Tag Archives: Psalm 37

Reality check..

Trust in the Lord and do good; dwell in the land and enjoy safe pasture. Delight yourself in the Lord and he will give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the Lord; trust in him and he will do this: He will make your righteousness shine like the dawn, the justice of your cause like the noonday sun. Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him; do not fret when men succeed in their ways, when they carry out their wicked schemes. Refrain from anger and turn from wrath; do not fret – it only leads to evil.

(Ps 37.3-8)

Jesus said, “The Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, chief priests and teachers of the law, and he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life.” Then he said to them all: “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will save it. What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, and yet lose or forfeit his very self? If anyone is ashamed of me and my words, the Son of Man will be ashamed of him when he comes in his glory and in the glory of the Father and of the holy angels.

(Luke 9.22-26)

Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things…Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord..It is the Lord Christ you are serving.

(Col 3.1&2, 23&24)

It is terribly easy to fall into the habit of selective reading of scripture, picking out those passages which make us feel comfortable and good about ourselves, and losing sight of fundamental truths which present a challenge to our thinking and acting.

Psalm 37 makes us feel good; we think about how God will give us our heart’s desires, and vindicate our good name, and it is reassuring! And then, the Holy Spirit prompts a recollection that this would have been one of Jesus own songs, one of his prayers too…..what did it look like for this to be fulfilled for him? He was the only perfect human being who ever lived, and therefore surely his cause was righteous, his desires were fulfilled and his way vindicated by God?

Our Lord delighted in God the Father, we read so many times of his prioritising time alone to pray and of his speaking of his love and obedience to God. And what did God give Christ? Hardship, foolish and faithless followers, persecution, injustice and finally an agonising, humiliating death. Jesus committed his way to God the Father, from his earliest days he sought to be about his Father’s business and publicly declared that everything he said and did was as directed by God. And his righteousness was despised, his name was blackened, and he was condemned as a criminal.

He was still before his accusers, he waited patiently through the agony of crucifixion to accomplish his allotted task, to achieve his desired end; he refrained from anger, and prayed forgiveness for his persecuters. His road to glorious and absolute victory led through what looked like abject failure and defeat…and he calls me, he calls you to follow him.

Our victory is assured in Christ, we cannot fall out of God’s loving grasp; but even as we will share in his future glory, so we are called now to share in his path of obedient self-denial and submission. God calls me to follow Jesus in doing the hard things, the painful things, the lonely, secret and insignificant things which are involved in dying to myself – a sacrifice which is for God’s eyes only, not to make a public performance or to win human praise.

My heart’s desire may truly be for the glory of God and the building of his kingdom, but am I really prepared for what that will mean in my own life? Being a follower of Jesus is not meant to be easy, smooth and comfortable – his path was none of those things! All those things which self clings to as its right – health, security, family and a good name – are disposable in the will of God, and I must hold them lightly, ready to yield them up if necessary with an obedient and willing spirit.

May God in his grace grant me his strength to do the work of dying to myself, that I might live for Christ; may the vision of the glorious and risen One draw me on steadily through my own path of self-denial, keeping me steady and full of hope that even as I share his sufferings, so also I will share in his glory.

 

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Take a deep breath…

Trust in the Lord and do good…Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you your heart’s desires..

Commit everything you do to the Lord. Trust him and he will help you….be still in the presence of the Lord, and wait patiently for him to act.

The Lord directs the steps of the godly. He delights in every detail of their lives. Though they stumble, they will never fall, for the Lord holds them by the hand.

(Psalm 37. 3,4,5,7, 23&24)

Have you ever found yourself in the privileged position of holding the hand of a small child while out on a walk, or trip to the park? Without thinking, in pure trust, the hand is given and you as the adult are able to guide, steady, reassure and if necessary rescue the little one from the hazards which may be encountered.

Look again at that line of the psalm – “they will never fall, for the Lord holds them by the hand.” And say it to yourself over and over… yes, I will stumble or trip; yes, I may be faced by some apalling obstacle or fearsome foe.. BUT my Lord holds my hand, he is beside me, and he is supremely capable of dealing with everything which I may encounter! And everytime I do stumble, I prove once again his readiness to assist and strengthen me, pulling me out from the hazard and reassuring me so that I can go on. What a tender picture of our Father’s love and of the wonderful grounds we have for trusting him in all circumstances.

But perhaps you sometimes suffer from the same problem as I do – you forget that you are held….

I am ashamed to think how often I allow myself to get into a dreadful state of dread, panic or even despair, surrendering hope of deliverance, and wallowing in a morbid self-pity for my sad condition. I fix my eyes on whatever the problem may be – and therein lies the problem, where my eyes are!!

Recently I found myself wide awake in the middle of the night, heart-pounding, sweating, and generally not good… I tried to pray for others who I knew might be in need – sick friends, missionaries who would already be up and doing – anyone, as a distraction from the dreadful roller-coaster of thoughts which were rushing through my head. I didn’t exactly win the battle, but in his mercy, God gave me sleep again, so that my body had a chance to rest and gather strength. And as the following day proceeded, my feelings relaxed, a small hope began to gather – like the cloud the size of a man’s hand which preceeded the coming rains in the day of Elijah. I was given the gift of being still and trusting that God would act; of waiting to see what he would do. I was able to set my feelings to one side, and live the day on the basis of truth about my God, taking it moment by moment and not anticipating the unknown and so easily fearful future.

I am held, constantly, by one who loves me and knows me better than anyone else. I need not be ashamed of telling him all my fears, confessing the doubts that assail me, the terror of facing what feels like too much responsibility. It is his hand, his strength which should be my confidence, not my own. And – which is the most comforting thing – even when I am in a mess entirely of my own making, he is still holding me, and still able to keep me from going down under it!

So this is my prayer for myself this week, perhaps it may help you too:-

Dearest Father, behold your daughter, in her need, her foolishness, the muddle of her own making.

Have mercy upon her, even as you promise faithfully to do.

Grant her that childlike confidence which faces every hurdle so long as her hand is in yours – for your grip on her is unshakeable.

She is trusting you for the little details of her little life, because to her they are not small, and in the night they become overwhelming, terrifying foes, devouring sleep and peace.

Let her be still, let her breathe deeply of the wholesome airs of your truth, so that her soul might be restored, her trust renewed, and she might wait patiently to see your hand at work in her life.

Let her be again as a little child, in your mercy Lord, grant her peace.

Do you trust me?

Do not fret because of evil men or be envious of those who do wrong; for like the grass they will soon wither, like green plants they will soon die away.

Trust in the Lord and do good; dwell in the land and enjoy safe pasture. Delight yourself in the Lord and he will give you the desires of your heart.

Commit your way to the Lord; trust in him and he will do this; He will make your righteousness shine like the dawn, the justice of your cause like the noonday sun.

(Ps 37. 1-6)

What does it mean to say that we trust someone? Sometimes it is that we respect their advice and wisdom, and would be strongly influenced by their counsel in time of decision-making. Other times it reflects a belief that a person can keep our troubles to themselves, providing us with a safe place to share our burdens.

On a deeper level, when I married, I entrusted myself to my husband, giving him access to my life and great power to affect me for good or ill. Why was I willing to do this? Because I believed then, and still do, that he loved me as well as his human frailty permitted, that he desired the best for me, and that he would be good for me. He has given me similar power in his life, and my desire always is to be good for him. I know that I have failed, and will do so again. I have been selfish, short-tempered, and unreasonable, at times unwilling to see things from his point of view because I know that he is right and I am wrong! By God’s grace, we have grown together, and will go on relying on his help to love and be faithful to one another – continuing to be open and vulnerable because we made a covenant together to trust one another in love.

It seems to me that over and over the bible reveals God asking this very same question of us, his children, “Do you trust me?….Do you trust me enough to do as I ask?” And ultimately, our answer to that question depends, as in human relationships, on whether we believe that the one asking for our trust really loves and wants the best for us. Consider Adam and Eve, stewards of paradise, with one single prohibition (given for their protection) that they refrain from eating the fruit of a certain tree. When Eve stole the fruit and persuaded Adam to eat with her, they were effectively saying that they did not trust God to be good for them, that He was unfair and unreasonable! How wrong they were…..

Consider Abraham, who was asked to trust God first of all for a new land which he had never seen; then for safe keeping in Egypt – which Abraham tried to arrange for himself by cunning, and ended up causing all sorts of trouble(Genesis 12). When God asked Abraham and Sarah to trust him for descendants, they showed that they had not learnt their lesson, and again tried to arrange it for themselves causing more trouble (Genesis 16). The hero of that sorry tale was God, who patiently and faithfully kept his promises to Abraham, allowing him more than one fresh start!

Consider David, who was anointed the future king of Israel many years before he was actually crowned, and who endured many trials along the way, when he might well have given up on God’s promise or else – like Abraham – have taken matters into his own hands. There were two occasions when David could have assassinated Saul most conveniently, but he insisted on trusting God to arrange matters, and held back.

Am I willing to trust God with my life, my children, my work and my church family? Do I really believe that God wants the best for us and that, unlike human promise-makers, He is able to deliver it?

What does this kind of trust look like in daily life? When changes come, do I fret and worry over things I cannot control, or do I strive to act and think in ways which reflect my belief that God’s ways for my life will always be the best – even though at times they may be painful and difficult? Am I willing not to interfere with God’s timing, not to grab the things I think He has promised but wait until they are poured into my lap?

If I truly believe that God has and will always keep faith with me, fulfilling His promises, then I must walk in daily obedience, not fretting over what I do not know and cannot control. I must do the present task, even when I see no clear path ahead.

It is my faithful obedience in all the small things, and my calm, joyful acceptance of God’s directing of my life which will speak most loudly of the love which I receive from Him, and demonstrate most clearly His trustworthiness. May I be given daily strength and courage to glorify Him in this way!

The sweetest thing

If the Lord delights in a man’s way, he makes his steps firm; though he stumble, he will not fall, for the Lord upholds him with his hand.

Psalm 37 v 23&24

These words were written by David, the shepherd boy, giant killer, outlaw, singer-songwriter, king, adulterer, schemer and thief: the man whose wonderful songs reflect every aspect of his rich and varied life. He is one of the great characters portrayed in the bible narrative, and although it can be tempting to focus on his good qualities, we are never allowed to forget his faults. The hero of his story is not David himself, but the God whom he worshipped, trusted, disobeyed and before whom he often had to repent and confess his sins.

Why is his story given to us, along with many other records of the rulers of Israel and Judah over the years? What can we learn from their histories for our lives in faith in the 21st century, where kings are largely powerless, and it is money, politics, sport and show-business which provide our major influential figures? I believe that the verses quoted from the psalm give us one insight into the lessons to be learned – that while they may stumble into sin, the man or woman whose heart is right with God will not fall and be lost. The records of the kings of Israel and Judah are full of phrases like this:

‘ Asa’s heart was fully committed to the Lord all his life’ and, ‘ but Omri did evil in the eyes of the Lord and sinned more than all those before him’. (1 Kings 15v14; 16v25)

Their stories are a record of how fallible human beings have always lived – making mistakes, having good intentions yet failing to completely carry them out, but always on the basis of a fundamental attitude of the heart. Either they have rejected God’s authority over them – in the case of many of the kings, they deliberately adopt other gods- or else they are seeking to follow the ways which God had revealed to the nation, putting themselves as well as their people under the rule of God.┬áThese stories encourage me to be compassionate towards those in authority, remembering that they are no more able to rule perfectly than David or Solomon could. Even the wisest, most talented politician or business leader will not always get it right; and while I should pray for them to remain close to God, to submit to his authority in their lives and use their power for the good of others, I must allow them to fail, as I do! The ultimate hero of all our stories is God, and no human being can bear the weight of such a responsibility.

We can also take great personal comfort from these records, because the hero, the God who was rejected and disobeyed so often, is also our God. He demonstrated his love over and over to these flawed servants, and it is that faithfulness which is celebrated in our Psalm. David was well aware of his own weakness and knew quite well that in all his sin, it was God who hurt most deeply. But rather than dwelling morosely on his failure, and hiding in despair, he cries out his repentance, affirming his faith in God and delighting in the grace which pours out forgiveness and restoration in abundance. How should we not be filled with praise for this God who looks upon the earnest heart of his child, and quietly puts away the things done amiss!

I find sweet comfort in this truth, that although I will spend the rest of this life in a process of transformation, never entirely free of sin, yet my Father God has provided complete forgiveness through Jesus, and I need not carry the weight of that failure. If I choose to focus on what Christ has done well, instead of what I have done badly, then I am able to rejoice even after failure. His grace is such that every moment of every day is a fresh start, and I am free to live and love and delight in him. The following words by the great Charles Wesley are a prayer of response to this amazing grace, and a fitting conclusion. May they be our prayer this week.

O for a heart to praise my God, a heart from sin set free;

A heart that always feels Thy blood so freely shed for me.

A heart resigned, submissive meek, my great redeemer’s throne,

where only Christ is heard to speak, where Jesus reigns alone.

A humble, lowly, contrite heart, believing, true and clean,

which neither life not death can part from Him that dwells within.

A heart in every thought renewed and full of love divine,

Perfect and right and pure and good: a copy, Lord, of thine.

Thy  nature, gracious Lord, impart, come quickly from above;

Write thy new name upon my heart, thy new best name of love.