Welcome to Week Six/Day Four: “Blessings from Zion…Bless the Lord”

Today’s Treasure:
“Come, bless YAHWEH, all you servants of YAHWEH,
who are standing in YAHWEH’s house by night!” – Psalm 134:1Psalm_134blessjehovah

“Raise your hands toward the holy place and bless YAHWEH. May YAHWEH bless you from Zion, the one who made heaven and earth.”

O Bless Our God with One Accord”psalm-134-2

As we conclude our study of the Songs of Ascent, we are left with one overarching theme: God. is. faithful.  He will not suffer the wicked to flourish forever; He will ultimately reward those who put their trust in him.  We find that Psalm 134 ends by repeating the refrain of the entire collection: “May YAHWEH bless you from Zion, the One who made heaven and earth!”

Journey’s end. The ascent is completed, the destination arrived at.  It ends, as everything does…with worship.
To me, the Amplified Version of Philippians 3:10 beautifully expresses each this, the highest of life’s ultimate pursuit:

For my determined purpose is that I may know Him. that I may progressively become more deeply and intimately acquainted with Him, perceiving and recognizing and understanding the wonders of His Person more strongly and more clearly.”

With your face set like flint toward life’s loftiest goal, let’s look at Psalm 134.

According to some interpreters, Psalm 134 was sung after the pilgrims’ visit to Jerusalem as they began their homeward journey.  Thus, it is their joyful response to the wonderful things they saw and heard in God’s house.  Truthfully, what I see in Psalm 134 even more clearly is a triumphant conclusion to the broader story of exile and affliction told in the previous 14 psalms.

Psalms_Ascent_Banner

The songs began in Psalm 120, and found the pilgrims far away from Jerusalem in the alien lands of Meshech and Kedar. The woe of the surroundings they’d known for ‘too long’ had not demoralized them as their enemy surely hoped. Instead it heightened their anticipation for each arduous journey to Mount Zion and deepened their conviction not to miss it for the world. Psalm 121 follows the pilgrims on their risky way. Mountains loomed before them, but a ‘Watcher’ guarded them from the heavens. Psalm 122 followed afterward with words expressing their joy at their arrival at the city gates of their beloved Jerusalem. Psalms 123-133 filled the psalmists’ mouth with a host of praises, themes, and petitions centered on everyday experiences such as farming and family. The choruses spoke of pain, repentance, redemption, and humility and coaxed their impatient souls to wait like watchmen for the Lord. The songs then concluded with the ‘highest point of ascent in this collection’.

Psalm 134 now, opens up with a call/command to bless YAHWEH (our covenant God).  The servants of the LORD can bless him, because He surely will deliver them.  They can stand guard in His house at night knowing that “He who keeps Israel will neither slumber nor sleep.”  They can lift up their hands in praise because of His forgiveness and abundant love.  Yes, they can rest in the confidence that the LORD will bestow His blessing upon them and ultimately grant them eternal life.

psalm134capacity

Once again Beth quotes Eugene Peterson’s Commentary:
“The sentence [Come, bless YAHWEH] is an invitation but it is also a command. Having arrived at the place of worship, will we now sit around and tell stories about the trip? Having gotten to the big city, will we spend our tie here as tourists? Will the temple be a place to socialize, receive congratulations form others on our achievement, a place to share gossip and trade stories? But that’s not why you made the trip. You are here because God blessed you. Now. You bless God.”

As we turn the last page of our study of the Psalms of Ascent, our ultimate goal will be accomplished if we’ve ascended to the next level in the worship of our God. To take the next step in authentic praise and worship is to take the next step in multiple areas of our lives. If we are truer worshippers today than we were six weeks ago, we are truer lovers. Truer servers. Truer seekers. Truer confessors. This short but explosive little Psalm, concludes the journey with the invitation, command, reminder to now worship!

“Come, bless YAHWEH, all you servants of YAHWEH, who are standing in YAHWEH’s house by night!” 

In the immediate context of this verse, it was a reminder first to the temple priests who had, you might say, drawn the short straw. Night services were often held in the temple courts in association with the feasts. They were meant to be in temple, worshipping and praying, all day and all night. The latter was the tough part.

Have you ever had to work night shifts? They are both a bind and a problem. You might start off with a burst of enthusiasm and energy, but by 4 a.m. even the most eager are flagging. Lethargy takes over and expended energy starts extracting a toll; you no longer feel like working. It was the same for these temple worshippers.

Are you running out of energy? Do you no longer feel like doing it? Well…Get on with it. Do it anyway. Do the actions of worship (in this instance, the hand-raising of verse 2) and the desire, the feelings will follow. And even if they don’t.  Despite the toll of the journey, the cost and the energy extracted, He’s still worth worshipping. What happens when the priests of the night-watch did this? When they raised their hands at a time they could barely raise their eyelids? God moves. He acts. He blesses.  He does well by the people.

The psalmists’ song is never more clearly heard in the portals of heaven than when he offers a sacrifice of praise in the darkest of nights.

psalm134faithjourney“People cry out under a load of oppression; they plead for relief from the arm of the powerful. But no one says, ‘Where is God my Maker, who gives songs in the night..” – Job 35:9-10

The clearest and deepest words God grants the soul are often those that come in a dark season of life. One of the dearest treasures in your darkness will be the God-song He will give you if you’ll receive it. To stand in the presence of the Lord when you’d rather go to bed and never get up. To praise Him in the night when taunting voices tell you to curse Him…these things are nothing less than a battle cry of victory. Worship is also warfare. A True psalmist praises his way to victory, knowing it will come because the praise itself renders the first blow to the enemy’s brow.

Inherent in the call to ‘bless Yahweh” is the cry to thank Him.

“Charis and Eucharisteo”.
Grace and gratitude belong together like heaven and earth.
Grace evokes gratitude like the voice an echo.
Gratitude follows grace as thunder follows lightening.

We don’t have priests who worship for us now because we are all priests in that sense. My worship invites you to yours. Your worship invites me to mine. Even when we don’t feel like singing, kneeling, hand-raising, praying. Sometimes, just by taking that extra step we can’t take gives others the courage to do so. Our worship carries others until we can worship from our own energy.

Worship exalts God to the highest place. Every step of ascent toward God develops the capacity to enjoy. Not only is there increasingly more to be enjoyed, there is steadily the acquired ability to enjoy it. Best of all, we don’t have to wait til we get to the end of the road before we enjoy what is at the end of the road.

The destination of any trip sets the tone for travel. You and I are not on our way to a funeral but to a wedding. Joy comes in the morning and the very anticipation of it invites our worship into our night.

focusonthejourney

We know that when we are finally ‘home’ in the halls of heaven, we will worship day and night and night and day as the  angels do encircling the throne. But why wait til we get there? Knowing where we’re going is cause enough to enjoy the beauty of the journey and to Worship along the Way!

Welcome to Week Six/Day Three: “Blessings from Zion…A United Family of God”

Today’s Treasure
“It is like the dew of Hermon falling on the mountains of Zion.
For there the Lord has appointed the blessing—life forever more.”
– Psalm 133:3

Mount-Hermon-with-snow,-tb020506116-bibleplaces

Yesterday, we focused on verse 1 and focused on the family of man and the unity of our natural family.  On the second lesson of this psalm, we will focus on how it applies to the Unity of the Church – the family of God.

In verses 2 and 3, we find two key symbols: Oil and Water (Dew).
Verse two reads: “It is like the precious ointment upon the head, that ran down upon the beard, even Aaron’s beard: that went down to the skirts of his garments;”

The oil referred to in Psalm 133:2 has profound meanings that may not be immediately obvious, so let’s go to the book of Exodus and take a look at the first mention of this particular symbol in light of the Church.

In Exodus 30:29-30, we find the following reasons for making and using the oil poured out over Aaron’s head:

“You shall consecrate them, that they may be most holy; whatever touches them must be holy. And you shall anoint Aaron and his sons, and consecrate them that they may minister to Me as priests.

The purpose of pouring the oil upon Aaron’s head was to consecrate him (set him apart) as a holy priest unto God.

We might be familiar with the New Testament passage in I Peter 2:9-10 that talks about how the Church is to be a holy priesthood to God, but we may be less familiar with the fact that this was also a promise that was given to ancient Israel.

In Exodus 19:5-6, we  see God gives the following promise to ancient Israel:

Now therefore, if you will indeed obey My voice and keep My covenant, then you shall be a special treasure to Me above all people; for all the earth is Mine. And you shall be to Me a kingdom of priests (royal priesthood) and a holy nation.”  
Royal-Priesthood
I Peter 2:9-10 reads: “But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His wonderful light. Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.” 

So, we see the same promise of being a special treasure, kingdom of priests and a holy nation that was made to the Church in I Peter 2:9-10 was first given to all of Israel.

The precious Oil upon the head is symbolic of the Holy Spirit upon the Head of the Church which is Christ.
Aaron is the high priest in the Old Covenant. The Lord Jesus Christ is the High Priest of the New Covenant (Hebrews 9.11-15).  The oil that runs down on the beard and the edge of Aaron’s garments is a symbol for the anointing of the Lord Jesus, which is poured out upon His Church and flows down His garment (the body of Christ) for consecrated service unto God as a priesthood.

In Psalm 133:2, King David likens the brethren dwelling together in unity with the sacred anointing poured out over Aaron. Not just any anointing, but the anointing of priests to minister unto God. That categorizes the unity of the brethren as ‘holy, consecrated and anointed service’ unto God.  That my friend is no small thing.

Beth talked about how the reference to Aaron would remind the Israelites, not only of their anointing as the people of God but also of how their disobedience led to the dis-unity/splitting of the kingdom and scattering of the people.  She then brings that back around to us:

“The tragic division into two kingdoms also resulted in loss of identity.  The reason the people ultimately took on the name “Judah-ites” (shortened to “Jews”) is because the tribe of Judah alone retained a measure of its unity.  We may shake our heads and think what a pity before the reality hits us that Christians split into much more than half.  We have literally splintered into every conceivable twisted branch (denomination) of one family tree.  I’m not just referring to denominations. I’m talking about divisive, unloving, arrogant attitudes rising up from among blood-bought, grace-taught siblings!”

Eugene Peterson points out: “The first story in the bible about brothers living together is the story of Cain and Abel. And it is a murder story. Significantly their fight was a ‘religious fight’, a quarrel over which of them God loved best. That is the root of our disunity in the body of Christ today. At the heart of our debates and in-fighting is our attempt to prove that God loves us–approves of us–more than our sibling(s).

James makes it clear in chapter 3 vs 16: “For wherever there is jealousy (envy) and contention (rivalry and selfish ambition), there will also be confusion (unrest, disharmony, rebellion) and all sorts of evil and vile practices. 

No wonder we aren’t converting more lost people to Christ.  We are too busy fighting amongst ourselves!  All this “my denomination is better than your denomination”; and “my church/pastor/ministry/group is better/more powerful/more anointed/ more Godly than your church/pastor/ministry/group”—is nothing more than a rebellious result of disobedience.  We then find the division and competition of church ‘cliques’ which ultimately breed a ‘gang’ mentality if you will. Where this type of environment is bred, you must look to see what is it that is flowing down from the head.  If the”head” is in sin or ministering in the flesh and in power and control, then that is what will flow down the garment to the body.

psalm1332

Leadership is never about position, title or prestige and (God help us) in this age of social media, it SURELY isn’t about how many likes and followers you have or how much ‘hoop and holla’ your status can get. Leadership in God is about consecration, sanctification and holy service. It is about accountability to God and responsibility for the people.

When we see jealousy, envy, rivalry and selfish ambition (works of the flesh) rampant in the body (church), then it is a sure indication that the wisdom that is ‘flowing down’ among the body is not heavenly but rather born of the flesh. This means, that somewhere along the line, the will of man has replaced the will of God.

James goes on to say in verse 18: But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere. Peacemakers who sow in peace reap a harvest of righteousness.”

Did you see that? The wisdom that comes from heaven is ‘first of all’ pure. If the wisdom is not ‘pure’ (undefiled, uncontaminated, holy) then the rest (peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere) cannot follow.  The purity comes first. THEN peace-loving.

We’re trying to achieve unity without first achieving purity.

Not some type of legalistic list of do’s and dont’s but rather a circumcision of the heart. A purification and sanctification and consecration and submission to God’s ways and Word. And this cannot be accomplished in our power and might but only by the enabling grace of the Holy Spirit as we surrender our will to His.

Don’t be fooled into thinking that God seeks unity for unity’s sake. The people of Babel tried it and God struck them, confounded them and scattered them. God told them to go out and fill the earth but they decided they wanted to build their own empire and convinced everyone not to move but to stay and build this one great tower. Their goal? To reach the heavens (be godlike). For all their ‘unity’, they were actually in rebellion to God.

Remember, man builds empires. God builds the Kingdom and He has sent us to all the earth to preach HIS Gospel.

The Dew of Hermon

The second symbol used by David may be less familiar to us, but it is no less important.

Psalm 133:3, now compares the unity of the brethren to the dew that descends on Mount Hermon.
Mount Hermon is the tallest mountain in Israel, and it is at the far north of the modern day nation of Israel, alongside its border with Syria in the Golan Heights. Even today, the dew that falls on this mountain is greatly important to the nation of Israel.

There are three springs of water on Mount Hermon that form from the Jordan River. All of Israel’s water supply depends on this Mountain, which is also called Mount of Consecration.  The reason why this dew is so important is because the source of the Jordan River, whose water is essential for the life of the people of Israel, the West Bank and Jordan (all of which are exceedingly dry lands) primarily comes from the snowmelt and ‘dew’ of that one mountain. Without rain falling on that mountain, these areas of the Middle East suffer tremendous droughts. If the water stops, the entire region suffers a drought. Same in the church.  If the water is not flowing, there is a dryness in the land. The water is sustenance. It births life. It maintains life. It is a life source.

let-the-river-flow

Conflicts over the Jordan River have occured since inhabitants moved to the area in ancient times. The recent conflict between Jordan and Israel dates back to the establishment of the State of Israel in 1948, which was followed by the Israeli War of Independence. The next important point in the conflict is the 1967 Six-Day War between Israel and Jordan (Egypt and Syria). The conflict officialy ended with the Peace treaty between the two parties on October 26, 1994.
A lack of union means a lack of water for both sides, and without water–none can live.

From a spiritual point of view, Mount Hermon represents the Lord Jesus Christ and His Church.  The spiritual life of God’s children depends on the ‘springs of water flowing down the sacred mountain (the church)’. Without the Living Waters of the Spirit of God flowing down from the Head, we can not hope to sustain the supernatural life needed for the Kingdom. The reason so many are still in bondage is because the ‘life’ is not flowing down the mountain.

What then can we say of all this?

Could it be that the reason there is so much disunity in the body is because the oil and water have been plugged up? Blocked and cut off by carnality and a lack of fire on the altar which has allowed a spirit of entertainment and unholiness on the pulpit? Until we come before Him as priests, holy and consecrated unto God for service, lifting up an acceptable sacrifice, the fire will not, cannot consume it. Without consumption of the sacrifice, it remains alive and well as flesh– and we know that, in the flesh there is no. good. thing.

holiness-title-slide

If we want unity, we’ve got to start with purity. And to achieve that, we’ve got to let the fire of God consume the flesh. When the ‘sacrifice’ is consumed, the wells will unplug, the rivers will rise and the water and oil (anointing) can flow.

THEN, it can be said of us as David said in Psalm 133:1:
“How good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity….and THERE the LORD instructs, commands, determines, imposes His blessing and gives life forevermore!

Welcome to Week Six/Day Two: “Blessings from Zion…A United Family of Man”

Welcome to Day Two: A United Family in Man

Today’s Treasure:
“Oh how good and pleasant it is when brothers can live together!” – Psalm 133:1

psalm133-1

I don’t think there is any family out there, mine included, that hasn’t experienced disharmony and disunity, fights, wars and family feuds.  Some families have experienced them more than others. And for others, some wars were just a bit too damaging and long lasting.

As we begin to wind down our Summer through the Psalms of Ascent, I imagine that there were some pretty heated family fights going on for the traveling Jews on their pilgrimage. I highly doubt that all their days and nights were spent singing and laughing and worshipping.  There were probably some days where they all but ‘choked’ each other as the journey, the travel, the heat, the weariness caused the cousins to get on each other’s last nerve! lol. I imagine that as we read through these psalms, and read of their travels and pilgrimage, we pictured family love and togetherness that looked like this:

Beaver_4

And if truth be told, our family road trips REALLY look more like this:

Are-We-There-Yetsimpson

Hey, have you ever heard of a road trip with family that didn’t involve at least one shout and scream??  Mommy, he’s taking up all the space. Sissy, will you please lower your headphones! Honey, I think you missed the turn back there. Mommmmyyy…Uncle Louie’s snoring in my ear!!! Girls, If I hear, ‘are we there yet’ one more time, why I’ll… Need I say more??

“We don’t appreciate how “good and pleasant it is” when family members live together in unity until we’ve encountered how negative and unpleasant it is when they don’t…never forget that the psalms are for real people . . .” – Beth Moore

Just picture it. The Jews had been traveling in close quarters with each other on the journey to Jerusalem.  Then, once they got there, they would most probably have been crammed together in a small tent (or tabernacle) for the entire week-long feast.  Then, when it was over, they would be traveling back to their hometown again.

I love my family to pieces, but I desperately need my alone time and my space to “wind down.”  I know, even I would be frustrated with those around me by the time the journey was over! Tired of being cooped up, short-tempered, quick to take offense no matter what is said.  Tired, cranky, weary and prone to mood swings based on what direction the wind is blowing.

Yet, Beth reminds us that, “Psalm 133 extols the virtues of family unity, not because it comes easily, but because when it does come, it is delightful.” It’s a reminder to take a deep breath and be thankful for our families (God love ‘em) and do what we can to keep the peace whenever possible.

She points out that one of the things that makes this kind of unity difficult to achieve is the fact that family is ordinarily acquired rather than chosen.  This means that we don’t have a choice in the people we’re related. People we might otherwise have no reason to have a relationship with – people we may not have anything in common with – or people with whom our personalities conflict.  There are people in my extended family that I love dearly, but I absolutely cannot tolerate being around for too long.  People that I can only tolerate in small doses. I am going to quote Beth rather lengthily here because what she says is so incredibly true:

We form most friendships out of personal preferences, but we’re not automatically the better for it. . . .  Many of us have distanced ourselves from extended family because we’ve replaced them with people we prefer. . . . Family can be more troublesome than casual friendships, and the fear that we might share similarities with some of our members also carries an indictment too strong to face on a regular basis.

. . . besides, we can drop friends more easily when the relationship becomes inconvenient. . . . However, God chose our family even if we didn’t.  Even the challenges they pose can be effective motivation to seek His throne, His help, and His healing in other words deal with our stuff!  After all, where would our prayer lives be without family?  (LoL) Furthermore, if we only choose to be around those who require virtually nothing hard from us, what will prompt us (force us) or ‘stretch us’ to change?family1

As a pastor and women’s counselor, I work with women who have suffered deep hurts from the very ones called family. It grieves my heart because many of the relationships are broken, damaged, or have long abusive histories. I imagine that today’s lesson may touch a deep painful chord. For those who are  unable to share in the joy of family unity because, quite frankly, its family that are the cause of rejection, abuse, betrayal and pain.

Some may see my loving family relationships and feel that I have no idea of what they’re going through or that I can’t really relate to family drama. But– like Beth, the reason I cherish my family relationships today is because of the pain and suffering and hurt and past damage that we’ve gone through.

I have a rather small nuclear family. My dad died when we were just kids and its been just mom and us three siblings, so we’re pretty close knit.  Yet, even in our family, we have experienced years of unforgiveness, separation, misery and hurt.  But maybe…if we had not had to suffer this pain and division, our reconciliation and reunion may not have been as sweet. We would not be as appreciative and loving and, yes, even tolerant of our differences and quirks as we are now.

family

Today, with our one and only beloved brother now having his home in heaven, my sister and I surely love and appreciate one another more than ever before in our life. We may not see each other or even visit on a regular basis. And yes, we can probably get on each other’s nerve if we ‘hang’ long enough, but we have come to love each other with a deep awareness of just how fortunate we are to have one another. Death has a way of doing that you know. Putting everything in perspective. It gives you a wake up call–knowing that tomorrow is not promised and that life and love and family are precious, precious gifts indeed.

big things

Learning to endure hardship and inconvenience with people is critical to the process of becoming a whole person.  When all is said and done, some of the people we needed most to fulfill God’s plan for our personal lives will be those we tolerate the least.  I wonder, if your brother, sister, mother, father were to pass on…would that offense really be worth not having spoken to them for years? Don’t wait til it’s too late to find out. Let today be the day you reconcile.

Joseph had the opportunity to destroy but he knew that if it had not been for the Lord, he would have been lost long ago. He chose to do good and was rewarded with a tearful and grateful family reunion instead. . . what Satan and others mean for evil in our lives, God wouldn’t have allowed, unless it could be used for good and for the delivering of lives.

As I close this post, I’d like to speak on a more serious note to those of you who may have no ‘hope’ of reconciling with family. Maybe, they’re gone or have passed away. Maybe, your mom or dad or spouse is such that they are entrenched in their cruel or cold ways and simply will not change. To you I say: “What was done does not have to be what shall be”.

If you know the Lord and have His love and spirit dwelling in your heart, then you have the power to break the cycle and change the future and destiny of those whom you influence. Whether that’s your own children, or your nieces or nephews or your neighbors and their children. It’s because you know the pain of not having loving family members, that you now know the ‘value’ of having ones who are. You can ‘be’ that which you wish you had.

Or, maybe you were the cruel and abusive parent and may have some unforgiving children who have alienated themselves from you. Maybe you are living through some of the damage that your past behaviors have caused in your adult children. If you have grandchildren, and are given the opportunity, then this is your “God chance” to do it right this time around.

My prayer for you today is that God would bring healing in your life and the lives of your loved ones that you may come to know how good and pleasant it is when loved ones live in harmony.

Welcome to Week Six/Day One: “Blessings from Zion…God talks back”

Welcome to Week Six/Day One: God Talks Back
Today’s Treasure:
“There I will make a horn grow for David; I have prepared a lamp for My anointed one.” – Psalm 132:17
steppingupweek6day1
Divine promise of the Messiah (vv. 11-12)
In the first section of Psalm 132, David had been concerned about building a house for the Lord; in the second section, the LORD promises to build a house for David! In verses 11 and 12, the author refers to what is called the Davidic covenant (2 Sam 7) in which the Lord promised David that one of his sons would sit on his throne, and that his line would continue as long as they were faithful to God.
While there are elements of this covenant that apply to Solomon and later kings, the main emphasis of this scripture is its reference to the Messiah who would come from the line of David. There are many prophecies given in the Old Testament about this descendant of David and when we come to the New Testament we see the covenant fulfilled in Jesus.  For example, there are the words of Gabriel to Mary in Luke 1:31-33:
And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.’So Jesus is the fulfillment of what is described in the psalm.
One of the most spectacular elements of Psalm 132 is how God’s answers exceeded the psalmist’s petition. That’s exactly what we see here in these Messianic prophecies. God appears to thoroughly enjoy doing “immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine” (Eph. 3:20)
eph3201
How many times hasn’t God answered our prayers ‘above and beyond’? Too often, we don’t recognize His answers because we tend to interpret according to our finite minds. But, as Beth writes: “our finite minds simply cannot grasp God’s infinite ways of answering prayer.”  His ways are not our ways and His thoughts are so much higher than our thoughts. (Isaiah 55)

In verses 13-16, the author describes the Lord’s response to the prayer that was made in verses 7-9. Each of the requests in that prayer are answered.

As with other similar Old Testament passages we have to read this psalm with New Testament eyes.
New Testament Zion is not a geographical location in modern-day Israel, rather it describes the church of God (Heb. 12:22-24). The Lord says that He will rest content in Zion, and that He will rest there for ever (Zion was the hill on which the temple was built). There He will supply the needs of His people, whom He calls the poor members of Zion (her poor). These needs are not primarily material but spiritual. True believers who worship God will be clothed with His righteousness and will praise Him with gladness.

psalm132ziondwelling1
The author mentions that the Lord chose it for His dwelling place. Originally Zion was a Canaanite location. It illustrates the sinful background of the members of the church. Yet in His wonderful mercy the Lord chose to dwell there. It was an act of grace for the Lord to dwell on the ark in a place which had known pagan inhabitants, but it is a far greater act of grace for Him to choose to dwell in the hearts of those who once were rebels against him.
Ephesians 3:20 is most expressly revealed in Christ Himself.

The Israelites prayed for a deliverer. They prayed for God to dwell among them. David longed to build a ‘temple’ where God’s Presence can dwell. He prayed for God’s peace and His face to shine upon them. And so…God answered that prayer. God did ‘exceedingly, abundantly, above and beyond all they could ever hope for or imagine. He sent His Son, Jesus Christ.  Sometimes, when God says no, He actually says yes. When God doesn’t give you good, it’s because He wants to give you great. But, because we are expecting the answer to look like an ‘ark’, like it did in the past, like it does with the answers of others, we completely overlook the manger that carries our mightythings1promise and prayer. We disregard the ‘little thing’ and the lowly thing for the big crown—the great event.
Look around you.
Stop and consider what God may be telling you and showing you.
Could it be that the ‘rod’ in your hand is the seed of the very thing God spoke to you?
We have to learn to see with God’s eyes and not despise the day of small beginnings.  Micah 5:2 foretells the birthplace of Christ: “Bethlehem Ephrathah, you are ‘small’ among the clans of Judah; One will come from you to be ruler over Israel for Me. His origin is from antiquity, from eternity.”Luke 2:15 shows the shepherds heard from a great company of angels that the Christ child had been born. Far exceeding the ark, the body of Jesus was the sacred vessel, the One and only “Word made flesh” where God revealed His utmost glory. The Jews were constantly looking for a natural king to become their deliverer. A king with power and might and riches and authority to overrule and overtake all their oppressors. So much so that the night that Christ was born, Jerusalem slept and literally had no room for their King. Jesus was their ‘ark’, their deliverer, their King…but because He was not ‘packaged’ as they expected or desired…they rejected Him and missed it.
Charles Spurgeon writes: ‘It is a double marvel, that the Lord should choose and desire such poor creatures as we are: the indwelling of the Holy Ghost in believers is a wonder of grace parallel to the incarnation of the Son of God. God dwelling in the believer (in His church) is the wonder of heaven, the miracle of eternity, the glory of infinite love.’ 
May we never lose our Wonder…
Don’t overlook the small. The small has seed of greatness. Don’t box God in. His promises are yea and amen. If He spoke it, He SHALL fulfill it. Ask Him today, to give you eyes to see ‘the seed’ and make room for His greatness.

In the Old Testament temple, only a few were priests. In the church, which is the permanent temple of God, we are Royal Priests and a Chosen Generation. His servants are given the garments of salvation and this causes them to sing for joy.
In verses 17 and 18, the Lord answers the prayer of verse 10.
Whatever fulfilment there was in the reigns of David’s successors or in the governorship of Zerubbabbel and others, the ultimate fulfilment is seen in the Lord’s anointed, Jesus Christ. God says about His Messiah that His kingdom will grow permanently (horn will sprout) and His light will shine permanently.
The reference to a horn seems to be taken from the horns of a stag that, as they grow, point to its increasing nobility and strength. It may be the imagery in the reference to Psalm 22:1 ( ah·yeh’·leth אילת) where Jesus is likened to a hind being pursued by wild animals. But we can say that the Hind had become a noble and powerful Stag, possessing authority that is universal, power that cannot be reduced, and a future that is marked by great glory.
Verse 18 details that those who oppose the Lord’s anointed will be clothed with shame. The enemies of God and their opposition will not prevent His crown from flourishing. Understand that neither can that opposition ‘prosper’ against you and me as children of God. Despite the resistance, we will flourish for HE is our Crown of Splendor.
“I’ll dress my priests in salvation clothes; the holy people will sing their hearts out!
Oh, I’ll make the place radiant for David! I’ll fill it with light for my anointed!
I’ll dress his enemies in dirty rags, but I’ll make his crown sparkle with splendor.”
– Psalm 132:16 (Msg)
Beth closes today’s lesson with these words:“As the ancient people of God made their arduous journeys to Jerusalem after sin and exile, they sang this song (psalm 132) with hearts in their throats, fearing their disobedience had deferred their hope forever. Then when they least expected it…the angel said to them (the shepherds) “Don’t be afraid, for look, I proclaim to you good news of great joy that will be for all the people; today a Savior, who is Messiah the LORD, was born for you in the city of David.”  (Luke 2:4-11)
Personal Question:
What kind of impact do these fulfillments have on you personally?Pilgrim sing your heart out! The King is born. The King is here!

Welcome to Week Five/Day Five: My Hope is in the Lord…At His Footstool”

Today’s Treasure:
“Let us go to His dwelling place; let us worship at His footstool.” – Psalm 132:7
psalm132171
Psalm 132: A Pilgrim Song

1-5 God, remember David, remember all his troubles!
And remember how he promised God, made a vow to the Strong God of Jacob,
“I’m not going home, and I’m not going to bed, I’m not going to sleep, not even take time to rest,
Until I find a home for Goda house for the Strong God of Jacob.”

6-7 Remember how we got the news in Ephrathah, learned all about it at Jaar Meadows?
We shouted, “Let’s go to the shrine dedication! Let’s worship at God’s own footstool!”

8-10 Up, God, enjoy your new place of quiet repose, you and your mighty covenant ark;
Get your priests all dressed up in justice; prompt your worshipers to sing this prayer:
“Honor your servant David; don’t disdain your anointed one.”

Psalm 132:1-10 recalls the fire in David’s soul to have the ark of the covenant in the city of Jerusalem.

The history of the ark began following the exodus of God’s people from Egypt. The Israelites built the ark and carried it according to sacred instructions through the wilderness on their 40-year trek to Canaan. After they crossed the Jordan and entered the promised land, the ark was placed in Shiloh (Josh. 18:1).Kohath-02

Over the years there was a sad decline in Israel’s spiritual life. Religion became more of a form than a reality, but the nation hung on to its traditions believing that its outward ceremonies would take the place of a meaningful relationship with God. Of course God, although long-suffering, would have none of it, and allowed the nation’s enemies, the Philistines, to punish them in battle.  During the era of the judges, the ark was transported to Bethel (Judges 20:26-27) but by the opening pages of 1 Samuel, it rested in Shiloh once again. There at Shiloh the unthinkable happened. After defeating the Israelites, the Philistines captured the ark.  The losing of the Ark of the Covenant was one of the deepest blows that had ever fallen upon the nation of Israel.  The “Loss of Ark” resulted in the Loss of Power for the nation of Israel.

The loss of God’s power is one of the worst things that can happen to a person, a church, or a nation.
Oh, how very much that describes the state of the general church today. Our entertainment filled programs have replaced the meaningful relationship with God. It is no wonder that God has allowed the nation’s enemies to come against us.

The Israelites wanted the power of the Ark but were no longer interested in the God of the Ark.  They thought they could manipulate God to fight on their side simply because they had the ark. Their scheme of using the ark as a kind of lucky charm didn’t work and the ark was captured. Can you imagine the Power of God being captured by the Enemy of God???
Can you imagine God’s people without His presence for 100 years???

I believe a large portion of the Western Church has lost the power and presence of God from their lives. Why?
Because people have learned how to have church without power. Preachers have learned how to preach without the power of God. Some, like Samson, have lost the power of God and don’t even know it. It is a very scary place to be when the Glory of God is gone and you are too blinded to notice or worse, your heart is too hardened to care.

After conquering Jerusalem and establishing it as the capital of God’s people, David rightly called for the ark to be brought to the city. No wonder God referred to him as a man after His own heart! David wanted God’s presence more than he wanted his next breath. He was jealous for the glory and worship of God and for sacred things to find their sacred places.

David’s motive for transporting the ark the was both pure and right. His means, however, was tragically unscriptural. He made the grievous mistake of not pouring over the scriptures for the proper handling and transport of earth’s most sacred vessel.

uzzahIn 2 Samuel, chapter 6, we see David experience the terror of God’s judgment that was presumed could only come upon the enemies of God. In David’s excitement about returning the Ark back to the people of God he allowed his enthusiasm to run away with him. David built a new cart like the Philistines used to move the Ark of God. His motive was good, but his method was all wrong. When it comes to the things of God, the ends never justifies the means. David arose to bring up the ark of God but it was not being transported as God commanded. It was placed on a cart, the same way the Philistines had carried it off after their victory over the Israelites. As Uzzah the Kohathite steadied the ark with his hand and instantly fell dead.

How is it that God’s people die and yet the enemies of God did not? One thing is for sure, we cannot presume to get away with what the world does. Because we know better, we are held accountable for what we know. Too many times we want to ‘help God’, but God doesn’t need our help. He requires our obedience.

Uzzah died by the ark. This is not an extreme act of God’s justice. This is God’s holiness encountered. Uzzah treated the ark just as Saul had treated the anointing…presumptuously, as commonplace & ordinary rather than holy.

aesop-author-quote-familiarity-breeds
“Familiarity breeds contempt”.
Never ever get so familiar with the anointing that you treat it haphazardly. Not only is it spiritually deadly, but you will find yourself unable to receive God’s blessings and miracles.

God’s instructions toward the Ark were clear:

It had to by carried only by the priests. It had to come with blood sacrifices. Six paces then sacrifice, following the pattern of God in creation. Six days of work, then worship of resting admiring the sacrifice. The ark had to come with holy reverence.

The Ark was a shadow and fore type of Christ. There could be no deviation from the instructions and pattern God gave for it.

The wooden poles from which it ‘hung’ on the shoulders of the ‘priests’ represented the ‘tree’ from which our High Priest would hang as the sacrificial lamb of God.

So often we want to do things our way and still have God ‘bless’ it.
But God is not obligated to bless what He hasn’t ‘authored’. If we want to carry His Presence, we must do things His way and as He requires. And so David seeks to once again bring the Presence of God back to dwell among His people. Here we see that although he ‘messed up’ big time, David’s heart longed for God enough to approach God again….this time, however, he was doing it “God’s way”. (I Chronicles 15)

“After David built houses for himself in the City of David, he cleared a place for the Chest and pitched a tent for it. Then David gave orders: “No one carries the Chest of God except the Levites; God designated them and them only to carry the Chest of God and be available full time for service in the work of worship.” – I Chronicles 15: 1-2  

“Then David called in Zadok and Abiathar the priests, and Uriel, Asaiah, Joel, Shemaiah, Eliel, and Amminadab the Levites. He said, “You are responsible for the Levitical families; now consecrate yourselves, both you and your relatives, and bring up the Chest of the God of Israel to the place I have set aside for it. The first time we did this, you Levites did not carry it properly, and God exploded in anger at us because we didn’t make proper preparation and follow instructions.” – I Chronicles 15: 11-13
https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=I+Chronicles+15&version=MSG

Beth wraps up today’s lesson by paraphrasing David’s reaction this way:
“I can’t explain what happened, Lord, as I’ve had this fearful reminder of Your inconceivable holiness and power. But this I know: I cannot live without your presence. You are everything to me. You are worthy of my praise, Lord. Worth everything I have to do to adjust and alter my life to draw close to You. Giving up nearness to You is out of the question. Knowing You is what I live for. You are my love, my light, my salvation. I will do anything to make my way to You, and I will move anything that slows Your way to me. Teach me Your ways, O Lord. Clear the path. Arise my God and come to me…

psalm132moreprecious

God cannot abide near you without blessing you. Call for Him. Somewhere in the heavenlies, the music is playing, and it’s time for you to dance as David danced!

Welcome to Week Five/Day Four: “My Hope is in the Lord…Like a Weaned Child”

Today’s Treasure:
“Instead, I have calmed and quieted myself like a little weaned child with its mother; I am like a little child.” – Psalm 131:2

psalm-131-1024x791(Editor’s note: Today’s blog post is an excerpt taken directly from our “Stepping Up” workbook by Beth Moore).

Today is our second and final day to spend on the concise but rich words of Psalm 131.
Eugene Peterson’s comments on our psalm bridge day three’s lesson to todays:

“But if we are not to be proud, clamorous arrogant persons, what are we to be?
Mousy, cringing, insecure ones? Well, not quite. Having realized the dangers of pride, the sin of thinking too much of ourselves, we are suddenly in danger of another mistake–thinking too little of ourselves. There are some who conclude that since the great Christian temptation is to try to be everything, the perfect Christian solution is to be nothing. And so we have the problem of the doormat Christian and the dishrag saint: the person upon whom everyone walks and wipes their feet, the person who is used by others to clean up the mess of everyday living and then is discarded. These people then compensate for their everyday life dreaming of luxuries in heaven. 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.”

We don’t cure arrogance by becoming ‘victims’. In a misguided attempt to be humble, we run the risk of not only becoming casualties of strong-willed people, but of developing an even more toxic mind-set. We can come to see ourselves as perpetual victims.calmmysoul

The same psalm that teaches us not to occupy ourselves with questions too big for us also uses the metaphor of a content toddler resting on his mother to illustrate a quieted soul. God’s goal is not children scared into silence but those who trust their parent even with questions unanswered. The ‘quieted one’ in Psalm 131 has not been terrified into silence.

We are not the victims of God but the ‘cherished children’ of God.

Probably every mother would be deeply touched that. Of all metaphors, God chose the one of a weaned child with his mother. God often likens His care to a parent and sometimes as a mother to teach us that though He is but one parent, and He is Father, He is everything we need. One of God’s names is “El Shaddai”, in Hebrew meaning “the all breasted one” which refers to His all-sufficiency.

According to the Word Biblical Commentary, “Weaning from breast feeding took place around the age of three.”
Is anything a bigger handful than a 3 year old? When was the last time you tried taking every step one of them took? Weren’t you exhausted? And yet, when they’ve worn themselves out and the day is done, they’ve had their baths and squirmed into their jammies, hair still damp and smelling so good, they finally give up the fight and fall sound asleep…safe in their mommy’s arms. Tomorrow there will be more battles to fight, but for now the child lets down his guard, lets his parent be in charge, and surrenders every care in the world.

The older I get, the more I like thinking of myself as God’s child.abba
Life gets so hard at times and the burdens so heavy.
I occasionally feel 100 years old.
You too?

We will always be God’s child. “Like toddlers who soon run out of their own limited resources and gladly submit to being carried, we find God to be the One on whom we can depend to bring us to our destined goal, and one who already in Christ gives us ‘rest for our souls’.

 

 

Welcome to Week Five/Day Three: “My Hope is in the Lord…Things Too Great”

Welcome to Week Five/Day Three

Today’s Treasure:
“Lord, my heart is not proud; my eyes are not haughty.
I do not get involved with things too great or too difficult for me.” – Psalm 131:1
Psalm-131

Today, we explore pride and arrogance from a biblical perspective.

Psalm 131 calls us to a recognition that pride is often a stumbling block in our ascent to the next level of relationship with the Lord. Why is God so opposed to arrogance and pride in our lives? Perhaps because arrogance and pride are a focus on ourselves rather than on God. Perhaps because arrogance and pride can become a habitual behavior and attitude in our lives. Perhaps because arrogance and pride are barriers to having compassion for other human beings.

 

psalm131humilitybeautifulPride and arrogance breed a sense of entitlement and superiority and devalues others. Most importantly, it causes blindness. Blindness to our own susceptibility to it. They are sneaky little suckers. Easily recognizable in others….but somehow not so evident in us.

psalm131thinlineSimply put pride and arrogance are idolatry. Idolatry of self.  Thou shalt have no other gods before me…not even yourself.
Can you think of fruit of pride/arrogance that has been evident in your life? You can usually recognize it by its destructive crop.  Beth shares it this way: “Every one of us, until life pummels us into knowing better is drawn to things that feed our flesh and make us feel smart.”

Then the Lord answered Job from the whirlwind. He said:
Who is this who obscures My counsel with ignorant words? – Job 38:1-2.  Oh, what a way God has of bringing us off our high horses!
And here we thought we ‘knew it all’.

Humility, on the other hand, brings our minds into a place where we are not the focus. Instead, we can focus on others and develop a servant attitude. What would our lives be like if we made a habit out of humility?

Walking softly, understanding and respecting the frailty of life and the greatness of God.

“…Humility is the truest sign of intimacy and surrender to God…Like little else, a humble spirit says we really do ‘get it’. – Beth Moore

Recently there was a week that felt overwhelming in the amount of things that were happening and things that needed to be done. And so I did what I have learned through the years to do at times like this: I spent the first two hours of that Monday morning completely off social media and completely in prayer.  God used this time to refocus my eyes on Him and quiet my soul. By the end of the week, when some things were not done, I had this overwhelming peace that the things that had to get done that week had been accomplished and some of them in miraculous ways that only God could do.

Trials and hardships are funny that way. They have a way of turning your weakness into God’s strength.  They have a way of humbling us and reminding us that we are not God and we cannot do it on our own power or strength.

I no longer need or desire to know every detail and long-term plan. For someone with a type A personality and the self-sufficiency of ‘getting things done’, that is no small feat.  Intimacy with and surrender to God does that to you, though. It develops in us a humble trust in God for and in all things. When I feel myself drifting from the calm and quiet self to the grasping, anxious, unsettled self, I return to scripture, prayer, worship, and extended times of silence in God’s presence to refocus my eyes on Him and his ways.

Yet, there are those moments and circumstances that simply ‘don’t make sense’. Senseless killings, extreme injustices, unexpected betrayals, untimely deaths that kick us in the gut and take our breath, our trust and sometimes our very faith away. Good guys die and bad guys become famous.  Where are you God? Why did this happen? Why did You let this happen? What good could possibly come from this?….

“The hidden things belong to the Lord our God, but the revealed things belong to us and our children forever, so that we may follow all the words of this law.” – Deuteronomy 29:29

psalm131serenity

The mysteries and puzzles of life can be overpowering and perplexing. There are a great many matters in life that are are simply too great a matter for me to understand. Things that my heart and mind, of their own strength, simply cannot fathom, accept or make sense of.  And in all these, we must learn to truly let go and let God. Trusting in our Heavenly Father who truly does know best because He knows the end from the beginning. His plans for us really are to ‘prosper us and NOT to harm us and to bring us to a good end.

Questions for reflection:

  • Where do I need to let go and trust God for results?
  • Where am I anxious?
  • Where do I need to turn from anxiety to trust in God?
  • Where have I seen God meet needs I could not?
  • How might I live with more trust?

Beth reminds us through scripture verses that God carries us, He births us, He upholds us from the time we are born, He nourishes us, and He comforts us.

 “The older I get, the more I like thinking of myself as God’s child.”  – Beth Moore

Remember yourself as His child, Daughter of the King.Abba-Father
The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship. And by him we cry, “Abba, Father.” Romans 8:15

Principal Question
What are the top three reasons why you think God hates arrogance based primarily on the fruit of it in your own life?

Personal Question:
How do  you deal with questions that seem to have no answers?
If you deal with them poorly, say so. An honest appraisal is always best. If you’ve found a good way to deal with them, share it.

Welcome to Week Five/Day One: “My Hope is in the Lord…If You Kept a Record”

Welcome to Week Five: “My Hope is in the Lord”
Today’s Theme: “If You Kept A Record…”

Today’s Treasure:
“If you kept a record of all our sins, O LORD, who would be able to stand?”

What a question! Can you imagine where you would be right now if God kept a running record of ALL your sins?
Just the very thought of it makes us shake our head in humble gratitude. Probably because, for most of us, we know all too well, from where God has brought us from. We know the depth of our darkness and the wickedness of our ways.

Psalm 130
1 O Yahweh, out of the depths I call to you.

Adonai, hear my voice.psalm 130
    Let your ears be open to my pleas for mercy.
Yahweh, who would be able to stand
    if you kept a record of sins?
But with You, there is forgiveness
    so that You can be feared.
I wait for Yahweh, my soul waits,
    and with hope I wait for His word.
My soul waits for Adonai
    more than those who watch for the morning.
O Israel, put your hope in Yahweh,
    because with Yahweh there is mercy
        and with Him there is unlimited forgiveness.
            He will rescue Israel from all its sins.

“…Out of the depths, I call out to You….”

Don’t you find that we are more often likely to cry out to God when we are laid low than when everything is great and we seem to be living on the mountain top?

Don’t ever be sorry for that, because that is exactly what we should do when surrounded by obstacles that seem to crush us lower and lower. Psalm 130 is one of the most encouraging and compelling Psalms regarding our true condition before God and the perfectly beautiful redemption that He alone provides. For a former pit dweller like me, this IS Good News!

It’s when God meets us in the pit, where there really is no other help available. When no one else has the power and love to pull us out from the depths of that darkness that we come to encounter the Goodness of God’s love and redemption. It’s there that we say as Peter did, Do not look at me Lord for I am unclean and we find His response….”I have loved you with an everlasting love”

“Yahweh appeared to me in a faraway place and said,
“I love you with an everlasting love. So I will continue to show you my kindness.” – Jeremiah 31:3jeremiah-31-31

How can we know that God is able to hear and rescue us? Maybe your particular sin seems too deep, dark, ‘sinful’ to be forgiven. Maybe you’ve failed more than once and wonder if His mercy will still be extended. It’s in moments like these that it becomes so important to ‘know God by name’.

timthumb

If you look at verses 1 and 2, you’ll notice that God is referred to by two different names: Yahweh and Adonai. This is significant when you learn and understand the meaning of each.

Yahweh is translated “Jehovah” which is the covenant name God used to invite Israel into relationship. That Yahweh is God’s covenant name is all the more significant when you realize it expresses His self-existence, I AM who I AM. The Hebrew reference that is less familiar is “Yah” (or Jah). It is the shortened form of “Yahweh” used in the Old Testament. Every time we say “Hallelujah” we are literally saying “Praise be Jah”. “JAH” is also a shortened form of Jehovah…which signifies “He Is” and can be made to correspond to I AM, just as Jehovah corresponds to the fuller expression I AM THAT I AM.  Adonai, refers to God as Master and Superior, as Sovereign Ruler over all.

Understanding the names of God brings you into a deeper awareness of Who He is, how Supreme He is and how all-encompassing is His Sovereignty. To express that our hope is upon the LORD, “my God, my promise-making, promise-keeping God reassures me of His Faithfulness and Goodness. Declaring Him to be ADONAI, Sovereign and Supreme Master over all sobers me into remembering that HE is Holy and Mighty. It also serves to reminds me of His complete ability to do all that HE has said He would do.

With a Hope like that, we fall to our knees in thanksgiving to give HIM all the Glory and Honor and Praise for Who HE is and What He has done. We come with a grateful heart knowing that…Had it not been for His Everlasting Lovingkindness, Mercy and Grace, we could not stand. repentant woman

Today, as you consider that love and forgiveness, can you think of someone who needs the same measure of grace?  Could you, or someone you know use the reminder that we’ve all sinned and fallen short of the Glory and yet, are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus (Romans 3:23,24).

Won’t you share this psalm with them and lead them to the fountain of Grace….the same well of living water that not only washed, cleansed and forgave your sins but also quenches your thirst in this dry and weary land.

 

Welcome to Week Five/Day Two: “My Hope Is In The Lord…Full Redemption”

Welcome to Week Five/Day Two: Full Redemption

Today’s Treasure:
“O, Israel, put your hope in the Lord,
for with the Lord is unfailing love and with Him is full redemption.” – Psalm 130:7

psalm_1305waitforthelord

The message of the Gospel to everyone is: Hope in the Lord! For with the Lord there is steadfast love, and with Him is plentiful redemption. You and I could never, in our humanness understand such love, but Oh, I am so incredibly grateful to God for the complete redemption He provides, and the daily help to get through the circumstances of life.

The fact that God forgives and restores is what fuels the psalmist’s hope.  In verses 5 and 6, he writes:waitexpectantly

“I am waiting (counting) on the LORD…I have put my hope in His word. I long for the Lord more than watchmen long for the dawn”

Let’s take a look at that for a moment. Beth paints the following picture of a watchman for us:

….Perched on a city wall, the ancient watchman of Israel served the original ‘nightshift’. His post was to keep the city and alert of any impending danger or enemies near. However, on quiet nights I imagine, he hoped for nothing more closely than for the morning itself. The fate of the entire city rested on his shoulders. If he dozed or became distracted, enemy forces could overtake him. His eyes constantly searched the horizon for hints of anything unusual.

In some ways the watchman’s ears were even more important to his task, enabling him to hear what he could not see. No more beautiful night existed for the watchman than the sun raising its fiery head on the eastern horizon. The watchman could gather up his robes, store his weapons, kiss his wife good morning, and fall in the bed with the relief of a job accomplished. Some called him brave….But he knew he wasn’t so much brave as he was blessed.

Looking, listening and waiting like a watchman for the morning.
Waiting isn’t something we do very well in our culture.  Waiting the 45 seconds for the computer to boot up feels excruciating, we can’t wait to upgrade from 4G to 5G because iPhone and Instagram are taking too long, we get frustrated when someone with 16 items go ahead of us in the 15 items or less lane (and yes we counted, because we had time to waste), we yell at the traffic light because it just has to be the looongest light in the whole neighborhood!

In verses 5 and 6 we’re told to wait expectantly on the Lord.psalm-130-of-patient-faith The psalmist wasn’t just watching and waiting for morning. He was watching for the One who owned the morning. His eyes were fastened to the horizon for a glimpse of God’s presence. The Hebrew word translated “wait” (Qawah)  and hope ((Yahal) in Psalm 130 both include the indivisible element of ‘expectation‘. This is active, excited waiting.  We are supposed to be watching for the Lord excitedly…waking up excited to see Him.  Not tapping our foot, not frustrated about unanswered prayers, but hoping expectantly in the promises of His Word (v. 5).

Many times we wait but don’t really ‘expect’ much. Whether its guilt from our own sins, disbelief that we could really be forgiven, or the track record of our own past disappointments which cloud and choke out the hope that  things will really work out okay or maybe it’s that we’re just too afraid to ‘believe again and really…trust God. We don’t dare to hope because we feel just like the woman caught in adultery, when thrown at Jesus’ feet, she hung her head in shame for she knew that (by law) they were in their right to stone her. Yet when we cry out to God from our ‘miry pit’, the Champion of Heaven hears us and extends His arm to save us.  And much to our shock and surprise, just like this woman, what we receive instead is mercy and grace,  loving-kindness and plenteous redemption (v. 7).

Nothing is more critical than expectation to understand biblical hope and this psalm. Though the psalmist was convinced that his own poor decision had aggravated his plight, he placed his hope in what God’s Word said about confession and forgiveness, he sought his God, and then he fully expected God to show up in his circumstances.

To redeem is defined as “to gain or regain possession of (something) in exchange for payment; to make (something that is bad, unpleasant, etc.) better or more acceptable; to buy or pay off; clear by payment.” The Hebrew word padhah means to ransom, redeem, rescue, deliver.

Full redemption happens when God buys up or back everything that has happened to us and every sin we’ve committed. God is able to restore our identity, our purity, our ability and our sanity! He not only diffuses our pasts of all power to harm and haunt us, but He infuses it with power to help others. That is full redemption!

God promises to redeem ALL our iniquities. God longs to see us excited to see Him, excited to spend time with Him, excited to read His precious love letter to us. We wait but not like one who has no hope. We wait ‘expectantly’ as one who knows that their Redeemer lives!

 

 

 

Welcome To Week Four/Day Four: “A Fruitful Vine…They Have Not Prevailed!”

Today’s lesson is entitled: “They have not prevailed”.   Something tells me I’m going to like this one!

Today’s Treasure:
“Since my youth, they have often attacked me, but they have not prevailed against me. Often have they attacked me from my youth. Let Israel now say — “often have they attacked me from my youth, yet they have not prevailed against me.” – Psalm 129: 1-2

psalm129hopearise

Beth Moore explains the original translation of the first four verses in Psalm 129 as follows:
“The same Hebrew transliteration saran is translated “oppressed”  in the NIV, ‘attacked’ in the HCSB, “persecuted” in the NASB and “afflicted” in the ESV. Strong’s dictionary defines saran as “to be an enemy, adversary; to bind up…hamper, oppress, be in distress; vex, besiege.” The word picture illustrating oppression is a force pressing or pressuring us so far down or cramping us into such a knot that we feel too constrained to exercise our God-given rights and effectiveness.”

The psalmist recalls the oppression that Israel has endured ever since her “youth,” a reference to her formation as God’s people in Egypt: “When Israel was a child, I loved him, and out of Egypt I called my son” (Hosea 11:1). When Israel was formed, Egypt was the oppressor. Two of the three feasts that called for pilgrims to journey to Jerusalem commemorated Israel’s exodus from Egypt. Therefore, the pilgrims who would sing Psalm 129 on the way to Jerusalem would remember Israel’s bondage in Egypt.

“From the early days of nationhood, Israel had been sorely afflicted.  Their oppression in Egypt, for example, was an unforgettable chapter of servitude and suffering.  Yet the enemy never succeeded in exterminating the Jews. God’s people were always delivered from captivity.  Their survival has been one of the great miracles of history.” –William MacDonald

At first, when the Israelites settled in Egypt, the Egyptians recognized that the aliens were blessing them, especially through Joseph. But as the years passed, and as the Israelites grew in number, the Egyptians increasingly viewed the Israelites as a threat. Therefore, to keep them under his thumb, Pharaoh, the king of Egypt, afflicted the Israelites with hard labor.

The psalmist observes not only that Israel has been oppressed but also that she has been “greatly oppressed.” For example, in Egypt, Pharaoh first oppressed Israel with hard labor, then he ordered the Hebrew midwives to kill the newborn sons of Israel, and finally he ordered his subjects to gather the straw for brick making without reducing their quota. Not only was Israel greatly oppressed in Egypt, during her youth, she has been greatly oppressed up to the day of the psalmist. And if that weren’t enough, the psalmist repeats himself, twice noting that “they have greatly oppressed me from my youth.”
Why would the psalmist urge Israel to speak about her affliction?

Finding Your Voice: Speaking Up and Speaking Out
It’s important for any people, or any person, for that matter, to first honestly face what they have suffered. The tendency for so many of us, in self-preservation and in the interest of deflecting pain, is to downplay whatever suffering we have endured. There’s a word psychologists use for this: it’s called “denial.” I have found myself trying to distance myself from the suffering I have experienced by saying that it was slight in comparison to what others have suffered. On the one hand, it’s true: my suffering has been comparatively slight. But, on the other hand, if I distance myself from my suffering, I distance myself from the reality of it, and if I distance myself from reality, I distance myself from God.

Denial can be helpful for a while; in fact it’s often necessary for a while. Trauma of any sort causes the mind and emotions to retreat into a protective shocked state. Denial protects us from experiencing the pain, maybe even the horror, of what we’ve experienced before we’re ready. Yet, this particular psalm opens up by telling, then ‘re-telling’ Israel to “now say” that she has been greatly oppressed from her youth. There may have been a time in Israel’s past when she wasn’t ready to speak openly about her oppression. But it seems that time is now past.

As children, we may have gone through pain, suffering, abuse and/or other traumatic events which oppressed and hurt us deeply. At that young age, we just don’t have the capacity to understand what’s happening to us. In this way, by not fully ‘processing’ what has happened to us but going into a denial mode in order to survive, God protects us. It’s often as adults, as our cognitive faculties mature and as our experience broadens, that we then have the capacity to process what we have experienced in healthy ways.psalm129conquer

But in order to process pain in healthy ways, we not only need to face into it, we also need to “say” it, as the psalmist observes: “let Israel say . . .” In fact, saying it can help you feel it.  Words have the power to unlock feelings. You might not know what you feel, but when you search for a word to describe what you feel, and you find that word, you find and release the feeling that it represents. This is why journaling is so helpful to so many people. Writing poetry which allows us to (envision and therefore use ) or make use of imagery can be doubly powerful not only for the writer but for the reader as well.

To “say” it, you first may want to say it to yourself, then to a small circle of trusted friends, and then, maybe, in a more public setting. Sharing our stories has power to heal not only ourselves but others as well. When we face into and speak of our suffering, we not only connect with our own experience, we also connect with the experience of others. You cannot feel what another person feels; you can only feel what you feel. However, when you’ve known suffering, you can relate to the suffering of other people, and vice versa. You can effectively care for, be with, and pray for them.  It’s God’s way of making us ‘wounded healers’. It’s how he makes beauty from ashes. So, don’t downplay, minimize, or deny your suffering. Instead, feel it and verbalize it. You’ll help yourself, and you’ll help others.

That being said though, keep in mind that there is a danger to be aware of: the danger of playing the perpetual victim.

psalm129psalm18

“…but they did not prevail”.  That is a statement of triumph and of victory.

They did not Prevail: No longer a Victim but a Victor
The psalmist urges Israel to face her suffering, but he does not urge her to see herself as a victim. The psalmist, while observing that other nations have oppressed Israel, notes that “they have not gained the victory over me.” Oppression, therefore, does not necessarily equal defeat. The God of Israel is faithful to Israel, especially to deliver her from her enemies. God is faithful to deliver his people—the wicked enemies of Israel did not defeat her. You and I serve that same Faithful. No weapon forged against us shall prosper. No enemy shall prevail!

For someone who has been greatly oppressed as a child or even now as an adult, the statement that God is faithful can be a hard pill to swallow.  How can God be faithful and righteous and allow this to happen?  But He is. You may have gone through much much tragedy and trauma, but you are here. Your enemies did not prevail. The devil did not have his way completely. Just remember: GOD HAS THE LAST WORD!

However, If we’re not willing to face our demons—if we can’t find the courage to take on our fears and hurts and anger—we might as well wrap them up with a bow and give them to our children. Because they will be carrying the same thing . . . unless we are willing to do the hard work of healing. I know that may sound a bit harsh, but quite honestly, it is the truth. It is what happened to us. Someone somewhere along the ‘line’ just continued the pattern, the cycle, didn’t go through the pain of healing, didn’t pay the price to ‘get well’ and so, there we were as children.

But Maya Angelou said: “Do that which you know to do. Then, when you know better…you do better.” psalm129knowbetter
Our parents, spouses, leaders, friends, foes…they may not have done better, but we know better and the choice is ours. Jesus asked the man by the pool lying there for 38 years just one question,
“Do you want to get well?”

The question was never ‘could Jesus heal him or ‘could he get well’ but rather did he want to? Our desire will determine our destiny. Healing hurts because we have to be willing to allow God to ‘go there’ and dig stuff up and have us face things we may not want to. But know this: What God ‘touches’ God heals. He does not ‘molest’ us. He doesn’t simply grope or grab on us, touching private areas that are sensitive and delicate and hurting…as many have done in our lives. He is our Healer. And when He comes to our wounded areas, He comes with healing in His wings. It going to cost us trust, and faith and hope to allow God’s love to heal us. But the reward is a whole heart. A broken cycle. A new foundation. A new inheritance. And Love is always willing to pay the price. Love always looks ahead in order to leave a Legacy.

“The Lord, in His righteousness, uses evil for good. Therefore, as Paul puts it in Romans 8:37, we are “more than conquerors”. We don’t simply defeat that which would destroy us, we also benefit from it.
Ahh…I LOVE that! None of the fragments will be wasted. God, in his love for us, guarantees that we will emerge victorious!