Psalm 145:8 Steadfast Love and Tender Mercies

The LORD is gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.  -Psalm 145:8

My own love vacillates like the tide–it is dependent upon my mood and circumstance.  In contrast, His love is solid, steadfast.

The LORD is good to all: and his tender mercies are over all his works. Psalm 145:9

Tender mercies–this phrase more literally means “cherish, as the womb does a fetus.”  It is easier to see the injustices of the world and of our own little worlds, much harder (at least for me), to step out in confidence and say “The Lord is good to all.

His goodness must be quite a different thing than our own, just as His love is steadfast while our own vacillates with the events of life and our moods.  Oh, to be good to all and steadfast in love!  Oh to be able to see and trust those qualities in Him, to frame our world with that reality.

Perhaps that is what David is after when he starts this psalm wtih “I will extol Thee O God.”
To extol is to raise up, lift up, promote, heave up, to be highly active.
“I will extol thee, my God, O King.”  We are to make ourselves highly active in extolling our God and His true character–the characteristics reflected in His world, not in our inconstant and fallible mind and heart:

“They shall abundantly utter the memory of thy great goodness, and shall sing of thy righteousness. ”  -Psalm 145:7

Matthew Henry makes a great point here:

“He would give glory to God, not only in his solemn devotions, but in his common conversation. If the heart be full of God, out of the abundance of that the mouth will speak with reverence, to his praise, upon all occasions. What subject of discourse can we find more noble, more copious, more pleasant, useful, and unexceptionable, than the glory of God?”

Calling in truth, forgiveness, spiritual laws and Psalm 145:18

“The LORD is nigh unto all them that call upon him, to all that call upon him in truth. ”  -Psalm 145:18

How encouraging to know that God is nigh–near in place and time—to those who call upon Him.   There is a big BUT in there though; we have to call upon Him in truth.

Truth is a dicey concept, frought with loopholes and riddled with our own pride.  If truth is relative, the whole game gets called off.   If my subjective view of the world is legitimate just because it’s mine, well that makes for less conflict and disagreement initially, though I don’t think that’s the case in the long run.

Unlike most of my generation, I don’t think truth is relative or subjective.   Sure, we can have legitimate preferences–tastes about what we like and don’t like–those things can be subjective.  But, when it comes to the spiritual laws of the universe, I believe they are as set in stone as arithmetic facts and natural law.   The earth will rotate at a certain speed, night will come at such and such a time, these kind of “laws” we depend upon.   Without such laws, little would get done and life would be too chaotic to plan.

In a similar fashion, I believe in spiritual laws and that they are absolute.  I’m not the judge of them, but nonetheless they exist and make our emotional and spiritual lives dependable.   They make it so that we don’t have to live in emotional or spiritual chaos chasing this theory or that teacher.   We can rest in the dependability of what has been revealed.

Getting back to the verse–what does it mean to call upon Him in truth?   The word truth here means stability, trustworthiness, verity, certainty, assurance.  Maybe it means being open to God–setting aside your preconceptions (and if you grew up in a church but don’t feel close to God, you may have many preconceptions that you aren’t even aware of).  It means approaching God with humility, with a willingess to really hear Him, hear His thoughts and plans for things, not just come to Him with your “stuff” (though He wants that too).  It means coming to Him with a heart willing to consider and trust His essential character, then from this flows a willingess to consider new things He may reveal to you.

One thing He’s shown me in His word lately is the spiritual concept of forgiveness.   I’m struggling with this one because I’ve got a hurt that I’ve tried to reconcile unsuccessfully (thus far).  How to forgive when the person isn’t sorry?  I’m not exactly sure yet, but I’m open to whatever He has to share with me regarding forgiveness.

The children’s memory verse for the week comes from Mark 11

“And whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone, so that your Father also who is in heaven may forgive you your trespasses.”

It’s tough stuff, isn’t it?  From it we learn the spiritual truth that our forgiveness by God is somehow interconnected with our willingess to forgive others.  Seems almost unfair, though I know it’s not.  It is a difficult truth to look at though–especially if you can’t quite forgive another person.

Lord, help me to forgive those who fall short.   Help me to call upon You in truth, even when that truth calls me to difficult things.   Help me to trust that I can forgive someone who isn’t sorry, because I know that You wouldn’t ask me to do something that was impossible or unattainable.   If anyone else reads this and has a similar difficulty, would You shine Your light on that area of unforgiveness and enable them to forgive fully.  Show us more about how to forgive others, knowing that You forgave those who treated You with cruelty and abuse.  Amen.

Prayer

As we are working through a book on prayer right now, it’s a worthwhile project to collect any psalm verses that comment upon prayer.

I am uncertain of the exact relationship of praise to prayer.  Is praise a type or form of prayer or praise an altogether different thing?

What is the relationship between reading the Word and meditating upon it and prayer? If I read the Word and intermingle thoughts of prayer and praise while reading , is this also not a form of prayer?

I wish I had time to go back and read that little book–Practicing the Presence of God by Brother Lawrence.  A woman in our study group reminded us of this book, and I think my own prayer style is more along these lines–fluid, conversational, informal.

Philip Yancey also wrote a book on prayer.  If I’m remembering correctly, I failed to finish it.  Maybe this is a good time to dig that book up as well.

As I get older, I find myself less inclined to bend my ways, to twist them to conform to other’s ideas.   There is a fine line between a stubborn heart and knowing who you are.   Always, I want to be open to growing and broadening my understanding, but I also don’t wish to fix anything that’s not broken.  Is my prayer life in need of revolution?  strengthening?  fortification?  Is my fluid style just a lazyness, an unwillingness to quietly sit before the feet of God with no agenda?

I have a friend who is Buddhist.  She would say that prayer involves detachment–from thoughts, from the world around us.  Is prayer clearing your mind, cleansing it?  Or is prayer filling it and sharing those thoughts with God?

These are hard questions and I’m not sure it can’t be all of these things at different points and seasons in time.   The psalms are certainly diverse–they praise, plead, whine, condemn, wonder, and reflect upon God in a myriad of ways.  And when Christ taught his disciples to pray,  I don’t see a spirit of detachment there either.  In the Lord’s Prayer, there are thoughts of our Father, our sins, other’s sins, requests to protect us and keep us, but I don’t get a sense that we should desire to suspend ourselves from ourselves.  Do you?

Must prayer be a formal thing with eyes closed and no distractions, or do I think prayer can be open eyed, spontaneous thinking and asking, that flows from text to mind to text to God to thought to God?  Does prayer involve detachment or attachment or both?

What do you think?

Psalm 145:15 Food in Due Season

“The eyes of all look to you, and you give them their food in due season.

You open your hand; you satisfy the desire of every living thing.”  Psalm 145:15-16

I’m fascinated by the Lord’s orchestration of seasons.  Continually making all things new, each year, each spring, His hand in this is a model, an example of the many seasons of our lives.  There are physical seasons, spiritual seasons, seasons within families, seasons of a church.  Nothing remains constant except Him; the Lord is the rock, the concrete center of all this ebb and flow.

It is certainly true that all eyes look to Him for life, breath, food, and every necessity.  We are fully dependent upon His creation, upon the air we breath, the water we drink, the plants and animals that feed our bodies.  We should look to Him for other things as well–particularly when we try to understand ourselves and the world around us.  Only He satisfies.

Notice that He gives us food in due season. Not all the time, not all food, but what food we need when it’s appropriate, necessary, needful.

Psalm 145–Meditate?

On the glorious splendor of your majesty, and on your wondrous works, I will meditate.  -Psalm 145:5 (ESV)

I will speak of the glorious honour of thy majesty, and of thy wondrous works.  -Psalm 145:5 (KJ)

Meditate?  When I think of meditation, my mind immediately goes to eastern religions–Buddhism, Taoism, Hinduism, Jainism, New Agers, etc.  The word meditate here means to ponder, to converse with oneself , muse, pray. Here we are told to meditate, but perhaps the focus of the meditation will reveal the difference.   What are we to meditate upon?

1. The splendor of His majesty— the glorious honor of His majesty.

Admittedly, my mind resists that description.  Too many intangible things to grasp–glory, honor, splendor, majesty, they all slip off and fail to hold.

One at a time…

glorious– weight, splendor, copiousness, abundance, riches, honor, but a noun–not an adjective

majesty–old English word, greatness, a monarch of the very highest rank, grandeur, imposing form and appearance

I can’t help but think of this song from Delirious when I think of majesty:

The concept is hard to grasp, elusive because we cannot wrap our minds around the greatness of God.  In looking at a mountain in the distance, we know by approximate experience how big it must be.  Yet it is only when we get into the mountain, climbing it physically, that we can better understand its relation to the smallness of our little frames.  God is great like that, His majesty is beyond our comprehension, yet we are told to meditate upon it anyways, perhaps to gain a slightly better sense of our humble size and mind against the backdrop of His weight and glory.

Psalm 145–Generational Praise

“One generation shall praise thy works to another, and shall declare thy mighty acts. ”   Psalm 145: 4

What a beautiful image this creates for me–to think of our interconnectedness through time as one generation passing their love for the Lord down to the next.  Not just the older generation passing down words of God’s goodness to them, but to think of each generation as sharing God’s praise with the other.   A mother telling her children how God has proved Himself mighty in an act, but also the younger blessing the older by sharing an instance of His works.   Grandparents sharing with both their children and their children’s children.  Generations do not always have much in common, as the interests and thoughts of people change as they age, but we can all connect in our love for the Lord, in noticing His works and declaring them–announcing, professing, expounding, certifying, uttering, showing forth of God’s goodness.

Last night at the prayer group at our church, I got a small glimpse of this–listening to one generation and then another share God’s goodness with the group.

Thy kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and thy dominion endureth throughout all generations.  -Psalm 145:13

“The thrones of earthly princes totter, and the flowers of their crowns wither, monarchs come to an end; but, Lord, “thy kingdom is an everlasting kingdom.- Matthew Henry.

Psalm 145–Constancy and the Unsearchable God

Psa 145:2  Every day I will bless you and praise your name forever and ever.

A psalm of David, praise comes easy to David; it seems effortless.  I like the regularity of this call to action–EVERY day I will bless you and praise your name.  How do we praise the Lord daily?  By giving Him free reign of our mouth, to make a point of articulating His greatness, to be quick to praise and connect things back to Him.  Our universe is without luck, the benefits that we are loaded down with all go back to Him and He deserves our praise.

Psa 145:3  Great is the LORD, and greatly to be praised, and his greatness is unsearchable.

Unsearchable–without enumeration, numbering or finding out.  I wonder if we are too quick to wish to come to the bottom of God.   He is by definition here unsearchable.   He has chosen to reveal facets of His character through the humanity of His Son, yet He chooses not to reveal all of Himself to anyone.  Science by definition searches and strives to uncover the principles by which things work, but we cannot come to the bottom of God, He cannot be fathomed.  Frustrating at times, yes–as humans we prefer to direct and order everything, to understand and control the little corner of our lives.  But we are called to praise an unsearchable God, a God we cannot fully comprehend or know.

I like Matthew Henry’s imagery here and his apt reference to Romans:

“When we cannot, by searching, find the bottom, we must sit down at the brink, and adore the depth.”

O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! how unsearchable are his judgments, and his ways past finding out!”  Romans 11:33

And I never thought about it quite this way, but it’s true:

“God had searched David through and through (Psa_139:1), but David proved he could not search God’s greatness.” – Martin Geier.

We serve (or chose not to serve) a God who knit us together and knows our every waking and moment of sleep-the most secretive fears and tunnels of our minds and hearts–to a depth that we ourselves cannot fully understand ourselves.

In contrast, we know but the edges of His ways, as Amy Carmichael puts it.

Structure of the Psalms

The structure of the end of the book of psalms:

Psalms 145 through 150   Praise Psalms

Psalm 140–144  Petition Psalms
“And it is observable,  1. That after five psalms of prayer follow six psalms of praise; for those that are much in prayer shall not want matter for praise, and those that have sped in prayer must abound in praise. Our thanksgivings for mercy, when we have received it, should even exceed our supplications for it when we were in pursuit of it. ”   -Matthew Henry

Psalm 146:5–The Turning Point and the Second Half, God is God…

As depressing as verses 3 and 4 are, we (thankfully) reach a pivot and turn at verse 5:

Psa 146:5  Blessed is he whose help is the God of Jacob, whose hope is in the LORD his God

Trusting in men is immediate, easier, but ultimately a letdown.  Trusting is God is where we are headed with this psalm.   Good comment here:

Alas, how often do we trust when we should be afraid, and become afraid when we should trust! – Lange’s Commentary.

I also like the Believer’s Bible Commentary here where he connects the second part of this psalm to particular character traits in God.  This list would be good to meditate upon:

“The way of happiness, help, and hope is to rely on the God of Jacob, that is, the God of the undeserving. Here are some of the reasons why He is worthy of all our confidence:
146:6   Omnipotent Creator. He made the heavens, the earth, the sea, and all the creatures in the universe. If He can do that, what can’t He do?
Dependable One. He keeps truth forever. It is impossible for Him to lie or to go back on His word. There is no risk involved in trusting Him. He cannot fail.
146:7   Advocate of the helpless. He sees to it that the righteous are vindicated, that their cause eventually triumphs. The waves may seem to be against them but the tide is sure to win.
Provider. He gives food to the hungry, both in a spiritual and physical sense. He brings us into His banqueting house, and what a table He spreads!
Emancipator. He sets the captives free—from human oppression, from the chains of sin, from the grip of the world, from the bondage of the devil, and from selfish living.
146:8   Sight-Giver. The LORD opens the eyes of the blind; some are blind physically, some mentally and spiritually. Some by birth, some by accident, and some by choice. No case is too hard for Him.
Uplifter. He lifts the flagging spirits of those who are bowed down beneath the burdens of worry, affliction, trouble, and sorrow.
Lover of good men. Barnes writes, “It is a characteristic of God, and a foundation for praise, that He loves those who obey law, who do that which is right.”
146:9   Protector of exiles. He is interested in the welfare of strangers, sojourners, and exiles. Pilgrims find a true paraclete in Jehovah.
Friend of the bereft. He upholds the fatherless and the widow, and all others who have no human helper.
Judge of the evil. He thwarts the best laid plans of ungodly men and makes the way of the wicked end in ruin.
146:10   Eternal King. In contrast to man’s transiency is the eternity of God. The LORD shall reign forever—to all generations. Praise the LORD!”  -BBC

Men are Men, a Real Downer: the first half of Psalm 146

“The best of men are men at best. They cannot save themselves, let alone others. ” -BBC

Psa 146:3  Put not your trust in princes, in a son of man, in whom there is no salvation.
Psa 146:4  When his breath departs, he returns to the earth; on that very day his plans perish.

Men are men, God is God–simple, right?   But we mess it up all the time.  We hope in the seen instead of the unseen.  We trust in the immediate at the expense of the eternal.

You can’t get more depressing than Barnes here:

It is “his” as it is the only property which he has in reversion. All that a man – a prince, a nobleman, a monarch, a millionaire – will soon have will be his grave, his few feet of earth. That will be his by right of possession, by the fact that for the time being he will occupy it, and not another man! But that, too, may soon become another man’s grave, so that even there he is a tenant only for a time; he has no permanent possession even of a grave. – Albert Barnes.

When I read the older commentaries, they strike me as morbid at times.  Or perhaps they were more in touch with the boundaries of life—disease, hard work, the elements of nature, and the ravages of time–were not held at arms length as they are nowdays.

“His thoughts perish.” The science, the philosophy, the statesmanship of one age is exploded in the next. The men who are the masters of the world’s intellect to-day are discrowned to-morrow. In this age of restless and rapid change they may survive their own thoughts; their thoughts do not survive them. – J. J. Stewart Perowne.

If this was true in the 1880’s when Stewart Perowne was at his zenith,  how much more is this true today with the great proliferation of real-time thinking, RSS feeds, and text messaging?  Without faith in God, in our spirit returning to The Creator, it’s easy to see how the existentialists waded in the black mire.  God’s hand in all this changes everything.

esh-to-naw’
From H6245; thinking: – thought.

Psa_146:4
“His thoughts.” Rather, “his false, deceitful show”; literally, “his glitterings.” – Samuel Horsley, 1733-1806.

‛âshath
aw-shath’
A primitive root; probably to be sleek, that is, glossy; hence (through the idea of polishing) to excogitate (as if forming in the mind): – shine, think.

I’m trying to trace Horsley’s footsteps here—imagine this “ashath” is where we got “glitterings.”  It’s sad to think that our most polished thoughts are mere glitterings.  How to reconcile this thought that man is of so little consequence and yet of such great consequence to God?   It requires more space and time than I have this morning, that’s for sure!

“His breath goeth forth, he returneth to his earth.” His breath goes from his body, and his body goes to the grave. His spirit goes one way, and his body another. High as he stood, the want of a little air brings him down to the ground, and lays him under it.”  Spurgeon

And if you haven’t had enough already, here are more depressing reflections from Spurgeon:

“In that very day his thoughts perish.” Whatever he may have proposed to do, the proposal ends in smoke. He cannot think, and what he had thought of cannot effect itself, and therefore it dies. Now that he has gone, men are ready enough to let his thoughts go with him into oblivion; another thinker comes, and turns the thoughts of his predecessor to ridicule. It is a pitiful thing to be waiting upon princes or upon any other men, in the hope that they will think of us. In an hour they are gone, and where are their schemes for our promotion? A day has ended their thoughts by ending them; and our trusts have perished, for their thoughts have perished. Men’s ambitions, expectations, declarations, and boastings all vanish into thin air when the breath of life vanishes from their bodies. This is the narrow estate of man, his breath, his earth, and his thoughts; and this is his threefold climax therein, – his breath goeth forth, to his earth he returns, and his thoughts perish. Is this a being to be relied upon? Vanity of vanities, all is vanity. To trust it would be a still greater vanity.”  Spurgeon


It does remind me of Ecclesiastes—no wonder the literature teachers love Ecclesiastes.   But notice, it’s trusting in man that caused this bleakness.