Category Archives: Psalms

Practice…Sanctuary and sanctimony

Psalms 23:1 The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing. 2 He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, 3 he refreshes my soul. He guides me along the right paths for his name’s sake. 4 Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me. [NIV]

This Psalm may not be as familiar today as it was in past generations but it’s clearly a lovely word-picture that describes Sanctuary: a place of comfort, refuge and safety.   Sanctuary is no longer an external place to search for.  Our life in Christ has become that place of Sanctuary within us.  That sacred internal place of comfort, refuge and safety the Psalmist describes in his prayer can become our reality too, with practice.

That’s a fact but there’s another reality. We need the practice of Sanctuary to cure us of sanctimony so when we pray “I lack nothing” it doesn’t sound like I have it and you don’t.  Sanctimony is defined as pretended, affected, or hypocritical religious devotion.  I found this quote on vocabulary.com “Sanctimonious is a twist on the words sanctity and sacred, which mean holy or religious. A sanctimonious person might think he’s holy, but their attitude comes across more like “holier-than-thou.” I suspect all of you have been there with me at some point. Remember that line from the Lord’s Prayer? “And forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive them that trespass against us.” I think we could substitute sanctimony for trespasses there.  Here’s where the danger of sanctimony is written.

Matthew 7:1 Do not judge, or you too will be judged. 2 For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.[NIV]

God has saved us to that beautiful place of refreshment where the reality is when we pray “I lack nothing” it’s because everything sacred is available to us. It’s a place of safety and refuge where Sanctuary guides us “along the right paths for his name’s sake” and even can save us from the judgment our sanctimonious selves deserve.

Choice

Psalms 91:2 I will say of the LORD, “He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.” 3 Surely he will save you from the fowler’s snare and from the deadly pestilence. 4 He will cover you with his feathers, and under his wings you will find refuge; his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart.

I chose the theme of repentance as my focus for Lent. It’s a good topic, right? What I didn’t comprehend was just how serious God was about “his” choice to make “my” choice very personal this year. I could rightly describe some of my many years as a believer as “forgettably faithful” but not this one.

It’s so much easier to talk about repentance than to be confronted with the need for it. It’s exhausting and frankly painful.  The “fowler’s snare” is the choice to accept this lie…’You blew it. You had the chance to get it right and you failed yourself and the Lord.’  That’s guilt…and that’s not how God chooses to change us.

OR…you can make this different choice; to be thankful that though your faith has taken a big blow in the light of reality, God has loved you enough to remind you of your need for him.  “He will cover you with his feathers, and under his wings you will find refuge; [HIS] faithfulness will be your shield and rampart.”  That’s where repentance happens.

 

Light

Psalm 119:105 Your word is a lamp for my feet, a light on my path. נ Nun

Back on September 4 when I was in my long study of this Psalm I wrote about the eight verses of “Nun” from the point of view that we begin life pretty much in the dark,  looking like one thing but if we’re plugged into God’s plan we finally become what he’s meant us to be all along. Life in Christ is finding the path to get from that beginning to where we need to be. This verse is a reminder, the Word isn’t always a spotlight. Sometimes it’s a purposely directed flashlight beam that’s enough to light a path needed to navigate current events by.

Check out this 7-day devotional, Thriving in Babylon. [click title] It’s a story about Daniel, a man forced to live in the midst of big changes beyond his control. He faces fears about the future, concern for his safety, and the discouragement of a world that seems to be falling apart. Sound familiar?

This is a quote from Day 2.“Daniel’s humble respect was tied to his firm belief that God is in control of who is in control. It wasn’t merely a theological axiom. It was a reality he lived by. He saw Nebuchadnezzar as God’s servant, a wicked king allowed to reign for a period of time in order to fulfill God’s sovereign purpose—in this case, the discipline and judgment of Jerusalem for the sins of its people. Daniel wasn’t respectful because Nebuchadnezzar deserved it.

He was respectful because God commanded it.”

Waiting, not Wasting

Psalm 27:14 Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart
and wait for the Lord.
• Psalm 27:4 “One thing have I desired of the Lord, that will I seek after; that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the Lord, and to enquire in his temple. KJV

Verse 14 was the designated one to read but on the way to it I read verse 4. I’ve been waiting for the neon sign from the Lord to say “this is what you should be reading every day.” I thought reading the Verse of the Day was just a good fall-back plan to avoid wasting my time while I waited. I missed the whole point! It’s not “what” I’m reading but “that” I’m reading.

Realizing that about waiting not being wasting time was a lightbulb moment but it was verse 4 that turned out to be a personal reminder. God is always working his Plan Be. Nothing is wasted. There was a period in the ’90s when it was popular to take a verse of Scripture and put it to music as a way of memorizing it. That’s how I learned verse 4 of this Psalm. I was surprised to find I could still sing the song after all this time.

It was God at work through this technique called a Mnemonic device; a memory technique to help your brain encode and recall important information…Scripture set to music.

Click to hear song:

The Key to a Willing Spirit – Plan Be

Psalm 51:12 Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.

It’s interesting the Psalmist doesn’t presume to call it “my” salvation. He knows about that salvation. He remembers there was joy but that’s not his to claim right now either. There’s baggage here to be sure.

He’s been confronted with his sin of adultery. Nathan’s words have penetrated his mind. He’s finally come to understand his heart has fooled him into accepting his freedom to sin as a substitute for the support of that salvation. That changed heart prompts him to write one of his most beautiful prayers:

“Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.”

Psalm 119:169-176 ת Taw – Sign, Branded Mark, “T”

Psalm 119:169-176 ת Taw – Sign, Branded Mark, “T”
169 May my cry come before you, Lord; give me understanding according to your word.
170 May my supplication come before you; deliver me according to your promise.
171 May my lips overflow with praise, for you teach me your decrees.
172 May my tongue sing of your word, for all your commands are righteous.
173 May your hand be ready to help me, for I have chosen your precepts.
174 I long for your salvation,Lord, and your law gives me delight.
175 Let me live that I may praise you, and may your laws sustain me.
176 I have strayed like a lost sheep. Seek your servant, for I have not forgotten your commands.

Today is the last post on Psalm 119. The first was on July 18. Each of those 74 days I’ve assumed these titles for the 22 sections, written in this way, were to be a meditative hint. The Psalmist has definitely saved the best for last.

He’s weathered the storms of life by hanging onto this; God is the only sure thing. That’s the high note of this final section. His emotions might not always be able to keep up with that confidence but he knows he can count on God to find a way to bridge that gap. That’s the basis of everything he asks as he ends this chapter and chooses this very special last title.

The ancient image of Taw is a type of “mark,” probably of two sticks crossed to mark a place and meaning “sign” and “signature.” The Psalmist has chosen to end his song of faith and survival with this signature that is the inspired sign of our future…the cross.

Click here for the sign.

Psalm 119: 161-168 ש Sin and Shin – Tooth

Psalm 119: 161-168 ש Sin and Shin – Tooth
161 Rulers persecute me without cause,
but my heart trembles at your word.
162 I rejoice in your promise
like one who finds great spoil.
163 I hate and detest falsehood
but I love your law.
164 Seven times a day I praise you
for your righteous laws.
165 Great peace have those who love your law,
and nothing can make them stumble.
166 I wait for your salvation, Lord,
and I follow your commands.
167 I obey your statutes,
for I love them greatly.
168 I obey your precepts and your statutes,
for all my ways are known to you

Shin – tooth is an interesting title because it brought to mind this image. The Psalmist is like a dog with a bone. He fiercely defends his faith…and the Word of God, his bone. Try to take it away and there will be a struggle that ranges from a slight tug of war to fierce defense.

He’s sunk his teeth into the Word of God. It’s his “great spoil;” his bone to chew on to satisfy appetite but also to keep his “teeth” sharp and healthy to aid digestion.