This week – Songs from life… Chronicles (not of Narnia)… Intimate pictures of the soul…
DAY ONE – Psalms 6, 9, 10, 14, 16, 21
We went through Job some weeks ago, trying to understand the problem of pain and suffering. Now King David confronts the problem of human weakness and outright wickedness in the world. Lamenting his own weakness–he doesn’t say exactly what it is–he demonstrates the pathos and passions excited by his own failures. Whatever has overtaken him causes him to lie awake at night, drenching his bed with tears and pleading with Yahweh God to save him and deliver him from his enemies. “Have mercy on me, O Yahweh!” Listen carefully, for that is a prayer that God always answers and one we should pray frequently. James 2:13 For judgment is without mercy to him who has shown no mercy. Mercy triumphs over judgment. And Matthew 5:7 Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy. It is clear that knowing God is to know mercy and to become merciful. This means that we overcome our own predisposition to visit people’s meanness back upon them. Instead, because we have received mercy from the Lord, we wrestle with our own weakness until we are able to be merciful without flinching!
Next David takes on the question of evil. Why do evil men prosper and go on their merry way while God is seemingly detached and uninvolved? Psalm 10:1 Why do you stand far off, Yahweh? Why do you hide yourself in times of trouble? Please understand that David’s question is based entirely upon an assumption rather than a fact. From his viewpoint it appears that God just doesn’t show up when He should… so we think. His description of the evil man’s actions are laid out in lurid detail, so that we want to cry out, “Enough already! God, where are you?” But let’s be reasonable: just because we cannot see God doesn’t mean that He is not there. Just because we cannot understand the Lord’s actions or lack thereof doesn’t mean He is not acting. Our problem is that we cannot understand the problem of evil. And it is a problem… a real problem. And it must be dealt with; we know that. It is our quest then, to humble ourselves before our loving and concerned Father in heaven and decide whether we will trust Him to act becomingly and in a timely way. David’s conclusion? Psalm 10:16-18 Yahweh is King forever and ever! The nations will perish out of his land. 17 Yahweh, you have heard the desire of the humble. You will prepare their heart. You will cause your ear to hear, 18 to judge the fatherless and the oppressed, that man who is of the earth may terrify no more. Jesus put it this way: John 14:27 Peace I leave with you. My peace I give to you; not as the world gives, give I to you. Don’t let your heart be troubled, neither let it be fearful.
DAY TWO – 1 Chronicles 1-2, Psalms 43, 44
We are introduced now to the books called the Chronicles (or stories), part of Israel’s history. And of course, there have to be more genealogies! These Chronicles roughly mirror the books of Samuel, which we are still in. Many of the stories are told in each set of books, with slightly different emphases. And since they chronicle the lives of Israel’s kings, the Psalms are interwoven into the fabric of that time in history. Hence, our readings are from the Chronological Bible–placing the readings in their proper timelines. By the way, it’s a big deal today for folks to want to know who their ancestors are, and where they came from. You can even trace your DNA! The really good news? We all came from Adam and Eve initially, and then from Noah and his family, who alone survived the Great Flood of Genesis 6. And if you trace your ancestry back a few generations, you might just discover some great… and not so great people! In the end, our quest is to be great in our generation, as Noah was: he found grace in God’s eyes.
King David of Israel was a great man–not because of his exploits or qualities, but because he was a man after God’s own heart! His exploits were shockingly bold and wonderful; his character was highly to be praised. He became a wealthy and powerful king. But after all, he was human; he had weaknesses like all men, and he suffered greatly in his time. For this we can be thankful, because he has left a legacy in the Psalms through which we can most feelingly express agony and praise to God. By simply reading the Psalms aloud or weaving them into your own prayers, you can share your deepest feelings of joy and pain with your heavenly Father. Until pain and suffering are history, we need all the spiritual, physical and emotional support we can get. In this, David is your friend and mine.
Psalm 43:3-5 Oh, send out your light and your truth. Let them lead me. Let them bring me to your holy hill, To your tents. 4 Then I will go to the altar of God, to God, my exceeding joy. I will praise you on the harp, God, my God.
5 Why are you in despair, my soul? Why are you disturbed within me? Hope in God! For I shall still praise him: my Savior, my helper, and my God.
DAY THREE – Psalms 49, 84, 85, 87
David wrote many of the Psalms, the evidence of his musicianship and relationship with Yahweh God (the Lord). But the sons of Korah also gave us a song book. They were part of David’s kingdom, appointed to provide continual worship as support for the daily life of God’s people. When all of life is distilled, what is left in the jar can be studied and made part of our existence. These four psalms offer up answers to various questions: 1) What do I see? 2) What do I want? 3) What do I hear? 4) Where is my foundation for life?
What do I see? I see people getting up, going somewhere to do something, coming back, then doing it all over again. In this manner, we all fashion something we call ‘life.’ Sometimes people get rich doing it; sometimes not. Those who do may decide their wealth gives them special privilege or importance, and they proceed to use it for whatever they want, even to believing that God Himself might be impressed! He isn’t, because His riches and the riches of heaven are beyond the pale; no human has ever seen the like of God’s riches. When I see the rich and poor, my choice is easy–I’d rather be rich than poor! But then I might miss what I DON’T see–God’s riches. So, I am intent on discovering the unseen as I make my way through life.
What do I want? I can tell you now, I have no real knowledge of what it’s like to live as a fugitive for years, running for my life. David knew, and perhaps the sentiments of this song give us a sense of how our ‘life’ may be seen by a fugitive. Cut off from God’s house, unable to join the worshippers, he developed a longing for anything that reminded him of God. Psalm 84:1-4 How lovely are your dwellings, Yahweh of Armies! 2 My soul longs, and even faints for the courts of Yahweh. My heart and my flesh cry out for the living God. 3 Yes, the sparrow has found a home, and the swallow a nest for herself, where she may have her young, near your altars, Yahweh of Armies, my King, and my God. 4 Blessed are those who dwell in your house. They are always praising you. I want in my life anything that reminds me of the Lord; anything that encourages me in my relationship with Him; anyone who is walking this journey with me.
What do I hear? Voices–so many voices; words, so many words. The air waves inside and outside are filled with voices, and in some way they all affect us. Social media have pretty well captured the mind and imagination of the current generation, filling our ‘life’ with mixed messages. What do I hear? Psalm 85:8-10 I will hear what God, Yahweh, will speak, for he will speak peace to his people, his saints; but let them not turn again to folly. 9 Surely his salvation is near those who fear him, that glory may dwell in our land. 10 Mercy and truth meet together. Righteousness and peace have kissed each other.
Where is my foundation? Ray Shelton, born March, 1943, Alameda, California. So what? That tells you exactly NOTHING about me. Alameda means nothing to me; I didn’t even grow up there. No foundations of my ‘life’ remain there. My foundations are not in a place, for I have lived in too many places. Rather, my foundations are in a PERSON–in God, known and loved through my Lord, Jesus Christ. 1 Corinthians 3:10-11 According to the grace of God which was given to me, as a wise master builder I laid a foundation, and another builds on it. But let each man be careful how he builds on it. 11 For no one can lay any other foundation than that which has been laid, which is Jesus Christ. We are all building something with our ‘life.’ What, or should I say Who, is holding it up?
DAY FOUR – 1 Chronicles 3-5
Ours is a crazy, mixed up world, messy in more ways than one! All of these genealogies we just read give us the mistaken notion that the times and seasons are planned, orderly and in good shape. Most of us hold some notion that our United States, for instance, has a wonderful past and great history, making us a people to be emulated. In some ways that is true. But we also have some deeply rooted messes in our past that can never be eradicated, such as slavery and native American ethnic cleansing. (Please don’t even go there–this is not the place for political and social comment.) As much as our history relates to freedom to worship God and carry His Good News to the reaches of earth, we shine in our intention… but are rather tarnished in execution. Whether we speak of Israel’s 4,000-year history as recorded in the Old Testament or our history as recorded within the last three hundred fifty years, we find profound flaws that bring us back again and again to God. For, after examining and parsing all of human history, answers to the ‘mess’ are, and always have been, in Him alone. If we learn anything from history, it is that we learn little from history! And yet God has always been there–patient, loving, forgiving, desiring that we will seek Him with all our heart and find Him, for He alone has the answers to where we are going, what we need along the way, and how we will get there.
As to the genealogies–God has in every generation reached out in love to find someone, or many, with whom He can make covenant to redeem our world and bring a future and a hope to many. Are you one? I am. While the Sovereign of the universe works tirelessly to destroy the evil and embed righteousness in people everywhere, we can nevertheless see that the evil will not go away quietly. Spurred on by the Evil One, people who reject or ignore God will join the conspiracy against the Holy One and seek to overthrow the heavenly kingdom brought to earth by Jesus Christ, in order to elevate mankind to a place of permanent control over this earthly kingdom and finally be free FROM God. It won’t work, of course, as we will note repeatedly in Israel’s story; but our question today is whether we will be wise in our generation, will be righteous, will be faithful, as was Noah and all who came after him. That is the point at which we receive GRACE from God. Jeremiah 29:11-13 For I know the thoughts that I think toward you,” says Yahweh, “thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you hope and a future. 12 You shall call on me, and you shall go and pray to me, and I will listen to you. 13 You shall seek me, and find me, when you search for me with all your heart.
DAY FIVE – 1 Chronicles 6; Psalms 36, 39, 77, 78
We are introduced in this latest genealogy to the tribe of Levi, one of Jacob’s twelve sons. Levi and his descendants were literally ‘set apart’ from their relatives to become God’s ‘ministering’ servants. As such they did not receive allotments of land in Israel; rather they were dispersed throughout the tribes of Israel, living in cities given them by their relatives. Their chief assignment was to ‘minister’ to God in behalf of the rest of the tribes. They were declared ‘holy’ in things pertaining to worship and service to God. They centered in and around any site used for worship. They became poets and singers, priests and intermediaries. Two of the four Psalms of our day’s reading were written by Asaph, a Levite, and perhaps King David’s secretary of state, whose instruction was aimed at the generations in Israel. They were devoted to keeping Israel in touch with their spiritual roots, keeping their memories alive to the mighty miracles and wonders God accomplished in favor of the people. Psalm 78 especially chronicles Israel’s history from Egypt to the present, urging the people to think of God, worship Him and serve Him. It recounted times of misery brought on by their idolatry and rebellion against God and His ways, recounting how God moved His worship center from Ephraim to Zion–Shiloh to Jerusalem–and raised up a young shepherd, David, to be their king and spiritual shepherd.
Remembering that Jesus became the Savior of the world two thousand years ago when He gave His life for ours, we must ask ourselves whether He is but a memory or a Living Witness in our generations. Given the current state of our culture and the erosion of law and order, will this generation, or the next, even remember God, or be aware of the amazing miracles that attended the founding of this nation? In the end, the kingdom of heaven–God’s heaven, the triumph of Jesus Christ–will displace all the kingdoms of this present world and make an end of the evil which seems to be creating a global conspiracy against our Creator and Lord. God has always been, and will always be, the Sovereign Ruler over all creation. My relationship with Him is always at the forefront of my daily living and commands my unyielding attention. God continues to love the world; He gave His only Son to save the world. I am part of that world and, having been ‘saved’ by Him, I continue to live my faith openly as a remembrance to the next generations.