Never gets any easier

Sunset, Boca Ciega Bay 22 Nov 2021. Photo taken by Mandy Sweigart-Quinn.

We will be heading to the airport in a few hours to return to PA after spending the week with my mom for Thanksgiving. It never gets any easier to depart from my mom. Even though my mom, God willing, has a flight to come to PA on Dec 10, departing never gets any easier.

Maybe it’s age or life events but this departing impresses on me even more to: A tell people in my sphere of influence how much I love them because none of us are guaranteed tomorrow; B thank God for believers who if I don’t see again in this life, I will see in heaven; C share Jesus with urgency as I may not see them again.

Life is precious. Relationships while messy and painful are a gift. As the Christmas season has descended on us yet again, may we remember Jesus. May we remember who He is and what He has done. May we remember this life never gets any easier; therefore, cling to Jesus, share Him and enjoy time with others while we are still here.

Lord God, thank You and praise You for time with my mom, Nathan and PQ. Thank You Lord for the gift of family. Lord God, as new variants emerge, may we cling to You, may we hold onto You knowing that You NEVER change. You are constant; You are stable. Lord God, thank You for my mom’s salvation, thank You for Nathan’s salvation, thank You for the salvation of other believers. Thank You Lord for my salvation. Lord God, for the reader who does not know Jesus, Lord may today be the day of repentance and salvation for this reader. Remind us Lord this world is NOT our home. Remind us Lord You do not call us to an easy road, but a narrow road. Lord God, while this life isn’t getting any easier, thank You that we are NOT alone! Thank You Holy Trinity for being our Guide, Light, Path and Help. Lord God, thank You for this reader. In Jesus’s Name I pray. Amen.

For anyone who is interested, Nathan did dabble in the salt life fishing off my mom’s pier!

Photo taken by Mandy Sweigart-Quinn
Photo taken by Mandy Sweigart-Quinn

Psalm 119:97-104

Mem
97 Oh how I love your law!
It is my meditation all the day.
98 Your commandment makes me wiser than my enemies,
for it is ever with me.
99 I have more understanding than all my teachers,
for your testimonies are my meditation.
100 I understand more than the aged,
for I keep your precepts.
101 I hold back my feet from every evil way,
in order to keep your word.
102 I do not turn aside from your rules,
for you have taught me.
103 How sweet are your words to my taste,
sweeter than honey to my mouth!
104 Through your precepts I get understanding;
therefore I hate every false way
(ESV).

The opening line of this stanza exclaims, “oh how I love Your Law!” (v 97a). What is really amazing me about this psalm is how personal, heartfelt and worshipful it is. Because the psalmist loves the Law, he mediates on it all the day (v 97b).

This psalm and especially the above verse humbles me with how much he loves the Lord’s Law. “In Psalm 119 the psalmist does not just learn God’s word, but he loves it. His love for God’s instruction causes him to meditate on it continually (cf. Ps 1:2); and as he contemplates God’s truth, it is assimilated into his life so that he learns it, loves it, and lives it” (D. Estes, Psalms 73-150 NAC, 2019, p. 423).

Dr. Michael Heiser makes an excellent point when he says, “We tend to think of the law as though every one of its 613 commandments [this includes the 10 commandments given in Exodus 20:1-17 and Deuteronomy 5:6-21] were an oppressive lynchpin in a relationship to Yahweh. We tend to view the law negatively, as though it were given to produce feelings of guilt or to frustrate Israelites with the impossibility of pleasing God. This is misguided…An Israelite would have known that believing was at the heart of right relationship with Yahweh, not mere mechanical observance of a list of do’s and don’ts. For sure some Israelites would have lapsed into this mistaken thinking, particularly after the shock of the exile, but that wasn’t what the law was about” (The Unseen Realm: Recovering the Supernatural Worldview of the Bible, 2015, p. 163).

The commitment that the psalmist has to the Lord’s commandments makes him wiser than his enemies (v 98a). “Obviously, people attacking the psalmist without reason and/or with deceit ignore both the content of Yhwh’s commands and the promises attached to them. They are stupid. They are ultimately bound to fail” (J. Goldingay, Baker Commentary on the Old Testament: Psalms 90-150, 2006, p. 418).

Because the Lord’s Word is always with him (v 98b) he has more wisdom (understanding) than all his teachers (v 99a). The psalmist here has caused himself more wisdom because the Lord’s testimonies are his meditation (v 99b). The Word of God NEVER fails to make wise a person who is open, receptive and willing to obey what He says!

In verse 100a the psalmist compares himself to the aged. While it is widely assumed that older individuals have more discernment (understanding) than the young, the psalmist here flips this, stating that he has more discernment than the aged because he keeps the Lord’s precepts (v 100b).

The psalmist holds back his feet from every evil way so that he may keep the Lord’s Word (v 101). He also does not turn to the right or to the left from the rules that the Lord has taught him (v 102). “[The psalmist] always keeps in mind that he is a student in the Lord’s school, and his chief purpose is to stay true to what the Lord has taught him” (Estes, p. 424).

The Lord’s Words are a sweet taste to his mouth, sweeter than honey (v 103). “In biblical times honey was a highly valued delicacy and a rare sweetener, so it is a fitting image for how delectable God’s word is to him. As frequently throughout Psalm 119, God’s word is viewed in terms of delight and enjoyment because to the psalmist it is a sweet delight, not a bitter duty” (Estes, p. 424). Believers today also know how sweet His Words taste in their mouths, which is why they can say along with David, “o taste and see that the Lord is good!” (Ps 34:8).

The psalmist concludes this stanza restating that it is through the Lord’s precepts that he gets discernment; as such, he hates every false way (v 104). The psalmist is able to discern false ways because he knows what the Lord his God requires both from the Law and because of having a personal relationship with Him. “In the light of God’s word, he can see through sin for what it is and where it leads, and this understanding enables him to reject every false way (cf. v. 163). God’s word guards him against making wrong turns that lead to bad consequences” (Estes, p. 424).

Lord God, thank You and praise You for Your Law! Lord God, may we love Your Law like the psalmist. Lord God, may we seek to read and practice Your Word so that we will be wise people! Lord God, wise people seek wise people. May we seek to do life with the wise and not the popular. Lord God, Your Word will cause us to grow if we are actively reading and putting it into practice. Help us to desire Your Word so that we will know how to discern truth from error. Lord God, there is so much error in our world today, help us to be grounded and guarded in Your Truth!

Lord God, help us to keep our feet from moving toward evil. May we stay focused on You and what You have taught us rather than looking to our right and to our left. Lord God, Your Words have the sweetness of life. May we never forget to taste and see that You are good, even in the midst of pain, hardship and suffering. Thank You Lord that You cause Your people who are earnestly seeking You to have wisdom and discernment. Lord God, may we practice common sense; helping us to hate every false way! Lord God, thank You for this reader! May this reader grow in their desire for You. In Jesus’s Name I pray. Amen.

Psalm 119:89-96

Photo by Tima Miroshnichenko on Pexels.com

Lamedh

89  Forever, O Lord, your word 

is firmly fixed in the heavens. 

90  Your faithfulness endures to all generations; 

you have established the earth, and it stands fast. 

91  By your appointment they stand this day, 

for all things are your servants. 

92  If your law had not been my delight, 

I would have perished in my affliction. 

93  I will never forget your precepts, 

for by them you have given me life. 

94  I am yours; save me, 

for I have sought your precepts. 

95  The wicked lie in wait to destroy me, 

but I consider your testimonies. 

96  I have seen a limit to all perfection, 

but your commandment is exceedingly broad (ESV).

The psalmist knows the Lord’s Word is fixed forever in the heavens (v 89). As tumultuous as life here on earth can be, the psalmist knows that the Lord’s Word is secure. “There will never be a time or a place when the Lord’s authoritative word is silenced or thwarted, and this truth is the strong and enduring grounds for the psalmist’s confidence” (D. Estes, Psalms 73-150 NAC, 2019, p. 421).

The psalmist is confident that the Lord’s faithfulness will endure to all generations. And that He has securely established the earth so that it stands fast (v 90). This harkens to God’s people to pray earnestly for His will to be done on earth as it is in Heaven (Matt 6:10).

Verse 91 is the most difficult Hebrew verse thus far to translate. “The general sense is that everything in the Lord’s domain is upheld by his authoritative word. In the Lord’s ordered world, everything ultimately serves his purposes, even though the intentions of the actors (such as the wicked who have afflicted the psalmist) may be evil” (Estes, p. 422). Nothing on this earth exists that is not under the Sovereign Hand of God. “All of creation exists because of obedience to God’s word; all of creation, therefore, exists to do his will” (A. Ross, A Commentary on the Psalms 90-150 KEL, 2016, p. 541).

The psalmist delighted in the Lord’s law, had he not, he would have perished in his affliction (v 92). “The psalmist confesses that he, too, wants to be included among those who serve the Lord by keeping his “law.” He has found “delight” (see vv. 16, 24, 47, 70, 77, 92, 143, 174) in the “law” (tôrâ “instruction) of the Lord, and this has given him a desire to align his life with the revealed will of the Lord. If he had not found meaning in his experience of “affliction,” he feels that he would have perished. He would have been like a falling star” (W. VanGemeren, Psalms REBC, 2008, p. 876).

The psalmist declares that he will never forget the Lord’s precepts because they are what give him life (v 93). The Lord’s people are always at risk of forgetting His precepts. The psalmist knows “God’s word does him little good if he fails to remember it” (Estes, p. 422). Remember (or not forgetting) God’s Word is a biblical principle that runs from Genesis to Revelation. May the people of God continue to feast on the Word of God so that in times of famine they will know how the Lord instructs them to live.

Since the psalmist is the Lord’s he petitions Him to save him (hiphil, imperative 2ms with 1cs suffix). “‘I am yours’ (lĕkā-ʾănî) indicates that the psalmist accepted a servant’s responsibility and Yhwh accepted a master’s responsibility. Verse 94 appeals for that to continue to be true. One who belongs to Yhwh can appeal to Yhwh to deliver. The line again emphasizes Yhwh’s direct involvement in our lives. Yhwh is not just the deist clockmaker. But part of the basis for expecting Yhwh to behave as if we belong to Yhwh is that we have so behaved” (J. Goldingay, Baker Commentary on the Old Testament; Psalms 90-150, 2006, p. 416).

In verse 94b the psalmist has sought God’s Word. In verse 95a the wicked lie in wait to destroy the psalmist. Estes notes this form of the verb for wait “often speaks of the righteous waiting for the Lord to intervene in their lives, but here the verb refers to the wicked waiting to do an intentional act of evil (p. 422). God’s people are not immune from the intentional evil acts of the world, the flesh and the devil. As such God’s people need to consider His testimonies (95b).

The psalmist ends this stanza in confidence. All human speech, efforts and achievements have a limit; however, the Lord’s Word has no limit because it is exceedingly broad (v 96). “[T]o live for anything other than what the Lord commands is to invite disappointment and defeat” (Estes, p. 423).

Lord God, thank You and praise You that Your Word is firmly fixed and exceedingly broad! Thank You and praise You Lord that You are perfect! In a world that is turning darker and more evil by the day, thank You that You have put a limit on what Your people will suffer. Thank You and praise You Lord that Your Word has no end and that it will not return void. Lord God, You are faithful to Your people. May we never cease to remember how You have been in our midst in the past, so we can live for You in the present, being bold and fearless when facing the future.

Lord God, You truly hold the whole world in Your Hands. Lord God, You have created all people for eternity. Lord, may today be the day of salvation for the reader who is far from You. Lord, as all things are Your servants, may we be instruments for good and not instruments of evil.

Lord, make our desires Your desires so that we will endure in our afflictions. Lord God, thank You that for those of us who are in Christ we can come boldly before Your Throne seeking Your grace, mercy and help when we need it most. Lord God, may we not be surprised by how unbelievers act. May we not be surprised that the world, the flesh and the devil seek to harm us. May our desire for You increase and the things of this world decrease! In Jesus’s Name I pray. Amen.

.

Psalm 119:81-88

Photo by Tima Miroshnichenko on Pexels.com

Kaph

81  My soul longs for your salvation; 

I hope in your word. 

82  My eyes long for your promise; 

I ask, “When will you comfort me?” 

83  For I have become like a wineskin in the smoke, 

yet I have not forgotten your statutes. 

84  How long must your servant endure?7 

When will you judge those who persecute me? 

85  The insolent have dug pitfalls for me; 

they do not live according to your law. 

86  All your commandments are sure; 

they persecute me with falsehood; help me! 

87  They have almost made an end of me on earth, 

but I have not forsaken your precepts. 

88  In your steadfast love give me life, 

that I may keep the testimonies of your mouth. 

ESV

The psalmist begins this stanza stating that his nefesh (soul) is more than just longing for the Lord’s salvation, he is literally wasting away. “Although the psalmist cannot resolve this situation, he is confident that the Lord can rescue him from his plight” (D. Estes, Psalms 73-150 NAC, 2019, p. 420). Even though the psalmist’s strength is failing and he is wasting away he hopes in the Lord’s Word knowing who He is and what He has done before.

While the ESV supplies the word long in verse 82, this would be better translated, my eyes fail. “The eyes reflect his weariness in watching for a sign of God’s answer; so under a prolonged strain of waiting, the psalmist acknowledges that he is worn out” (A. Ross, A Commentary on the Psalms 90-150 KEL, 2016, p. 535). In his worn and weary state the psalmist asks the question, “when will you comfort me?”

The psalmist clarifies this question stating that he has become like a wineskin in the smoke (v 83a). Meaning that he is “useless, shriveled, and unattractive because of being blackened with soot” (W. VanGemeren, Psalms REBC, 2008, p. 875). The psalmist here demonstrates that he lives by faith and not by feeling nor sight as he states he hasn’t forgotten His statutes (v 83b). Forgetting the Lord’s statues would only make the psalmist’s situation worse.

In verse 84, “The suffering psalmist asks another question; but his questions are essentially laments (so rhetorical questions). ‘How long must your servant endure?’ means ‘Your servant (I) has been enduring long enough.’ The first half of the verse laments his prolonged endurance. The second is concerned with the cause of his condition ‘When will you execute justice on those who persecute me?'” (Ross, p. 536).

Boice makes a profound observation, “It may be significant in this respect that verse 84 is the first in the psalm to fail to mention the Word of God by one of the [many] synonyms for it. When the psalmist was most down, did he lose sight of God’s Word temporarily?” (J. Boice, Psalms 107-150: An Expositional Commentary, 2005, pp. 1008-1009).

It is the opinion of this author that the psalmist did not lose sight of God’s Word temporarily. In this stanza, as well as in other areas of this psalm he states how when he forgot about the Lord and His Word, life did not go well for him. Rather, this lament (rhetorical questions) is from the depths of his affliction. How can we know this? Because in his next verse the he states how the insolent have dug pitfalls to trip him up and that they do not live according to the Lord’s torah (law, v 85). It is comforting to know “in the Lord’s moral order, [the insolent] will fall into the pits they have dug in their attempt to inflict harm on others” (Estes, p. 421).

Verse 86 makes it clear that “in contrast to the arrogant who are unfaithful to God’s instruction (v. 85), the Lord’s commands are true, or reliable. The arrogant speak lies, but the Lord speaks truth. By their lies the wicked do not fight fairly, but the psalmist is confident that the Lord can counter them, so he calls on the Lord to help him” (Estes, p. 421).

The plain meaning of almost made an end of me (v 87) “is that he is almost dead—finished, on this earth. However, to the very end if need be, he affirms his faith: ‘I have not forsaken your precepts'” (Ross, p. 537).

In the first part of verse 88 the psalmist makes an appeal to the Lord to renew his life by His covenant faithfulness (hesed, steadfast love ESV). Why does the psalmist make this appeal? So that he may keep His testimonies. “The purpose of the petition is likewise connected to the covenant: “that I may keep the testimony of your mouth.” The testimony refers to all of God’s instructions, the whole covenant law, which came by direct revelation from God. The psalmist wants to be revived, so that he would be able to keep the covenant fully, without weakness, suffering and distractions due to constant persecution” (Ross, p. 537).

Lord God, as our bodies waste away may we never stop hoping in Your Word. Lord, sometimes our eyes fail us as we wait for Your promise; comfort us by Your Spirit. Lord God, thank You that You have indwelled Your people who are saved by grace through faith in Jesus Christ with Your Holy Spirit. Thank You Lord that You live inside each believer, that You comfort us and that we can come before Your throne boldly receiving Your grace and mercy when we need it most. Lord God, help us to cling to the truth that for the person in Christ, they are not useless. No matter how bleak or grim the situation looks or as helpless as they feel, remind this believer Lord that they have worth and value to You. Use us Lord for Your glory!

Lord, You inspired the psalmist to ask how long he must endure as well as when will You judge those who persecute him. Lord God, give us Your strength to persevere and endure the challenges and trials that we will face. Lord God, prepare us to glorify You when we suffer from the pitfalls of the insolent. Lord, may we never forget Your commandments. May we never forget You desire our obedience. Lord, there are no shortages of lies and attacks from the insolent, help us to not forsake Your precepts. Lord God, may we NEVER forget Your covenant faithfulness. May we never forget that You will never violate Your Name and Covenant. You will never act contrary to who You are.

Lord God, renew our lives so that we may testify about Jesus in this dark, hostile and hurting world. Lord God, renew our minds that we may focus on the things above. Lord God, conform us to You and Your Word. Lord God, may we desire what You desire and not what this world desires. Lord God, thank You for this reader. May this reader be renewed and revived by Your Spirit today. In Jesus’s Name I pray. Amen.

November 2021 Prayer

Photo taken by Mandy Sweigart-Quinn

Lord God, may all that have breath praise You in this new month. Lord God, I pray for my brothers and sisters who are undergoing chemo and radiation this month. Lord God, I ask that You will make the side effects of their treatment as minimal as possible. Lord God, I pray for my brothers and sisters who have covid, may Your Presence be very real to them in this time. Lord God, I pray for my brothers and sisters who are caregivers to have Your strength and peace.

Lord God, in this new month may we seek to be more like Jesus. Lord God, help us to glorify You rather than to glorify ourselves. Lord God, teach us to listen. We can be so quick to react to points of view that we do not agree with rather than listening and giving a rational explanation as why we do not agree. Lord God, may our love for Your Kingdom grow this month. May we be known more for the love that we have for You and for others. Lord God, help us to be salt and light. Help us to read Your Word, never forgetting that the Bible cannot mean what it did not mean to the original author and audience/hearers.

Lord God, may Your Word examine us this month. May Your Word permeate our hearts (mind, will and emotions) this month. Lord God, teach us to pray. Teach us to cling to You and not the security and comforts of this life. Lord God, may we never forget there has NEVER been a day when You were not God. You are God and You will always be God.

Lord God, may we seek to grow in gratitude and thankfulness this month. Lord God, may we heed Sarah’s practice and start naming five things we are thankful for each day. Lord God, the more we thank and praise You, the less we will think about ourselves. Lord God, may we say along with John the Baptist, “You must increase and I must decrease.”

Lord God, may we seek Your Glory and Holiness this month. Lord, cause us to desire to grow in holiness this month. Lord God, I am reminded of the words of Jerry Bridges who said, “If you want more victory in your life you need more obedience.” Oh Lord God, help us to be a more obedience people. Help us to desire being agents of mercy rather than agents of discord and disunity. Lord God, impress on us that unity is a hallmark of love. Lord God, help us to be Christ’s ambassadors, a pleasing aroma that brings glory, honor and praise to You.

Lord God, covid has and continues to reveal hearts. For those who are for or against vaccines, in many ways Christians on each side are treating the other side as if they are a wolf and Lord, it is very hard to have a conversation with someone who we think is a wolf. Lord God, as Pastor Keith stated yesterday, “Jesus does not give us permission to become like the wolf.” Lord, teach us how to agree to disagree peaceably with love and respect.

Lord God, help us to grow in spiritual discernment this month. Lord God help us to practice discernment so that we will know how to live as sheep among wolves being wise yet innocent. Lord God, help us to hold everything we read, see and hear up to the Light of Scripture. Help us to encourage others this month; speaking the truth in love. Help us to have mercy and compassion in a godless and morally bankrupt world. Lord God, help us to be a humble people, yet confident and courageous. Lord God, help us to fight distractions and procrastination more this month.

Lord God, thank You for this reader. Thank You Lord for the life that You have given them. Lord God, for the reader who does not know Christ I ask boldly that today will be the day of salvation. Lord God, for this reader who has been in Christ for years (and years) I ask that You stir their heart even more for You and Your Word. Lord God, grow this reader to trust You more this month. Lord God, prepare this reader and myself for this new month and prepare this new month for us. Lord God, may we never forget, “Divine guidance comes only to prepared hearts” (Life App Study Bible). Lord God, prepare us to be a witness to the people that You place in our sphere of influence this month and prepare these people for us. In Jesus’s Awesome, Holy, and Victorious Name I pray. Amen.

Love you, Kelly!

Kelly and I

On Monday October 4, 2021 Kelly arrived in Lancaster from Fort Worth, Texas. Kelly and I met in July 2010 in Freetown, Sierra Leone. From the moment that I met Kelly I was inspired and challenged by her unwavering love and devotion for Christ and others. Few people have had such an impact on my Jesus Journey as Kelly.

This is the longest that I have gone without seeing Kelly. From the beginning of the pandemic Kelly has worked in an ICU that strictly saw covid patients. The amount of suffering and death that Kelly has seen is beyond what I can comprehend. Kelly has one last shift left at her hospital and then she will be heading to the Dominican Republic in which she will serve the Lord through helping women and children with a Christian organization.

I praise God for friendship. I praise God for the opportunity to have spent time with Kelly. While I am deeply sad (and have tears running as I type this) that Kelly is on her way back to Fort Worth, I would not have traded this time with her for anything!

While she was here, we read 2 Peter together on Tuesday and yesterday we read Jude. It is amazing that God in His grace has given us these warnings of false prophets, false teachings so that we will not be led astray. Lies and manipulation are hallmarks of this world but for those who are in Christ we know that Christ is Light and Truth. May we continue to walk and shine Christ’s Light!

I am thankful for the meals Kelly and I were able to share with Nathan. It is beautiful to see how much Kelly and Nathan get along. Truth be told, when I first met Nathan I thought that he and Kelly would be really good together and they both said, “NO!” While I am NOT a camper, mountain climber like Nathan and Kelly, I am glad they can encourage each other in these shared experiences and interests. Kelly helps me to understand Nathan by giving me a different perspective.

What I love the most about my friendship with Kelly is that even though we have very different interests, our friendship is deeply rooted in our love and passion for Christ and others. I am also thankful and humbled that Kelly sees the love that I have for her and for Nathan. I am SO thankful for the opportunity to have hosted and served Kelly and in return, I am SO thankful for how Kelly brought love, joy and the fruit of the Spirit to encourage and bolster me!

Lord God, thank You for the incredible gift of friendship. Relationships are messy and I KNOW that I am not always an easy person to love so thank You for Your grace and mercy that You give to me and give to others who love, live and deal with me!

Lord God, thank You for Kelly. Thank You for her heart to visit Nathan and I before heading to the Dominican Republic. Lord God, prepare Kelly for the Dominican Republic and prepare the Dominican Republic for her. Lord God, prepare the family Kelly will be staying with for her and prepare Kelly for the family. Lord God, make Kelly’s efforts successful! Lord God, use this time to refresh, restore and renew Kelly. Lord, use Kelly to bring life to others as she brings life to me. Lord God, thank You for the friendship that You are cultivating between Kelly, Nathan and I. Thank You and praise You Lord that we all get along and that we love and care for each other as brothers and sisters in Christ.

Lord God, thank You for this reader. Lord God, may they have a friend who sticks closer than a brother. May they be a friend to others even when it is messy and difficult. Lord God, for the reader who may not want friends or does not have close friends, Lord God, send me, send a believer into this person’s life. You have NOT called us to do life alone. Lord God, for those of us who are bent more toward solitude convict our hearts that You have wired us for community.

Lord God, thank You again for Kelly! May Kelly be Your Hands and Feet no matter where she is, no matter what work she is doing. Lord God, help all of us to be more like Christ. In Jesus’s Name I pray. Amen.

Watchmen

The word of the Lord came to me: “Son of man, speak to your people and say to them, If I bring the sword upon a land, and the people of the land take a man from among them, and make him their watchman, and if he sees the sword coming upon the land and blows the trumpet and warns the people, then if anyone who hears the sound of the trumpet does not take warning, and the sword comes and takes him away, his blood shall be upon his own head. He heard the sound of the trumpet and did not take warning; his blood shall be upon himself. But if he had taken warning, he would have saved his life. But if the watchman sees the sword coming and does not blow the trumpet, so that the people are not warned, and the sword comes and takes any one of them, that person is taken away in his iniquity, but his blood I will require at the watchman’s hand. 

“So you, son of man, I have made a watchman for the house of Israel. Whenever you hear a word from my mouth, you shall give them warning from me. If I say to the wicked, O wicked one, you shall surely die, and you do not speak to warn the wicked to turn from his way, that wicked person shall die in his iniquity, but his blood I will require at your hand. But if you warn the wicked to turn from his way, and he does not turn from his way, that person shall die in his iniquity, but you will have delivered your soul” (Ezekiel 33:1-9 ESV).

In verse 2, Alter translates watchman (qal, participle, ms, absolute) as lookout and “the connotation is clearly military: he is the person posted in a tower on a height to look out for and warn the people of approaching armies, as the prophet sees and warns of impending disaster” (The Hebrew Bible: A Translation with Commentary vol 2, 2019, p. 1151).

The trumpet that is used to warn the people is the shofar or ram’s horn (v 3, see pictures above). The shofar was used to muster troops, warn of attacks and was also used in religious ceremonies to call the people of Israel together (for example: Ex 19:16; Lev 23:24; 25:9). The shofar is mentioned more than any other instrument in the Bible at 72 times. “It is the only instrument of ancient Israel which survives in its original form and is still used in Jewish liturgy” (W. Elwell and B. Beitzel, “Music and Musical Instruments” BEB, 1988, p. 1510).

For the person who failed to hear Ezekiel’s shofar blast of impending doom, their blood was on their own head. Had the person taken the lookout’s warning seriously, they would have saved their life (vv 4-5). This person’s death is solely upon that person, not the watchman!

Now, if the watchman/lookout sees calamity approaching and does not blow the shofar warning people, and that person dies in their sin, the blood of that person the Lord will require from the hand of the watchman (v 6). The Lord reminds Ezekiel again of his divine calling (see Eze 3:17) to warn the house of Israel (v 7) of the coming destruction of Jerusalem. Again, the Lord says that if he fails to warn people of the coming destruction “retribution will be extracted from him” (Alter, p. 1152).

The Lord says to Ezekiel again that if he warns the wicked person and they do not take heed to his warning, the person will die in their sins; however, Ezekiel will have delivered his soul (v 9). Ezekiel, the watchman/lookout is NOT responsible how the message is received, he is responsible to deliver it!

Believers in the Lord Jesus Christ have MUCH to warn others about today. As Cooper states, “Warning others of the consequences of judgment inherent in sin is never a popular assignment. Believers have a duty to be “watchmen” who warn those who are in the world and are without God of the destructive nature of sin and its final irrevocable result—death and hell (33:1–33). Our responsibility is to warn and proclaim as persuasively as possible, but how the message is received is beyond our control” (Ezekiel NAC, 1994, p. 294).

It is the responsibility of every believer to be diligent watchmen and lookouts. We live in an extraordinary time where end time events are beginning to unfold like never before. In a world that celebrates conformity, tolerance and acceptance of all kinds of evil; may we be watchmen and lookouts blowing the shofar that God’s Wrath and Judgment are coming and that unbelievers need to repent and be saved because sin itself will not spend eternity in hell, but rather unrepentant sinners.

Lord God, help us to keep watch, to be on the lookout and to warn sinners that You are real and that You will not be mocked. Lord God, help each believer to understand they are called to be a watchman and a lookout. This is a serious responsibility. While there are many things that we can blow the shofar about geopolitically, economically help us to not lose sight of proclaiming the Good News of Jesus Christ and that the Kingdom of God is at hand! Lord God, help us to love You and Your Word and Truth more than this world and its message of lies. Help us to conform to You and not this world. Thank You Lord for this reader! May our lives glorify You today. In Jesus’s Name I pray. Amen.

 

Psalm 119:73-80

Photo by Tara Winstead on Pexels.com

Yodh

73  Your hands have made and fashioned me; 

give me understanding that I may learn your commandments. 

74  Those who fear you shall see me and rejoice, 

because I have hoped in your word. 

75  I know, O Lord, that your rules are righteous, 

and that in faithfulness you have afflicted me. 

76  Let your steadfast love comfort me 

according to your promise to your servant. 

77  Let your mercy come to me, that I may live; 

for your law is my delight. 

78  Let the insolent be put to shame, 

because they have wronged me with falsehood; 

as for me, I will meditate on your precepts. 

79  Let those who fear you turn to me, 

that they may know your testimonies. 

80  May my heart be blameless in your statutes, 

that I may not be put to shame! 

ESV

The psalmist begins this stanza with a statement of confidence and trust. “As the Lord originally formed the first human (Gen 2:7), so the psalmist asserts that the Lord’s hands made and formed him…He wants to learn from the one who fashioned him and who knows him completely, so he calls on the Lord to give him understanding that will enable him to learn what he has commanded. He needs understanding from God if he is to learn God’s word” (D. Estes, Psalms 73-150 NAC, 2019, p. 418).

The foundational truth of life, whether one likes it or not, is that God made us, God formed us, God established us. The psalmist is absolutely certain of this truth; thus, he prays asking the Lord to give him understanding (hiphil, imperative, 2ms with 1cs suffix). This is a verb of causation. The psalmist is asking the Lord to cause him to have understanding. God is the Agent causing this not the psalmist. Ross states, “[this] is a prayer for God to finish his work of creation: God made us for a purpose, and to fulfill that purpose we need spiritual understanding to learn God’s commandments…In the psalmist’s mind, since God made him, God must instruct him. And because of the crises that he faced in life, he realized his need for understanding was urgent if he was to live blamelessly (v. 80)” (A Commentary on the Psalms 90-150 KEL, 2016, p. 528).

Those who see the psalmist’s faith and hope in the Lord’s Word will rejoice (v 74). The psalmist is “confident that how he responds to the Lord will prompt others to praise the Lord as well” (Estes, p. 418). Often times the afflictions and sufferings that believers undergo are not for the person experiencing it but for those around the person to see the Lord. Like Job, may we seek to suffer well when the Lord has us in times of affliction, suffering and hardship so that others may see and praise Him.

In verse 75 the psalmist knows that Lord’s rules/judgments are right and that He is faithful in affliction (see verse 67). “The affliction he has been experiencing came from God, even though it was through arrogant oppressors…Nothing is said in this stanza about the affliction being a punishment for sin. While that may be a possibility, it is more likely the affliction was God’s way of testing him for obedience. Those who understand the ways of God know that ultimately it is his plan to exalt the righteous and destroy the wicked, but that in his wisdom he often humbles the righteous before exalting them” (Ross, p. 529).

The psalmist earnestly asks the Lord that His covenant faithfulness comfort him (v 76). The psalmist (as he has done throughout this psalm) refers to himself as servant and makes his appeal on the basis of the Lord’s promise (covenant). Next the psalmist petitions the Lord for His mercy to come to him, that he can live (v 77). The psalmist wants the Lord to end his affliction; however, “even in affliction the psalmist delights in God’s law—the divine test has proven his faith, and so now it is time for relief” (Ross, p. 531).

The psalmist asks for the arrogant/insolent people to be put to shame for the wrong they are causing him by speaking lies/falsehoods (v 78). “As the arrogant focus on speaking falsehoods against him, the psalmist focuses his attention on meditating on God’s truth. For the arrogant truth is dispensable, but for the psalmist it is indispensable because his life is shaped by God’s word as he assimilates it through the process of meditation…The psalmist longs for the Lord to give to the arrogant the shame they have attempted to inflict on him…” (Estes, p. 419).

The psalmist as he did in verse 74 asks the Lord for those who fear Him to see his faith and know the Lord’s testimonies (v 79). “Because the psalmist feels alone in adversity, he longs for others who like him revere the Lord to come alongside him in his time of affliction ([in v 63] the psalmist states that he is a friend of all who fear the Lord). This is fellowship built on shared commitment to the Lord and his word” (Estes, p. 419).

The psalmist ends this stanza asking for his heart to be blameless and that he not be put to shame (v 80). The psalmist wants his heart to be pure and blameless so that he may obey God. “Godly living throughout the Bible begins in the heart and works out into transformed behavior; it is not a cosmetic makeover that tries to produce the appearance of godliness through actions that are not prompted by a heart devoted to the Lord” (Estes, p. 419).

May we honor and obey the Lord by our walk matching our talk. May we be wholeheartedly devoted to obeying Christ rather than giving into fear of being put to shame for our hope and faith in Christ.

Lord God, Your Word never ceases to amaze me. Lord God, help us to know Your Word, to study Your Word and to apply Your Word. Lord God, may we never forget that good theology moves from the head, to the heart to the hand. Lord God, there is SO much deception in our world today, may we hold EVERYTHING we read, hear and see up to the light of Scripture!!!! Lord God, thank You that as You have made, formed and established this world, so have You made, formed and fashioned us! Lord God, cause us to understand Your Word. Holy Spirit, convict us and help us to understand and apply Your Word! Stir in us a desire to learn Your commandments!

Lord God, may those who come in contact with us rejoice in You. May we manifest the fruit of Your Spirit regardless of our circumstances. Lord God, as harassment and hatred for Christians increases, may we be like the early church counting it all joy to be worthy to suffer for Christ. I know this is easier said than done. Lord work on my heart to suffer well for You hoping in Your Word! Lord God, we know that affliction produces endurance, help us to depend on Your strength. Lord may we cling to Your hesed. May we hold fast to Your Covenant Faithfulness knowing that You will never do anything that violates who You are and how You work.

Lord God, may we be servants who comfort others as You have comforted us. Lord, thank You and praise You that Your Goodness and Mercy are never far from us. Lord, may we delight in Your Word until You call us home. May we never forget that vengeance is Yours. Thank You Lord that someday when You see fit You will hold all those who have persecuted Your people throughout time accountable. In the meantime, may we again be a people who show and tell about You to this dark and dying world. Lord God, may we choose to obey You. May we choose to be holy as You are holy. May we choose to keep our hearts pure for You, obeying You regardless of what it costs. May we fear being separated from You, disappointing You, not in a works based righteousness way, but because we love You and want to please You. Thank You Lord for this reader. Fill them with Your grace and truth today so that they may glorify You wherever You have them today. In Jesus’s Name I pray. Amen.

Sunset August 20, 2021

Sunset. August 20, 2021. Photo taken by Mandy Sweigart-Quinn

The Mighty One, God the Lord,
speaks and summons the earth
from the rising of the sun to its setting.
Out of Zion, the perfection of beauty,
God shines forth
(Psalm 50:1-2 ESV).

Nathan, PQ and Gary are cat fishing, which means I get a Friday night to myself. What a gift to marvel at the majesty of God. In the midst of all the chaos, do not lose hope dear reader, the Triune God is in control.

Lord God, thank You that You control when the sun rises and when it sets. Thank You Lord that while nightfalls here, day is breaking and in full swing elsewhere. Lord God, no two sunrises and sunsets are the same, each day is unique whether we realize it or not. Thank You Holy Trinity that Your mercies are new each morning. Lord God, for the one who reads this at night, may they rest well in Christ. Lord God, for the one who reads this in the daytime, may they walk in the light of Jesus, being a light to all they meet. Lord God, thank You that nothing that happens under the sun catches You unaware. Lord God, may we never lose sight that one day soon we will see Jesus, our King, in His Beauty ruling and reigning in Zion. Thank You Lord for today! In Jesus’s Holy and Majestic name I pray. Amen.

Sunset. August 20, 2021. Photo taken by Mandy Sweigart-Quinn.
Sunset. August 20, 2021. Photo taken by Mandy Sweigart-Quinn.

Psalm 119:65-72

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Teth

65  You have dealt well with your servant, 

O Lord, according to your word. 

66  Teach me good judgment and knowledge, 

for I believe in your commandments. 

67  Before I was afflicted I went astray, 

but now I keep your word. 

68  You are good and do good; 

teach me your statutes. 

69  The insolent smear me with lies, 

but with my whole heart I keep your precepts; 

70  their heart is unfeeling like fat, 

but I delight in your law. 

71  It is good for me that I was afflicted, 

that I might learn your statutes. 

72  The law of your mouth is better to me 

than thousands of gold and silver pieces.

ESV

Five lines in this stanza begin with the word good (ṭôb). In verse 65 the psalmist remembers how the Lord has dealt well (ṭôb) with him in the past. “As he reviews how the Lord has dealt with him in the past, he recognizes that the Lord has treated him well. What the Lord has done has lined up with what he has said, as he has been true to his promises” (D. Estes, Psalms 73-150 NAC, 2019, p. 416). The Lord will never deal with us in a manner that violates His Character, Word and Covenant.

After remembering what the Lord has done in the past, the psalmist in verse 66 commands/petitions the Lord to teach (piel, imperative 2ms with 1 cs suffix) him good judgment and discernment. The Lord’s judgment is always best; hence why the psalmist is an eager student of the Lord, believing in His commandments. What the psalmist is asking here “is a practical prayer for spiritual growth and not just the best information” (A. Ross, A Commentary on the Psalms (90-150) KEL, 2016, p. 523).

The psalmist reflects on his past commitment to the Lord and reveals that before he was afflicted he went astray (v 67). Estes notes the Hebrew word for astray “šgg likely speak[s] of inadvertent sin. He then was afflicted by God, a process that had led to his repentance and restoration…The Lord used the pain of adversity to purge the psalmist of his waywardness, and he has now returned to keep the Lord’s word” (Estes, p. 417).

The Lord is good and He does good (v 68a). The Lord doing good is a hiphil, participle whereby the Lord is always doing good. The psalmist again petitions to be taught (piel, imperative, 2ms with 1cs suffix) His statutes (68b). “This teaching could come through the ministry of priests who were to teach the laws of God (Deut. 33:10); but it could also include the LORD’s impressing the reality and significance of his word on the heart of the psalmist in times of meditation (see Ps. 16:6–7)” (Ross, p. 524).

In verses 69-70 the psalmist contrasts the insolent smearing him with lies to his keeping the Lord’s precepts with his whole heart. “The hostility of the arrogant people who have afflicted the psalmist creates a contrast to the Lord’s goodness” (Estes, p. 417). The psalmist also compares the heart of the insolent as unfeeling or gross with fat but that he delights in the Lord’s torah (law/instruction). The psalmist’s “value system is totally antithetical to theirs…They are diseased, but he is robust and well. They are insensitive, not feeling or caring about what matters to God; but the psalmist delights in God’s instruction” (p. 417).

And here in verse 71 the psalmist has his Job moment (see 42:1-6), proclaiming how it was good for him to be afflicted so that he could learn the Lord’s statutes. Affliction often keeps pride away, it humbles and teaches us how to depend on the Lord. We learn how sufficient His Word is in times of trials and hardships. Robert Alter states, “Suffering impels reflection, which in turn leads the sufferer to embrace God’s teaching as the guide to turning his life around” (The Book of Psalms: A Translation with Commentary, 2007, p. 425). Estes continues this stating, “[The psalmist’s] painful route through the school of hard knocks likely took a significant amount of time, but the psalmist has come to rejoice in the precious results in his life produced through adversity (cf. Jas 1:2–4)” (p. 417).

The psalmist ends this stanza with language similar to Proverbs where wisdom/torah has infinitely more value than riches (v 72 see Proverbs 3:14; 8:10; 16:16). The psalmist knows firsthand how nothing is better than the Lord and His Word. Gold and silver do not do good, only Yahweh Himself is good and does good. “[T]he Lord is implicitly viewed here as the teacher of wisdom and the psalmist as the student who has chosen to value the words of the Lord his teacher above all the material riches craved by the world” (Estes, pp. 417-418).

Lord God, may we say along with Job and the psalmist that it was/is good for us to be afflicted so that we might know Your Word. Lord God, may we crave Your Word more than riches. Lord, while affliction is never pleasant nor easy may we never forget how Jesus suffered. Lord God, may we not make light of others suffering, may we be quick to listen and hear about the sufferings of others. Lord God, may we not dwell on our sufferings but glorify You through them. As You know Lord this world is becoming more and more hostile and insolent to Your people. Lord God, may we NEVER forget that You are Good, You do Good and that You will never cease being who You are. Lord God, may the person reading this who does not know Christ seek Him today while there is still time. For the reader who is in Christ, Lord God may they remember how You dealt well with them in the past and may they seek to be Your student and servant in the present. Lord God, thank You and praise You for this reader. Lord may we love and honor You well. In Jesus’s Name I pray. Amen.