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

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

“More with Us Than With Him”

“Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or dismayed before the king of Assyria and all the horde that is with him, for there are more with us than with him” (2Chronicles 32:7).

Sennacherib, the emperor of Assyria, invaded Judah and laid siege to Jerusalem. King Hezekiah turned to fortifying the city, a very practical consideration (32:3-6) and then gave encouragement to the people: “Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or dismayed before the king of Assyria and all the horde that is with him, for there are more with us than with him.” 

Really? Hezekiah’s sad sack militia against the entire Assyrian army? Slippery Rock University vs. USC!

But here’s the kicker, Hezekiah went on to say, “All Sennacherib has is the flesh (human effort), but the Lord our God is with us to fight our battles” (32:7). 

Well, to make a long story short, “The LORD sent an angel, who cut off all the mighty warriors and commanders and officers in the camp of the king of Assyria So he returned with shame of face to his own land” (32:21).

Note please: “an angel.” “One angel!” Not a “horde” (32:7). Think of the old Batman comics and movies, “Bif!” “Bang!” “Pow!”  The bad guys go home with egg on their faces. 

I recall a story I heard when we lived in Texas many years ago. It seems a vicious gang of thugs had taken control of a small Texas town, whereupon the people called in the Texas Rangers—not the American League baseball team, but the legendary state militia of that day. They were told the Rangers would arrive by train the following day. 

The people gathered on the platform eagerly awaiting the arrival of the militants, when one gnarly, grizzled old Ranger swung out of the passenger car door. “One Ranger?” The mayor gasped. Well,” the old man growled. “There ain’t but one gang is there?” 

So…what dangers encircle you today? Be brave! “The Angel of the LORD encamps around those who fear him, and He will rescue them” (Psalm 34:7). 

David Roper

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

A Beautiful Thing

 Read: 2Chronicles 30:18-20

“Why do you trouble her? She has done a beautiful thing to me” (Matthew 14:6).

Hezekiah, as part of his storied revival, issued an invitation to all Israel to gather in Jerusalem for a Passover celebration. His offer was met with scorn by many in the northern kingdom for few in that place cared for spiritual things. But some came to Jerusalem seeking the Lord.

Untutored in the law they came unprepared to fulfill the obligations of the Passover. By the standards of the law they were “unclean.” So Hezekiah prayed for them: “‘May the good Lord pardon everyone who sets his heart to seek God, the Lord, the God of his fathers, even though not according to the sanctuary's rules of cleanness.’ And the LORD heard Hezekiah and healed the people” (30:18-20). 

I’m reminded here of a little country church and a Sunday morning service and a young woman who turned up…to everyone’s astonishment. She was the town trollop. 

The lady was a bit hung over and worse for wear, her hair and clothes in disarray. The church was full and though she tried to find a seat in the rear of the church, she was ushered to the front where she sat through the service, her eyes on the preacher,  transfixed by every word. 

It was communion Sunday and when the elements were served she had no idea what to do. She took the bread quietly, but when the cup was passed, she lifted her glass and offered a toast to Jesus.

Some people gasped, others gaped, a few bowed their heads in quiet worship and thanksgiving. It was indeed a beautiful thing that she did.

God forbid that any of us would turn our face away from one whom God has accepted, for He has made it very clear: Whosoever will may come (Revelation 22:17).

David Roper