Thursday, June 17, 2010
[A Psalm for giving thanks.]
[100:1] Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth!
 Serve the Lord with gladness!
Come into his presence with singing!
 Know that the Lord, he is God!
It is he who made us, and we are his;
we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture.
 Enter his gates with thanksgiving,
and his courts with praise!
Give thanks to him; bless his name!
 For the Lord is good;
his steadfast love endures forever,
and his faithfulness to all generations.
(Psalm 100 ESV)
This morning I was thinking about why our Christian witness is so feeble sometimes, and it occurred to me that it may be that we have forgotten how to truly rejoice in the Lord. We are burdened down with the cares of our own life and flooded with bad news from TV, radio, newspapers and the web to the point where the cares of the world threaten to completely swamp us. Under such circumstances, rejoicing in the Lord seems to be little more than whistling in the dark, a futile attempt to deny the real pains of this world.
But the ancient Jews also knew much about suffering, yet somehow they managed to write poetry like Psalm 100. And they begin by urging "all the earth" to make a joyful noise to the Lord. Even pagans, idolaters and deadly enemies of both the Lord and His people are called to serve Him with gladness. It is something to imagine the noise that would be made by this polyglot crowd, each proclaiming the goodness of God in their own tongue.
The Psalmist then goes on to proclaim with joy the reason why his people in particular should celebrate. "The Lord," that is the One Whom they worshiped and Who called them out of Egypt, this One is truly God, not a dead idol. And the people He chose are the sheep of His pasture, the people whom He faithfully watches over, protects and guides into good places.
So it is good to celebrate, and we are urged to do so, to enter into the gates of His temple with thanksgiving, rather than long somber faces burdened down with the cares of the world. We are to be grateful for the Lord's steady provision and rejoice in His goodness and greatness, "for the Lord is good, and His steadfast love endures forever." Implicit in this is the idea that we ourselves will also live forever, and so be able to enjoy His love and provision forever.
This is perhaps the reason why the Psalmist could rejoice; he saw beyond the troubles of his day, real though they were, to a life in which the Lord had overcome all these evils. Evils are transient, but God's love never ends. The people of God will outlive all of the sufferings that might plague them and will enter into a joy that makes those sufferings tame by comparison.
Do we live this way ourselves? Do we see that we are part of an eternal kingdom, that Jesus has prepared a place for us in it, and that we shall live forever with Him in glory? Can we look honestly at our sufferings and the sufferings of others and know with confidence that they will fade away, and that God is able to work them all for good? If so, does this realization engender joy in our lives, a joy that shows even in the troubles of life? If we live with a vision of the sure joy that is ours, then that ought perhaps trickle out a little into the rest of our lives, and may add something to our witness that is missing now, and might help some people to believe that there really is something in Christianity that they might want.
May it be so!
Saturday, January 02, 2010
103:1 Bless the Lord, O my soul,
and all (every bit - nothing left out) that is within me,
bless (make Him happy with my praise of) his holy name!
2 Bless the Lord, O my soul,
and forget not all his benefits (why is it so easy to forget these?),
3 who forgives all (every bit - nothing left out) your iniquity,
who heals all (every bit - nothing left out) your diseases (indeed, the life in my body that enables it to recover from sickness is all from Him),
4 who redeems your life from the pit (again and again, as I lose myself once more in the pit),
who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy (oh yes! love and mercy that endure through a thousand failures and missteps - what a splendid crown!),
5 who satisfies you with good (if it were up to me, I'd be dissatisfied with good - always looking for something "more" that is really far less - but He teaches me to be satisfied and more than satisfied with what is truly good).
so that your youth is renewed like the eagle's (woohoo!).
6 The Lord works righteousness
and justice for all who are oppressed (wait patiently - it will yet come).
7 He made known his ways to Moses,
his acts to the people of Israel (how wonderful for God to choose this little people).
8 The Lord is merciful and gracious (not giving us what we deserve and giving us what we don't deserve),
slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love (how sweet the endless undeserved good).
9 He will not always chide (not like my wounded pride, which constantly chides me),
nor will he keep his anger forever (not like the resentment that gnaws my heart).
10 He does not deal with us according to our sins (that's for sure),
nor repay us according to our iniquities (whew!).
11 For as high as the heavens are above the earth,
so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him (this is incomprehensibly wonderful);
12 as far as the east is from the west (keep going...),
so far does he remove our transgressions from us (they are gone! - all of them!).
13 As a father shows compassion to his children,
so the Lord shows compassion to those who fear him (the good father, the one who runs to meet the prodigal son).
14 For he knows our frame (better than I know it myself);
he remembers that we are dust (how often I'd rather be more than dust - a superhero - but I wear myself out trying) .
15 As for man, his days are like grass;
he flourishes like a flower of the field;
16 for the wind passes over it, and it is gone,
and its place knows it no more (the promise was that we'd be like gods - but on my own I can't be. I'm too weak and wilt like grass under the summer sun).
17 But the steadfast love of the Lord is from everlasting to everlasting on those who fear him (in His love, I will live from everlasting to everlasting - as enduring as His love),
and his righteousness to children's children (thank you, Lord, for loving my children better than I can),
18 to those who keep his covenant
and remember to do his commandments (by your grace, Lord...).
19 The Lord has established his throne in the heavens,
and his kingdom rules over all (everything - nothing left out - He is Lord).
20 Bless the Lord, O you his angels (yes!),
you mighty ones who do his word,
obeying the voice of his word!
21 Bless the Lord, all his hosts (yes!),
his ministers, who do his will!
22 Bless the Lord, all his works (yes!),
in all (every one, none left out) places of his dominion.
Bless the Lord, O my soul (Amen and amen) !