Snapshots: Day 125

Snapshots: Day 125

The Snapshot: “when the men gave a loud shout, the wall collapsed.” (Josh 6:20) Obedience comes in various forms: “follow me” (Mt 4:19), “stretch out your hand” (Ex 7:19, Mt 12:13), “come” (Mt 14:29). Perhaps no instructions have ever been so bizarre for taking a city as Israel received here, a series of things they had to do culminated by a loud shout – and then the city would fall – and it did! God’s instructions sometimes seem to defy logic or common sense but then, “God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong, (1 Cor 1:27) which is why He chose you and me and we forget that at our peril. Why these things? “so that no one may boast before him.” (v.29) Right!

Further Consideration: In the previous study we started contemplating the wonder of the transformations that take place in us, physical, mental and emotional changes as we grow as human beings, and then changes in belief, understanding, and then behaviour, as the children of God that we came be as we turned to Christ.

But now we go even deeper into that as we face a vital truth, a double truth actually, that God knows far better than we do how life can work and, even more, He has the power to bring about things that are beyond our usual human capabilities.

And this is something more that chews at the human mind, at human pride, and that is how can God do miracles? Our old self aided and abetted by the enemy whispering into our minds, and sometimes helped along by those who belong to him, starts reasoning and rationalizing. Many years ago, in a church service, one of our people died. A nurse in the congregation confirmed her death. No pulse, no heartbeat, she knew what she was doing, she was dead. But we prayed and she came alive. The rational mind says the nurse was wrong; somehow it seems important to us to be able to explain it like that.

When I was a lot younger I had a non-believing friend and we used to talk stuff together. One day the subject of the taking of Jericho came up. “Oh, it’s easy,” he said, “When an army marches over a bridge they have to break step otherwise the rhythm of their marching will set up vibrations that shake the bridge to pieces. That’s what happened with Jericho.” “Amazing,” I replied, “Joshua had taken his men over so many bridges he knew this? Why is it so hard to believe God told him? And maybe, just maybe, it happened like that – but not so much on desert soil.” But it was that same thing, the need to explain it away. Why? Because a miracle demands accepting that God is on the scene and that has a load more repercussions!  So let’s stop listening to the enemy’s daft suggestions and just say, “Awesome, Lord, good one!”

6.10 Confidence & Assurance

Short Meditations in Psalms: 6.10 Confidence & Assurance

Psa 6:10  All my enemies will be ashamed and dismayed; they will turn back in sudden disgrace.

Let’s overview this psalm as David comes to the end of it. He asks the Lord to be gentle with him (v.1) because he is in a poor physical state (v.2) and indeed anguishes in his soul as well (v.3). He asks the Lord, on the basis of His love, to deliver him (v.4) and uses the logic, what’s the point of my dying,  I won’t be able to praise you then (v.5). Then he says how much he has been weeping, day and night (v.6) and he’s losing perspective because of his tears (v.7) but then, suddenly he get an assurance that God has heard him (v.8) and the Lord accepts him (v.9), which brings us to his final declaration of assurance for that is what this verse is.

Note the positive nature of what he says: All my enemies will be ashamed and dismayed; they will turn back in sudden disgrace.”  All, not just some of them, and they all WILL feel bad about what they have been saying and doing and they will all turn away from attacking David and will slink away in disgrace.

And why will this happen? Because, “the LORD has heard my weeping. The LORD has heard my cry for mercy; the LORD accepts my prayer.” (v.8,9) There is almost an echo here of what the Lord said to Moses at the burning bush: “I have indeed seen the misery of my people in Egypt. I have heard them crying out because of their slave drivers, and I am concerned about their suffering. So I have come down to rescue them.” (Ex 3:7,8)

When the Lord sees the plight of His people, He feels for them and His compassion energises Him into action on their behalf.  That is what David knows and having just caught the sense of the Lord having heard him, the rest follows.

A question in the light of these psalms of David.  Where he appeals to the Lord to take notice: does this imply God doesn’t take notice of us and has to be made aware of who we are and what we are doing? Psa 121 denies that. He is a God who is always awake to us.

So why does David so often appear to be calling for God’s attention? The answer, I suggest, is that so often the affairs of the world combined with our fickle emotions and the whispers of the enemy, lead us to believe we are on our own or God’s attention needs to be drawn to us.  The truth is that often it is only as we pray, as we refocus on the Lord, does the sense get through to us of what is the truth – the Lord is watching, is listening and is always there on our case. We NEED to pray because only as we do that, does the truth get through to us afresh. So, feel free to cry out and then listen. Amen?  Amen!

6.9 Relief!

Short Meditations in Psalms: 6.9 Relief!

Psa 6:9  The LORD has heard my cry for mercy; the LORD accepts my prayer.

One of the worst things in life, I believe, is the feeling that you are alone, that there is no God, no sense of purpose or meaning in life. Most people try to ignore such feelings and cover them up with activity. Many believers seem quite content to have a relationship with God that is silent; in fact they would almost feel it is presumptuous to say that God speaks to people, but that is the stance of unbelief.

David has cried out to the Lord and David expects to get answers when he prays, he expects God to hear him and answer him; he wouldn’t bother to pray otherwise. What is the point of just uttering words that bounce off the walls or evaporate into the atmosphere? Prayer is talking to God and Him talking back.

Thus after all his talk of anguish David now makes this beautiful and, to some, amazing declaration. a bold confidence about his prayers: “The Lord has heard my cry.” It’s all right! The message has got through, God has heard it. That’s part one. The confidence that the prayer has got to through to God in heaven.

But there is a second part: “the Lord accepts my prayer.”  It isn’t merely a case that the prayer has got through, the Lord approves what David has been saying, He has heard it and taken it in and accepted what David has been saying. So what David has been saying is the truth; this is how things have been, the Lord accepts that, and the inference has to be that in accepting it, He will do something about it – that will come in the final verse in the final meditation in this particular psalm.

But what was it that David had asked for, that he is now confident will come from God? Mercy. He wanted God to step in an do something about the poor spiritual state of the people around him, his enemies who were causing him so much anguish. He had in verse 4 appealed to God’s love and in verse 5 used logic to suggest that dead men cannot glorify God, but ultimately David knows that the Lord is sovereign and the Lord is holy and realistically David has no grounds to force God to act on his behalf. David knows that when it comes down to it, it will be pure and simple mercy – unearned activity that God just does because He chooses to.  None of us have any self-merit, we are all sinners, redeemed we may be, and now called children of God, but even that was mercy.  Love did seem to be the motivating force behind God’s provision of our salvation but even then it is a mystery how a wonderful and perfect God could love us beings who are so often utterly self-centred and godless.  What a glorious mystery!

6.8 Enough! He’s Heard!

Short Meditations in Psalms: 6.8 Enough! He’s Heard!

Psa 6:8  Away from me, all you who do evil, for the LORD has heard my weeping.

There are times when our enemies seem to be prevailing. It is a shocking thing to say but for a while it can appear true. David in the early part of this psalm has been crying his heart out as, for whatever the reason, he has felt in total anguish – and it has been a total anguish – in respect of his enemies who seem to dominate his feelings. It is nothing less than this, and this is why David had been crying out to the Lord.

But then there comes within him a new awareness: in the heavenlies the Lord has heard: “the Lord has heard my weeping”. More will follow but if God has heard, God will respond. There has been no great prophetic word from heaven, just this inner assurance that it has happened. This is one of those low-key sides of the Christian experience. It is not a ‘mountain top experience’ and it is not an earth shattering declaration but suddenly in his spirit, David just knows, and that is enough.

I have often said that the most important thing in the world is to hear the Lord, even if it is just three words. When God speaks to you and you hear His words, that is enough, the world has changed, everything is different, God, the Almighty Creator of all things and my Redeemer has spoken. And yet sometimes, and I guess just now is one such time, it doesn’t even come in words, just the sense that the Lord has heard and has stirred on my behalf. Watch out world, He has heard, He has stirred, He is coming! Hallelujah!

Now because of all that, David turns and faces his enemies and it is as if he says, “Right, that’s it, enough! Go on, back off!  I’m no longer alone, so step back!” The source of his anguish, their evil and their wrong talking and wrong doing that had seemed to go on and on and which had caused him such anguish, is now in the Lord’s sights, so watch out!

There do seem to be times when the Lord steps back and allows evil to prevail (see Rom 1:24,26,28), times when He allows their folly to mount up, and sometimes until we see the fruit of that – repentance coming and maybe even revival following – from the viewpoint of the righteous it can be incredibly hard as we appear to be watching the enemy triumphing. It almost seems like the Lord is unconcerned – but that is not true – and so the enemy seems to get away with ever increasing apostasy in the land, but the Lord waits for His saints to catch His heart and cry out in anguish for the land, even as David has been doing – and then He acts. Now, watch out world!

6.7 Blinded by Tears

Short Meditations in Psalms: 6.7 Blinded by Tears

Psa 6:7  My eyes grow weak with sorrow; they fail because of all my foes.

This is one of those psalms that I am sure we look at, read, and pass over without much thought. What does David mean when he says, “My eyes grow weak with sorrow”? Does he mean literally weak or is he speaking figuratively?

I don’t know if you have ever had cause to cry for a long time but it does leave your eyes feeling sore at the very least, and David has just said, “I flood my bed with weeping and drench my couch with tears,”  So he has been doing a lot of crying. Perhaps the tears have been so many that they have blurred his sight. It could be physical.

But I know something else about crying like this, and it is that the whole act of giving in utterly to tears totally blinds you to anything else. I have watched very emotional people (not everyone responds like this) at funerals, grieving over their loved ones who are now gone and I have seen shoulders heaving with the sobbing, packets of tissues being handed round and used up to staunch the tears. At such a moment such a person is not comforted by words for they are utterly consumed by their tears, and from what he has just said, David is like this, utterly consumed by his tears.

Now they do say we are all different and so you may not have had that experience  and this is a difficult thing to comprehend, but for people who do go through this, life, its troubles, its strivings, its struggles, its meanings all become meaningless, swept away in the torrent of tears.  Tears of course are simply the outward manifestation of what is going in inside.

Inside David, he is in total anguish; he wouldn’t be weeping like that if he wasn’t like that.  The Message version is particularly graphic: I’m tired of all this—so tired. My bed has been floating forty days and nights on the flood of my tears. My mattress is soaked, soggy with tears. The sockets of my eyes are black holes; nearly blind, I squint and grope.”

Whatever else this says, it says that David is utterly consumed by his concerns, so much so that he realises that it has almost taken him over so that he cannot see everything clearly any longer, it’s all got out of perspective.  Jesus knew the same anguish (Lk 22:42,45) which left him “exhausted from sorrow”. That was the reality of the coming Cross that he understood. For David, this man after God’s own heart, his heart was breaking for his people, for their folly. Few of us, I suspect, get moved this much, but it is a measure of David that he did. He did not have a problem with his emotion and neither should we.

6.6 A Weeping Wreck

Short Meditations in Psalms: 6.6 A Weeping Wreck

Psa 6:6  I am worn out from groaning; all night long I flood my bed with weeping and drench my couch with tears.

I do not mean to sound a grumbling grouch when I speak about the school of ‘victorious Christians’ because I believe in victory in Christ, except I also believe in a reality in the Christian faith. I have come across and still know those Christians who are always exuberant and never have a problem in the world and always appear full of faith and glory – except it is a charade. Yes, I believe it should be like that much of the time but realism says a) this is a Fallen World where things go wrong and b) we still struggle against sin and c) we are also involved in a battle with a real enemy, and it is often tough.

In fact I also have another complaint against the ‘always joyful’ Christian and that is they neither sense the anguish of the world nor the heart of the Lord that wants more for His Church. You see the more I look at this psalm the more I believe it is not merely a physical thing but a soul and spirit anguish thing. When David later talks about his enemies, I find it very hard to believe his anguish was akin to fear. This is the man who as a young shepherd fought and killed bears and lions. This is the young man who killed a giant called Goliath, this is the man who was an army commander and had great victories. This sort of man doesn’t cringe in the face of physical enemy attack.

No, there is something else we know about this man and that he was described as a man after God’s own heart (1 Sam 13:14, Acts 13:22) which meant that this was a man who anguished over the death of Saul and Jonathan (see 2 Sam 1), this was a man who anguished when his own warriors killed other noble men (2 Sam 3:38,39)

We will see in the remaining verses that twice David mentions his enemies and very clearly they are the cause of his anguish but, from the reasons given above, I maintain that this anguish is soul and spirit anguish because of the spiritual threat by these enemies. Again and again the people of Israel joined the surrounding nations in worshipping idols and foreign God and this – whether the threat came from within his own country and the people of Israel, or came from outside the country from pagans inhabitants – this, I would suggest, is the primary cause for David’s anguish here.

All that remains is for us to observe the depth of his anguish. Physically he feels shattered: “I am worn out from groaning,” and it is an anguish that is unrelenting that goes on and on even into the night: “all night long I flood my bed with weeping,” and it is all out – “and drench my couch with tears.”  When we were last moved to tears by the state of the lost, or the state of the Church say?

6.5 Realities of life and death

Short Meditations in Psalms: 6.5 Realities of life and death

Psa 6:5  No one remembers you when he is dead. Who praises you from the grave?

There is a sense here whereby David follows in Moses’ footsteps by appealing to the Lord by using basic logic. In the matters of the Golden Calf Moses appealed to the Lord on the basis of what the Egyptians would say about Him if He wiped out Israel (see Ex 32:9-14). The same thing happened after the people refused to enter the Promised Land (see Num 14:10-19). In both cases Moses was concerned for the name of the Lord and pleaded on that basis. When we pray, “for your name’s sake,” we do the same thing.

And that is what David now does. He feels terrible, so bad in fact that he wonders if death is facing him, but then he thinks on this and in his approach to the Lord in prayer he makes the point that if he dies how can he continue to have a relationship with the Lord here, and how can he praise the Lord if he is dead? His implication is that it would be far better for the name of the Lord if he lives!

There have been great men of God facing death who have cried out to the Lord to save them for similar reasons, to allow them to continue their work to draw people to God, or to intercede on behalf of the world, all for the sake of the name of the Lord.

God’s ultimate desire is that we know Him and enjoy Him and share that knowledge and love and joy with others so that they likewise can know and experience such a relationship and that God can be glorified by both us and them.

For us of course, we have an assurance of a place in heaven with the Lord. death for us simply means we go into His presence and enjoy Him more fully, but the issue here is His name on the earth, His name as far as other people are concerned and what He feels about that.

I wonder if that is something that concerns us or are we so wrapped up in our own little concerns that we do not bother about what the world thinks about the Lord.  It doesn’t matter to Him as such if silly ignorant crusading atheists deride His name; He is not hurt by such things, He just laughs (Psa 2:4) but He is concerned for His name because of how it may impact others, how it may put off others from turning to Him. Some of these well known names of the crusading atheists have done much harm by their writings and their rantings which sound so plausible at first sight but which are seen to be empty and foolish words when you look into them. I have considered their words and written such counter-challenges for they are empty scoffers with little substance and they will be answerable to the Lord for leading astray those who are not strong minded.

6.4 God’s love, a lifeline

Short Meditations in Psalms: 6.4 God’s love, a lifeline

Psa 6:4  Turn, O LORD, and deliver me; save me because of your unfailing love.

I immediately have a picture as I read this verse of David in trouble in the street and God walking along the pavement on the other side, and David calls across, “Lord, please help me,” and when God doesn’t appear to hear, David calls, “Help me because of your love for me,” and God turns immediately and comes across.

We’ve pondered on the fact that David is feeling bad and we’re not totally certain the cause of it, whether it be physical in origin or spiritual or moral, but whatever it is he feels really bad and says he is in anguish. What he does is call on the Lord. He first asked Him not to chide him but be merciful to him and then asked how long he was going to have to endure this. Now he calls the Lord to do two things.

First “Turn, O Lord.” It rather implies, “Lord, please turn away from whatever else you are doing and give me all your attention.” It is a call to be the focus of the Lord’s attention. Next he says, “and deliver me”, i.e. get me out of this mess, out of this feeling of anguish that I have, out of whatever it is causing all this feeling.

Isn’t that, so often, what we are asking God to do for us – get us out of bad circumstances? However, I have to say that something I have seen in scripture is that God may deliver out of or through the circumstances. ‘Out of’ means somehow he completely changes the circumstances so we no longer have to contend with them. ‘Through’ means He changes us to be able to go through the circumstances and cope with them.

But the crucial issue is will God do this thing? So often we know He can but does He want to, is the question. So David appeals to the Lord’s nature. David knows the Lord is a God of love; the psalms are full of it (e.g. Psa 13;5, 17:7, 21;7 etc. etc.) and the testimony of Israel was full of it (e.g. Ex 15:13, 20:6, 34:6,7). Love involves compassion and care and desire for the wellbeing of others, and David knows that. He knows that this is what God is like and so he can appeal to that.

Have you ever thought of the other side of the coin of the conversation between Jesus and Peter in Jn 21? Jesus: do you know I love you? Lord I know you love me. Peter, do you really know I love you? Of course Lord I know you really love me. Peter, do you really and truly know I love you? Love you know I really and truly know you love me. Why do I ask that and put it like that? Because We love because he first loved us.” (1 Jn 4:19) At the heart of who we are is to be this knowledge – that we are loved. David knew that and could appeal to God to help on that basis. Do you really and truly know you are loved?

6.3 Soul Anguish

Short Meditations in Psalms: 6.3 Soul Anguish

Psa 6:3  My soul is in anguish. How long, O LORD, how long?

In verse 2 we saw David’s anguish over his physical state: my bones are in agony,” but now we see that this anguish he speaks about goes far deeper than a mere physical pain: “My soul is in anguish.”

We often struggle with trying to understand the distinctions found in scripture between body and soul and spirit. Well ‘body’ is easy, it is the physical side of us, sometimes referred to as ‘flesh and bones’. It is what is left when a person dies.

Whereas ‘spirit’ can refer to breath or wind in scripture, our spirit is usually taken to be the part of us that is a receptor of spiritual matters. If you dissect a body you will never find the spirit and yet experience clearly shows that something within us picks up spiritual activity.

Now the soul is somewhere between the other two. It is usually regarded as the immortal or personal part of the person and is credited with the functions of thinking and willing, and hence determining all behavior. The soul determines the person, is what makes the person unique, and forms their personality. It is the inner region of a person, that is the person that continues on after the body dies (see Rev 6:9 & 20:4) again not found by physical dissection but clearly identified in the words of the scriptures.

It is in this inner area of David’s being where he now anguishes. This seems much more than merely feeling hurt or in pain which are things focusing on the physical side of his life. No, this is a deeper anguish. Very often when the body is weak, the emotions sag as well, for there is a link between physical and emotions, but emotions can be stirred up or down by what we sense in either our soul or our spirit. Working together the two can impart to us a sense that all is not well, and if it is the spirit energizing the soul, it is coming from heaven, a sense that all is not right spiritually.

Have you ever heard people speaking about divine guidance talking about an inner disquiet. We may have no rational reason for feeling like that but it is simply God communicating His will through our spirit. But we can also pick up the vibes of the enemy, if we put it like that, a disquiet when we may find ourselves in the presence of a witch or a warlock. Or it may be more general, when a community is turning away from God and the Holy Spirit within us anguishes over what is happening or being said.

When David senses this sort of thing, the anguish of feeling that flows through his soul, imparted by the Spirit through his spirit, he turns his anguish to prayer and cries out to the Lord and asks the question that is always there – how long will this have to carry on, Lord?

6.2 I need help

Short Meditations in Psalms: 6.2 I need help!

Psa 6:2  Be merciful to me, LORD, for I am faint; O LORD, heal me, for my bones are in agony.

I said in the previous meditation if you read the whole of this psalm you will see that David never in it actually details why he is down. In this verse he appears to be speaking about physical disability and yet later on he speaks about enemies but even then he doesn’t say what it is about his enemies that is causing him distress.

If we take this verse in reverse order we read, my bones are in agony.” However we are to take that it suggests that, yes, his agony includes a physical element. Here is a strange thing about being a human: on one hand our physical bodies can be the source of so much pleasure and on the other hand they are our point of vulnerability. Assuming roughly forty per cent of the population are women of child-bearing age, at any one time in a month ten per cent of the population are coping with emotional changes and ten percent with potentially painful physical changes, another meaningful percentage are coping with the menopause.  On present figures over 25% of the UK population is over the age of 60 and that means after that age they will be increasingly succumbing to age-related aches, pains, illnesses and incapacities. We could continue to talk about illnesses in general, but the point is made – being a human being can be physically tough.

A little earlier in this verse David wrote, “I am faint.” I don’t know if you have ever suffered faintness but it is a feeling of weakness that you are unable to control. You feel vulnerable and you are not sure if it is entirely physical or partly a mind thing. Whatever it’s cause, you do not feel good!

Now if you were an atheist you would be stuck with this (and perhaps some of us Christians act like we are atheists when it comes to this) and you just struggle to cope on your own. You know, “I need help,” and maybe there are people around you, perhaps in the medical profession, who may be able to help in a small measure but you’ve got to get to them and find them available, willing to help and with a solution. But for a believer it is different. David simply cries, “O LORD, heal me.” In that we see a belief that God heals. Observing Jesus’ ministry in the Gospels tells us a) God can heal and b) God wants to heal, otherwise Jesus would not have healed all the crowds who came to him.  It is largely only our unbelief that stops him.

But David takes nothing for granted and he knows the sort of imperfect person that he is and therefore when he appeals to the Lord he says, “Be merciful to me, LORD.”  He appeals to God’s mercy which we’ve seen in earlier verses – unearned loving willingness to act. That’s it!