Hundreds of people gathered in Westminster Chapel, London, for ‘Our Daily Bread Ministries’ 2017 Bible conference. Entitled ‘Psalms for the journey’, it comprised four talks on different psalms alongside testimonies and times of worship. The talks were given by Rev. Bill Crowder.
The first was on Psalm 42, with the title, ‘When the journey is isolating’. This is about thirsting for God in trouble and exile. ‘Most of us know most of the crises we face in life are not global, but are personal and intimate. These crises grab our hearts and squeeze us and won’t let us go. The writer is thirsty for God; he is desperate for the living God’.
While he cries out, ‘When will I see God?’, his enemies cry out, ‘Where is your God?’. This echoes the Cross, when Christ endured people asking him where his Father was and why he hadn’t come to rescue him.
But the psalmist remembered how God has been good to him, and how he belongs to the community of faith. He is not alone; he is not isolated. So we too can hope in God and encourage our hearts to have confidence.
The second session was on Psalm 55, a ‘very honest psalm’ with descriptive and prescriptive elements. ‘These are the words of a man who is traumatised. David is not a coward, but the situation is different when the main battleground is your heart and your heart is broken’.
It may have been about David’s son Absalom, who had usurped power, or about the betrayal of David by his best friend, Ahithophel. David runs to his God, ‘I shall call upon God and the Lord will save me’.
After lunch we returned to the hall to watch a series of video testimonies. One was on the ongoing work of SASRA and its vital outreach to men in the barracks and to their families. Another was the testimony of a young, formerly violent, man from Morecambe, who, on the promise of a Chinese meal from his mum, went to a meeting with her and heard ‘about the real Jesus, for the first time ever’. He is now evangelising other young men and seeking to reach them with the gospel.
The third session, on Psalm 73, was ‘When the journey is confusing’. Mr Crowder started by saying, ‘Justice is a tough needle to thread: it requires the perfect balance of grace and truth’. Psalm 73 is all about justice from the perspective of Asaph, the chief singer and worship leader of Israel.
‘His heart is locked into an internal debate. If God is just, why does life have to be so hard for the righteous? The Jewish doctrine of retribution — where righteousness is judged for righteousness, and wickedness judged for wickedness — does not seem to work for Asaph’.
Asaph is angry that the wicked can buy themselves out of trouble, ‘set their mouths against heaven’ and get away with it. He is inflamed with anger and jealousy. He thinks his good work has been in vain.
But ‘Jesus Christ did not die on the cross to make life fair. He died to forgive us our sins, to make all things right and all things new’. Asaph had to keep his thoughts to himself, until God opened his eyes and he began to worship God once more.
The last session, ‘When the journey is blessed’, looked at Psalm 13. The psalmist implores God to listen to his complaint. Some problems in life do not have instant solutions. So why should we continually tell others our complaints? We should be telling God, the one who has the power to answer.
The psalm starts with a lament, then moves to invocation calling on God to hear. Eventually, it ends in trust in God and praise.