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Nov 10 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

November 6, 2016 – Psalm 13

Body Work

How long, O LORD? Will you forget me forever?
How long will You hide Your face from me?
How long shall I take counsel in my soul,
Having sorrow in my heart all the day?
How long will my enemy be exalted over me?
Consider and answer me, O LORD my God;
Enlighten my eyes, or I will sleep the sleep of death,
And my enemy will say, “I have overcome him,”
And my adversaries will rejoice when I am shaken.
But I have trusted in Your lovingkindness;
My heart shall rejoice in Your salvation.
I will sing to the LORD,
Because He has dealt bountifully with me.
 Psalm 13

Intro: I want to use this psalm to open three windows

The first window: The psalm’s accurate and concise depiction of despair
– the dark thoughts that constantly churn “all the day”
• negative rumination that goes nowhere
The second window: The way the poet makes use of body parts
– God’s face (or presence) that is hidden from him
• it is not only that he cannot find God in his circumstances
• but he cannot see his expression — anger? compassion?
– the poet’s eyes are dying for enlightenment
– the poet’s heart, that in verse 2 carries sorrow all day
• but by verse 5, it is ready to rejoice
The third window: The reminder how physical the psalms are
– there other psalms that name five or six different body parts
• the psalmists were very conscious of the physical body in physical space
◦ i.e., God’s created world
– even the most spiritual desires are cast in physical terms

My soul thirsts for You, my flesh yearns for you (Ps. 63:1)

• this is a person fully alive, fully in touch with himself and his world
• and keep in mind that the psalms are prayer
◦ prayers filled with visceral and earthly images
◦ they bring all of this into prayer

Evangelicals have a salvation theology (e.g., Jesus saves souls)

What we need is a robust creation theology
– it begins in the first chapters of Genesis
• when God saw all that was made and it was good
• and it goes on all the way to Revelation 4 and 5
◦ chapter 4 God is worthy of worship because he created all things
◦ chapter 5, Jesus is worthy of worship because by his blood he purchased salvation for people of every nation
– salvation theology does not replace creation theology or render it null and void
◦ salvation embraces creation – all of it! (Ro. 8:19-23–note Paul’s specific inclusion of the body)
• Genesis celebrates the body (it is the theme of the first humanly composed song, Ge. 2:23)

People in scripture paid attention to what they felt in their bodies
• and where those feelings occurred in their bodies

Mary Douglas, “The Bible locates the emotions in the innermost parts of the body; the loins are wrung with remorse or grief; the innermost part is scrutinized by God; compassion resides in the bowels. The psalmist said: ‘Truth is in the inward being’ (Psalm 74:8).”

A Brief overview of body parts in the Hebrew Scriptures

External body parts
(each one stands for the functions it performs and is used literally and figuratively)
Eyes – sight and what it produces in the intellect, emotions and spirit
• perception, understanding, enlightenment
• eyes also suggest orientation – where one is headed, who one depends on
Ears – listen and responding (the Hebrew word for hear is also translated obey)
• especially listening to instruction and commands
• a sensitivity and responsiveness to God – his voice (e.g., Jer. 7:22-24)
Mouth, lips and tongue – speech, expressing the inner self
• used to bless, praise, deceive, swear to other gods, and so on
Hands – what one does and is able to do; symbolizes power
Feet – the direction one goes, the message one might carry, stability
• a person’s feet can carry them into violence

My son, do not walk in the way with them.
Keep your feet from their path,
For their feet run to do evil
And they hasten to shed blood. 
(Pr. 1:15-16)

Head – honor, authority, dignity
Face – reveals inner self, a person’s presence

Internal body parts
Heart – includes “mind”; thought, desire, will
• absorbs information from organs of perception
• determines action performed by hands, feet, etc.
Internal organs; inward parts, kidneys, bowels, etc
• where the deepest emotions are felt
• internal parts take the brunt of God’s discipline
◦ God doesn’t just slap the hand
◦ he drains vitality from internal organs (Ps. 32:3-4)
Bones – the structural frame needed to stand and walk
• whether a person walks upright or crooked (figuratively) has moral significance
• bones can speak (Ps. 35:10) and be dismayed (6:2)
◦ if the bones give out, the person collapses

All of these parts and their processes participate in prayer

In the Hebrew Scriptures, physical existence is richly spiritual

But no statement regarding the body soars higher than Paul’s in 1 Cor. 6

the body . . . is for the Lord, and the Lord is for the body (v. 13)
Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own? For you have been bought with a price; therefore glorify God in your body (vv. 19-20)

– the ways in which our bodies can pray are so much more than saying prayers, kneeling, lifting our hands, or signing the cross
– so how can our bodies take us deeper into prayer?

In prayerful awareness we present our bodies to God

I’ve known to many Christians who ignore or abuse their bodies
– I can’t read minds, but it seems they think themselves deprived of sinful pleasures
• so to compensate (and console themselves) they overindulge legitimate desires
• but there are instances when overindulgence crosses a line
– in prayer we do not dismiss the body or try to transcend it
• rather, we present the body to God, as a living and holy sacrifice (Ro. 12:1)
• this is a way to resist being conformed to world

Through prayerful awareness, our minds can be renewed and our lives transformed
– we have a better understanding of this than any other time in all of history
• for example, we read in How God Changes Your Brain:

“If your contemplate God long enough, something surprising happens in the brain. Neural functioning begins to change. Different circuits become activated, while others become deactivated. New dendrites are formed, new synaptic connections are made, and the brain becomes more sensitive to subtle realms of experience.”

• but in spite of this better understanding, we probably still have the poorest performance in all history

Where do we begin?

We can start by paying attention to our bodies
– sadly, our culture devotes most of its attention to the body’s appearance
• after appearance would be our concern for the body’s health
• we need a greater appreciation for how God’s Spirit works with our spirits
◦ and how that is registered in the body
– paying prayerful attention to the body is to listen to it in the present moment
• our imaginations can take us anywhere in the world
◦ anywhere in the universe and anywhere in the past or future
• but our bodies cannot
◦ they will always be right here, right now
◦ but that’s precisely where we want to be in prayerful awareness

We can learn the language of our physical sensations
– I feel fear, but is it only a sensation? one that I interpret as fear?
• I sometimes feel anxious or that I’m failing (in my responsibilities, etc.)
◦ but if I listen to the feeling, it’s actually only a flutter in my chest
• the sensation may be nothing more an internal adjustment to the environment
◦ but I still benefit from discovering what my body feels is nothing more than a sensation
◦ because I am now free from my illusion and fear
– we can develop a discernment regarding what the body feels
• when it reacts to another person with a snap judgment
• we will discern whether it is reading something there or projecting

Sometimes we have to listen carefully to the body
– just to get its issues out of our way
• and so we can maintain our focus in prayer

How we position our bodies in prayer can also be helpful
– posture reflects mood (Cain’s face fell when his offering was rejected)
– posture reflects attitude (regarding person we’re with)
• in prayer we want to sit comfortably alert

Imagine walking in a park and hearing a beautiful sound. It is a bird song that you’ve never heard before. So you stop and stand very still. You turn your head and lean in the direction that you think the bird may be, and you listen intently. Take that posture when you sit in silent prayer.

Gestures in rituals and simple movement in prayer also have value
– motion changes something within us
• gestures are an “expression of” a relational feeling or commitment and at the same time an “instance of”
◦ like a mother kissing her child goodnight
◦ the kiss is an expression of her love and an act of that love
• with the gesture, the inner feeling and its behavior are reinforced
– singing has very positive effects
• it is easy to see how it changes our respiration and also our mood
◦ in poetry and song, the body does some of its best spiritual work

Conc: God created us in such a way, though we cannot comprehend him, we can converse with him

He made us in such a way that everything we do can be prayer

Whatever you do in word or deed,
do all in the name of the Lord Jesus,
giving thanks through Him to God the Father.
Colossians 3:17

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