Just Stop Moving-Psalm 46

God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging.

There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God, the holy place where the Most High dwells. God is within her, she will not fall; God will help her at break of day. Nations are in uproar, Kingdoms fail; he lifts his voice, the earth melts. The Lord Almighty is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress.

Come and see what the Lord has done, the desolations he has brought on the earth. He makes wars cease to the ends of the earth. He breaks the bow and shatters the spear; he burns the shields with fire. He says, Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.” The Lord Almighty is with us; The God of Jacob is our fortress.

“Just stop moving!”IMG_0947

A few years ago (ok probably about 6 now) some friends and I went to the river to fish. That doesn’t sound strange, and since I live in Montana now it is a regular event. But in Arkansas our adventures to go fishing in streams of cool water for trout were fewer and farther between.

On this particular adventure we chose to fish the calmer flows of the North Fork river. Calmer waters or not, river fishing involves wading through waters that can sometimes become unexpectedly deep with rocks that are slipperier than Arkansas roads after a half inch of snow.

In a situation just like this, my friend Topher realized (as I have many times myself) that rather than try to tackle the slippery rocks head on sometimes the best advice, (as shouted from Mike nearby on the shore) is to just stop moving!

My Way or God’s Way

The rocks of the North Fork river or the green of the Gallatin here in Montana don’t have an agenda. They’re just there, waiting for unsuspecting feet to try to find footing on their round vegetated surfaces. As any experienced fisherman may know, it’s futile to move too fast or to keep going when the best course of action is to stop, assess and in many cases, go back or find another way.

The Psalmist here in Psalm 46 reminds us that to push forward, to seek to do it our own way without submitting to God, only ends in fear and destruction. In order to understand Psalm 46 it helps to go back and read Numbers 16. Psalm 46 was written by the Sons of Korah. The Sons of Korah were descendants of Levi, a priestly nation given the special task of carrying holy items as the Israelites moved through the wilderness.

In Numbers 16 a dispute breaks out. The ancestors of the Sons of Korah from Psalm 46 make a tragic mistake. They begin to believe that they are due honor and glory that they aren’t given from God. They complain to Moses and tell him that they don’t like being subordinate to anyone. They threaten a coup and so God decides to remind them who is in charge.

I won’t give the story away but just to say this, the earth does gives way, the waters roar and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea. It’s quite possible that the author of Psalm 46 is reminded of this rebellion and the mistake that his ancestors made. In an attempt to lead God’s people in worship he reminds them and us to, “just stop moving!” “Be still and know that I am God; I will be exalted in the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.”

Submitting

It’s hard to submit, and I find myself desperately wanting to complain and tell God what the Kohathites told Moses in Numbers 16 that “you, God, have gone too far! Life is too difficult and I want to do it my way now!” But slippery rocks are a dangerous way to cross a river. I confess of my arrogance in thinking that I know the best way and that I want to be God.

The command to “be still” doesn’t simply mean to stop moving. To be still, in the way that the Psalmist means it, is to stop going the way that we think is best. Stop doing it our way. We’re not in charge and until we submit to God’s plan and will we won’t know what it means to find God as a refuge and strength.

Verse 4 reminds us that, “there is a river whose streams make glad the city of God, the holy places where the Most High dwells.” Jesus, when ministering to the woman at the well in John 4 reveals 2 things about the Kingdom of God. 1. The Kingdom of God has perfect standards for admission. 2. Anyone of drinks from the water of life is included. We can keep moving, believing that we are in charge and that our way is best or we can, be still, and know that He is God.

“Come and see what the Lord has done! The Lord almighty is with us, the God of Jacob is our fortress!”

Soli Deo Gloria

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Glory-Psalm 24

The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it;
the world, and all who live in it;
for he founded it on the seas
and established it on the waters.
Who may ascend the mountain of the Lord?
Who may stand in his holy place?
The one who has clean hands and a pure heart,
who does not trust in and idol or swear by a false god.
They will receive blessing from the Lord
and vindication from God their Savior.
Such is the generation of those who seek him,
who seek your face, God of Jacob.
Lift up your heads, you gates;
be lifted up, you ancient doors,
that the King of glory may come in.
Who is this King of glory?
The Lord strong and mighty,
the Lord mighty in battle.
Lift up your heads, you gates;
lift them up you ancient doors.
that the King of glory may come in.
Who is he, this King of glory?
The Lord Almighty-He is the King of glory.

כָּבוֹד The Battle For Glory

I’m not much of a sports guy, but I do find that at times I am jealous for those who are. I wish I had a “team” or a “player” that I loved to follow. Whether you’re a fan or not it’s not hard to argue the case that all pro sports have their glory hounds. An article published in The Bleacher Report a few years ago highlights a struggle for athletes who are good at their craft.  In the article, the author presents the 20 most self-centered athletes in the world. This is of course subjective but nonetheless it leaves the reader with 20 opportunities to judge those who make more money than we do. In this short article we see 20 people scrutinized for their attempt to make much of themselves.

In Psalm 24 David uses the Hebrew word כָּבוֹד kavowd to describe God’s glory. The definition is complex and can be defined in a few ways but the overall idea is evidence of greatness, or wonder and amazement at the power and prominence of someone’s performance. Whew…that’s kind of wordy but we all understand what it boils down to. Glory means that someone get’s the credit.

But someone has to get credit right? If we play basketball against LeBron James and lose we can’t say that it was because we had an off day. LeBron wins every time. He gets the glory. Making much of ourselves has never been a problem for only pro athletes. One of the  greatest struggle in humanity is our battle for the glory that is due to God and God alone. Pastor and counselor Paul Tripp puts it well when he says,

“human beings are glory junkies…Whether you like to admit to it or not, you’re addicted to glory. Glory junkies talk about themselves a lot. Their story is the most important and their interests are better than anyone else’s. This may seem harsh, but be honest – you and I often see people as a waste of time. When we’re overly confident and independent, people become an irritating and unhelpful interruption of what we could accomplish on our own.”

Glory Comes From Sacrifice

Psalm 24 gives us a glimpse of The Kingdom of God. In a kingdom it’s only the King who gets the glory. David starts with a reminder of our condition in verses 1-3, “The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it…” Glory is rooted in ownership. As kids we would taunt each other on the court with phrases like, “I own you!” Our intent was to gain glory by ousting the other. This is fun when it’s sports and it’s done for humor, but it’s sin when done to gain glory for ourselves. David is painting a picture to remind us of who owns what.

In verse 3 we are exhorted by way of the rhetorical question, “who may stand in God’s holy place?” There is a 2 fold answer: 1. No body (see Psalm 14) unless they are 2. Clean. But how can we possibly be clean? In verse 4 we see a picture of Christ, holy, perfect and clean. His glory was revealed in his service to us making us pure and clean. Paul says in Romans 1:4 that Christ was vindicated as the Son of God by his defeating death! This was done so that we might be able to “ascend God’s holy hill” and “stand in his holy place.” We serve a king who first served us. God get’s the credit; He wins every time.

The king Submits to The King

When we see how Christ offered himself for us and how his offering enables fellowship with God it changes us. Psalm 24 wasn’t just written to encourage us to look to Christ, because even King David only saw types and shadows of what was to come. We are called to seek righteousness and holiness. It’s a wonderful reminder that here we have a king (little k) writing of his desire to serve a King (big K). David understood what it meant to seek to bring God the glory and for a king to submit to The King.

In God’s Kingdom there is a reversal of values. At some point Christians should wrestle with the temptation to seek a life that glorifies self or one that gives Glory to God. The way up is the way down. Who is this King of Glory? The Lord Almighty-He is the King of Glory!

The Road and the Sword

Too often I forget myself. My pride swells like a Cracker Barrell-egg-shell-toy-dinosaur that has been left in it’s bowl of water too long. At times like these I’m gently and sometimes subtly reminded with a nudge by the staff of Christ to return to the sheepfold. This reminding is at best a slight, noticeable bump, but at other times it is a sword. A sword that cuts deep into the idols that I cling so tightly to. My grasped knuckles of pride and arrogance, disbelief and panic are as white as my woolen coat. The Shepherd wins, always.

As I walk the road that has been set before me, I seem to long more often for the destination than I ever have before.

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…God Meant it for Good…

French Artist Gustave Dore’ Joseph and His Brothers

“You intended to harm me, but God intended it all for good. He brought me to this position so I could save the lives of many people.” Genesis 50:20 NLT.

When I was a younger man I struggled greatly with losing my hair. It started to thin when I was a senior in high school. By the time I graduated from college I was consoling myself with the fact that I shared this trait with both Officer John McClane and James Bond (well former James Bond anyway)…but then I remembered that saving 200 hostages and keeping international relations secure for all of the Western World gave them a bit of an advantage over a college graduate with 1000 hours running a backhoe and a class B commercial Truck driving license. Neither was I Bruce Willis nor Sean Connery.

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Considering Rubbish

Friendship is truly a gift from God. We have some friends who live too far away and we consequently don’t get to see nearly often enough. Our hearts think of them often as they tweet their way into our thoughts and sometimes prayers. Their writing is encouraging and thought-provoking and I’m thankful to know them. Recently Amber has been writing on chains and as go our lives so go the links in the chains.

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A Benediction

Jacob Blessing Joseph’s Children Shoshanna Brombacher 2008

Hebrews chapter 11 is sometimes referred to, throughout much of Christendom, as the “hall of faith.” The author of Hebrews is celebrating those who have, in faith, gone before us and who serve as a blessing to those who are still living out their faith in word and deed.

Jacob is mentioned, among others, for a seemingly non-productive act. The writer of Hebrews is recounting Genesis 48 where Jacob offers a benediction upon his grandsons, Ephraim and Manasseh. At the protest of Joseph, their father, Jacob begins his providential proclamation; an act of great faith. Faith, to a secular world, will seem non-productive but its foundation lies in the letting go of production while trusting in the faithfulness of God and not ourselves. Where we honor accomplishment and achievement, God honors trust and faith in the One who achieved what we never could. The Gospel is the good news of what Christ has done and not what we can or even could do. What seems foreign to man is right to God and what is right to God seems foreign to man. Don’t expect the gospel to make sense as we are chained down by worldly thoughts, structures, economies and beliefs. Continue reading