2015 Verse of the Week #43: Psalm 63:1-4

Our house was late in waking up this morning. It’s okay, because we really needed the sleep, but I’m going to have to hustle to make sure I get all my Monday stuff done. My computer also took some extra time to get itself together this morning, which derailed my usual writing time. I keep thinking I should prepare more posts ahead of time, but I ignore my own advice. After enough mornings like this maybe I will finally get the message. But it is not this day. 😉

This week’s passage starts a new Seeds Family Worship album: Seeds of Praise. It’s hard for me to believe, but this album is going to finish out my year of weekly verses! Because of Christmas I might mess with the track order a little, but we’ll see. Pretty much any verse can connect with Christmas if you try hard enough, right?

Anyway, my passage for the week is from Psalm 63. The Seeds song is track #1 on Seeds of Praise and is called “Better Than Life.” The songs on this album are all taken from the New International Version of the Bible, not the new NIV but the old 1984. So I will take it on a case by case basis in deciding which version to post.  Here are the verses in the ESV today:

Psalm 63:1-4

O God, you are my God; earnestly I seek you;
    my soul thirsts for you;
my flesh faints for you,
    as in a dry and weary land where there is no water.
So I have looked upon you in the sanctuary,
    beholding your power and glory.
Because your steadfast love is better than life,
    my lips will praise you.
So I will bless you as long as I live;
    in your name I will lift up my hands.

As always, I could say a lot about these verses. There is a lot to them. This is a psalm of David, written when he was in the wilderness and in need of protection. The life of David is full of rich lessons– both in what to do and what not to do– and the words of praise he wrote to the Lord are truly a gift to God’s people. I am praising God for preserving these words throughout history so that I can benefit from them today.

A couple of phrases stick out to me as I think about this passage: “My soul thirsts for you; my body longs for you” and “your love is better than life.”

What if I don’t feel like my soul and body long for God? Like, what if I don’t recognize that on a regular basis? And what if I don’t regularly feel that God’s love is better than life? The thing is, it is still the truth. Even if I don’t acknowledge my need of God, or the supremacy of his love, it is still there.

Would David have written these same words from the comfort of his palace and in the company of others, or is there something about being in the wilderness: alone, aware of mortal dangers, in urgent need of help, away from the distractions of the world? I can testify from my own experience that I am more apt to acknowledge these truths when times are hard and my own strength is depleted.

What I’m taking from this passage today is that, yes, I am always in need of God whether I recognize it or not. This world is a dry and weary land without water. The things of this world and the inventions of my sinful mind and heart will not satisfy me or bring me life. Whether I acknowledge it or not, God is what I need. I can see it better when I’m in the wilderness- when I’m desperate and searching, or when distractions have been removed– but it is always true.

Whether we’re in the wilderness or not, the lessons learned there can remain in our hearts. Today I’m praying that God will teach me to remember my need for him, to remember that his love is better than life. Those words truly say so much, because there is much about this life that is good! But just because this life is what’s in front of my eyes does not mean that it’s all there is. I pray that the Spirit will call me back to the eternity written upon my heart by my creator, reminding me that the love of God is better than anything my eyes have seen.

I’m struggling to sum this up and end this post without saying so much more than I have time to write! I’m going to have to end even though I don’t feel ready, and I don’t feel like I’ve said what I wanted to.

Hmm, maybe this is how it feels when my soul and body (right now specifically my mind) are thirsty and in need of God!

It’s a frustrating feeling, but it reminds me of my position before God and the beauty and power of Scripture. The Spirit is in these words, making them living and active– this is a gift from God to those who seek him. It’s my prayer right now that God would bless my heart and bring more understanding to my mind as I think about these verses, and that God would bless anyone who reads this, providing his gracious wisdom to us all as we seek to know his love. May we recognize our need of him, see that his love is better than life, and give him praise.

With that, I’m done. Please enjoy this beautiful illustration of Psalm 63:3 by Jenny of French Press Mornings. She makes some of the loveliest Scripture prints I’ve ever seen! She has an etsy shop, too.

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2015 Verse of the Week #42: Psalm 20:7

Finally over that cold! But I gave myself last Monday off from sharing my verse of the week. I was not only sick, but traveled 700+ miles with my husband to a middle school ministry workers’ conference which, while wonderful/encouraging/refreshing/inspiring, completely sucked the life out of this introvert. It was an entire weekend of people-time! Once the event was over we drove a few short hours to see my family in Tennessee, which was a special trip because my grandma was there visiting my parents and sister for a month. I enjoyed resting in safe fellowship with my family in the familiar place where I spent the majority of my growing-up years. There was eating, chatting, laughing, and even some shopping. Sidewalks were strolled upon. Backroads were driven. I was “home,” and now I am back.

I figure if anyone is following along and missed the verse last Monday they could have easily used the track list from Seeds Family Worship to find “God is Unchanging” on the album The Character of God. That song goes along with Hebrews 13:8 which says “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever.” I pinned a cute image for it to my Verse of the Week pin board, FYI. It was in a Tennessee home studio some 15-odd years ago that I committed this verse to memory… for money. I sang on an album of memory verses– from the King James, no less– with a few other young people. From that session I can recall the verse from Hebrews along with Romans 12:1, although any other verses we recorded have since faded from memory. Maybe those two songs took us the longest? If you want to memorize a verse forever, singing it a few dozen times in a row with the words on a music stand in front of you and someone modeling how he wants it to sound after each take will do the trick!

This week’s verse is the final track of The Character of God. It’s called “We Trust” and can be found in Psalm 20:7.

Psalm 20:7

Some trust in chariots and some in horses,
    but we trust in the name of the Lord our God.

 

I love that this verse is the last song on the album for a couple of reasons. First, a reasonable response to learning about God’s character is to trust him with our hearts, our feelings, our futures, and all aspects of our lives. Over the past 10 weeks the Scriptural passages I have looked at from The Character of God have pointed to God as Creator, Holy, Love, Light, Spirit and Truth, Wise, Faithful, Everlasting, Jealous, and Unchanging. While not entirely all-encompassing, this is an awesome list that I think does a great job of highlighting the most important facets of God’s character that have been revealed to us in Scripture. If we believe that God is all of those things, it only makes sense to trust him above anything else.

The second reason I love the choice of this verse on the album is that the name of the Lord actually carries with it descriptions of his character and deeds. This is something I learned yesterday in church when, as usual, I thanked God that my pastor reads all (and I do mean ALL) of the books so I don’t have to. 😉 He pointed to the time when Moses very boldly asked something of God: to show his glory to Moses. I love that story (found in Exodus 33 and 34) and enjoyed studying about it last year at Bible Study Fellowship. But the thought of the Scriptural term “the name of the Lord” actually referring to his nature and deeds did not crystallize for me until yesterday. God said he would come to Moses in all his goodness and declare his name to him, although God would not appear in all his glory because he needed Moses to stick around and lead the people (“you cannot see my face, for man shall not see me and live” Ex. 33:20). God descended in a cloud, shielded Moses, and caused the glory of his goodness to pass by as he declared his name: “The LORD, the LORD, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, but who will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children and the children’s children, to the third and the fourth generation.” (Ex. 34:6-7)

God does not describe himself in one word or name, but by telling about his nature and his deeds (which prove his nature). Once these thoughts connected in my mind, I though of another verse: The name of the Lord is a strong tower; the righteous man runs into it and is safe” (Proverbs 18:10). I’ve heard that verse many times throughout my life and thought it was just another poetic thing to say the name of the Lord is strong rather than just saying God is strong. But the words mean more than that: the sum of all of God’s parts equals a trustworthy and strong refuge for all who seek the Lord.

I want to say one more thing about Psalm 20:7. As I was listening to the song and working on the chalk lettering I noticed that there is a bit of an “us vs. them” mentality to the words upon an initial, surface reading of the verse. While there is some truth to that because some trust in God and some do not, it would be inconsistent with the character of God for the Christian to allow a feeling of superiority to take root from reading this verse. Even the faith it requires to trust God is a gift from God himself, and the other effects of trusting his “name” are also gifts– undeserved ones. It is not the ability of the believer, but the subject of our belief that allows us to trust in the name of the Lord our God who is Creator, Holy, Love, Light, Spirit and Truth, Wise, Faithful, Everlasting, Jealous, Unchanging, and more. Those who have accepted the free gift of salvation by Christ’s sacrifice can experience communion with God as he reveals himself to us by his Spirit through his Word, prayer, and fellowship with other believers.

File Oct 19, 10 53 23 AM

This is my own image, taken in my home. It’s a little blurry because I had to take a panorama to fit the whole thing in the picture!

 

2015 Verse of the Week #40: Exodus 20:3-5a

I’m getting over a cold, and busier than one in my recovering state should be, so the blog has taken a back seat this week. I’m stopping by to update with my weekly passage from Exodus, which can be heard in the song “God is Jealous” from Seeds Family Worship’s album called  The Character of God. Here is the text:

Exodus 20:3-5a (5b in parentheses)

“You shall have no other gods before me.

“You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. You shall not bow down to them or serve them, for I the Lord your God am a jealous God, (visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and the fourth generation of those who hate me,)

 

I thought it was important to include verse 5b here. It makes sense to me that Seeds did not include that part in their song, as their audience is primarily children. It’s a tricky topic and I wish I had the time and energy to get into it. I learned a little bit about the idea of God’s punishing sin in future generations last year during Bible Study Fellowship’s Moses study. I don’t believe God does this now under the new covenant, but rather each individual is responsible for her/his own sins and likewise is offered an individual chance to accept salvation in Christ. But the natural consequences of sin do affect subsequent generations. We see this now in cycles of abuse, addiction, poverty, etc. that are essentially “passed down” from generation to generation.

And the opposite is certainly true; loving relationships, healthy or wise living, and faith can all be passed down from generation to generation.

Exodus 20:3-5 shows us some rules that a loving God set forth for his people so they would be a people who followed him for generations to come.

I can’t say that God’s jealousy is a characteristic I truly understand. I think sometimes I view God as being indifferent to my foolish, selfish, or otherwise sinful choices, but he is not. And I can’t blame him- he knows the best way for me to live and has laid it out clearly for me in his Word, so when I choose the other way it is only natural that he would be hurt or upset. Not that he is any less complete without my measly offering of obedience, worship, or dedication, but these verses (and others throughout Scripture) tell me that he must miss it. He knows he is the holy, just, everlasting Creator and is complete and perfect as Father/Son/Spirit, but he wants me to be connected to him.

Contemplating this verse has caused me to view God’s jealousy in a little more relatable light, something that is only natural because of God’s love, light, holiness, and wisdom.

Well, I am off to take some more meds and drag myself back out into the world of the living. Have a great week and please share your thoughts on this verse if you have something to say!

I simply Googled “Exodus 20:3” to find an image for this verse, and I love that a blog post from a fellow ministry wife popped up. Thanks, Internet! 🙂