Tuesday, July 6, 2010

My Exceeding Joy

The third chapter of my book Praise Patterns is titled "My Exceeding Joy." Here's an excerpt from Day Two:

Habakkuk was an Old Testament prophet who wrote the book that bears his name. It begins with a prayer of questions and a longing for justice. God answered him with the frightening news that Israel's enemies were going to sweep in and conquer the land. Habakkuk kept praying, pouring out his questions and concerns and heartbreaks to God, and God continued to show him the judgments that were coming to his nation. In chapter three, Habakkuk proclaimed God's power, and closed the book with a prayer of determined joy. Habakkuk's circumstances didn't change; in fact he had God's assurance that things were only going to get worse. Yet Habakkuk responded to God with praise. Notice the last phrases—not only did Habakkuk write this beautiful prayer, he set it to music.

Though the fig tree does not bud and there is no fruit on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, yet I will triumph in the Lord; I will rejoice in the God of my salvation! Yahweh my Lord is my strength; He makes my feet like those of a deer and enables me to walk on mountain heights!
For the choir director: on stringed instruments.(Habakkuk 3:17-19)

Habakkuk didn't start out with this joyful attitude. First he took all his concerns and complaints to God, listened to God, and responded in prayer. Then he praised. I see a similar pattern in David's words in Psalm 42.

As the deer pants for the water brooks, so pants my soul for You, O God.
My soul thirsts for God, for the living God.
When shall I come and appear before God?
My tears have been my food day and night,
While they continually say to me, “Where is your God?”
When I remember these things, I pour out my soul within me.
For I used to go with the multitude; I went with them to the house of God,
With the voice of joy and praise, with a multitude that kept a pilgrim feast.
Why are you cast down, O my soul? And why are you disquieted within me?
Hope in God, for I shall yet praise Him for the help of His countenance.
O my God, my soul is cast down within me;
Therefore I will remember You from the land of the Jordan,
And from the heights of Hermon, from the Hill Mizar.
Deep calls unto deep at the noise of Your waterfalls;
All Your waves and billows have gone over me.
The Lord will command His lovingkindness in the daytime,
And in the night His song shall be with me—a prayer to the God of my life.
I will say to God my Rock,“Why have You forgotten me?
Why do I go mourning because of the oppression of the enemy?”
As with a breaking of my bones, my enemies reproach me,
While they say to me all day long,“Where is your God?”
Why are you cast down, O my soul? And why are you disquieted within me?
Hope in God; for I shall yet praise Him,
The help of my countenance and my God.(Psalm 42 NKJV)

Praise Patterns
will be available to purchase in about a month. In the book, this segment is followed by a Prelude to Praise (a quote from a historical Christian and a few details about that person's life), discussion and application questions, and a selection of Psalms.

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