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Today, August 1, 2017, is Tisha B’Av (the 9th of Av) on the Jewish calendar. It started at sundown yesterday and ends at nightfall this evening. I first wrote about it in 2012, and subsequently reposted that blog post in 2013, 2014, and 2015; and I’ve decided to repost it again today (see below). It is customary to read from the books of Lamentations and Job in the Old Testament on this day known as an official day of mourning and fasting due to a series of catastrophes that occurred on this same day over a period of centuries including the destruction of the First and Second Temples in Jerusalem.
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.
I say to myself, “The Lord is my portion;
therefore I will wait for him.”
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.
Below is my original blog post from 2012 (Tisha B’Av and 9/11):
Posted on July 29, 2012 by Sara’s Musings
Today is Tisha B’Av, the 9th day of the month of Av on the Jewish calendar. It started at sundown yesterday and ends at nightfall tonight (which is the typical start and end of each day on the Jewish calendar). However, this particular day has powerful significance for the Jewish people and it is known as a day of mourning due to a series of severe catastrophes that occurred on this same day over a period of centuries.
Being a Gentile (non-Jewish), I haven’t given much thought to the Jewish calendar over the years in relation to our own calendar. However, in June, I stumbled upon some interesting facts regarding the Jewish calendar and came upon information about Tisha B’Av and the three weeks prior to that day–a time frame observed by religious Jews as a time of fasting, mourning and repentance that starts on the 17th day of Tammuz and leads up to the official day of mourning, the 9th of Av–Tisha B’Av.
So what exactly happened on Tisha B’Av? The following information is taken from Chabad.org:
The 9th of Av, Tisha b’Av, commemorates a list of catastrophes so severe it’s clearly a day specially cursed by G‑d.
Picture this: The year is 1313 BCE. The Israelites are in the desert, recently having experienced the miraculous Exodus, and are now poised to enter the Promised Land. But first they dispatch a reconnaissance mission to assist in formulating a prudent battle strategy. The spies return on the eighth day of Av and report that the land is unconquerable. That night, the 9th of Av, the people cry. They insist that they’d rather go back to Egypt than be slaughtered by the Canaanites. G‑d is highly displeased by this public demonstration of distrust in His power, and consequently that generation of Israelites never enters the Holy Land. Only their children have that privilege, after wandering in the desert for another 38 years.
The First Temple was also destroyed on the 9th of Av (423 BCE). Five centuries later (in 69 CE), as the Romans drew closer to the Second Temple, ready to torch it, the Jews were shocked to realize that their Second Temple was destroyed the same day as the first.
When the Jews rebelled against Roman rule, they believed that their leader, Simon bar Kochba, would fulfill their messianic longings. But their hopes were cruelly dashed in 133 CE as the Jewish rebels were brutally butchered in the final battle at Betar. The date of the massacre? Of course—the 9th of Av!
One year after their conquest of Betar, the Romans plowed over the Temple Mount, our nation’s holiest site.
The Jews were expelled from England in 1290 CE on, you guessed it, Tisha b’Av. In 1492, the Golden Age of Spain came to a close when Queen Isabella and her husband Ferdinand ordered that the Jews be banished from the land. The edict of expulsion was signed on March 31, 1492, and the Jews were given exactly four months to put their affairs in order and leave the country. The Hebrew date on which no Jew was allowed any longer to remain in the land where he had enjoyed welcome and prosperity? Oh, by now you know it—the 9th of Av.
Ready for just one more? World War II and the Holocaust, historians conclude, was actually the long drawn-out conclusion of World War I that began in 1914. And yes, amazingly enough, Germany declared war on Russia, effectively catapulting the First World War into motion, on the 9th of Av, Tisha b’Av.
What do you make of all this? Jews see this as another confirmation of the deeply held conviction that history isn’t haphazard; events – even terrible ones – are part of a Divine plan and have spiritual meaning. The message of time is that everything has a rational purpose, even though we don’t understand it.
I was stunned after I read that list and realized that every single horrific event listed above that occurred over several centuries happened on the exact same day–the 9th of Av,Tisha B’Av. I found a “reader” (a small collection of articles) on “Tisha B’Av and the Three Weeks” at Aish.com and downloaded it last night and read it this morning. As I was reading through the incredibly moving stories, the similarities that the Jewish people feel regarding the catastrophes that have happened to them on Tisha B’Av are not dissimilar to how Americans feel about what happened to us on 9/11. Tisha B’Av is primarily about mourning the loss of the Temple (twice), where God’s presence dwelt among the Jewish people in the Old Testament. It was the pulling away of God from His people and His presence in their lives. Normally, during Tisha B’Av the Book of Lamentations is read as well as other readings which “reflect the sadness of the tragedies and often relate the tragedies to rebellion of the people. However some of the Kinot [readings] reflect the hope of redemption” (Source link no longer available at website).
The following two quotes are from two articles in the reader which you can download at this site: Tisha B’Av Reader. The first quote is from an article titled, “The Heart-Rending Cry” by Keren Gottleib, pp. 4-7:
“I understood that this [the mourning mentioned in her article] was exactly how we are supposed to mourn the Temple on Tisha B’Av. We are supposed to cry over the loss of the unity and peace throughout the entire world. We are supposed to lament the disappearance of the Divine Presence and holiness from our lives in Israel. We are supposed to be pained by the destruction of our spiritual center, which served to unify the entire Jewish nation.
“We’re supposed to feel as if something very precious has been taken away from us forever. We are meant to cry, to be shocked and angry, to break down. We are supposed to mourn over the destruction of the Temple, to cry over a magnificent era that has been uprooted from the face of the earth. The incredible closeness that we had with God–that feeling that He is truly within us–has evaporated and disappeared into thin air” (p. 7).
As I read that article I was struck by that last sentence, “The incredible closeness that we had with God–that feeling that He is truly within us–has evaporated and disappeared into thin air.” After America’s own catastrophe, 9/11, we pulled together (and filled the churches) and were united once again as a nation unlike anything we had experienced in recent decades since the war in Vietnam that divided our nation; however, it didn’t take long for most Americans to get back to living their own individual lives again although every time we go through security to board an airplane it should serve to remind us of the horror of that terrorist attack instead of as an inconvenience that takes too long to navigate. And, after the initial shock of 9/11 dimmed, we put God back on the shelf, too, except maybe on Sunday morning.
The second quote is from an article titled, “On the Same Team,” by Dov Moshe Lipman, pp.7-9:
“Perhaps each time God puts us through another round of suffering, His proclamation of ‘Again,’ He is waiting for us to stop identifying ourselves as an individual Jew coming from his separate background and upbringing. ‘I’m modern Orthodox.’ ‘I’m Reform.’ ‘I’m a Hasid.’ ‘I’m secular.’ ‘I’m Conservative.’ ‘I’m yeshivishe.’
“Those characterizations polarize the nation and make it impossible for us to function together as one team. As individual groups, we cannot accomplish what we can accomplish as one team. We are held back by that same baseless hatred which creeps in when we are not one unit.
“Perhaps God is waiting for all of us to proclaim in unison, ‘I am a Jew.’ Plain and simple.
“Even more importantly, perhaps God is waiting for us to stop seeing others as ‘He’s modern Orthodox.’ ‘He’s Reform.’ ‘He’s a Hasid.’ ‘He’s Secular.’ ‘He’s Conservative.’ ‘He’s Yeshivishe.’
“Perhaps the answer to our suffering and long exile is reaching the point where we see other Jews as members of the same team and family. Jews and nothing else.” (pp. 8-9).
As I read those words, it became crystal clear that we as Christians in America do the same thing. We put each other in categories–‘Baptist.’ ‘Charismatic.’ ‘Methodist.’ ‘Pentecostal.’ ‘Anglican.’ And the list goes on and on. . . . Yet we all claim to serve the same God through Jesus Christ. We fight among ourselves in a sort of “our church is better than yours” self-righteousness instead of working together, united in Jesus Christ. No wonder our nation is falling apart. We have forgotten what true repentance is and what it requires of us, and we’ve forgotten that if Jesus Christ is truly our Savior and Lord, that we are all on the same team.
Another anniversary of the horrific catastrophe of 9/11 will soon be here. Will we continue to be “one nation divided” or “one nation united under God”? Do we want to see God’s blessing on our nation again, or will we continue on a path that brings only division and strife, and ultimately, destruction?
Many Jewish Americans observe Tisha B’Av, which is the ninth day of the month of Av in the Jewish calendar. It is a day of mourning to remember various events such as the destruction of the First Temple and Second Temple in Jerusalem. When Tisha B’Av falls on Shabbat (Saturday), it is deferred to Sunday, 10th of Av.
Many Jewish people in the United States observe various restrictions during Tisha B’Av. These restrictions may include:
- Avoiding washing, bathing, shaving or wearing cosmetics.
- Not wearing leather shoes.
- Avoiding certain types of work.
- Abstaining from sexual activities.
Many traditional mourning practices are observed, such as refraining from smiling and laughing. Those who observe Tisha B’Av are allowed to study only certain portions of the Torah and Talmud on Tisha B’Av. The book of Lamentations is read and mourning prayers are recited in the synagogue. The ark (cabinet where the Torah is kept) is draped in black.
Some universities or learning centers give those who observe Tisha B’Av the chance to sit exams at other dates, on the proviso that certain requirements are met. Some Jewish centers offer a program for observing Tisha B’Av. People who are sick are exempted from fasting on the day.
Tisha B’Av is not a federal public holiday in the United States. However, some Jewish organizations may be closed or have restricted opening hours.
Tisha B’Av, also known as the Jewish Fast of Av, is a period of fasting, lamentation and prayer to remember the destruction of the First and Second Temples of Jerusalem. The Jewish people still continued the fast day even after they rebuilt the First Temple after the Babylonians destroyed it in 586 BCE. The Romans destroyed the Second Temple by burning it in 70 CE and this marked the start of a long exile period for Jewish people. These are two of five sad events or calamities that occurred on the ninth day of the month of Av. The other three [mentioned above in the previous blog post from 2012] were when:
- Ten of the 12 scouts sent by Moses to Canaan gave negative reports of the area, leading to the Israelites’ despair.
- The Romans captured the fortress city of Beitar, the last stronghold of the leaders of the Bar Kochba revolt, and thousands of Jewish people, including Bar Kokhba (or Kochba), were massacred in 135 CE.
- The city of Jerusalem was destroyed in 136 CE.
Tisha B’Av is a sad day that observes other major disasters and tragedies that Jewish people experienced throughout history, including the expulsion of the Jewish people from England in 1290 and from Spain in 1492, as well as the mass deportation of Jewish people from the Warsaw Ghetto during World War II.
Tisha B’Av begins at sunset on the previous day and lasts for more than 24 hours. It is the culmination of a three-week period of mourning. Weddings and other parties are generally not permitted and people refrain from cutting their hair during this period. It is customary to refrain from activities such as eating meat or drinking wine (except on the Shabbat) from the first to the ninth day of Av. (Quote source here.)
In Jerusalem today (August 1, 2017) the following article titled, “More Than One Thousand Jews Visit Temple Mount on Tisha B’Av, Setting New Record,” by Nir Hasson, in Haaretz News states:
At least 1,046 Jews visited the Temple Mount on Tuesday, according to Jewish activists, setting a new record for most Jewish visitors in one day. Many more are expected to visit later in the afternoon.
Activists have been organizing a campaign in recent days aimed at encouraging Jews to visit the site on Tisha B’Av, following the recent tensions at the flashpoint holy site over the last two weeks. The fast day commemorates the anniversary of the destruction of the First and Second Temple, as well as several other disasters in Jewish history. The previous record in Jewish visitors to the site was during the most recent Jerusalem Day, marking the city’s reunification, when some 900 Jewish visitors entered the Temple Mount. (Quote source here.)
Another article in “The Times of Israel” noted that a record number of over 1,300 Jews have visited the Temple Mount today (quote source here). Some additional information also published today in an article titled “The Mystery of Why Jews Fast on Tisha B’Av,” by Elon Gilad, he states the following at the end of his article:
“The State of Israel marks Tisha B’Av eve by closing businesses. Programming on television and radio turns somber. But in contrast to Yom Kippur, most Israeli Jews do not observe the fast.” (Quote source here.)
In Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 we read:
For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven:
a time to be born, and a time to die;
a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted;
a time to kill, and a time to heal;
a time to break down, and a time to build up;
a time to weep, and a time to laugh;
a time to mourn, and a time to dance;
a time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together;
a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;
a time to seek, and a time to lose;
a time to keep, and a time to cast away;
a time to tear, and a time to sew;
a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;
a time to love, and a time to hate;
a time for war, and a time for peace.
And Tisha B’Av marks . . .
A time to weep . . .
And a time to mourn . . .
I ran across an article on Patheos.com yesterday published on July 19, 2017 titled, “Christian Ghosting: The Destructive Christian Practice We Don’t Talk About,” by Benjamin L. Corey, author, cultural anthropologist and theologian. I must admit that I had never heard of the term “Christian ghosting” before I read this article, but the description of it is nothing new. Perhaps you’ve never heard of “Christian ghosting” either. Here is what Corey wrote about his own personal experience with it in his article (quote source here):
I don’t think I believe in ghosts–I suppose I’m open to the possibility, but never in my life have I seen an apparition of anything ghost-like.
But while I don’t believe in ghosts, I have been “ghosted” and it remains one of the more painful and destructive experiences in my whole life.
Ghosting is something that can happen to anyone, in any social circle, or from any particular social group. However, we American Christians seem to have perfected this to a finely crafted art.
What is ghosting? You might not know the term, but you probably know the action: ghosting is when someone abruptly ends a friendship with limited or no explanation, and when they proceed to quickly disappear from your life.
For me, I was ghosted by my best friend– and my entire social circle quickly followed without saying a word.
My family and I went from having what felt like a strongly bonded group of people to do life with, to waking up one morning and discovering we were now alone, and had no friends or natural support system. Before we were ghosted, we’d meet on a weekly scheduled evening for “small group” where we’d share meals together, talk about life together, pray for one another, and where we did life together.
On Sundays we worshipped together. Between those scheduled times we’d all hang out, help one another with projects or needs, our kids would play with one another… we’d celebrate birthdays and anniversaries together. Life was good.
And then one day, the world stopped.
I was a teaching elder at our church, and made the critical error of pushing back on folks when they challenged my fitness for serving as an elder when it was said in a meeting, “We have a deep concern that you’re not truly the head over your wife.”
I made the error of saying we shouldn’t force two of our most committed, reliable, and spiritually mature community members to be re-baptized as a condition of being a full voting member of our church.
I made the error of advocating for a higher minimum wage in a television interview (which led to someone literally yelling and walking out of church).
I made the error of preaching a sermon on Matthew 5 and what it means to love our enemies– which got me cornered and rebuked by the other elders because the sermon was, ironically, “unloving” to preach to a bunch of gun owners, apparently.
I made the error of suggesting we should have a policy against people bringing weapons into our place of worship, prompting some folks to threaten leaving the church.
I made many “errors,” and the net result was the tension in our little group continued to increase until my best friend bailed instead of navigating conflict–taking the rest of our social circle with him. We went from texting countless times a day and spending individual and family time together, to… nothing.
Quiet. Silence. Distance. Nonexistence.
It was like a magician showed up in my life, covered everything with a blanket, and then with a whisk of the wand it all disappeared–leaving me just holding a blanket.
The damage wasn’t just something I suffered–I also had to navigate hard discussions with my then 12-year-old daughter as to why she lost all her friends as well. I still wake up every morning and try to extend grace for the sin of ghosting, but the fact my daughter had her closest friends ghosted from her as well, is something I still struggle to forgive.
Ghosting can happen to anyone, but we Christians sure know how to do it well.
It’s as if for us, loving people simply because they are people made in the image of God is not enough. Instead, we become only willing to love people who we are in harmonious agreement with. As long as we are in agreement, the relationship is solid–but the minute one person begins to grow and shift on this belief or that one, we bail.
We ghost people. We disappear from their lives. We abandon them. We sever ties.
And we do it in the cruelest way possible: with silence.
Sometimes I have to pray like Jesus did and say, “Father, forgive them because they don’t know what they do.” Because honestly, I don’t think they understand the damage they’ve done.
I don’t think they realize that on the day they ghosted my family, my daughter lost the only close friendships she had.
I don’t think they realize that on the day they ghosted me, it was the day that my marriage started to seriously unravel.
I don’t think they realize how painful it was to experience three failed adoptions in the months after their disappearance–driving home the reality that we had no one to grieve with us, no one to check in on us, and no one who cared if we survived as a family, or not. Every waking morning was a reminder that none of them actually gave a shit about us.
I don’t think they realize that years later, the idea of going to church again or having Christian friends I can trust, is outside of what would be healthy or plausible for me.
I don’t think they realize that when they see us at the department store and turn to walk away before we see them, they’re not quick enough.
I don’t think they realize that I never fully recovered from that life event, and that it still impacts me on a daily basis. I felt it yesterday, I feel it today, and I fear I’ll feel it tomorrow, too.
I don’t think they realize any of those things. Sadly I don’t think they care, either–because if they did, they would have attempted to bind up the wounds they inflicted without letting years go by and life fall apart.
And now, it’s too late–there can be forgiveness, but there will never, ever, be reconciliation. It’s done. It’s finished. There is no reversing the damage, and no returning to what once was.
The destruction from the practice of Christian Ghosting, quite honestly, is often irreparable.
For those of us who have tried to live out the Christian life while being open to allowing new information to shape and stretch what we believe, the reality is that at one time or another, we have friends who will ghost us.
Somehow, someway, too many Christian circles have failed to realize that we don’t have to be in complete agreement to be in a complete relationship.
And so, when theological agreement is not in harmony, there’s always at least one family who feels like some evil magician made their life disappear without notice or even a preemptive “abracadabra” to give us a bit of warning that life is about to change.
We can refuse to be the ones who do the ghosting.
And when it happens, we can practice praying, “Forgive them Father, for they don’t have the slightest clue as to the damage they’ve done.” (Quote source here.)
Regarding “ghosting,” Corey stated that “we Christians sure know how to do it well,” but the point in his story that is missing is that most of those who were doing the “ghosting” were most likely aware of the damage they were doing to him and his family as that many people don’t just “disappear” from a person’s life overnight without some major planning behind the scenes going on by those doing it. He and his family were targeted but those in his church who were unhappy with him. Here’s a link to another article (the author references this post by Corey above in her post) published on July 23, 2017 titled “The Different Types of Christian Ghosting,” by Captain Cassiday.
While this particular incident happened within a Christian setting, it isn’t something that is done only in Christian settings by “Christians.” This type of behavior/betrayal is planned out and orchestrated by the people doing it. And it is not dissimilar to the same type of planning and orchestration required in workplace bullying. The Workplace Bullying Institute defines workplace bullying as follows:
Workplace bullying is repeated, health-harming mistreatment of one or more persons (the targets) by one or more perpetrators. It is abusive conduct that is:
This definition was used in the 2014 WBI U.S. Workplace Bullying Survey. Its national prevalence was assessed. Read the Survey results.
- Is driven by perpetrators’ need to control the targeted individual(s).
- Is initiated by bullies who choose their targets, timing, location, and methods.
- Is a set of acts of commission (doing things to others) or omission (withholding resources from others)
- Requires consequences for the targeted individual
- Escalates to involve others who side with the bully, either voluntarily or through coercion.
- Undermines legitimate business interests when bullies’ personal agendas take precedence over work itself.
- Is akin to domestic violence at work, where the abuser is on the payroll. (Quote source here.)
Whether it’s “ghosting” or “bullying” the end result is often the same–destruction in the life of the targeted individual whether it’s social (losing family or friends and/or social standing in the community), economic (losing a job, chronic unemployment causing financial havoc, etc.), or destroying a reputation (other reasons are also involved). If a Christian is targeted it often has to do with trying to destroy that person’s faith in a loving and just God due to what is being done to them, as well as including other factors already noted. Or the targeting could be caused by discrimination from other religious groups that are hostile toward Christians or other religions. Some of it could involve racism, whether it’s black on white or white on black, and includes other racial groups, too.
It’s hard to know exactly why a specific individual has been targeted, but I found a list of the types of people targeted, and it includes:
Government and corporate whistleblowers
Protesters and Civil Rights activists
Highly intelligent people from a wide range of professions
Women who are independent, intelligent and confident professionals
Men who are nonconformists with a sense of self-esteem and pride
People who have had a bad breakup with an ex-spouse who has influence
Criminals (targeting known offenders)
Gays and Lesbians
Inventors awaiting a large payoff
People awaiting a large insurance claim or settlement
Convenient targets of opportunity
People with special talents or abilities
People who are perceived as vulnerable or weak
The pattern that is unfolding indicates that many targets are people who tend to be emotionally developed, self confident, independent, freethinkers, artistic–people who don’t need the approval of others, and those not prone to corruption. They are people who don’t need to be part of a group to feel secure. (Source: “The Hidden Evil,” 2009, by Mark Rich.)
Again, whether it’s “ghosting” or “bullying,” it is behavior that is often hidden from the general public by the perpetrators which makes the target appear to be crazy when (as in the case of workplace bullying) the targeted individual files a complaint in the workplace or in some other way tries to stop the harassment. As Rich also noted in his book, the main objective in the harassment of targeted individuals “appear to be to separate the targeted person from friends and family, keep them unemployed, induce homelessness, and reduce the quality of life so much that they suffer a nervous breakdown, end up medicated, or hospitalized.” For example, regarding targeted individuals in the workplace, “according to a 2012 WBI large-sample study, an alarming 77% of targets lost their jobs: 28% quit, 25% terminated involuntarily, 25% forced out by constructive discharge. In a 2011 WBI study, we asked bullied targets if they found a job after displacement from bullying. A quarter of those bullied never replaced their lost jobs. For those who found a job, 53% earned less money in their post-bullying position” (quote source here). And, according to Rich, it is a global phenomenon.
“These are the times that try men’s souls” as stated by Thomas Paine, 18th century Enlightenment philosopher and author, back on December 23, 1776. And, indeed, they still are today, too. The full quote by Paine, written in “The American Crisis,” is this . . .
“These are the times that try men’s souls. The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of their country; but he that stands by it now, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman. Tyranny, like hell, is not easily conquered; yet we have this consolation with us, that the harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph. What we obtain too cheap, we esteem too lightly: it is dearness only that gives everything its value. Heaven knows how to put a proper price upon its goods; and it would be strange indeed if so celestial an article as FREEDOM should not be highly rated.” (Quote source here.)
The summer soldier and sunshine patriot . . . both shrink in a crisis. Soft living and “status quo” makes us shrink, too. And we want accolades and success without paying any price for it. We want an easy salvation, too, but it is not so. We want life on our terms and Heaven waiting at the end, but life can change on a dime, and that is when we find out that we are not the captain of our own ship after all. The storms come and prove that to us, and Benjamin Corey found that out when he was “ghosted” by his “friends.” I found it out when I lost that job over eight years ago, too. We can take nothing for granted in this life.
The apostle Paul stated the following in Philippians 2:1-13 (ESV):
So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.
It’s time to get back to the basics . . . faith, hope, love . . . .
Faith makes all things possible . . .
Hope makes all things work . . .
Love makes all things beautiful . . . .
YouTube Video: “Speak Life” by TobyMac:
In my last blog post, “Anatomy of the Soul,” I mentioned the great benefit that comes from reading and praying the Psalms in the Old Testament. While we can relate to many of the Psalms in our own personal lives, one psalm that caught my attention back in the 1980’s is Psalm 25, which is one of the psalms attributed to David. Here is a little background information on it from an article on Bible.org titled, “Psalm 25: Seeking God in the Hard Times,” by Steven J. Cole, pastor at Flagstaff Christian Fellowship:
Psalm 25 teaches us to seek God in the hard times, no matter for what reason we are in those hard times. It seems to me that James 1:5-6 is a succinct summary of Psalm 25: “But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him. But he must ask in faith without any doubting, for the one who doubts is like the surf of the sea, driven and tossed by the wind.” The context of James’ counsel is the need for wisdom in the midst of various trials (James 1:2-3). James tells us by faith to seek God and His wisdom in our trials, and that’s what David tells us in Psalm 25.
No matter how difficult your trials or what their cause, seek the Lord for His wisdom and trust Him to work for His glory and your good.
This psalm is an acrostic, where each verse begins with a successive letter of the Hebrew alphabet. (There are a few variations that are too technical to explain here.) The psalmists may have used this form to help people memorize the psalms. James Boice (Psalms, Volume 1, Psalms 1-41 [Baker], p. 223) also suggests that in the case of this psalm, there is the dominant theme of learning or instruction, which fits with the alphabetical arrangement. David prays for the Lord to teach him His ways (25:4-5, 8-9). Boice concludes (ibid.), “So we could rightly say that the psalm is a school-book lesson on how to live so as to please God and be blessed by him.” I would only add, “in the context of difficult trials.” (Quote source here.)
Who among us hasn’t endured difficult trials or possibly find ourselves in one right now? King David had enemies chasing him throughout his lifetime from the time he was a teenage shepherd boy until he died in old age as King. Psalm 25 is just one of many psalms written by David calling out to God for mercy, forgiveness, wisdom, and help in his time of need (which was constant). It also shows us his great devotion to God in the midst of his many trials when he was surrounded by enemies (and sometimes they were innumerable); and his absolute trust in and dependence on God to show him what to do and/or wait for God to move in his circumstances. Let’s take a brief look at David’s life taken from GotQuestions.org:
We can learn a lot from the life of David. He was a man after God’s own heart (1 Samuel 13:13-14; Acts 13:22)! We are first introduced to David after Saul, at the insistence of the people, was made king (1 Samuel 8:5, 10:1). This choice of king, or even having an earthly king at all, was against the will of God, and although Saul was anointed by God through Samuel, he did not measure up as God’s king. While King Saul was making one mistake on top of another, God sent Samuel to find His chosen shepherd, David, the son of Jesse (1 Samuel 16:10, 13). David was believed to be 12-16 years of age when he was called in from tending his father’s sheep to be anointed as the true king of Israel. As soon as the anointing oil flowed down David’s head the Spirit of the Lord departed from King Saul (1 Samuel 16:14). The fact that evil spirits were tormenting Saul brought David into the king’s service (1 Samuel 16:21). Saul was pleased with young David, but this feeling vanished quickly as David rose in strength to slay the Philistine giant, Goliath, and win the overwhelming favor of the people (1 Samuel 17:45-51). The chant in the camp of Saul was taunting as the people sang out the praises of David and demeaned their king, causing a raging jealousy in Saul that never subsided (1 Samuel 18:7-8).
If you or someone you know has eked his way through life amid strife, conflict and continuous battles, then you might understand how David lived and felt throughout his lifetime. Although Saul never stopped pursuing him with the intent to kill him, David never raised a hand against his king and God’s anointed (1 Samuel 19:1-2, 24:5-7). He did, however, raise up a mighty army and with power from God defeated everyone in his path, always asking God first for permission and instructions before going into battle (2 Samuel 5:22-23, 23:8-17). Throughout the life of David, God honored and rewarded this unconditional obedience of His servant and gave him success in everything he did (2 Samuel 8:6).
David mourned King Saul’s death and put to death the one claiming responsibility for Saul’s death (2 Samuel 1:12-16). Only after Saul’s death was David anointed king over the house of Judah (2 Samuel 2:4), and even then he had to fight against the house of Saul before being anointed king over Israel at the age of thirty (2 Samuel 5:3-4). Now king, David conquered Jerusalem and became more and more powerful because the Lord Almighty was with him (2 Samuel 5:7). David was so enthralled with bringing the Ark of the Covenant to Jerusalem that he omitted some of God’s instructions on how to transport the Ark and who was to carry it. This resulted in the death of Uzzah who, amid all the celebrations, reached out to steady the Ark, and God struck him down and he died there beside it (2 Samuel 6:1-7). In fear of the Lord, David abandoned the moving of the Ark for three months and let it rest in the house of Obed-Edom (2 Samuel 6:11).
After the Ark was in its rightful place, David decided to build a temple of the Lord around it (2 Samuel 6:17). Because of David’s bloody, battle-scarred record as well as his adulterous relationship with Bathsheba and the slaying of her husband, God denied his otherwise faithful servant the honor of building the temple, the house of the Lord (2 Samuel 6:5-14). This was surely a blow to David, but God assured him He would continue to make his name the greatest on the earth and forever establish the throne of David through David’s son, Solomon. Instead of being angry with God and having a pity party, David sat before the Lord, praising Him and thanking Him for all the many blessings he had received in his life (2 Samuel 7:18-29).
David’s battles did not end with his kingship but continued with the surrounding nations and within his own household. Throughout the life of David, His sons connived and conspired to take control of the kingdom and they, as did Saul, threatened their own father’s life. And as with the death of Saul, David mourned the death of his beloved son Absalom, showing a passionate and forgiving heart (2 Samuel chapters 15-18). David’s broken heart and contrite spirit are what brought him the forgiveness of God…. (Quote source here.)
With that snapshot of David’s life, let’s take a look at Psalm 25:
A psalm of David.
O Lord, I give my life to you.
I trust in you, my God!
Do not let me be disgraced,
or let my enemies rejoice in my defeat.
No one who trusts in you will ever be disgraced,
but disgrace comes to those who try to deceive others.
Show me the right path, O Lord;
point out the road for me to follow.
Lead me by your truth and teach me,
for you are the God who saves me.
All day long I put my hope in you.
Remember, O Lord, your compassion and unfailing love,
which you have shown from long ages past.
Do not remember the rebellious sins of my youth.
Remember me in the light of your unfailing love,
for you are merciful, O Lord.
The Lord is good and does what is right;
he shows the proper path to those who go astray.
He leads the humble in doing right,
teaching them his way.
The Lord leads with unfailing love and faithfulness
all who keep his covenant and obey his demands.
For the honor of your name, O Lord,
forgive my many, many sins.
Who are those who fear the Lord?
He will show them the path they should choose.
They will live in prosperity,
and their children will inherit the land.
The Lord is a friend to those who fear him.
He teaches them his covenant.
My eyes are always on the Lord,
for he rescues me from the traps of my enemies.
Turn to me and have mercy,
for I am alone and in deep distress.
My problems go from bad to worse.
Oh, save me from them all!
Feel my pain and see my trouble.
Forgive all my sins.
See how many enemies I have
and how viciously they hate me!
Protect me! Rescue my life from them!
Do not let me be disgraced, for in you I take refuge.
May integrity and honesty protect me,
for I put my hope in you.
O God, ransom Israel
from all its troubles.
From what I could find out (and it wasn’t easy–source at this link), apparently this psalm was composed early in David’s life when Saul was Israel’s first king. As mentioned in the background information above provided by GotQuestions.org, Saul sought to kill David and David spent years on the run from him, so we can certainly understand the nature of David’s earnest and passionate request. Yet Psalm 25 is there for our use, too (as are all of the psalms) when our own words fail to convey our deepest emotions and earnest cry for God’s help in our time of need. In fact, Hebrews 4:16 states, “Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.” What better way to express that need then through a psalm when we can’t find the right words to pray on our own.
The next time you feel the urge to pray but you don’t know what to say, pick up the Bible (or go to an online Bible) and go to the Psalms and just start reading. In no time you’ll bump into the right words to pray. Words like. . . .
The Lord is my Shepherd . . .
I shall not . . .
Want . . . .
YouTube Video: “God of Wonders” by Third Day:
The war really is bigger than us. . . . The passage quoted in the above picture is taken from the words of the apostle Paul found in Ephesians 6:10-20 which states the following:
Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm. Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace. In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one; and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication.
To that end, keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints, and also for me, that words may be given to me in opening my mouth boldly to proclaim the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains, that I may declare it boldly, as I ought to speak. (Ephesians 6:10-20, ESV).
It reminds me of something I read in Sun Tzu‘s treatise titled, “The Art of War,” in a section titled “Maneuvering.” Sun Tzu opened that section with the following statement: “In war, the general receives his commands from the sovereign” (quote source here). Sun Tzu (544-496 BC) “was a Chinese general, military strategist, and philosopher who lived in ancient China. Sun Tzu is traditionally credited as the author of The Art of War, a widely influential work of military strategy that has affected both Western and Eastern philosophy” (quote source here). The entire text of “The Art of War” can be read online at this link.
While there is nothing that indicates Sun Tzu believed in the God of the Bible (and indeed, he lived centuries before the Bible was in print), his statement, “In war, the general receives his commands from the sovereign,” is quite an apted one. There is an Old Testament figure, King David, who was born in Bethlehem and died in 962 BC (four centuries before the arrival of Sun Tzu in ancient China) who also lived centuries before the entire Bible was in print (including most of the Old Testament and all of the New Testament), and he was known as a man after God’s own heart (see I Samuel 13:14 and Acts 13:22–David was installed as King after God rejected Israel’s first king, King Saul).
As stated in an article titled, “King David–A Man After God’s Own Heart,” on Christianity.about.com, the life of King David is a study in contrasts, yet God always viewed David as a man after his own heart because of his single minded commitment and devotion to God. The article opens with the following statement:
David lived a frustrating life, first in the shadow of his brothers, then constantly on the run from vengeful King Saul. Even after he became king of Israel, David was engaged in almost constant warfare to defend the kingdom. King David was a great military conqueror, but he could not conquer himself. He allowed one night of lust with Bathsheba, and it had disastrous consequences in his life.
Although King David fathered Solomon, one of Israel’s greatest kings, he was also the father of Absalom, whose rebellion brought bloodshed and grief.
King David’s life was a roller coaster of emotional highs and lows. He left us an example of passionate love of God and dozens of psalms, some of the most touching, beautiful poetry ever written. (Quote source here.)
While that description tends to focus on the negative side of David’s life, the much larger picture is his great devotion to God in spite of his shortcomings that indicates a trust and devotion that went to the very core of his being and stayed with him throughout his lifetime. Many of the psalms written by King David (before and after he became king) echo down through the centuries of his great devotion and total dependence on God and God’s protection over his life (and yes, he had to live through the consequences of his sins, such as the death of his first child with Bathsheba; and yet their next child, Solomon, became one of Israel’s greatest kings). One of David’s psalms, found in Psalm 59, shows his great devotion to God at a time of his greatest need for protection from King Saul, who was trying to kill him. Here is Psalm 59 (NIV):
When Saul had sent men to watch David’s house in order to kill him.
1 Deliver me from my enemies, O God;
be my fortress against those who are attacking me.
2 Deliver me from evildoers
and save me from those who are after my blood.
3 See how they lie in wait for me!
Fierce men conspire against me
for no offense or sin of mine, Lord.
4 I have done no wrong, yet they are ready to attack me.
Arise to help me; look on my plight!
5 You, Lord God Almighty,
you who are the God of Israel,
rouse yourself to punish all the nations;
show no mercy to wicked traitors.
6 They return at evening,
snarling like dogs,
and prowl about the city.
7 See what they spew from their mouths—
the words from their lips are sharp as swords,
and they think, “Who can hear us?”
8 But you laugh at them, Lord;
you scoff at all those nations.
9 You are my strength, I watch for you;
you, God, are my fortress,
10 my God on whom I can rely.
God will go before me
and will let me gloat over those who slander me.
11 But do not kill them, Lord our shield,
or my people will forget.
In your might uproot them
and bring them down.
12 For the sins of their mouths,
for the words of their lips,
let them be caught in their pride.
For the curses and lies they utter,
13 consume them in your wrath,
consume them till they are no more.
Then it will be known to the ends of the earth
that God rules over Jacob.
14 They return at evening,
snarling like dogs,
and prowl about the city.
15 They wander about for food
and howl if not satisfied.
16 But I will sing of your strength,
in the morning I will sing of your love;
for you are my fortress,
my refuge in times of trouble.
17 You are my strength, I sing praise to you;
you, God, are my fortress,
my God on whom I can rely.
As we see from the psalm quoted above, David trusted in God totally to protect him from his enemies, and he did this throughout his life and not just at the time King Saul was pursuing him with the intent to kill him (which had to be terrifying in and of itself). David knew that God was his refuge in all times of trouble. This psalm is also quoted in the book, “A Heart Like His” (1999, 2003, 2012) by Beth Moore, an author, speaker, Bible teacher, and founder of Living Proof Ministries, in the opening to Part II titled, “A Friendship Made in Heaven,” (see pp. 57-58). A brief description of the book on LifeWay.com states the following:
We all go through times when we feel insignificant or times when we feel certain that we have experienced a degree of failure from which there is no return. This is not a reality we experience alone, but is one that a man after God’s heart experienced as well. From shepherd, to refugee, to king of Israel, David exhibited the purest virtues and the most heinous sinfulness, but through it all his relationship with the Lord continued to grow.
“A Heart Like His” looks at this bond of mutual love and admiration between a man who was not unlike any of us and the one true God who is all good and all powerful. Beth Moore walks us through an exploration of David’s incredible life, drawing spiritual insights from a man who boldly fulfilled his divine destiny not merely by what he did, but who he loved and served. Bringing lessons from David’s life to bear on your own, this picture of a man who loved and followed God will help you to serve with a heart focused on Him no matter the circumstance (quote source here).
“A Heart Like His” is an in-depth Bible study on the life of David. In the introduction to the book, Beth Moore states:
All you need to relate to David is a membership to the human race. No matter how familiar you are with the biblical account of his life, I believe you’ll be stirred, shocked, amazed, and forced to think a few hard thoughts all over again. His story is proof once again that truth is far more intriguing than fiction.
Why study David? I believe he is extremely important for several reasons.
First, he was a man with a tremendous relationship with God–called a man after God’s own heart. His songs and poetry inspire us to worship. Since we believe that an intimate love relationship with God is the highest blessing possible in this life or the next, David is a worthy subject for our study.
Second, David simply merits our attention. He was a wondrously complex man. A musician and a warrior. He was capable of both the highest loyalty and the most base sin. In David we see the very best and the very worst in the human species. Getting to know David allows us to get to know ourselves.
A third reason to study David involves his relationship to Jesus Christ, the Messiah. In many ways, David prefigures Christ. As we study David, we will come both to understand to to appreciate our Savior in new ways.
I believe strongly in a fourth reason to study David. Simply stated, he’s in the Bible. You see, Bible study saved my life. I believe studying God’s Word has enormous life-enhancing value. In many different ways I have benefitted from spending time in God’s Word. As you read, “A Heart Like His,” you will accomplish a detailed study of the books of 1 and 2 Samuel. You will also read portions of Psalms, 1 and 2 Chronicles, and many verses from other Old and New Testament books. I have written this book so that you can read it by itself, but I would encourage you to read the Scripture passages from your own Bible. The Scripture references for reading appear at the beginning of each chapter. (Quote source: Introduction, pp. 2-3). The book is available at this link (Lifeway.com–$5.00 for a limited time only).
Since I love reading books on the life of David, I couldn’t resist buying “A Heart Like His,” which is on sale for $5.00 right now at Lifeway Bookstores, and I’m looking forward to reading this one with much anticipation.
Perhaps the greatest message to be found in the life of David is his singular devotion to God even in the midst of his worst sins that had some pretty devastating consequences in his life; consequences allowed by God to bring him to utter dependence on God. God is always very aware of our weaknesses and our sin, but it is in our weaknesses and sin that God can use, if we do not turn away from him in the midst of the very difficult times, to conform us to become men and women after his own heart. And it is our own reaction to those consequences that speaks volumes about who we really trust and believe in . . . whether it is in God, or whether is it in ourselves or in anyone or anything else. In the case of David, sometimes it took a long time before he realized his grave error (as with his affair with Bathsheba, or his failure to discipline his own children), but always he repented and came back to God.
In the article mentioned at the beginning of this blog post titled, “King David–A Man After God’s Own Heart,” on Christianity.about.com, here’s a quick rundown on David’s accomplishments, weaknesses, and strengths, and their life lessons for us today:
King David’s Accomplishments:
David killed Goliath, champion of the Philistines, when David was only a youth and Goliath a giant and veteran warrior.
David was victorious because he trusted in God for the victory, not himself.
He killed many of Israel’s enemies in battle.
Despite several opportunities, David refused to kill King Saul, God’s first anointed king, who was pursuing David out of mad jealousy.
He became friends, like brothers, with Saul’s son Jonathan, setting a model of friendship that everyone can learn from.
God called David a man after his own heart.
King David’s Strengths:
David was courageous and strong in battle, trusting in God for protection.
He was loyal to Saul, despite Saul’s crazed pursuit of him.
David loved God deeply throughout his entire life.
King David’s Weaknesses:
King David committed adultery with Bathsheba. He then tried to cover up her pregnancy, and when he failed with that, he had her husband Uriah the Hittite killed.
He took a census of the people, willfully violating God’s command not to do that.
King David was sometimes lax, or absent as a father, not disciplining his children when they needed it.
Honest self-examination is necessary to recognize our own sin, then we must repent of it. We may try to fool ourselves or others, but we cannot hide our sin from God.
God always offers forgiveness for our sins, but we cannot escape the consequences.
Perhaps one of the most difficult lessons we can learn is concerning our sin that is most hidden. In fact, it is often so well hidden that we don’t even recognize it for what it is–like envy, jealousy, being judgmental, showing a lack of love for others, loving money and possessions, thoughts that go nowhere good; and even in the midst of doing something we think is the right thing to do but we actually have no business doing it. And, and it can be hard to tell if it is something we shouldn’t doing it, like differentiating between seeking justice in the form of revenge instead of showing mercy. And sometimes it is hard to differentiate between seeking justice or wanting revenge. The best thing we can do in times like that is to completely trust God for justice in any situation, and to always show mercy (which is definitely our part in the equation). We must never confuse our own seeking after justice with God’s justice. God said vengeance is his and he means it, too (see Romans 12:19). The apostle Paul stated in that verse, “Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord.
Most battles that come our way are far bigger than we can handle on our own, even when we try to take matters into our own hands and think by doing so we are helping God out. Often, we are only harming ourselves. It goes back to the verses in Ephesians stated at the beginning of this post found in Ephesians 6:10-20. Standing firm in peace, truth, faith, God’s righteousness, salvation, prayer, the Word of God–those are our weapons. Anything else does not come from God . . . .
A few years back Phillips Craig and Dean sang a song titled, “Mercy Came Running” (YouTube Video below). I’d like to end this post with a few words from their song as a great reminder to us that it is mercy that should always prevail:
Looking down with longing eyes
Mercy must have realized
That once His blood was sacrificed
Freedom would prevail
And as the sky grew dark
And the earth began to shake
With justice no longer in the way
Mercy came running
Like a prisoner set free
Past all my failures
To the point of my need
When the sin that I carried
Was all I could see
And when I could not reach mercy
Mercy came running to me
Mercy came running like a prisoner set free . . .
When I could not reach mercy . . .
Mercy came running to me . . . .
YouTube Video: “Mercy Came Running,” by Phillips Craig and Dean: