Bread – Old

February 28, 2018


Psalm 98

Oh sing to the Lord a new song, for He has done marvelous things!”  Ps. 98:1

So begins one of my favorite Psalms because I like to sing and the Psalm is incredibly full of descriptive language, demonstrating how the entirety of life joins in making a “joyful noise.”  Somehow the phrase “Let the rivers clap their hands” strikes me as amazingly rich in the image it raises up, both to the eye and the ear.

So why call this Bread “Old?”

Because I wanted to ask the question, why does the Psalmist ask us to sing a “new” song?  Surely the old hymns (psalms) are good enough, rich enough, full enough of theology and truth, stating the great themes of the faith?

Apparently the old is not good enough – the song we sing to the Lord must be “new.”

And indeed it must.  What we face today is different than what we faced yesterday and what we will face tomorrow.  Yes, the old teaches us and those who ignore history are doomed to repeat it, but each day should be a new, renewed celebration of our relationship with our Savior, a joyous union of confession, prayer, forgiveness, love, and action expressed in obedience and good works.  Each day is new and saying that I went to church yesterday, I prayed yesterday, I cared yesterday, I did a good work yesterday, does not work for today – the day the Lord has given us as a gift.

Not only that, but we have a “New” Testament for a reason.  God did something new for us when He built the bridge back to Himself on the striped back and the pierced hands of Himself, Jesus Christ.   In the power of the Holy Spirit, we take on the newness of life and that life, eternal, when we accept Jesus as our Savior.  We are born “anew.”  This new miracle deserves a new song.

Even more than the Psalmist, who had only a vision of something to come in the future, we know that “All the ends of the earth have seen the salvation of our God.”  Ps. 98:3b  We have seen it because it happened on a cross a long time ago, and it happened in our lives when the reality of Jesus Christ came crashing into us, when we were enveloped in His love and forgiveness, when we were made strong in the Holy Spirit to live in the world as ambassadors of His kingdom, but avoid being poisoned by the world.

So, what new song am I singing today?  Is the song of old or is the song of today?

There may be some of you who are asking themselves the question, what is wrong with that question?  What is wrong with it is the failure to recognize the third choice, that the old song is the new song.

Because just as the Psalmist many many years before the birth and death of Christ saw the salvation which comes from the Lord and wrote his Psalm and sang his song, we get to experience that joy every day.  His song of salvation is our song of salvation.  His God is our God.

See, it is not the song which is sung but the heart which sings it.

One of our prayers said in church contains the phrase “Lord, renew a right spirit within me.”  Yes, “Lord, renew a right spirit within me so that I may sing a new song … every day, for the rest of my life on earth, and in heaven.”

_______

© 2018 GBF   All Scripture quotations are from the English Standard Version (2001), unless otherwise indicated.

 

 

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Bread – Sing

February 7, 2018


Psalm 95

Oh come, let us sing to the Lord; let us make a joyful noise to the rock of our salvation!  Let us come into His presence with thanksgiving; let us make a joyful noise to Him with songs of praise! “ Ps. 95:1-2

So begins one of my favorite Psalms and the basis for the Venite, which is said in many liturgical churches on a regular basis.

As I write this, I am reminded that it has been three weeks since I last wrote a Bread.  How can I have so delayed writing about one of my favorite Psalms?  Either it is not one of my favorite Psalms or something else is going on.

What is going on?  I know and you know.  It is Satan’s work, through diversion and busyness, through the cares and objectives of the world, through the importance of others and ourselves over God, through misdirection and outright deception – that, since he (Satan) cannot steal our salvation, he will do his best to steal our joy.

I sing in the shower and in the car, particularly when there is a good song playing in the background.  That is a form of joy and worship, when it is a song of praise to the Lord, so isn’t that enough?

No, it is not.  The Psalmist says “let us.”  “Let us” sing.  “Let us” make a joyful noise.  “Let us” come into His presence.  “Let us” make a joyful noise.

Our singing to the Lord can occur in the privacy of our home, but it is fully revealed in the singing of the entire body of Christ gathered to worship.

You want to know how effectively Satan has been keeping you from Psalm 95, from worshiping in truth and in spirit, from “singing” and making a “joyful noise?”  Ask yourself when was the last time you (a) attended a body of believers gathered together in worship and (b) sang joyfully at that event.  Even if you showed up, if you did not participate, it was not “us” singing to the Lord, it was “them.”  Listening to a beautiful choir and a majestic organ may put us in a good mood, but this Psalm invites us to active participation, not passive observation.

Satan has many tricks.  One of them is to keep us from church services at all.  The other is to let us go to church services but then talk us out of participating by whispering such things as “You sing terrible,” “if everyone sings, then it will just sound like a lot of noise,” “you don’t like the music,” and “that person next to me is singing so loudly and raising his hands, I’m embarrassed.”

So, Satan kept me from writing Bread for three weeks – so it is his fault, right?  No, sadly it is my fault.  And who do we defeat by letting the world dictate the level of our devotion to our King?  We.

Every minute of every day, we have a choice of which Kingdom rules to obey, since we are citizens of the kingdom of heaven but reside in the world.  And how we make that choice dictates the degree to which our Lord is reflected through and in us.  Whether to worship in the congregation by attendance and participation are two choices (attendance is a choice as well as participation).

“Let us sing to the Lord … For the Lord is a great God, and a great King above all gods…”

Let us do so, beginning with me.

_______

© 2018 GBF   All Scripture quotations are from the English Standard Version (2001), unless otherwise indicated.

 

 

 

 

Bread – Singing

June 9, 2017


Psalm 69

O kingdoms of the earth, sing to God; sing praises to the Lord, Selah …”  Ps. 69:32

Just like in the Bread on Wednesday, today we have another sentence fragment followed by “Selah” or “pay attention.”

This fragment comes after a long set of verses extolling God’s power, and it would be tempting to say that this is just the conclusion of that set of verses.  But I think there is something more going on here, because of the use of the word “kingdoms.”

The idea of kingdoms involves the entire realm, the entire nation-state to which it relates.  Often a kingdom is headed by someone called a “king” and is identified by that person, but it can also just be a large collection of people organized around a particular government.  Today, the United States might be a “kingdom,” as well as China or Chile.  Kingdoms have existed in ancient times and might even cross today’s borders.  For example, the kingdom of Assyria cut across modern Iraq, Syria, Jordan, and other places.

Kingdoms may also be a place-concept.  What I mean by that is that some places are associated with both a geographical location and also a particular philosophy of living.  Babylon was both a kingdom of place and concept (evil, as in Revelation’s reference to Babylon).  The United States is both a kingdom of place and concept (opportunity, individual liberty).

There may well be kingdoms of things.  For example, higher education in the United States might well be a kingdom, with its own leaders, thought structures, requirements for citizenship, etc.  Another kingdom in the United States might be the media, again with its own leaders, thought structures, and requirements for acceptance.

Finally, there are kingdoms of ideas, where large numbers of people declare allegiance to particular ways of thinking.  For example, there is the kingdom of science and there is the kingdom of evolution.

All of these are kingdoms of the earth and all are instructed by the Psalmist to sing to God, sing praises to Him.,

Perhaps this is why the word “Selah” is right here, to cause us to stop and ask ourselves the question, “Are the kingdoms of the earth singing to God?”

And, of course, the answer to this question is a mighty “No!”  I probably could have put in a thousand exclamation marks and still not come close to speaking clearly that, although God has shown us great blessing in the creation of the world and its preservation through time, and in the gift of salvation through Jesus Christ, we fall very, very short in giving Him the praise to which He is due.

Which leaves me to the last kingdom, the Kingdom of God, which is both an earthly kingdom and a heavenly one.

Does the Kingdom of God sing to God?

Before we say “yes,” ask yourself two questions.  The first is, “are you a citizen of the Kingdom of God?”  If the answer to that is “yes,” then ask yourself “what song have you sung already today to God?”

At the end of the day, kingdoms only do what their people do.  If the kingdoms of the earth are to sing praises to God, it is only because the people of the earth sing praises to God.

And we be the people.  Are we singing in our heart thanksgiving for our salvation, for our blessings?  Are we praising with our mouth the same things?

“O kingdoms of the earth, sing to God.”  O citizens of the kingdoms of the earth, sing to God.  O you, sing to God.  O me, sing to God.

Your song begins right now.

________

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

 

 

 

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