Look Him in the eye

‘God’s business is putting things right; he loves getting the lines straight, setting us straight. Once we are standing tall, we can look him straight in the eye.’ (Psalm 11 Message). The result the Lord is looking for as He works with us is that we would be able to relate with Him face to face, unbound by insecurities and weaknesses. At a time when He has been exposing and working on my pride I read, ‘the proud he knows from afar’ (Psalm 138:6).  This shock leaves me motivated to persevere so that God will finish His work in me. I know I cannot do it myself, whenever I think I am doing well I sense an attitude welling up as if it had been me rather than the Lord working through me.

A lesson I have learned from construction work is that you have to cut back to a solid base before you start building. If you try to build on something weak you pay a price in the long run as you realise you have to go back to the beginning wasting much work.

The Lord works on me with similar determination. At times he builds me up giving opportunities to develop and serve.  Then I get ahead of myself and my attitude shows the degree to which I am out of true, so he strips me down exposing and working with me on my weaknesses. His goal, that we talk freely face to face, makes it all worth it.

God’s home

Why does God make His home among a people, movement or person as He did in Psalm 132,

‘For the Lord has chosen Zion, he has desired it for His dwelling: “This is my resting place … here I will sit enthroned, for I have desired it.”’

It was not that Zion was the only place that mattered to God, but a dwelling place has a special sense of favour.

Why did God choose Zion? It began with David wrestling with God over a prolonged period and at a high cost until the Lord chose to make His home with him.

‘He … made a vow to the Mighty One … I will allow no sleep to my eyes … till I find a place for the Lord, a dwelling for the mighty one of Jacob.’

Once God was there a movement gathered pace as others were willing to leave home and comfort to go on pilgrimage to Zion,

“Let us go to His dwelling place, let us worship at His footstool.”

They were motivated to worship at God’s footstool, a place of humility.

The movement was maintained as they asked Him to

“Arise, O Lord, and come to your resting place, you and the Arc of your might.”

And as the leaders and people maintained the spiritual state the Lord had led them into,

“May your priests be clothed with righteousness; may your saints sing for joy.”

So, are we willing to wake up and seek God till we find a dwelling for Him?

Hope developed

People gain a sense of peace after they have experience of deciding to live by God’s word rather than succumb to pressure.

‘Great peace have those who love your law, nothing can make them stumble.’ (Psalm 119:165)

They have learned that God is greater than any oppression, so they are not easily driven by it. While oppressed, they live out God’s word waiting for His intervention.

Psalm 119:161-164 shows the development of this hope. We see the Psalmist persecuted by powerful people, yet rather than trembling at these oppressors he trembles at God’s word. It is the Lord I must take seriously when people try to pressurise me to compromise my integrity. In this place of oppression, he looks for a promise from God; a treasure he can cling to that shows God’s perspective. This is a telling statement, for oppression makes us feel like fools to hold to integrity.  I can need an assurance from God’s word that I am on the right path.

Partnering with the Sovereign God

The fact of God’s sovereignty does not require a resigned acceptance of difficulties as being the will of God.

Moses begins Psalm 90 saying he is at home with the eternal God who, knowing his secret faults, brings all he does to nothing. Seems fair; who am I before the Holy and Sovereign God? Moses however switches tack to make a series of appeals asking God to intervene with His love, joy and favour.

Moses knows the Lord’s searching gaze and welcomes the discovery that he is nothing. It is only when the Lord fills his life with love, joy, power and favour that it means anything. Knowing this, Moses asks the Lord to ‘establish the work of our hands.’ I wonder if the ‘our’ refers to the hands of Moses and the Lord. Then the second part of the psalm is an appeal for partnership with the Lord who will establish what they do together.

So, there is not a resigned acceptance that gets on with failure and difficulties, nor are we resigned to accepting that what we do will fade away.  If we live with the Lord in partnership He establishes what humanly should wither away. This process is not based on our giving more effort; it starts and ends with prayer. He is our home; He is the one who works in a person surrendered to Him in a partnership of prayer. Therefore we have hope.

 

Thoughts kicked off by Brueggemann ‘The message of the Psalms’

 

 

 

 

Rest in God’s shelter

When I choose to ‘rest in the shadow of the almighty’, waiting for Him to intervene, then I am ‘dwelling in the shelter of the Most High’. (Psalm 91) This is not passive; it is a call to urgent prayer.  I had always thought these words meant, Stay close to God and you will feel safe. Now I am being trained to understand a deeper significance.

Lately the Lord has been teaching me not to intervene but to pray and wait for Him. It began with situations where I had no right to intervene yet the suffering I observed made the temptation overwhelming; still the Lord restrained. As the situations have come closer to home I have felt the right to intervene, yet when I have done so it has gone horribly wrong – such is the training.

Today I felt a duty to intervene, yet as I did I was restrained by Psalm 91. I realised that to ‘rest in the shadow of the almighty’ is not a consequence of ‘dwelling in the shelter of the Most High’ but a choice. When I see injustice I have to choose between my intervention which brings pain and defensiveness or waiting for Jesus who transforms not only the situation but the abuser. If I jump in I deny Him the opportunity.

Occasionally, in this place of waiting on God, He creates the opportunity to speak in His time. The hearer is receptive, violent words unnecessary and I become part of His intervention.

Head held high

My defensiveness towards others inadvertently rubs off on my relationship with God. If He asks something of me that I believe is unacceptable to others I will not fully receive it in case I feel embarrassed.

“Lift up your heads, you gates; be lifted up, you ancient doors, that the King of glory may come in.” (Ps24)

Many want more of Jesus and ‘lift up their gates’ to let Him in.  As we do so we understand that the king of kings comes both to bring glory and to rule.  We let him in with an attitude of surrender. Yet ‘Lift up your heads’ implies honour. It is the place where I look people in the eye and speak with confidence and a clear conscience. It is not enough to know in my inner world that I have honour. To stand before God and people with head high I need to be willing to trust God with my outer world.

It has taken years for the Lord to lift my head. I have always walked head down, secure in my inner world, insecure in the outer one. The King encourages me to lift my head secure in His honour. He has been proving that confidence by leading me into situations where I may be misunderstood. As I face them with Him by faith and with openness, I learn that Jesus is faithful and can be trusted with my reputation. So, I lift my head and receive more of what He has for me.

God’s goodnes vs our wickedness

The great drives that push me towards wickedness are my fears and my strong desires. The antidote is trusting the goodness of God.

Psalm 34:8-10 says: Taste and see that the Lord is good, blessed is the man who takes refuge in him. … The lions may grow weak and hungry but those who seek the Lord lack no good thing.

Many who know God would acknowledge this – especially when all is well. Life however throws objections. When we feel in need our fears question these words. When what we desire seems tantalisingly in reach we can find ourselves manipulating people; so wickedness is found in us. Yet God IS good and provides what is good! When I look back on times of crisis God’s faithfulness always shone through. The problem is with the appearances that trigger fear and strong desire as we look at an uncertain future.

On an extended overseas trip I went to a lot of trouble to have phone and internet access at a manageable cost. Half way through the trip the equipment failed. Now the challenge – I felt a lack but my drive to rectify the situation pushed my family aside. Could I accept God working for good in the failure? He knew what communication was needed and how much was driven by fear. When I let go of what I thought I needed, accepting a second rate solution, God in His goodness stepped in with unexpected answers that brought completeness. His goodness shone through.

Who are the wicked?

The wicked are generally lumped together as those bad people out there, but who are they really?

When I have a plan for another person  & a course of action to fulfil that plan. Then when I exercise control – The less I need God & The more I am  wicked.  (see study at end)

There are two angles I need to be concerned about:

The most disturbing  – I am wicked!  It was a shock when I realised that my plans to bring people into the kingdom of God were using manipulation and hence wickedness. I had a plan for people to grow in righteousness, and I tried my utmost to get them to follow that plan. I had forgotten God. The Lord has people on a process, and I am merely one interaction in that process. I must entrust people to God in prayer rather than thinking I am personally responsible for them. The fruit of my being wicked is either frustration when my plan fails, or pride if it succeeds. The fruit of the Spirit – love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self control are marked by their absence.

The other angle is when I am the victim. When I feel I have no choice but to do what is being presented, then I am being manipulated by wickedness. I have somehow forgotten that God is bigger than the threats. I see an outcome as inevitable, but is it really? Is God not able to intervene to rescue? Whether God does intervene or not is down to Him. My doing wrong to avoid certain outcomes or gain others shows a lack of faith in God or love of God.

This is the end of the blog.  The remainder of the text is a study in Psalm 10 on the wicked for those who want more detail.

Psalm 10 describes the wicked.

Verse 2 introduces the idea. ‘In his arrogance the wicked man hunts down the weak’. So, the wicked person is arrogant, thinking too much of their own capability and so depends on self, or those they can control. The target of the wicked is the weak, those who can be controlled through manipulation. The wicked manipulator will probe a person to find their weakness, the button that will work on them.  When discovered they move to the second part of Verse 2 – ‘who are caught in the schemes he devises.’ A plan is worked out that will force this person into the scheme chosen by the wicked.

Psalm 10v3-6 describes the heart of the wicked person.

V3 ‘he boasts of the cravings of his heart.’ So, they have a heart’s desire. The end result where they want people to arrive. The worse the wickedness, the more obviously this end is the person’s personal desires. This end may appear good. I have been guilty of using manipulation to press people towards God and His righteousness. However benign the outcome, looking beneath the surface one sees the outcome is about self. There is a hidden, secret motive: these people are righteous because of me, or even worse: for my glory.

Psalm 10:7-8 describes the methods of the wicked.

‘His mouth is full of curses and lies and threats.’ The wicked manipulator threatens terrible things if their scheme is not followed. and they promise the world as they set out a vision of what will happen when their scheme is followed. These promises are lies, for the manipulator cannot guarantee what is promised.

Psalm 10:9-11 The victims of this abuse are the helpless.

The victims are typically those who crave the same things as the wicked person and so can most easily be drawn in by what is promised, or they are the weak who see no way of surviving the threats if they do not go down the wicked persons course of action. When a person falls victim, they are caught in the net of the wicked and dragged off to do the will of the wicked.

‘God has forgotten.’ In such cases God is forgotten both by the wicked and by the victim.  Perversely, God may be invoked and prayed to, but always to help bring about the scheme.  There is little sense of surrender to the will of God.

V12-18 The Lord at some point intervenes to rescue the weak.

‘But you O God, do see trouble and grief … The victim commits himself to you; you are the helper of the fatherless.’ So, the Lord sees what is going on as events expose the hearts of both the wicked and the victims. ‘The Lord is King forever and ever … defending the fatherless and the oppressed, in order that man, who is of the earth, may terrify no more.’