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Archive for the ‘Psalms’ Category

1 I will love You, O Lord, my strength.
2 The Lord is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer; My God, my strength, in whom I will trust; my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.
3 I will call upon the Lord, who is worthy to be praised; so shall I be saved from my enemies. Psalm 18:1-3 (NKJV)

The Lord is my strength is the theme of this psalm. Each line tells us something about how this is true. For example, in verse 2, we are told “The Lord is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer.” Separating out the ideas within the verse, we find that three separate descriptive images:
1. Rock
2. Fortress
3. Deliverer

Each of these taken alone would be a great promise–a great character trait for God. But we see the three-fold majesty of Adonai in these verses. God is my Rock–that is to say, the foundation under me–that on which I am built. He is not shifting sand underneath me, but pure bedrock–immovable, unshakable, and unbreakable. He is eternal and unchanging.

Then I read that God is my Fortress–I understand that Adonai is my castle, the thick walls of protection around me. He is not merely in front as my shield (See Psalm 18:2b, 2 Samuel 22:3, Psalm 3:3) or behind as my rear guard (See Isaiah 52:12 and 58:5)–for He is both, but He is also all around me–a protection that encircles me.

Deliverer speaks of my escape. Fortresses can be taken or overrun, but God will be there to be my way of escape, my hiding place. (See Psalm 32:7)

These verses not only give this great insight into the character of God, but they also suggest the appropriate responses for us:
1. Love
2. Trust
2. Call

I will love You, O Lord, my strength. For God love is an action word. 1 Corinthians 13:4-8 reminds us that love suffers long, rejoices in truth, bears all things, believes all things, and so on. This is the love that instructs our love. As He gives us strength, we respond in love. In the economy of God, love is manifest through obedience. (See Deuteronomy 7:9, John 14:15)

The Lord is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer; My God, my strength, in whom I will trust; my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold. A castle is only as good as the confidence its inhabitants have in it. If I don’t believe the fortress will hold, I will run out of it, into the open field and be destroyed. If I don’t believe the deliverer will come, I will try to save myself.

Shield suggests that one might be a way from the fortress–in the throws of battle. In battle, the shield is the miniature fortress–it may be all that separates me from the blows of the enemy, blows intended to kill or maim me.

Horn speaks of strength. It is used in the Hebrew Bible many times as a metaphoric expression of physical and spiritual power.

Stronghold is a synonym for fortress or castle. It speaks as those words do of defense, protection, and safety.

I will call upon the Lord, who is worthy to be praised; so shall I be saved from my enemies. In this verse, I am reminded that because of all that God is to me and does/has done for me, I will call upon God (who is worthy) and through Him I will be saved from my enemies. Again, God is the answer to the dilemma–His is the One who will save. He is faithful and He will be there to answer when I call.

Hallelujah! What a Savior!

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But as for me, I am like a green olive tree in the house of God; I trust [confidently] in the lovingkindness of God forever and ever. Psalm 52:8 (Amplified)

How am I like a green olive tree in the house of God?

I am well-watered by the Word of God which washes over me daily as I study the scriptures. I am planted in the fertile soil–plenty of manure has fallen all around me over the years making the soil rich. I live in the glory of the Son which shines perpetually on me. And because olive trees grow wild if not properly tended, Adonai, the gardener, regularly prunes me for better growth and production.

I don’t strive to grow or worry about my leaves being green enough or when the rain will fall or how my branches will be trimmed–I confidently trust in the lovingkindness of my God, my Abba–forever and ever. I am His and He has never forsaken the righteous.

 

Branches of an Olive Tree on the Mount of Olives, Jerusalem

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My soul, wait silently for God alone,
For my expectation is from Him.

He only is my rock and my salvation;
He is my defense;
I shall not be moved.

In God is my salvation and my glory;
The rock of my strength,
And my refuge, is in God.

Psalm 62:5-7

I love this. I see myself in the psalmist’s description of himself. I wait before God–Adonai Eloheinu–the King of the Universe. I bring everything–all of me–and I wait. The psalmist says, “my soul waits.” The soul speaks of the entire being–mind, heart, emotions. I hold nothing back–leave no thought to flutter away to other concerns. Every ounce of my being is focused on His glory and majesty–who He is and what He has done. It is a natural out-flow of the command in Deuteronomy 6:5 (the Shema) to “love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength.”

I wait only for God–“for God alone.” I have no other Gods before Him. He is my heart’s one desire.

In the waiting, God comes. So I wait in His presence.

I wait silently. As Solomon said, “God is in heaven, and you on earth; Therefore let your words be few.” In the silence, I am filled with expectation–hope.

The Psalmist explains the expectation in verses 6 and 7: “He only is my rock and my salvation; He is my defense . . . In God is my salvation and my glory; the rock of my strength,
and my refuge, is in God.” Several truths about God are embedded in these two short verses.

God is my rock–unlike sand or soil, He doesn’t shift or move. He is reliable. He is the same yesterday, today and forever. He is my rock of strength–a place where no enemy can reach me. He is a hiding place. In Psalm 27:5, the Psalmist tells us “in the time of trouble He shall hide me in His pavilion; in the secret place of His tabernacle He shall hide me; He shall set me high upon a rock.” The imagery is similar to this section of Psalm 62.

God’s presence–His character as my rock and my strength–allows me to say with the Psalmist–“I will not be moved. I will not be shaken.”

 

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The Lord is my light and my salvation; Whom shall I fear?
The Lord is the strength of my life; Of whom shall I be afraid? Psalm 27:1.

Even the psalmist acknowledges the presence of darkness in his life. To expect that in our life with God we will never encounter darkness is naive and foolish. Darkness is the human condition made worse by pride and self-righteousness. (See Romans 1) The psalmist also acknowledges that fear accompanies darkness like a one-two punch.

But God . . . God is light. It is the very essence of who He is. He has control over light–and consequently, darkness. After all, He spoke light into existence. (See Genesis 1:3)

The beauty of light is that it doesn’t compete with darkness rather light banishes darkness. Darkness must flee when light comes. Although often considered opposites, light is so much more powerful than darkness.

That being said, it is important to remember that God is the original source of light. He brings light into me, His vessel, and fills me with it. His light in me represents the work of salvation in me and everyone who is born again. (See John 3:16-21) God entered the dark abyss of my God-less soul and banished the darkness that had been there by bringing the light of His presence. His light–His very essence–dwells within me.

For You cause my lamp to be lighted and to shine; The Lord my God illumines my darkness. Psalm 18:28.

Fear not, Beloved, God is your light and your salvation. He will not allow the darkness to overtake you. Stand fast.

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Wait for and confidently expect the Lord;
Be strong and let your heart take courage;
Yes, wait for and confidently expect the Lord.
Psalm 27:14 (Amplified)

The Amplified version brings out some interesting nuances of this text. First of all, we see that it is not merely waiting that is required. Rather it is waiting for someone in particular, namely the Lord. Moreover, the waiting is not passive as one might wait for a bus or a train, but this is waiting with accompanying expectation–confident expectation in the Lord and what He will do. We can have this confident expectation because of the promises that God has made to us in His Word. Promises like . . . “I will never leave or forsake you,” “I provide a way of escape from temptation,” “I will deliver you,” “I’ll come back for you,” and many others. We are instructed by the psalmist to expect the Lord to do what He has promised to do as we wait for Him to do so.

We are told to “be strong.” The strength the psalmist has in mind is mental strength. This strength speaks of choice. We are to choose to believe God and His Word. We are to choose to allow the Spirit of God to reign in our hearts and minds. As the Spirit fills us, we will experience the resulting fruit of the Spirit, namely patience, long-suffering and self-control.

Once we choose to go God’s way, He will flood our hearts with courage–courage we know could never be our own. Once we are strengthened by this courage, we are able to wait. God is still and always in charge.

In this verse, the first phrase and the last phrase are the same; bookends that reinforce the beginning and the end of the matter–wait on the Lord. It’s worth repeating.

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1 Halleluyah!

How happy is anyone who fears Adonai, who greatly delights in his mitzvot.

2 His descendants will be powerful on earth, a blessed generation of upright people.
3 Wealth and riches are in his house, and his righteousness stands forever.

4 To the upright he shines like a light in the dark, merciful, compassionate and righteous.
5 Things go well with the person who is merciful and lends, who conducts his affairs with fairness;
6 for he will never be moved. The righteous will be remembered forever.

7 He will not be frightened by bad news; he remains steady, trusting in Adonai.
8 His heart is set firm, he will not be afraid, till finally he looks in triumph at his enemies.
9 He distributes freely, he gives to the poor; his righteousness stands forever. His power will be increased honorably.
10 The wicked will be angry when they see this; they will gnash their teeth and waste away,
the desires of the wicked will come to nothing. Complete Jewish Bible

Sometimes I can imagine myself just resting in the words of a psalm, basking in the beauty of what the psalmist is describing. Psalm 112, starting with a wonderful Hallelujah, is a great hammock in which to swing under the shade of a well-watered, leafy tree near a spring in a place like En Gedi or Banias. As you swing back and forth in a steady rhythm and feel the breezes blow over, you can be reminded of all the good that comes to the man or woman who fears G-d and delights in his mitzvot or commands.

  • They will be powerful and they will come into their power in ways that are honorable;
  • They will be bless and righteous in their ways;
  • They will be wealthy and successful and fair;
  • They will be generous with what they acquire, helping those in need;
  • They will be an encouragement to the others who are upright;
  • The wicked will be greatly annoyed by them, but nothing will come of their hatred, plotting or scheming.

It is a beautiful picture–what a wonder this G-d of ours! He is good, good, good! His yoke is easy and His burden is light.

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Know that I AM God

Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth!

           –Psalm 46:10

This familiar verse continues to yield helpful insight about God. It contains a 2-part command and two-fold promise.

Be still and know that I am God is a command. The phrase be still can be understood desist from or stop what you are doing. The command know that I am God can be understood also as a command to recognize I am God. To say it another way, give me the authority and reverence due to me. Know could also be translated understand. To understand that He is God is to know His character, His track record, all that He has done and thereby know that He is sovereign over all things–there is no other God. The LORD our God is one–the only one.

It bears noting I AM, may have been the tetragrammaton, the four-letter Hebrew name for God, Y-H-W-H. This name for God was used by God when Moses asked what name he should use in telling the Israelites about God. It emphasizes His self-existence, that He has no beginning or end which would also contribute to our understanding of His sovereignty.

The next two phrases are promises. I will be exalted among the nations. I will be exalted in the earth! Take it to the bank. God will be exalted among the nations, in the earth if He isn’t already. This again speaks of God’s sovereignty over the whole earth–over everything and everyone.

Know God.

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Outside of Jerusalem as you travel east, you will find Wadi Qelt. A wadi is a common feature in Israel. It is a ravine or stream bed that dries up until the raining season when it may become a rushing river or a generous stream depending on the rainfall, the run-off and the ravine itself. Wadi Qelt is such a ravine that originates near Jerusalem and extends to the Jordan River near Jericho.

Some have suggested that David may have been thinking of such a ravine when he wrote Psalm 23:4 (CJB), Even if I pass through death-dark ravines, I will fear no disaster; for you are with me; your rod and staff reassure me.

This very familiar verse reminded me of God’s guidance and correction in my life and how they prove His love for me. Moreover, my love and acceptance of God’s correction speaks of His imprint on me. In that I can see that He has brought me to this point of sanctification. I also know that He will continue to sanctify me until I am made perfect when I see Him face to face.

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Wadi Qelt

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Wadi Qelt

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Wadi Qelt

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Wadi Qelt

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What can we learn about the eternal nature of God and the fleeting nature of man from Psalm 90?

In the opening verses, we learn that God is outside of time and so time is nothing to Him. In verse 2, the Psalmist says, “before the mountains were born . . .” and “from everlasting to everlasting.” In verse 4, we read, “a thousand years in Your sight are like yesterday when it is past, or as a watch in the night (4-6 hours).”

We, on the other hand are so consumed with and by time. In verses 5 to 6, man is compared to grass which “in the morning . . . flourishes and springs up,” but by evening “it wilts and withers away.”

After considering that so much, if not all, of our lives are wasted doing that which angers God and brings His wrath against us, the Psalmist prays for clarity–to understand God as He is and to understand ourselves and our limitations. He prays in verse 12, “teach us to number our days, that we may cultivate and bring to You a heart of wisdom.”

May that be our prayer as well. Teach us, O God, to understand how short the time is for each of us and teach us to use our time well, for Your glory, for Kingdom business.

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Songs of Ascent

Read Psalm 118:26. Those with Jesus on the Palm Sunday road that day are singing part of what are called “The Hallel” (the Songs of Ascent – sung during the Ascent up to Jerusalem for the feasts which occurred 3 times per year) which consists of Psalms 113-118, which were sung during Passover season. You will recall that our story is taking place during the Passover Season (Feast of Unleavened Bread). The songs would have been on everyone’s mind. “Hosanna!” means “O Save!”

  1. What does Deuteronomy 16:16 say about the requirement of the people to come to the temple in Jerusalem?
  2. Copy the following portions of Hallel Psalms to give you an idea of what the people would have been singing and thinking about as they entered Jerusalem at this time of year. Psalm 113:2 Psalm 113:4-6 Psalm 115:9 Psalm 116:1-2 Psalm 116:12-14 Psalm 117 Psalm 118:19-21
Flowers in Jerusalem
Flora – Israel
Flowers – Jerusalem

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