Synopsis Psalms 10:14-13:6 8/23/2021
Psalms 10 through 13 are all psalms written by King David.
Initially, David reflected on God’s care for orphans and poor people. In it, he petitions God to hold accountable people who take advantage of the poor and desperate.
Next, David reflected on the difference between a man’s thinking and the way God thinks. God, he observed, was immutable. Always in His holy temple, God is unchanged regardless of life’s controversies on earth.
After this, David cried out to God in a moment of desolation. At that moment, he felt alone and abandoned. And so, he encouraged himself by remembering God’s faithfulness. With this, he anticipated the judgement awaiting evildoers.
David’s Prayer Constancy
David’s psalms express a wide range of experiences and emotions. But through all the ups and downs, the one constant is his relationship to God. He prayed about anything and everything. He shared his life entirely with the God whom he had come to know personally.
If God is my friend, then I’m probably going to mention him occasionally in conversation.
“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” John 1:1
Synopsis Psalms 9:6-10:13 8/20/2021
Psalm 9 begins with a reflection about God’s authority. King David observed how the Lord rules forever. And, those who trust in God are never forsaken. Though God is sometimes slow to act, he never forgets justice.
Most poignantly, David revealed a particular aspect of God’s wisdom. He said, “By the deeds they do, the wicked are trapped.”
Later in the Psalm, David lamented the foolishness of evil. Evil people believe that God doesn’t care about their behavior, or that He simply doesn’t exist. For this reason, they feel free violate God’s laws, and other people, with impunity.
God is the Escape From Evil
Evildoers become trapped by the evil they do. And King David says this is a manifestation of God’s wisdom.
So, when I do evil things, it makes it harder to avoid future evil. And the only thing that breaks this powerfully degenerative cycle is repentance. Jesus gave us the way.
So, humbly returning to God in the Word and the Eucharist breaks the degenerative cycle of sin and death. And by God’s grace, the church offers the sacraments for the life of God’s people.
“Take care, brothers, that none of you may have an evil and unfaithful heart, so as to forsake the living God. Encourage yourselves daily while it is still “today,” so that none of you may grow hardened by the deceit of sin. We have become partners of Christ if only we hold the beginning of the reality firm until the end. for it is said: “Oh, that today you would hear his voice: ‘Harden not your hearts as at the rebellion.’” Heb 3:12-15
Synopsis Psalms 7:9-9:5 8/18/21
As psalm writer, David made certain observations about the nature of God. He did this in Psalm 7 during the time Saul was wrongly persecuting him. From his experience, he concluded that God was a protector. He protects righteous people from the injustice of evildoers.
In Psalm 8, David celebrated God’s wisdom and goodness. And he marveled at how God created man. God made man to rule earth as little less than a god. And God gave man dominion over all of the earth as the premier part of His creation.
With Psalm 9, David’s focus shifts to pure praise. He rejoiced and delighted in praising God. In this way, David declared the righteousness of praise.
David’s Rule Fully Human
As king, David ruled over Israel. And during his reign, the kingdom gained real independence from its neighboring states. In fact, during his reign most of the nations that had historically persecuted Israel became vassals of Israel.
From David’s perspective, God built rulership into his purpose in creating man. A part of man’s purpose is to subdue the earth. His job is to bring order and justice. In other words, God always intended human beings to have dominion. For David, this understanding was a big part of his personal power.
In the existentialist, postmodern age, we have few powerful kings. So, there are no real, political standard bearers. And there are very few universally, accepted standards.
So, it is a strange thought. God made me to rule. He made me to order and govern in my domain. And He made this both a mandate and destiny. Every human being shares this.
“Jesus answered them, ‘Is it not written in your law, “I said, ‘You are gods”’?” John 10:34
Synopsis Psalms 5:8-7:7 8/18/2021
Here are portions of three Psalms written by King David. The conclusion of Psalm 5 contrasts the character qualities of evildoers versus those who trust in God. In the end, the psalmist writes an appeal that evildoers would be exposed and punished. At the same time, the king prays that those who trust God will be made glad.
Psalm 6 focuses on David’s infirmity and distress. In it, David appeals for healing and restoration. Yet, in the end, David expresses his confidence that God has heard and answered his prayer.
In Psalm 7, Saul drove David into the wilderness and persecuted him. Faced with the overwhelming odds against him, David cried out to God. Specifically, he appealed to God on the basis of his own innocence.
David Always Prayed
David had his ups and downs. In one moment of his life, he asked God to preserve him because he was innocent. However, in another moment, when he had clearly and grievously sinned, he asked God for mercy even though he didn’t deserve mercy.
I experience life like David. I often feel joy at the goodness and beauty of life. And, I have times where I feel remorse and shame for the wrong things that I have done. Similarly, there are other times when I feel offended for things that other people have done to me.
And, it’s probably safe to say that most people have similar moments of experience.
But one difference between me and King David is an almost continuous state of prayer. David seems to have brought everything to God in prayer. And God honored this tendency both by responding to David’s requests and by memorializing the constancy of his relationship with God.
“Pray without ceasing.” 1 Thess 5:7
Synopsis Psalms 2:9-5:7 8/12/2021
During Absalom’s attempted coup, David wrote psalm three. At that time, King David fled Jerusalem along with the rest of his family. And so, in the midst of his distress, the king cried out to God.
As he did, he worked through the stress by reminding himself of God’s faithfulness.
Using a similar tone, David wrote psalm four to encourage the people to trust in God.
Trusting In The Darkest
Strangely, I “wake up” to God most fervently when the things in my life aren’t going well. As a result, there’s a temptation to keep living my life as I have, wait for a crises, and then call on Jesus to help out.
Unfortunately, this is the recipe for a ton of unnecessary drama and suffering. Eventually, living this way brings sadness and enormous regret.
But there’s an alternative. Instead of contenting myself with the knowledge that God will deliver me out of crises, I can change my goals.
Being conformed to Christ means striving for the highest possibility of my life. But, because I am not perfect, I quickly come to realize that the work is not done. I have nothing to be content about.
Once I realize two things, it’s harder to lose focus. First, my heart is not naturally attentive to God – it must be led or it will lead me astray.
Second, we live in a world that is desperate for the things that only God can give it.
I have a role to play in solving both of these problems.
“What then shall we say? Shall we persist in sin that grace may abound? Of course not!” Rom 6:1
Synopsis Job 42:9-Psalms 2:8 8/11/2021
At the story’s conclusion, Job received back more than he had lost. And so, he regained both his wealth and his moral influence over the community.
In Psalms, King David observed the benefit of walking upright. And so, according to the great king, the man who avoids wicked counselors will be glad.
Wicked counsel isn’t simply a matter of seeking out some nefarious evildoer. Not many people would seek out evil counsel in this way. However, the process is even more insidious than that.
Indifference toward God is evil. And I live in a culture that is increasingly indifferent to God.
Thus, the influence that makes me less attentive to God’s voice, is a distraction that ultimately leads to destruction. And this, regardless of whence it comes.
“While he was speaking, a woman from the crowd called out and said to him, ‘Blessed is the womb that carried you and the breasts at which you nursed.’ He replied, ‘Rather, blessed are those who hear the word of God and observe it.’” Luke 11:27-28
Synopsis Job 41:3-42:8 8/4/2021
In response to Job’s complaints, God spoke a long discourse. In this, he challenged Job’s claims. Unlike his friends, Job did not make wrong claims about God. Instead, he failed to understand the essentially mysterious nature of God.
Once he realized this, he repented. He recognized that he had been speculating on “things to wonderful for me”. And he promised not to do so again.
However, God remained angered by Eliphaz and the other friends. And so, because they had spoken poorly of God, he directed them to make a sacrificial offering. And he directed them to ask Job to pray for them.
Job Let God Be God
Job learned that God’s mysterious nature cannot be reduced to something easily understood.
Let God Be God
I have seven children. And though I’ve lived with them most every day of their lives, I cannot say that I entirely comprehend any one of them. I suspect this is more than my inability to understand psychology.
We are, each of us, unique in a way that is only known to God. This is the essential mystery of personhood.
So, in the same way that a parent eventually learns to allow a child to be who they are, allow God to be God. Allow God to mysterious and wonderful in your understanding.
“Whoever has ears ought to hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To the victor I shall give some of the hidden manna – I shall also give a white amulet upon which is inscribed a new name, which no one knows except the one who receives it.” Rev 2:17
Synopsis Job 40:3-41:2 8/2/2021
After God spoke, Job acknowledged the limits of his power. And so, he committed to speak no more.
But God continued to question Job. Specifically, he asked Job about justice.
From Job’s perspective, he had done nothing wrong. And so, he deserved none of the miserable things that had happened to him. For him, the misery was undeserved and, therefore, unjust.
In response, God reminded Job of the obvious. Job did not have the power to save himself. He was created entirely dependent upon God.
God asked Job, “Would you condemn me [your maker] that you may be justified?”
Job had done well in his willingness to stoically accept whatever God had brought into his life. In this way, he never cursed God.
But his grudging acceptance wasn’t the full possibility of his life. More precisely, Job’s acceptance wasn’t born out of love. It conveyed no love for God.
Acceptance With Joy
It is the martyr’s way to accept with joy. For such a one, simply knowing that God is behind every circumstance causes a response in love.
The apostle wrote, “Count it all joy…”
“Consider it all joy, my brothers, when you encounter various trials” James 1:2
Synopsis Job 39:1-40:2 7/30/2021
After Job’s many complaints in front of his friends, God finally spoke directly to him. But unlike Job’s anticipation, God asked the questions instead of answering Job’s complaints.
In this way, God firmly claimed to be the origin and ongoing source of everything. So, His questions didn’t merely point out the difference between God’s knowledge and Job’s knowledge. Instead, through His questions, God pointed out that He was the ongoing cause behind everything that exists.
Thus, using known examples, God described how He gave the wild ass his freedom. And, He withheld wisdom from the ostrich. Similarly, He caused the eagle to nest on high cliffs.
God’s Personhood & Job’s Personhood
In this way, God helped Job understand that His surpassing excellence wasn’t merely His all-knowing, omniscience. But rather, God made clear one essential difference between human persons and God. God’s omnipotence comes before the existence of any other person or thing.
God showed Job that He was the source of all being. So, Job’s demand for justice lost its meaning from this perspective.
Center of My Person
I am the center of my field of experience. This is an unavoidable reality. But this truth doesn’t make me the center of the universe. The inability to make this distinction is the very ground of original sin. And from there, every other sin known to man.
“God is not a human being who speaks falsely, nor a mortal, who feels regret. Is God one to speak and not act, to decree and not bring it to pass?” Num 23:19
Synopsis Job 38:12-41 7/28/2021
After Elihu had finished challenging Job, God revealed Himself directly to Job and his friends. In this encounter, God posed a litany of questions to expose Job’s limited understanding. For example, he asked Job if he was present at the creation. But he also asked Job more mundane questions like whether or not Job understood where snow comes from.
Of course, Job did not know the answers to any of God’s questions. So, at that moment, Job experienced a subtle irony. He had demanded God’s attention. And his intention was to question God. But when God gave him and audience, he felt overwhelmed.
Understanding God the Creator
Job suffered great physical and emotional pain. Unable to escape the torment of his pain, he sought some reason that might explain the purpose of his suffering. He did this because the seeming lack of purpose made his suffering even more painful and unbearable.
And yet, even as He addressed Job, God did not tell His purpose. Specifically, God did not reveal that the devil had caused Job’s ordeal in order to test his faithfulness.
Of course, if God had revealed this, then the challenge of proving the devil wrong would have appealed to Job’s pride. Thus, Job would have focused on defeating the devil. But that was not God’s purpose. God does not need to prove Himself or His creation to the devil.
Instead, this slight misdirection of Job’s motivation would have undermined the work that God intended to do in Job’s heart. He wanted Job’s absolute abandon, even if that meant Job would never rationally understand his circumstances.
Abandon to the Creator God
Utter abandon to the God of all Creation – this is the work.
Therefore I praised joy, because there is nothing better for mortals under the sun than to eat and to drink and to be joyful; this will accompany them in their toil through the limited days of life God gives them under the sun. I applied my heart to know wisdom and to see the business that is done on earth, though neither by day nor by night do one’s eyes see sleep, and I saw all the work of God: No mortal can find out the work that is done under the sun. However much mortals may toil in searching, no one finds it out; and even if the wise claim to know, they are unable to find it out.” Eccl 8:15-17