Father God, thank You Lord for this new day and month. Lord, I ask that You strengthen Your people and convict hearts for their need of You. Lord God, may we as individuals and as a corporate body come together, listening and reasoning with each other.
Lord God, we know that You are not the author of confusion. Thank You that You know what is happening and what will happen. Thank You that You are our Divine Director and Producer. Thank You that You are our Divine Editor, correcting our mistakes.
Lord God, the Gospel flourishes in hostile situations. May we represent Jesus well in this time. May we be a pleasing and fragrant aroma that brings You glory.
Lord, I confess, I do not know what or how to pray. Thank You Holy Spirit for bringing this prayer to the Father in accordance to His Will. Thank You Jesus for interceding on our behalf. Lord God, may we be reminded: know Jesus, know peace because where there is no Jesus there is no peace. There is only strife, rebellion, hurt and conflict.
Lord God, may we press into You now more than ever. May we grow in our love and devotion to You. May we become more Christlike in this new month. Thank You Lord for this reader. In Jesus’s Name I pray. Amen.
On May 8, 2020 I purchased a house; however, sometimes things are not as they appear! The house is currently under construction which means that Nathan, PQ and I are staying at my dad’s. Nathan and I painted the upstairs and I will be honest, marital harmony necessitates a painter! I do not like spending money; however, I dislike arguments even more! We are replacing all the flooring in the house. I have tremendous appreciation for those who work in flooring! I pried up most the hardwood floor and moved that stack of wood more times then I care to count before it finally found its resting place on the deck. Nathan will take care of busting up the tile, thank God!
Over the past month I have really meditated and found comfort in the fact that Jesus is preparing our heavenly homes (John 14:1-6). Whatever our homes look like I know two things: they will be clean and they will be perfect!
This world is under construction. I want to make it known that I stand with and support my black and brown brothers and sisters who are peacefully protesting racial injustice. I hate racism! I have absolutely no tolerance for people, especially from those who profess to be Christian who discriminate others based on the color of their skin. I have traveled and worked in many different countries. I have experienced first hand what it is like to be the only white person someone has ever met. I am VERY sensitive to make sure that the people I meet in life do not feel like outsiders.
Before I met Nathan, there was a man named Cecil who very much wanted to marry me. Cecil is a wonderful and godly black man. I grieved when Cecil and I came to an end but sometimes God closes doors. I have nothing but love and respect for Cecil and God used Cecil to prepare me for Nathan. I will be honest that some people did not like that Cecil was with a white person. I also had a married couple in my life that did not approve. My response to the them was: “are you saying it would be better for me to be with a white atheist then a black Christian? You are wrong and may God convict you of your small minded, faulty, segregated and racist thinking.”
I would love dear reader if you would ask yourself that same question. If you find that you are more offended by your child, sister, niece, brother, etc. dating or marrying a Christian of a different skin color, than dating or marrying an atheist with the same skin color, I pray and implore the Lord to purge that unbiblical, ungodly, evil way of thinking from you! Unequally yoked has everything to do with one’s spiritual condition not their skin color!
I have no clue why God made me white while another person black or brown. What I do know is that God is a color creating God whether that be in the form of a sunrise, flower or one’s skin color. Another thing I know is that all of us are under construction. All of us are a work in progress. All of us are in need of the Holy Spirit to convict us and purge us from the errors that we have in our thinking.
The Kingdom that is coming has no room for looting and destruction. That is the work of the devil not God. I am so thankful that in Heaven God will wipe away our tears, hurts, pains. The work that we are doing on our physical house is overwhelming and exhausting; however, the end product will be worth it. The work that God does in us is often painful and unenjoyable, but produces joy and richness when we look back and reflect on His working in our lives.
Dear reader, may you take some time today to meet with our Triune God. May you ponder how the Lord has you under construction. May you ask Him to reconstruct, remodel or take away any beliefs that do not align with Him and His Word. May we be a body of believers who seek His Kingdom above all else.
Father God, thank You that all of us are under construction in some way, shape or form. Lord God, I ask for You to purge from us any spirit of segregation, racism or classism that exists in believers hearts. Lord God, thank You that this earth is NOT our home. Thank You that You are preparing our future homes. Remind us that we are a people in the world but not of it. Lord God, help us to be a people who seek unity in our diversity and to place You and Your will above any form of personal pride or self-ambition. Lord God, may we be reminded that You are a color creating God whether that be in a sunrise, a sunset or a person’s skin color. May we see color as a gift and not something to exploit, weaponize, demonize, oppress or reject. Holy God, help us to grow in our love and devotion to You and to each other. In Jesus’s Name I pray. Amen.
For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. (Rom 8:26b-27 ESV)
Thank You Holy Spirit for interceding on our behalf both individually and corporately. Lord God, there is so much anger and unrest, both justified and unjustified. Lord God for those of us in the United States, lead us to respond to what is happening in a manner that does not bring shame to Jesus’s Name.
Lord God, fill Your people everywhere with courage, faith, hope and love. Lord God, there is NO room for racism both on this earth and in the Kingdom that is coming. Lord God, Jesus said that He “did not come to bring peace but a sword” (Matt 10:34); however, Jesus also called and commanded us to love You and love others (Matt 22:36-40). Father God, help us to reconcile that You have not come to bring peace, and that even when times are chaotic, stressful, hostile and angry we are still called “to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep o[urselves] unstained from the world” (Jas 1.27).
Lord God, may we never waiver in our pursuit for justice. May we never tire of seeking and living Your Truth. Lord God, may we grow closer to You this month. Lord God, I do not even know what to say or how to pray other than to say, “thank You that You are in control!” Lord God, help Your saints everywhere to hold on, to persist and to endure. Lord God, may we be aware of what is going on in the world, but may we not become fearful, scared and/or numb.
Lord God, protect and provide for my brothers and sisters who are being afflicted with locusts. Lord God, prepare and protect my brothers and sisters who are in the midst of or entering the rainy, hurricane, monsoon, typhoon season. Lord, for those who are in the midst or entering the dry season, may You be in their midst as well. Lord God, thank You that You are our Jehovah Jireh, the Lord who Provides.
Father God, for those who are believers in Jesus Christ, may we never forget that peace is a Person and His Name is Jesus. Lord for the reader who does not know Jesus as Lord and Savior, may today be the day of salvation. Holy Spirit, continue stirring hearts all over this world to receive Christ as their Lord and Savior while there is still time. Thank You Jesus, for the ability and opportunity to pray in Your Name. Please watch over this precious reader today and in this new month. Lord God, only You know the beginning and end of each day, month and year. We love You, we are trusting You and it is in Jesus’s Name we pray. Amen.
I always feel like my mom gets the shaft because Mother’s Day and her birthday are so close together. I love birthdays (even my own)! I love to celebrate the person who God created in His own image. I hate that COVID-19 is keeping many of us from our loved ones!
My mom is a woman of patience, grace and mercy. I fall SO short of the example she set before me. My mom is quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to anger. My mom loves Jesus and is one of the most obedient people I know. In every situation my mom asks, “What is it that the Lord my God requires of me?”
I have NOT always been close with my mom or Jesus. For ten years (and possibly multiple times a day) I told my mom I hated her, until the one day I thought she was actually going to die. That freaked me out. I learned a valuable lesson on not taking people for granted. My attitude toward my mom did not change over night but it did soften.
One of the best bonding experiences occurred in June 2000 (wow, 20 years, time waits for NO one!). My mom took me on a riverboat cruise of the Loire Valley, France for my Graduation trip. Folks, we were the only two people on this cruise! There were more crew than guests! God is good because we each had our own room, otherwise I do not know how our bodies and our luggage would have fit in that tiny cabin!
Since that time my mom and I have had MANY more bonding experiences and many more trips to France. My mom has ALWAYS dealt fairly with me. From an early age my mom taught me that life is not fair! My mom always let the punishment fit the crime! When my brother and I were young if we went out for dinner and we misbehaved, my mom would make us practice sitting at the dinner table. Seriously, this is no joke we had to practice sitting and talking at the table. It was a minimum of 15 min and if we misbehaved she added time. Let me tell you, this is genius! It worked! It got to the point when my mom would say, “do you want to practice sitting at the table?” we knew to stop our misbehavior!
My mom was and is a woman of principle and conviction. We always knew where we stood with her and what she believed. My mom is one of the funniest people I know. I am similar to my mom in a lot of ways. My dad got me a wood sign that says, “Sometimes when I open my mouth my mother comes out!” I take that as a compliment!
When I was younger I had this great idea that I was going to be taller than my mom and that I would look down on her. Well, God truly has a sense of humor and knows what He is doing. I am 5ft tall and I am still looking up to my mom, literally and figuratively.
Mom, it is an honor and a privilege to be your daughter. I am thankful that not only are you my mom, but you are my best friend. I love you. I value you. You are the most beautiful person I know inside and out. Happy Birthday!
Father God, even in this time of COVID-19 may we not stop celebrating those who are created in Your image. May we look for new and creative ways to express our love and appreciation for those whom we are not with physically. Thank You Lord that for those in Christ there will be a day when no sin, disease, sickness and death separate us from Yourself and from others. Lord God, thank You for my mom. Thank You for her heart for You. May this reader thank You for those who have impacted their journey in the faith. Lord God, lead us and guide us today. In Jesus’s Name I pray. Amen.
Father God, thank You for women. Thank You for all the ways that You love, care and use women to bring people to Christ. Lord God, this Mother’s Day is different. Bring comfort to the hearts of those who cannot see their children or grandchildren. Give comfort to those struggling to have children. Lord God, thank You for the gift of life. Thank You for making women life givers both physically and spiritually. Lord God, thank You for this reader and may they reflect and thank You for the women who have impacted and influenced their life. In Jesus’s Name I pray. Amen.
I love studying Leviticus. I can understand why Leviticus was the first book studied by Jewish children. I grieve that Leviticus is most likely the least read book by the Church. How can I have any understanding of Hebrews or what Jesus means when He says that He came to fulfill the Law and the Prophets (Matt 5:17) if I do not know the Law (and the Prophets)?
In Leviticus 9 God accepts Aaron’s offering, initiating the Priesthood. In Leviticus 10, the first day on the job, Nadab and Abihu, Aaron’s sons, “each took his censer and put fire in it and laid incense on it and offered unauthorized fire before the LORD, which he had not commanded them. And fire came out from before the LORD and consumed them, and they died before the LORD” (10:1-2 ESV).
While I have spent much time studying Leviticus 9 and 10, I never considered the significance of Nadab and Abihu’s appearance in Exodus until yesterday.
“Then [God] said to Moses, ‘Come up to the LORD, you and Aaron, Nadab, and Abihu, and seventy of the elders of Israel, and worship from afar…” Moses came and told the people all the words of the LORD and all the rules. And all the people answered with one voice and said, “All the words that the LORD has spoken we will do.” And Moses wrote down all the words of the LORD. He rose early in the morning and built an altar at the foot of the mountain, and twelve pillars, according to the twelve tribes of Israel. And he sent young men of the people of Israel, who offered burnt offerings and sacrificed peace offerings of oxen to the LORD. And Moses took half of the blood and put it in basins, and half of the blood he threw against the altar. Then he took the Book of the Covenant and read it in the hearing of the people. And they said, ‘All that the LORD has spoken we will do, and we will be obedient.’ And Moses took the blood and threw it on the people and said, ‘Behold the blood of the covenant that the LORD has made with you in accordance with all these words'” (Ex 24:1, 3-8).
Some scholars think it stands to reason that these 73 men (including Nadab and Abihu) were the people on which Moses threw the blood, as there would have been thousands of people at this Covenant confirmation.
“Then Moses and Aaron, Nadab, and Abihu, and seventy of the elders of Israel went up, and they saw the God of Israel” (v 9). Nadab and Abihu were invited by God personally to partake in one of the most significant events in the life of Israel.
When I think about Nadab and Abihu in light of their role in the Covenant confirmation and in participating in the initiation of the Priesthood where “fire came out from before the LORD and consumed the burnt offering and the pieces of fat on the altar, and when all the people saw it, they shouted and fell on their faces” (Lev 9:24) makes their sin of offering strange fire even more egregious and tragic.
Nadab and Abihu were hand selected by God to participate in the Covenant confirmation. God chose them to be priests to the people of Israel. After all Nadab and Abihu had witnessed it only makes sense that “fire came out from before the LORD and consumed them, and they died before the LORD” (Lev 10:2). The fire that consumed the burnt offering is the same fire that consumed Nadab and Abihu.
While the Lord does NOT play favorites, He does have intimates (NT example would be Peter, James and John). Nadab and Abihu did not adhere to God’s just decrees and as such were put to death. This is not harsh, extreme or severe. Sin has consequences. God uses this sin as an object lesson of what happens when one does not worship Holy God in a manner that He requires. Following and obeying Him pleases Him.
For those who are in a position of leadership, it is paramount to lead and teach people in a manner that is Biblically sound, glorifying the Lord. Familiarity can breed contempt, even with God. We cannot approach God any way we choose. God is Holy. May our worship, leading, teaching etc. be a pleasing aroma to our Holy God.
Father God, thank You that You are both Holy and Just. Lord God, help us to not take You for granted. Help us to not fear You but to revere You. Lord God make us sensitive to how to approach You in this season in life. For the one who is hurting, may they be honest with You about their feelings and experiences. For those who are joyful, may the bring their praises before You. For the one who is doubting, may they allow You to speak to their doubts. Lord God, thank You that life in Christ is NOT cookie-cutter (even though that is what it seems like we want sometimes). Thank You that You know each one of us personally. Lord God, for those who are starting to backslide in their faith because of not meeting in a Church building, I ask that You will send someone to encourage that person and to point their gaze and focus back on Jesus and Your Word today. Thank You Lord for this reader. Amen.
Father God, thank You for this new month! Lord God, thank You that You are in control. Lord God, thank You that You know our needs even more than we do. Lord, I ask that You strengthen this reader. Lord God, I ask that You meet the physical, financial, emotional, mental and spiritual needs of this reader. Lord God, thank You that You provide for us even when we do not see or feel it. Lord God, help us to become more like Jesus.
Father God, I ask that You give all nations and governments wisdom when it comes to how they handle COVID-19. Lord God, be with all people who are working day and night to serve and help others in this time. Lord God, may all people everywhere, exercise wisdom and common sense when it comes to being out in public. Lord God, helps us to be agents of peace and patience. Lord God, help us to draw closer to You. Teach us to discern Your Truth from all the lies and fear that are bombarding us.
Lord God, I specifically pray for East Africa. Lord God, be merciful on our East African brothers and sisters as they deal with the coronavirus and locusts. Lord God, impress on Your people, for those who have abundance, to consider the plight of those all over the world, even and perhaps in their own backyard who are suffering.
Lord God, teach us to value the things that You value. Teach us to love how You love. In all things may we seek to bring You glory. Thank You Jesus for the ability to pray in Your Name. Holy Spirit, lead us and guide us this day and in this new month. Triune God, thank You for who You are and for all the ways that You are working. Amen.
In the Bible, the idea of scarcity first appears in Genesis 41. Joseph interprets Pharaoh’s dream that in the seven years of plenty Egypt should store up food and resources for the following seven years of famine. In the first year of the famine the Egyptian people gave up their land for food, the following year their cattle and by the third year of the famine they had no collateral but themselves (Gen 47:13-19).
According to Brueggemann, “That’s how the children of Israel [became] slaves-through an economic transaction” (“The Liturgy of Abundance, the Myth of Scarcity,” The Christian Century, 1999, p. 343).
When God led Israel out of Egypt one of the first things that He did for them was address their short-term and long-term need for food by raining bread (manna) from heaven (Ex 16:4). Rain in Hebrew is a hiphil participle. A hiphil verb is one of causation and a participle is repeated action. God is the Agent, the one causing the action to occur. God’s raining of manna from Heaven was one that He caused and provided and did so continuously until the day Israel entered the Promised Land (Josh 5:12).
This gift of manna from heaven came with a test to see if Israel would walk in the ways of His Law or not (Ex 16:4). “The people’s willingness to obey the manna-gathering law would show God whether or not they would be inclined to keep his covenant law as revealed at Mount Sinai. It was not just a test to see if they could follow instructions but a test to see if their hearts were inclined to be his covenant people. The test itself required faith for an agricultural people. Farmers know that if one harvests only enough food in a day to meet the needs of that day, eventually one has no food because no crops or animals produce food every day. Now they were being asked to restrain their natural tendency to gather as much as was available to gather in anticipation of the time when no gathering would be possible. God was teaching them to trust him every day afresh, and they were challenged to think about his provision in a way that had never before been part of their planning pattern” (Stuart, Exodus, NAC, 2006, p. 372).
Here is where the fear of scarcity filtered into the minds of the Israelites. On the sixth day, the Israelites were to gather twice as much so to have food for the Sabbath as well (Ex 16:5). “The resulting arrangement provided a weekly opportunity for the emerging Israelite community to be tested by God and to learn about his faithful provision. Every sixth day they would have to discipline themselves to gather twice the usual amount of manna but only that much. Every Sabbath they had to trust that when they woke up, there would be enough manna left to eat and that it would not have spoiled overnight as it might on other days. Thus each week they would see how God provided for them, in a manner counterintuitive to their normal sense of how to gather and store food, and God could see how they were doing in learning to obey him in advance of his giving them his full covenant law over many months following the encampment at Sinai” (Stuart, Exodus, pp. 372-373.
This reminds me of Proverbs 30:7-9 “Two things I ask of you; deny them not to me before I die: Remove far from me falsehood and lying; give me neither poverty nor riches; feed me with the food that is needful for me, lest I be full and deny you and say, “Who is the LORD?” or lest I be poor and steal and profane the name of my God” (ESV).
Agur, the author of the proverb, knows his weaknesses. Agur’s prayer request is that the Lord would not give him poverty nor wealth, as falsehood and lying “are the deceptiveness of both wealth and poverty” (Garrett, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of Songs, NAC, 1993, p. 238).
This of course reminds me of Jesus’s Words in the Disciple’s Prayer (the Lord’s Prayer is John 17), “Give us this day our daily bread” (Matt 6:11). Jesus’s Words here are an allusion to Exodus 16:4 where God will rain manna from heaven. “Just as God provided the wilderness generation with daily bread (i.e., the manna), so Jesus’ disciples, who are also living in a time of salvation, should petition God to provide them with daily bread” (Evans, The Bible Knowledge Background Commentary: Matthew–Luke, 2003, p. 125).
As I type this post we (at least in the States) are being given a narrative of scarcity. People’s fear and emotions are being elevated as we are being told that meat processing plants are closing due to COVID-19 and that the food may go to waste. While we should be prepared and buy meat, we do NOT need to hoard! Fear mongering is driving the narrative of scarcity. Again, there is nothing wrong with buying meat, we do not need to hoard. People need meat to survive, so if you are compelled to hoard, let it be the toilet paper!
While I have lived in a farming community my whole life, no one in my family farms. What God has really taught me over the years is that the farther one is removed from providing their food, the less thankful they are. I have never had to work for my food. When I sit down to pray before I eat, my level of thankfulness is no where the same as the farmer or the person who is thankful for that specific meal and trusting God for their next.
These are stressful times for all of us right now. We are all dealing with fear in our own way and media outlets know this. When we start to fear the narrative of scarcity over the great abundance of God, may we ask Him to renew and transform our minds by remembering what He has done and how He has provided for us in the past, as well as discerning His Will for our lives now (Rom 12:1-2).
Father God, thank You for the ways that You provide for us each day. Lord, may we NEVER take Your provisions for granted. Lord, I ask that You help those of us in an area of abundance to not hoard. Lord God, thank You that You know our needs and You know exactly how to care for and sustain us. Lord God, may this time of COVID-19 bring us to a greater level of thankfulness and appreciation for You and for community. Lord God, give us wisdom when it comes to being prepared. Lord God, may we come to a place where we can say “we have Jesus, we have today and each other and that is enough.” Lord God, break the strongholds of consumerism that is plaguing society today. Lord God, teach us to trust. Teach us to exercise self-control. Help us to hear Your still small voice in the midst of all the competing noise. Lord God, thank You for this reader. Thank You that You are this reader’s Jehovah Jireh. In Jesus’s Name I pray. Amen.
Almost ten years ago I took a short term position as a Physical Therapist Assistant in an outpatient orthopedic clinic. I remember this like it was yesterday. I can be skeptical of people who state they have back pain. With some patients I filtered their back issues and pain through my own experiences having thoracolumbar scoliosis. Honestly, at times I was so judgmental I would think to myself, “how can it be that bad?!”
Well, it was not long after I started this job that the Lord allowed me to experience back pain in a way in which I cannot describe. It was horrific! I learned empathy real quick, I can tell you that! I remember saying, “Lord, I repent!” as if my cry of repentance would make it go away immediately. The only thing that calmed me was muttering to myself, multiple times a day:
So to keep me from becoming proud, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger from Satan to torment me and keep me from becoming proud. Three different times I begged the Lord to take it away. Each time he said, “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me. That’s why I take pleasure in my weaknesses, and in the insults, hardships, persecutions, and troubles that I suffer for Christ. For when I am weak, then I am strong (2 Corinthians 12:7-10 NLT).
God has also allowed me to experience digestive issues. I know what it is like to be afraid to eat because of pain. There is an emotional toll of knowing that you need to eat to live that gets mixed with the fear of having pain, making the situation more complicated.
Through these two painful experiences God taught me one very important lesson and one very important question to ask Him.
The lesson I learned was that it is easy to see that when someone has their leg in a cast, or their arm in a sling, or a brace around their knee, or using crutches that they have a physical issue. It is NOT easy to visualize a person’s problem when it is internal such as back, GI or neurological pain. We need to ask God to help us listen to a person’s pain rather than being dismissive or judgmental.
The life changing question that God taught me to ask Him was “is this real or perceived pain?” Is my back really hurting or am I being fearful that I will have pain? I have learned that the devil will use my fear of pain to distract me and keep me from stepping out in faith and trying new things. I literally have to ask God if the pain I am experiencing is real or perceived. While most times for me it is legitimate pain, there are times when it is not.
There are numerous times in my life where God has not taken my pain or healed me as I wanted; however, He has most certainly helped me endure. God has given me a greater appreciation for the times when I am pain free, and in my pain He taught me to trust and rest in Him.
Dear reader, I have NO clue what your pain looks like nor what the pain of your loved one looks like. I am in NO way minimizing or trivializing you or your loved one. I do know first hand that the devil loves to keep us worried, fearful and focused on our pain. The devil will NEVER point us to the Lord who will help us process our pain.
Father God, few things are as debilitating as physical pain, and the fear of it. Thank You, Jesus, that You know first hand the debilitating nature of pain. Lord God, I ask that You help us to discern if our pain is real or perceived. Help us to be vigilant and aware without being nervous and fearful. Lord God, help us to have empathy to those who are hurting. Help us to not add to people’s pain. Lord God, thank You that You are with us in our pain. Lord God, thank You for this reader. Lord God, give us wisdom, discernment and common sense when it comes to dealing with the physical, emotional, mental and spiritual toll COVID-19 is having on us all. In Jesus’s Name I pray. Amen.
88 A SONG. A PSALM OF THE SONS OF KORAH. TO THE CHOIRMASTER: ACCORDING TO MAHALATH LEANNOTH. A MASKIL OF HEMAN THE EZRAHITE.
1 O LORD, God of my salvation, I cry out day and night before you. 2 Let my prayer come before you; incline your ear to my cry!
3 For my soul is full of troubles, and my life draws near to Sheol. 4 I am counted among those who go down to the pit; I am a man who has no strength, 5 like one set loose among the dead, like the slain that lie in the grave, like those whom you remember no more, for they are cut off from your hand. 6 You have put me in the depths of the pit, in the regions dark and deep. 7 Your wrath lies heavy upon me, and you overwhelm me with all your waves. Selah
8 You have caused my companions to shun me; you have made me a horror to them. I am shut in so that I cannot escape; 9 my eye grows dim through sorrow. Every day I call upon you, O LORD; I spread out my hands to you. 10 Do you work wonders for the dead? Do the departed rise up to praise you? Selah 11 Is your steadfast love declared in the grave, or your faithfulness in Abaddon? 12 Are your wonders known in the darkness, or your righteousness in the land of forgetfulness?
13 But I, O LORD, cry to you; in the morning my prayer comes before you. 14 O LORD, why do you cast my soul away? Why do you hide your face from me? 15 Afflicted and close to death from my youth up, I suffer your terrors; I am helpless. 16 Your wrath has swept over me; your dreadful assaults destroy me. 17 They surround me like a flood all day long; they close in on me together. 18 You have caused my beloved and my friend to shun me; my companions have become darkness (ESV).
This psalm is an individual lament. This psalm is also an anomaly in that it does not end in praise nor confession of confidence in the Lord. Verse 18 can also be translated darkness has become my only companion or darkness is my closest friend (NIV).
Robert Alter makes the observation that “the psalm deploys an unusual abundance of synonyms for the underworld” (The Hebrew Bible: A Translation with Commentary, 2019, pp. 210-211) such as: Sheol (v. 3), the pit (vv. 4, 6), the grave (v. 5), the land of forgetfulness (v. 12).
In Old Testament thought “the Lord does not involve himself with the dead…so the psalmist feels cut off from divine care” (D. Estes, Psalms 73-150 NAC, 2019, p. 154). The Psalmist has been suffering pain and affliction, being close to death since his youth (v. 15). Even though the Psalmist is suffering and feels cut off from God, he still trusts the God of “[his] salvation” (v. 1).
It may be significant that the Psalmist states that he takes his prayers to the Lord in the morning, as this is when the Lord most often intervened on His people’s behalf (see Pss 30:5; 46:5; Isa 37:6). “The psalmist suggests that for him prayer is the first item on his daily schedule. Prayer is not his last resort but his first impulse” (Estes, p. 156).
The Psalmist is unapologetically raw, sincere and vulnerable in expressing how he feels about his circumstances and the Lord’s silence. However, the Psalmist “does not accept his pain with stoic apathy because, as VanGemeren notes, ‘True faith is not an apathetic acceptance of whatever comes to pass. True faith lies in wrestling with the Lord in prayer'” (Estes, p. 155). The Psalmist “just casts the problem into the hands of the Lord, in effect challenging him to rectify the situation by his faithfulness and righteousness” (Estes, pp. 157-158).
“Psalm 88 teaches that the life of faith at times includes experiences of raw pain and desperate loneliness, but even in the blackest of nights those who trust in the Lord can and should take their frustrations to the Father (cf. Ps 139:12)” (Estes, p. 159).
That quote is what strikes me the most about this psalm. The Psalmist does not complain to his family, friends or anyone else who is willing or in earshot to listen. The Psalmist takes his laments, rhetorical questions and grief directly to God; crying out to Him. The Psalmist still has faith in the Lord even though He is silent.
When I first started typing this my title was “The Darkest Psalm.” While this psalm is indeed dark and bleak, Psalm 88 reveals that it is all right to ask God why even when he does not choose to answer the questions that we bring before Him. Psalm 13 and Job “As both Psalm 13 and the book of Job manifest, the Lord’s silence does not mean his absence, and his silent presence is enough for those who trust in him” (Estes, p. 159).
In this time of COVID-19 may we take our laments and personal grief before our Heavenly Father. May we trust Him when it comes to dealing with this new normal. Dear reader, please know that is okay to cry out to God, to ask Him questions. While your questions may be met with silence like this Psalmist, I pray that you will still trust Him.
Father God, I ask for You to strengthen Your people. Help us process and reconcile things that we have never seen before. Thank You Father for those who have training in how to deal with infectious diseases and outbreaks. Thank You Father for those who are calm. Lord God, help us to discern truth from error in regards to the news that is being presented to us. Lord God, may we be reminded that You are NOT the Author of confusion and chaos. Lord God, make prayer our impulse and default mode rather than our last resort. May we take our grief to You and have You help us with our grief before broadcasting our fears, troubles and anxieties to an already dark and anxious world. Lord God, I ask for Your Hand of mercy to be upon all Your people with small children, new babies and babies in the womb as life has changed from what it once was. Thank You Jesus for allowing us to pray in Your Name. Amen.