Blessings

“May our sons flourish in their youth
    like well-nurtured plants.
May our daughters be like graceful pillars,
    carved to beautify a palace.
May our barns be filled
    with crops of every kind.
May the flocks in our fields multiply by the thousands,
    even tens of thousands,
    and may our oxen be loaded down with produce.
May there be no enemy breaking through our walls,
    no going into captivity,
    no cries of alarm in our town squares.
Yes, joyful are those who live like this!
    Joyful indeed are those whose God is the Lord.”
Psalm 144:12-15 NLT

What a lovely picture of God’s blessings. In just a few verses, David, the Psalmist, sums up blessings in three areas – the family, prosperity, and safety. And all because these people truly believe, and trust, in God, their Lord. What a lovely picture of sons and daughters, being raised in a Godly home, growing and functioning just as God ordained. Near where I live there is a new wooded area with some Ash and Sycamore saplings. Many of them are growing incredibly straight and strong, reaching skywards because they are “well-nurtured” by the climate God has provided for them. And you can just imagine these beautiful daughters exquisitely sculpted like “graceful pillars” by our Master Craftsman, God Himself.  Mums aren’t mentioned in these few verses, but I’m sure they were in there somewhere too. In today’s society, often experiencing dysfunctional family life, there is something very attractive about David’s picture. And everything that this family does seems to multiply prosperity – these family members don’t need to enter a world of crime or dodgy deals to see their wealth increase. And there’s more – they live in a time of peace without fear of an attack by the enemy nations around them. No fear of burglars breaking in, or attacks in dark alleys. 

Are you thinking that this is all too good to be true? I don’t think so. Just because we don’t realise the blessings as described, or relate to the pictures the Psalmist paints, doesn’t mean that they do not, or will not, happen. But we notice that the blessings described all start with the word “May”. The Psalmist is praying a blessing on his family. He realises that it is only God who can turn his vision into reality. Though we know from various accounts, that David’s family life was often lacking functionality – we read for example the debacle with Absalom in 2 Samuel – such experiences didn’t stop David from praying. And neither must we stop praying either. Those of us who don’t have a family must know one that we can pray blessings over. And we must never stop thanking God for all the blessings He pours out on us. Food on our tables. The basics of life like air to breath and water to drink. The list is endless. It is pointless to focus on what we don’t have. Rather we should focus on God Himself. He never tires of blessing us, often in ways we won’t appreciate until we are in His presence. And there’s only one condition, and that is we must obey Him. Not for His sake, but for ours.

The Apostle Paul said in his epistle to the Philippians church, “I am convinced that my God will fully satisfy every need you have, for I have seen the abundant riches of glory revealed to me through Jesus Christ!” (Philippians 4:19 TPT). On the wall of his prison cell, Paul could see in his mind a similar picture to David. A vista vibrant with the potential of God’s “abundant riches of glory“. God’s blessings are not beyond our reach. He is not a stingy God at all. As David prayed, we pray too – may God bless us all today. Amen.

Mere Mortals

“O Lord, what are human beings 
that You should notice them, 
mere mortals that You should think about them? 
For they are like a breath of air; 
their days are like a passing shadow.
Psalms‬ ‭144:3-4‬ ‭NLT‬‬

We try and get our minds around many questions in life. Scientific and technical advances have given us many answers to life’s questions, and where there is no answer, “learned” people stand up and provide their opinion as though it was fact. We human beings like to know all the answers. But there are some questions that, no matter how hard people try, we have no answers for. Like “Why am I here on this planet?” Or, “How many days do I have left in this life?” Philosophical questions that have no answers. Not even from our “learned” elite. We have a tendency to put aside such questions and blank them out of our thinking. This is especially true when our thoughts turn to God. We have no truly definitive answers to questions such as, “Who is God?” Or even “Is there a God?” And as a result, many choose to deny that God even exists. If there is no God then there are no questions, and no need for any answers.

David, the Psalmist in today’s verses, asks the question, “Why should God be even bothered about mankind?” After all, human beings are born, they die, and pass through life “like a breath of air”. But his thoughts are just transient, because we see from the rest of the Psalm, that there is no doubt about God’s existence, at least as far as he is concerned. Just a few verses on, he writes, “I will sing a new song to you, O God! I will sing your praises with a ten-stringed harp.” He already knows the answer to his question. He knows that all he can do is praise his Creator, because God loves him. David’s relationship with God was so personal and powerful, that he had no doubts. But in asking the question in today’s verses, he took a moment to meditate in wonder that his amazing Creator God intimately cares for him. I can just imagine him shaking his head in disbelief.

The question still hangs over us in 21st Century society today. Why should God care about us? In spite of all our sins, our bad behaviour, our rebellion. Our denial, our failures. Why? Thankfully, we don’t need to let that question hang over us – the answer is provided in the Bible. This Book is the story of God’s pursuit after human beings, His creation. God yearns for a loving relationship with His creation. To include all the relevant Bible verses in this blog is beyond WordPress’s storage capabilities. But let’s consider just one. John 3:16, “For this is how God loved the world: He gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.” We may not understand the why, but we know the facts. God loves everyone, past, present and future, who have lived and will live on this planet, and He demonstrated that love for us by sending His Son, Jesus, to engage with His creation, His people, and ultimately to die for them so that their sins would be forgiven. An eternal act by our eternal Heavenly Father. All we can do is shake our heads in amazement. In disbelief. And respond as David did, with a deeply thankful heart, full of praise to our amazing God.

Fingers

“Praise the Lord, who is my rock. 
He trains my hands for war 
and gives my fingers skill for battle. 
He is my loving ally and my fortress, 
my tower of safety, my rescuer. 
He is my shield, and I take refuge in Him. 
He makes the nations submit to me.
‭Psalms‬ ‭144:1-2‬ ‭NLT‬‬

David, the Psalmist, was a warrior. We read about his exploits and marvel about his combination of skill and faith that was pretty much invincible. There were no other warriors in his day who would take on Goliath, even kitted out with a full suit of armour, let alone with a staff and a sling. And in this Psalm, David declares that because of God’s rock-like permanence in his life, he was able to train his hands and his fingers for the tasks before him. For the physical battles he needed to win. And come what may, he had behind him, watching his back, a “loving ally“, God Himself. His “tower of safety“. His “rescuer“. His “shield“. And if that wasn’t enough, he declared, with some justification, that God “[made] the nations submit to [him]“.

We too, under God’s direction, have the opportunity to train our hands, to give our fingers skills. Through the universities and apprenticeships of life, we acquire the training we need. I think of the dear saints who have spent countless hours using their finger-skills to paint an artistic masterpiece on a cathedral ceiling, or who have stitched together wondrous and beautiful tapestries, depicting God-scenes from their age. But ordinary folk like us also feature in God’s plan. Those mothers, using their finger-powered needlecraft skills, blessing their families with clothes and woollies. The fathers using their hands to till the fields or fix the car. The office worker typing instructions into a computer. The list is endless. Today we use our hands for more peaceful pursuits, but they can really throb with passion when they are joined to God’s thinking, God’s plans.

In Colossians 3:17 we read, “And whatever [we] do or say, do it as a representative of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through him to God the Father.” That’s the secret for effective finger skills. In our battles through life, our fingers will be more effective when we use them for doing God’s work, no matter how mundane it might appear to be. And we give Him thanks for the opportunities afforded to us.