Notes on ‘Seeking the Face of God’ and Psalms

Earlier I wrote a post about how I started using Evernote to get more out of the books I read. I would like to write about my first time using Evernote in this way, although I had been previously using it for many other things. The most important thing is what I’m learning about Psalms after reading Seeking the Face of God: Nine Reflections on the Psalms by Martyn Lloyd-Jones.

The book of Psalms, or certain aspects of it, has always been sort of an enigma for me (if an enigma can be sort of). Anything having to do with the law, wisdom, creation and praising and thanking God is pretty straight forward. Confession and lament would be similar. I also don’t have much of a problem with the imprecatory Psalms, where David asks God to do some pretty horrible things to his enemies. While we shouldn’t take these things lightly–and they should bother us–God hates evil more than we can imagine and will exact revenge on his enemies whether in this life or at the end, which is not a problem for me. David knows who those enemies are and what they’ve done. Is God a Moral Monster?: Making Sense of the Old Testament God by Paul Copan is good reading on that.

What I don’t know what to do with is all of the things about enemies and evil. I don’t know how we should connect this to our contemporary lives. Are our problems our enemies? Sickness, evil in the world, our own bad thoughts? That may be the wrong way of going about it, at least primarily.

The Main Thing

The main thing I learned from the book is that David and other Psalmists teach us how we should deal with our souls when we find ourselves in a similar state of mind and position, instead of (only) trying to apply the circumstances of the Psalmists’ to ourselves or contemporary life. (paraphrase – pg 100)

Narrowing it down, I was also praising God for always knowing us and what’s going on in our lives and thinking about this, and realized that these Psalms are largely teaching us how to honestly turn to God when we are afraid or are in situations that truly warrant fear. The Psalms are there to teach us how to sincerely worship, confess, lament, praise, thank, express joy and sorrow; nowadays we seem to make so little use out of them in that way.

Main Thing #2

The other main thing I got from the book is: limiting God.

Yea, they turned back and tempted God,
And limited the Holy One of Israel.
Psalm 78:41 KJV

“In their unbelief and in their failure to receive His promises and to believe and act on them, they stood between themselves and the many blessings that God had offered them and promised them so freely.” pg 80

“Are we individually enjoying the blessings of the Christian life as we should? What do we find as we look back and review the past year? We have attended the house of God, we have read the Scriptures, but how much of this have we appropriated? To what extent are we enjoying all that God has offered us so freely?” pg 81

If we don’t ‘listen’ to God, we can limit Him. (Listening — reading Scripture, meditating on it, letting God open our eyes)

I worship God best by reading. I really do enjoy the blessings of God and am thankful for what he does, as difficult as life is. I really do appropriate the theology that I learn, as far as I know. But if I’m spending an inordinate amount of time on Facebook, looking at reviews of books I’m not going to read, researching stuff I’m not going to buy in the near future, reading articles that have no bearing on my life, watching too many YouTube videos–and not spending much time reading, taking refuge in God, and even blogging, I’m limiting God and short changing myself.

Those were the main things, which brought new life to many of the Psalms, but I still need a lot of help from the Holy Spirit and want to learn and appreciate them more each time I read through them.

Below are other random notes I took and quotes I saved.

I notice how well he explains things. You just have to read him to know. He apologetically uses modern analogies, because he likes to stick to Scripture and use stories in Scripture as illustrations as much as possible.

We Are Pilgrims

He says that Christians know that “we seek the city to come” (Hebrews 13:14) and shouldn’t see this world as our home. We should know that things of this world can’t truly satisfy, and when bad things happen, it shouldn’t seem like such an unusual thing. And if we get through it, that “we made it!” and now we’re safe and can live happily ever after (my words). There will be trouble (John 16:33). If someone has seen anything of God’s glory, “There is nothing that is of any value in contrast with this, and nothing that I may receive from the whole universe is of any value compared with it.” pg 112 (see 1 Peter 2:11-12)

Religion

“Religion, finally, is a question of knowing God. It is not primarily a matter of living, nor is it just a question of a good life or of doing good. No; the essence of religion is to know God.” pg 44
“the whole of true religion, is to know God.”
“True religion is not just a matter of morality. That is included, but to make it that the end of religion is to rob it of its central glory.” pg 61-62 – religion isn’t a dirty word yet (1950s)

Biographies

“There is nothing that I know of, next to reading the Scriptures themselves, that is more profitable in the Christian life than a careful, constant reading and study of Christian biography. And, of course, the book of Psalms is preeminent in that very respect.” pg 140 – I never would have thought of Psalms as biography
“Christian biography proves abundantly that the people who have had the most gracious and the most frequent visitations from the God have been those who have sought Him most diligently.” pg 145
I have heard John Piper say the same thing.

Scripture

There are many ways of doing this [setting the Lord always before us-Psalm 16:8], but none is more important than the Word, the Bible. God has revealed Himself to us there; so as we read it, we obtain knowledge about God. He is speaking to us through the Word about Himself and about ourselves, so that the more we know it and read it, the more it will take us into the presence of God. So if you want to set the Lord always before you, spend much time in regular, daily reading of the Bible. And let it be systematic reading, not just picking it up at random and turning to a favorite psalm and then to somewhere in the Gospels. No; it must be Genesis to Revelation! Go through the Book year by year. I think any Christian should be ashamed who does not go through the entire Bible once a year. Go through it systematically. Many schemes have been designed and can be purchased that will tell you how to do this and will help you do so. Or if you like, you can work one out for yourself as I once did. But whatever you do, insist upon it. God’s Word speaks to you—listen to Him, and you will come into His presence. Set Him before you by reading the Bible. You can do this also in prayer—talking to God and listening to Him.

Adversity

“The true Christian is always driven by adversity to God.” pg 102
“Christians not only instinctively turn to God in this way at such a time, but they feel that they have a right to do so.” pg 102 (rightly so)
“Each Psalmist is not a man writing theoretically about life. It is generally someone who, having passed through some experience that tried and tested him, has again discovered the way of success and triumph. So he wants to celebrate that and to pass the information to others.” Let’s use them.

Prayer

Do you praise God? When you are on your knees alone, do you just say your prayers mechanically, or do you truly praise Him? Do you trace His providence and grace? Do you “count your blessings and name them one by one”? And does your heart well up within you and pour itself out in praise and thanksgiving? Only after he has done all that does the psalmist take his petitions to God: “Hear, O LORD, when I cry with my voice: have mercy also upon me, and answer me…. Hide not thy face far from me; put not thy servant away in anger: thou hast been my help; leave me not, neither forsake me, O God of my salvation…. Deliver me not over unto the will of mine enemies: for false witnesses are risen up against me, and such as breathe out cruelty” (Psalm 27:7, 9, 12).

Once more, have you understood this strategy of prayer? This is the way to pray. The apostle Paul has said it all, as we have seen, in Philippians 4:6: “Be careful [anxious] for nothing; but in every thing”—or in all circumstances—”by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God.” There it is: You start with adoration, wonder, and amazement. You gaze upon Him and all His glorious attributes—what He has been, what He has done for us, and all the wonders of His work. You trace them out, you praise Him, and then, knowing Him, you bring your petitions to Him, whatever they may be.

Then the psalmist says, having done all that, wait for the answer. Everything does not finish the moment you have uttered your petition. “Wait on the LORD. (Ps. 27:14, emphasis added).

Intimacy With God

“It is David’s greatest desire to feel the presence of God, to know that He is with him and that He is looking down on him.” pg 105 – despite his circumstances, he’s longing for the presence of God
“The desire for an intimate knowledge of God the Father is the biggest and the most important thing in their lives; it is of greater importance to them than anything else whatsoever, and therefore they are more concerned about it than anything else.” pg 105
“It is something that God does to you, something that he gives you.”
“The secret of life is to gaze upon the glory of God. It should be our supreme ambition and greatest desire.” Reading [Gazing Upon] The Glory of Christ by John Owen is a great help in doing this, as far as extra-biblical books.

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