Sing joyfully to the Lord, you righteous;
it is fitting for the upright to praise him. Psalm 33:1
To continue yesterday’s theme, King David exhorts us to sing joyfully. It’s not quite enough just to sing. When you are just singing to get through the song, there’s not feeling, no passion. However, when you sing joyfully, you are thinking about the object of your song. You are no longer mindlessly repeating something you read or something you’ve memorized.
What does it take to go from singing to singing joyfully? It’s a question each of us has to answer. Why? Well, as the Scripture says, it’s fitting.
I will be glad and rejoice in your love,
for you saw my affliction
and knew the anguish of my soul.
You have not given me into the hands of the enemy
but have set my feet in a spacious place. Psalm 31:7-8
Only the Lord truly knows the anguish of your soul. While we certainly experience that anguish, only He knows why and how to cure it. It’s a fairly liberating thought if you think about it.
Occasionally you can tell when other people are in anguish. When we pray that God would prepare someone’s heart, this is often the answer to that prayer though we don’t always recognize it as such.
Look for these opportunities to minister. No need to “preach” because the spirit is already moving, but a kind word at just the right time will go a long way (Proverbs 15:23).
I think we would take advantage of these times if we recognized them in time.
You prepare a table before me
in the presence of my enemies.
You anoint my head with oil;
my cup overflows.
Surely your goodness and love will follow me
all the days of my life,
and I will dwell in the house of the Lord
forever. Psalm 23:5-6
Picture this: you’re invited to a party and the host motions for you to come to the front. On the way you pass your enemies. They glare at you as you pass them. Your host smiles and ushers you to a seat near the front, lavishes you with gifts and food. You glance around and your enemies are fuming. That the picture I have of this verse.
But it doesn’t end there.
After you’ve eaten the food and opened the presents, you realize that you can be feasting like this in the presence of your host every day of your life. When you fall your host will be by your side to pick you up. When you weep, your host will weep with you. While your days may be stressful and busy, you can always go to the head of the room day in and day out. And your enemies, they’ll watch and fume as you walk past them.
The truth is, this is the life we can choose to live if we wanted. No, not all our days will be cheery and stress free. Not all our days will end in praise to God. But those days are there if we choose.
You see, we can choose to be bitter or we can choose to let it go. We can choose to walk with Christ moment by moment or we choose not to (or anywhere in between). We can choose to dwell in the house of the Lord or we can choose to stand outside the house and hope someone notices us.
While I know the answer to this question should be obvious, maybe it’s not: which pathway do you choose?
The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing. Psalm 23:1
It’s considered one of the most comforting of the psalms and is one most Sunday School children know by heart. If you haven’t memorized it yet, I encourage you to do so. It too will be a comfort to you.
Before that, though, let me ask a few questions:
Do sheep worry about where they’ll be grazing next?
Do sheep worry about where they’ll sleep tonight?
Do sheep know the way to go all the time?
Do sheep get only roam in herds and never stray?
Do sheep know when they’re in trouble?
It’s fairly easy to see why King David indirectly refers to himself as a sheep. We need a shepherd. Desperately.
But you, Lord, do not be far from me.
You are my strength; come quickly to help me.
Deliver me from the sword,
my precious life from the power of the dogs.
Rescue me from the mouth of the lions;
save me from the horns of the wild oxen.
I will declare your name to my people;
in the assembly I will praise you.
You who fear the Lord, praise him!
All you descendants of Jacob, honor him!
Revere him, all you descendants of Israel!
For he has not despised or scorned
the suffering of the afflicted one;
he has not hidden his face from him
but has listened to his cry for help. Psalm 22:19-24
I realize it doesn’t seem like it, but this is a model for us as we pray. It looks something like this: “I have all these problems down here but You are sovereign and in control, and when I think that I could be devoured today by those bloodthirsty animals, I know that you will rescue me.”
I like to call it “glancing at a problem and gazing at the Solution.” Of course we know that “our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.” 2 Corinthians 4:17
Even the most pressing of needs down here is nothing compared to that eternal glory. I don’t want to minimize needs; neither should we fuss that much over them. Easier said than done, I’m sure, but it’s a worthwhile goal.
My God, I cry out by day, but you do not answer,
by night, but I find no rest.
Yet you are enthroned as the Holy One;
you are the one Israel praises.
In you our ancestors put their trust;
they trusted and you delivered them.
To you they cried out and were saved;
in you they trusted and were not put to shame. Psalm 22:2-5
Entire books have been written over the theme of this passage: Where is God When It Counts?
David continues questioning where God is and why He seems to be so distant, then he takes a different tack: social proof. If Israel trusted Him and if they cried out to Him repeatedly – much like David was doing now = then certainly he’s in good company. They struggled; he struggled.
We read stories about the great saints of God who went before us, and we marvel at their faith and endurance under the harshest conditions. But have you ever stopped to consider those millions of Believers who didn’t get a book written about them, didn’t go on great missionary endeavors, or those who weren’t gifted enough to preach to thousands without the aid of a microphone? The unknowns of the Christian faith clearly outnumbered those we read about.
The good news is, we still outnumber those who are in the spotlight.
The world would be totally in a mess without ordinary people living ordinary lives and trusting an extraordinary God (much like Israel did).
(Here’s what I referenced in the title.)
My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?
Why are you so far from saving me,
so far from my cries of anguish? Psalm 22:1
These are the words Jesus cried out on the cross: And at three in the afternoon Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?” (which means “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”). Mark 15:34
Those standing around him knew what he was saying; others continued to mock (he’s crying out to Elijah). There was a separation between the Son and the Father for the first time ever. The sin of the world was placed on Jesus, and the Father had turned his back on the Son. Jesus did not cease to be the Son or a part of the Trinity but fellowship was broken.
King David probably had no idea what he was writing when he wrote this under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. Yet, he too felt separation from God.
At times we feel this way, rejected and alone. In those times when we pray, our prayers seem to bounce off the ceiling. It’s the seeking that matters, the crying out, the desperation for God that actually draws us near.
While we don’t know (nor could we ever) what it’s like to bear the weight of the world’s sins and be rejected by the Father, we do know that a loving Heavenly Father cares deeply for us when we cry out to Him.
Your hand will lay hold on all your enemies;
your right hand will seize your foes. Psalm 21:8
Seize and hold onto your enemies, you must know who they are. Our enemies are all around us. Some of our enemies we have are spiritual, and some are flesh and blood. The flesh and blood enemies, those who would come against you verbally and even physically, are easy to combat. Often it’s a matter of avoiding them. Certainly from time to time you will have to confront, but by and large they are avoidable.
Often, though, our enemies are as the book of Ephesians 6:12 states: “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” So even when we’re combating the nasty person, there’s a spiritual battle going on around them. It’s very easy to forget that.
I suspect that if we saw the spiritual battles going on around us, we would be overwhelmed. Consider 2 Kings 6:17
“And Elisha prayed, ‘Open his eyes, LORD, so that he may see.’ Then the LORD opened the servant’s eyes, and he looked and saw the hills full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha.”
It didn’t happen often but it’s a reminder to us that there is much much more to this life than what we see. Are our enemies really our enemies, or are they just “instruments” of our real enemies, those principalities and powers of this dark world? Recognizing that is a good part of the spiritual warfare battle.
Through the victories you gave, his glory is great;
you have bestowed on him splendor and majesty.
Surely you have granted him unending blessings
and made him glad with the joy of your presence.
For the king trusts in the Lord;
through the unfailing love of the Most High
he will not be shaken. Psalm 21:5-7
What shakes you or has shaken you in the past? It’s an odd question I admit but I think we all have things and events that have shaken us. Perhaps a death in the family or of a loved one. Perhaps a similar tragedy.
The Bible is filled with people who were shaken by circumstances only to bounce right back after realizing that the God who is supposed to be in control of things is actually in control!
I think it would be dishonest of me to suggest that real world events don’t rock our world from time to time. Fortunately, though, we can lean, stand on, and rely on the Rock of This World in those times. We may stagger at times but our faith in the Rock of Ages is secure and unwavering. The sooner we reach out, the sooner we regain equilibrium.