Tag Archives: Psalms

Praise ye the LORD.

Save us, O LORD our God, and gather us from among the heathen, to give thanks unto Thy holy name, and to triumph in Thy praise. Blessed be the LORD God of Israel from everlasting to everlasting: and let all the people say, Amen. Praise ye the LORD.   Psalm 106.47-48

Words of praise and thankfulness unto God have always typified His people. He is our Maker, the Source of our existence, the Benefactor of our blessings, the Savior of our souls. It is deserving that He should be remembered with reverence and thanksgiving.

Paul told the Colossian brethren that one of the characteristics of walking in Christ is to be abundant in thanksgiving (2.6-7). Likewise, to the Ephesians he said, “Giving thanks always for all things to God…” (5.20).

The Bible tells us the crowning achievement of God’s creation was mankind. Everything that was made was made for us. With our unique and divinely-ordained intellect, the earth and all that is in it was given into our care and subjection (Genesis 1.28).

For the Christian there are just no words quite adequate to describe the thrilling experience of life. Yea, even those moments fraught with pain, disappointment, sorrow, and tears are beneficial and necessary for us. They make us complete, enabling us to be happy and joyful through all the uncertainties attendant to this life. So with the psalmist we may say, Amen. Praise ye the LORD.

– grace to you all and peace, Bill

 

“…my soul thirsts for Thee…” (Psalm 63.1)

Absalom was the third son of King David. Here is how the Bible describes him: “Now in all Israel was no one as handsome as Absalom, so highly praised; from the sole of his foot to the crown of his head there was no defect in him” (2 Samuel 14.25).

He not only was handsome, he was the darling of his father. But he repaid his father’s favoritism by leading a rebellion against him. Absalom “stole” the hearts of the men of Israel, and David had to flee Jerusalem for his life into the wilderness of Judea beyond the Jordan.

It was during those agonizing days, at war with his own son, that he wrote of his longing for God. Psalm 63 opens with these words, “O God, Thou art my God, early will I seek Thee, my soul thirsts for Thee; my flesh faints for Thee, as in a dry and weary land where there is no water.”

Regardless of how desperate his circumstances appeared to be, David took refuge in God’s abiding presence. “For Thou hast been my help, and in the shadow of Thy wings I sing for joy” (Psalm 63.7).

The psalm reminds us as well of God’s presence, of His promise to “be with us always” and of the risen Christ’s presence amid His saints. And so, as pilgrims in a parched land we seek and thirst and faint for Him to provide for us the refreshing relief of living water.

Grace to you all, and peace – Bill

 

God Is a Stronghold

Psalm 31 has been characterized as a “lament” psalm. Indeed, as you read it, the psalmist (David) appears beset by all sorts of trouble: his enemies have laid a net for him (Psalm 31.4); his physical condition is miserable: his eyes fail, his body is sick, his years cut short, his strength fails, and his bones waste away (Psalm 31.9-10); he is scorned and avoided by friends and neighbors (Psalm 31.11); he is forgotten, out of mind, like a dead man (v.12); and there are plots against him (Psalm 31.13-20). Depressing stuff, huh?!

But David is not complaining. No! This is a psalm of “magnificent confidence!” “Blessed be the LORD,” he shouts, in Psalm 31.21. “As for me, I said in my alarm, ‘I am cut off from before Thine eyes’; Nevertheless Thou didst hear the voice of my supplications when I cried to Thee.”

A familiar quotation is found in verse Psalm 31.5:“Into Thy hand I commit my spirit”  – the last words of Jesus on the cross before He died. He had assumed the guilt of every sin that would ever be committed and was dying in shame, offering His sinless life to atone for those sins. He felt forsaken, crying to His Father, “My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?”

Yet in the moment of His death he remembered the Divine assurance of this psalm: “In Thee, O LORD, I have taken refuge; let me never be ashamed; in Thy righteousness deliver me. Incline Thine ear to me, rescue me quickly; be Thou to me a rock of strength, a stronghold to save.”

The psalms are hymns of prayer and praise. They remind us of the wondrous majesty of God, our Creator. And they remind us, too, of the marvelous grace of God, our Benefactor, who, even amid the hardest of times and deepest despair is always a stronghold to save.

– Bill

 

Give ear to my words, O LORD, consider my groaning…

…heed the sound of my cry for help, my King and my God, for to Thee I pray. In the morning, O LORD, Thou wilt hear my voice; in the morning I will order my prayer to Thee and eagerly watch (Psalm 5.1-3).

Scripture instructs us to “Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God” (1 Peter 5.6). David reminds us that God forgets not “the cry of the humble” and “…though the LORD is exalted, yet He regards the lowly” (Psalms 9.12; 138.6).

When life knocks us to our knees we discover we are in the best position to pray. Burdened by the weight of civil war, Abraham Lincoln is reported to have said, “I have been driven to my knees many times by the overwhelming conviction I had nowhere else to go.”

Eugene Peterson has written,

“Untutored, we tend to think prayer is what good people do when they are doing their best. It is not. Inexperienced, we suppose there must be an ‘insider’ language that must be acquired before God takes us seriously in our prayer. There is not. Prayer is elemental, not advanced language. It is the means by which our language becomes honest, true, and personal in response to God. It is the means by which we get everything out in the open before God.”

Answer me when I call, O God…be gracious to me and hear my prayer (Psalm 4.1).

– Bill

 

Psalm 22: Weariness and the Wind

Many of us go through spiritually depressed periods that feel like near-death experiences. On advice, we read the rich biblical texts that have helped so many others, yet our hearts remain as cheerless and lifeless as a cold fireplace. Our depression deepens, and despair begins to knock on the doors of our hearts.

All those cures are supposed to work! They appear to have worked for other people and churches, why not us? That they haven’t worked for us is a matter of real concern if we are serious about having a relationship with God that pleases rather than grieves Him, one that involves our giving as well as receiving. Despair or near despair sets in.

The words of the sufferer become ours, “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?” (Psalm 22:1).

They aren’t words snarled in bitterness – they’re weary and disappointed rather than angry. Still – we were hoping that God in His mercy would take sides with us against ourselves and deliver us for His own name’s sake.

“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”
(Psalm 22:4-5).

Wonderful stories. Salvation stories. True stories. But all the more distressing because they are true. Others called and were saved. We call and, instead of rescue, continue to see ourselves as worms, and our “enemies” mock us even though we throw ourselves on God for deliverance. (Psalm 22:6)

As a nation Israel had tried everything to stave off the death they richly deserved. They paid tribute until they were broke, made treaties with foreign powers, and sent ambassadors north, south, east, and west. They fortified cities and studied the ways of war. They even tried religion – they built altars and prayed. But there was no salvation in any of their efforts. They were all just new ways of speeding the death process, and they ended up in a national grave. (Ezekiel 37.1-14)

Their bones were more than dry; they were “very dry.” And there weren’t only a few of them – the valley, like one giant coffin, was choked with them. The prophet spoke, and bone came together with bone; but there was no life – only a huge ravine full of skeletons. Sinews and flesh wound themselves around the bones, but there was no life – only a mighty gorge filled with corpses, an eerie, silent valley of corpses!

Well, not absolutely silent. There was the wind. The man was told to speak the word of God to the wind, and the wind became the Spirit of God entering those lifeless figures – just as on the day of creation – and they were filled with life and stood on their feet, a mighty army. A nation alive from the dead!

Hearing their story, we’re persuaded to trust again. God, and may it please Him to be soon, will give us reason to rejoice as life courses through us, delivering us from one enemy after another. In the strength and joy of the Spirit of God, we’ll dismiss depression’s view of sadder days and say with the psalmist:

He has not despised or disdained
the suffering of the afflicted one;
He has not hidden His face from him
but has listened to his cry for help.
(Psalm 22:24)

And we, as our forefathers did, will enthrone God as the Holy One and the praise of our hearts. From Him will come the theme of our praise in the great assembly, (v.25) and our story will be told as one of deliverance to children not born, and people will trust because we were delivered (Psalm 22:30-31).

And what is true of individuals can be true of whole congregations, and what is true of congregations can be true of cities and nations! What is true for others can be true for you. What is true for you can be true for me. Weep if you must, and tell Him your poor heart’s breaking – but trust, wait, and listen for the wind!

 – Jim McGuiggan

 

Beginning with the Beginning

In the beginning God…

The opening words of the Bible are profound in their simplicity. I’ve always found it interesting that the Bible never attempts to explain or defend the existence of God. Rather it assumes any rational being will recognize and acknowledge His existence because since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made (Romans 1.20).

Long ago the psalmist sang the heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims His handiwork and by the word of the Lord the heavens were made, and by the breath of His mouth all their host. He gathers the waters of the sea as a heap; He puts the deeps in storehouses. Let all the earth fear the Lord; let all the inhabitants of the world stand in awe of Him! For He spoke, and it came to be; He commanded, and it stood firm (Psalm 19.1; 33.1-9).

One of the reasons I love living in Imperial are the dark, clear, moonless nights. A short drive out of town into the country reveals the starry host above in brilliant array – it takes the breath away. On such nights Stuart Hine’s hymn inevitably comes to mind:

O Lord my God! When I in awesome wonder consider all the works Thy hand hath made. I see the stars, I hear the rolling thunder, Thy power throughout the universe displayed…Then sings my soul, my Savior God to Thee How great Thou art!

In the beginning was the Word…

The opening phrase of John’s gospel has always intrigued me. “In the beginning was…” So there “was” something before the beginning.

There are two “beginnings” in Scripture. The first, Genesis 1.1, tells us God was there and that He is the Creator. The second, John 1.1, takes us behind the scenes and gives us a glimpse of what was before the beginning. We’re introduced to the “Word,” the eternal logos. John reveals that He was in the beginning with God, that He was God, and that all things were made through Him and without Him nothing at all was made.

Reading a little further in John 1 we’re told that the logos became flesh. In other words, the “Word became a person” (verse 14) and lived “among us.” Reflecting on that experience, John recalled that he had seen His glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. Years later he would write “we saw Him with our eyes and touched Him with our hands” (1 John 1.1).

Seven centuries before John lived, a prophet in Israel named Isaiah promised that a virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call His name Immanuel – a Hebrew word meaning God with us.

Fascinating isn’t it that the Creator Himself would choose to become a person and to share the human experience with us. That claim and that reality is made of no other god.

In Him was life, and the life was the Light of men (John 1.4)

When John uses the term life he usually means “spiritual life or eternal life,” but here he has a broader view in mind – Jesus is the source of all life – physical, moral, spiritual, and eternal. He is keenly concerned with all those aspects of life. His ministry focused on transforming mere life into abundant life, to have a “surplus” life, a life of meaning and purpose now and a transcendent life that exceeds our ability to comprehend. When He breathed life into the nostrils of that lump of clay, we became “living souls” (Genesis 2.7). He created us for life not death, and He came and walked among us to show us the way to true life.

In Scripture, light is frequently used of things pertaining to God while darkness is just the opposite, as in 1 John 1.6: God is Light, and in Him there is no darkness at all. The darkness Jesus came to dispel was caused by sin. We got ourselves into this mess through our own willfulness and we’re powerless to find our own way out. That’s where He comes in – He’s “Life and Light.”

I am the Light of the world; he who follows Me will not walk in the darkness, but will have the Light of life (John 8.12).

Grace to you all and peace – Bill

 

Thanksgiving: Day of Rest and Reflection

 Shout joyfully to the LORD, all the earth, serve the LORD with gladness; come before Him with joyful singing. Know that the LORD Himself is God; it is He who has made us, and not we ourselves; we are His people and the sheep of His pasture. Enter His gates with thanksgiving, and His courts with praise. Give thanks to Him; bless His name. For the LORD is good; His lovingkindness is everlasting and His faithfulness to all generations” (Psalm 100).

Thanksgiving TurkeyOf all the seasonal holidays, Thanksgiving is our favorite. It is a day of rest and reflection. It encourages us to pause and think about all the wonderful events that have shaped our lives.

We remember our parents and those happy autumn days of the past when the family gathered. We remember the laughter and lively conversation around the table with brothers and sisters, aunts and uncles, cousins, and grandparents. Or the trip to a relative’s farm, the woods ablaze with fall colors – riding an old swayback mare (who didn’t want to be ridden, so she walked under every low branch she could find!) – pulling sassafras root and collecting sweet-gum balls.

We remember the history and folklore of our country – the Mayflower, Plymouth Rock, Pilgrims and Indians – and the great ideals anchored upon a firm faith in God which gave this nation birth. It’s good to have a day of Thanksgiving and remembrance.

In spite of living in a world troubled with more problems than solutions, it’s good to give thanks for the blessings we enjoy now; it helps us appreciate the good things more rather than taking them for granted. We are the recipients of unparalleled productivity, prosperity, and freedom. The richness of our lives should cause us to be better people, both individually and as a nation. Being thankful for what we have ought to make us aware of the needs of others and generate within our hearts a spirit of kindness and generosity.

Most of all we are thankful to live in the care of a benevolent Heavenly Father who created us in His image, who gave us life and the ability to enjoy His wonderful world, who redeemed us with His Son, and who has set a place for us in His presence when our life here is done.

Indeed, it is blessings beyond measure to know that “we are His people and the sheep of His pasture…let us enter His gates with thanksgiving…His courts with praise…giving thanks to Him…blessing His name…for the LORD is good.”

– Bill

 For each new morning with its light,

For rest and shelter of the night,
For health and food, for love and friends,
For everything Thy goodness sends.

~Ralph Waldo Emerson

 

Childlike Trust

Christian faith is not neurotic dependency but childlike trust. We do not have a God who forever indulges our whims but a God whom we trust with our destinies. A Christian is not a naïve, innocent infant who has no identity apart from a feeling of being comforted, protected, and catered to but a person who has discovered an identity given by God that can be enjoyed best and fully in a voluntary trust in God. We do not cling to God desperately oft of fear and the panic of insecurity; we come to Him freely in faith and live.

To you I lift up my eyes,
  O you who are enthroned in the heavens!
 Behold, as the eyes of servants
  look to the hand of their master,
as the eyes of a maidservant
  to the hand of her mistress,
so our eyes look to the Lord our God,
  til he has mercy upon us.

Psalm 123.1-2

“Amen. Praise ye the LORD!”

Save us, O LORD our God, and gather us from among the heathen, to give thanks unto Thy holy name, and to triumph in Thy praise. Blessed be the LORD God of Israel from everlasting to everlasting: and let all the people say, Amen. Praise ye the LORD.

Psalm 106.47-48

Words of praise and thankfulness unto God have always typified His people. He is our Maker, the source of our existence, the Benefactor of our blessings, and the Savior of our souls, it is deserving that He should be remembered with reverence and thanksgiving.

Paul told the Colossian brethren that one of the characteristics of walking in Christ was to be abundant in thanksgiving (2.6-7). Likewise, to the Ephesians he said, “Giving thanks always for all things to God…” (5.20).

The Bible tells us that crowning achievement of God’s creation was mankind. Everything that was made was made for us! With our unique and divinely-ordained intellect, the earth and all that is in it was given into our care and subjection (Genesis 1.28).

For Christians there are just no words quite adequate to describe the thrilling experience of life. Yea, even those moments fraught with pain, disappointment, sorrow, and tears are beneficial and necessary for us. The make us complete, enabling us to be happy and joyful through all the uncertainties attendant to this life.

So with the psalmist we may heartily say, “Amen. Praise ye the LORD!”

 – Bill

 

Save us, O LORD our God…

 

…and gather us from among the heathen, to give thanks unto Thy holy name, and to triumph in Thy praise. Blessed be the LORD God of Israel from everlasting to everlasting: and let all the people say, Amen. Praise ye the LORD.  Psalm 106.47-48

Words of praise and thankfulness unto God have always typified His people.

He is our Maker, the Source of our existence, the Benefactor of our blessings, the Savior of our souls. It is deserving that He should be remembered with reverence and thanksgiving.

Paul told the Colossian brethren that one of the characteristics of walking in Christ was to be abundant in thanksgiving (2.6-7). Likewise, to the Ephesians he said, “Giving thanks always for all things to God…” (5.20).

The Bible tells us the crowning achievement of God’s creation was mankind. Everything that was made was made for us. With our unique and divinely-ordained intellect, the earth and all that is in it was given into our care and subjection (Genesis 1.28).

For the Christian there are just no words quite adequate to describe the thrilling experience of life. Yea, even those moments fraught with pain, disappointment, sorrow, and tears are beneficial and necessary for us. They make us complete, enabling us to be happy and joyful through all the uncertainties attendant to this life. So with the psalmist we may say, Amen. Praise ye the LORD.

–Bill