Psalm 3-Psalm with an Author

Psalm 3-Psalm with an Author

We made it to our first Psalm with an author, and we are certain it is David.  This may be the last Psalm covered in just one post for a while, the next ones may need to be split up.  But I am excited to talk about this Psalm!  You see, at this time, David is king.  But this crazy thing has happened- his son, Absalom, is trying to kill him so he can be king! (This account is in 2 Samuel)  It is important we know this because David is conflicted when he writes this- he loves his son!  And every time they clash in battle, David tells his army not to harm Absalom.  We might say David was a bit of an optimist as he held out for his son to stop.

“LORD, how are they increased that trouble me! many are they that rise up against me. Many there be which say of my soul, There is no help for him in God. Selah.
But thou, O LORD, art a shield for me; my glory, and the lifter up of mine head.
I cried unto the LORD with my voice, and he heard me out of his holy hill. Selah.
I laid me down and slept; I awaked; for the LORD sustained me.
I will not be afraid of ten thousands of people, that have set themselves against me round about.  Arise, O LORD; save me, O my God: for thou hast smitten all mine enemies upon the cheek bone; thou hast broken the teeth of the ungodly.
Salvation belongeth unto the LORD: thy blessing is upon thy people. Selah.” -Psalm 3 (KJV)

The first line makes sense- David cries out in the agony of his heart.  He is under attack, both physically and spiritually.  And so he begins a plea song.  Not only that; but those around him tell him there is no hope for him in God- he is even beyond God’s help.  It’s easy to imagine people are seeing or hearing about his circumstances and in the absence of a solution, just tell him the world view of “beyond hope”.  His circumstances seemed too awful or desperate, they couldn’t even comfort him.  Have you ever been there or known someone else who was there?  I have spent a bit of time being a mentor, and all too often I hear people who have been desperately pleading with God for an answer to something: a spouse, healing, a child, etc. The list is long!  And these are real things that come from people in desperate situations.  From the outside, they may not look as desperate as David, but that inner agony and heartbreak over something is the same.  That feeling that makes one cry out for help.  Gives the enemy a foothold into some insecurity in your life (like the people telling him he was helpless).

But then David does something we can all learn from-In the third verse, he begins lifting himself up, talking his way to a better outlook.  And he starts lifting himself up by reminding himself of how good God is!  His shield and the One who lifts up his head.  David is assured that God heard him, even.  These truths are part of his being.  He knows God will protect him, exalt him, and has heard his cries.  From the reactions of those around him given his predicament, we can gather that David cried out to God earnestly, he probably even shed some tears.  But as he recalls God’s greatness he begins to write a song!  He gives thanks that he slept through the night and was sustained- his agony did not consume him, and his enemies did not find him. We often pray before we sleep and when we wake up, but do you thank God each morning you wake up?  Sometimes we feel like our situation or desperation should be the end of us.  Gladly, this is not a place I find myself often, but I usually get there in times when I have really messed up or tragically embarrassed myself. (I should note that I am not easily embarrassed…I am the type who doesn’t mind making a fool of myself to get some smiles or start relationships.  I once was meeting someone for the first time and totally missed their hand for a handshake- who does that?!  Just me!? Haha!)  But you know what I mean?  I usually end up feeling like I should not be permitted to continue with my meager life when I have misspoken and hurt a friend; when I fall short of expectations or don’t fulfill my potential.  But what have I really lost?  I usually come to the conclusion that, in these moments when I am so down and desperate, that I have forgotten what I have to be thankful for.  Including the life given to me each morning, and not limited to my little, snuggly, rescued kitten, my job, dear friends, family, etc!

Perhaps his rest cleared up his head and renewed his spirit, because he finishes out his song with such confidence in the Lord!  You know, I think Paul must have been inspired by David’s stories, because Paul’s confidence in Christ could definitely contend with David’s!  Well, David woke from his nap, still very much alive, and now he feels unstoppable!  He’s unafraid of any army that may rise up against him.  He knows God has started something and will see it through to the end.  David does plead a bit more.  He says, “Arise, O LORD; save me, O my God.”  This time not conceding defeat over his soul to what is after him, but in knowledge that the only one who can help him is God.  He’s done listening to those that told him he had no help.  He knows his Source.  And he knows what his Source is capable of.  In this chapter, David uses the Hebrew “Yehovah”- that is Jehovah.  The Existing One.  The One who is eternal.  From the beginning and to the end. Who started creation and smites down David’s enemies!  Salvation belongs to Jehovah.  And He is the One who bestows blessings.

Something else to consider, because we all have struggles, is that David wasn’t just fleeing his son.  He was chased out of his kingdom by his son- people saw him as a coward.  This would have only been more fuel for the enemy in convincing David he was no good at what God had asked him to do.  But guess who else was run out of a city?  Jesus was!  Not just any city- His hometown!  And they actually tried to throw Him off a cliff!  (Talk about a bad day!)  This is a lesson for us as Christians to be aware that not every battle calls for a sword, but it does call for us to wait patiently and trust in the Lord, for we know from where our strength comes.  And David knows all too well how God will smite his enemies down, because they are also God’s enemies, especially those who spoke against David by blaspheming God.  I am so glad the One who has existed for all time is the one in charge of my salvation and the bestowing of blessings.  What a great reminder of all the reasons we have to accept good from God.  He didn’t leave David in his trials, and He hasn’t forgotten you or me through our trials!  The next time we feel desperate or lost over something, take a note from David- know your enemy, know your God better, sing praise!

Psalm 2- Trust

Psalm 2- Trust

I love the way this psalmist wrote this song.  He is so upfront and straight forward.  He says it like it is so there are no questions needed after.  And he gives us another characteristic of the Blessed man.  So lets jump in!

“Why do the heathen rage, and the people imagine a vain thing?  The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the LORD, and against his anointed, saying, Let us break their bands asunder, and cast away their cords from us.  He that sitteth in the heavens shall laugh; the LORD shall have them in derision. Then shall he speak unto them in his wrath, and vex them in his sore displeasure. Yet have I set my king upon my holy hill of Zion. I will declare the decree: the LORD hath said unto me, thou art my Son; this day have I begotten thee. Ask of me, and I shall give thee the heathen for thine inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth for thy possession. Thou shalt break them with a rod of iron; thou shalt dash them in pieces like a potter’s vessel. Be wise now therefore, O ye kings: be instructed, ye judges of the earth. Serve the LORD with fear, and rejoice with trembling. Kiss the Son, lest he be angry, and ye perish from the way, when his wrath is kindled but a little. Blessed are all they that put their trust in him.” -Psalm 2 [KJV]

Again we can observe a theme in the psalms- the theme is in the final verse.  Now, Acts 4 attributes this Psalm to David, but it is still unclear, and has a different writing style from his other psalms, in my opinion.  Regardless, we know these words to be truth.  The psalmist tells us there are two clear paths- One of defying God and one of full surrender to Him.  One is clearly a path of destruction, and the other to a blessed life.  The heathen here is understood as a nation (it can also just refer to a single person or small group of people) who has set itself against the Lord- those who have no religious affiliation.  Specifically, those who didn’t believe in the God of Israel. In Hebrew we have “Qedosh Yisrael”*- The Holy One of Israel. This is the God who gave Moses the law and won’t stand for treason; who chose Israel as a holy nation to be set apart for servitude to God; the One we have the privilege of belonging to.  By reading the words God gave to Moses, we can tell the God of Israel despises sinful acts.  And the psalmist tells us the heathen were raging!  Like they were up in arms against God, intentionally breaking His laws!  Whether they had heard of God or not, their sinful actions were a direct defiance of who He is. [*I have owned at some point the book by Ann Spangler “Praying the Names of God”- excellent book, I took lots of notes, but I give my books out when I finish.  I recommend this book to anyone trying to dig deeper into the character of God!]

And they “imagine a vain thing”. I have taken this to mean not just with everything they do (thought, word, and deed) being fruitless, but they also entertain those “Hollywood thoughts”, which applies to believers too! (It’s connected to trust!)  You know those thoughts? I don’t consider myself to be a “romantic”, but there are days when I have been struggling through a trial and am so emotionally and spiritually exhausted that I will pray a friend would come give me a hug out of no where (and physical touch isn’t even my love language!).  But I don’t just wish for it, I play out the scene in my head into the most unrealistic, drawn out, best ending possible scenario I can picture!  Or even the times I get so excited to share what God is teaching me, and I can’t wait to share it with my friends, so I will play through how the conversations will go and what is best to say…this usually results in raised hopes that get crushed hard when everything goes exactly how not imagined!  I let myself down because I trust in my own abilities and seek only to bring myself happiness, and that takes away the desire in me to let God do His will through me, thus my efforts are vain and fruitless.  Even more so for the heathen, who can do no good without Christ, so all they do is in vain.

The psalmist is being real- he is pleading for the answer “why?”- like “what’s the point?”.  There are kings electing themselves, putting themselves in charge, judging themselves as competent and capable to rule; and rulers who are banning together, making plans to thwart the LORD and his people. The psalmist is not able to make sense of these vain human desires when he knows that God is jealous and vengeful for His people!  He has that trust!  He even goes on to declare God’s goodness; how the heathen can be broken down easily and how it is best to serve the LORD.

He knows God sits on his throne and sees the attempts of man at overthrowing Him, but He is not threatened or afraid, He laughs at it, because God sits in peace in His Heavenly Kingdom where man cannot hope to reach.  This knowledge should be a comfort to all those who seek righteousness and trust in God.  He says the all who oppose God will become frustrated and they have their end.  And God won’t just sit by and let the heathen get away with their defiant acts- first he speaks to them, because He is full of mercy!  He is the established King.

And so God gives a decree about His Son.  This is an endearing thought- God gave only Jesus Christ that name- “Son”. It is not used for anyone else.  Jesus was not created, but begotten by His Father, which is a special relationship.  Ultimately, Jesus will rule over all nations, as that is His inheritance. (Revelation 11:15 gives a peek into what that will look like!)  Jesus will reign with such great power, it is so foolish to defy the LORD and His Son- it would have no benefit. The kings of the earth should give up their defiance!

LORD in Hebrew here is “Adonay” which is Lord or master.  It is used to show a master/servant relationship and fits well with the psalmists’ lesson.  Adonay is the One we surrender everything too, not just our material possesions, but every aspect of our life should be a sign of surrender to His will and goodness.  In fact, the psalmist says to “serve the LORD with fear, and rejoice with trembling.”  This fear and trembling is a reverence to God that comes from knowing His abilities and understanding His character as God of Israel.  And those who trust in Him are blessed. [Again, that book by Ann Spangler!]

Then we come to “Kiss the Son”.  This is an interesting cultural act that is lost in our first world society for most.  I have had several cultural and religious experiences with a kiss on the cheek- one was simply my ignorance in not letting a middle eastern person kiss my cheek (I knew them well enough and it was offensive to deny them. Lesson learned), and then I have times when I am with my sisters in Christ and we agree to greet each other with a kiss on the cheek (I have not had any brothers talk about this with me.)  Here it is a sign of submission and affection to the one we serve.  The humble kiss of one who considers himself inferior- we should know our place, and also rejoice for our relationship with Him!

The first psalm was about the righteous being blessed.  His path is a difficult one to walk, but full of many good things! Now we learn of the ones who trust the LORD.  I have experienced some incredible blessings from trusting God- such as getting a job and finding a house within 24 hours of leaving my family behind to journey to a place I had never been with two bags to my name and no real plan but to trust God.  But I also want to share a more recent trial I have been going through, you’ll have to bear with me though as I am withholding details to not give the appearance of any sort of hate:

Songbird and I often meet at his apartment to talk (he has a table and chairs, I do not). Usually there are others for our fellowship nights, but tonight the others were busy, so it was just us.  We sat on the floor in the beginning, just sharing, and we began talking about how much we wanted to pursue God, but how much the world was holding us back. We only chatted for a bit before he hopped up and began cooking hotdogs so we could feed some street folk (one of my favorite activities!).  After serving for a little more than an hour, we came back to his place and sat at the table, nibbling on some unleavened bread.  I think we sat in silence for a while before continuing our earlier discussion. (It is a theme in our friendship, plenty of silent moments. I think we both like to process in our own time.)  I started by reading Romans 8, then he shared John 14, and it reminded me of the story of Elisha’s calling. (I will make a blog post about this, it is one of my favorites! But our talk was meaty, deep, and intimate and lasted 4 hours, and won’t fit here.), and we began talking about what ‘plows’ needed to be burned in our lives.  This was when God started to reveal that the people I came out here with at first (and I love these people, they are great! My family away from home.) were people I needed to break some ties with.  I was heartbroken over this thought and filled with fear- both things that I have learned to take as a sign from God that He is preparing to do something, but it wasn’t helping me motivate myself to talk to them.  When the time came, and I told God I was ready to do what He wanted, I was covered with peace!  This story ends with me being disowned by these people I love, but it revealed that I wasn’t trusting God, or even letting Him into the things I was doing with these people.  (this ‘thing’ was exercise related, not something bad in nature.)  God did use my time with them to grow me, and I am so thankful that He has reclaimed me from it now!  It hurt a lot, and I have had to work on trusting others again while also trusting God, but I have been so blessed! 

I tell you this to encourage you. What I did was not easy, and the results should have shattered my world more than you know.  But God knew this, and He was ready.  It was like a ‘trust fall’ into the Saviors’ hands.  It is worth it- to seek out those things holding you back from putting your full trust in Him and taking the fall into the hands of the One who created you.  It can be scary, and it will most likely not end the way that you would like it to, but it will end the way God needs it to so you can trust Him again.

Psalm 1- Righteous

Psalm 1- Righteous

 

My hope for this blog is to share what I learn from the scriptures in a simple way so as many who want to can benefit from what is shared. My move has taught me many things- trust, pursuit, passion, readiness- and teaching is something I felt inclined to since my childhood, but always found a way to avoid it. Luckily, I have learned by this time, that a lot of the things I feel like running from are actually things God wants me to tend to. Under the encouragement of one of my good friends I have made in this move, I have agreed to share what I learn on a blog.

I have not selected the Psalms as my starting point because they are ‘easy’. Any book you read can be ‘easy’ if you don’t dig deep enough.  And while I am sharing what I have learned from what I read, I hope you will journal alongside and add your own thoughts. The goal here isn’t to build up a blog that puts people down and keeps them out from understanding, it is to build up a community that seeks truth.  I have selected the Psalms because in my most recent season, praising God has been a trial.  Not that bad things have happened, actually the opposite!  Things have been so great, that I feel like I should have more words of thanks on my lips day and night!  A song to sing when things are good so when things go bad I still know the song by heart- because my heart knows of God’s goodness when my eyes show me otherwise. (You know Paul? He always had a song on his heart! Acts 16 has the account.)

To begin, I will share that I love using 3 Bible resources for my studies- my top favorite is the Blue Letter Bible (BLB), great for looking up deeper meaning to certain words, comparing different translations, and even has great commentaries!  I also love using my ESV journal Bible, which definitely doesn’t have enough space for my writing, but is still nice to carry so I don’t have to take a notebook everywhere too.  My newest favorite is a KJV Thompson Chain reference Bible.  I love the KJV because I have learned that even my ESV (which I enjoy and don’t find it too different from KJV) can sometimes change a word in a verse and that changes the context drastically.  But whichever version you chose should be able to follow along!

Psalm 1
“Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor standeth in the way of sinners, nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful. But his delight is in the law of the LORD; and in his law doth he meditate day and night. And he shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that bringeth forth his fruit in his season; his leaf also shall not wither; and whatsoever he doeth shall prosper. The ungodly are not so: but are like the chaff which the wind driveth away. Therefore the ungodly shall not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous. For the LORD knoweth the way of the righteous: but the way of the ungodly shall perish.”

I like to try reading the Psalms to some tune, but this one is a tough one to sing!  Yet it is such a good lesson.  We aren’t sure who wrote this Psalm, but it is such a great start to this huge book- the worldy and wicked contrasted with the godly.  I think it is worth noting that the writer begins by telling us what things DON’T make a blessed man- walking with the ungodly (wicked), standing with sinners, sitting with the scornful (scoffers).  He does not delight in their company.  In the second epistle of John, verse 10, we read “If there come any unto you, and bring not this doctrine (the doctrine of Christ- of grace and love), receive him not into your house, neither bid him God speed.”  This was a really life changing verse to me.  On the surface, this sounds almost like an excuse to never interact with a nonbeliever. But it’s not.  It’s a call for Christians to guard themselves, as temples of the Holy Spirit.  Our call will always be to serve, but if we aren’t careful with who we keep most of our company with, that bad seed will come in and pollute our Spirits.

“Walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly”- it is the active verb in the first verse.  He does not actively look for ungodly people, people of the world, for his counsel.  When a problem arises, he knows better then to follow the advice of these people.  I can share a personal example here: I have a dear friend, I call him Songbird for praise is always on his lips and he is a great encouragement to me. Songbird was one of my first friends in my new place, and we did awesome things together- visiting local sites, church hopping, fishing, and my favorite, sitting in the trunk of my car having deep talks about God.  But the more I shared these stories about my amazing friend, the more the world poked and jeered at me “Are you all dating yet?” “Don’t you want there to be more?” etc.- And eventually my guard dropped and I wrecked that amazing friendship we had, I felt so awful.  Then I realized- this was the enemy- because I understood that this friendship was given to me from God, and such a huge blessing to me that the world could not understand.  I had shared my stories, not seeking the counsel of others in this manner, but it ended up breaking me down anyway.

“…nor standeth in the way of sinners, nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful.”  These two are more stationary verbs.  The blessed man does not stand in the path of sinners. Sinners have a path, and they stand in it, as in they have no escape as they are without God.  But the blessed man has a different path! (Matthew 7:13).  The scornful love to sit in company of others like them and scoff at the people of God.  The blessed man doesn’t have time for these things, though, and knows the righteous path to take.  There are some studies that look at “walketh…standeth…sitteth” as a progression of sin, but I am trying to just take them at face value here.  It is a good thing to think on in your own study.

But the blessed man delights in the law of the LORD and he is built up by his meditation on these instructions!  Who else do we know of who was instructed to know the law well? Joshua!  Moses begged for the deliverance of Israel, whom God was prepared to erase from creation, and Joshua was put in charge of these people who were prone to flop from praising God one moment, to idol worship seconds later. Joshua is given charge of these people with a warning- to keep the law always on his lips (Joshua 1: 7-8).  He needs it to keep these people in line. I imagine he was grateful for these guiding words, because he was given the arduous task of encompassing a whole city on foot for many days with people who were full of complaints!  But he got to witness so many amazing things!  I’m sure he walked around reciting the laws and speaking of all these miracles under his breathe through the camps…  The blessed man is not bored by following the laws, and he doesn’t find it tedious to meditate on them day and night- he DELIGHTS in these things!  These are what give him a song to sing for the Lord!  He obeys and follows and is blessed.

The blessed man is also like a tree planted by the streams of water- it has a constant connection to its life-giving source. Roots dug deep into the thing sustaining it. So when its season comes, it always bears fruit. And even in its off season, it does not wither, but stands strong. “…whatsoever he doeth shall prosper.”  Because he has prepared himself, not just for what he is called to do, but also for the times the enemy comes to beat him down; he won’t wither because he has rooted himself to a Life-giving Source and prepared himself.  I think of Peter, who spent much of his time with Jesus asking ‘silly’ questions and was never beaten down by others mocking him for it.  He was so sure he wouldn’t deny Jesus- SO SURE!- and then it happened and he wept, the one time he let his foolishness overcome him. But Jesus knew Peter would do this, and more then that, Jesus KNEW Peter would turn back to serve him and encourage his fellow brothers- because he had prepared! (And more then that, Jesus had prepared him!)

The ungodly will not prosper.  In fact, they are like chaff.  I know a bit about chaff having grown up in farmland…It gets in everywhere making it hard to remove, it is itchy and annoying, and it is blown around easily.  Chaff is the little organic shell around wheat that pops off when the wheat is ready. But the ungodly won’t stand at judgment, or sinners in the congregation of the righteous.  The enemy comes to temp them and they easily are swayed into wickedness, and this pattern becomes their life-style and they are stuck in it. They are unaware and unprepared.  Their ways will perish in the sight of the Lord. He will not acknowledge them when they stand before Him. (scary thought!) But He does know the ways of the righteous!  He knows our struggles and He knows our desire to pursue Him on a deeper level.  The blessed man seeks his counsel, guidance, and company from the godly, the saints.  Because he knows where his help comes from.

I pray this has blessed you in some way and that you have added your own thoughts and gleaned your own lessons from this.  Songbird and I agreed that the enemy would not have victory over our friendship, and continue to be great friends having deep, intimate conversations without a care for what the world says.  And I have been grateful for that perspective and this lesson that goes with it. (and for his extreme show of grace and acceptance. God isn’t finished with him yet!)  Feel free to share your own thoughts or questions in the comments!

Be blessed.