Bread – Away

April 24, 2017


Psalm 61

Hear my cry, O God, listen to my prayer; from the end of the earth I call to You when my heart is faint.”  Ps. 61:1-2a

Perhaps I should have called this Bread “Far Away,” but that would have violated my one word summary rule.  However, the “away” in the title today is meant to convey that sense of distance, far distance, from wherever you want to be or whomever you want to be with.  Our Psalmist uses the phrases “from the end of the earth.”

Wrapped up in this image of being “away” are, of course, our ideas of geographic distance.  If I live in Texas but am presently visiting China, then I am indeed “far away.”  But also wrapped up in this image is emotional distance.  I can be “far away” from my spouse sitting in a chair next to him or her.  I can be far away from my studies by daydreaming.  So there is physical distance, emotional distance, mental distance, and, as we know from our tumultuous relationship with God, spiritual distance.

We may not even be aware that we are “away.”  I remember that when I first went to college, the sights and sounds of Boston and the university were so exciting that I forgot I was away from home … until I became homesick a couple of months later.  We may be so wrapped up in our daydream that we aren’t even aware that we have wandered away mentally.  We may get so caught up in the routine of life that we become emotionally detached or “away” from our significant others and not even realize it.  We may become so self-dependent, powerful, rich, respected, educated, that we lose track of how far away we are from God.  We become so lost in the ways of the world that we drift away from the laws of the Kingdom of God.

The fact that we become unaware of how far away we are is reflected, actually, in the quoted verse from our Psalm today.  David did not call upon God because he was far away; he called upon God because his “heart is faint.”  When his heart became faint and he became aware it was time to pray to God, he was at the “end of the earth.”  In his self-focus, he had gone away from God, but it took an event to make him realize it.

In college, that event of homesickness may come upon us when we realize that we haven’t eaten a particular food in a while, when we walk into our dormitory room and find that it is empty, when we call home and no one answers, or when we recall some fond memory of good times.  In studying, we may realize that we have wandered away in our daydream when our head hits the desk because we just fell asleep.  In our relationships with each other, it may in fact be a heart moment when we realize how far we are away emotionally from our loved ones.

Sometimes we go away to a far place on purpose, but most of the time it is because we drift on open waters with no direction in mind, permitting our boat to be carried on the random winds and waves of the seas.   The prodigal son deliberately left his father and went to a far place where he ate with the pigs, but we tend to end up far away due to inattention, negligence, slothfulness, and aimless wandering.

In such times, we may be inclined to say to ourselves “How did we get here?”  But that is the wrong question, because “here,” “away” you are.  The right question is “How do we get back to where we should be?”

In a very natural way, David the Psalmist tells us.  The way back from being away is to come near.  When we are far away from God, the way back is to talk to Him, to pray to Him, and to let Him help you back.  If I wake up in China but belong in Texas, what do I do?  I get on the next airplane.  Well God has given us a transport mechanism to get back to Him from the end of the earth, and that is prayer.

Are you away from God today?  Have you gone to a faraway place from Him?  The journey of a 1,000 miles begins with the first step.  That first step is prayer.  Start now!

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Bread – Turn

February 11, 2016


Psalm 6

“Turn, O Lord, deliver my life; save me for the sake of Your steadfast love…I am weary with my moaning; every night I flood my bed with tears; I drench my couch with my weeping.  My eye wastes away because of grief; it grows weak because of all my foes.”  Ps. 6:4,6-7

Just before David says, “Turn, O Lord,” he asks God to be gracious to him because he is “languishing.”  In our first Bread on this Psalm, we talked about depression  and how we all find ourselves in trouble, when God seems angry with us.

This is a continuation of that same thought, where David is asking the Lord to turn and then repeats how depressed he is, stating that he is weary, that he is moaning our of his weariness, that his eyes fail because of his grief, and he feels surrounded by enemies, real and imagined.

The image is one of God having turned his back to David and David begging with him to turn around, comprehend David, and in turn be merciful to David “for the sake of [God’s] steadfast love.

My question is, is this the right image?

Certainly it is from our perspective.  We are depressed, we feel lonely, we feel abandoned, our eyes and bones hurt, we cry, we moan … and God has left the station, He has left us behind.

We say this because it feels to us like God has left us.

But is that true?  Who has turned their back to whom?  Who has left whom?

In other words, has God left us or have we left God?  Has God turned His back to us or have we turned our back to God?

When David prays that the Lord return to him, is it the Lord who returns to David or David who returns to the Lord?

What is interesting about this question is that it brings back images of the prodigal son, where it was the son who realized that his position with the pigs, with the depression, was caused by his disobedience, and things did not begin to get better until he (the prodigal) returned to the father.  And, actually, because the father saw the son from far off and ran to him, it was really the intention of the son to return to the father which starts the avalanche of restoration of relationship.

So recalling this parable, one is immediately inclined to jump on board the idea that it was really David who needed to return, that God was where He had always been.

But, now I want to argue against myself – maybe David is right.  Maybe in David’s dilapidated state, depressed, moaning, sore of bone and spirit, languishing, he cannot turn to the Lord, much less return to Him.  In other words, for David to be rescued from himself and his situation, can he even take the initiative or must God take the initiative?

We like to think that it is us, and that is where most of us begin and end.  It is all on us.  We lift ourselves out of the pits by returning to the Lord.

But the truth is, the greater truth, the deeper truth, is that salvation belongs to the Lord and the Lord alone.  If we are to be rescued, it must be God who turns toward us and not us toward God.

“Be gracious to me, O Lord…”  Lord, show me Your mercy by rescuing me even though I deserve Your wrath because of my disobedience.

So, built into this simple request from David are two turns.  The first turn is from David taking his focus off of his troubles to turn to God and address Him for help.  And the second is God, in His sovereignty and from a heart of love and mercy, turning toward David to rescue him.

And the remarkable thing about all this is that by the time David asks the Lord to turn toward him, He already has.  How do we know that?  Because there is no power in David to ask but for God’s power to make it so.

David can ask God to turn toward him and save him because God has first turned toward David and saved him.

So, when David cries from the pits for God to turn and save his life, God can truly answer and say, “Son, I already have.”

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

 

 

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