Adrift

Lamed. — v.89-96

Everyone had migrated from the pool to the picnic table at my aunt’s house–everyone but me. Our families were chatting and busy with food preparation, but I was oblivious to all as I dove and twirled in the pool.   

Under the surface, the liquid-transparent blue was shot through with sunlight and rippling motion. I dove down to the bottom of the pool only to push against its grainy concrete texture, thrusting myself up like a rocket to break the surface. There I’d see again the clear Florida skies above green palms and hear the droning of the pump and the faded, drifting voices of this lazy, summer day.  Dive, touch bottom, push up to the surface, and dive again.  Life was good!

I’d been swimming too long, however, and was getting tired when suddenly I found I couldn’t get down far enough to touch bottom to push off.  Stuck in between, I clawed at the silky blue that surrounded me, trying to paddle my way back up but to no avail.  Blowing out bubbles on my way down, now my lungs lacked the air needed to get up. My chest started to hurt and my mind raced in growing panic, limbs flailing without a splash.  

 I began gulping water, chlorine burning my sinuses. The silvery surface rippled above me and all around was liquid-muffled silence. Alone, my child-mind resigned to the fact that I was about to die. My frantic clawing slowed. 

Suddenly, an arm reached way out into the water from the side of the pool and it grabbed hold of my sunken arm and pulled.  My head broke water and the clear sound of voices met my ears.  “Barbie! She can’t get up!” he’d been saying.     

I will always be grateful that my uncle was paying attention!  He pulled me over to the side and helped me up, while I coughed and sputtered and croaked out throatfuls of water.  

In between

Life can be like that. 

Change often happens whether or not we are ready.  We suddenly find ourselves flailing in unexpected deeps we can’t fathom. Debilitating disease, grief in suffering and loss, violation,  painful or irreconcilable relationships–these invade our safety zones and we find ourselves unable to keep paddling and unable to touch bottom, no longer able to think clearly in our panic. 

Scripture warns us that we walk in a dark place here.  Dark things happen.  But until they do happen, we are usually very happy with our illusions of control. When the edges of security do slip away, though, all assumptions are gone. Who knows what the next day holds? All of life goes on a sickening hold. In panic, we grab hold of another and threaten to pull each other down in self-effort for rescue.

We need a firm foundation to push off from, an outstretched arm from outside the deep to pull us up.  Who is paying attention to us? Who sees? Who is able to save? 

God’s Word

In Lamed, the psalmist has come up for air.  He’s been stuck in the deeps and well remembers the “whelming flood”, but he doesn’t pay attention to that.  He found bottom, pushed off of it and broke surface. This is his song of redemption, his song of praise for restored life! That foundation was the Word of God. 

God’s Word, he says, is “settled” in heaven (v89). That means God’s Word is eternal, undebatable.  It is established as a verity and will never change.  God has spoken and His Words are the Words of Life.  

God’s Word is faithful “for all generations” (v90-91).  What was true for my ancestors, whose rewarded faith has been truly inspiring, is still true for me. The same is still true for my children, and my grandchildren. At times like these, it is good to consider God’s past evidences of love (Lamentations 3:19-24), and the promise of a heritage of faith passed on for future generations (Acts 20:32). 

What would life be without this sure foundation? “If it was not true that the hope of joy is found within your word, I would have expired, given up, been destroyed in my storm” [my paraphrase, v92].  

God’s Word reaches down from heaven, just as surely as my uncle’s arm reached down into the water, and grabs hold of my sinking, flailing life. He draws me up out of my despair (Psalm 18:16-19). Breaking the surface, I regain life-giving breath (v.93-95).   

But there’s more!

The Word Made Flesh

Christ Himself found wisdom to meet the enemy through the power of God’s written Word (Matthew 4:1-11).  

God’s Word is a weapon of defense against the enemy.  “I do not live by my own word or the word of mere errant man or earth-bound power; only the Word of God gives life” (Matthew 4:4).  “God will not be pushed to prove Himself. He is already the Great Immutable One True God. He is Sovereign Creator, Faithful and True” (Matthew 4:7).  “God alone is worthy of worship; I will not worship another” (Matthew 4:10).  

If these are Christ’s responses to the author of chaos, they must be mine, too.  And the effect will be the same:  Satan retreated in the disgrace of defeat, and the angels of God’s mercy were sent to comfort Christ, body and soul (Matthew 4:11).  

The depth of evil is a mystery unfathomable by human minds and hearts. But Satan’s authority is not eternal; his end is sure. God’s comfort to us, however, IS eternal. We, being made in His image, are eternal creatures.  There is hope.

But Christ not only wielded the Word of God, Christ is the Word of God.     

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning.  Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it…. The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us.  We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth….”  (John 1:1-5, 14)

We all sink in sin and suffering. There is none righteous, none who will escape sin and its effects on this world, no not one (Romans 3:10-12).  But God sees the sinner and the sufferer.  He knows our struggle.  God’s Word was made tangibly alive in the person of Jesus Christ.  Jesus showed us the power of God over Satan, sin and suffering.

Then Christ demonstrated the Father’s love for us in defeating death itself, so that we may be lifted up to worship Him in newness of life (Romans 6:4).  Christ arose victorious and He calls us to follow Him.[1]  God promises that, in so following, we will break the surface of this life with Christ in victory, peace and rest (Revelation 20-22). 

“[Christ] is a lamp unto my feet, a light unto my path. I will hide [Christ’s gospel] deep into my heart so that I will [not sink back into darkness and] sin against God” (my paraphrase combining Psalm 119:105 and Psalm 119:11).   

But is it True?  Will It Hold? 

Kneeling beside my bedside as a young adult, unable to get up unless the Lord gave me reason to live, God’s Word held me accountable to the promises of Christ’s death and victorious Resurrection.

Intellectually, I knew that Christ’s sacrifice covers my sin. His Life gives me overcoming power to do battle against sin and the evil around me. To knowingly refuse Christ’s arm of rescue would be to call Him a liar.  It would mean I would dash the hope of my family’s faith and make Christ’s death and life a mockery.  Would I betray Him like Judas–as one who has no hope? 

I couldn’t practically comprehend everything, but I knew Christ was there.  If God’s Word is true, then I was bound to Him and He to me. My life was not my own to make decisions with it to suit my passions (good OR bad).

With that slim light to guide my heart back, I asked the Lord to help me grab hold of His saving arm in faith and push upward from that faith into the murky days ahead.  By faith, I arose from my bedside and just did the next thing.[2]  I found Him faithful. 

I can say with the psalmist that I will never forget what God did for me.  He brought me a new kind of life, not drifting on mood or passion or circumstance, but founded firmly on the truth that never changes: Christ died for me.  ME!  I live because He lives in me…and will be my God forever.

Rotten though I am and failed at every turn, I am loved with an inescapable love.  I am being molded into a new creation that looks and feels more and more like my Savior. I am a changed life! My worth is not my own, but it is wrapped up in the worth of the One Who saved me.  I owe Him all. 

Finding the Foundation–Finding Life Daily

That is why I find joy in God’s Word.  God’s word grounds me in truth, and reiterates His love for me and for all His children in all the world.  By it, I am challenged, disciplined, chastised, and blessed.  

Evil creeps ever nearer. Sorrows multiply as I lose more and more in this life. New fears take the place of old toothless ones. “But I will consider, think about, and fill my life with God’s evidences of His love to me in His Word.”  

Confession and Obedience

Confess your sin, repent and believe, and you shall be saved!” (Romans 10:9-10; see also Psalm 69:5;James 4:7-10Psalm 32:51 John 1:9James 5:16Mark 11:25).   I am daily able to look within and find where “imaginations” have crept in (2 Corinthians 10:5). Also, how I respond to evil around me reveals my true heart.  The Word helps me to name the imposters and turn from them.  There is cleansing and calm in this.

To all of Christ’s own who struggle here (Matthew 28:17), Christ has promised his faithfulness to those who will only step out in faithful obedience: “And surely I am with you always, to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:18-20).     

Christ’s glory, not mine (or my loved ones’), becomes the leading concern.  The glory that awaits us all in Christ is the beyond surface, now but one day very soon, we will break free and breathe new air! 

Put Your Feet Down!

 I am again with my aunt and uncle years later, this time over the deeps at a central Florida spring. Tourists horseplaying about in the water knocked me so that I suddenly lost control. I tried to make my way to the shore, but I couldn’t get up high enough to get air to properly swim. I couldn’t feel the bottom. So I clumsily slapped and kicked my way forward, my face barely above the surface gasping for air, sure I would sink in the middle of a public spring. Kids played about me without noticing my dilemma. No one, I believed, knew I was there and struggling.  

Then I heard my aunt’s voice: “Put your feet down!” 

Stepping down again, I found that I had been so focused on panic-paddling to the edge of the spring that I had not even realized my “foundation” was now directly underneath me!  We had a good laugh as I walked in humble safety through the water to shore. 

Lord, when I feel unmoored from my “safe places”, my panic unsettles my own hope, and the hope of those looking for you.  I become a bad testimony to your goodness and grace. I flail about as if Your promises are untrue.  I render you as powerless to a watching world and I am ashamed. Bring Your word to my heart and mind so that I can stand on it. Set my feet upon solid ground. Help me to wait on Your wisdom and pattern for my life patiently in trust and not fear. My life is yours, purchased at great cost. Whatever you will, that I will do.  

Perhaps someone reading this today is struggling silently, unseen and unheard but for you.  Stretch out your arm and save us each day from our foolish unbelief.  You are Sovereign, unchanging, faithful and true. You have not given us a spirit of fear, but “of power and of love and of a sound mind” (2 Timothy 1:7). You have given us a future and a hope (Jeremiah 29:11) in Christ, and we will see it.  Let us be so hid in You, Lord, so confident in faith and infused with Your staying power and providence, that all the peoples will know that You alone are God and Your Word is true. Delight us in your Way, and refresh us with Your Life.  In Your blessed Name, in the power of Your Spirit, and in fellowship with the saints, I pray.  Amen!

© 2019 by readpsalm119.com. 

FOOTNOTES:

[1] See article by John Stott in FURTHER RESOURCES below.

[2] See article “Do the Next Thing” in FURTHER RESOURCES below.

PHOTO: Special thanks to Phillip Colla for permission to use his beautiful underwater image, “The Ocean’s Surface, Bahamas” #00700. Please visit his stunning Natural History Photography gallery (and blog) at www.oceanlight.com.

_____________________________________________

FURTHER RESOURCES:

Psalm 18. (NIV-UK), BibleGateway.com.  David’s psalm of salvation.  This psalm is also a Messianic psalm, foreshadowing Christ’s own song of praise to the Father.  To see elements that reveal this foreshadowing, visit “Victories to the king, loyalty for the Messiah in Psalm 18” by Christen Forster, March 30, 2016, JesusCentered.org, 

* “The Call to Follow Christ” by John Stott, C.S. Lewis Institute: Knowing & Doing, http://www.cslewisinstitute.org. Single-Page Full Article, available in PDF download.

Jesus’ Temptation (Matthew 4:1-11), Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Whole Bibleat www.biblegateway.com    Written succinctly, though in some archaic language, Matthew Henry explores the riches and wonders of this passage.  

** “Do The Next Thing”, Justin Taylor, October 25, 2017, TheGospelCoalition.org.  Blog post re-publishing this old anonymous poem I had heard from Elisabeth Eliot long ago.  

On Christ the Solid Rock I Stand
My hope is built on nothing less
Than Jesus Christ, my righteousness;
I dare not trust the sweetest frame,
But wholly lean on Jesus’ name. 

REFRAIN: On Christ, the solid Rock, I stand;
All other ground is sinking sand,
All other ground is sinking sand. 

When darkness veils His lovely face,
I rest on His unchanging grace;
In every high and stormy gale,
My anchor holds within the veil. 

His oath, His covenant, His blood,
Support me in the whelming flood;
When all around my soul gives way,
He then is all my hope and stay. 

When He shall come with trumpet sound,
Oh, may I then in Him be found;
In Him, my righteousness, alone,
Faultless to stand before the throne. 

–Lyrics by Edward Mote (1797-1874); Music by William B. Bradbury (1816-1868).  www.hymnal.net #298.  The Title link to these lyrics (above) are found at “On Christ The Solid Rick I Stand Lyrics”, [YouTube; 3:24 min], uploaded by R Sebastian, Jul 30, 2014.  This the traditional tune and lyrics.  


See “Praise & Harmony Singers “Christ The Rock”, [YouTube; 2:50 min], uploaded by The Acappella Company, Mar 13, 2015 for a unique and fresh rendition with no competing instruments and fresh lyric version. 

My Faith Has Found A Resting Place
My faith has found a resting place, 
Not in device nor creed.
I trust the Ever-living One, 
His wounds for me will plead.

Refrain:
I trust no other argument,
I need no other plea, 
It is enough that Jesus died,
And that He died for me!

Enough for me that Jesus saves,

This ends my fear and doubt;
A sinful soul I come to Him,
He’ll never cast me out.

My heart is leaning on the Word,
The written Word of God,
Salvation by my Savior’s name,
Salvation through His blood.

My great Physician heals the sick
The lost He came to save;
For me His precious blood He shed,
For me His life He gave.

–Lyrics by Eliza Edmunds Hewitt
(1851-1920); Music “Norse Air”
www.hymnal.net #330.  “My Faith Has
Found a Resting Place”, [YouTube; 2:46 min],
uploaded by “isbaptist Toronto”, Feb 23, 2010.  
Mark Miller singing.

How Firm A Foundation

How firm a foundation, ye saints of the Lord
Is laid for your faith in His excellent Word!
What more can He say than to you He hath said,
To you who for refuge to Jesus have fled.

“Fear not, I am with thee, o be not dismayed,
For I am thy God, and will still give thee aid;
I’ll strengthen thee, help thee, and cause thee to stand,
Upheld by My righteous, omnipotent hand.”

“When through the deep waters I call thee to go,
The rivers of sorrow will not overflow;
For I will be with thee, thy troubles to bless,
And sanctify to thee thy deepest distress.”

“When through fiery trials thy pathway shall lie,
My grace, all sufficient, shall be thy supply;
The flame shall not hurt thee; I only design
Thy dross to consume, and thy gold to refine.”

“E’en down to old age all My people shall prove 
My sovereign, eternal, unchangeable love;
And then, when grey hairs shall their temples adorn,
Like lambs they shall still in My bosom be borne.”

“The soul that on Jesus hath leaned for repose,
I will not, I will not desert to his foes;
That soul, though all hell should endeavor to shake,
I’ll never, no, never, no, never forsake!”

–Lyrics by “K” in Rippon’s Selection of Hymns, 1787;
Early American melody.  See www.hymnal.net #339b.   
“Fernando Ortega – How Firm a Foundation”, [YouTube;
3:24 min], uploaded by Christians SingersVEVO, May 22,
2013. 

 

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