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Singing Psalm 68 you pause to find home

"Let God arise...O sing to God!...God makes a home..." ~ Psalm 68:1-6


God goes out with his people. Selah


God relieves their burdens. Selah


Consider God‘s great worth. Selah


“Selah” reminds you as you think to yourself, there is really no comparison between me and God. It’s basically a word from the Lord directing us to stop and think: “Be still and know that I am God.”


The psalms, and particularly when we encounter the Selahs within them, invite us to pause and consider our preferences next to the magnificence of God. Singing them motivates us to lay down preferences at the foot of the cross and to take them up with emphases that no longer make much of self but lift up and give glory, praise, and honor to God. Distinctions are made between how God views and deals with those who pause to consider him and those who don’t. The weary are refreshed. The rebels are parched. You take a deep breath inhaling the calm after the storm. Anger and angst are released as you exhale a breathless thank you to the mighty God who stoops low to save you, to relieve you of your daily burdens, and to set you free from death. Strong mountains deeply envy as they gape and stare at the little hill that God has chosen to establish as his own. This, at last, is where you pause to find home. 


Singing Psalm 68 increasingly brings to light what Satan works hard to keep hidden. It reveals that Jesus is altogether lovely, altogether beautiful in your eyes and that he sees his beauty forming in you his bride whom he is making beautiful moment-by-moment. Let’s not blur God’s distinctions lest we smear his beauty until it isn’t recognizable as beauty anymore. Even still, he amazingly will restore all beauty to shine through brighter and with greater luster than if we hadn’t mussed with it.


You are adjured, though sick with love for Jesus, not to stir or awaken his love until he desires that the time is right to make it perfectly clear to you that you are his and that his desire is for you, his bride (Song of Solomon 2:7, 3:5, 5:8, 7:10).


Let’s be willing to wait for the fullness of Jesus’ love, not stirring or awakening it until the time comes when he desires to reveal it with the angels marveling as he takes us home. His bride must be willing to pause to find home in Christ. And when the time is right you see the beauty in the truth that you cannot serve both God and money. The choice is clear as can be that you serve that which you love:


    “Many waters cannot quench love,

        neither can floods drown it.

    If a man offered for love

        all the wealth of his house,

        he would be utterly despised.” ~ Song of Solomon 8:7


No matter how low you think to go, you are never too far off for the Lord to find you. The dogs of those who trust God will feed upon the blood of their enemies: “Surely, I will yet retrieve them from the bottom of the sea…” Yet God makes it his business to turn enemies into friends. Each one of his people started out as his enemy. He scatters rebels who delight in war and in the scattering some will pause and come to their senses now that they are away from the influence of the alleged strength in numbers of those who oppose God. If you are on the trajectory of being God’s enemy, turn, cry out to him. Humble yourself offering your life as a gift back to God. It is his glory to have compassion on you and make you a home with him as his friend, his adopted child, his family. John the Baptist got it right when he spoke of Jesus saying he must increase, but I must decrease.


What factor keeps you on the outside looking in? Is it age, language, skin color, lifestyle, interests, preferences, disability, economics, personality, your tastes, sense of style, beauty or fashion?


Where you fall in these and other categories reminds you of what you think you lack, but take it a step deeper and you come face to face with your weaknesses that slow you down enough to make you look up. It works whether you fall on one end of the spectrum or on the other end of it, or somewhere in the middle. The driven and headstrong are slowed down or stopped by one wheel of providence or another. Various circumstances light a fire beneath the melancholy and weak that spur them to action. They learn to prepare their minds to seek the one who shows himself to be strong for them.


What can help offset the stress that comes from being on the outside with no one visibly in your corner to cheer you on in the fight?


Singing the psalms is a protective and refreshing balm, a salve that encases you with a dose of realism and truth that goes deep beneath the surface. Singing Psalm 68 with Selahs emphasizes that effect. The silence makes room to ponder this all-powerful God who isn’t all about his own power but about showing mercy and giving strength and power to the oppressed. He notices needs, especially that of the fatherless, the poor, the widow, the lonely, and of those who know they are needy. You get quiet confidence with Jesus in your corner to care for you and lead you home.


Singing Psalm 68 you find who you are as you pause to find home


Pause. Who did God make you to be? First off, he awesomely and marvelously made you a body who thinks and feels. You might not like your body. You might do things to tone it up or to change different aspects of it. The suffering you endure bodily makes you pause to find home as a part of God's good plan -- a small but necessary leg in your journey as an image-bearer of God in a fallen world. Embrace rather than eschew it.


Or you might like your body as it is. Pause. You learn to accept your body and renew your mind. Your thoughts and feelings become tools you use to connect with, love, and praise the one who made you as a body who can join with others who do the same.


Here in Psalm 68, the “Selah”, the pause, comes after God enters the scene and before he acts. This helps you remember that though you cannot see him, God is with you. You are at peace in the pause as you eagerly and patiently wait for him to act.


“O God, when you went out before your people,

    when you marched through the wilderness,

Selah

the earth quaked, the heavens poured down rain,  

    before God, the One of Sinai,

    before God, the God of Israel.” ~ Psalm 68:7-8, ESV


Singing Psalm 68 with a pregnant pause in those spots where you find the Selah within this live story creates a purposeful dramatic effect within you as you find yourself with God’s people on the stage of life. You tune out the noise of the world and seek God to show you how to offer your body as a living sacrifice before an audience of one.


“When with Your people You went forth,

    And marched through desert lands, O God,


“Earth shook; skies fell before God’s face;

    Before God‘s presence Sinai quaked,

Before the God of Israel.” ~ Psalm 68:7-8


Singing Psalm 68 you find how you are as you pause to find home


Pause. You have preferences. Desires. Things you like and don’t like. You pursue the things you like to do and avoid the things you don’t like to do. Pause. You run both of those by Lord to see what he thinks. You find that he gives great freedom as he channels your cause into his cause for you to be a giver and a peacemaker in every arena of life, wherever he places you in your family, church, work, hobbies, or with friends. You are united with others around him, no longer united with others around sins and temptations. The Lord God made you and therefore gets to define you. Nothing and no one else gets to do that.


One Selah can lift your mind out of the mud puddle and, as if entering a spiritual black hole, transport and translate it up to the heavens, better by far than a mental beach vacation with powdery sand and clear water. Your sadness is muted as your imagination soars. This is not a temporary high or a pipe dream. It is built on the firm foundation of your Rock and your Redeemer. The God of peace gives you the peace of God, and better yet, he gives you himself. He takes you from strength to strength, from the mud puddle to the sandy beach through death to an everlasting life unspeakably wonderful. This is no morbid death wish or fixation with death. It’s a change of perspective where death is only a passageway, a brief pause or a Selah itself that you no longer fear but look forward to getting through to what’s on the other side of it. You anticipate as you eagerly wait for it with a smile so genuine as to make even angels wonder at it.


Here the Selah comes after God acts and before the action is attributed to him in praise.


“Blessed be the Lord,

    who daily bears us up;

    God is our salvation.

Selah

Our God is a God of salvation,

    and to God, the Lord, belong deliverances from death.“ ~ Psalm 68:19–20, ESV


“Praise the Lord our God and Savior;

    Daily burdens He relieves.


Our God is a God who saves us,

    God, the Lord from death sets free.” ~ Psalm 68:19-20


Singing Psalm 68 you find where you are as you pause to find home


Where is home? Pause. With those you love and who love you. Pause. Consider. Do you love them? Or do you only love that they agree with you? If you ever were a part of a group that gathered around sinful commonalities, individuals who repent can easily form a subsection of that group that then splinter out to become a group of its own. But where there is repentance, there is freedom. You are not defined by your attractions, temptations or by your past sins. You are free to be in Christ. He is your new identity. You are attracted to him like no other. You no longer have to call yourself former this or that. You are hidden in Christ and are simply in Christ. Brothers and sisters in Christ from every background can embrace and love and fellowship and share stories with one another freely and joyfully. Those whom Jesus accepts, Jesus’ body accepts. The body has many members, each part fulfills a function that enhances the whole and beautifies the bride of Christ. A living, transforming, organic bride, Jesus is making her beautiful for himself as each member does its part and takes an interest in all of the diverse parts.


Andrew Bunt makes excellent points about what a safe church is and how Jesus is our safety, our home. He mentions a feeling preference as a way of relating to those who share his preference. If I understand him correctly, he is not defining himself by that preference since his identity is now in Jesus alone. He is a peacemaker who is extending his arm to those who often feel left out in the fringes so that the body of Christ would be comprised of people from all backgrounds who learn to embrace one another in Christ not in spite of but because of our differences. Andrew is following Christ who came for the sick and the blind that he might heal them and help them see. It is the different contours of Christ’s bride that makes her beautiful just as a person with defined and distinguishable features would hands-down outshine a block of wood.


What if you don’t fit in even within any of the various groups that have formed among people of like mind that don’t fit in? Seriously, you might find yourself ineligible to be in a group of self-proclaimed outliers who are counted as “normal” if only there. I couldn’t even measure up on the scale of what it takes to be a “normal outsider” even within my own family. I was relegated to the place where outsiders go. Indeed, you feel like a misfit when other outsiders can find a home there but you can’t. “You don’t fit in, true enough, but in the wrong way from the rest of us who don’t fit in.” My extended family from Italy might’ve felt awkward in the US but they seemed to feel perfectly at home amongst themselves with their common language and culture. Though different out there, you’re considered normal within your subgroup. Except when you’re not. Perceptions can be deceiving. Sometimes those who seem to fit in the most would confide that it is more of an outward impression than an inward reality.


Each one of us in Christ will do well to set aside our preferences in order to prefer Christ and devote ourselves with unshared allegiance to him. What a fascinating Story Time we will have for all eternity discovering the ways that the Lord’s hidden steps led us to himself and how he became our all-in-all from starting places infinitely varied and interesting. Better than any movie marathon, how fascinating it will be to learn the myriad of ways that each one of us came to finally find our voice and express our affection for Jesus and find our true home at last in him. Come to think of it, we can begin that now. Preparing for eternity, it has already begun. Let’s make every effort to be willing to understand the difficulties that those around us encounter. 


This is easier done with a shared background, but either way, the Lord understands. He is enough when you don’t have anyone around you with a shared background who understands you. If you are left all alone, remember Jesus. He was left all alone and yet he was not alone because his Father was with him. In the same way, when you feel all alone, you are not alone. Jesus is with you. The Father is making his home with you. The Holy Spirit indwells you to counsel you, guide you, and comfort you. Wherever you go, although weak on your own, you are four strong.


I thank God that he has taken me from not being able to speak words the way most people easily can to finding my voice and being able to express it to some degree. Whether he increases the clarity of that voice or whether it diminishes in confusion as my body declines toward death, it is not for me to know. If toward clarity, I ask that he would enable me to praise him even more specifically and affectionately. If toward confusion, there is peace in knowing that the one I have put my faith in will not decline or become confused. I only ask that I would never be confused about placing my hope in him even as I might be confused about every other thing. I plan and prepare for holding onto that hope by singing the psalms and pausing to consider the Lord and who he reveals himself to be in his word.


“But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose.” ~ 1 Corinthians 12:18


“God makes a home, a fam’ly for the lonely;

    He leads out pris’ners to prosperity.

But in dry lands

    Of wilderness,

There the rebellious ones are left to be.” ~ Psalm 68:6


Singing Psalm 68 you find why you are as you pause to find home


You originated from the mind of God, joyfully wanted, and you have been made for his purposes alone. Selah. Give pause. You get to spend each moment of your life, unwrapping the gift of finding out what those purposes are, and together with your creator, fulfilling them!


“Surely God will crush in pieces

    Heads of every enemy,

And the heads of those persisting,

    Working their iniquity.” ~ Psalm 68:21


Work the impression that God’s word alongside your trials makes upon you by taking frequent pauses. The lessons you learn from each are sanctifying you as you are being made holy. They are internalized and solidified that both your outlook and your walk would be transformed to trust God with each step you take.


Jesus makes distinctions between friends and enemies, those who are a part of his body and those who are not. Do you count yourself among the sick and blind that Jesus might heal you and help you see? Or do you claim that you are whole and not broken without the healing touch of Jesus? Do you think you already can see without Jesus? Obviously, if a blind person thinks he can see, he will remain blind. Will you take the time to consider in what ways you might be blind but mistakenly think you are seeing clearly? Are you blind to those you might be excluding from your group of those who are rejected in the ways you can relate to? You have to take sides: Team you-fill-in-the-blank or Team Jesus. Whose side are you on? If you are thinking, “us and them”, consider carefully: Who is “us”? Who is “them”? The way indeed is narrow, but Jesus gets to define what narrow is, not us. Singing Psalm 68 you can know with certainty whose side you are on and whether or not you need to switch teams. Selah. Pause.


Jesus said to them, “If you were blind, you would have no guilt; but now that you say, ‘We see,’ your guilt remains.” ~ John 9:41


As God’s people had to learn to make right distinctions when Paul, who previously was a threat to God’s kingdom, was now a herald of God’s kingdom, we need to receive those who left their lies of sin from various backgrounds. We embrace them with open arms as new creations in Christ just as he accepts us who were his enemies.


“Now may our God and Father himself, and our Lord Jesus, direct our way to you, and may the Lord make you increase and abound in love for one another and for all, as we do for you, so that he may establish your hearts blameless in holiness before our God and Father, at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all his saints.” ~ 1 Thessalonians 3:11-13


“Now concerning brotherly love you have no need for anyone to write to you, for you yourselves have been taught by God to love one another…” ~ 1 Thessalonians 4:9


We aren’t to treat the good shepherd’s straying sheep as if they are wolves even as we properly identify wolves. We call the Lord Jesus to make the wolves into sheep or shoo them away so that they cannot harm his one flock as he leads them from straying sheep to himself from many different folds. The new normal and the accepted are any and all those who place their trust in Jesus. We who do this make up his body, his bride, his church. We are rods and staffs in the hands of Jesus whom the good shepherd uses to build walls to keep wolves out and bridges on which to guide and comfort his anxious straying sheep happily home.


A moment of silence hardly does justice to consider the worthiness of God, but to pause is better than to ride roughshod through the song. It is better because it is the start of a good habit that over time becomes a character trait to slow down and think. The musical pause provides greater meaning than its brevity would suggest. It indeed is a pregnant pause that gives birth to acknowledging the immense value of God's worth who considers us worth dying to save. Read, study, meditate on, and sing God’s word to grasp who he is and why Jesus had to suffer to save you. Pause often as you engage in his word until Jesus is altogether desirable to you.


Although not taking any time at all to reflect upon these things does not diminish the Lord’s worth in the least, you would miss an opportunity to exalt God as you could. The Selah is a guard against singing by rote without heartfelt meditation that could come across as if the singers are taking who God is for granted. Singing with lips to God while the heart pines after the world is false friendship which both you and God despise. It’s as if deeming God in some sense as worthless or at least much less worthy than he is. You can feel the difference when you are in a group of people that are not considering God as they sing versus when they are considering him and singing from the heart. The Selah is a natural point of segue, a built-in preemptive strike against the former and organically provides opportunity for the latter. Indeed, singing the psalms can be interjected into your life to give you pause throughout the day in the midst of whatever it is you are doing. It helps you reset to renew your mind and protect you from worldly thinking where you experience “flashes of transcendence…where you feel you’re touching something higher or deeper than yourself, and where you forget yourself for a short while and are caught up in something beyond.” ~ Andrew Wilson


Selah. Give pause.


Here the Selah comes after singing God’s praises and before being caught up with God where reasons pour forth why he is deserving of all praise, glory, and honor for who he is, how he is, and that he is with and for his people!


“O kingdoms of the earth, sing to God;

    Sing praises to the Lord,

Selah

To him who rides in the heavens, the ancient heavens;

    Behold, he sends out his voice, his mighty voice.” ~ Psalm 68:32–33, ESV


“Sing out your praises unto God,

    O kingdoms of the earth;

And sing unto the Lord of all

    In praise of His great worth.


“Praise Him who rides from ancient times

    In heaven’s highest height.

Behold, He speaks out with His voice,

    A voice of pow’r and might.

Declare that God possesses strength;

    His majesty is high,

Exalted over Israel,

    His strength is in the skies.

O God, You’re awesome from Your throne

    Isr’el’s own God is He,

Who gives His people strength and power;

    O let God blessed be!” ~ Psalm 68:32-35



June 7-21, 2024

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