Psalm 144:3 God Esteem

” LORD, what is man, that thou takest knowledge of him! or the son of man, that thou makest account of him! ” -Psalm 144:3

A Christian perspective can be an odd thing–sometimes it leads me to weight two seemingly opposite things and call them both true.

For instance, Psalm 144:3 brings me to a  humble appraisal of my own worth.   David’s got an earnest and worthwhile question here:

Why does He bother with the likes of us?

Even more, not only does He bother with us, He makes an accounting of us individually.  The root of the word account here means literally “to weave, plait, fabricate” –surely this is no casual knowing that our Lord is after.

God chooses to interweave Himself into our lives with one big caveat– if we will let Him.  Either way, He knows us intimately so that’s not His motive and that’s not the question. But He’s designed things in such a way that we can choose or reject His desire to interpenetrate us with His Spirit.  He’s no party crasher.

But, if we let Him, He’s willing to take the commonplace elements of our lives and mould them into something strikingly beautiful, all of which is a testimony to His skill,  His craftsmanship.

What dissonance!  In one sense we certainly are of “little consequence,”  in the grand scheme of  His Universe, and  we are guilty of elevating ourselves in our egocentric hearts and minds.   The result is a distorted concept of self-worth, an inaccurate hubris.

On the other hand, the Lord of All Creation values each of us in ways that are completely over-the-top and undeserved.  He cherishes relationship with us,  and this cherishing alone is enough to transforms our own sense of worth completely–not self-worth, but God worth.

Our worth is not merited; it is merely because He said so.

Pantheism–Creation and the Creator Inseperable?

This quotation makes me wonder if Frank Lloyd Wright was a Pantheist. Pantheists see God in everything–literally.  In some ways, it’s an easy perspective to define, at least on the surface.  Wikipedia has this to say about it:

“Pantheism is the view that the Universe (Nature) and God are identical,or that the Universe (including Nature on Earth) is the only thing deserving the deepest kind of reverence. The word derives from the Ancient Greekπᾶνpan) meaning “All” and θεός (theos) meaning “God” – literally “All is God.” As such Pantheism promotes the idea that God is better understood as a way of relating to nature and the Universe as a whole – all that was, is and shall be – rather than as a transcendent, mental, personal or creator entity.[2] Pantheists thus do not believe in a personal or creator god. Although there are divergences within Pantheism, the central ideas found in almost all versions are the Cosmos as an all-encompassing unity and the “sacredness” of Nature. “

I think it’s also where Emerson, Thoreau and the other transcendentalist got lost along the way to God.  On one hand, there is no doubt about it, the creation is marvelous, awe inspiring.  Not even an atheist can deny that there is something within each person that responds to nature in a spiritual fashion, even if only “instinctively.”   We can agree all day long about the beauty of nature and our need to be good stewards of the environment.  I love to hike, study nature, garden, and cultivate the spark of  life with my hands.

But, there are problems with the larger realities of Pantheism to be sure.  When we start to equate the creation with the Creator, and if you take this so far as to suggest that they are one and the same, then you need to address the next logical point–such a perspective also suggests the universe, though beautiful and intricate, is also rather indifferent at minimum and possibly downright cruel.

You don’t have to examine nature long to see that the relationship among inhabitants is generally interdependent, but in a hostile way.  Cats chase mice, dogs chase cats, and the food web, chain or whatever you’d like to label it, is a sad reality.  Though most Pantheists I’ve met are environmentalists and pacifists, their belief seems to run aground when followed to the logical conclusions.   Even if we take man out of the equation completely, the creation seems to embody a combative spirit.  Left to its own devices, the crabgrass on my lawn would overrun my flower beds and creatures would continue to feed off each other.  In this sense, I think the message of Pantheism is that nature is a tough taskmaster—the weak succumb to the strong, the strongest prevails…

Is the study of Science part of Pantheism?  For some, I would say yes, that their fascination with Science and the Creation dominates their lives and become the lens through which they see everything.  Science is a rather cold bedfellow I think.

Pantheism and Christianity do have some common ground however–they both marvel at the glory of  Creation.  This is where they part paths however, as the Christian sees a hand behind the brush of the artist.  For Christians, the masterpiece points clearly to artist, the energy, thought and designer of all.   But with Pantheism, the masterpiece evokes a bunch of  muddy questions:

How did all of these beautiful things get here? Does every animal have a spirit and every plant too?  It seems like vegetarianism only addresses a piece of this issue.  How do we differentiate between the different levels of life?  If all are equally valuable, then we should really not be eating any plants either.   And taking humans out of the question, animals still eat animals.  What does Pantheism have to say about this heartless system?

In contrast, Psalm 145:10 declares that “All thy works shall praise thee, O Lord.”

Viscount Dillion comments further here–

“It is a poor philosophy and a narrow religion which does not recognise God as all in all. Every moment of our lives, we breathe, stand, or move in the temple of the Most High; for the universe is that temple….

O God! everywhere we see thy love! Creation, in all its length and breadth, in all its depth and height, is the manifestation of thy Spirit, and without thee the worlds were dark and dead. The universe is to us as the burning bush which the Hebrew leader saw: God is ever present in it, for it burns with his glory, and the ground on which we stand is always holy.” – “Francis” (Viscount Dillon).

Psalm 145:5–Pondering “Praise God”

I’ve been studying Psalm 145 for about a month now.  On the surface, there is nothing particularly compelling about it, but every time I wake and consider it, it opens up more for me again.  It’s like a pop-up book with many layers and flaps.  Here is yet another “flap” I’m considering this morning:

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

Several commentators, including the one I’ve reference below, point out that the intent of  David’s word for  “speaking”  here indicates not a passing mention, but an  elaborate detailing, an elucidation, to consider at length:

“I will muse” is better than “speak,” as being the primary and more usual sense of the Hebrew word. It suggests that these glorious qualities of God’s character and deeds should be not merely talked about and extolled in song, but be deeply pondered, laid close upon our very heart, so that the legitimate impression may be wrought into our very soul, and may mould our whole spirit and character into God’s own moral image. – Henry Cowles

This makes sense–we are to meditate, to ponder, to think at length upon His majesty and wondrous works. We are to do this in such a through fashion that they shape and impress themselves upon our very spirit.

I think back to my often spartan “praise God” comments slipped in among the seemingly more important details of this or that which God has had His hand in.   Certainly He deserves more, so why does my flesh firmly resist more extensive elaboration and praise?  “Praise God” seems like the most rudimentary acknowledgment.  The Lord of All deigns to work among the commonplace details of our lives, He bothers to fashion them into His image–surely we should have much to say about that!  We are like a child who tears through a present, throws a perfunctory “thank you” out to no one in particular, while reaching for the next one….

Lord help us–help me–from treating You cavalierly.   Grant us an awareness of Your gifts all around us.  May we not tear through them, but marvel at length, looking carefully and thoughtfully as we uncover each one.  May we see Your intricate hand at work and marvel at length upon Your majesty.

Psalm 145:1 Watching, Waiting, Warring…for now Praise…for ever.

Lovely little passage here where William Pushon elaborates on Psalm 145:1 and the eternal nature of praise:

I will extol thee, my God, O king; and I will bless thy name for ever and ever.  -Psalm 145:1

“Praise is the only part of duty in which we at present engage, which is lasting. We pray, but there shall be a time when prayer shall offer its last litany; we believe, but there shall be a time when faith shall be lost in sight; we hope, and hope maketh not ashamed, but there shall be a time when hope lies down and dies, lost in the splendour of the fruition that God shall reveal. But praise goes singing into heaven, and is ready without a teacher to strike the harp that is waiting for it, to transmit along the echoes of eternity the song of the Lamb.

In the party-coloured world in which we live, there are days of various sorts and experiences, making up the aggregate of the Christian’s life. There are waiting days, in which, because Providence fences us round, and it seems as if we cannot march, we cannot move, as though we must just wait to see what the Lord is about to do in us and for us; and there are watching days, when it behoves us never to slumber, but to be always ready for the attacks of our spiritual enemy; and there are warring days, when with nodding plume, and with ample armour, we must go forth to do battle for the truth; and there are weeping days, when it seems as if the fountains of the great deep within us were broken up; and as though, through much tribulation, we had to pass to heaven in tears. But these days shall all pass away by-and-by – waiting days all be passed, warring days all be passed, watching days all be passed; but

`Our days of praise shall ne’er be past
While life, and thought, and being last,
And immortality endures.'”
-William Morley Punshon, 1824-1881

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.

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.