Tag Archive: psalm 34


pain

DAY 26

Today has been a really hard day for me for two reasons. One has been physical and one has been mental/emotional/spiritual.

Physically i have had a huge splitting headache for most of the day and that is not normal for me, nor has it been fun.

Mentally/emotionally/spiritually today was probably my worst day on Facebook [and maybe being in pain already didn’t help] as i got into an exchange with two people professing to be Christians on the blog post my friend wrote about abortion, who just came across so legalistically and judgementally towards my friend and then to me when i stepped in, accusing me of a whole lot of things which were not true [clearly not people who know me] and just holding so tightly on to law with what felt like a complete absence of love.

“No, I am not condoning sin. What i am saying is that whether the person sinned or not, our response to them has to be a loving one.”

And so on. That kind of stuff doesn’t usually get to me which is why i kept engaging with them for so long i think. But then i think ultimately it did and largely because of the seriously bad name they were giving to Christianity. I came so close to blocking the one guy which i rarely ever do, washing my hands and walking away from it, but deep in my heart i just have such a love and hope for people that i really just keep believing they will change and encounter God and somehow get a glimpse of His transforming Love, that i kept at it for a while.

Task: So the challenge for today is to encounter God through some pain you have.

Now for some of you this may be easy as the pain, like mine, may be in your face. Maybe it is a health issue or maybe it is the loss of someone dear to you recently or a friend who just got really bad news again concerning their health [yup, me too!]. In the midst of the current pain, instead of running from it, take some time today to focus on it and on the fact that in the midst of pain God has promised to draw near and be there. IT MAY NOT FEEL LIKE HE IS. But He is.

Psalm 34.18 ‘The Lord is close to the broken-hearted, and saves those who are crushed in spirit.’

Psalm 23.4 ‘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.’

Joshua 1.9 ‘ Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.’

And more.

There may be some of you who are not facing any pain at the moment. I want to encourage you to either look back to a time when pain was real for you or else to think of someone you really care about who is facing some sort of pain right now. And find God within the pain.

As we observe Lent we are heading closer and closer to the time when we remember what Jesus picked up and took on, on His own accord. We know that He embraced the deepest kind of pain and separation so that we don’t have to. Let that thought direct you as you meditate through the pain.

Let Philippians 2 assist you:

In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus:

Who, being in very nature God,
    did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage;
rather, he made himself nothing
    by taking the very nature of a servant,
    being made in human likeness.
And being found in appearance as a man,
    he humbled himself
    by becoming obedient to death—
        even death on a cross!

[For the next post, day 27 of this Lent Observance, click here]

When you’re weary…

weary

DAYS 23-24ish

As we head into the weekend again i have combined today and tomorrow into one post. Please use accordingly.

They say ‘Familiarity breeds contempt’ although i would say sometimes that ‘Familiarity breeds familiarity’ which means that sometimes things that are completely profound, can lose some of their depth and meaning [for us] simply because we see them so many times that we get used to them and possibly skim over them and in one way take them for granted.

Task: The task for this weekend is simply to take a Psalm you probably know really well and read it slowly, more purposefully and a few times through, meditating on each line and trying to see it with fresh eyes. Read it out loud and the let the words speak to you and remind you of the promises of God to you.

DAY 23

For this weekend’s Lent observance I am focusing on the theme of brokenness or despair using two very powerful psalms – this one is my absolute favourite and every single line pretty much has a depth of theology to it so really take your time and work through it line by line.

Psalm 34

I will extol the Lord at all times;
    his praise will always be on my lips.
I will glory in the Lord;
    let the afflicted hear and rejoice.
Glorify the Lord with me;
    let us exalt his name together.

I sought the Lord, and he answered me;
    he delivered me from all my fears.
Those who look to him are radiant;
    their faces are never covered with shame.
This poor man called, and the Lord heard him;
    he saved him out of all his troubles.
The angel of the Lord encamps around those who fear him,
    and he delivers them.

Taste and see that the Lord is good;
    blessed is the one who takes refuge in him.
Fear the Lord, you his holy people,
    for those who fear him lack nothing.
10 The lions may grow weak and hungry,
    but those who seek the Lord lack no good thing.
11 Come, my children, listen to me;
    I will teach you the fear of the Lord.
12 Whoever of you loves life
    and desires to see many good days,
13 keep your tongue from evil
    and your lips from telling lies.
14 Turn from evil and do good;
    seek peace and pursue it.

15 The eyes of the Lord are on the righteous,
    and his ears are attentive to their cry;
16 but the face of the Lord is against those who do evil,
    to blot out their name from the earth.

17 The righteous cry out, and the Lord hears them;
    he delivers them from all their troubles.
18 The Lord is close to the brokenhearted
    and saves those who are crushed in spirit.

19 The righteous person may have many troubles,
    but the Lord delivers him from them all;
20 he protects all his bones,
    not one of them will be broken.

21 Evil will slay the wicked;
    the foes of the righteous will be condemned.
22 The Lord will rescue his servants;
    no one who takes refuge in him will be condemned.

One of my favourite verses in the bible is verse 34 which suggests to me that no matter how far down you go [a broken heart or a crushed spirit seem like two of the lowest places, fight] God is still there and He is ready to save:

18 The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.

DAY 24ish

i feel like this psalm is a lesser known one but also speaks to a place of despair and confusion and invites hope in God as the One who ultimately rescues and transforms:

Psalm 30

I will exalt you, Lord,
    for you lifted me out of the depths
    and did not let my enemies gloat over me.
Lord my God, I called to you for help,
    and you healed me.
You, Lord, brought me up from the realm of the dead;
    you spared me from going down to the pit.

Sing the praises of the Lord, you his faithful people;
    praise his holy name.
For his anger lasts only a moment,
    but his favor lasts a lifetime;
weeping may stay for the night,
    but rejoicing comes in the morning.

When I felt secure, I said,
    “I will never be shaken.”
Lord, when you favored me,
    you made my royal mountain stand firm;
but when you hid your face,
    I was dismayed.

To you, Lord, I called;
    to the Lord I cried for mercy:
“What is gained if I am silenced,
    if I go down to the pit?
Will the dust praise you?
    Will it proclaim your faithfulness?
10 Hear, Lord, and be merciful to me;
    Lord, be my help.”

11 You turned my wailing into dancing;
    you removed my sackcloth and clothed me with joy,
12 that my heart may sing your praises and not be silent.
    Lord my God, I will praise you forever.

Once again there is a line or possibly a phrase in a line that stands out to me and acts as a lifeline to someone who might be sinking or really feel far away:

11 You turned my wailing into dancing; you removed my sackcloth and clothed me with joy,
12 that my heart may sing your praises and not be silent. Lord my God, I will praise you forever.

[For the next Lent observance post, click here]

Hm, i really thought God loves you [part I] would go viral…

Godlove

Turns out that maybe that simple thought or Truth or knowledge of that Truth isn’t enough any more.

 

…or maybe we have simply started taking it too much for granted?

…or maybe we always did?

in the midst of gay marriage rights and Jesus feminism and Driscoll plagiarism and a glorious new pope…

in the midst of a world that has gone crazy with school shootings, race-related murders, genocide attempts and rumours of wars…

through the smokescreen of Hollywood comic sequel blockbusters, bad boy/girl singers trying to outdo each other in over-the-top antics both off and on the stage, and increasingly insane amounts of money being thrown at sports stars…

we can be distracted from that simple yet powerful Truth: God loves you.

God.

Loves.

You.

Can you handle the Truth?

We get a hint of it in this passage from the letter to the Philippian church, from chapter 2, where the writer reminds us of just how big a deal it was that Jesus [being God] left the comforts of heaven to become human and in habit our stinky, limited, painful world to walk among us and direct us to the Truth of His Love:

5 In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus:

6 Who, being in very nature God,
    did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage;
7 rather, he made himself nothing
    by taking the very nature of a servant,
    being made in human likeness.
8 And being found in appearance as a man,
    he humbled himself
    by becoming obedient to death—
        even death on a cross!

9 Therefore God exalted him to the highest place
    and gave him the name that is above every name,
10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,
    in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
11 and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord,
    to the glory of God the Father.

And it is in this passage from the letter to the Ephesian church where the writer gives us a greater glimpse of just how big the Love of God is:

14 For this reason I kneel before the Father, 15 from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name. 16 I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, 17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, 18 may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ,19 and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.

20 Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, 21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.

And finally, in the letter of 1 John, we see these bold and beautiful statements:

1 See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!

16 This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters. 17 If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in that person? 18 Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth.

Don’t skip so quickly to the next bit.

God. Loves. you.

God loves me.

That is so overwhelmingly hugely great and big and amazing and incredible and mind-blowing and we should constantly and consistently be heading back to that thought, that Truth, that essence of our faith [if we have faith in God… if you don’t, well then God loves you as well – He doesn’t wait until you’re clean and doing well and attending church and getting it right before He loves you. This story starts with His Love for you. God loves you now.]

For our good, and His, it is not a thin and shallow do-what-you-want Love, but one that invites us into relationship and calls us to the accompanying commitment, which can look daunting at times [and is, if we’re doing it right!] but also grants us access to living the greatest life imaginable, a life that takes into account all people and not just ourselves.

So take your time on that point, and don’t ever get too familiar with it that you rush over it or casually say it without really being aware of its full meaning.

And when times get tough or doubt sets in or life gets a little overwhelming [as it tends to do at times] or people are mean or unbelief starts to set in… then head back to that safe and comfortable place and be reminded once again, that God loves you!

1 The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing.
2     He makes me lie down in green pastures,
he leads me beside quiet waters,
3     he refreshes my soul.
He guides me along the right paths
    for his name’s sake.
4 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.

5 You prepare a table before me
    in the presence of my enemies.
You anoint my head with oil;
    my cup overflows.
6 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.

[Psalm 23]

1 I lift up my eyes to the mountains—
    where does my help come from?
2 My help comes from the Lord,
    the Maker of heaven and earth.

3 He will not let your foot slip—
    he who watches over you will not slumber;
4 indeed, he who watches over Israel
    will neither slumber nor sleep.

5 The Lord watches over you—
    the Lord is your shade at your right hand;
6 the sun will not harm you by day,
    nor the moon by night.

7 The Lord will keep you from all harm—
    he will watch over your life;
8 the Lord will watch over your coming and going
    both now and forevermore.

[Psalm 121]

17 The righteous cry out, and the Lord hears them;
    he delivers them from all their troubles.
18 The Lord is close to the brokenhearted
    and saves those who are crushed in spirit.

[Psalm 34]

16 For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.

[John 3.16-17]

 

This has been one of my favorite verses amongst favorite verses for the longest time.

It comes from my favorite psalm, psalm 34, which I enjoy so much cos almost every single verse is really great and powerful (seriously, just go and read the whole thing if you don’t know it!).

But verse 34 is a very special one: The Lord is close to the broken-hearted; and saves those who are crushed in spirit.

IMG_20131220_090418

Now, I don’t know about you, but for me those two descriptions seem to speak into the lowest of the low places a human can fall to:

Having your heart broken.

Having your spirit crushed.

I’m not sure it gets any worse than that?

If you have ever really loved someone and they loved you back for a time, and then something happened, and they stopped returning your love, but yours continued to burn at the same, or even greater intensity, then you will likely understand what I am talking about. Your heart did not literally break, but it might as well have, because the intensity of the pain and brokenness you felt, and maybe even still feel, sure made it feel that way.

In a similar way, if you really felt strong love for someone for a long period of time, and it was never reciprocated, then you will likely have some understanding of what the psalmist is referring to. Especially the moment when you heard that person had decided to give their love to someone else.

The Lord is close to the broken-hearted.

And what about having your spirit crushed? My mind immediately goes to someone who has been tortured or in prison for a very long time. Where through extreme pain, or possibly extended isolation, your spirit, your life and passion and emotional energy and very will to live, is very slowly and methodically stripped down, piece by piece, until there is really not much left at all.

But most of us will not go through a spirit-crushing that extreme I imagine. For many people the crushing of a spirit can happen gradually over time, as dreams remain unrealised or expectations are dashed; as relationships are seen to break down or perhaps seem like they are beyond repair; as one or both parents remain out of work and are getting beaten down by unsuccessful job application after application; and more…

The Lord saves those who are crushed in spirit.

The message of this psalm, and specially this particular verse, is that God is bigGER. And maybe more importantly, God is there. The message of the bible is seldom that God will take away the crap or hardship in your life, but that He will Presence Himself in it, that He will come alongside you, that He will not let you fall and abandon you. God is there! When your heart is breaking. He knows and He loves you and wants you to find your refugee in Him. When your spirit has increasing pressure weighing down upon it, Good is right there, within arm’s reach and He invites you to crawl into Him.

God knows and is there and He loves you and He is mighty to save.

The Lord is close to the broken-hearted; and save those who are crushed in spirit.

[For my next favourite verse, click here]

[For the growing list of all my favourite verses, click here]

this is not a completely happy psalm.

here we see David once again, who was the same guy who brought us this in Psalm 23:

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.

As well as this from Psalm 34:

17 The righteous cry out, and the Lord hears them;
he delivers them from all their troubles.
18 The Lord is close to the brokenhearted
and saves those who are crushed in spirit.

But now his mood has changed a lot and there is a lot more of this:

                                                                                                                                                

Listen to my prayer, O God,
    do not ignore my plea;
    hear me and answer me.
My thoughts trouble me and I am distraught
    because of what my enemy is saying,
    because of the threats of the wicked;
for they bring down suffering on me
    and assail me in their anger.

My heart is in anguish within me;
    the terrors of death have fallen on me.
Fear and trembling have beset me;
    horror has overwhelmed me.

Same guy. Same God. Different context. Different feeling. And i imagine those of us who love God and try to follow Him completely get this. The echo of the new testament, ‘I believe. Help me overcome my unbelief.’ [Mark 9.24] Being able to totally believe in God and trust that He loves you and will look after you, but also facing a really difficult situation and the feeling of distance from God as if He is not there. These are often wrestling emotions or states of being which go on inside a follower of Jesus. And I think it’s normal. It’s certainly not good, healthy or real to pretend as if everything is together when it feels like it is falling down. Sp definitely facing up to the trouble or the feeling of desparation as David does here feels really healthy and helpful for deep and authentic relationship.

As long as some time in the future, you end up at this place again [which David incidentally does while he is still in the bad place… so struggling, but holding on to this Truth he strongly believes in]

16 As for me, I call to God,
    and the Lord saves me.
17 Evening, morning and noon
    I cry out in distress,
    and he hears my voice.
18 He rescues me unharmed
    from the battle waged against me,
    even though many oppose me.
19 God, who is enthroned from of old,
    who does not change—
he will hear them and humble them,
    because they have no fear of God.

22 Cast your cares on the Lord
    and he will sustain you;
he will never let
    the righteous be shaken.

[To return to the Intro page and be connected to any of the other Psalms i have walked through before now, click here]

this is a short psalm with a big focus on praising God:

‘Clap your hands, all you nations;
shout to God with cries of joy.
For the Lord Most High is awesome,
the great King over all the earth.’
[verse 1-2]

which is a great thing to be reminded of.
especially when times are tough and we feel more at home reading how God is with us even when we are walking through the valley of the shadow of death [psalm 23] or that the Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in Spirit [psalm 34] – those psalms are great and a can be a really helpful source of comfort, but sometimes we just need to be reminded that God is great and just get loud and crazy and worshipful and lose it a little bit for Him

which brings me to the word ‘awesome’ – ‘For the Lord Most High is awesome’ – this is a personal thing, but i love sharing it with others in case anyone else decides to make it a personal for them as well.

a couple of years ago [in the midst of ‘awesome’ being quite the much used synonym for all things ‘cool’ ‘rad’ and even ‘wicked’] i decided that i wanted to reserve the word ‘awesome’ for God.

i think i might have gotten the idea from someone else but it hit me that i was using the same word ‘awesome’ to describe an ice-cream on a hot day and also to describe a movie i really liked and then also to describe the Creator and Father God who spoke a word and the whole Universe came into being… and who Loved the world so much that He sent His only Son to die that we might live… it just didn’t seem right.

and so i decided, from that day forward, that i would only ever use the word ‘awesome’ to describe God [or on the rare occasion something God-related as in ‘that was an awesome worship session’] and it has helped the word become more special for me.

i am not suggesting we take this to extremes and hold back all the other words we use to describe God, otherwise we would soon run out of words. but it does feel kinda special knowing that i have one word that is reserved for God. it becomes like an act of worship for me. a gift from me to God. this word is for You. You are the Lord Most High… and you ARE Awesome!

[To return to the Intro page and be connected to any of the other Psalms i have walked through before now, click here]

another one from my friend, Liam:

‘I have really got the simplest of ideas for Psalm 34:

What strikes me the most is how the Psalmist (David) really keeps on reminding us how much God really does protect us. It is a continual reminder (repetitive, but not boring) that a forgetting generation (such as ourselves) needs to hear. I love it, because I think that often I take on the responsibility for looking after myself and then God kind of gets a backseat, as I think that I am doing all of the hard work. Obviously, this is not the case, but I get trapped in this mindset and I forget that I REALLY AM BLESSED AND PROTECTED. I do not have control over anything in life really, so I just need to live in the freedom that God loves me and realise how privileged I am in that I get to live the life that I do.

I also find the thought of coming together to praise our Lord and to exalt Him just so encouraging. Reading this Psalm a few times, v. 2, 3, 5 & 8 really just make me excited and help me to feel happy with words that I cannot express. My Spirit lifts. My desire to praise Him and to share in this with others is strengthened. It would be my prayer that everyone else feels the same as they read this Psalm.’

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