|Photo (2009) by Toby Hudson|
Saturday, June 27, 2020
As regular readers of this blog may know, I often have detailed and vivid dreams. Recently, however, I awoke with no memory of a dream, but only with four words in my mind: Honey – Beth – Best – Staff.
I had no idea what this meant, particularly since I don’t know anyone named Beth, or what the Lord might be trying to tell me, until my husband and I began our daily devotional readings. The first passage designated for that day was from Psalm 119, including the portion labeled “Beth” in our King James Version Bible!
This Psalm is not only the longest book in the Bible, but also a stunning example of God’s literary craftsmanship and design. Its twenty-two stanzas each contain eight verses and are each subtitled with one of the twenty-two letters of the Hebrew alphabet, in alphabetical order. Each verse begins with the same letter for which the stanza is named.
Not surprisingly, Psalm 119 is all about God's Word, praising it, urging us to love it and meditate on it, and to learn from its laws and commandments. God bringing the “Beth” stanza of Psalm 119 into our daily reading encouraged me to consider in the context of the Psalms the meaning of the four words He summoned into my mind.
“Honey,” the first word in my dream phrase, is first mentioned in the Psalms in Chapter 19, which praises God’s law, testimony, statutes, and commandments. We are to observe these in fear of the Lord, meaning in an attitude of respecting and revering His judgments (Psalm 19:7-8).
Normally we think of judgments as being punishments, yet this Psalm says that they are true and righteous, more desirable than much fine gold, and sweeter than honey and the honeycomb. Why? Because they warn us of how not to sin against God, and if we keep them, we will be richly rewarded (Psalm 19: 9-11).
Blessings, like honey, often come in unexpected settings. Samson found honey in the carcass of a lion he had slain with his bare hands (Judges 14:5-9), suggesting that sometimes we must endure great trials before we can enjoy the rewards of victory. The struggle itself makes the blessing that much sweeter, like a spoonful of honey a mother gives her sick child after he swallows the bitter medicine.
The sweetest blessing and reward anyone could have is salvation and eternal life, given freely to all who trust in the death, burial and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 15:1-4) as the only Way to Heaven (John 14:6). Before we tasted of the Lord’s goodness (Psalm 34:8), we were His enemies, hating Him and rebelling against Him. But His infinite love for us is shown in His death for us even when we were His enemies, reconciling us to Holy God and giving us eternal life (Romans 5:10).
Once submitted to Him, He will satisfy even His enemies with the finest wheat, for He is the bread of life, and with honey out of the rock (Psalm 81:10-16), for He is the Rock of our salvation (Psalm 18:2,48; 62:2-7; 89:26; 95:1).
BETH (Psalm 119:9-16).
Psalm 119:9 Wherewithal shall a young man cleanse his way? by taking heed thereto according to thy word.
10 With my whole heart have I sought thee: O let me not wander from thy commandments.
11 Thy word have I hid in mine heart, that I might not sin against thee.
12 Blessed art thou, O Lord: teach me thy statutes.
13 With my lips have I declared all the judgments of thy mouth.
14 I have rejoiced in the way of thy testimonies, as much as in all riches.
15 I will meditate in thy precepts, and have respect unto thy ways.
16 I will delight myself in thy statutes: I will not forget thy word.
This stanza explains that following God’s Word is our best defense against sin, and that joy comes from incorporating it into our being! We must study it, for it reveals God and His ways and character. We must treasure it, share it with others through our witness, meditate on it, and delight in it.
Later on in Psalm 119, verse 103 reminds us that God’s Word is sweeter than honey to our mouth. If we fill our heart and mind with this sweetness (Philippians 4:8), rather than with the bitter poison of sin and negativity, it will overflow into our speech and actions, refreshing others like a pure fountain or spring (James 3:11).
Surprisingly, there is only one mention of the word “best” in the Psalms: Behold, thou hast made my days as an handbreadth; and mine age is as nothing before thee: verily every man at his best state is altogether vanity. Selah. (Psalm 39:5).
This is not using the word in a positive context, but rather is a warning against placing any stock in our own strength. God is infinite and eternal (Hebrews 13:8), whereas our physical life disappears like a puff of smoke (James 4:14). Even at our “best” we are nothing in comparison to Him (Psalm 8:4). He gives us our very life, our next breath, our salvation, and the best gifts, namely spiritual gifts, all of which pale beside His infinite love (1 Corinthians 12:31-1 Corinthians 13).
How can we therefore make the best use of the limited lifespan He has allotted to us, as well as of the time, talents, treasure and spiritual gifts He has distributed to us? By thankfully accepting and following His correction, according to these four words He placed in my mind. In what seems to be hardship and judgment there is great blessing, when He uses it to shape us into His image (Philippians 3:10).
Just as a loving father disciplines his children for their own good, a shepherd guides His sheep by getting their attention with the rod and staff. The word “staff” in the Psalms first appears in Psalm 23, the Shepherd’s Psalm:
4 Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.
We don’t normally think of being poked with a rod or pulled along with the crook of a staff as being a comfort, but David in his darkest hours recognized the healing and restoring power of God’s loving hand of correction, as expressed in the above verse. We can take solace in the pain, knowing that we are saved thereby even from the power of death. God is our loving Father Who corrects His children when we drift off His narrow path into harm's way (Hebrews 12:5-11).
Jesus Christ is the Good, Great, and Chief Shepherd (John 10:11-18; Hebrews 13:20; 1 Peter 5:4), guiding us when we, as sheep, have gone astray (Psalm 119:176; Isaiah 53:6; Matthew 18:12). With His staff He will lead us through the valley of the shadow of death, not leave us helpless or hopeless within it. As we pass through that valley we find goodness and mercy, and as we emerge from it we will dwell in the house of the Lord forever (Psalm 23:6).
The only other mention of “staff” in Psalms is in Psalm 105:16, referring to another type of judgment, with the Lord calling for a famine upon the land and breaking the whole staff of bread. This is a reminder that God provides for our physical nourishment through bread, which is the staff of life; and for our spiritual sustenance through His Word, which is the staff of spiritual life. We would starve if He were to withhold bread from us, but our worst judgment comes from being deprived of hearing His Word.
Honey – Beth – Best – Staff reminded me that the sweetest blessings can come from God’s Word, not only as a source of comfort, but as a correction when we stray far from His chosen path. May we hide His Word in our heart, that we would not sin against Him!
Saturday, June 20, 2020
As the United States prepares to celebrate Father's Day, we honor our fathers by remembering their love and provision for us. Unlike our heavenly Father, no earthly father is perfect, but we can give thanks to God for the blessings they have given us and the lessons they have taught us.
King David set a Godly example for his son Solomon to follow as a believer in God, as a wise man, and as a ruler over God’s people. Despite David’s sins, beginning with idleness, then snowballing into lust, adultery, and deception, and culminating with murder (2 Samuel 11), he was a man after God’s own heart (Acts 13:22), showing genuine repentance and asking God to cleanse him of his sins (Psalm 51:7-17). If God could forgive and use David so powerfully, there is hope for every one of us!
During his reign, David defended God’s chosen people against her enemies, honored God in his daily walk, and provided Solomon with what he needed to build God’s temple, including precious metals, building materials, and semiprecious stones. His example inspired similar gifts, offerings and service for God’s house from the chief of the fathers and princes of the tribes of Israel, the captains of thousands and of hundreds, and the rulers of the king's work (1 Chronicles 29:1-8).
Moved by the willingness of his people to serve God, David blessed, praised and thanked God for His greatness, abundant provision, and power. He recognized that he and his people were strangers, sojourners, and mortal before the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Israel (1 Chronicles 29:9-16). Even though the Israelites were God’s chosen people, they had to be saved through faith before God could call them His friends, for faith is the common theme underlying salvation through all periods of Biblical history (Hebrews 11:6).
Obedience is the outward sign of faith, which is why “trust and obey” go hand in hand (1 Samuel 15:22; John 14:15,21; 15:10). As a missionary recently preached at our church, when Jesus tells you to do something, just do it! (John 2:5). David prayed that his people would always be willing to serve God, that they would prepare their hearts to receive Him, and that Solomon would have a perfect heart, to keep God’s commandments, testimonies, and statutes; to do all that God would have him do, and to build the palace (1 Chronicles 29:17-19).
Again following David’s lead, the people prayed to God, worshipped Him, and offered Him burnt offerings and drink offerings, in addition to the material sacrifices that they donated to build His house. They celebrated the transition in leadership from David to Solomon by joyfully feasting before the Lord, a second time making Solomon to be king, and anointing Solomon to the Lord to be the chief governor, and Zadok to be priest. As Solomon sat on the throne of the Lord as king, all the princes, the mighty men, and all David’s sons obeyed the new King Solomon (1 Chronicles 29:20-24).
David’s shortcomings prove that he is human and a sinner like all others (Romans 3:23) and that the Bible is true, rather than glossing over weaknesses of heroes of the faith (Hebrews 11). Despite David’s sins, he left a Godly legacy for Solomon, his nation, and for all of us to learn from by reading God’s Word. God rewarded David’s faithfulness by answering his prayers for Solomon.
The Lord magnified Solomon exceedingly in the sight of all Israel, and bestowed upon him such royal majesty as had not been on any king before him in Israel. Of the forty years that David had reigned over Israel, seven years (the number of perfection or completion) were in Hebron, and thirty and three years in Jerusalem. David’s reign, marked by longevity, riches, and honor, was recorded in the books of Samuel the seer (wise man or sage), Nathan the prophet, and Gad the seer (1 Chronicles 29:25-30).
Even if we are not rulers or in positions of power or leadership, may we be like David, good stewards over what the Lord has entrusted to us. Once we realize that we are sinners saved by God’s grace through our faith (Ephesians 2:8-9) in the death, burial and resurrection of His Son Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 15:1-4), He immediately blesses us with forgiveness of sins (1 John 1:9), eternal life (John 3:16), and abundant life (John 10:10). May we share Him with our families (Acts 11:14; 16:31) so that they too accept God’s freely given gift of salvation!
Our inheritance as children of God (1 John 3:1), joint-heirs with Christ (Romans 8:17), and part of His bride (Revelation 21:2) includes opportunities to serve Him as His stewards (1 Corinthians 4:2), fellow-workers, and ambassadors (2 Corinthians 5:20). May we be an example of faithfulness, obedience, and honoring God to our children, families and those who come behind us. May we always remember to thank, praise and worship God for His abundant blessings to us, our family, and our nation!
© 2016 Laurie Collett
Edited and reposted from the archives