Tag Archive: David

‘The LORD is my shepherd, I lack nothing. He makes me lie down in green pastures,
He leads me beside quiet waters, He refreshes my soul.
He guides me along the right paths for His name’s sake.
Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil,
for You are with me; Your rod and your staff, they comfort me.

You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies.
You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.
Surely Your goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life,
and I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever.’

this is quite a short one so i thought i’d write out the whole thing… often with the passages of scripture we know we skim through them or just nod knowingly, but i encourage you to go back and really read it again, line by line, pausing to think about each one. there is so much richness in this psalm.

verse 3 stands out for me – ‘He guides me along the right paths for His name’s sake.’ – kind of counter culture to the whole church, worship, personal salvation “it’s all about me” message we too often slip into [Val told me the other day about this worship competition invite we received here – so different teams are going to be competing to see who can play a worship song the best. i think that’s when it has become just a song because any worship aspect disappeared the moment competition was brought into it… and you can file that alongside ‘worship song of the year’ which is quite likely determined by looking at the winner of the ‘worship song that made the most money this year’ award – Jesus, ready Your whip]

because it is His name’s sake. the story is all about Him. it is His kingdom. we would do well to remember that. in fact part of signing on for this adventure was something about denying myself, taking up my cross every day and following Him [luke 9.23] if i recall. i am a disciple OF JESUS. i am a follower OF JESUS. if i go in for the old title i used to wear before i started leaning towards follower of Jesus, then i am a CHRISTian. if we could align our lives to live for the glory of God rather than the glory of me [as we so often slip into, guilty as charged] then the world would be completely revolutionised.

the other part i want to focus on and it culminates with verse 5’s ‘You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies,’ starts with this section: ‘Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.’ [vs. 4] the idea that while God is completely invested in being there when trouble strikes [and supporting, comforting, strengthening, helping endure, restoring] He doesn’t seem all that committed to keeping us safe from it. And i love that about God. to be honest i definitely don’t always like that about God, but i get that He uses the times to strengthen and work character and build up and also break down some of the garbage and brokenness in me… and so while they may not be fun times, i can rest confidently in the fact that He is there and He won’t abandon me, or let the situation take me down. or you.

continuing with some further thorts from psalm 22

‘I will declare Your name to my people; in the assembly I will praise You. You who fear the LORD, praise Him! All you descendants of Jacob, honor Him!
Revere Him, all you descendants of Israel! For He has not despised or scorned the suffering of the afflicted one; He has not hidden His face from him but has listened to his cry for help.’ [verse 22-24]

‘The poor will eat and be satisfied; those who seek the LORD will praise Him — may your hearts live forever!’ [verse 26]

this psalm serves as a reminder as to those who God seems to have special time and affection for – the afflicted one, the poor. this is backed up hugely by evidencing Jesus’ life in the gospels as He was constantly representing God’s heart for those in the background, the marginalised, by reaching out to the people of the day who were not considered worthy to spend time with – children, women, samaritans, lepers, drunkards and prostitutes, tax collectors… and powerfully vocalised in the parable of the sheep and goats which Jesus concludes with, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’ [matthew 25.45]

reaching out to the ‘least of these’ is not an optional extra for Christ followers [who have been called to deny themselves, take up their cross daily and follow Him in luke 9.23] but an identifying sign of who we are. ‘Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.’ [james 1.27]

and then lastly, i love how this psalm ends:

‘…future generations will be told about the Lord. They will proclaim his righteousness, declaring to a people yet unborn: He has done it!’ [verse 30b-31]

this is the exact opposite to what is evidenced in judges 2.10 just after joshua dies: ‘After that whole generation had been gathered to their ancestors, another generation grew up who knew neither the LORD nor what he had done for Israel. Then the Israelites did evil in the eyes of the LORD…’

yet in this psalm David is speaking of God’s name being pronounced and declared to a future generation that has not even been born yet. the question is begged of us, how will we continue the legacy of Jesus-following among present and future generations?

this is a long psalm, so may just do it in two parts…

starts off with a very familiar statement: ‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?’ [verse 1]
Jesus groaning from the cross… or me, sitting and chatting with my wife on my bed last nite…

i seem to be able to relate to a lot of the groany [whiny?] stuff of this psalm which i appreciate for its raw and rough realness’ity:

‘Why are you so far from saving me, so far from my cries of anguish?’ [verse 1]

‘My God, I cry out by day, but you do not answer, by night, but I find no rest.’ [verse 2]

‘All who see me mock me; they hurl insults, shaking their heads. “He trusts in the LORD,” they say, “let the LORD rescue him. let Him deliver him, since He delights in him.” [verse 7-8]

followed by this desperate cry: ‘Do not be far from me, for trouble is near and there is no one to help. Many bulls surround me; strong bulls of Bashan encircle me. Roaring lions that tear their prey open their mouths wide against me. I am poured out like water, and all my bones are out of joint. My heart has turned to wax; it has melted within me. My mouth is dried up like a potsherd, and my tongue sticks to the roof of my mouth; You lay me in the dust of death.’ [verse 11-15]

i mean, that’s pretty dramatic – you lay me in the dust of death? and yet when everything around you starts looking bleak, that can be how you feel. a sneak peek into tomorrow’s well known psalm reminds us where God is, when we hit the ‘dust of death’ [or even the ‘valley of the shadow of death’] and i guess this psalm does a bit of that as well – God, it feels like you are nowhere near at the moment, but i am going to trust on the experience of the past and my faith in You and who i believe You to be and that will be enough to get me through.

i have been feeling very distant from God [well the feeling always manifests as ‘God is distant from me’, you know] for a long time now and last nite in particular just a whole bunch of stuff hit and i had a really good chat with my wife, tbV, and was able to b’lurgh a lot of it out, and then this morning i received an email from a very random source completely encouraging me for something i had been a part of in her life years ago at some camp i spoke at, and was just completely encouraged by that. huge coincidence, for sure, excepting that those kinds of coincidences just seem to happen every single time i get to that point of just wanting to throw in the towel and run far away [or more honestly probably slap someone in the head with the towel] and it’s like God swooping in to remind me that, “I’m here. I haven’t forgotten you. I certainly haven’t forsaken you.”

and so the reminder of the writer’s past connection to God: ‘Yet you brought me out of the womb; you made me trust in you, even at my mother’s breast. From birth I was cast on you; from my mother’s womb you have been my God.’ [verse 9-10]

and a reminder of the writer’s national connection to God: ‘Yet You are enthroned as the Holy One; You are the one Israel praises. In You our ancestors put their trust; they trusted and You delivered them. To You they cried out and were saved; in You they trusted and were not put to shame.’ [verse 3-5]

and lastly, the reminder that the last time that first verse was groaned, well proclaimed, from the cross, in the midst of apparent hopelessness, chaos and confusion, it didn’t turn out so badly…

we serve a faithful God. one who allows us to ask the difficult questions and be hurt and scared and confused when we need to be.

to continue to part ii…

two things about this short but delightful psalm 13:

which begins with, ‘How long, O Lord, Will You forget me forever? How long will You hide Your face from me?'[vs.1]

but first a quick recap:

‘O Lord, how many are my foes! How many rise up against me!’ [psalm 3.1]

‘Give me relief from m distress; be merciful to me and hear my prayer.’ [psalm 4.1]

‘Give ear to my words, O Lord, consider my sighing. Listen to my cry for help…’ [psalm 5.1]

‘O Lord heal me, for my bones are in agony. My soul is in anguish. How long, O Lord, how long?’ [psalm 6.2-3]

‘O Lord my God, I take refuge in You; save and deliver me from all who pursue me, or they will tear me like a lion.’ [psalm 7.1-2]

‘Why, O Lord, do you stand far off?’ [psalm 10.1]

‘Help Lord, for the godly are no more; the faithful have vanished from among men.’ [psalm 12.1]

and so a reminder why psalms can be a good place to hang out when life seems a little bit much or we’re struggling with being a good follower of Jesus or feeling like the whole world is against us… because it seems like we’re in great company. one of the best parts of the psalms is how real they are – if we think back to prayer time in church meeting where people pick their words carefully and try sound spiritual and you’re thinking ‘man i can’t relate cos my prayer would have to be censored right now and might even knock God off His throne’ well this is the place to be. David, and some of the other writers of psalms often just let it all hang out and speak out raw, rough and real cries of how life looks at the moment…

generally they tend to head to a place of remembering or being reminded of the goodness of God even in those low places and this psalm is no different:

‘But I trust in Your unfailing love; my heart rejoices in Your salvation. I will sing to the Lord, for He has been good to me.’ [vs.5-6]

so the tension exists and is able to be held together despite a possible seeming contradiction, as with a lot of Christ following things…

but the other thing i really liked about this psalm was the phrase translated as ‘How long must I wrestle with my thoughts?’ [vs. 2]

because it gives the strong implication of ‘giving time to’ and ‘really putting effort into’ something that has been called into question with this week’s Kony2012 video that went viral [which i am convinced most people who liked/shared/commented on will have forgotten about by next week] – we live in a world of instant gratification and everything is geared to being quicker and smaller and more efficient and we are not encouraged to really sink our teeth into things and seek for truth or wrestle with ideas we are not sure about and do research or engage in deep discussion on. and yet i believe that is what is often required – Jesus never promised that His way was easier or more comfortable or a quick fix to anything – usually quite the opposite – ‘follow Me and most people will hate you’ [matthew 10.22], ‘deny yourself, take up your cross [read between the lines – get ready to die!] and follow Me’ [luke 9.23] and so on… the way is narrow and few will take it [matthew 7] but it is the ones who really wrestle and hunger and offer up their lives and submit to His calling and invite Him to transform their minds [romans 12.2] who will be there to the end…

if something is meaningful and worth giving your life to, it is worth spending some wrestling time on.

i know it’s early days, but already this is proving to be an exciting exercise for me and one of the benefits of working through the psalms is discovering ‘new’ ones… i am not saying someone has been sneaking into my bible and adding in new psalms when i haven’t been looking but often when we read the bible we stick to the passages we know well and like and avoid the harder ones or even the books with weird sounding names we have to use the index to find…

so with psalms it is often 23 or my favourite 34 or 121 and 139. it is great to go through one by one because i will get to those psalms in turn, but i will also discover some classic gems along the way…

and on to psalm 7:

this feels similar to the point i made about psalm 5 where David is saying things i’m not convinced his life can back up… certainly things i’d be a lot more nervous to utter… in verses 8-9 he says, ‘Let the LORD judge the peoples. Vindicate me, LORD, according to my righteousness, according to my integrity, O Most High. Bring to an end the violence of the wicked and make the righteous secure — You, the righteous God who probes minds and hearts.’

So David is asking God to judge him according to “my righteousness” and “my integrity” – again, this must have supposedly been written before the whole Bathsheba incident when David would not have been clamoring for those to be the measure points. I know, for my life, as much as i strive for personal righteousness and integrity, that i often fall short. i miss the mark and get it wrong a lot of the time which negates my righteousness. and i have really strong feelings on things like pirating movies/music and telling ‘little white lies’ but am not as strict when it comes to breaking the speed limit or some other things like that so personal hypocrisy in what i stand for and how i live it out often does surface which takes out my integrity from time to time.

so i am not convinced i would want to appeal to God to judge me on the basis of those two things. reminds me of the definitions of mercy and justice: justice is getting what we deserve and mercy is not getting what we deserve and i generally am super amped to lean towards mercy [especially when it comes to parking tickets and speeding fines if i deserve either of those]

i think the last phrase of that verse sums it up – ‘the righteous God who probes minds and hearts’ – God knows. And knowing that God knows [as David gets a lot more familiar with after the Bathsheba incident] i am a lot quicker to meet Him in a place more reliant on His righteousness and integrity than my own.

then the second thing that stood out for me was the language used towards the end which is just some great and explicit imagery that conveys well what he is speaking about – ‘Whoever is pregnant with evil conceives trouble and gives birth to disillusionment. Whoever digs a hole and scoops it out falls into the pit they have made. The trouble they cause recoils on them; their violence comes down on their own heads.’ [16-18]

Reminiscent once more of the depiction of sin in James 1 – ‘When tempted, no one should say, “God is tempting me.” For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone; 14 but each person is tempted when they are dragged away by their own evil desire and enticed. Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death.’ [13-15]

And the message that is loud and clear is don’t give time to sin. The imagery of conception and birth refers to a pretty substantial time length – 9 months – and so the idea is that the person involved has entertained and nurtured temptation/sin until such time that it has become a destructive force. We need to kill sin at the root and deal with it as quickly as possible when it emerges or the effect it has on us will be devastating. Keep a short account with God – don’t go to sleep at nite with unconfessed sin lingering, because that way it is too easy for it to grow and give birth…

[To continue on to Psalm8, click here]

[To return to the start of this series on Psalms as well as some other Bible things, click here]

and on to Psalm 5:

this is an interesting one. powerful line in verse 5 – ‘You hate all who do wrong.’

is that true? of course it is. it is true to where david is at the moment of writing and what he is feeling [and maybe secretly wanting]

but is it Truth? absolutely not. we know from reading the rest of scripture that God does not hate anyone – His desire is that all will be saved [‘This is good, and pleases God our Savior, 4 who wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.’ 1 Timothy 2.3-4] – but we can see this as an expression of the frustration david is feeling as he writes this piece.

what’s interesting is that david himself secretly doesn’t want it to be true… read a little further – ‘You destroy those who tell lies. The bloodthirsty and deceitful, You, LORD, detest.’ [vs 6] is that starting to sound familiar?

remember this same david when it comes to the story of bathsheba, the wife of one of his trusted army officials and how david tells lies, is bloodthirsty and deceitful and even more… he definitely does a whole lot of wrong and is not hoping at that point that God will wipe “them” out quite as passionately as he is in this psalm… which makes me think he wrote this before the events of 2 Samuel 11 had taken place, probably from a place of thinking he was so much better than those around him who get it wrong.

this feels like the psalm from someone who is largely naive and untested in the ways of temptation and needs a bit of the reality check that screwing up royally can bring you. which he later gets. to the extreme. i wonder how this psalm would sound if it was written after that incident? probably a lot more use of words like ‘mercy,’ ‘grace’ and ‘forgiveness’?

i do like how it ends though, ‘But let all who take refuge in You be glad; let them ever sing for joy. Spread Your protection over them, that those who love Your name may rejoice in You. Surely, LORD, You bless the righteous; You surround them with your favor as with a shield.’

[To continue on to Psalm 6, click here]

[To return to the start of this series on Psalms as well as some other Bible things, click here]

one of my favourite freaky stories in the bible [and there’s lots of them – 2 kings 2.23 story of elisha and the baldyhead bear-mauling incident] is the story of elijah found in 1 kings 17.

now a bunch of things happen here – there is elijah being fed miraculously by ravens, there is the miracle of the flour and oil of the widow not running out and then the widow’s son mysteriously dies.

it is one of those crisis of faith moment stories many of us have experienced – having just witnessed this crazy miracle of the continuing food supply, the widow is now accusing the prophet [and God by association] of having it in for her.

what comes next is incredibly dangerous and as with so many bible stories, we have lost the edge of the danger because we know how it ends – shadrach, meshach and abednego risking being tossed in the fiery furnace, daniel risking the lion’s den, david heading out to take on the giant goliath armed with a slingshot, gideon with his muchly reduced army taking on an army whose tents were described as ‘swarms of locusts’ [judges 6.5] armed with torches and musical instruments and peter stepping out of the boat on to the water…

we know how they end so we read them and get excited by God and what He has done, but i think it is important to go back and read this stories as the person really desperately hoping that God is going to make a dramatic appearance…

so you have this widow and her dead son and elijah is taken to the room with the dead son and in 1 kings 17.21 it says this, ‘Then he stretched himself out on the boy three times and cried to the Lord, “O Lord my God, let this boy’s life return to him.”

why is that a cool story? because it worked. God heard elijah’s prayer and resurrects the boy and he lives again. yay God, well done elijah.

but what if he hadn’t? if God didn’t pitch up then you have a grown man, climbing on to and lying on top of the body of a dead boy… now i’m not sure we can tell from the story if he did that twice with no results and then the third time God answered because that would add in a whole other dimension, but from elijah’s point of view it has to be coming from a point of ‘i really believe this is what God wants me to do and i am going to risk reputation and possibly life to be faith-full and obedient to what i have heard God say.’

“yeah, but it’s elijah”

the same elijah who goes on to witness another robe-wetting moment on top of mount carmel where if God doesn’t show up with the sacrifice then he will lose reputation and life for sure… but also the same elijah who shortly after that incident runs away because a woman threatens him and ends up moping to God that he is the only one left [when God secretly has thousands of other faithful followers stashed away in a cave] and so clearly there were times when ‘but it’s elijah’ was not good enough to guarantee success and bravery in the face of consequences.

there are so many others like this – noah builds a giant boat in the desert, Jesus spits into a blind man’s eye, peter and john tell a crippled man to get up and walk… so many miracle stories that only took place because someone was faithful and obedient to what they heard God calling them to do… if you have known me long enuff then you will have probly heard the story of the safe house for kids in cape town that was birthed out of a worship meeting [http://www.uthandolenkosi.co.za] – a lot of people called them crazy, even some pastors took action to try and protect them from the foolish thing they were going to do… and yet because God said it, and because people responded faithfully it happened.

i think it is important to finish off by saying that the point is not to go out and do stupid things… if you go to the local swimming pool and step out on the water you will sink. why? because God did not invite you to. the key here is listening out for what God is saying to you and acting on it regardless of whether it makes sense or not to those around you. [altho seeking good counsel from strong Jesus-following people around you to make sure it is God’s thing He is calling you to and not just a hare-brained scheme is worth doing]

but if God does call you to lie on top of a dead kid and call out to Him three times, and you’re sure it’s God speaking, then you had better act on that and you will only know whether God is going to show up or not the moment it is too late if He doesn’t…

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