“The law of the LORD is perfect, refreshing the soul. The statutes of the LORD are trustworthy, making wise the simple. The precepts of the LORD are right, giving joy to the heart. The commands of the LORD are radiant, giving light to the eyes. The fear of the LORD is pure, enduring for ever. The decrees of the LORD are firm, and all of them are righteous.” Psalms 19:7-9 NIVUK
Sadly, most people in my community, in my nation, neither read the Bible or have a relationship with God. But, to me, just reading these verses from Psalm 19 builds a picture of how closely human beings fit into God. A bit like a skilled carpenter making a joint, one piece of wood fitting precisely into another. It’s how we are designed. God made us to be a round peg in His round hole, fitting perfectly. We each have our own unique God-designed and built round hole and we can find out all about it by reading His Word and building a relationship with Him. And in the process we let God gently ease us into what He has for us, sandpapering off the bits that don’t fit. These verses tell us that by keeping close to God, learning in obedience about everything He has for us in His perfect design, then we will enjoy all we need for a full and fruitful life.
So why is it that human beings reject the unique and perfect round hole God has made for them, and instead design and build their own square holes. Then, when they try and fit into them, they wonder why their life becomes difficult. They wonder why their mental health suffers. They wonder why they seem to have constant struggles and problems, just getting through each day. Frank Sinatra’s legacy of “I’ll do it my way” has a lot to answer for.
God’s ways are perfect and when we embrace them, our souls truly will be refreshed. And we truly will experience a Godly “holeness”.
“Keep me as the apple of Your eye; hide me in the shadow of Your wings”Psalms 17:8 NIVUK
In Psalm 17, David was once again crying out to God from a position of danger from his enemies. In the Psalm, he started by asking God to examine him and declare him innocent of any sinful behaviour, and reminding God that he has followed His ways, keeping the faith. The latter half of the Psalm details what David would like God to do about his enemies. But in verses 6 and 7 David prays out to God to show him His great love, and he knows that God will answer him.
A wonderful and beautiful picture of the relationship between David and God is almost hidden in verse 8, where David asks God for protection. He asks his Father to keep him as the apple of His eye. The surface of an eye is convex so reflected images appear to be much smaller than they are in real life. David is asking God to keep a reflection of him, an “apple”, constantly in His eye, touchingly asking his Heavenly Father to watch over him. And this request is reinforced in the second half of the verse, where David asks God to hide him from his enemies, as a mother bird hides her chicks under her wings.
We too, through our relationship with God, can enjoy His protection and be “the apple of His eye”. We too can nestle under His wings of love. We have an amazing Heavenly Father who loves us with a depth far beyond our understanding. As the song lyrics declare, “What kind of love is this, Greater than all I’ve seen, Perfection bends to kiss, Unworthiness like me” (Phil Wickham).
“I will bless the Lord who guides me; even at night my heart instructs me. I know the Lord is always with me. I will not be shaken, for He is right beside me.” Psalms 16:7-8 NLT
A lot goes on while we are asleep. Our loving Heavenly Father knows our needs and overnight, because He is so close to us, He helps our innermost being, our “heart”, reset itself ready for the next day. How often have I placed my head on my pillow, thinking of some insoluble problem, only to find when I wake up, that a solution is waiting for me. But at other times, the problems I take to the pillow can often re-emerge in the early hours, debilitating and troubling.
Insomnia was not the norm for David. But it can be for many of us. David, the Psalmist, is able to declare his absolute trust in God because he knew Him. And because of that trust and knowledge he was able to face into anything his world threw at him, secure in his relationship with God. What an amazing place to be. And it is just as accessible for us. David developed that trust in God, because his loving Father looked after him. I look back in my life and I see those times where God has looked after me as well. God has always been right beside me – I only have to reach out and grab His hand if the terrors in the night keep me awake. And allow Him to reset my heart ready for the next day.
“I know the Lord is always with me. I will not be shaken, for He is right beside me.”
“Lord, You alone are my inheritance, my cup of blessing. You guard all that is mine. The land You have given me is a pleasant land. What a wonderful inheritance!” Psalms 16:5-6 NLT
I wandered around the pathways of Dean Woods in the West of Fife this morning, appreciating the new Spring growth, the bird song, enjoying the sense of hope as creation awoke and reached out and up towards our amazing Creator God. Bluebells abound, and other wild flowers are starting to emerge. I’m keeping an eye on a patch of wild strawberries, interested to see how they will do this year. Surely this is a pleasant land. But the word “land” can apply to lots of things and especially to any blessing that God has given us. Even in concrete-slabbed suburbia, God’s blessings can be found, for the ultimate blessing is God Himself. He will one day replace our current inheritance, the natural world we know, with a new heaven and earth, our future inheritance. And what is to come is secure – God is guarding it. It cannot be stolen or destroyed.
So we can be thankful for the land God has given us. And we can be thankful for the inheritance that is waiting for us. And once there we will enjoy God’s limitless provision; a cup of blessing that will never be empty.
“The godly people in the land are my true heroes! I take pleasure in them!”Psalms 16:3 NLT
We have just had a political election in Scotland, and it has culminated in a new 5-year parliament which will meet in Holyrood, Edinburgh. Such events always seem to bring out the best and worst in the voting population, but mainly the latter. Emotions are stirred. Virtues of one person over another are extolled. Interminable interviews pick over a candidate’s good and bad points, and their track record in politics, if they have one, is exposed for all to see. But where, in our political landscape, are the true heroes that the Psalmist, David, referred to in our verse today? Plenty of public spats, name calling, sleazy acts, but anything heroic? It is mostly away from politics that our true heroes can be found. Unseen and unheard godly men and women who quietly work away in their communities, making a difference in the lives of those around them. These are the true heroes. There are always opportunities in our communities to reach out to those around us. Sometimes all that is needed is a kind, cheerful word. At other times it is help with a neighbour’s children, or doing an old person’s shopping. Giving someone a lift. Walking a neighbour’s dog. The possibilities are endless.
James 2 says much about faith and works. Here’s an extract, “What good is it, dear brothers and sisters, if you say you have faith but don’t show it by your actions? Can that kind of faith save anyone? Suppose you see a brother or sister who has no food or clothing, and you say, “Good-bye and have a good day; stay warm and eat well”—but then you don’t give that person any food or clothing. What good does that do?”
Let’s look for an opportunity to be a “hero” today. We never know – we may be the only way God can be seen in our community.
“Who may worship in Your sanctuary, Lord? Who may enter Your presence on Your holy hill? Those who lead blameless lives and do what is right, speaking the truth from sincere hearts.” Psalms 15:1-2 NLT
Psalm 15 is a short Psalm, with just five verses. It considers the importance of who can enter the presence of God for worship. And the conclusion is in verse 2, where three qualities are deemed essential – being blameless, righteous and truthful. The Psalmist, David, takes it for granted, rightly in my opinion, that worshiping God is one of the most important things, perhaps the most important, that a person can do. And he continues in verses 3-5 to identify important qualities, both negative and positive, that help in an individual’s approach to God. David starts by highlighting the importance of right relationships with others. He is saying that you cannot have a right relationship with God if you are not in a right relationship with those round you. So who have you fallen out with lately? Before you come into God’s presence you will have to restore that broken relationship with your neighbour. That argument with a friend. Next David considers the importance of avoiding contact with what the NLT calls “flagrant sinners”. God’s people will reach out and help those in a hard place, because that is the essence of the Gospel, but in the process, they must be very careful to discern, and subsequently avoid, acts that will draw them into sin. As an example, being employed in a company engaged in sinful activities or practices might be unwise because inevitably you will be drawn into sin. And in the remainder of verse 4 David goes on to highlight the importance of keeping promises and honouring God’s people. Finally, in verse 5, David concludes by mentioning the importance of being honest in financial dealings. Money is a great servant, but a terrible master, and the wrong attitude to money will stand in the way of entering into God’s presence.
A short Psalm, but so profound. Yet another Biblical nugget of gold to help us in our pilgrimage through life.
“You, LORD, will keep the needy safe and will protect us for ever from the wicked, who freely strut about when what is vile is honoured by the human race.” Psalms 12:7-8 NIVUK
Sadly, living as we do in a secular society, laws and practices that Christians consider to be “vile”, are becoming increasingly common and even “honoured by the human race”. But we must never fear the consequences for our own lives, because, as the Psalmist says, God “will protect us for ever”. So how should we respond to these cultural and societal threats? We must of course be sure of the Scriptural basis for our disapproval, replacing any personal worldly prejudice with Godly knowledge and wisdom. And obviously we must pray for our nation, repenting on behalf of the “wicked”, asking God for more and more mercy and grace. But instead of being judgemental, we must reach out with compassion to those who have erred in violating God’s laws and ways and instead share with them our message of hope, the Good News about Jesus. We must be “salt and light” in this society, declaring God’s love for mankind, and through doing so use every opportunity to expose and oppose, in a Godly way, the wickedness we find.