Help and Hope

Psalm 124: 8

Our help is in the name of the Lord, who made heaven and earth.

One would almost think I chose this psalm today, but you know we have been going through them, sequentially, every Monday. One must admit, it is a psalm for our times.

I am reminded, today, that psalms are actually songs. As we think about this as music, there is a tendency, perhaps, to try to categorize the psalms generally but also this one specifically. One wouldn’t likely call it a ditty, maybe a lament instead. Would you expect this to set to a blues rhythm? Maybe you would set it to a tune like an old hymn. However you feel about this verse in your heart, you are right. Because we read them rather than hear them set to music, we can set them however seems right to the mood within us. What’s more, you can listen to the tune inside you and simply begin to sing these words. Music is a stimulating medium. It can be soothing or invigorating. These words may make you pensive, meditative. Whatever form they take within you, is just the right medicine.

I cannot imagine that anyone will look back on the year 2020 and say it was an easy year. Everything has seemed to work against us. I feel compassion for those who do not know the Lord because they do not know where their hope lies. Thus, they have little to know hope. We know where help resides. It is in our Lord and He is at your side at this very moment. You are not forgotten nor has your Father abandoned you. He has His eye upon you, and He is the answer we need in this time. No matter how things look or feel right now, He is with you and is your help and hope.

Ebullient Praise

Psalm 45: 1         God’s Word

My heart is overflowing with good news. I will direct my song to the king. My tongue is a pen for a skillful writer.

This psalm is written about Jesus and his bride, which is the church. The psalmist saw into the spiritual realm and was overwhelmed by the gloriousness of Jesus. Jesus’ grandeur and beauty caused his heart to overflow with the good news which bubbled up from within his own spirit.

When Jesus walked the earth in human form, he was not the most handsome of men. When, however, you see who he is, see his spirit and his grace, then he is the most beautiful of all people. His form is elegance and grace is in his every move. His words are nectar and his eyes hold all the world’s seas. He is lovely in all ways.

The root of praise is easily seen in reading this psalm in its entirety. The psalmist overflows with affection and admiration for the king, our king. As his heart overflows with the good news, he gives vent to it in a song for the king. He is so enamored with this vision of Jesus that he describes the flow of words coming from him as lyrics fit for a skilled writer. He may have even been amazed by his own eloquence. That’s the way it happens when your spirit and the Holy Spirit get intertwined. You become more than you were, see more than you could see, and are given expression beyond your normal ability.

The good news bubbles up everywhere in your life. The psalmist saw it evidenced in his songs. You might see it bubbling up at work, in workouts and in relationships. Who Jesus is and who he is in you begins to show up everywhere. Perhaps all of a sudden you are kinder than you were. Maybe at work you’ve begun to get really great ideas. When you tap into this and realize that it is the anointing of the anointed one within you, then praise is a natural outcome. And, who knows, maybe you will overflow with a song that makes children dance and saints weep. Maybe you will see gifts flowing out of you which you have never seen before, and, why not? After all, the greater one is in you!

Old is New Again

Proverb 4: 7

The beginning of wisdom is: acquire wisdom; and with all your acquiring, get understanding.

I have a question for you today. Proverbs is a wisdom book, so is it primarily a book of the Old Testament or does it transcend the Old Testament? Is its advice pertinent to this generation? Okay, so that is two questions.

The reason I bring this up is because we tend to have a very different perspective on the Old Testament books since we are New Testament believers. So, what do we do with the book of proverbs? And, for that matter, what about Psalms? We tend to relegate the Old Testament books to the antiquated section of the library in our minds. Why, then, do they keep putting those old books in our Bible? Why aren’t we just printing New Testaments?

It is hard to win the argument for the exclusion of the book of Proverbs or Psalms. Many “New Testaments” include those two books. Truth be told, there really is very little New Testament content. One would have to admit that historically, the gospels are Old Testament. Jesus had not gone to the cross, had not defeated death and hell, and had not yet provided the means to salvation and redemption. Of course, as “Christians” we like reading about Jesus so those four books make their way into what we call the New Testament, the Christian Testament.

The same cannot be said of the Psalms or Proverbs, though, or can they? What is it about those two books which attracts us to them? It seems plain that David, who is the major contributor to the Psalms, had a revelation of both the Messiah and the Holy Spirit. What of Solomon and the book of Proverbs? There is absolutely something transcendent about those writings. One thing is the personal tone with which Solomon wrote. It is as if He penned each proverb as a personal letter to each of us. Beyond that, though, is the spirit of revelation with which he wrote. He wrote about creation and who was with God at that time and he wrote about your today. Something in that resonates within us.

There is a book, however, which reveals the Messiah even more than the psalms and proverbs. That is the book of Isaiah. The text makes me think that the prophet had some sort of encounter with the person of Jesus. Isaiah doesn’t tell us about it but, clearly, he had insight beyond that of most people. This book, though, we find easier to consign to the Old Testament library. That is a shame because Jesus calls out from those pages.

We’ve acknowledged before that Jesus is the Bible in its entirety because he is the Word. The thing which separates the books is that many of the Old Testament books are a historical record and many of us never liked history class. However, most of the great Bible stories are also tucked into the folds of those pages. Also, we never see the hand of God as clearly in the New Testament as the Old. There certainly are miracles in both sections of the Bible but parting rivers and seas is the stuff of the old book. Swarms of locust and frog infestations, epic battles and battles where only God lifted a hand, those are the landscape of the Old Testament.

I think it is easy to see why we comfortably bring the Proverbs and Psalms into the New Testament with us. They are not strictly historical, and the writing is more modern and emotive. They clearly offer wisdom and worship for today. However, there is great faith in the other Old Testament books as well as the foundation for our faith. We need to know what the book of Deuteronomy holds. We need to see Father Abraham and his family as he and his descendants evolve into the nation of Israel. Important lessons lie at the foot of Egypt as we ponder how God’s chosen people ever arrived there in the first place. And what does the Babylonian captivity say to us today. Yes, the New Testament writers spoke directly to us, telling us what they believed we need to know. We must glean the kernels from the Old Testament stories, but they are there, and they are there in glory.

I want you to see God in all His glory. I want you to live in His glory daily and I believe the Old Testament books will inspire you as well as inform. I want you to have all that Jesus died to give you; nothing missing. The One Year Bibles make reading the Old Testament much easier if that helps, or just jump over to Isaiah and find Jesus. You are going to enjoy what you see. I would love to hear your Old Testament stories. What are you finding there that is inspiring you?


Psalm 32: 7 – 8       Amp

You are my hiding place; You, Lord, protect me from trouble;
You surround me with songs and shouts of deliverance.
I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go;
I will counsel you [who are willing to learn] with My eye upon you.

This is a good time to learn about the word “Selah” because it impacts the understanding of this psalm. One of the primary ideas about this word is that it indicates a pause. We find this word mostly in the Psalms so one might ask if it represents a musical interlude or just a pause in the lyric or instrumentation. It turns out that it has more to do with ideas represented in the lyric than it does to the lyric or melody specifically. It calls the listener, or in our case, the reader, to pause and consider the immediately preceding lyric. Today’s psalm was written by David. When we hear or read “Selah” in the above passage, he wants us to stop and consider the meaning. He has just said something very important and he wants us to stop and be sure that we have taken in that important thought.

There is a second use of Selah. It is used as a bridge or a connector. It alerts the listener that the stanza which is about to follow is thematically tied to that which has just preceded. In other words, the psalmist wants us to hear the next passage with the former still in mind. So stop and hear what has been said with a mind to integrate it with what comes next.

In today’s scripture selection, David confesses his confidence to God. He is able to hide himself in God, receiving protection and deliverance from trouble. He says, also, God surrounds him with joyous songs and exuberant shouts. That isn’t the end though, because in the next stanza, God answers him.

In the combination of these two verses we see a great deal of their relationship. Not only does God protect David but you hear David’s confidence in that protection. David is the one who proclaims that he is protected from trouble. His trust in God is the unspoken refrain. Yahweh answers his confidence and trust with, “I will lead you. I will counsel you. I will be your mentor and will guard your way and keep my eye on you at all times.”

There is a relationship between these two verses and these two people. That is what we are supposed to see in this psalm and that is what the word Selah reveals to us. These are not two independent ideas but rather a revealing of the intermingling of their lives. This is a model of how our lives are meant to be. We also have a hiding place, we are hidden in Christ. We should have the same confidence is the three persons of the trinity as David sang of here. I am hidden in Christ and thus protected from the danger and trouble of the world. God is my helper, my right hand and my deliverer. God, for his part, will lead me and guide me in the way that I should go because I have hidden myself in Him. Selah!

Spiritual Wine

Ephesians 5: 18 – 19

And do not get drunk with wine, for that is dissipation, but be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another in psalms, and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody with your heart to the Lord.

The Apostle Paul has a way of stretching one’s mind beyond its current limits. His vision of the church is quite different from what most of us experience today. I am curious, but then frightened to imagine what the Apostle might write to us today. Are we advancing the gospel? Better still, am I the Christian I could be?

Paul expected the saints to speak to one another in spiritual songs and psalms. Can you even imagine what that is like? How about making melody with your heart? Is that joyous praise or is there even more to it?

There is a spiritual realm all about us. Many have seen it. Angels have appeared and assisted people and even Jesus has made appearances. We can walk and move in this spiritual realm too. That is the invitation from Paul. It is a decision away.

The decision is whether we choose to drink of the world or of the Spirit. Is our life patterned more according to the world or by the Spirit? Paul tells us to be filled with the Spirit. What does that require of us? I believe he is telling the church that first we must choose the life of the spirit over the life of the flesh and its pleasures. Do not misread me to say that I believe you are going to hell if you have a drink. I am saying, however, that Paul is calling us to choose which is more important to us. People who don’t have time to read their Bible or don’t have time to pray find the time for drinks with their friends.

Paul is suggesting that we can have social time around and with the Spirit of God. We can actually have fun flowing in the Spirit. In fact, it is the most fun you will ever have. Nothing compares! When you hang out with the Spirit of God, especially socially with your other friends, it is not a far leap to begin to speak in psalms, hymns, etc.

There is likely no limit to the wonders we can experience as we walk with our Buddy, the Holy Spirit. First, however, let us be filled.

Clean Hands

Psalm 18: 24

Therefore, the Lord has recompensed me according to my righteousness, according to the cleanness of my hands in His eyes.

There are a few Old Testament prophets who have New Testament eyes and spirits. David and Isaiah are chief among these. David wrote most of the psalms and he wrote this one specifically. As an interesting side note, many people barely consider the psalms as part of the Old Testament. Many New Testament Bibles include the books of Psalms and Proverbs. I have known people who would scarcely acknowledge that the Bible contained anything more than Matthew through Revelation but who would read the psalms. The reason for this, at least in part, might be because David had such a big revelation of who God is.

Today’s passage screams New Testament dispensation to me. It has Jesus’ blood all over it. Hallelujah! You see, the passage is a little frightening until you get to the last three words. Then, all of a sudden, we are on shouting ground! I get fired up over this because I do not want to be judged or compensated according to my righteousness. That would end up worse than a lump of coal in my Christmas stocking. I am all too happy, though, to receive of God through the filters of His eyes. Yahoo! He recompenses us according to the how He sees us, according to the glory which covers us through Jesus. Come on, that is worth a shout, an Amen or something.

Give God praise. Give Him glory. He has laid aside a reward for you based on Jesus’ righteousness. Glory to God!