Posts Tagged ‘Psalms’

Psalm 4

Answer me when I call to You,
    O my righteous God.
Give me relief from my distress;
    be merciful to me and hear my prayer.

How long, O men, will you turn my glory into shame?
    How long will you love delusions and seek false gods?

Know that the Lord has set apart the godly for himself;
    the Lord will hear when I call to him.

In your anger do not sin;
    when you are on your beds,
    search your hearts and be silent.
Offer right sacrifices
    and trust in the Lord.

Many are asking, “Who can show us any good?”
    Let the light of your face shine upon us, O Lord.
You have filled my heart with greater joy
    than when their grain and new wine abound.
I will lie down and sleep in peace,
    for you alone, O Lord,
    make me dwell in safety.

I had the privilege this weekend of spending some intentional time with our senior pastor and worship pastor at a weekend conference with worship songwriter Paul Baloche.  What a bath!  It’s astonishing to me how much I am relieved- just in a sort of cathartic sort of way, when I have the opportunity to leave the familiar environment of my own church, the comfy couch of my usual responsibilities, and just show up.  I suppose the best analogy would be the way a cooking parent might savor a quiet meal, served to him or her, and be able to just eat.  Not cut up your kids’ meals, get up from the table six times to get a glass of milk.  And another glass of milk.  And a different spoon.  And the salt.  And then a roll of paper towels.  Meanwhile, the one hungry kid (who didn’t eat lunch) has finished all their food and is asking for seconds.  Which means more cutting.  And your food is just– sitting there.

Yeah.  Kinda like that.

It should come as no surprise that the Psalms were an item of frequent conversation over the weekend.

I was reinvigorated in my pursuit of the Psalms.  I was impressed with the need to fall back into God’s arms with words of praise, with words of distress, and with words that were in essence, encouraging self-talk based on the promises of God and who He is.
Every Psalm carries value to us.  Sometimes they need contextualizing, because Jesus and His ministry of reconciliation changes everything.

There is difficulty- a sort of cognitive dissonance (I love that term), in the language of the Psalms for the Jesus believer.  Frequently, the Psalmist poses himself against an enemy of some kind.  Or calls on God to crush, kill, trample, or break the teeth of some villian, some enemy.  Or enemies.

Doesn’t seem very Christlike.  Not very turn-the-other-cheekish.

Paul says in the New Testament that we (the believers that make up the Church) do not fight human enemies, physical enemies, but rather, our battle is in the spiritual realm.  I think this is a key to unlocking the dissonances of the Psalms into precious harmony.  We do have an enemy.  God will crush him.  God will break his teeth.  We have a common enemy in Job’s Accuser, in the Deceiver.  He is the target for every shattered shield, every broken tooth, every slain warrior.

And, it is from Job’s Accuser, the Deceiver, from whom we will achieve rest.  Vindication.  Victory.  If there is temptation in your life, if there is stress that vexes and provokes anxiety, if there is worry, pain, disease, or any kind of sin- you have an enemy.  And your enemy is God’s enemy.

Here- in Psalm 4, just as in Psalm 3, I can finally rest- the anxiety does not get the final word.  The judgement of the spirit of the air, of the permissive culture, does not restrain me.  I am able to rest in the midst of trouble.  I can lie down and sleep through the sirens.  And from that I can awaken to my mission refreshed, recharged, and more able than the day before.

One of the gems of Paul’s teaching ministry, I think, is his emphasis on knowing the Psalms.  It’s far from unconventional.  But his insistence comes from a desire to increase our “vocabulary of praise,” or our “vocabulary of worship.”

We all know that person who says “just bless them” in their prayers- and that’s all they really can say.  Not a fault.  Just a very limited vocabulary of prayer.  David, and all of the Psalm writers, offer us, hand down to us, through hundreds of generations, a magnificent array of Godly praise.  A hundred years of prayers for us to praise God with.    We can enrich our minds with a new “language” a new lexicon of God’s praise.  These can be the almost subliminally present words of praise, of supplication when we are in need, and of inspired, encouraging self-talk when faced with a difficult task.
God, I will continually re-point myself to you, looking back to you when I look away.  
I will continue to live walking towards you, leaning into the words of praise and prayer that we share with the generations ahead and behind.  I will learn new phrases of your worship, to enrich and to step closer to you.

And in you I can rest.  In you, I can sleep soundly, though sirens wail, and buildings vibrate with all kinds of life.  Because you are the keeper of my life.

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Psalm 1:

Blessed is the man, 
    who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked,
or stand in the way of sinners,
    or sit in the seat of mockers.

But his delight is in the law of the Lord,
     and on his law he meditates day and night.

He is like a tree planted by streams of water,
     which yields its fruit in season
and whose leaf does not wither.
      Whatever he does prospers. 
Not so the wicked!
     They are like chaff 
     that the wind blows away.
Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgement,
     nor sinners in the assembly of the righteous.

For the Lord watches over the way of the righteous, 
     but the way of the wicked will perish. 

Blessed is the man
who does not walk in the counsel of wicked,
or stand in the way of sinners,
or sit in the seat of mockers-

Father, God;  You have established a way that is good.  You have designed and created a way that gives LIFE, and does not rob it.  Your way of life breathes peace, relief and freedom.  Anything else breeds contempt, jealousy, lust, insecurity- in short, not-life.  Death.  Father I desire to LIVE.  Keep me from temptation and deliver me from evil, that I might LIVE, and not be dead.  

***

But his delight is in the law of the Lord,
and on his law he meditates day and night.

Father, turn my heart to your words.  You are plainly visible to the one who looks in to see you.  Remove my agendas.  Remove my ambitions.  Remove all the veils that keep me from experiencing you in your words.  I desire to know your language.  I desire to lean on you, and know you as ‘papa’, not just “Father.”  

***

He is like a tree planted by streams of water,
which yields its fruit in season
and whose leaf does not wither.
Whatever he does prospers.

Almighty God; I desire to be the person you made me to be.  I desire to do what you purposed me to do!  You have planted me near your stream- given me your word.  Now I draw near to drink up your word.  I ask that you use it to nourish me, and grow me.  Make me healthy on the inside.  Make my leaves green on the outside, looking beautiful, and spreading health.  Make my fruit heavy and prolific.  May I produce the fruits that you have planted me to produce.  You have grafted me into your tree- make me a fountain of your fruit. 

Help me, God, to trust in your timing.  I desire fruit now.  I ask you for fruit now.  But I must wait for you to open the buds, to feed the blossoms.  To bring the bees and add to the pollens, that the fruit is perfect and good.  God, feed me, rest me, pollinate me, and harvest the fruit!

***

Not so the wicked!
They are like chaff
that the wind blows away.
Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgement,
nor sinners in the assembly of the righteous.

Righteous God- no one who plants desires to see waste among His produce.  God I plead that my life would be one that is fruitful in a satisfying way.  I thank you that you have created a path in Jesus for me to be acceptable in your presence.  May I serve as a light and a path, that those around me can come to stand in the judgement along with Jesus.  

Teach me to see wickedness in my life, and to be happy and satisfied to watch it blow away, separating itself from the good things of my life.  Teach me to hand all things up to you, and allow you to separate the fruit you desire to keep from that which you do not.  

***

For the Lord watches over the way of the righteous,
but the way of the wicked will perish.

Holy God, you watch over the righteous and the wicked.  Thank you for your wisdom, care and provision.  Thank you God for the promises you have made, and kept to restore the ways of LIFE that you designed in the beginning.  Thank you God that You care for that which You have made and that you are destroying wickedness and death, and each heartbeat brings us closer to the day when the final victory is won.  Amen.