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Psalms (Vol I)

THE BATTLE FOR THE SUNSHINE

by LARRY CORY

 

Introductory Information About the Book of Psalms

We have all had physical pain of some type.  It can be a cut, a bad tooth, a headache, an infection, or some other type of pain.  Our goal, then, becomes to do whatever it takes so that the pain will end and we will feel better.  There is another type of pain that can be even worse than physical pain, it is emotional pain.  This type of pain can come from many different sources.  It can come from guilt, worry, strained or broken relationships, and uncertainty about the future. When we have this type of pain, like with physical pain, we seek to do that which will help us to end the pain so that we will feel better.

Not everything that we do in seeking to feel good is good for us.  Alcohol, drugs, gambling, entertainment, buying sprees, workaholism, and other quick fixes can be done in our seeking after some type of relief from our emotional pain.  The problem with these solutions is that they can become addictive as more and more is needed in search of relief.  The body builds a tolerance to mood-altering drugs, requiring more and more of the drug to get steadily less and less of the good feelings the drug once provided.  Other addictions can also provide a similar diminishing success in helping us to feel good.  What can help when we are feeling bad?  The Psalms provide us with God's solution.  In them, the Psalmists, in dark times, battle for the sunshine.  In the Psalms, David and others give us insights on how we can change our feelings and moods by changing our focus.  They help us to deal with our moods in a healthy way.  We first learn what causes our moods, and, then, they show us the ultimate solution—a life focused on an all-powerful, gracious, merciful and caring God.

The struggle is often difficult, but it provides a real solution and not a temporary quick fix.  God wants us to learn to work through our dark moods until we come out into the sunshine of His sovereign love, mercy, grace, and wisdom.  It is difficult, but it is always worth it.  We need to remember that the sunshine is always there on the other side of the clouds—God is always the same loving God whether we feel like He is or not. 

As Ron Allen states, all the psalmists deal with two realities: "God is great and life is tough."  At times, life being tough is the stronger reality to us. See Psalms 42-43  Nevertheless, we are not to give in to our dark moods, but to continue to persevere until we come out into the sunshine.  "Why are you downcast, O my soul? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him. . . ." (Psalm 42:5)  "Why are you downcast, O my soul? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God." (Psalm 43:5)  As we battle, we need to remember that our battle is not with people, but with our enemy and his forces.  "For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms." (Ephesians 6:12)

Our problem is that while we are going through troubles, we do not see the truth very clearly.  We see our problems much more clearly, and we see very clearly how the problems are affecting us; but we do not see God and His solutions very clearly at all.  We are focused on ourselves and our problems, but not focused on God and His solutions.

We can have some comfort in the fact that some of the most revered people in the Bible at times had the same problem.  Listen to Moses while he experiencing what I have come to call "narrowItis":  "Moses heard the people of every family wailing, each at the entrance to his tent. The Lord became exceedingly angry, and Moses was troubled. He asked the Lord, 'Why have you brought this trouble on your servant? What have I done to displease you that you put the burden of all these people on me? Did I conceive all these people? Did I give them birth? Why do you tell me to carry them in my arms, as a nurse carries an infant, to the land you promised on oath to their forefathers? Where can I get meat for all these people? They keep wailing to me, “Give us meat to eat!” I cannot carry all these people by myself; the burden is too heavy for me. If this is how you are going to treat me, put me to death right now—if I have found favor in your eyes—and do not let me face my own ruin.'" (Numbers 11:10-15)   Listen also to Elijah:  "He replied, 'I have been very zealous for the Lord God Almighty. The Israelites have rejected your covenant, broken down your altars, and put your prophets to death with the sword. I am the only one left, and now they are trying to kill me too.' . . . He replied, 'I have been very zealous for the Lord God Almighty. The Israelites have rejected your covenant, broken down your altars, and put your prophets to death with the sword. I am the only one left, and now they are trying to kill me too.'" (1 Kings 19:10, 14)

The revered men of God, Moses and Elijah, gave into narrowItis.  We should not be surprised that we also find ourselves overwhelmed at times by life and focused on our problems and on our inability to solve them rather than on God and his unlimited ability to take us out into the sunshine of His love.

The form of the Psalms:

1. Poetic couplets:

Synonymous (Ps. 19:1, 83:14) - the second stanza repeats the thought of the first stanza.

Antithetic (Ps. 1:6) - the second stanza is the exact opposite of the opposite of the first stanza (contrasted with it).

Synthetic (Ps. 2:2, 2:6) - the second stanza adds to the first stanza.

Emblematic (Ps. 42:1) - the first stanza is a figure of speech and the second stanza is a literal interpretation of it.

2. Inscriptions:
34 Psalms - no inscriptions
52 Psalms - simple ("A Psalm of David," etc.)
14 Psalms - historical (David fleeing from Absalom, etc.)
4   Psalms - purpose (for Sabbath day, etc.)
15 Psalms - songs of degrees (or ascents) (120-134)
31 Psalms - special word inscriptions (Ps. 16, 22) (possibly a musical term)

3. Authors
73 - David
12 - Asaph (I Chron. 6:39,15:17,19,16:5,37-42; II Chron. 29:30)
11 - Sons of Korah (I Chron. 6:37,9:19)
1 - Heman the Ezrahite (Ps. 88; I Kings 4:31; I Chron. 2:6)
1 - Ethan the Ezrahite (Ps. 89; I kings 4:31)
1 - Moses (Ps. 90)
2 - Solomon (Ps. 72, 127)

Five Groups of Psalms:
I         1 - 41    (mainly Davidic)
II      42 - 72    (Mainly Davidic)
III     73 - 89    (Mainly Asaphian)
V      90 - 106   (Mainly anonymous)
V     107 - 150   (Partly Davidic and partly anonymous)

The types of Psalms
Messianic Psalms  (2,8,16,22,23,24,40,41,45,68,69,72,87,89,102,109,110, 118,132)
As King (Royal Psalms) (2,8,45,72,89,110,132)
As Priest (Passion Psalms) (16,22,40,69,102,109)
As Prophet (Ps. 22 - second half)

Imprecatory Psalms (35,58,69,83,109,137)(5:10; 6:10; 28:4; 31:17,18; 40:14,15; 41:10; 55:9,15, 70:2,3; 71:13; 79:6,12; 129:5-8; 140:9,10; 141:10; 149:7-9)

An explanation of the Imprecatory Psalms:
(1) An identification with the righteous judgment of God
(2) David was God's anointed
(3) They had already, with hardened hearts, rejected David's gracious spirit

Other types of Psalms:  Penitential (51, 32, etc.), Praise, Historical . . .

The Psalms will help us to get life into focus.  Our focus is important, for our focus affects our moods.  For example, if you are feeling guilty, anxious, angry, frustrated, discouraged, or prideful; what is your focus on in each case?  If you are feeling worshipful, confident, humble or peaceful; what is your focus on in each case?  The Psalms were written by people just like us who struggled with the same type of dark times that we struggle with.  The Psalms help us to understand how we get into dark moods; they show us there is Someone who understands us while we are in those moods; and they provide us with the guidance to help us to be lifted above the darkness of our moods and into the light.  Some Psalms describe life under the clouds and how one is lifted above the clouds and some Psalms describe life in the sunshine with all of its joy and praise.

The Psalms were written in poetry, so they share the author's experience rather than merely sharing his reasoning and thoughts.  An owner's manual for a Porsche explains what a driver needs to know about a Porsche; an advertisement seeks to draw us into the experience of actually driving a Porsche.  In the same way, the Psalms primarily explain what it is like to experience struggles and victories in our walk with God, rather than simply giving us knowledge about God and life.

The Psalms help us to be free from dark moods by shifting our focus off of our sins, troubles, and inadequacies and on to God—the God who forgives our sins, who overcomes our troubles, and is adequate for our every need.  For example, Kidner has said, "an obsession with enemies and rivals cannot simply be switched off, but it can be ousted by a new focus of attention."  In the same way, guilt, anxiety, discouragement, and other negative emotions cannot be switched off, but they can be "ousted" by a new focus."  For example, we can come to a church service tired and discouraged and leave encouraged and refreshed.  What has happened during the hour to two hours?  Our focus shifted from our problems to the greatness of God and His loving grace.

The Psalms help us to face our emotions and to deal with them.  Psychologists, for the most part, believe that the worst thing that we can do is to deny our emotions and shove our pain down into our subconscious.  The Psalmists provide us with examples of how we can openly and honestly express our inner pain, before an all-seeing, holy, but also loving, gracious, and merciful God. See Psalm 13, 42, 43, 77

A specific psalm can become a personal friend to us when our mood links up with the mood expressed in that Psalm—especially if a Psalm helps us through a particularly tough time.  Do you have any Psalms that have become your friends?  The Psalms in the following volumes have become good friends to me.  Each Psalm that I have chosen has become a meaningful Psalm to me.  I will not be covering each and every Psalm, but those Psalms that have touched my life.  Later on, I may choose still other Psalms.

PSALM 1:  A Description of True Happiness

INTRODUCTION:

In the Psalm, we see what we are to focus our hearts on "day and night" in order to live in a state of blessedness.  "Blessed" describes a state of deep-hearted happiness. See Psalm 38:1-2

1. The heart focus that leads to happiness. (1:1-3)
"Blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked or stand in the way of sinners or sit in the seat of mockers. But his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night. He is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither. Whatever he does prospers."

Thought Question:  According to these verses, what will it take for you to be blessed?

 

 

"Blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked or stand in the way of sinners . . ."  For years, I worked at a chemical dependency treatment center for incarcerated teenagers.  Too often, those that completed the program would return later.  Shortly after they returned, I almost always engaged them in a conversation and asked them why they began to use addictive drugs again.  A common answer was "I was doing well and then I started hanging around with my old friends."  That is what they saw as bringing them down.  The Bible says that they were right in their conclusion.  This verse in Psalms says they were right.  Who we are around regularly will influence us—either for good or for bad. See also Proverbs 1:10-19, 12:26, 13:20, 14:7, 22:5, 24-25, 23:20-21, 26:9

"But his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night."  Notice that the psalmist uses "walk," "stand," and "sit."  This reminds me of Watchman Nee's book Sit, Walk, Stand, which is a summary of the Christian life.  The truly happy person is he does not allow any of the wickeds' ways to affect his or her life.

The "law of the Lord" is a summary title given to God's ways.  In Psalm119, the psalmist uses a number of different words to stand for God's "law": "commands," "decrees," "your word," "precepts," and "promises" for a few.

What is meant by "his delight" being in the "law of the Lord"?  The book of Proverbs tells us that if we see what is really true, we will realize that God's wisdom and ways are more valuable than gold, silver, or treasure. See Proverbs 2:1-5, 3:13-18  Many types of riches "delight" those who believe that they will bring them happiness.  God's "law" and His wisdom "delight" those who truly believe that God's wisdom is the source of true happiness.  "Delight" describes something that we really want to do—what we will get up early in the morning to do.  "It is not outward prosperity which the Christian most desires and values; it is soul prosperity which he longs for." "Taken from The Treasury of David by Charles Spurgeon."

"on his law he meditates day and night."  We are always thinking about something.  The issue is not whether or not we will think all of the time, but what we will think about all of the time.  Ultimately, what is most important to us is what captivates our thinking all day.  The sold-out sports fan will watch hours of sports on television and find other ways to occupy his mind on sports—fantasy teams, sports news, sports pages, etc.  One who has come to fully believe that the source of life is the One who has made life possible; who loves us; who desires to give us an abundant life; and whose purposes give meaning to our life will "delight" in God's ways—meditate on them "day and night."  It will not be a duty, but it is a loving passion that the psalmist describes here!

"He is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither. Whatever he does prospers."  If you drive along the freeway through a barren part of the country and suddenly see a row of trees, what does that almost always tell you?  It tells you that the trees are next to a running stream of water.  Trees that are green, fruitful, and "whose leaf does not wither" are next to water.  Also, those whose roots are drawing life and strength from God's word also "prosper."  Those who spend daily time in God's word, seeing it as the source of life and seeking to apply it to their lives are those whose life, relationships with others, and relationships with God will flourish.  It needs to be remembered, though, that not all who regularly attend church services also meditate on God's word.  Some attend church, but do not believe that it is in a relationship with God that they will find abundant life and the greatest riches.

2. The heart focus that leads to misery (1:4-6)
"Not so the wicked! They are like chaff that the wind blows away. Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the assembly of the righteous. For the Lord watches over the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked will perish."

Thought Question:  What in these verses most convinces you not to go the way of the wicked?

 

 

"Not so the wicked! They are like chaff that the wind blows away."  There is a valuable part of grain that is used to make various types of foods, and there is the "chaff" that is totally useless.  It is the "chaff" that describes what the "wicked" have in the end.  Their lives are empty of any meaning, vitality, and value.  They have lived for themselves—an empty shell containing nothing.  He has wasted the life that God gave to him.

"Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the assembly of the righteous."  When the godless man ultimately stands before God's judgment, rather than continues to stand, he will wither before God's judgment.  These godless men, though they may be rich and have a very high place in our society, they will discover there is no place among God's people in the end.  Those who once excluded the righteous will themselves be excluded. See Luke 16:19-31

"For the Lord watches over the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked will perish."  These are very encouraging words to the righteous.  He knows our ways.  ". . . he knows the way that I take; when he has tested me, I will come forth as gold. My feet have closely followed his steps; I have kept to his way without turning aside. I have not departed from the commands of his lips; I have treasured the words of his mouth more than my daily bread." (Job 23:10-12)  "but the way of the wicked will perish."  Not only will they "perish," but their whole "wicked" way of life will "perish."

PSALM 2:  Who is really in charge here?

Introduction:  Our normal human perspective is to believe that what we see and hear is reality.  And what we see and hear are arrogant men and women raising their fists up to God and defiantly making it clear that they are their own boss.  God is not in charge, they are!  When we focus on them and their defiance, it can be depressive for us as Christians.  Psalm two reveals to us how God looks at these men and women and their attempts to replace Him as the rulers of the earth.

The Psalm does not say who wrote it, but we learn from Acts 4:25-26 that David wrote it. See Acts 13:33; Hebrews 1:5, 5:5; Revelation2:27, 12:5, 19:15 other times that this Psalm is quoted in the New Testament.

1. A description of those who believe they are in charge. (2:1-3)
"Why do the nations conspire and the peoples plot in vain? The kings of the earth take their stand and the rulers gather together against the Lord and against his Anointed One. 'Let us break their chains,' they say, 'and throw off their fetters.'"

Thought Question:  In what ways does this take place in our world today?

 

 

"Why do the nations conspire and the peoples plot in vain?"  We as Christians can also be disturbed at how the leaders of our country seek after their political objectives and completely exclude God from the goals and plans.  We can wonder: "Do they not realize that they are only able to do what God allows them to do?"  Pilate was a ruler like those who are described here.  Jesus made it clear to this arrogant man that he only was able to do what God allowed him to do.  "'Do you refuse to speak to me?' Pilate said. 'Don’t you realize I have power either to free you or to crucify you?' Jesus answered, 'You would have no power over me if it were not given to you from above. Therefore the one who handed me over to you is guilty of a greater sin.'" (John 19:10-11) See Acts 4:27-28

"The kings of the earth take their stand and the rulers gather together against the Lord and against his Anointed One."  In the last days it is predicted that the world will unite against God.  "I am going to make Jerusalem a cup that sends all the surrounding peoples reeling. Judah will be besieged as well as Jerusalem. On that day, when all the nations of the earth are gathered against her, I will make Jerusalem an immovable rock for all the nations. All who try to move it will injure themselves." (Zechariah 12:2-3)  "I will gather all the nations to Jerusalem to fight against it; the city will be captured, the houses ransacked, and the women raped. Half of the city will go into exile, but the rest of the people will not be taken from the city." (Zechariah 14:2)  "When the thousand years are over, Satan will be released from his prison and will go out to deceive the nations in the four corners of the earth—Gog and Magog—to gather them for battle. In number they are like the sand on the seashore. They marched across the breadth of the earth and surrounded the camp of God’s people, the city he loves. But fire came down from heaven and devoured them." (Revelation 20:7-9)

"take their stand"  Today, our country's leaders may not believe in God, but they tend not to  say that publicly.  But, there is coming a day when leaders will be in open defiance of God.  They will publicly "take their stand" against God.

"'Let us break their chains,' they say, 'and throw off their fetters.'"  Here, we see an open rebellion against God and His moral laws.  "It's our life and we will do what we want to do."  "Furthermore, since they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, he gave them over to a depraved mind, to do what ought not to be done. They have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit and malice. They are gossips, slanderers, God-haters, insolent, arrogant and boastful; they invent ways of doing evil; they disobey their parents; they are senseless, faithless, heartless, ruthless. Although they know God’s righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death, they not only continue to do these very things but also approve of those who practice them." (Romans 1:28-32)

"against his Anointed One."  "His anointed One" could also be translated, "His Messiah."  Of course, this is a prediction of Jesus Christ.  "Christ" comes from the Greek word that means the "anointed One."  This is one of the Psalms that are called Messianic Psalms—for in it is a prediction of the Messiah.  The rebellion that is pictured here is not only a rebellion against God, but a future rebellion against God's Messiah Jesus Christ.

2. Who is in charge? (2:4-9)
"The One enthroned in heaven laughs; the Lord scoffs at them. Then he rebukes them in his anger and terrifies them in his wrath, saying, 'I have installed my King on Zion, my holy hill.' I will proclaim the decree of the Lord: He said to me, 'You are my Son; today I have become your Father. Ask of me, and I will make the nations your inheritance, the ends of the earth your possession. You will rule them with an iron scepter; you will dash them to pieces like pottery.'"

Thought Question #1:  Why is it appropriate for God to laugh at those who defy Him?

 

 

Thought Question #2:  When do you believe what is described here will take place?

 

 

"The One enthroned in heaven laughs; the Lord scoffs at them."  What is meant by God "laughs" and "scoffs"?  It is similar to someone in a canoe attacking a modern-day battleship.  It is so obvious, foolish, and futile that the sailors in the battleship would be amused at the arrogance of the person in the canoe thinking that they had a chance to win.  The psalmist uses figurative language to describe how foolish and futile it is for men to attack God.

So why, through the years, have men tried to eradicate belief in God?  The following names are a few: Herod, Haman, Jezebel, Antioche Epiphanes, Voltaire, Hitler, Nero, Stalin, Darwin, Freud, ACLU, and Marx.  As one professor said in a debate: "Believers in God are like a fire in a mattress; we just cannot get the fire completely out."  God "laughs" at all those who think they can oppose Him successfully.  How can puny man stand up against Almighty God?

"Then he rebukes them in his anger and terrifies them in his wrath,"  When God enters history once more through His Son, men will be terrified as the glory of heaven is revealed and as men see clearly who it is that they have been defying—they will be terrified!

"enthroned in heaven"  Men's attempts to dethrone God are futile because He rules "in heaven."  Men cannot get to him there to attack Him.

"saying, 'I have installed my King on Zion, my holy hill.'"  Here we have a prediction of the time when Jesus will return, defeat God's enemies, and begin His rule on earth in Jerusalem. See Zechariah 14; Revelation 20:1-6

"I will proclaim the decree of the Lord: He said to me, 'You are my Son; today I have become your Father."  When is the "today" when Jesus becomes God's Son?  Jesus is eternally the Son.  He says the following of Himself:  "I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End." (Revelation 22:13)  But, during His earthly life, He took on a different role.  He identified with us when He was baptized.  "As soon as Jesus was baptized, he went up out of the water. At that moment heaven was opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and lighting on him. And a voice from heaven said, 'This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.'" (Matthew 3:16-17)  He became our High Priest—our representative before God.  "No one takes this honor upon himself; he must be called by God, just as Aaron was. So Christ also did not take upon himself the glory of becoming a high priest. But God said to him, 'You are my Son; today I have become your Father.' And he says in another place, 'You are a priest forever, in the order of Melchizedek.' During the days of Jesus’ life on earth, he offered up prayers and petitions with loud cries and tears to the one who could save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverent submission. Although he was a son, he learned obedience from what he suffered and, once made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him and was designated by God to be high priest in the order of Melchizedek." (Hebrews 5:4-10)  He died for our sins and rose from the dead.  "We tell you the good news: What God promised our fathers he has fulfilled for us, their children, by raising up Jesus. As it is written in the second Psalm: 'You are my Son; today I have become your Father.' The fact that God raised him from the dead, never to decay, is stated in these words: 'I will give you the holy and sure blessings promised to David.'" (Acts 13:32-34) See also Romans 1:4  "Today," here in Psalms two probably applies not to one specific day, but it speaks of the whole time when the Son of God became a man.  That time when God's promise to man was fulfilled as God's Son fulfilled His Father's plan—a plan that could only be accomplished by the God-man Messiah Jesus Christ.

"Ask of me, and I will make the nations your inheritance, the ends of the earth your possession. You will rule them with an iron scepter; you will dash them to pieces like pottery.'"  Here is a prediction of Jesus' millennial rule.  During this period, Jesus will rule in Jerusalem.  He will rule with an iron hand.  He will rule as a benevolent Ruler.  Opposition to Him, though, will be dealt with severity.  Those who have believed in Him and have overcome opposition to God will rule with Him.  "To him who overcomes and does my will to the end, I will give authority over the nations— 'He will rule them with an iron scepter; he will dash them to pieces like pottery'— just as I have received authority from my Father." (Revelation 2:26-27)  "Out of his mouth comes a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations. 'He will rule them with an iron scepter.' He treads the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God Almighty." (Revelation 19:15) See Psalm 110:2; Isaiah 60:10-12; Ezekiel 37:21-28; Hosea 3:4-5; Joel 3:17-21. Micah 4:1-5; Zechariah 2:101-12, 9:10, 14:9

3. The proper response to the One who is in charge. (2:10-12)
"Therefore, you kings, be wise; be warned, you rulers of the earth. Serve the Lord with fear and rejoice with trembling. Kiss the Son, lest he be angry and you be destroyed in your way, for his wrath can flare up in a moment. Blessed are all who take refuge in him."

Thought Question:  In light of what you have learned in verses 1-9, what do you learn in these verses about what our proper response to God's rule should be?

 

 

"Therefore, you kings, be wise; be warned, you rulers of the earth. Serve the Lord with fear and rejoice with trembling."  It is a human tendency to get cocky when we are succeeding in a human way.  Because we realize that we all fall short of God's holy standards and are always deserving of His judgment, cocky pride is never appropriate for the Christian.  Rather, there should always be a humble reverence before Him.  "Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed—not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence—continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling," (Philippians 2:12)  "When I came to you, brothers, I did not come with eloquence or superior wisdom as I proclaimed to you the testimony about God. For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. I came to you in weakness and fear, and with much trembling." (1 Corinthians 2:1-3)  "let the wise listen and add to their learning, and let the discerning get guidance." (Proverbs 1:5)

"rejoice with trembling."  Here, we have what we have in so many places in the Bible; we have a balance.  So many times Christians proudly stand on one side of a Christian issue, seeing themselves as superior to those on the other side.  Actually, the truth is that there needs to be a proper balance of the two sides.  Should we rejoice or should we tremble?  The answer is that we should do both.  We are to rejoice always, but in doing this we should never lose our sense of reverence and our complete dependence on God.  Should the Lord's Supper be a time of celebration or a time of solemn reverence?  The answer is, "both."  "So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall!" (1 Corinthians 10:12)

"Kiss the Son, lest he be angry and you be destroyed in your way, for his wrath can flare up in a moment."  The "kiss," here, is a humble and submissive "kiss" to a sovereign Ruler. See I Samuel 10:1; I Kings 19:18; Hosea 13:2

"and you be destroyed in your way,"  God is very patient with us and He does not immediately punish us for what we do that is wrong. See Romans 2:1-4  But, we can never know when His patience has come to an end.  Ananias and Sapphira experienced God's judgment immediately after they lied. See Acts 5:1-11

"Blessed are all who take refuge in him."  "Blessed," as in Psalm one, speaks of a deep-hearted happiness—a prosperity of soul.  Rather than ignore God and pursue our selfish ends, we are to seek our happiness and security in Him alone.

PSALM 6:  From Agony to Faith

Introduction:  Have your troubles ever weighed you down; and at the same time you felt condemned by God?  It is a horrible state to be in.  You feel like the only One who can help is the One who is the cause of your troubles.  In this Psalm, David discovers the solution to this dilemma.  He goes from agony to faith in this Psalm.  You may be helped by joining him in his journey.

1. His agony (6:1-3)
"For the director of music. With stringed instruments. According to sheminith. A psalm of David. O Lord, do not rebuke me in your anger or discipline me in your wrath. Be merciful to me, Lord, for I am faint; O Lord, heal me, for my bones are in agony. My soul is in anguish. How long, O Lord, how long?"

Thought Question:  In what ways do you identify with how David was feeling when he wrote this Psalm?

 

 

"O Lord, do not rebuke me in your anger or discipline me in your wrath."  We see here that David was a very conscientious man.  He did not see himself as guiltless before a holy God.  We do not know why he was feeling that his painful circumstances had come as a result of God's discipline, for he does not tell us why he was feeling this guilt before God.  But, no one is completely free from a guilty conscience before God apart from being confident that he or she is completely cleansed by Jesus' blood.  "How much more, then, will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself unblemished to God, cleanse our consciences from acts that lead to death, so that we may serve the living God!" (Hebrews 9:14)  God sees our sins and sinfulness in the light.  Also, the evil one is sure to remind us of our sins and sinfulness.  ". . . The accuser of our brothers, who accuses them before our God day and night. . . " (Revelation 12:10a) 

"rebuke me"  "discipline me"  He felt that he was being disciplined by God and that he had it coming to him.  But, he pleas with God not to deal with him as his sin deserves.

Because of our sin, we have no basis for seeking relief from God's judgment apart from seeking His mercy, and that is what David seeks after here.  "Be merciful to me, Lord, for I am faint."  His basis for asking for God's mercy is that he is in a weakened state.  He believes he has reached his limit as far as what he can endure.

"O Lord, heal me, for my bones are in agony."  Emotional pain affects us physically.  His "bones" is a figurative way of describing the physical pain that had come to him from his emotional pain.

"My soul is in anguish. How long, O Lord, how long?"  Most Christians have had a time when they felt at the end of their rope—where they could not hold on any longer.  We have cried out at those times: "How long?"  It was a common cry of the psalmists. See 13:1-2, 35;17, 74:10, 79:5, 80:5, 82:2, 89:46, 94:3, 119:84  We can  feel like God should be quicker to getting around to helping us than He does.

Admitting our weakness and sorrow is not usually an easy thing for a man or woman to do, but it does soften the heart of God.  "But he gives us more grace. That is why Scripture says: 'God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.'" (James 4:6)  "Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up." (James 4:10) See Matthew 11:28-30; Psalm 35:10, 41:1, 72:13-14, 86:1-7, 140:12; Isaiah 41:17

2. His plea (6:4-7)
"Turn, O Lord, and deliver me; save me because of your unfailing love. No one remembers you when he is dead. Who praises you from the grave? I am worn out from groaning; all night long I flood my bed with weeping and drench my couch with tears. My eyes grow weak with sorrow; they fail because of all my foes."

Thought Question:  Did David not believe in life after death in heaven where the angels will hear our praise toward God?  Please explain your answer.

 

 

"Turn, O Lord, and deliver me; save me because of your unfailing love."  David's plea is not based on what he deserves from God; rather he puts his faith in God's mercy and love.  Our human tendency is to believe that we operate on a performance basis with God.  We are not used to being loved when we feel that we are not performing well.  God loved us even when we were in rebellion against Him.   "But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us." (Romans 5:8)  If He loved us then, He certainly loves us now that we are seeking Him. See Romans 5:9-11

"No one remembers you when he is dead. Who praises you from the grave?"  This sounds like David did not believe in life after death, but he is speaking of men no longer being able to hear the praises to God he would give after his life on this earth is over.  He would continue to praise God in heaven after his death, but the men who were still alive on this earth after his death would no longer be able to hear those praises.  He feels that he is near death and if he dies, he will no longer be able to lift his praises to God before men so that they will recognize and glorify God because of his praises.  We are not sure why he felt near death.  It could have been that he was dying or that he feared that someone might take his life.

"I am worn out from groaning; all night long I flood my bed with weeping and drench my couch with tears."  We would like it if God would quickly respond to our prayers, but He often responds to our need much later than we think He should.  During those dark times, we cry out to Him again and again until we grow very weary.  Our sorrow is with us both day and "night."  It gives us comfort, though, that even a man of God like David had these dark times when God seemed far away and unresponsive to his cries for God to help him.  "Save me, O God, for the waters have come up to my neck. I sink in the miry depths, where there is no foothold. I have come into the deep waters; the floods engulf me. I am worn out calling for help; my throat is parched. My eyes fail, looking for my God." (Psalm 69:1-3) See Psalms 38:10, 88:9

Paul knew this type of heaviness of heart.  "We do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about the hardships we suffered in the province of Asia. We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired even of life." (2 Corinthians 1:8)  Paul learned that his trials led to a brokenness followed by a greater experience of God's life through him.  "Indeed, in our hearts we felt the sentence of death. But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead." (2 Corinthians 1:9)  "But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body. For we who are alive are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that his life may be revealed in our mortal body. So then, death is at work in us, but life is at work in you." (2 Corinthians 4:7-12)

"My eyes grow weak with sorrow; they fail because of all my foes."  David felt surrounded by his foes.  "Dogs have surrounded me; a band of evil men has encircled me . . ." (Psalm 22:16a)  Sometimes, we would like to live in obscurity, quietly living our lives without being noticed.  But, those who are in God's work will find themselves "weak with sorrow" because of those who oppose them.

3. His faith (6:8-10)
"Away from me, all you who do evil, for the Lord has heard my weeping. The Lord has heard my cry for mercy; the Lord accepts my prayer. All my enemies will be ashamed and dismayed; they will turn back in sudden disgrace."

Thought Question:  Why do you believe that David had such a complete change in his feelings about his situation?

 

 

"Away from me, all you who do evil, for the Lord has heard my weeping. The Lord has heard my cry for mercy; the Lord accepts my prayer."  It appears that David has come to believe that his enemies are not going to triumph over him and so he is able to remove them from his mind—from being tormented by his fears and worries about them.  Somehow, God had given him the confidence that He had heard his prayers.  This confidence in God transformed his mood from agony to faith.  In our times of agony when we are under the clouds, the sun still shines brightly over the clouds.  Above the clouds is the God who understands, who cares, and who is able to deliver us from the trial that overwhelms us but does not overwhelm Him.

"All my enemies will be ashamed and dismayed; they will turn back in sudden disgrace."  He has been "ashamed and dismayed""My soul is in anguish." (6:3)  Now, he believes that his enemies would end up being the anguished ones.

When will our foes be anguished?  Ultimately, our foes are Satan and his demons.  "For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms." (Ephesians 6:12)  "But thanks be to God, who always leads us in triumphal procession in Christ and through us spreads everywhere the fragrance of the knowledge of him." (2 Corinthians 2:14)  "We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ." (2 Corinthians 10:5)  Our prayer and our confidence in God will lead to ultimate victory.  "But the Lord stood at my side and gave me strength, so that through me the message might be fully proclaimed and all the Gentiles might hear it. And I was delivered from the lion’s mouth. The Lord will rescue me from every evil attack and will bring me safely to his heavenly kingdom. To him be glory for ever and ever. Amen." (2 Timothy 4:17-18)

PSALM 8:  When God's Greatness is Clear.

Introduction: Have you ever sat under the stars on a clear night?  Two times like this stand out in my memory.  The first took place in our front yard.  The four members of our family lay on our backs under the stars and described to each other how we felt as we contemplated the infinite expanse of the universe, the number of stars that were visible to us, and how far away these stars were from us.  The second time was up in the Sierra Nevada Mountains in central California.  I was the camp recreation director.  We hiked into the mountains and camped over night.  That night, the stars were clear and spectacular.  It appears that David had one of those nights.  It may have occurred when David was alone with his sheep on a star-filled night.

1. God's majesty realized (8:1)
"For the director of music. According to gittith. O Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth! You have set your glory above the heavens."

Thought Question:  When was there a time when you felt what David felt here?

 

 

There is no evidence of the clouds of dark emotions at all in this Psalm, and the greatness of God is crystal clear.  God is great in every way!  Often, though, our focus is on other things besides God.  We call a time when the greatness of God and the greatness of His love are clear to us a mountain-top experience.  The truth, though, is that God is always the same, but it is only that we do not see Him and who He is clearly at all times.  But, at those times that we more clearly apprehend the greatness of God, our words and thoughts echo David's words here: "how majestic is your name in all the earth!"  These words have been put to music.  Music has been given to us as a way to more fully express our praise to God for all He is and all He has done for us. See Psalm 66

"You have set your glory above the heavens."  When we see the glory of the heavens, Psalm 19 tells us that   "The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands." (Psalm 19:1)  But, God's glory is greater than the glory of the heavens: He is "above the heavens."  The Bible speaks of three heavens: 1) the sky with the birds and the clouds; 2) outer space with the sun, moon, and stars; and 3) the third heaven where God and the angels reside.  His glory is beyond all of these "heavens"—His glory is beyond our comprehension.

2. Children see God's greatness and they humble the unbeliever with their words. (8:2)
"From the lips of children and infants you have ordained praise because of your enemies, to silence the foe and the avenger."

Thought Question:  How does the "praise" of "children" "silence" the foe and "the avenger"?

 

 

"At that time Jesus said, 'I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children.'" (Matthew 11:25)  The greatness of God is clearer to "children" than it is to grown-ups.  Romans 1:18-20 describes how the hardening process begins. "The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of men who suppress the truth by their wickedness, since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse."  We start out knowing who God is and, then, our choice of sin over God produces a hardening process.  We must darken our minds to God, otherwise, we will feel guilty when we sin and we will not be able to enjoy the sin.  The faith of a simple child rebukes us.  The grandchild who sees God's greatness clearly rebukes the grandparent who over the years has become hardened to God.  "He called a little child and had him stand among them. And he said: 'I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.'" (Matthew 18:2-4) See Matthew 11:20-25, 18:1-9

3. God's greatness compared to man (8:3-8)
"When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is man that you are mindful of him, the son of man that you care for him? You made him a little lower than the heavenly beings and crowned him with glory and honor. You made him ruler over the works of your hands; you put everything under his feet: all flocks and herds, and the beasts of the field, the birds of the air, and the fish of the sea, all that swim the paths of the seas."

Thought Question:  Why do you think that what David recognizes here is so absent from our society?

 

 

"When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is man that you are mindful of him, the son of man that you care for him?"  The video titled "The Privileged Planet" has a bonus feature that takes you on a trip at the speed of light away from earth.  On the trip, you travel beyond our solar system, then beyond our galaxy and even farther beyond.  As you travel, the earth fades into a small pale blue dot and then disappears.  As I watched the video, I had the same thought as David had here: we are so small compared to God, how can He even be aware of or think about tiny me?

The wonderful thought of David is that though God is greater than the heavens He has made, He does care for individual men!   The humanist looks at those same stars and is driven to meaningless despair.  If he has hope, it is that some superior alien race will somehow contact us and explain it all to us.

What David expresses here is an unusual humility.  What is more common is for us to see ourselves as so important that it is no wonder that we have such a central role in the universe.  For years, we thought the sun revolved around the earth.  It is also very human to think that everything revolves around us.  David saw it the way it truly is.  God is great, and we are very, very small by comparison.

"You made him a little lower than the heavenly beings and crowned him with glory and honor."  David's conclusion is that though we seem so small and insignificant compared to God; yet we are a very important part of God's plans.

"a little lower than the heavenly beings"  There is disagreement on what the NIV translates as "heavenly beings."  The NASV translates it "God."  The KJV translates it "angels."  Robert Alden gives this explanation: "The Hebrew word usually means 'God,' [elohim] sometimes it means 'gods' and in a few instances, 'angels.'  The point is that man is not just a little higher than the animals but a little lower than heaven." "Taken from Psalm Volume 1 Song of devotion by Robert Alden.  Copyright 19074 by Moody Press."

"You made him ruler over the works of your hands; you put everything under his feet: all flocks and herds, and the beasts of the field, the birds of the air, and the fish of the sea, all that swim the paths of the seas."  God gave us a premiere place in His plan—everything is to be in subjection to us. "Then God said, 'Let us make man in our image, in our likeness, and let them rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air, over the livestock, over all the earth, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.' So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. God blessed them and said to them, 'Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air and over every living creature that moves on the ground.'" (Genesis 1:26-28)

But we lost our high place in God's creation when Adam and Eve sinned.  Jesus came to restore us to our initial destiny.  "It is not to angels that he has subjected the world to come, about which we are speaking. But there is a place where someone has testified: 'What is man that you are mindful of him, the son of man that you care for him? You made him a little lower than the angels; you crowned him with glory and honor and put everything under his feet.' In putting everything under him, God left nothing that is not subject to him. Yet at present we do not see everything subject to him. But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels, now crowned with glory and honor because he suffered death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone." (Hebrews 2:5-9)  Jesus became also "a little lower than the angels" to restore us to our lost destiny.

4. A final tribute to God (8:9)
"O Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth!"

Thought Question:  Why do you believe David ends the Psalm with the same words that he started the Psalm?

 

 

Here are the same words with which David started the Psalm.  Certainly David's focus on man's amazing importance to this magnificent God had infused him with an even greater wonder at God's majesty.

PSALM 13:  When Life is Tough

Introduction: Ron Allen said that the Psalms give us two messages: "Life is tough and God is great."  Sometimes a Psalm focuses on one, sometimes it focuses on the other, and sometimes it focuses on both.  This Psalm focuses on "life is tough."

1. How long must I cry out to you? (13:1-2)
"For the director of music. A psalm of David. How long, O Lord? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me? How long must I wrestle with my thoughts and every day have sorrow in my heart? How long will my enemy triumph over me?"

Thought Question #1:  When have you felt like David felt here? (Are you feeling that way right now?)

 

Thought Question #2:  How do David's words help you?

 

 

Most of us know what the Bible teaches about God—He is loving, all-powerful, and present everywhere.  Sometimes, though, it does not seem to us to be true.  There are times when it appears that the evil one is winning and God does not seem to care.  So, we cry out to God and nothing appears to be happening.  We can feel like this often, for in those times, rarely does God do what we believe He should do nor does He do it when we believe He should do it.  The Psalmists often felt like this, for we see the cry "how long?" in number of Psalms. See 6:3, 42:9, 89:46, 90:13, and 94:34  Also, this is common for the people of God.  The books of Job and Habakkuk are about two men of God wrestling with why God has not acted in the way they believe He should act, and complaining about it.

These laments of God's people have been an encouragement to me through the years.  They tell me it okay to be honest with God about how I feel.  He can handle my real feelings.  And it is through starting where I am at emotionally that God takes me to a place of trust.  We will see that is what happened to David here in this Psalm.

"How long, O Lord? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me?"  I have often wondered why Jesus allowed John the Baptist to be beheaded and why the apostle James died shortly after the beginning of the church.  I am not alone in wondering why God allows so many injustices and tragedies to occur.  We feel it even more strongly when injustices happen to us or to someone close to us.  During those times, we cry out and often nothing changes.  It can seem like God has forgotten us.  It seems as if He is busy with more weighty issues than our small and unimportant problems.  But, our problems are ever before us and all we are able to do is cry out to the God who does not seem to be paying attention. Psalm 10:11-12

What we feel and what we know to be true are often quite different.  The truth is that God is infinite and omniscient.  He has not forgotten us.  He can focus on all the problems of all of us at the same time, and give His complete concentration to each of us.  Yet, we can and often do feel like this is not true.  These verses are an encouragement that God has not forgotten us.  "For he who avenges blood remembers; he does not ignore the cry of the afflicted." (Psalm 9:12)  "Can a mother forget the baby at her breast and have no compassion on the child she has borne? Though she may forget, I will not forget you!" (Isaiah 49:15)

There are a number of times in the Bible where God and Jesus have purposely delayed in bringing help to someone in great need.  In these cases, we are given God's reasons for the delay.  The book of Job is about God allowing great troubles to come in Job's life to expose to Satan Job's heart of love for God.  Jesus delays the healing of Lazarus to show God' power to raise him from the dead. See John 11:1-45  See also Mark 4:35-41; Isaiah 30:18, 40:28-31

"How long must I wrestle with my thoughts and every day have sorrow in my heart?"  Some would say that it is only the non-believer or the very immature believer that can have this type of experience.  But, it was Jesus Himself that cried out in a similar way.  "About the ninth hour Jesus cried out in a loud voice, 'Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?'—which means, 'My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?'" (Matthew 27:46)  Also, it was Jesus who had these types of feelings in the Garden of Gethsemane.  "He took Peter and the two sons of Zebedee along with him, and he began to be sorrowful and troubled. Then he said to them, 'My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.'" (Matthew 26:37-38)  Does Jesus understand when we "have sorrow in" our "heart"?  Yes, He does understand.  In fact, it is we that do not understand the much greater "sorrow" that He experienced.

It is not unusual for people of God to be tormented when evil appears to be winning. See Psalm 42:3-5, 55:2-15  The proper way to handle these times is to go to God with our struggles.  We will see that the psalmist's focus will change and that he will be helped by taking his sorrows and wrestling to God.

"How long will my enemy triumph over me?"  Ultimately our enemy is Satan and not people.  And, there are times when it appears that he is winning.  He is still the ruler of this world.  He lost a great battle when Jesus died on the cross and rose from the dead.  He lost a great battle when we believed in Jesus Christ and became Christians.  Nevertheless, he is still active and he is still gaining ground all over the world, though one day he will be completely defeated.  It can be very hard when his attacks on Christians and on us seem to be successfully defeating us.  We also can cry out like David did: "How long will my enemy triumph over me?"

2. Look on me and answer me. (13:3-4)
"Look on me and answer, O Lord my God. Give light to my eyes, or I will sleep in death; my enemy will say, 'I have overcome him,' and my foes will rejoice when I fall."

Thought Question:  When have you prayed a prayer like this? (If you have never prayed a prayer like this, when might you pray a prayer like this?)

 

 

"Look on me and answer, O Lord my God. Give light to my eyes, or I will sleep in death;"  Certainly, this is the anguished cry of someone who is at the very end of his rope and just barely hanging on as his strength is weakening.  At this point, some might be critical of him and feel that it happened to David, but it could never happen to me.  They would be wrong; it will not take us as much as we think to bring us to the end of our rope.  Actually, it is good when we get to the end of our rope; for it is there that we learn how much we need to rely on God.  Paul came to the end of his rope.  "We do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about the hardships we suffered in the province of Asia. We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired even of life. Indeed, in our hearts we felt the sentence of death. But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead." (2 Corinthians 1:8-9)  "But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body. For we who are alive are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that his life may be revealed in our mortal body. So then, death is at work in us, but life is at work in you." (2 Corinthians 4:7-12)

"Give light to my eyes,"  It is moments when our strength is failing that we desperately need God to open our eyes so that we will see Him more clearly.  I have called this "the battle for the sunshine."  Under the clouds, we do not see the sun on the other side of the clouds.  In times of weakness and drained strength, God's greatness, His love, and power are not clear to us.  We need God to "give light" to our "eyes."

"Give light to my eyes,"  As Paul said in the verse quoted earlier, he "despaired even of life."  When our strength is nearly gone, we can feel that all is hopeless and that death is all that is left.  Many men and woman of God have felt like this at times in their lives.  "Elijah was afraid and ran for his life. When he came to Beersheba in Judah, he left his servant there, while he himself went a day’s journey into the desert. He came to a broom tree, sat down under it and prayed that he might die. 'I have had enough, Lord,' he said. 'Take my life; I am no better than my ancestors.'" (1 Kings 19:3-4)  "'I cannot carry all these people by myself; the burden is too heavy for me. If this is how you are going to treat me, put me to death right now—if I have found favor in your eyes—and do not let me face my own ruin.'" (Numbers 11:14-1'5)  "'that God would be willing to crush me, to let loose his hand and cut me off!'" (Job 6:9)  "''so that I prefer strangling and death, rather than this body of mine. I despise my life; I would not live forever. Let me alone; my days have no meaning.'" (Job 7:15-16)  "'Indeed, I know that this is true. But how can a mortal be righteous before God'?" (Job 9:2)  "'I loathe my very life; therefore I will give free rein to my complaint and speak out in the bitterness of my soul.'" (Job 10:1)"'You know how I am scorned, disgraced and shamed; all my enemies are before you. Scorn has broken my heart and has left me helpless; I looked for sympathy, but there was none, for comforters, but I found none.'" (Psalm 69:19-20)

"my enemy will say, 'I have overcome him,' and my foes will rejoice when I fall."  Again, our ultimate enemy is the devil.  A very urgent and appropriate prayer at times of great weakness and at a time when we are nearly vanquished is that God will intervene so that our enemy will not "overcome" us, and so that he will not "rejoice when" we "fall."  Will not God answer this prayer?

3. Nevertheless, I will trust in your unfailing love. (13:5-6)
"But I trust in your unfailing love; my heart rejoices in your salvation. I will sing to the Lord, for he has been good to me."

Thought Question:  What do you believe led to David going from anguish to faith?

 

 

"But I trust in your unfailing love;"  Suddenly David appears to have risen above the dark clouds of despair and discouragement and is now in the sunshine of God's presence. 

"my heart rejoices in your salvation."  What enabled David to go from sorrow—feeling that his enemy had nearly defeated him, to being confident of victory?  Somehow, his faith in God's goodness and mercy would prevail.  We see at least part of the answer in the final verse.

"I will sing to the Lord, for he has been good to me."  It appears that David had recalled God's goodness to him in the past.  God has a record of being faithful to His people.  It is recorded for us in the Bible.  There is also a record of it in our lives.  He has been good to us in the past; should we think and feel that He will be different in the future.

David ends by rejoicing in God's faithfulness to him.  Do not times of singing praise to God often change our focus, resulting in joy in God's greatness and faithfulness?  For example, we come to church downhearted and leave encouraged and hopeful.  The problems have not changed, but our perception of God and our problems have changed.

PSALM 14:  God's Response to those who Say He does not Exist See Psalm 53

Introduction:  There are organizations whose main purpose is to declare: "No God!"  That is their attitude toward God.  What is God's attitude toward them?  This Psalm gives God's response to the atheists.

1. The atheist is a fool. (14:1a)
"For the director of music. Of David. The fool says in his heart, 'There is no God.'"

"In his pride the wicked does not seek him; in all his thoughts there is no room for God." (Psalm 10:4)  A "fool" is someone who is not interested in hearing the opinions of others, but sees himself or herself as the final word on any subject.  "A fool finds no pleasure in understanding but delights in airing his own opinions." (Proverbs 18:2)  There is no room in his heart or his head for God and His wisdom.  He cries out, "No God," even though the evidence that there is a God is as obvious as the nose on his face.  A fellow Christian once said that it is obvious that our nose was designed like a slanted roof to ward off water, so that we can go out in the rain without our noses filling up with water.  God's word points out that the evidence that there is a God is clear to everyone.  "The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of men who suppress the truth by their wickedness, since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse." (Romans 1:18-20)

With such clear evidence that we were created by an all-powerful God of infinite intelligence, only the "fool" can say, "no God"!

"in his heart,"  Unbelief in God does not start in the head, but it starts in the "heart."  Those who do not believe in God do not do it because they want to believe, but can't believe.  They do not believe because they do not want to believe.

2. Atheism's corrupting effect on the atheists (1:1b-3)
"They are corrupt, their deeds are vile; there is no one who does good. The Lord looks down from heaven on the sons of men to see if there are any who understand, any who seek God. All have turned aside, they have together become corrupt; there is no one who does good, not even one."

Paul quotes some of these verses and gives the conclusions of these verses in Romans 3:10-12.  In Romans 1:18-32, Paul describes the corruption that takes place in the Gentiles as they darken their minds and their hearts to God.  Their consciences become seared and God's righteousness no longer becomes their standard for living.  But, then, Paul exposes how the Jews had also followed this very same path.  He quotes from these verses of David as proof that all men follow this path.  The culmination of Paul's argument is stated in Romans 3:19-20:  "Now we know that whatever the law says, it says to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be silenced and the whole world held accountable to God. Therefore no one will be declared righteous in his sight by observing the law; rather, through the law we become conscious of sin."

"They are corrupt, their deeds are vile; there is no one who does good."  One of Israel's greatest prophets, Jeremiah, applied this truth to all men.  "The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?" (Jeremiah 17:9)  We tend to divide people into two categories: sinners and non-sinners.  The Bible puts all people in one category.  We are all sinners—"for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God," (Romans 3:23)

 "The Lord looks down from heaven on the sons of men to see if there are any who understand, any who seek God. All have turned aside,"  In Romans 3:10-11, Paul answers this question:  "As it is written: 'There is no one righteous, not even one; there is no one who understands, no one who seeks God.'"  Solomon in Ecclesiastes states the same truth:  "There is not a righteous man on earth who does what is right and never sins." (Ecclesiastes 7:20)  That is what God see as He "looks down from heaven on" us.  We should be humbled by God's perspective on mankind.  We should cry out with the tax-collector in Luke 18:13:  "But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, 'God, have mercy on me, a sinner.'"

"to see if there are any who understand,"  "The man without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually discerned."
(I Corinthians 2:14)  Men without God's Spirit are unable to neither understand the depth of our sinfulness before a holy God nor understand the grace He provides through Jesus Christ.

"they have together become corrupt; there is no one who does good, not even one."  There are those who will at once question what David states here.  They will say, "What about the kind and generous people who are not Christians?"  They might even add that they know people who are not Christians who put Christians to shame by the good things that they do.  But, "from heaven," God sees the secrets of their hearts and sees their motives; He sees all of our motives.  He says this of man's righteousness:  "All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags; we all shrivel up like a leaf, and like the wind our sins sweep us away." (Isaiah 64:6)

3. The atheist's corruption leads to persecution of God's people. (14:4)
"Will evildoers never learn— those who devour my people as men eat bread and who do not call on the Lord?"

Thought Question#1:  What do you believe David means by they "devour my people as men eat bread"?

 

 

Thought Question #2:  Have you ever felt this way about how someone who is evil has treated a Christian or Christians?  Please explain your answer.

 

 

Atheists see persecuting Christians as acceptable to do as eating a sandwich. See Micah 3:1-3  Those who killed the Jews in Germany and German-held lands during World War II saw themselves as doing a good thing. 

"Will evildoers never learn"?   In Germany and in other parts of the world where atrocities have occurred, there are places of remembrance where those who died horrible deaths are remembered.  Their purpose is so that we will never forget what happened and never do again what was done to them.  David here, though, expresses reality: "will evildoers never learn"?  Sadly, evil will continue until the end.  And these men will "not call on the Lord."

4. But their persecution of God's people takes place in the presence of God. (14:5-6)
"There they are, overwhelmed with dread, for God is present in the company of the righteous. You evildoers frustrate the plans of the poor, but the Lord is their refuge."

Thought Question:  How are these words of help to you in your present circumstances?

 

 

There are places in the Bible where we are given a divine perspective on God's people who are in trouble.  Consider the following examples.  Ancient Babylon had a blasphemous feast where they used the sacred utensils from the Jerusalem's temple.  God intervened and a mysterious hand wrote on the wall where the feast was taking place. See Daniel 5  The prophet Elijah was surrounded by the army of Israel's enemies, and then God opened the eyes of Elijah's servant to see that there were greater armies for them than against them. See II Kings 2:8-23  James gives God's perspective on the rich who were persecuting Jewish Christians.  James reveals that the Lord saw what was taking place and these rich men would one day face Him. See James 5:1-6  All evil is done in the presence of the Lord!  He sees when we are treated in an evil way.

5. A cry for God's salvation (14:7)
"Oh, that salvation for Israel would come out of Zion! When the Lord restores the fortunes of his people, let Jacob rejoice and Israel be glad!"

Thought Question:  What verses in the Bible are similar to what David says here?

 

 

David's cry reminds me of similar cries throughout the Bible.  Jesus taught that we are to cry out in prayer in this way: "Your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven." (Matthew 6:10)  Listen to the cry of the godly recorded by Isaiah: "Oh, that you would rend the heavens and come down, that the mountains would tremble before you! As when fire sets twigs ablaze and causes water to boil, come down to make your name known to your enemies and cause the nations to quake before you!" (Isaiah 64:1-2)  Listen to Habakkuk's cry: "The oracle that Habakkuk the prophet received. How long, O Lord, must I call for help, but you do not listen? Or cry out to you, 'Violence!' but you do not save? Why do you make me look at injustice? Why do you tolerate wrong? Destruction and violence are before me; there is strife, and conflict abounds." (Habakkuk 1:1-3)  Paul states that those who long for God's appearing will be rewarded: "Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day—and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing." (2 Timothy 4:8)  May we be like David and so many others throughout the years and long "for his appearing."

PSALM 15:  Walking in God's Holy Presence

Introduction: At any moment, we should be concerned whether or not our relationship with God is good.  What is pure and acceptable to our holy God and what is not acceptable to Him?  This Psalm gives us what is acceptable and unacceptable to Him.  This Psalm can both be helpful in correcting us when we are doing that which does not please God and it can be helpful in encouraging us to do what pleases God.

1. Who is able to walk in God's holy presence? (15:1-5a)
"A psalm of David. Lord, who may dwell in your sanctuary? Who may live on your holy hill? He whose walk is blameless and who does what is righteous, who speaks the truth from his heart and has no slander on his tongue, who does his neighbor no wrong and casts no slur on his fellowman, who despises a vile man but honors those who fear the Lord, who keeps his oath even when it hurts, who lends his money without usury and does not accept a bribe against the innocent."

Thought Question:  What in these verses describes you and what is there in these verses does not describe you?

 

 

"Lord, who may dwell in your sanctuary? Who may live on your holy hill?"  Isaiah 6 describes what it was like for Isaiah in the holy presence of God.  "In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord seated on a throne, high and exalted, and the train of his robe filled the temple. Above him were seraphs, each with six wings: With two wings they covered their faces, with two they covered their feet, and with two they were flying. And they were calling to one another: 'Holy, holy, holy is the Lord Almighty; the whole earth is full of his glory.' At the sound of their voices the doorposts and thresholds shook and the temple was filled with smoke. 'Woe to me!' I cried. 'I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the Lord Almighty.'"  Romans 3:23 states,  "for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God."  An answer to David's question stated above is "No one!"  Yet, David goes on and describes character qualities that are acceptable in God's loving and holy presence.  Jesus told the Jewish leader Nicodemus that for someone to enter His kingdom, they must be born again.  "In reply Jesus declared, 'I tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again.'" (John 3:3)  We need a new heart and God's Spirit to enable us to be the righteous people that David describes here.  "'This is the covenant I will make with the house of Israel after that time,' declares the Lord.  'I will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people.'" (Jeremiah 31:33)

"He whose walk is blameless and who does what is righteous,"  David first describes the lifestyle of the person who walk in God's presence; then he describes the talk of this person.  Both our walk and our talk tell us whether or not our lives are acceptable in God's presence.  So, first of all, a righteous walk is necessary for us to live in fellowship with a holy God.  Since none of us is righteous, the apostle John describes how we maintain fellowship with a holy God.  "This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light; in him there is no darkness at all. If we claim to have fellowship with him yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live by the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin. If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word has no place in our lives. My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin. But if anybody does sin, we have one who speaks to the Father in our defense—Jesus Christ, the Righteous One. He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world. We know that we have come to know him if we obey his commands. The man who says, 'I know him,' but does not do what he commands is a liar, and the truth is not in him. But if anyone obeys his word, God’s love is truly made complete in him. This is how we know we are in him: Whoever claims to live in him must walk as Jesus did." (1 John 1:5-2:6)  We must confess our sins to God, accept His forgiveness, and seek to obey God in everything.

"who speaks the truth from his heart and has no slander on his tongue, who does his neighbor no wrong and casts no slur on his fellowman,"  What we say ultimately reveals what is in our heart.  If we speak truth, it is because truth is in our heart.  If we speak grace and love for others, it is because we have grace and love in our hearts toward them.  David's greatest enemy was Saul, yet he would not speak evil of him because Saul was the Lord's anointed. See I Samuel 24:4-7, 26:9, 11, 16, 23, II Samuel 1:14-16

"and has no slander on his tongue,"  In the KJV, "slander"  is "backbiteth."  "The Hebrew word . . . signifieth to play the spy, and by a metaphor to backbite or slander, for backbiters and whisperers, after the manner of spies, go up and down dissembling their malice, that they may espy the faults and defects of others, and they make a malicious relation to such as will give ear to their slanders.  So that backbiting is a malicious defamation of a man behind his back. "Treasury of David , Spurgeon quotes George Downame."

"who despises a vile man but honors those who fear the Lord,"  Those who dwell in God's presence are those who hate what God hates and "honors" what and who God "honors."  Paul was shocked and disappointed that the Christians in Corinth were accepting in their fellowship an openly immoral man.  "It is actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you, and of a kind that does not occur even among pagans: A man has his father’s wife. And you are proud! Shouldn’t you rather have been filled with grief and have put out of your fellowship the man who did this? Even though I am not physically present, I am with you in spirit. And I have already passed judgment on the one who did this, just as if I were present. When you are assembled in the name of our Lord Jesus and I am with you in spirit, and the power of our Lord Jesus is present, hand this man over to Satan, so that the sinful nature may be destroyed and his spirit saved on the day of the Lord." (1 Corinthians 5:1-5)  We should hate this type of "vile" behavior, but honor "those who fear the Lord."  Who are our heroes?  Those who walk in God's holy presence will honor those who are examples to them of a humble and pure heart before God.

"who keeps his oath even when it hurts,"  Years ago, I sought counsel from a godly woman about a decision I needed to make.  I had applied for a job some time before at a government boys' home, but due to the state economy, there was a hiring freeze.  Then, I took a job in a recreation program for low-income children.  I was to design the summer camp.  Then, the state freeze ended and I was asked to once again interview for the government job.  It was a better job in a number ways than the job that I had, but they were depending on me for the summer camp.  I asked this mature Christian lady what she thought that I should do.  She quoted this part of Psalm 15 to me: "who keeps his oath [commitment] even when it hurts."  I kept the job.  Years later, after completing my commitment and after serving in a pastor's role for a period of time, I ended up applying for the position at the boys' home and worked there for a number of years. See Numbers 3:02; Matthew 5:33-37; James 5:12

"who lends his money without usury"  David describes what will take place when money becomes more important to us than people.  The people of Israel were taught that they were not to use people's need for money as an opportunity to make money for themselves.  "If you lend money to one of my people among you who is needy, do not be like a moneylender; charge him no interest. If you take your neighbor’s cloak as a pledge, return it to him by sunset," (Exodus 22:25-26)  "If one of your countrymen becomes poor and is unable to support himself among you, help him as you would an alien or a temporary resident, so he can continue to live among you. Do not take interest of any kind from him, but fear your God, so that your countryman may continue to live among you. You must not lend him money at interest or sell him food at a profit." (Leviticus 25:35-37) See also Nehemiah 5:5-7; Proverbs 28:8; Ezekiel 18:5-9  They were allowed to charge interest to a foreigner.  "You may charge a foreigner interest, but not a brother Israelite, so that the Lord your God may bless you in everything you put your hand to in the land you are entering to possess." (Deuteronomy 23:20)  It appears that David is speaking of greedy people who get rich at the expense of others.

"and does not accept a bribe against the innocent."  Here, David describes those who pervert justice and fairness for their own gain.  For example, say that a judge knows who is innocent and guilty, but the guilty person gives him or her money and the judge then sides with the guilty.  Sadly, I have witnessed a policeman in another country seeking to receive a bribe by threatening an American missionary.  The missionary handled it uprightly and the policeman backed down.  The man who walks in God's holy presence stands up for the innocent, even at great cost to himself.

2. The reward for walking in God's presence (15:5b)
"He who does these things will never be shaken."

Those who walk in the way that David has just described will maintain their relationship with a holy God.  What is there that is more important to us than to know that we have good standing with God?  Then, we can take everything that life, God's enemies, and Satan throws against us.  "That is why I am suffering as I am. Yet I am not ashamed, because I know whom I have believed, and am convinced that he is able to guard what I have entrusted to him for that day." (2 Timothy 1:12)  If there is anything that David described in this Psalm where we are failing, we need to confess it to God so that we will be cleansed and once more stand firmly in God's holy presence.

PSALM 19:  God Speaks to those who listen.

Introduction: Most Christians have had a time when it seemed that God was silent.  This famous Psalm of David shows us that God never really is silent.  There just are times when we are not tuned in to His voice.

1. God talks to us through what He has placed in the heavens.   (19:1-6)
"For the director of music. A psalm of David. The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands. Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they display knowledge. There is no speech or language where their voice is not heard. Their voice goes out into all the earth, their words to the ends of the world. In the heavens he has pitched a tent for the sun, which is like a bridegroom coming forth from his pavilion, like a champion rejoicing to run his course. It rises at one end of the heavens and makes its circuit to the other; nothing is hidden from its heat."

Thought Question:  How can God's creation speak to us when it seems that God is silent?

 

 

"The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands."  The well-known hymn "How Great Thou Art" begins with these words: "O Lord my God, when I in awesome wonder consider all the worlds Thy hands have made, I see the stars, I hear the rolling thunder, Thy power throughout the universe displayed."  "The heavens declare" to us something about the God who made them.  He is huge and mighty beyond what words can say.  Unbelievers see the same stars and all that they see is the "cosmos," and their hope is for a benevolent master race somewhere out in the measureless space that will visit us some day.  In the video Privileged Planet, it is pointed out that our planet is situated in our galaxy at a location where we can clearly see the stars that tell us of God's glory.  At other locations in our galaxy, the stars would have been blocked from our sight by star dust. This verse is an example of a synonymous couplet in Hebrew poetry.  The second phrase repeats the same though in different words to give added emphasis to the thought.

"declare the glory of God"  "They deliver to us such unanswerable arguments for a conscious, intelligent, planning, controlling, and presiding Creator, that no unprejudiced person can remain unconvinced by them." "Taken from The Treasury of David by Charles Spurgeon."  "Since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse." (Romans 1:19-20)  We know much about God's glorious attributes from what we see in the heavens.  Theologians call this General Revelation—part of General Revelation is God revealing truths about Himself to everyone in a general way through the natural world.

"Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they display knowledge."  God is never silent, for what is above us in the heavens is constantly pouring or gushing out a message to us.  The message is that our God is awesome!  Nothing is impossible with a God so great as He who put us in the middle of such an awesome universe—so many stars that are so immense and far away.  It is very humbling.  "He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the hearts of men; yet they cannot fathom what God has done from beginning to end." (Ecclesiastes 3:11) See Psalm 8

"Day after day"  "night after night"  There is no break in God's continual communication to us.  He speaks to us "day" and "night" through the awesome stars.

"There is no speech or language where their voice is not heard."  Some learn more from pictures than through words.  The saying is true that "a picture is worth a thousand words."  The "heavens" do not speak to us with words, but they speak to us through our eyes.  In silence, God speaks to us through heaven's great expanse and by what we see in it.  It is in those totally silent times apart from the noise and clamor of the city that the heavens speak most loudly to us.

"Their voice goes out into all the earth, their words to the ends of the world."  "Yet he has not left himself without testimony: He has shown kindness by giving you rain from heaven and crops in their seasons; he provides you with plenty of food and fills your hearts with joy." (Acts 14:17)  We wonder about those who have not had access to the Bible so that they could learn about God.  But, as these words in Psalm 19 and Acts 14:17 tell us, there is no part of the world where God has not been revealing himself to every man.

In the KJV, it is "Their line is going out," rather than "their voice goes out."  Paul quotes the Septuagint (the Greek Old Testament) as "their voice."  "But I ask: Did they not hear? Of course they did: 'Their voice has gone out into all the earth, their words to the ends of the world.'" (Romans 10:18)

"By their line is probably meant the measure of their domain which, together with their testimony, has gone out to the utmost of the habitable earth." "Taken from The Treasury of David by Charles Spurgeon."

"In the heavens he has pitched a tent for the sun, which is like a bridegroom coming forth from his pavilion, like a champion rejoicing to run his course. It rises at one end of the heavens and makes its circuit to the other; nothing is hidden from its heat."

The sun is a daily messenger that there is a Creator-God.  It is so obvious that people have ended up worshiping the sun.  Every day we see the sun, and every day we are warmed by the sun.

David uses figurative language to describe the sun and is daily course.  First of all, it is like a "bridegroom."  A "bridegroom" comes with bright joy as he comes for his bride.  So the sun comes in brightness as it comes to warm up and enlighten the sky.  Someday, Jesus the Bridegroom will come forth from heaven to gather His bride the church.  Every day the dependability of the sun coming at the end of each night is a prediction of that day.  "In my Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am." (John 14:2-3)

The sun is also like a "champion" athlete "rejoicing to run his course."  The sun is like a confident and very able athlete as he successfully and energetically embarks on its lap around the earth each day.

David speaks not scientifically, for we know the earth travels around the sun.  Rather, he speaks of the sun as we see it.  In our sight, it comes up and goes down and appears to go around the earth. The Bible does teach us, though, that the world is round and not flat.  "He sits enthroned above the circle of the earth, and its people are like grasshoppers. He stretches out the heavens like a canopy, and spreads them out like a tent to live in." (Isaiah 40:22)

Each cycle of the sun is a revelation to us that it has been designed for us by God to warm us and enlighten us and provide this warmth and light for us each day. See Acts 14:17

2. God talks to us through the Bible. (19:7-11)
"The law of the Lord is perfect, reviving the soul. The statutes of the Lord are trustworthy, making wise the simple. The precepts of the Lord are right, giving joy to the heart. The commands of the Lord are radiant, giving light to the eyes. The fear of the Lord is pure, enduring forever. The ordinances of the Lord are sure and altogether righteous. They are more precious than gold, than much pure gold; they are sweeter than honey, than honey from the comb. By them is your servant warned; in keeping them there is great reward."

In these verses, you find six synonyms for the Bible: the "law," "statutes," "precepts," commands," "fear of the Lord," and "ordinances of the Lord."  Each of these synonyms for God's word gives us an additional insight as to the nature of God's book.  Next, there six characteristics of the Bible: It is "perfect," trustworthy," right," "radiant," "pure," and "sure."  Then, there are descriptions of what type of impact the Bible will have on our life: "reviving the soul," "making wise the simple," giving joy to the heart," "giving light to the eyes," "enduring forever," and "altogether righteous."

Thought Question: Which description of God's word best helps you to desire to dig deeply into God's truth?

 

 

"The law of the Lord is perfect, reviving the soul."  The "law of the Lord" is God's guidelines for all of life.  It covers everything necessary for living a godly life.  There is nothing in it that is incorrect.  There are many guidelines for life that fill our libraries, but all of them fall short of "perfect."  Only the Bible is "perfect."

There are many attacks on the Bible.  The humanist disdains the "fundamentalist."  The fundamentals they disdain are the teachings of the Bible.  The liberal Christian scholar says that the Bible only contains God's truth.  Men decide which words in the Bible are true and which are false.  The post-modernist says that it is wrong to ever say that your truth is absolute truth.  The emerging church says we can only use the Bible in a way that is acceptable to the post-modernist—be careful not to impose our truth on them.  The stories of the Bible are acceptable, but steer away from the doctrinal truths of the Bible.  The mystics replace the authority of the Bible with the authority of the great mystics of the past.  They disdain those who trust and admire the teachings of the Bible, though they trust and admire the writings of the mystic masters.  Our response to all of these attacks on the Bible should be the same as David's assertion here: "The law of the Lord is perfect."

"reviving the soul."  "Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light." (Matthew 11:28-30)  God's word can strengthen the weak, encourage the discouraged, give hope to the one who is in despair, give wisdom to the one who has no answers, and give life where there is death.

"The statutes of the Lord are trustworthy,"  What can we trust in this life?  Can we trust banks with our money?  Can we trust our government leaders?  There is much that is not trustworthy or, at least, not completely trustworthy.  God, His promises, and His teachings are completely "trustworthy."

"making wise the simple."  If anyone hungers after God's truth, he will go from being naïve about life and people to being wise.  "The proverbs of Solomon son of David, king of Israel: for attaining wisdom and discipline; for understanding words of insight; for acquiring a disciplined and prudent life, doing what is right and just and fair; for giving prudence to the simple, knowledge and discretion to the young— let the wise listen and add to their learning, and let the discerning get guidance." (Proverbs 1:1-5) See Proverbs 8:5

 "The precepts of the Lord are right,"  A common occurrence on the 24-hour cable news programs is to have people with completely opposite political philosophies debate each other on some political issue.  Which one is right?  Whoever is in agreement with what is taught in the Bible is the one who is "right."  As David says here, "the precepts of the Lord are right."

If it were not for God's word, we would have no way of determining what is "right" and what is wrong.  Our society today does not want anyone telling us what is wrong and what is "right."  They do not even like the words wrong and "right."

"giving joy to the heart."  We can rejoice that we have discovered a sure moral guideline for what is "right" and for what is wrong.  As we read God's book and the teachings in it, we can rejoice and know that what we are reading is a dependable and an absolute moral guide for our lives.  "Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight." (Proverbs 3:5-6)  We, then, experience the joy that is described in Psalm 119:97-105.  "Oh, how I love your law! I meditate on it all day long. Your commands make me wiser than my enemies, for they are ever with me. I have more insight than all my teachers, for I meditate on your statutes. I have more understanding than the elders, for I obey your precepts. I have kept my feet from every evil path so that I might obey your word. I have not departed from your laws, for you yourself have taught me. How sweet are your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth! I gain understanding from your precepts; therefore I hate every wrong path. Nun Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light for my path."

"The commands of the Lord are radiant,"  Both the ESV, KJV, and the NASV say pure instead of "radiant."  Spurgeon has this to say about "pure": "No mixture of error defiles it, no stain of sin pollutes it."  "Taken from The Treasury of David by Charles Spurgeon."  We desire food that is free from pollution.  The Bible is "pure."  Ray Stedman observes that some see the Bible as impure, like many other books that are impure, because in it there are descriptions of such evils as adultery, lust, and others.  Here is Stedman's response: "However there is a great difference.  The Bible contains these things because it is a realistic book which deals with life as it is.  The one great difference is that it never shows evil as though it were good.  It never makes adultery look attractive.  The Bible always show adultery is it really is—sordid and shameful." "Taken from Folk Psalms of Faith by Ray Stedman.  Copyright 1973 by Regal Books."

"giving light to the eyes."  "This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light; in him there is no darkness at all. If we claim to have fellowship with him yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live by the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin. If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word has no place in our lives." (1 John 1:5-10) 

God's "pure" or "radiant" book gives "light to the eyes."  It shows what is "pure" and what is impure.  "Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light for my path." (Psalm 119:105)  Jesus provides that same light to us:  "In him was life, and that life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it." (John 1:4-5)  "This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that his deeds will be exposed." (John 3:19-20)  "When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, 'I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.'" (John 8:12)  Darkness prevents us from seeing what is "pure" and impure.  Even though we who are God's people have lived at one time in darkness, we desire to come out of our darkness into God's light. See 19:12-14  God's word which is "pure" and "radiant" enables us to do that.

"The fear of the Lord is pure,"  How is "the fear of the Lord" synonymous with the other names for God's book—"law of the Lord," statutes of the Lord," etc.  All of God's guidelines describe what God is like.  When we love God's truths, we love God and His ways.  "The fear of the Lord" is a realization that there are severe consequences for despising God and His ways.  We need to reverence God and His ways so that we will not get off track and suffer the consequences.  "Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. The one who sows to please his sinful nature, from that nature will reap destruction; the one who sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life." (Galatians 6:7-8) 

"is pure"  The ESV, KJV, and NASV have "clean" rather than "pure."  The "fear of" God purifies or cleanses us.  The opposite of "the fear of the Lord" is to fearlessly do what God despises as impure and ugly.  The Cananites did not "fear" God and fearlessly practiced every type of moral corruption.  Leviticus 18 describes their immorality.  Israel was directed by God to see all of these practices as "detestable." (Leviticus 18:29)  If Israel did these practices, the land would "vomit" them out. (Leviticus 18:28)  The "fear of the Lord" will protect us from doing that which is "detestable" to God.

"enduring forever"  "The world and its desires pass away, but the man who does the will of God lives forever." (1 John 2:17)  Just as God brought the detestable sins of Canaan to an end, so God will one day bring all sins to an end.  But obeying God will endure "forever."

"The ordinances of the Lord are sure"  The ESV, KJV, and NASV say "true" rather than "sure."  They are "true" in the sense that they assuredly and dependably represent the truth.

"and altogether righteous."  Some attack the Bible and say that it was written by primitive people and is therefore limited by the incomplete knowledge of their day.   Others say that only a small part of the Bible is inspired—for example, only Jesus' words are inspired.  The Bible claims that it is "altogether righteous"—the words of the Bible are completely inspired by God and are the totally dependable words of God.  They are completely pure and completely undefiled utterances of a completely "righteous" God.

"They are more precious than gold, than much pure gold; they are sweeter than honey, than honey from the comb."  David describes the Bible in terms that we all can understand.  "Gold" in our terms is money.  If we understand the value of God's book to us, we will see that wealth found within its pages as being of more value than a million dollars.

Also, we all like sweet food—ice cream, cakes, and chocolate candy.  If we understand the effect God's words are to have on us, we will see that they are sweeter to us than the sweetest of sweets.

We learn in the Bible of God's love, His mercy, and His grace.  If we recognize our great need for grace from God, the Bible will be of greater value to us than anything this world has to offer.  And it will be sweeter to us than any type of sweets. See Jeremiah 15:16; Proverbs 2:1-5, 3:13-18; Revelation 10:8-10

3. A description of one who desires that God will talk to him
(19:12-14)
"Who can discern his errors? Forgive my hidden faults. Keep your servant also from willful sins; may they not rule over me. Then will I be blameless, innocent of great transgression. May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, O Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer."

Thought Question:  What in these verses most describes the heart attitude that you desire for yourself?

 

 

"Who can discern his errors?"  "All a man’s ways seem innocent to him, but motives are weighed by the Lord." (Proverbs 16:2) See Proverbs 12:15, 30:12  We see ourselves through rose-colored glasses.  "You, therefore, have no excuse, you who pass judgment on someone else, for at whatever point you judge the other, you are condemning yourself, because you who pass judgment do the same things. Now we know that God’s judgment against those who do such things is based on truth." (Romans 2:1-2)  God's word reveals to us what is hidden in our hearts.  "For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart." (Hebrews 4:12)

"Forgive my hidden faults."  David assumes that there are faults in his life that he does not see clearly.  He asks God to forgive those faults.  Of course, this is not just true of David; it is also true of us. See Psalm 90:8, 139:23-24  Ray Stedman has the following to say about our "hidden faults."  "His [God's] way of dealing with hidden faults is either to send somebody to point them out to you or to bring them out through some circumstances in which you are suddenly confronted with what you have said or done, you find that it is ugly, and you do not like it.  That is the way God cleanses us from hidden faults.  He opens up the secret places.  Usually he does it through other people because as God well knows, we cannot see ourselves but other people can see us.  These faults are hidden to us but not to others.  They see very plainly.  And you can see their hidden faults better than they can.  You know that you can see the faults of somebody you are thinking about right now, better than they can.  You say, 'I don't see how they can be so blind!'  Well, someone is thinking that very same way about you." "Taken from Folk Psalms of Faith by Ray Stedman.  Copyright 1973 by Regal Books."

"Keep your servant also from willful sins; may they not rule over me."  In the KJV and NASV "willful sins" is "presumptuous sins."  Jesus said that we should pray in a similar way to how David prays here.  "'And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.'" (Matthew 6:13) "Willful sins" are those sins we do when we know what is right and what is wrong and do what is wrong anyway.  Paul describes this type of defiant sin in this way:  "What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? By no means! We died to sin; how can we live in it any longer?" (Romans 6:1-2)  David committed this type of sins when he committed adultery with Bathsheba.  "In the spring, at the time when kings go off to war, David sent Joab out with the king’s men and the whole Israelite army. They destroyed the Ammonites and besieged Rabbah. But David remained in Jerusalem. One evening David got up from his bed and walked around on the roof of the palace. From the roof he saw a woman bathing. The woman was very beautiful," (2 Samuel 11:1-2)  David knew that it was wrong when he committed adultery with Bathsheba and arranged for the death of her husband Uriah, yet he willfully chose to do it. See II Samuel 11  In Psalm 51, he pleads for God's forgiveness and is forgiven by God.

"may they not rule over me."  A deliberate sin usually does not occur just once, but often develops into a sinful pattern.  Christians can be addicted to sexual sins and alcoholism, controlled by anger, and become malicious gossips.  David knew that if he sinned, it could lead to that sin dominating his life.  "I put this in human terms because you are weak in your natural selves. Just as you used to offer the parts of your body in slavery to impurity and to ever-increasing wickedness, so now offer them in slavery to righteousness leading to holiness." (Romans 6:19)

"Then will I be blameless, innocent of great transgression."  Although we will always have faults before a holy God, if we choose to always live with a clean conscience before God, doing what we know God wants us to do, we will be blameless in that we are doing our best to be obedient to God.  Paul experiences this type of blamelessness before God.  "My conscience is clear, but that does not make me innocent. It is the Lord who judges me." (1 Corinthians 4:4)  He instructed Timothy to seek to keep a clear conscience also.  "Timothy, my son, I give you this instruction in keeping with the prophecies once made about you, so that by following them you may fight the good fight, holding on to faith and a good conscience. Some have rejected these and so have shipwrecked their faith." (1 Timothy 1:18-19)  "The goal of this command is love, which comes from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith." (1 Timothy 1:5) See also Acts 23:1

"May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, O Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer."  May what I say and what I have in my heart be "pleasing" to God.  As we live before the awesome God who is greater than the infinite universe and whose words reveal to us what holiness before Him is to be like, what should our response to Him be?  "Help me to humbly live before you—in my thoughts and in my heart attitudes—in a way that you find acceptable.  David ended Psalm 139 in a similar way.  "Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting." (Psalm 139:23-24)

"O Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer."  In our frail state and in our sinfulness, we need a "Rock" to strengthen us and a "Redeemer" to save us from the condemnation of our sin.  In God and in our Lord Jesus Christ, we have both!

PSALM 22:  The Father Heard the Cry of the Forsaken One.

Introduction:  This Psalm was written about 1000 years before Jesus lived, yet it describes what it was like when Jesus was hanging on the cross.  It describes His agonized thought and words; but it also describes His victory as a result of the Father's response to His cries.  It is a Messianic Psalm, for David's words become the words of Jesus Christ.  It can be divided into two parts: (1) the cries from the cross (1-21); and (2) the Father hears (22-31)

THE CRIES FROM THE CROSS (22:1-21)

1. The cries of the One forsaken by God (1-5)
"For the director of music. To the tune of 'The Doe of the Morning.' A psalm of David. My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from saving me, so far from the words of my groaning? O my God, I cry out by day, but you do not answer, by night, and am not silent. Yet you are enthroned as the Holy One; you are the praise of Israel. In you our fathers put their trust; they trusted and you delivered them. They cried to you and were saved; in you they trusted and were not disappointed."

Thought Question:  When was a time when you cried out to God?  How are David's words and Jesus' words a help to you?

 

 

"My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?"  Jesus uttered these exact words on the cross.  "About the ninth hour Jesus cried out in a loud voice, 'Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?'—which means, 'My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?'" (Matthew 27:46)  Here is the cry of One who for the first time in eternity was all alone, abandoned by God the Father because He took our sin upon Himself.  "God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God." (2 Corinthians 5:21)  Why did Jesus feel this crushing abandonment?  It is because at that moment, He—the wholly innocent One—was bearing fully the complete wrath of a righteous God for all the sins that each of us in mankind have already committed and all of the sins that we will yet commit.

Later in the Psalm is a description of what He suffered at the hands of man, but here in this verse is described the greatest pain of the cross.  We will never know anything like this agony.  Only One experienced the infinite and ultimate pain that was experienced when Jesus cried out these words in total agony as He absorbed the wrath of God and hell that we should have received.

"Why"  Many times, we also ask, "Why?"  Just as there was an answer for Jesus, so there is always an answer to our whys.  Job asked, "Why?"  Habakkuk asked, "Why?"  And every human being has asked that question.  Though we may not get the answer to our many "Why" questions; a loving, all-powerful, completely wise, and totally sovereign God always has the answer.

"Why are you so far from saving me, so far from the words of my groaning?"  Again, we find the question, "Why?"  There are times when God feels very near, but there are also times when God feels far away.  Here is comfort for us in those times, for even the totally innocent One experienced a time when God the Father seemed far from Him.

"O my God, I cry out by day, but you do not answer, by night, and am not silent."  This cry certainly took place at Gethsemane.  It also may have taken place during the days and nights previous to Gethsemane and the cross.  There was one answer to His cries: the Father's will must be done.

We also can feel what Jesus felt.  We can cry out day and night during a great time of trouble, but there is no answer.  The trial continues and there is no change in our circumstances.

"Yet you are enthroned as the Holy One; you are the praise of Israel. In you our fathers put their trust; they trusted and you delivered them. They cried to you and were saved; in you they trusted and were not disappointed."  There was no change in Jesus' circumstances, but what He focused on did change.  Now, here, He focuses on God's holiness and God's faithfulness to His people in the past. See also 22:9-10

When we feel that God is not intervening in an obvious way in response to our cries, we should not despair.  Instead, we must remember that God today is the same God that has been faithful to His people from the beginning.  He is a trustworthy God and we need to trust Him even when it appears that evil is winning.  Ultimately, God will be victorious in our circumstances.  "Yet the Lord longs to be gracious to you; he rises to show you compassion. For the Lord is a God of justice. Blessed are all who wait for him!" (Isaiah 30:18)

2. The cries of the One despised by men (22:6-11)
"But I am a worm and not a man, scorned by men and despised by the people. All who see me mock me; they hurl insults, shaking their heads: 'He trusts in the Lord; let the Lord rescue him. Let him deliver him, since he delights in him.'"

Thought Question #1:  In what ways do these verses describe what happened to Jesus while He was hanging from the cross? See Matthew 27:39-44

 

 

Thought Question #2:  How could men despise and scorn One who is holy?

 

 

Thought Question #3:  Have you ever felt like a "a worm and not a man" because of someone's scornful attitude?  Please describe that experience.  How does the fact that Jesus experienced this type of treatment help you?

 

 

"But I am a worm and not a man, scorned by men and despised by the people."  You are eating your breakfast cereal and suddenly you see that there is "worm" in your cereal.  Your feelings at that time describe what people felt toward Jesus Christ.  What others feel about us does affect how we feel.  It even affected Jesus Christ.  He was mocked when he hung on the cross.  Because of their scorn, He felt like "a worm and not a man."  "He felt himself to be comparable to a helpless, powerless, down-trodden worm, passive while crushed, and unnoticed and despised by those who trod upon him." "Taken from The Treasury of David by Charles Spurgeon."

It has always encouraged me that Almighty God was not born in a king's palace, but in a very lowly stable.  In this verse, we learn that He lowered Himself to even being treated like "a worm."  May His humility help us to also humble ourselves.

"All who see me mock me; they hurl insults, shaking their heads: 'He trusts in the Lord; let the Lord rescue him. Let him deliver him, since he delights in him.'"  What is described here is what happened to Jesus about one thousand years after David wrote these words.  "Those who passed by hurled insults at him, shaking their heads and saying, 'You who are going to destroy the temple and build it in three days, save yourself! Come down from the cross, if you are the Son of God!' In the same way the chief priests, the teachers of the law and the elders mocked him. 'He saved others,' they said, 'but he can’t save himself! He’s the King of Israel! Let him come down now from the cross, and we will believe in him. He trusts in God. Let God rescue him now if he wants him, for he said, “I am the Son of God.”' In the same way the robbers who were crucified with him also heaped insults on him." (Matthew 27:39-44) See also Mark 15:29-32

We can wonder at why the holy One would be mocked, insulted, despised, and scorned.  But notice that part of the reason that He was scorned was because He trusted in God.  What can be wrong with that?  Also, another reason He was despised is because He believed that the Father delighted in Him.  What we see here is that those who are self-sufficient and prideful despise those who are humbly dependent on God and seeking to please Him.

"Yet you brought me out of the womb; you made me trust in you even at my mother’s breast. From birth I was cast upon you; from my mother’s womb you have been my God. Do not be far from me, for trouble is near and there is no one to help." See 22:3-5

Thought Question:  What in these words of Jesus is true of you also?

 

 

"Yet you brought me out of the womb; you made me trust in you even at my mother’s breast. From birth I was cast upon you; from my mother’s womb you have been my God." 

Jesus recalls that His trust in the Father had been constant since He was born.  His entire life was a life of trusting and depending on His Father's love for Him.  That faith continued throughout His childhood.  "Every year his parents went to Jerusalem for the Feast of the Passover. When he was twelve years old, they went up to the Feast, according to the custom. After the Feast was over, while his parents were returning home, the boy Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem, but they were unaware of it. Thinking he was in their company, they traveled on for a day. Then they began looking for him among their relatives and friends. When they did not find him, they went back to Jerusalem to look for him. After three days they found him in the temple courts, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions. Everyone who heard him was amazed at his understanding and his answers. When his parents saw him, they were astonished. His mother said to him, 'Son, why have you treated us like this? Your father and I have been anxiously searching for you. 'Why were you searching for me?' he asked. 'Didn’t you know I had to be in my Father’s house?' But they did not understand what he was saying to them." (Luke 2:41-50)  The Father expressed His approval of Jesus at His baptism.  "As soon as Jesus was baptized, he went up out of the water. At that moment heaven was opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and lighting on him. And a voice from heaven said, 'This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.'" (Matthew 3:16-17)

Jesus looks back on His faith in the Father and is comforted by His life of faith and the Father's faithfulness to Him.  Can we look back on our life of faith and be comforted by God's faithfulness to us?  "For you have been my hope, O Sovereign Lord, my confidence since my youth. From birth I have relied on you; you brought me forth from my mother’s womb. I will ever praise you." (Psalm 71:5-6)

"Do not be far from me, for trouble is near and there is no one to help." See 22:19  Jesus' state as He hung on the cross was that nothing but His relationship with the Father would get Him through it.  If this was true of Jesus, it is much truer of us.  When trouble is near, we desire that God would be even nearer.  "A lively sense of the divine presence is a mighty stay to the heart in times of distress." "Taken from The Treasury of David by Charles Spurgeon."

There are two reasons it is a time "of distress": 1) "trouble is near"; and 2) "there is no one to help."  Have you ever felt that way?  Jesus understands, for He felt that way also when He was hanging on the cross.

There are many verses in the Bible that say God will help us when there is no one else to help.  "God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble." (Psalm 46:1) See Deuteronomy 33;26-29; Psalm 33:2—22, 40:17, 70:5, 115:9-11, 121:1-8, 124:8, 146:5-9

3. The cries of one attacked by beasts (22:12-21)
"Many bulls surround me; strong bulls of Bashan encircle me. Roaring lions tearing their prey open their mouths wide against me. I am poured out like water, and all my bones are out of joint. My heart has turned to wax; it has melted away within me. My strength is dried up like a potsherd, and my tongue sticks to the roof of my mouth; you lay me in the dust of death. Dogs have surrounded me; a band of evil men has encircled me, they have pierced my hands and my feet. I can count all my bones; people stare and gloat over me. They divide my garments among them and cast lots for my clothing. But you, O Lord, be not far off; O my Strength, come quickly to help me. Deliver my life from the sword, my precious life from the power of the dogs. Rescue me from the mouth of the lions; save me from the horns of the wild oxen."

Thought Question:  List what you see in these verses that describes what took place when Jesus was on the cross for our sins.

 

 

"Many bulls surround me; strong bulls of Bashan encircle me."  This verse and the following verses describe the religious leadership of Israel, the Roman soldiers, and the crowds that surrounded Jesus while He was hanging on the cross.  While Jesus in His greatly weakened state hung on the cross, those surrounding Him seemed like powerful bulls that He was powerless to resist.  The "bulls" may have been the Jewish leaders and the Roman soldiers.  "Conceive of the Lord Jesus as a helpless, unarmed naked man, cast in the midst of infuriated bulls." "Taken from The Treasury of David by Charles Spurgeon."

"strong bulls of Bashan"  The land of "Bashan" was a fertile land and, as a result, the "bulls" there were healthy and strong. See Deuteronomy 32:1-4, 14; Ezekiel 39:18; Amos4:1

"Roaring lions tearing their prey open their mouths wide against me."  Lions chase down some type of animal in a pack, pull it down, and then, totally absent of any compassion, kill and devour it.  The people that surrounded Jesus, particularly the Jewish leaders, were like these lions in the way they looked on Jesus.  They were actually enjoying His misery as they participated in His slow and agonizing death.

"I am poured out like water, and all my bones are out of joint. My heart has turned to wax; it has melted away within me. My strength is dried up like a potsherd, and my tongue sticks to the roof of my mouth; you lay me in the dust of death."  "What a description of the exhaustion of the cross.  Having hung there for five to six hours, his body suspended by nails in his hands and feet, his bones are pulled out of joint.  There is an awful sense of weariness and fatigue.  He heart feels like melted wax within him.  His body, dehydrated in the hot sun of that spring day, is gripped now by a terrible ravaging thirst.  He cries out from the cross, 'I thirst.'  Then we have a most amazing and unmistakable description of death by crucifixion.  This was set down when no one, so far as history tells us, put anyone to death by crucifixion." "Taken from Folk Psalms of Faith by Ray Stedman.  Copyright 1973 by Regal Books."

Death on the cross was a slow death by exhaustion.  His life left Him as His strength and life left—it "dried up like a" piece of pottery.  Every description given in these two verses is another description of this death by exhaustion, as He needed to push Himself up over and over again just to breathe.  His strength weakened a little more with each breath until He could no longer push Himself up.

"and all my bones are out of joint."  His weight and the awkward way He was hanging dislocated His bones.  Anyone who has experienced a dislocated finger, wrist, shoulder, or hip knows how painful this can be.  It is usually accompanied by a state of cold shock.  What evil in the heart would it take for someone to look on this type of pain and enjoy it?

"you lay me in the dust of death."  Jesus recognized that it was ultimately not the evil men who hung Him there, but His Father that put Him on that cross.  "This man was handed over to you by God’s set purpose and foreknowledge; and you, with the help of wicked men, put him to death by nailing him to the cross." (Acts 2:23)

"Dogs have surrounded me; a band of evil men has encircled me, they have pierced my hands and my feet."  If one is not convinced by the previous verses that this is a prediction of what it was like for Jesus when He was crucified, this verse should remove all doubt.  It describes someone whose hands and feet are pierced and one who is surrounded by evil men.  At the very least, this is predicting someone who is being crucified.  Since crucifixion was not practiced in David's time, it is a remarkable prediction.

Recently, I sliced a finger with a peach can lid.  The pain was not that great until I removed the gauze that we used to cover it.  When the dried blood stuck to the slash, the pain was excruciating.  The nurse at the emergency room said the reason for the great pain was that there are many nerves in our hands.  Jesus' pain from the nails driven through His hands was excruciating and certainly continued while He was hanging on the cross.

"The tearing asunder of the tender fibres of the hands and feet, the lacerating of so many nerves, and bursting of so many blood vessels, must be productive of intense agony." "Spurgeon quotes John Stevenson in Treasury of David."  Jesus' only support as he hung from the cross was on those nail-pierced hands and feet.  He hung there for nearly six hours.

The Scriptures are clear, Jesus hands and feet were "pierced" when He was crucified.  "So the other disciples told him, 'We have seen the Lord!' But he said to them, 'Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe it.'" (John 20:25)  "But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed." (Isaiah 53:5) See also John 19:34, 37; Zechariah 12:10

"Dogs have surrounded me; a band of evil men has encircled me,"  This is what has been called an "emblematic" poetic couplet.  The first phrase is a figure of speech and the second phrase explains the figure of speech.  The evil men that surrounded Jesus were like "dogs."  The dogs of that time were like the coyotes of our time.  None of us would like to be surrounded by coyotes or wolves.  That is what it was like for Jesus as He hung on the cross.

"I can count all my bones;"  As Jesus hung on the cross, His bones were forced against the skin and were visible to the onlookers who stood and gloated at his helpless state.  His pain and suffering were enjoyed by those onlookers.  In the future something similar will happen to two prophets.  "Now when they have finished their testimony, the beast that comes up from the Abyss will attack them, and overpower and kill them. Their bodies will lie in the street of the great city, which is figuratively called Sodom and Egypt, where also their Lord was crucified. For three and a half days men from every people, tribe, language and nation will gaze on their bodies and refuse them burial. The inhabitants of the earth will gloat over them and will celebrate by sending each other gifts, because these two prophets had tormented those who live on the earth." (Revelation 11:7-10)

So, they saw Jesus as a spectacle, as they pushed themselves forward in the crowd so they could see His misery first-hand.  They were pleased that this One who claimed to be the Promised One had ended up in such total humiliation.

"They divide my garments among them and cast lots for my clothing."  These words describe exactly what happened while Jesus was on the cross.  "When the soldiers crucified Jesus, they took his clothes, dividing them into four shares, one for each of them, with the undergarment remaining. This garment was seamless, woven in one piece from top to bottom. 'Let’s not tear it,' they said to one another. 'Let’s decide by lot who will get it.' This happened that the scripture might be fulfilled which said, 'They divided my garments among them and cast lots for my clothing.' So this is what the soldiers did." (John 19:23-24)  "When they had crucified him, they divided up his clothes by casting lots." (Matthew 27:35)

So far, David has described the crucifixion of Jesus.  Here in this verse we have those who put Him on the cross gambling for His clothing.  So, this Psalm describes someone being crucified and then it says this crucified one's clothes would be gambled for.  Certainly, for those who have eyes to see and ears to hear, this Psalm is a clear and unmistakable prediction of Jesus' crucifixion.

"But you, O Lord, be not far off; O my Strength, come quickly to help me. Deliver my life from the sword, my precious life from the power of the dogs. Rescue me from the mouth of the lions; save me from the horns of the wild oxen." 

Thought Question:  How is Jesus' cry to God helpful to you in some circumstance in which you now find yourself?

 

 

"But you, O Lord, be not far off; O my Strength, come quickly to help me." See 22:11  We see what Jesus did in His lowest hour on earth.  How can it help us?  He cried out for God the Father to help Him.  Even Jesus needed the Father to "come quickly to help" Him.  Did the Father respond to Jesus' cry for help?  Yes He did, but he did not rescue Him from His trouble until the purpose for His suffering had been accomplished.  We can be sure, though, that the Father came near to Him the moment that Jesus said, "It is finished." (John 19:30)  Then, Jesus said, "Father, into your hands I commit my spirit." (Luke 23:46)

"my Strength"  God also is our "Strength."  Following Jesus as our Lord takes us to places we cannot go in our own strength.  We are battling an enemy far more powerful than we are—we cannot resist him in our human strength.  We constantly need the One who is our "Strength" to do it. See Romans 7:24-25; II Corinthians 1:8-9; 4:7-12, 12:7-10; Philippians 4:13; Colossians 1:29

"Deliver my life from the sword, my precious life from the power of the dogs. Rescue me from the mouth of the lions; save me from the horns of the wild oxen."  Jesus repeats the figures of speech that describe the angry crowd that surrounded Him on the cross: "dogs," "lions," and "oxen." See 12-13, 16  His ultimate enemy, Satan, is described as being like a lion:  "Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour." (1 Peter 5:8)  God-hating men and women have hardened their hearts, and as a result are empowered by the devil. See Ephesians
4:26-27;
James 3:14-16; John 13:27; Ephesians 2:2; II Timothy 4:17

"Deliver my life from the sword," See Zechariah 13:7; Isaiah 34:5; Jeremiah 47:6  The "sword" probably refers to those with the authority of government.  Paul describes the authority and power of government in this way: "For he is God’s servant to do you good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword for nothing. He is God’s servant, an agent of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer." (Romans 13:4)  Though the "sword" of government is to punish wrongdoers, it was the Jewish religious authorities and the Roman government that put the innocent Jesus on the cross.  Jesus asks to be delivered from the "sword" of government that was unjustly using its power to murder Him.

THE FATHER HEARD. (22:22-31)

1. Praise because of the empty tomb (22:22-24)
"I will declare your name to my brothers; in the congregation I will praise you. You who fear the Lord, praise him! All you descendants of Jacob, honor him! Revere him, all you descendants of Israel! For he has not despised or disdained the suffering of the afflicted one; he has not hidden his face from him but has listened to his cry for help."

Thought Question #1:  Why do you believe there is such a sudden change from a cry for help to these words of praise?

 

 

Thought Question #2:  The outline describes these verses as "Praise because of an empty tomb," what are your thoughts on this conclusion?

 

 

Suddenly, David's words, and I believe Jesus' words, shift from helpless crying out to the Father to a declaration of praise and a request for those who fear the Lord to join Him in this praise.  If the first 21 verses describe Jesus' attitude while He was on the cross, these words certainly describe his triumphal praise after He had risen from the dead.  "Jesus said, 'Do not hold on to me, for I have not yet returned to the Father. Go instead to my brothers and tell them, “I am returning to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.”'" (John 20:17)

The author of the book of Hebrews applies these words to Jesus after the resurrection:  "Both the one who makes men holy and those who are made holy are of the same family. So Jesus is not ashamed to call them brothers. He says, 'I will declare your name to my brothers; in the presence of the congregation I will sing your praises.'" (Hebrews 2:11-12)  It was through the resurrection that Jesus brought "many sons to glory."  "In bringing many sons to glory, it was fitting that God, for whom and through whom everything exists, should make the author of their salvation perfect through suffering." (Hebrews 2:10)

The Father heard Jesus' cries and delivered Him from death.  "Therefore my heart is glad and my tongue rejoices; my body also will rest secure, because you will not abandon me to the grave, nor will you let your Holy One see decay. You have made known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand." (Psalm 16:9-11)

"For he has not despised or disdained the suffering of the afflicted one; he has not hidden his face from him but has listened to his cry for help."  Here, we have our praise that the Father heard Jesus' cries and resurrected Him from the grave.

2. The world's praise because of the empty tomb (22:25-31)
"From you comes the theme of my praise in the great assembly; before those who fear you will I fulfill my vows. The poor will eat and be satisfied; they who seek the Lord will praise him— may your hearts live forever! All the ends of the earth will remember and turn to the Lord, and all the families of the nations will bow down before him, for dominion belongs to the Lord and he rules over the nations. All the rich of the earth will feast and worship; all who go down to the dust will kneel before him— those who cannot keep themselves alive. Posterity will serve him; future generations will be told about the Lord. They will proclaim his righteousness to a people yet unborn— for he has done it."

Thought Question:  Do you believe that these verses describe what has happened in the world as a result and after Jesus' resurrection?  Please explain your answer.

 

 

"From you comes the theme of my praise in the great assembly; before those who fear you will I fulfill my vows."  A friend of mine vowed to follow Christ if God would heal him.  After he was healed, he forgot his vow.  Shortly after that, God got his attention and he has faithfully served Christ for many years.  Here, Jesus had promised to proclaim the Father's rescue of him to the world of His time.

It is also appropriate for us to proclaim to the world what God has done for us through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.  Our proclamation, I believe, also fulfills the prediction made in this verse.

"The poor will eat and be satisfied; they who seek the Lord will praise him— may your hearts live forever!"  "The concluding six verses are primarily in the future tense and sound like predictions." "Taken from Psalms Volume 1 Songs of Devotion by Robert Alden.  Copyright 1974 by Moody Press."  In this verse is a prediction of who will receive the proclamation by Jesus Christ—who will receive the gospel message.  "Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven." (Matthew 5:3)  The "poor in spirit" are those who will "seek the Lord."  They are those who will ultimately "praise him." See Matthew 5:6; 6:33

"may your hearts live forever!"  "The world and its desires pass away, but the man who does the will of God lives forever." (1 John 2:17)

"All the ends of the earth will remember and turn to the Lord, and all the families of the nations will bow down before him, for dominion belongs to the Lord"  The gospel message will result in people turning to Christ and becoming members of His spiritual kingdom.  The final result will be Jesus' reign on earth—"your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven." (Matthew 6:10) See Psalm 47; Zechariah 14

The final result of people hearing the message of His death and resurrection will be that everyone living or dead will bow before Jesus as King.  "All the rich of the earth will feast and worship; all who go down to the dust will kneel before him— those who cannot keep themselves alive."  Here is a prediction that everyone will ultimately bow before Jesus.  The rich will ultimately be humbled.  Even those who are humbled by not being able to keep themselves alive will bow before Him.  "For this very reason, Christ died and returned to life so that he might be the Lord of both the dead and the living." (Romans 14:9)  "Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father." (Philippians 2:9-11)

The message will be preached to future generations.  "Posterity will serve him; future generations will be told about the Lord. They will proclaim his righteousness to a people yet unborn— for he has done it."  Here is certainly a description and the proclamation of the church throughout all generations.  The gospel message has been proclaimed to the world by the church to generations that were future to David and future to Jesus Christ and His early followers.

"proclaim his righteousness"  God made it possible for the unrighteous to righteously become part of His family when the Righteous One Jesus Christ paid the righteous penalty for our sins.  "But now a righteousness from God, apart from law, has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify. This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. God presented him as a sacrifice of atonement, through faith in his blood. He did this to demonstrate his justice, because in his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished— he did it to demonstrate his justice at the present time, so as to be just and the one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus." (Romans 3:21-26)

And, so, Jesus' crucifixion was described 1000 years before he was born.  His resurrection, the church, and Jesus' eternal rule were predicted in great detail 3000 years ago.  Part of Psalm 22's predictions have been fulfilled; some are being fulfilled right now; and some will be fulfilled in the future.  Certainly, this Psalm is one of the most amazing chapters in the Bible.

PSALM 23:  The Lord is my Shepherd.

Introduction:  The 23rd Psalm is one of the most well-known parts of the Bible; along with the Lord's Prayer, John 3:16, and the Beatitudes.  It is so familiar that it had almost ceased to have a fresh message to me.  But that has changed.  It started when I wanted to comfort three ladies just before their deaths.  One was a very close friend, another was the mother of a close friend, and the third was a lady I had just met whose daughter was hoping that I would have something to say that would help her dying mother.  I found that Psalm 23 was the best words I could give them at that time.  Certainly, there is no part of the Bible that is more comforting to us than the 23rd Psalm.

1. The Lord is my shepherd. (23:1)
"A psalm of David. The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not be in want."

"Thought Question:  How does it feel to be called God's sheep?

 

 

 
"The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not be in want."  We are sheep because without a good shepherd to watch over us and to guide us, we will go astray.  "We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all." (Isaiah 53:6)  Jesus referred to Himself as "the good shepherd." (John 10:11)  The world's constant straying away from God's ways is proof that without the "good shepherd" we will all go astray.  We will not fully benefit from the words of this Psalm until we humbly acknowledge that we are like sheep and that we do need God's constant shepherding so that we will not go astray.  Jesus is that "good shepherd," for He "lays down his life for the sheep"—He laid down His life for us. (John 10:11) See Genesis 48:15; Psalm 80:1, 95:7; Isaiah 40:11; Ezekiel 34; Luke 15:3-7: I Peter 2:25

Also, our "good shepherd" provides for our needs.  "I shall not be in want."  There are a number of places in the Bible where we are promised that God will take care of those who put themselves under God's shepherding.  "But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own." (Matthew 6:33-34)  "Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you." (1 Peter 5:6-7)  "Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus." (Philippians 4:6-7)
Imagine yourself as a sheep.  You are uncertain about whether or not you will have all that you need.  Then, you remember how able your shepherd is and realize the all is well.  The application to us is obvious. 

2. Our shepherd keeps us safe and secure. (23:2-3)
"He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters,  he restores my soul.  He guides me in paths of righteousness for his name's sake."

Thought Question:  How does this apply to the way our shepherd takes care of you?

 

 

"He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters,  he restores my soul."  There are times when a sheep is very nervous.  He hears the howl of a wolf; he sees a shadow move; there is the rumble of a storm coming; there is a rushing stream; or there appears to be no food around.  His soul becomes troubled and concerned.  Then, the shepherd brings him to a green pastureland and a place where there is quiet water.  As he drinks from the water and lies down in the "green pasture," his soul is calmed and he feels safe and secure.

Can you identify with that?  I can.  Worries and insecurities come.  All can seem to be out of control.  Then, we put our faith in our "good shepherd" and we find that He has everything under control.  Then, we sit back, safe and secure, trusting in His care for us.

Our "good shepherd" guides us along good paths.  "He guides me in paths of righteousness for his name's sake."  Our daughter mentions two verses in the Bible more than any other verses in the Bible.  These are those two verses: "Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight." (Proverbs 3:5-6)  These two verses are her life verses.  God desires to lead us on His "paths of righteousness."  Sheep will wander in every direction if the shepherd and the sheep dog do not watch them closely.  They will wander into a bog and get stuck.  They will get too deep in the water and be unable to get back to shore; they will walk too close to a cliff edge; they will walk into a nest of poisonous snakes; and the list goes on.  Do we also not have many ways that we can wander away from God's straight paths—into false teaching, hopeless disagreements; dangerous relationships; foolishness; and sins of all kinds?  We need our "good shepherd's" constant guidance so that we will stay on His straight paths and His narrow road.  God provides that guidance in His word through good counsel and through prayer.  "If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him." (James 1:5)

3. Our good shepherd will watch over us in times of danger. (23:4)
"Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me."

Thought Question:  What is a time of danger that you fear in which these words give you comfort?

 

 

There is one journey that we will all take where we can feel as if we will be completely alone.  That is the journey of death.  But for those whose shepherd is the Lord, we will not go through even that dark tunnel alone. See I Corinthians 15:50-57

For sheep out on a mountain pasture, going through a mountain gorge is a scary time.  Lurking in the shadows could be a predator waiting to pounce, kill, and destroy.  The job of the "good shepherd" is to take these sheep through these dangerous and dark valleys.  The sheep are comforted and helped during these times of fear because the shepherd is there with his "rod" and his "staff."  "The rod was a club which was used to drive off wild animals . . . The staff was a slender pole with a little crook on the end.  It was used to aid the sheep.  The crook could be hooked around the leg of a sheep to pull him from harm, or, it could be used as an instrument to direct and occasionally to discipline the sheep with taps on the side of the body." "Taken from Folk Psalms of Faith by Ray Stedman.  Copyright 1973 by Regal Books."

Phillip Keller was a shepherd "for about eight years" and he "grew and lived in East Africa, surrounded by simple native herders whose customs closely resembled their counterparts in the Middle East."  He had this to say about the "rod":  "I used to watch the native lads having competitions to see who could throw with the greatest accuracy across the greatest distance.  The effectiveness of these crude clubs in the hands of skilled shepherds was a thing to watch." "Taken from A Shepherd looks at Psalm 23 by Phillip Keller.  Copyright 1970 by Zondervan Publishing House."

How do the "rod" and "staff" apply to our relationship with our "good shepherd"?  As the "rod" and "staff" helped the sheep to feel the constant love and protection of the shepherd, so we can feel the constant love and protection of our "good shepherd."  We can be confident that Jesus is always with us.  ". . . And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age." (Matthew 28:20)  "Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.  So we say with confidence, 'The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid. What can man do to me?'" (Hebrews 13:5b-6)  His constant presence in the midst of even the darkest and most fearsome times is a constant "comfort" to us.  Like the shepherd of David's time, Jesus rescues us from the lion's mouth.  "But the Lord stood at my side and gave me strength, so that through me the message might be fully proclaimed and all the Gentiles might hear it. And I was delivered from the lion’s mouth. The Lord will rescue me from every evil attack and will bring me safely to his heavenly kingdom. To him be glory for ever and ever. Amen." (2 Timothy 4:17-18)

And our good shepherd will also comfort us:  "Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God. For just as the sufferings of Christ flow over into our lives, so also through Christ our comfort overflows. If we are distressed, it is for your comfort and salvation; if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which produces in you patient endurance of the same sufferings we suffer. And our hope for you is firm, because we know that just as you share in our sufferings, so also you share in our comfort. We do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about the hardships we suffered in the province of Asia. We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired even of life. Indeed, in our hearts we felt the sentence of death. But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead. He has delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us. On him we have set our hope that he will continue to deliver us, as you help us by your prayers. Then many will give thanks on our behalf for the gracious favor granted us in answer to the prayers of many." (2 Corinthians 1:3-11)  Paul knew the "comfort" that comes from God's constant presence and concern for him.

"I will fear no evil," Satan is called the "evil one."  Jesus protects us from the "evil" one.  "My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one." (John 17:15)  "But the Lord is faithful, and he will strengthen and protect you from the evil one." (2 Thessalonians 3:3)  We need "fear no evil" because Jesus protects us from the "evil" one.  "Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell." (Matthew 10:28)

4. Our good shepherd will provide for us in difficult times. (23:5)
"You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies.  You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows."

Thought Question:  How do you believe this applies to us today?

 

 

Philip Keller, the former shepherd, believes the "table" refers to the flat pastureland up in the mountains now referred to as "mesas, the Spanish word for "tables."  He describes what needed to take place in order for the "tableland" to be a safe place for the sheep to graze.  The shepherd will look for such things as poisonous weeds that need to be avoided to "prepare" the pastureland for his sheep.  Jesus provides for our needs, guides us, and comforts us in world that hates us and desires to devour us.  "I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves." (Matthew 10:16)  "While I was with them, I protected them and kept them safe by that name you gave me. None has been lost except the one doomed to destruction so that Scripture would be fulfilled. . . . My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one. They are not of the world, even as I am not of it." (John 17:12, 15-16) 

"You anoint my head with oil;"  Phillip Keller describes the need to put ointment on sheep to protect them from insects.  We need the anointing of God's Spirit to protect us from the many attacks of Satan and His demons.  The anointing describes God's blessing and protection of us even when we are in the midst of enemy territory and even when we are under the severest attacks.

"my cup overflows."  God does not just provide enough to meet our needs, but our "cup overflows."  "On the last and greatest day of the Feast, Jesus stood and said in a loud voice, 'If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him.' By this he meant the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were later to receive. Up to that time the Spirit had not been given, since Jesus had not yet been glorified." (John 7:37-39)  "The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full." (John 10:10) See Jeremiah 2:13 

5. Our "good shepherd" will be with us every day with His love and mercy, and He will take us to His eternal home. (23:6)
"Surely goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever."

Thought Question:  Give examples in your life of God's goodness and love that you have experienced throughout the years of your life.

 

 

As Jesus' sheep, we can be confident that His goodness, mercy, grace, and love will be with us "all the days of" our lives.  Jesus made the same promise to us.  "Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light." (Matthew 11:28-30)

Here we are told that God's "goodness and love" pursue us.  The word "follow" literally is "pursue—usually with hostile intent." "Note in the NIV Study Bible."

We are told that Satan pursues us relentlessly.  "Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour." (1 Peter 5:8)  When all is going well with us, it is easy to believe that God's "goodness and love" are pursuing us.  But, can we believe this is true when what is happening to us seems to be the very opposite of "goodness and love"?  That is when it becomes difficult to believe in the truth of this verse.  Listen to Phillip Keller's observation about God's shepherdly care for him.  "In looking back over my life in the light of my own love and care for my sheep, I can see again and again a similar compassion and concern for me in my Master's management of my affairs.  There were events which at the time seemed like calamities; there were paths down which He led me that appeared like blind alleys; there were days He took me through which were all nigh black as night itself.  But all in the end turned for my benefit and my well-being." "Taken from A Shepherd Looks at Psalm 23 by Phillip Keller.  Copyright 1970 by Zondervan Publishing House." See Psalm 6:4, 27:13, 31:9, 69:16, 79:8, 109:21, 116:12

His type of "goodness and love" are rarely present in men's attitude toward us, so it is hard for us sometimes and even often to believe that God pursues us with "goodness and love."  The following is Phillip Keller's description of Jesus Christ.  "Even the most flagrant sinners found forgiveness with Him, whereas at the hands of their fellow men they knew only condemnation, censure and cruel criticism.  And again I have to ask myself, is this my attitude toward other people?  Do I sit upon my pedestal of self-pride and look with contempt upon my contemporaries, or do I identify myself with them in their dilemma and there extend a small measure of the goodness and mercy given by my Master?  Do I see sinners with the compassion of Christ or with the critical eye of censure?  Am I willing to overlook faults and weaknesses in others and extend forgiveness as God has forgiven me my failings." "Taken from A Shepherd Looks at Psalm 23 by Phillip Keller.  Copyright 1970 by Zondervan Publishing House."

"and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever."  After the sheep of David's time had spent the warmer months in the wild pastureland, they returned in the colder months to their home.  After we have completed our time on this earth, God will take us to His home where we will live with Him forever.  "Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am." (John 14:1-3)

In the last year, a very good friend of ours went to be with the Lord.  She was 100 years old.  Shortly before she died, I said to her: "This not the end of our friendship; it is only the beginning."  She repeated part of what I said to her with a very weak voice: "It is the beginning."  We were both right.  It is the beginning of a friendship that will continue "in the house of the Lord" and will go on "forever."

PSALM 27:  A Song of Trust

Introduction:  Are you overwhelmed by those who oppose you?  Are your foes more than you have the strength to overcome?  That is how David felt as he wrote this Psalm.  What is the solution?  The help and encouragement that David found as expressed in this Psalm will help us in the overwhelming times of pain and sorrow as it helped him many years ago.

1. Trust in God. (27:1-3)
"Of David. The Lord is my light and my salvation— whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life— of whom shall I be afraid? When evil men advance against me to devour my flesh, when my enemies and my foes attack me, they will stumble and fall. Though an army besiege me, my heart will not fear; though war break out against me, even then will I be confident."

Thought Question:  What do you find in these verses that is a comfort to you right now?

 

 

There are times when we can feel that only God can rescue us from our circumstances.  It is particularly during those times that we, with David, need to reaffirm our trust in God.

"The Lord is my light and my salvation— whom shall I fear?"  God is our "light."  In a dark world when it is unclear what is right and good, God reveals the truth about who is doing good and who is doing bad—what is right and what is wrong. See Psalm 18:28   "This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light; in him there is no darkness at all. If we claim to have fellowship with him yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live by the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin. If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word has no place in our lives." (1 John 1:5-10) See also Ephesians 5:8-4

"my salvation"  After we see our lives in God's light, we see ourselves as hopeless sinners who need God's "salvation."  "What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? Thanks be to God—through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself in my mind am a slave to God’s law, but in the sinful nature a slave to the law of sin. Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death. For what the law was powerless to do in that it was weakened by the sinful nature, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful man to be a sin offering. And so he condemned sin in sinful man, in order that the righteous requirements of the law might be fully met in us, who do not live according to the sinful nature but according to the Spirit." (Romans 7:24-8:4)

"whom shall I fear?"  Paul adds the reason we should not be afraid.  "If God is for us, who can be against us?" (Rom 8:31b)  "In that day you will say: 'I will praise you, O Lord. Although you were angry with me, your anger has turned away and you have comforted me. Surely God is my salvation; I will trust and not be afraid. The Lord, the Lord, is my strength and my song; he has become my salvation.' With joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation." (Isaiah 12:1-3)

"The Lord is the stronghold of my life— of whom shall I be afraid?" See       II Samuel 22:1-3; Psalm 18:22; 37:39, 43:2, 52:7  The reason that we are afraid is that we realize our weakness before those who oppose us.  Particularly, we are weak before our ultimate enemy Satan—the powerful and evil angelic being.  How can we stand up against him?  Paul answers this question for us.  "Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand." (Ephesians 6:10-13)

"When evil men advance against me to devour my flesh, when my enemies and my foes attack me, they will stumble and fall. Though an army besiege me, my heart will not fear; though war break out against me, even then will I be confident."  Is there an enemy of ours that is more powerful than God?  Again, "if God is for us, who can be against us?" (Romans 8:31b)  The leaders of the mighty Babylon defied God and held a blasphemous feast using "the goblets that had been taken from the temple. . . . Suddenly the fingers of a human hand appeared and wrote on the plaster of the wall, near the lampstand in the royal palace. The king watched the hand as it wrote. His face turned pale and he was so frightened that his knees knocked together and his legs gave way." (Daniel 5:3, 5-6)  No army can defy God, and if we are on His side, we can "be confident."

David showed this confidence based his trust in God when he confidently went to battle with Goliath, the giant soldier of the Philistines. See I Samuel 17  May we have David's confidence as we take on the Goliaths of our time.

2. Trust in God gives us the desire to draw near to Him in times of trouble. (27:4-6)
"One thing I ask of the Lord, this is what I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord and to seek him in his temple. For in the day of trouble he will keep me safe in his dwelling; he will hide me in the shelter of his tabernacle and set me high upon a rock. Then my head will be exalted above the enemies who surround me; at his tabernacle will I sacrifice with shouts of joy; I will sing and make music to the Lord."

Thought Question #1:  What do you find in David's words of trust in God that are also your words of trust in God?

 

 

Thought Question #2:  What do you find in David's words of trust in God that you would like to become your words of trust in God?

 

 

"One thing I ask of the Lord, this is what I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord and to seek him in his temple."  When we are under attack by enemies, it is hard to see anything but their angry faces.  And when all we can see is their angry faces, we become filled with such feelings as terror, fear, emotional pain, condemnation, and other unhappy emotions.  What will deliver us from all of this?  There is only one way not to be overcome with these negative emotions, and that is to seek the face of the One who continually loves us.

"that I may dwell in the house of the Lord"  David describes a desire for constant fellowship with God.  In Psalm 23, David describes this same desire: "Surely goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever." (Psalm 23:6)  Since the "house" or the temple "of the Lord" was not built until David's son built it after David's death, David could not have been speaking of the temple "of the Lord."  What, then, was "the house of the Lord" that David speaks about here?  He could have been speaking of the tabernacle of God that was built in Moses' time; but it appears that he is speaking of God's actual "house" in heaven that the tabernacle and the temple pictured symbolically.  He is speaking of our present spiritual fellowship with God in His eternal dwelling place.  The temple does not exist today either, but we can fellowship with God in heaven just like David could.  "Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need." (Hebrews 4:16)  How can we "approach" God's "throne" right now?  Christians can in our spirits come right before God's throne in His "house" in heaven at any time.

"to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord and to seek him in his temple."  When there are those who are ugly with anger toward us, we desire to see the beauty of the One who constantly loves us.  "Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls." (Matthew 11:29)

All that is beautiful in this life—blue skies, pretty flowers, a beautiful lady, lush scenery, and more all expression the "beauty of" of God.  When we feel surrounded by ugliness, we can rush to the One who is all beautiful.  What is there in God's nature that is beautiful?  Certainly, His grace and mercy are beautiful.  The words, "God is love" (I John 4:6) and the description of love in I Corinthians 13 are beautiful.  Everything we get to know God will be beautiful.  "His banner over me is love." (Song of Solomon 2:4)

"One thing I ask of the Lord,"  Why is this request to "dwell in the house of the Lord" and to ""to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord" David's one request?  It is because all other requests will only provide a short and unsatisfactory benefit to us.  Seeking God and His face provide to us eternal satisfaction.  "Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For everything in the world—the cravings of sinful man, the lust of his eyes and the boasting of what he has and does—comes not from the Father but from the world. The world and its desires pass away, but the man who does the will of God lives forever." (1 John 2:15-17)  "Now this is eternal life: that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent." (John 17:3)  "But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well." (Matthew 6:33)  David had discovered the only truly satisfying pursuit in life.

"For in the day of trouble he will keep me safe in his dwelling; he will hide me in the shelter of his tabernacle and set me high upon a rock."  When we feel assailed on every side, where can we go for safety and security?  When Martin Luther stood opposed to the fearsome and powerful Roman Catholic Church of his time, there were those who took him to a place where he could be safe.  When our country was attacked on 9-11, President G. W. Push was taken to a place of safety.  These safe places for Luther and President Bush picture the heavenly place of safety we can run to in our time times of trouble.

David describes a "rock" of refuge.  Recently, a horrible tornado hit Alabama.  Those who survived sought places of refuge such as a bath tub, so that they could safely endure the rages of the twister's power.  As we find ourselves in the midst of a storm caused by the attacks of Satan, God is a rock of refuge where we can run to.  He will protect our spirit while the storms rages all around us.  "How great is your goodness, which you have stored up for those who fear you, which you bestow in the sight of men on those who take refuge in you. In the shelter of your presence you hide them from the intrigues of men; in your dwelling you keep them safe from accusing tongues. Praise be to the Lord, for he showed his wonderful love to me when I was in a besieged city." (Psalm 31:19-21)  "You are my hiding place; you will protect me from trouble and surround me with songs of deliverance. Selah" (Psalm 32:7)  "He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty." (Psalm 91:1)

"Then my head will be exalted above the enemies who surround me; at his tabernacle will I sacrifice with shouts of joy; I will sing and make music to the Lord."  Here, David imagined in faith the coming victory that God would give to him.  He believes that God would exalt him over his "enemies" and after that victory, there will be a time of great joy and praise to God.  We see in the last verses of this Psalm that his victory had not yet occurred.  How can we trust that God is leading in triumph (see I Corinthians 2:14) when it is only defeat that we can see?  Hebrews 11:1 give us the answer.  "Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see."   See also I John 5:5-7  God promises us if we humble ourselves, that He will lift us up. See James 4:10; I Peter 5:5-7  God desires that we trust in this promise even when we are abased and are threatened with a shameful defeat.  David in this verse does trust that God will lead him in triumph even though at the moment it looked to him like he was near defeat.

3. Trust in God gives us the desire to pursue God's help and mercy when our foes have greater strength than we do. (27:7-9)
"Hear my voice when I call, O Lord; be merciful to me and answer me. My heart says of you, 'Seek his face!' Your face, Lord, I will seek. Do not hide your face from me, do not turn your servant away in anger; you have been my helper. Do not reject me or forsake me, O God my Savior."

Thought Question #1:  What do you believe David is seeking here from God?

 

 

Thought Question #2:  What do you desire from God right now?

 

 

David recognizes that his whole life, his success against his enemies, and his emotional state totally depends on whether or not God is on his side.  Here, he cries out to God for His mercy, help, and for some sense that God looks on him favorably—not in anger.

"My heart says of you, 'Seek his face! Your face, Lord, I will seek."  The ESV begins this verse as follows: "So you have said."  The NASV begins the verse: "When Thou didst say."  The KJV begins the verse: "When Thou saidst."  It is implied that David seeks God face in reply to God's desire that he seek His face. 

Throughout the Bible God invites us to seek Him and to seek His help.  "But if from there you seek the Lord your God, you will find him if you look for him with all your heart and with all your soul." (Deuteronomy 4:29)  "If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land." (2 Chronicles 7:14)  "He mocks proud mockers but gives grace to the humble." (Proverbs 3:34)  "Seek the Lord while he may be found; call on him while he is near." (Isaiah 55:6)  "This is what the Lord says to the house of Israel: 'Seek me and live.'" (Amos 5:4)  "Seek the Lord, all you humble of the land, you who do what he commands. Seek righteousness, seek humility; perhaps you will be sheltered on the day of the Lord’s anger." (Zephaniah 2:3)  "And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him." (Hebrews 11:6)

In response to God's desire that men seek Him, David seeks His face.  God desires that we seek Him also.  So, we also can respond to His invitation and seek Him.  "Come near to God and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded." (James 4:8)

"Do not hide your face from me, do not turn your servant away in anger;"  When we are in great affliction and God does not respond immediately to our cry for help, we can feel that God has not responded to us because He is angry with us.  And so, David pleads that God will not turn him away in an angry way.  It is in times like these that we need assurances of God's longsuffering love.  There are many verses in the Bible that give us this assurance.  "Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you." (Deuteronomy 31:6)  "Was it not you who dried up the sea, the waters of the great deep, who made a road in the depths of the sea so that the redeemed might cross over?" (Isaiah 51:10)  "But the Lord is with me like a mighty warrior; so my persecutors will stumble and not prevail. They will fail and be thoroughly disgraced; their dishonor will never be forgotten." (Jeremiah 20:11) See also Matthew 11:28-30; Romans 5:6-10; 8:31-39; Hebrews 13:5

"you have been my helper.  Do not reject me or forsake me, O God my Savior."  Even though we have God's promises and know that God has helped us many times in the past, when we are in the midst of a fearful calamity, we can wonder whether God will help us once more.  Yet, David asserts His faith in God with the words: "O God my Savior."

4. Trust in God gives us the confidence that there will be an ultimate victory over our foes. (27:10-14)
"Though my father and mother forsake me, the Lord will receive me. Teach me your way, O Lord; lead me in a straight path because of my oppressors. Do not turn me over to the desire of my foes, for false witnesses rise up against me, breathing out violence. I am still confident of this: I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord."

Thought Question:  What can you learn from the Psalm about how to become confident that God will come alongside of you to help you and support you in a time of trouble?

 

 

"Though my father and mother forsake me, the Lord will receive me."  There is no evidence that David's father and mother abandoned him.  But, David is saying that even if they did abandon him, he was confident that God would not forsake him.  Sadly, there are times when those close to us turn on us or turn away from us.  Judas turned on Jesus.  David's son Absalom turned on him.  Aaron and Miriam turned on Moses.  Paul was abandoned by the Christians in Asia. See II Timothy 4:16  These are gut-wrenching and painful times.  Yet, God never turns away from His humble servants.

"Teach me your way, O Lord; lead me in a straight path because of my oppressors. Do not turn me over to the desire of my foes, for false witnesses rise up against me, breathing out violence."  David acknowledges his need for God's guidance.  Our way may seem right to us, but does it lead us along God's straight and narrow path?  "There is a way that seems right to a man, but in the end it leads to death." (Proverbs 14:12)  Instead, we are not to depend on ourselves, but on God.  "Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight." (Proverbs 3:5-6)  When we seek God's guidance for our lives, it is a humble acknowledgment of the fact that we can't depend on ourselves. See Psalm 5:8, 143:8-10

It is particularly necessary for us to seek God's guidance when there are those who are strongly opposing us.  In those times, everything we do or say is going to be put under a magnifying glass and inspected.  Even Jesus was subjected to this type of inspection.  "Some of them were looking for a reason to accuse Jesus, so they watched him closely to see if he would heal him on the Sabbath." (Mark 3:2) "Keeping a close watch on him, they sent spies, who pretended to be honest. They hoped to catch Jesus in something he said so that they might hand him over to the power and authority of the governor." (Luke 20:20)

"Do not turn me over to the desire of my foes, for false witnesses rise up against me, breathing out violence."  Jesus said to His disciples, "I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves." (Matthew 10:16)  We would like to think that if we speak the truth, love people, and do good, we will be loved by everyone.  Sadly, the opposite is true.  David sought to serve and obey God, yet there were those who hated him.  David asks that God would protect him from what his enemies desired to do to him.  We also may have those who hate us.  They also, then, have destructive goals for us.  A very acceptable prayer is for us to pray that they will not be successful in their desire that we be destroyed in one way or another.  When we are under these types of attacks, our only hope is that God will prevent them from successfully shaming us and attacking us.  "To you, O Lord, I lift up my soul; in you I trust, O my God. Do not let me be put to shame, nor let my enemies triumph over me. No one whose hope is in you will ever be put to shame, but they will be put to shame who are treacherous without excuse." (Psalm 25:1-3)

"I am still confident of this: I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living."  When storms surround us and doom looms upon us, how can we be "confident" that we will "see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living"?  Hope replaces fear when we are actually "confident" that though our enemy is determined to do evil to us, Almighty God is determined to do good to us.  That will give us hope and confidence that our future will be good.  We have many promises from God that He will do good to us.  "A greedy man stirs up dissension, but he who trusts in the Lord will prosper." (Proverbs 28:25)  "'For I know the plans I have for you,' declares the Lord, 'plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.'" (Jeremiah 29:11)  "But thanks be to God, who always leads us in triumphal procession in Christ and through us spreads everywhere the fragrance of the knowledge of him." (2 Corinthians 2:14)  "Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up." (Galatians 6:9)  "And my God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus." (Philippians 4:19)

"Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord."  "You will keep in perfect peace him whose mind is steadfast, because he trusts in you." (Isaiah 26:3)  Many adversaries we face have strength that is beyond our finite strength to overcome.  At these times, it is obvious that our strength is not sufficient to overcome what faces us.  Our only hope is to wait on God and be strong in His strength.  Then, we can take heart.  "Do you not know? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He will not grow tired or weary, and his understanding no one can fathom. He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint." (Isaiah 40:28-31)  "Therefore, since through God’s mercy we have this ministry, we do not lose heart." (2 Corinthians 4:1)  "But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body. For we who are alive are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that his life may be revealed in our mortal body. So then, death is at work in us, but life is at work in you." (2 Corinthians 4:7-12)

PSALM 32:  Blessed by God's Forgiveness

Introduction:  Are you struggling with guilt?  Sometimes we can feel guilty about some sin because we do not believe that even God can forgive it.  At other times, we just feel guilty because we feel like we deserve God's condemnation for reasons that are not very clear to us.  As we read this Psalm, we will discover that David understood, for he had times where his feelings of guilt were overwhelming to him.  But in this Psalm he takes us from guilt to joy; from feeling insecure to being surrounded by God's unfailing love; and from feeling useless in God's work to feeling that God could use him mightily.  Join him in this journey, and he will guide you out of the darkness of condemnation and into the joy of being accepted and overwhelmingly loved by God.

1. Blessed is the one who is honest about his sin. (32:1-2)
"Of David. A maskil. Blessed is he whose transgressions are forgiven, whose sins are covered. Blessed is the man whose sin the Lord does not count against him and in whose spirit is no deceit."

Thought Question:  How do these verses bring blessedness into your life?

 

 

"Blessed is he whose transgressions are forgiven, whose sins are covered."  "This is the second Psalm which begins with the word 'Ashren'—happy-blessed.  The first Psalm began with this word."  "Taken from the The Psalms by Arno Gaebelien.  Copyright 1939 by Loizeaux Brothers, Inc." See Matthew 5:3-12  In Psalm one, we saw that happiness comes from a life based on God's word.  What leads to blessedness or happiness according to these verses?  It is what occurs when we honestly admit our sin before God and we experience His forgiveness.  I John 1:9 has been called the Christian's bar of soap.  "If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness."  We live in light of God's presence when we acknowledge rather than deny our sin.  Then, because Jesus paid for that sin, we experience His forgiveness and cleansing.  "My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin. But if anybody does sin, we have one who speaks to the Father in our defense—Jesus Christ, the Righteous One. He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world." (1 John 2:1-2)

Since we all are sinful, openness before a God who is light requires that we be open about our sins before Him.  "Do not bring your servant into judgment, for no one living is righteous before you." (Psalm 143:2)  Walking in the light occurs when we are, like David here, a man or woman "in whose spirit is no deceit."  This is true when we are willing to acknowledge the truth about our sin. See Romans 4:4-7 where Paul uses these verses to show that David was not saved by his works but by God's grace. See also I Timothy 1:12-17

Martin Luther called this Psalm, along with Psalms 51, 130, and 143, Psalms of Paul, for they all teach that we cannot get right with God by the law, but only by faith in God's grace. "Found in Luther's Table talk quote by Spurgeon in The Treasury of David." 

2. The emotional consequence of denying our sinself-condemnation (32:3-4) See Psalm 38:1-17
"When I kept silent, my bones wasted away through my groaning all day long. For day and night your hand was heavy upon me; my strength was sapped as in the heat of summer. Selah"

Thought Question:  What are some of the consequences of guilt that are described here? See also Psalm 38:1-17

 

 

Even though men may deny that it is true, each of us is born with a God-given conscience.  We live under its constant accusations.  The result of an accusing conscience is described here and in Psalm 38:1-17.  A guilt-ridden conscience results in "groaning all day long."  It saps our "strength."  We become like someone who is drained of his or her "strength" by the hot sun.  A guilty conscience before God feels like His "hand is heavy upon" us.  He is pressing down and weakening us.  This is a very difficult way to go through life—constantly in a weakened state, where life itself is overwhelming to us.  "For your arrows have pierced me, and your hand has come down upon me. Because of your wrath there is no health in my body; my bones have no soundness because of my sin. My guilt has overwhelmed me like a burden too heavy to bear. My wounds fester and are loathsome because of my sinful folly. I am bowed down and brought very low; all day long I go about mourning. My back is filled with searing pain; there is no health in my body. I am feeble and utterly crushed; I groan in anguish of heart." (Psalm 38:2-8)

3. The blessing that comes from admitting our sinGod's forgiveness (32:5)
"Then I acknowledged my sin to you and did not cover up my iniquity. I said, 'I will confess my transgressions to the Lord'— and you forgave the guilt of my sin. Selah"

The following verses describe what confession of sin looks like:  "I confess my iniquity; I am troubled by my sin." (Psalm 38:18)  "Have mercy on me, O God, according to your unfailing love; according to your great compassion blot out my transgressions. Wash away all my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin. For I know my transgressions, and my sin is always before me. Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight, so that you are proved right when you speak and justified when you judge. Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me. Surely you desire truth in the inner parts; you teach me wisdom in the inmost place. Cleanse me with hyssop, and I will be clean; wash me, and I will be whiter than snow. Let me hear joy and gladness; let the bones you have crushed rejoice. Hide your face from my sins and blot out all my iniquity. Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. Do not cast me from your presence or take your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me." (Psalm 51:1-12)  "Even if I caused you sorrow by my letter, I do not regret it. Though I did regret it—I see that my letter hurt you, but only for a little while— yet now I am happy, not because you were made sorry, but because your sorrow led you to repentance. For you became sorrowful as God intended and so were not harmed in any way by us. Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death. See what this godly sorrow has produced in you: what earnestness, what eagerness to clear yourselves, what indignation, what alarm, what longing, what concern, what readiness to see justice done. At every point you have proved yourselves to be innocent in this matter." (2 Corinthians 7:8-11) See also Luke 15:1-32, 18:9-13; James 4:4-10

Chemical dependency counselors have come up with a number of ways that addicted people deny their dependency.  Here are some the defenses that are used to avoid admission of the truth: minimization (I did it, but it was not that bad); rationalization (I did it because); avoidance (I don't want to talk about it), hostility (I will get angry at you if you do not back off); blaming (it is someone else's fault); and others.  It, though, is refreshing when these defenses are absent and someone simply admits to sinning and places himself or herself in dependence on God's mercy—"and you forgave the guilt of my sin."

4. The blessings of a restored relationship with GodGod will help us in times of trouble (32:6-7)
"Therefore let everyone who is godly pray to you while you may be found; surely when the mighty waters rise, they will not reach him. You are my hiding place; you will protect me from trouble and surround me with songs of deliverance. Selah"

Thought Question:  In what ways are these verses an encouragement to you?

 

 

The NIV Study Bible has this to say about "mighty waters": "Powerful imagery for threatening forces or circumstances.  This and related imagery was borrowed from ancient Near East creation myths.  In many of these a primal mass of chaotic waters . . . had to be subdued by the Creator-god before he could fashion the world and/or rule as the divine king over the earth."

In a sense, we live continuously with the threat of the high "waters" that David speaks of here, for surrounding us as are always the devil's forces seeking to destroy us.  "For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms." (Ephesians 6:12)  "Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift you as wheat. But I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers." (Luke 22:31-32)

When we confess our sins and turn from them, we are on solid ground and can seek God's help against our enemies—those who are always looking for a way to take us down.

"You are my hiding place; you will protect me from trouble"  When we sin and do not humble ourselves and confess our sin, we are opposed by God.  But, when we confess our sin, we can seek to draw close to the One who always desires to protect us.  Similarly, if a young boys' best friend is the toughest boy in school.   This friend will protect him from bullies.  So, God will protect us from Satan's bullies. See psalm 27:5, 91:1

When I hear the words, "hiding place," I am reminded of the book and movie with that title written by Corrie Ten Boon.  During the Nazi occupation of her country, her parents hid Jewish people in a secret room to protect them from the Nazi soldiers.  As this secret room was their "hiding place," so God is our hiding place to protect us from the soldiers of Satan.

"and surround me with songs of deliverance."  As Christians, we sing of God and His goodness to us.  Such songs as "Great Is Thy Faithfulness" speak to us of how God has taken care of us in difficult times.  Instead of being surrounded by the storms of life, we are surrounded by "songs of deliverance." 

When the storms of life surround us and threaten to overwhelm us, what can we do?  We can run to the One who we also can call our "hiding place." 

5. The blessing of a restored relationship with Godwe can become counselors to others on how to follow God (32:8-9)
"I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you and watch over you. Do not be like the horse or the mule, which have no understanding but must be controlled by bit and bridle or they will not come to you."

Thought Question:  Whom do you believe he is speaking of here?

 

 

The repentant David in Psalm 51 says these words:  "Then I will teach transgressors your ways, and sinners will turn back to you." (Psalm 51:13)  It appears that in these verses that David who has been delivered from guilt and condemnation, now once more is able to counsel others  Two other possible interpretations of these words are as follows: (1) this is God speaking to David or (2) some man is speaking to David.  Since these Psalms were songs sung in public, it is more likely that these are the words of David as he encourages others not to choose sin, but to choose God's ways. See Hosea 14:9  If this is true, David begins speaking to those who are listening to this Psalm and he continues to speak to them through verse eleven.  Whoever is speaking—David, God, or someone else—he is urging people to choose to walk in God's way voluntarily.

He encourages them to seek to understand God's ways and willingly choose to walk in them.  They are to not be like a stubborn animal who only follows his master because he has no other choice.

6. The blessings of restored relationship with GodGod's unfailing love (32:10)
"Many are the woes of the wicked, but the Lord’s unfailing love surrounds the man who trusts in him."

Thought Question:  What does it mean to you that that God's love is "unfailing" love?

 

 

Here, David explains that we determine what surrounds us.  If we choose wickedness, "woes" will surround us.  If we choose to humbly seek God's ways, God's "unfailing love" will surround us.

What is it like in our experience when we have God's "unfailing love" surrounding us?  David states essentially the same truth in Psalm 23:6: "surely goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever."  Jesus states the same truth in Matthew 11:28-30:  "Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light."  Experientially, it is how a tiny child feels when he or she is watched over by loving parents.  Through the years, I have found two Psalms that are particularly a comfort for those who are dying or who are in the hospital, Psalm 23 and Psalm 91.  "He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the Lord, 'He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.' Surely he will save you from the fowler’s snare and from the deadly pestilence. He will cover you with his feathers, and under his wings you will find refuge; his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart. You will not fear the terror of night, nor the arrow that flies by day, nor the pestilence that stalks in the darkness, nor the plague that destroys at midday." (Psalm 91:1-6)  They both describe God's comforting and "unfailing love."

7. The blessing of a restored relationship with Godcontinual joy (32:11)
"Rejoice in the Lord and be glad, you righteous; sing, all you who are upright in heart!"

Thought Question:  What are some reasons that you can "rejoice in the Lord and be glad"?

 

 

Joy is not something that you work up, even though you have no reason to be joyous.  True joy is only present when we genuinely believe that we have an overflowing number of reasons to be joyous.  Please consider the following reasons to be joyous:  (1) We are loved by God, and nothing can separate us from His love. See I John 3:167, 4:7-10, Romans 5:8, 8:31-39  (2) We are part of His eternal family. See I John 3:1-2; Romans 8:14-17  (3) We will live forever. See John 11:25; I Thessalonians 4:13-17; I Corinthians 15  (4) God uses even our trials for good. See Romans 5:3-5; James 1:2-4; I Peter 1:3-9, 4:12-19  (5) God uses us and rewards our service to Him. See Galatians 6:9; I Corinthians 15:58
(6) God forgives our sins and restores us to fellowship with Him. See I John 1:9; 2:1-2; Romans 8:1, 31-34  (7) We can boldly approach God in our times of need. See Matthew 11:28-30; Hebrews 4:14-16; James 4:6-10  And the list goes on.  If we have the heart to believe these wonderful and gracious truths, we will have every reason to "rejoice and be glad." 

"Sing, all you upright in heart!"  God has given us music to express our praise, gratitude, and joy before God and to God.

PSALM 34:  From Fearfulness to the Radiance that Comes From a Fear of God

Introduction:  What will deliver us from fear?  What will give us a radiant face?  David describes how he went from fear and to having a radiant face.  The radiant face expressed his freedom from fear.  This transformation came at a time when he was in danger from a foreign king.  His experience with this foreign king is described in I Samuel 21.  "That day David fled from Saul and went to Achish king of Gath. But the servants of Achish said to him, 'Isn’t this David, the king of the land? Isn’t he the one they sing about in their dances: “Saul has slain his thousands, and David his tens of thousands”?' David took these words to heart and was very much afraid of Achish king of Gath. So he pretended to be insane in their presence; and while he was in their hands he acted like a madman, making marks on the doors of the gate and letting saliva run down his beard. Achish said to his servants, 'Look at the man! He is insane! Why bring him to me? Am I so short of madmen that you have to bring this fellow here to carry on like this in front of me? Must this man come into my house?'" (1 Samuel 21:10-15)  In I Samuel 21, the king's name is Achish.  Here is the title of Psalm 34 the name is "Abimelech."  "Abimelech" is the Philistine name for "king," and that may be why David gives him this name in this Psalm.  Whatever the case, it was very obviously a time when David needed to be delivered from his fear of the foreign king who could very easily have taken his life.  We can learn from what David learned from God during this very dangerous time in his life.

1. Praise that creates a radiant face (34:1-3)
"Of David. When he pretended to be insane before Abimelech, who drove him away, and he left. I will extol the Lord at all times; his praise will always be on my lips. My soul will boast in the Lord; let the afflicted hear and rejoice. Glorify the Lord with me; let us exalt his name together."

Thought Question:  How can "the afflicted hear" what David says here and "rejoice"?

 

 

Many have gone to a church service heavyhearted, were lifted up emotionally in the service, and have left the worship time lighthearted and full of praise.  David gives us some insights in these verses why this takes place and how we can make this our goal for every moment of our life.

What David does in this Psalm is to choose to "extol the Lord at all times," even when he was chased by King Saul out of Israel and right into the hands of a Philistine King who hated him.  To "extol the Lord" at a time like this is to acknowledge God's absolutely sovereign purpose in any and every circumstance.  "The overall message of the Psalm and the key to deliverance is first of all, to acknowledge the Lordship of Jehovah in our lives.  Have we learned to accept any circumstance in our life as from the hand of the Father?  Even the most terrifying circumstances come to us not as just acts of chance but as events strained through the fine screen of the love of the Father.  They happen because God wants them to happen.  We experience them because God wants us to experience them." "Taken from Folk Psalms of Faith by Ray Stedman.  Copyright 1973 by Regal Books.  This chapter was written by Dave Roper, my college pastor years ago.  He was a man with a constantly radiant face."

Paul, in Philippians 4:4 exhorts us to "rejoice in the Lord always."  Notice, it is "rejoice in the Lord."  We can only "rejoice always" when we believe that a loving and all-powerful God is in control of all that happens to us.  It is only when we believe this continually that we can also continually "rejoice."

Throughout the Bible there are descriptions of the lives of men and women of God who went through a multitude of different but very difficult circumstances.  Yet, the Bible makes it clear that God was still in control and that He had a loving purpose for each and every painful time.  Can we believe that God is in control and has a loving purpose for the time we are going through right now?  If the answer is "Yes," then we can rejoice right now.  It is this genuine rejoicing in any and every circumstance that gives radiance to our faces.

"What kind of Lord did David have?  Well, the Scriptures are very clear.  He is a Lord of compassion, and he understands us.  He knows our circumstances much better than we do.  He knows our hearts.  He knows our fears, he knows our feelings of frustration, and he is infinitely merciful and compassionate.  He is a Lord of power, able to act.  He is not immobilized by my fears.  I may be, but he is not.  He is not inhibited in any way by my circumstances or by my fears." "Taken from Folk Psalms of Faith by Ray Stedman/Dave Roper.  Copyright 1973 by Regal Books."  What will happen when we believe in God's sovereignty and in His unfailing love?  "The afflicted hear and rejoice."  And also, "His praise will always be on my lips."  So,"glorify the Lord with me; let us exalt his name together."

 "My soul will boast in the Lord;"  Inappropriate and prideful boasting is boasting in our own abilities and accomplishments.  Humble boasting is boasting in the One who helps us.  A good friend who died recently at 100 years of age did what another friend called "bragging on God."  Because God is in every way wonderful, it is appropriate to spend our lives "bragging on God" as she did.  Then, as David says, "the afflicted" will "hear" and they will "rejoice." 

2. Prayer for deliverance from fear (34:4-7)
"I sought the Lord, and he answered me; he delivered me from all my fears. Those who look to him are radiant; their faces are never covered with shame. This poor man called, and the Lord heard him; he saved him out of all his troubles. The angel of the Lord encamps around those who fear him, and he delivers them."

Thought Question:  What do you see in these verses that will put radiance on your face?

 

 

"I sought the Lord, and he answered me; he delivered me from all my fears."  So often, we can feel that the opposite of what David says here is true.  We can feel that God is indifferent to our cries.  We can feel that He will not "deliver us from all" our "fears."  It is interesting that verses 1-3 are similar to what Paul exhorts us to do in Philippians 4:4-5:  "Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near."  And verses 4-7 in this Psalm are similar to the following verse in Philippians—verses 6 and 7.  "Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus."

We have the promise both in verses 4-7 of this Psalm and in Philippians 4:6-7 that God will respond to our cries and deliver us from our fears.  As I reflect on my 40+ years as a Christian, I can remember some very dark times that I thought were so dark that there was no solution to what I feared.  You may also have had those types of times.  You may, in fact, be going through one of those times right now.  Yet, as I look back, God acted in wonderful ways to turn the darkness into light.  I can rejoice and say that He "delivered me from all my fears."  Or, to put it another way, He delivered me from all that I feared would happen.

"Those who look to him are radiant; their faces are never covered with shame."  Where does the radiance he speaks of here come from?  It does not come from us, but from Him and our complete confidence in Him.  Your car has just broken down.  You are dismayed at what to do.  Then, a friend who is an excellent auto mechanic drops by.  He says that the problem is simple and that he can fix it in a few minutes.  Your face goes from showing dismay to being bright and excited.  Why did your face brighten up?  It was because of your confidence in your friend and your trust in his mechanical skills.  What will brighten our face is our confidence in our Friend who can take any circumstance and work it for good.

"their faces are never covered with shame."  "He who trusts in God has no need to be ashamed of his confidence, time and eternity will both justify his reliance." "Taken from The Treasury of David by Charles Spurgeon."  Certainly, we all have done things and do things that are shameful before a holy God.  How then can our "faces" "never" be "covered with shame"?  It is only because God has graciously removed our shame through His cleansing and forgiveness.  "Turn to me and be gracious to me, for I am lonely and afflicted. The troubles of my heart have multiplied; free me from my anguish. Look upon my affliction and my distress and take away all my sins. See how my enemies have increased and how fiercely they hate me! Guard my life and rescue me; let me not be put to shame, for I take refuge in you." (Psalm 25:16-20)

"This poor man called, and the Lord heard him; he saved him out of all his troubles."  Once again, I can remember dark times in my life where I thought that even God could not rescue me from what I was going through.  Yet, God did save me "out of all" my "troubles." 

"The angel of the Lord encamps around those who fear him, and he delivers them."  Certainly, the angel of the Lord is Jesus Christ.  "Now when Joshua was near Jericho, he looked up and saw a man standing in front of him with a drawn sword in his hand. Joshua went up to him and asked, 'Are you for us or for our enemies?' 'Neither,' he replied, 'but as commander of the army of the Lord I have now come.' Then Joshua fell facedown to the ground in reverence, and asked him, 'What message does my Lord have for his servant?' The commander of the Lord’s army replied, 'Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy.' And Joshua did so." (Joshua 5:13-15)  Certainly, the "commander of the army of the Lord" was and is Jesus Christ. See also Genesis 16:7; II Kings 1:3; Zechariah 1:8-11

"encamps around those who fear him,"  When we are fearful, we feel that what we fear surrounds us.  Here, we learn that God's forces surround us. See Hebrews 1:14; II Kings 19:35  One cannot but be reminded of what took place in the life of Elisha.  God had given him information that he had saved Israel from the armies of the Arameans.  the King of Aram learned that it was Elisha that God was using to protect Israel from his army.  So, in great anger, he sent men to capture him. "When the servant of the man of God got up and went out early the next morning, an army with horses and chariots had surrounded the city. 'Oh, my lord, what shall we do?' the servant asked. 'Don’t be afraid,' the prophet answered. 'Those who are with us are more than those who are with them.' And Elisha prayed, 'O Lord, open his eyes so he may see.' Then the Lord opened the servant’s eyes, and he looked and saw the hills full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha. As the enemy came down toward him, Elisha prayed to the Lord, 'Strike these people with blindness.' So he struck them with blindness, as Elisha had asked." (2 Kings 6:15-18)  Just as there were more with Elisha than were against him, so there are more with us than are against us. See also Psalm 35:1-6

3. Advice to the fearful (34:8-10)
"Taste and see that the Lord is good; blessed is the man who takes refuge in him. Fear the Lord, you his saints, for those who fear him lack nothing. The lions may grow weak and hungry, but those who seek the Lord lack no good thing."

Thought Question:  What needs in your life do these verses speak to?  How are they helpful to you?

 

 

We tend to look to our own strength in times of trouble rather than seeking God's help and His strength.  David invites us to seek God's help rather than drain out our own strength.  As he pictures here, even the incredibly strong lion grows weak without food.  Some time ago I saw a documentary that followed a mother lion who was growing weak and near death because she had not been able to chase down some animal to kill it for food.  I remember feeling compassion for this helpless animal.

Instead, David exhorts us to "taste and see that the Lord is good."  David is confident that if we put our trust in God, we will be "blessed" and will "lack nothing."  "He may not give luxuries, but the promise binds him to supply necessaries . . . Many whim and wishes may remain ungratified, but real wants the Lord will supply." "Taken from The Treasury of David by Charles Spurgeon."

4. Advice on how to fear God (34:11-22)

a. The benefit of the fear of God (34:11-12)
"Come, my children, listen to me; I will teach you the fear of the Lord. Whoever of you loves life and desires to see many good days,"

Thought Question:  What is the benefit of fearing God given in these verses and what will it look like in our lives?

 

 

The "fear of the Lord" will lead to our experiencing "many good days."  The person who fears God "delights in life—who doesn't just exist but is excited about his life and its challenges.  He is the person who sees every day as an adventure, and every challenge as an opportunity to be ventured into with confidence in God.  That is the way it should be with us.  We need never arise in the morning overwhelmed and discouraged by the responsibilities of the day.  There may be fearful things coming up in our schedules and who of us knows the unforeseen events that may lie ahead every morning.  But despite the uncertainty of our futures, we have certainty in the adequacies of Jesus Christ for our lives.  This security frees us to be excited about the next twenty-four hour period or the next year." "Taken from Folk Psalms of Faith by Ray Stedman/Dave Roper.  Copyright 1973 by Regal Books."

b. A description of those who fear God (34:13-14)
"keep your tongue from evil and your lips from speaking lies. Turn from evil and do good; seek peace and pursue it."

Thought Question:  How does this description of fear describe you or not describe you?

 

 

When evil is done to us, we can find it easy to do evil in return.  Paul gives us these instructions in Ephesians 4:29-5:2 and Romans 12:17-21 about how we are to respond to evil:  "Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you. Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God." (Ephesians 4:29-5:2)  "Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everybody. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: 'It is mine to avenge; I will repay,' says the Lord. On the contrary: 'If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.' Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good." (Romans 12:17-21)

Those who fear God will seek to do good and trust God to deal with the injustices and evil that are done against us. See also Romans 14:19; Hebrews 12:14-15; James 3:17-18; I Peter 3:10-12

We are not only not to do evil, but we are also to eagerly seek to do good.  "Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. The one who sows to please his sinful nature, from that nature will reap destruction; the one who sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life. Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers." (Galatians 6:7-10) See also Titus 2:12-14, 3:8, 14

c. God hears those who fear God and turn from their wickedness. (34:15-22)
"The eyes of the Lord are on the righteous and his ears are attentive to their cry; the face of the Lord is against those who do evil, to cut off the memory of them from the earth. The righteous cry out, and the Lord hears them; he delivers them from all their troubles. The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit. A righteous man may have many troubles, but the Lord delivers him from them all; he protects all his bones, not one of them will be broken. Evil will slay the wicked; the foes of the righteous will be condemned. The Lord redeems his servants; no one will be condemned who takes refuge in him."

Thought Question:  How do these verses encourage you to pray to God right now?

 

 

"The eyes of the Lord are on the righteous and his ears are attentive to their cry;"  We know that God is everywhere—He is omnipresent.  But in our darkest moments we can feel that He is like someone we are talking to who is listening to our words, but his or her mind is elsewhere.  We can feel like God is present with us, but He is not really paying attention to our cries.  But, as it says here, He is not only omnipresent, but He is also "love." See I John 4:6  A completely compassionate and fully caring God is always "attentive" to our cries.  You may have someone who compassionately listens to you.  I am blessed with a compassionate wife who actually loves to listen to me.  If that person compassionately listens to you; God is even more "attentive" to the cries of those who seek to do that which is right. 

"The eyes of the Lord are on the righteous"  How can we know whether or not we are "righteous"?  David gives the answer to that question in verse 18:  "The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit." (Psalm 34:18)  The righteous are those who humbly trust in the righteousness that God provides through Jesus' blood.  "For in the gospel a righteousness from God is revealed, a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: 'The righteous will live by faith.'" (Romans 1:17)  "But now a righteousness from God, apart from law, has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify. This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus." (Romans 3:21-24) 

Even after David's dual sins of adultery and murder, he humbled himself and received God's forgiveness.  "Have mercy on me, O God, according to your unfailing love; according to your great compassion blot out my transgressions. Wash away all my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin." (Psalm 51:1-2)  "The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise." (Psalm 51:17)  "But he gives us more grace. That is why Scripture says: 'God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.'" (James 4:6)

Charles Spurgeon has these helpful words to say about this verse that encourages us that God is indeed giving us His full attention when we humbly cry out to Him:  "He observes them with approval and tender consideration; they are so dear to him that he cannot take his eyes off them; he watches each one of them as carefully and intently as if there were only that one creature in the universe. . . . His eyes and ears are thus both turned by the Lord toward his saints; his whole mind is occupied about them. . . . Their cry he hears at once, even as a mother is sure to hear her sick babe . . . quick ear catches each note of lament or appeal, and he is not slow to answer his children's voice." "Taken from The Treasury of David by Charles Spurgeon."

God is not leaning away in indifference, but the very opposite is true; He is leaning toward our cry, eagerly attentive to our sorrowful words.

"the face of the Lord is against those who do evil, to cut off the memory of them from the earth."  Psalm 37 describes God's disposition toward the evil.  "Do not fret because of evil men or be envious of those who do wrong; for like the grass they will soon wither, like green plants they will soon die away." (Psalm 37:1-2)  "A little while, and the wicked will be no more; though you look for them, they will not be found." (Psalm 37:10)  "The wicked plot against the righteous and gnash their teeth at them; but the Lord laughs at the wicked, for he knows their day is coming. The wicked draw the sword and bend the bow to bring down the poor and needy, to slay those whose ways are upright. But their swords will pierce their own hearts, and their bows will be broken." (Psalm 37:12-15)  "But all sinners will be destroyed; the future of the wicked will be cut off." (Psalm 37:38)

Paul describes the ultimate fate of the wicked:   "He will punish those who do not know God and do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. They will be punished with everlasting destruction and shut out from the presence of the Lord and from the majesty of his power." (2 Thessalonians 1:8-9)

"The righteous cry out, and the Lord hears them; he delivers them from all their troubles."  These words of David sound like Paul's words as he came to the end of his life:  "At my first defense, no one came to my support, but everyone deserted me. May it not be held against them. But the Lord stood at my side and gave me strength, so that through me the message might be fully proclaimed and all the Gentiles might hear it. And I was delivered from the lion’s mouth. The Lord will rescue me from every evil attack and will bring me safely to his heavenly kingdom. To him be glory for ever and ever. Amen." (2 Timothy 4:16-18)

Although we, if we choose to follow and be obedient to our Lord, will go through many troubles, ultimately we will be victorious.  "But thanks be to God, who always leads us in triumphal procession in Christ and through us spreads everywhere the fragrance of the knowledge of him." (2 Corinthians 2:14) See II Corinthians 4:7-18

"The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit."  "Heaven does not help those who help themselves; heaven helps the helpless.  Heaven helps the man who is crushed in spirit, who is brokenhearted, who is not counting on himself; heaven helps the one who is willing to expose his fears and be what he is—a weak, fragile vessel greatly in need of the power of God in his life." "Taken from Folk Psalms of Faith by Ray Stedman/Dave Roper.  Copyright 1973 by Regal Books."  "For this is what the high and lofty One says— he who lives forever, whose name is holy: 'I live in a high and holy place, but also with him who is contrite and lowly in spirit, to revive the spirit of the lowly and to revive the heart of the contrite.'" (Isaiah 57:15)

"A righteous man may have many troubles, but the Lord delivers him from them all;"  This promise is found five times in this Psalm: 34:4,6,7,17, and here in this verse.  David makes two statements of truth here: (1) The "righteous man" will "have many troubles."  Jesus promised the same to His followers:  "Remember the words I spoke to you: ‘No servant is greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also. If they obeyed my teaching, they will obey yours also." (John 15:20)  Paul promised the same to those who followed Jesus: "For it has been granted to you on behalf of Christ not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for him," (Philippians 1:29)  "In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted," (2 Timothy 3:12)

(2) David's second statement of truth is that God will deliver us from our troubles.  This promise is also found throughout the Bible.  "You, however, know all about my teaching, my way of life, my purpose, faith, patience, love, endurance, persecutions, sufferings—what kinds of things happened to me in Antioch, Iconium and Lystra, the persecutions I endured. Yet the Lord rescued me from all of them." (2 Timothy 3:10-11)  "He has delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us. On him we have set our hope that he will continue to deliver us," (2 Corinthians 1:10)  See also I Samuel 17:37; Psalm 121:7; Daniel 3:19-27, 6:19-23; II Peter 2:9

"he protects all his bones, not one of them will be broken."  These words were fulfilled in that none of Jesus' bones were broken when He was crucified.  "These things happened so that the scripture would be fulfilled: 'Not one of his bones will be broken,'" (John 19:36)

"Evil will slay the wicked; the foes of the righteous will be condemned."  This promise is also made in the book of Proverbs:  "For their feet rush into sin, they are swift to shed blood. How useless to spread a net in full view of all the birds! These men lie in wait for their own blood; they waylay only themselves! Such is the end of all who go after ill-gotten gain; it takes away the lives of those who get it." (Proverbs 1:16-19)  "An evil man is snared by his own sin, but a righteous one can sing and be glad." (Proverbs 29:6)  The evil man is ultimately slain by his own evil path.  It leads to greater and greater darkness. See Proverbs 4:19; Romans 6:19

"The Lord redeems his servants; no one will be condemned who takes refuge in him."  This verse sums up the entire Psalm.  It predicts the redemption that is now available to every person through faith in Jesus Christ.  If we turn from sin and evil and seek Him and His righteousness, we will be forgiven and He will watch over us.  "Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light." (Matthew 11:28-30)

What a wonderful chapter in the Bible is this Psalm 34!  In it, we find the confidence to face any situation.  Why?  The infinite God affectionately hears our cries as we pour out our souls to Him from the heart, and he will take action on our behalf.

PSALM 37:  Victim or Victor?

Introduction:  Most of us have had a time or times when we have been on the receiving end of someone's hate.  If their hate has greatly affected our life, it becomes very difficult not to make what they have done or are doing the main focus of our life.  Psalm 37 guides us to a healthy focus during those times. Derek Kidner sums up this Psalm in the following way: "an obsession with enemies and rivals cannot simply be switched off, but it can be ousted by a new focus of attention."  We can focus on their evil and their success and if we do, it will control our whole life—and it will take away our joy.  Psalm 35 give us a focus that is both based on reality and one that will give us joy. See also Psalm 73

1. Do not fret #1. (37:1-2)
"Do not fret because of evil men or be envious of those who do wrong; for like the grass they will soon wither, like green plants they will soon die away." See Proverbs 24:19-20

Thought Question:  How do these verses change the way that we look at "evil men"?

 

 

When evil appears to be winning, it is hard not to be despairing and discouraged.  But, as David points out here, evil men's victories are only temporary.  Just as a plant's greenness is only temporary, so wickedness will not always flourish.  Listen to Asaph's words in Psalm 73:1-8 as he admits to allowing the success of the wicked to discourage and dishearten him:  "A psalm of Asaph. Surely God is good to Israel, to those who are pure in heart. But as for me, my feet had almost slipped; I had nearly lost my foothold. For I envied the arrogant when I saw the prosperity of the wicked. They have no struggles; their bodies are healthy and strong. They are free from the burdens common to man; they are not plagued by human ills. Therefore pride is their necklace; they clothe themselves with violence. From their callous hearts comes iniquity; the evil conceits of their minds know no limits. They scoff, and speak with malice; in their arrogance they threaten oppression."

Throughout this Psalm (Psalm 37), David describes the sure fate of the wicked. See 9-10, 12-15, 17, 20-22, 32, 35-38  If we focus on the present success of the wicked, we will become immediately disheartened; but if our focus shifts to how our Lord views them and look ahead to that day when they will face Him, we go from seeing ourself as being on the losing team to being on the winning team.

2. But trust God (37:3-7a)
"Trust in the Lord and do good; dwell in the land and enjoy safe pasture. Delight yourself in the Lord and he will give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the Lord; trust in him and he will do this: He will make your righteousness shine like the dawn, the justice of your cause like the noonday sun. Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him;"

Thought Question:  What words stand out in these verses that describe us when we are trusting God?

 

 

"Trust in the Lord and do good;"  We can tell when we are truly trusting God.  We are trusting God when we can continue to wholeheartedly serve Him by seeking to do good even though we are experiencing opposition against us.  I personally have turned to two verses many times as an encouragement for me so that I will not despair in God's work:  "Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up." (Galatians 6:9)  "Therefore, my dear brothers, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain." (1 Corinthians 15:58)

"dwell in the land and enjoy safe pasture."  "The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full."   (John 10:10)  When we are seeking to obediently serve God and men, then we will discover that we are living and serving out of the rich abundance of life that God provides.

"Delight yourself in the Lord and he will give you the desires of your heart."Here we find the opposite of a focus on evil men and their success which leads to despair.  Instead, a focus on God will delight us even when evil men appear to be succeeding.  How do we "delight" ourself "in the Lord"?  Everyone has that which delights them.  Watch a major league baseball team after one of their team members has just made a game-winning hit.  That is "delight," as the team mobs joyfully around the player who just got the hit.  Watch the person who has just learned that he or she has won the lottery.  Watch the mother as her newly born child has just been placed in her arms for the first time.  These are just a few examples of what we "delight" in.  How can we have this type of "delight" "in the Lord"?  And how can we have this type of "delight" in a world where it appears that evil is winning?

Actually, much of what we "delight" in is not a pure, but a selfish "delight."  Delighting in God is the one pure "delight."  It is like finding gold when we have for years found only worthless rock.  In a world full of sin, there only One who is completely without sin.  In a world full of foolishness, there is only One who is totally wise.  In a world that leads us into all kinds of death, there is only One who leads us to life.  In a world full of darkness, there only One who light. See I John 1:5  In a world full of selfishness and hate, there is only One who is love. See I John 4:8  In a world full of discouragement and hopelessness, there is only One who gives us hope.  In a world full of pride, there is only One who is truly humble. See Matthew 11:28-30; Philippians 2:5-8  He alone gives us every reason to "delight" in Him.

"and he will give you the desires of your heart."  If we "delight" in God, He delights to give us Himself.  He delights to give us His wisdom.  "If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him." (James 1:5)  He delights to give us His love.  "And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us." (Romans 5:5)  He delights to give us His light.  "When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, 'I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.'" (John 8:12)  He delights to give us His humility.  "Who is wise and understanding among you? Let him show it by his good life, by deeds done in the humility that comes from wisdom." (James 3:13)  He delights to give us His hope.  "For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future." (Jeremiah 29:11)  If we "delight" ourself in Him, He will give us "the desires of our heart."  He will give us what we "delight" in; He will give us Himself.

"Commit your way to the Lord; trust in him and he will do this:" Our commitments reveal what we have put our trust in.  A college student commits himself or herself to completing college.  The commitment is based on the trust that a college degree will result in a better job and a better life in the future.  We "commit" ourself to the way of the Lord, because we trust that His way is the best way and that we will never regret having chosen His way.

"He will make your righteousness shine like the dawn, the justice of your cause like the noonday sun."  "The Lord will clear the slandered.  If we look to His honour, he will see to ours.  It is wonderful how, when faith learns to endure calumny [false and malicious slander] with composure, the filth does not defile her, but falls off like snow from a wall of granite.  Even in the worst cases, where a good name is for a while darkened, Providence will send a cleansing like the dawning light, which shall increase until the man once censured shall be universally admired." "Taken from The Treasury of David by Charles Spurgeon."

"Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him;"  Many in the Bible needed to "wait patiently" for God to right wrongs.  Joseph was sold to a desert caravan and spent a dark time in prison.  Daniel was thrown into a lions' den.  Peter and Paul were imprisoned.  Yet, after their time of waiting, they were exonerated by God before men.  We see them now not as lowly victims, but as men of God.

That little word "wait" is easy to say but hard to carry out, yet faith must do it.  The hard part is that God does things in His time according to His infinite wisdom and Divine purposes.  He sees what is going to be revealed at a later time.  He sees what is in peoples' hearts and minds.  He sees how the consequences of sin are eventually going to have their inevitable effects.  We are not aware of this information, so it is hard for us to believe that God is acting on our behalf.  It is hard for us to "wait patiently for him."

3. Do not fret #2. (37:7b-8)
"do not fret when men succeed in their ways, when they carry out their wicked schemes. Refrain from anger and turn from wrath; do not fret—it leads only to evil."

Thought Question:  How can you know when you are fretting?

 

 

Fretting is the opposite of "waiting patiently for God."  It is the grumbling of the Israelites in the wilderness.  "And do not grumble, as some of them did—and were killed by the destroying angel. These things happened to them as examples and were written down as warnings for us, on whom the fulfillment of the ages has come." (1 Corinthians 10:10-11) See Numbers 14:1-2, 16:41  We can lose our patience and our trust in God's righteousness and begin to believe that God is mistreating us.  As E. V. Hill said, we need to "reread the contract."  God did not promise us a life without trouble.  In fact, He promised a life with suffering. We need to patiently endure our trials in trust that God always leads us in triumph. See II Corinthians 2;14  When we quit trusting, we start fretting, complaining, and feeling sorry for ourselves.

4. Why we should not fret: evil men will not prosper (37:9-17)
"For evil men will be cut off, but those who hope in the Lord will inherit the land. A little while, and the wicked will be no more; though you look for them, they will not be found. But the meek will inherit the land and enjoy great peace. The wicked plot against the righteous and gnash their teeth at them; but the Lord laughs at the wicked, for he knows their day is coming. The wicked draw the sword and bend the bow to bring down the poor and needy, to slay those whose ways are upright. But their swords will pierce their own hearts, and their bows will be broken. Better the little that the righteous have than the wealth of many wicked; for the power of the wicked will be broken, but the Lord upholds the righteous."

Thought Question:  What do you see in these verses that helps you not to fret, but to trust in God while it appears that evil men are succeeding?

 

 

"For evil men will be cut off, but those who hope in the Lord will inherit the land. A little while, and the wicked will be no more; though you look for them, they will not be found. But the meek will inherit the land and enjoy great peace."  Since God is against evil and those who do evil and on the side of those who do good and trust in Him, we are always on the winning side if we trust in God.  Some evil men will not find out they are on the wrong side until after their death.  Jesus gives an example of a man who found out he was on the losing side after his death.  "There was a rich man who was dressed in purple and fine linen and lived in luxury every day. At his gate was laid a beggar named Lazarus, covered with sores and longing to eat what fell from the rich man’s table. Even the dogs came and licked his sores. The time came when the beggar died and the angels carried him to Abraham’s side. The rich man also died and was buried. In hell, where he was in torment, he looked up and saw Abraham far away, with Lazarus by his side. So he called to him, 'Father Abraham, have pity on me and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue, because I am in agony in this fire.'" (Luke 16:19-24) See also James 5:1-5

But many others find out that they are the losing side in this life.  Saddam Hussein, Osama Bin Laden, Hitler, and many more were "cut off" in this life as a result of their evil.  The evidence is clear; evil does not and will not win.

"but those who hope in the Lord will inherit the land."  This is similar to what Jesus said in Matthew 5:5.  "Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth."  The United States was begun when Christians sought a place where they could worship God freely according to their consciences and their beliefs.  They did inherit a land that has become the richest land on earth.  Though now, because of our wickedness, we are heading toward being "cut off."  The "meek" person is one who is often lifted up to a position of authority, while the wicked person is usually recognized for who he is and is removed from leadership.

Ultimately, the land that the meek inherit is what God has covenanted to them.  If we fit the description of "the meek," we are "co-heirs with Christ" (Romans 8:17); we have all the blessings that Paul lists in Ephesians 1:3-14; and we will one day dwell in a heavenly paradise.

"and enjoy great peace."  "Peace" is the result of trusting God with all our fears and with all of our guilt.  It is a "peace of God, that transcends all understanding." (Philippians 4:7)  Here is what Jesus had to say about this "peace."  "Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid." (John 14:27)

"The wicked plot against the righteous and gnash their teeth at them; but the Lord laughs at the wicked, for he knows their day is coming."  Sometimes we hear of the animosity that there is toward us.  Or, we hear of the animosity there is toward a godly person that we know.  We can be discouraged and overcome by their twisted words that distort the truth to their favor or because of how their words have lead to the destruction of our reputation.  But, we need to widen our focus until we see God's perspective on them.  He laughs at their futile attempts to take Him and his people down.  "Why do the nations conspire and the peoples plot in vain? The kings of the earth take their stand and the rulers gather together against the Lord and against his Anointed One. 'Let us break their chains,' they say, 'and throw off their fetters.' The One enthroned in heaven laughs; the Lord scoffs at them. Then he rebukes them in his anger and terrifies them in his wrath, saying, 'I have installed my King on Zion, my holy hill.'" (Psalm 2:1-6)

"The wicked draw the sword and bend the bow to bring down the poor and needy, to slay those whose ways are upright."  The wicked use all that is available to them to attack the righteous.  David describes the righteous as "poor and needy" and as those who have no means to defend themselves.

"But their swords will pierce their own hearts, and their bows will be broken."  "Like Haman they shall be hanged upon the gallows built by themselves for Mordecai [from the book of Esther].  Hundreds of times this has been the case.  Saul, who sought to slay David, fell on his own sword." "Taken from The Treasury of David by Charles Spurgeon."

This happened in Bible times, does it happen today?  Just a short time before the time that I am writing these words, Osama Bin Laden, a violent man, was killed in a violent way; "for all who draw the sword will die by the sword." (Matthew 26:52)  This happens, also, in the ordinary occurrences of life.  For example, usually, we learn more about the one criticizing another than we learn about the one being criticized.

"Better the little that the righteous have than the wealth of many wicked; for the power of the wicked will be broken, but the Lord upholds the righteous."  "The house of the righteous contains great treasure, but the income of the wicked brings them trouble." (Proverbs 15:6)  "All the days of the oppressed are wretched, but the cheerful heart has a continual feast. Better a little with the fear of the Lord than great wealth with turmoil. Better a meal of vegetables where there is love than a fattened calf with hatred." (Proverbs 15:15-17)  "Better a little with righteousness than much gain with injustice." (Proverbs 16:8)  "Better a dry crust with peace and quiet than a house full of feasting, with strife." (Proverbs 17:1)  It is not how much we have, but how much we feel good about having and how much we are thankful to God for that we truly enjoy.  "A little" that we can truly thank God for will be truly enjoyed much more than any wealth that we have received through greed and wickedness.  In the last few years, at the time that I am writing these words, many who have gotten wealth by using clever scams are now in jail for a long time.  Their great wealth is now being auctioned off to repay those that they stole from.

5. Why we should not fretthe righteous will prosper (37:18-26)
"The days of the blameless are known to the Lord, and their inheritance will endure forever. In times of disaster they will not wither; in days of famine they will enjoy plenty. But the wicked will perish: The Lord’s enemies will be like the beauty of the fields, they will vanish—vanish like smoke. The wicked borrow and do not repay, but the righteous give generously; those the Lord blesses will inherit the land, but those he curses will be cut off. If the Lord delights in a man’s way, he makes his steps firm; though he stumble, he will not fall, for the Lord upholds him with his hand. I was young and now I am old, yet I have never seen the righteous forsaken or their children begging bread. They are always generous and lend freely; their children will be blessed."

Thought Question:  What is there in these verses that will help us to "wait patiently" for God?

 

 

"The days of the blameless are known to the Lord, and their inheritance will endure forever."  We can feel, because of the success of evil, that God is not paying close attention to what is going on down here. If He were paying attention, those who are evil would not be successful in their evil schemes.  But, the Lord is watching.  It is just that His ways are above our ways. See Isaiah 55:8-9  His timing is not our timing.  Nevertheless, He is watching the righteous and they will be rewarded for seeking to make His way of life to be their way of life.  We can look back on our life of faithfulness to God and see His loving hand leading us in triumph.

"In times of disaster they will not wither; in days of famine they will enjoy plenty."  Paul discovered that God matches our greater suffering with even greater comfort.  "Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God. For just as the sufferings of Christ flow over into our lives, so also through Christ our comfort overflows." (2 Corinthians 1:3-5) 

As I write these words, our national economy is on the verge of collapse.  If we put our trust in the economy of our nation, we can be reasonably insecure.  But, our trust is to be only in God.  His economy is never threatened.  In years past, He has been wonderfully creative in the ways that He has provided for us.  We can trust in His care also in the future.  "The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not be in want." (Psalm 23:1) 

"But the wicked will perish: The Lord’s enemies will be like the beauty of the fields, they will vanish—vanish like smoke."  The wicked are like grass that is green only for a little and then grows brown and dies.  So, the wicked have a certain darker day ahead.  "You sweep men away in the sleep of death; they are like the new grass of the morning— though in the morning it springs up new, by evening it is dry and withered." (Psalm 90:5-6)

"The wicked borrow and do not repay, but the righteous give generously;"  David describes an amazing truth here.  The greedy who pursue wealth any way they can get it are not those who give, but those who drain other peoples' money from them; but the righteous who earn money in righteous ways are the givers.  The wicked are the takers; the righteous are the givers.

"those the Lord blesses will inherit the land, but those he curses will be cut off."  What we need to be are those the Lord blesses and not those the Lord curses.  Those who seek riches as of greatest importance to them have chosen to narrowly focus only on themselves, eliminating God from the focus of their lives.  They become those that God will ultimately curse.  But when we widen our focus, how God looks upon us becomes of most importance.  We should first of all seek to do that which pleases Him; for when He is pleased with us, that means we are in a secure place—we are those the Lord will bless.  "But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well." (Matthew 6:33)

"If the Lord delights in a man’s way, he makes his steps firm; though he stumble, he will not fall, for the Lord upholds him with his hand."  Certainly, we should desire to live in such a way that it puts a smile on God's face.  Then, we are told here that He will assist us toward a lifestyle that will stand up against the storms of life.  "Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash." (Matthew 7:24-27)

"I was young and now I am old, yet I have never seen the righteous forsaken or their children begging bread."  Years ago, a good friend of ours was a real estate salesman during a time when houses were not selling.  I can remember the pastor of his church saying that it takes 40 day or more for someone to starve to death.  He said with a grin that he was sure that the church would step and help them before that time.  There are many reasons why the righteous are not typically those who beg for food: 1) they are hard workers who genuinely seek work so their families will be provided for; 2) there are those in their churches who often help out during times of genuine need; and 3) God intervenes to help them.  Our family has gone through some very difficult times, but we never have needed to beg for help.  God met our needs; sometimes, though, through the generosity of others.  For the most part, though, we have been on the giving side.  I am very confident that many Christians could give a similar story of God's provision for them.

"They are always generous and lend freely;"  The godly man and woman are typically givers and not receivers.  "In everything I did, I showed you that by this kind of hard work we must help the weak, remembering the words the Lord Jesus himself said: 'It is more blessed to give than to receive.'" (Acts 20:35)  "If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him? Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth." (1 John 3:17-18)

"their children will be blessed."  "Their children will" also "be blessed," for they also are likely to be givers and not takers.  What parents choose as a lifestyle is often passed down to their children.  Parents who choose to be sacrificial givers who are "blessed" by God will typically have children who follow the same life pattern.

6. Final exhortations to choose good over wickedness (37:27-33)
"Turn from evil and do good; then you will dwell in the land forever. For the Lord loves the just and will not forsake his faithful ones. They will be protected forever, but the offspring of the wicked will be cut off; the righteous will inherit the land and dwell in it forever. The mouth of the righteous man utters wisdom, and his tongue speaks what is just. The law of his God is in his heart; his feet do not slip. The wicked lie in wait for the righteous, seeking their very lives; but the Lord will not leave them in their power or let them be condemned when brought to trial."

Thought Question:  How does the promise that the people of David's time will "inherit the land and dwell in it forever" apply to Christians today?

 

 

"Turn from evil and do good; then you will dwell in the land forever. For the Lord loves the just and will not forsake his faithful ones. They will be protected forever, but the offspring of the wicked will be cut off; the righteous will inherit the land and dwell in it forever."

Inheriting the land is a promise to God's people throughout this Psalm. See 37:9,11,22,29,34  Inheriting the land is a figure of speech describing the abundant life.  "I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full." (John 10:10b)  Here, David says that we will "dwell in it forever."  "The wicked will be cut off" from living in this abundant life.  They are not heading toward eternal life with God, but toward eternal death—forever separated from God.

There is disagreement on the words "the just" in verse 28.  The KJV, NASB, and the ESV translate it as "justice"—God loves justice rather than God loves "the just."  Since God loves justice, He also loves those who are "just."  The selfish person does not care if he treats people fairly; he simply wants what he wants no matter how it affects others.  We can delight in the fact that God loves justice.  If we are to be like him, we also are to be dedicated to being just and fair in all our dealings with others.  "Learn to do right! Seek justice, encourage the oppressed. Defend the cause of the fatherless, plead the case of the widow." (Isaiah 1:17)  "This is what the Lord says: Do what is just and right. Rescue from the hand of his oppressor the one who has been robbed. Do no wrong or violence to the alien, the fatherless or the widow, and do not shed innocent blood in this place." (Jeremiah 22:3) 

"Turn from evil and do good;"  Micah sums up what is good.  "He has showed you, O man, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God." (Micah 6:8)

"The mouth of the righteous man utters wisdom, and his tongue speaks what is just. The law of his God is in his heart; his feet do not slip."  Here, we have a description of a "righteous man."  First of all, his righteousness will show in what he says.  His talk will be wise and he "speaks what is just."  Our tongue reveals what is in our heart.  A righteous man is careful in what he says.  He is "quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry." (James 1:19)  "A wise man’s heart guides his mouth, and his lips promote instruction." (Proverbs 16:23)

Secondly, "the law of his God is in his heart."  Psalm 119, the longest chapter in the Bible was written by one who loves God's law.  "I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you." (Psalm 119:11)  "Oh, how I love your law! I meditate on it all day long. Your commands make me wiser than my enemies, for they are ever with me. I have more insight than all my teachers, for I meditate on your statutes. I have more understanding than the elders, for I obey your precepts. I have kept my feet from every evil path so that I might obey your word. I have not departed from your laws, for you yourself have taught me. How sweet are your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth! I gain understanding from your precepts; therefore I hate every wrong path." (Psalm 119:97-104)

"his feet do not slip."  "My steps have held to your paths; my feet have not slipped." (Psalm 17:5)  Following God is like walking on a narrow path on a trail on the side of a steep hill.  One must be careful that every step is squarely on the path and sure-footed.  The righteous man takes every step in life being careful to do what is right.  Since none of us is sinless, part our righteous path is the confession of sin. See I John 1:5-2:2

"The wicked lie in wait for the righteous, seeking their very lives; but the Lord will not leave them in their power or let them be condemned when brought to trial."  In our country right now, there are those who hate evangelical Christians and would eliminate us all if they could get by with it without getting punished.  We have seen what happens when a country determines that some people are "cockroaches" and can be hunted down and eliminated (as they did in Rwanda, Germany, and Cambodia).  Christians once were killed in large numbers in the early Roman Empire.

But, later, an Emperor came into power that was favorable toward Christians.  The Jews were slaughtered in Germany and in other countries that were captured by Nazi Germany, but later the world was favorable to them and gave them their own land.  Throughout time, those who have been treated horribly have been recognized as not deserving the injustice and wickedness they received.  Ultimately, wickedness is seen for what it is.  In eternity, the wicked will face a just and holy God.

"or let them be condemned"  Though men condemn the righteous; in the end, God will condemn those who condemn the righteous.

7. Final exhortation to wait on the Lord (37:34-40)
"Wait for the Lord and keep his way. He will exalt you to inherit the land; when the wicked are cut off, you will see it. I have seen a wicked and ruthless man flourishing like a green tree in its native soil, but he soon passed away and was no more; though I looked for him, he could not be found. Consider the blameless, observe the upright; there is a future for the man of peace. But all sinners will be destroyed; the future of the wicked will be cut off. The salvation of the righteous comes from the Lord; he is their stronghold in time of trouble. The Lord helps them and delivers them; he delivers them from the wicked and saves them, because they take refuge in him."

Thought Question:  What do your find in these verses that helps you to "wait for the Lord"?

 

 

"Wait for the Lord and keep his way. He will exalt you to inherit the land;"  Psalm 40 begins with these words:  "I waited patiently for the Lord; he turned to me and heard my cry. He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; he set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand. He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God. Many will see and fear and put their trust in the Lord. Blessed is the man who makes the Lord his trust, who does not look to the proud, to those who turn aside to false gods." (Psalm 40:1-4)  We all do not like to "wait."  In our microwave world, we want what we want and we want it now!  But waiting is very much a part of life.  We plant seed and we wait for the plant to slowly reveal itself and then we wait for it to grow and mature.  We apply for a job and then we wait to see if will be hired.  We need to wait until we are old enough to get a driver's license.  We need to wait until we are old enough to live on our own.  We go into the doctor's office and then we need to wait for the result of a blood test.  Waiting patiently is a big part of life.  Waiting for God to act is very difficult, for we cannot see Him and we do not know what He is doing or not doing.  All we have is His promise—like His promise given in the 34th verse of this Psalm.  We are to do good and trust the Lord to "exalt" us.

"when the wicked are cut off, you will see it."  Part of our waiting will be completed when we see that the wickedness of the wicked was not successful.  God says, "do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: 'It is mine to avenge; I will repay,' says the Lord." (Romans 12:19)  God does not indifferently watch as the wicked mistreat His people; He does act in various ways in response to their evil.  Paul had this confidence that God would act on his behalf against someone who had treated him wickedly.  "Alexander the metalworker did me a great deal of harm. The Lord will repay him for what he has done." (2 Timothy 4:14)  It may be that we will see the "wicked" "cut off" during our lifetime.

We will certainly see the "wicked" "cut off" when they are judged by Jesus Christ.  "Then I saw a great white throne and him who was seated on it. Earth and sky fled from his presence, and there was no place for them. And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Another book was opened, which is the book of life. The dead were judged according to what they had done as recorded in the books. The sea gave up the dead that were in it, and death and Hades gave up the dead that were in them, and each person was judged according to what he had done. Then death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. The lake of fire is the second death. If anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire." (Revelation 20:11-15)

"I have seen a wicked and ruthless man flourishing like a green tree in its native soil, but he soon passed away and was no more; though I looked for him, he could not be found."  If we look at only the present time, we can conclude that the "wicked" win.  But there are wicked people who were in the news at one time in my life where it appeared that their greed and deceit was paying off.  But, today, they are gone.  They have either died, are in prison, or they have been greatly humbled.  They once flourished; now, their wealth and fame are gone.  At one time, it appeared that wickedness was winning; now, they have disappeared from prominence and power.  And for some, they have disappeared from life.

"Consider the blameless, observe the upright; there is a future for the man of peace."  "Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled." (Matthew 5:6)  "Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God." (Matthew 5:9)  If we have riches without "peace," we have not found true happiness—a happiness that will never end.

"But all sinners will be destroyed; the future of the wicked will be cut off."  David leaves us with only one option: we must choose God's way, for to choose wickedness will lead in the end to God's eternal displeasure.  One day, the wicked will know beyond a doubt that their choice of rebellion against God was the worst choice they could have made.

"The salvation of the righteous comes from the Lord; he is their stronghold in time of trouble."  David makes it clear; we are not alone in our troubles.  Even when the wicked gnash their teeth at us, we have a refuge, a rock, and a "stronghold" in our relationship with God.

"The Lord helps them and delivers them; he delivers them from the wicked and saves them, because they take refuge in him."  Throughout the Bible, we are told of God standing by those who put their trust in Him—standing by men like Moses, Joshua, David, Elijah, Peter, Stephen, Paul and others.  He did not stop doing this in Bible times; He continues to help and deliver those who seek to follow Him.

PSALM 38:  From Feeling the Weight of Guilt to Feeling That You Are in the Hollow of God's Hand

Introduction:  Do you feel guilt-ridden and weak before those in opposition to you who are eager to point out your faults and to condemn you?  That is how David felt when he wrote this Psalm.  May you go from feeling the weight of guilt to feeling that you are in the hollow of God's hand as you go through this very helpful Psalm of David.

1. The weight of God's condemnation #1 (38:1-4)
"A psalm of David. A petition. O Lord, do not rebuke me in your anger or discipline me in your wrath. For your arrows have pierced me, and your hand has come down upon me. Because of your wrath there is no health in my body; my bones have no soundness because of my sin. My guilt has overwhelmed me like a burden too heavy to bear."

Thought Question:  When have you felt as David felt here?

 

 

Years ago, I heard John MacArthur, the pastor of a large church in Los Angeles, tell of playing in a championship football game with a strong painkiller in a damaged knee.  After the game, the knee was more damaged than before the game.  But during the game he had not felt the pain that would have warned him of the damage he was doing to his knee.  His point was that God has given us pain to warn us when some part of our body is being damaged.  God also has given us a conscience to warn us that we are damaging ourselves by breaking God's moral laws.

As we see here, the pain from a guilty conscience affects us physically.  It is like arrows piercing our soul and like God's heavy hand pressing down on us.  It is like a heavy load pressing down us continually.  We can never hide from our always present and all-knowing and holy God.  His constant awareness of our sin, though we try to hide from this truth, becomes overwhelming to us—"a burden too heavy to bear."

2. The weight of self-condemnation (38:5-8)
"My wounds fester and are loathsome because of my sinful folly. I am bowed down and brought very low; all day long I go about mourning. My back is filled with searing pain; there is no health in my body. I am feeble and utterly crushed; I groan in anguish of heart."

Thought Question:  When have you felt as David felt here?

 

 

"My wounds fester and are loathsome because of my sinful folly. I am bowed down and brought very low; all day long I go about mourning."  We often hear that someone cannot forgive himself or herself.  When we sin, we know that someone must pay for it, so we begin to punish ourself.  We give to ourself the punishment that we feel that we deserve.  We feel as if we deserve to be loathed like a leper.  We feel as if we are the lowest of the low.  As a result, we are like at our own funeral, mourning over our own death to joy and the loss of our right to ever be joyful again.

"My back is filled with searing pain; there is no health in my body."  His guilt is like a back pain that is both continual and unbearable.  David is using physical pain to describe the agony of his mental and spiritual pain.

3. The weight of God's condemnation #2 (38:9-10)
"All my longings lie open before you, O Lord; my sighing is not hidden from you. My heart pounds, my strength fails me; even the light has gone from my eyes."  He sees himself as constantly in the presence of God who continually condemns him. 

4. The weight of others' condemnation (38:11-12)
"My friends and companions avoid me because of my wounds; my neighbors stay far away. Those who seek my life set their traps, those who would harm me talk of my ruin; all day long they plot deception."

Thought Question:  How do you believe his guilt affects his perspective on how others view him?

 

 

"My friends and companions avoid me because of my wounds; my neighbors stay far away."  It is a common experience that when we sin, we feel that even those who do not know of our sin know about it.  We can feel that everyone know our shame and are pointing their fingers at us.  It is part of our punishing ourselves for our sin.  But, it also may be true that others do know of our sin and are loathing us and looking down on us.  Whether or not others know about our sin and are looking down on us or are not looking down on us, we can feel that they are loathing us.

"Those who seek my life set their traps, those who would harm me talk of my ruin; all day long they plot deception."  There are also those who actually enjoy our misery.  They are those who are actually are enemies.  They plot against us and seek to find anything they can use against us.  They are to us as Korah, Dath, and Abriram were to Moses (See Numbers 16:1-35); as Jezebel was to Elijah (See I Kings 16:29-34); and as Alexander the metalworker was to Paul (See II Timothy 4:14-15)

5. Three steps for deliverance (38:13-22)

#1 – Admit that we need help (38:13-17)
"I am like a deaf man, who cannot hear, like a mute, who cannot open his mouth; I have become like a man who does not hear, whose mouth can offer no reply. I wait for you, O Lord; you will answer, O Lord my God. For I said, 'Do not let them gloat or exalt themselves over me when my foot slips.' For I am about to fall, and my pain is ever with me."

 

 

Thought Question:  When have you also felt so weak and helpless that you could "offer no reply"?

 

 

"I am like a deaf man, who cannot hear, like a mute, who cannot open his mouth; I have become like a man who does not hear, whose mouth can offer no reply."  The first step in Alcoholics Anonymous is to admit to being powerless over alcohol.  They call it the first step because without this acknowledgment of powerlessness there is no desire to be free from enslavement to alcohol and there is no desire to seek help outside of one's self.  To deal with any enslavement to sin and condemnation, we also need to come to a place where we realize our weakness before God to free ourselves from sin and the condemnation that follows sin.  "The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise." (Psalm 51:17)

"I wait for you, O Lord; you will answer, O Lord my God."  Waiting for God is a constant theme in the Psalms and throughout the Bible. See 27:14, 37:7,34, 40:1-4, 130:5; Isaiah 30:18, 40:28-31, 30:18  Jesus, Himself, followed this pattern:  "When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly." (1 Peter 2:23)

"For I said, 'Do not let them gloat or exalt themselves over me when my foot slips.'"  "The good man was not insensible, he dreaded the sharp stings of taunting malice; he feared lest either by his conduct or his condition, he should give occasion to the wicked to triumph. . . The least flaw in a saint is sure to be noticed; long before it comes to a fall the enemy begins to rail, the merest trip of a foot sets all the dogs of hell barking." "Taken from The Treasury of David by Charles Spurgeon."

"For I am about to fall, and my pain is ever with me."  David is saying that without God's help, he is in such an emotionally and physically weakened state that he does not have the strength to go on.  Paul confessed to be in this type of weakened state in II Corinthians.  "We do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about the hardships we suffered in the province of Asia. We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired even of life. Indeed, in our hearts we felt the sentence of death. But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead. He has delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us. On him we have set our hope that he will continue to deliver us, as you help us by your prayers. Then many will give thanks on our behalf for the gracious favor granted us in answer to the prayers of many."

It is at these times when we most need God's help that we also become most aware of our complete dependence on God.  We pray and he helps us; He forgives us; He meets our needs; and He gives us comfort.

#2 - Admit our sin and sinfulness (38:18)
"I confess my iniquity; I am troubled by my sin."

Thought Question:  What are the essential ingredients of true confession? (Read Psalm 51 and II Corinthians 7:8-11)

 

 

We do not know what sin David was confessing here.  It could be a sin that is not recorded in the Bible.  Whatever sin it was, it troubled him greatly.  Verses one through twelve describes how much it troubled him.  Psalm 51 is David's confession of his sin of adultery with Bathsheba.  Here, he does not give a description of his sin, and his confession is very short.  However, in Psalm 51 you can read a detailed description of what confession of sin and repentance from sin looks like.

#3 – Admit that we always need God's help (38:19-22)
"Many are those who are my vigorous enemies; those who hate me without reason are numerous. Those who repay my good with evil slander me when I pursue what is good. O Lord, do not forsake me; be not far from me, O my God. Come quickly to help me, O Lord my Savior."

Thought Question:  Why does pursuing good lead to having "vigorous enemies"?

 

 

"Many are those who are my vigorous enemies; those who hate me without reason are numerous."  As the Thought Question asked: Why does pursuing good lead to many hating us?  The answer is simple; all but a few are mostly seeking after some personal and selfish goal.  When someone has a selfish and personal agenda, eventually the person who selflessly seeking God's goals is going to be an obstacle and a threat to that person's prideful and selfish plans.

The Pharisees' selfishness and pride was exposed when Jesus the God-man, in perfect obedience to the Father revealed God's goodness and love to the world.  What was the result of Jesus' goodness?  He had many "vigorous enemies" who hated him "without reason."  He promised that if they hated Him they also will hate us.  Jesus possibly quotes this verse when He explains why those who follow Him will have those who hate them.  "If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you. Remember the words I spoke to you: 'No servant is greater than his master.' If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also. If they obeyed my teaching, they will obey yours also. They will treat you this way because of my name, for they do not know the One who sent me. If I had not come and spoken to them, they would not be guilty of sin. Now, however, they have no excuse for their sin. He who hates me hates my Father as well. If I had not done among them what no one else did, they would not be guilty of sin. But now they have seen these miracles, and yet they have hated both me and my Father. But this is to fulfill what is written in their Law: 'They hated me without reason.'" (John 15:18-25) See Psalm 35:19; II Timothy 3:12

David says that his enemies are "vigorous" and "many."  "Wrong as the cause of evil is, it is a popular one." "Taken from The Treasury of David by Charles Spurgeon."  David feels physically and emotionally unable to stand up against his "vigorous" and numerous enemies. He makes the wise choice: he seeks after God's help. God, of course, was greater than his "many" enemies. 

"Those who repay my good with evil slander me when I pursue what is good."  When we seek wholeheartedly to pursue God's truth, to live it, and to speak it; we will provoke the slander of those who are shamed and exposed by our walk in the light.  "This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that his deeds will be exposed." (John 3:19-20) See Psalm 35:11-15, 109:4-5,20,25

"O Lord, do not forsake me; be not far from me, O my God."  In times of great trouble accompanied by a sense of weakness, we cry out to God: Oh please "do not forsake me."  We need to feel that He is not "far from" us; we want Him to be near us.

Of course, because God is present everywhere; He is always near to us.  But what we desire is to feel His closeness to us and to experience His strength and help, and to see Him intervene on our behalf.  Elijah felt weak when Jezebel declared that she would use all of Israel's forces to seek him out and kill him.  "Elijah was afraid and ran for his life. When he came to Beersheba in Judah, he left his servant there, while he himself went a day’s journey into the desert. He came to a broom tree, sat down under it and prayed that he might die. 'I have had enough, Lord,' he said. 'Take my life; I am no better than my ancestors.'" (1 Kings 19:3-4)  In his weakened state, he ran to God; and God strengthened him. See I Kings 19:1-18

"Come quickly to help me, O Lord my Savior."  This is the cry of one who believes that a delay by God will be disastrous.  Sometimes, we can feel that God must answer, for we feel that we are at our very end.  I once played on a Navy base's basketball team.  Our coach was a Navy Lieutenant.  At the end of practice, he would have us run wind sprints.  He would tell us that if we gave it all we had, he would end practice.  We give it all we had.  Then, he would have us keep on running.  He was pushing us beyond where we felt we could go.  His methods worked, for at the end of games, other teams would wear down and we would end as strong as we had begun.  God also often takes us beyond where we can go in our own strength, but not beyond where we can go in His strength.  In the end, though, we will discover that He heard our cries and He did "come quickly to help" us.  "O Lord my Savior."

PSALM 39:  An Eternal Perspective on Life Helps Us To Deal Properly With the Wicked

Introduction:  How can we not be overwhelmed with the wickedness of men and the injustices in life?  A father's daughter is raped and the rapist's lawyer is able to find a legal loophole that allows the rapist to go free.  What can happen after this?  The father is furious and may end up shooting and killing the rapist.  How can we deal with these types of injustices without doing something wrong ourselves?  This Psalm, along with other Psalms, gives us God's answer. See also Psalm 37 and 73  In twelve verses, we will see how David learned to keep things in perspective so that he can stay calm in presence of wicked men.

1. The troubling effect of wickedness on us (39:1-3)
"For the director of music. For Jeduthun. A psalm of David. I said, 'I will watch my ways and keep my tongue from sin; I will put a muzzle on my mouth as long as the wicked are in my presence.' But when I was silent and still, not even saying anything good, my anguish increased. My heart grew hot within me, and as I meditated, the fire burned; then I spoke with my tongue:"

Thought Question #1:  Describe a time when you felt as David did here about some very troubling injustice?

 

 

Thought Question #2:  How were your feelings similar to David's feeling described here?

 

 

"For the director of music. For Jeduthun. A psalm of David. I said, 'I will watch my ways and keep my tongue from sin; I will put a muzzle on my mouth as long as the wicked are in my presence.'"  There are times when we feel as though we are on the losing side.  The wicked seem to have the upper hand.  At those times, we can feel that they will even use anything that we say to further their wicked ends.  Jesus was silent at His trial before the wicked religious leaders in Jerusalem, and He was silent before Pilate.  "Then the high priest stood up and said to Jesus, 'Are you not going to answer? What is this testimony that these men are bringing against you?' But Jesus remained silent. The high priest said to him, 'I charge you under oath by the living God: Tell us if you are the Christ, the Son of God.'" (Matthew 26:62-63)  "When he was accused by the chief priests and the elders, he gave no answer. Then Pilate asked him, 'Don’t you hear the testimony they are bringing against you?' But Jesus made no reply, not even to a single charge—to the great amazement of the governor." (Matthew 27:12-14)

"But when I was silent and still, not even saying anything good, my anguish increased. My heart grew hot within me, and as I meditated, the fire burned; then I spoke with my tongue:"  If you put a lid on a pan of boiling water, the pressure on the lid will grow as the water boils and steam builds up inside the pan.  Eventually, the pressure from the steam will lift the lid and burst out.  When we are in the presence of the wicked, it is hard to say nothing.  Paul had this problem in the presence of the wicked.  "Paul looked straight at the Sanhedrin and said, 'My brothers, I have fulfilled my duty to God in all good conscience to this day.' At this the high priest Ananias ordered those standing near Paul to strike him on the mouth. Then Paul said to him, 'God will strike you, you whitewashed wall! You sit there to judge me according to the law, yet you yourself violate the law by commanding that I be struck!' Those who were standing near Paul said, 'You dare to insult God’s high priest?' Paul replied, 'Brothers, I did not realize that he was the high priest; for it is written: “Do not speak evil about the ruler of your people.”'" (Acts 23:1-5)

2. The calming effect of an eternal perspective on the wicked (39:4-6)
"'Show me, O Lord, my life’s end and the number of my days; let me know how fleeting is my life. You have made my days a mere handbreadth; the span of my years is as nothing before you. Each man’s life is but a breath. Selah Man is a mere phantom as he goes to and fro: He bustles about, but only in vain; he heaps up wealth, not knowing who will get it.'"

Thought Question:  How will what David cries out for here help him to deal with his inner anger?

 

 

"'Show me, O Lord, my life’s end and the number of my days;'"  David takes his pent up emotions to God.  He cries out for God to help him to see the big picture.  When we are narrowly focused on our enemies—their cold and heartless words and actions, their attacks on God, their attacks on us, and their attacks on God's ways, it can become overwhelming to us.  We can feel helpless before them.

Many of us can look back on incidents in our life that seemed overwhelming to us at the time, but now after many years, these hard times do not have the importance to us that they had at the time that they happened.  Long years have dwarfed them in our mind.  Widening our focus to eternity causes us to see our present problems compared to an eternity of years.  Especially, our problems are dwarfed when compared to God's greatness.  David in Psalm 8 makes this statement:  "When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is man that you are mindful of him, the son of man that you care for him?" (Psalm 8:3-4)  Our mountain-sized problems are like tiny grains of sand when compared to the battle against evil that God wages throughout the world and throughout the universe.  Our problems are "nothing before" Him.

"let me know how fleeting is my life."  At the time that I am writing these words, I will be 71 in less than a week.  Often, now, I learn of some famous person that has just died.  This week, it was James Arness of the television series, "Gunsmoke."  Also, this week, I sat on the patio with my 95-year-old dad and thought of how many of the family members I knew during my early years in Iowa who are now gone.  Life is "fleeting." 

"Each man’s life is but a breath. Selah"  "Selah" call us to stop and reflect on the truth that David is laying forth for us.  It should stop us in our tracks.  Often, it is at a funeral that we do reflect on the brevity of life.  David wants to humbly remember this truth so that it will affect how he responds to the wicked.  How will it affect us?  In short, we will no longer be overwhelmed by their treachery.  They also are just "a breath" before God.  They also in the end will be humbled.  David wanted to know the shortness of his life so that he can "better bear its transient ills." "Taken from The Treasury of David by Charles Spurgeon."

We can tend to have an exaggerated sense of our own importance.  David cries out to God that he will recognize that he is a mere man who will live for only a short time—a "phantom" who will briefly appear on this earth and then will be gone.  David, of course, has been gone now for more than 3,000 years.  His life was "fleeting." See Psalm 78:39; II Peter 3:8

"let me know how fleeting is my life."  Where is David's wealth?  Who has it now?  His wealth, of course, is long gone and his being rich or poor is of no significance to us at all.  The book of Ecclesiastes provides a fuller description of these words—the eventual emptiness of temporal riches. See Ecclesiastes 5:8-17; James 1:9-11

3. A humble cry for God's help (39:7-8)
"'But now, Lord, what do I look for? My hope is in you. Save me from all my transgressions; do not make me the scorn of fools.'"

Thought Question:  How do you believe this cry for God's help flows naturally from the previous verses?

 

 

"'But now, Lord, what do I look for?  My hope is in you.'"  As we look at our fleeting life compared to God who is infinite, we should be greatly humbled.  David was humbled, and he cries out to God who was his only hope, and who is also our only hope. 

"'Save me from all my transgressions; do not make me the scorn of fools.'"  David not only needs help from God to protect him from the hatred of the wicked, but he knows that he himself is not pure from his own sin.  Who of us can believe that others do what is evil, but we never do.  Only One could say that.  Jesus said, "Can any of you prove me guilty of sin?" (John 8:46a.)  We cannot say that.  David could not say that.  He said, "Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me." (Psalm 51:5)

David recognized that if God did not rescue him from his own sinfulness that he would become the "scorn of fools."  There are in those in our society that relish every opportunity to call Christians hypocrites.  In recent years, there have, sadly, been Christians who have been in the spotlight of our society whose secret sins have been exposed.  As a result, they and Christianity has been scorned.  David prayed and we need to pray for ourselves that we will not become the "the scorn of fools."

4. A humble acknowledgement of God's sovereign discipline of him (39:9-11)
"I was silent; I would not open my mouth, for you are the one who has done this. Remove your scourge from me; I am overcome by the blow of your hand. You rebuke and discipline men for their sin; you consume their wealth like a moth— each man is but a breath. Selah"

Thought Question:  How does the knowledge that nothing happens apart from God's sovereignty and love affect how you look at your present circumstances?

 

 

"I was silent; I would not open my mouth, for you are the one who has done this."  David's attitude toward the difficult circumstances that he was experiencing is the very opposite of grumbling.  First of all, he was "silent."  You can't grumble if you are "silent."  Secondly, he acknowledges that his troubles were, somehow, a part of God's plan for him.  "And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose." (Romans 8:28)

"Remove your scourge from me; I am overcome by the blow of your hand. You rebuke and discipline men for their sin;"  God disciplines everyone He loves;  but His discipline, like all discipline, is painful.  "Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as sons. For what son is not disciplined by his father? If you are not disciplined (and everyone undergoes discipline), then you are illegitimate children and not true sons. Moreover, we have all had human fathers who disciplined us and we respected them for it. How much more should we submit to the Father of our spirits and live! Our fathers disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; but God disciplines us for our good, that we may share in his holiness. No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it." (Hebrews 12:7-11)

In the midst of the painful circumstances which David recognized as coming from God, David cries out that God would stop the disciplining of him.  This is a humble cry of one who feels that he cannot endure any more of the pain.  He has confessed his sin and recognizes his need for God's help; now, he asks God to intervene so he will not be buried under by the trials he is experiencing.  How did God answer?  The promise that we find in I Corinthians 10:13, I believe, answers this question.  "No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it." (1 Corinthians 10:13)

"you consume their wealth like a moth— each man is but a breath."  He returns once more to the theme of verses 5-6.  "You have made my days a mere handbreadth; the span of my years is as nothing before you. Each man’s life is but a breath. Selah." (Psalm 39:5)  "Man is a mere phantom as he goes to and fro: He bustles about, but only in vain; he heaps up wealth, not knowing who will get it." (Psalm 39:6)  Job was a wealthy man; then, suddenly, his wealth was gone.  Many have lived on this earth that are now gone.  David is long gone from this earth.  David does not lose this humble perspective on his life.  We are here, but one day we will also be gone and our possessions will be scattered.  May we live not as if our life will go on forever—as we selfishly accumulate wealth for ourself.  No, we should live with the awareness that we are very finite and we live each day before a very infinite and holy God.  "Selah"  Stop and deeply reflect on David's words.

5. A humble cry for God to change his circumstances (39:12-13)
"'Hear my prayer, O Lord, listen to my cry for help; be not deaf to my weeping. For I dwell with you as an alien, a stranger, as all my fathers were. Look away from me, that I may rejoice again before I depart and am no more.'"

Thought Question:  Is David wallowing in self-pity here?  Please explain your answer.

 

 

"Hear my prayer, O Lord, listen to my cry for help; be not deaf to my weeping.  For I dwell with you as an alien, a stranger, as all my fathers were."  The words could be seen as nothing more than intense self-pity.  Rather, it appears to me that this verse describes one who mourns over his sin and its consequences, and who also mourns over others' sin and how it has affected them and him.  Jesus said, "Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted." (Matthew 5:4)  This world is not our home.  Are you not also overcome at times as you consider the sinfulness of the world and as you realize your own sinfulness?  Listen to what Paul says about what it is like to live in a fallen world.  "For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God. We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies." (Romans 8:20-23)

I see David's words as the groaning of a man aware of his own falleness and the falleness of the world.  He realizes that only God can enable him to endure so that he can rejoice "again."

The book Pilgrim's Progress by John Bunyan is about our lives as strangers on this earth that is alien to God and His ways.  He allegorically portrays the struggles that we all have.  I believe that David would have identified with the struggles of Bunyan's Pilgrim.

"Look away from me, that I may rejoice again before I depart and am no more.'"  David is saying that the trial has taken him to the breaking point.  He has humbled himself and he pleads with God to give him a break from His discipline, so that he can once more experience a happy and not a painful time.

"'before I depart and am no more.'"  David uses the shortness of his life to plea with God.  Allow me to finish my short years with some times of joy.  "Do not continue your painful discipline until my days are gone."  What I believe David was facing was a trial that appeared to have no end.  Many of us have had times where we have felt like this.  Our circumstances are so painful that it seems like they will continue until our life is at its end.  But, then, the clouds part and it is once more bright and sunny.  David is still under the dark clouds and prays that God will open up the clouds before he departs and is "no more."

PSALMS 42 and 43:  How To Fight the Battle for the Sunshine

Introduction:  In many a Psalm, David begins under the clouds and at some point in the Psalm comes out of the clouds and into the sunshine—the dark mood changes into praise and joy.  In other Psalms, the entire Psalm is in the sunshine of God's magnificence—full of praise and joy.  In these two Psalms that we are about to cover, though, the psalmist is under the clouds throughout the two Psalms.  But, even though he is in despair, he does not give up the battle for the sunshine.

We can feel that Christians should never have down times.  Psalms like these Psalms show us that even godly people have down times.  We, though, are not to give in to these dark times.

It is believed that these two Psalms are actually one Psalm.  Notice that Psalm 43 has no title.  The title says it is "a maskil of the Sons of Korah." See I
Chronicles 26:1-19 
This title "maskil" "occurs also in the titles of Ps 42, 44-45; 52-55; 74; 78; 88-89; 142.  The Hebrew word perhaps indicates that these psalms contain instruction to godliness." "NIV Study Bible note on Psalm 32"

1. An essential for fighting the blues is an all-consuming thirst for God. (42:1-2)
"For the director of music. A maskil of the Sons of Korah. As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When can I go and meet with God?"

Thought Question:  Why do you think that some people have this thirst for God and others do not?

 

 

Picture a deer on a hot day with the sun beating down on it.  It is running in an unfamiliar land and cannot find water.  It has one thing in mind, to find cool and clear water.  The psalmist is like this.  His only hope is that he can somehow "meet with God."

Why do some people have this thirst for God and others do not?  The "deer pants" for "water" because it knows that without the "water" it will die.  Those who have a thirst for God have humbly come to the point where they realize that they are unable to find life apart from God giving it to them.  The psalmist was one of those people.  Are you like the psalmist in this way?

2. A determined pursuit of God in the midst of the blues (42:3-8)
"My tears have been my food day and night, while men say to me all day long, 'Where is your God?' These things I remember as I pour out my soul: how I used to go with the multitude, leading the procession to the house of God, with shouts of joy and thanksgiving among the festive throng. Why are you downcast, O my soul? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God. My soul is downcast within me; therefore I will remember you from the land of the Jordan, the heights of Hermon—from Mount Mizar. Deep calls to deep in the roar of your waterfalls; all your waves and breakers have swept over me. By day the Lord directs his love, at night his song is with me— a prayer to the God of my life."

Thought Question:  Where are you emotionally right now—rejoicing with the "festive throng" or "downcast"?

 

 

"My tears have been my food day and night, while men say to me all day long, 'Where is your God?'"  There are times when it seems that following and seeking to obey God does not appear to be working.  At those times, there are always those that will be glad to point this out to you.  They certainly pointed it out to Jesus while He was on the cross.  "Those who passed by hurled insults at him, shaking their heads and saying, 'You who are going to destroy the temple and build it in three days, save yourself! Come down from the cross, if you are the Son of God!'" (Matthew 27:39-40)  Those taunts and personal attacks can and do get to us.  It is clear from his words here that the mocking got to the psalmist.  His feelings are clearly expressed here: "My tears have been my food day and night." See II Samuel 16:5-8

"These things I remember as I pour out my soul: how I used to go with the multitude, leading the procession to the house of God, with shouts of joy and thanksgiving among the festive throng."  How do we seek to move out of our dark moods?  A first step is to remember that we are not always in these moods.  The psalmist looks back to times of joy in the past.  This gives us hope that there is a light at the end of the tunnel (and it is not the light on the front of an on-coming train).

"In the Hebrew it says, 'I will remember.'  This is a strong expression of determination.  He is determined to remember how God has helped him in the past." "Taken from Folk Psalms of Faith by Ray Stedman.  Copyright 1973 by Regal Books."  He does not just give in to his dark moods.  Instead, with determination, he chooses to remember that he does not have to remain in this mood.

Sometimes, we can, in a perverse way, enjoy our misery.  But, we who are Christians have so much to be grateful for and joyous about.  Even though, at the moment, it may be hard for us to see that this is true of us, we can determine that we will soon once again know this joy.

"Why are you downcast, O my soul? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God."  The psalmist, here, gives himself a pep talk.  He does not understand why he is so downhearted, but he puts his "hope in God."  And he is determined that he will yet "praise" God.

"Hope" is essential in the battle for the sunshine.  Without hope, there is no reason for despair to totally engulf our soul.  "Hope" says, as they say in Alcoholics Anonymous, "this too will soon pass."  I will not be in this dark state forever.  "But now, Lord, what do I look for? My hope is in you." (Psalm 39:7) See Hebrews 3:6

"Hope in God"  We can have "hope" because of who God is.  He is "love" and He is all-powerful.  There is nothing that He cannot do.  And His plans for us are good.  "What, then, shall we say in response to this? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?" (Romans 8:31-32)

"My soul is downcast within me; therefore I will remember you from the land of the Jordan, the heights of Hermon—from Mount Mizar."  It appears that the psalmist remembers a mountain-top experience.  Through the years, I have sought to attend a retreat once a year.  I have found that my focus on God is refreshed and I am greatly lifted up during those times.  It appears that the psalmist had one of those times of refreshment in his relationship with God on the heights of a mountain. See Matthew 17:1-13  It is helpful for the psalmist to remember this time of closeness with God as he is feeling far from God.

"Deep calls to deep in the roar of your waterfalls; all your waves and breakers have swept over me."  It appears that at the time there was the roar of a waterfall that reached deep within his soul and in the great peacefulness of that moment, he felt especially close to God.

I can remember a time when our son Stephen and I hiked deep into the fern-covered rain forest of the Olympic Peninsula.  At the deepest part of our hike, we sat on a moss-covered tree that had fallen over in front of a waterfall.  That was one of those moments of deep closeness with God for me.

"By day the Lord directs his love, at night his song is with me— a prayer to the God of my life."  Here, the psalmist remembers that what was true of God during his past experiences of closeness with God would always be true—His love toward him continued "day" and "night."  As we see in the next verses, the psalmist continues to be in the dark mood.  Nevertheless, he asserts here what is true even though he does not yet feel that it is true.

3. We can talk to God about our gloom. (42:9-10)
"I say to God my Rock, 'Why have you forgotten me? Why must I go about mourning, oppressed by the enemy?' My bones suffer mortal agony as my foes taunt me, saying to me all day long, 'Where is your God?'"

Thought Question:  What do these verses tell us about why the psalmist was downcast?

 

 

"I say to God my Rock, 'Why have you forgotten me?'"  Years ago, a door was shut for me.  A friend shared the following with me at that time: "When God shuts one door, he will open another.  The problem, though, is that dark tunnel in between."  It is a dark tunnel when nothing seems to be changing.  The psalmist feels that God has forgotten him.  While we are waiting for God, we can also feel that God has forgotten us.  This is certainly at least part of the reason that the psalmist is downcast.

The psalmist remembers that God is his "Rock."  So, he knows factually that God has not forgotten him.  Yet, he feels that God has forgotten him.  Certainly, you have had times when what you believed in your head was not matching up with how you were feeling at that time.  The psalmist knew that God had not forgotten him, but he felt as if He had.

The prophet Jeremiah was called by God to the very unpleasant task of predicting God's judgment on Israel.  God promised him that He would protect him while he told Israel what they did not want to hear.  "'Do not be afraid of them, for I am with you and will rescue you,' declares the Lord." (Jeremiah 1:8)  "'I will make you a wall to this people, a fortified wall of bronze; they will fight against you but will not overcome you, for I am with you to rescue and save you,' declares the Lord. 'I will save you from the hands of the wicked and redeem you from the grasp of the cruel.'" (Jeremiah 15:20-21)  But, there were times when Jeremiah felt that God had forgotten him.  "You understand, O Lord; remember me and care for me. Avenge me on my persecutors. You are long-suffering—do not take me away; think of how I suffer reproach for your sake. When your words came, I ate them; they were my joy and my heart’s delight, for I bear your name, O Lord God Almighty. I never sat in the company of revelers, never made merry with them; I sat alone because your hand was on me and you had filled me with indignation. Why is my pain unending and my wound grievous and incurable? Will you be to me like a deceptive brook, like a spring that fails?" (Jeremiah 15:15-18) See also Jeremiah 18:19-23, 20:7-10 

The psalmist's words in this verse, Jeremiah's experience, and many other examples reveal to us that though God never forgets us, there will be times when it will feel as though He has forgotten us.

"Why must I go about mourning, oppressed by the enemy? My bones suffer mortal agony as my foes taunt me, saying to me all day long, 'Where is your God?'"  As Christians, our whole life is committed and entrusted to God's faithfulness.  "And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him." (Hebrews 11:6)  Yet, at times when it appears that the enemy is winning, it is as if our whole life comes tumbling down.  To make it worse, there are those who will rejoice and mock us that our faith in God is not working and that we are at their cold-hearted mercy.  That is certainly how the psalmist was feeling at this time.

4. We can refuse to give up hope. (42:11)
"Why are you downcast, O my soul? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God."

Though the psalmist remembered his times of closeness with God, he still remained in a dark mood.  Yet, we see here that he refused to give in to his dark mood.  During a winning season, the Seattle Mariners developed a season-long theme for themselves: "refuse to lose."  As a result, they continued to fight to win until the last out in the ninth inning.  That is the psalmist's frame of mind here.  He will not give up "hope" that he will once again come out into the sunshine of God's love and blessing and once more be filled with praise.  The winter will one day be gone, and spring and summer will come.

5. We can plead to God to lead us out of our gloom. (43:1-4)
"Vindicate me, O God, and plead my cause against an ungodly nation; rescue me from deceitful and wicked men. You are God my stronghold. Why have you rejected me? Why must I go about mourning, oppressed by the enemy? Send forth your light and your truth, let them guide me; let them bring me to your holy mountain, to the place where you dwell. Then will I go to the altar of God, to God, my joy and my delight. I will praise you with the harp, O God, my God."

Thought Question:  What do these verses tell us about what will bring us out of the clouds and into the sunshine?

 

 

"Vindicate me, O God, and plead my cause against an ungodly nation; rescue me from deceitful and wicked men."  "We all know something of this problem.  Men have betrayed him, mistreated him; it a gross injustice.  How common that is.  How many times do we feel that those whom we trusted have betrayed us, have deceived us, taken advantage of us." "Taken from Folk Psalms of Faith by Ray Stedman.  Copyright 1973 by Regal Books."

"Vindicate me,"  There are times when we are treated unjustly and it appears that there are too many against us and the case against us seems too strong for us to argue against them and it.  At those times, we echo the psalmist's plea here: "Vindicate me, O God."  God alone knows the truth.  He alone can successfully plead our case against those who are united against us and want us to lose.

"You are God my stronghold. Why have you rejected me? Why must I go about mourning, oppressed by the enemy?"  When men we once trusted reject and treat us unjustly, it is hard not to feel that it is God who has rejected us and treated us unjustly.  "It is the greatest test of faith, when the God to whom you cry apparently does nothing." "Taken from Folk Psalms of Faith by Ray Stedman.  Copyright 1973 by Regal Books."

"You are God my stronghold."  God is the true "Rock" and "stronghold" that we have.  At times, it appears as if our trust in Him has not worked.  These two Psalms describe the struggle that we have while we are waiting for God when we have not yet seen His deliverance.  Joseph may have had these feelings while he was in prison with no visible possibility of being rescued.  "But when all goes well with you, remember me and show me kindness; mention me to Pharaoh and get me out of this prison. For I was forcibly carried off from the land of the Hebrews, and even here I have done nothing to deserve being put in a dungeon." (Genesis 40:14-15)  "The chief cupbearer, however, did not remember Joseph; he forgot him." (Genesis 40:23)  "When two full years had passed, Pharaoh had a dream: He was standing by the Nile," (Genesis 41:1)  Of course, the Pharaoh's dream resulted in Joseph's release, and God blessed him with the highest position in Pharaoh's government.

"Send forth your light and your truth, let them guide me; let them bring me to your holy mountain, to the place where you dwell."  Here, I believe, is the theme of these two Psalms: "God bring me back into the sunshine" where I can clearly see your love and I can trust that your faithfulness and justice will prevail.  Over the years, I have often turned to the Psalms when I have been in the middle of a difficult time.  At those times, I was doing exactly what the psalmist is doing here.  I desired that God would make some truth in the Psalm real to me so that I would be helped and strengthened as I drew close to God.

"Then will I go to the altar of God, to God, my joy and my delight. I will praise you with the harp,"  The psalmist is not yet out into the sunshine and praising God, but he believes that the day will come when he once again comes out of emotional darkness and into the light of God's love.  At that time, he will once again praise "God" "with the harp."  Today, our praise can be led by a worship team or music played on a stereo at home or on the car radio.  But, the psalmist was not yet at that point where he could praise God "with the harp."

Notice that God is his "joy" and his "delight."  Even in this dark time, God remains the greatest "joy" and "delight" of his life.  Some, in tough times, seek their delights in other places—drugs, alcohol, sex, possessions, food, and thrills.  Only God gives true "joy" and "delight."  The psalmist knew this and gave his full heart to pursuing Him.

6. He refuses to give up hope. (43:5)
"Why are you downcast, O my soul? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God."

The psalmist refuses to give in to his dark mood.  He continues to battle for the sunshine.  He recognizes that his feelings about God are not accurate.  He will battle until he once more believes and feels what is true and accurate. He "will yet praise" God, his "Savior and" his "God." See Psalm 44 for another Psalm where the psalmist is still under the clouds at the end of the Psalm.

PSALM 46:  A Psalm of Complete Faith

Introduction:  Here is a Psalm written in the sunshine.  The psalmist sees God clearly and the God he sees clearly brings forth his praise and complete confidence.

1. Confidence in God in a time of trouble (46:1)
"For the director of music. Of the Sons of Korah. According to alamoth. A song. God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble."

Thought Question:  Why do you believe the psalmist is able to see God so clearly?

 

 

"God is our refuge and strength,"  "Martin Luther paraphrased the opening lines of this Psalm in his German hymn which has come to us as 'A Mighty Fortress is our God." "Taken from Psalm Volume 1 Song of devotion by Robert Alden.  Copyright 19074 by Moody Press."

We can easily believe that God was Moses', David's, Elijah's, Peter's, and Paul's "refuge and strength," and Martin Luther's "Mighty Fortress"; but it is much more difficult to believe that He is our "refuge and strength" today.  The psalmist sees clearly that "God is our refuge and strength"—which, of course, also means that He is "our refuge and strength."  Why does he see this truth so clearly?  The answer is found in 46:10:  "Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth."  Sometimes, we do not see very clearly because we do not often stop and contemplate quietly and slowly who God is.  As the book by J. B. Phillips states: Your God is Too Small.

"our refuge and strength,"  God does not promise to take us out of trouble, but He does promise to protect us and give us "strength" in our troubles.  "I can do everything through him who gives me strength." (Philippians 4:13)  "While I was with them, I protected them and kept them safe by that name you gave me. None has been lost except the one doomed to destruction so that Scripture would be fulfilled. . . . My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one." (John 17:12, 15)

"an ever-present help in trouble."  Although God did not immediately rescue Joseph from prison, He did strengthen Joseph to enable him to be able to continue trusting Him until his rescue from prison.  Richard Wurmbrand spent 13 years in a communist prison camp.  Years ago, I heard him share his story.  At the end of his week-long sharing with us, he described his walking out of prison for the last time.  He said something that I remember today as if it were said yesterday.  He said," I did not thank God for rescuing me from prison, but I thanked God for being with me all during my years in prison."  Richard Wurmbrand would have also said that God was "an ever-present help in trouble."

2. Confidence in God no matter what (46:2-3)
"Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging. Selah"

Thought Question:  What natural disaster have you experienced?  What effect did it have upon you?

 

 

In recent years, there have been some very major earthquakes and disasters around the world.  The greatest catastrophe recently was the earthquake in northern Japan.   The earth we walk on is normally dependable and stable.   When the earth itself begins to greatly quake beneath us, what then can we trust to be stable and secure.  There is one true and stable "refuge" and that is God.  We can trust Him even when the earth quakes beneath our feet.

"Selah"  Stop and reflect deeply on the truth that we can trust God no matter what destabilizes our life.

3. A clear view of God (46:4-5)
"There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God, the holy place where the Most High dwells. God is within her, she will not fall; God will help her at break of day."

A clear view of God is to see that He and His city are very different from the chaos and instability in this world.  The psalmist sees a tranquil place in the presence of God where a beautiful and serene river runs through it.  A few years ago, I read Heaven by Randy Alcorn.  I became convinced that those beautiful times, places, and experiences that we would like to have go on forever are what will go on forever in heaven.

The psalmist appears to picture the rule of God in His future millennial kingdom—a kingdom that we now know will be ruled by Jesus Christ.  But, this tranquil water also points to the presence of the Holy Spirit.  "On the last and greatest day of the Feast, Jesus stood and said in a loud voice, 'If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him.' By this he meant the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were later to receive. Up to that time the Spirit had not been given, since Jesus had not yet been glorified." (John 7:37-39)  The tranquil Holy Spirit now dwells in Christ's church to also give us the tranquility that is present in God's holy presence. See John 14:25-27

"God is within her, she will not fall; God will help her at break of day."  Although Jerusalem has fallen many times, the future Jerusalem when Jesus rules from within it will never fall. See Zechariah 14  Jerusalem at that time, because of the presence within her of God the Son, "will not fall" to its enemies.

"at break of day."  "When attacks against cities were likely to be launched." "NIV Study Bible note."

4. Confidence that God will ultimately righteously judge the world (46:6-9)
"Nations are in uproar, kingdoms fall; he lifts his voice, the earth melts. The Lord Almighty is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress. Selah Come and see the works of the Lord, the desolations he has brought on the earth. He makes wars cease to the ends of the earth; he breaks the bow and shatters the spear, he burns the shields with fire."
Thought Question:  How does knowing that God will strongly judge evil in the end, help us as Christians? (How does it help you?)

"Nations are in uproar, kingdoms fall; he lifts his voice, the earth melts."  God's judgment on the nations that oppose both Him and His people is a theme throughout the Bible.  "When the kings joined forces, when they advanced together, they saw her and were astounded; they fled in terror. Trembling seized them there, pain like that of a woman in labor. You destroyed them like ships of Tarshish shattered by an east wind." (Psalm 48:4-7) see Psalm 2:1-7, 9:5; Jeremiah 25;30; Zechariah 14:3; II Thessalonians 1:6-10; Revelation 11:18, 19:11-21, 20:7-10

"the earth melts."  "His lightning lights up the world; the earth sees and trembles. The mountains melt like wax before the Lord, before the Lord of all the earth." (Psalm 97:4-5) see Isaiah 24:6, 19-23  "The earth melts" describes the severity of God's judgment on the sin of the world.

"Nations are in uproar,"  The "nations" have been opposed to God throughout time, but will reach its greatest intensity just before Jesus' return.  "On that day, when all the nations of the earth are gathered against her, I will make Jerusalem an immovable rock for all the nations. All who try to move it will injure themselves." (Zechariah 12:3)  "I will gather all the nations to Jerusalem to fight against it; the city will be captured, the houses ransacked, and the women raped. Half of the city will go into exile, but the rest of the people will not be taken from the city." (Zechariah 14:2)

"The Lord Almighty is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress."  What a wonderful contrast.  God is powerfully and unstoppably against men who choose evil, but He is powerfully for us who have put our trust in Him and seek His ways.  "What, then, shall we say in response to this? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?" (Romans 8:31-32)  "Selah"  Pause and think deeply on this wonderful truth.

"Come and see the works of the Lord, the desolations he has brought on the earth."  Once more the psalmist describes the awful judgment on the earth.  In the book of Revelation are described 7 bowls of God's wrath.  These chapters in Revelation are an expanded description of the "desolations" that God will one day bring upon the earth. See Revelation 8-9, 16

"He makes wars cease to the ends of the earth; he breaks the bow and shatters the spear, he burns the shields with fire."  "As we have heard, so have we seen in the city of the Lord Almighty, in the city of our God: God makes her secure forever. Selah" (Psalm 48:8)  "He will judge between the nations and will settle disputes for many peoples. They will beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation will not take up sword against nation, nor will they train for war anymore." (Isaiah 2:4)  Today, wars rage in some parts of the world and the possibility of war looms in other parts of the world.  But, one day in the future, the Lord will intervene and bring wars to an end.

5. David's summary conclusion to all that he has said (46:10)
"'Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.'"

Habakkuk was troubled that God was not dealing with the many injustices he was seeing in Israel.  "Why do you make me look at injustice? Why do you tolerate wrong? Destruction and violence are before me; there is strife, and conflict abounds. Therefore the law is paralyzed, and justice never prevails. The wicked hem in the righteous, so that justice is perverted." (Habakkuk 1:3-4)  God told Habakkuk that He was going to use the evil Babylon to bring justice on Israel.  Habakkuk saw this as an even greater injustice.  God instructs Habakkuk to wait for His justice to occur.  "'For the revelation awaits an appointed time; it speaks of the end and will not prove false. Though it linger, wait for it; it will certainly come and will not delay' . . . 'For the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea.' . . . But the Lord is in his holy temple; let all the earth be silent before him.'" (Habakkuk 2:3, 14, 20)  Finally, Habakkuk gets it.  "The righteous will live by faith." (Habakkuk 2:4)  "Lord, I have heard of your fame; I stand in awe of your deeds, O Lord. Renew them in our day, in our time make them known; in wrath remember mercy." (Habakkuk 3:2)  "Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will be joyful in God my Savior. The Sovereign Lord is my strength; he makes my feet like the feet of a deer, he enables me to go on the heights. . . ." (Habakkuk 3:17-19)  In short, Habakkuk did what the psalmist recommends here.  He was "still" and in that stillness, he knew that God is God.  And he knew that in the end, God would be exalted.

Wiersbe shares these helpful words about how this verse can apply to us.  "A friend of mine used to remind me, faith is living without scheming.  Whenever I discover myself pushing and prodding, God says to me, 'Take your hands off.  Be still, and know that I am God.'  The difference is simply this.  If we play God in our lives, everything is going to fall apart.  But if we let Him truly be God in our lives, He will be exalted, He will be with us and He will get the job done.  Are you facing a problem today, a challenge that has really bothered you?  Are you wondering, what am I going to do?  Have you turned it over to the Lord?  A time will come when God will say, 'All right, I will use your hands.'  But until then, get your hands off.  Know that He is God.  You are not God.  God does not expect us to do what only He can do." "Taken from ­DynaMoments - Psalms 46-56 by Warren Wiersbe.  Copyright 1990 by The Good New Broadcasting Association, Inc."

6. A final expression of confidence in God (46:11)
"The Lord Almighty is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress. Selah"

The reason that we can be still" before Him and entrust our troubles to Him is because of who He is.  The Almighty God who adopted Jacob so many years ago is a God we can fully trust.  He desires to have a relationship with Jacob and He desires to watch over us and take care of us.  At the end of John Wesley's life, "with all the strength he had, he cried out, 'The best of all is, God is with us.'...  These words seem to express the leading feature of his whole life." "Taken from The Treasury of David by Charles Spurgeon.  Spurgeon quotes from Wesley and his Coadjutors."

PSALM 51:  How To Confess Our Sins

Introduction:  The title of the Psalm tells us the context for this Psalm of David.  This prayer before God was offered after the prophet Nathan had come to David after David had committed adultery with Bathsheba.  In recent years there have been a number of our country's leaders who have suddenly found themselves the focus of a media frenzy due to their immoral conduct.  The same was true of King David.  After David's adultery, he then arranged events so that it would lead to the death of Bathsheba's husband Uriah, to cover up what he had done.  God, of course, knew about it and He used the prophet Nathan to reveal to David the ugliness of his sin before Him.  Nathan told a story of a rich man who horribly mistreated a poor man.  David was infuriated at the rich man.  "Then Nathan said to David, 'You are the man! This is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: “I anointed you king over Israel, and I delivered you from the hand of Saul.  I gave your master’s house to you, and your master’s wives into your arms. I gave you the house of Israel and Judah. And if all this had been too little, I would have given you even more. Why did you despise the word of the Lord by doing what is evil in his eyes? You struck down Uriah the Hittite with the sword and took his wife to be your own. You killed him with the sword of the Ammonites. Now, therefore, the sword will never depart from your house, because you despised me and took the wife of Uriah the Hittite to be your own.”'" (2 Samuel 12:7-10)  This Psalm is David's prayer of repentance. See II Samuel 11:1-12:25

How could God forgive David?  How can he forgive us?  This Psalm helps us to understand how we who are horrible sinners can be forgiven by God.  In order for us to be forgiven and experience that forgiveness before God, we must acknowledge the full ugliness and wrongness of our sin before a holy God.  We must also have a clear understanding of God's love and mercy.  We will see in this Psalm the important role of acknowledging the seriousness of our sin and the understanding of God's mercy play in David experiencing God's forgiveness.  Consider now how David sought after God"s forgiveness and received it.  We gain insight from him on how we can also seek God's forgiveness.

1. I acknowledge that my only hope for forgiveness is your unfailing love and mercy. (51:1-2)
"For the director of music. A psalm of David. When the prophet Nathan came to him after David had committed adultery with Bathsheba. Have mercy on me, O God, according to your unfailing love; according to your great compassion blot out my transgressions. Wash away all my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin."

Thought Question:  What do these verses tell you about what God is like, and how does that help you?

 

 

"Have mercy on me, O God, according to your unfailing love; according to your great compassion"  Our only hope for forgiveness is if God's mercy and grace is greater than all our sin.  The words of the hymn, "Wonderful Grace of Jesus" start: "Wonderful grace of Jesus, greater than all my sin."  Can this be true?  It is not just the words of a hymn; it is also the words of God's book, the Bible:  "The law was added so that the trespass might increase. But where sin increased, grace increased all the more," (Romans 5:20)  "But he gives us more grace. That is why Scripture says: 'God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.'" (James 4:6)  "Even though I was once a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent man, I was shown mercy because I acted in ignorance and unbelief. The grace of our Lord was poured out on me abundantly, along with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus." (1 Timothy 1:13-14)  "In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace." (Ephesians 1:7) See Romans 3:21-26

David knew that his only hope was for him not to get what he deserved, but for God to give him what he did not deserve.  Forgiveness is only possible where there is "mercy" and "compassion." We see Jesus' "compassion" toward even the Pharisees whom He had just described as "hypocrites."  "O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing." (Matthew 23:37)  Jesus description of the Pharisees as "hypocrites" is found throughout Matthew 23, yet He was still ready to be merciful and compassionate toward them.

God desires not to give us what we deserve, but to give us His grace—to give us what we do not deserve.  This is because of His great "compassion."  It is only because of His "unfailing love," "mercy," and "compassion" that we can approach Him when we have sinned.  It is why David could seek out His forgiveness when he had horribly sinned.

"blot out my transgressions. Wash away all my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin."  David agrees with God about his sins.  He calls them "transgressions," "iniquity," and "sin."  He is doing the very opposite of denying his sins.  Our human tendency is to minimize our sins until they are not that bad at all.  We rationalize them away, blame them on others, and get aggressive when they are pointed out.  What we do not often do is what David does here—fully acknowledge them.  David's hope is for God's "mercy" and his hope is for God's acceptance of his brokenness and humility before him.  "God be merciful to me a sinner." (Luke 18:13 NASV)

"The word transgression means rebellion!  When we sin we rebel against God.  The word 'iniquity' means to be crooked.  The word 'sin' means to miss the mark." "Taken from ­DynaMoments - Psalms 46-56 by Warren Wiersbe.  Copyright 1990 by The Good New Broadcasting Association, Inc."  So, David was not at all whitewashing his sin.  It was black and he called it black.

"cleanse me from my sin."  His hope is to be cleansed of his "sin" before God.  That is also our premiere need after we have sinned.  Until we believe in God's forgiveness and cleansing from sin, a guilty conscience torments us.  But the Bible, in many places, promises us that if we confess our sin, God will forgive us and cleanse us.  "But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin. . . . If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. . . . My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin. But if anybody does sin, we have one who speaks to the Father in our defense—Jesus Christ, the Righteous One. He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world." (1 John 1:7, 9, 2:1-2)  "He will not always accuse, nor will he harbor his anger forever; he does not treat us as our sins deserve or repay us according to our iniquities. For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his love for those who fear him; as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us. As a father has compassion on his children, so the Lord has compassion on those who fear him;" (Psalm 103:9-13)  "'Come now, let us reason together,' says the Lord. 'Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool.'" (Isaiah 1:18)  "Who is a God like you, who pardons sin and forgives the transgression of the remnant of his inheritance? You do not stay angry forever but delight to show mercy. You will again have compassion on us; you will tread our sins underfoot and hurl all our iniquities into the depths of the sea." (Micah 7:18-19)

2. I completely and openly agree with God about my sin. (51:3-6)
"For I know my transgressions, and my sin is always before me. Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight, so that you are proved right when you speak and justified when you judge. Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me. Surely you desire truth in the inner parts; you teach me wisdom in the inmost place."

Thought Question:  What do you learn from David about how you can completely and openly admit your sin before God?

 

 

"For I know my transgressions, and my sin is always before me."  He acknowledges that his conscience has kept his sin constantly before him.  That is a good sign for any person.  His conscience is alive and active, and it has been accusing him of his sin.  Paul describes the role of the conscience in our life in the book of Romans:  "Indeed, when Gentiles, who do not have the law, do by nature things required by the law, they are a law for themselves, even though they do not have the law, since they show that the requirements of the law are written on their hearts, their consciences also bearing witness, and their thoughts now accusing, now even defending them." (Romans 2:14-15)  The opposite of an active conscience is a calloused conscience that no longer accuses us when we do wrong.  "Such teachings come through hypocritical liars, whose consciences have been seared as with a hot iron." (1 Timothy 4:20  "They are darkened in their understanding and separated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them due to the hardening of their hearts. Having lost all sensitivity, they have given themselves over to sensuality so as to indulge in every kind of impurity, with a continual lust for more." (Ephesians 4:18-19)  It is critical that we do not go against our conscience and that our conscience be a key factor in guiding our life.  "The goal of this command is love, which comes from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith." (I Timothy 1:5)

"Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight, so that you are proved right when you speak"  He then acknowledges that his sin was, first of all, a sin against God.  We are primarily accountable to the One who created us.  When we choose to rebel against His holy desire for our life by choosing sin over obedience to Him, our sin is primarily against Him.  Our sin affects others, but ultimately we sin against our Lord by saying, "No Lord, I am going to choose to do what I know you hate."

"so that you are proved right when you speak and justified when you judge."  He acknowledges that God was always correct about his sin.  After being confronted by Nathan about his sin, he immediately acknowledged that it was a sin against God.  "Then David said to Nathan, 'I have sinned against the Lord.' Nathan replied, 'The Lord has taken away your sin. You are not going to die.'" (2 Samuel 12:13)

"Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me."  Then, he acknowledges that he was a sinner from birth.  It has appeared to me that one of the main messages of the Old Testament is that we were born sinners.  God gave Israel the Ten Commandments.  They said that they would obey them fully.  They said to Moses: "Go near and listen to all that the Lord our God says. Then tell us whatever the Lord our God tells you. We will listen and obey." (Deuteronomy 5:27)  Here is God's response to them: "The Lord heard you when you spoke to me and the Lord said to me, 'I have heard what this people said to you. Everything they said was good. Oh, that their hearts would be inclined to fear me and keep all my commands always, so that it might go well with them and their children forever!'" (Deuteronomy 5:28-29)  The rest of the Old Testament records Israel's continual disobedience of God and His commandments.  At the end of the Old Testament, Jeremiah and Isaiah sum up the truth about the state of man's heart from birth.  "The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?" (Jeremiah 17:9)  "All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags; we all shrivel up like a leaf, and like the wind our sins sweep us away." (Isaiah 64:6)  Paul sums it up also in Romans:  "As it is written: 'There is no one righteous, not even one;'" (Romans 3:10)  "Now we know that whatever the law says, it says to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be silenced and the whole world held accountable to God. Therefore no one will be declared righteous in his sight by observing the law; rather, through the law we become conscious of sin." (Romans 3:19-20)  Here, David acknowledges this truth that he was "sinful at birth."  "There is not a righteous man on earth who does what is right and never sins." (Ecclesiastes 7:20)

"Surely you desire truth in the inner parts; you teach me wisdom in the inmost place."  Next, he acknowledges that he had not been honest about his sin even though God desired that he be honest.  David acknowledges that he needs to begin once again to be ruthlessly honest before God about his sin.  God desires that our hearts be pure before we can truly see Him and understand His wisdom.  "Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God." (Matthew 5:8)  "Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Come near to God and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded." (James 4:7-8)  "But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere." (James 3:17)

3. What God's forgiveness will give to us (51:7-13)
"Cleanse me with hyssop, and I will be clean; wash me, and I will be whiter than snow. Let me hear joy and gladness; let the bones you have crushed rejoice. Hide your face from my sins and blot out all my iniquity. Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. Do not cast me from your presence or take your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me. Then I will teach transgressors your ways, and sinners will turn back to you."

Thought Question:  What do you see in these verses is gained when we experience God's forgiveness for a sin we have committed?

 

 

"Cleanse me with hyssop, and I will be clean; wash me, and I will be whiter than snow."  "Hyssop is a sponge-like plant that grew in Israel which was used to apply the blood of the offering to the altar, or the door-post, or whatever.  To be purged with hyssop is a figurative expression that declares the need for a blood sacrifice." "Taken from Folk Psalms of Faith by Ray Stedman.  Copyright 1973 by Regal Books." See Exodus 12:22; Leviticus 14:4-6; Numbers 19:18; Hebrews 9:19

It points to the only way sinners can be cleansed from our sin.  It pictures the Son of God's blood paying the penalty for our sins.  "Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is, his body, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near to God with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water." (Hebrews 10:19-22)

The Scriptures speak of being cleansed from sins and a guilty conscience through God's forgiveness made possible through Jesus' blood.  "For the life of a creature is in the blood, and I have given it to you to make atonement for yourselves on the altar; it is the blood that makes atonement for one’s life." (Leviticus 17:11)  "In fact, the law requires that nearly everything be cleansed with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness." (Hebrews 9:22)  "But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin." (1 John 1:7)  "If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness." (1 John 1:9)  "'Come now, let us reason together,' says the Lord. 'Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool.'" (Isaiah 1:18)

How can we who have sinned be made as "white as snow"?  I have enjoyed this truth as it is presented symbolically through the Old Testament priests putting on white garments that were sprinkled with blood.  "Then Moses took some of the anointing oil and some of the blood from the altar and sprinkled them on Aaron and his garments and on his sons and their garments. So he consecrated Aaron and his garments and his sons and their garments." (Leviticus 8:30)  The priests represent we Christians—the New Testament priests who are cleansed by the blood of Jesus.  "But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light." (1 Peter 2:9)  If a detergent can wash our dirty whites and make them white again, cannot the blood of the Son of God make us "white as snow"?

"Let me hear joy and gladness; let the bones you have crushed rejoice."  God's forgiveness will turn our mourning to joy.  In Psalm 32:3 and 38:3, David describes his guilt as having the following effects on him:  "When I kept silent, my bones wasted away through my groaning all day long." (Psalm 32:3)  "Because of your wrath there is no health in my body; my bones have no soundness because of my sin." (Psalm 38:3) See also Psalm 42:10  His whole body was experiencing agony because of the guilt of his sin.  Complete forgiveness would turn that agony into complete joy.  At times, I have responded with sinful irritation to my wife.  Afterwards, I have felt horrible.  I then have confessed to her that I was wrong in being that way.  Her words, "I forgive you" have set me free and filled with great joy and relief.  This is the joy that David was seeking.

Someone with a tender conscience is greatly troubled by his or her sin.  Martin Luther attempted in many ways to be free from his guilt.  Nothing he did could give him any escape from the agony of his sin.  Then, a single verse in the Bible freed him.  "For in the gospel a righteousness from God is revealed, a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: 'The righteous will live by faith.'"(Romans 1:17)  He could not atone for his own sins, but he could put his faith in Jesus' atonement for him.  John Bunyan wrote a book titled, Grace Abounding to the Chief of Sinners.  In it, he chronicles his journey to find forgiveness of a sin he had committed.  Those with the greatest awareness of their sin, also become those with the greatest appreciation and joy when they discover God's forgiving grace through Jesus. See Romans 7:24-8:4

"Hide your face from my sins and blot out all my iniquity."  We do not know real forgiveness until we are confident that God no longer holds the guilt of that sin against us. Only then can we feel that the guilt of our sin is gone.  The Bible does give us assurance that God's wrath against us was satisfied, appeased, and propitiated by Jesus' blood.  "He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world." (1 John 2:2) 

We, then, can ask God to purify our heart: "Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me."  Once we have confidence that our sins have been blotted out before God, we can return to seeking a pure fellowship with God.  As a result of our sins and sinfulness, we desire that God would do a purifying work in our lives.  In the book of James, James throughout the book describes signs of an impure heart and then he urges his readers to "purify" their hearts:  "Come near to God and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Grieve, mourn and wail. Change your laughter to mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up." (James 4:8-10)  It is this type of purification that David seeks here after his sinful and impure actions with Bathsheba and against her husband Uriah.  David realized that his sin came as a result of having a heart filled with impure and selfish motives.  He desires that from that point on, his heart would be purified of these selfish motives.

David learns here what is a major message of the Bible.  Because we are born with impure hearts, we need to be born again.  "'The time is coming,' declares the Lord, 'when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah. It will not be like the covenant I made with their forefathers when I took them by the hand to lead them out of Egypt, because they broke my covenant, though I was a husband to them,' declares the Lord. 'This is the covenant I will make with the house of Israel after that time,' declares the Lord. 'I will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people.'" (Jeremiah 31:31-33) See also Ezekiel 36:25-27

"and renew a steadfast spirit within me."  David knew that he did not have the ability to endure all the trials and temptations that life brings to us.  Here, David acknowledged that unless he received strength from God, he would fail again.  He also acknowledges here that it was God's strength that had enabled him to be "steadfast" previous to his sin with Bathsheba.  He asks that God "renew" him to where he had been before.  God also provides us with the ability to have a "steadfast spirit."  We also have God's strength available to us as Paul did: "I can do everything through him who gives me strength." (Philippians 4:13)

"Do not cast me from your presence or take your Holy Spirit from me."  David depended on God's forgiveness, so that he would not lose the presence of God's Spirit in his life.  The Old Testament believers were in a different state than New Testament Christians.  The Holy Spirit could be taken away from them.  We who are Christians are permanently indwelt by the Holy Spirit.  The Holy Spirit was taken away from Saul who was Israel's king before David became king.  "Now the Spirit of the Lord had departed from Saul, and an evil spirit from the Lord tormented him." (1 Samuel 16:14)  David was concerned that what happened to King Saul might happen to him.

Our fellowship with God is also affected when we sin.  We need to confess our sin and once more begin to draw close to God by seeking to obey Him.  "Jesus replied, 'If anyone loves me, he will obey my teaching. My Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him.'" (John 14:23)  "Remain in me, and I will remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me." (John 15:4)

"Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me."  "David did not lose his salvation when he sinned, but he did lose the joy of his salvation." "Taken from ­DynaMoments - Psalms 46-56 by Warren Wiersbe.  Copyright 1990 by The Good New Broadcasting Association, Inc."  God's joy is what strengthens and motivates us.  "Nehemiah said, 'Go and enjoy choice food and sweet drinks, and send some to those who have nothing prepared. This day is sacred to our Lord. Do not grieve, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.'" (Nehemiah 8:10)  When we lose our joy, we lose our strength.  Even in arduous and difficult trials, these trials do not change the truth about our salvation from the penalty of sin, salvation from the power of sin, and our future hope of salvation from the presence of sin.  That joy remains.  Sin can for a time lead to our not experiencing the "joy of" our "salvation."  Confession of sin that leads to the experiencing of God's forgiveness restores the "joy of" our "salvation."

"and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me."  "Give me a will that wants to do what you want me to do even though I may struggle at times." "Taken from Folk Psalms of Faith by Ray Stedman.  Copyright 1973 by Regal Books."  David recognized that previous to his sin, God had given him the desire not to sin.  He desired the spirit to return.  This is a request that is always granted if a person truly desires that the Spirit rule in his or her life.

Paul taught in Romans 8 that we as Christians have two sets of desires—the desires of the flesh and the desires of God's Spirit.  It is up to us which desire we choose to be led by. See Romans 8:5-14; Galatians 5:16-25

Sin affects our ministry and can bring our ministry to an end.  God's forgiveness can enable us to return to ministry.  "Then I will teach transgressors your ways, and sinners will turn back to you."  We hear of well-known Christians who have been involved in ministry at the same time they were involved in some type of secret sin.  Their ministry was the product of a hardened heart and a defiled conscience.  David had been in this state, and he wanted to repent of his sin so that he could return to ministry with a clear conscience.  "The grace of our Lord was poured out on me abundantly, along with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—of whom I am the worst. But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his unlimited patience as an example for those who would believe on him and receive eternal life. Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory for ever and ever. Amen." (I Timothy 1:14-17)

4. What is required of us to gain God's forgiveness (51:14-17)
"Save me from bloodguilt, O God, the God who saves me, and my tongue will sing of your righteousness. O Lord, open my lips, and my mouth will declare your praise. You do not delight in sacrifice, or I would bring it; you do not take pleasure in burnt offerings. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise."

Thought Question:  Why do you think that God desires that we have a "broken and contrite heart"?

 

 

"Save me from bloodguilt, O God, the God who saves me, and my tongue will sing of your righteousness."  In Genesis 9:6, God says to Noah: "Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed; for in the image of God has God made man."  David had purposely directed the death of Uriah—to cover up his adultery with Uriah's wife Bathsheba.  Here, he acknowledges his "blood-guilt"—that he had murdered a fellow human.  His only hope is God's forgiveness of his despicable act.

His mouth has been closed because of his sin.  He can no longer sing of God's righteousness because he stands justly accused by God's standard of righteousness.  It is those who have been forgiven much that are most thankful for God's forgiveness of them and His saving love.  David's sin and God's forgiveness does not speak highly of David, but it does speak highly of God.

"O Lord, open my lips, and my mouth will declare your praise."  His song of praise was stopped due to the shame of his sin.  Choosing sin over God's ways requires that we harden our heart to God; for who can enjoy sin and be aware of how disgusting it is and how it grieves God as He watches us do it.  David's mouth toward God was closed by his shame.  If God will cover his shame with His forgiveness, David can once more sing in praise to God.  When we sin, there is an immediate sense of loss.  What we lose is the beauty of fellowship with God through His Spirit.  David wanted that back.

"You do not delight in sacrifice, or I would bring it; you do not take pleasure in burnt offerings."  What David reveals here is that rituals done when our heart is not in it give God no pleasure at all.  A weekly church attendee who sings worship songs and listens to the Bible exposition, but whose heart is not in it, does not please God at all.  "The Lord says: 'These people come near to me with their mouth and honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. Their worship of me is made up only of rules taught by men.'" (Isaiah 29:13) See Romans 2:28-29

"The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise."  "David's sins should have brought him nothing but condemnation and death.  He committed adultery and he murdered a man.  No sacrifice could be found in God's sacrificial system for this kind of flagrant sin, rebellions, deliberate sin.  But David did not die." "Taken from ­DynaMoments - Psalms 46-56 by Warren Wiersbe.  Copyright 1990 by The Good New Broadcasting Association, Inc."

The sacrifices in the Old Testament point to the sacrifice of Jesus Christ—shedding His blood for our sin.  But not all will receive this forgiveness, this payment for our sin, and this appeasing of God's righteous wrath.

Here, we see who it is that will receive this forgiveness.  It is those who truly see their sin as horrible and deserving of God's judgment.  It is those who no longer see their sin as acceptable, but as filthy and unacceptable.  Repentance is a change of thinking about our sin—where we now see that it has separated us from God and that we justly deserve God's judgment.  Otherwise, we are still proud and think that we have done little that is so wrong.  God responds to the truly humble heart.  "But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, 'God, have mercy on me, a sinner.' I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted." (Luke 18:13-14)  "But he gives us more grace. That is why Scripture says: 'God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.'" (James 4:6)

5. A prayer for his country (51:18-19)
"In your good pleasure make Zion prosper; build up the walls of Jerusalem. Then there will be righteous sacrifices, whole burnt offerings to delight you; then bulls will be offered on your altar."

Thought Question:  Why do you believe David says that God does not "delight" in "sacrifices," but here he says that "whole burnt offerings" will "delight" God?

 

 

"In your good pleasure make Zion prosper; build up the walls of Jerusalem."  King David's sin and selfishness focus on himself had put his country Israel in jeopardy.  "The walls" needing to be rebuilt figuratively describes how David's sins had weakened Israel.  By asking God to rebuild "the walls," he is asking God to restore Israel's strength in the midst of its enemies.

An actual wall may have been in David's mind also, but it was not built in David's reign, but in his son Solomon's reign.  "Solomon made an alliance with Pharaoh king of Egypt and married his daughter. He brought her to the City of David until he finished building his palace and the temple of the Lord, and the wall around Jerusalem." (1 Kings 3:1)

"Then there will be righteous sacrifices, whole burnt offerings to delight you; then bulls will be offered on your altar."  There is a great difference between a church service that is perceived of as a duty—where it is little more than a perfunctory routine— and the singing of the very same songs but with hearts filled with great gratitude for God's mercy, love, and grace.  "Burnt offerings" that were given by people who delighted in God also brought "delight" to God.  David in this Psalm seeks God's forgiveness and he seeks that his relationship with God will be fully restored.  He also seeks that the country he is king over will also be restored to a right relationship with God.  Certainly, this Psalm provides the guidelines for how those who are truly repentant are restored to full fellowship with God after they have sinned.  It provides a guideline for how we can be restored to a full relationship with God after we have sinned.

 

Scripture taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION. ®   NIV ®   Copyright ©  1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission.  All Rights reserved.

Studies in Psalms