SOAP Journal – 19 March 2019 (Psalm 12)

The words of the LORD are pure words;
As silver tried in a furnace on the earth, refined seven times.

Psalm 12:6

This psalm begins with David asking the LORD for help, because the godly man and the faithful man were disappearing (v. 1).

David then transitions into an explanation of what he is thinking about. And he is thinking about how the sons of men are saying quite a bit. David notes that they lie and flatter (v. 2), but that the LORD [will] cut off all flattering lips (v. 3). David states that the LORD will be moved to action by the devastation of the afflicted [and] the groaning of the needy (v. 5).

It is then that David makes his statement about the words of the LORD. The metaphor used seems to indicate that God’s words are completely pure. If that is the case, then David is saying that God’s words, unlike the words of the sons of men, can be trusted.

In verse 7, David states that God will keep the faithful and preserve the godly man.

David closes with an observation that the wicked strut about on every side when vileness or worthlessness is exalted.

David might very well have been writing this psalm is 21st Century America. Even a cursory glance at social media tells the story of a society obsessed with talking a good game. It seems like every other interview with a person of note is filled with useless words.

What is worse, our congregations are filled with people who walk in and talk as if their lives were nothing but blessing and goodness, sunshine and verdant fields. Small wonder, then, that our society seems filled to bursting with wicked people strutting around. Our airwaves are saturated with lies and flattery. We, the church, are supposed to be different. And we, by and large, are not.

And I am guilty of this. I do not walk in to church with a pasted on smile and tell people that nothing is wrong, but nor do I sit with my brothers and speak of the deep things of my soul – the things that tear me apart and cause me to bite my tongue in everyday conversation. I do not tell my brothers what is making my work life difficult and seek their prayers. I do not confide in my brothers what challenges I face in purity and in being a godly man and husband and father that they might encourage and exhort me. I do not speak often, if at all, of the things that truly enrage me or the things that stoke the fires of my passions. Instead, I speak of the things floating nearest the surface of who I am. I speak in generalities of how it is difficult to be a godly man, husband, and father. I gloss over or ignore entirely the things that enrage me and jealously guard the things about which I am truly and deeply passionate. And because of this I am diminished in my ability to connect with my brothers and my God and to effect change in this world. Because I will not be open, God is limited in His ability to take out of me the things that offend and to pour into me Himself; His Holy Spirit.

God, please forgive me for living so closed and for giving the wicked cause to strut about. I am terrified less of what You will think if I open myself – for I was never hidden from You – but of what might happen with my brethren. You have said that You give me a spirit of power and love and sound mind. I will need that spirit in abundance if I am to live in openness, as You desire, and to become the godly, faithful man that You would have me be.

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SOAP Journal – 15 March 2019 (Psalm 11)

If the foundations are destroyed,
What can the righteous do?

Psalm 11:3

Psalm 11 seems to break down into two thoughts.

The first thought, verses 1-3, seems to be a consideration of the inability of people. David opens with the statement that he takes refuge in the LORD. This is the best place to start. Times can be filled with trouble and the best place to take refuge is in the LORD. But there are those who question David. They suggest that he should flee to his mountain; to a physical refuge. They tell David that the wicked are preparing to attack. And the closing thought, whether from these questioners or from David, is to wonder what the righteous can do if the foundations are destroyed. If the physical refuge has been undermined, then where can one go for safety? David opened with the answer to that. He takes refuge in the LORD.

The second thought, verses 4-7, is that the LORD has everything under control. David begins this thought with a reminder that God is on His throne and that throne is in Heaven. No Earthly power can get to it to attempt undermining it. David keeps going and reminds himself and the questioner that the LORD tests us and judges the results. The wicked are ultimately destroyed while the righteous ultimately see God’s face. The one who makes his refuge the LORD will ultimately see the LORD face to face. That is the final judgment.

The application for me is to make God my refuge. Times are sometimes tough. Sometimes finances are tight. Parenting is challenging. Marriage is challenging. Friendships or their drifting away into obscurity are challenging. Life is filled with challenge and difficulty. From time to time, someone will take issue enough that they make themselves my enemy and seek to do me harm. In all of these difficulties, the great and the small, I need to run to God and take refuge in Him. I need to seek my solace in His arms, as my children often do in mine.

Father, thank You that You are a refuge for those who run to You. Please restore to me that childlike simplicity that runs to Your arms for comfort and security and all the things that a child can receive from His Father.

SOAP Journal – 12 March 2019 (Psalm 10)

Why do You stand afar off, O LORD?
Why do You hide [Yourself] in times of trouble?

Psalm 10:1

This psalm makes statements and asks questions that trouble many believers.

The psalm opens with a pair of questions that are really two phrasings of the same question: Why does it seem like God does not intervene?

The psalmist elaborates on what is meant by this question.

The wicked pursue the afflicted and the psalmist desires justice (v. 2). What is more, the wicked boast about what they want to do and spurn God (vv. 3-4). Still today, there seem to be rather a lot of people who see no need for God. There are atheists and agnostics who think that there is no God and that they are doing just without one. There are more aggressive atheists who are out to prove that there is no God. We have politicians and celebrities and executives who use their position and power to abuse those who ave neither position nor power.

The psalmist expands on this theme of the wicked doing their own thing (vv. 5-11), saying that their ways prosper at all times and that they are able to capture the poor and innocent. The verses read like a synopsis of the evening news. These people are not afraid of other people, because other people are their prey. And the psalmist indicates (v. 11) that these individuals think that God is not paying attention, if they believe in God at all.

The psalm then transitions into a plea for God to take action (vv. 12-15). And the action requested is, ultimately, that the wicked would receive their recompense. The psalmist states that God does see what the wicked do (v. 14) and the closing verses (vv. 16-18) come to the conclusion that God will take action. The psalmist remembers that the LORD is King forever and ever. While it may seem like God has let go of control, He has not. The realization of God’s persistent kingship reminds the psalmist that Nations have perished from His land. Entire people groups have arisen and disappeared from memory while God’s kingship remained. It is a very long game that God is playing, and the psalmist ultimately concludes that, when it comes to the poor and afflicted, God will strengthen their heart.

All of this is immensely encouraging when I consider the state of things in the world. There are people in positions of power abusing that power and doing terrible things. There are people who plan to take in others and succeed in the short term. It can sometimes seem as if God set the universe in motion, then stepped back to watch it all play out. While He does give us free will and permit the consequences of our choices to be real and immediate, that does not take away His control or lessen His ability to intervene on behalf of those who are His.

Father, thank You for the encouragement that You are in control, even when it seems that You take no active part in events; even when the wicked prosper; even when people deny Your existence entirely and reap the consequences of that. No matter what, You are King and in control. Please strengthen my heart when it falters in the face of the apparent success of the wicked. Please remind me that You have seen and that You will require it of them.

SOAP Journal – 11 March 2019 (Psalm 9)

And those who know Your name will put their trust in You,
For You, O LORD, have not forsaken those who seek You.

Psalm 9:10

I normally try to take a psalm in its entirety, but this verse continued to stand out to me amidst the rest of the psalm. This is not to say that this is not the theme verse for the entire psalm — it may very well be — but that I have struggled to string together the whole of the psalm into a single, coherent thought process. David’s poetic styling is not always something I can parse.

David asserts that those who know [God’s] name will put their trust in [Him]. David, being such a person, would know. David knew God’s name and had been zealous for it from his youth. It was in God’s name that David took his stand against Goliath. David had the type of personal relationship with God that God desires to have with everyone. And David had put his trust in God throughout his life. David had seen God execute judgment for the peoples (v. 8) and maintain [David’s] just cause (v. 4). These actions contributed to God’s name, God’s reputation. If I know God’s reputation, then the reasonable response is to put my trust in Him.

David adds another reason to his preceding reason. If God’s name were not enough reason to trust Him, David adds that [God has] not forsaken those who seek [Him]. One of the most compelling aspects of God’s name is His faithfulness. Jesus says that anyone who comes to Him He will in no wise cast out (John 6:37). And Paul writes to Timothy that God remains faithful to us even if we are faithless to Him (2 Timothy 2:13). God’s faithfulness is an often remarked on and truly compelling part of His name. And David adds it as a reason to put my trust in God.

I must learn to trust God more. I know His name and I have sought Him. Let me learn more about Him and seek Him still more.

Father, thank You that You have made Yourself known so that Your name is glorious. Thank You that You desire more than just people who know of You. Thank You that You want relationship; You want each one to know You personally. Please draw me into the place where I seek You more diligently and look to know and be known by You.

SOAP Journal – 06 March 2019 (Psalm 8)

O LORD, our Lord,
How majestic is Your name in all the earth!

Psalm 8:9

This is one of David’s psalms and one which is often partially quoted. This psalm could be seen as a meditation on the greatness of God and His kindness toward humanity.

David begins with God’s greatness, which is an excellent place to begin. The same phrase that David closes with in verse nine is the one with which he opens, “O LORD, our Lord, How majestic is Your Name in all the earth.” The Name of God is majestic and its implications reach farther than we may ever know. His Name, YHWH, is understood to mean something akin to “I AM.” No god or goddess of our own devising has ever been given such a name.

David says that it is from the mouth of infants and nursing babes that God has drawn what was needful to shut up the mouths of His adversaries. God did not go to the wise or the eloquent or any other such, but to infants and nursing babes; to those who cannot communicate well or clearly or at all. From this source, God draws out what He needs to silence the enemy and the revengeful.

From the theme of God’s greatness, David moves on to God’s goodness toward humanity. David considers the moon and the stars and that God has created such things and yet has created humanity and given us value and honor above those stars; above sheep and oxen; above the birds of the heavens and the fish of the sea; above every other created thing. It is this same positioning of humanity so high in the natural order that astonishes people still. I have heard more than one talk being given about another topic that took a moment to wax lyrical about how amazing humanity’s place is. We are not the strongest creature out there or the fastest; we are not suited to flight or diving into the depths. But we have made ourselves all of these things and that after we had already spread all over the face of the globe, slighting the odds.

With these two things held in his mind, David returns to his initial thought and is awed by the majesty of God’s Name.

And that is where I ought to find myself when I meditate on God and what He has done for me. If I am not, with David, in awe of God and His magnanimity, then I do not understand Who He is or how much He has done for me. And, in truth, I do not always understand. I do not always grasp just how amazing He is or just how gracious He is to me. The more I live, the more I see how great He is and how deep His mercy and grace toward me are and how expansive His blessings truly are. We in the Western world are often quick to poo-poo God’s intangible blessings like love, joy, peace, patience, and so on. But if we understood those blessings aright, we would seek them in a way that cares not a bit for material blessing. I have only caught glimpses, but those have been enough to draw me to the intangible blessings.

Father, You are good and Your mercy endures forever. You have done great things for me. Please give me the ability to contain the magnitude of this in my mind and to meditate on this, that I might know You better.

SOAP Journal -05 March 2019 (Psalm 7)

O LORD my God, in You I have taken refuge;
Save me from all those who pursue me, and deliver me,
Or he will tear my soul like a lion,
Dragging me away, while there is none to deliver.

Psalm 7:1-2

I have been mulling this psalm over for a few mornings and feel as if I am no closer to an actual understanding of it than when I started. A handful of thoughts have presented themselves, though.

The first thought is that this psalm stands in opposition to Job. Job professed his righteousness to other men, who might or might not know enough to disagree. David professes his righteousness in a particular matter to God (vv 3-5), Who knows everything and can tell David, in minute detail, everything that he has done wrong. Where Job wants to argue his case before God, David takes his case before God. The difference is noticeable. Add in that Job thought that he needed to be delivered from God’s judgment  (Job was not being judged) while David knows that he needs to be delivered from another person and putting the two side-by-side may or may not work.

The second thought is that David opens this psalm with a basic truth. David writes that God is the only One Who can deliver. Verse one asks God to deliver and verse two states that David’s enemy will triumph if God does not intervene because there is none to deliver. This is the same David who faced down Goliath, who fought battles he had no business winning, who refused to kill Saul despite having every reason to. David had learned through his life that there is only One Who can deliver: God.

The last thought is that verses 12-16 are a mess of challenging pronouns. If he does not repent, he will sharpen his sword is not the most clear of statements, though it might be understood to mean that Cush — the guy David is writing this about — will sharpen his sword if he does not change his mind about what he plans to do. And there is this question of “Who is he?” running through those verses. Is the he in this statement a man or God or does it switch because there is potentially more than one he spoken of in the statement. The verses all make sense just fine if they are speaking of Cush the Benjamite. The verses only make sense in certain groupings if I try to apply them to God. The translators tried to make sense of it and help me do the same with capital H on some hes and hims, but I still find myself puzzled.

The application is a bit rough, since I have yet to really understand what I am reading, but there is a principle that I can take from this psalm. God is the only One Who can deliver me. I have problems and things that trip me up. Only God can deliver me from them. I have adversaries, though I may not be aware of them, and only God can deliver me. Most urgent of all, I came into life with a broken nature; a self of sin that destined me for Hell and only God can deliver me from that and destine me for Heaven.

Father, thank You that You are able to deliver me and any who would call on You. Thank You for being willing to exert that power. Please deliver me from the things that entangle me and the self that is contrary to You. Please set me free to do the things You want me to do and birth in me a self that is in accord with You.

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.