Category Archives: All Entries

Singing with the King (96) – Accept No Substitutes

Accept No Substitutes

You alone are God. (Psalm 86:10)

Are you OK with that statement? Is the God of David the only god? Well, what does God Himself say about Himself? Isaiah was present to record some of His comments:

“But you are my witnesses, O Israel!” says the Lord. “You are my servant. You have been chosen to know me, believe in me, and understand that I alone am God. There is no other God— there never has been, and there never will be.” (Isaiah 43:10) Note that God had made this known to His People; not only Israel, but the Church.

All honor and glory to God forever and ever! He is the eternal King, the unseen one who never dies; he alone is God. Amen. (1 Timothy 1:17)

All glory to him who alone is God, our Savior through Jesus Christ our Lord. All glory, majesty, power, and authority are his before all time, and in the present, and beyond all time! Amen. (Jude 25)

Back to Isaiah:

I am the Lord; there is no other God. I have equipped you for battle, though you don’t even know me, so all the world from east to west will know there is no other God. I am the Lord, and there is no other. I create the light and make the darkness. I send good times and bad times. I, the Lord, am the one who does these things. “Open up, O heavens, and pour out your righteousness. Let the earth open wide so salvation and righteousness can sprout up together. I, the Lord, created them. (Isaiah 45:5-8)

 “Do not forget this! Keep it in mind! Remember this, you guilty ones. Remember the things I have done in the past. For I alone am God! I am God, and there is none like me. Only I can tell you the future before it even happens. Everything I plan will come to pass, for I do whatever I wish.” (Isa 46:8-10)

The LORD is not leaving us much wiggle room here. And He even speaks of those who whine and complain about it:

“What sorrow awaits those who argue with their Creator. Does a clay pot argue with its maker? Does the clay dispute with the one who shapes it, saying, ‘Stop, you’re doing it wrong!’ Does the pot exclaim, ‘How clumsy can you be?’ How terrible it would be if a newborn baby said to its father, ‘Why was I born?’ or if it said to its mother, ‘Why did you make me this way?’” (Isaiah 45:9, 10)

But it’s not just a matter of whining and complaining. No, we take the matter of god into our own hands and rather than acknowledge we are made in His image, we make gods in our image.

Their idols are merely things of silver and gold, shaped by human hands. They have mouths but cannot speak, and eyes but cannot see. They have ears but cannot hear, and noses but cannot smell. They have hands but cannot feel, and feet but cannot walk, and throats but cannot make a sound. And those who make idols are just like them, as are all who trust in them. (Psalm 115:4-8)

How sad that we, who were created in the image of the Living God, would choose to embrace the image of things that are dead.

Let’s go back to Psalm 86 and see why David is able to say: “You alone are God.”

Protect me, for I am devoted to you. Save me, for I serve you and trust you. You are my God. Be merciful to me, O Lord, for I am calling on you constantly. Give me happiness, O Lord, for I give myself to you. (vs. 2-4) Why can David ask the LORD to Protect, save, be merciful, and give him happiness? Because…

O Lord, you are so good, so ready to forgive, so full of unfailing love for all who ask for your help. (vs. 5) And…

But you, O Lord, are a God of compassion and mercy, slow to get angry and filled with unfailing love and faithfulness. (vs. 15)

David also contrasts the One True God with the gods of the pagans, and puts it into a global context: No pagan god is like you, O Lord. None can do what you do! All the nations you made will come and bow before you, Lord; they will praise your holy name. (vs. 8-9)

Paul echoes a similar reality: Therefore, God elevated him to the place of highest honor and gave him the name above all other names, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue declare that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. (Philippians 2:9-11)

All nations, all peoples will bow and declare that Jesus Christ is Lord. Some will do so out of love; others because they are constrained to do so. Will you acknowledge the One who alone as God? The One who protects you, saves you, is merciful to you and gives you happiness. I hope so.

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Singing with the King (95) – Pride & Humility

Lord, I have given up my pride and turned away from my arrogance. I am not concerned with great matters or with subjects too difficult for me.  Instead, I am content and at peace. As a child lies quietly in its mother’s arms, so my heart is quiet within me. Israel, trust in the Lord now and forever! (Psalm 131)

Last time I looked at this Psalm, I focused mainly on the author. It was King David, who was, shall we say, a reasonably successful King. Yet this is where his heart was. But this time I want to look at our hearts in relation to this Psalm.

This is one of the Songs of Ascents, there are 15, which are presumed to be the songs the Jews sang as they walked up to the Temple. If that is indeed the case, then the four David wrote were for future generations.

So here we are walking to worship, and it’s probably a good time and place to give up your pride and turn away from your arrogance. God’s not particularly fond of either of those attributes:

Though the LORD is great, he cares for the humble, but he keeps his distance from the proud. (Psalm 136:6) It’s going to be tough to worship—to draw near—if the LORD is keeping His distance from you.

All who fear the LORD will hate evil. Therefore, I hate pride and arrogance, corruption and perverse speech. (Proverbs 8:13) Fear of the LORD means you understand Who He is and who you are. Pride and arrogance will not only NOT lead to understanding, it will put you in a dangerous place where God hates you.

Pride leads to disgrace, but with humility comes wisdom. (Proverbs 11:2) Disgrace or wisdom…it’s your choice.

Pride goes before destruction, and haughtiness before a fall.  Better to live humbly with the poor than to share plunder with the proud. (Proverbs 16:18-19)

Disgrace, distance, and finally destruction and a fall.Can you see how impossible it is to have a loving and worshipful relationship with Him, with all that against you? Pride exalts us beyond our place. Pride replaces God, or at best ignores Him. Pride completely re-writes our priorities. Pride makes us stupid. And the damage? Well that’s what the Psalms and Proverbs are talking about.

So what is it that grabs your attention? Great things? Difficult things? In and of themselves there is nothing wrong with either. But what if they become a distraction? What if they complicate too much? Find the simplicity of a child’s love and rest in the Lord.

Finally, lets not forget the context. You’re on your way to worship. God knows your heart. He knows when you’re being prideful and stupid, and he knows when you’re being humble like Jesus. He knows when you are near, and when you are distant. But what about your friends around you, as you’re going to worship? Are you being transparent so they can see that you’re struggling, and therefor could encourage you and strengthen you? Or are you keeping to yourself, hurting alone, being alone? It could be that your willingness to be open could bring about the healing you need, the truth you need, and so as your walking to worship, you’re actually being made ready for worship.

Some people have gotten out of the habit of meeting for worship, but we must not do that. We should keep on encouraging each other, especially since you know that the day of the Lord’s coming is getting closer. (Hebrews 10:24-25)

Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. (James 4:8) You might even find yourself held in His loving arms.


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Singing with the King (94) – Forgiven Forgotten

Lord, if you kept a record of our sins, who, O Lord, could ever survive? (Psalm 130:3)

Have you ever noticed that the Bible asks some pretty tough questions? And I see this verse within the context of another verse from the Psalms: For troubles surround me— too many to count! My sins pile up so high I can’t see my way out. They outnumber the hairs on my head. I have lost all courage. (Psalm 40:12) Yeah. There are days like that, when my sins pile up so high around me I can’t see my way out.

Please understand, we’re not talking about sins which are committed by those who do not love the LORD. They wouldn’t even recognize them as sins, let alone even know what sin is. Psalm 40 is about a soul who is vexed by and overwhelmed by his sins. And being in such a state, you see no way through, no way out. Paul felt this:

And I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature. I want to do what is right, but I can’t.  I want to do what is good, but I don’t. I don’t want to do what is wrong, but I do it anyway.  But if I do what I don’t want to do, I am not really the one doing wrong; it is sin living in me that does it.  I have discovered this principle of life—that when I want to do what is right, I inevitably do what is wrong.  I love God’s law with all my heart.  But there is another power within me that is at war with my mind. This power makes me a slave to the sin that is still within me.  Oh, what a miserable person I am! Who will free me from this life that is dominated by sin and death? (Romans 7:18-24)

Now he good news is that Paul does not leave us waiting. The answer comes immediately in verse 25: Thank God! The answer is in Jesus Christ our Lord. So you see how it is: In my mind I really want to obey God’s law, but because of my sinful nature I am a slave to sin. So now there is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus.  And because you belong to him, the power of the life-giving Spirit has freed you from the power of sin that leads to death. (Romans 7:25-8:2)

When we were utterly helpless, Christ came at just the right time and died for us sinners. So when Christ died for our sins, and we accepted His sacrifice and His salvation, the Father stopped keeping records.

He has removed our sins as far from us as the east is from the west. (Psalm 103:12)

“I have swept away your sins like a cloud. I have scattered your offenses like the morning mist. Oh, return to me, for I have paid the price to set you free.” (Isaiah 44:22)

“You have put all my sins behind your back.” (Isa8ah 38:17)

“You will again have compassion on us; you will tread our sins underfoot and hurl all our iniquities into the depths of the sea.” (Micah 7:19)

“And I will forgive their wickedness, and I will never again remember their sins.” (Jeremiah 31:34)

Once our sins are forgiven, they are forgotten. The problem is WE keep remembering them. And that’s where we need to learn a lesson in Divine forgiveness. If He has buried our sins in the sea, scattered them like the mist, and removed them as far as the east is form the west, don’t you think we should forget them as well. Otherwise we could be saying that His forgiveness isn’t good enough, and that’s terrible and scary position to take.

In love he predestined us for adoption to sonship through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace that he lavished on us. (Ephesians 1:5-8)

Singing with the King (93) – The Necessity of Community

I was glad when they said to me, “Let us go to the house of the Lord.” (Psalm 122:1)

I suppose I inherited it from my mother—she loved to walk. Now I’m not sure I love to walk, but I do need to walk, as I’m dealing with heart disease. So Monday, Wednesday, Friday, I go to the gym. Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday, Sunday, I walk.

But today, I thought I’d kill two birds with one stone, and walked down to the Whole Foods and picked up some healthy snacks: apples, nuts, etc. So here I am, walking back to work, with my bag of healthy goodies, and walking in the opposite direction I approach a young man, and begin to say, “Good morning”, but then I notice he has his earbuds in and he won’t hear me, and he doesn’t look up.

And therein lies the danger of social media, smart phones, et al. We isolate ourselves from personal touch. We lose even the common courtesy of being able say “Good morning” to someone. Who knows, perhaps you’re having a bad day, and if someone happens to look at you and smile and says good morning, wouldn’t that help at least a little bit? Maybe even more than you can imagine.

This verse from Psalm 122 reminds us of the necessity of community. Not only should worship be done together, but going to worship, and leaving worship, whenever possible, should be done together. Why?

Well, the conversation is going to be a blessing and encourage you. You will be after all, talking about Jesus, what He’s done for you, how He’s answered prayer, or how you need prayer. How you’re feeling lost, or how He’s been guiding you. There’s a whole myriad of topics and thoughts and hopes and needs that could be expressed in your coming and going to and from church. Or, maybe you’ll talk about the sermon, or the worship pastor (hopefully mostly good).

As far as being in worship, it’s all about Him. Your fixing your eyes on Jesus, and worshiping Him. And you’re doing it with people you love. Your adding your voice to a host of others, and lifting your praise to the Most High. Perhaps there is prayer time, and you hear about those who are going through some really tough times, or the latest request from one of the missionaries, or maybe the church is starting a new ministry, or a building program. You as a community, you as a congregation, are lifting up these needs Together. “For where two or three have gathered together in My name, I am there in their midst.” (Matthew 18:20)

And so for a time, you’ve got yourself out of yourself, you’ve got your eyes off of yourself, and your focus has been on the Lord, and your concerns have shifted from self to others. The apostle Paul talks about that:

Love each other as brothers and sisters and honor others more than you do yourself. Never give up. Eagerly follow the Holy Spirit and serve the Lord. (Romans 12:10-11)

Share each other’s troubles and problems, and in this way obey the law of Christ. (Galatians 6:2)

Now unfortunately, I need to make a disclaimer. Not all churches are kind churches. Not all churches are friendly churches. There are some who are judgmental, critical, legalistic, and cold. Now in regards to the latter two in that list, some could make a case that they are being biblical. But when grace and love are lacking, how long can you stand upon a “good doctrine” platform? But I like to think that most churches that love Jesus, love people; and I hope you can find one. I’m fortunate, in that I attend two churches that love Jesus and love people in my hometown. So I know they’re out there. So don’t get discouraged. Keep looking.

But for now, take out your earbuds, and look for opportunities to smile and say hello. Let the love of Jesus shine through you. And get off that little screen—or big-screen— and go to church, with friends, and share what’s going on. And when you’re in church enjoy the fellowship, embrace the community, as you worship the One True Living God

Let us be concerned for one another, to help one another to show love and to do good.  Let us not give up the habit of meeting together, as some are doing. Instead, let us encourage one another all the more, since you see that the Day of the Lord is coming nearer. (Hebrews 10:24-25)

 

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Singing with the King (92) – The Big Question

O Lord, who may abide in Your tent? Who may dwell on Your holy hill? (Psalm 15:1)

That is a good question. The Apostle Paul’s take on this question could be:

If I live, it will be for Christ, and if I die, I will gain even more.  I don’t know what to choose. I could keep on living and doing something useful. It is a hard choice to make. I want to die and be with Christ, because that would be much better. (Phil 1:21-23)

But whatever things were gain to me, those things I have counted as loss for the sake of Christ. More than that, I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish so that I may gain Christ, and may be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own derived from the Law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which comes from God on the basis of faith, that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death; in order that I may attain to the resurrection from the dead. Not that I have already obtained it or have already become perfect, but I press on so that I may lay hold of that for which also I was laid hold of by Christ Jesus. (Philippians 3:7-12)

So for King David, for the Apostle Paul—and for the follower of Christ—our greatest goal is to be with the Lord.

Now there are times when David asks questions, but no answer is forthcoming, because like us, he is waiting on the LORD for an answer. But this time, in this short little Psalm, we have the answer to the question. Now understand, the Psalmist doesn’t give the names of those who may abide, who may dwell (only the LORD knows who are His.) But he does give a description. Does it describe you?

He who walks with integrity, and works righteousness, and speaks truth in his heart.

In just this one sentence it talks about your walk, your works, and your words. Your walk is the sort way of saying how you  live your life. It’s your worldview. Works are obviously what your do. And words are what you say. It’s your character, your actions and your speech that exhibit integrity, righteous living, and a truthful heart.

For the Lord God is a sun and shield; the Lord bestows favor and honor; no good thing does he withhold from those whose walk is blameless. (Psalm 84:11)

Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled. (Matthew 5:6)

May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing to you, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer. (Psalm 19:14)

Instead, we will speak the truth in love, growing in every way more and more like Christ, who is the head of his body, the church. (Ephesians 4:15)

But wait. You don’t have to wait for Heaven to dwell with God. As a follower of Christ, you have His Spirit dwelling within you here and now:

People who are ruled by their desires think only of themselves. Everyone who is ruled by the Holy Spirit thinks about spiritual things. If our minds are ruled by our desires, we will die. But if our minds are ruled by the Spirit, we will have life and peace. Our desires fight against God, because they do not and cannot obey God’s laws. If we follow our desires, we cannot please God. You are no longer ruled by your desires, but by God’s Spirit, who lives in you. People who don’t have the Spirit of Christ in them don’t belong to him. But Christ lives in you. So you are alive because God has accepted you, even though your bodies must die because of your sins. Yet God raised Jesus to life! God’s Spirit now lives in you, and he will raise you to life by his Spirit. (Romans 8:5-11)

I asked earlier if David’s description describes you. It should. People should see the life-transforming effects that the Spirit of God has upon you. You walk, your works, and your words will show that you are abiding and dwelling with the LORD.

 

Singing with the King (91) – Precious

Precious in the sight of the LORD is the death of His godly ones. (Psalm 116:10)

jesuschild9I believe this is the Old Testament precursor of a passage from Revelation:

And I heard a voice from heaven, saying, “Write, ‘Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on!’” “Yes,” says the Spirit, “so that they may rest from their labors, for their deeds follow with them.”

I first ran across this latter verse when I performed the Brahms Requiem with the Philadelphia Orchestra. Now don’t get all impressed with me. I was just a Bass in  a choir of about 150 singers. There are seven movements in the great work, and the one based on the above verse is the final movement, which makes sense. And at the end of this post, you’ll hear this movement. Now back to the Psalm.

From a contextual point of view, verse 10 is rather interesting, because it is the only one dealing with someone actually dying. The remainder of the other 18 verses speak of one that has been delivered from the grasp of death.

The cords of death encompassed me and the terrors of Sheol came upon me; I found distress and sorrow.  Then I called upon the name of the LORD:  “O LORD, I beseech You, save my life!”  Gracious is the LORD, and righteous;  Yes, our God is compassionate.  The LORD preserves the simple;  I was brought low, and He saved me.  Return to your rest, O my soul, for the LORD has dealt bountifully with you.  For You have rescued my soul from death, my eyes from tears, my feet from stumbling. (v. 3-8)

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So why insert this verse about death, when all the others are about escaping from it (and being   thankful)? I think the key is in verse 8: For You have rescued my soul from death, my eyes from tears, my feet from stumbling. You see, for those who have lost a loved one, their eyes have shed many tears, and they have stumbled. But the Psalmist gives them a glimmer of hope when he tells them that their loved one is one of the Lord’s godly ones, and their death is precious in His sight.

Some of the meanings of the Hebrew word for precious are: prized, rare, highly valued and influential. And all those describe my friend Mark. For those who knew him, and many much better than I, you can see those words describing Mark. But the most important aspect of Mark 20245779_10154842661725872_4178047506386990472_nis that he was and is one of  the Lord’s godly ones. And since his death is precious to God, I have no doubt that it grieved our Heavenly Father—or rather—our Heavenly Father grieves for Mark’s wife Lorri, and their families; because Mark is now with Him, probably shooting videos—and the resolution is out of this world.

So for those who have grieved, cried and stumbled, know two things (at least):

And now, dear brothers and sisters, we want you to know what will happen to the believers who have died so you will not grieve like people who have no hope. For since we believe that Jesus died and was raised to life again, we also believe that when Jesus returns, God will bring back with him the believers who have died. (1 Thessalonians 4:13-14)

Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.. (Philippians 4:12-14)

Because Mark is one of His godly ones, we DO have hope. And despite our tears and stumbling, we need to continue to press on. For like him, we too will one day rest from our labors.


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Singing with the King (90) – My Shepherd

The LORD is my Shepherd. (Psalm 23:1)

Good Shepherd2Years ago, I heard a preacher—I don’t know if it was live or on the radio— who talked about the choices we make and the paths we take. So there you are, walking along with God, side by side, fellowshipping with Him, following Him, just being WITH Him. And then you decide to take a right turn, and go off in your direction. Now this is not without biblical precedence.

Note what He has done for us:

  • He was pierced for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on Him, and by His wounds we are healed. (Isa 53: 4-5)

And what do we do after all this?

  • We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to our own way. (v.6a)

So yeah, wandering off is in our nature. Now, back to the sermon. This preacher talks about us wandering off, to go down our own path, probably to do something sinful, something selfish, something displeasing to God. And the picture he painted was that God remained on the chosen path, while we trotted off on our own. And when we finally come to our senses, like the prodigal son did, we then turn around and go back to the path, and find God patiently waiting there for us.

THAT IS WRONG! And here’s why.

Does a shepherd just let his sheep wander off? Or does he go get them? He goes and gets them, because He knows we are too stupid, or too lost, to find our way home. Now granted, we may be off on this little tangent, this little side trip, and be totally unaware that He is with us—but He is. Because The LORD is our Shepherd. (Who by the way, laid down His life for us – John 10:11)

Also consider His nature.

Where could I go to escape from you? Where could I get away from your presence? If I went up to heaven, you would be there; if I lay down in the world of the dead, you would be there. If I flew away beyond the east or lived in the farthest place in the west, you would be there to lead me, you would be there to help me. I could ask the darkness to hide me or the light around me to turn into night, but even darkness is not dark for you, and the night is as bright as the day. Darkness and light are the same to you. (Psalm 139:7-12) With the exception of Hell, the is no place He is not.

Omnipresence is pretty tough to escape.

So, a role He willingly embraces, and a divine characteristic which is tough to get by (pun intended). God is not waiting at the beginning of your detour with arms crossed and foot tapping. He is with you. Now, you may not know that He is with you, because you’re trying to avoid Him, or ignore Him, or forget Him. But He is with you, and He always will be.

Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you. (Hebrew 13:5)

For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:38-39)


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Singing with the King (89) – Context 1.2

Cease Striving and know that I am God. (Psalm 46:10)

soldiers prayingSo, the earth melted, and God brought desolation and destruction upon the earth. To what end? And why so extreme? Well, the answer to that is found in the second half of the above verse. The end of the verse reads: Know that I am God. Whether the earth is melting and being made desolate, or whether your life is melting and you’re feeling desolate, now is the time for you to cease striving and know that He is God.

Now for those of us have experienced such life shattering events in our lives, you know they can either ruin us, or bring us into the presence of God. Now as far as this Psalm is concerned, God is indeed the instigator, the prime mover, the originator and source of this bespoken cataclysm. Well His desire and motivation is to have you come to know Him.

This is good and pleases God our Savior, who wants everyone to be saved and to understand the truth. For, There is one God and one Mediator who can reconcile God and humanity—the man Christ Jesus. He gave his life to purchase freedom for everyone. (1 Timothy 2:3-6)

But here is the danger. So you’re going through trauma, turmoil, loss or defeat, and rather than turning to God, you reject Him and accuse Him of being mean and uncaring. The problem with that call is, that you are nowhere near Him to really know Him.

Back to the context. Note these verses from this same Psalm:

God is our refuge and strength, always ready to help in times of trouble. So we will not fear when earthquakes come and the mountains crumble into the sea.  Let the oceans roar and foam. Let the mountains tremble as the waters surge! (vss. 1-3)

The Lord of Heaven’s Armies is here among us; the God of Israel is our fortress. (vss. 7, 11)

He is our refuge and strength, always ready to help, but we need to Be Still. He is here among grief4us, and is our fortress, but we need to Be Still. Note the latter verse is occurs twice in the Psalm (vs, 7,11). In fact it is the last thing written. He is with you. Can you be still?

On last thought. The remainder of verse 10 goes: “I will be honored by every nation. I will be honored throughout the world.” At some point (i.e. – when you’re standing before Him in Heaven) you will no longer have a choice. Paul tells us in Philippians 2:

Therefore, God elevated him to the place of highest honor and gave him the name above all other names, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue declare that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. (vss. 9-11)

Be still today, and know that He is your God. And if you’re wondering how to do that, follow this link:

http://www.theintentionallife.com/first-one-thing-booklet/

 

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Singing with the King (88) – Context 1.1

Cease Striving and know that I am God. (Psalm 46:10)

Riot and FireLast time, we discovered that the context of this verse places you squarely  in the middle of a war. Maybe it’s for soldiers who are literally in the midst of a battle; or maybe it IS the end of the world as we know it; or it could be the spiritual battles that you’re in the midst of, which are seeking to overwhelm your soul and your heart. But Cease Striving does not merely call you to stop in the middle of a busy day; it calls you to stop whatever you’re doing, even in the midst of warfare.

So what is God doing around this verse, which should cause us to Cease Striving?

The nations made an uproar, the kingdoms tottered; He raised His voice, the earth melted. The Lord of hosts is with us; The God of Jacob is our stronghold. Selah. Come, behold the works of the Lord, Who has wrought desolations in the earth. He makes wars to cease to the end of the earth; He breaks the bow and cuts the spear in two; He burns the chariots with fire. (vs. 6-9)

The first thing that our great God does in an apocalyptic, world-ending, cataclysmic kind of way is that he raised his voice and the earth melted. Earth is a very common word in the Hebrew, occurring well over 2000 times. Most of the time it is translated as land, and the next most translation is earth. It could mean countries, it could mean countryside, and even the ground we walk on. But it can also be translated as world. Now melted only occurs 17 times in the OT and it literally means to melt, and dissolve. It also means to faint, and be fainthearted. So rather than literally melting, it could mean that the hearts of those who are in this event melted. Now whether it was (or is) a local, or global, or personal event, God thundered, and everything came to a screeching halt.

valley of bonesThe next thing that God brought was desolations in the earth. Now this word can also be translated as destruction, horror, and waste. Pretty intense. And why does he do this? To end the wars.

Now I gotta admit, that seems a bit over the top; more like overkill. Why not just cause things to stop, to cease? Why bring about desolation and destruction? Well, you know the answer. Just putting the brakes on would be enough to get our attention, but it wouldn’t be enough to get us to change. Just getting us to stop would not bring about repentance in our lives. But losing everything? Yeah, that could.

Next time… So why does God go to such extremes?

Singing with the King (87) – Context 1.0

Cease Striving and know that I am God. (Psalm 46:10)

AbideThis is my favorite Psalm. In fact it was the Psalm that launched this website (#2). And as is often the case, favorite verses can sometimes cause us to miss the context; and that’s what happened here. You see, whether you translate that Hebrew word raphah as be still, or cease striving, or fall limp, or fail, or drop—the list goes on—it spoke to me as an everyday, what’s going on in my life, kind of verse. But it’s not that only.

Now I will say, that it’s application still makes it very much an everyday, what’s going on in my life kind of verse, but the status for the psalm writer was much more intense.

The nations made an uproar, the kingdoms tottered; He raised His voice, the earth melted. The Lord of hosts is with us; The God of Jacob is our stronghold. Selah.

Come, behold the works of the Lord, Who has wrought desolations in the earth. He makes wars to cease to the end of the earth; He breaks the bow and cuts the spear in two; He burns the chariots with fire. Cease striving and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the will nations, I will be exalted in the earth.” The Lord of hosts is with us; The God of Jacob is our stronghold. (vs. 6-11)

So, the psalmist speaks of a battle; in fact it seems to him like a worldwide battle— nations were in an uproar, kingdoms tottered, the earth melted— yeah, sounds pretty worldwide to me. And if God raised his voice and melted in the earth, that’s kinda apocalyptic.

But whether it’s an intense battle going on in a faraway place, or the end of the earth, or even a spiritual battle that’s raging on around you, threatening to overwhelm your heart and your soul, this Cease Striving does not merely call you to stop in the middle of a busy day; it calls you to stop whatever you’re doing, even in the midst of your warfare. It’s that important, and it’s that life-changing. Will you cease your striving to know that He is God?

Next time… More on the context of this verse.

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