Grabbing On to Psalm 27

This is a bit of a longish post. My apologies.

This post is a perfect Psalm for broken believers and rascals–those who struggle to believe. We can understand because we each have encountered very difficult things–hard things. So buckle up, here are my comments on Psalm 27. I really hope that they might help you through your personal mess:

Light, space, zest—
    that’s God!
So, with him on my side I’m fearless,
    afraid of no one and nothing.

When vandal hordes ride down
    ready to eat me alive,
Those bullies and toughs
    fall flat on their faces.

Man alive, we tolerate so much darkness. But the believer understands that God not only chooses him/her, but protects them. And yes, there is going to be a difficulty, that much I understand. I can’t or won’t sugarcoat this.

“Vandal hordes;” and “bullies and toughs” are motivated by darkness–Satan’s kingdom. The psalmist David sees trouble up ahead, he’s very real here and definitely not a ‘pie-in-the-sky’ optimist. But he’s very much convinced of their defeat.

When besieged,
    I’m calm as a baby.
When all hell breaks loose,
    I’m collected and cool.

I’m asking God for one thing,
    only one thing:
To live with him in his house
    my whole life long.
I’ll contemplate his beauty;
    I’ll study at his feet.

There exists a place of safety for David. He’s being blasted by the enemy, but in that place, he finds “calmness.” He’s protected and wears spiritual body armor. Wearing that we discover that he’s bullet-proof, for he wears a vest of spiritual steel.

The house of God is crucial, and he wants to live in it, to “contemplate” the wonder of the Spirit of God. David sees it as his castle that stands in resistance against all those who want to destroy him. And believe me, it is his complete focus.

He injects the word “study” which tells us that he’s found Someone that teaches him the things he needs.

That’s the only quiet, secure place
    in a noisy world,
The perfect getaway,
    far from the buzz of traffic.

God holds me head and shoulders
    above all who try to pull me down.
I’m headed for his place to offer anthems
    that will raise the roof!
Already I’m singing God-songs;
    I’m making music to God.

Outside the Church, there is very little that can protect a straying believer. David is very much aware that the world is a noisy place (v. 55). But he knows that the very presence of God is a place of quiet and security, it’s “the perfect getaway,” that exists for everyone who believes.

Worship is critical here.

I think it not only exalts and glorifies God but it also is the best way of protecting himself. David is exuberant here, he can hardly contain himself! Perhaps we really don’t understand–it seems rather excessive–may be too zealous for us.

In v. 6 we see the spiritual effort of God holding David in place. He understands that there are many who are trying their best “to pull” him away from the security of God.

7-9 Listen, God, I’m calling at the top of my lungs:
    “Be good to me! Answer me!”
When my heart whispered, “Seek God,”
    my whole being replied,
“I’m seeking him!”
    Don’t hide from me now!

9-10 You’ve always been right there for me;
    don’t turn your back on me now.
Don’t throw me out, don’t abandon me;
    you’ve always kept the door open.
My father and mother walked out and left me,
    but God took me in.

Wow! “the top of my lungs” is pretty intense. The passage speaks of seeking–that’s the key of this whole thing. To be an authentic seeker has to be a “heart” issue, and never a brain thing. Heart followers know the difference.

And the presence of God is David’s entire focus. There’s a very real plea for us as well. One of his petitions here is “don’t hide from me now.” As a New Testament guy, I know that it isn’t really possible. See John 14:15-17.

What incredible security we have!

If you’re struggling, like David did, you’re in good hands. Even though it seems like God is distant, He’s not. “God took me in” is a statement of real faith. David knows that the Father’s love is beyond the love of a father or mother.

And now the comes the finale!

11-12 Point me down your highway, God;
    direct me along a well-lighted street;
    show my enemies whose side you’re on.
Don’t throw me to the dogs,
    those liars who are out to get me,
    filling the air with their threats.

13-14 I’m sure now I’ll see God’s goodness
    in the exuberant earth.
Stay with God!
    Take heart. Don’t quit.
I’ll say it again:
    Stay with God.

“Point me” and “direct me” is David’s discipleship to his Father’s ways. He speaks of enemies (“dogs” and “liars”) who are trying very hard to destroy him. “Out to get me” is David’s assessment of the hard things that come.

David is convinced that God is always very good to him, he understands this. It’s the same for the NT believer, although Satan nips at our heels, God protects us–He’s on our side.

He exhorts us twice to “stay with God.”

Maybe that’s where a lot of issues come. “Don’t quit” is David’s plea. This is stated throughout Paul’s epistles written for us.

What a wonderful Psalm. So much security here (as well as the opposition). Psalm 27 is written to us rascals and inconsistent believers in Jesus. I exhort you to spiritually digest this passage. It’s yours!

Illustration: Solomon’s Temple. I’m using “The Message,” a translation by Eugene Peterson.

Melancholy Me and My God

In early November, I went to California for a writers retreat. There were only four students and the woman leading the retreat. I learned so much and hung out with a few other wonderful writers. And yet, the poem below is what I wrote the first night after our opening session.

The next day I read it to one of my new writer friends, a woman who has been on this writing journey for a lot less time than I have. She was touched because she had been feeling inadequate and that the rest of us were so much more accomplished than she was.

I do love when God allows me to remember the dark night of the soul in a way that brings cheer and blessing to others.

Why so downcast, Oh my soul?
I understand the psalmist's plea.
Here I am with new friends of gold
But feelings of sadness needle me.
Am I just a fraud pretending to be
One who has something worthwhile to say?
When truth be told, or a lie of old,
Never will I point to God's way.
How I feel runs hot and cold;
Now I am weak when once I was bold.
Powerless and useless are words I hear
Echoing deep in my mind as fear.
Wounds that run deep still bleed
I know they're not true, never were.
But still, still these words Oh Lord.
You are the truth, the life, the way.

Psalm for My Savior

Psalm 116:7 – painted canvas, melodyjoy1983, http://www.etsy.com

This poem is written in the pantoum form and is based on Psalm 116, which is my favorite Psalm. I find that the repetition of lines in this form lends itself well to Christian poetry of lament and praise. I hope you are blessed by this offering.

Psalm for My Savior

For you, O Lord, have delivered my soul from death
The anguish of death and darkness entangled me
I called on the name of the Lord: “O Lord, save me!”
Praise my God, my Savior who came to my rescue

The anguish of death and darkness entangled me
My eyes filled with tears, my feet stumbled under me
Praise my God, my Savior who came to my rescue
Rescued me from my trouble, sorrow, and darkness deep

My eyes filled with tears, my feet stumbled under me
The Lord, my God, heard my cry for love and mercy
Rescued me from my trouble, sorrow, and darkness deep
Now I know His grace and mercy are mine to keep

The Lord, my God, heard my cry for love and mercy
He saw the anguished turmoil of my broken soul
Now I know His grace and mercy are mine to keep
I will forever praise His glorious name, Jesus

He saw the anguished turmoil of my broken soul
I called on the name of the Lord: “O Lord, save me!”
I will forever praise His glorious name, Jesus
For you, O Lord, have delivered my soul from death

Please check Linda’s site. It’s always a blessing!

I Love Your House! Psalm 84:1-4

Related image
painting: Pieter Neefs

1-2 What a beautiful home, God-of-the-Angel-Armies!
    I’ve always longed to live in a place like this,
Always dreamed of a room in your house,
    where I could sing for joy to God-alive!

3-4 Birds find nooks and crannies in your house,
    sparrows and swallows make nests there.
They lay their eggs and raise their young,
    singing their songs in the place where we worship.
God-of-the-Angel-Armies! King! God!
    How blessed they are to live and sing there!

 Psalm 84:1-4, Message

There are some things that leave an indelible mark, and they go very deep down into our souls.  For me, one instance I remember staying at Simpson College on Silver Ave. in San Francisco in June 1986.  The dorms were empty and I had a whole floor to myself.  The campus was gorgeous; the roses were in full bloom.

I found a little “mom and pop” corner market nearby which had an awesome deli. Here I could buy cold cuts, some excellent braunschweiger, and freshly baked sourdough bread. I returned to my room to build my sandwich, and feast.

I remember that the windows were open and there was a beautiful breeze.   Food, warm sun, flowers in bloom and the Holy Spirit was about to ‘plow’ into my life. It would be a holy collision.

It was simply a moment that I captured and savored.  Everything seemed to coincide, it was magical in the best and holiest sense of the word.  It was beautiful, that is all I can say.  That time in that dorm room has become a crystalline moment that I will never forget.  Right there, it seemed I fell in love, not with a girl, but with a moment in time and place. I knew I was on holy ground.

That nostalgia lays thick on the shoulders of the writer of Psalm 84.  He remembers and savors those powerful memories of his visit to the temple.  He was given something at that particular moment that would follow him for the rest of his life.

The beauty of that experience was inviolable and true and could never be duplicated.  This treasure was his. As he aged he could tell his grandchildren, “I walked with God.” And really mean it.

I personally believe God gives us these holy moments, wrapped in wonder and awe.  When the Holy Spirit deeply touches in this way you will never, ever be the same. 

The psalmist has the same hunger for God. 

These moments in the temple which are so blessed have also ‘ruined’ him.   Often special times of God’s presence will result in a ‘sanctified’ dissatisfaction with the present status quo. Brennan Manning once said, “Those who have the disease called Jesus will never be cured.” You can easily apply it to these verses.  God’s presence “ruins” us forever.

But when we finally make our way to Jesus, life takes on a special and curious wonder.  When the rain finally comes to the barren desert, an explosion of life bursts out.  In much the same way, our lives are ‘watered’ by Jesus. Things get very green and lush as we live in the Spirit.  All of this is in contrast to our dry and desperate life without His presence.

I want to become hungry for His presence. 

I so want to be in the center of wherever He is at.  I admit that His grace and love has spoiled me.  But the love of Jesus does this.  Normal life seems to be nothing more than a boring journey into ‘black & white’, but somehow He turns it all into stunning color.

The psalmist practically begs to be returned to the temple.  He wants to be there, more than anything else. It is now his true home. He will not be satisfied with anything less.

I say to the Lord, “You are my Lord.
    Apart from you, I have nothing good.”

Psalm 16:2

 

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