Saturday, August 29, 2015

Selah--Psalm 32

The following insights about Psalm 32 were largely due to a Bible study I heard by Paul Mowery for whom I will eventually devote an entire blog post.  I just wanted to give a nod.

The word Selah is actually in some dispute. The three meanings I have found seem to point:   "to value", "to praise", or "to pause."

Most of my life I have heard it referred to as an instruction to pause and consider so I will be using it in this sense in this and future posts.  This actually seems to loosely tie in with the other two possible meanings also as you will see. 

Three times within Psalm 32, we are instructed to selah.  It appears after verse 4, verse 5, and verse 7.  I will include the text of Psalm 32 for reference below and then continue my points. It is only 11 verses long. (NIV)

Blessed is the one
    whose transgressions are forgiven,
    whose sins are covered.
Blessed is the one
    whose sin the Lord does not count against them
    and in whose spirit is no deceit.
When I kept silent,
    my bones wasted away
    through my groaning all day long.
For day and night
    your hand was heavy on me;
my strength was sapped
    as in the heat of summer.                     selah  
Then I acknowledged my sin to you
    and did not cover up my iniquity.
I said, “I will confess
    my transgressions to the Lord.”
And you forgave
    the guilt of my sin.                         selah
Therefore let all the faithful pray to you
    while you may be found;
surely the rising of the mighty waters
    will not reach them.
You are my hiding place;
    you will protect me from trouble
    and surround me with songs of deliverance.               selah
I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go;
    I will counsel you with my loving eye on you.
Do not be like the horse or the mule,
    which have no understanding
but must be controlled by bit and bridle
    or they will not come to you.
10 Many are the woes of the wicked,
    but the Lord’s unfailing love
    surrounds the one who trusts in him.
11 Rejoice in the Lord and be glad, you righteous;
    sing, all you who are upright in heart!
David seems to start the psalm by exclaiming the truth that will be illustrated within the psalm (verses 1&2).
Next, he points to a period of time (verses 3&4) when he has sinned, but he has not acknowledged it (see verse 5 if you are unclear on this).  The key to these verses is that although the psalm begins by singing of how blessed a man is when his "transgressions are forgiven and his sins are covered....and the Lord does not count against him."  It also speaks of ..."whose spirit is no deceit."  God does not begin by covering sins and transgressions.  He takes away joy and saps strength.  He allows misery and groaning.  This is the initial blessing brought by God because God's forgiveness is not the forgiveness of a parent who simply does not teach their child awareness of wrong behaviour and does not deal with the reality of their sin.  This would corrupt the child and not build them up.  This is not a redeeming kind of forgiveness.  The first selah appears after verse 4.  We ARE to stop and consider the truths implied in verses 3 and 4.
In verse 5, there is a profound transition from misery to complete forgiveness.  There are no works offered here by David.  There is simply and....finally... a willingness to..."acknowledge my sin and did not cover up my iniquity."  There is a bam quality to the latter part of verse 5.  "I will confess my transgression to the Lord"--and BAM--(bam is not in the text) "you forgave the guilt of my sin."  We ARE to stop and consider the truths implied in verse 5.
Finally, in verses 6 and 7, there is praise and a profound truth dawning on David that he longs to send upward to God and outward to all who will hear him.  Here lies the third and final selah to stop and consider.
The psalm concludes by pointing to God's desire for us to be responsive to his lessons and truths as a child and not only directed by external guidance like an animal.

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Reasons to Believe--Time Stamps

I am a trucker as most of you know. I was once pulled over by one of Alabama’s finest. He decided to do me the great favor of engaging in a roadside inspection on the shoulder of Interstate I-65 in Prattville. He was asking me questions from my open passenger door because it was opposite of the side of mini-vans and corvettes of death. He asked if I would mind him just climbing on into the seat to make it go faster. I, always wanting to score brownie points with state troopers, replied, "Well, sure! Hop on in, officer." I was repaid with this act of kindness with him rummaging through a wal-mart bag filled with paper trash that was dangling between my seats. Turns out inviting an officer into your vehicle is sort of like inviting a vampire into your house, it gives them some newer level of access to suck the blood from you. (metaphorically speaking, of course)

He found three time stamped receipts and proceeded to match them against the entries I had put into my logbooks. After getting over the weirdness of seeing him rummage through my trash spontaneously, I danced a jig as I realized his ruse had not paid off. All the time stamps matched up perfectly with my logbook entries where and when I had claimed to be. I said, "BAM! How bout dem apples, Mister Officerrrrr!" (Not really---only in my imagination.) I went on my merry way.

The reason I share this with you other than the obvious educational and entertainment value is to make a quick analogy.

The Bible is CHOCK FULL of time stamps. It discusses events that supposedly took place when a certain empire was ruling and certain military campaign took place. It gives the names of specific rulers in extremely high positions of power and gives details about happenings that 99.9% of people living would never have had access to until recent historical and archeological discoveries. It gives cultural information as often unnoticed back drops that can verify the likelihood of when it was first written. The linguistics (specific use of language that is unique to only certain geographic locations for a very specific time period) can point us to ways to check the veracity of the writings. There are amazingly detailed and specific prophecies that, if given when the scriptures portray them to have been made, give profound reasons to view the Bible as divine in nature. The Bible is only truly going to penetrate your heart as you are supernaturally converted by the Holy Spirit, and God uses it to speak to you as your most intimate Father/child relationship. However, Jesus invites us in John 14:11, "Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me, or else believe on account of the works themselves."(I added the italics.)

The point is God invites us to recognize the miraculous nature of everything about what He does and how He does it. He is not offended if this is what initially kick starts, so to speak, a pursuit of Him. I believe He is challenging people to have the courage to take it upon themselves to investigate and see if the Word really is from Him by way of historical, philosophical, prophetic, scientific, etc. There is NO other Holy Book (the Vedas, the Bhagavad Gita, the Koran, the Book of Mormon, the teachings of the Buddha or Confucious) in any other religion that will blow your mind like the Bible IF, IF, IF you will give Him the opportunity. Start digging in and see what you find….and feel free to include me in on the process if you begin to have questions or just want to talk about it.