Psalm 83-85 B

Israel has a lot of enemies. Basically all their neighbors. They do not like many folks, at this juncture of history. Understandably so, they are at war more often than not. This morning it struck me that out of the 9 nations listed in 83:6-7, I know 4 to be relatives.

  • The descendants of Lot (Abraham’s nephew): Moab and Ammon (see Genesis 19:37-38)
  • The descendants of Ishmael (Abraham’s son)
  • The descendants of Esau (Abraham’s grandson): Edom

None of these groups would exist if not for Abraham, as two are offspring, and two were spared the fire rained on Sodom because of his interceding.

I begin to wonder what the LORD thought of these prayers of cursing for their enemies: Is He into that? Is this a Spirit-filled prayer? Does the arrival of the Messiah, who beseeches love for enemies give insight into this? Is He remembering His friend, Abraham, who advocated for mercy on Sodom?

To be sure, these nations did messed up stuff and had pagan idols, but so did Israel, the intended conduit of blessing extended through Abraham. Asaph’s prayer seems good, because he says,

“Let them be ashamed and dismayed forever, and let them be humiliated and perish, that they may know that You alone, whose name is the LORD, are the Most High over all the earth.” (83:17-18)

But Jesus came to teach us this isn’t the right approach. There’s another way for people to know the LORD is the Most High over all the earth besides eternal shame, humiliation and death.

Let us seek the LORD together to know this more beautiful way.

Who might you consider an enemy? How could God use you as a conduit of blessing to reveal His Most High-ness?

-Bethany

Psalm 80-82 B

Chapter 81 kind of breaks my heart.

Sing praises to God, our strengthSing to the God of Jacob. Sing! Beat the tambourine.
Play the sweet lyre and the harp. Blow the ram’s horn at new moon, and again at full moon to call a festival! For this is required by the decrees of Israel; it is a regulation of the God of Jacob. He made it a law for Israel when he attacked Egypt to set us free.” 81:1-5)

I like these pieces of narrative in the Psalms, where the author is imagining how God feels and putting language to it. The author is urging Israel to obey God’s command to celebrate a traditional festival (the specifications can be found in Lev. 23:34). Then imagining how God would reward their obedience (81:11-16).

He requires that we stop and celebrate, to acknowledge the rescue story he’s written in our lives. He knows our tendency to latch on to every bad thing, and to run off and forget him without stopping to practice gratefulness. The festivals and feasts that he established with his people are not religious boxes to check. They are meant to reorient our hearts, to give God deserved credit and admiration and to shake us out of our forgetfulness.

As Easter approaches, I want to find a better way to engage. Most years I find myself going through the motions, trying to cultivate deep reverence that feels muffled by menu planning, bunnies or egg hunts. The feast is important, and so is the celebrating. But the remembering is crucial.

How can we engage more fully in lent and Easter?

What does it look like for you to stop and be remember what God has done in your past?

 

-Carly

Psalm 77-79 B

“He rained meat upon them like the dust.” (78:27) What a weird thing, the LORD did. I’ve seen a lot of apocalyptic movies and I still have a hard time imagining meat rain. How do you know to take it as a, “Oh, hey, thanks LORD!” and not as a, “Run for your lives!” In any case, they didn’t run or give thanks, they started gorging themselves and the LORD came at them out of anger (78:31)

After many cycles of the LORD providing and Israel being indignant, we still find this unrelenting love of God.: “Thus He remembered that they were but flesh, a wind that passes and does not return.” (78:39)

I hear all the time how people prefer the New Testament God to the Old Testament God and I think people are way mistaken. I don’t think we can properly understand Jesus if we don’t understand the patiently enduring love of the LORD. His expectations for us are a lot lower than we think.

The only people Jesus condemned were the religious elite who were piling necessary burdens on people; slamming the doors to the kingdom in faces. Even when Jesus had an excellent chance to come after the people of Israel as a whole, saying, “Jerusalem, Jerusalem, who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her!” He doesn’t curse them, but instead gives us a glimpse of the Eternal Nature of the LORD, saying, “How often I wanted to gather your children together, the way a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were unwilling.” (Matthew 23:37)

They grieved Him all those years in the wilderness (78:40) His jealously and wrath always manifested in refining fire, after way more chances than any human would allot.

All this to say, be willing to let the LORD mother you. Let Him offload your shame burdens. Give yourself a break and remember mankind was formed out of dust. He remembers doing that. Don’t push Him away, like He’s the problem or the enemy. Believe Him that He loves you and is patient with you. He can heal you from there. He can and does provide for you in miraculous ways. Recognize His power, and thank Him for all the weird meat rain.

-Bethany

Psalm 74-76 B

If there’s one thing the Psalms have taught me, it’s that there’s no such thing as being too candid in prayer. In chapter 74, Asaph is responding to the complete devastation of Israel that took place in 2 Kings 25. The Temple, and everything holy within it and around it, was completely destroyed by the Babylonians. And then everyone was marched off to exile.

When you keep that context in mind, the words becomes so meaningful:

“O God, why have you rejected us so long? Why is your anger so intense against the sheep of your own pasture? Remember that we are the people you chose long ago, the tribe you redeemed as your own special possession! And remember Jerusalem, your home here on earth. Walk through the awful ruins of the city; see how the enemy has destroyed your sanctuary.” 74 :1-3

I like that last sentence; the way Asaph is inviting God into their devastation. Come see for yourself how awful it is down here!

Sometimes my prayers sound like a book report, summarizing my circumstances for him. Maybe I’m listing everything I need from him, or rattling off a list of everything I’m thankful for. My best conversations with God are when I engage relationally, dialoguing with him like I would with anyone else I’m in a relationship with.

Telling him how I feel, walking him through the hardships. Asking questions, venting frustrations or gushing my affections.

I’m convinced there’s no wrong way to pray. But I’m hoping that the deeper I grow into relationship with him, the deeper our communication becomes.

What is your communication like with God?

How do you invite him in to your devastation?

 

-Carly

 

Psalm 71-73 B

“O God, You have taught me from my youth, and I still declare Your wondrous deeds. And even when I am old and gray, O God, do not forsake me, until I declare Your strength to this generation, Your power to all who are to come.” (71:17-18)

This verse struck a deep chord with me. It is the greatest blessing of my life that I met the LORD at a young age. I truly desire to spend my whole life with Him, and share His goodness with my generation. Like David, and many more before me, I have the opportunity to represent the LORD to those around me, and maybe even remain a light through the generations which follows me, by way of memory or written record.

“As for me, the nearness of God is my good; I have made the Lord God my refuge, that I may tell of all Your works.” (73:28)

He will forever remain the best part of my life, a worthy focal point, an easy inspiration. May we all discover Him in the way, and in ever increasing measure.

-Bethany

 

Psalm 68-70 B

God is available when you are in deep distress. I love the way David cries out to him here:

“Save me, O God, for the floodwaters are up to my neck. Deeper and deeper I sink into the mire; I can’t find a foothold, I am in deep water, and the floods overwhelm me. I am exhausted from crying for help; my throat is parched. My eyes are swollen with weeping; waiting for my God to help me.” 69:1-3 

“Let their homes become desolate and their tents be deserted. To the one you have punished, they add insult to injury; they add to the pain of those you have hurt.
Pile their sins up high, and don’t let them go free. Erase their names from the Book of Life; don’t let them be counted among the righteous.” 69:26-28

Don’t you find this prayer relatable? I mean, we’ve all had our moments where we secretly want God to hold back his never-ending mercy from our enemies. Don’t let them go free! Just me! Why is it that we don’t think God is still God to our enemies?

Who in your life do you have a hard time forgiving? 

Do you expect God to be merciful and extend his grace to them the way he does to you?

And I’m thinking of deep enemies here. The ones we go to war with, the ones politics divide, or the people who tear apart families and blow up their lives with their addictions.

“Father to the fatherless, defender of widows—this is God, whose dwelling is holy. God places the lonely in families; he sets the prisoners free and gives them joy.” 68:5-6

I love, love, love those words!

God prioritizes the vulnerable, but his forgiveness and mercy is available to all who reach for it, to all who humble themselves and cry out to him. All.

Do you pray against your enemies, or for them?

 

-Carly

Psalm 65-67 B

“How blessed is the one whom You chose to bring near to You to dwell in Your courts. We will be satisfied with the goodness of Your house, Your holy temple.” (65:4)

I don’t know how the LORD got such a bad rap, but don’t you think He’s mostly associated with things that make you not want to be around Him? He’s a judge… so He’s judgy? He’s holy… so He’s holier than thou? He’s perfect… so He’s a goody two shoes? He’s awesome… so He’s scary? He’s lofty… so He’s boring?

This reminds me of the snake in the garden asking Eve, “can you really not eat from any of these beautiful trees?” We’ve been questioning His goodness from the beginning.

Many years of misrepresentation have put these ideas forth, but really, what is true?

The truth is, the closer you are to Him, the BETTER. His Presences is light and healing and joy and hope and altogether GOOD. Those who He draws closer are BLESSED! They are the lucky ones to be NEAR Him.

It is our sad, broken tendency to run away, and even to paint Him in an unflattering light. That will never make it true. It will never actually diminish His glory.

One of my favorite lyrics, ever, is from an old Christian band in the ’90’s (The Waiting) who sang, “Your glory, LORD, is still a burning light, a light that all our faithless hands could never dim.”

He doesn’t go bad, just because He may be perceived as bad.

“Let God be found true, though every man be found a liar.” (Romans 3:4)

-Bethany