PSALM 69

PRAYERS OF A

MATURE PERSON

Recently my wife, Paula, and I drove along one of Connecticut’s little known roads when suddenly we came upon the Dewey Granby Oak. Actually, we had already passed it when we realized we should turn around, go back, and take a second look. What is so remarkable about the Dewey Granby Oak tree? After all, the USDA says there are 806 million trees in the Nutmeg State. Ninety-nine percent of them are far less than 200 years old. But the Dewey Granby Oak is almost 450 years old! In 1620, when the Pilgrims landed in the New World this white oak was just getting started in an open field. There were no road, no town of Granby, no state of Connecticut, no colonists. I wonder, if ancient trees could talk what stories would they tell? If old trees could pray, what would they pray about? We know we will never have an answer to such questions. However, mature, godly people do pray, and if we have ears to hear we can learn some important things about how to pray.

King David wrote Psalm 69 in his mature years. It was not a time to pray about trivial things, even things once considered to be urgent. Life’s priorities were clearer now than when he was younger. His prayers focused on the most important things.

What should we pray about today — especially when coming face to face with the fact that life is not always easy and that life is but a mist that evaporates in a moment? Do our prayers show godly maturity?

• ASK GOD TO HELP YOU SET A GOOD EXAMPLE. “Let not those who seek you be brought to dishonor through me” (verse 6). Even your children, grandchildren, extended family, friends and acquaintances are influenced by the way you live. The things you talk about are remembered. Today you have opportunities to help someone see what it means to love God. You can be an encouragement to “seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness” (Matthew 6:33). Ask the Lord to keep you from being a stumbling block to anyone.

• CONFESS YOUR SINS EVERY DAY. We do not know David’s age when he wrote this Psalm, but I can assure you from 78 years of life on earth that no matter how old one gets, Satan never stops trying to entice us to neglect our Christian duties, to compromise our moral standards or corrupt our thoughts. The kinds of sin we face may change as we grow older, but the fact of temptation to sin never changes. David prayed: “O God, you know my folly: the wrongs I have done are not hidden from you” (verse 5).

• LOVE GOD’S CHURCH. Jesus exemplified loyalty to God’s house by the life He lived and the death He died. When He cleansed the temple, His disciples remembered that David once wrote: “Zeal for your house will consume Me” (John 2:16-17 a quotation from Psalm 69:9). If you are unable to do what you used to do in serving Christ, continue to be diligent in prayer for the church as long as you live. Pray for the church to grow numerically and spiritually, for missionaries to serve effectively, for elders to lead as shepherds, for teachers and preachers to be faithful to the word of God, for new congregations to be planted, for those who have strayed from the faith to return. Neither age nor poor health, financial setbacks, broken marriages nor disappointments with the life choices of family-members should be allowed to hinder our prayers!

• COMMIT EACH MOMENT TO GOD’S DELIVERANCE AND LOVE. This is what David did! “At an acceptable time O God, in the abundance of your steadfast love answer me in your saving faithfulness. Deliver me from sinking in the mire…. Answer me, O Lord, for your steadfast love is good” (verse 13-17).

• PRAY FOR YOUR ENEMIES. Some have been offended by David’s request that his enemies face the judgment of God: “Let them be blotted out of the book of the living; let them not be enrolled among the righteous” (verse 28). We need to consider the wider context. It is not personal revenge for which he prayed. David knew that some people had evil intentions toward God’s plans for Israel and its divinely appointed king. If they were willing to repent of their evil ways, David would have been the first to ask God to be merciful to them. But if they were unwilling to change their ways, David prayed that the Lord would not let their evil plans succeed. His prayer arose from a pure heart of genuine concern that God’s plans prevail; that God’s justice be accomplished on earth as it is in heaven. He prayed that the willfully wicked and unrepentant experience the holy righteousness of God. To pray for the wicked to succeed in their destructive intentions is the very opposite of what God desires. When our attitude is what it should be, we can pray for God’s justice to prevail as David prayed.

• SET YOUR HEART ON GOD’S SALVATION. “Let your salvation, O God, set me on high!” (verse 29). The best is yet to be! The great day of the Lord is coming. “Set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 1:13). Other versions put it like this: “fix your hope completely” (NASB), “be perfectly attentive” (ABPC), “with perfect stedfastness” (DBT), “calmly and unfalteringly” (WNT). Our spiritual focus should not be half-hearted. We cannot afford to allow the distractions of the world and our surroundings deter us from our hope. Heaven is real and our reward is guaranteed!

• PRAISE GOD! In Psalm 69 the psalmist affirms the power and worth of God. “I will praise the name of God with a song; I will magnify him with thanksgiving …. When the humble see it they will be glad; you will seek God, let your hearts revive. For the Lord hears the needy and does not despise his own people who are prisoners. Let heaven and earth praise him, the seas and everything that moves in them” (verse 30-34). There are some who see the Dewey Granby Oak, and never connect the dots to God. They do not praise the God of nature for His magnificent handiwork. Let the humble remember to praise God for His beautiful world and for His mighty designs. Our God is the great God whose “eternal power and divine nature” are clearly perceived in the things He has made (Romans 1:20). Today and every day praise God from whom all blessings flow!

“But what lays ahead for the Granby Oak? If we are to consider the range of recorded ages for some of the oldest fallen white oaks in the Eastern United States, the Granby Oak would already seem to have cheated death out of as much as a century. In 2005, cross-dating of a remarkable white oak in Virginia revealed an age of 464 years, easily the most extraordinary specimen on record. And yet, if the Granby Oak’s estimated age is correct, then it’s quickly approaching even the most extreme known boundaries of longevity for the species. Truth be told, while the tree remains apparently healthy and hopefully endures for several more years to come, it seems quite unlikely that another century lays ahead. It stands today as an iconic and wondrous denizen of Connecticut, having outlived virtually all of the billions of trees that existed on the day it sprouted so very long ago. What a grand life it has lead!” (J.G. Coleman, August 29, 2018).

(All Scripture quotations from the English Standard Version unless otherwise noted.)

A new congregation of the Church of Christ will begin soon in Pittsfield, MA. Weekly communion, acappella singing, back-to-the-Bible messages, undenominational. Call: 214-926-2747

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Posted in 1 Peter 1:13, Confess Sins Every Day, David's Prayer for Justice, God's Salvation, Good Example, Hindered Prayerll, John 2:16-17, Love God's Church, Matthew 6:33, Praise God, Prayer for Enemies, Prayer of Mature People, Prayer: What To Pray About, Romans 1:20, Spiritually Mature, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

PSALM 68

BLESSED BE GOD

“Awesome is God from His sanctuary; . . . He is the one who gives power and strength to His people. Blessed be God!” (Psalm 68:35).

Please read Psalm 68. Underline its key words; circle the verse numbers that are special to you. Then consider the following reflections on an unusual Psalm filled with joy and thanksgiving for the power and greatness of God.

“Awesome is God from His sanctuary; . . . He is the one who gives power and strength to His people. Blessed be God!” (Psalm 68:35).

King David begins by tracing the history of God’s providential care in Israel’s history. With confident faith he declares: “God shall arise, His enemies shall be scattered” (verse 1). These are almost the same words used by Moses as he led the children of Israel through the wilderness, moving the ark of the covenant from Sinai to Jerusalem, its ultimate destination. Whenever the ark set out, Moses prayed: “Arise, O Lord, and let your enemies be scattered” (Numbers 10:35). It was a call to the Lord of Host to lead His people safely along the way. God could do this because He rode “through the deserts” and “marched through the wilderness” (verse 4, 7). He defeated His enemies along the way, while women divided the spoil and sang: “The kings of the armies–they flee, they flee!” (verse 12). His enemies were scattered, blown away like smoke, melted like wax melts before fire (verse 2). God proved over and over that He was truly “Father of the fatherless and protector of widows” (verse 5). In all His goodness, God “provided for the needy” (verse 10). No other god was as powerful and protective as “the One of Sinai,” the “God of Israel” (verse 8). The one true God is still all-powerful! “The righteous shall be glad; they shall exult before God; they shall be jubilant with joy!” (verse 3).

The theme verse quoted above states that God is “awesome” — a word which originally meant “full of terror” then much later came to mean “amazing, astonishing, marvelous, stupendous, sublime, wonderful, and worthy of praise.” When used of God we should not think of the weakened word “awesome” which has evolved in modern English to describe a good sandwich, a large library, a piece of rock music or a child’s poster made in art class. Words may fail to express the full meaning of “awe,” but we know it when we experience it! God is “awesome” in the sense that His holiness, power, actions, character and blessings evoke deep reverence in our hearts, an overwhelming feeling of astonishment at His marvelous greatness. Psalm 68 is about our awesome God before whom we are motivated to bow in His presence, to be astounded at His greatness and to praise Him for all He has done and continues to do.

Maclaren, a Bible commentor wrote: “This superb hymn is unsurpassed, if not unequalled, in grandeur, lyric fire, and sustained rush of triumphant praise.”

God chose Mount Zion as His dwelling place. His choice was not based on physical beauty or geographical height (there were other mountains in the northern fringe of Bashan that rose over 9,000 feet with multiple peaks more striking in appearance (verse 15). God did not choose any of the peaks of Bashan. The ark of God found its home on Mount Zion, a mere 2,500 feet above sea-level and not known for any peaks. How like God–to choose what is lowly and insignificant over what is impressive as His holy mountain! (verse 15). There “thousands upon thousands” of God’s chariots would await his orders (verse 16). We join the psalmist as he rejoiced in the all-powerful God: “Blessed be the Lord, who daily bears us up; God is our salvation” (verse 19).

Centuries later the apostle Paul quoted Psalm 68:8 when He spoke concerning Jesus: “When He ascended on high He led a host of captives, and He gave gifts to men” (Ephesians 4:8). Paul said Jesus Christ, “descended to the lower regions of the earth, then ascended far above the heavens”! The “gifts” He gave to men were “apostles, prophets, evangelists, shepherds and teachers” who will faithfully teach the word of God to the Body of Christ so His church will “attain the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood” (Ephesians 4:12-14). People who think the church of Christ is unimportant need to contemplate the fact that God planned its establishment, prophesied its spiritual mission, announced that its head would ascend back to heaven and gave gifts of leadership in Psalm 68. Something that important to God ought to be very important to us!

David declared that “God settles the solitary in a home; He leads out the prisoners to prosperity” (verse 6). It is a beautiful picture of the church, where even today those who are alone, who have no earthly family to turn to in the hour of need, find the greatest family on earth, a family of brothers and sisters, mothers and fathers and children all around them (Mark 10:29-31). Many have discovered that the spiritual family in Christ is closer to them than their physical, earthly family. In addition, the psalmist declares that God “leads out the prisoners.” This is especially true for those who have found themselves enslaved by sinful habits, addictions, poor decisions, enduring the loss of both physical and spiritual freedom! Jesus promised: “You shall know the truth and the truth will set you free” (John 8:32). In God’s church-family we are able to live as “people who are free” (1 Peter 2:16).

Our blessed God wants people of all nations, colors and languages to hear the joyful news of salvation. The gospel should be proclaimed in Israel, Africa and other “kingdoms of the earth” (verse 32). (Gentile) Kings “shall bear gifts” to God (verse 29). “Nobles shall come from Egypt; Cush shall hasten to stretch out her hands to God” (verse 31). The divine mission to spread the message of salvation is the greatest, most important mission ever assigned to mankind! Because Christians take this great commission seriously, we anticipate that on the morning of the resurrection we will see the fruits of our labors: people of all races, cultures and ages enter the gates of heaven. God will give light and “by its light will the nations walk, and the kings of the earth will bring their glory into it.” On either side of heaven’s river the “tree of life” will bear fruit “for the healing of the nations” (Revelation 21:23-24; 22:2). The universal church is God’s vehicle for accomplishing the spread of the gospel (Ephesians 3:10). Each of us should ask ourselves: what am I doing to take the gospel to those at home and in the nations of the world?

Praising God for all He is and all He has done is certainly an important thing for individual believers to do in the privacy of their own homes and among their own family members. However, there is another place where it is important for us to praise God: in the assembled church. The psalmist wrote: “Bless God in the great congregation” (verse 26). It is vital that all Christians find a place to serve and praise our Blessed God in the local congregation of God’s church. God’s people from every nation should “sing praises to the Lord…to Him who rides in the heavens; the ancient heavens.” (Verse 32-33). Let each one of us “Ascribe power to God” because “He is the one who gives power and strength to His people” (verse 35). “Let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near” (Hebrews 10:24-25).

During the COVID-19 pandemic most of us have been unable to assemble as a church. Now that things have improved in our nation, we are anxious to assemble together. This will not only be our privilege; it will be our duty.

As we go about our duties this day, remember three simple words:

“Blessed be God!” (verse 35).

(All scripture quotations are from the English Standard Version.)

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Posted in assembly, awesome, Bashan, COVID-19, Ephesians 4:8-14, God Leads Out Prisoners, God Settles the Solitary in Homes, God's Power, Hebrews 10:24-25, importance of the Church, Mt. Zion, Numbers 10:35, Revelation 21:23-24, Revelation 22:2, Sing Praises | 2 Comments

PSALM 55

BETRAYED BY A FRIEND?

Please read Psalm 55, underline words that are important to you, then consider these reflections on the psalm.

Betrayal is hurtful. “The worst pain in the world goes beyond the physical. Even further beyond any other emotional pain one can feel. It is the betrayal of a friend.” –– Heather Brewer (aka Zac Brewer, New York Times author.) Perhaps at some point in your life you, too, have experienced the pain of being betrayed by a friend.

David, the second King of Israel, fell victim to betrayal by a friend, and wrote about it in Psalm 55. He described a friend who turned against him: “His speech was smooth as butter, yet war was in his heart; his words were softer than oil, yet they were drawn swords.” (verse 21).

David knew that what his ‘friend’ had done did not happen by accident; it was a deliberate act on the part of one who “did not change” who “did not fear God.” (verse 19). David was stunned. He could hardly realize it really happened until it did happen. There was little or nothing he could do about it. The harm has been done. “It is you a man, my equal, my companion, my familiar friend,” he wrote. Thinking about the years that their friendship has lasted, he said: ‘We used to take sweet counsel together; within God’s house we walked in the throng” (verse 13-14). As we might say today, “We even went to church together!” David struggled to forgive him. Like William Blake, the 18th century English poet expressed it: “It is easier to forgive an enemy than to forgive a friend.”

“Of all people, a man should be able to open his heart fully to his Christiana brother, but unfortunately there are those even in the church who do not hesitate to betray a brother’s confidence to promote their own quirks and interests, just as the psalmist’s best friend had done.” (John T. Willis The Psalms III.)

Sometimes when one has been deeply hurt there is a strong urge to move somewhere else as soon as possible, to escape the hurts by running away. David considered that option: “Oh, that I had wings like a dove! I would fly away and be at rest; yes, I would wander far away; I would lodge in the wilderness. I would hurry to find a shelter from the raging wind and tempest” (verse 6-7). The dove is recognized for its innocence and swiftness of flight. A dove could cover a great distance in her flight. Reflecting on that option, David decided he did not need to go elsewhere. There was something he could do and stay in Jerusalem, his home city. And that is exactly what he did! He let God know what had happened and how he was hurting inside: “I call to God, and the Lord will save me” (verse 16).

His prayerful words were agonizing, painful, pointed and urgent. “Give ear to my prayer, O God, and hide not yourself from my plea for mercy! Attend to me and answer me…. They drop trouble upon me, and in anger they bear a grudge against me” (verse 1-2). Stanley Morris, a Christian brother and Biblical linguist, translated it like this: “Pay attention to me; answer me. I’m worried, and I’m upset…. I have great anxiety…I’m scared; I’m shaking, I am overwhelmed with horror” (The International English Bible, 2014).

It has been suggested that the betrayal which hurt David so much was that of Ahithophel, a trusted comrade, counselor and spiritual leader of Israel whose betrayal is described in 2 Samuel chapters 15 through 17. Read this story for yourself. You will discover how Ahithophel turned against David during the rebellion of Absalom, and gave Absalom advice on how he could trap, capture and kill his father (king David himself!). Another trusted friend of David was Hushai, who took on the responsibility of protecting David in answer to David’s prayer: “O Lord, please turn the counsel of Ahithophel into foolishness” (2 Samuel 15:31). David had learned a very important lesson in life: in troublesome times you don’t need to run away, but you need to pray about it and trust in the Lord to work things out.

Psalm 55 is recognized by Bible students everywhere for this promise: “Cast your burden on the Lord, and He will sustain you; He will never permit the righteous to be moved” (verse 22). This became one of the favorite Old Testament passages of the apostle Peter. He quoted it in 1 Peter 5:7––”casting all your anxieties on Him because He cares for you.”

Rowland Hill (1744–1833) an English preacher and an influential advocate of smallpox vaccination, penned the words to a hymn based on Psalm 55. They are still being sung in churches after 250 years:

“Cast thy burden on the Lord,
Only lean upon His word;
Thou shalt soon have cause to bless
His eternal faithfulness.

He will gird thee by His power,
In thy weary fainting hour;
Lean then, loving, on His word;
Cast thy burden on the Lord.”

What a great God we have! A great and faithful Friend! He will never betray our trust, but will renew our strength and courage in every trying circumstance.

“Do thy friends despise, forsake you?
Take it to the Lord in prayer;
In His arms He’ll take and shield thee;
Thou will find a solace there.
–– Joseph Scriven

(Scripture references from the English Standard Version, unless otherwise noted.)

OTHER WEBSITES OF INTEREST

http://www.christfortoday.org

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Posted in 1 Peter 5:7, 2 Samuel 15-17, Betrayed, Dove, English Standard Version, Friend, International English Bible, John T.Willis, Joseph Scriven, Psalm 55, Rowland Hill, Stanley Morris, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

PSALM 46

BLESSED CITY OF GOD

“There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God, the holy habitation of the Most High. God is in the midst of her; she shall not be moved; God will help her when morning dawns” (Psalm 46:4-5).

Please read the eleven verses of Psalm 46, underline words with special meaning to you, then consider these reflections:

Around 1,000 B.C. king David conquered the Jebusites, took over Jerusalem, their national capital, and renamed it the “stronghold of Zion, the City of David” (2 Samuel 5:6-7). David had no idea how important the city would become in the history of Israel. Historians say that through the centuries Jerusalem became known by 72 different names, including “the City of God,” the “habitation of the Most High” (Psalm 46:4). It was a holy city, the capital city God’s holy nation, the city where God dwelt, a city which would bring safety in troublesome times. By reflecting on God’s power and strength displayed in Jerusalem His people would find solace in God Himself, for “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble” (Psalm 46:1). To speak of God as a “refuge” is to affirm that He “is like strong fortress into which a man may flee and be absolutely safe; to affirm that He is a “strength” is to declare He is “an unfailing source of strength, enabling one to cope manfully with the dangers that assail him” (H.C. Leupold, Expositions on the Psalms). Martin Luther’s famous hymn, ‘A Mighty Fortress Is Our God” was based on the words of this psalm.

For followers of Jesus Christ the earthly, physical Jerusalem is symbolic of the “Jerusalem above” where our citizenship is (Galatians 4:26). As God’s spiritually chosen people, we have come to “Mount Zion, the city of the living God” (Hebrews 12:22). Nevertheless, there are valuable lessons we can learn concerning God and that ancient geographical city.

In Psalm 46 the sons of Korah (authors of the psalm) remind us that the Israelites were surrounded by serious dangers in the world outside the city. Things people took for granted could and would be shaken and destroyed. Using poetical language, the writers let us know that mountains could “be moved into the heart of the sea;” while waters would “foam and roar” as floods rushed to cover the ground (verses 2-3). It is not necessary to identify specific times and places when such natural disasters literally occurred in ancient times. The psalmists may be using poetic words describing spiritual, and emotional upheavals that came upon the ancient nation. In such times God would be their “refuge and strength.” Neither is it necessary (as some biblical commentators have attempted to do) to identify literal national and international conflicts and wars when God stepped in to bring wars to an end and to “break the bow and shatter the spear” (Psalm 46:9). God’s holy people knew that whatever fears and disasters came upon them, God would be an “ever present help” (the foot note in some Bibles reads “a well proved help”) in time of trouble (verse 1).

We live 3,000 years since David declared Jerusalem to be the City of God. Through disobedience Israel lost its holy city. The physical city of Zion is no longer the place where God dwells. All people–– Jew and Gentile––can now respond to the gospel commands to “repent and be baptized for the forgiveness of sins,” and become God’s spiritual people (Acts 2:38).

The apostle Peter declares that today Christians are God’s “holy nation” (1 Peter 2:4). We are the “Israel of God” (Galatians 6:16). If God promised to be an “ever present help in trouble” to the Israelites of old, think of what He has promised those who are his spiritual Israelites today! Our modern world is enduring the corona-virus which has closed our schools, strained our mental capacities, caused loss of income, shut down our shopping malls, brought thousands upon thousands to hospitalization and ultimately to death. This pandemic has hindered our ability to meet together, to study the Bible together and to worship God together. We may be tempted to think God has abandoned us. However, we do not need to be filled with fear of what the future holds. In the words of Psalm 46: “We will not fear though the earth gives way” (verse 2). God is still on His throne! He is helping us here and now, and He will help us “when morning dawns” (verse 5). We look toward the return of our Savior Jesus Christ, who will come down from heaven with the “new Jerusalem, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband” (Revelation 21:1-4). We will live in that City forever. Truly, it will be the eternal “City of God,” the “habitation of the most High God.”

“There is a habitation,
Built by the Living God,
For all of every nation
Who seek that grand abode.
O Zion! Lovely Zion!
I long thy gates to see!
O Zion! Lovely Zion!
When shall I dwell in thee?”


–– Love H. Jameson, 1882

Scripture quotations are from the English Standard Version

OTHER WEBSITES OF INTEREST

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Posted in 1 Peter 2:4, A Mighty Fortress Is Our God, Acts 2:38, Christ for Today, Church of Christ, corona-virus, David Tarbet, fear, Galatians 4:26, Galatians 6:16, God is our refuge and strength, Israel of God, Jerusalem, Love H. Jameson, New Jerusalem, Psalm 46, Revelation 21:1-4 | 2 Comments

PSALM 39

WHEN GOD’S DISCIPLINE SEEMS UNFAIR

The 39th Psalm is one of the most difficult to examine and discuss. With humility I will attempt to share its timeless lessons. There are only 13 verses. Please read this Psalm, underline words that are important to you, then consider these reflections:

DAVID STRUGGLED WITH HIS SUFFERINGS. He did not identify whether the suffering had to do with sickness, disappointments in the heirs to his fortune, political unrest, constant scheming of his enemies or something else heavy on his heart. Whatever it was, David felt that he was being disciplined by the Lord through these sufferings. “It is you who have done it…I am spent by the hostility of your hand” (verse 9-10). He felt he should not share this burden with anyone, so he kept it to himself. He mused about it over and over until he became extremely upset. He said: “My heart became hot within me, as I mused, the fire burned” (verse 3). David especially did not want to discuss it with people who did not share his faith. Whenever ungodly people came around he just “clammed up,” he put a “muzzle” on his mouth “so long as the wicked are in my presence” (verse 1). Perhaps he thought ungodly people would use his weaknesses against him, to make things worse than they already were. Perhaps the wicked would use David’s confessed sins and subsequent discipline to scoff at him.

DAVID TOLD GOD HIS HEART ACHES. As he struggled, he prayed: “O Lord, make me know my end, and what is the measure of my days; let me know how fleeting I am!” (verse 4) He did not ask that God would reveal the number of days, weeks or years he would have to suffer before he died. The word “measure” is a noun indicating “an estimate of what is to be expected” (Merriam-Webster Dictionary). It means David was asking God to help him understand what really matters, to realize that life on the earth is very fragile and to understand how to fulfill God’s purposes for life. It is much like Moses who prayed: “teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom” (Psalm 90:12), or as the apostle Paul admonished Christians: “Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil” (Ephesians 5:15-16). Men and women of faith know that God wants His people to bring their problems and frustrations to Him, to cast those anxieties on the Lord so that He can sustain them. Truly, God “cares for you” (1 Peter 5:7)! The hymn-writer put it like this: “Are you weary, are you heavy hearted? Tell it to Jesus! Tell it to Jesus! Are you grieving over joys departed? Tell it to Jesus alone.” Here is a timeless lesson: When something is distressing (or even depressing) in the deepest recesses of your being, don’t keep it to yourself, don’t refuse to talk about it; don’t hold it inside; don’t muse over it until you become bitter with life or angry with God. You may not want to share it with those who cannot help, who may fail to encourage you, who may use what you tell them to scoff at your faith. Remember what the psalmist said: “And now, O Lord, for what do I wait? My hope is in You.” (verse 7). You do not need to put a “guard” or “muzzle” on your mouth when you pray! (verse 1) You can tell the Lord all about it. Be sincere; be open; be honest; explain how you feel. Then arise from prayer to trust in the Lord to handle it! Your hope in God will be the anchor you need.

SUFFERING HELPS PUT TIME AND THINGS INTO PERSPECTIVE. God does not intend for life’s problems to embitter us. God’s love is much, much stronger than that! Life is too short for that! In the words of the psalmist: “Let me know how fleeting I am! Behold, you have made my days a few handbreadths, and my lifetime is as nothing before you. Surely all mankind stands as a mere breath!” (verses 4-5). True, God’s people cannot control everything that goes on around them. We don’t have control over what happens to the things we have labored and saved for the future — to be used wisely by our heirs. Sometimes what our heirs do with their inheritance may be the exact opposite of what we would want them to do. As David stated: “Man bustles about, but only in vain; he heaps up wealth, not knowing who will get it” (verse 6, NIV). Things that may have “dear to us” may be consumed “like a moth” (verse 11).

OUR ULTIMATE GOAL IS TO “LAY UP TREASURES IN HEAVENwhere neither moth or rust destroys” (Matthew 6:20). We must commit ourselves to God’s plans and purposes and ask Him to give us “peace” instead of “tears” (verse 12). We need to confess our sins and to ask Him to deliver us “from all transgressions” (verse 8). When we do that we will be able to “smile again” (verse 13).

FINAL THOUGHT: When David wrote that he desired the good life, “before I depart and am no more” (verses 13) he was speaking of receiving the divine peace and God’s favor during his present, earthly existence. He did not imply that this life is the only life ––that the here and now is all there is, that when death comes we cease to exist. Unfortunately, some have used this Psalm to teach that death destroys the person, that nothing survives the death of the body. Those who lived prior to the coming of Christ did not have a clear understanding of what happens at death. It remained for Jesus to bring “immortality to light through the gospel” (2 Timothy 1:10). Other psalms affirm the reality of the world to come. Listen to these affirmations: “I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever” (Psalm 23:6); “You guide me with your counsel, and afterward you will receive me to glory” (Psalm 73;24). “God will redeem me from the grave; he will surely take me to himself” (Psalm 49:15, NIV). Job also had many struggles and disappointments, but he declared: “And after my skin has been destroyed, yet in (or ‘apart from’) my flesh I shall see God” (Job 19:26, NIV).

May each of us take on this day with the peace of God in our hearts and the wisdom of God in our plans.

David Tarbet, Outreach Minister
Church of Christ, New Milford, Connecticut
dtarbet@swbell.net

(All Scripture quotations from the English Standard Version unless otherwise noted.)

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PSALM 37

THIS, TOO, SHALL PASS

Read Psalm 37, underline the words and phrases you want to remember and consider these reflections:

Legend has it that an Eastern monarch once charged his wise men to invent a sentence, to be ever in view, and which would be true and appropriate in all times and situations. They presented him the words: “And this, too, shall pass away.” The expression was made popular in the Western world due to a retelling of ancient Persian stories by English poet Edward FitzGerald (1809-1883). Abraham Lincoln called the phrase to mind when he addressed the Wisconsin State Agricultural Society on September 30, 1859, then added: “How much it expresses! How chastening in the hour of pride! How consoling in the depths of affliction!” True, it is not a Biblical expression, but it is appropriate to remember that whatever crises and troubles godly people face today, these trials are temporary. They will pass! Sickness, financial setbacks and the death of loved ones will come to an end. Better days are coming! In the words of David, the ancient king of Israel: “Fret not yourself because of evil doers… for they will soon fade like the grass…. Commit your way to the Lord; trust in Him and He will act. He will bring forth your righteousness as the light, and your justice as the noonday.” (Psalm 37:1-2, 5-6).

Our families, our friends and the Lord’s church need an anchor that will give strength to carry on. All of us struggle with discouragement, fear and doubt when we realize that COVID-19 is not a respecter of persons. No one enjoys having to “self-quarantine” at home or to make sure we practice “social distancing” while around others. This is not the lifestyle we would choose. Our children want to go back to school. Adults want to be able to visit their aged mothers and fathers in the nursing home. Worshipers want to be able to meet together on the Lord’s Day. Brokers want the stock market to stabilize. Investors want their portfolios to restore financial security. Soul-winners want to go into the homes of people willing to study the Scriptures. The bereaved want to be able to get together to eulogize loved ones. The unemployed want to find work. Those contemplating suicide want to find hope. People all over the world would like to discover peace again.

As a photographer needs to adjust the camera lens to make sure things are in focus, we need to look at life through the lens of faith. In Psalm 37 we are reminded us that God knows all about us and when we “commit our way” to Him, He will “give you the desires of your heart” (verse 5-6). The “meek shall inherit the land and delight themselves in abundant peace” (verse 11). Meekness is an important concept. It describes how a trainer of horses “breaks” the wild and strong-willed stallion through daily discipline. Becoming “meek” means allowing God to take charge of our lives like a horse yields to the control of its trainer. The present crisis can be the discipline we need so we can “inherit the land and delight in abundant peace.” We must “be still before the Lord and wait patiently for Him” (verse 7).

God’s people receive a multitude of spiritual blessings––our greatest need–– even if some physical wants are denied. “Better is the little that the righteous has than the abundance of many wicked” (verse 16). Those who rely on their own mental and physical stamina for comfort will find that their arms will not support them. However, the righteous knows the arms that hold him up are the mighty arms of God (verse 17). “Underneath are the everlasting arms” (Deuteronomy 33:27). When his closest friends abandoned the apostle Paul he realized “The Lord stood by me and strengthened me” (2 Timothy 4:17). Let all of us who stagger under the weight of heavy burdens, allow the Lord to “establish” our “steps,” so even though we may stumble, it will be only for a moment; we will not be “cast headlong, for the Lord upholds our hand” (verse 23-24). When the law of God is in our hearts, our “steps do not slip” (verse 31).

After serving Christ for 78 years, I can testify to the truthfulness of David’s observation: “I have never seen the righteous forsaken” (verse 25).

Truly, “there is a future for the man of peace” (verse 27)! God is our stronghold “in the time of trouble” (verse 39).

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PSALM 34

“THIS POOR MAN CRIED AND THE LORD HEARD HIM”

Please read all verses of Psalm 34, then consider these reflections.

The words of this Psalm were appropriate for any number of high-risk encounters David experienced as he was challenged and threatened by ambitious men who wanted to put him to death and to “grab the power” in Israel. These words could apply to many experiences of our own, some of which are entirely out of our control. At times our own well-being is at stake and our hearts are filled with fear of dangers that surround us and bad things that may be anticipated in the future. Psalm 34 is a powerful encouragement in our international pandemic of COVID-19.

The Psalm is divided into three parts:

(1) verses 1-3 is an invitation to praise God –– the One worthy of being continually magnified by all the people, at all times, under all circumstances. “Oh, magnify the Lord with me, and let us exalt His name together!”

(2) verses 4-10, the power of prayer in difficult times. My own father, Thomas Hendrix Tarbet, preached the gospel over 60 years in mission-fields of the United States and Australia. His pulpits were from the west coast to the east coast and included “Bible-belt” congregations in the southwest as well. Dad was not often acknowledged for his accomplishments. He went through many trials. He had very little money, and left almost nothing of this world’s goods to his family. Yet, he was one of the finest Bible teachers I ever knew. He treasured the book of Psalms. On one occasion, he told me of some of his struggles and said, “This poor man cried, and the Lord heard him and delivered him out of all his troubles.” This part of Psalm 34 will always have a special place in my heart. These words can be written on our hearts: “Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good! Blessed is the man who takes refuge in Him!” (verse 8)

(3) verses 11-22, a life focused on God’s providence will help His people live in every generation. Here are practical applications for a person who is learning how to walk “in the fear of the Lord,” (verse 9) and “desires life and loves many days, that he may see good” (verse 12).

From this Psalm one learns that to have a good life he must “seek” the Lord (verse 4), “look to Him” (verse 5), cry out to Him (verse 6), “taste and see that the Lord is good”, “take refuge” in Him (verse 8), “keep the tongue from evil,” “do good”, “seek peace and pursue it” (verses 12-14). Those who set their hearts on “fearing” the Lord (verse 7) with godly respect and awe, walking “humbly(verse 2) before Him, depending upon Him to provide daily necessities are not promised exemption from sicknesses, viruses, poverty, enemies and a multitude of disappointments. On the other hand, they will receive what is needed to endure every trial, to rejoice in the “radiant” light of God’s face (verse 6), and “lack no good thing” (verse 10). In the words of John T. Willis, “By no means is a righteous man free from affliction, but suffering cannot touch him at the depth of his existence.” Though the righteous may have many “afflictions” Scripture promises that “the Lord delivers him out of them all” (verse 19). A Bible commentator wrote that Psalm 34 was “sung by the church of Jerusalem at the time of Communion,” and “was on the lips of martyrs as they faced the arena.”

Here is the “bottom-line” promise: “The eyes of the Lord are toward the righteous and His ears are toward their prayer…The Lord redeems the life of His servants; none of those who take refuge in Him will be condemned” (verse 18, 22).

NOTE: The heading-introductions to various Psalms were added after the Psalms were written and are not inspired by God. It may or may not be accurate to attribute Psalm 34 to the time when king David, fleeing from king Saul, came to the pagan king Achish, king of Gath, and pretended to be insane in order to protect his own life (1 Samuel 21:10-15).

–– David Tarbet, Outreach Minister
Church of Christ, New Milford, Connecticut
davidtarbet.blog
(Scripture quotations from the English Standard Version.)

Posted in 1 Peter 3:10-12, 1 Samuel 21:10-15, English Standard Version, Eyes of the Lord, Magnify the Lord, Poor man, Prayer, Providence, Psalm 34, Psalm 34:6 | 2 Comments