Tag Archives: psalms

Opening Our Eyes

“Open my eyes, that I may behold wonderful things from your law.” – Psalm 119:18 (NASB)

I find that whenever my Bible reading goes into a rut that turning to Psalm 119 is a great tonic. Here we find 176 verses that meditate on the wonder of God’s Word. The psalmist asks God to open his eyes in the verse above, and I find this to be a great prayer as I open my Bible.

In the 8th chapter of Mark’s Gospel, Jesus and His disciples come to Bethsaida, where Jesus heals a blind man. After Jesus spits on his eyes and lays hands on him, the man sees partially and states in verse 24, “I see men, for I see them like trees, walking around.” Then Jesus lays His hands on him again, and the man’s sight is restored in full. I’ve often wondered why this healing takes place in two stages. But I can identify with the man after he is healed partially. There are so many things that I see and focus my time on that are of no lasting value, yet many of God’s truths seem cloudy. God’s truths seem like those hazy trees, and then it’s only after allowing God’s Word to penetrate through the mist that I can see again and remember His great promises. The longer I go without focusing on God’s Word intently – as the psalmist does so extensively in Psalm 119 – the hazier it is when I try to see. Verse 18 from this wonderful Psalm, and the account in Mark 8, reminds me of the importance of this.

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Keeping Up Appearances

“Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in Your sight,
O LORD, my rock and my Redeemer.”
– Psalm 19:14 (NASB)

I’m reading through the Bible using the M’Cheyne plan this year and we find ourselves in the Psalms now. I read through Psalm 19 on Thursday and stopped on this familiar verse. I’ve been thinking about how little my words and my meditation are both acceptable in God’s sight. The words can at times be easy to keep acceptable, but often they’re that way because of my fear of man. Worry over how my words will be perceived by others can drive what I say. Proverbs 29:25 reminds us though that “The fear of man brings a snare, But he who trusts in the LORD will be exalted.” So having our words be acceptable to others is of course wrong motivation, but often it’s at least better than what’s bubbling under the surface.

And under the surface, my heart is what’s really troubling of late. I feel long periods of dryness in my Bible reading, as if the words are meant for others and not for me. I should say the warnings feel meant for me, but not the promises. I can identify with the church in Ephesus in Revelation 2, and feel these words being directed specifically at me. Maybe it’s just the busyness of life and adjusting to being a dad as well as a husband, a new job and feeling unsettled for about a year now. But it’s definitely a struggle and a daily push to think God’s thoughts after Him. I read this article a few days ago and reflected on how little my experience matches what she writes about. I think of how often I feel like a player in the locker room getting fired up by the coach but never leaving the tunnel to play the game. So I turn to my Bible each day and pray that the meditation of my heart is acceptable in His sight. If you’ve read this far, I thank you and ask that you pray for me too.

Psalm 100:3

“‘Man, know thyself,’ is a wise aphorism, yet to know our God is truer wisdom; and it is very questionable whether a man can know himself until he knows his God. Jehovah is God in the fullest, most absolute, and most exclusive sense, he is God alone; to know him in that character and prove our knowledge by obedience, trust, submission, zeal, and love is an attainment which only grace can bestow.”

– Charles H. Spurgeon, from The Treasury of David, p. 415.

Reflecting on Psalm 86

“Incline your ear, O Lord, and answer me,
for I am poor and needy.”

– Psalm 86:1 (ESV)

Book Three of the Psalms contains Psalms 73-89, most of these written by either Asaph or the Sons of Korah. Just one is written by King David, which is Psalm 86. I’ve been reading and rereading this Psalm over the last couple of weeks, with a few thoughts coming to mind.

Before I became a Christian, I wrongly assumed many things about God. I had a completely unfounded view of what it meant to have a relationship with Him (more on that in an upcoming post) and one area where this view was wrong was in regards to prayer. My “prayers”, if you could call them that, usually consisted of a few minutes of thanking God for things He had given me (health, job, home, etc.) but the primary focus of my prayer was really on the things. I had no real sense of what a privilege it was to even be able to speak to God , and I certainly did not pray as if I were in need. My life was just fine the way it was, and out of obligation I figured that, every so often, I should tell God that I was glad that He was doing things my way.

Ugh.

Contrast this with King David, who opens this Psalm by asking God to “incline” His ear to David. I’ve been leery of trying to understand anything about the original biblical languages without a hint of any training, but I decided to dig in a bit with this Psalm anyway. Looking up this word in the Hebrew, (natah ?) it looks like it can also be translated as “to turn aside, incline, decline, bend down” (please correct me if I’ve gotten this wrong !). The King James translates verse 1 as “Bow down thine ear…” I think this is an important starting point in looking at this Psalm, and for that matter, prayer in general. David, as usual, is fully aware of who he is, and who God is. He knows he is someone in need, and He’s asking God to be gracious to bend down to even hear his request. This is in complete contrast to how I had approached prayer before becoming a Christian. I had no sense of need, just a feeling of, “Well, I guess I should get around to thanking God for everything good in my life at some point. I don’t need anything from Him though, just to be clear”.

Spurgeon translated David’s opening line this way, in a sermon on this Psalm:

“You are so high that unless You shall stoop and stoop very low, You can not commune with me. But Lord, do thus stoop. Bow down Your ear. From Your lofty Throne, higher than an angel’s wing can reach, stoop down and listen to me – poor, feeble me.”

So David begins this Psalm with a right understanding of his standing before God – as someone in need. He realizes that what he needs cannot be done through anything in his own power. He needs God Himself to bow down, to incline His ear, to condescend to our requests. David here gets it right.

We’d do well to remember the same.

Do Not Hide Your Face from Me

“Hear my prayer, O Lord;
let my cry come to you!
Do not hide your face from me
in the day of my distress!
Incline your ear to me;
answer me speedily in the day when I call!”

– Psalm 102:1-2 (ESV)

prayer

Last week I spent some time reflecting on Psalm 102 and how well it matches how I’ve been feeling over the last several weeks. There are some particular sins that really seem to be dragging me down. And they’re all somewhat related and have caused me to engage in more self-wallowing than usual. But I haven’t shied away from pleading with God about them. Like the Psalmist, I’ve asked and pleaded (demanded ?) for God to take these away from me, as I feel at times like my walk with God has hit a wall because of it.

But I’ve also reminded myself of Paul’s situation in 2 Corinthians 12, and his thorn in the flesh. “Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me.” (v. 8 ) And of course, the LORD responds to Paul’s request that, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Characteristic of the great Apostle, Paul responds that he will “boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.” (v. 9)

I do not for one second compare any of my problems with Paul’s. But I am wondering about how to reconcile these Scriptures in Psalm 102 and 2 Corinthians. We are also reminded in Hebrews 4:16, “Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” I feel I’ve been doing that. I feel I’ve been doing that in the way the Psalmist has done it in Psalm 102.

My question is, at what point do you, instead of pleading, begin to wait on God’s answer ? How many times should a child continue to ask for something, all the while knowing that his Father is sovereign and knows best ? At what point do you join with Paul and “boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me” ?

A Shelter in the Time of Storm

“So, I’m inviting you to sit down with me in front of Psalm 27. I’m inviting you to keep your eyes focused and your ears tuned. I’m inviting you to open your heart to what you may have been too busy to see. I’m inviting you to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord. And I would imagine that if you are willing to do that…somehow, someway, you’ll get up a changed person.”

– Paul David Tripp, from A Shelter in the Time of Storm, p. 11

Paul Tripp

Paul Tripp

I’ve focused quite a bit on studying the Psalms this year and have been looking at books that comment on this great section of Scripture. I recently came across one on Psalm 27 by Paul Tripp called A Shelter in the Time of Storm. I’d seen some excellent reviews on it, and Emily over at A Sacrifice of Praise highly recommended it. In this relatively short book (160 pages), Tripp provides 52 chapters, or meditations, on this Psalm. His meditations alternate between prose and poetry, and each chapter ends with a couple of reflection questions. As Tripp explains, “Each has a different grain, yet each is meant to catch your attention and help you to see.”

One of Tripp’s chapters had an interesting scenario that I think sets the stage for the main theme of his book. He compares our current culture to sitting in a full arena just moments before a concert is about to start. There are voices coming from everywhere, none of them all that distinguishable, but loud anyway and enough to make it difficult for you to hear or think clearly. Tripp suggests that this is what we battle everyday…a culture where everyone seems to be talking at once, and sadly, as he points out, “the vast majority of those voices have not gotten the flowers of their insight from the garden of the Lord.”

It’s this constant din of noise that can make it difficult for us to focus on God. It makes it hard for us to wait on God as well. Tripp asks throughout his book for us to wait on the Lord, as David pleads with us to do at the end of Psalm 27. He also acknowledges how difficult it is for all of us to do this, as we want answers to our problems, requests and concerns now. But Tripp explains why waiting is so critical for us – “Through the wait he is causing me to see and experience new things about him and his kingdom. And all of this sharpens me, enabling me to be a more useful tool in his redemptive hands.”

There are several different sides to Psalm 27, and Tripp highlights them all brilliantly. He continually points us to the hopefulness of this Psalm and the confidence we should have after reading it. The questions at the end of each chapter are particularly probing and challenging. More than a few times I felt like saying, “Come on, you can’t ask me that !” In any case, if you’re looking to camp out in this great Psalm for a while, get a copy of Tripp’s book. You won’t regret it.

Nothing To Hide ?

“O Lord, you have searched me and known me!” – Psalm 139:1

I’ve heard this example told in several different forms (and you probably have to), so you can just skip all of this if you’ve heard it before. Suppose a documentary company tells you they’d like to follow you around and film your activities for one day and then create a DVD for you as a keepsake. They follow you around as you head off to work or school, and as you interact with your family and friends. You don’t think much of it, and probably think it’s kind of neat to have this to look back on at some point.

Then at the end of the project, the documentary company informs you that instead of filming your activities, they’ve actually been recording your thought life that day. Not only that, they’ve already sent the film to YouTube, Netflix, Blockbuster, you name it – and pretty soon everyone you know (and everyone you don’t) can watch this video. Everything that’s gone through your mind that day will now be in full view for everyone to see.

How would that make you feel ?

That’s what comes to mind for me when I read Psalm 139. I’ve been focusing on this great Psalm of David for the past few days and always stop for a bit on the very first verse. “O Lord, you have searched me and known me!” I confess this is both comforting and frightening at the same time. God of course knows what I’m thinking about and the things I’m struggling with – but what an embarrassment it would be if everyone else knew it !

But of course, I’ve got it backwards. Instead, what Psalm 139 points me to is the real focus of what to be concerned about and what to live towards – what does God think ? After all, he knows it all anyway. As verse 12 says “The night is bright as the day” to Him. And He’s known it from the beginning – “Your eyes saw my unformed substance” (verse 16). As I mentioned to Micey on her blog the other day, this is a very difficult Psalm to pray and really “mean” it. Think about verse 23- “Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts!” . Might be easy to say, but tough to bring that attitude to God every single day.

Today, I’m just struggling with this Psalm….and struggling with disappointing my Father knowing the things that go through my mind each day that don’t bring honor to Him. He has searched me and knows my heart. I love David’s heart for God, and spend a lot of time in his Psalms. Like David, I’m a great sinner. Unlike David however, I have miles to go to be a great repenter.