Riding the Pendulum

Today’s reading is Psalm 31.

Whether this psalm and the last are placed next to each other for this purpose or not, there is a striking contrast between the two. In Psalm 30:6, David wrote, “I said in my prosperity, ‘I shall never be moved.'” in Psalm 31:22, he writes, “I had said in my alarm, ‘I am cut off from your sight.'” In the previous psalm, because of David’s confidence, pride, and swagger, the Lord hid His face and David was dismayed (though, admittedly, the ultimate outcome of that psalm is David’s deliverance). In this psalm, because of David’s humility, penitence, and prayer, the Lord delivers. This contrast shows what happens in our life. We ride the pendulum. One day, we ride high in confidence. The next, we scrape the bottom in terror. One day, our pride is getting the better of us. The next, our humility draws us closer to God. As all this is going on, this contrast draws out something we learned in Psalm 30 as well. We all want the good times, the mountaintop experiences, but often it is the valleys that teach and grow us the most. It’s hard to thank God for His testing and refining fires, but this gives us reason to count it all joy when we meet various trials. After all, the trials produce steadfastness, steadfastness grows us to maturity, maturity strengthens love, and those who love God receive the crown of life (see James 1:2-4, 12).

Tomorrow’s reading is Psalm 31.

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Channeling Jesus

Today’s reading is Psalm 27.

A really profound occurrence takes place in John 2:18-22. When asked what sign Jesus would work to demonstrate His authority to cleanse the temple, He said, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” That really confused everyone, but John goes on to explain that after Jesus was raised from the dead, the apostles understood what He meant. He wasn’t actually talking about the temple in Jerusalem, but the temple of His own body. What makes this scenario so profound is the realization that the resurrection changed everything. It changed how the apostles heard what Jesus said. It even changed how they read Scripture, including the Psalms. In fact, it should change how we read Scripture. It is true that there are some psalms that we all recognize as Messianic; that is, psalms foretelling what the Messiah would be like. There are psalms that are not as clearly foretelling, but something doesn’t seem to quite fit until the Messiah comes on the scene and fulfills the psalm literally. But there are other psalms that aren’t really foretelling anything, but once we know Jesus’s resurrection and listen to them through that filter, we hear Jesus all over them. That is Psalm 27. That is especially true when we get to “I believe that I shall look upon the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living!” When David wrote this about himself, no doubt, he was referring to the fact that God was going to grant his request. He wasn’t going to die in battle. He was going to get to Jerusalem and see the tent of the Lord again. Jesus, who was forsaken by everyone, who went to the cross at the hands of soldiers and false accusers, feared nothing. He entrusted His soul to His Father. He went to the cross and died. But on Sunday morning, He saw the goodness of Yahweh in the land of the living. He waited through the cross. He waited through the grave. He waited until the third day. And then He arose the conquering hero over sin, Satan, death, and the grave. And if this is how Yahweh delivers His one and only Son, how much more should we expect the same? David had confidence God would deliver him because of how God had worked with Moses and Joshua. We can have confidence because of how God delivered our King Jesus. No matter how dark it gets in your life, no matter how the enemy tries to blot out the sun, God is our light, He is our salvation, He is our stronghold. Hang on to Him. He will always come through. Praise the Lord!

Next week’s reading is Psalm 28.

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Answered!

Today’s reading is Psalm 22.

The entire tenor of the psalm changes at Psalm 22:22. It started as an extreme lament; so dismal we can hardly find a time to actually place it in David’s life. It becomes an extreme praise and thanksgiving; so exuberant it asserts praise not only from the psalmist, not only from the congregation of God’s people, but from the entire world. It is so intense and amazing, we can hardly imagine anyone whose deliverance and salvation would warrant such reaction from the whole world. What produced such an extreme swing? Read vs. 21b: “Save me from the mouth of the lion! You have rescued me from the horns of the wild oxen!” (ESV). Though that conveys the excitement and reality that would produce such a shift, it actually clouds the really important point David was making. Consider the NKJV: “Save me from the lion’s mouth and from the horns of the wild oxen! You have answered me” (NKJV). I know “rescued” sounds so much more exciting than “answered,” but “answered” is intended to connect us back to vs 2 in which David was receiving no answer. What is the shift? Psalm 22:1-21a is the dismal lament of the one whose request has not been granted though it has been made over and over again, day and night. Psalm 22:22-31 is the exuberant praise and thanksgiving of the one whose requests have been granted. In a very real sense, Psalm 22 mirrors Psalms 20 and 21. Psalm 20 is the prayer for requested blessing on the king as he goes out to battle. Psalm 22:1-21a is the prayer of the king himself in the midst of the battle, but it isn’t going his way. Psalm 22:22-31 is the king’s prayer of thanksgiving and praise when the battle finally turns his way by the grace of God. Psalm 21 is the prayer of thanksgiving offered by the people when the king comes back victorious. Honestly, we likely go back and forth between the two halves of the psalm. Remember, the same God rules in both halves. If you want to be able to offer the praises of the second half of Psalm 22, you have to hang on to God and await His answers while living through the first half of Psalm 22. Yes, He may wait to grant your request until the dogs circle, the mouth of the lion closes, the horns of the oxen vault you in the air. But He will answer. He will deliver. You are not forsaken. You are answered! Hang on!!!

Tomorrow’s reading is Psalm 22.

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The God of Jacob

Today’s reading is Psalm 20.

In Genesis 34, Simeon and Levi did the unthinkable. They carried out a plan and attack against an entire city-state in Canaan, wiping out all of their men in a single night raid. Jacob became petrified. He looked at his tiny family in comparison to the other city-states of the Canaanites and said, “You have brought trouble on me by making me stink to the inhabitants of the land, the Canaanites and the Perizzites. My numbers are few, and if they gather themselves against me and attack me, I shall be destroyed, both I and my household” (Genesis 34:30, ESV). In the next chapter, however, God calls Jacob to go to Bethel to make good on the promise Jacob had made as he was fleeing Esau years earlier. Jacob tells his family to put away their idols and even give up the jewelry they might use later to re-forge their idols. And then he says, “Let us arise and go up to Bethel, so that I may make there an altar to the God who answer me in the day of my distress and has been with me wherever I have gone” (Genesis 35:3, ESV). Then the text lets us know that Jacob’s fears were completely unfounded: “And as they journeyed, a terror from God fell upon the cities that were around them, so that they did not pursue the sons of Jacob” (Genesis 35:5, ESV). Years later, David writes Psalm 20. A prayer Israel can pray when he is leading her armies to war. And what is the blessing they seek? “May the Lord answer you in the day of trouble [distress]! May the name of the God of Jacob protect you!” (Psalm 20:1, ESV). Do you see why Israel would call on the “God of Jacob” for their king and for their armies? Do you see why we can call on the “God of Jacob” for our churches and our brethren? We have nothing to fear. The God who protected Jacob from the provoked people around him, the God who had been with Jacob as he fled Esau and as he plundered Laban, the God who saw Jacob through his days of distress is our God. He will be with us wherever we go. Praise the Lord!

Tomorrow’s reading is Psalm 20.

PODCAST!!!

Click here to take about 15 minutes and listen to the Text Talk conversation between Andrew Roberts and Edwin Crozier that expands on this post!

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The Consistent God

Today’s reading is Psalm 18.

All throughout Psalm 18, David links back to earlier events. Perhaps the coolest connection is in vs. 16 when he says God “drew me out of many waters.” The only other place the word translated “drew me out” is used is when Moses was drawn out of the water in Exodus 2:10. In other words, God is dealing with David just as He did Moses. Then there is so much language that is reminiscent of events like judgment on Sodom and Gomorrah, the Exodus, victories during the conquest period. Hailstones as in the plagues and in conquest victories. Foundations of the earth laid bare under the channels of the sea as in the crossing of the Red Sea. Lightning, thunder, shaking earth as in Israel’s time at the base of Mt. Sinai and also judgment on Korah, Dathan, and Abiram. If God is anything, He is consistent. He cares for His people. He keeps His Word. He delivers. He judges. He is not erratic or fickle. With God, you know exactly what you are going to get. Granted, you don’t always know exactly when you are going to get it. However, you do know it will be at the best possible time for His glory and our good. But this is how God treats His people, all of His people, of all times, in all places. We don’t have to fear we are going to be an exception. Of course, He’s also consistent in His dealings with His enemies. Sure, He is patient. The judgment is rarely administered immediately. And too many take that patience as a clue for tolerance or escape. But God is consistent in judgment of enemies as well as salvation of His people. Hang on to that. Don’t let go.

Tomorrow’s reading is Psalm 18.

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Salvation from Zion

Today’s reading is Psalm 14.

Many people struggle with this psalm. They aren’t sure what to make of it. One of the very first things students usually want to do with a psalm is label it. Is it communal or individual, is it lament or praise, is it wisdom or messianic. They struggle with pigeonholing this one. It starts by talking about fools; so some claim it is a wisdom psalm. However, it clearly demonstrates the wickedness of the wicked as they oppress the poor; so others claim it is a lament. But notice how it ends. It ends looking for salvation from Zion. It is not if, but when. The psalmist may have had all kinds of ideas about what that might look like, but we actually know, don’t we? Jesus went to the cross on Mt. Zion. He was buried on Mt. Zion. And He arose on Mt. Zion. Salvation came from Mt. Zion. We can rejoice. We can be glad. Not because we are confident something will happen in the future, but because we know it has already happened. There was actually a great big exception to all that this psalm had said. There was One who was no fool. There was One who never turned to corruption. There was One who never did abominable deeds. There was One who sought after God. He was the righteous. He was the only One righteous in His generation. And the wealthy and powerful tried to shame His plans, but the Lord was His refuge. He committed His Spirit into God’s hands. And He burst forth from the grave on Zion bringing salvation in His wake. Perhaps this psalm is Messianic after all. Praise the Lord!

Next week’s reading is Psalm 15.

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The Lord’s Response

Today’s reading is Psalm 6.

David was surrounded by enemies. The enemies are like vultures. Whatever has been going on in David’s life, God has been disciplining him and the enemies can smell the blood. So they begin to circle. No doubt, they recognize God’s rebuke and discipline as well. They think now might be the golden opportunity to be rid of David, when even his God is angry with him. Not only that, this discipline has lingered. We don’t know how long. Maybe weeks or months. Long enough for David to pray, “How long?” Long enough for him to be weary with moaning and crying. Long enough to start wasting away due to his grief. However, for all that, what is God’s response? God hears. God accepts. God will deliver. David’s enemies will be ashamed and greatly troubled. David’s enemies will turn back and be put to shame. I am personally certain God did respond that way because I’ve read the story of David’s life in Samuel and the Chronicles. However, I have to admit in this psalm this is actually just David’s faith talking. While in the midst of strife, while in the midst of discipline that has been going on for some time, while in the midst of bodily and spiritual ailment, while in the midst of lurking foes, David prays. Nothing has been done yet. God hasn’t responded yet. But David knows He will. David knows His God is one of grace, mercy, and love. David knows he is in covenant relationship with God. He knows he is the anointed of God. While enemies want him to doubt, he refused to do so. What a lesson for you and me. The enemy wants us to doubt. The enemy wants us to believe God has abandoned us. Not so. We are in covenant with God. He does hear. He does accept. He does respond. Our enemy will turn back. Keep praying. Keep praising. Keep trusting God. God hasn’t abandoned you, no matter how the enemy makes it look. Don’t abandon God.

Next week’s reading is Psalm 7.

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Faith in the Midst of the Lord’s Discipline

Today’s reading is Psalm 3.

The heading of this psalm claims it was written when David fled from Absalom. 2 Samuel 12:11-12 makes one thing painfully clear. Absalom’s rebellion was part of God’s discipline against David over his adultery with Bathsheba and murder of Uriah. As David flees Jerusalem, he seems to have a painful awareness he deserves these circumstances and it may be that God has decided to fully turn the kingdom over to Absalom (see 2 Samuel 16:5-14). In this context, David writes this psalm. Does that shock you like it does me? He knows he is being disciplined for his own sin. He knows he deserves everything he is receiving. But what does he do? He prays for mercy, deliverance, and salvation anyway. Because that is the kind of God he believes in. He believes in a merciful, saving, delivering God. Honestly, I don’t know what you are facing right now. I don’t know; you may be in a mess of your own making. You probably do deserve every bit of hardship, suffering, and trauma you are experiencing. Maybe not, but maybe. But our God isn’t one who saves people who deserve it. Our God isn’t one who delivers those who have earned it. He saves those who call on Him, those who know they have no place to turn but Him. Praise the Lord! He saves and delivers people like David, people like you and me.

Tomorrow’s reading is Psalm 3.

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Obey God, OR You Can’t Be Saved

Today’s reading is Acts 27.

What an interesting occurrence. God had already declared that there would be no loss of life among the crew and prisoners. But when the sailors were seeking to escape the ship, Paul said, “If those guys leave, you can’t be saved.” In other words, if you don’t obey God, you can’t be saved. No doubt, the sailors didn’t earn their deliverance by staying on the ship. They were still saved by grace. The captain was still saved by God’s grace. Paul was still saved by God’s grace. However, if they had ignored God’s will about this, they would not have been saved by God’s grace. When it comes to our salvation, we need to understand, we don’t earn salvation by obeying God, but if we decide to ignore God’s Word and will, we won’t be saved. Trust in God’s grace and serve the Lord faithfully.

Tomorrow’s reading is Acts 27.

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Surprised by God

Today’s reading is Acts 12.

I’ve heard the poor Christians at Mary’s house get thrown under the bus so many times, but I’m not sure they were as pitiful as some suggest. For sure, they had a lesson to learn, but I don’t think it is the one most often mentioned about them. What is commonly said is they were praying for Peter’s release but their surprise at Rhoda’s announcement meant they clearly didn’t believe God would do it. That may be what was happening. I tend to believe it is a different issue. I believe they were praying because they knew full well God could intervene on Peter’s behalf. The issue was not that they were praying without faith. The issue was they were praying with their own idea of how the prayer would be answered in mind. They knew God could save Peter, it just didn’t occur to them that God would send an angel and set Peter free in the middle of the night. They were probably thinking of something much more mundane, like Herod changing his mind and letting Peter go. But God surprised them. He acted in a way they didn’t not expect. And how glorious. Let’s ask for God’s hand to be with us, let’s do it often and intensely. Then, how about we let God decide how He will do that instead of putting Him in the box of accomplishing our supplications our way? Are you up for that today?

Tomorrow’s reading is Acts 13.

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