Heman and the Master of the Universe (Part Four)

March 10, 2017 at 6:06 pm | Posted in Heman and the Master of the Universe | 1 Comment
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Heman, the psalmist of Psalm 88, prayed:
1. Openly
2. Obstinately
3. Obnoxiously
He also prayed:
4. Obstetrically

“Obstetrician” is from the Latin term for a midwife, obstetrix, which has the same root from which we get words like “obstacle.” It has the literal sense of “standing in opposition to,” and you can picture a midwife’s position, “standing against” (literally, of course, not figuratively) a woman in the process of giving birth.

midwife

Heman was not afraid – as bizarre as this sounds, in a sense – to stand “in opposition to” God. However, as is the case with a midwife, he was not actually opposing God with his prayer. He was trying to “bring forth” – to bring forth from pain a “delivery/deliverance.”

Heman wrestled with God for healing, deliverance, or at least understanding.

Wilt thou shew wonders to the dead? shall the dead arise [and] praise thee? Selah.

Psalm 88:10

Heman rhetorically asked God, “How will I praise you if I die?”

Shall thy lovingkindness be declared in the grave? [or] thy faithfulness in destruction?

Psalm 88:11

This kind of praying sounds foreign to our ears, but it is not all that uncommon in the Bible, where the petitioner in extreme circumstances sounds as if he’s trying to bargain with God. Abraham did this for Lot as he tried to persuade God to spare Sodom. Moses did this for the people after their idolatry with the golden calf. Here Heman seeks to do it for himself, but he frames it as an opportunity for God to get glory.

Shall thy wonders be known in the dark? and thy righteousness in the land of forgetfulness?

Psalm 88:12

Heman also prayed obstetrically not just in bargaining with God for his life, but in the sense of wrestling with God. This kind of praying does not displease God if we are sincere, and if our heart still retains a reverence for Him and a desire to truly know Him, to know His will, and to receive His blessing. Jacob did it. Job did it. Asaph did it in Psalm 73. Habakkuk did it.

Questioning God’s judgment, wisdom, knowledge, or faithfulness can be a dangerous thing, but He may allow it if, through it, we have a true desire to draw closer to Him.

I [am] afflicted and ready to die from [my] youth up: [while] I suffer thy terrors I am distracted. Thy fierce wrath goeth over me; thy terrors have cut me off. They came round about me daily like water; they compassed me about together. Lover and friend hast thou put far from me, [and] mine acquaintance into darkness.

Psalm 88:15-18

In the darkness we are driven to root out the sins that may have caused our suffering, and this brings us to an intentional spending of time with Him in the awareness of His presence. Even if our suffering is not being caused by specific sins, the Lord’s painful, but gracious, isolation of us from the presence and succor of our friends and loved ones can force us (or free us) to seek Him as the only Light that can shine into, and light our way out of, the deepest midnight darkness of our circumstances or our souls.

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Heman and the Master of the Universe (Part Three)

February 23, 2017 at 1:36 pm | Posted in Heman and the Master of the Universe | 3 Comments
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In Psalm 88 Heman prayed openly. He prayed obstinately. And he prayed obnoxiously. Note some of the broad generalizations he used, and the self-centered assumption that God was doing His absolute worst to Heman:

For my soul is full of troubles: and my life draweth nigh unto the grave.

Psalm 88:3

Full?” We often feel this way when we are in extreme distress, but this is an exaggeration that attempts to disguise the fact that God truly sees to the very depths of our soul.

Thou hast laid me in the lowest pit, in darkness, in the deeps.

Psalm 88:6

The lowest?” No matter how low we may feel, the pit of anguish in which we languish is far shallower, by God’s grace, than the one we deserve, apart from Him.

Thy wrath lieth hard upon me, and thou hast afflicted [me] with all thy waves.

Psalm 88:7

All Thy waves?” No, not a one of us, from the strongest to the most faithful to the most affliction-hardened, could withstand one instant under the full tide of God’s wrathful surf. We would be obliterated. Only Christ could, and has, experienced this type of wrath in our place.

Thy fierce wrath goeth over me; thy terrors have cut me off.

Psalm 8:16

What Heman was truly experiencing was not the “fierce wrath” of God. What he was actually experiencing was the chastisement of His loving God, which, although no doubt severe, is done out of kindness, with the goal of correction, the way a good father disciplines his son, not out of petty anger, frustration, or perverse joy, but with the intention that the son may benefit, grow, and learn – not be “cut off.”

That Heman’s feelings, although sincere, were not valid in their extremity, is evidenced by the fact that He was still given grace to pray, and that he had the consolation of knowing that the Master of the Universe was listening.

Next time we will see that Heman also prayed obstetrically.

Heman and the Master of the Universe (Part Two)

January 17, 2017 at 4:04 pm | Posted in Heman and the Master of the Universe | 4 Comments
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In part one we saw that Heman, the psalmist of Psalm 88, prayed openly. Now we see that he also prayed obstinately.

O lord God of my salvation, I have cried day and night before thee:

Psalm 88:1

Mine eye mourneth by reason of affliction: LORD, I have called daily upon thee, I have stretched out my hands unto thee.

Psalm 88:9

But unto thee have I cried, O LORD; and in the morning shall my prayer prevent thee.

Psalm 88:13

Praying day and night, praying with tears and grasping hands, praying first thing in the morning, as though the Lord would hear our prayers before He even (figuratively, of course) begins HIS day – this is what is called praying with importunity. And, while it may be an annoyance to us when someone pesters us this way, it does not bother the Lord.

And he said unto them, Which of you shall have a friend, and shall go unto him at midnight, and say unto him, Friend, lend me three loaves; For a friend of mine in his journey is come to me, and I have nothing to set before him? And he from within shall answer and say, Trouble me not: the door is now shut, and my children are with me in bed; I cannot rise and give thee. I say unto you, Though he will not rise and give him, because he is his friend, yet because of his importunity he will rise and give him as many as he needeth. And I say unto you, Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you. For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened.

Luke 11:5-10

This asking and this seeking and this knocking is an insistent, faithful, and strenuous calling out to the Lord in prayer, which may very well incline Him to respond. Regardless of whether He grants our plea or not, though, it pleases Him because it teaches us dedication and persistence, and because it brings us to intentionally spend time with Him in the awareness of His presence.

Next time we will see that Heman even prayed obnoxiously!


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