I have found myself spending a lot of time reading the Psalms lately. I don't know, maybe it's the wide range of personal experiences that are shared, where I know I will find something that will minister to my spirit. It doesn't matter what is on my heart, there is a Psalm that will speak to me and oftentimes open up a conversation between me and Jesus... jubilation, praise, sorrow, war, peace, worship, judgment, messianic prophecy, tribulation, God's love, God's wrath, deliverance, salvation, healing, discipline, and damnation -- there is not a topic that Jesus and I have discussed that it is not present in the Psalms.
In fact, my husband and I [who often examine separate portions of the Bible during our study time in the mornings] both found ourselves reading Psalms this morning. On the days when I can't stand to hear another news cast, it somehow comforts me to read the same descriptions of human flaws, folly, and failings that I see in the world today. If God could rescue them from themselves, then surely there's hope for us! And the Psalms share the whole spectrum of this volatile and glorious relationship with our Father in Heaven!
And it is exactly that hope amidst the accounts of man's rebellion and God's discipline and love that I am grateful for and celebrate in the Bible! I can hear God speaking to me [and all of us] in both Psalm 118 ("His Steadfast Love Endures Forever") and Psalm 78 ("Tell the Coming Generation"). So, why do I often find myself at odds with other Christians who question why I contemplate the less than cheerful and joyous verses in this confirming Book of man's experiences with God? Why do they misunderstand my ability to look at the "Big Picture" and full counsel of God's witness -- both the destruction of man and the redeeming love God displays?
For instance, in Psalm 78, there are some pretty scary verses that tell us what God is capable of doing ... In spite of all this, they still sinned; despite His wonders, they did not believe. So He made their days vanish like a breath, and their years in terror. That should be enough to make anyone stop and assess where we stand today. After all, He is still the same God and the Bible makes it clear that His attributes and character never change... I, the Lord, do not change (Malachi 3:6). Yet, within that same Psalm, we read this: Yet He, being compassionate, atoned for their iniquity and did not destroy them; He restrained His anger often and did not stir up all His wrath. And so, I recognize the immutability of God -- that He is unchanging in His character, will and covenant promises. But that immutability defines ALL of God's attributes ... among them, His wisdom, His goodness, His mercy, His grace ... and His righteous wrath and anger.
Have you ever found yourself in discussions with a fellow Christian where they only want to consider the "feel good" verses about God's love and mercy and our ultimate victory in Christ? And do you ever sense that they think all you ever do is look for the bad in the Bible? I have yet to find a way to make myself adequately understood that it is exactly because I am grounded and anchored in His goodness and love that I am able to look upon His wrath and anger with no fear; understand what led up to His reaction; and then caution the Body of Christ to guard against the same sins. For me, it is understood -- it is a given -- that if I call myself a Believer, I know the Lord's love endures forever. If it didn't, He would have every reason to destroy us and start over. And if I didn't believe in His love and our victory, I wouldn't be able to encourage others to battle in their power and authority in Christ.
But being the same God as He was throughout Psalm 78, I must also caution us not take Him for granted! If we are reading the Bible in Truth and Spirit, then we must not fool ourselves into thinking we will be exempt from "vanishing like a breath", should we continue to test and rebel against the Most High God and do not keep His testimonies; if we turn away and act treacherously and deceitfully; if we anger Him with our "high places" and our idols. We must not think He will no longer consider delivering "His power to captivity, His glory to the hand of our foe."
For He is a jealous God and a righteous one! But He will uphold those who walk humbly in His ways; He will uphold us with His mighty right hand! The Bible represents a composite picture of our Most High God and it is important we behold Him in His fullness. If we only look at the verses that make us feel comfortable, we will miss out on the "tough love" that assures us He loves us enough to train us up in ways that secure our eternity with Him. So, if you think I only depict the "doom and gloom" of the Bible, I promise you that my faith is solidly rooted in the goodness, love, mercy, kindness, and grace of God. And it is from that position that I am not afraid to share His attribute of righteous judgment against those who rebel against Him. Make no mistake, I know what it is to fear the Lord [in all that means] and I praise Him for all that He is!
Psalm 118: 15-16 Songs of joy and victory are sung in the camp of the godly. The strong right arm of the Lord has done glorious things! The strong right arm of the Lord is raised in triumph.