# 117 A journey through the Psalms. Psalm 29 The voice of the Lord

ystorm

In my last post on Psalm 29 I mentioned that one of the so-called gods worshiped by the Canaanites, neighbours of Israel, was Baal, the “storm god”. Sadly, worship of this false god at times spilled over into Israel and when we get to I Kings 18 this apostacy was having devastating effects upon the people and the land. In fact, the Lord had allowed there to be 3 years of drought in Israel and the prophets of God had told the people that their idolatry was the reason this was happening.

So, enter two of the main characters involved – Elijah, the faithful prophet of God and King Ahab, described as the king who “did more to arouse the anger of the Lord…than did all the kings of Israel before him.” (1 Kings 16:33) Being married to Jezebel, a Sidonian and Baal worshiper, hadn’t helped.

So, they meet after some time and Ahab isn’t too friendly, in fact says, “So it’s you, old troublemaker!” But Elijah clarifies the situation and answers, “It’s not I who has caused trouble in Israel, but you…you’ve dumped God’s ways and commands and run off after the local gods, the Baals.”

Elijah then challenges the king to a showdown on Mount Carmel. He invites everyone in Israel, including all the false prophets of Baal.  When assembled Elijah challenged the people: “How long are you going to sit on the fence? If God is the real God, follow him; if it’s Baal, follow him. Make up your minds!” Sadly, the response was that, “Nobody said a word; nobody made a move.” Such was the low spiritual morale of the people at that time.

We then read in the text that, “Elijah said, “I’m the only prophet of God left in Israel; and there are 450 prophets of Baal. Let the Baal prophets bring up two oxen; let them pick one, butcher it, and lay it out on an altar on firewood—but don’t ignite it. I’ll take the other ox, cut it up, and lay it on the wood. But neither will I light the fire. Then you pray to your gods and I’ll pray to God. The god who answers with fire will prove to be, in fact, God.”

Then at last the people responded: “All the people agreed: ‘A good plan—do it!’”

Being a gentleman Elijah told the Baal prophets, “Choose your ox and prepare it. You go first, you’re the majority. Then pray to your god, but don’t light the fire.”

 So they took the ox he had given them, prepared it for the altar, then prayed to Baal. They prayed all morning long, “O Baal, answer us!” But nothing happened—not so much as a whisper of breeze. Desperate, they jumped and stomped on the altar they had made.”

That’s the problem with placing your faith in any thing else other than the Lord.

Then we read that somehow Elijah wasn’t surprised and “By noon, Elijah had started making fun of them, taunting, “Call a little louder—he is a god, after all. Maybe he’s off meditating somewhere or other, or maybe he’s gotten involved in a project, or maybe he’s on vacation. You don’t suppose he’s overslept, do you, and needs to be [woken] up?” They prayed louder and louder, cutting themselves with swords and knives—a ritual common to them—until they were covered with blood. This went on until well past noon. They used every religious trick and strategy they knew to make something happen on the altar, but nothing happened—not so much as a whisper, not a flicker of response.”

Well, by then Elijah decided enough was enough and “told the people, “Enough of that—it’s my turn. Gather around.” And they gathered. He then put the altar back together for by now it was in ruins. Elijah took twelve stones, one for each of the tribes of Jacob…He built the stones into the altar in honour of God. Then Elijah dug a fairly wide trench around the altar. He laid firewood on the altar, cut up the ox, put it on the wood, and said, “Fill four buckets with water and drench both the ox and the firewood.” Then he said, “Do it again,” and they did it. Then he said, “Do it a third time,” and they did it a third time. The altar was drenched and the trench was filled with water.”

In contrast to the ranting and raving of the false prophets, we are told that “Elijah the prophet came up and prayed, “O God, God of Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, make it known right now that you are God in Israel, that I am your servant, and that I’m doing what I’m doing under your orders. Answer me, God; O answer me and reveal to this people that you are God, the true God, and that you are giving these people another chance at repentance.”

And, no surprise to Elijah, Immediately the fire of God fell and burned up the offering, the wood, the stones, the dirt, and even the water in the trench.

39 All the people saw it happen and fell on their faces in awed worship, exclaiming, “God is the true God! God is the true God!”

There is more to the story but a short time later we read, “The sky grew black with wind-driven clouds, and then a huge cloudburst of rain.”  (1 Kings 18 Message) The drought was broken! Yahweh, the one and only true and living God, the Lord of all creation, had spoken.

We are not given any more information about the storm that brought the rain to that parched land, but just maybe for a while the situation was something like that described in Psalm 29 when:

3–4 The voice of the Lord echoes through the skies and seas.
The Glory-God reigns as he thunders in the clouds.
So powerful is his voice, so brilliant and bright,
how majestic as he thunders over the great waters
His tympanic thunder topples the strongest of trees.
His symphonic sound splinters the mighty forests.
Now he moves Zion’s mountains by the might of his voice,
shaking the snowy peaks with his ear splitting sound!
The lightning-fire flashes, striking as he speaks.
God reveals himself when he makes the fault lines quake,
shaking deserts, speaking his voice.
God’s mighty voice makes the deer to give birth.
His thunderbolt voice lays the forest bare.
In his temple all fall before him with each one shouting,
“Glory, glory, the God of glory!”
                      (TPT)

What we know did happen though was that the people had no doubt who was the true God.

So, does God still speak to us today? If so, how?

The reality is that God is always speaking in various ways. This is not the problem. The problem is our spiritual deafness.

The author of the letter to the Hebrews puts it like this:

 Long ago God spoke in many different ways to our fathers through the prophets, in visions, dreams, and even face to face, telling them little by little about his plans.But now in these days he has spoken to us through his Son to whom he has given everything and through whom he made the world and everything there is.  God’s Son shines out with God’s glory, and all that God’s Son is and does marks him as God. He regulates the universe by the mighty power of his command. He is the one who died to cleanse us and clear our record of all sin, and then sat down in highest honour beside the great God of heaven.                                (Hebrews 1:1-3 Living Bible)

I, with many around the world can testify that the Bible is God’s Word to us today and through this book he speaks. I went from being a total unbeliever to a follower of Jesus solely from reading the Bible over a 3 month period. Nicky Gumbel (Alpha Series) tells of how he was a lawyer and an atheist and how reading God’s Word transformed his life completely. A Pakistani Muslim friend of mine became a follower of Jesus as a result of reading the Bible in his own language over a period of time. An Afghan Muslim friend living as a refugee in India was transformed having read the Bible and hearing the truth about Jesus. A Buddhist friend in Mongolia met Christians who shared with her the truth from God’s Word and she believed and continues to give her life serving Jesus. And these are just a few of multiple examples of how God is speaking to people today through his Word.

Have you heard his voice? Do you want to hear his voice?

The reality is that we are without excuse as Paul in Romans 1 says:

19 For the truth about God is known to them instinctively; God has put this knowledge in their hearts. 20 Since earliest times men have seen the earth and sky and all God made, and have known of his existence and great eternal power. So they will have no excuse when they stand before God at Judgment Day.  (Romans 1:19,20 Living Bible)

And so the writer in Hebrews, quoting from Psalm 95, gives us some important advice:

Today, if you hear his voice,
    do not harden your hearts…

12 See to it, brothers and sisters, that none of you has a sinful, unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God.                             (
Hebrews 3:7, 8 & 12)

Thank you, Father that Jesus, who is described as the living Word of God (John 1) brings life and light to all who would hear your voice and respond with open hearts. Thank you that in these days those who love you come from all nations of the world. Such is the power of your Word. Speak to me this day. Amen.

# 116 A journey through the Psalms. Psalm 29. Why should the devil have all the good music?

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The story goes that “William Booth, the founder of the Salvation Army was once told that certain kinds of music were too much ‘of the world’ to be used in evangelistic meetings, he replied, ‘Not allowed to sing that tune or this tune? Indeed! Secular music, do you say? Belongs to the devil, does it? Well, if it did, I would plunder him of it. Every note and every strain and every harmony is divine and belongs to us.’

At another time Booth discovered that a popular Christian chorus of the day took it’s tune from a music-hall ditty, ‘Champagne Charlie is My Name.’ His response? ‘That settles it. Why should the devil have all the best  tunes?’”                                    (https://storiesforpreaching.com/why-should-the-devil-have-all-the-good-music/)

So, you might ask, what has this got to do with Psalm 29? Well, read this unique psalm again and I will explain.

 1 Ascribe to the Lord, you heavenly beings,     ascribe to the Lord glory and strength. Ascribe to the Lord the glory due his name;     worship the Lord in the splendour of his holiness.

The voice of the Lord is over the waters;     the God of glory thunders,     the Lord thunders over the mighty waters. The voice of the Lord is powerful;     the voice of the Lord is majestic. The voice of the Lord breaks the cedars;     the Lord breaks in pieces the cedars of Lebanon. He makes Lebanon leap like a calf,     Sirion [Mt Herman] like a young wild ox. The voice of the Lord strikes     with flashes of lightning. The voice of the Lord shakes the desert;     the Lord shakes the Desert of Kadesh. The voice of the Lord twists the oaks[c]     and strips the forests bare. And in his temple all cry, “Glory!”

10 The Lord sits enthroned over the flood;     the Lord is enthroned as King forever. 11 The Lord gives strength to his people;     the Lord blesses his people with peace.

This psalm, according to Brueggemann, “is an enthronement psalm.” In fact, he then suggests that “it is the scholarly consensus that this is an older Canaanite psalm taken by Israel, wherein only the name of the deity has been changed.” (see references # 2)

Kidner mentions that “early Canaanite poetry was similar” and adds the possibility that maybe “David was building the psalm out of an ancient fragment.” (see references # 29)

Longman gives even more explanation. He comments that “Many of the features of this psalm bear resemblance to Ugaritic [Canaanite] poetry…Some scholars have even concluded that Psalm 29 is an original Canaanite hymn in which the Israelite hymn writer has simply substituted the name Yahweh for Baal [known as ‘the storm god’, one of the most important of the numerous gods worshiped by the Canaanite community]. Perhaps this view is correct; otherwise, the composer has constructed the poem intentionally using…Canaanite devices and imagery.”

Longman then asks a good question: “But for what purpose?” He then answers: “The best explanation is that the Hebrew poet is stating that it is Yahweh, and not Baal, who is the power of the storm. In other words, the purpose would be polemical [an argument in defence of a truth] or apologetic [an argument to prove a truth], appealing to those Israelites who were tempted to worship Baal…” (see references # 30)

Broyles adds: “It appears that the Hebrew liturgists sang of Yahweh’s kingship in a way immediately understandable to all ancients, especially the Canaanite neighbours.” (see references # 4)

Interesting background information, but just how can we apply these things to ourselves in the 21st Century?

Firstly, without compromising the truth, Christians of all ages have endeavoured, and rightly so, to express the good news of Jesus in ways that are understandable to their audiences. Whether this be in music (consider the massive change in Christian music over the last 50 years), or in the use of the media (literature, radio, movies, the internet, satellite TV, mobile phone Apps, etc), or in learning other languages and cultural norms to proclaim Christ cross-culturally in a relevant way.

Secondly, we, in the age we live in, need to understand the truths of this psalm, that our God is King of his creation and not mankind or any other so-called god.  Brueggemann asks: “If Psalm 29 opposes Baal worship, what would constitute Baalism in contemporary culture? Taking a clue from the creation imagery…one suggestion would be the prevailing view that nature is a part of life to be explained and exploited for human desires, as something to be reduced to the control of human reason for the benefit of humans. The view underlies [todays] militant consumerism…That view sees humans as the centre of life, as those who dictate and control the path of life. The praise of God in Psalm 29 rejects that view and proclaims that it is the living God who is Lord of all creation and life. And so God is universally to be praised.”  (see references # 39)

So, we need to acknowledge, as does the psalmist here, that

10 The Lord sits enthroned over the flood;     the Lord is enthroned as King forever.                                                                                                                                                                              Only then will we experience the truth that

11 The Lord gives strength to his people;     the Lord blesses his people with peace.

Thank you, Father, that you are enthroned as King over your creation forever. In the midst of the philosophy of our age which seeks to diminish this truth, keep us faithful to you and your revealed word in the Bible. Enable us to proclaim in culturally relevant ways the good news of Jesus’ incarnation, life, death and resurrection. Amen.

# 115 A journey through the Psalms. Psalm 29 Lost in wonder, love, and praise.

What I Hear

Psalm 29 is one of the loveliest poems ever written. It is pure and unrestrained praise.” (TPT footnote)

Read the opening verses and see if you agree:

Ascribe to the Lord, you heavenly beings,
ascribe to the Lord glory and strength.
Ascribe to the Lord the glory due his name;
worship the Lord in the splendour of his holiness. (NIV)

Or as the Passion Translation puts it:

Proclaim his majesty, all you mighty champions,
you sons of Almighty God,
giving all the glory and strength back to him!
Be in awe before his majesty.
Be in awe before such power and might!
Come worship wonderful Yahweh, arrayed in all his splendour,
bowing in worship as he appears in all his holy beauty.
Give him the honour due his name.
Worship him wearing the glory-garments
of your holy, priestly calling!

In one of Charles Wesley’s many well-known hymns he concludes with the words,

“Lost in wonder, love, and praise.”  (Love Divine, all Loves Excelling”, 1747)

I think these words can describe the mood of this psalmist as he describes the awe, the majesty, the power of God.

I wonder, when was the last time you experienced such a time of worship of God?

Maybe, if it has been a while, then this Christmas, while Christians around the world worship the “new born King”,  you could join them.

There is so much in this psalm worth considering and we will do this in greater depths in the following posts, but as we reflect upon it in the light of Christmas, we see something wonderful.

The psalm commences with worship,

Ascribe to the Lord the glory due his name;
WORSHIP the Lord in the splendour of his holiness.  (verse 1)

and ends with the words

The Lord gives strength to his people; the Lord blesses his people with PEACE. (verse 11)

All reminding us of that wonderful night in Bethlehem when Jesus, the Saviour of the world, was born.

Here is how Luke describes it:

 And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. 10 But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. 11 Today in the town of David a Saviour has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. 12 This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”

13 Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, PRAISING GOD and saying,

14 “GLORY TO GOD in the highest heaven,
and on earth PEACE to those on whom his favour rests.” (Luke 2:8-14)

Wilcock comments, “There is a movement…in this psalm…from heaven (vv. 1-2) where praise is given to God by his angels, to earth (vv. 10-11) where peace is given by God to his people…The observation of Franz Delitzsch [1830-1890] on the psalm’s opening and closing verses is too good to miss: Gloria in excelsis is its beginning, and pax in terris is its end. Thus Psalm 29 too points forward to the Lord Jesus, at whose coming the angels sang, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace.”  (see references # 5)

May we, this Christmas and everyday after, do as the carol writer suggests:

“Come and behold Him,
Born the King of Angels;
O come, let us adore Him,
O come, let us adore Him,
O come, let us adore Him,
Christ the Lord.”

Father, help us this day to ascribe to you glory and strength, to ascribe to you the glory due your name; and to worship you in the splendour of holiness. Thankyou for the peace you give. Thank you for sending Jesus, the Prince of Peace. Amen.

# 114 A journey through the Psalms. Psalm 28 God’s megaphone

Landscape

I have been reading recently through the book of Job in the Old Testament. In many ways a very confronting story of an experience that is all too common in all of our lives at different times and in various ways, i.e. pain and suffering. This can be related to various things such as illness, opposition, economic hardship and even the suffering of loved ones or during bereavement.

One time that stands out in my mind was in Pakistan when I said to my wife one day that I felt really tired. This was followed by nausea and vomiting, lack of appetite and eventually my skin and eyes began to change colour – yellow! I had contracted Hepatitis A and the next month was very uncomfortable. Talk about “Job’s comforters”, one piece of advice I received at the time (from well-meaning friends) was to hang a white onion around my neck! The idea being that it would “absorb the yellow jaundice from my body”. The thought made me even more nauseous!

It’s at such times that the Psalms of Lament seem very relevant. Ones like Psalm 28.

I’m pleading with you, Lord, help me!
Don’t close your ears to my cry, for you’re my defender.
If you continue to remain aloof and refuse to answer me,
I might as well give up and die.
Can’t you see me turning toward your mercy seat
as I lift my hands in surrendered prayer?
Now, Lord, please listen to my cry.
Don’t allow me to be punished along with the wicked—
these hypocrites who speak sweetly to their neighbours’ faces
while holding evil against them in their hearts.
Go ahead and punish them as they deserve.
Let them be paid back for all their evil plans
in proportion to their wickedness.
Since they don’t care anything about you,
or about the great things you’ve done,
take them down like an old building being demolished,
never again to be rebuilt.
But may your name be blessed and built up!
For you have answered my passionate cry for mercy.
You are my strength and my shield from every danger.
When I fully trust in you, help is on the way.
I jump for joy and burst forth with ecstatic, passionate praise!
I will sing songs of what you mean to me!
You will be the inner strength of all your people,
the mighty protector of all,
the saving strength for all your anointed ones.
Keep protecting and cherishing your chosen ones;
in you they will never fall.
Like a shepherd going before us, keep leading us forward,
forever carrying us in your arms!                                                   (TPT)

The psalmist, like with most Lament Psalms, doesn’t explain the exact details of his suffering, only that he had some people in his life (“the wicked”) who were making things difficult for him (in fact, doing “evil works”), and because of this he needed God to intervene, to answer his prayer, to prevent him from falling into a “pit”.

I think, depending on our circumstances, all of us have felt like this at some time. I have noticed that prayer becomes much more meaningful, more desperate, when suffering in some way. Not a bad thing! As does the psalmist’s here, our prayers at such times enable us to shift our attention away from our issues to the One who is able to help us. To the One who is the strength of his people, a fortress of salvation. “Joy” in the midst of suffering is then possible as our faith in God grows.

During my reading of Job, I read some interesting quotes concerning suffering. Here are a few of them:

“The extreme greatness of Christianity lies in the fact that it does not seek a supernatural remedy for suffering but a supernatural use for it.”  (Simone Weil, Gravity and Grace, Bison, 1997)

“There are seldom good reasons for suffering, but there can be good responses.” (David Watson, Fear no Evil, Hodder & Stoughton, 1984)

“I have noticed that when one who has not suffered draws near to one in pain there is rarely much power to help.” (Amy Carmichael, Rose from Brier, CLC, 1972)

It’s interesting, but not surprising that all these three authors, quoted above, suffered in their lives. From ‘poor health’, from cancer, and from injury related chronic pain, respectively.

I have often wondered why so many of the Psalms are similar to this one, i.e. a Lament Psalm, and one of my conclusions is that, so many of us suffer at some time in our lives and therefore need such a resource during these tough times. Not to necessarily provide us with a “supernatural remedy” or even “good reasons” for our suffering but hopefully to enable “good responses”. One such response is to provide “power to help” others around us also in pain.

Paul in 2 Corinthians 1:3,4 puts it like this:

 All praises belong to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. For he is the Father of tender mercy and the God of endless comfort. He always comes alongside us to comfort us in every suffering so that we can come alongside those who are in any painful trial. We can bring them this same comfort that God has poured out upon us.   (TPT)

And one last quote:

“God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pain: it is His megaphone to rouse a deaf world.” (CS Lewis, The Problem of Pain, Fount, 1940)

Praise be to you Lord,
for you have heard my cry for mercy.
You, Lord are my strength and my shield;
my heart trusts in you, and you help me.
My heart leaps for joy,
and with my song I praise you.    Amen

# 113 A journey through the Psalms. Psalm 27 Not disappointed!

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It was February 1967 and I had just had my 16th birthday, although I don’t recall any great celebrations. In fact. all I remember was recently moving into yet another rental property with my parents and younger sister. None of us were particularly happy with life (or each other) at that stage. Due to my parent’s financial difficulties it was the third move in as many years and that meant another High School to adjust to and new people to meet and try and make friends with. Both a real struggle for me who had just scraped through my studies in my previous years and was very shy and lacking confidence when it came to forming new relationships.

I recall there were very few people in my life that I trusted (including my parents who were as good as divorced) and at that stage of my life there was certainly no sense or knowledge of God to talk to about all my difficulties. So, it was just a case of “grin and bear it” and get through any way I could find, despite having no confidence in anyone (including myself) or anything, that things would work out.

But what a difference a few years make! Three years later, in February 1970, I discovered that I didn’t have to try and make something of life all by myself. I discovered, having picked up and read the New Testament, that there is a God who cares and can be trusted. I found a new confidence that comes through a relationship with Jesus.

Psalm 27 is sometimes called a Psalm of Confidence. Concerning this type of psalm Brueggemann says: “they speak of a relationship with [God] that is utterly trustworthy in the face of every threat. Presumably that deep conviction has grown out of a specific experience. [How] else…would one know to trust. These psalms are some of the best known and best loved, for they offer a faith and a life that has come to joyous trusting resolution. The speaker of these psalms cannot imagine a situation that would cause doubt or trouble enough to jeopardize that trust. The relationship has been tested severely, and [God] has shown himself to be profoundly reliable and powerful. That is to be celebrated.” (see references # 2)

So far in Psalm 27 we have heard all about that confidence that David has in his God and the deep desire he has to know God more and more. But the poem now moves into a prayer for God’s help. Listen (and learn) to David’s many words as he confidently seeks God concerning his problems:

Hear my voice when I call, Lord;
be merciful to me and answer me.
My heart says of you, “Seek his face!”
Your face, Lord, I will seek.
Do not hide your face from me,
    do not turn your servant away in anger;
you have been my helper.
Do not reject me or forsake me,
God my Savior.
10 Though my father and mother forsake me,
the Lord will receive me.
11 Teach me your way, Lord;
lead me in a straight path
    because of my oppressors.
12 Do not turn me over to the desire of my foes,
for false witnesses rise up against me,
spouting malicious accusations.

What a wonderful thing to know God in such a way that we can just pour out our hearts like this to him about all that concerns us. And not with some kind of airy fairy “hope-so” attitude that God will hear and answer, but express these things with utter confidence in our Father’s grace and love as revealed in Him sending Jesus to deliver us and give us eternal life.

David continues:

13 I remain confident of this:
I will see the goodness of the Lord
in the land of the living.

He then gives us, the ones reading this great psalm, some good advice. He says:

14 Wait for the Lord;
be strong and take heart
and wait for the Lord.

The Passion Translation puts it like this:

Here’s what I’ve learned through it all:
Don’t give up; don’t be impatient;
be entwined as one with the Lord
Be brave and courageous, and never lose hope.
Yes, keep on waiting—for he will never disappoint you!

Over 50 years have passed since my 16th birthday and life has certainly had its ups and downs, but I would not be exaggerating if I said, what I’ve learned through it all:
He has never disappointed me!

So, friends, today, whatever your situation, Don’t give up; don’t be impatient;
be entwined as one with the Lord. Be brave and courageous, and never lose hope.
Yes, keep on waiting—for he will never disappoint YOU!

Father, I can’t imagine what my life would have looked like if you hadn’t intervened when you did. My life has been so blessed knowing you and trusting in you no matter what came my way -good or bad! You have never disappointed. Praise the Lord!

# 112 A journey through the Psalms. Psalm 27 The essence of worship.

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If I was able to write intimate poetry to my wife then maybe I would write something like:

“Here’s the one thing I desire, my beloved,
the one thing I seek above all else:
I want the privilege of living with you every moment in our house,
finding the sweet loveliness of your face,
filled with awe, delighting in your glory and grace.
I want to live my life so close to you
that you take pleasure in my every conversation.”

Well, now I have to admit that originally these (modified) words were NOT written by a husband to his beloved wife, but were written by David (in Psalm 27) to God. Such was the intimacy of his relationship with God. And such is the intimacy available to us today in our relationship with God, through Christ.

Read slowly the following words of David to God and ask if you could speak like this concerning your heart’s desires towards your Heavenly Father. And if not, then ask yourself, why not?

Here’s the one thing I crave from God,
the one thing I seek above all else:
I want the privilege of living with him every moment in his house,
finding the sweet loveliness of his face,
filled with awe, delighting in his glory and grace.
I want to live my life so close to him
that he takes pleasure in my every prayer.
    In his shelter in the day of trouble, that’s where you’ll find me,
for he hides me there in his holiness.
He has smuggled me into his secret place,
where I’m kept safe and secure—
out of reach from all my enemies.
    Triumphant now, I’ll bring him my offerings of praise,
singing and shouting with ecstatic joy!
Yes, listen and you can hear
the fanfare of my shouts of praise to the Lord
!    (Psalm 27:4-6 The Passion Translation)

We read here that David’s desire is twofold.

to gaze on the beauty of the Lord
and to seek him in his temple.  (verse 4 NIV)

Wilcock says, “to know ever more intimately the beauty of the Lord’s Person and the wonder of his will… [these combine] as the one thing he wants above all others.” (see references # 5)

Kidner suggests that such a desire is “the essence of worship; indeed, of discipleship.” (see references # 29)

And Blaiklock adds that “Seeking the face of God” (verse 8), “realizing his presence, is the first movement of prayer.” (see references # 37)

Sadly, it is just too easy to get caught up in the busyness of life, including in serving the Lord, and somehow forget why we are here and why we are doing what we are doing. When this happens, we need to remind ourselves of the words of Jesus to the church in Ephesus:

I know your deeds, your hard work and your perseverance… You have persevered and have endured hardships for my name, and have not grown weary. Yet I hold this against you: You have forsaken the love you had at first.  (Revelation 2:2-4)

I guess it happens a bit too often that a husband (or a wife) is just too busy for what really matters in life in the midst of earning a living, gaining promotions, climbing the corporate ladder, (caring for the family) or even serving in full time Christian ministry. All this resulting in neglecting key relationships with spouse and/or children.

It seems, that, in their relationship with God, this is what was happening in the church in Ephesus in the 1st Century AD. Despite all their hard work and endured hardships, somehow they had let slip the most important part of what Christianity is all about – love for God and one another. About seeking above all else “the beauty of the Lord’s Person and the wonder of his will”. About “true worship…[and] real discipleship”. And about confident “prayer” to the Father.

The solution given to this group of believers remains the same for all people in the same situation ever since:

Consider how far you have fallen! Repent and do the things you did at first.  (Rev. 2:5)

Maybe Paul was conscious that this could happen when earlier he wrote to the church in Ephesus with the words:

 I pray that out of [the Father’s] glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.                (Ephesians 3:16-19)

On the other hand, maybe when you read the words of David in this Psalm, it really resonated with you and the desires of your heart. And you, like the Apostle Paul could say,  

But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ.  What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God on the basis of faith.  I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead.     (Philippians 3: 7-11)

And so, in this psalm, David recognizes that in loving and seeking God for who he is, not only is it why we are here anyway, but it is the only really sensible thing to do in life. Where else will he find a shelter in the day of trouble as God hides [him] there in his holiness? Then he continues, He has smuggled me into his secret place, where I’m kept safe and secure—  out of reach from all my enemies. (27:5)

No wonder he then exclaims:

    Triumphant now, I’ll bring him my offerings of praise,
singing and shouting with ecstatic joy!
Yes, listen and you can hear
the fanfare of my shouts of praise to the Lord
!    (27:6)

Father, the psalms challenge me where it really matters – in my relationship with you. Too often my prayers are mechanical, full of religious words but lacking true devotion to you. Teach me to ‘seek your face’, to examine my heart and allow myself to embrace the wonder of who you are, grasping, even a little, the depths, the width, the length, the height of your great love. Amen.

 

# 111 A journey through the Psalms. Psalm 27 Lightbulb moment!

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Sunset in Kalbarri, WA

Had any “lightbulb moments” lately? According to the dictionary definition these are “a moment of sudden realization, enlightenment, or inspiration.”

My biggest and most important one was 47 years ago when the “light” of God’s truth shone deep into my being and I realized just how much God loved me. At that moment I said “yes” to Jesus and life has never been the same again! You couldn’t ask for a better companion in life than Jesus.

Before we move on in this remarkable psalm I want us to ponder one extremely important word the psalmist uses describing God and consider other Bible verses where this word is used. The word is “light” and it appears in verse 1 as follows

The Lord is my light and my salvation – whom shall I fear?                                                              

The word “light” can be either a noun, a verb or an adjective. In the Bible, at different times it is used as all three.  Here in Psalm 27 it is a noun, in the sense that David is saying that “The Lord is my Revelation Light to guide me along the way!” (TPT) But it could also be understood here as an adjective, i.e. light describing a certain aspect of the very being of God, his nature, his character – as found in 1 John 1:5 “God is light; in him there is no darkness at all.” We shall consider this further, but firstly, note the personal pronoun, ‘my’, before the word. Here the psalmist not only speaks of this wonderful attribute of God’s being, but says that this same God, who is light, is in an intimate relationship with him.

Kidner comments on this:

Light is a natural figure for almost everything that is positive, from truth and goodness to joy and vitality…to name but a few. Here is the answer to fear and to the forces of evil [in our broken world].”    (see references # 29)

Consider the following verses:

Send me your light and your faithful care,
let them lead me…
to the place where you dwell.
  (Psalm 43:3)

Woe to those who call evil good
and good evil,
who put darkness for light
and light for darkness. 
(Isaiah 5:20)

Light shines on the righteous
and joy on the upright in heart.
  (Psalm 97:11)

Longman adds:

“God is [the psalmist’s] light, the significance of which must be understood in contrast to the darkness…Darkness is often associated with disorder, confusion and eventually evil…

You, Lord, keep my lamp burning;
my God turns my darkness into light.    
(Psalm 18:28)

Wicked deeds are done in the dark, and the light exposes them…”   (see references # 30)

Although my photo above is of a sunset, the sunrise is the actual time when the darkness is dispersed by the power of the light of the sun. No matter how thick the cloud cover, it cannot prevent the day light from filtering in and bringing some light and warmth to the earth and its people. What a good, amazing Creator we worship.

And so, this word light is used over 250 times in the Bible. We shall look at just a few of them.

Right at the very beginning of everything we know today, when our awesome “God created the heavens and the earth”, He spoke and said, “Let there be light,” and there was light.  God saw that the light was good, and he separated the light from the darkness.” (Genesis 1:1, 3-4)

Later we read of Moses blessing the people, and in the knowledge that the One who created light is Himself Light, he prays:

The Lord bless you
and keep you;
the Lord make his face shine on you
and be gracious to you;
the Lord turn his face toward you
and give you peace.”                                      (Numbers 6:24-26)

This blessing would ultimately be fulfilled in the coming of the Messiah as prophesied by Isaiah:

“The people walking in darkness
have seen a great light
;
on those living in the land of deep darkness
a light has dawned.”                          
(Isaiah 9:2)

Jesus later said concerning himself:

I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”                           (John 8:12)

“I have come into the world as a light, so that no one who believes in me should stay in darkness.”     (John 12:46)

The Apostle Paul wrote:

“God, the blessed and only Ruler, the King of kings and Lord of lords, who alone is immortal and who lives in unapproachable light, whom no one has seen or can see. To him be honour and might forever.”   (1 Timothy 6:15-16)

The Apostle John then wrote these vital words for each one of us to read, understand and apply in our lives:

 “This is the message we have heard from [Jesus] and declare to you: God is light; in him there is no darkness at all. If we claim to have fellowship with him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live out the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin.

If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. 10 If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word is not in us.”     (1 John 1:5-10)

Commenting on these verses, Andy Bathgate (Scripture Union notes) says:

“How can we have fellowship with the God who lives in ‘unapproachable light’ (see 1 Timothy 6 above), undimmed by our imperfection? We must ‘walk in the light’ (v 7), allowing the spotlight of God’s holiness to show us up for what we are. That unclothing would be devastating if the light only unmasked our deficiencies, but it also floodlights the Lord Jesus, whose blood can purify us [from all our sin].

Consciousness of sin as an offence against God [seems to be] a folk memory in our [Western] society. The [so-called] ‘death of God’ [philosophy] leaves us ‘sin-free’ but struggling to know what to do with our guilt. We end up hiving off blame onto others, cleverly excusing ourselves. John’s diagnosis? We have evaded the light.” (Encounter with God 2009)

It’s time to stop evading and instead to embrace the truth that Jesus is our light and salvation. Then and then only will we be purified from all unrighteousness and be reconciled to our Father.

So, the question we need to ask ourselves today is, can we say with real conviction and confidence that The Lord is my light and my salvation – whom shall I fear?

The second word David uses in Psalm 27:1 is salvation.  He says that God is not only his light but also his salvation! The word means, “deliverance from harm, ruin, or loss.”   In the Bible it includes, “deliverance from sin and its consequences, believed by Christians to be brought about by faith in Christ.”

The Good News of Jesus is about living our lives in spiritual light instead of spiritual darkness; about deliverance from the consequences of our sin; about being able to live in a right relationship with God through the death and resurrection of Jesus, “the light of the world.”

Thankyou Jesus that you came to deliver us from living in spiritual darkness and through your death and resurrection to bring us into your kingdom of light. Today I confess my rebellion against you and put my trust in you, Jesus, Son of God, as my light and salvation and offer my life to you. Thank you for your forgiveness, deliverance, love and grace. Amen.