Bread – Prey

August 2, 2017


Psalm 76

Glorious are You, more majestic than the mountains of prey.”  Ps. 76:4

What are the “mountains of prey?”  In my Bible, there is a cross-reference to Nahum, a “minor” prophet whose book I admit I have never read.  Like a dictionary, this cross-reference is not much help, being a reference to Nineveh (Assyria) and this statement – “Behold, I am against you, declares the Lord of hosts, and I will burn your chariots in smoke, and the sword shall devour your young lions.  I will cut off your prey from the earth, and the voice of your messengers shall no longer be heard.”  Na. 2:13

In our way of thinking, the word “prey” is something or someone who is attacked by a predator.  So between the murderer and the victim, the victim is prey and the murderer is predator.

So, since nothing in my Christian library helps me understand what “mountain of prey” is, I translate it roughly as a “mountain of things I chase after, I hunt for, I run down to the ground.”

And what are those things?  What do we chase after, hunt for, and run down to the ground?  What about the idols of this world?  Don’t we hunt for prestige, for honor, for glory, for a “special place,” for money, for wealth, for power, for position, for influence, for respect, for love?

And, indeed, all those things we search for on a regular basis, ready to capture them and put them into our storehouses, create a mountain to climb every day.  If we are not more cunning, our opportunity will be lost to someone more aggressive.  If we are not more assertive, our desired position will go to someone else.  If I don’t save my money, I won’t have enough to withstand those who would take it away from me (through selling me things I don’t need, etc.).

We chase our mountain of prey every day; we attempt to climb the mountain of what we want out of life.

There was (maybe is) an old video game called “Super Mario” where this guy, who looked like a worker, ran, jumped, twirled, and walked, a lot uphill, through all kinds of obstacles and dangers, to get his “prizes,” which included “gold coins.”  It wasn’t until I was thinking about a mountain of prey this morning that I realized that is what Mario was doing in that game, chasing his prey up the mountain … and that is what we do.

But God is more majestic, more glorious, than that mountain of junk, of idols, we chase after.

And of course He is.  This “mountain of prey” is nothing more than a “mountain of ….. dashed dreams, broken promises, faulty gods(idols), selfish ambition, spent time on things  which will pass away.”

We will spend hours today chasing our prey and climbing the mountain of prey.  But how many minutes will we spend chasing the One who is “more majestic?”

________

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

 

 

Bread – Rocks

May 2, 2016


Psalm 18

“I love You, O Lord, my strength.  The Lord is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer, my God, my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield, and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold…For who is God, but the Lord?  And who is a rock, except our God? — …He made my feet like the feet of a deer and set me secure on the heights….You gave me a wide place for my steps under me…The Lord lives, and blessed be my rock, and exalted be the God of my salvation – “  Ps. 18:1-2, 31, 33, 36, 46

This excerpt from Psalm 18 clearly says that God is David’s rock [singular].  So why call this Bread rocks [plural]?

The reason is that, as I was contemplating God as my rock, different sized rocks came to mind – small, medium, and large.  Three sizes, three rocks.

The first size I thought about were tiny rocks, the size of pebbles.  The image I had was that one of me as a little boy, rolling pebbles over.  Under these pebbles would be moist soil and the little bugs and animals which thrive and hide in good soil.  We are like that so often.  The sun may come and dry up the soil and heat up the rock, but for those of us who seek shelter under them, there is water and shade and life.  But the other image I have is from camping, and in a dry, windswept place, there would be rocks.  And one time, when I sat down next to one about the size of my hand, just beside it, in the middle of literally nowhere, there was the green leaf and stalk of a young plant growing.  It was not under the rock where there would be no light and it would be crushed, but it was beside the rock, protected from the boiling sun and the whipping winds, making its way from childhood to adulthood.  And, again, isn’t that like us?  Little plants which can take root and grow in the shelter of a rock, but so weak that exposure apart from the rock will likely kill us.

The second size I thought about were the size of rocks you can hide behind, like boulders.  And the image which came to my mind then were the old television westerns, where someone would hide behind a rock in order to catch someone unawares as they went by.  But not only were these rocks a place where people could hide to cause harm, but they were also a place where the good guys to go and hide from the bad guys.  And so, just like in the movies, we as men can use God as a rock as either a place of hiding in wait, ready to spring our ambush upon unsuspecting passersby, or places of protection, of hiding from the evil in the world which would harm us.   Furthermore, we all knows from these same movies that bullets and arrows bounce off of rocks, so they make pretty good barriers between us and bad things.  This is the kind of rock which I think David had in mind when he said that God was his fortress, his place of refuge, his hiding place, his stronghold and his shield.  The rock the size of boulders.

But then there is the third size, the large ones.  The image I have there is the hiker who has climbed to the top of the mountain, who is standing on the flat surface of a rock, and who surveys the world beneath him or her with the attitude of a conqueror.  We have all seen the image – the silhouette of the man on top, pointing into the distance or hands of victory raised into the air, awash in his freedom and his accomplishment.  And the reason the victor can stand there is because he stands on solid rock and not sinking sand.  He may declare the victory but it is the rock which is victorious, because but for the rock there would be nothing to climb, no vistas to comprehend, no distance to observe, no opportunity to touch the sky.  For man to stand tall, his feet must be firmly set.  And so David says of God – “He…set me secure on the heights…You gave me a wide place for my steps under me…”

You know, whether a rock is small (pebble size), medium (boulder size) or large (mountain size), it is still a rock.

What size do you need your rock to be today?  Well, God is that size and more, because He is the rock.  On which all creation rests.  On which we stand, behind which we seek refuge, and in the shadow of which we live.

_________

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

 

Bread – Sanctuary

March 14, 2016


Psalm 11

“In the Lord I take refuge…Flee like a bird to your mountain…”  Ps. 11:1

One of the reasons I like to capitalize the personal pronouns which reference God is that the direction of the personal pronoun reference is more clearly seen.  For example, here the phrase “your mountain” does not refer to God’s mountain, but to David’s.

When we are in trouble today or this week, there are two basic sanctuaries we can seek out, our mountain and God.

“Our mountain” may not be a literal mountain, but simply a place.  And there are three types of places.  The first place is the one we go to most often, and yet we rarely think about it as a sanctuary – and that is ourselves, our minds.  How many times, when we are in the midst of difficulty, do we reach into ourselves for the solution?  In fact, we know that some people so retreat into their mind that they stay locked up in it, becoming withdrawn, recluses or hoarders, or evidencing psychological disturbances.  So one place of sanctuary is our mind.

The second type of mountain could be a collection of minds, or the society of others.  We do this every day.  When we are in trouble, we seek the advice of other people or, if not their advice, at least their friendship.  These groups may be family, best friends, co-workers, respected peers, or others with whom we find comfort and safety.  People then are our sanctuary.  But, like all people and people-groups, they are fickle and have their own issues, and so the reliability and effectiveness of the sanctuary may be in doubt from time to time.

The third type of mountain is more of a physical place, a true “mountain.”  Now this physical place may not be a literal mountain, but it has the same elements – perceived permanence, earthly, strong, defensible, calming, and peaceful.  Our mountain may be a favorite chair to which we run when we are in trouble.  Our mountain may be a particular room in the house where we can escape the various demands being put upon us.  Our mountain may be our office if we are escaping from the house, or our house if we are escaping from the office.  Our mountain may be the place we like to take vacation.  Our mountain may just be a place of respite, a fountain, a bench, a park, a museum, a gallery … any place where we can escape the troubles we have.

 

When we are in trouble, when our enemies surround us, when we are paying the consequences of our sin or others’ sin, how often do we seek the sanctuary of our mind, other people, or a special place?  I think, if we are honest, the answer is most of the time.  Although God may be found in every one of these places, atop every one of these mountains, He is not necessarily there if we are not seeking Him there.  The mountaintop house, perched over the valley, where we drink our coffee while we watch the world come to life is, in itself, a man-made place of refuge.  My mountain is my mountain.  It is a choice to seek refuge there, but God may or may not be present there unless I also seek Him.

Which then, of course, leads us to the second place of refuge – God Himself.  In this Psalm 11, someone is advising David to flee to his mountain, and David’s response is “In the Lord I take refuge.”

Can we say that?  Can we truly say that we take refuge in the Lord when we face difficulties, or do we try to work it out ourselves first?  When we are faced with danger, do we seek first a well-defended sanctuary made of brick and stone, of a well-defended fortress of well-armed men and women, or do we first seek the Lord?

As we begin today, Monday, there is an entire week when we will be attacked from every side, by people who we thought loved us and respected us, by people who we known neither love us nor respect us, by circumstances, by events, by sin, by trouble, by Satan himself.  When this happens and we need respite, where will we seek sanctuary?

Will we flee to the mountain (ourselves, our friends, our good places) or will we flee to God?

What I think I tend to do is to first seek the comfortable chair, the book, the place of peace … and then, if I think about it, I will talk to God.  And isn’t this our true selves, our true order of events.  Flee first to our mountain and, once we get there, talk to God, maybe?

What would happen if I first sought refuge “in the Lord?”  Would I then need the chair, the book, the drink, the conversation with a friend, the self-analysis?  Perhaps, but then it would be because God led me there and not because I led myself there.

Have you ever fled to your mountain to find that your place of sanctuary was not very helpful, that it did not protect you as well as you thought it would?  How often have we retreated to vacation only to return from vacation unrested?

Perhaps our failure to find true sanctuary, to find true refuge, is because we have it in the wrong order.  We flee first to our mountain and then, maybe, to God.  Instead, we should flee first to God and then, if He says, go find the place of His choosing to rest ourselves.

“In the Lord I take refuge.”  Is this a reality or just a motto?

_________

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

 

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