I think we often interpret Old Testament Bible verses in terms of New Testament reality.
Sometimes that’s warranted because the verses foreshadow the fullness of Christ’s birth, life, death and resurrection.
But sometimes we miss out on the deeper meaning of what God was saying through His prophets.
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard the verse, “This is the day the Lord has made, let us rejoice and be glad in it” quoted as a general blessing/admonition/encouragement at the beginning of a worship service or just the start of an ordinary day.
I don’t think that’s technically a misappropriation of the sentiment, but I do think it falls far short of what the Psalmist was trying to convey.
The Temple stood on a hill above Jerusalem and those last steps for the pilgrims who traveled faithfully three times a year to celebrate the appointed festivals were hard. Many had walked miles and miles and were just plain tired.
So they sang songs (Psalms) to encourage their hearts as they plodded forward.
If you have a Bible with notes you’ll see them marked as “Songs of Ascent” because that was exactly what they were.
In addition to the expense, time, effort and commitment it took to make it to the Temple, pilgrims were expected to offer a sacrifice. Some could bring their own and some had to purchase a lamb or ram or other sacrificial animal from those offered by vendors just outside the inner courts.
It could be easy to resent the cost of coming.
It would be absolutely understandable to get just a bit disgruntled making those last few steps to plunk down a sacrifice to a God they couldn’t see.
So the Psalmist says, “This is the DAY(the appointed feast, the reminder of covenant, the renewal of promise) the Lord (Yahweh, the God of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and you) has made (ordained, appointed, set aside). Let us rejoice (revel in the fact that He has chosen us of all people, that He is faithful, that we can come and worship) in it.”
God doesn’t need my lamb or goat or calf.
The feasts weren’t designed to jog His memory regarding my relationship with Him, they were designed to help ME remember that I am creature and He is Creator.
And I need that reminder most when things are hard, when I am tired and when I may have forgotten that worship is a privilege.
Some days are uphill all the way.
I’ve had a few of those lately.
And while this verse isn’t really about ordinary days, it helps my heart as much on those as it does on the special ones. ❤
Romans is a dense book full of quotable verses often taken out of context.
Today’s verses include some of the most hopeful and, frankly, hurtful verses tossed at broken hearts.
“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. ” (Romans 8: 28 NIV)
Often this verse is shared by well-meaning friends who want us to “look on the bright side”. They can’t comprehend that the darkness of child loss is so complete our hearts can’t imagine light still exists.
But when you see that verse and the ones that follow in context, a heart can find a foothold.
A similar thing happens when we pray. We are weak and do not know how to pray, so the Spirit steps in and articulates prayers for us with groaning too profound for words. 27 Don’t you know that He who pursues and explores the human heart intimately knows the Spirit’s mind because He pleads to God for His saints to align their lives with the will of God? 28 We are confident that God is able to orchestrate everything to work toward something good and beautiful when we love Him and accept His invitation to live according to His plan. 29-30 From the distant past, His eternal love reached into the future. You see, He knew those who would be His one day, and He chose them beforehand to be conformed to the image of His Son so that Jesus would be the firstborn of a new family of believers, all brothers and sisters. As for those He chose beforehand, He called them to a different destiny so that they would experience what it means to be made right with God and share in His glory.
Romans 8: 26-30 VOICE
Paul has laid a foundation earlier in chapter eight for the Spirit’s work in the life of the redeemed. The Holy Spirit testifies to our sonship, is a down payment on what’s to come, informs us that all creation is waiting for redemption and prays for us when we don’t know how or what to pray for ourselves.
As we align our hearts with the heart of God, our will conforms to His and we are positioned to receive even the hard things of life as having passed through His loving hands.
Not all things are good.
Let’s just get that out of the way right now.
Sin has infected every aspect of life on earth. Disease, genetic mutation, environmental destruction, people’s personal foolishness, sin and cruelty all add up to awful outcomes.
The sting of death has been removed but the fact of death remains.
Frankly, life is hard.
But all those things that are outside the perfect will of God-the pain, the heartache, the destruction, the awful, awful sadness-aren’t outside His power of redemption.
He takes those dark moments, months, years, LIFETIMES and weaves them into a beautiful tapestry that ultimately displays His glory and our transformation into the likeness of Jesus.
I am a co-heir with Christ.
One day I will look more like Him than I ever thought I would.
And it will be the pressure of pain and struggle that squeeze me into the mold of His likeness.
Not everything IS good, but everything will work TOWARD good.
You can take that to the bank.
Have you ever had “all things work together for good” tossed at you? How did it make you feel?
Does seeing that verse in context make it easier to read/digest? Why or why not?
Being conformed to the likeness of Christ is painful, regardless of how the pressure comes. Can you see how the pain of child loss has molded your heart into a closer approximation of the heart of Jesus? Why or why not?
Why is it important to make a distinction between the idea that everything that happens is good versus the idea that everything that happens (good or bad) can be used by God FOR good?
I remember that dark morning just having no words. I think all I could manage was to repeat the names of God. When has the Holy Spirit prayed for you? Are you encouraged by the idea that even if you don’t know what or how to pray, He has you covered?
Lord, I know people don’t mean to do it but it hurts my heart when they toss Your words at me like a volleyball expecting me to just hit it back and act like nothing’s happened.
My world stopped. My heart was shattered. Child loss is not good. You can use it FOR good, but it is not good.
Thank You that Paul was a faithful scribe and put Your truth in context. Thank You that I can look up all the verses and see that the message You gave him was not that ALL things are good, but rather that even the awful, heartbreaking, terrible things can be USED for good in Your loving, sovereign hands.
Give me the courage to trust You with even this. Help me lean in and take hold of an eternal perspective so I can endure patiently. Give me strength to finish strong. And when the process of conforming me to the image of Christ seems too hard to bear, remind me that You are here and will give me sufficient grace.
I was blessed to live several years in Colorado and it never got old to head off in the mountains, round a curve and come upon a grove of trembling golden aspen. They demanded I step outside the car and drink them in.
Photographs don’t do them justice.
You have to be there, see them, hear their leaves make music in the wind and smell the cool, clear air of the mountains to understand.
When Paul says that the sufferings in this life are incomparable to the glories of the next, I think he had something like this in mind-Heavenly experience is so far outside mortal language and understanding, it’s simply impossible to describe.
Through that prayer, God’s Spirit confirms in our spirits that we are His children. 17 If we are God’s children, that means we are His heirs along with the Anointed, set to inherit everything that is His. If we share His sufferings, we know that we will ultimately share in His glory. 18 Now I’m sure of this: the sufferings we endure now are not even worth comparing to the glory that is coming and will be revealed in us.
Romans 8: 16-18 VOICE
It’s no accident Paul tags this assurance on the end of declaring the fullness of my relationship to God the Father through Jesus His Son. If I, like Christ, am a child of God, then I. like Christ am an heir to the promises.
It’s a fact, not a theory.
God doesn’t lie. He will do every thing He says He will do.
I can rest assured in that truth.
We endure many hard things for a guaranteed earthly return on our time, money, energy, strength and tears.
How much more sure are the promises of God?
The glory to come must be some kind of wonderful it if makes the pain of child loss so small there’s no comparison.
Am I willing to trust Him even here, even now?
What’s your first impression of these verses? Do they hit a nerve? Make you defensive of your pain and suffering? Are they comforting?
What does it mean to you that God is Father? That you are a co-heir with Christ?
Have you ever had the last verse tossed at you by a well-meaning (or not so well-meaning) person trying to “cheer you up”? How did you respond (internally or verbally)?
Write out your own example of an awe-inspiring experience that stopped you in your tracks? Read it back to yourself aloud. Do you feel like you were able to convey the depth and breadth of your actual experience in words? Why or why not? Does this give you more or less confidence in how amazing Heaven will be?
I am thankful I can call You Father. I am thankful my position in Your family is secured by the blood of Christ. Thank You for the gift of salvation through His sacrifice. Thank You that the Spirit bears witness with my spirit that I am Yours.
It’s hard to suffer well sometimes. It’s hard to hold onto hope when pain is so very real and Heaven is somewhere I can’t really picture well. I’m trying to lean into the promises here and throughout Your word.
Strengthen me by Your word and with Your strength. When my heart is overwhelmed, calm me with Your songs of deliverance. When my grip is weak, wrap Your arms around me and help me hold on.
They say there’s nothing more terrifying than a mama bear protecting her cubs.
If you’ve ever witnessed one come charging across a clearing, changed from a lumbering giant to a fierce killing machine you believe it.
What seems safe at a distance is oh, so terrifying up close and personal.
I think many folks picture God as the great Granddaddy in the sky, looking down benevolently at the earth and showering blessings on its inhabitants.
God IS love. Scripture says so.
But God is also a fierce Father who will protect His children.
That’s the image David brings to mind as we continue Psalm 18:
In my time of need, I called to the Eternal; I begged my True God for help. He heard my voice echo up to His temple, and my cry came to His ears. 7 Because of His great anger, the earth shook and staggered; the roots of the mountains shifted. 8 Smoke poured out from His nose, and devouring fire burst from His mouth. Coals glowed from Him. 9 He bent the heavens and descended; inky darkness was beneath His feet.
Psalm 18: 6-9 VOICE
I’m so thankful that God in all His glory, majesty, strength and might is both my Savior and my Shepherd. He’s ready to defend me against the enemy of my soul and He’s made perfect provision for my eternal future. He’s also my constant Companion and guide as I journey toward Heaven.
I appreciate the passages in Scripture that talk about God as loving Father, as Comforter, as gentle, meek and kind. Those help my heart when I feel emotionally vulnerable.
But when I’m under attack, I want a Warrior to come rescue me!
When I cry out, I’m looking for a righteous, raging King to ride in and vanquish my enemy.
This is no battle of equals. Satan doesn’t stand a chance. The end of the story is already written.
I don’t fear my Father.
I know that in Christ His wrath is perfectly satisfied. I’m a child of the King, safe and secure in my position and my inheritance. He will defend me to the end.
“No weapon formed against me shall prosper.”
That’s a promise. ❤
When you’ve cried out for deliverance do you feel the Lord has always answered? Why or why not?
If He answered, was His deliverance what you were expecting?
I’ve written before that some of us (myself included) might need to admit God has disappointed us.* If you feel like He hasn’t done what you expected/needed Him to do, are you prepared to voice that? Are you ready to breathe out the pain, the doubts, the disappointment-even anger-and make room for Him to minister grace and healing to your broken heart?
David’s imagery is definitely at odds with most popular depictions of God the Father as a Santa Clause type figure. Do any of the words he uses challenge your own idea of who God is? Are they comforting, frightening or something else?
What is your takeaway from the verses we’ve looked at so far in this Psalm? How can you make it personal?
Too often I want to stuff You in a box where I can pretend to understand You. Or I lean too heavily on verses that describe Your love and compassion and gloss over the ones that emphasize Your holiness and righteous anger. Truth is, when things are going along alright, I don’t really enjoy being challenged much.
But the “god” I design or understand is not You at all. You are more than I could ever comprehend. Your ways are not my ways. And when I’m forced to come face to face with that truth, it’s a little frightening.
Give me the courage to read and heed ALL the verses. Guide my heart to embrace the full revelation (so far as we have it) of who You are. Grant the grace to to receive Your love and Your correction.
Thank You that you are both Savior and Shepherd. Thank You for fighting for me and singing over me.
*Here are links to a couple previous posts about trust after loss and “forgiving” God:
I hear real people living real lives facing real problems.
Life and death and celebration and devastation-all laid bare for the ages.
They give me courage to speak plainly to God.
They help me frame my own struggles in the context of who God is and not only what I feel.
I love You, Eternal One, source of my power. 2 The Eternal is my rock, my fortress, and my salvation; He is my True God, the stronghold in which I hide, my strong shield, the horn that calls forth help, and my tall-walled tower. 3 I call out to the Eternal, who is worthy to be praised— that’s how I will be rescued from my enemies. 4 The bonds of death encircled me; the currents of destruction tugged at me; 5 The sorrows of the grave wrap around me; the traps of death lay in wait for me.
Psalm 18:1-5 VOICE
David had escaped Saul’s attempt on his life. He could have given credit to his superior battle skills or ability to hide or just plain luck.
But he didn’t. He understood that God alone determined the outcome.
David knew that God was his true stronghold-not the cave or the tower where he might hide.
He is reminding his heart of truth-something I had to do the day Dominic left us.
I have never felt so desolate as the early morning when I was told my son was dead. My physical life wasn’t threatened but the life I knew was shattered.
The “bonds of death” circled my heart and I could feel them squeezing tighter and tighter.
Sorrow swallowed me whole.
There was nowhere to hide from the awful truth that death was on my doorstep.
In the hours between the knock on the door and sunrise I kept assuring myself that God was still God. I kept repeating that He had not abandoned us.
And then (because I didn’t know what else to do as I waited for family to gather) I went out to feed the animals.
Walking toward the rising sun I choked out the words to a favorite song:
The sun comes up It’s a new day dawning It’s time to sing Your song again Whatever may pass And whatever lies before me Let me be singing When the evening comes
Bless the Lord oh my soul Oh my soul Worship His Holy name Sing like never before Oh my soul I’ll worship Your Holy name
Bless The Lord, Oh My Soul by Matt Redman
There was no moment of divine revelation.
I didn’t feel the burden lift.
But I knew if I didn’t remind my heart of truth, I’d be headed toward a darker path than the one I was already walking.
“I call out to the Eternal who is worthy to be praised-that’s how I will be rescued from my enemies.”
Why do you think it’s important that even when we experience victory, we acknowledge God as the One who gives it to us?
Are you ever tempted not to?
Obviously I’m sensitive to the fact that as bereaved parents our child was not physically saved. Does that make it hard for your heart to think of God as a fortress, shelter, safe place? Why or why not?
Even though I have not faced my own death, I find David’s description apt for the dark feelings that threatened to undo me after Dominic ran ahead to Heaven. Do his words resonate with you?
David was a man on the run for years. He spent a lot of time in the rocky wilderness and describes God in ways that reflect his personal experience. If you were going to describe God as a place of safety, what words would you use that reflect yours?
You are most certainly worthy of praise simply because You are God. Sometimes I struggle to praise you because You do not always give victory in the here and now and that’s hard to take. You don’t always step in and assure physical safety and that hurts my heart.
But you always invite me to bring that pain to You. You are a stronghold for my heart.
When the enemy of my soul whispers lies in my ear and tries to convince me You don’t care, help my heart refuse to be led astray. When despair tries to drag me down, speak courage to my soul and lift me up.
You have made every provision for our ultimate victory. Death doesn’t get the last word. Life does! Thank You for that promise.
I hope it rains. I hope I get the job. I hope it’s a boy!
Most of the time we could exchange “wish” for “hope” because we have no power to make the things we hope for come true.
So when we read “hope” in this passage, it doesn’t necessarily evoke the sure promise Peter is trying to convey in his letter to suffering Christians of the first century.
It would be cold comfort to families as they were forced at sword point to walk off cliffs or thrust into the arena with lions if Peter’s hope was just a wish.
But it’s not.
Peter opens his letter with a bold declaration based on his eye-witness testimony to the resurrection of Jesus Christ.
And His living Presence means that THIS hope is a promise.
Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 4 and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade. This inheritance is kept in heaven for you, 5 who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time.
6 In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. 7 These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.
8 Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, 9 for you are receiving the end result of your faith, the salvation of your souls.
I Peter 1:3-9 NIV
These are some of my favorite verses in the epistles.
Peter packs so much in so few words: I have an inheritance, I have a future and I have joy.
My inheritance in Christ is safe, secure and eternal.
There is no law of diminishing returns in Heaven. Unlike that dress I bought that seemed so wonderful a week ago, I won’t ever get tired of reciting and reviewing all Jesus purchased for me with His blood.
Do you ever fear you might lose your faith?
Peter reminds us we are shielded by God in Christ until the full glory of our salvation is revealed at the Last Day. Jesus Himself said that those the Father gives Him cannot be snatched from His hand.
Doubt is not denial.
If you have put your trust in the finished work of Jesus then you are saved.
Trials will come. But they are not the last word.
When we lean on Christ and trust Him to walk with us through them, take the heat and refuse to melt, then we are refined and His glory is purer, clearer and more easily seen in our lives.
And in the midst of trials I have joy because my hope in the living hope of our resurrected Savior sustains me.
Consider Paul’s words: ‘sorrowful, yet always rejoicing’ (2 Corinthians 6:10). In the ugliness of intensified grief, the Christian is supernaturally enabled to rejoice.
The hallelujahs of joy reverberate on broken heartstrings. My sorrow touches every part of my life, yet I sorrow not as those who have no hope.
My rejoicing is not that of happy feelings; it is triumph in trial and confidence in a supreme God. The true joy of the Lord is divine enablement, not effervescent emotions
James Means, A Tearful Celebration
Sometimes it seems like it’s hardly worth it. Our circle is small and our testimony just a whisper. But we won’t know the full story of how our struggle glorifies Him until all things are revealed.
Our hope is a Living Hope.
It’s no pie-in-the-sky fairy tale.
Your story matters.
It’s being written to be shared as a testimony to God’s goodness, His faithful love and His enabling grace.
You’ll be glad you did.
Have you ever thought about the connection between Jesus’ resurrection and the promise that we will also be raised? How do Peter’s words about our “living hope” impact your faith?
Peter denied Christ and most certainly didn’t ever expect to have a second chance to make that right. Do you feel like you’ve done or said or thought something that puts you outside the love and grace of God?
In the midst of a trial are you aware that it’s a refining experience? Do you care?
Does the promise that our steadfast endurance will be revealed in the last day as a testimony to God’s glory and grace encourage you? Why or why not?
What practical steps do you take to hold onto hope?
Lord, sometimes I feel hopeless. I forget that the resurrection proves You have conquered death and the grave. I forget I have a Living Hope and that hope is the person of Jesus Christ.
Trials come and the heat is so intense. I want to shrink away, to hide, to find some safe corner where pain and sorrow won’t find me. But that’s not the world we live in. Whether I’m persecuted for my faith or just the target of someone else’s sinful actions or words, it hurts!
Give me the strength to endure regardless of how intense the struggle.
I want to finish strong. I want to be a testimony for Your glory and to Your grace. Thank You for providing every needful thing.
Speak courage to my spirit, breathe life into my faith.
Thank You that I can rest assured that the hope I place in You is not just a fanciful wish but a sure thing.
Not just physically tired-although there are plenty of days when chores done in the Alabama sun beat my body down.
I’m soul weary.
My heart cries out, “No more! I can’t carry a single other burden! I’m buckling under the load!”
He knows that this world is a harsh place for tender hearts. He recognizes that other people heap heavy weights on already laboring souls. He understands that work and worry and even well-doing wear us to a nub.
And He offers a way of escape.
Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy-laden andoverburdened, and I will cause you to rest. [I will [a]ease and relieve and [b]refresh [c]your souls.]
29 Take My yoke upon you and learn of Me, for I am gentle (meek) and humble (lowly) in heart, and you will find rest ([d]relief and ease and refreshment and [e]recreation and blessed quiet) for your souls.
30 For My yoke is wholesome (useful, [f]good—not harsh, hard, sharp, or pressing, but comfortable, gracious, and pleasant), and My burden is light and easy to be borne. ~Jesus
Matthew 11: 28-30 AMPC
The Pharisees and Sadducees (religious leaders at the time Jesus walked the earth) had overloaded people with rules, rules, rules and obscured the truth of Who God is and what He really wanted from them. They focused solely on outward compliance with man-made additions to God’s law and blinded themselves to the inward attitudes that should be a hallmark of God’s people.
Like us, they wanted boxes to check off.
They wanted lists to maintain.
Above all, they wanted to measure themselves against a standard that made them look good, often at the expense of others.
More importantly, their holier-than-thou lifestyle made regular folks feel like they fell so far short and were so far from the heart of God they didn’t dare ask Him for help.
Jesus said, “Enough!”
He said, “I don’t despise your weakness. I don’t dismiss your pain. Let Me help you take that off and give you a perfectly fitted burden. Yoke your life to Mine and we’ll carry it together.”
The most caring teamster carved the wooden yoke that joined his two oxen precisely to fit their unique shape. He checked it often to see if it was causing pain and he made adjustments when necessary. He yoked well-suited animals one to the other so that the burden was distributed evenly.
Any ill-fitting addition to a creature being asked to do a job makes that job oh, so much more difficult. It wears sore spots and tender places. It guarantees that you won’t get full cooperation nor highest performance.
We have many burdens to bear in this life. Some are of our own making, some are thrust upon us by others. Some are just a function of the fact we live in a world tainted by sin.
Jesus promises that the burden He asks us to bear He will make bearable when we bring it to Him.
Are you weak and heavy laden?
Are you struggling under a load that threatens to undo you?
Have you yoked your life to Christ and asked Him to help you?
He’s waiting for you.
There are all kinds of burdens in this life. What feels heavy to you right now?
Have you offered it to Jesus? Have you asked Him to help you bear it?
Is it hard for you to lean on Jesus? Why or why not?
Do you ever try to hide your weakness or weariness from others?
The religious leaders of Jesus’ day were focused more on rules and less on relationship. What’s your faith heritage? Have you been in churches where there was a strong focus on rules? How did that impact your understanding of God?
Father God, I can be like the Pharisees and make up lists of rules I think I need to follow to gain Your approval or at least to make myself look good in the eyes of others.
That’s not helpful for me or anyone else. Give me courage to tear those up.
Teach me Your gentle ways, Jesus. Help me lean into Your love and to yoke my heart to yours.