Now may our joyful tongues,
Our Maker’s honour sing:
Jesus the Priest receives our songs,
And bears them to the King.
Before His Father’s eye,
Our humble suit He moves:
The Father lays His thunder by.
And looks, and smiles, and loves.
No fiery vengeance now,
No burning wrath comes down.
If justice calls for sinner’s blood,
The Saviour shows His own.
I will bless the LORD at all times; His praise shall continually be in my mouth. – Psalm 34:1 (NKJV)
When I read this verse the first time, I was in my teens and did not know what life means. This verse appealed to me, and I would sing (or, as some people called, I would “bray”) at all times. But then, life came into the picture. Failures upon failures befell me; one sickness followed another. As I started to lose my vitality to my depression, it became harder to bless the Lord at all times. Even if I was singing a Christian song, it would be more a pathos, not a praise.
Oh, easy it is to bless the LORD when you are successful, when the days are shiny and your steps are peppy. How easy it is to praise Him continually when everything goes your way, when all your losses are recompensed, when you are filled with so much energy. Yes, it is not hard to bless the Lord sometimes. It is not hard to praise Him on certain days. But David says that he would bless the LORD at all times, that his mouth would praise God continually.
Does not David say that the Lord desires truth in the inner parts (Psalm 51:6)? How can I be sad at what has happened, yet bless the Lord at the same time? How can I praise Him when all I want to do is curl up in a fetal position and cry till I am too tired to stay awake? The Lord surely desires truth in the inner parts, right? I was confused about all these.
Then one day the Holy Spirit moved me to read the heading for Psalm 34, which says that this Psalm is sung by David, when he pretended to be insane before the Philistine king Abimelech, who drove him away. It was then David sang this song.
This was David, the anointed one, the one to become the next king of Israel, the son-in-law of the present king of Israel, and a man after God’s own heart. And he had to go to a Philistine king for protection, and being afraid of what would happen to him, he was acting as if he was insane and was driven away. And he chose that moment to say: I will bless the LORD at all times; His praise shall continually be in my mouth.
It was not when he won against Goliath, he sang this psalm. Not when he was victorious in battles after battles; nor when he married the daughter of the king of Israel. No, he sang this psalm at one of his worst moments; when he had to humiliate himself; when he was afraid for his own life. Yes, God did save his life, but imagine all those who were with David. What would they have thought their champion, acting like he was insane to save his life? They trusted him and followed him and here he was, acting like a mad man to save his own skin, all because of a “wise” decision he had made. Yet, in that moment of abject disgrace, David only saw the grace of the Lord saving his life, though he had erred by trusting his own counsel.
Now, I am no David. But almost all the embarrassing moments in my life were due to myself following my own counsel, decisions that sounded right and wise at that moment. What I forgot were how I had to struggle with depression because of those decisions, times when I had decided to commit suicide, times my hands have picked those sleeping pills and various medications. Yet, every time, the LORD intervened and saved my life. Why did He do that? Do I deserve another chance to live? Of course, not.
Yet, in His mercy, the LORD has forgiven me of my trespasses. And my Saviour Jesus Christ knows my weaknesses and He has been interceding for me. There were times when all around me, I saw accusing eyes, I looked up at the Cross, to see those eyes, those eyes that pierced the heart of Peter the night before, the eyes covered with grace and compassion, looking at me, telling that He understands my agony, that He has taken up my failures in the Cross, that He was forsaken so I could never be.
One look at the love of God our Father exhibited at the Cross… one look at my crucified Redeemer’s eyes… hearing the sound of the inexpressible groans with which the Holy Spirit praying for me… all these when I was in the worst state of my life… oh, how could I stop my heart from blessing this Triune God? How could I prevent my mouth from praising Him all the days of my life?
Oh, my heart, bless your Lord at all times. Oh my lips, praise Him continuously. Let the world think that I am insane to be singing the praises of my Immanuel at such a moment in my life. Let the people think that I have gone crazy to be blessing my Ebenezer, during these darkest hours of my life. But, I will bless the Lord at all times and His praises will be on my lips ever so continually. May the Lord accept this sacrifice of thanksgiving for ever and ever more! Amen.
When I am afraid, I will trust in You. – Psalm 56:3 (NIV)
When I am afraid, it is easy for my soul to take the path of least resistance. There are many things that can calm my nerves. I can watch a serial or a movie, which will help me to forget my fears – for time being. If I am suffering pain, hey, there are pain killers which will alleviate the intensity of the pain. There are so many things like these. But, then the pain comes back. The hurt that is deep within is still fresh after binge watching a serial or movies. The wounds have not healed. When there is a sign of distress, I am afraid and I want to take refuge in one of the few things that will give temporary relief.
But how long can I go on like this? How long I have to live in this fear? How long am I going to allow the wounds of my past to dictate the life I am living today? How many more times I am going to let the failures of past to decide on my plans for the future? Unless the root of my fear is identified and is completely obliterated from my memory, I am going to be afraid often.
Yes, after everything else fails, I do tell this verse. Whenever I am afraid, I will trust in You. But by now, along with my fears, I also know that I am saying it by memory. I don’t mean it anymore. I trust in the Lord, but not when my fears take the “rational thinking” route. God is my last Refuge. Come to Him when nothing can quench your fear.
Though I give Him the last place when I am afraid, His grace is so much, that He never pushes me to the last place. My Father in Heaven knows my fears. My Saviour and His Son, Who is seated at our Father’s right hand, knows what fear is. Yes, the High Priest I have knows what agony means. Jesus Christ is there to intercede. The Spirit of God is praying for me, as I have no idea what to pray for.
Now my fear is being quelled; my heart beat is becoming normal. I still do not know the root cause of my fears, and it scares me. It scares me, because I am worried that I may, yet again, give my Father last place, when my fear comes to haunt me. I know I will, for I have done it before. As I sit there worried, the Spirit of God moves in my heart, in a mighty way.
“Don’t stop with trusting Him. Show your trust in your actions”, He keeps telling me. I tell the Spirit of God, “Yes, yes, see my actions. I am not afraid anymore.” But deep in my heart, I am still scared. I just was hoping that the Lord Who knows all things might miss my fears. But the Spirit of the Lord is gentler than I have understood. In a gentle way, He keeps reminding me that my actions must not be the actions of this world, but actions of the Word. I am confused. Very confused, till He Himself leads me to the next verse.
I trust in God. I praise His Word. – Psalm 56:4 (NIRV)
“Praise His Word. Praise His promises. Praise the Lord for all the promises He has given you. Don’t worry about the wounds. Don’t worry about the failures of the past. Don’t you worry about the fear that is sneaking around. Praise His Word. Show your trust in God by your actions. Praise Him”, commands the Holy Spirit.
Now I open my mouth. My lips are sealed together. My throat is parched. I am still scared. My words are nothing but mere mumbles. It feels like a travesty is being enacted. But the Spirit of God says, “It is okay. Your Father knows your fears. Your Brother is interceding for you. They know what is in your heart. Just keep going.”
As I try further and further to praise His Word, suddenly Life enters my soul. My voice is back. Tears flow for no reason at all. As I praise more of His Word, I don’t know what the wounds are, but I can feel them being healed. As I praise the Lord for His promises, the fear of past failures repeating again in my life, they vanish in thin air. Even now, I know the fear is lurking somewhere, waiting for a chance to show its ugly head. But all that fear is gone, when I hear the heavenly hosts join along with me in praising His Word. And suddenly I realize that His Word is Jesus Christ Himself. And all the promises are “yes” and “amen” in Him. Yes, I will praise Him more and more. I will praise the Lord our Father, for providing me His Son. And all my fears are conquered. I will trust in You, Lord and I will praise Your Word all the time.
To have a sympathizing God we must have a suffering Saviour, and there is no true fellow-feeling with another save in the heart of him who has been afflicted like him.
We cannot do good to others save at a cost to ourselves, and our afflictions are the price we pay for our ability to sympathize. He who would be a helper, must first be a sufferer. He who would be a saviour must somewhere and somehow have been upon a cross; and we cannot have the highest happiness of life in succouring others without tasting the cup which Jesus drank, and submitting to the baptism wherewith He was baptized.
The most comforting of David’s psalms were pressed out by suffering; and if Paul had not had his thorn in the flesh we had missed much of that tenderness which quivers in so many of his letters.
The present circumstance, which presses so hard against you (if surrendered to Christ), is the best shaped tool in the Father’s hand to chisel you for eternity. Trust Him, then. Do not push away the instrument lest you lose its work.
“Strange and difficult indeed
We may find it,
But the blessing that we need
Is behind it.”
The school of suffering graduates rare scholars.
And when Jesus had cried out with a loud voice, He said, “Father, into Your hands I commit My spirit.” Having said this, He breathed His last. – Luke 23:46
This is the seventh and the last of the utterances of our Saviour Jesus Christ from the Cross and it is the Word of Rest.
Just like God created the world and its order and finished everything on the Sixth day, Jesus said “It is finished!” as His sixth utterance from the Cross. And God rested on the Seventh day. And the seventh utterance of Jesus is a Word of rest.
Before “It is finished!”, the cry of the Lord is, “My God, My God why have You forsaken Me?” After it is finished, it is “Father”. Yes, dear friend, Jesus Christ has fulfilled the Law and has paid the price in full. Before it was “our God”; before we felt as if He has forsaken us. Not anymore, because God, Who is the Father of Jesus Christ, is also our Father in heaven.
Before “It is finished!”, Jesus felt as if the hands of Father had let Him down. But, once it is done, it is into those same hands, Jesus commits His spirit. We can rest knowing that the eternal God is our Refuge and underneath are His everlasting arms (Deuteronomy 33:27).
Before “It is finished!”, Jesus asked His Father, “Why have You forsaken Me?”. But now, He says, “I commit My spirit.” Dear friend, commit your life to our Father now. Commit your future to Him. Commit your everything to Him. As Paul said, we know Whom we have believed. Believe in our Father Who gave His only Son for us. May that faith bring rest unto our life. Amen.
And Jesus said to him, “Assuredly, I say to you, today you will be with Me in Paradise.” – Luke 23:43
The second of the seven utterances of our LORD on the Cross. It is one of the most beautiful verses in the Bible. All the thief asks from our LORD is, “Lord, remember me.” But Jesus says, today you will be with Me in Paradise. Yes, we may pray for less, based on our understanding; but the LORD gives more than we can imagine.
The thief did not do any good works before and he had no chance to do any good works after. Yet, he became the first believer who was saved by the blood of Jesus Christ. I am not against good works, per se. But saying that we will not be saved unless we do good works is against the Gospel of our Lord. Must a Christian do good works? Yes, we must, because we are saved. Because we are the children of a loving God. Not the other way around.
This thief is the best example of saved by faith, through the grace of our LORD. Apostle Paul puts it beautifully in his epistle to Romans. But to him who does not work but believes on Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is accounted for righteousness. – Romans 4:5
And I pray that I have the faith of this thief. Yes, I have faith; but do I have the faith of this thief?
- Here is a man, hanging on a cross, condemned to death and has no hope left for anything in his life. Yet he believes.
- And he turns around and sees another Man, nailed to the Cross, and vilified by everyone who had assembled to watch His crucifixion. They are not mocking the two thieves, but they are hurling insults after insults at this Man.
- There are only few people who are in support of this Man, and they are weeping, unable to help Him in anyway. From the viewpoint of this thief, the position of Jesus Christ has to be worse than his position. Yet, he calls Jesus as ‘Lord’.
- Everyone is saying, “Come on, Jesus, if You are the King, save yourself now.” Yet, the thief says, “Lord, when You come into Your Kingdom…”
- When there is no hope even for Jesus at the darkest hour, the thief believed in Jesus. Yet here I am. Jesus is not nailed to the Cross now. He is seated at the right hand of God our Father. When there is no hope for some problems in my life, I lose my faith in Jesus, my King.
- And the thief says, “Lord, remember me…” and when things go wrong, I cry, “Lord, why have You forgotten me?”
I have faith. But do I have the faith of the thief? I certainly don’t. And at this moment, my humble prayer is, “LORD, give me that faith. Since You are the Author and the Perfecter of faith, please give me that simple faith that thief had.”