PSALM 19 - "CIRCUIT RIDING PREACHERS"
One supreme fact, unavoidable to this Psychology of the Psalms is man's innate sense of need for God. Call it a Higher Power, the Man Upstairs, the "Unknown God" (Acts 17:23) or whatever, "all men seek for thee". There is a God-sized blank in the human heart that only God can fill. Secularism scoffs at such outdated ideas. Materialism pretends that God isn't watching, pulling the blinds down on the soul, imagining that self-imposed darkness refutes the reality of sunlight. Skeptic, critic, agnostic and humanistic heretic all spread spiritual "tic" fever to a godless generation. I saw a patriotic sign the other day where the "B" in "BLESS" had fallen off its pegs. It read - "GOD LESS AMERICA!" I'm sure it wasn't the intention of the sign-master, but how pertinent to acknowledge that this is becoming a "GODLESS AMERICA!"
But the inner man knows better. God's cry of, "Adam where art thou?" has echoed through Adam's DNA from the dawn of time until now. No one can escape the "testimony of conscience" (2 Cor 1:12). The "God-breathed" oxygen that finds its way to every cell in the body, every twenty seconds, reenacts the initial gasp when "the Lord God
breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul" (Gen 2:7). To deny and defy that creation fact is to do so against the witness of a hundred-trillion cells that speak otherwise. There are too many preachers inside (and outside) for a man to miss the message. Circuit riding evangelists in the skies, the scriptures and the soul join their voices to declare that I AM, is.
In the early days of Methodism, Disciples of Christ and the colonial revival days of Presbyterianism they had what were called "circuit riders". These itinerant horseback ministers made the "rounds" from church to church in rural 19th Century America, Peter Cartright being the most famous of their ranks. The Old Testament prophet Samuel was a circuit-rider. He "went from year to year in circuit, to Bethel, and Gilgal, and Mizpeh, and judged Israel in all those places
" (1 Sam 7:16,17) But the real circuit revivalists are not limited to a historical paragraph in the encyclopedia. This psalm recognizes one fire and brimstone evangelist whose "circuit" (vs 6) spans from horizon to horizon, then mentions two others whose sermons the human soul cannot escape:
1. THE CREATION (God revealed in Nature) - Vs 1-6
"The heavens declare the glory of God
" - from the son's daily rising, moon's monthly quartering and constellation's rotation, to the balancing of the clouds, V-shaped flight of Canadian geese and masterful painting of an evening sunset, the chin tipped two inches gives a grand vista of the "glory of God".
Paul Harvey radio-commented on a phenomenon of nature that few in the younger generation know about or have ever been witness to. Even I wasn't very aware of this explosive event when I listened to Mr. Harvey describe it. I did, however, check it out and can vouch that there is this live thermonuclear eruption, with bolting rays of radiation, spectacular auroras, disintegrating the backdrop of deep purple to make way for chromatic changes ranging from infrared to blinding white light, then releasing a nuclear chain reaction blanket of energy so powerful that all the surface of the earth is irradiated by its intense ignition. That phenomenon is called, you guessed it, "daybreak" and Paul Harvey encouraged people to get up and watch it for a change. And now you've heard the rest of the story!
"Heavens" in the Bible speaks of three spheres, the immediate atmosphere belting the earth, the outer universe of space housing the planets and stars, then the highest heaven, the abode of God. All three realms "declare" His glory. Job was interrogated about the first tier - "Dost thou know the balancing of the clouds?" (Job 37:16) Whether one sends up a weather balloon or sends up a prayer, both testify to the same Creator.
Next, Job was questioned on astronomy - "Canst thou bring forth Mazzaroth in his season? Or canst thou guide Arcturus with his sons?" (Job 38:32). Notice I used the word astronomy, not astrology. "Mazzaroth" means "the twelve signs", what we call the zodiac, a picture gallery placed in the heavens by an artist named Elohim, the Maker, not a bunch of stargazing mystics (or should we say mistakes?). You can trace the origin of constellation interpretation in every culture on every continent, whether Incan, Mayan, Aboriginal, Chinese, Roman, Greek, Hebrew, etc. to a common root. All interpret the twelve zodiac signs the same. They may have different titles for the stellar characters, but the heavenly pattern is common in all languages, for "there is no
language where their voice is not heard" (vs 3). That confirms that they all date back to the same source, a revelation given by the Creator to the first man, Adam.
The creation account states that these heavenly bodies were set in place "for signs, and for seasons, and for days, and years" (Gen 1:14). The setting sun, lunar equinoxes, distance of the earth from the sun, etc. measure the seasons, days and years part of the verse, but what about "signs"? The justice of Libra's scales, the propitiation of Aries (the Lamb), the victory of Hercules, Sagittarius, Taurus, Orion, etc. (all types of Jesus Christ) over the dark forces of Serpa (the Serpent), Draco (the Dragon), Scorpio (the Scorpion - all types of Satan), are just a few of the parables preached from the houses of the heavens. Gemini "the twin" speaks of the dual nature of Jesus, the God-Man, and the dual nature of a born again believer. Aquarius pouring his vase into the mouth of the fish is a picture of Christ pouring out His Spirit on the church. It is Virgo, the virgin (a type of Mary) that brings forth the "seed of the woman". And we could speak of so much more. There is Pisces, the fishes, the "house" we are currently under, a two-thousand year period of time which is obviously the Church Age. Why do the witches, mystic astrologers and psychics that believe in astrology so furiously desire the Age of Pisces to be over and the Age of Aquarius to begin? Because this is the Fish's dispensation, the Church's hour! And we can't forget the constellation Leo, the Lion, a stellar etching of the "Lion of Judah" who is soon to return and reign on this earth. According to Bullinger there is a "gospel in the stars" and anyone with human intelligence would agree. Man was created erect, unlike the cattle whose focus is on the ground grass that they feed on. Our necks are pivotal so we can look up - up to the Lord's domain.
These heavens "declare" the kabowd, the "weightiness and glory" of God. On the Federal tax form we "declare" our deductions. On the county form we "declare" our motor vehicles, livestock and such; for that is the legal definition. Its French and Latin origins include clarare (to make clear) and clarus (to make bright). So the heavens make very clear and bright the glory of God. The Hebrew word is ca^phar meaning "to score with a mark, to inscribe, recount, number with a penknife, show forth", etc. The evangelists of the stellar night leave no ambiguity in their sermons. God is glorious!
Then the third realm of these three-tiered "heavens", the very Heaven of heavens, also declares His glory. Read the closing two chapters of the Book of Revelation to get a brief glimpse of what "eye hath not seen, nor ear heard
the firmament showeth his handiwork" - Strong's Concordance has "firmament" as being the expanse or arch of the skies. As in the "heavens" the sprinkled Milky Way declares God's glory, so in the "firmament" the vast azure dome, painted with bursting sunsets of lavenders and reds, with divinely sculptured cloud formations shows forth His great handiwork. Majesty is revealed in all three courts of earth, sky and space, each Tabernacle court a place for the incense of our worship to burn.
The heavens answer to our spiritual nature and the earth to our physical, but the wide open skies reflect the stretched sphere of our minds. Far away horizons and the high dreamy stratosphere bid us widen the peripheral view of our faith. As said before, the rest of the animal kingdom doesn't have this calling to look up. Abraham was beckoned to look up and count the stars, his head tilted to encourage an unlimited faith - "as the stars, so shall thy seed be". Break loose from the tight radius of can't, couldn't, shouldn't and won't and look up to the utmost bounds of the firmament of faith. A quick scan from horizon to horizon shows the vast potential of a God who is "able to do, exceeding, abundantly, above all that we ask or think
" (Eph 3:20) Man has been placed in BIG SKY COUNTRY, equipped to, "look from the place where you are northward, and southward, and eastward, and westward" (Gen 13:14) and stretch our faith to the far horizons.
Every nuance of nature expands the knowledge of God - "Day unto day utters speech". His mercies are new every day, so each new sunup lifts the Son up and each sunset shows Him seated on the throne. It is uttered "speech", God clearly speaking to His creation. Daylight bids us busy ourselves in gospel ministry for there are "twelve hours in the day" (John 11:9) when a man might work, and as Jesus proclaimed - "I must do the works of him that sent me while it is day: the night cometh, when no man can work" (John 9:4).
Then when the dark of night falls the heart reminisces of the certainty of death and accountability in judgment - "night unto night showeth knowledge". In the beginning God's pattern was evening followed by morning (Gen 1:5) but because of sin the sequence is now backward, day followed by night, the sinner's fun-in-the-sun followed by the "blackness of darkness forever". Every twenty-four hours the circuit rider reminds men of that fact. Only grace can correct the pattern and turn an upside down world back to right side up.
Neither Asian, African, Australian, Anglican nor American can stand before the judgment bar and excuse himself by saying, "I never heard the gospel" because "there is no speech nor language, where their voice is not heard". The missionary may have difficulty in mastering an accent but not the evangelists of the skies. Daytime sunshine and nighttime constellations communicate as effectively in Moscow and Madagascar as in Manhattan or Mountain Home. Nature's voice is "heard". The preacher that feels he's not coming through needs to know that he has reinforcement. The conscience of the listener is at work. He can side with the fool of Psalm 14 and claim "there is no God" but to do so he has to shut his eyes to the stars that testify otherwise every evening. Their "line" has "gone out through all the earth", that is the linear drawings of the constellations. Though their witness is silent, Orion, Ursa Major, the Gemini twins, Aquarius and the like speak "words" which have sounded "to the end of the world". Every civilization's history bears this out. The ancient Romans, Greeks, Chinese, Hebrews, Indians, etc. all understood the simplest revelation of Deity through these heavenly "lines" and "words".
The statement, "in them hath he set a tabernacle for the sun", shows that the plane and path the sun travels from dawn til dusk, courses straight through the center of these heavenly "houses". Once again, this is not astrology because it was the Creator who architected the solar and stellar highways, not Jeanne Dixon or Shirley McClain. The sun's rising is a preview of both the resurrection of Christ and the majestic return of the Lord - "as a bridegroom coming out of his chamber". Its parousia is blinding. Nighttime fears flee when "the sun of righteousness shall rise with healing in his wings". No groom ever wore a brighter or whiter tux!
And the sun's east to west course "rejoices as a strong man to run a race". The sun never tires at four in the afternoon. This "strong man" trudges along in his marathon run from night to day as dependably as, shall we say, night and day. "His going forth", consistent purposed patterned divine direction, not haphazard "wandering star" misdirection, travels "from the end of heaven". From horizon to horizon, from "everlasting to everlasting", we see the sun journey, which instructs us that if God scans the circle of the earth and surveys dawn til dusk then He surely has our little corner of the world all taken care of. His "circuit" runs to the end of the earth. His love and care leaves no one out. As the sun spreads its canopy of warmth so the Son graces everyone with His warm love - "there is nothing hid from the heat thereof". What is the warmth of affection for His family can become the heat of affliction for His enemies, but either way, all earth creatures are touched and affected by "the heat thereof". Nothing is hid from it. Snakes hiding beneath rocks or those hiding behind sunglasses both stand exposed to conviction's ultraviolet rays.
2. THE COMMANDMENTS (God revealed in Scripture) - Vs 7-11
There is a second circuit riding preacher, the first being NATURE and the next being SCRIPTURE. By nature we can know about God but only by scripture can we truly know God. Nature catches our attention but Scripture gives us our answer. This is why Romans declares, "Thou art inexcusable O man!" David and Paul are on the same page theologically. As David writes that "the heavens declare the glory of God", Paul confirms that "the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things which are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse" (Rom 1:20). Romans 1 answers to verses 1-6 in Psalm 19, Romans 2 correlates to verses 12-14 and Romans 3 to verses 7-11. Because of these three circuit-riding preachers of Creation, Commandments and Conscience man stands without excuse before God. He cannot plead that he didn't know right from wrong or his need for a Savior for Nature around, Scripture before and the Creature within all bear record of Christ.
This section of the psalm has been called Psalm 119 in miniature. It is the shorter version of David's Bible journal, each verse unveiling, 1) a TITLE for the Word, 2) a TRIBUTE to the Word, and 3) a TESTAMENT of the Word. For instance, in verse seven the title is - "the law of the Lord". The tribute - "is perfect". Then the testament following - "converting the soul". Each stanza includes similar three points of interest.
- Now to better understand Scripture - "The law of the Lord is perfect
God's spiritual universe is fixed on laws just as is His natural universe. By "law" we understand that certain behavior will result in specific consequence. A law works every time for every person. We speak of breaking the laws of God, however, no one really breaks God's law, God's law rather breaks him. Step off the balcony and the law of gravity goes into effect - every time for every person. The Law doesn't care who the person is that steps off the balcony. It is no respecter of persons; rich, poor, young, old, all go splat! So the law of the Lord is "perfect". It can't be added to or diminished from. It has been tried and tested. There are works of art that are judged to be "perfect", implying that one additional brushstroke would take away from the painting rather than add to it. Such is the Word.
As to the testament of this verse, the perfect law is "converting the soul". Conversion is an about-face turn. The "soul", that is, the inner man of the heart, needs to be transformed. If the "law" of the Lord can accomplish that how much more can the New Covenant! The Law with its don't, don't, don't straightens out our souls, but Grace with its done, done, done motivates our souls to move forward in victory.
- Next, "The testimony of the Lord";
What God has revealed about Himself through His word, "is sure" - it can be counted on, trusted, relied upon. Words like assurance, insurance and surety come from this word "sure". Insurance and Sureties (securities) are contracted business dealings. God is under contract with His people (and vise versa). He never reneges on a promise. His pledges are immutable, unalterable and unchangeable. The psalmist was recipient to "the sure mercies of David". He had proved the Word and found it 100% trustworthy. These testimonies are ever "making wise the simple". We have to be "simple" (not simpletons) to receive the Word. Intellectualism has no place for Jonah and the Whale or Moses at the Red Sea, but for those who will humble themselves and become as small children, a wealth of wisdom will flow from the pages of Scripture. Paul said that the Scriptures "are able to make thee wise unto salvation" (2 Tim 3:15). I believe it contains solutions to all problems that people face.
- Also, "The statutes of the Lord are right
Statutes are civil ordinances, precepts to govern conduct and give life guidance. These ordinances may not always seem fair or make sense, but they are always "right". Many of Dad's statutes did not seem fair but they always proved "right". In this day of moral relativism we are taught to tolerate anything and everything, that truth is subject to a person's own vantage point and that ethics are situational and not absolute. The cry of the day is "can't we just all get along?" Tolerance is the watchword. Every man becomes a law unto himself and the Bible is considered obsolete rather than absolute. But by what authority do the social engineers make their claim? A yard is 36 inches by any math teacher's measurement and two plus two equals four no matter how you cut it. Some things simply are "right" and since they are "right" we have no choice but to submit to their rightness.
Rightness leads to rejoicing - "rejoicing the heart". The "flesh" may not elicit joy from God's statutes but the "heart" will. Jeremiah shared, "
thy word was unto me the joy and rejoicing of my heart" (Jer 15:16) and John added that these are written "that your joy may be full" (1 John 1:4).
- Fourthly, David looks at "the commandment of the Lord".
Note, "commandment", not "commandments". The plural isn't necessary because all God's commandments are wrapped up in His one great commandment - "thou shalt love the Lord with all thy heart
and thy neighbor as thyself". As to tribute, the commandment "is pure". Solomon agreed, "Every word of God is pure
" (Prov 30:5) "The words of the Lord are pure words: as silver tried
" (Psa 12:6) There is notable filth and immorality in the Koran, needed revision in the Book of Mormon, obvious translation errors in the Watchtower Society's "scriptures", but nothing amiss in the Word of God. Pure gold is molten gold.
Then as to its testament, the commandments are "enlightening the eyes".
It is a present tense, right now work - "enlightening" the eyes. In the prior verses the Word of God has affected soul, mind, heart, and now, "the eyes". These all pertain to the inner man. Eyes are cameras of conscience, binoculars of faith, the lenses of the Lord. By nature man's "foolish heart was darkened" (Rom 1:21), but reading the Word is like turning the sharpness or brightness control on the TV set, like Jesus touching the blind man who "saw men as trees walking" until his eyes refocused and saw "every men clearly" (Mark 8:25).
- Next, "the fear of the Lord" is "clean".
This is a break from the Bible titles of law, commandments, statutes, etc. but is a fitting title nonetheless, because the entire Bible is essentially the "fear of the Lord". Those not versed in the Word of God will likely either have a dreadful panicky fear of the Lord, or else no fear of the Lord at all, both of which are spiritually dangerous. Reading the Word brings man into right relationship.
This revelation is "clean". Being clean it cleanses its hearers - "Now ye are clean through the word which I have spoken unto you" (John 15:3). Like water it dilutes pollutions and stains, flushing them down the washer drain. The Bride's gown is washed and sanctified by "the washing of water by the word". The Word cleanses because the Word is clean. Being "clean" it is our responsibility to not muddy these waters with human opinion, religious ideas or the commandments of men. The priests washed "at" the laver of water, but never over it. Human contaminants were not to fall into the pure basin.
This Book is "enduring forever". Challenged, yes. Attacked, yes. Spit upon, often. Derided, certainly. Defeated, never! Heaven and earth shall pass away "but my words shall not pass away", said Christ. The "Word of God shall stand forever" (Isa 40:8). No one of these shall fail (Isa 34:16). Kingdoms are erected then erased; all the glory of man sizzles then fizzles, but "the scripture cannot be broken" (John 10:35).
- The sixth in this string of pearls is "the judgments of the Lord".
Scripture is the written testimony of how God sees things, His judgments. All our judgments are jaded. His are "true and righteous altogether", the divine eyes being blindfolded to any bribe or respect of persons. The Word is true "altogether", totally, completely, and true all together, each God-breathed word working in harmony with all others.
Verse ten employs two metaphors, the Word being hard and heavy as gold, yet sweet and soft as honey. "More to be desired are they than gold
" - not equivalent to gold but "more" than gold. The wealth desire is not necessarily bad, but the Word desire is far better, inasmuch as wealth can disappear according to the mood of the Market. Bible gold doesn't fluctuate in price. Being tried in the fire, Bible gold is of ultimate worth. David adds, "yea, than much fine gold". This is not just gold, it is fine gold (refined gold).
There was alleged to have been a miracle manifestation of "gold dust", or "glory dust" collecting on pews and people in a Kansas revival a few years back. A young man that had attended one of the meetings opened his Bible and asked if I could spot a tiny speck of this miracle gold on one of the pages of his Bible. Sadly, I couldn't detect the tiny glitter, although I do believe God could make Moses and Elijah appear, let alone gold specks, if it suited His purpose. My problem with the sign-seeking brother is that while he needed a magnifying glass to spot a supposed miracle speck of gold he was overlooking sixty-six books, 1,189 chapters of "much fine gold" that could be mined from cover to cover in God's Book! Why gloat over a single sparkle when you possess the entire mother load of the main vein?
The Word is "sweeter also than honey and the honeycomb". Sweeter "also", as if the richer of gold was not enough, He adds the sweeter of honey. The multi-state lottery winner may have richness but might not have sweetness. The man of the Word has both and the good news is that we have a lasting supply, not only honey but the whole honeycomb. We can always go back for more!
"Moreover by them is thy servant warned
" - the Word is a detergent from sin and a deterrent to sin. Bible-reading people have trouble sinning and sinning people have trouble Bible-reading. Signposts mark the way from Genesis to Revelation. Warning lights flash in nearly every chapter. That makes the Bible-life the safest life of all. But the Bible not only warns us it rewards us - "and in keeping of them there is great reward". Instant gold goes to the lucky crackpot that hits the jackpot. Eternal gold goes to the faithful one who keeps the Word even when odds are against him and it would be easier to quit then to press on. This is not just reward but "great" reward. Eye has not seen what awaits those who make the Word their sole manual for living.
3. THE CONSCIENCE (God revealed in the Creature) - Vs 12-14
In the third section of this psalm David sees the declared glory of God, not just in the skies and scriptures, but in the soul. The testimonies of creation and commandments are ultimately confirmed by the testimony of conscience, the strongest of these circuit riding preachers.
The passage relates to Romans chapter two which reveals this circuit rider as speaking all languages. Nothing is "hid from the heat thereof", the fiery witness of his pointed finger. More and more SCIENCE is accepting the Creator, a fact that con-"SCIENCE" has always acknowledged. In all cultures there are those "Gentiles, which have not the law, [that] do by nature the things contained in the law", their guide not being Commandments written in stone, but rather "the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience also bearing them witness, and their thoughts the meanwhile accusing or else excusing one another" (Rom 2:14,15). The gospel of conscience is universal - "
he has set eternity in their heart" (Ecc 3:11 marginal reading).
As to the psychology of this psalm, it is vital that we maintain a healthy conscience. A sound mind is a clear and clean mind. Nothing agitates the system or weakens the constitution like unconfessed sin, so David lists four branches of transgression that mar a good conscience.
- ERRORS - "Who can understand his errors?"
Error is the finest and most undetectable form of sin. It may surface as no more than misjudgment or a single out of place word, but a healthy conscience like a sensitive trigger will warn of our error. Notice that a godly conscience comes in accordance to the Word because "by them thy servant is warned". Conscience is the blazing flare that warns of trouble ahead.
- SECRET FAULTS - "
cleanse thou me from secret faults"
While David desired understanding regarding the why of his errors, he desired cleansing from his faults. Failing to deal with a simple error etches a pattern that becomes a "fault" and as you know a fault line can produce pretty horrific consequences. We deal with faults as David did, by repentance and confession - "cleanse thou me
" He didn't blame others for his condition, accepting personal responsibility for personal flaw. Notice that these are "secret" faults. By ignoring the voice of conscience which incriminates us for our errors, we instinctively begin the grand cover up. Inner fault unresolved is what causes men to put on the mask. It is a humbling proposition, but James asked us to "confess our faults one to another, and pray one for another that we may be healed
" (Jas 5:16).
- PRESUMPTUOUS SINS - "Keep back thy servant also from presumptuous sins
Ignored and buried secret faults will not lay dormant. They resurface and break out in more and more dastardly evidence, manifesting not only as "sins" but as "presumptuous sins", that is, sins that fly in the face of God and challenge His rule. Errors need understood, faults need confessed and cleansed, but boldfaced sins need the delivering hand of God - "Keep back thy servant
" This can't be done by mere willpower. Jesus taught us to pray - "lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil". Grace must be appropriated and God's power tapped into. David pleaded, "
let them not have dominion over me". When errors graduate to faults then become official sins they always seek dominion over their victim. With God's assistance he knew he could overcome - "
then shall I be upright".
- THE GREAT TRANSGRESSION - "
and I shall be innocent from the great transgression"
The prefix trans means to travel across. Transgression is the stepping across of a known boundary. Sin in its basest form is that human depravity that willfully steps across the boundaries drawn by conscience. David's hidden flaw, his human error was that which many men grapple with, lust. We don't see it as a major problem until the Bathsheba soap opera aired but be sure it was a part of him even as a shepherd boy, playing his instrument of ten strings in the sheep pastures. All have their unique battles but sometimes it takes years before the fault line gives. There is no way that David could have stooped to ordering Uriah's death (Bathsheba's husband) if he would have dealt with his sin in the larva stage, "secret faults". The cuddly kitty cat of sin grows up to be a cunning starved cougar, doesn't it? Our hope, at the end of this life, is that we can be "innocent" of the great transgression. The King James margin uses the word "much" in place of "the", that is, innocent from "much transgression", but whether one or many, it is our duty to resist the advances of the enemy and to seek with all that is within us to keep a clean conscience.
The closing verse formats a prayer that should be our daily covering - "Let the words of my mouth, and the meditation of my heart, be acceptable in thy sight
" The minding of mouth and mind is the first step to innocence from the great transgression. In "thy sight" is the chief concern; it is what God thinks that matters. Forget what other people think. This prayer acknowledges authority - "O Lord", ability - "my strength", andiH assurance - "my redeemer".
Now - are you listening to the circuit riders' sermons or are you sleeping through the message?
PSALM 32 - "FROM GUILT TO GLADNESS"
All have sinned and come short of the glory of God - all need a Savior. As the old adage states it - in the fall we sin all. ALL are in the FALL so ALL are also in the CALL. This "penitential" psalm calls those whose lives have been messed up by sin, back to a reconciled position with God. His plan is to translate fallen men from trash to treasure, from sinner to winner, from pigpen to palace, from guilt to gladness. The theme is grace, mirroring the epistle to the Romans, Pauline in style, though Davidic in authorship. The first two verses make a statement concerning those who are blessed with forgiveness. The rest of the psalm looks back on how that forgiveness is perceived and received. It is a "Psalm of David", no stranger to spiritual error, and therefore shows us that a quickness to repent is one of the main factors in becoming "a man after God's heart".
It begins with the word "Blessed", the closing theme of the 31st and exits with "Rejoice", the opening theme of the 33rd. Those two bookends hold the healthy soul in place. We are blessed therefore we are to bless and be a blessing.
1. GRACE (vs 1-2)
"BLESSED is he whose transgression is forgiven
" - Whether or not we accept it, all have right to this happy state of blessedness. David "describeth the blessedness of the man
" (Rom 4:6) Through Christ we are blest with the best, and the greatest blessing is to have sin forgiven and forgotten forever.
Verses one and two survey the whole gamut of man's sin, using the words "transgression", "sin", "iniquity" and "guile". All sin kin comes from the same evil heart but manifests in different activity. Transgression crosses known divine boundaries, sin misses the mark of His perfection, iniquity is an inner inequity, a twisted nature on the inside of man, and guile is the deception of his heart, hidden sin.
David pronounces a blessing on the man who has received this grace. The transgression is "forgiven", that is "afore"-given, grace offered beforehand. Christ was wounded for our transgressions before we ever committed them and has already decided in His own counsel that forgiveness would be given if man would only confess his sins (1 John 1:9). Remember, this psalm is written with only the understanding of Old Covenant promise so he says that the blessed man's "sin is covered". They are beneath the sprinkled blood of the Mercy Seat. The blood covers the past. As with an insurance policy the holder is "covered", so the sinner, unable to pay his way is covered. The "cover charge" has been paid at Calvary. But God will only cover what we uncover. That is why David said, "I acknowledged my sin unto thee
" (vs 5) The Holy Spirit discovers sin. The believer uncovers sin. The Father recovers relationship. What the Old economy could only do in covering sin the New Testament has perfected in taking away sin, abolishing it, nailing it to the cross and reckoning it forever forgotten.
In verse two David assures, "Blessed is the man
" Not will be, but "IS". We live in the happy holy state of being already forgiven. The believer doesn't have to wait for the books to be opened before he rejoices in salvation. "Beloved, now are we the sons of God
" It is because "the Lord imputeth not iniquity" that we enjoy this blessed state. We certainly cannot dispute our bad repute. But the Lord will not impute sin to the penitent! He bore it so that we would not have to. The sin debt was transferred to His account. The High priestly hand was laid on the head of the sacrifice. Sin was imputed to Him that it no longer be imputed to us.
The washing of regeneration goes beyond the surface. It gets to the heart or the spirit. The result of forgiveness is complete washing - "in whose spirit there is no guile". David has come clean and therefore is clean. Old things passed away - all things became new.
2. GUILT (vs 3-4)
Rather than reading verses three and four in chronological order following the first two verses dealing with Christian blessedness, we should see them as being the root cause why verses one and two were given. "All have sinned and come short of the glory of God" (Rom 3:23). That is the first fact that must be accepted and owned up to. Sin brings death. Conscience endorses it by raising guilt. The distant voice of Adam cries within the human spirit, "GUILTY! CONDEMNED!" The spiritual disturbance and disruption can be felt clear down into the bones. If it were just a mind-game of accusation we could blame what we feel on the adversary, but the haunting taunting bite and bitterness goes so deep that we can't shake it off. The inner alarm is saying that our holy God is offended and that we must deal with that offence's cause, sin.
Some try to ignore that conviction. David tried to at first. He said he "kept silence". That is, he pretended like everything was okay. He didn't confess, excuse himself, offer either apology or alibi, he simply clammed up. You may remain silent but the "testimony of conscience" (2 Cor 1:12) won't. Conscience accuses or excuses but it will not sit silent. David's "bones waxed old". He felt sin aging him by the minute. Self pointed an accusing finger. Integrity called him a fraud. The God-image within him said "Amen" to the censure of conscience. That voice was "roaring all the day long". Who wants to live under that kind of oppression? Get rid of it. Repent from it.
One would think that after the nightmares were over that morning light would bring some peace but no, only more incrimination. The hope then would be that sleep would silence the prosecutor's voice, but it only grew louder through his dreams. "For day and night thy hand was heavy upon me
" The finger of God wrote the Law and crushed the whole of humanity. If His finger can do such, what could His hand do? Note it was "thy hand". David knew God well enough that he couldn't blame the conviction on any other. If it is a fearful thing to fall into the hand of the living God then it must be the mercy of the Lord that His hand would press us sore. This is a Father's correction. What kind of God would He be were He to just blow off the offense? God will not wink at sin but the good news is that though His hand is heavy it is also nail-scarred and He is only doing what He must do to turn a son back to His loving heart.
Next David feels a painful absence of the Holy Spirit - "my moisture is turned into the drought of summer". No word from God. No revelation. No feeling. There are many in that state of spiritual drought blaming the condition on the devil, the pastor, the job, whatever, when sin is the obvious culprit.
3. GODLINESS (Vs 5-6)
Once sin is recognized then repentance must be made. We can understand why David was so vexed in his spirit. We are not told if this psalm was written before David's adulterous relationship with Bathsheba and the cover-up murder of Uriah, etc. but I believe that can be assumed. On the outside all looked well with David during those months between the sin, its cover-up and the exposure that came at Nathan's prophetic word. But all was not well. David lost a lot of sleep during the "silent" months. But a turn was made from guilt to godliness when he repented.
Note the key aspects involved in repentance:
- ACKNOWLEDGEMENT - "I acknowledged my sin unto thee
To acknowledge means to act knowledge, one has to act on the revelation he has. The heart already knows its misery. Now the head has to agree and say so, to God.
- EXPOSURE - "and mine iniquity have I not hid"
The divine dentist would have us to quit pretending that we do not have a toothache. Weakness (and wickedness) must be exposed. Come out of the closet (Prov 28:13).
- PERSONAL RESPONSIBILITY - "mine iniquity
I said, I
The starting point for any successful therapy is to take individual responsibility for the messes we have gotten ourselves into. By avowing the problem to be "mine" the blame game is dropped and stopped. He personalizes it - "I acknowledged", "I said". The fault cannot be laid at the door of government or environment. God be merciful to "me" a sinner. As the judge said, "You do the crime, you do the time".
- CONFESSION - "I will confess
unto the Lord
Notice that the will is involved in repentance - "I will confess". Confession spells it out then spills it out. The catharsis must be complete. Everyone needs a good housecleaning once in awhile and repentance does just that. But notice that the confession is to the Lord in heaven, not to a priest in a booth. One penitent in the confession booth addressed his priest by saying, "you first".
- FAITH - "and thou forgavest the iniquity of my sin"
When David added this bold statement to the end of his confession it was attestation to what he believed. He counted the repentance/forgiveness issue as being settled from that point on. Nowhere in the rest of the psalm does he look back over his shoulder at the sin of his past. "Thou" is the One who certainly has power to forgive sin and not only sin, but the "iniquity of my sin", the ugly, detestable, regrettable, wicker resident within sin. Paul described it as "exceeding sinful".
Grace meeting guilt results in godliness. The assurance that "thou forgavest the iniquity of my sin" can further be seen in the fact that David then considered himself one of the "godly" (vs 6). Certainly he could not allow the word "godly" to touch his lips under the condemnation of verses three and four, but now that sin is forgiven his entire attitude and countenance is changed. The slate is cleared. Righteousness is imputed and godliness accepted.
"For this" shall everyone pray. For what? The blessed state of forgiveness. For this shall "everyone" pray - that means that the universal curse has a universal cure and that "whosoever", "all", "if any" and "every one" are subject to the same redemptive laws. "Shall" leaves no theological wiggle room. The terms are the same for everyone. For this shall everyone "pray". Though salvation does not come by merit of prayer, it is, however, attained through the agency of prayer. No one gets saved by praying but neither does anyone get saved without praying. Prayer is the proper approach to the mercy throne.
This praying is to be done "in a time when thou mayest be found". Grace keeps forever but is not extended forever. Man is given "space to repent" (Rev 2:21). We are commanded to, "Seek ye the Lord while he may be found" (Isa 55:6). Tomorrow is a date on a fool's calendar. Today is the day of salvation. Because "when the floods of great waters" come, that time when one's whole fortune is floating downstream, it may be too late. Access to God may be purposely closed - "they shall not come nigh unto him". When the door of grace is shut there is no pry bar on earth big enough to wedge it open.
4. GUARANTEE (vs 7)
As guilt leads to grace and grace to godliness, so godliness leads to guarantee. Compare the sense of peace and serenity seen in verse seven with the panic, unrest and hopelessness of verse four. It is as though we have a whole new person before us and that is exactly what God's salvation creates, a new man. The covenant is our guarantee. God will see us through to the end.
"Thou art my hiding place
" - He is our "dwelling place" (Psa 90:1) but also our hiding place, "a covert from the tempest" (Isa 32:2). These are covert operations. Little planet Earth is hard to find in such an enormous universe; little me is even harder to find hidden in such a big God. We sleep peacefully tucked in a safe bedroom in a locked house, but sleep even sounder knowing that "underneath are the everlasting arms". He is our peace (Eph 2:14). As in the previous psalm, insulated "secretly in a pavilion", we reach deep sleep in Him. Earlier David trembled at His presence; here he finds peace in that presence.
He "shall preserve me from trouble
" No reservation regarding preservation. Safe and secure from all alarm, is how the old church song put it. Notice that past, present and future are all encompassed in these little clips of words. "Thou forgavest" is past tense preserving my yesterdays. "Thou art" is present tense preserving my todays. "Thou shalt" and "I will" is future tense preserving me in all life's tomorrows.
He will "compass me about
" Whichever direction I turn He is there. He is our hedge, boundary, compass, fence, wall, fortress, etc. His angel "encampeth round about them that fear him". We are a wheel in the middle of that big wheel. The wagon train is circled around me, warding off the Injuns (no insult to some of my best friends and some of God's best warriors), off limits to the fiery arrows. I hear no war cries, only "songs of deliverance".
5. GUIDANCE (vs 8-9)
Salvation is not to lift us out of hell only, its ultimate aim is to lead us into paths of righteousness for his name's sake - "I will instruct thee
" All roads do not lead to heaven just as all roads do not lead to Hog Eye, Arkansas. You won't find it in the Rand McNally atlas; a local has to show you the way. "I will", says the omniscient One. What competent guidance; divine tutelage and tutorage. Here I AM says, "I will" - "I will
teach thee in the way thou shalt go". There is a right way to go and a wrong way. The way of man is not in himself "to direct his way" (Jer 10:23). The blind leading the blind both fall into the ditch.
Mark the direction of His face and you will know which way to go - "I will guide thee with mine eye". We are to be very sensitive and discerning. Hearing the instruction of His voice is one thing, following the lead of His optic movements is quite another, but that is the miracle of reconciliation. He invites the redeemed sinner into such intimate relationship that orders can be transmitted by the mere movement of an eye. People in love or intimate fellowship understand the intent of simple gesture. The idea here is that we have to live close to God to enjoy the benefit of His guidance.
A likeminded business associate doesn't need to feel a spur in the side to take his cue - "Be not as the horse, or as the mule, which have no understanding
" We are neither work horses or pack mules. Christian service is not burdensome labor. We obey heaven's bidding by love choice, not because of the pinch of a "bit and bridle". Service is cheer not chore. Some, however, are stubborn. They need a cattle prod rather than "thy rod and thy staff". It is because they have no understanding. It is only when both parties in the waltz try to be the lead that they start tripping over one another's feet. Our duty is only to listen, learn then yield.
The statement that follows - "lest they come near unto thee" is better understood in the Amplified Bible where it translates, "else they will not come with you". A stubborn mule will not budge without some corporal coaxing and a silly horse may not leave his moldy hay unless teased with a carrot. God saved us so He could talk to us and talks to us so He can lead us into His perfect will. The stains of verse five are no more of a hindrance than the stubbornness of the verse before us. Keep the clay pliable.
6. GLADNESS (Vs 10-11)
"Many sorrows shall be to the wicked
" - the record shows they took the blows. Scripture is clear that "the way of the transgressors is hard" (Prov 13:15). The sorrows come in all forms, most being the direct boomerang effect of their wicked ways; the high cost of low living. The pleasure of sin is for a season but the punishment thereof is for an eternity with "many sorrows" along the way. But "he that trusts in the Lord, mercy shall compass him about".
The journey from guilt to gladness for David only took up eleven verses, a few minutes of time and a small bottle of ink. For you it may take many years and lots of tears, but the end-game plan is the same for us both, turning those things meant for evil around for your good. Shame is traded for shouting.
He commands three actions - "Be glad", "rejoice" and "shout for joy". "Be glad" is a choice we make (Attitude), "rejoice" is a course we take (Action), and "shout for joy" is a claim we stake (Authority). We shout "for" joy, not "from" joy. It is easy to shout when everything is going smoothly, offering praise from a resource of joy, but it requires great faith to release praise in expectation of a level of joy to come. It is not difficult, however, when we are being glad "in the Lord", that is, resting in the atonement, not just as a sinner saved by grace but much more as a son serving by grace. The fountain never runs dry because it is tapped into unlimited supply. The New Testament counterpart - "we also joy in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom we have now received the atonement" (Rom 5:11).
A closing word; David bids the "righteous" to be glad in the Lord. The blessedness spoken of in this psalm is that of righteousness imputed and received. He became sin for us that we might become the righteousness of God in him (2 Cor 5:21). Righteousness is not unattainable; it is required (Mat 5:20). Jesus Christ "the righteous" is your advocate with the Father (1 John 2:1). His account balance was transferred to your deficient ledger column when you believed "unto righteousness" (Rom 4:6, 5:17, 10:10). Accept that fact by faith. You may still occasionally smell a faint reminder of the far country's pig lot, where once you lived. Reckon it dead. Your works are now accepted in the beloved - "he that doeth righteousness is righteous, even as he is righteous" (1 John 3:7). Now get on with living. The old is gone, the new has come. Selah!
PSALM 71 - "SEASONED FAITH FOR SEASONED SAINTS"
No title or credit of authorship is given for this psalm so we link it with the 69th as belonging to King David. It is the prayer of an aged man. Yes, the Psalms also deal with the psychology of aging, this chapter in particular ministering strength to those facing the autumn years. We have lots of names for our seniors now, seasoned saints, keen-agers instead of teenagers, retreads, etc. still claiming plenty of fire in the basement though snow covers the rooftop. I hope I can claim Psalm 71 when I'm 71 (but then again, I also hope I can sing Psalm 100 when I'm 100). There are some who have been paragons of virtue and pillars of strength through their younger years that face real personal crises as they enter the insecurity of old age. We can sense in this psalm that David understands those feelings and fears, yet a seasoned faith rises as this psalm builds. It's not a time to retire but to re-fire. The aging wine is perfecting its flavor, older but gooder. The super-annuated can still be super animated if the attitude is right. As Methuselah-challenging Oliver Wendell Holmes wrote, "Men do not quit playing because they grow old; they grow old because they quit playing." Still in Congress in his nineties he complained of a pay cut that threatened his ability to put away savings for his "old age". Great attitude and altitude.
David covers several basic stages of life in this psalm, from womb to tomb. Four of them you have probably already heard of: the age when you believe in Santa Claus, second, when you don't believe in Santa Claus, third, when you are Santa Claus and finally, when you look like Santa Claus! The old veteran David offers these truths to help build a faith that will get the reader to the finish-line.
1. FOCUS YOUR FAITH (Vs 1-5)
"In thee, O Lord, do I put my trust
" - Jehovah had been the target of David's faith since he was a boy tending his father's sheep. What has worked will work. The God of the redheaded boy continues the God of the grey-headed grandpa. His trust was "put", placed, set, anchored, fixed stably and ably on the Lord. A "shot-put" is twelve pounds of steel hurled away from the athlete's shoulder. Faith "puts" the weight on Christ with a similar all-out casting or letting go.
The obvious old age fear is that one would become confused, afraid of insurmountable changes or of being left helpless or alone. Satchel Paige claimed that old age is mind over matter, "if you don't mind it doesn't matter". But lots of folks do mind. Like the elderly Floridian that called 911 on her cell phone to report that her car had been broken into. She hysterically explained to the dispatcher, "They've stolen the stereo, the steering wheel, the brake pedal and even the accelerator!" When the officer arrived he quickly radioed back to the dispatcher to, "Disregard. She just got in the back-seat by mistake." No wonder David begged, "Let me never be put to confusion"! The losses can be demoralizing, lost hearing, lost appetite, lost privileges. Success at age 16 is getting a driver's license but at 76 it is keeping that license. It is interesting that David asked God to spare him from the very confusion he wished on others in 70:2. Be careful, in old age that you do not become less forgiving of others than you are of yourself.
cause me to escape
save me" - I hope the psalmist is not praying for deliverance from interns and a way of escape from the convalescent home; could be though! Prayers for divine intervention expectedly become more frequent when we lack the physical reserves and energy to get ourselves out of problems as we did in younger days. In asking God to "incline thine ear unto me" he acknowledges that heaven must stoop to minister to his feeble stature.
Seasoned saints are big on timeshares and resorts. David found the ideal vacation spot - "Be thou my strong habitation, where I may continually resort
" Florida is great for retirement but it has hurricanes. Phoenix, great for snowbirds but it gets really hot and dry. A condo has been defined as a high class apartment where they con you out of dough. Wherever you call home in old age it needs added security, "my strong habitation". God is the best "resort". Five-star service is in the package deal all paid for at Calvary! A resort is a place to rest and refresh; a health spa. Young and old alike need times for spiritual resorting. Jesus commanded the disciples, "come apart before you fall apart" (paraphrase of Mark 6:31). Lacking spiritual leisure we risk emotional lesion. A resort is a place to re-"sort", old age being the time that everything needs sorted out, what matters eternally, who gets what, how can I bless my family and world?, and etc. David not only desired a resort but a "habitation" where he could "continually" resort. The merry heart has a "continual feast" (Prov 15:15). Visitation is a three-day weekend; habitation is a year around experience.
Faith sees itself in custody as the personal charge of God - "thou hast given commandment to save me
" God's commandments are obeyed by His angelic servants. When He says, "Save", save it is! The reason for this instant obedience and ministering service is stated, "
for thou art my rock and my fortress". Faith personalizes divine care, "my" rock, "my" fortress. As rock He is foundation, as fortress, fortification. The metaphors speak of immutability, invincibility and impregnability. The protective resort shields us from our adversaries and delivers us out of "the hand of the wicked" and "the hand of the
cruel man". A cruel hand is the extension of a cruel mind. As the twisted brain thinks so the wicked hand operates. Two hands are spoken of here. That implies the full yanking strength of the wicked, but the good news is that since we are confederate with God, He is opposed to our enemies because He is opposed to the wicked.
"For thou art my hope
thou art my trust
" - these two spiritual functions are similar yet distinct. Hope latches the chain onto far off assumption while trust locks hold onto right now assurance. With hope gripping the future and trust gripping the present we can't go wrong. "Thou" is the anchor to which both hope and trust are linked. Trust is strong because it has been proven, "
from my youth". As a youth David flung slingshot stones and scaled highland crags with his father's sheep, fighting off lions and bears and best of all, a giant. As an old man David fought "Ish'binebob, which was of the sons of the giants" and was nearly killed by him, to the point that his soldiers begged, "Thou shalt no more go out with us to battle, that thou quench not the light of Israel" (2 Sam 21:15-17). Sad to say, there comes a time when an old man has to quit facing off with giants. But that doesn't hinder utilizing faith to combat other giants, such as fear, weakness, crippling arthritis and fatigue.
2. LOOK IN THE REARVIEW MIRROR FOR BALANCE (Vs 6)
That leads us to the next point. Tribulation works patience, and patience, experience. The person facing old age may not be able to figure out the latest computer game but he has something the younger generation can't match, experience. From the days of youth David had watched God's hand and intervention. Being "the same yesterday, and today, and forever" (Heb 13:8) he could trust that in the future there would be no "variableness, neither shadow of turning" (Jas 1:17) with his Protector. Hindsight was the predictor of David's foresight.
In this psalm David looks back at God's faithfulness in six key seasons of life, while he was:
- Fetus - "By thee have I been helped from the womb
" (vs 6)
- Baby - "thou art he that took me out of my mother's bowels
" (vs 6B)
- Child - "
thou art my trust from my youth" (vs 5)
- Teenager - "Thou hast taught me from my youth
" (vs 17)
- Middle-aged man - "
and hitherto have I declared
" (vs 17B)
- Old man - "Cast me not off in time of old age
" (vs 9)
Since that had been his life experience David could confidently trust that God would continue His loving-kindness on into the time "when I am old and greyheaded" (Vs 18), "in the time of old age" (Vs 9), "when my strength faileth" (Vs 9B) which ultimately would end in glory when God shall "bring me up again from the depths of the earth" (Vs 20). The whole kaleidoscope from crib to crypt is brightened by trust in God.
"By thee have I been
" - what I have been is the precursor for what I shall be. The past experience was that David had been "holden up from the womb
" God planned all the Hebrew king's days before he was born. Being both pro-life and pre-life, the Lord was fashioning David's destiny before he took his first breath. "Holden up" implies that the same protection reserved for old age in verse two was also at work in the womb. Having no feet to uphold him God was there to take responsibility. Miscarriage can be heart-wrenching for a young mother. Abortion, on the other hand, terminates a divine destiny and mocks the Maker. With all that is stacked against the unborn we should note that any human birth is an awesome miracle. God be praised for the gift of life - "thou art he that took me out of my mother's bowels
" Mrs. Jesse may have had a midwife present at David's delivery but be sure God was also there for the welcoming. His hand is on both mother and babe (1 Tim 2:15). Spurgeon mused that if marriages are registered in heaven then births must be also.
2. MAINTAIN A MERRY HEART (Vs 6-9)
In verses six through eight David resists the bitterness that can set in with old age and determines to live in continual sweetness. Old age makes some bitter, others better. Let's live the latter attitude. His son Solomon looked back with fond memories of Dad and wrote, "
a merry heart doeth good like a medicine" (Prove 17:22). Perhaps he had seen that promise lived out in his father's faith. In another place he added, "
but a broken spirit drieth the bones". Hope deferred, a life of failures and the loneliness of old age can sour the spirit and lead to crabbiness.
With keen-age positivism David announced, "my praise shall continually be of thee", of "thee", not another; "my praise", not another's. He is my portion so it demands my praise. Not just occasionally but "continually", morning and evening and at noontime I will praise the Lord. The bones of old age may creak, the eyes dim and the back stooping, but the spirit doesn't have to. This made no sense to the rest of David's cynical peers - "I am as a wonder unto many
" That could certainly be said of Jack LeLane still recording aerobic training videos at age eighty, and challenging guys a quarter his age to a one-handed pushup contest. Health doesn't have to slip away. The mind can remain sharp until God decides to take the spirit home. Moses died at 120 years of age, "his eye was not dim, nor his natural force abated" (Deut 34:7). We have right to claim spiritual empowerment - "as thy days, so shall thy strength be" (Deut 33:25). Whether it was just positive mental attitude or actual fitness, Joshua claimed to be as strong at age 85 as he was at 45 (Josh 14:11). Strength of body can be impacted by strength of belief - "
thou art my strong refuge".
"Let my mouth be filled with thy praise
" - Faith turns the retirement home into a cathedral of praise. While others' mouths are filled with groaning, complaining, even cursing, David's is filled with praise. But notice he prays, "let" my mouth be filled. It takes God's help in this tough season to still make a melody. The old eagle has to shed his feathers and renew his youth. That is a taxing order. Change is difficult at this time of life. God's touch is needed to put forth buds and blossoms when Aaron's rod has grown dry, brittle and hard. Not only should our mouths be filled with praise but also "with thy honour all the day". If you get up with roosters and burn the midnight oil til the late hour of 9:00 PM then praise Him six-to-nine, "all the day". This "honor" on the lips should match like honor in character. "The hoary head is a crown of glory, if it be found in the way of righteousness" (Prov 16:31). Grand Dads, it would be great if your children would "honor father and mother" according to the command with promise, but if they don't you can still maintain that honor. Faith honors God and God honors faith. He honors those who fear Him, so lift up his praise and he will lift up your face with gladness. This, like any other step of emotional wellness seen through this "Psychology of the Psalms" is a matter of decision and will - "I will hope" (vs 14), "I will go in the strength of the Lord" (vs 16), "I will also praise thee" (vs 22), and, "will I sing" (vs 22). A man is as happy as he wants to be, aged or not.
"Cast me not off in the time of old age
" - He has already committed to never leave nor forsake us. The sad fact is that uncaring kids or grandkids might cast off the old folks. The business world certainly doesn't want to mess with an over-fifty résumé. But society doesn't have the last say on your last days. When the Social Security Administration sent Harland Sanders a $105 pension check at age 65, it screamed at him, "You are old!" He too had a choice, bitter or better? He invested that check into deep-fat fryers and the rest of the story, the Kentucky Fried Chicken Empire, is history. You can't be cast off in old age if you don't cast yourself off!
"Forsake me not when my strength faileth
" - this, however, is a reality that many will have to face. Moses' strength never abated but for most people their get-up-and-go has got up and gone. At that time God is indispensable. He is needed and He is near; legs to the invalid, hearing to the deaf, hands to the trembling and infirm. He won't forsake His old warriors for He has waited long and joyfully for this coronation season - "Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints" (Psa 116:15). He was there at the starting gate. He will be there at the finish-line.
3. CONTROL YOUR SELF-TALK (Vs 10-11)
In the next two verses David is rehearsing what others have said about him - "For mine enemies speak against me
" Older people can be paranoia-prone. They tend to be suspicious that the younger generation is trying to cheat them out of something (i.e., Medicare) - "they that lay wait for my soul take counsel together". All you have to do to rile the elderly is say a candidate is going to gut Social Security. Don't listen to what "they" say - "Saying, God hath forsaken him
" Is he really hearing this or imagining it? I mean, when you reach a certain age you don't remember if you were going up the stairs or down. The fact that David prays to not be forsaken of God then supposedly hears others saying that God has indeed forsaken him causes me to make a notation in my counselor's journal. The paranoia can lead to a lot of fearful imaginings.
More shadows are created in his mind - "persecute and take him
" As just mentioned, the elderly are often afraid of being "taken" because "there is none to deliver him", in other words, he is too blind to see the fine print. True, some criminals make merchandise of the aged but to constantly negatively condition the mind by rehearsing those realities is not at all helpful. The problem with rehearsing what others say is that it leads to nursing what others have said then cursing what others have said! It is there that the seeds of bitterness are sown among older people. If such negative talking can pull a man under in depression then it would be equally true that positive self-talk will lift him up in encouragement.
4. APPROPRIATE THE GIFT OF PRAYER (Vs 12-13)
Even though there was serious opposition, in his old age, David didn't try to take matters into his own hands like he did in younger years. David was a formidable fighter often crushing his opposition as he did with Nabal, those who burned Ziklag and others. In old age that defense factor is gone. The old dog has to conquer by brain what he formally conquered by brawn. Battles formerly won by youthful strength will have to now be won on bended knees. His prayer was offered to, "O God
O my God
" It sure helps at the end of life's road to know that your prayers are built on a lifetime of relationship and trust. He doesn't have a lot of time left so this is no time for patience learning - "make haste for my help".
Also, this prayer sounds vindictive and harsh but notice why he is praying thus. He called those in opposition "adversaries to my soul". He isn't concerned with stocks and bonds, portfolio or properties this late in the game of life. David is battling for his "soul" and that is worthy of radical praying. He was battling against those that "seek my hurt", probably invisible spiritual enemies more than physical enemies. If you think the spiritual battle quits at age 65 you are in for a rude awakening. The Adversary is relentless and so must be our corresponding faith.
5. FILL YOUR DAYS WITH PRAISE (Vs 14-15)
"But I will hope continually
" - greater hopes kick in the older we get simply because we have to accept things that we cannot physically change. That is why the Serenity Prayer hangs on so many grandmothers' walls. With increased hopes should come increased hallelujahs - "and I will yet praise thee more and more". Saying that he will "yet" praise Him means that there is "yet" more to come. Praising God "more and more" assumes that the best days have yet to arrive. The test is yet to come and the rest is yet to come but know also, the best is yet to come. Old evangelists don't go out to pasture, they just go out to pastor, and there is an effective place where you can function in old age as well. You have stories to tell, experiences to pass on and an encyclopedia of information worth tapping into. All ages should make it a goal to "praise thee more and more". Said author Leo Buscaglia, "Relish love in old age! Aged love is like aged wine; it becomes more satisfying, more refreshing, more valuable, more appreciated and more intoxicating!" So increases the intoxicating communion between a God whose "hair is white like wool" and a believer similarly crowned.
"My mouth shall show forth thy righteousness and thy salvation all the day
" - an older person's strongest weapon is his mouth, not his/her looks, muscle or charm. Don't just say praiseworthy words "show forth" God's attributes, radiate them, "all the day", during the morning stroll, the afternoon lawn bowling game and tea and the early-to-bed prayer-time, or if you're less disposed to acting your age, the morning Harley ride, afternoon shopping spree and midnight dinner for two. Either way, because of being seasoned by so many years you understand both righteousness and salvation in a way that many others do not, so it is your calling to show forth the praises of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light (1 Pet 2:9). Value the day and spend it up because we have no guarantee of another - "
for I know not the numbers thereof".
6. TAP INTO SUFFICIENT GRACE (Vs 16-17)
"I will go in the strength of the Lord God
" - when we have no strength of our own we always have His. His strength is made perfect in our weakness, according to Paul. He heard audibly what you and I take by simple faith, "My grace is sufficient for thee
" (2 Cor 12:9) Along with daily struggle comes daily strength. The outward man suffers "wear and tear" (2 Cor 4:17 Phillips), the back is bowing, bunions, backaches, bridges, bruises and baldness strip away dignity, but the inward man is renewed day by day. Grace sets the pace for the end of the race. Remember, it is called the human race, so no lap in the race is as important as the last lap. We must yield to that grace - "I will go in the strength of
" Flesh crucified, the Lord is magnified. It is the strength of the "Lord God", Adonay Jehovah, the doubled title used to enforce double assurance.
"I will make mention of thy righteousness, even of thine only" - as what we boldly profess has an impact on our attitudes what we simply "mention" in passing does as well, both to us and to others. David was quick to slip a word in for the Lord. Some have difficulty openly testifying of Christ but at least all should be able to "mention" His righteousness. Oftentimes that is all that is needed. In-your-face preaching runs people off but the mention of His name sows good seed in a non-intrusive way. There is no other name to glory in other than "thine only".
"O God, thou hast taught me from my youth
" - grace has been the guiding force through the years. He upheld me in the womb, oversaw my delivery and has been my trust since boyhood. Now, from high school days and beyond "thou hast" taught me. God uses many diverse instructors to teach us, sometimes our parents, pastors or peers, sometimes hardship and tough circumstances and sometimes the voices of conscience and the Holy Spirit. However He chooses to teach the joy is that "thou hast taught me
" Some have been taught but haven't learned. The teaching must have stuck with David because his heretofore of teaching led to a hitherto of testimony and certainly a henceforth of trust - "
hitherto have I declared thy wondrous works". All His works are "wondrous", from bug to butterfly to bald eagle. Teachable people are blown away with the wonders of God. You can tell you are "old" when the mystery of it all is gone. Stay young and teachable!
7. LIVE LIFE "ON PURPOSE" (Vs 18)
That was then next David moves to now - "Now also when I am old and greyheaded
" Just as he gloried in the wonders of God as a boy so he sought to remain childlike, pliable and teachable in his old age. A gray head is fine, a gray heart is unforgivable. As long as we are willing to learn we remain in God's kindergarten and life remains fresh and invigorating to us. David slips momentarily back into worry - "forsake me not
" He has a recurring fear that he will be left to fend for himself but he need not worry, Jehovah-Shammah is always "there".
There is a reason for the autumn season. Your purpose for survival is not to just sit and wait out the inevitable. Pass the baton on to the next generation. Commit to show "thy strength to this generation, and thy power to everyone that is to come". Seasoned saints are gray treasures. They may not walk with the strut of youth but walking straight they are an example for the next round of believers. Face it, not every young person will seek out your counsel but some will and just being available is reassuring to a young person whether you realize it or not. What the aged have to pass on is "thy strength" and "thy power", not just shallow tidbits of ancient history but a personal knowledge of what God can and will do for people that believe. We can't live in the good ole days. The God of the good ole days is God of all the days, but the aged can bring applicable experience to the table of today.
I love David's guts at the end of this verse, claiming he will stay on staff until he has shown God's power to "everyone that is to come". He planned on sticking around for a long time to come if he intended to mentor "everyone". That go-get'em attitude that never says "never", that resists the rocking chair and dodges the coroner is the very attitude that insures longevity. A man has to have a purpose. "For me to live is Christ", said Paul. The retiree who buys a lake view property but has nothing to do when the summer's mowing is done won't survive long. Adam was given a purpose, to dress the Garden and take dominion over creation. Today's elderly still bear that calling whether their garden is a whole continent or just a 10' by 10' plot in the backyard. Confess every morning, "I am here for a purpose" then go find that purpose and act on it. Health and length of days live within the seed of purpose.
8. KEEP THE FAITH (Vs 19-21)
Seasoned saints have to keep reaching for higher heights - "Thy righteousness
is very high
" When we quit climbing exploration is finished and gray hair spreads to make a gray heart. In the past God was the one "who hast done great things". The mystery and joy of living is that His mercies are "new every morning". Life is an exciting expedition and as long as there is a hunger to see more and more of His greatness a person will never get old. It is possible to grow old and not get old, to grow old but not cold. Verse 19 closes with an exclamation point and looks in expectant awe for God to yet do great things for us even as winter approaches - "O God who is like unto thee!" It appears that David never "got over it", as they say. Life to him was an exclamation not an explanation. He certified his God with an explanation point, not a question mark.
Of course, the journey hadn't been a pleasure cruise. The rose bush has its thorns as well as it blossoms - "Thou, which hast showed me great and sore troubles
" Along with life's wonders came life's wonder whys. The wrinkles were etched with a sharp tool, "sore troubles". If it weren't for trouble we would never want to leave this orb for a better world. But David faced death triumphantly and aimed his faith at a better world and better resurrection - "Thou
shalt quicken me again
" Death isn't the end, just a transition. Like a hand slipping out of a glove David knew that he would soon "put off this tabernacle", but the hope was that the God who whipped Goliath when David was just a boy would also whip Death now as an aged man.
Jesus had power to lay down his life "and take it up again". David, of course, did not have that kind of power but the boldness of his confession no doubt enforced his own resurrection - "
and shalt bring me up again from the depths of the earth". This to an extent is prophetic of Christ's own ascension but it certainly is applicable to every aging believer that faces death's dark door. That door need not be any less inviting than knocking at the door of a dear friend. The tomb has lost its terror. The Spirit that raised up Christ from the dead shall also "quicken" our mortal bodies (Rom 8:11). Earlier David spoke of the "valley of the shadow of death" so whatever death is, to a child of God it is only a shadow and a shadow can't hurt anyone. Solomon wrote, "In the way of righteousness is life; and in the pathway thereof there is no death" (Prov 12:28). No death, just a door!
"Enough on that subject", the psalmist refocuses, "Let's get back to the blessed life" - "Thou shalt increase my greatness
" People that would rather discuss thanatology than theology are a bit sick, wouldn't you say? David zeroes in on "increase". God "gives the increase" (1 Cor 3:9). Paul speaks of "increasing with the increase of God" (Col 2:19). What a powerful confession for a man classified with the dinosaurs by the AARP. He believes for greater increase, "my greatness", as he will later write, "They shall still bring forth fruit in old age: they shall be fat and flourishing" (Psa 92:14). Death had dire difficulty dealing with David's desire, dedication and determination. The will to live is the enemy's most ferocious contestant. David agreed that in due time "thou
shalt take me up" but he wasn't about to give up. His faith valued life, so life valued his faith.
Whether by extension of life or by death, one thing David was sure of, "Thou shalt
comfort me on every side". As the "great and sore troubles" just mentioned encompassed him on every side now the consolations of Christ shall encircle on every side. Old age certainly is anything but comfortable. It caught my attention when I heard one elderly gal say she was living with three men. "I get up", she complained, "with Arthur-itis, come home with Charlie-Horse and go to bed with Ben-Gay". Not much comfort there. But David found solace and comfort in the presence of the Lord in spite of the aches, pains and parts that didn't work anymore.
9. STAY ACTIVE (Vs 22-24)
Verses 22-24 are the exit words of an old man who had seen the faithfulness of God for scores of years. It ends with nothing but praises and hallelujahs. It is the perfect portrait of how godly people should reach the finish-line in this world of tears. David stayed active, proactive, creative. The musical hobby of his youth became the absorbed activity of his old age - "I will praise thee with the psaltery
" Of course his fingers by now are weak and perhaps even twisted with arthritis. Obviously the lyre and psaltery don't ring with the clarity and spring that they did when Saul called for young David to play skillfully before him. Nevertheless, David didn't hang his instrument on the willows and sit the rest of his days out on the porch ruing life's changes. It sat on his lap, tuned, volume cranked, making melodies to the Lord. We are the salters of the earth but also the psalters of the earth. Music is what makes the world go round so as long as a person can stay active, keep the music going and continue to dance, that person will be like a greased pig in the hands of the undertaker. More serious lyrics flow from the pen of the aged musician - "even thy truth, O my God
" The playful jesting of childhood is traded for eternal thoughts as one nears eternity.
It takes more than a guitarist's fingers to create balanced worship for David adds, "
unto thee will I sing with the harp, O thou holy One of Israel". There is strumming but also singing. The one completes the other. Notice that David employs not only fingers but "my lips", "my soul" and "my tongue", the whole range and orchestra of human personality and instrumentation in his offering of praise to the Lord. What is the style of music he plays? Four words are used, "praise", "sing", "rejoice" and "talk". "My lips shall greatly rejoice when I sing unto thee
" - sad the septuagenarian that cannot sing! The trumpet is only the instrument; the air blown through it is the spirit of the music. Likewise, David's "lips" are only instrumental; "my soul which thou hast redeemed" is what gives birth to praise. I'm redeemed! That is cause for celebration and the greatest assurance a seasoned veteran can possess.
In the 107th he urged, "Let the redeemed of the Lord say so". If it is so, say so! Be sure, it is so! Therefore, "My tongue also shall talk of thy righteousness all the day long
" Music is valuable but the message is essential. The time comes when allegorical singing must give way to concise talking in clear language. The younger generation needs some Grandpa Davids to look them straight in the eye and "talk of thy righteousness". The amount of time we have to impart understanding to the generation to come is limited so let us busy ourselves communicating Christ "all the day long". "And thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thy house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up" (Deut 6:7). That pictures instructing all the Bible to all the family all the day! Stay active and communicative. It is too late in the game to worry what Jones thinks about it. With eternity in the headlights his bunch will have to be ignored - "for they are confounded, for they are brought unto shame, that seek my hurt". I may be old but I won't be cold and won't be sold. Story told!
PSALM 127 - "STRAIGHT SHOOTIN' DADS"
Yes, Dads need to go to the psalmist/psychologist once in awhile too. Most think of "Dad" as the model of strength and stability but, believe it or not, tough guys, reliable guys, nothing-seems-to-ever-rattle-him kind of guys like Dad have also been seen pacing the floor at night. Fathers have an innate sense of responsibility and when things go wrong in the home, whether he shows it or not, he usually feels a deep guilt or sense of failure because of the instinctive knowledge that in the home, "the buck stops here" with the Dad.
Because he is the family's provider he feels pressures that others are less prone to feel. He is the husband, that is, the house-band, the one who bands all together, which only heightens the responsibility and tightens the strings of his nerves. That pressure causes some to wimp out in their godly responsibility turning spiritual matters over to the wife. It causes others to become callous and cynical, making it hard for anyone (including the Lord) to get through the tough exterior. Still others use the pressure as an excuse to turn to booze, extra-marital affairs or the private world of their work as a haven for their own sanity. Hence we have both alcoholics and work-aholics.
The Holy Spirit wired you men for the task and has given some sound pastoral advice throughout the Word of God and especially in this psalm.
The heading denotes this as being written "for Solomon". The Hebrew preposition can mean "for", "to" or "of" so we are not certain whether the psalm is written from David to his son, by another for Solomon, or written by Solomon himself. Most commentaries take the latter viewpoint.
It is the duty of straight shootin' Dads to:
"Except the Lord…" – set Him apart, sanctify the Lord in your heart. He is the exception. That means that He is preeminent, priority, precedent and president. "Seek ye first the kingdom of God…" (Mat 6:33) Except the Lord, and accept the Lord. Decide to live for Him and love Him.
It is Dad's duty to decide. Decision determines destiny. The father of the home has been given headship in regards to decision. It is the head that directs the body (1 Cor 11:3, 1 Tim 2:13, Eph 5:21-23). Too many parents have forfeited their leadership, first by not setting the example and pace for spirituality in their homes, but second, by taking the weak posture that says, "I don't want to force religion on my children" or "I will let them wait until they are old enough to make their own decisions about church", etc. No, it is Dad's duty to decide. The greatest act of Joshua's colorful career was not when he caused the Jordan River to split, the walls of Jericho to fall or the sun and moon to stand still in the skies, the greatest act of his life was when he pulled his wife, kids and grandkids to his side and announced, "As for me and my house we will serve the Lord" (Josh 24:15).
In this psalm it appears that David is giving his son Solomon guidance for building a worship temple in Jerusalem or, if the author is Solomon, he is drawing his own guidelines for that construction. Human architecture and carpentry would not be enough. Except the Lord "build the house, they labor in vain that build it". Without His presence in the house all that remains is carpet, sheetrock, paneling and cement blocks. In every home, whether mansion or mud hut the Lord must do the building. His tools of love and faith must be used. His blueprint of Bible doctrine, scriptural principles and promises must be consulted. His foundation of prayer and faithfulness to the Word must be laid deep and built upon. All Dads' plans made outside the will of God are "vain", empty, fruitless, meaningless, a waste of time and energy. Notice, the word "vain" is used three times in this psalm, in each case reinforcing the futility of both life and labor that neglects the Lord. Paul said, "If Christ be not raised, then is our preaching in vain" (1 Cor 15:14). To that I might add that if Christ be not praised then is our building in vain.
Notice the writer adds the plural form, "they", "they labor in vain that build it". "They" implies a cooperative work, not just a Dad dictating, but a parental team directing. Dad and Mom are not to lord, but to lead, however, in their position under the headship of Christ they become the primary authority over their children, the proper pattern being – "Children, obey your parents in the Lord: for this is right" (Eph 6:1).
"…except the Lord keep the city, the watchman wakes but in vain" – The first Person of the trinity is most widely known in the New Testament as "Father". He is our keeper, the defender of the fatherless. Jesus said that He would not "orphan" us (John 14:18). We have heavenly defense and the worried wearied Dad trying to make ends meet, for his family, needs the assurance that his Father is both builder and keeper. Whatever Dad is incapable of Father is ready to supply. The one true God, watching over the city, is worth more than ten-thousand marching soldiers.
The "city" in mind in this verse is, of course, Jerusalem, over which Solomon would have oversight and kingly responsibility, but it also pictures the intricate mechanics of home life, much like the technical complexity of a city. Parents with several children know that each has his own personality and has to be handled in his own unique way. Maintaining a home is as difficult for a set of parents as maintaining a city is for a group of alderman. Both need the "Lord" to "keep the city". Of course it is a dual work. The Lord is the keeper but I, as a Dad, have to be the "watchman". It is my duty to defend, to watch for the wolf, to intervene when the children, like small lambs, need protection or correction, but it is the Lord who is the keeper of the family.
The father's house is a secure house. Picture a tender loving Dad looking in on his sleeping daughter, kissing her cheek and saying a quick bedside prayer. The earthly father that has committed his children to the Heavenly Father will not see them easily fall. I never worried about Matthew chapter six "stuff" as a boy, food, funds, fashions, fads, etc. because Dad was at work long before I got up for school and never missed a day of work, sick or well. As far as I knew he was the strongest, toughest man in Omaha, Nebraska. The presence of a Dad in the home brought security. The sad state of affairs in America today is that Dads have shirked their duty to defend. They have created babies but not raised families. Half our marriages end in divorce. Others never marry, the male parent of the child just being a donor instead of a defender or a Dad.
The author's expression that the father/watchman "waketh" speaks volumes. Fussy mothers are quick to wake at the least stirring of the crib, but fathers have their own waking times. He wakes promptly at the alarm buzzer to head into the work day. He wakes at night compelled with an urgent need for prayer. He wakes sensing that a storm is on the way or hearing an out of place sound on the porch, etc. His body is sleeping but his spirit is on guard.
This waking comes because it is Dad's duty to deliver. The psalm isn't hinting that laziness is preferable to hard work and ambition since it is all "vain" if not blessed by the Lord, but that we are to couple our human efforts as earthly fathers with His divine assistance as Heavenly Father. The assumption is that an aggressive business-minded Dad will "rise up early" to go get the early bird's worm, then to "sit up late" making plans for the next days' progress. But man only has ability for limited accomplishment. We need the Lord's extra push. Being overtaxed with overtime may seem to be the caring way to provide for the family but if the health is lost in the process or the kids are neglected through Dad's absence in the home, the early rising and late floor pacing may prove to be poorly spent time.
If the head of the house can find security in Christ the heirs of the house will find security in him. The rat race is fine for rats but you are a person, a person who needs rest, leisure and some well deserved sleep. Perhaps the kids did not turn out the way you expected. Perhaps the creditor is yanking the debt chain. Every father faces problems but he need not lie awake worrying or as the psalm states it, "to eat the bread of sorrows". Remember that as you, Dad, rock your kids to sleep you also are still a son yourself and are ever under Father God's care – "for so he gives his beloved sleep". I know Moms are sleep deprived and need to claim this promise but many dads are in the same boat. If He "gives" sleep then sleep must be a divine gift. If the conscience is clear the sleep is calm. And if a man has done his best through the day, he can leave the rest with the divine Night-watchman and sleep, just like Jesus did in the hinder part of the ship – "The sleep of a laboring man is sweet…but the abundance of the rich will not suffer him to sleep" (Ec 5:12).
Paul preached that it was Dad's duty to deliver, to deliver the goods – "But if any provide not for his own and especially for those of his own house, he has denied the faith, and is worse than an infidel" (1 Tim 5:8). So in the process, keep watching and keep working, but don't forget that you also are a spiritual personality requiring divine refreshment, so keep worshiping too.
Though the psalm doesn't clearly touch on the subject of discipline it is nonetheless an important duty of all "straight shootin' Dads". The father who knows how to temper the velvet and steel balance needed in the home is less apt to taste "the bread of sorrows".
No one knew that bitter taste better than the psalmist himself. Ed McMurray starred in the old TV serial, "My Three Sons", a story about the trials and rewards of being a father and the challenge of maintaining the home absent a mother. But David acted that part long before Hollywood borrowed the idea. David had three sons whose names each started with the letter "A" that brought David's heart much grief and pain and sadly, each son was murdered in the process. Dad's failure in discipline led to their messed up lives, a scenario repeated thousands of times a day across America because of a parental failure to "shoot straight" in the home. Amnon, Absolom and Adonijah, "My Three Sons", all faced horrible endings in life and one key reason can be traced back to a failure in discipline, "And his father had not displeased him at any time in saying, Why hast thou done so? And he also was a very goodly man; and his mother bare him after Absalom" (1 Kings 1:6).
Amnon's problem was lustfulness, Absalom's was loftiness and Adonijah's was laziness, all three categorized within the "youthful lusts" that Paul spoke of in 2 Timothy 2:22, flaws in the "arrows" that should have been straightened out by David's disciplining hand. But he rather chose the let's all try to get along approach rather than accepting his responsibility as a father.
So Absalom the mutineer and Adonijah the power-hungry brat were brothers, children of the same mother. I wonder what kind of control she manipulated in her and David's marriage. That is why Solomon took such a tough-love approach. He had seen the ruin in his half-brothers' lives. Over and over in Proverbs we read the two words "my son" as in 1:10, "My son, if sinners entice thee consent thou not", 2:1, "My son, if thou wilt receive my words…" or 3:1, "My son forget not my law…" David shrieked at Absalom's death, "My son, my son, Absalom my son, would to God I had died for thee, Absalom, my son…" Dads who never want to make the "My son" cry of despair had better issue the "my son" command of discipline. If we don't get things right at home in the highchair the government may have to make things right in the electric chair!
Why is discipline so important? Because though you as a father sired these kids it was God who gave them life and therefore they do not belong to you, they belong to Him – "Lo, children are an heritage of the Lord…" That's right; you are a steward over God's "heritage". And "the fruit of the womb is his reward". What can we give back to God for His goodness to us? We can give tithes and offerings, we can give service, we can give praise and vocal worship, but have you ever thought that you can also give back to God a holy, saved, loving and "godly seed" (Mal 2:15)?
"So Kris, what do you do when you've failed in rearing your kids and want to get back on track?" The answer is in that statement, "for so he giveth his beloved sleep". No one can unscramble an egg, but you can give it all back to the Lord and start over in your own spiritual life. You are His "beloved". Our failure to discipline our kids usually comes from a feeling of hypocrisy because we know we have failed to discipline ourselves. It is not too late to start girding up the loins of the mind and bringing your own life back under the Father's order and discipline so that you can start to be the godly example so desperately needed by your children.
"As arrows in…" – parents have the power to direct the destiny of their children. "As arrows" – we know from experience that we have "come short of the glory of God". Our history is one of constantly missing the mark, which is the textbook definition of "sin", but should not our mistakes help the "aim" on the direction in which we send our children? Arrows need to be shaped, sharpened and shot. What an honor to overhear a neighbor, a teacher or employer say that your son or daughter is really a "sharp" kid. Discipline does the straightening or shaping, love and fatherly edification and offering opportunities for life-experience does the sharpening, but releasing those kids unto God in prayer is what does the shooting. What good is an arrow that has not been released to the elements of "thin air" and what good is a child who has not been trained then loosed from father's grip to go after the destiny for which that child has been created?
These arrows are "in the hand" of the parent who holds them. "In the hand" gives us power to shape, mold, love and encourage. That hand needs to be firm yet tender, corrective yet protective. Note also that the arrows are in the hand "of a mighty man". You may not realize how much influence you actually have over that child's life and destiny. You are a spiritual person and as such are wielding eternally lasting influence on the direction that the arrow will be shot in life, but this influence needs to be used while the boys and girls are pliable; before they "know it all" – "so are children of the youth". Shape them while they are "youth", fashionable, soft clay in the hands of the parental potter.
By the notion that Dads are to "direct" we are not speaking of vicariously living your life through the child's. He has his own life to live, a life that may lead him to be a computer geek rather than a pro football player but that is his business, not yours. Our duty is to sharpen the arrow, to make the child a finely-tuned instrument that can hear the voice of God and move soundly forward, going beyond what we as parents were able to do or achieve. We can help them along in basic talents and traits that we see in them. A Dad must also speak into his child's life as the patriarchs of old did, prophesying good things over them, words on which they can navigate ahead in boldness. Tiger Woods has set phenomenal golfing records because his Dad made a commitment early to sharpen the arrow. When other kids were playing Nintendo games Earl Woods had his little Tiger out at the driving range.
One more point about the bow and string, if the arrow is to have maximum impact the bow must be bent to the breaking point and the string stretched to its full limit. Your endurance as a parent will be challenged. The string will stretch to the point of fraying as will your nerves, from time to time. Eighty to a hundred pounds of pressure on the bow requires effort on the part of the archer. What you put into your children's lives will determine how far they will shoot, how accurately they will shoot and what target they will hit when they are released. The tendency is to cushion the ride and make the nest soft and cozy while the real need is for the children to be pressured, pushed, stretched, force exerted and then the arrow fired with intensity. This is hard for most parents but the biographies of men and women having the greatest impact on the world prove that it is usually the right parenting philosophy.
A child replicates his parent's genetic traits, but what else? If a man is not ready to clone his life in the life of another he is not ready to be a dad. Dads are making photo copies whether they accept that fact or not. Duplication should not be a frightening prospect but a joyous one – "happy is the man that hath his quiver full of them…" Of course, lots of children mean lots of trials and lots of tears but I do not know anyone with a family of eight that at the end of their lives regretted not just having one child instead. There is no success without successors. Abraham with all his wealth was not truly happy until there was a little Isaac to share it with. The full quiver is normally the most productive quiver, though one arrow is all it takes to bring home the venison. Some make that the scriptural basis for large families but it may be that some men's quivers are simply smaller than other's. Quantity of kids is not the main goal, quality of the kids is. And I use the word "kids" only euphemistically because goats have kids; parents have children, the heritage of the Lord, made in the likeness and image of their Creator.
Dad's duty is to earn respect, not demand it. His life should be lived in such a way that his followers "shall not be ashamed". It is pathetic when a child is ashamed of the one he should be most proud of. "A good name is rather to be chosen than great riches…" (Prov 22:1) Guard the family name! Your son will slip into your big boots just for the fun of playing house. Dads leave tracks in the snow that their sons will take long strides to follow. Make sure those tracks lead to honor, patriotism, honesty, hard work, respect and ultimately Heaven.
There can be no success without a successor. What good does it do to win a halo if you lose the home? When the arrow is straightened and effectively shot it will arrive at the target and some will even hit the bull's-eye, "they shall speak with the enemies in the gate". This speaking in the gate implies leadership and eldership over the city. Jesus promised that "the gates of hell" would not prevail over the church. The greatest joy for a dad is to shape that child, sharpen that child, shoot that child, and then see them stand in victory over the gates of hell, a victor not just in business life but in spiritual life. The Lord said of Abraham, "I know him, that he will command his children and his household after him…" then He gave his servant a promise for the arrows of his hand – "thy seed shall possess the gate of his enemies" (Gen 22:17).
Now go string up the bow…fire…and I believe your kids will hit the bull's-eye for Christ!