In March 2011, a devastating tsunami struck Japan, taking nearly 16,000 lives as it obliterated towns and villages along the coast. Writer and poet Gretel Erlich visited Japan to witness and document the destruction. When she felt inadequate to report what she was seeing, she wrote a poem about it. In a PBS NewsHour interview she said, “My old friend William Stafford, a poet now gone, said, ‘A poem is an emergency of the spirit.’”
We find poetry used throughout the Bible to express deep emotion, ranging from joyful praise to anguished loss. When King Saul and his son Jonathan were killed in battle, David was overwhelmed with grief (2 Sam. 1:1-12). He poured out his soul in a poem he called “the Song of the Bow”: “Saul and Jonathan were beloved and pleasant in their lives, and in their death they were not divided. . . . How the mighty have fallen in the midst of the battle! . . . I am distressed for you, my brother Jonathan; you have been very pleasant to me” (vv.23-26).
When we face “an emergency of the spirit”—whether glad or sad—our prayers can be a poem to the Lord. While we may stumble to articulate what we feel, our heavenly Father hears our words as a true expression of our hearts.
Sometimes I do not pray in words— I take my heart in my two hands And hold it up before the Lord— I am so glad He understands. —Nicholson
God does more than hear words; He reads hearts.
Although Saul had treated David as his enemy, David did not treat Saul as his. When Saul and his son Jonathan died in battle, David honored them in the song in today’s passage, which opens and closes with the refrain “How the mighty have fallen!” (vv.19,27).
“Caution, the moving walkway is ending. Caution, the moving walkway is ending.” If you’ve ever used an automated walkway at an airport, you’ve heard this kind of announcement repeatedly.
Why do airports repeat this announcement over and over? To ensure safety and to protect them from liability if someone were to be injured.
Repeated announcements can be annoying, but they do have value. As a matter of fact, the apostle Paul thought repeating a warning was so vital that he did it in the text of Galatians. But his statement had value far beyond the danger of tripping at the airport. Paul warned them not to listen to, nor believe, him or an angel from heaven if they preached “any other gospel” than what they had already heard (1:8). In the next verse, Paul said it again. It was a warning worth repeating. The Galatians had begun to believe that their salvation was dependent on good works instead of the true gospel: faith in Christ’s work.
The gospel of Jesus—His death, burial, and resurrection for the forgiveness of sins—is the story that we have the privilege and responsibility to share. When we present the gospel, let’s share that the risen Jesus is the only solution to the problem of sin.
He is the way, the truth, the life— That One whose name is Jesus; There is no other name on earth That has the power to save us. —Sper
Only one road leads to heaven— Jesus Christ is the way.
Paul’s letter to the church in Galatia addresses Christians who were being persuaded to return to a lifestyle that sought to earn God’s favor through good deeds and obedience to the law of Moses. Today’s passage is part of the introduction to the letter. In these few verses, Paul introduces the topics that will be covered in the rest of the letter, provides the reason this should be of interest to the reader, and establishes his own authority to address the topic. Paul will be writing about the true gospel of Christ (vv.6-9), and the reader should pay attention to his words because he is the bondservant of Christ (v.10). Anyone who preaches another message is “accursed” (vv.8-9).
A while ago I attended a conference on the Middle Ages. In one seminar we actually prepared several foods that would have been common in medieval times. We used pestle and mortar to grind cinnamon and fruit to make jam. We cut orange rinds and broiled them with honey and ginger to produce a sweet snack. We crushed almonds with water and other ingredients to create almond milk. And, finally, we prepared a whole chicken to serve as a main dish with rice. As we sampled these dishes, we enjoyed a tasty culinary experience.
When it comes to spiritual food for our souls, God has given us a varied menu that we can chew on and savor. In doing so, we can be filled and satisfied. The historic books, poetry, wisdom literature, prophecy, and other parts of the Bible strengthen us when we are weak, give us wisdom and encouragement, and nourish us for the day’s journey (Ps. 19:7-14; 119:97-104; Heb. 5:12). As the psalmist tells us: “How sweet are Your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth!” (Ps. 119:103).
So what are we waiting for? God has set before us a banquet of delectable spiritual food and calls us to come and dine. We are all invited!
Thank You, Lord, that You call me to Your table to feast on Your Word. I know that I need it for my spiritual nourishment and to grow close to You. I open my heart to You now.
The Bible is the bread of life, and it never gets stale.
Some scholars have criticized Psalm 19 as an artificially constructed piece, saying that the two halves of the psalm do not naturally go together. However, a case can be made that both portions of the psalm reflect on how God has chosen to reveal Himself to humanity. In verses 1-6, we see “general revelation,” where God is revealed through the creation He has made. The remainder of the psalm (vv.7-14) describes how God has revealed Himself through Scripture, which theologians call “special revelation.” In both cases, the psalm describes how God has made Himself known to us.