The Angels’ Song

I may be allowing myself too much freedom in application of Psalm 20, but let’s see how it goes . . .

I know it’s a song of David to the choirmaster, but I wonder if it could not have been sung long after David by a chorus of angels. I know it’s written as a plea by those involved in some earthly circumstance, but I’m imagining it as a petition from an army of mighty beings as they watch another drama play out from their heavenly balcony.

If it is only a song of David then it is the people of his kingdom who petition on behalf of their king as he prepares to enter some great conflict. But if it was brushed off centuries later as a remix for another King, the greater King, then might the angels have sung it too? Could it have also been a song for Jesus as He prepared for a coming crucible?

After one of their ministering spirit cohort returns from the garden, having strengthened Jesus as He prayed in agony in anticipation of the cup that lay before Him (Lk. 22:42-43), and though they would have preferred to have descended upon earth as mighty legions sent to rescue God’s Son from the mission before Him (Mt. 26:53), did they instead take up the song of David on behalf of the suffering Savior?

“May the LORD answer You in the day of trouble,” they cry. May He protect You, send You help, and support You. May He remember all Your offerings and regard with favor Your sacrifices. O, that He would grant Your heart’s desire and fulfill all Your plans so that we might shout with joy over Your salvation. May the LORD grant all Your requests. “O LORD, save the King! May He answer us when we call.” (20:1-5, 9).

And though they would petition earnestly, sing the song passionately, yet they would not petition desperately. For their confidence would have been the same confidence Jesus had in Gethsemane as He submitted to the Father’s will. The same confidence David had.

Now I know that the LORD saves His Anointed; He will answer Him from His holy heaven with the saving might of His right hand.

(Psalm 20:6 ESV)

And isn’t that what happened on the third day? The mighty right hand of God raised Jesus in victory as conqueror, once and for all, over sin and death. The God of heaven having answered in the day of trouble. Remembering His Anointed’s offering. Accepting His Beloved Son’s sacrifice. Granting the Savior’s heart desire, fulfilling all His plans to make way for a people to be delivered from bondage to sin and welcomed into the holy of holies.

To be sure it was David’s support song, but might it also have echoed through heaven as the angel’s resurrection song?

Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the LORD our God. They collapse and fall, but we rise and stand upright.

(Psalm 20:7-8 ESV)

But we rise! Just as the Anointed rose. We stand upright. Just He stands at the Father’s right hand. And one day, we will join the heavenly chorus declaring, “Worthy is the Lamb,” having shared in the victory of the Anointed because we also trust in the name of the LORD our God.

Hey!  Maybe it’s our song too!

By His grace. For His glory.

Posted in Psalms | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Psalm 19

The heavens declare the glory of God, His handiwork making known His magnificent artistry to the senses (v.1). While His perfect law is able to dive deep below the surface and revive even the soul (v.7a). Every sunrise, every sunset, pouring out a heaven-sent communication and revealing knowledge for those who have eyes to see (v.2). While His reliable and lasting testimony is capable of imparting wisdom for those who have ears to hear (v. 7b). The testimony of creation as to the presence and power of God crying out through all the earth and to the end of the world (v.4). The joy and enlightenment of His enduring and righteous word made available to all who desire it more than gold because they have tasted of it and found it sweeter than honey (vv. 8-10).

But there is something about standing in the sunlight. The bright light having a way of revealing blemishes not normally noticed. There’s something about staring deep into a mirror. We can see things we just as soon not see. Such was David’s response after extolling the declaration of God’s glory in creation and the communication of God’s heart in His word.

Who can discern his errors? Declare me innocent from hidden faults. Keep back your servant also from presumptuous sins; let them not have dominion over me! Then I shall be blameless, and innocent of great transgression.

(Psalm 19:12-13 ESV)

David considers the glory of God revealed in His creation, he meditates on the truth of God imparted through His word, and realizes afresh the faults and failures in his life.

He sees the errors, those little mistakes so often tripping him up. He gains awareness of those hidden faults, that concealed iniquity, as it bubbles to the surface. He increasingly recognizes the continuing influence of pride and ego in daily life and recoils at the thought of being enslaved to presumptuous sin. For he knows that unchecked, little mistakes, and hidden faults, and ego error have a way of morphing into great transgression.

But just as the sun brings light, it can also bring a purifying heat. Just as the mirror of God’s word can reveal unsightly warts, warning the servant of God of sin in his life, there is also, in giving heed to His word, the potential of great reward. A reviving of the soul, a making wise of the simple, a rejoicing of the heart, an enlightening of the eyes.

For beyond just revealing a moral law and righteous rules, they also reveal a gracious God. One who can justify and justly declare me innocent from hidden faults. One who will sanctify and keep me back from presumptuous sins. One able to glorify, one day presenting me before Himself blameless. And that, through a third volume of God’s self-revelation not known to David.

While David had creation to reveal the glory of God, and while he had the law to reveal the way of God, in these last day God has spoken to us by His Son–the appointed heir of all things; through whom the world was created; the radiance of God’s glory; the exact imprint of His nature; the One who upholds the universe by the word of His power; the One who, after making purification for sins, sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high (Heb. 1:2-3)–to demonstrate the love of God.

Precious! More precious than gold! Sweet! Sweeter than honey or the drippings of the honeycomb.

Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in Your sight, O LORD, my Rock and my Redeemer.

(Psalm 19:14 ESV)

Because of grace. For Your glory.

Posted in Psalms | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

In Whom I Take Refuge

Mulling over Psalm 18 this morning. A song of David. A song of victory. The words of the song addressed to the LORD on the day the LORD rescued David from the hand of all his enemies.

Seems to me that if ever there was an example of what it looks like to give glory to God, this song is it. The song begins with praise and ends with praise. In the middle it recounts desperate cries for help and a God who not only hears in His heavenly temple, but descends to aid in the battle on earth. A God who rides on cherub above while David engages in hand-to-hand combat below. One who thunders in the heavens while David pursues his enemies.

But it seems to me it also speaks of a partnership. Not equal partners by any stretch of the imagination, but co-warriors nevertheless.

David prays, God answers. David enters into battle and God gives him a “wide place” for him to firmly plant his feet. David wages war as God equips him with strength. David pursues his opposition because God makes David’s enemies turn their backs and flee.

True also when the battle isn’t going so well.  When drowning in “many waters”, it was God who pulled David out. When confronted with a foe “too mighty for me”, it was God who rescued him. When seemingly unending, daily calamity was the norm, it was God who supported him. And how come? “Because He delighted in me.”

Yeah, not an equal partnership. But, to be sure, a partnership. David determinedly did his part. God graciously did His part. Evident in this mid-song bridge which summarizes the dynamics at play:

For by You I can run against a troop, and by my God I can leap over a wall. This God–His way is perfect; the word of the LORD proves true; He is a shield for all those who take refuge in Him.

(Psalm 18:29-30 ESV)

It’s that last phrase I’m chewing on this morning. God is a shield for all those who take refuge in Him. Thinking that’s the essence of the divine partnership available to the people of God.

Thinking that what makes a shield a shield is someone taking refuge behind it. If no one engages a shield for protection isn’t it just an inert chunk of metal?

But David’s well-tested conclusion is that for those who take refuge in God–for ALL THOSE who take refuge in God–He is a shield. A shield for those who trust in Him. For those who believe He hears when they call; acts when the situation is desperate; and provides and enables when strength and ability are needed.

That’s the divine partnership. My God is a shield. But He is only my shield when I take refuge in Him.

He is my shield when, by faith, I look to Him for protection, and when I truly believe what I say I believe and seek Him as my shelter. He is my rock only when I resolve to stand on Him. He is my fortress as I place myself within His gates. I trust in Him and, beyond comprehension, He delights in me.

In this divine partnership I can’t really bring a lot to the table. But He asks me to do my small part . . . to take refuge . . . for “without faith it is impossible to please God” (Heb. 11:6).

I love You, O LORD, my strength. The LORD is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer, my God, my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield, and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.

(Psalm 18:1-2 ESV)

In whom I take refuge.

By His grace. For His glory.

Posted in Psalms | Tagged , , , , , | 1 Comment

Living to Leave? Or, Living to Behold?

Psalm 17 is another of those prayers of David when he’s on the wrong side of the battle . . . the losing side. And while David wasn’t a perfect or pure man, in this case he cries to God to “hear a just cause” (v.1). In this particular matter he is confident that God has tried his heart, has dug deep into the secret places, and, having tested him, knows he is above reproach (v. 3). David has guarded his mouth and watched carefully his steps (v.4-5) and so calls out to God to arise and deliver his soul from the wicked (v. 13).

And what catches my attention is the contrast David makes between himself and those who oppose him.

Arise, O LORD! Confront him, subdue him! Deliver my soul from the wicked by your sword, from men by your hand, O LORD, from men of the world whose portion is in this life. You fill their womb with treasure; they are satisfied with children, and they leave their abundance to their infants. As for me, I shall behold Your face in righteousness; when I awake, I shall be satisfied with Your likeness.

(Psalm 17:13-15 ESV)

David’s enemies were of those who lived for this world, whose portion was in this life. Those who lived for the material and viewed success by what could be seen, acquired, used, and left to others. Though not recognizing God’s good hand in their accumulated treasures, for He is the Giver of every good gift (James 1:17), their when-all-is-said-and-done satisfaction came from what they could leave behind for their children and their children’s children. To die with abundance was to die successfully. To leave a great inheritance, their great legacy. They were of that sort of person who, in essence, was living to leave.

But as for David, he was living to behold.

Though the going was getting tough, David didn’t lose site of what lay ahead. Though justified in this matter, if things just didn’t get any better, his hope was in what was yet to come. For the songwriter looked forward to that day when he would awake and behold Jehovah’s face in righteousness. His satisfaction not tied to any material treasure left behind, but to the eternal reward of seeing face to face His God’s likeness.

While David cried out to God for present help, he did so mindful of his promised future. Though his enemies sought his life unjustly, he had been justified by faith. Though they sought his possessions that they might place them in their storehouses, he sought God’s presence that he might find himself in the shadow of His wings (v. 8). Though they lived for what they could accumulate and leave as their legacy, David lived for what he could anticipate and receive as his reward.

They were living to leave. He was living to behold.

Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when He appears we shall be like Him, because we shall see Him as He is.

(1John 3:2 ESV)

It has not yet appeared but when we it does, we will be satisfied. Satisfied because we shall be like Him awaking with His likeness as David believed. Satisfied because we shall see Him, beholding His face in righteousness as David anticipated.

And this, by our God’s unfailing grace. And this, for our God’s everlasting glory.

Amen?

Posted in Psalms | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Jehovah-Yaats

Not gonna lie. I kind of get jazzed when something new pops off the passage in the morning. Not that it’s “new”, but that I haven’t really taken notice of it before. But it’s not being jazzed like little Jack Horner who sat in the corner eating his Christmas Pie, and I’ve put in my thumb and pulled out a plumb and I’m thinking, “What a good boy am I.” No, I’m jazzed because I know it has been divinely served up. Wasn’t looking for new discovery this morning. In fact, if I’m honest with myself, I’ve actually been more in a rush mode as I’m kind of pressed for time. Instead, the Spirit freely and graciously pops it out of the written word and serves it up for me as a living word and says, in effect, “Here! Chew on this a bit.”

So here it is. It’s another one of those names of God that I think of as one of the lesser known Jehovah’s. The better known ones are:

Jehovah-Jireh – the LORD will Provide (Gen. 22:14)
Jehovah-Rapha – the LORD who heals (Ex. 15:26)
Jehovah-Nissi – the LORD is my banner (Ex. 17:15)
Jehovah-Shalom – the LORD is peace (Ju. 6:24)
Jehovah-Raah – the LORD is my shepherd (Ps. 23:1)
Jehovah-Tsidkenu – the LORD is our righteousness (Jer. 23:6)
Jehovah-Shammah – the LORD is there (Ezek. 48:35)

Well how about Jehovah-Yaats?

I bless the LORD who gives me counsel; in the night also my heart instructs me.

(Psalm 16:7 ESV)

The LORD who gives me counsel. Jehovah-Yaats (pronounced yaw-ats).

The One who is ready to advise. Our Counselor. Ever present, available for consultation twenty-four-seven. Able to directly impart wisdom, devise plans, provide instruction, give direction, and, when necessary, encourage redirection, as He gives heavenly counsel via our earthly hearts. He is Jehovah-Yaats.

So how amazing a reminder is that? Pretty!

We are not left to our own smarts, our own intelligence, or our own wisdom to navigate the stuff in life that needs to be navigated. Instead we have the mind of the Son of God (1Cor. 2:16) activated in us through the Spirit of God that we might know the things of God (1Cor. 2:12).

Mine is to ask for counsel. Mine is to listen for the still small voice of instruction. Even in the night, alert to possibility that what I may simply think is MY heart’s prompting, MY inner voice, is really HIS Spirit’s directing and HIS Counselor’s voice.

Jehovah-Yaats.

I bless the LORD who gives me counsel.

Kind of jazzed!  Bless the Lord!

Because of His grace. Only for His glory.

Posted in Psalms | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

DIDO

Been a long time since I’ve hung out in the computer programming world. So long that I don’t think its called computer programming anymore. Now it’s about software development. So I don’t really know if in that world they still talk in TLAs and FLAs the way we used to (Three Letter Acronyms and Four Letter Acronyms). But in my day, why use words when letters would do?

One of those FLAs regularly referred to, at least in the day, was GIGO, Garbage In Garbage Out. Essentially stating the fact that bad input can only result in corrupted output. That flawed data coming into a system will only produce even greater flawed responses from the system.

And this morning, continuing to read in Jesus’ sermon on the mount, I’m reminded of the truth of GIGO. But in this context, it’s DIDO.

“The eye is the lamp of the body. So, if your eye is healthy, your whole body will be full of light, but if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light in you is darkness, how great is the darkness!”  ~ Jesus

(Matthew 6:22-23 ESV)

DIDO. Darkness In Darkness Out.

In the world of light, the eye is the portal. It is the entry point. And so, a healthy eye will result in a whole body full of light. But corrupt the eye; reduce the light; increase the darkness; then the body is going to operate in darkness. And its output, its behaviors, will be characterized by darkness. Darkness In Darkness Out.

But Jesus’ eye talk is but an analogy, an illustration, of a more pointed truth He wants to convey to His followers. The DIDO truth concerning the eye is a warning of what can plunge a heart into darkness thereby corrupting soul, spirit, and everything a person does.

“Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. . . . No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.”   ~ Jesus

(Matthew 6:19-21, 24 ESV)

Let our lives be fixated on accumulating earthly treasure and know that it has a way of choking out the light and increasing darkness. Set your thoughts, your energies, and your priorities around filling up houses and storage units and know your affections are gonna follow. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

If the eye is the lamp of the body, then the heart is the lamp of soul. That’s why God regenerated our hearts when He redeemed our souls. But regenerated hearts are not hearts immune from corruption. Nor, because they have been made hearts of flesh attuned to the things of heaven (Eze. 36:26), are they unable to again calcify and function again more in line with the old hearts of stone attached to things of earth. For no one can serve two masters.

So Jesus warns His disciples. Treasure on earth, when acquiring them becomes the master of our lives, will choke out the light of heaven in our hearts. And DIDO. Darkness In Darkness Out.

O that we, as God’s people in this land of plenty, would hear afresh the call to be people of light and resist the darkness, the darkness of prioritizing earthly treasures above kingdom investments. That our focus would be on laying up treasures in heaven, and keep our hearts clear of the entanglements of this world. That light might shine into our heart unhindered so that light might come forth from our very being abundantly. LILO.

And this only by His grace. And this only for His glory.

Posted in Matthew | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Right Reward

Mission accomplished isn’t always success. Winning the race doesn’t necessarily mean getting the gold medal. Hitting a bullseye may still mean you missed the mark. Getting your reward may not be much of a prize at all if it’s the wrong reward. That’s what I’m picking up this morning from what Jesus is laying down in the first part of Matthew 6.

It’s been said before but bears saying again: Right theology will determine right behavior. Don’t know your God? Then it’s gonna be hard to serve your God?

Case in point?  The hypocrites.

“Thus, when you give to the needy, sound no trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may be praised by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. . .

And when you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites. For they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, that they may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. . . .

And when you fast, do not look gloomy like the hypocrites, for they disfigure their faces that their fasting may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward.

(Matthew 6:2, 5, 16 ESV)

The hypocrites. They’re actors. Stage players. Pretenders. And Jesus says, don’t be like them. Don’t play games. And certainly don’t play them on the wrong stage before the wrong audience.

They give to be praised by others. They pray and they fast to be seen by others. And guess what? They’re successful. Their generosity is the talk of the synagogue. Their eloquence in prayer demonstrates to all who hear them that they must be heavenly because of their heaven-ese. The depths of their piety evident by the almost visible cloud hanging over their pained countenances as they go without food for hours, even days, on end.

Mission accomplished. Race won. Bullseye! Jesus Himself acknowledging that they have received their reward. That people will take notice. That praise, admiration, and veneration from many will be deposited to their ego accounts.

But big deal! Who cares?

Fleeting acknowledgement. No eternal significance. Passing praise from dying people. And all because of bad theology. All because they don’t know that their God is a God who sees in secret.

And three times Jesus declares one of the foundational operational laws of the kingdom: “Your Father who sees in secret will reward you.”

When you give, give in secret. “And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.” (6:3-4)

When you pray, go into your room and close the door. “And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.” (6:6)

When you fast, cover it up so no one knows. “And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.” (6:17-18)

We’re not to be actors. And we certainly need to beware of playing to the wrong audience.

Rather, we are to be disciples, followers of Christ, the real meal deal. And our audience is an Audience of One. The One who sees in secret. The One who rewards for what is done in secret. And that, with a heavenly reward, a prize that is “imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you” (1Pet. 1:4).

“Beware of practicing your righteousness before other people in order to be seen by them, for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven.” ~ Jesus

(Matthew 6:1 ESV)

Live for the praise of others on earth and we may very well be quite successful in achieving our goal. But the response will be fast fading. The recognition fleeting. The reward a non-reward.

But live for, and before, our Father who is in heaven, the One who sees in secret and rewards with eternal rewards, and truly, we’ll live for the right reward.

By His grace. For His glory.

Posted in Matthew | Tagged , , | Leave a comment