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Thursday, January 7, 2010

Coming into God’s Presence

1 How amiable are thy tabernacles, O LORD of hosts!

2 My soul longeth, yea, even fainteth for the courts of the LORD: my heart and my flesh crieth out for the living God.

3 Yea, the sparrow hath found an house, and the swallow a nest for herself, where she may lay her young, even thine altars, O LORD of hosts, my King, and my God.

4 Blessed are they that dwell in thy house: they will be still praising thee. Selah.

5 Blessed is the man whose strength is in thee; in whose heart are the ways of them.

6 Who passing through the valley of Baca make it a well; the rain also filleth the pools.

7 They go from strength to strength, every one of them in Zion appeareth before God.

8 O LORD God of hosts, hear my prayer: give ear, O God of Jacob. Selah.

9 Behold, O God our shield, and look upon the face of thine anointed.

10 For a day in thy courts is better than a thousand. I had rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God, than to dwell in the tents of wickedness.

11 For the LORD God is a sun and shield: the LORD will give grace and glory: no good thing will he withhold from them that walk uprightly.

12 O LORD of hosts, blessed is the man that trusteth in thee.
--Psalm 84 KJV Bible

It is not certain who wrote this psalm. Some suggest that it was the same person who wrote Psalms 42 and 43. That person wrote of being exiled in the far north of Palestine and yearning to return to the temple in Jerusalem. In this song the psalmist speaks as a pilgrim traveling to the temple. The psalmist tells of his passion for God's house, his pilgrimage to God's house and his praise in God's house.

The description of the psalm says that it is "for the Gittith," but it is uncertain just what that is. The Hebrew word is derived from "Gath," which was a common place name in Israel and the surrounding area. Examples include Gath of the Philistines, one of five Philistine city-states established in northwestern Philistia, Gath-Gittaim, Gath Carmel, and others. A person from Gath is called a Gittite, and a Gittith may have been a tune or instrument associated with one of those places.

The psalm description also states it is for the "sons of Korah." Korah was a great-grandson of Levi and a younger contemporary of Moses. Korah took part in an attempted revolt against Moses' and Aaron's leadership of the Israelites, forgetting that Moses and Aaron had been appointed by God to lead. As proof of this, God caused the earth to open, swallowing all of the rebels and their tents. Following that an additional 14,700 died in a plague because of their grumbling against God (Numbers 16). The three sons of Korah--Assir, Elkanan and Abiasaph--stayed loyal to God, did not rebel, and so did not die (Exodus 6:24; Numbers 26:11). The descendants of these were also described as the "sons of Korah." Some later became singers in the Temple choir (2 Chronicles 20:19). Twelve of the psalms (42-49, 84-85, 87-88) are specifically dedicated to the "sons of Korah," possibly because of their musicality, or possibly as a reference to those who remain faithful to God even in the most difficult times.

The Hebrew "selah" is used in verses 4 and 8 of the psalm. The word is thought to be a musical notation to the choir director and musicians. It loosely translates as a break in the song or an instruction to pause and reflect, perhaps with a musical interlude. Some translators suggest the phrase "stop and listen." Others say that a more concise translation would be "let those with eyes see and with ears hear." The word "selah" has been compared to the word "amen" in that it stresses to the listener the importance of the preceding passage. The word "selah" is used in thirty-nine of the psalms.

In verses 1 through 4, the psalmist tells of his great passion for the temple--God's house; the place of God's presence. Here the psalmist addresses God as "LORD of Hosts" (“Yahweh tsaba”--Hebrew, meaning "the God of Israel, Chief of the armies of heaven"), as the living God (“el-chay”--Hebrew, meaning "living God" or "the God who is alive"), as his king (“melek”--Hebrew, meaning "king"), and his God (“elohim”--Hebrew, meaning “God”).

In verses 5 through 8, the psalmist tells of his pilgrimage to God's house. On his journey to Jerusalem (“Zion”), the psalmist speaks of passing through the "valley of Baca," which is translated as the "valley of weeping." This could be a reference to an actual desolate valley in Palestine or it could be imagery for moving through a time or place of sorrow. In either case, the joy of the pilgrims turns the barren wasteland green with blessings. The pilgrims grow stronger as they approach Jerusalem (“Zion”) and all arrive at the temple, the house of God (“elohim”). As he prays the psalmist addresses God as the "God of Israel" (“Yahweh”), "God of the armies of heaven" (“elohim tsaba”) and "God of Jacob" (“elohim Yaaqob”).

In verses 9 through 12 the psalmist tells of his praise in God's house. The psalmist addresses God as his shield or protector (“magen”) and asks God to guide Israel’s king, the anointed one (“mashiach”--this ultimately refers to Jesus, the Messiah, God’s anointed one). The psalmist then praises God, saying that even one day in the house of God is better than a thousand days away from God's presence. The psalmist would rather stand just outside the house of God in the lowly position of a doorkeeper, than live among the wicked. The psalmist then describes God (“elohim”) as the rising sun (“shemesh”) and a shield or protector (“magen”). The psalmist expects the righteous to receive all blessings of “the God of Israel” (“Yahweh”). The one is greatly blessed who trusts in "the God of Israel, Chief of the armies of heaven" (“Yahweh tsaba”).

Father, would that we all were as passionate all the time to come into Your presence. I praise You for Your greatness and I thank You for loving even one such as me. Hallelujah. Praise the Lord.

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Sunday, January 3, 2010

Arise and Save

1 Keep not thou silence, O God: hold not thy peace, and be not still, O God.

2 For, lo, thine enemies make a tumult: and they that hate thee have lifted up the head.

3 They have taken crafty counsel against thy people, and consulted against thy hidden ones.

4 They have said, Come, and let us cut them off from being a nation; that the name of Israel may be no more in remembrance.

5 For they have consulted together with one consent: they are confederate against thee:

6 The tabernacles of Edom, and the Ishmaelites; of Moab, and the Hagarenes;

7 Gebal, and Ammon, and Amalek; the Philistines with the inhabitants of Tyre;

8 Assur also is joined with them: they have holpen the children of Lot. Selah.

9 Do unto them as unto the Midianites; as to Sisera, as to Jabin, at the brook of Kison:

10 Which perished at Endor: they became as dung for the earth.

11 Make their nobles like Oreb, and like Zeeb: yea, all their princes as Zebah, and as Zalmunna:

12 Who said, Let us take to ourselves the houses of God in possession.

13 O my God, make them like a wheel; as the stubble before the wind.

14 As the fire burneth a wood, and as the flame setteth the mountains on fire;

15 So persecute them with thy tempest, and make them afraid with thy storm.

16 Fill their faces with shame; that they may seek thy name, O LORD.

17 Let them be confounded and troubled for ever; yea, let them be put to shame, and perish:

18 That men may know that thou, whose name alone is JEHOVAH, art the most high over all the earth.
--Psalm 83 KJV Bible

In this psalm, the psalmist is surrounded by enemies and pleads with God for help. The psalmist describes the confederacy against Israel and prays for vengeance.

There does not seem to be an agreement as to when this psalm was written. This is because of the enemies listed in the psalm were not all enemies of Israel at the same time. Some were enemies in 800 BC, some in 600 BC and some in 400 BC. Because of this, some speculate that the psalm was written in pieces over time.

Some include this as one of the imprecatory psalms. An imprecation is the act of calling down a curse that invokes evil. The imprecatory psalms contain an invocation of judgment, calamity, or curse against one's enemies who are viewed as enemies of God. The Major Imprecatory Psalms include psalms 69 and 109. Others are psalms 7, 35, 55, 58, 59, 69, 79, 109, 137, and 139 (some include in this list psalms 5, 6, 11, 12, 35, 37, 40, 52, 54, 56, 83, and 143). It is thought that the purposes of these imprecations are, depending on the psalm, to do one or more of the following: (1) to demonstrate God's just and righteous judgment toward the wicked, (2) to show the authority of God over the wicked, (3) to lead the wicked to seek the Lord, or (4) to cause the righteous to praise God. In the New Testament, Jesus quoted from them in John 15:25 (Psalms 35 and 69), the Apostle John references Psalm 69 in John 2:17, and the Apostle Paul quoted from Psalm 69 in his Letter to the Romans (Romans 11:9-10; Romans 15:3).

The Hebrew "selah" is used in verse 8 of the psalm. The word is thought to be a musical notation to the choir director and musicians. It loosely translates as a break in the song or an instruction to pause and reflect, perhaps with a musical interlude. Some translators suggest the phrase "stop and listen." Others say that a more concise translation would be "let those with eyes see and with ears hear." The word "selah" has been compared to the word "amen" in that it stresses to the listener the importance of the preceding passage. The word "selah" is used in thirty-nine of the psalms.

In verses 1 through 4, the psalmist pleads with God for help. Thinking that God is indifferent or sleeping, the psalmist tries to get God’s attention by describing what is about to happen to Israel.

In verses 5 through 8, the psalmist lists the nations and peoples that have conspired against God and Israel. They are Edom (descendants of Esau, the grandson of Abraham, the son of Isaac and the twin of Jacob/Israel), Ishmaelites (the descendants of Ishmael, the son of Abraham by Sarah’s handmaiden Hagar), Moab (descendants of Moab, the son of Abraham’s nephew Lot by Lot’s elder daughter), Hagrites (peoples living in the Aramean and northern Arabian desert, not necessarily descendants of Hagar), Gelab (an area between the Dead Sea and Petra), Ammon (descendants of Ammon, the son of Abraham’s nephew Lot by Lot’s younger daughter), Amalek (descendants of Amalek, Esau’s grandson), Philistia (the eastern Mediterranean coast, occupied by the Philistines, who migrated there from Crete and other Aegean islands), Tyre (an ancient Phoenician city-state on the Mediterranean Sea, between Acre and Sidon), Assyria (a nation centered on the Upper Tigris river, named after its original capital, the ancient city of Assur). Assyria is described as assisting Moab and Ammon (the children of Lot).

In verses 9 through 18, the psalmist prays for vengeance. In verses 9 through 12, the psalmist asks that God make the fate of the enemies the same as some previous enemies of God. Midian was was destroyed by the judge Gideon, who lead people from the tribe of Ephriam (Judges 6-8). Oreb and Zeeb were princes of Midian. Gideon killed Zebah and Zalmunna, who were kings of Midian. Judges 4 tells the story of Jabin, king of Hazor, and Sisera, the leader of Jabin’s army. The woman Jael killed Sisera as he hid in her tent, and the judge Deborah, with her general Barak, destroyed Jabin’s army at the river Kishon. In verses 13 through 17, the psalmist then asks that God pursue the enemies, separate them from the living--like chaff from grain--and burn them in a firestorm. The psalmist asks not only that they be destroyed, but that theirs be a humiliating defeat, so as to be an example to other nations that do not honor God or Israel. In verse 18, the psalmist desires that all the other nations know tat God is “the Lord” (“Yahweh,” the proper name of the God of Israel) and “the Most High” (“elyown,” the Supreme; the Most High; the Greatest).

Father, forgive me when I am impatient for your deliverance. Remind me that You are always with me, whatever may come. I thank You and I praise You.

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Saturday, January 2, 2010

You Have a Responsibility

1 God standeth in the congregation of the mighty; he judgeth among the gods.

2 How long will ye judge unjustly, and accept the persons of the wicked? Selah.

3 Defend the poor and fatherless: do justice to the afflicted and needy.

4 Deliver the poor and needy: rid them out of the hand of the wicked.

5 They know not, neither will they understand; they walk on in darkness: all the foundations of the earth are out of course.

6 I have said, Ye are gods; and all of you are children of the most High.

7 But ye shall die like men, and fall like one of the princes.

8 Arise, O God, judge the earth: for thou shalt inherit all nations.
--Psalm 82 KJV Bible

Like Psalm 58, this song relates to the unjust judges who stand before God's judgment seat accused of injustice, and who hear the divine verdict of death. The psalmist asks God to extend His just judgment throughout the earth.

The psalm description says it is a song of Asaph. Asaph was an outstanding musician who lived in the time of King David (Nehemiah 12:46). Asaph's father was Berechiah (1 Chronicles 6:39). David had appointed Asaph as a minister of music for the tabernacle (1 Chronicles 15:16-19) and Asaph's descendants were also official temple musicians (Ezra 2:41). Asaph was sometimes described as a "seer," or a prophet (2 Chronicles 29:30). Psalms 50 and 73 through 83 are attributed to Asaph, or perhaps written for Asaph to perform. The beautiful psalms of Asaph describe the world round us in a clear way, remind us that God cares for us, cause us to learn from events, and remind us of the greatness of God.

The Hebrew "selah" is used in verse 2 of the psalm. The word is thought to be a musical notation to the choir director and musicians. It loosely translates as a break in the song or an instruction to pause and reflect, perhaps with a musical interlude. Some translators suggest the phrase "stop and listen." Others say that a more concise translation would be "let those with eyes see and with ears hear." The word "selah" has been compared to the word "amen" in that it stresses to the listener the importance of the preceding passage. The word "selah" is used in thirty-nine of the psalms.

The term “god” is used several times in this psalm. For this reason I have decided to explore the Hebrew term. Presented below are transliterations of four Hebrew words that give us some understanding to the Hebrew concept of “god.”

ayil - ("AH-yil") a ram, mighty.

el - ("ALE") God, in plural gods. Shortened from “ayil”. As an adjective it means mighty; especially the Almighty, but also used for any deity--anything or anyone that is worshipped. Depending on its usage, the term can mean God, god, godly, great, idol, might, mighty one, power, or strong.

eloah - ("el-O-ah"); God, god. This is possibly a prolongation of the Hebrew “el”.

elohim - ("el-o-HEEM") - plural of "eloah"; God, god. When not applied to God Almighty, it refers to gods in the ordinary sense. The term is sometimes applied by way of deference to magistrates and is sometimes used as a superlative for angels, exceeding, God (gods, godess, godly), very great, judges, mighty.

This psalm presents the image of God, in heaven, leading a meeting. He is telling a gathering of gods what he has decided to do. There is a debate as to who these gods are and four possibilities have been suggested, in no particular order: (1) the rulers of the nations of the earth, (2) the false gods of the nations of the earth, (3) angels that have authority over the nations of the earth, and (4) the people of Israel.

The psalmist describes the gods as sons (children) of the Most High. This phrase is used in the Old Testament for the people of Israel (Exodus 4:22) and for angels (Job 1:6; 2:1; 38:7). The psalmist also says the gods will die like common men (the Hebrew “ke-‘a-dam,” meaning a man or mankind).

Jesus may offer some clarity in John 10:30-38. In response to the religious leaders who wanted to kill Him for claiming to be like God, Jesus referenced Psalm 8 and inferred that the “gods” were ones to whom the Word of God came. This would suggest that the psalmist is talking about the people of Israel or to all people in general.

Angels may be a second meaning for the “gods” of this psalm. The Apostle Paul seems to indicate this in Ephesians 6:12.

In verses 1 through 2, the psalmist describes a group of unjust judges who stand before God’s judgment seat. The psalmist records God’s accusing the judges of injustice. “God (elohim) stands in the assembly of God (el). He judges in the midst of the gods (elohim). He asks, ‘How long will you judge unjustly and lift up the faces of the wicked?’ Selah.”

In verses 3 through 5, God lists the injustices of these gods. They have not helped the weak, the orphaned, the afflicted, and the poor. God reminds these gods that while the people to not know better, these gods do.

In verses 6 and 7, the psalmist notes God’s divine verdict of death. “I said ‘You are gods (elohim); you are all children of the Most High.’ But you will like common men; you will fall like every other ruler.”

In verse 8, the psalmist asks God to extend His just judgment throughout the earth. This may indicate that God was at first speaking only to Israel and that the psalmist wants God to extend His judgment to all the nations.

Father, I understand that I am responsible for what I know, and for what and who I influence. Forgive me where I have failed You. Help me to be a better tender of those whom You have entrusted to me.

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