Bread – Signs

July 21, 2017


Psalm 74

Your foes have roared in the midst of Your meeting place; they have set up their own signs for signs.”  Ps. 74:4

Those who are of the world and are not for God are against God.  “Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God?”  Jas. 4:4b  Therefore, the word “foes” here not only includes people who would see God removed totally from life on earth, but also those who wouldn’t go that far but are still hostile to God and those who are neutral toward God, perhaps believing that there are many gods.  So, God has many foes, many enemies.

But what do the enemies of God do to demonstrate their enmity?  The most obvious way is to work to depose His people on earth, to imprison them in their homes or churches, to make sure that none of their infectious ideas (like eternal life through belief in Jesus Christ) are spoken in the public square or reflected in public policy or laws.

The less obvious way is to create symbols and signs which lead away from God or, worse, mislead people into finding a false god.

Ultimately, unless we are the recipient of direct revelation, we take in our information and our knowledge by words, by language.   The foes of God attempt to create signs and symbols which sound like and look like the words they replace, but which lead away from a sovereign Lord and which therefore lead away from life.

There are many illustrations of this, but I will pick three and hopefully one or more you will find accurate.

The first is our description of God in our own translations of Scripture.   What I mean by that is the destruction of the word “he” or “him” when that pronoun refers to God.  In a sentence referring to both me (a man) and God in every major Bible translation today, any reference to either me or God will be either “he” or “him.”  Very, very, very subtly, by doing so the foes of God have equated man and God to the same level.  Do Christians today have a diminished view of God’s sovereignty, His power, and His majesty?  Perhaps it is because God is referred to in man-made translations as “him” or “he.”  Just like I don’t deserve the royal capital “H,” neither in the opinion of these Bible translators does God.

The second is our corruption of the word “love.”  We “love” football, we “love” ice cream, we “love” our children, and we “love” our neighbor become all the same word.  What has great meaning in a covenantal relationship as between us and God or between us and our spouse is reduced in practical terms to “like a lot.”  When we can love our ice cream with the same meaning as we love our neighbor, why should there be any doubt about why we do not understand the concept of “love our neighbor as we love ourselves.”  We may preach about “sacrificial love,” but isn’t it interesting that the word has become so corrupted that we have to try to strengthen it with an adjective to get our point across.  And is there any reason to wonder why we don’t understand what “sacrificial love” is when the real practical translation is “sacrificial like a lot.”

My third example is actually a strange one because it still means something but the meaning is disappearing in front of our eyes.  That word is “privacy.”  When I was young, this was a core concept of life.  When I was in my room alone, I had privacy.  When I was on the telephone, I had privacy.  When I got a letter in the mail, I had privacy.  The notion is related to a strong Christian view that each man is in the image of God and is therefore worthy of respect.  Part of respect is giving each man then the freedom to be alone, to be private.    Some people today believe that the notion of “privacy” is gone in our electronic culture.  E-mails are monitored, we are moving to a cashless society where everything is run through monitored computer, we have “smart meters” which can monitor our internal home usage, we have smart boxes which are constantly listening to “Hey ______,” we communicate through devices which track our buying habits, and we even have laws in place specifying which information is private and which is not.  Of course, the laws that “give” us privacy can take it away.  Finally, our privacy rights (if any we have) in bathrooms are being taken away in the name of social reform.

So, the foes of God set up their own signs (symbols, meanings) for God’s signs (symbols, meanings).

What are we to do?  Well, obviously first we pray for God’s intervention in our worldly affairs.  But the truth is that we can take back the language.  We can substitute our signs for their signs, our symbols for their symbols, our meanings for their meanings.  How do we do that?  I think we do it by becoming a lot more sensitive to the language we use.  For example, let’s reserve the word “love” for where it really matters.  Let’s honor people’s privacy the way we demand they honor ours.

And let’s refer to God as “He” with the royal capital, as He deserves.

________

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

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Bread – Refocus

January 20, 2016


Psalm 3

“But You, O Lord, are a shield about me, my glory, and the lifter of my head.”  Ps. 3:3

In the last Bread, we found David evicted from his palace by his son, hiding in the desert, surrounded by many enemies, many foes.  And we ended there, with the word “Selah,” which I interpret as meaning stop, listen, think, meditate.  And so that is where we stopped, in the middle of contemplation of all of the real troubles we face every day – debt, worry, income, torn family relations, unethical co-workers and supervisors, the daily scramble for shelter, transportation, and food, defending ourselves constantly from the naysayers while attempting to make progress.  Abandoned perhaps by our perceived friends and, maybe even, our family.  And we hide or strike out in anger or confusion, not knowing which way to turn.

Selah!  Stop, think, recall, remember, look back so you can look forward.  Refocus.

Refocus on what or who?  Follow what David did … in the midst of his troubles, surrounded by many foes, he remembered God and refocused on Him.

Look at the transition from many foes and people saying “there is no salvation for him (David) from God” to the very next line, “But You, O Lord..”

And what does David remember?  That the Lord is (1) a shield, (2) his glory, and (3) the lifter of his head.

How often, when we look back and remember, has the Lord been our shield in time of trouble, bringing us through the valleys, walking with us, speaking to us in words which are unspeakable but are real nonetheless?  How often has this shield caused the darts of the enemy to fall to the ground?  If we believe in Jesus Christ, we know that He is the greatest shield of all, protecting us from God the Father’s just wrath upon us for our sin, for our disobedience.  He is the shield for us from eternal death.

But is He our glory?  Do we shine when we are before Him, on our knees, in obedience and worship?  I think that, if we are in touch with our souls, the answer is “yes.”  Because He is light, when we are in His presence we reflect His light.  Because He is holiness, when we are in His presence we reflect His holiness.  Because He is glory, when we are in His presence we reflect His glory.  When have you been happiest?  When you got the big promotion, when you graduated from school, when you got married, when you got your first dog or cat?  I daresay not even those things have made us really happy, although we are inclined to say so.  I daresay that the date you were the happiest was the date you met our Lord Jesus and knew in your heart that on that day, you were born again into eternal life.  I daresay the date when you are the happiest now is when some great truth from God, some great wisdom, penetrates into your soul, waking you up with His power to do His will in His way.  So, yes, He is not only our shield, but He is our glory.

And, finally, David acknowledges that He is the lifter of David’s head.  When we are burdened down with the bricks and stones which the world throws at us, when we are covered up, by what strength do we look for the new day?  By what strength do we laugh at death and destruction?  By what strength do we lift our own head?  It is not our strength and it is not by our act that we have hope.  It is by God who lifts our head for us.  He provides the power and the action.  All we have to do is to remember, refocus, and trust.

When we are so focused on our troubles that all we can think of is to hide, retreat, cover up, protect ourselves, or maybe strike in anger or reaction, what is the solution?  Selah!  Remember, refocus, and trust.

Instead of looking at our foes and meditating on how powerful they are, David’s message to us is that we need to look at God and meditate on powerful He is.

How do we refocus?  Let God be our shield, our glory, and the lifter of our head.

Now this verse 3 (and 4) are followed by another “Selah!”  And so we stop again, this time to meditate upon God instead of our foes, to meditate on our blessings instead of our curses, to meditate on the eternal as opposed to the temporal, to meditate with our eyes to the hills whence cometh our help instead to the ground, to meditate on the trustworthiness of God instead of the untrustworthy nature of the world.

Is you day going poorly?  Refocus on the truth instead of the lie, on the victory instead of the defeat, on God instead of yourself and the world.

And watch how quickly your shield, your glory, and your lifter of your head comes to be all three.

Selah!

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

 

 

 

Bread – Concrete

January 18, 2016


Psalm 3

A Psalm of David, when he fled from Absalom his son.

“O Lord, how many are my foes!  Many are rising up against me…”  Ps. 3:1

There is a tendency among all of us to intellectualize God and His role in our lives.  We thinks of enemies in the abstract.  We think of difficulties in general.  Except when we are sick, maybe, we tend not to put a specific point on our ideas about help from God.  We talk about mountains and valleys, but we rarely talk about the mountain or the valley.

That is why I call this Bread “concrete.”  This Psalm is not about David’s enemies in general as an idea but about Absalom, David’s son, who led a revolt against David and caused him to run away for his life.  In case you doubt the concreteness of this event, read 2 Samuel, chapters 15 and 16, for a blow by blow.

This Psalm is about a concrete event resulting in David’s fearing for his life, his safety, and his future.

We have been attacked.  Perhaps by a neighbor, a friend, a co-worker, a boss, an employee, a customer, our spouse, our children, and someone else.  It doesn’t matter.  It’s Monday and the sharp knives are out.  You are doing the best you can and are now in full retreat, running for your life as fast as you can.  What did you do to cause it?  Maybe a word.  Maybe an action.  Maybe something building up over a long period of time.  Maybe nothing.  Doesn’t matter … you are being attacked, you are in full retreat, you are feeling overwhelmed and you might in fact be overwhelmed (feelings sometimes do reflect reality).

What do we do?  Perhaps we retreat and cower in fear of what will happen next?  Perhaps we behave like the peacock or gorilla, making ourselves seen or heard for long distances, making ourselves seem bigger, bolder, stronger, and braver than we really are.  Perhaps we plot the counter-attack.  Perhaps we start making calls to find ourselves some allies, some fellow soldiers, so that we can build an army and take back what is ours.  Perhaps we respond in anger and counter-attack immediately, setting fire to the relationships and the situation by our tongue and by our arm.

This is the set-up.  This is the concrete deal.  This is where the rubber meets the road.  All we can see is our foes, our enemies.  All we can see is what we have lost.  All we can see is how much ground we have to get back to put us even or to get even or both.

David was driven out of his home by his own son.  His own son was trying to kill him.  His own son had spread gossip around so that people who David thought were his friends were not, but were hostile to him.  All this came upon David so fast that he ran for the Mount of Olives, the desert, without his shoes (2 Sam. 15:30).

And so in such concrete circumstances, we like David lament, “how many are my foes.”  The cataclysm in our lives is so big that all we can do is shake our head at our situation, convinced in our heart that hope is gone.

And then we, in this Psalm, run into the “Selah.”  No one knows what this means, exactly, but I have noticed that, where it appears in the Psalms, it is like an exclamation point, saying stop … look … and listen.  Sort of God’s ways of saying, in the Psalms, “Pay attention!” or “Stop and watch and listen.”

And so in our reading today, in the concrete moment of disaster, when the only thing occupying our minds is the depth, breadth, number, and power of our foes … God (and the Psalmist) say “Selah!”

How often in the midst of our daily grind do we feel under attack?  How many times are we actually under attack?  In all these circumstances, we can be like David and lament our situation, whine about the strength of our enemies, and be miserable.  But as Christ’s own, once we are done there is a moment when God says to us “Selah!”  And with that we know the next chapter has begun.

Selah!

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

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