Wednesday, January 8, 2014

A Message from God in My Heart

I have a message from God in my heart. (Psalm 36:1 NIV)
This morning during my devotional time, I lit my candle, took my guitar and sang a bit in worship and then settled down with my Bible to pray the psalms for the day. Opening to Psalm 36, I read the first line: “I have a message from God in my heart.”

I received such a blast from that, I let out a laugh and sat back with my hands crossed over my heart — because, indeed, I do have a message from God in my heart. So, I let that line percolate in me for a little bit because, regardless of whatever else may be going on in my world, God is always speaking to me, and I carry that message in my heart, the very center of my being.

Marinating in that, I looked back at the psalm to see what the writer had in mind, what the message he was bringing was about. I read the next line: “… concerning the sinfulness of the wicked.”

That did not have the same impact on me as the first line had. In fact, it was a bit of a buzz kill. But I went with it, to understand what message from God was ringing in his heart concerning the sinfulness of the wicked. Because I want that message ringing in my heart, too. Now, I’ve prayed through this psalm many times before. In fact, I’ve even written about it a number of times. But as often happens when I am praying the psalms, it came to me with fresh strength.

So, what about the wicked? The writer gives us a rundown in verses 2-4: They are arrogant, self-flattering and deceitful. They have no regard for anything that has to do with God, or for what is good, or for what expresses moral wisdom. Nothing new there. But I do not think that was what the writer came to say. The message in his heart is not about the badness of those who do evil (although they certainly are bad) but about something much greater — the pervasive goodness of God — and beginning in verse, he bursts forth with something very different. There is no segue, no transition — it is as if he were beginning, here in verse 5, a new and very different psalm:
Your love, LORD, reaches to the heavens,
    your faithfulness to the skies.
Your righteousness is like the highest mountains,
    your justice like the great deep.
You, LORD, preserve both people and animals.
(Psalm 36:5-6)
Notice that the love of God reaches to the heavens. We might have expected to read that the love of God reaches from the heavens. But the point is not about where it comes from but about what it inhabits. It fills the space between heaven and earth. It surrounds us. There are no boundaries to it and nothing it cannot touch. Likewise the faithfulness and righteousness and justice of God that sets things right.
How priceless is your unfailing love, O God!
    People take refuge in the shadow of your wings.
They feast on the abundance of your house;
    you give them drink from your river of delights.
For with you is the fountain of life;
    in your light we see light.
Oh, continue your steadfast love to those who know you,
    and your righteousness to the upright of heart!
(Psalm 36:7-9)
Here is something incalculable and infinite, with feasting and abundance and delight. Here is endless source of life, and a light that overwhelms the darkness. And now a request for God to keep on loving with His strong, dependable love and take care of all those who are doing what is right. Oh, and what about the wicked?
May the foot of the proud not come against me,
    nor the hand of the wicked drive me away.
See how the evildoers lie fallen —
    thrown down, not able to rise!
(Psalm 36:11-12)
Yes, there are many in the world today who are doing what is evil; there is no need for me to expound on that. But let not your heart be overwhelmed by them, for there is something much greater going on all around you and it will eventually set everything right — the faithful love of God.