Friday, February 21, 2020

#878 Laughter and Joy

When the Lord restored the fortunes of Zion,
we were like those who dream.
2 Then our mouth was filled with laughter,
and our tongue with shouts of joy;
then they said among the nations,
“The Lord has done great things for them.”
3 The Lord has done great things for us;
we are glad.

4 Restore our fortunes, O Lord,
like streams in the Negeb!
5 Those who sow in tears
shall reap with shouts of joy!
6 He who goes out weeping,
bearing the seed for sowing,
shall come home with shouts of joy,
bringing his sheaves with him. Psalm 126 ESV

A song of Ascent, the Lord restores.

When the Lord restored the fortunes of Zion - Israel has known captivity, slavery in Egypt before ever entering Jerusalem, the Babylonian and Assyrian captivities, Persian and then Rome much after this was written. As members of the fallen human race we are all born slaves and captives to sin. 

15 What then? Shall we sin because we are not under law, but under grace? Certainly not! 16 Do you not know that when you offer yourselves as obedient slaves, you are slaves to the one you obey, whether you are slaves to sin leading to death, or to obedience leading to righteousness? 17 But thanks be to God that, though you once were slaves to sin, you wholeheartedly obeyed the form of teaching to which you were committed.…
…18 You have been set free from sin and have become slaves to righteousness. 19 I am speaking in human terms because of the weakness of your flesh. Just as you used to offer the parts of your body in slavery to impurity and to escalating wickedness, so now offer them in slavery to righteousness leading to holiness. 20 For when you were slaves to sin, you were free of obligation to righteousness.… Romans 6: 15-20

We were like those who dream - It was too good to be true, probability stood in our way, it defies human reason. 

v. At times Christian revival has been described in these terms. J. Edwin Orr’s book All Your Need records the description of J. Oswald Sanders of the 1936 revival at Ngaruawahia, New Zealand: “For some time before Easter, a spirit of unusual expectancy had been kindled in our hearts by the Holy Spirit, but the reality far exceeded the expectation. Those of us who were responsible for the conduct of the camp had the great joy of sitting back and seeing God work in a sovereign way. We were as men that dreamed.” Cited from Enduring Word

…8 None of the rulers of this age understood it. For if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory. 9 Rather, as it is written: “No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no heart has imagined, what God has prepared for those who love Him.” 10 But God has revealed it to us by the Spirit. The Spirit searches all things, even the deep things of God.… 1 Corinthians 2: 8-10

Then our mouth was filled with laughter - Filled! I have been witness to both pagans and some of those who proclaim Christ, searching for some sign of euphoria through great strain, standing, swaying, and even writhing on the ground. It is the same way they treat faith, as though it is something to muster up, to demand and will into being. Faith is a gift according to Scripture and the people here in this song have received. This is a most natural response to the work God has done by grace. The emotion follows the realization, we were captives, dead in our trespasses and sin, and so how can this great thing be? Pinch me, I must be dreaming. 

The Lord has done great things for them - A true revival does not go without notice, even our neighbors, our enemies can see. Let our lives give testament to the glorious, merciful work of our salvation. Let men see me and say, "that is not of Calvin, only God could do that."

The Lord has done great things for us - Yes, we attest to that. We were lost, captive, slaves, and He has set us not only free, but restored us to fellowship. 

We are glad - It is the poorest of preaching that leads to a surface confession, that does not address sin and it's wages. If you are not motivated by the cross, if you do not find yourself in awe of redemption, your heart filled with the joys of a home beyond, then what did you believe? I may not always be happy with current situations, but I have only to remember the joy of my salvation, and I am glad.

- “It is a poor modesty which is ashamed to own its joy in the Lord. Call it rather a robbery of God.” (Spurgeon)

Restore our fortunes, O Lord - The joy of what they thought permanently lost leads them to hope for more. Being born again is amazing, but it also brings with it the knowledge and desire for holiness. We are thankful for our salvation, but our spirit is now at war with our flesh. We are not content to stay babes, but desire to grow in stature by the word of God, through faith in Jesus Christ, being conformed daily to His image. 

…23 But I see another law at work in my body, warring against the law of my mind and holding me captive to the law of sin that dwells within me. 24 What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? 25 Thanks be to God, through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, with my mind I serve the law of God, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin.… Romans 7: 23-25

Like the streams in the Negeb - Seasonal creeks, dry river beds, waiting for the rains of heaven to fill them. 

Those who sew in tears - Those, who once mourned, are comforted to the point of great joy. Let the sorrow over sin be the irrigation of your land. You will reap more than you have planted.

Thursday, February 20, 2020

#877 Shaken

Those who trust in the Lord are like Mount Zion,
which cannot be moved, but abides forever.
2 As the mountains surround Jerusalem,
so the Lord surrounds his people,
from this time forth and forevermore.
3 For the scepter of wickedness shall not rest
on the land allotted to the righteous,
lest the righteous stretch out
their hands to do wrong.
4 Do good, O Lord, to those who are good,
and to those who are upright in their hearts!
5 But those who turn aside to their crooked ways
the Lord will lead away with evildoers!
Peace be upon Israel!  Psalm 125 ESV

A Psalm of Ascents, the Lord surrounds His people.

Another of the Pilgrimage songs, another step in faith, reaching from the acknowledgement of God's past interventions in the songs before, faith looks to what it does not yet see, it hopes in God forevermore.

Those who trust in the Lord are like Mount Zion - If your trust is in the unchangeable, the infinitely Holy and just Creator, you come to a settled place in your heart. A city set on a hill, a fortress, surrounded by mountains and blessed by God. If you put your trust in Christ then it is in God, and His salvation. You are partakers in His death and resurrection, knowing that you have an advocate in the heavens, eternal and always making intercession for the saints. My hope and therefore my life rests in Him. 

…24 But God raised Him from the dead, releasing Him from the agony of death, because it was impossible for Him to be held in its clutches. 25 David says about Him: ‘I saw the Lord always before me; because He is at my right hand, I will not be shaken. 26 Therefore my heart is glad and my tongue rejoices; my body also will dwell in hope,… Acts 2: 24-26

So the Lord surrounds His people - This is from now on, you are never alone. He does not leave us comfortless, without discipline or locked up, but is ever working on our behalf. 

- Note, it is not said that Jehovah's power or wisdom defends believers, but he himself is round about them: they have his personality for their protection, his Godhead for their guard. We are here taught that the Lord's people are those who trust him, for they are thus described in the first verses: the line of faith is the line of grace, those who trust in the Lord are chosen of the Lord. The two verses together prove the eternal safety of the saints: they must abide where God has placed them, and God must for ever protect them from all evil. It would be difficult to imagine greater safety than is here set forth. C. H. Spurgeon 

For the scepter of wickedness shall not rest - You may be oppressed, wicked men may rule for a time, but it shall not find permanent rest over the righteous. Kings and kingdoms will come and go, but the promises of God will stand. Oppression brings with it the temptation of doubt, of hate, of giving up, disloyalty, compromise, but God promises that we will not be tempted beyond what we are able. He will provide a way of escape.

…21 For at that time there will be great tribulation, unmatched from the beginning of the world until now, and never to be seen again. 22 If those days had not been cut short, nobody would be saved. But for the sake of the elect, those days will be shortened. 23 At that time, if anyone says to you, ‘Look, here is the Christ!’ or ‘There He is,’ do not believe it.… Matthew 24: 21-23

And to those who are upright in their hearts - We should not fail in praying for the saints, especially those of us who are blessed with so much time. This is a great strength that we overlook, and when we do pray we tend to be self serving, but it is so much more glorious to take our eyes off ourselves. Count our present suffering as joy and let us look upon the suffering of others as so much the more significant. Let us find ways to relieve their suffering since ours no longer measures up. 

But those who turn aside to their crooked ways - The way of peace, the truth is not without consequence in an evil world, and some will give up the straight and narrow for the comforts and ease of the wicked.

- Alas, there are some who pass from one class to another, not by a happy conversion, turning from the twisting lanes of deceit into the highway of truth, but by an unhappy declension leaving the main road of honesty and holiness for the bypaths of wickedness. Such apostates have been seen in all ages, and David knew enough of them; he could never forget Saul, and Ahithophel, and others. How sad that men who once walked in the right way should turn aside from it! Observe the course of the false hearted: first, they look out for crooked ways; next, they choose them and make them "their crooked ways"; and then they turn aside into them. They never intend to go back unto perdition, but only to make a curve and drop into the right road again. The straight way becomes a little difficult, and so they make a circumbendibus, which all along aims at coming out right, though it may a little deviate from precision. These people are neither upright in heart, nor good, nor trusters in Jehovah, and therefore the Lord will deal otherwise with them than with his own people: when execution day comes these hypocrites and time servers shall be led out to the same gallows as the openly wicked. C. H. Spurgeon

18 Children, it is the last hour; and just as you have heard that the antichrist is coming, so now many antichrists have appeared. This is how we know it is the last hour. 19 They went out from us, but they did not belong to us. For if they had belonged to us, they would have remained with us. But their departure made it clear that none of them belonged to us. 20 You, however, have an anointing from the Holy One, and all of you know the truth.… 1 John 2: 18-20

Wednesday, February 19, 2020

#876 Let Us Now Say

If it had not been the Lord who was on our side—
let Israel now say—
2 if it had not been the Lord who was on our side
when people rose up against us,
3 then they would have swallowed us up alive,
when their anger was kindled against us;
4 then the flood would have swept us away,
the torrent would have gone over us;
5 then over us would have gone
the raging waters.

6 Blessed be the Lord,
who has not given us
as prey to their teeth!
7 We have escaped like a bird
from the snare of the fowlers;
the snare is broken,
and we have escaped!

8 Our help is in the name of the Lord,
who made heaven and earth. Psalm 124 ESV

A Psalm of Ascents, some attribute to David.

If it had not been the Lord who was on our side - Immanuel, God with us, recognize. It is written almost like one of those songs you hear in church, where the song leader sings a phrase and then the people echo. "Is this not the truth," let Israel now say - "yes, it is."

When people rose up against us - It does not give a specific event, but Israel had many enemies and the Lord intervened much. We are bound to err often, as we brush the dust off our sleeves, to think that we have conquered on our own, even though we peed ourselves in the midst of the turmoil. Noah was a prophet, who preached 120 years while building the ark, to a people who could not hear. They were spiritually dead, yet as violent and vile as they were, God's work still went on, and the ark was finished to the saving of Noah's household. David rose to fame when he stood against the giant, Goliath, who represented the nation of the Philistines, who had ravaged Israel for years. God had intervened so many times on their behalf, yet still their pride and desire for autonomy, led them to think too much of their own works, their pedigree, themselves. 

…4 Remain in Me, and I will remain in you. Just as no branch can bear fruit by itself unless it remains in the vine, neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in Me. 5 I am the vine and you are the branches. The one who remains in Me, and I in him, will bear much fruit. For apart from Me you can do nothing. 6 If anyone does not remain in Me, he is like a branch that is thrown away and withers. Such branches are gathered up, thrown into the fire, and burned.… John 15: 4-6

When their anger was kindled against us - You troubler of Israel, Ahab said to Elijah. Jezebel would have the prophet dead, as they would desire the fate of all the prophets to be. Isaiah, who wrote the most beautiful introduction to the gospels, often called the fifth gospel, he was sawn in half. John the Baptist, who brought the call to repentance, and proclaimed the coming of Christ, he was beheaded. 

“Anger is never more fiery than when the people of God are its objects. Sparks become flames, and the furnace is heated seven times hotter when God’s elect are to be thrust into the blaze.” (Spurgeon)

13 Then Nebuchadnezzar in furious rage commanded that Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego be brought. So they brought these men before the king. 14 Nebuchadnezzar answered and said to them, “Is it true, O Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, that you do not serve my gods or worship the golden image that I have set up? 15 Now if you are ready when you hear the sound of the horn, pipe, lyre, trigon, harp, bagpipe, and every kind of music, to fall down and worship the image that I have made, well and good. But if you do not worship, you shall immediately be cast into a burning fiery furnace. And who is the god who will deliver you out of my hands?”

16 Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego answered and said to the king, “O Nebuchadnezzar, we have no need to answer you in this matter. 17 If this be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of your hand, O king. 18 But if not, be it known to you, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up.”

19 Then Nebuchadnezzar was filled with fury, and the expression of his face was changed against Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. He ordered the furnace heated seven times more than it was usually heated. 20 And he ordered some of the mighty men of his army to bind Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, and to cast them into the burning fiery furnace. 21 Then these men were bound in their cloaks, their tunics, their hats, and their other garments, and they were thrown into the burning fiery furnace. 22 Because the king's order was urgent and the furnace overheated, the flame of the fire killed those men who took up Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. 23 And these three men, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, fell bound into the burning fiery furnace. Daniel 3: 13-23

As prey to their teeth - Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, refused to worship an idol, refused to walk in a way contrary to the truth. They served the living God, and so some have thought they could have bowed the knee but not worshiped in their hearts, but that is an anemic religion, and of no good to those watching. When we shut our mouths we have also shut up our hearts. There is no compassion in withholding the truth, in acting contrary to the proclamation of the only One, Who can save. Their friend Daniel would later be asked to worship a man, and he would be sent to the lion's den for honoring the God of Israel. Men may deliver you up, but God has the final say. If you go with God, you go to God, death has no teeth for the likes of God's children, only a shadow. 

The snare is broken - Whom the Son sets free shall be free indeed.

…53 For the perishable must be clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality. 54 When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come to pass: “Death has been swallowed up in victory.” 55“Where, O Death, is your victory? Where, O Death, is your sting?”… 1 Corinthians 15: 53-55

…13 And again: “I will put My trust in Him.” And once again: “Here am I, and the children God has given Me.” 14 Therefore, since the children have flesh and blood, He too shared in their humanity, so that by His death He might destroy him who holds the power of death, that is, the devil, 15 and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death.… Hebrews 2: 13-15

Our help is in the name of the Lord - There is no other name under heaven whereby men can be saved. Jesus Christ.

Monday, February 17, 2020

#875 Eyes

To you I lift up my eyes,
O you who are enthroned in the heavens!
2 Behold, as the eyes of servants
look to the hand of their master,
as the eyes of a maidservant
to the hand of her mistress,
so our eyes look to the Lord our God,
till he has mercy upon us.

3 Have mercy upon us, O Lord, have mercy upon us,
for we have had more than enough of contempt.
4 Our soul has had more than enough
of the scorn of those who are at ease,
of the contempt of the proud. Psalm 123 ESV

A Psalm looking to our God.

To You I lift up my eyes - Where is your hope? Where does your affection rest?

1 Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off every encumbrance and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with endurance the race set out for us. 2 Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. 3 Consider Him who endured such hostility from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.… Hebrews 12: 1-3

O You who are enthroned in the heavens - In whom have we believed? I know Whom I have believed, and so I am a vagabond here, looking heavenward, trusting Christ unto glorious admittance. There is the sky that I see, and at night the heavens I see somewhat, but faith would take my eyes beyond. The Psalmist magnifies God above all, eternal in the heavens. Oh that I would remember that I am dust, that I would step aside and call above myself. 

Behold, as the eyes of servants look to the hand of their master - 

Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send? Who will go for Us?” And I said, “Here am I. Send me!” 9 And He replied: “Go and tell this people, ‘Be ever hearing, but never understanding; be ever seeing, but never perceiving.’… Isaiah 6: 8-9

…18 Because of this, the Jews tried all the harder to kill Him. Not only was He breaking the Sabbath, but He was even calling God His own Father, making Himself equal with God. 19 So Jesus replied, “Truly, truly, I tell you, the Son can do nothing by Himself, unless He sees the Father doing it. For whatever the Father does, the Son also does. 20 The Father loves the Son and shows Him all He does. And to your amazement, He will show Him even greater works than these.… John 5: 18-20

As the eyes of a maidservant to the hand of her mistress - A man or woman's heart plans their course, but the Lord directs their steps. We look to our Father for direction, He is our Boss above bosses, King above kings.

…38 Then He said to them, “My soul is consumed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with Me.” 39 Going a little farther, He fell face down and prayed, “My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me. Yet not as I will, but as You will.” 40 Then Jesus returned to the disciples and found them sleeping. “Were you not able to keep watch with Me for one hour?” He asked Peter.… Matthew 26: 38-40

…49 I have not spoken on My own, but the Father who sent Me has commanded Me what to say and how to say it. 50 And I know that His command leads to eternal life. So I speak exactly what the Father has told Me to say.” John 12: 49-50

…17 Then the LORD said to me, “They have spoken well. 18 I will raise up for them a prophet like you from among their brothers. I will put My words in his mouth, and he will tell them everything I command him. 19 And I will hold accountable anyone who does not listen to My words that that prophet speaks in My name.… Deuteronomy 18: 17-19

So our eyes look to the Lord our God, till He has mercy upon us - Where was the blind beggar looking? We look everywhere else, friends, family, self, governments, but they have such limited jurisdiction. I did not know nor could I form words so eloquent with my mouth to ever surpass these, "Lord have mercy upon me, remember me, I believe."

…37“Jesus of Nazareth is passing by,” they told him. 38 So he called out, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” 39 Those who led the way admonished him to be silent, but he cried out all the louder, “Son of David, have mercy on me!”… Luke 18: 37-38

For we have had more than enough contempt - "Where is your God, O Israel?" "I would not follow a God like Him, a God that allows such suffering, a God that does not allow or give you your every want." There is an answer, but it stings and comes so unnaturally to the natural and fallen man. "We all like sheep have gone astray, we have turned everyone to his own way, and the Lord has laid upon Him the iniquity of us all. He is holy and we are not. We have all thought more highly of ourselves than we ought."

Our soul has had more than enough of the scorn of those who are at ease - Job could have written this. His friends spoke from health, as if that were the measure of righteousness. If you have been brought low then be thankful that you can now look up. Those who deride you only look at what they perceive to be their success, and this is their best life now, this is the only heaven they will know. Pity them this, that they cannot see, that they have arrived. They would not have a God that does not grant material wealth, they would rather exalt themselves. They would not have a God that sends people to hell, so in the end they did not want God, they get what is left. 

…29 But Abraham replied, ‘They have Moses and the prophets; let your brothers listen to them.’ 30‘No, father Abraham,’ he said, ‘but if someone is sent to them from the dead, they will repent.’ 31 Then Abraham said to him, ‘If they do not listen to Moses and the prophets, they will not be persuaded even if someone rises from the dead.’”… Luke 16: 29-31

Of the contempt of the proud - The fall.

…15 Rejoice with those who rejoice; weep with those who weep. 16 Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but enjoy the company of the lowly. Do not be conceited. 17 Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Carefully consider what is right in the eyes of everybody.… Romans 12: 15-17

Sunday, February 16, 2020

#874 Bethel

I was glad when they said to me,
“Let us go to the house of the Lord!”
2 Our feet have been standing
within your gates, O Jerusalem!

3 Jerusalem—built as a city
that is bound firmly together,
4 to which the tribes go up,
the tribes of the Lord,
as was decreed for Israel,
to give thanks to the name of the Lord.
5 There thrones for judgment were set,
the thrones of the house of David.

6 Pray for the peace of Jerusalem!
“May they be secure who love you!
7 Peace be within your walls
and security within your towers!”
8 For my brothers and companions' sake
I will say, “Peace be within you!”
9 For the sake of the house of the Lord our God,
I will seek your good. Psalm 122 ESV

A Psalm of Ascent, let us go.

I was glad when they said to me, "let us go to the house of the Lord" - Forsake not the assembly. This was a difficult thing for me, for many reasons, and I was not glad. As a youth, I would fake illness on Sunday so I could stay home and watch cartoons. Then I would miraculously recover when someone asked me to take a trip through the woods and fish the creek. Like the people, who followed Jesus for the fish and the bread, I didn't mind going on pizza night, or when there was a youth event with all you can eat tacos. On Wednesday nights, me and some other kids would go to the 7 eleven by my church. This was in the days when cigarettes were on the counter and even on a stand in the aisle, and one of us would distract the cashier while the others would steal smokes. On Sunday nights it was the same; my mom would ask us where we were, and it was a big church so we told her we were sitting in the balcony, and I would even look to see where she was sitting so I could say, "I was above you, I saw you sitting with Linda or Mrs. Parton." My mom was glad to be there because she saw it as obedience to the One Who saved her, but all I saw was hypocrisy, not mine, that never bothered me. 

Our feet have been standing within your gates, O Jerusalem - Three times a year, God commanded them to come to the feast at Jerusalem. Some of these pilgrims came many miles. 

Jerusalem, built as a city that is bound firmly together - David took this city from the Jebusites and began to fortify it as the capital city. He brought the tabernacle and the ark here, and though he did not build the temple, he was instrumental in gathering the materials for it's preparation.

David and the Jebusites

To which the tribes go up - God establishes the way to approach, where, and this was the place for all of Israel to come worship the one, true God. After Solomon's reign was over there was a split among the tribes, and the northern tribes decided to separate and have their own king. This was understandable in that Solomon's son promised to be a dictator who would not listen to wisdom. The temple was still in Jerusalem though, and this had not changed, nor the mandate of the feasts. The apostasy does not start with Jeroboam, there were high places that were abominable to God in Solomon's reign. Solomon had broke the law that God gave to kings and took many wives, also building places of worship to their gods. Jeroboam knows the mandate of the feasts, but offers the people a different way. He is afraid that if he lets the people return to Jerusalem, to worship at the temple, their hearts may go astray, not from God, but from him. He makes them golden calves to worship, but calls it Judaism, and look, now you don't have to make that long pilgrimage to Jerusalem 3 times a year. You can worship God here, the way you want to and at your convenience. It was not just watered down, it was heresy, and he led the people astray. 

…21“Believe Me, woman,” Jesus replied, “a time is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. 22 You worship what you do not know; we worship what we do know, for salvation is from the Jews. 23 But a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and in truth, for the Father is seeking such as these to worship Him.… John 4: 21-23

We are all called to worship the Creator, under the unity of truth, found in His word, not emotions, feelings, and those that would add or take away for their convenience or to fill the pews, don't follow. Go where God is held up, where He is preached in a way that honors and glorifies Him, not your ego. Roman Catholicism has done to Christianity what Jeroboam did to Judaism, keep the name but the Spirit and truth is gone. It's convenient because you can have a man tell you that you're saved, pay an indulgence to get a loved one out of purgatory, but God is not bound to anything but His own word. Mormons are called Christian by some as well, but they have considered the writings of an apostate teacher, Joseph Smith, to be on par with the Bible. They worship another Christ, who they think is Michael the archangel, even though God has made it clear that we do not worship angels, and Christ has made it clear, that He and the Father are One.

…57 Then the Jews said to Him, “You are not yet fifty years old, and You have seen Abraham?” 58“Truly, truly, I tell you,” Jesus declared, “before Abraham was born, I am!” 59 At this, they picked up stones to throw at Him. John 8: 57-59

…7 which is not even a gospel. Evidently some people are troubling you and trying to distort the gospel of Christ. 8 But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be under a divine curse! 9 As we have said before, so now I say again: If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received, let him be under a curse!… Galatians 1: 7-9

…23 At that time, if anyone says to you, ‘Look, here is the Christ!’ or ‘There He is,’ do not believe it. 24 For false Christs and false prophets will appear and perform great signs and wonders that would deceive even the elect, if that were possible. 25 See, I have told you in advance.… Matthew 24:23-25

Calling something worship doesn't make it acceptable to God. Calling a place the house of God, does not make it so. It is important that we meet with other believers, receiving the means of grace that God provides through the body of Christ, but convenience is not the first question. Do they hold God's word above their own opinions, are they seeking material blessing or the honor and glory of God? 

Pray for the peace of Jerusalem - 

- Peace was her name, pray that her condition may verify her title. Abode of Peace, peace be to thee. Here was a most sufficient reason for rejoicing at the thought of going up to the house of the Lord, since that sacred shrine stood in the centre of an area of peace: well might Israel pray that such peace should be continued. In a church peace is to be desired, expected, promoted, and enjoyed. If we may not say "Peace at any price, "yet we may certainly cry "Peace at the highest price." Those who are daily fluttered by rude alarms are charmed to reach their nest in a holy fellowship, and abide in it. In a church one of the main ingredients of success is internal peace: strife, suspicion, party spirit, division, --these are deadly things. Those who break the peace of the church deserve to suffer, and those who sustain it win a great blessing. Peace in the church should be our daily prayer, and in so praying we shall bring down peace upon ourselves; for the Psalmist goes on to say, They shall prosper that love thee, or, perhaps we may read it as a prayer, "May they have peace that love thee." C. H. Spurgeon

Saturday, February 15, 2020

#873 Keeper

I lift up my eyes to the hills.
From where does my help come?
2 My help comes from the Lord,
who made heaven and earth.

3 He will not let your foot be moved;
he who keeps you will not slumber.
4 Behold, he who keeps Israel
will neither slumber nor sleep.

5 The Lord is your keeper;
the Lord is your shade on your right hand.
6 The sun shall not strike you by day,
nor the moon by night.

7 The Lord will keep you from all evil;
he will keep your life.
8 The Lord will keep
your going out and your coming in
from this time forth and forevermore. Psalm 121 ESV

The second Psalm of Ascents, a song of degrees. 

I lift up my eyes to the hills. From where does my help come - Considering the passage before, the Psalmist's dealings with deceitful men, it is a revelation and a different direction. It is a revelation of the circumstance, the surroundings and the ways of men. If it is your great hope, if you are banking on some inherent goodness in them, that your good will not return evil from them, this is a vain hope. Do you have the power to change men's hearts, raise them from the dead? No, it is more than he can accomplish, he must look up. I was talking to a friend yesterday, recounting the Tsunamis in the east, and how the elephants began to act differently, not listening to their trainers, they took off for the high ground. They sensed what the tourist and other people did not, they had ears to hear, they heard and ran to the place of hope. The song writer could fall deep in the mire of depression, could be washed away by the waves if he continues to look at things at ground level, but he chooses to look up.

My help comes from the Lord, Who made heaven and earth - This is a high hope, and eternal perspective. The Maker of all is above all.

…2 Open the gates so a righteous nation may enter—one that remains faithful. 3 The steadfast of mind You will keep in perfect peace, because he trusts in You. 4 Trust in the LORD forever, because GOD the LORD is the Rock eternal.… Isaiah 26: 2-4

He will not let your foot be moved - In Psalm 119 we hear the Psalmist resolve to abide in the word, but we also hear his plea to be kept in the way. 

- In the original the words express a wish or prayer, --"May he not suffer thy foot to be moved." Promised preservation should be the subject of perpetual prayer; and we may pray believing; for those who have God for their keeper shall be safe from all the perils of the way. Among the hills and ravines of Palestine the literal keeping of the feet is a great mercy; but in the slippery ways of a tried and afflicted life, the boon of upholding is of priceless value, for a single false step might cause us a fall fraught with awful danger. To stand erect and pursue the even tenor of our way is a blessing which only God can give, which is worthy of the divine hand, and worthy also of perennial gratitude. C. H. Spurgeon 

He, Who keeps you, will not slumber - We may rest in this, that God does not sleep, does not change, cannot be moved. Never has a house been built by Him in the sand, He is the rock upon which all that last will withstand.

The Lord is Your Keeper - Have you noticed a theme yet? Hope not in self, what you have done, can do, but look up to Him, Who can keep even amidst the trials, that from eternity, will not make even a single grain upon the beach. The answer is always outside of you, above you, it is always God, and when you come alive to this, it is Christ (God) covering you, and His Spirit bringing you. 

…5 For we do not proclaim ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, and ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake. 6 For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” made His light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. 7 Now we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this surpassingly great power is from God and not from us.… 2 Corinthians 4: 5-7

The sun shall not strike you by day, nor the moon by night - This encompasses all time, awake or asleep. When things are clear or dim, we shall not be burned up, nor shall we be left in the dark. The safest place is in the shadow of the cross, Christ bears the full heat of God's wrath, and in the dark hours, the place of atonement protects the mind from wandering into error.

- Doubtless there are dangers of the light and of the dark, but in both and from both we shall be preserved--literally from excessive heat and from baneful chills; mystically from any injurious effects which might follow from doctrine bright or dim; spiritually from the evils of prosperity and adversity; eternally from the strain of overpowering glory and from the pressure of terrible events, such as judgment and the burning of the world. C. H. Spurgeon

1 When I came to you, brothers, I did not come with eloquence or wisdom as I proclaimed to you the testimony about God. 2 For I decided to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified. 3 I came to you in weakness and fear, and with much trembling.… 1 Corinthians 2: 1-3

…13 until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God, as we mature to the full measure of the stature of Christ. 14 Then we will no longer be infants, tossed about by the waves and carried around by every wind of teaching and by the clever cunning of men in their deceitful scheming. 15 Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into Christ Himself, who is the head.… Ephesians 4: 13-15

He will keep your life - 

- God is the sole keeper of the soul. Our soul is kept from the dominion of sin, the infection of error, the crush of despondency, the puffing up of pride; kept from the world, the flesh, and the devil; kept for holier and greater things; kept in the love of God; kept unto the eternal kingdom and glory. What can harm a soul that is kept of the Lord? C. H. Spurgeon

Your going out and Your coming in - The pilgrimage to the festival and the return home. When I go to face the world at work, or return to my family at night.  

…19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey all that I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”  Matthew 28: 19-20

Friday, February 14, 2020

#872 Distress

In my distress I called to the Lord,
and he answered me.
2 Deliver me, O Lord,
from lying lips,
from a deceitful tongue.

3 What shall be given to you,
and what more shall be done to you,
you deceitful tongue?
4 A warrior's sharp arrows,
with glowing coals of the broom tree!

5 Woe to me, that I sojourn in Meshech,
that I dwell among the tents of Kedar!
6 Too long have I had my dwelling
among those who hate peace.
7 I am for peace,
but when I speak, they are for war! Psalm 120 ESV

A song of Ascents. The first in a series of 15 Psalms that some would associate with steps or to bring up.

- “We shall consider them as songs sung by those pilgrims who went up to Jerusalem to worship… These songs of desire, and hope, and approach are appropriate for the pilgrims’ use as they go up to worship.” (G. Campbell Morgan) This being likely so, then we know that Jesus sang these songs on His many journeys to Jerusalem from Galilee.

- Who wrote or collected these Psalms is not known. “The author of these fifteen Psalms is not known; and most probably they were not the work of one person. They have been attributed to David, to Solomon, to Ezra, to Haggai, to Zechariah, and to Malachi, without any positive evidence. They are, however, excellent in their kind, and written with much elegance; containing strong and nervous sentiments of the most exalted piety, expressed with great felicity of language in a few words.” (Adam Clarke)

In my distress I called to the Lord - I am not certain of who the writer is, and so not the situation either, but the principal is universal. It has been my sad experience that it takes much pressure to bring me to call out, yet we are told to pray without ceasing. If this has brought him to such a place then the situation cannot be trivial or even considered only to it's ill, but if you are God's child and it has brought you to pray, know that all things work together for good. 

…6 Be anxious for nothing, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. 7 And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. 8 Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think on these things.… Philippians 4: 6-8

And He answered me - The best answers from God are the ones I cannot with reason perceive, and though I gave Him the play book of what would work best, according to my limited wisdom, yet He answers in His own time and way, according to His good purpose. Some times the best and most honest petition is "Lord, save me." Prayer builds relationship, which builds trust, and though we would prefer a crystal ball or a 12 step self help program, that is not faith.

…5 By faith Enoch was taken up so that he did not see death: “He could not be found, because God had taken him away.” For before he was taken, he was commended as one who pleased God. 6 And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who approaches Him must believe that He exists and that He rewards those who earnestly seek Him. 7 By faith Noah, when warned about things not yet seen, in godly fear built an ark to save his family. By faith he condemned the world and became heir of the righteousness that comes by faith.… Hebrews 11: 5-7

Deliver me, O Lord, from lying lips, from a deceitful tongue - When people believe what is not true about you it can be most distressing, but what better place to plead your case. God knows and if it is only slander then other men may be hard to convince of the truth, but God is quite aware. We should also pray this of our own tongues, for much evil comes of speaking what we do not know, taking someone's word against another and not considering the source. Thou shalt not lie, shalt not bear false witness, these should be written on our eyes and read before we speak. 

What shall be given to you - We reap what we sew. Lord, please put a guard before my mouth, extinguish the pride in my heart.

…25 But the one who looks intently into the perfect law of freedom, and continues to do so—not being a forgetful hearer, but an effective doer—he will be blessed in what he does. 26 If anyone considers himself religious and yet does not bridle his tongue, he deceives his heart and his religion is worthless. 27 Pure and undefiled religion before our God and Father is this: to care for orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.… James 1: 25-27

With glowing coals of the broom tree - Some describe the broom tree as a Juniper, and if the tongue as been shooting off darts, then judgment will bring these back upon it, but hold fast. The devil used but words in the garden, "hath God said." In our day there is a barrage of misinformation, malicious words, half truths which are whole lies; it is a race to get others to think evil of your opponent, truth would only get in the way. 

…15 and with your feet fitted with the readiness of the gospel of peace. 16 In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. 17 And take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.… Ephesians 6: 15-17

Woe to me that I sojourn in Meshech - This and Kedar describe barbaric tribes, bloody men, and perhaps the Psalmist did not dwell with either, but poetically compares his present company to these men. Sometimes I cannot very well differentiate between those in the building they call church and those outside. Sometimes I would prefer the company of the latter. 

- iii. “The verbs ‘dwell’ (garti, ‘sojourn’) and ‘live’ (sakanti, ‘tabernacle,’ ‘dwell’) are significantly chosen. Even though the psalmist may have enjoyed a permanent residence, he felt as if he was no more than a sojourner among his contemporaries. He did not feel at home among an ungodly people.” (VanGemeren)

Among those who hate peace - This would in no means be limited to any place, for they can be found everywhere in this world. 

I am for peace, but when I speak, they are for war - Remember this started with lying lips, and where they are there will always be strife.