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?”

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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.