Psalm 43:5

Verse of the Week – Psalm 43:5

“Why are you in despair, my soul? And why are you restless within me? Wait for God, for I will again praise Him For the help of His presence, my God.” – Psalm 43:5

First, let us look at the first four verses spoken by David directly to God. Starting in verse one we read, “Vindicate me, God, and plead my case against an ungodly nation; Save me from the deceitful and unjust person!” Psalm 43:1. David cites the hesed in verse one of the Lord, as the rationale for claiming a right to God’s judgment. The word hesed occurs around 245 times in the Hebrew Bible, and 127 times in the Psalms. One Jewish scholar defines hesed as “a free-flowing love that knows no bounds.”

Many biblical words such as mercy, compassion, love, grace, and faithfulness relate to the Hebrew word hesed (חֶסֶד), but none of these completely summarize the concept. Hesed is not merely an emotion or feeling but also action on behalf of someone who is in need. Hesed describes a sense of love and loyalty that brings mercy and compassion toward another person to help them through their trials. Hesed is most closely connected in the Hebrew Bible with the covenant relationship between God and the children of Israel. In Genesis 15, God covenants with Abram, saying: “On that day the LORD made a covenant with Abram, saying, To your descendants I have given this land, From the river of Egypt as far as the great river, the river Euphrates:” Genesis 15:18. Then following in chapter 17 we read, “I will establish My covenant between Me and you and your descendants after you throughout their generations as an everlasting covenant, to be God to you and to your descendants after you. And I will give to you and to your descendants after you the land where you live as a stranger, all the land of Canaan, as an everlasting possession; and I will be their God. God said further to Abraham, “Now as for you, you shall keep My covenant, you and your descendants after you throughout their generations.” Genesis 17:7-9.” Then in Exodus 19, God speaks to the children of Israel regarding their responsibility. “Now then, if you will indeed obey My voice and keep My covenant, then you shall be My own possession among all the peoples, for all the earth is Mine; and you shall be to Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.’ These are the words that you shall speak to the sons of Israel.” Exodus 19:5-6. In each instance, God calls the Israelites into a unique and special relationship centered around a covenant.

Hesed is often used in parallel with the Hebrew word ʾemeṯ, which is translated as faithfulness. In Psalm 43:1 for example, David declares that the people have no hesed, meaning either the Philistines, among whom he was near to; or his own nation when they joined his son Absalom in rebellion against him: some understand it of the great numbers that were with Saul, when he was persecuted by him. No matter which, they were a people who hated David, his followers, and the God he served. And thus, they had no hesed. Then in Exodus, God declares the following, “Then the LORD passed by in front of him and proclaimed, The LORD, the LORD God, compassionate and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in faithfulness and truth; who keeps faithfulness for thousands, who forgives wrongdoing, violation of His Law, and sin; yet He will by no means leave the guilty unpunished, inflicting the punishment of fathers on the children and on the grandchildren to the third and fourth generations. Exodus 34:6–7.

 In the next verse, we see David confronted by a people who have no knowledge of hesed, this special relationship between God and His people. He asks questions of God that parallel the questions in Psalm 42. “For You are the God of my strength; why have You rejected me? Why do I go about mourning because of the oppression of the enemy?” Psalm 43:2. Notice the similarity in chapter 43. “For You are the God of my strength; why have You rejected me? Why do I go about mourning because of the oppression of the enemy?” Psalm 42:9.

Next, we read David’s request from God because of what he was experiencing.  “Send out Your light and Your truth, they shall lead me; They shall bring me to Your holy hill And to Your dwelling places. Then I will go to the altar of God, To God my exceeding joy; And I will praise You on the lyre, God, my God.” Psalm 43:3-4. David quickly moves to petition God and anticipating His results of granting that petition. He requests that God send His light (‘Ohr’) and faithfulness (ʾemeṯ) because they will bring him to the mountain and will come to the altar and praise Him. The Hebrew word ‘Ohr’ has the idea of ‘light’, which in today’s definition means illumination or an agent that makes something visible. But, in Hebrew, light or ohr means something more.  Ohr also has the idea of “giving order to something chaotic.” And the Hebrew word ‘emet’ has the idea of truth, right, and faithful. Light and faithfulness are not commonly paired in the poetic structure of the Hebrew Psalms. Perhaps David asks for light so that the path to the mountain of God’s holiness and the sanctuary will be clear and for faithfulness such that he is not distracted from following the path. Only then will David be able to come to the altar, encounter God with gladness, with rejoicing, and praise. And to make this thought clear, it is not an earthly holy hill or alter, but one in the heavenly presence of God.

Then in our focus verse David changes from speaking to God to speaking to his inner self. “Why are you in despair, my soul? And why are you restless within me? Wait for God, for I will again praise Him For the help of His presence, my God. Psalm 43:5. He calls his inmost being to wait for God. But, in keeping with the contrast already drawn above, David’s words seem not so much to draw the inmost being back from the brink of despair but to gently remind himself to wait and be confident in God. He will wait on God to send His light and faithfulness, and  they will guide him to the altar of God so he can give Him much praise and worship.

In our struggles with those who do not honor the hesed of God, Psalm 43 offers us words with which to request light and faithfulness from God. It gives us words of assurance that no matter our situation, we may always come to the altar and praise the God who delivers us, for He never forgets us and always loves us. This is a statement, poetically phrased as a question whose answer should be obvious. It’s natural to be tempted towards despair and discouragement. Despite our feelings, we know God is faithful and that He will ultimately vindicate His people. For that reason, we should be encouraged to put all our trust in the Lord.

William Funkhouser MDiv, ThD, Founder and President of True Devotion Ministries.

Matthew 10:28

Verse of the Day Devotion: Matthew 10:28

“Do not fear those who kill the body but are unable to kill the soul; but rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.” – Matthew 10:28
There are two different kinds of death.  There is the death of the body, and the death of the soul.  One is a temporary death, the death of the body.  The other is an eternal death, the death of the soul. Let’s look at both of these.  First, the death of the body.  According to Jesus, we should not fear those who can only kill the body.  It does not matter how old we are, our bodies are breaking down.  We can exercise, eat right, do all the things we understand are great for keeping the body in shape.  However, no matter what we do, this body will die.  It is inevitable.  Let’s look at some statistics.  The American woman lives on average, to age 86.  The American man, on average, lives to 84.  The longest expected life span, based on the longest recorded death in recent years is 122, achieved by Jeane Louise Calmet of France.  The oldest man who lived was Methuselah, the grandfather of Noah, who lived 969 years. Because of the sin committed by Adam and Eve, death was passed down to all living creatures, most importantly, humans.  However, as I stated above, if we have become true Christians, and our body dies, we will be given a new body, just like Christ’s.  “For our citizenship is in heaven, from which also we eagerly wait for a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform the body of our humble state into conformity with the body of His glory, by the exertion of the power that He has even to subject all things to Himself.” Philippians 3:21. What he means by this is our bodies will be like Christ’s; immortal, glorious, and of a type that is able to experience the infinite spiritual enjoyments at the right hand of God.  Thus, we do not need to fear those who can kill our bodies, because we have a new one coming that is infinitely better than our earthly body which will be in a glorious life in the presence of God. However, we should fear Him who can destroy both our body and soul in hell.  The killing of the body and soul in hell describes the eternal destiny of those who are not justified, declared righteous, by accepting the work done through the death, burial and resurrection of Christ.  Man can destroy the body; only God can destroy the soul as well as the body in hell.  And just as the Christian has eternal life with the Father, the non-Christian has an eternal destiny as well.  “Then He will answer them, ‘Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to Me. These will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.” Matthew 25:45-46.  Note the term ‘eternal punishment’. In closing, there are two deaths, one is temporary, and one is permanent.  We, as Christians, should not fear anyone who can only destroy the body, for these bodies are destined to die, either by the hands of men, illness or old age. We will receive a new body, infinitely better and eternal in nature.  However, we should fear God and reverence Him for, unlike men, He is the only one who can destroy the soul as well.  Praise God, for as Christians, we have a wonderful eternal life waiting for us to enjoy. William Funkhouser MDiv, ThD, Founder and President of True Devotion Ministries, Inc.

Psalm 103:1

Verse of the Day Devotion Psalm 103:1 

“Bless the LORD, O my soul; And all that is within me, bless His holy name.” –  Psalm 103:1

David starts this prayer with ‘Bless the Lord, Oh my soul’.  The word here translated bless is the Hebrew word baw-rak which is a primitive root meaning to kneel, and by implication to bless God as an act of adoration.  What is implied here is that David went before the Lord God with true humility, kneeling before Him and abundantly blessing and praising His God.  It no doubt also implies a mighty sense of gratitude to Him for all God has done for Him. 

Most of the time, the call to praise and worship is addressed to a worshipping community, such as a church, or to some other group of people.  And to be honest, most worship is done at a church with music and lyrics in the front.  And there is nothing wrong with this for when the Church gets together, and by Church I mean the people, we should always kneel or bow before Him giving thanks, worship, and praise which He absolutely deserves.  However, as we see in our focus verse, David calls on his own inner being to bless the Lord.  This act of worship involves his entire person. Humans bless the Lord by speaking well of him as they complement him publicly. Blessing, or praise, is the natural response to contemplating the Lord’s holy character, which provides an inexhaustible reason for extolling him. The psalmist’s praise of the Lord is intentional, as he focuses on various aspects of his greatness and goodness.   

However, how many of us bow before Him alone, where no one can see us and praise and worship Him privately as well?  How many of us go to Him alone and give Him the glory and praise due Him.  This can give us a wonderful time to praise Him with our own words, our own songs, and our own heart in the way that we feel at that time.  This is a beautiful opportunity to use, as theologian Albert Barnes puts it,  “all our powers and faculties; all that can be employed in his praise: the heart, the will, the affections, the emotions. The idea is, that God is worthy of all the praise and adoration which the entire man can render. No one of his faculties or powers should be exempt from the duty and the privilege of praise.”  

The one value of these opening words is that they show us that worship is not involuntary or automatic. It calls for the coordination of all that we are. We should not restrict our worship to the sanctuary, but we must make everywhere a potential place of worship. We should enter worship and praise with all that we have, dedicated to giving Him all due Him. Then we may render a service of praise that is worthy and acceptable.

In this daily devotion, I want to encourage us all, and I do include myself in this, to take time to get alone with God and offer praise and blessings to Him with all we have and are.  And I encourage everyone in these times to not only offer praise to Him but pray to Him as well and then sit quietly and hear what He has to say back to us.  There is nothing like a two-way conversation with God.  I have experienced it and I never want to miss this time again.  This may be difficult at first, but once it becomes natural, I believe you will find this time as important as anything else you do.

William Funkhouser MDiv, ThD, Founder and President of True Devotion Ministries. 

Psalm 23:3

Verse of the Day Devotion:  Psalm 23:3   

“He restores my soul; He guides me in the paths of righteousness For His name’s sake.” – Psalm 23:3

Let me start by referring to verses one and two, for there is context here I would like to bring up.  “The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside quiet waters.” Psalm 23:1-2.  The main job of the shepherd is to take care of the flock, providing all their needs.  David, in referring to God as the great shepherd was saying that God provides everything we need.  Every day He leads us to green pastures and to quiet waters where we have access to good food and fresh water we need regularly.  These verses refer to our physical needs.

Moving on to verse three, our focus verse, we see another aspect of His shepherdship.  “He restores my soul; He guides me in the paths of righteousness For His name’s sake.” Psalm 23:3.  In the Hebrew, He restoreth my soul has the idea of bringing it back.  No creature is more ready to go astray, or more likely not to know the way back, then a sheep.  Isaiah says it this way, “All of us like sheep have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; But the LORD has caused the iniquity of us all to fall on Him.” Isaiah 53:6. 

When we are saved, we become a part of Christ’s flock.  He feeds us and supplies our every need.  However, there may be times we find ourselves wandering.  Unfortunately, we are not perfect, even after we give our lives to Him.  However, if we wonder away, He will come after us because we may not know exactly the way back.  We see this in the parable of the lost sheep.  “What do you think? If any man has a hundred sheep, and one of them has gone astray, does he not leave the ninety-nine on the mountains and go and search for the one that is straying? If it turns out that he finds it, truly I say to you, he rejoices over it more than over the ninety-nine which have not gone astray. So it is not the will of your Father who is in heaven that one of these little ones perish.” Matthew 18:12-14.  Putting this back into the vernacular of Psalm twenty-three, He restores our soul means to bring us back to the flock.   We also read in an earlier Psalm about restoring the soul.  “The law of the LORD is perfect, restoring the soul; The testimony of the LORD is sure, making wise the simple.” Psalm 19:7. His word is used to reprove us when necessary, as well as train us in God’s ways.  “All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work.” 2 Timothy 3:16. 

He also guides us in the paths of righteousness.  “He guides me in the paths of righteousness For His name’s sake.” Psalm 23:3b.  In this sense, it is not referring to paths that lead us to salvation, although He also does this.  However, what he is referring to are straight and even paths that do not lead us astray but directly to our destination.  And our destination is righteousness, salvation and holiness.  He will always avoid those paths that take us where we should not go but will only take us on roads that bring us directly to where we need to be.

It is important that we stay close to our shepherd, Jesus Christ, for He will keep us free from danger and lead us to the land flowing with milk and honey.  If we focus on Him and His word, we will be less likely to wonder away and get lost.  And if we do, He will go after us and bring us back to where we need to be.  This is the picture of our great shepherd Jesus the Christ, and how He will always guide us to where we should go, and if we wonder will bring us back.   

William Funkhouser MDiv, ThD, Founder and President of True Devotion Ministries. 

Proverbs 16:24

Verse of the Day Devotion: Proverbs 16:24 

“Pleasant words are a honeycomb, Sweet to the soul and healing to the bones.” – Proverbs 16:24    

Have you ever gone through tough times?  I can assure you I have.  I can recall many instances in my life where things have not gone in any way like I wanted.  It can be brutal.  I can remember a time which particularly changed me.  I started attending a new church in Homestead, Florida.  The message that Wednesday evening caused me to go through much reflection of my past.  After church was dismissed I was just sitting there with my head down praying.  After a period of time, a man and his wife came up to me and asked if everything was OK.  I was honest and told them I was going through a difficult time.  I was at the time an extreme introvert which made it difficult for me to open up.  I also had trouble with making new friends because of how my parents raise me.

I was unsure how this would go, but they did not rush me at all while we sat and talked.  They were extremely kind and spent much time with me.  They listened and then helped me to work through my issues.  Then, after they prayed for me, they invited me to their home that weekend for a time of fellowship with them and other people from the church.  I did go and made several new friends that helped me going forward to move beyond my childhood and on to a new way of life.

And this blessing happened because they took the time to just be with me, encouraging me to open up and understand they wanted to be my friends.  These people at The Rock Church of Homestead did more for me than anyone else had up to this point.  I made so many friends on the base who also attended the Rock Church. There were others as well who opened their homes to me and said I was welcome there any time.  The couple eventually offered me a room to stay at once I left the Air Force.

This was made possible by God who brought us all together through their kind and loving words which brought a wonderful change in my life.  This shows the impact kindness can have on someone.  As our focus  verse says, “Pleasant words are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones.” Proverbs 16:24.  Their words and actions did much to heal my spirit from the harshness I grew up with as a child.  Their words were so sweet and did much to heal the sores in my heart.  We ended up parting ways after I got married and moved away.  But I will never forget all the wonderful people I met for the love they showed me and the healing I am sure they had no idea they were a part of.

This was a difficult devotion to write, however, I want to encourage us all to speak kind and pleasant words to everyone God brings our way.  We do not know what many people have endured and/or are currently going through.  They may exhibit anger and hurt because of things inside them, or they hide their feelings so we cannot see the hurt. This is why we need to always speak kind and loving words and refrain from angry and negative speech.  As we also read in proverbs, “The words of a man’s mouth are deep waters; the fountain of wisdom is a bubbling brook.” Proverbs 18:4. Let us strive for all our words to be as bubbling brooks and sweet honey which brings healing to the hearts and bones of all we meet.

William Funkhouser MDiv, ThD, Founder and President of True Devotion Ministries.