Photo credit to Cameron Verano.
“Since we have the same spirit of faith according to what has been written, “I believed, and so I spoke,” we also believe, and so we also speak…” (2 Corinthians 4:13)
I had trouble learning what a parallelogram was once. I don’t know why, but I just couldn’t get the concept down. It upset the family member who was trying to teach me. I mean it’s just “a four sided plane rectilinear figure with opposite sides parallel.” And even though I was a good student, I just had trouble grasping it. And it didn’t help the matter when that someone “helping” me became really mad and upset at me for not understanding. But I did finally understand.
Paul is giving us a parallel here. We are to think about what he’s sharing in 2 Corinthians 4 and we’re to go to what’s happening in Psalm 116. He wants us to fit them together in our minds and hearts. And once we are able to fit them together, we might just get what he is trying to help us understand.
Well, I want to start by looking over 2 Corinthians 4. Paul tells us we’ve been given a responsibility, a ministry, that we received by the mercy of God through Jesus Christ. Because we know we have this God-given, God-appointed ministry. But it’s not easy, this responsibility we’ve been given and entered into. It makes us feel like we can’t do what’s set before us sometimes. But we don’t faint. The Greek for faint is “ekkakeo.” Thayers Lexicon defines it as “to be utterly spiritless, to be wearied out, exhausted.” Believer, have you felt that? But the truth is, we are never spiritless because even in those times we are Spirit-filled. And even when we are weary and exhausted, we have a power dwelling in us and guarding over us that is beyond that which is of us. So, as we rely on Him, we do not fail, we do not faint, because though we are weak, He is not. Isaiah reminds us in chapter 40, verses 28 and 29, “Have you not known? Have you not heard, that the everlasting God, the LORD, the Creator of the ends of the earth, does not faint, neither is weary? There is no searching of His understanding. He gives power to the faint; and to them that have no might He increases strength.”
Christ’s effect on my life is evident. I’ve turned away from things of the past llike dishonesty or craftiness or bending the word of God to fit me and my behaviors. Now the Truth is an expression of my life. When others see me, they see You expressed through me. Now, if there is any hidden thing in my life, it’s not those things that would bring me to shame, but Your Good News that others are still not able to see, like that parallelogram. And just like I was temporarily blinded to the truth of the parallelogram, there was hope for me, that I would one day see and understand. And there is hope for those who do not see, that their eyes would be opened.
See, what we are preaching about, what we are telling, and living out, and walking out in our lives is not about us. It’s all about Jesus. And we are here for each other and those who don’t see yet as servants of Jesus, shining Him forth, the Greatest Encourager who has ever been and ever will be. We preach from this light that’s shone in our own hearts. That light shines out. What we have come to know bursts forth to give others that knowledge.
And none of it is by my strength or my knowledge. Because it’s all been deposited from God in this fragile earthly vessel that is me. And this fragile earthly vesel struggles. And just as Jesus had to experience all the pains of dying, which are all the pains of life and death, so do I. But I am not alone. And my Jesus was victorious over death and lives. And He lives in me and I can allow Him to make that known and shown in me. I suffer the stuff of life but I am not overcome. I suffer for a time, maybe even great suffering. But it is only for a moment. There is a hope that will be fulfilled that will carry us into the eternal weight of glory. That’s a strange phrase, but in the Old Testament, the Shekinah, the manifested glory of God, was known as the weight of God. I guess I think about it as the fullness of God Himself. Some day, everything that has weighed me down will be removed and I will find myself in the middle of the fullness of God where there is no weight to be born by me, because he bears all.
But what does the parallel say? “I believed, and therefore have I spoken.” We don’t know who wrote this Psalm. But it’s part of the Paschal Hallel, the Passover Song, that has been sung for generations, even by Jesus. The Psalmist has a God of action, a God who acts on behalf of His own, a God who listens. Why does he love You, Lord? Because You hear his tiny, insignificant voice and it is not insignificant to You. And his requests are not insignificant to You. The Creator leans in to listen. He knows he can depend upon Your listening and caring ear. He knows Your faithfulness. Life was rough, the pressures surrounded him. He could have given up and been overcome. But he remembered Your faithfulness and he called on You. He depended upon You for deliverance. Because he depended upon You and waited for You and called upon You and remembered You, he experienced Your grace, Your righteousness, and Your mercy. He was preserved when he could not preserve himself. Being brought low gave You the opportunity to deliver.
David, or the writer, continues to say “the Lord has dealt bountifully with [me (my soul)].” It’s a completed action. And that verb can actually mean to deal bountifully or to deal harshly. It’s all dependent on the character of the giver and their intent. But is this saying that God has only allowed good in the writer’s life? How can that be? We’ve already heard his desperate cry to be removed from some really tough circumstances. Or is it that God has a way of making any situation good by His bountiful presence and deliverance in Him? Maybe he learned the same lesson as Paul in Philippians 4:11-13. “…For I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.” Can I say that You, Lord, are dealing bountifully with me even in the tough times? Thank You for giving me multiple opportunities to learn this tremendous truth.
How was the Psalmists soul delivered from death, his eyes from tears, and his feet from stumbling? He remained in the Lord no matter the circumstances. How do I know? He said, “I will walk before the LORD in the land of the living.” He walked in Your ways, He allowed You to conduct his life. He placed his trust in You and not the circumstances. Think about his words. “I believed, therefore have I spoken: I was greatly afflicted…”
Yes. I want to really think about those words. I want to look at those words in the eyes of some different translations. “I still had faith, though I said, ‘I am in great trouble,'” (BBE) “I was faithful to You when I was suffering,” (CEV) “I continued believing even when I said, ‘I am completely ruined!'” (ERV) “I believed, even when I spoke: ‘I am greatly afflicted;” (ESV) “I kept on believing, even when I said, ‘I am completely crushed,'” (GNB) “I kept my faith even when I said, ‘I am suffering terribly,” (GW)
Even when the Psalmist began to focus on other people’s dependability and found it faulty, his focus was brought back to the faithfulness of You, Lord. Because it’s not people that deliver us from these afflictions. You may use people for our deliverance, but You alone are our deliverer. And I guess I just have to come to grips with the fact that Your deliverence always comes at the right time, Your time, and not necessarily mine. I mean, sometimes I have to go through things and be brought low to be delivered from attitudes in my own heart. So sometimes, I don’t even know the real intent of the struggle You have allowed in my life and I cry out in my haste and make wrong assumptions just like the Psalmist.
But when I stop being hasty, I have to stop and wonder how I can repay You, Lord, for all these benefits. Benefits? Of suffering? Of hard circumstances? Of trials? Of going hungry and sleeping on hard floors on cardboard boxes? Of feeling alone? Of feeling misunderstood? Yes, because if I am trusting in You and living in that trust, then as I continue to seek You despite the pressures and feelings, I will see the deeper truth about You that You are making known to me. You are the Benefit. Being drawn closer to and in You is the benefit. I will “appreciate fully” my cup of salvation. I will love to call upon You and wait for You and know You more. I’ll pay my vows to You before others by proclaiming You and showing You and telling of You in my life.
Now, I’m really having trouble with fitting in verse 15. “Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of His saints.” The Jewish Study Bible intereprets it as “The death of His faithful ones is grievous in the LORD’s sight.” I just have difficulty thinking that the idea of me dying in itself is so precious for You, Lord, or that me dying is a grievous thing for You. Because the Psalmist has been talking over and over about being delivered from death and sheol (often translated as hell). So if You deliver, how is it so awful or precious? And how can it be awful and precious at the same time?
What if this death is all tied in with what Jesus came to earth for? What if this death is all tied in to the first Holy One, the Holy One that makes me and every other believer a saint, a holy one? Because that’s what the word saint is all about. Psalm 16:10 tells us “For You will not leave my soul in hell; neither will You suffer Your Holy One to see corruption. (Hebrew-Old-Testament) So I can’t be a Holy One without the Holy One making me holy in Him. So, what’s so precious or grievous about death? What if it was always about the price that the Holy One, Jesus, paid for you and me? What if the beyond imaginable horrendous truth is that God tore His own heart apart to save us? He inflicted His entire wrath upon His own beloved Son instead of me. Well, either way I look at it, that makes me beyond precious in His sight because of the death of His Son for me. And at the same time, isn’t it the most grievous thing that any father would ever have to do? And maybe the point is, I need to realize the magnitude of the treasure of the death of You, Jesus, my Lord and my Savior, for me.
But I think the Psalmist thought about that even though He only had a future promise to look forward to, even though he didn’t get it all yet. But I have the truth of the resurrection. So I am even more responsible for my reaction. What was his reaction? “O LORD, I am Your servant, Your servant, the son of Your maidservant; You have undone the cords that bound me. I will sacrifice a thank offering to You and invoke the name of the Lord. I will pay my vows to the LORD in the presence of all His people, in the courts of the house of the LORD, in the midst of Jerusalem. Halleluja.” (Jewish Study Bible) When I realize, Lord, the magnitude of what You have done for me, that I have not done anything to deserve, I cry out as the Psalmist, “I am Yours. I belong to You. You have purchased me by Your blood. I am Your servant because You are the One who has set me free. You are the One who shall receive my thanks. You are the One whose name I shall continually extoll! Your name is the One to whom I will cry for deliverance and every need and just for sheer joy. What vow could I ever pay You that would repay You for what You have done for and given me? I will be who You created me to be in You. I will rely on You. I will walk in You. I will proclaim You. I will be Your vessel and allow You to have Your way in me before all people. That’s my vow. When I trusted in You, when I surrendered to You, when I came to You in desperation, I vowed to be wholly Yours, so I will give myself to You to fulfill Your ways in me.”
Lord, I am so grateful that Your Spirit of faith has never changed. The same Spirit of faith that David knew and that this Psalmist knew, is the same Spirit of faith that Paul knew and that I know and that any person alive can come to know. And this same Spirit of faith, that is You, can belong to anyone who will believe. It’s a living and powerful belief because it’s life in You. It’s not just words, it’s a Person, and it’s Life itself. I believe. But can I speak? Is the evidence there in my life to back up that belief? Lord, may the evidence of Your Holy One speak loudly in me and through me, not just in my words, but in my whole being, because I can’t be a saint, I can’t be a holy one, without the Holy One Himself working in me. I am Your servant, Lord. May I be faithful in full surrender. So no matter what it takes, or how hard the life situations You take me through, bring me to the point where I shine with the fulness of the Holy One.
Funny thing, the last words of Psalm 116 are “Halal-Yah” or “hallelujah.” And isn’t it something, Lord, that I wound up talking about shining? Because I decided (and I wonder who led me to look?) to check out that word, the Hebrew for “hallelujah.” And it doesn’t just mean praise because it also means to shine. Because You always shine, You are always worthy of praise. And though my circumstances may seem dark and endless, I can remember the lights in the sky, and even though they may be covered by clouds, they still burn brightly. And I can be reminded of You and how You forever shine because of the nature of Your glory. And I praise You again, because You will keep me walking in Your light even when I cannot see, because You never cease to shine. And I’ll never cease experiencing Your light and I won’t ever stop declaring what I see because Your light is more beautiful than anything and You’ve got me covered.