Psalm 74: Where are you,God?

Why does it seem that God is silent in the midst of the most difficult trials and tribulations of our lives? The silence can puncture the ear drums of the most spiritual person. The pain eats away at your faith like acid as you begin to feel hopeless and helpless. You are stranded in a spiritual traffic jam until it clears, if it ever clears.

One popular saying concerning God’s silence is “The teacher is always quiet during the test.” While well-meaning, this saying doesn’t bring immediate comfort during the test because we simply do not know how long this test is going to be nor do we know if there is another part to it, which can sink us further into the depths of despair. I have been there and I know you probably have been there too.

In Psalm 74, the psalmist wrote about the destruction of the first Temple while questioning God. Essentially, the psalmist asks such questions as, “Where are you, God?” “Are you seeing this?” “Do you care about what’s going on here?”

The Old Testament tells us that the Jews are God’s chosen people, Jerusalem was the place where the Temple was to be built and God’s presence would dwell in said Temple. However, all of this came into question as the Babylonians laid waste to the Temple in 586 B.C.

“O God, why have you rejected us forever? Why does your anger smolder against the sheep of your pasture? Remember the nation  you purchased long ago, the people of your inheritance, whom you redeemed-Mount Zion, where you dwelt.” (Psalm 74:1-2, NIV).

The psalmist goes on to describe the destruction:

“Turn your steps toward these everlasting ruins, all this destruction the enemy has brought on the sanctuary. Your foes roared in the place where you met with us; they set up their standards as signs. They behaved like men wielding axes to cut through a thicket of trees.” (Psalms 74:3-5, NIV).

The destruction is detailed- the paneling is smashed and the sanctuary has been burned to the ground. The psalmist once again makes note of God’s silence during this time and asks Him if He’s going to do something about it:

“We are given no signs from God; no prophets are left, and none of us knows how long this will be. How long will the enemy mock you, God? Will the foe revile your name forever? Why do you hold back your hand, your right hand? Take it from the folds of your garment and destroy them!” (Psalm 74:9-11, NIV).

These words portray such raw emotion. How many times have we pleaded with God to give us wisdom in a situation, asking for a sign? How many times have you prayed for God to remove sickness from your child or yourself? How many tears in the night must be shed before action is taken? When your last hope has nothing to say, where do you go? The psalmist is literally pleading with God to take His hands out of His pockets and do something about it.

Like the other Psalms, the writer reflects on some of God’s deeds (verses 12-17), and ends with another plea for God to intervene (verses 18-23). The Psalm does not end on a happy note nor does it make a declaration of faith. The Temple has been destroyed. God’s dwelling place has been burned to the ground. The treasures have been seized and are now in possession of a foreign king in a foreign land. For the Israelites, the story doesn’t end well, as they face seventy years of exile in Babylon (modern day Iraq). After the exile, the Temple would be rebuilt during the days of Ezra and Nehemiah, but it did not match the splendor and majesty of the first Temple.

Just as the destruction of the Temple and exile marked major turning points in the history of the Jewish people, so to we experience such turning points in our lives. There are events that take place where we may never fully recover; part of us will always be missing. Sometimes there are no answers. When we go through trials, we must be realistic about what we are facing- it’s going to be tough, but you will get through it, somehow.

 

Psalm 62: God is our Defense

Psalm 62
https://dailyverses.net/psalms/62/2

I haven’t been myself for a long time. I have been wearied and weakened in my faith by the barrage of recent events in my life and those of my loved ones. Getting up everyday and living life is not for the faint of heart- it takes true courage to rise everyday when you know what’s waiting for you. At times it feels the dread of knowing you will encounter a bully on the way to school- you can’t seem to avoid him, no matter what you do. If you aren’t careful, this constant stress will affect you physically, emotionally, and spiritually.

The bombardment of life can and will chip away at the strongest of foundations, as we will lose ground little by little until we are buried in a deep hole. In our minds and spirits, we in a sense become theological toddlers, asking God “Why?” “Why?” “Why?” Before long confusion and doubt set in and we become more and more miserable, maybe even questioning God’s goodness or His existence.

I left for work earlier this week and I let God know my frustrations. My exact prayer was: “Lord, you’re going to have to make this path as obvious as the yellow brick road in The Wizard of Oz, because I can’t see it.”

Psalm 62 is what I heard in response. The Psalms are often my go to book, but I couldn’t remember what Psalm 62 was about. I drove on to work and pulled into a parking spot. I was a few minutes early, so I pulled up the Bible app on my phone and read Psalm 62. Right word. Right place. Right time.

Psalm 62, like many others, is attributed to David.

“Truly my soul waiteth upon God: from Him cometh my salvation. He only is my rock and my salvation; He is my defense; I shall not be greatly moved.” -Psalm 62:1-2, KJV.

The Hebrew word used for “defense” is Misgab (Strong’s #4869), which means a cliff or other inaccessible place, a refuge. In the King James text, Misgab is translated as:

Defense (7x) -Psalms 59:9, 59:16-17, 62:2, 62:6, 94:22, and Isaiah 33:16.

Refuge (5x) -Psalms 9:9(twice), 46:7, 46:11, 48:3.

High Tower (3x)-2 Samuel 22:3, Psalms 18:2 and 144:2.

Fort (1x)-Isaiah 25:12.

*As a side note, Misgab is used directly in Jeremiah 48:1 to refer to mountains in Moab.

In Psalm 62 verses 3, 4, 9, and 10, David discusses his enemies, who are going after him. David doesn’t worry about his position because his hope is in God. God is David’s refuge. David’s relationship with God serves as a metaphorical fortress that cannot be seized by any enemy. Psalm 62 is twelve verses long, eight of which David uses to praise God and only four verses to outline the conspiracy against him. David literally spent twice as much time talking up God as opposed to discussing his enemies. No wonder David had the confidence to stand up to a giant who was nine feet tall.

The Scripture doesn’t give us a context as to when David wrote these verses, but David speaks with confidence that God will deliver him from trouble because God has done it before. What has God brought you through in your life? God might have seemingly dragged you kicking and screaming, but He took you through it. You’re still standing. You’re still here. We want so desperately to be in complete control, but not all things are in our control and that’s why it takes faith.

Maybe you’re like me and have wandered off the path and God is trying to call you back. Stop where you are and listen for Him. I know there are times when it seems like we are spending all of our time battling on the offensive that we don’t have the strength to raise our shields to defend ourselves. Retreat to the high ground and you will have a better view of the battle. To quote a famous song, “The God of angels armies is always by my side.”

“My soul, wait thou only upon God; for my expectation is from Him. He only is my rock and my salvation: He is my defense; I shall not be moved. In God is my salvation and my glory: the rock of my strength, and my refuge, is in God. Trust in Him at all times; ye people, pour out your heart before Him: God is a refuge for us. Selah.” -Psalm 62:5-8, KJV.

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.

 

Raise Your Hands in the Battle

I worked with a personal trainer who put me through an intense weight training program. During our year-long plus sessions, I would be tested at various points to assess my progress. One of the exercises used was what is called a “max bench press.” In this exercise, the trainer would put a baseline amount of weight on the bar and increase the weight to test how much weight I could lift. Over time, my strength increased and I was able to lift more weight. However, there were times when the weight was too much to lift and I would need the trainer’s help to put the bar back on the rack. If I did not ask for the trainer’s help, I could have been seriously injured by the weight.

The total weight of our life experiences can weigh us down. There are times when the burdens can weigh us down gradually or we will be hit suddenly with an “Olympic-sized” load.  We can find ourselves weighed down by any number of things: the consequences of our sins, family issues, career struggles, financial obligations, addictions, terminal illness, and so on and so forth. If we try to tackle these issues on our own, the struggle will be much harder and we will find ourselves beaten down. We do not have to carry our burdens alone.

The ability to delegate is an important skill to have not only in business, but in life. If we can allow others, namely God to help us with the struggles and burdens we face, our lives will be much better and we will not be so weighed down. However, there are times when pride, fear of being perceived as weak, or even false humility will prevent us from asking for help. Delegation is a biblical concept, as you do not see David without Solomon, Jesus without the disciples, Paul without Timothy, the Apostles without the elders, or Moses without Aaron and Joshua.

The story of Moses is one that stresses the importance of not taking on burdens alone, for God and others are with us. In Exodus 17, Moses and the Israelites went to war with Amalek. Moses was to stand on top of a hill with the rod of God in his hand as Joshua and the Israelites fought with Amalek.

“And it came to pass, when Moses held up his hand, that Israel prevailed: and when he let down his hand, Amalek prevailed. But Moses’ hands were heavy; and they took a stone, and put it under him, and he sat thereon; and Aaron and Hur stayed up his hands, the one on the one side, and the other on the other side; and his hands were steady until the going down of the sun. And Joshua discomfited Amalek and his people with the edge of the sword.” (Exodus 17:11-13, KJV).

At first glance, this seems like an ordinary passage about a battle, but there is so much symbolism behind it:

*Moses stood on top of the hill (He had the high ground).

*Moses raised his hands toward Heaven.

*Moses had the rod of God in his hand (God’s authority).

*Moses sat on the rock (the Psalms use the expression “The Lord is my rock”).

*God sent two other people to lift up Moses arms.

*Moses kept up his arms and the battle was won.

We can and will win the battle we are facing if we lift our hands to God. As Christians, we have the spiritual authority to overtake the enemy. We can come to the throne room with boldness and grace. As Moses had the rod of God, Aaron, and Hur, we have God the Father, the Lord Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit. As I write this, my inner spirit man is leaping for joy. Brothers and sisters, I will leave you with verses about lifting our hands. God bless you all.

“To appoint unto them that mourn in Zion, to give unto 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 they might be glorified.” (Isaiah 61:3, KJV).

“Hear the voice of my supplications, when I cry unto thee, when I lift up my hands toward the holy oracle.” (Psalm 28:2, KJV).

“Thus will I bless thee while I live: I will lift up my hands in thy Name.” (Psalm 63:4, KJV).

“My hands also will I lift up unto thy commandments, which I have loved; and I will meditate in thy statutes.” (Psalm 119:48, KJV).

“Let my prayer be set forth before thee as incense; and the lifting up of my hands as the evening sacrifice.” (Psalm 141:2, KJV).

 

Biblical Meditation

What comes to mind when you hear the term “meditation?” Do you think of someone in a yoga pose trying to clear their thoughts? Do you think of someone repeating a chant or mantra? Due to the influence of the New Age movement, these images spring to mind when meditation is mentioned. But, did you know that meditation is a biblical term as well?

Broken down to its most basic terms, meditation could be defined as “musing, pondering, contemplating, or reflecting.” In short, meditation is dwelling upon something, whether good or bad. Our thoughts can have a direct influence on our lives. If we dwell constantly on the negative aspects of life, we will become negative and cynical. If we dwell upon the good or seek out the blessing in situation, we will have a more positive outlook. Jesus said in Matthew 12:34 that “out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks.” Our meditation is a reflection of our hearts. The question then becomes what does “biblical meditation” look like?

Biblical Meditation is dwelling on God’s Word

“This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate in it day and night, that you may observe to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success.” (Joshua 1:8, NKJV).

“Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor stands in the path of sinners, nor sits in the seat of the scornful; But his delight is in the law of the Lord, and in His law he meditates day and night.” (Psalm 1:1-2, NKJV).

“I will meditate on Your precepts, and contemplate Your ways…Princes also sit and speak against me, but Your servant meditates on Your statutes…My hands also I will lift up to Your commandments, which I love, and I will meditate on Your statutes…Let the proud be ashamed, for they treated me wrongfully with falsehood; But I will meditate on Your precepts…Oh, how I love Your law! It is my meditation all the day…I have more understanding than all my teachers, for Your testimonies are my meditation…My eyes are awake through the night watches, that I may meditate on Your word.” Psalm 119:15, 23, 48, 78, 97, 99, 148, NKJV).

When we meditate on God’s Word and our thoughts, a good analogy to use would be that of a garden. When you raise a garden, you must tend and care for it, making sure the plants get the right amount of sunlight and water, along with treating for weeds and pests.

 Do not neglect the gift that is in you, which was given to you by prophecy with the laying on of the hands of the eldership.  Meditate on these things; give yourself entirely to them, that your progress may be evident to all. Take heed to yourself and to the doctrine. Continue in them, for in doing this you will save both yourself and those who hear you.” (1 Timothy 4:14-16, NKJV).

Biblical Meditation is dwelling on God’s goodness

It is easy to get upset about our current situation or opportunities that have been missed or handled improperly. It is easy to think about how unfair life is. However, if we cultivate our relationship with God, He will reveal His goodness to us. God is for you and not against you. God has given His Son, Jesus to die for your sins. If you are reading this, God has given you another day on this planet. Maybe God has saved you from a life threatening situation or brought you through sickness, poverty, addiction, etc. Whatever it is, when we feel overwhelmed, we must meditate on God’s goodness.

“When I remember You on my bed, I meditate on You in the night watches. Because You have been my help, therefore in the shadow of Your wings I will rejoice. My soul follows close behind You; Your right hand upholds me.” (Psalm 63:6-8, NKJV).

“May my meditation be sweet to Him; I will be glad in the Lord.” (Psalm 104:34, NKJV).

Biblical Meditation is dwelling upon God’s work

On three occasions, I have traveled to the Rocky Mountains in Colorado. When I am there, I cannot but help to gaze at the beauty of God’s creation. The majesty of the snow-capped mountains, the clear water, and the teeming wildlife all provide an awe-inspiring scene. It is in this environment that I begin to dwell on God’s creation. When we can stop and remember that our God created everything in nature, we can remember His current work in our lives.

“And I said, ‘This is my anguish; But I will remember the years of the right hand of the Most High.’ I will remember the works of the Lord; Surely I will remember Your wonders of old. I will also meditate on all Your work, and talk of Your deeds.” (Psalm 77:10-12, NKJV).

“I remember the days of old; I meditate on all Your works; I muse on the work of Your hands.” (Psalm 143:5, NKJV).

Biblical Meditation is prayerful and uplifting

“Give ear to my words, O Lord, consider my meditation.” (Psalm 5:1, NKJV).

“Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in Your sight,
O Lord, my strength and my Redeemer.” (Psalm 19:14, NKJV).

“My mouth shall speak wisdom, and the meditation of my heart shall give understanding.” (Psalm 49:3, NKJV).

As we go about our day, we must always be in a state of prayer. If we do not take the time to pray, we will become powerless Christians. Just as you take the time to talk to your spouse, children, and other people around you, so we must take the time to talk to God. If our thoughts are prayerful and uplifting, we will have the right perspective when problems arise. God bless you all.

Budgeting Our Days

Creating and sticking to a financial budget is one of the keys to managing our money and resources properly. When we track our finances, we can see where our money is going and can look for ways to improve our spending and saving habits. Of course, a budget can be wrecked by unexpected expenses- sickness, a major home or car repair, a job loss, and the like. The point is that God has given us all a finite amount of resources and we are to be good stewards of our blessings. The question becomes what if we treated our lives like a budget? All of us are given an uncertain amount of days- how are we spending our ‘day budget’?

James 4:14 says, “Whereas you do not know what will happen tomorrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away.” (NKJV).

Compared to the vastness of eternity, the 60, 70, 80, 90 years or so of our lives are nothing more than dew on the morning grass, which dries up when the sun rises. Just as you would seek the wise counsel of a financial advisor or a friend, so to we must seek God when it comes to living our lives.

“Lord, make me to know my end, and what is the measure of my days, that I may know how frail I am. Indeed, You have made my days as handbreadths, and my age is as nothing before You; certainly every man at his best state is but vapor. Selah” (Psalm 39:4-5, NKJV).

“So teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.” (Psalm 90:12, NKJV).

Going back to the budget analogy, there are ways we can increase our income- get a higher paying job, sell unwanted or unused items, pay off debts, receiving an inheritance, but we cannot increase the day budget of our lives. So, given an undetermined number of days to live is it really worth going through life holding a grudge? Is it really worth your time to be angry and unforgiving about events in the past you cannot change? Is it really productive to be bound by the fear of the unknown? Is that addiction really worth it? Can you afford to put off God for one more day?

“Let all bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, and evil speaking be put away from you, with all malice. And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you.” (Ephesians 4:31-32, NKJV).

There is an old Chinese proverb that says, “A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” Take that first step today. Do not spend any time lamenting the past- confess it to God and let it go. Make your days count. Praise God. Love your family. 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.