Psalm 62:5-8 – Wait in silence.

For God alone, O my soul, wait in silence, for my hope is from him. He only is my rock and my salvation, my fortress; I shall not be shaken. On God rests my salvation and my glory; my mighty rock, my refuge is God. Trust in him at all times, O people; pour out your heart before him; God is a refuge for us.

selah

The term “selah” is often said to meant as a call to consider, to meditate on what has been written. And that is what I set out to do this week.

This is a Psalm of confident assurance in God and God alone. This is not the desperate reassurance or the reminding tone of last week’s verse not to fear but trust in the Lord. This is a declaration of God’s greatness, and if nothing else, a lesson for us to rest quietly in the power and wonder of God.

God is a refuge for us, not only doing battle on our behalf, but also encasing us in security. Though from our own point of view we are surrounded on every side, we fear evil and the reproach of the unbelieving public, and feel as though our skin has the edge of their spears already poised and ready to pierce, we see not the spiritual reality.

Psalm 62 rectifies the difference between our eyes and God’s eyes. David declares to all who would hear, “Don’t struggle! Don’t seek for vain glory, or trust in money or your strength!” When Isaiah says “all men are like grass”, he mirrors David in verse 9, “Those of low estate are but a breath; those of high estate are a delusion; in the balances they go up; they are together lighter than a breath.”

This may be one of the biggest perspective switches that have started to breach into my view in the last year. All this, the whole story, the whole song and dance of my time on earth, is not primarily about my relationship with God, though it is an extraordinary and inscrutable thing that he would allow such an exchange. No the story is ALL ABOUT GOD. He is glorious. He is righteous. He is powerful. He ordains and holds ALL THINGS. Not only did he create the universe, but Hebrews 1 tells us :

He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power. After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, having become as much superior to angels as the name he has inherited is more excellent than theirs.

You and I have troubles and trials sufficient to fill our minds and fill every single day. Allow yourself to be quiet for a few moments. Listen for his voice. Forget your own weakness. Tell your soul, for God alone to wait, for your only hope is in him.

Though to us it often feels as though we stand upon a precipice, with God as the rope that ties us off, David encourages us to realize that we stand upon the mighty infallible wall of God’s providence. So if you have worry, or fear, or doubt, “Trust in him at all times, O people; pour out your heart before him; God is a refuge for us.

Amen.

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Psalm 56:3-4 | What can flesh do to me?

When I am afraid, I put my trust in you. In God, whose word I praise, in God I trust; I shall not be afraid. What can flesh do to me?

In this past week the study and memorization of this passage has already proven helpful. Like all who follow after God, some days finding glory in his words and hanging and meditating on every one, being obedient, praying without ceasing, and seeing Jesus as supremely valuable are easy. But other days temptation is around every corner, my mind is altogether unable to focus on what is good and right and profitable.

I’m not someone who often fears physical harm. But what I do fear is losing focus. Coming to Jesus only when I am desperate only to find when he comforts me and gives strength to me I will grow complacent and make an idol of the closest thing to catch my eye or interest me.

“Prone to wander, Lord I feel it! Prone to leave the God I love! Here is my heart Lord, Take and seal it, seal it for thy courts above.”

David wrote Psalm 56 “when the Philistines seized him at Gath.” And his response is stunning. The beginning of the psalm is David’s only appeal to God for the removal of his trial. “Be gracious to me, O God.” That is all. The entirety of the psalm shows a curious lack of some of the most common Western Christian’s prayers. A prayer for removal of difficulty and the affliction of others.

David knows, or writes more than he knows of something so key. When he is afraid, he puts his trust in God, the God who has written down his name in his book before times eternal. The God who knows and keeps and “upholds the universe by his word of power.”

What can man do to him? God has already called him his own, just as he has called you, if you continue on in the faith, and therefore eternity and glory are sealed. But what may be in David’s words, and have been in my prayers, are the words of pleading for protection against his own flesh as well.

“Lord I am beset by many trials, I feel in my heart that I grow afraid and weak. I feel my heart wander from you, my flesh is what challenges the greatest treasure in my life, and that is your presence Lord, and it is my love for you, even that given by your hand. Strengthen my heart that I might never fear that my own flesh might lead me astray. Have mercy on me. Be gracious. But do justly, and never let me out of your hand.”

David trusts God to call all things into account, that no one who does evil is “getting away” with anything when they come to the judgment seat of Jesus. v. 8 says that God counts all of David’s tossing and has a bottle to catch every one of David’s tears that He might hold them up on that day as a weight to measure out the punishment for the wrongdoer.

Finally, for me, verse 9 holds the words that comfort my soul, and ease the burden of trust. that “Then (when justice comes) my enemies will turn back in the day when I call. This I know, that God is for me.

If you forget verses 3-4, remember those eight words in times of trial.

This I know, that God is for me.

Romans 11:33-36

Oh, the depths of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable are his ways? “For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who has been his counselor?” “Or who has given a gift to him that he might be repaid?” For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen.

This is the response of the apostle Paul after he writes to the church in Rome, telling of how God saw fit to graft in people not of Israel into the vine of salvation. He tells of how God let the people of Israel lapse into unfaithfulness, that his justice and mercy might be shown both to gentiles and not only the people of Israel, based on a promise that is equal in power.

When God called the people of Israel into his hand, to be his people, to follow him, to know, and to obey his commandments and show the world his greatness and righteousness, the vine was full. There were no limbs cut off and no space for you and I on that holy vine. We were lost and destined for destruction, bundles of dry sticks set aside for the fire.

So we too, now, since the coming and sacrifice of Christ, have a place to graft into that salvation, into that adoption! No wonder this is Paul’s exclamation! What a joy! Oh, the depths of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! We have no bloodline to claim, we have no assistance to offer, we have no nationality, no perfection, no intelligence to plea. More than our lack, is his great self-contained power, glory, and good pleasure! How unsearchable are his judgments! How inscrutable are his ways? And after this, “Who has known the mind of the Lord, or who has been his counselor?”

The focus of this passage is that glory be given to God.

We are saved through no merit of our own, by the God of the universe, the one of whom Isaiah likewise speaks in Isaiah 40:12-13

“Who has measured the waters in the hollow of his hand
and marked off the heavens with a span,
enclosed the dust of the earth in a measure
and weighed the mountains in scales
and the hills in a balance?
Who has measured the Spirit of the Lord,
Or what man shows him his counsel?”

The implied answer to all of these and Paul’s questions are NO ONE.

No matter what the world considers wise, no matter what our emotions or experience claim and cry out, no matter what power we think we have, what we think we’re owed or promised, God deserves all glory and all praise. You did not orchestrate your own salvation, you are in his hand because he chose you before the world began. Not because he knew you would believe, but because as the psalmist writes, “All that pleases him, he does.”

Against all our own wisdom and judgments, knowing our own hearts and the actions of others, it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.

Oh the depths! Oh the riches! Oh the wisdom! So unsearchable and inscrutable! Everything is chosen and placed directly by the wisdom and power of the almighty God! So of course He gets the glory! All glory, forever. Amen.

Can These Dry Bones Live?

(Musical suggestion: Shenandoah, by Goldmund)

The hand of the Lord was upon me, and he brought me out in the Spirit of the Lord and set me down in the middle of the valley; it was full of bones. And he led me around among them, and behold, there were very many on the surface of the valley, and behold, they were very dry.  And he said to me, “Son of man, can these bones live?” And I answered, “O Lord God, you know.”

Ezekiel 37:1-3

Imagine if you will that the entirety, known perfectly, of who God is could be represented by a mathematically perfect circle. And so the sanctification of an ordinary human (the growing in righteousness) starts with a single point. That single point is the first meeting of a man with the first really true thing he knows about God. It is one-dimensional, simple, and the single object of his focus, walking around to see the other sides will yield no new information and he is left underwhelmed but still intrigued. Then suddenly a second point appears, and a man learns that God not only is but is Love. A line connects the two dots, and a second dimension is born.

The world of this man expands suddenly, another axis by which the world and the truth might be navigated and understood. A man then is told the truth of Jesus, one person of the Triune God, about his coming, his words, his deeds, what it means, and the weight of sin and death on a world wondering what kind of a saviour could this be? More points appear, they connect and connect, creating a triangle, then a square, and more and more vertices are added as each really true truth about God appears before him.

One day he accepts these truths, and then another element is added, a dimension of time, wherein what he sees and the words he reads are now alive and moving and acting upon other objects, and the characteristics of God all modifying each other in a beautiful and complete dance. But yet more comes continually adding and adding together, and a man spends his whole life pursuing the truth of who God is, and eventually there comes a time when the ordinary eye cannot distinguish between the vertices, and the spaces between them. It looks, at least to the casual observer, something very much like a perfect circle.

Who would know differently?

The man knows. And God knows. Though honest and sincere attempts are made in fervent men and women to be made righteous in a slow and steady progression, and though they meditate on the very words of God day and night, and though they seek him daily, though they pray without ceasing, though they take care of the widows and the orphans, there is still just the very slightest feeling that this is something like THE truth, but not quite. It is like the lines on this very screen, and from even where I sit the letters on this page look completely smooth and every curve organic. But I know that if I come within a certain distance I will see the pixels. The grains. The imperfect.

Forgive me for relying so heavily on the abstract, but this is where my mind forms the framework for the real world.

As I have moved through life, trying (and yet allowing the work of the Holy Spirit to move me) desperately to move towards that which I know to be of eternal value, to see the perfect, I know that my waking eyes, and the eyes of my mind are as yet incompatible with what is perfect. They require an upgrade that is not available in this life. I know, and I will always know that even if I were to see the perfect, I would not be able in my actions to mirror it exactly.

I see often that I forget a truth, one that others hinge upon, and there is a break in my near infinite polygon. I regress, I lose focus, thinking the circle of my sanctification more perfect than I ought, seeing my understanding as more perfect than it is, and I am set back hard upon parts of the path I have already walked, and shall most likely walk again.

It is in these moments that I have sometimes repeated back to God his own question. “Can these dry bones live?”, and then with Ezekiel, “O Lord God, you know.”

Can these bones live? When after knowing and seeing what I think to be something of the true Glory of God. After I have with St. Augustine had “such delicious thoughts” of God and his Goodness that I would nearly be ashamed to write them down. Yet still I falter, and I see all the jaggedness of vertices and oblong in my hard won circle.

O Lord! Can these dry and dead bones live? Will I ever shake the stench of death off of them? Will you prophesy your word over me? Fill me with the breath of life? Will you end my exile in a foreign land and welcome me in to your holy hill?

Dear God show me your glory, at the expense of everything else. The Glory that shines, and sustains life by its glow, that currently covers Heaven itself, and I will pass away, all I know will pass away, all the foolishness of the words I write and say will pass away, when the perfect comes.

O let the perfect come.

As for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away. When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways.  For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known.

1 Cor. 13:8b-12

My New Year’s Toast

To my family, to our son, new this passing year,
I lift this glass with friends tonight, may it pass with cheer.
Here love abides, strangers welcome, as friends they may soon be,
I lift this glass in thankfulness, though sometimes hard to see.
And to my friends I lift this glass, through trials come and gone,
Laughter in our hearts has filled our houses and our lungs.
Friends new are pleasant, old are grand, wrought with depth and truth,
I’d raise that glass a thousand times, though ageing, from my youth.
Now to this year,  through blessings brought from God who art on high,
Our hearts and minds have reeled at gifts we have, but know not why.
Now raise with me a glass you all, for things as yet unseen,
For what is coming next, God knows, in two thousand and sixteen.

Happy new year.

After God’s Own Heart

I know how this will sound. I know what you must think. All of this talk of pursuing perfection and impossible ideals and demanding that everyone follow some stringent and Pharisaic set of principles can never be kept up. It must be a falsified, conjured, and only possible in the imagination. And perhaps that is true. It is often true, but there are moments of an inexplicable quiet lucidity that I have long felt but only recently decided to reveal to you.  I will not claim any sort of perfection or nearness to perfection, but only that I delight to ponder it daily. The God who speaks, the God who provides, the one who takes away the sins of the world, he has revealed himself to me at many times and in many ways, most often through the Bible, and he gives me hope. He gives me reasons to sing and to smile and find true joy even in adverse circumstances.

If the earlier part is what you’ve thought than what is coming next can only be considered an absurdity. But I feel this welling of my heart and soul to only attempt to put into words the things that only lightly touch upon my waking mind as if an echo of heaven, a waking eternal bliss that fills me with such joy I cannot comprehend. While I work, while I drive it hits me that I’ve spent my life hearing and learning about the God of the universe and to grow to find that he is true? To find that he is THE truth? My heart can hardly contain. There is no structure to this and I cannot apologize for it. I feel not the pressure to organize my thoughts into anything proper or dignified. So I have had it in my head to write a psalm. Not inspired scripture but script inspired by scripture. This has no doctrinal authority, it is just an expression of my affections.

So I take in a deep breath of air and this is what exhales:

O Lord, my Holy Father,
Teach me to know your ways,
Let me learn your precepts and observe well your laws.

I see and know that they are perfect,
I believe they revive the soul,
They are sure, ‘Making wise the simple.’
For, ‘No one ever spoke like this man.’

Who can lift a burden as you lift them?
Who can shower his children with such a joy?
Who can make all things new, all extraordinary?
In the desolation of my heart I could not have imagined you.

For you are good, yes, you are goodness,
Let me never forget,
Good is everything that comes from you.

Let me not be far from you O Lord!
Let me not forget your ways!
Keep my heart steadfastly attentive to your words.
Keep me in your loving arms.

For you strengthen the weak, you lift high the needy,
In my hatred of you, you brought me.
I despised, and you bore my affliction,
I was dead in my sin, but now ‘Alive in Christ’!

Could I ever turn away? I know my heart!
I am so prone to wander yet I know that you are true!
Is there darkness yet in my heart? Destroy it!
The rapture of your presence cannot be undone.

Truly, you have marked me,
The very heat of your glory has made it’s mark.
Truly I desire to know you and be fully known,
To hold not only the law but your gaze,
Could a man contain it? Could he suffer your presence Lord?
Could weak unknowing man ever draw near to the Lion of Judah?

I know the veil is torn!
I know the ransom is payed!
But dare I even still?
Would your glory not overwhelm me entirely?

I give what you have given back, take it from me,
My life, my all, my heart and soul.

Yes, your absolute presence would destroy me to my very foundations,
So destroy me, I will never need to breath if I have seen your face.
Though I am lost except in memory still I will live in you.
I might cry “Woe to me! For I am a man of unclean lips!”

But I know that I love you,
Help me to love you rightly.

All of your presence Lord.
All of your glory.
Overwhelm me.
Consume me.
I am none, and you are all.

 

Even if these words never see their full potential, even if I never stop struggling. Even if I speak an unkind word or hurt the helpless through selfishness and greed, I will pray these sorts of prayers and think in these terms as long as the Lord allows.

It has been given to me that I may be able to imagine a place I might run to in my actions and in speech. A brighter city. So I will continue to paint as loftily as I can imagine the ideals as they come along, because I need to be looking to what is greater than myself, walking out to me on these tumultuous waters, this sea of sin and transgression, lest I begin to sink, looking into my depths instead of toward his glory. Knowing that even if I begin to sink, ‘he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and purify all unrighteousness.’

Peace and Amen.