Tender Mercies

Psalm 51:1-4.

Have mercy upon me, O God, according to thy lovingkindness: according unto the multitude of Thy tender mercies blot out my transgressions.

Wash me throughly from mine iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin.

For I acknowledge my transgressions: and my sin is ever before me.

Against Thee, Thee only, have I sinned, and done this evil in Thy sight: that Thou mightest be justified when Thou speakest, and be clear when Thou judgest.

The story behind this psalm is one of lust, deceit, and murder–all on the part of the man who is called “a man after God’s own heart.”

David was first designated as such when Samuel anointed him to be king after Saul (I Sam. 13:14). David was quite literally just a boy at that time, and had not started upon his path of grief and glory. We find this description of David again in Acts 13:22. If you’re wondering how it could be that David is called such, I found several interesting articles. Here’s the link to the one I liked the best: https://www.biblestudytools.com/bible-study/explore-the-bible/10-reasons-david-is-called-a-man-after-god-s-own-heart.ht

David was a sinner. He knew it. He didn’t deny it when Nathan, God’s prophet, confronted him with his great sin. What a dramatic moment that was! You can read about it in II Samuel 12. Nathan had the courage of a lion, to confront David. David could have had him killed on the spot, but I believe God was already working in David’s heart so soften him and prepare him to accept God’s judgment on his sin.

For me, the most amazing thing in that entire story is David’s heartfelt, soul-deep contrition as he knelt before God i n humility and acknowledged his sin with no excuses, no “yeahbut” nonsense. In fact, I think it was a great relief to him to finally bow before God and confess freely and without reservation the evil of which he was guilty.

Once sin is acknowledged and confessed, then healing and restoration can begin.

David acknowledged his sin. At the same time, he acknowledged God’s right and righteousness in declaring the penalty for his sin. He said, in effect, “God, You are righteous and holy. Whatever You choose for me, because of my sin, is righteous and holy. I accept my guilt, and I accept Your judgment; I beg Your mercy and grace, although I deserve neither.”

God My Rock

Psalm 42:9-11.

I will say unto God my Rock, Why hast Thou forgotten me? why go I mourning because of the oppression of the enemy?

As with a sword in my bones, mine enemies reproach me; while they say daily unto me, Where is thy God?

Why art thou cast down, O my soul? and why art thou disquieted within me? hope thou in God: for I shall yet praise Him, Who is the health of my countenance, and my God.

I love mountains. I was born in Colorado, and though I grew up mostly in Minnesota, I loved going back to Colorado on vacations and seeing the vastly different landscape of those immense mountains. There is such a sense of changelessness, strength, and protection in those massive ranges.

In these verses, David repeats his questioning of the disquiet of his soul. He then responds to that disquiet in the same way he did in the early verses of this Psalm. He trusts in God, his Rock, his Fortress, Who is unchanging no matter what trials may come.

I couldn’t find absolute confirmation, but I wonder if these last few verses of this psalm are prophetic. I think of Jesus crying out from the cross, “My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken me?” He knew, of course, that God would never forsake Him, but in the worst of His suffering He felt the burden of fear and despair as He bore the sins of all mankind.

Later, after He had died, a soldier thrust his spear into Jesus’ side, confirming that He had already died. Before He died, they had mocked Him, asking Him where His God was now? Both of these events are reflected in v. 10.

Excruciating Pain

Psalm 22: 15-17.

My strength is dried up like a potsherd; and My tongue cleaveth to My jaws; and Thou hast brought Me into the dust of death.

For dogs have compassed Me: the assembly of the wicked have inclosed Me: they pierced My hands and My feet.

I may tell all My bones: they look and stare upon Me.

I chose this painting today because it depicts the moment at which Jesus was offered liquid on a sponge that would ease His suffering to some degree. What the painting does not show is the blood that poured from His wounded back. The scourging process was brutal, and some died from that alone before they ever made it to the cross. It tore off His skin and lacerated His muscles, exposing bone. His arms and legs were also struck by the cat o’nine tails, leaving Him almost unrecognizable as human (Isaiah 53).

The loss of blood increased the dehydration He suffered, resulting in His tongue sticking to His jaws. He had no strength left. Surrounded by His enemies, who pierced His hands and feet, He could actually see His bones. There was very little musculature left on His body, so severe had been His persecution.

Once again, since David had no knowledge of crucifixion, I have to wonder if he knew he was a prophet. This certainly seems like a vision, doesn’t it? It so accurately portrays what happened to Jesus as He hung on that cross in excruciating agony.

I’m sure I’ve said this before, but it bears repeating: Words mean things! When we say our pain is excruciating, we are saying it is the pain that comes out of (ex) the cross (cruci–as in cruciform, crucify). The thieves who suffered beside Jesus knew that pain. Others who were executed by the Romans and, sadly, down through the centuries, knew that pain. But most of us do not truly experience the extreme, agonizing pain that comes from crucifixion. We ought to use our words wisely.

My Strength and My Redeemer

Psalm 19:13-14.

Keep back Thy servant also from presumptuous sins; let them not have dominion over me: then shall I be upright, and I shall be innocent from the great transgression.

Let the words of my mouth, and the meditation of my heart, be acceptable in thy sight, O LORD, my Strength, and my Redeemer.

David knew his own propensity for sin. He had, after all, been guilty of the seduction of an innocent woman; the murder of her husband, and so much more. Here, he is asking God to keep him from committing any more presumptuous sins.

Presumptouous means arrogant, proud, or insolent. It is thinking more highly of ourselves than we ought to think; assuming that we have ultimate authority over our lives. It is too easy for us to forget that He Who made us is the sovereign, ultimate authority.

The great transgression indicates an ongoing and unrepentant rebellion against God. The word great is translated as numberless; countless.

The final verse of this Psalm is one I’ve committed to memory too long ago to remember exactly when I learned it. In my own words: Let the words that I say, and the thoughts and intentions in my heart, be only those that please You, Lord. You are my Strength. You are the One Who has redeemed me from the gates of hell.

Reviewing this verse reminds me, painfully, of how far I have to go to reach fulfillment of it.

Sing Unto God!

Psalm 9:11-12.

Sing praises to the LORD, which dwelleth in Zion: declare among the people His doings.

When He maketh inquisition for blood, He remembereth them: He forgetteth not the cry of the humble.

Changes in music are nothing new. Every generation has its own preferences. Many of my readers have noted, over the years, that I post a lot of “old” hymns and songs with which they are not familiar, but which they enjoy. I will probably keep doing that, mostly because they are the songs I heard and loved way back when I was just beginning to grasp the whole idea of music. The songs I loved then are still the songs that speak to my heart today. There are newer songs that I also love, but the words of all those hymns I sang and loved as a child are still in my memory. I can only imagine that, if and when my mind slips into senility, I will still be able to sing the same dear old songs!

David loved music, too. I think he was incredibly gifted to compose, sing, and play his music. Someday I’m going to sing a duet with him :). Maybe we’ll compose a song together.

In today’s verses, David admonishes us all to always be ready to sing praises to the Lord. His praise should always be on the tips of our tongues, ready to share with other people. Singing together is one of the ways in which we worship Him.

When He maketh inquisition for blood: That is, when God requires answers, in a legal sense, for the shedding of blood. This clause has set me to thinking about all the martyrs down throughout time, starting with Abel, whose blood has been shed for their adherence to God’s law. This verse, v. 12, says that God does not forget those people; He has heard the cries of humble martyrs whose lives have been taken because of their faithfulness to Him.

Restitution will come.

A Just Judge

Psalm 9:3-4.

When mine enemies are turned back, they shall fall and perish at Thy presence.

For Thou hast maintained my right and my cause; Thou satest in the throne judging right.

It seems, these days, as if every single thing in America has been politicized, weaponized, and polarized–including our judicial system. This passage has reminded me that we need not despair over the obvious corruption at all levels of government, because GOD is not influenced or changed by man’s corruption.

David had been betrayed and attacked not only by people he trusted, but by his own children! Seeking power, they turned on him and fought over who would be the next king before David was dead–an attempt at a coup against their father.

His enemies included his own children. When they sensed that they could not prevail, they turned to run for their lives but were tripped up in their own deceit. They could not stand against God, Who is the only perfectly fair and righteous judge.

In v. 4, David praises God for His righteousness and fairness as the only perfect Judge over all things. David says that God sat on His throne as the only fair Judge, the only One Who could never be influenced by corruption or personal gain–or politics!

We who are believers need to remember that whatever comes to pass on this tired old planet, God is still supreme. He is still righteous, still fair, still an honest and incorruptible Judge Whose decisions cannot be overturned by any higher court.

Psalm 8

I thought it appropriate today, as we end our short study of Psalm 8, that we read the entire Psalm. It is a beautiful tribute to the almighty God Who created all things.

[[To the chief Musician upon Gittith, A Psalm of David.]] O LORD our Lord, how excellent is Thy name in all the earth! Who hast set Thy glory above the heavens.

Out of the mouth of babes and sucklings hast Thou ordained strength because of Thine enemies, that Thou mightest still the enemy and the avenger.

When I consider Thy heavens, the work of Thy fingers, the moon and the stars, which Thou hast ordained;

What is man, that Thou art mindful of him? and the son of man, that Thou visitest him?

For Thou hast made him a little lower than the angels, and hast crowned him with glory and honour.

Thou madest him to have dominion over the works of Thy hands; Thou hast put all things under his feet:

All sheep and oxen, yea, and the beasts of the field;

The fowl of the air, and the fish of the sea, and whatsoever passeth through the paths of the seas.

O LORD our Lord, how excellent is Thy name in all the earth!

Prayer for Mercy

Psalm 6:1. “[[To the chief Musician on Neginoth upon Sheminith, A Psalm of David.]] O LORD, rebuke me not in Thine anger, neither chasten me in Thy hot displeasure.”

Of course, we don’t know exactly what David’s instrument looked like; nor do we know how he looked, or what his clothing looked like. I like this representation, though, and felt it fitting for this Psalm.

David was literally begging for mercy during a troubled time. In the bracketed words, The chief Musician refers to the man who was in charge of all the music in the Temple; Neginoth is the song David composed for the chief musician; and Sheminith could refer to either an eight-stringed musical instrument or to a musical notation such as an octave.

We don’t know the specific sin that brought David, possibly with tears, to seek mercy from God. He clearly felt he was being chastened by God, and it is probable that he knew the cause. We don’t have to understand those details in order to hear the pleading in David’s voice as he seeks God’s mercy.

I have long been fascinated at the seeming duality of David’s personality. He truly loved God, had a close relationship with Him. At the same time, he could be devious, and rash in his decisions. He had shed the blood of many, and for that reason he was not allowed to build the glorious temple that his son Solomon built. God dealt with every sin, every shortcoming, David committed; yet, God also called David “the man after God’s own heart,” a man who desired to have a right relationship with God.

How could he be so two-faced? How could he live for God and at the same time sin against Him?

All I have to do to answer this question is to take a look at my own duplicity. I’ve never killed anyone, but there have been times I’ve wished I could! There has been hatred in my heart, living side by side with my desire to love and serve God. Even after 75 years of living, 70 of those years as a believer, I still have to guard against the flesh, sin, and indulging in my own selfishness. My battle just doesn’t seem as public as David’s was, nor perhaps as extreme–at least in the acting out on my selfishness.

What David is saying here is, in my own words, “Lord, I understand that I need to be rebuked, but could You please rebuke me a little less harshly? Could you restrain Your hot displeasure, which I know I deserve, and show me mercy as you chasten me? I don’t think I can bear Your unrestrained wrath, Lord!”

Perhaps all of us who claim the Name of Christ can understand wanting a less harsh reaction when we cross the line of God’s wrath.

We Want a King!

Hosea 13: 11-12.

I gave thee a king in Mine anger, and took him away in My wrath.

The iniquity of Ephraim is bound up; his sin is hid.

Kings/Northern Kingdom of Israel | THE MARION COUNTY MANNA PROJECT | Marion  County, Florida

It would be interesting, I think, to do a study of all the kings of Israel and Judah. However, it would take a lot of time and a great deal of research, so it’s going on the back burner for now.

To give you a little background to God’s statements in this passage: God had given Israel many prophets and judges, most of which they dismissed in their ignorance and determination to be just like all the surrounding nations. It wasn’t enough for them to have God in their very midst. They wanted a power figure that they could hold up as being, at the very least, equal to the kings of the surrounding nations. God warned them what would happen. The king would tax them to support his armies. He would take their sons and daughters as slaves. He would take their livestock to feed those in his great banqueting halls, and the kings would build extravagant palaces in which to house themselves and their courts. The daughters of the people would be examined for their beauty, and taken off to the king’s harem, never to be seen again by their families. You can read about it in I Samuel 8: 4-22.

Of course, God was right. It wasn’t long before the first king, Saul, began to hold himself as an authority higher than God. He came to a dreadful end, and God replaced him with David. David did have a heart to serve God, but he was weak in matters of the flesh and committed grave errors against the God he truly did love. He wasn’t a good father. His children suffered for his weakness. After he died, Jereboam and Rehoboam split the kingdom, northern and southern, and the deterioration continued. All of the things about which they had been warned came to pass.

Verse 13 describes Israel’s sin as being hidden, or, in the best usage I found, it was set aside and covered, waiting for the judgment of God to fall. The coming judgment would be severe, but when God chastises His children, whether then or now, it is always done for the purpose of bringing them back into the place of blessing. Sometimes it takes a while, and a lot of suffering, for us to see the love behind the chastisement. God wants to bless His people. Sadly, His people want to have that blessing not because of their obedience, but in spite of their disobedience.

Sunday Morning Coffee: The Apple of Your Eye

Proverbs 7: 1-2.”My son, keep my words
    and store up my commands within you.
Keep my commands and you will live;
    guard my teachings as the apple of your eye.”

There is an interesting history behind this term, “the apple of your eye.”  My research indicates that in the original Hebrew, the term was actually “the dark center” of the eye, or the pupil.  There is much more about how it has become the expression we use today.

The important thing is that we are to keep God’s Word safely guarded in our minds and hearts; that we are to protect it, and study it, and love it.  When we do,  we will have life. We will find the pleasure and the beauty of life that God intended us to find.

The opposite is also true.  When we  fill up our eyes with things that are contrary to His Word, and those things become the center of our desires and of far more importance than His Word, then  the life of joy in the Lord can flicker and die.

In Psalm 13, a retrospective written by David when he was older about a time when he was young, we see him in utter despair. He is running away from Saul, who wants to kill him. David cries out to God, saying things like, “How long will You forget about me?  How long will You hide your face from me?”

The truth is that God had not forgotten David; nor had He turned His face away.  David had lost sight of God, however.  God was no longer the apple of David’s eye, and when he continues in that Psalm to pray and seek God, then in the last two verses he begins to rejoice again in God’s salvation; he even finds he can once again sing unto the Lord.

When I skip my Bible-reading, or skim over it just to get it done, there is a nearly tangible reduction of joy and peace in my heart.  It doesn’t take long for me to find a moment to pray, seeking forgiveness, and get back on track.

I need God’s Word, just as I need food and water.  Without it, other things can easily become the apple of my eye.

In those things, though, there is very little joy or life.  You’d think I’d have this all figured out and never have a problem staying in the Word, right?  I’m 70, after all, and by now I should know better.

I DO know better.  I just don’t always DO what I KNOW.

Lord, help me to keep Your Word as the apple of my eye.