Thursday, November 21

A Song of Grace

So he brought his people out with joy, his chosen ones with singing.
Ps 105:43 

I think joy is earned. If I'm good, I think I deserve to be happy. If I'm bad, I blame myself for my misery. I have to be in control.

But Psalm 105 is a song of grace. It doesn't tell me how Israel delivered itself by its own strength, or earned its redemption by its own righteousness. Instead it sings of a God possessed of two things: love, and a plan. Like a compassionate parent, God did not wait for the chosen to earn their deliverance, but brought them

Wednesday, November 20

The Promise Is Not Vain

He is the Lord our God; his judgments are in all the earth. He is mindful of his covenant forever, of the word that he commanded, for a thousand generations,
the covenant that he made with Abraham, his sworn promise to Isaac,
which he confirmed to Jacob as a statute, to Israel as an everlasting covenant,
saying, “To you I will give the land of Canaan as your portion for an inheritance.”
When they were few in number, of little account, and strangers in it,
wandering from nation to nation, from one kingdom to another people,
he allowed no one to oppress them; he rebuked kings on their account,
saying, “Do not touch my anointed ones; do my prophets no harm.”
When he summoned famine against the land, and broke every staff of bread,
he had sent a man ahead of them, Joseph, who was sold as a slave.
His feet were hurt with fetters, his neck was put in a collar of iron;
until what he had said came to pass, the word of the Lord kept testing him.
The king sent and released him; the ruler of the peoples set him free.
He made him lord of his house, and ruler of all his possessions,
to instruct his officials at his pleasure, and to teach his elders wisdom.
Then Israel came to Egypt; Jacob lived as an alien in the land of Ham.
And the Lord made his people very fruitful, and made them stronger than their foes,
whose hearts he then turned to hate his people, to deal craftily with his servants.
 
Ps 105:7-25 

I usually consume the Book of Genesis as though it's a buffet, reading a bit from here and a bit from there.

Tuesday, November 19

A Group Activity

Seek the Lord and his strength; seek his presence continually.
Ps 105:4 

I used to think I had a good sense of direction. Now I know I actually don't. It's never bothered me, though, because every wrong turn takes me someplace I've never been before. Even so, I have to admit that I'm one of those men who refuse to stop and ask for directions. So I should probably take today's passage from the psalms to heart, because what I read in English as Seek the Lord is, in Hebrew, דִּרְשׁוּ יְהוָה—which is more like, Inquire about Yahweh, or Ask after Yahweh. I'm even further removed from the true meaning when I read a modern English translation, because the Hebrew Bible's not telling me to do this all alone. It says, Hey y'all, ask after Yahweh! Archaic English would've rendered this as Seek ye...

So a verse I might want to think of as a great little personal mantra, is in reality a group activity. Seeking God,

Monday, November 18

Let Me Never Be Confounded

May the glory of the Lord endure forever; may the Lord rejoice in his works—who looks on the earth and it trembles, who touches the mountains and they smoke.
I will sing to the Lord as long as I live; I will sing praise to my God while I have being.
May my meditation be pleasing to him, for I rejoice in the Lord. 
Let sinners be consumed from the earth, and let the wicked be no more. Bless the Lord, O my soul. Praise the Lord!
Ps 104:31-35 

The final verse of Psalm 104 seems to be a rather ugly intrusion into an otherwise pleasant song of praise. But I want to put it in the context of verse 31, in which the psalmist prays that God will rejoice in all the glorious works proclaimed in this psalm. And when I look back even further, I remember how this same psalmist placed human creatures in the context of all other creatures, each one in its proper place, praising

Sunday, November 17

The Breath of God

These all look to you to give them their food in due season; when you give to them, they gather it up; when you open your hand, they are filled with good things.
When you hide your face, they are dismayed; when you take away their breath, they die and return to their dust.
When you send forth your spirit, they are created; and you renew the face of the ground.
Ps 104:27-30 

I'm told the universe is expanding, and that at some point in the far distant future it will begin to contract. I can't help but think of the breath of God giving life to all that is, and that breath then being withdrawn. Inhale. Exhale. I imagine that the cycle repeats over and over throughout an eternity of time: the breath of a benevolent, unsleeping God, birthing the stars around which worlds develop, fertile and life-giving—each cycle lasting untold millions of years. And yet this eternity is but the blink of an eye to its Creator, for time, too,

Saturday, November 16

Diversity and Unity

The trees of the Lord are watered abundantly, the cedars of Lebanon that he planted.
In them the birds build their nests; the stork has its home in the fir trees.
The high mountains are for the wild goats; the rocks are a refuge for the coneys.
You have made the moon to mark the seasons; the sun knows its time for setting.
You make darkness, and it is night, when all the animals of the forest come creeping out.
The young lions roar for their prey, seeking their food from God.
When the sun rises, they withdraw and lie down in their dens.
People go out to their work and to their labor until the evening.
O Lord, how manifold are your works! In wisdom you have made them all; the earth is full of your creatures.
 
Ps 104:16-24

It's interesting that the normal activity of human beings is placed here in the context of the normal activity of the rest of God's creation. The Bible seldom does that. We are usually placed over and above, and given more responsibility. But here we're found among, part of the whole—along with the birds, the goats, the rabbits, the lions, the sun, and the moon—amazed at what God has done not just for us, but for and through

Friday, November 15

Earth Is Satisfied

By the streams the birds of the air have their habitation; they sing among the branches.
From your lofty abode you water the mountains; the earth is satisfied with the fruit of your work.
You cause the grass to grow for the cattle, and plants for people to use, to bring forth food from the earth, and wine to gladden the human heart, oil to make the face shine, and bread to strengthen the human heart.
 
Ps 104:12-15

How can I read these words and believe in a stingy God, a God who would require abstinence of me, who would ask that I refuse the bounty of the earth in order to satisfy a small-minded divinity. God created a world that has enough to provide for all, and then some. Yet the resources I waste would provide a seeming palace's supply of food and water and warmth to a person in need. And so, in good Calvinist fashion, I must