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Showing posts from May, 2011

Psalm 6 (6): The Lord Accepts my Prayer

Thoughts from Psalm 6 in six parts (Each section begins with the verses I will comment on, followed by a prayer and a concluding verse).=== 6 ===Away from me, all you who do evil,
for the LORD has heard my weeping.
The LORD has heard my cry for mercy;
the LORD accepts my prayer.
All my enemies will be overwhelmed with shame and anguish;
they will turn back and suddenly be put to shame.Who is my enemy? Jesus reminded the Jews that they were taught to hate their enemy but love their neighbour. It was God's plan they should be set apart for him and the only way they could do that was to have a completely different lifestyle to their neighbour nations. Their neighbour nations practiced idolatry and witchcraft. They sacrificed their children, had little value for human life and were generally reprobates. This was not the pool where you would choose the mother of your children. So wherever Israel conquered they were to put to the sword every one of the inhabitants to rid the land of ev…

Psalm 6 (5): I am worn out

Thoughts from Psalm 6 in six parts (Each section begins with the verses I will comment on, followed by a prayer and a concluding verse).=== 5 ===I am worn out from my groaning.
All night long I flood my bed with weeping
and drench my couch with tears.
My eyes grow weak with sorrow;
they fail because of all my foes.There are no requests here, no plea for mercy or deliverance, no statement of faith, no occasion for dialogue. There are times when we have no wish to listen to reason or examine cause and effect. You would suppose that you know better than anyone what you are going through yet you can only see it from the inside and untangling reality from your perception is an almost impossible task. When someone casually asks how you are you might weigh up how you are doing financially, emotionally, professionally, arriving at an average where negatives are cancelled out by positives and you end up with a simple "OK". But David throws out all reason and appears to lose any sense of …

Psalm 6 (4): No Praise from the Grave

Thoughts from Psalm 6 in six parts (Each section begins with the verses I will comment on, followed by a prayer and a concluding verse).=== 4 ===Turn, LORD, and deliver me;
save me because of your unfailing love.
Among the dead no one proclaims your name.
Who praises you from the grave?Notice how directly David speaks. He doesn't plead for God to deliver him or put in a request for God to answer when he gets time or has the inclination. But we should not imagine that David is presumptuous or, as the name it and claim it preachers would have it, is merely drawing on his account. For all the respect that David has for his Lord, the case is too urgent to shrink from pressing God for an answer to his troubles. He knows God is his deliverer and there is no one else to turn to. Better that God be angry at his impertinence than to test him with pathetic ifs. When he answered Job directly after days of listening to his defence of his own righteousness, God didn't demand that Job be sile…

Psalm 6 (3): Lord How Long

Thoughts from Psalm 6 in six parts (Each section begins with the verses I will comment on, followed by a prayer and a concluding verse).=== 3 ===How long, LORD, how long?A recurrent theme throughout the Psalms, this sentiment is echoed throughout scripture. The first words we read in Genesis are "In the beginning"; the penultimate phrase in Revelation is "Amen. Come, Lord Jesus" (it is settled - we only await your coming Lord). We know God started it and have faith that God will finish it but even though God's revelation is completed and sealed it still awaits the finale. There's more to come but we must wait patiently. When Jesus was first presented at the temple he was welcomed by the prophetess Anna. She had been married for seven years when her husband died. Now at the age of 84 she saw what she had been waiting for her whole life. Moses, the only man who ever met God face to face, was 120 when the Israelites finally reached the Promised Land only to be…

Psalm 6 (2): Lord Have Mercy on Me

Thoughts from Psalm 6 in six parts (Each section begins with the verses I will comment on, followed by a prayer and a concluding verse).=== 2 ===Have mercy on me, LORD, for I am faint;
heal me, LORD, for my bones are in agony.
My soul is in deep anguish.It may be that David was physically ill. If so, this was either life threatening or so debilitating that David felt compelled to ask for mercy. We all know how paralysing a headache can be - that it can cause or be made worse through stress - so we hardly need to know the detail of his discomfort to understand his anguish, only that he is deeply troubled. That the Psalms don't rhyme has nothing to do with the translation; Hebrew poetry often uses repetition to emphasis a point. Here we see a theme repeated twice but from a new perspective each time.David is faint, in agony and deeply troubled, everything you would associate with a severe illness, but just as illness causes distress, so does distress manifest itself in physical sympto…

Psalm 6 (1): Lord Deliver Me

Thoughts from Psalm 6 in six parts (Each section begins with the verses I will comment on, followed by a prayer and a concluding verse).= Introduction =Turn O LORD and deliver me;
save me because of your unfailing love.
No one remembers you when he is dead.
Who praises you from the grave?Not every Psalm entitled 'A psalm of David' can reliably be ascribed to the king himself but this one bears all the hallmarks of this resilient yet vulnerable, confident yet contrite ruler of Israel. It seems to be in the darkest times we meet face to face with our maker, when we have a true heart-to-heart - as if we have to come to the end of ourselves to find the beginning of God. Psalm 6 finds David at this place but the scenario doesn't present a jelly of a man pleading for mercy. Rather, we see someone who, even in the depths of despair, has a quiet and undying confidence in a God who is not to be served in blind allegiance. "Test me in this", says the LORD (from the mouth of t…

Exceptionally Ordinary

There are numerous times when I have vowed to press on with my foot to the floor only to find myself stalling at each bend. It's an easy thing to take a long view on the destination and make good initial progress, pumped with adrenaline and inspiration. Many fall at the finish unable (or unwilling) to make the last bit of ground but more die in the middle. Corpses pile high in the side streets and cul-de-sacs of life. Unmentioned to the starters and forgotten by the finishers, they are an embarrassment and only leave an unpleasant smell. What do you say of someone who aborts when the job is half done, for whom there is no return on the investment - a write off - a liability - collateral damage.Life is an opportunity but while for some it's a revolving door, for others it's a quarter light. The vista may be the same but some need to stand closer to the window to see it. I'm not speaking of those who don't realize their potential but manage to get through life withou…

Listening

I have a friend who is facing some difficult questions and trying to make sense of relationships. Life never stands still and as much as we'd like to rewrite some of our story we can do little more than paint over the painful bits or reconcile the first chapters with a good ending. I don't know if she is trying to make sense of the twisted thinking that causes people to choose a life of mutual abuse, searching for a strand of reason in the dogmatic assertions of self and institutionally appointed leaders of religious groups or listening to the latter as a distraction from the former. But she seems to have an appetite for engaging with people with unorthodox, and sometimes destructive, takes on life.I suspect she is hoping to put all her experiences together in a kind of patchwork, which may look chaotic at close quarters but makes some sense when viewed from a distance, in the third person as it were. My fear is that by exposing herself to people who are seeking to influence o…

In decent

I've recently been accused of not being decent. On my online dictionary it's defined as: conforming to the recognized standard of propriety, good taste, modesty, etc; in other words (or one other word), proper. It's a surprisingly subjective definition in that not only does it depend on something that's commonly (if not universally) accepted but also on our own preconceptions of what is acceptable and, to some extent, on context. It would be considered indecent to walk through the streets naked but minimal coverage would render that person acceptable on a standard British beach. On a nudist beach a fully clothed person could be considered improper whereas a partly dressed person might draw criticism in any of these contexts.We sometimes ask, "What would be the decent thing to do?" and it could be the case that none of those being asked fulfils the criteria yet there is no presumption of condemnation that being indecent would suggest. Often when someone is tol…