Trust.

Christianity, Religion

“In you, O Lord, do I take refuge;

    let me never be put to shame;

    in your righteousness deliver me!

Incline your ear to me;

    rescue me speedily!

Be a rock of refuge for me,

    a strong fortress to save me!

For you are my rock and my fortress;

    and for your name’s sake you lead me and guide me;

you take me out of the net they have hidden for me,

    for you are my refuge.

Into your hand I commit my spirit;

    you have redeemed me, O Lord, faithful God.” Psalm 31:1-5

“But I trust in you, O Lord;

    I say, ‘You are my God.’” Psalm 31:14

David’s psalms are some of the most heart-wrenching writings in all of Scripture, and yet they are also some of the most relatable. When reading his work, the reader never has to wonder what emotion David is trying to communicate; the emotion of the text leaps of the page. David’s psalms of sorrow and anguish hit us in the pit of our stomachs, and his psalms of joy leave us feeling as happy and invigorated as he was when he penned them. Ever the poet, David understood how to express and communicate whatever emotions he was experiencing.

The thirty-first psalm is no exception to this rule; in this psalm, David laid bare his soul and expressed to God–and to later readers–the emotional and spiritual toll he experienced as a result of the numerous trials he went through. 1 Samuel recounts the saga of David and Saul when David had to stay on the run from an ever increasingly paranoid and deranged Saul, who was bent on killing the anointed future king of Israel. Samuel’s account tells the reader of David’s hiding in the caves in the wilderness of Israel, his having to periodically flee Israel, of doing absolutely anything to stay always one step ahead of Saul–the king whom David had sworn to serve and who at one time found such solace from David’s music. Saul would stop at nothing to kill David. Despite this, David had numerous opportunities to kill Saul, and yet he spared Saul’s life every single time. On more than one occasion, David had to flee to the land of the Philistines–Israel’s mortal enemy at the time–because it was safer for David to live in the land of his enemies than to live amongst his people. While Saul lived, David was a vagabond; he lived a life of exile. Those who aided him did so at a high cost; helping David elude Saul warranted death. Saul did everything within his power to ensure that David had no one to turn to for help or protection–or so Saul thought.

It was during this chapter of David’s life that he penned Psalm 31. In this psalm, David cried out to the One who would not forsake him, to the One who had aided and protected him all along the arduous journey. David knew that, had it not been for God’s protection, Saul would have captured him and killed him long ago. God alone had been David’s refuge, his stronghold. David also knew that he had done nothing to merit God’s favor or protection; God had been doing so purely out of love and mercy, and because it was what He desired to do. God had foiled Saul’s plans and intentions every step of the way, and David trusted that God would continue to do so. David understood that God had saved him–ransomed him–for a purpose, and so he knew he must entrust his life and soul to God’s care; he must commit his spirit into God’s hands.

David did not hold back from crying out to God in this psalm. Though he was trusting God’s providence for the outcome of this trial, David was still being crushed under the weight of his ordeal. He was reaching his mental and physical breaking points; his life was nothing but sorrow, distress, and sighing. His body was withering away. Those who knew him avoided him; those who were once his friends looked at him as a danger and threat to their own safety. People had forgotten about him as they would a person after their death. David–the man the people once cheered for and celebrated–was now an object of scorn and rebuke. The man who slew the giant to save his people had now been forsaken by them. In spite of this, he continued to trust in God. The world may attack David and shake him to his very core, but God would remain his rock and refuge.

At times, it is difficult for us to have this same level of trust in God. In times of joy and plenty, it is easy for us to say that we trust in Him, but that confidence does not always readily carry over into the times of sorrow and anguish. In the difficult times, we more closely resemble the disciples in the boat in the midst of the storm when they cried out “Save us, Lord!” (Matthew 8:25). What was Jesus’ response to this plea? “Why are you afraid, you men of little faith?” (Matthew 8:26). There the phrase “little faith” could also be translated “little trust.” Our trust in God is directly related to the faith we put in Him; we will never be able to trust in Him fully if we do not place the entirety of our faith in Him. Our trust in God reflects our faith in Him. If we have great faith in a great God who can do all things, then we can boldly endure the trials of this life, regardless of their impact upon us, just as David did.

God does not count our failures to always trust in Him against us; He loves us and sustains us in spite of this. Furthermore, He knows what these moments of anguish and turmoil feel like, for He experienced them firsthand. Matthew, Mark, and Luke each detail in their gospel accounts Jesus’ prayer in Gethsemane before His betrayal and arrest. The Gospel of Luke says this: 

 “And He withdrew from them about a stone’s throw, and He knelt down and began to pray,  saying, ‘Father, if You are willing, remove this cup from Me; yet not My will, but Yours be done.’ Now an angel from heaven appeared to Him, strengthening Him. And being in agony He was praying very fervently; and His sweat became like drops of blood, falling down upon the ground.” (Luke 22:41-44).

The miracle and the beauty of the Incarnation is that Jesus was fully man and fully God. His deity allowed Him to know exactly what was going to happen and what would befall Him; He understood everything that He was going to endure. His humanity allowed Him to feel the emotions that would accompany such knowledge. He knew the pain and the torture and the cruelty that awaited Him. He knew He would be mocked and ridiculed and scorned. He knew to defeat sin and death and the grave that He must first die. He knew that He would be forsaken by His friends and neighbors. He knew all of this, and He was scared. He asked the Father if it were possible to achieve the salvation required for humanity to be accomplished another way, then to allow it to be so. Yet, He prayed for the Father’s will to be done, not His. His faith was in the Father, and He trusted in the Father, just as his forefather, David had. Christ took the cup that was set before Him, went forward on His mission of salvation, and with His dying breath, quoted the words of His ancestor David:  “And Jesus, crying out with a loud voice, said, ‘Father, into Your hands I commit My spirit.’” Having said this, He breathed His last,” (Luke 23:46). Christ’s last words, as He hung dying on the cross, forsaken by all humanity, were those that His ancestor David had penned at a time when he too was forsaken by all, except God. In their moments of agony, David and Jesus both trusted God. 

The sin-slayer and the giant-slayer, both scorned and forsaken by men, knew that they could do nothing else but trust in God.

The echoes of Psalm 31 in Christ’s crucifixion are one of many of the amazing and unbelievable threads of continuity within Scripture. One final detail to point out is that Psalm 31 is one of the many psalms which are dedicated to “The Choirmaster.” outside of the psalms, this phrase appears many times, but only one other instance is it translated from Hebrew into English as “choirmaster.” In every other situation, it is translated as “Eternal One,” or “The One Who Overcomes.” Additionally, these particular psalms–the ones to the Choirmaster–have messianic themes, and often have the highest view of God’s majesty. With this understanding, it makes Christ’s last words even more powerful. Not only was Jesus quoting David; He was quoting a work that was dedicated to Him.

Trials and grief and sorrow in this life are plentiful and sure to come. But take hope in the One who has been your rock and your refuge. Trust in the One who knows how hard it can be to trust. Commit your life and your spirit to the One who took your damnation and who died to slay sin to save you.

Artwork: “Crucifixion,” 1964, Marc Chagall

Each and Every Day.

Christianity, Religion

“And remember, I am with you each and every day, until the end of the age.” Matthew 28:20.

At the end of Matthew’s Gospel, the author presents the reader with the resurrected Jesus, now gloriously victorious over the grave, and bestowed with all authority in heaven and earth, as He gives His final words to his disciples. It is in this final scene that Jesus demonstrates His power by commissioning–entrusting with authority–His disciples to go make more disciples.

While making his ascent back into heaven, Christ also gives His disciples–the Eleven then, and all future ones–a promise of reassurance and hope. Christ promises His followers that “I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” How beautiful and sweet that promise is, to know that Christ is always with us, no matter what. What strength we can draw from that assurance.

But there’s so much more to this promise than what meets the eye.

The vast majority of English Bible versions translate Matthew 28:20 just as was discussed above– “with you always.” This is a paraphrase of what is in the Greek texts. According to the Greek manuscripts, what Jesus said was literally, “I am with you all the days until the end of the age.” Consider how much more emphatic this makes His promise. Each and every day, Jesus is with us. He isn’t just with us ‘always,’ in some sort of abstract concept of time, He is with us all day every day. He is there through the good times and the bad; through the trials and sorrow, during the times of feasting and of famine, through joy and mourning. He celebrates with us, He grieves with us, He consoles us, He comforts us, He strengthens us, He encourages us, He carries us. We are not alone; He is in the trenches with us. He never quits, He never leaves, He never forsakes us.

The Old Testament reaffirms this promise made by Jesus. As David wrote to the Choir Director (remember that ‘choir director’ could also be translated as ‘the One Who is Eternal,’ ‘the Conquering One,’ or ‘the One Who Directs All Things’):

Where can I go from Your Spirit? Or where can I flee from Your presence? If I ascend to heaven, You are there; If I make my bed in Sheol, behold, You are there. If I take the wings of the dawn, If I dwell in the remotest part of the sea, even there Your hand will lead me, And Your right hand will lay hold of me. If I say, “Surely the darkness will overwhelm me, And the light around me will be night,” Even the Darkness is not dark to You, And the night is as bright as the day Darkness and light are alike to You. (Psalm 139:7-12)

Or as God said to Jeremiah: “Am I a God who is near,” declares the LORD, “And not a God far off? “Can a man hide himself in hiding places So I do not see him?” declares the LORD “Do I not fill the heavens and the earth?” declares the LORD. (Jeremiah 23:23-24).

Jesus proved, again, to be literally what Isaiah prophesied He would be–Immanuel– God with us. Here, at the end of Matthew, He promised to be God always with us, every single day.

Do not be disheartened; do not be discouraged. Jesus of Nazareth–The Eternal One, The Conquering One, The Christ, The Alpha and Omega, the One through which all things came into being and apart from whom nothing has been created that was created, the Firstborn of the Living and the Dead, the Son of Man, the One who humbled Himself to death on a cross, the King of Kings, the Lord of Lords, the One who crushed the head of the serpent, the One who defeated sin, death, and the grave, the Son of God–is with you each and every day, until the end of time. He promised you this; He gave you His word–and He never breaks his promises.

Artwork: “Ascension of Jesus,” by Natalya Rusetska.

Restore.

Christianity, Religion

“Create in me a clean heart, O God,
And renew a steadfast spirit within me.
 Do not cast me away from Your presence
And do not take Your Holy Spirit from me.
Restore to me the joy of Your salvation” Psalm 51:10-12

The 51st Psalm is one of the most famous of David’s writings. It was penned during the darkest period of his life, a period which was explicitly brought about by his actions and sins. David’s sin wreaked havoc on his spiritual life, and in this psalm, we see his heartfelt plea to be restored with God.

The story of David’s sin is a familiar one: he saw Bathsheba, a woman married to one of his most loyal soldiers, Uriah the Hittite, and David took her for himself. She conceived a child, and David began attempting to cover up his sin of adultery. David went to great lengths, even recalling Uriah from the front lines to visit Bathsheba, to cover up his sin, but to no avail. Uriah—out of loyalty—would not go be with his wife while his comrades were camped out in the fields. Uriah’s commitment to David and his fellow soldiers thwarted David’s plans, and at the risk of having his sins exposed, David devised a devious plan to have Uriah placed in the fiercest fighting and abandoned. Uriah died as a result, and David took the grieving Bathsheba to be his new wife. David killed Uriah—one of his most loyal servants—to cover up the sin of his affair with Bathsheba, Uriah’s wife. David destroyed a family to cover up his sins. Afterward, David went about his life as if nothing happened. He ignored the catastrophe he left in his wake.

Sin knows no limits at which it will stop once we are consumed by it.

God, however, knew all and saw all that David had done. His anointed king for Israel, the one whom God Himself said was a man after His own heart, had so callously turned aside from His statutes and commands. David was living like kings in other lands, not as the King of Israel was to live. David was living with blood on his hands and sin in his heart, but acting as if nothing were wrong; he was attempting to live as Israel’s spiritual leader, while not correctly emulating the way in which to live. So God sent Nathan the Prophet to remind David of that which David was supposed to remember: that God is holy and all-knowing and that David is not living appropriately as His servant.

Nathan confronts David; he calls out the sin that David had been hiding from everyone—even attempting to hide from God.  Roughly a year had passed between David’s first sin and the confrontation with Nathan. For that entire time, David had been attempting to conceal his actions and act as though he did not have an innocent man’s blood on his hands. But now, when faced by Nathan with the gravity and weight of his actions, David cannot keep the charade up any longer; the scales had fallen from his eyes, and he realized exactly what he had done. He had sinned greatly against the Lord.

It is against this backdrop that David pens Psalm 51; throughout this psalm we see the gravity of David’s sin becoming evident before him, and the sincere and heartfelt desire he had to be cleansed from his heinous sins. David understood that this sin had separated him from the fullness of his relationship with God, and he desired that relationship to be repaired and renewed.

One of the most critical aspects of this psalm—or of any psalm—is found at the very beginning of the psalm. Superscripts attached to the psalms have critical information about the particular psalm, such as the author and the event about which the psalm was composed. For example, in the case of Psalm 51, the superscript reads “A Psalm of David, when Nathan the prophet came to him after he had gone in to Bathsheba.” From this, we know what was going on in David’s life when he wrote this psalm and can begin to use that in our understanding of what the psalm means. But there’s an even more important piece of information revealed in this superscript.

The designation “For the Choir Director,” is attached to several psalms throughout the psalter, and the ones in which it appears are truly unique. The Hebrew term translated “choir director” are more commonly translated in other places in the Old Testament as “the victorious one,” or “the eternal one.” In fact, it is only translated “choir director” in one instance in Chronicles.  From this, there is some debate that this superscription “For the Choir Director” might be more appropriately translated “For the Victorious One,” or “To the Eternal One,” meaning that these psalms are being explicitly dedicated to God. However, this explicit dedication to God is still evident even if translated as “choir director,” for He is the one who is directing the cosmos, and all that exists in it.

What is unique about the Choir Director Psalms is their subject matter. These psalms handle big-picture theology. They wrestle with the ideas of what God is like and how He rules the universe. These psalms praise God for being the Eternal One and the Cosmic Choir Director, and they also attempt to put His greatness and majesty into words.  We see David do just this very thing in Psalm 51.

Throughout Psalm 51, David wrestles with his sin and how it weighed on his soul and hindered his relationship with God. David knows that his sins are what keeps him from enjoying the fullness of a relationship with God and that we need cleansing from these sins. David then pleads for God’s forgiveness and God’s cleansing power, for he knows that He is the only one who can grant such things. Only the Eternal One, God Almighty, can blot out our sins. No one but God can renew our blemished spirits and bring regeneration to our souls. Only God can restore the joy of salvation that has been foiled by sin.  Though God is holy and just and would be completely warranted in any retribution He took against us because of our sins, He freely offers forgiveness and cleansing to those who seek after Him and confess to Him their sins.

The application of this psalm post-Calvary is clear: Christ’s blood purges us more deeply than the strongest hyssop and makes us whiter than snow. Christ is the Eternal One, the Victorious One who is able to bring about the regeneration we so desperately need to enjoy a restored relationship with God. Christ blots out our transgressions through His atoning sacrifice. He endured being cast out of the Father’s presence so that we would not. He delivers us, restores us, and makes us anew. In return, we are to tell all of His ways and His righteousness. When sin trips us up, as it so frequently does, Christ is there to receive our confession and to offer forgiveness when it is sought with a broken spirit and contrite heart. But we must learn from David’s mistakes: we must recognize the seriousness of sin and the impact it has on us. We cannot conceal our sin from God; we must confess it, then will the Eternal One offer us the restoration we require.

artwork: “David Repents,” artist unknown.

Near.

Christianity, Religion

“Whom have I in heaven but You?

And besides You, I desire nothing on earth.

My flesh and my heart may fail,

But God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever…

As for me, the nearness of God is my good;

I have made the Lord God my refuge.”

Psalm 73:25-26, 28

Psalm 73 begins the third book of psalms and is the middlemost portion of the Psalter. This particular psalm, as are many others in this collection, are authored by Asaph, a figure of whom very little is known.  What is known comes from I and II Chronicles: that he was a descendent of Levi, and a such was trained to serve in the Tabernacle, he was one of three men—all Levites—commissioned by David to be in charge of singing in the house of the Lord, and he performed at the dedication ceremony of Solomon’s temple. In addition to these things, Asaph wrote twelve psalms which bear his name. Asaph might not be as famous a musician as David, but the psalms Asaph composed rival any of David’s works.

At the heart of this psalm is a question with which Asaph was wrestling; it is the same question that has perplexed many throughout the ages: if God is good, why do the wicked prosper while the righteous suffer? Asaph doesn’t doubt God’s goodness, but he doesn’t understand how this goodness translates into the world. All around him, Asaph saw the wicked showing off their wealth and power while the righteous languished and seemed to barely survive. Nothing appeared to make sense to Asaph, nor did any of it seem to be fair.

Nothing made sense until Asaph came into the sanctuary to worship.

Being in the presence of God forced Asaph to change his perspective; being close to God woke Asaph up. Instead of focusing on everything which appeared to be going wrong in the world, Asaph remembered who met his needs and who provided for him. It is not by his own strength that he survived, but by the divine providence and mercy of God. In worshipping, Asaph remembered it is this same God who met his needs who has already destined the wicked for their day of judgment.  Despite how things appear to us in the moment, God already has everything worked out.

Being close to God also reminded Asaph that there is no other being, in heaven or earth, who is capable of doing the things that God is. There is no one else who can protect him—be his refuge—in times of distress and trouble. There is no one else who can provide for him or sustain him. There is no one else whose presence can change him. Asaph goes as far as to say that drawing near to God is the only good he will experience. God is all he wants, and all he needs.

The pivotal moment for Asaph was entering into worship and being in the presence of God. It was an experience that opened his eyes and realigned his perspective. Our worship can and should do the same thing. We find ourselves entering into worship in much the same way as Asaph did, full of questions, doubts, and worries. However, we should not leave the presence of God in the same way in which we entered it; if we do not leave our worship experience changed, we must reevaluate how we worship. Being in the presence of God should be an utterly moving experience. Being near God is the only good we have, and Christ came to die that we might be able to come nearer, that we might be able to enjoy that Edenic closeness.

There is no one else in heaven or earth that can do for us the things that God can do or has done. He is our refuge, He is our strength, besides Him we have nothing. Why then do we go through the motions with our worship? Why do we only give Him a pittance of what He deserves? Why are we content to leave His presence unchanged?

God, give us hearts like Asaph, that wish to worship you fully and to be totally lost in your presence. Remind us that coming into Your presence is the most incredible thing we can ever experience. Move us in our worship, and allow us to worship you as we should. Allow us to remember that You are all we have and are all we need. Our hearts and strength will fail, whom do we have but you? Continue to be our strength and refuge.  Teach us that being near You is the only good we have. Amen.

artwork: from “The Creation of Adam,” Michelangelo, c.1508-1552.

Faint.

Christianity

“From the end of the earth I call to you when my heart is faint.” Psalm 61:2

If ever there was a person who understood the up and down nature of life, it was David; his was a life filled with highs and lows, spiritual mountain tops and valleys. The numerous writings attributed to David—found mostly in the Psalms—illustrate just how aware he was of the tumultuous nature of life. David was not a stoic by any stretch of the imagination; he was not afraid to pour his heart and soul out before the Lord. There are just as many of his psalms that are heartfelt cries out to God for mercy, deliverance, or assurance as there are those in which David expresses feelings of joy and security. David’s openness and emotional honesty make him one of the most relatable figures in the Bible.

Though he protected his father’s flocks from lions and bears, though he slew giants, though he killed his ten-thousands in battle, David is no stranger to fear, anxiety, or depression. He endured much in his life, some things caused by his actions, as well as things suffered at the hands of others. He spent several years living on the run from King Saul, who out of great envy and jealousy, had determined to kill him. David had few whom he could trust and spent much time hiding alone throughout the rugged hill country of Israel. After becoming king, David would have to lead military campaigns and lead his men into battle. Near the end of his life, David experienced one of the most challenging events he would endure: when Absalom revolted against his rule. Due to this, David was forced to flee Jerusalem and once again go on the run; however, this time it wasn’t an enemy king who was trying to kill him—-it was his son.

There is much debate about when David penned what would become Psalm 61; it could have occurred at any number of points in his life. We already know that David was no stranger to adversity, and this is what makes David’s words so much more poignant. Regardless of where he is, or what his situation may be, David knows there is but one to whom he can turn to when he feels overwhelmed, scared, stressed, and lost—God. Only God can give a faint heart hope, and only God can sustain us. Wherever we are, even at the ends of the earth, God is still there and still listening to our prayer. He will never leave us nor forsake us. Despite what the situation may seem like around us, He is still in control if everything and He will bring us peace, and we will “rest under the shade of your wings” (Psalm 61:4).

We find this same sentiment in the New Testament. Peter encourages us to “cast all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you” (1 Peter 5:7). We need not hold on to our baggage; we must be more like David. Just as he was open and honest with God, so too must we be with Christ. We must wholly submit to Him and trust fully in Him to sustain and protect us. Christ demonstrated the depth of His care and love for us by going to the cross, so why then do we doubt that He will not be with us through whatever trials we are experiencing?

Art credit: ”Anxiety Drawing” by Arturo Leal (Saatchi Art)

https://www.saatchiart.com/art/Drawing-Anxiety/798893/2539363/view

Nothing

Christianity, Religion

absolutely_nothing_1

“I have said to Yahweh, “You are my Lord; I have nothing good besides you.”” Psalm 16:2.

The Davidic psalm that this line comes from is often entitled “Confidence in the Lord,” and it aptly describes many of the comforts experienced by those who follow God. In this psalm, David once again pours out his heart and soul to God in song, expressing the joy that God and His love bring to him. David speaks of the refuge that God provides–this is a motif that pops up time and again in Psalms–his delight in worshipping God, and his urgent desire to do all he can to fully experience everything that a relationship with God has to offer.

David also spells out one fundamental truth in this particular psalm: without God, we have nothing. It is He who protects us and delivers us; it is He who sustains us in times of trial and hardship; it is He who comforts us when sorrow and grief visit us; it is He who increases our joy and happiness in times of celebration; it is He who gives us peace and comfort and rest when we need it. Without God, we truly have nothing; a life without God would be bleak and grim at best and, at the very least, unbearable.

In God, we have more than we can ever need. We shall never lack nor shall we ever be alone. Though hardships, trials, grief, and sorrow will inevitably befall us at some point or another, we shall be sustained through these times by God. He will always provide, always protect, always deliver, and will always care.

See The Face of God.

Christianity, Religion, Uncategorized

interview_founders_carlos

“For the Lord is righteous; He loves righteous deeds. The upright will see His face.” Psalm 11:7.

God’s righteousness and holiness are reoccurring themes throughout the book of Psalms. David, author of many of the songs and poems contained in Psalms, wrote frequently and eloquently on these topics, as well as God’s perfection and of the awe that God inspires in man.  David also  often wrote poetically of God’s support and the protection of those who seek after Him and His righteousness.

Psalm 11 is attributed to David and it has his literary fingerprints all over it. He begins the psalm writing of the refuge that the believer finds in God, and the comfort that believers have in knowing that God is with them and that He knows everything that is going on. “His eyes watch,” wrote David. From His throne in Heaven, God watches all, protects the believers, and sustains them through  their lives. David reminds us all that God is in control of everything that happens in the world.

David concludes his song, as that what the psalms are, with a beautiful and poetic line, “The Lord is righteous, He loves righteous deeds. The upright will see His face.” These poetic lines contain deep Biblical truth: those that seek after God and seek His will shall see His face. God reveals Himself to those who seek to draw near to Him. He draws near to us when we seek to do His will. When we seek to live according to His standards and we put Him first in our lives, we experience the joy and comfort of His blessings. One day, either in death or in the return of the Messiah, those who sought after God–the upright–shall see His face when united with Him in His Kingdom.

Take David’s word to heart: Live uprightly; do God’s will, seek to see His face.

If I Forget You.

Religion

“How can we sing the Lord’s song on foreign soil? If I forget you, Jerusalem, may my right hand forget its skill. May my tongue stick to the roof of my mouth if I do not remember you, if I do not remember Jerusalem with great joy.” Psalm 137:4-6

In the year 587 B.C., King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon invaded and destroyed Jerusalem. As a way of proving his power and might over the conquered Hebrews, Nebuchadnezzar ordered that the Solomon’s Temple, the holy Temple where the God of Israel resided, be destroyed. The Babylonian troops eagerly carried out this order and completely demolished the entire temple.  Then, Nebuchadnezzar began removing many of the Jews from the Promised Land and deported them to Babylon, where they would remain for roughly seventy years.

This psalm is referred to as the ‘Lament of the Exiles,’ as it was first penned during the period in which the Jews lived in exile in Babylon. The exiles were grieving the loss of Jerusalem, the city of God, and they vowed to never forget the holy city. However, it was not the loss of the physical buildings that make up the city that saddened the Jewish exiles, rather it was the spiritual loss that the destruction of Jerusalem represented. Jerusalem, and the Temple, represented a place where God dwelt among His people. It was a city that was filled with the spirit of the Lord; it was the city of God.

If God lived in Jerusalem, why did He allow it to be destroyed? For centuries leading up to the destruction, the people of Israel had not kept the commandments of God. Instead, they served pagan gods and allowed wicked kings to contaminate the country spiritually. God raised up numerous prophets, such as Elijah, Jeremiah, and Isaiah, to speak out against the wickedness of the people and to bring the people back to God. But the people would not heed the prophets’ warning. Instead, many of the prophets were killed, the wickedness increased, and God had to chastise His people.

Many people forget that God is a jealous God. He is absolutely holy, and He demands that we strive to be as well. When we stray from His commands, He will use any method necessary to correct us, and He does this because He loves us. The righteous remnant–those who had remained faithful to God during the time of wickedness in Israel–understood that the destruction of Jerusalem and the subsequent deportation to Babylon was God’s judgment, and they vowed to never forget the lessons learned from it. They would never again allow their people to wander so far away from God that He would to judge them in such a way. Though they were devastated and distraught, they vowed to never forget their spiritual heritage and homeland, even while they were  living in a foreign land.

Spiritually speaking, our time here on Earth is not entirely unlike the experience of the Jewish exiles in Babylon. This is not our spiritual home, we are merely living here until we can be reunited with God in Heaven. We live in a world that does not understand us, our beliefs, or our values; people make no effort to hide their mocking of our beliefs. Despite all this, we must keep God’s commandments and remember the spiritual Jerusalem–the place where God lives among His people–until we are able to return there. But, unlike the the Jewish exiles, who lamented because they did not know when they would ever return to Jerusalem, we have been assured by Christ that the reunion will occur. We must remain patient and ever longing for that day until it comes.

Joy in the Morning.

Christianity, Religion

“Though I may spend the night weeping, there is joy in the morning… You turned my lament into dancing; You removed my sackcloth and clothed me with gladness, so that I can sing to You and not be silent. Lord, my God, I will praise you forever.” Psalm 30:5, 11-12

Our lives hear on Earth are frequently filled with heartache, hardship, and disappointment. We’ve all heard the old saying that “nothing in life is easy,” and there is quite a bit of truth to that statement. For every victory we win, or every high point we experience in life, there will be moments when we feel completely defeated by the world. At times, it seems as though we have no hope and no reason to go on.

David, who wrote the words from this psalm, knew this better than anyone. He was the boy that slayed the giant, Goliath. He was the man that would go on to be the greatest king in the entire history of Israel, but he was also a man who had suffered many setbacks and defeats. He spent several years of his life hiding in caves because his enemies wanted to kill him. He struggled with sin and lust just like any other human being, and his fleshly desires caused him to commit very grievous sins. Yet, even at his lowest point, David knew he could still count on God. David’s faith was planted firmly in God, and no matter what the circumstance was, David would praise God.

No matter how bad today may seem and no matter how many tears you may shed tonight, tomorrow is a new day that has been given to you by God. He, in His infinite love and mercy, will see us through our deepest and darkest trials. There is a light at the end of the tunnel, and we must praise God for it. If it were not for God, there would be no reason to go on, there would be no hope, and there would be no joy in the morning. But God is with us! He reigns supreme over the entire universe, with Christ at His right hand. And we can rejoice because of this! Our tears will be turned to singing, and our heartache to gladness! The trials of this day will soon end and we will find renewed hope and joy with the rising sun. And we, like David, should offer our highest praise to God for the hope and joy He gives us. We must not be silent. We must not take His blessings for granted. We must sing loudly and joyously to the Lord who sustains us and renews us. Let us begin praising Him forever now!

God is in Control.

Christianity, Religion

“He will not allow your foot to slip; your Protector will not slumber. Indeed, the Protector of Israel does not slumber or sleep.” Psalm 121:3-4.

How reassuring it is to know that God is always attentive to us! There is never a moment in time that God is not paying close attention to those who love and serve Him. God is never caught off-guard or taken by surprise, which is a wonderful to know because there are many times in life in which we are completely taken aback by the events that unfold around us. Though we may be caught by surprise by the twists and turns of our lives, God is not. He is always there by our side and is seeing us through every trial and ordeal we face. He knows every situation that we will ever experience, and He is continually preparing us for these events. We will never encounter a situation that God has not yet prepared us for. Even though we may feel completely alone at times, God is there with us. He is always ready for us to call upon Him. All we have to do have faith and trust in Him.