On the day I called, You answered me;
You made me bold with strength in my soul.Psalm 138:3 (NASB)
How enriched are they who find their strength in the Lord;
within their hearts are the highways of holiness!
Even when their paths wind through the dark valley of tears,
they dig deep to find a pleasant pool where others find only pain.
He gives to them a brook of blessing
filled from the rain of an outpouring.
They grow stronger and stronger with every step forward,
and the God of all gods will appear before them in Zion.
Psalm 84:5-7 The Passion Translation
Like a river glorious is God’s perfect peace,
Over all victorious, in its bright increase;
Perfect, yet it floweth fuller every day,
Perfect, yet it groweth deeper all the way.
Stayed upon Jehovah, hearts are fully blest
Finding, as He promised, perfect peace and rest.
Hidden in the hollow of His blessed hand,
Never foe can follow, never traitor stand;
Not a surge of worry, not a shade of care,
Not a blast of hurry touch the spirit there.
Every joy or trial falleth from above,
Traced upon our dial by the Sun of Love;
We may trust Him fully, all for us to do;
They who trust Him wholly find Him wholly true.
– Frances Havergal, 1876
Stayed upon Jehovah, hearts are fully blest
Finding, as He promised, perfect peace and rest.
But as for me, your strength shall be my song of joy.
At each and every sunrise, my lyrics of your love will fill the air!
For you have been my glory-fortress,
a stronghold in my day of distress.
O my strength, I sing with joy your praises.
O my stronghold, I sing with joy your song!
O my Savior, I sing with joy the lyrics of your faithful love for me!
(Psalm 59:16, 17 TPT)
I love the Psalms and make an effort to read from them every day. Lately I have been aware of how often the Psalmists (David in particular) talk about their confusion, fear, and suffering. It’s easy to pick passages like the one above to print on pretty posters and mugs. They are lovely, but taken out of context of their setting, they are deprived of the power and drama of the moment of their creation.
The first line of the psalm is, “My God, protect me! Keep me safe from all my enemies, for they’re coming to kill me!”
The outpouring of David’s heart allows us to see how his focus moved from the reality of point A, “They’re coming to kill me!” to the truth of his conclusion, “Your strength shall be my song of joy…”
Just before the higher truth of the last two verses, he talks about the observable, measurable truth coming at him, “Here they come again— prowling, growling like a pack of stray dogs in the city. Drifting, devouring, and coming in for the kill, they refuse to sleep until they’ve eaten their fill.”
To me, the Psalms speak of the faith journey in real time. God is outside of time, but we who travel along tethered to this timeline, except for moments of prophetic vision, don’t know what lies in those valleys between mountain peaks.
Some people believe that talking about valleys creates valleys, that mentioning devouring dogs coming in for the kill, for example, gives strength to the dogs, or acknowledging the pain of arthritis entrenches arthritis.
The psalm’s encouragement, I believe, can be found in the “buts.” I am tempted to be terrified, BUT, you, my heavenly father are greater. They arrogantly scoff, BUT you break out laughing at their plans. They think I am vulnerable, BUT you hide me in a high place. They plot and scheme, BUT you watch over me. They boil over with rage and shout lies and curses, BUT you are amused by their arrogance. They hate me and want to silence me, but you, oh God of passionate love, will meet with me.
The psalmist strengthens himself in the Lord, not by denying the reality of the attack against him, but by declaring over and over the greater reality of God’s coming response to his cries.
I took the photo above during a time when wild fires threatened our valley. Smoking threat, sunset beauty and a patch of clear breakthrough all existing at the same time and space. This is where my heart is today, not denying the reality of threatening evil, but focussing on the beauty of my Lord, and seeing the early signs of breakthrough.
“My strength is found when I wait upon you.”
Let the rivers and streams clap with applause
as the mountains rise in a standing ovation
to join the mighty choir of exaltation.
Look! Here he comes! The Lord and judge of all the earth!
He’s coming to make things right and to do it fair and square.
And everyone will see that he does all things well!
(Psalm 98:8,9 TPT)
Often, when I am driving through a mountain valley, the forest trees remind me of a mass choir standing on every hillside. The line from the old hymn, plays in my heart, “All nature sings and round me rings the music of the spheres.”
Can you hear it?
“Stop dwelling on the past.
Don’t even remember these former things.
I am doing something brand new, something unheard of.
Even now it sprouts and grows and matures.
Don’t you perceive it?
I will make a way in the wilderness
and open up flowing streams in the desert.
Wild beasts, jackals, and owls will glorify me.
For I supply streams of water in the desert
and rivers in the wilderness
to satisfy the thirst of my people, my chosen ones,
so that you, whom I have shaped and formed for myself,
will proclaim my praise.”
(Isaiah 43:18-21 TPT)
It was a mess. A world of division, compromise, corruption, and religiously followed traditions and rituals detached from roots of love and relationship. A hodge-podge of imperfect plans by imperfect people.
Tyrants, sycophants, miscreants, occupants,
masters, slaves, overlords, conscripts,
builders, destroyers, collaborators, rebels,
haves, have-nots, hopeful, hopeless.
This was the society Jesus was born into, because the time was right.
As they had many times before, the people not in control cried out for a saviour. They wanted freedom from the will of Roman conquerors. God sent them a saviour, but not to free them from man-made power ploys gone astray. He sent them Someone who could save them from something much more enslaving – their own sin.
As he had done before, he sent his answer in a form few recognized. He sent his son who set aside his godhood to live as a human. He sent a baby.
I often wonder why he chooses the weak of the world to confound the wise. Why does God frequently skip the well-bred, the educated, the credentialed, and those endowed with position and privilege when he wants to turn the tides of history? More than once people have said, “This can’t possibly be from God!” More than once they have been wrong.
“I see your plight,” he said. “This is my response.”
Then he sent a wanderer and his half-sister wife,
a wheeler dealer opportunist,
an insensitive spoiled brat turned slave turned foreign government official,
a stammering old man with a stick,
a stern mother,
a slave bride with a hammer and tent peg,
a scared unimportant farmer from a long line of scared unimportant farmers,
a lewd, crude, rule-breaking strongman,
a boy raised in a temple with a weak mentor and drunken, corrupt priests as companions,
a shepherd with a slingshot,
a runner given to depression,
a reckless prince with a bad driving record,
a left-handed messenger with a knife up his skirt,
a bizarre performance artist,
a beauty pageant queen who slept her way to influence,
a child king with clueless teachers,
a eunuch in service to a despot,
a choir director,
For the greatest mission of all time he introduced the bearer of his heart as a helpless baby. A baby. A baby who so terrified the principalities and powers who knew their time would soon be up, that Herod killed every child close to fitting the toddler’s description.
Not even the ancient prophets who each told bits and pieces of the truth they held could see the entirety of God’s plan. Jesus gradually explained it, to those who could listen, over three years. Many heard and believed. Many did not. Before his death and resurrection the book of John tells us the Messiah spoke plainly to the credentialed experts whose education put limits on their understanding.
I tell you the truth; I AM before Abraham was born. (John 8:58 The Voice)
We are subject to change. He is not.
Trust him. He created the plan. Keep your eyes on Abba. Expect the unexpected.
When the right time arrived, God sent His Son into this world (born of a woman, subject to the law) to free those who, just like Him, were subject to the law. Ultimately He wanted us all to be adopted as sons and daughters. Because you are now part of God’s family, He sent the Spirit of His Son into our hearts; and the Spirit calls out, “Abba, Father.” You no longer have to live as a slave because you are a child of God. And since you are His child, God guarantees an inheritance is waiting for you.
Hope: Joyful expectation.
The eyes of the Lord are upon
even the weakest worshipers who love him—
those who wait in hope and expectation
for the strong, steady love of God.
(Psalm 33:18 TPT)
But you, O Lord, your mercy-seat love is limitless,
reaching higher than the highest heavens.
Your great faithfulness is infinite,
stretching over the whole earth.
Your righteousness is unmovable,
just like the mighty mountains.
Your judgments are as full of wisdom
as the oceans are full of water.
Your tender care and kindness leave no one forgotten,
not a man nor even a mouse.
O God, how extravagant is your cherishing love!
All mankind can find a hiding place
under the shadow of your wings.
All may drink of the anointing from the abundance of your house.
All may drink their fill from the delightful springs of Eden.
To know you is to experience a flowing fountain,
drinking in your life, springing up to satisfy.
In your light we receive the light of revelation.
Lord, keep pouring out your unfailing love
on those who are near you.
(Psalm 36:5-10 TPT)
Looking back, I am unimpressed with the amount of time I spent trying to impress people who didn’t impress me. Sometimes you just need to bloom where you are planted while the storm rages.
It always blows over eventually.
People who manipulate with fear and intimidation are often fearful and intimidated themselves.
Confident peace is a weapon they don’t understand. It frustrates them.
Fear and intimidation is a trap that holds you back.
But when you place your confidence in the Lord,
you will be seated in the high place.
(Proverbs 29:25 TPT)