Thursday, July 31, 2014

Reflections on 1 Chronicles 2

 1 Chronicles 02(Contemporary English Version)
  1. Jacob was the father of twelve sons: Reuben, Simeon, Levi, Judah, Issachar, Zebulun, Dan, Joseph, Benjamin, Naphtali, Gad, and Asher.
  2. (SEE 2:1)
  3. Judah and his Canaanite wife Bathshua had three sons: Er, Onan, and Shelah. But the LORD had Er put to death, because he disobeyed and did what the LORD hated.
  4. Judah and his daughter-in-law Tamar also had two sons: Perez and Zerah.
  5. Perez was the father of Hezron and Hamul.
  6. Zerah was the father of Zimri, Ethan, Heman, Calcol, and Darda.
  7. Achan, who was a descendant of Zerah and the son of Carmi, caused trouble for Israel, because he kept for himself things that belonged only to the LORD.
  8. Ethan's son was Azariah.
  9. Hezron was the father of Jerahmeel, Ram, and Caleb.
  10. Ram was the father of Amminadab and the grandfather of Nahshon, a tribal leader of Judah.
  11. Nahshon's descendants included Salma, Boaz,
  12. Obed, and Jesse.
  13. Jesse had seven sons, who were born in the following order: Eliab, Abinadab, Shimea, Nethanel, Raddai, Ozem, and David.
  14. (SEE 2:13)
  15. (SEE 2:13)
  16. Jesse also had two daughters: Zeruiah and Abigail. Zeruiah was the mother of Abishai, Joab, and Asahel.
  17. Abigail's husband was Jether, who was a descendant of Ishmael, and their son was Amasa.
  18. Hezron's son Caleb married Azubah, and their daughter was Jerioth, the mother of Jesher, Shobab, and Ardon.
  19. After the death of Azubah, Caleb married Ephrath. Their son Hur
  20. was the father of Uri and the grandfather of Bezalel.
  21. When Hezron was sixty years old, he married the daughter of Machir, who settled the region of Gilead. Their son Segub
  22. was the father of Jair, who ruled twenty-three villages in the region of Gilead.
  23. Some time later the nations of Geshur and Aram captured sixty towns in that region, including the villages that belonged to Jair, as well as the town of Kenath and the nearby villages. Everyone from the region of Gilead was a descendant of Machir.
  24. After the death of Hezron, Caleb married Ephrath, his father's wife. Their son was Ashhur, who later settled the town of Tekoa.
  25. Jerahmeel, Hezron's oldest son, was the father of Ram, Bunah, Oren, Ozem, and Ahijah.
  26. Jerahmeel had a second wife, Atarah, who gave birth to Onam.
  27. Ram was the father of Maaz, Jamin, and Eker.
  28. Onam was the father of Shammai and Jada. Shammai was the father of Nadab and Abishur.
  29. Abishur married Abihail, and their two sons were Ahban and Molid.
  30. Nadab was the father of Seled and Appaim. Seled had no children;
  31. Appaim's son was Ishi, the father of Sheshan and the grandfather of Ahlai.
  32. Jada was the father of Jether and Jonathan. Jether had no children,
  33. but Jonathan had two sons: Peleth and Zaza.
  34. Sheshan had no sons, and so he let one of his daughters marry Jarha, his Egyptian slave. Their son was Attai,
  35. (SEE 2:34)
  36. the father of Nathan and the grandfather of Zabad.
  37. Zabad's descendants included Ephlal, Obed, Jehu, Azariah, Helez, Eleasah, Sismai, Shallum, Jekamiah, and Elishama.
  38. (SEE 2:37)
  39. (SEE 2:37)
  40. (SEE 2:37)
  41. (SEE 2:37)
  42. Caleb, Jerahmeel's brother, had the following descendants: Mesha, Ziph, Mareshah, Hebron,
  43. and Hebron's four sons, Korah, Tappuah, Rekem, and Shema.
  44. Shema was the father of Raham and the grandfather of Jorkeam. Rekem was the father of Shammai,
  45. the grandfather of Maon, and the great-grandfather of Bethzur.
  46. Ephah was one of Caleb's wives, and their sons were Haran, Moza, and Gazez. Haran named his son after his brother Gazez.
  47. Ephah was the daughter of Jahdai, who was also the father of Regem, Jotham, Geshan, Pelet, and Shaaph.
  48. Maacah was another of Caleb's wives, and their sons were Sheber and Tirhanah.
  49. Later, they had two more sons: Shaaph the father of Madmannah, and Sheva the father of Machbenah and Gibea. Caleb's daughter was Achsah.
  50. All of these were Caleb's descendants. Hur, the oldest son of Caleb and Ephrath, had three sons: Shobal, Salma, and Hareph, who settled the town of Beth-Gader.
  51. (SEE 2:50)
  52. Shobal, who settled the town of Kiriath-Jearim, was the ancestor of Haroeh, half of the Menuhoth clan,
  53. and the clans that lived near Kiriath-Jearim; they were the Ithrites, the Puthites, the Shumathites, and the Mishraites. The Zorathites and the Eshtaolites were descendants of the Mishraites.
  54. Salma settled the town of Bethlehem and was the ancestor of the Netophathites, the people of Atroth-Bethjoab, half of the Manahathite clan, and the Zorites.
  55. Salma was also the ancestor of the clans in Jabez that kept the court and government records; they were the Tirathites, the Shimeathites, and the Sucathites. These clans were the descendants of Hammath the Kenite, who was also the ancestor of the Rechabites.

Chapter 1 of 1 Chronicles concluded David's lineage with Israel while it finished the chapter following the line of Esau, Israel's brother. Chapter 2 picks up with Israel and then follows the lineage on through his son, Judah. It was Israel's twelve sons that formed the nation of Israel with its twelve tribes. But it was his son, Judah, from whose line came David, who was from the tribe of Judah.

Should anyone be tempted to think that good and bad are handed down through the genes, or that God can only use good people, this list should dissuade them of this thinking. Though there are many good people in the list, there are also a number of evil people. But this list of descendants produced king David and Jesus. God will use people however He chooses and, if necessary, in ways that do not require their choosing or their character.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Reflections on 1 Chronicles 1

 1 Chronicles 01(Contemporary English Version)
  1. Adam was the father of Seth, and his descendants were Enosh, Kenan, Mahalalel, Jared, Enoch, Methuselah, Lamech, and Noah, who had three sons: Shem, Ham, and Japheth.
  2. (SEE 1:1)
  3. (SEE 1:1)
  4. (SEE 1:1)
  5. Japheth was the father of Gomer, Magog, Madai, Javan, Tubal, Meshech, and Tiras, and they were the ancestors of the kingdoms named after them.
  6. Gomer was the ancestor of Ashkenaz, Riphath, and Togarmah.
  7. Javan was the ancestor of Elishah, Tarshish, Kittim, and Dodanim.
  8. Ham was the father of Ethiopia, Egypt, Put, and Canaan, and they were the ancestors of the kingdoms named after them.
  9. Ethiopia was the ancestor of Seba, Havilah, Sabta, Raamah, and Sabteca. Raamah was the ancestor of Sheba and Dedan.
  10. Ethiopia was also the father of Nimrod, the world's first mighty warrior.
  11. Egypt was the ancestor of Ludim, Anamim, Lehabim, Naphtuhim,
  12. Pathrusim, Casluhim, and Caphtorim, the ancestor of the Philistines.
  13. Canaan's oldest son was Sidon; his other son was Heth.
  14. Canaan was also the ancestor of the Jebusites, the Amorites, the Girgashites, the Hivites, and Arkites, the Sinites, the Arvadites, the Zemarites, and the Hamathites.
  15. (SEE 1:14)
  16. (SEE 1:14)
  17. Shem was the ancestor of Elam, Asshur, Arpachshad, Lud, Aram, Uz, Hul, Gether, and Meshech; they were the ancestors of the kingdoms named after them.
  18. Arpachshad was Shelah's father and Eber's grandfather.
  19. Eber named his first son Peleg, because in his time the earth was divided into tribal regions. Eber's second son was Joktan,
  20. the ancestor of Almodad, Sheleph, Hazarmaveth, Jerah, Hadoram, Uzal, Diklah, Ebal, Abimael, Sheba, Ophir, Havilah, and Jobab.
  21. (SEE 1:20)
  22. (SEE 1:20)
  23. (SEE 1:20)
  24. Shem's descendants included Arpachshad, Shelah, Eber, Peleg, Reu, Serug, Nahor, Terah, and Abram, later renamed Abraham.
  25. (SEE 1:24)
  26. (SEE 1:24)
  27. (SEE 1:24)
  28. Abraham was the father of Isaac and Ishmael.
  29. Ishmael had twelve sons, who were born in the following order: Nebaioth, Kedar, Adbeel, Mibsam, Mishma, Dumah, Massa, Hadad, Tema, Jetur, Naphish, and Kedemah.
  30. (SEE 1:29)
  31. (SEE 1:29)
  32. Abraham and his slave woman Keturah had six sons: Zimran, Jokshan, Medan, Midian, Ishbak, and Shuah. Jokshan was the father of Sheba and Dedan.
  33. Midian was the father of Ephah, Epher, Hanoch, Abida, and Eldaah.
  34. Abraham's son Isaac was the father of Esau and Jacob.
  35. Esau was the father of Eliphaz, Reuel, Jeush, Jalam, and Korah.
  36. Eliphaz was the father of Teman, Omar, Zephi, Gatam, Kenaz, Timna, and Amalek.
  37. Reuel was the father of Nahath, Zerah, Shammah, and Mizzah.
  38. Seir was the father of Lotan, Shobal, Zibeon, Anah, Dishon, Ezer, and Dishan.
  39. Lotan was the father of Hori and Homam; Lotan's sister was Timna.
  40. Shobal was the father of Alvan, Manahath, Ebal, Shephi, and Onam. Zibeon was the father of Aiah and Anah.
  41. Anah was the father of Dishon and the grandfather of Hemdan, Eshban, Ithran, and Cheran.
  42. Ezer was the father of Bilhan, Zaavan, and Jaakan. Dishan was the father of Uz and Aran.
  43. Before kings ruled in Israel, Bela son of Beor ruled the country of Edom from its capital of Dinhabah.
  44. After Bela's death, Jobab son of Zerah from Bozrah became king.
  45. After Jobab's death, Husham from the land of Teman became king.
  46. After Husham's death, Hadad son of Bedad became king and ruled from Avith. Earlier, Bedad had defeated the Midianites in the territory of Moab.
  47. After Hadad's death, Samlah from Masrekah became king;
  48. after Samlah's death, Shaul from the town of Rehoboth on the Euphrates River became king;
  49. and after Shaul's death, Baal Hanan son of Achbor became king.
  50. After Baal Hanan's death, Hadad ruled from Pai. His wife was Mehetabel, the daughter of Matred and granddaughter of Mezahab.
  51. The Edomite clans were Timna, Alvah, Jetheth,
  52. Oholibamah, Elah, Pinon,
  53. Kenaz, Teman, Mibzar,
  54. Magdiel, and Iram.

The chronicler begins his book by tracing David's lineage all the way back to the first man, Adam. This, of course, is also Jesus' lineage up to the time of David. The first chapter of 1 Chronicles traces the lineage from Adam to Jacob, which is illustrated below. At the point where Jacob (Israel) enters the picture, the line of his brother, Esau, is traced first, which concludes the chapter. Jacob's lineage will begin in chapter 2.

Adam and Noah and Abraham are significant in our minds because of the pivotal roles they played in history. But in between their names in this lengthy list are many names of which we have never heard. They are insignificant to us, but not to God and His purposes. Without them Noah and Abraham would not have come along, nor would the tribes of Israel or David.

When we raise the question of what purpose God might have for us, we are usually thinking of the present. But beyond the present, what purpose might God have for us in the future? Though we may feel our role in the present is insignificant, what significant role might God have for us to play for the future beyond our lifetime?

Lineage of Adam to Jacob

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Reflections on Psalms 150

 Psalms 150(Contemporary English Version)
  1. Shout praises to the LORD! Praise God in his temple. Praise him in heaven, his mighty fortress.
  2. Praise our God! His deeds are wonderful, too marvelous to describe.
  3. Praise God with trumpets and all kinds of harps.
  4. Praise him with tambourines and dancing, with stringed instruments and woodwinds.
  5. Praise God with cymbals, with clashing cymbals.
  6. Let every living creature praise the LORD. Shout praises to the LORD!

The Psalms conclude with Psalms 150 in a call to all creation to give God exuberant praise using every available musical instrument. All of the praise of this psalm is aimed at God's glory. This, after all, was the purpose of creation - to glorify God. Man fulfills the central reason for his existence in giving praise to God. Whether he realizes it or not, he needs to give praise to God for his own sense of fulfillment. It answers the age-old question of life's meaning. Apart from God the answer cannot be found.

So let us join all creation in praising God for His powerful acts and His abundant greatness.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Reflections on Psalms 149

 Psalms 149(Contemporary English Version)
  1. Shout praises to the LORD! Sing him a new song of praise when his loyal people meet.
  2. People of Israel, rejoice because of your Creator. People of Zion, celebrate because of your King.
  3. Praise his name by dancing and playing music on harps and tambourines.
  4. The LORD is pleased with his people, and he gives victory to those who are humble.
  5. All of you faithful people, praise our glorious Lord! Celebrate and worship.
  6. Praise God with songs on your lips and a sword in your hand.
  7. Take revenge and punish the nations.
  8. Put chains of iron on their kings and rulers.
  9. Punish them as they deserve; this is the privilege of God's faithful people. Shout praises to the LORD!

Israel is called upon to sing a new song to the Lord. It's as if this is a renewal of commitment to the Lord possibly brought about by a momentous occasion. It is not only a renewed desire to give praise to the Lord, who is their Maker and King, but a desire to be identified as His people. This identity as His people prompts them to be the Lord's instruments of judgment on those whom God has decreed judgment.

Often in the psalms praise is motivated by something the Lord has done for the psalmist and those he may call to join him in giving praise. Often it is because the Lord has answered prayer or delivered them from their enemies. Praise on this occasion, however, is simply because the Lord is their Maker and King and the people take pleasure in knowing that God takes pleasure in His people. They triumph in being God's people.

Then, as if with renewed vigor, they turn from their worship to serve the Lord. In a New Testament context this service might be directed more positively, but in this context it is inflicting bengeance and judgment on the nations to whom God has decreed judgment.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Reflections on Psalms 148

 Psalms 148(Contemporary English Version)
  1. Shout praises to the LORD! Shout the LORD's praises in the highest heavens.
  2. All of you angels, and all who serve him above, come and offer praise.
  3. Sun and moon, and all of you bright stars, come and offer praise.
  4. Highest heavens, and the water above the highest heavens, come and offer praise.
  5. Let all things praise the name of the LORD, because they were created at his command.
  6. He made them to last forever, and nothing can change what he has done.
  7. All creatures on earth, you obey his commands, so come praise the LORD!
  8. Sea monsters and the deep sea, fire and hail, snow and frost, and every stormy wind, come praise the LORD!
  9. All mountains and hills, fruit trees and cedars,
  10. every wild and tame animal, all reptiles and birds, come praise the LORD!
  11. Every king and every ruler, all nations on earth,
  12. every man and every woman, young people and old, come praise the LORD!
  13. All creation, come praise the name of the LORD. Praise his name alone. The glory of God is greater than heaven and earth.
  14. Like a bull with mighty horns, the LORD protects his faithful nation Israel, because they belong to him. Shout praises to the LORD!

All creation is summoned to praise the Lord in this psalm. It brings to mind the impromptu performance of a flash mob in which on a busy city street, or similar public place, a couple of performers suddenly pop up to begin a performance followed soon afterward by a few more performers and then more and more keep popping up. Eventually the whole group of performers have emerged and the performance plays out to its completion.

For this performance in psalm 148 the angels and heavenly hosts suddenly emerge to give praise to the Lord. Soon the sun, moon, and stars are also giving praise. Then the highest heavens, possibly a reference to the extended portions of the universe, followed by the waters above the heavens, which could be the waters spoken of in the creation account which were above the firmament, join those giving praise.

Next, the inhabitants of the earth join the performance beginning with the sea creatures and beings of the ocean depths. Then enter the elements: lightning, hail, snow, cloud, and powerful wind. Can anyone imagine the awesomeness of this performance? Now the mountains, hills, and trees join in. Then along come the wild animals, cattle, crawling creatures, and flying birds. This performance could be frightening except it is all giving praise to the Lord. How could anything bad come from this?

Finally the people of the earth join the praise and the performing group is complete. This last group begins first with the kings of the earth followed by all the rest, from young to old. Though this is a performance that is yet to be seen, it could yet be seen.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Reflections on Psalms 147

 Psalms 147 (Contemporary English Version)
  1. Shout praises to the LORD! Our God is kind, and it is right and good to sing praises to him.
  2. The LORD rebuilds Jerusalem and brings the people of Israel back home again.
  3. He renews our hopes and heals our bodies.
  4. He decided how many stars there would be in the sky and gave each one a name.
  5. Our LORD is great and powerful! He understands everything.
  6. The LORD helps the poor, but he smears the wicked in the dirt.
  7. Celebrate and sing! Play your harps for the LORD our God.
  8. He fills the sky with clouds and sends rain to the earth, so that the hills will be green with grass.
  9. He provides food for cattle and for the young ravens, when they cry out.
  10. The LORD doesn't care about the strength of horses or powerful armies.
  11. The LORD is pleased only with those who worship him and trust his love.
  12. Everyone in Jerusalem, come and praise the LORD your God!
  13. He makes your city gates strong and blesses your people by giving them children.
  14. God lets you live in peace, and he gives you the very best wheat.
  15. As soon as God speaks, the earth obeys.
  16. He covers the ground with snow like a blanket of wool, and he scatters frost like ashes on the ground.
  17. God sends down hailstones like chips of rocks. Who can stand the cold?
  18. At his command the ice melts, the wind blows, and streams begin to flow.
  19. God gave his laws and teachings to the descendants of Jacob, the nation of Israel.
  20. But he has not given his laws to any other nation. Shout praises to the LORD!

Psalm 147 might be summed up in one sentence: "How great is our God who values those who fear Him, those who put their hope in His faithful love." A good portion of the psalm supports the first part of this statement: "How great is our God."
  • Psa 147:4 He counts the number of the stars; He gives names to all of them.
  • Psa 147:5 Our Lord is great, vast in power; His understanding is infinite.
  • Psa 147:8 who covers the sky with clouds, prepares rain for the earth, and causes grass to grow on the hills.
  • Psa 147:15 He sends His command throughout the earth; His word runs swiftly.
  • Psa 147:16 He spreads snow like wool; He scatters frost like ashes;
  • Psa 147:17 He throws His hailstones like crumbs. Who can withstand His cold?
  • Psa 147:18 He sends His word and melts them; He unleashes His winds, and the waters flow.
The remainder of the psalm supports the second part of the statement, "who values those who fear Him, those who put their hope in His faithful love."
  • Psa 147:2 The LORD rebuilds Jerusalem; He gathers Israel's exiled people.
  • Psa 147:3 He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.
  • Psa 147:6 The LORD helps the afflicted but brings the wicked to the ground.
  • Psa 147:13 For He strengthens the bars of your gates and blesses your children within you.
  • Psa 147:14 He endows your territory with prosperity; He satisfies you with the finest wheat.
  • Psa 147:19 He declares His word to Jacob, His statutes and judgments to Israel.
And so we conclude with the psalmist: "How great is our God who values those who fear Him, those who put their hope in His faithful love."

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Reflections on Psalms 146

 Psalms 146(Contemporary English Version)
  1. Shout praises to the LORD! With all that I am, I will shout his praises.
  2. I will sing and praise the LORD God for as long as I live.
  3. You can't depend on anyone, not even a great leader.
  4. Once they die and are buried, that will be the end of all their plans.
  5. The LORD God of Jacob blesses everyone who trusts him and depends on him.
  6. God made heaven and earth; he created the sea and everything else. God always keeps his word.
  7. He gives justice to the poor and food to the hungry. The LORD sets prisoners free
  8. and heals blind eyes. He gives a helping hand to everyone who falls. The LORD loves good people
  9. and looks after strangers. He defends the rights of orphans and widows, but destroys the wicked.
  10. The LORD God of Zion will rule forever! Shout praises to the LORD!

Our psalmist is again David who finds plenty of reason to praise the Lord. The psalm compares God's care to that of man, particularly that of rulers. "Happy is the one," he says, "whose hope is in the LORD his God," who is, "the Maker of heaven and earth, the sea and everything in them." (146:5-6) But he cautions not to "trust in nobles, in man, who cannot save." For with man, regardless of his standing or power, "When his breath leaves him, he returns to the ground; on that day his plans die." (146:3-4) David gives two powerful reasons why we should not trust in man: First, man cannot even save himself let alone anyone else, and second, regardless of how good a man may be to us, when he dies, his efforts on our behalf die with him.

Not so with God. As already mentioned, He is Maker of heaven and earth. Nothing is beyond His power. Furthermore, He reigns forever. He will never die and thus His help for us will never run out. Instead, it is our need for His help that will run out. David lists several reasons the one whose hope is in the Lord will be happy:
  • He remains faithful forever.
  • He executes justice for the exploited.
  • He gives food to the hungry.
  • He frees prisoners.
  • He opens the eyes of the blind.
  • He raises up those who are oppressed.
  • He loves the righteous.
  • He protects foreigners.
  • He helps the fatherless and the widow.
  • And he frustrates the ways of the wicked.
We can also read into this that these are all things that man cannot do for us or can only do with limited capacity. We should therefore join with David in giving praise to the Lord.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Reflections on Psalms 145

 Psalms 145(Contemporary English Version)
  1. (By David for praise.) I will praise you, my God and King, and always honor your name.
  2. I will praise you each day and always honor your name.
  3. You are wonderful, LORD, and you deserve all praise, because you are much greater than anyone can understand.
  4. Each generation will announce to the next your wonderful and powerful deeds.
  5. I will keep thinking about your marvelous glory and your mighty miracles.
  6. Everyone will talk about your fearsome deeds, and I will tell all nations how great you are.
  7. They will celebrate and sing about your matchless mercy and your power to save.
  8. You are merciful, LORD! You are kind and patient and always loving.
  9. You are good to everyone, and you take care of all your creation.
  10. All creation will thank you, and your loyal people will praise you.
  11. They will tell about your marvelous kingdom and your power.
  12. Then everyone will know about the mighty things you do and your glorious kingdom.
  13. Your kingdom will never end, and you will rule forever. Our LORD, you keep your word and do everything you say.
  14. When someone stumbles or falls, you give a helping hand.
  15. Everyone depends on you, and when the time is right, you provide them with food.
  16. By your own hand you satisfy the desires of all who live.
  17. Our LORD, everything you do is kind and thoughtful,
  18. and you are near to everyone whose prayers are sincere.
  19. You satisfy the desires of all your worshipers, and you come to save them when they ask for help.
  20. You take care of everyone who loves you, but you destroy the wicked.
  21. I will praise you, LORD, and everyone will respect your holy name forever.

When you give God praise, what do you praise Him for? Is it His character, nature, and greatness, or is it His mighty works and acts? In general people are probably drawn most to His mighty works and acts. Maybe it is a bent toward sensationalism? And maybe it is through His mighty works that we are first drawn to Him and acknowledge Him. But if we are to come to know Him in a personal way, we must also come to acknowledge His character, nature, and splendor.

David, the writer of this psalm, began by praising the greatness of God's name and His greatness in general. It was an all-incompassing praise of God for who He is. He is so great, David said, that "His greatness is unsearchable." (145:3) Then David mentioned that one generation will declare God to the next generation. The focus of this declaration will be on God's works and acts. But while the general declaration of God from generation to generation will focus on His works and acts, David will continue to speak of His splendor and greatness.

Then, in verse 10, David points out that all creation will praise the Lord. God's creation apart from mankind gives Him praise without uttering a word. It is a praise man cannot ignore. He may attribute creation to another source than God or to chance, but he cannot ignore it for it is the world and universe in which he lives. And this whole universe which God has made bears witness to God's greatness through its existence.
Among mankind, however, it will only be the godly who bless and praise God. They will "speak of the glory of Your kingdom and will declare Your might, informing all people of Your mighty acts and of the glorious splendor of Your kingdom." (145:11-12) It is not just the godly, however, that God helps, for He "raises up all who are oppressed," and all people look to Him for their food, even though they may not acknowledge it is God to whom they are dependent for their food. And God opens His hand to satisfy "the desire of every living thing." (145:16) But it is those who acknowledge Him and call on Him who benefit the most.

He is near those who call on Him with integrity. He fulfills the desires of those who fear Him and hears their cry for help and saves them. He "guards all those who love Him, but He destroys all the wicked." (145:20) Among those who do not acknowledge God or call upon Him there will be those who turn to wickedness. The time will come when they will no longer benefit from God's provision, for they will be destroyed.

David, however, vows to continually give the Lord praise, and encourages "every living thing" to do so as well.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Reflections on Psalms 144

 Psalms 144(Contemporary English Version)
  1. (By David.) I praise you, LORD! You are my mighty rock, and you teach me how to fight my battles.
  2. You are my friend, and you are my fortress where I am safe. You are my shield, and you made me the ruler of our people.
  3. Why do we humans mean anything to you, our LORD? Why do you care about us?
  4. We disappear like a breath; we last no longer than a faint shadow.
  5. Open the heavens like a curtain and come down, LORD. Touch the mountains and make them send up smoke.
  6. Use your lightning as arrows to scatter my enemies and make them run away.
  7. Reach down from heaven and set me free. Save me from the mighty flood
  8. of those lying foreigners who can't tell the truth.
  9. In praise of you, our God, I will sing a new song, while playing my harp.
  10. By your power, kings win wars, and your servant David is saved from deadly swords.
  11. Won't you keep me safe from those lying foreigners who can't tell the truth?
  12. Let's pray that our young sons will grow like strong plants and that our daughters will be as lovely as columns in the corner of a palace.
  13. May our barns be filled with all kinds of crops. May our fields be covered with sheep by the thousands,
  14. and every cow have calves. Don't let our city be captured or any of us be taken away, and don't let cries of sorrow be heard in our streets.
  15. Our LORD and our God, you give these blessings to all who worship you.

David was amazed at God's intervention in his life, and began this psalm by crediting God with the abilities and status as king that David had. God had trained his hands for battle and God had subdued the Israelite people under David as king. The thought of it led David to reflect on God's greatness and man's insignificance and marvel that God would even think of man at all, saying, "what is man, that You care for him, the son of man, that You think of him?" (144:3)

If one begins to think too highly of themselves, pushing away God's involvement in their life, they need only to consider the fact that God has been around forever and they themselves are "like a breath; (their) days are like a passing shadow." (144:4) As David continues into verse 5 and following, the whole idea of God's involvement in the lives of mankind becomes even more amazing. Not only does God care for man and think of him, He actually acts on man's behalf, bringing to bear his mighty works at man's request. And this is what David did - request that God bring into play His mighty works to route David's enemies: "LORD, part Your heavens and come down. Touch the mountains, and they will smoke. Flash Your lightning and scatter the foe; shoot Your arrows and rout them." (144:5-6)

David was elated at God's intervention on his behalf and vowed to worship Him with "a new song to You." (144:9) For God is "the One who gives victory to kings, who frees His servant David from the deadly sword." (144:10)

The outcome of God's intervention on man's behalf was decribed by David in idyllic terms in the closing verses of the psalm: their sons will be healthy and wholesome like strong healthy plants, their daughters statuesque and beautiful like the scuptured pillars of the palace. Their barns will be filled with produce and their livestock will flourish. This is the state God desires for His people. It is a state that will exist in the kingdom He establishes under Christ's reign after He returns. But until then it will always be marred by people who do not allow God's intervention in their lives or at least do not allow it to the extent that makes possible this life of complete peace and prosperity.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Reflections on Psalms 143

 Psalms 143(Contemporary English Version)
  1. (A psalm by David.) Listen, LORD, as I pray! You are faithful and honest and will answer my prayer.
  2. I am your servant. Don't try me in your court, because no one is innocent by your standards.
  3. My enemies are chasing me, crushing me in the ground. I am in total darkness, like someone long dead.
  4. I have given up all hope, and I feel numb all over.
  5. I remember to think about the many things you did in years gone by.
  6. Then I lift my hands in prayer, because my soul is a desert, thirsty for water from you.
  7. Please hurry, LORD, and answer my prayer. I feel hopeless. Don't turn away and leave me here to die.
  8. Each morning let me learn more about your love because I trust you. I come to you in prayer, asking for your guidance.
  9. Please rescue me from my enemies, LORD! I come to you for safety.
  10. You are my God. Show me what you want me to do, and let your gentle Spirit lead me in the right path.
  11. Be true to your name, LORD, and keep my life safe. Use your saving power to protect me from trouble.
  12. I am your servant. Show how much you love me by destroying my enemies.

David was desperate for God's help and pleaded for God to deliver him from his enemies based not on his own merit but on God's faithfulness and righteousness. He knew that if God were to deal with him justly he was doomed for "no one alive is righteous in Your sight." (143:2)

David was crushed by the enemy, his heart "overcome with dismay." He felt that if God did not rescue him quickly he would "be like those going down to the Pit." But his plea to God was not only to be resuced but to be renewed in his relationship with God. Maybe he realized his current situation was a result of having drifted away from God and His counsel. In verses 7-12 David made four specific requests of the Lord:
  • That God would lead him in the way he should go.
  • That God would rescue him from his enemies.
  • That God would teach him by His Spirit.
  • And, that God would let him live, delivered by His righteousness.
His petition to the Lord, therefore, was not only to be delivered from his enemies, but to be delivered to a life in which he was led by God and taught by His spirit. What about us. Are we as interested in being directed by God and taught by His Spirt as we are being rescued from our difficulties?

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Reflections on Psalms 142

 Psalms 142(Contemporary English Version)
  1. (A special psalm and a prayer by David when he was in the cave.) I pray to you, LORD. I beg for mercy.
  2. I tell you all of my worries and my troubles,
  3. and whenever I feel low, you are there to guide me. A trap has been hidden along my pathway.
  4. Even if you look, you won't see anyone who cares enough to walk beside me. There is no place to hide, and no one who really cares.
  5. I pray to you, LORD! You are my place of safety, and you are my choice in the land of the living. Please answer my prayer. I am completely helpless.
  6. Help! They are chasing me, and they are too strong.
  7. Rescue me from this prison, so I can praise your name. And when your people notice your wonderful kindness to me, they will rush to my side.

This psalm and prayer of David dates back to before he was king and king Saul was pursuing him in an attempt to kill him. He was forced to hide in a cave. He was pursued by his enemies and deserted by his friends. Everywhere he went he was in danger of someone seeing him and reporting it to Saul. His situation seemed hopeless. In overwhelming situations such as these we are prone to metaphorically roll up into a ball and ask ourselves over and over, "what am I to do, what am I to do?"

The sense of this psalm seems to indicate that David was at that point. But he didn't roll into a ball and wonder what he was to do. Instead, he went to the Lord in prayer. To the one who has not experienced prayer in such situations, this might seem to be a futile exercise and a waste of time. But the one who has experienced it realizes the calm and peace it gives. David poured out his complaint to the Lord, revealing his trouble. Everywhere he traveled, traps were set for him, and when he looked to his right where his defender should be, no one was there. He was alone and on his own. "No one cares about me," he said. (142:4)
Having poured out his troubles to the Lord, David then told the Lord, "You are my shelter, my portion in the land of the living." (142:5) David's answer to the question, "what am I do to," was "I will give it to the Lord." And so he did. The burden was then taken from himself and handed to the Lord. He was no longer trying to find his way out of the troubles but giving it to the Lord and allowing Him to free him from them. "Free me from prison," he said to the Lord. (142:7)

When we finally come to the point of admitting to ourselves and to the Lord that we can do nothing about our situation, we have no control over our circumstances, the Lord can finally set a solution into motion. He just needs us to quit trying to do it ourselves and give it to Him. And the act of giving it to the Lord is such a freeing experience. And in the end, we are not the only ones to be helped. David said in verse 7 that once he is set free from this "prison" of trouble he will give praise to the Lord, and "The righteous will gather around me because You deal generously with me."

Yes, others will celebrate the victory with us when the Lord frees us from our troubles, but among those who celebrate with us will be those who also have troubles and are encouraged to trust the Lord with those troubles.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Reflections on Psalms 141

 Psalms 141(Contemporary English Version)
  1. (A psalm by David.) I pray to you, LORD! Please listen when I pray and hurry to help me.
  2. Think of my prayer as sweet-smelling incense, and think of my lifted hands as an evening sacrifice.
  3. Help me to guard my words whenever I say something.
  4. Don't let me want to do evil or waste my time doing wrong with wicked people. Don't let me even taste the good things they offer.
  5. Let your faithful people correct and punish me. My prayers condemn the deeds of those who do wrong, so don't let me be friends with any of them.
  6. Everyone will admit that I was right when their rulers are thrown down a rocky cliff,
  7. and their bones lie scattered like broken rocks on top of a grave.
  8. You are my LORD and God, and I look to you for safety. Don't let me be harmed.
  9. Protect me from the traps of those violent people,
  10. and make them fall into their own traps while you help me escape.

Psalms 141 is David's evening prayer. In it he prayed for the Lord to hear his prayer, keep him from wicked thoughts and acts, and protect him from the wicked acts of others.

Hear his prayer: In verses 1-2, David requested that the Lord not only "listen to my voice when I call on You," but that He would be quick to help him. Also, that his prayer would be like a pleasing and fragrant incense to the Lord.

Keep him from wicked thoughts and acts: Verses 3-7 reveal David's desire to be kept from wickedness. He asked the Lord to "set up a guard for my mouth," and to "not let my heart turn to any evil thing." Then he asks the Lord to allow the righteous to help by rebuking him if he strayed toward evil acts. He wanted the Lord to help him "not refuse" this input from righteous people but to accept it as acts "of faithful love."

Protect him from the wicked acts of others: When it came to the traps and snares set by evildoers against him, David looked to the Lord as his refuge to protect him. He asked not only that he be protected from the traps, but that those who set them fall into their own traps.

I see here a connection between David's request to be kept from doing evil and his request to be protected from the evil acts of others. There are two aspects to this connection. First, David could not expect the Lord to protect him from the evil acts of others if he himself is involved in evil. And second, David needed to give over to the Lord his protection from the evil acts of others as well as keeping him from doing evil. Otherwise, if he were to attempt on his own to deal with the evil acts of others he would resort to evil himself. By fighting against his enemy himself, he would become like his enemy.

Friday, July 11, 2014

Reflections on Psalms 140

 Psalms 140(Contemporary English Version)
  1. (A psalm by David for the music leader.) Rescue me from cruel and violent enemies, LORD!
  2. They think up evil plans and always cause trouble.
  3. Their words bite deep like the poisonous fangs of a snake.
  4. Protect me, LORD, from cruel and brutal enemies, who want to destroy me.
  5. Those proud people have hidden traps and nets to catch me as I walk.
  6. You, LORD, are my God! Please listen to my prayer.
  7. You have the power to save me, and you keep me safe in every battle.
  8. Don't let the wicked succeed in doing what they want, or else they might never stop planning evil.
  9. They have me surrounded, but make them the victims of their own vicious lies.
  10. Dump flaming coals on them and throw them into pits where they can't climb out.
  11. Chase those cruel liars away! Let trouble hunt them down.
  12. Our LORD, I know that you defend the homeless and see that the poor are given justice.
  13. Your people will praise you and will live with you because they do right.

Psalm 140 records a prayer of David asking for God's help against those who aimed to harm him. It appears those who were out to harm him fell into two categories: Those who "stir up wars all day long," whose aim toward harm was broader than just David, and those who "hide a trap with ropes for me," whose intent to harm was directed specifically toward David.

David sought protection as well as justice if not also vengeance in taking these threats to the Lord in prayer. We understand his need and desire for protection, for his life was in danger. David was a skilled and shrewd warrior who might have depended on his own abilities against these enemies, but he was wise, recognizing this was not enough. He needed the Lord to "shield (his) head on the day of battle." (140:7) Furthermore he needed the Lord to thwart the schemes of his enemies and defeat their evil intent, asking the Lord to "not let them achieve their goals." (140:8)

David's concern was greater than his own need, though. Not only was he concerned for his own safety and the need to thwart the enemies' threats against him, but these violent and wicked men needed to be stopped altogether. If they succeeded in their plans against him they would become proud and emboldened in their activities and their violence would continue. This concern motivated David's request to the Lord in verse 8 that their desires not be granted. Therefore we understand David's desire for justice. But if justice wins the day, more needs to happen than the mere thwarting of violent plans. The violent men themselves need to be dealt with. Thus David prayed, "Let hot coals fall on them. Let them be thrown into the fire, into the abyss, never again to rise." (140:10)

Might there be a desire for vengeance motivating David's prayer for the destruction of his enemies? Could be. But he took it to the Lord letting Him deal with it rather than seeking vengeance for himself.

David concluded with a statement of faith: "I know that the Lord upholds the just cause of the poor, justice for the needy." And in the end, "the righteous will praise (the Lord's) name" and "the upright will live in (the Lord's) presence." (140:12, 13) David was confident that his prayer would be answered and the Lord would meet his need.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Reflections on Psalms 139

 Psalms 139(Contemporary English Version)
  1. (A psalm by David for the music leader.) You have looked deep into my heart, LORD, and you know all about me.
  2. You know when I am resting or when I am working, and from heaven you discover my thoughts.
  3. You notice everything I do and everywhere I go.
  4. Before I even speak a word, you know what I will say,
  5. and with your powerful arm you protect me from every side.
  6. I can't understand all of this! Such wonderful knowledge is far above me.
  7. Where could I go to escape from your Spirit or from your sight?
  8. If I were to climb up to the highest heavens, you would be there. If I were to dig down to the world of the dead you would also be there.
  9. Suppose I had wings like the dawning day and flew across the ocean.
  10. Even then your powerful arm would guide and protect me.
  11. Or suppose I said, "I'll hide in the dark until night comes to cover me over."
  12. But you see in the dark because daylight and dark are all the same to you.
  13. You are the one who put me together inside my mother's body,
  14. and I praise you because of the wonderful way you created me. Everything you do is marvelous! Of this I have no doubt.
  15. Nothing about me is hidden from you! I was secretly woven together deep in the earth below,
  16. but with your own eyes you saw my body being formed. Even before I was born, you had written in your book everything I would do.
  17. Your thoughts are far beyond my understanding, much more than I could ever imagine.
  18. I try to count your thoughts, but they outnumber the grains of sand on the beach. And when I awake, I will find you nearby.
  19. How I wish that you would kill all cruel and heartless people and protect me from them!
  20. They are always rebelling and speaking evil of you.
  21. You know I hate anyone who hates you, LORD, and refuses to obey.
  22. They are my enemies too, and I truly hate them.
  23. Look deep into my heart, God, and find out everything I am thinking.
  24. Don't let me follow evil ways, but lead me in the way that time has proven true.

This psalm by David is a wonderful description of God's greatness and His involvement in our lives. As I view life from the perspective of this psalm it brings to mind an analogy. We embark upon life without any understanding of where it will take us or what we will encounter, much as embarking on a journey that takes us across uncharted territory. In setting out on the journey across uncharted territory we have no idea where it will take us or what we will encounter or even whether we will make our way through it. Such is life. We have no idea where it will take us or what we will encounter or even if we will make it through to a ripe old age.

But there is One who knows this uncharted territory well who offers to serve as our guide through it. Most of us would likely be happy to accept this offer though there may be some adventurous individuals that would refuse it. With the help of this guide we are not only shown the way through this uncharted territory but have the hazards pointed out to us with instructions of how to get around them or through them. Having the guide does not assure that the journey will be easy, but it does assure we will make our way safely through the uncharted territory, which, in our analogy, is life.

David points out in this psalm that our guide for life, who is the Lord, knows us better than we know ourselves. He knows everything we do even before we do it because He knows our thoughts and even what we will say before we say it. But it goes beyond this. The Lord even knew us when we were first conceived and while we were forming in our mother's womb. He knew us, not as an inanimate object, but as an individual for whom He had already mapped out a life: "all my days were written in Your book and planned before a single one of them began." (139:16)

David considered the possibility of escaping the Lord's scrutiny and realized the folly of trying to do so. After all, where would he go to escape the Lord's Spirit? There is no where in heaven or earth where he could flee from the Lord's presence. Nor could he hide from the Lord in the darkness for to God, "even the darkness is not dark . . . darkness and light are alike" to Him. (139:12)

So what are we to say, then. Do we foolishly ignore the One who knows us intimately and has our life mapped out? There is an alternative and that is to stick their heads in the sand and say, "there is no God." After all, if we acknowledge there is a God and all the attributes that must be attributed to Him, we must also acknowledge that He is wiser and more knowledgeable that are we. Another alternative is to presume to know better than God. Thus when God doesn't do things as we think He should we become angry and push Him away from us feeling justified in going our own way and doing our own thing.

David chose instead to submit himself to the Lord's scrutiny and His care, saying, "Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my concerns. See if there is any offensive way in me; lead me in the everlasting way." (139:23-24)

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Reflections on Psalms 138

 Psalms 138(Contemporary English Version)
  1. (By David.) With all my heart I praise you, LORD. In the presence of angels I sing your praises.
  2. I worship at your holy temple and praise you for your love and your faithfulness. You were true to your word and made yourself more famous than ever before.
  3. When I asked for your help, you answered my prayer and gave me courage.
  4. All kings on this earth have heard your promises, LORD, and they will praise you.
  5. You are so famous that they will sing about the things you have done.
  6. Though you are above us all, you care for humble people, and you keep a close watch on everyone who is proud.
  7. I am surrounded by trouble, but you protect me against my angry enemies. With your own powerful arm you keep me safe.
  8. You, LORD, will always treat me with kindness. Your love never fails. You have made us what we are. Don't give up on us now!

David was moved to give thanks and praise to God because He had heard and answered David's prayer and "increased strength within me." Through David's praise we learn that God is exalted above everything else. But though God is so highly exalted, He favors those who are humble rather than those who are haughty. After all, it is the humble who allow God's favor while the haughty think they don't need it as they feel sufficient in themselves. David felt that once the kings of the earth were aware of what God has promised, they would all give Him thanks. This is more a testimony to God's greatness than to the integrity of the kings of the earth.

David was confident of the Lord's protection, proclaiming that if he should "walk in the thick of danger," God would preserve his life. But why shouldn't he be confident? He had witnessed the Lord's protection repeatedly when he walked in the thick of danger. Are we also confident of the Lord's protection? If not, why not? Has He not helped in the past? If you say no, are you so sure that God has not helped you or is it that you have not credited to Him the help you have received in the past?

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Reflections on Psalms 137

 Psalms 137(Contemporary English Version)
  1. Beside the rivers of Babylon we thought about Jerusalem, and we sat down and cried.
  2. We hung our small harps on the willow trees.
  3. Our enemies had brought us here as their prisoners, and now they wanted us to sing and entertain them. They insulted us and shouted, "Sing about Zion!"
  4. Here in a foreign land, how can we sing about the LORD?
  5. Jerusalem, if I forget you, let my right hand go limp.
  6. Let my tongue stick to the roof of my mouth, if I don't think about you above all else.
  7. Our LORD, punish the Edomites! Because the day Jerusalem fell, they shouted, "Completely destroy the city! Tear down every building!"
  8. Babylon, you are doomed! I pray the Lord's blessings on anyone who punishes you for what you did to us.
  9. May the Lord bless everyone who beats your children against the rocks! 

Jerusalem was the Jews' spiritual center. They were required by the Mosaic law to go there for worship and to give offerings of thanksgiving and make sacrifices of atonement for their sin. But Jerusalem along with their entire homeland had been taken from them when the Babylonians invaded Israel, destroyed Jerusalem, and took the people captive. In Babylon their captors taunted them to sing "the songs of Zion." But how could they, in their grief and loss, sing songs of rejoicing, and furthermore, how could they sing songs dedicated to the Lord in the midst of heathens?

Beyond their pain there was an irony to this taunt to sing the songs of Zion. They were in exile precisely because they had failed to sing these songs in their homeland, or worse, had sung them to idols rather than the Lord. Not only were the songs a reminder of their loss but of the reason for their loss. In light of this, we can better understand why the psalmist prayed the curse on himself that he lose the ability to play or sing music if he should fail to "exalt Jerusalem as my greatest joy!" He and his countrymen had failed to do this and lost Jerusalem. Now they realized it as their greatest joy and recognized what they had lost.

Any who have experienced a loss and born the responsibility for that loss understands the desire to take back the actions that caused it. They can understand as well the vow to never again do the things that brought such loss. For the psalmist the vow was to never again fail to exalt Jerusalem as his greatest joy.
Verses 7-9 are difficult to understand, particularly from a Christian perspective that recalls Jesus' teaching to love our enemies. But, then, even the Old testament taught that vengeance belongs to the Lord. In these verses the psalmist asks the Lord to remember the Edomites who stood by and cheered on the Babylonians while they destroyed Jerusalem, and also to remember the Babylonians who brought the destruction. His prayer is that the Lord will do to them what they did to Israel which included the dashing of their babies against the rocks.

The psalmist may only have been reminding the Lord of what He foretold through the prophet Isaiah,saying, "Their children will be smashed to death before their eyes; their houses will be looted, and their wives raped." (Isaiah 13:16) Whether this was the case or not, he was anxious for his tormentors to be dealt with.