Confidence

Psalm 27, 1-10, 17

The Lord is my revelation-light to guide me along the way;

he’s the source of my salvation to defend me every day.

I fear no one!

I’ll never turn back and run from you, Lord;

surround and protect me.

When evil ones come to destroy me,

they will be the ones who turn back.

My heart will not be afraid even if an army rises to attack.

I know that you are there for me, so I will not be shaken.

Here’s the one thing I crave from God,

the one thing I seek above all else:

I want the privilege of living with him every moment in his house,

finding the sweet loveliness of his face,

filled with awe, delighting in his glory and grace.

I want to live my life so close to him

that he takes pleasure in my every prayer.

In his shelter in the day of trouble, that’s where you’ll find me,

for He hides me there in His holiness.

He has smuggled me into his secret place,

where I’m kept safe and secure—

out of reach from all my enemies.

Triumphant now, I’ll bring him my offerings of praise,

singing and shouting with ecstatic joy!

Yes, listen and you can hear

the fanfare of my shouts of praise to the Lord!

God, hear my cry. Show me, your grace.

Show me mercy, and send the help I need!

Lord, when you said to me, “Seek my face,”

my inner being responded,

“I’m seeking your face with all my heart.”

So don’t hide yourself, Lord, when I come to find you.

You’re the God of my salvation;

how can you reject your servant in anger?

You’ve been my only hope,

so don’t forsake me now when I need you!

My father and mother abandoned me. I’m like an orphan!

But you took me in and made me yours.

 

Here’s what I’ve learned through it all:

Don’t give up; don’t be impatient;

be entwined as one with the Lord.

Be brave and courageous, and never lose hope.

Yes, keep on waiting—for he will never disappoint you!

Psalm 27 is a song of confidence, like Psalm 23, followed by a lament. It may be two independent psalms, or it can be seen as one psalm describing the experience of a fugitive, who seeks refuge in the temple. On the way he sings of his confidence in the Lord, and on arrival pours out his distress.

The psalmist is suffering from enemies, who tear him apart. His complete trust in God is his light and deliverer, which cast out his fear.

His one desire is to reach the temple. There he will  find refuge and contemplate the beauty of the place.”Behold the beauty of the Lord” may mean looking at the ark.

“In the day of trouble”, when his enemies come forward to condemn him, he will be  exalted over them, as the rock on which the temple stood was exalted over Jerusalem. In gratitude he will present a thank offering.

This is followed by a prayer for hearing, acceptance, guidance and deliverance. At the end, he is urged to show strength and courage and to wait expectantly for the saving power of God.

We can sometimes find ourselves in situations which we can’t control. We can be attacked for our faith, accused of hypocrisy, or meet indifference. We may have difficult decisions to make, experience relationship problems, or be faced with a problem like the current pandemic, which changes our lives and makes us feel vulnerable and uncertain.

But for us, Jesus Christ is ‘our light and salvation’, he is the face of God, coming to be with us and alongside us in this world. He showed us that God is always present, that love is always there and even increases in times of trouble, as happens in times of war or, as we are now seeing, in a crisis such as the present pandemic.

We can go to our own thin place, a place where you are close to God, where we can find peace and be aware of the presence of God, our light in the midst of the troubles of the world. Then, like the psalmist, we shall praise God and find our peace.

Prayer

God, our light and our salvation, illuminate our lives, that we may see your goodness in the land of the living, and, looking on your beauty, may be changed into the likeness of Jesus Christ our Lord.

Amen.

Magnify

Psalm 34

  1. I will bless the Lord at all times; his praise shall ever be in my mouth.
  2. My soul shall glory in the Lord; let the humble hear and be glad.
  3. O magnify the Lord with me; let us exalt his name together;
  4. I sought the Lord and he answered me and delivered me from all my fears.
  5. Look upon him and be radiant and your faces shall not be ashamed.
  6. This poor soul cried, and the Lord heard me and saved me from all my troubles.
  7. The angel of the Lord encamps around those who fear him and delivers them.
  8. O taste and see that the Lord is gracious; blessed is the one who trusts in him.
  9. Fear the Lord, all you his holy ones, for those who fear him lack nothing.
  10. Lions may lack and suffer hunger;

but those who seek the Lord lack nothing that is good.

  1. Come, my children, and listen to me; I will teach you the fear of the Lord.
  2. Who is there who delights in life and longs for days to enjoy good things?
  3. Keep your tongue from evil and your lips from lying words.
  4. Turn from evil and do good; seek peace and pursue it.
  5. The eyes of the Lord are upon the righteous and his ears are open to their cry.
  6. The face of the Lord is against those who do evil,

to root out the remembrance of them from the earth.

  1. The righteous cry and the Lord hears them and delivers them out of all their troubles.
  2. The Lord is near to the broken-hearted and will save those who are crushed in spirit.
  3. Many are the troubles of the righteous; from them all will the Lord deliver them.
  4. He keeps all their bones, so that not one of them is broken.
  5. But evil shall slay the wicked and those who hate the righteous will be condemned.
  6. The Lord ransoms the life of his servants

and will condemn none who seek refuge in him.

I will bless the Lord at all times;

his praise shall ever be in my mouth.

 

Psalm 34 is a tremendous statement of the love and presence of God.

It begins with a hymn of praise, followed by a personal story of deliverance  and then  teaches the faithful about the meaning of the fear or reverence of God.

In the first part (vv. 1-3) to bless the Lord means to acknowledge his authority over every aspect of life. To exalt his name is to extol God by reciting his saving acts. We do that also today when we recite the creed or when we sing psalms and hymns, which speak of what God has done.

The second part (vv. 4-10) reveals the psalmist’s experience of God’s saving power. The psalmist has been delivered from some sort of anxiety, which has caused him considerable distress. This experience is available to all who come humbly before God. There is especially a strong image of tasting God ‘O taste and see that the Lord is gracious’ (v.8). We taste God today in the bread and wine of the Eucharist. where we receive the very life of God.

The angel or messenger of the Lord (v.7) may be the commander of the Lord’s heavenly army as in the story of the taking of Jericho in the book of Joshua.

The last section (vv.11-end) contains teaching about the nature of God.  Here the fear or reverence of the Lord is to be humble in his presence, a life marked by doing what God approves (good) and what leads to well-being (peace, v14 ‘seek peace and pursue it’). It is shown in honesty of speech, as in v. 13 ‘Keep your tongue from evil and your lips from telling lies’, ideas which are seen again in the letter of James.

But there is no guarantee against trouble. Afflictions may cause a person to be broken-hearted and crushed in spirit. However, true life and security are at a depth which suffering cannot reach, and God’s presence restores the person who has suffered affliction.

The wicked are destroyed by evil (suffering), because of the absence of God from their lives.

Jesus teaches his disciples that doing his work won’t always be easy; they will be opposed and they will face persecution; but he will always be with them, they will be protected.  After his resurrection, he says to them, ‘And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.’ (Matthew 28, 20)

So those who choose the way of God will always be heard and their deliverance is assured. This psalm is a marvellous song of confidence in the presence of God in the world as it is. Many people have found God, not only when things go well, but also in the depths, when things are hard. They are lifted up into a place of security and protection; and that leads to an outpouring of praise of the God who never stops loving and who will never let us down.

 

Prayer (from new Every Morning)

 

Most merciful God, we pray for those who doubt your love;

for those who find it difficult to believe or to pray;

for those who have lost a faith they once possessed.

May the Holy Spirit enlighten their minds

and lead them into all truth,

through Jesus Christ our Lord.   Amen.

Praise

Psalm 34

  1. I will bless the Lord at all times; his praise shall ever be in my mouth.
  2. My soul shall glory in the Lord; let the humble hear and be glad.
  3. O magnify the Lord with me; let us exalt his name together;
  4. I sought the Lord and he answered me and delivered me from all my fears.
  5. Look upon him and be radiant and your faces shall not be ashamed.
  6. This poor soul cried, and the Lord heard me and saved me from all my troubles.
  7. The angel of the Lord encamps around those who fear him and delivers them.
  8. O taste and see that the Lord is gracious; blessed is the one who trusts in him.
  9. Fear the Lord, all you his holy ones, for those who fear him lack nothing.
  10. Lions may lack and suffer hunger;

but those who seek the Lord lack nothing that is good.

  1. Come, my children, and listen to me; I will teach you the fear of the Lord.
  2. Who is there who delights in life and longs for days to enjoy good things?
  3. Keep your tongue from evil and your lips from lying words.
  4. Turn from evil and do good; seek peace and pursue it.
  5. The eyes of the Lord are upon the righteous and his ears are open to their cry.
  6. The face of the Lord is against those who do evil,

to root out the remembrance of them from the earth.

  1. The righteous cry and the Lord hears them and delivers them out of all their troubles.
  2. The Lord is near to the broken-hearted and will save those who are crushed in spirit.
  3. Many are the troubles of the righteous; from them, all will the Lord deliver them.
  4. He keeps all their bones so that not one of them is broken.
  5. But evil shall slay the wicked and those who hate the righteous will be condemned.
  6. The Lord ransoms the life of his servants and will condemn none who seek refuge in him.

Psalm 34 is a tremendous statement of the love and presence of God.

It begins with a hymn of praise, followed by a personal story of deliverance and then teaches the faithful about the meaning of the fear or reverence of God.

In the first part (vv. 1-3) to bless the Lord means to acknowledge his authority over every aspect of life. To exalt his name is to extol God by reciting his saving acts. We do that also today when we recite the creed or when we sing psalms and hymns, which speak of what God has done.

The second part (vv. 4-10) reveals the psalmist’s experience of God’s saving power. The psalmist has been delivered from some sort of anxiety, which has caused him considerable distress. This experience is available to all who come humbly before God. There is especially a strong image of tasting God ‘O taste and see that the Lord is gracious’ (v.8). We taste God today in the bread and wine of the Eucharist. where we receive the very life of God.

The angel or messenger of the Lord (v.7) may be the commander of the Lord’s heavenly army as in the story of the taking of Jericho in the book of Joshua.

The last section (vv.11-end) contains teaching about the nature of God.  Here the fear or reverence of the Lord is to be humble in his presence, a life marked by doing what God approves (good) and what leads to well-being (peace, v14 ‘seek peace and pursue it’). It is shown in honesty of speech, as in v. 13 ‘Keep your tongue from evil and your lips from telling lies’, ideas which are seen again in the letter of James.

But there is no guarantee against trouble. Afflictions may cause a person to be broken-hearted and crushed in spirit. However, true life and security are at a depth which suffering cannot reach, and God’s presence restores the person who has suffered affliction.

The wicked are destroyed by evil (suffering), because of the absence of God from their lives.

Jesus teaches his disciples that doing his work won’t always be easy; they will be opposed and they will face persecution, but he will always be with them, they will be protected.  After his resurrection, he says to them, ‘And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.’ (Matthew 28, 20)

So those who choose the way of God will always be heard and their deliverance is assured. This psalm is a marvellous song of confidence in the presence of God in the world as it is. Many people have found God, not only when things go well, but also in the depths when things are hard. They are lifted up into a place of security and protection, and that leads to an outpouring of praise of the God who never stops loving and who will never let us down.

Prayer

Most merciful God, we pray for those who doubt your love; for those who find it difficult to believe or to pray; for those who have lost a faith they once possessed. May the Holy Spirit enlighten their minds and lead them into all truth, through Jesus Christ our Lord.   Amen.

Shalom

Finally this week I want to focus on the last aspect of this ancient blessing.

Turn his face towards you and give you peace.

This contains another ancient expression that describes God giving his full and complete attention to our prayers, listening deeply to our concerns.

And the Hebrew word here is Shalom. Our own word ‘peace’ which tends to just mean a lack of conflict seems to be somewhat insufficient here. Instead, Shalom includes health, safety, prosperity and wholeness. Ultimately, this phrase describes God supplying our physical and material needs as well as our emotional ones.

This last sentence is the crowning blessing. The Lord’s gracious plan and provision for us so that we should know his Shalom flooding our hearts and mind.

Let me focus on two passages of scripture, one from the Old Testament and one from the New Testament.

Isaiah 26:3

You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast because they trust in you peace is available to all who trust in the Lord.

We can spend so much time running around trying to solve issues and problems ourselves. We waste so much energy being anxious about stuff rather than trusting God and receiving his peace. God’s peace is available to us all – he has blessed us with it.

Philippians 4:7

And the peace of God which transcends all understanding will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Here we are reminded that it is the most amazing peace available to us. It is beyond our understanding it will guard your heart and mind in Christ Jesus.

So once again we come to Christ at the end of this week. The fullness of this ancient blessing is found completely in God’s one and only son. So, we lean into Jesus because that is where the fullness of this blessing is now discovered. Let us pray.

Lord, I come before you ready to pour out my worries, anxieties and fears at Your feet. I am claiming and declaring Your promises for blessings of peace and strength over my life. Bring a peace into my soul that passes all worldly understanding and make me a light for others to see Your strength. Amen

Shepherd

Psalm 23                                    

The Lord is my best friend and my shepherd.

I always have more than enough.

He offers a resting place for me in his luxurious love.

His tracks take me to an oasis of peace, the quiet brook of bliss.

That’s where he restores and revives my life.

He opens before me pathways to God’s pleasure

and leads me along in his footsteps of righteousness

so that I can bring honour to his name.

Lord, even when your path takes me through

the valley of deepest darkness,

fear will never conquer me, for you already have!

You remain close to me and lead me through it all the way.

Your authority is my strength and my peace.

The comfort of your love takes away my fear.

I’ll never be lonely, for you are near.

You become my delicious feast

even when my enemies dare to fight.

You anoint me with the fragrance of your Holy Spirit;

you give me all I can drink of you until my heart overflows.

So why would I fear the future?

For your goodness and love pursue me all the days of my life.

Then afterward, when my life is through,

I’ll return to your glorious presence to be forever with you!

Psalm 23, probably the most famous of all the psalms and a poetic gem, is a song of confidence. Here, a worshipper, grateful for deliverance from enemies and dangers, comes to the temple in Jerusalem to make a thank offering.

There are three images, God as shepherd, guide and host.

The psalm contains a triumphant message of faith; ‘You are with me’. In ancient Near eastern literature, kings are called shepherds of their people, and in the Old Testament this is applied to God’s relationship with Israel. (Psalm 80: Hear, O Shepherd of Israel, you that led Joseph like a flock’, Psalm 95: For he is our God; we are the people of his pasture and the sheep of his hand’.)

The psalmist lacks nothing because of his place in the covenant community. God the shepherd leads him by the right paths to nourishment and rest, and if the way leads through a steep and dangerous place, the valley of the shadow of death, the sheep fears neither pitfalls nor enemies, because the shepherd is there to defend him (with club and staff).

Then the Lord becomes the host, providing for his guests with lavish generosity (ancient laws of hospitality required that the host take his guests under his protection). The psalmist has come to the temple followed by enemies; now he will be followed by God’s saving goodness and mercy (steadfast love, a theme frequent in the psalms),  and he will live in that protecting presence for the rest of his life and for evermore.

The psalm presents a beautiful picture, but it offers a serious comment on life, which can be difficult, problematical and sometimes dangerous. We face all kinds of problems. war, disease and sickness, as the corona virus has shown in 2020. These present decisions which leave us with struggles and challenges. But the psalm proclaims that God is with us, alongside us as we sometimes pass through the ‘valley of the shadow of death’, and we realise that we are being guided by the right paths. During the corona virus crisis, we are learning new things, new ways of working, meeting people whom we didn’t previously know, finding new activities and sometimes rediscovering old ones. Out of the darkness can come restoration, new experience, new life, and the faith that we shall come through.

In the presence of God, the psalmist discovers that ”my cup shall be full’  So out of our difficulties can come new hope, new life and freshness, a realisation that God will always be there with us, showing us a different way and, whatever happens, surrounding us with his steadfast love.

Prayer

O God, whose Son Jesus Christ is the good shepherd of your people: grant that when we hear his voice we may know him who calls us each by name, and follow where he leads; who with you and the Holy Spirit, lives and reigns, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.