Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Psalm 18.

Okay folks, hold on. This is gonna be a loooong post. I'm in Psalm 18, starting with verse one (there's fifty of them all together). Bible words in blue, my own in... whatever you'd call this color.

Verses 1-3
I love you, O Lord, my strength. The Lord is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer; my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge. He is my shield and the horn [the strength] of my salvation, my stronghold. I call to the Lord, who is worthy of praise, and I am saved from my enemies.

I am strong. Stronger than I can begin to describe. Not in myself. Not because of anything that's inside of me. But because the Lord is my strength. I don't understand how that works - how God can be "my" anything. But, He is.

He is so far beyond human. He is indescribable. He is awesome and beautiful. And HE IS MY SHIELD. HE is the strength of my salvation. Not me. Not my faith or resolve. Not my efforts to serve. Him. He is the source and strength. He is a stronghold. I'm anchored in Him. I'm protected. I can never be removed against my will. I praise Him. He does answer me. When I call for help, He answers. And He saves me.

Verses 4-6
The cords of death entangled me; the torrents of destruction overwhelmed me. The cords of the grave coiled around me; the snares of death confronted me. In my distress I called to the Lord; I cried to my God for help. From His temple He heard my voice; my cry came before Him, into His ears.

I have been in that place. Where death swirled around me. Destruction flooded over and around me, swept me from my feet. I was falling. Fast. I struggled to rise up, but could not. Everywhere I turned, darkness loomed. I saw no alternative. Death. Destruction. Darkness. Depression. Despair. Fear. Pain. When I began to see the reality of where I was - when I saw that truly, I was one slippery step away from utter destruction, I cried out. I cried out to God in desperation, crying "Save me." He heard. I know He did. He answered.

Verses 7-15
The earth trembled and quaked, and the foundations of the mountains shook; they trembled because He was angry. Smoke rose from His nostrils; consuming fire came from His mouth, burning coals blazed out of it. He parted the heavens and came down; dark clouds were under His feet. He mounted the cherubim and flew; He soared on the wings of the wind. He made darkness His coverying, His canopy around Him - the dark rain clouds of the sky. Out of the brightness of His presence clouds advanced, with hailstones and bolts of lightning. The Lord thundered from heaven; the voice of the Most High resounded. He shot arrows and scattered the enemies, great bolts of lightning and and routed them. The valleys of the sea were exposed and the foundations of the earth laid bare at your rebuke, O Lord, at the blast of breath from your nostrils.

Oh how I love storms. I don't believe that God is inside every one of them, showing His wrath or power. But He was in that one. I'm a visual person. I think with pictures. I see the things I remember.
Last spring, I stood at the top of a thirty foot observation tower. I was surrounded by still water, tall reeds, and the tentative conversation of a few young swans. Dark clouds rushed in, low and fast. Thunder rolled. The tower trembled beneath my feet. With a roar, the wind flattened the grass and bent trees nearly double. I spread my arms and lifted my head, marveling at this awesome power. And knowing that this was too small, too insignificant, to even begin comparing to the power of my God.

Verses 16-19
He reached down from on high and took hold of me; He drew me out of deep waters. He rescued me from my powerful enemy, from my foes, who were too strong for me. They confronted me in the day of my disaster, but the Lord was my support. He brought me out into a spacious place; He rescued me because He delighted in me.

This part trips me up. Remember the previous passage? About the power displayed by the Lord? About the earth trembling? Do you know how big this earth is? And it trembled and quaked, just because He was angry. This isn't some old man up in the sky somewhere waiting to pull us into his sweet embrace. This is God. So awesome and so powerful that when writing scripture, the scribes wouldn't write His whole name. And He reached down from on high and took hold of me?

Yes, He did. He drew me up out of the deep waters. He brought me into a spacious place. A wide open space where I was safe. He took care of me. He put people into my life who knew how to help. He gave them words and wisdom. He chose the bounds of my habitation, and put me somewhere I wouldn't have chosen on my own. He planted me in a loving church. Grafted me into the most amazing family. Gave me sisters. Gave me hope. Gave me love.

Verses 20-24
The Lord has dealt with me according to my righteousness; according to the cleanness of my hands He has rewarded me. For I have kept the ways of the Lord; I have not done evil by turning from my God. All His laws are before me; I have not turned away from His decrees. I have been blameless before Him and have kept myself from sin. The Lord has rewarded me according to my righteousness, according to the cleanness of my hands in His sight.

Okay. This one is hard. In my eyes, I have failed. I have not kept the ways of the Lord. I have turned from God. I've turned from His decrees and failed to keep his law (His WORD) before me. I have not been blameless. I have not kept myself from sinning. I am not righteous. I do not have clean hands. But. He has a Son. His name is Jesus. Emmanuel. The Christ. This son was perfect. This Son lowered Himself to become human. He was fully human. And fully God. He died on a cross. A horrible, painful, agonizing death. He descended to hell. He ascended to heaven. His blood has washed me. And it's through and in light of that that God views me. And because of that, I am righteous. I do have clean hands. I am blameless. It is hard to fathom - I'm quite certain I really do not even sort of understand it.

Verses 25-29
To the faithful you show yourself faithful, to the blameless you show yourself blameless, to the pure you show yourself pure, but to the crooked you show yourself shrewd. You save the humble but bring low those whose eyes are haughty.

You, O Lord, keep my lamp burning; my God turns my darkness into light. With your help I can dvance against a troop; with my God I can scale a wall.

With my God. He isn't mine. I don't own him. I can't claim his as my very own. And yet, His place in my life is as my God. To Him alone do I surrender everything. My body. My mind. My will. My emotions. My trust. My hope. My faith. My spirit itself. And with Him, I can do anything at all. Even scale the obstacle that currently looms so large before me.

Verses 30-36
As for God, His way is perfect; the Word of the Lord is flawless. He is a shield for all who take refuge in Him. For who is God besides the Lord? And who is the Rock except our God? It is God who arms me with strength and makes my way perfect. He makes my feet like the feet of a deer; He enables me to stand on the heights. He trains my hands for battle; my arms can bend a bow of bronze. You give me your shield of victory, and your right hand sustains me; you stoop down to make me great. You broaden the path beneath me, so that my ankles do not turn.

I like this passage. I like the reminder. I like the safety. There have been times, particularly as a child, where what I really longed for was someplace to be safe. Some place where I was protected. Somewhere I could run whenever I needed to. God is that place. I can always turn to Him. Regardless of what else happens, He will never change. He'll always stay. He'll always love. He'll always give me the strength I need to fight my battles, and He'll always give me His shield of victory.

I left out some of the verses, as you can see. They are good verses. Worth reading. Worth pondering. Worth studying. All the Word of God is. It's just that at this point, I don't have anything to say about them. Finally, these last few? I have nothing to add. No comments. Let them linger in your mind a while, see what they can do in your heart.

Verses 46-49
The Lord lives! Praise be to my Rock! Exalted be God my Savior! He is the God who avenges me, who subdues nations under me, who saves me from my enemies. You exalted me above my foes; from violent men you rescued me. Therefore I will praise you among the nations, O Lord; I will sing praises to your name.

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