Psalm 3: Faith against Foes

 based on Psalm 3 (original)

I cry out oh Lord for help
They surround me on every side
Will you save me in my need?
Many are saying you’ll not provide.

But I know you are my shield
You will lift my head up high
I call out, and you answer me
I know, my aid, you’ll not deny.

If I lie down and fall asleep
I know I’ll wake and rise with glee
I will not fear 10,000 men
For the Lord my God, He shelters me.

Rise up my saviour and my God
Deliver me Lord from my foes
Break their jaw, shatter their teeth
Strike down them who against me rose

The Lord provides our one true hope
From Him receive all you desire
May your blessing, God, be on us all
And let us become what you admire

author: Dr David H. Akehurst

If you liked this, consider reading some of my other poems.

(I have always thought that it would be good to read a translation/interpretation of the psalms that actually read like poetry in the English language. I know that many other people have done this, however a few years back I was house bound for a few weeks and had a go at writing poetry based on them. This is one of the results.)

Psalm 2: The opposition of Nations

based on Psalm 2 (original)

Governments and presidents oppose the Lord’s anointed King.
Why do nations still conspire, their people plot in vain?
By casting off (like chains) the guidance of His holy word,
How will they win? What do they hope to gain?
He could rebuke them if they listen, with His anger and His wrath.
But the one in heaven knows they’re fools and laughs at their mistake,
He has installed a gracious King upon His holy hill
And with these words proclaims Him King, all opposed will break.
Your are my son, today I have become your Dad,
Just ask! The nations and the earth will all belong to you
Rule them with an iron fist and break them if you will
Though my grace abounds and fills you through and through”
So tremble and be wise, all you kings and rulers on the earth,
Serve and respect the Lord your God, rejoice in His chosen Son
His righteous anger may be shown, destroying all opposed.
Better to be blessed, and seek to shelter underneath the Holy One.

author: Dr David H. Akehurst

If you liked this, consider reading some of my other poems.

(I have always thought that it would be good to read a translation/interpretation of the psalms that actually read like poetry in the English language. I know that many other people have done this, however a few years back I was house bound for a few weeks and had a go at writing poetry based on them. This is one of the results.)

Praise and Worship: Sit or Stand

Come, let us sing for joy to the Lord;
    let us shout aloud to the Rock of our salvation.
Let us come before him with thanksgiving
    and extol him with music and song. [Psalm 95:1-2]

Praising God can take many forms and singing is simply one way to express our praise. But when we praise him by singing we should be focused on God, engaging with him, freely expressing our joy and happiness that we are in his presence, and allowing our hearts to engage with him.

Having recently moved to Germany, one thing has struck me as distinctly different between church in Germany and church in Britain. In Germany, traditionally, people sit down in church when singing! Why, I am not sure. However, coming from a British church culture where I have never (or rarely) sat down whilst singing, I find it very odd and a little uncomfortable. It is of course possible to sing praise whilst sitting, but I find this much easier to do when standing.

Apparently, in Denmark, they also sit down to sing, and I agree with this author that it is not necessary to always stand when singing. There can be good reasons to sit sometimes, however, I would present an argument that, on the whole, standing is better. How do I define better? In this case I mean that one can sing more freely, i.e. one feels less constrained when standing rather than sitting and one is better able to engage fully with the act of praising our maker.

Scientifically and physiologically, good posture is obviously important. Constriction in the airways and the diaphragm would hinder singing and make it a strain on the singer. However, although most professional singers do stand when singing, there are many occurrences of professionals sitting to sing. According to a trained opera singer friend of mine, when sitting one must sit upright with straight back in order to sing properly.

Is there any biblical guidance on whether we should sit or stand when singing? There are many verses about singing as a means to praise God, the psalms are full of references about singing, and other verses in both Old and New Testament encourage us to sing and praise God. However, there is no reference I have found that says anything about sitting or standing as a posture for singing.

Various verses that state we should praise God with our whole being, spirit, mind, body, and in particular with our hearts. Praise him with all of your heart, i.e. passionately and with feeling.

…Sing and make music from your heart to the Lord. [Ephesians 5:19]

…Is anyone happy? Let them sing songs of praise. [James 5:13]

God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in the Spirit and in truth. [John 4:24]

…I will sing praise with my spirit, but I will sing with my mind also. [1 Corinthians 14:15]

Lift up your hands in the sanctuary and praise the Lord. [Psalm 134:2]

If we look at other times when we engage with a musical event, it is quite common to see people standing waving their arms around and jumping about. Just look at any modern pop concert where the audience is ecstatic in the presence of the latest teen idol (and could be described as worshiping the singer) – they do not sit mildly in their seats. At a more reserved classical concert, or opera, people do have more of a tendency to stay in their seats, however at events such as “The Last Night of the Proms” the same joyous and highly active behaviour can also be seen. Similarly, take a football match, when your favoured team scores, do you sit and politely thinking “oh well done”, or do you jump up, wave your hands and cheer?

One of my favourite examples of someone fully praising God with all their being is that of David in 2 Samuel,

Then David danced before the Lord with all his might; and David was wearing a linen ephod. So David and all the house of Israel brought up the ark of the Lord with shouting and with the sound of the trumpet. [2 Samuel 6:14-15]

So David said …, “It was before the Lord, … Therefore I will play music before the Lord. And I will be even more undignified than this, and will be humble in my own sight. …” [2 Samuel 6:21:22]

Clearly, this was heartfelt praise and David was dancing and singing before his Lord, without worrying what other people thought of him. He was thinking only of engaging joyfully with God. So much so that he upset his wife by dancing in his underwear. Now, I don’t think I really want to turn up to church in only my underpants, however this example of praising God and not worrying about what the person next to us is thinking is certainly a good example to follow.

If we look the the psalms, as the primary biblical example of praise, clearly praising God is a joyful and noisy thing to do,

Praise him with the sounding of the trumpet,
praise him with the harp and lyre,
Praise him with timbrel and dancing,
praise him with the strings and pipe,
Praise him with the clash of cymbals,
praise him with resounding cymbals. [Psalm 150]

and again in Psalm 47

Clap your hands, all you nations;
    shout to God with cries of joy. [Psalm 47:1]

I would assert that it is natural, when freed from traditions and conventions, for people to engage in joyous praise and worship with their whole body, and this is easier if not seated. I want to praise God, singing with my voice, my body, my mind, my spirit and my heart, passionately and with joy.

– Open Bible: Verses on Singing

Jesus as Servant

I was asked to speak at my church youth group about Jesus as a Servant. To be honest, although I knew the phrase “Jesus came to serve not to be served”, probably mainly through having heard and played Graham Kendrick’s The Servant King, I had never really though about it much.

I understand to worship Jesus as God, I know to come under the authority and protection of Jesus as King, I know that Jesus as Man understands me, my life, and has grace for me. But I have never considered whether or not I actually let Jesus as Servant, serve me?

These four characteristics of Jesus, God, King, Man, Servant are often associated with each of the four Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke and John), with each Evangelist (Gospel writer) writing about Jesus from the perspective of a different one of His characteristics. However, different people seem to associate different Gospels with different characteristics [Wikipedia, Joseph Prince, etc].

(Of additional interest, each of the characteristics and each gospel writer, is also associated with an animal – Eagle (God), Lion (King), Ox (Servant), Man (Man). These animals appear a number of times throughout the Bible [Ezekiel 1:10, Revelation 4:7]. Also in Jewish history [Garland 4.7.2], the Camp of Israel described in the book of Numbers may have used these animals on their banners.)

However, regarding Jesus as Servant, let us first look at the biblical reference to this. Jesus himself emphasised it to the disciples [Matthew 20:26-28],

whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, 27 and whoever wants to be first must be your slave— 28 just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve

referring to himself as “the Son of Man” He claimed that He came to serve not be served. Also in [Luke 22:27],

For who is greater, the one who is at the table or the one who serves? Is it not the one who is at the table? But I am among you as one who serves.

Jesus states that He is among the disciples (and us) as one who serves.

At the evening meal just before passover, as recorded in [John 13:2-5 & 13-16], Jesus famously washes His disciples feet. Taking the role of a house slave or servant, Jesus washes and dries the feet of each disciple. The significance of this is probably lost slightly in today’s western society, although we still think a foot wash and massage is very pleasant. At this time in history people walked all day in sandals on hot dusty roads, and it was customary [Wikipedia] to offer a guest water for washing their feet.

A modern-day parallel might be imagined where, when you arrive at a friend’s birthday party, the birthday boy (or girl) washes your car for you. Or maybe they have asked you to a high class restaurant to celebrate and it is the birthday person (rather than a waiter/waitress) who serves the table bringing you menus, food, and perhaps a hand washing bowl.

The two parables told by Jesus from [Luke 14:8-14] imply that putting others before yourself and not giving to or serving those who will repay in kind is the approach He would want people to take.

Not forgetting, of course, the many acts of service actually performed by Jesus – healing, other miracles, teaching, and the biggest act of service of them all – paying the consequences of our bad choices by dying on the cross.

Jesus clearly came to serve. He clearly served whilst physically among us, and clearly emphasised and taught that we should serve each other.

Servanthood is not only a New Testament idea; King David, of Old Testament renown, wrote many of the Psalms, in which he frequently refers to himself as a servant and elsewhere is referred to as a man after Gods own heart – despite the many mistakes he seemed to make in his life.

There are many other examples of people serving in Old and New Testament writings. Even in our current modern-day life, many people talk of themselves as serving, in the police or fire service, in the military, in politics etc. But as Joseph Prince states, all these people have flaws. There is only one perfect servant – Jesus – and it is from Him that we should take our example. As implied in [John 13:3],

It is only those people who truly know that they have everything from God, and who understand their importance to God, that are able to stoop down and perfectly serve – serving out of the overflow of their revelation regarding Gods love for them.

This is how Jesus served during His time among us. Given His resurrection and the consistency of God, this must be how He still desires to serve us. He still wants and is able to serve me, teaching me, healing me, and providing for my needs. His payment for the cost of my ongoing mistakes still stands (His original payment on the cross stands for all people for all time).

So in addition to obeying His asking of us to serve one another, I really should allow Him to serve me and enjoy His gift of service.