Well, it's been over a month since I blogged about what I'm studying in the Psalms. I'm finding out a lot of great stuff and some awesome promises from God, but I made a commitment to myself that I will only blog when I really and truly have the free time. This morning I just have to blog about this psalm though.
Last night at church, I tried something different with our youth group. I have felt very convicted lately that we spend a lot of time teaching our youth group and not discipling them. We don't give them the resources they need to grow spiritually, and then we get mad when they turn to drugs or alcohol, or think church is boring and doesn't relate to them. I just really believe I personally have failed them in this way. So last night, at church, my point was to show them how I study the Bible and see if it's a way that they think will help them study. We went to http://www.random.org and picked a random psalm to study - Psalm 94. I had not ever studied this one, so I was just as clueless as them about the history and content. We read through the whole thing one time and then I explained to them my highlighting methods - blue colored pencil for actions of God, red colored pencil for actions I should take, and yellow colored pencil for characteristics of God. I asserted to them that this is simply how I do it and it may not work for them. Some of my very prepared teen girls actually had colored pencils on hand, so I was able to actually highlight with them while we talked!
We read through the entire psalm one time at first and it didn't make any sense to me. Some verses stood out to them and myself, but the whole thing didn't really come together. So we went verse by verse and tried to figure out what it meant and how it would relate to us. We got through verse 17 of the 23 verses, so I hope some of them went home and tried to finish reading and understanding it.
So this blog post today is a conglomeration of thoughts, from each of our youth members who came to church last night. They added some incredible thoughts and ideas. Some of them brought up things in the verses which I never would have thought of on my own, which is the fabulous thing about studying the Bible with other people. I am not ashamed to say when I don't understand something, and if someone ten years younger than me can explain it to me, then that is just fine with me!
I hope this blesses you and encourages you. I was so proud of our youth group. They are so smart and I was really impressed.
So, today's scripture is Psalm 94. Go here to read it in your preferred version.
O Lord God, to whom vengeance belongeth; O God, to whom vengeance belongeth, shew thyself.
2 Lift up thyself, thou judge of the earth: render a reward to the proud.
3 Lord, how long shall the wicked, how long shall the wicked triumph?
4 How long shall they utter and speak hard things? and all the workers of iniquity boast themselves?
5 They break in pieces thy people, O Lord, and afflict thine heritage.
6 They slay the widow and the stranger, and murder the fatherless.
7 Yet they say, The Lord shall not see, neither shall the God of Jacob regard it.
8 Understand, ye brutish among the people: and ye fools, when will ye be wise?
9 He that planted the ear, shall he not hear? he that formed the eye, shall he not see?
10 He that chastiseth the heathen, shall not he correct? he that teacheth man knowledge, shall not he know?
11 The Lord knoweth the thoughts of man, that they are vanity.
12 Blessed is the man whom thou chastenest, O Lord, and teachest him out of thy law;
13 That thou mayest give him rest from the days of adversity, until the pit be digged for the wicked.
14 For the Lord will not cast off his people, neither will he forsake his inheritance.
15 But judgment shall return unto righteousness: and all the upright in heart shall follow it.
16 Who will rise up for me against the evildoers? or who will stand up for me against the workers of iniquity?
17 Unless the Lord had been my help, my soul had almost dwelt in silence.
18 When I said, My foot slippeth; thy mercy, O Lord, held me up.
19 In the multitude of my thoughts within me thy comforts delight my soul.
20 Shall the throne of iniquity have fellowship with thee, which frameth mischief by a law?
21 They gather themselves together against the soul of the righteous, and condemn the innocent blood.
22 But the Lord is my defence; and my God is the rock of my refuge.
23 And he shall bring upon them their own iniquity, and shall cut them off in their own wickedness; yea, the Lord our God shall cut them off.
The first thing we noticed was in verse 1. The action of vengeance is supposed to be taken care of by God. When I highlight that in blue, to me, it's a reminder that it's not something I'm supposed to be partaking in. Vengeance is God's responsibility. The person writing this psalm is asking God to show up, because it's time to reap some vengeance on somebody.
In verse 2, we see that God is the judge of the earth. This is a characteristic of Him that is really significant for us, because we know that Judgment Day will eventually come. It's also significant because we know that God judges all of us right now. The person praying in this psalm is begging for God to lift Himself up and judge these wicked people - render them their reward. We talked about the phrase "getting their just reward" and how it means that people will get what they deserve. That's what this psalmist is talking about. Obviously he has been wronged or is seeing some wicked happenings around him, and he's wondering when God is going to take some action.
Verse 3-4 - We often think this way. God, how long are the wicked people going to be in control? They keep getting wealthier and more powerful... how long will that happen? They're talking with disrespect to God and they're boasting in themselves? How long will you let this go on, God?
Verse 5 - I didn't understand this verse at all. One of the youth members brought up the great idea that these people are probably causing division in the church ("break in pieces") and when it says "afflict thine heritage" it is probably talking about being disrespectful of God and the Christian faith. Another youth leader brought up the idea that "break in pieces" could be literal and be physical punishments (such as dismemberment, beheadings) of people in the Christian faith. Of course, that happened frequently in these times.
Verses 6-8 - Verse 6 is pretty straightforward. They are killing widows, strangers, and fatherless. Wickedness and sin are out of control. We are seeing this more right now than I've ever seen in my lifetime. Yet these people don't care (verse 7). They think God doesn't exist, so He won't see these actions and He doesn't pay attention to the stuff that goes on in our world. The youth group agreed this is mocking God. In verse 8, the author of the psalm says these people are senseless and foolish, and when will they wise up and realize that God is GOD?
Verses 9-10 are important for us to remember. God gave us our ears - yet some people think He can't hear us? He formed our yes - yet they think He can't see what happens? He will chastise those who go against Him - yet we think He won't correct us when we do wrong? He teaches knowledge - yet we think He doesn't know what people do or what we're thinking? We don't give God enough credit as Christians, so of course people who don't know Christ are going to disregard Him.
Verse 11 - God knows all of our thoughts. He knows they are meaningless and He knows that our minds and thoughts can't be trusted. We referred to 1 Corinthians 3:20 because it was in some of our Bibles as a reference. It says almost the same thing - "The Lord knoweth the thoughts of the wise, that they are vain." So whether we are Christians or not, our minds are not trustworthy. None of the ideas or thoughts that we form are any good unless they come from God.
Verses 12-13 We felt that these should be read together. We are blessed when God chastens us. That just means we are lovingly disciplined - to get us back in the right direction. One of the youth leaders described this as how we discipline our children. It's not just because we like to discipline and we're power hungry. It's to keep them safe and teach them. I underlined the phrase "teachest him out of thy law". I want to remember that all good things are taught from the Bible. That's why it's so important to be in the Bible every day and trying to figure out what we don't understand. A good teacher, a good father, is going to not just say, "You can't do that!" He will say, "Don't do that. Do it this way." A good teacher and a good father (like God) does not expect us to figure out everything on our own. He wants to show us the right way. He wants to point us in the right direction. But we do have to put in some effort - such as reading the Bible and praying, so we have that intimate relationship with Him. And then we see in verse 13 that God wants to give us rest. He doesn't want us going through trials and troubles in our lives. He wants us to have relief. I compared it to the feeling you get when you've had a headache for a long time and then suddenly it's gone. That sense of relief feels so good. God wants that for us! So when he disciplines us and teaches us, it's ultimately so we can have that time of rest from the consequences in our lives. We talked about how a lot of bad things that happen to us are consequences of the decisions we make. God wants to keep us from that heartache.
Verse 14 - God will not cast off His people. He won't forsake us. These are great promises to highlight and remember.
Verse 15 - This verse confused me but we think we figured it out together. One youth leader referred us to the book of Jude, which we didn't read, but encouraged the youth to read at a later time when they're studying. One day there will be a judgment. Yes, on all of us. And we will be able to rejoice in that time because at that time righteousness will reign. God will take back this world and He will rule like He is meant to.
Verse 16 - Who will stand? Will you stand against persecutors? Will you stand against people who make fun of you? Will you stand against people who question your faith? Are you standing up for your faith right now? If not, I'm not sure you will be able to endure what may possibly happen in our lifetime - which will be more frequent persecution and more drastic ways of persecution.
Verse 17 - Unless the Lord had been my help. This totally struck me. My soul had almost dwelt in silence. I talked about how close I was to "dwelling in silence". I thought I was a Christian for many years, but my life had not changed. I was on the brink of my soul dwelling in silence. It's a sobering thought. Thankfully, God spoke to me through the members of church and I got saved six years ago. None of us can stand on our own two feet (above verse). We must have God's help.
Verse 18 - Every time my foot slips, God in His mercy holds me up. That is an incredible promise to know.
Verse 19 - When I am overwhelmed by my thoughts, and I'm feeling anxious, the comfort of God will make my soul happy. He can relieve these thoughts and feelings inside of me.
Verses 20-21 - This will begin happening more frequently, I believe. People will gather themselves together against innocent people who are believers. Government will turn against Christians. More and more people will begin to persecute.
Verse 22-23. But God is my defense. He is my Rock. He is my Refuge. And eventually, yes, these people will pay for the evil they've done. God will cut them off and destroy them. It may not happen in our time and we may not even see it until Judgment Day, but I believe because the Bible says it, this is a promise that this will happen.