Friday, August 18, 2017

“Hello Darkness, My Old Friend”

"Darkness has become my only friend" Psalm 88:18.

This is the saddest song in the psalter, a mournful tune with no resolution. No praise, no thanksgiving, no celebration, no eulogy. We look for a glimmer of light but find none. The poet’s soul was “full of trouble"; his dark mood all engulfing. Unlike other psalms, there is no happy ending. The poem ends with a plaintive sigh: “Darkness has become my only friend.” (88:18). And “with this complaint, the harp falls from the poet's hands” (Keil & Delitzsch).

God has never promised that our days will be filled with unbroken sunshine and our skies will always be blue. Indeed, unrelieved suffering may be our lot in this world. 

But like Israel's poet, we can reach out for God in the darkness (88:13), in which case the darkness will have pushed us a little closer to Him. And if the goal of life is not ease but intimacy with God then the darkness has indeed become our “friend.”

And though the psalm is silent about life-beyond-this-life it is a reminder that something better awaits us: “We wait for… the redemption of our bodies” (Romans 8:22f.).

David Roper


Monday, August 14, 2017

The Good Life

What man is there who desires life and loves many days, 
that he may see good?
Keep your tongue from evil 
and your lips from speaking deceit.
Turn away from evil and do good; 
seek peace and pursue it. —Psalm 34:12,14

The good life is the good life. Put another way, happiness is doing the right thing, something wise men and women have always known.

The world is constantly telling us, in one way or another, that happiness is doings things our way, but that's a lie. It only leads to emptiness, anxiety and heartache. (W.H. Auden writes of children, "lost in a haunted wood, / Children afraid of the night / Who have never been happy or good.")

Happiness is doing things God’s way, a fact that can be empirically verified every day. Just try it and you'll see. That's what David means when he says, "taste and see that the Lord is good” (34:8a).

“Seeing is believing,” we say. Show me a proof and I'll believe it. That's how we know stuff in this world. 

God puts it the other way around. "Believing is seeing" ("Taste and then you will see.") Trust Me, take Me at My word—do the very next thing I ask you to do—and you will see. I will give you grace to do the right thing and more: I will give you Myself, the only source of enduring happiness..

"Oh, the blessedness (happiness) of those who take refuge in Him!" (34:8b)

David Roper


Sunday, August 13, 2017

The Terrible Speed of Mercy 

“I said, ‘I will confess my transgressions to the Lord’…
And You forgave the iniquity of my sin.” —Psalm 32:5

I asked Siri “What is the shortest unit of time?” She pondered the question for a moment and answered, “The time for light to travel one Plank length.” 

Not even close. 

The shortest unit of time is the interval between the confession of our transgressions and God’s complete forgiveness. David said, “I will confess my sins….” And before he could put his confession into words, God’s forgiveness washed over him.

Amy Carmichael wrote, “A day or two ago I was thinking rather sadly of the past—so many sins and failures and lapses of every kind. I was reading Isaiah 43, and in verse 24 I saw myself: ‘Thou hast wearied me with thine many iniquities.’ And then for the first time I noticed that there is no space between v. 24 and v. 25, ‘I, even I, am He that blotteth out thy transgressions for Mine own sake; and I will not remember thy sins.’”

When we confess our sins, God does not say, “Let me think about this for a moment.” Or, “You’ll have to be on probation for awhile.” No, He is “faithful and just to forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness”—instantaneously

No one puts this any better than Flannery O’Connor at the end of her novel The Violent Bear It Away when her prophet Francis Tarwater receives his long-awaited call: “GO WARN THE CHILDREN OF GOD OF THE TERRIBLE SPEED OF MERCY.” 

David Roper


Saturday, August 12, 2017

Till the Storm of Life is Past

For this cause everyone who is godly shall pray to You
In a time when You may be found;
Surely in a flood of great waters
They (the great waters) shall not come near him (the godly).
You are my hiding place —Psalm 32:6,7

“Everyone who is godly…” That’s a show stopper. “Godly.” I can’t claim that title. The word translated “godly,” however, comes from a Hebrew root that actually means “loved.” It refers to those who are loved by God and who love Him in return. That puts me back in the picture. 

“For this cause…” Why do I have this effortless access to God? Because I am so good? No, it is because He is so good, for He has forgiven all my sins. I am in His favor (32:5). 

“In a time when You may be found…” And when might that be? “In a flood of great waters,” When I am in over my head. Then He is my hiding place.

Jesus, lover of my soul,
Let me to Thy bosom fly,
While the nearer waters roll,
While the tempest still[1] is high.
Hide me, O my Savior, hide,
Safe into the haven guide… —Charles Wesley

David Roper

[1] Wesley’s “still” is based on an old translation of Psalm 32:6. “(While) still the tempest is nigh.”  When we’re treading water!

Monday, August 7, 2017

The Name

Our God's proper name is "YAHWEH," the name He gave himself.

God revealed the significance of His name to Moses from the burning bush: "Moses said to God, 'If I come to the people of Israel and they ask me, "What is his name?" what shall I say to them?' God said to Moses, “Say this to the people of Israel, ‘I AM has sent me to you.’” (Exodus 3:2,13).

God's name is based on the verb “to be,” and, as God Himself explained, means “I AM.”

I am what? Whatever you need.

What do you need today? Courage, purity, patience, wisdom, faith, hope, love?  "HE IS" whatever you need.

Truly, "our help is in the name of the LORD!" (Psalm 124:8).

David Roper


Friday, August 4, 2017

One Thing

“There is only one angle at which to stand upright, but many angles at which to fall.” —GK Chesterton

“Morality is complex,” my friend said. Well, not really.

I recall an occasion many years ago when Ray Stedman walked into a staff meeting with his hands behind his back. “I’m holding a crooked stick,” he said. “Tell me what it looks like.” 

We couldn’t, of course, for a crooked stick has many “looks.” Had he said, “The stick is straight,” we could have described it with no trouble at all, for “straight” has but one manifestation.  

“Virtue moves from the many to one; vice forsakes the one for the many,” Thomas Aquinas said. 

Some folks, like Legion, have become “many.” Confused by an addled culture in which moral claims are not facts but opinions, the opinions have become so many as to be unfathomable.

Others move from the many to the one. Take King David, for example: “I delight to do your will, Oh God” (Psalm 40:8). 

How simple is that? 

David Roper

Thursday, August 3, 2017

All the Good Stuff

The earth is the Lord's, and all its fullness,
The world and those who dwell therein. 

—Psalm 24:1

Not one created thing on God's good, green earth is evil, for God cannot be the author of evil. Creation is esthetically and ethically  “good,” to use Moses’ precise word (Genesis 1,2). Paul says the same thing: "Everything created by God is good...." (1Timothy 4:4).r

But what of evil? Evil exists, but not as a thing in itself. Evil is an aberration, a corruption of every good thing. Satan cannot create anything, even evil. He can only blight and ruin what God has made. (It must be said that we, when we blight and ruin creation, fall into Satan’s hands.) 

No, God created everything in the universe for our delight. He filled the earth with pleasure, adventure, fun, joy and laughter. Creation is ours to savor. Paul agrees: "All things are yours to enjoy" (1 Corinthians 3:22). 

So… Go for It! Go big! But always stay close to God. He’s where all the good stuff comes from (Ecclesiastes 11:9—12:1).

David Roper