Navigating the Corn Maze of Life – Psalms Project: Psalm 119

Reece's Corn Maze 2012

Last weekend, I took our ten year old son, Aidan, to Reece’s Corn Maze — at night! This corn maze is an orienteering challenge. It actually consists of two mazes — a smaller, less complicated one and the big one (the man/cross/guitar above was the smaller one; the horse was the larger one). The owners provided the map above with six marked stations. To complete the challenge, you must collect the specially shaped hole punches from each station.

Going at night added to the challenge. There are no lights in the maze. Thankfully, they provided a flashlight for us. With the map and the flashlight, Aidan and I were able to navigate to all of the stations in both mazes in a little less than 2 hours. We did not get lost or make any wrong turns. Aidan did most of the navigating in the smaller maze, but yielded to me once we really got into the larger one. After completing the challenge, I asked Aidan one of my favorite parent questions: “what did we learn about life from that?” Here is what we came up with:

The Map is Indispensable
Without the map, we would have no idea where to start, where we were, where the stations were, or how to get anywhere. The map was essential to completing the challenge. We had to rely on it for every decision and direction. The maze of life also requires a map from its Creator. Psalm 119, the longest chapter of the Bible, repeatedly declares that God’s Word is the map for life:

How blessed are those whose way is blameless,
Who walk in the law of the Lord.
How blessed are those who observe His testimonies,
Who seek Him with all their heart.
They also do no unrighteousness;
They walk in His ways. Psalm 119:1-3

Teach me, O Lord, the way of Your statutes,
And I shall observe it to the end.
Make me walk in the path of Your commandments,
For I delight in it. Psalm 119:33, 35

The Map is Useless Without Light
A few times we turned off the flashlight to get a sense of how dark it was and how lost we could have gotten. Without the light, we couldn’t see the map or any of the possible directions to go. All we could do is stumble about and feel with our hands. Completing the maze would have been an impossible task. Even just getting out would have been very difficult. In life, though, there are so many who try to live without light. They stumble and fall and wonder why. The truth is that life  without God and His Word IS darkness. We need God to light our way. Psalm 119 says it like this:

 Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path. (Psalm 119:105)

But it is not just the printed word that gives us light. Jesus Christ, the living Word of God, is our Light:

Then Jesus again spoke to them, saying, “I am the Light of the world; he who follows Me will not walk in the darkness, but will have the Light of life.” John 8:12

Beware the Overgrown Path
Some passages we could choose had weeds or fallen stalks that partially blocked the way. Often, we could choose the right way by taking the more obviously worn path. Many had found the right path before us. However, there was one time when we took the less-traveled path because, according to the map, it was the right way. We trusted the map and took the path anyway and got to our next station. So, there was a double lesson here. Sometimes it is wise to follow where others have gone before. Yet, when the map clearly takes you off the worn path, trust the map. Psalm 119 expresses a similar double truth: we are companions of all who fear the Lord; yet we must confidently follow God’s path even when it leads through darkness and traps.

I considered my ways
And turned my feet to Your testimonies.
I hastened and did not delay
To keep Your commandments.
The cords of the wicked have encircled me,
But I have not forgotten Your law.
At midnight I shall rise to give thanks to You
Because of Your righteous ordinances.
I am a companion of all those who fear You,
And of those who keep Your precepts. Psalm 119:59-63

No matter where you find yourself in the corn maze of life today, God can make a way for you. Take hold of His Word (the map), and let Jesus light your way.

More from the Psalms Project:

Finding Rest in the Midst of Crisis – Psalm 3
From Venus to God – Psalm 19

Finding Rest in the Midst of Crisis – Psalms Project: Psalm 3

david

Have you had a bad day, a bad week, a bad month, or even a bad year? Where is God when it seems like the bottom is falling out and sucking you down with it? Psalm 3 gives us powerful insight into how David dealt with such calamity at one of the worst times of his life. Even if our struggles are not as dire or dramatic as David’s we can learn to depend on God as he did. Then we will have rest – physical and spiritual.

David’s Situation

At first read, Psalm 3 seems to be an exaggerated, woe-is-me pity party.  Listen to verses 1-2:

O Lord, how many are my foes!
 Many are rising against me;
many are saying of my soul,
there is no salvation for him in God.

However, this was literally true for David. The Psalm’s title tells us David’s historical situation. He was on the run from his own son, Absalom, who had initiated civil war in Israel in an attempt to wrest the throne away from his father. Read 2 Samuel  15-17. Absalom had already killed one of his brothers, Amnon, because of the rape of his sister. Then he turned the people’s hearts away from David and toward himself. He then declared himself king and gathered military forces to his cause. David fled Jerusalem with a few faithful warriors. Seizing his advantage, Absalom publicly raped 10 of David’s concubines and set himself as ruler in Jerusalem. Then he sought to kill his own father. So, yeah, David really had many rising up against him, even from his family and supposed friends.

Then, on his way out of town, a member of Saul’s family, Shimei, comes out and curses him. He says that David is getting what he deserves from God. David’s men want to kill Shimei, but David answers,

“It may be that the Lord will look on the wrong done to me, and that the Lord will repay me with good for his cursing today.” So David and his men went on the road, while Shimei went along on the hillside opposite him and cursed as he went and threw stones at him and flung dust. And the king, and all the people who were with him, arrived weary at the Jordan. And there he refreshed himself.  2 Samuel 16:12-14

David’s Trust

It is speculation, of course, but I think David’s refreshment is what he reveals in Psalm 3.

But You, O Lord, are a shield about me,
My glory, and the One who lifts my head.
I was crying to the Lord with my voice,
And He answered me from His holy mountain. 
I lay down and slept;
I awoke, for the Lord sustains me.
I will not be afraid of ten thousands of people
Who have set themselves against me round about
Psalm 3:3-6

Against the many, David trusts in the One who lifts him from despondency. Though surrounded by enemies, David is safely shielded by the Lord. This is the God who hears and answers! Therefore David can rest, trusting in his sustaining God. Once David has his trust in God restored, he can look confidently to the future:

Arise, O Lord!
Save me, O my God!
For you strike all my enemies on the cheek;
you break the teeth of the wicked.
Salvation belongs to the Lord;
your blessing be on your people!
Psalm 3:7-8

David’s trust in God proves well-founded. Salvation (deliverance) does come from God and not man’s opinion. God defeats Absalom’s forces in battle and Absalom is killed. While David mourns the death of his favored son, he is restored to the kingship for which God had chosen him.

Our Turn 

So what about you and me? In the drama and despair of my life, can I sleep unhindered? Do you toss and turn and spend what’s left of your strength on your own plans? Can we trust God to protect and restore us, even if family betrays us? The God David knew is still the same today. You can trust Him and rest. I can trust Him and rest. Will I? Will you? Let Psalm 3 be your cry to God as you end this day.

 

Did you miss Psalm 2? Safe, Not Shackled

Psalms Project: Psalm 19 – From Venus to God

***BESTPIX*** Venus Transit Across The Sun

 “The black sky was underpinned with long silver streaks that looked like scaffolding and depth on depth behind it were thousands of stars that all seemed to be moving very slowly as if they were about some vast construction work that involved the whole order of the universe and would take all time to complete. No one was paying attention to the sky. Flannery O’Connor in Wise Blood, chapter 3 (emphasis mine)

Yesterday, millions of people around the world were focused on the transit of Venus across the sun (from our point of view). My son, Aidan, a would-be astronomer, wanted to watch it, too. So we turned on NASA TV and watched for awhile. Aidan got bored with just seeing the black dot of Venus against the solar backdrop.  It didn’t move fast. It didn’t explode or shoot off fireworks. It just kept imperceptibly moving. (He loved the solar flare pictures and other parts, though.)

However, I was in awe of the Creator of this universe. I am not alone. King David was often moved to worship as he observed God’s creation by looking up. Psalm 19 is a prime example. (Stop and read it before reading on here.) What is most interesting is that David moves from a poetic description of the stars and the sun to outbursts of praise for God’s laws and commands. How did he make that leap? I think the Venus transit explains it perfectly.

The transit of Venus was no surprise to us. Astronomers knew exactly when it would happen. Why? Because the motions of the universe are consistent and calculable. The laws of gravity, mathematics, and physics predict these astrological alignments. This order, understood by the ancients even before the descriptions of physics, points to a Designer and Sustainer. That is exactly how David reasons:

The heavens are telling of the glory of God;
And their expanse is declaring the work of His hands.
Day to day pours forth speech,
And night to night reveals knowledge.

The law of the Lord is perfect, restoring the soul;
The testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple.
Psalm 19:1-2, 7 (NASB)

David does not stop with praise and wonder, though. In verses 1-6, he uses only the general name for God, El, one time. In verses 7-14, though, he uses the personal, covenant name Lord (Yahweh), seven times. He is getting more personal with Yahweh. In verses 11-14, he submits himself to this Creator and Lawgiver God:

Moreover, by them Your servant is warned;
In keeping them there is great reward.
Psalm 19:11 (NASB)

Finally, he ends with one of his most quoted prayers. His contemplation on the Creator has brought him to a powerful plea:

Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart
Be acceptable in Your sight,
O Lord, my rock and my Redeemer.
Psalm 19:14 (NASB)

European Space Agency, NASA & Peter Anders (Göttingen University Galaxy Evolution Group, Germany)

A thousand years later, the apostle Paul argued similarly that God’s creation reveals God’s attributes. So no one can say they had no knowledge of the one, true God:

For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them.  For his 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. Romans 1:19-20 ESV

Yet, I wonder how many people watched the transit of Venus and missed the Creator God who designed all of this. Flannery O’Connor alludes to this same ignorance in the great quote above that I “happened” to read today. (Thanks, Jacob Willard, for the Top 100 Novel Challenge that got me into that book!)

The next time you look up into the heavens, stop to think what God is telling you. He is speaking, if you will listen.

(Yes, this post for the Psalms Project is out of order, but I decided this one was timely.)

Catching up with the Psalms Project?
Psalm 1: Planted or Seated?
Psalm 2:  Safe, Not Shackled

Psalms Project: Psalm 2 – Safe, Not Shackled

The Avengers

The much anticipated movie “Avengers” opened this weekend. It tells the story of several superheroes who must band together to stop an evil Norse deity, Loki, and his band of aliens. I haven’t seen the movie, but I suspect that the heroes must learn to work as a team. Then, using all their powers, they thwart Loki, at least until the sequel. Strange as the movie plot sounds, it has some similarities to Psalm 2. (Hang in there and maybe you will understand my warped way of thinking.)

In Psalm 2,  we meet the kings of the earth. These kings are tired of being shackled by God and His Anointed (Hebrew – messiah). So they are planning some kind of rebellion to win their “freedom.” Mortals are taking on God. In this case, we are talking about the one, true God, the Creator of all. So, these kings on earth want to take on the King of the Universe, and they have no super powers to help them. God laughs (an ironic twist to Psalm 1). He and His Anointed rule no matter what anyone else does. He can just speak and destroy the kings and their nations. God has already chosen the Ruler – His Son.

Psalm 2 is classified as a “Messianic Psalm” because of its clear mention of God’s special, anointed One, the Messiah. Here, he is called “My Son” and “My King.” He is given the nations as His inheritance. And He will rule absolutely – as with a rod of iron. The nations are warned to properly honor the Messiah (v12) or face His sudden wrath. This is a proclamation of royal authority, perhaps using the same language as the coronation ceremony of Israel’s kings. Is it any wonder that Jesus’ disciples expected a Warrior Messiah to come and destroy the Romans and establish His kingdom on earth? (Of course, they neglected the teachings of other Messianic Psalms like Psalm 22, but we will get to those later.) While Jesus did not fulfill all of these roles in His first coming, He will upon His return.

The New Testament writers did not shy away from associating Jesus with this ruling Messiah in Psalm 2. In Acts 4, Peter and John are released by the Sanhedrin after they had healed the lame man at the Temple in the name of Jesus. When they return to the believers, they testify that Psalm 2 is being fulfilled: Gentiles and Jews gathered in Jerusalem against the Messiah, Jesus, and killed Him. But His resurrection demonstrated His ultimate authority and rule. In Revelation, John quotes Psalm 2:9 four times to remind us that Jesus is coming to rule.

So, what does this mean for us today? First, it is a corrective to our view of Jesus. If we consider Him only meek and mild, an itinerant preacher of mushy love, we don’t know Him. He is God’s Anointed King. He rules, whether we accept it or not. And if we choose to reject Him, we can expect to be broken like fragile pots.

I think the most important message, though, is that God’s rule is a refuge, not a shackle.  Look at how the whole tone of the Psalm changes in the last line: “How blessed are all who take refuge in Him.” God is not trying to destroy us or keep us from joy and pleasure. No! His way IS the way of life and peace. Boundaries are for our safety, not for binding. Let’s rejoice in our shelter, the Most High God who rules over all.

Read Psalm 1: Planted or Seated?