Ep.285: Psalm 142: The Cave Dweller.

Hello, I’m Daniel Westfall on the channel “Pray with Me”.

Psalm 142 follows the poet from trouble to hope, from a fainting spirit to resounding praise, from isolation to community.  

The psalm is titled “A poem of David, a prayer when he was in the cave”. It’s a psalm for when you feel like you’re stuck in a cave, crowded into a cold, dark corner; when your enemies harass and threaten, when your mind sinks slowly into depression, when you can’t pull yourself out. 

You are not alone. The poet complains,
  I have no refuge;
      no one cares for my life (v. 4b). 

The poet has no escape from his enemies, no friend who cares if he lives or dies. Let’s join the poet in praying our way out of the cave.

Our father:
  You are our refuge,
      our portion in the land of the living (v. 5). 

When we are stuck in a cave, when darkness crowds us, when enemies pursue, we turn to the simplicity of faith. You, O Lord, are our refuge, our helper, our bodyguard. You defend us from enemies, you shield us from their arrows. You protect us from their slander. 

Save us from darkness in our minds. The cold northern winter seeps into our hearts, brings bleakness and lethargy. Light up our lives with the song of the angels and the testimony of the shepherds and the light of the new-born Christ. 

Save us from darkness in our community. When we are friendless, teach us to be friendly. When discouraged, teach us hope. When overworked, teach us to rest. When others are weighed down with life, help us share their burden. 
Save us from darkness in the world. As America retreats from the role of global peacekeeper, as Russia and China expand their influence, we look for a Messiah to bear the weight of government on his shoulders, a Savior whose name will be Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace (Isa 9:6). 

With the poet we pray,
  Set us free from our prison,
      that we may praise your name.
  Let the righteous gather together
      because of your goodness to them (v. 7). 

Amen

I’m Daniel on the channel “Pray with Me”. 

YouTube channel: Pray with Me – YouTube

Ep.284: Psalm 141: Fatal Attraction.

Hello, I’m Daniel Westfall on the channel “Pray with Me”.

Psalm 141 says:
  Set a guard over my mouth, Lord;
      keep watch over the door of my lips.
  Do not let my heart be drawn to what is evil
       so that I take part in wicked deeds
  along with the evildoers;
      do not let me eat their delicacies (vv. 3-4).

Don’t let me eat their delicacies? Does the poet imagine great evildoers lounging around the pool,sipping wine and sampling hors d’oeuvres? Does that lifestyle attract you? What’s more pleasant than good food and good wine in civilized company? But the poet prays, Don’t let me be drawn into their evil society.

He goes on to say,
  Let a righteous man strike me–that is a kindness;
      let him rebuke me–that is oil on my head.
  I will not refuse it,
      for my prayer is against the deeds of evildoers (v. 5). 

Let a righteous man strike me? Yes, if that’s the only way to learn wisdom. Proverbs says fools are not interested in second opinions, but it’s a wise person who searches out good advice. She welcomes news she is wrong, and listens to those who correct her. One proverb says:
      Do not rebuke mockers or they will hate you;
         rebuke the wise and they will love you (Prov 9:8). 

In Psalm 141, the poet says, I’m ready for good advice, whether given with a stinging blow or rebuking words. It’s more important to make good decisions than to preserve my self-importance and dignity.

Let’s pray. 

Our father, with the poet, we pray against our predilection to evil.
  Guard our mouths so we don’t slip into evil speech–slandering the righteous, parading our tongues through the earth, planning evil deeds.
  Guard our hearts, for they love unkind words and unholy thoughts.
  Guard our friendships for we love the rich, the famous, and the socially competent, even when they reject you, scorn others, and plot  evil.
  Guard our appetites for we love the delicacies of Christmas–chocolates and eggnog and fruitcake and butter tarts. 

Teach us self-control in what we think and what we do. As Peter wrote, “Be clear-minded and self-controlled so that you can pray” (1 Pet 4:7). 

With the poet:
  We call to you, Lord, come quickly;
      hear us when we speak.
  May our prayers be incense before you;
      may the lifting of our hands be like the evening sacrifice (vv. 1-2). 

Amen

I’m Daniel on the channel “Pray with Me”. 

YouTube channel: Pray with Me – YouTube

Ep.283: Benediction, Renovation.

Hello, I’m Daniel Westfall on the channel “Pray With Me”.

Hebrews 13 closes with this benediction:
  Now may the God of peace,   
    who through the blood of the eternal covenant
    raised from the dead our Lord Jesus,
          that great Shepherd of the sheep,
    equip you with everything good for doing his will,
    and may he work in us what is pleasing to him,
          through Jesus Christ,
          to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.
                                      (Heb 13:20)

How would you describe God? Perhaps as the God of creation? The God of righteousness? Maybe the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ? 

The Bible describes God in many ways. The Old Testament’s favorite description points to history, calling him the God of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, or Israel. 

The author of Hebrews sees God as “a consuming fire” (Heb 12:29), and warns, “It is a dreadful thing to fall into the hands of the living God” (Heb 10:31). 

But now, as the author closes his letter, he casts God in a more gentle light. Here, he’s the “God of peace” (Heb 13:20), who presides over an eternal covenant of peace made through Jesus Christ, who is pictured as a shepherd caring for his sheep. 

The benediction in Hebrews 13 also describes two changes God wants in our lives: an interior renovation and an exterior change. 

First the exterior. Hebrews says, “May the God of peace equip you with everything good for doing his will” (v. 20). I take this to mean, May God set you up with resources to do his work in the world. 

God’s “Mission Impossible”, which he has chosen to accept, is to reclaim and restore the world and its people to a peaceable relationship with him and an ordered relationship with each other. Our mission is to be missionaries in God’s big mission. God equips us for his world-restoring mission by making us part of his family, giving us skills to use in the world–such as hospitality, teaching, prayer, and others/ And he shows us how to use them. 

God’s second renovation project is to renovate our hearts. Jesus said, “From within, out of the heart, proceed evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander” (Mark 7:21-22). God wants to turn off the taps of bad stuff that comes from our hearts, and turn on the taps that will cause love, joy, and peace to flow from within. As the author of Hebrews says, “May he work in us what is pleasing to him”.

Let’s pray.  

O God of peace,   
    who through the blood of the eternal covenant
    raised from the dead our Lord Jesus,
        that great Shepherd of the sheep,
    we ask you to
          equip us with everything good for doing your will,
          and to work in us what is pleasing to you,
    through Jesus Christ,
          to whom be glory for ever and ever. 

Amen. 

I’m Daniel, on the channel “Pray with Me”.  

YouTube channel: Pray with Me – YouTube

Ep.282: Psalm 140: Snakes and Other Enemies.

Hello, I’m Daniel Westfall on the channel “Pray with Me”.

Psalm 140 is the first of five lament psalms that describe the poet’s enemies and their evil deeds. The poet moves through lament to faith. Faith that God will save him by overthrowing his enemies and setting his world right. 

The psalm opens like this:
  Rescue me, Lord, from evildoers;
    protect me from the violent,
  who devise evil plans in their hearts
    and stir up war every day.
  They make their tongues sharp as serpent’s;
    the poison of vipers is on their lips (vv. 1-3). 

It looks like the snake from the Garden of Eden is still at work. The poet’s unscrupulous enemies speak sharply and falsely, they plan violence and war, they threaten the poet’s life. His only recourse is to God:
  Keep me safe, Lord, from the hands of the wicked;
    protect me from the violent,
    who devise ways to trip my feet (v. 4). 

Let’s pray. 

Our father, we stand in a long line of believers who have studied how to be faithful when evil is everywhere. As our weary world plods on, as power corrupts leaders, as the Internet distributes the snake venom of divisiveness and lies, as entertainment grows more violent and pornography more hardcore, we pray to you, our God, to protect us from the ruin of our society, from the ruin of the world, from the ruin of unbelief. 

When we look at ourselves, we hear Jesus’ words, “From within, out of the heart, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit” (Mark 7:22). Perhaps as Pogo said, “We have met the enemy and he is us” (Walt Kelly, Pogo (comic strip), April 22, 1971. 

With the poet, we pray against all our enemies, those within and those without; those who are subtle and well-spoken like the snake in the garden; and those who are forthright and violent as they run roughshod through the world. 

We believe that you,Lord, will rescue and redeem us. As the poet says:
  Keep me safe from the hands of the wicked;
      protect me from the violent,
      who devise ways to trip my feet (v. 4).
    Sovereign Lord, my strong deliverer,
      you shield my head in the day of battle (v. 7).
  I know that you secure justice for the poor
      and uphold the cause of the needy.
  Surely the righteous will praise your name,
      and the upright will live in your presence (vv. 12-13). 

O God, you carry the weight of the world on your shoulders. Christ carries the world’s sin on his cross. The Spirit shines in all dark corners, bringing light and truth.. 

Teach us to live in the truth. Expose the lies of the snake. Confound his conspiracy theories. Paralyze the hands of the violent. Stop the tongues of rage and slander. In the strong name of Jesus, protect the upright. Build your church into a community of life and truth. 

Amen

I’m Daniel on the channel “Pray with Me”. 

YouTube channel: Pray with Me – YouTube

Ep.281: Psalm 139: Perfect Knowledge, Perfect Hatred.

Hello, I’m Daniel Westfall on the channel “Pray with Me”.

Psalm 139 is popular for the poet’s description of himself as Exhibit A of God’s amazing creation. He says:
    I will praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
      wonderful are your works,
      I know that full well (v. 14).

But the poem is not so popular for the poet’s attitude toward his enemies. He says:
    Do I not hate those who hate you, O Lord. . . .
    I hate them with perfect hatred,
        I count them my enemies
(vv. 21a, 22; KJV translation “perfect hatred”; see also Walter Brueggemann). 

How does the poet transition from wonder to hatred? Let’s follow his trajectory by praying parts of the psalm. 

Let’s pray.

   Lord, you have searched me
    and you know me.
  You know when I sit and when I rise;
      you know my thoughts from afar.
    You search out my path and my lying down,
      you are familiar with all my ways.
    Before a word is on my tongue
      you know it completely, O Lord.
    You hem me in behind and before,
        you lay your hand upon me.
    Such knowledge is too wonderful for me,
        too lofty for me to attain (vv. 1-6).

O Lord, we keep our inner lives hidden, where evil thoughts lurk, where unclean desires rule and unkind words arise, where we judge our neighbors and excuse ourselves. But all is visible to you, for you search us and know us. To you “all hearts are open, all desires known, and from you no secrets are hidden” (“Collect for Purity”, Book of Common Prayer). As the poet says,
    Where can I go from your Spirit? 
        Where can I flee from your presence?
      If I go to the heavens, you are there;
        If I make my bed in hell, you are there.
      If I rise on the wings of the dawn,
        and settle on the far side of the sea,
      even there your hand will guide me,
        and your right hand will hold me fast.
    If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me,’
      and the light becomes night around me,
    even the darkness will not be dark to you;
      the night will shine like day,
      for darkness is as light to you (vv. 7-12).

O Lord, this is our comfort and our fear. We have nowhere to hide, no darkness for cover, no location too distant, no place of escape in heaven or hell. Teach us to bring our lives willingly into the light of your presence, to rejoice that you have wonderfully created us, to trust that you think well of us. As the poet says:
    You created my inmost being,
      You knit me together in my mother’s womb.
    I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
      your works are wonderful,
      I know that full well.
    Your eyes saw my unformed body;
      all the days ordained for me were written in your book
      before one of them came to be.
    How precious are your thoughts to me, God,
      How vast is the sum of them (vv. 13-15, 17). 

And then, surprisingly, the poet changes direction,180 degrees, asking you to destroy the wicked:
    If only you would slay the wicked, God!
    They speak of you with evil intent;
        your adversaries misuse your name.
    Do I not hate those who hate you, Lord,
        and abhor those who rebel against you?
    I hate them with perfect hatred;
        I count them my enemies (vv. 19a, 20-22). 

With the poet we celebrate you as the God who sees. You created us in the womb, you formed us into human beings, you watch over us forever. 

But one thing still mystifies and confuses the poet, and us. If you are so good and great and life-giving, why don’t you deal with your enemies: those  death-dealers who speak maliciously against you, who want to destroy your creatures and your creation. 

The poet, and we with him, identify ourselves with your cause, God. Your honor is our honor; your judgments are our judgments. You are our friend, God. Your enemies are our enemies. We reserve our hatred for their evil ways, their misuse of your name, their opposition to all that is good.

Finally, in the last stanza, we join the poet to rest peacefully in your presence, to receive your intimate knowledge of us, to turn from the sins we know and the sins we don’t yet know. We affirm you as our everlasting guide:
    Search us, O God, and know our hearts;
        test us and know our anxious thoughts.
    See if there is any wicked way in us,
        and lead us in the way everlasting (vv. 23-24). 

Amen

I’m Daniel on the channel “Pray with Me”. 

YouTube channel: Pray with Me – YouTube