It was Monday. I was hustling down the Interstate. Racing the clock, I was passing cars without noticing the vehicles, the drivers, or my surroundings. I was a man on a mission and I was late.
Tuesday morning I opened my Bible to Psalm 143. No longer in my car, I was still moving fast. I was still a man on a mission. I had a day of activity ahead of me. Sadly, the Scripture was just a car I had to pass on the way to an important deadline.
I was reading, but I was not seeing. I was hearing, but I was not comprehending. Why? Because I was in a hurry. Then I slowed down. I stopped. I sat back in my seat. And I did the three things that David did: remember, meditate, ponder.
Remember = To bring something to mind. David was to reflect on "the days of old." That is not the same as the "good old days." It is reflecting on the good work of God in days gone by, such as the days of Moses and Joshua (Psalm 74:2).
Meditate = To mull it over. Spurgeon writes, "If at first view the deeds of the Lord do not encourage us, let us think them over again, ruminating and considering the histories of divine providence."
Ponder = The basic idea of the Hebrew word "ponder," is to consider. It also conveys the speaking, sighing, singing, complaining, or praising that grows out of that reflection.
If David took time to reflect on God's great work on his behalf, I would do the same. Here are a few of the thoughts that came to my mind:
- 9th Grade English Class: God took me, a shy kid, fearful of giving a speech to his 9th grade English class and empowered me to teach his word and encourage his people. My lesson: His power is made perfect in my weakness (2 Corinthians 12:9).
- Nervously rehearsing my vows: Thirty-five years ago, I had the crazy idea of writing our wedding vows -- and memorizing them. Not a good move. That day I paced the hallway before I walked the aisle, just hoping I would not forget what I was supposed to say. Thinking of that moment reminds me of the amazing wife and life partner God has given me. My lesson: Shannan is an expression of God's favor on my life (Proverbs 18:22).
- Honeysuckle Avenue: The year was 1985. Shannan and I were living on $900 a month as we helped plant Palm Beach Community Church. We didn't have enough income to meet the "out-going" and yet God provided. He was so faithful in his provision that I can remember driving down Honeysuckle (our street) praying, "Lord, I hope you always keep us in this kind of place (financially)." Full disclosure: I stopped praying that prayer after years of tight living, but God still provides. My lesson: The Lord will provide (Genesis 22:14).
- Sharing the gospel with my friend Jimmy D: Jimmy and I rode bikes for exercise and talked Jesus from time-to-time. I shared the gospel with him and God transformed his life. My lesson: The gospel is still the power of God to save (Romans 1:16).
Psalm 143 finds David in a tough place. His spirit was spent, but as David reflects on the works of God, "He is already escaping from the prison of his circumstances and his self-preoccupation, but there will be no dramatic change."
David reminds me that it is not only good to look back, it is absolutely necessary. My circumstances may not change, but God will strengthen me as I remember that he is the same yesterday, today, and forever (Hebrews 13:8). That certainty helps me move forward.
Ponder your past. How have you seen the work of his hands?
- Thoughts on the "days of old" from Craig C. Broyles, Psalms in New International Biblical Commentary series, Peabody, Massachusetts, 1999. Page 499.
- "If at the first ..." from The Treasury of David, Vol III. Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing Company. 1977. Page 336.
- "He is already escaping ... " from Psalms 73-150: An Introduction And Commentary in the Tyndale Old Testament Commentaries, by Derek Kidner. USA: Inter-Varsity Press. 1975. Page 476.