Psalm 10

The conclusion is that he reigns, and he will reign forever. This is one of the instances which frequently occur in the Psalms. The Psalm begins with a desponding spirit, or an apprehension of danger, it ends with the language of exultation and triumph.

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Psalm 10

Why, Lord, do you stand far off?
    Why do you hide yourself in times of trouble?

In his arrogance the wicked man hunts down the weak,
    who are caught in the schemes he devises.
He boasts about the cravings of his heart;
    he blesses the greedy and reviles the Lord.
In his pride the wicked man does not seek him;
    in all his thoughts there is no room for God.
His ways are always prosperous;
    your laws are rejected by him;
    he sneers at all his enemies.
He says to himself, ‘Nothing will ever shake me.’
    He swears, ‘No one will ever do me harm.’

His mouth is full of lies and threats;
    trouble and evil are under his tongue.
He lies in wait near the villages;
    from ambush he murders the innocent.
His eyes watch in secret for his victims;
    like a lion in cover he lies in wait.
He lies in wait to catch the helpless;
    he catches the helpless and drags them off in his net.
10 His victims are crushed, they collapse;
    they fall under his strength.
11 He says to himself, ‘God will never notice;
    he covers his face and never sees.’

12 Arise, Lord! Lift up your hand, O God.
    Do not forget the helpless.
13 Why does the wicked man revile God?
    Why does he say to himself,
    ‘He won’t call me to account’?
14 But you, God, see the trouble of the afflicted;
    you consider their grief and take it in hand.
The victims commit themselves to you;
    you are the helper of the fatherless.
15 Break the arm of the wicked man;
    call the evildoer to account for his wickedness
    that would not otherwise be found out.

16 The Lord is King for ever and ever;
    the nations will perish from his land.
17 You, Lord, hear the desire of the afflicted;
    you encourage them, and you listen to their cry,
18 defending the fatherless and the oppressed,
    so that mere earthly mortals
    will never again strike terror.


The acrostic is incomplete. The psalm is all there, but a few words were changed. They still mean the same thing.

Psalm 10 in contrast to the prayer at the end of the preceding psalm, now points to the present condition in the world, where God seems to have permitted the wicked to triumph over the righteous (verses 1-11). He then appeals to the Lord to act, to set the matter right, confident that the King of all creation will do so (verses 12-18).

Psalm 10 begins in despair. In Psalm 9 the psalmist was confident of the sure coming of Divine justice; in Psalm 10 injustice prevails; To the Psalmist, God seems disinterested.

However, the psalmist’s walking more by sight than by faith will slowly turn around as he shifts his focus from empirical observations to theological facts. This is not an easy turn-around, especially since he is surrounded by so many people who have no belief in God (compare verses 4, 11, 13).

This Psalm illustrates how the faithful seem to live in two different worlds at the same time.

The world is full of hostility and discouragement (10:1-11);

The world is full of hope and encouragement (10:12-18).

In Psalm 9 we read about the enemy of God. He was also the enemy of David. The enemy was probably a foreign country. In Psalm 10 we read about the wicked man, or the wicked. They were people that lived in David’s country.

Two “whys” of lament boldly blurt out the psalmist’s question: God, why do you remain aloof?” (Compare Psalms 13:1; 22:11; 38:21; 44:24; 71:12; 88:14). The psalmist here shows his own impatience and despair.

The wicked person described here, is scheming against the poor. The word pride shows us that the wicked thinks himself better than the poor. David is saying in this, let this wicked person be caught in his own trap. The wicked’s modus operandi is the opposite of God’s ways.

The psalmist calls on God to punish the unbridled disrespect and scorn of the wicked, which has reached such a pitch that it seems as if God is indifferent. The wicked mistake God’s patience with evil for disinterest in justice and the victims. Their boldness grows as they no longer sense any accountability for their actions. To the Psalmist, God seems to be rewarding the ruthless.

David prays that God will do something. In verses 16-18 David tells his people that God will do something. He knew that after fighting foreign countries there was unrest in his own kingdom. He attempted to deal with it but ultimately God would deal with it.

“Lift up your hand” in verse 12 is an idiom for God’s strength and power especially as it is used in the context of retaliation.

He has been describing the ways of the evil person in his dealings with the weak and poor of the earth. Now, he is saying; Lord help those who cannot help themselves. The humble here, are speaking of people who have no earthly influence. Their only help, their only hope is the Lord.

God is pictured as Helper or Advocate again, but this time in association with orphans. He is the Defender of the defenceless. We see a cry from the Psalmist for God to hurry up and bring judgement on these evil ones. God judges however, when He is ready, not when we want Him to.


The confident mood of this great climax outshines the psalm’s introductory protestations. The psalmist’s great Lord listens (verse 17), and acts (verse 18).

The conclusion is that he reigns, and he will reign forever. This is one of the instances which frequently occur in the Psalms. The Psalm begins with a desponding spirit, or an apprehension of danger, it ends with the language of exultation and triumph.

The psalmist speaks here as if what he had desired was actually accomplished. And as if the enemies that had encompassed him, and all the enemies of the Lord, were actually overthrown, and God now reigned supreme. He was so confident that this would be so, that he speaks of it as if it were already done.

 


Reflections from my original journal notes in August 2015

Psalm 10
In his arrogance the wicked man hunts down the weak,
who are caught in the schemes he devises.
He boasts about the cravings of his heart,
he blesses the greedy and reviles the Lord,
In his pride the wicked man does not seek him;
in all his thoughts there is no room for God.
His ways are always prosperous;
your laws are rejected by him;
he sneers at all his enemies.
He says to himself, “Nothing will ever shake me.”
He swears, “No one will ever do me harm.”
His mouth is full of lies and threats;
trouble and evil are under his tongue.
He lies in wait near the villages;
from ambush he murders the innocent.
His eyes watch in secret for his victims;
like a lion in cover he lies in wait.
He lies in wait to catch the helpless;
he catches the helpless and drags them off in his net.
His victims are crushed, they collapse;
they fall under his strength.
He says to himself, “God will never notice;
he covers his face and never sees.”
————————————————————
This was my attitude when immersed in that life. I wouldn’t have recognised as this at the time. The two world’s I lived in never touched each other except towards the end in the last three or four months. Everything was about me and meeting my needs and desires. Everything was manipulated to my advantage, the way that I wanted and there was an arrogant invincibility about me.

My attitude to God was that he was part of my “other life” and he lived and operated in my other life at my convenience but when I was in that other life it was as though my double life never existed. I closed it off, the lid was shut and the door would never open.

I was able to switch between the two with ease and look authentic in both of them until May of this year (2015). I could see at this point that God was closing in on me and my time was almost up. The finances were more and more out of control. I was less and less present at home. I was less present at work and less on top of my responsibilities. I was less on top of ordinary chores at home. Normal living became too much effort as I was obsessed, consumed and compulsively enslaved.

I read some more from “The gifts of imperfection” today.

Everyone wants “How to” solutions and yet we have them at our fingertips. There is more “How to” information available to us than ever before. How to eat healthy, how to stay in shape, how to manage our money, how to be effective in almost anything.

However we are the most overweight, over indulgent, addicted, in debt society ever. We have all the information “How to”. I had all the knowledge … Bible knowledge, addiction recovery knowledge. I have more of that knowledge than most people. The reason I landed in this moral failure was not lack of knowledge.

I know the difference between right and wrong and even if I am attracted to another way of living the knowledge in my head is aware of the risks and all the for and against arguments. It’s a no brainer to do what is right!!!

I have a very disciplined, ordered, structured and strategic brain too. Above average when it is switched on.

Something caused me to bypass this well organised and well understood knowledge that is in my head. Bypass it so much that when I was in the madness it was almost as though the knowledge did not exist or I could not access that part of my brain.

I love this quote from the book “If we want to live and love with our whole hearts, and if we want to engage with the world from a place of worthiness, we have to talk about the things that get in the way – especially shame, fear and vulnerability”.

There is an idea in Jungian circles that shame is the swampland of the soul. It’s not that we should wade in and set up camp. It’s an important place to visit but it’s not the place I want to live. The choice is to stand on the shore looking over to the other side catastrophizing about what would happen if we opened up and talked honestly about our fears or grabbing the hand of a trusted friend and wading across the swamp. I like that imagery and it suggests that crossing the swamp is going to lead to freedom and be less painful in the long run.

I can see why people (including me) are drawn into the “How to” …why cross the swamp when you can bypass it? The problem with “How to’s” is that they leave me procrastinating because the problem is not knowledge but dealing with my obstacles… it’s my fear, it’s my shame and it’s my lack of vulnerability.

“How to” is a seductive shortcut but it leaves me standing in the same place, not moving forward, not growing, longing for connection, longing for intimacy and longing for meaning. It leaves me feeling empty because the problem is not “How to”.

I speak brilliantly about “How to”, “What to” and all the various concepts that enrich life. The irony is that I don’t live it and the reason for this is that I cannot because I have not understood or engaged with the obstacles that prevent me from doing so. Each time I engage with a “How to” I hit a road block and I stand at the road block stagnant, not moving forward.

A few weeks back when I was still immersed in the insanity that has been my life, the woman whom I was having an affair with had been scouring the internet almost obsessively to dig up information about me.

She sent me a link to a sermon I preached in April 2013. “What did you come out to see?” and said that I should listen to the last ten minutes. I listened to whole thing and it really exposed my hypocrisy. It was hard to listen to myself deliver such a passionate, articulate sermon that was packed with meaning, information about the way to live and yet I was not doing it. I am convinced now it is because I really did not have the courage to wade through the swamp of my soul. I was standing on the shore full of fear, shame and a veneer that protected myself from any scrutiny by being hard working, productive, busy and showing that I understood what I was talking about. At this point in my journey my spiritual life and my secret other life never touched each other, never got in the way of each other. If it looked like there may be a collision I managed things adequately enough to avoid the collision between real life and fantasy life.

Knowledge is useful but it’s not the answer. The answer is vulnerability. I know the 12 steps, I know the Bible, I know about the heart of God, I know about Jesus’ love and compassion for those in Spiritual poverty but knowledge as the Bible says “Puffs up” at the end it is about love and love demands vulnerability, honesty and selflessness which are all been seriously lacking in my life. I was a Pharisee of the highest order. The very thing that I rebelled against I had become.

I listed a few more items on eBay. I am starting to list things now that cause an emotional tug on me. My Akai wind synth and various effects and sound processors that have underpinned the music I have created in recent years are hard to give up especially seeing the kind of prices they will go for, much less than they are truly worth. It’s good for my soul though. I try to think of the money that will help my wife. I try to think about the money that people have given to help her and the children these weeks, I try to think of the money that I owe my former employers and wrestle my will against what is morally right. I really don’t have a right to anything. It’s hard to accept but it is true. If I end up in prison I know it will bring that home a bit more.


Reflections two years on
First of all, wow … what a journey. Gratitude is the key word of the day. I think about where I was just over two years ago and where I am today. It is mind blowing. I was the person that David complained about in the Psalm. I took advantage of people’s trust. I stole money that was supposed to help the defenceless. To anyone observing from the outside who may have suspected or known what was going on … it may have looked the way that David observed the situation in the beginning of the Psalm.
Of course, God knows what he is doing and no one, no matter how smart or clever can hoodwink the Lord. He knew the right time to intervene. He knew how far I would have to for into the abyss to have any chance of coming out with repentant heart and at just the right time.
I know that this raises questions about those who suffered as a result of my thievery, manipulation, sexual predatory ways and where is the justice. The truth of that is that God always brings about justice in his own way and on his own timetable. I am not affording myself any credit when I consider what I did but God knew what my wife needed to go through in order to grow spiritually, he knew what my family needed to go through. They would not have grown without being enveloped in such darkness none of which was their own doing.
My assumption is that either God allows for things to go for as long as is necessary to bring about repentance or as long as is necessary to bring about the oblivion that is the outcome of such wayward disregard for God and others.
…and then there is always judgement and eternity.

Psalm 9

We are reminded that God is established forever. He is Alpha and Omega, the Beginning and the End. There was no one before Him, and there will be no one after Him. His throne is established in eternity. Ultimately, nothing and nobody can usurp him. 

Mortal
Psalm 9

 

For the director of music. To the tune of ‘The Death of the Son’. A psalm of David.

I will give thanks to you, Lord, with all my heart;

    I will tell of all your wonderful deeds.

I will be glad and rejoice in you;

    I will sing the praises of your name, O Most High.

My enemies turn back;

    they stumble and perish before you.

For you have upheld my right and my cause,

    sitting enthroned as the righteous judge.

You have rebuked the nations and destroyed the wicked;

    you have blotted out their name for ever and ever.

Endless ruin has overtaken my enemies,

    you have uprooted their cities;

    even the memory of them has perished.

The Lord reigns for ever;

    he has established his throne for judgment.

He rules the world in righteousness

    and judges the peoples with equity.

The Lord is a refuge for the oppressed,

    a stronghold in times of trouble.

10 Those who know your name trust in you,

    for you, Lord, have never forsaken those who seek you.

11 Sing the praises of the Lord, enthroned in Zion;

    proclaim among the nations what he has done.

12 For he who avenges blood remembers;

    he does not ignore the cries of the afflicted.

13 Lord, see how my enemies persecute me!

    Have mercy and lift me up from the gates of death,

14 that I may declare your praises

    in the gates of Daughter Zion,

    and there rejoice in your salvation.

15 The nations have fallen into the pit they have dug;

    their feet are caught in the net they have hidden.

16 The Lord is known by his acts of justice;

    the wicked are ensnared by the work of their hands.

17 The wicked go down to the realm of the dead,

    all the nations that forget God.

18 But God will never forget the needy;

    the hope of the afflicted will never perish.

19 Arise, Lord, do not let mortals triumph;

    let the nations be judged in your presence.

20 Strike them with terror, Lord;

    let the nations know they are only mortal.


The psalms are Hebrew poetry. We mostly think about rhyming poetry where the ends of words rhyme.

Another type of poetry is to make the ideas sound like each other.

Psalm 9:8 is a good example of this. The 2 parts of the verse mean the same.

Another form of Hebrew poetry was to use an acrostic. This often caused the words to be jumbled and makes for difficult reading or awkward translation like Psalm 9:3.

Not many of the psalms are acrostics. Psalm 119 is the most well known acrostic. The others are 25, 34, 37, 111, 112, and 145.

We do not usually translate them into English as acrostics, because there are only 22 letters in the Hebrew alphabet. However psalm 9 and 10 have been translated in this way because some of the letters are missing.

David probably wrote Psalm 9 and 10 as one psalm. Jewish tradition holds that he wrote it after he killed Goliath. The first part says that God beat the foreign enemy (Psalm 9). The second part says that wicked men in Israel are making the helpless into oppressed people. (Psalm 10)

The reasons for thinking that it was one psalm are:

  ·   Psalm 10 has no words at the top about David or music. This is quite unusual in a psalm by David.

  ·   Hebrew words that David did not often use are in Psalms 9 and 10.

  ·   Psalms 9 and 10 make one acrostic.

However, Psalms 9 and 10 evidence two different approaches. The first is an individual hymn while the second is an individual lament.

In the first part (verses 1-12), praise is prominent, and in the second part (verses 13-20), prayer is prominent. Many subtle patterns weave the thoughts of its verses and lines together. Shifting back and forth between the individual and corporate perspectives is characteristic, as are introverted, structures.

David’s hymn in Psalm 9 ebbs and flows through two respective tides of prayer and praise dealing with individual and corporate perspectives.

Verses 1-2 introduce some “I will” statements as we glimpse David’s dedication to exuberant worship of the Lord.

There is a strong sense of gratitude for the fact that God has made him victorious over his enemies (presumably the Philistines).

Marvelous works are celebrated, referencing God’s extraordinary interventions into history on behalf of His people (compare the Exodus events).

This is a psalm determined to praise God and connect with him in awe and gratitude. The opening verses are deeply expressive.

Verses 5 and 6 reveal the just Judge’s dealings with the godless. Verses 7 and 8, deal with His dealings with all men in general, and verses 9 and 10 deal with His gracious dealings with the faithful.

We are reminded that God is established forever. He is Alpha and Omega, the Beginning and the End. There was no one before Him, and there will be no one after Him. His throne is established in eternity. Ultimately, nothing and nobody can usurp him.

In verses 9-10 we are informed that he is a refuge. God as a place of safety is a recurring theme in the Psalms (46:1-2; 91:1-2). A refuge or stronghold, sometimes translated “fortress”. He is a high place of security and protection (1 Samuel 23:14, 19, 29).

There is a “both/and” tension running throughout the Old Testament, i.e., God is enthroned in and above the heavens, and also, He symbolically dwells locally in Zion in His tabernacle (compare 1 Kings Chapter 8; Psalm 11:4).

As the result of this omnipresent wonder and in celebration of his work and intervention. The heart of the psalmist is full of praise and joy. He wants the world to know just who is this God!

In God’s kingdom the humble are celebrated, the weak are protected and the violators of peace are brought to justice. He will remember those who have suffered innocent bloodshed and he brings judgement on their oppressors.

Death is depicted like an earthly city, surrounded by a wall, where people are held captive – hence the reference to the gates of death.

The idea in verses 13 & 14 is, that the dead could not praise God, that his work of  is not yet complete, so he calls on God to intervene and save him so that he can continue to worship and praise him on the earth. This of course is an earthly perspective.

The psalm finishes by telling us 2 things:

  ·   God will remember the oppressed, even if they have to wait what appears to be a long time

  ·   God will teach us that we are only human and therefore mortal. It is only God that is really powerful

In verses 15-16, we are presented with God’s unfailing  boomerang. The principle of exact retribution. This in popular culture today is called karma or “what goes around, comes around”.


Reflections from my original journal notes in August 2015

I spent a good amount of the day going through the loft looking for things to list on eBay. I have a lot of vinyl records, some that are worth decent sums of money but are a bit awkward to list from the phone and the computer is painfully slow but I managed to get a few items up. I was trying to find my EWI (Electronic woodwind instrument). I am sure I could get at least £200 for that but I couldn’t find it anywhere. I was quite puzzled and a little consumed by the apparent loss of this instrument. I could not  remember taking it out of the house for many months and was sure I had seen it since. I found it eventually at about 11pm and was so relieved.

My dad phoned. It was a better conversation than last time. A little less of an edge. It must be difficult for him. I am sure it must bring up some of his own stuff plus I just learned that his sister, my aunt had just come out of a coma so he had all that going on when he last called. I knew she was very sick but I had no idea that she was in a coma until today. He was still mainly concerned about me being out of work, the financial situation but he did ask towards the end of the conversation “what are the chances of a reconciliation with my wife”. I told him that it was early days yet and that we both needed space and processing time but I would not rule it out.

PSALM 9
The Lord is a refuge for the oppressed,
a stronghold in times of trouble.
Those who know your name trust in you,
for you, Lord, have never forsaken those who seek you.
…………………….
I hold on to these words in Psalm 9. God is my stronghold in times of trouble. All I can do in this moment is to seek God. He will not forget about me.

My experience of God is an absent God…he’s out there doing his thing, being God but he’s not so interested in me. He is busy with the universe and other people who are more connected to him and have better hearts than me. Of course that experience is erroneous and in contradiction to scripture.

I know Jesus saved his strongest words for the self righteous and religious. I am a sinner of the highest order. I can see Jacob the deceiver in me, Samson the manipulator, David the adulterer who covered his steps by killing her husband, I am Jonah the moaner who ran away. I am not a pretty picture but God used all these people despite their flaws.

One of my friends and journal recipients came round in the evening and we spent a couple of hours together. It was great to see him. I talked through my story and he asked me a number of questions. We prayed and he told me that it was really helpful for him to be able to have more empathy for me. I really am glad that he is in this loop. He is a great friend. Meeting with him gave me the confidence and desire to make some more connections. I thinking about others I want to connect with. Yesterday was a pretty good day in the end.


Reflections two years on

The first thing that strikes me about this Psalm is that gratitude is key. I didn’t have a whole lot of gratitude two years ago. My thought life was dominated by fear, anxiety, anger, judgement, sadness and mostly self pity.

There was however a small glimmer of light and enough of an awareness of the presence of God to edge me forward. People were generally more gracious than I expected to. This gave me confidence to edge further forward, make apologies, some amends and reconnect.

Psalm 9 is a celebration of who God is. It is a Psalm of wonder and confidence in his absolute sovereignty.

It reminds me that though I have many limitations, God compensates for all this. In him there is more than hope. There is surety that every injustice, every despair, every failing will be put right. God is God…we are not.

Psalm 7

David’s confidence in God as Judge is the backbone of Psalm 7. His wrestling helps him shift from a tense anxiety to a transcendent assurance. This psalm follows David through 3 progressively calming stages of expression in response to the painfully false accusations that were being hurled against him.

Divine vindication

Psalm 7

shiggaion of David, which he sang to the Lord concerning Cush, a Benjaminite.

Lord my God, I take refuge in you;

    save and deliver me from all who pursue me,

or they will tear me apart like a lion

    and rip me to pieces with no one to rescue me.

Lord my God, if I have done this

    and there is guilt on my hands –

if I have repaid my ally with evil

    or without cause have robbed my foe –

then let my enemy pursue and overtake me;

    let him trample my life to the ground

    and make me sleep in the dust.

Arise, Lord, in your anger;

    rise up against the rage of my enemies.

    Awake, my God; decree justice.

Let the assembled peoples gather round you,

    while you sit enthroned over them on high.

    Let the Lord judge the peoples.

Vindicate me, Lord, according to my righteousness,

    according to my integrity, O Most High.

Bring to an end the violence of the wicked

    and make the righteous secure –

you, the righteous God

    who probes minds and hearts.

10 My shield is God Most High,

    who saves the upright in heart.

11 God is a righteous judge,

    a God who displays his wrath every day.

12 If he does not relent,

    he will sharpen his sword;

    he will bend and string his bow.

13 He has prepared his deadly weapons;

    he makes ready his flaming arrows.

14 Whoever is pregnant with evil

    conceives trouble and gives birth to disillusionment.

15 Whoever digs a hole and scoops it out

    falls into the pit they have made.

16 The trouble they cause recoils on them;

    their violence comes down on their own heads.

17 I will give thanks to the Lord because of his righteousness;

    I will sing the praises of the name of the Lord Most High.


When David was young he worked for King Saul. Saul was Israel’s first king (1050 BC). David was popular with the people. This troubled Saul. He wanted to kill David. So David ran away from Saul. He lived in the fields, woods and mountains. Saul went in pursuit of him. David had other enemies. One was Cush.

Cush was from the people of Benjamin. They were one of the 12 tribes that made up Israel. Cush aggravated the situation with Saul by telling him that David wanted to kill him. This was not the case. David was informed of this and his reaction is recorded in this Psalm.

The superscription indicates that the psalm was written while David was being assailed by “Cush the Benjamite”, who was evidently one of Saul’s radical kinsmen. David is confident in both his own innocence (verses 3-5), and the certainty that God would punish Cush (verses 6-17).

The incident with Cush cannot be identified from the historical books. However, whoever this was or whatever the name represented, some enemy had obviously been falsely charging David.

David asked God to judge. A judge at that time was more than a decision maker about what is true and right but would also be a helper, an arbiter. They also led the Jews when they fought their enemies. They were political leaders.

David’s confidence in God as Judge is the backbone of Psalm 7. His wrestling helps him shift from a tense anxiety to a transcendent assurance. This psalm follows David through 3 progressively calming stages of expression in response to the painfully false accusations that were being hurled against him.

  • David raises his concern as he pleads with God for intervention (Verses 1-5).
  • David establishes his defence against the accusation (Verses 6-16).
  • David’s composure is evident as he trusts in God’s verdict and judgement (Verse 17).

Psalm 7 introduces one of the more enigmatic terms found in superscription’s of the psalms, “a Shiggaion (Hebrew), of David”. It is probably related to the idea of wondering, reeling, veering, or weaving. Consequently, the term may also indicate the song’s irregularity in rhythm (see Habakkuk 3:1). “He sang” also indicates that this was a vocal solo.

Strong’s Concordance says the word Shiggaion (The word denotes a lyrical poem composed under strong mental emotion; a song of impassioned imagination accompanied with suitable music). Some noted scholars call this Psalm the Song of the Slandered Saint.

In verse 2 the wild animal is a lion. David probably means that Cush is like a wild animal. The friend in verse 4 is probably Saul.

David’s claim to righteousness and integrity in verse 8 is not a declaration of being without sin but of innocence in this matter.

In verse 9 we see David’s confidence in God as the just judge with perfect insight (compare this to God examining the heart and mind in Jeremiah 17:10; and Acts 1:24; 15:8). God knows us intimately, he knows our deepest emotions, desires, thought, and motivations (1 Samuel 16:7).

Verses 12-16 are rich in poetic metaphor.

  ·   God’s weaponry to punish is compared to deadly flaming arrows (verse 13) .

  ·   Cush is described as pregnant with evil. The fruit of this pregnancy will be disappointment (verse 14)

  ·   Cush is said to dig a hole presumably as a trap but ends up falling in and being caught up in his own snare. The modern expression being that what goes around comes around. (Verses 15-16)

“The Lord most high” is a title rarely found outside the Psalms. It is first encountered in the story of Melchizedek and Abram (Genesis 14:18-22). David uses this title to announce God’s power and rule over all nations (47:2; 78:35).


Reflections from my original journal notes in August 2015

I paraphrase from “The gifts of imperfection”

Fitting in and belonging are not the same. Fitting in actually hinders belonging. Fitting in is about understanding the situation and becoming who you need to be in order to be accepted.

Belonging however, doesn’t require us to change who we are, it requires us to be who we are. Belonging is about authenticity. Love and belonging are connected. I think about my life and as far as I remember I have tried to fit in rather than belong.

At school I felt very much on the outside, at work I felt the bottom of the pack until I worked for one particular company where I learned to be wholehearted in my work there and was promoted 3 times in three years but when I became a senior manager and mixed with other managers I felt socially awkward and on the outside.

The same thing occurred in the company I went to next. I think becoming a Christian around the same time automatically put me on the outside of this rather “cool and trendy” culture that seemed to prevail in that company.

Going into the full time ministry in a role that was not understood or valued kept me on the outside. The elders at the time really did all they could to influence other staff about the significance and importance of the role myself and my wife played but at the outset not many staff had children and visitors at church and baptisms was the only currency that counted.

I tend not to know about things that men talk about. I don’t know much about the financial world or cars. I don’t keep up much with the news or entertainment. I don’t know about property or DIY. I do know a lot about football and I do know a lot about certain non mainstream niches of music and also the history of rock music. I feel often that I don’t fit, I don’t belong and I am on the outside. I feel I am the least in my family.

The reality is that nothing external to me kept me on the outside but all the time I tried to either fit in or not be noticed at all. I have to find who I am and be authentic about that. I really want to belong. I really want to discover the real me.

We are designed and wired for love. Jesus was asked “What is the greatest command” his answer in a nutshell was “Love God, love people” …it’s not more complicated than that. It is our purpose for using up air on this planet. Our biology, our cognition, our physical being and spirituality is all designed for love …heart, mind, body, soul and spirit. When love is not met in us we don’t function as we are meant to. We break, we hurt, we fall apart, we go numb, we ache, we hurt others, we get sick.

The difference between professing love and loving someone is huge. I think you can experience “the feelings of love” but not love and you can love without the feelings. To be “in” love and to love are not the same thing. Being in love is subjective, it’s about a personal interpretation of experienced feelings.

I could manufacture those feelings with words and my imagination but they are not anchored in reality. They are a product of my imagination or a fantasy. They are euphoric and maybe that’s why I used multiple women to feed this euphoria. If one was not feeding that need I would use another one. It was like the hit from heroin or cocaine for me. I am addicted to that feeling. It’s quite frightening to think of it like that.

To love someone is a very different experience. It’s actually about putting 1 Corinthians 13 into practice. It’s the purest definition of love that I know. The Bible is all about love but these verses define it well. You can do this and live this without the feelings, you can actually practice and live this with someone you don’t even like. I want to be a man who loves and does it well.

I spoke to one of the leaders from Sex and Love Addicts Anonymous. Within 1 minute of speaking with him on the phone I felt a strong dislike for him. We didn’t connect. I told him my story and I found him too quick to be directive. It reminded me of some discipling experiences in the early 1990’s. He was very militant about a number of things. He told me to tell my wife that I need money from the equity of the house to pay off my debt to to the charity that I was working for and tell the chairman tomorrow, he told me to message a woman that I was previously involved with, whilst I was on the phone to him and gave me an exact sentence to write “I am getting help with Sex and Love Addicts Anonymous. I would appreciate it if we have no more contact. I wish you well”. (She is still sending messages which I am ignoring).

He sent me a 32 page document at 11pm at night and that I should read it all before I go to sleep, he told me that I should go to a meeting in Brixton tomorrow and if I was serious about changing I would do all these things. I tried to tell him about my dishonesty and especially with people who come across in such a forthright and what I perceive to overbearing way. He didn’t seem interested and just said he wants to help me, he has been where I am and he knows what works. He also said that I was wasting his time. He spoke with me on the phone for more than one hour and said that he was giving up his free time whilst away on a break in Wiltshire but he is not convinced I want to change. Some would call it “tough love” but it felt lacking in empathy. I did none of the suggestions but I think I will go to the meeting in Brixton. I want to find out more. I will read the document today. I reasoned that they may not all be as militant as this guy. When I worked in the addiction recovery field some 12 step fellowships were known to be more militant than others and I wondered if this might be the case.

I masturbated after the conversation. I found some pictures on an old hard drive. I should have deleted them. I felt back at where all this story began. I could have read the 32 page document it would have been more helpful. I could have prayed or read the Bible. I felt terrible afterwards. The whole event informed me of one of my triggers being one of disappointment, being misunderstood, closed down.

I read Psalm 7. Here are some of the words that connected with me…


Psalm 7

LORD my God, I take refuge in you; save and deliver me from all who pursue me, or they will tear me apart like a lion and rip me to pieces with no one to rescue me


There are many people in this world who are judgemental, self righteous and unforgiving. What I have done is not deserving of anything less than that. God is my only refuge and though he may not protect me from the consequences. The Lord disciplines those he loves. He will still be my shelter and in the end my salvation.


Psalm 7

Whoever is pregnant with evil conceives trouble and gives birth to disillusionment. Whoever digs a hole and scoops it out falls into a pit they have made. The trouble they cause recoils on them; their violence comes down on their own heads.


I have been living this and now I am feeling the consequences of it.

I had a great start to the day but it ended in a dark place. The conversation with the guy from the sex and love addicts group was a negative trigger in me. It wasn’t completely negative. The material he sent looks useful. The 40 questions for self diagnosis. forms part of it. I scored a “yes” for 28 out of the 40 questions which appears to put me firmly in the category of sex addict and yet there is also a part of me that considers this as merely a lack of self discipline that has allowed my sinful nature to overrun my soul. I am not sure if I am an addict or not. The characteristics of sex and love addiction which form part of the pack give 12 characteristics and of those 12 I have been living with 5. The point is that I have a problem that has caused a train wreck in my life and the lives of people I love and care for. I need to address it.

Some of the things he talked about made a lot of sense. Maybe I should give him a chance to warm to me and me to him. At the end of Saturday I felt hopeless, sad and a failure.


Reflections two years on

Everything was so raw two years ago. I cannot help but praise God for his intervention and be thankful of where I have come from and where I am today. It is a great blessing to wake up with a clear conscience every day and to live intentionally motivated by love rather than fear. That’s not to say that fear does not enter my life. Certainly it does but walking with God keeps it in perspective and ensures that it does not take control of my thoughts or actions in such a catastrophic way.

The chaos, the reaping of consequences were good for me and God knew the perfect measure that I needed at that time. He protected me from what could have been a much severe outcome on many fronts. I could have gone to jail, I am free. I could have been rejected by my family, I am reconciled. I could have caught some sexually transmitted disease, I am in good health. It could have caused untold spiritual damage in my family, it brought about growth. God is gracious and perfect in his judgement. I deserved a much more severe outcome but I am thankful for the one that I have.

David’s confidence in God shines through in Psalm 7. He describes him as his shield and refuge. Through all of this darkness I experienced there was a small glimmer of holding onto this truth that I did not doubt.

David was afraid but he knew the truth about who God was and ultimately he trusted that. I was afraid and I struggled to trust that God would take care of my needs so I took matters into my own hands. I was not being pursued by an enemy. I was my own enemy. Somehow, not because of anything I merited a light was left on that caused me to have enough within me to know that God is indeed my refuge and shield.

Psalm 6

Sometimes wrestling in prayer to surrender to God’s will and ask for his mercy can bring about a confidence and great peace even without the circumstances being different. David demonstrates this with a bold stance against his enemies. David has taken his eyes off his worldly problems and fixed them on God knowing that he can do more than he can ask or imagine. 

have-mercy-peggy-pool
Psalm 6

 

For the director of music. With stringed instruments. According to sheminith. A psalm of David.

Lord, do not rebuke me in your anger

    or discipline me in your wrath.

Have mercy on me, Lord, for I am faint;

    heal me, Lord, for my bones are in agony.

My soul is in deep anguish.

    How long, Lord, how long?

Turn, Lord, and deliver me;

    save me because of your unfailing love.

Among the dead no one proclaims your name.

    Who praises you from his grave?

I am worn out from my groaning.

All night long I flood my bed with weeping

    and drench my couch with tears.

My eyes grow weak with sorrow;

    they fail because of all my foes.

Away from me, all you who do evil,

    for the Lord has heard my weeping.

The Lord has heard my cry for mercy;

    the Lord accepts my prayer.

10 All my enemies will be overwhelmed with shame and anguish;

    they will turn back and suddenly be put to shame.

——————————

It appears that David was ill. We are not given any detail and there are no solid clues as to when it was written or the source of his affliction.

There are speculative assumptions that it was either when Absalom tried to become king (2 Samuel 15:14) or when King Saul tried to kill David (1 Samuel 19:18)

It is evident that David isolated and struggling emotionally. He was seemingly ill in body and in mind. He felt that God had abandoned him.

 

The lament is intense. David is sleepless. His circumstances seem hopeless. The early Christian church regarded this psalm as the first among the “penitential psalms” (compare Psalms 32, 38, 51, 102, 130 and 143). David’s cries, coming from his despair addresses two different audiences.

He pours out his soul before God, He has a defeatist mentality (6:1-7), and then he turns his attention to his enemies with a bold defiance (6:8-10).

A new musical direction appears, literally “upon an eight”, indicating either “upon an eight-stringed lyre” or “upon the octave” (i.e., a lower bass melody to accompany these lyrics of intense lament).

David appears to be deeply troubled by something, possibly an illness that his own sin may have caused (Psalm 41:4; Hosea 6:1). He pleads God for mercy, knowing that it is not deserved but urgently needed. “My bones” and “my soul” represent the whole person. There are allusions to his condition being an emotional or mental illness as well as physical. He does not ask for immunity from judgement, but for the tempering of God’s discipline with mercy.

His pleading is that God will not abandon him, this could well be a spiritual illness as a result of sin. The mention of bodily parts does not necessary imply a physical ailment. In Old Testament anthropology such references are metaphors for an affliction of his total being.

 

There is an evident turn of events or at least in his mindset. Sometimes wrestling in prayer to surrender to God’s will and ask for his mercy can bring about a confidence and great peace even without the circumstances being different. David demonstrates this with a bold stance against his enemies. David has taken his eyes off his worldly problems and fixed them on God knowing that he can do more than he can ask or imagine.

 

 


Reflections from my original journal notes in August 2015


In all of this darkness, it is a blessing to be out of work at the moment. To be able to sit in the park, to journal, to reflect, to have processing time. It’s like God has given me a sabbatical. I feel the grace of God.

Reading “The gifts of imperfection” is very engaging and invigorating.

I have been trading in authenticity for approval. It’s easy to see it now. I want people to like me, to tell me I am somebody, I want to be close and to be emotionally intimate but I am afraid. I think back to interactions with my parents and teachers that closed me down. I can’t blame them. I am an adult. Why didn’t I get this? Why was I able to manufacture enough vulnerability for people to believe I was open and honest. Why didn’t I actually be honest?

Shame hates it when we tell our story. Satan hates it when we walk in the light because he cannot operate in the light. We are told not to give him a foothold (Ephesians 4:27) and if we are in the light the accuser cannot accuse because our answer to his accusations will always be “I know and so do my friends and praise God for the blood of Jesus”. I really believe that. Why don’t I live it? I don’t understand.

I need friends to tell my story too
But I need to choose my inner circle wisely.

I personalize and paraphrase some helpful notes from the book below.

I have different kinds of friends who in any given situation could respond in an unhelpful way. This is not a question of sincerity but more a question of their life, their experiences and their ability to be what I need in a given moment.

Examples of who I don’t need:
1. Someone who hears my story, feels the shame and gasps at how horrified I should be followed by awkward silence and then it becomes my role to make them feel better.

2. Someone who responds with sympathy rather than empathy. The last thing I need is for someone to feel sorry for me.

3. Someone who is too disappointed because they expect me to be a pillar of worthiness and authenticity.

4. Someone who is uncomfortable with vulnerability and the first thing out of their mouth is “How did you let this happen?” Or “What were you thinking?” Or perhaps they look for someone to blame.

5. Someone who wants to just make me feel better so refuses to acknowledge what’s happened. They insist that I am  exaggerating or tell me about all my positive traits and remind me that everyone thinks I am awesome.

6. Someone who goes on to say “That’s nothing. Let me tell you about what happened to me”.

I have been all of those people at any given time but what I need in that moment is to feel safe enough to be vulnerable, exposed and at the same time to be completely loved and accepted. That is the definition of compassion that I will work with for now.

I have two men that I trust implicitly in my inner circle at the moment. I thought about adding another specific person but his role in recent years has been too directive and I don’t feel safe to be vulnerable but I do want to add one or two more people.

The root word for courage is cor – the Latin word for heart. The origins of the word courage are “To speak one’s mind by telling one’s heart”. Speaking honestly and openly about who we are , about what we are feeling, about our good and bad  experiences is the true definition of courage. Heroes facing fearful situations is just one facet of courage but it is the popular definition. Ordinary courage is putting our vulnerability on the line and that’s what I want to continue working on and developing.

It’s important for me to recognize that I need help.

PSALM 6
Have mercy on me, Lord, for I am faint;
heal me, Lord, for my bones are in agony.
My soul is in deep anguish.
How long, Lord, how long?
Turn, Lord, and deliver me;
save me because of your unfailing love.

The only totally dependable thing I have to lean on is God’s unfailing love. This kind of love never fails. No matter what is going on for me. Everything is an act of love from God. I need to hold on to that. I need to live it and breath it. Sometimes I struggle to pray. I struggle to say the words. I can write well but too often my prayer life descends into rambling. I am not sure if it matters or if I will grow in it. I know if I am honest with God it’s enough. He takes our honesty in lieu of our perfection.

My local congregational minister called me. It was good to hear from him. He asked me how I was and towards the end of the conversation he asked me what I was doing about going to church. My cynical mind went to a place where he is trying to figure out if I should be still on the membership or not or that I will be judged on the basis of my attendance. I don’t really think God pays much attention to the membership role. In our movement we used to view the membership as though it was the book of life. We laugh at that now but there is an underlying sense of if you are not on the membership your chances of making it are slim.

It’s not the point. I explained to him that I was not ready to attend church meetings yet and that because I am so well known could not think of anywhere in the UK churches where I would feel safe. He suggested that I look up a specific group who are the roots of our movement and we share a similar doctrinal position. I told him that I would give it consideration but would not guarantee. I wanted to be honest with him. I was pleased that I was. There have been times in my relationship with him when I have said “Yes” when I meant “no” or “I am not sure” but today was different. I probably will go. I am curious to see what it’s like but there’s a part of me that has been enjoying free time on Sundays and not rushing around being a cog in the system. I am in no hurry to get back. I know I need fellowship, relationships but meetings don’t really provide that for me.

It’s amazing I have 12 extra hours in the day from not working and I still don’t get everything done. Today I was frustrated about that.

I wrestled with the controls of the DVD player for my grandson for about 30 minutes and I couldn’t get it to work. I felt inadequate. I also felt inadequate about all the little repair jobs around the house my brother in law had done for my wife in my absence. She proudly showed the results to me. Some she had asked me to do numerous times but I didn’t have a clue what to do. I always felt a failure as a man with this stuff. I should know how to fix things etc.  It felt like rubbing salt into a wound.

The bank put my wife’s mortgage application for referral because “someone associated with her has a bad credit rating”. That’s me of course. I felt terrible.

Skype, Facebook and Facebook messenger are open on my work phone and someone there is reading and responding to my private messages. Only saying I am not there anymore. I have now asked three times for these apps to be deleted from the phone and I feel very uncomfortable that they can read my messages. I started to wonder if they are legally allowed. Surely it’s like opening someone else’s post. I wrote again politely asking that they remove these apps.

I am going to write a letter to each of my children. I don’t know how they will respond. I am not expecting anything from them. I have no business expecting anything at all. The only thing I can do is write, take responsibility, acknowledge the pain, distress and hurt I have caused. However they choose to respond is their choice. This takes faith.

I watched the two Ted Talks again last night. The addiction talk connected with me. The idea of addiction being a bonding issue makes a lot of sense. We bond with people when we are happy and healthy because in the core of our being we are wired for relationship. If we have not been given the tools to bind with people or we have suffered trauma or some kind of unresolved grief we bond with something else. My bonding was a perverse way of bonding with people. It was about manipulating attention, affection and manufacturing an artificial intimacy and love. I used women to meet this end, I have used music to meet this end, I have used carving out a niche in my work or even my work ethic itself to meet this end, I have tried to achieve to meet this end, I have done a lot to try and impress people to meet this end.

In normal life there are bonds and connections that people want to be present for – family, friends, work, social activities and interests. I ask myself why wasn’t that giving me a sense of purpose? What was missing? Why did I press the destruct button? It’s got to be something about my relationship with me. It’s got to be that I don’t like to be present with myself for some reason. I don’t know why that is. I need to discover this. I need to discover purpose, passion, authentic bonds and connection.

It is often said that we are the most connected society but it’s a parody of connection. It’s artificial. In crisis where are my Twitter followers? Where are my Facebook friends? I leaned on them too much and exposed too much to them. Why? for an artificial intimacy. I think the reality is that we are an increasingly isolated society and perhaps the loneliest society ever.

I think Mother Theresa may have said that loneliness is the harshest form of poverty. I paraphrase but I think whoever said that is right. For a few days living in my car I was the loneliest I had ever been. I felt abandoned by everyone. The reality was that I isolated myself. We have lost our sense of community in the modern world. We have lost our sense of belonging. Social recovery is what I need, rediscovering community is what I need …ultimately “All you need is love” …the Beatles were right after all. I wonder why the community of the church didn’t work for me and wonder if it will ever work. For my wife it’s everything. I see how she benefits from the support. Is it all down to my bohemian, maverick or rebellious spirit? Surely people like me can belong too? Was I kicking against religiousness and challenging for authenticity …my sermons seem to suggest that but all the time I was losing my authenticity and in the end I was the least authentic of all. It’s crazy, the very thing I craved I destroyed in myself by a compromise of dishonesty and moral failure. Why? I want to be honest and authentic but I need to understand why I was not.

The second talk on infidelity really resonated with me. The changing interpretations of marital unfaithfulness, the changing interpretation of monogamy …One person for life or one person at a time?  The only command repeated twice in the Bible …once for doing it and once for only thinking about it.

I liked her definition of an affair. A secret relationship, an emotional connection and a sexual alchemy.

The carnage that has occurred as a result of my infidelity has been hard to hear and I am only scratching the surface. I see shock in some, I see anger in others, I have my oldest daughter’s text and letter as a concrete reminder. I see my wife’s emotional fragility when always I knew her as the most robust of women. I don’t know how my son and my other daughter feel. I see the trauma and how it has destroyed my wife’s sense of self. I live every day with the consequences of having violated trust, I see my own identity crisis, I see my wife’s identity crisis and the identity crisis of what was our marriage.

Something inside me said I was entitled to do all I did and that this pursuit was legitimate despite my understanding of God’s word and even acceptance of God’s word. I remember justifying it by the mess I observed in the Old Testament …I am no worse than David and he was a man after God’s own heart.

I am only struggling with the things that are common to man. The strongest man (Samson), the wisest man (Solomon) and the man after God’s own heart (David) all had this problem. Why is there inside of me this entitlement that says “I deserve to be happy”. Is it a generational or genetic thing? Is it simply an issue of personal moral failure and sin.

I crossed a line that I never thought I would cross and after that the other lines were very easy to cross. The whole thing gathered momentum that by the time I put the brakes on it was way too late. It was like applying the brakes to a high speed train. It would take a while before it would stop and the crash was inevitable. Why would I risk losing everything? Did I believe I would lose everything? I don’t think I really thought much about the consequences. I felt I would always find a way out. Other times I remember thinking (especially towards the end) that I was heading for a crash and I think I pressed the destruct button for one last burst of feeling alive. When running the addiction recovery service, I often encountered people who would try “One last use up” before treatment.

I think this story was about self discovery. It was about longing and loss. It was about the discovery of a vitality that I never had. It really wasn’t my wife that I was turning away from but it was the person I had become. I really wasn’t looking for another partner but another self. It wasn’t about sex but it was about desire, attention and the fact that I could never have my lover .. It kept me in the state of desire, of wanting. It was a mental obsession and an act of compulsion.

In the talk the speaker said that every affair redefines the relationship and its important to ask the question what the legacy of the affair is. The victim of the affair is not always the victim of the marriage. It’s an opportunity and a paradox with hurt and betrayal on one side with growth and self discovery on the other. The question of what it did to my wife and what did it mean to me needs to be answered. It’s too early to see it with the optimism of a journey of discovery but a mustard seed of faith and enough intent to say I want to repair, restore and repay is a starting point where I can see a glimmer of light.

This marriage is over. It can never be what it was. It will never be the same again but there is perhaps the possibility of inviting my wife to create a new marriage together in the future. I hope for this.


Reflections two years on

It is incredible to see how far we have come in two years. That is something to celebrate. I really can’t give myself much credit for this but God can reach way beyond what is possible with our human pride and selfishness. I am grateful that today I connect deeply with all of my children and with my wife …more deeply than I was capable of connecting with them before.

I can relate to David’s battle in the Psalm. The anguish of his emotional darkness and who knows what physical manifestations. His self focus and inability to see God in that moment is evident. Writing is powerful for exorcising our demons and to write with a mindful intent to bring God into the arena and wrestle with that has a unique power.

I was staying in the family home after a few days of living in my car in a supermarket car park when I wrote those words two years ago. My wife and children were gracious enough to allow me to stay in the garage. It was very early in my recovery journey, less than two weeks in. I felt the affliction and darkness that David describes in the Psalm and I prayed these words:

Have mercy on me, Lord, for I am faint;
heal me, Lord, for my bones are in agony.
My soul is in deep anguish.
How long, Lord, how long?
Turn, Lord, and deliver me;
save me because of your unfailing love.

God answered, not on account of my heart but on account of his.

Psalm 5

David exposes man’s problem with words, he implies a special application to his slick-talking enemies. The Bible constantly addresses our walk and talk. His desire was to call on God to lead him and help him to make good decisions, use wise words and lean on him.

enemies
Psalm 5

For the director of music. For pipes. A psalm of David.

Listen to my words, Lord,

    consider my lament.

Hear my cry for help,

    my King and my God,

    for to you I pray.

In the morning, Lord, you hear my voice;

    in the morning I lay my requests before you

    and wait expectantly.

For you are not a God who is pleased with wickedness;

    with you, evil people are not welcome.

The arrogant cannot stand

    in your presence.

You hate all who do wrong;

    you destroy those who tell lies.

The bloodthirsty and deceitful

    you, Lord, detest.

But I, by your great love,

    can come into your house;

in reverence I bow down

    toward your holy temple.

Lead me, Lord, in your righteousness

    because of my enemies—

    make your way straight before me.

Not a word from their mouth can be trusted;

    their heart is filled with malice.

Their throat is an open grave;

    with their tongues they tell lies.

10 Declare them guilty, O God!

    Let their intrigues be their downfall.

Banish them for their many sins,

    for they have rebelled against you.

11 But let all who take refuge in you be glad;

    let them ever sing for joy.

Spread your protection over them,

    that those who love your name may rejoice in you.

12 Surely, Lord, you bless the righteous;

    you surround them with your favour as with a shield.


In contrast to Psalm 4, Psalm 5 is a morning psalm (verse 3). The titles “my King” and “my God” (verse 2), are rich with meaning: David, through a king himself, is subject to another. The rest of the psalm describes the divergent dispositions of God toward the righteous and toward the wicked. The vivid description of David’s wicked enemies (verses 9-10), is worthy of Paul’s application of it to the lost condition of all men (Romans 3:13).

Whereas the instructions to the worship leader in Psalm 4, pertain to a stringed accompaniment, Psalm 5 is to be celebrated in community worship with flute accompaniment.

David told the LORD that he would pray early in the morning. “Give ear to my words” is an earnest plea for God to hear the poet’s utterances.

We see David crying out to God to listen and hear his words. He also says consider my meditation. From this we can deduce that there is more to prayer than words but it involves contemplation, careful thought

David may have been the anointed theocratic king on earth, but he fully understood that the ultimate king of all Israel and of the whole earth is God. God had allowed Israel the concession of a human king in the capacity of mediator (see 1 Samuel 8:19).

The enemies of David were really the enemies of God. David says that God will destroy them. Really, they destroy themselves as a result of valuing their own autonomy over God’s will. Hosea addressing Israel’s own apostasy wrote, “Israel, you destroyed yourself. But your help is in me” (Hosea 13:9).

In Proverbs, we frequently read about people who are described as foolish. They are those who do not respect the ways of God. We see in the Psalm that David expresses God’s attitude towards such fools.

 

David’s enemies are described as foolish wicked, proud and haughty, workers of iniquity, liars, bloodthirsty and deceitful men. God is described as hating such behaviour. He therefore hoped and was confident that God would hear his prayers against them, and for himself.

David mentions the temple in verses 7-8, but he did not have a temple. He had a tent made from goatskins. This was his place of worship and reverent engagement with God.

He starkly contrasts himself with his enemies. They are haughty; he is humble. We notice a deliberate decision by David to worship God. His enemies have no regard for God.

David exposes man’s problem with words, he implies a special application to his slick-talking enemies. The Bible constantly addresses our walk and talk. His desire was to call on God to lead him and help him to make good decisions, use wise words and lean on him.

 

 

David asks God to allow his enemies intrigues to be their downfall. Other translations say “let them fall by their own counsels”, in other words make their counsels not only unsuccessful against him, but also destructive to themselves. His prayer is that their plans will fail and that they will bring about their own destruction.

These men were not merely opposing David but opposing God. This all seems quite harsh and brutal but in effect he was asking God to take care of the judgement and consequences that these men would suffer. He did not wish to take matters into his own hands.

The closing verses speak of God’s protection, that those who take refuge in the Lord will be taken care of, they will know joy and will experience God as their shield. Whilst this may not always be a physical shield from pain and suffering it will be a spiritual shield of eternal perspective, a shield of faith and trust that God will level all things.


Reflections from my original journal notes in August 2015
I spent the morning in the park with my grandson. This was a big event on my gratitude list. To be able to do something normal when all of my family are struggling to speak with me at all. To play with my 4 year old grandson in the park was a welcome break from all of the chaos. He holds no judgement on me, he is affectionate and accepting. I am granddad to him. That’s never been in question, though I am sure he is aware that something is not right. Why is granddad not at home? why is granddad sleeping in his car? I know that these are some of the questions in his mind. But for now it’s hugs and playfulness, our shared humour and is like a taste of heaven in the midst of all the darkness.

My wife has hit a low point, she was still unravelling all of the financial mess that I have left the household in. I could offer no support or encouragement. At this stage nothing I say can be trusted. All I can do is show willing cooperation and transparency. She had a credit card with an outstanding balance of £5700 which I had fraudulently used without her knowledge and most, if not all of the balance was a result of my deception. This had a negative impact on the mortgage the bank could offer her, as the idea was to transfer everything to her name because I could no longer be trusted and my creditors may not be able to pursue her. This still looks very much like the end of the road for us. Facing that is challenging. The bank will not offer her enough money to take on the mortgage and even with my oldest daughters financial assistance this idea is reaching dead end after dead end. I feel powerless in this situation.

I asked her about it and she said that everything was fine until it came to her credit card, that because of the £5700 balance on the card they could only offer £167,000 and without that they could have offered £182,000. She only needed £175,000. I immediately felt awful because I am responsible this.

I said that she should give it to her card company as fraudulent and I will take responsibility for it whatever the consequences. She had already reported some of the use as fraudulent and had requested statements going back to when she first had the card in 2009. It will be a slow process and perhaps a little while before they can take it from her as fraudulent if they will at all since I was part of the household. Not a pretty situation. I felt terrible in the moment.

It felt like a real blow as I saw my wife’s disappointment, her tears and her anger. I wanted to console her but knew that I was the wrong person to do it at this time.She went to see a good friend to drop something off but was gone a long time.

I was sure that she was probably telling her about what had happened. I thought about things I could sell to try and raise the money and know that I could make a dent in it at least but it would take time. I did selling on eBay and Amazon before but found it very time consuming and I also need to evidence looking for work but I desperately wanted to do something.

It’s very painful to think that the family could lose the house. I think I fear that more than going to jail. I feel I have hurt and disappointed them enough and this would be another nail in their hearts. I know that my wife has expressed that it is the financial issues that have hurt her even more than the infidelity. This is very hard to bear.

I feel a lot of shame around it.Within an hour of her coming back from her friends’ she received a call from that friend. This friend’s husband had agreed to offer her enough money to clear the bulk of the credit card debt by way of an indefinite loan. I didn’t know how to react to that. I felt relief, I felt embarrassment …I am not sure if I felt gratitude. I hope I did but I did not detect it in my thinking. I think I was too self consumed and numb.

She asked me if I thought I could sell enough to raise the other £700. I said I think I could spend a big chunk of time next week on it if I can use her computer because it’s difficult to do at the library and too fiddly on the phone. I suggested that I look to sell as much as possible, clear the £700 see if I have enough over to get a laptop to keep going and after that give the money to my former employers whom I stole a much larger sum of money from. I made a note of everyone that has given or been kind to myself and the family and I hope that one day I can repay all or at least give something back. Every bit of hospitality, every bit of kindness ..  I know what I cannot give back then God can do more. I think about Matthew 25 “Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me”.

I am resistant to acknowledge it, maybe because of shame, guilt and pride but the hearts of some of the Christians, their support and response has been amazing. My wife suggested that I should try and meet with this friend of the family next week and begin to repair. I said that I am not sure I am ready but I will wrestle with that and pray about it. I think it may be a good step in the right direction.

I am very resistant to letting too many people in at the moment and particularly too close to the situation or just rebuilding my old circle of friends. I want to avoid my old responses but I know also I must road test my new resolve.

Already conversations with my wife are hard enough. I find myself being defensive whenever she gives me direction. I tried to explain to her that I did not want to be around people who are too directive at the moment and that’s why I have avoided some of them. Whilst I am not really in a position to resist anyone, I do know that handling people who are too directional or pushy in their communication will not bring about a fruitful response in me just now, I am not strong enough. That doesn’t sound right. It’s not that I need to necessarily fight such strength of opinion but I need to be solid in my own resolve. I am vulnerable to being a doormat or being compliant and the best that will bring about does not look like repentance or authenticity but more of the same, more playing the system.

I want to be around people that I enjoy being with and not be with people because “that’s how we organise ministry” or whatever other reason.

I started to think about Step 4 in the 12 steps and thought about what it would mean for me to take a fearless moral inventory. I asked myself would I use the sin passages as my bench mark from the study series that we use to help people to become Christians. I am not sure if I agree with the way we study the Bible with people but that’s another story.

I am not sure at the moment perhaps to start with the greatest command would be better. At the end of everything I want to “Love God and love people”.

I watched two Ted talks which resonated a lot with me. I will write more about them tomorrow.

Here are the links:
Johann Hari: Everything you think you know about addiction is wrong

Esther Perel: Rethinking infidelity … a talk for anyone who has ever loved 

Both of these talks give me hope.

I am using the Psalms to guide my prayer life. I am not sure if it’s working for me or not. How do I define “working for me”? I think it’s mostly about feeling connected to God. I think also though after such a long period of disconnection from God and man it would be a big expectation to stroll back into any relationship on earth or in heaven. There’s a lot of unravelling to do and I don’t think I will be able to see it on a day to day basis.

Psalm 5 has a lot to say about those who tell lies. “You destroy all that tell lies”. I chose not to focus on these words. The destruction is evident. I chose to focus on the opening three verses

“Listen to my words, LORD,
consider my lament.
Hear my cry for help,
my King and my God,
for to you I pray.
In the morning, LORD, you hear my voice;
in the morning I lay my requests before you and wait expectantly.”

I am trying not to pray about God fixing my circumstances but repairing my heart and taking care of my family. I am asking for things. For example I asked that my family could keep the house but I ask with an attitude of surrender. I don’t feel surrender all the time but I express it as such.I find it strange that now I am out of work and effectively have an extra 10 – 12 hours a day I still struggle to get everything done that I want to get done


Reflections two years on

I think about how much of my waywardness was built on a foundation of anger, resentment, hurt, grieving and disappointment. What comes across in this Psalm with quite some strength is that David wrestled with God to call on God to deal with his enemies and the injustices of life and sought to wrestle his will into submission to do life God’s way despite all of the threats, all of the hurt, grieving, disappointment and despair.

Things go wrong in life. They don’t always go the way we expect or want or hope. The best thing we can do is to bring our strongest feelings into the presence of God and wrestle with our will and his until we find his as the dominant force in our life. That to me seems like authentic prayer and whilst David was not perfect, I think there is a reason he is described as a man after God’s own heart and that reason can be found in his wrestling.

It gives me hope to know that he too had his times of bad decision, complacency and poor judgement. He too was toppled by lust, he too attempted to manipulate the outcome of certain situations, he too had his moments of moral failure. He too can only lay claim on the grace of God. I love the fact that the heroes of the Bible are deeply flawed people. We are broken, the world is broken. God is not broken.

Two years ago, I could barely function spiritually, I was humbled, wounded and although a spiritual light went on, it was a fragile flickering. I prayed these words and God heard.

“Listen to my words, LORD,
consider my lament.
Hear my cry for help,
my King and my God,
for to you I pray.
In the morning, LORD, you hear my voice;
in the morning I lay my requests before you and wait expectantly.”


Psalm 4

God always shows up when we call on him in our distress. Our greatest most intimate moments of expression with him tend to be when he is all we have to cling to. When all other options are exhausted. The question arises as to why we go to the other options first and what are those other options that usurp God from his throne in our hearts? 

perspective

Psalm 4

For the director of music. With stringed instruments. A psalm of David.

Answer me when I call to you,

    my righteous God.

Give me relief from my distress;

    have mercy on me and hear my prayer.

How long will you people turn my glory into shame?

    How long will you love delusions and seek false gods?

Know that the Lord has set apart his faithful servant for himself;

    the Lord hears when I call to him.

Tremble and do not sin;

    when you are on your beds,

    search your hearts and be silent.

Offer the sacrifices of the righteous

    and trust in the Lord.

Many, Lord, are asking, “Who will bring us prosperity?”

    Let the light of your face shine on us.

Fill my heart with joy

    when their grain and new wine abound.

In peace I will lie down and sleep,

    for you alone, Lord,

    make me dwell in safety.


Verse 8 indicates that this psalm is an evening prayer. It may well have been offered on the same occasion as described in the superscription of Psalm 3.

There are similarities between Psalms 3 and 4. David is besieged with suffering, injustice and oppression. Both Psalms demonstrate a shift in attitude from one of despair, to one of faith. This journey from anxiety to assurance is a frequent pattern in the Psalms. It creates a picture of what authenticity and prayer looks like as we discover Psalmists wrestling with their will versus God’s will and realign themselves to true north.

David Prays to God for Preservation (4:1), reasons with his enemies about Repentance (4:2-5) and finally praises God for true perspective (4:6-8).

Perhaps one of the greatest blessings in walking with God is not an answered prayer that goes the way that we think it should go but in the perspective we gain in truly seeking the heart of God, or that his face will shine upon us. This is the promised “peace that passes understanding” (Philippians 4:7).

Psalm 4 introduces the first of 55 assignments to the master, director or chief overseer of worship services in its title. Further instruction is given in the direction “on stringed instruments”. The chief musician, therefore, was to lead the great choir and the string portion of the orchestra in this celebration of worship.

The chief musician was the director of music in the sanctuary. We are informed that David had set one person over the music in the sanctuary in the following verses:

“And these whom David set over the service of song in the house of the LORD, after that the ark had rest.” “And they ministered before the dwelling place of the tabernacle of the congregation with singing, until Solomon had built the house of the LORD in Jerusalem: and they waited on their office according to their order.” – 1 Chronicles 6:31-32

The Hebrew word Neginoth (נְגִינוֹת) means instrumental music, or stringed instruments. It can be extended to mean a poem set to music.

Music is a powerful medium. It can  be emotive and stirring. It can be memorable. Soft soothing music that quietened a troubled soul is the very thing that got David into the house of Saul and brought about the pathway that would bring about David becoming king.

David’s cries to God, are effectively saying: You helped me before, help me now. Not an uncommon prayer among believers today and certainly one I have wheeled out of my own arsenal on occasions.

The conclusion of the prayer however is that true safety, true peace is found in God irrespective of what may be happening to you or around you.


Reflections from my original journal notes in August 2015

It is humbling but a helpful reminder of the height from which I have fallen that a senior manager has been instructed by the government to attend the job club and be coached on my CV and interviewing skills. It is equally humbling to be applying for jobs that pay the minimum wage. It’s not pretty, but it’s raw and it’s real, it is more than I deserve so I just get on with it.

The person assisting me in the job club was friendly and helpful, she even showed some empathy when I was candidly honest about my story.

I always thought too much of myself, put too much stock in how others see me. It is good to be a nobody although it really does not feel good at all.

Immediately after my visit to the job club I had an appointment at the job centre. This was a different story. It felt more like an interrogation and Meenu my job seeking mentor could barely smile despite my attempts to be friendly. She invited me to use the computers. I tried three different computers and none of them worked. I was frustrated and walked out in the end. I went to use the internet at the library. I find the job centre quite a soulless place and the staff very unhelpful. One thing I was impressed by is the level of accountability to evidence that you are actively seeking work. If this is consistent across the board there is no reason for us to have people manipulating the system.

I sent an updated bulletin to my larger circle of contacts. I am just letting people know how I am doing. Some are in shock still, some are angry, some are numb and some are being predictably self righteous.

In the evening I helped my wife paint the kitchen for about an hour and we had a discussion about some of the events and reactions in our recent story. It helped me connect a bit more with the impact of my behaviour. It’s hard to hear about some of the reactions. We are both encountering a lot of erroneous assumptions about the situation.

My children are having a very hard time at teen camp. I am proud of them, that they have the courage to be present and engaged amidst assumptions and rumours. Accepting that I am the sole reason that they are going through this is hard. The fragile discussion with my wife is a baby step forward at the foot of the mountain we have to climb.

Many of these teens at teen camp looked up to me less than a month ago. The teen camp and all the other camps are part of a legacy I built and left behind when I was asked to leave the ministry.  My bitter root is in there somewhere.

Everything must be so raw and unprocessed for my children. They must be made of more stern stuff than I am. I miss them immensely. The one thing that I am certain of is that none of this can be on my timetable.

Psalm 4 has some words for me to hold on to and wrestle with.
“How long will you seek delusions and love false Gods?
Know that the Lord has set apart his faithful servant for himself; the Lord hears when I call to him.

I may not know much at all. I certainly don’t know as much as I think I know but I know that I am not God. God is God. I am not. I think he knows some things that I do not know. I did some insane things these last few years. You can call it an insanity if insanity means not being in my right mind.

I want to hand today over to God. I have to hand my past over to God. There is nothing I can do about what has happened. I would love to go back and change many decisions but I am powerless to do anything about what I did,  what I didn’t do, what I said, what I didn’t say. My fears, my hurts, the things that I am angry about, my resentments, my failures, my successes …I have to turn it all over. For once I am not in control, I am not the captain of my ship. I barely have a ship, just some driftwood and only God can run bring me to safety right now.


Reflections two years on

God always shows up when we call on him in our distress. Our greatest most intimate moments of expression with him tend to be when he is all we have to cling to. When all other options are exhausted. The question arises as to why we go to the other options first and what are those other options that usurp God from his throne in our hearts?

The other options for me boil down to asserting my will over God’s will, seeking my autonomy, playing God, honouring myself at the cost of others.

Lust, sex, thievery, dishonesty …these were the delusions I used to inoculate the pain, grieving, sadness, disappointment. They were false God’s. David’s battle in the Psalm dealt with an external enemy. My enemy was internal …let me not be deluded by the word “was” … “is” may be more appropriate.

“How long will you love delusions and seek false gods?”

It’s a good question to ask ourselves. Ask it fearlessly.

Psalm 3

fear
Psalm 3

A psalm of David. When he fled from his son Absalom.

1 Lord, how many are my foes!
How many rise up against me!
2 Many are saying of me,
“God will not deliver him.”

3 But you, Lord, are a shield around me,
my glory, the One who lifts my head high.
4 I call out to the Lord,
and he answers me from his holy mountain.

5 I lie down and sleep;
I wake again, because the Lord sustains me.
6 I will not fear though tens of thousands
assail me on every side.

7 Arise, Lord!
Deliver me, my God!
Strike all my enemies on the jaw;
break the teeth of the wicked.

8 From the Lord comes deliverance.
May your blessing be on your people.

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David was king of Israel 1000 years before Jesus. Absalom was a son of David. Absalom wanted to become king so he attacked David. David ran away to a safe place. Absalom proclaimed himself king.

David asked God to intervene. He was restored as king. Absalom died. The historical background to the psalm is described (in 2 Samuel chapters 15-18). Though David petitioned (in verse 7), “Arise, O Lord; save me”, it is clear from (2 Samuel 15:32-37), that David shrewdly sent his friend Hushai back to Jerusalem to deceive Absalom. David used his own means and resources but expressed that he trusted in God.

David wrote Psalm 3 after he ran away. He apparently wrote it one morning. He thanked the LORD for a safe night. That is why Psalm 3 is sometimes referred to as a morning song.

David calls God by the name LORD. This is quite an intimate expression of God’s name. In Hebrew it is YAHWEH. Absalom and his men use the more descriptive term ELOHIM which we translate God. Absalom’s rebellion was gaining momentum and his followers were increasing, his followers were certain of David’s downfall. He was fearful and prayed for supernatural intervention.

David’s confidence was in God that he would be sustained by him and protected by him. Whilst that is completely expressed there was also a genuine fear of the situation at the same time. It can be seen as a wrestling with what he knew was true and where his feelings were leading him.

This psalm intermingles both lament and confidence. In its sweeping scope, it becomes a pattern for praise, peace and prayer amidst pressure. As it unfolds through 3 interrelated historical phenomena, David shares his theological “secret” of having assurance in the face of adversity.

  1. The Psalmist’s Predicament (3:1-2);
  2. The Psalmist’s Peace (3:3-6);
  3. The Psalmist’s Prayer (3:7-8).

This is the first of 73 psalms that are specifically attributed to David. Further information connects its occasion with the Absalom episode (2 Samuel chapters 15-18), although many of its features are more descriptive of persecution in general.

David begins on a low note by lamenting his predicament and his multiplied miseries.

David was up against a numerous and formidable enemy that appeared to be gaining momentum. Absalom his son had stolen the hearts of the people. This was fast becoming a movement of the people that would likely usurp the throne.

Ahithophel, his counsellor, sought his ruin and, and had his advice been followed, his ruin, morally speaking, would have been unavoidable.

We know the sadness in David’s heart when he fled from his own son. This is a bit of a mirror of how Jesus felt when the Hebrews turned against Him.

David was a man of courage from his youth. The instances of his attacking the lion and the bear, when he kept his father’s sheep, his engaging with Goliath, and his military exploits, show it.  There were now many thousands up in arms against him, and his own son at the head of them; all the tribes of Israel were revolting from him, and he was only attended with a few of his friends. He felt the fear but he was not completely dismayed because he knew the God that he loved and served.

David’s well documented sin brought about a twofold impact. On the one hand his recovery journey from a humanistic point of view was never truly achieved. The consequences of his actions plagued him for the rest of his life. They brought about a a completely broken family unit, suspicion of his courtiers and erosion of public confidence in his leadership. In truth this element of David’s journey never became what it should have become or would have become.

From a spiritual perspective he became a different man. God brought about incredible growth and change in his walk with him, his dependence on God and his absolute devotion to God. He became known in the annals of history as a man after God’s own heart and that is celebrated throughout scripture. God brought about a refining that gave him full restoration to the Lord.

————————————————-

Reflections from my original journal notes in August 2015

Yesterday I had my DWP appointment. It was frustrating. I prayed for the person that dealt with me be someone I could connect with and find helpful but she turned out to be a bit of a jobsworth. A very good one in making sure that all the I’s were dotted and the t’s crossed but really not too helpful. She also told me that because my dismissal was my own fault it will have an impact on my claim. Not exactly what I wanted to hear but fair enough I guess. I also learned that I could not back date it to the day of my dismissal because I wasn’t actively looking for work during that time. I was given access to a job centre computer to look for work but it was painfully slow and the internet kept dropping so I quietly left the building.

I have to go back for a further appointment on Wednesday and she has also asked that I attend a job club who may be able to help me to present myself as marketable given my difficult situation. I felt moments of humiliation and moments of “this is what I need”. I have never been out of work since the day I left school when I was 15 years old and always taken pride in my work ethic. I never imagined I would be in a situation like this.

I feel quite disoriented at times. I took so much for granted just having some space to organise myself. It is something I really miss in my current situation.

I hate the fact that my phone runs out of battery after only a couple of hours. It annoys me and is an inconvenience because it is my connection to the outside world and my main resource in finding work, trying to find somewhere to stay. I need to find a way to charge it on a regular basis. I am sure it’s not doing my car battery much good.

My plans for this week are scuppered. It gets exhausting at times, wearing me down, breaking my spirit. It is however, a blessing to be learning to live in a different much less convenient way.

Life in Tesco’s car park is not easy. It’s also a matter of time before I will be moved on. The longest a car is supposed to stay here without a fine is two hours.

I notice how much I take many things for granted that I no longer have access to. Simple things like not having 24/7 access to a toilet which means I have to regulate when I eat and drink mindful of the next opportunity to be able to use a toilet.

Also, having to think carefully what I need for the whole day and to pack my small rucksack with everything I need and make sure anything else is left in a safe place.

I read Psalm 3 this morning. These words resonated with me:

“I lie down and sleep;
I wake again, because the Lord sustains me.
I will not fear though tens of thousands
assail me on every side.”

It is God who sustains me. I do not need to fear. I need to keep remembering this. It’s hard to remember when things don’t go my way but it’s when I need to remember and look to him.

The debt management company phoned me in response to an email I sent them about my circumstances. The result of the conversation was that they want to wash their hands of me …presumably because there is no longer the possibility for them to make money from me. They advised me to file for bankruptcy and suggested the Citizens Advice Bureau as the next point of contact. My thoughts turned towards protecting the house from my creditors and the sooner it goes into wife’s name the better. I feel a bit anxious about this.

I went back towards my family home. I saw my sister in laws car outside the house in front of my car. I didn’t want to face her so went to the library. I discovered I can use the internet for 2 hours a day free of charge. That encouraged me. I looked up some homeless services in the area and will go there today.

I went for a prayer walk by the cricket pitch and the Churchill statue. It was meaningful and uplifting. I noticed the contrasting colours in the evening dusk, the trees and the grass. I really had my most enjoyable prayer time with God for a long time. It had been a difficult day that had eroded my spirit but I felt at the end of the day some peace in my heart and a genuine surrender.

I walked a lot yesterday. I don’t know how many miles but it was a lot. My feet hurt, one of my heels is cracked and I am not sure if this is from sleeping awkward in the car but I am walking with a limp because of a pain in the hip. When I felt it this morning it took me right back to Genesis 22 and Jacob …yesterday’s prayer time was no meeting with an angel or face to face with God but it was a break through for me. Maybe the limp is a sign from God that a good work is beginning in me.

Today my plan is that I am going to make some progress in sorting out my living situation, make some progress on the job front, make some progress with my financial situation and make some progress spiritually. These are my daily goals. As long as I can do a bit of work on each then I feel good.

Although it is difficult I feel blessed that I am homeless and jobless in the summer. It feels good to be outdoors. I am afraid of what lies ahead but I know that the Lord will sustain me. I don’t know how but I know my resources are flimsy and his are not.

I have good health, I have mobility, I have a few people around me that are being very kind, very generous and very supportive. I am enjoying a slower pace of life for now, I am beginning to find God again. Reading and praying is no longer a duty or chore but prayer is often spontaneous and I always look forward to reading. It’s a long time since I felt that. I am not sure I will feel that every day but yesterday was like that in the end and today has started in this way.

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Reflections two years on

Reading this Psalm again, I think about King David that after his great fall that he permanently lost his grip on his kingship, his influence was shattered and he never really recovered although he recovered enough in his brokenness to walk with God and ultimately be described as a man after God’s own heart. He gained something better. I feel that too. There is  a sadness and grieving for the loss and the damage done not only to my reputation but to my relationships. I know that I will never be afforded the trust that was once given to me and I have to navigate my way through life without that but there is no great desire to have the influence I had, once again because what I have now is better more fulfilling and more deeply rooted. I wouldn’t wish it on anybody but I would not trade it for anything.

The heart of Psalm 3 is that when the odds are stacked against you and everything looks bleak it is okay to feel the fear, it is human to feel the feel the fear but we can also feel the freedom by wrestling with it in the presence of God and having the confidence to know that whatever the outcome …our God is at work in the situation.