Psalm 119:59 I thought about my ways, And turned my feet to Your testimonies. This one is something I’ve struggled with. I grew up so steeped in “tradition” that when God’s planted seeds of discontent started to grow I was astounded. I’ve certainly thought about my ways… a LOT. And there have been many times when I’ve considered the decisions that I’m making. Do I turn my feet to His testimonies? Or do I continue in the way I was raised ignoring that which I now know because the other path is easier? Robert Frost wrote the poem “The Road Not Taken” which has become almost cliche, but it is SO much like the path I’m walking. Here’s an interesting visual interpretation: I’ve had to make decisions that I’m very conscious of and that I still struggle with because what I want is not what He asks of me. It reminds me of the time Yeshua said, “Deny yourself, take up your cross, and follow me.” (or something to that effect) It’s not easy, for sure. The word for “to turn” is shuv. It’s a really cool word! It means to turn back, to return, of dying, and in repetition. In another form it means to refresh, restore, to bring back or repair. That’s a lot for one word (and there are about 20 other ways this word can be used with many different nuances and implications)! My choice to walk in His ways means all these things. I turn back to the original (His way), dying to my way, restoring his position as King as I obey His commands and repairing my relationship with Him. Here’s the poem by Robert Frost. The last stanza, especially, hits home here. The Road Not Taken by Robert Frost Two roads diverged in a yellow wood, And sorry I could not travel both And be one traveler, long I stood And looked down one as far as I could To where it bent in the undergrowth; Then took the other, as just as fair, And having perhaps the better claim Because it was grassy and wanted wear, Though as for that the passing there Had worn them really about the same, And both that morning equally lay In leaves no step had trodden black. Oh, I marked the first for another day! Yet knowing how way leads on to way I doubted if I should ever come back. I shall be telling this with a sigh Somewhere ages and ages hence: Two roads diverged in a wood, and I, I took the one less traveled by, And that has made all the difference
Psalm 34:7 Delight yourself also in YHWH; and He shall give you the desires of your heart. This is the verse on which Skip Moen did his daily post for today (read it here). It’s about the interpretation of the word desires and how it doesn’t mean my laundry list of things I want. It’s an ongoing imperfect verb. In other words, it’s not something I already have, it’s something He gives. When I delight in Him, He gives me His desires for me and then fulfills them. But I can’t come to Him with my list, like a child coming to Santa Claus. I have to come empty handed. I thought that would be pretty easy, but as I continued to think, I realized how many things I have on my wish list… They’re not selfish things, per se, but they’re still on my wish list. I have to be willing to let these things go so that He can replace them with what He desires for me. Oddly I found myself somewhat reluctant for an instant! I know that God and goodness and love cannot be separated, but I fear that I won’t get my way. How childish, yet how common! If I come with clenched fists grasping my things, my hands can’t accept what He has to give. I must open them and allow my stuff to fall away so that my hands are empty, and I have room for all He has to give. One of the most basic questions that people have is “What’s my purpose here on this planet? Why am I here?” Ultimately, as Skip points out, the question is, “What does God desire of me?” It seems to me, that when I delight in Him and come empty handed to receive what He desires, this question is answered. Then I find the passion to live fully as I fulfill His desires given to me, planted in my life, growing and blossoming into something new and beautiful.
I just had to post this. Obviously, I regularly read Dr. Skip Moen’s blog, and I feel that he brings many things to light that many people, especially traditional Christians, don’t know about because we can’t read God’s Word in its original language (I am thinking I need to learn Hebrew, though). There was a post yesterday about what it means to be created in God’s image (read it here), and it’s generated a lot (A LOT) of commenting. The comments are fascinating in and of themselves, and if you read the blog long enough you can recognize the style of writing of different people (some have such distinct writing styles that I can almost imagine them bobbing in their seat trying to contain their enthusiasm). I love the community of this site. I love that questions aren’t discouraged or laughed at, that suggestions are encouraged, and criticism or skepticism are accepted graciously and not condemned. Sometimes I feel very inadequate when I post comments because my understanding seems so small, but nobody laughs or is rude when I write something stupid (oh, and I’ve done this several times). I wish I lived in a community of people (not just a virtual community) like this. I hardly know anyone who lives around us in the apartment complex (although many of them are empty, are rented on a month-to-month basis, or are vacation condos; or the people who live there don’t speak English). I know I get caught up in living my life with my family (which is overwhelming sometimes, to say the least), and I should probably reach out more to the people around me. Most of the people I know, most of my friends live across town from me, and with each mile and each month it seems to get harder and harder to stay connected. I miss living there. (And I am reminded that I need to be content and grateful in the place I find myself. The last few days this has been a struggle. I have more than most, and sometimes I only see how much less than some I have. Maybe I’m here to learn more about contentment.) And, finally, one last story. Yesterday I was at the grocery store and as I was pulling out I saw this old man getting out of his car with great difficulty. At first I didn’t think anything of it, but as I put the car into drive I noticed that he was using the post to hold onto as he got a grocery cart to lean on. I almost re-parked the car and asked him if he needed help. I almost. But as I started to re-park the car I saw that he had a shopping cart and was using it to help him walk to the grocery store. And out of fear of being “rude or condescending” I figured he was okay and on his way. So I left. And ever since then I’ve kicked myself. I should have gotten out sooner instead of watching to see if I should help. I shouldn’t have hesitated. I should have offered to get him one of those mechanized cart thingies. I should have asked him if he wanted help, even if he rejected it. This was a kairos moment, when God injected himself into my day… and I missed it until it was too late. I missed an opportunity to show God’s love and compassion because I was afraid of what he might think of my offer. I think this is a moment that will haunt me, a reminder to seize those opportunities that God puts in my path. Yeshua recognized those kairos moments (think about the woman at the well when he was on His way to heal/raise Lazarus – what would have happened if He hadn’t obeyed God’s leading and taken that moment to change her life and the lives of everyone in her town). He wasn’t too busy or worried to stop. I want to be like that, and I hope the next time I am ready.
Psalm 119:57 (HETH) You are my portion, O LORD; I have said that I would keep Your words. Several things strike me as interesting about this verse. My first question was, “What is a portion? And what does it mean to be someone’s portion?” Looking at the Hebrew it says that a portion is a share, a possession, or an award (usually from God). That still seemed pretty vague, so I looked down at the entry from Gessenius’ Lexicon where it elaborated that a portion could be an inheritance or a fellowship/common possession with someone.  That was interesting. An inheritance suggests that the Lord, or the knowledge of Him and of how to obey Him is passed down from generation to generation – from father/mother to child. It’s part of heritage. The part about it being a fellowship or common possession emphasizes the importance of community to the Hebrew people. Knowing and serving YHWH is a precious inheritance to be shared and practiced with my community. I am not disconnected, nor am I alone. In a world of insanity, He is my place where I belong and where I can rest surrounded by friends and family who help me to walk in greater obedience to Him. The last things I looked at were the verbs in the second part of the verse because I’ve read that Hebrew verbs are either finished or not finished. There is no past or future. That being said, “I have said” is a verb that is finished. But, “I would keep” is unfinished, so it’s probably closer to “I am keeping” because it’s not something I’m going to do, it’s something that is not finished – I’ll continue to do it until it’s finished (which would be when I die). So sometime previously a decision was made to obey His words (a.k.a. His commands – which would be laid out in Torah to Moses). And this action of keeping/obeying His words is ongoing. And somehow the keeping His words is connected to God being my portion/inheritance/fellowship. Perhaps as I keep His commands, I enter into fellowship with others who also obey His commands. Obedience makes me part of a particular community because it sets me apart from the world. Then, too, I become part of the legacy and heritage of Israel, obligated to pass on what I know and how to obey to my children. I all begins with obedience – Keeping His words. Do I? Am I? Will I?  Blue Letter Bible. “Dictionary and Word Search for cheleq (Strong’s 2506)“. Blue Letter Bible. 1996-2010. 27 Jul 2010. <http://www.blueletterbible.org/lang/lexicon/lexicon.cfm?Strongs=H2506&t=NKJV >
I don’t rest very much. Even on Sabbath, I struggle to slow down and relax. Of course, with little children, slowing down and relaxing take on a whole different meaning. Add to that, the Greek obsession with living by the clock and stuffing our calendars, and life becomes about rushing around, hurrying, stress, and “the next thing on the list.” I wonder if this isn’t a way to keep us from reflecting on life, what God’s done in it and the awesomeness of who He is and some of the insanity of what we do…. Anyway, Skip wrote an interesting article this morning about that familiar verse in Psalm 23 about still waters. I thought I’d post it here as a reminder (to me) to stop going so fast.
Psalm 119:52 I remembered Your judgments of old, O LORD, And have comforted myself. In Hebrew verbs are the most important part of the sentence. Even God calls Himself, “I AM.” ”Am” is a verb – “to be” in the present tense, ongoing. Anyway, one of the things that Adam was made to do was to remember. His job was to remember what God had said. He failed to do this when his ezer failed to guard him by not believing that God had made her exactly right for her job and thinking that she could do her job better if she just listened to her heart (the one that God had given her). Adam, standing there, could have remembered and stopped her. But, that’s another story. I learned the other day that Hebrew verbs don’t have tenses and that there wasn’t a word for “time” either. Everything was finished or not yet finished. Here’s something that might blow your mind: the word for “of old” is ‘owlam. Here’s what it means (blueletterbible.com): 1) long duration, antiquity, futurity, for ever, ever, everlasting, evermore, perpetual, old, ancient, world a) ancient time, long time (of past) b) (of future) 1) for ever, always 2) continuous existence, perpetual 3) everlasting, indefinite or unending future, eternity Do you see it? This word means both antiquity and futurity, both the past and the future! Interesting how it’s so intertwined… Anyway, David finds comfort in looking back at (remembering) the judgments of God because they remind Him that God is faithful. The covenants that God has made last from the ancient past to the indefinite future. As God has faithfully judged in the past, so He will faithfully judge in the future. God is constantly reminding His people of the things He’s done for them – bringing them out of Egypt, routing their enemies, feeding them with manna from heaven, etc. I can’t always understand the Hebrew way of thinking about things because I am so steeped in the Greek mindset (we almost all are); however, I can look back and remember the faithfulness and judgments of God, and this is comforting. One last note: apparently in Hebrew a thing can’t be separated from its characteristics. For example, in our language we say that the kettle is silver, assuming there’s a kettle and there’s silver and the kettle just happens to be silver. It’s like a coloring book where everything is lines, and we just happened to put some silver crayon in the kettle lines. In Hebrew it’s a silver kettle (there is no word for “is” in Hebrew). If you take away the silver, there is no kettle. There are no lines to be filled up with a little bit of this or that. You can’t separate something from its characteristics or it ceases to be. So, in Hebrew, God and faithfulness are the same thing. Take away faithfulness and there is no more God. Take away God, and there is no more faithfulness… Kind of cool, right? Now think about what that means for Christians and what our characteristics are supposed to be and what we are supposed to do (like obey the commands of God)… That’s kind of scary, huh?
Jeremiah 29:11 is probably one of the most quoted verses in scripture. It’s the one about the plans God has for us…. remember? It used to be that I figured I had messed up the best plan royally by now, but looking back (remembering) the way God worked with people like Abraham or Jacob who messed up constantly made me realize that just because I mess up it doesn’t mean that God’s plans don’t happen. And then I began to see that it’s not so much the plan as it is the goal – to be more like Yeshua. It’s so easy for me to have a laundry-list of things I want God to do (my plans). I think part of the process is learning to remember that His way is ultimately better (for the overall goal of restoring the world, not always for me)… and being willing to submit to it. Anyway, my thoughts seem oddly jumbled this morning. Skip Moen wrote an interesting post about this verse today, and I highly recommend reading it. It’s got some really interesting points about God’s plan and our tendency to put God in a box. Read it here. >>>