Ark of the Covenant, brokenhearted, Creator, David, Gatineau, God, human body, image of God, Jacques Cartier Park, Jesus, Mercy Seat, picturing God, righteous, seeing God, seeking God, Sistine Chapel, the LORD
Reading: Psalm 34
The eyes of the LORD are on the righteous,
and his ears are attentive to their cry;
but the face of the LORD is against those who do evil,
to blot out their name from the earth.
The righteous cry out, and the LORD hears them;
he delivers them from all their troubles.
The LORD is close to the broken-hearted
and saves those who are crushed in spirit (NIV).
In the previous post on Psalm 34 I asked the question, “How do we God?” Remember David invites us in Psalm 34:8 to “Taste and see that the LORD is good.”
As this psalm continues David again invites us to take a closer look at God. He reminds us that, “The eyes of the LORD are on the righteous, and his ears are attentive to their cry; but the face of the LORD is against those who do evil to blot out their name from the earth.”
In this passage David depicts the LORD as having eyes, ears and a face. I always have trouble picturing God. This inability does not stem from a lack of imagination. It comes from the knowledge that God is a spirit. How do you picture something that has no physical substance or form?
But picturing God comes with further difficulties. We are specifically forbidden to create an image or likeness of God. The God of the Hebrews sat on the Mercy Seat on the Ark of the Covenant between two cherubim. But there was no image or statue there. To create an image or statue would be blasphemous. For that reason I find Michelangelo’s painting on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel offensive. I am not offended by the depiction of a naked Adam. I’m offended by the portrayal of an old grey-haired man as God. How dare he create an image of God? I am similarly troubled by any artistic rendering of God the Father. God is so far beyond human that to render Him as having a human form demeans His Majesty.
But that’s what makes the incarnation so spectacular. This God of no fixed form took on material reality. In the person of Jesus, He became a man with eyes, ears and a human face. The God who sees all and hears all limited himself to a human body. The Creator took on the form and limitations of a creature—limitations that encompass betrayal, pain and death. In the body of Jesus, the Creator God, who sees and hears, experienced our reality—our humanity.
The psalmist, David declares, “The righteous cry out, and the LORD hears them; he delivers them from all their troubles. The LORD is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.”
The LORD is close to the broken-hearted because in the form of Christ his heart was broken. He experienced the pain that touches you and more. His eyes are on you. He is listening when you cry out.
Response: Hear my prayer, Lord. I seek your face. Be my healer, my redeemer and deliverer. In Jesus’ name, who defeated death, I pray. Amen.
Your Turn: Do you have a picture of God? How does God look to you?
Reading: Psalm 32
Therefore let everyone who is godly pray to you,
while you may be found;
surely when the mighty waters rise,
they will not reach him.
You are my hiding place;
you will protect me from trouble
and surround me with songs of deliverance (NIV).
In the previous stanza of this psalm, David received the amazing dam-busting forgiveness of God. He has just experienced a wonderful release from a load of guilt. But now in his next breath he has some advice for us, and here it is. Therefore let everyone who is godly pray to you, while you may be found.
We are to pray to God while He may be found. This raises some interesting questions. Is God unavailable at times? If God cannot be found, is He hiding? Furthermore, if God is hiding, where does He hide?
At this point I feel like jumping to my feet, like a lawyer pleading a case in the court of reason, and shouting out, “I object! All that David has told us about God so far would lead us to believe that God is always close at hand. Didn’t David testify to this earlier in Psalm twenty-three? He said the following words about the LORD his shepherd: Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me. And now it seems David is telling us that there are times when God cannot be found. Which is it David? It can’t be both.”
Ah, but it is both. This is one of those great divine paradoxes. The God, who is near, even in my heart, can also be distant—light years away, both in time and space. There exists a perceived distance between us that can vary according to the state of my heart—according to the state of my relationship with God.
The fact remains that we cannot see God though we see evidence of His handiwork all around us. Our infinitely complex human bodies and finely tuned senses are themselves proof of His existence, yet Him we cannot see. He is a hidden God, and when we walk beside Him, we walk by faith and not by sight.
Repeatedly in the scriptures we are commanded to seek after the LORD. I find this to be a rather curious expression. We cannot see God, and yet we are commanded to seek Him, as though He might suddenly appear over the next hill, or around the next bend in the road. Suddenly, in unexpected ways, we may encounter God. In reality the Psalms are all about encounters with God. Psalm nineteen began that way. Suddenly the starry hosts began talking to David about God, declaring His glory. We may pick up the Bible, and suddenly it speaks to our deepest need—the need of the moment, and we know that this is the voice of God with a word specifically for us today. Even the ungodly people of this world recognize that people encounter God. They use expressions like, “He found God,” to describe someone’s conversion to faith in Christ. The LORD invites us to play the most amazing game: Hide ‘n’ seek with God.
Response: LORD God, I want to seek after you. Show yourself to me today in this grand adventure called life. I want to have an encounter with you. I want to know what it means to be found by you. Amen.
Your Turn: Have you had a recent encounter with God? Do you sense His nearness or distance?
Reading: Psalm 24
Lift up your heads, you gates;
be lifted up, you ancient doors,
that the King of glory may come in.
Who is this King of glory?
The LORD strong and mighty,
the LORD mighty in battle.
Lift up your heads, you gates;
lift them up, you ancient doors,
that the King of glory may come in.
Who is he, this King of glory?
The LORD Almighty—
he is the King of glory (NIV).
Are you ready? The King is coming.
All of Psalm 24 is a psalm of anticipation. David, the shepherd king, is anticipating the arrival of the LORD. The LORD is coming to His city—to His temple. Have you prepared your heart and your mind for the moment of His arrival? Are you ready to receive Him as your King? He often shows up at the moment we least expect Him.
Undoubtedly, David, the warrior King, was reflecting on his own triumphant entry into the city after the defeat of his enemies in battle. But here in this psalm, he projects the victorious arrival of a much greater monarch—the King of glory.
There is a prophetic expectancy to this psalm that forms a very natural bridge to the Palm Sunday triumphal entry of Jesus into Jerusalem. Jesus, the long anticipated King, came suddenly to His temple. Some were ready for Him; most were not. This should infuse our preparations for the King with an element of urgency. We can miss his appearing. Earlier in this psalm David asks, “Who may stand in his holy place?”
Purity of heart and action are essential. Blessing and vindication awaits those who seek His face. Again I ask, “Are you ready?” God can show up in your life today in an unexpected way. Will you recognize Him? Or like the busy people of Jerusalem will that moment pass you by? Will you be too caught up in buying and selling and the commerce of our times? Will you be too distracted by social media to recognize the medium of the Holy Spirit?
Lift up your head. Open your eyes. Take your attention off the mundane things of this world and focus the eyes of your heart on the Lord. Seek His face in your daily routine. The King of glory may be passing by today.
Response: Come, Lord Jesus, come. I open my heart and my mind to you. I want to see you at work in my daily circumstances. King of Glory, help me to anticipate your appearing in my life today. Grant me a pure heart so I can recognize your coming. Amen.
Your Turn: Has the King of glory appeared in your life recently? What are you doing to prepare for Him?
Of David. A psalm.
The earth is the LORD’s, and everything in it,
the world, and all who live in it;
for he founded it on the seas
and established it on the waters.
Who may ascend the mountain of the LORD?
Who may stand in his holy place?
The one who has clean hands and a pure heart,
who does not trust in an idol
or swear by a false god.
They will receive blessing from the LORD
and vindication from God their Savior.
Such is the generation of those who seek him,
who seek your face, God of Jacob (NIV).
Psalm 24 begins by establishing the sovereignty of the LORD. He alone is to be worshipped because the LORD is the Creator of all things. The earth is the LORD’s, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it; for he founded it on the seas and established it on the waters.
David then goes on to ask two very pertinent questions. Who may ascend the mountain of the LORD? Who may stand in his holy place?
Can anyone approach this great Sovereign God? Are there any preconditions that we need to meet? According to David, the answer is yes. The one who has clean hands and a pure heart, who does not trust in an idol or swear by a false god.
David, I have a problem with that answer. You see my hands aren’t always clean, and my heart isn’t always pure. How then can I approach the LORD? In fact, my problem is a universal problem. In Psalm 14:2-3, we read this indictment against humanity: The LORD looks down from heaven on all mankind to see if there are any who understand, any who seek God. All have turned away, all have become corrupt; there is no one who does good, not even one.
Is this generation seeking the LORD? With rare exceptions the answer is no. It has always been thus. The harsh words of Psalm 14 ring just as true now as they did in David’s time. But there are those who break the mold of this world—those who have received the forgiveness and cleansing of God. They will receive blessing from the LORD and vindication from God their Savior. Such is the generation of those who seek him, who seek your face, God of Jacob.
Those who have been cleansed by the blood of the Lamb of God may freely approach the throne of God. I want to be numbered among that generation.
Response: Lord Jesus, I thank you for your suffering and death on the cross. Your blood cleanses my hands and purifies my heart. Today I want to seek you. In your great mercy reveal yourself to me. Amen.
Your Turn: Are you a God seeker? On what basis do you approach the Sovereign LORD?
Reading: Psalm 10
Why, LORD, do you stand far off?
Why do you hide yourself in times of trouble?
In his arrogance the wicked man hunts down the weak,
who are caught in the schemes he devises.
He boasts about the cravings of his heart;
he blesses the greedy and reviles the LORD.
In his pride the wicked man does not seek him;
in all his thoughts there is no room for God (NIV).
As I write these thoughts on Psalm 10, we are a long way from Christmas. But there is a line in today’s reading that has me thinking about the Christmas season.
The author of this psalm is describing the heart of those who are far from God. “In his pride the wicked man does not seek him; in all his thoughts there is no room for God.”
For many the celebration of Christ’s birth has become nothing more than a commercial bonanza completely devoid of any spiritual meaning. For them it is nothing more than a buying and selling frenzy—a pursuit of trinkets signifying nothing—nothing of eternal value.
No matter the season, we too can fall into a trap. Rather than seeking the LORD, we can find ourselves boasting about the cravings of our heart. As the psalmist says, we bless the greedy and in so doing, we revile the LORD.
No room for God… in today’s world? In a perverse way it seems rather appropriate. There was no room for God in Bethlehem on the night Jesus was born. No room for God… no room for the Maker and Savior of the universe! That sounds insane, but then it seems we live in a world gone mad.
For you and me, it doesn’t have to be that way. While there was no room for God incarnate in Bethlehem, the magi were busy seeking Him. Regardless of the season, you and I can set our hearts to be God seekers.
Response: Jesus, I seek after you. Open my eyes to see you at work today. Show up in my world today. I wait expectantly for you. Amen.
Your Turn: Have you seen Jesus in others? How can you seek God this week?
Reading: Psalm 105
Give praise to the LORD, proclaim his name;
make known among the nations what he has done.
Sing to him, sing praise to him;
tell of all his wonderful acts.
Glory in his holy name;
let the hearts of those who seek the LORD rejoice.
Look to the LORD and his strength;
seek his face always.
Remember the wonders he has done,
his miracles, and the judgments he pronounced,
you his servants, the descendants of Abraham,
his chosen ones, the children of Jacob.
He is the LORD our God;
his judgments are in all the earth (NIV).
This past Sunday during the children’s church time the pastor led the children in a rousing chorus of “Jesus Loves Me.” In case you need a quick refresher, here is the first verse of that much loved children’s hymn: Jesus loves me! This I know, For the Bible tells me so; Little ones to Him belong; They are weak, but He is strong.
I remember singing this song with much gusto as a young tyke at Vacation Bible School. I took special comfort from this line: Little ones to Him belong; They are weak, but He is strong.
As a child I was well aware that I needed the strength of Jesus, since I had so little strength of my own. As we grow up and mature into adulthood we can forget to depend on the Lord’s strength. We have plenty of our own strength. Soon we can find ourselves relying on our own intellect and resources to solve problems as they come our way. Who needs Jesus when we can make our own way in life? Maybe we don’t consciously say that, but our actions reflect that line of reasoning.
The children’s song “Jesus Loves Me” might have been inspired by a line from Psalm 105 where we read, Look to the LORD and his strength; seek his face always.
The plain truth is that I need the LORD and His strength at every stage of my life. My strength on every level is minuscule in the sight of God. That’s why I need to seek his face continually. His wisdom surpasses my limited understanding. I have so little strength on my own, but His power is all surpassing. How foolish we are to rely on our abilities, when the Lord offers to walk through this life right beside us. Jesus said, “Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls” (Matthew 11:29).
Response: Lord Jesus, you are strong—strong enough to carry the cross on my behalf—strong enough to purchase my redemption. I look to you for strength and salvation. Always guide my steps. Amen.
Your Turn: Did you find it easier to trust in Jesus as a child than as an adult?