Re: Verse reading–Psalm 95 (day three) “Today, if only you would hear his voice…” Jesus took this Psalm seriously. He did not hurry about in his life because he along with the Psalmist knew something about this world. He knew, in the words of late Dallas Willard, that “the universe was a perfectly safe place for us to be.” Whether a little girl lay dying, or he himself suffered hunger in a trackless wilderness, or temple guards travelled to arrest him by night, Jesus found himself and others at home in God’s good universe. Even adverse circumstances took place within a world that God made and that God commands. Jesus’s ancestors in the desert did not take this reality seriously. Our Lord shows us how it looks for a human being to live a life that confidently remembers today the Creator’s voice of authority over every created thing.
Re: Verse reading–Psalm 91 (day three)
“For he will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways; they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.” We can say, “If I live according to God’s ways, I’m invulnerable.” We can say that, but we’re wrong. The truth is, we’re never more vulnerable than when we do live according to God’s ways. Our protection is this: We do not have to fear those things that could kill us—even thought they might. When we learn our way of life from the Lord, we find everything in life—even pain—rich with the beauty of the great and true story of God’s love bringing us along. We would never hear that story if we strained to hear only some assurance that we’re indestructible.
Re: Verse reading–Psalm 69 (day three)
“I am forced to restore what I did not steal. You, God, know my folly…” One’s own heart appears blameless at first: “Many are my enemies without cause.” But in the give and take of honest conversation with God, the heart comes into clearer focus: “My guilt is not hidden from you.” That confession does not excuse malicious behavior from those who position themselves as enemies. It does, however, restore the soul’s ability to rest in God’s safekeeping during times of hostility. A cry for God’s help can become a review of your own life before the Lord. If you’ve ever wondered, “How did it come to this?” then let these ancient words teach you how to live from this moment on in a world in which everyone—even you—needs God’s forgiveness and wisdom and promise.
Re: Verse reading–Psalm 53 (day three)
“The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God.” “The universe can and will create itself from nothing” (Stephen Hawking and Leonard Mlodinaw, The Grand Design, 180). The aforementioned quote from Stephen Hawking’s book is not meant to label the brilliant physicist a fool. It is meant, though, to highlight the lengths to which we will go to place something—anything—at the center of the universe other than a God who has created us and holds us accountable. If we have to posit a universe that pulls itself into existence by its own bootstraps, so be it. If we must have something because we want it, if we decide that we have not harmed someone because we did not intend to do so, so be it. All such thinking comes from the kind of foolish thinking that convinces us that we create our own reality.
RE Verse reading–Psalm 40 (day three) “Sacrifice and offering you did not desire—but my ears you have opened—burnt offerings and sin offerings you did not require.” People use their ears for more—much more—than listening. Often, ears function as filters: You hear what you want to hear. Ears also serve as early warning systems: You recognize the voice of someone you don’t wish to see, so you go somewhere else. God calls us to hear him—to stop even our religious observances lest they become a substitute for paying attention to him. Jesus often punctuated his teaching with a call for people to use their ears to take his words into their minds and think: “He who has ears, let him hear.” If we listen, we can ponder; if we ponder, we can pray. If we pray, we God will hear.
Re:Verse reading–Psalm 32 (day three)
“Do not be like the horse or the mule…” A society that has estranged itself from the Bible says God functions as a substitute for thinking. A society that has estranged itself from the Bible says religion keeps people in an intellectual cave. A society that has estranged itself from the Bible says no one can really know what’s true. Actually, rote belief and slavish thinking have no place in the life of anyone instructed by God’s word. Control by bit and bridle is for mules, not for people. To understand the seriousness of sin, to confess to the Lord, and to learn from God how to live and not die—this is height to which God calls the human mind. God actually has a higher view of human beings than a society which claims that truth is out of reach for us.
Re:Verse reading–Psalm 31 (day three)
“Those who see me on the street flee from me.” David knew how quickly friendships and loyalties could fire up and then fade. Mentors, advisors, friends, his own children—David knew such pain from every side. In the middle of such terrifying instability, words such as “refuge” (verse 1 of this Psalm), “rock”, “fortress”, “rampart”, and the like crop up frequently in David’s descriptions of God. These are the only terms David found that would come close to capturing the sense of sure-footed safety that he had come to know in God’s presence. David could live confidently in the presence of others because he retreated first to God. Jesus Christ stood firmly in this same spiritual rhythm. And he went further. His retreats with God fueled his love for others to the extent that he confidently laid down his life for our sakes.
Re:Verse reading–Psalm 22 (day three)
“All the ends of the earth will remember and turn to the Lord…” Solzhenitsyn famously stated the converse of David’s prophetic vision: “Men have forgotten God; that’s why all this has happened.” What is the “this” to which he referred? Look around, and look inside your own heart. You will see. But creation is groaning, stretching toward the day when it will be renewed. And mankind, suffering in its own physical and spiritual squalor, will know God again. Some will reject him, as many already have. But even as David faced the cruelties of those who had set their faces against him, what he knew of God told him that it could not end like this. And so it is in our day. God will not be satisfied until this whole universe is restored. The end will be only the beginning.
Re:Verse reading–Psalm 16 (day three)
“Apart from you I have no good thing.” Where there is good, there is God. The trouble is, the human heart finds it hard to determine what is truly good. We can marvel at a newborn baby or stand in awe of the photograph of a distant star coming into existence, and we can surmise that a Creator must be at work. But we can just as easily treat gossip like “choice morsels” (Proverbs 18:8). Sin has severely stunted our ability to tell the difference. It is true that where there is good, there is God. But we would do well to seek God first, and know that where there is God, there is good.
Re:Verse reading–Psalm 8 (day three)
“When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place…” Consider, then: 13.3 billion light-years away, a tiny galaxy (the rather clunkily-named MACS0647-JD) shines its light. That light travels six trillion miles in one year, and even at that speed, it needs 13.3 billion years to reach earth. The psalmist didn’t measure space like we do, but he knew: God’s heavens are immense enough that the human race would seem trivial by comparison. And yet, God is mindful of us. Jesus knew that our well-being depends on our knowledge of that mindfulness in this vast universe: “Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? Yet not one of them is forgotten by God…Don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.” (Luke 12:6-7)