Friday, January 21, 2022

Thursday, January 20, 2022

Trust in God alone


We're studying Psalm 62 now, and when we re-read it, we notice that there are three natural divisions: each time the word "Selah" is used. You could say that there are three verses, to make it seem more like our hymns and songs of today. And at the end of verses one and two, the word "selah," which the scholars do not all agree upon! 

(One possibility is that it is related to another Hebrew word which means "measure" or weigh in the balance, to consider carefully. It's also thought by some to be a word which means "pause," and others feel it means "lift up praise." Perhaps the meaning is a combination of all of these: to pause and consider, and to praise God for His mercy, power, and grace.)

Anyway (dusting off the rabbit trail dust), the first "verse" of our song is verses one through four; the second verse is verses five through eight, and the final stanza is verses nine through twelve. 

Let's dig in!

Here are verses one through four again:

My soul waits in silence for God alone;
From Him comes my salvation.
2He alone is my rock and my salvation,
My stronghold; I will not be greatly shaken.
3How long will you attack a man,
That you may murder him, all of you,
Like a leaning wall, like a tottering fence?
4They have planned only to thrust him down from his high position;
They delight in falsehood;
They bless with their mouth,
But inwardly they curse.  Selah

I can see David sitting calmly, speaking these words, can't you? He's calm. Composed. Serene. That's in verses one and two. In verse three, he seems to indicate that the attacks he is enduring have been many and prolonged. He says "How long?"  Perhaps this was during the time of Absalom's rebellion or perhaps some other time when he faced adversity. Many of the commentaries say that David's enemies were conspiring together how to topple him from his role as king -- to assassinate him. They apparently were quite two-faced; they spread falsehoods while they flattered him and told him what a great ruler he was - all the while cursing him behind his back.

Spoiler alert: We will face times when we are under attack. Seriously. Might even already be happening, and if we are engaged in God's work it probably already is ongoing. As believers who desire to stand up for God and do His kingdom work, we will be criticized and slandered. We will even be persecuted. Quite frankly, I can tell you that I and my family have come under attack in the past, and again more recently. It's because we have been vocal about our stand for God's Word, His blessings, and the responsibilities of "we the people," who have been the undeserved recipients of those blessings. 

The Bible NEVER promises exemptions from such attacks. There are no waivers. Nope. But the Bible DOES show us what to do when we are under attack. It shows us that in threatening times, we can be at peace if God is our salvation and our refuge. God alone.

Glance back at verse one -- David starts out saying he waits in silence. What does he mean? He means in peaceful submission. How do we do that? By calling to mind all the times that God has been faithful, and agree with God that He has promised to be our refuge. And suppress the human urge to whine. (Grin)

When difficult things happen to us, we have a choice: we can either angrily complain to God, or we can submit to Him, agreeing with His many promises and bowing to His sovereign will. Remember Job? When his possessions, his family, and his health were gone, Job humbly said, "The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away. Blessed be the name of the Lord." Now, granted, the rest of the book details how he wrestled and struggled. He worked his way through his pain and complaints against God; but by the end of the book, we find Job in a posture of reverence. He worships as he submits to God, and then receives God's blessings. Humbling ourselves is a key element in living at peace while we are under attack.

Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, so that He may exalt you at the proper time, (I Peter 5:6, NASB)

David also says "He only is my rock and my salvation..."  Salvation here can mean God's deliverance from David's enemies, from those who were plotting and conspiring against him. And yet it can also mean our salvation from sin and judgment. 
Many of us can't relate (yet) to this psalm because we have not (yet) been in the desperate situation that David was in. (Frankly, I believe that the time is coming quickly that we will be facing just such plots and danger. I believe that our freedoms are being torn from us, and that those in power may soon try to tear our faith from us, as well.) But I digress. We were all in danger of eternal separation from God if we died in our sins. God alone is our salvation from eternal death:

For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast. (Ephesians 2:8-9, NIV)

Since it is God Who raised us from death to life, and gave us faith to believe in Jesus our Savior, then we can take refuge in Him from dangerous trials, too. Paul tells us, "If God is for us, who is against us?" (Romans 8:31) 

If we know Jesus as our only salvation from sin, then we can be at peace when trials come. When perilous times are at hand, we can trust in Him alone as our salvation and our refuge.

We're not done yet! There's more to come, so please join us next time as we continue in Psalm 62. 

Wednesday, January 19, 2022

Psalm 62 - God alone

I hope that we have all taken a few minutes in our prayer and study times to re-read Psalm 62. 

In our "library" here at home, we have some older books that I enjoy reading when I have time. I like to read works by Pope, by Keats, and by Samuel Johnson. I once saw a quote by Johnson that came to mind as I studied David's psalm. In the late 1700's, a clergyman was condemned to be hanged for a crime, and wrote one last sermon while in prison. It was thought to be far better than any of his other sermons, and Dr. Johnson commented on why: "Depend upon it, when a man knows he is to be hanged in a fortnight, it concentrates his mind wonderfully." 

Not to be macabre, but I think David is facing death in Psalm 62, and it does "concentrate his mind" so that he offers this psalm with a theme that will help us in our perilous days.

Now, there is a difficulty in applying this psalm. Quite frankly, very few of us has yet been in the dire straits that David was in. Those days may be ahead of us, it's true, but most of us have not yet experienced them. It's hard to relate to evil men threatening to not only take David's throne, but to kill him, as well.

Yes, they were planning to murder David. They said things like," He's like a leaning wall or tottering fence. Just a push. Just sneeze hard. He'll go down!"  So, David's mind was "wonderfully concentrated" to write this psalm. And the theme is this: in the most threatening times, we can still be at peace if God alone is our salvation and refuge.

The main idea of the psalm is that there are right and wrong things to put our faith in. If we are trusting in God, we are secure. If we are trusting in men, or in things, we are depending on things that are lighter than "breath" or "vain" to hope in:

Surely the lowborn are but a breath,
    the highborn are but a lie.
If weighed on a balance, they are nothing;
    together they are only a breath.
10 Do not trust in extortion
    or put vain hope in stolen goods;
though your riches increase,
    do not set your heart on them. (vs 9-10)

It's interesting that this psalm is different from some we have studied, in that there is no prayer in it. But it reveals such an undisturbed peace! It shows a confidence in God that is unshaken, and an assurance in His care that is absolute!  But I believe it's BECAUSE of prayer that David had this peace, this confidence, and this assurance in his Lord. The clue to this is in verse eight:

Trust in him at all times, you people;
    pour out your hearts to him,
    for God is our refuge. (v. 8)

We all want to have the peace that David had in his time of crisis. And as we studied last week, there ARE dangerous times ahead for believers. The key to peace is trust in God alone.

Trust in God only.

A tiny Hebrew word that is repeated throughout the psalm for emphasis. David hammers home the truth that we will enjoy God's peace in the middle of life's most dangerous, most threatening moments when God only -- God alone -- is our refuge. We all struggle to get to that place; it's easier said than done! David himself struggled to remain in that special place. In this two-week study, let's try to focus on how to get to (and stay in) that place of complete trust in God alone.

Surely God is my salvation;
    I will trust and not be afraid.
The Lord, the Lord himself, is my strength and my defense;
    he has become my salvation.” (Isaiah 12:2)

Tuesday, January 18, 2022

Prayer requests

As I prepared this post today, I was thinking about what an honor it is for us to pray for others. How it helps us to think of others and place more importance on their wellbeing and comfort, above our own. And how sweet it is to talk with Jesus on their behalf, and then sit quietly and allow Him to minister to our hearts.

As I thought specifically about intercessory prayer (lifting others up for needs in their lives), I recalled the passage in the gospel of Mark where friends brought someone to Jesus. Remember that? (Mark 2:1-12) 

These were pretty audacious people! They had picked up his "bed" (really his pallet of cloth or blankets), and walked to the place where they knew Jesus was teaching. But when they arrived, there were SO many people in the house and around it, that they knew they'd never get their paralyzed friend face-to-face with Jesus. I can imagine them standing on tiptoe, peering around for some way to slide amongst the people and get inside . . . but how could they do that, when they each were holding a corner of their friend's pallet? 

Suddenly one of them must have had the epiphany to carefully carry their friend up the stairs to the roof. Remember, "up on the roof" was much more than just a song to people of this era. The roof was a common place to be; it was cooler, quieter, and refreshing in the evenings after the workday was done. So, step-by-step, they tried not to jostle their buddy as they carried him up the stairs. Then, they set him down gently and began to pull aside the reeds and thatch of the area directly over the spot where Jesus was teaching.

Imagine the amazement of the crowd around our Savior, as they looked up. Bits of thatch may have drifted down upon them as they gazed up and saw the paralyzed man being lowered by his friends into the presence of the Teacher. The rest of the story is probably very familiar to us. What peace must have filled the man's heart as he looked into Jesus' face! And Jesus told him that his sins were forgiven, and then told him to roll up his mat and walk! 

AND HE DID!!

One of the hardest things we may do as believers is to pray for and/or with those who are critically ill. Or terminally ill. We hardly know what to say. What to ask for. 

This came to mind, because we often "pray the scriptures" to our Father. . .

Lord, those friends who brought their paralyzed companion to you were such good friends. They carefully and tenderly brought their friend to you, showing both their love for him and their faith in You. In the same way, Lord, those of us who love and care for _________ bring him/her into the warmth and strength of your presence because we know that You love this person, too. We read in John 15 that You call us by name and we know that Your love never fails. We are joining You in loving this person and we ask for You to transform this life either by healing or by granting the opportunity to bring You glory. In Christ's name, Amen.

I hope this example may help as we try to pray with and minister to folks who are facing severe illness and even death. 

Let's pray.

Monday, January 17, 2022

Psalm 62

We're headed back to the Psalms after our break to examine II Timothy 3; I think that as we read this psalm we will see the similarities between the dangerous times that Paul described, and the dangerous situation that David found himself in here.

The psalm is only twelve verses, so I'm posting it here in its entirety. Also, I studied carefully and I feel like the NASB translation captures David's thoughts so perfectly: 

My soul waits in silence for God alone;
From Him comes my salvation.
 He alone is my rock and my salvation,
My stronghold; I will not be greatly shaken.

 How long will you attack a man,
That you may murder him, all of you,
Like a leaning wall, like a tottering fence?
 They have planned only to thrust him down from his high position;
They delight in falsehood;
They bless with their mouth,
But inwardly they curse. Selah

 My soul, wait in silence for God alone,
For my hope is from Him.
 He alone is my rock and my salvation,
My refuge; I will not be shaken.
 My salvation and my glory rest on God;
The rock of my strength, my refuge is in God.
 Trust in Him at all times, you people;
Pour out your hearts before Him;
God is a refuge for us. Selah

 People of low standing are only breath, and people of rank are a lie;
In the balances they go up.
Together they are lighter than breath.
 Do not trust in oppression,
And do not vainly rely on robbery;
If wealth increases, do not set your heart on it.

 God has spoken once;
Twice I have heard this:
That power belongs to God;
 And faithfulness is Yours, Lord,
For You reward a person according to his work. (Psalm 62, NASB)

Please re-read this as part of your quiet times this week, and we'll start our studies next time.

Friday, January 14, 2022

Thursday, January 13, 2022

Conclusion, II Timothy 3


If we take Paul's words in II Timothy 3 seriously, then it appears the great need of Christians everywhere is to become biblical in our thinking.

Our greatest need is not to have marvelous music in our services. Although that can lead to a truly worshipful service.

Our greatest need is not to meet in beautiful, comfortable church buildings. Although we can experience truly reverent worship there.

Our greatest need is not to have an exorbitantly-paid leader for our church. Although the knowledge and experience that leader may bring can be truly helpful to the believers in the church.

Nope.

Our greatest need as believers is to immerse ourselves in God's Word. We must continue to grow in the Word day by day, year by year. 

Our Savior said:

Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.’ (Matthew 4:4)

Do we want to have good hearts and attitudes? We need to spend time in the Word. 

For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. (Hebrews 4:12)

Do we want to make sure we are following the path Christ has for us?

Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. (James 1:22)

How can a young person stay on the path of purity?
    By living according to your word. (Psalm 119:9)

Do we yearn for wisdom? Discernment?

“Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock." (Matthew 7:24)

The unfolding of your words gives light;
    it gives understanding to the simple. (Psalm 119:130)

Do we want to show the world we love our Savior?

Jesus said, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” (John 8:31b-32)

Are we eager to honor and glorify God, and witness to others?

But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, (I Peter 3:15)

As believers, we know that the Bible is the Word of God and we are going to stand upon it. We will stake our lives upon that fact. It's the foundation of everything else we believe -- if the foundation is strong, we can build a house that will stand during the storm. It will stand in the coming dangerous days, when other houses are blown away by the savage winds of unbelief.

Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. (Ephesians 6:10-13)

We can be prepared for what is coming. 
Amen.