Only God in His righteousness is able to secure salvation for man. The poor, the wretched, the weak, and the sinful retreat to Him and find comfort.

Psalms 15

This Psalm is a picture of the perfect man who commits no sin and can rely on obedience to the law without need of forgiveness.

It seems this righteousness is almost devoid of mercy and joy. He does lend money to the poor without interest, and he abides in God's presence, but there is no mention of worship. It is a position to be sought and living in God's presence is a blessing. Don't dismiss it without understanding the deep truths of this Psalm.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Psalms 6-10

Psalms 6

David wrote this Psalm and the title includes instructions for stringed instrument to accompany it. It is a plea for mercy and relief. The sin is not revealed, but it is a good model for us when we have difficulties and problems.

He confesses that he has wept and struggled to find a place of rest, but only God can give him that peace. 

Psalms 7

 In Psalms 7 David seeks God again for deliverance.  The word Shiggaion is used in connection to someone who appears to be drunk. The stress of his condition caused him great anxiety and he did not act with rational behavior. 

The word Shiggaion is used in Hab. 3:1, but is found no where else in the Bible. I don't believe it means he was drunk, but his emotional state was so severe that he was unable to behave normally.

He is impassioned about his distress and calls on God to deliver him. He cannot find any reason for enemies to assault, but he beseeches God to be just and allow the retribution if he has hurt another, but if he is unjustly accused, he seeks God's intervention.
He prays that God will cause the instruments the enemy uses to fall on his own head.

He closes with praise for God and His righteousness. 

Psalms 8

This is one of the more familiar Psalms. It praises God's glory and His creation of the world and of man.

It opens and closes with the same phrase praising God's glory and majesty.

Psalms 9

Psalms 9 and 10 were originally one Psalm. I don't know what caused the writers to divide it, but it is easy to follow the text and see the continuation of the theme. 

In the Greek Old Testament the Psalms are still one piece. It is an acrostic in which each line in a section begins with the same letter of the Hebrew alphabet. Several Psalms and the book of Lamentations follow this pattern.

Perhaps it was divided to give focus to the shift in emphasis. Psalm 9 spotlights the praise for victory over his enemies, while Psalms 10 seeks judgment for the oppressed. When read together, the shift is seamless.

Instruction at the beginning of Psalms 9 says it is sung to the tune of Muth-labben, which means "on the death of the son of Labben." Some commentators propose this indicates David's mourning for Absalom. Labben was an unknown man. It also indicates the use of popular music.

Psalms 10

In Psalms 10 David calls God to take action against the wicked who abuse the poor and fatherless.  The desire of the humble is they will not be oppressed by others who are no better than themselves.

Read Psalms for yourself and find the truths David saw and praise God as he did. 

Saturday, November 12, 2016

Psalms 1-5

I am writing comments on the psalms as a personal discipline. I will share insights and observations here. They are not scholarly or filled with great wisdom. I recommend you read your Bible before you read my version. It's always best to go to the source.  

Psalms1- Happy and Blessed

The person who does not engage in evil and wicked endeavors is happy and his or her delight is in the Lord. The one who does not take the path of  evil, or follow the advice or the wicked, or join in mocking and degrading behavior, but instead, meditates on the Lord's instruction day and night is blessed. He or she is like a tree that is planted beside a stream of water and bears fruit in season. 

Continually feeding on the Word of God strengthens and renews the Christian who is besieged on every hand by the standards and pressures of the world.

Those who are wicked do not receive the same;  they are like the chaff removed from the grain, useless, blown by the wind. The wicked will not be able to stand when judgment comes because their efforts have not produced strength and righteousness.

Psalms 2 Coronation of the Son of the King

This Psalm could have been commemorating the coronation of a king, but I read it as the recognition of Jesus as the King of  God's eternal kingdom. David did not live to see the his son succeed him, so even though this is written by David, it does not refer to an event in his life. It is prophetic of the Messiah's ascension in heavenly realms.

The event is both earthly and heavenly. It identifies the "rulers who conspire together against the Lord and His Anointed One."  Zion is the scene of the coronation and it is called, "My holy mountain."  Those who resist are presumably humans who have no regard for God, but God ridicules them. He pronounces the Son as the recipient of the inheritance of the nations.

The instruction to the nations is severe: Serve the Lord with awe and rejoice with trembling. Do not provoke His  anger that you perish. Take refuge in Him and be happy.

Psalms 3 prayer in time of trouble

This another of the Psalms written by David. He lists the problems his foes are causing and he finds no one to help. But then he remembers that God provides a shield around him. God lifts his head and pours glory on him. God answers Davids cries from His holy mountain. Now he can sleep sustained by God even though many are standing against him. 
Now he can acknowledge and praise God for his power and salvation and claim His blessings for the people.

Psalm 4 Prayer for Evening

This Psalm of David is intended to be sung with stringed instruments.

First, he beseeches God to answer him when he calls for help. Then he acknowledges that God vindicates him. Finally he seeks God to be gracious and hear his prayer.

Sometimes in Psalms David is speaking to the public, giving instruction, or naming the attributes of God. In verse 2 he questions those who perhaps are subjects: How long, exalted men, will my honor be insulted. Then he returns to his confidence in God's provision. 

He recognizes the human tendency to experience anger and act in haste, but he cautions his subjects: be angry but don't sin; instead reflect in your heart and be still.

His advise to his subjects, or the people of his court, remains the same. Look to the Lord because He has put joy in the heart. David can sleep in peace and safety in the presence of God.

Thursday, November 3, 2016

Working on Psalms

I am trying to read 5 Psalms a day. At that rate I'll finish the first read-through in a month. I think It will require several months to gain a deep understanding of Psalms, but I think I will enjoy the trip. Some of them are already familiar to me, but some need several more readings. Psalms 119 takes about three pages, so it bears several more readings with extensive examination. Some are very short, but none are without value. Lots  of Psalms have memorable verses that we find quoted by writers and teachers. We should not take those verses as the whole meaning of the psalm. Read all of it. Explore the emphasis and research the impact on other references. This kind of study bears fruit in understanding the Bible and its message. Don't shortchange yourself by skipping over the unfamiliar parts.

Saturday, September 24, 2016

The Parables of Loss

The parable of the Prodigal Son is told in two of the Gospels, Matthew and Luke. In Luke 15 the story is included in a collection of stories that emphasize the blessing of recovering a loss. The first story in the trilogy is a story of a woman who lost a coin, the second is the story of a shepherd who lost a sheep, and the third is the story of the younger son of a man who gave his sons an inheritance. The fourth story in the collection describes a loss that is not recovered.

In Matthew the story of the Prodigal Son stands alone with out other references to loss, but the story of the son who is lost is more gripping and tragic when compared to the other stories of loss. The true tragedy comes from the failure of the elder son to understand the nature of the loss. Of course, neither of the sons grasped the nature of the father's anxiety.

There is more depth to the stories than is often recognized. The woman who lost the coin was distressed because the coin was a part of a head dress that included several valuable coins as ornaments. It was part of her bridal finery and her dowry. The loss was both emotional and financial. Imagine her searching in every corner of the house, pulling out the furniture, checking in the towels and dirty clothes. She told her friends and they may have helped her search, but when she found it she rejoiced with them.

The story of the lost sheep touches us when we think of a pet lost in the wilderness, but a sheep was much more important than a pet. To the owner of the sheep, each one was important because each animal represented profit. It may have been the difference between having enough money for the next year and living as a beggar. On the social level, shepherds were the bottom rung of the ladder. They often slept in the field with the sheep. They smelled like animals, and they were not sought out as house guests. The joy of the shepherd who found the lost sheep was genuine.

The final joy, in each case, is a measure of the importance of the loss to the owner or the father.  The father in the story of the prodigal son loved both his sons, but the custom at that time was the elder son inherited the estate. For the younger son to ask for an inheritance was both presumption and a death wish. The father rejoiced to see him return since there was no incentive for him at home anymore except the love of his father. The love was expressed joyously with gifts and a party. The failure of the elder son to see the meaning of the companionship he could have shared with his father was at least as disheartening to the father as the wastefulness of the younger son.  

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

David's Prayers

The Book of Psalms is full of David's prayers. There are prayers for victory in battle, for forgiveness after sin, and prayers of thanksgiving. Not all the Psalms are written by David, but he is well-represented. Occasionally David falls into self pity. Psalms 113 is one case where he seems to complain, but by the end, he comes back to a place of thankfulness and praise.

There is a Psalm for almost every emotion and situation we humans face. Psalms 119 praises the Word of God and tells how to apply it and how to read it for gaining wisdom and comfort.

Psalms 51 is a prescription for repentance. It details the consequences of David's sin with Bathsheba.

Psalms 23 is the Shepherds Psalm.

Psalms 22 is the one that details the crucifixion. About half way through it changes to the praise and joy of resurrection.

Psalms 103 is a Psalm of praise and joy in the Lord.
Psalm 100 is a song of praise and and thanksgiving.

Psalm 101 is a song in praise of mercy and justice.

A few Psalms are prophetic, like 22, which gives details of events future to the life of David. A few are incorporated in the liturgy of the Jewish worship. 

There are 150 Psalms. If you read 5 every day, you will complete the book in one month.

Psalms will bless you life and your witness. Try it.

Monday, May 30, 2016

Friends of Jesus

There were people who were not considered disciples who believed in Jesus and supported him; he had friends who just loved him. One friend of Jesus was named Lazarus. Lazarus had two sisters. One of his sisters was Martha. She may have been married to Simon. the Leper, who was a Pharisee. He invited Jesus to eat at his home and gave the dinner and invited the disciples and others, so it is apparent that Jesus had healed him from the leprosy.  

Martha seems to have been a hostess of some renown in Bethany.  She invited Jesus and the Disciples to eat at her home. Mary helped her when there guests, but at the dinner Mary did not assist in the service. Instead she sat at Jesus' feet to listen to his teaching. Martha appealed to Jesus to tell her sister to help her. Jesus gently reproved Martha's anxiety about the serving and praised Mary's choice of the better part.

During the event, Mary took a pound of highly expensive perfumed oil and lavished it on Jesus' head and his feet. She was criticized for this exuberant act, but Mary seems to have heard truths in his message the disciples had missed: She knew the end was near, and she would not have another chance to honor him this way. 

Friday, May 27, 2016

Christian Life and Service

Romans 12 gives a good summary of how God calls us to live. Verses 1 and 2 explains the way we are to approach the Life in Christ. 

Paul uses pleading tone: "I beseech you" is an invitation, not a command. He addresses them as brothers. As Christians we are to consider each other as family members.

 Because God has extended his mercy to us, we have the opportunity to worship him by living in a sacrificial manner toward him, which is, in fact, our reasonable expectation.

Paul urges us not to conform ourselves to the standards of the world, but to be transformed by the renewing of our minds so that we prove what is good and acceptable and perfect, the will of God.

In verses 3 through 8 he deals with blessings and ways to serve the members of the family we form in God's love.

We are to live in humility and generosity toward one another. He emphasizes the unique attributes and talents individuals among us possess and the way they are to be used and cherished. 

He calls us to be free of hypocrisy and to be cheerful. 
In verse 9 he returns to the emphasis on familial love among the Brethren. 

It is important that we not be lazy or  negligent in business.
In verse 13 he points out the need to attend to the needs of those who are poor and without resources.

Then he shifts to the attitude we should have toward those who persecute us: We should pray for them and not heap curses and intolerance on them. 

Share in the joy and sorrow of all.

The final words of the chapter are directed toward those who are our enemies. Don't return evil for evil. Live in peace with all if you can. 

Don't take vengeance because that belongs to God.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

The Rich Young Ruler and Prayer

The Rich Young Ruler and Prayer

What was he ruler of?

No where in the text of Matthew 19:16-26, Mark 10;17-27, or Luke 18:18-27 could I find any indication that the man was a ruler of anything. He owned a lot of property and resources, so I'm assuming he got the title because of his wealth. Maybe he was the ruler of his own estate.

Some translations just call him a rich young man. Maybe that is a better way to think about him.

What did he want from Jesus?

He sought eternal life. Even though he was wealthy and had influence among other people, he recognized that there was something missing in his life. He knew that Jesus was a teacher and perhaps he heard him preach and teach. He wanted to share in the kind of joy and assurance Jesus talked about. 

Good Master

Jesus immediately challenged him on the title he put on him. "Why do you call me good? None is good but God." Then Jesus referred him to the Commandments:"Do not commit adultery, do not kill, do not steal, do not bear false witness, honor thy father and mother." In Matthew 19:19 he added "Love thy neighbor as thyself" 

The Young Man followed these from his teens

Both Mark and Luke stick to the original Commandments, but all three agree about the one thing the young man lacked. He was more concerned with his wealth than with eternity. 

Jesus Called Him To Be Perfect

Jesus looked at him kneeling, begging for eternal life and loved him at once.
"Sell your possessions and give it all to the poor and come and follow me. "
The young man was very sad for he had great possessions. 
Jesus invited him to take up his cross and join his company of followers. Giving everything away is a cross not easy to bear, at least for one who has a lot.

Is seeking information about heaven equal to seeking admittance to heaven? I don't think it's quite the same. We don't have any evidence he did more than that. But maybe some Disciple met him at a later time and proved the claims of Jesus and taught him the way of Salvation. What about you? Has anyone explained the Way of Salvation to you?

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Elijah After Mount Carmel

Mount Carmel was the scene of Elijah's resounding victory over the priests of Baal. After the acceptance by fire of his sacrifice on the restored altar, he executed 450 of Jezebel's priests. Ahab returned home and shared the details of the challenge with Jezebel.

Jezebel's Threat and Elijah's Retreat

She sent a messenger to Elijah saying, "May the gods punish me and do so severely if I don't make your life like like one of them by this time tomorrow."

Elijah was struck with fear and ran for his life. He came to Beersheba and left his servant there, but he continued a day's journey into the wilderness.

Elijah's life had become very challenging and exciting. Now he was in hiding and fearful. He sat down under a Broom Tree and asked God to take his life.
Then he lay down under the broom tree and went to sleep. An angel touched him and said, "Get up and eat." Elijah found bread baked on stones and a fire, and water to drink. After he ate and drank he lay down again and went back to sleep. The angel woke him again and told him to eat again because he had to go somewhere and the journey would be too much for him.

On the strength of that food he went to Horeb. It took him 40 days and nights. I hope he carried some of the bread and water with him. At Horeb he entered a cave and slept. The word of the Lord came to him and said "Elijah what are you doing here.?"
"I have been very diligent working for you. But the Israelites have abandoned you and killed your prophets. I am the only one left. Just kill me Lord." Sounds like a little kid who pouts, doesn't he?
God said "Go stand on the mountain." Elijah saw a mighty wind, and an earthquake, and a fire, But God was not in them. After this Elijah heard a soft whisper  in his ear, "What are you doing here:" Elijah repeated his pity party litany about Israel being unfaithful and begged God to take his life.

God told him to return by the way he came and anoint Hazael as king over Aram, and anoint Jehu king over Israel and Elisha as prophet in his place. And by the way, there are 7000 in Israel who have not bowed to other gods.

Elijah found Elisha plowing a team of oxen. He walked by and threw his mantle over him. Elisha ran after him and asked permission to bid farewell to his family, Elijah told him to go back. But instead of returning to his family, he killed the oxen and made a fire with the plow and cooked the meat and fed it to the others who were plowing. Then he followed Elijah.