Tag Archives: Seven

Life is a Psalm

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From the rising of the sun to the place where it sets,
    the name of the Lord is to be praised

Psalm 113:3 (NIV)

There are two themes in the Great Story that I have repeatedly mentioned across the 15 years I’ve been writing these chapter-a-day posts, and they are beautifully present in today’s chapter, Psalm 113. They are, however, easily missed by the casual reader.

The first is that God’s base language is metaphor. God, like any good artist, expresses Himself into everything created. This means that everything we see in creation is connected to God’s Spirit and is layered with meaning. There are spiritual lessons to be found everywhere if my spiritual senses are open to them. The ancient Hebrews understood this. I would argue that they understood it a lot better than we do today.

I say this because the editors who compiled the anthology of songs we know as the book of Psalms did so in a very specific way. They placed songs together in specific sections and in a specific order, which adds an added layer of meaning beyond the text within the psalm.

Today’s chapter, Psalm 113, is part of a group of songs known to the Hebrews as “the Hallel” (Hallel means praise). Psalms 113-118 are part of the Hebrew festival of Passover when they celebrate God’s miraculous deliverance of their people out of slavery in Egypt. These six songs are placed together so as to create a structured psalm out of six individual psalms. A psalm of psalms. Layers of meaning. Metaphor.

If you’ve been reading along in this chapter-a-day journey, you might have noticed that almost every psalm begins with a verse of praise or crying out to God. Psalm 113 is the opening of the six-psalm Hallel. It’s the call to praise. It’s the first song of the Passover feast’s “Hallel,” and it is sung before the meal. It’s the calling of the participants into Spirit mode, to quiet and open hearts and minds to consider the story and the spiritual lessons contained within.

Layers of meaning.

I then happened upon verse 3:
From the rising of the sun to the place where it sets,
    the name of the Lord is to be praised

In recent weeks I’ve blogged out “numbering my days” and the lessons keeping track of the days I’ve been on this earth (20,017 today) has taught me. One of the lessons that I didn’t mention, however, was the lesson about layers of time.

For centuries, followers of Jesus have celebrated Jesus’ story on an annual basis. Each Christmas we celebrate His birth. Each Easter we celebrate His resurrection. Millions of followers all over the globe structure their worship around the annual meditation of Jesus’ birth, life, death, resurrection, and mission. The Great Story contained with a year.

Ancient followers of Jesus who were known as mystics recognized that our infinitely metaphorical creator had layered time with meaning. A week (which God established at the very beginning, in the first two chapters of the Great Story) is seven days. The number seven is associated with “completeness.” The Christian mystics saw the Great Story and an entire lifetime every week. We toil through the week. Friday we remember Good Friday and Jesus death. Every Sunday we celebrate resurrection and hit the reset button. The next week begins anew. The Great Story contained with a week.

But a single day is yet another layer. Each day begins with a new dawn. There is new hope for what this day will hold. There is a new opportunity for change, redemption, reconciliation, and love. Each night brings the end of the day. It is the end of the opportunities of this day which passes away with the other 20,017 days which cannot be relived. Each morning is a mini-resurrection of life. A day dawns, and I was never guaranteed that I’d live to see this day. Opportunity, hope, and joy spring anew. The Great Story contained with a day.

From the rising of the sun, until it goes down, the name of the Lord will be praised.

A psalm out of psalms.

The Great Story from Genesis to Revelation contained in a year, a week, a day.

Leaving this wayfaring stranger to ask, “What am I going to do with this day?”

Just like a psalm I’m going to start with praise, endeavor to live it out in such a way that it is marked by love, honesty, and humility, and end it with gratitude and praise.

My life this day is a psalm that contains the Great Story.

Want to Read More?

Click on the image, or click here, to be taken to a simple, visual index of all the posts in this series from the book of Psalms.

There is also a list of recent chapter-a-day series indexed by book.

About This Post

These chapter-a-day posts began in 2006. It’s a very simple concept. I endeavor each weekday to read one chapter from the Bible. I then blog about my thoughts, insights, and feelings about the content of that chapter. Everyone is welcome to share this post, like this post, or add your own thoughts in a comment. Thank you to those who have become faithful, regular or occasional readers along the journey along with your encouragement.

In 2019 I began creating posts for each book, with an indexed list of all the chapters for that book. You can find the indexed list by clicking on this link.

Prior to that, I kept a cataloged index of all posts on one page. You can access that page by clicking on this link.

You can also access my audio and video messages, as well.

tomvanderwell@gmail.com @tomvanderwell

About This Post

These chapter-a-day posts began in 2006. It’s a very simple concept. I endeavor each weekday to read one chapter from the Bible. I then blog about my thoughts, insights, and feelings about the content of that chapter. Everyone is welcome to share this post, like this post, or add your own thoughts in a comment. Thank you to those who have become faithful, regular or occasional readers along the journey along with your encouragement.

In 2019 I began creating posts for each book, with an indexed list of all the chapters for that book. You can find the indexed list by clicking on this link.

Prior to that, I kept a cataloged index of all posts on one page. You can access that page by clicking on this link.

You can also access my audio and video messages, as well.

tomvanderwell@gmail.com @tomvanderwell

Devastation, Dinosaurs, and Spiritual Development

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Pay back into the laps of our neighbors seven times
    the contempt they have hurled at you, Lord.

Psalm 79:13 (NIV)

It’s Christmas season! Yesterday, Wendy and I had the blessing of hugging our children and our grandson for the first time since last December. Milo got to put the ornaments that celebrate each of the four Christmases he’s been with us on the tree. Around the base of the tree is my father’s Lionel train set, and Milo became the fourth generation to experience the joy that train chugging around the tracks.

As I experience Christmas anew this year through the eyes of a three-year-old, I’m reminded of my own childhood. Each year I would get out the Sears Christmas Wish Book catalog and make my bucket list of all the toys that I wanted. It was usually a big list and included a host of big-ticket items my parents could never afford and probably wouldn’t buy for me even if they could because there’s know way that the giant chemistry set was going to accomplish anything but make a mess, require a lot of parental assistance, and probably blow up the house. I couldn’t manage such mature cognitive reasoning in my little brain. All I knew was it was really cool, it looked really fun, and all my friends at school would be really jealous.

Along this life journey, I’ve come to understand that my finite and circumstantial emotions and desires are often incongruent with the larger picture realities of both reason and Spirit.

Today’s chapter, Psalm 79, is an angry blues rant that was written after Jerusalem had been destroyed by the Babylonians. It is a raw description of the scene of devastation after the Babylonians destroyed the city and razed Solomon’s Temple to the ground in 586 B.C. Blood and death are everywhere. Vultures and wild dogs are feasting on dead bodies because there aren’t enough people alive and well to bury the bodies. The strong, educated, and young have been taken as prisoners to Babylon. The ruins of God’s Temple have been desecrated with profane images and graffiti. The songwriter pours out heartbreak, shock, sorrow, rage, and desperate pleas for God to rise up and unleash holy vengeance in what the ancients described as “an eye-for-an-eye and a tooth-for-a-tooth.”

As I read the songwriters rant this morning, there are three things that give me layers of added perspective:

First, when God first called Abraham (the patriarch of the Hebrew tribes and nations), He made it clear that the intent of making a nation of Abraham’s descendants was so that all the nations of the earth would be blessed through them, not destroyed.

Second, God had spoken to the Hebrews through the prophet Jeremiah warning them that the natural consequences of their sin and unfaithfulness would be Babylonian captivity through the Babylonian king, Nebuchadnezzar, to whom God referred through Jeremiah as “my servant.” It appears that the songwriter may have missed that.

Third, I couldn’t help but read the songwriter’s plea for God to pay back their enemies “seven times” the contempt that their enemies had shown them, and think of the time Peter asked Jesus if he should forgive an enemy who wronged him “seven times.” Peter was trying to show Jesus that he was beginning to understand Jesus’ teaching. To the Hebrews, the number seven spiritually represented “completeness.” When the songwriter asked for “seven times” the vengeance it was a spiritual notion of “eye-for-an-eye” justice would be complete. Peter’s question assumed that forgiving an enemy seven times would be spiritually “complete” forgiveness. Jesus responds to Peter that a more correct equation for forgiveness in the economy of God’s Kingdom would be “seventy-times-seven.”

I come back to the songwriter of Psalm 79 with these three things in mind. The first time I read it, like most 21st century readers, I was taken back by the blood, gore, raw anger, and cries for holy vengeance. Now I see the song with a different perspective. I see a songwriter who is devastated and confused. I hear the crying out of a soul who has witnessed unspeakable things, and whose emotions can’t reasonably see any kind of larger perspective in the moment.

This morning I am reminded of what I discussed in my Wayfarer Weekend podcast, Time (Part 1). Humanity at the time of the ancient Hebrews was still very much in the early childhood stage of development. The songwriter is expressing his thoughts, emotions, and desires like a child desperately asking Santa for a real dinosaur for Christmas. Not just any dinosaur, a real T-Rex to put in the backyard.

Today’s psalm is another example of God honoring the need that we have as human beings of expressing our hearts and emotions in the moment, as we have them, no matter where we find ourselves in our spiritual development. As my spiritual journey has progressed, I’ve gotten better at processing my emotions and having very different conversations with God about circumstances than I did when I was a teenager, a young adult, a young husband, and a young father. It doesn’t invalidate the feelings and conversations I had back then. They were necessary for me to grow, learn, and mature in spirit.

In the quiet this morning, I’m identifying with the songwriter of Psalm 79, not affirming blood vengeance and “eye-for-an-eye-justice,” but affirming that it was where the songwriter was in that moment, just like I have had some rants and prayers along the journey that I’m kind of embarrassed think about now. This is a journey. I’m not who I was, And, I’m not yet who I will ultimately become in eternity. I’m just a wayfarer on the road of life, taking it one-step-at-a-time into a new work week.

For the record, Milo. No, you can’t have a real dinosaur. Sorry, buddy.

Want to Read More?

Click on the image, or click here, to be taken to a simple, visual index of all the posts in this series from the book of Psalms.

There is also a list of recent chapter-a-day series indexed by book.

About This Post

These chapter-a-day posts began in 2006. It’s a very simple concept. I endeavor each weekday to read one chapter from the Bible. I then blog about my thoughts, insights, and feelings about the content of that chapter. Everyone is welcome to share this post, like this post, or add your own thoughts in a comment. Thank you to those who have become faithful, regular or occasional readers along the journey along with your encouragement.

In 2019 I began creating posts for each book, with an indexed list of all the chapters for that book. You can find the indexed list by clicking on this link.

Prior to that, I kept a cataloged index of all posts on one page. You can access that page by clicking on this link.

You can also access my audio and video messages, as well.

tomvanderwell@gmail.com @tomvanderwell

About This Post

These chapter-a-day posts began in 2006. It’s a very simple concept. I endeavor each weekday to read one chapter from the Bible. I then blog about my thoughts, insights, and feelings about the content of that chapter. Everyone is welcome to share this post, like this post, or add your own thoughts in a comment. Thank you to those who have become faithful, regular or occasional readers along the journey along with your encouragement.

In 2019 I began creating posts for each book, with an indexed list of all the chapters for that book. You can find the indexed list by clicking on this link.

Prior to that, I kept a cataloged index of all posts on one page. You can access that page by clicking on this link.

You can also access my audio and video messages, as well.

tomvanderwell@gmail.com @tomvanderwell

Light in Multiple Messages, Layered Metaphors

Sir John Hamelin effigy Wymondham, England
Sir John Hamelin effigy Wymondham, England

When I snuff you out, I will cover the heavens
    and darken their stars;
I will cover the sun with a cloud,
    and the moon will not give its light.
All the shining lights in the heavens
    I will darken over you;
    I will bring darkness over your land,
declares the Sovereign Lord.
Ezekiel 32:7-8 (NIV)

In today’s chapter, God wraps up the seven prophetic messages given to Ezekiel against Egypt. And, the thing that strikes me as I read this morning is metaphors and word pictures, layer upon layer of meaning.

First of all, there is the number seven. I have mentioned before that across God’s Message, seven is the number of completion. There were seven days to complete creation. There were seven seals on the scroll in Revelation to complete God’s judgement. Within the scroll there were seven trumpets and seven bowls. The number seven has even deeper roots when you begin to study the Hebrew language. The fact that there are seven prophetic messages for Egypt is no coincidental. It is a metaphorical message pointing to God’s complete and perfect judgement again Pharaoh/Egypt.

Then there is the theme of darkness and light in the verses I’ve pasted above. Darkness carries with it the sense of separation from God. In creation there was darkness over the surface of the deep immediately contrasted by God’s first act of creation: Light. There was darkness in the plagues of Egypt in the Exodus. Darkness fell over the Earth the day that Jesus was crucified. The same darkening of the heavens described by Ezekiel in the judgement of Egypt is also present in John’s vision of the end times. We know from human experience, just as a child cries for a night light at bedtime, that a descent into darkness is an ominous sign.

The final prophecy against Egypt is a list of other great armies who have fallen in defeat. Ezekiel describes them laying with their hordes “in the pit.” What fascinates me about the imagery is the description of warriors, hordes, and burial practices:

Meshek and Tubal are there, with all their hordes around their graves. All of them are uncircumcised, killed by the sword because they spread their terror in the land of the living. But they do not lie with the fallen warriors of old, who went down to the realm of the dead with their weapons of war—their swords placed under their heads and their shields resting on their bones—though these warriors also had terrorized the land of the living.

Ezekiel describes “the fallen warriors of old” buried with their weapons. The swords were placed beneath their heads, shields resting over them. Over the centuries, most cultures have had prescriptive burial practices for their warriors. As a boy growing up I was taught about my maternal ancestor, Sir John Hamelin, who lies entombed in effigy in a church in England. The sculpted tomb depicting him as he lay wrapped in chain mail, his feet crossed, his shield covering his body. This type of practice has been customary since early civilization. Ezekiel’s point is clear: When Egypt falls to Babylon the destruction will be so swift and complete that no one will be left to give them the carefully prescribed and celebrated burial of a warrior.

This morning I am, once again, amazed at the layers of message and metaphor given by the prophets. There is almost a desperation in the depth and breadth of it as if God is trying every possible means of communication to get through to the listener. If one word picture doesn’t work then let’s try a different approach. Human beings, myself included, are notoriously given to blindness of that which is staring right at us (e.g. Me: Sweetie, have you seen my keys? Wendy: You mean the keys you’re holding in your hand? Me: Doh!). Every one of us is given to the dark which comes with spiritual blindness. It is not strange that we need things repeated to us in diverse ways before we see the Light.

Today, I’m thankful for a Creator who ceaselessly reveals Light in endless ways.

Tattle-Tale

Source: Louish via Flickr
Source: Louish via Flickr

The word of the Lord came to me: “Son of man, set your face against the Ammonites and prophesy against them. Ezekiel 25:1-2 (NIV)

I was the youngest of four siblings growing up, which meant I was witness to the mischief of my older siblings. I was also the the most vulnerable, which meant that there was a better than even chance I was going to be the one teased and picked on. This, of course, meant that I was more likely to be the tattle-tale.

There is always risk in being the tattle-tale. Yes, you get to see the guilty party punished and receive their just desserts. You run the risk, however, of implicating yourself in the telling. Once the sword of parental justice falls on the evil older siblings, it might just come around and get you in the end.

With today’s chapter, God turns the spotlight of Ezekiel’s prophetic messages of doom from the nation of Judah to Judah’s neighbors. In sending Judah through the judgement of a Babylonian siege and packing into Babylonian exile, God knew that her neighbors would be gloating like a little sibling tattle-tale. God turns the tables and pronounces judgement on these neighbors, letting them know that they will not escape His punishment.

It is interesting to note that there are seven oracles of doom, and the last one is broken up into seven parts. One of more subtle and interesting layers of metaphor that exist in God’s Message are the structure and use of numbers. The number seven has special significance. It is a number of completion. There were seven days of creation and seven days in the week. There are seven seals, seven letters to seven churches, seven trumpets and seven bowls in John’s Revelation. One of Daniel’s prophecies was of “Seventy sevens.” By implication, the seven oracles of Ezekiel represent a completeness of judgement not just for Judah, but for her neighbors as well.

Today, I am thinking about the fact that gloating over another person’s downfall is a kind of pride. The tattle-tale feels smug in watching their perpetrator be punished, but that doesn’t mean the tattler is innocent. When I point the finger at someone else, there are three fingers pointing back at me. Three, the number of God. I get it. In God’s economy there is no hierarchy of sin. If you’re guilty of the least of it, you’re as tainted as the worst. I am in no position to judge. God have mercy on me, a tattle-tale, and a sinner.

The Establishing Shot of the Human Story

The First Mourning
The First Mourning (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Chapter-a-Day Genesis 4

One day Lamech said to his wives,
“Adah and Zillah, hear my voice; 
listen to me, you wives of Lamech.
I have killed a man who attacked me, 
a young man who wounded me.

If someone who kills Cain is punished seven times, then the one who kills me will be punished seventy-seven times!”
Genesis 4:23-24 (NLT)

Wendy and I love movies, books, plays and good television shows. We don’t just numb out when we watch a movie. We’re generally stimulated by it. Silly at it seems, Green Lantern prompted two days worth of conversation about the nature of love and human will (I know, we’re dweebs). We think about what we’re watching and why the writer chose to present things a certain way, why the Director made the choice to picture it like that, and what the actor brought to the performance. We talk about it. Some people roll their eyes and say to us, “Seriously, can’t you just sit back and enjoy it?” But, we are enjoying it when we explore all of the layers of it. Others have said to us, “I love watching movies with you because you see so much more than I do.

Let me add God’s Message to the list of things that we enjoy digging into. I will admit that my modus operandi for these chapter-a-day posts is usually just to read the chapter in my half-awake state and see what pops in a top of mind kind of way. Many times, however, you have to peel back the layers of what’s been written to appreciate the fullness of the message.

One of the things you learn about movie making is that the very first shot the Director shows you (an “establishing shot”) is often of critical importance. It clues you in to the whole story you’re about to see. So, consider that we’re reading Genesis. This is the beginning of the whole cosmic story. Think of today’s chapter as an “establishing shot.” It’s just the beginning of the movie, but the picture presented in today’s chapter is a foreshadowing of the entire theme of human history.

In today’s chapter, we’re presented with the beginnings of human history after Adam and Eve are banished from the Garden of Eden for their disobedience. The chapter presents seven generations (from Adam to Lamech) and is “bookended” with two stories across six generations: Cain (2nd generation) and Lamech (7th generation):

  • Cain murders his brother and is made a “restless wanderer.” God pronounces judgement and Cain is marked by God that any who seek to avenge Abel by punishing Cain him will face God’s judgement seven-fold.
  • Lamech takes personal vengeance out on someone who attacked him, points to God’s divine judgement on any who touch Cain,  and justifies his own act of murder by claiming that he personally deserves Cain’s divine protection [on steroids].

So, let’s dig in:

Throughout God’s Message, the number seven represents “completion” (e.g. the seven days of creation). So in presenting seven generations we are being given a “complete” picture of something. The number “six” is the number of man (e.g. the number of the anti-Christ in Revelation is 666, the three sixes representing the replacement of the divine trinity with the human – man asserting himself as God) so the six post-Eden generations from Cain to Lamech represent a progression (or actually a regression) of humanity. Cain committed murder and God pronounced judgement of the wrongness of it and exacted punishment. By the sixth generation Lamech was committing murder, justifying his actions, declaring that he was 77 times more important than Cain and replacing God’s justice with his own.

What we see in today’s chapter is the on-going conflict of the Great Story in one snapshot. God creates human beings that they would glorify Him and be in relationship with Him. Instead, they disobey which sets into motion a cyclical, generational and spiritual regression. We dishonor the Creator, reject the divine, and proudly set ourselves up as god of our own lives and existence.

Today, I’m thinking about this spiritual regression pictured across the generations from Cain to Lamech. I’m questioning the prevailing world-view that human beings are inherently good and continually progressing towards some pinnacle of goodness. I’m thinking about my own life and the journey this wayfaring stranger is on. What about my story? Does the story of my life reflect spiritual regression or progression? Does my story resemble The Godfather? The Mission? Pilgrim’s Progress?

So much to ponder. I hope you have a great day.