2381.) Psalm 74

June 18, 2018

“The Destruction of the Temple” by Hayez Francesco, 1867 (Galleria d’Arte Moderna, Venice)

Psalm 74   (NIV)

A maskil of Asaph.

Asaph—or one of his descendants, since the psalm seems to be written after the fall of Jerusalem and the destruction of the temple.

1 O God, why have you rejected us forever?
Why does your anger smolder against the sheep of your pasture?

This is a desperate Psalm, yet “this is not the song of an atheist, but the wail of a believer.” 

–G. Campbell Morgan 

2 Remember the nation you purchased long ago,
the people of your inheritance, whom you redeemed—
Mount Zion, where you dwelt.
3 Turn your steps toward these everlasting ruins,
all this destruction the enemy has brought on the sanctuary.

The temple has been violated. The key symbol of life has been lost. “Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold.” This psalm of protest and grief does not concern simply a historical invasion and the loss of a building. It speaks about the violation of the sacral key to all reality, the glue that holds the world together.

This psalm permits to reconsider a centeredness in life, a refusal to accept fragmentation, which leaves us abandoned, homeless, and open to brutalization, both as agent and object. Jerusalem destroyed is the occasion of the loss of such a center. And the psalm shows the three parties in the travesty:  the foes who have done it, the people who have suffered it, and the God who must now deal with it.

–adapted from Walter Bruggemann’s The Message of the Psalms

4 Your foes roared in the place where you met with us;
they set up their standards as signs.
5 They behaved like men wielding axes
to cut through a thicket of trees.
6 They smashed all the carved paneling
with their axes and hatchets.
7 They burned your sanctuary to the ground;
they defiled the dwelling place of your Name.
8 They said in their hearts, “We will crush them completely!”
They burned every place where God was worshiped in the land.

The First Temple was built by Solomon. It replaced the tabernacle which had been originally constructed in the wilderness under Moses. When the Babylonians sacked Jerusalem in 586 BCE, the first temple was totally destroyed. No definite remains of Solomon’s temple are known to exist, in part because religious leaders do not allow archaeological excavations on one of the holiest sites for Judaism and Islam. The site, known to Jews and Christians as the Temple Mount and to Muslims as the Noble Sanctuary, is now covered by Islam’s Dome of the Rock and al-Aqsa Mosque.

According to the book of Ezra, construction of the Second Temple was authorized by Cyrus the Great of Persia, one year after the fall of the Babylonian Empire. It was finished some two decades later under Zerrubbabel. Alexander the Great, marching with his armies, left Jerusalem alone, as did the Romans initially. Herod did significant renovating and improving during the time of Jesus; it became known as Herod’s Temple. The Wailing Wall, or Western Wall, pictured above, is one of the ancient support walls built for the Jewish temple courtyard under Herod. 

But in the year 70 the Romans destroyed the temple during the Siege of Jerusalem. It has never been rebuilt, although the construction of “the Third Temple” has often been discussed through the years, and even today.

9 We are given no signs from God;
no prophets are left,
and none of us knows how long this will be.

“Our problem is not an absence of God’s Word or God’s teachers. Our problem is that we do not value this Word. We do not cherish it and study it. We do not memorize its important passages. Instead we allow countless lesser things (like television) to take the Bible’s place.”

–James Montgomery Boice

10 How long will the enemy mock you, God?
Will the foe revile your name forever?
11 Why do you hold back your hand, your right hand?
Take it from the folds of your garment and destroy them!

12 But God is my King from long ago;
he brings salvation on the earth.

The wonder is not that the psalm reacts so strongly to the loss of temple. The wonder is that in that loss there is still one to address, known by name. There is one who is still credible and who is therefore the ground of hope. The coming and going of the temple does not reduce Israel to despair. Instead, it drives to indignation, which properly is deposited at God’s throne. So the psalm has a curious and surprising outcome. This psalm, ostensibly about the temple, is in the last measure not about the temple. but about the source of life and hope in the absence of the temple. This is a faith which is willing to “wait without idols.”

–adapted from Brueggemann’s The Message of the Psalms

“The man of faith is never blind to the desolation. He sees clearly all the terrible facts. But He sees more. He sees God. Therefore his last word is never desolation: it is rather salvation.”

–G. Campbell Morgan

13 It was you who split open the sea by your power;
you broke the heads of the monster in the waters.
14 It was you who crushed the heads of Leviathan
and gave it as food to the creatures of the desert.
15 It was you who opened up springs and streams;
you dried up the ever-flowing rivers.
16 The day is yours, and yours also the night;
you established the sun and moon.
17 It was you who set all the boundaries of the earth;
you made both summer and winter.

Genesis 8:22   (TNIV)

“As long as the earth endures,
seedtime and harvest,
cold and heat,
summer and winter,
day and night
will never cease.”

18 Remember how the enemy has mocked you, LORD,
how foolish people have reviled your name.
19 Do not hand over the life of your dove to wild beasts;
do not forget the lives of your afflicted people forever.

TURTLEDOVES

God has kept me through my struggles by showing me King David’s secret hope. David, lamenting and complaining, wondered why God was angry with him. He called on God to “put out your hand and destroy the enemy” (see Psalm 74:11). It seemed to David that the enemies of God were taking control and in his despair, he prayed, “O deliver not the soul of the turtledove unto the multitude of the wicked” (Psalm 74:19).

Like David, we began to see ourselves as little turtledoves, surrounded by the snares and traps of the wicked. It encouraged me, in my most trying times, to see myself as his lovebird, resting on his promise to keep me out of the snares of the wicked. 

I picture Christ coming to me in the form of a dove—his Holy Spirit—revealing to me his constant love and continual care. How unspeakable that such a great and majestic God would condescend to relate to my needs as a turtledove. Did he not descend on Christ at the baptismal waters as a dove?

Child of God, are you going through difficult times? Is there suffering in your home? Do you hurt? Are you confused at times because of the severity of it all? Remember, you are the Lord’s little turtledove and he will never turn you over to the wicked one. He will deliver you from every snare of the enemy and show you how devoted he is to you in your hour of need. He is there beside you, at all times, as a dove, whispering, sharing his love with you.

Solomon, speaking of Christ, said, “His eyes are as the eyes of doves by the rivers of waters, washed with milk, beautifully set” (Song of Solomon 5:12). And of the church, the Lord’s beloved, it is written, “My dove, my undefiled one is but one…” (Song of Solomon 6:9). We are one in Christ—his dove—a turtledove.

–David Wilkerson

20 Have regard for your covenant,
because haunts of violence fill the dark places of the land.
21 Do not let the oppressed retreat in disgrace;
may the poor and needy praise your name.
22 Rise up, O God, and defend your cause;
remember how fools mock you all day long.

Galatians 6:7   (NKJV)

Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap.

23 Do not ignore the clamor of your adversaries,
the uproar of your enemies, which rises continually.

Although Yeats wrote this poem in the aftermath of the First World War, I can hear it resonating with the writer of this psalm after the temple had fallen:  Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold.  But God will rise up and the hour come round at last — a birth in Bethlehem.

THE SECOND COMING

    Turning and turning in the widening gyre
    The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
    Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
    Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
    The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
    The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
    The best lack all conviction, while the worst
    Are full of passionate intensity.

    Surely some revelation is at hand;
    Surely the Second Coming is at hand.
    The Second Coming! Hardly are those words out
    When a vast image out of Spiritus Mundi
    Troubles my sight: a waste of desert sand;
    A shape with lion body and the head of a man,
    A gaze blank and pitiless as the sun,
    Is moving its slow thighs, while all about it
    Wind shadows of the indignant desert birds.

    The darkness drops again but now I know
    That twenty centuries of stony sleep
    Were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle,
    And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
    Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?

     –William Butler Yeats  (1865-1939)

_________________________

Music:

HERE  is The David Crowder Band and “You Never Let Go,” an encouraging word to any of us who may feel that things are falling apart . . .

_________________________

New International Version (NIV)   Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica

Images courtesy of:
Francesco.    https://www.wikiart.org/en/francesco-hayez/destruction-of-the-temple-of-jerusalem-1867
Western Wall in Jerusalem.    http://www.rlrouse.com/pic-of-the-day/wailing-wall.jpg
verse 12.   http://www.leylandmethodist.org.uk/wp/wp-content/uploads/2016/04/psalm-74i.jpg
four seasons.    https://www.baraboocc.com/event/fore-seasons-restaurant-open-3/
Holy Spirit as a dove, from St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome.    http://heavenawaits.files.wordpress.com/2008/11/holy-spirit-dove.jpg
Things Fall Apart.   http://www.jenniferhallock.com/tag/things-fall-apart/
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2380.) Lamentations 5

June 15, 2018

Lamentations 5   (CEV)

A Prayer for Mercy

I rarely put politics in this blog, but today’s “Prayer for Mercy” has me thinking about current events in the United States and around the world. So much pain and sadness. So much injustice. So much violence. So much evil. With all that in mind today, for each of the following 22 verses, would you please, Reader, supply the mental picture. And would you please, Believer, pray to the Lord to have mercy on all these people and nations who are desperate for peace of body and soul. 

The People of Jerusalem Pray:

1Our LORD, don’t forget

how we have suffered

and been disgraced.

2Foreigners and strangers

have taken our land

and our homes.

3We are like children

whose mothers

are widows.

4The water we drink

and the wood we burn

cost far too much.

5We are terribly mistreated;

we are worn out

and can find no rest.

6We had to surrender

to Egypt and Assyria

because we were hungry.

7Our ancestors sinned,

but they are dead,

and we are left

to pay for their sins.

8Slaves are now our rulers,

and there is no one

to set us free.

9We are in danger

from brutal desert tribes;

we must risk our lives

just to bring in our crops.

   10Our skin is scorched

from fever and hunger.

11On Zion and everywhere in Judah

our wives and daughters

are being raped.

12Our rulers are strung up

by their arms,

and our nation’s advisors

are treated shamefully.

13Young men are forced

to do the work of slaves;

boys must carry

heavy loads of wood.

14Our leaders are not allowed

to decide cases in court,

and young people

no longer play music.

15Our hearts are sad;

instead of dancing,

we mourn.

16Zion’s glory has disappeared!

And we are doomed

because of our sins.

17We feel sick all over

and can’t even see straight;

18our city is in ruins,

overrun by wild dogs.

19You will rule forever, LORD!

You are King for all time.

20Why have you forgotten us for so long?

21Bring us back to you!

Give us a fresh start.

22Or do you despise us

so much

that you don’t want us?

Lord, we commend all for whom we pray into your tender and merciful care, in Jesus’ name, Amen.

_________________________

Music:

HERE  is “Breathe”  by Michael W. Smith — but the line I always remember (in my own lamentations) is, “I’m desperate for you.”

_________________________

Contemporary English Version (CEV)   Copyright © 1995 by American Bible Society

Images courtesy of:
Lord have mercy.    https://convertedsoutherner.files.wordpress.com/2014/03/sc-lordhavemercy_rgb.jpg

2379.) Lamentations 4

June 14, 2018

Jeremiah, by Michelangelo, 1511 (Sistine Chapel, Rome)

Lamentations 4   (CEV)

The Punishment of Jerusalem

The Prophet Speaks:

1The purest gold is ruined

and has lost its shine;

“Although gold does not tarnish, it does lose its shine when it is covered with dust, which is precisely what happened to the golden articles from Jerusalem’s temple. They were trampled in the city’s dusty streets, for her glory had departed.”

–Philip Graham Ryken

jewels from the temple

lie scattered in the streets.

2These are Zion’s people,

worth more than purest gold;

yet they are counted worthless

like dishes of clay.

3Even jackals nurse their young,

“The most common social unit of jackals is that of a monogamous pair which defends its territory from other pairs by vigorously chasing intruding rivals and marking landmarks around the territory.  The territory may be large enough to hold some young adults who stay with their parents until they establish their own territories.”

–Wikipedia

but my people are like ostriches

that abandon their own.

“For her carelessness about her eggs, and her inattention to her young, the ostrich is proverbial.”

–Adam Clarke

4Babies are so thirsty

that their tongues are stuck

to the roof of the mouth.

Children go begging for food,

but no one gives them any.

Matthew 25:40 (NIV)

The King will reply, “Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.”

5All who ate expensive foods

lie starving in the streets;

those who grew up in luxury

now sit on trash heaps.

6My nation was punished worse

than the people of Sodom,

whose city was destroyed in a flash

without the help of human hands.

   7The leaders of Jerusalem

were purer than snow and whiter than milk;

their bodies were healthy and glowed like jewels.

   8Now they are blacker than tar,

and no one recognizes them;

their skin clings to their bones

and is drier than firewood.

9Being killed with a sword is better

than slowly starving to death.

“I have three things I’d like to say today. First, while you were sleeping last night, 30,000 kids died of starvation or diseases related to malnutrition. Second, most of you don’t give a shit. Third, and what’s worse, you’re more upset with the fact that I said shit than the fact that 30,000 kids died last night.”

–evangelist Tony Campolo

10Life in the city is so bad

that loving mothers

have boiled

and eaten their own children.

_________________________

Music:

Oh, the children!  HERE  is the Azusa Pacific University’s Choir & Orchestra members in 2005 singing “The Prayer of the Children.”

_________________________

11The LORD was so fiercely angry

that he burned the city of Zion

to the ground.

12Not a king on this earth

or the people of any nation

believed enemies could break

through her gates.

The Huldah Gates (Second Temple period) are the two sets of now-blocked gates in the  Southern Wall of the Temple Mount, situated in Jerusalem’s Old City. The western set is a double arched gate (the double gate), and the eastern is a triple arched gate (the triple gate). Each arch of the double gate led into an aisle of a passageway leading from the gate into the Mount, and to steps leading to the Mount’s surface; when the al-Aqsa Mosque was built, the old steps were blocked, and the eastern aisle lengthened so that new steps from its end would exit north of the Mosque. The triple gate is similar, though the longer aisle is to the west, and its third aisle, on the east, forms the western boundary of the vaulted area known as Solomon’s Stables.   

–Wikipedia

13Jerusalem was punished because

her prophets and her priests

had sinned and caused the death

of innocent victims.

14Yes, her prophets and priests

were covered with blood;

no one would come near them,

as they wandered from street to street.

15Instead, everyone shouted,

“Go away! Don’t touch us!

You’re filthy and unfit

to belong to God’s people!”

So they had to leave

and become refugees.

Egyptian immigration official:

Listen. Let’s get this straight. These people have arrived on our doorstep –illegally. No papers, no money. No proof or record of persecution. No one to back up their story. I see no reason to grant them refugee status. We are a decent, caring people, but we’ve been the good guys for too long. These people are just taking advantage of us. Send them back where they came from. We have no room for any more illegals in this country. We have enough rubbish in this country already. We don’t want any more.

(from the play –  Jesus Was Once a Refugee)

But foreign nations told them,

“You can’t stay here!”

   16The LORD is the one

who sent them scattering,

and he has forgotten them.

No respect or kindness will be shown

to the priests or leaders.

17Our eyes became weary,

hopelessly looking for help

from a nation that could not save us.

18Enemies hunted us down

on every public street.

“The tall Babylonian siege towers made it dangerous for anyone to walk in the streets within range of arrows or stones.”

–Christopher J. H. Wright

Our time was up; our doom was near.

19They swooped down faster

than eagles from the sky.

Eagles soar down and then fly low at up to 75 miles per hour. They usually snatch their prey with their feet (fish is their favorite).

They hunted for us in the hills

and set traps to catch us out in the desert.

20The LORD’s chosen leader was our hope for survival!

We thought he would keep us safe

somewhere among the nations,

but even he was caught in one of their traps.

21You people of Edom can celebrate now!

But your time will come to suffer

and stagger around naked.

22The people of Zion have paid for their sins,

and the Lord will soon let them return home.

But, people of Edom,

you will be punished, and your sins exposed.

“There is little doubt that the Edomites, who knew the routes and crossings, helped the Babylonians here, and this is why verses 21 and 22 turn against Edom. Obadiah 14 clearly shows what they did. So, when Zion is restored, Edom will still be kept low, and Malachi 1:2-5 records that this was fulfilled. Ultimately Edom was subdued and absorbed into Israel.”

–Christopher J. H. Wright

_________________________

Contemporary English Version (CEV)   Copyright © 1995 by American Bible Society

Images courtesy of:
Michelangelo.    http://www.oberlin.edu/images/636F.JPG
jackal pair.    http://www.animalplanet.com/wild-animals/8-golden-jackal/
ostrich and eggs.   https://www.alibaba.com/product-detail/Fertile-Ostrich-Eggs-For-Sale-From_50031332334.html
child begging in Thailand.    https://dwellingintheword.files.wordpress.com/2011/08/child-begging-at-asok-station-display.jpg
malnutrition, child.    http://www.who.int/nutrition/pressnote_action_on_malnutrition_photo.jpg
Huldah Gates (Triple Gate).   https://dwellingintheword.files.wordpress.com/2011/08/img_1731-1.jpg
Flight into Egypt.    https://dwellingintheword.files.wordpress.com/2011/08/egypt1.jpg
eagle.    http://www.hickerphoto.com/picture/bald-eagle-in-flight-red-snapper-fish-55985.htm

2378.) Lamentations 3

June 13, 2018

“The sufferings of Jeremiah” etching by Marc Chagall, 1939.

Lamentations 3   (CEV)

Unlike in Job and many of the Psalms, God says nothing to the writer of Lamentations. What should we make of his silence?

One commentator, Kathleen O’Connor, calls God’s silence “inspired.” This resonates on three levels. First, God allows the suffering people to have their full say. He listens, without interrupting to comfort or correct. Second, the Prophets had already explained that this would happen and why. And third, although God does not speak as a character in the book, he speaks by including it in his Word, within the canon of Scripture.

–Christopher J. H. White

There Is Still Hope

The Prophet Speaks:

“Jeremiah’s personal lament is a reminder that suffering is always personal. When nations go through times of tragedy and tribulation, the greatest suffering always takes place at the individual level.”

–Philip Graham Ryken

1I have suffered much because God was angry.

2He chased me into a dark place, where no light could enter.

“This seems to be the hardest part of our lot, that God should lead us into darkness: ‘He hath led me, and brought me into darkness.’ Yet dear brethren, that is, on the other hand, the sweetest thing about our trial; because, if the darkness be in the place where God has led us, it is best for us to be in the dark.”

–Charles Haddon Spurgeon

3I am the only one he punishes over and over again,

without ever stopping.

4God caused my skin and flesh to waste away,

and he crushed my bones.

5He attacked and surrounded me with hardships and trouble;

6he forced me to sit in the dark like someone long dead.

7God built a fence around me that I cannot climb over,

Job 19:8 (KJV)

 He hath fenced up my way that I cannot pass, and he hath set darkness in my paths.

and he chained me down.

8Even when I shouted and prayed for help,

he refused to listen.

9God put big rocks in my way

and made me follow a crooked path.

10God was like a bear or a lion waiting in ambush for me;

11he dragged me from the road, then tore me to shreds.

    12God took careful aim and shot his arrows

13straight through my heart.

Job 6:4 (NLT)

For the Almighty has struck me down with his arrows.
      Their poison infects my spirit.
      God’s terrors are lined up against me.

14I am a joke to everyone–

no one ever stops making fun of me.

15God has turned my life sour.

16He made me eat gravel and rubbed me in the dirt.

“It could be argued that eating gravel refers to the type of bread made from the sweepings of the granary floor that Jeremiah must have received toward the end of the siege.”

–H. L. Ellison

17I cannot find peace or remember happiness.

18I tell myself, “I am finished!

I can’t count on the LORD to do anything for me.”

19Just thinking of my troubles and my lonely wandering

makes me miserable.

20That’s all I ever think about, and I am depressed.

21Then I remember something

that fills me with hope.

“Everything that is done in the world is done by hope.”
Martin Luther

22The LORD’s kindness never fails!

If he had not been merciful,

we would have been destroyed.

   23The LORD can always be trusted

to show mercy each morning.

“In a magnificent expression of faith in the unfailing mercies of God, the writer looks to the distant future with renewed hope.”

–Harrison

24Deep in my heart I say,

“The LORD is all I need; I can depend on him!”

25The LORD is kind to everyone who trusts and obeys him.

26It is good to wait patiently for the LORD to save us.

“Do not be in a hurry; do not expect to be delivered out of your trouble the first time you begin to cry unto God. Oh, no: ‘the Lord is good unto them that wait for him, to the soul that seeketh him.’

–Charles Haddon Spurgeon

“There are times when the only thing a sufferer can do is wait for God. But waiting is good because God is worth waiting for.”

–Philip Graham Ryken

27When we are young, it is good to struggle hard

28and to sit silently alone,

if this is what the LORD intends.

29Being rubbed in the dirt can teach us a lesson;

   30we can also learn from insults and hard knocks.

31The Lord won’t always reject us!

32He causes a lot of suffering,

but he also has pity because of his great love.

In his classic treatment of suffering, The Problem of Pain, C. S. Lewis wrote:

God whispers to us in our pleasures,
speaks in our conscience,
but shouts in our pain:
it is His megaphone to rouse a deaf world.

Lewis argues that not only is it possible to find God when life is hard, but also it is in some sense easier than when life is good.

33The Lord doesn’t enjoy sending grief or pain.

34Don’t trample prisoners under your feet

35or cheat anyone out of what is rightfully theirs.

God Most High sees everything,

36and he knows when you refuse

to give someone a fair trial.

37No one can do anything

without the Lord’s approval.

38Good and bad each happen

at the command of God Most High.

Psalm 33:11 (NLT)

But the Lord’s plans stand firm forever;
      his intentions can never be shaken.

39We’re still alive!

We shouldn’t complain

when we are being punished for our sins.

40Instead, we should think

about the way we are living,

and turn back to the LORD.

41When we lift our hands

in prayer to God in heaven,

we should offer him our hearts

and say, 42“We’ve sinned!

We’ve rebelled against you,

and you haven’t forgiven us!

43Anger is written all over you,

as you pursue and slaughter us

without showing pity.

44You are behind a wall of clouds

that blocks out our prayers.

from My Utmost for His Highest,
by Oswald Chambers

GOD’S SILENCE — THEN WHAT?

When He heard that he was sick, He stayed two more days in the place where He was —John 11:6

Has God trusted you with His silence — a silence that has great meaning? God’s silences are actually His answers. Just think of those days of absolute silence in the home at Bethany! Is there anything comparable to those days in your life? Can God trust you like that, or are you still asking Him for a visible answer? God will give you the very blessings you ask if you refuse to go any further without them, but His silence is the sign that He is bringing you into an even more wonderful understanding of Himself. Are you mourning before God because you have not had an audible response? When you cannot hear God, you will find that He has trusted you in the most intimate way possible— with absolute silence, not a silence of despair, but one of pleasure, because He saw that you could withstand an even bigger revelation. If God has given you a silence, then praise Him— He is bringing you into the mainstream of His purposes. The actual evidence of the answer in time is simply a matter of God’s sovereignty. Time is nothing to God. For a while you may have said, “I asked God to give me bread, but He gave me a stone instead” (see Matthew 7:9).  He did not give you a stone, and today you find that He gave you the “bread of life” (John 6:35).

A wonderful thing about God’s silence is that His stillness is contagious— it gets into you, causing you to become perfectly confident so that you can honestly say, “I know that God has heard me.” His silence is the very proof that He has. As long as you have the idea that God will always bless you in answer to prayer, He will do it, but He will never give you the grace of His silence. If Jesus Christ is bringing you into the understanding that prayer is for the glorifying of His Father, then He will give you the first sign of His intimacy— silence.

45You allowed nations

to treat us like garbage;

46our enemies curse us.

47We are terrified and trapped,

caught and crushed.”

48My people are destroyed!

Tears flood my eyes,

49and they won’t stop

50until the LORD looks down from heaven and helps.

51I am horrified when I see what enemies have done

to the young women of our city.

52No one had reason to hate me,

but I was hunted down like a bird.

53Then they tried to kill me

by tossing me into a pit and throwing stones at me.

54Water covered my head–

I thought I was gone.

55From the bottom of the pit, I prayed to you, LORD.

56I begged you to listen.

“Help!” I shouted. “Save me!”

You answered my prayer

57and came when I was in need.

You told me, “Don’t worry!”

58You rescued me and saved my life.

Jonah 2:5-7 (NLT)

“I sank beneath the waves,
      and the waters closed over me.
      Seaweed wrapped itself around my head.
I sank down to the very roots of the mountains.
      I was imprisoned in the earth,
      whose gates lock shut forever.
   But you, O Lord my God,
      snatched me from the jaws of death!
As my life was slipping away,
      I remembered the Lord.
   And my earnest prayer went out to you
      in your holy Temple.”

59You saw them abuse me, LORD,

so make things right.

60You know every plot they have made against me.

61Yes, you know their insults and their evil plans.

62All day long they attack with words and whispers.

63No matter what they are doing, they keep on mocking me.

64Pay them back for everything they have done, LORD!

65Put your curse on them and make them suffer.

     66Get angry and go after them

until not a trace is left under the heavens.

_________________________

Music:

Lamentations 3:22-23   (NIV)

Because of the LORD’s great love we are not consumed,
   for his compassions never fail.
They are new every morning;
   great is your faithfulness.

HERE  is Fernando Ortega singing a lovely, and uncommon, version of the hymn “Great Is Thy Faithfulness.”

_________________________

Contemporary English Version (CEV)   Copyright © 1995 by American Bible Society

Images courtesy of:
Chagall.    http://www.georgetownframeshoppe.com/marc-chagall-etching-the-bible-suffering-of-jeremiah
dog fenced in.    http://www.chainlinkfence.com/_images/dk3.jpg
arrow through the heart.    http://rlv.zcache.com/cupid_arrow_in_heart_tshirt-p235058565772337845trlf_400.jpg
verses 21-23 with sky and tree.   http://holyrosarysite.com/archives/3296/greennature1
hope.  http://cache2.artprintimages.com/p/LRG/22/2205/V6CAD00Z/art-print/karen-tribett-hope.jpg
verse 26.   https://i.pinimg.com/originals/9f/b2/62/9fb262507c326b6ba44eb04d8e695295.jpg
Thy will be done.  https://dwellingintheword.files.wordpress.com/2011/08/thywillbedone-sunsetcopy28web29.jpg
Jesus raises Lazarus from the dead (mosaic from Ravenna, Italy, 6th century).     https://saintspeterandpaulboone.files.wordpress.com/2013/04/lazarus-ravenna-500s.jpg
Jonah.     https://dwellingintheword.files.wordpress.com/2011/03/jonah-and-whale-wallace.jpg

2377.) Lamentations 2

June 12, 2018

“Jeremiah lamenting the destruction of Jerusalem” by Rembrandt, 1630 (Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam)

Lamentations 2   (CEV)

The LORD Was Like an Enemy

This chapter is an acrostic poem, the verses of which begin with the successive letters of the Hebrew alphabet.

The Prophet Speaks:

1The Lord was angry!

God had warned them so many times to return to Him or face punishment. But they did not listen. So now, the Lord makes good His promise with a series of strong actions. All this destruction comes from God, even if it was through the instrument of the Babylonian army.

So he disgraced Zion though it was Israel’s pride

and his own place of rest.

In his anger he threw Zion down from heaven to earth.

2The LORD had no mercy!

He destroyed the homes of Jacob’s descendants.

In his anger he tore down every walled city in Judah;

he toppled the nation together with its leaders,

leaving them in shame.

Psalm 89:39-40 (NIV)

You have renounced the covenant with your servant
   and have defiled his crown in the dust.
You have broken through all his walls
   and reduced his strongholds to ruins.

3The Lord was so furiously angry

that he wiped out the whole army of Israel

by not supporting them when the enemy attacked.

He swallowed up the descendants of Jacob

like a raging fire.

4He attacked like an enemy with a bow and arrows,

killing our loved ones.

He burned to the ground the homes on Mount Zion.

I know a woman whose house burned to the ground. She says that even now, years after, she is sometimes jolted awake by the memory of yet another thing that was lost. The blanket her grandmother had knit for her when she was born. The baptismal dress her children wore. Her  wedding invitation, framed in a mother-of-pearl frame. Her scrapbook of her brother’s senior year in high school, beginning with football practice (he was the quarterback) and ending with the fatal car wreck the night after graduation. Totally random, she says, the things she remembers. And always with a pain deep inside. Life can be hard.

5The Lord was like an enemy!

He left Israel in ruins

with its palaces and fortresses destroyed,

and with everyone in Judah moaning and weeping.

6He shattered his temple like a hut in a garden;

he completely wiped out his meeting place,

and did away with festivals and Sabbaths

in the city of Zion.

In his fierce anger he rejected our king and priests.

7The Lord abandoned his altar and his temple;

he let Zion’s enemies capture her fortresses.

Noisy shouts were heard from the temple,

as if it were a time of celebration.

Psalm 74:7-8 (NIV)

They burned your sanctuary to the ground;
   they defiled the dwelling place of your Name.
They said in their hearts, “We will crush them completely!”
   They burned every place where God was worshiped in the land.

8The LORD had decided

to tear down the walls of Zion stone by stone.

So he started destroying and did not stop

until walls and fortresses mourned and trembled.

9Zion’s gates have fallen

facedown on the ground;

the bars that locked the gates are smashed to pieces.

Her king and royal family are prisoners in foreign lands.

Her priests don’t teach,

and her prophets don’t have a message from the LORD.

10Zion’s leaders are silent.

They just sit on the ground,

tossing dirt on their heads and wearing sackcloth.

Her young women can do nothing

but stare at the ground.

11My eyes are red from crying,

my stomach is in knots, and I feel sick all over.

Psalm 22:14 (NIV)

I am poured out like water,
   and all my bones are out of joint.
My heart has turned to wax;
   it has melted within me.

My people are being wiped out,

and children lie helpless in the streets of the city.

12A child begs its mother for food and drink,

then blacks out

like a wounded soldier lying in the street.

The child slowly dies in its mother’s arms.

“This pathetic and tragic scene stands in stark contrast to the ideal of happy, carefree children playing in the streets of Jerusalem, a situation which is promised when the nation is restored, as in Zechariah 8:5–

The streets of the city

Shall be full of boys and girls

Playing in its streets.

–R. K. Harrison

13Zion, how can I comfort you?

Isaiah 40:1-2 (NIV)

Comfort, comfort my people,
   says your God.
Speak tenderly to Jerusalem,
   and proclaim to her
that her hard service has been completed,
   that her sin has been paid for,
that she has received from the LORD’s hand
   double for all her sins.

How great is your pain?

Lovely city of Jerusalem,

how can I heal your wounds, gaping as wide as the sea?

14Your prophets deceived you

with false visions and lying messages–

they should have warned you

to leave your sins and be saved from disaster.

15Those who pass by shake their heads and sneer

as they make fun and shout,

“What a lovely city you were, the happiest on earth,

but look at you now!”

“Colorful Town” by Dora Ficher, 2009.

Psalm 50:2 (ESV)

Out of Zion, the perfection of beauty,
    God shines forth.

16Zion, your enemies curse you and snarl like wild animals,

while shouting, “This is the day we’ve waited for!

At last, we’ve got you!”

17The LORD has done everything

that he had planned and threatened long ago.

He destroyed you without mercy

and let your enemies boast about their powerful forces.

18Zion, deep in your heart you cried out to the Lord.

Now let your tears overflow your walls day and night.

Don’t ever lose hope or let your tears stop.

19Get up and pray for help all through the night.

Pour out your feelings to the Lord, as you would pour water out of a jug.

“Oh, the comfort, the inexpressible comfort of feeling safe with a person, having neither to weigh thoughts nor measure words, but pouring them all out, just as they are, chaff and grain together, certain that a faithful hand will take and sift them, keep what is worth keeping, and with a breath of kindness blow the rest away.”

Dinah Craik (1826-1887), English poet and novelist

Beg him to save your people,

who are starving to death at every street crossing.

Jerusalem Speaks:

20Think about it, LORD!

Have you ever been this cruel to anyone before?

Is it right for mothers to eat their children,

The loss of a child is surely one of the worst things to befall a parent. But how desperate must a parent be, to then eat the child? The suffering in Jerusalem must have been awful. 

or for priests and prophets to be killed in your temple?

21My people, both young and old, lie dead in the streets.

Because you were angry,

my young men and women were brutally slaughtered.

22When you were angry, LORD,

you invited my enemies like guests for a party.

No one survived that day;

enemies killed my children,

my own little ones.

_________________________

Music:

One morning in March 1991, four year old Conor Clapton, son of the important and influential English guitarist, singer, and song-writer Eric Clapton, died when he fell from a 53rd-story window in a New York City apartment. He landed on the roof of an adjacent four-story building. This song is Clapton’s expression of grief at the loss of his little boy. I remember when this happened; we were living in Italy at the time and I had two precious sons — Sean was 5 and Devlin was not quite 1.

To all the fathers and mothers who have lost a child, beginning with Adam and Eve and continuing to this very day — the promise is sure. There will be no “Tears in Heaven.”  HERE  is Eric Clapton and his song.

(with love to Judy, Marlys, Mary, Jan and Don, Cary and Andy, Joan Elaine and Larry . . .)

Would you know my name
If I saw you in heaven
Will it be the same
If I saw you in heaven
I must be strong, and carry on
Cause I know I don’t belong
Here in heaven

Would you hold my hand
If I saw you in heaven
Would you help me stand
If I saw you in heaven
I’ll find my way, through night and day
Cause I know I just can’t stay
Here in heaven

Time can bring you down
Time can bend your knee
Time can break your heart
Have you begging please
Begging please

(instrumental)

Beyond the door
There’s peace I’m sure.
And I know there’ll be no more…
Tears in heaven

_________________________

Contemporary English Version (CEV)   Copyright © 1995 by American Bible Society

Images courtesy of:
Rembrandt.    http://www.artchive.com/artchive/r/rembrandt/jeremiah.jpg
home burning.    https://dwellingintheword.wordpress.com/2011/08/09/592-lamentations-2/
heart melt.    https://dwellingintheword.files.wordpress.com/2011/08/heartmelt.jpg
little girl.   https://dwellingintheword.wordpress.com/2011/08/09/592-lamentations-2/
Ficher.    https://dwellingintheword.files.wordpress.com/2011/08/6a0111685bdd87970c01127919ef9f28a4-800wi.jpg
pitcher,  pouring water.   http://www.cancerfreesociety.org/Pitcher%20Pouring%20Water%20copy.jpg

2376.) Lamentations 1

June 11, 2018

“How deserted lies the city!” engraving by Julius Schnorr von Carolsfeld, 1860.

The five chapters of Lamentations are five poems, each lamenting the destruction and desolation that came to Jerusalem as a result of the Babylonians in 586 BCE. The first chapter, for example, is an acrostic poem; each verse begins with a successive letter of the Hebrew alphabet. The poems function as a formal ritual by which the exiles could grieve over the calamity, over their pain and loss.

Traditionally the book has been ascribed to the prophet Jeremiah, although no name is attached to it. No matter who wrote it, as one scholar noted, “the whole song stands so near the events that one feels everywhere as if the terrible pictures of the destruction stand still immediately before the eyes of the one lamenting.”

Orthodox Jews read aloud the entire book on the ninth day of the month Ab, the traditional date of the destruction of Solomon’s Temple. In Christian traditions, Lamentations is often read during the days of Holy Week.

Lamentations 1  (CEV)

Lonely Jerusalem

The Prophet Speaks:

1Jerusalem, once so crowded,

lies deserted and lonely.

This city that was known

all over the world

is now like a widow.

This queen of the nations

has been made a slave.

“It was common in the Old Testament for cities to be portrayed as women,” says the footnote for this verse in The Archaeological Study Bible.

2Each night, bitter tears flood her cheeks.

None of her former lovers

are there to offer comfort;

her friends have betrayed her and are now her enemies.

The “lovers” and “friends” refer to foreign allies who had promised to help Judah, but did not.

3The people of Judah are slaves,

suffering in a foreign land,

with no rest from sorrow.

Their enemies captured them

and were terribly cruel.

Yes, we have read of the offenses the people of Israel endured from the Babylonians — their Temple ransacked and burned, the city walls of Jerusalem destroyed, the people carried off into exile, the king blinded . . .

4The roads to Zion mourn

because no one travels there

to celebrate the festivals.

Before the fall of Jerusalem, the people of Israel celebrated seven annual feasts:

  • Passover – to remember how the Lord rescued his people from bondage in Egypt
  • Feast of Unleavened Bread – to avoid yeast, a symbol of evil; to be ready to follow God
  • Offering of Firstfruits – to celebrate God’s gracious provision at the beginning of the barley harvest
  • Pentecost – to show gratitude for the wheat harvest and the giving of the law through Moses
  • Feast of Trumpets – to usher in a month with particularly significant holy days
  • Day of Atonement – to fast, pray, and confess on the holiest day of the year
  • Feast of Booths – to recall life in the wilderness by constructing small huts and camping out while also praising God for the year’s harvest

The city gates are deserted;

priests are weeping.

Young women are raped; Zion is in sorrow!

5Enemies now rule the city

and live as they please.

The LORD has punished Jerusalem

because of her awful sins;

he has let her people be dragged away.

6Zion’s glory has disappeared.

Her leaders are like deer

that cannot find pasture;

they are hunted down

till their strength is gone.

7Her people recall the good life

that once was theirs;

now they suffer and are scattered.

The Garden of Exile (above), part of the Jewish Museum Berlin, represents the experience of European Jewish exiles, driven from their home during World War II.  Standing in between the rows of forty-nine concrete container columns is a claustrophobic, disorienting experience, where you are aware that logically, escape is very close but physically, you feel as if you are trapped forever.The Museum documents European Jewish history and the overwhelming loss of  Jewish history and culture due to the Holocaust during World War II.

No one was there to protect them from their enemies

who sneered when their city was taken.

8Jerusalem’s horrible sins

have made the city a joke.

Those who once admired her

now hate her instead–

she has been disgraced;

she groans and turns away.

9Her sins had made her filthy,

but she wasn’t worried about what could happen.

And when Jerusalem fell,

it was so tragic.

No one gave her comfort when she cried out,

“Help! I’m in trouble, LORD!  The enemy has won.”

Psalm 25:18-19 (ESV)

Consider my affliction and my trouble,
   and forgive all my sins.

Consider how many are my foes,
   and with what violent hatred they hate me.

10Zion’s treasures were stolen.

Jerusalem saw foreigners

enter her place of worship,

though the LORD

had forbidden them to belong to his people.

11Everyone in the city groans

while searching for food;

they trade their valuables

for barely enough scraps to stay alive.

Jerusalem shouts to the LORD,

“Please look and see how miserable I am!”

Jerusalem Speaks:

12No passerby even cares.

Why doesn’t someone notice

my terrible sufferings?

You were fiercely angry, LORD,

and you punished me worst of all.

Lamentations 1:12   (NIV)

“Is it nothing to you, all you who pass by?
   Look around and see.
Is any suffering like my suffering?”

The first time this verse registered with me was during a season of Lent sometime when I was in high school. The local Methodist church put a cross out on their front lawn, draped in a purple cloth, with a sign that read, “Is it nothing to you, all ye that pass by?” I see it clearly in my mind’s eye still, and I answer — Yes, Lord, your crucifixion is something to me! It is your wounds, and my healing! It is your sorrow, and my joy! It is your death, and my life! Thank you with all my heart!

13From heaven you sent a fire

that burned in my bones;

you set a trap for my feet

and made me turn back.

All day long you leave me

in shock from constant pain.

14You have tied my sins

around my neck, and they weigh so heavily

that my strength is gone.

You have put me in the power

of enemies too strong for me.

15You, LORD, have turned back my warriors

and crushed my young heroes.

Judah was a woman untouched,

but you let her be trampled like grapes in a wine pit.

16Because of this, I mourn,

and tears flood my eyes.

Sometimes Jeremiah is described as the weeping prophet, and he would agree with the description. Lamentations was not written with a dry eye, but with overflowing eyes.

–David Guzik

No one is here to comfort or to encourage me;

we have lost the war–

my people are suffering.

The Prophet Speaks:

17Zion reaches out her hands,

but no one offers comfort.

Isaiah 1:15 (NIV)

When you spread out your hands in prayer,
   I hide my eyes from you;
even when you offer many prayers,
   I am not listening.

   Your hands are full of blood!

The LORD has turned the neighboring nations

against Jacob’s descendants.

Jerusalem is merely a filthy rag to her neighbors.

Jerusalem Speaks:

18The LORD was right,

but I refused to obey him.

Now I ask all of you to look

at my sufferings–

even my young people have been dragged away.

19I called out to my lovers,

but they betrayed me.

My priests and my leaders died

while searching the city for scraps of food.

20Won’t you look and see

how upset I am, our LORD?

My stomach is in knots,

and my heart is broken

because I betrayed you.

In the streets and at home,

my people are slaughtered.

21Everyone heard my groaning,

but no one offered comfort.

My enemies know of the trouble

that you have brought on me,

and it makes them glad.

Hurry and punish them, as you have promised.

22Don’t let their evil deeds escape your sight.

Punish them as much as you have punished me

because of my sins.

I never stop groaning–

I’ve lost all hope!

“The last two verses are a tentative prayer that God will vindicate His righteousness among the other nations. If Judah has needed to experience judgement to lead her to repentance, then others need the experience of judgement also.”

–Christopher J. H. Wright

_________________________

Music:

Where to go for comfort? Where to go for hope? “Lord, to whom shall we go?  You have the words of eternal life!”

1 Peter 1:3 (NIV)

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.

HERE  is “My Hope Is Built on Nothing Less”  sung by Deborah Liv Johnson.

_________________________

Contemporary English Version (CEV)   Copyright © 1995 by American Bible Society

Images courtesy of:
Carolsfeld.     http://www.pitts.emory.edu/woodcuts/1853BiblD/00011488.jpg
“The Siege and Destruction of Jerusalem,” by David Roberts (1850).   http://lh3.ggpht.com/_djGdu0EN2ao/SJhW2K1WHkI/AAAAAAAAADI/72hr8XEOEHQ/%5BRoberts,%20David%5D%20The%20Siege%20and%20Destruction%20of%20Jerusalem%20%281850%29.jpg
blowing the shofar.    http://rinah-shalom.tripod.com/sitebuildercontent/sitebuilderpictures/blowing_the_shofar.gif
Garden of Exile.    https://www.gettyimages.com/detail/photo/garden-of-exile-at-the-jewish-museum-in-high-res-stock-photography/530366700
fallen stones in Jerusalem.    http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/9/93/NinthAvStonesWesternWall.JPG
crucifixion.    http://yearintheoffice.files.wordpress.com/2011/04/card-_84-crucifix-front.jpg
reaching hand.    https://dwellingintheword.files.wordpress.com/2011/08/reachinghand1.jpg
stomach in knots.  https://dwellingintheword.wordpress.com/2011/08/08/591-lamentations-1/

2375.) Psalm 20

June 8, 2018

Psalm 20   (NRSV)

Prayer for Victory

The picture is that of King David before battle, at the tabernacle of God, offering prayers and sacrifices. 

With the eye of faith, we see that this also speaks to the great battle fought by one greater than King David — by Jesus, the Son of David and the King of Kings. We can see this prayer being offered prophetically for Jesus as He pointed Himself toward the cross, where He would fight the greatest battle against sin, death, and Satan’s power.

–David Guzik

1The Lord answer you in the day of trouble! The name of the God of Jacob protect you!

2May he send you help from the sanctuary, and give you support from Zion.

3May he remember all your offerings, and regard with favor your burnt sacrifices. Selah

4May he grant you your heart’s desire, and fulfill all your plans.

Isaiah 26:8 (NLT)

Lord, we show our trust in you by obeying your laws;
our heart’s desire is to glorify your name.

When our desires are in accord with the plan and will of God for us, we can pray this same prayer with confidence. We can also look for God to bring our desires more and more into conformity with His, in the course of Christian growth.

5May we shout for joy over your victory, and in the name of our God set up our banners. May the Lord fulfill all your petitions.

Here the raising of the banners signifies God’s victory over the enemies.

6Now I know that the Lord will help his anointed; he will answer him from his holy heaven with mighty victories by his right hand.

7Some take pride in chariots, and some in horses, but our pride is in the name of the Lord our God.

Some trust in

“Some trust in chariots, and some in horses:  but we will remember the name of the LORD our God.”  — Psalm 20:7 (King James Version)

Proverbs 18:10  ESV

The name of the Lord is a strong tower;
    the righteous man runs into it and is safe.

8They will collapse and fall, but we shall rise and stand upright.

9Give victory to the king, O Lord; answer us when we call.

“This is the language of faith, not after the battle, but before it.”

–J. Campbell Morgan

_________________________

Music:

HERE  is “My Heart’s Desire” by the Newsboys.

_________________________

The New Revised Standard Version, copyright 1989 by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Images courtesy of:
verse 4 with a rock.   https://dailyverses.net/psalms/20/4
verse 4 with clouds.   https://i.pinimg.com/originals/f6/f2/79/f6f279c33e2fc6f0261312238f9e5523.jpg
Roman chariot.  http://www.estatevaults.com/bol/chariot-roman.jpg