Psalm 89-91 B

“Once You spoke in a vision to Your godly ones and said, ‘I have given help to one who is mighty; I have exalted one chosen from the people. I have found David My servant; with My holy oil I have anointed him… I also shall make him firstborn, the highest of the kings of the earth. My lovingkindness I will keep for him forever, and My covenant shall be confirmed to him.” (89:19-21; 27-28)

89:19-37 makes us think, immediately of the Messiah–Jesus–and maybe let out an adoring sigh. We have this perspective from many years in the future, looking back. What I find interesting is how things pick up in verse 38:

“But You have cast off and rejected, You have been full of wrath against Your anointed. You have spurned the covenant of Your servant; You have profaned his crown in the dust.”

Basically, the psalmist is raging at the LORD for promising good things via the eternal king–descendant of David–and he’s real mad it seems to have all been an empty promise. The kingly line of David is not doing so hot.

Do you know there passed roughly 1000 years between David and Jesus? That’s a long time. More than 1000 passed between David and Abraham. This particular psalmist was lamenting at a distance of a couple hundred years (maybe a handful) and he was ready to call the LORD a liar.

Pack it up, folks, He’s not coming!

However, this lengthy psalm begins and ends in praise. Even, a promise to sing praises to the LORD beyond a lifetime (89:1). I like that this Ethan the Ezrahite guy knows the LORD is worthy of praise no matter if they ever see the fruition of His promises.

We live in a time of instant gratification and unbridled impatience. I’ve been in many-a church service, YWAM meeting or youth conference gathering where people are calling and calling for the LORD to show up and do something. We want to see some action, and we want to see it at least once a day. That would be ideal, okay LORD? Thanks.

Do we have what it takes to keep praising Him even when it really looks like He’s given up on us? Do we praise Him because He protects and provides, keeps us fat and happy, or do we praise Him because even the council of the holy ones does? (89:7) That’s a tough question. We love to wonder why bad things happen to good people or where God could be in the midst of suffering.

Would I still adore the LORD, even if I never saw a promise fulfilled or a prayer answered the rest of my life? On what do I build my temple of praise?

-Bethany

Psalms 86-88 B

Okay, I know we do this a lot (or at least I do), but you have to read Beth’s reflection on chapter 88 from last time we read through Psalms. I love when she reminds us to not accept death; it was never intended for us. 

Just last week, my sister and her husband were clobbered by a death in the family. Familiar with grief and unexpected loss, they’re still overwhelmed and yet she wisely pointed out “we’re not suppose to know how to handle death, it’s not what God wanted for us”.

Bethany’s post weaves the hope of the gospel into the psalmist’s cries of despair. (And someone also ties it all back in to going streaking.)

Read it!

 “Bend down, O Lord, and hear my prayer;
    answer me, for I need your help.
  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.
  O Lord, you are so good, so ready to forgive,
    so full of unfailing love for all who ask for your help.
  Listen closely to my prayer, O Lord;
    hear my urgent cry.
  I will call to you whenever I’m in trouble,
    and you will answer me.

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.
  For you are great and perform wonderful deeds.
    You alone are God.”

Psalm 86:1-10

 

I keep coming back to chapter 86.

Thank you, Lord, for being a God who bends down and listens. There is no one like Jehovah. 

 

-Carly

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

Psalms 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