Welcome to our fourth edition, during this COVID time period, of BOOSTS FROM THE BIBLE. Today I’m going to focus on sections of Psalm 118, which my biblical editors have subtitled, “A Song of Victory.” Yes, there are certainly some elements of “victory” in this psalm…especially when you consider that the person who wrote this psalm apparently came out of some “almost-catastrophe” ALIVE just before he or she wrote this song.
The 118th Psalm begins with the psalmist making a key point over…and over…and over again – which is this: “O give thanks to the Lord, for He is good; His steadfast love endures forever! Let Israel say, “His steadfast love endures forever!” Let the house of Aaron say, “His steadfast love endures forever!” Let those who fear the Lord say, “His steadfast love endures forever!” Okay, we get it!
But do we? Do we see God has an ENDURING presence, or an “and-does-nothing” presence? Do we feel God’s love is steadfast or shaky? Are we sure that forever is in our future, or is forever just a belief we held in the past?
You know, during this COVID situation, if there is ONE word that I have heard applied to everyone over and over again, it’s the word “stress.” We are all doing things we have never done before…and we don’t know when we can stop doing them! Now the word “stress” is related to the word “DIS-stress.” Remember that, as I read the very next verse of Psalm 118 – “Out of my distress I called on the Lord; the Lord answered me and set me in a broad place.” Hmmm. “Set me in a broad place.” What does that mean, to be “set…in a broad place”?
Keep that phrase in mind as we go to the next verse: “With the Lord on my side I do not fear. What can mortals do to me? The Lord is on my side to help me.” Okay. I think I know what the psalm is getting at. I remember a song when I was young: “I can see clearly now the rain is gone; I can see all obstacles in my way; gone are the dark clouds that had me blind; it’s gonna be a bright…bright, sunshiny day.” To be set by God “in a broad place” is to be in a place in your life where you are not blinded by distress or nor paralyzedby a fear of death for yourself or for a loved one…where you are not blinded by concerns over finances or being lonely or just being filled to the gills with frustration! The “dark clouds that had me blind” – blind of my purpose in these strange times – are gone; I see what I am supposed to do now; Like the Who song put it – “I can see for miles and miles and miles and miles and miles…oh yeah.”
I come from the Midwest, where one CAN see for miles and miles, because we here we live in “a broad place.” We can see not only when the storm is coming, but also when the storm is going. God gives us the insight and the courage to do what God calls us to do…every day. Every day.
Why do I emphasize “every day”? Because there’s a famous verse in this Psalm 118…verse 24: “This is the day that the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.” But…how can one “be glad” to live in a time like this? Well, because the Lord has allowed us to “see clearly” our role in the days and weeks ahead; the Lord has allowed us to see the “broad place” God has set our minds and hearts in…and so we rejoice and are glad in this and future days because God shows us how – exactly how – we can be servants not only to the family members we are sheltering with, but also servants to anyone who we run into – online or elsewhere.
Let’s remember the fact that – as you believe in Christ – the Holy Spirit is in you, advising you every day. That Spirit of Christ is inspiring you, from the Bible, to do this right thing and that right thing…and avoid wasting time on that and rest up so that you can later do this. That’s a pretty broad plain to be living in, that God has picked you up and placed you in – to be able to look to God in any situation that comes up – even all these situations we have never encountered before!
I saw a funny meme a few days ago, sent through social media by a friend. It’s two pictures. On the top, Captain Kirk and Mr. Spoke are stepping through a gate that will take them to any year in the past. We see the words they say to each other as they do so: “We’re traveling to the year 2020!” Just below it we see the second picture, with those two jumping back out five minutes later and saying, “Nope, nope, nope. Bad idea! Bad…idea!”
We don’t have that option. We can’t leave the year 2020. But in verse 19 of Psalm 118 God gives us a boost, a way to enter the gate into each day that God has made, even if that day is in 2020. Verse 19 states, “Open to me the gates of righteousness, that I may enter through them, and give thanks to the Lord.”
Every day…every day the Spirit of Jesus takes our hand, every morning, and leads us through the gate of true righteousness…which is the gate of unconditional love and self-sacrifice. Every day, by Christ’s gift of salvation and by the grace of God, Paul tells us we receive this amazing opportunity to get to be “what God made us, created in Christ Jesus for the doing of good works…good works which God created for us, to be our way of life.” (Eph. 2:10)
You know, in that song I sang earlier, “I can see clearly now”? That person in the song still had obstacles in their way – it’s just that now that person can see how to deal with those obstacles. Now THAT’S a day that the Lord has made! That’s the kind of day we can rejoice in! Plus, even if we fail on this day or the next, we know that “the steadfast love of the Lord endures” for us “forever.”
I’d like to leave you with a song that my pastoral buddy Tim Craven sang a few weeks ago online. It was written by Merle Haggard and I changed just a few of the words to fit our beliefs – you see, we don’t have to climb a stairway to get to heaven, we’ve got heaven handed to us on God’s unconditional silver platter!! Anyway, the song is called “One Day at a Time, Sweet Jesus,” and the Spirit of Jesus sure IS sweet to lead us through these days.
I’m only human I’m just a man
Help me believe in what I could be and all that I am
Show me the way – how to serve every time
Lord for my sake teach me to take one day at a time
One day at a time sweet Jesus that’s all I’m asking from you
Give me the strength to do every day what I have to do
Yesterday’s gone sweet Jesus and tomorrow may never be mine
So for my sake teach me to take one day at a time.
As this song proclaims, we are called not just to “get through each day” but to know that the Spirit of Jesus will show us the way – show us the way how to serve others…every time! Amen!
Follow us for another “Boost from the Bible,” and may God keep blessing you!
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