BITE: His Allegiance: Clear-Cut

O Lord, who shall sojourn in your tent?
Who shall dwell on your holy hill? 
in whose eyes a vile person is despised,
but who honors those who fear the Lord; Psalms 15:1&4ab [ESV]

At first glance, the first part of verse 4, “in whose eyes a vile person is despised” might seem Pharisaical. In fact, this is more an assertion of loyalty. He’s not trying to compete or judge; he’s just expressing his preference and his position.

I must be careful not to take passages like this as a ‘right’ to despise an enemy of God; rather the rest of the bible and Jesus Himself commands us to love others including our enemies. What this does do is reinforce how I align my loyalty to my brothers and sisters in Christ over those who would oppose my co-heirs and Christ Himself.

As I live my life, I am to be a ‘light’ in the darkness and blatantly/outwardly expressing a despising of enemies of God is detrimental to being the light God has called me to be. Instead, I am to love my enemy, offering them a drink of water or bread to eat, which will heap burning coals on their head.

If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” To the contrary, “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing, you will heap burning coals on his head.” Do not be overcome by evil but overcome evil with good.

Romans 12:18-21 [ESV]

BITE: His words: Restrained…

O Lord, who shall sojourn in your tent?
Who shall dwell on your holy hill? v3 -> who does not slander with his tongue
and does no evil to his neighbor,
nor takes up a reproach against his friend; Psalms 15:1&3

I covered verse 2 yesterday which speaks of a man’s character as ‘True’ as one who shall dwell with God in His tent and on His holy hill. Today we look at verse 3 which talks about a man’s words that are ‘restrained’.

The word for slander implies ‘going around’ to spy or gossip (Gen. 42:9 and following; also, in different words, Lev. 19:16). It is closer to scandal than slander. Neighbor is a Hebrew word that can have different meanings depending on the context; here it could just mean ‘someone else’, and this middle ground fits better with the picture than proximity would. In the last phrase, ‘takes up a reproach’ could mean either ‘throws shade’ or ‘digs up something shameful’, in the sense of bringing it up unnecessarily. The whole verse expands on the idea of Proverbs 10:12: ‘Hatred stirs up strife, but love covers all offences.’

The book Respectable Sins (by Jerry Bridges) comes to mind. I have a regrettable propensity to talk about someone in the light of ‘praying for them’ when speaking to others and I am convicted by this verse in the same way I was when I read Bridge’s book. I sometimes find myself unwittingly justifying gossip because it is clothed in support through caring-through-sharing. I have prayerfully asked the Holy Spirit for a pang of conscience when I am on the cusp of doing this and I am so thankful He has. In my walk of sanctification, I want to grow to be more and more Christ-like and build the alignment of my actions around the ‘Fruits of the Spirit’.

BITE: His Character: True…

Psalms 15:1-2 [ESV]
O LORD, who shall sojourn in your tent?
Who shall dwell on your holy hill?
He who walks blamelessly and does what is right
and speaks truth in his heart;

I am camping out here in Psalms 15 for a bit. This is a beautiful passage outlining the attributes of the person shall dwell with the Lord in His presence. The second verse starts this enumeration with one who has a blameless walk, does right, and speaks truth in his heart.

A blameless walk is a tall order to begin with. Everything I do in my life has to result in outcomes that carry no blame. This is impossible for me to do of my own volition. My heart is too sick and my flesh is too weak without the Lord’s strength. Only when I am connected to the Spirit in prayer and saturated in God’s Word do I have what I need from the Lord to navigate a blameless walk.

This is followed closely by doing what is right. How do I know what is right? I know because I obey God’s Word and am attentive to the guidance of the Holy Spirit. Both of these again require that I am in fellowship with my Lord and Savior.

Finally, speaking truth in my heart is the inner voice that operates in honor to the Lord even when no one is watching. What goes on in the quietness of my mind must know the Truth and apply it. As I read ahead, I am realizing that this needs to be a chapter that I can recite to myself from memory; reminding my inner man what walking through God’s tent and patiently sitting in His temple requires.

How thankful I am to have the gift of the Spirit through my Salvation and the additional promises and instruction that the Bible carries beyond David’s day. So much to be thankful for.

BITE: Rejoicing in Our Salvation…

Oh, that salvation for Israel would come out of Zion!
When the Lord restores the fortunes of his people,
let Jacob rejoice, let Israel be glad. Psalms 14:7 [ESV]

Even though he is surrounded by enemies and facing death, the psalmist does not lose his faith and hope in God. He knows that God is on his side and will deliver him from his troubles. He calls on God’s people to rejoice and praise him for his salvation. He trusts that God will show his justice and mercy to the world.

The Apostle Paul uses this psalm, along with other passages from the Old Testament, to show that no human being can claim to be righteous before God. He argues that everyone has sinned and fallen short of God’s glory, and that no one can be justified by obeying the law. He says that only by God’s grace, through faith in Jesus Christ, can anyone be saved.

We are living in that restoration period – God has called us to Himself and being that we have been redeemed by belief in the death, burial, and resurrection of His Son, we can rejoice in the salvation we have secured by grace in Jesus alone.

We live in a period surrounded by those the Psalmist was calling out as fools. I must take every opportunity to share my faith and testimony to a watching word of hopelessness. I know the answer to their problems, and I am called to share those answers with ever lost person God gives me the privilege of talking to. I can’t let the hopelessness I see be the catalyst for withholding a word or Shema moment; it can be too easy to people as ‘lost causes’ sometimes but making that assumption is a seed of unbelief that God is powerful enough to change hardened hearts.

BITE: God is Looking for Those Who Seek and Understand Him…

​ The fool says in his heart, “There is no God.”
They are corrupt, they do abominable deeds;
there is none who does good.
  The Lord looks down from heaven on the children of man,
to see if there are any who understand,
who seek after God. Psalms 14:1-2 [ESV]

<I know I am behind in my posting so apologies for the stack of ones coming that catch me up.>

Psalms 14 starts with a comment on the fool. The Hebrew language has different words for fool. The writer here uses the word nābāl, which is hard to define exactly, but there is a commentator who explains it well when he says, ‘a nābāl is a kind of fool, low and worthless and a target of ridicule. He is not just dumb, but . . . morally bad’. This is clear in the second line of the first verse, where the fool is shown to be very wicked. But the main thing about fools is that they ignore God. It doesn’t matter if they really don’t believe in God or not. As Proverbs 1:7 says, ‘The fear of the Lord is the start of wisdom’, and here we see the opposite of that: the denial of God is the beginning of stupidity and moral decay.

The second verse starts to peel apart God’s view; looking down to evaluate the hearts of men to see ‘if there are any who understand’ and more importantly, any who seek after Him. We know what happens to those who seek after God, they find Him – it is one His amazing truths. In my walk with this Lord, this is a foundational part of my faith…that as long as I keep my nose in His word, He promises to reciprocate through His Holy Spirit’s influence in my life.

I am looking forward to this Thursday which is the first of the classes on becoming a Canyon Hills Certified Counselor. Marianne and I have committed to putting in the work finally to get the education we need to step into this role more deliberately as God has been directing us in our ministry relationships. More to come on this as learn what the Lord has to say in His word about coming alongside those who are hurting and need the direction from God’s perfect word to see the answers to their issues.

BITE: I HAVE Trusted in Your Steadfast Love…

In the first 2 verses here, the psalmist is pleading with God to answer him. He tells God to give light to his eyes because the only other option is closed eyes with the sleep of death. If this latter is the option, his enemies will have won.

The last 2 verses really spoke to me tonight – I HAVE trusted in Your steadfast love: This is past and present tenses all in one. The psalmist is making a statement about current and pervasive truth about his choice to lean into the gracious love God has for him.

He then goes on to say, “my heart SHALL rejoice in Your salvation.” The thesaurus has these words for ‘shall’ – be obliged, intend, and must. The saving grace of the Lord is complete and permanent. Even when I am in my deepest place, I can rejoice and have joy for the security I have in Eternity with Him forever.

Finally, he says, “I WILL sing to the Lord.” Why? Because He has dealt bountifully with me. How beautiful is this? ‘Will’ is a commitment in the face of hardship. Regardless of the circumstances, the psalmist will sing praises.

I have so much to pay attention here. I am now on day 17 of this lower respiratory tract infection, and I am coughing incessantly…unproductively. Am I deterred from praising my Lord anyway. No. I have trusted in my Savior, I shall rejoice because of my salvation, and I will sing praises to my forever King.

BITE: The Lord Arises as a Warrior…

“Because the poor are plundered, because the needy groan,
I will now arise,” says the Lord;
“I will place him in the safety for which he longs.”
  The words of the Lord are pure words,
like silver refined in a furnace on the ground,
purified seven times.
  You, O Lord, will keep them;
you will guard us from this generation forever.
  On every side the wicked prowl,
as vileness is exalted among the children of man. Psalms 12:5-8 [ESV]

Verse 5 tells us what God says when he hears the psalmist’s cry for help. The psalmist is not alone, but belongs to a group of people who are poor and needy. They suffer from the lies and threats of the wicked. God promises to stand up for them and protect them.

God is like a Warrior who comes to the rescue of his people when they need him. Verse 5 has different ways of being translated because the last verb can mean different things. The first part of the verse says: ‘I will save them’, which means God will keep them safe. But the next part says: ‘he blows at them’, and this can be good or bad. It can be good if he blows at those who want his help, like he is breathing hope into them (that’s what nrsv says). Or it can be bad if he blows at those who are mean to his people, like he is blowing them away (that’s what niv says). Some people think the bad meaning is better because ‘pwḥ’ is a word that can mean ‘to insult’.

You know, some people are just bad. They lie and cheat and hurt others. But not God. His word is perfect. It’s like pure gold or silver. That means I can trust Him. God said He would take care of His own and the other poor folks who suffer because of those who are evil. I believe God. I know He is true to His word, even when it looks like the wicked are winning and others seem to support the wrong the evildoer commits.

BITE: Deceptive Speak Ruins Societies…

​ Save, O Lord, for the godly one is gone;
for the faithful have vanished from among the children of man.
  Everyone utters lies to his neighbor;
with flattering lips and a double heart they speak.
  May the Lord cut off all flattering lips,
the tongue that makes great boasts,
  those who say, “With our tongue we will prevail,
our lips are with us; who is master over us?” Psalms 12:1-4 [ESV]

This lament of David complains that people’s behavior, particularly that associated with speech, has disappeared from human society. In this passage, it sounds as if he is the only one left. He mourns the loss of those who are faithful, but the Hebrew word here would be better rendered as ‘godly’. The Hebrew term is ḥāsîd, and is connected to the common word ḥesed, which means covenant love or loyalty. His stance is that those who live consistently by the requirements of the covenant are dwindling.

Verse 2 specifically identifies those who speak deceptively, as the problem. These people would violate the covenant by breaking the ninth commandment (‘You shall not give false testimony against your neighbor’, Deut. 5:20). Through a lot of the Proverbs there is promoting of healthy, honest speech over against society-destroying, foolish speech, including gossip, slander, flattery and outright lying. According to David the psalmist, there is a horrible lack of consistency between what these people say (they flatter with their lips) and what they think (but harbor deception in their hearts). They are hypocrites. In verses 3–4, the David delivers a drastic request against these evil speakers. Verse 4 also reveals that they lie, cheat, flatter and boast in order to dominate others.

Looking to how this passage applies to today is not hard. It seems to depict exactly what we see going on all around us in the world today. We live, work, and go to school in these environments. I feel like what the Lord is telling me here is that given the passages over the last couple of days, I have an opportunity to be a light by striving to be righteous in all my speech and living upright where what I do is a direct reflection on Who I serve. Some might say that this culture and society is so wicked…and that might be true, but these are wonderful places of opportunity to reflect the love and goodness of our Savior and His Gospel.

Herron Cabin update: well, they were able to get down all but 3 trees yesterday and so they will be back out Monday and Tuesday to finish and stump grind. However, my morning turned out to be a little interesting in finding out that we had no water pressure. My first thought was panic over a busted pipe from the bitter cold we have been having – in the teens here last night. Through a lot of troubleshooting, I have determined that the main water line from the street is frozen somewhere. The good news is that the meter is not running which means there is no break. However, I did have to tell Marianne and girls that it did not make sense for them to come if there was no running water, so we had to cancel those plans. I made a trip to the mainland and back today to get water and a couple of meals to hold out until the Tree Trimmers are done on Monday. Interesting learning to live without being able to flush, was the sink or dishes out, or anything. Makes you grateful for the assumed dependability of our water conveniences.

BITE: The Lord is Seated Over All and Nothing is Out of His Sight…

The Lord is in his holy temple;
the Lord's throne is in heaven;
his eyes see, his eyelids test the children of man.
  The Lord tests the righteous,
but his soul hates the wicked and the one who loves violence.
  Let him rain coals on the wicked;
fire and sulfur and a scorching wind shall be the portion of their cup.
  For the Lord is righteous;
he loves righteous deeds;
the upright shall behold his face. Psalms 11:4-7 [ESV]

Following on from yesterday, David responds to his advisors. God has made Himself known to all the people by being in His Holy Temple and His throne is in Heaven. God sees all and He both tests the righteous and hates the wicked. What does God have in store for the lover of violence and the wicked? ->Burning coals, fire, sulfur, and scorching wind. In the Hebrew, these punishments are literally called ‘the portion of their cup’ so the ESV uses the literal translation.

Now for the righteous, God loves those righteous deeds that are after His own righteousness. The reward for the righteous and upright is to see God’s face. I think that this ‘seeing of God’s face’ is something that we receive from the Holy Spirit when we live a life of righteousness and uprightness. He gives us glimpses of the Goodness of the Father in our comfort, peace, and joy…even in the times that we are under crisis situations. I think this is what David was getting at when he composed this song.

On a personal note, I am down here at the Herron Cabin overseeing the cutting down of some trees on the lower part of the lot to address some clutter and improve our view. I am here alone for the time being but the family is coming down after Sophie’s written driver’s test tomorrow (SAT).

BITE: Advice from Those Who Care…

​ In the Lord I take refuge;
how can you say to my soul,
“Flee like a bird to your mountain,
  for behold, the wicked bend the bow;
they have fitted their arrow to the string
to shoot in the dark at the upright in heart;
  if the foundations are destroyed,
what can the righteous do?” Psalms 11:1-3 [ESV]

On to chapter 11. The title of this Psalm is “To the choirmaster. Of David” and it comes in two parts: 1) The psalm is submitted to the choirmaster but 2) it is a Psalm of David. One way to understand this psalm is to see David as the author, who consults his counselors about a critical situation that endangers his kingdom and life. However, the psalm also offers a guide for us who face similar situations of danger and temptation to run away.

These first 3 verses lay out what David’s military and court advisors are suggesting David to -> essentially “Run for the hills and find the high ground where there is an advantage”. However, this chapter starts out with David’s answer; It is in the LORD that he takes refuge. David’s advisors end with a rhetorical question that suggests that flight is the only recourse when the foundations are being destroyed. The foundations here are likely those of society, and probably suggest a disintegration of those institutions that maintain social order, protect virtue and fend off evil. To the advisors, in other words, it looks as if the wicked have gained the upper hand and the righteous have no alternative but to leave and seek protection.

But we know what David’s answer is – Let the Lord deal with his enemies. I don’t think that this is suggesting an irresponsible approach to protecting oneself; even Paul fled cities where he knew he was being hunted. What I think it means is that we should never lose the belief that God is above all things including the most evil and violence seeking of humanity.