Thursday, April 28, 2016

Thoughts on Psalm 119:41

41 ​​Let Your mercies come also to me, O Lord —
​​Your salvation according to Your word.

What a beautiful truth. It’s like the warmth of the sun after a long, cold winter. Or a cool drink of water on hot summer day.

God is merciful.

Rest in that truth.

Let’s meditate on this a little. We’ll go right to the words of Jesus.

for [God] makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. Matt 5:45

So Jesus says that we can observe God’s mercy by looking at the sun and the rain.

It’s easy to take the sunrise for granted, because it is so reliable, but the sun gives us life. Without it, we would have no light and no heat. Not enough would kills us, and too much would kill us. We live on a razor’s edge, in the perfect balance of the sun’s life giving power.

Now science says that the sun rises because the earth is spinning. And why does it spin? Because of the law of inertia (what’s in motion stays in motion). But why does inertia work?

At this question, science can offer no further answers. Inertia just works. It’s observable, it’s repeatable, it’s predictable - so we call it a law.

But Jesus says that God makes His sun rise. In other words, God has an active part - each and every day - in causing the sun to rise. It is the direct result of God’s intentional involvement in our world.

And does He do it because of our goodness? Because we’ve earned it? We have so thoroughly pleased Him that He is compelled to reward us with sunlight? No, Jesus said, “He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good”. He’s making the point that it’s not a reward.

It’s God’s mercy. Jesus explicitly said this In Luke’s account of this same teaching:

[God] is kind to the unthankful and evil. Therefore be merciful, just as your Father also is merciful. Luke 6:35-36

We all need mercy at some time or other. God wants us to be confident in His mercy, and to know that He gives it, not because we deserve it, but because He is merciful - full of mercy.

In fact, the New Testament commands us:

Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need. Hebrews 4:16

Our “time of need” is often when we feel most vulnerable. Either we’re tempted, or we feel weak, or we’ve made some huge mistake and are suffering under the consequences.

That is the moment when we are least likely to be bold about anything. It is the moment when we feel like hiding, changing the subject, or escaping.

And at that very moment, God invites us to come boldly to His throne to obtain mercy. It’s shocking. It’s hard to imagine. But it’s true.

We are not beggars, hoping for a few crumbs from God’s table. We are His children, and He’s given us full access to His fridge. He prepares a table before us in the presence of our enemies. (Psalm 23:5)

Because of His mercy, because of His cross, we have full access.

So whenever you need mercy, when you feel unworthy of God’s attention; when condemnation is beating you up, trying to convince you that God is angry with you - look at the sun, and remember that it’s there intentionally, not accidentally. He makes it rise regardless of how good you are. And then look at the Cross, and remember the price He paid because of His love for you.

God loves you.

​​Let Your mercies come also to me, O Lord —
​​Your salvation according to Your word.

Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Monday, April 25, 2016

Thoughts on Psalm 119:40

40 ​​Behold, I long for Your precepts;
​​Revive me in Your righteousness.

The word “behold” is like a trumpet blast to get our attention.

All of Scripture deserves our attention, but when this trumpet blows, that is, when God uses the word “behold”, we should stop and give extra listening effort. Pay special attention.

Really take these words to heart.

I long for Your precepts
The word “long” means “have a strong wish or desire

Sometimes I find myself approaching the Bible out of duty, or even ritual. It’s just my habit. I’m just going through the motions, so to speak.

Have you ever been in a relationship (spouse, family member, or even a friend) in which you were just going through the motions? There was no real life in it. No passion, no excitement. It was just sort of a boring, familiar routine - like brushing your teeth.

God doesn’t want that kind of relationship with us. This is how He sees us:

You have ravished my heart with one look of your eyes Song 4:9
Turn your eyes away from me, for they have overcome me Song 6:5

And we shouldn’t settle for anything less than a passionate relationship with Him and with His word.

Revive me
If we fall into such a pattern of lifeless ritual, lots of motion without any progress, there is a simple prayer He guides us to pray. Two words: “Revive me.” Bring me back to life.

Here is a good barometer the Word provides to indicate the inward condition of our heart:

The dead do not praise the Lord Psalm 115:17

If we’re not giving a heart-felt thanks, celebrating His goodness, praising Him, singing to Him, worshiping Him - it means the life of God has ceased flowing through us, and we are, in a sense, dead.

But we don’t have to remain there. We can again choose to magnify the name of Jesus above every situation and challenge we are facing. We can choose rejoice because of who God is and what He’s done.

in Your righteousness
This is so important, I believe this is why he started this verse with the trumpet. Behold. Pay special attention.

It is God’s righteousness that brings us back to life. Revive me in Your righteousness.

Not our righteousness.

If we ever attempt to stand before God based on our own merit, our own accomplishments, our own “doing good” we would cry out like Isaiah:

Woe is me, for I am undone!
​​Because I am a man of unclean lips,
​​And I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips;
​​For my eyes have seen the King,
​​The Lord of hosts. Isaiah 6:5

We don’t have to “get our act together” to come back to life.
But we do need a revelation of God’s righteousness.

The apostle Paul kept the Law with more zeal than most. Yet listen to his words:

But what things were gain to me, these I have counted loss for Christ. Yet indeed I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in Him, not having my own righteousness, which is from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is from God by faith Philippians 3:7-9


I will not pretend to offer a complete discourse on righteousness in this short thought on Psalm 119:40. I believe it to be a lifelong journey of discovery and revelation, as described in Proverbs 2:

1 My son, if you receive my words,
​​And treasure my commands within you,
2 ​​So that you incline your ear to wisdom,
​​And apply your heart to understanding;
3 ​​Yes, if you cry out for discernment,
​​And lift up your voice for understanding,
4 ​​If you seek her as silver,
​​And search for her as for hidden treasures; Prov 2:1-4

Then you will understand righteousness Prov 2:9

I encourage you to take these words and meditate on them; let God’s word become alive in your heart:

​​Behold, I long for Your precepts;
​​Revive me in Your righteousness.

Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Thoughts on Psalm 119:39

39 ​​Turn away my reproach which I dread,
​​For Your judgments are good.

“Reproach” is not a real common word these days. But it just means to be shamed, disgraced, or scorned. Definitely not a good thing.

And so we see that the Bible is brutally honest. I love that.

It doesn’t paint a picture of life as some trouble-free utopia. Nor does it portray its characters as holier-than-thou saints that float around on clouds playing harps all day. Here, the psalmist is facing reproach for some reason or other.

Let’s take a quick glance at the resume of some of the heroes of the Bible who had good reason to be reproached:

Abraham: Gave his wife to another man. Twice!
Jacob: Deceived his father, swindled his brother and his uncle
Moses: Murderer
David: Adulterer, Murderer
Paul: Consented to murder; tried to destroy the church
Peter: Denied that he knew Jesus 3 times

The Bible records all of these failings and more! Yet all of these men were used mightily by God.

Abraham became the father of many nations, and is today arguably the most well known man in the history of the world (among Christians, Jews, and Muslims).
Jacob - well, God calls himself “the God of Jacob.” Wow.
Moses parted the Red Sea and wrote the first 5 books of the Bible.
David was a giant killer, king, and wrote much of the Psalms.
Paul wrote most of the New Testament.
Peter gave a sermon and 3000 people came to Christ in one day!

And they did many other wondrous works and miracles!

The message is this:

If you think that you have messed up so bad,
If you think that your reproach or disgrace has distanced you from God,
If you think you’re disqualified from entering the life that Jesus wants you to have,
You are deceived, and you simply have not encountered the Grace of God.

God’s Grace will take a hopeless situation, a broken life, a devastated heart, and so thoroughly redeem it that it becomes a beacon of hope and a fountain of blessing.

There is hope for you. There is hope for your family and your loved ones.

Look to the Lord, and look to His word. He will turn away your reproach, for His judgments are good.

...looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Heb 12:2

Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Monday, April 18, 2016

Thoughts on Psalm 119:38

38 ​​Establish Your word to Your servant,
​​Who is devoted to fearing You.

What do you think it means when the psalmist asks the Lord to “establish His word”?

Have you ever thought to ask God to establish His word to you?

This word “establish” in the Hebrew language is translated “confirm” in Isaiah, and I think conveys the essence of the meaning here in Psalm 119:

I am the Lord...Who confirms the word of His servant, and performs the counsel of His messengers Isaiah 44:24, 26

Simply put, God performs His word.

This is one aspect of the Bible that makes it a unique book: the fact that God Himself backs it up.

For example, there are scores of men through the ages who have claimed to be the Christ. But only One said,

“Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” John 2:19

Jesus said that if He was crucified, He would rise from the dead. And then He did it.

But He was speaking of the temple of His body. Therefore, when He had risen from the dead, His disciples remembered that He had said this to them; and they believed the Scripture and the word which Jesus had said. John 2:21-22

This is God establishing His word: He says it, then He does it.

The Grace of God is not meant to be merely understood intellectually. It is the power of God to be experienced in our lives; to bring the resurrection power of Jesus into every aspect of life.

It takes a level of commitment, though. The psalmist says, “who is devoted to fearing You.” There is a connection between seeing God’s Word manifest in our lives and our resolve to believe His word when the situation seems hopeless.

For example, consider what Jesus said to us:

“Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.” John 14:27

Jesus said that it is possible for you to have peace, and to have no fear in your heart. He didn’t say you wouldn’t be in terrifying situations - but that in any situation you can have peace. The psalms tell of…

Having no fear in the face of death:
Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
​​I will fear no evil; ​​For You are with me; Psalm 23:4

Having no fear in the middle of a war:
Though an army may encamp against me, my heart shall not fear;
​​Though war may rise against me, in this I will be confident. Psalm 27:3

Having no fear in the middle of an earthquake and tsunami:
God is our refuge and strength,
​​A very present help in trouble.
​​Therefore we will not fear,
​​Even though the earth be removed,
​​And though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea;
​​Though its waters roar and be troubled,
​​Though the mountains shake with its swelling. Psalm 46:1-3

But again, it takes commitment. A resolve in the heart and mind that when your world seems to be falling apart, you will not give in to fear, but cling to God’s word. To shout “No!” to fear and “Yes!” to peace.

And then you experience the fear leaving and the peace remaining.

It is possible.

It is miraculous.

That is God establishing His word in your life.

Establish Your word to Your servant, who is devoted to fearing You.

Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.