Praying Like David

Praying Like David

Thursday’s Column: Captain’s Blog

Carl Pollard

One of the many valuable lessons that I was taught at Bear Valley Bible Institute came from Corey Sawyers. He was our instructor for the book of Psalms. He was known to say “there’s a psalm for that” just about every day. But there really is a Psalm for just about every situation we encounter and emotion we feel. But a psalm’s true beauty is recognized when you say it in a prayer to God. 

Many of David’s psalms were prayers to the God of Heaven, so why don’t we do the same? Corey showed us a way to feel the depth and emotion that these psalms contain, and I encourage every Christian to try this method the next time you read Psalms. 

Take each sentence and put it in your own words. Then pray it to God. It’s pretty straight forward, but here are 3 examples: 

Psalm 8:

God how perfect and holy is your name in all of the earth. You have shown your glory and power through your creation. Everyone can see your strength, Your power over every person. We can look around and see your works. We see creation and recognize that it was you that made it. Knowing all of this we are amazed that you would be mindful of us, but not only are you mindful, but you care for us. So much that you would send your son. Making him lower than the angels. All for us. Your son has power over everything and we understand that you put all things under his control. God how perfect and holy is your name in all of the earth. 

Psalm 13: 

Heavenly Father we come to you asking if you have hidden your face from your children? Do you forget us? We know it isn’t possible for us to comfort ourselves. At times we feel discouraged and think that Satan has won, that our enemies have taken control. And so because of this we ask you to answer our plea. Help us to focus on you in times of trial. Help our enemies to see that you have won. Through everything help us to trust in you, help us to recognize your love for us. Help us to find joy in our salvation. We praise you and thank you for blessing us beyond what we deserve. 

Psalm 23 

God we come before you thanking you for taking care of us. For giving us all our needs. You bless us with more than we could give to ourselves. You comfort and restore us. You give us the path to righteousness. Even when we go through trials we know you are still with us. You never desert us. No matter what happens you comfort us. You take care of us and bless us to the point that we overflow. Because of you we have goodness and mercy given to us our entire life. And we can stay in your presence forever. Thank you God for everything. 

Something as simple as praying a psalm in your own words can add depth, meaning, and emotion to your prayer life. I encourage us all to imitate David when we approach the throne of God.

What Is The Bread of Angels? 

What Is The Bread of Angels? 

Friday’s Column: Brent’s Bent

Brent Pollard

“Man did eat the bread of angels; He sent them food in abundance” (Psalm 78.25 NASB1995).  

The Bible is a book whose depths we cannot comprehend. As a result, we discover something new every time we read the Scriptures. Recently, as our devotional Bible reading turned to Psalm 78, I had one of those moments. In verse 25, Asaph refers to manna and says God gave the Israelites “bread of angels.” I couldn’t recall hearing that addressed by any preacher I’d heard, nor had I previously read any commentaries on the verse. So I put on my “scuba gear” and went for a dive. 

We must establish the context first. The main goals of Psalm 78 are that Israel should not repeat their unruly past and properly instruct future generations about God’s Law. Asaph recalls God’s miracles in Israel’s history, but Israel still rebelled. Asaph mentions one of these wonders: God feeding the people with manna from heaven. And God did this, although the Israelites had repeatedly enraged Him. According to Asaph, they put God to the test in their hearts (78.18). 

As a result, our “bread of angels” was a providential answer to a need. The people were hungry, and God satisfied their hunger and provided more than they required. However, Asaph recalls that the people believed God should cater to their food preferences (78.18). So, God punished them again because they complained after He sent the manna (78.31-33). Asaph’s point was that they were unappreciative of a lavish gift. 

Following the context, we will move on to the Hebrew language. Lechem abbirim is Hebrew for “bread of the mighty ones.” The word “abbir” appears 47 times in the Old Testament, referring to everything from animals to strong or stubborn men. However, only twice in some of our English translations is this word rendered as angels (Psalm 78.25,cf. Psalm 103.20). Why is this the case? The Septuagint is most likely the answer because the Greek translation of the Hebrew Scriptures uses the word “angels” here. We should also mention that the Latin Vulgate uses the phrase “panem angelorum” (bread of angels). And the translators of the King James Version were heavily influenced by the Latin Vulgate. But there could be more to it than that. 

Another hint comes from a non-canonical book written by a Jew living in Alexandria during the first century BC who pretended to be Solomon. People refer to this as the Book of Wisdom. “In contrast, you fed your people with the food from angels,” Wisdom 16.20 says. Again and again, you provided your people with a bread that had been prepared in heaven. It was a bread that was able to satisfy anyone’s longing and please anyone’s taste.” (Common English Bible) Even though it lacks the weight of what God-breathed (cf. 2 Timothy 3.16), it still provides valuable commentary for understanding Jewish thought before Christ’s birth. 

As a result, Asaph may have referred to angels—mighty ones—as ministering spirits (cf. Psalm 103.20-22; Hebrews 1.14). In other words, God prepared and sent the manna from heaven via the angels. If true, it would not be the first time the Bible mentions angels in passing. For example, Stephen stated that an angel was present in the burning bush (Acts 7.35). Otherwise, all we know about manna is that it came with the dew (Numbers 11.9). As a result, it descended from heaven. 

Finally, most commentators agree that the bread of angels refers to food fit for angelic consumption or the king’s table (cf. Daniel 1.8). Manna, in other words, was a dish fit for heaven. Nonetheless, God gave it to men who did not value it. We might find a modern parallel in being given a free meal at a three-star Michelin restaurant but complaining that we would rather have eaten at McDonald’s. (With no offense to McDonald’s.) 

Fortunately, this is not a matter of salvation, and there is room for debate. I agree with most commentators that the phrase refers to the quality of the food rather than the consumers’ identity. However, it is intriguing to speculate that angels may have been responsible for distributing it to the people. After all, people did not always see the angels who were present. The Arameans, for example, once pursued Elisha to his home in Dothan. The servant of Elisha was terrified, but Elisha prayed to God to open his eyes. God complied, and the servant saw the heavenly host encircling Dothan, protecting Elisha (2 Kings 6.15-17). So, even if manna arrived with the dew, it could still have been brought down from heaven by angels. 

———————————————————- 

[No, I haven’t given up on the book of Proverbs. Chapter 8 will pick up where the previous installments left off. I believe that my articles on Proverbs have become white noise for some of my readers. And they’ve lost interest. I appreciate the kind words of individuals who have read and valued those posts. Your kind words always make their way to me. Before tackling another block of Proverbs for a month or two, I’ll present a few weeks of non-Proverbs-related content. And God willing, I shall eventually conclude my study of Proverbs. Even once I resume the series, I anticipate taking a few more breaks, so please be patient with me until we finish the book of Proverbs. Thanks, Brent] 

The Parable Of The Lost…Hen?

The Parable Of The Lost…Hen?

Monday’s Column: Neal At The Cross

Neal Pollard

Five hens were safely back in the coop, but one would not go back inside. When the man and his wife tried to coax her back in, she began darting left and right and back and forth. The closer the couple came to her, the more frantic she grew. She darted away from her house toward the woods. When the man went after her, she flew over the fence and deeper into the neighbor’s woods. The man and his wife went inside their home and waited. Later, the hen was back outside the coop. Her sisters were pacing inside their run and she was trying to go head first through the small square of the welded wire to join them. The man and his wife herded her into the corner where the coop meets the run. The man caught the frantic hen as she tried to fly away. As he held her and tossed her inside the coop, she squawked and wailed the whole way. A few minutes later, she was mindlessly and meekly scratching and pacing with the rest of the girls. 

It was tempting to let her go, to conclude that she asked for that. But, we thought about the feed and care that has gone into her, the fact that she is just about ready to start laying eggs, but also the humane aspect. There are so many predators on or near our place–foxes, raccoons, snakes, hawks, coyotes, a bobcat, and even an occasional long-tailed weasel. We also have seen the carnage that befell a Green Egger in this current flock. So, we did not give up on Pearl. She’s safely home and doing the things hens do, scratching, pacing, eating, and so forth. 

I could not help but think how often I act like Pearl. My Father has given me so much. He supplies my every need (Phil. 4:19), and then some! He takes care of me (Mat. 6:25-32) and has my best interest at heart. He has invested more into me than I can possibly comprehend (John 3:16). Yet, so often I fail to trust Him and even run away from Him in favor of my own, misguided way (Prov. 3:5; 14:12). When I go astray and get into harmful predicaments, I reveal a rejection of His wisdom in favor of my own folly. I don’t have near the excuse of a chicken. Despite journal articles outlining the spatial capacities, very basic arithmetic capacities, complex communication system, and complex emotions of chickens, the most generous assessment is that they are, at best, of average intelligence in the animal world and not remotely comparable to humans. Of all God’s creation, only we are made in His image (Gen. 1:26-27). Only we were valuable enough to Him that He devised a plan to save us from our sins. 

Why would I run from Him? Why would I evade His care and His guidance? Why would I protest and fight His efforts to help me and bring out my best good? While the parable in Luke 15 and the 23rd Psalm are about sheep rather than poultry, the reminder is spot on: “He makes me lie down…He leads me…He restores my soul…He guides me in the paths of righteousness” (Psa. 23:2-3). He is with me, He comforts me, He generously provides for me, and He heals me (Psa. 23:4-5). The Bible helps me see the big picture, to see beyond the desires of the flesh and the perceived need of the moment. God wants me to trust Him and follow His way. May I be “smart” enough to know that and never run away! 

An update from this afternoon: Pearl is on the nest!
Grateful Living

Grateful Living

Thursday’s Column: Captain’s Blog

Carl Pollard

There’s a pretty well known quote that people often share on social media. It says, “Gratitude is the attitude that sets the altitude for living.” What is gratitude? Being grateful means recognizing our blessings. There are some people that I don’t mind being inconvenienced by. People that I’d happily help if they needed it, and that’s because these people are grateful. They appreciate and thank you for helping them…Then there are people that I don’t exactly enjoy helping. Why? Because they demand your help and almost seem like they feel entitled to your help. You help them and you don’t get a thank you and they aren’t grateful for your sacrifice. It’s interesting that these people never seem to be happy, and there’s a reason. They fail to be grateful for the blessings they receive. 

When we take the time to be thankful for what we have, we don’t have as much time to think about what we don’t have. If we want to find true joy, focus on being grateful for what God has given us. For example, notice what many Christians have today: 

  • We live in America 
  • We worship in a building each Sunday 
  • We don’t have to walk everywhere 
  • We have a roof over our heads 
  • We have a church family 
  • We have food and clothes 

The list goes on and on. We have plenty to be grateful for, yet sadly we focus on the few things we don’t have. 

Being grateful leads to contentment. We won’t feel cheated in life. Being grateful keeps us from having self-pity because we won’t be stuck thinking about how much more we deserve. Being grateful keeps us from having feelings of jealousy and envy. We won’t be constantly comparing ourselves to others. Notice the gratitude of the psalmist in Psalm 118:1, “Oh give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; for his steadfast love endures forever!” Skipping down to Verse 29 he says, “Oh give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; for his steadfast love endures forever!” The psalmist begins and ends this chapter reminding us why we are to give thanks to the Lord. It is because His love for us never ceases. Again in Psalm 136 we read the words of a man dedicated to thanking God. 

Notice the breakdown of this psalm: 

  • “Give thanks to God” mentioned three times in three verses. 
    • Why? Because He is good and His Love endures forever. 
  • 26 times the phrase “love endures forever.” 
    • The psalmist repeats this phrase and then shows us how He loved us. 
    • Defeated kings, gave us land, led his people in the wilderness, etc.

Why should we be grateful? Because God Loves us. And He shows us that He cares. Gratitude brings about happiness. Joy in recognizing how great God’s love is for us. 

Gratitude is seeing all the many ways that God had blessed us.

God Doesn’t Hate You

God Doesn’t Hate You

Tuesday’s Column: Dale Mail

Dale Pollard

“Who does he think he is?”

It’s easy to imagine how the grumbling began among Korah and other religious leaders of the Israelites. Eventually 250 joined and as the grumbling grew so did Korah’s confidence. It all came to a head as the mob approached Moses and the heated accusations start. Korah cries out, “We’re all just as righteous as you are! Why do you stand before us and bark orders?” 

Moses does something unexpected and falls face down. He tells them, “In the morning the Lord will show you all who is holy.” How did those wicked Levites sleep that night? Were they confident that God would deliver them from their “tyrannical” ruler? Maybe they tossed and turned as all sleep escaped them. The following day we read in Numbers 16.32-35, 

“and the earth opened its mouth and swallowed them and their households, and all those associated with Korah, together with their possessions. They went down alive into the realm of the dead, with everything they owned; the earth closed over them, and they perished and were gone from the community. At their cries, all the Israelites around them fled, shouting, “The earth is going to swallow us too!” And fire came out from the Lord and consumed the 250 men who were offering the incense.”

This wasn’t the end of the line for all of Korah’s family though. We read in Numbers 26.9-11, 

“…Nemuel, Dathan, and Abiram. These are the Dathan and Abiram, chosen from the congregation, who contended against Moses and Aaron in the company of Korah, when they contended against the Lord and the earth opened its mouth and swallowed them up together with Korah, when that company died, when the fire devoured the 250 men, and they became a warning. But the sons of Korah did not die.”

Some of Korah’s family live on. Now, how would many people feel about God if they had watched their family and possessions swallowed up by the earth? A horrific event like that might make them bitter, angry, and traumatized. What a cruel and selfish God. 

Interestingly enough, the sons of Korah are responsible for writing a few of the Psalms. They aren’t laments reflecting back on how God had treated them unfairly. In fact, it seems as though they had their eyes opened to the character of God. He is holy and they are in awe of their awesome Father. 

Here are a few segments taken from Psalm 84, written by the sons of Korah. 

Verses 1-2 

“How lovely is your dwelling place,
    Lord Almighty!

My soul yearns, even faints,
    for the courts of the Lord;
my heart and my flesh cry out
    for the living God.”

Verse 4 

“Blessed are those who dwell in your house; 
    they are ever praising you.”

Really? Blessed? Ever praising Him? 

Verse 10 

“Better is one day in your courts
    than a thousand elsewhere;
I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God
    than dwell in the tents of the wicked.”

The language does not reflect a family who has witnessed tragedy brought on by the hand of God. It seems they were spared because the Lord saw something inside them that wasn’t found in the hearts of the others. A heart willing to repent and live differently. God knew they could handle rebuke and had a sincere desire to live righteously. It’s been speculated that perhaps they were too young to understand why their father and the other Levitical leaders were outraged. Maybe they thought they were a part of a just cause? After all, these evil men were in a position of authority. They were their teachers. How could 250 religious rulers be wrong? Whatever the reasons, God proved to be right again. 

There are people in this world who don’t understand the righteousness of the Lord. This lack of knowledge leads to terrible—often costly, decisions, and lifestyles. 

If you ever find yourself questioning God and His Law we should look in rather than up for who’s to blame. History proves time and again that God is never the issue— we are. Sin, injustice, unfairness, and evil are human inventions. God has given us His son as the solution and in Him we find answers. Those answers bring us satisfaction and peace every time. 

Water well dating back to the early 1800s. Location, Valhermoso Springs hotel. 
Lacey’s Spring, Alabama 
“How Do I Love Thee?”

“How Do I Love Thee?”

Monday’s Column: Neal At The Cross

Neal Pollard

The English Romantic poet, Elizabeth Barrett Browning, is famed for her Sonnet 43. It is also known by its first line: “How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.” She was reared with privilege, wealth, and the finest education, but her health was compromised by an equestrian accident. Her father was controlling, and when she eloped to marry Robert Browning she was disinherited. She published many works of various types throughout her life, and this allowed her to become independently wealthy though her health made her an invalid. Robert became enamored with her writing, and they corresponded for two years. During this time, she wrote fervently romantic poems showing her love for Robert. For all that she wrote in her relatively brief life, her poetry stands out most of all. Of her poems, Sonnet 43 may be most famous.

The title above Psalm 92 reads, “a song for the Sabbath day.” That connects its words to worship, and this psalm shows the writer’s deep adoration for God. He never uses the word “love,” but his affection for God is obvious. It seems that the writer gives several proofs of that love here. Notice how.

  1. HE GIVES THANKS TO THE LORD (1)
  2. HE SINGS PRAISES TO HIS NAME (1,3-4)
  3. HE DECLARES HIS LOVINGKINDNESS AND FAITHFULNESS (2)
  4. HE PRAISES GOD’S WORKS AND THOUGHTS (5,8)
  5. HE SCORNS THE WICKED WHO OPPOSE GOD’S WAY (6-7,9,11)
  6. HE APPRECIATES THE BLESSINGS OF A GOD-APPROVED LIFE (10,12-14)
  7. HE EXPRESSES CONFIDENCE IN THE CHARACTER OF GOD (15)

One of the most rewarding exercises you can engage in is to enumerate the ways you love and appreciate God. Do it in your prayer life; spend time praising God and be specific in expressing your adoration and admiration. Think deeply about it. Look around. Look into your life. Consider what looks like His providence in your life and the life of others. Count your blessings, and tell God what you are thankful for. Wait! Did you mention running water, hot water, reliable vehicles, paved roads, coffee, air-conditioning, music, puppies, baby’s breath, eyesight, and brisket? What about the church, salvation, prayer, the Bible, peace, the hope of heaven, His guidance and protection, the elders, deacons, Bible teachers, your spouse, your parents, and your children? 

This will build your love and appreciation for God. It will remind you of how much He loves you and cause you to love Him more. It will humble you and help you focus on the fount of your every blessing! It should make you a better, more obedient servant for Him. How do you love Him? Like this psalmist, count the ways! It will lift your spirit and open your eyes to a harvest ripe with those who need what you have. Get counting!

Sheep, Love The Shepherds

Sheep, Love The Shepherds

Tuesday’s Column: Dale Mail

blond man with goatee smiling at camera with blazer on
Dale Pollard

Though scripture doesn’t say, you can be sure David’s sheep had no idea how lucky they were to have a shepherd like him. They were just sheep after all. How could they fully appreciate the extent that David went to in order to keep them safe? Before this begins to sound ridiculous, let’s remember that at least two of David’s sheep were carried off in the jaws of a lion and a bear. When the terrified bleating of an unfortunate sheep is heard by the shepherd, he sprints after the wild animal knowing all the while— it’s just a sheep. It’s just one sheep! Nevertheless, David strikes the predator and saves the sheep (1 Sam. 17.34-35).  

What made David a good shepherd? It certainly wasn’t his stature. The average male of his day stood around five feet tall. He was also the youngest of his family and often unappreciated (1 Sam. 16.11,17.29,33). It was David’s heart and not his height that made him exceptional. He was a natural shepherd of sheep, and of people. 

David is sent by his father, Jesse, to deliver bread for his brothers who are among Saul’s army. When he arrives on scene everyone, including the king, is afraid and unwilling to take a stand against the arrogant Goliath. But before the giant warrior from Gath meets the shepherd boy from Bethlehem, a few more giants will be faced. 

The first giant was the giant of degradation. 

David’s own brother, Eliab, would greet him with two belittling questions that would make a lesser man feel sheepish, but not this shepherd. Eliab asks, “why have you come down here? And who is watching the few sheep?” David’s brother doesn’t think he belongs among warriors and that he is only capable of handling a small number of dumb animals. 

The second giant was that of accusation.

In the same breath Eliab would accuse and insult David three different times. He claims, “I know how conceited you are and how wicked your heart is. You’ve only come to watch the battle.” How wrong he was and how dare he insult such a godly man! It’s interesting to note that David had an answer to each of these questions and accusations, but never attempts to defend himself. His father sent him, that’s why he was there. He was there to deliver nourishment for this dear brother who had, no doubt, worked up an appetite doing absolutely nothing. No retaliation or snarky remark would escape from the shepherd’s mouth because nothing like that was in his heart (Matt. 12.34).

The third giant David would conquer would be the towering giant of indignity.

He didn’t shame his brother and he didn’t let his brothers shaming keep him from shining. 

Shepherds put up with a lot, don’t they? Good shepherds really put up with a lot. Faithful god-fearing elders within the Lord’s church all over the world are faced with giants more often than they should. Sometimes the giants they face are their own sheep. How easy it is to make confident accusations against them, to question their intentions, hearts, and capabilities. That unpaid servant of God is more often than not the first one to come running when the bleating of a wayward member is heard. When we find ourselves in the clutches of our various trials, they attempt to pry us out. At times they earnestly pray over and take on burdens that aren’t theirs to carry. Faithful elders will find themselves in a position where they could make the sheep feel shame, but choose to save the feelings of others because that’s what a good shepherd does. It’s not their height, it’s their heart. The sheep need to love their shepherds, because the shepherds love their sheep!

Praise The Lord!

Praise The Lord!

Neal Pollard

Your version may use the word “hallelujah” to begin Psalm 135. Hallelujah means “praise the Lord.” While it is synonymous with giving thanks, it means to laud a superior quality or act, to acclaim and express joy in doing so. What is so noteworthy is that the psalmist does this in very specific ways, recounting times in history when God demonstrates His power and glory on behalf of His people. As we walk through the psalm, we see this. Why is He to be praised?

  • HIS CHOOSING OF HIS PEOPLE (4)
  • HIS NATURE (5)–Great, Above All
  • HIS WORK IN CREATION (6-7)–Heaven, Earth, Seas, All Deep, Vapors, Lightning, Wind, Rain
  • HIS DEFEATING OF THEIR ENEMIES (8-11)–Egypt, Amorites, Canaanites
  • HIS BLESSINGS (12)–Gave His People A Heritage (Possession)
  • HIS POWER (13)–His Name And Remembrance
  • HIS PROMISES (14)–Compassionate Judgment
  • HIS SUPERIORITY OVER HIS RIVALS (15-18)–Deaf, Dumb, And Blind Idols, Just Like Humans

The writer calls on God’s people to praise and worship Him in song, expressing their adoration (1-3). He ends with a threefold call to “bless the Lord” (19-21). May I suggest that you work through something both in your daily life and in your preparation before every time you assemble to worship? Call it setting the table for fellowship with the Divine. Either meditate on the specific works and ways of God that are worthy of admiration, praise and honor or pray to Him, expressing these matters in specific terms. Focus on how He’s demonstrated greatness in blessing your life and the lives of those around you. Perhaps it’s answered prayer, providence, deliverance, or relief. Focus on His power and might in the affairs of our nation, in the activities of our congregation, and the occurrences within your family and personal life. Let the worship flow as you look around at all you see in nature, from the universe to right out your window. Think about the gift of Jesus for your sins. All of this will surely cause you to echo the writer in Psalm 135 and call out to others, “Praise the Lord!”

Photo credit: Kathy Pollard
“Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas”

“Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas”

Friday’s Column: Brent’s Bent

Brent Pollard

“Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” was featured in the 1944 movie Meet Me in St. Louis. Judy Garland was the original performer. I will provide the song’s setting without spoiling the film since it is pertinent to our topic. 

Circumstances cause the family patriarch depicted within the film to declare that the family is moving to New York. He is alone in wanting to make such a move. Everyone else is content to stay in their current hometown, especially with the upcoming World’s Fair that St. Louis will be hosting in 1904.  

The youngest daughter, Tootie, took the news especially hard. Judy Garland’s character, Esther, tries to console Tootie by singing, “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas.” The original lyrics, which you’ve likely not heard unless you’ve watched the movie or listened to an older cover of the song, were “Until then, we’ll have to muddle through somehow.” Garland also sang, “Next year, all our troubles will be out of sight.”1 

We can credit Frank Sinatra for changing a melancholy Christmas song into a happier one. He told the song’s writer, Hugh Martin, in 1957 that his album was called “A Jolly Christmas.” So, he asked the songwriter if he could “jolly up” that line for him. The songwriter obliged, changing the lyric to “Hang a shining star atop the highest bough.” “Next year…” likewise became “From now on all our troubles will be out of sight.”2 

We cannot say that every Christmas season is as great as those experienced in our youth. As we get older, economics impact our celebrations. We take note of those missing. Perhaps, we no longer have good health. Or an every-hundred-year-pandemic might decide to come along and interfere with our plans. For those Christmases, we must “muddle through somehow.”  

At least one time in David’s life found him “unmerry” from life’s circumstances. And David likewise had to muddle through until things could get better. This occasion was when David was fleeing for his life because of his son Absalom’s political coup. David and his retainers found themselves in a position where they were “hungry and weary and thirsty in the wilderness.” (2 Samuel 17.29 NASB1995) What David did during this muddling remains an example for those finding it difficult to be joyous today. 

First, David did not isolate himself, having the company of his retinue (2 Samuel 17.22). People tend to isolate themselves when depressed.  But it is not the isolation causing difficulties. It is the resulting loneliness often found in isolation. People may think they are all alone in the world or that the world is against them. God said it is not good to be thus isolated (Genesis 2.18; Ecclesiastes 4.9-12). So, reach out to others, if necessary, since the assistance others give enables them to fulfill Christ’s law (Galatians 6.2). 

Second, David accepted the kindness of others (2 Samuel 17.27-29). I do not think it an exaggeration to say David could not have defeated Absalom without the aid of such people. Christians must be kind and tender-hearted to one another (Ephesians 4.32; Colossians 3.12-15; 1 Peter 3.8). And since we must extend such love and kindness to others, we must learn to receive these same overtures in return. That seems to be tricky for some people to realize. Muddling through is easier with brethren!  

Third, David wisely used his time of muddling (2 Samuel 18.1ff). David counts the number of able-bodied men with him who could fight. Then, he divides them into companies and appoints men over thousands and hundreds. The result, of course, was an army capable of battling Absalom. Despite resulting in the death of Absalom, the battle ensured that David could return to Jerusalem. His muddling days were over. In like manner, perhaps now is not an excellent time for us; we are muddling through life. But do what you can, with what you have, where you are. During these difficult times, the plans you make may result in a later victory.  

So, as others seem to be having “…the Most Wonderful Time of the Year,” you may find yourself unable to experience that coveted merry time. Emulate David’s example. If you see a family member or friend muddling through, ensure they are not lonely, providing them whatever aid is needed.  In so doing, may we all note, Lord willing, that “Next year, all our troubles will be out of sight.” 

Sources Consulted 

1  “Judy Garland- Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas Lyrics.” AZLyrics, AZLyrics.com,www.azlyrics.com/lyrics/judygarland/haveyourselfamerrylittlechristmas.html

2 Willman, Chris. “How ‘Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas’ Became One of the Season’s Most Beloved Songs.” EW.com, Meredith Corporation, 22 Dec. 2006, ew.com/article/2007/01/08/history-popular-holiday-song/. Updated December 23, 2020 

Four Waves On The Sea Of Life

Four Waves On The Sea Of Life

Monday’s Column: Neal At The Cross

Neal Pollard

For whatever reason, I have been fascinated with stories of maritime disaster. I have read about the Titanic, but have even read more closely about the Lusitania, the Edmund Fitzgerald, the HMS Hood (for more, click here), and more. Perhaps few things could conjure up more fear than the thought of being thrust into a cold, deep ocean with no way to stay afloat, subject to attack and almost certain drowning. Poets have drawn upon such imagery, but so do the psalm writers. Read Psalm 42:7 or Psalm 69:2, 14-15 or Psalm 88:7. It is also the way Psalm 130 begins.

It seems to me that the writer is depicting the rolling waves we encounter in life, the ups and downs and the good and bad. How will I respond when I am in the storm, whether a literal storm, a storm others bring upon me or a storm I bring upon myself? What will I do when the winds have subsided and the storm has passed? Let’s look at this psalm as depicting four successive waves. 

APPREHENSION: Our Cries And Supplications (1-2)

(Wave One)

We find the writer in a watery valley, looking up at a high, but descending, wave. It causes him to cry out and voice his pleas and supplications. The crisis may be financial, medical, familial, personal, or spiritual. It may seem like the world is crashing in on top of you. Do you sink in waves of worry, fear, and doubt? Or do you cry out to God for help? The writer sets an example for us, when we feel like we will be buried by trouble!

TRANSGRESSION: Our Iniquities And Unforgiven Sins (3-4)

(Wave Two)

Though the writer moves away from the metaphor, the idea continues. When you wade in the ocean and reach a shelf, you can no longer put your feet on the bottom. You can sink or swim, but you cannot stand. Verse three asks, “If You, Lord, should mark iniquities, O Lord, who could stand?” The question is rhetorical, but a lifesaver is thrown! “But there is forgiveness with You, that You may be feared.” Perhaps better imagery is to see the Omnipotent Hand of God reaching into the deep, grabbing our outstretched, up- stretched hand! Perhaps self-inflicted trouble, our sins, cause us to sink deeper than any other trouble. 

EXPECTATION: Our Waiting And Hoping (5-7a)

(Wave Three)

Perhaps we could envision this as one floating to the top or having their head come up out of the water. The writer uses two significant, connected words–“wait” and “hope.” Help is coming! Just wait. Hope. You’re trusting, praying, studying, serving, and enduring. Maybe you feel like you’re holding onto a splintered plank that’s separating in the aftermath of your shipwreck, but you hear the sound of the rescue vessel humming on the waters. You know Who is at the helm, so you hang on!

REALIZATION: Our Mercy And Redemption (7-8)

(Wave Four)

I don’t know about you, but I don’t think I could be coaxed off a massive barge onto a rickety rowboat. But, most of us would make the exchange in the opposite scenario. Yet, the world clings to the leaky carrier of lostness when the ship of salvation is within reach. The writer calls heaven’s help “lovingkindness” and “abundant redemption.” This is the way I want to view the tumultuous waves of this world, from the safety of God’s saving grace. Resting in His everlasting arms, I can experience confidence and assurance at life’s worst while keeping my focus on Him at life’s best! 

You are probably facing, enduring, or looking back at one of those first three waves right now. We sometimes singing, “Jesus, Savior, pilot me over life’s tempestuous sea; Unknown waves before me roll, hiding rock and treacherous shoal, chart and compass came from Thee, Jesus, Savior, pilot me.” We are echoing the sentiments of the psalmist in Psalm 130. Wherever you are in life, be sure you are letting Him lift and lead you! It’s the only way to reach eternal safety (John 14:6)!