SOAP Journal – 26 February 2019 (Psalm 6)

O LORD, do not rebuke me in Your anger,
Nor chasten me in Your wrath.

Psalm 6:1

This psalm is broken into four stanzas.

The first stanza (vv. 1-3) amounts to a plea for mercy and grace. David asks that God not rebuke him (David) while He (God) is angry, but instead that He (God) would heal him (David). We have all had the experience of knowing that someone was angry with us and had every right to be angry. This seems to be where things stand between David and God. David does not, in this stanza, contest whether or not God ought to be angry, only pleads for grace.

The second stanza (vv. 4-5) asks God to rescue David, giving the reason that there is neither remembrance nor mention of God in Sheol, which is roughly equivalent to the Greek Hades. This reveals a bit about what David thinks happens after death. He seems to believe that there is some place to which souls go. He also seems to think that those souls do not remember what has happened in life.

The third stanza (vv. 6-7) is David’s description of his state. He has been grieving; weeping; agonizing over his adversaries. And this makes me wonder when in his life this psalm was written. There were many times in David’s life that he faced enemies and a fair few wherein the adversary was someone dear to him or related to someone dear to him.

In the final stanza (vv. 8-10), David issues one command and makes two statements. The command is that those who do iniquity would depart from him. Another way to render the phrase might be that David wants the troublemakers to get lost. And the reason for this is that God has heard his prayer and that David’s enemies will be ashamed and greatly dismayed.

The encouragement for me is this: even when God has every reason to be angry with me, I can call out to Him for mercy and grace and help in my need and He will hear me and be merciful and gracious. This is not a license to do things that will anger God. That would be presumptuous. Rather, this is an invitation to seek God even when I fear He might not want to hear from me. When I have done something foolish and want His mercy and grace, but fear that I will be met with His righteous wrath instead, this psalm is an encouragement that God will hear and will be gracious.

Thank You, Father, for this encouragement; for this invitation to come to You and be heard, even when You have every right to be angry with me. Even then, You will love me and want to restore me. Thank You for loving in a way that I cannot fathom and may not ever be able to emulate this side of eternity.

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SOAP Journal – 25 February 2019 (Psalm 5)

O LORD, lead me in Your righteousness because of my foes;
Make Your way straight before me.

Psalm 5:8

This psalm seems to have been composed in tandem with David’s morning time with God (v. 3) and begins with a consideration of Who God is and Who He is not (vv. 4-6).

God is not a God who takes pleasure in wickedness (v. 4). Since David makes this statement, it stands to reason that there were, in his time, gods of some type or kind that took pleasure in wickedness.

God is, however, a God Who destroy[s] those who speak falsehood and abhors the man of bloodshed and deceit (v. 6). With this as a descriptor, God cannot be terribly fond of politics. It bears noting that David was, himself, a soldier. This makes it seem unlikely to me that David includes soldiers in his conception of the man of bloodshed. I suspect that he has in mind someone who kills for hatred of the one he kills rather than one who kills for love of those he protects by killing.

David then turns his mind to those who are rebellious against God (v. 10) and those who take refuge in God (v. 11).

David asks God to allow the rebellious to be caught in their own traps (v. 10) after noting that their words are unreliable and that their inward parts; their motives are destruction (v. 9).

In contrast, David asks God to shelter those who take refuge in Him.

All of this leads me to check my words, my motives, and myself. Are my words reliable or am I flattering and spewing meaningless things? Are my motives right or am I seeking things for the wrong reasons? Am I rebellious or do I run to God for refuge and shelter?

Father, thank You for these reminders to check my words and motives and self. Thank You that You are ready to forgive and restore when I find that I fall short and to continue Your work on, in, and through me to conform me to the image of Your Son and to make me useful to You.

SOAP Journal – 22 February 2019 (Psalm 4)

Many are saying, “Who will show us [any] good?”
Lift up the light of Your countenance upon us, O LORD!

Psalm 4:6

Psalm 4 is focused on God as  the source of relief and safety and peace. We look for those things more intently in troubled times than at other times. And it is an easy thing to reach a place where we wonder, as did those David references, Who will show us good?

Who will show us good?

Not the news. The rule seems to be that the news wants to show us only the depths of human depravity, because that is what gets ratings.

Not our so-called political leaders. They bicker and posture and do everything we did in our immaturity.

Not our cultural icons and sports heroes. They give us a show; a spectacle; a distraction, but they have not shown us Good.

It may even be that our own parents or guardians are unable to show us Good.

But God shows me Good. God shows me what righteousness is. God shows me love by example. God shows me justice tempered by mercy and grace. God shows me holiness. None of these is easy, but they are all Good.

My response should be to emulate the Good that God shows me.

God, You are Good and Your love endures forever. Thank You for showing us Good; for showing us Your goodness and holiness and love. If You had not shown us Good, then we would not have found it. Please work in me that my eyes might be fixed on Your Good and that I might mimic the Good You show me.

SOAP Journal – 21 February 2019 (Psalm 3)

I lay down and slept;
I awoke, for the LORD sustains me.

Psalm 3:5

David composed this song while on the run from his son, Absalom. There is a lot to unpack there, but the shortest version is that one of David’s sons led a revolt.  And David, not wanting to harm his son, went on the run. He had been on the run before, so this was not a new experience for him.

What made things worse is that people David likely counted as friends went over to his son’s revolt and the king was heartbroken. More, there seems to have been a group saying that God was not going to help David any more. But David knew better. According to this psalm, David cried out to God and was answered and this answer made David able to lay down and sleep. Which is a big deal. If any of us were on the run, possibly fearing for our lives, and worried about whether or not our child would survive to see another day, we might have trouble sleeping. But not David. David was was crying to the LORD (v. 4) and God answered.

This psalm is an exhortation to me to obey Paul’s instruction to the Philippians: Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:6-7). It worked for David. It worked for Paul. It will work for me.

Father, thank You for this reminder that I need to bring the things that trouble me to You and Your answer will put me at peace and allow me the ability to lay down and sleep in the midst of any circumstance of life. Please bring these verses to mind when I am troubled and lead me back around to Yourself.

SOAP Journal – 20 February 2019 (Psalm 2)

Worship the LORD with reverence
And rejoice with trembling.
Do homage to the Son, that He not become angry, and you perish in the way,
For His wrath may soon be kindled.
How blessed are all who take refuge in Him!

Psalm 2:11-12

The second psalm is the collection is one about the Son Who is also the Messiah. The backdrop of this meditation on the Son is that the nations [are] in an uproar (v. 1). Something is causing the nations to become unsettled and this leads them to devising a vain thing (v. 1). The vain thing in question is rebellion against God and His Anointed; His Messiah (v. 2). The nations and their peoples do not want to submit to God and His Messiah (v. 3), so they foment rebellion.

God’s response to this rebellion is to laugh (v. 4) and to tell the would-be revolutionaries that God’s King — the King that God has chosen to rule — has been installed … upon Zion (v. 5).

The psalmist then turns his attention to what he chooses to say. And his choice is to speak God’s truth (v. 7). In this case, that truth is a prophetic utterance about the Messiah that closes with an exhortation to worship the LORD and to take refuge in the Son.

This compact psalm says quite a lot, then leaves me with a choice: Will I side with the psalmist in telling the decree of the LORD, worshiping God, rejoicing, and serving the Son? Or will I side with the nations in devising a vain thing and taking a stand against God?

There is lots of company on the side taking their stand against God. I see them all over the news and social media. They cheer each other on and congratulate one another on their bravery.

But I have already made my choice. I choose to submit myself to God and take refuge in the Son. The choice is, for me, not a difficult one. But serving God as He deserves is a challenge and I fall short often. This psalm does not address that problem, but other passages of The Bible do. There is mercy to address my failures and grace to address my botched attempts and through all there is the love of my God and my Savior for me.

God, thank You for the choice being such a simple one: side with You or side with the masses; devise a vain thing or place my hope in the sure thing; follow others who are in an uproar or follow the One Who can thunder from the heavens. There is little, if any, gray. While trying to submit to You and serve You and worship You is not often easy, it is the only way to live that is worthwhile. Please continue to work on and in and through me that I would act more like You, think more like You, and submit and serve more like You.

SOAP Journal – 19 February 2019 (Psalm 1)

How blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked,
Nor stand in the path of sinners,
Nor sit in the seat of scoffers!
But his delight is in the law of the LORD,
And in His law he meditates day and night.

Psalm 1:1-2

It is fitting, I think, that the book of Psalms opens with a short psalm that speaks about the difference between the man who keeps Good company and thinks on Good things and the man who does neither. I also think it appropriate that this psalm follows on the heels of the book of Job, because there are statements made in this psalm that almost need Job as a counterbalance.

The psalm begins with speaking of the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked, nor stand in the path of sinners, nor sit in the seat of scoffers (v. 1).  It has been noted by others that this implies a progressive decline that has not happened. The decline seems to follow the pattern of first walking in the counsel, then standing in the path, then sitting in the seat. The decline is from activity (walk) to inactivity (sit), from bad (wicked) to worse (scoffers), from the ideology (counsel) to the lifestyle (path) to the authority (seat). All of these are, by contrast, not the way to be a blessed person. The blessed man is the man who does none of this. And the word rendered “blessed” could also mean “happy.” If I want to be happy for the rest of my life, then I need to avoid listening to the counsel and emulating the behaviors and hanging around with wicked, sinful, arrogant (scoffing) people.

The opposite of those things is to delight in The Law of the LORD and to fix my mind on it at all times (v. 2). The result of thus focusing my mind is spelled out: I will be like a tree planted by waters (my needs supplied) that yields fruit in season (a blessing to others) and whose leaf does not whither. The psalmist states that whatever such a man does will prosper. There is a caveat to that which is often overlooked. It is the same caveat as exists in Jesus’ statement that we can ask anything in prayer and have it done for us. The man who delights in The Law of the LORD is going to pursue God’s will and God’s kingdom and … well, God. What such a man does may often be of temporal benefit, but his aim is God’s glory and God’s kingdom. Everything else is icing on the cake. It is this prerequisite; this starting point that is so often overlooked.

And it is this prerequisite that informs the following verses.

The psalmist says that things are not so for the wicked. The wicked are like chaff (v. 4), blown away by the slightest breeze. And this can be seen in the counsel; the ideologies of the wicked. There is a fad ideology today and it is gone so fast that I find myself wondering if anyone remembers that it existed, let alone what it was. But The Law of the LORD remains. The wicked will not stand in the judgment (v. 5). When God renders His judgment on everyone, the wicked will have no defense and none of their counsel will sway God’s verdict.

Will I choose to focus myself on God’s unchanging Law or on the constantly variable counsels of the wicked?

Father, thank You for Your Word. Please stir up a hunger in my mind to think on Your Word throughout the day. Please make it Your counsel that comes to mind when I am faced with something beyond my understanding.

SOAP Journal – 18 February 2019 (Job 38-42)

Who is this that darkens counsel
By words without knowledge?

Job 38:2

Reading through the last few chapters of Job, I was struck by how neatly God’s position could be summed up by the question “What do you know?” God focuses on the natural world — stars, weather, large creatures — but seems to insinuate that an individual so limited in knowledge as to not really understand or have authority over the natural world is in no position to tell God what He ought and ought not do. And God, as always, has a point.

Job and his “friends” have gone back and forth about things that they did not fully understand, but have been speaking as if they were authoritative. When confronted, Job, at least, has the good sense to repent.

What I find most comforting as I close my time in Job is the question: “What do you know?” What do I know? It is what I know that brings me comfort.

I know that God loves me. God loves everyone and has a special place in His heart for each and every one of us. God demonstrated His love by dying for me when I was still in my sins (Romans 5:8).

I know that God does not want anyone to go to Hell, but for everyone to freely accept His offer of salvation (2 Peter 3:9).

In fact, there is rather a lot that I know, because God has revealed it in His Word. And this knowledge is comforting

Father for Mercies and God of all Comfort, thank You for this book about someone enduring suffering and for the insights this book supplies. There is comfort in knowing that our suffering is sometimes through no fault of our own. There is still more comfort in knowing that nothing happens to any of us without You vetting it and placing limits on how far it can go. Please bring these things to mind when I am in a time of suffering.