Shaken Off

He shakes us forward and shakes us free.

For I am poor (depressed, in mind or circumstances, wretched, afflicted, 
humble, lowly, needy, poor)

and needy (in want, a beggar, needy, poor),

and my heart (inner man, mind, will, heart, understanding, seat of courage)

is wounded (profaned, defiled, polluted, desecrated, violated, wounded, pierced)

within me (my inward part, seat of thought and emotion, my center).

I fade away like an evening shadow; I am shaken off like a locust. Psalm 109:22-23 

I can identify with all of this Psalm – the depression, the woundedness, the feeling like I am in darkness. But I can especially relate to that last line: “I fade away like an evening shadow; I am shaken off like a locust.”  

I can understand shaking off a locust or grasshopper in creepy disgust. The feel of their sticky little feet and they are ugly and they spit that brown goo. They are associated with curse and plague, eating everything in their path, destroying the green life. To me, this is like rejection, being viewed as creepy, disgusting, gross, and being shaken off. I feel like the real me was shaken off in my childhood, and I have been shaking myself off in self-hatred ever since. So, this is something that God is showing me that I have to work on for sure.  

On the other hand, locusts were considered a clean animal that you could eat, that could bring nourishment. According to Thayer’s Greek Lexicon, peoples in the Middle East were “accustomed to feed upon locusts, either raw or roasted and seasoned with salt (or prepared in other ways), and the Israelites also (according to Leviticus 11:22) were permitted to eat them.” John the Baptist ate them in the wilderness. 

John’s clothes were made of camel’s hair, and he had a leather belt around his waist. His food was locusts and wild honey. Matthew 3:4 

John’s food was locusts AND honey. And in that verse is an amazing hidden treasure. There was another time that God fed his people in the desert with honey – honey from the rock. Moses identified the Rock as the Lord God. 

He [the Lord] is the Rock, his works are perfect, and all his ways are just … He nourished him [Israel] with honey from the rock … Deuteronomy 32:4, 13 

… with honey from the rock I would satisfy you.” Psalm 81:16 

John was fed in the desert place with these creepy, disgusting insects AND the honey from the Rock. Isn’t that what God does? He makes us, creepy as we are, nourishment, food for a hungry world with Christ, as we abide in Christ? 

I have felt shaken off in disgust. Yet, as I looked at the meaning of the word translated “shaken” in Psalm 109, I found treasure there too. Cool thing about this word is that it is “a primitive root, probably identical with 05286 (means growl), through the idea of the rustling of mane, which usually accompanies the lion’s roar.”1 The Lion of Judah roars and I am shaken like a locust. 

But I don’t think He is roaring in disgust or rejection. He is roaring in anger at my sin and what the sins of others have done to me. He is roaring with the pain and groaning of a broken world. And like a lion shaking its mane, he will shake these things off and set me free. He will bring new life, resurrection. He will transform me by the renewing of my mind (Romans 12:2). 

Because, though I fade away like an evening shadow, or I am “like a late afternoon shadow made by the descending sun that will soon be swallowed up by complete darkness,”2 the Lord will bring me light.  

The word translated “shaken” in the Psalm, is the same word as used in Job 38:13 Have you ever given orders to the morning, or shown the dawn its place, that it might take the earth by the edges and shake the wicked out of it?” 

I love that verse, and I have blogged about it before, but now I see something else. Do you see it? The dawn arrives, the Light of the world comes and dispels the deepening darkness, and the earth is shaken, I am shaken. 

The Lion shakes his mane and roars. I am shaken off like a locust into a new day. Yet, not in disgust and rejection, but rather to “shake me forward and shake me free” as in the Rich Mullins song, Calling Out Your Name. 

From the place where morning gathers  
You can look sometimes forever ’til you see  
What time may never know  
What time may never know  
How the Lord takes by its corners this old world  
And shakes us forward and shakes us free  
To run wild with the hope  
To run wild with the hope   

Lion of Judah roar! I am depressed and wretched in my mind; my heart is wounded, pierced and violated. I have been shaken off and rejected as disappointing and disgusting. I am about to be swallowed up in the darkness. Bring your Light as the dawn and shake off my sticky little feet from clinging to this world, from wrong thinking and lies, from idolatries, from fear and doubt and despair. Sweep me up to run wild with you, wild with hope. 

He sits enthroned above the circle of the earth, and its people are like grasshoppers. Isaiah 40:22 

Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe … Hebrews 12:28 

1Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance 

2NET Bible notes. 

Image by Michael https://flic.kr/p/8cP1vw  

The Bassline

We come to know God through our afflictions. Our praise would be rote, would be hollow without having known His Presence and comfort through our afflictions.  

“The deeper our troubles, the louder our thanks to God, who has led us through all, and preserved us until now. Our griefs cannot mar the melody of our praise, we reckon them to be the bass part of our life’s song, ‘He hath done great things for us, whereof we are glad.’” — Charles Spurgeon 

I read this quote by Spurgeon in a little devotional.1 I wondered, what did he mean when he said our griefs are the bass part of our song? It inspired me to learn more about the bass part (also called bass line or bassline) in music. 

The Cambridge Dictionary defines the bass as “the lowest range of musical notes.” The American Heritage Dictionary defines the bassline as “[a] musical part consisting of a sustained series of the lowest pitched notes in the piece or composition.”2  

Hmmm, if the bass part is our troubles, sometimes it seems that the low part has been sustained for a very long time. But look at this quote from an 1880 book on the history and science of music: 

“the bass part… is, in fact, the foundation upon which the melody rests and without which there could be no melody.” — by Robert Challoner3 

Wow, if you think of the melody as our praises and the bass part as our afflictions, “the bass part of our life’s song,” that is a startling thought. There could be no melody without the bass part. It is the “sturdy foundation.” 

“Our basslines have to provide the rhythmic and harmonic foundation; the bassline provides the high-end with the structure and foundation to create interesting melodies… A bassline is the foundation on which the melody rides. With the sturdy foundation of the bass and other rhythm section instruments, the melody is free to do all sorts of things.” — Andrew Pouska4  

Esther Murimi goes even further, saying that the bass completes the music, adding a fullness: 

“Try listening to music without bass and one with it and you’ll notice the difference. For more clarity, if you have a sound system, you will notice that the music is complete when the bass is enhanced and sounds hollow without it.” — Esther Murimi5  

Finally, Wikipedia notes that the bassline bridges a gap: 

The bassline bridges the gap between the rhythmic part played by the drummer and the melodic lines played by the lead guitarist and the chordal parts played by the rhythm guitarist and/or keyboard player. — Wikipedia, Bassline 

“[T]he rhythmic part played by the drummer” to me is like the part played by the Holy Spirit. We are encouraged to keep in step with the Spirit (Galatians 5:25). “[T]he melodic lines,” Spurgeon would say, are the melody lines of our praise. The bassline bridges the gap between these two. When you think about it, this intimate connection and teamwork between the Spirit (beat/step) and the bass (afflictions) makes sense. We come to know God through our afflictions. Our praise would be rote, would be hollow without having known His Presence and comfort through our afflictions.  

The hard times in our lives are the times that God has allowed to refine and purify us and to make us the place where His glory dwells. The baseline working with the (heart)beat of God gives the music of our lives richness, fullness, the reason to sing the melody, the joy, the with-all-my-heart passion. 

And we boast in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy’ Spirit, who has been given to us. Romans 5:2-5 

Do you hear the beat? … suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. Still using the metaphor provided by Spurgeon, I see that the love of God is the heart/drum beat and our sufferings are the bassline. And from these, through the knowledge of the character of God and trust in His goodness, the assurance that He is with us always – from these come our hope, and from that hope rises a pure melody of praise. 

Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. Galatians 5:25 

But thou art holy, O thou that inhabitest (sits down, settles, consummates the marriage, dwells, abides in) the praises of Israel. Psalm 22: 3 (KJV) 

For You have been my help, and in the shadow of Your wings I sing for joy. My soul clings to You; Your right hand upholds me. Psalm 63:7-8 (NAS) 

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong. 2 Corinthians 12:9-10 

Yet take thy way; for sure thy way is best:  
Stretch or contract me thy poor debtor:  
This is but tuning of my breast,  
To make the music better. -- George Herbert, from The Temper (I) 

1Devotional Classics of C. H. Spurgeon, June 9, by Charles Haddon Spurgeon. 

2American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition.  

3History of the Science and Art of Music: Its Origin, Development, and Progress 

By Robert Challoner, 1880. Full text available on Google Books https://books.google.com/books?id=dwctAAAAYAAJ&pg=PA1#v=onepage&q&f=false 

4StudyBass https://www.studybass.com/  

5The Scientifically Proven Importance Of Bass In Musical Performances, Merriam School of Music https://www.merriammusic.com/school-of-music/importance-of-bass-in-performances/  

Image, detail from How Firm a Foundation, hymn attributed to George Keith 1787.

How Long

Hope, it seems, is hardwired into our souls.

How long, LORD? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me? How long must I wrestle with my thoughts and day after day have sorrow in my heart? How long will my enemy triumph over me? Psalm 13:1-2 

If you have ever gone through a very long, dark night of trial and bewildering hard times, you may have felt forgotten; you may have cried out with David, “How long?” Actually, the Psalms record multiple times this question was asked of God. Other people in the Bible too, like Jeremiah (4:21) and Habakkuk.  

How long, LORD, must I call for help, but you do not listen? Or cry out to you, “Violence!” but you do not save? Habakkuk 1:2 

Even Our Lord himself expressed this sentiment, though I don’t blame him. I am sure that dealing with someone like me for even three and half years would seem like an excruciating eternity.  

“You unbelieving generation,” Jesus replied, “how long shall I stay with you? How long shall I put up with you?” Mark 9:19 

But sometimes our hard times do stretch out for very long times, even into decades, and we cry out with David, My soul is in deep anguish. How long, LORD, how long? (Psalm 6: 3). Yet, even then, there is a hope we can’t seem to shake. 

“There are times when in our despair we cry, ‘God hath forgotten me.’ yet somehow the conviction rises, ‘No, I am not forgotten forever.’ The soul is in that condition which Luther knew so well. — hope itself despairs, and despair nevertheless begins to hope. In our dejection we think there is no hope, yet we feel in our souls that God cannot forget, and so we begin to question Him, ‘How long shall it seem as though Thou forgettest us forever?’” — McConnell, Moody, and Fitt (emphasis mine)1 

Why have you forgotten me? Why must I go about mourning, oppressed by the enemy? Psalm 42:9 

“Hope itself despairs and despair nevertheless begins to hope.” Hope, it seems, is hardwired into our souls. Zechariah called us “prisoners of hope.” Hope, no matter how hard we try to get rid of it, is tenacious. It pops back up, poking through the hardened covering of our hearts or, at least, humming relentlessly beneath it. Sometimes hope feels like an invasive species that though it is poisoned, chopped down, and yanked up, just keeps coming back. Its roots run deep and are pervasive. Hope deferred makes the heart sick (Proverbs 13:12), yet hope does not shame us.  

And hope does not put us to shame (disgrace, shame down, shame of one repulsed, shame of hope deceived) because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us. Romans 5:5-6 

I think it depends on what and who you are hoping for and in. Because, real hope, the hope that is hardwired into us, is hope in God. Hope that He is always doing something, even when we can’t see it. That is where hope and faith in what we do not see are intertwined. After Habakkuk complains to God in the above verse that God is not listening, not helping, not saving, how does God answer? 

The LORD replied, “Look around at the nations; look and be amazed! For I am doing something in your own day, something you wouldn’t believe even if someone told you about it. Habakkuk 1:5 (NLT) 

… Jesus said to them, “My Father is always at his work to this very day, and I too am working.” John 5:17 

So, in the end, the pain of “how long” can be endured through His grace and love if I remember that God has not forgotten me and will not put me to shame. He will not repulse me or deceive me. His promises are faithful and true. He is doing something amazing right now that I cannot see, but will see someday. 

I would have despaired had I not believed that I would see the goodness of the LORD In the land of the living. Psalm 27:13 (Amplified Bible) 

My bones suffer mortal agony as my foes taunt me, saying to me all day long, “Where is your God?” Why, my soul, are you downcast? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God. Psalm 42:10-11 

Can a mother forget the baby at her breast and have no compassion on the child she has borne? Though she may forget, I will not forget you! Isaiah 49:15 

Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? Yet not one of them is forgotten by God. Indeed, the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Luke 12:6-7 

Return to your fortress, you prisoners of hope; even now I announce that I will restore twice as much to you. Zechariah 9:12 

1Alexander McConnell, William Revell Moody, Arthur Percy Fitt, Record of Christian Work, Volume 39, 1920 

Image in the Public Domain, Dead Sparrow by Marc Franz, 1905 

He’s Not Going Anywhere

I waited patiently for the LORD to help me, and he turned to me and heard my cry. He lifted me out of the pit of despair, out of the mud and the mire. He set my feet on solid ground and steadied me as I walked along. Psalm 40:1-2 (NLT)  

Where it says above “I waited patiently” the Hebrew literally says I waited waiting. The same word repeated twice – waiting and waiting. Yes, that is how I have felt, like I was waiting and waiting for the Lord. And not so patiently either. 

But I am completely humbled and undone by the next amazing word. Translated here as “he turned to me,” the word is natah (נָטָה) and means to “stretch out, spread out, extend, incline, bend,” or, to “pitch a tent.”1 It is the same word as this verse, the first time it is used in the Bible: 

From there he [Abram] went on toward the hills east of Bethel and pitched his tent, with Bethel on the west and Ai on the east. There he built an altar to the LORD and called on the name of the LORD. Genesis 12:8 

Think about that. As Abram stopped and spread out, pitching his tent in order to incline his ear, bend toward God, so God pitches His tent near me when I cry to Him. He spreads out and makes himself at home. Right here with me. He turns His attention to me. He hears me, He is listening. I have someone to talk to. He lifts me – I like the NLT version – out of the pit of despair. The mud and the mire have grabbed on to me and tried to suck me back in. It has stolen my shoes – my way, my walk. But He pulls me out (over and over it seems) and sets me on the firm place of the Rock.   

  God pitches his tent toward me. He is with me. And He is not going anywhere. 

And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age. Matthew 28:20 

Yet I am always with you; you hold me by my right hand. Psalm 73:23 

1Definitions from Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible and A Hebrew and English Lexicon of the Old Testament by Brown–Driver–Briggs 

Image by Andy Rogers https://flic.kr/p/fehFPP  

How Long?

“Hope itself despairs and despair nevertheless begins to hope.” 

How long, LORD? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me? How long must I wrestle with my thoughts and day after day have sorrow in my heart? How long will my enemy triumph over me? Psalm 13:1-2 

I can so relate to David’s wrestling right now. It does feel like God has forgotten or turned His Face away from me at times. Yet, this quote by Martin Luther from a commentary on Psalm 13 arrested me.

“Hope itself despairs and despair nevertheless begins to hope.” 

“There are times when in our despair we cry, ‘God hath forgotten me.’ yet somehow the conviction rises, ‘No, I am not forgotten forever.’ The soul is in that condition which Luther knew so well. — hope itself despairs, and despair nevertheless begins to hope. In our dejection we think there is no hope, yet we feel in our souls that God cannot forget, and so we begin to question Him, ‘How long shall it seem as though Thou forgettest us forever?’” — McConnell, Moody, and Fitt (emphasis mine)1 

“Hope itself despairs and despair nevertheless begins to hope.” 

Can a mother forget the baby at her breast and have no compassion on the child she has borne? Though she may forget, I will not forget you! Isaiah 49:15 

Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? Yet not one of them is forgotten by God. Indeed, the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Don’t be afraid [don’t be alarmed, don’t run away, don’t fear or be in awe of, and therefore reverence your enemy] … Luke 12:6-7 

Return to your fortress, you prisoners of hope; even now I announce that I will restore twice as much to you. Zechariah 9:12 

1Alexander McConnell, William Revell Moody, Arthur Percy Fitt, Record of Christian Work, Volume 39, 1920 

Photo by Derek Bair

The Presence is Here

Yes, God is with us. And the relationship He wants with me is way simpler than I have made it.

Enoch walked with God … Genesis 5:24 

One of the coolest things I have ever done lately was sitting in the big stuffed rocker beside my granddaughter, eating crackers and listening to music. We didn’t have to say anything, just being there together, savoring each other. I get that feeling about Enoch in the above verse. I don’t think Enoch did anything special. I think he and God just liked being together. Derek Prince put it this way: 

“Enoch just ‘walked with God’ (see Genesis 5:22, 24). As we go on further in the Bible, we meet the great father of faith, Abraham, with his most honorable title, which was ‘friend of God’ (James 2:23). He and God simply enjoyed one another’s company. I sometimes long to get away from all the theology and all the religious formalities and just have a relationship of being God’s friend—walking with Him and enjoying His company. I really believe God loves to be enjoyed by His people.” — Derek Prince 

I got a deeper revelation about this yesterday – maybe a deeper healing too as someone raised in a conditional love-based-on-performance home – as God sent my way this Prince quote and several other verses and messages from fellow bloggers. I love when He does that! Yes, God is with us. I just have to purposely remain aware of that. And the relationship He wants with me is way simpler than I have made it. He just wants me to know that he is sitting there in the rocking chair beside me, enjoying my company, walking along beside me on my dark path, loving me. 

“Just get down on your knees. There is an awful lot you do not need to know to find God. The light shineth, the voice calleth and the Presence is here.” — A.W. Tozer, And He Dwelt Among Us 

Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? Psalm 139:7 

“As the years advanced I learned to rely upon His presence and lovingkindness regardless of any trials; He assured me in the dark times, and I was able to sing His praises regardless of circumstances. Yet in the darkest times, when I had no voice to sing I silently lifted my hands in surrender to Him. I remember them even today, the overwhelming comfort of His presence reassured me beyond any words I could write for you. It was the presence of His Spirit beyond any doubt.” — Alan Kearns https://devotionaltreasure.wordpress.com/2022/06/21/singing-in-the-dark/  

Why are you in despair, my soul? Why are you disturbed within me? Hope in God! For I shall still praise him for the saving help of his presence. Psalm 42:5 

Image free download from Pixabay

Who Am I?

Bonhoeffer’s anguish and self-doubt ring so true they capture me.

Who Am I? (a poem by Dietrich Bonhoeffer) 

 Who am I? They often tell me 

 I stepped from my cell’s confinement 

 Calmly, cheerfully, firmly, 

 Like a Squire from his country house. 

Who am I? They often tell me 

 I used to speak to my warders 

 Freely and friendly and clearly, 

 As though it were mine to command. 

Who am I? They also tell me 

 I bore the days of misfortune 

 Equably, smilingly, proudly, 

 like one accustomed to win. 

Am I then really that which other men tell of? 

 Or am I only what I myself know of myself? 

 Restless and longing and sick, like a bird in a cage, 

 Struggling for breath, as though hands were compressing my throat, 

 Yearning for colors, for flowers, for the voices of birds, 

 Thirsting for words of kindness, for neighborliness, 

 Tossing in expectations of great events, 

 Powerlessly trembling for friends at an infinite distance, 

 Weary and empty at praying, at thinking, at making, 

 Faint, and ready to say farewell to it all. 

Who am I? This or the other? 

 Am I one person today and tomorrow another? 

 Am I both at once? A hypocrite before others, 

 And before myself a contemptible woebegone weakling? 

 Or is something within me still like a beaten army 

 Fleeing in disorder from victory already achieved? 

Who am I? They mock me, these lonely questions of mine. 

 Whoever I am, Thou knowest, O God, I am thine! 

This is the most beautiful poem about self-doubt that I have ever read. Written in his jail cell, it was one of the last Bonhoeffer wrote before his execution by the Nazis for his ties to the July 20, 1944 conspiracy to overthrow the Nazi regime. Bonhoeffer’s anguish and self-doubt ring so true they capture me. I cry out together with him. How many times have I found myself holding down contempt, prejudice, judgement, anger with one hand and blessing with the other? How many times am I harboring fear, hopelessness, even despair in my heart, but praising God with my mouth?  People say, “Oh what a wonderful person!” But I know the truth. 

Isn’t this what Paul meant when he cried out “what a wretched man I am!”? 

For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; but I see another law at work in me, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within me. What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death? Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord! Romans 7:22-25 

Yes! Thanks be to God, He has delivered me from my self through Jesus Christ my Lord! I know (at least in my head I know, but it is working its way down into my heart!) that I am not part of the “beaten army fleeing in disorder from victory already achieved”- the victory achieved by our Lord on the Cross. I know, along with Bonhoeffer, to whom I belong. 

Yes, I know the truth about what is in my heart, but so does God. He knows I am a terminal mess in my flesh, but that my path is doggedly along the Narrow Way. I may be crawling through the mud most of the time, but He knows I am moving towards Him. My heart is wanting Him. He knows that whoever I am, I am His. 

Photo, Inside Looking Out, by José Eugenio Gómez Rodríguez https://flic.kr/p/pz1jrM  

It Takes Time to Grow

“My times are in your hands.”

How long must I wrestle with my thoughts and day after day have sorrow in my heart? How long will my enemy triumph over me? Psalm 13:2 

Sometimes it feels like it takes forever to heal, to change, to mature, to overcome. Sometimes I feel like I will never grow up out of my trauma. I struggle with the same dark thoughts, negative self-talk, unbelief for years. I cry out with David, “How long must I wrestle with my thoughts and day after day have sorrow in my heart?” The following verses and quotes have encouraged me in the past weeks. If you are struggling and feel like it is taking way too long, may they bless you too. 

Believe Him in the darkest hours. See His faithfulness emerge rock solid. Now we see His truer essence. Now we know faith in our Savior – from faith to faith. Joy! Things take the time they take. ~G.W. https://collinsgw.wordpress.com/2022/03/21/mystifying-dismay/  

“God still speaks today through dreams, visions, prophecies and we can make the mistake of thinking they are “now” words for this present time or the immediate future. We have to learn to submit the timing to God. The fulfilment may actually be for years in the future. We need to practice patience while we wait … It takes time to grow.” — Eagle Sight https://eaglesight.blog/2022/04/08/joseph-hero-of-the-faith-4/  

My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing. James 1:2-4  

The real mystery of grace is that it always arrives in time. — Ann Voskamp 

But I trust in you, O LORD; I say, “You are my God.” My times are in your hand … Psalm 31:14 

“God has absolute control over time and what David realized when he uttered those words [My times are in your hand] is this: that God has absolute control over the times in our lives. He’s never late. He’s never premature. He has a time for every situation, every circumstance. If we will just commit our lives totally into His hands, we’ll find that our times are in His hands. What a relief from pressure, from strain, to know that God has control over the time element in our lives. Our times are in God’s hands.” — Derek Prince 

I have to keep reminding myself that God’s timing is always right and healthy for me, as I keep trusting and walking with Him. Some seeds take a very long time to sprout and grow. And some have to struggle up through a lot of rubble. Sometimes they seem dead, but life is coming – I have to wait for it. In the mean time …  

My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever. Psalm 73.26 

Wait for the Lord; 
Be strong and let your heart take courage; 
Yes, wait for the Lord. Psalm 27:14

Image, free download from Pixabay

Not Chicken Hearted

Does the heart empowered by the Presence of God stand and love no matter what?

Why, my soul, are you downcast? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God. Psalm 42:5 

According to Barnes Notes on the Bible, the word translated “downcast” means to sink down under the weight of sorrow; to be depressed and sad. The word translated “disturbed” means literally, to growl as a bear, to be agitated, troubled, or anxious in mind, to moan internally. I’ve done a lot of both growling and moaning lately. 

That last part of this verse says in the Hebrew: I will yet praise him for the salvations of his face. 

“For the help of his countenance – literally, ‘the salvations of his face,’ or his presence. The original word rendered help is in the plural number, meaning salvations; and the idea in the use of the plural is, that his deliverance would be completed or entire – as if double or manifold.”i 

It was not by their sword that they won the land, nor did their arm bring them victory; it was your right hand, your arm, and the light of your face, for you loved them. Psalm 44: 3-4 

  
The Psalmist, like me, was downcast, depressed, despairing, trying to inspire and encourage his soul to wait, to be patient, to hope expectantly. Ah, that is hard. Charles Spurgeon commented on this verse: 

“Why art thou cast down, O my soul? As though he were two men, the psalmist talks to himself. His faith reasons with his fears, his hope argues with his sorrows. These present troubles, are they to last forever? … Why this deep depression, this faithless fainting, this chicken hearted melancholy?” — Charles Spurgeonii 

“Chicken hearted melancholy.” That made me laugh, and reminded me of the 1961 exercise song we were forced to sing as part of President Kennedy’s Youth Fitness Program: “Give that chicken fat back to the chicken and don’t be chicken again!” Maybe what I should be singing now is, “Give that chicken heart back to the chicken and don’t be chicken again!” 

Ruth in a recent blog from Planted by Living Water (https://plantedbylivingwater.wordpress.com/2018/03/24/antithesis-of-love-1-corinthians-13/ ) listed the antithesis of love as defined in 1 Corinthians 13:7-8.

This anti-love:  

  • runs from difficulties,
  • is unbelieving, cynical, and suspicious, 
  • feels there is no hope, and 
  • gives up. 

Is the opposite of love to be chicken hearted? Does the heart empowered by the Presence of God stand and love no matter what? Is it like the Ukrainian President refusing to leave the city under siege and reassuring the people after the long, dark, terrifying night, “I am here.” iii 

The psalmist commands his failing soul to hope, which means to wait expectantly for the promised salvation. That is the opposite of despair, isn’t it? As my pastor asked in his sermon this past Sunday: am I walking around in anxiety or anticipation? A lot of times I walk in anxiety, but “Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance.” I think it is time for me to stand on the Rock, grab onto His hope and pray. And that is only possible by the salvations of His Face, the Light of His Face, for He loves us.   

Lord, let it be! Help me to stand and keep loving in the light of your Face. Work in me persevering faith and expectant hope, no matter what is going on around me. 

“A loss of the present sense of God’s love is not a loss of that love itself; the jewel is there, though it gleams not on our breast; hope knows her title good when she cannot read it clear; she expects the promised boon though present providence stands before her with empty hands. For I shall yet praise him for the help of his countenance. Salvations come from the propitious face of God, and he will yet lift up his countenance upon us.” — Charles Spurgeon 

Immediately the boy’s father exclaimed, “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!” Mark 9:24 

I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God. 

iBarnes Notes on the Whole Bible, by Albert Barnes 

iiTreasury of David, Charles Spurgeon https://archive.spurgeon.org/treasury/ps042.php  

iiiUSA Today on Twitter https://twitter.com/USATODAY/status/1497635825860820993  

Image in the Public Domain

Grab on

He sees me down here in the muck. He will not abandon or forget me. He is encouraging me to grab on to the hope.

I led [drew] them with cords of human kindness, with ties [ropes] of love. To them I was like one who lifts a little child to the cheek, and I bent down to feed them. Hosea 11:4 (NIV) 

The past week or so I have awakened with a picture in my mind of a rope or cord hanging down in front of me. I started to pay attention to it after the third or fourth time. You know from my last couple of blogs, that I am going through a rough place. So, I thought maybe God was saying something to me. 

As I meditated on it, I was reminded of the rope lowered to pull Jeremiah up out of the muck at the bottom of the empty cistern where he was being held prisoner (see Jeremiah 38). Trapped, helpless, rejected and left to die, though he had obeyed everything God had commanded him. Alone in the darkness and the muck, a rope was lowered. He reached out and grabbed it. 

And then as I thought more about it, I remembered Rahab tying the scarlet cord in her window (Joshua 2). It hung there as a hope before her face when she looked out the window and as a sign of that hope to those without. With fear turning her home into a dark inevitability, with this huge destroying army approaching, the cord may have seemed like a fragile hope. Yet, she clung to that hope. 

I am there with both of them.  

Jeremiah’s rope and Rahab’s cord are two different words in the Hebrew – both hiding wonderful treasure.  

Jeremiah’s rope is the Hebrew word chebel (חֵבֶל). Besides meaning a rope or cord made of strands twisted together, it means a measuring line, an inheritance (as measured), and a company (as if tied together). 

It also means the pains of childbirth. I can relate to all these meanings. But maybe especially the childbirth one. Do you ever feel like the whole of life is a birthing? A painful birthing of hope, of faith, of this “company” we are a part of? Am I – are we – being made part of this rope twisted together that can be lowered down to others in the darkness and the muck? 

And she [Rahab] tied the scarlet cord in the window. Joshua 2:21 

Rahab’s scarlet cord is the Hebrew word tiqvah (תִּקְוָה).i It amazingly means expectation, hope, “a thing that I long for.” When Rahab tied the cord in the window it was in hope that she and her family would not be destroyed.  

One of the meanings listedii is “things hoped for,” as in Romans 11:1. “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” 

The scarlet cord in the window is a picture of the blood of the Passover Lamb on the doorposts, a foreshadowing of the blood that would be shed for us on the cross. The hope, the assurance we have if we grab on. 

Jeremiah and Rahab both grabbed on. They both clung fast. I think God is saying to me to grab on to that rope and let Him draw me up and out. He sees me down here in the muck. He will not abandon or forget me. He is encouraging me to grab on to the hope. As in the beautiful image in the verse above in Hosea, He is drawing me with human kindness. Jesus became human and suffered so He can empathize and help. 

Since he himself has gone through suffering and testing, he is able to help us when we are being tested. Hebrews 2:18 (NLT) 

God wants to draw me up with cords of love. He wants me to let Him lift me up and press His cheek to mine. 

He drew me up from the pit of destruction, out of the miry bog, and set my feet upon a rock, making my steps secure. Psalm 40:2 (ESV) 

I will exalt you, LORD, for you lifted me (drew me up) out of the depths and did not let my enemies gloat over me. LORD my God, I called to you for help, and you healed me. You, LORD, brought me up from the realm of the dead; you spared me from going down to the pit. Psalm 30:1-3 

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. Romans 15:13 

iRead more about tiqvah here Knots in the Cord  

iiSee Bible Hub entry for Strong’s Hebrew #8615 https://biblehub.com/hebrew/8615.htm

Image, Rope by Helder Mira https://flic.kr/p/8owJBe

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