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Psalm 22

My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?
    Why are you so far from saving me, from the words of my groaning?
O my God, I cry by day, but you do not answer,
    and by night, but I find no rest.

Yet you are holy,
    enthroned on the praises of Israel.
In you our fathers trusted;
    they trusted, and you delivered them.
To you they cried and were rescued;
    in you they trusted and were not put to shame.

But I am a worm and not a man,
    scorned by mankind and despised by the people.
All who see me mock me;
    they make mouths at me; they wag their heads;
“He trusts in the Lord; let him deliver him;
    let him rescue him, for he delights in him!”

Yet you are he who took me from the womb;
    you made me trust you at my mother’s breasts.
10 On you was I cast from my birth,
    and from my mother’s womb you have been my God.
11 Be not far from me,
    for trouble is near,
    and there is none to help.

12 Many bulls encompass me;
    strong bulls of Bashan surround me;
13 they open wide their mouths at me,
    like a ravening and roaring lion.

14 I am poured out like water,
    and all my bones are out of joint;
my heart is like wax;
    it is melted within my breast;
15 my strength is dried up like a potsherd,
    and my tongue sticks to my jaws;
    you lay me in the dust of death.

16 For dogs encompass me;
    a company of evildoers encircles me;
they have pierced my hands and feet—
17 I can count all my bones—
they stare and gloat over me;
18 they divide my garments among them,
    and for my clothing they cast lots.

19 But you, O Lord, do not be far off!
    O you my help, come quickly to my aid!
20 Deliver my soul from the sword,
    my precious life from the power of the dog!
21     Save me from the mouth of the lion!
You have rescued me from the horns of the wild oxen!

22 I will tell of your name to my brothers;
    in the midst of the congregation I will praise you:
23 You who fear the Lord, praise him!
    All you offspring of Jacob, glorify him,
    and stand in awe of him, all you offspring of Israel!
24 For he has not despised or abhorred
    the affliction of the afflicted,
and he has not hidden his face from him,
    but has heard, when he cried to him.

25 From you comes my praise in the great congregation;
    my vows I will perform before those who fear him.
26 The afflicted shall eat and be satisfied;
    those who seek him shall praise the Lord!
    May your hearts live forever!

27 All the ends of the earth shall remember
    and turn to the Lord,
and all the families of the nations
    shall worship before you.
28 For kingship belongs to the Lord,
    and he rules over the nations.

29 All the prosperous of the earth eat and worship;
    before him shall bow all who go down to the dust,
    even the one who could not keep himself alive.
30 Posterity shall serve him;
    it shall be told of the Lord to the coming generation;
31 they shall come and proclaim his righteousness to a people yet unborn,
    that he has done it.

Still Standing – A Study of a Roadside Tree #7 | Outside Elgin, TX | January 2023

Sometimes I feel like a motherless child. Sometimes I feel like a motherless child. There is some painful history behind this Negro Spiritual from the mid 19th century. It’s the cry of a child being sold at a slave auction; being taken from her mother to become the property of another owner. That is a powerful image. Deeply distressing. That would be a time to cry out, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” Or imagine discovering a newborn baby left in the woods by his mother. What about a man who has sinned, repented, asked for forgiveness, and is seeking to rebuild his life but whose friends will have nothing to do with him. He is left utterly alone. Sure he’s done wrong. But in light of God’s promise of forgiveness, he may wonder whether God has forsaken him.

Sadly, not every response to this sense of abandonment is healthy or salutary. The feeling of abandonment may be legitimate. We all experience a sense of loss or disconnectedness from time to time. And sometimes we may experience a severe sense of loss and loneliness. A spouse dies. A child runs away. A friend moves away. A relationship changes. A co-worker turns on you. A neighbor shuns you. You might feel abandoned by God.

In those situations you might be tempted to resent God, become bitter, and refuse to forgive those who have wronged you. You may decide to abandon the faith and give in to despair. You might give up hope.

But you must remember that God has not abandoned you. Jesus endured that for you and all mankind. He suffered God’s abandonment so we would never have to. I say, “have to,” because we may stubbornly and sinfully refuse God’s presence. We can abandon him. The ultimate experience of that would be eternal abandonment from God in hell. But it need never be!

The good news, also, is that when we feel abandoned by God, and call out to him, we are in good company. And God hears the prayers of his people. He loves us all, and pours on us the balm of Gilead. That may come through the kind word of a brother or sister in Christ. A neighbor may sense your loneliness and visit you or invite you to be with her. Sometimes we must simply continue in prayer and seek God’s comfort from his word.

That’s where the Psalms are so very precious. We can pray the psalms and express our earnest needs and woes through psalms such as this one. But even in this one, we see words of hope-filled faith. That’s the other blessing of praying the psalms: They don’t leave us in the doldrums of grief and sadness. They also express great faith in God. He is good. He will act. He has acted in Jesus. Our ultimate future has been secured. And as lift our cry of abandonment to God, we must also hold to the hope that is secured in Jesus.

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Psalm 22

My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?
    Why are you so far from saving me, from the words of my groaning?
O my God, I cry by day, but you do not answer,
    and by night, but I find no rest.

Yet you are holy,
    enthroned on the praises of Israel.
In you our fathers trusted;
    they trusted, and you delivered them.
To you they cried and were rescued;
    in you they trusted and were not put to shame.

But I am a worm and not a man,
    scorned by mankind and despised by the people.
All who see me mock me;
    they make mouths at me; they wag their heads;
“He trusts in the Lord; let him deliver him;
    let him rescue him, for he delights in him!”

Yet you are he who took me from the womb;
    you made me trust you at my mother’s breasts.
10 On you was I cast from my birth,
    and from my mother’s womb you have been my God.
11 Be not far from me,
    for trouble is near,
    and there is none to help.

12 Many bulls encompass me;
    strong bulls of Bashan surround me;
13 they open wide their mouths at me,
    like a ravening and roaring lion.

14 I am poured out like water,
    and all my bones are out of joint;
my heart is like wax;
    it is melted within my breast;
15 my strength is dried up like a potsherd,
    and my tongue sticks to my jaws;
    you lay me in the dust of death.

16 For dogs encompass me;
    a company of evildoers encircles me;
they have pierced my hands and feet—
17 I can count all my bones—
they stare and gloat over me;
18 they divide my garments among them,
    and for my clothing they cast lots.

19 But you, O Lord, do not be far off!
    O you my help, come quickly to my aid!
20 Deliver my soul from the sword,
    my precious life from the power of the dog!
21     Save me from the mouth of the lion!
You have rescued me from the horns of the wild oxen!

22 I will tell of your name to my brothers;
    in the midst of the congregation I will praise you:
23 You who fear the Lord, praise him!
    All you offspring of Jacob, glorify him,
    and stand in awe of him, all you offspring of Israel!
24 For he has not despised or abhorred
    the affliction of the afflicted,
and he has not hidden his face from him,
    but has heard, when he cried to him.

25 From you comes my praise in the great congregation;
    my vows I will perform before those who fear him.
26 The afflicted shall eat and be satisfied;
    those who seek him shall praise the Lord!
    May your hearts live forever!

27 All the ends of the earth shall remember
    and turn to the Lord,
and all the families of the nations
    shall worship before you.
28 For kingship belongs to the Lord,
    and he rules over the nations.

29 All the prosperous of the earth eat and worship;
    before him shall bow all who go down to the dust,
    even the one who could not keep himself alive.
30 Posterity shall serve him;
    it shall be told of the Lord to the coming generation;
31 they shall come and proclaim his righteousness to a people yet unborn,
    that he has done it.

Still Standing – A Study of a Roadside Tree #6 | Outside Elgin, TX | January 2023

Songs or psalms of lament are not very popular. We would rather lean toward happy, hopeful, and helpful Bible passages. “Rejoice in the Lord…” (Philippians 4) “O give thanks to the Lord, for he is good and his mercy endures forever.” (Psalm 107) Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding…” (Proverbs 3) “All things work together for good for those who love God…” (Romans 8)

We’re not too keen on passages like “My God, my God, why have you forsake me?” That sounds like a cry of faithlessness. We don’t find much comfort in phrases like, “I can count all my bones…” (v. 17) But here they are. And in that same psalm as joyful and faith-filled exclamations:

25 From you comes my praise in the great congregation;
    my vows I will perform before those who fear him.
26 The afflicted shall eat and be satisfied;
    those who seek him shall praise the Lord!

This is exactly what makes faith true faith and not just wishful thinking. Faith doesn’t pretend things are good when they are obviously not. Faith looks beyond the troubles of this world. But faith doesn’t deny their existence. Faith trusts in God’s ultimate deliverance in the face of real and present dangers and distress. Jesus (and David) was in real distress. He of perfect faith was enduring unimaginable physical, emotional, and spiritual pain. Crucifixion is an extremely cruel and painful means of torturous execution. His friends and disciples had all fled. Peter had denied him. And worst of all, based on this cry, we must conclude that God Himself turned his back on his Son. Unimaginable! Difficult to believe.

Yet Jesus cries, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” Though God had forsaken him, he kept faith in God. Please don’t try to comprehend the mysteries of the triune nature of God in regard to this. Entire seminary classes are given to Christology including things like the Genus Apostelismaticum, Genus Majestaticum, and Genus Idiomaticum, (the communication of human and divine attributes within the person of Christ). We study how opera ad extra indivisa sunt, and opera ad intra divisa sunt. I’ve studied all these things, can maybe satisfy a systematics professor that I understand it. But it would be more accurate to say, I believe it. I take it all by faith.

But even there, my faith is imperfect. Perhaps I’m too dismissive of the apparent contradictions and impossibilities of Jesus’ divine nature and his human nature as he suffers so and calls out to God in agony. But what I believe is precious to me. For me of little and faltering faith I look to the pioneer of faith (cf. Hebrews 12:2). Jesus never turned away from his Father – even when his Father forsook him. This is the cry of perfect faith. When my faith fails me, I have a Savior who is perfectly righteous and faithful. He is my righteousness. He is my salvation.

Jesus also looks with confidence to his ultimate delivery. That is expressed in this psalm as well. His is the ultimate cry of faith.

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Psalm 22

My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?
    Why are you so far from saving me, from the words of my groaning?
O my God, I cry by day, but you do not answer,
    and by night, but I find no rest.

Yet you are holy,
    enthroned on the praises of Israel.
In you our fathers trusted;
    they trusted, and you delivered them.
To you they cried and were rescued;
    in you they trusted and were not put to shame.

But I am a worm and not a man,
    scorned by mankind and despised by the people.
All who see me mock me;
    they make mouths at me; they wag their heads;
“He trusts in the Lord; let him deliver him;
    let him rescue him, for he delights in him!”

Yet you are he who took me from the womb;
    you made me trust you at my mother’s breasts.
10 On you was I cast from my birth,
    and from my mother’s womb you have been my God.
11 Be not far from me,
    for trouble is near,
    and there is none to help.

12 Many bulls encompass me;
    strong bulls of Bashan surround me;
13 they open wide their mouths at me,
    like a ravening and roaring lion.

14 I am poured out like water,
    and all my bones are out of joint;
my heart is like wax;
    it is melted within my breast;
15 my strength is dried up like a potsherd,
    and my tongue sticks to my jaws;
    you lay me in the dust of death.

16 For dogs encompass me;
    a company of evildoers encircles me;
they have pierced my hands and feet—
17 I can count all my bones—
they stare and gloat over me;
18 they divide my garments among them,
    and for my clothing they cast lots.

19 But you, O Lord, do not be far off!
    O you my help, come quickly to my aid!
20 Deliver my soul from the sword,
    my precious life from the power of the dog!
21     Save me from the mouth of the lion!
You have rescued me from the horns of the wild oxen!

22 I will tell of your name to my brothers;
    in the midst of the congregation I will praise you:
23 You who fear the Lord, praise him!
    All you offspring of Jacob, glorify him,
    and stand in awe of him, all you offspring of Israel!
24 For he has not despised or abhorred
    the affliction of the afflicted,
and he has not hidden his face from him,
    but has heard, when he cried to him.

25 From you comes my praise in the great congregation;
    my vows I will perform before those who fear him.
26 The afflicted shall eat and be satisfied;
    those who seek him shall praise the Lord!
    May your hearts live forever!

27 All the ends of the earth shall remember
    and turn to the Lord,
and all the families of the nations
    shall worship before you.
28 For kingship belongs to the Lord,
    and he rules over the nations.

29 All the prosperous of the earth eat and worship;
    before him shall bow all who go down to the dust,
    even the one who could not keep himself alive.
30 Posterity shall serve him;
    it shall be told of the Lord to the coming generation;
31 they shall come and proclaim his righteousness to a people yet unborn,
    that he has done it.

Still Standing – A Study of a Roadside Tree #5 | Outside Elgin, TX | January 2023

Maybe you know someone given to extreme expressions of feelings and emotions. Hopefully they do not have Histrionic personality disorder (HPD). HPD is a mental health condition marked by unstable emotions, a distorted self-image and an overwhelming desire to be noticed. People with HPD often behave dramatically or inappropriately to get attention. More often we deal with people with bipolar disorders. One minute they’re highly joyful and effusive in happiness. The next day they are deeply sad and gravely depressed.

Some have suggested that David was such a one. Reading his psalms, you can surely sense strong emotions of great joy and deep distress. He cries, at the beginning of this psalm, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” In later verses, he sings God’s praises:

22 I will tell of your name to my brothers;
    in the midst of the congregation I will praise you:
23 You who fear the Lord, praise him!
    All you offspring of Jacob, glorify him,
    and stand in awe of him, all you offspring of Israel!

This is one of the reasons I love the psalms. They give expression to all kinds of emotions. From the depths of woe to the heights of joy, David and the other psalmists pour out their prayers to God. Sometimes I need that to put my joys and sorrows into words. They can also give me permission to be down. Sometimes life is not going well. Sometimes I am sad. God knows it already. And  he stands ready to hear us when we bring prayers of distress and sorrow to him. Not only is he not surprised by all this. He has promised, “A broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.” (Psalm 51:17)

While this Psalm expresses both distress and joy, it is surely known as a psalm of distress. If God has forsaken us, that is cause for distress. And David begins this psalm with that cry. Perhaps as David was on the run from Saul, he felt this deep sense of being forsaken. It might have been in the throes of his sin with Bathsheba and the death of their child, he felt this. Was it when his son Absalom rebelled against him he cried out so.

Followers of Jesus, however, cannot read this psalm without thinking of Jesus on the cross. He cries these words as he suffers so unjustly. Later this week, I’ll be reflecting more on Jesus’ prayer. For now, consider with me the way in which these words – written 1000 years before Jesus so clearly describe Jesus’ suffering and death. He did that for you and for me. He was forsaken so that we may never be forsaken by God.

English Standard Study Bible Chart

Please pray these psalms with me on this Lord’s Day. Note that Psalm 22 forms Jesus’ prayer from the cross.

Psalm 22

My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?
    Why are you so far from saving me, from the words of my groaning?
O my God, I cry by day, but you do not answer,
    and by night, but I find no rest.

Yet you are holy,
    enthroned on the praises of Israel.
In you our fathers trusted;
    they trusted, and you delivered them.
To you they cried and were rescued;
    in you they trusted and were not put to shame.

But I am a worm and not a man,
    scorned by mankind and despised by the people.
All who see me mock me;
    they make mouths at me; they wag their heads;
“He trusts in the Lord; let him deliver him;
    let him rescue him, for he delights in him!”

Yet you are he who took me from the womb;
    you made me trust you at my mother’s breasts.
10 On you was I cast from my birth,
    and from my mother’s womb you have been my God.
11 Be not far from me,
    for trouble is near,
    and there is none to help.

12 Many bulls encompass me;
    strong bulls of Bashan surround me;
13 they open wide their mouths at me,
    like a ravening and roaring lion.

14 I am poured out like water,
    and all my bones are out of joint;
my heart is like wax;
    it is melted within my breast;
15 my strength is dried up like a potsherd,
    and my tongue sticks to my jaws;
    you lay me in the dust of death.

16 For dogs encompass me;
    a company of evildoers encircles me;
they have pierced my hands and feet—
17 I can count all my bones—
they stare and gloat over me;
18 they divide my garments among them,
    and for my clothing they cast lots.

19 But you, O Lord, do not be far off!
    O you my help, come quickly to my aid!
20 Deliver my soul from the sword,
    my precious life from the power of the dog!
21     Save me from the mouth of the lion!
You have rescued me from the horns of the wild oxen!

22 I will tell of your name to my brothers;
    in the midst of the congregation I will praise you:
23 You who fear the Lord, praise him!
    All you offspring of Jacob, glorify him,
    and stand in awe of him, all you offspring of Israel!
24 For he has not despised or abhorred
    the affliction of the afflicted,
and he has not hidden his face from him,
    but has heard, when he cried to him.

25 From you comes my praise in the great congregation;
    my vows I will perform before those who fear him.
26 The afflicted shall eat and be satisfied;
    those who seek him shall praise the Lord!
    May your hearts live forever!

27 All the ends of the earth shall remember
    and turn to the Lord,
and all the families of the nations
    shall worship before you.
28 For kingship belongs to the Lord,
    and he rules over the nations.

29 All the prosperous of the earth eat and worship;
    before him shall bow all who go down to the dust,
    even the one who could not keep himself alive.
30 Posterity shall serve him;
    it shall be told of the Lord to the coming generation;
31 they shall come and proclaim his righteousness to a people yet unborn,
    that he has done it.

Psalm 52:1-3

[Sadly evil is “out there” which we must confront. We must also confront the evil within our own hearts.]

Why do you boast of evil, O mighty man?
    The steadfast love of God endures all the day.
Your tongue plots destruction,
    like a sharp razor, you worker of deceit.
You love evil more than good,
    and lying more than speaking what is right. Selah

Psalm 82:1-4

God has taken his place in the divine council;
    in the midst of the gods he holds judgment:
“How long will you judge unjustly
    and show partiality to the wicked? Selah
Give justice to the weak and the fatherless;
    maintain the right of the afflicted and the destitute.
Rescue the weak and the needy;
    deliver them from the hand of the wicked.”

Psalm 112:1-5

Praise the Lord!
Blessed is the man who fears the Lord,
    who greatly delights in his commandments!
His offspring will be mighty in the land;
    the generation of the upright will be blessed.
Wealth and riches are in his house,
    and his righteousness endures forever.
Light dawns in the darkness for the upright;
    he is gracious, merciful, and righteous.
It is well with the man who deals generously and lends;
    who conducts his affairs with justice.

Psalm 142:5-7

I cry to you, O Lord;
    I say, “You are my refuge,
    my portion in the land of the living.”
Attend to my cry,
    for I am brought very low!
Deliver me from my persecutors,
    for they are too strong for me!
Bring me out of prison,
    that I may give thanks to your name!
The righteous will surround me,
    for you will deal bountifully with me.

The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Text Edition: 2016.
Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.

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Psalm 19

The heavens declare the glory of God,
    and the sky above proclaims his handiwork.
Day to day pours out speech,
    and night to night reveals knowledge.
There is no speech, nor are there words,
    whose voice is not heard.
Their voice goes out through all the earth,
    and their words to the end of the world.
In them he has set a tent for the sun,
    which comes out like a bridegroom leaving his chamber,
    and, like a strong man, runs its course with joy.
Its rising is from the end of the heavens,
    and its circuit to the end of them,
    and there is nothing hidden from its heat.

The law of the Lord is perfect,
    reviving the soul;
the testimony of the Lord is sure,
    making wise the simple;
the precepts of the Lord are right,
    rejoicing the heart;
the commandment of the Lord is pure,
    enlightening the eyes;
the fear of the Lord is clean,
    enduring forever;
the rules of the Lord are true,
    and righteous altogether.
10 More to be desired are they than gold,
    even much fine gold;
sweeter also than honey
    and drippings of the honeycomb.
11 Moreover, by them is your servant warned;
    in keeping them there is great reward.

12 Who can discern his errors?
    Declare me innocent from hidden faults.
13 Keep back your servant also from presumptuous sins;
    let them not have dominion over me!
Then I shall be blameless,
    and innocent of great transgression.

14 Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart
    be acceptable in your sight,
    Lord, my rock and my redeemer.

Still Standing – A Study of a Roadside Tree #4 | Outside Elgin, TX | January 2023

We’ve been looking at how little things can have a big impact at St. John, where I used to serve as senior pastor and now attend as a happy member. Pastor Mark Wuggazer has opened our eyes to some important realities: Our thoughts inform our words. Our words impact our actions. And our actions become habits. The key thought is that thoughts and words matter. That’s sometimes less obvious than the idea that our actions matter.

People like to claim that they cannot control their thoughts. But we must let go of that excuse. For that is what it is: an excuse to indulge our flesh in sinful imaginations, schemes, and fantasies. Scripture tells us to take every thought captive to Christ. (cf. 2 Corinthians 10:3-5) Romans 12:1-2 states,

I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.

Then come the words. Carole Mayhall wrote a book, Words that Hurt, Words that Heal. In it she makes the point that words can have profound impact for good or ill. God calls us to speak words that are fountains of life. (cf. Proverbs 10:11) That is at the root of this prayer.

What better example do we have than Jesus as one who spoke words of life.

“Neither do I condemn you. Go, and sin no more,” he says to the woman caught in adultery. (John 8:11)

“What do you want me to do for you?” he asks the blind man. (Mark 10:51)

“If you would ask, I would give you living water,” he says to the woman at the well. (John 4:10)

“And surely, I will be with you always, even to the end of the age,” he promises his followers. (Matthew 28:20)

St. Paul urges us: “Whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.” (Philippians 4:8)

Not long ago a friend offered this suggestion to overcome insomnia. I had shared that I will pray the Lord’s prayer again and again, or sing/pray the Agnus Dei, or a favorite hymn. His suggestion: When you wake up in the middle of the night think of all the things for which you’re thankful, things that bring you true joy. I wonder now if the glory of the heavenly witness, the beautiful truth of God’s word, the blessed promises of Scripture, and the gift of God’s forgiveness and redemption should fill my mind, not only when I cannot sleep, but throughout the day. And then, my words would surely be gracious and full of life as well.

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Psalm 19

The heavens declare the glory of God,
    and the sky above proclaims his handiwork.
Day to day pours out speech,
    and night to night reveals knowledge.
There is no speech, nor are there words,
    whose voice is not heard.
Their voice goes out through all the earth,
    and their words to the end of the world.
In them he has set a tent for the sun,
    which comes out like a bridegroom leaving his chamber,
    and, like a strong man, runs its course with joy.
Its rising is from the end of the heavens,
    and its circuit to the end of them,
    and there is nothing hidden from its heat.

The law of the Lord is perfect,
    reviving the soul;
the testimony of the Lord is sure,
    making wise the simple;
the precepts of the Lord are right,
    rejoicing the heart;
the commandment of the Lord is pure,
    enlightening the eyes;
the fear of the Lord is clean,
    enduring forever;
the rules of the Lord are true,
    and righteous altogether.
10 More to be desired are they than gold,
    even much fine gold;
sweeter also than honey
    and drippings of the honeycomb.
11 Moreover, by them is your servant warned;
    in keeping them there is great reward.

12 Who can discern his errors?
    Declare me innocent from hidden faults.
13 Keep back your servant also from presumptuous sins;
    let them not have dominion over me!
Then I shall be blameless,
    and innocent of great transgression.

14 Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart
    be acceptable in your sight,
    Lord, my rock and my redeemer.

Still Standing – A Study of a Roadside Tree #3 | Outside Elgin, TX | January 2023

M. Scott Peck’s book, People of the Lie is an insightful look at the nature and essence of evil. He approaches the subject as a psychiatrist, admitting that the subject is highly controversial among his peers. The book’s blurb states that

People who are evil attack others instead of facing their own failures. Peck demonstrates the havoc these people of the lie work in the lives of those around them. He presents, from vivid incidents encountered in his psychiatric practice, examples of evil in everyday life.

A key quote from the book: “It is not their sins per se that characterize evil people, rather it is the subtlety and persistence and consistency of their sins. This is because the central defect of the evil is not the sin but the refusal to acknowledge it.” (page 69) [Thanks to Laura Martin who posted this in her blog]

Yes. Our greatest problem is not just the sin, but a refusal to acknowledge our sin. This echos the truth of 1 John 1:8, “If we say we are without sin we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us.” That’s why this psalm is so important as part of our prayer life. We must confess our sins and say with David, “Who can discern his errors? Declare me innocent from hidden faults. Keep back your servant also from presumptuous sins; let them not have dominion over me!”

When Jesus died on the cross, he prayed, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they are doing.” Who can discern his errors? We have no idea of the far-reaching impact of our sins of commission or omission. Mitch Albom’s Five People you Meet in Heaven, explores the far-reaching impact we have with one another in our seemingly-ordinary daily encounters. The examples are mostly positive. But I wonder if there would be a similar book written about the negative impacts we have had on people in seemingly minor acts of unkindness or thoughtlessness. We won’t even consider the far-reaching impact of our more ignoble failures and sins!

So what are we to do as we contemplate our sins, confessing them and seeking God’s forgiveness? Certainly we must take seriously the urgent confession in the words, “Declare me innocent from hidden faults.” We can sincerely pray, “Keep me blameless and innocent of great transgression.” And we can rejoice in Jesus’ forgiveness. For we are also promised, “If we confess our sins, God is faithful and just and will forgive our sins, and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:9) Our blamelessness is by the grace of God through faith in the blood of Jesus. That is unassailable. And it requires that we acknowledge our need for it. 

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Psalm 19

The heavens declare the glory of God,
    and the sky above proclaims his handiwork.
Day to day pours out speech,
    and night to night reveals knowledge.
There is no speech, nor are there words,
    whose voice is not heard.
Their voice goes out through all the earth,
    and their words to the end of the world.
In them he has set a tent for the sun,
    which comes out like a bridegroom leaving his chamber,
    and, like a strong man, runs its course with joy.
Its rising is from the end of the heavens,
    and its circuit to the end of them,
    and there is nothing hidden from its heat.

The law of the Lord is perfect,
    reviving the soul;
the testimony of the Lord is sure,
    making wise the simple;
the precepts of the Lord are right,
    rejoicing the heart;
the commandment of the Lord is pure,
    enlightening the eyes;
the fear of the Lord is clean,
    enduring forever;
the rules of the Lord are true,
    and righteous altogether.
10 More to be desired are they than gold,
    even much fine gold;
sweeter also than honey
    and drippings of the honeycomb.
11 Moreover, by them is your servant warned;
    in keeping them there is great reward.

12 Who can discern his errors?
    Declare me innocent from hidden faults.
13 Keep back your servant also from presumptuous sins;
    let them not have dominion over me!
Then I shall be blameless,
    and innocent of great transgression.

14 Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart
    be acceptable in your sight,
    Lord, my rock and my redeemer.

Still Standing – A Study of a Roadside Tree #2 | Outside Elgin, TX | January 2023

I was never able to get past the 30 page description of a tree in Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings trilogy (or maybe it was The Hobit). OK, maybe I exaggerate a little; maybe it was only 25 pages! But I have watched the Lord of the Rings movies several times. And the portrayal of Sméagol/Gollum is so very well done. He speaks of the Ring as his Precious. The tone of voice, non-verbal cues, and cinematography conspire to make it clear. His Precious is so very very precious. Too much so, in fact. It has become his idol. It is his god. And it will kill him.

That’s what idols do. That’s what the devil does: he steals, kills, and destroys. And we all have various Precious things that vie for a dangerous place in our hearts. Anxiety about finances can choke out generosity and result in financial idolatry. Fear of the future can elevate the need for certainty and understanding and replace faith. A need for power and control can lead to sexual misconduct and abuse. These kill the soul. They are the fools gold of life and joy.

But God’s word is truly precious. More precious than gold and sweeter than honey. God’s words are the word of life (cf. John 6:68-69). They enrich the soul. God’s word warns us of dangerous thoughts, words, and actions. It directs us in paths of true joy and blessing. God’s word points us to Jesus, the source of eternal life. God’s word lifts our spirits to focus on more noble things. And it helps us deal with the very real muck and mire of daily life.

The wisdom literature (Proverbs and Ecclesiastes) provide insight and guidance for daily living. The prayer book of the Old Testament (Psalms), gives words to our prayers. We learn great lessons from the history of Israel (the first several books of the Old Testament). The prophets challenge us and call us to repent and return to God. Then comes the fulfillment of it all: the New Testament’s witness to Jesus. The Word of God became flesh and dwelt among us, full of grace and truth. So as we hold God’s word precious, we are ultimately holding Jesus as most precious. He is the way, the truth, and the life. We gain access to the Father and his throne of grace only through him. He is truly precious!

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Psalm 19

The heavens declare the glory of God,
    and the sky above proclaims his handiwork.
Day to day pours out speech,
    and night to night reveals knowledge.
There is no speech, nor are there words,
    whose voice is not heard.
Their voice goes out through all the earth,
    and their words to the end of the world.
In them he has set a tent for the sun,
    which comes out like a bridegroom leaving his chamber,
    and, like a strong man, runs its course with joy.
Its rising is from the end of the heavens,
    and its circuit to the end of them,
    and there is nothing hidden from its heat.

The law of the Lord is perfect,
    reviving the soul;
the testimony of the Lord is sure,
    making wise the simple;
the precepts of the Lord are right,
    rejoicing the heart;
the commandment of the Lord is pure,
    enlightening the eyes;
the fear of the Lord is clean,
    enduring forever;
the rules of the Lord are true,
    and righteous altogether.
10 More to be desired are they than gold,
    even much fine gold;
sweeter also than honey
    and drippings of the honeycomb.
11 Moreover, by them is your servant warned;
    in keeping them there is great reward.

12 Who can discern his errors?
    Declare me innocent from hidden faults.
13 Keep back your servant also from presumptuous sins;
    let them not have dominion over me!
Then I shall be blameless,
    and innocent of great transgression.

14 Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart
    be acceptable in your sight,
    Lord, my rock and my redeemer.

Still Standing – A Study of a Roadside Tree #1 | Outside Elgin, TX | January 2023

I love the testimony of nature: God is glorious, majestic, creative, and existent. He is. Creation testifies to God’s existence. I like to illustrate that by imagining a conversation between a normal and rational human being and a skeptic. They come upon a TIMEX wrist watch. It’s running and shows the date and time.

Normal and rational human (NRH): Oh look! A watch. I wonder who dropped it?

Skeptic (S): I’m not so sure. How do you know someone dropped it? Did you see him drop it? (It is a man’s watch.)

NRH: No, but surely that’s what’s happened. It’s lying here beside the sidewalk. It shows signs of wear. Surely someone just dropped it. It must have fallen off his wrist.

S: Not so fast. How do you know it didn’t just happen to be here?

NRH: What do you mean by “just happen to be here?” Things don’t just happen to be anywhere. They are manufactured by intelligent, thinking human beings, distributed to stores or online sales sites, sold to other human beings. Those human beings purchase and make use of those items – like watches such as this one.

S: But how do you know it was manufactured, distributed, sold, used, and now lost? I think this watch just evolved over billions of years and came to be here at just this time. After all there are zillions of places in the universe, bazillions of situations that can come together over time, and things can just happen – surely at least once in a bazillion times.

NRH: Seriously?!? Look, it’s set at the right time. It has signs of wear. It says, “Made in India” on the back. “Stainless Steel Bezel.” Some factory in Deli or somewhere like that turns these out by the thousands.

S: Have you ever seen a watch factory?

Well, dear reader, have you? And yet the most obvious and reasonable understanding of this fanciful encounter is that the watch was manufactured in a watch factory, distributed, sold, used, and dropped by someone.

Why would we draw any different conclusion about the starry host, creation, a flower, or the human hand? Creation’s testimony is clear: There is a god.

But, wait. There’s more to be said here. This God has made himself known. And those to whom he has revealed himself have given testimony. We have that testimony in the pages of Scripture. The psalmist begins with the testimony of creation but then begins to speak of God’s word. His law is perfect, sure, right, and pure says David.

God’s word adds to the testimony of creation and points us to the LORD God and his ways. David speaks of God’s Law, precepts, commands and rules. They revive the soul, give wisdom, joy and enlightenment. They endure forever, are perfectly righteous, precious and sweet. There are great blessings to be had in their keeping.

Creation sings a song of praise to God. Those who hear and read God’s word are blessed so that they too join that song of praise. An even better declaration of praise pours from the hearts of those who hear, read, meditate on, and believe God’s word.

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Psalm 19

The heavens declare the glory of God,
    and the sky above proclaims his handiwork.
Day to day pours out speech,
    and night to night reveals knowledge.
There is no speech, nor are there words,
    whose voice is not heard.
Their voice goes out through all the earth,
    and their words to the end of the world.
In them he has set a tent for the sun,
    which comes out like a bridegroom leaving his chamber,
    and, like a strong man, runs its course with joy.
Its rising is from the end of the heavens,
    and its circuit to the end of them,
    and there is nothing hidden from its heat.

The law of the Lord is perfect,
    reviving the soul;
the testimony of the Lord is sure,
    making wise the simple;
the precepts of the Lord are right,
    rejoicing the heart;
the commandment of the Lord is pure,
    enlightening the eyes;
the fear of the Lord is clean,
    enduring forever;
the rules of the Lord are true,
    and righteous altogether.
10 More to be desired are they than gold,
    even much fine gold;
sweeter also than honey
    and drippings of the honeycomb.
11 Moreover, by them is your servant warned;
    in keeping them there is great reward.

12 Who can discern his errors?
    Declare me innocent from hidden faults.
13 Keep back your servant also from presumptuous sins;
    let them not have dominion over me!
Then I shall be blameless,
    and innocent of great transgression.

14 Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart
    be acceptable in your sight,
    Lord, my rock and my redeemer.

White Vein-Take 2 | Hawaii | March 2022

My grandmother lived by herself far out in the country. As she got older she also got less skilled in her driving. That didn’t stop her from going into the nearby small town for groceries and other errands. She would get behind the wheel of her 1955 Buick and hit the road. One time, however, she didn’t hit the road, or the bridge over Crooked Creek. She drove off the bridge and the car rolled into the creek. The windshield shattered in thousands of pieces, yet held in place because it was safety glass.

She was knocked unconscious. And when she came to, the sun was streaking through the prisms of the shattered windshield. The sight must have been amazing, for when she told us about it she said, “When I woke up and saw it, Law I thought I was in glory!” I think “Law” was a way of not using the Lord’s name in vain while expressing the significance of a thing.

What a wonderful way to look at things: to catch a glimpse of glory. But it doesn’t take a shattered windshield to catch a glimpse of glory. Venture outside on a cold winter night, far from the city’s light pollution, and look at the starry sky. You’ll see a glimpse of God’s glory. The heavens declare it according to this psalm.

The heavens bear witness to the creative glory of God. Who could create a masterpiece such as this? Only God. Who could set the stars in the sky, assign the planets their course of travel, orbits, and rotations? Only God. Who could number the stars? Only God. And he has done all these things.

God’s “invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they (and we) are without excuse” (Romans 1:20). He claims exclusive rights to all of creation and has the last say in judging good and evil. God challenges Job and us:

“Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth?
Tell me, if you have understanding.
Who determined its measurements—surely you know!
Or who stretched the line upon it?
On what were its bases sunk,
or who laid its cornerstone,
when the morning stars sang together
and all the sons of God shouted for joy?

31 “Can you bind the chains of the Pleiades
    or loose the cords of Orion?
32 Can you lead forth the Mazzaroth in their season,
    or can you guide the Bear with its children?
33 Do you know the ordinances of the heavens?
    Can you establish their rule on the earth? -Job 38:4-7, 31-33

As David says in Psalm 8:3-5

When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers,
    the moon and the stars, which you have set in place,
what is man that you are mindful of him,
    and the son of man that you care for him?

Yet you have made him a little lower than the heavenly beings
and crowned him with glory and honor.

The heavens declare the glory of God. Will we echo their songs of glory and praise?

Please pray these psalms with me on this Lord’s Day.

Psalm 15

Lord, who shall sojourn in your tent?
    Who shall dwell on your holy hill?

He who walks blamelessly and does what is right
    and speaks truth in his heart;
who does not slander with his tongue
    and does no evil to his neighbor,
    nor takes up a reproach against his friend;
in whose eyes a vile person is despised,
    but who honors those who fear the Lord;
who swears to his own hurt and does not change;
who does not put out his money at interest
    and does not take a bribe against the innocent.
He who does these things shall never be moved.

Psalm 45:6-7

Your throne, O God, is forever and ever.
    The scepter of your kingdom is a scepter of uprightness;
    you have loved righteousness and hated wickedness.
Therefore God, your God, has anointed you
    with the oil of gladness beyond your companions.

Psalm 75

We give thanks to you, O God;
    we give thanks, for your name is near.
We recount your wondrous deeds.

“At the set time that I appoint
    I will judge with equity.
When the earth totters, and all its inhabitants,
    it is I who keep steady its pillars. Selah
I say to the boastful, ‘Do not boast,’
    and to the wicked, ‘Do not lift up your horn;
do not lift up your horn on high,
    or speak with haughty neck.’”

For not from the east or from the west
    and not from the wilderness comes lifting up,
but it is God who executes judgment,
    putting down one and lifting up another.
For in the hand of the Lord there is a cup
    with foaming wine, well mixed,
and he pours out from it,
    and all the wicked of the earth
    shall drain it down to the dregs.

But I will declare it forever;
    I will sing praises to the God of Jacob.
10 All the horns of the wicked I will cut off,
    but the horns of the righteous shall be lifted up.

Psalm 105:1-7

Oh give thanks to the Lord; call upon his name;
    make known his deeds among the peoples!
Sing to him, sing praises to him;
    tell of all his wondrous works!
Glory in his holy name;
    let the hearts of those who seek the Lord rejoice!
Seek the Lord and his strength;
    seek his presence continually!
Remember the wondrous works that he has done,
    his miracles, and the judgments he uttered,
O offspring of Abraham, his servant,
    children of Jacob, his chosen ones!

He is the Lord our God;
    his judgments are in all the earth.

Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth;
    break forth into joyous song and sing praises!
Sing praises to the Lord with the lyre,
    with the lyre and the sound of melody!
With trumpets and the sound of the horn
    make a joyful noise before the King, the Lord!

Let the sea roar, and all that fills it;
    the world and those who dwell in it!
Let the rivers clap their hands;
    let the hills sing for joy together
before the Lord, for he comes
    to judge the earth.
He will judge the world with righteousness,
    and the peoples with equity.

Psalm 135:1-5

Praise the Lord!
Praise the name of the Lord,
    give praise, O servants of the Lord,
who stand in the house of the Lord,
    in the courts of the house of our God!
Praise the Lord, for the Lord is good;
    sing to his name, for it is pleasant!
For the Lord has chosen Jacob for himself,
    Israel as his own possession.

For I know that the Lord is great,
    and that our Lord is above all gods.

The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Text Edition: 2016.
Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.