Devotion on Psalm 42:1-2

faith and devotionPsalm 42:1-2

1As a deer longs for flowing streams,
so my soul longs for you, O God.
2My soul thirsts for God,
for the living God.
When shall I come and behold
the face of God?

I would bet that most of really wish we felt the way that the psalmist who penned these words felt, but there are times we have to admit that most of the time our longings and thirsts are not for the Holy One.  No, we long for money, prestige, power, respect, love, recognition . . . and I could go on and on here.  The list is almost limitless.  Yet even so, can we honestly say the list includes God?  Not very often.

So let our prayer be this:  God, make me long for your presence in my life.  Make me thirsty for your Spirit and life in me.

Of course with a prayer like this, you just might want to cross your fingers or say under your breath, “Just kidding, Lord.”  After all, what if God took us seriously if and when we prayed these words?  That, my friends, is a scary thought and worth pondering before we commit ourselves to any prayer, let alone the one above.

Devotion on Psalm 50:16-17

Today’s Featured Verses – Psalm 50:16-17

But I will sing of your might;
I will sing aloud of your steadfast love in the morning.
For you have been a fortress for me
and a refuge on the day of my distress.
O my strength, I will sing praises to you,
for you, O God, are my fortress,
the God who shows me steadfast love. (NRSV)

Today there is more John the Baptist and more of God’s judgment.  Reading all these passages at one time is almost too much to take, and so I have decided to quote two verses which are non-judgmental in emphasis from Psalm 50.  After you have read the rest, perhaps you, like me, will need to pause for a moment or two to reflect on God’s steadfast love and providence.

And after you have read today’s passages and reread the verses above a few times, pause for a moment to remember this simple fact:  “The one who judges us, sent his only son to die for us.”  This shows us all the steadfast and amazing depth of God’s love.

A Devotion on Job 23

Job 23 – My Paraphrase

Then Job answered and said: “Even today is my complaint bitter; my hand is heavy despite my groaning. Oh, if I knew where I might find God, then I would go to his dwelling place! I would make my case before him; my mouth would be filled with arguments. I would know the words which he would answer me, and understand what he would say to me. Would he contend with me in the greatness of his power? No; but he would listen to me. There the righteous might reason with him, and I would be delivered forever from judgement.

“If I go forward, he is not there; and backward, I cannot perceive him; on the left hand, where he works, I cannot behold him; And when he turns to the right, I cannot see him. But he knows the way that I take; when he has tried me, I shall come out as gold. My foot has held fast in his steps; His way I have kept, and I have not turned aside. I have not departed from the commandment of his lips; I have treasured the words of his mouth more than any food.

But God is one, who can turn him? What his soul desires, he does. For he will complete what he appoints for me; and many such things are in his mind. Therefore I am terrified at his presence; when I consider, I am in awe and dread of him. God has made my heart faint; the Almighty has caused me to tremble; since I was not consumed by the darkness, though the darkness covered my face!

Devotion

One of the things you notice when you begin to compare the various translations of scripture and the Hebrew or Greek words that lay behind them is how much of translation is educated guesswork. The fact is that the manuscripts we have, even the best of them, have missing words. At times even whole sections of sentences are missing, or words or phrases are garbled or unintelligible. This is especially true for portions of the Hebrew testament. So when studying the Bible, it is always a good thing to compare two or more versions, and even then when one version varies a great deal from the others, take what it says with a grain of salt.

With that as background, I offer my own paraphrase of Job 23. Two verses which are particularly problematic are verses 7 and 17. I don’t believe we can obtain a completely reliable translation of either of them, and so I have stuck as close as possible to the Hebrew words we have. In spite of this difficulty, the overall thrust of this chapter is easy to ascertain. First, Job wishes to confront God. He wants to have his day in court and plead his case. In essence, he wants to know why he has been subject to all the loses he has experienced. Job is sure of his righteousness, and he is also sure that the righteous can make some headway with the Divine because of who and what they are.

In this way, Job is similar to his friends. You remember that Job’s friends make the argument that Job must have done something to deserve what has befallen him. Though Job rejects this, he persists in the belief that the righteous should be immune to tragedy. Of course, both he and his friends are wrong. Tragedy comes to all kinds of people – the righteous and the unrighteous, the just and the unjust. They come even if the Divine and Satan do not place bets on what will happen when they do occur (as is the case with Job). As another has said, the death of Jesus put an end once and for all to the notion that evil befalls only the wicked and that the righteous always prosper.

The truth of this, however, does not negate the desire or need we have at times to ask God, “Why?” When bad things happen to us or to those we love, we often need answers, and the only real answers to our questions can come from one source alone: God. And so we pray, we plead, we contend and we may even blame God for what has happened. But ultimately all of this is okay, for God is big enough to handle anything we may dish out.

A second thing we can see clearly from the chapter is that Job has a degree of fear and awe of God even at this stage in the story. Later on, when Job gets to confront God face to face, this awe and fear will increase exponentially the longer he is in the divine presence. It would seem that though God can handle anything we can throw at him, the reverse is not true. Sometimes I think we forget about “fearing” God, preferring to see God as our friend and buddy, and not, as Job calls him, “the Almighty.” God may in fact be our friend, but he is so much more than that as well, and we will never (at least on this plane of existence) be able to fully comprehend this fearsome God or his ways. As Job says, “But God is one, who can turn him? What his soul desires, he does.”