Read His Words Before Ours!
Bless our God, you peoples,
let the sound of His praise be heard! (Psalm 66:8)
Reason for rejoicing must be clear here, right?
Such jubilant praise!
Such rich, ardent voices lifted up in adoration!
But the Psalmist continues….
For you, God, tested us;
you refined us as silver is refined.
You lured us into a trap;
you placed burdens on our backs.
You let men ride over our heads;
we went through fire and water….
Those are crushing words.
Words, I could have written myself, and have, at various points along my own journey.
Burdened, trapped, pressed in upon, barely breathing, trampled over, scorched by flames, drowning in swirling waters.
What kind of people would praise while drowning?
Or maybe better, what kind of deity would want to hear praise in dire trials?
Death had been decreed for Queen Esther and her people.
The date had been set for mass extinction of an entire people group.
There were no backdoors of escape, no democracy to provide checks and balances, only one option, prayer.
Prayer for Old Testament Jews meant a few things, especially in hopeless situations, but among the most prominent were gut-wrenching honesty, humility, petition, and praise.
The prayer book of the Jews was the book of Psalms, it also conveniently doubled as their hymnal. Yes, their prayers were their songs. The lyrics of their worship were the authentic pleadings and praises of their hearts.
Though prayer and the name of God are never explicitly noted in the book of Esther, where there was fasting, sackcloth, lamenting, and mournful weeping for Jews, there was prayer.
And where there was prayer, there was praise.
One only needs a cursory glance through Psalms to find this to be true. Go ahead, try it! Pick up your Bible, open to Psalms, and read a few random songs, skip pages, and read again.
Praise is everywhere, but so is brokenness.
Later in the New Testament, the great Pastor Paul says it like this:
We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed;
perplexed, but not driven to despair;
persecuted, but not forsaken;
struck down, but not destroyed. (2 Corinthians 4:8-9)
As Mordecai wept, ripped his clothing, and dipped trembling, fearful fingers into the dust from which he’d been made and streaked his face with it, he prayed in faith to the God of the Universe.
He knew his weakness.
He recognized his complete and utter inability to change the decree of his own death or the massacre of his people.
Yet, he prayed.
He prayed because he also knew something else.
He knew God’s character could not, would not, be faithless. (2 Timothy 2:13)
He knew God does not abandon the work of His hands. (Psalm 138:8)
And for these reasons, Mordecai, a man on death row, could praise.
When I am afraid,
I will trust in you.
In God, whose word I praise,
in God I trust; I will not be afraid.
What can mere mortals do to me? (Psalm 56:3-4)
No doubt, Mordecai was afraid. He agonized. He mourned. He wailed.
But he knew where to take his fear.
Mordecai did not know how God would answer, nor even if his own life would be spared, but He did trust that God would bring redemption.
Sisters, with tears in my eyes as I write, I too have felt Mordecai’s helpless fear.
My face has been planted into the floor, my clothing as rumpled as my spirit.
My cheeks have been stained with tears (and a whole lot of snot), my hands have trembled with the unknown and the glaring reality of my own endless weakness and inability to change my circumstances.
With upturned hands and downcast, flooded eyes, I’ve begged for mercy, for release, for redemption. I’ve admitted out loud in all gut-wrenching honesty that I did not know if God would bring redemption in my life or, if He did, that it would look as I wanted.
But through praise, lament, and petition, He uncurled my fists and I anchored again in the safe harbor of His sure and certain character.
He would not abandon the work of His hands.
Mordecai couldn’t see the end, but He trusted all the same.
To Esther, he spoke with unshakeable conviction, “For if you keep silent at this time, relief and deliverance will rise for the Jews from another place…”
I don’t know your fears, your hurt, or your great need for God to redeem and act, but the Lord does know.
You yourself have recorded my wanderings.
Put my tears in your bottle.
Are they not in your book? (Psalm 56:8)
Not a tear falls without the Lord seeing, knowing, holding it, and waiting to redeem it in His time and in His way, which is precisely why we can praise in the midst of floods and fires and ruin and heartache.
Like Mordecai, I do not know how the Lord will work His redemption over my brokenness, but I will shout in triumph in the face of this fear and trembling,
“My enemies will retreat on the day when I call.
This I know: God is for me.” (Psalm 56:8-9)
The rest of that psalm of praise we began this journey with?
The one about being refined as fire, burdened down, and walking through fire and flood?
Here is the worshipper’s refrain on the prayer of his song,
“but You brought us out to abundance.”
Trust His heart, Lovely One.
Cry the tears.
Rend the garments.
Mourn with authenticity.
Then surrender to the One who holds your tears in a bottle, records your pain in His own journal, and is waiting to bring you into His redemptive abundance!
Embracing God’s fullness in our lives is rooted in scripture and memorizing His word is vital to our continued growth and depth with Jesus. Tap and hold from your mobile device to download this week’s verse and make it your phone’s lockscreen!