O you who sit in the gardens, My companions are listening for your voice-- Let me hear it!
Song of Songs 8:13 NASB
She is the Shulamite, and she’s a picture of the mature lover of Jesus here at the end of the Song of Songs.
She's been through a lot, this one who hosts the Lover of her Soul and His companions, in the garden of intimacy.
There was a time when she couldn’t bring herself to climb the mountains and leap in the hills with her Beloved, but now her life is marked by fruitful ministry. She’s partnering with Him in His mission of building His Church by spending her days making disciples.
She’s seen disappointments and abuse. She’s been through valleys and long days where the heavens seemed like brass.
But she never abandon the secret place—the garden she prepared for Him, and gave to Him.
And there He can find her, and He calls for her voice.
Her times of intimacy create a hedge protecting her from burnout, and depression. They give her life.
But what we sometimes don’t realize is the simple fact that the Lord loves these times too. He loves to hear her voice—the song of her heart—the poetry of her worship—He loves her garden of praise.
Home. Your voice makes this garden home for Him too.
The Lord beckons to us today, “Let me hear your voice.”
Will you answer His call today? Let Him hear your cry—your whisper—your song—your prayer. He loves your voice. It's home to Him. He inhabits your praise.
Thanks for stopping in.
Have a great weekend.
PS - If you’re in the Northern NJ area, I’ll be signing books at the Westwood Farmer’s Market from 9:00 AM to 2:00 PM today, Saturday 10/10/15. I’d love to meet you!
As I pondered Psalm 103 this week, I found myself remembering David’s life and one story in particular.
Here’s a key piece of the story. I hope you’ll go and read the surrounding scripture and get the whole picture, but this will bring out the idea, in any case.
Then David and the people who were with him lifted their voices and wept until there was no strength in them to weep. Now David's two wives had been taken captive, Ahinoam the Jezreelitess and Abigail the widow of Nabal the Carmelite. Moreover David was greatly distressed because the people spoke of stoning him, for all the people were embittered, each one because of his sons and his daughters. But David strengthened himself in the LORD his God. - 1 Samuel 30:4-6 NASB (emphasis mine)
David was having a bad day. He’d lost his family, his stuff and the folks who put their lives in his hands were now ready to stone him.
What did he do about it? He stirred up strength.
How do you get strength when you are in a place of great distress?
You take command of your soul.
You take control of your emotions.
I wonder if David wrote Psalm 103 in this very place.
David commands his own soul to “Bless the Lord.”
He didn’t feel it.
He didn’t come to church that morning with the bluebird of happiness on his car antenna.
He made a choice.
He chose to bless the Lord. He chose to remember all the benefits the Lord had poured out upon him.
Bless the LORD, O my soul, And all that is within me, bless His holy name. Bless the LORD, O my soul, And forget none of His benefits;
Who pardons all your iniquities, Who heals all your diseases; Who redeems your life from the pit, Who crowns you with lovingkindness and compassion; Who satisfies your years with good things, So that your youth is renewed like the eagle.
Psalm 103:1-5 NASB
Are you feeling stronger yet?
If not - try reading it out loud. Look it up and read the rest of it.
Jesus confirms for us that a mouth filled with praise will bring strength. See how He interprets David’s words from Psalm 8:
From the mouth of infants and nursing babes You have established strength Because of Your adversaries, To make the enemy and the revengeful cease. - Psalm 8:2 NASB
and said to Him, "Do You hear what these children are saying?" And Jesus said to them, "Yes; have you never read, 'OUT OF THE MOUTH OF INFANTS AND NURSING BABIES YOU HAVE PREPARED PRAISE FOR YOURSELF'?" - Matthew 21:16 NASB
He was defending the actions of the crowds on the day of His triumphal entry into Jerusalem and the religious folks wanted all the people to stop their cheering for Him.
Get this now - Words of praise and remembering God’s deeds and promises, will establish strength in your life.
And at our gates are pleasant fruits, All manner, new and old, Which I have laid up for you, my beloved.
Song of Songs 7:13 NKJV
As we see life through the eyes of this beautiful bride, we find she welcomes her Husband, the Shepherd King, with pleasant fruit at the gate - both old fruit and new, laid up for her beloved. What a ripe (I couldn’t resist) image this paints.
As they live their life together, and they labor in the fields and gardens before them, she offers fruit to the Lover of her soul. And right there at the gate.
There was a day when her garden was locked. (Song 4:12)
There was a day when the door of her chamber was closed to Him and He bid her open. (Song 5:2)
Today He is welcomed with pleasant fruit, both new and old.
What does this offering of fruit say? How does she welcome the Lord as He returns - or perhaps as they return together. I like that image. She has prepared for their return, and then joined Him in His labor. When they return together, He is welcomed. Notice it is fruit she has laid up for Him. She isn’t scrambling to find something to offer her Lover. She does not have to stir up her devotion in order to draw Him to her worship service. She has an overflow of fruit.
Let’s unpack a bit.
Whats fruit does she offer her beloved?
Let’s start with Isaiah’s prophecy. In Isaiah 5 we read that the Lord planted a vineyard and expected fruit—grapes—and returned to find nothing but wild grapes. He says in explanation:
For the vineyard of the LORD of hosts is the house of Israel, and the men of Judah are his pleasant planting; and he looked for justice, but behold, bloodshed; for righteousness, but behold, an outcry! - Isaiah 5:7 ESV
Two forms of fruit that please the Lord are justice and righteousness.
We, on our own, will never walk in either, but through the blood of Jesus and the outpouring of His Spirit, He has given a heart that beats for justice, He has given us an appetite for righteousness.
Paul tells us of the fruit of the Spirit—love characterized by joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control—fulfilling the Lord’s desire for a people who walk in justice and righteousness. (Galatians 5:22-23)
It’s intrigues me—this call for justice and righteousness—justice would be an outward display of goodness while righteousness would imply an adherence to that which is right in oneself. So in this simple two-fold call, He looks for inner holiness and outward demonstration of love.
He was disappointed with Israel’s fruit offerings. He called them wild grapes. But the fruit the maiden lays up for Him is pleasant.
Another aspect of fruit borne in the life of a believer is the fruit of our lips.
Through him then let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that acknowledge his name. - Hebrews 13:15 ESV
I’ve heard someone say they didn’t understand how people can walk into church of a Sunday morning and vault right into full praise and worship mode. This person didn’t get how anyone could immediately be caught up in the presence of the Lord.
And yet the writer to the Hebrews makes it plain that we are exhorted to continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to our God - the fruit of our lips acknowledging His name. If our mouth is constantly offering up praise, we will have an abundance to offer at the gate.
It’s Psalm 100 that tells us:
Enter his gates with thanksgiving, and his courts with praise! Give thanks to him; bless his name! - Psalm 100:4 ESV
Praise and Thanksgiving are in fact the gateway to His presence.
Finally, one more area of fruitfulness in the believer is in those we have brought with us to follow the Shepherd King. Like Philip to Nathanael—there are those to whom we say “I have found the Messiah, come and worship Him with me.”
What offerings of pleasant fruits have you laid up for the Lord? What have you left at the gate of your dwelling to greet Him as He comes?
First – songs that lift up the name (or should I say names) of the Lord please Him.
Next – thanksgiving magnifies Him.
Let’s talk about that for just a minute. What does it mean to magnify?
The Hebrew word means “to cause to grow.”
Can I actually make God bigger? Hmmm – perhaps not. But when I give thanks to Him for what He has done for me - in me, or I tell of His mighty deeds to those I rub shoulders with, I am like a magnifying glass.
Those who hear my praise (me being the closest hearer) can see some detail that was invisible or indiscernible just a moment earlier.
Third – the Lord would rather receive authentic praise from His beloved children, than to have us walk mindlessly through rituals of devotion.
Please note – when our praising the name of the Lord becomes a mindless ritual of devotion, it does not look any different to the Lord than the sacrificial system He came to despise. (See Isaiah 1.)
Will you sing to His name with me today?
Will you magnify Him with thanksgiving as you go through your day today?
My beloved has gone to his garden,
To the beds of spices,
To feed his flock in the gardens,
And to gather lilies.
Song of Songs 6:2 NKJV
Our Maiden has been looking for her lover for what seems to be a long while, but as she begins to praise Him, she begins to sense that He is there with her – in His garden – her soul.
It’s so simple it almost seems foolish to say so, but praise draws the presence of the Lord.
Yet You are holy,
O You who are enthroned upon the praises of Israel.
Psalms 22:3 NASB
Oh how I love that verse. I learned it first in the KJV which says He inhabits the praises of Israel.
One way to break those times when it just feels like God is not around is to start praising Him. Begin to talk about Him to others. Go through and begin to speak out the things He has done in your life. Talk about what He is to you. God can hardly resist praise. Praise changes the atmosphere because God is drawn to praise.
This is actually a great reason to keep a record of the things God has done for you and through you. When it’s quiet and everything in you is reporting the lie that He has forsaken you, you can turn to the record, and read about the things the Lord has done for you, in you and through you.
I know when I was younger and my kids were smaller – there were times when I could come home and they would be excited to see me - the whole “Daddy, Daddy” thing. Let me tell that's just about the sweetest thing, that the “Daddy, Daddy” thing. And that’s the way God feels too. He can’t resist your praise.
I can almost imagine God nudging Gabriel and opening up the curtains of heaven – “Gabe, did you hear what my daughter just said about me!”
Feeling a little God forsaken today?
Pull out your book of remembrance.
Don’t have one yet?
Start today. Think back to the last time you saw Him. What was He up to?
What was the last prayer He answered for you?
Go back there and you might just find Him, right in His garden.
Yesterday, aside from a bit of a rant about paid choirs in churches, I started to answer the question, why do we sing in church.
The main reason for the singing we do in church is because God inhabits praise, and one of the main reasons for gathering in the first place is the presence of the Father.
Don’t misunderstand me please. I know church is about more that seeking the presence of God. We meet together to make disciples, to sharpen one another, love one another and do all those other wonderful one anothers.
Most churches call what they do on Sunday mornings a worship service, so it should be safe to assume there is at least an underlying desire for the presence of Father in our gatherings.
We saw yesterday that this is the main reason we sing, to enter His presence.
The second reason is almost a corollary to the first.
When the Father is present the word has more of an ability to transform us.
I would never take away from the ability of the eternally anointed Word of God to transform men and women in a vacuum. But as God inhabits our praises, and allows us through His gates and into His courts, His Spirit is better able to quicken our hearts to His word. [Tweet This]
But a natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually appraised. - 1 Corinthians 2:14 NASB
The Word of God left to the natural mind can create Pharisees while the Word of God in the hands (or voice) of the Spirit of God transforms men from brute beasts to supernatural soldiers.
It is the expressed mission of the Spirit to, well –
But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I said to you. - John 14:26 NASB
But when He, the Spirit of truth, comes, He will guide you into all the truth; for He will not speak on His own initiative, but whatever He hears, He will speak; and He will disclose to you what is to come. - John 16:13 NASB
And all this stirring – this quickening – this anointing comes when we enter the presence of the Lord.
Back to church-
We sing praises and adoration - it ushers us into the presence of the Lord. We open the Word of the Lord in His presence and our eyes are opened.
It’s a great plan.
It works at home too – take some time to seek the face of the Father as you ready your mind and Spirit to open His word.
Lord – you are magnificent – your deeds are past finding out. Open our eyes to your wonderful Word today.
After singing a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives. - Matthew 26:30 NASB
So why do we sing in church?
Does the singing of songs – hymns – worship music – serve any purpose?
Do we do it because we always have?
Is there some purpose for the songs we sing?
I know that not everyone get’s the 'why' behind church music. I am sure that many of those ‘doing’ the church music don’t even get the real reason behind such traditions.
I worked with a man once who was a singer. He heard me whistling the tune of some wonderful old hymn and asked me if I was a ___________ (fill in name of denomination here – I forget which one he named.) I replied with some self-righteous retort like – no just a Christian.
I found out that he sang in a church choir, and found that interesting because I had been singing in church choirs for decades, but this man was not, as far as I could see, a Christian. (Thankfully it’s not my job to actually decide such thing, or I would be in a heap of trouble.) After a bit of conversation – comparing notes about what parts we sing and musical preferences he said “You should come audition. The pay is good for a Sunday morning’s work.”
Then it dawned on me. He was a paid choir member for a church that wanted really great choir music to adorn their beautiful building and lovely meetings.
Hey – don’t get me wrong – I am not against paid staff in a church setting, and folks who serve the Lord in our midst getting paid to do it – not at all.
But when I hear of a paid choir, made up of folks who have no more interest in God than – hmmm – better not say that or I will be apologizing again – well – than these people singing in the choir – some of whom don’t even know God – they are not part of the body of Christ in that congregation. They sing passionately because they are paid to. Their only connection to the church is on a W2 or 1099.
They, these churches, these folks, are missing the point and purpose of music in church.
King David was a singer. He learned that music and lyrics that praised and adored God were keys for a sinful man when trying to gain access to a holy God.
Check out this old familiar Psalm:
A Psalm for Thanksgiving.
Shout joyfully to the LORD, all the earth.
Serve the LORD with gladness;
Come before Him with joyful singing.
Know that the LORD Himself is God;
It is He who has made us, and not we ourselves;
We are His people and the sheep of His pasture.
Enter His gates with thanksgiving And His courts with praise.
Give thanks to Him,
bless His name.
For the LORD is good;
His lovingkindness is everlasting
And His faithfulness to all generations.
Psalms 100 – NASB
Right in the midst of all this great advice, we have a few instructions on how to approach the presence of the Lord
Come before Him with joyful singing. Enter His gates with thanksgiving And His courts with praise.
As we approach him, singing to Him – singing praises to Him – He opens the gates, allows us into His courts.
In another place David says of the Lord
Yet You are holy, O You who are enthroned upon the praises of Israel. - Psalms 22:3 NASB
The KJV uses the phrase “inhabit the praises.”
Understand that God is drawn to praise, God is attracted to thanksgiving, He dwells in our joyful shouting. [Tweet This]
Oh believe me, you can’t fake this – it’s not like you can utter sweet and empty lies, or you will hear the voice of Jesus:
'THIS PEOPLE HONORS ME WITH THEIR LIPS, BUT THEIR HEART IS FAR AWAY FROM ME. - Matthew 15:8 NASB
So today – stir yourself up, command your soul like David did:
Bless the LORD, O my soul, And all that is within me, bless His holy name. - Psalms 103:1 NASB
There is more to the reason - come back tomorrow for another reason for music in church - but for now...
[Yesterday we talked about the odd weapon you aim at your Commander rather than your enemy and Tuesday we talked about how praise adorns your heart-home to make it inviting for the Lord’s presence]
… I want to share this bit of AH HA.
There is a verse in the Psalms – well, let’s not just talk about it – let’s bring it right up on stage:
From the mouth of infants and nursing babes You have established strength Because of Your adversaries, To make the enemy and the revengeful cease. - Psalms 8:2
So what, you may ask, does this have to do with praise?
You might already know if you looked this up in another Bible. (Above is NASB – the AnotherRedLetterDay standard.) If you happen to have a Darby[i] on your shelf (electronic or otherwise) you would find this:
Out of the mouth of babes and sucklings hast thou established praise because of thine adversaries, to still the enemy and the avenger. - Psalms 8:2 DBY
At first this seems quite unaccountable.
The Hebrew word we are talking about here is ‘oz’ pronounced like the end of the word ‘Cheerios.’ The definition here has not the slightest reference to praise, rather it simply means strength or strong.
So how do we get to praise.
Well there is the way of logic and the way of the Master – walk with me for a couple minutes and I think you will enjoy this.
First the scenic route of logical popcorn theology (by that I mean pulling various verses from all over the place to prove your point – not that there is anything wrong with that – [wink])
1 – God inhabits [or is enthroned in] praise:
Yet You are holy, O You who are enthroned upon the praises of Israel. - Psalms 22:3
2 – Where God is – there is joy:
You will make known to me the path of life; In Your presence is fullness of joy; In Your right hand there are pleasures forever. - Psalms 16:11
3 – Joy is strength
… Do not be grieved, for the joy of the LORD is your strength. - Nehemiah 8:10
Therefore, my logical, mathematical conclusion is that praise = strength.
But as I said there is a more direct route.
There was a Guy a couple thousand years ago walking around Jerusalem, and getting some heat from the authorities because the crowds were calling out to Him for deliverance and the children were showering Him with praises. It seemed as thought they might riot and make Him King or Pope or something like that. And then...
…And Jesus said to them, "Yes; have you never read, 'OUT OF THE MOUTH OF INFANTS AND NURSING BABIES YOU HAVE PREPARED PRAISE FOR YOURSELF'?" - Matthew 21:16
So did Jesus misquote the Psalm?
No – Jesus knew the power of praise – the strength of standing in the midst of your enemies, and turning your eyes directly on your wonderful God and filling your mouth with praise. [Tweet this]
Remember when Jehoshaphat led the Army of Israel into battle with the worship team up front. You can read it in 2 Chronicles 20.
The long and the short of the story is – well – here:
When he had consulted with the people, he appointed those who sang to the LORD and those who praised Him in holy attire, as they went out before the army and said, "Give thanks to the LORD, for His lovingkindness is everlasting." When they began singing and praising, the LORD set ambushes against the sons of Ammon, Moab and Mount Seir, who had come against Judah; so they were routed. - 2 Chronicles 20:21-22
Got yourself is a tough spot? Turn your affections to Jesus, open your mouth and use this wonderful weapon.
Your lovingkindness truly is everlasting, Lord!
Have a great day.
See you again soon.
[i] J. N. Darby translated the bible in 1890. This translation of the Bible is in the public domain.
Lord, I thank you for giving us a weapon that changes the atmosphere, and that drives our enemy into hiding. You are worthy of all our praise. Bless Your great name: Jesus.
for the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh, but divinely powerful for the destruction of fortresses. We are destroying speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God, and we are taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ, and we are ready to punish all disobedience, whenever your obedience is complete. - 2 Corinthians 10:4-6