Blogging Through the Psalms: The dark side of our faith.

Psalm 78

The Psalmist continues to contemplate the themes raised in the prior Psalm. He presents a creative retelling of the history of Israel designed not to impart information or mere facts, but to warn against the dire consequences that result when one rebels against Yahweh as well as to encourage the righteous to obedience. God acts in the lives of those who are called by His name. He disciplines those who exercise faith but punishes those who rebel against Him. Because they are His own people they are held to a higher standard of accountability because they have seen the blessings of the Lord in the Exodus, and have experienced His mighty miracles. When they turn from God, He will pour His wrath on them.

 

The Church today constitutes the people of God. Because national Israel rejected Jesus their Messiah, the kingdom of God is now present on earth in the church. But like ancient Israel we too bear witness to the mighty works of God. We must testify to that which we have experienced: the salvation of Jesus, who is God incarnate. We must testify to the blessings we have received through His miracles, His words, His death, resurrection and ascension as well as His promise to be with us always in the presence and power of His Holy Spirit. We must continue to preach about these things we have experienced.

Yet too often the church resembles the world as well as unbelieving Israel. Too many Christians and churches pay lip service to the Lord while following the ways and schemes of the unrighteous. If the members of God’s church reject the word and teaching of the gospel, if the church follows the ways of the world, it too will feel His refining fire of discipline.

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Blogging Through The Psalms: The solution to despair.

Psalm 77

Once again, the psalmist is filled with despair. In the opening verses he gives free rein to his doubts. He voices these misgivings in a series of 6 questions. In this way he imparts to us a summary statement that reflects in short all the questions and feelings that could and do pop into our minds when we endure suffering and tribulation. We wonder if we have been abandoned by God. We wonder if we have offended Him in so way that He has cast us aside and has taken away His love. We wonder if He will ever speak to us again. 

But immediately upon voicing these questions, the Psalmist becomes quite upbeat and animated even though God has not answered the questions he asked. He apparently resolves his own doubts by contemplating the great deeds the Lord has done, specifically in the Exodus from Egypt when the Lord delivered Israel from slavery. These deeds are encouraging because in them the Lord performed some mighty miracles. When it seemed that all hope was gone, when Israel despaired at being trapped between the advancing Egyptian army and the sea, the Lord worked a spectacular miracle. The Psalmist feels that God always acts when hope and strength are at their lowest, at the eleventh hour. In this way His deliverance always gives Him the greatest glory and inspires the greatest prayers of praise and thanksgiving from those delivered. We can take hope for we know that the Lord will act at the right time. Such faith does not mean we will never despair, but it does mean that in such times the faithful will remember that he Lord is our trustworthy source of salvation and help.

Blogging Through The Psalms: No boasting in the self.

Psalm 75-76

In these Psalms we find the Lord addressing the arrogant and boastful. Reference is made to the horn of the wicked. This refers to the prideful exaltation of those who set themselves up against God. In one sense a horn refers to the musical instrument as if the wicked were sounding or “trumpeting” their own talents and power so that others would take note and agree that they are indeed very great. The horn could also refer to the wicked person’s power and strength that causes them to boast in self. The fact is, however, that the Lord has created all men and women and endowed them with certain talents and characteristics. In addition, He is the judge over all. No one can rightly exalt themselves over God without incurring His wrath.

There are many in our society who boast in themselves and who trumpet their greatness before the rest of us. They appear a lot in the news, on reality shows and TV talk shows because they want to make a name for themselves and become famous. Most celebrities are this way too. Such people are filled with egotistical pride and think they are better than everyone else. They want everyone else to agree and give them the praise and honor they deserve. They think that they do not need Yahweh. The only ones who do know their need for Christ are those who know they are weak, useless and sinful. They are despised by the wicked and famous and abused by the world. They go to the Lord Him for affirmation and acceptance. So only those who are weak and lack self-sufficiency can give themselves over to Him for only they can honor God in the way that pleases Him.

Blogging Through the Psalms: Where are you Lord? I’m in pain!

Psalm 74

Here Asaph cried out to the Lord in the midst of turmoil and conflict. He had witnessed the destruction of God’s Temple by the Babylonians and with it the destruction of Judah and the enslavement of God’s people. This was a terrible thing to contemplate for it was perceived to be an attack on the Lord Himself. But, what was worse was that God remained silent. There was no anointed prophet or godly leader to speak the words of the Lord God to give comfort, encouragement and advice. The Lord remained silent in the face of the boastful blasphemies of the pagans. This hurt and troubled Asaph to a great degree so he cried out to the Lord, calling on Him to act as He had always done before.

Like Asaph, we too, when we do not hear the word of God wonder if He has deserted us. Such a feeling produces great despair especially if we begin to think He no longer loves us or is angry because we have sinned. But if we cry out to Him as Asaph did, we may find our faith increasing. The very act of prayer in the midst of confusion and doubt is an act of faith for it demonstrates that we realize God is the only one we can go to who can give us strength and help. As we recall His former blessings upon us we also will be encouraged for we know the Lord will hear our prayers of pain and woe. He will deliver us because He loves us. He will bring us out of the greatest violence and the deepest darkness.

Blogging Through the Psalms: How trustworthy is the Lord!

Psalm 71

The unnamed Psalmist is an elderly man who is in the midst of a great deal of trouble that shows no signs of abating. His strength is failing due to the terrific traumatic experience he is enduring. Yet in the midst of this he recalls the faithfulness of God throughout his life. God has always been a rock of strength and stability. Yet now the Lord seems far off. His hope is dimmed. In his despair he calls out to the Lord to plead for help. He rejoices in the knowledge that God is still working in his life and that He has not finished with him yet.

It is encouraging to have faith that places trust in God to deliver us from suffering and trials. The Lord certainly blesses those who exercise such faith but He does know our weakness. The Psalm gives us guidelines then in how we should voice our despair and doubt to God. This is especially true of the elderly who seem to have more than their share of troubles and sorrows as they grow older. We can express our doubts and confusion to God since He knows about them already. We may find then that he will encourage us with reminders of past blessing and give us many reasons to praise Him.

Blogging Through the Psalms: Lord, help me out. Please?

Psalm 69-70

These 2 Psalms taken together are Psalms that call out to the Lord for help in a time of crisis. David, as we are aware, had several such periods in his life. For many years, when he was young, he was on the run from his father-in-law King Saul who sought to kill him. Later in life he had to run from Absalom, his rebellious son who sought to overthrow him. At both times, people arose who spread lies and slander about him and opposed him. Yet he remained zealous for the Lord. He bore the reproaches of others as God’s anointed servant should for any attacks on he who was God’s anointed were attacks on the Lord. He knew the Lord would deliver him.

Many times we are assailed by people who malign us and call us evil because they hate God. Recently there have arisen a group of atheistic scientists who seek to do away with Christianity, indeed all religion scorning it as mere fantasy and wickedness. Such attacks threaten Christians for their proponents have powerful and widespread influence in the media, in academia and in the public schools.

At the same time, there are many men and women, including many celebrities who have set themselves up as spiritual gurus. These offer guidance and advice they claim to have obtained from the spirit world, the stars, angels or even from God. If we examine their pronouncements closely we would discover that they are interested in helping and exalting no one but themselves. So it is quite obvious that any advice is worthless or, worse, wicked because it comes from the devil. There is no other option. Such people will mislead many because they are trusting in a lie. When people are faced by a real crisis of come face to face with death, the trust they have placed in these false prophets will be empty and useless.

Blogging through the Psalms: Good News for the Lonely – God lifts them up.

 

Psalm 68

 

This is a rather energetic Psalm that David composed for the procession that accompanied the Ark of the Covenant into Jerusalem. The King praised God for various reasons notably His absolute power, strength and wisdom. David knew that it was the Lord who had defeated the enemies of Israel. He also defeated wickedness. He gave blessings to the poor and the oppressed. He made the lonely to dwell in families. This means that all types of people find a home in God’s kingdom.

 

In his praise David recalls the great acts of God in the history of Israel. Israel may have been a small nation and Zion the mountain of God at Jerusalem a small mountain when compared to other nations and other high placed, but the Lord has chosen this place, this nation as His. The Lord always does things like this in contrast to what the world would do. He delights to take that which is lowly and despised and redeem and lift it up. And contrary to the popular maxim, He does not help those who help themselves. In fact, those who think they can help themselves tend to believe they do not need Him.

 

God exalts the helpless and weak. He does not help the wise and scholarly, but exalts the people who are foolish enough to believe that God works miracles and who are naïve enough to believe that the Bible is His word and truth. That He has such kindness and blessings for the low and oppressed is reason enough to rejoice.