Bread – Exodus

August 9, 2017


Psalm 77

You [God] led Your people like a flock by the hand of Moses and Aaron.”  Ps. 77:20

I normally start at the beginning of a Psalm and work forward, but this time I am starting at the end.  This Psalm begins in depression, works through memory, and then recalls who God really is.  The ending (the quoted) verse is a recollection of the exodus.

Wherever we are, whether it be in valley of despair or the mountaintop of joy, we need to remember that we have been brought out of slavery into freedom by the mighty hand of God.  We have been brought from death to life.  We are being brought into glory.  Our chains are gone in Christ and we have been set free.

It is God who led us out from slavery through the wilderness of testing into the promised land.  He may operate through men (in this case, historically, Moses and Aaron), but it not them who led but God.  It is God who created the circumstances of the exodus and God who brought it to conclusion.

That was the exodus of the Old Testament, but we can testify to our own exodus in the modern era from death unto life.  Yes, men and women were involved, agents of God, but it was God who decided and God who did.

I say all this because we too often are so wrapped up in our issue of the day that we often forget where we have been and where we are today by the grace, mercy, and power of God.

In fairy tales, the desolate maiden is locked into a high castle by a dark lord, only to be rescued by a glamorous knight in shining armor.  Who does not see that picture?  And we identify with either the damsel in distress or the knight come to save.  We recognize the dark lord for who he is and we celebrate that good has triumphed over evil.

But in this picture of human intervention to save us from human misery, what have we forgotten?

The knight in our fairy tale reports to someone.  That person is the king of the realm.  Who sent the knight?  Who empowered the knight?  Who stands behind and superintends the rescue?

We know who the king is in the fairy tale, although we may not see him and the story may not talk about him.

But do we know who the king is in our tale, our story, our exodus?

If we do, we need to remember Him, honor Him, worship Him … for He is indeed Lord of Lords and King of Kings.  He is Jesus the Christ.  He, with the Father and Holy Spirit, is (are) the author of our exodus.

Now that we remember our exodus and its Author, we are prepared to deal with both the lows of life and the highs as well.

________

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

Bread – Opposites

June 16, 2017


Psalm 70

“May all who seek You rejoice and be glad in You!  May those who love Your salvation say evermore, ‘God is great!’  But I am poor and needy; hasten to me, O God!”  Ps. 70:4-5a

We have all heard the phrase, “two sides of the same coin.”  We know that “heads” and “tails” are opposites and, if we are betting, have different results, but we also recognize that they are bound together on and in the same coin.  This basic understanding has been extended to different philosophies, where there is proposed a balance in the universe, equally between good and evil, yin and yang, the good side and the dark side of the force, etc.

And one might be inclined to read the above quote from Psalm 70 and, given that David wrote the Psalm, he was expressing two opposites in his personality, one joyful and upbeat as he considered his salvation and the other “down in the mouth” as he considered his poor condition.  The question is, is joy the opposite of depression?

I think the answer to this question is “yes” from one perspective and “no” from another.

When is it “yes?”  When joy and depression are opposites is when man is in control of both.  If we are to look for the measurement solely to our feeling, what we think, how we behave, then clapping your hands in gladness is certainly the opposite of wringing your hands in despair.  In the first instance, we feel upbeat and ready to take on the world.  In the second instance, we feel downbeat and ready to retreat from the world.  Both are our feelings, and joy and depression cannot occupy the same feeling space.  One crowds out the other.  They are opposites.

When is it “no?”  When the Lord is involved.  When God is in our life, is possible to say “I am poor and needy” and “Praise be to God” in the same breath.  It is possible because, by saying we are poor and needy, we are accurately describing our situation.  When we say “Praise be to God” we are accurately describing the source of our overcoming power.

What is the combination of depression and joy in the Christian life?  It is hope.

When we acknowledge Christ as Savior and King, we become new.  And this newness is a transformation of opposites into wholeness.  Oh, it takes a while for the complete integration to occur, and for most of us will take our entire lives.  But when we become Jesus’ sheep, the sheep of His pasture, we no longer have to suffer the opposites of feeling good or feeling bad, because we now have hope.

So, was this juxtaposition of David between joy and being poor and needy an expression of opposites?  No, it was an expression of God’s involvement continuousy in all circumstances to bring about His purposes and His glory.  In these verses, God is present.  He is present in the praises and He is present in the delivery from David’s poor condition.

The expression of “Help me … Praise You!” is not an expression of opposites but an expression of unity of spirit and the ascendancy of hope, a gift from God.

“Help me … Praise You!” is merely an expression of a great truth … we are radically poor and radically saved, all at the same time with the grace and mercy of God.

In Christ, with the flip of the coin we have heads I win and tails I win too.  It is the same coin, but it is different than it was.  So are we, in Christ.

________

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

 

Bread – Wilderness

June 7, 2017


Psalm 68

O God, when You went out before Your people, when You marched through the wilderness,  Selah…” Ps. 68:7

The word “Selah” appears from time to time in the Psalms as a way of saying, “stop, pay attention, meditate on what you just read.”

What is interesting here is that the word “Selah” follows a sentence fragment. I actually appears right after the comma.  Therefore, we stop and think about what we just read.

There are two parts to this sentence fragment which stand out to me.  One is the word “wilderness.”  The other is the word “when.”

Who reading this has not been in a wilderness of their lives?  A long time ago, when I was much younger, I backpacked in the Weminuche  Wilderness of Colorado.   And I really tried hard, too.  I was carrying a 70 pound backpack, trying to climb up the trail of scree rock, sliding one or two steps back for every two or three steps forward, up a steep incline, with no one to help (I was very slow compared to my companions).  I was hot, tired, thirsty (even though I brought plenty of water) and extremely aggravated.  My legs and feet were killing me.   I wondered why I even started the journey.

This physical experience is similar to the emotional and psychological experiences we go through as we try to navigate life, raise a family, make money, and plan for the future.  We carry our burdens on our back, whether it addiction, anger, fear, worry, disappointment, depression, and a bunch of other maladies.  It seems like we are always on slippery stones, sliding backwards more often than going forward.  We feel like we are always going uphill.  We get tired.  We get hungry and thirsty.  We long for a better life, and sometimes we even wonder why we started the fool trip to begin with.  Finally, we feel like we are all alone on this fight for life.  Although we may claim a relationship with God, when we are in the wilderness of life He sometimes seems to have abandoned us too.

The second word is “when.”  “When You went out before Your people.”  “When You marched through the wilderness.”

Not “if,” but “when.”  Concrete in reality; provable in the events of history.  A real presence in a real time of need.  The “You” is God, not me.  “When God went out before His people.”

In the Old Testament, God led His people Israel through the wilderness into the promised land.  Today, for those brought by God into His sheepfold, He goes out before us into and through the wildernesses of life to bring us to victory.

We will not be able to avoid the wildernesses of life.  To think we can is to fail to understand that our broken world which creates such wildernesses is our fault, due to our rebellion against God and our sinful state.  But, while we are in those wildernesses, we can remember “when God.”   And realize that the same God that led Israel is the same God who leads us.  He goes out before us.  He marches through the wilderness with us.

One of the interesting things about my wilderness hike I now remember is that I was always looking down, trying to make sure I was planting my feet on solid ground so that I would not slide backwards.  But to find God, I cannot look at my feet but must look at Him.  And when I looked up from my feet and looked around, I saw not the rocks but the mountain flowers, the streams of water off the mountain, the mountain itself, and the sky.

The nature of wildernesses is that we are inclined to look down.  God is the God of “when.”  So can we see Him?  To do that, we need to look up. And when we do, we see Him.  And we trust.  And, as any good hiker will tell you, when we trust we will find that that mountain can be climbed, the danger can be overcome, and the wilderness will become a place of joy rather than a place of burden.

Think about it.  Selah.

________

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

 

 

Bread – When

March 15, 2017


Psalm 56

“When I am afraid, I put my trust in You.  In God, whose word I praise, in God I trust; I shall not be afraid.  What can flesh do to me?”  Ps. 56:3-4

This verse is preceded by David complaining that man steps on him and attacks him all the time.

Which then leads to the “when I am afraid…” verse.

My first reaction to this (and the reason Bread is called “When”) was this — isn’t it true that we never trust God in the good times, but only the desperate?  Men were trampling David and beating him up, and he was OK doing battle with them on his own.  But when the odds became overwhelming to him, when he became afraid, that is when he trusted God.  “When I am afraid …” could mean that I trust God when I am afraid, suggesting that I do not trust Him when I am not afraid.  This led me to an easy conclusion for this Bread, namely that we should trust God all the time.

However, when I started thinking about being afraid, being truly afraid, I asked myself what the typical human reaction is.  That reaction is either “fight or flight,” according to the psychologists.  When we are afraid, our natural reaction, our womanly or manly reaction, is to either run away and escape (flight) or become incredibly angry and somewhat crazy and fight (fight).  When we are afraid of losing an argument, we double down (fight) or admit defeat (flight).  When we are in a hostile zone where people do not like us or may be even trying to hurt us, we try to hurt them first (fight – the best defense is a good offense, right?) or we exit stage left (flight).

But God tells us that there is a third thing we can do.  Rather than exit the difficulty (flight) or put on our boxing gloves (fight), we can trust God.

How can Christians love their enemies when their enemies hate them?  By trusting in God and neither leaving the fight (flight) nor adding flames to it (fight).

How can Christians both speak the truth in love and not back down in the face of opposition, all without increasing hatred and anger?  By trusting in God and neither backing down in the name of tolerance (flight) or engaging in a knockdown, drag out fight over who is right and who is wrong (fight).

How do Christians stand in the evil day?  By trusting in God and neither retiring to their sanctuaries (homes or churches, flight) nor heaping curses upon those who do not believe (fight).

When put in this perspective, the simple statement that David makes when he says “When I am afraid, I put my trust in You” is not so simple after all.

We will be in danger and will be afraid many times today.  We may have to talk to the stranger in the elevator.  We may have to explain to a disbelieving colleague why we are a Christian.  We may be in economic circumstances which cause us to wonder whether we will eat tonight or make the rent tomorrow.  We may have just received a bad diagnosis from a doctor.  We may be in the middle of losing an argument or some other kind of fight which we believe in our heart we must win.

What will we do?  Will we run away from the fight?  Will we jump in the middle of the fight with our weapons of words, fists, or other devices?  Or will we reject man’s solutions of fight or flight and, instead, put on the full armor of God and trust in Him?

When do we trust in Him?  When will we?

________

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

Bread – Crushed

September 14, 2016


Psalm 34

The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit.”  Ps. 34:18

How many of us are “crushed in spirit?”  For a salesman, it may be the big sale that you just knew you were going to make, but don’t … and there goes your commission.  For a trial lawyer, it may be the big case you know you are going to win, except you don’t … and there goes your confidence.  For someone asking someone else to marry them and they are sure the other person will say “yes,” and they don’t … and there goes your hope.  For the investor who just knows he or she has discovered the next wealth-generating investment, and the stock tanks … and there goes your ideas of wealth.

Those are the easy ones, but what about the person who goes out day by day to do battle with the world and comes home one day, realizing that the promotion, the big house, the opportunity for fame, the contented family, the loving children, the happy spouse, the attainment of the dream … just isn’t going to be there, at least to the degree wanted, dreamed for, or imagined?   What about those people who live their lives in silent despair?

What happens to them?

The Psalmist tells us that the Lord is near to those people who know Him and trust Him, and that He “saves the crushed in spirit.”

We think that when a person is crushed in spirit, they are down and out.  But the Lord who saves says “you may say you are down and out, but I say that you may feel down but you are raised up.”  In the world’s view, when you are crushed you are crushed.  In God’s view, when you are crushed you are saved.

We may feel crushed in either event, whether we take our view or God’s view, whether we trust God or we trust ourselves or the world.  So what is the difference?  When we trust in God, we are saved out of our condition of being crushed in spirit; when we do not trust in God, we are still there.

When I was writing this and trying to think about what is means to feel crushed and be saved at the same time, an analogy came to mind.  If I am wandering in a swamp and get stuck in deep mud, I have mud all over me.  I am crushed in spirit, reflected by the amount of mud I have all over my clothes and my body.  If I remain stuck in the swamp and in the mud, I am imprisoned by the mud and have no freedom and no life, except to wallow in the mud.  If my savior, though, comes and pulls me out of the mud, I still have mud all over me but I am now free.  I am free to continue to wear the symbol of crushedness, the mud, or I am free to act like it never existed by having God help me wash it off.

When God saves the “crushed in spirit,” they may still feel crushed, but they are not.

You are depressed; you are crushed in spirit.  God says He saves you in that condition.  Do you believe Him?  Do you believe in Him?  If so, the Holy Spirit is right there ready to help you wash the mud of despair from your clothes.  Just ask.

And, oh, by the way, Jesus crushed the serpent’s head. Now that’s down and out … for the count.

_________

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

 

 

Bread – Pollution

May 9, 2016


Psalm 19

“The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims His handiwork.”  Ps. 19:1

Really?  When I was a little boy and I looked up at the sky at night while I was on my back, the enormity of the universe pressed its presence into my mind.  Thousands and thousands and thousands of stars looked down on me through the black night, some large and some small, some dim and some bright.  And some were so numerous and so close together that they formed bands of light which formed a wave through the sky.  I learned later that this was the constellation of stars known as the Milky Way.  All this was apparent from the naked eye because I had no telescope and no means to obtain one.  But that was OK, because all of it was apparent to me.  And as a young boy, I marveled and wondered.  And through this wondering, I began to come to an understanding of the Creator, whose glory filled the night skies.

However, today, when I look at the night sky, I might see a few stars poking through, maybe the moon, and maybe an airplane with its lights on.  Is the glory of God, the evidence of His power and majesty, gone?  Has it been diminished through the years so that the Maker of the universe is now only capable of putting out only a few stars at night?

Well, the reason I can’t see the heavens anymore from my front yard is that I live in North Texas, home to millions of people and their lights.  So the sky suffers with what is called “light pollution” and the glory of God is diminished by the works of man.

And isn’t this just the perfect example of how man is always interfering with God’s revelation to us?  God reveals Himself in the heavens and His glory is apparent to everyone, until man floods the night sky with man-made lights, man-made pollution.

And the wonder of God fills the mind of a little boy, until the boy receives the world’s education, the world’s “science teaching,” the world’s way of looking at things, and the glory of God is clouded in a mist of pollution created by man, His presence and power and glory diminished by man’s works, by man’s pollution.

We pollute God’s Work with our ideas, our explanations, our theories, our “facts,” our conclusions, our logic, our education, our knowledge, and our “wisdom.”  Is it any wonder that we see God dimly through the dense fog of man’s doings?

And yet, what happens when we leave the city for the country and we get away from the light pollution?  Voila!  The universe reappears with all of its stars, and the apparent power, wisdom, glory, and love of God in creating such a lightshow for us becomes, again, apparent.

“The heavens declare the glory of God,…,” but only if you can see them.  And to do that, you have to escape the pollution, escape the world, and then you have to look up with the eyes of a little boy or girl, unencumbered by the world’s education, knowledge, and “science.”

When we take the time from our busy lives to make a place for us and God to meet in fellowship, it is as if we have escaped to the country, shed our pollution, and stared into the Creation and its Maker.  What a wonderful place this is?  Full of wonder and simplicity and acceptance and power and majesty!  Full of the presence of God.

When we stare up to heaven through our light-polluted night skies, we do not see nothing.  We may only see a couple of stars, but those are a foretaste of what lays beyond.

God may penetrate the fog of our pollution with only a couple of points of light, but they are there as evidence of something greater beyond.

We may be in a fog of light pollution and can only see a couple of stars, but we know that there is more where those came from.  We may be in a fog of depression and can only see a couple of points of light, shadows of hope, but they are there and there is more where those came from.  We may be in the darkness of man’s teaching and man’s wisdom and can only see a couple of pieces of evidence of something beyond us, but those pieces of light are there and there is more where those came from.

The evidence for God is there to be seen if we have but eyes to see.  To begin, escape the pollution, regard the universe, look up … and revel in God’s revelation of Himself to you!

_________

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

 

 

 

Bread – Despair

March 28, 2016


Psalm 13

“How long, O Lord?  Will Your forget me forever?  How long will You hide Your face from me?  How long must I take counsel in my soul and have sorrow in my heart all the day? How long shall my enemy be exalted over me?  Ps. 13:1-2

There are many titles I could have given this Bread.  “Depression” is one.  “Lost” is another.  “Abandoned” is a third.

I think, though, that the word “despair” says it best.  In depression there is knowledge that there will be a better day.  In being lost there is the built in hope of being found.  “Abandoned” is closer to the word “despair,” but even being abandoned one has the sense of being found, sort of like when one is lost.  But “despair?”  When we despair, we are at bottom.  When we despair, all choices of better evaporate.  When we despair, we are at the bottom of the well of life and there is, seemingly, no way out.

When we are forgotten by our family or friends, surrounded by real and imagined enemies, at the end of our rope, there is still God.  But when He has apparently disappeared as well, never to again touch or soothe or protect or empower us, then despair sets in.  Abandon all hope, ye who enter into the chamber of despair.

And when we despair and see no way out, when we feel that both God and man have abandoned us, when our personal reserves of energy, vitality, and life are consumed … what then?  A minute in despair feels like an eternity.  An hour in despair tears down the mind.  A day in despair shuts down our bodies.  A week in despair destroys our spiritual self.  What about a month of despair?  A year of despair?  The mere thought crushes life, desire, and action.  The mere thought of prolonged despair is more than we can imagine, more than we can stand.

So is it any wonder that David says, four times, “How long, O Lord?”  The darkness of despair is so intense that it does not matter how long in reality it is, it is always too long and we ask, “How long, O Lord?  Will You forget me forever?”

Who has not been to the place of despair, of the blackest thoughts, the deepest depression, the midnight of the soul?  Abandoned by God and man, beaten down by our adversaries, submerged under the flood of bad things, left to our thoughts and sorrows, crushed by life, lost to the world, at our wit’s end.  Bottom.

Now that I’ve put you in the mood, think for a moment about what Jesus felt on the cross when He was abandoned by the Father, left in despair, on His own without spiritual support.

When Jesus was abandoned, He too cried out “How long, O Lord?” It was in the form of “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?”  Matt. 27:46.  But regardless of the form, it was a cry of despair to God the Father who appeared to have forgotten Jesus, who appeared to have hidden His face from Jesus, who had let Jesus’ enemies be exalted over Him.

When we despair, when we feel abandoned and alone, we can always bring to mind that we are in good company – Jesus felt the same way for the same reason, and God raised Him from despair and death unto life.  And through His despair, death, and resurrection, as our advocate before the Father, Jesus does the same for us when we cannot do it for ourselves.

If it feels that God has abandoned me, has He?  If it feels that I am at the bottom of the well with no way out, is this true?

We cannot deny our feelings and we may in fact be in despair, feeling that we are abandoned by God, lost from God’s favor, stepped on by our enemies, left to our own sorrowful devices and thoughts.  And we, too, can cry out like David and yell at God, “How long?”

It’s OK.  Jesus did it, and God answered Him.  And He will answer you, too.

_________

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

 

 

Bread – Heard

February 12, 2016


Psalm 6

“O Lord, rebuke me not in Your anger, nor discipline me in Your wrath.  Be gracious to me, O Lord, for I am languishing … The Lord has heard my plea; the Lord accepts my prayer.”  Ps. 6:1-2a, 9

Psalm 6 begins with an urgent prayer for God not to be mad at David but be merciful because David is depressed and in the pits.  It ends with an acknowledgement by David that the Lord has heard him and that all of his enemies, the ones who have driven him into depression presumably, “shall be ashamed.”  Note the use of the word “shall” as opposed to the word “could” or “might” or even “will.”  There is a sense that they are defeated today, even though it may not be obvious until tomorrow.  There is a sense in the word “shall” that David’s prayer has been immediately answered, regardless of what appears to him to be the case.

So, my question is, what has changed?

There are at least three ways to answer this question, one from the perspective of a third person looking in at the facts, the second from God’s perspective, and the third from David’s.

From the third party’s perspective, the stranger (us) looking in, the answer is nothing, nothing has changed!  Have David’s enemies left the field of battle?  No.   Is David still in the pits?  Yes.  Has any word of God been audibly spoken so that we can hear?  No.  Has sunlight broken through the clouds in rays of glory?   No.  To us, from an objective perspective, nothing has changed and, if God was mad, He still is; if David was depressed, he still is; and if the enemies are surrounding David, they still are.

From God’s perspective, what has changed?  I realize I am reaching high to even begin to ask that question, must less answer it, but I will, at least from my understanding of who God is.  My answer to the question of, from God’s perspective, what has changed, is … nothing has changed.  God was angry at David’s sin, but He was from the beginning of time merciful and gracious unto David, choosing him for salvation and redemption and restoration.  God will remain angry at David’s sin forever, but He will lay aside that anger and accept David because the penalty for that sin has been paid by God.  God is wrath and love at the same time.  God’s attitude toward sin does not change.  He does not change.  Also, David’s situation has not changed.  David is subject to sin, although being rescued from it.  Whether David’s sin results in depression, illness, or even fleeting happiness is merely the moment’s passing of human emotional response to circumstances.  But whether David is as happy as a clam or as defeated as a skunk, he has not changed in God’s eyes and neither has his situation.  Finally, has God’s acceptance of David’s prayer changed?  The answer is “no.”  David, being saved by grace and not by works, can always have effective prayer before God and God hears his (and our) pleas and accepts his (and our) prayer in faith.

So, if anything has changed, it is from David’s perspective.  And, of course, David represents us.  And, man, look at what has changed in David’s life!  First, he has changed from a focus on himself to a focus on God.  Second, he has changed from a focus on his enemies (my enemies are overwhelming to me) to a focus on God (God will handle his enemies).  Third, he has changed in his attitude toward God – God the angry to God the merciful to God the savior.

So what has changed?  In one sense, nothing has changed.  David is in the pits and his enemies are at the door.  In another sense, everything has changed.  David is in the pits with no friend in God to David is in the pits with the knowledge that his Savior has won the day for him.  From defeat to victory; from death to life.

Why?  How?  Because in praying to God, in yelling at God, in submitting to God, in listening to God, in just talking to God, David has moved from himself to God, from weak to strong, from disturbance to peace, from horror to wonder, from loss to joy, from despair to hope.

David is us and we are there.  We need everything that David needed … love, mercy, rescue, favor, success, life, joy, happiness, hope.  And everything is available because God has heard our prayers …. when we turn to Him, even a little bit.

So, have you turned to God today, even a little bit, to acknowledge His presence, to acknowledge His power, to acknowledge His love, to acknowledge His glory, to acknowledge His rescue and salvation?

If not, why not?  If you need any motivation, look at what you are leaving on the table by not having that conversation with God.  “God has heard my plea.”  Yes, but only if you plea.  But only if you turn to Him.

_________

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

 

Bread – Pits

February 8, 2016


Psalm 6

“O Lord, rebuke me not in Your anger, nor discipline me in Your wrath.  Be gracious unto me, O Lord, for I am languishing…My soul also is greatly troubled.  But You, O Lord – how long?”  Ps. 6:1-3

As I write this, it is Monday morning, the depressing morning to a depressing week.  Why is it depressing? I don’t know … it just feels that it is starting that way.  I had trouble getting out of bed.  I had trouble getting started.  I had trouble praying.  I had trouble opening my Bible.  I am even having trouble writing this.

As David write this Psalm, one gets the distinct impression that it is Monday morning, he has a lot to do, and he is depressed.  For some reason (perhaps many reasons), he is in the pits.

And down in the pit, you look around and what do you see around you?  Nothing but walls.  You don’t necessarily know how you got down there, but there you are.  You are inclined to want to blame someone for throwing you down there, but you know in your heart that it was really you who climbed down there deliberately or fell down there because you weren’t paying attention or were attracted down there because you thought you saw something shiny and attractive at the bottom.

And when you are in the pits, when you are in the throes of depression, where is God?

One characteristic feeling we all have in these circumstances is that God is nowhere to be found.  That can be, in our minds eye, for all kinds of reasons.  Perhaps He is mad at us for ignoring His commandments and climbing down into the well.  Perhaps He is mad at us because we continue to live in and practice a life of sin as opposed to obedience.  Perhaps He is angry at us because we have chosen to go our own way and have not spent time with Him.  We know He hates sin and, therefore, maybe He hates us.

All of these thoughts were likely going through David’s mind while he sat in the pit.  That is why He says to God “rebuke me not in Your anger, nor discipline me with Your wrath.”  Note that he assumes that God is angry with him, because (a) if he were God, he would be mad at himself and (b) it makes for a ready explanation for why he is in the pit, is stuck in the pit, and can’t get out of the pit.

“I fell in the pit because God is angry with me.”  “I am stuck in the pit because God is angry with me.”  “I can’t get out of the pit because God is angry with me.”  A convenient explanation which makes us the victim.  No wonder we might well say, “don’t be mad, God,” “don’t rebuke me, God,” “don’t discipline me, God.”  If we can get above our own depression, self-righteousness, and anger at God, we might even follow the preceding statements with “please.”

How do we know David is depressed, that he is in the pits?  Because he says so … he says that he is “languishing.”  The NASB translates this “pining away.”

So, we may find ourselves in the pits today.  Perhaps it is money which caused it.  Perhaps it is love.  Perhaps it is an unfair and ungrateful world, spouse, children, boss, co-workers, employees, clients, suppliers, customers, friends, stock market, etc., which caused it.  The cause is in a real sense irrelevant when it happens to us, because we are there and we are stuck.

So God is apparently appearing to ignore David (from David’s perspective) and he is wallowing in depression … what does he do to get out of the pits?

The answer is actually built into the quoted verses.  While he is asking the Lord not to rebuke him, complaining about his depression, asking God to heal him, and asking the Lord why He is taking so long, what is David doing which is improving his life, although he may not know it.

He is addressing God.  He is talking to God.  He is complaining to God.  He is asking God.  He is arguing with God.  He is so depressed that he knows nowhere else to turn, so he turns to God.

One of the commentators on this passage which I read points out that the word translated to “Lord” in the first three verses of this Psalm is the word “Jehovah,” which is a name of God suggesting Redeemer or Deliverer.

So, in a very real sense, although David senses that God is not present because He is, in David’s mind, angry with him, David still addresses Him in the role which He needs to play in David’s life right then, “Deliverer.”

Over what time period does this take place?  When we read these sentences together, the tendency is to think of the events in the Psalm as coming pretty close together.  David feels like he is in the pits, he sort of blames God but calls on his Deliverer anyway, and the Deliverer shows up (immediately).  But is this true?

There is nothing in the Psalm to indicate how quickly these events occurred.  The prayer “Be gracious to me, O Lord, for I am languishing” could have been made one time over the time span of 10 minutes, or 1,000 times over the span of ten years.

I would suggest that David was actually in the pits for quite a while.  The reason I say that is this – “But You, O Lord – how long?”  Ps. 6:3b  If God was answering David fast, why would David feel the need to groan “how long.”

The fact is that it doesn’t matter in one sense and matters a lot in another.  To a depressed person, whether you are in the pits 10 minutes or ten years, it feels like an eternity.  So it is entirely possible that David was only depressed for ten minutes before he yells out “Lord, how long?”  So, to David in his depressed state, it doesn’t matter how long it is.  However, where it does matter is in the area of perseverance.  How long would David keep going with his entreaty to God the Deliverer before he gave up, thinking that God would never show up?

I think the answer to that question is whether David did or did not have a real relationship with God.  If his relationship is one of convenience, then when God didn’t show up, David would have stopped calling upon Him pretty quickly.  However, David has created a relationship with God where he will talk to God whether he is mad with God or not, whether God is mad with him or not, whether he is in the pits or on a mountaintop, whether he has committed great sin or committed good works.  He is going to reach out to God, his Deliverer, regardless.

This week, when you are in the pits, how quickly will you give up calling upon the name of God in order to solve the problem yourself?

I suspect the answer to that question is tied to the larger answer to the larger question … who do you say He is, really?  A helper in time of trouble, an unreliable “go to” person who is sometimes there and sometimes not, a companion, a friend … or Creator, Redeemer, Savior?

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

 

 

 

Bread – Tired

November 15, 2013


Readings for Friday, November 15, 2013, designated by the 1979 Book of Common Prayer: *; Rev. 19:11-16; Matt. 16:13-20; Psalms 88,91,92

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This morning, after reading our Scriptures of the day, I stopped and thought about the readings, and nothing came to mind for today’s Bread. Knowing that I could not force it, I leaned back in my chair and prayed that God would reveal something to me. And nothing happened. So, then I went back to prayer and, after a few minutes, God sent me something – a yawn. And then I just felt tired.

We are so tired. We are tired of the squabbles. We are tired of trying to understand. We are tired of trying to get something accomplished. We are tired of our bosses. We are tired of our jobs. We are tired of our lives. We are tired of being called names. We are tired of not being called names and instead being ignored. We are tired of the ways of the world. We are tired of the ways of the church. We are tired of others and we are tired of ourselves. We are tired of earning a living. We are tired of saving for a rainy day. We are tired of standing, sitting, and laying down. We are tired.

Depressed yet?

And then I started chuckling to myself, because God had in fact sent me a message. It was a message that I am not able to get myself out of the ditch that I am in.

And our readings today are to that point. In Matthew, Jesus asks His disciples who He is, what people are saying about Him. After the usual list of possible reincarnations of great people of the Old Testament, Peter says “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” Matt. 16:16. Jesus responds by telling Peter that he is blessed, that God revealed this to him and Peter did not come to this belief through his own understanding, and that Jesus will build His church on “this rock.” Matt. 16:18 The blessing which Jesus mentions is not the blessing which Jesus gives, but the blessing which Peter already has because he has been graciously, sovereignly chosen by the Father to receive the personal revelation that Jesus is the Christ. Peter may be tired, but he is blessed and by his confession of Jesus he is saved. The person who could not lift himself out of the daily rut has been lifted by God into eternal life with Him.

Then we have Revelation. Jesus is in heaven, ready to tread the winepress of the fury of wrath of God the Almighty. He rides a white horse, the horse of victory. He wears a superior crown of diadems; He is King. He wears a robe dipped in blood because it is by His sacrifice on the cross that we are saved. He has a name written which is both known (“the Word of God” and “King of Kings and Lord of Lords”) and unknown (“a name written that no one knows but Himself), because God is both known to us through His Word and Jesus, and yet unknowable in His entirety. He is all-powerful and He is coming. And He is doing all this without our having to do anything.

See, even if we are tired, God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit is and are not. When we could not save ourselves, He saves us. When we cannot fend for ourselves, He protects us. When we are too tired to act, He empowers us with His Holy Spirit to act. When we are weak, He is strong. While we lack power, He is power.

And in Revelation, Jesus is accompanied by “the armies of heaven, arrayed in fine linen, white and pure.” Who do you think those people are?

They are the saints. Tired on earth but victorious in life.

Are you tired? Jesus could have said: “Be Peter, come to me and acknowledge Who I Am, and then join me in the day of victory.” Those are my words – Here are His: “Come to Me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” Matt. 11:28

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© 2013 GBF

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