Psalm 108 – Ways to Win the Warfare

We were playing a board game. I wasn’t doing so well, but being the peace loving and peace making sort that I am, I merely proclaimed that I would vanquish them all anyway because God was on my side. Obviously in the light of such bold proclamations I finished up in last place. 

The Bible has violence and has a stream of military and conflict language throughout. It is unavoidable. The man after God’s own heart was a man marked by military exploits. It’s no surprise then that there’s a Psalm that goes from the place of praise to the place of conflict. Unsurprisingly, some will jump on this as corroboration for a bloodthirsty God. Others will cling to this as reason to claim is on their side in their own conflict – and it does not have to be military at all. 

What’s often missing in these thoughts and proclamation is the relationship that underpins everything. Hearing what God has to say on a matter is pivotal in this Psalm. Knowing this Word in the context of His plans for His people I’d critical. Understanding His heart in these affairs is the engine driving the action. 

By the time we reach the exultant climax of the piece, this is not reason for us to hope that God will get rid of a boss we don’t like or help us in warfare against another country. This is about what God wants triumphing over all who oppose it. That should lead us to wonder what God really wants. That should prompt us to explore a relationship with Him to really know Him, love Him for His beauty, wonder, holiness and righteousness. 

That way we  can flow from the place of praise to the purpose He has for us to see His Kingdom come and will done on earth as it is in heaven. A purpose that sees His enemies conquered even as they were on the cross, in the grave, in the empty tomb and in an exalted Saviour at the right hand of the Father. 

It will also stop us from thinking it will give us the win in a board game. 

For His Name’s Sake 

Shalom 

C. L. J. Dryden 

You Ever Come Across That Psalm …

Hey, why didn’t you tell me about it?

There are 150 chapters in the book of Psalms. That’s a lot of chapters.

For all that, it is still quite something to come across a Psalm and be truly dazzled by it. One way to relate is a scenario I’m sure you’re very familiar with. You read a great book that you haven’t come across and you go and rave to a friend about the book that you never came across before. Then that friend turns around and say they’ve read it and you’re like, ‘How can you have read that and not told me about it? What’s that all about? I thought we were friends! What was that for?’

It’s like someone should have told me about Psalm 86. At least Psalms should have told me about Psalm 86, but it’s as if no one told me about it. Then recently I come across it, I read it and it’s like, ‘wowsers, how long has that beauty been there and I haven’t noticed?’. It’s the sort of psalm that you could read again and again and not get bored. The part of David’s struggle, the part of remembering God’s greatness, the plea to God for help, the desire to be taught the way of the Lord.

It’s that area which struck out to me as the Psalmist asked God to unite his heart so he would fear the Lord. The NIV talks about an undivided heart and I was just blown away by that concept. Lord help me to have that heart that is not about divided loyalties – loving you in the hype and dissing you in the tripe. Hailing you in the win and ignoring you in the sin. Praising you for a favour and hazing you when I get out. That cry for an undivided heart where my best hours, my best minutes, my best seconds as well as my worst and everything in between all belongs to God because He has my complete allegiance. Wowsers. That is quite the call by David and it is quite the request for me, but it is one that I make nevertheless.

Jesus was spot on, again, when He said that we cannot serve two masters – we will love the one and despise the other. Wholehearted love to God has no room for divided loyalties. It shouldn’t take much to claim that loyalty and complete devotion when we consider His loving and merciful character as well as the great list of past greatness that He has shown all those who love Him. Rescuing me from the depths and the very domain of death should be enough to merit my lifelong gratitude. Seeing His wonder in rescuing me from other tight spots is incredible. To see all that and think about giving my best elsewhere really misses the whole point of who God is.

A very dear friend of mine said that God has not changed – He is the same God. How He was faithful and kind to David, He remains faithful and kind now. That is not to assume everything is rosy, neither is it to neglect the love that should flow and manifest in good deeds for others. It is to stop and just glimpse at Him in His greatness and marvellous character and be so thankful to Him.

You talk about a psalm to meditate on – Psalm 86 is such a one. Why didn’t you tell me about it?

For His Name’s Sake

Shalom

C. L. J. Dryden

Answering The Identity Question In A Snapshot of David

I was in this event recently and one of the speakers said something that is still profound.

A problem starts when people prioritise what they do over who they are. When that happens there’s a tendency to be activity driven with a character deficit. The whole life existence involves both it is fundamental, however when actions are put over who you are that often leads to so many of societies major discrepancies. The discontent, the depraved acts, the social misdeeds, the mental health issues and so on and so forth.

Investment in answering those identity questions is worth its weight in gold. It need not be a strictly intellectual musing exercise. Reading through the book of 1 Samuel I see the character development of David is not something that primarily takes place with him thinking under the philosopher’s stone. His identity is forged under the decisions he makes from taking his responsibilities as a shepherd seriously, to acknowledging the capability of God to defeat any uncircumcised Philistine no matter the stature.

identity is reaffirmed and developed through intentional engagement in the key relationship with the Creator who creates us and defines us. David experiences that when he enjoys the exultations of the people after the Goliath and when he endures being a fugitive when Saul’s jealousy.

Experiences are good opportunities for us to see what’s going on inside and allow God to shape our identity to be just like that of His Son.

It’s still a profound relaity to see the effects of prioritising character to see great reward in the acts we will commit.

For His Name’s Sake

Shalom

C. L. J. Dryden

An Acknowledgement That Not Everyone Is My Friend

With friends like this …

A group of us were looking at Psalm 3. It’s an interesting time in the life of King David. And calling him King David is at the time an interesting statement. His son that he loved, Absalom, has usurped his position and strategically pushed David from the throne. The king is a fugitive.

Not only that but David’s top advisor has defected to oversee the strategy that has shifted him from the Crown. His advice now threatens David’s life. On his way on the run, people are coming out of the woodwork to offer some verbal bashing of a king in apparent decline.

It goes to show that it is often when we are up against it that we recognise some people are not our friends.

Some today struggle to believe they have enemies. Yet it only takes a minor misdemeanor to allow you to genuinely see those that are for you and those who are against you.

Like David, the voices rise against us, they mock any thought of victory. They expect us to curl up and prepare for the inevitable.

Sometimes it’s those who we thought should know us better, who betray us in their negative speaking. It’s sometimes who should know us well that prove otherwise.

It’s good to know in those times that although the enemies might pop up and speak their condemnation, there is a Friend. A Friend who has won the victory comprehensively at Calvary. A Friend who knows what it’s like for the Enemy to seek to speak our downfall. A Friend who conquered all enemies.

This Friend is available to give us salvation when we call on Him. By His power we are even capable of loving our enemy.

It is that power we need as we acknowledge that not everyone is our friend.

For His Name’s Sake
Shalom
C. L. J. Dryden

Established In Who You Are

People are fascinating.

When you know who you are it is one of the most liberating experiences.

In The Godfather we have the Don who is revered and feared. After the attempted assassination failed, the Don knows he does not have long so must pass on to his successor. Michael never saw himself as the successor, but perhaps deep down he was always destined. He has the character, it just needs the experience to prove it.

As the old Don passes on, Michael is well advised as to the moves he needs to make to truly establish his position. He solidifies his position as he takes on the role as a godfather. By the end of the day any doubts about his standing are wiped away, his actions as affirmed by his father, help establish his position.

I’m convinced that the Mafia just took a leaf out of the book of Kings. Especially chapter two of the first book. Here is Solomon, having just survived an attempt to usurp his rightful position as successor to his dad. At the start, Solomon hears the words of his father. Words that reaffirm his son, and informs him of what he needs to do.

The test in the pudding, just like the Don, is when David dies. Solomon, applying the wisdom that his dad commends, ensures any threats to his throne are eliminated and old scores are settled that leaves no doubt in anyone’s mind that this dude knows who he is.

I’m obviously not endorsing getting hits arranged for annoying people in your life. I am affirming the liberating nature of knowing who you are and having the experiences that establish that which leaves others in no doubt.

For His Name’s Sake
Shalom
C. L. J. Dryden

Family Values: Bible Style

Jesus teaches us to be people of peace.

If someone strikes me on one cheek, I am to turn the other cheek.  If someone takes my jacket, I should give him my shirt.  My motives must never be driven with the selfish desire to gain the upper hand or get revenge.  This is not of God.

If this was all there was to the story, those who have a gripe against Christianity for being fairly limp-wristed and rather pathetic would have something of an argument. (Not a great one, in the larger scheme of things, but enough to keep things interested.)

As it is, Jesus instructs us to behave in this way, not because God will just let things slide and bad people doing bad things will prosper.  Not at all.

The larger picture sees a God who takes justice very seriously. I reckon in the blood-soaked Old Testament (and don’t think the New Testament side-steps the issue), we get glimpses of how the Father takes justice so seriously.

This is why I reckon King David really was a man after God’s own heart.

Check it.  Here’s the new King with his vengeful general Joab who loses a brother to General Abner.  When Abner comes to make peace with David, the king sees the opportunity to make things right, but Joab sees a chance to get his revenge.  The next thing you know the King is leading the funeral procession for a general that used to be after his blood.  David won’t forget this, but leaves Joab where he is.

Later David’s household gets all fractious with one brother raping a step-sister, then a brother killing the other brother, then that same brother-killing brother – Absalom by name – looking to supplant his Pops. Now David is again on the run.  Whilst on the run he is given verbal abuse by some homie called Shimei.  Some of David’s supporters want to sort Shimei out there and then, but no, says David, leave him alone, maybe God has set him to give me grief, is the sentiment.  David won’t forget this, but leaves Shimei where he is.

Joab takes it upon himself to kill Absalom – against David’s orders.  Just to put the icing on the cake, Joab goes onto kill another general called Amasa against David’s desires.  David won’t forget this, but leaves Joab where he is.

You get the picture.  Here’s all these snakes in the grass giving David grief.  Everything in us says to let ’em have it.  Let vengeance have its turn.  Yet David lets them carry on.

Until his deathbed.

On that death bed as the son rises to take on the throne, the father is very clear that now is the time for judgement.  Judgement for Joab and judgement for Shimei.  Who better to do it for the father than the son.

For more on what happens to Shimei and Joab, go ahead and catch up in 1 Kings 2. (I seriously believe that movie The Godfather took more than a leaf or two from this episode.)

What am I saying?

You read a Jesus’ parables that talk about a father sending his son out to see those who are meant to be looking after the vineyard, and they end up killing the son.  That does not happen without any recompense.  The deal of justice will see what has been wrong paid for.

Why we don’t have to get involved in the repayment, is because it’s in good hands.  It’s in the Father’s hands.  He will repay.

Indeed, that’s why we make an effort praying on behalf of those who disrespect us in the hope that God will have mercy and they will repent rather than experience how God will repay.  The kind of justice our Father will mete out will show exactly why He’s slow to anger.  For believe me, we will not like it, when God gets angry.

That’s because He is a God of justice, holiness and righteousness.  It’s integral to who He is.  It’s what makes His love, grace and mercy all the more amazing, precisely because it is inextricably intertwined with these characteristics.  They are inseparable.

He sees His children being disrespected – trust me, He will repay.  He sees His children left in poverty with no compassion on their situation – trust me, He will repay.  He sees His children mercilessly beaten, tortured and killed for His Name’s sake – trust me, He will repay.  He sees His children, He cares for His children, He will ensure justice for His children, exactly because they are His children.  He will repay.

That should strengthen our trust in Him, and our confidence to carry on turning the other cheek, blessing those who spitefully use us and praying for those who curse us.

Those really are part of the family values.

For His Name’s Sake

Shalom

C. L. J. Dryden

In Fitting With Who You Are

I am not a fan of uniform types of church – one style and size must fit all.  I mean by that a uniformed format of how the ‘service’ should take place, and all the ingredients done in the same order. It just does not make sense to me.

I found it interesting reading about the David and Goliath episode.  The part where the young buck David goes in front of Saul and displays what must be the inspiration for Scrappy-Doo spirit.  Saul, in his wisdom, suggests that the best way to go about it is to suit up in a style that is in fitting with mortal combat.

When David bulks himself up with all that armour, it evidently doesn’t fit him.  He lets the king know with due respect that if he’s going to get the job done, he’s got to get it done on his terms and conditions.  It’s got to be his style, his way.

Recently I had the pleasure of being part of a meeting where two people were given an opportunity to give a talk to us.  These two were not known for giving talks before, so it was a new challenge for them.

Both speakers evidently were given instructions on ‘how to do talks’.  They had written out the structure and content of their talk – in a manner fitting in with textbook requirements.  They put in what they felt were the important element of giving a talk.  Yet they really truly engaged with the audience when they went off-script, when they were genuinely feeling the spirit of what they were saying and were just flowing conveying their character.  In this they brought across the essence of the message.

It certainly came across that while they were looknig to adjust to fit in with a conventional form, it was not what suited them.  I can imagine as they give talks more often, they will continue to find their own style and learn to give talks more with fitting who they are, rather than conforming to some conventional format.

What is also interesting about the David and Goliath story, however, is noting how David used his own approach to fell the giant, but to really stamp his own mark on the occasion, he chopped off the giant’s head with his own sword.  From that point on, David the shepherd became David the warrior.

That is to suggest that what suits you at first, is not necessarily what will stay with you always.  We grow we change and as we do so we develop methods and means that fit us both on an individual and a communal scale.  Just because something worked for me five years ago, it’s not to say it will suit me now.  Just because a style of writing fits folks in one area, it’s not a guarantee that it will work in another area.  This is the beauty of diversity and change.  This is the reason why our own relationship with God through His Holy Spirit should be the steer and guide to how we function.

I certainly don’t deride or dismiss textbooks and teachers.  Forms that work for others and are recorded and documented are certainly useful aids.  It is to say that what is an aid to one, can be a crutch to someone else and can be a hinderance to someone else.

In Christ we can discover what is fitting with who we are, and how that can help us be a blessing to others.

For His Name’s Sake

Shalom

C. L. J. Dryden