Thursday, November 20, 2014

Wednesday Devotional: Psalm 119.49-56 (Stanza ז)

Pray and ask God to open your eyes and heart to His Word and to empower you by His Holy Spirit to put it into practice. 

Abba, I love You and thank You for the life that You give! It is awesome that You grace us with life for as long as You do. O Lord, I pray that we would live that life that You give us patterned after Jesus Christ our Savior, Your Son, walking in step with Your Holy Spirit the whole way, until this life opens up into a grander kind of life as we who truly trust in You cross the threshold of death. Teach us Your Word today, unto that aim. In Jesus' Name, Amen. 

Scripture: Psalm 119.49-56 (Stanza ז)
49   Remember what You said to Your slave
       which You made me hope in.
50   This is my comfort in my affliction, 
       because Your promise makes me live. 
51   Arrogant people mock me like crazy, 
       I don't turn from Your instruction. 
52   I remember Your ancient judgments, Yahweh, 
       and I am comforted.
53   Blistering rage has seized me because of wicked people--
       the people who abandon Your instruction!
54   Your laws are songs to me
       in the house of my immigrant wanderings.
55   I remember in the night Your Name, Yahweh, 
       and I will definitely keep Your instruction.
56   This is mine,
        because I keep Your rules.

   This section of eight verses has each verse start with the Hebrew letter ז, which is the 7th letter in the Hebrew alphabet. The passage continues discussing the troubles the author is experiencing as well as the hope and commitment he has for Yahweh. In terms of the poetic structure of the stanza, v.49 appears to be the heading of the stanza, and sets the overarching perspective of the stanza. However, vv.50-56 form the body of the stanza, framed with v.50 and v.56 which both start with the word "this" with a first half that talks about something that belongs to the author and have a second half that begins with "because." v.51 and v.55 both have a second line that talk about the author not turning from Yahweh's instruction, while v.52 and 54 talk about the positive emotions that God's judgments and laws give to the psalms. This makes v.53 the focal point of the section. Thus, the passage has a heading in v.49 and a chiastic structure in vv.50-56. 
Heading: God You be faithful, because I'm hoping in You
Body: I'm being faithful to You God (don't forget to be faithful to me)
   A    What belongs to the Psalmist
      B    The Psalmist will not turn from Yahweh's instruction
         C   The Psalmist feels good because of what God has said
            D   The Psalmist gets angry at wicked people
         C'  The Palmist feels good because of what God has said
      B'   The Palmist will not turn from Yahweh's instruciton
   A'   What belongs to the Psalmist

   Looking at the stanza as a whole, I am struck by the psalmist faith in God, the hope God has given him in God. Yet, the psalmist can be honest and admit that He is dependent on God to come through for Him. The psalmist talks about how committed he is to God, and how He remembers Yahweh, what He has said as well as Who He is. He has this close and faith-filled relationship with Yahweh. And while it may seem in some sense inappropriate to phrase it like this, basically the psalmist seems to be telling God that he needs God to be faithful to him as much as he has been faithful to God. He is saying, "Hey, Yahweh, we have this relationship. I'm trusting in You--You're the One that made me hope in You in the first place--and I want You to be faithful to the commitment You made to me!" Obviously, on some level, we don't need to ever worry about whether God will come through for us, but clearly this guy feels comfortable telling God that it feels like even though he is holding up his side of the relationship, God doesn't seem to be active in His part yet. A lot of Christians talk about God as if we should not presume to have expectations of Him, but I think that from this passage we can agree that at some level we need to be honest with God about those expectations. It is true: some of our expectations are ridiculous. But the author just seems to want relief and justice and know that God cares and is being faithful. 
   Anger towards wicked people is something that often we as Christians--or sometimes even if you're not a Christian--feel uncomfortable about. We in American culture often view anger as whole as a bad thing. And yet, setting aside for a moment the question of rightness or wrongness of anger, we do need to be honest with God about the anger we have and the causes of that anger. Anger, I think, actually can be something that is good and holy. Righteous indignation is a good thing. People who perpetrate evil against others should make us anger, that people refuse to follow Christ in humility and faith should make us anger. And although we often say "love the sinner, hate the sin" we also have to admit that if there is such a line in everyday life, it is often blurry. When someone hurts us we are not just angry at the evil action but the perpetrator of the action because they are morally culpable. And I think that when framed and governed by the Holy Spirit that is right. We should get angry, but not only angry. Reading from other passages in Scripture does help us to see that this anger must be held in tension with love, patience, humility, and forgiveness. 

   I need to enjoy having a real relationship with God, where I trust Him and expect Him to act. While I certainly don't have a relationship with God because of anything in me or anything that I ever did or will do, I do have a relationship with God. And that relationship with God does mean that I have one role in the relationship and God has another role, which also means that I can and should expect God to fulfill His role as He has promised, which also means I can talk with Him honestly about the times when I feel like I'm waiting for Him to do His part. 
   While I need to be careful not to be hypocritical or unreasonably or unrighteously angry, I should get angry about evil things. People who sin and refuse to follow and obey God and believe in Christ and live by the Spirit should make me angry. But in this anger, I also need to mix in love, patience, hope, and grace. 


Yahweh, You are my God. You've been my God ever since You made me hope in You at age 4. I thank You that we have a relationship by grace and that because You are my God and I am one of Your people, that I can trust in You to do what You promised me You would do! God, I love you! Get all the glory from my life! Keep me faithful to You as You keep Your promises to be faithful to me! I love You! Fill me with Your Holy Spirit that I may live by Him and know Christ more deeply through Him, in Jesus' Name, Amen!

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Wednesday Devotional: Psalm 119.41-48 (Stanza ו)

   Pray and ask God for help with what you're going through today and tomorrow. Also ask Him to make you see the riches of this passage and how to apply it to your life.

   Abba, I love You! Yet, I'm not perfect. I sin. Forgive my sin today. Clean out my heart from foolishness. Purify my mind from selfishness. Open my eyes to see You for Who You really are, and Your Word today for what it really says! In Jesus' Name, Amen.

Passage: Psalm 119.41-48 (Stanza ו)
41   And may Your loyalties come to me, Yahweh,
       Your salvation according to Your promise!
42   And I will respond to the person shaming me in word,
       because I trust in Your Word.
43   And don't ever take away the message of truth from my mouth,
       because I wait for Your judgments.
44   And I will definitely obey Your instruction completely,
       for ever and ever
45   And I will definitely walk around in a wide area,
       because I pursue Your rules!
46   And I will definitely speak about Your statements before kings
       and I won't be ashamed.
47   And I will delight in Your commands,
       which I love!
48   And I will lift my hands to Your commands, which I love,
       and I will definitely study Your on laws!

   All the verses in this stanza begin with the word "and" in English, because the word for "and" in Hebrew is וְ, which is the only word in Hebrew that begins with the 6th letter of the Hebrew alphabet, the waw ו (pronounced vav).
   The structure of the stanza is more complicated. However, what is clear is that the last two verses of the stanza, vv.47-48, form some sort of conclusion section, because they are structured as a chiasm, which is a kind of poetic structuring device, where half of the statements mirror the other half of the statements. Sometimes, like here, the mirror has a focal point.
        A           I will delight in Your commands
             B         which I love
                  C        I will lift my hands to Your commands
             B'        which I love
        A'          I will definitely delight in Your laws
   The rest of the verses may form another chiasm, but is not as sure. The focal point of that chiasm would likely be "because I put my hope in Your judgment" from v.43.

   One thing that sticks out to me is how passionate the psalmist is about obeying God. He is also full of love for God's words, commands, and the like. He gets joy and pleasure from them, from knowing them and studying them. Learning and following the lifestyle Yahweh gives us in His Word is a way to show our love Yahweh, our God, rather than a way to earn His love.
   But a bigger theme that jumps out at me as look at the passage how sure the author is about the vindication and justice he will one day experience. He is certain that if God out of His loyalty saves him, that he will be able to face the people who are shaming him, he will be able to experience freedom, and that he will even be able to face kings without shame. Hope in Yahweh is powerful. It is not merely positive thinking, but it is the author's confidence in Yahweh to be the kind of God that Yahweh always was, is, and will be. Hope is powerful, not because we believe that circumstances will just change on their own, but because we worship and serve the God Who is faithful and loyal to His people. Yahweh will act. Our hope as Christians is based on the clearly proven fact that God does act.

    I need to really hope in God and allow that hope to empower and encourage me to endure when I'm dealing with frustrating people, people who are make my life difficult or ashamed. Hoping in the judgment of God frees me from having to take revenge.
    I need to really delight in the lifestyle God has given, not just take it on begrudgingly. What God has specified in His Word is something that I should love. I need to ask God continually for the right kind of attitude towards His Word.

    Lord, Yahweh my God, give me hope in You in the midst of trial and people who attack me. And give me right attitude and response towards Your Word, all of it! Make me enjoy the Bible more and more every day! In Jesus' Name, Amen.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Wednesday Devotional: Psalm 119.33-40 (Stanza ה)

   Pray and ask God to make you understand the passage and direct you in how to live it by the Holy Spirit in Jesus' Name.

   Abba, please open my eyes to see the wonders of Your Word. I want to know You more and live more fully for You. I want to follow Christ and do Your work by the Holy Spirit. Give me the ability to truly understand this passage and grow because of it. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

Passage: Psalm 119.33-40 (Stanza ה)
33   Make me know, Yahweh, the path of Your rules,
       and I will keep it to the end.
34   Make me understand,
       and I will definitely keep Your teaching,
       and I will follow it with all my heart!
35   Make me walk on the path of Your commands,
       because I enjoy it!
36   Make my heart turn toward Your statements,
       and not toward profit gotten by evil actions
37   Make my eyes go away from seeing worthlessness
       Make me alive on Your path!
38   Make Your promise sure for Your slave,
       which results in You being feared.
39   Make my shame, which I fear, go away,
       because Your judgments are good!
40   Look at me! I long for Your requirements!
       Make me alive in Your righteousness!

   The psalmist continues with the theme of wanting to follow Yahweh's way of life, living a lifestyle shaped by what God has said, decided, and commanded. However, he also mentions again the ominous threatening presence of shame, this time admitting in v.38 that the shame he is facing is scaring him. It is more than he can handle. The shame may have to do with the profit obtained by wrongdoing, but it is unclear whether the psalmist is mentioning it as the motivator of those shaming him, or if he has struggled with giving in to that sin in the past and is perhaps now having to bear the consequences of it.
    As far as the structure of this stanza is concerned, it is interesting that every single verse opens with a direct request for action. In fact, all the first 7 verses use the same verb form, which indicates that the psalmist wants God to cause something to happen, not just do something, but to make the request a reality. That makes v.40 stick out, because it opens with a different kind of verb. Other than that, it is hard to break the stanza down into subsections, but there does appear to be some slight cohesion between the last four verses, since v.37 and v.40 both end with the same phrase which serves to bracket those verses off to themselves a bit.

   To me the big thing that jumps out at me in this passage is just how desperate and dependent the author is on God. He literally begs God to act in ever single verse, sometimes more than once a verse! He needs God to act, and I think that I need to really embrace that kind of desperation in my relationship with God at times. But is is his desperation to know God's word and then live it that only compounds this impression. Am I as desperate as the psalmist to know God's Word and live it out?
   Yet, it also strikes me that this guys is really coming to God with his struggles in view. He recognizes that he needs help to overcome the temptation to profit at the expense of others. He also needs help to continue to feel sure and confident in God's promises and stay on God's way of life. He has fears and shame that he can't handle. I feel like I need to make sure I keep going to God with everything going on in my life, that I wouldn't hold back but really spread out my problems in front of God and desperately ask Him to act.
   Lastly, I am struck by how much life itself is wrapped up in following and obey God, in knowing and clinging to God's Word. Following God is always the only way to both experience true life.

    I need to be utterly and at times desperately dependent on God.
    I need to continue to go to Yahweh with everything I'm going through, trusting Him to act.
    I need to beg God for a deeper love of His Word and a greater faithfulness in living it out.
    I need to reframe my mind to seeing life through the lens of true life, i.e. knowing and following God.

    God, You're really are my everything! I need You! I'm desperately in need, so desperate that only You can truly help! O God, give me a deeper love for Your Word and a greater ability and consistency in living for You! Make me think of life more in terms of You being my life. There is know life apart from You, despite how lifelike it may at times appear. You know what I need You to do, to make happen, so make it happen! DO IT! FOR YOUR GLORY! I can't make happen the impossibilities set before, but You CAN! So do what You've got to do, and make me faithful to do the work You've called me to do! In Jesus' Name, Amen!