Category Archives: Psalms

Shield, Fortress, Hiding Place

John 20:
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

When it’s Hard to Believe
b Psalm 18:2

Psalm 119:169-176 Taw – Mark, Sign, Signal, Truth

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.

Psalm 119: 161-168 ש Shin – Tooth

Psalm 119
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

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 119:137-144 צ Tsadhe – fish hook?

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 119:145-152 ק Qoph Axe, Back of Head

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

Psalm 119:121-128 ע Ayin – Eye

Psalm 119
121 I have done what is righteous and just; do not leave me to my oppressors.
122 Ensure your servant’s well-being; do not let the arrogant oppress me.
123 My eyes fail, looking for your salvation, looking for your righteous promise.
124 Deal with your servant according to your love and teach me your decrees.
125 I am your servant; give me discernment that I may understand your statutes.
126 It is time for you to act, Lord; your law is being broken.
127 Because I love your commands more than gold, more than pure gold,
128 and because I consider all your precepts right, I hate every wrong path.

Right >§§§> Left

Do not leave me to my oppressors; I have done what is righteous and just. Do not let the arrogant oppress me; ensure your servant’s well-being.  Looking for your righteous promise my eyes fail, looking for your salvation. According to your love, teach me your decrees, deal with your servant.  Give me discernment that I may understand your statutes; I am your servant.  Your law is being broken; it is time for you to act, Lord. More than gold, more than pure gold, I love your commands and I hate every wrong path because I consider all your precepts right.

–––∞∞∞–––

Praying is hard.  Emotions are involved and sometimes they actually become a barrier to praying at all.  Who wants to admit they think the key to God’s behavior might be getting the wording just right to assure Him of your trust at the same time you’re trying to keep any negative thoughts from Him?  That’s the opposite of what the Psalmist’s prayers and this section of Psalm 119 show us.  His no-holds-barred method of praying is right there for us to see.   He’s learned something about true humility; God does not see the Psalmist’s words or emotions as good or bad.  His prayers are his true heart given to God whether they’re words of harsh desperation or high praise.  God has given the Psalmist the courage to reveal everything in his heart to the God whose “eye” is always on him anyway.  ע Ayin is right there for us to “see” too.

At first glance the word “humble” wouldn’t be how I’d describe the prayers of this Psalmist king.  He’s as straightforward with his bold demands of God as he is with his praise.  He adds no timid phrases like “thy will be done” to soften what he asks.  His prayers combine his own desperate physical and emotional needs along with his fervent praise of the God who continues to be his teacher.  God has given the Psalmist the assurance of true humility that recognizes nothing he says can remove God from his heart OR remove his heart from God’s own.

That is the kind of prayer I want to learn.  

Psalm 119:113-120 Samekh – Prop, Support

Psalm 119
113 I hate double-minded people, but I love your law.
114 You are my refuge and my shield; I have put my hope in your word.
115 Away from me, you evildoers, that I may keep the commands of my God!
116 Sustain me, my God, according to your promise, and I will live; do not let my hopes be dashed.
117 Uphold me, and I will be delivered; I will always have regard for your decrees.
118 You reject all who stray from your decrees, for their delusions come to nothing.
119 All the wicked of the earth you discard like dross; therefore I love your statutes.
120 My flesh trembles in fear of you; I stand in awe of your laws.

Right >§§§> Left

I love your law but I hate double-minded people.  I have put my hope in your word; you are my refuge and my shield.  May the commands of my God keep me away from you evildoers.  According to your promise, I will live; do not let my hopes be dashed.  Sustain me, my God. I will always have regard for your decrees.  Uphold me and I will be delivered.  Their delusions come to nothing.  You reject all who stray from your decrees.  I love your statutes, all the wicked of the earth you discard like dross.  I stand in awe of your laws, my flesh trembles in fear of you.

–––∞∞∞–––

Props and supports are for the crippled.  Sometimes things have been broken so badly only medical traction can help. “Medical traction is the use of a pulling force to treat muscle and skeleton disorders. Traction is usually applied to the arms and legs, the neck, the backbone, or the pelvis. It is used to treat fractures, dislocations, and long-duration muscle spasms, and to prevent or correct deformities.”

This prayer the Psalmist wrote centuries ago sounds way too familiar to the reality of life at this moment doesn’t it?  I’m looking for the “ס Samekh” he’s revealed that can support and prop us up against double-minded people, evildoers, dashed hopes, delusions and the wicked of the earth…today.  Right now our nation is badly crippled by political violence, racial unrest and a pandemic raging around the world.  In one small word, “ס Samekh,” the revelation of God has shown the Psalmist the law is more than a pair of crutches or a wheelchair.  God’s law is spiritual traction for a broken body.  

The Psalmist has told us the love of God’s law is a force that can pull the muscle of the heart back into order.  He’s recorded what God taught him through the law.  God is a refuge and shield that can correct the skeletal disorders of a body fractured, dislocated and having spasms that will surely lead to permanent deformity.  We are a body in need of spiritual traction.

God’s law is the spiritual traction necessary to sustain us and yet we are unable to set it up for ourself.  Jesus is the “promise” of God [v116] and the fulfillment of His law.   He is God’s “ס Samekh” that will provide the spiritual traction God has prescribed for the complete healing of His body in the midst of double-minded people, evildoers, dashed hopes, delusions and the wicked of the earth.  Amen

Psalm 119:105-112 נ Nun – Fish, Longevity

Psalm 119 Nun – Fish, Longevity
105 Your word is a lamp for my feet, a light on my path.
106 I have taken an oath and confirmed it, that I will follow your righteous laws.
107 I have suffered much; preserve my life, Lord, according to your word.
108 Accept, Lord, the willing praise of my mouth, and teach me your laws.
109 Though I constantly take my life in my hands, I will not forget your law.
110 The wicked have set a snare for me, but I have not strayed from your precepts.
111 Your statutes are my heritage forever; they are the joy of my heart.
112 My heart is set on keeping your decrees to the very end.

 Right >§§§> Left

The light on my path for my feet is the lamp of your word.  I will follow your righteous laws. I have taken an oath and confirmed that.  Preserve my life, Lord, is according to your word.  I have suffered much.  Teach me your laws and accept the willing praise of my mouth.  I will not forget your law though I constantly take my life in my hands.  I have not strayed from your precepts but the wicked have set a snare for me.  The joy of my heart and my heritage forever are your statutes.  My heart is set on keeping your decrees to the very end.

—∞∞∞—

For some time now I’ve been separating the Scripture from my own writing using a typographical sign of the fish [ >§§§> ] so  the meaning of “Nun” didn’t seem unusual.  It’s a familiar image many Christians use to associate themselves with Jesus.  The surprise was to find it hidden here in Psalm 119. 

 The fish symbol was a common pagan symbol long before it was chosen as an identifying mark for Christians. Early believers in Jesus Christ chose the
“fish” because it was a sign that would attract less attention than, say the sign of the cross might, because people were familiar with seeing it.  It became a way to safely identify themselves to one another.  The story is told that when strangers met, the Christian could draw a simple arc in the sand with his toe and wait for the other to respond.  If the other was a Christian, he would respond by drawing the lower arc to form the outline of a fish.  

The “fish” is the surprise set-up for these devotional thoughts.  Did God reveal
נ Nun to the Psalmist king as a mark of a greater KING, yet to come, or was it just a poetic accident?  Was that secret little Hebrew heading written as a familiar signal for generations in the future to respond to, and reveal their own identity? 

This Psalmist king knew the law of God.  He knew it made the path he wanted to follow visible to him.  He knew seeing that path was one thing, but deciding to walk it demanded a way to identify truth and people he could trust.  He knew the writings of the prophets.  He knew life was his training ground with a divine purpose; intimacy with God.  I think he knew the significance of נ Nun – Fish was longevity, that his identity with God would last into our future too.

The Psalmist king has become known throughout history as a “man after God’s own heart.”  He knew his own identity was as sketchy and unreliable as any other human being except for his awareness that God’s truth [aka, the law] had saved and changed him.  The Psalmist knew he could trust God to be just and fair even when his own behavior and words were not.   Long before Jesus fulfilled the law, the Psalmist identified himself completely with the fullness of God revealed in His law, it’s precepts and statutes.  The value that has been ascribed to his heart was that he gave the fullness of it to God without reservation; the very best parts as well as well as the very worst parts.   That was the identification mark the Psalmist king made face to face with God trusting it would be recognized and God’s response would be to complete His identity with him.  >§§§>

Psalm 119:97-104 מ Mem – Waves, Water

Psalm 119
97 Oh, how I love your law! I meditate on it all day long.
98 Your commands are always with me and make me wiser than my enemies.
99 I have more insight than all my teachers,  for I meditate on your statutes.
100 I have more understanding than the elders, for I obey your precepts.
101 I have kept my feet from every evil path so that I might obey your word.
102 I have not departed from your laws, for you yourself have taught me.
103 How sweet are your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth!
104 I gain understanding from your precepts; therefore I hate every wrong path.

Right >§§§> Left

All day long I meditate on your law.  Oh, how i love it!  I am made wiser than my enemies because your commands are always with me.  I meditate on your statutes for I have more insight than all my teachers.  I obey your precepts for I have more understanding than the elders.  So that I might obey your word, I have kept my feet from every evil path.  You yourself have taught me.  I have not departed from your laws.  Sweeter than honey to my mouth are how sweet your words are to my taste.  I hate every wrong path therefore I gain understanding from your precepts.

–––––––§–––––––

The Psalmist recognizes there is a purpose for God’s laws, commands, statutes and precepts.  He’s used the Hebrew letter “Mem – waves, water” to reveal it to us as eye-catching waves rising repeatedly from the ocean of truth that is God’s knowledge.  Those waves regularly break the surface of the water as they begin their push toward the shore to deposit their power and become one with it before ebbing back into the vastness of depths that are unseen.  

Waves and water are the imagery the Psalmist chooses to show God’s persistence to raise up His laws, commands, statutes and precepts as a recurring opportunity to release His power upon the shore…His people…and in that moment become one with them. 

The Psalmist has seen God at work repeatedly in his own life.  He recognizes those waves have touched him with wisdom, insight and understanding.  They’ve risen from the depths of God’s knowledge to break upon him with new realities that sustain him over and over.  The imagery is God’s laws, commands, statutes and precepts are “waves”that have broken on him and united him in that moment with the unseen depths of the “water” that created them to enable him to “obey” and keep his “feet from every wrong path.”