The psalm ends with an invitation to look at how God works in our world. Because how can we ponder the painful puzzle of the world and keep sanity intact without faith rooted in His love?
The Lord has the power to change circumstances. The Lord has the power to change lives.
His authority is infinite, His ear is inclined to the cries and the prayers of the weak, His hand raises to aide the poor and the needy. His Word heals the bound. Fear is what we get when we look at ourselves and our powers. Courage is what we find when we understand the Love of God in our lives. Wise is he or she whose life has been founded upon admiration for the Lord, for God is faithful and His marvellous Love endless for His own. He protects and provides for His children.
There are horrendous flooding happening in Australia as I write. Thousands of people have been evacuated and homes are seen floating on the overflowing rivers and dams. Not every one of us has undergone dramatic experiences like people in Sidney and Queensland, Australia are going right now, but all of us, I believe, can find common grounds in praising God for His providential restraint of nature. God is the Lord of rivers and deserts, the sea and the wind. At the sound of His voice storms calm down and seas depart.
Life can feel like an unravelling storm at times. Alone can be scary to face it and see a way through. But God ( don’t you love these two words?) is our peace in times of turmoil, He is our stillness in the middle of any storm.
Dear Lord, help us to look at you and not the waves in times of storms.
We might not be inside a physical prison right now, but we can be in chains nevertheless. Sins can imprison like nothing else can. Sickness can restrain more than prison bars can. Sin is addictive, destructive and disastrous.
The Captives and the suffering are amongst others who come and give thanks to God in this psalm.
Freedom is granted by the free.
Jesus Christ came to set the captive free and heal the body and the soul forever. He is the only one who can really set us free, and He is the one whose words rebuke any sickness.
It does not matter the reason why we are in prison or sick right now. Whether it was our own foolishness and self-destructive nature, or life with its own immoral world that brought us here, the truth remains that salvation is one step towards the saviour of the world who alone can forgive and heal us forever.
Ordinary life has its reasons for gratitude. Just because nothing is praiseworthy of ‘national or worldly’ praise, it does not mean that the individual should hold his thanksgiving to God. This psalm starts with the note of thanksgiving and finishes with the faithfulness and the love of God. If you were lost and have been found, give thanks. If you were homeless and have found shelter, give thanks. If you were afraid and have found God’s safety, give thanks. If you were hungry and God filled your belly, give thanks. If you were parched and God made streams of living water flow in and through you, give Him the glory.
When our lips are immersed by praise, His presence will fill our hearts no doubt.
God can not be with sin, but He never gives up on the sinner.
That is a mind-blowing truth that needs some pause and ‘selah’ time to wrap our minds to, but it’s true nevertheless. We see this pattern over and over again through the whole scripture, from the beginning to the end, God runs after us with the greatest reconciliation message. He is relentless and never gives up. There is no person that can shock Him. There is no sin that He can not forgive. There is no one that He prevents to see His grace poured through the cross.
If you have broken the law, He has kept it all. If you have lied to gain self-justice, He is the truth that can set you free. If you are ashamed, He has dealt with guilt and shame once and forevermore. If you feel betrayed, poor, lost, stuck, weak, worthless, broken…Jesus came to restore and save you and me, my friend. He never gives up on you.
You will be hurt. There is no doubt about that my friend. Any child of God will not have different treatment than the master, Jesus Christ.
If we stand in the gap between people coming to know Jesus as their Lord and saviour we will be hurt. If we follow Jesus and His Lordship we will be hurt. If we stand for the kingdom, we will be hurt. If we serve selflessly we will be hurt.
Moses, the servant of God stands in the gap between God and His people during their exodus from Egypt. He gets criticised, wronged, accused of being not a good leader, despised, scorned at and yet, he pleads with God to spare the lives of the people, he fights for the very community that despises him.
Jesus, the real Moses, was too rejected and shunned. He was dismissed and punished for bridging the widest gap ever, the chasm between the Holy God and the fallen man. Now, if we are hurt for His sake, we suffer not alone. He is with us and for us. The biggest gap has already been crossed by Him, the hurt that we face we face with Him. In His strength, for His glory.
All the time that we place our happiness in a moving thing, happiness will run away from us. What we worship the most, has the most of our lives.
An idol is something or someone that has us convinced that without ‘it’ life has not got any meaning. GOD, is the only one who can be that. Anything or anyone else can’t carry that weight. We are created to worship and worship we must, but when what we worship is our bellies (selfish desires, ego and our success) that is about to end in disaster. That’s why we are mostly unhappy.
Building a golden calf in the desert did not affect the glory of God, but corrupted the Israelites further. Idols do that. Not only that they demand our attention and wealth, but they pollute our being. Sin festered as the idol was lifted up. Immorality, ingratitude, rage, conflict and death rose up, so did unhappiness. When we worship God joy increases. When we lift up the name of Jesus everything we hold dear and love finds the right place in our hearts. When we praise God, our lives fulfil their purpose.
By nature, we are unthankful, forgetful to God’s grace and dissatisfied with God’s way. From the very beginning of our story, we have this narrative of siding with God only when we see it benefiting. If life is good we dismiss God, when life is bad we denounce Him.
Israelites walking in the desert with God for decades were constantly living in this yo-yo theology. When they sow God deliver provisions and powerful miracles they worshipped Him. When their bellies were grumbling and their bodies were thirsty they whined about Him.
We are not called believers for nothing. We must believe in God. If He comes in the time we did not expect, if He tells us to wait, if He chooses another path for us o follow – we stand with Him. It’s difficult at times and I am not saying here that we don’t stumble upon overwhelming situations that shake our faith. Still, through millennials, God has demonstrated to us people who follow Him that He is faithful and can be trusted.
This ‘perfect’ prayer of the psalmist in verses 4 and 5 gives us a glimpse of what the aching soul benefits mostly on.
Salvation, the success of the people and shared joy.
Spurgeon said: There is no salvation apart from the Lord, and he must visit us with it or we shall never obtain it. We are too sick to visit our Great Physician, and therefore he visits us.
Success is best enjoyed when it sees others succeed too. In the kingdom of God, we don’t succeed separately, but we aspire to see others also fulfil their call and purpose in life. Success is obedience to God. When we obey our Lord, we are living a successful life.
Joy is not joy unless is shared. We can’t be stingy with joy. The little bit of joy when shared multiplies, when kept to itself dies. To realise that is to know what it really means to be loved and delighted by God.
This psalm like the one above tells also the story of God’s people but mostly the reverse side of the coin. The psalmist focuses on the way how sin affects people and the persistent steadfast love of God which is always present.
We keep sinning and God keeps saving.
Still, God’s mercy and saving grace should be acknowledged through our righteous acts. The way we live shows the way we love. When we love God we will walk in His righteousness and justice. It’s about replacing the habit of sinning with the habit of justice living. This is done by knowing and understanding the grace of God in our lives through Jesus Christ. We have been given the immeasurable wealth of grace for all our weakness and stumbling, we can’t fall out of the love of God. Knowing this should make us happy doing the right thing, comprehending that truth should put us deep into the justice living habit.