Friday, July 4, 2014

Freedom costs

Psalms for the 4th Day 19 20 21 22 23

Psalm 22
The sufferings and hope of the virtuous man

Elí, Elí, lamá azavtáni, rachók mishu’atí divréy sha’agatí…

My God, my God, why have You deserted me?
How far from saving me, the words I groan!

I call all day, my God, but You never answer,
all night long I call and cannot rest.
Yet, Holy One, You who make your home
in the praises of Israel,
in You our fathers put their trust,
they trusted and You rescued them;
they called to you for help and they were saved,
they never trusted You in vain.

Yet here am I, now more worm than man,
scorn of mankind, jest of the people,
all who see me jeer at me,
they toss their heathen heads and sneer,
‘He relied on Yahweh, let Yahweh save him!
If Yahweh is his friend, let Him rescue him!’

Yet You drew me out of the womb,
You entrusted me to my mother's breasts;
placed on your lap from my birth,
from my mother's womb You have been my God.

Do not stand aside: trouble is near,
I have no one to help me!

A herd of bulls surrounds me,
stong bulls of Bashan close in on me;
their jaws are agape for me,
like lions tearing and roaring.

I am like water draining away,
my bones are all disjointed,
my heart is like wax,
melting inside me;
my palate is drier than a potsherd
and my tongue is stuck to my jaw.

A pack of dogs surrounds me,
a gang of villains closes me in;
they tie me hand and foot
and leave me lying in the dust of death.

I can count every one of my bones,
and there they glare at me, gloating;
they divide my garments among them
and cast lots for my clothes.

Do not stand aside, Yahweh.
O my strength, come quickly to my help;
rescue my soul from the sword,
my dear life from the paw of the dog,
save me from the lion's mouth,
my poor soul from the wild bulls' horns!

Then I shall proclaim Your Name to my brothers,
praise You in full assembly:
you who fear Yahweh, praise Him!
Entire race of Jacob, glorify Him!
Entire race of Israel, revere Him!

For He has not despised
or disdained the poor man in his poverty,
has not hidden His face from him,
but has answered him when he called.

You are the theme of my praise in the Great Assembly,
I perform my vows in the presence of those who fear Him.
The poor will receive as much as they want to eat.
Those who seek Yahweh will praise Him.
Long life to their hearts!

The whole earth, from end to end,
will remember and come back to Yahweh;
all the families of the nations will bow down before Him.
For Yahweh reigns, the ruler of nations!
Before Him all the prosperous of the earth will bow down,
before Him will bow all who go down to the dust.

And my soul will live for Him,
my children will serve Him;
men will proclaim the Lord to generations still to come,
His righteousness to a people yet unborn.
All this He has done.

…Yavó’u v’yagídu tsidkató, l’am nolád ki asáh.

Today is not only the 4th day… it is the 4th of July.

Have you ever wondered what happened to the 56 men who signed the Declaration of Independence?
Five signers were captured by the British as traitors, and tortured before they died. Twelve had their homes ransacked and burned. Two lost their sons serving in the Revolutionary Army; another had two sons captured. Nine of the 56 fought and died from wounds or hardships of the Revolutionary War. They signed and they pledged their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honor.

What kind of men were they?
Twenty-four were lawyers and jurists. Eleven were merchants, nine were farmers and large plantation owners, men of means, well-educated, but they signed the Declaration of Independence knowing full well that the penalty would be death if they were captured.

Carter Braxton of Virginia, a wealthy planter and trader, saw his ships swept from the seas by the British Navy. He sold his home and properties to pay his debts, and died in rags. Thomas McKeam was so hounded by the British that he was forced to move his family almost constantly. He served in the Congress without pay, and his family was kept in hiding. His possessions were taken from him, and poverty was his reward. Vandals or soldiers looted the properties of Dillery, Hall, Clymer, Walton, Gwinnett, Heyward, Ruttledge, and Middleton. At the battle of Yorktown, Thomas Nelson, Jr., noted that the British General Cornwallis had taken over the Nelson home for his headquarters. He quietly urged General George Washington to open fire. The home was destroyed, and Nelson died bankrupt. Francis Lewis had his home and properties destroyed. The enemy jailed his wife, and she died within a few months. John Hart was driven from his wife's bedside as she was dying. Their 13 children fled for their lives. His fields and his gristmill were laid to waste. For more than a year he lived in forests and caves, returning home to find his wife dead and his children vanished. Some of us take these liberties so much for granted, but we shouldn't.

So, pause a while, take selah, and silently thank these patriots. It's not too much to ask for the price they paid.
Remember: Freedom is never free.

Is there any need to say more? … These were men who through faith conquered kingdoms, did what is right and earned the promises. They could keep a lion's mouth shut, put out blazing fires and emerge unscathed from battle. They were weak people who were given strength, to be brave in war and drive back foreign invaders. Some came back to their wives from the dead, by resurrection; and others submitted to torture, refusing release so that they would rise again to a better life. Some had to bear being pilloried and flogged, or even chained up in prison. They were stoned or sawn in half, or beheaded; they were homeless, and dressed in the skins of sheep and goats; they were penniless and were given nothing but ill-treatment…

These words from the letter to the Hebrews (ch. 11, vv. 32-37) are referring, of course, to the prophets and saints of old, to Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, David, Samuel and the prophets. But as I was thinking of the heroic men who signed the Declaration of Independence, I was reminded of this passage.

I had never noticed, also, or made the connexion between our American revolutionary struggle and the psalm that Christ prayed from the cross, which was almost His last prayer to the Father. Most people read the words, ‘Elí, Elí, lamá sabachthaní…’ which Jesus spoke from the cross, the first line of Psalm 22 in Aramaic, and think that it represents somehow Christ's experience of utter abandonment by God, so deep was His self-emptying, His kénosis.

This may be a worthy interpretation. But according to the Jewish religion which Jesus practiced, He was praying the psalm, saying only the first line out loud, and the rest silently, which was how Jews prayed. Who knows if He had enough strength to finish the psalm right to the end. But it was significant that He prayed this psalm, because the psalm itself is a prophecy of the ultimate and eventual surrender of rebel man to his Creator God and Father.

‘The whole earth, from end to end,
will remember and come back to Yahweh;
all the families of the nations will bow down before Him.
For Yahweh reigns, the ruler of nations!’

And one more thing that I noticed. Who do you think these ‘people yet unborn’ are that the psalm prophesies?

‘…men will proclaim the Lord to generations still to come,
His righteousness to a people yet unborn.’

But Christ died on the cross uttering His total trust in the Father, and in the victory that was about to occur, praying…

All this He has done.’
“It is finished!”

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