by Mike Ratliff
Lamedh. Forever, O LORD, your word is firmly fixed in the heavens. Your faithfulness endures to all generations; you have established the earth, and it stands fast. By your appointment they stand this day, for all things are your servants. If your law had not been my delight, I would have perished in my affliction. I will never forget your precepts, for by them you have given me life. I am yours; save me, for I have sought your precepts. The wicked lie in wait to destroy me, but I consider your testimonies. I have seen a limit to all perfection, but your commandment is exceedingly broad. (Psalms 119:89-96)
My son-in-law, Brian, has an aunt and uncle who are foster parents. Over the last several years, they have been attempting to adopt a child who has been in their care since she was an infant. Both of the natural parents are unfit due to criminal behavior. In the foster parents' attempt to adopt this child, they have somehow antagonized some of the DHS social workers who are managing this case. The natural father continually has to go to court to stay out of jail. However, these social workers have fabricated their cases to deny this fine couple the joy of adopting this little girl time after time. This very day a judge in Oklahoma gave that child back to the natural father even though he may be going back to prison soon. Naturally, Brian's aunt and uncle are devastated. DHS has threatened to take away the rest of the children they care for if they challenge this ruling saying it would be retaliation. It is always amazing to me how far the incompetent will go to cover their tracks. People let each other down. People are only marginally faithful.
Update!!! see the prayer request #10 for this case here.
God is faithful. When we read or say that we are not saying He is faithful as we are. He is perfectly faithful. The concept that He would somehow cause us to suffer because of a lack of love or care for us is not valid. God may allow suffering to come into our lives, but it is always to accomplish His perfect will. We must never stray far from the knowledge that He loves those who love Him. His love is that highest form of love which always seeks to accomplish what is best for the one loved instead of giving what the loved one desires.
The stanza we are looking at in this chapter is titled "Lamedh." The first line is, "Forever, O LORD, your word is firmly fixed in the heavens." The Hebrew word translated "Forever" in this verse is speaking of eternity. The concept of this word is not simply focusing on eternity with the future in mind, but also extending backward into time to the "vanishing point." In other words, this word speaks of time so far into the past and into the future, it is completely "out of mind." Our finite minds cannot grasp the concept of eternity. We can conceive of things having a beginning and an end, but eternity has neither. Perhaps this may help; eternity has always existed, it exists now and it will always exist because it is outside of time. In any case, this verse speaks of God's eternal commandments being settled in heaven. The psalmist is declaring or acknowledging the unchangeableness of the Word of God and of all His counsels. God is immutable. He never changes. This unchangeableness assures us His faithfulness is forever. Heaven is where God is. It is where all believers will go when this part of their life is over. What does the psalmist mean by saying God's Word is settled in heaven? He is saying it as a comparison to the changeableness we experience here, mired in this world system. In contrast to the constant flux we have to deal with in our daily lives, existence in heaven is blessed by God's perfect constancy.
He was foreknown before the foundation of the world but was made manifest in the last times for your sake, who through him are believers in God, who raised him from the dead and gave him glory, so that your faith and hope are in God. Having purified your souls by your obedience to the truth for a sincere brotherly love, love one another earnestly from a pure heart, since you have been born again, not of perishable seed but of imperishable, through the living and abiding word of God; for "All flesh is like grass and all its glory like the flower of grass. The grass withers, and the flower falls, but the word of the Lord remains forever." And this word is the good news that was preached to you. (1 Peter 1:20-25)
This passage is speaking of Christ Jesus and the wonderful gift of eternal life possessed by all who are in Him. It compares the difference between our "secular" and our "spiritual" experiences. Constant change along with death dominates this world while the eternal "remains forever." This gives us assurance of what we have coming along with an understanding of the fragility of anything fleshly. Our physical life is temporary because it is of perishable seed, but our eternal life in Christ is of imperishable seed. Soul-led believers focus on the physical, which is perishing. Spirit-led believers are spiritually focused which means they are seeing all things from God's eternal perspective. They have a much clearer concept of God's faithfulness than those who react to their circumstances with unbelief. The Soul-led see all things that happen to them with worldly eyes. Bad circumstances cause their emotions to overcome them. Their tempest of emotions, tossing them in all directions, seems to be on the verge of destroying them at times. The Spirit-led seek to walk through their lives with eternal perspective. They are growing in grace and are learning the depths of God's faithfulness. The fleshly eyes of the Soul-led are incapable of seeing or understanding any of this.
The second line in this stanza is, "Your faithfulness endures to all generations; you have established the earth, and it stands fast." The Hebrew word translated as "faithfulness" describes one who is firmly stable and has moral fidelity. The Psalmist tells God His faithfulness is extant and revealed in every age or generation. Because God never changes and is faithful to His people, we should take great comfort in the knowledge that He holds us in His hands and allows our circumstances to accomplish His purposes. In the next phrase, the psalmist declares that God created the earth in such a way that it remains and functions as designed. God made a covenant promise to Noah after the floodwaters subsided and he and his family departed the ark.
Then Noah built an altar to the LORD and took some of every clean animal and some of every clean bird and offered burnt offerings on the altar. And when the LORD smelled the pleasing aroma, the LORD said in his heart, "I will never again curse the ground because of man, for the intention of man's heart is evil from his youth. Neither will I ever again strike down every living creature as I have done. While the earth remains, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night, shall not cease." (Genesis 8:20-22)
We are still experiencing the blessing from this promise. God is faithful and we should live our lives for His glory. After all, this is why God created Man in the first place. The psalmist continues his declaration of God's complete control of His creation in the third line in this stanza, which is, "By your appointment they stand this day, for all things are your servants." Man is the only earthly creature who disobeys Him. The Earth and all it contains are under His control. As I write, it is a couple of weeks after Hurricane Katrina devastated the Gulf coast in Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama. When people ask how God could cause such a thing, we must point them to the fact we are living in a fallen world. Soul-led people see no value in adversity and see God as unfair or, even worse, uncaring. People died and people suffered because of this storm and the resultant flooding. However, God's ways are higher than our ways.
For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the LORD. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts. "For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven and do not return there but water the earth, making it bring forth and sprout, giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater, so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it. (Isaiah 55:8-11)
His intent and purposes may seem extreme at times. He will allow harm to come to people where we would not. We want God to heal sick people and protect children so they will not suffer, but people get sick and die while the degenerate abuse the innocent. Bad parents neglect their children. However, God's purposes are above all of that.
At 9:01 am on April 19, 1995 Timothy McVeigh blew up the Federal Building in Oklahoma City with a truck bomb. One and a half blocks to the south, I was at my desk working at Bank of Oklahoma. I was in my office preparing to walk upstairs to talk to one of our network users about an application problem. I walked to the door, turned to one of my coworkers to tell him where I was going when a sound I had never heard before raced through the ceiling above our heads. I cannot really describe the sound very well, but all of us in that office knew something very extraordinary had just happened. It was the shockwave from the blast. There was an elevator shaft next to our office space. We all thought a cable had broken and the car had fallen down to our level. I ran to the door and opened it. I was stunned by what I saw. I worked in the basement level of the building. We were more than two floors underground. My office was between a very large bombproof safe-deposit vault and a very stout elevator shaft. However, right outside of my office door the lobby to the safe-deposit area was in chaos. Several of the fluorescent light fixtures had broken loose and were swinging from their support wires. The insulated ceiling tiles were missing from several areas. The stairwell next to the elevator shaft was full of people running in both directions. Several ceiling tiles had fallen onto the stairs and the people where stepping on them breaking them to pieces. I heard screaming from the teller lobby on the main floor. Without much thought, I bounded up the stairs.
The first floor of our building had glass panes that were three stories tall on the north, east, and south sides. The north side of the first floor seemed to be where most of the confusion and damage was. I could hardly believe my eyes when I saw all of that glass was missing. The tellers were closing up their area and evacuating. I hurried down to the north end of the floor to see what was going on. The cool air from outside added to the surreal atmosphere. It appeared that some of the glass panes had fallen onto the desks along the north wall. Others had fallen outside. Broken glass was everywhere. The glass was about an inch thick. One of the desks had a shard of glass that looked like a long spear sticking out of the top of it. The loan officer who worked in that cubicle was still in his office. He was shaking and I think I heard him praying. He had been sitting with his back to the north wall while he worked on his computer. When the blast happened our building flexed to the south then back to the north. This flexing action popped the glass out along the north wall. When he detected he was in great danger he simply tucked his head down between his arms on his desk as that huge glass pane dropped over him. For some reason he was not injured at all. His furniture protected him. He told everyone he was very grateful. A few cubicles down another loan officer had a large piece of glass sticking out of his side. Some of those he worked with were giving him first aid.
I walked outside through one of the empty windows onto our plaza area. That was when I heard the Federal Building had been bombed. I had parked my car at the Federal Center parking garage so I decided to go see what was going on. Even though they were forcing people to evacuate, I went back to my desk and got a jacket. I am very glad I did. I also grabbed my cell phone. One of my coworkers and I started hiking north on Harvey to the Federal Building area. Everyone seemed to be walking away from it. I found my car. It was fine, but covered with about a half inch of dirt or dust. Then we walked to the front of the Federal Building. The south side of the building was intact, but I could see through the windows that the north side of the building was gone. There were no sirens yet. The crunching of glass under our feet sounded deafening because everything was so still. I looked up to the top floors of the Federal Building and could see the smoke billowing from the fires on the other side. Every so often small explosions coming from the front of the building would drown out the continuous crunching of glass coming from each step we took. We got to the front of building and beheld hell on earth. Cars were burning and exploding. The Water Resources Board building on the north side of the street looked like a wrecking ball had hit it. It was burning too. The roof of the Journal Record building on the north side of the street was missing. There was a huge smoking crater where the street used to be. There were blood soaked bodies all over the sidewalks with people trying to give them first aid. I remember looking up at a news helicopter hovering over us. Sirens were getting louder and louder as police and fire units responded. Then my cell phone rang.
My boss in Tulsa wanted to know what was going on. I could hear other managers in the background. I told them what I knew and where I was. They told me to get out of the downtown area and somehow get to our Windsor Hills branch. I shut off my phone to save battery power as we walked out of there. The police had already blocked the entrance to the parking garage so I could not get my car out. My coworker parked a block further west so we walked to his car. We then took back streets with several detours and finally got to our gathering location. On the trip over, I tried numerous times to call Ina to let her know I was okay, but my cell phone would not work because all of the channels were jammed. When we got to the branch bank, I commandeered a cubicle with a phone. I called Ina to let her know what was going on. I had no idea she had been frantically trying to call me for the last several hours. It seemed like just a few minutes to me, but it had actually been over three hours since the blast until I was able to get to a phone to call her.
A couple of hours later the recovery team from our main office in Tulsa arrived. The plan was for me to commandeer a couple of cars then escort these executives to our downtown branch. That meant going back into hell. Our security people arranged for passes from the OKC police that we had to pick up at command headquarters across from the blast zone. We caravanned back to the area, but had to park several blocks north of downtown in front of people's houses then walk the rest of the way in. We started walking. It took almost an hour to reach headquarters. It was getting cold by this time. We got our passes, but the police would give us no help. I was the guide. We started hiking over stuff in the street that should not have been there. Broken glass was everywhere. Parts of buildings and cars were lying in the street and blocking sidewalks. That walk would normally have taken about 5 minutes, but it took us 45 minutes. The smell of burnt-out cars and the noises of rescue and recovery coming from the blast zone were indescribable.
Once we were inside the building, I took possession of our department's van, which was still in its parking space in our underground garage. The recovery team had us put all of the item processing bags into the van. My job was to get those bags back to Windsor Hills so those going back to Tulsa could take them to the processing center there. We loaded all of the bags then I called my boss in Tulsa for further instructions. She told me the fire department had requested we shut power off in the building that evening. I had to go back into our server room to power down all of our network gear and all of the servers. I powered down our data center, which effectively darkened our Wide Area Network for half of Oklahoma. Then I drove out of there. I delivered the bags then drove home. It was Wednesday evening so I went to church that night. The surreal nature of it all was striking. The people who were not there that day seemed incredulous as I described what had gone on.
The next day I got a call from my boss wanting me to try to get back to my office so I could power up the Data Center. With it powered down, none of our outlying branches in OKC could operate on the Wide Area Network. I drove downtown but was stopped a block away from my building at a checkpoint set up by National Guard troops carrying M-16s. They told me I had to go to command headquarters to get a pass. I tried to do that, but they would not let me in. I started walking back to the van when I heard a car honking. I turned around and saw one of our company cars full of our security people. I had parked the van legally so they told me to get in. They were able to drive through all of those checkpoints I could not get through. This whole process took two or three hours. I got into the Data Center then started powering up everything. Since I was in the building without a pass, I could not go back out by myself so I decided to spend the rest of the day in my office. No one else was in the building except for security and repair crews. I did an inventory of the wrecked computer equipment along the north wall. Every keyboard, mouse, and monitor had been shattered. Some of the printers were full of broken glass. Our facilities people arranged for me to get a pass from the FBI so I could get in and out of the blast area. I did not see any of my coworkers for a couple of weeks. I had them out handling support calls at the branches. They all worked from different parts of the network. I stayed at my desk and tried not to think about that horrible mess and death just a couple of blocks away.
Later we discovered who Timothy McVeigh was. Many of us discussed how wonderful it would be if they hanged him publicly out there on the site of the Federal Building. I was able to get my car out of the parking garage a few weeks after the blast. Our office reopened and our executives had all of us who were there that day participate in a debriefing. They brought in a counselor who specialized in traumatized cases. We sat in a circle and the counselor started asking questions. When he came to me he asked, "When did you realize you were afraid?" I glared at him and said, "I don't remember being afraid at all, but I would like to get my hands around the neck of Timothy McVeigh!" Then he went to the next person. He was the head of our security. We did not really know each other very well. I will never forget his remark. He said, "I have never been afraid during any of this either, but I do want to be the one to pull the switch when they execute that jerk!" We were close friends from that point on. I got a new nickname at work. Some of the loan officers started calling me "Iron Mike." I really did not feel good about that though because my anger was consuming me and that did make me afraid.
Most of the employees at the Federal Employee Credit Union at the Federal Building died when their floor collapsed during the blast. I had been in there making a deposit the day before. I knew several of them. One of our friends at our church worked in the Social Security Office, which was ground zero for the blast. He had stayed home that day. I knew some of the workers in the Veterans Administration office there as well. As I said, my anger consumed me. I became even angrier over the next several months and that terrified me. It was during this time I started to experience burnout at church. I tried to be spiritual about it all, but did not really know how. I tried praying, but my prayers seemed to go nowhere. I became a very irritable person. I started running again so I could compete in the Corporate Challenge. I did well, but that did not help with the anger. When other believers tried to tell me things like "God is in control so I don't understand why you are still upset about it…" I would seethe with anger. Later people who had not been there that day tried would make comments about it that seemed to minimize or trivialize everything. I would explode with raw anger.
The anger started to subside over time, but I still hung onto some resentment about the whole thing. Timothy McVeigh's execution seemed to help a little, but I knew deep down I still had issues. On September 11, 2001, it all came back. For the first several months after those terrorist attacks, my anger kicked into high gear. Fortunately, I was busy so that dampened a lot of it. When God broke my heart in 2004, I surrendered. It was at that time I was able to let go of the anger and resentment I had been carrying for nearly ten years. God is faithful. He never let me go even though I was certainly a worthless believer during that period. During that period, I served as a deacon and a teacher. I even mentored a few new believers at our church, but I had a divided heart. It seemed I had lost my self-control at times. Anger seemed to rule my life when I was not serving God. Since August of 2004 I can honestly say, God has rebuilt my heart. He took His wrecking ball and smashed it then remade it. This process is still ongoing.
My suffering during this was very slight and nothing compared to some of those poor people who were in the Federal Building that day. Wives lost their husbands. Husbands lost their wives. Many preschoolers in the day care center died. However, God is faithful. What we must understand about God and our relationship to Him is He will not hesitate to allow things in our lives to accomplish His purpose even if we perceive it as the absolute worst tragedy. The prophet Ezekiel ministered to the Jewish exiles in Babylon. God used his life to reveal how He was dealing with the stiff-necked rebellion of the Jews.
The word of the LORD came to me: "Son of man, behold, I am about to take the delight of your eyes away from you at a stroke; yet you shall not mourn or weep, nor shall your tears run down. Sigh, but not aloud; make no mourning for the dead. Bind on your turban, and put your shoes on your feet; do not cover your lips, nor eat the bread of men." So I spoke to the people in the morning, and at evening my wife died. And on the next morning I did as I was commanded. And the people said to me, "Will you not tell us what these things mean for us, that you are acting thus?" Then I said to them, "The word of the LORD came to me: 'Say to the house of Israel, Thus says the Lord GOD: Behold, I will profane my sanctuary, the pride of your power, the delight of your eyes, and the yearning of your soul, and your sons and your daughters whom you left behind shall fall by the sword. And you shall do as I have done; you shall not cover your lips, nor eat the bread of men. Your turbans shall be on your heads and your shoes on your feet; you shall not mourn or weep, but you shall rot away in your iniquities and groan to one another. Thus shall Ezekiel be to you a sign; according to all that he has done you shall do. When this comes, then you will know that I am the Lord GOD.' "As for you, son of man, surely on the day when I take from them their stronghold, their joy and glory, the delight of their eyes and their soul's desire, and also their sons and daughters, on that day a fugitive will come to you to report to you the news. On that day your mouth will be opened to the fugitive, and you shall speak and be no longer mute. So you will be a sign to them, and they will know that I am the LORD." (Ezekiel 24:15-27)
When our perspective is temporal we recoil from the concept that God would have us endure such a thing. However, Ezekiel had an eternal perspective. God took Ezekiel's wife and commanded him to react as if nothing had happened. His heart must have been broken yet he obeyed. Ezekiel knew his God and His ways. He obeyed God because he knew God's glory was paramount over all other considerations. Ezekiel was a tree planted by water that was fruitful for God's glory.
"Blessed is the man who trusts in the LORD, whose trust is the LORD. He is like a tree planted by water, that sends out its roots by the stream, and does not fear when heat comes, for its leaves remain green, and is not anxious in the year of drought, for it does not cease to bear fruit." (Jeremiah 17:7-8)
God's ways are not our ways. His ways are infinitely higher than our ways. When bad things happen to God's people, it does not diminish God's faithfulness. His purposes have the highest priority and His actions are always right. Those who grasp this will be like Ezekiel who endures the worst by resting in the Lord. The fourth line in this stanza continues this concept. It is, "If your law had not been my delight, I would have perished in my affliction." Here we see God's sufficiency, which enables us to endure affliction by His grace. We must delight in Him and His Word no matter what our circumstances are like. The word "delight" simply means "pleasure." How do we take pleasure or enjoyment from our relationship with God? Only the Spirit-led do this. The Soul-led may try to find solace in religion, but it does not fulfill because that is just another form of self-gratification. When we delight in God, we are experiencing a dynamic two-way relationship, which enables us to endure even the most excruciating tests and trials. In fact, we can obey our Lord only as we do this.
"Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. If anyone does not abide in me he is thrown away like a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned. If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples. As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father's commandments and abide in his love. These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full." (John 15:4-11)
What enables us to abide, remain in Christ, as we endure the fires of sanctification? He gives us His full joy. This empowers our wills to obey Him no matter what we are going through. When we walk this way, we have eternal perspective dynamically interwoven into God's faithfulness. This view of life sees the temporal as simply a stage or step in the Walk by Faith. This eternal perspective of life comes from God who reveals it in His Word.
The fifth line in this stanza is, "I will never forget your precepts, for by them you have given me life." True saving faith results in a regenerate heart. The Born Again believer is a new creation. God's Word shows us our need of salvation. The Holy Spirit takes God's truth and uses it to convict those God chooses of their lost condition. At God's timing, the Holy Spirit quickens the heart of the new believer so faith exists. The new believer must exercise that faith to surrender to the Lordship of Jesus Christ and accept Him as savior. This is the act of believing on the Lord Jesus Christ. God then justifies, adopts, and sanctifies the new believer. (Romans 8:29-30) God's word gives eternal life. God's Word is the source of wonderful treasure. Its depth is beyond our understanding and we must prize it. This verse tells us the quickening God performs in our hearts, our regeneration, is eternal and we will never forget it. Our salvation makes us the Lord's bondservants. That means He owns us. Our gratitude for our eternal life in Him should lead us to rely solely on Him for our fulfillment and protection. This is resting in Him. We see this dependence in the sixth line in this stanza, "I am yours; save me, for I have sought your precepts." How do we rest in our Lord?
“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30)
We rest in our Lord by coming to Him, taking on His yoke and allowing Him to teach us. This is a picture of abiding in Him. The phrase, "Come to me…" is Jesus telling us to come near unto Him as followers. The next phrase is,"…all who labor and are heavy laden…" This is who Jesus is calling to follow Him. These work hard and are carry heavy burdens. The Greek words translated as "heavy laden" speak of those who are "overburdened with ceremony." Jesus was calling all who work hard at religion in an attempt to find rest to see it is a waste of time then come to Him instead for refreshing rest. How do those who come to Jesus find this rest? They take on His yoke and learn from Him. God's ways are not our ways. Jesus tells us to find rest for our Souls we must come to Him for that rest, however we experience that rest as we take on His yoke and learn from Him. As we yoke up with Jesus, we learn to work with Him. This is the most restful place for a believer to be. This is where we see our true position in the Kingdom. We are His and He can do with us as He pleases. We came to be His by hearing the Word, believing, and submitting to His Lordship.
Since we are His and we have attained eternal perspective we see the threats from our enemies as irrelevant. We see this view in the seventh line of this stanza, "The wicked lie in wait to destroy me, but I consider your testimonies." Even though the enemies of our faith who hate God surround us, we stay focused on Him and His Word. We trust Him completely. Even if we die we that is okay because then we will be with Him.
For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. If I am to live in the flesh, that means fruitful labor for me. Yet which I shall choose I cannot tell. I am hard pressed between the two. My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better. But to remain in the flesh is more necessary on your account. Philippians 1:21-24)
This attitude is only for the one who has fully grasped the faithfulness of God and the futility of seeking fulfillment in the temporal. Who does this? Only the Spirit-led are capable of attaining this. As we become Spirit-led, this concept grows in us. Maturity takes time. We grow in grace and become more and more Christ-like as we abide in Him, Walk by Faith and run the race God has set before us. The Spirit-led have an eternal perspective. This is reflected in the eighth line in this stanza, "I have seen a limit to all perfection, but your commandment is exceedingly broad." The psalmist declares to God that there is nothing perfect in the temporal and our sufficiency is only in Him. We learn this from His Word.
We fully grasp the faithfulness of God when know Him. We learn to know Him by experiencing Him. We experience Him by living in His Word, believing Him and obeying Him. When we do all this, we mature and grow in grace. This will build up our faith, which enables us to trust Him and rest in Him as He takes us through fiery trials. As we emerge from each trial this way we know whom we have believed and we understand He will keep us perfectly safe in His hands because He is faithful.
Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version™ Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. All rights reserved.