1 John 1:1 That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked at and our hands have touched—this we proclaim concerning the Word of life. 2 The life appeared; we have seen it and testify to it, and we proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and has appeared to us. 3 We proclaim to you what we have seen and heard, so that you also may have fellowship with us. And our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ. 4 We write this to make our[your] joy complete. NIV
Forest Gump said “life is like a box of chocolates.” I say life is like an Oreo cookie. Life’s days and experiences are like the two pieces of cookie that surround the best part – that sweet center. Have you noticed how carefully Oreos are packaged to protect them between production and consumption? Have you noticed that even when the cookie has crumbled, the cream in the center can still hold the cookie together?
Have you thought about how carefully protected your life has been because of God’s faith in all your days and experiences that you would finally taste His goodness? Have you noticed in your life of faith that your brokenness doesn’t have to separate you from the sweetness of His faithfulness to you? An Oreo cookie has become a sweet lesson about the center God has provided to protect us through all our days and experiences from His production to our consumption. Jesus is that “which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked at and our hands have touched—this we proclaim concerning the Word of life .”
Taste and see that the Lord is good; blessed is the one
who takes refuge in him. Psalm 34:8 NIV
John 18:1 When he had finished praying, Jesus left with his disciples and crossed the Kidron Valley. On the other side there was a garden, and he and his disciples went into it. 2 Now Judas, who betrayed him, knew the place, because Jesus had often met there with his disciples. 3 So Judas came to the garden, guiding a detachment of soldiers and some officials from the chief priests and the Pharisees. They were carrying torches, lanterns and weapons.
It is not an enemy who taunts me —
then I could bear it;
it is not an adversary who deals insolently with me —
then I could hide from him.
But it is you, a man, my equal,
my companion, my familiar friend.
Psalm 55:12–13 RSV
What do you think about Judas? This is one of the saddest passages of Scripture because of Judas’s betrayal of Jesus.
Did Jesus mistakenly choose a betrayer to be one of His disciples?
Did He purposely set Judas up for this awful betrayal?
Was Judas’s mind lost in a battle with “the” enemy?
Did Jesus grieve these words of Psalm 55 over Judas?
What about Peter and his three denials?
Did Jesus grieve these same words of Psalm 55 over Peter?
……………………………WHAT ABOUT YOU?…………………………………
In John 17:6
“I have revealed you to those whom you gave me out of the world. They were yours; you gave them to me and they have obeyed your word. 7 Now they know that everything you have given me comes from you. 8 For I gave them the words you gave me and they accepted them. They knew with certainty that I came from you, and they believed that you sent me. 9 I pray for them. I am not praying for the world, but for those you have given me, for they are yours. 10 All I have is yours, and all you have is mine. And glory has come to me through them.“ NIV
Can you believe this? Jesus saw past the limitations of time and the human imperfections of those whom God gave him “out of the world.” He could see the days yet to come of every person who “knew with certainty” that Jesus did come from God “and they believed.” Long before your days even began, in ages past, Jesus recognized the glory that would come to Him through…
Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.
Psalm 90:12 NIV
John 11:54 As a result, Jesus stopped his public ministry among the people and left Jerusalem. He went to a place near the wilderness, to the village of Ephraim, and stayed there with his disciples. 55 It was now almost time for the Jewish Passover celebration, and many people from all over the country arrived in Jerusalem several days early so they could go through the purification ceremony before Passover began. 56 They kept looking for Jesus, but as they stood around in the Temple, they said to each other, “What do you think? He won’t come for Passover, will he?” NLT
The Jews carved out a convenient and workable system of government for themselves even though they were actually under Roman rule. It’s a system dependent on being able to exercise their authority by maintaining a low profile. People are coming into Jerusalem from “all over the country” to ceremonially purify themselves before Passover begins. The stories of Jesus and his miracles are being repeated and many believe. Jesus has become an inconvenient attention-getting detail that has too many people talking.
They gather because this preparation is a necessary prerequisite to their eligibility to participate in the week of Passover. There are ceremonial washings in small pools filled by “living waters” fed by a nearby spring or well. In a land of dust and heat that baptismal-type of cleansing has become both a sign of their repentance from ceremonial pollution and an official pardon for their separation from God. They have evidence from their own Scripture that God has acted on their behalf. They have awareness of needing purity. They have the desire for holiness. They have firsthand stories of miracles people have seen Jesus do with their own eyes. They have the right question: “What do you think? He won’t come for Passover, will he?” Only one right response is missing in all their devoted preparation …Come, Lord Jesus!
Search me, O God, and know my heart;
test me and know my anxious thoughts.
Point out anything in me that offends you,
and lead me along the path of everlasting life.
Psalm 139:23-24 NLT
8 Finally the other disciple, who had reached the tomb first, also went inside. He saw and believed.
9 (They still did not understand from Scripture that Jesus had to rise from the dead.)
These verses reminded me of this screen shot I took last Easter from the live broadcast of Gracepoint Church in Sturgis, Michigan. That empty tomb for those closest to Jesus resulted in fear, not hope. Hindsight has proved God’s plan for the salvation of many, became a reality despite those frightened people caught in desperate circumstances. Jesus’s body had disappeared from that fortress of stone. How could that possibly be anything but bad? “(They still did not understand from Scripture that Jesus had to rise from the dead.)”
That parenthetic verse 9 has become a modern-day lesson for me. As odd as it is to type this sentence; doubt and fear have always been a part of faith, even for those closest to Jesus. Even the “other” disciple, the one Jesus loved, hesitated. “Finally the other disciple, who had reached the tomb first, also went inside. He saw and believed.”…and
“Thomas felt a surge of shock and unbelief…Then he felt regret for having left. Then he felt isolated. He was the only one who hadn’t seen Jesus. He had seen so many things that would have been unbelievable if he hadn’t seen them. Most haunting right now was Lazarus. And then it happened. Thomas was staring at the floor, sinking again under the fear that maybe Jesus had rejected him because of his stubborn unbelief. If so, he knew he deserved it. Then someone gasped. He looked up and his heart leaped into his throat! Jesus was standing across the room looking at him. “Peace be with you”a
Faith is what gives us the courage to come out of our hiding place, confront our fears and doubts and to believe Jesus’s words are meant to shield us today, too – “peace be with you.” These two verses have become my reminder that recognizing the reality of an empty burial tomb is more than evidence of my faith…it’s evidence of God’s faith in me! “Finally” I “saw and believed” and He turned that stone cave into a fortress of hope that “the LORD is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer; my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.”b
a When it’s Hard to Believe
b Psalm 18:2
Psalm 119 Taw
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.
These twenty two sections of Psalm 119 and their relationship to the Hebrew letter the Psalmist chose to “mark” each of them have challenged my thinking from mid November through Advent, Christmas and into this new year, 2021. Transposing sentences has been a way to pay homage to the Hebrew method of reading Right to Left. These last eight “right to left” verses were organized with that in mind but with a twist; writing all the right phrases, one after another, and then stringing all the left phrases together after them. My intent is for them to be read as a whole that gives these important old words a new expression and then consider why the Psalmist marked them with last letter of the Hebrew Aleph-bet, “Taw.”
The image of the ancient letter, Taw, was used like a signature mark to verify the truth of what was said. Taw is pictured by two sticks crossed but I don’t see two sticks. I see a cross! It’s amazing to consider the Psalmist purposefully chose a mark all those centuries ago to verify the truth of his words and become a recognizable sign of the cross, chosen by God, to verify our future. Read on please…
– Psalm 119:169-176 All Right then All Left –
Give me understanding according to your word. Deliver me according to your promise, for you teach me your decrees. All your commands are righteous for I have chosen your precepts. Your law gives me delight and may your laws sustain me. Seek your servant for I have not forgotten your commands. May my cry come before you, Lord; may my supplication come before you. May my lips overflow with praise; may my tongue sing of your word. May your hand be ready to help me. I long for your salvation, Lord. Let me live that I may praise you. I have strayed like a lost sheep.
–––∞ My Thoughts ∞–––
Jesus IS the Word! That’s the understanding of God we need. God’s promise to us lives in Jesus Christ; the way, the truth and the life. Jesus is the fulfillment of God’s precepts, laws and commands and He will remove the condemnation of those same laws from those who place their life in Him. Jesus has completed everything God required to sustain us. He is our reminder that the truth we now have can hold us firmly while our lips learn to overflow with praise and our tongues find words to sing the song of salvation for lost sheep; being crucified with Christ. I long for your salvation, Lord. Let me live that I may praise You, glorify God and enjoy Him forever.
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
>§§§> Reading Right to Left but using Columns today
My heart trembles at your word
Like one who finds great spoil
But I love your law
I praise you for your righteous laws
And nothing can make them stumble
I follow your commands
for I love them greatly
for all my ways are known to you
Rulers persecute me without cause but
I rejoice in your promise
I hate and detest falsehood
Seven times a day
Great peace have those who love your law
And I wait for your salvation, Lord
I obey your statutes
I obey your precepts and your statutes
TAP ON THE IMAGE ABOVE TO EXPAND IT FOR READING
Psalm 119:153-160 ר Resh – Head
153 Look on my suffering and deliver me, for I have not forgotten your law.
154 Defend my cause and redeem me; preserve my life according to your promise.
155 Salvation is far from the wicked, for they do not seek out your decrees.
156 Your compassion, Lord, is great; preserve my life according to your laws.
157 Many are the foes who persecute me, but I have not turned from your statutes.
158 I look on the faithless with loathing, for they do not obey your word.
159 See how I love your precepts; preserve my life, Lord, in accordance with your love.
160 All your words are true; all your righteous laws are eternal.
Right >§§§> Left
I have not forgotten your law, look on my suffering and deliver me. Preserve my life according to your promise, defend my cause and redeem me. The wicked do not seek out your decrees, salvation is far from them. Preserve my life according to your laws, your compassion, Lord, is great. I have not turned from your statutes but many are the foes who persecute me. The faithless do not obey your word, I look on them with loathing. Preserve my life, Lord, in accordance with your love, see how I love your precepts. All your righteous laws are eternal, all your words are true.
Resh – Head might be the Psalmist’s acknowledgement that he knows God is his Head. He is confident God always acts in accordance with His character. He is truly certain of what his heart knows about God but his words show us that isn’t always what is in his head. God has chosen to show us the honest words of this man “after His own heart” because they clearly reveal a struggle between the faith of his heart and the words of his head. That is the struggle people of faith still confront today.
The Psalmist knows every circumstance of his life is exposed to God’s own heart. I think that’s what he wants us to learn too. “We [must] let our mind descend into our heart and there stand in the presence of God.a Standing in that presence our heart and head can finally recognize the gaps in our faith. That is the place God’s own heart transforms our faith from what our own heart and head know into faithfulness based on knowing God’s law is always balanced by His promises; His decrees by His compassion and His precepts by His love.
a Henri Nouwen in Spiritual Direction
Psalm 119 צ Tsadhe – fish hook?
137 You are righteous, Lord, and your laws are right.
138 The statutes you have laid down are righteous; they are fully trustworthy.
139 My zeal wears me out, for my enemies ignore your words.
140 Your promises have been thoroughly tested, and your servant loves them.
141 Though I am lowly and despised, I do not forget your precepts.
142 Your righteousness is everlasting and your law is true.
143 Trouble and distress have come upon me, but your commands give me delight.
144 Your statutes are always righteous; give me understanding that I may live.
Right >§§§> Left
Your laws are right. You are righteous Lord! Fully trustworthy are the righteous statutes you have laid down. My enemies ignore your words and my zeal wears me out. Your servant loves your thoroughly tested promises. I do not forget your precepts though I am lowly and despised. Your law is true. Your righteousness is everlasting. Your commands give me delight when trouble and distress come upon me. Give me understanding that I may live your always righteous statutes.
Obviously there isn’t much efficiency in working on two sections of the Psalm at a time if you end up having to say “sorry this section is posted out of order.” I have been “caught being human too.”
The Psalmist had his own reasons for choosing Tsadhe – fish hook as his title. Today it’s a stepping stone, a mental path, to find truth that makes old words real for contemporary life. Fish hook is only one step away from the idea of being “caught.” Is the Psalmist caught thinking his zeal for God is what changes his enemies? Is that what’s wearing him out? Is he caught by his own perception of what others think of him? Is he caught by his own trouble and distress? Is he caught being human? The answers to all of the above may well be yes.
That’s why his words seem familiar – they’re still struggles of being human today. Maybe Tsadhe – fish hook – is the Psalmists’ way of remembering being “caught” is also what makes it possible for him to find a positive response to those negatives.
He’s “caught on” that despite thorough testing, he still loves the promises of God. He’s “caught on” that God’s righteousness is everlasting but his circumstances aren’t. He’s hooked by these truths that allow him to live, to believe, to be faithful…even though he’s caught being human too. He’s been caught and firmly hooked by a righteous and trustworthy God.a
aReposted from September, 2016
Psalm 119 – Qoph Axe, Back of Head,
145 I call with all my heart; answer me, Lord, and I will obey your decrees.
146 I call out to you; save me and I will keep your statutes.
147 I rise before dawn and cry for help; I have put my hope in your word.
148 My eyes stay open through the watches of the night, that I may meditate on your promises.
149 Hear my voice in accordance with your love; preserve my life, Lord, according to your laws.
150 Those who devise wicked schemes are near, but they are far from your law.
151 Yet you are near, Lord, and all your commands are true.
152 Long ago I learned from your statutes that you established them to last forever.
Right >§§§> Left
Lord, I will obey your decrees; answer me; I call with all my heart. I will keep your statutes, I call out to you, save me. I have put my hope in your word; I rise before dawn and cry for help. Through the watches of the night my eyes stay open that I may meditate on your promises. Preserve my life, Lord, according to your laws; hear my voice in accordance with your love. Your law is far from those who devise wicked schemes near me. All your commands are yet true, Lord, you are near. You established your statutes to last forever, long ago I learned from them.
I write what I “think I know,” because I want God to “know I think.” More importantly I believe God knows what I need to know, and He wants me to know it too. I wonder if that’s the process of discernment?
I’m guessing seeing beyond what he thinks he knows is why the Psalmist writes too. Maybe that’s the secret of his obscure title Ooph – axe, back of head. The “back of the head” according to a Google search about anatomy is the “occipital lobe that controls sight. What the Psalmist “sees” are his life experiences but he knows there is a greater truth that can cut away the debris of life and reveal a much greater reality. The decrees, statutes and promises are the “axe” that can open his mind beyond what he thinks he knows, so he can see their truth; God wants him to know that His love preserves life. “All your commands are yet true, Lord, you are near.”a
a Rewrite of September, 2016