Psalms 72-74 (NLT link) 

Discover His heart: He leads us to our glorious destiny regardless of how things may seem

@ Psalm 73
Psalm 73 was written by Asaph who was a Levite appointed by David to direct the choirs, and in this role, he composed psalms, songs and played the cymbals.  He was one that we would say “grew up in the church,” and as a Levite, he more than likely understood the sacrifice involved in serving the Lord.

By the manner he began his psalm, we can sense his love for God and his desire to view God and His goodness in the proper perspective, but it didn’t take him long to get to the heart of the issue that was troubling him.  “For I envied the proud when I saw them prosper despite their wickedness.  They seem to live such painless lives…they don’t have troubles like other people.” (3-5)

When I read this Psalm, I immediately wanted to remind Asaph that things are not always how they seem to be.  I’ve lived on the planet long enough to see that “He gives his sunlight to both the evil and the good, and he sends rain on the just and the unjust alike.” (Matthew 5:45)  We should never judge an individual’s trouble factor by how things appear. In fact, prosperity often brings greater, more intense troubles.  We seldom are aware of the family issues, health problems and immense stress levels that those around us are facing.  I’ve known many wealthy parents who would trade all they owned for the salvation of their children.  Everyone has trouble.

“Camp’s not fair!  Camp’s not fair!” was the slogan at one of our youth camps one year.  A camper had expressed to the camp director that camp was not fair because of something that had happened that he didn’t like.  Well, camp wasn’t always fair, but then neither is life, and the director grabbed that comment and turned it into a chant for the week.  We laughed at the injustice of it all, and we also learned that things were not always as unjust as they seemed.  Most importantly, we learned to roll with it.

However, Asaph was not rolling with it. “Look at these wicked people – enjoying a life of ease while their riches multiply.  Did I keep my heart pure for nothing?  Did I keep myself innocent for no reason?…I tried to understand why the wicked prosper.  But what a difficult task it is!” (13-16)  Asaph even began to question His walk with God and the injustice of it all, something that can happen regardless of how long we know Him.

How do we move past injustice?  “Then I went into your sanctuary, O God, and I finally understood the destiny of the wicked.” (17)  A trip to His sanctuary was the answer!  He now viewed life through the enlightened eyes of grace, no longer through eyes of envy.

The presence of the Lord changes everything.  It opens our eyes to truth, removes bitterness and resentment, floods us with His peace and moves our understanding to the eternal side of living.  “Then I realized that my heart was bitter, and I was all torn up inside.  I was so foolish and ignorant…Yet I still belong to you; you hold my right hand.  You guide me with your counsel, leading me to a glorious destiny.”  Well, it just doesn’t get much better than that!

Life may not seem fair, but He is always fair and just. When we focus on the eternal side of living, rather than the here and now, our thoughts and deeds are influenced by those things with eternal value, and we find that a trip to His sanctuary is a worthwhile journey. 

Moving Forward: Regardless of the injustice in this world that surrounds me today, I will focus on those things of eternal value.  Life may not seem fair, but He is! 

Tomorrow @ Proverbs 5-6

Psalms 66-68 (NLT) 

Discover His heart: He listens to our prayers offered from a pure heart 

@ Psalm 66
“Come and listen, all you who fear God, and I will tell you what He did for me.  For I cried out to Him for help, praising Him as I spoke.  If I had not confessed the sin in my heart the Lord would not have listened.”(16-18)  Every time I read this passage my mind goes back to an occasion several years ago when this truth became reality to me.

Sitting in a Sunday morning service where Tom was ministering, I noticed during the praise and worship time that many others were experiencing a tremendous blessing from the Lord, but I was not.  I knew His presence was there by the response of the worshipers, yet I was not experiencing the fullness of His presence that comes when He inhabits our praises.  I just needed to focus more on Him, I thought, but nothing helped.  Finally, I cried out in my spirit, “What is it, Lord?”  Immediately, the response came, “You judged.”  And, of course, I knew what He meant.

The night before we attended a gathering of people I assumed to be Christians, and some activities occurred that caused little red flag alerts to pop up.  I know all the scriptures about our role as fruit inspectors, etc., but I was visiting a different culture with many new Christians, really knowing only a very few.  In a split second, I had made a negative judgment in my heart about their commitment to the Lord.  While I never expressed my viewpoint to anyone, I withdrew and instead of being a source of light in their lives at that moment or in the future, I blew out my candle.

Let me just say, the youth and young adult culture today look and act dissimilar to anything we have known in our lifetime.  Tattoos, piercings, rap and spin are common in the Christian culture as well as in the secular.  It really is impossible for us to be a light and compass for them if we are too busy judging them.

Well, I repented that morning, my praise reached His throne and His wonderful presence immediately flooded my space.  I could say with the Psalmist, “But God did listen! He paid attention to my prayer.  Praise God, who did not ignore my prayer or withdraw his unfailing love from me.” (19-20) Like the old saying God loves us just as we are, but loves us too much to leave us like that.  It wasn’t that He didn’t love me that morning, but I know He was displeased with my response the night before.  It hindered the fellowship with Him I desired, and He wanted to restore our relationship.

We’ve been reading in Exodus and will continue to read in Leviticus about the prerequisites of the priests before they entered the Holy Place.  They were arduous with detailed washing, purifying, abstentions and just a long list of requirements in order to enter God’s presence.  Because of Christ and the Holy Spirit dwelling in us, these rules of law are no longer necessary.  However, they most definitely reveal how God desires for us to enter His presence with our praises and prayers – with clean hands and pure hearts. “Blessed are the pure in heart for they shall see God.”(Matthew 5:8)  I want to see Him, to sense Him and to know Him, and I don’t want anything in my heart to hinder it, ever. 

Moving Forward:  My heart today, “A pure heart, that’s what I long for, a heart that follows hard after thee…a sweet aroma of worship that rises to your throne.” (A Pure Heart, R. Nelson) 

Tomorrow @ Proverbs 2-3

Exodus 33-36 (NLT) 

Discover His heart: He reveals Himself to us through His goodness

I have a friend who works for the FBI.  I’ve come to understand that most individuals who work for this part of our government are not involved in high-level espionage and intrigue like we see in the movies.  However, when I ask him a government-sensitive question, the standing joke is, “I can tell you, but then I’ll have to kill you.”  Some things are just better off left alone.  This exchange is not so unlike a conversation that Moses shared with God in our reading today.  Fortunately, Moses made it out alive.

@ Exodus 33
“Go up to [Canaan] this land that flows with milk and honey.  But I will not travel among you, for you are a stubborn and rebellious people.  If I did, I would surely destroy you along the way.”(3)  Of all the names that God could have called the Israelites at this point, stubborn and rebellious or stiff-necked seem rather tame after discovering their idolatrous dancing frenzy of worship to a golden calf.  Many other names come to mind for me, but then I remember how God viewed rebellion in I Samuel 15:23, “Rebellion is as sinful as witchcraft and stubbornness as bad as worshiping idols.”  Very apropos, indeed!

Because of their sin, God would not travel to Canaan with them. “When the people heard these stern words, they went into mourning and stopped wearing their jewelry and fine clothes…As [Moses] went into the tent, the pillar of cloud would come down and hover…When the people saw the cloud…they would stand and bow down in front of their own tents.” (4,8,10)  Their repentance, humility and reverence captured God’s attention, and the appeal for mercy by Moses on their behalf captured His heart.  He forgave them and promised to go with them to Canaan.  He loved them!  He just couldn’t help Himself.

“The Lord would speak to Moses face to face, as one speaks to a friend.” (11)  Instead of the visions and dreams through which God had spoken to others in the past, God’s conversations with His friend Moses were more personal, more directed.   But Moses revealed that he wanted even more when he asked God to show him His glorious presence (18).  According to the original Hebrew, he wanted to see God’s significance or weight – His Glory, His Power, His Character – the whole deal!  Apparently, Moses had momentarily lost his mind!  What was he thinking?  He was thinking he wanted more!

God was so very kind to Moses in His response, “I will make all my goodness pass before you, and I will call out my name, Yahweh…But you may not look directly at my face, for no one may see me and live.” (19-20)  But this warning was different than the bantering with my FBI friend.  Moses was not going to see the face of God because he just couldn’t handle it.  He would see the after, the weight, the more of God’s glory through His mighty acts to come.  Amazingly, Moses did see God many centuries later on the Mount of Transfiguration through his visit with the visible Christ, the glory of God.  More of God’s goodness!

@ Exodus 34
“The Lord passed in front of Moses, calling out ‘Yahweh! The Lord!  The God of compassion and mercy!  I am slow to anger and filled with unfailing love and faithfulness.  I lavish unfailing love to a thousand generations.  I forgive iniquity, rebellion, and sin. But I do not excuse the guilty.’  Moses immediately threw himself on the ground and worshiped.” (6-8)  Like Moses, we can’t help but fall on our knees in worship when His Presence overwhelms our space. He reveals His very nature to us through His compassion > His mercy > His unfailing love > His faithfulness > His forgiveness > His justice.  In these moments, these glorious moments, we see the more of Him! 

Moving Forward:  Show me your glorious Presence, Lord.  I don’t deserve it, and I’m not certain I can bear it, but I join with Moses – Show me more! 

Tomorrow @ I Kings 1-4

Exodus 25-28 (NLT) 

Discover His heart: He will go to great lengths to provide a place for fellowship with us

Anyone who wonders if God is into details should read Exodus 25-40.  It was no small undertaking for the Israelites to build the portable tabernacle with details from God so specific that even the colors of the thread to be used were given.  From their Egyptian spoils, the Israelites were encouraged to give to the building of the tabernacle: “Gold, silver, bronze; blue purple, purple and scarlet thread; fine linen and goat hair for cloth; tanned ram skins and fine goatskin leather; acacia wood; olive oil for the lamps; spices for the anointing oil and the fragrant incense, onyx stones and other gemstones.” (25:3-7)

The quality of the items used as well as the detailed instructions given in these chapters say a great deal about how God viewed His presence and fellowship with His people. The Israelites had been on the road out of Egypt for a little over 2 months, and they were just a few weeks travel from their final destination, the Promised Land.  However, God’s presence, the Pillar of Cloud and Fire, stopped them at Mt. Sinai for God to give Moses the laws to govern the people as well as this very in-depth instruction regarding the portable tabernacle.

Logic would say, surely the pillar would have been a sufficient location for God’s presence for just a few more weeks until they arrived in Canaan.  Was there really a need for this cumbersome tabernacle of heavy woods and linens for such a short period of time?  It was as if God knew their journey would last 40 years.  And of course, He did.

God’s priority in this journey was connection with His people – some things never change! He longed for their fellowship and for the opportunity to mold them into a people who would carry the message of His great love throughout the world.  But before the great sacrifice of Jesus, how would this imperfect people commune with a Holy God? It was through building a prescribed home for Him and by following the prescribed methods of animal sacrifices.  In doing this, they would show their obedient and contrite hearts, and they would allow God to purify their lives.

Jesus’ death on the cross changed all this.  The linen curtain of Exodus 26:31-32, separating the Most Holy Place of God’s presence from the people, was torn from top to bottom at His death (Mark 15:38).  Now, imperfect me can fellowship with a Holy God through my acceptance of the sacrifice of His Son.  He can mold me into someone who can carry the message of His great love throughout my world.  Talk about a portable tabernacle!  I can carry His presence everywhere I go, as long as He is welcomed.

I think we learn from God’s detailed instructions for the tabernacle that He desires a place worthy of His dwelling.  “What agreement is there between the temple of God and idols? For we are the temple of the living God.” (2 Cor. 6:16)  Unholy living and idol worship will drive out the presence of our God who so longs to dwell in us.  If we wonder why we no longer feel His presence in our lives, it’s time to find out what has replaced Him.  Idol worship comes in many different forms.

“Aaron will wear this robe whenever he ministers before the Lord, and the bells [on his garment] will tinkle as he goes in and out of the Lord’s presence.” (28:35)  What a daunting thought that bells would ring announcing His presence in my life!  Thank you, Jesus, for grace and for the personal relationship I have with you.  There may be bells, but they’re for His ears only. 

Moving Forward: I seek your Presence today, dear Lord, and may the bells be silent because I remain! 

Tomorrow @ 2 Samuel 15-19