Time To Grow Up – Psalms of Summer || Keisha Hill

“I’m a big kid now…”

I know, I know – it’s a commercial jingle, but it’s been stuck in my head the whole time I’ve been thinking about this psalm.

It’s my gift to you. You’re welcome.
(That Moana reference? It’s just a little bonus 😉 )

Okay. Stop singing already and check this out. That’s pretty much what King David is saying in Psalm 131.

1 O LORD, my heart is not proud, nor my eyes haughty;
Nor do I involve myself in great matters, or in things to difficult for me.
2 Surely I have composed myself and quieted my soul;
Like a weaned child rests against his mother, my soul is like a weaned child within me.
3 Oh Israel, hope in the LORD from this time forth and forever.

It sounds so simple, doesn’t it? David says, “I’m grown up now. Be like me.” Easy enough, right? But David isn’t talking about something quite so easy. He’s talking about conquering some big hangups in life: pride, arrogance, selfish ambition, and contentment. Charles Spurgeon puts it so well: ”It is one of the shortest Psalms to read, but one of the longest to learn. It speaks of a young child, but contains the experience of a man in Christ.” I’m pretty sure it refers to us women too, so let’s take a deeper look.

Verse 1 — “O LORD, my heart is not proud, nor my eyes haughty; Nor do I involve myself in great matters, or in things to difficult for me.”

We’re so used to assuming those who swear they’re humble, are actually anything BUT humble, that this verse seems odd at first. When we realize David is talking to God Himself, though, it changes the flavor. To actually be prideful and tell God you’re not would be crazy! Does it mean David never had another prideful thought in his whole life? Probably not, but he has submitted himself to God and come before Him in humility. This verse also shows us that David has put aside arrogance – “nor my eyes haughty”. Some translations use the phrase “my heart is not lifted up”. Either way you put it, arrogance comes from a stance of being higher than others and looking down on them. David knows who he is in relationship to God, and has the right stance because of that knowledge.*

The last phrase in this verse is unusual isn’t it?

“Nor do I involve myself in great matters, or in things to difficult for me.”

It flies right in the face of our “I can do all things” attitude, doesn’t it? Especially when you remember David was king! How could he NOT be involved in great matters? This is a time when commentaries are a huge help! Take a moment and look it up. Even searching Google for “Psalm 131:1 commentary” should do the trick.

I appreciate Tesh and Zorn’s take on this verse. (Full disclosure, Walter Zorn was a professor of mine. He is a brilliant theologian, incredibly tough as a prof, and consummately passionate about right understanding of Scripture. I love that his work on the Psalms is published for all to enjoy.) Anyway, here’s what they have to say…

“Apparently the psalmist looked upon life itself as a gift from God with which he had been entrusted, and he chose deliberately to accept that trust in a spirit of childlike humility….I do not fix my sight on the lofty goals determined by the world. Instead, he has deliberately chosen for himself an outlook on life that finds both fulfillment and contentment in whatever role may be his. There will be no envy of others who may handle great matters with comparative ease.” Psalms vol. 1 pg 439

A whole giant post could be done just one this one phrase, and if you want to dig in for awhile, it would be a great study! But since that’s not what is happening here I’m going to end it with this quote from Spurgeon:

“Frequently, too, we exercise ourselves in great matters by having a high ambition to do something very wonderful in the church. This is why so very little is done. The great destroyer of good works is the ambition to do great works.”

Ouch! I know I miss doing the good God has put right in front of me to do because I want to do something greater. Something “better”. Something that’s going to have more impact. But friends, He really does know what He’s doing. Today taking care of my home and family and talking to you are what God has given me to do. If I’m not faithful in these things, why on earth would He ever give me something more? And really, how do I know that “more” is actually better?! Trusting that He knows more about my good than I do isn’t always easy, but it is very, very necessary.

Verse 2 — Surely I have composed myself and quieted my soul; Like a weaned child rests against his mother, my soul is like a weaned child within me.

I love this picture! You probably don’t know, but I’m a mother of three and exclusively nursed all of them. It wasn’t exclusive because of me really at all. It was more because not one of them would take a bottle in any reasonable fashion. They’d rather starve and were VERY clear about that. When you’re a nursing mother you are wanted and needed at all hours of the day and night. But when that child weans it becomes a whole different relationship. When you little one crawls in your lap for a good snuggle just because you’re you, and not because you’ve got something they need and they can’t get it anywhere else, it’s a whole new thing! I’ve laughed over the years and said it must be what being a dad feels like, but it’s sort of true! David has turned away from what he thought he needed, and instead is content with his heavenly Father.

What are we clinging to that we actually don’t need anymore? What is God trying to wean out of our lives? Pride? Arrogance? Self-sufficiency? Our flawed definition of success? Meyer says, “At first we passionately resist with outcry and strife. But the Comforter comes and hushes us as on the very lap of God.” What a beautiful picture! That’s the moment we no longer come to God only with our needs and wants, but simply because we want to be with Him. The relationship changes and can become deeper than it ever was before. Change is painful, but the result is life-altering.

Verse 3 — “O Israel, hope in the LORD from this time forth and forever.”

Most of us aren’t a part of Israel, but as believers we have been grafted into this family and can cling to this hope just as much as the original audience. “Hope” here is a command. Just do it already! And it’s also a word that is filled with expectation, not doubt. So often we say things like, “I hope this all works out,” which is just a nice way of saying, “I don’t think it will, but it would be nice if I’m wrong.” That’s not what David is saying at all! This hope is a confident expectation. The Lord is worthy of our trust. He will come through, and we can count on that, from this time forth and forever.

*David was King of Israel and was called a man after God’s own heart, but had more than his share of humbling moments. If you’re not familiar with David or it’s been awhile, take some time and learn more about him. 1 Samuel 16 – all of 2 Samuel tells David’s story.

          

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Psalms of Summer – Incline Your Ear To Me || Marissa Dodgen

“I call upon you, for you will answer me, O God; 

incline your ear to me; hear my words. 

Wondrously show your steadfast love, 

O Savior of those who seek refuge 

from their adversaries at your right hand. 

Keep me as the apple of your eye; 

hide me in the shadow of your wings, 

from the wicked who do me violence, 

my deadly enemies who surround me.”

Last week, I was putting some training to use with the Psalms & two things from Psalm 17:6-9 caught my attention: verse 6 says “incline your ear to me,” and verse 8 says, keep me as the apple of your eye.” One thing I have been learning from studying inductively is that there is usually (not always, but usually) something more to it. So I asked myself:

“Self, what does it mean to be inclined to something?”

I could recall how both phrases are used in modern times, but what did they mean when David wrote them? What is an eye apple anyway? (It is kind of like the saying “cute as a button.” What does that really mean?)

Lets start with inclined this week, since it comes first. The Hebrew word for incline is natah (naw-taw) which means “to stretch or spread out. To bend away from.” David was simply asking God to hear him: “Lord, stretch your ear to me. Hear me God.” When I first read the second half of the definition – “to bend away from” – it sounded contradicting. However, it doesn’t mean to bend from the noise, but to bend the ear away from the body toward the noise, or in this case, toward David’s outcry. Look at what some of the other psalms say:

Psalm 88:2

“Let my prayer come before you, incline your ear to my cry!”

Psalm 31:2 

“Incline Your ear to me, rescue me quickly; Be to me a rock of strength, a stronghold to save me.”

Psalm 71:2

“In Your righteousness deliver me and rescue me; Incline Your ear to me and save me.”

These type of prayers go on & on through Psalms. David is crying out to God & asking God to stretch out toward him, to hear his prayer, to rescue him. It sounds so formal, but it is actually quite beautiful & heartfelt. It also shows us the closeness David felt with the Lord. He wasn’t just saying “Hey, God, do you hear me?” He was saying, “My Lord come closer, hear me Lord.” Shouldn’t we all be so blessed to have such a tender relationship with our Father?

          

 

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Psalms of Summer – Our New Song || Jessica Bolyard

For as long as I can remember, I have struggled deeply with comparing myself to other people. My hair, my clothes, my house, my car, my friendships….all are subject to scrutiny and the impossible task of measuring up. (If you struggle with this, too, can I suggest a book? Love Idol, by Jennifer Dukes Lee, helped me in more ways than I can say. I’ve read it three times, because sometimes I’m kinda like a child and need to be told something a few times before I really get it.)

At times, this struggle with the comparison trap has even affected my relationship with the Lord. I would see others in church on Sunday mornings and think, “She just gets it,” or, “I wish I could be like that with Jesus….” I would see the way other women worshiped or prayed or interpreted Scripture and think that the way I do it is not good enough. I would go so far as to tell myself that God isn’t pleased with what I offer Him, and that He, too, wants me to do it differently and more like everyone else.

Terrible, sad, and completely untrue.

Unfortunately, it takes me awhile to absorb good things, but things like that sink more deeply much more quickly. I started to believe those lies. The deeper they became embedded into my psyche, the more they colored every attempt I made at spending time with God.

There were times when I was convinced that I shouldn’t spend any time with Him if it isn’t perfect, deep, spiritually rich time…that I shouldn’t even try if I can’t do it “right.”

“Just don’t bother,” I would think, “because you don’t get it like they do. You’re just not good at this.”

One morning, though, something shifted. I flipped open my Bible and, in the tradition of those who believe that God will show them the right word for the right moment, read whatever my eyes fell on.

“I will sing a new song to you, O God.” (Psalm 144:9)

That got my attention, so I did a little search on other similar verses. (Again, I need to be told things over and over, in a hundred ways, before I get it.)

Sing to the LORD a new song; sing to the LORD, all the earth. (Psalm 96:1)

He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God. (Psalm 40:3)

Sing to him a new song; play skillfully, and shout for joy. (Psalm 33:3)

Praise the LORD! Sing to the LORD a new song, and His praise in the congregation of the godly ones. (Psalm 149:1)

Over and over in Scripture, it’s there: the idea of a new song. As I thought about it, my thoughts first rested on the idea that I could offer something to God that has never been offered before. A song, perhaps, or something I’ve written – an offering of praise and adoration that comes from my heart and my heart alone. I can give something to God that no one else can. That realization alone was staggering, and a truth my unsatisfied heart needed.

As I sat that morning, though, journaling and thinking over what I’d read, my heart went deeper.

A new song.

My new song.

Certainly, part of the power of that idea is that the song I sing today is not the song I sang before I knew the Lord. It’s the classic “I once was lost, but now am found” concept. My song of despair was replaced with a song of hope.

There’s something more, though, and that morning I had a revelation. The psalms were originally written for use in the context of worship, so when they use the word “song,” they use it in that sense, too. The new song these verses speak of is essentially a brand new worship chorus.

It’s a brand new offering of love and worship to God.

And here’s what I realized that morning, and what I’m still reminding myself of today: my personal relationship with God is brand new. No one else has the relationship that we have. The way I worship and spend quiet time and sing and experience Him are unique to our relationship, just as certain ways of relating and talking and communicating are unique to the relationships I have with other people.

In human relationships we have inside jokes, for example, and experiences that have colored the fabric of our relationship with one another. Those are things that no one else can understand, because they weren’t there when it happened and have different histories.

With God, too, I have things that no one else has. I have the way that He speaks to me and teaches me in the mundane things of life, and I have the way He romances me in nature. I have the way we dance together as I write. I have the intimate moments sound-tracked by worship music. I have moments in my car when it is as though no one else exists anywhere but He and I. I have those moments and experiences that are too personal and too special to even recount here. Those are the things that make up our relationship. That is our love story, and it’s uniquely us.

He’s not expecting anything from me except me.

He’s not waiting for me to become like someone else.

He’s not looking at the way other women worship and wishing I would do it more like them.

He wants me, and waits to hear my song. Our song.

My love story with God is my new song. If He celebrates it and relishes its rhythm, I certainly should, too.

This is my story, this is my song…praising my Savior all the day long. (Frances J. Crosby, “Blessed Assurance”)

          

 

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Psalms of Summer- Psalm 13 || Marissa Dodgen

Do me, & yourself, a quick favor & read Psalm 13.

Now, read it again, out loud this time.

Did you notice how David’s prayer or outcry progressed? Take another look at verses 1 & 2. “How long” is used 4 times. David is pleading with God in the first two verses.

“How long, O Lord? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from us? How long must I take counsel in my soul & have sorrow in my heart all day? How long shall my enemy be exalted over me?”

David is longing for reprieve from his current situation. But he clearly wasn’t feeling the presence. But look at the slight shift that takes place in verse 3

“Consider & answer me, O Lord my God; Light up my eyes, lest I sleep the sleep of death”

Ok, so maybe that last part got a bit dramatic, but notice how he pleads with God at the beginning…do you even see me God?

The major shift comes in verse 5but

This is a contrary word that signals a change in direction or thought. David cries out to God in the beginning. Do you think, all of a sudden God was like “oh hey man, sorry I forgot about you”? Something makes me channel Al Borlan…I don’t think so Tim. Take another look at verse 3. David says “light up my eyes”. One of the hebrew root words of light is show. David was calling out to God to show him something. God didn’t all the sudden change his circumstances & he was able to come out of hiding. This signaled a shift in David’s heart & perspective. He turned his focus away from his circumstance & instead shifted it to worship & praise in verses 5 & 6.

I have trusted in your steadfast love

My heart shall rejoice

I will sing

…he has dealt bountifully with me. 

Even though Psalm 13 is short & doesn’t seem to have much for us, the beauty of the Word is that there is always something in it for us. This verse, shows us that even when we are at our lowest, we can turn our eyes toward God & change our outlook. Even when it is a rainy season in our lives, we still have the freedom to turn our eye upward & search for him in those times he seems absent; because just like we see with David- he is there. His love is steadfast & ever-present.

 

          

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Psalms of Summer – Psalm 68 – You Don’t Have To Be Lonely Anymore || Keisha Hill

Loneliness. It’s a strange thing, isn’t it?

Some loneliness comes from simply being alone. If you’ve seen the movie or read the book The Martian by Andy Weir, you see a perfect example of being alone. What could possibly be more alone that sitting on another planet, and everyone assumes you’re dead? If there’s ever a person who has the right to feel lonely, it’s Mark Watney.

Throughout the Psalms David explores these feelings as well. He’s isolated, running for his life, and is unsure when stability is going to come again.

But for most of us loneliness creeps in, even without all the drama of armies and space travel. It can show up in moments when we’re “supposed” to be content and even when we’re completely surrounded by people. It doesn’t matter if you’re in a houseful of children on a Wednesday afternoon or a church full of believers on Sunday morning. Being near people isn’t always a cure for loneliness.

That’s because loneliness is more than physical distance from someone else, it’s also the emotion of being sad about the separation. This is why you can be in a group and feel completely isolated. (Remember middle school? That’s loneliness – just about everyone felt like they were on the outside looking in, and no one knew how to talk about it.)

The good news is that we don’t have to stay there.

In Psalm 68 David is writing again. Actually, he’s singing, because that’s what a psalm is – a song. This is a song of faith because many of these things had not happened yet. In the very first sentence, “God shall arise” shows us how David is hoping and praying for his enemies to leave him alone, and for the righteous to praise the Lord for all the ways He saves. David could be confident in these hopes because he knew God’s character. And, because God never changes, we can be confident too!

Take a peek at verses 4-6.

“Sing to God, sing praise to His name,
Extol him who rides on the clouds –
His name is the LORD – and rejoice before Him.
A father to the fatherless, a defender of widows,
Is God in His holy dwelling.
God sets the lonely in families,
He leads forth the prisoners with singing;
But the rebellious live in a sun-scorched land.”

God sees it all the trouble and heartache people go through and sets the lonely in families. Isn’t that beautiful?!

Maybe you’re reading this and your experience of family isn’t something that causes warm fuzzies. Maybe the thought of “family” even causes big, ugly emotions to rise up. If that’s the case, I am so sorry, friend. This world is broken, and families are just one of the beautiful things God created that has been soured by sin. But it doesn’t have to be that way!

True family is a place of love and protection. Truth, discipline, and a whole lot of silliness happen there, too. It’s a place to rest and grow. A place to stretch yourself and become more than you ever thought you could be. True family is a beautiful thing. The best part? Family doesn’t have to be biological.

I love that the lineage of Jesus shows all kinds of people who become a family. Jews. Foreigners. The powerful. The poor. Even a prostitute! All backgrounds, races, and ethnicities comes together to make Jesus’ family.

The church is just the same way. All different folks come together, united in mutual love for Jesus, and learn to love each other like family is supposed to. Don’t get me wrong – this family is dysfunctional in some ways, because all of us are. Your church family still has crazy uncles and that cousin you’re not quite sure about. But it’s also got those people who will walk through fire for you.

Embracing this family can be scary, for sure. But know they are a GIFT from God Himself. He knows how you feel and has a family all picked out for you! Maybe that lonely spot in your heart is just getting ready for a new person He’s bringing your way. Remember – you’re the family someone else has been waiting for too!

In the meantime, while the loneliness remains, remember you are not forgotten.

“Praise be to the Lord, to God our Savior,
Who daily bears our burdens.”  (Psalm 68:19)

Friend, He knows how you feel. He understands your burden of loneliness, and is big enough to carry it for you.

          

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