My old computer has officially passed from use as of today. It was purchased in August 2002, and is survived by a 2004 Hewlett Packard monitor. He served faithfully for many years, and will be remembered fondly.
For those proficient in a little computer lingo, the only computer statistic that really means much to me is that it had 512 MB of RAM. The new bad boy has 6 GB.
I have a very simple observation from Psalms 1 - 5 that had never really struck me until today.
David begins in Psalms 1 and 2 with statements about how great God is, how much greater than the wicked He is, and how He will bring all things to justice. And then suddenly in Psalm 3 we begin a series, with a few interruptions, of Psalms where in David cries to God for salvation from his enemies.
I think the reason that struck me today is I have begun reading the The Case for Faith again, and in particular the section on "the problem of pain". And it is striking to me just in these first few psalms, and certainly in the remainder, that David demonstrates such a complete and accurate range of emotions. Like us, he feels distraught at persecution, although he literally feared for his life, and we more often fear for something far lesser like our reputation / popularity / comfort / etc. He too felt confusion when God's answer didn't seem to come fast enough or in the way he expected. And he too felt at least some lingering faith in those times that brought him back to confidence in who God was, again by faith because in some ways he had no evidence in those times of God's goodness other than faith.
And I think that's such a beautiful pattern for us. I often think of the Psalms as a series of wonderful prayers, many of them of praise, and I think that's accurate. But even more so I think they are perhaps a divine reminder that it's okay to be a human. It's really okay to struggle. But struggling without God, struggling without speaking honestly to God, is as foolish as turning away from the prospect of being like a tree firmly planted by streams of water through delight and meditation on the law of God.
One of the things that it so good for me in reading from the Old Testament is the reminder that God has truly NEVER changed. That is to say that God's character has never changed.
It is awfully easy in the New Testament to think of God as a "warm fuzzy" kind of character, and that is true in the sense that God is the epitome of true, selfless love. In the same way, I think, it is easy to read through the Old Testament and think of God as a "legalist", who was awfully concerned about rules being followed and punishing the wrong, and again there is a limited sense in which that is accurate.
And so, the passages that always surprise and please me to find, are those that blend the two ideas and present perhaps a more complete picture of God - for example, as Jeremiah says He delights in righteousness and justice (two distinctly right vs. wrong characteristics) and in lovingkindness (a distinctly "warm fuzzy" characteristic). In the New Testament, consider the succinct statement of Romans 11:22 - "behold then the kindness and severity of God; to those who fell, severity, but to you, God's kindness, if you continue in His kindness; otherwise you also will be cut off."
All of that to simply say that Isaiah 25 and 26 are, I think, a classic example of this balanced image of God. In beautiful language God is presented as praiseworthy, the great creator, a defense of the helpless, a God who draws His people to Himself and wipes away their problems, and utterly trustworthy, and to that we ought all to cry AMEN! And, at the same time, He is presented as justly entering into judgment and punishment with the wicked, and again we ought all cry AMEN!
And practically speaking I think this is so helpful from the standpoint of knowing who we serve and whose name we wear. I think that if we understand better who God is we will want to be more like Him, and so our decisions will be simultaneously more just and more loving. An understanding of God will also help us to live closer to Him - we cannot but recognize that He doesn't WANT to punish anybody for sin, but that it is His divine and holy prerogative. And so, ideally, we will live closer to Him - not just because of fear of the alternative, but because we recognize how close He wants us (and provides for us) to be! And finally I think it can give us perspective about the events of life - things will sometimes go wrong and sometimes go right, but the rock that we have to stand on is that God is in control and He will settle everything out in His own time and in His own way.
And for all of that, praise be to Jehovah, the Great I AM!
6 short and sweet verses:
Then you will say on that day,
"I will give thanks to Thee, O Lord;
For Although Thou wast angry with me,
Thine anger is turned away,
And Thou dost comfort me.
Behold, God is my salvation,
I will trust and not be afraid;
For the Lord God is my strength and song,
And He has become my salvation."
Therefore you will joyously draw water
From the springs of salvation.
And in that day you will say,
"Give thanks to the Lord, call on His name.
Make known His deeds among the peoples;
Make them remember that His name is exalted."
Praise the Lord in song, for He has done excellent things;
Let this be known throughout the earth.
Cry aloud and shout for joy, O inhabitant of Zion,
For great in your midst is the Holy One of Israel.
"For what great nation is there that has a god so near to it as is the Lord our God whenever we call on Him?"
"For from of old they have not heard nor perceived by ear,
Neither has the eye seen a God besides Thee,
Who acts in behalf of the one who waits for Him."