This God (Psalm 48)

Great is the Lord 

and most worthy of my praise 

my vehement praise 

The city where He lives, 

invites me to live, 

 is joy 

It will last forever 

This God 

He has shown Himself to me 

Fortress 

Unfailing love 

Righteousness 

Justice 

His Name, Ha-Shem 

and His praise,  

The Hallelujah! 

Is over 

is above 

comes down and touches 

all the earth 

I hear it and I see it 

and I will tell it 

to the next generation 

For this God 

This God 

Fortress 

Unfailing love 

Righteousness 

Justice 

is my God 

forever everlasting 

And He will lead me 

He will carry me 

even until 

the end

… let him who boasts boast in this, that he understands and knows me, that I am the LORD who practices steadfast love, justice, and righteousness in the earth. For in these things I delight, declares the LORD. Jeremiah 9:24 (ESV)

Photo by Sheila Bair

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.

My Song

Jesus is the song, the song that God has been singing since the beginning of creation, the song that God gave to the world.

The LORD is my strength and my song, and he has become my salvation; this is my God, and I will praise him, my father’s God, and I will exalt him. Exodus 15:2 (ESV) 

This is part of what is known as “The Song of Moses and Miriam.” The Israelites sang it after they had been rescued from the pursuing Egyptians who wanted to re-enslave them. They sang it to celebrate their deliverance after they had walked through the sea on dry sand, but the waters had closed over their enemies. And, I just realized that this song is repeated three times in the Bible. It is recorded here in Exodus, in Isaiah 12:2 and in Psalm 118:14. Wonderfully, it appears in both Isaiah and Psalms in chapters prophesying the Messiah.  

But what captured my attention here is the phrase “my song.” That God is my strength and salvation I understand. But how is He my song? Charles Spurgeon explained it this way: 

… “The Lord is my song” that is to say, the Lord is the giver of our songs; he breathes the music into the hearts of his people; he is the creator of their joy. The Lord is also the subject of their songs: they sing of him and of all that he does on their behalf. The Lord is, moreover, the object of their song: they sing unto the Lord. Their praise is meant for him alone. They do not make melody for human ears, but unto the Lord. “The Lord is my song.” Then I ought always to sing; and if I sing my loudest, I can never reach the height of this great argument, nor come to the end of it. This song never changes. If I live by faith my song is always the same, for “the Lord is my song.” Our song unto God is God himself. He alone can express our intensest joy. O God, thou art my exceeding joy. Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, thou art my hymn of everlasting delight.” from Jubilate, Charles Haddon Spurgeon, October 25, 1885 

Jesus is the song, the song that God has been singing since the beginning of creation, the song that God gave to the world, the song He commanded us to sing. Not the song of the world that we had been singing. This is the new song about a new hope, a new covenant, the new wine poured into new wine skins. Jesus is our Song. He is the song we sing in the desert place, pursued by our enemies, backed up against devouring impossibilities. 

The LORD is my strength and my song, and he has become my salvation. 

The heart that has been changed by the gospel sings the praise of the Savior. For only in Jesus, we have been redeemed. We have been saved from our sins that have separated us from our God. We have been raised from our spiritual death to walk in the newness of eternal life. We have received and have been sealed by the Holy Spirit, the guarantee of future and final redemption. We have been called out of darkness and into his marvelous light to proclaim his praises. He is our new song.” — K. Jason French1 

But I will sing of your strength; I will sing aloud of your steadfast love in the morning. For you have been to me a fortress and a refuge in the day of my distress. Psalm 59:16 (ESV) 

By day the LORD commands his steadfast love, and at night his song is with me, a prayer to the God of my life. Psalm 42:8 (ESV) 

Because you are my help, I sing in the shadow of your wings. I cling to you; your right hand upholds me. Psalm 63:6-8 

Let the trees of the forest sing, let them sing for joy before the LORD, for he comes to judge the earth. 1 Chronicles 16:33 

Let the trees sing. Let us all sing, for He is our song. And, the Song has arrived. 

This is my story; 

This is my song. 

From the heights of heaven’s glory 

To the depths of earth’s despair, 

Came a love song in the darkness, 

Came a song beyond compare. 

And from the humble stable 

God sang His lullaby, 

A song of peace, as song of joy, 

The music of the sky. 

This shall be my alleluia; 

This shall be my highest praise. 

Let my every word and deed proclaim it; 

Let me sing it all my days. 

This shall be my benediction; 

This shall be my dying phrase. 

This shall be my alleluia; 

Jesus is my song of grace! 

From the golden streets of heaven, 

To the shores of Galilee, 

Came a love song for all people, 

The music of eternity. 

And from a wooden cross, 

God sang His song of grace, 

And filled the world with the sound of hope 

And everlasting praise. 

This shall be my alleluia; 

This shall be my highest praise. 

Let my every word and deed proclaim it; 

Let me sing it all my days. 

This shall be my benediction; 

This shall be my dying phrase. 

This shall be my alleluia; 

Jesus is my song of grace! 

— “Jesus Is My Song of Grace,” by Joseph Martin2 

1 God Put a Song in Your Heart  https://www.desiringgod.org/articles/god-put-a-song-in-your-heart  

2 Listen to this wonderful song here Jesus Is My Song of Grace 

Photo of trees by Jessica Dillon

Only Humans

“All of nature continually praises God. Only humans require reminders to do so.”

Sitting at my desk early this morning with the window open, I heard the sandhill cranes raucously lift up their croaking praise with a glorious sunrise. And then I read this quote and smiled: 

“All of nature continually praises God. Only humans require reminders to do so.”i 

Yes, only humans require reminders. And there are many, many reminders. 

So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live your lives in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness. Colossians 2:6-7 

Through him then let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that acknowledge his name. Hebrews 13:15 (ESV) 

Sing and make music from your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. Ephesians 5:19-20 

 Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Philippians 4:4 

OK, all us humans, here is our reminder for today. Let’s lift up our heads and hearts out of the dark pits of bitterness, doubt, depression and despair. He has come! He is here with us. He will never leave or abandon us. He has a plan and a Way through and forward.

Let us lift up our croaking praise with the cranes and rejoice. I will say it again: Rejoice! 

All the earth bows down to you; they sing praise to you, they sing the praises of your name. Psalm 66:4 

From the rising of the sun to the place where it sets, the name of the LORD is to be praised. Psalm 113:3 

Let everything that has breath praise the LORD! Praise the LORD! Psalm 150:6 

iWilliam J. Petersen and Randy Petersen, One Year Book of Hymns 

Photo: Blast Off at Dawn by Mimi https://flic.kr/p/2n6Cfmz  

Praise, Shine, Flash Forth

Praise [shine, flash forth, celebrate, be clamorously foolish, glory in]  

the LORD [the one bringing into being, life-giver, giver of existence, creator, he who brings to pass, performer of his promises, he who causes to fall the rain and the lightning, destroyer of foes, the absolute and unchangeable one] 

all [altogether, the whole, any, howsoever, whatsoever, whosoever, every one of the] nations [peoples, Gentiles]!  

Extol [commend, glory in, praise, be still and free from care in, triumph in]  

Him [the calmer of the storm, the one who stills the waves, who carries our cares],  

all [altogether, the whole, any, howsoever, whatsoever, whosoever, every one of the] peoples [tribes, communities]! 

For great [strong, stronger, mighty, prevailing] is his steadfast love [favor, loving-kindness, good and kind deedliness,i merciful kindness, mercy, pity, abundant, plenteous, of great extent – preserver of life from death, quickener of spirit/heart life, redeemer from sin, keeper of covenant]   

toward [upon, above, over] us,  

and the faithfulness [firmness, truth, trustworthiness, reliability, sureness, stability, the truly, the verity, the Amen!] of the LORD  

endures forever [from everlasting antiquity to everlasting futurity, always, perpetual, permanent, of continuous existence, now and throughout eternity].  

Praise [shine, flash forth, celebrate, be clamorously foolish, glory in]  

the LORD [the one bringing into being, life-giver, giver of existence, creator, he who brings to pass, performer of his promises, he who causes to fall the rain and the lightning, destroyer of foes, the absolute and unchangeable one]!  Psalm 117:1-2 ii   

iLanguage falls apart, the keyboard disintegrates when trying to describe the chesed love of God! 

iiAll amplification from Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible, Brown-Driver-Briggs Hebrew and English Lexicon, and NAS Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible with Hebrew-Aramaic and Greek Dictionaries 

 Photo by Reilly Images, LLC

The Everlasting Lyrics

Jesus knew what he was singing, but did the disciples?

The priests stood at their posts, and the Levites also, with the instruments of music to the LORD, which King David had made for giving praise to the LORD—” for His lovingkindness is everlasting” … 2 Chronicles 7:6 (NASB)

1 Chronicles 16:39-41 records how David appointed worship leaders and established the way to give thanks to the Lord saying, “for his lovingkindness is everlasting.”  It appears that by the time of the dedication of Solomon’s Temple this phrase, His lovingkindness is everlasting (or His love endures forever), had become the standard for praise. Ezra 3:10-11 confirms that “according to the directions of King David of Israel” they were to play the musical instruments and praise God in this way.

The Psalms are full of this phrase. It is used 26 times just in Psalm 136. Wouldn’t you love to know how the music went? But even more important is to know why that phrase? What is so important about these lyrics – for his lovingkindness is everlasting?

Psalm 118, one of the great Messianic prophecies, foreshadowing Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem and his death as the Passover lamb, uses this phrase five times. The Psalm declares that “The stone which the builders rejected Has become the chief corner stone,” and “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the LORD.” But it also says this:

The Lord is God, and He has given us light; Bind the festival sacrifice with cords to the horns of the altar. You are my God, and I give thanks to You; You are my God, I extol You. Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good; For His lovingkindness is everlasting. Psalm 118:27-29 (NASB)

What is this festival sacrifice mentioned here? It is the sacrificial lamb. Did you know that on major feast days, according to Jewish tradition, a set of Psalms were sung that are referred to as the Hallel? It includes Psalms 113-118 and 136. So, these words could have been among the last that Jesus and the disciples sang before they went to the Mount of Olives the night Jesus was arrested.

When they had sung a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives. Matthew 26:20

The Greek word translated “hymn” here is humneo, which is the “singing of paschal hymns … Psalms 113 – 118 and 136, which the Jews called the ‘great Hallel.’”[i]

Jesus knew what he was singing when he sang “bind the festival sacrifice with cords to the horns of the altar,” but did the disciples? Did it, maybe, dawn on them later the everlasting meaning of those last words?

Give thanks (shoot arrows, extend your hands in reverent worship, confess the name of the Lord, praise, give thanks) to the Lord,

for He is good (gracious, joyful, kind, loving, precious, sweet);

For His lovingkindness (goodness, kindness, faithfulness, mercy, pity)

is everlasting (from the beginning of the world, perpetual, continuous, eternal, to the vanishing point). Psalm 118:29

I’m not sure David understood what he was singing. I don’t think the disciples did either at first. But this perpetual, continuous, gracious, loving, precious, sweet goodness, kindness, mercy of God has always existed. It was his plan from the beginning of the world, this sacrificial Lamb.

For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your forefathers, but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect. He was chosen before the creation of the world, but was revealed in these last times for your sake. 1 Peter 1:18-20

Let us join in the eternal song. Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good; For His lovingkindness is everlasting!

Image, Silk Willoughby church, East Window detail, by Jules & Jenny on flickr.com https://www.flickr.com/photos/jpguffogg/


[i] Theological Dictionary of the New Testament

Flash Forth!

Those flashes through the waves are very brief, but glorious. Like our lives. Like our attempts to be light and to glorify our Lord.

Have you ever sat on the beach as the sun lowers and watched the waves flash? It’s one of my favorite things to do. The sun is just at the right angle to shine through the waves for those few seconds as they rise and then tumble over toward the shore. And they flash. There is a word for praise in Hebrew that means to flash forth. It is halal – to flash forth light, to shine, celebrate, praise. It also means to act like a madman (I love that).

There is another word for praise that I have blogged about here Prisoners of Hope. That word is yadah. Yadah is shooting arrows. Yadah is strength. It’s hope. Yadah is fighting against the darkness. Halal is just pure praise, just because. Being a conduit of God’s light. Shining or flashing forth his glory. Like waves flashing the glory of the setting sun.

Halal is the first part of the Hebrew Hallelujah, or halal Yahh. Yahh being the sacred name, the proper name of the one true God. It is a contraction of Jehovah or Yahweh. Halal Yahh is translated into Greek as alleluia or hallelujah. It is the last ecstatic shout of the book of Psalms.

Let everything that has breath praise (halal) the LORD (Yahh). Praise (halal) the LORD (Yahh). Psalm 150:6

Those flashes through the waves are very brief, but glorious. Like our lives. Like our attempts to be light and to glorify our Lord. But each little flash, each little light adds to that unique glory.

People who have come to know the joy of God do not deny the darkness, but they choose not to live in it. They claim that the light that shines in the darkness can be trusted more than the darkness itself and that a little bit of light can dispel a lot of darkness. They point each other to flashes of light here and there, and remind each other that they reveal the hidden but real presence of God. They discover that there are people who heal each other’s wounds, forgive each other’s offenses, share their possessions, foster the spirit of community, celebrate the gifts they have received, and live in constant anticipation of the full manifestation of God’s glory.

Henri J.M. Nouwen, The Return of the Prodigal Son

Lord, help me be a little flash today. Let your light dispel the darkness!

Image by Susanne Nilsson, Sunset light in a Wave https://flic.kr/p/qjjpAu

All My Bones

Maybe I have no breath left to even cry out. But, even so, my bones can hear God.

My whole being (all my bones) will exclaim, “Who is like you, O LORD? You rescue the poor from those too strong for them, the poor and needy from those who rob them.” Psalm 35:10 (NIV)

Recently I was going through some old papers and I found a note scribbled on a church bulletin. “God hears my bones cry. If I could hear it, I would hear them cry ____?”

The Hebrew word translated “my whole being” above is etsem (עֶצֶם) and means bone, essence, substance. Other versions translate it “all my bones,” “from the bottom of my heart,” “every bone in my body.” So David is saying in the verse above, “my very essence, my substance will say.” It is like declaring, “the very fiber of my being will exclaim!”

Going back to my note, if I could hear my bones crying out, what would I hear today? I’m not sure. I have been going through a very dark and dry time. I would probably hear, “Help! Save! Restore, renew, redeem! Remember your promises to me!”

Or maybe I would hear nothing at all. Maybe my bones are too dry, too crushed.

A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones. Proverbs 17:22 (NIV)

Maybe I have no breath left to even cry out. But, even so, my bones can hear God.

Then he said to me, “Prophesy to these bones and say to them, ‘Dry bones, hear the word of the Lord! This is what the Sovereign Lord says to these bones: I will make breath enter you, and you will come to life. Ezekiel 37:4-5 (NIV)

At first when I read David’s cry in Psalm 35:10 I felt guilty. There is David, the man after God’s heart, again proclaiming God’s greatness, and here I am struggling to even get a breath after another low blow. But then I read the verse in context.

Contend, O LORD, with those who contend with me; fight against those who fight against me … arise and come to my aid … Say to my soul (that which breathes, the breathing substance or being, soul, the inner being), “I am your salvation” … Then my soul will rejoice in the LORD and delight in his salvation. My whole being will exclaim, “Who is like you, O LORD? You rescue the poor from those too strong for them, the poor and needy from those who rob them.” Psalm 35:1-3, 9-10 (NIV)

Later in this Psalm, David cries out, “How long, O Lord, will you look on and do nothing? Rescue me … Then I will thank you in front of the entire congregation. I will praise you before all the people (35:17-18 NLT).” As I read this I felt like God was saying to me that it is OK to be beat down, dried up, crushed. It’s OK to be crying for help. It’s even OK to be brutally frank with God about how I feel.

He hears, he knows, he is there in the valley of dry bones with us, and he is speaking grace and love and life and redemption. And I know that someday I will cry out, all my bones, with every fiber of my being, “Who is like you, O Lord?” I know that I will thank him and praise him for what he is doing, will do, has done.

Let me hear joy and gladness; let the bones you have crushed rejoice. Psalm 51:8 (NIV)

I would have despaired unless I had believed that I would see the goodness of the LORD In the land of the living. Psalm 27:13 (NASB)

 

His Mercy Prevails

Praise the Lord [shine, flash forth, boast, glory, clamorously make a fool of yourselves, celebrate, act like a madman], all nations [peoples];

Laud [loudly praise, commend, glory, triumph in] Him, all peoples [tribes, communities, nations]!

For His lovingkindness [goodness, kindness, faithfulness, mercy] is great [prevails, is strong, stronger, mighty, powerful, valiant] toward us,

And the truth [firmness, faithfulness, sureness, reliability, stability, certainty, verity, trustworthiness] of the Lord is everlasting [forever and ever, evermore, perpetual, always, unending, eternal, without end].

Praise the Lord [shine, flash forth, boast, glory, clamorously make a fool of yourselves, celebrate, act like a madman]!

Psalm 117:1-2 (NASB)

 

David danced before the LORD with all his might. 2 Samuel 6:14a (NKJV)

 

Image: Jump for Joy by Kreg Steppe https://www.flickr.com/photos/spyndle/3480602438

A Mass of Reasons

Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise;
give thanks to him and praise his name.
For the Lord is good (good, rich, valuable, excellent, right, beautiful, best, bountiful, fine, gracious, joyful, kind, loving, merry, precious, sweet).
Psalm 100:4-5  

For the Lord is good. This sums up his character and contains a mass of reasons for praise.”—Charles Spurgeon, The Treasury of David

“A mass of reasons” – I love that. Yes, there is always a reason to thank and praise. Though there are always reasons to complain and even despair, let me turn my eyes to my loving Father, to my beautiful, gracious, kind, precious Lord. He is the one I can always run to – when I have a “skinned knee” of the soul, when I am afraid of the thunder of what is going on in this world – he is always there with open arms.

Give thanks to him and praise his name!

 

I would like to thank Ruth at the Plantedbylivingwater blog for her 365 Days of Thanks challenge. Thank you for the daily prod and reminder!

 

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