SOAP Journal – 21 March 2019 (Psalm 13)

But I have trusted in Your lovingkindness;
My heart shall rejoice in Your salvation.
I will sing to the LORD,
Because He has dealt bountifully with me.

Psalm 13:5-6

This psalm seems to divide neatly into three phases.

The first is in verses 1-2 and that is the questioning phase. David finds himself in a time of difficulty and asks God how long He (God) will delay taking action to help him (David). And it sometimes feels as if God is standing back from the difficulties in my life, too. This is not to say that God actually is standing back from the difficulties or delaying taking action any more than is absolutely necessary.

Last night, my daughter and I read the story of John the Baptist and my daughter asked why God did not give Zechariah and Elizabeth a baby when they wanted one so badly. The answer that I found myself giving is that God wanted to give them a baby and He wanted their baby and how he came to them to be extra special; that oftentimes the greatest blessings take the longest time to arrive — they just require more preparation time. That is an answer born of reading the scriptures and learning that God is not slow concerning His promises. It is also an answer born of experiencing God fulfilling the good desires of my heart in good time.

The second phase — verses 3-4 — is the consequence if God does not intervene. The consequence will be that David will sleep the [sleep of] death and his enemies rejoice when [he is] shaken. In essence, David’s adversaries will be victorious and will trumpet that victory. And this has not changed. Human nature is what it has always been: selfish. These adversaries do not think of the cost to David or to the kingdom he rules over or anything else. They think only of their issue with David and their desire to overcome him. If they succeed, then they will not be content with merely succeeding, but will tell everyone what they think they have accomplished.

We are not all that different now. We often make goals without considering their impact on others and loudly proclaim our success when we have accomplished those goals, ignoring those we have hurt or destroyed along the way to our objective.

In the third and last phase of this psalm — verses 5-6 — David transitions to peace and praise. He has laid his requests before God and the peace of God now guards his heart and mind. David can now trust in God’s lovingkindness (mercy), rejoice in God’s salvation, and sing to the LORD. David knows that his own failure or fall is a possibility and that his adversaries may triumph. David also knows God and God’s character. And that is where David finds his comfort. He does not take comfort in knowing that God will act. He does not take comfort in knowing that his adversaries will be thwarted. He takes comfort in God’s mercy and salvation. And, thus comforted, he sings to the LORD.

This psalm reads a bit like a poetic example of Paul’s instruction to the Philippians. Paul instructed them to not be anxious, but to make their requests known to God and promised that the peace of God — which is not always understandable — would guard their hearts and minds. That is David’s progression in this psalm. And this psalm elaborates a bit on the peace. The peace does not stem from knowing that God will do what I ask Him to, but from knowing that God is merciful and has saved me and will continue to save me until I am ushered into His presence.

Which phase am I in this morning? Am I praying at all? If no, then I need to take my cares, concerns, and worries to God.; all of my questions and concerns about what will happen if God does not move. Then I need to rest in His mercy and salvation.

Father, thank You for this reminder of what Paul writes elsewhere. It is good to see the same instruction presented in different ways. Please etch this into my character that I would take my difficulties, with all of my concerns and questions, to You  and then rest in Who You are.

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The LORD is with You (2 Chronicles 20:17)

“‘You [need] not fight in this [battle]; station yourselves, stand and see the salvation of the LORD on your behalf, O Judah and Jerusalem.’ Do not fear or be dismayed; tomorrow go out to face them, for the LORD is with you.”

2 Chronicles 20:17

The context of this verse is the first story I ever learned about Jehoshaphat. Three armies had allied against him and he was freaked. So Jehoshaphat does what a believer should do in that situation: pray. He goes into the temple and declares a fast in the nation and gets everybody praying. As everyone is fasting and praying and looking to God for help, God’s Spirit comes upon one of the Levites and gives the answer above.

Now, Jehoshaphat’s prayer is interesting to me. It’s full of rhetorical questions about what God has done in the past — Didn’t You drive out the people who were living here? Didn’t You tell our forefathers not to wipe out the nations coming against us? Didn’t You…? These questions are, I think, a bit of Jehoshaphat reminding himself of God’s power —Yes. God did. Funny word, remind. It’s like the word tells me that my mind was once a certain way and I need to make it that way again. Or, in the archaic usage of mind as a verb, I once paid attention to something and must now pay attention to it again. That would be where Jehoshaphat is. He needs to pay attention to what God has already done. Why? To bolster his confidence that God has no problem dealing with the problem before him.

Back to God’s answer. God says (I’m paraphrasing), “This is My fight. Come on out tomorrow and watch Me work.” The Levite adds (again, my paraphrase), “Stop being afraid and freaking out. God says He’s got this.”

I am beset by unknowns at the moment. The ministry God has had me in for a couple years is being mostly absorbed into another ministry due to a move and lack of space. Where, then, does God want me to serve Him now? The place where my family and I live is sufficient, but it looks to not be sufficient for too much longer. The market in So Cal is pretty jacked up (both in terms of being messed up and being inflated and unaffordable). What does God have in mind for that? In the midst of all of these unknowns (the foregoing are just the appetizer), God reminds me of two things: (1) that He knows everything and (2) He has not left me.

I needed a reminder this morning — a gentle nudge to help get my mind out of the rut that threatened to lead me off into full-blown worry.

I needed to be reminded that I just need to stand and see what God is going to do. Standing, in the context of a battle, seems to be an active thing. One does not simply stand about daydreaming. On ancient battlefields, to stand would require keeping my shield ready to block incoming projectiles and to be focused on the battle. Standing, in that context, is about as active as a person’s mind can be. And the body must be ready to move at a moment’s notice. When God tells me to stand and watch what He’s doing, the implication is that He has plans for me to follow along and do something afterward.

I also needed a reminder that God is with me. God promised that He would never leave or forsake His followers (Deuteronomy 31:6,8; Hebrews 13:5). Jesus said that He would not leave us as orphans, but would come back for us (John 14:8). Circumstances can make it seem as though God has walked off and left me standing around alone. But it simply is not true. My daughter walks now and walks quickly. She is also loathe to hold anyone’s hand as she careens through the crowds. What she does not worry about is whether or not her daddy is with her. She has learned by experience that daddy is always nearby on her walks with him. Walking in the mall? Daddy might as well be her shadow. The park? Daddy is within two daddy strides of her. In every circumstance, she has learned that daddy is right there. I need to take a lesson from my little girl and from this reply to Jehoshaphat and remember that Daddy is right there. No fear; no worry; no doubt should be given place. Daddy; God the Father is right here.