My daughter and I love to run. We love 1 mile sprints; we love running 5k's; we even love running 10k's. We both aspire to work up to a half marathon as our next goal. When we visit the States, we hope to enter into some races... not that we would win anything, but it would just be fun.
I can just see us now. We enter into a 5k race. On the day of the race, everyone lines up at the starting line except us. We decide we will line up twenty yards ahead of everyone else. (After all, how important is that starting line anyway?) Then I can see the race official approaching us and making us go back to the beginning.
"You cannot run this race unless you start at the right place."
What does this have to do with Psalm 18?
I almost messed up this morning. I almost missed a great treasure. By the grace of God, the Spirit drew me back to the beginning.
I sat down to read the Psalm and quickly brushed past the introduction to the Psalm.
"To the chief musician... blah blah blah... David wrote it... that's good to know... during the time of Saul chasing him... ok, got it. Now on to the meat of the Psalm."
I read the whole Psalm. There was good stuff in it, but it was like there was something missing. The Psalm spoke of God's power and His provision in times of trouble. Those things are all good and true, but I missed the most important part and didn't even realize it.
Do you realize that every word of God is pure and that all scripture is inspired by God?
2 Timothy 3:16-17 "All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works."
It's all important and valuable. Even the introductory titles in Psalms matter. I had tried to skip the starting line and jump straight into the race. The race Official, the Holy Spirit, brought me back to the beginning and showed me that the starting line matters. In this Psalm, everything that follows is based on some facts revealed in the title and description. In my haste and in my devaluing of God's Word I flew past the source from which the rest of the Psalm flows.
Psalm 18:1 "To the chief Musician, A Psalm of David, the servant of the LORD, who spake unto the LORD the words of this song in the day that the LORD delivered him from the hand of all his enemies, and from the hand of Saul: And he said, I will love thee, O LORD, my strength."
A Psalm of David, the servant of the LORD.
Why did David get to experience such intimacy with the Lord? Why did God so tenderly protect David? Why did God deliver David from the hand of his enemies time after time?
David was the servant of the LORD. David had laid his life down on the altar before God. David didn't live life for himself. He died to self.
Galatians 2:20 "I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me."
1 Corinthians 6:19 "What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own? For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God's."
Romans 12:1 "I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service."
Luke 9:23 "And he said to them all, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me."
What about me?
How did I plan my day today? Did it look like a servant following, or did it look like a master leading? Did I plan to serve self today, or did I lay my life on the altar today?
"... I will love thee, O LORD..."
David's Protector was also David's love. David was devoted to His God because he loved the Lord. They had a rich intimacy.
Do I have that rich intimacy and devotion? Am I pursuing it daily? Am I settling for less?
"... my strength."
David acknowledged he was nothing without God. He needed the Lord. Without the Lord, David could do nothing. He was completely dependent. David didn't rely on his cunning or his battle skills. He didn't rely on himself. God was his strength.
Do I try to do things in my own power and strength? Do I realize just how desperately I need the Lord every minute of the day?
The heart of a servant, love and devotion, and a total dependency upon His God. That is the source from which everything in the rest of this Psalm flows. Those are also the things that are needed in order for me to experience the level of closeness David had with his Rock, his Fortress, his Deliverer.
I almost missed it.
Note to self: The starting line matters.
We stepped out of church and saw him.
He was sitting in his rickshaw and resting. Our scooter and motorcycle were parked right beside him, so as we were putting on our helmets and loading our things into the scooter seat we began talking with the rickshaw driver. He was all smiles and full of pleasantness. Then he asked where we had been. My husband told him we had just left church and that we were Christians. Suddenly the man's demeanor changed drastically. He started speaking rapidly and we had a difficult time understanding him. We could only catch a few words here and there. One of those words was yuddha. My husband thought he said yahudi which means Jew. He wasn't sure why this man was talking about a Jew, but since the communication seemed to be hindered, my husband pulled out a tract and handed it to the man. The man angrily grabbed the tract, pretended to use it as toilet paper on his backside (above the clothing thankfully), and then threw the tract on the ground. It became clear at that point that the man was not pro-Christian. The man then proceeded to use the limited English skills. Unfortunately it was a word that I would never speak... much less type! My husband picked up the tract, put it in his pocket, we got on our two-wheelers, and drove off. I was glad my husband handled it calmly.
When we stopped for lunch, my husband explained that he thought the man said yahudi (Jew). When I said he had said yuddha, we finally figured out what he was saying. Yuddha means war.
It would be easy to get angry with the man, but there is a truth that makes me pity him. It's a truth that keeps me focused on my purpose and goal. It restrains me from responding to persecution the wrong way.
Psalm 17:14 "From men which are thy hand, O LORD, from men of the world, which have their portion in this life, and whose belly thou fillest with thy hid treasure: they are full of children, and leave the rest of their substance to their babes."
The angry rickshaw driver has his portion in this life. Whatever blessings come his way in this life, that is the best he can ever hope to have. What if that rickshaw driver suddenly received a fancy car, a nice house, and stylish modern clothing? That would be the best he could ever have. What if he was given money and fame and possessions that he could pass down to his children and his grandchildren? When he dies, whatever he has gets passed on to others. As for him, his portion-- his blessing is finished. It's over. That rickshaw driver didn't have fancy things and cars and a nice house. He had a ratty, rundown old rickshaw. His clothes were dirty. He was thin and looked aged well beyond his actual years. It breaks my heart even these many years later to think of him. Without Christ, that ratty old rickshaw is all he will ever hope to enjoy. When his life is finished, his portion is finished. His true suffering will begin.
As I look around me I see rich people and I see poor people. I see happy faces and I see suffering faces. I see those who enjoy our company and those who wish us harm. All have been blessed by the hand of God in some fashion. Some have been blessed more than others. But they all have one thing in common. No matter what they have in this life, that is their portion. That is the best they can hope for. When their life is over, the blessings will end. Their things will be passed on to their children, but they will enter eternity without hope. Dwelling on this truth keeps me from being bitter or angry. It makes me sad for them. It makes me not want to give up on them. It makes me want to keep sharing the Gospel.
I also dwell on another truth.
Psalm 17:15 "As for me, I will behold thy face in righteousness: I shall be satisfied, when I awake, with thy likeness."
No matter how difficult things get here on earth for me, I have hope. No matter how rich I am or how poor I am, no matter how sick I may be or if I live in health, no matter how much I struggle or how much I succeed, no matter how much persecution I face or how much loss I endure here in this life, when this life is over, I will stand before my Heavenly Father in righteousness and behold His face. I will open my eyes and be satisfied as I gaze upon His countenance.
Read it again and let it sink in:
Psalm 17:15 "As for me, I will behold thy face in righteousness: I shall be satisfied, when I awake, with thy likeness."
The enemies that surround us have their portion in this life, but those of us who are clothed in the righteousness of Christ will receive our portion and satisfaction the moment we open our eyes after death. It will be worth it all.
We have the two most amazing dogs in the world. They are full of personality and purpose, and they bring us great pleasure. They have several jobs that they fulfill which means they aren't just pets. They are part of our ministry here because they are part of our survival here.
The German Shepherd is our Barney Fife guard dog. He takes his job seriously. No animal or person may enter our property without permission. There have been many times we have found bird feathers scattered around the property. Two cats have perished because of him. Dozens of rats have met their demise. Humans dare not attempt unlawful entrance. They will not even come close to the gate for fear of the big dog.
The little Japanese Spitz is our guardian from little things. She is quick to point out snakes. This is a handy skill because there is a large variety of venomous snakes here. She also protects us from ants, bees, caterpillars, and vicious birthday balloons. Her greatest talents actually are rescuing us from boredom with her crazy antics, licking away all dirt from our faces, and preventing us from ever feeling unloved.
They are outdoor dogs, but every now and then they get the treat of coming in the house for a few minutes. I, however, am very strict about their admission into my kitchen. Nasty dogs in clean kitchens where food is prepared just does not set well with me. But on certain occasions, like when I drop an egg on the floor or when there is a large food spill, I sneak and let them in the kitchen. They come running in thinking that they are getting away with being bad. As they slurp up the gooey mess that I really just don't want to clean, they feel like criminals evading my judicious eyes. They do not suspect for a moment that they are actually accomplishing my will. In their minds, they are Bonnie and Clyde on a criminal spree stealing treasures from the kitchen floor before the police surround them and whisk them off to puppy jail outside.
Psalm 17:13-14 "Arise, O LORD, disappoint him, cast him down: deliver my soul from the wicked, which is thy sword: From men which are thy hand, O LORD, from men of the world..."
The wicked are God's sword? Men of the world are His hand?
Yes, God is in complete control even when it seems like the enemy is approaching victory. In reality, God is merely using them to accomplish a greater purpose, just like me using my canine Bonnie and Clyde to accomplish my purpose. Many times in the Bible, God used wicked nations to chastise His people. His people would rebel against Him and turn to other gods, so the Lord would bring Israel into captivity under other nations to bring them back to Him. Those other nations were His sword, and they never knew it.
I think of when the devil approached God about Job. The devil surely thought he was the victor as he took away Job's family, possessions, and health. In reality, God was allowing Satan to be His hand in shaping and molding Job. Job was a mature and upright man, but there was one area God wanted to refine. The Lord used the enemy as part of the plan.
In this Psalm, David acknowledged God's complete sovereignty. The Lord is in control even over the enemy. He uses them as His sword of judgment and chastisement. He also uses them as His potter's hand to shape and mold His people.
Are you facing the enemy? Maybe it's the Lord using the enemy as His sword and His hand. Recognize God's sovereignty. He is in control. Call out to Him and trust His greater purposes in your trials.
Can I be honest about something?
I usually try to stay very positive in my tone, but there is something on social media that drives me nuts. Occasionally in my news feed on social media, someone will post a meme or a quote that really frustrates me.
"Be the kind of woman that when your feet hit the floor each morning the devil says, 'Oh no! She's up!'"
Why does this quote drive me so crazy? It's based in pride and completely inaccurate. The devil isn't one bit afraid of us. His knees are not knocking because of us. He isn't worried one bit about you or me. We are never spiritual enough that we intimidate the devil. We are never strong enough that he feels his courage melt away or feels his cause is hopeless. No, like the destroyer he is, he continues to seek to devour us and he thoroughly enjoys the hunt.
What gets him frustrated? What foils his plans? What disappoints that lion seeking his prey?
Psalm 17:8-9 "Keep me as the apple of the eye, hide me under the shadow of thy wings, From the wicked that oppress me, from my deadly enemies, who compass me about."
The apple of his eye isn't talking about a shiny piece of fruit God is adoring from His throne. The apple of the eye is a phrase that describes the pupil of the eye. It's the very center of the eye that we see through. So when David said, "Keep me as the apple of the eye," he was asking God to keep Him in the center of His vision. He wanted God to keep a close, protective eye on Him and not to let anything else obstruct His watchful view of him. Not only did David want God to watch over him, He wanted God to hide Him. He wanted God to draw him close by and cover him in the safety that only God Himself can provide.
The devil isn't afraid when you or I get up and we are super-spiritual warriors. What puts him on the run is when we run under the shadow of the wings of God. When we submit to the Lord in our weakness, the devil's battle plans are hindered. That's why James 4:7 starts out the way it does! It begins with submit!
James 4:7 "Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you."
As we serve in a place where the enemy is raging, it isn't courage that will get me through. The enemies are swarming around us, and the dangers are growing. We are compassed about on every side. To be blunt, there are days when I have no courage. I miss the freedoms I had in America to pass out tracts openly everywhere we went. I miss being able to strike up a conversation at any time about the Bible and spiritual things without worry of being turned in to the police. Sometimes we are seen as being full of courage and bravery. We are seen as great heroes. We certainly are not heroes, and courage isn't my strength. Yes, I have fear sometimes. I don't like the thought of jail. I definitely don't relish the thought of my husband or children being in jail. The good thing is that this isn't about my courage. It isn't about my family's courage. It's about us running actually. It's about where we are running when we are afraid. Where do we run for our comfort and protection? Who do we call out to? Do we wake up in the morning thinking, "Don't worry, God. I got this!" or do we run under His wings?
No, the devil isn't one bit worried when I get out of bed each morning, but I know the One who gives the devil pause.
Psalm 56:3 "What time I am afraid, I will trust in thee."
Here's an interesting fact: Several roads here have names but most people do not know what they are. They don't give directions by road names. They give directions by area names and then landmarks. If you looked on Google Maps or some form of GPS navigation, several roads would be labelled with names, but it would do you no good to mention those names to the average person or to a taxi driver. The roads for the most part are not labelled. There are few directional road signs on main roads, but even those are a recent addition. So how do we know we are on the right path? Honestly, we get on the wrong road quite often. When using GPS, sometimes it sends us to a road, but when we get there the road may be simply a footpath or even no longer existing. Getting around in this country is an adventure, and I guess that makes me all the more thankful that we have an adventurous nature.
But God doesn't want us to live life that way.
Psalm 17:4-6 "Concerning the works of men, by the word of thy lips I have kept me from the paths of the destroyer. Hold up my goings in thy paths, that my footsteps slip not. I have called upon thee, for thou wilt hear me, O God: incline thine ear unto me, and hear my speech."
There were two things David was counting on to keep him on the right path and away from the paths of the destroyer.
1) God's Word
"... by the word of thy lips..."
"I have called upon thee..."
David didn't depend on himself and his own wisdom to stay off the wrong path. That would be even less reliable than us using GPS here! God's Word gives very clear instructions of how to stay on the right path and away from the path of the destroyer. The problem comes when we try to rely on our spiritual sense of direction. It also comes when we trust bad sources for direction. Another interesting fact: When stopping to ask for directions here, we have to be prepared for wrong directions! In this culture, people want to be helpful insomuch that even if they don't know how to get somewhere, they will give you directions anyway just to be kind to you. They don't want to let you down. They want to give you an answer that will make you happy.
Psalm 1:1-2 "Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor standeth in the way of sinners, nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful. But his delight is in the law of the LORD; and in his law doth he meditate day and night."
God warns us not to follow the directions of the ungodly. He tells us to call out to Him to help us navigate these roads in life. We must quit relying on our own understanding or the counsel of ungodly sources, and we must acknowledge His authority and His wisdom.
Proverbs 3:5-6 "Trust in the LORD with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths."
If we truly want to stay on the right path as we navigate through this life, it will show up in how frequently and diligently we get into God's Word and on our knees in prayer.