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
MSG Eph 3:8 And so here I am, preaching and writing about things that are way over my head, the inexhaustible riches and generosity of Christ.
ESV 8 To me, though I am the very least of all the saints, this grace was given, to preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ,
NLT 8 Though I am the least deserving of all God’s people, he graciously gave me the privilege of telling the Gentiles about the endless treasures available to them in Christ.
What you see above are three different versions of the same verse listed one after another. The first is an esteemed paraphrase and the other two are translations. The Word of God still has the power to remind us it’s purpose is our purpose too. Put yourself in Paul’s place and read these inspired words as if they’re your own.
“And so here I am, preaching and writing about things that are way over my head, the inexhaustible riches and generosity of Christ. To me, though I am the very least of all the saints, this grace was given, to preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ. Though I am the least deserving of all God’s people, he graciously gave me the privilege of telling the Gentiles about the endless treasures available to them in Christ.”
Combining three different versions of this one verse has become an exercise of the heart that makes use of repetition to emphasize the clarity of their purpose: the “privilege” to tell people about the “unsearchable riches of Christ.” It’s also become a contemporary application that confirms the Word of God is still alive and able to inspire the heart of His people to make it very personal.
This downloadable PDF file has directions on how to use your internet access to read many versions of a single verse Bible reference in list form.
John 15:11 I have said these things to you so that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be complete.
Verse 11 is an unfamiliar place to look for a connection to Advent but we have history and hindsight to remind us God had a purpose in sending Christ as a new born baby. John recorded this statement as part of the narrative of the purpose of the life of Christ. Jesus clearly said what the purpose of His teaching was. That’s a lot of “purpose” from a one-sentence verse but when I read the definition of the two grammatical parts of “purpose” it became my purpose for this second Advent post.
noun: the reason for which something is created or for which something exists.
verb: have as one’s intention or objective.
God’s purpose for the birth of Jesus into our world as a baby was to provide a visual experience of new life and growth with all the perfection that had been lost back in the Garden of Eden. That is the renewal of purpose we celebrate during Advent. John is a respected expert on the purpose of the life of Jesus from the moment of His conception in the mind of God through His birth, life, crucifixion and resurrection.
Verse 11 might actually be the bottom line purpose of why we celebrate Advent year after year. There are so many good things that appeal to us emotionally and visually during the preparation for Christ-mas but don’t ever leave out that “-.” Christ was “created” and “exists” [the noun] as the reason for this season but His ”intention or objective” [the verb] for your life lasts far beyond Advent – “that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be complete.
John 15:2 He [the Father] removes every branch in me that bears no fruit. Every branch that bears fruit he prunes [and cleanses] to make it bear more fruit. [NRSV]
Facts: Artful pruning of a grapevine is what produces better fruit and maintains the optimal health of the branches. The pruner determines which branches should be allowed to grow and which should be removed. The only shoots that yield grapes are those that grow each spring from one-year-old canes – those that began growing the previous year. Pruning is vital for the vine because old canes can still produce leaves that make a branch look good but only sap the strength and ability of the newer canes to produce fruit. It’s all about the fruit.
Truth: Jesus speaks in pictures I can understand. There is no substitute for new growth and how it contributes to fruit bearing and a healthy life of faith for the believer in Jesus Christ. I know how easy it is to look pretty good based on what has already happened in your life of faith. I know what it’s like to resist the pruning of things that were real and good “then” but are old now. I know the pruned branch looks really bare and exposed until new growth appears. I know the purpose of pruning is the fruit…and I know the purpose of grapes.
Inspiration: What turns the grape into wine? It is crushed and then in due time when the process is through, the wine will be new. You’ll be my wine in this world. 💕Jesus
II Corinthians 5:20 We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God. 21 God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.
Being an ambassador “…as though God were making his appeal through us” become more real to me this week. I wanted to implore these people I really care about but instead my appeal was full of frustrated emotion and more loaded with the need to persuade than the desire that anyone might be reconciled to God. It’s so easy to spout off when you get your mouth and emotion involved. The fact is being an ambassador for Christ has obligations of grace.
I lost track of the reality that grace at it’s most basic level is God working to give me time to change. My motivation was more of the problem than my words were, and I blew it. I disappointed myself, and my two best advocates, Christ and my husband. It’s been a reminder to me of the obligation of, and my need for, grace AND it’s purpose.
Forgiveness has bound me to these people and grace in a new way AND loosed me to transformation “so that in him [Christ] we might become the righteousness of God”…together.
* 2 “I have compassion for these people; they have already been with me three days and have nothing to eat. 3 If I send them home hungry, they will collapse on the way, because some of them have come a long distance.”
* 5 “How many loaves do you have?”
* 12…“Why does this generation ask for a sign? Truly I tell you, no sign will be given to it.”
* “Watch out for the yeast of the Pharisees and that of Herod.”
* 17…“Why are you talking about having no bread? Do you still not see or understand? Are your hearts hardened? 18 Do you have eyes but fail to see, and ears but fail to hear? And don’t you remember? 19 When I broke the five loaves for the five thousand, how many basketfuls of pieces did you pick up?”
* 20 “And when I broke the seven loaves for the four thousand, how many basketfuls of pieces did you pick up?”
* 21…“Do you still not understand?”
* 23… “Do you see anything?”
* 26…“Don’t even go into the village.”
It seems like all Jesus has been doing is miraculous signs and yet the Pharisees still want him to prove himself with a sign they recognize. I wonder about recognizing signs. Did the crowd of 4000 realize what had actually happened to provide them food? Probably not. I’m guessing as that basket passed by they we’re just grateful that they’d been able to sit close enough so there was still food in it for them. It all seemed completely normal.
Barclay: “The whole tendency of the age in which Jesus lived was to look for God in the abnormal… They wished to see some shattering event blazing across the horizon, defying the laws of nature and astonishing men…”
The crowd, his own disciples, the Pharisees and even those Jesus healed all understood the greater miracles. The challenge for Jesus was to open their ears and eyes to recognize the greater purpose that God was revealing himself to them across the spectrum of life’s needs. That’s still his challenge and purpose. “Do you see anything?”