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Ain’t No Sunshine

This is another excerpt from my journal, this time on Psalm 27. Be sure to read the poem inspired by this same text: Hand in Front of Your Face.

Pictures of lighthouses usually accompany quotes of Psalm 27:1, but the Psalm is one of straining to see that light rather than basking in its full strength. (The lighthouse isn’t a bad association, but the pictures are usually too bright.)

Then, further, if Jesus prayed this Psalm during the three hours of midday darkness, this Psalm stands in an even more different light (pun intended).

In the midst of darkness at noon, Jesus cries “Yahweh is my light!” In answer to cries of “Save yourself!” He answers, “Yahweh is my salvation!” Armies of enemies—human and otherwise—deploy against Him, yet He will not fear but be confident in His Father.

The light in the midst of that darkness is the hope of dwelling with God, in His very presence, basking in the full strength of His radiant, glorious beauty. Vindication and freedom are found there, even if they can’t be seen—literally—now.

Now in this darkness, that light and that deliverance and that rest can seem impossibly far. Rely on His truth, His nature, His promises:

LORD, hear my voice when I call;
be gracious to me and answer me.
My heart says this about you:
“Seek His face.”
LORD, I will seek your face (27:7-8 CSB)

You don’t have to seek what you see clearly; you seek what must be found. When we don’t see HIs face by feeling or experience, we seek Him where He may be found: in His promises and past deliverances.

Everyone else is fallible and unreliable, even parents. Not Yahweh. His way is the only sure footing. He is the only trustworthy guide and compass.

Though He does not see now, hope says He will:

I am certain that I will see the LORD’s goodness
in the land of the living (27:13 CSB).

He will have to travel the valley of the shadow of death, but He will see Yahweh alive. This is resurrection hope that is resurrection power for us. This is eternal life.

Until then, until the three hours and the three days of darkness end,

Wait for the LORD;
be strong, and let your heart be courageous.
Wait for the LORD (27:14 CSB).

A Darker Valley Than You Think

From my journal, meditating on Psalm 23.

Psalm 23 is one of the most beautiful pieces of poetry ever written, and it is rightly loved and righty famous. Its context in the Psalter is intriguing; its placement is no accident, so the surrounding Psalms (and their potential usage) provide further insight into this masterpiece among masterpieces.

Jesus’ Cry of Dereliction is Psalm 22:1, and His final words are Psalm 31:5. If He prayed the rest of the Psalms between, only vocalizing those two verses, then He prayed Psalm 23 on the cross. (Even if He didn’t, the editors/compilers of the Psalms were inspired to put it here, but the possibility––likelihood?––is fascinating and appealing to me.)

In that light, Psalm 23 becomes a grueling battle rather than merely a serene pastoral scene. Jesus is suffering unspeakable physical torture and the outpoured wrath of God––both wholly undeserved––when He prays,

“The LORD is my shepherd;
I have what I need.”

Psalm 23:1 (CSB)

It is in complete faith beyond circumstances that He prays,

“He lets me lie down in green pastures;
he leads me beside quiet waters.”

Psalm 23:2 (CSB)

Think of the taunts hurled at Him: “Come down from the cross!” His response is to trust that His Father––Yahweh the Shepherd––will lead Him to green pastures where He may lie down.

Think of the anguished cry, “I thirst!” He trusts His Father––Yahweh the Shepherd––to bring Him to quiet waters to be refreshed.

But not yet. The “darkest valley” (CSB), the “valley of the shadow of death” (KJV), must be traversed first. But there is no need to fear: He is led to and through it by His Father’s­­––Yahweh the Shepherd––hand.

These enemies­­––the bulls and lions snarling and slobbering to destroy Him from Psalm 22––have to watch as a feast-table is spread before them. Bread and wine fill the Holy Table where all who believe may eat their fill and be satisfied with rich food.

The oil of the Spirit, the oil of gladness, anoints Him (for He is Christ, the Messiah, the Anointed One), and He gives the Spirit with His Father as an effusion of their own love.

His cup overflows. He is drinking the cup of wrath to the dregs, but the cup of blessing (see Psalm 16:5) can’t contain the wine of celebration that’s coming.

Death and sin are so completely defeated that the only pursuers seen over the shoulder are goodness and faithful love. There in the true house of the LORD, the original from which Moses copied, He will dwell––the very place He has prepared for us by cleansing us from every stain.

Sheaves

Psalm 126:6 vs. Psalm 129:5-7

Though one goes along weeping,
carrying the bag of seed,
he will surely come back with shouts of joy,
carrying his sheaves (Psalm 126:6 CSB).

Let all who hate Zion
be driven back in disgrace.
Let them be like grass on the rooftops,
which withers before it grows up
and can’t even fill the hands of the reaper
or the arms of the one who binds sheaves (Psalm 129:5-7 CSB).

Out of Nowhere

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Psalm 14 famously begins, “The fool says in his heart, ‘There’s no God'” (14:1 CSB). Unfortunately, we are usually quick to assume the Psalm is speaking of militant atheists and miss the powerful effect of the David’s masterful writing.

As it turns out, David doesn’t let us sing about those atheist fools over there. No one escapes getting branded a fool. In fact, he even plays up the drama by having God look down from heaven “to see if there is one who is wise, one who seeks God” (14:2 CSB). Where is the righteous man of Psalm 1? Does such a one exist on Planet Earth?

Nope.

All have turned away;
all alike have become corrupt.
There is no one who does good,
not even one (14:3 CSB).

This is so stupid, David screams. “Will evildoers [which, by this point, he’s shown to be everybody] never understand?” (14:4 CSB). Wicked sinners are more interested in consuming people for their own cravings and desires, rather than trusting in the Triune God and calling on Him.

Thus far, the entire human race has been shown to be completely corrupt and unrighteous. Even God can’t find one single righteous person.

That’s why verse 5 comes out of nowhere:

Then they [i.e., the wicked] will be filled with dread,
for God is with those who are righteous (CSB).

Where have these righteous people come from? David just got through saying there aren’t any!

Out of the entirety of sinful humanity, those who take refuge in the LORD become righteous as His gift. They’re no better or more worthy than any of the oppressors and corrupt sinners––they’re just like them!

Taking refuge in the LORD is trusting in His promise of deliverance that comes from Zion: David’s own Son who will reign forever; the Suffering Servant who bears the sins of many, yet having no sin of His own; the Shepherd of the people who is struck in the place of His sheep.

When He comes, “let Jacob rejoice; let Israel be glad” (14:7 CSB) indeed!

Anything Good (Psalm 4:6-8)

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Many are asking, “Who can show us anything good?”

Let the light of your face
Shine on us, LORD.
You have put more joy
In my heart, in my heart
Than they have when their grain
And new wine abound.

I will both lie down and sleep in peace
I will both lie down and sleep in peace
For you alone, LORD,
Make me live in safety.

Download/listen to audio here.