Always

Continually, continual, daily, regularly, constantly, always …

Be my rock of refuge, to which I can always go; give the command to save me, for you are my rock and my fortress. Psalm 71: 3 

From my birth I have relied on you; you brought me forth from my mother’s womb. I will ever praise you. Psalm 71:6 

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

The Hebrew word tamiyd is used three times in Psalm 71. In the above verses, the word translated “always” and “ever” is tamiyd. It means continually or continuously, constantly, perpetually, evermore. I can continually go to God, praise God, and have hope in God. Yes! And you know why? Because of the other meaning of tamiyd.  

According to the Encyclopaedia Judaic, “Tamid is an abbreviated form for olat tamid (daily burnt-offering), and refers to the daily (morning and evening) sacrifices as set out in Exodus 29:38-42 and Numbers 28:1-8.” i

Tamiyd (or tamid) is the regular, daily sacrifice, the fire of which was never to go out (Leviticus 6:12-13) until the Lamb of God, Jesus, the final sacrifice for sin would come (Hebrews 9:15-27).   

But he [Jesus] has appeared once for all at the culmination of the ages to do away with sin by the sacrifice of himself. Hebrews 9:26b 

The word also refers to the Bread of the Presence, the shewbread or showbread, which was placed weekly on the golden table in the Tabernacle.  

“The word [tamiyd] is used alone to designate the daily burnt offering in Dan 8:11-13; Dan 11:31; Dan 12:11. Num 4:7 refers to the ‘bread of continuity’ meaning the bread that was always there.” — Dr. Walter C. Kaiser, Jr.ii  (emphasis added) 

The Bread that is always there. Jesus, always right there with us. As close as our breath and the beating of our hearts. Hallelujah! 

Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; he who comes to Me will not hunger, and he who believes in Me will never thirst.” John 6:35 

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

Continually, continual, daily, regularly, constantly, always, at all times, all day and all night, constant, perpetual, endless, forever, ever, evermore.iii 

Because of the Lamb of God who was the final sacrifice for sin, the Lamb slain before the beginning of the world, whose passionate, fiery love for us never goes out, I can always go into the Presence of God. 

In him and through faith in him we may approach God with freedom and confidence. Ephesians 3:12 

Because of the Bread of Life who is always there with us, I can ever praise him 

Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise—the fruit of lips that confess his name. Hebrews 13:15 

Because of Jesus who daily bears our burdens and ever lives to make intercession for us, I can always have hope 

Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful.  Hebrews 10:23 

My Rock of refuge to whom I can always go, may your fire never go out in me. 

Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 

Seek the Lord and his strength, seek his face continually (tamiyd). 1 Chronicles 16:11 

i Encyclopaedia Judaic, Jerusalem, 1971 Keter Publ. House Ltd. 

ii Hebrew word studies in the Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament, Vols. 1- 2, edited by Laird Harris, Gleason Archer and Bruce Waltke, Chicago: Moody Press, 1981. 

iii Some of the ways that tamiyd is translated in NetBible. 

Draw Near

This week the theme highlighted for me by the Spirit was obviously prayer! I received a cascade of blogs and devotionals on this subject, a welcome confirmation as God has been speaking to me about prayer too. “If you love someone, you talk to them.”  

… I had a strange epiphany in my early college years at the realization that I didn’t really understand why I was praying. Have you had similar thoughts? As soon as you utter, “Amen,” you start to doubt the words that proceeded it. If God is good, why is He waiting on me to pray to bless me, heal that friend, or right that injustice? And if He already has those things in mind, then why am I praying at all? … while I can’t fully explain the theology of prayer, I can explain a little bit about relationships. If you love someone, you talk to them. You relax and talk and (read this part carefully) listen. — 5 Practical Ways to Grow (or start!) Your Prayer Life, blogged by A Grateful Life Lived. Read the whole excellent post here https://agratefullifelived.wordpress.com/2020/11/08/5-practical-ways-to-grow-or-start-your-prayer-life/  

We do not know what we should pray for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered.  Romans 8:26 

 We realize that we are energized by the Holy Spirit for prayer; and we know what it is to pray in accordance with the Spirit; but we don’t often realize that the Holy Spirit Himself prays prayers in us which we cannot utter ourselves. When we are born again of God and are indwelt by the Spirit of God, He expresses for us the unutterable. — Oswald Chambers, The Unrivaled Power of Prayer, from My Utmost for His Highest Updated Edition 

Your part in intercessory prayer is not to agonize over how to intercede, but to use the everyday circumstances and people God puts around you by His providence to bring them before His throne, and to allow the Spirit in you the opportunity to intercede for them. In this way God is going to touch the whole world with His saints. — Oswald Chambers, The Undetected Sacredness of Circumstances, from My Utmost for His Highest Updated Edition 

But you, when you pray, go into your inner room, and when you have shut your door, pray to your Father who is in secret, and your Father who sees in secret will repay you” (Matthew 6:6, NAS) 

What’s the “inner room”? I think it’s the place of stillness; the place where you’re shut off from all other voices and influences and you can really hear the voice of God, and when you’re in that relationship with stillness in your inner room, then God speaks to you, you receive faith, you receive revelation and your prayer has a different quality to it. — Derek Prince 

Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need. Hebrews 4:16 

“Come to Jesus, come the Great High Priest, come to the throne of the Living God, the Lamb who was slain BUT is alive, the grave could not hold Him and you will find His grace is sufficient for your every need. 

Draw near – love Him, fellowship with Him, worship Him, hunger and thirst for Him, cast your cares on Him – draw near with a sincere heart in intimate relationship. 

Note this is not an invitation to come to church, nor is it an invitation for intellectual assent, nor is it an invitation to empty works … this is an invitation to bring our hearts into the very presence of God and commune with Him. The blood of the Lamb, Jesus the Christ, gives us access to into His Presence …” Let’s Approach God, by Beholding Him Ministries https://beholdinghimministries.org/2020/11/10/lets-approach-god/  

Image from Flickr, Praying Woman Hands by Long Thiên

… for it is God

If you feel lost. If you feel far away from God. Cry out to him, for it is God who gives, who restores, who draws, who works. He is yearning for you. You cannot make yourself want to know him. He will do it. He is already.

How lovely is your dwelling place, Lord Almighty! My soul yearns, even faints, for the courts of the Lord; my heart and my flesh cry out for the living God. Psalm 84:1-2

I will give them a heart to know me, that I am the LORD. They will be my people, and I will be their God, for they will return to me with all their heart. Jeremiah 24:7

Restore us (draw us, turn us, bring us back, restore, repair, rescue us), O God; make your face shine upon us, that we may be saved. Psalm 80:3

Restore us (draw us, turn us, bring us back, restore, repair, rescue us), O LORD, and (renew, rebuild, repair us) bring us back to you again! Lamentations 5:21

… for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose. Philippians 2:13

I drew them with gentle cords, With bands of love, And I was to them as those who take the yoke from their neck. Hosea 11:4

Taking Refuge

Taking refuge is crucial in these times we are in, but it must be beyond mere head knowledge. It must become part of my very being, like breathing.

O taste and see that the LORD is good; How blessed is the man who takes refuge in Him! Psalm 34:8 (NASB) 

When God highlights something to me that I have been blithely skipping over for 48 years I know he wants me to dig deeper. In this case it was the phrase “takes refuge” that stopped me. To “take refuge” implies action, something I do. I am beginning to see that I have been standing outside the refuge in the malevolent, pummeling storm holding my flimsy umbrella, recognizing correctly that there is a refuge, understanding and believing in the refuge, even memorizing all the verses about the refuge. But, most of the time, not actually doing the effort to “take refuge” – get under His wings, crawl up on His lap. So, my head knowledge, or even my faith in the refuge, does me no good.  

The Hebrew word translated “takes refuge” above is chacah. It means to seek refuge, flee for protection, to put trust in God, confide or hope in God. A related word is batah – to trust in, rely on, take refuge in. A commentator notes that chacah “is probably to be distinguished from batah ‘rely on,’ ‘take refuge in’ as denoting more precipitate action.” [emphasis mine]i

To do something precipitately is to do it in a way that is “sudden and done without thinking” (Cambridge Dictionary). This definition reminds me of kids jumping into the parents’ bed at a house-shaking crack of thunder. It is done without thinking because in their subconscious level that is where safety and security is; where their trust is.

Is trusting in the Lord something we do “without thinking” almost by instinct? Do we jump into his arms when the earth shakes and the storm roars? God is showing me that this only happens when we have made putting our trust in him a long discipline, so that it has become a habit. We have tasted and seen his goodness many times, over and over without fail. The struggle between God and us is over. We have surrendered to Him and experienced his love. Deep down below the level of thinking and logic and reasons we know – we know Him.

Since God showed me this, I have started practicing this taking refuge action against my almost constant fear and regret and self-condemnation and complaining against God. It takes determined effort and is hard, like stopping a train and reversing the direction. But it is making a huge difference. What does that look like? 

When I find myself floundering, when a condemning thought comes into my mind, I remember the Cross of Jesus Christ and make the decision and effort to take refuge in his Word.  

Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.  Romans 8:1 

As the Scripture says, “Anyone who trusts in him will never be put to shame.” Romans 10:11 

When fear oppresses me, I cling to the promise.  

So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. Isaiah 41:10 

When I am afraid, I will trust in you. Psalm 56:3

When, in my rebellious self-life, I start with the complaints, even resentment, against God, I look around for something to be grateful for. I offer up a sacrifice of praise. 

I will sacrifice a thank-offering to you and call on the name of the LORD. Psalm 116:17 

Taking refuge, trusting in God, is crucial in these times we are in, when philosophers and politicians and journalists and marketers clamor for my trust. But it must come from beyond mere head knowledge – I must get out from under my leaky umbrella. My trust in Him must become part of my very being, like breathing. Like the pumping of my heart. I must “do” taking refuge, until I abide there, always leaning against his chest, feeling his sweet breath on the top of my head, listening to the eternal, unstoppable, vehement, passionate, fierce, zealous beating of his mighty heart. 

Let me dwell in Your tent forever; Let me take refuge in the shelter of Your wings. Selah. Psalm 61:5 (NASB) 

Have mercy on me, O God, have mercy on me, for in you my soul takes refuge. I will take refuge in the shadow of your wings until the disaster has passed. Psalm 57:1

It is better to take refuge in the LORD than to trust in man. It is better to take refuge in the LORD than to trust in princes. Psalm 118:8-9

Photo by lars_o_matic on flickr.com https://flic.kr/p/e9V5ZM  

How Long?

He knows that a thousand years may seem like a day to him, but it sure seems like a long time to us.

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?

Look on me and answer, Lord my God.
    Give light to my eyes, or I will sleep in death,
and my enemy will say, “I have overcome him,”
    and my foes will rejoice when I fall.

But I trust in your unfailing love;
    my heart rejoices in your salvation.
I will sing the Lord’s praise,
    for he has been good to me. Psalm 13

The beginning words of this Psalm are familiar to me. I have said them a lot in the past 48 years. “How long, Lord? Feeling like I am forgotten, that God has turned away. Especially the “wrestling with my thoughts” part. These verses seem almost scandalously unfaithful – Charles Spurgeon called this the “How long Psalm,” or the “Howling Psalm.” But the words are real. It is how we feel many times. I am so glad that God let them stay in the Bible.

There are many other places, especially in the Psalms, where the Holy Spirit includes these scandalous thoughts and cries. Our being real with God does not bother him. In fact, he loves it when we turn to him and cry out to him, even with doubts in our hearts. Because he knows that a thousand years may seem like a day to him, but it sure seems like a long time to us. And he will respond. His father-heart cannot help but respond. And we can trust in his unfailing love, his chesed. The Psalmist always, somehow, comes back to that trust.

It made me smile when I saw that the Hebrew word chesed, which tries to encompass the kindness and mercy and goodness of God, is translated into Greek as Bethesda – the House of Mercy. This is the name of the pool where they would lay the many disabled people – lame and blind and paralyzed – and they would wait. Wait for the chesed. One man had waited 38 years when Jesus came and healed him. I imagine he may have wondered many times “How long, Lord?”

But sometimes God has to wait for us. Jesus asked the man, “Do you want to become well?” I can hear him adding to himself, “now? Yet? Are you ready?” Because we have much to wrestle with – me in particular. Much anger and resentment and pride and rebellion to fight through and howl about.  But God is there. And he is working in us, whether we can see or feel it or not. He won’t give up on us, even if it takes a thousand years. So, we can say:

But I trust in your unfailing love;
    my heart rejoices in your salvation.
I will sing the Lord’s praise,
    for he has been good to me.

Breathing After

Maybe we were never meant to breathe on our own.

I am the LORD your God, who brought you up out of Egypt. Open wide your mouth and I will fill it. But my people would not listen (shama) to me; Israel would not submit (abah) to me. Psalm 81:10-11

The phrase translated above as “you would not submit” consists of the two Hebrew words for not + willing, many times translated “unwilling” in the Bible. You were unwilling. Unfortunately, those two words mostly come together in the Bible.

The willing part of the phrase is the Hebrew word abah, which literally means to breathe after. Figuratively, it means to acquiesce, consent, rest content, will, be willing, to desire. Two other Hebrew words come from abah – the word for “longing” and the word for “reed or papyrus” in the sense of bending toward. It’s one of those passionate Hebrew words. To breathe after – like panting after – longing for, desiring.

The word translated “listen” above is shama. It means to hear, listen to, obey. It is the first word and command of the verse Jesus identified as the most important: Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. (Deut. 6:4-5). Abah and shama come together a lot and while their meanings are complimentary, G. J. Botterweck[i] defines the difference.

“The difference seems to be that ‘aba denotes the first beginnings of a positive reaction, whereas shama’ indicates complete obedience.”

Abah, the first beginnings of desire, of longing for God, the bending toward God to catch that still, small voice. Shama, hearing God’s voice and obeying with all. The Spirit of the Lord in the Old Testament means the breath, mind, or spirit of God. If we are willing to obey, we “breathe after” God, or breathe his breath after him. We are one mind and spirit with him. His breath, his command, his Word becomes part of us.

It reminds me a lot of the practice of the presence of God. Breathing His breath; breathing in tandem with the Spirit. Or maybe like God blowing his breath into us, as at creation, and us breathing it out (Genesis 2:7). The Word, the Breath, the Life. Like mouth-to-mouth respiration. Open your mouth and I will fill it! Maybe we were never meant to breathe on our own. But, isn’t that amazing? The idea that being willing and obeying God is to breathe his very breath? Isn’t the image of opening your mouth, like a baby bird, the ultimate in trusting and yielding?

Why don’t we breathe after God? In the above verse it was because of stubbornness. Sometimes it’s because of fear, caring about what people think more than pleasing God, pride, the choking need to be in control. We keep our mouths tightly shut.

Bend toward. Breathe after.

 

This is the air I breathe

This is the air I breathe

Your holy presence living in me

And I, I’m desperate for you

And I, I’m lost without you

–Michael W. Smith

 

I open my mouth and pant, longing for your commands. Psalms 119:131

 

[i] G. J. Botterweck in The Theological Dictionary of the Old Testament, I, p. 25.

Image copyright by Jack Bair

 

I will throw my net over them

… I will throw my net over them … Hosea 7:11 (NLT)

In the book of Hosea the Lord God laments over the sins of his people. In one place he says “Oh Israel and Judah what should I do with you?”[i] As a Mom this sounds very familiar to me. I think I have said that, or something very similar to my kids several times in frustration, “What am I going to do with you?”

Sometimes we look at the God of the Old Testament as different from Jesus. We only see the punishments, the judgments, the prophesies of enemies overtaking and dragging away. And that appears in Hosea. But, as I read chapters six and seven, I saw something else, very heartbreaking, but very wonderful and redeeming.

In the midst of God’s chastisements and listing of all Israel’s sins, he cries out three times from the pain and love of his heart.

I wanted so much to restore …

I wanted to heal …

I wanted to redeem …[ii]

But, they rejected God, they turned away to other gods, they rebelled. God grieves, “… no one cries out to me for help.”[iii] It all sounds so impossible, so despairing, so final.

But there in the middle there is this wonderful phrase. “I will throw my net over them.” This reminded me of Jesus on the shore calling to the disciples, “Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men.” (Matthew 4:19)

Jesus, the Great Fisherman, God in the flesh come to throw his net over us. God’s father-heart of mercy and love, God’s zeal to pursue and save us on full display. So, Jesus came-

To restore

To heal

To redeem

To pursue and catch us in His net of Everlasting Love

Oh Lord God, I cry out to you! I want to turn back to you. I am lost and floundering in the waves. Forgive me of my sins. Throw your loving net over me. And bring me into your Presence.

Come, let us return to the LORD. For He has torn us, but He will heal us; He has wounded us, but He will bandage us. He will revive us after two days; He will raise us up on the third day, that we may live before Him. So let us know, let us press on to know the LORD. Hosea 6:1-3 (NASB)

[i] Hosea 6:4

[ii] Hosea 6:11, 7:1, 7:13

[iii] Hosea 7:7

For more about God’s loving net see Imprisoned

Image, Casting a fishing net, by vakibs, https://www.flickr.com/photos/vakibs/5395469892/

Say Anything

One bold message in the Book of Job is that you can say anything to God. Throw at him your grief, your anger, your doubt, your bitterness, your betrayal, your disappointment. He can absorb them all. As often as not, spiritual giants of the Bible are shown contending with God. They prefer to go away limping, like Jacob, rather than to shut God out … God can deal with every human response save one. God cannot abide the response I fall back on instinctively: an attempt to ignore God or act as though God does not exist. – Philip Yancey[i]

I loathe my own life; I will give full vent to my complaint; I will speak in the bitterness of my soul. I will say to God … why?  Job 10:2-3 (NASB)

Why, then, did you bring me out of my mother’s womb? Why didn’t you let me die at birth?  Job 10:18 (NLT)

O Lord, why have You brought harm to this people? Why did You ever send me? Ever since I [Moses] came to Pharaoh to speak in Your name, he has done harm to this people, and You have not delivered Your people at all. Exodus 5:22-23 (NASB)

Why is my pain unending and my wound grievous and incurable? Will you be to me like a deceptive brook, like a spring that fails? Jeremiah 15:18 (NIV)

Why do You forget us forever? Why do You forsake us so long? Lamentations 5:20 (NASB)

I counted on you, God. Why did you walk out on me? Psalms 43:2 (MSG)

My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Matthew 27:46 (NIV)

So let us come boldly (with free speech, with courage, to speak the truth, unreservedly, openly, frankly, bluntly, without concealment, freely, fearlessly) to the throne of our gracious God. There we will receive his mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it. Hebrews 4:16 (NLT)

 

[i] Philip Yancey, Disappointment with God

Image in the public domain

 

Passing Through

What joy for those who can live [abide] in your house [dwelling place],

always [still, yet (!), again, continually, persistently] singing your praises [praising, celebrating, glorying, shining, flashing forth light]. Interlude [Selah]

What joy for [blessed are] those whose strength [boldness, security] comes from [is in] the Lord,

who have set their minds [hearts] on a pilgrimage [on the journey] to Jerusalem [place of worship].

When they walk through [pass through] the Valley of Weeping,

it will become [they will consider, regard, make it] a place of refreshing springs [fountains, source of satisfaction].

The autumn rains [the archer, the shooter of arrows] will clothe [cover, fill] it with blessings [pools, gifts, praise to God].  Psalm 84:4-6

 

Remember, you are just passing through this valley of weeping. Set your heart on the journey. Keep your eyes on the destination, on Jesus. Keep, always, continually persistently shooting your arrows of praise, shine forth your light. Make this sad place a source of blessing, refreshing, life – both for yourself and for others.

“ … the highway to Your city runs through my heart.” [i]

 

[i] From How Lovely Is Thy Dwelling Place by Ted Sandquist

Completed

When it is accomplished that the way God sees things is how I see things, that when my heart and soul are woven together with the heart of God through Jesus to make one heart, then I will be completed.

My flesh and my heart (soul, understanding, mind) may fail, but God is the strength (Rock) of my heart and my portion (share, possession) forever. Psalm 73:26 (NIV)

This is such a wonderful verse – in fact my life verse – but still it has always had a slightly negative connotation to me. Flesh failing, mind going, like the decay and decline of old age. And it does mean that – this earthly body and mind will fail – but there is a hidden treasure in this verse. It’s kind of an opposite way of thinking. We usually think of getting old and dying as a bad thing, as losing things, a falling apart. But I think there is more here, and a very positive message too.

The word translated flesh in the above verse is the noun sheer (שְׁאֵר).[i] It means flesh, body, physical strength. The secret message is hidden in its root, which is the verb sha’ar (שָׁאַר). Sha’ar means to remain, be left over, be left behind. Yes! This failing body is what is left behind. I love that image, that my flesh may soon be left behind, like Elijah’s robe falling to earth from the chariot of fire on his way to glory. And I don’t think he looked back for an instant. He was on his way to his Strength, his Rock, his Portion, his God.

The second message of hope is the seemingly hopeless word translated “fail.” It is kalah (כָּלָה ) and it doesn’t mean stumble and fall, mess up, like we would think. It means be accomplished, finished, be completed. How glorious! My time here may be finished, but, hopefully, what God intended in my flesh and heart will have been accomplished. I will be complete.  If God is my Rock, it will be as the last strokes of the artist’s brush on his masterpiece, the signing of His Name in the corner of my heart.

Therefore we do not lose heart, but though our outer man is decaying, yet our inner man is being renewed (renovated, made new, changed into a new kind of life) day by day. 2 Corinthians 4:16 (NASB)

Oswald Chambers described it this way:

There is nothing, naturally speaking, that makes us lose heart quicker than decay—the decay of bodily beauty, of natural life, of friendship, of associations, all these things make a man lose heart; but Paul says when we are trusting in Jesus Christ these things do not find us discouraged, light comes through them. [ii]

Light comes through them! Light comes through decay, this failing of the mind and flesh. I love that! It makes me think of a threadbare curtain, washed over and over, until it is so thin you can see right through it. You can see the light. Hopefully, you can see Jesus shining out of me.

The eye is the lamp of the body; so then if your eye is clear, your whole body will be full of light. But if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light that is in you is darkness, how great is the darkness! Matthew 6:22-23 (NASB)

The word translated “clear” in the above verse is the Greek word haplous (ἁπλοῦς ) which means “single.” When my eye is single my body is full of light. It comes from the word that means to plait, braid, or weave together into one. I believe this means that when it is accomplished that the way God sees things is how I see things, that when my heart and soul are woven together with the heart of God through Jesus to make one heart, then I will be completed. My earthly flesh and heart may get more and more threadbare, but that just means His Light will be able to shine through, brighter and brighter. Yes Lord, be the strength of my heart. Complete your work in me.

For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect (accomplish, finish, complete) it until the day of Christ Jesus. Philippians 1:6 (NASB)

Not that I have already obtained it or have already become perfect, but I press on …  Philippians 3:12 (NASB)

 

[i] All definitions from Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible

[ii] Oswald Chambers. The Place of Help

Image in the Public Domain from pxhere.com