The Longest Chapter – Part 21 May 31, 2016

Powerful people harass me without cause, but my heart trembles only at Your word.

I rejoice in Your word like one who discovers a great treasure.

I hate and abhor all falsehood, but I love Your instructions.

I will praise you seven times a day because all Your regulations are just.

Those who love your instructions have great peace and do not stumble.

I long for Your rescue, Lord, so I have obeyed Your commands.

I have obeyed Your laws for I love them very much.

Yes I obey Your commandments and laws because You know everything I do.

Psalm 119: 161-168

Powerful people harass me…At first glance we may think that powerful people refers to authoritative figures, whether political or religious.  However, anyone to whom you give ‘authority’ over you qualifies as a ‘powerful’ person over you.  What do I mean by that?

We were gifted by our Creator with free will, free choice – a risky move on God’s part! One of the results of having free will is that you and I – consciously or subconsciously – view various people as having authority over us.  Certainly, as Bible believers, we recognize God’s authority and the very fact of studying His word gives evidence that we have a heart to follow Him and His ways.

Recognized civil authority is part of any society and we generally acknowledge and give due respect to those authority figures.

But there’s another dimension in all of our lives important to recognize.  Sometimes we attribute authority to others out of our own fears or insecurities.  They become ‘powerful’ people in our eyes.  For example, there’s been a great deal reported in recent months about the problem of bullying among school children.  The less confident or secure child is intimidated and fearful and in so doing are ‘giving authority’ to the bully to intimidate them.

But it’s not just children. Adult bullies act out for the same reasons that kid bullies do; they’re trying to make up for some shortcoming of their own. If we do not understand that bullying is not about you, we become intimidated, thereby attributing authority to someone who really doesn’t have any over us. Bullies want power and control over others because they lack it in some aspect of their own lives.  Bullies look for people that are willing to submit to their power play. If you make it look like the bully’s actions and words don’t affect you, it ruins it for them.

Do as David did.  When so-called ‘powerful people’ harassed him, he declared, ‘I tremble only at Your Word.’ By keeping the Word of God alive in your heart and mind, you can face the ‘powerful people’ who harass or aggravate you with peace of mind, equanimity of soul.

Just two verses later, we read Those who love your instructions have great peace and do not stumble.  This is David’s advice on how to keep oneself free of the unlawfully ‘powerful’ people that cross our path.  Love the Word of God – commit it to memory – cherish it in your heart and you will not stumble into intimidation and fear.

Another translation says it this way: Great peace have they who love Your Law and nothing shall offend them.  I like that. If I don’t get offended, I won’t be intimidated!  The result: I’ll live in the freedom God has for me.

Isn’t it amazing how words penned some 3000 years ago are so relevant to you and me today.  The Word of God is so wonderful.  May His name be praised forever!

Til next week and our final meditation on this psalm, be blessed and be a blessing!

 

The Longest Chapter – Part 20 May 24, 2016

Look upon my suffering and rescue me, for I have not forgotten Your instructions.

Argue my case; take my side! Protect me life as You promised.

The wicked are far from rescue, for they do not bother with Your decrees.

Lord, how great is Your mercy; let me be revived by following Your regulations.

Many persecute and trouble me, yet I have not swerved from Your laws.

Seeing these traitors makes me sick at heart, because they care nothing for Your Word.

See how I love Your commandments, Lord. Give back my life because of Your unfailing love.

The very essence of Your words is truth; all Your just regulations will stand forever.

Psalm 119: 153-160

Continuing the theme from last week’s meditation, David highlights a principle for us that was also in the previous section.  ‘Let me be revived by following Your regulations’.

The path of obedience is the route to inner peace and freedom.  It is when we are most troubled and challenged that it becomes supremely important to be mindful of obeying the Lord’s commandments.  Yet more often it is at those very times that we become careless or apathetic because we are focusing more on our own feelings than the truth of God’s promises.  This is an important lesson for every person to learn as he/she grows in the ways of God.

Our feelings lie to us; God’s Word tells us the truth.  Our feelings discourage us; God’s Word tells us that the joy of the Lord is our strength. Our feelings dictate to us; God’s Word is our guide through life.  Which do we choose?  Do we allow our feelings to overrule the unchangeable, eternal word of God?  David struggled with discouragement and depression but his strength was that he knew where to turn when those feelings threatened to overwhelm him.  For that, we honor him throughout the generations.  His message is as relevant to us today as it was to him when he lived through it.

Seeing these traitors makes me sick at heart, because they care nothing for Your Word. Another important principle we learn from King David.  Our world today is overrun with people, communities and movements that care nothing for God’s Word. Does that make you ‘sick at heart’? Do you care that thousands have rejected God’s truth and are following a path which will inevitably lead to destruction?  God does.  He does not wish anyone to perish.  David understood that and grieved over those who ‘cared nothing’ for God’s Word.

Yes, we are to hate sin; but we are to love the sinner.  We may disagree with someone’s behavior, convictions and opinions; we may even disagree forcefully but we must remember to separate a person’s actions from their intrinsic value as a human being created in the image of God.  Did you ever think that perhaps someone whose behavior you detest has no one praying for them?  Maybe they have crossed your path so that you will.  Can you think of someone right now whose behavior is diametrically opposed to God’s word?  Someone whose behavior irritates and annoys you? Or even makes you angry?

We all can.  But here’s the question: have we turned that irritation or anger into prayer for that person?  (Ouch!)

Just maybe that’s why they are in your life…and mine.  Let’s learn the lesson, shall we?

Here’s an experiment for you: Choose one person who really aggravates you by what they do or say.  Commit to pray for them for the next ten days.  You may be very surprised how you feel about them at the end of that time. If you do this, please share your experience with the rest of us, OK?  Promise?  I will, too.

Til next Tuesday, be blessed and be a blessing!

 

 

The Longest Chapter – Part 19 May 17, 2016

Amazing to me that we are approaching the end of this study.  I pray that it has given you inspiration and encouragement in your spiritual journey.

I pray with all my heart; answer me, O Lord! I will obey Your decrees.

I cry out to You; rescue me that I may obey Your laws.

I rise early before the sun is up; I cry out for help and put my hope in Your words.

I stay awake through the night, thinking about Your promise.

In Your faithful love, O Lord, hear my cry; let me be revived by following Your regulations.

Lawless people are coming to attack me; they live far from Your instructions.

But You are near, O Lord, and all Your commands are true.

I have known from my earliest days that Your laws will last forever.

Psalm 119:145-152

In the first two verses of this week’s portion there is a very important message.  Notice that David prays with all his heart, he cries out to the Lord not for relief from his suffering or trials, but that by God’s grace he will obey the commandments of the Lord despite any distractions that his trials or circumstances may present.  How often do we cry out for relief for our own comfort?  We just want the difficulty or problem to go away!  David had a different attitude.  His priority in life was always the same: to obey the Lord and walk in close fellowship with Him.  Therefore, whatever trials or difficulties he was facing at the time he wrote this psalm, he viewed as circumstances trying to distract him from his highest priority.  What a message!

Life has its challenges; that’s just reality.  Our problem is that we get so focused on the challenge or difficulty that we lose sight of the primary purpose of life; i.e., to be a vessel of God’s presence in this world.  Oh, that we might learn from David to view our trials as opportunities to grow closer to the Lord, rather than distractions to turn our attention away from Him!

I rise early before the sun is up, David declares. Some of us may like to skip over that verse, particularly if we are not “morning people”!  But that’s not the issue.  The Bible has many examples of people who rose early to spend time in the Lord’s presence.  Here are some:

  • Abraham—Gen. 19:27; 21:14; 22:3
  • Jacob—Gen. 28:18
  • Moses—Exo. 8:20; 9:13; 24:4; 34:4
  • Joshua—Josh. 3:1; 6:12; 7:16; 8:10
  • Gideon—Judg. 6:38
  • Hannah—1 Sam. 1:19
  • Samuel—1 Sam. 15:12
  • David—1 Sam. 17:20
  • Job—Job 1:5

What’s so special about early morning prayer?  Like the Israelites in the desert who had to gather manna first thing in the morning or they would have nothing to sustain them physically throughout the day, our morning prayer time is spiritual food for our soul.  It also signals that fellowship with the Lord is a high priority in our lives.  We are declaring that He comes first before we enter into the day’s activities or responsibilities.  Some of you may have heard me say this before but it bears repeating.  I heard a godly man say many years ago that his motto was: ‘No bible, no breakfast’.  He refused to feed his body until he had fed his soul by spending time in God’s Word – a worthy practice to emulate.

David obviously thought so and made it his practice.  Is it any wonder that God called him ‘a man after my own heart’?

Intimacy with God and the obedient life such intimacy will yield is our highest calling in life.  Wouldn’t you like God to be able to say of you: He’s a man after my own heart or She’s a woman after my own heart?

May it be so of all of us.

Til next Tuesday, blessings to you.

 

 

 

The Longest Chapter – Part 18 May 10, 2016

Tuesday rolls around again.  Is it just me or do the weeks seem to be flying by????

O Lord, You are righteous and Your regulations are fair.

Your laws are perfect and completely trustworthy.

I am overwhelmed with indignation for my enemies have disregarded Your words.

Your promises have been thoroughly tested; that’s why I love them so much.

I am insignificant and despised, but I don’t forget Your commandments.

Your justice is eternal and Your instructions are perfectly true.

As pressure and stress bear down on me I find joy in Your commands.

Your laws are always right; help me to understand them so I may live.

Psalm 119:137 – 144

As I pondered this week’s section, my attention was riveted on verse 140: Your promises have been thoroughly tested; that’s why I love them so much.

Living in Israel for the last several years has given me a deeper appreciation for this truth. Against all odds, this tiny country has survived seven wars in its short 68 year modern history.  The stories of God’s intervention are countless. Present day IDF soldiers as well as veterans of past wars testify to the obvious Hand of God in tense battles, attempted kidnappings and actual rocket attacks.  Whether ‘religious’ or not, Israelis do not hesitate to give praise to the God of Israel for the miracles that have attended this nation since 1948.  Nor do we forget the 24,000+ soldiers who gave their lives in defense of Israel.  In fact, this evening (Tuesday) at sundown begins our annual Memorial Day.  At its conclusion at sundown Wednesday, we celebrate Israel’s Independence Day (sundown Wednesday to sundown Thursday).

israel68

It is by design that we set aside a day to remember our fallen heroes before entering into celebration of our independence.  We are keenly aware that the “promises [of God to our forefathers] have been thoroughly tested”, as the psalm says and those promises have been proven true.  What other nation in history was ‘lost’ for 2000 years and then re-established to open its arms to the descendants of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob who have come by the thousands to build up our ancient homeland.  God’s promise to re-gather the scattered of His people has been proven true before the eyes of the whole world.

The rest of His promises are equally reliable.  “As pressure and stress bear down on me,” David wrote, “I find joy in Your commands.”   Stress of one form or another is part and parcel of life, especially in our modern times.  When its pressure threatens to overwhelm us, where can we turn?  To God’s promises and to His everlasting care.

Promises like:

For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.  -Jeremiah 29:11

Call upon me in the day of trouble: I will deliver you, and you shall glorify me.  –Psalms 50:15
You hast been a shelter for me, and a strong tower from the enemy. – Psalms 61:3
Because he has set his love upon me, therefore will I deliver him: I will set him on high, because he has known My Name. He shall call upon Me, and I will answer him: I will be with him in trouble; I will deliver him, and honor him. Psalms 91:14-15
We could go on and on for there are literally hundreds of promises God has made to us in the pages of Scripture.  The more we study the Word of God and commit it to our heart and mind, the more readily those promises will rise up within us when we face difficulty, challenge or heartache.  His promises are eternal, unchangeable, and have no expiration date!
It is precisely when we are in moments of pressure and stress that turning to Him and walking in His instructions is essential.  Obedience is the highway to blessing, deliverance and provision in every area of life.
And that, my friends, is why David said that His joy in the face of difficulties came from God’s commandments and then he added : “Your laws are always right; help me to understand them so that I may live.”
May we echo David’s prayer this day and find hope, courage, strength and peace in the reliable promises of God.

The Longest Chapter – Part 17 May 3, 2016

Another Tuesday – another portion of Psalm 119!  Let’s read together verses 129 – 136.

Your laws are wonderful.  No wonder I obey them!

The teaching of Your Word gives light so even the simple can understand.

I pant with expectation, longing for Your commands.

Come and show me Your mercy, as You do for all who love Your name.

Guide my steps by Your word so I will not be overcome with evil.

Ransom me from the oppression of evil people; then I can obey Your commandments.

Look upon me with love; teach me Your decrees.

Rivers of tears gush from my eyes because people disobey Your instructions.

walkinginthewoods

Truly God’s commandments are indeed wonderful! When you and I properly understand the amazing love and care of God toward us, we begin to gain insight into His commandments.

And yes, even a child can understand them.  Just a few weeks ago, my four year old granddaughter delighted us by reciting the Ten Commandments by heart. I asked her what the 10th commandment meant and she promptly responded: ‘Be thankful for what you have and don’t want what someone else has.’  When I pressed her further she said, ‘Savta (Hebrew for Grandmother), God wants me to be happy that Brie got a new doll and not want to take it away from her.’  Close enough!  She got the point.

When we approach the Word of God like a child, we will never fail to profit.  While there is a place for Exegesis and Biblical Research, etc., your journey of faith and mine is best undertaken with a simple, childlike faith and confidence that God Himself will speak to us through His Word if we will make the time to read and ponder it.  David said he ‘longed’ for God’s word.  He couldn’t wait to get into it every day.

It is the guide for everyday life. It enlightens, it inspires, it answers our questions and lifts our spirit.  Just this morning, as I opened randomly to the Psalms, my eyes fell on the words, ‘With all my heart I will praise you, O Lord my God. I will give glory to Your name forever for Your love for me is very great. You have rescued me from the depths of death.’  Psalm 86:12-13

What a way to start the day!  What could be more reassuring as we face a new day with all of its possibilities and opportunities than to know that God’s love towards you is ‘very great’; and for that reason, I will praise Him continually.  With these two verses, the atmosphere for my day was established: praise the Holy One of Israel all throughout the day, give Him glory and thank Him profusely for His love!  It’s been a blessed and uplifting day.

Look upon me with love and teach me Your decrees, David prays. Sometimes we forget that the Lord Himself wants to teach us His ways.  We fill our shelves with multiple commentaries written by flesh and blood people just like us.  There’s nothing wrong with that intrinsically but if we fail to spend quality time alone in God’s presence asking HIM to teach, correct, and instruct us in His ways, we miss the most important aspect of spiritual growth.  For commentaries, as good as they are, are the testimonies of what other men and women learned from God in the quiet of their contemplation and prayer.  How does God communicate with you? What insights have you received in your times of reflection?

By all means, learn from others, but never be satisfied only with what others can teach you.  Get alone with God, talk to Him, listen for that still, small voice within your soul through which He speaks and inspires you.  Like David, cry out to Him, ‘Teach me Your decrees….grant me a pure heart….the ear of a disciple…make me a man/woman after Your own heart.’

God loves those prayers and answers them.  He is more eager to speak with you than you can imagine!

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This study in Psalm 119 will come to an end in five weeks when we reach the end of the Psalm.   If there is another psalm or another book of the Bible or a biblical topic that you’d like to suggest for our next study, please leave a comment below.  I have some ideas but I’d love to hear from you.  What would you like to study next?