One verse from Psalm 68 caught my attention this week. The whole psalm is a magnificent declaration of God’s strength and power over His enemies. But in the midst of this somewhat terrifying picture of God’s majesty, what caught my eye was the tender tone of verse 6 which reads:
God provides homes for those who are deserted. He leads out the prisoners to prosperity, but the rebellious live in a scorched land.Psalm 68:6 (CSB)
I love that you can see God’s heart of blessing in this verse. He wants to provide the love and security of home for those who are deserted, lonely, or solitary. He wants to lead prisoners to a place of prosperity. That word translated “prosperity” is a bit of a conundrum. No one knows for sure what the Hebrew word means. You could take the root in a couple of different directions. Some translations go with prosperity. Others translate it as “singing” or “jubilation”. The King James Version assumes that it refers to the actual chains the prisoners are released from. It doesn’t really matter though. What’s important is that God can free those who are bound with heavy chains! And that is good news!
Think about being lonely and deserted or a prisoner (whether that means sitting in a literal jail cell or the invisible bonds of addiction). How does that become our reality? It doesn’t happen overnight. Sometimes life itself starts us out on a rocky, dysfunctional footing; but even with the most loving of launchings, one bad decision can birth a long line of ever-worsening decisions, leading to dark and dismal places. But no matter how royally we have messed up, no matter what twists and turns have disconnected us from loved ones and entangled us with things bent on destroying us, it’s not our track record that dictates what God can do for us!
In the next line it becomes clear that it’s our submission to Him that allows God to work these miracles in our lives; because look where the rebellious end up. He can’t give them that joyous freedom to dwell in loving homes. They won’t be guided by His hand of blessing. So they end up in a scorched land. Some translations say a scorching desert, a dry land, a parched land. Oh, that word “parched” makes me thirsty. It paints a picture of endless craving, dissatisfaction, unfulfillment, unhappiness, and frustration.
When we rebelliously choose something other than God as the object of our love and desire, we will find ourselves in a parched land. When Thomas Aquinas talks about God as our “end” he pictures this movement towards an end in stages: first love, then desire, then attainment, and finally delight. In our pursuit of any end other than God, we can never reach the attainment or delight stages! He says:
“They are in error who seek happiness in various things outside of God…Happiness does not consist in the knowledge of any created things whatever, even though they may be far above man; for man’s desire comes to rest in the knowledge of God alone.”from Compendium of Theology by Thomas Aquinas
It is love for God that inclines our hearts toward Him. Then our actions spring from that desire for God. He can then shape that love and desire into a form He can use, and our will can rest in delight of Him. Ultimately that delight won’t find fulfillment until we behold Him face to face, but the beautiful mystery of faith is that it can reach into the future, into eternity, and pull back a taste of that delight into the present…so that the substance of what we hope for is actually birthed in us here and now. The only life road that is not a dead end is the one with God as its end!
In Isaiah 30:15 God tells us, “You will be delivered by returning and resting; your strength will lie in quiet confidence.” His blessing is for those who will return to Him and rest in Him. May the very next line never be said of us. “But you are not willing.” The deliverance and strength God has for us if we will just be willing! That’s what makes the difference. It’s not a perfect track record but plain trust that experiences His blessing. Let’s be the kind of people God can bless, not stubbornly clinging to dead “ends”, but bending our knees and hearts to our true end, God Himself!