Poetry: Literary work in which special intensity is given to the expression of feelings and ideas by the use of distinctive style, structure and rhythm.a
To give a human example, brethren;
promises were made to Abraham and to his offspring,
referring to one, which is Christ.
No one annuls even a man’s will, or adds to it, once it has been ratified.
I mean: the law.
God gave it to Abraham by a promise,
It is no longer by promise,
if the inheritance is by the law,
so as to make the promise void.
Four hundred and thirty years afterward.
does not annul a covenant previously ratified by God.
a My structure created verbatim from the sentences and phrases of the RSV Bible.
81 My soul faints with longing for your salvation, but I have put my hope in your word.
82 My eyes fail, looking for your promise; I say, “When will you comfort me?”
83 Though I am like a wineskin in the smoke, I do not forget your decrees.
84 How long must your servant wait? When will you punish my persecutors?
85 The arrogant dig pits to trap me, contrary to your law.
86 All your commands are trustworthy; help me, for I am being persecuted without cause.
87 They almost wiped me from the earth, but I have not forsaken your precepts.
88 In your unfailing love preserve my life, that I may obey the statutes of your mouth. [NIV]
A different plan for reading backwards, writing & praying today:
I have put my hope in your word, my soul faints with longing for your salvation. When will you comfort me? My eyes fail looking for your promise. I do not forget your decrees though I am like a wineskin in the smoke. When will you punish my persecutors? How long must your servant wait? Contrary to your law, the arrogant dig pits to trap me. I am being persecuted without cause. Help me. Your commands are trustworthy. I have not forsaken your precepts but they almost wiped me from the earth. The statutes of your mouth in your unfailing love, preserve my life that I may obey them. [Amen]
The most intriguing phrase in this part of Psalm 119 was “I am like a wineskin in the smoke.” The wineskin was vital to carrying the wine from place to place in ancient times but eventually it deteriorated as it was exposed to the smoke from fires of life inside a tent. There are many meanings of that phrase, and Kaph, but John Piper gets credit for an idea I thought worth passing on that relates the phrase to Kaph. Kaph is the open hand of God that can “tame” and “open” the life of one who will “bend” to His will. The wine is the Gospel. The fragile “wineskin” of life is what God has given us to carry His Gospel from place to place. That opportunity won’t last forever.
Psalm 119 [NIV]
73 Give me understanding to learn your commands and how your hands made me and formed me
74 I have put my hope in your word so those who fear you can rejoice when they see me
75 You have afflicted me in faithfulness I know Lord and your laws are righteous
76 According to your promise to your servant, may your unfailing love be my comfort.
77 Your law is my delight that I may live and your compassion come to me
78 I will meditate on your precepts, may the arrogant be put to shame for wronging me without cause
79 May those who fear you turn to me, those who understand your statutes.
80 May I wholeheartedly follow your decrees, that I may not be put to shame.
The mention of hands in v73 was distracting in terms of that small Hebrew subtitle, “Bent.” Reading each individual section of Psalm 119 backwards and rewriting them without changing their intent [I hope] has made them seem more like a personal prayer to me. The last two verses today couldn’t possibly have been any more personal so I haven’t changed them. I hope they’ll be your personal prayer too.
My first thoughts about “bent” evoked the imagery of the gently bent hand of God reaching toward us. I don’t think that’s what the Psalmist had in mind, as true and welcoming as that is. “Bent” is something more than a description of the physical hand of God. Instead I believe the Psalmist has discovered “Bent” is God’s purpose for His laws, precepts, statutes, decrees and commands. God’s promise was to change His servant’s natural “bent,”* so his inclination would be the determination to do or have all that God was offering him: hope, faithfulness, unfailing love, comfort and compassion.
*Bent: determined to do or have or a natural talent or inclination
2 Peter 3:8 But do not overlook this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. 9 The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance. 10 But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a roar, and the heavenly bodies will be burned up and dissolved, and the earth and the works that are done on it will be exposed. [ESV]
“Man ceases to be in any sense a pilgrim [if] there is nowhere to which he can make pilgrimage. He must simply drift in a kind of lostness, coming from nowhere and on the way to nowhere.”a
The Day of the Lord is an unspecified period of time that stretches between two well defined points; creation and a new heaven and a new earth. Those are the boundaries of the time of pilgrimage for everyone, believer or nonbeliever. The difference is where you begin and where you end. “The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient…not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.”
The pilgrimage of a follower of Jesus Christ begins at the point of becoming a new “creation.” The unspecified period of time is the life of faith that weaves the pilgrim into the strength of a cord that is “not easily broken.” The reward of the pilgrimage is found in the Day of the Lord – a new heaven and a new earth.
a William Barclay
The disciple Peter speaks in Acts 1:17 Judas was one of us and shared in the ministry with us…21 “So now we must choose a replacement for Judas from among the men who were with us the entire time we were traveling with the Lord Jesus— 22 from the time he was baptized by John until the day he was taken from us. Whoever is chosen will join us as a witness of Jesus’ resurrection.”
I’m continuing my look at the first chapter of each Bible book from the perspective of my three New Years’s questions. In some respects Acts 1 is easy: Judas made the one of the most heart wrenching bad choices on record. Look at the credentials we can assume he had because he was a chosen disciple: he was one of the “men who were with us the entire time we were traveling with the Lord Jesus—from the time he was baptized by John until the day he was taken from us.” Whatever Judas was committed to in those years required real sacrifice and hardship and then everything was not only wasted but destroyed. How could that possibly be?
These men were face to face with God “in the flesh” and even that wasn’t enough to protect Judas from himself. Judas was a victim of his own spirit, his own mind and his own answers on the night he betrayed Jesus. Those are the most important facts of this pitiful story that remind us to be thankful. God has chosen to promise us protection and assurance of grace and forgiveness through the indwelling Spirit of his Son.
Judas’s story is ugly but there is beauty in this same scripture that changes the story. It’s the backstory of the “other” betrayer, Peter. Peter is the disciple who surrendered his own denials made that same night to the reality of Jesus and God’s promise of grace and forgiveness to become “a witness of Jesus’ resurrection” and it’s promise for us today.
NIV Colossians 1:19 For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him [Christ], 20 and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross. 21 Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behavior. 22 But now he has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation— 23 if you continue in your faith, established and firm, and do not move from the hope held out in the gospel…28 He is the one we proclaim, admonishing and teaching everyone with all wisdom, so that we may present everyone fully mature in Christ.
Maybe you’re wondering why my mind searches for such different ways to read Scripture each morning. It’s really pretty simple…I desire to do it but I have to look for ways to trick my mind into denying the lie that I already “know it all.” It’s not a particularly flattering confession but sometimes concentrating on one word or idea from Scripture is what God uses to reconcile the mystery of those two very different realities for me. That word from this Word is “fullness.”
“God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in [Christ]” “and through him to reconcile to himself all things.” Once I was “alienated from God” but God in Christ has changed my mind and given me what I need. Mystery solved! It’s a new reality that’s become a promise I can depend on from “the hope held out in the gospel: ”fullness…mine because of his.
V28 MSG The mystery in a nutshell is just this: Christ is in you, so therefore you can look forward to sharing in God’s glory. It’s that simple.
Galatians 2:20 I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.
I wrote the words below nearly 40 years ago. I had a deep emotional understanding that Galatians 2:20 had really happened in my life. Christ’s life in me was complete and my life in him was a promise. I could live with that! There’s a purpose along with the promise of that one verse – growth! Life happens and wounds happen but flesh is healed by “faith in the Son of God.”
We were saved by recognizing the beauty of the scars the Son of God bore in our name. Now we have the privilege of sharing this assurance of growth – the beauty of our own healed scars.
Reprise: To Life! https://readandponder.com/?s=To+Life%21
Posted on June 29, 2015 but written in the “olden days” of the 1980’s.
“Imagine the position of a body on a cross. Feel your feet pinned with your ankles together so that your legs are useless. Sense your arms pinned outstretched as far from your body as possible, unable to provide any defense or protection, leaving you completely at the mercy of your surroundings.
As I hung there, pinned not by nails but by my own feelings of inadequacy and insecurity, excuses and tears dripped from my wounds, not blood. At last, when the pain was too great I could barely speak “Be with me, God, I’m so alone,” and it was finished.
There were friends, then, who cared for me in my brokenness who prayed and stayed with me until slowly the pulse of new life grew stronger and steadier and I was free of the shame of my scars – able to say, My wounds are healed, but the scars remain as a sign of the resurrecting love of God Amighty.” Shirle Bedient
18 This is how the birth of Jesus the Messiah came about: His mother Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be pregnant through the Holy Spirit. 19 Because Joseph her husband was faithful to the law, and yet did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly. 20 But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. 21 She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.” 22 All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: 23 “The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel” (which means “God with us”). 24 When Joseph woke up, he did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took Mary home as his wife. 25 But he did not consummate their marriage until she gave birth to a son. And he gave him the name Jesus.
The relationship of Mary and Joseph is confusing. “Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph”…”Joseph her husband was faithful”…”he had in mind to divorce her”… but…“When Joseph woke up, he did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took Mary home as his wife.” Were they “pledged” or were they married? Why was divorce involved? Here’s what I found.
Marriage was considered far too important to be left to a matter of the heart. A pledge of marriage was made by family arrangements in the name of the couple. It was only a promise at this point but the next step really mattered. The promised couple must confirm their agreement with that family arrangement at some future point in time. Their agreement turned that promise into a binding contract that only another legal action could break. Legally they were now recognized as husband and wife but there was one more step that must happen. That’s where Mary and Joseph were at this point. It was the wedding celebration ahead that was meant to unite promise, contract and their relationship into the one flesh God promised in Genesis but there were those disturbing circumstances.
I can pass on facts I discovered about the culture of relationships of the time but I cannot explain why God would use these circumstances in Joseph’s life to fulfill his promise to all of creation. They were hard circumstances. Joseph could declare Mary unfaithful and possibly condemn her to death by stoning. He could stay in the relationship and deal with his own conflict with the law he was faithful to…or he could accept his dream and the words from the angel of the Lord as a truth and a blessing on their life together. God bless circumstances. Joseph’s circumstances and his response became a blessing for all of us that celebrate the Big Event. Wisdom and the Word still work to help the believer navigate circumstances today. Matthew Henry’s commentary on this scripture says it perfectly.
“Observe, it is the thoughtful, not the unthinking, whom God will guide. God’s time to come with instruction to his people, is when they are at a loss. Divine comforts most delight the soul when under the pressure of perplexed thoughts.”
Romans 8:1 Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. 2 For the law of the Spirit of life [a]in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death. 3 For what the Law could not do, [b]weak as it was through the flesh, God did: sending His own Son in the likeness of [c]sinful flesh and as an offering for sin, He condemned sin in the flesh, 4 so that the requirement of the Law might be fulfilled in us, who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. NASB
Everything that led up to that day of condemnation so long ago has led you to this day we’ve come to call Good Friday. We get a lot of practice learning about the crucifixion of Christ being the bridge of forgiveness between us and God and between himself and us. There’s a third reality to that sacrifice that’s much harder to wrap our heads around. It was a sacrifice to set us “free from the law of sin and of death… free to believe “Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.”
That’s what what this solemn day is about. The sinless Savior did what no law, priest, pastor or counselor could do. He condemned the sin that our human flesh could so easily use against us and replaced it with his promise that we could be free to walk according to his Spirit. This day the promise of forgiveness became our reality.