Psalm 5: In the Morning You Hear My Prayer

As I continue my slow stroll through the Psalms, I’m struck by the way the Psalmists weave God into the “ordinary” rhythms of the day — what some have called “the offices of prayer.” Psalm 4 ends with the Psalmist logging off at the end of the day, trusting that he will lie down and rest safely in the presence of YHWH. Following the Hebrew pattern of the new day beginning with evening (see Genesis 1, “and it was evening and morning, the first day,” etc.), it is fitting that Psalm 5 is a morning Psalm, greeting the Lord with gladness after an evening’s rest.

O LORD, in the morning you hear my voice; in the morning I prepare a sacrifice for you and watch.

Psalm 5:3

I also appreciate the way David confidently asserts that he “will enter your house (v7).” Though others boast and make evil, David trembles in the temple of the LORD (v7) and follows His lead (v8). David’s opposition to the ungodly may strike some as unloving, and perhaps this is true. But we should remember that David’s remarks are contextualized as praise. His devotion to His God prompts David to ardently oppose those who mock YHWH with their transgressions.

For you bless the righteous, O LORD; you cover him with favor as with a shield.

Psalm 5:12

We read this in light of the New Testament, understanding that the Lord has richly blessed those whom He has made righteous — by the blood of His Son.

Questions for reflection:

  • How would my life change if my first thought upon rising in the morning was directed to the Lord?
  • What must it be like to enter God’s house (v7)?
  • How does Psalm 5 impact your prayer life?
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Key West

We also made the drive from Miami to Key West, which was a really pretty drive. We spent a day in Key West; here are some of our pictures and a video I shot while I was taking part in one of the street performer’s “acts” at Mallory Square.

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Marlins Park

Our family visited Marlins Park in Miami as part of our vacation last week. We had a great time, but I wouldn’t rank it very highly on my list. I’ll have a revised stadium rankings list coming up soon. Until then, here are a few pics from our game.

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Psalm 4: I Lie Down in Peace

Psalm 4 is traditionally understood as an evening Psalm, a prayer for bedtime. This is because of the powerful closing line, found in verse 8:

In peace I will both lie down and sleep; for you alone, O LORD, make me dwell in safety.

Psalm 4:8, ESV

The Psalmist exudes confidence that Yahweh not only hears his plea, but hustles to answer by bringing relief. He has known the goodness of God, His favor characterized as “the light of your face” shining down (v6). Upon recalling God’s history of faithfulness, the Psalmist is able to rest at night, knowing that the world is in good hands — in God’s hands.

Perhaps this word could be a blessing to you, a breath prayer for the darkest time of the night when your mind is racing and rest seems elusive. Maybe, like the Psalmist, you would find solace in recounting God’s long track record of faithfulness toward His people — and toward you in particular. And perhaps in this recollection, you would know the peace of God that would allow you to both lie down and sleep, to truly rest in His eternal safety.

Questions for reflection:

  • What stands out to you most as you read Psalm 4?
  • When was the last time you drew strength from recounting God’s track record of faithfulness?
  • What keeps you awake at night?
  • How does Psalm 4 impact your personal prayer life?
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Psalm 3: Arise

The heading for Psalm 3 indicates the setting: when David fled from his own son, Absalom. I was immediately struck by how difficult this must have been for David. When your own son is trying to take your life, you know you have a lot of enemies.

Yahweh, how many are my adversaries; many people are rising up against me.

Psalm 3:1 (The First Testament)

But David calls on Yahweh to rise up also, to match those who rise up in opposition to him. (Note: this is how Goldingay translates “Selah” in this Psalm, rendering it as “Rise.”) There is something that really resonates with me here, the image of David pleading with God to rise up in his defense.

But you, O Lord, are a shield about me, my glory, and the lifter of my head.

Psalm 3:3 (ESV)

There is a devotional song set to these lyrics; it’s one of my favorites. But I’m reminded that it’s one thing to sing these words on a mission trip or in the confines of the church house. It’s quite another to sing them in the context in which they were originally written: in the midst of one’s enemies.

Rise up, Yahweh, deliver me, my God,

Because you’ve struck all my enemies on the jaw; you’ve smashed the teeth of the faithless.

Psalm 3:7 (The First Testament)

I love David’s confidence in God’s willingness to rise against his foes. In fact, that’s the tenor of David’s line in verse 5:

I myself have lain down and slept; I’ve woken up, because Yahweh sustains me.

Psalm 3:5 (The First Testament)

David rises to meet each new day confident in God’s mighty deliverance. No doubt he rises this way each morning because he has seen how God always rises up to save him from his enemies. This is the unexpected blessing of adversity. Difficult seasons provide us the opportunity to learn of God’s faithfulness and His provision. If things were always sunshine and buttercups, we’d never know God’s promise to never leave us nor forsake us. We’d never have occasion to see Him rise up in our defense.

Questions for reflection:

  • What stands out to you most as you read Psalm 3?
  • When have you implored God to “rise up” in the same way David does in Psalm 3?
  • Does David come across as demanding in Psalm 3? Or simply confident in God’s deliverance?
  • How does Psalm 3 impact your prayer life?
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Psalm 2: The Lord’s Anointed

Continuing a series of posts on the Psalms using the ESV but also Jon Goldingay’s “The First Testament.”

The first thing I noticed was another reference to “murmuring” in v1 of Goldingay’s translation:

Why have nations crowded together, and peoples murmur about something empty…

Psalm 1:2, The First Testament

In Psalm 1, the idea was that the one who delights in Yahweh’s instruction murmurs teaching night and day. Here the reference is to peoples who murmur empty words. That’s an interesting contrast.

The nations plot and murmur their empty words, conspiring against Yahweh and his anointed (His Messiah).

But the Lord mocks this (v4-5); He makes fun and ridicules them before terrifying them with His rage. Yahweh announces that He has established His king in Zion. And this is what He says: “You are my son. Today I have fathered you.

And the Psalm ends — no doubt this is the point — with a call for the nations to repent, to turn to Yahweh and His anointed. This was the end result of Messiah’s ministry: an opportunity for the Gentiles to accept the lordship of Jesus.

Serve the Lord with fear, and rejoice with trembling.

Psalm 2:11, ESV

Acts 4 shows us that this was a key text for the earliest believers. They understood the persecution of Jesus as the fulfillment of (or at least being congruent with) Psalm 2. Revelation 19 seems to allude to this as well, as the beast and the kings of the earth gather their armies to war against the Messiah. Psalm 2 is the first text Paul directly quotes in his address in Antioch as recorded in Acts 13. He sees the resurrection of Jesus as the demonstration of the line, “You are my Son; this day I have begotten you.” This is clearly a key OT text, given how many times it is referenced in the new covenant.

Eugene Peterson (I think) says that Psalms 1 & 2 prepare us for prayer, while Psalm 3 gets us into the work of praying. Maybe there’s something to that. Maybe prayer must begin with the assumption of Psalm 1 — that the blessed life is lived in the delight of Yahweh’s law; that this is the key to roots than run deep and fruit that endures. And maybe prayer must focus all of its energy on the assertion of Psalm 2 — the King in Zion as the one to be feared above all else.

May these two Psalms prepare us for the work of prayer.

Questions for reflection:

  • What is it about Psalm 2 that led the early church to see it as such an important Christological text?
  • How can you “serve the Lord with fear, and rejoice with trembling” (2:11)?
  • How does Psalm 2 impact your prayer life?
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Rewatching LOST: Season One, Episode Four

Last night, we watched episode four, the first Locke-centric episode of the series. It’s pretty cool seeing some of the Locke themes playing out even in this first flashback. I was always struck by his, “Don’t tell me what I can’t do!” Watching now, all his talk of “destiny” strikes me as a bit of an eyeroll, but Terry O’Quinn perfectly embodies the “true believer” that sets up much of the “man of science / man of faith” dynamic in later seasons.

I was also struck by how early on the writers were planting seeds about those who were in the rear of the plane at the time of the crash (later dubbed “the Tailies.”) Rose’s firm belief that Bernard was still alive was ultimately validated and, in this way, she stands as something of a parallel to Locke, who becomes the Island’s resident mystic. But Rose receives a decidedly happier ending than old John Locke will.

Other random thoughts:

  • I really think they could’ve done something interesting with Boone’s storyline. He’s the young buck looking for a father figure and I wonder who he would’ve turned toward as a surrogate. Locke? Despite their Season One connection, I think not. Maybe Jack? It’s easy to see how this would provide a narrative pallet for Jack to work out his own daddy issues. In another iteration of this series, I could see Boone (rather than Hurley) bearing the mantle at the end, becoming the Island’s next caretaker.
  • Speaking of Hurley, I just love his character. Such a great addition to the cast. I once heard that Jorge Garcia originally auditioned for the part of Sawyer. Of course, even though he didn’t win that part, the producers loved him so much that they basically wrote a role for him.
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Psalm 1: Delight in the Law

I’m beginning a new blog series today, simply working my way through the Psalms. I invite you to join me in reading one Psalm each day for the next 150 days. Who knows how richly God will bless us through such simple mustard seed faithfulness!

The translations I’m using through this series are my trusty ESV but also Jon Goldingay’s “The First Testament.” It’s a fairly recent translation from a leading Old Testament scholar. But there’s a freshness to the language here that is really helping me as I read through passages both familiar and unfamiliar.

Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked…

but his delight is in the law of the LORD, and on his law he meditates day and night.

He is like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither.

Psalm 1:1-3 (ESV)

Psalm 1 speaks of the flourishing life, an idea Jesus develops further in the Sermon on the Mount’s Beatitudes. The Psalmist tells us that true flourishing occurs when we delight in the instruction of God (Goldingay uses the personal name, “Yahweh.”) This blessed one “murmurs about [Yahweh’s] instruction day and night” (The First Testament translation of Psalm 1:2).

The metaphor of an established tree bearing fruit in season further develops the idea of flourishing. This is straightforward enough: human flourishing cannot occur apart from the wisdom and instruction of Yahweh. This calls to mind what Jesus says in John 15, Apart from me you can do nothing.

Some questions for reflection:

  • Am I delighting in the instruction of the Lord? Or do I find my greatest delight elsewhere?
  • Do I truly believe that human flourishing is impossible apart from the wisdom and instruction of Yahweh?
  • Read John 15:1-5. What does Jesus mean when he says that apart from Him, we can do nothing?
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Rewatching LOST: Season One, Episode Three

Secrets abound in episode three: the hiking party decides not to inform the rest of the group about the French distress call they picked up on the transceiver; Jack and Hurley discover Kate’s secret as a convict. And we get the full flashback treatment for which the show was so well known, a bit of Kate’s backstory in Australia.

Some thoughts about this episode:

  • The chemistry between Jack and Kate is evident in these early episodes; but there is darkness as well. It’s kind of heartbreaking when Kate comes back and says to Jack, “I need to tell you something,” but instead of coming clean about her identity, she simply tells Jack about the French distress signal. This scene is a bit of a microcosm of their relationship through the entire series.
  • I love Sawyer’s banter with Jack in the plane fuselage, especially when he says, “I’m in the wild.” Josh Holloway really does make the show the way he plays Sawyer.
  • This episode really sets the tone for Kate as a fugitive / heroine. Not only does she put the oxygen mask on the Marshal before the crash, she also rescues Ray (the Australian farmer) from the car crash even after he turned her in. This actually led to her capture by the Marshal, which is how she ended up on Oceanic 815 in the first place. So even though the island represents redemption and a fresh start for Kate, it was actually heroic actions that led to her predicament in the first place.
  • Locke rescuing Vincent and giving him to Michael is a great John Locke moment and it sets up the next Locke-centric episode.
  • When Jack tells Kate at the end of the episode, “Three days ago, we all died,” people understandably read quite a bit into his statement, positing that our castaways were stuck in some sort of purgatory.
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Rewatching LOST: Season One, Episodes One and Two

My daughter and I are rewatching our favorite show, LOST. We first watched it together about four or five years ago, but we’ve decided to start it again from the beginning. I want to log some of my thoughts about the show here since I originally posted so much about the show’s final season back ten or twelve years ago.

These first two episodes, titled Pilot (Part 1) and Pilot (Part 2) launch the show’s mythology right from the start. Both episodes originally aired as a supersized premiere and you have it all here: Jack, the hero; Sawyer, the antihero; Kate, the runaway; Locke, the mystic; Boone, the protege; Claire, the pregnant lady; Charlie, the coward; Hurley, the everyman; Sun and Jin, the strained couple; Michael and Walt, the father and son. The premise was so simple in the beginning: what would happen if total strangers were stranded on a desert island and no one came to rescue them?

Some thoughts on the premiere:

  • I didn’t love Jack’s storyline the first time I watched this series. But when I watched it with my daughter a few years ago, I really appreciated him so much more. I found myself thinking, “If I were in this situation, I’d probably do what Jack is doing right here.”
  • Sawyer’s hair in the premiere: ugh. But taking down the polar bear with a handgun is far and away the coolest moment of the entire episode. And in true Han Solo style, he never flinches. So awesome.
  • I love how we’re immediately introduced to the creepiness of the smoke monster. I also love Michael Giacchino’s cinematic score. It’s one of the best things about the series.
  • Locke’s conversation with Walt about the game that’s better than checkers is one of the foundational scenes for the series. It telegraphs so much of what is happening at the meta-level with this show: two players, two sides, one is light, one is dark, the oldest game in the world. And Locke seems clued in to the mysteries of the island before anyone else.
  • Hurley is so great. In these early episodes (and even later), he serves as a proxy for the audience, giving voice to the questions we’re asking as we watch. But part of the fun of this show is seeing how his storyline develops. As we know, by the end, he will be the new caretaker of the island.
  • The Boone and Shannon storyline is flat from the start. I’m guessing the producers could sense that and decided to write them out early on in the series. With fourteen actors receiving star billing in Season One, the herd needed to be thinned out eventually anyway.
  • Charlie gets the best line to conclude the episode: “Guys, where are we?” And with that, we were all hooked.
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