Opening the Door to Psalm 119, Part 23

vulcan-salute

‘Sin and Shin’

The Vulcan hand salute is well known by Star Trek lovers. What few might know, though, is that Leonard Nimoy (a.k.a. Mr. Spock) borrowed the hand gesture from a Jewish priestly blessing, a blessing he had seen as a child performed in an orthodox synagogue. The blessing shapes both hands to represent the Hebrew letter Sin/Shin representing the initiating letter of God’s name, El Shaddai—Almighty God. It recognizes God’s omnipresence and His genius for affecting the lives of people.

“Always, everywhere, God is present,” observes A.W. Tozer, “and always He seeks to discover Himself to each one.” How does El Shaddai, the Almighty God, affect people’s lives—your life and mine? How does He discover Himself to each one? These are the questions the psalmist explores as he pens the stanza he entitles with the Hebrew letter ‘Sin and Shin’,

“Rulers persecute me without cause, but my heart trembles at your word. / I rejoice in your promise like one who finds great spoil. / I hate and abhor falsehood but I love your law. / Seven times a day I praise you for your righteous laws. / Great peace have they who love your law, and nothing can make them stumble. / I wait for your salvation, O LORD, and I follow your commands. / I obey your statutes, for I love them greatly. / I obey your precepts and your statutes, for all my ways are known to you”(Psalm 119:161-168).

Worldly regimes, observes the psalmist, tend to be fundamentally opposed to faith. Eventually, all ideologies—even those founded on rights and freedoms—degenerate into special, privileged interest groups using government power for opportunistic reasons. The God-centred worldview and practice of believers becomes abhorrent to worldly regimes, whose laws, bemoans the psalmist, “persecute me without cause.”

Yet something unexpected occurs within the man or woman of faith, something that has happened throughout history, regardless of the believer’s age, race, sex, or socioeconomic status when faced with persecution for their faith. They stand and rejoice in the Promise of God.

For one thing, God’s intentions for people are not to persecute them but to bring them good. God doesn’t rule by external pressure but by internally transforming people who joyfully submit to Him. His plans are to give us hope and an eternal future. This, says the psalmist, is the source of the believer’s joy. Persecution takes on as much importance as a tiresome insect.

For another thing, a relationship with God is based on reality, on deep, enduring truths, rather than on the falsehood, corruption, folly and situational ethics to which earthly rulers fall prey. God is the author of truly righteous laws because He made us and understands the core of our being.

More than that, God’s law is a law that produces in its adherents a deep, penetrating peace because it brings people into alignment with God’s ways—that which C.S. Lewis terms, ‘the grain of the universe.’ “Nothing,” insists the psalmist, “can make th(ose who love God’s law) stumble.” “Nothing,” concurs the Apostle Paul, “shall separate us from the love of God.”

How does a person access this uncommon relationship with God? By pursuing human law, by depending on personal rights, freedoms and identity? No. The psalmist says he waits; he follows, he obeys, and he loves everything about God. His confidence is not in his own devotion; it is in God’s devotion to him. God creates, God initiates the human-divine relationship, God loves, and God provides the salvation believers all come to recognize we need.

Which brings us always back to Jesus Christ, God-fully-contained-in-a-man, the One who personifies the “law” about which the psalmist cannot stop praising. Hearts that tremble before Jesus, who rejoice in Him, who love the core truth of Him and take Him as their sure salvation are hearts fully at peace. Come to Him and find the peace that breathes, “…all my ways are known to you.”

 

ROMANS 12

This 1888 photo released by the New England Historic Genealogical Society in Boston shows Helen Keller when she was eight years old, left, holding hands with her teacher, Anne Sullivan, during a summer vacation to Brewster, Mass., on Cape Cod. A staff member at the society discovered the photograph in a large photography collection recently donated to the society. When Sullivan arrived at the Keller household to teach Helen, she gave her a doll as a present. Although Keller had many dolls throughout her childhood, this is believed to be the first known photograph of Helen Keller with one of her dolls.  (AP Photo/Courtesy of the Thaxter P. Spencer Collection, R. Stanton Avery Special Collections, New England Historic Genealogical Society-Boston)

PERSPECTIVE

Until she learned sign language, Helen Keller behaved more like a wild animal than a little girl. Deaf and blind from infancy, Helen’s perspective on life had been limited to processing information she could glean from her remaining senses of smell, taste and touch. Little made sense to her and life was chaotic.

However, when Annie Sullivan became Helen’s teacher everything changed. Chaos turned to order; life began to make sense. Introducing language in the form of hand shapes made onto the palm of Helen’s hand began the breakthrough. Helen started to make the connection between the signs made on her palm and real life objects, eventually understanding more challenging abstract concepts like emotions and ideas. Understanding her world gave her a new perspective and enabled her eventually to become a prolific author, speaker and political activist.

The twelfth chapter of Romans gives us an even more amazing story of how chaos can be transformed into order. It all begins with understanding an important characteristic of God: His mercy.

“Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, “entreats the apostle Paul,” in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God – this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is – his good, pleasing and perfect will.”

It comes down to how we think about God. This thinking must be based on fact, and Paul says the fact that God is merciful is the fact that can drive transformed thinking and effective living. It is not about us creating a god to fit our emotions and desires or our predetermined thoughts and ideas; if we are honest we have to admit the purpose of that kind of thinking is only to justify the way we want to live.

Christian pastor, author and editor A.W. Tozer observes “What comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us.” If our thoughts about God are true and substantiated by His Word, we become authentic.

Thinking about God’s mercy changes us fundamentally; we become moved by God to live our lives in gratitude to Him, willingly subordinating our desires to His. We even find ourselves becoming merciful as we focus on His modeling of that compassionate characteristic. Love, compassion and forgiveness are tied tightly to mercy, and these traits will follow as close companions so that our nature becomes very different from what it once was.

Having a perspective of God’s mercy is an important crossroads for living. Without it, we merely conform to the pattern of the world – we become selfish, proud, willful, and rebellious to God’s claim on our lives. With it we are transformed with a renewed mind, a submissive will, and clean living bodies. Try it, says Paul. Test it and see if you approve of God’s will. In view of God’s mercy, you will find God’s will to be good, pleasing and perfect.

That’s quite a promise. There’s only one way to find out if it’s true: think on God’s amazing mercy toward yourself and others. See whether that won’t transform the most important thing about you. Perspective is not something – it is everything.

(Photo Credit: “Hellen Keller holding doll with Ann Sullivan 1888” by Family member of Thaxter P. Spencer, now part of the R.Stanton Avery Special Collections, at the New England Historic Genealogical Society. See Press Release [1] for more information. – NWI.com Multimedia. “AP Photo/Courtesy of the Thaxter P. Spencer Collection, R. Stanton Avery Special Collections, New England Historic Genealogical Society-Boston. Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons – https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Hellen_Keller_holding_doll_with_Ann_Sullivan_1888.jpg#/media/File:Hellen_Keller_holding_doll_with_Ann_Sullivan_1888.jpg)