Thursday, April 28, 2016

A Timely Prayer from Psalm 45

Just last night, my husband and I were discussing with friends the current situation regarding all the caucuses and the political machinery that is marching towards the final choices for President that we will be offered this coming November. 

This morning, I opened up Bible Gateway to Psalm 45, where I “just happened” to be for today in my slow tour through the Psalms. Psalm 45 paints a picture of a godly king who leads with truth, humility, and justice. My Bible Gateway app also opened this psalm in The Voice translation, the version I “just happened” to using last night for something else. The Voice offered the following timely notes in the middle of Psalm 45:
“Whether we realize it or not, the overall wellbeing of a nation is tied directly to its leaders. When the leaders are just and make good decisions, then the welfare of a nation is secure. But when leaders are unjust and make poor decisions, and they pursue personal agendas rather than the public good, then nations suffer. This is why Scripture instructs those of faith to pray for all people everywhere, especially that those in authority would lead the world to dignity and peace (1 Tim 2:1-3).
Psalm 45 celebrates that rare breed, a godly king who pursues truth and justice…May the world witness a new breed of leader, fashioned in the image of this psalm.” 

In a season when many are concerned about who our next president will be and where our country is headed … at a time when many are wondering if they should even vote because of the choices that we are offered … it seems that Scripture calls us to pray for our leaders ---something that we should not neglect or underestimate. We need to pray fervently for whomever our next president will be.

Lord, I pray that you will fill Trump, Hillary, Sanders (or whomever else rises to the top of the list of candidates) with incredible wisdom…wisdom beyond their years, beyond their education, and beyond their experiences (James 1:5).

I pray you will give them the discernment necessary to know what is best for the people of this country (Prov 28:2).
I pray you will give them the strength and courage to do what needs to be done (Josh 1:7).
I pray you will give them the humility necessary to listen to you and to listen to those that you place around them who are able to guide them in a wise, discerning fashion (Ps 25:9).
As for this election, the future of this country and this world, I pray “your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven” (Matt 6:10).
I pray that each of these candidates and our future President will ultimately turn to you and serve you, the King of Kings, with their very lives and that they will speak your words and serve in your strength in order to bring you glory (1 Pet 4:11).
Finally, I pray that we will all “bring honor to your name in every generation. Therefore, the nations will praise you forever and ever” (Ps 45:17 NLT)

Thursday, April 7, 2016

Let Us Exalt His Name

This verse from Psalms sounds like it could be a formal call to worship, an invitation from the worship leader for the congregation to join him in singing songs of praise to God during the Sunday morning worship service. As a worship leader, this is my first thought. And of course, singing songs of praise together is a “fitting” thing for us to do (Ps 33:1). But when I read this verse this week, I began to contemplate what else that “let us exalt his name together” might mean for us.

“Exalt” is not a word that I generally use in daily conversation. According to Merriam-Webster, it means to “raise (someone or something) to a higher level; to praise (someone or something) highly; to present (something) in a way that is very favorable.”[1] According to this definition, exalting the Lord would certainly include singing songs of praise together, but what about that last part, about presenting something in a favorable way?

In thinking about what exalting the name of Lord means, I began to think about the flip side --- what does it look or sound like when we don’t exalt or lift up His name? We have phrases in the English language relating to the opposite of lifting or exalting someone’s name. If someone does something we don’t like, we may say that their name “is mud.” We may speak of dragging someone’s name through the dirt or the mud, which is when we “tell people about something bad that someone has done so that people will have a bad opinion of them.”[2] Do we ever drag God's name through the mud?

My first thought about this was the use of God's name as a curse word. In our culture, we often hear people calling for  God to condemn whatever displeases them. However, I don’t really think that people who use this word fully expect God to bring down curses on the car in front of them in traffic, or their frustrating circumstances, or whatever they are angry about, nor do I think it makes those who hear it think less of God.

While I do not like to hear the Lord's name used as a curse word, I think a more damaging way that we drag God’s name through the dirt instead of lifting it up is by saying things that are contrary to the truth about His nature ---when we say things like, “God is not really good, because if He was, He wouldn’t have let this happen” … or “God loves other people, but He doesn’t really love me or I wouldn’t be in this situation” … or maybe we say “God hates gays” (or women, or people with green hair, or whatever group). None of these things are true, and they certainly don’t invite others to think more highly of God.

While it is fitting for Psalm 34:3 to be used as an invitation to sing songs of praise together, I believe it is also an invitation to speak highly of God --regardless of our circumstances, regardless of our frustration level, and regardless of our personal opinions of others. This may not always be easy to do. As the writer of Hebrews put it, “let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise –the fruit of lips that openly profess his name” (Heb 13:15 NIV).

Whether sung or spoken, whether in sadness or in joy, may our words about the Lord be filled with praise, and may we be intent on lifting up His name in the sight of others, rather than dragging it down to our own level. May we constantly speak about how good, how loving, how faithful, how patient, how merciful, how creative, how holy, and how amazing our God is, especially in front of those who don’t know Him, and so I say…

“Glorify the Lord with me; let us exalt his name together” (Ps 34:3 NIV).

[1], “exalt”