Salvation ... comes from the Lord ... because they take refuge in him. (Psalm 37:39-40)

Sunday, May 15, 2011

The Refuge of Psalm 7

Does doubt and worry creep into your mind and heart because of all the "bad stuff" happening around you?  Does life sometimes feel like a flurry of activity with purpose and meaning difficult to find?

What an incredible place of Refuge in Psalm 7!  David begins, "O LORD my God, I take refuge in you."

As I envision these 17 verses on a graph of intensity, the apex verses are 8-10,
"Judge me, O LORD, according to my righteousness,
   according to my integrity, O Most High
O righteous God,
   who searches minds and hearts,
bring to an end the violence of the wicked
   and make the righteous secure.
My shield is God Most High,
   who saves the upright in heart."
Righteousness (or right-ness) seems to be a key element of Refuge.  In the New Testament (NT), Romans 3:22 says, "This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe."  The Apostle Paul says a few verses later, "to the man who does not work but trusts God who justifies the wicked, his faith is credited as righteousness" (Rom. 4:5). Trusting in Jesus Christ for salvation (Refuge), establishes the only means of a person's righteousness (right standing) before God.  Therefore, Psalm 7:8 can be interpreted as a bold and substantive declaration of Refuge in the midst of doubt, confusion, or enemy attack. "For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord" (Romans 8:38-39).

May I invite you to read Psalm 7 in its entirety.  Notice that verse 1-7 leading up to verse 8 express a great deal of fear and anxiety regarding David's right standing before God.  He even doubted his Refuge status as a result of some potential oversight (sin of omission) against another person.  We know from a historical context that David was very motivated to follow all the Old Testament (OT) laws of God to secure his right standing--certainly most qualified of anyone among his people. Hence, it is as if he is trying to reassure himself when he states "judge, me O Lord, according to my righteousness" (v8). In the next verse (v9), he regains confidence in God "who searches minds and hearts," and exposes wickedness (offenses of any sort) for God to forgive and make right once again. The remainder of the Psalm praises God for His ability to deal with evil and willingness to act on behalf of those who turn their hearts away from sin to become devoted to Him.

The real punch of this Psalm comes in the last verse which summarizes David's journey and foretells of times beginning with the NT through today.
"I will give thanks to the LORD because of his righteousness
   and will sing praise to the name of the LORD Most High."
God's requirement of righteousness was satisfied through His very own "right son," Jesus, the only right source of salvation and refuge.  Because Jesus made us "right" (a work of HIS, not ours), we are judged "righteous" before Almighty God. We can join with the writer of Phillippians in the NT in proclaiming, "I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith" (Phil 3:8-9).  Our most sincere endeavors cannot secure our Refuge. The most religious, altruistic, or socially just efforts are never good enough to earn right standing before God.  Psalm 7:8-9 has been answered once and for all in what Jesus accomplished through his death and resurrection. A flurry-filled, activity-based Christian life should be evaluated against Matthew 11:28-29 where Jesus says, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls."

Human behavior tends toward extremes. We sin or err in one of two directions. Either we put too little faith and trust in Jesus and what he completed (making us "right" with God), or we place too much confidence in our own efforts to appease God and please others to  make things right.  Christ as Refuge makes right.  He corrects  either path of error.

The forthcoming book Escaping the Pain of Offense: Empowered to Forgive from the Heart addresses these themes in much more detail.

by Ed Hersh, Blue Rock BnB Healing Ministry

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Purpose for the Book

Why write a book on the topic of forgiveness? One reason is because of how greatly misunderstood forgiveness has become. Chapter Two of the book addresses some of the chief concerns in this regard. Another reason is because of the profound influence of this topic in my personal healing journey. This aspect is discussed more in Appendix B of the book. Another reason is because of the profound influence I believe it can have on each  reader's journey to greater health and wholeness.

Escaping the Pain of Offense: Empowered to Forgive from the Heart is my first book publication. Some authors write because they "dream" of publishing a book. This project did not happen that way. The reader will discover in the Preface of the book how circumstances directed me to research this topic. After researching the topic of forgiveness, I found some extremely valuable treasures that I feel compelled to share with others. I wrote a book on the topic of forgiveness not because I had a dream to publish a book, but because I have a dream of sharing the Refuge I've found with others looking for Refuge.

Proverbs 2:1-5 says,
 1 My son, if you accept my words
   and store up my commands within you,
2 turning your ear to wisdom
   and applying your heart to understanding,
3 and if you call out for insight
   and cry aloud for understanding,
4 and if you look for it as for silver
   and search for it as for hidden treasure,
5 then you will understand the fear of the LORD
   and find the knowledge of God.

Sometimes it takes a significant amount of searching until Refuge is found. But if you seek, you will find. I can attest to this process in my life, and I am confident it is true for everyone reading this as well. Sometimes our path is obstructed with painful situations that make it more difficult to press on.  Physical limitations, unexpected illnesses, and losses of employment, house, spouse, or parents, are types of things that may create hurtful responses. Like all human beings, I have had my share of these. When the way seems dark, I continue on until a place of Refuge is once again found.

Psalm 139:12 provides a Refuge perspective on darkness, "even the darkness will not be dark to you; the night will shine like the day, for darkness is as light to you." God's infinitely creative ability can make a way where there is no way. I encourage you to find a Bible and read Psalm 139 in its entirety. The last two verses reveal a heart devoted to uprooting offense,
 "23 Search me, O God, and know my heart;
   test me and know my anxious thoughts.
24 See if there is any offensive way in me,
   and lead me in the way everlasting. "

Uprooting sources of offense and forgiveness are strongly connected to each other. Showing how this is true and showing ways to overcome is the purpose for writing this book. The book should be available within weeks. I look forward to more dialogue on topics in the book.