Sing to the LORD all the earth!

   Tell of his salvation from day to day.

Declare his glory among the nations,

   his marvelous works among all peoples! 

1 Chronicles 16: 23, 24

We seldom use the word marvelous to describe things in our world. Either it has passed out of fashion or there is just not much left for us to marvel at. I tend to think that the later of those reasons is at play here, for the world that we know today is filled with things, with human accomplishments, that were not even dreamed about in the most fertile of our grandparent’s imaginations. It is hard to impress us, and perhaps, we don’t really want to be taken over and knocked off of our feet by all that much, either. We desire to be in control so that we have answers for any and all questions that might be posed to us. This is how many of us today see our world, but this was not what David saw as he looked out upon the nature of his day.

He was viewing myriad reasons to sing, and the song that he composed was one that placed the Lord squarely in the center of all of the goodness that was going on in the world. Now David was not an idealist and didn’t live a protected life. His world was not a calm and peaceful place, either. He resided in times that reflected the fallen nature of this earth. The culture in those days was just as broken, violent, and godless as is ours today. So, David’s reason for singing makes just as much or as little sense today as it did then. He sees the hand of the Lord at work in the world, and that same hand has never stopped being engaged with us and in our lives. God was present then; He is present now, and He will be present for all of the time to come!

God’s presence is not a passive or uninvolved hovering over us. He brings the hope of salvation to our need for redemption. God has granted us His Son, Jesus the Christ, as the answer to our need for a Savior. But the salvation that David was singing about is much greater and extends further than the miracle of eternity, for he experienced the form of saving grace that transforms the lives that we are living today into ones that know righteousness, justice, and deep love. Christ, present with and in His people, provides the lyric to the song of life that is the great marvel of all times. The fact that we can be redeemed from the state of rebellion against God that is our natural one is a wonder, and the lives that we can live as those redeemed ones of God is the most extraordinary expression of God’s glory that it is possible to utter. God’s love, sacrifice, and the salvation that comes out of it all provides the chorus to this life-long song of praise, and its verses are expressed by the love, grace, justice, and mercy that we extend to others in the name of Christ.  

I waited patiently for the LORD;

And He inclined to me and heard my cry.

He brought me up out of the pit of destruction,

out of the miry clay,

And He set my feet upon a rock

making my footsteps firm.

Psalm 40: 1, 2 (NASB)

 

There are times and situations in life where waiting on the Lord seems like a pure impossibility. There is too much to handle in front of me, or the weight of the day is so great that breath itself is crushed from my lungs. This is not a fair world, and it doesn’t even pretend to play by fair and just rules. It simply goes after the throat of those who are least able and capable of defending themselves. Then, it seems to sense defeat and pounces upon the downtrodden person with even more ferocity than it put forth at the start of the assault. This sort of scene is, mercifully, not what we go through every day, and it is the exception to what is normal for most of us most of the time. However, when life is like this, it is unbearable, and even one such episode may be enough to undo the stoutest of hearts and unhinge the strongest of minds.

 

David is sharing truth that comes right out of his life. He went through plenty of hard times and faced many stiff challenges. Some of his struggles were of his own making, and many others came to him because of who he was. People seemed to go after him, and it would appear that evil, itself, has painted a target on his back. David, like anyone who loves God, is on the other side from many forces that roam our world and that seek to gain power and advantage over all that is good, righteous, and loving in this place. David’s body, mind, and soul were under attack on many occasions, and these assailants were able to do harm to him on several of these occasions. They did harm, but they did not defeat him. They made his body ache, his heart was grieved, and his spirit was tested; yet, the Lord provided David with the strength and the wisdom that he required to get through it all.

 

In the end, the Lord restored the grieving heart, bound up the gaping wounds in his flesh, and restored the sanity that had been pushed to the brink of breaking. David did not possess the strength to lift himself up. The great warrior, poet, ruler, and devoted follower of the one true God was unable to put himself back together after all that was done to him. But the Lord, sovereign and mighty and also loving and compassionate, was up to the task. God came to the hurting soul and brought the sweet wine of restoration to his lips. So, Christ comes to us when we are desperate and alone, as we are hurting and wounded, and in our hour of darkness and despair, and He speaks love to our hearts. Christ gives peace to our troubled minds, and He counsels us in the ways of truth and justice. We serve a Lord who loves each of us in a way that is impossible for any person to do; yet, He also gives to us a family of His faithful that will embrace and love us for who we are and for who Christ sees within our beautiful souls.

One thing I have asked of the LORD,

that will I seek after;

that I may dwell in the house of the LORD

all the days of my life,

to gaze upon the beauty of the LORD

and to inquire in his temple.

Psalm 27: 4

 

So, David liked to hang out at church, in his case that would be the Temple, and while there, he enjoyed the beauty of his surroundings. This seems rather straight forward and simple to understand. I enjoy the architecture, the vivid colors of stained glass, and the richness of ancient tapestries just as much as David probably did. While the location has some value and the picture that we have of ancient temple appointments and décor is exquisite, none of that matters all that much; plus, the great Temple was built by David’s son Solomon. The beauty that is resident in that house of God comes from a source other than the building itself. The Lord was tangibly present with David there, and He is likewise with us today when we visit our own places of worship. However, He was also with David during all of the other hours of his days, and our Lord is in our midst throughout all times of day and night as well. David knew that wisdom and guidance for life came from the Lord and out of His Word, and for us today this has all become even more true and accessible. The Lord’s greatest beauty is seen in His nature and character, and He has provided us with untold millions of examples of this beauty to view and to interact with.

 

The beauty of the Lord is perhaps most profoundly visible in His presence within people. God tells us that He has created each of us in His image. Even with the remarkable variety that is present in those images, we are each and every one of us a reflection of God, Himself. This is true of our skin, eyes, and hair. This idea is also valid when it comes to the sound of our voices, the language that we speak, our personalities, and thought processes. There is nothing about who we are that is not touched by the hand of the Creator. The greatest challenge that we all face in dealing with other people and also with living in our own skin is that we have all been touched by the brokenness and the corrupting influence of sin. All people are born into life as fallen beings who are granted breath with that sinful bent in our hearts and minds so that each of us enters life as a person who is destined for the death of unending separation from our God. This brokenness and separation is the source for all of our anger, violence, disease, and other forms of strife and oppression. That is why Christ came and defeated sin’s hold upon us; so, now all people who choose Christ can be redeemed and brought into the unending presence of the Lord.

 

In Christ, David’s desire and request become our own reality, for the Lord takes our lives and relocates us from the world of our birth and places us into His unending presence. In that new dwelling place, the beauty of the Lord is with us in many ways. His Word provides comfort, wisdom, guidance, and encouragement, and the Spirit speaks all of that and more into our minds and hearts. In Christ, we are granted the ability to see the world around us with the clarity of righteousness as our filter and with Christ’s balancing love, grace, and redemptive zeal as our purpose. When we see with Christ’s eyes, the beauty of this world is found in its people as it is defined for us by our ability to see God’s image portrayed on and in each of them. As we reside in the presence of Christ, we dwell in the fulfillment of David’s desire, for we are truly surrounded by the beauty of the Lord when we see His Creation through God’s eyes of love.

 

 

 

O LORD, our Lord,

how majestic is your name in all the earth!

Psalm 8: 1

 

Almost everyone has read poetry. Most of us have written some of it, too. You may read or write it because you were required to do this by a teacher or a parent, or you may do it out of interest and even with great enjoyment and pleasure. Regardless of the personal reason for the contact with poetry, its highly stylized and emotion-charged words can be very impactful. These words are often fanciful and chosen for the way that they sound over what they actually say, or, at least, so it seems. In the two simple lines above we are granted the opportunity to look into the mind and the heart of one of history’s great poets, who also happens to be a passionate follower of God and a keen observer of His hand at work in our world.

 

From his early days as the young son that was left out to care for the family’s sheep on through his years of serving God and Israel as king, David was very much aware of the presence of the Lord. He experienced God’s creative hand in the land where he walked each day, in the animals that he cared for and that he encountered, and in the manner by which his needs were met, whether that was accomplished in the mundane course of the day’s occupation or through means that were nothing if not miraculous. The eyes of David’s heart were open and attuned to the touch of the Creator in everything in his world. The sun and the moon, the sky and the earth, the mountains and the valleys were all formed and placed by David’s God. The animals that fed his family and the ones that sought to kill and devour them and him were also a part of that Divine tableau. Even the flea that would bite and suck blood and the Swallowtail butterfly with its tuxedo-like appearance told the story of a God who was intimately involved in the details.

 

Thus, David could shout and sing out about the nature and the character of the God who it seemed had fabricated and maintained the world for the sake of His beloved child. Every experience of life was one more episode in the story of dwelling in the glorious presence of the Lord. For David and for us, the exquisite and splendid beauty of this world speaks of the One who formed it and of the remarkable way that His creation is designed so that my ancestors, my descendants, and myself would be fed and cared for in both body and in spirit. David’s poetry may be fanciful, beautiful, and highly creative and mine is not, but that doesn’t really matter. We both travel the roads that God sets out for us, and I can do exactly what David did in his days. I can go about everything that I do with my eyes open and my heart surrendered to the presence of my Lord. Then, His name will be on my tongue as the song of my heart, and every step of the journey can be taken in worshipful response to His name.

Blessed be the Lord, who daily bears our burden, the God who is our salvation.

Psalm 68: 19

 

Your story may be something like mine, and you may be able to say that salvation is something that was secured long ago; or, you might have very recently recognized the need for Christ in you and surrendered your life to Him. Another possibility is that you haven’t made that decision, and Jesus is still someone that you know something about, but He is not your God, your Lord, and your Savior. Regardless of how your story reads, God is your salvation; for, this has proven to be true for me, and it has been true throughout the long history of human existence on this earth.

 

Christ is actively in my world, and He isn’t just existing in the background or involved in only the church oriented aspects of my life. The Lord is working in every area of this world, and He has an involved interest in how even the most routine events and situations play out. As he was writing this Psalm, David might have been thinking about the many times that God had revealed Himself to him, and he could have been recognizing the fact that he had been saved from harm and death by the hand of God on what might have seemed like a daily basis. During David’s many days of wandering and his numerous struggles he had witnessed simple and profound times when God reached into his world with His loving touch that brought a safe place to rest, a pool of fresh water to drink, a friend to offer encouragement, and His Spirit to speak truth when David’s mind was filled with the deceptive voice of evil.

 

I know from experience that the Lord desires to help me go through this day with a lightness to my step that comes from the support and the encouragement that He gives me. Christ provides me with the only true and clear picture of how to navigate through the numerous twists and turns that life will throw at me today. The Lord does not want to tell me exactly what to do or specifically how to respond throughout my day; instead, He wants me to draw near to Him and to be so filled wit His presence that my thoughts and actions are fully influenced by His Spirit and are informed by His Word. There is no time in this life when I am strong enough to go it on my own, and there is no moment of my day when I am beyond my need for Christ’s salvation.

 

In peace I will both lie down and sleep;

for you alone, O LORD, make me dwell in safety.

Psalm 4: 8

 

Sleep is a wonderful thing. There are innumerable studies that demonstrate its value and connection in maintaining or regaining health. These bodies were created to enter into those restorative daily times of sabbatical from all else that we are dealing with in our lives. That idea of sleep as a form of sabbatical also involves the primary element of the biblical ones, and that is trust. When we enter fully into sabbatical, whether for a day or for a year as in some older practices, we trust the Lord to provide and to protect. In sabbatical living we are to surrender control of the course of our journey to God, set aside our defensive and our offensive practices, and grant to the Lord total sovereignty over every breath that we take.

 

So, perhaps in making this comparison between holy sabbatical and sleep I am over valuing something that is just a natural part of the way that people are constructed. Yet, I wonder, and I do so for two reasons. On the one hand, sleep itself is restorative, healing, and replenishes us in order to continue the life that God has set out for each person; yet, it can be easily interrupted, disturbed, and become illusive. In the other instance, sabbatical is also restorative, healing, and brings about a very special form of healing from the Lord. Here is where I think that they connect. When Davis wrote this Psalm and those around it he was living in dangerous and troubled times. There were certainly days when sleep was hard to find and in which closing his eyes for even a few minutes was risky.

 

For David to indicate that he could lie down and sleep was no small statement, and for him to say that he could do so in peace was monumental. Although he was talking about that particular time of trouble in his life, the same sort of truth applied to the rest of his life, and it is also true for me and for everyone who knows Christ. Although it can be very hard to let go of the issues, both small and large, in our lives in order to allow our minds and bodies to relax into sleep, Christ speaks trust into our hearts as He brings truth and real perspective to our minds. As with David, the only actual safety we will experience comes in and from the presence of the Lord. He cares about and for each of His people and He is present with us in His absolute sovereignty over this world. So, Christ calls upon us to be people who daily repent of our sins, trust His grace and forgiveness, set aside our fearful and aggressive ways, and allow His Spirit to speak truth and Godly wisdom into our troubles and cares. This is what it means to enter into the God-given gift of sabbatical, and this is what allows our bodies to be at peace in those daily times of sabbatical sleep.

Create in me a clean heart, O God,

and renew a right spirit within me.

Psalm 51: 10

 

Creativity is a wonderful thing. Its presence within us changes the way that we see our world. It makes colors brighter and sounds more vibrant, and it allows us to more fully see the wonderful depth and glorious variety that is present in the people that we meet. We enter into the realm of creator when we paint pictures, transform words into stories, mold ingredients into a meal, and see the beauty behind the woundedness of people’s lives. I think that this quality that we call creativity is something that God, Himself, put into us as His hand shaped each of us. It is a part of who God is, and so it comes into people by virtue of the fact that God makes us in His own image.

 

When David wrote the words of this psalm, he was desperate and deeply troubled by the ways that he had turned away from God. He realized the depths of his sinfulness, and he also knew that he wanted to return to God’s righteous way of living life. David needed a Creator to see beyond the depravity and the broken nature of his thoughts and actions so that this lost son could return to the presence of his Lord. David had turned to the right place, for God does look beyond the surface of our lives so that he views all that is within us. However, He views what is there with an eye attuned to the possibilities, the potential, and God’s view of us isn’t impeded by what is present now. In fact, God desires to take the misshapen lives that we are living and reform them into ones that bring His glory into our world.

 

When the weight of his sin was too great to handle, David turned to God seeking forgiveness and restoration. We can do the same thing. We can trust God to listen, to hear us well, and to see the tarnished beauty that is the redeemed nature of His beloved child. In the great act of re-creation, Jesus took all of our sinfulness upon Himself. As we accept Christ as our Lord and submit to His grace and to His will, we enter into that creative rebirth, and His Spirit begins to work within us to reshape and reform our hearts and our minds into ones that portray the character and the nature of our Creator. God’s creative nature provides great hope to me, for it speaks to the fact that He sees the potential for living out His will in my life that lies beneath the damage that I have caused. For Christ takes the broken stones and shattered windows that I have caused and transforms them into His marvelous dwelling place.