Understanding The Will of the Lord I once owned a little booklet which was a collection of different scriptures arranged categorically so that no matter what you are going through; depression, divorce, decision making, anxiety, temptation, etc., you could find a scripture for comfort and encouragement. It was nice little book that I did use from time to time and it did indeed comfort me. But that was not always the case. In Psalm 37:25, I read this verse: “I have been young and now I am old, yet I have never seen the righteous forsaken or his children begging bread.” Being from a family of twelve children, you can imagine that this “promise” that I found in the scriptures would be very reassuring. But Richard Wurmbrand, who spent fourteen years of torture inside Communist prisons because of His devotion to Christ, insisted that he had indeed seen the children of the righteous begging bread! This was a disturbing thing hear on multiple levels. And it caused me angst concerning how I might take comfort in the scriptures.
I am afraid that we are in the habit of reading the Bible as though it is a collection of Christian incantations to make the world do what we want. And sometimes, when life doesn’t go the way that we want, we throw the book out as a sham. So, how are these Psalms meant to be read and applied to ourselves? Is the Psalmist in Psalm 37 giving us a “promise of God” or simply an observation? Jesus Himself could have asked these questions when the devil tempted Him to throw Himself down from the temple and to let the angels of God catch Him (Luke 4:9-13). "After all", said the devil, “He will give His angels charge concerning you, to guard you in all your ways. They will bear you up in their hands, that you do not strike your foot against a stone.” (Psalm 91:11-12). My Dad always pointed out, as all good Protestants would, that Jesus combated the devil’s temptation with more scripture. “It is also written, ‘You shall not put the Lord Your God to the test’” (Luke 4:12). Fine answer but it doesn’t help us in our quest to know how we can use the Psalms. How did Jesus decide which scripture took priority? And is that even the right way of asking the question? As I mentioned above, we Western Christians sometimes use the Bible as a collection of sanctified incantations. But the less Charismatic among us tend to use the scriptures as a sort of Book of Order or a spiritually scientific handbook. This is apparently how God “works”. These are the rules that He must obey. Our job is simply to follow the rules and everything will work out fine. If we find ourselves in a mess, we must have forgotten or neglected a rule somewhere. God save us! Thankfully, God is not such a wooden personality! The easiest thing to say about all this is that the scriptures must be read in context. But that still doesn’t always help us when we are attempting to apply the scriptures to our own lives. I think that the bottom line is that while the Scriptures are multi-faceted and the books of the Bible cover many different categories of genre, the main weight of the scriptures lies in the fact that it is part of a narrative. The Bible is a story of God, the world, and His people. The more we focus on the story the Bible is telling, the more we will understand how we fit into that story and how that story fits into us (i.e. how the scriptures apply to us). Therefore be careful how you walk, not as unwise men but as wise, making the most of your time, because the days are evil. So then do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is. And do not get drunk with wine, for that is dissipation, but be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody with your heart to the Lord; always giving thanks for all things in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to God, even the Father; and be subject to one another in the fear of Christ.” Ephesians 5:19-21 Let us speak to one another in the Psalms and hymns and spiritual songs that remind us of who we are, where we are, where we have come from, and where we are meant to go. Then we will not be foolish but we will understand what the will of the Lord is and we will walk in it.