“…they were written down for our instruction…”

My reading through the Bible has recently taken me through 1 Samuel and some corresponding Psalms. I have been struck (not for the first time) by David’s trust in God and the resulting obedience, even while his life was threatened by Saul. David refuses to kill Saul when he has the chance, and I can’t say that I would have done the same.

Consider David’s thoughts in Psalm 34:

Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good!
Blessed is the man who takes refuge in him!
Oh, fear the Lord, you his saints,
for those who fear him have no lack!
The young lions suffer want and hunger;
but those who seek the Lord lack no good thing.

He acknowledges how his God delivers those who cry out to him, and he has actual experience with this. These words are pouring out of a soul that knows and loves God. He’s a refugee; God is his refuge.

And yet, this David is the same man we know will go on to seek another man’s wife with such fervor that he has the man killed to get what he wants. Clearly, something changed. At some point he began to believe that he did lack something (someone) that God had not provided.

I now have to preach to myself:  Anne, take heed lest you fall. I’m not sure I have the faith David showed when he did not take the opportunity to kill Saul in the cave, but I am reminded that I have ability to fall from what faith I DO have. I, too, have tasted the goodness of the Lord and seen His provision over and over again. Yet, I forget.

Now these things happened to them as an example, but they were written down for our instruction, on whom the end of the ages has come. Therefore let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall. No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.
~~Corinthians 10:11-13

I am thankful for God’s Word and my access to it. I’m thankful that it is living and active. And I’m thankful that He is faithful.

 

“…a deliberate redirection of one’s emotions…”

[a repost from January 2013]

Early Sunday morning I awoke anxious and angry. Added to that was frustration that on my one morning to sleep in a little, I was awake, tossing and turning. I finally got up, made tea, and got back in bed with my journal, Bible, and Psalms study material, grumbling all the while.

I prayed for God to give me wisdom and show me how to deal with anger at a person and about a situation. It’s an ongoing thing, but there are times that it flares up and affects me even physically — disrupting sleep and giving me heartburn. This is one of those times. I’ve run out of words to pray, and I’m ever so grateful that Christ intercedes for me. So I prayed a rather simple prayer asking for help and then turned to my study of Psalm 37. My sister just gave me Derek Kidner’s commentary, and I finally had a chance to dig in.

kidnerpsalms

Kidner looks at the advice of the psalmist, Fret not yourself, and summarizes the encouragement that follows the opening verse as Look ahead! (focus on eternity — God’s time), Look up!, and Be constructive!

Here is part of what he writes on Look up!

An obsession with enemies and rivals cannot be simply switched off, but it can be ousted by a new focus of attention; note the preoccupation with the Lord himself, expressed in the four phrases that contain his name here. It includes a deliberate redirection of one’s emotions (4a take delight; cf. Paul and Silas in prison, singing as well as praying), and an entrusting of one’s career (your way, 5) and reputation (your vindication, 6) to him. This is a liberation…

I take this as an answer to my anger. God is reminding me through his Word, explained by a wise teacher, that I need to take my eyes off the other person, off the anger itself, off the situation, and put them on Him! I am to deliberately redirect my emotions and be preoccupied with God, not myself and my circumstances. When I asked Him in prayer to give me wisdom and guidance, He answered quickly. Not an easy answer, but a simple one.  Now, I will work to take captive my thoughts and focus on Him, the One who loves me so well.

I began the morning angry and anxious, and in a matter of moments, my Lord lifted my head. I get the distinct impression that He cares for me! 😉

Oh, Father, how good you are to me! How slow of heart and stubborn I am, yet you continue to show Your love to me for Christ’s sake. Forgive me for my unbelief, and by Your presence and Your Spirit, remind me to turn my thoughts to You. Thank You!

(By the way, there’s more good stuff here in Kidner’s book, but I’ll just leave you with this for now.)

Awed,

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“What the Psalms do is lean against some of our natural instincts.”

(A repost from January 2013)

I’m still working through Psalm 37. My memory work has been slow going, and I’ve tried to catch up over the long weekend. Yesterday I began a list of what the psalmist says about the wicked and the righteous. So far, the column for the wicked is longer.
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I know professing believers who would be very uncomfortable with this list because it dares to label some as wicked and others as righteous. It implies judgment. It identifies character and behaviors that are condemned. And, yes, it can be uncomfortable to think about God laughing at the wicked (verse 13: But the LORD laughs at the wicked for he sees that his day is coming.) But our discomfort is precisely why we need to be in God’s Word, seeing things as He sees them, being corrected in our thinking. The psalmist’s words are Scripture. If we’re not willing to submit our hearts to it, we’re putting ourselves in a very dangerous place of thinking we’re more righteous than God, holier than He is.

And it’s instructive to remember that if we’re on the “righteous” side of that list, it’s only because of God’s grace in applying Christ’s obedience, death, and resurrection to us. It’s not because we were just naturally good. We were one of those laughed at by God until, in His mysterious mercy, He rescued us. So there’s no cause for boasting in ourselves here or feeling smug about which side of the list we’re on.

So, back to the list: The big theme here is how fleeting the prosperity of the wicked is. Isn’t that hard to see on a daily basis? And again, that’s why we need the reminders from Scripture! Through His Word, He re-orients us to truth: The wicked will look like they’re doing great — but it’s only temporary. It may look and feel permanent to us, but it’s not. Wait patiently on God, and you will end up with abundant peace FOREVER. Look past the circumstances of today. Look at God’s promises in Scripture, and wait on Him to work them out. Trust in His timing. He ALWAYS does what He promises. ALWAYS.

As I was thumbing through a favorite book yesterday (Ed Welch’s When People Are Big and God Is Small), I providentially came across an underlined passage that articulates all of this so much better than I can: (emphasis mine)

When confronted with enemies, we should go directly to the Psalms if we are not sure how to feel or what to say. In them, we are given exactly what we need. What the Psalms do is lean against some of our natural instincts. When we are inclined to take matters into our own hands, the Psalms teach us to trust God. When we would insulate ourselves from pain, they teach us to trust God. Instead of vowing that we will never again move close to another person, we learn to trust God. Instead of extinguishing hope, the Psalms teach us to trust God and, as a result, be filled with jubilant expectations for the coming of the kingdom. You could say that the Psalms improve our quality of life.

Believe it with me!
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“And You stilled the roaring of the seas…”

handbooktoprayerThanksgiving from Handbook to Prayer: Praying Scripture Back to God by Kenneth Boa:

You answer us with awesome deeds of righteousness,
O God of our salvation,
You who are the hope of all the ends of the earth
And of the farthest seas;
You formed the mountains by Your strength,
Having armed Yourself with Power;
And You stilled the roaring of the seas,
The roaring of their waves,
And the tumult of the peoples. (Psalm 65:5-7)

“But the word of God is entirely true and always true…”

takinggodFrom Kevin DeYoung’s Taking God At His Word:

God’s word says what is true. Like the psalmist, we can trust in the word (119:42), knowing that it is altogether true (v. 142). We can’t trust everything we read on the Internet. We can’t trust everything we hear from our professors. We certainly can’t trust al the facts given by our politicians. We can’t even trust the fact-checkers who check those facts! Statistics can be manipulated. Photographs can be fakes. Magazine covers can be airbrushed. Our teachers, our friends, our science, our studies, even our eyes can deceive us. But the word of God is entirely true and always true:

  • God’s word is firmly fixed in the heavens (v. 89); it doesn’t change.
  • There is no limit to its perfection (v.96); it contains nothing corrupt.
  • All God’s righteous rules endure forever (v. 160); they never get old and never wear out.

If you ever think to yourself, “I need to know what is true–what is true about me, true about people, true about the world, true about the future, true about the past, true about the good life, and true about God,” then come to God’s word. It teaches only what is true: “Sanctify them in the truth,” Jesus said; “your word is truth” (John 17:17).

“The LORD will fulfill his purpose for me…”

Psalm 138

I give you thanks, O LORD, with my whole heart;
before the gods I sing your praise;

I bow down toward your holy temple
and give thanks to your name for your steadfast love and your faithfulness,
for you have exalted above all things
your name and your word.

On the day I called, you answered me;
my strength of soul you increased.

All the kings of the earth shall give you thanks, O LORD,
for they have heard the worlds of your mouth,

and they shall sing of the ways of the LORD,
for great is the glory of the LORD.

For though the LORD is high, he regards the lowly,
but the haughty he knows from afar.

Though I walk in the midst of trouble,
you preserve my life;
you stretch out your hand against the wrath of my enemies,
and your right hand delivers me.

The LORD will fulfill his purpose for me;
your steadfast love, O LORD, endures forever.
Do not forsake the work of your hands.