Psalm 31:19Your goodness is so great! You have stored up great blessings for those who honor you. You have done so much for those who come to you for protection, blessing them before the watching world. I’ve found that when I’m in the middle of a situation, it’s easy to start thinking that blessing means that God will fix the situation or give me want I want. For example, in a financial difficulty, I think that it means that God will bless me by giving me money or getting me back into an easier financial situation. But, that’s not really true. That is one way God can bless me, but if I look more closely He has already blessed me in a lot of ways. For example, I have mostly healthy children (nothing life-threatening), I have a job, I have a vehicle that works, my children are in a great daycare at a wonderful church learning to speak in a language that I have no idea how to speak (Spanish), my husband has a job and is an amazing man who loves us and works hard for us, I have a wonderful church…. there are a lot of ways that God has blessed me. Do we have a lot of money, and is it easy to make the ends meet? No. But that doesn’t mean He hasn’t blessed me. I suppose that’s perspective.
Psalm 61:4Let me live forever in your sanctuary, safe beneath the shelter of your wings! Interlude. When I run to God for safety and take shelter in Him, it’s a peaceful, secure place. And I am happy to be there. I want to stay there forever, and God is happy to let me… But, unfortunately, I have a tendency to wander out from the sanctuary of His wings. One thing God has really been working on in my life is contentment. A lot of the issues my family faces is because I struggle with this area. No, I don’t feel the need to get the biggest or best TV or car or whatever, but I want my family to have what they want and need… and that can be difficult, even in the best of times. Additionally, I struggle with contentment in other areas of my life. Being discontent is really telling God that I don’t trust Him, that I don’t think He has my best in mind. That’s sad. It’s subtle, because I often don’t realize that discontent is sneaking up until after it’s pounced on me. To live in the sanctuary of God forever is great, but if I’m not content to stay there, it’s a pipe dream. When I am discontent, I go looking for something or someone to fix my problem, to provide that contentment. If I don’t look to God and remind myself of the blessings I already have, then I’m wandering out from under His wings and into a dark and dangerous world. It’s easy to do, too. So, when I’m overwhelmed (usually because of problems I’ve brought on myself through my selfish choices), I run to God. He welcomes me into Him arms and is quite happy for me to stay and snuggle. But I get antsy and squirm out. And He lets me go because He loves me, but he’s waiting for me to come back and sit quietly and peacefully, trusting Him to protect me and love on me. That is contentment – the lap of the Father, letting Him be everything He wants to be and loving me the way He knows best. After all, He IS love.
Psalm 10:17Lord, you know the hopes of the helpless. Surely you will listen to their cries and comfort them. Frank Peretti wrote a book called This Present Darkness (he also wrote Piercing the Darkness). It’s amazing. For me, it changed how I viewed the spiritual realm, making it more concrete in my mind. In these books he tells the story from the character’s viewpoint, but also from the viewpoint of the angels and demons that are part of the spiritual realm that surrounds us. For example, when the saints of God finally start praying about the problem they are faced with, the angels are energized and strengthened and given the go-ahead for battle. It also shows a little of the darker side as the author imagines how the enemy’s forces subtly infiltrate our society. If you haven’t read these books, I highly recommend them. They’re a great read! That being said, those books remind me a lot of our present times. Psalm 10 talks about how the wicked in the world pretend there isn’t a God. They are full of cursing, lies, threats, mistreating those who are weaker, caring only about advancing themselves. Granted, this is a generalization because there are many good people in the world, but more and more it seems our society is shoving God and His Word and precepts under the rug, hoping that they will disappear and be forgotten. They are systematically erasing God from society. Or trying to. But God will not be forgotten. He planned this time, too. It’s not a surprise to Him. And He won’t ignore the cries of His people. He hears and sees them, even down to knowing what they hope for! Things we hope for aren’t things we usually utter aloud. They are things hidden in our hearts. But God knows these things, too. Throughout history God has come to the rescue of the helpless. Even if this is the “End Times” He will not be erased, He will not be crushed, and He will be triumphant, rescuing His children at His appointed time. These days, it can be a little scary to be a Christ-follower, especially if you follow the government’s acts. And it’s easy to live in our bubble, forgetting the world outside is making laws and setting precedent that affects our bubble. As a Christ-follower I am called to pray for our leaders, pray for the salvation and repentance of our nation, and trust God to help me when I feel helpless against the rip currents of our present world. I may feel helpless, and I may be helpless, but I serve a God who is anything but helpless, and that makes all the difference.
Psalm 9:9-10The Lord is a shelter for the oppressed, a refuge in times of trouble. Those who know your name trust in you, for you, O Lord, have never abandoned anyone who searches for you. There are a couple of things that stand out to me. First, God never abandons us when we search for Him. Because He will never do this, we can trust in Him. This is a characteristic of God. He is the God Who Does Not Abandon You. I don’t know if there’s an official Hebrew name or word for that, but it’s a good name! The second thing that stood out to me is that the word searches is in present tense. We continually search for God. Have never abandoned is a different tense, saying that from the past to the present it has not happened. So, we continually search for Him and make Him our shelter and refuge. And He never abandons us. He never leaves us hanging or hides from us. He is a our shelter and our refuge, and He wants to be found by us. That’s pretty cool!
Psalm 5:8Lead me in the right path, O Lord, or my enemies will conquer me. Tell me clearly what to do, and show me which way to turn. This is so often my heart’s cry. I want to do God’s will, and I want Him to show me what it is. The problem is that I have trouble listening, I think. Sometimes, I have a pretty darn good idea what He wants me to do, and I do my own thing because I don’t want to do what He tells me to do. But that’s different. That’s me being stubborn and distrusting of God. My problem lies in hearing Him clearly. I know people who will tell me, “God told me…” and I wonder just how He did that. How do they know so clearly what God said? I’ve asked, and often they just say that it comes from reading the Bible. I hope it’s something that comes with time, because so often I feel blind and deaf. Maybe it’s because I don’t listen well, too absorbed in my own thoughts, or maybe God’s just not ready to give directions. Either way, I suspect it’s a process. I love talking to my children even if they don’t understand yet, and I know that I am God’s child. So, I’ll keep learning to listen because I know that God wants to speak with me, maybe not audibly (although that might be nice – terrifying, but nice) but however it is, I hope it’s clear!
Job 42: 19When Job prayed for his friends, the Lord restored his fortunes. In fact, the Lord gave him twice as much as before! When he prayed for his friends his fortunes were restored. I think that’s kind of interesting. God told the friends that Job would pray for them and that God would accept his prayer and not punish them for their bad advice. So Job’s prayer was for forgiveness and mercy. Perhaps in praying for forgiveness for them and mercy, and not vengeance for their response to his plight, Job learned more about God and gave Him glory. And until Job was able to do this, showing forgiveness instead of vengeance, God held off restoring Him. This begs the question, does God wait to restore our fortunes until we learn forgiveness and mercy? Until we are obedient even in the difficult things? It would make sense.
2 Samuel 24:1, 10Once again the anger of the Lord burned against Israel, and he caused David to harm them by taking a census. “God and count the people of Israel and Judah,” the Lord told him….But after he had taken the census, David’s conscience began to bother him. And he said to the Lord, “I have sinned greatly and shouldn’t have taken the census. Please forgive me, Lord, for doing this foolish thing.” After this David is given three choices of punishment. He chooses three days of plague and 70,000 people die (which is truly the lesser of the choices, but still!). What I don’t get is, God told him to do it. Wasn’t David being obedient by doing what God told him to do? And, if he was being obedient, why did God punish him? It seems very wrong, and I can’t help but wonder what we’re missing. Surely God doesn’t tell us to do something wrong and then punish us for it. That doesn’t seem to be something a God who loves us would do. Sure, he would let us feel the consequences of our actions, but this is like my telling my son to go ahead and play with the light switches on the wall (something he’s not allowed to do), and then punishing him when he does it. Yes, God had told Israel not to take a census, but then here he is telling them to do what He told them not to do. I am thoroughly confused by this. It seems contrary to the nature of God to tell us to do something disobedient and then punish us for it (especially with a punishment as brutal as the one here). Yes, he wanted to punish Israel for turning against him, but the methodology is strange to me. I truly wonder if there’s not something in the language that we lose in translation that would make this more clear. Is you have any insight, please leave it in the comments because I’d love to know what others think.