Devotion by Carrie Black
We’ve had less than three weeks of school and already this semester I have seen the pain and hurt that sin brings, both sins we commit and the sin that infiltrates simply being in the world. Injuries, break ups, overwhelming thoughts, missing family members, an abundance of homework, the death of one we love, the pondering of big, tough questions, packed schedules, fading friendships - all these I have seen, both in the lives of my friends and classmates around me and in my own life too. All this and more, in just the span of three weeks. It leaves my heart heavy to consider all the heavy hearts on our campus. All these people, walking with their heads down - what are we to make of all this?
As Scripture goes, what we experience and feel does not go unexperienced and unfelt by others. Sifting through the Psalms, specifically, we can see the agony and anguish that comes as a result of sin - both known sin and the results of the presence of sin in the world. Psalm 42 and 43 are just a few that tap into this state of pain and hurt:
Here we read, in vivid imagery and stark emotion, the agony being experienced and expressed by the Psalmist: he is panting for God; he desires to be with God; he feeds on his tears; he faces persecution and ridicule from others for his spiritual state; he feels forgotten by God and oppressed by his enemy. What is this thirst, this oppression, this agony being expressed?
This is sin.
And it is in the midst of sin and suffering that the Psalmist denotes his soul as downcast. Like us, he walks with his head down.
Our theme verses for this 2019-2020 academic school year are Lamentations 3:22-23. In context, it reads:
19 I remember my affliction and my wandering,
the bitterness and the gall.
20 I well remember them,
and my soul is downcast within me.
21 Yet this I call to mind
and therefore I have hope:
22 Because of the LORD’s great love we are not consumed,
for his compassions never fail.
23 They are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness.
24 I say to myself, “The LORD is my portion;
therefore I will wait for him.”
25 The LORD is good to those whose hope is in him,
to the one who seeks him;
it is good to wait quietly for the salvation of the LORD.”
Compare this to Psalm 42 and 43. Within the context of the whole book of Lamentations, we read, again, a state of agony: there is no comfort (1:2, 16), there is starvation (1:11), there is betrayal (1:19) and destruction (2:6-9), and so on and so on. In the passage above, Jeremiah takes all the anguish and suffering and hurt within him, rearranges it, and expresses it: “my soul is downcast within me.”
The two Psalms we have considered are regarded as one when it comes to interpretation, and there is a reason for this. The structure of these Psalms is purposeful, comprised of a lament, a refrain of hope, lament, refrain of hope, lament, refrain of hope. Similarly, there is a unique structure to the book of Lamentations. The book contains 5 chapters, each of which contain 22 verses, except chapter 3 which holds 66 verses, and it is pretty much right in the middle of this middle chapter of Lamentations that comes Jeremiah’s own refrain of hope.
It is in the midst of testing and temptation, of agony and anguish, of trial and tribulation, the Psalmist and Jeremiah, and numerous others in Scripture, fix their eyes on hope. From this fixation, Jeremiah lifts his downcast soul toward the sunrise and the Psalmist raises his chin and goes forth in praise. The Psalmist and Jeremiah are fixing their eyes on the hope of God’s promise that He would send a savior to redeem their suffering. But then where, we must ask, do we fix our eyes? What is our hope today?
This is our hope: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”
It’s counterintuitive, it’s a great paradox, because “my God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” sounds more like the agony and anguish these two authors have expressed; it sounds like the pain and hurt we know all too well. These words, spoken by Jesus on the cross, are a reiteration of the Psalmist’s exclamation, “When can I go and meet with God?” because here the forsaken Son is crying out in his separation from God. This heart-wrenching question from Jesus sounds like agony and anguish, but it is here, on the cross, where our hope is found.
The Psalmist and Jeremiah fixed their eyes on the hope of God’s promise that he would send a savior; we fix our eyes on the cross, where Jesus took on every test we face, every temptation we encounter, every agonizing event, every anguish we feel, every trial we meet, and every tribulation we endure, and we fix our eyes on the empty tomb, because it is there that we see God’s new promise: that Jesus will come again and He will bring us to himself. And though we may earnestly pray for deliverance and relief in our present context, we have felt and know we will continue to feel the agony and anguish sin sneaks into the cracks and corners of our lives. And Jesus does not tell us he will keep trials from us; in fact, he says the opposite: “In this world you will have trouble” (John 16:33). But, he continues, beckoning us to take heart! For upon the cross he has overcome the world. Because Jesus bowed his head on the cross, when our souls are downcast within us, we may ever lift our eyes, see the sunrise, call this hope to mind, and go forth in praise: “Because of the LORD’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.”
Amen and amen.
Jeramy is speaking tonight! Come on out!
Here's the text for tonight:
4 Some time later, he fell in love with a woman in the Valley of Sorek whose name was Delilah. 5 The rulers of the Philistines went to her and said, “See if you can lurehim into showing you the secret of his great strength and how we can overpower him so we may tie him up and subdue him. Each one of us will give you eleven hundred shekels[a] of silver.”
6 So Delilah said to Samson, “Tell me the secret of your great strength and how you can be tied up and subdued.”
7 Samson answered her, “If anyone ties me with seven fresh bowstrings that have not been dried, I’ll become as weak as any other man.”
8 Then the rulers of the Philistines brought her seven fresh bowstrings that had not been dried, and she tied him with them. 9 With men hidden in the room, she called to him, “Samson, the Philistines are upon you!” But he snapped the bowstrings as easily as a piece of string snaps when it comes close to a flame. So the secret of his strength was not discovered.
10 Then Delilah said to Samson, “You have made a fool of me; you lied to me. Come now, tell me how you can be tied.”
11 He said, “If anyone ties me securely with new ropes that have never been used, I’ll become as weak as any other man.”
12 So Delilah took new ropes and tied him with them. Then, with men hidden in the room, she called to him, “Samson, the Philistines are upon you!” But he snapped the ropes off his arms as if they were threads.
13 Delilah then said to Samson, “All this time you have been making a fool of me and lying to me. Tell me how you can be tied.”
He replied, “If you weave the seven braids of my head into the fabric on the loom and tighten it with the pin, I’ll become as weak as any other man.” So while he was sleeping, Delilah took the seven braids of his head, wove them into the fabric14 and[b] tightened it with the pin.
Again she called to him, “Samson, the Philistines are upon you!” He awoke from his sleep and pulled up the pin and the loom, with the fabric.
15 Then she said to him, “How can you say, ‘I love you,’ when you won’t confide in me? This is the third time you have made a fool of me and haven’t told me the secret of your great strength.” 16 With such nagging she prodded him day after day until he was sick to death of it.
17 So he told her everything. “No razor has ever been used on my head,” he said, “because I have been a Nazirite dedicated to God from my mother’s womb. If my head were shaved, my strength would leave me, and I would become as weak as any other man.”
18 When Delilah saw that he had told her everything, she sent word to the rulers of the Philistines, “Come back once more; he has told me everything.” So the rulers of the Philistines returned with the silver in their hands. 19 After putting him to sleep on her lap, she called for someone to shave off the seven braids of his hair, and so began to subdue him.[c] And his strength left him.
20 Then she called, “Samson, the Philistines are upon you!”
He awoke from his sleep and thought, “I’ll go out as before and shake myself free.” But he did not know that the Lord had left him.
21 Then the Philistines seized him, gouged out his eyes and took him down to Gaza. Binding him with bronze shackles, they set him to grinding grain in the prison. 22 But the hair on his head began to grow again after it had been shaved.
The Death of Samson23 Now the rulers of the Philistines assembled to offer a great sacrifice to Dagontheir god and to celebrate, saying, “Our god has delivered Samson, our enemy, into our hands.”
24 When the people saw him, they praised their god, saying,
“Our god has delivered our enemy
into our hands,
the one who laid waste our land
and multiplied our slain.”
25 While they were in high spirits, they shouted, “Bring out Samson to entertain us.” So they called Samson out of the prison, and he performed for them.
When they stood him among the pillars, 26 Samson said to the servant who held his hand, “Put me where I can feel the pillars that support the temple, so that I may lean against them.” 27 Now the temple was crowded with men and women; all the rulers of the Philistines were there, and on the roof were about three thousand men and women watching Samson perform. 28 Then Samson prayed to the Lord,“Sovereign Lord, remember me. Please, God, strengthen me just once more, and let me with one blow get revenge on the Philistines for my two eyes.” 29 Then Samson reached toward the two central pillars on which the temple stood. Bracing himself against them, his right hand on the one and his left hand on the other,30 Samson said, “Let me die with the Philistines!” Then he pushed with all his might, and down came the temple on the rulers and all the people in it. Thus he killed many more when he died than while he lived.
prose by kate esser
all the tomorrows that wait for us
looming just out of reach
as the sun sets on today
and the dusk fades into the dawn
unknowns compel us to wait and wonder a little
how beautiful that is
to be at the edge of forever
dependent on our God
to receive all the tomorrows
and every moment they hold
here on earth
or there in eternity
Ephesians 3 brings much comfort to my restless soul when dreaming of what all the tomorrows may hold,
"Now to Him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we can ask or imagine according to His power that is at work within us - to Him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen."
James 4 also humbles me, bringing to light my pride in my anxiousness and vain attempts to grasp control of all my tomorrows,
"Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will travel to such and such a city and spend a year there and do business and make a profit.” You don’t even know what tomorrow will bring—what your life will be! For you are like smoke that appears for a little while, then vanishes. Instead, you should say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.” But as it is, you boast in your arrogance. All such boasting is evil. So it is a sin for the person who knows to do what is good and doesn’t do it."
through all my planning and dreaming, it remains but a wisp of smoke.
yet when in the hands of my creator, it is more than anything imaginable to me.
so we wait and we wonder and we hope
fully dependent on our creator
for anything tomorrow may hold
that we may glorify Him
and let go of ourselves
for all the tomorrows
and eternity after that
all the tomorrows are already known and held by the creator of the universe. & you, my dear friend, are loved and cared for by that same creator. the one who is sovereign over creation knows your name and every quirk that makes you you. He pursues your heart day after day. do not be afraid of what tomorrow holds. because He knows you best and will take every moment into consideration to bring your heart closer to His. some moments may be hard, but look at them as refinement. He is shaping you and asking for you to trust Him to sustain you for all the tomorrows that He already holds.
PRAISE PRAISE PRAISE! Come out to hear our new student body president, Jallah Bolay speak on Joshua 2.
This blog will be updated weekly with the speaker and text for the coming Wednesday's PRAISE, along with occasional guest post devos, announcements, photos, and other good good stuff.
Contact Emma Brand at firstname.lastname@example.org if you are interested in writing a guest devotion for the PRAISE blog. Or if you just want to chat. She'd be cool with that too.