Alarmed? Love the Lord Resolutely   (Psalm 31, Pt 2)

Have you ever noticed how fear feelings can distort perceptions? If you’ve ever awakened out of a nightmare you know what I mean. Finally awake, you realize there is no actual danger. Yet the feelings keep you dwelling on the horrible thoughts and the thoughts generate more fear feelings. To rid yourself of the anxiety you might have to get up, turn on a light, and read for awhile–all over a scary dream.

In genuine danger we need to take prudent action. But any time we remain in fear, bad guys look badder, darkness looks darker, problems look bigger and solutions smaller. It seems we are all alone and no one can help. This is a factor in Post Traumatic Stress (PTS) fear responses.

In Psalm 31 David wrote about a time when he felt “alarm.” In other words, he felt panic, panic from threat of serious harm. People were plotting to kill him. This wasn’t a just a nightmare. The threats were real.

He was “in distress;… wasted away from grief.” He had “become a reproach” to his neighbors, “an object of dread to my acquaintances.” Abandoned, even shunned by those who used to be his friends, he was “forgotten as a dead man.” So people who used to be his friends were ignoring him as though he didn’t exist. How humiliating! He says, “I am like a broken vessel”–useless, treated as trash. Furthermore, neighbors had slandered him, painting scurrilous graffiti on his broken vessel. David had no one who cared to help him! This is a picture of traumatic stress. (9-13)

If David applied principles in Psalm 31 in the midst of real danger, how effective might they be to apply in situations where the danger is not real and immediate, like Post Traumatic Stress, panic attacks, nightmares, and other extreme fear situations.

Beware of misperceptions.

The threat was real, but his response led him to a conclusion that was not. Have you ever been in David’s shoes? Perhaps at some time, “distress[ed]” with panic or “sighing” in despair of relief, you have said what David said,

As for me, I said in my alarm,
‘I am cut off from before Your eyes (22a)

It seemed that like everyone else in his life, God had either pushed him away or could not see him whirling in the tornado of slanders, schemes, and terror. How did he reach his false conclusion about God? He listened to his panic feelings and his perceptions were distorted. Not only did the bad guys look badder, it looked like his one last Friend had abandoned him, too.

Don’t obey your feelings.

In the last battle of the 1977 Star Wars movie, Obi Wan Kenobi tells the hero, Luke, “Trust your feelings.” Mr. Kenobi gave horrible advice. Feelings often lie. Fear is a powerful twister of perspective, in part because it focuses our attention on ourselves for self-preservation. Don’t trust your feelings.

What did David do with his feelings and the misperceptions they generated? He put on truth.

Nevertheless You heard the voice of my supplications
When I cried to You. (22b)

“Nevertheless…” required going against feelings. “My feelings say ____, nevertheless…” Circumstances indicate that God has abandoned me, nevertheless I choose to believe the truth: God listens and cares. “Nevertheless” required willful choice.

Love the Lord Resolutely.

David doesn’t tell the reader of his panic “alarm” until way down in verse 22, but it apparently happened before he set pen to papyrus. Why wait? He first applied his own counsel, then wrote about it in this psalm. As a result, he began with his own commitment. Then his future readers, you and me, don’t have to wait for the solution. We meet it coming in the door: “In Thee, O Lord, I have taken refuge” (v. 1). 

In the previous post, I highlighted what David knew about God that made his trust well-placed.

  • The Lord saves powerfully.
  • The Lord loves graciously.
  • The Lord rules sovereignly.
  • The Lord stores goodness generously.
  • The Lord listens compassionately.
  • The Lord avenges justly.

No wonder David cries out,

O love the Lord, all you His godly ones!  (23a)

David loved God! He loved Him by believing Him. Trust expresses love for the Lord. How so? It believes the best about Him and believing the best is one characteristic of love (1 Cor. 13:7).

Fear opposes love. In the Roman arena, two gladiators could not simultaneously wear the victor’s wreath. Fear and love are like two gladiators. When fear dominates, love shrivels to the ground. When love overcomes, fear flees. To put off fear, put on love, love for God and others. Love for God corrected David’s perceptions. He remembered that,

The Lord preserves the faithful,
And fully recompenses the proud doer. (23b)

Again, Love the Lord Resolutely.

What principles are true for us today? No matter the appearance of the situation, trust in God is well-placed. His children can cry out to Him and know with all confidence that He hears and cares and rules the situation. Rejecting fear, we can and must love the Lord by believing Him. We love Him by believing the truth about Him that He tells us.

  • Does your situation seem beyond improvement? The Lord saves powerfully.
  • Do circumstances seem too harsh to take? The Lord loves graciously.
  • Does it seem that a bad outcome is inevitable? The Lord rules sovereignly.
  • Does it seem like your trial has no purpose? The Lord stores up goodness generously.
  • Does it seem like God is far away? The Lord listens to His children compassionately.
  • Does it seem like offenders are getting away with wrong-doing? The Lord avenges justly.

How can you apply Psalm 31 to fight fears?

Are fear reactions a problem for you? If so, you might be wondering what practical difference love for the Lord will make. I don’t know your particular situation, so here are a few wide-angle ideas:

Repent and be saved. To love Him, you must first be one of His “godly ones” because you cannot claim these promises if you aren’t. A godly one is also called, “the faithful.” One who is “faithful” faithfully trusts God. It is done like David did, only by grace alone through faith alone in his deliverer alone. You cannot be “the faithful” if you are not trusting in God for your salvation from yourself, your sin, and God wrath.

Don’t try to “cope.” This is man’s approach. Coping sets the bar way too low. Walking with God means more than mere coping, far more and far better. It means overcoming fears. We are commanded to turn from man’s ways, not to them.

Seek the glory of God more than your self-preservation. This one commitment takes your eyes off of you and your fears and moves you to doing what expresses love for God, even if you have fear feelings.

Think the best of God. Love thinks the best of others (1 Cor. 13:7). Psalm 31:19 says”How great is Your goodness!” Despite appearances to the contrary, the “godly one” will agree and be glad.

Put off lies. Beware of distorted perceptions. Don’t believe your feelings. Fears and sorrows can, and usually do, twist our thinking so that we believe things to be true that are not. If necessary, ask someone else to help you clarify the truth. Do your feelings tell you that God seems distant and your prayers go nowhere? The Bible says that God is everywhere, and that He hears the prayers of His children (1 John 5:14-15). Pray anyway, because talking to God demonstrates love for Him.

Put on true thoughts. Meditate on Scripture. Actively praise God. Sing hymns and (doctrinally rich) spiritual songs. Speak well of God to others.

 

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Top Ten Posts for 2018

I appreciate you readers. Please accept my thanks for reading this blog in 2018. I hope that the posts have been encouraging and edifying to you.

As I look at the top ten posts this year and review those in past years it seems that, at least as far as what I happen to have available, interests lie along a few repeated themes. Those are marriage, hearing from God and the subjective or mystical, and the seeming lack of conscience in some children. Among other possible observations, all three relate to intimacy in family relationships and intimacy with God.

10. God Still Speaks – Discussion After Josiah’s Fire. What began as a book review turned into a series, answering rebuttals to the review. This is the first of the series, a good place to start for an introduction.

9. They Say He Has No Conscience. The idea that some people lack a conscience is commonly accepted. “Normal” people feel remorse for doing wrong. Since perpetrators of extreme evil do not they must be mentally ill or not even have a conscience. But is this what the Bible teaches? This post is best read with its partner post, How can they be so remorseless?.

8. He…thought of me above all?. This is an attempt to remind us of who God’s plan of redemption, kingdom, and glory is really about.

7. Josiah’s Fire. This is a book review that, due to pushback, led to a series on hearing from God subjectively. Serving up the attraction of warm, fuzzy sentiments and titillating claims that a little autistic boy visited heaven, talked with the dead, and heard from God frequently, this book promotes trusting one’s subjective experiences and undermines the doctrines of the authority and sufficiency of Scripture and the person and work of Christ.

6. No Trust, No Love. Really? It is a popular notion that a person cannot love another unless they first trust him or her. Trust is, in certain relationships, extremely important and enhances love, but can it be justified as a necessary prerequisite before you can love another? This post is one of a series. The related posts will set it in a broader context.

5. A Purpose for Marriage: Oneness The last half of Genesis 2 emphasizes Adam’s aloneness and then the glorious and delightful oneness of he and Eve. Oneness in marriage is important to God and essential to a happy, God-glorifying marriage.

4. Parenting the Difficult Child  This page introduces my book and gives some background on it that is not in the book. The book is being used by parents whose children are often disobedient and oppositional. Additionally, it appeals to adoptive parents and parents whose children behave according to the psychological label Reactive Attachment Disorder. While psychologists have helpfully categorized behaviors under a label, their views and solutions are a mix of what the Bible already teaches and what is not biblical. Part of this book contrasts this man-made view with the Word of God and, in doing so, sets the Christian moving into biblical thinking about other psychology-constructed models.

3. The Secondary Primary Purpose of Marriage: Companionship  Everyone who marries does so for a reason, often not realizing that God has purposes for marriage far more important than ours. Living for God’s purposes rather than our own transforms how we view our communication, decision-making, sex, child-rearing, finances, socializing, and relational conflicts. Taking God’s view for our own will change our behaviors, which usually results in a more satisfying relationship with one’s spouse. The pleasure and glory of God is more important that our satisfaction, so I recommend: The Ultimate Purpose of Marriage: Image-Bearing.

2. Marriage: Procreation is Important, But Not Primary Some people believe that the primary purpose for marriage is procreation. Others say the primary read for sex is procreation. Regarding the latter position, Genesis 2 emphasizes the “one flesh” of marriage (which includes sex) a whole chapter before Eve conceived a child, which seems to imply sex expressing oneness in relationship more than use for procreation. The “family” is husband and wife; children are secondary and temporary. First Corinthians 7 ties sex to the relationship, saying nothing about children, and indicates that sex is to continue apart from children. Sex is intended for joy and intimacy in marriage. See more in the post.

1. An Unloved Woman  What does Proverbs 30 tells us about a woman who has experienced significant rejection? What is likely to happen if she marries? Is there hope for change?
I’m not sure why this post hit number 1 this year. Is there something that especially attracted you to it? I welcome your comments.

I wish you a 2019 full of God’s grace and peace!

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Alarmed? Trust the Lord knowledgeably. (Psalm 31)

Read news headlines and you’ll find plenty to concern you. Headlines announce riots in France, water shortages in the West, another ebola death, stocks plunging again, and tech companies monitoring us through our devices. Military, police, and security people face physical threats. Daily life provides plenty to cause concern–getting a job, not losing a job, health, infertility, medical bills, identity theft, conflict with a family member or boss, retirement, decisions our kids make, and worry when our children don’t follow Christ. It isn’t a question of whether a temptation to anxiety will come your way, it is a matter of when. Psalm 31 is one of many texts God has given for our comfort and guidance.

David, the author, understood the temptation to fear. Danger haunted him many times. He  barely escaped ambush, was literally hunted by the king and was nearly executed by his enemies in Gath. Family conflicts gave little peace. One son raped his own sister. Another murdered the rapist brother and then led a coup against his dad. Even in David’s old age, one son made an illegitimate grab at the throne. While we don’t know the exact occasion of Psalm 31, the situation David describes includes threats, physical affliction and “troubles of soul” (31:7-8). Neighbors had turned on him. People were avoiding him. Betrayed and abandoned, he heard many slandering and even scheming to kill him (11-13). He was in such distress and sorrow that his body was deteriorating; he felt sick (9-10). He describes himself as broken and alarmed (12, 22).

Would “broken” or “alarmed” ever describe you? Perhaps you have felt the threatened. Maybe someone has actually struck you. Maybe you’ve served in the police or military and actually faced gunfire. Maybe the threat is emotional, from betrayal, anxiety over a conflict, or hearing slander about yourself. David offers a wealth of counsel for dealing with such distresses. What does he say about how God would have us handle fear feelings?

Trust the Lord knowledgeably.

Humanly speaking, outnumbered and out-gunned, David doesn’t have a prayer, as they say. But wait! David does have a prayer–a prayer of faith. 

In Thee, O Lord, I have taken refuge.

A refuge is a place of safety and David’s opening words lock the door on his safe-house. He’s basically saying, “I trust You to save me and keep me safe.” It isn’t that David didn’t take prudent safety measures or that David never sinfully bypassed God to save himself. He even lied to a priest for bread, pretended to be insane to save his neck, and arranged another’s murder to save his own neck. But the pattern of his life was faith and obedience. For example, he didn’t take revenge or by fight authorities to save himself. And he grew in faith. This psalm shows that in danger he was committed not sin but to trust in God for the outcome.

Why does David think it makes sense to trust the Lord in a situation beyond his control? He knows the character of God. (This is why we need to study Scripture. Theology affects how we live.)

The Lord saves powerfully.

For Thou art my rock and my fortress…
Into Thy hand I commit [entrust] my spirit;
Thou hast ransomed me, O Lord, God of truth. (4, 6)

God is a granite fortress. No harm can touch a child of God unless God ordains it so (31:4, 8, 15, 20). “Ransomed,” David is one of God’s redeemed. God saved his life many times. (You can read about it in 1 Samuel.) David knows that God has such power that He can interfere and circumvent enemy plans. 

The Lord loves graciously.

David repeats,

I trust in the Lord.
I will rejoice and be glad in Thy lovingkindness,
Because Thou has seen my affliction. (6-8)

David knew that God saw his situation and cared about him. Why? Because faithful love is the very nature of Yahweh (Exod. 34:6-7). So despite his circumstances and feelings, David chose to rejoice over the loving faithfulness and compassion of God. His choice expressed his belief in God’s character.

The Lord rules sovereignly.

David repeats, 

As for me, I trust in Thee, O Lord.
I say, “Thou art my God.
My times are in Thy hand.
Deliver me from the hand of my enemies…” (14-15)

David was a strong believer in the sovereignty of God, that God superintends all things. “My times are in His hand” means that the events and experiences of each day are determined by God. David doesn’t fight it. He doesn’t get angry at God for the injustices God could have prevented. He doesn’t over value self-preservation and think, “Since no one else will then I have to protect myself. I need to set ‘boundaries.’” Rather, he submits to the fact that God has ordained that he suffer unjustly. He humbly asks God to do the protecting and providing.

The Lord stores goodness generously.

Despite his situation, David knew that God is good. He said,

How great is Your goodness,
Which You have stored up for those who fear You,
Which You have wrought for those who take refuge in You,
Before the sons of men! (19)

The goodness of an infinite God is a lot of goodness! That is what He stores up for the one who trusts Him rather than take matters into one’s own hands.

Since God is good it follows necessarily that He has only good reasons for what He ordains and that He will bring justice in the end, and that is sufficient.

But that’s not all.

The Lord listens compassionately.

Nevertheless You heard the voice of my supplications
When I cried to You. (22b)

As a loving father, God’s ears are attuned to the cries of anguish of of His hurting child. He does not ignore His children.

The Lord avenges justly.

The Lord preserves the faithful,
And fully recompenses the proud doer. (23b)

Because at the right time God enacts justice on enemies, David could leave vengeance to God and not try to control it himself.

Wait! David was suffering, and long enough and severely enough to be in anguish. How can a good and powerful God just step back and allow His beloved child to suffer? Why would God do such a thing? David doesn’t say why. Knowing that God is good and just, David did not need to know the “why.”

So, when feeling alarmed,

When fear, anguish, and grief clamor, “You’re all alone! No place is safe,” remember that feelings lie. Scripture does not and it tells us why God is infinitely worthy of our trust.

Trust the Lord knowledgeably. Willfully choose to trust the Lord who…

… saves powerfully.
… loves graciously.
… rules sovereignly.
… stores goodness generously.
… listens compassionately.
… avenges justly.

Posted in Attributes of God, Christian Living, Devotional, Psalms | Tagged

Duty by Grace

I didn’t want to go to the store for milk, but my husband needed it for breakfast next morning and it was my duty to get it. I didn’t want to trim shrubs, but it is my duty as a steward of our landscaping to get out there and care for the plants. I didn’t want to go visit _____, but loving others is a duty commanded in Scripture. I didn’t want to study for the next counselee, but it is my duty to rightly handle the Word of God and love her by service with excellence. I didn’t want to do acts of kindness to the person who acts as an enemy toward me, but it is my duty to love my enemies.

The word “duty” sometimes gets a bad rap. When we don’t feel like doing what we know is right, then we might view the word “duty” as equivalent to drudgery rather than joy, even legalism rather than grace. Is it?

Certainly, we can do our duty out of legalism, to earn merit with God. But consider this. Duty is a moral or legal obligation, a responsibility. A responsibility is something that is in accord with what is right, not wrong. When we consider that carrying out our God-given responsibilities is obedience to the King of heaven, why would we consider duty to be drudgery or legalism? Is it not because of how sin twists our perceptions, not because the obedience is actually legalism? After all, the King whom a Christian serves is compassionate, gracious, holy, perfectly just, and intent on blessing abundantly. God is love. Don’t this King’s commands show us how perfect He is, school us in our need for Him, and provide guidance on how we might show love for Him and be productive for His glory? His commands are grace to us. Instead of drudgery we should view it as a privilege to serve such a King!

The older I grow the more I see how God’s commands protect me from sin because they aren’t optional. If He says “be anxious for nothing” then that obligation upon me is the gate to freedom from the sin of worry! Obedience, sometimes very hard to do, produces joy. His commands are grace to us.

So, are duty and grace mutually exclusive? Titus 2:11-12 says,……

“For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all men, instructing us to deny ungodliness and worldly desires and to live sensibly, righteously and godly in the present age.”

Grace demands duty. The grace of God agrees with the law. Grace demands that the saved put off ungodliness and live “sensibly, righteously, and godly.” This is not legalism; it is fruit-bearing.

Duty requires grace. Fulfilling duty requires grace because obedience achieved by our own strength is merely humanistic self-improvement and is not pleasing to God. “Walk by the Spirit and you will not carry out the deeds of the flesh” (Gal. 5:16). We must live righteously, but we are dependent upon the Lord to will and work in us (Phil. 2:12-13). It is only by the Spirit’s enabling grace that we are motivated and empowered to practice the obedience that pleases God and grows a Christian in godliness. 

Like draft horses teamed in harness, Duty and Grace pull together carrying an increasing load of godly fruit toward home in heaven where it will delight our Father and heap glory upon our Lord Jesus for eternity.

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Trials are a Tool of the Potter (for missionaries, too)

(Today’s post is by Ruth Rising.)

IT SEEMS OBVIOUS but…

As a missionary, I know that I can run the risk of presenting myself to the people and churches who support me as someone who is mostly put together, who thinks rightly (most of the time) about things, who can put together fairly good visual presentations of the ministry I am in, who can write a prayer letter filled with what I want people to hear (leaving out the messy stuff), who can speak knowledgeably about the people I work with and the country I call my current home, etc. Social media also helps because I can present a very filtered picture of what I want people to see (currently, you might think my life is all about wildlife photography and a crazy labrador puppy, but obviously that is a very small slice of my life).

I believe that most people know better, but it seems that on occasion, people view me and other people in ministry as more than we are. This can lead to pride – or at least being tempted to pride if we choose to believe what people say.  While parts of the above list might be true some of the time; once people get to know me, they also know that I get easily frustrated, that I am often wrong about what I think I’m seeing, that I can be unnecessarily hard on people, that I struggle to be content at times and that I have a fairly selfish view of the world and how it should treat me (i.e… I should NEVER have to deal with long lines at the bank, very slow computers like the one I’m working on right now, or deal with irritating taxi drivers, or worse, slow drivers in the fast lane…ei yi yi!).

There are times when my head screams out, “Why am I here (at Bethesda, in SA, in ministry, in the world)?” or “Why don’t I or other people change (students, people around me, etc)?” or “How many times must I say the same thing before ‘they’ get it?” (you can tell I wasn’t a mother to a toddler!)

The truth is, and many before me have said it better, ministry can be a challenge and sometimes pushes me to the edge of what I think I can endure. That being said, the reality for me, is that usually what pushes me to the edge is not so much what God allows and ordains for my life but my response(s) to what He puts into my life. When I teach and teach and teach and I see very little change or people still just don’t get it, it’s easy to get angry, discouraged and almost flippant about who you are teaching or what you are teaching. In my head, and occasionally out of my mouth, I have said something like, “Whatever!  I’ve taught what they need to hear and if they don’t want to change or take it to heart, that’s their problem.”  Or, “I’ve been saying this over and over and it’s your fault if you don’t want to change or learn from it so the consequences are on you.” I do realize how horrible those sound and while they sometimes make perfect (horrible) sense in my head, they are shameful responses to what God has given me to do.

Now… no one reading this and who knows me need be deeply concerned, freak out, or wonder if something big and horrible is happening in my life right now – it’s not. But I’ve been here before…several times – and I know I’m not alone. Unfortunately, I am a slow learner. God has used those moments to reveal what is happening in my heart (mind). He uses these situations to lovingly show me what I have wrongfully assumed is more important than faithfully teaching His truth and leaving the results or the “success” in God’s hands where it belongs. God could justifiably shut my voice down or remove me from ministry and I hope and pray He doesn’t do that; but I need to be a learner – probably a faster learner! I need to pay attention and learn what He is teaching me and not avoid what He wants me to learn. If I (or others) deal with my frustration with emotional eating (wish I could say that has never happened…hello Pringles and Pizza!) or becoming super busy to distract myself for the purpose of not dealing with my sin problems – God will wisely keep the pressure on because He cares more that I learn and that I come to know who He is rather than merely making my life simple and personally fulfilling.

You don’t need to be in full-time ministry to understand what I am saying. Most mom’s, dad’s and teachers who routinely teach (and teach and teach and teach…) and train people could write this with as much or more experience and authority than I ever could. But the answer is the same – God is wise and He knows exactly what you and I need to make us holy and more like Him. Our response to trials and difficulties will either increase pain and anger in rebellion or increase the thankfulness and joy in growing to be like Christ.

So…It seems obvious but….

  1. God brings trials out of His love for us – to make us more like Him
  2. God cares about my holiness – not my comfort and ease of life (even though He gives those!)
  3. Putting myself in the place of God and demanding my version of “success” in ministry will never give me what I think it will (sin is deceitful like that….)
  4. Trusting God with what I cannot control (like the outcome of ministry) will ALWAYS bring joy and comfort from God (talk about grace!)

Proverbs 3:5-7 “Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not to your own understanding. In all your ways, acknowledge Him, and He will make straight your paths. Be not wise in your own eyes; fear the LORD, and turn away from evil.”

Psalm 135:6 “Whatever the LORD pleases, he does, in heaven and on earth, in the seas and all deeps.”

~~~~~~~~~~

Ruth has been a missionary in South Africa for the past 20 years serving in both church planting and child care ministries. Ruth is currently serving at Bethesda Outreach Ministries in Hammanskraal, South Africa. For several years she was the principal of their school, Jabulane Christian Academy and is now working in public relations, communications, and finance. At her church, she teaches a ladies Bible study, plays on the music teams, and does some counseling when needed.

Bethesda Outreach is a ministry who’s mission is to “glorify God by assisting local churches in orphan care through a working model of…Christian families magnifying Christ” and the training and encouraging of churches, pastors and parents in orphan care. They employ and train national, mature Christian couples as houseparents for homes for orphans. The elementary age children attend Bethesda’s school, Jabulane Christian Academy. See more at http://bethesdaoutreach.org.

Posted in Devotional, Suffering, Adversity | Tagged

Is Self-Esteem in Psalm 139?

It was in the 1970s that the self-esteem movement seriously infected the U.S. culture and grew to epidemic proportions. It didn’t take long for Christians, myself included, to catch the virus and claim the need for a higher self-esteem. To justify the concept as a Christian worldview many put forward proof-texts. One of those proof-texts is Psalm 139, especially verses 14-15: 

“I will give thanks to You for I am fearfully and wonderfully made…My frame was not hidden from Thee, When I was made in secret and skillfully wrought in the depths of the earth.”

This passage has been used to insist that the woman with low self-esteem is extremely valuable to God and, therefore, needs to feel better about herself. Now think about that: a woman who identifies her main problem as low self-esteem DEMANDS that Psalm 139 teaches that she has great worth.

Was David intending that Psalm 139:14-15 be used to teach people to think better of themselves? Such a proposition misses the point established in the very first verse of the psalm:

“O Lord, Thou hast searched…”

From the get-go it is obvious that the psalm is about God, not man. It is about God’s inestimable attributes–God’s omniscience, God’s omnipresence, God’s wisdom, God’s creative skill, and God’s providential involvement in the details of His work among men. The emphasis is God’s worth, not man’s.

This isn’t to argue whether or not man has value. I believe we do, but not to our credit because it is bestowed, not inherent. But as to rightly understanding Psalm 139, whether man has value is not the issue of Psalm 139. God’s perfections are the subject. 

Even if we use verses 14-15 to make a side-note on the value of man, it has to be taken in context. Psalm 139 proclaims the same message as the whole Bible: it is not for man to claim self value but for man to worship God in awe of God’s value. That is David’s direction. The wonder of how man is made is not for man’s benefit, but for God’s. David cites the amazingness of man’s formation as evidence of God’s greatness not his own, to build a high view of God not a high view of self.

How did David apply the truths in Psalm 139, including how amazingly man is made? To relate it to the modern emphasis on people esteeming themselves I’d like to observe also  what he didn’t do.

He didn’t meditate on his own worth. He meditated on the inherently precious value of God’s character, knowledge, and works. It is God’s thoughts, not his own, that David valued (139:17-18).

He didn’t claim significance. To David it was God’s reputation that mattered (139:19-22). 

He chose a low view of self. Esteeming oneself highly is what led Adam and Eve to the Fall. Self-esteem is just a psychologized, socially acceptable term for pride.

The response of David to the knowledge of God was the opposite. In light of God’s value David admitted his unworthiness to be esteemed. He agreed with God about reality. First, man is merely a creature, a created being totally inferior to the Creator. As Thomas Watson commented on Psalm 139:15,

“Thy being curiously wrought, may make thee thankful; but being made of the dust, may keep thee humble. If thou has beauty, it is but well-coloured earth. Thy body is but air and dust mingled together, and this dust will drop into the dust.” (Body of Divinity, 113)

Second, man is sinful. Acknowledging how prone he was to think too well of himself, David pled for God to open his eyes to his sin and to purify him (Ps. 139:23-24).

We are wonderfully made. The wonder of how we are made is evidence that God is awesome and worthy of all thanks, praise, and adoration. It is God who deserves our high esteem.

Posted in Christian Living, Psalms, Psychology/Psychiatry, Self-Esteem | Tagged ,