Tuesday, December 26, 2017
Psalms 119:153 – 160 (NIV) Look upon my suffering and deliver me, for I have not forgotten your law. Defend my cause and redeem me; preserve my life according to your promise. Salvation is far from the wicked, for they do not seek out your decrees. Your compassion is great, O LORD; preserve my life according to your laws. Many are the foes who persecute me, but I have not turned from your statutes. I look on the faithless with loathing, for they do not obey your word. See how I love your precepts; preserve my life, O LORD, according to your love. All your words are true; all your righteous laws are eternal.
Some churches still hold regular mid-week prayer meetings. One element of many such meetings is the testimony time. At one such church there was a man who always liked to be the first to get up to repeat his memorized testimony. Some who knew him well were consistently confused by his cantankerous behavior. Finally, after one particularly disagreeable discussion prior to the meeting, a friend couldn’t take it anymore. When the first man stood to give his testimony and said, “I praise the Lord for saving me and preserving me,” the friend got up and said, “Brother, He didn’t preserve you, He pickled you.”
Life has a tendency to pickle us when God intends to preserve us. I understand that pickling is preserving of sorts, but unless I am mistaken, things that are pickled generally make you pucker. They put a squint in your eye and a scowl on your face. I like pickles and pickled herring as much as anyone, but put them next to a jar of apricot preserves and fresh warm biscuits and I’ll choose the preserves every time. Things that are preserved are sweet and taste like they did when they were fresh. Things that are pickled are sour and their original taste has been changed. Instead of being made better, they have been made bitter.
You’ve probably met some pickled saints in your day. Maybe you’ve even been one, or still are one. Pickled saints can turn any smile into a scowl. Pickled saints absorb the acid of society and believe it is their purpose in life to pass it on to everyone they meet. Any sugar that was in their original recipe has long been overwhelmed by the vinegar of life. They have been saturated with sour.
Preserved saints are different. The Hebrew word translated “preserve” literally means “to revive to fullness of life.” Preserved saints can turn any frown into a smile. Preserved saints have absorbed the promises of God and believe it is their purpose in life pass on God’s love to everyone they meet. Any acid that was in them has been overwhelmed by the sweetness of God’s law. They have been restored to God’s intended abundance of life.
I don’t want to be pickled. I want to be preserved. Three times in this Psalm the author asks God to preserve his life. There are three elements to preserving food – cooking, flavoring, and sealing.
There are also three elements to preserving our lives.
- First, we must be cooked in the circumstances of life.
- Second, during the cooking process, flavoring is added. We get to choose the flavoring recipe. One recipe is based on the vinegar of anger mixed with spices of contempt, regret, disobedience, and selfishness. The other recipe is based on the sweetness of God’s love blended with the additives of His promises and law. One recipe pickles: the other preserves.
- Third, when all the ingredients from each individual cooking circumstance have been absorbed, the jar is sealed. When opened it will always taste just like the ingredients that were added while it was being cooked.
Each of us has a pantry full of preserved circumstances. Each day we go into the pantry and choose a jar to be our flavor of the day. We will always taste just like the jar we open. People around us will know whether we are pickled or preserved. I think it’s time for me to go through my pantry and throw out all the pickled jars. I want every day to be a jar of apricot preserves.