Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘Praying the Psalms’

How hard is it for you to see God at work in today’s culture?

Have you ever been discouraged about a turn of events? Not just when bad things happen to good people, but when very good things seem to be happening to very bad or immoral people? When it seems like justice will never be done, and the wicked get away with (sometimes literal) murder?

If you’ve ever felt that way (and who hasn’t), then you know exactly how the Psalmist felt in Psalm 73.

Psalm 73, verses 1-3, begins with what I’ve often called a “Yeah, but…” statement. The Psalmist says (to paraphrase), “Yeah I know that God is good to Israel, and especially to those with a clean and pure heart, but this is what had happened to me…” Then, he spends the next 13 verses despairing over how the wicked are getting away with everything, and, no matter how clean (pure) he tries to be, he still has problems!

“Until…” until verse 17 when we reach the “tuning point” in the Psalm.

In verse 17, we see the Psalmist’s “Ah-ha!” moment when he says, in essence, “I felt this way about what I saw, until I went into the sanctuary of God, then I perceived (or understood) their end.” Once he took his anguish to God, then his eyes were opened. Even though he was in despair, he knew enough, believed enough, to take (dare we say “drag”) his struggle into the sanctuary.  The Psalmist’s ultimate statement of faith in this Psalm is that God is good to Israel, as well as to those who have a pure heart, and when they seek God’s face, God will let them “see” Him. This is, in essence, the same thing that Jesus says in Matthew 5:8, “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.”

The Greek word for pure is kat-har-os. It means clear, pure or unalloyed. It carries with it a sense of being untainted or free from pollution. The one who is “pure in heart” will have no mixed emotions, no ulterior motives, and does not “serve two masters” (cf Matthew 6:24). When one’s heart is pure, they will be allowed to “see God.” They will not just “see God” to look at Him, or see God someday in heaven, but will see, understand, be aware, of God at work in the here and now.

They will be able to see God’s mighty hand in the circumstances of everyday life so clearly that, when others are saying “luck” or “karma” or “coincidence,” the pure in heart will be saying, “No, it’s God!” And they will know, because they will see!

 

Prayer: Almighty God, we ask that in our times of struggle You will lead us to Your sanctuary and open our eyes to see You at work. Amen.

 

 

Read Full Post »

A poem written in the early 80’s when I was pregnant with our first child.

 

A Mother’s Eighth Psalm

The Psalmist said,

“What is man that Thou art mindful of him

for Thou hast made him

only a little lower than the angels.”

 

And I say,

What am I, that You are mindful of me?

For You have made me a woman

and capable of

creation myself.

 

And I have carried a child in my womb

and borne him into the world.

But today that child alone must choose

“Whom ye will serve…”

and only he can

“Confess with your mouth

and believe in your heart…”

for himself

I can’t do it for him…

 

Being a creator isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.

 

God,

what did you feel

when You turned man loose

with Your creation?

 

 

 

 

Read Full Post »

On Sunday, September 17, 2001, the Sunday after the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Centers and the Pentagon, our pastor came to the pulpit, opened his bible and read, “The fool has said in his heart, there is no God…”  With those words, my heart was raised back up and I knew – God was (and is) in control. And so, this Psalm brings me great comfort.

 

Read the words to this Psalm.

(For the choir director. A Psalm of David.)

1, The fool has said in his heart, “There is no God.” They are corrupt, they have committed abominable deeds; There is no one who does good.  

2  The LORD has looked down from heaven upon the sons of men To see if there are any who understand, Who seek after God.

3  They have all turned aside, together they have become corrupt; There is no one who does good, not even one.

4  Do all the workers of wickedness not know, Who eat up my people as they eat bread, And do not call upon the Lord?

5  There they are in great dread, For God is with the righteous generation.

6  You would put to shame the counsel of the afflicted, But the LORD is his refuge.

7  Oh, that the salvation of Israel would come out of Zion! When the LORD restores His captive people, Jacob will rejoice, Israel will be glad.

 

Psalm 14 is a personal Psalm to bring comfort to the believer. Yahweh for the Jew is like “Jesus” for us. It is personal and it is comforting.

We can break this Psalm down this way:

~Verse 1 is an overview statement or a synopsis of the situation.

~Verses 2-3 details what it is that God sees

~Verses 4-6 bring an incredulous question followed by a faith-filled answer

~Verse 7 is a cry for help and a prophecy that is as sure as if it has already happened.

 

The Psalm starts out “The fool has said in his heart, there is no God…”  Do you remember about the heart? To the Jewish way of thinking it is the seat of emotion. It represents the whole person. Proverbs 23:7 says “As [a man] thinketh in his heart – so is he”. So essentially the fool in this Psalm is saying, by his actions, “there is no God…”

When we think of the word “fool” we may think of Jesus’ words in the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5:22. He said that we must never call someone a fool or we would be “in danger of fiery hell”. I remember once when I was little I called someone a fool and my mother hit the ceiling. “Don’t you ever call anyone a fool!” She was thinking of this scripture. However the word for “fool” that Jesus used is moros from which we get our word “moron”. It means to be “morally worthless” and we can never be the judge of a person’s worth.

The word in our text for today (and its parallel text, Psalm 53:1) is the word nabal which means “wickedly stupid”. It can refer to nations (Deuteronomy 32:6) or to an individual (1 Samuel 25:25 the story of a man whose name was literally “Nabal”). Think about this: The lifestyle exhibited by the person in Psalm 14:1b (They are corrupt, they have committed abominable deeds; There is no one who does good) bears witness to his state of being in 1a (“There is no God.”). He is indeed “wickedly stupid.” This person could also be described as a “practical atheist”; no matter what the mouth may profess, the heart produces actions that are a dead giveaway to one’s real intentions. The Psalmist describes them in three ways:

  • They are corrupt

This is the same word that was used in Genesis 6:12 to describe the condition of the world when God decided to destroy it by the flood

  • they have committed abominable deeds

God hates every sin – but some sins He hates more than others; some that are described as “abominable”. Psalm 5:6 said, “The Lord abhors the man of bloodshed and deceit”.

  • And then he said, “There is no one who does good.”

As Romans 3:23 tells us that all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.

That’s a pretty dismal assessment, if we left it at that, wouldn’t you say?

 

Next we see that “The LORD has looked down from heaven upon the sons of men To see if there are any who understand” are there any who “get it”? The word also means “to act wisely”. The Lord wants to know if there are any “Who seek after God.” Now – did God have to look around to see if there were any who were good? No, of course not, but this is a poetic way of putting it in a way that we can understand.

The LORD’s assessment of whether anyone is wise, if anyone seeks God is answered with a resounding “no” in verse 3 “They have all turned aside, together they have become corrupt; There is no one who does good, not even one.”

Then the LORD asks an incredulous question. “Do all the workers of wickedness not know, who eat up my people as they eat bread, and do not call upon the Lord?”

The CEB puts it this way “Are they [just] dumb?” But the fool’s actions seem to represent apathy toward God rather than ignorance.

However (verse 5) “There they are [these wicked and corrupt] in great dread, For God is with the righteous generation. Then the Lord says to them, “You would (or you might try to) put to shame the counsel of the afflicted, But the LORD is his refuge.” What comfort we find in the words, “the LORD is their refuge” – their hiding place.

 

And finally, the Psalmist ends the song with a plea and a prophecy, “Oh, that the salvation of Israel would come out of Zion!” The “salvation of Israel” refers to the coming Messiah. Then “When” – not “if” or “might” – but “when” He comes, the LORD will change his people’s circumstances for the better “When the LORD restores His captive people, Jacob will rejoice, Israel will be glad.”

 

Happy ever after – right?

 

But… we can’t simply read this Psalm, close our bibles and walk away celebrating the “happy ever after” ending; there is one more interpretation to consider. In some translations, the words, There is in verse 1 are in italics. That indicates that in some original manuscripts, those words were absent, rendering the verse, “The fool has said in his heart ‘No God.’” Can you imagine saying “no” to God? Yet that is what the fool does by his very actions. He could be denying that there is a God, or he may be refusing to submit to the God that is there.  And so, we must examine our own hearts and ask, “Is what I am professing, consistent with how I am living? Do my very actions cry out ‘Fool!’ Am I, for all intents and purposes, a ‘practical atheist’?”

 

Prayer:

Gracious and Loving God, open my eyes to see that every action I take says something about what I profess to believe. May my actions never say “There is no God” or worse may I never say “No” to Your Word.

We look around Lord, and see so much of this – so many who deny Your existence. We can’t understand how they exist without You – and yet You allow them to not only live, but to prosper. So many times they do try to ridicule us for our faith, but we know that You are with us and You are our refuge. We also know, Lord that the “Salvation of Israel” has come out of Zion, but we know, too, that He will come again. And when He does, it will be in judgment. – and Your Word will be fulfilled.

In Jesus’ Name – Amen.

 

 

 

 

 

Read Full Post »

A Prayer from Psalm 9

My Father, I will thank You with all my heart – with all that I am! Oh, do not let my lips be silent, but let me continually speak of all Your wonders. I am so excited and thankful for what You have done and for who You are. I find myself singing, humming, whistling the hymns and songs of praise and thanksgiving as I go through my daily routine.

When I think about the struggles in my life – whether internal or external – I know that they cannot stand against You. You give me strength and wisdom and courage in the midst of it all. And when each one is over, the memory of it fades, and its power over me is no more.

Ah, but You, O God! You are forever! You will always be there to rule and to judge. When I look around the world – oh, the pain and suffering – I know You are God! You are the strength for the weak, and the place of refuge for the hurting. Oh Father, those who put their trust in You will never be sorry. They will never be deserted.

Father, may I never fail to proclaim your Name. May I never hesitate to speak of Your place and Your presence in my life, and to tell of all You have done. You are a just God. You will not forget or ignore those who are hurting. It will NOT go on forever…

You have healed us and taken care of us so many times – how can I fail to always give You the glory? May I speak of it in the presence of believers – to encourage them, and in the presence of non-believers – to cause them to think, and maybe, just maybe, surrender to Your calling.

Oh Lord, we get so discouraged at times. It seems the world, all the countries and all the people in it are enemies to You and Your children. But, Father we know, from numerous times in Your Word, that they are only digging their own pit – they will be caught in their own snares. You will see to that.

Those who forget Your name and Your presence in their past, present, and future, will die – economically and physically. Your children will not hurt forever. There will come a time when “man” will not win, when all the world will be led before You to be judged. Let them be afraid, let them be very afraid, for they are but men, and Thou… art… GOD!

 

In the Holy and Precious name of Jesus – Amen.

 

Read Full Post »

%d bloggers like this: