Poetry Saturday—Not Understood

Not understood. We move along asunder; 
Our paths grow wider as the seasons creep
Along the years; we marvel and we wonder
Why life is life? and then we fall asleep, 
Not understood. 

Not understood, we gather false impressions 
And hug them closer as the years go by; 
Till virtues often seem to us transgressions; 
And thus men rise and fall, and live and die 
Not understood. 

Not understood! Poor souls with stunted vision 
Oft measure giants with their narrow gauge; 
The poisoned shafts of falsehood and derision 
Are oft impelled ‘gainst those who mould the age, 
Not understood. 

Not understood! The secret springs of action 
Which lie beneath the surface and the show, 
Are disregarded; with self-satisfaction 
We judge our neighbours, and they often go 
Not understood. 

Not understood! How trifles often change us! 
The thoughtless sentence and the fancied slight 
Destroy long years of friendship, and estrange us, 
And on our souls there falls a freezing blight; 
Not understood. 

Not understood. How many breasts are aching
For lack of sympathy! Ah! day by day, 
How many cheerless, lonely hearts are breaking! 
How many noble spirits pass away
Not understood. 

Oh, God! that men would see a little clearer, 
Or judge less harshly where they cannot see; 
O God! that men would draw a littler nearer
To one another, they’d be nearer Thee, 
And understood. —Thomas Bracken

City Of God

With “LONG LIVE THE KING!” still reverberating in our ears from Psalm 47, the sons of Korah ask us to zoom out a little farther to see how things begin to change now that the King has assumed His rightful place on the throne.

So Psalm 48 opens with the same praise with which Psalm 47 closed—Great is the Lord and most worthy of praise! The Hebrew word for great means massiveness! God is great beyond comprehension. He is larger than any problem. He is unique. He is uncontainable, unlimited, utterly beyond description. His glory is so bright that no sun is needed (see Revelation 21:23).

His glorious light reveals God’s beauty all around us. As C.S. Lewis noted, “I believe in God as I believe the sun has risen. Not because I can see it, but because by way of it I can see everything else.” Indeed, the psalmist reminds us that the city of our God has become “beautiful in its loftiness”(v. 2).

Look at how majestic our King is, and how majestic He makes His city, with phrases like the city of our Godthe city of the Great King, and the city of the Lord Almighty. 

God makes His city secure forever. 

Selah—pause and consider that. 

About 1200 years after this psalm was written, Augustine would write his book called The City of God in which he contrasted the City of God with the City of Man. He noted how the Romans had gods they trusted in, but the Romans had to “rescue” their gods from the invading barbarians. Rome ultimately fell to those invading barbarians, but, Augustine said, the City of God can never fall because it isn’t a tangible place. The City of God resides inside God’s people. 

So notice that after the Selah the word “city” doesn’t appear anymore. Instead, we read about:

    • God’s temple (v. 9; the Hebrew word is heykal) means the palace of God the King
    • the villages of Judah (v. 11) is translated daughters in the KJV, but it actually means “the beloved apple of My eye” 
    • her towers (v. 12) are something that has grown up because it’s been nourished, not something built up by brick and mortar
    • her citadels (v. 13) are the highest and strongest places, which recalls God’s massiveness that we read in verse 1 

Here’s the question for all of us to ask—Is my heart a City of God or a City of Man? 

God does not dwell in palaces made by men.

God dwells where He is enthroned! 

When people look at the “city” of my life, can they tell God is on the throne? The telling characteristics of a City of God are a city where…

  • … thoughts continually turn to my King and His unfailing love (v. 9)
  • … praise, rejoicing, and gladness are constantly rising to God (vv. 10, 11)
  • … the King is able to freely walk around His kingdom—anywhere He likes (v. 12)
  • … others can walk around and see what a God-enthroned life looks like (vv. 12, 13)

I’ll ask it again—Can people clearly see that God is the unrivaled King of your heart? 

Join me next Sunday as we continue our look at the Selahs in the Psalms. 

The Nearness Of God

I think too often we’re in too big of a hurry when we read the Bible. 

Think with me for a moment how much longer it takes to sing the lyrics of a heart-stirring song than it does to just say the words. The psalms were written as songs, and although the melodies that accompanied them have been lost to the pages of history, we would still do well to move more slowly and deliberately and passionately through these inspired songs. 

Let’s slowly consider Psalm 46 from four different perspectives…

First, as a pause from the noise. Selah can be used three different ways: (1) a pause to reflect; (2) a deep breath to crescendo into something bigger; or (3) a contrast between two very different things. There are three selahs in this psalm, and all of them call us to a pause from something noisy. To pause from…

    • natural upheavals—the earth gives way, the mountains fall, the waters roar, the mountains quake
    • political upheavals—nations are in an uproar, kingdoms fall 
    • religious upheavals—God has to serve the judgment of desolation, as He breaks the bow, shatters the spear, burns the shield

Selah/Pause from these upheavals and reflect—God is our refuge … the Lord Almighty is with us.

Second, notice the contrasts. The songwriter takes us to man’s mountains that fall and quake, but reminds us that THE mountain of God is our sure fortress. In the imagery of water, we see man’s attempts at refreshing that are roaring and foaming, but we also see God’s river that brings life and makes people glad. And look at how man’s use of power results in an uproar, but God makes wars to cease. 

Selah/Pause and reflect—aren’t God’s ways better than man’s ways? 

Third, notice the nearness of God. Twice the songwriter reminds us “The Lord Almighty is with us.” And then we hear God Himself speak to our anxiety-prone hearts, “Be still and know that I am God.” Those words “be still” can also mean “let go.” Let go of earthly things, negative voices, fears, trying to control events. If your hands are full of that, how can you grab onto God?! 

Selah/Pause and reflect—God is calling me to go—and stay—near to Him! 

Fourth, see how God’s peace and protection surrounds AND permeates me. In our Western literature, we are used to the climax—or the payoff—being at the end of the story. The story builds and then comes to a conclusion where the hero prevails. But in Hebrew poetry, the climax—or the payoff—is typically in the middle. So when we read Psalm 46, it’s tempting to say, “Hallelujah! Verse 11 says God is my fortress. That’s the climax, the payoff!” But really the payoff—the most important part—is the middle. In this psalm, that is verse 6. Everything else builds to this and radiates out from this. 

Read this psalm for yourself by reading the verses in this order: 6, 5, 7, 4, 8, 3, 9, 2, 10, 1, 11.

Selah/Pause and reflect—God is not only IN me, He also surrounds me. I’m invited to come close to Him because He is already in me. Nations rage, but His voice in my heart silences the upheaval. He is with me. He is the Most High Sovereign God that controls the outcome of all nations. Earth quakes and kingdoms rumble, but I will have no fear; I will be still and know He is God. He is my refuge, my strength, my help, my fortress! 

Don’t rush the reading of the Psalms. Slowly “sing” these inspired lyrics and listen to how the Holy Spirit will whisper to your heart. 

I’ll be continuing our series on the Selahs in the Psalms this Sunday, and I would love to have you join me. 

Poetry Saturday—Walking With God

Alas, my God, that we should be
Such Strangers to each other!
O that as Friends we might agree,
And walk, and talk together!
Thou know’st my Soul doth dearly love
The Place of Thine Abode;
No Music drops so sweet a Sound,
As those two words, My God.

I long not for the Fruit that grows
Within these Gardens here;
I find no sweetness in their Rose
When Jesus is not near:
Thy gracious Presence, O my Christ
Can make a Paradise;
Ah, what are all the goodly Pearls
Unto this Pearl of Price!

May I taste that Communion, Lord,
Thy people have with Thee?
Thy Spirit daily talks with them,
O let it talk with me!
Like Enoch, let me walk with God,
And thus walk out my Day,
Attended with the Heavenly Guards
Upon the King’s High-way.

When wilt Thou come unto me, Lord?
O come, my Lord most dear!
Come near, come nearer, nearer still;
I’m well when Thou art near.
When wilt Thou come unto me, Lord?
I languish for Thy Sight;
Ten Thousand Suns, if Thou art Strange,
Are shades instead of Light.

When wilt Thou come unto me, Lord?
For, till Thou dost appear,
I count each Moment for a Day,
Each Minute for a Year.
Come, Lord and never from me go,
This World’s a darksome Place;
I find no Pleasure here below,
When Thou dost veil Thy Face.

There’s no such Thing as Pleasure here;
My JESUS is my All;
As Thou didst shine or disappear,
My pleasures rise and fall.
Come, spread Thy Savour on my Frame,
No sweetness is so sweet;
Till I get up to sing Thy Name,
Where all Thy Singers meet. —Thomas Shepherd

Poetry Saturday—These Eyes Have Never Seen

Jesus, these eyes have never seen
that radiant form of Thine;
the veil of sense hangs dark between
Thy blessed face and mine.

I see Thee not, I hear Thee not,
yet art Thou oft with me;
and earth hath ne’er so dear a spot
as where I meet with Thee.

Yet, though I have not seen, and still
must rest in faith alone,
I love Thee, dearest Lord, and will,
unseen, but not unknown.

When death these mortal eyes shall seal,
and still this throbbing heart,
the rending veil shall Thee reveal
all glorious as Thou art. —Ray Palmer

Do Not Dwell On The Past

“Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! I am a God of surprises—infinitely more creative than you can imagine. … As you journey along your life-path with Me, refuse to let the past define you or your expectations of what lies ahead. You may feel as if the road you are on is tiresome or even a dead end. That is because you’re projecting the past into the future. The roadblock you are straining to see up ahead is really just an illusion. The future is in My hands, and I can do surprising things with it! …

“You need My presence each moment to accomplish My purposes in your life. Sometimes you are tempted to take shortcuts, in order to reach your goal as quickly as possible. But if the shortcut requires turning your back on My peaceful Presence, you must choose the longer route. Walk with Me along paths of Peace; enjoy the journey in My Presence.” —Jesus (in Sarah Young’s 40 Days With Jesus)

9 Quotes From “40 Days With Jesus”

Sarah Young does a masterful job in helping us hear Jesus speak to us in the first-person, as she weaves Scripture together so beautifully. Check out my full book review by clicking here. 

“Taste and see that I am good. The more intimately you experience Me, the more convinced you become of My goodness.” 

“Follow Me one step at a time. … Keep your mind on the present journey, enjoying My Presence. Walk by faith, not by sight, trusting Me to open up the way before you. … I set the pace in keeping with your needs and My purposes.” 

“Walking in the light of My presence blesses you in many ways. Good things are better and bad things are more bearable when you share them with Me. As you bask in My Love-Light, you are better able to love others and enjoy fellowship with them. You are less likely to stumble or fall because sins are garishly obvious in My holy Light. As you walk in this Light with Me, I encourage you to exult in My righteousness.” 

“Although your new self is being conformed to My image, this process does not erase the essence of who you are. On the contrary, the more you become like Me, the more you develop into the unique person I designed you to be.” 

“Holiness is letting Me live through you. Since I dwell in you, you are fully equipped to be holy. Pause before responding to people or situations, giving My Spirit space to act through you. Hasty words and actions leave no room for Me; this is atheistic living. I want to inhabit all your moments—gracing your thoughts, words, and behavior.” 

“Talk with Me about every aspect of your day, including your feelings. Remember that your ultimate goal is not to control or fix everything around you; it is to keep communing with Me. A successful day is one in which you have stayed in touch with Me, even if many things remain undone at the end of the day.” 

“Do not let your to-do list (written or mental) become an idol directing your life. Instead, ask My Spirit to guide you moment by moment.” 

“Exceeding Joy is for both you and Me. I delight in you now, but this Joy will be astronomically magnified when you join Me in Glory. The Joy you will experience in heaven is so far beyond anything you have known on earth that it is indescribable. Nothing can rob you of this glorious inheritance which is imperishable and will not fade away.” 

“Thankfulness is not some sort of magic formula; it is the language of Love, which enables you to communicate intimately with Me.” 

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