The Road Back: Psalms of the Sons of Korah, With Skill and With Understanding

Can you hear the joy in their voices? Perhaps Psalm 47 was written after a victory, or the recollection of a victory. Since some of the Psalms of the Sons of Korah have been proven to be prophetic, the triumph celebrated may be about a future event. We know that Psalm 45 is about Jesus, the King.

O clap your hands, all you people;
Shout to God with the voice of triumph and songs of joy.
For the Lord Most High is to be feared [and worshiped with awe-inspired reverence and obedience];
He is a great King over all the earth.
He subdues peoples under us
And nations under our feet.
He chooses our inheritance for us,
The glory and excellence of Jacob whom He loves. Selah.
God has ascended amid shouting,
The Lord with the sound of a trumpet.
Sing praises to God, sing praises;
Sing praises to our King, sing praises.
For God is the King of all the earth;
Sing praises in a skillful psalm and with understanding.
God reigns over the nations;
God sits on His holy throne.
The princes of the people have gathered together as the people of the God of Abraham,
For the shields of the earth belong to God;
He is highly exalted.

(Psalm 47 Amplified Version)

Can you sense the change in the hearts of these artists who once mourned and walked in discouragement and poverty of spirit as they carried inherited shame?

When God lifts the burden of shame, guilt, rejection, and self-loathing, he replaces it with a better identity. When we see ourselves in our heavenly father’s eyes, the way he created us to be, we also find our purpose.

Worshippers worship. It’s just what they do. Purpose is found in a restored relationship with God. Some people find their purpose when they worship. It fits. It’s what they were created to do, especially when it is expressed creatively. Whether they sing, or dance, or shout, or write, or play instruments, or take photographs, or design houses of worship, or prepare food for the hungry, their hearts are full when focused on God. They sense his pleasure. The connection motivates a desire to give praise with excellence, and more importantly, creates a deeper hunger for deeper understanding.

The Creator wired his beloved in different ways. Korah, as a Levite, was given a position in the place of worship. His desire for control and recognition abused the characteristic that would give his descendants purpose. In this psalm we see purpose restored in the sons once marked by rebellion.

I’m including links to four different expressions of Psalm 47. Some styles of music can be more accessible to us depending on familiarity and custom.  All are performed with skill. Like the Sons of Korah, having gained some understanding of the character and nature of God, I long for more.

Who are you? How does God see you? Do you know your purpose in life? What motivates you to keep seeking when pain is all around and nothing seems to make sense?

Ask him. Pour out your heart. There is more for you to discover.

The Road Back: Psalms of the Sons of Korah, The Wedding Psalm

Overflowing

Psalm 45 is called the Wedding Psalm because it describes a bridegroom and a bride. At first it seems like a flattering poem written by someone who is a bit over the top with enthusiasm.

Beautiful! Beautiful! Beyond the sons of men! Elegant grace pours out through every word you speak. (verses 2 and 3)

Then the praise seems to pole vault over esteem for any human I’ve heard of.

Awe-inspiring miracles are accomplished by your power, leaving everyone dazed and astonished! (verse4)

Wait. This is not about King David or King Solomon.

Your glory-kingdom, O God, endures forever,

for you are enthroned to rule with a justice-scepter in your hand!

You are passionate for righteousness, and you hate lawlessness.

This is why God, your God,

crowns you with bliss above your fellow kings.

He has anointed you, more than any other,

with his oil of fervent joy,

the very fragrance of heaven’s gladness. (verses 6&7)

Going back to the introduction, it appears the author/s were not merely exaggerating to gain political points. This was no meeting of a deadline to write something extra nice for a royal wedding. What the son or sons of Korah experienced here was a spiritual experience beyond what most people knew. I’m quoting from The Passion Version because it attempts to include emotional content.

My heart is on fire, boiling over with passion.

Bubbling up within me are these beautiful lyrics

as a lovely poem to be sung for the King.

Like a river bursting its banks, I’m overflowing with words,

spilling out into this sacred story. (verse 1)

I have no trouble imagining someone who limited their concept of God to intellectual debate accosting the singer/songwriters with the question, “Who is this king you are calling God? And where is this in the Torah?”

They might have been especially upset when the song mentioned this God-King marrying a pure and glorified bride.

And standing beside you,

glistening in your pure and golden glory,

is the beautiful bride-to-be! 

Now listen, daughter, pay attention, and forget about your past.

Put behind you every attachment to the familiar,

even those who once were close to you!

For your royal Bridegroom is ravished by your beautiful brightness.

Bow in reverence before him, for he is your Lord! (verses 9b -11)

Other prophets wrote about feeling overwhelmed when the Holy Spirit came upon them for a purpose. They called it fire in the bones, or an intense need to be purified, or falling as though dead. Sometimes they needed days to recover. The writer of Hebrews verifies that this psalm is indeed about Jesus, God’s son.

But about his Son, he called him “God,” saying,

“Your throne, O God, endures forever and ever

and you will rule your kingdom

with justice and righteousness, 

For you have cherished righteousness

and detested lawlessness.

For this reason, God, your God, has anointed you 

and poured out the oil of bliss on you 

more than on any of your friends.”

(Hebrews 1:8,9)

This was a glimpse of the future, but by itself the meaning of the psalm remained a mystery for a very long time. The writer of Hebrews explains:

Throughout our history God has spoken to our ancestors by his prophets in many different ways. The revelation he gave them was only a fragment at a time, building one truth upon another. But to us living in these last days, and now speaks to us openly in the language of a Son, the appointed Heir of everything, for through him God created the panorama of all things and all time. (Hebrews 1:1 & 2)

Psalm 45 is a prophetic word picture of an event that wouldn’t be explained until John, who wrote down his vision in the book of Revelation, told us about the great marriage celebration of Jesus and his bride, the purified, sanctified, glorified ones he came to redeem.

“Hallelujah!

For the Lord our God, the Almighty, reigns! 

Let us rejoice and exalt him and give him glory,

because the wedding celebration of the Lamb has come. 

And his bride has made herself ready. 

Fine linen, shining bright and clear,

has been given to her to wear,

and the fine linen represents

the righteous deeds of his holy believers.” (Revelation 19:6b – 8)

The Psalms of the Sons of Korah are probably not in chronological order of the dates they were written. That tends to be a western way of organizing things. It’s hard to tell where this ecstatic bank-bursting overflowing words experience occurred on the road back from shame that began with the rebellion of their ancestor in the desert, but I’m often surprised by God’s timing and who he picks to pass on these fragments that over millennia create a fuller picture of who he is and reveal his plan since the beginning of creation. I think one of the purposes of prophecy is not to give us a program with a list of events in order of appearance. A lot of prophetic words won’t make sense until the time comes to recognize that this thing happening now was foretold. This is that. Through prophecy, God gives his people re-assurance that he knows all about it. He’s been in it all along. He’s not surprised or anxious. He’s got this.

I’m very grateful he leaves clues for us like a trail of mysterious crumbs that urge us to find the one who left them there. Perhaps the Sons of Korah needed to get their eyes off the pain that is so evident in some of their psalms and venture out, taking steps of faith toward him by singing a song that must have made people at the time scratch their heads.

Encounters with God can be scary out-of-the-box events for which we have no grid, but they create a hunger that makes us want more.

And there is more.

The Road Back; Psalms of the Sons of Korah, Psalm 43


 

Have you ever experienced the cold judgment in this statement? “Oh. You’re one of those.”

The Sons of Korah knew what it was like to be maligned as descendants of a disgraced ancestor.

In Psalm 43, they plead for vindication. They have been falsely accused. They know what it is like to be misunderstood. When others rejected them, particularly people who carried religious authority, they may have felt that God rejected them too. When it happens often enough, the subjects of dismissal may start to question their own perceptions. Sometimes they may doubt their value and place in society. At other times they protest their innocence. It’s confusing. They need clarity on their journey to the place of worship. They write:

Plead for me; clear my name, O God. Prove me innocent
    before immoral people;
Save me from their lies,
    their unjust thoughts and deeds.


You are the True God—my shelter, my protector, the one whom I lean on.
    Why have You turned away from me? Rejected me?
Why must I go around, overwrought, mourning,
    suffering under the weight of my enemies?

O my God, shine Your light and truth
    to help me see clearly,
To lead me to Your holy mountain,
    to Your home.

Psalm43:1-3 The Voice

I wonder if this is why one of the first people to whom Jesus revealed his true identity as Messiah was a shamed, rejected woman from an ethnic group held in contempt by Jews – the Samaritan woman at the well. He told her that soon the place of worship would not be a physical location, but in spirit and in truth. What a difference that encounter made in the way she saw herself! That joyful moment instantly transformed her into a bold missionary. “Come and see!” she urged neighbours back in the town. She was no longer avoiding anyone.

Hiding is a characteristic of people who carry shame. It’s hard to be yourself among those who would judge you for your associations. Worship that is pure and holy requires a level of trusting candour. It makes us uncomfortably aware that others have said they don’t consider members of a shamed tribe as acceptable. It’s easy to subconsciously wear their judgment after years of disrespect.

Our mothers taught us as very young children that to be polite and considerate we need to keep some parts of ourselves hidden in good company. I am in no way advocating public nudity! I’m just saying there is no point to wearing metaphorical masks or costumes in God’s presence. It’s not as if he doesn’t know everything already. In a sense honest, humble prayer means praying naked (metaphorically!).

When we invite God to shine his pure clarifying light on our lives, it will expose things we need to acknowledge, confess and allow the Lord to clean up. It shows us how to change direction. That purifying light will also expose lies we have believed. It reveals the difference between false identity and true identity. We are not who the accuser says we are. We are who our Heavenly Father says we are. We have nothing to hide. This is freedom. It is a freedom the Sons of Korah long for. Verse 4:

Then I will go to God’s altar with nothing to hide.
    I will go to God, my rapture;
I will sing praises to You and play my strings,
    unloading my cares, unleashing my joys, to You, God, my God.

Psalm 43 ends with the same declaration as Psalm 42. I’ll leave verse 5 here in The Voice paraphrase.

O my soul, why are you so overwrought?
    Why are you so disturbed?
Why can’t I just hope in God? Despite all my emotions, I will hope in God again.
    I will believe and praise the One
    who saves me and is my life,
My Savior and my God.

The journey continues.

The Problem With That Is…

What has happened to create this doubt is that a problem (such as a deep conflict or a bad experience) has been allowed to usurp God’s place and become the controlling principle of life. Instead of viewing the problem from the vantage point of faith, the doubter views faith from the vantage point of the problem. Instead of faith sizing up the problem, the situation ends with the problem scaling down faith. The world of faith is upside down, and in the topsy-turvy reality of doubt, a problem has become god and God has become a problem.

-Os Guinness

Healing

Lord, I will exalt you and lift you high,

for you have lifted me up on high!

Over all my boasting, gloating enemies,

you made me to triumph.

O Lord, my healing God,

I cried out for a miracle and you healed me!

Psalm 30:1,2 TPT

Doctors said my condition was chronic and that I would be on heavy-duty medication for the rest of my life, but God healed me. I was diagnosed as bipolar. I knew hypomanic mountain highs for short periods of time, but I spent years of my life in the darkness of valley lows.

I’ve experienced a lot of painful physical problems in my life —broken bones, many kidney stones, and multiple surgeries for a variety of problems including cancer. Nothing has been as painful as depression. Not even close.

I like to go up into the forest to pray. One day I went up there to pray for my daughter and son-in-law. They were at an event where people were being miraculously healed, or so my daughter told me when she phoned from another part of the world to give me a play-by-play description of what she was seeing. Can I tell you how far this was out of my comfort zone? I was afraid they were getting involved in some sort of cult. That’s what I was praying about. I prayed they would be protected from deception. I was not at all filled with faith for healing. Instead of getting them out of that situation, God healed me.

I heard a voice say “Run!” I argued (how crazy is that?!) that I couldn’t run because of an inflamed ligament in my knee and because I had asthma and left my inhaler in my other coat pocket. Exercise always set off an attack. The urge to run wouldn’t leave, so I sheepishly ran a little way, grateful I was alone because it wasn’t pretty. I could breathe easily and had no pain. I was shocked! I ran all the way back to my car, a distance of about six city blocks. No knee pain, no wheezing. Then I felt the shadows lift off my mind. I felt joy, sweet, calm, non-manic joy.

Over time, I realized that the depression that lifted that day was not coming back. I started reducing some of the meds I had taken for years. Under a psychiatrist’s supervision I eventually got off all of them, including two to control side effects of the other five. The only one I kept taking was a medication for low thyroid.

I’ve been told that no one comes off of medication for mental illness after that many years without some negative effect to cognitive function or going into another tailspin. I’ve been free for fourteen years. Now I experience a normal range of emotions appropriate for the situation.

Since then, I have prayed for people and seen God heal them of various problems. Four times I have seen patients who were on their death beds in hospital recover within days and get up go home.

This question always arises when I tell people my story: What about the ones who were not healed? My answer: I don’t know. I just know that people who pursue God see more healings than people who say, “It is what it is,” or “Healing doesn’t happen anymore. That was just for Jesus and the disciples.”

I have been healed of other problems and still have some conditions that are not yet healed. I know how much it hurts to be blamed for having an unhealed disease. “You don’t have enough faith. You must have unconfessed sin or ‘a root of bitterness.'” “You must be benefitting from the attention or something.” “You said, ‘I have cancer” so you just cursed yourself with your words.” Ouch! Mercy, people, please!

God is God and I am not. Experiencing Him and learning more about His character gives me a deep desire to know Him. It makes me want to have more encounters with the One who heals and gives me a longing for deeper understanding.

Meekness means praying, “There are so many things I don’t understand, Lord. But I know you are good, and your love is perfect. Teach me.”

Radical Demonstrations

“But I say to you who hear, love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who are abusive to you.”

Jesus Christ (Luke 6:27, 28)

What if what is missing in the lives of people who hate you, who want to see you silenced, cancelled, dismissed is an experience of grace? What if people who don’t deserve it (like all of us) experience the goodness of God through the blessings of those they shun?

What if we prayed for and not against all the people Jesus loved so much that he gave his life to reconcile them to their creator?

What if those of us who know what it means to have been loved by the Lover of our souls while we were still far from him come out and demonstrate? What if we come alongside our haters in radical demonstrations of the love he has poured out for us?

Feels counterintuitive, doesn’t it? It would take a radical shift in our first-reaction mindsets.

But what if Christians believed Jesus? How would culture shift?

Jesus Christ, the ultimate revolutionary.

You’re Gonna Be Ok

So I’ve learned from my experience
    that God protects the vulnerable.
    For I was broken and brought low,
    but he answered me and came to my rescue!
 Now I can say to myself and to all,
    “Relax and rest, be confident and serene,
    for the Lord rewards fully those who simply trust in him.”

Psalm 116:6,7 TPT

On the way back from an appointment with a medical specialist, (an eleven hour return trip for me) I stopped by this reservoir on the Cowboy Trail in southern Alberta. On that day two years ago, I received more information about another complication in my already complex health condition. It didn’t help that I forgot the backpack with my wallet in it at the place I was staying. I needed it for my health insurance card for the hospital and my credit card to leave my car in the underground parking maze. I went back for it, praying the whole time I wouldn’t miss my appointment and arrived, frazzled, with seconds to spare. (Have you noticed God is right on time but never early?)

On the trip home, I stopped in this beautiful place and had a chat with God. I felt anxious and very vulnerable. I reflected upon the reflection and realized the water could never produce the beauty it bore. Like the water I didn’t have to manufacture my own peace. I simply needed to keep my eyes on the giver of peace, whose nature is peace. I don’t know how to relax and rest when I know I can forget important things like my wallet. Serenity is not a natural trait. One of the fruits of the Holy Spirit is peace because he IS peace.

Back in the car, a song played these words, “It’s not the end. It’s not the end. You’re gonna be ok.”*

If I am in him and he is in me, then his peace is my peace. This is more than reflection. This is absorption. Learning that I am loved and accepted allows me to become what I am not without him – and I m not without him because he promised to never leave. I am changing.

This season brings more challenges. We have decided to move to another part of the province to be closer to adult children. They have pointed out that we are aging and need more help. They are urging us to let them do that for us. I am tempted to be overwhelmed by the daunting task of fixing up our property to sell, de-cluttering, and looking at finding a new place to live in a city where real estate prices are double what they are here. The process of parting with a houseful of stuff with so many memories attached is emotionally daunting. The prospect of parting with good friends made over 36 years in this place I love is even more daunting.

For the past few months I have felt the Lord telling us to prepare for a change. What that change was I didn’t know. The thought of moving into a place without stairs, where it would be easier for me to get around, felt like preparing for the end, like seeing a sign my exit ramp loomed up ahead. Then a little while ago, a prophetic artist had a painting for me. It was of a woman joyfully walking beside a lake. She said, “God wants you to know it’s not over yet. He has more for you.”

Today I choose to walk in God’s peace. I may be surrounded by half-sorted boxes of art supplies, music books, sewing fabric, and writing materials potential, but like the woman walking beside still water that day at the reservoir, and the woman dancing beside a sun-dappled lake in the painting, I will simply trust, leave the past behind, and take one step at a time toward the next thing.

Care to join me?

*”It’s Gonna Be Okay” by Jenn Johnson, Jeremy Riddle, and Seth Mosley

Overflowing With Kindness

You’re kind and tenderhearted to those who don’t deserve it

    and very patient with people who fail you.

    Your love is like a flooding river overflowing its banks with kindness.

 God, everyone sees your goodness,

    for your tender love is blended into everything you do.

(Psalm 145:8,9 TPT)

When Martha complained to Jesus that her sister was not helping with the serving and doing what women were expected to do, he confronted her with this: “Martha! Your anxieties are distracting you from what is really important!”

Sometimes we are so anxious about what might happen we forget that when we invite him in, the Saviour is right here in our hearts. Even though we are anxious about tomorrow his goodness surrounds us today. When we set down our worries we can see beauty again.