2020 Bible Reflections

April 29th 2020: Psalm 67

It’s Time to Praise Him

67 For the Pure and Shining One
A poetic song of praise for guitar
God, keep us near your mercy-fountain and bless us!
And when you look down on us, may your face beam with joy!
Pause in his presence
Send us out all over the world so that everyone everywhere
will discover your ways and know who you are
and see your power to save.
Let all the nations burst forth with praise;
let everyone everywhere love and enjoy you!
Then how glad the nations will be when you are their King.
They will sing, they will shout, for you give true justice to the people.
Yes! You, Lord, are the shepherd of the nations!
Pause in his presence
No wonder the peoples praise you!
Let all the people praise you more!
The harvest of the earth is here!
God, the very God we worship,
keeps us satisfied at his banquet of blessings.
And the blessings keep coming!
Then all the ends of the earth will give him
the honor he deserves and be in awe of him!

I find The Passion translation of the Bible useful as a counterpoint to some that I usually use – there’s so much life to it – and when we’re looking at a piece of joyful poetry like today’s Psalm it’s perfect.
Some of the phrasing is so evocative. ‘keep us near your mercy-fountain’ is such a powerful image of the way that God keeps pouring out daily mercy to people who seek it from him. Whether we think it should or not, it flows freely, it keeps on flowing and it would only stop flowing if God chose to make it stop. Except God doesn’t choose to make it stop. This might seem odd, or even stupid to us, but that’s the choice that God has made.
Do you ever stop to think about God and end up thinking, ‘no wonder people praise you’? If not, you’re probably thinking about a conception of god which is not God at all, but some other kind of less-than, false god. It’s easy for any of us to create an image of God as a frustrated parent, an absent guardian, a school teacher with a cane ready to discipline us for a small or larger step out of line. It’s easy for us to decide that the things that happen in our lives or in the wider world are because of the defective character of this god, or the demands that this god makes.
I said last week in the Emmanuel Sunday service, that if you’ve met Jesus, you know. It’s hard to describe in mere words. All the good theology, good translation of scripture, good thinking, learning, attention to doctrinal detail and everything else that are all good elements of a life of faith, enquiry and honouring the one we love only work and make sense if they are aligned with an experience of a living relationship with God. It is this God that the psalmist is praising in our reading today. It is this God who does bring justice to the people and it’s to this God that the people shout for joy and lift up their praise. No need for counterfeit gods here. The real God, giving love and justice, mercy and peace, hope and joy to all who ask for it and put their trust in Him, is the only one worth following.
Something To Do
Spend a bit of time seeing if your God is the real God. This might sound silly, but spend a bit of time working out if the God that you follow causes you to overflow with joy and praise, even in the hardest and most pressing of times, like the Psalmist here says the living God does. If you’re not in that place today, think again about whether you’re really relating to the living God. That’s not to say life won’t be hard. That’s not to say that we can’t be angry or disappointed, or ask questions, all at the same time as praising…
Something To Pray
Pray that God would fill you with His joy and keep you near his mercy-fountain.
2020 Bible Reflections

April 25th 2020: Psalm 148

Psalm 148

Praise the Lord.[a]

Praise the Lord from the heavens;
    praise him in the heights above.
Praise him, all his angels;
    praise him, all his heavenly hosts.
Praise him, sun and moon;
    praise him, all you shining stars.
Praise him, you highest heavens
    and you waters above the skies.

Let them praise the name of the Lord,
    for at his command they were created,
and he established them for ever and ever—
    he issued a decree that will never pass away.

Praise the Lord from the earth,
    you great sea creatures and all ocean depths,
lightning and hail, snow and clouds,
    stormy winds that do his bidding,
you mountains and all hills,
    fruit trees and all cedars,
10 wild animals and all cattle,
    small creatures and flying birds,
11 kings of the earth and all nations,
    you princes and all rulers on earth,
12 young men and women,
    old men and children.

13 Let them praise the name of the Lord,
    for his name alone is exalted;
    his splendor is above the earth and the heavens.
14 And he has raised up for his people a horn,[b]
    the praise of all his faithful servants,
    of Israel, the people close to his heart.

Praise the Lord.

Sometimes these reflections are more challenging to write than others. Today’s is pretty straightforward. Praise the Lord. Praise Him all the time. Whatever is going on. Good, bad, indifferent, the best ever, the downright most disgusting; praise God anyway, all the time, during the things that make up our days, at the times when we wish we could sleep but the past is playing like a movie, condemning us anew. Whatever, whenever, through all circumstances, praise the Lord.

It is only God and his name that is lifted up, higher than both the Earth and heaven (that’s pretty high, I’m sure you’ll agree). We are not God. We are friends of God if we trust in him. We are brothers and sisters of Jesus if we accept his invitation to be so, but we are not, we ourselves, God. I say this so that we get things in the right and proper order. When we praise God we are praising the one who made heaven and earth, the one who put the stars in their place, the one for whom we exist, the one who the earth and everything in it belongs to. That God. That’s the Lord who we are praising. He is high and lifted up. And deeply, massively and completely in love with each one of us. It seems silly, almost beyond comprehension that God would love us, but love us he does. He wants us to praise him not just because he is worth it, but because he has loved us from before we even knew anything about him, before we were born even, and called us to be his children. When we are praising always it is because that is absolutely the very least we can do. We praise in singing, in praying, in spending time reading psalms like this but also in how we live, what we make our priorities (put God and other people first and that will be a good start). And we praise God with where we place our trust. Is it in Him and Him alone, or are we keeping some of our trust for ourselves, other people, other relationships, other institutions? We’ll be truly free, truly who we’re meant to be, when our trust is in Him and Him alone.

Something To Do

Make a list of things from the last 24 hours that you are thankful for.

Something To Pray

Ask God to help you trust Him more.

2020 Bible Reflections

April 2nd 2020: Psalm 42

Listen to today’s Psalm here

It’s not always the case, but it is today: I’ve written a song which features a good portion of this psalm. Here is a recording made by Ghostree of that song back in 2011 in Nashville

Hope by Ghostree

Now we’ve got that out of the way, on to the passage itself.

It’s safe to say that the writer of today’s passage is not having a happy time of it. Things are going far from well. To have a downcast soul is more than just an expression we use after a bad day, or even a bad week or more, it seems to me that it’s the cumulative effect of being used to being downcast and disappointed over and over and over and over and over and over again. And so on. Not to be flippant about it at all. What I mean is that this person is desolate, in the depths of despair.

We see the writer remembering days gone by, when going to the Temple (Church for us today, perhaps) and joining with the throng praising the Mighty One, the Holy One, the God of the people was the thing that the writer was able to do, loved to do, looked forward to doing.

It’s only been a few weeks for us since we were able to join together face to face to worship God. I wonder, in the days up to the time that we were asked to stay away from places of worship, had you got into the habit of going through the motions with God, with Church, with a life of worship? It’s easy for any of us to fall into that trap. And then so soon any of us can find the option of worshipping together in a physical Church building taken away, either as we do ourselves now, or through persecution or for a whole variety of other reasons. As the writer has done here, it would be easy to become downcast, in the depths of our being. When will this be over? When will this pain and sadness, fear and uncertainty, when will it stop?

Be like the writer here. Talk to yourself if you feel this way and tell yourself, ‘even so, I’m still going to praise God’. Praise God however you can, whether on your own, on the phone with others, joining in with gatherings online or however you’re able to. Whatever’s going on today, put your hope in God. We will praise Him still, our Saviour and our God.

Something To Do

Praise God! Praise gives fuel to faith and faith and trust in God is what will see us through whatever we may face now or in time to come.

Something To Pray

Pray for those who haven’t been able to gather with their fellow believers for some time because they have been attacked and persecuted for their faith. Pray that they would be strengthened and that when the right time comes, they would be freed.