Bread – Progression

February 27, 2017


Psalm 54

“O God, save me by Your Name, … Behold, God is my helper; … I will give thanks to Your Name, O Lord, for it is good.”  Ps. 54: 1,4,6b

Something that sometimes gets lost in the translation of “God” or “Lord” are the various names of God in the Old Testament.  In this Psalm, we have a progression of those names from the word often used by God (and implying His triune nature) to the word used intimately by those who have become obedient to Him as Lord to the name of God Himself.

What is interesting about this progression is that occurs in the heat of oppression, where David needs to be saved from his dire circumstances.

 

The first name of “God” used is the word “Elohim,” the predominant name of God in the Old Testament.  When we refer to God in general, this is the term we might often use.  As we are first introduced into the church and a life with Christ, this is the name by which we may relate to God.  He is the God of the community; He is the God we talk about in Sunday School.  He is the impersonal God, the third party God, the God of the group, the reference point.  Before we knew Christ, “Elohim” might be the name which we would have in mind when we say “they worship God.”

So David starts out his Psalm with a plea to God-Elohim, sort of like saying “O God [which you all know] …”

By the time we get to verse 4, God has become more personalized.  The name for God used here is “Adonai,” often translated “Lord.”  So, David in verse 4 says “God is my helper.”  “Adonai, my Lord, is my helper.”  With the idea of Adonai, we have a God who is our personal Lord and Savior.  He is our master.  We have a direct relationship with Him, can speak with Him, and can pray with Him.  We know Him to the point that we can say “He … that God right beside me … is my helper in time of trouble.”

And, indeed, in our Christian walk we go from understanding God in the abstract (Elohim) to knowing Him personally (Adonai), and we go from obedience to the law to obedience from love and gratitude.  Same God, but two different views or understandings arising from where we are in our walk with Him.

And, if you think about it, Psalm 54 is a particular kind of prayer, arising from deep need, but doesn’t our prayer life follow this.  We begin our prayer somewhat stiffly, praying to an objective God who we know by study, observation, and instruction, and we proceed as we pray into His throne room, into His presence, where He becomes highly personal and our Lord.

But the real name of God, the one given to Moses by God Himself, is left to the end of the Psalm, where David says “I will give thanks to Your name, O Lord (YHWH), for it is good.”  This is the name barely repeatable because of its holiness, its power.  The translation is given to use by God – “I am.”

To me, this last step in the progression of understanding of God is perhaps the hardest for me to understanding, because to understand it is to realize that God is not only Creator, Savior, and Lord – but He is sovereign in all things.  He has no beginning and no end; He has no need of anything; He is was, is, and will be forever; He is unchangeable.  Everything else about God we can relate to – we understand creators (think of a car maker); we understand kings and lords (we have a boss at work); we may even understand saviors at some level (someone rescued me from starving by fixing dinner).  But we do not understand forever, unchangeable, immutable, all powerful, all sufficient, ever existing.  We the finite do not really understand the infinite.

And yet, as we progress in our Christian walk, we come to understand God as others do, then as personal Lord and Savior, and then Him as He is.

And that, too, is how David progresses in his prayer in this Psalm and how we progress in ours.  We acknowledge God in the abstract and then talk to Him one-on-one.  And then, as we pour out our hearts and needs, we receive that peace which passes understanding, because our problem was just taken on by “I AM.”  All analogies fail at that moment, all negotiations cease, all of our thoughts become useless.  And we rest in knowing that the great “YHWH” has just appeared.

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© 2017 GBF   All Scripture quotations are from the English Standard Version (2001), unless otherwise indicated.

 

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Bread – Strong

May 20, 2016


Psalm 20

“Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the Lord our God.  They collapse and fall, but we rise and stand upright.”  Ps. 20:7-8

This is high poetry and I am carried away with its simple beauty.  But this is one of those passages which seems to speak to us today, but refers to old things – “chariots and horses.”  Why chariots and horses?  Don’t they go together?  Doesn’t take a horse to draw a chariot?  So why just believe in the chariot alone or, for that matter, the horse alone?

If you think about it, the beauty of this passage is that, in a few words, the Psalmist has basically set out the only things we can choose to rely upon.

Chariots can stand for those things which man as creator has made.  We make our tools, we make the Internet, we make books, we make airplanes, we make factories, we make houses to live in, we make cars, boats, and all kinds of means of talking, walking, and otherwise going.

And don’t we daily trust in the things we have made?  We trust our car will start.  We trust our lights will come on.  We trust our house will hold up in the storm.  We trust our chair to be sturdy when we sit in it.  We trust our technology to work.

Horses can stand for those things which God the creator has made.  God has made all of the animals and the birds and the insects, the rocks and the earth, the sky and the air, the universe and the stars.

And don’t we daily trust in the things God has made?  We trust our dog will bark.  We trust a snake will bite.  We trust a wasp will sting.  We trust water to run downhill.  We trust that there is air to breathe.  We trust that the sun will come up every morning.  We trust that night will come.  We trust that the stars are there even though clouds might hide them.  And we trust each other, we trust other people whom God has made.

So, the Psalmist is saying, more eloquently than I, that some people trust in what they have made  while other people trust in what God has made.

And, yet, there is a third place we can put our trust … a superior place … and that is in God Himself, in the “name” of God.  When we place our trust in the “name” of God, we are trusting everything that “name” embodies … Savior, King, Creator, Truth, Steadfastness, Promise-Keeper, Holy, Almighty, Eternal.

Who do we trust in?  Well, I suspect that if how we spend our time is any indicator, we spend 49% of our time trusting the things man has made, 49% of the time trusting the things God has made (including our fellow man), and 2% (and this generous) trusting God Himself.

And yet, the Psalmist reminds us that the things man has made will collapse, and at the end of time the things God has made will fall, but He Himself is strong and those who believe in Him will “rise and stand upright.”

Why do we spend so much time in fellowship with the weak, when we have an opportunity to spend eternity with the strong?

Maybe it is because we believe in ourselves so much that we believe that we are the creator, and thus we trust those things we have made, and we believe in ourselves and what is around us so much that we forget that those things too are made, just not by us.  But in a moment, they will be be gone and what will remain will be God and His people.

Trust in God first and everything else follows.  Trust in our toys, ourselves, or nature first, and nothing else follows.

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© 2016 GBF   All Scripture quotations are from the English Standard Version (2001), unless otherwise indicated.

 

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