He is Trustworthy

For great (mighty, strong, stronger, valiant, prevailing)

is his love (goodness, lovingkindness, faithfulness, mercy) towards us,

and the faithfulness (truth, sureness, reliability, stability, trustworthiness, certainty) of the LORD

endures forever (is of continuous existence, perpetual, everlasting, unending future).

Praise the LORD!  (Psalm 117:2 NIV)

His love is stronger – His love prevails!

He is trustworthy forever, continually, perpetually.

He will not fail you.

Advertisements

Chase Me Down

I am sure that God has felt, many times in my life, like he was chasing down a fleeing two-year-old.

Surely goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever. Psalm 23:6 (NIV)

In this Psalm of the Shepherd there is this curious verse. I always think of the shepherd as leading the sheep, and indeed in verses 2 and 3 “he leads me” and “he guides me.” But here goodness and mercy follow. What does that mean? It gets even more interesting when you look at the Hebrew meaning of the word. All of you who have ever chased down a two-year old heading for a busy street will understand this verse.

The Hebrew word translated “follow” in this verse is radaph – רָדַף. It means to run after or pursue. A couple of versions do translate it this way (NLT and Message). It is a much more passionate word than a wimpy English “follow,” like a puppy on a leash. Most people would not indifferently follow a toddler out into a busy street. Radaph means to follow after aiming eagerly to secure, pursue, chase down, pursue ardently, harass, persecute. Those last two meanings may sound weird in this context, but the word is actually mostly used in a hostile sense in the Bible, as in an enemy pursuing me – “The enemy pursues me, he crushes me to the ground” (Psalm 143:3). It is also used a few times to describe the pursuit of righteousness or justice, as in Proverbs 21:21. “He who pursues righteousness and love finds life, prosperity and honor.”

Abraham (then Abram) and David, as foreshadowers of the Good Shepherd and types of the passionate heart of God, go after (radaph) and rescue family members that have been kidnapped.

During the night Abram divided his men to attack them and he routed them, pursuing (radaph) them as far as Hobah, north of Damascus. He recovered all the goods and brought back his relative Lot and his possessions, together with the women and the other people. (Genesis 14:15-16 NIV)

And He [the Lord] said to [David], “Pursue (radaph), for you will surely overtake them, and you will surely rescue all” … So David recovered all that the Amalekites had taken, and rescued his two wives. But nothing of theirs was missing, whether small or great, sons or daughters, spoil or anything that they had taken for themselves; David brought it all back. (1 Samuel 30:8, 18-19 NASB)

Both Abram and David recovered all. None were missing (see John 6:39, 10:29).

But, radaph is only used this one time in Psalm 23 for God in his goodness and mercy ardently pursuing us, chasing us down, so passionate and intense that it can feel like harassment or persecution. The NetBible Translator’s Notes explains this seeming paradox.

 The use of רָדַף (radaf, “pursue, chase”) with טוֹב וָחֶסֶד (tov vakhesed, “goodness and faithfulness”) as subject is ironic. This is the only place in the entire OT where either of these nouns appears as the subject of this verb רָדַף (radaf, “pursue”). This verb is often used to describe the hostile actions of enemies. One might expect the psalmist’s enemies to chase him, but ironically God’s “goodness and faithfulness” (which are personified and stand by metonymy for God himself) pursue him instead. The word “pursue” is used outside of its normal context in an ironic manner and creates a unique, but pleasant word picture of God’s favor (or a kind God) “chasing down” the one whom he loves.

“Chasing down the one whom he loves!” That’s you and me – glorious love! And oh yes, I am sure that God has felt, many times in my life, like he was chasing down a fleeing two-year-old. And I have felt like that kid running away from restricting hands, laughing as I run out into traffic, angry as I am dragged back from what I wanted to do, my will, my plan. Totally not getting it.

Goodness and Mercy pursue me – yes! chase me down – all the days of my life! That I may dwell in your house, in your flock, forever.

What do you think? If any man has a hundred sheep, and one of them has gone astray, does he not leave the ninety-nine on the mountains and go and search for the one that is straying? Matthew 8:12 (NASB)

For the Son of Man came to seek and to save what was lost. Luke 19:10 (NIV)

 

 

Image Public Domain, By Emma Frances Logan, CC0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=61776928

To Him Who is Able

Now to him who is able (is capable, strong, has the power)

to do (to produce, construct, form, fashion, be the author of, make ready, prepare, carry out, execute, perform a promise)

immeasurably (superabundantly, exceedingly, out of measure, beyond measure, extraordinarily)

more (beyond, over, exceedingly abundantly more)

than all we ask (beg, call for, crave, desire, require )

or imagine (comprehend, heed, consider, perceive, think, understand),

according to (beyond measure, mightily, after the manner of)

his power (strength, ability, power residing in him by virtue of his nature, power to perform miracles, mighty, wonderful work)

that is at work (operative, active, effectual, fervent, mighty) within us,

to him be glory (honor, praise, worship) in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.

Ephesians 3:20-21

Hope Continually

Especially when things are really bad, hope feels like a sacrifice, a laying on the altar. 

But as for me, I shall always have hope (hope continually); I will praise you more and more. Psalm 71:14 (NIV) 

 In the above verse the psalmist declares, “I will hope continually.” Hope is hard enough without expecting it to be continual – at least it was for me. God has been speaking to me about hope (see Prisoners of Hope) and this verse brought a continuation of the revelation and healing. The Hebrew word translated “continually” is tamiyd – תָּמִיד. It means continually, continuously, constantly, perpetual, uninterrupted continuity. It is used to describe the daily sacrifice in the temple. And continuous hope – speaking it out as praise – is a daily sacrifice to the Lord. Hosea 14:2 speaks of offering the calves or bulls of our lips as a sacrifice, “Take words with you and return to the LORD. Say to him: Forgive all our sins and receive us graciously, that we may offer the fruit (calves, sacrificial bulls) of our lips.” Especially when things are really bad, hope feels like a sacrifice, a laying on the altar. 

But this word, tamiyd, is also used for the Bread of the Presence, or shewbread, that was to be continually in the temple.   

Over the table of the Presence they are to spread a blue cloth and put on it the plates, dishes and bowls, and the jars for drink offerings; the bread that is continually there is to remain on it. Numbers 4:7 (NIV) 

Literally it means the “’bread of continuity’ meaning the bread that was always there. i Jesus is the bread that was always there – Jesus, the Bread of Life (John 6:48). He is continually, continuously, constantly, perpetually, in uninterrupted continuity there. He is here, with me, with you. Always. I have a reason to hope continually because He is with me continually – no matter what. I have reason to praise Him more and more, and offer the daily sacrifice of my lips because He is the Bread that is always there. I will lay my sacrifice on the altar. I will hope in You.  

 Yet(!) I am always (tamiyd) with you; you hold me by my right hand. Psalm 73:23 (NIV) 

And be sure of this: I am with you always (all manner, all means, daily, every one, every way, as many as, thoroughly, whatsoever, whosoever), even to the end of the age. (Matthew 28:20 NLT)  

 i Theological Workbook of the Old Testament 

I want to give acknowledgement and thanks to Beholding Ministries. So often the Bible verses they post are just what I need to hear and are such a blessing. This post is based on: https://beholdinghimministries.org/2018/11/08/hope-for-today-hope-and-praise/

You Are Missed

And when they heard that the LORD was concerned about (cared about, attended to, sought, missed) them and had seen their misery, they bowed down and worshiped. Exodus 4:31 (NIV)

When I read this I thought immediately about the women at the jail we visit. Unstoppable tears stream down their faces as they realize somebody cares about them, God cares and has not forgotten them in their misery. The Hebrew word translated “concerned about” here is paqad – פָּקַד. It means to care for, attend to, be concerned for, but, wonderfully, it also means to seek, look about for, to seek in vain, miss, lack. It means to number or muster the troops, or to be missing from the number or muster. When Saul mustered the troops (1 Samuel 14:17) Jonathan and his armor bearer were missing (paqad). Jonathan told David he would be missed (paqad) from the dinner table (1 Samuel 20:18).

Isn’t that amazing? God missed the Israelites. And when they heard, in their misery and slavery, that the Lord cared about them, was looking for them, missing them, they bowed down and worshiped. God is concerned about you, cares about you, seeks you. If you have wandered far away, he misses you. If you have gotten yourself stuck in a prison and slavery to sin, he has not forgotten you. He wants you in the muster of the great army of God. He wants you there at the banquet table with him. He is always missing, seeking, caring about you.

What do you think? If a man owns a hundred sheep, and one of them wanders away, will he not leave the ninety-nine on the hills and go to look for the one that wandered off?  And if he finds it, truly I tell you, he is happier about that one sheep than about the ninety-nine that did not wander off. Matthew 18:12-13 (NIV)

He is wooing you from the jaws of distress to a spacious place free from restriction, to the comfort of your table laden with choice food. Job 36:16 (NIV)

 

Image in the Public Domain from the Library of Congress. https://www.loc.gov/pictures/collection/matpc/item/mpc2010007606/PP

I still dare to hope

But (Yet!) this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope (I still dare to hope):

The steadfast love (unfailing love, loyal love) of the Lord (indeed!) never ceases (is never completed, never finished, never fails), his mercies (compassions, tender love) (indeed!) never come to an end (are never accomplished, cease, consumed, determined, end, fail, finish, completed, be ended, be at an end, be finished, be spent); they are new (fresh, new thing) every morning; great (much, many, abounding, abundant, enough) is your faithfulness.

Lamentations 3:21-23

Jesus wept

I realized that a person can be a Christian their whole life, safe in their little cocoon of church and fellowship and keeping all the rules and trying to please God that way, but never get down and dirty, never touch the lepers, never mourn with those who mourn – and never know His pain, His sufferings, His passion toward us that shakes the earth and rolls away the stone, the power, strength, violence of His resurrection.

I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead. Philippians 3:10-11 (NIV)

I have always read about sharing in Christ’s sufferings (the Message translates it as “be a partner in his suffering”) as physical suffering, like persecution, being physically harmed or imprisoned. And it definitely does include that facet. Paul said, “I fill up in my flesh what is still lacking in regard to Christ’s afflictions” (Colossians 1:24). But, that word translated “sufferings” – pathema – has a distinct emotional side. Its base is the Greek word pathos, which means “a feeling which the mind suffers” and “subjectively, a passion.” It’s the reason why Christ suffered physically on the cross – “who for the joy set before him endured the cross.” For God so loved the world that he gave.

I recently started working in a jail ministry and I know now, because I have felt it, that these sufferings also include carrying the pain of a lost world, people hopeless, afflicted, in horrible pain of regret and guilt. People staring at the next 20 years in prison, missing their kids growing up, knowing the consequences are unending. In fact, I’m thinking that the sufferings of Christ were, and are, mostly heart pain. Mostly, mourning with those who mourn (Romans 12:15), mostly, carrying the afflictions of soul and spirit.

Surely he took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows (anguish, grief, pain, sorrow). Isaiah 53:4 (NIV)

Jesus wept with those who wept. Jesus groaned and sighed with grief over their sufferings. Jesus was angry with those who refused to share this pain (Luke 13:15-16).

When I first visited the jail, the powerful passion of his love for these who most view as the lowest of the low astonished me, I am ashamed to admit. It is a physical heart-pain, almost unbearable. And I realized that a person can be a Christian their whole life, safe in their little cocoon of church and fellowship and keeping all the rules and trying to please God that way, but never get down and dirty, never touch the lepers, never mourn with those who mourn – and never know His pain, His sufferings, His passion toward us that shakes the earth and rolls away the stone, the power, strength, violence of His resurrection. The passion that raises the dead to life, gives hope to the hopeless, transforms lives. I want to know that power. But the only way to truly know it is to know Christ first, for there is no power, there is no life-giving passion, there is no resurrection apart from Him. “I am the resurrection and the life.” I walk in Him, plug into the life-giving sap of the Vine, and He fills me with His love.

Lord help me to know you and the power of your resurrection. Let me be like you in your death, take up my cross daily. Let me be a partner in your sufferings.

Then Jesus looked up in prayer, groaned mightily (sighed with grief), and commanded, “Ephphatha!–Open up!” Mark 7:34 (MSG)

Jesus wept. (John 11:35)