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Posted By Nan

Psalm 129
This psalm is the first of the fourth triplet. Following the pattern of the previous triplets, this first psalm discusses a distressing situation, the next will talk of God’s power to keep secure or deliver from, and the last will talk of security in the Lord. The first two triplets had a focus on getting to know God and how to come into His presence in worship. The pilgrims mastered this concept and prepared to wait and long for the blessing God has to give when they come to worship Him. Now this triplet speaks of what to do when sin threatens. There is less emphasis on the act of coming to Zion to worship, in fact Zion is only mentioned in this psalm and nowhere else in the triplet. Whereas in previous triads there was emphasis on external (personal 121, circumstantial 124) threats, this triad, especially 129 and 130 looks at internal and very personal threats. In 129 the internal threat is anxiety.
For the pilgrims, approaching the time of worship in the temple is a pilgrimage of the heart and having the right attitude to God. As they approach the place of worship they reflect on the fact that all their lives they have been afflicted by the taunts of those who revile God, but those afflicters have not turned the pilgrim away from God. As the people were enslaved by the taunts of the ungodly, so God acted to protect them from the taunts. The wicked oppressors did not win this one! As the pilgrim ascends to the temple, he thanks God for His righteousness in saving the people of Israel from the ungodly. These are facts from the past, but there are problems in the present and the future the pilgrim needs God’s help for (5-8). There is a need to remember God’s righteousness. In Exodus 3:15 and 6:6 God revealed Himself as the redeemer of His people and the conqueror of His foes. The people need to remember this now.
In this psalm the psalmist speaks of the foe who desires to impose bondage on the people, but God gives freedom from bondage (v4). Verses 5 to 8 talk of the consequences on those who hate God. The verbs used can be interpreted as pointing to prophesy or prayer. If they point to prayer they detail how to deal with life. If they point to prophesy then they detail how the people are to act the future. It is most likely the psalm includes both a call to prayer and a call to trust the Lord and the words of His prophesy. Trust that those who hate Zion are transient (v6), unsuccessful (v7), and unbefriended and excluded from the blessed (v8).
As we read in Psalm 118:26, those who come in the name of the Lord are blessed and psalm 79:12 speaks of God paying back those who reproach God by hurling insults at Him.
It is important to remember that in this life there will be many who will mock our faith. Just as the pilgrim reciting the Songs of Ascents thousands of years ago, we need to trust God’s promise to redeem us and wait patiently, resisting the taunts of those who hate God and knowing they will be punished in God’s time.

 

 
Posted By Nan

Psalm 128
“Blessed is the one who does not walk in step with the wicked or stand in the way that sinners take or sit in the company of mockers, but whose delight is in the law of the LORD, and who meditates on his law day and night.” Psalm 1:1-2
This psalm, the last in the third triplet, talks about the security that is in God. In this triplet it is about transcending failure through faith and the blessedness of the godly man. This triplet is about what happens when failure threatens. In 126 the psalmist cried out for the blessing of God. In 127 the psalmist declared blessing came by trusting. Now in 128 the psalmist fulfils the longing of 126 and confirms the declaration of 127.
Verse 1 is very like that of Psalm 1:1-2. If we walk in God’s way and familiarise ourselves with His word with a life that has God as its primary focus then we are truly blessed.
Blessed involves being under God’s blessing and finding personal fulfilment and happiness in life. The psalm speaks of blessing in personal life of now in all areas of work, and home (v2-4). Blessing also applies to the future (v5-6). The blessing ‘may you live to see your children’s children’ is particularly beautiful as even in today’s world people consider grandchildren a blessing. This blessing is reliant on the life of the individual. It is not a case of everyone but of the individual (v4). It does not matter what group you belong to. You are personally accountable for your relationship with God. If you are relying on a organisation to access God for you then you are not one of the blessed.
What more could a person wish for than to be able to enjoy the fruits of his labour, not have what he has grown taken away (v 2). Not only is this a picture of abundance but of security. The man whose crops are taken lives in an insecure world.
What greater blessing than to pray the blessing of children, strong and capable! In verse 3 the reference to the fruitful vine and the vibrant olive tree is a symbol of security as well as abundance. Both the vine and olive tree are long lived plants and produce what in the Israel of the Psalms were vital products of oil and wine that played a central role in people’s lives.
But there is a catch, which the pilgrim knows too well. If you want these blessings, you must be willing to devote your life to God. To seek His word often and to reflect on it constantly. To be so immersed in His word that it affects the way you live your life. To live a life of blessing from God you must be prepared to be a Daniel who, when he learned of the decree of Darius forbidding anyone from praying to their god on penalty of death, went home and, as he had always done, bowed in prayer to God at the open window of his home. (Daniel 6). If we want the blessing of following God, we must be prepared to put God first and surrender all to Him.
Then we will know the blessing of this psalm.

 

 
Posted By Nan

Psalm 127
This beautiful, inspirational psalm sits in the middle of the third triad in the Songs of Ascents. It is titled “At rest in toil”. As the middle psalm it speaks of God’s power to keep us secure or deliver us from trouble. A week ago I talked about 126, which is about the constant daily toil the pilgrims faced in their lives. They reminisced sadly about the past when there was laughter, and spoke hopefully of the future when there would be songs and noted that in the present all they knew was tears at their hard, fruitless lives. Now 127 speaks of God’s promise of blessing on that toil so it is fruitful, not in vain. The pilgrims note the three areas of their lives, home, security and family and acknowledge that, without God, they can achieve nothing.
In verse 1 there are echoes of Psalm 121. V1 lifting eyes to the hills and asking where your help comes from. V3 acknowledging that God will not let your foot slip and that He watches over you as you sleep. V5 God watching over us and shading us at our right hand. This is what v 1 of 127 is speaking of. Unless God builds our home we will labour in vain. Not only does our labour not succeed, but what God will give us as we build is far greater than anything we could have built without Him. It also speaks of the watchman wasting his time keeping watch if God is not with Him. This rule applies not just to our seeking home, security and family in our lives, but also of anything God gives us to do. We can achieve amazing things with God, but very little without Him. As followers of Jesus we should be so excited by that! God gives us things to achieve and in Him we will achieve amazing things. We seek success on the world’s terms and feel failures because we do not ask God. I see so many Christians who start out on a venture and seek the world’s advice before committing their venture to God. Then they wonder why they fail! When I started this blog, I told only one person about it and now I get several hundred hits every week. People ask me how it can be so successful, what formula I used, advertising and so on. My answer: God sends people to it. Any success it has is 100% due to God. Even what I write belongs to Him. Unless the Lord builds the house the worker labours in vain.
Verse 2 also speaks of this trust in God, of letting go and leaving it to God. We read here about the rest God gives. Biblical rest is not the opposite of work and activity. It is the opposite of restless. But God has other plans for us, and verse 3 seeks to clarify that. It speaks of children being a blessing from God. In the times of the psalms many sons were considered a blessing to a man because they were essential for His survival. For us today we need to remember that it is God’s will if we marry and have children. He has the ultimate say on whether we have children. We cannot ever say children are our achievement because they are a gift from God. Sometimes God chooses to give people other gifts than children, but they all come from God. Having a home and security are also God’s work.
Deuteronomy 28:4 speaks of God blessing the Israelites in Canaan by giving them children. In those times a man’s security in Canaan was the possession of land. This secured His place in the Promised Land. If the man had no children to pass his land to then his inheritance was lost. Children were an assurance of a continuing place with God, so God’s blessing of children was an assurance to them of their place with Him.
It has always been God’s intention for us to live life to the full with productive toil and joy, relying on God even when we are joyfully active or working hard and strenuously. For the world weary pilgrims and for us, God wants us to remember that He gives us rest and He will. We just have to let go of our own desires to control our lives and let God run our lives instead.

 

 
Posted By Nan

I love to read the blogs of Holley Gerth. I was told years ago I had the gift of encouragement and certainly I have encouraged people. But I write a blog that teaches people about God and the importance of having a one on one relationship with God. The importance of reading the Bible yourself and praying to God yourself and seeking Him yourself, of putting yourself aside and taking up your cross and following Jesus. The importance of putting Him first and you becoming less. I didn’t feel I was encouraging anyone at all!
Then last week I ran a self-esteem workshop. Towards the end of the workshop I asked the participants to write something positive about the others. They gave me some words. When I looked at the list there was the word “Encouraging”. It surprised me because it has been a long time since I felt I was an encourager but here was that very thing being recognised by the group! I had forgotten God uses our gifts in many ways, not just the ways we think they should be used. By counselling people and running workshops I have been encouraging them. So I haven’t stopped using that gift. God is still using me to encourage, I just was not aware of it!
Then God reminded me of the little girl I have mentored for 2 years. We have built up a lovely relationship over the years, which have involved some major changes and stressors in her life. Last Friday the mentoring program had a games evening so I took her and her two little sisters. As we played I realised how much my mentee has progressed in confidence. I found myself encouraging one of her sisters to stand up in front of the group of children and tell a joke. She was scared but she did it, everyone loved it, and she was so happy about it. I realised that encouraging can be as simple as just mentoring a child or encouraging her sister to take a risk.
The following day my 21 year old son came for a visit and God reminded me as we chatted how I had encouraged him and his siblings as they grew up.
I had become caught up in the idea that I had to encourage other people. I came to believe that God would have me encouraging heaps of people and I saw a blog like Holley Gerth’s blog as the way He would do it. But that is not what He had in mind for me.
As I sat down to write this, God gave me another revelation. I started to describe what I did with my blog and the words He gave me were that I encourage people to follow Him! My blog wasn’t a lovely warm hug like Holley’s beautiful encouragers but it is about the encouragement that God wants me to give people. He told me to reach out to those stumbling in darkness and I have done that through my counselling, but I also realise I am also doing that through my blog. Sometimes those who are stumbling in darkness read blogs. Sometimes we as Christians find ourselves a little lost, stumbling in darkness trying to find God and we seek out the words of others to encourage us. Sometimes those words that encourage the most are the ones that teach us about God, not the beautiful warm fuzzy ones (although they can be amazing encouragers at those times as well). God gave me an ability to write and reflect. He gave me a very intellectual way of analysing things, which is greatly at odds with my vivid imagination, also a beautiful gift from Him. He has given me a hunger and thirst for His beautiful, amazing word and He has taught me about the importance of prayer (although I struggle to find time to pray as much as I feel I should). Those are the gifts He intends me to use and my blog is one of the ways He wants me to use them.
I wonder if you have been feeling a bit lost and unsure about the gifts God gave you. Have faith in the rightness of your gifts. God is better at thinking outside the box then we are. Often He uses our gifts in ways we never dreamt of using them. Trust that God is using you and preparing you in the way He wants for you.

 

 
Posted By Nan

Psalm 126
This is the start of the third triplet of Psalms. The first two triplets were ones that focused on getting to know God and the act of coming to worship Him. This one starts from the perspective of being there waiting to worship and longing for the blessing the psalmist knows God has to give. Following the same pattern as the previous two triplets, psalm 126 is all about a distressing situations. In this psalm tears are a daily occurrence as the travellers remember the great blessing of God returning the exiles to Jerusalem and the Temple. But times are now hard and they seek the blessing of God in their current circumstances. The second psalm in the triplet is always about God’s power to keep secure or deliver from and is aimed as an encouragement. Psalm 127 is speaking of God giving rest from life’s toil and the desire for security in God. The last psalm is about the actions of God to keep secure and psalm 128 expresses happiness at God’s blessings to the people in response to the concerns raised in psalm 126.
This psalm is a good description of how excitement at a wonderful event of deliverance can be eroded by the reality of the aftermath. If we relate that to the events of Jesus’ time on earth, there was great excitement after He rose, ascended to heaven, and sent the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. But we are not so excited now. There are moments of excitement, but reality sets in and they pass. The reality is that we always need to be rescued and redeemed. The reality of life makes it hard to maintain that excitement and faith in God’s deliverance. So often, as the harsh reality of life overwhelms our consciousness, we become more familiar with worry and tears than joy. In fact joy seems to be something we experienced a long time ago!
As we struggle with the reality of life we beg God to send the rain to our dry existence and on those stumbling in darkness. Stumbling in darkness … they need the rain too. That means we need rain, not for our parched souls, but for the harvest. So our focus must switch to the harvest and to the acceptance that the rain will come when the harvest is completed. So we must wait patiently for that time. This is God’s perfect plan. (Philippians 1:9-11, James 5:7-8, Revelation 14:14-16). There will be moments of joy throughout our lives, but the ultimate joy we desire must come at the final harvest (Revelation 14:14-16) then we will be joyous indeed!
“Be patient, then, brothers, until the Lord’s coming. See how the farmer waits for the land to yield its valuable crop and how patient he is for the autumn and spring rains.” James 5:7 NIV.
“And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best ad may be pure and blameless until the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ – to the Glory and Praise of God.” Philippians 1:9-11 NIV.
Be patient and know that the day will come when “He who goes out weeping, carrying seed to sow, will return with songs of joy, carrying sheaves with him.” Psalm 126:6 NIV.

 

 


 
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Nan
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