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Then What?
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 Exploring the Psalms (cont'd)

Then What? 

Seven times a day I praise Thee, because of Thy righteous ordinances. Ps. 119:164

After completing a cycle through the Psalms, what will I do the next time through, you may be asking. I believe it is not until you have dug through a Psalm and then come back to it in a new period of your life that you will really begin to understand the unfathomable riches of His Word. After thoroughly mining a Psalm and uncovering shining nuggets of insight that the Spirit applies to your life, you are tempted to think you have found ‘the’ truth it contains, and that you won’t see much more if you look at it again. Does God ever have a surprise waiting for you! You will find that your life circumstance, your view of God, your need and your way of thinking all change, and the Spirit has fresh revelation waiting for you to uncover, truth that you need right now! I can share my experiences with just the first few Psalms I encountered on my second time through.

Psalm 62
Psalm 62 is an example. It marked the point at which I first began writing my personal paraphrase, and as I did so I concentrated on portions of the Psalms that spoke most forcefully to me, instead of trying to paraphrase the entire Psalm. As I encountered Psalm 62 for the second time, I noticed something entirely new. At that point in my life we had waited for what seemed an interminable period of time for God to act or give us some direction about the choices that we were facing, none of which seemed to fit together. It was easy to get in a mode of wanting to make demands on God. With that mindset, it is not surprising that the word ‘silence’ in verses 1 and 5 jumped out at me, in contrast to the ‘spoken’ in verse 11. Not to mention who was silent and Who was speaking! This triggered a few lines of verse as follows.
 

Father, I wait before You, silent…
   Without demands, without claim on Your blessings.
I seek refuge in Who You are, not what You might give –
   My salvation, my rock of strength and security.

Father, I wait before You, silent….
   Without demands, only a heart poured out.
Knowing You alone are worthy of my trust, now and for all time,
   The rock in Whom I hide, the One in Whom I glory.

Father, I hear Your softly-spoken word…
  
I am your God, the One in Whom rests all power and
   complete lovingkindness.

And for me, it is enough.

It has become abundantly clear to me that I had better learn how God intends for me to wait, because waiting for Him to move, act or reveal the next part of His plan seems to occupy most of my life! And I know I am not alone. We wait for high school to end so we can become more independent. We wait for college to end so we can start “life.” We wait for that special someone to appear in our lives, we wait for that first child, that big promotion… As believers, we know at some level that God’s plan will unfold at His pace and in His way, but the waiting chafes at us. If only God would get things moving! I am reminded of a quote from some unknown source, who after some period of waiting for God to act, commented, “God may not be late, but He’s sure missing lots of opportunities to be early!” God simply hasn’t chosen to reveal His timetable to us, and for that we should be thankful. The kind of deepening trust He is in the process of developing requires us to live “in the dark” about the future, that our dependence on Him might become complete.

Psalm 63
When I came to Psalm 63, again a completely different theme popped out at me. All that was going on in my life at that time was driving me to see my desperate need to know Him more deeply, to be fed by His presence in a new way, yet I felt dry and unable to do so. As I read this Psalm, David’s expression of desire in verse 1 fit me perfectly, but his declaration of satisfaction in verse 5 wasn’t matching my experience. As I meditated on the entire Psalm, I was struck by the words expressing David’s involvement in his thirsting search – soul, flesh, eyes, lips, hands. Could it be, I thought, that the first part of verse 1 is David’s statement of purpose – You are my God, I will seek you earnestly – with the rest of the Psalm being a description of his ‘total being involvement’ in carrying out that purpose? Am I limiting my search for more of God by making it a mind activity only? So, as I meditated further, I wrote the following.

O God, You are my God, yet…

With all my being I seek more of You.
My soul is athirst for You alone,
My flesh hungers for more of Your presence.
My eyes would see Your greater power and glory,
My lips bring You praise, from a mouth eager to offer its worship.
My hands are lifted to You in recognizing Your name,
My soul is fed with richest food from Your being.
My memory brings back scenes of Your greatness,
My mind dwells on You nightly.
My joyful voice sings from the shadow of your protective presence,
My soul is inseparably bonded to You.

O God, You are my God!

Psalm 64
Psalm 64 spoke powerfully to me in this period also, as I sought to actively make Him my life refuge.

How do I find my refuge in Him

  • Call out to Him with confidence that He hears.

  • Reckon on the fact that it is as essential to His nature to preserve and protect His children from danger and its dread as it is to bring judgment on those who seek to hurt them.

  • Trust Him to keep me where the arrows of the wicked and the turmoil of living do not disturb my soul.

  • Be glad in Him and in the knowledge that His mighty power is my protector, my place of refuge from all that assails.

  • Glory in Him, the lover of my soul, my righteousness.

Psalm 65
And finally, Psalm 65 helped me put my focus in the right place, as I realized that:

Lord, it’s all about You!

 You:
-
      
Hear our prayer
-
      
Forgive our sins
-
      
Answer our prayers with awesome deeds
-
      
Set the mountains in place by Your strength
-
      
Quiet the raging sea
-
      
Make the dawn and sunset declare Your joy
-
      
Make the earth fruitful
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Make the grain to germinate and grow
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Make the harvest plentiful
-
      
Make all the earth sing and shout in praise of your abundance

May I praise You with songs and shouts of joy as well!

 As these examples show, the possibilities are really endless. The approach that fits my need may be entirely unsuitable to you, yet the same Holy Spirit is waiting to speak to each of us as we open our minds and hearts before His inspired Word. He is waiting to meet us at every turn in our road, waiting with fresh revelations of the wonders of Who He is and the perfect adequacy of His care for that moment, that set of circumstances, that unsolvable problem, that new phase of our lives that we never imagined would come to be.

 While it is valuable to read through personal paraphrases you have previously written, they can become somewhat of a crutch if you rely on them as the sole illumination as you read through the Psalms again. To eliminate that possibility, I suggest that at some point you “begin again” by going back to the Psalms with nothing but a blank notebook page (and a hungry heart, of course). As noted above, passage of time means that your needs and struggles will have changed, so don’t expect your previous paraphrases to speak as strongly as they originally did.

Starting Over Afresh
Dr. J. Dwight Pentecost, distinguished professor emeritus at Dallas Theological Seminary, has made it a practice to destroy his notes after preaching a sermon, allowing the Holy Spirit to start fresh with him every time. Dr. Pentecost, now nearing 90 years of age, also no longer makes notes in his Bible, believing that to do so hinders the receipt of new insights. Although few of us have a mind as sharp and highly trained as his, there is a value in his discipline that we should recognize.

When we approach any scripture, how easy – and natural – it is to simply let our minds run along the same tracks they did the last time we read that passage, because of notes written in our Bibles, recollection of what some teacher said about this passage, or even the insights we gained on our own in past readings. As orthodox and truthful as these past insights might be, they should not be allowed to serve as substitutes for the voice of the Holy Spirit. How can we prevent that from happening? In my experience, the only way is to force myself to grapple with the basic meaning of the passage by creating a new paraphrase, without looking at what I or others have written before.

Let’s purposefully give the Holy Spirit free rein to bring new truth from His treasure store. While I realize that takes a discipline and determination many do not have, I write this hoping you are one of the few. If you have read this far, it is probably because you have a deep hunger for more of God and realize it is only as you dig deep into His vein of gold that you will unearth the greatest treasures He has for you. Only as you recognize the true worth of His treasure and cast aside all lesser things that you might posses it – sell all that you have, as we see in Matthew 12:46 – only then will you become all He intends you to be.

 

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