# 121 A journey through the Psalms. Psalm 31 Safe in God’s hands!

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Similar to most languages, in English we have lots of idioms. One we say is that “he/she is in good hands”, for example, when referring to a patient being cared for or being operated upon by a particular physician or surgeon. There is something very reassuring in this phrase, but even more if the “good hands” referred to are those of God!

The word “hands” is actually used four times in Psalm 31 as follows:

Since you are my rock and my fortress,
for the sake of your name lead and guide me.
Keep me free from the trap that is set for me,
for you are my refuge.
Into your hands I commit my spirit;
deliver me, Lord, my faithful God
.

And

14 But I trust in you, Lord;
I say, “You are my God.”
15 My times are in your hands;
deliver me from the hands of my enemies,
    from those who pursue me
.

And

I will be glad and rejoice in your love,
for you saw my affliction
and knew the anguish of my soul.
You have not given me into the hands of the enemy
but have set my feet in a spacious place.

Verse 5a, Into your hands I commit my spirit, is a well-known verse, having been later  quoted by Jesus as he hung on a cruel Roman cross (Luke 23:46).

Here the psalmist acknowledges God as his “rock and his fortress”, as his “refuge” in the times of trouble that surround him due to his “enemies”. He can think of no better way to deal with this situation than to be completely surrendered to God in faith that He will act on his behalf. And so he prays, “into your [good] hands I commit my spirit.”

Spurgeon says, “These living words of David were our Lord’s dying words, and have been frequently used by holy men in their hour of departure.” (see references # 28)

Longman suggests, the psalmist “realizes that he lacks the necessary resources to save himself, so he puts himself totally into God’s hands.”

He continues, “Jesus found encouragement in this psalm as he was dying on the cross. At the climactic moment, he uttered the words of verse 5 to express his absolute confidence in God’s ability to rescue him. Of course, God did not rescue him from the cross, and he died, but God’s rescue came in the form of the resurrection. Peter encourages believers to have the same attitude towards God: ‘So then, those who suffer according to God’s will should commit themselves to their faithful Creator and continue to do good.’ (1 Peter 4:19)” (see references # 30)

Verse 15a, My times are in your hands; is also well known, probably having been prayed by many believers over the years since David wrote them. Recently I went to a 70th birthday party and when I looked around, the majority there were over 70, and thankful to God for the time that God has given them to live for him and serve him. Amongst these great people there were a good number who had served God in Australia as well as in places like Africa, Asia and South America. Whether we believe it or not, “our times are in God’s hands” and he gives us the years of our lives to live well and to glorify him.

Spurgeon (writing in the 1860’s), says concerning this truth, “The sovereign arbiter of destiny holds in his own power all the issues of life; we are not waifs and strays upon the ocean of life, but are steered by infinite wisdom towards our desired haven.”

W.G. Scroggie tells the story of “Dan Crawford, the African missionary” who translated these words as follows: “All my life’s why’s and when’s and where’s and wherefore’s are in God’s hands.” (see reference # 41)

Verses 15b and 8a are different. You have not given me into the hands of the enemy… deliver me from the hands of my enemies. Not only is the psalmist grateful for being in God’s good hands, he is also grateful that so far in his life he has been delivered from falling into the hands of his enemies and prays that this will continue.

Sometimes, of course, we are our own worst “enemy”, and when tempted, give in to temptation and find ourselves, temporarily, “in the hands of the enemy”, or so it seems. Jesus, when talking with some who opposed him (who were held captive “in the hands of the enemy”) said to them:

42  “If God were your Father, you would love me, for I have come here from God. I have not come on my own; God sent me. 43 Why is my language not clear to you? Because you are unable to hear what I say. 44 You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies.”  (John 8)

Spurgeon comments:

“To be shut up in one’s hand is to be delivered over absolutely to his power; now, the believer is not in the hand of death or the devil, much less is he in the power of man. The enemy may get a temporary advantage over us, but we are like men in prison with the door open; God will not let us be shut up, he always provides a way of escape.”

As Paul says:

No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.      (1 Corinthians 10:13)

So, let me finish with a promise to believers made by Jesus, the Good Shepherd:

My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. 28 I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one will snatch them out of my hand. 29 My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand. 30 I and the Father are one.”   (John 10)

Thank you Father that you are good and we can commit our whole being into your safe and good hands knowing that you will work out your good purposes in and through us. Our minutes, hours, days, weeks, months and years are in your hands and that is a great comfort. “Teach us to number our days and recognize how few they are; help us to spend them as we should.” (Psalm 90:12 Living Bible) And, “Our Father…Don’t bring us into temptation, but deliver us from the Evil One. “ (Matthew 6:13 Living Bible). Amen.

 

 

 

# 120 A journey through the Psalms. Psalm 31 Entitled?

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We live in “interesting” days! My wife and I love and appreciate the gift of having a big family – 4 married offspring (+ their spouses) and 11 beautiful grandchildren. It is both enjoyable and slightly concerning to watch these latest generations grow up in the midst of our techno culture with all that this involves. We recognize our new responsibility (and privilege) to pray daily for each one of them.

I recently read an article found at http://www.dailymail.co.uk/femail/article-4232696/Millenials-generation-huge-sense-entitlement.html which is about the “Millennials” (those born between 1982 -2000) and some of the challenges for employers when these young people join their companies. The phrase used here to describe the culture of some of this age group is “having a sense of entitlement”.

This is defined as follows: “If someone has a sense of entitlement, that means the person believes he deserves certain privileges — and he’s arrogant about it. The term “culture of entitlement” suggests that many people now have highly unreasonable expectations about what they are entitled to.”  https://www.vocabulary.com/dictionary/entitlement   In other places it is called an “entitlement complex”!

The article mentioned above does say that “Of course…not every young person born in these years is … foolishly self-regarding [thankfully!] … but many view [this] generation as the most entitled and egotistical to date.” It continues, this is “a generation who ‘want to know what’s in it for them’.”

I also heard recently a short message on our local Christian radio station when the speaker spoke of “mini-outrages”, often posted on social media platforms. He wasn’t suggesting that these came only from “millennials” (and they don’t), but talking of how people vent about the smallest (what most would call relatively insignificant) things, again suggesting this false sense of entitlement.

In our psalm for today (Psalm 31) maybe some might consider that David might be one of these people who has a sense of entitlement as he complains to God about the events of his life. Although one has to admit, the events in his life that he mentions could hardly be defined as “mini-outrages”! Listen to what he says:

Be merciful to me, Lord, for I am in distress;
my eyes grow weak with sorrow,
my soul and body with grief.
10 My life is consumed by anguish
and my years by groaning;
my strength fails because of my affliction,
and my bones grow weak.
11 Because of all my enemies,
I am the utter contempt of my neighbours
and an object of dread to my closest friends—
those who see me on the street flee from me.
12 I am forgotten as though I were dead;
I have become like broken pottery.
13 For I hear many whispering,
Terror on every side!”                                                                                                                They conspire against me
and plot to take my life.

So, considering all those words in bold font above, even the most self-serving person (which generally David was not) would have to admit that David did actually have grounds for justifiable complaint. In fact, maybe he could also justifiably have had a sense of “entitlement” – he was the King of Israel after all!

But, somehow, all this does not come across in this psalm. These are not the words of some self-centred despotic king wanting his own way and “spitting the dummy”, so to speak! In fact, these are the words of David, the one described as a “man after God’s own heart”. Listen to that heart speak to the God he reverently trusted, adored and worshipped, even in the midst of trouble:

In you, Lord, I have taken refuge;
let me never be put to shame;
deliver me in your righteousness.
Turn your ear to me,
come quickly to my rescue;
be my rock of refuge,
a strong fortress to save me.
Since you are my rock and my fortress,
for the sake of your name lead and guide me.
Keep me free from the trap that is set for me,
for you are my refuge.
Into your hands I commit my spirit;
deliver me, Lord, my faithful God.

Note those words in bold font in verse 3:

Here lies the motivation for David’s complaint to God, for his prayer for help – “…for the sake of your name…” Sure, David was human like us and so wasn’t exactly enjoying the suffering that he was going through, but there was so much more at stake than just relief from his suffering. There was God’s name, God’s reputation, God’s honour and glory! David’s desire, along with his own deliverance, was that through all his troubles, it would become obvious that God, and God alone, was the One who was worthy of praise and glory.

And so he says:

19 How abundant are the good things
that you have stored up for those who fear you,
that you bestow in the sight of all,
on those who take refuge in you.
20 In the shelter of your presence you hide them
from all human intrigues;
you keep them safe in your dwelling
from accusing tongues.

21 Praise be to the Lord,
for he showed me the wonders of his love

 

And so exhorts all of us to:

23 Love the Lord, all his faithful people!
The Lord preserves those who are true to him,
but the proud he pays back in full.
24 Be strong and take heart,
all you who hope in the Lord.

In one sense, we are “entitled”, not because of anything we have done, or deserve, but only because of the wonderful truth (in Genesis 1) that is described when God created us:

26 Then God said, “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals,[a] and over all the creatures that move along the ground.”

27 So God created mankind in his own image,
in the image of God he created them;
male and female he created them.

Sadly, sin has marred that image in us and that is why Jesus came. To restore what was at creation, through his life, death and resurrection. To restore us to a place of “entitlement” only available through a right relationship with Him.

And so Paul was able to pray for fellow believers in Jesus:

And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, 10 so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, 11 filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ—to the glory and praise of God.

All the privileges (“entitlements”) of knowing God are ours in Christ, but like David and Paul, we should consider that the most important thing in life is “the glory and praise of God.”  Hopefully this will be the truth that transforms the present culture of “entitlement” not only amongst some millennials but also amongst many others of us.

Father, thank you for our families and other young friends growing up in what has been called a culture of entitlement. Help us all to understand that if we have any rights at all, it is only by the grace of God. May we all, as Paul puts it, have the same mindset as Christ and Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above ourselves, not looking to our own interests but each of us to the interests of the others. (Philippians 2:3-4)  Amen.

 

# 119 A journey through the Psalms. Psalm 30 God’s story – a story of reversals!

Deeper by Liv Vardy

“Deeper” by Liv Vardy (livvardyart.com.au)

As I’m sure you have discovered, during difficult times people can offer some “interesting” (and seemingly shallow) advice. For example, phrases like, “time heals all”, or “you will get over it, we all do”, or “don’t take yourself so seriously”, and of course, “things will all work out ok, so don’t worry”. Often said with the best of intentions, but seldom very comforting!

The psalmist in Psalm 30 offers some deeper and more helpful thoughts (helpful due to the fact of the reality of God), and these from his own experience. He says:

Sing the praises of the Lord, you his faithful people;
praise his holy name.
For his anger lasts only a moment,                                                                                                                                            but his favour lasts a lifetime;
weeping may stay for the night,
but rejoicing comes in the morning.

The reality is that “the story of God is a story of reversals, of one who turns the tides of history, who brings down the powerful from their thrones and lifts up the lowly.” (Pauline Hoggarth, Encounter with God SU Notes) And, on top of this, the One who is able to transform our life’s situations from weeping into rejoicing, and that, even overnight at times.

Consider the Passion Translation on these verses:

I’ve learned that his anger lasts for a moment,
but his loving favour lasts a lifetime!
We may weep through the night,
but at daybreak it will turn into shouts of ecstatic joy.

Another psalmist confirms these truths:

Those who sow with tears
will reap with songs of joy.
Those who go out weeping,
carrying seed to sow,
will return with songs of joy,
carrying sheaves with them.               
(Psalm 126:5-6)

The writers of the NT add another dimension to this truth. Paul writes:

16 Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. 17 For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. 18 So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.                                        (2 Corinthians 4:16-18)

Psalm 30 continues:

When I felt secure, I said,
“I will never be shaken.”
Lord, when you favoured me,
you made my royal mountain stand firm;
but when you hid your face,
I was dismayed.

To you, Lord, I called;
to the Lord I cried for mercy:
“What is gained if I am silenced,
if I go down to the pit?
Will the dust praise you?
Will it proclaim your faithfulness?
10 Hear, Lord, and be merciful to me;
Lord, be my help.”

11 You turned my wailing into dancing;
you removed my sackcloth and clothed me with joy,
12 that my heart may sing your praises and not be silent.
Lord my God, I will praise you forever.

A.B. Rhodes summarizes the narrative as follows:

“In his prosperity the psalmist was guilty of self-sufficiency and a false sense of security. Yet it was God who had established him. Then, as a result of his self-sufficiency and perhaps other sins as well, God removed his favour and the psalmist was sorely troubled. In his illness he cried to God for help. With childlike simplicity he reminded God that his death would mean that he could not praise him further, since those in the Pit could not praise God. But God had granted his petition and turned his mourning into dancing, the sackcloth of sorrow into the festal garments of praise. Faith in God, communion with God, and joyful thanksgiving to God are the keynotes of this psalm.”  (see references # 40)

Suffering of any kind is never fun, and we certainly need to be compassionate and supportive (often in very practical ways) with those in our lives who do suffer, But in the midst of our suffering it is vital to remember God’s promises, such as:

The Mighty One, God, the Lord,
speaks…call on me in the day of trouble;
I will deliver you…                                              
(Psalm 50:1, 15).

Too often, Father, we get so caught up in our troubles that the last resort is prayer. Teach us to make calling out to you in the day of trouble the very first thing we do, knowing that you are able to deliver us in your good time. Teach us the truth also that our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.  Enable us to fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.   Enable us day by day to go deeper with you! Amen.

# 118 A journey through the Psalms. Psalm 30 Annus horribilis

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(https://stevesbiblemeditations.com/2014/06/20/the-end-is-near-luke-1720-37/)

It is that time of the year again when we review and reflect upon the key events of the past year. Sadly, despite all the positives, considering some of the negative worldwide events in 2017, one could almost call it another “annus horribilis”, a Latin phrase used by Queen Elizabeth II in November 1992 to describe the royal family’s year. You may have guessed already, but it means “horrible year” (the opposite of “annus mirabilis” meaning “wonderful year”).

So, can I ask you, which of these two Latin terms describes your life in 2017?

Then, the second thing that happens at this time of the year are predictions concerning the future.

On the website msn.com (27.12.17) there is an interesting article with the title “Stephen Hawking Predictions of 2017” and I quote:

“Thanks to modern day healthcare, 100 years is nearly a lifetime, but this May, Hawking proposed that this is how long humans have left on Earth, Wired reported. This is a stark shift backward from the 1,000 years’ time limit that Hawking had predicted in 2016.

According to Hawking in his BBC science series, Tomorrow’s World, climate change, overdue asteroid strikes, epidemics and population growth are to blame for the new century-long doomsday clock.”

He adds “that humanity’s natural greed would impede us from being able to properly address [these] problems, and that inevitably our best bet is to leave Earth completely…and repopulate somewhere else in the universe, either on a spacecraft or on another planet. The physicist warned that if humans don’t become a multi-planetary species and settle on other worlds, our species could die out within the next century.”

(https://www.msn.com/en-au/news/techandscience/stephen-hawking-predictions-of-2017/ar-BBHojbE?ocid=spartanntp)en

So, if the past events didn’t cause you to feel down about the state of mankind then this prediction (believe it or not) may – unless you know the omnipotent (all powerful) and omniscient (all knowing) God and take into account that He is in control.

Psalm 30 uses some words and phrases which are relevant to all the above. David sounds like, just maybe, he had had an “annus horribilis”. He speaks of haven been “down in the dumps”, as we might say, and is thankful to God for helping him through some difficult times and giving him hope for the future. Listen to his words:

I will exalt you, Lord,     for you lifted me out of the depths     and did not let my enemies gloat over me. Lord my God, I called to you for help,     and you healed me. You, Lord, brought me up from the realm of the dead;     you spared me from going down to the pit.

Later he says:

11 You turned my wailing into dancing;     you removed my sackcloth and clothed me with joy,

The psalmist has a simple answer concerning how to deal with hard times – including depressing news about the events of the past and the gloomy predictions for the future – call out to God for help! And in the same way that when we reach out to anyone (parent, friend, doctor, counsellor) to help in our times of need, we need to understand and believe that God is ready and willing to help. This certainly was the psalmist’s experience and it can be yours and mine in this coming year.

The reality is that no matter how bad the events of the previous year were and how gloomy the predictions for the future, the last word spoken will not be from people like Stephen Hawking but will be from God. God and God alone created all things – scientists just discover the wonders and complexity of this creation. God and God alone sustains his creation -while we go about our selfish ways seeking to exploit it. God and God alone knows when the creation as we know it will end as recorded in the Bible as follows:

See, I will create     new heavens and a new earth. The former things will not be remembered,     nor will they come to mind.                               (Isaiah 65:17)

Then I saw “a new heaven and a new earth,” for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” (Revelation 21:1-4)

Then in Peter’s second letter he writes:

10 But the day of the Lord will come like a thief. The heavens will disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything done in it will be laid bare.

 11 Since everything will be destroyed in this way, what kind of people ought you to be? You ought to live holy and godly lives 12 as you look forward to the day of God and speed its coming. That day will bring about the destruction of the heavens by fire, and the elements will melt in the heat. 13 But in keeping with his promise we are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth, where righteousness dwells.

14 So then, dear friends, since you are looking forward to this, make every effort to be found spotless, blameless and at peace with him… But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and forever! Amen.  (2 Peter 3)

I think that maybe Mr Hawking should listen to Handel’s Messiah, especially the Hallelujah Chorus, which reminds us of what the Bible teaches concerning God’s sovereignty over his creation:

Hallelujah! For the Lord God Omnipotent reigns. The kingdom of this world Is become the kingdom of our Lord, And of His Christ                                                                                                                                                                     And He shall reign for ever and ever,

King of kings, and Lord of lords, And He shall reign forever and ever, Hallelujah! Hallelujah!

Father, thank you for being with us in 2017 and we are so very grateful that you have promised to be with us in 2018. No matter what life brings we have this confidence that you, the omnipotent God, reign and one day we will all bow the knee before you acknowledging that you are Lord of Lords and King of Kings. Amen.