Yes, it is a Monday as I write this. There are times getting up on any day, however, is an exercise of sheer fortitude to face assailing storms of life.
Most days, we are not being assailed by anything more than shifting thunderstorms: a critique, a job review, a misunderstanding between co-workers or family members or even friends, an unpleasant meeting, inconvenient and trivial workloads.
But some days we are hit with hurricane force: loss, soul-killing memories, buried but penetrating shame, impending or recent death, betrayal, our own sin come to fruit, bitterness, sudden and life-changing disability, crushing hatred that burns inside like an acid, paralyzing fear of the unknown as well as the known.
Each time I read Vav, I receive fresh hope. Like rays of sunlight piercing the gloom, the psalm picks up reflections from my own heart and experience with fresh relevance.
Even though written down by human hands, these psalms are inspired by God to reflect the coming King–Jesus Christ, the promised Savior. In a former version of this post, I reflected on the human psalmist, and myself. But it is more important to reflect on Christ in this psalm.
Christ faced all the hardships I face, yet as the psalm shows me, He looked to God the Father in obedience. He is my model. No human psalmist could ever have borne out these words in all truth. None of us can say that we have loved God’s law or have been so faithful to it; none of us but Christ.
Genesis 2-3 explains that God created our race according to a good and perfect design and purpose; but mankind in the person of Adam and Eve broke faith with their Creator and fell from fellowship with Holy God. As a result, all of us are born into this fallen state, the end thereof is spiritual and physical death. It is this that I feel as I am overwhelmed by life in this world. Life is too big for me to handle. I am outrageously deficient, and face failure before I even begin! However!…
God’s Plan for Reconciliation
God was not shocked or surprised! God planned his love of me: He “so loved the world that he gave his only son that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish but have everlasting life” (John 3:16).
Sinless Jesus accomplished what I can not: he paid the death price for my guilt and shame. Sacrificial love poured out for me. I am not condemned, I am forgiven–the death debt is paid. I am not deficient; I have the power of Christ in me to face this world and look with assurance of hope into the next.
The psalmist of Vav is an Old Testament human being who knew his need and looked forward to the promise of a Savior to come. He believed it as if it had already happened! That is faith.
At a fulcrum point in this world’s history, Christ did come and he accomplished the work of reconciling us with the Father! But we do need him every day. I need Christ to intersect my day today.
Today, I am beginning the journey of caring for a loved one with dementia. Many reading this have also been at this point. It is too big for me on an emotional level to see the pain of confusion and change in her eyes. It is too big for me to wend my way through the panic and frustration of others, or the many necessary “business” details that are cold and tedious and have nothing of the warmth of love in them.
Our salvation is not a past event. While Christ died for our sins and paid the price to release us from the prison of death, He also rose again! Christ lives! We were rescued from death and reconciled to Life!! We are no longer powerless against sin and suffering, we are “more than conquerors”…. but let the Word speak (Romans 8:31-38, NIV[i]):
More Than Conquerors
31 What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? 32 He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things? 33 Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies. 34 Who then is the one who condemns? No one. Christ Jesus who died—more than that, who was raised to life—is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us.35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? 36 As it is written:
“For your sake we face death all day long;
we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.”[a]
37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.38 For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons,[b]neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, 39 neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
This is the Word of God that Christ in the psalm loved and points me toward. This is the kind of comfort–only one example–that I receive from the Father when I am in need.
When I am assailed by critics (Vav, v. 42), I can say, “I am Christ’s! I am His beloved.” My identity in Christ helps me to move toward Christ, and then to move toward others in safety of self. My identity in Christ removes fear of failure; not failure itself–I will fail– but fear of failure’s consequences. I am not condemned by my failure. I will yet rise (Proverbs 24:16).
Power to Overcome
Through Christ’s gift of the Holy Spirit, the Father gives me direction, but also power to obey what I am guided to do. If I am to confess a wrong attitude or act, then He gives me power to overcome my pride and confess. If I am to forgive another, then He gives me power to do so. If I am to admonish someone, God gives me the humility and boldness (together) to do so in love. Where I am tempted, He offers a way of escape!
This is the power of God’s Word enacted by the love of Christ and the power of his Holy Spirit. And not only that, Christ, my Savior, is praying (interceding)[ii] for me before the Father!!
I have one more assurance to help me up. I have a future!!
I have been and am being changed in an important way. I am being transformed from a sinful, selfish person to a soul that looks and sounds and acts like Christ!
We read Revelation and are so happy to learn that there will be no more sorrow, nor suffering or pain or tears or death, for all those things will be swept away! Life will go on, for my suffering loved ones and for myself, and there will be a beneficent dominion just as God intended in the beginning.
Who I am in Christ matters!
God’s Word reminds me of who I am in Christ, what He has done for me in grace, what power I have in Christ to overcome the challenges that face me this day, and that there is coming a day when all this painful transformation work will be complete.
One and a half years ago, my step-father received his final “Well done, thou good and faithful servant.” This fall, my mother-in-law stepped into the arms of Christ as well. Today, two parents are yet in the narrow path that leads home. As we children shoulder the responsibility of their care and suffering, Christ takes center stage as our model. I can do all things through this Christ who gives me strength!
We are not on a cul-de-sac to finality. We are on a narrow passage that leads to greater fruitfulness and Light, both here on earth and also in glory with Christ.
In VAV, Christ looks to the Father’s Word with love. Opening my Bible, I read His Word and feel His Presence and blessing. I thank Him for all that He has done and will do even as I head to the work of loving and living ahead.
I am not given the answer to how I should respond to a precious one that no longer can remember what is happening from day to day. I don’t know what words I will say or how I will react if something goes wrong. But even when I “don’t do it right”, I am in His hands and we all (who are believers) will get to our destination with Christ as our head. Love has paved our way.
Have you suffered loss? Are you afraid? Have you lost your hope and energy to keep on? Here are some helpful verbs from Vav that illustrate Christ’s godly response to life in this world:
- I trust in thy word….
- I hope in thy judgements…
- I shall keep thy law continually forever…
- I will walk freely….
- I will seek out your guiding principles
- I will speak out (tell others) all that you have commanded before the very power-players I once feared…
- I love your commandments….
- I will delight myself in your law….
- I will praise you publicly with upraised hands concerning your law…
- I will search out the meaning of your statutes and allow them to x-ray my hidden motives
Lord, I stand amazed in Your Presence. I am encouraged by reading again how you have loved me and given yourself for my sake. Not only have you given yourself in exchange for my sin, but you are with me even today. I am blind to the wonder of life that Your grace opens up for me. Give me life that I may live! “Why should I be discouraged? Why do the shadows fall? Why should my heart be lonely, and long for heaven and home, when You, O LORD, are my life’s inheritance–You are now my constant friend! For Your eye is on the smallest of sparrows, and I know You watch over me!” I am yours, and You are mine! Give me vision to see You in my day today, to see You in my circumstances as you shape me to be like You. Give me vision to see You in the others with whom I will interact today–help me to love them, friend and enemy alike, as you love them. Help me to know, understand, and obey your commands. Make me a blessing today, Lord, and rest me in Your peaceful embrace as the sun sets on a day lived for Your Glory. In the Name of my Heavenly Savior Jesus Christ, Amen.
© 2018 by http://www.readpsalm119.com; last updated Feb 7, 2019.
[ii] intercede, intercession, interceding – (inter‘between’ + cedere ‘go’). Christ “goes between” a holy God and sinful man to speak for us for mercy and grace (Romans 8:34).
While our debt is paid, we still have “remaining sin” to deal with; we continue to walk in a world that is broken by sin. We are moving toward all that God has in store for us that is good, because of Christ–yet our as-yet-unperfected heart still sins.
I am still a sinner in the process of becoming like Christ. Because of Christ, I am not what I was last week and definitely not what I was 10 years ago! Because of His intercession for me, I not condemned before God, but receive the Father’s mercy and grace. The Father sees the Son’s sacrifice for me and that settles my case. Christ’s prayers for me connect me to the Father in love, guidance and protection. Praise the Lord! He never lets go of my hand!
Therefore, out of love and thankfulness, I read and obey His Word. The Law cannot save me, it only condemns me because I can’t keep it. But because of Christ who satisfied the Law with His own sacrificial perfect death and Resurrection, I am free to choose to obey out of a heart of love. And I am challenged to model Christ’s love to others and live sacrificially for them, spreading the good news of Christ’s salvation and comfort.
“What is the Holy Spirit & What Does He Do for Believers?”, Brittany Rust, Crosswalk.com
His Eye is On the Sparrow, sung by Sylvia Burnside, No Need To Fear CD, New Irish Arts. (YouTube.com). This song was first sung by the late Ethel Waters, and later by Larnelle Harris (From a Servant’s Heart, album, 1986 Benson Records). Sylvia brings a new quality to the song that is worth hearing. I encourage everyone to purchase this entire cd of Sylvia’s; the songs are words of Truth that bring much needed daily healing.
Ann Voskamp (annvoskamp.com) challenged us to make and keep up a JOURNAL OF GRATITUDE, completing 1000 “gifts of thanks” entries to the Lord. I created one for myself and each of my still-at-home children. What a blessing it was to fill each day’s entries! We developed eyes to see God at work all around us each morning. Yes, like all good things, writing in a journal fell off as we got busy and the kids got older. But the spiritual discipline of “seeing” reasons for gratitude does not fade. Look for photos of my copy in the GALLERY tab on http://www.readpsalm119.com in the coming days.