Psalm 13: How Long, Lord?

Albert Einstein theorized that time is a relative concept. Whether time moves fast or slow is a matter of perception. Children cannot wait to become adults in order to achieve independence.  The eighteen years in between our birth and adulthood may as well be a 1000 years for as slow as time moves. However, as we age, time seems to speed up. You hear a classic song or re-watch a favorite movie and you remember how old you were when you first heard it or watched it. You shake your head in disbelief at how fast time has come and gone.

Perhaps nothing slows down time like a severe trial or test of our faith. No matter the trial- the unexpected death of a loved one, a broken relationship, sickness, job loss, an avalanche of debt- life can sneak up on us or just walk up to us and punch us in the stomach. Once we are in the trial, we in essence become frozen in time, as the trial and pain slowly consume our lives and thoughts. The discouragement gives way to the depression; the depression makes way for the despair; the despair evicts the last tenants of hope and faith.

HOW LONG, LORD?

How long, Lord? If you have ever asked God this question, did you get a response? Probably not. Believe it or not, you are not alone in asking this question. David was many things in his life- giant killer, warrior, king, prophet, shepherd, poet, musician, and a man like us who had his character flaws.

Although Psalm 13 gives us no context of the trial David was facing, it is clear David begins the Psalm in utter despair and is accepting defeat:

“How long, Lord? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me?

How long must I wrestle with my thoughts and day after day have sorrow in my heart? How long will my enemy triumph over me?

Look on me and answer, Lord my God. Give light to my eyes, or I will sleep in death,

And my enemy will say, ‘I have overcome him,’ and my foes will rejoice when I fall.”

(Psalm 13:1-4, NIV).

David’s words are of a desperate man in a desperate situation. David is essentially saying, “God, if you don’t do something, I might as well lay down and die.” It seems that God is silent in the midst of our trials. When we seek God for answers and He does not respond, we are left alone in our thoughts. Our thoughts will run wild like a caged animal who has escaped its pen. We begin to question everything we believe about God and we begin to feel as if our flaws are beyond redemption and we sink into the depths of despair.

However, between verses 4 and 5, David experiences a turning point and the Psalm pivots back to hope and praise.

“But I trust in your unfailing love; my heart rejoices in your salvation.

I will sing the Lord’s praise, for he has been good to me.” (Psalm 13:5-6, NIV).

It is difficult for us to see past the pain of our current situation. We look at the immediate failures and forget the past victories. We forget that we have the proper tools to demolish our obstacle and rebuild the foundations stronger than ever.

Faith, like our bodies, must be exercised to reach our full potential. When we lift weights, our muscles become sore because we have broken them down. However, our bodies are designed to rebuild itself after injury. When we go back to the weight room, our muscles will be better equipped to handle more weight than before. Trials, in the same way, can strengthen our spirits and make us stronger.

Psalm 13 does not give us an indication of how long it took David to come back to himself, but it probably took time. How long will it take you? Are you willing to allow this giant trial to mock you night and day as Goliath taunted the Israelite army? Are you willing to look back at what worked and what you have overcame to get to this point? Are you willing to accept the fact that the length of your trial is completely out of your control? Are you willing to look at your faith and trial in a realistic and pragmatic manner? Remember, David took down a giant with a slingshot and a well-placed rock. You got this.God bless you all.

 

 

 

 

Arise and Praise During Your Midnight

At midnight I will rise to give thanks unto thee because of thy righteous judgments.

– Psalm 119:62, KJV

Life is not about how many times you fall, but how many times you rise. I know that when you are tired, you are angry, depressed, oppressed, rejected, dejected, feeling abused and used, living with the pain with no sign of the gain that it is hard to find the good in anything. Every time you seem to get your footing, life clotheslines you like a professional wrestler or delivers a punishing, bone-jarring tackle like a feared middle linebacker. I get it. I have been there. I am going through it, too.

Just as the Psalmist wrote, we must rise at our midnight and praise God. Acts 16:25-40 details the miraculous story of Paul and Silas in the Philippian jail. Paul and Silas were beaten, arrested, and thrown in jail for sharing the gospel. Just imagine the scene of Paul and Silas in jail, there feet bound with stocks of iron, their wounds were still fresh, still stinging, and still bloody. How did Paul and Silas respond to such treatment and an obviously unfair treatment?

“And at midnight Paul and Silas prayed, and sang praises unto God: and the prisoners heard them. And suddenly there was a great earthquake, so that the foundations of the prison were shaken: and immediately all the doors were opened, and every one’s bands were loosed.” (Acts 16:25-26, KJV).

I just want to encourage you that whatever horrible prison or pit you find yourself in, have the courage to rise and praise God. You are an overcomer in Christ. You are a survivor. Be thankful. Be joyous in spite of the circumstances.  Be mindful of God’s presence. Do not worry about what is not in your control, only work on what you can control- your thoughts, perceptions, actions, words, and responses.  You never know the affect your praise will have on those around you, as the whole prison was shaken and the chains fell off the other prisoners. God bless you all.

Finding Comfort in Sorrow

A common theme throughout both the Old and New Testaments is how God seeks to comfort His people. Just as the ancient Israelites awaited the arrival of the Messiah, so Christians await the return of Christ. The Book of Revelation describes how Christ will wipe away all our tears and restore all things; the Old Testament also eludes to this fact.

In my previous post, we took a deeper look into the Hebrew word, Nacham (Strong’s #5162), which means “to repent or comfort” from the perspective of how we can draw comfort when we repent and show the strength to take a new course of action. To read the previous post, click here https://triumphantinchrist.wordpress.com/2016/09/10/finding-comfort-in-our-repentance/. In this post, we will examine Nacham from the comforting or consoling aspect of the word. Once again, I will be quoting exclusively from the King James Version.

 

Job’s Well-Intentioned Friends

When tragedy or difficulties strike our family and friends, our heart aches for them. We often feel so powerless and overwhelmed when we realize nothing we do or say is going to take away their pain. Our hurting loved ones need our presence more than social clichés. We do not have to say anything. Just be there. Give them a hug. Tell them you love them.

 Perhaps no one in the Old Testament suffered more than Job. In a quick succession of time, Job’s ten children died, he became ill, he lost his livelihood, and his wife, out of her pain, told him to “curse God and die.” Job, to the best of his knowledge, could not think of anything he did to bring on such suffering and tragedy. Up till the end of the book, God remained silent. When God did speak, Job was not given an explanation for his suffering, but was blessed in the end with more than he had before. Job’s three friends went to comfort him.

 “Now when Job’s three friends heard of all this evil that was come upon him, they came everyone from his own place; Eliphaz the Temanite, and Bildad the Shuhite, and Zophar the Naamathite: for they had made an appointment together to come to mourn with him and to comfort him. And when they lifted up their eyes afar off, and knew him not, they lifted up their voice, and wept; and they rent everyone his mantle, and sprinkled dust upon their heads toward heaven. So they sat down with him upon the ground seven days and seven nights, and none spake a word unto him: for they saw that his grief was very great.” (Job 2:11-13, KJV, emphasis mine).

Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar started out with noble intentions, as all three decided to visit their friend. The three men also joined Job in his mourning by following the Hebrew customs of weeping openly, tearing their clothes, and sprinkling dust on their heads, which were all signs of mourning. Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar offered no condolences or words of wisdom, they simply sat on the ground in silence for a week, covered in dirt and torn clothes. Job’s grief was so great that his friends did not recognize him at first.

During times of tragedy, we can find ourselves trying to explain why God would allow something to happen. However, the truth is that we cannot fully know God’s reasons nor even begin to understand His ways. Therefore, we do need to speak for God. If we say the wrong thing, we will only add to someone’s grief, which is what Job’s three friends did. If Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar, had remained silent when Job began to speak, they would not have added to Job’s grief. However, Job’s three friends accused him of harboring a secret sin and that sin brought on his troubles. In multiple debates, the three friends reasoned with Job that he brought this on himself. This frustrated Job to no end.

“Then Job answered and said, I have heard many such things: miserable comforters are ye all. Shall vain words have an end? Or what emboldeneth thee that thou answerest? I also could speak as ye do; if your soul were in my soul’s stead, I could heap up words against you, and shake mine head at you. But I would strengthen you with my mouth, and the moving of my lips should assuage your grief.” (Job 16: 1-5, KJV, emphasis mine).

 At the end of the Book of Job, he received the comfort he needed not only from his submission to God, but also from everyone who came out to see him and blessed him.

When the Grief is too much

The pain of yesterday and the uncertainty of the future only adds to the grief in the current moment. When we cannot see past the pain, life becomes too and we fall into despair. If you have reached despair, hold on to hope. There will be difficult days, but you will get through them. If you question “Where is God in the midst of all of this?” do not fret, because the Bible addresses this as well, showing us that we are not alone in how we feel.

“My soul fainteth for thy salvation: but I hope in thy word. Mine eyes fail for thy word, saying, ‘When wilt thou comfort me?’” (Psalms 119:81-82, KJV, emphasis mine).

“So I returned, and considered all the oppressions that are done under the sun: and behold the tears of such as were oppressed, and they had no comforter; and on the side of the oppressors there was power, but they had no comforter.” (Ecclesiastes 4:1, KJV, emphasis mine).

 “Reproach hath broken my heart; and I am full of heaviness: and I looked for some to take pity, but there was none; and for comforters, but I found none.” (Psalm 69:20, KJV, emphasis mine).

Comfort is on the Way

Though we often picture the Old Testament prophets as bearers of “gloom and doom,” and pronouncing “Woe unto you,” God makes beautiful statements concerning a day when His children will be comforted, even in the midst of famine, suffering, grief, or an invading army. We too can take solace in these beautiful words found in Isaiah.

“Therefore the redeemed of the Lord shall return, and come with singing unto Zion; and everlasting joy shall be upon their head: they shall obtain gladness and joy; and sorrow and mourning shall flee away. I, even I, am He that comforteth you: who art thou, that thou shouldest be afraid of a man that shall die, and of the son of man which shall be made as grass.” (Isaiah 51:11-12, KJV, emphasis mine).

 “The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me; because the Lord hath anointed me to preach good tidings unto the meek; He hath sent me to bind up the broken-hearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound. To proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all that mourn; To appoint them that mourn in Zion, to give them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; that they might be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that He might be glorified.” (Isaiah 61:1-3, KJV, emphasis mine).

If you are experiencing grief and loss, please do not give up hope. This is a process and will take time. There is no set timeframe for this. You do not have to go on this journey alone. In fact, you are not on this journey alone. Though you may have days of darkness and doubt, know that God still loves you. God bless you all.

Finding Comfort in our Repentance

It is a natural human desire to seek comfort in the midst of tragic or difficult circumstances. When we know of someone who has suffered a devastating event such as the loss of a loved one or is dealing with the aftermath of a natural disaster, we pray that God would comfort their hearts, souls, and minds. Comfort can bring us a peace that transcends understanding. We can also pursue comfort by seeking a certain financial and/or material standard of living.

The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language 4th edition defines Comfort as “1. (V) To soothe in time of affliction or distress. 2. (V) To ease physically, relieve. 3. (N). A condition of feeling or pleasurable ease, well-being, or contentment.” The Bible, of course, has much to say concerning comfort in the sense of consolation and providing solace and support, but we will examine comfort in the sense of strength and repentance. For this post, I will be conducting this word study using the King James Version.

The Hebrew word most often used for comfort is the word, Nacham (Strong’s #5162), which means “to repent, comfort.” More specifically, Nacham means “to make a strong turning to a new course of action.” Repentance simply means going in a different direction. For instance, if you repent of a sin, you go in a different direction by not committing that sin. Comfort is derived from the words Com (with) and Fort (strength). Strong’s Concordance goes on to explain: “When one repents, he exerts strength to change, re-grasp the situation, and exert effort for the situation to take a different course of action.” Thus, repentance and comfort in this particular instance does not place the emphasis on God’s grace, but on our responses and the actions we take concerning our circumstances.

Before we go further, let me state that there are times when God allows difficult circumstances in our lives and what we go through is not always a direct result of our sin. Hence, I am not condemning anyone. We will examine biblical people who brought comfort by turning the situation around, examples of personal strength, and how God brought comfort to wayward ancient Israel.

Noah

From Adam to Noah, humanity grew excessively wicked and God sought to cleanse the world with the Flood. God chose Noah to bring repentance to humanity.

“And Lamech lived a hundred eighty and two years, and begat a son: And he called his name Noah, saying ‘This same shall comfort us concerning our work and toil of our hands, because of the ground which the Lord hath cursed.” (Genesis 5:28-29, KJV, emphasis mine). Here is the first instance of the link between repentance and comfort.

Joseph

If anyone had a right to carry a chip on their shoulder, it would be Joseph. Joseph’s brothers sold him into slavery, falsely accused of attacking Potiphar’s wife and subsequently falsely imprisoned.  Joseph was forgotten about in prison and stayed there longer than he should have been. However, God brought Joseph to prominence and placed him in a position of authority to save countless people during a famine. This famine was used to unite Joseph with his brothers and his father, Jacob. After Jacob died, Joseph’s brothers feared for their lives, that Joseph was biding his time and would take his revenge after their father died. Joseph’s brothers repented before him, pleading for mercy. Joseph, showed strength and comforted his brothers and explained to them the greater good of what happened:

“And Joseph said unto them, ‘Fear not: for am I in the place of God? But as for you, ye thought evil against me: but God meant it unto good, to bring to pass, as it is this day, to save much people alive. Now therefore fear ye not: I will nourish you, and your little ones.’ And he comforted them, and spake kindly to them.” (Genesis 50:19-21, KJV, emphasis mine).

Comfort and Repentance in the Psalms

The Psalms, for me, have always been a source of hope and inspiration. Though some of the Psalms deal with Israel as a nation, the vast majority of the Psalms are personal reflections of people as they dealt with the harshness and trials of life. The writers of the Psalms gave an honest acknowledgement of their sins and the comfort brought on by repentance.

“He restoreth my soul: He leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for His Name’s sake. Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.” (Psalm 23:3-4, KJV, emphasis mine).

“Thou, which hast showed me great and sore troubles, shalt quicken me again, and shalt bring me up again from the depths of the earth. Thou shalt increase my greatness, and comfort me on every side.” (Psalm 71:20-21, KJV, emphasis mine).

“Remember the word unto thy servant, upon which thou hast caused me to hope. This is my comfort in my affliction: for thy word hath quickened me.” (Psalm 119:49-50, KJV, emphasis mine).

“I know, O Lord, that thy judgments are right, and that thou in faithfulness hast afflicted me. Let, I pray thee, thy merciful kindness be for my comfort, according to thy word unto thy servant.” (Psalm 119:75-76, KJV, emphasis mine).

Comfort and God’s Judgment of Israel

From the Book of Judges on, a pattern is established in the Old Testament where Israel would fall into sin and idolatry, then God would raise up a prophet, judge, or king to urge Israel to repent of their sins and avoid God’s judgments. There were times when Israel refused to repent and God’s judgments came in the forms of invading armies such as the Assyrians or Babylonians. In the words of the Prophets, you can hear the heart of God, pleading to bring comfort to his suffering children. God would bring comfort when his people repented of their sins, thus, placing the onus on Israel and Judah to change their ways.

“And in that day thou shalt say, O Lord, I will praise thee: though thou wast angry with me, thine anger is turned away, and thou comfortedst me. Behold, God is my salvation; I will trust, and not be afraid: for the Lord Jehovah is my strength and my song; He also is become my salvation.” (Isaiah 12:1-2, KJV, emphasis mine).

“Comfort ye, comfort ye my people, saith your God. Speak ye comfortably to Jerusalem, and cry unto her, that her warfare is accomplished, that her iniquity is pardoned: for she hath received of the Lord’s hand double for all her sins.” (Isaiah 40:1, KJV, emphasis mine).

“What thing shall I take to witness for thee? What thing shall I liken to thee, O daughter of Jerusalem? What shall I equal to thee, that I may comfort thee, O virgin daughter of Zion? For thy breach is great like the sea: who can heal thee?” (Lamentations 2:13, KJV, emphasis mine).

“Then shall the virgin rejoice in the dance, both young men and old together: for I will turn their mourning into joy, and will comfort them, and make them rejoice from their sorrow.” (Jeremiah 31:13, KJV, emphasis mine).

In these words, we have covered only one aspect of comfort, with the emphasis on repentance. There are numerous examples of Nacham being used in the traditional sense of comfort, which I will cover later, Lord willing. If you are going through a painful season, please keep in mind that God has given you all of the tools and opportunities to start anew. Although it cannot change what happened, we do not have to stay where we are at and we can go forward with grace and strength. God bless you all.

The Second Act of Life

God’s existence transcends our mortal limitations and understanding of time and space. Therefore, age is of little consequence to God. The Bible says Noah was 600 years old when God commissioned him to build the ark. God promised Abraham children when he was seventy-five and his wife, Sarah, was past typical child-bearing age. Abraham was 100 when Isaac was born. Moses was eighty when he led the Israelites out of Egypt. Caleb, well advanced in years, fought the giants off of his mountain.  Elizabeth, the mother of John the Baptist, was also past child-bearing age when she became pregnant. Conversely, God called Gideon, David, Josiah, Jeremiah and Timothy in their youths to defeat enemies, slay giants, lead spiritual revivals, give prophetic words, and preach.

Contrast God’s view of age with how modern American culture views age. In American culture, some people worship at the altar of youth and take drastic steps to slow or stop the hands of time- spending billions of dollars on “plastic surgery,” miracle creams, exercise equipment, putting off adult responsibilities as long as possible and so on and so forth. Age is seen as a barrier for the young and old alike. When we are young, we often think others will not take us seriously. As we age, we believe the lies that we have nothing more to offer or that we are too old to start or learn something new. The adage, “You can’t teach an old dog new tricks” becomes ingrained in our minds.

The Roman Stoic philosopher Seneca made observations about age and purpose:

“You cannot, therefore, accept a hoary head [gray hair] and wrinkles as proof of a long life; the man has existed a long time, he has not lived a long time.”[1]

“…the worst fate of all is to be stricken from the roster of the living before you die.”[2]

However, I believe that as long as we have breath, we have purpose. Every day is a gift and we must cherish it. We must keep in mind that while we have been given another day to live, others have not. Make the most of what we have. We must live the fullness of life as we seek God’s will.

“You will show me the path of life; In Your presence is fullness of joy; At Your right hand are pleasures forevermore.” (Psalm 16:11, NKJV).

In American culture, we spend the prime years of our lives working hard at our jobs and typically retire in our early to mid-60s, where we draw Social Security and/or our retirement pensions. For many, these “golden years” can be a difficult transition as people lose purpose or deal with illness and disease. Unfortunately, many elderly people are discarded and not valued for their wisdom and what they can teach the next generations. Though families and society may disregard us as we get older, God does not forsake us.

“…even to your old age, I am He, and even to gray hairs I will carry you! I have made, and I will bear; even I will carry, and will deliver you.” (Isaiah 46:4, NKJV).

“Do not cast me off in the time of old age; Do not forsake me when my strength fails…Now also when I am old and gray-headed, O God, do not forsake me, until I declare Your strength to this generation, Your power to everyone who is to come.” (Psalm 71:9, 18, NKJV).

“Those who are planted in the house of the Lord shall flourish in the courts of our God. They shall still bear fruit in old age; They shall be fresh and flourishing, to declare that the Lord is upright; He is my rock, and there is no unrighteousness in Him.” (Psalm 92:13-15, NKJV).

Brothers and sisters, let us throw of the self-imposed and societal barriers that have been placed on age and live to the fullest. There are plenty of people outside of the Bible who have not let age deter them from making their second act of life just as memorable and accomplished as the first act. Everything that has happened to you up to this point has prepared you for the next stage of life. Seize the moment. Seize the day. This is your time. God bless you.

 

[1] Moses Hadas, The Stoic Philosophy of Seneca, “The Shortness of Life.” New York: W.W. Norton & Company 1958: 56. Brackets mine.

 

[2] Moses Hadas, The Stoic Philosophy of Seneca, “On Tranquility.” New York: W.W. Norton & Company 1958: 87.

 

Go in the Strength of the Lord

There are many ways to show strength. Strength can be shown in our demeanor during a crisis, admitting that we need help, our sheer will power to overcome an obstacle, and how much of a physical load we can lift or carry. In the context of nations, strength can be shown by the size of a country’s armed forces and its financial influence on the global marketplace. However, these shows of strength are only temporary as our bodies lose physical strength with age and illness, our pride can stop us from asking for help, we can become discouraged and give up the fight, nations rise and fall, and world financial markets are volatile. Thus, what if we viewed our spiritual strength not from an offensive position, but from a defensive position with the Lord serving as our fortress? What if we could look past our frail abilities, beyond ourselves and look to the Lord for strength?

The Psalms are a perfect example of life’s ups and downs. One Psalm could be praising God for a mighty victory and the next Psalm lamenting over sin and defeat. Even in the Psalms where all seems lost, the writers express their hope in the Lord and that deliverance is coming. The Bible has hundreds of verses concerning strength and the King James Version of the Psalms alone contains sixteen Hebrew words for strength. In studying these different words, we learn how nuanced the word strength is, but strength in the Psalms breaks down into four basic categories: force, majesty, praise, and security.

Our praises of God bring strength

“Out of the mouths of babes and sucklings hast thou ordained strength because of thine enemies, that thou mightiest still the enemy and the avenger.” (Psalm 8:2, KJV).

“Give unto the Lord, O ye mighty, give unto the Lord glory and strength.” (Psalm 29:1, KJV).

“Ascribe ye strength unto God: his excellency is over Israel, and His strength is in the clouds.” (Psalm 68:34, KJV).

“Sing aloud unto God our strength: make a joyful noise unto the God of Jacob.” (Psalm 81:1, KJV).

Our God is mighty in His strength

“I will go in the strength of the Lord God: I will make mention of thy righteousness, even of thine only.” (Psalm 71:16, KJV).

“It is God that girdeth me with strength, and make my way perfect…For thou hast girded me with strength unto the battle: thou hast subdued under me those that rose up against me.” (Psalm 18:32, 39 KJV).

“Now know I that the Lord saveth his anointed; He will hear him from His holy heaven with the saving strength of His right hand.” (Psalm 20:6, KJV).

“The Lord shall send the rod of thy strength out of Zion: rule thou in the midst of thine enemies.” (Psalm 110:2, KJV).

God’s majesty is in His strength

“Bless the Lord, ye His angels that excel in strength, that do His commandments, hearkening unto the voice of His word.” (Psalm 103:20, KJV).

“Arise, O Lord, into thy rest; thou, and the ark of thy strength. Let thy priests be clothed with righteousness; and let thy saints shout for joy.” (Psalm 132:8-9).

“Honor and majesty are before Him: strength and beauty are in His sanctuary.” (Psalm 96:6, KJV).

“The Lord reigneth, He is clothed with majesty; the Lord is clothed with strength, wherewith He hath girded Himself: the world also is stablished, that it cannot be moved.” (Psalm 93:1, KJV).

God’s strength brings us security

 “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.” (Psalm 46:1, KJV).

  “The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The Lord is the strength of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?” (Psalm 27:1, KJV).

“The Lord will give strength unto His people; the Lord will bless His people with peace.” (Psalm 29:11, KJV).

 “Unto thee, O my strength, will I sing for God is my defense, and the God of my mercy.” (Psalm 59:17, KJV).

We cannot rely solely on ourselves and our possessions

Throughout the Psalms, there are reminders and warnings that we cannot place our strength in neither our physical bodies nor in armies or possessions.

Psalms about loss of physical strength- Psalms 22:15, 31:10, 38:10, 71:9, 73:4,88:4, 90:10, 105:36, and 147:10.

Psalms warning about placing strength in armies and possessions- Psalms 33:16-17 and 52:7.

Coming to a place where we realize that our bodies, minds, and resources have limitations can be very difficult to accept. I have in the last year battled health problems that have changed my perspective on my physical abilities and my outlook on life. I have struggled with this new perspective, but I am learning to let go of what I cannot control. All things are not meant to be in our control, for we serve an Almighty and All-Powerful God. Who else would you rather deal with it- you or God? The best that we can do is to praise God and rejoice where we are at, make the most of the time we have left to live, and realize that where our strength ends, God’s strength begins. The Apostle Paul was a man who dealt with many difficulties and persecutions as he proclaimed the Gospel and asked God to remove these obstacles, but God had a different and probably unexpected response that strengthened Paul.

  “And He said unto me, ‘My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness.’ Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest on me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake: for when I am weak, then I am strong.” (2 Corinthians 12:9-10, KJV).

God bless you all.

 

The Horn of our Salvation

There’s a popular expression in the United States that says, “You have to grab the bull by the horns.” The expression is not meant to be taken literally because grabbing a bull by its horns would be a dangerous- if not deadly proposition. Rather, “take the bull by the horns” symbolizes taking control of a situation. However, as we all know, there are situations we cannot take control of, but we must place our faith in God and let Him guide us.

             In Scripture, horns represent many things including:

             *Ram’s horns were used to make shofars.

             *Horns were used to carry anointing oil.

             *Horns symbolized a ruler or nation’s authority or power.

             *Horns indicated physical strength.

For any horned animal-whether it be a bull, a ram, a goat, an elk, or deer, horns can represent strength. In the Old Testament, there is an expression “The horn of my salvation” that we will examine. Throughout the Old Testament and even in the New Testament, people such as Moses, Miriam, Deborah and Barak, Hannah, and even Mary, the Mother of Jesus, sang songs of victory and deliverance that the Lord had provided.

Hannah, after many years of being barren, gave birth to a son named Samuel, who became the last judge of Israel. After Hannah dedicated Samuel to the service of the priesthood, she sang a song, rejoicing in what the Lord had done

 “And Hannah prayed and said: ‘My heart rejoices in the Lord; My horn is exalted in the Lord. I smile at my enemies, because I rejoice in Your salvation.” (1 Samuel 2:1, NKJV, emphasis mine).

Hannah realized that her strength did not come from within herself, but her strength was exalted in the Lord. As Hannah prayed and praised God, God strengthened her and brought forth the miracle of Samuel’s birth.

King David was another person who relied and trusted in God during difficult times in his life. Anointed by Samuel to be the next king of Israel after God rejected Saul, David spent a decade on the run from Saul, who wanted to kill him. David wrote songs and psalms to the Lord, praising Him for all He had done. David, like Hannah, realized that his strength did not rest in his abilities, but depended upon the Lord.

“The God of my strength, in whom I will trust; My shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold and my refuge; My Savior, You save me from violence.” (2 Samuel 22:3, NKJV, emphasis mine).

 “The Lord is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer; My God, my strength, in whom I will trust; My shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.” (Psalm 18:2, NKJV, emphasis mine).

“For You are the glory of their strength, and in Your favor our horn is exalted…But My faithfulness and My mercy shall be with him, and in My name his horn shall be exalted.” (Psalm 89:17, 24, NKJV, emphasis mine).

There are also other places in the Psalms, where the word “horn” is mentioned concerning strength and our salvation.

“But my horn You have exalted like a wild ox; I have been anointed with fresh oil.” (Psalm 92:10, NKJV, emphasis mine).

 Speaking of the person who fears the Lord, Psalm 112:9 states, “He has dispersed abroad, he has given to the poor; His righteousness endures forever; His horn will be exalted with honor.” (NKJV, emphasis mine).

“And He has exalted the horn of His people, the praise of all His saints- of the children of Israel, a people near to Him. Praise the Lord.” (Psalm 148:14, NKJV, emphasis mine).

As believers in the Lord Jesus Christ, how much more do we have to celebrate and rejoice in what our Lord has done for us? No matter the trial- whether you have been battling it for a long time or you were blindsided by it- God will strengthen you. Lift up His Name. Pray. Seek His Face. God‘s presence dwells in the praises of His people. Grace and peace to all of you.

Seeking God in the Psalms

For generations of believers, the Psalms have been a great source of comfort and refuge in times of need. No doubt the most famous of the Psalms is Psalm 23, which is recited at funerals. I believe the Psalms can teach us about life and often parallel our lives, as King David and the other writers wrote about the joy of salvation, the agony of despair, our struggles with sin and trusting God in the midst of personal and national crisis. The Psalms have also inspired countless hymns and worship songs, where we can draw ourselves closer to the heart of God. The Psalms can also serve as an example of how to seek after God. The Bible is full of examples of how people sought after God- whether it be mountain top experiences, prayer, fasting, or simply that the Lord appeared at the exact moment of someone’s need. However, the Psalms can give us some basic principles about seeking God.

In order to seek God, we must turn away from wickedness

“How long will you people turn my glory into shame? How long will you love delusions and seek false gods?” (Psalm 4:2, NIV).

“In his pride the wicked man does not seek Him; in all his thoughts there is no room for God.” (Psalm 10:4, NIV).

“Depart from evil, and do good; seek peace, and pursue it. The eyes of the Lord are upon the righteous, and his ears are open to their cry.” (Psalm 34:14-15, KJV).

When we seek God, He will not reject us

“The Lord also will be a refuge for the oppressed, a refuge in times of trouble. And they that know thy Name will put their trust in thee: for thou, Lord, hast not forsaken them that seek thee.” (Psalm 9:9-10, KJV).

“Fear the Lord, you His holy people, for those who fear Him lack nothing. The lions may grow weak and hungry, but those who seek the Lord lack no good thing.” (Psalm 34:9-10, KJV).

*In this context, the word fear means to “honor,” or “reverence.”

We must seek God wholeheartedly and above all else

“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 inquire in His temple. For in the time of trouble He shall hide me in His pavilion: in the secret of His tabernacle shall He hide me; He shall set me upon a rock.” (Psalm 27:4-5, KJV).

“O God, thou art my God; early will I seek thee: my soul thirsteth for thee, my flesh longeth for thee in a dry and thirsty land, where no water is…My soul followeth hard after thee: thy right hand upholdeth me.” (Psalm 63:1, 8, KJV).

“Blessed are they that keep His testimonies, and that seek Him with the whole heart.” (Psalm 119:2, KJV).

The more we seek God, the more we will be blessed spiritually

“Who shall ascend into the hill of the Lord? Or, who shall stand in His holy place? He that hath clean hands, and a pure heart; who hath not lifted up his soul unto vanity, nor sworn deceitfully. He shall receive the blessing from the Lord, and righteousness from the God of his salvation.” (Psalm 24:3-5, KJV).

“The meek shall eat and be satisfied: they shall praise the Lord that seek Him; your heart shall live forever.” (Psalm 22:26, KJV).

“I will praise the Name of God with a song, and will magnify Him with thanksgiving. This also shall please the Lord better than an ox or bullock that hath horns and hoofs. The humble shall see this, and be glad: and your heart that shall live that seek God.” (Psalm 69:30-32, KJV).

We must seek God joyfully

“Let all those that seek thee rejoice and be glad in thee: let such as love thy salvation say continually, The Lord be magnified.” (Psalm 40:16, KJV).

“O give thanks unto the Lord; call upon His Name: make known His deeds among the people. Sing unto Him, sing psalms unto Him: talk ye of all His wonderous works. Glory ye in His holy Name: let the heart of them rejoice that seek the Lord. Seek the Lord, and His strength: seek His face evermore. Remember His marvelous works that He hath done; His wonders, and the judgments of His mouth.” (Psalm 105:1-5, KJV).

As we live out our lives for Christ, let us continue to seek God. We must remember to seek God and rejoice at what He has done for us. For no matter the obstacle we face, we can trust that God will be in our midst when we call upon Him. We must remember that seeking God is a continuous action and not a sole instance. As we seek God, let us remember the words of the Psalms and of the Lord Jesus, who said, “But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and His righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.” (Matthew 6:33, KJV).

The Lord also said, “Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find: knock, and it shall be opened unto you: For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened.” (Matthew 7:7-8, KJV).

Grace and peace to all of you.