Generally speaking, we don’t like to be told what to do. If we are told to wear our seatbelts, even if we know it’s good for us, it makes us mad just to be told. If we are told to enjoy eating ice cream something inside us goes, “Don’t tell me to enjoy eating ice cream, thank you very much.”
But we need to see instruction—good instruction, necessary instruction—as a gift, as grace to us, even as lack of instruction would be miserable.
When I started my first job out of college, I was not given a whole lot of instruction, especially at first. I was working in construction, and I kept finding myself assigned to projects were I was way over my head. Projects where I needed help. It seemed as if we had the policy “figure it out for yourself.”
That was really hard of a young graduate. I wanted to do well, I wanted to get things right, I was motivated, but I needed helped more help and guidance.
Friends, nothing reveals and proves true friendship, true fidelity to someone, like a willingness to suffer with or for him. I will often say that I’m truly thankful for the ever growing hostility our culture manifests toward Christianity. “How so?” you may ask. Well, I’m thankful because it ultimately clarifies our actual situation. It more fully reveals who’s really a follower of Jesus Christ.
When it is easy—or even beneficial!—to call yourself by the name of Christ then many people will pour into local churches and jump into membership classes, but when it costs them something—comfort, pleasure, reputation, career success—then play-believers stop coming, and the true Church become ever more visible.
So rejoice when you’re counted worthy to share in the sufferings of Christ since it reveals something of the authenticity of your faith.
As the deer pants for the water brooks, so my soul pants after you, God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When shall I come and appear before God? My tears have been my food day and night, while they continually ask me, «Where is your God?» These things I remember, and pour out my soul within me, how I used to go with the crowd, and led them to the house of God, with the voice of joy and praise, a multitude keeping a holy day. Why are you in despair, my soul? Why are you disturbed within me? Hope in God! For I shall still praise him for the saving help of his presence. My God, my soul is in despair within me. Therefore I remember you from the land of the Jordan, the heights of Hermon, from the hill Mizar. Deep calls to deep at the noise of your waterfalls. All your waves and your billows have swept over me. Yahweh will command his loving kindness in the daytime. In the night his song shall be with me: a prayer to the God of my life. I will ask God, my rock, «Why have you forgotten me? Why do I go mourning because of the oppression of the enemy?» As with a sword in my bones, my adversaries reproach me, while they continually ask me, «Where is your God?» Why are you in despair, my soul? Why are you disturbed within me? Hope in God! For I shall still praise him, the saving help of my countenance, and my God. Vindicate me, God, and plead my cause against an ungodly nation. Oh, deliver me from deceitful and wicked men. For you are the God of my strength. Why have you rejected me? Why do I go mourning because of the oppression of the enemy? Oh, send out your light and your truth. Let them lead me. Let them bring me to your holy hill, To your tents. Then I will go to the altar of God, to God, my exceeding joy. I will praise you on the harp, God, my God. Why are you in despair, my soul? Why are you disturbed within me? Hope in God! For I shall still praise him: my Savior, my helper, and my God.
Ascribe to Yahweh, you sons of the mighty, ascribe to Yahweh glory and strength. Ascribe to Yahweh the glory due to his name. Worship Yahweh in holy array. Yahweh’s voice is on the waters. The God of glory thunders, even Yahweh on many waters. Yahweh’s voice is powerful. Yahweh’s voice is full of majesty. The voice of Yahweh breaks the cedars. Yes, Yahweh breaks in pieces the cedars of Lebanon. He makes them also to skip like a calf; Lebanon and Sirion like a young, wild ox. Yahweh’s voice strikes with flashes of lightning. Yahweh’s voice shakes the wilderness. Yahweh shakes the wilderness of Kadesh. Yahweh’s voice makes the deer calve, and strips the forests bare. In his temple everything says, «Glory!» Yahweh sat enthroned at the Flood. Yes, Yahweh sits as King forever. Yahweh will give strength to his people. Yahweh will bless his people with peace.
I said, «I will watch my ways, so that I don’t sin with my tongue. I will keep my mouth with a bridle while the wicked is before me.» I was mute with silence. I held my peace, even from good. My sorrow was stirred. My heart was hot within me. While I meditated, the fire burned: I spoke with my tongue: «Yahweh, show me my end, what is the measure of my days. Let me know how frail I am. Behold, you have made my days handbreadths. My lifetime is as nothing before you. Surely every man stands as a breath.» «Surely every man walks like a shadow. Surely they busy themselves in vain. He heaps up, and doesn’t know who shall gather. Now, LORD, what do I wait for? My hope is in you. Deliver me from all my transgressions. Don’t make me the reproach of the foolish. I was mute. I didn’t open my mouth, because you did it. Remove your scourge away from me. I am overcome by the blow of your hand. When you rebuke and correct man for iniquity, You consume his wealth like a moth. Surely every man is but a breath.» «Hear my prayer, Yahweh, and give ear to my cry. Don’t be silent at my tears. For I am a stranger with you, a foreigner, as all my fathers were. Oh spare me, that I may recover strength, before I go away, and exist no more.»
Hear my voice, God, in my complaint. Preserve my life from fear of the enemy. Hide me from the conspiracy of the wicked, from the noisy crowd of the ones doing evil; who sharpen their tongue like a sword, and aim their arrows, deadly words, to shoot innocent men from ambushes. They shoot at him suddenly and fearlessly. They encourage themselves in evil plans. They talk about laying snares secretly. They say, «Who will see them?» They plot injustice, saying, «We have made a perfect plan!» Surely man’s mind and heart are cunning. But God will shoot at them. They will be suddenly struck down with an arrow. Their own tongues shall ruin them. All who see them will shake their heads. All mankind shall be afraid. They shall declare the work of God, and shall wisely ponder what he has done. The righteous shall be glad in Yahweh, and shall take refuge in him. All the upright in heart shall praise him!
Yahweh reigns! Let the peoples tremble. He sits enthroned among the cherubim. Let the earth be moved. Yahweh is great in Zion. He is high above all the peoples. Let them praise your great and awesome name. He is Holy! The King’s strength also loves justice. You do establish equity. You execute justice and righteousness in Jacob. Exalt Yahweh our God. Worship at his footstool. He is Holy! Moses and Aaron were among his priests, Samuel among those who call on his name; they called on Yahweh, and he answered them. He spoke to them in the pillar of cloud. They kept his testimonies, the statute that he gave them. You answered them, Yahweh our God. You are a God who forgave them, although you took vengeance for their doings. Exalt Yahweh, our God. Worship at his holy hill, for Yahweh, our God, is holy!
Oh clap your hands, all you nations. Shout to God with the voice of triumph! For Yahweh Most High is awesome. He is a great King over all the earth. He subdues nations under us, and peoples under our feet. He chooses our inheritance for us, the glory of Jacob whom he loved. God has gone up with a shout, Yahweh with the sound of a trumpet. Sing praise to God, sing praises. Sing praises to our King, sing praises. For God is the King of all the earth. Sing praises with understanding. God reigns over the nations. God sits on his holy throne. The princes of the peoples are gathered together, the people of the God of Abraham. For the shields of the earth belong to God. He is greatly exalted!
I cry with my voice to Yahweh. With my voice, I ask Yahweh for mercy. I pour out my complaint before him. I tell him my troubles. When my spirit was overwhelmed within me, you knew my path. In the way in which I walk, they have hidden a snare for me. Look on my right, and see; for there is no one who is concerned for me. Refuge has fled from me. No one cares for my soul. I cried to you, Yahweh. I said, «You are my refuge, my portion in the land of the living.» Listen to my cry, for I am in desperate need. deliver me from my persecutors, For they are stronger than me. Bring my soul out of prison, that I may give thanks to your name. The righteous will surround me, for you will be good to me.
Praise Yahweh! Sing to Yahweh a new song, his praise in the assembly of the saints. Let Israel rejoice in him who made them. Let the children of Zion be joyful in their King. Let them praise his name in the dance! Let them sing praises to him with tambourine and harp! For Yahweh takes pleasure in his people. He crowns the humble with salvation. Let the saints rejoice in honor. Let them sing for joy on their beds. May the high praises of God be in their mouths, and a two-edged sword in their hand; To execute vengeance on the nations, and punishments on the peoples; To bind their kings with chains, and their nobles with fetters of iron; to execute on them the written judgment. All his saints have this honor. Praise Yah!
Do you indeed speak righteousness, silent ones? Do you judge blamelessly, you sons of men? No, in your heart you plot injustice. You measure out the violence of your hands in the earth. The wicked go astray from the womb. They are wayward as soon as they are born, speaking lies. Their poison is like the poison of a snake; like a deaf cobra that stops its ear, which doesn’t listen to the voice of charmers, no matter how skillful the charmer may be. Break their teeth, God, in their mouth. Break out the great teeth of the young lions, Yahweh. Let them vanish as water that flows away. When they draw the bow, let their arrows be made blunt. Let them be like a snail which melts and passes away, like the stillborn child, who has not seen the sun. Before your pots can feel the heat of the thorns, he will sweep away the green and the burning alike. The righteous shall rejoice when he sees the vengeance. He shall wash his feet in the blood of the wicked; so that men shall say, «Most certainly there is a reward for the righteous. Most certainly there is a God who judges the earth.»
When Israel went forth out of Egypt, the house of Jacob from a people of foreign language; Judah became his sanctuary, Israel his dominion. The sea saw it, and fled. The Jordan was driven back. The mountains skipped like rams, the little hills like lambs. What was it, you sea, that you fled? You Jordan, that you turned back? You mountains, that you skipped like rams; you little hills, like lambs? Tremble, you earth, at the presence of the LORD, at the presence of the God of Jacob, who turned the rock into a pool of water, the flint into a spring of waters.
An oracle is within my heart about the disobedience of the wicked: «There is no fear of God before his eyes.» For he flatters himself in his own eyes, too much to detect and hate his sin. The words of his mouth are iniquity and deceit. He has ceased to be wise and to do good. He plots iniquity on his bed. He sets himself in a way that is not good. He doesn’t abhor evil. Your loving kindness, Yahweh, is in the heavens. Your faithfulness reaches to the skies. Your righteousness is like the mountains of God. Your judgments are like a great deep. Yahweh, you preserve man and animal. How precious is your loving kindness, God! The children of men take refuge under the shadow of your wings. They shall be abundantly satisfied with the abundance of your house. You will make them drink of the river of your pleasures. For with you is the spring of life. In your light shall we see light. Oh continue your loving kindness to those who know you, your righteousness to the upright in heart. Don’t let the foot of pride come against me. Don’t let the hand of the wicked drive me away. There the workers of iniquity are fallen. They are thrust down, and shall not be able to rise.
Hear, Yahweh, my righteous plea; Give ear to my prayer, that doesn’t go out of deceitful lips. Let my sentence come forth from your presence. Let your eyes look on equity. You have proved my heart. You have visited me in the night. You have tried me, and found nothing. I have resolved that my mouth shall not disobey. As for the works of men, by the word of your lips, I have kept myself from the ways of the violent. My steps have held fast to your paths. My feet have not slipped. I have called on you, for you will answer me, God. Turn your ear to me. Hear my speech. Show your marvelous loving kindness, you who save those who take refuge by your right hand from their enemies. Keep me as the apple of your eye. Hide me under the shadow of your wings, from the wicked who oppress me, my deadly enemies, who surround me. They close up their callous hearts. With their mouth they speak proudly. They have now surrounded us in our steps. They set their eyes to cast us down to the earth. He is like a lion that is greedy of his prey, as it were a young lion lurking in secret places. Arise, Yahweh, confront him. Cast him down. Deliver my soul from the wicked by your sword; from men by your hand, Yahweh, from men of the world, whose portion is in this life. You fill the belly of your cherished ones. Your sons have plenty, and they store up wealth for their children. As for me, I shall see your face in righteousness. I shall be satisfied, when I awake, with seeing your form.
Yahweh says to my LORD, «Sit at my right hand, until I make your enemies your footstool for your feet.» Yahweh will send forth the rod of your strength out of Zion. Rule in the midst of your enemies. Your people offer themselves willingly in the day of your power, in holy array. Out of the womb of the morning, you have the dew of your youth. Yahweh has sworn, and will not change his mind: «You are a priest forever in the order of Melchizedek.» The LORD is at your right hand. He will crush kings in the day of his wrath. He will judge among the nations. He will heap up dead bodies. He will crush the ruler of the whole earth. He will drink of the brook in the way; therefore he will lift up his head.
If it had not been Yahweh who was on our side, let Israel now say, if it had not been Yahweh who was on our side, when men rose up against us; then they would have swallowed us up alive, when their wrath was kindled against us; then the waters would have overwhelmed us, the stream would have gone over our soul; then the proud waters would have gone over our soul. Blessed be Yahweh, who has not given us as a prey to their teeth. Our soul has escaped like a bird out of the fowler’s snare. The snare is broken, and we have escaped. Our help is in the name of Yahweh, who made heaven and earth.