Psalm 76

It almost starts out as though a legend and his home base:

“God is known in Judah; In Israel his name is great. His shelter is in Saʹlem, And his dwelling is in Zion.” (Psalm 76:1-2)

From that home base he has built a reputation:

“There he broke the flaming arrows of the bow, The shield and the sword and the weapons of war. You shine brightly; You are more majestic than the mountains of prey.” (vs 3-4)

Some have messed with him in the past. They’ve come to regret it:

“The courageous of heart have been plundered. They have fallen asleep; The warriors were all helpless. From your rebuke, O God of Jacob, Both the charioteer and the horse have fallen fast asleep.” (Psalm 5-6)

In death, that is. Yet one more passage likening death to sleep, the most well-known being John 11. Horses, updated to the present, would be the modern vehicles of war.

Okay, so say it already:

“You alone are awe-inspiring. Who can withstand your intense anger? From heaven you pronounced judgment; The earth was afraid and was silent.” (vs 7-8)

This next bit is reassuring. For what does he use his power?

“When God rose up to execute judgment, To save all the meek of the earth.” (vs 9)

Does this next passage tell a “hooks in the jaw” scenario? The nations gather up for attack on the great day?

“For the rage of man will serve to your praise; With the remnants of their rage you will adorn yourself.” (vs 10)

Is that what verse 10 is? The final battle of Revelation 19?

“I saw heaven opened, and look! a white horse. And the one seated on it is called Faithful and True, and he judges and carries on war in righteousness. His eyes are a fiery flame, and on his head are many diadems. He has a name written that no one knows but he himself, and he is clothed with an outer garment stained with blood, and he is called by the name The Word of God. Also, the armies in heaven were following him on white horses, and they were clothed in white, clean, fine linen. And out of his mouth protrudes a sharp, long sword with which to strike the nations, and he will shepherd them with a rod of iron. Moreover, he treads the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God the Almighty. On his outer garment, yes, on his thigh, he has a name written, King of kings and Lord of lords.” (11-16)

For now, the Research Guide goes light, confining itself to when God has used nations to discipline his people to the proper degree and they end up refined by the experience. Probably you could extend it to when human courts of justice put on the squeeze, and in adapting to it the copper becomes gold, the iron silver, the wood copper, the stones iron—making for better “peace” and “righteousness.”

At any rate—another reference to bringing one’s gift to the altar:

“Make your vows to Jehovah your God and pay them, Let all who are around him bring their gift in fear.” (vs 11)

“He will humble the pride of leaders; He inspires fear in the kings of the earth.” (vs 12)

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Psalm 49–the Limitations of Wealth

Hear this, all you peoples. Pay attention, all you inhabitants of the world.” (Psalm 49:1)

Okay. It better be good.

Both small and great, Rich and poor alike. My own mouth will speak wisdom, And the meditation of my heart will show understanding.” (vs 2-3).

More of the same. You could even take it for immodesty, if you hadn’t already decided it’s not going to be that way.

I will pay attention to a proverb; I will expound my riddle with the harp.” (vs 4)

There will be music.

Why should I fear during times of trouble, When I am surrounded by the evil of those trying to overthrow me?” (vs 5)

Okay, now we’re getting down to it. And it looks like it is going to be a good, fine way to counter anxiety.

Those who are trusting in their wealth And who boast about their great riches,” (vs 6)

People do tend to be like this. What makes the world go round? What trail should do they say you should always follow to see how things are happening? The ‘money trail?’ Not that it’s bad stuff. ‘A protection’ is what Ecclesiastes 7:12 calls it, even as it says ‘wisdom’ is a better protection, since it “preserves the life of its owner.” What can money do and what can’t it do?

None of them can ever redeem a brother Or give to God a ransom for him, (The ransom price for their life is so precious That it is always beyond their reach); That he should live forever and not see the pit.” (7-9)

Here are verses that are such a slam-dunk for explaining the ransom of Christ—how the death of one man can redeem a brother by giving a ransom for him, in fact not just one, but countless ones: “For God loved the world so much that he gave his only-begotten Son, so that everyone exercising faith in him might not be destroyed but have everlasting life,” (John 3:16)—that we usually go straight there, such as here in the Enjoy Life Forever guide.

Let’s stay more on the lines of what the psalmist would have thought. He wouldn’t have known of that future application. He would have confined his observations to the ‘here and now’ limitations of money. Here’s an article that goes that way.

On a street of massively imposing homes, one householder assured me that, “You have no idea what goes on behind these doors.” Money may hide woes, but it by no means alleviates them. ‘They’re lives are a mess,’ one hairdresser told me—to whom they unhesitatingly spill. Expand the list of how the wealthy cannot ‘redeem even a brother’ to destruction from drugs, alcohol, or depravity. Often wealth better enables those paths.

Alas, the wealthy one, who has bought university wisdom with his wealth, “sees that even wise people die; The stupid and the unreasoning perish together, And they must leave their wealth to others. Their inner wish is that their houses will last forever, Their tents to generation after generation. They have named their estates after themselves.” (vs 10-11)

Even park benches they name after themselves, I reflect, as I set my rear end on one. Maybe not the ‘wealthy’ do this as much as the ‘wannabe wealthiest.’ Nothing wrong with that, I suppose, for otherwise I would be standing, but—talk about a meager consolation prize!

But man, although honored, will not remain; He is no better than the beasts that perish. This is the way of the stupid ones And of those who follow them, who take pleasure in their empty words. (vs 12-13)

Whoa! Why not say what you think? For the first time, the wisdom of the wise, who ‘boast of their great riches,’ is likened to ‘the way of the stupid ones’ spewing ‘empty words!’—words to the effect that this life is all there is.

They overlook that “They are assigned like sheep to the Grave. Death will shepherd them; The upright will rule over them in the morning. Every trace of them will fade away; The Grave rather than a palace will be their home.” (vs 14)

Whereas, for the one who puts his trust in God? “God will redeem me from the power of the Grave, For he will take hold of me.” (15)

Do not be afraid because a man becomes rich, Because the splendor of his house increases,” (vs 16)

The words would not be here if they didn’t reflect a truth—that people do become afraid. I am in awe of the publishers of the city congregation I once attended who would screw up every ounce of their courage to chase out to the suburbs and witness to ones of staggering  wealth compared to theirs. They could have sat it out. Everyone would have understood. But they didn’t.

Sometimes there was even a racial component to it. Larry King interviewed someone who recalled his liberal background as one who would ‘call a charity if he saw Blacks on TV but call a cop if he saw one on his street.’ I think too of Bobby, a white man as uneducated as could be—even by our standards—who regularly placed magazines with a lofty fellow out in the burbs. Send a more educated brother out there and the fellow wouldn’t give him the time of day. ‘Yeah, some of them like to show off their superiority,’ Ruth muttered.

For when he dies he can take nothing with him; His splendor will not go down with him. For during his lifetime he congratulates himself. (People praise you when you prosper.)” (vs 17-18)

Why do I think of the Billie Holiday song, ‘God Bless the Child?’

And when you got money,

You got a lots of friends

Crowdin' 'round your door

When the money's gone

And all you're spendin' ends

They won't be 'round any more.

I first heard Chicago sing this song. That is the version that sticks with me. In these touchy times, however, the group might be declared guilty of ‘cultural approbation.’ Holiday considered it a uniquely Black song—or has it been assigned that role retroactively? Leave it to someone else to track this down. It was 80 years ago. Either way, it’s a good song.

But he finally joins the generation of his forefathers. They will never again see the light.” Even when you do succeed in holding onto the big dough, which is more often than not, the end is the same.” (19)

The psalmist concludes by, once again, throw sensibilities to the wind.

A man who does not understand this, although honored, Is no better than the beasts that perish.57B53584-FBAC-4E73-BE49-CBABECFFD1EE

Why do I think of those who were once believers and exchanged it for today’s trendy atheism? Why do I liken them to the fellow who loses millions in the stock market? ‘They were only paper gains, anyway,’ he tells himself, and whoops it up with the hundreds he still has left.

(photo: Pixabay)

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Psalm 34–a Commentary:

For all the help that the Research Guide gives, there are vast swaths of verse upon which they make nary a comment. Often these are the verses that intrigue me most, though perhaps it’s for that exact reason: nothing’s been said about them—thus they become the ‘forbidden fruit,’ the subject of curiosity that does not kill the cat.

I’m doing my own verse-by-verse project on Psalm 34,* the first line of which is ‘I will praise Jehovah at all times; his praise will be on my lips constantly.’ The circuit overseer explored, with help of that Psalm, the course of praising God, not just in good times, but also in bad. 

(*This in turn triggered an exploration of all the psalms, starting with the first, some of which have already been presented.)

What to make of verses 4-6?

4: I inquired of Jehovah, and he answered me, And out of all my frights he delivered me.

5 They looked to him and became radiant, And their very faces could not possibly be ashamed.

6 This afflicted one called, and Jehovah himself heard. And out of all his distresses He saved him.

Who is the ‘they’ of verse 5? The Guide suggests it is David’s men, F408F65E-754B-4E34-AB94-A7B3AB2B78F9whom he built up as though telling encouraging tales around the campfire. (This is the Psalm composed when David was playing crazy before Achish.) But that seems not too modest of David; should he be like the bragging blowhard carrying on about how enthralling his public talks are?

More likely to me, since vs 4 and 6 tell of David relating that he put trust in Jehovah, and that trust was rewarded, is that vs 5 is David himself meditating on others (‘they’) who had put trust in God, pondering how their faith and conduct turned out, and thus nudging himself to do the same.

You want to follow the ‘pattern of the healthful words.’ But once you’ve got the pattern down, you can expound in a way consistent with them. Lots of verses are wide open and some of the ones that are not don’t give the impression of being nailed down.

***“I will praise Jehovah at all times; His praise will be on my lips constantly.” Ps 34:1

The CO used this verse to open the theme, ‘Will you praise God in good times AND bad?’

Going through this Psalm of David verse by verse:

“I will boast in Jehovah; The meek will hear and rejoice.” (34:2)

He’s a king. He doesn’t boast of armies, alliances, acumen, might. He boasts of Jehovah. Word filters down to the “meek” & those ones love it. Others, maybe not so much.

Psalm 34:3 “Magnify Jehovah along with me; Let us exalt his name together.

It is an invitation from a king. (David) How many kings will extend such an invite? And if it is David as forerunner of Jesus, well—that works too.


The angel of Jehovah is camping all around those fearing him, And he rescues them.” Psalm 53:7

Camping. I think of all the times the family was camping, or just plain dwelling. And how it made a difference who my neighbors were. (A time or two in the hood I had some neighbors who were none to pleasant.)

Taste and see that Jehovah is good, O YOU people; Happy is the able-bodied man that takes refuge in him.” (Psalm 34:8)

The fact that it is ‘taste’ says it all. You don’t ‘prove’ it as though with science. You ‘taste’ it as though with experience. As with children & foods, some will not want to taste.

Fear Jehovah, all you his holy ones, For those who fear him lack nothing.” 34:9

Even strong young lions have been reduced to hunger, But those seeking Jehovah will lack nothing good.” (Psalm 34:10)

Okay. That’s reassuring, though not for the lions.

After many stand-alone couplets, we come across three that go together, the last line being quite familiar. And what of the opening question below. Does life in itself bring one pleasure?

Who among you takes pleasure in life , And would love to see many good days?

Then guard your tongue from what is bad, Your lips from speaking deception.

Turn away from what is bad and do what is good; Seek peace and pursue it.  (Palm 34:12-14)

First point of counsel: Not anything we DO but what we SAY. That tongue is likened to the spark that sets the whole forest ablaze. (James 3:5)

Come, my sons, listen to me; I will teach you the fear of Jehovah.” Psalm 34:11

It is a change of paste, setting the stage for new direction, prior verses having been ‘the testimonial,’ like:  “This lowly one called, and Jehovah heard. He saved him from all his distresses,” (6) building to: “Taste and see that Jehovah is good; Happy is the man who takes refuge in him.” (8) and, “Fear Jehovah, all you his holy ones,For those who fear him lack nothing.” *9)

Turn away from what is bad and do what is good; Seek peace and pursue it.” Psalm 34:14

I wonder if David’s nephew Joab thought his uncle was a chump? Wow-whee! what a hit man that guy was, uncontrollable even by his own boss.

The next two Ps34 verses go together & are reassuring to one focusing on the big picture:

The eyes of Jehovah are on the righteous, And his ears listen to their cry for help. But the face of Jehovah is against those doing what is bad, To erase all memory of them from the earth.

They cried out, and Jehovah heard; He rescued them from all their distresses. Jehovah is close to the brokenhearted; He saves those who are crushed in spirit.” Psalm 34:17-18

These verses are like a refrain and amplification of ones earlier in the Psalm—4, 6, 7. And speaks to the theme in verse 1 of praising God at all times. And is the ‘they’ of vs 17 the same as the ‘those’ of ve 5–others David thought about that emboldened him to do the same?

Many are the hardships of the righteous one, But Jehovah rescues him from them all.” Psalm 34:19. 

Okay, glad we’ve got that straight. Don’t go thinking all your problems are from the Devil. It doesn’t work that way. You can be ‘righteous’ and still have ‘many.’

Calamity will put the wicked one himself to death; And the very ones hating the righteous one will be held guilty. Jehovah is redeeming the soul of his servants; And none of those taking refuge in him will be held guilty.” (vs 21-22)

Such is how Psalm 34 concludes regarding the ‘wicked,’ the ‘righteous’ and the one taking refuge in God. 

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Keepers from Psalm 119–the Longest (by far) Psalm

Make God’s law our concern “all day long” and become “wiser than [our] enemies,” “more insight[ful] than all [our] teachers,” and “with more understanding than older men.” (Psalm 119:97-100)

Or at least they’ll stop mopping the floor with us.

Those verses are probably my favorites from Psalm 119; there are 176 to choose from. The odd thing is, just two psalms before is Psalm 117, with only 2 verses. Is it only me who wonders why bother to write a psalm at all if it will only run two verses—especially when big brother shows up just two psalms later to drown you with his 176?

You have to admit, it’s a draw to think you might become wiser than enemies, teachers, and older men through application of Bible principles:

(98) Wiser than my enemies your commandment makes me, Because to time indefinite it is mine.

(99) More insight than all my teachers I have come to have, Because your reminders are a concern to me.

(100) With more understanding than older men I behave, Because I have observed your own orders.

As for other verses, it’s probably worth, for those aggravating nights of insomnia or when you wake after 2-3 hours and can’t get back to sleep, posting something like this on your wall:

(vs 62) “At midnight I get up to give thanks to you for your righteous judicial decisions.”

It’s not a bad idea, is it? I mean, I don’t wake up purposefully for that object, but if I do wake up, I might as well do that as anything else.

Another fine runner up in the very long psalm is verse 165: “Abundant peace belongs to those loving your law, And for them there is no stumbling block.” It reminds me of how my father-in-law would say, “People have let me down, but Jehovah has never let me down.”

Of course! As a Witness, you get a relationship with God and his Son. As a pure bonus, a freebie, God throws in a united brotherhood—a network of believers the world over, numbering in the millions. Anyone would be crazy to let that slip by. But you’d also be crazy to put all your trust in it. They’re people. People can let you down.

It is God’s “law” that brings the abundant peace. That way, if the people ever mess you up, you’re still good. God’s “law’ will do that, along with the closely related terms that comprise the theme of Psalm 119: his reminders (mentioned 22 times), orders (20), regulations (21), commandments (20), and judicial decisions (21). Immerse yourself in those things and it serves you well.

The long psalm has a unique construction. Divide the total number of verses (176) by 22 (the number of letters in the Hebrew alphabet) to get 8. Accordingly, the psalm is usually displayed in stanzas of 8. The first 8 verses begin with (rendering this as though English, to make it easier) ‘A’, the second 8 verses each begin with ‘B’, the third 8, ‘C’, and so forth. It is said to be a memory aid, though it would take a lot more than that for me to memorize this monster.

Honorable mentions for winner verses—not that any of them are dogs, but it sort of depends upon your circumstances and mood at the time—would include 65: “You have dealt well indeed with your servant, O Jehovah, according to your word.” This would be in accord with a mindset of counting blessings, see the glass as half full rather than half empty, and so forth. It is healthier when you can look at life that way. One counselor said that even if your reason tells you it isn’t that way at the moment, it still benefits you if you can see the glass as half full.

Somewhat related is verse 71: “It is good for me that I have been afflicted, In order that I may learn your regulations.” This verse is in the theme of pulling victory from defeat. You wouldn’t choose ‘affliction,’ but when such a period abates, hopefully you can come out of it with a renewed appreciation for life. Or, if not appreciation, at least better adjusted. If you come out of it with only bitterness, you tend to hurt only yourself.

There are people who have seen plenty of affliction. It resets their attitude. A friend who has spent time in developing countries now says she would be ill-suited for her former customer rep job in the West. It would be too much for her not to say, “I don’t care, you spoiled rich person!”


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Psalm 59: Dogs? Bring em On!

What to do with this psalm of David?

“Rescue me from my enemies, O my God; Protect me from those rising up against me.” (Ps 59:1)


“Rescue me from those who act wickedly, And save me from violent men.  Look! They wait to ambush me; Strong men attack me But not because I have revolted or sinned, O Jehovah.” (v 2-3)

Not THIS time. But that time was to come—after than bit of carrying on with Bathsheba and bumping off her husband to cover it up.

Here’s what makes him trouble in particular this time:

“Awake to turn your attention to all the nations. Do not show mercy to any malicious traitors.” (Vs 5)

Traitors. I don’t like em.

“They return each evening; They growl like dogs and prowl around the city.  Look what pours forth from their mouth; Their lips are like swords, For they say: “Who is listening?” (v 6-7)

You know, dog’s don’t get their due in the Bible. ‘Man’s best friend?’ You wouldn’t know it here. What about that fellow who kept a lamb which was like a child to him and the king slaughtered it to feed his guest? A dog—a dog is what comes to be like a child. These days people will keep a dog instead of a child. Speaking of her dog, my need-greater friend said it would never say it hated her, would never say it was doing drugs, and would never tell her it was gay.

“Do not kill them, so that my people may not forget.” (v 11)

Usually the knee-jerk is to finish off traitors.

By your power make them wander about; Cause their downfall, O Jehovah, our shield. (vs 11, cont)

“For the sin of their mouth, the word of their lips, May they be trapped by their pride, Because of the cursing and deception that they speak. Finish them off in your wrath; Finish them off, so that they are no more; Make them know that God is ruling in Jacob and to the ends of the earth.” (v 12-13)

“Let them return in the evening; Let them growl like dogs and prowl around the city.” (v 14)

Again with the dogs! It almost reads as a ‘Bring them on!’ taunt.

Do other translations reflect that tone? A quick check of Some do and some don’t.

The King James does, for example: “And at evening let them return; and let them make a noise like a dog, and go round about the city.”

But others, like the New International Version, just says they come whether you let them or not:

“They return at evening, snarling like dogs, and prowl about the city.”

Usually it’s the translation with the most detail, if verified by others, that you give the nod to.

“Let them wander about for something to eat; Do not let them be satisfied or find a lodging place. But as for me, I will sing about your strength; In the morning I will joyfully tell about your loyal love.  For you are my secure refuge And a place for me to flee in my time of distress. O my Strength, to you I will sing praises, For God is my secure refuge, the God who shows loyal love to me.” (v 15-17)


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Psalm 58: Commentary

“The wicked go astray from birth; They are wayward, liars from the time they are born.” (Psalm 58:3)

Maybe the psalmist was having a bad day. 3B39453E-1E30-4769-A1BE-12EC2BFA1BDB

“Their venom is like the venom of serpents; They are deaf like the cobra that stops up its ear. It will not listen to the voice of charmers, No matter how skillful their spells. (v 4-5)


O God, knock the teeth out of their mouth! Break the jaws of these lions, O Jehovah! (v 6)


“May they disappear like waters that drain away.” (v 7)

Why does that time-old question arise in my mind, completely unbidden: Do waters swirl down the drain in opposite directions as you cross hemispheres? The answer is easily found but then you always forget.

“May they be like a snail that melts away as it moves along.” (v 8 )

The sun does a number on that slimy thing.

“Like a woman’s stillborn child who never sees the sun.” (v 8 )


“The righteous one will rejoice because he has seen the vengeance; His feet will be drenched with the blood of the wicked. Then men will say: ‘Surely there is a reward for the righteous. There is indeed a God who judges in the earth.’” (v 10-11)

It’s probably good not to cross this One.

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Psalm 56. The Skin Bottle Psalm

Show me favor, O God, because mortal man is attacking me. All day long they keep fighting and oppressing me. My foes keep snapping at me all day long; (v 1-2)


In God I put my trust; I am not afraid.  What can mere man do to me? (v 4–repeated at 11)

Well, they can kill you. So he’s obviously thinking beyond that. No one wants to die; death is inconvenient and it makes people feel bad. But beyond that it holds no terror. It is like sleep, non-consciousness, non-being—and no one can take away the prospect of resurrection.

David (the psalmist) sure gets in hot water a lot. He gets chased all over:

You keep track of my wandering. Do collect my tears in your skin bottle. Are they not recorded in your book? (v 8)

Most translations just say ‘bottle:’

“Thou tellest my wanderings: put thou my tears into thy bottle: are they not in thy book?” (KJV)


What kind of bottle? A Coke bottle?

A715FAFF-75BE-4531-8704-6DC98BC85065“Bag” (Byington)

“Leather container” (NET)

“Wineskin” (OJB)

The New World Translation really works the best here. (“skin bottle”) Animal skins were used to carry liquids of all types, be they wine or not. Like the soldier’s canteen of an earlier time.

(photo: The Schloss Nordkirchen )

I am bound by my vows to you, O God; I will offer you expressions of thanksgiving. For you have rescued me from death And prevented my feet from stumbling, So that I may walk before God in the light of the living. (v 12-13)


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Psalm 55–Commentary

Listen to my prayer, O God, And do not ignore my request for mercy. Do pay attention to me and answer me. My concern makes me restless, And I am distraught. (Ps 55:1-2)

It is not as though the psalmist must be told ‘to get to the point.’

Because of what the enemy is saying And the pressure from the wicked one.  For they heap trouble upon me. (vs 3)

The ‘enemy’ and the ‘wicked one’ are not the same? Often they are not. You can win an enemy over, but not ‘the wicked one.’

AD17EC13-2267-497A-B7E0-203A6EA338A8I keep saying: “If only I had wings like a dove! I would fly away and reside in safety. Look! I would flee far away. I would lodge in the wilderness. I would hurry to a place of shelter Away from the raging wind, away from the storm. (v 6-8)

Translation: ‘Get me outta here!’

(Photo from Pixabay)

For it is not an enemy who taunts me; Otherwise I could put up with it.  It is not a foe who has risen up against me; Otherwise I could conceal myself from him. But it is you, a man like me, My own companion whom I know well. (v 12-13)

Did not Paul include ‘false brothers’ among those he was ‘in danger from? “. . . in journeys often, in dangers from rivers, in dangers from robbers, in dangers from my own people, in dangers from the nations, in dangers in the city, in dangers in the wilderness, in dangers at sea, in dangers among false brothers . . .” 2 Corinthians 11:26)

We used to enjoy a warm friendship together; Into the house of God we used to walk along with the multitude. (vs 14)

Vic Vomodog!! We were once best buds! Look at us now.                                                             

He attacked those at peace with him; He violated his covenant. His words are smoother than butter, But conflict is in his heart.  His words are softer than oil, But they are drawn swords. (v 20-21)

Ahithophel. It’s a reference to Ahithophel: “As David’s personal adviser, Ahithophel’s sagacious counsel was esteemed as if it were the direct word of Jehovah. (2 Sam 16:23) Later this once-close companion treacherously turned traitor and joined David’s son Absalom in a coup against the king.” - Insight

***When David heard about this he prayed: “Turn, please, the counsel of Ahithorolf into foolishness, O Jehovah!”— 2 Sam 15:12, 3 - (‘Sheepngoats’)

It’s a good thing we don’t do anti-types anymore. Now we only do ‘this reminds me of that’s.’

Throw your burden on Jehovah, And he will sustain you. Never will he allow the righteous one to fall. (vs 22)


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The Cycle of God—in 30 Words

The cycle of God:

God: You can’t rule yourselves

A&E (first humans): Watch us.

God: Alright, I will, and when you make a hopeless hash of everything, I’ll shove it aside and bring in what I meant to all along.

How could anyone miss that UNLESS they had also missed another cycle, one that plays out each year:

“Even the stork in the sky knows its seasons; The turtledove and the swift and the thrush keep to the time of their return.” (Psalm 148:7)

Is there a link between that verse and the above ‘cycle of God?’ Seems to be, as is evident from the remainder of the verse:

“But my own people do not understand the judgment of Jehovah.”

“Seasons of the stork” parallels the “judgment of Jehovah.” It was a thought to be gleaned, not stated directly, from the Watchtower Study article “Learn More About Jehovah Through His Creation.” (March 2023)

“His invisible qualities are clearly seen from the world’s creation onward, because they are perceived by the things made,” served as theme scripture. (Romans 1:20)

Therefore it helps to get one’s head out of the city, where ‘creation’ is obscured by schedules and smokestacks. Even I was in my 50s before I realized that on a grey day, a far-off cloud seemingly connected as if by bands to the earth meant that it was raining there. Hemmed in by city/suburb, I’d had few opportunities to take in that big picture.

What does that instruct as to God? Trust farmer Mort to tell us (we were visiting his congregation). Commenting on the verse that God makes it rain on the righteous and the wicked, he pointed out that his neighbor gets just as much rain as him, “even though he uses foul language.”

Someone recalled how birds build their nest, but then having done that, do little else, for they are birds. It recalled a talk (by a speaker in that Hall) on how people can be like that, devoting major portions of their lives (sometimes all) to building the most luxurious nest—whereas what might be better is build a simple nest then use all that excess time/capacity for greater things.

Then there was a sis who works as a nurse and all day long must deliver anti-depressant medications as though they were M&Ms. But in Japan, she says, they don’t even begin drug treatment for depression until after a period of “forest bathing” gives them a head start or even replacement.

My wife’s favorite scripture (one of them) was not in the study article: “ A bull well knows its buyer, And a donkey the manger of its owner; But Israel does not know me, My own people do not behave with understanding.” But Psalm 148:7 is close enough that the two of them in the same study might be redundant.

What I liked, and I almost stuck it in even though it doesn’t directly fit, but didn’t—was Bro Malenfont’s recent kickback at those ‘physical men’ who say they have no need of the crutch that is God. ‘Of course you do!’ he said. They will be senile or in diapers in not too many years, and hobbled even if they avoid such indignities. How can anyone with those prospects say they need no crutch?


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Defending Jehovah’s Witnesses with style from attacks... in Russia, with the book ‘I Don’t Know Why We Persecute Jehovah’s Witnesses—Searching for the Why’ (free).... and in the West, with the book, 'In the Last of the Last Days: Faith in the Age of Dysfunction'

Discipline on the Ropes—Psalms 69 and 70

The talk Sunday, one of about 150 in rotation, not counting special talks, was entitled, “Your View of Authority Matters to God.” It is one of the hottest topics of our time. People aren’t keen on authority, lest it be abused, as it certainly will be if put it into the hands of humans. Yet, whose else’s hands is it going to be put into? You’re stuck with humans. Anarchy is worse.

The speaker came to the congregation via Zoom, unusual since the post-COVID 19 resumption of in-person meetings. He didn’t make the mistake of shutting down his camera immediately upon conclusion of his talk. It’s tempting to do that because otherwise, with no seat to return to, you risk looking like a deer caught in the headlights. But if you shut down the camera, your name blazes across the screen, as though rolling the credits for the star of the show.

People are touchy on authority, especially in the West. It’s in the air. One prior speaker spun it as if alerting another to his tire low on air. “Oh, yeah? Well, you’re car has a dented fender!” comes the retort.

The talk broke authority down into three areas: with regard to family, with regard to government, and with regard to congregation. Most people are familiar with family and government authority. Jehovah’s Witnesses know the added concept of authority in the congregation.

It is a concept all but incomprehensible to even much of the church world. Ronald J. Sider’s book, The Scandal of the Evangelical Conscience, quotes Haddon Robinson on the current church climate, a climate he calls ‘consumerism:’

Too often now when people join a church, they do so as consumers. If they like the product, they stay. If they do not, they leave. They can no more imagine a church disciplining them than they could a store that sells goods disciplining them. It is not the place of the seller to discipline the consumer. In our churches, we have a consumer mentality.”

It once not this way. Sider writes: “Church discipline used to be a significant, accepted part of most evangelical traditions, whether Reformed, Methodist, Baptist, or Anabaptist . . . In the second half of the twentieth century, however, it has largely disappeared.”

But in the world of Jehovah’s Witnesses, it has not. Moreover, it is hard not to connect retaining authority with how Witnesses have stayed the course on many moral issues over which mainstream religion long ago threw in the towel.

In time, the Witnesses’ rare breed of authority becomes the special target of a world intent on embracing new mores. It becomes the special target even of former members who want to bring those new mores into the congregation so as to keep up with the times. Do it too insistently and they can find themselves disfellowshipped by a congregational authority that aids members to stay true to what they signed up for.

That human authority ultimately traces up to the Jehovah’s Witness Governing Body. It thereby becomes the focus of special criticism. Sometimes it becomes the focus of outright attack through ‘framing mischief by decree.’ (Psalm 94:20) In the eyes of their burgeoning critics, its member become sinister cult ‘manipulators’ intent on ‘controlling’ people. An industry of ‘anticult’ activists plots their downfall.

Completely lost is that if they are a cult, it is because the Bible is a cult manual. The Witness Governing Body is but an authority holding to traditional Christian discipline, which Sider states was once common, but is now scarce.

The Witness Governing Body is scrutinized for misstep or evidence of human frailty. Should they show any, they are promptly pilloried over it. Even when they don’t, it is reinterpreted that they do. In such a climate, how can they not look inwardly and hope that any flaw on their part, or any perceived flaw, does not become the rationale for stumbling people?

It is impossible for me to think that Psalm 69:5-6, when applied to the modern day, is not primarily about them:

O God, you are aware of my foolishness, And my guilt is not hidden from you. May those hoping in you not be put to shame because of me, O Sovereign Lord, Jehovah of armies.  May those seeking you not be humiliated because of me, O God of Israel.”

Many verses of Psalm 69 are prophetic of Jesus. See, for example, verses 4, 7, 8, 9, and especially 21. Sometimes the connections are made by the New Testament writers themselves. Sometimes they are just so plain that few Bible commentators fail to pick up on them.

But verses 5-6 falter when applied to Jesus.  What “guilt” did that one have? What blunders did he commit so that he might worry ones be “put to shame” or “humiliated because of me?” Paul specifically calls him “innocent, undefiled, separated from the sinners.” (Hebrews 7:26) Of course, he was found “guilty” in Pilate’s court of law, such as it was, and his ‘guilt’ was used to shame and humiliate his followers, not to mention discourage others from becoming such, but none of that was due to his own “foolishness.” Our Lord was a victim of slander.

But drop a notch down and the verses can readily be applied to his apostles and to those spearheading the work he launched, that of proclaiming the gospel worldwide. And if so in the first century, why not today as well? These undershepherds will be the “earthen vessels” in which we have the “treasure” that is the ministry. (2 Corinthians 4:7) These ones, particularly when put under the microscope, will continually provide pretext for slander, for followers to be “put to shame” or “humiliated.” All humans will. It’s part of the definition of being human.

This application of verses 5-6 to the Governing Body is nothing that body has ever made to itself, to my knowledge. It is mine. Its members will frequently apply such verses to the Christian congregation as a whole, but not specifically to themselves. They are not out there crying, ‘Poor me.’ And of course, the beauty of the Scriptures is that they can be widely applied to persons in all sorts of difficulties, whether of there own making or not.

But I think the first application is to them. After all, there is a limit to how many people most of us can cause to be “put to shame” or “humiliated.” Most don’t get around enough for that to happen. “Ah, well, we always knew Harley is a yo-yo,” a few can say, as only a handful of others dumb enough to hang onto his every word will be distressed. But every word of the Governing Body is carefully measured. Every word or action can come back to bite them. It’s tricky enough to live in a fishbowl. To live in a fishbowl where enemies hope to break the glass is trickier still.

In a world hyper-sensitive to authority, they must wonder as to how to present themselves. They must wonder whether they are doing so too forcefully or not forceful enough. They are the shepherd, insofar as that term devolves to humans. The trouble with shepherding a multitude of people is that one will say, “Thanks for the new rule!” whereas his fellow will say, “Huh? Did you say something?” They don’t want be overbearing, but neither do they want to find themselves in the shoes of Lot, whose sons-in-law thought he was joking.

They can and do identify themselves with the 2 Corinthians 1:24 verse of being “not masters over your faith but fellow workers for your joy.” Nonetheless, there will be plenty of people to take their word almost as though the word of God. It’s how people are. Does that distress them? Or do they say, “Well, they’ll grow eventually. Meantime, that’s not an unsafe place to be.” Or, has their harshest critics allege, do they say, ‘hee hee hee—we hope to keep them that was forever?

And why can’t you skip over to the next psalm, psalm 70, and also apply it to those taking the lead in the worldwide congregation? Here, verse two, “May those seeking to take my life be put to shame and disgraced. May those who delight in my calamity retreat in humiliation,” is qualified by verse four, “But let those who are seeking you exult and rejoice in you. May those who love your acts of salvation always say: “May God be magnified!”—so you know that everything is in the context of worship. It’s not just the boilerplate Machiavellian scheming characteristic of many elements societal elements.

What of this taking “delight in my calamity?” Who does that? I have suffered some calamity in life, as have most people. Nobody took delight in it. They all felt bad. At worst, they shrugged it off as, ‘Well, that’s his problem, not mine.’ But I nobody piled on. People just aren’t that way unless they have a serious score to settle. Even then, they often aren’t. They know their turn to suffer “calamity” will also come some day.

But the Christian headship that has authority to discipline and even to expel? Oh yeah! In a previous age, people allowed discipline to do its work. “You need to endure as part of your discipline,” says Hebrews 12:7. “God is treating you as sons. For what son is not disciplined by his father?” Quite a few of them, these days. It’s not the slam-dunk rhetorical question it once was.

Nor is the verse 9 statement, “Furthermore, our human fathers used to discipline us, and we gave them respect.” Neither discipline nor respect are the staples they once were. So, the statement of verse 11 is lost upon many: “True, no discipline seems for the present to be joyous, but it is painful; yet afterward, it yields the peaceable fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.” An individualistic world fumes at the notion of being “trained” by another and looks for opportunities to kick back at the source.

5AB66E4F-3708-4B34-ABDC-DF30D9E2A48AIt is well to yield to discipline, even knowing it will be called incorrectly from time to time. Every so often, the sports ref makes a clunker of a call and there you are in the penalty box for a dumb reason. Nobody quits the game on that account. And when they drag out the instant replay equipment, sometimes it reveals that the ref had a point after all.

(Photo: Pixabay)

******  The bookstore


Defending Jehovah’s Witnesses with style from attacks... in Russia, with the book ‘I Don’t Know Why We Persecute Jehovah’s Witnesses—Searching for the Why’ (free).... and in the West, with the book, 'In the Last of the Last Days: Faith in the Age of Dysfunction'