49. God who Guides

(This will be the last addition for a few weeks while we have a Summer break)

God in the Psalms No.49God who guides

Psa 31:3 Since you are my rock and my fortress,  for the sake of your name lead and guide me.

In a previous meditation we did consider the God who leads but the emphasis there was on God who initiates and opens a way ahead. This verse has s slightly different emphasis. Many people have written books on God’s guidance, it is a big subject and it is because when we become God’s children we want God to show us the right way ahead. We want to know how God wants us to live, what He wants us to do. Making decisions in a major part of life and Christians want to know who to marry, what career to follow, where to live, and so on. The assumption is that God will guide us. An old hymn goes, ‘Guide me O thou great Jehovah’. We want to be led. We want God to lead us.

Now when we come to this song of David’s, he first of all gives us a reason why he expects God. Notice the starting word, ‘Since’.  Because you are this, he reasons, I expect you to do that. Now we have considered God as rock and fortress, a place of security and so what David is saying here is, since you are the one who provides my complete security, to ensure that that happens every moment of my life, I need to know you leading and guiding me.

Imagine the pilot of a ship approaching the land. He’s been taken out to the ship from the land. He knows the land and, more important, he knows the shape of the coast here. So he’s taken out to the ship to guide it into shore, guide it into harbour. He will guide it through the shoals, he will guide it between the rocks so that it is not harmed. He sees it safely into the shore. That’s what God’s guidance is all about. It is about guiding us in such a way that we know we are safe and secure in His hands. Security comes from knowing that we are in the hands of the all-knowing, all powerful, God of love. Put those three characteristics together and they spell ‘security’.

After God had led Israel through the Red Sea and killed Pharaoh and his army, Moses and the people sand a song of triumph.  In it they sang, In your unfailing love you will lead the people you have redeemed. In your strength you will guide them to your holy dwelling.” (Ex 15:13), They were able to sing about the future because of what had just happened in the recent past. Note the two characteristics they highlight – love and strength (or power). They feel secure because of the way God had led them out of Egypt. Now He guided them: “By day the LORD went ahead of them in a pillar of cloud to guide them on their way and by night in a pillar of fire to give them light, so that they could travel by day or night. Neither the pillar of cloud by day nor the pillar of fire by night left its place in front of the people” (Ex 13:21,22). Yes they knew God as their Guide and they felt secure.

Centuries later Nehemiah’s Levitical team declared God’s goodness: Because of your great compassion you did not abandon them in the desert. By day the pillar of cloud did not cease to guide them on their path, nor the pillar of fire by night to shine on the way they were to take.” (Neh 9:19). Israel knew God was their guide. The psalmists sung of God guiding them with His truth (Psa 25:5, 43:3) and with His counsel (Psa 73:24). Isaiah prophesied that God would guide the blind so they could see (Isa 42:16) and that He would lead His people into places of refreshing (Isa 49:10). Guidance was part of the ‘restoration package’ promised by the Lord (Isa 57:18). Oh yes, God guides His people into goodness, into a place of safety and security. it is good to be guided by God!

48. Lifetime Favour

God in the Psalms No.48 – God of lifetime favour

Psa 30:5 For his anger lasts only a moment, but his favour lasts a lifetime; weeping may remain for a night, but rejoicing comes in the morning.

In the meditation yesterday we considered the Lord’s anger and so now we move onto the second thing: the Lord’s favour. In families we sometimes have favourites.  These are the children most liked by the parent and who receive the blessing and goodwill of the parent. You may remember, Isaac’s favourite was Esau and Rebekah’s favourite was Jacob (Gen 26:28).  Later Jacob (Israel) was to have Joseph as his favourite (Gen 37:3). Having favourites always causes problems, but the point is that a favourite is one who receives the favour of the parent, the blessing and good will of that parent. This is what favour is all about – blessing and good will. What is a blessing? It is simply a decree of good, so when we say favour is about blessing and good will, we’re saying that favour is about decreeing good towards that person.

After the incident of the golden calf at Mount Sinai, the Lord tested Moses by suggesting that He destroy all Israel because of what they had done. We then read, But Moses sought the favour of the LORD his God (Ex 32:11). In other words Moses approached the Lord with a view to changing the Lord’s intent from bad to good (which, of course, was what the Lord wanted to do anyway). The way Moses did it is instructive. He appealed to the Lord on the basis of the Lord’s revealed will to Abraham. It was like he was saying, “Lord you decreed blessing for Abraham and his family. We are still part of that family, so that decree surely must apply here and now, not disaster.”

Do you see that, it’s like he’s saying, “Lord surely your intent to bless all peoples of faith last a lifetime – for ever?” Yes, a lifetime here, doesn’t just mean for a single person’s life; it means for ever. In that example we catch a hint of something really big: God has a plan and it’s a plan of blessing and it’s a plan that will go on and on and on throughout history.  We’ve seen previously that it’s a plan formulated by the Godhead before history began  (Jn 17:24,  1Pet 1:20 etc.).  In the second ‘Servant Song’ in Isaiah, Isaiah prophesies, In the time of my favour I will answer you, and in the day of salvation I will help you” (Isa 49:8). Paul took this Messianic reference and applied it: we urge you not to receive God’s grace in vain. For he says, “In the time of my favour I heard you, and in the day of salvation I helped you.” I tell you, now is the time of God’s favour, now is the day of salvation”. (2 Cor 6:1,2). God had been working right through history up to this point when His Son would come to bring salvation.

What is salvation?  It is saving out of a place of judgement and bringing into a place of blessing. God didn’t just save us so that we would not receive His judgement; He saved us so that we would receive an ‘inheritance’ (Col 1:12) a blessing of goodness into our lives that would bring all the benefits of Sonship (Gal 3:26) to us. Yes, it’s this same thing we’ve seen more than once in these meditations: God is good and He decrees good for His people, the blessing of oneness with Him through His Spirit by the work of Jesus (Gal 3:14). We live in the era in history that can be called the ear of the fruit of God’s salvation. It is the time when God’s favour, God’s decree of good for people is seen and experienced in all of its fullness this side of heaven. It has been brought by Jesus, applied by His Holy Spirit and received by us, and it last for a lifetime – for ever!

47. Limited Anger

God in the Psalms No.47 – God of limited anger

Psa 30:5 For his anger lasts only a moment, but his favour lasts a lifetime; weeping may remain for a night, but rejoicing comes in the morning.

In these meditations we have already considered the God of Anger, but here there is something more that needs taking in.  Do you ever remember times when, as a child, you did wrong and there came a division between you and your parent who was angry with what you had done? The separation was the thing that hurt you more than any smacking you may have received, the fact that your parent thought badly of you and didn’t want to know you. Well that, almost certainly, is how many of us were brought up, and in a day of no smacking, the only punishment seen by many is banishment, and psychologically that is far worse that smacking which is over in a moment.

David knew this about God. Yes, He did get angry when it was justified, but that anger was a temporary thing, something that only lasted for a moment. Yes He does bring discipline (see Prov 3:11,12, Heb 12:5,6) but it is a momentary thing in the scheme of things. Yes, it may leave you weeping for a night, but it will only be for a night (all right, a ‘night’ may not just be a few hours, it can be days, depending on the depth of work the Lord has to do in us!) It will only be for a limited period and mostly it is only a very limited period.

Consider the usual order of events in these things today: you do something wrong, the Holy Spirit within you convicts you, and you are sorry.  What has been going on in heaven?  The Father sees the sin and is angry – because He is with sin. He stirs His Spirit within you and you respond. Now what happens?  At that moment Jesus intercedes on our behalf: “Father, I died for them, I died for that sin, it’s been dealt with.” (1 Jn 2:1,2), and the matter is instantly closed.   What may happen is that in the earlier stages you may take longer to respond to the Holy Spirit’s activity within you. Like Jonah (Jon 1:1-4) we try to ‘run away’ from God and pretend it didn’t happen, so it takes a little longer for the Lord to bring us to our senses so that we repent, but the moment we do, the above conversation in heaven takes place.

There is an important principle here: God’s anger against a sin last only until you repent. The literal interpretation of our verse above which says weeping may remain for a night” is actually “weeping will come in at evening to lodge”. It’s the picture of a lodger who comes to stay overnight. You may not yet see the significance of this, so let’s say it again: God’s anger against sin lasts only until you repent.  It doesn’t carry on holding the failure against us after it’s been dealt with.  Some of us feel God will keep on harbouring it against us. No He won’t; once it’s dealt with it’s over. That’s how any punishment with children should be. When our children were little we had a saying, “After smacks come cuddles.”  The practice of pushing our children away is psychological manipulation which is harmful. The controlled smack without anger after a clear warning, followed by hugs, says this is dealt with and is now past history that can be forgotten. It is interesting to note that under the Law of Moses, incarceration (prison) was not an option. The options were death (for major crimes, which became few) or restitution. In other words, there was no long, prolonged punishment, but reconciliation as quick as possible into society.  God is looking to bring favour and blessing, but we’ll have to leave that to the next meditation.

46. God who Heals

God in the Psalms No.46 – God who heals

Psa 30:2,3 O LORD my God, I called to you for help and you healed me. O LORD, you brought me up from the grave; you spared me from going down into the pit.

If there is one thing that unites people in a common desire, it is the desire to be well. How many people do you know who enjoy having a headache, enjoy having tooth ache, enjoy having arthritis, enjoy having a sprained wrist? No we take pain killers, and go to the doctors. We want to get rid of these afflictions. When I was younger I thought how good it must be to be in a hospital bed, having time to think and to meditate on God’s word.  How unreal!

When you are ill, God feels a million miles away and you definitely don’t feel spiritual. Perhaps that’s why Jesus seemed to do more healing work than anything else: “News about him spread all over Syria, and people brought to him all who were ill with various diseases, those suffering severe pain, the demon-possessed, those having seizures, and the paralyzed, and he healed them (Mt 4:24). “When evening came, many who were demon-possessed were brought to him, and he drove out the spirits with a word and healed all the sick.” (Mt 8:16).  “Many followed him, and he healed all their sick” (Mt 12:15) “Great crowds came to him, bringing the lame, the blind, the crippled, the mute and many others, and laid them at his feet; and he healed them.” (Mt 15:30)  “The blind and the lame came to him at the temple, and he healed them.” (Mt 21:14). Do you see this? Matthew could hardly stop writing it! It was what, in later periods of church history, we call ‘revival’, God unleashed!

Yes, it does seem that at certain times in church history in certain places and through certain individuals, God pours out His healing power. There do seem other times when it is not so frequent and indeed, seems sporadic – but God does heal! David knew that. From what he says we see that he had obviously just been through a crisis where he thought he would not survive. It seems he had been in a place of pride (v.6) but then the Lord had allowed him to do into a place of despair (v.7-10). From there he cried out to the Lord and the Lord healed him. Then there was joy (v.11,12)

Yes, it does seem as if sometimes the Lord allows affliction to come upon us to humble us when pride threatens us. How soon we feel weak and frail and inadequate! How soon we cry out to the Lord to come close in a new way. Yes, sickness can have a chastening effect. But is also seems that there are times when for no apparent reason, affliction comes (see Job) and our only recourse is to cry out to the Lord, but even in those times there is purpose – testing!  How will be respond to sickness?  Will we remain true, will we remain faithful.  Job knew this. The enemy through his wife sought to get him to respond less than righteously and cried, “Curse God and die!” (Job 2:9).

That’s what the enemy tries to get us to do when we’re down in sickness.  But Jesus never rebuked anyone for coming to him to seek healing. If anything he rebuked people for coming with little faith. He seemed to want them to come boldly and expectantly. He taught us to pray and keep on praying.  Yes it is right to hold a gracious attitude while we are waiting for healing, and in some the Lord wants them to come to a place of surrender that even accepts the sickness before He brings the healing – but He does heal!  It’s never something we can force out of Him. It is always a gracious gift, not earned, just freely given by ‘the Great Physician’.  He heals.

45. Awesome Speaking

God in the Psalms No.45God who speaks awesomely

Psa 29:3 The voice of the LORD is over the waters; the God of glory thunders, the LORD thunders over the mighty waters.

Sometimes there are things in life that you simply take for granted, breathing for instance, or life itself, or colours or taste, a whole range of things. For those of us who study God’s word, the thing we probably take for granted most and accept without thought is the fact that God speaks. In an earlier meditation we did indeed pick up on the fact that God is a God of communication, but today’s verse goes beyond that. When God speaks, things happen. In this respect He is very different from us. We can use words and nothing changes (if it’s in respect of people, to people, they may change), but when God speaks so often, it is a command and when God commands, the world changes. God speaks and material things change. How does he do that? It’s beyond our finite minds. He’s God and when we say He’s all-powerful, we mean it. He only has to speak it and things change.

In this psalm, David perhaps is under cover watching a thunder storm. He sees the thunder as God speaking. He starts the psalm with a call to ascribe to God glory and strength or power. It’s like he’s saying, you need to see God as He really is, acclaim Him for who He really is. Later in the psalm he says, And in his temple all cry, “Glory!” (v.9). The end result of thinking of these things is that the people will give glory to God. Why? Because they will have seen His might and His majesty as they look on Creation and see the works of God. Seven times he refers to the voice of the Lord”. God speaks and it happens. At Creation, each act of creation was bought about by God saying,Let there be…” (Gen 1:3,6,9,11,14,15,20,24,26). The same thing: God speaks and it happens. In this psalm today, David sees the Lord speaking and thundering (v.3), breaking trees (v.5), even the oaks (v.9), and shaking the desert (v.8). Yes, for the materialist this is purely the work of nature (don’t let’s give it a capital ‘N’ for that seems to suggest personality), temperature changes that brings about thunder and rain and lightening. For David, this is the voice of God at work, a mighty voice having mighty effect.

Have you ever stood in a thunderstorm with a sense of awe? We’re told that one lightning strike can carry enough electricity to power 10 million homes for one month, and there you are standing there with deafening thunder and lightening strikes of incredible power ever few seconds. If that isn’t awesome, what is?  Of course scientists can observe temperature and pressure changes but why should they happen? Don’t be silly, says David, just recognize here the power and presence of God in His Creation. He speaks and things happen.

The struggle to understand ‘providence’ is the struggle to see the hand of God and hear the voice of God. Was God in this flood or that hurricane?  We’ll never be able to answer that confidently this side of heaven. The Bible suggests, at the very least, He is behind it sometimes. There are Biblical examples of God bringing ‘natural’ effects to bear to destroy enemies. Whether it’s all or some, we could be in danger of missing the point: God can speak and this can be the effect. He can do it and sometimes, at least, does do it. That makes Him awesome, that brings a proper perspective in life. In the early years of the 21st century we have seen a considerable number of such ‘natural catastrophes’. What they tell us is that we’re powerless. Let’s give Him proper respect and worship.

44. God is Light

God in the Psalms No.44 – God who is light

Psa 27:1 The LORD is my light and my salvation – whom shall I fear?

SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder) is a type of winter depression that affects an estimated half a million people every winter between September and April; in particular during December, January and February, caused by lack of sunlight.  Light is important! The absence of light means that we can only live by artificial means. Light means we can see things around us and can therefore see where we are going. Light means we can cook, play games, read, in fact do everything that we do in life. We can’t do these things in the dark.  The very first thing God created was light (Gen 1:3).

Light and darkness are used in Scripture to indicate wellbeing and goodness or gloom, difficulty and sin. In the book of Job, a book about a man who seemed in darkness of life, the word ‘light’ comes up 25 times.

David also understood the concept of light and wrote elsewhere, You are my lamp, O LORD; the LORD turns my darkness into light.” (2 Sam 22:29). David, in his last words reveals that he knew he also had become like light with the Lord: “The God of Israel spoke, the Rock of Israel said to me: `When one rules over men in righteousness, when he rules in the fear of God, he is like the light of morning at sunrise on a cloudless morning, like the brightness after rain that brings the grass from the earth.” (2 Sam 23:3,4). Do you see what he said? If you rule righteously you’ll be like the sun rising each morning, you’ll be bring light – goodness and the ability to live well and with blessing – to your people. Paul picked up on the transfer of light from God to us when he spoke of Moses reflecting God’s glory when he came out of God’s presence and said that’s how we too are changed (2 Cor 3:13,18).

With the coming of Jesus, the use of light was multiplied. Matthew picked up on the prophetic Scripture that said, the people living in darkness have seen a great light (Mt 4:16). John wrote, “In him was life, and that life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it.” (Jn 1:4,5).and “The true light that gives light to every man was coming into the world(Jn 1:9) Jesus declared of himself,I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life” (Jn 8:12) and “Night is coming, when no one can work. While I am in the world, I am the light of the world(Jn 9:5). In this Jesus was perfectly expressing the nature of his Father in heaven.

When God first came to Israel at Sinai His presence had led them by a bright cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night (Ex 13:21). When He came down on Sinai in fire (Ex 19:18). When He filled the Tabernacle and the Temple it was with a bright cloud (Ex 40:33-35, 1 Kings 8:10,11). When Ezekiel saw his heavenly vision he saw “brilliant light” (Ezek 1:4). Scientists link light and energy. God is all-powerful and that energy is seen as brilliant light. David knew God as one who came with that light bringing the foundational means (light) so that he could live. God brought revelation and showed him the way.

Jesus came and did that for mankind, and still does it today for us. On a grey cloudy day, everything is dull and lifeless. Then the sun comes out and everything is transformed  and beautiful, full of colour. This is what the presence of the Lord does for us. Our lives were dead and drab and He comes and brings His presence into them and they are utterly transformed so that, like David, we can say, “The Lord is my light and my salvation.” The two things go together.

43. Vindication

God in the Psalms No.43 – God who Vindicates

Psa 26:1 Vindicate me, O LORD, for I have led a blameless life; I have trusted in the LORD without wavering.

There are times when we have been going through life quietly, minding our own business, when suddenly someone makes an unfounded accusation against us. We are hurt by it, but what makes it worse is that others listen to the accusation and wonder if it is true. At that point we want to be vindicated, we want the world to see that it is not true.  Or it may be that a certain course of action seems obvious to us – but not to others. We take it and then start wondering. We were sure about it but it’s going to take a while for the fruit of it to be seen. In the meanwhile you’re aware that people are questioning the wisdom of going this way. You long for success to come for you want to be vindicated in the eyes of the watchers.

This is how David feels.  David is aware that he lives in the midst of people who, he describes, are deceitful men, hypocrites,  evildoers, wicked (v.4,5) sinners, bloodthirsty men, in whose hands are wicked schemes, whose right hands are full of bribes” (v.9,10). It seems he is conscious that he stands out among them and (implied) they point fingers at him. It’s like the Christian working in the midst of people who are unbelievers and who point fingers at them for being ‘religious’ or a ‘goody-two-shoes’! The reality is they are upset by being shown up so they make comments, or worse. It’s normal in those circumstances to cry out, “Vindicate me, O Lord!”

In his appeal to the Lord, David now lists all the things he has been doing right: “I have trusted in the LORD without wavering” (v.1), I walk continually in your truth(v.3), I do not sit with deceitful men, nor do I consort with hypocrites (v.4) and so on. It’s like he is saying, Lord, I have sought to please you in all I do. Please show the world around me that this was the right way. Please justify me!

Justify is a word that goes with vindication. To justify means to show the rightness of a person’s actions. Justification is a key theme in the New Testament. It’s all about how God has vindicated His actions, sending Jesus to the Cross, by making you right in His sight. Paul said, “The Scripture foresaw that God would justify the Gentiles by faith” (Gal 3:8). One of those Scriptures that Paul spoke about was, “my righteous servant will justify many, and he will bear their iniquities” (Isa 53;11). Perhaps one of the other Scriptures was simply, the LORD will vindicate his people (Psa 135:14). Paul was to go on and write: we have been justified through faith(Rom 5:1), “we have now been justified by his blood” (Rom 5:9), “those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified” (Rom 8:30) and “it is with your heart that you believe and are justified (Rom 10:10).

This is all about God putting us right in his eyes. But what about in the eyes of the world?  Well, we’re to do the same as David; we’re to seek to ensure that everything we say and do is right and glorifies God (Mt 5:16, 1Pet 2:12,15, 3:1,2). Even if we do receive opposition, says Peter in his first letter, such people “should commit themselves to their faithful Creator and continue to do good” (1 Pet 4:19). Ah, have you noted the goal of this vindication in these verses? It is to ensure God is glorified. As David put it at the end of this Psalm, as he realized what his position really was: “My feet stand on level ground; in the great assembly I will praise the LORD” (v.12). That was the truth: with the Lord it was fine!  Just let God be glorified.