Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Philippians 4:4-7

22 July 2009

New Mercies Every Morning

This morning I woke up before the alarm, felt as though I'd had enough sleep and decided to put this extra time to good use. I got up, put the heater on, made a cup of steaming hot tea and had a glorious, extended time of Bible reading.

It was God's good providence - He clearly knew the encouragement I needed - as I read Psalms 73 through to 84 slowly, carefully and prayerfully. Obviously there is a lot of material in twelve Psalms but of greatest encouragement to me this morning were Psalms 73 and 84 - the bookends of my morning's reading.

Psalm 73 starts:

Surely God is good to Israel,
to those who are pure in heart.
But as for me, my feet had almost slipped;
I had nearly lost my foothold.
For I envied...

Yes! I was nodding my head. This morning I knew in my head that God is good - but my feet have been slipping. The holidays (ah, the holidays!) were fun but again they saw the predictable loss of routine and my feet were slipping. I found myself envious of people in different situations and circumstances. And envy soon gives way to discontent...

The Psalm continues:

For I envied the arrogant
when I saw the prosperity of the wicked.
They have no struggles;
their bodies are healthy and strong.
They are free from the burdens common to man;
they are not plagued by human ills.

That was the Psalmist's source of envy and he took twenty verses to explain his feelings of indignation, discontent, misery and yes, envy. This may not be the issue that causes your feet to slip but anyone who does find their feet slipping could insert their own twenty verses describing their own situation and how it eats away at them.

I was nodding my head feeling some empathy with the Psalmist's "righteous indignation" and yet feeling rebuked at the same time. But from experience I knew that soon, before the end of this very Psalm, there would be a word of encouragement. And here it is from verse 23 to the end:

Yet I am always with you;
you hold me by my right hand.
You guide me with your counsel,
and afterward you will take me into glory.
Whom have I in heaven but you?
And earth has nothing I desire besides you.
My flesh and my heart may fail,
but God is the strength of my heart
and my portion forever.
Those who are far from you will perish;
you destroy all who are unfaithful to you.
But as for me,
it is good to be near God.
I have made the Sovereign LORD my refuge;
I will tell of all your deeds.

What a beautiful encouragement to get my thoughts away from the things of the world and to turn my compass back towards God.

And so by the time I read Psalm 84 I was truly ready to read verses such as 84:1 and 2:

How lovely is your dwelling place,
O LORD Almighty!
My soul yearns, even faints,
for the courts of the LORD;
my heart and my flesh cry out for the living God.

and verse 10:

Better to spend one day in your courts
than a thousand elsewhere;
I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God
than dwell in the tents of the wicked.

Amen!

When the morning started at 6am I knew in my head that God is good. By 7:20am I knew that God is good with all my heart, soul, mind and strength.

O LORD Almighty
blessed is the one
who trusts in you.
Psalm 84:12

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