The sweetest thing – Psalm 27

If you were to be granted just one wish, what would that be? What is the one thing dearest to your heart, that you just long for? Much of David’s life was dogged by strife of one sort or another – from the lions and wolves that would attack his sheep, to the armies of King Saul out to kill him, to his own sons trying to depose him, not to mentions the threats from other nations. His greatest need was to find a place of security in the midst of the troubles. What he found, was that in his darkest places, he could run in his mind to the place where God dwells, to the place of safety that is the very throne room of God. Here was peace, security, light, even joy.

When we were going through a very dark time, when our teenage son was gravely ill, a friend taught us to create in our minds, the ‘high tower’ or ‘stronghold’ of God’s presence. Going there in peaceful times, choosing the design, the furniture, the layout, and becoming thoroughly acquainted with it, and spending time in God’s presence there, meant that it was easier to access it when things got really stressful. By being familiar with your own high tower, you could quickly go there when troubles came, and find the peace, security, light and joy that David had discovered. That’s why it was David’s dearest wish, to be able to spend his whole life drawing close to the only One who could help him in the rough times. That’s what I think he meant in ‘seeing the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living’. He could be totally confident that God would come through for him, every time.

 

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Living good – Psalm 26

How good are you? How good do you feel? Would you dare to ask anyone to inspect you, and appraise your life style? I too well remember Ofsted inspections in my teaching career, and that awful sinking feeling of being up for scrutiny. I’m not sure I’d be as brave as David, as to invite God to inspect me inside and out! But there’s one thing at least – God would give a fair evaluation.

There are things we can do to get our lives right. For one, mind who influences us, and make sure when we do have to deal with the less virtuous (verses 4 and 5), that we are the ones who are impacting their lives – the head and not the tail.

Verse 6 – “I wash my hands in innocence.” It was common practice to wash hands before worshipping, but this is so much deeper. How privileged we are as New Testament Christians, to know that we are washed through the precious, innocent blood of our Lord Jesus, who died that we might be made righteous. And so for us, it is possible for us to be sin-free. I can only think that on the lonely hillsides as a shepherd boy, David developed such a deep relationship with God, that he had an insight into the redeeming heart of his heavenly Father; that he came to understand and trust the Love that forgives sin and overcomes its power in our lives. And that is how David came to write this Psalm.

David did make some big mistakes, but that did not make him unrighteous forever. He knew God forgives. We have the benefit of the New Testament teaching to assure us of all this. So if David could feel sufficiently secure in God’s love to be able to live life right, and know it, there’s really no excuse for me. I can do it.

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A friend for all seasons – Psalm 25

I listened to a radio item on shame the other day. I hadn’t realised that guilt is what I feel about wrong things I’ve done. Shame on the other hand, is how I feel my wrongdoing is being received by others – how I feel about myself through their eyes. When I say sorry, and am forgiven, my guilt is dealt with, and I can be free of it. What can hold me back, is the awareness of what others might think of me. Shame. Those who hope and trust in God, says David, don’t need to feel ashamed. They can choose not to wear it. (Psalm 25:3). Those who reject God’s offer of love and forgiveness have no choice but to suffer shame as well as guilt.

When you’ve got a problem, your mind whizzes round all the people you know, to find someone who can help you out. Some people won’t have the skills, or the time. Others wouldn’t be suitable, or you couldn’t trust. Some you couldn’t ask because you haven’t got a good enough relationship with them. You’d feel guilty asking some, because they’ve helped you out a lot and you don’t feel you can ask again. Some you might have hurt or let down. If you’re lucky, and have plenty of friends, there will be one or two you might just ask…

David had a heap of problems. Most of them could not be solved by any of his friends. But when he’d done agonising, it turns out he did have a good enough relationship with God to ask him. He found he was always to be trusted, always capable, always willing. The one friend he could hope in, no matter what. That’s our God. What a friend!

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Why I think I’m big – Psalm 24

How insignificant am I? Using the word ‘my’ is hardly even appropriate, given that everything in the whole world, me included, belongs to God. Nothing is mine my right, but only by gracious gift.

I found verse 6 particularly challenging. People are one of two things: they are either turning towards God, journeying to get closer to him, or they are turning away, and walking, running, or just drifting further from him. You can’t stand still, and there’s no neutral stance. You are either seeking his face, or you’re not.

Psalm 24 was likely written concerning bringing the Ark of the Covenant back to Jerusalem. This was God’s very throne, and represented his very presence. And Jerusalem was asked to open its gates to allow the procession entry. Of course they would fling wide the gates and welcome in that prized of prized possessions. That reminded me of Revelation 3:29 where Jesus says, “Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me.” He wants to come and take up residence within me, bringing all his power, all his glory, all his righteousness, all his presence. Let every barrier go, and welcome him in! Not so insignificant now am I? The King of Glory lives in me.

 

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Enjoying life at it’s worst – Psalm 23

I’ve just heard from my grandson, that they are having resilience classes in school. In brief, that’s learning how to cope when things are tough. It’s the kind of stuff good parents teach their kids – they nurture them, supply their needs, reassure them of love, then help them become independent, and cope effectively with problems. Sadly, not all parents achieve this, which is why they have school classes for it. But essentially, it’s what Psalm 23 is about. It’s a good pattern for shepherding, parenting, and also for how churches should be supporting new Christians too. Not expecting too much from them until they’ve been sufficiently nurtured.

The important thing is that we get resilient. Not that we have a trouble-free life. Look at verse 5. This about enjoying, really enjoying, a good meal, an anointed career, blessings of every kind WHILE problems rage around. Not many of us get it that we MUST shake off sleepless worry nights and heavy-heart indigestion, because it is commanded so many places in scripture not to worry. And this IS possible because the Lord is my shepherd. And however bumpy the journey, I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.

 

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What you don’t know – Psalm 22

Why me God? Why d’you go silent on me when I need you most? I’ve done everything right, this shouldn’t be happening to me. What a total mess. I doubt there are many Christians on the planet who haven’t screamed at God at at least one point in their life. Why do things have to go so stupidly wrong? We may still know that God is on the throne, but that makes it all the more confusing as to why he isn’t responding to our cries.

This is where David was when he wrote Psalm 22. He was in a mess but, maybe too, he did exaggerate somewhat. At least there are no stories in the bible as I recall, where his hands and feet were pierced, or his garments divided. Yet in that state of despair, God was doing something very, very special. Because of the suffering he himself was struggling with, David was able to prophetically describe vividly the terrible death of Someone, centuries later, who cried out, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” – Someone whose hands and feet were pierced and garments divided. God took that time of desperation for David and turned it into a prophecy, speaking of the sufferings of Jesus on the cross, and providing sure evidence that the cross was no accident, which would lead many future generations on their journey to faith.

What did David know of all that? Nothing. To him his suffering seemed pointless. Yet he still determined to praise God for all he was worth. I may never know how God can use my wretchedness, but I do know he never wastes anything.

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So much to gain, so much more to lose – Psalm 21

It’s really not a hard choice. On the one side, so many blessings you could list them forever; on the other side…well let’s not go there, you really don’t want to go there, trust me. Choosing to belong to God’s family, having him as your Father, access to his throne room, and the immense, amazing power and strength of the precious Holy Spirit – all for free, just for the asking. Blessing upon blessing.

This is the relationship God wants with us. But Psalm 21 also contains a warning about the consequences of choosing to oppose God. It’s a future so bleak, that God did not spare his only son so that we might be saved from it. Why on earth would anyone still choose that? It’s a no-brainer!

David lists the blessings of being on God’s side, but remember, he never had an easy life; he had problems on his problems just about the whole time. It’s not about having a gloriously easy life, it’s about recognising what God is doing in your life right through all those difficulties. Count your blessings, name them one by one…

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