Stanza H

A, B, C, D, E, F, G, H! See how far we’ve come!
A new week, a new letter, a new Psalm 119 lesson.

Psalm 119:57-64

Having You is more than enough;
I vow to submit to Your word.

Hearts that seek bring us face to face;
I will take You up on Your grace.

Habits of mine should be looked at,
so I keep walking in Your ways.

Hurrying without dallying,
I will be quick to obey You.

Held down by evil confinement,
even then, I’ll think of Your law.

Hear me say, “Thank You” in the night;
I’m grateful for Your commandments.

Happy to befriend Your people,
I’ll love them because You love them.

Here on earth, Your love gushes out;
Lord, I am Your willing student.

 

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Next: Long Song Study, part H

Remembering Boppy

I called my grandma “Boppy”. She lived next door and when I was bored or trying to get out of doing chores, I would ride my bike up the back driveway to her house where I was always welcomed with a smile and candy corn.

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Boppy’s father, Herman, came over to America on a ship from Prussia when he was a baby. The story goes that his mother went up on the deck for some fresh air and baby Herman kicked off one of his booties into the Atlantic Ocean. He arrived in America with only one booty.

As Boppy got older, she began to lose her memory. But she never forgot how to make Apfelkuchen, or German Apple Cake. She would walk down the driveway to our back door with a fresh, warm cake. We would sit and visit on the screened-in porch and then she would walk back. The next day, having forgotten about yesterday’s cake, she would show up with more apfelkuchen. We ate a lot of apple cake that summer.

Memory is a funny thing. Boppy sometimes forgot her grandchildren in a hazy fog, but a recipe her mama taught her as a young girl was crystal clear. Today, PB’s mother may not remember the last time we waved to her through the window, but she can sing every verse of “Pic-a-nic-in’ the Park”, a song she and dad used to sing together.

I hope my mind is sharp when I’m 92.

But if it isn’t, I hope I belt out
“Blessed Assurance, Jesus Is Mine”
down the halls of the nursing home.

I hope I don’t forget my loved ones faces.
But if I do, I hope every Bible verse I ever memorized
comes pouring from my lips.

I will remember the deeds of the Lord;
yes, I will remember your miracles of long ago.
Psalm 77:11

According to your love remember me, for you, Lord, are good.
Psalm 25:7

remember me

G is for Go

Of course, “God” is the obvious choice for favorite word in the Bible.
But God is a broad topic,
way beyond my ability to condense into a meager blog post.
So I’m going to go with “go”.

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The last directive Jesus gave the disciples before He ascended was,
Go and make disciples of all nations.” Matt. 28:19

Notice that He didn’t say,
“Gather in groups and wait for the nations to come to you.”

A few weeks ago, I wrote about that word, “come”.
It’s a good word. One of my favorites.
But it needs a partner.
We come. And then we go.

We come to Jesus with
our hopes and fears,
our requests and praises,
our failures and victories.
We come to join with the Body of Christ
to encourage and exhort,
to learn and unite,
to stimulate each other to love and good deeds.

We come, but then we go.
And then we come again.
And then we go again.
It’s like a dance.

Faithful Jewish worshipers had to walk up a steep incline as they approached Jerusalem for feasts and festivals. There were special songs assigned to this pilgrimage called “The Songs of Ascent” (Psalms 120-134). It would be like people from all over town walking up Oak Street, singing together on their way to church. (Can we please try that sometime?)

They came up to worship, but they knew after a few days they would have to walk back down and live out their faith in the every-day. The ebb and flow between coming and going gave balance to their lives.

Some of us need to remember to come — come to worship (even online worship!), come to Bible study, come to serve and do our part in the body of Christ.

Some of us need to remember to go — go into our small circles of the world, go with God’s word burning in our hearts, go see if someone we know wants to learn to be a disciple.

Let’s dance.

“The Lord will watch over your coming and going
both now and forevermore.”
Psalm 121:8

come and go

Next: Remembering Boppy

Zayin

Don’t get excited when you see the “Z” at the beginning of this letter.
We’re not even near the end of the Hebrew alphabet, my friends.
The journey from Aleph to Taw is rich with reward for those who endure!

Zayin is the seventh letter in the Hebrew alphabet. Zayin has the same sound as “z” as in “zoo”. Every line in Psalm 119:49-56 starts with this letter. Zayin looks like this:

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Seven is an important number in the Jewish tradition, indicating perfection and completeness. The word “seven” appears over 500 times in the Bible, beginning with Genesis 2:2-3, “And on the seventh day God finished his work that he had done, and he rested on the seventh day from all his work that he had done. So God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it God rested from all his work that he had done in creation.” Thus began cycles of seven that have been repeated ever since.

In the words of Jewish sages,
“All sevens are dear.”

It is no coincidence, then, that there is a seven tone scale — do, re, mi, fa, so, la, ti. There are seven colors in the rainbow and there are seven openings in our heads.

Oy veh.
I could go on and on, but that’s a blog post for another day.
Suffice it to say:
because Zayin is the seventh letter, it holds great significance.
For believers in Messiah Jesus, this significance is amplified.

Last week, we learned about the sixth letter “Vav”, which is connected to mankind because Adam was created on the sixth day. Zayin looks a lot like Vav, except it has a crown on its head, so this letter is a picture of a man with a crown. That’s our Jesus.

Zayin is also regarded as an image of a sword with the tip pointed down and the hilt on top. The sword also represents Jesus, our Overcomer, defeating death and sin. Now we have access to the “sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.” (Eph. 6:17)

The Victor ascends and the sword turns into a royal scepter — “But of the Son he says, ‘Your throne, O God, is forever and ever, the scepter of uprightness is the scepter of your kingdom.'” (Heb. 1:8) King Jesus holds out His scepter to welcome us to the throne. “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence.” (Heb. 4:16)

The Hebrew word “remember” starts with the letter Zayin,
which is a theme in Psalm 119:49-56.

I need to remember
there is a crown,
and He’s wearing it.
There is a throne,
and He’s on it.
There is a sword,
and it’s sitting on my desk.

zayin

 

Next: My favorite word in the Bible that starts with “G”.

Long Song Study, part G

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Let’s dig in to Psalm 119:49-56.

Verse 49
Remember your word to your servant, in which you have made me hope.
“Remember” is one of those words in Hebrew that goes above and beyond our meaning, which is “recalling to memory something forgotten”. That definition doesn’t work here, because God isn’t forgetful. He is infinite, omnipresent, omnipotent, omniscient, sovereign, incomparable. The Lord is not our Grandpa in the Sky who needs our reminders on how to run the world.
Instead, David was calling on God to take action on all that He promised in His word. To remember meant “to stretch out the arm to act.” In other words, David was waiting for a move of God and although delay was painful, he knew it did not nullify the promise. “It is the plan of God that the believer hold on in hope. God calls us to patient waiting.” (Christopher Ash) “Have no fear of failure, for the Lord has never forgotten a single promise to a single believer.” (Charles Spurgeon)

Verse 50
This is my comfort in my affliction, that your promise gives me life.
Where do you go for comfort? I’ve thought about that a lot during these past weeks of quarantine. Times of difficulty often unmask our idols. Is it favorite foods, mind-numbing TV, shopping online, sleep, reruns of sporting events? Or do I go to the life giving power of the Word? As believers, we can find comfort even in the midst of trouble, for Jesus has promised, “I will not leave you comfortless.” (John 14:18)

Verse 51
The insolent utterly deride me, but I do not turn away from your law.
There they are again, those pesky critics. To deride means, “to laugh at in scorn or contempt; scoff or jeer at.” That’s hard to take day after day. Yet, they did not get the upper hand with David because he did not turn aside from God’s way. That takes fortitude, but be assured, it still hurts to be laughed at, to be made fun of, to get the eye-roll, or to be belittled with disrespect. Even when you’re a king.

Verse 52
When I think of your rules from of old, I take comfort, O Lord.
Once again, we see how David directed his thoughts to bring himself comfort. Just as he asked God to remember His word, David also remembered the times God moved on his behalf. He rehearsed in his mind the many past rescues God provided for him and for the Israelites. This bolstered David’s confidence in his God as a Covenant Keeper. What experiences can you draw from as evidence of God’s care for you in the past?
I have dates written down next to certain verses in my Bible. For instance, “Dec. 1991, Marshfield Hospital” is written on the margin of Psalm 34; “Mar. 22, 1988 – Appointment to Jim Falls” is noted by Isaiah 58:11-12; “Mar. 2001 — waiting for Blake’s bypass surgery” is next to Psalm 27:13-14; “4-24-18, Ember Blake born” is beside Psalm 46:5. These are markers for me, helping me remember God’s faithfulness in the past, reminding me of His sure provision in the future.

Verse 53
Hot indignation seizes me because of the wicked, who forsake your law.
Although he dealt with his own group of naysayers, the thing that really got David hot under the collar was the way they dishonored God. According to Christopher Ash, “We too need to learn this indignation.” We tend to overlook others’ disregard for God’s Word, especially if they are really nice, decent, good people. We forget how serious rebellion against God is, and that “turning away from the written instruction God has given is a personal insult and an outrage against the Creator of the universe.”

Verse 54
Your statutes have been my songs in the house of my sojourning.
How did David cool down his hot indignation? By singing. He played music that lifted up the holy word of God. He sang songs that reminded him he was not at home in this world, but a pilgrim passing through it. Singing the very words of God is a form of worship that is full of power. Believing people have always been singing people. I have a playlist titled “Psalms” and every time I hear a song based on a psalm, I add it to the list. These are my songs “through the years of my earthly pilgrimage” (TLB). It’s a great soundtrack for life!

Verse 55
I remember your name in the night, O Lord, and keep your law.
One advantage of learning scripture songs is that they can pop into my head even in the middle of the night. That seems to be when I need them the most. During the night, my mind can be inundated with “what if” and “if only” and “why am I still awake?” David reminds us to remember (it’s a theme in this passage).
Remember Paul and Silas in jail in Acts 16? They sang hymns at midnight so loud that all the other prisoners heard them. Evidently, so did God. An earthquake shook the place, the doors flew open, and everyone’s chains came loose. That’s the power of songs in the night.

Verse 56
This blessing has fallen to me, that I have kept your precepts.
This verse must have been hard to translate, because it is expressed very differently across various versions. The ESV is printed here, but the NIV says, “This has been my practice: I obey your precepts.” I like that. This way of life takes some practice. We don’t learn it in a day. However, obedience becomes easier as we practice. And that results in blessing.

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Next: Zayin

Stanza G

Gee whiz, this is week 7!
I can’t wait to see what God has in store for us
in Psalm 119:49-56.

Here’s a good study tip as we head into another week: watch for repeated words in a passage. If a word is used more than once or twice, it is probably emphasizing a theme or an important idea. Then ask yourself, “What does this word tell me about God?”

Psalm 119:49-56

Grant me the action You promised;
    I have pinned my hopes on Your word.

Great pain can lead to great comfort
    as Your words revive and restore.

Gangs surround and mock me all day;
    I stay on the path anyway.

Good guidelines from the good old days
    console me and make me feel safe.

Godless rebels make my blood boil
    when they blow off Your commandments.

Giving You praise is my theme song
    whether up or down, in or out.

Going to bed, I turn to You
    and resolve once more to obey.

Gladly I put into practice
    submitting my will to Your will.

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Next: Long Song Study, part G

F is for Free

Back in 2016 I wrote this:

I drove across town for a free cup of coffee. A new convenience store opened up and they are offering free coffee for a few days, along with lots of other promotions such as $1 worth of free gas, which is about three tablespoons. I figure if I drive a few miles to get the free coffee but use the squirt of free gas, I’m still ahead. I simply cannot turn down anything free. Except puppies and kittens.

Last week I extolled the word “eat” and savored the fact that God said to Adam, “You are free to eat from any tree in the garden…” (Gen. 2:16) Free to eat!

But there’s a “but”. Verse 17 goes on to say, “…but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat of it you will surely die.”

Freedom often works like that.

There is plenty of room for a wide variety of expression and purposeful action — in-between the guardrails of God’s wise boundaries. In Psalm 119:45, David reveled in the freedom of walking in wide spaces while at the same time celebrating the commandments that limited his liberty to do whatever he pleased.

Paul had to set the churches in Galatia straight on this.

“You were called to be free.
But do not use your freedom to indulge the sinful nature;
rather, serve one another in love.” (Gal. 5:13)

Did you see that “but”? It’s a big one.

One more time:
“My friends, you were chosen to be free.
So don’t use your freedom as an excuse to do anything you want.
Use it as an opportunity to serve each other with love.”
(Contemporary English Version)

We are supposed to use our freedom to do the loving thing for others,
which may mean setting aside our individual desires for a season.
We are free to choose to yield our rights.
We are free to be selfless.

I don’t love doing Bible study on Zoom, or worshiping with a video on Facebook, or not hugging my grands. I don’t enjoy wearing a face mask at the grocery store, or postponing our family reunion, or singing Happy Birthday on FaceTime. I’m sad that I can’t gather with my church family on Sunday mornings. I grieve the loss of grad parties and weddings, Tommy Bartlett’s Water Show and baseball.

I miss going wherever I want, whenever I want, with whomever I want.

This pandemic is limiting me like never before.
I don’t like these constraints.
I want my freedom back.
But.

What if the most loving thing I can do right now is to set aside what I want?
What if I serve you best right now by yielding my rights?
What if this is opportunity, not oppression?

serve

“If the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.”

My favorite word in the Bible that starts with “F” is FREE.