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Psalms (Vol II)

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 66:  A Clear Vision of God's Greatness—How To Give Him the Praise He Deserves

INTRODUCTION:  This Psalm is an obvious description of what it is like when we get above the clouds and see God clearly.  It is what every Christian experiences during those times when we see God clearly.  In Ephesians chapters one through three, Paul describes our riches in God's grace.  Paul starts out with these words: "Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ." (Ephesians 1:3)  Then, Paul begins to list our riches.  What the Psalmist describes in Psalm 66 and what Paul describes in Ephesians 1-3 are true even when we do not see them clearly and even when we do not feel that they are true.  The Psalmist exhorts us to praise God for all that He is and all that He has done.

1. Praise God for who He is (66:1-2)

"For the director of music. A song. A psalm. Shout with joy to God, all the earth! Sing the glory of his name; make his praise glorious!"

Thought Question:  The Psalm invited you to praise God with shouts and songs:  When was that the easiest for you to do—"shout" or "sing"?

 

 

In this Psalm, the Psalmist invites us to join him in praising God because of His glory.  Who does he invite to join him in praising God?  He invites the whole "earth" to join him in praising God.  There is a time in the future when this will take place.  "For the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea." (Habakkuk 2:14) See also Isaiah 11:9  The KJV says, "Make a joyful noise unto God."  Many who cannot sing have been comforted by these words and say, "At least I can make a joyful noise."

The following verses in the Psalms have a similar exhortation as the one found in these first two verses in Psalm 66:  "All mankind will fear; they will proclaim the works of God and ponder what he has done." (Psalm 64:9)  "May the peoples praise you, O God; may all the peoples praise you. May the nations be glad and sing for joy, for you rule the peoples justly and guide the nations of the earth. Selah May the peoples praise you, O God; may all the peoples praise you." (Psalm 67:3-5)  "He has remembered his love and his faithfulness to the house of Israel; all the ends of the earth have seen the salvation of our God. Shout for joy to the Lord, all the earth, burst into jubilant song with music; make music to the Lord with the harp, with the harp and the sound of singing, with trumpets and the blast of the ram’s horn— shout for joy before the Lord, the King." (Psalm 98:3-6)  "The Lord reigns, let the nations tremble; he sits enthroned between the cherubim, let the earth shake. Great is the Lord in Zion; he is exalted over all the nations. Let them praise your great and awesome name— he is holy." (Psalm 99:1-3)

There are times when this type of praise comes easily to us.  A Christian retreat in the woods, a quiet walk under the stars, a church service that effectively describes God' greatness, and a time of praise after God's hand has graciously and wonderfully changed our circumstances are some of those times when we can spontaneously burst into praise and gratitude.  Paul describes one of those times for him in II Corinthians: "For when we came into Macedonia, this body of ours had no rest, but we were harassed at every turn—conflicts on the outside, fears within. But God, who comforts the downcast, comforted us by the coming of Titus, and not only by his coming but also by the comfort you had given him. He told us about your longing for me, your deep sorrow, your ardent concern for me, so that my joy was greater than ever." (2 Corinthians 7:5-7)

2. Praise God for what He has done (66:3-4)
"Say to God, 'How awesome are your deeds! So great is your power that your enemies cringe before you. All the earth bows down to you; they sing praise to you, they sing praise to your name.' Selah"

Thought Question:  What are some "awesome" "deeds" that God has done on your behalf?

 

 

"Say to God, 'How awesome are your deeds! So great is your power that your enemies cringe before you.'"  Throughout history, God has been active in pursuing His goal to redeem mankind from sin and Satan.  The Bible records His active involvement in what is taking place on earth.  The Bible gives us detailed accounts of times when God has powerfully intervened on earth to accomplish His purposes: the universal flood, dividing the languages after the Tower of Babel, opening the Red Sea, the conquest of Canaan, stunning victories over Israel's enemies, the virgin birth of Jesus, Jesus' miracles, His resurrection, and the spread of the church throughout the world.  Did God stop working in the world after the time of the early church?  Every miraculous spiritual birth is a continuing action in His powerful and purposeful intervention in history.  One day, He will intervene even more powerfully in the life of earth when Jesus returns in great glory.  So, we can say with the Psalmist, "How awesome are your deeds . . . that your enemies cringe before you."  If they are not cringing now, they will "cringe" one day!

"All the earth bows down to you; they sing praise to you, they sing praise to your name.'"  This is not taking place today, but there will be a time in the future when this will take place.  "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," (Psalm 22:27)  "All the nations you have made will come and worship before you, O Lord; they will bring glory to your name." (Psalm 86:9)

"Selah"  Stop and reflect that there will come a day when God will receive His rightful glory.

3. Praise God for His specific deeds (66:5-12)
"Come and see what God has done, how awesome his works in man’s behalf! He turned the sea into dry land, they passed through the waters on foot— come, let us rejoice in him He rules forever by his power, his eyes watch the nations— let not the rebellious rise up against him. Selah Praise our God, O peoples, let the sound of his praise be heard; he has preserved our lives and kept our feet from slipping. For you, O God, tested us; you refined us like silver. You brought us into prison and laid burdens on our backs. You let men ride over our heads; we went through fire and water, but you brought us to a place of abundance."

Thought Question:  What is there in these verses that you can most rejoice in right now?

 

 

"Come and see what God has done, how awesome his works in man’s behalf!"  The Psalmist is about to list some of what God has done on "man's behalf."  He invites us to come with him "and see what God has done." 

"He turned the sea into dry land, they passed through the waters on foot— come, let us rejoice in him."  Many are the times when we, like Moses, have stood before a Red Sea with the Egyptian soldiers closing in on us.  Does God still open the Red Seas that are in front of us?  Jesus' disciples faced such a Red Sea when Jesus was crucified.  What would become of them?  Then, on the following Sunday, all changed for them.  Jesus was not gone and they were alone, for suddenly the resurrection Jesus was with them.  As we face our obstacles and circumstances that we feel are too great for us to bear and when our hope is nearly gone, let us remember what God did at the Red Sea.
The greatest Red Sea experience that each of us will face is when we stand at death's door.  How can we get beyond this dark tunnel?  "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." (Psalm 23:4)  "Jesus said to her, 'I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies.'" (John 11:25) See also Psalm 77:13-20, 106:9

"He rules forever by his power, his eyes watch the nations— let not the rebellious rise up against him."  This is the true perspective on God: He is Ruler over all—in the past, now, and forever.  "To man belong the plans of the heart, but from the Lord comes the reply of the tongue." (Proverbs 16:1)  "The Lord works out everything for his own ends— even the wicked for a day of disaster." (Proverbs 16:4)  "In his heart a man plans his course, but the Lord determines his steps." (Proverbs 16:9)  "The king’s heart is in the hand of the Lord; he directs it like a watercourse wherever he pleases." (Proverbs 21:1)  Nothing takes place that God does not determine that it will take place.

"his eyes watch the nations"  "The eyes of the Lord are everywhere, keeping watch on the wicked and the good." (Proverbs 15:3)  "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." (Psalm 37:32-33)

"let not the rebellious rise up against him."  The "rebellious" believe that defying God can be done without them experiencing any consequences for their rebellion.  They have gotten by with it in the past; they believe that they will continue to get by with it in the future.  The Psalmist, however, warns them here that Almighty God sees their rebellion, and there will be severe consequences for their defiance of God. See Psalm 2

"Praise our God, O peoples, let the sound of his praise be heard; he has preserved our lives and kept our feet from slipping."  "Who will rise up for me against the wicked? Who will take a stand for me against evildoers? Unless the Lord had given me help, I would soon have dwelt in the silence of death. When I said, 'My foot is slipping,' your love, O Lord, supported me. When anxiety was great within me, your consolation brought joy to my soul." (Psalm 94:16-19­) See Psalm 2

"indeed, he who watches over Israel will neither slumber nor sleep." (Psalm 121:4)  He will not let us go through that which is more than we can handle.  "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)

"For you, O God, tested us; you refined us like silver."  The trials that God's people endured that are recorded for us in the Old Testament describe times when God allowed trials to come to His people and other times when He even directed the trials. See Job 1:12  God's purpose, though, in these trials and in our trials is to remove the impurities from our lives.  Like a refiner of silver, He uses fire to remove impurities from our lives.  "Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade—kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed." (1 Peter 1:3-7)  "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 12:10-11) See Job 23:11; Isaiah 48:10; Malachi 3:2-4

"You brought us into prison and laid burdens on our backs. You let men ride over our heads; we went through fire and water . . . "  The Psalmist lists some of what God allows to happen to His people.  Here, he may be describing what happened when the people of Israel were slaves in Egypt—along with what happened to them during their time in the wilderness.  Figuratively, it describes the trials God allows us to go through.  ". . . 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." (Psalm 69:1-2)  "Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? As it is written: 'For your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.' No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us." (Romans 8:35-37)  "When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze." (Isaiah 43:2)

It is hard for us to understand why God who is love and is all-powerful would allow His people to be so mistreated.  Nevertheless, we can always be confident it is for our good and it also accomplishes His good purposes.

"but you brought us to a place of abundance.The Psalmist is certainly pointing to the people of Israel finishing their time of trial in Egypt and finally coming into the Promised Land— "a place of abundance."   Figuratively, it describes the "abundant" life that trials produce.  "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)  "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 12:10-11)

4. I will fulfill my vows to God (66:13-15)
"I will come to your temple with burnt offerings and fulfill my vows to you— vows my lips promised and my mouth spoke when I was in trouble. I will sacrifice fat animals to you and an offering of rams; I will offer bulls and goats. Selah"

Thought Question:  How does this apply to us and to the Christian life today?

 

 

"I will come to your temple with burnt offerings and fulfill my vows to you— vows my lips promised and my mouth spoke when I was in trouble. I will sacrifice fat animals to you and an offering of rams; I will offer bulls and goats."  Notice that the Psalmist goes from "us" ("Come let us rejoice" in 66:6) and "our" ("Praise our God" in 66:8) to "I" and "my."  Here, the Psalmist speaks directly to God about himself.  It appears that he had vowed to God during his time of trouble that he would give sacrifices to God in response to the help he received from God.

Another possible interpretation is that these verses predict Jesus' offer of His lifeblood to the Father as a sacrifice for our sins.  "We believe the voice which speaks now is the voice of Him who offered Himself as the burnt offering, that is, the voice which speaks here is our Lord, the Redeemer of Israel." "Taken from The Psalms by Arno Gabelein.  Copyright 1939 by Loizeaux Brothers."

The Psalmist's words parallel our singing a song of praise to God after He has done some good for us.  Years ago, our finances were tight.  We wanted our children to continue in a Christian school, but we could not afford it.  God enabled that to take place when I was asked to be one of the teachers that year.  The church I was working for allowed me to teach at the schools in the morning.  On New Year's Eve, in celebration of the new year, we sang the song, "Great is They Faithfulness."  Since, I had just reflected on how God had provided for us that year, that song meant much to me and that song always brings back to me the memory of that New Year's Eve.

The "burnt offerings" symbolized the giving of our complete self to God.   "Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—this is your spiritual act of worship." (Romans 12:1) See Leviticus 1:1-17, 7:8-13; Hebrews 9:11-28

"Selah"  The Psalmist asks them to stop and reflect on his gratitude and praise for God helping him in a time of trouble.

5. Listen to what God has done for me (66:16-20)
"Come and listen, all you who fear God; let me tell you what he has done for me. I cried out to him with my mouth; his praise was on my tongue. If I had cherished sin in my heart, the Lord would not have listened; but God has surely listened and heard my voice in prayer. Praise be to God, who has not rejected my prayer or withheld his love from me!"

Thought Question:  What can you tell others about what God "has done for" you?

 

 

"Come and listen, all you who fear God; let me tell you what he has done for me."  See verse 5  The Psalmist invites others to "praise" God for "what He has done" for him.  Those "who fear God" will join him in praise.  Those who do not "fear God" will resent what God "has done for" him. 

"I cried out to him with my mouth; his praise was on my tongue."  Have there been times when you have "cried out to" God?  There have been times when I have "cried out to" God in great anguish of heart.  Except for the most recent times, I can look back and see that God has heard my cries for help and responded to them.  He has done it in most wonderful ways.

"his praise was on my tongue."  While the Psalmist was crying out to God, he also was praising God.  It is not easy to praise God before God has responded to our cries, but the Psalmist did that.  I think of Joseph, the son of Jacob, languishing in prison for years though he was innocent of any crime.  Certainly, he "cried out to" God.  I believe that he also continued to praise God.  God, help us to continue to praise you, even while we are crying out to you to help us in a great time of trouble.

"If I had cherished sin in my heart, the Lord would not have listened;"  There are times when we are told that God will not listen to us.  For example, James tell us. "When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures." (James 4:3)  Isaiah tells us, "But your iniquities have separated you from your God; your sins have hidden his face from you, so that he will not hear." (Isaiah 59:2)  We learn in Proverbs, "If a man shuts his ears to the cry of the poor, he too will cry out and not be answered." (Proverbs 21:13)  "If anyone turns a deaf ear to the law, even his prayers are detestable." (Proverbs 28:9)  Mark records these words of Jesus, "'Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours. And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive him, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins.'" (Mark 11:24-25)  Peter gives us this warning, "Husbands, in the same way be considerate as you live with your wives, and treat them with respect as the weaker partner and as heirs with you of the gracious gift of life, so that nothing will hinder your prayers." (1 Peter 3:7)

If we desire that God hear us when we cry out to Him, we need to walk in the light by confessing our sins to Him.  "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)

"If I had cherished sin in my heart, the Lord would not have listened;"  We cannot pray against "sin" if we have a "sin" that we love.  It can be a sexual "sin," self-pity, a resentment—a desire that bad will happen to the one(s) that has offended us, greed, pride, or any other "sin."  If we are holding on to that "sin" and praying at the same time, God sees our hypocrisy and will not listen to our prayers.

The opposite of cherishing a "sin" is to deplore it—to not be able to think of it without sorrow.  Paul's attitude toward his sin is a good model for us.  "What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death?" (Romans 7:24)  "Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—of whom I am the worst." (1 Timothy 1:15)  The Corinthian attitude toward their sin is another good model for us.  "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. So even though I wrote to you, it was not on account of the one who did the wrong or of the injured party, but rather that before God you could see for yourselves how devoted to us you are." (2 Corinthians 7:8-12)

"but God has surely listened and heard my voice in prayer. Praise be to God, who has not rejected my prayer or withheld his love from me!What a joyous confidence the Psalmist has.  He has cried out to God and he is confident that God has "surely" "heard" him.  This is the prayer of faith.  He is confident of God's love, that He cares about his trials, and that He will respond to him in "love."  Would not this attitude rejuvenate our prayer life—believing that a caring God hears every word of our prayers and will respond in "love"?

PSALM 71:  An Old Man's Confidence That God Will Protect Him

INTRODUCTION:  This Psalm contains the Psalmist's cries to God for protection and help while he is old.  The Psalm includes a number of declarations of his trust in God.  Does not this Psalm describe what each Christian is like?  We trust in God and we see how He has helped us in the past; yet we still cry out to Him concerned that He might not help us in our present circumstances.  In this Psalm, the Psalmist does end up trusting that God will help and protect him before that help actually occurs.  It may be a Psalm of David written when he was old and gray.

1. A cry for God's protection and help (71:1-4)
"In you, O Lord, I have taken refuge; let me never be put to shame. Rescue me and deliver me in your righteousness; turn your ear to me and save me. Be my rock of refuge, to which I can always go; give the command to save me, for you are my rock and my fortress. Deliver me, O my God, from the hand of the wicked, from the grasp of evil and cruel men."

Thought Question:  In what ways do these words describe your cry to God?

 

 

"In you, O Lord, I have taken refuge; let me never be put to shame."  In the Old Testament, Israel often put their trust in an alliance with some other nation— such as Egypt—to protect them, rather than put their trust in God. See II Kings 18:21; Isaiah 20:5, 31:1  So, we can put our trust in others, rather than put our trust in God.  For example, we can put our trust in a job, in our money, in the stock market, and other such places.  But there is only one dependable "refuge." 

"let me never be put to shame."  The KJV says, "let me never be put to confusion," but the NKJV, NASV, NIV, and NEV all say "shame" or "ashamed."  The Psalmist's enemies want him to be humiliated and disgraced.  In II Corinthians, we learn that there was a group of men that wanted Paul to be disgraced so that they could take over the church at Corinth.  "For some say, 'His letters are weighty and forceful, but in person he is unimpressive and his speaking amounts to nothing.' Such people should realize that what we are in our letters when we are absent, we will be in our actions when we are present. We do not dare to classify or compare ourselves with some who commend themselves. When they measure themselves by themselves and compare themselves with themselves, they are not wise." (2 Corinthians 10:10-12)  "But I do not think I am in the least inferior to those 'super-apostles.'" (2 Corinthians 11:5)  Though these people that Paul calls arrogant (see II Corinthians 4:18-19), wanted to humiliate, and shame, and disgrace him; they were not successful. See II Corinthians 7:2-16  The Corinthians, in the end, chose to side with Paul and his ministry and to reject these false teachers.  It was not Paul who was disgraced in the end, but those who deserved to be disgraced.

There were those who wanted the Psalmist to be disgraced.  "May those who seek my life be put to shame and confusion; may all who desire my ruin be turned back in disgrace. May those who say to me, 'Aha! Aha!' turn back because of their shame." (Psalm 70:2-3)  Psalm 70 may be an introduction to Psalm 71.  The Psalmist is confident that, in the end, it will be his enemies who will be put to shame.  Listen to the last words of the Psalm: "My tongue will tell of your righteous acts all day long, for those who wanted to harm me have been put to shame and confusion." (Psalm 71:24)

"Rescue me and deliver me in your righteousness; turn your ear to me and save me."  Here, we have an unrighteous man like we all are, crying to God to be delivered.  How can he say, " deliver me in your righteousness"?  Rather, what we deserve is for God to punish us in His "righteousness."  The Psalmist, though, understood what is taught in Hebrews 4:15-16: "For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet was without sin. 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 4:15-16)  Because of God's grace, we can boldly "approach" God's "throne of grace" and seek for God to "deliver" us from those who want to destroy and disgrace us.  God can do it in "righteousness," because the Psalmist was humbly seeking His grace and mercy.  We now know that grace and mercy has been made possible because of Jesus' blood shed for us.  God can righteously reply to our cries for help because Jesus removed our debt to God on the cross.

"Be my rock of refuge, to which I can always go; give the command to save me, for you are my rock and my fortress." See Deuteronomy 32:4,13,15,18,30-31; Daniel 2:45; I Corinthians 10:4  A "rock" gives the picture of a strong foundation and a safe fortress.  We awake and a dark and formidable tornado is whirling toward us and its overpowering winds are nearly upon us.  Where do we go?  Where can we be safe?  A cave in the "rock" is near us.  We run to it and hide within its granite walls.  Outside the tornado rips up and tears apart everything in its path.  Inside, we are secure and safe.  The tornadoes of our life come suddenly upon us.  We also can hurry to our "rock of refuge."

"Deliver me, O my God, from the hand of the wicked, from the grasp of evil and cruel men."  Wicked Haman's goal was to kill all the Jews.  A special gallows was built for the godly Mordecai, a Jew Haman especially hated. See Esther 3-7  God rescued Mordecai "from the hand of the wicked" Haman.  We can also pray with the Psalmist that God will rescue us "from the hand of the wicked, from the grasp of evil and cruel men."

2. He declares that God has helped him since he was a child (71:5-6)
"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.In his cry for help, he declares that the pattern of his life since he was a child was to trust in God. See Psalm 22:9-10  "They are highly favored who can like David, Samuel, Josiah, Timothy and others say, 'Thou are my trust from my youth.'" "Taken from The Treasury of David by Charles Spurgeon." 

3. He declares that though men have hated him, he has praised God (71:7-8)
"I have become like a portent to many, but you are my strong refuge. My mouth is filled with your praise, declaring your splendor all day long."

Thought Question #1:  Why do you think that he was "like a portent to many"?

 

 

Thought Question #2:  Have you ever been a "portent to many"?  Please explain your answer.

 

 

"I have become like a portent to many, but you are my strong refuge."  "Portent" is an omen that something ominous is about to occur.  The NASV, KJV, and NKJV translate it is "wonder" or "marvel."  The word, "portent" fits the context better.  The people who rejected him did not marvel at him, they despised him.  Jesus was this type of "portent" or omen of an oncoming tragedy.  "But some of them went to the Pharisees and told them what Jesus had done. Then the chief priests and the Pharisees called a meeting of the Sanhedrin. 'What are we accomplishing?' they asked. 'Here is this man performing many miraculous signs. If we let him go on like this, everyone will believe in him, and then the Romans will come and take away both our place and our nation.' Then one of them, named Caiaphas, who was high priest that year, spoke up, 'You know nothing at all! You do not realize that it is better for you that one man die for the people than that the whole nation perish.'" (John 11:46-50)

The Psalmist's enemies also saw him as a thorn in the flesh, an obstacle to what they wanted for themselves.

"My mouth is filled with your praise, declaring your splendor all day long.Those  who reject God also reject those who love God—those who regularly express their love for God.  Jesus promised that His followers would be hated, just as He was hated. See John 15:18-24  The Psalmist was a "portent" because he loved God, and those who hated Him also hated God.  If we love God, we also can expect that those who hate God will also hate us.  Is it not true that the "fundamentalist" Christian is a despised person in much of our society?

4. A cry that God will not forsake him now that he is old (71:9-13)
"Do not cast me away when I am old; do not forsake me when my strength is gone. For my enemies speak against me; those who wait to kill me conspire together. They say, 'God has forsaken him; pursue him and seize him, for no one will rescue him.' Be not far from me, O God; come quickly, O my God, to help me. May my accusers perish in shame; may those who want to harm me be covered with scorn and disgrace."

Thought Question:  When have you cried out to God in a time when you felt very weak?  How did God help you?

 

 

"Do not cast me away when I am old; do not forsake me when my strength is gone."  As we get older, our physical body gets weaker, but the Bible promised that growth in spiritual strength can also occur.  "Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal."
(II Corinthians 4:16-18)

Though the Psalmist feared that God would "forsake" him as so many "forsake" those who are old; at the end of the Psalm, he gains hope that God will strengthen and help him. see 71:18-24

"For my enemies speak against me; those who wait to kill me conspire together. They say, 'God has forsaken him; pursue him and seize him, for no one will rescue him.'" See 3:2, 5:9  Nature films tell us that the lion and the hyena kill the weakest and the oldest in the herd.  They have little to fear when they kill these weakened animals.  Also, Satan and his cohorts sense when a a Christian appears weakened.  "'Saying God hath forsaken him.'  O bitter taunt!  There is no worse arrow in the quivers of hell." "Taken from The Treasury of David by Charles Spurgeon."  Even Jesus cried out something like this from 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)  God's enemies will, in our weakened state, seek to take us down.  But God has not "forsaken" us, just as Jesus in the end was not "forsaken."

"Be not far from me, O God; come quickly, O my God, to help me."  Trials can either come between us and God, or they can drive us to seek to be nearer to Him.  The Psalmist chose the latter.  He desired to be closer to God.

It has been my observation over the years that many a Christian widow has drawn closer to God after her husband has died and has gone to be with the Lord.  In their weakened state, they have desired a greater closeness with God.

"May my accusers perish in shame; may those who want to harm me be covered with scorn and disgrace."The shame from with which he prayed to be spared (v.1), the psalmist now invokes on his enemies." "Taken from Psalm Volume 2 Songs of Dedication by Robert Alden.  Copyright 1975 by Moody Press." See Psalm 12:5

How do the words of the Psalmist reflect the spirit we see in the New Testament teachings?  "'You have heard that it was said, “Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.”'" (Matthew 5:43)  "Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everybody." (Romans 12:17) "Make sure that nobody pays back wrong for wrong, but always try to be kind to each other and to everyone else." (1 Thessalonians 5:15)  "Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult, but with blessing, because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing." (1 Peter 3:9)  There appears to be a difference between someone who does wrong to us and someone who has so resolutely chosen the devil's hatred of God that they have become permanently united with him in his evil goals.

Listen to the difference in Paul's words about those who had done wrong to him and what he has to say about one individual who was determined to bring him down.  "At my first defense, no one came to my support, but everyone deserted me. May it not be held against them." (2 Timothy 4:16)  "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 appears that the Psalmist desires that those who hate God and him be brought to shame, rather than he who loves God be brought to shame.  The Psalmist was weak and unable to bring this about himself, so he cries out to God to do it.  Satan and those he strengthens with his hate are also stronger than us.  But, we can also cry out to the One who is stronger than them.  "For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds." (2 Corinthians 10:3-4)

So often in this world, it appears that wrong and evil are winning.  Will evil only be defeated when Jesus returns?  More often than we realize, God's justice prevails even today.  The Bible records many examples of God's justice prevailing.  Here are few examples: Joseph was raised to a high position after years of injustice; David was raised to the throne of Israel after being persecuted by King Saul; Daniel was raised to a high position and was also rescued from the lions' den; Israel's return from exile; Jesus' resurrection; and the spread of the early church described in the book of Acts.  Even today, we see God defeating evil in many ways—the spread of the church throughout the world in spite of persecution; great revivals; and the many instances of God's love and deliverances in our lives.  These are just a few examples of God rescuing His people previous to His glorious return.

5. He declares that he will always hope in God (71:14-18)
"But as for me, I will always have hope; I will praise you more and more. My mouth will tell of your righteousness, of your salvation all day long, though I know not its measure. I will come and proclaim your mighty acts, O Sovereign Lord; I will proclaim your righteousness, yours alone. Since my youth, O God, you have taught me, and to this day I declare your marvelous deeds. Even when I am old and gray, do not forsake me, O God, till I declare your power to the next generation, your might to all who are to come."

Thought Question:  How can we fear that God will "forsake" us, yet "always have hope"?

 

 

"But as for me, I will always have hope; I will praise you more and more."  It has been said that the hero is not someone who has no fear, but he or she who does an heroic act even when he or she is filled with fear.  Oftentimes, what we see and hear is fearful.  It is hard to believe that the God we do not see will help us.  So, we struggle between believing in the fearful world that we see and believing in the loving and all-powerful God that we do not see.  Here, the Psalmist expresses his determination to "always have hope."  He shows that "hope" by his continual praise to God.  The greater the darkness and weakness; the greater he seeks after the God who is light and strength. 

"My mouth will tell of your righteousness, of your salvation all day long, though I know not its measure."  The Psalmist is determined to keep his focus on God and the righteousness that He provides him rather than focus on the total unrighteousness of his enemies.  What we focus on determines our moods.  "Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things." (Philippians 4:8)  "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 40:4)

"though I know not its measure."  "Many, O Lord my God, are the wonders you have done. The things you planned for us no one can recount to you; were I to speak and tell of them, they would be too many to declare." (Psalm 40:5)  So, also, the Psalmist of Psalm 71 acknowledges that he does not have time to record all of God's righteousness or His righteous acts.  Even the whole Bible does not exhaust all of God's righteousness and His righteous acts.  Our salvation was made possible by God righteously choosing that His Son would pay the full penalty for our sins.  Now, we are able to righteously become an eternal member of God's family.  Our "mouth" tells of His "righteousness" "all day long." 

"I will come and proclaim your mighty acts, O Sovereign Lord; I will proclaim your righteousness, yours alone."  Again, the Psalmist is determined to focus on the goodness of God's "mighty acts" rather than focus on his enemies and their evil.  Though the devil would rather we focus on him and his intimidations and accusations, the Psalmist resolutely chooses to direct his focus on God and His "mighty acts" and His "righteousness."  As he focuses on God's "mighty acts" and His "righteousness," his trust grows that God will righteously and mightily intervene to protect and save him from his enemies.

6. He declares that God has taught him since his youth (71:17)
"Since my youth, O God, you have taught me, and to this day I declare your marvelous deeds."

The Psalmist did what each of us should do; and he did it "since" his "youth."  He was a willing student of God's Word.  Then, he verbally expressed what he learned of God's greatness to others.  Truth that is not expressed and acted on does not become vibrant truth to us; instead, it is little more than a dead religiosity.  But, truth about God that is vibrant to us will be expressed in our boasting to others about our wonderful God.  A friend of ours who recently went to be with the Lord was described as always bragging on God.  Hymns that have stood the test of time, were characteristically written by those who were deeply heart-struck by some wonderful attribute of their God.

7. A cry that God will not forsake him when he is old (71:18)
"Even when I am old and gray, do not forsake me, O God, till I declare your power to the next generation, your might to all who are to come." See 71:9  The Psalmist wants to finish strong in his relationship with God.  He cries out for God to rescue him.  We see that his cry to God is not a selfish plea, for he desires he would be raised up so that he can "declare" God's power to "the next generation."  Like a relay runner, he wants to have the strength to run to the end of his lap so that he can hand the baton to the "next" runner.  The Psalmist wants to hand his faith in God to the "next generation."  He wants to be strengthened by God so he can do that.  As we read this Psalm, we realize that God enabled him to pass his faith on to us who live over three thousand years after he died.

8. He declared his hope in God (71:19-24)
"Your righteousness reaches to the skies, O God, you who have done great things. Who, O God, is like you? Though you have made me see troubles, many and bitter, you will restore my life again; from the depths of the earth you will again bring me up. You will increase my honor and comfort me once again. I will praise you with the harp for your faithfulness, O my God; I will sing praise to you with the lyre, O Holy One of Israel. My lips will shout for joy when I sing praise to you— I, whom you have redeemed. My tongue will tell of your righteous acts all day long, for those who wanted to harm me have been put to shame and confusion."

Thought Question:  Do your believe that the Psalmist is praising God for what has already happened of what he trusts that God will do?  Please explain your answer.

 

 

"Your righteousness reaches to the skies, O God, you who have done great things. Who, O God, is like you?"  "Your love, O Lord, reaches to the heavens, your faithfulness to the skies." (Psalm 36:5)  Our circumstances and those who oppose us can dwarf us, and we can feel that all is hopeless.  But, when we see God clearly as David did in Psalm 36 and as the Psalmist does here, we see that our circumstances and our foes are dwarfed by God.  It is He who took Israel through the Red Sea and ultimately made a nation of them.  It is He who raised Jesus from the dead and enables us to spread His church throughout the world.  It is He who has supported, cared for, and vindicated those who have loved Him down through the ages.

"Your righteousness reaches to the skies,"  That He is a God who always does what is right, is as great a truth about Him that there is.  As we gaze upon who He truly is, we are filled with praise; and we will easily say, "Who, O God, is like you?"  In heaven, we will see Him clearly.  Then, we will definitely say, "Who, O God, is like you?"

"Though you have made me see troubles, many and bitter, you will restore my life again; from the depths of the earth you will again bring me up."  The Psalmist's life had been difficult.  He had seen "many and bitter" troubles.  He faced many who opposed him as he sought to be a servant and spokesman for God.  If the Psalmist was David, we read of the conflicts, attacks, and evil intrigues he faced and went through.  This verse is helpful to every Christian, for no Christian has found the Christian life to be easy.  Listen to Paul's and Barnabas' words: "strengthening the disciples and encouraging them to remain true to the faith. 'We must go through many hardships to enter the kingdom of God,' they said." (Acts 14:22)

"you will restore my life again; from the depths of the earth you will again bring me up."  This is one of the places in the Old Testament where the resurrection from the dead is predicted. See also Psalm 16:10, 49:15, 56:13; Job 19:25-27; Isaiah 25:8, 26:19, 53:10-11; Daniel 12:2; Hosea 13:14

"will increase my honor and comfort me once again."  In verse 19, the Psalmist says, "Your righteousness reaches to the skies," and he refers to God as "you who have done great things."  Here, in verse 21, the Psalmist trusts that God will do "great things" for him by increasing his "honor" and by comforting him "once again."  The Psalmist trusted that the God who had rewarded those who represented and trusted Him in the past would also reward the Psalmist for his faithfulness and trust in Him.  We often find ourself in this type of situation.  God has helped us in the past, but he has not yet helped us in our current situation.  Will He respond to us when we cry out to Him for help?  The Psalmist provides a model for us of trusting God before He responds to our prayers.

"I will praise you with the harp for your faithfulness, O my God; I will sing praise to you with the lyre, O Holy One of Israel."  Music and musical instruments are a special gift from God.  They provide us with a way to express the emotional part of our lives.  Their highest use is in praising and thanking God.  Here, the Psalmist is promising to "praise" and thank God for His faithfulness when God does show His "faithfulness" to him by responding to his cries for help.  "Like many 'trouble' and 'trust' Psalms, this one too ends as if the prayer of the earlier parts is answered." "Taken from Psalm Volume 2 Songs of Dedication by Robert Alden.  Copyright 1975 by Moody Press."

"My lips will shout for joy when I sing praise to you— I, whom you have redeemed."  We hear shouts of "joy" as a baseball player for a local team hits what is called a walk-off homerun.  It is a homerun that wins the game in the bottom of the ninth inning of a baseball game.  It is this type of joyful "shout" that the Psalmist talks about here.  When does this occur in our Christian world?  It does happen.  Here are some examples: 1) at a Christian wedding when the couple kiss each other and are presented for the first time as Mr. and Mrs.; 2) when someone comes up out of the water when they have just been baptized; 3) when someone testifies that they have just become a Christian; 4) when someone testifies that God has answered prayer in an exciting way;  and 5) when we share about how wonderfully God has been faithful to us.

"My tongue will tell of your righteous acts all day long, for those who wanted to harm me have been put to shame and confusion.Before it has occurred, he is confident that in the end he will not be disgraced and brought to shame, but those who are seeking his downfall will, instead, be put to shame.  "As in many other Psalms, the concluding stanzas speak of that as an accomplished fact, which was only requested in former verses.  Faith believes that she has her request, and she has it." "Taken from The Treasury of David by Charles Spurgeon." 

This Psalm provides us with a model of how even a man who is weakened by old age trusts that God will ultimately help, and bring honor to him.  Since God continues to be faithful to those who have sought to serve Him with a clear conscience and who humbly cry out to Him, we also can trust in His response to our prayers before He has acted on our behalf. See I Kings 1 for how God protected David from those who conspired against him when he was old and weak.

PSALM 73:  Gaining God's Perspective on the Arrogant

INTRODUCTION:  In the short term, it often appears to us that evil is winning and that those who are arrogant and defiant toward God are succeeding more that the humble servants of God.  Jesus said that it is the "meek" who "will inherit the earth"; but it often seems like it is the arrogant who are in charge and who are prospering the most.  That is how Asaph the Psalmist saw it at first, but this Psalm records how he gained God's perspective on the wicked and how it changed his perspective on life.  May this Psalm help us to also gain God's perspective on the arrogant.

We learn a little about Asaph in I Chronicles 16:4-5: "He appointed some of the Levites to minister before the ark of the Lord, to make petition, to give thanks, and to praise the Lord, the God of Israel: Asaph was the chief, Zechariah second, then Jeiel, Shemiramoth, Jehiel, Mattithiah, Eliab, Benaiah, Obed-Edom and Jeiel. They were to play the lyres and harps, Asaph was to sound the cymbals," (1 Chronicles 16:4-5)See also II Chronicles 29:30

1. He knew the truth that God is good to the pure in heart (73:1)
"A psalm of Asaph. Surely God is good to Israel, to those who are pure in heart."

Thought Question:  What is a verse that you know of that says that "God is good" to the "pure in heart"?

 

 

Jesus said, "Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God." (Matthew 5:8)  James describes how purity of heart will express itself in our lives: "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)  Do we desire that God be on our side?  Then, we need to purify our heart from all selfish and impure motives. See James 4:4-10  If our heart is pure before God, we can be sure that God will do good to us. "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)

But we will see in the following verses that at one time, it seemed to Asaph that it was the impure in heart that were prospering and not him.  We can, at times, doubt that God is doing good to us and it can seem to us that the arrogant are winning.

2. But, for a while, he envied the impure in heart (73:2-3)
"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."

Thought Question:  Describe a time when you felt like Asaph was feeling here.

 

 

"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."  Those who get ahead by deceit and strong-arm tactics can seem to be winning.  When we see this, we can begin to doubt that seeking to keep a clear conscience before God and seeking to be loving and gentle with others can appear to not be a winning pattern of life.  Asaph had allowed this type of thinking into his heart to the degree that his "feet had almost slipped."  He almost started to slide into defeat and despair.  He almost gave up. See Proverbs 24:1-2, 19-20

Throughout the Bible, there are those who have been pure in heart and have trusted God, but have become fearful that evil and not God was going to win.   Elijah was one who thought evil was going to win.  "Now Ahab told Jezebel everything Elijah had done and how he had killed all the prophets with the sword. So Jezebel sent a messenger to Elijah to say, 'May the gods deal with me, be it ever so severely, if by this time tomorrow I do not make your life like that of one of them.' 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 19:1-4) See also Numbers 11:5; Psalm 69:19-20; Jeremiah 20:14-18  We may at this moment identify with Asaph and feel that evil is winning.  "Surely in vain have I kept my heart pure; in vain have I washed my hands in innocence." (Psalm 73:13)

Ray Stedman points out that if God loves us and is all-powerful, why doesn't He intervene so that good will win and evil will lose?  Aspah was also perplexed by this.

3. He describes the arrogant and their apparent success (73:4-12)
"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. Their mouths lay claim to heaven, and their tongues take possession of the earth. Therefore their people turn to them and drink up waters in abundance. They say, 'How can God know? Does the Most High have knowledge?' This is what the wicked are like— always carefree, they increase in wealth."

Thought Question:  Where do you see the wicked succeeding?

 

 

"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."  the word translated "struggles" in the NIV is translated "bands" in the KJV, "pangs" in the NKJV and ESV.  "Struggles" appear to capture the meaning—they have no painful "struggles."  It can seem like the "arrogant" are riding high and that they have fewer troubles than the humble servant of God.

"Therefore pride is their necklace; they clothe themselves with violence."  This description fits some modern-day comics who openly and before the world defy God.  Yet, they continue to have a job, continue to be popular, and continue to speak arrogantly.

"Pride is their necklace;"  They display their conceit and arrogance as if it were a wonderful accomplishment.  They flaunt their blasphemy now, but one day that will all change.  "The Lord Almighty has a day in store for all the proud and lofty, for all that is exalted (and they will be humbled)," (Isaiah 2:12)  "The arrogance of man will be brought low and the pride of men humbled; the Lord alone will be exalted in that day," (Isaiah 2:17)

"From their callous hearts comes iniquity; the evil conceits of their minds know no limits."  The first part of this verse is quite different in other translations.  "Their eye bulges from fatness" (NASV) rather than "From their callous hearts comes iniquity" in the NIV.  The NIV does have "Their eyes bulge with fat" in the translation note below.  The general thought is that the arrogant appear to have more than they need and their "conceit" also has "no limits."  In other words, it appears that selfishly pursuing prideful exaltation of themselves and luxury is working for these godless people.

"They scoff, and speak with malice; in their arrogance they threaten oppression."  Alden summarizes this verse as follows: "They brag of the evil and scoff at the righteous."  This verse describes how the "arrogant" approach those that they disagree with them—they mock and scoff at them.  It is said that the lowest form of argument we can make is to attack the person who disagrees with us rather than deal with an issue.  It is called an ad hominem argument—against the man.  The "arrogant" belittle those who disagree with them—they belittle those who believe in God.  They do not seek to understand or seek the truth; instead, they seek to tear down and destroy those who disagree with them.

"Their mouths lay claim to heaven, and their tongues take possession of the earth."  Satan is described as saying the following: "You said in your heart, 'I will ascend to heaven; I will raise my throne above the stars of God; I will sit enthroned on the mount of assembly, on the utmost heights of the sacred mountain. I will ascend above the tops of the clouds; I will make myself like the Most High.'" (Isaiah 14:13-14)  The "arrogant" are like him—they see themselves as being on the top of the mountain of evolution, moving even higher and higher until all obstacles to our progress are conquered.  Instead, we are a fallen race becoming more and more corrupt as we move farther and farther away from God.

Nevertheless, "they speak down upon other men as from a sublime elevation peculiar to themselves." "Taken from The Treasury of David by Charles Spurgeon."  The "arrogant" are fallen and sinful in every way; yet they think that they are men and women who are above anyone's judgment.  With a seared conscience, they see themselves as judges of others.

"Therefore their people turn to them and drink up waters in abundance."  "Their people" is translated "his people" or God's people by the NASV, NKJV, KJV, and NEV.  Robert Alden has the following to say about this issue:  "Interpreters differ on the meaning of verse 10.  It is best to understand that the followers of the wicked stay with him and drink with him, or drink up everything he says. Their words are quoted in verse 11." "Taken from Psalm Volume 2 Songs of Dedication by Robert Alden.  Copyright 1975 by Moody Press."  Translating it "his people" does not follow Asaph's line of reasoning.  The NIV note states that the meaning of the Hebrew is uncertain.

If Alden and the NIV are correct, Asaph is saying that the "arrogant" and boastful men tend to gain a following.  The conceited will flock together.

"They say, How can God know?  Does the most high have knowledge?"  Alden describes these words as "a blasphemous denial of God omniscience." "Taken from Psalm Volume 2 Songs of Dedication by Robert Alden.  Copyright 1975 by Moody Press."  The arrogant have hardened their hearts to the truth that God is always aware of all that we do and He is even aware of what is in our hearts.  "The fool says in his heart, 'There is no God.' They are corrupt, their deeds are vile; there is no one who does good." (Psalm 14:1)

"This is what the wicked are like— always carefree, they increase in wealth."  It seems like the "arrogant" defy God and get by with it.  They seem to enjoy their life of living selfishly and ignoring God's moral standards.  They even get wealthy.  People who work in expensive hotels must ask this question often.  "How can these stuck up and self-absorbed snobs be prospering way beyond us?"  Asaph was also asking this question.

4. For a while, he doubted God's goodness to the pure in heart (73:13-16)
"Surely in vain have I kept my heart pure; in vain have I washed my hands in innocence. All day long I have been plagued; I have been punished every morning. If I had said, 'I will speak thus,' I would have betrayed your children. When I tried to understand all this, it was oppressive to me . . . "

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

 

 

"Surely in vain have I kept my heart pure; in vain have I washed my hands in innocence."  "Many feel this way.  They say, 'What's the use of being a Christian?  There is no advantage to it.  You read the Bible, go to church, and try to obey the Lord and seek fellowship with him, but what happens?  Everything goes wrong.  Nothing good happens at all.'" "Taken from Folk Psalms of Faith by Ray Stedman.  Copyright 1973 by Regal Books."

In the movie, It's a Wonderful Life, the main character in the movie felt as Asaph felt here: doing what is good is not working.  The main character in this movie had chosen to stay in his hometown and serve his community rather than pursue his own personal goals.  Then a wicked rich man was given the opportunity to break him financially.  He, at that point, felt that the world would have been better off without him.  Asaph also had come to a place where he felt that he had sought to obey God "in vain."

"All day long I have been plagued; I have been punished every morning."  We would like to say to a new Christian: "Now that you have become God's child, He will make sure that nothing bad happens to you."  The Bible, though, says the following: "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. Therefore, strengthen your feeble arms and weak knees." (Hebrews 12:7-12)

It appears that Asaph was going through a particularly hard time of difficulty and trial.  He saw it as a discipline from the Lord, but that did not make it less painful.  Then, he looked at the wicked, and they were "always carefree." (73:12)

"If I had said, 'I will speak thus,' I would have betrayed your children."  Asaph realizes that if he voices his doubts to people, he will be a source of discouragement to them.  So, he says nothing.  "It is not always wise to speak one's thoughts; if they remain within, they will only injure ourselves; but once uttered, their mischief may be great.  From such a man as the Psalmist, the utterance which his discontent suggested would have been a heavy blow and deep discouragement to the whole brotherhood." "Taken from The Treasury of David by Charles Spurgeon."

Have we had times like this—where we cannot share the true anguish of our soul for fear that God's people will be disheartened by our words?  There are times we can only share our deepest doubts with God alone or to just a very few people.

"When I tried to understand all this, it was oppressive to meKeeping his anguish to himself was very hard, for his troubled heart boiled within him.

5. Then, he entered God's sanctuary and saw the truth about the fate of the wicked (73:17-20)
" . . . till I entered the sanctuary of God; then I understood their final destiny. Surely you place them on slippery ground; you cast them down to ruin. How suddenly are they destroyed, completely swept away by terrors! As a dream when one awakes, so when you arise, O Lord, you will despise them as fantasies."

Thought Question:  What happened in "the sanctuary of God" that removed the anguish in his heart?

 

 

" . . . till I entered the sanctuary of God; then I understood their final destiny."  There is a spiritual condition that I call "narrowItis."  It happens when we cannot see beyond "I," "my," and "me."  It is a very human condition that even the greatest men of God experienced. Numbers 11:11-5; I Kings 19:1-5, 14; Romans 7:14-24  The solution to this spiritual malady is to get a bigger perspective on life that includes God, the angels, and eternity.  When Asaph entered the "sanctuary of God," he saw not only the present success of the wicked, but he also saw their "final destiny."  "From God's point of view the wicked men look different, dramatically different, diametrically opposite in fact." "Taken from Psalm Volume 2 Songs of Dedication by Robert Alden.  Copyright 1975 by Moody Press."

"This is the most vital part of the Psalm, in many ways.  This is when he began to change.  He began to shift from natural thinking to spiritual thinking.  He had been thinking like a natural man, within the limits of his life, considering only the visible things of earth.  Now, in the sanctuary, he begins to think from God's point of view and that's when he starts to understand or perceive." "Taken from Folk Psalms of Faith by Ray Stedman.  Copyright 1973 by Regal Books."

How do we enter "the sanctuary of God"?  Psalm 46:10 says, "Be still, and know that I am God . . . "  We enter God's presence when we are quiet before Him.  The Bible is God's Word and if we want Him to speak to us, He speaks to us as we quietly meditate on what He says in it—as we are guided by the Holy Spirit.  It can happen during a Sunday school class, a Bible study, as we listen to Christian radio, as we listen to Christian music, and in a number of other ways.  According to James 1:5, God delights to "generously" give us His "wisdom," if we seek it with an undivided heart. See James 1:2-8

Life can be like a movie set.  It looks on film like we are looking at a western town, but we are actually only seeing the front of the buildings.  On the other side from what we can see are bare boards and braces.  The wicked as we look at their lives appear to be defying God and winning.  Now, though, Asaph looks at the other side.

"Surely you place them on slippery ground; you cast them down to ruin.  How suddenly are they destroyed, completely swept away by terrors!"  Will the wicked continue to prosper until they die, and then they are no more?  That is how the wicked see it.  They believe they can live for themselves and get by with it.  They are even in denial that their lives will end in death.  "William Randolph Hearst, who built the great Hearst Castle near Morro Bay on the central California coast, searched the world for beautiful objets d'art to fill it with.  But he had a standing rule that no guests in his home could ever mention the word death.  Each night he was afraid to go to sleep because he was tormented by the fear of death." "Taken from Folk Psalms of Faith by Ray Stedman.  Copyright 1973 by Regal Books."

"Surely you place them on slippery ground;"  The wickedness of the wicked is in itself a dangerous lifestyle.  In recent years, we have seen rich financiers who have used deceit to scam their way to gain millions from those who trusted them.  We have seen these very rich man walking with their hands handcuffed behind their backs.  The wicked lifestyle had caught up with them, and suddenly it is all over and they are in jail.  The judgment for their wickedness will be infinitely more severe when they face their eternal Judge. See II Thessalonians 1:7-10

"As a dream when one awakes, so when you arise, O Lord, you will despise them as fantasies.What will it be like when we die and are suddenly in God's presence?  It will seem like our life was "a dream" that is suddenly over.  All of us at one time or another have been deeply involved in a dream when we were suddenly awakened.  Asaph is saying that it will be like this for the wicked.  They will be selfishly indulging themselves—no matter what it costs others.  They will be completely and purposely doing what they know is wrong and blinding themselves to what God thinks of what they are doing; and, suddenly, they are awake in His presence!  They will immediately realize in stark terror that they have been making evil choices in the presence of a holy God.  When we understand the "final destiny" of the wicked, do we still envy them?

6. Though he had not been trusting God, God strengthened him (73:21-28)
"When my heart was grieved and my spirit embittered, I was senseless and ignorant; I was a brute beast before you. Yet I am always with you; you hold me by my right hand. You guide me with your counsel, and afterward you will take me into glory. Whom have I in heaven but you? And earth has nothing I desire besides you. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever. Those who are far from you will perish; you destroy all who are unfaithful to you. But as for me, it is good to be near God. I have made the Sovereign Lord my refuge; I will tell of all your deeds."

Thought Question:  What do you learn from these verses that encourages you to persevere in your faith?

 

 

"When my heart was grieved and my spirit embittered, I was senseless and ignorant; I was a brute beast before you."  When, for whatever reason, we go into a state of despair, it is not due to God changing.  It is due to us allowing the wicked and our circumstances to become the central focus of our lives.  God is the same; and His sovereign control of the universe remains the same.  What has changed is that we have allowed what we see in the physical world to dominate our perspective on our life.  In this state, we cannot clearly see God's heart and see that "a Father's loving heart is behind each trial." "Taken from Folk Psalms of Faith by Ray Stedman.  Copyright 1973 by Regal Books."

"I was a brute beast before you."  When we stop trusting God and depending on God's Spirit in us, we are left with nothing but our flesh.  Then, we respond to our circumstances just like a frightened animal does—fight or flight.  Apart from God, there is much in this world that is too big for us to handle.

"Yet I am always with you; you hold me by my right hand. You guide me with your counsel, and afterward you will take me into glory."  Somewhere in his brutish state, he realizes that God has not changed, only his perception of God had changed.  We find these "aha!" times throughout Scripture.  For example, in Romans 7:24-25: "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."  Paul realizes that he will never be able to obey the law, but God is able to enable him to obey God's law.  The whole book of Habakkuk describes an "aha!" time for Habakkuk.  He was disturbed that God was not judging Israel's sins.  Then, he realizes that "the Lord is in his holy temple; let all the earth be silent before him." (Habakkuk 2:20)  As a result, Habakkuk will trust God no matter what may come.  "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)

"Yet I am always with you; you hold me by my right hand."  When we are in a brutish state of despair and not trusting God, does He despise us and turn from us?  A loving parent continues to love his or her children even when they lose their faith in God.  Is our love greater that God's love?  No, He "is love." (I John 4:8,16)  Asaph realizes that God was holding him by his "right hand" even when he was not trusting in God.  When our grip gets weak, and we feel that we can no longer hold on, God strongly continues to hold on to us.

"You guide me with your counsel,"  Often, it is some fresh thought from God's Word that pulls us out of our despair.  The godly person, even though he or she is in a state of despair, usually continues to seek help from God and God's people.  Asaph found that it was God who guided him into a true perspective of the wicked.

"and afterward you will take me into glory."  No matter how great our troubles and how much despair we may be feeling, we who are Christians still have the certain hope that we will one day be with God in His eternal and glorious home.  Asaph did not have the book of Revelation, so we have a great advantage over him.  Yet, at this moment, he is at a greater advantage than us for he is in heaven.

Notice that throughout verses 23 and 24, Asaph does not speak in general terms of God's love for His people, but he speaks in confidence of God's personal care for him as an individual.  "I am always with you," "you hold me," "you guide me," and "you will take me into glory."  Is not this what we each desperately need?  We need to know that God cares for us as a person.  In a world where we can be just an impersonal number or an unnoticed face in a crowd, does God care for _________  _________? (fill in your name)  Asaph believed that God cared for him the person.  God has not changed.  He still cares for each one of us individually.  He is always with us!

"Whom have I in heaven but you? And earth has nothing I desire besides you."  Earlier in the Psalm, Asaph said that he "envied the arrogant." (73:3)  What did he envy?   He envied "the prosperity of the wicked." (73:3)  Here, he no longer envies "the arrogant," for the "earth has nothing" he desires "besides" God.  David said something similar in Psalm 16:2: "I said to the Lord, 'You are my Lord; apart from you I have no good thing.'"

Asaph realized that the "arrogant" did not have God, so they really had nothing but temporary pleasures and success.  But he has what they did not have—a relationship with God.  "He had been thinking that he needed other things, that he needed things the ungodly had.  But now he comes to realize that all he needs is God himself.  If he has God and the fellowship of God, then nothing else is needed." "Taken from Folk Psalms of Faith by Ray Stedman.  Copyright 1973 by Regal Books."

"My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever."  In the previous verses, Asaph affirms his faith that God will "always" "hold" him, He will "guide" him, and that He is all that he needs.  Here, he affirms that God will give him "the strength" that he needs.

Much of II Corinthians is the autobiography of Paul's faith life.  In it, he reveals that though he was weak, God had provided him with His strength.  "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."
(II Corinthians 1:8-10)  "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)  "To keep me from becoming conceited because of these surpassingly great revelations, there was given me a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, 'My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.' Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong." (2 Corinthians 12:7-10) See also Colossians 1:28-29; Philippians 4:13; Hebrews 11:34; I Peter 5:10

Aspah learned, as Paul did, that though we are weak, God gives us the strength to trust in Him and to persevere.

"my portion forever."  Asaph's hope was eternal.  The "arrogant" and ungodly face a God who will severely judge their evil deeds; Asaph would be with a loving and forgiving God forever.  Should we envy the "arrogant"? See Psalms 18:32, 68:35  A relationship with God and all that comes along with being part of His family is also our "portion forever."  This is true for us, of course, if we have put our faith in what Jesus did for us on the cross.

"Those who are far from you will perish; you destroy all who are unfaithful to you."  The Bible is quite clear that the wicked and the defiantly godless are heading toward a terrible judgment.  They should never be envied.  "But the beast was captured, and with him the false prophet who had performed the miraculous signs on his behalf. With these signs he had deluded those who had received the mark of the beast and worshiped his image. The two of them were thrown alive into the fiery lake of burning sulfur. The rest of them were killed with the sword that came out of the mouth of the rider on the horse, and all the birds gorged themselves on their flesh." (Revelation 19:20-21)  "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 20:14-15)  ". . . This will happen when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven in blazing fire with his powerful angels. 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 1:7-9)

"But as for me, it is good to be near God. I have made the Sovereign Lord my refuge; I will tell of all your deeds." See James 4:8  Asaph's final conclusion is that he no longer envies the arrogant.  "It is good to be near God" rather than far away from Him and temporarily prospering.  And, so, he ends with a declaration that describes what he desires to do the rest of his life: to make "the Sovereign Lord" his "refuge" and "tell of all" God's "deeds."  Do we agree with Asaph's conclusion?

PSALM 77:  A Successful Battle for the Sunshine

INTRODUCTION:  It is this Psalm that best helped me to see the battle for the sunshine in the Psalms.  Asaph begins the Psalm under the clouds and focused on himself.  At verse 10, he realizes what He has been doing.  Then, in the rest of the Psalm, his focus is on the greatness of God.  His circumstances had not changed; but because he changed his focus, his mood changed.  His focus went from being on himself and his circumstances to being on God and His strength.  As a result, he goes from great despair to great joy.  Notice the "I"s, "me"s, and "my"s in verses 1-9; then, look at the transition in verse 10: and then look at the emphasis on God in the remaining verses.

THE "I" FOCUS: NarrowItis is described (77:1-9)
All of us have experienced this spiritual condition.  We can be tired, highly stressed, overwhelmed by those in opposition to us, feeling guilty, anxious, sick, and over-busy.  NarrowItis occurs when our faith is really in our own resources.  Even when we pray, we can be trusting in how well we pray rather than trusting in God's ability to answer our prayers.  When we are in this state of narrowItis, we most often do not recognize that we are in it!  You can use verses 1-9 to help you to recognize whether or not you are right now in this condition caused by a narrow focus on life.  I have read these verses to Christians through the years and asked them, "Do these verses describe how you are feeling right now?"  This question has helped many to see what is causing the mood they are experiencing.  See if these verses describe you right now, or describe someone you know. 

If you are suffering from this spiritual malady or have suffered from it, you are not alone.  Some of the most godly people have also suffered from it.  Moses was suffering from narrowItis when he said these words.  "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?'" (Numbers 11:11-5)  Elijah suffered from narrowItis after Jezebel threatened him.  "Now Ahab told Jezebel everything Elijah had done and how he had killed all the prophets with the sword. So Jezebel sent a messenger to Elijah to say, 'May the gods deal with me, be it ever so severely, if by this time tomorrow I do not make your life like that of one of them.' 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.' Then he lay down under the tree and fell asleep. All at once an angel touched him and said, 'Get up and eat.'" (1 Kings 19:1-5)  Then, he said the following to God at Mount Sinai.  "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)  Paul was suffering from narrowItis when his repeated failure to obey God's law led him to say the following:  "What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death?" (Romans 7:24)  Martha was suffering from narrowItis when she said the following:  "But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, 'Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!' 'Martha, Martha,' the Lord answered, 'you are worried and upset about many things, but only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.'" (Luke 10:40-42)

1. When Crying out to God makes it worse (77:1-4)
"For the director of music. For Jeduthun. Of Asaph. A psalm. I cried out to God for help; I cried out to God to hear me. When I was in distress, I sought the Lord; at night I stretched out untiring hands and my soul refused to be comforted. I remembered you, O God, and I groaned; I mused, and my spirit grew faint. Selah You kept my eyes from closing; I was too troubled to speak."

Thought Question:  Count the number of "I"s, "me"s, and "my"s in these verses.  What do they tell you about why he is feeling as he is?

 

 

"I cried out to God for help; I cried out to God to hear me. When I was in distress, I sought the Lord; at night I stretched out untiring hands"  "Asaph" realizes that God is the only solution for his dilemma, so he cries out to God.  But from his words, we can tell that he feels that God does not hear him.  So, he cries out to God even in the night!  It appears that his despair is so great that he cannot sleep; so in his sleeplessness, he cries out to God.

"All day long his distress drove him to his God, so that when night came he continued still in the same search.  God had hidden his face from his servant, therefore the first  care of the troubled was to seek his Lord again." "Taken from The Treasury of David by Charles Spurgeon."

"and my soul refused to be comforted.Praying to God did not help.  He was in a state similar to David in Psalm 42 and 43: "Why are you downcast, O my soul? Why so disturbed within me . . . " (Psalm 42:5) See also 43:5  There are times when what will normally bring soul relief does not help.  A pleasant walk, Christian radio, a time with the Lord in His Word, and other types of activities that normally are comforting and helpful do not help, at these times, with the troubles within.

"I remembered you, O God, and I groaned; I mused, and my spirit grew faint."  This is odd.  When we remember God normally, it will help and comfort us.  But, "Asaph" was even more troubled when he thought of God.  There are times when words of encouragement to someone in despair do not help, but actually make it worse for the person who is going through the painful time.  I have found, though, that simply reading verses 1-9 and asking, "Do you feel like this?" is helpful.  It is particularly this verse that they identify with.  When they think about God, they feel worse.  It has helped them to know that someone else has felt as they are feeling.  And, since these words are in the Bible, God also understands how they are feeling.

Why would thinking about God lead to mourning?  It may be that we feel that God has not been answering our prayers because He is indifferent to our cries for help.  It may be that we feel that God is not answering our prayers because we have not been performing well enough for us to earn His favor.  Paul, in Romans 7:14-24, felt he needed to obey the law to please God.  Because he failed again and again, he felt that God condemned him and did not accept him.  "What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death?" (Romans 7:24)  He did not feel he deserved to be rescued from his "body of death."  Then, he remembered God's grace and that Jesus had delivered him from condemnation.  He remembered that there is help outside of us that is greater than us—God's gracious help through Jesus Christ!  "Thanks be to God—through Jesus Christ our Lord! . . . " (Romans 7:25)

In a state of narrowItis we forget, at least emotionally, that God is a gracious God who responds to those who humble themselves.  Instead, we see Him as a condemning God who despises us for our continual failed attempts to obey Him and please Him.  So, when we think about God, we think of Him only as the Judge and the Lawgiver—which He is.  But, He is also the God of mercy who does give grace to the helpless and needy.  "But he gives us more grace. That is why Scripture says: 'God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.'" (James 4:6)

"You kept my eyes from closing; I was too troubled to speak."  Again, what odd words to say to God—he is blaming God for how troubled he is feeling—"You kept my eyes from closing."  Though his words are obviously not accurate, it was exactly how he was feeling at that moment.  Because this Psalm is in the Bible, God does allow us to be transparent with Him about our feelings, even when they are not accurate.  It is what "Asaph" needed to do before he could go from despair to praise.  He started with how he felt in his despair.  He did not stuff his true feelings, but openly expressed them to God.  God already knew about his feelings anyway.

"You kept my eyes from closing;"  He felt like what God was allowing to happen in his life was keeping him awake at night.  Read Job's words of perplexity as he complained about how he did not deserve the calamities that came on him, and you see a man being honest about his feeling before God.  "Does God listen to his cry when distress comes upon him?" (Job 27:9)  See Job 27-31

"I was too troubled to speak.Sometimes, words only make us feel greater pain.  A parent grieving over the sudden tragic death of a child is sometimes in too much pain to speak about it.  No words will help and no words by the one suffering can describe the deep grief that is being felt.  The only word that can be uttered is, "Why?" or, "No!"  Other tragedies evoke a similar wordlessness. See Psalm 6

2. He seeks to reason himself out of his despondent mood (77:5-9)
"I thought about the former days, the years of long ago; I remembered my songs in the night. My heart mused and my spirit inquired: 'Will the Lord reject forever? Will he never show his favor again? Has his unfailing love vanished forever? Has his promise failed for all time? Has God forgotten to be merciful? Has he in anger withheld his compassion?' Selah"

Thought Question:  Why do you believe his reasoning in these verses helped him to overcome his despondency?

 

 

"I thought about the former days, the years of long ago; I remembered my songs in the night. My heart mused and my spirit inquired:"  "Asaph" widens his focus here.  Instead of just focusing on his present circumstances and present despair, he expands his focus to the past.  And, in the past, he had times when he had not been despondent, but joyful in his relationship with God—his nights had not been painful, but happy times.  "If it was that way once, can it not be that way again?"  As David said in Psalms 42 and 43, ". . . I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God." (Psalm 42:5) See also 43:5

"Asaph" was "resolutely resolved that he would not tamely die of despair, but would fight for his hope to the last moment of life." "Taken from The Treasury of David by Charles Spurgeon."  Spurgeon describes here what I have come to call the "battle for the sunshine."  In other words, we are not to give in to our moods, but we are to battle our way out of them.  When we read the last of this Psalm, we will see that "Asaph" was successful in this endeavor.

"My heart mused and my spirit inquired:"  The KJV says: "and my spirit made diligent search."  "Asaph" does not passively give in to his moods.  Instead, he seeks to rise above his dark thoughts.  He stands outside his mood and evaluates what was going on and he evaluates why he was in the dark mood.  It is often in this process that one grows in one's faith and walk with God.  "Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. 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 1:2-5)

'''Will the Lord reject forever?  Will he never show his favor again? Has his unfailing love vanished forever? Has his promise failed for all time? Has God forgotten to be merciful? Has he in anger withheld his compassion?'"  What is the implied answer to all of these questions?  God will not "reject forever"!  He will "show his favor again."  "His unfailing love" has not "vanished forever." "His promise" has not "failed for all time."  God has not "forgotten to be merciful."  And God has not "withheld his compassion."  There are times when God blesses us in visible and obvious ways, but there are also times when it appears that God has turned a deaf ear to our prayers.  Has God changed?  Is there no longer a gracious and compassionate God?  No, He never changes; though our circumstances seem to indicate that He has changed.

Throughout the Bible, there is often a period of time in between when God makes His promises and when He fulfills His promises.  There are even periods of time between when there is a need and when God acts in compassion in response to that need.  For example, Jesus waited for two more days after he heard that Lazarus was sick.  Jesus waited until after Jesus His friend died so that He could show His power over death.  The shortest verse in the Bible is John 11:35: "Jesus wept."  It shows us that it is hard for God to allow us to experience pain, even though in the end it will be for our good and for others' good.

There is always a reason for God's delays.  It is during those delays where our faith in Him is tested.  Here, "Asaph" is beginning to work on trusting in God's compassion and faithfulness at a time when it appears that God is not faithful and compassionate.  He models for us how not to give in to our dark moods.  Instead, we are, like "Asaph," to reason ourselves into the belief that on top of the dark clouds of our mood is the same loving God we believed in during our joyous times of trusting in Him.

THE CHANGE OF FOCUS (77:10)
"Then I thought, 'To this I will appeal: the years of the right hand of the Most High.'" (NIV)

"Then I said, 'It is my grief, That the right hand of the Most High has changed.'" (Psalm 77:10, NASB95)

"And I said, 'This is my anguish; But I will remember the years of the right hand of the Most High.'" (Psalm 77:10, NKJV)

"Then I said, 'I will appeal to this, to the years of the right hand of the Most High.'" (Psalm 77:10, ESV)

Robert Alden, a Hebrew scholar, has this to say about this verse: "a verse that is difficult to translate and understand." "Taken from Psalm Volume 2 Songs of Dedication by Robert Alden.  Copyright 1975 by Moody Press."  The NASB and the NKJV translations appear to best fit the context.  In short, God has not changed, but because of my "anguish" or "grief," I feel that He has changed.  So, "Asaph" is going to remember who God has been throughout the years.  He chooses to reflect on God's mighty acts to "buoy up" (Alden's words) and strengthen his faith.  Like a pilot in thick clouds, we need to trust what the instruments say, rather than trust in our feelings.  We need to believe what the Bible says about God rather than trust our present feelings about what God is like.  The Bible records the truth about God's power, compassion, and sovereignty, even when we feel that all is lost.  So, "Asaph" focuses on what is true about God, rather than on what he has been feeling about God.

SHIFTING OUR FOCUS AWAY FROM OURSELF AND ONTO GOD (77:11-20)

1. He chooses to remember God's mighty works. (77:11-12)
"I will remember the deeds of the Lord; yes, I will remember your miracles of long ago. I will meditate on all your works and consider all your mighty deeds."

Thought Question:  Why do you believe that meditating on God's mighty "deeds" was helpful and was a mood changer for Asaph"?

 

 

"I will remember the deeds of the Lord; yes, I will remember your miracles of long ago. I will meditate on all your works and consider all your mighty deeds.What if we did not have the Bible?  Would that make it more difficult to trust God?  It certainly would, for in the Bible are recorded God's responses to people of faith.  Abraham trusted God and left his home to go to an unknown land.  We now know that from Abraham's descendents came the nation of Israel, King David, and Jesus Christ.  We can, today, trust that as God rewarded men and women of faith in the past, so He will reward us when we also trust Him.  We have seen His great power in response to men and women of faith.  We will see, next, that "Asaph" was encouraged by focusing on what God did for Moses and the people of Israel at the Red Sea crossing. 

Why do you believe that meditating on God's mighty works will be helpful to us when the success of the wicked is troubling to us?  The reason that meditating on the wicked gets us down is that we believe that they are winning.  At those times, then, we feel like we are on the losing side and that they are on the winning side.  That is not accurate, but that is how we feel.  How can we feel that something is true that is not actually true? 

How, then, can we go from feeling that the wicked are winning to feeling what is actually true—that the wicked are losing?  How can we go from feeling that we are on the losing side to feeling that we are on the winning side?  We have to come to believe deeply in our heart that what God says is true is true.  And the way that truth gets deep into our heart and into our soul is to meditate on God's power, love, mercy, and mighty acts until we believe deep down inside that what is recorded in the Bible is the most solid and accurate description of what is real.

J. I. Packer in his book, Knowing God gives the following description of meditation:  "Meditation is the activity of calling to mind and thinking over and dwelling on and applying to oneself, the various things that one knows about the works and ways and purposes and promises of God.  It is an activity of holy thought, consciously performed in the presence of God, under the eye of God, by the help of God, as a means of communion with God.  Its purpose is to clear one's mental and spiritual vision of God, and to let His truth make its full and proper impact on one's mind and heart.  It is a matter of talking to oneself about God, and oneself, reasoning oneself out of moods of doubt and unbelief into a clear apprehension of God's power and grace.  Its effect is ever to humble us, as we contemplate God's greatness and glory and our own littleness and sinfulness, and to encourage and reassure us—'comfort' us in the old, strong, Bible sense of the word—as we contemplate the unsearchable riches of divine mercy displayed in the Lord Jesus Christ." "Taken from Knowing God by J. I. Packer.  Copyright 1973 by Intervarsity Press."

If we meditate on God's powerful interventions on behalf of His people in the past, we will realize that a problem that seems to us to be too large for us to deal with, can easily be dealt with by Him.  Also, we will come to believe that wickedness only succeeds for a short period.  When God decides that it will no longer succeed, it will be decisively and thoroughly conquered.  As we focus on God and His great power, our enemies and God's enemies shrink in size in our eyes, until they no longer seem the formidable foes that they once seemed to be to us.

2. He chooses to remember what God is like (77:13-14)
"Your ways, O God, are holy. What god is so great as our God? You are the God who performs miracles; you display your power among the peoples."

Thought Question:  Give one example of God's holiness and one example of His power that awes you and encourages you.

 

 

"Your ways, O God, are holy."  God's holiness required that a holy and sufficient sacrificial payment be made for our sin.  He maintained His holiness at an infinite cost to Himself—the death of His Son on the cross.

"What god is so great as our God?"   Who can conceive of a God greater than the God who is greater than the universe with its stars and galaxies that number beyond what we can even imagine?

"You are the God who performs miracles; you display your power among the peoples." The Bible records people being raised from the dead, the sun standing still, enemies blinded, miraculous food being provided, the 10 plagues in Egypt, a man being delivered from certain death in a lions' den, men being rescued from a blazing furnace, and the list goes on.  And many more "miracles" occurred in the time of Jesus and the apostles.  He is truly "the God who performs miracles." 

3. He chooses to remember God's power in the miraculous opening of the Red Sea (77:15-20)
"With your mighty arm you redeemed your people, the descendants of Jacob and Joseph. Selah The waters saw you, O God, the waters saw you and writhed; the very depths were convulsed. The clouds poured down water, the skies resounded with thunder; your arrows flashed back and forth. Your thunder was heard in the whirlwind, your lightning lit up the world; the earth trembled and quaked. Your path led through the sea, your way through the mighty waters, though your footprints were not seen. You led your people like a flock by the hand of Moses and Aaron."

Thought Question #1:  Do you believe that these verses describe the crossing of the Red Sea?  Please explain your answer.

 

 

Thought Question #2:  Why do you believe Asaph's dark mood changed to a feeling of hope and joy?

 

 

"With your mighty arm you redeemed your people, the descendants of Jacob and Joseph."  "Asaph" describes God's people as the "descendent of Jacob and Joseph."  Jacob's family was able to move to Egypt because Joseph went there before them, as a result of the evil done to him by his brothers.  But God used their evil for good when Joseph was raised up by God to the number two position in all of Egypt—when God enabled him to save Egypt from a famine.  So, we see God's powerful hand in exalting Joseph. Then, we see His powerful hand as He rescued Israel from the hand of a later Pharaoh who out of fear and jealousy enslaved the Israelite people.  In it all, we see that God had a plan and at His chosen times, He powerfully accomplished it.  God still has a plan, and in His times He still powerfully accomplishes it.

"The waters saw you, O God, the waters saw you and writhed; the very depths were convulsed."  Here, "the waters" are described as a person.  When "the waters" of the Red Sea saw God, they immediately were shocked and trembled before Him—even down to their deepest "depths."  "The waters" thought, "Oh no, what is happening?"

If these deep "waters" trembled before God, should not we men tremble before Him also?  Should not God's enemies tremble before Him?

"The clouds poured down water, the skies resounded with thunder; your arrows flashed back and forth. Your thunder was heard in the whirlwind, your lightning lit up the world; the earth trembled and quaked."  Exodus 14 describes the crossing of the Red Sea, but it does not describe the rain, the lightning storm, the "whirlwind," or the "earth" quake that "Asaph" describes here.  He may be using poetic license to powerfully dramatize what took place, or it may be that God revealed to "Asaph" in some way that all that he describes here took place at that dramatic time in history—even though it is not recorded as happening in Exodus 14.  I am inclined to believe that "Asaph" is using the imagery of a storm to poetically emphasize God's power which dwarfs and intimidates men.  In recent years, storms and earthquakes have occurred with greater intensity and number.  As at the Red Sea, men are helpless when they occur.

"Your path led through the sea, your way through the mighty waters, though your footprints were not seen."  It is clear that it was God who opened up the Red Sea and rescued Israel from the Pharaoh and his great army; yet, they did not see God—"your footprints were not seen."  Today, we can often see God's power in what happens to us, but we do not see Him.

"You led your people like a flock by the hand of Moses and Aaron."  "Asaph" started with many "I"s, "my"s, and "me"s.  He ends with "You"s and "Your"s.  His focus has successfully shifted from himself and his inadequacies and weaknesses to God and His adequacy and strength.  How does this affect his mood?  How does this affect our mood?  Our enemy goes from being unconquerable and strong in our eyes to cowering before the Almighty God.

A problem we face, though, is whether or not God will intervene on our behalf as He intervened for Moses and Israel.  The nation of Israel under Moses were God's chosen people.  As is described in Exodus and Numbers, these same chosen people fell very short of what God desired for them.  Yet, God still intervened.

We Christians are also God's people.  Can we not also believe that God will intervene for us?  "Asaph" believed that God would intervene for him, even before it happened.  That accounts for the mood change from despair at the beginning of this Psalm to hope, faith, and joy at the end of the Psalm.  So, we can believe that the all-powerful, merciful, and loving God will intervene for us, even before it happens.
"You led your people like a flock"  "The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not be in want. 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. 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. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. 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 23:1-6)  He is also our "Shepherd." See Hebrews 11:32-40

PSALM 84:  Yearning for God

INTRODUCTION:  In our world, there are some who wholeheartedly seek to draw near to God and others who have very little or no interest in seeking God.  Some even go in the very opposite direction.  Why is there such a difference between people?  What is it that makes some people wholeheartedly yearn to draw close to God?  Psalm 84 was written by those—the sons of Korah—who did have a deep yearning for God.  This Psalm can give us insight on why the Psalmist or Psalmists had such a deep desire to draw near to God.

1. His heart's yearning (84:1-2)
"For the director of music. According to gittith. Of the Sons of Korah. A psalm. How lovely is your dwelling place, O Lord Almighty! My soul yearns, even faints, for the courts of the Lord; my heart and my flesh cry out for the living God."

Thought Question:  Why do you believe the Psalmist finds God's "dwelling place" so appealing?

 

 

"For the director of music. According to gittith. Of the Sons of Korah. A psalm."  "'Sons of Korah' refers to the Levitical choir made up of the descendents of Korah appointed by David to serve in the temple liturgy.  They represented the Levitical family of Kohath son of Levi.  Their leader in the days of David was Heman." "NIV Study Bible note on Psalm 42."  "According to gittith," "a feminine noun used exclusively in the titles ofthree Pss. 8, 81, and 84.  Three meanings are possible.  It describes a musical instrument made or used in the Philistine city of Gath (Josh 11:22); the Targ. suggests that it was a type of melody from Gath; or may also refer to a the Heb. word, . . . a "wine press" (Neh. 13:15), and thus mean a song sung at the grape harvest." "Taken from Zondervan Pictorial Encyclopedia of the Bible."

"How lovely is your dwelling place, O Lord Almighty!"  In this world, there is a mixture of God's beauty and the ugliness that is caused by sin and the curse.  There is only one place where there is pure beauty and that is in the presence of God.  Do we not grow tired of the ugliness that we find permeating this world?  Jesus said that it is "the pure in heart" that "will see God." (Matthew 5:8)

In the Psalmist's time, the "dwelling place" of God was the temporary tabernacle, for they did not yet have the permanent temple in Jerusalem during David's time.  But both the earthly tabernacle and the earthly temple pointed to the heavenly temple of God—the heavenly "dwelling place" of God. See Psalm 68:35: Hebrews 9:11-14, 23-25

Now, we who are members of Christ's church are God's "dwelling place." See I Corinthians 3:16, 6:19-20  We are to be those that yearn for God and who yearn to be filled with His beauty and His holy presence. See Psalm 27;4

We seek His presence in our church worship services.  The yearning heart seeks every avenue to draw near to God.  It comes through humbly confessing our sins. See James 4:7-10  It comes when we see the emptiness of the world's riches. It comes when we see that in Him are the only true riches.  See Matthew 6:19-33; Revelation 3:17-18

"My soul yearns, even faints, for the courts of the Lord; my heart and my flesh cry out for the living God.Could the Psalmist have found a way to better express that His whole being yearned for God—that his heart and flesh yearned and cried out for God?  God promises that if we seek Him in this way, we will find Him.  "You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart." (Jeremiah 29:13)  God promises to draw near to us when we draw near to 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)

2. Why he yearned for God (84:3-7)
"Even the sparrow has found a home, and the swallow a nest for herself, where she may have her young— a place near your altar, O Lord Almighty, my King and my God. Blessed are those who dwell in your house; they are ever praising you. Selah Blessed are those whose strength is in you, who have set their hearts on pilgrimage. As they pass through the Valley of Baca, they make it a place of springs; the autumn rains also cover it with pools. They go from strength to strength, till each appears before God in Zion."

Thought Question:  What do you learn from these verses about why the Psalmist yearned for God?

 

 

"Even the sparrow has found a home, and the swallow a nest for herself, where she may have her young— a place near your altar, O Lord Almighty, my King and my God."  "Sparrows represent those who feel they are not worth anything.  Now, says this psalmist, even the man or woman who feels insignificant, finds in God a home, a place of warmth and security, a place where life is fulfilled." "Taken from Folk Psalms of Faith by Ray Stedman.  Copyright 1973 by Regal Books."  Jesus said the following of "sparrows," so that we would know that each of us, though we may feel unimportant, are important to God.  "Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from the will of your Father. And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows." (Matthew 10:29-31) See also Psalm 102:7

"A custom, existing among several nations of antiquity, is deemed capable of illustrating the present passage.  For birds, whose nests chanced to be built on the temples, or within the limits of them, were not allowed to be driven away, much less be killed, but found there a secure and undisturbed abode." "Charles Spurgeon quotes William Keatinge Clay."  The Psalmist appears to be yearning for the same easy access to the temple of God that these birds had to the temple of God.  "Even the sparrow has found a home and the swallow a nest for herself . . . a place near your altar."

"O Lord Almighty, my King and my God."  The Psalmist desired to draw near to the Mightiest One in the universe and to be protected by His strength.  When thunder explodes outside a home, a small child will often draw near to his or her dad—into his strength and love.  So, when we feel weak and insignificant, we can yearn for our "King" and "God"—to draw ourself into His strength and love.

"Blessed are those who dwell in your house; they are ever praising you. Selah"  "Selah"—the Psalm calls us to pause and reflect on the fact that those "who dwell" in God's "house" "are ever praising" Him.  What has been our time of greatest happiness on this earth?  Certainly, it was a time when we were most grateful to God and most awed by who He is.  Our happiest time was when we also were most filled with praise toward God.  Why does the Psalmist yearn for God?  It is because he recognizes that it is in closeness to God that he will find his greatest joy and his most fulfilling happiness.  Happiness comes from moving away from selfishness and toward God—toward His purity and His ways.

The prophet Habakkuk was perplexed because it appeared to him that God was tolerating "injustice" and "wrong." (Habakkuk 1:3)  But because of God's responses to his cries, he concluded the following: "'But the Lord is in his holy temple; let all the earth be silent before him.'" (Habakkuk 2:20)  If we could be transported at this moment right into God's presence, and we saw all around us the angels praising Him and we saw His full glory, what would happen?  Certainly, all concerns about a world out of control would be gone.  We would know that there is really nothing out of control, for this God has everything under control!  All that would be left would be for us to praise God.  The Psalmist yearns to have this experience.  And, we also can yearn to have this experience.  But, though, we do not see His glory at this moment, is not what I just described true right now?  So, by faith, we can take this opportunity to praise this God!  "Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy . . . " (1 Peter 1:8)  "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)

"Blessed are those whose strength is in you, who have set their hearts on pilgrimage.The Jews were to make pilgrimages to the tabernacle in Jerusalem and later to the temple in Jerusalem three times a year for God's three great Festivals—the Feasts of Passover, Pentecost, and Tabernacles.  As they were traveling to Jerusalem, they were symbolically traveling closer to God and His strength.  There are many verses in the Bible that promise us that God gives His strength to His people.  Here are some of them:  "But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth." (Acts 1:8)  "But he said to me, 'My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.' Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me." (2 Corinthians 12:9)  "I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being . . . " (Ephesians 3:16)  "I can do everything through him who gives me strength." (Philippians 4:13)  "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)  Happy are those who in their weakness are experiencing His strength.

"As they pass through the Valley of Baca, they make it a place of springs; the autumn rains also cover it with pools."  "Baca means either 'weeping' or 'balsam trees' (common in valleys).  The place is unknown and may be figurative (see 23:4) for arid stretches the pilgrims had to traverse." "NIV Study Bible."

The meaning is clear to the Christian pilgrim.  Following Christ takes us through times of deep trouble—some arid valleys.  How can we get through these times and reach our destination?  It is only a close reliance on God that can turn these arid times into "a place of springs" where the "autumn rains" water them well.

Many of us can look back and realize that it was in the difficult and painful times that our walk with God grew deeper and more real to us.  In times of clear and easy sailing, we did not really need to cry out to God.  But in the dark times, we needed His strength every moment.  As a result, we remember each help He gave and every verse in the Bible that we clung to in those times.

"They go from strength to strength, till each appears before God in Zion.Each of us who are Christians are on a pilgrimage that will eventually end in the presence of God forevermore.  In the mean time, we need His strength to face the evils we face each day in this world ruled by the evil one.  "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." (Ephesians 6:10-12)  Because we have an opponent who has an evil army with supernatural strength and cunning, we need God's help and strength again and again, so that we will not be devoured by our enemy. See I Peter 5:8-9 and Luke 22:31-32

3. His prayer (84:8-9)
"Hear my prayer, O Lord God Almighty; listen to me, O God of Jacob. Selah Look upon our shield, O God; look with favor on your anointed one."

Thought Question:  What does the Psalmist mean by "Look upon our shield" and "look with favor on your anointed one"?

 

 

"Hear my prayer, O Lord God Almighty; listen to me, O God of Jacob. Selah"  Most Christians have had a time when they desperately needed God to hear their prayer.  It can be a prayer of concern for one's child or for a family member.  It can be prayer at a time when the future is very uncertain.  Here, the Psalmist makes a heart cry that he would experience a closer and more real fellowship with God.  "My soul yearns, even faints, for the courts of the Lord; my heart and my flesh cry out for the living God." (Psalm 84:2)

What an admirable request to make to God.  How will He respond to such a prayer?  The Parable of the Prodigal Son describes what God will do if we yearn to be close to Him.  "So he got up and went to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him." (Luke 15:20)

The "Lord God Almighty" and the "God of Jacob" is also a Father.  He is the Father who loved us to much that He gave His Son for us. See John 3:16

"Look upon our shield, O God; look with favor on your anointed one.We are to pray in Jesus' name.  We can only come to God because Jesus opened up the way for us to come to God through His blood.  He is the Mediator between God and us.  "For there is one God and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus . . . " (1 Timothy 2:5)  The Psalmist asks God to look at the One who protected Him and made it possible for him to draw near to Him.

The High Priest of Israel was the "anointed one" who made it possible through the blood offered on the annual Day of Atonement for Israel to draw near to God. See Leviticus 16  The King of Israel was also anointed with oil symbolizing God's anointing him with His presence in his role as King.  He was anointed so that he could protect and watch over Israel as God's representative.  Jesus is anointed by the Holy Spirit as King and as our High Priest.  He protects us and makes it possible for us to boldly approach God.  "Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has gone through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet was without sin. 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 4:14-16)  "(for the law made nothing perfect), and a better hope is introduced, by which we draw near to God." (Hebrews 7:19)  "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)

4. Why he prays (84:10-12)
"Better is one day in your courts than a thousand elsewhere; I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God than dwell in the tents of the wicked. For the Lord God is a sun and shield; the Lord bestows favor and honor; no good thing does he withhold from those whose walk is blameless. O Lord Almighty, blessed is the man who trusts in you."

Thought Question:  In what ways do these verses express what is in your heart?

 

 

"Better is one day in your courts than a thousand elsewhere;"  Why does the Psalmist desire so greatly "for the courts of the Lord"? (84:2)  It is because he has come to recognize that "one day" in close fellowship with God is better than years of life without that close fellowship.

"I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God than dwell in the tents of the wicked."  The "tents of the wicked" are not the little "tents" we use for camping, but the luxurious "tents" of the very rich of that time.  The Psalmist would rather have a poor position in God's house than live in luxury with the wicked. 

He would rather have the lowest position in God's family than the highest position in the world's system.  Certainly, every Christian would agree.  Would you rather be a godless president of the United States or the lowliest Christian in the world?  Being a member of God's family far exceeds the highest position that the world offers.  Satan offered Jesus the world; He chose to die on the cross for us.

"For the Lord God is a sun and shield;"  In a dark world, we need the light of the sun.  In a cold world, we need the warmth of the sun.  What would it be like without the sun?  Life would not exist; we would not exist.  God is our sun in a spiritually dark and spiritually cold world.

In a world full of hate and danger, we need protection.  Satan and his forces would delight to completely destroy us.  Why has the church prevailed and continued to see the birth of thousands of new Christians?  It is because God has been a shield to us, warding off Satan's attacks. See Luke 22:31-32; Ephesians 6:10-18; II Corinthians 10:4-6; Psalms 7:10, 18:2, 30, 33:20, 59:11, 91:4, 115:9-11, 119:114

"the Lord bestows favor and honor; no good thing does he withhold from those whose walk is blameless."  God rewards those who seek to walk in His ways.  "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)

"O Lord Almighty, blessed is the man who trusts in you."The word 'blessed' occurs three times in the psalm, once in each stanza.  It is not the usual Hebrew word for bless, the one used by God, but a broader word meaning 'happy,' a condition invariably brought on by close communion with God.  The word opens Psalm 1 and is found in the close of Psalm 2." "Taken from Psalm Volume 2 Songs of Dedication by Robert Alden.  Copyright 1975 by Moody Press."

Truly happy is the man "who trusts" in God.  The Psalmist says this to God, thereby expressing to God his acknowledgement that He is the source of true happiness.

PSALM 88:  Under a Dark Cloud

INTRODUCTION:  We have all seen the happy face with the big smile.  What I have learned over the years is that even those with perpetual smiles are not always smiling on the inside.  There are dark and difficult times in this godless and cursed world that is ruled by the evil one.  There are times when we do not feel like smiling at all.  In this Psalm, the Psalmist cries out to God during a dark and difficult time in his life.  It is a Psalm that we can go to in our dark and difficult times; for it is helpful for us to know that we are not the only person on earth that has cried out to God during a very dark time.  Here, the Psalmist's dark time came when those whom he had considered to be his friends turned on him.  Jesus Himself experienced the betrayal of Judas, the denials of Peter, and the abandonment by His closest followers when He needed them most.  He also cried out to the Father at this dark time.

The Psalmist's name is Heman, one of the leaders of David's worship team. See I Chronicles 6:33, 15:17, 16:41-42

Spurgeon says the following about this Psalm: "Assuredly, if there was a song of sorrow and a Psalm of sadness, this is one." "Taken from The Treasury of David by Charles Spurgeon."

1. His heart for God (88:1-2)
"A song. A psalm of the Sons of Korah. For the director of music. According to mahalath leannoth. A maskil of Heman the Ezrahite. O Lord, the God who saves me, day and night I cry out before you. May my prayer come before you; turn your ear to my cry."

Thought Question:  Whom have you known that was like Heman—a man who had a heart for God, even though he or she had a very difficult life?

 

 

"O Lord, the God who saves me, day and night I cry out before you. May my prayer come before you; turn your ear to my cry."  Because there was no end to his troubles, "Heman" cried out to God "day and night."  He asked God to "turn" His "ear to" his "cry" because his dire circumstances had not changed.

A very difficult period of time for a believer is the time between our cries to God and the time when God responds to our cries.  Someone said to me once that when God closes one door, He opens another.  The problem is that dark tunnel in between.  Sometimes, God responds to our cries for help in a short time, but often it is a long period of time before we see the answers to our prayers.  We do not see the wisdom of God that guides His timing; so for us, it is as if God is not responding at all to our prayers.

2. His despair (88:3-5)
"For my soul is full of trouble and my life draws near the grave. I am counted among those who go down to the pit; I am like a man without strength. I am set apart with the dead, like the slain who lie in the grave, whom you remember no more, who are cut off from your care."

Thought Question:  Why do you believe someone could feel as low as "Heman" felt?

 

 

"For my soul is full of trouble and my life draws near the grave."  "Like a vessel full to the brink with vinegar, my heart is filled with adversity till it can hold no more . . Trouble in the soul is the soul of trouble." "Taken from The Treasury of David by Charles Spurgeon." 

"and my life draws near the grave."  Some of the greatest heroes of the faith had moments when the circumstances of life seemed more than they could bear, and they felt that they could not go on.  "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)  "Oh, that I might have my request, that God would grant what I hope for, that God would be willing to crush me, to let loose his hand and cut me off!" (Job 6:8-9)  "I despise my life; I would not live forever. Let me alone; my days have no meaning." (Job 7:16)  "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)  "Why did I ever come out of the womb to see trouble and sorrow and to end my days in shame?" (Jeremiah 20:18)  "When the sun rose, God provided a scorching east wind, and the sun blazed on Jonah’s head so that he grew faint. He wanted to die, and said, 'It would be better for me to die than to live.'" (Jonah 4:8)  "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." (II Corinthians 1:8-9)

"I am counted among those who go down to the pit; I am like a man without strength. I am set apart with the dead, like the slain who lie in the grave, whom you remember no more, who are cut off from your care.Does God allow men and women who seek to follow Him and who trust in Him to suffer as the Psalmist was suffering?  The Bible describes people of God who suffered greatly.  Consider Joseph in the years before he became the number two rule in Egypt.  Consider the injustices that were done to him and the years he languished in prison with the prospect that he would die there.  The faith chapter in the Bible ends in this way: ". . . Others were tortured and refused to be released, so that they might gain a better resurrection. Some faced jeers and flogging, while still others were chained and put in prison. They were stoned; they were sawed in two; they were put to death by the sword. They went about in sheepskins and goatskins, destitute, persecuted and mistreated— the world was not worthy of them. They wandered in deserts and mountains, and in caves and holes in the ground. These were all commended for their faith, yet none of them received what had been promised. God had planned something better for us so that only together with us would they be made perfect." (Hebrews 11:35b-40)  Then, consider those who have died in prisons in communist China, in communist Russia, and in Islamic countries.  God never promised that following Him would be trouble free.

In these times, we can feel all alone, abandoned, and forgotten: "like the slain who lie in the grave, whom you remember no more."  "Heman" felt that he was even "cut off" from God's "care."

"This Psalm is unique in having so many different words for grave and related concepts: the Hebrew word for sheol (grave, or hell) (v.3); 'pit' (v.4); 'the dead' (vv. 5,10); and 'the grave' (v.5) (not the same Hebrew word sheol; cf. v. 11); verse 6 has 'pit" again with the adjective 'lowest' plus 'dark places' (cf. v.18) and 'deeps'; verse 11 has 'Destruction' (Heb, abaddon as in Rev 9:11); in verse 12 is an alternate form of the word 'dark' and the poignant epithet, 'the land of forgetfulness ' (ASV)." "Taken from Psalm Volume 2 Songs of Dedication by Robert Alden.  Copyright 1975 by Moody Press."

3. His loneliness (88:6-8a)
"You have put me in the lowest pit, in the darkest depths. Your wrath lies heavily upon me; you have overwhelmed me with all your waves. Selah You have taken from me my closest friends and have made me repulsive to them."

Thought Question;  Do you believe that what he felt was true or was not true?  Please explain your answer.

 

 

"You have put me in the lowest pit, in the darkest depths. Your wrath lies heavily upon me; you have overwhelmed me with all your waves. Selah"  "Heman" felt separated from God.  When he thought of God, all he could see was an angry face.  His words remind me of Paul's cry in Romans 7:24, and of Jesus' cry in Psalm 22:1:  "What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death?" (Romans 7:24)  "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?" (Psalm 22:1)  There is nothing that is more troubling than to feel that God is angry and displeased with us.  And it is infinitely terrible to feel that one has somehow sinned to the degree that it cannot be forgiven.  John Bunyan's book, Grace Abounding to the Chief of Sinners describes a time in his life when he felt that he had committed a sin that removed him from God's grace.  He, at that time, understood the anguish that Heman is describing here.  He, after that, wrote Pilgrim's Progress, possibly the second most popular book of all time after the Bible.

We speak of going through a low time.  "Heman" describes himself as being at the lowest low: "You have put me in the lowest pit, in the darkest depths."  He was in the depths of despair because he felt that he had earned God's wrath and could only expect God's wrath.  It was a very dark tunnel with no hope of a light at the end of that tunnel.  Naomi, in the book of Ruth, felt this way after the deaths of her husband and two sons.  "'Don’t call me Naomi,' she told them. 'Call me Mara, because the Almighty has made my life very bitter. I went away full, but the Lord has brought me back empty. Why call me Naomi? The Lord has afflicted me; the Almighty has brought misfortune upon me.'" (Ruth 1:20-21)

"you have overwhelmed me with all your waves."  "Heman" saw troubles sent to him by God as coming on him and rolling over him like one overpowering wave after another.

"You have taken from me my closest friends and have made me repulsive to them."  "If ever we need friends, it is in the dreary hour of despondency and the weary time of bodily sickness." "Taken from The Treasury of David by Charles Spurgeon."  But when "Heman" needed his friends, it appeared to him that they found him to be "repulsive."  He believed that he was like a leper to them.  "Most friends require but a small excuse for turning their backs on the afflicted." "Spurgeon."

So, "Heman," found that his time of great despair was also a time of great loneliness.  What drove me to Jesus Christ so many years ago was the realization that all men were only interested in themselves.  The hardest realization of all was that I was just like everyone else.  At that time, I experienced a great sense of loneliness in a world full of people who were totally self-absorbed.  When God's Spirit revealed to me how much God loves me, I was beautifully drawn to seek the One who really did care for me.  It is in times of deep anguish and loneliness that we are closer to God than at times when our needs are small; for it is in these times that we are most desirous of experiencing God's presence.

4. His feelings of futility (88:8b-12)
"I am confined and cannot escape; my eyes are dim with grief. I call to you, O Lord, every day; I spread out my hands to you. Do you show your wonders to the dead? Do those who are dead rise up and praise you? Selah Is your love declared in the grave, your faithfulness in Destruction? Are your wonders known in the place of darkness, or your righteous deeds in the land of oblivion?"

Thought Question:  What do you believe could have caused "Heman" to be in such a hopeless state?

 

 

"I am confined and cannot escape; my eyes are dim with grief."  He seems to feel like someone would feel on death row.  Why does he feel so condemned by God?  "Heman" does not tell us.  John Bunyan became very aware of his carnal desires.  He could not believe that such a wretched person could ever be loved and accepted by God.  Rejection by "Heman's" friends could have led to "Heman" feeling that God felt toward him as they felt toward him.

"I call to you, O Lord, every day; I spread out my hands to you."  Here, we see that he was not running away from God, but he was running to God.  Nevertheless, he felt that his prayers were futile—God had not responded to his prayers and he did not believe that He would respond.

Can you recall a time or times in your life when you called out to God, but did not believe that He was listening?  Because this Psalm is in the Bible, we can know that God does understand when we feel this way.  God does respond to the brokenhearted, even though He does not always respond to our impassioned prayers like we would like Him to.  His purposes and ways are far beyond us—as Job discovered.  "The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit." (Psalm 34:18)  "He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds." (Psalm 147:3)  "The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me, because the Lord has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners," (Isaiah 61:1)

"Do you show your wonders to the dead? Do those who are dead rise up and praise you? Selah"  "Heman's" answer is that God cannot raise someone from "the dead."  His focus has definitely narrowed to a very human perspective.  We see gravestones and there is definitely a sense of finality about them.  These people died, they are gone, and that is it.  But, that is not it.  God has  raised people from the dead and He will raise people from the dead.  In fact, the grave is not the end.  Everyone in the grave is to rise to either stand before God's judgment throne or to be with Him forever. See Revelation 20;11-15; John ll:25; I Thessalonians 4:13-18

"Is your love declared in the grave, your faithfulness in Destruction?"  "Heman" feels like he is beyond help.  Even God cannot rescue someone who deserves "Destruction."  He feels that his doom is sure.

"Are your wonders known in the place of darkness, or your righteous deeds in the land of oblivion?He feels that all that is left for him is eternal separation from God.  What good are God's wonders to him when his doom is already determined?  Is "Heman" in heaven right now?  Or, is he in the place of eternal torment?  Though he felt God had rejected him just as men had rejected him, God responds to such a needy cry as "Heman" makes here.  "Heman" acknowledges that he deserves God's judgment.  This is the type of cry that God most responds to.  "'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)  "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 51:3-12)  "But he gives us more grace. That is why Scripture says: 'God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.' 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. 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 4:6-10)

5. But he will not give up (88:13)
"But I cry to you for help, O Lord; in the morning my prayer comes before you."

Thought Question:  What does this verse tell you about "Heman"?

 

 

"But I cry to you for help, O Lord; in the morning my prayer comes before you.How did "Heman's" day start?  It started with a plea that God would "help" him.  "Heman" knows that there is only One who can help him.  Again, he does not run away from God, but he runs to Him.  And, it started in the "morning." 

6. He wonders why God has forsaken him (88:14)
"Why, O Lord, do you reject me and hide your face from me?"

Thought Question:  Have there been times when it appeared that God was hiding His face from you?

 

 

"Why, O Lord, do you reject me and hide your face from me?" See Psalm 13:1, 30:7, 44:24, 104:29  There are times when we feel like we are on the crest of God's wave, moving forward with the power and love of God.  There are other times, though, when we feel like we are under that wave—being crushed by it.  "Heman" was experiencing an "under-the-wave" time.

7. His darkness continues (88:15-18)
"From my youth I have been afflicted and close to death; I have suffered your terrors and am in despair. Your wrath has swept over me; your terrors have destroyed me. All day long they surround me like a flood; they have completely engulfed me. You have taken my companions and loved ones from me; the darkness is my closest friend."

Thought Question:  Does this Psalm draw you to God or repulse you?  Please explain your answer.

 

 

"From my youth I have been afflicted and close to death; I have suffered your terrors and am in despair."  Martyn Lloyd-Jones wrote a book titled, Spiritual Depression.  His purpose in writing the book was to help its readers to be delivered from spiritual depression so that non-believers would be drawn to God by our joy.  "Heman" appears to have been the very opposite of a good testimony of how God's love had led him to experience an abundant life.  Why is this Psalm even in the Bible?  We have a style of music called the blues and a style of music called soul music.  Those who are going through times of deep sorrow find these styles of music strangely comforting.  Suffering and dark times are a part of life.  In this Psalm, God has provided us with the soul music of the Psalms.  When we are going through the dark times, we find in this Psalm someone who would have understood our grief.  Also, we can know that God understands. See also Psalms 42 and 43

William Cowper, the hymn writer, was a man of a melancholy temperament who experienced dark moods, yet God used him to write hymns that are still sung today.  For example, he wrote, "There is a Fountain" and "O for a Closer Walk with God." 

Also, God understands our anguish, for He has experienced this anguish Himself.  "The Lord saw how great man’s wickedness on the earth had become, and that every inclination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil all the time. The Lord was grieved that he had made man on the earth, and his heart was filled with pain." (Genesis 6:5-6)  "Then Jesus went with his disciples to a place called Gethsemane, and he said to them, 'Sit here while I go over there and pray.' 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 26:36-38)  "And being in anguish, he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground." (Luke 22:44)

"Your wrath has swept over me; your terrors have destroyed me."  We do not know why some of God's children go through great troubles and others do not.  I have wondered why the apostle James died as a martyr at the beginning of the early church; whereas, the other two members of the inner three of the apostles, John and Peter, had long ministries.  Some things are not explained to us.  Some Christians are afflicted with serious sickness and others live out their lives in good health.  It appears that "Heman" was one who experienced more than his share of sorrows.  The book of Job provides us with some insights into the secret reasons for a righteous man's troubles.

"All day long they surround me like a flood; they have completely engulfed me."  "Heman's" troubles seeped like water into every crevasse of his life.  He was completely overwhelmed by them.

 "You have taken my companions and loved ones from me; the darkness is my closest friend.This may be the reason behind his deep gloom; he was estranged from those he had once felt close to.  During Job's sorrow, his friends only added to his sorrow; and we learn from God's conclusion that their counsel was false and hurtful rather than helpful.  Paul says the following of his friends.  "You know that everyone in the province of Asia has deserted me, including Phygelus and Hermogenes." (2 Timothy 1:15)  "for Demas, because he loved this world, has deserted me and has gone to Thessalonica." (2 Timothy 4:10a)  "At my first defense, no one came to my support, but everyone deserted me. May it not be held against them." (2 Timothy 4:16)  When you have lived a long life as I have lived, you learn that true friends are both rare and very precious. And you learn that trials often separate the Demases from the Onesiphoruses.  "May the Lord show mercy to the household of Onesiphorus, because he often refreshed me and was not ashamed of my chains. On the contrary, when he was in Rome, he searched hard for me until he found me. May the Lord grant that he will find mercy from the Lord on that day! You know very well in how many ways he helped me in Ephesus." (2 Timothy 1:16-18)

PSALM 90:  An Eternal Perspective on Life

INTRODUCTION:  Most of the time, we think little about the fact that our normal 70+ years on this planet is just a very small fraction of the time that this earth has existed.  We also are just a small link in many links in a chart of generations of people who have lived.  One of my sisters came across a genealogy of the Corys.  There was a long list of Corys with the dates of their births and deaths.  At the end of this list was Larry Cory with the date of my birth, but an empty spot for the date of my death.  How can this type of perspective on our life affect the way we look at our life and the way that we live?  The Psalmist helps us to gain an eternal perspective on our life.  This Psalm may forever adjust the way you look at life as you contemplate with Moses an accurate perspective on our lives.

According to the title of Psalm 90, the author of the Psalm was Moses.

1. God's eternal existence (90:1-2)
"A prayer of Moses the man of God. Lord, you have been our dwelling place throughout all generations. Before the mountains were born or you brought forth the earth and the world, from everlasting to everlasting you are God."

Thought Question:  How do these words help you to realize the greatness of God?

 

 

"Lord, you have been our dwelling place throughout all generations."  In what way has God been our "dwelling place"?  We would not exist if He did not provide us with Himself as our "dwelling place."  "'For in him we live and move and have our being.' As some of your own poets have said, 'We are his offspring.'" (Acts 17:28)  We often feel so self-sufficient, but the very atoms of our body are enabled to continue to exist because God empowers them to do so.  Paul explains that Jesus, as God's eternal Son, was the Creator and He is the sustainer of our lives.  "He is before all things, and in him all things hold together." (Colossians 1:17)  Men feel they are independent of God, but the truth is that it is He that allows them to continue to exist.  Every moment, we are dependent on His grace for our very existence.

"Before the mountains were born or you brought forth the earth and the world, from everlasting to everlasting you are God."  Moses moves us back in time to the formation of "the mountains"; then he moves further back in time to when the world was created; and then he moves still further back to "everlasting."  During all that time God has existed.

2. An eternal perspective on man (90:3-11)
"You turn men back to dust, saying, 'Return to dust, O sons of men.' For a thousand years in your sight are like a day that has just gone by, or like a watch in the night. 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. We are consumed by your anger and terrified by your indignation. You have set our iniquities before you, our secret sins in the light of your presence. All our days pass away under your wrath; we finish our years with a moan. The length of our days is seventy years— or eighty, if we have the strength; yet their span is but trouble and sorrow, for they quickly pass, and we fly away. Who knows the power of your anger? For your wrath is as great as the fear that is due you."

Thought Question:  In what ways are these verses helpful in properly humbling us?

 

 

"You turn men back to dust, saying, 'Return to dust, O sons of men.'"  God could have determined that our bodies would not grow old and die.  But in His wisdom, He determined that they would "return to" the "dust."  He has set a boundary line for how long we live on this earth.  God, not us, is in charge of how long we live.  We have lengthened our lives somewhat; but as we have extended our lives in these very frail and weak bodies, our last days are often painful and disease-ridden.  This has been more apparent to me during the time that I am writing these words, for my 95 year-old father is living with us. See Genesis 3:19

"For a thousand years in your sight are like a day that has just gone by, or like a watch in the night."  We live 70+ years, but to the eternal God, a "thousand years" is "like a day."  Or it is like a "night watch."  In other words, for the God who has existed for eternity, a mere "thousand years" by comparison to eternity is a very short time.  I believe that this explains our impatience with God.  We want immediate answers to our prayers, yet God thinks in terms of long periods of time and He thinks of what will ultimately bring the best results for all men.

Peter refers to this verse in II Peter 3:8-9:  "But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day. The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance."  Peter is asking his readers to realize that what is slow to them is not slow to God.  Two thousand of our years is like two days to God.  In light of eternity, the whole time that life has existed is a very short time.

"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."  Moses is describing grass in the hot desert area that he knew that was green in the morning but by night was dried out and dead.  So, men are here for a very short time and then we are gone.  As I write these words, I am 71 years old.  Many of the famous people of my younger years are dead and gone.  Watching an old movie brings me to the realization that those who are on the screen are mostly, if not all, dead and gone.  God lives on, while we come and go like the grass that came and went each day in their desert area.

One of the commentators I refer to often was my first pastor as a new Christian.  He, Ray Stedman, is now gone.  I am reading, right now, his life story titled, Portrait of Integrity.

"We are consumed by your anger and terrified by your indignation."  In the fairy tales, the prince and his bride ride off into the sunset to live happily ever after.  We can think that once we become Christians, that our life will be like that.  But, we live in a cursed world, ruled by sin and Satan.  The curse on this earth is God's judgment on mankind and Satan for our sin.  "The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of men who suppress the truth by their wickedness . . . " (Romans 1:18)  If God removed the curse on this world, sin would run rampant.  And, so, we daily experience life in this God-cursed 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) 

This sin-cursed world is our fault, but God is using the pain that we are experiencing to draw men into a relationship with Him.  All that is occurring here, including the presence of Satan, is meant to cause us to to be repulsed by evil  and to motivate us to pursue the only One who is good.

"You have set our iniquities before you, our secret sins in the light of your presence."  The reason for all the calamities of life are not due to the inevitable accidents of nature, for God could have given us a world without defect—as He did at the beginning.  "God saw all that he had made, and it was very good. And there was evening, and there was morning—the sixth day." (Genesis 1:31)  But the defects, calamities, and troubles we all experience are due to God's anger at our sins.  He sees them all.  He even knows our secret and deep sinful motives. See Romans 2:12-16

"All our days pass away under your wrath; we finish our years with a moan.We live our lives affected by our own sins and we are also affected by the sins of those who lived before us.  So, we also live constantly experiencing the effects of God's anger at man's sins.

In Galatians 6:7-8, Paul tells us about the effect of our sin.  "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)  Our only hope to avoid the wrath of God for our sins is to confess them and to seek to turn from them.  "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." (1 John 1:9-2:2)

"The length of our days is seventy years— or eighty, if we have the strength; yet their span is but trouble and sorrow, for they quickly pass, and we fly away."  An evidence of God's wrath for our sin is that we do not live very long.  God is eternal, but our lives are sin-shortened to 70 to 80 years long.  And, then, Moses says that even these years are "but trouble and sorrow."  Even with all of our medical progress, we have lengthened our life spans only slightly longer than the "seventy" "or eighty" years that Moses gives here; but we still have many diseases and physical problems that give us much "trouble and sorrow."  But, in many third world countries the life span is even shorter than the life span that Moses gives here.

"and we fly away."  One of our closest friends died a few years ago.  At the graveside part of the funeral, another close friend of him and his wife—a lady—sang the song "I'll Fly Away."  I was deeply moved with emotion as she sang, for my friend did "fly away" and was gone.   He lived a few years beyond "seventy" and flew away.

"Who knows the power of your anger? For your wrath is as great as the fear that is due you.We have become accustomed to the world we live in, and do not see that the death and all that is harsh and not good is due to God's wrath on our world.  There have been times when God has shown in dramatic and unmistakable ways His anger against sin.  The earth opened up and swallowed Korah, Dathan, and Abiram. See Numbers 16:1-35  Another time when God's anger burned out dramatically is described in Numbers 11: "Now a wind went out from the Lord and drove quail in from the sea. It brought them down all around the camp to about three feet above the ground, as far as a day’s walk in any direction. All that day and night and all the next day the people went out and gathered quail. No one gathered less than ten homers. Then they spread them out all around the camp. But while the meat was still between their teeth and before it could be consumed, the anger of the Lord burned against the people, and he struck them with a severe plague. Therefore the place was named Kibroth Hattaavah, because there they buried the people who had craved other food. From Kibroth Hattaavah the people traveled to Hazeroth and stayed there." (Numbers 11:31-35)  Ananias and Sapphira died instantly when they sought to deceive the early church.  "When Ananias heard this, he fell down and died. And great fear seized all who heard what had happened." (Acts 5:5)  "At that moment she fell down at his feet and died. Then the young men came in and, finding her dead, carried her out and buried her beside her husband." (Acts 5:10)

We do not always realize God's hatred toward sin, but we do see many evidences all around us in this sin-cursed world of God's hatred of sin.  But, nevertheless, we have not seen the full "power" of God's "anger" toward sin yet.  "For your wrath is as great as the fear that is due you.This Psalm, as well as any other part of the Bible helps us toward being in fear and reverence toward God, His holiness, and His hatred of evil.

3. Teach us to live with an eternal perspective on your holiness (90:12)
"Teach us to number our days aright, that we may gain a heart of wisdom."

We have all heard of someone who nearly died and who has since that time looked at each day of his or her life as being precious to him or her.  It has been said that a teenager can't see beyond lunch.  But, as we grow in wisdom, we will begin to realize that our lives are short.  We will not live forever in these bodies.  They will grow old and our physical life will come to an end.  What, then, shall we do with this life?  We should seek after God's desire for how we should use our days.  Godly character is the highest goal God has for us, for only then can we bring glory to Him.  And He alone can enable us to be like Him.  "But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well." (Matthew 6:33) 

"that we may gain a heart of wisdom."What is a heart of wisdom?  Well, it is a realistic outlook on life.  It is facing life the way it is, and fully reckoning with the relationships of man to God." "Taken from Folk Psalms of Faith by Ray Stedman.  Copyright 1973 by Regal Books."  In Alcoholics Anonymous they describe the type of thinking that results in the recovering alcoholic going back to drinking as "stinking thinking."  It is a foolish type thinking that does not look at life realistically.  It is the very opposite of gaining a heart of wisdom.  We need to see our sin as it is.  We need to see what is holy and what is putrid.  We need to see what is wise and what is foolish.  We need to see that which will have a destructive effect on us and others.  We need to grow in this holy and wise way.  "But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil." (Hebrews 5:14)

4. Have compassion on us (90:13-17)
"Relent, O Lord! How long will it be? Have compassion on your servants. Satisfy us in the morning with your unfailing love, that we may sing for joy and be glad all our days. Make us glad for as many days as you have afflicted us, for as many years as we have seen trouble. May your deeds be shown to your servants, your splendor to their children. May the favor of the Lord our God rest upon us; establish the work of our hands for us— yes, establish the work of our hands."

Thought Question:  Is this an appropriate prayer for a Christian?  Please explain your answer.

 

 

"Relent, O Lord! How long will it be? Have compassion on your servants."  Here, Moses realizes that the people of Israel deserved judgment and not mercy.  But he also knew that God is a God of compassion.  He cries out for God to be merciful to them.

This prayer may have been uttered while Israel was wandering in the wilderness under God's discipline for their sin and their unbelief.  "For I do not want you to be ignorant of the fact, brothers, that our forefathers were all under the cloud and that they all passed through the sea. They were all baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea. They all ate the same spiritual food and drank the same spiritual drink; for they drank from the spiritual rock that accompanied them, and that rock was Christ. Nevertheless, God was not pleased with most of them; their bodies were scattered over the desert. Now these things occurred as examples to keep us from setting our hearts on evil things as they did. Do not be idolaters, as some of them were; as it is written: 'The people sat down to eat and drink and got up to indulge in pagan revelry.' We should not commit sexual immorality, as some of them did—and in one day twenty-three thousand of them died. We should not test the Lord, as some of them did—and were killed by snakes. 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 10:1-11)

Moses, in these verses in this Psalm, may have been crying out for God to be compassionate on them and to end their wilderness wanderings.  We also can cry out to God to be compassionate to us during a time of wilderness discipline that God is taking us through. See I Corinthians 11:27-32

"Relent, O Lord! How long will it be? Have compassion on your servants. Satisfy us in the morning with your unfailing love, that we may sing for joy and be glad all our days."  God's "love" is "unfailing."  Someone has said that there is nothing we can do to make God love us more and nothing that we can do to make Him love us less.  Jesus was angry at the hypocrisy of the Pharisees, but His heart was also full of love for them.  "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)  The Bible tells us that God longs to be gracious to us and that He yearns to be compassionate to us.  "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)  Just as most parents continue to love their children even when they are making bad choices, so God continues to love us even when we make sinful choices.

"that we may sing for joy and be glad all our days."  Our greatest joys and that which will bring us the greatest happiness is when we know that we are in God's favor.  Then, we can "sing for joy and be glad all our days."  When Israel left the wilderness and when they entered the Promised Land, it was a time of great joy.  God desires to deliver us from sinful and harmful patterns and to direct us into a truly abundant  life.  When His time of discipline is over and we are then able to experience His life in a new and fuller way, it is a time for great rejoicing.

"Make us glad for as many days as you have afflicted us, for as many years as we have seen trouble."  As I look back on my more than forty years as a Christian, there have been times of struggle and hardship as well as times of great joy.  Luis Palau states that "an effective, fruitful Christian has to go through an agonizing progression of thrilling blessings and heartbreaking failures. 
There is no way to speed up the process . . .we are so stubborn, so rebellious, so self-confident that the Lord has to teach us to face ourselves, not as others see us, but as he sees us.  Only then do we realize in abject humility how much we need Him." "Taken from Walk on the Water, Pete! by Luis Palau.  copyright 1981 by Multnomah Press, chapter 4, p.45." 

Moses prays that God will be compassionate and bless them for as many days as He scourged and disciplined them.  "I will repay you for the years the locusts have eaten— the great locust and the young locust, the other locusts and the locust swarm— my great army that I sent among you. You will have plenty to eat, until you are full, and you will praise the name of the Lord your God, who has worked wonders for you; never again will my people be shamed." (Joel 2:25-26)

"May your deeds be shown to your servants, your splendor to their children."  Moses may be praying that God would reveal His glory to those who would enter the Promised Land.  He was leading a nation that would continue to exist long after he was gone.  He would not even be allowed to go into the Promised Land.  What we do should always be aimed at having an effect beyond ourselves and beyond our time.  We should desire that our children and others' children would be so influenced by us and by our prayers that the baton of serving God will continue on after we have gone.  We should also do what Moses does here—pray for the next generation.

"May the favor of the Lord our God rest upon us; establish the work of our hands for us— yes, establish the work of our hands."  Moses asks that God will favor what he and others have done in their service to God.  He was favored by God, for in the eyes even of the world outside of the church, Moses is seen as a man of God and as a hero.  The Jews and Christians both honor him.  And God honored him in a special way during Jesus' life on earth.  For, it was Elijah and Moses who appeared with Jesus on the Mount of Transfiguration. See Matthew 17:1-13

"establish the work of our hands for us— yes, establish the work of our hands."  Each of us should pray this prayer—that the Christian service that we have done and will do will endure and have an enduring effect for good.  If you are reading these words, part of my service of God has endured.  I have been reading and have been benefitting from the work on the Psalms by men who are no longer alive—Ray Stedman, Charles Spurgeon, John Calvin, Jonathan Edwards, and others.  Their work has endured and has blessed me.  I hope and pray that my work will also bless you.  May your work also bless others.

PSALM 91:  Security Inside God's Protection

INTRODUCTION:  This is a Psalm that many have used to minister to people in the hospital.  But, it is also a helpful Psalm for any of us when our circumstances are fearful—when it seems that our problems are greater than what we are able to handle alone.  We all need God to help us.  We need to know that He is on our side.  This is a comforting Psalm for every Christian who has a heart to seek God and to seek His protection.

There is no title to this Psalm, so we do not know with certainty who the Psalmist was.  Some believe that when a title is not given, the Psalm was written by the author of the previous Psalm.  Then, this Psalm would have been written by Moses, the author of Psalm 90.  But, we cannot be certain about this.

1. God is our refuge (91:1-2)
"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.'"

Thought Question:  In what ways do the words of these two verses bring you security?

 

 

"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.'"  "Like most of the Old Testament, the Psalm is written by someone with experience in desert life.  The figures of secret place ["shelter" in NIV] and shadow are particularly vivid against that background.  In the desert you can see for miles, and a hiding place is hard to find.  To the desert traveler the sun is his fiercest foe, and a shady spot is a most desired friend.  God is such a shadow as well as a military defense." "Taken from Psalm Volume 2 Songs of Dedication by Robert Alden.  Copyright 1975 by Moody Press."

When we feel defenseless, it is extremely important for us to know that God will provide us with the defense that we need.  "These two opening verses include four different words for the Deity: Most High (Heb. Elyon), Almighty (Heb., Shaddai), Lord (Heb., Yahweh), and God (Heb., Elohim)." "Alden"  "He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High [Elyon] will rest in the shadow of the Almighty [Shaddai]. I will say of the Lord [Yahweh], 'He is my refuge and my fortress, my God [Elohim], in whom I trust.'The Hebrew words for God that are used, help us to see the Psalmist's sense of awe as he reflects on the infinite majesty of the One who is watching over Him.

"rest in the shadow of the Almighty."  To be "in the shadow" of someone means to be close or near to Him.  The Psalmist speaks of His protection coming from his being constantly close to God.  And we can only be close to God if we are walking in agreement with Him. See I John for a description of what a close walk with God looks like.
"I will say of the Lord, 'He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.'There is no "refuge" or "fortress" that is a safe place from our relentless enemy except if we take "refuge" in the One who has complete power over all that takes place on earth and in heaven.

2. He will keep us from harm (91:3-10)
"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. A thousand may fall at your side, ten thousand at your right hand, but it will not come near you. You will only observe with your eyes and see the punishment of the wicked. If you make the Most High your dwelling— even the Lord, who is my refuge— then no harm will befall you, no disaster will come near your tent."

Thought Question:  If God will protect us at all times; why then do you believe there were all the Christians who died in the persecutions in the early Roman Empire?

 

 

"Surely he will save you from the fowler’s snare and from the deadly pestilence."  "The fowler's snare" speaks of being lured into a trap by men.  God gives us warnings about the traps and lures of Satan.  "When tempted, no one should say, 'God is tempting me.' For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone; but each one is tempted when, by his own evil desire, he is dragged away and enticed. Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death. Don’t be deceived, my dear brothers." (James 1:13-16)  "People who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge men into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs." (1 Timothy 6:9-10) See also Proverbs 1:10-33  The con artist uses the lure of easy money to entice people into his trap.  God's wisdom protects us from this lure.  God's righteousness lived out protects us from giving in to the lure and the trap of sin. See Proverbs 2:16-22, 7:1-27

"and from the deadly pestilence."  God gave Israel instructions so that they would avoid that which is unclean. See Leviticus 11, 13-15  Now, we know that these practices protected them from disease.  Today, restaurant employees are required to wash their hands after they are contaminated in any way.  Dishes and cooking utensils are washed.  The foolish and unlearned ignore this wisdom and are more likely to become sick.  There are also sicknesses that come as a result of sinful and immoral activity.  For example, obedience to God's directions about marriage and sex also saves us from diseases that are spread through sexual immorality.  We know that obedient Christians can and do get sick, but obeying God does protect Christian countries from plagues that other countries experience.  We also have no idea how much God does protect us from diseases as a result of our prayers.

"He will cover you with his feathers, and under his wings you will find refuge; his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart."  The Psalmist mixes metaphors.  He pictures God watching over us like a hen shielding and protecting her chicks from their enemies.  And, then, these wings become a "shield" and a "rampart."  They become the armor and fortress wall—"rampart"—that protects us from our enemies.

"Rampart" is translated "buckler" in the NASB.  Neither term is familiar to us today.  Webster's defines "rampart" as follows:  "an embankment of earth . . for defense against attack."  And Webster's defines "buckler" as follows: "a small round shield."  The general idea with each is that it is something that protects us from an enemy.  It reminds us of the spiritual armor in Ephesians 6:10-18.  "Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes." (Ephesians 6:11)

"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."  The Psalmist's point is that God takes care of us "by day" and by night.  "But now, this is what the Lord says— he who created you, O Jacob, he who formed you, O Israel: 'Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze.'" (Isaiah 43:1-2)  In the New Testament, we also are given the assurance that God is watching over us and will help us in times of trouble.  "So we say with confidence, 'The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid. What can man do to me?'" (Hebrews 13:6)  "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)

"A thousand may fall at your side, ten thousand at your right hand, but it will not come near you."  Our son Stephen reported that the soldiers in Iraq told of many examples of prayers answered and of lives being saved.  As a result, he urged our church to continue to pray for our soldiers overseas.  Certainly, our prayers and trust in God protects us more often than we realize.

During my seminary years, I worked at a state boys' institution.  For a while I was the only counselor during the graveyard shift of what was called the transient dorm.  I found out that the young men in this dorm planned on overcoming me and breaking out.  But, I did not work on the weekends.  They did beat up and severely injure the weekend counselor.  When he returned to work, he called me up and began to ask me questions about my relationship with God.  There have been a number of other times when I believe I received God's protection.

The book of Job reveals that Satan cannot touch us unless, for some reason within His Divine plan, God allows it.  "Then the Lord said to Satan, 'Have you considered my servant Job? There is no one on earth like him; he is blameless and upright, a man who fears God and shuns evil.' 'Does Job fear God for nothing?' Satan replied. 'Have you not put a hedge around him and his household and everything he has? You have blessed the work of his hands, so that his flocks and herds are spread throughout the land. But stretch out your hand and strike everything he has, and he will surely curse you to your face.' The Lord said to Satan, 'Very well, then, everything he has is in your hands, but on the man himself do not lay a finger.' Then Satan went out from the presence of the Lord." (Job 1:8-12)  Here, we see also that even the trials that come our way are sovereignly supervised for some good purpose.

Thought Question:  Describe times when you believe that God protected you.

 

 

"You will only observe with your eyes and see the punishment of the wicked."  In a world of cable television news, we see constant examples of "the punishment of the wicked" all over the world.  In my lifetime, many "wicked" dictators, murderers, and criminals have been seen as they experienced various types of severe consequences for their wickedness.

"If you make the Most High your dwelling— even the Lord, who is my refuge— then no harm will befall you, no disaster will come near your tent.An obvious difficulty with this verse is what is recorded in Foxe's Book of Martyrs.  Did they not make God their "dwelling"?  How can these words of the Psalmist be true when so many Christians have died martyr's deaths?  As I mentioned earlier, the answer may be found in the difference between what happened when James the apostle was imprisoned and when the apostle Peter was imprisoned.  James died in prison and Peter was miraculously rescued from prison. See Acts 5;17-26; 7;54-60; 12:1-2, 12:3-19.  Angels did rescue the apostles on some occasions—Peter was rescued, but on other occasions there were early Christians who were not rescued—Stephen and James died.  The only answer we can come up with is that until our purpose in God's plan is fulfilled, God will protect us.  But, at times, His purpose may best be fulfilled by our death.  The young lady at Columbine High School in Colorado chose to proclaim her faith in God even though it led to her death.  Her purpose was to be a powerful witness for God through her death to all who knew her and even to people who did not know her.  Until your purpose and mine are fulfilled, and as long as we seek to make the Most High" our "dwelling," "then no harm will befall" us.

3. He will keep us from harm (91:11-13)
"For he will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways; they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone. You will tread upon the lion and the cobra; you will trample the great lion and the serpent."

Thought Question:  How do these verses apply to us?

 

 

"For he will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways;"  Let's all look at what the "angels" that are watching over us are like.  They are "mighty" angels (Psalm 103:20).  "That night the angel of the Lord went out and put to death a hundred and eighty-five thousand men in the Assyrian camp. When the people got up the next morning—there were all the dead bodies! So Sennacherib king of Assyria broke camp and withdrew. He returned to Nineveh and stayed there." (2 Kings 19:35-36)

They do God's will.  They are loving, caring, and willing servants to God.  "At this I fell at his feet to worship him. But he said to me, 'Do not do it! I am a fellow servant with you and with your brothers who hold to the testimony of Jesus. Worship God!'" (Revelation 19:10a)  "I, John, am the one who heard and saw these things. And when I had heard and seen them, I fell down to worship at the feet of the angel who had been showing them to me. But he said to me, 'Do not do it! I am a fellow servant with you and with your brothers the prophets and of all who keep the words of this book. Worship God!'" (Revelation 22:8-9)  "I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent." (Luke 15:7)  "In the same way, I tell you, there is rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents." (Luke 15:10)

Satan quoted verses 11 and 12 of this Psalm in Matthew 4:6.  He tempted Jesus to jump off "the highest point of the temple."  Then, he quoted verses 10-12 of this Psalm.  Jesus' response gives us insight into how we are to interpret this verse.  He quotes Deuteronomy 6:16:  "Jesus answered him, 'It is also written: “Do not put the Lord your God to the test.”'" (Matthew 4:7)  God will guard us when we are very careful to follow His ways.  But, when we choose a prideful, immoral, or unwise path, we can no longer expect the words of this Psalm to apply to us.  Jesus was protected by the Father and by angels until it was in the Father's purpose for Him to die.  Even Satan saw that these verses he quoted to Jesus were a promise of God's protection of the Messiah by "angels."  But, it also applies to all who "make the Most High" their "dwelling."  "Are not all angels ministering spirits sent to serve those who will inherit salvation?" (Hebrews 1:14)

"they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone."  We have a picture here of "angels" watching over us as a mother and father watch over their tiny children.  When we are traveling over very rough terrain, we pick our children up so that they will not hurt themselves on the sharp rocks.  So, God's "angels" care for those who seek their refuge in God.  In the Israel of the Psalmist's time, they did not have paved roads.  Instead, they walked on paths that were very stony.  At those times, children were carried to protect them from falling or from injuring their feet on some sharp stone. See Proverbs 3:21-16
We are reminded of the popular "Footprints in the Sand."  When there was only one set of footprints, Jesus was carrying us.  Here it is when an angel was carrying us.

A short time ago my wife Shirley, and I went to southern California for my dad's memorial service.  At one point on the way back to our home in Washington state, we were traveling at night on highway 101 on the Oregon coast.  We were in the midst of tall evergreen trees when I felt the need to turn the bright lights on so I could see better.  Immediately I saw an elk on the road.  His head was right in front of me.  I swerved to the right and braced myself for the inevitable collision.  It never happened.  I am convinced that this was one of those times when an angel intervened on our behalf.  Apart from that, I would not be alive and be writing these words.

"You will tread upon the lion and the cobra; you will trample the great lion and the serpent.These verses describe the enemies that we cannot conquer in our own strength, but can only conquer in God's strength.  Jesus conquered Satan's very best attempts to stop Him.  Those who seek to follow Jesus will also be victorious, even though at times, it will appear that we are losing.  "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)  "The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds." (2 Corinthians 10:4)  "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 6:11-13)  "For I am already being poured out like a drink offering, and the time has come for my departure. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. 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 4:6-8)

Alone, we cannot stand up to the "the lion and the cobra.With God, we can "trample" them.  Alone, we cannot conquer Satan.  With God, we can "trample" him.  "The lion represents force and the adder ["cobra"] cunning and deception." "Taken from The Book of Psalms  by Arno Gaebelein.  Copyright 1939 by Loizeaux Brothers." 

4. Why He will protect us (91:14-16)
"'Because he loves me,' says the Lord, 'I will rescue him; I will protect him, for he acknowledges my name. He will call upon me, and I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble, I will deliver him and honor him. With long life will I satisfy him and show him my salvation.'"

Thought Question:  How are these verses helpful to you right now? (Do you believe them?)

 

 

"'Because he loves me,' says the Lord, 'I will rescue him; I will protect him, for he acknowledges my name.'"  Here, we see the beginnings of what God will do for those whose life revolves around their love for God.  God lists eight blessings that those who love God will receive from Him.  If you and I love God in this way, they are eight ways that God will bless us.  These blessings do not come because we have earned them; rather, it is a result of what occurs from a love relationship with God.  He began His relationship with us because He loved us.  "But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us." (Romans 5:8)  In appreciation of His love, we choose to love Him and to seek to obey His commands.  "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)  "We love because he first loved us." (I John 4:19)

Here are the eight ways God blesses those who are in a love relationship with Him:  (1) "I will rescue him."  "Rescue" us from what?  He will "rescue" us from Satan's grasp.  "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 4:18)  (2) "I will protect him, for he acknowledges my name."  The KJV says, "I will set him on high."  In both cases, it is what is expressed in verse 12: "they [angels] will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone." (Psalm 91:12)  If we are one of those who "acknowledges" God's "name"—if we are one of those who loves God and tells others about our love for Him; then God will watch over us and protect us.  "And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.’" (Matthew 6:13) 

(3) "He will call upon me, and I will answer him."  If we seek God for the right reasons and ask that His will be done, He will answer our prayers.  "If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you." (John 15:7) See Psalm 3:4, 86:1-7, 99:6, 118:5, 138:3; Jeremiah 33:3  (4) "I will be with him in trouble."  "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. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows." (Psalm 23:4-5)  "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." (II Corinthians 1:3-5)  "Shout for joy, O heavens; rejoice, O earth; burst into song, O mountains! For the Lord comforts his people and will have compassion on his afflicted ones." (Isaiah 49:13)

(5) "I will deliver him."  "In my anguish I cried to the Lord, and he answered by setting me free. The Lord is with me; I will not be afraid. What can man do to me?" (Psalm 118:5-6)  "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)  (6) "and honor him."  "Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up." (James 4:10)  "Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time." (1 Peter 5:6)  If we humble ourself before Him, He will raise us to a place of honor.

(7) "With long life will I satisfy him."  Following and obeying Christ leads to a lengthened life.  For example, controlling our desires rather than them controlling us will lead to a healthier and longer life.  "My son, do not forget my teaching, but keep my commands in your heart, for they will prolong your life many years and bring you prosperity." (Proverbs 3:1-2) See Exodus 20:12  Ultimately, though, God gives eternal life to those who put their trust in Christ's death and resurrection for them.  "Jesus said to her, 'I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies.'" (John 11:25)  (8) "and show him my salvation.What a joyful hope we have, to one day fully realize the fullness of God salvation.  We are now experiencing the salvation from the penalty and the power of sin.  One day, we will experience God's salvation from the presence of sin.  We have made the "Most High" our "dwelling," and one day we will fully experience what that means when in our spiritual bodies we stand before His throne.

PSALM 95:  An Appeal To Worship God

INTRODUCTION:  We call our Sunday services "worship services."  Why do we Christians have these times where we worship as a group?  Some might find this whole practice of worshiping God together each week to be an odd use of our time.  This Psalm appeals to us that we should join together in the worship God.  In it, the Psalmist gives us some insight on why worshiping God is such an important practice for God's people.

The author of Hebrews identifies the Psalmist as David.  "Therefore God again set a certain day, calling it Today, when a long time later he spoke through David, as was said before: 'Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts.'" (Hebrews 4:7)

1. An appeal to worship God through song (95:1-2)
"Come, let us sing for joy to the Lord; let us shout aloud to the Rock of our salvation. Let us come before him with thanksgiving and extol him with music and song."

Thought Question:  According to these verses, what should be included in worship?

 

 

"Come, let us sing for joy to the Lord; let us shout aloud to the Rock of our salvation."  Crowds expressing enthusiasm and joy loudly is not an uncommon experience in our country; rather, it is a common sight in our country.  We do it at athletic events, at music concerts, and political events.  David is urging people to express this type of deep hearted excitement and joy toward God.  How do the others whom we worship and express our joy to compare to God?  How does what they have done for us compare to what God has done for us?  Obviously, no one else deserves our worship.  He alone is worthy of our worship.

"the Rock of our salvation."  No one else provides us with a secure foundation for our life.  He is "the Rock" upon which our life is built.  Does He not deserve our great gratitude and worship.  "He is the Rock, his works are perfect, and all his ways are just. A faithful God who does no wrong, upright and just is he." (Deuteronomy 32:4) See also Psalm 18:1-2, 31:2-3, 94:27

"let us shout aloud"  In the KJV, it says: "let us make a joyful noise."  Many who have little musical talent have said, "At least I can make a joyful noise."  The Hebrew verb "signifies to make a loud sound of any sort, either with the voice or with instruments." "Samuel Horsley quoted in  The Treasury of David by Charles Spurgeon."

Certainly, older Christians find the loud  music of the young to be unpleasant.  But, according to this verse, we should not prevent them from making a loud expression of their worship of God.  Certainly, God has been worshiped appropriately in many different cultures throughout time.  My wife, Shirley, and I have heard and seen worship in Jamaica and Uganda that is much louder than we are used to.  In both cases, it was also accompanied by uninhibited dancing.  In both cases, we were blessed by what we heard and saw.

"Let us come before him with thanksgiving and extol him with music and song."  To truly "come" near to God will result in a sense of awe and humility.  Since God's throne is now a throne of grace (see Hebrews 4:16), there will also be great joy as we realize that instead of getting the judgment we deserve, we are receiving God's blessing on us instead.  It is "Amazing Grace" that we receive through Jesus Christ.  Those who truly understand what God has done for them have hearts filled with joy and gratitude—it is a joy that must be expressed.  This joy cannot truly take place in a legalistic church, but it can take place in a church that is dominated by a sense of God's grace.

"extol him with music and song" is the same Hebrew word translated "make a joyful noise" in verse one in the KJV.  It is "make a joyful noise" in both verses one and two in the KJV.

2. Why we should worship (95:3-5)
"For the Lord is the great God, the great King above all gods. In his hand are the depths of the earth, and the mountain peaks belong to him. The sea is his, for he made it, and his hands formed the dry land."

Thought Question:  What in these verses gives you a reason to praise and worship God?

 

 

"For the Lord is the great God, the great King above all gods."  We worship many "gods" in our society.  We even have had a very popular television program called "American Idol," where they search for someone to worship and idolize.  We worship our entertainment stars, professional athletes, singers, comedians, and movie actors.  We also worship wealth, fame, and success.  Yet, the only One who deserves to be worship is marginalized as our focus is on those who entertain us and give us what we selfishly desire.  We ignore the one and only true God who made everything possible.  We ignore our Creator—the One who is far "above all gods."  Can our "American Idols" create a universe?  No, the truth is that each "American Idol" was created by God, and any abilities he or she has was given to him or her by God.  Who, then, should we worship?

"the Supreme Being has three names here . . . El, . . . Jehovah,  . . . Elohim, and we should apply none of them to false gods.  The first implies his strength; the second, his being and essence; the third his covenant relation to mankind."  "Adam Clark quoted in  The Treasury of David by Charles Spurgeon."

"In his hand are the depths of the earth, and the mountain peaks belong to him. The sea is his, for he made it, and his hands formed the dry land."To the Palestinian the highest point was 9,232-foot Mount Hermon; the lowest, the surface of the Dead Sea was almost 1,300 feet below the level of the Mediterranean.  Explorers have found no deeper hole, but they have found the Himalayas rising more that 29,000 feet above the level of the ocean beach.  Both extremes are made and controlled by God." "Taken from Psalm Volume 2 Songs of Dedication by Robert Alden.  Copyright 1975 by Moody Press."

In our modern world, we know more about the depth of the universe and smallness of the atom than David did, yet God is still the God of every extreme.  The more we plumb the depths of the universe, the more we should be in awe and praise of the One who created them.

3. The appeal to worship God through prayer (95:6)
"Come, let us bow down in worship, let us kneel before the Lord our Maker;"

Prayer is described as being done in many different ways: "lying on the ground" (II Samuel 12:15-17), with lifted hands (Psalm 28:2), "down on his knees" (Daniel 6:10), standing (Mark 11:25), and bowing "down" (here).  The posture shows the attitude of the heart.  Here, bowing "down" and kneeling shows humility and reverence before so great a God.

4. The second reason why we should worship God (95:7a)
"for he is our God and we are the people of his pasture, the flock under his care."

He is not only God, but he is a God who deeply cares about each one of us.  We are reminded of the 23rd Psalm.  "The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not be in want. He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters," (Psalm 23:1-2)  We are also reminded of the words of Jesus in John 10: "I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep." (John 10:11)  And, finally, we are reminded of our Shepherd's concern for the sheep in Luke 15:3-7: "Then Jesus told them this parable: 'Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Does he not leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it? And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders and goes home. Then he calls his friends and neighbors together and says, “Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep.” I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent.'" (Luke 15:3-7)

Should we not worship the God who created the universe and also cares for us each individually—who cares for us so much that He gave His Son for each of us? See Isaiah 53

5. An appeal to not harden our hearts (95:7b-9)
"Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts as you did at Meribah, as you did that day at Massah in the desert, where your fathers tested and tried me, though they had seen what I did."

Thought Question:  How do you believe one hardens his or her heart?

 

 

"Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts as you did at Meribah, as you did that day at Massah in the desert, where your fathers tested and tried me, though they had seen what I did."Hardening the heart is the exact opposite of hearkening to his voice." "Taken from Folk Psalms of Faith by Ray Stedman.  Copyright 1973 by Regal Books."  Years ago, I heard Earl Radmacher say that God's Word always has its impact on people.  We either do what it says or we choose not to do what it says.  Choosing not to do what God's voice tells us to do is hardening ourselves to what we know God wants us to do.

What happened "at Meribah" and "at Massah in the desert"?  This hardening of heart is described in Exodus 17: "The whole Israelite community set out from the Desert of Sin, traveling from place to place as the Lord commanded. They camped at Rephidim, but there was no water for the people to drink. So they quarreled with Moses and said, 'Give us water to drink.' Moses replied, 'Why do you quarrel with me? Why do you put the Lord to the test?' But the people were thirsty for water there, and they grumbled against Moses. They said, 'Why did you bring us up out of Egypt to make us and our children and livestock die of thirst?' Then Moses cried out to the Lord, 'What am I to do with these people? They are almost ready to stone me.' The Lord answered Moses, 'Walk on ahead of the people. Take with you some of the elders of Israel and take in your hand the staff with which you struck the Nile, and go. I will stand there before you by the rock at Horeb. Strike the rock, and water will come out of it for the people to drink.' So Moses did this in the sight of the elders of Israel. And he called the place Massah and Meribah because the Israelites quarreled and because they tested the Lord saying, 'Is the Lord among us or not?'" (Exodus 17:1-7)

Why did the Israelites getting upset at the lack of water so anger God?  It was because they had just seen God's miracles as He brought the Ten Plagues on Egypt (see Exodus 7:14-11:10), opened up the Red Sea (see Exodus 13;17-14:31), turned bitter water to sweet water (see Exodus 15;22-24, and provided manna and quail for them (see Exodus 16:1-36).  God's patience was tested because "they had seen what" He "did."  How did they harden their hearts?  How does someone today harden his or her heart?  It occurs when we do not trust in God, but begin a pattern of doing the very opposite of trusting and obeying Him.  It happens when we do not trust Him even when He shows His love to us over and over again.  Instead of trusting, we grumble. See Numbers 20:13, 27:14; Deuteronomy 6:16, 33:8; Psalm 81:7, 106:32; Hebrews 3:7-4:13

"Today, if you hear his voice,"  When should we do what God wants us to do?  The correct answer is, "today."  We should not let any time go by, for we do not want to experience any of the negative consequences that happened to Israel because they grumbled rather than trusted and obeyed God.

6. Why we should not harden our hearts (95:10-11)
"For forty years I was angry with that generation; I said, 'They are a people whose hearts go astray, and they have not known my ways.' So I declared on oath in my anger, 'They shall never enter my rest.'"

Thought Question:  What is there in this warning from God that helps us to want to respond in faith and obedience to God's voice?

 

 

"For forty years I was angry with that generation; I said, 'They are a people whose hearts go astray, and they have not known my ways.'"  In Numbers 14:22, God says Israel tested Him "ten times."  The NIV Study Bible note on Numbers 14:22 gives what may be the "ten times."  "Perhaps to be enumerated as follows: (1) Ex 14:10-12; (2) Ex 15:22-24; (3) Ex 16:1-3; (4) Ex 16:19-20; (5) Ex 16:27-30; (6) Ex 17:1-4; (7) Ex 32:1-36; (8) Num 11:1-3; (9) 11:4-34; (10) 14:3.  But 'ten times' may be a way of saying many times." 

Israel tested God's patience until He gave them the consequences of their choices.  He did not allow them to enter the Promised Land, but they wandered in the wilderness for "forty years."  As their hearts wandered from God, so they wandered in the wilderness.  "That is why I was angry with that generation, and I said, 'Their hearts are always going astray, and they have not known my ways.'" (Hebrews 3:10)  Nevertheless, God provided for them all those years.

"'They are a people whose hearts go astray, and they have not known my ways.'"  It should be clear that each of us should desire to be someone whose heart does not "go astray" and someone who does know God's "ways."  And, how do we do that?  Hebrews 4:11 answers that question.  "Let us, therefore, make every effort to enter that rest, so that no one will fall by following their example of disobedience." (Hebrews 4:11)  We need to single-heartedly continually pursue all that God desires us to experience in Christ's abundant life.  Paul provides us with a description of how that looks in Philippians 3:10-14.  "I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead. Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus." (Philippians 3:10-14)

"So I declared on oath in my anger, 'They shall never enter my rest.'" See Hebrews 3:11, 4:3  Because of their disobedience, they did not enter the Promised Land.  "Not one of them was among those counted by Moses and Aaron the priest when they counted the Israelites in the Desert of Sinai. For the Lord had told those Israelites they would surely die in the desert, and not one of them was left except Caleb son of Jephunneh and Joshua son of Nun." (Numbers 26:64-65) 

Their wilderness wandering is a picture of every person who rejects God and His love, wisdom, and righteous ways.  Their life is lived outside of Christ in the darkness of their chosen sins.  In Hebrews 3:7-4:11, the author of Hebrews applies this passage to Christians.  "Therefore, since the promise of entering his rest still stands, let us be careful that none of you be found to have fallen short of it." (Hebrews 4:1)  "Let us, therefore, make every effort to enter that rest, so that no one will fall by following their example of disobedience." (Hebrews 4:11)  We are not to depend on our own understanding, but we are to fully trust or rest in God's provisions of grace, wisdom, and strengthening to enable us to experience an abundant life.  We do not want to be those who test God's patience by not trusting Him.

PSALM 100:  A Description of True Worship

INTRODUCTION:  In this short Psalm is a concise description of what a true worship of God will look like.  May it help us to worship more fully and more wholeheartedly.

1. An invitation to worship (100:1)
"A psalm. For giving thanks. Shout for joy to the Lord, all the earth.

"Most of the verb forms are commands.  The worshippers are charged to make a joyful noise, serve, come with singing, know, enter with praise, give thanks, and bless." "Taken from Psalm Volume 2 Songs of Dedication by Robert Alden.  Copyright 1975 by Moody Press."  Here is a universal command to "shout" with "joy to the Lord."  The whole earth is commanded to worship God.  The people on the whole earth do not acknowledge God, but they should.  For He is the One who made us, and He is the One who made the earth we walk on.  Without Him, there would be no us and there would be no earth.  He gave us life and we do not thank Him for it. "For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened." (Romans 1:21)  Instead, of not giving Him the glory and gratitude that is appropriate, we should "shout for joy to the Lord." "Shout for joy to the Lord, all the earth, burst into jubilant song with music." (Psalm 98:4)

In the KJV it is, "make a joyful noise."  Again, those who feel that they are not gifted with a singing voice have said that they still can "make a joyful noise."

2. How to worship God (100:2-4)
"Worship the Lord with gladness; come before him with joyful songs. Know that the Lord is God. It is he who made us, and we are his; we are his people, the sheep of his pasture. Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise; give thanks to him and praise his name."

Thought Question:  According to these verses, how are we to praise God?

 

 

The KJV, NASB, and ESV all have "serve the Lord with gladness.  "Serve" is the more common translation of the Hebrew word used here rather than "Worship."  But, because the second part of the poetic couplet is "come before him with joyful songs," then "worship" may be a better translation than "serve."  Christian "service" and "worship" are not approached with a "got to" attitude, but with a "get to" attitude.  Christian "service" and "worship" are to be done with "gladness" and joy. 

We can get excited about many things, such as being excited about a winning athletic team.  But nothing on this planet compares to knowing God's love, mercy, and grace toward us.  It is always appropriate to get excited as we approach God's "throne of grace." (Hebrews 4:16)—made possible by the sacrificial blood of God's Son.  The reasons to be glad are unending: we are joint-heirs with Jesus (Romans 8:17); God will be victorious in the end; He is sovereignly working all that happens for our good (see Romans 8:28); and the list goes on.  We may not feel good about things at times, but if we see clearly all that God is doing for us, has done for us, and will do for us, we will be glad!

"come before him with joyful songs."  Music and singing continue to be a big part of our culture.  We have many ways now to purchase and enjoy singing and music.  Our highest and most elevated singing and music occurs when our "joyful songs" are directed to the One whose love for us is absolutely perfect.

"Know that the Lord is God. It is he who made us, and we are his; we are his people, the sheep of his pasture."  Jesus referred to Himself as "the good shepherd" who "lays down his life for the sheep." (John 10:11)  Psalm 23 begins,
"The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not be in want."  God made us.  We chose sin over Him.  He chose to have His Son lay down His life for us.  And, now, He is our "good shepherd."  A "good shepherd" tenderly cares for His sheep.  God is our "good shepherd" who tenderly cares for us. John 10 and Ezekiel 34 are contrasts between good shepherds and false shepherds.  God is a "good shepherd."

"Know that the Lord is God.  It is he who made us,"  There is only One who has always existed.  Without Him who "made us," we would not even exist.  Should we not stand in awe of this One?  And the fact that He has chosen to be our caring "shepherd" is still more awesome and wonderful.  Can we ever stop being amazed that we know Him?

"Know that the Lord is God."  This is a command to acknowledge and to be submissive to Him because He "is God."  He, by His creation of us and His redemption of us, gained the right to be our Lord.  He "is God"!  We should, then, give Him all the honor that is due Him.

"Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise; give thanks to him and praise his name.We "enter" into the presence of someone with different attitudes.  If someone is very judgmental, we "enter" his or her presence on guard that we might be criticized for not measuring up to this person's high requirements of us.  Being in the presence of what type of person would evoke from us "thanksgiving and praise"?  Vernon Grounds was the president of the seminary that I attended many years ago.  Though he had the appearance of being a very distinguished man, I found him to be delightfully gracious, humble, and wise.  I entered his presence with joy.  And, though, I was a bit intimidated by his position, I was quite at ease with him as a person.  We should also be intimidated by who God is, but He is also humble, gracious, and compassionate.  So, we can enter His presence "with thanksgiving" and "praise." 

When we see who He is, we will "enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise."  Jesus, who is both God and God's Son, says this of Himself: "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)

3. Why we should worship God (100:5)
"For the Lord is good and his love endures forever; his faithfulness continues through all generations."

God's goodness and "love"is why we can approach God.  Ultimately, He desires our "good."  True "love" is the seeking of another's very best no matter what the cost or the circumstances.  "God is love." (I John 4:8,16)  God desires our "good."  So, we can enter His presence and "worship" Him with "gladness."

"his faithfulness continues through all generations.Was God like this in David's time and Paul's time, but He is no longer like this today?  No, for God never changes.  "Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows." (James 1:17)  He is always the same.  "Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever." (Hebrews 13:8)  "Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness." (Lamentations 3:22-23)

PSALM 103:  Remembering What God Has Done for Us

INTRODUCTION:  At times, we may not feel like praising God.  But even at those times, He continues to be worthy of our praise.  At those times, we may not be focused on all the ways that He has blessed us.  A group of us do a service at a gospel mission in another city once a month.  I usually begin the meeting in prayer.  I recognize that those at the service can feel pretty forlorn, but I also realize that God has blessed them in ways that they may have forgotten about.  In my prayer, I often thank God for what we all there have—bodies that are not paralyzed, eyes that can see, a world that can have beautiful days, and a God that loves us.  This Psalm gives a description of what God has done for us.  It leads to us wanting to praise God for the ways He has benefitted us.

1. Forget not all God's benefits to us. (103:1-19)
"Of David. Praise the Lord, O my soul; all my inmost being, praise his holy name. Praise the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits— who forgives all your sins and heals all your diseases, who redeems your life from the pit and crowns you with love and compassion, who satisfies your desires with good things so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s. The Lord works righteousness and justice for all the oppressed. He made known his ways to Moses, his deeds to the people of Israel: The Lord is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love. 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; for he knows how we are formed, he remembers that we are dust. As for man, his days are like grass, he flourishes like a flower of the field; the wind blows over it and it is gone, and its place remembers it no more. But from everlasting to everlasting the Lord’s love is with those who fear him, and his righteousness with their children’s children— with those who keep his covenant and remember to obey his precepts. The Lord has established his throne in heaven, and his kingdom rules over all."

Thought Question:  What can you find in these verses that helps you to put your whole soul into praising God?

 

 

"Praise the Lord, O my soul; all my inmost being, praise his holy name.  Praise the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits"  "Praise" is translated "Bless" in the NASB, KJV, and the  ESV.  Doctor Alden gives us this explanation for the different ways it is translated.  "Some people are confused by the word 'bless.'  God blesses us and we are told to bless God.  'How can we be God's benefactor?'  they rightly ask.  The answer is found in the broader meaning of the Hebrew word which lies behind the translation.  It is correctly rendered by the word 'bless,' but it means both to get good things from God and to give good things back to God.  One of the few things we are in any position to return to God is praise; hence in this psalm and elsewhere, 'bless' means 'praise.'  Even more interesting is the root from which the Hebrew word comes.  The same root letters are in the noun 'knee' and hence the related verb is 'kneel." "Taken from Psalm Volume 3 Songs of Discipleship by Robert Alden.  Copyright 1975 by Moody Press."

It is interesting that in this entire Psalm, David asks nothing of God.  Its words were meant to be a blessing to God, as "David" acknowledges God in His     multidimensional love toward us.

"all my inmost being, praise his holy name."  Some music is called "soul music."  What can we put our entire soul into?  "David" was able to put his entire soul into praising God.  All that He could return to God for what He had done for him was his praise.  The rest of the Psalms explains why he was able to wholeheartedly "praise" God.

The opposite of what "David" describes here is found in Isaiah 29:13: "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)

"praise his holy name."  Why does "David" "praise" God's "holy name."  It is because God is beyond our ability to put into words.  His "name" sums up all that He is—even though all that "He is" is indescribable in human words.

"Praise the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits"  Our whole-souled worship of God includes the full activity of our mind.  And , so, "David" urges us to "not forget" all the ways that God has benefitted us.  The opposite of forgetting is remembering and reflecting upon all that God has done for us.  Often, in our world, people look on others with the following attitude: "What have you done for me lately?"  A great baseball hitter goes into a slump and begins to hear boos.  We can treat God that way when we are going through a troubled time.  But, the God that seems to be withholding His blessing has blessed us in the past with blessings that continue to this day.

"who forgives all your sins"  There is no sweeter words than when someone we have offended and/or sinned against says, "I forgive you."  I have heard my wife says those words often in our 40+ years of marriage.  God "forgives all" our "sins."  We may believe that God forgives our past sins, but have trouble believing that He forgives our present sins.  David describes in Psalm 38 how we feel when we feel that God has not forgiven our sins.  "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." (Psalm 38:3-5)  Nevertheless, God "forgives all" our "sins."  "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)

"and heals all your diseases,"  We have all known wonderful saints of God who have died of some sickness.  So, how is it true that God "heals all" our "diseases"?  These words are sandwiched between God forgiving "all" our "sins" and God redeeming us "from the pit."  The healing "David" is talking about may then refer to those diseases that are caused by sin.  The Bible tells us that there is a relationship between disease and sin.  Paul explains this relationship between sickness and sin in I Corinthians 11:28-32: "A man ought to examine himself before he eats of the bread and drinks of the cup. For anyone who eats and drinks without recognizing the body of the Lord eats and drinks judgment on himself. That is why many among you are weak and sick, and a number of you have fallen asleep [are dead]. But if we judged ourselves, we would not come under judgment. When we are judged by the Lord, we are being disciplined so that we will not be condemned with the world."  James also ties some sicknesses and sin in James 5:14-16: "Is any one of you sick? He should call the elders of the church to pray over him and anoint him with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise him up. If he has sinned, he will be forgiven. Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective." (James 5:14-16)  God also tied sin to sickness in Exodus 15:26: "He said, 'If you listen carefully to the voice of the Lord your God and do what is right in his eyes, if you pay attention to his commands and keep all his decrees, I will not bring on you any of the diseases I brought on the Egyptians, for I am the Lord, who heals you.'" (Exodus 15:26)

I have a book titled, None of tThese Diseases.  The author describes how many sicknesses are caused by disobedience to God.  Obedience to God heals us from  diseases caused by bitterness, greed, guilt, and other sins.

"who redeems your life from the pit"  The KJV translates "pit" as "destruction."  The NIV, NASB, and the ESV translate it as "pit."

The "pit" probably describes in one word the just consequences of our sin—death, the grave, and eternal punishment. "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." (Psalm 40:2)  "I sink in the miry depths, where there is no foothold. I have come into the deep waters; the floods engulf me." (Psalm 69:20)  "Do not let the floodwaters engulf me or the depths swallow me up or the pit close its mouth over me." (Psalm 69:15)

God has redeemed us from all of this by the blood of Christ.  Of course, Jesus had not lived and died for man's sins when "David" was alive.  But, David was redeemed by faith in what Jesus would one day do for him.  "Redeem" is being set free from slavery by the payment of a ransom price.  "For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your forefathers, but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect." (1 Peter 1:18-19)  "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 crowns you with love and compassion, who satisfies your desires with good things so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s."  God not only saves us from something, but He also saves us to something.  He saves us from sin and its consequences; but he also saves us to an eternal relationship with a compassionate God who gives us satisfaction and fullness in life.  "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)  "Then Jesus declared, 'I am the bread of life. He who comes to me will never go hungry, and he who believes in me will never be thirsty.'" (John 6:35)  "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)

"The Lord works righteousness and justice for all the oppressed."  God does not cause all who choose to sin to immediately experience justice and punishment.  If He did, not only would others immediately be punished for their sins, but so would we immediately experience God's wrath for our sins.  But, all who do not seek God's mercy will, now or at the judgment seat, receive the due penalty for their sins. See Revelation 20:11-15; Romans 2:1-12,16; Psalm 62:12

"He made known his ways to Moses, his deeds to the people of Israel: The Lord is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger,"  Theology instructors teach that there is general revelation and special revelation.  General revelation is when God speaks to us all in a general way—for example, through what He has created.  Special revelation occurs when God singles out a person or group of people and gives them specific information about Himself and His ways—such as speaking to the prophets and the apostles and through them giving us the Bible.  God singled out Moses and, according to this verse, God revealed to "Moses" that He "is compassionate and gracious" and "slow to anger."  "Moses" saw that "compassion and" grace as he saw God care for "Israel" in the wilderness—providing food and water for them, though they grumbled and complained the whole time.  "And he passed in front of Moses, proclaiming, 'The Lord, the Lord, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin. Yet he does not leave the guilty unpunished; he punishes the children and their children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation.'" (Exodus 34:6-7)

"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."  Charles Spurgeon sums up the meaning of these verses by saying that God does not treat us as a judge does, but as a father does.  The legal system's purpose is to give us what we deserve.  A father's purpose is to direct and redirect his children toward that which is best for them.  God dealt with Israel as their Father: "'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)

God also deals with us as a Father does.  When we receive by faith the forgiveness comes through Jesus' death for us, we are no longer under God the Judge.  Jesus' death satisfied God the Judge.  "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)  Now, we are under God our Father.   We may go through trials and the discipline of a Father, but we will never get what we deserve, for if we got all that we deserve, we would face the ultimate horror of hell.  Instead, in God's amazing grace, we are heading toward heaven.

"He will not always accuse,"  Satan does always accuse us.  "For the accuser of our brothers, who accuses them before our God day and night, has been hurled down." (Revelation 12:10b)  God's purpose in revealing our sin is so that we will turn from it.  Once we have turned from it, our Father does not forever condemn us, but moves on to dealing with other areas in our lives that need to be exposed and dealt with.  But our Father does not hold on to a grudge against us.  "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? Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies. Who is he that condemns? Christ Jesus, who died—more than that, who was raised to life—is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us." (Romans 8:31-34)

"For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his love for those who fear him;"  Anyone who had parents who were angry and disapproving of them, Christian friends who have turned on them, or who are going through any other very difficult time can feel that God is looking on them with an angry scowl.  It is hard at those times to believe the words of this verse.  But, it makes little difference how we feel about what God's attitude toward us is, what is stated in this verse is the truth about God's attitude toward us all.

How much does God "love" us?  "David" points us to the stars.  We know that there are untold number of stars at distances from us that are beyond our ability to put on paper.  As far as we know, the universe is infinite in distance.  The farther we can see, the more galaxies we see—filling the previously unknown universe.  How "great" is God's "love" for us?  "David" says, "as high as the heavens are above the earth."  In other words, God's "love" for us is infinite!  It makes no difference how we feel about what God's "love" for us is like, His "love" for us is infinite.  The Bible says that "God is love." (I John 4:8,16)

"so great is his love for those who fear him;"  At this point, we want to be sure that we are "those who fear him."  If we are not "those who fear him," we shall receive "justice without mercy measured out to" us. "Taken from The Treasury of David by Charles Spurgeon."  Those who "fear him" are those who do not choose to ignore Him, but are constantly living in the presence of God.  Listen the apostle John's words: "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)  Fearing Him involves acknowledging our sins and sinfulness.  Listen to James: "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)

"as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us."  Charles Spurgeon has this to say about this verse.  "O glorious verse, no word even upon the inspired page can excel it!  Sin is removed from us by a miracle of love." "Taken from The Treasury of David by Charles Spurgeon." 

On our circular globe earth, if you travel "east" or "west," you will eventually return to the place where you started.  But, I believe that David is using "east" and "west" as completely opposite directions.  And, so, if you go "east" and keep going "east," you will go an infinite distance from "west."  Also, if you go "west," you will go in an infinite direction from "east."  It is that far that God has removed our sins "from us."  In other words, they are completely gone!  "Jesus has borne them away." "Spurgeon."

"As a father has compassion on his children, so the Lord has compassion on those who fear him;"  "When an earthly father looks upon his children, sees their weaknesses, their helplessness, his heart is moved with love and compassion for them.  How much more then our heavenly Father, Who has made us His own offspring in redemption by so great a price." "Taken from The Book of Psalms  by Arno Gaebelein.  Copyright 1939 by Loizeaux Brothers."

How can God communicate to us that He loves us and is compassionate toward us?  God led "David" to use a "father's" compassion for his children to help us believe in His Father's  love for us.  Here are some other ways that God has guided men to convince us of His Father's love for us.  "For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life." (John 3:16)   "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)  The love that God enables us to have for others, is the love that He has for us.  "Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends." (John 15:13)  "But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us." (Romans 5:8)   "This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins." (I John 4:10)  "And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in him."
(I John 4:16)

"for he knows how we are formed, he remembers that we are dust."  "The Lord God formed the man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being." (Genesis 2:7)  "By the sweat of your brow you will eat your food until you return to the ground, since from it you were taken; for dust you are and to dust you will return." (Genesis 3:19)

Why does "David" think back to the fact that we came from "dust"?  I believe it is to show us that God recognizes our weaknesses and frailties.  We, though, often do not remember our weakness.  Listen to what Israel told Moses to tell God after they received the Ten Commandments: "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)  Now, listen to 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 people of Israel thought that they could be like God and obey His holy commandments; God saw that they were dust.  And these men of dust failed horribly; just like we fail horribly when we put our faith in our flesh.

"David's" words are helpful to us when we fail God.  His expectation level for "dust" is not high.  What He desires is that we acknowledge our weakness and seek His strength.

"As for man, his days are like grass, he flourishes like a flower of the field; the wind blows over it and it is gone, and its place remembers it no more."  This theme is found throughout the Bible.  "Man born of woman is of few days and full of trouble. He springs up like a flower and withers away; like a fleeting shadow, he does not endure." (Job 14:1-2)  "For like the grass they will soon wither, like green plants they will soon die away." (Psalm 37:2)  "But the wicked will perish: The Lord’s enemies will be like the beauty of the fields, they will vanish—vanish like smoke." (Psalm 37:20)  "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)  "He remembered that they were but flesh, a passing breeze that does not return." (Psalm 78:39)  "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)  "For my days vanish like smoke; my bones burn like glowing embers." (Psalm 102:3)  "My days are like the evening shadow; I wither away like grass." (Psalm 102:11)"I fade away like an evening shadow; I am shaken off like a locust." (Psalm 109:23)  "Man is like a breath; his days are like a fleeting shadow." (Psalm 144:4)  "A voice says, 'Cry out.' And I said, 'What shall I cry?' 'All men are like grass, and all their glory is like the flowers of the field. The grass withers and the flowers fall, because the breath of the Lord blows on them. Surely the people are grass. The grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of our God stands forever.'" (Isaiah 40:6-8)  "But the one who is rich should take pride in his low position, because he will pass away like a wild flower. For the sun rises with scorching heat and withers the plant; its blossom falls and its beauty is destroyed. In the same way, the rich man will fade away even while he goes about his business." (James 1:10-11)  "For, 'All men are like grass, and all their glory is like the flowers of the field; the grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of the Lord stands forever.' And this is the word that was preached to you." (1 Peter 1:24-25)

The verses above show that the shortness of our lives should humble us.  We do not, though, often face this reality.  We live as if we will never die.  The fact that we will die in a relatively short time should give us a hunger for eternity; and it should give us a hunger to seek the eternal Jesus who died for us so that we could receive this eternal life.  "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)

We are like grass that is alive for a short time, and then an arid desert wind comes and it quickly dies.  Afterward, there is nothing but empty ground with little evidence that the grass was once there.  And of course, this is true of us—we are here for a short time and then we are gone, with little evidence that we were here.

"But from everlasting to everlasting the Lord’s love is with those who fear him, and his righteousness with their children’s children— with those who keep his covenant and remember to obey his precepts."  "How vast the contrast between the fading flower and the "everlasting" God.  "How wonderful that His mercy should link our frailty with His eternity, and make us everlasting too!" "Taken from The Treasury of David by Charles Spurgeon."

When we acknowledge that we are dust who are here today and gone tomorrow, and acknowledge the difference between God and us; we are humbled and appropriately "fear" God—understand the vast gap between Him and us.  We, then, have chosen to leave unbelief and a voluntary choosing to ignore God.  The Proverbs tell us that this fear of God is the beginning of true wisdom. See Proverbs 1:7, 9:10, 15:33

"with those who keep his covenant and remember to obey his precepts."  Those who truly fear God are careful to seek to do what He commands, for they know what will occur to them if they get off His narrow path—their lives will go downhill toward destruction. 

"the Lord’s love is with those who fear him, and his righteousness with their children’s childrenWhether or not we choose to obey God or not influences our children and our "children's children."  Our eleven year old granddaughter recently volunteered to me, "I have always been a Christian!"  What joy that brought to my heart.  The Bible also predicts that disobeying God will influence out children.  "You shall not make for yourself an idol in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing love to a thousand generations of those who love me and keep my commandments." (Exodus 20:4-6)  "And he passed in front of Moses, proclaiming, 'The Lord, the Lord, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin. Yet he does not leave the guilty unpunished; he punishes the children and their children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation.'"   (Exodus 34:6-7)

"The Lord has established his throne in heaven, and his kingdom rules over all.God's "throne" was "established" by Him alone.  No one else could have given it to Him, for He alone has been present for eternity; He alone is the eternal God.  From His "throne" He sovereignly rules all that exists and all that takes place throughout His vast empire.  Nothing and no one can remove Him from His "throne."  "But the Lord is in his holy temple; let all the earth be silent before him." (Habakkuk 2:20)

2. So, all His creation praise the Lord (103:20-22)
"Praise the Lord, you his angels, you mighty ones who do his bidding, who obey his word. Praise the Lord, all his heavenly hosts, you his servants who do his will. Praise the Lord, all his works everywhere in his dominion. Praise the Lord, O my soul."

Thought Question:  Stop for a few moments and praise our Almighty and glorious God for who He is and for what He has done for us.  Please write down some of what you praised Him for.

 

 

"Praise the Lord, you his angels, you mighty ones who do his bidding, who obey his word."  "As Milton says, they [the angels] best can tell.  Dwelling nearer to that prepared throne than we as yet have leave to climb, they see in nearer vision the glory which we would adore." "Taken from The Treasury of David by Charles Spurgeon."

 "mighty ones who do his bidding, who obey his word."   They are "mighty"; whereas, we are weak; they "obey his word," where we fail.

"Praise the Lord, all his heavenly hosts, you his servants who do his will."  If the "angels" are God's "servants," what should we be?  We also should seek to be His willing "servants." 

"Praise the Lord, all his works everywhere in his dominion.  Praise the Lord, O my soul."  "David" starts big.  All God's creation should "praise" God.  Then, he narrows it down to him.  "Praise the Lord, O my soul."  "David" saw the big picture and the result was "praise" to the One who filled the big picture completely with His glory.  To the degree that we truly see God's glory, we also will "praise" Him.  In eternity, when we see His glory, we will all "praise" God together.  "Then I looked and heard the voice of many angels, numbering thousands upon thousands, and ten thousand times ten thousand. They encircled the throne and the living creatures and the elders. In a loud voice they sang: 'Worthy is the Lamb, who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and strength and honor and glory and praise!' Then I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and on the sea, and all that is in them, singing: 'To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be praise and honor and glory and power, for ever and ever!' The four living creatures said, 'Amen,' and the elders fell down and worshiped." (Revelation 5:11-14)

PSALM 109:  When We Are Mistreated

INTRODUCTION:  This is what is called an imprecatory Psalm.  It is a difficult Psalm for us who are Christians, for Jesus and the letters of the New Testament teach us to love our enemies and to return good for evil. See Matthew 5:38-48; Romans 12:14-21; Ephesians 4:29-5:2; I Peter 2:19-23, 3:8-9  In this Psalm, David appears to do the very opposite of what these verses teach—he appears to be vengeful and vindictive.  How, then, can David's words be the inspired words of God, and how can we find in them a pattern for how we should act?  Let's dig in and see what we will discover. Psalms 55, 59, 69, 79, and 137 are also imprecatory Psalms.

1. A plea for God not to be silent (109:1)
"For the director of music. Of David. A psalm. O God, whom I praise, do not remain silent,"

There are times when it appears that evil is winning and when it appears that God is not taking any type of action against evil.  At times like this, we can do what David does here—we can pray to God that He will no longer be "silent."

2. Why David wants God not to be silent—a description of the wickedness that has been done against him (109:2-5)
"for wicked and deceitful men have opened their mouths against me; they have spoken against me with lying tongues. With words of hatred they surround me; they attack me without cause. In return for my friendship they accuse me, but I am a man of prayer. They repay me evil for good, and hatred for my friendship."

Thought Question:  Give an example from the Bible of someone who was opposed by wicked men in the way that David describes here.

 

 

"for wicked and deceitful men have opened their mouths against me; they have spoken against me with lying tongues."  The most obvious examples of men who did what David describes here were the Pharisees who conspired together in the murder of Jesus.  They successfully built a case against Him that ended in the death penalty, even though He was completely innocent.

"David" also had "wicked" "men" like the Pharisees of Jesus' time who spoke maliciously against him.  The Bible tells us that if we are seeking wholeheartedly, passionately, and actively to do what is right, the same will happen to us.  "In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted." (II Timothy 3:12)

Most of the damage done by the wicked on those who seek to serve God is done with the tongue.  Here are some ways in which a "wicked" tongue is used: lies, slander distortions, false charges, cruel words, angry words, and more. See Psalm 10:7, 35:21, 52:2, 59:12-13, 102:8, 140:3; Proverbs 16:27-28, 18:8,21, 26:22; Ephesians 4:29

"With words of hatred they surround me; they attack me without cause."  They hated Jesus "without cause."  They spoke against Him "with words of hatred."  Jesus promised His followers that they also would be hated.  "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." (John 15:18-19)  We can find it difficult to understand the hatred that there is toward Christians.  We also find it difficult to understand the hatred that there is toward us individually.  But, as Jesus said, it is part of the original contract agreement He made with His followers.  He promised that as they hated Him, they would hate us.

"In return for my friendship they accuse me, but I am a man of prayer."  Judas turned on the One who chose him to be His follower.  Most of us have experienced a friendship that went sour.  It is particularly difficult when it appears that it went sour while we were still seeking after his or her friendship.

"but I am a man of prayer."  When he became the target of his former friends, what did He do?  He spoke to the One who was always his Friend.  What did he pray for?  He probably prayed for himself; he probably prayed that he would not become like those were attacking him, and he probably prayed for and about his enemies that were once his friends.  In fact, this Psalm is a "prayer."

"They repay me evil for good, and hatred for my friendship.In Romans 12:17-18 21, Paul said the following:  "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 be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good."  There are times, though, when good is returned for evil, but evil continues.

3. What he desires for the wicked (109:6-15)
"Appoint an evil man to oppose him; let an accuser stand at his right hand. When he is tried, let him be found guilty, and may his prayers condemn him. May his days be few; may another take his place of leadership. May his children be fatherless and his wife a widow. May his children be wandering beggars; may they be driven from their ruined homes. May a creditor seize all he has; may strangers plunder the fruits of his labor. May no one extend kindness to him or take pity on his fatherless children. May his descendants be cut off, their names blotted out from the next generation. May the iniquity of his fathers be remembered before the Lord; may the sin of his mother never be blotted out. May their sins always remain before the Lord, that he may cut off the memory of them from the earth."

Thought Question #1:  What disturbs you about these verses?

 

 

Thought Question #2:  Why do you believe these verses are in the Bible?

 

 

"Appoint an evil man to oppose him; let an accuser stand at his right hand."  This verse seems to be the very opposite of what a Christian should pray for.  "But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous." (Matthew 5:44-45)  How can "David's" prayer be a righteous prayer?  "David's" words in Psalm 5:10 are similar to his words of prayer here.  "Declare them guilty, O God! Let their intrigues be their downfall. Banish them for their many sins, for they have rebelled against you."

Some have attempted to show that "David's" words in these verses are not his words, but the words of his enemies.  But, this does not solve the problem, for there are a number of Psalms where there is no question that similar words to these did come from "David."  Consider these words in Psalm 35:  "May those who seek my life be disgraced and put to shame; may those who plot my ruin be turned back in dismay. May they be like chaff before the wind, with the angel of the Lord driving them away; may their path be dark and slippery, with the angel of the Lord pursuing them. Since they hid their net for me without cause and without cause dug a pit for me, may ruin overtake them by surprise— may the net they hid entangle them, may they fall into the pit, to their ruin. Then my soul will rejoice in the Lord and delight in his salvation. My whole being will exclaim, 'Who is like you, O Lord? You rescue the poor from those too strong for them, the poor and needy from those who rob them.'" (Psalm 35:4-10) See II Chronicles 6:23

Why, then, are these words of "David" an acceptable prayer to God?  Here, are two reasons.  First of all, this is a prayer for God's vengeance on his enemies and is not David's attempt to get vengeance.  "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)  We are to do good to our enemies, but God will bring His wrath down on those who are His hardened enemies.  Paul depended on God that this would happen.  "Alexander the metalworker did me a great deal of harm. The Lord will repay him for what he has done." (II Timothy 4:14)  One way that God has brought His vengeance on the wicked is for them to experience the same wickedness toward them that they had directed toward the righteous. See II Kings 9:30-37; Esther 7:1-10

The Golden Rule is to treat others in the way that we want others to treat us. See Galatians 5:14  Often, we do not understandwhat it feels like to be treated harshly until we ourselves have been treated harshly.  David asks that his oppressor would be treated as he has treated others.

The second reason that David's prayer is an acceptable prayer is that he did return good for evil, but the person or persons referred to here still continued to express evil toward him.  How do we pray for a serial killer who has not been caught?  We pray that he will be caught and receive justice.  That does not mean that we do not hope that he will seek God's forgiveness as some murderers tell us they have done.  We pray for justice because we do not want evil to continue to succeed.

"let an accuser stand at his right hand."  May he be accused as he has accused others.

"When he is tried, let him be found guilty, and may his prayers condemn him."  We desire that those guilty of murder and other atrocities "be found guilty."  In two of our countries most publicized trials, those "tried" were found innocent.  What was the result?  There was a public outcry about the injustice.  "David" wants his enemy to be "found guilty" as he deserves to be "found guilty." 

"and may his prayers condemn him."  "May his prayers" for help be treated in the same way that he responded to others' pleas for help. See James 5:1-6; Matthew 18:23-36

"May his days be few; may another take his place of leadership."  This sounds like a horrible prayer for someone to pray.  Saddam was a wicked ruler of Iraq and his sons were probably more wicked than he was.  Would it have been wrong to pray that "his days be few," and that "another take his place of leadership"?  He was a wicked ruler and the longer he ruled, the more evil was going to be done.  If Hitler had lived longer and continued his evil, the more people would have died.  Certainly, there were those who prayed for his death and for the end of his rule.  "David's" prayer here is similar.

This verse, along with Psalm 69:25, predicts how the evil Judas was to be removed from the apostles and replaced with another.  "(With the reward he got for his wickedness, Judas bought a field; there he fell headlong, his body burst open and all his intestines spilled out. Everyone in Jerusalem heard about this, so they called that field in their language Akeldama, that is, Field of Blood.) 'For,' said Peter, 'it is written in the book of Psalms, '“May his place be deserted; let there be no one to dwell in it,” [Ps. 69:25] and, “May another take his place of leadership.”'" [Ps 109:8] (Acts 1:18-20)

"May his children be fatherless and his wife a widow."  The evil tyrant does this to others.  He leaves "children" "fatherless" and his "wife a widow"  Justice for this evil is for the same to happen to him.  "We are aware that that this [the need for evil to be punished] may not justify the full force of these expressions, but it should not be forgotten the case-supposed is a very execrable one [detestable] and the character of the culprit is beyond measure loathsome and to not be met by any common abhorrence.  Those who regard a sort of effeminate benevolence to all creatures alike as same as the acme of virtue are vey much in favor with this degenerate age; these look for salvation of the damned, and even pray for the restoration of the devil." "Taken from The Treasury of David by Charles Spurgeon."

"May his children be wandering beggars; may they be driven from their ruined homes."  From this point on until verse 15, "David's" words get more difficult to see as the prayer of a righteous man.  How could David desire that bad come to the "children" of his enemy.  How could he be led of the Holy Spirit to pray these words?  Often a man's evil is passed on to his children.  For the evil of this man to stop, the evil needs to be dealt with in his children. See Exodus 20:6  A better solution is for the evil man or his children to repent and turn from their evil.  Even the wicked king Manasseh repented. See 33:10-17  But for the most part, the hardened wicked continue in their wickedness and their wickedness is passed on to their children.  "David" prays that the wickedness would end with this man and his "children." See Genesis 4:1012 where a similar curse was put on the murderer Cain.

"David's" prayer is in line with what God does in response to our sin.  Our sin does affect our children (as does our choosing to fear God affect our children). "And he passed in front of Moses, proclaiming, 'The Lord, the Lord, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin. Yet he does not leave the guilty unpunished; he punishes the children and their children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation.'" (Exodus 34:6-7)

"May a creditor seize all he has; may strangers plunder the fruits of his labor."  The evil man robs others; so it is just for him to receive that same evil himself.  Recently, there have been very rich men who became rich by cheating many trusting souls out of all of their savings.  What do they now deserve—especially if they remain hard-hearted about it?  Justice requires that the same happen to them.  They have been the cause of many going poor; they should go poor as well.

"May no one extend kindness to him or take pity on his fatherless children."  After Judas' betrayal of Jesus, no one showed "kindness" to him. See Matthew 27:1-8  Those who are merciless are not to receive mercy.  "Because judgment without mercy will be shown to anyone who has not been merciful. . . . " (James 2:13a) See Jeremiah 13:14; 21:7; Hosea 1:6; Matthew 6:14-15, 18:28-35

"or take pity on his fatherless children."  "We are staggered to find the children included in the father's sentence, and yet as a matter of fact children do suffer for their father's sins, and as long as the affairs of this life are ordered as they are, it must be so.  So involved are the interests of the race, that it is quite impossible in all respects to view the father and the child apart.  No man among us could desire to see the fatherless suffer for their deceased father's fault; yet so it happens, and there is no injustice in the fact.  They share the parent's ill-gotten gain or rank and their aggrandizement is a part of the object at which he aimed in the perpetration of his crimes; to allow them to prosper would be an encouragement and reward of his iniquity; therefore, for these and other reasons, a man perishes not alone in his iniquity." "Taken from The Treasury of David by Charles Spurgeon."  Evil passes on to the children of the evil one.  Sadly, for the evil to stop, it must not only be stopped in the individual, but also in his children.

"May his descendants be cut off, their names blotted out from the next generation."  He wishes that the sins of the evil man would stop with him and his children.  Not only was Saddam Hussein killed, but his two sons were killed also.  The families of those who were tortured and killed by them were certainly relieved that their reign of evil had come to an end.

"May the iniquity of his fathers be remembered before the Lord; may the sin of his mother never be blotted out. May their sins always remain before the Lord, that he may cut off the memory of them from the earth."  These verses and other verses in the Bible describe God's judgment against hardened and wicked men.  "They will be punished with everlasting destruction and shut out from the presence of the Lord and from the majesty of his power on the day he comes to be glorified in his holy people and to be marveled at among all those who have believed. This includes you, because you believed our testimony to you." (2 Thessalonians 1:9-10)  "Blessed are those who wash their robes, that they may have the right to the tree of life and may go through the gates into the city. Outside are the dogs, those who practice magic arts, the sexually immoral, the murderers, the idolaters and everyone who loves and practices falsehood." (Revelation 22:14-15)

4. Why he desires God's judgment on the wicked (109:16-19)
"For he never thought of doing a kindness, but hounded to death the poor and the needy and the brokenhearted. He loved to pronounce a curse— may it come on him; he found no pleasure in blessing— may it be far from him. He wore cursing as his garment; it entered into his body like water, into his bones like oil. May it be like a cloak wrapped about him, like a belt tied forever around him."

Thought Question:  How do you believe that someone can develop into the type of person that David describes here?

 

 

"For he never thought of doing a kindness,"  The choosing of sin over and over again hardens the heart until one does not even think about or remember what God created us for.  God is love and He created us to be like Him.  And, yet, the choosing of sin removes us from the light until we can no longer remember what we were created to be like.  Being kind and merciful is no longer even a consideration.

"but hounded to death the poor and the needy and the brokenhearted."  Not only did he not have compassion for the needy, but he was their worst enemy.  He deliberately did harm to those who were already hurting.  Who could have this depth of hardness?  We think of the cruel slum lord who gets rich off the poor.  We think of those who get rich off other people's addictions.  We think of those who enslave people and use them as sex slaves.  We think of those who scam the old out of their savings.  Sadly, this type of hard-heartedness is all around us  in this sin-hardened world.

What is the just consequences for this type of person?  We desire to see them turn to God for mercy.  And some do.  But what of those that never turn to God for mercy, but continue until the grave in their malignant life style, heartlessly preying on others?  God's judgment, then, is appropriate.  "Judgment without mercy will be shown to anyone who has not been merciful." (James 2:13b)  As David said earlier: "May no one extend kindness to him or take pity on his fatherless children."

"He loved to pronounce a curse— may it come on him; he found no pleasure in blessing— may it be far from him."   David describes his evil enemies in the following way in verse 5: "They repay me evil for good, and hatred for my friendship." (Psalm 109:5)  The specific enemy or enemies that David is describing in verses 6-19 deserved the evil that would come to them.  Seeing another prosper had no value to this enemy of "David."  So, "David" states, "let him now receive the curses he desires for others and prevent him from prospering."  This may seem harsh, but it amounts to "David" having the desire that their evil would be dealt with so strongly that it would stop hurting others.

"He wore cursing as his garment; it entered into his body like water, into his bones like oil."  Eliphaz, in the book of Job, explains the meaning of the metaphor of water as it is used here by "David."  "how much less man, who is vile and corrupt, who drinks up evil like water!" (Job 15:16)  Cursing others is drunk up like a thirsty man drinks water.  It happens when one enjoys hearing that bad happens to others.  This malignant perspective on others becomes so much a part of this person's life that it is as if it is his clothing, his food, and his drink. See II Samuel 16:5-14

"May it be like a cloak wrapped about him, like a belt tied forever around him.This is essentially wishing the eternal damnation of one who spent his life doing evil to others.  Is there any other place in the Bible where such a curse is directed to others?  This type of curse is found throughout the Bible.  "But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let him be eternally condemned!" (Galatians 1:8)  "If anyone does not love the Lord—a curse be on him. Come, O Lord!" (1 Corinthians 16:22)  "With eyes full of adultery, they never stop sinning; they seduce the unstable; they are experts in greed—an accursed brood!" (2 Peter 2:14)  "For certain men whose condemnation was written about long ago have secretly slipped in among you. They are godless men, who change the grace of our God into a license for immorality and deny Jesus Christ our only Sovereign and Lord." (Jude 4)   "They are wild waves of the sea, foaming up their shame; wandering stars, for whom blackest darkness has been reserved forever." (Jude 13) See also Genesis 12:3; Numbers 24:9; Deuteronomy 27:15-26, 28:15-68; II Kings 2:23-35; Nehemiah 13:23-29; Psalm 37:22, 119:21; Proverbs 3:33; Malachi 1;14, 2:2

5. May their wickedness come back on them (109:20)
"May this be the Lord’s payment to my accusers, to those who speak evil of me."

Thought Question:  Could this be the prayer of a Christian?  Please explain your answer.

 

 

"May this be the Lord’s payment to my accusers, to those who speak evil of me.Prayers and desires like this are expressed by the godly: "Repay them for their deeds and for their evil work; repay them for what their hands have done and bring back upon them what they deserve." (Psalm 28:4)  "Let evil recoil on those who slander me; in your faithfulness destroy them." (Psalm 54:5)  "But the Lord has become my fortress, and my God the rock in whom I take refuge. He will repay them for their sins and destroy them for their wickedness; the Lord our God will destroy them." (Psalm 94:22-23)  "Woe to the wicked! Disaster is upon them! They will be paid back for what their hands have done." (Isaiah 3:11)  "Pay them back what they deserve, O Lord, for what their hands have done." (Lamentations 3:64)  "Alexander the metalworker did me a great deal of harm. The Lord will repay him for what he has done." (2 Timothy 4:14) See also Revelation 18:6, 22:12

We should desire repentance from sin and God's mercy for those who oppose us, but there will be those who are sufficiently hardened who will never turn from their resolute hatred for God and His ways.  At the end of I John, John the apostle says these amazing words: "If anyone sees his brother commit a sin that does not lead to death, he should pray and God will give him life. I refer to those whose sin does not lead to death. There is a sin that leads to death. I am not saying that he should pray about that. All wrongdoing is sin, and there is sin that does not lead to death." (1 John 5:16-17)  We are not to pray for those who have already chosen their eternal direction.  And, they will receive the just punishment for their choice.  David prays for what God's justice has already determined that they shall receive for their wicked choices. See Romans 1:28-32

6. A Plea for God's Help (109:21-26)
"But you, O Sovereign Lord, deal well with me for your name’s sake; out of the goodness of your love, deliver me. For I am poor and needy, and my heart is wounded within me. I fade away like an evening shadow; I am shaken off like a locust. My knees give way from fasting; my body is thin and gaunt. I am an object of scorn to my accusers; when they see me, they shake their heads. Help me, O Lord my God; save me in accordance with your love."

Thought Question:  When have you most felt like David felt here and prayed as David prayed here?  What was the result of your prayer?

 

 

"But you, O Sovereign Lord, deal well with me for your name’s sake; out of the goodness of your love, deliver me."  Listen to Ray Stedman's explanation of this verse.  "God is involved in what happens to his own.  The psalmist, understanding this, commits the whole cause to God and says, 'God, you deal with it.  It's your problem.  Your name is involved; you handle it on my behalf for your name's sake.'" "Taken from Folk Psalms of Faith by Ray Stedman.  Copyright 1973 by Regal Books."   Shortly before these words in Ray's commentary, he had this to say about David's wisdom in asking for God to deal with his and God's enemies: "'Vengeance is God's!  Don't try to 'get even.'  If you do, you'll only make matter worse.  You will perpetuate a feud that may go on for years, even for centuries, destroying, wrecking, damaging others and creating all kinds of difficulties both for them and for you.  No, no! 'Vengeance is mine,' says the Lord, 'I am the only one who has adequate wisdom for handling this kind of problem'. . .  Dr. F. B. Meyer has said, 'We make a mistake in trying always to clear ourselves.  We should be wiser to go straight on, humbly doing the next thing, and leaving God to vindicate us.  'He shall bring forth their righteousness as the light, and thy judgment as the noon day.'  There may come hours in our lives when we shall be misunderstood, slandered, falsely accused.  At such times it is a very difficult not to act on the policy of the men around us in the world.  They at once appeal to law and force and public opinion.  But the believer takes his case into a higher court and lays it before his God.'" "Stedman quotes Meyer."

"For I am poor and needy, and my heart is wounded within me. I fade away like an evening shadow; I am shaken off like a locust. My knees give way from fasting; my body is thin and gaunt."  Here, we do not see "David" portraying himself as being like our present-day invincible movie stars who do not need anyone's help—who can vanquish their foes quite easily by their unconquerable will, strength, and martial arts skills.  Instead, "David" sees himself as weak and helpless before his coldhearted and wicked foes.  They have deeply wounded him.  Without God's help, he will be the vanquished one.

"The Lord has always a tender regard to broken-hearted ones, and such the Psalmist had become: the undeserved cruelty, the baseness, the slander of his remorseless enemies had pierced him to the soul, and this sad condition he pleads as a reason for speedy help." "Taken from The Treasury of David by Charles Spurgeon." 

"I fade away like an evening shadow;"  As the sun sets, shadows appear for a short time and then disappear as the sun goes down.  "David's strength was weakening in this way.  Have you ever felt this type of weakness?  I know that I have.

"I am shaken off like a locust."  Locusts are powerless before strong winds—they get tossed back and forth as the winds buffet them about.  "David" felt this helplessness before his enemies.  When sharp and unfair words are maliciously said, either by us or against us, we and others are often devoid of sensitivity to how these words deliver deep wounds.

"My knees give way from fasting;"  Either he was fasting in prayer or through "loss of appetite occasioned by distress of mind." "Taken from The Treasury of David by Charles Spurgeon."  "my body is thin and gaunt."  His body's weakness matched the weakness he felt within.

"I am an object of scorn to my accusers; when they see me, they shake their heads."  Jesus, the sinless One, knew this type of ridicule and scorn.  "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)  Abraham Lincoln was scorned and made fun of.  We, as Christians, are never to participate in this type of evil.  Nevertheless, we are tempted to join in when others make a despised boss, political figure, a difficult person in the church and others the focus of their scorn.  It is easy to join in when at the time you know the majority or all will agree with you.  I wish that I could say that I have never given into this type of thing, but I have. 

"Help me, O Lord my God; save me in accordance with your love.He appeals to God's love to deliver him from the hatred of his enemies.  Jesus prayer in Psalm 22 is like "David's" prayer here. See Psalm 22  The Father heard Jesus' prayer, He heard "David's" prayer; and He hears our prayer as well.

7. May his enemies know that God helped him (109:27)
"Let them know that it is your hand, that you, O Lord, have done it."

Although the name of God is not mentioned in the book of Esther, when the wicked Haman was hanged on the gallows he had built for the godly Mordecai, did he not know that God had put him there?  He certainly knew that God's "hand" had intervened and punished him instead of Mordecai. See Esther 7

"David" desires this same type of justice.  He desires that they would see that God intervened against them on his behalf. See also Daniel 6:24

8. A contrast between how God will treat him and how God will treat his accusers (109:28-29)
"They may curse, but you will bless; when they attack they will be put to shame, but your servant will rejoice. My accusers will be clothed with disgrace and wrapped in shame as in a cloak."

Thought Question:  Why do you believe it is so important to David that God intervenes on his behalf and exposes whose side He is on?

 

 

"They may curse, but you will bless; when they attack they will be put to shame, but your servant will rejoice."  When those who had once been seen as friends (see 4-5) curse us in the end, we seek the friendship of our truest Friend.  When they curse us, we seek His blessing.  If he has God's blessing, he will be able to "rejoice" even while they are cursing him.  "sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; poor, yet making many rich; having nothing, and yet possessing everything." (II Corinthians 6:10)

"My accusers will be clothed with disgrace and wrapped in shame as in a cloak.What "David" describes here had not occurred when he said these words, but what he says here is a statement of his faith that God would at some certain time in the future intervene on his behalf.  The result would be that at that future time, his "accusers" would "be clothed with disgrace and wrapped in shame."  "But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander." (1 Peter 3:15-16)

If "David" had retaliated with evil, he would have been just as evil as the ones who had done evil to him.  But, he is not returning evil for evil; instead he is continuing to do good and asking God to deal justly and wisely with those who are doing evil to him.  Then, he is living with the belief that his desire to do what is good and his trust in God's justice will result in the evil one or evil ones reaping the consequences of the evil they have sown.  "He who would clothe good men with contempt shall himself be clothed with dishonor." "Taken from The Treasury of David by Charles Spurgeon."

9. His praise to God for helping the needy ones (109:30-31)
"With my mouth I will greatly extol the Lord; in the great throng I will praise him. For he stands at the right hand of the needy one, to save his life from those who condemn him."

Thought Question:  In what ways are you comforted by these words?

 

 

"With my mouth I will greatly extol the Lord; in the great throng I will praise him."  "David," in faith, praises God even though at the time his circumstances had not changed and God had not yet intervened to bless him and vindicate him.  What a rebuke it is to us when we are overwhelmed by the apparent victory of the wicked.  Can we believe in God's triumph, even when there is no sign that He will be victorious on our behalf?  ". . . 'I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!'" (Mark 9:24)

"For he stands at the right hand of the needy one, to save his life from those who condemn him."My whole being will exclaim, 'Who is like you, O Lord? You rescue the poor from those too strong for them, the poor and needy from those who rob them." (Psalm 35:10)  "Nothing can more sweetly sustain the heart of the slandered believer than the conviction that God is near to all who are wronged and is sure to work out their salvation." "Taken from The Treasury of David by Charles Spurgeon."  "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? Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies. Who is he that condemns? Christ Jesus, who died—more than that, who was raised to life—is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? As it is written: 'For your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.' No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord." (Romans 8:31-39)

PSALM 110:  The Conquering Messianic/Priest

INTRODUCTION:  Robert Alden's introduction to this Psalm expresses well the importance of this Psalm in the Bible.  "Psalm 110 is the most popular of the Messianic psalms.  Quotations from it and allusions to it occur more that twenty times in the New Testament.  This is remarkable in view of its seven brief verses.  Jesus Himself used the first verse to prove His deity (Mt 22:44; Mk 12:30; Lk 20:42-43).  Peter cited it at Acts 2:34 when he preached at Pentecost, and the author of Hebrews quoted it at 1:13.  In addition, the concept of Christ sitting at the right hand of God appears many times (Mt 26:64; Mk 14:62, 16:19; Lk 22:69; Eph 1:20; Col 3:1; Heb 1:3, 8:1, 10:12, 12:2; and I Pe 3:22).  Also, the ideas of the enemies being a footstool occurs in I Corinthians 15:25; Ephesians 1:22; and Hebrews 10:13.  The Hebrews author quotes and refers to 4 as well. (see Heb 5:6, 10; 6:20; 7:11, 15, 17, 21.)" "Taken from Psalm Volume 3 Songs of Discipleship by Robert Alden.  Copyright 1975 by Moody Press."

The Psalm is one of the group of Psalms that has come to be called the "Messianic Psalms"—Psalms that predict the coming Messiah who will rule on the throne of David. See II Samuel 7:4-16; Psalm 89:29-37; Luke 1:29-33; Psalms 2, 45, 72, 89

1. The future Ruler who is God and whom God will enable to rule (110:1-2)
"Of David. A psalm. The Lord says to my Lord: 'Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet.' The Lord will extend your mighty scepter from Zion; you will rule in the midst of your enemies."

Thought Question:  Do you believe that these verses predict Jesus Christ?  Please explain your answer.

 

 

"Of David. A psalm. The Lord says to my Lord: 'Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet.'"  It appears that this conversation took place between the Father and the Son once Jesus had ascended into heaven and had taken His place at the Father's "right hand."  "But when this priest had offered for all time one sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God. Since that time he waits for his enemies to be made his footstool," (Hebrews 10:12-13) See Acts 2:25-36

David refers to this One who is his descendent as "my Lord" and the "Lord" also calls Him "Lord."  Here, in the Old Testament, we have God speaking to God.  We find similar descriptions of God to God relations in the New Testament.  "But about the Son he says, 'Your throne, O God, will last for ever and ever, and righteousness will be the scepter of your kingdom.'" (Hebrews 1:8)  In John 1, we have God being with God.  "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made." (John 1:1-3)  These verses are statements of the view that God is both One and Three.  The Bible and these verses teach that God is a Triunity—a Trinity.

"'a footstool for your feet.'What is meant by a "footstool for" His "feet"?  When a king of that time conquered another king, as a symbol of total victory over his enemy, he would put his feet on the defeated king's neck—his neck became his "footstool."  Jesus' destiny is to put his foot on Satan's neck.  It will not happen through the victory of the church slowly conquering evil, but through the return of Christ in power as described in the book of Revelation. See Revelation 19:11-20:15

"The Lord will extend your mighty scepter from Zion; you will rule in the midst of your enemies.David predicts that God will give Jesus the Ruler's "scepter," and He "will rule" the earth from Jerusalem "in the midst of" His "enemies."  In Psalm 2, it is predicted that He "will rule them with an iron scepter." (Psalm 2:9)  In other words, those He will rule over will not all be willing subjects to His "rule."  In Revelation 20, it predicts that Jesus will "rule" for one thousand years, then Satan will return and gather an army against Jesus and His "rule."  Jesus will, then, completely vanquish Satan and his forces.  Following this, Jesus will set up His heavenly and eternal rule from the New Jerusalem. See Revelation 20:1-10; I Corinthians 15:24-26; Zechariah 14.

2. A description of the Messiah's army (110:3)
"Your troops will be willing on your day of battle. Arrayed in holy majesty, from the womb of the dawn you will receive the dew of your youth."

In the end, the Messiah-Ruler-Priest will have no reluctant followers, but completely eager followers.  They will be His army when He returns.  He has had a willing army all these years.  We think of all those who died martyrs' deaths.  For example, those martyrs described in Foxe's Book of Martyrs.  They willingly went to their deaths rather than disobey their Lord.  All of His faithful followers will be His troops when He returns.  In Romans 12:1-2, Paul exhorts us all to be those who will give our all and be His faithful followers to the end.  "Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—this is your spiritual act of worship. Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will." (Romans 12:1-2)  Then, we will be those who will be with Him on His "day of battle." 

"Arrayed in holy majesty, from the womb of the dawn."  All who are with Him in this battle will be dressed in sparkling "majesty."  The following verse describes what we will be like in that day.  "But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body." (Philippians 3:20-21)  "The armies of heaven were following him, riding on white horses and dressed in fine linen, white and clean." (Revelation 19:14)

"from the womb of the dawn."  "David" describes the Messiah's troops as being new-born like the dew at the freshness of a new day.  "You will receive the dew of your youth.The Messiah's troops will not be old, though some of them will have died in their 60s or later.  Instead, they will be in the freshness of their "youth."

3. The Ruler is also a Melchizedek priest (110:4)
"The Lord has sworn and will not change his mind: 'You are a priest forever, in the order of Melchizedek.'"

Thought Question:  What do you believe David meant by "the order of Melchizedek?

 

 

This verse is the central verse of the Psalm and is one of the most important verses in the Bible.  I will quote from my words on Melchizedek in Hebrews 6 and 7 to explain the importance of this fourth verse in the 110th Psalm.  "The people of the Old Testament put their trust in their relationship with God through the human High Priest of the family of Aaron.  He entered into the Holy of Holies in the Tabernacle on their behalf once a year with a blood sacrifice for their sins.  We put our trust in our relationship with God through a High Priest of another order, the order not of Aaron but of Melchizedek.  Jesus Christ did not enter the earthly Tabernacle, but Heaven itself.  And He did not enter once a year, but once forever.  Also, He did not go in and come back out, but He is still there.   Finally, the people of Israel were not able to follow their High Priest into the presence of God, but we can follow our High Priest Jesus Christ right into the presence of God—right into the Holy of Holies.

Who is Melchizedek?  Our first reaction to this question may be, "Who cares?"  It may seem that the question and the answer to the question are totally irrelevant to our lives.  For this reason, it is tempting for us to just pass over the seventh chapter of Hebrews; for the whole chapter is about Melchizedek.  It may remind us of other long names we find in the Bible like Nebuchadnezzar, Abimelech, and Mephibosheth.  We tend to be overwhelmed by these long, unfamiliar and foreign-sounding names.  The whole seventh chapter of Hebrews is dedicated to explaining the importance of a man with one of these long, unfamiliar and foreign-sounding names.  It is no wonder that many who read the Bible have not made a concerted attempt to understand this chapter.  Yet it is a critically important part of the precious gold that we are to dig out of the Bible, refine, and apply to our lives.

Who was this Melchizedek?  It will not be easy to understand.  As the author of Hebrews says, it is solid food or meat.  It will be a stretching experience for all of us.

Outside of the book of Hebrews, Melchizedek is only mentioned in Genesis 14:18-20 and Psalm 110:4 (four verses).  In Genesis 14:18-20, we find these words, 'Then Melchizedek king of Salem brought out bread and wine.  He was a priest of God Most High, and he blessed Abram, saying, 'Blessed be Abram by God Most High, Creator of heaven and earth,  And blessed be God Most High who delivered your enemies into your hand.'  Then Abram gave him a tenth of everything.'  In Psalm 110:4, it says, 'The Lord has sworn and will not change his mind: You are a priest forever, in the order of Melchizedek.'  As it says here in Hebrews 7:1, he was both 'king of Salem and priest of God Most High.'  He is the only priest mentioned before Moses.   Moses received instructions at Mt. Sinai to establish a kingdom of priests. See Exodus 19:5-6   He is the only man before Jesus Christ to be both a king and a priest.  King Uzziah tried to be both a king and a priest when he offered incense before God.  He immediately became leprous. See II Chronicles 26:16-21

Peter's name means 'rock' and Abraham's name means 'exalted father.'  God's names for them were important in describing their parts in God's plan.  Peter's faith in Jesus Christ became the 'rock' upon which the Church was built.  Abraham was the 'exalted father' of the Israelite nation and of all who have faith in God as he had.  Melchizedek's name is also very important as a description of the most important part of God's plan.  His name means "king of righteousness."  His name is a description of a future king who will be righteous and who will bring in righteousness.  Also, he was the "king of Salem." "Salem," like the Hebrew word Shalom, is the word for peace.  'Jerusalem' means 'a foundation for peace' or a place for peace.   So, Melchizedek was a king of righteousness and peace, and he pointed to a coming King who would bring righteousness and peace to man.

But, Melchizedek was also significant as a priest.  Different from the priests in the line of Aaron who were of the tribe of Levi, Melchizedek is described without there being any reference made to his family line.  Also, there is no mention of his birth or his death.  As the author of Hebrews says, he 'like the Son of God remains a priest forever.'  He was a picture for us, from way back in the times of Genesis, of a coming King who would bring in righteousness and peace.  And he was also a picture for us of a priest from outside of the family of Aaron who was from before time and who would be a priest forever.  Melchizedek was a prediction of our King/Priest Jesus Christ!

As we see in Genesis 14:18-20 quoted earlier, when Abraham conquered the kings that had taken his brother Lot prisoner, Abraham gave Melchizedek a tithe of the spoils.   Tithe means 1/10.  When we give tithes of our income, we are saying that we know that nothing is ours and that God owns everything.  When we give Him a tithe of our income, we are acknowledging that we are merely stewards of His possessions.  Here, Abraham, voluntarily gave 1/10 of his plunder to Melchizedek who was a representative of God.

In Israel, God chose the tribe of Levi to collect tithes.  Yet, Abraham, the father of all the Jews including the tribe of Levi, paid tithes to Melchizedek.  What is the conclusion to all of this?  Undoubtedly, very few without the help of Hebrews chapter seven would have noticed from reading the Bible that Melchizedek had a higher position with God than Abraham (and, therefore, that he also had a higher position with God than the whole Israelite nation including the tribe of Levi and the High Priest of Israel).  The simple conclusion is that Abraham—the father of Moses, the father of David, the father of all the famous Jewish men, and the father of all Israel—saw Melchizedek as greater than himself and gave tithes to him and was blessed by him.

As we were 'in Adam' when he sinned in the garden, so the priests of Israel were 'in Abraham' when he gave tithes to Melchizedek.  What the author of Hebrews was telling these Jewish Christians is that even in the Old Testament it says that there was someone greater than their Jewish priests.  He was seeking to change their mindset.  They saw their Jewish religious system as the greatest system of all.  It was hard for them to see someone coming to them who claimed to be greater than their religious system and greater than their High Priest.  The author of Hebrews wanted to show them that the religious system that they were part of was only a temporary model of God's plan and that it needed to be replaced by the eternal and real plan of God to which the model pointed.  Therefore, they did not need a High Priest who was part of the temporary model, but an eternal High Priest.  As Melchizedek was greater than Abraham and an eternal King/Priest, so they needed a greater High Priest than Aaron who is an eternal King/Priest.

Melchizedek, the king/priest of what would become Jerusalem is a picture of the future King/Priest of the New Jerusalem, Jesus Christ.  Abraham is a picture of all of us who believe in Jesus Christ.  He gave tithes to the king/priest of his time who had a higher position before God than Abraham himself.  We give our lives to the One who has the highest position before God of all!

Before we go on, it is necessary to explain the function of a priest.  A doctor's purpose is to lead us to health.  A priest's purpose is to lead us to God.  'Priest' comes from the Latin word that means bridge-builder.  The High Priest in particular is to be a bridge-builder between God and man.  In the following verses through the middle of chapter ten [in Hebrews], we will see that Jesus Christ is the perfect bridge-builder between man and God.  No mere man could do this, but only the God/man could be the perfect and sufficient bridge between God and us." "Quoted from Digging for Gold in Hebrews"

4. God will enable the ruler to conquer His enemies (110:5-7)
"The Lord is at your right hand; he will crush kings on the day of his wrath. He will judge the nations, heaping up the dead and crushing the rulers of the whole earth. He will drink from a brook beside the way; therefore he will lift up his head."

Thought Question:  How does God's predicted and sure victory over evil affect you today?

 

 

"The Lord is at your right hand; he will crush kings on the day of his wrath."  A certain day is coming when God's patience will end and the world will see his wrath against the wickedness of those who have stuck their chin out against Him and defiantly chose to do all that He commanded them not to do.  This day of God's wrath is described and predicted throughout the Bible. See Isaiah 2:6-22; Joel 1:15, 3:12-16; Amos 5:18-20; Zephaniah 1:14-2:3; Zechariah 14:1-7; Matthew 13:30, 40-42; I Thessalonians 5:1-10; Revelation 14:14-20, 16:16-21, 19:11-21  At that time, He will completely and decisively crush all opposition from any of the rulers of that time.  Then, He alone will be King!

How should this fact that God will one day be totally victorious affect us today?  Martin Luther, as he stood against all the opposition he stood against, had this to say about how God's final victory affected him:  "But if they will not [submit to the Lord, they will be conquered], they shall know against whom it is that they go on . . .This is our consolation which upholds us, and makes our heart joyful and glad against the persecution and rage of the world, that we have such a Lord, who not only delivers us from sin and eternal death, but also protects us, and delivers us in sufferings and temptations, so that we do not sink under them." "Taken from The Treasury of David by Charles Spurgeon. Spurgeon quotes Martin Luther."

"He will judge the nations, heaping up the dead and crushing the rulers of the whole earth."  The trumpet judgments, the bowls of wrath, and the battle of Armageddon in the book of Revelation describe God's wrath on the world against those who have chosen sin, Babylon, and the devil over God. See Revelation 8-19  In recent years, we have seen great catastrophes—tsunamis, earthquakes, tornadoes, and other calamities like none in our history before now.  Yet, the number of deaths in these catastrophes does not even come close to the number of deaths described in the book of Revelation.  In that time, God will judge the earth severely, "heaping up the dead." See Ezekiel 39:11-20

"He will drink from a brook beside the way; therefore he will lift up his head.Everyone has worked hard in the sun and then has come inside to have a refreshing drink.  This verse describes the future Ruler pausing for a refreshing drink at the end of the battle, and then lifting up His "head" in victory!

This verse requires further comment.  It is also possible that it is describing the future Ruler pausing for refreshment during the Battle and receiving strength and refreshment from the Father.  Most commentators see the verse as a difficult verse to interpret.  Nevertheless, the interpretation given above appears to be a fitting conclusion to this magnificent Psalm predicting Jesus Christ and His future conquest of the earth, cleansing it of evil.

PSALM 126:  Joy After Weeping

INTRODUCTION:  Much joy comes after a difficult time that ends in some type of joyous result.  A difficult time of working one's way through college results in a joyful graduation!  Here, a difficult time of judgment by God results in a joyful restoration of God's people.  A Christian's testimony is that a sinful life with painful consequences ends in a person turning to Christ for joyful salvation.  Ultimately, our time on this sin-plagued earth results in a joyful homecoming to the eternal Zion.  May we join in the Psalmist's joy today, for we have shared a common road which also ended in a joyous end.  In fact, this Psalm describes how life on this sin-plagued world and in these sin-plagued bodies can end in joy, if we continually trust that God will bring us out the other end with a joyful reunion—with Adam we all fell and with Jesus we can be restored to a joyful reunion!

1. Joy following restoration (126:1-3)
"A song of ascents. When the Lord brought back the captives to Zion, we were like men who dreamed. Our mouths were filled with laughter, our tongues with songs of joy. Then it was said among the nations, 'The Lord has done great things for them.' The Lord has done great things for us, and we are filled with joy."

Thought Question:  Give one time when you were filled with this type of joy because of what God had done for you?

 

 

"When the Lord brought back the captives to Zion, we were like men who dreamed."  The Bible describes periods of time when God's people were waiting for God to deliver them.  For example, God's people Israel cried out for God's help while they were enslaved in Egypt. See Exodus 1:8-18, 2:23-3:10  Then, God rescued them.  God judged Israel by causing Israel to wander in the wilderness for forty years.  A number of times, during the period of the Judges, Israel was judged by God when He allowed a foreign country to conquer them.  Then, God rescued them.  God judged Israel by sending them into the seventy years of captivity to Babylon and Medo-Persia; then, He rescued them.  Here, the Psalmist describes their joy when, at one of those times, God rescued them.

God saw our enslavement to sin and to Satan; then, He rescued us.  God, today, sees this world's enslavement to sin and to Satan.  In the future, He will rescue this world and restore it to His perfect state.  In all this, there is great cause to rejoice.

"we were like men who dreamed."  During the times of enslavement described above, the hope of being rescued is but a dream.  ". . . But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what he already has? But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently." (Romans 8:24-25)  One characteristic of one who has been recently saved is that it all seems too good to be true.  When we stand in heaven for the first time, it will most certainly seem too good to be true.  Then, we shall know "joy" far beyond what we thought would ever be possible.

"Our mouths were filled with laughter, our tongues with songs of joy. Then it was said among the nations, 'The Lord has done great things for them.'"  When God rescues His people, what follows is "songs of" rejoicing.  Hymns like "Amazing Grace" are expressions of great joy because of God's salvation.  After God delivered Israel at the Red Sea, what follows is the song of Moses and Miriam expressing joyous gratitude for what God had done for them. see Exodus 15:1-21  When we arrive in heaven, there will be joyous songs of praise and gratitude. See Revelation 5:6-14

"Then it was said among the nations, 'The Lord has done great things for them.'"  There are times when even the heathen admit that God "has done great things for" His people.  When Jesus healed the blind man in John 9, it was hard for the crowds to deny that this once-blind man could now see.  When Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead, it was hard to deny what God had done.  When God saves a person and that person's life is completely turned around, it is hard to deny what God has done.

"The Lord has done great things for us, and we are filled with joy.Certainly, every Christian can say these words.  The more fully we understand the depth of our sin and the more fully we understand the greatness of the love sacrifice made on our behalf, the more we will realize that "the Lord has done great things for us"; and the more "we are filled with joy."

2. Joy following weeping (126:4-6)
"Restore our fortunes, O Lord, like streams in the Negev. Those who sow in tears will reap with songs of joy. He who goes out weeping, carrying seed to sow, will return with songs of joy, carrying sheaves with him."

Thought Question:  Why do you believe that "those who sow in tears will reap with songs of joy"?

 

 

"Restore our fortunes, O Lord, like streams in the Negev."  "The rivers of the south (Negev) are empty most of the time.  The Arabic word for this is wadi, the Spanish word is arroyo, and the American word is dry gulch or wash.  Those few times a year when the rain falls, it falls abundantly, and the gullies become rushing torrents." "Taken from Psalm Volume 3 Songs of Discipleship by Robert Alden.  Copyright 1975 by Moody Press."  The Psalmist was asking the Lord to restore what had become bleak and dry until it became a flow of abundant blessing once more.

This prayer has been prayed many time by God's people.  All of us have had desolate times,  In those desolate times, it is appropriate to pray this prayer.  The desolate times can occur because of our sins, because of others' sins, a combination of both, or for reasons that we do not understand (like with Job).  But these dry times should drive us to seek after God's help and forgiveness.

"Those who sow in tears will reap with songs of joy."  We can wonder at times, "What can I do that will ensure that I am accepted by God?"  Is there a promise in the Bible that if I do something, then, God will draw near to me?  This verse is one of those verses.  But, there are many more.  "But he gives us more grace. That is why Scripture says: 'God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.' 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. 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 4:6-10)  "'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)  "The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise." (Psalm 51:17)  "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)  "Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted. Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth." (Matthew 5:3-5)  "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)  If we come to God weeping about our sin, our sinfulness, our neediness, and/or our helplessness, He will draw near to us.

Many can remember times of sorrowful prayer followed by the joy of answered prayer.  We sowed "in tears," but reaped "with songs of joy."  There is much to mourn about in this sin-plagued world with all of its devastated lives.  Mourning should be a large part of the Christian life.  "Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted." (Matthew 5:4)  But there will be joy in heaven when we see the eternal results of our service and our prayers.

"He who goes out weeping, carrying seed to sow, will return with songs of joy, carrying sheaves with him.This verse is a summary of what the Christian life should be like.  We go out into a world that is dying and heading toward hell—we go out with the precious gospel message that Jesus has died and rose again from the dead to save us from sin and eternal death.  What are the results?  Our tears and sowing lead to rejoicing as we see people saved, their lives turned toward heaven, and heading for eternal life with God.

"Bringing in the Sheaves" has never been one of my favorite hymns, but this verse helps me to understand its meaning.  Maybe, it will help you also.  "Sowing in the morning, sowing seeds of kindness, sowing in the noon-tide and the dewy eve;  waiting for the harvest, and the time of reaping, we should come rejoicing, bringing in the sheaves."  Some of the rejoicing comes during our life on earth, as we see God's seed bear fruit; but, the greatest time of rejoicing will come when in eternity we see the harvest that has come from our service to God!

PSALM 127:  A Godly Home

INTRODUCTION:  This is a Psalm of Solomon.  As we read it, we are reminded of the book of Ecclesiastes which was also written by Solomon.  In Ecclesiastes, Solomon discovered that apart from God, all was vanity—emptiness, meaninglessness, and futility.  In this Psalm, Solomon states that "unless the Lord builds the house, its builders labor in vain."  Ecclesiastes ends with this conclusion: "Now all has been heard; here is the conclusion of the matter: Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man. For God will bring every deed into judgment, including every hidden thing, whether it is good or evil." (Ecclesiastes 12:13-14)  May we seek that God will be the builder of our lives, our homes, and our churches.

1. A home that God builds (127:1-2)
"A song of ascents. Of Solomon. Unless the Lord builds the house, its builders labor in vain. Unless the Lord watches over the city, the watchmen stand guard in vain. In vain you rise early and stay up late, toiling for food to eat— for he grants sleep to those he loves."

Thought Question:  How can you tell the difference between a home that God builds from a home where the parents have labored in vain?

 

 

"Unless the Lord builds the house, its builders labor in vain."  "Labor in vain" is what we do not want to do.  We can "labor" in our strength for the purpose of elevating our prestige and to gain feelings of prideful accomplishment.  The builders of the Tower of Babel were erecting a monument to their own accomplishments—man's accomplishments without God's help; but they labored "in vain."  We need to be very careful that we are not laboring in the same way as they were and with the same motives.  If we are, the building of our homes, churches, businesses, communities, and country will be "in vain." 

"Unless the Lord watches over the city, the watchmen stand guard in vain."  There is no true security that does not come from God.  The truth is that we are very vulnerable at all times.  Even our planet is very vulnerable to a wandering asteroid, dramatic climate changes, massive earthquakes, and other unexpected calamities.  Recently, at the time of writing these words, there was a massive earthquake in Japan and an overpowering tsunami.  Previous to all of this, the people in that region felt very secure.  "Unless the Lord watches over the city," we can have no true feelings of security, trust, or peace.

"In vain you rise early and stay up late, toiling for food to eat— for he grants sleep to those he loves.Apart from God and depending on our own resources, we can feel that if we out-labor others, we will excel beyond them.  But that is a vain and empty pursuit.  What do we have in the end?  Very rich men have discovered that laboring after more and more riches leaves you an empty man in the end.  "So I hated life, because the work that is done under the sun was grievous to me. All of it is meaningless, a chasing after the wind. I hated all the things I had toiled for under the sun, because I must leave them to the one who comes after me. And who knows whether he will be a wise man or a fool? Yet he will have control over all the work into which I have poured my effort and skill under the sun. This too is meaningless. So my heart began to despair over all my toilsome labor under the sun. For a man may do his work with wisdom, knowledge and skill, and then he must leave all he owns to someone who has not worked for it. This too is meaningless and a great misfortune. What does a man get for all the toil and anxious striving with which he labors under the sun? All his days his work is pain and grief; even at night his mind does not rest. This too is meaningless." (Ecclesiastes 2:17-23)

Listen to "A Lesson from John D." found in the book, None of These Diseases.  "As a young man, John D. Rockefeller Sr., was as strong and husky as a farm lad.  When he entered business he drove himself harder than any slave was ever driven by the whip of a taskmaster.  At the early age of thirty-three, he had made his first million dollars.  By consecrating every waking moment to his work, he controlled, at fifty-three, the biggest business in the world.  When he was fifty-three, he was the richest man on earth and the world's only billionaire.  For this achievement he had bartered his own happiness and health.  He developed alopecia, a condition in which not only the hair of the head drops off but also most of the hair from the eyelashes and eyebrows.  One of his biographers said that he looked like a 'mummy.'  His weekly income was a million dollars, but his digestion was so bad that he could eat only crackers and milk.  Like Scrooge, John D. was as solitary as an oyster.  He once confessed that he 'wanted to be loved,' but did not sense that people love only those who emanate affection.  Lacking in consideration for others, he had often crushed the helpless into the mire in his lust to make bigger profits.  So hated was he in the oil fields of Pennsylvania that the men whom he had pauperized hanged him in effigy, and he had bodyguards day and night.  The mass of wealth he had accumulated gave him neither peace nor happiness.  In fact, as he sought to protect and control it, he discovered that he was being smothered by it.  He could not sleep; he enjoyed nothing.  When John D. was only fifty-three, Ida Tarbell wrote of him, 'An awful age was in his face.  He was the oldest man that I have ever seen.'  The crackers and milk he glumly swallowed could no longer hold together his skinny body and restless soul.  It was generally agreed that he would not live another year, and newspaper writers had his obituary written and ready in their files." "Taken from None of these Diseases. by S. I. Mc Millen.  Copyright 1967 by Fleming H. Revell Company."  As the chapter continues, everything changed when John D. began to give away his fortune to those who needed it most.  But, John D. is a testimony of what the Psalmist says here.  "In vain you rise early and stay up late, toiling for food to eat. . . . "

"for he grants sleep to those he loves.If we rely totally on ourself, we can become a workaholic that goes to bed exhausted—feeling overwhelmed by what occurred during the day and dreading the next day.  Add  to this, our resentments toward those who have thwarted our efforts and worries that we might lose what we have worked so hard for; then, sleep will not come easily.  On the other hand, trusting that our lives are in God's almighty and loving hands, gives us peace and sleep.

2. A home that God blesses with children (127:3-5)
"Sons are a heritage from the Lord, children a reward from him. Like arrows in the hands of a warrior are sons born in one’s youth. Blessed is the man whose quiver is full of them. They will not be put to shame when they contend with their enemies in the gate."

Thought Question:  What do these verses teach us about what our attitude should be toward having children and about the size of our families?

 

 

"Sons are a heritage from the Lord, children a reward from him."  One of the ways that God builds the home is by giving the parents a "heritage" of "children."  Some, however, are not interested in having children.  They see the children as preventing them from doing what they enjoy doing.  They see "children" as a burden and not as a blessing.  But, those of us who have had "children" see them as widening both our hearts and our lives.  When they grow up and leave our home, we have what is called an "empty nest syndrome."  But, then, our lives and hearts are extended even more by their spouses and by their "children."  "Children" certainly are a "heritage from the Lord." 

Some, for one reason or another, are not able to have "children."  A good friend of ours never married, but she had many "children."  Her heart was widened, for she loved many as if they were her own "children."  She died surrounded by them.

"Like arrows in the hands of a warrior are sons born in one’s youth. Blessed is the man whose quiver is full of them."  Children of Christian parents who also choose to follow the Lord become warriors in a battle against evil; and they will carry on in the good fight after their parents are gone.  "Blessed is the man" who has many children who follow him in the Lord.  A line in a song sung by Steve Green is as follows: "Just knowing that your children really love the Lord is the faithful parent's passion and reward."  "Blessed" are those parents.
"They will not be put to shame when they contend with their enemies in the gate."  "The gate" is where judicial decisions were made by the elders of the town in David's time. see Deuteronomy 17:5, 21:18-21, 25:7-10; Ruth 4:1   In our time, it would be our courtrooms.  Having many children helps to have those who side with us when our enemies bring false charges again us.  "Nobody cares to meddle with a man who can gather a clan of brave sons about him." "Taken from The Treasury of David by Charles Spurgeon."

In conclusion, "children," for many reasons, are a blessing from the Lord.  The more we have, the more blessed we are.

PSALM 133:  Precious Unity!

INTRODUCTION:  True unity among people is a rare reality.  The goal of marriage is that the two will become one.  "For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh." (Ephesians 5:31)  Paul also teaches that the church is one and we as Christians in humility and gentleness are to seek to maintain that unity.  "As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit— just as you were called to one hope when you were called— one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all." (Ephesians 4:1-6)

It appears that at the time that David was writing this Psalm he was experiencing a time of unity—either in Israel or among the leaders of Israel.  In this Psalm, he describes what that wonderful unity felt like.

It has been my experience that this type of unity can be present in an institutional church at times, but that this beautiful unity can also be a very fragile experience.  For all it takes is for the sins of pride, bitterness, and other divisive heart attitudes to turn what is beautiful into what is ugly.  The Bible describes a unity that we as Christians already possess that was described above and a unity that only occurs when a church matures into it.  "It was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, to prepare God’s people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ. Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of men in their deceitful scheming. Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ. From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work." (Ephesians 4:11-16)  David, in this Psalm describes how unity feels when it is truly experienced.

1. Unity is good and pleasant. (1)
"A song of ascents. Of David. How good and pleasant it is when brothers live together in unity!" See Psalm 135:3 and 147:1  In James 3, James contrasts what is "good and pleasant" with what is ugly.  First, he describes what is ugly.  "But if you harbor bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast about it or deny the truth. Such 'wisdom' does not come down from heaven but is earthly, unspiritual, of the devil. For where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice." (James 3:14-16)  Then, he describes the "unity" that is "good and pleasant."  "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. Peacemakers who sow in peace raise a harvest of righteousness." (James 3:17-18)  Purity of heart among us will lead to a "unity" that is "good and pleasant."

"pleasant"  "The same word which is used here for 'pleasant,' is also used in Hebrew for a harmony of music, such as when they rise to the highest strains of the viol, when the strings are all put in order to make up a harmony; so pleasant is it, such pleasantness is there in saints' agreement." "Taken from Treasury of David, Volume 3, Spurgeon quotes William Bridge."

In reading Randy Alcorn's book titled Heaven, I concluded that whatever happens here that we want to go on forever is like what it will be like in heaven.  "Unity among brothers" is "pleasant" and it is what we will experience in heaven—it will go on forever. See 133:3b

Jesus prayed that His church would experience this "good and pleasant" oneness that already existed between the members of the Trinity.  "I will remain in the world no longer, but they are still in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, protect them by the power of your name—the name you gave me—so that they may be one as we are one." (John 17:11)  "that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me." (John 17:21)

2. Picture #1 of what unity feels like (2)
"It is like precious oil poured on the head, running down on the beard, running down on Aaron’s beard, down upon the collar of his robes."  The making of the anointing oil is described in Exodus 30:22-25.  "Then the Lord said to Moses, 'Take the following fine spices: 500 shekels of liquid myrrh, half as much (that is, 250 shekels) of fragrant cinnamon, 250 shekels of fragrant cane, 500 shekels of cassia—all according to the sanctuary shekel—and a hin of olive oil. Make these into a sacred anointing oil, a fragrant blend, the work of a perfumer. It will be the sacred anointing oil.'"  Then, the anointing of Aaron and his sons is described in Exodus 30:30-33.  "'Anoint Aaron and his sons and consecrate them so they may serve me as priests. Say to the Israelites, “This is to be my sacred anointing oil for the generations to come. Do not pour it on men’s bodies and do not make any oil with the same formula. It is sacred, and you are to consider it sacred. Whoever makes perfume like it and whoever puts it on anyone other than a priest must be cut off from his people.”'"

The description of the anointing oil poured on Aaron describes an anointing of oil that overflowed Aaron's head and flowed onto his beard and garments.  So, unity in the church overflows and affects the world outside of the church.  "'My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one: I in them and you in me. May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.'" (John 17:20-23)

3. Picture #2 of what unity feels like (3a)
"It is as if the dew of Hermon were falling on Mount Zion."  Mount Hermon is known for its snow. "Because snow covers it for much of the year, the Arabs called it the 'grey-haired mountain,' or the 'mountain of snow.'   The water from its melting snows flow into the rivers of N. Hauran and provide the principal source for the Jordan River." "Taken from the Zondervan Bible Encyclopedia on 'Hermon.'"  Rain and snow do not stay in the mountains.  The water from the mountain rain and snow comes down from the heights and waters the flat lands below.  Where we live, the snowfall in the mountains during the winter is the primary source of water for crops, lawns, and for drinking water during the rest of the year.  In the same way, "unity" among the "brothers," flows like water out from that "unity" and blesses others.

4. Unity is a blessing from God that will bless us for eternity. (3b)
"For there the Lord bestows his blessing, even life forevermore."  Where there is unity, there you also will have the Lord's blessing.  "Live in peace and the God of peace will be with you." "Taken from Treasury of David by Charles Spurgeon.  Spurgeon quotes John Calvin." 

"even life forever more."  Jesus described eternal life in this way:  "Now this is eternal life: that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent." (John 17:3)  Part of that eternal life is that we may be one as the members of the Trinity are one: "I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one:" (John 17:22)

Thought Question #1:  With whom are you experiencing this type of  unity right now?

 

 

Thought Question #2:  With whom are you not experiencing this type of unity right now?  Do you have any control over changing this into unity?

 

 

PSALM 139:  Never Unknown and Never Alone

INTRODUCTION:  At the beginning of a theology class, seminary students typically study the attributes of God.  But they do not usually seek to understand how "who God is" should affect us personally.  In the Psalms, we discover how "who God is" can affect our lives.  This is particularly true in Psalm 139.  This Psalm is tucked away in an obscure part of the Psalms, yet it is one of the most well-known chapters in the Bible.  It is a very personal description of how "who God is" impacted David.  Life can become unbearable if we believe no one understands or no one cares about us.  In Psalm 139, we learn that this is never true.  We are never unknown and we are never alone!

1. Never unknown—God knows everything about us (139:1-6)
"For the director of music. Of David. A psalm. O Lord, you have searched me and you know me. You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar. You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways. Before a word is on my tongue you know it completely, O Lord. You hem me in—behind and before; you have laid your hand upon me. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too lofty for me to attain."

Thought Question:  What is there in these verses about God's infinite knowledge of us that is a comfort to you?

 

 

"O Lord, you have searched me and you know me."  "The Hebrew word originally meant to dig, and is applied to the search for precious metals (Job XXVIII). "Taken from the The Treasury of David by Charles Spurgeon.  He quotes Joseph Addison Alexander."  Some of us have worked on research papers.  Our goal is to thoroughly get to know the subject; so we "dig" into it.  We call it a research paper because we search deeply for all we can know about the subject.  I have called these commentaries "Digging for Gold" because I have thoroughly searched for what I can learn from the Bible and from what godly Christians have taught about the Bible, until spiritual gold has begun to be uncovered.  How wonderful it is to know that God has dug deeply into us until He knows each of us more deeply than anyone knows us—He knows us better than we know ourselves and better than our parents or mate knows us.  He has thoroughly researched us and he is an expert on us—for example, he is an expert on Larry Cory.  And He is also an expert on the subject of you.  Is there anything about us that God does not know?  Obviously, the answer is, "No."  And because He is love—His very nature is love, He both knows and cares for us.

"You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar. You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways."  We learn here that God not only knows everything about us, but He knows what we do so well that He is "familiar with" "all" of our "ways."  What is familiar to you and me?  At the time of writing these words, my wife Shirley and I have been married 40 years.  We are very "familiar" with each other.  Also, our "ways" are very "familiar" to each other.  Who are you "familiar" with?  No matter how "familiar" you are with anyone and no matter how "familiar" I am with someone, we are much more "familiar" to the infinitely knowledgeable and omnipresent God.  The NASB uses the words "intimately acquainted."  God is "intimately acquainted" with us.  No, we are not unknown.  On the contrary, we are very "intimately" known by the only One who perfectly loves us.

When you arise from where you are sitting right now and then go and sit somewhere else, remember that God is concentrating on you and will be very attuned to what you are doing.

"you perceive my thoughts"  God not only knows what we do on the outside,  He also knows intimately what we are thinking on the inside of us.  When you think anything and when I think anything, God knows our thoughts with a perfect understanding.  We will see that David's words are not meant to intimidate us, but to comfort and encourage 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)

"from afar"  "This expression is, as in Ps cxxxviii. 6 [138:6], is to be understood in contradicting the delusion (Job xxii.12-14) [22:12-14] that God's dwelling in heaven prevents him from observing mundane things." "Taken from the The Treasury of David by Charles Spurgeon. He quotes Lange."

 "Before a word is on my tongue you know it completely, O Lord."  God knows us so well, He even knows our thoughts.  When we are in some situation where a spoken prayer would be inappropriate, can we pray in our thoughts, "Lord, help me"?  Would God hear that prayer?  According to this verse, He knows our thoughts.  So, a prayer in our thoughts will be heard by God.

"You hem me in—behind and before; you have laid your hand upon me. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too lofty for me to attain."  Have you ever felt so loved, you could hardly stand it?  I have been greatly blessed by a wife that loves me so much I can hardly stand it.  David felt surrounded and hemmed in by an omnipresent and omniscient God who knew Him completely and loved Him completely.  What was true of David is also true of us.  We are loved by an infinitely knowledgeable and always present God who loves us completely"Such knowledge is too wonderful for" us.  These words remind me of a line in a Christian song:  "The one who knows me best, loves me most."  That "knowledge is too wonderful"!

"too lofty for me to attain."  As we would say today, this "knowledge" blows my mind.  Most of us have attempted to get our minds around who God is, and have felt like David felt here.  Who "God is" is just too far above us for us to ever comprehend.

2. Never alone (139:7-12)
"Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there. If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast. If I say, 'Surely the darkness will hide me and the light become night around me,' even the darkness will not be dark to you; the night will shine like the day, for darkness is as light to you."

Thought Question:  How are these verses an encouragement to you right now?

 

 

"Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence?"  Jonah did not like what God had ordered him to do, so he ran away from God.  But even though he went out to sea, God was still there.  "The word of the Lord came to Jonah son of Amittai: 'Go to the great city of Nineveh and preach against it, because its wickedness has come up before me.' But Jonah ran away from the Lord and headed for Tarshish. He went down to Joppa, where he found a ship bound for that port. After paying the fare, he went aboard and sailed for Tarshish to flee from the Lord. Then the Lord sent a great wind on the sea, and such a violent storm arose that the ship threatened to break up." (Jonah 1:1-4)

Though Jonah ran from God, he really did not need to be afraid of God.  We can be encouraged that no matter where we go, God is still with us.  Ray Stedman, as a young person learned that lesson.  "When I was about twelve years old we moved from Minnesota to Montana.  The night before we left I got down by my bed and said, 'Goodbye, God.  We are going to Montana.'  I was sure I would not find him there, but when we arrived, there he was.  I have found him everywhere since." "Taken from Folk Psalms of Faith by Ray Stedman.  Copyright 1973 by Regal Books."

"If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there. If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast."  About a year ago from when I am writing these words, a group of Chilean miners were trapped deep down in the earth.  Did the tons of rock that separated them from those on the surface separate them from God?  No, God was down there also.  If we could travel at the speed of light out into immeasurable outer space, God would be there and He is there right now.  "A heathen philosopher once asked, 'Where is God?'  The Christian answered, 'Let me first ask you, Where is he not?'" "Taken from the The Treasury of David by Charles Spurgeon. He quotes John Arrowsmith."

"The Psalm was not written by a Pantheist [the belief that the universe is God and God is the universe].  The Psalmist speaks of God as a Person everywhere present in creation, yet distinct from creation." "Taken from the The Treasury of David by Charles Spurgeon. He quotes John Arrowsmith. Underline mine."

"even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast."  Even in the belly of a great fish, God guided Jonah.  "From inside the fish Jonah prayed to the Lord his God. He said: 'In my distress I called to the Lord, and he answered me. From the depths of the grave I called for help, and you listened to my cry.'" (Jonah 2:1-2)  No matter where we might be, deep under the earth in a collapsed mining tunnel or in the belly of a great fish, we can cry out to God and He will be with us and He will hear us.  "Yet I am always with you; you hold me by my right hand. You guide me with your counsel, and afterward you will take me into glory." (Psalm 73:23-24)

In the NASB, it says: "If I make my bed in Sheol" in verse 8 rather the "if I make my bed in the depths."  God is both present in the depths of the sea and in the place of the departed dead.  If David was separating heaven and hell here, God is present in both places.  "Of course there is a vast different between the experience of God for one who is in heaven and for one who is in Sheol, or hell.  In heaven, we shall experience to the full the love, compassion, glory and warmth of God; the positives of God.  In hell it is the other way around.  There men experience the absence of God's love, the dark side of it, the wrath of God; his negatives." "Taken from Folk Psalms of Faith by Ray Stedman.  Copyright 1973 by Regal Books."

"even the darkness will not be dark to you; the night will shine like the day, for darkness is as light to you."  That which men know to be sinful is usually done in dark rooms such as dark saloons or they are practiced with self-created darkness that comes when we choose to live as if God does not exist—and therefore live as if God does not see what we are doing.  "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. For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened." (Romans 1:18-21)  "The eye is the lamp of the body. If your eyes are good, your whole body will be full of light. But if your eyes are bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light within you is darkness, how great is that darkness!" (Matthew 6:22-23) See Ephesians 4:17-19

But all this darkness that we create is as light to God.  He sees all clearly as if the lightbulbs were turned on lighting these rooms and lighting our hearts.  "His eyes are on the ways of men; he sees their every step. There is no dark place, no deep shadow, where evildoers can hide." (Job 34:21-22)

3. God knows us because He designed us. (139:13-18)
"For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place. When I was woven together in the depths of the earth, your eyes saw my unformed body. All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be. How precious to me are your thoughts, O God! How vast is the sum of them! Were I to count them, they would outnumber the grains of sand. When I awake, I am still with you."

Thought Question:  How do these words positively affect your relationship with God?

 

 

"For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb."  Evolution teaches the very opposite of what this verse states.  It teaches that we are a product of chance—chance is our creator.  This is what men want to believe.  Why do they want to believe this?  It is because once we believe that God created us, then we owe Him gratitude; and we should be willing, out of that gratitude, to seek to fulfill the purpose for which He has created us.  Here in this verse, David clearly states, contrary to the evolutionists, that we have been designed and created by God.

A popular book some time ago emphasized the saying, "God does not make junk."  Each one of us has been uniquely designed by the Creator.  We are not all the same; instead, we are all different and each one of us is a masterpiece of design.  When we compare ourselves with others, we can feel as though we are inferior to them.  But, Paul said " . . . When they measure themselves by themselves and compare themselves with themselves, they are not wise." (2 Corinthians 10:12)  Instead, we need to be grateful to God for the unique way that He has designed us, and then try to fulfill the unique plan that He has for each of us.

"my inmost being;"  The NASB translates these words as follows: "inward parts."  "Inmost being" sounds as if David is saying that God created our soul; whereas, "inward parts" sounds like our inner organs—our heart, brain, lungs, etc.  "Lit. 'kidneys'—in Hebrew idiom, the innermost center of emotions and moral sensitivity" "NIV Study Bible note"

Both translations can be true.  See Job 16:13 where the Hebrew word refers to the actual kidneys and Psalm 7:9 where it refers to the heart.  Whether David was referring to God creating our "inward parts" or our "inmost being," both were created by God.

"you knit me together in my mother’s womb."  This is a figurative way of describing how God created us.  It is as if God weaved us into existence, like someone weaving cloth or weaving together and fashioning a basket.  God's design and skill are seen as we slowly took form in our mother's womb.

"I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well."  Some star athletes when asked about how they have been able to excel above others, readily give credit to God.  "My abilities were given to me by God."  We are all "wonderfully made."  I was a biology minor in college.  Almost every professor that taught me seemed to enjoy teaching these various biology subjects.  My conclusion for why they were so enthusiastic about biology is that they were studying God's wonderful creative genius.  Few of them, though, recognized that they were studying the handiwork of the grand Designer of the universe.

On the other hand, we who are Christians look at God's creation and we are in awe of what He has done.  Two stories come to me.  First of all, while I was attending seminary, one of my roommates and I were sitting at our apartment's dining room table and talking.  While we were talking, there was an amazing looking insect that landed on the table in front of us.  Its body was luminescent and it was beautifully colored.  My roommate and I talked for some time about God's creativity in creating and designing this small insect.  Then, another roommate set down next to us.  As he squished the small insect with his thumb, he asked: "What are you talking about?"  We sat there with our mouths open, unable to talk for a while.  Even a tiny insect shows God's handiwork.

Secondly, as a new Christian, I taught a high school anatomy and physiology class as a student teacher.  In one class, we watched the movie "Hemo, the Magnificent."  It is a cartoon description of the human circulatory system.  As I watched, I saw the magnificence of our Creator in "Hemo, the Magnificent."

I do not know about you; but it is not unusual for me to notice something about God's creation and be awed by God creative genius.  For example, I cut myself once, and wondered at the healing process as the cut eventually almost completely disappeared.  We indeed are "wonderfully made."  "I know that full well."

" My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place. When I was woven together in the depths of the earth, your eyes saw my unformed body."  "Secret place" and "depths of the earth" are two ways of saying the same thing.  It is poetic language for the mother's womb.

"when I was made"  Those who believe in abortion are saying that the unborn baby is not a person.  In his mother's womb, David was a person.  If he had been aborted in his mother's womb, the doctor would have killed a person.

"your eyes saw my unformed body."  God saw him when he was a developing fetus in his mother's womb.  Babies have been forming in mothers' wombs for centuries, but no one has been able to actually see the baby forming until we have recently been able to see them forming with ultrasound technology.  But God has been watching babies form all along.  He knew us intimately at that time and is also the One who designed the bodies that have grown and matured into the present bodies that we now have.  Each of us, again, is totally unique.  Just like each snow flake is different, so each of us is different.  But, though we are different, each of us is an awesome creation of the God who has been intimately involved in directing each of us to become the person we now are.

"All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be. How precious to me are your thoughts, O God! How vast is the sum of them! Were I to count them, they would outnumber the grains of sand. When I awake, I am still with you."  How many thoughts will it take for God to always be with each person; to always be "familiar" with all of our ways; and to have designed each person differently?  We can say with David: "How precious to me are your thoughts, O God! How vast is the sum of them! Were I to count them, they would outnumber the grains of sand." 

"All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be."  God not only intimately knows our past, but He also perfectly knows our future.  God designed not only how we would be formed in our mother's womb, but our future is also part of His plan.  "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)

"When I awake, I am still with you."  We go to sleep thinking about God and wake up thinking about Him.  He alone gives purpose to our life.  Knowing Him and being a part of His purpose is the supreme reason for starting and living each day.  A young man who has freshly fallen in love with a young woman goes to bed thinking of her and awakes thinking of her.  So, does this happen with those who love God.  He is our meditation day and night.

4. God knew David's heart attitude. (139:19-24)

a. David hated the wicked (139:19-22)
"If only you would slay the wicked, O God! Away from me, you bloodthirsty men! They speak of you with evil intent; your adversaries misuse your name. Do I not hate those who hate you, O Lord, and abhor those who rise up against you? I have nothing but hatred for them; I count them my enemies."

Thought Question:  Do you believe that David's words are an acceptable way for a Christian to pray? (Please explain your answer.)

 

 

What David says here seems to be the very opposite of what Jesus and Paul taught us.  "You have heard that it was said, 'Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.' But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your brothers, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect." (Matthew 5:43-48)  "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)

There are a number of ways to explain David's words here.  One way is to say that David is venting his anger, but his venting is the sinful but honest expression of where David was emotionally at the time.  In other words, he is honest but his words are not righteous words.

Can his words, though, be righteous words?  Can his prayer be a righteous prayer?  I suggest the following considerations that make his words here the words of a righteous man.  First of all, David is not going to take revenge himself.  There are examples in the Bible when David could have taken revenge, but he did not. See I Samuel chapters 24-26  Here, David is not seeking his own vengeance, but he cries out that God would take vengeance on his enemies.  Paul did the same.  "Alexander the metalworker did me a great deal of harm. The Lord will repay him for what he has done. You too should be on your guard against him, because he strongly opposed our message." (2 Timothy 4:14-15)

Secondly, David's hatred of these evil men is not because of what they had done against him, but it is because of their hatred of God.  "They speak of you with evil intent; your adversaries misuse your name.  Do I not hate those who hate you, O Lord, and abhor those who rise up against you? I have nothing but hatred for them; I count them my enemies."  Paul also expresses his anger against those who were perverting God's gospel message.  "But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let him be eternally condemned!" (Galatians 1:8)  What could be stronger than that?  And it is the same Paul that wrote Romans 12:17-21 that was quoted above.

The words of David that are hardest for us to understand are the following: "If only you would slay the wicked, O God! Away from me, you bloodthirsty men!" (Psalm 139:19)  Also, he says that he has "nothing but hatred for" the wicked.  Shouldn't he have love for them and not "hatred"?   How can these words be the words of a righteous man?  There is much in the Bible that is hard to explain as being the acts of a righteous God.  When the Israelites entered the Promised Land, they were commanded by God to destroy, drive out, and kill all of the pagans in Canaan.  "Know therefore that the Lord your God is God; he is the faithful God, keeping his covenant of love to a thousand generations of those who love him and keep his commands. But those who hate him he will repay to their face by destruction; he will not be slow to repay to their face those who hate him." (Deuteronomy 7:9-10)  "You must destroy all the peoples the Lord your God gives over to you. Do not look on them with pity and do not serve their gods, for that will be a snare to you." (Deuteronomy 7:16)

Also, God's complete anger against sin is seen when Jesus returns.  "I saw heaven standing open and there before me was a white horse, whose rider is called Faithful and True. With justice he judges and makes war. His eyes are like blazing fire, and on his head are many crowns. He has a name written on him that no one knows but he himself. He is dressed in a robe dipped in blood, and his name is the Word of God. The armies of heaven were following him, riding on white horses and dressed in fine linen, white and clean. 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. On his robe and on his thigh he has this name written: KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS. And I saw an angel standing in the sun, who cried in a loud voice to all the birds flying in midair, 'Come, gather together for the great supper of God, so that you may eat the flesh of kings, generals, and mighty men, of horses and their riders, and the flesh of all people, free and slave, small and great.' Then I saw the beast and the kings of the earth and their armies gathered together to make war against the rider on the horse and his army. But the beast was captured, and with him the false prophet who had performed the miraculous signs on his behalf. With these signs he had deluded those who had received the mark of the beast and worshiped his image. The two of them were thrown alive into the fiery lake of burning sulfur. The rest of them were killed with the sword that came out of the mouth of the rider on the horse, and all the birds gorged themselves on their flesh." (Revelation 19:11-21)

David's hatred of those who hate God seems mild compared to God's hatred of evil.  "He was a good hater, for he hated only those who hated good.  Of this hatred he is not ashamed, but he sets it forth as a virtue to which he would have the Lord bear testimony. . . .To hate a man for his own sake, or for any evil done to us, would be wrong, but to hate a man because he is the foe of all goodness and the enemy of all righteousness, is nothing more nor less than an obligation." "Taken from the The Treasury of David by Charles Spurgeon."

Should we not also desire that all sin and evil be removed from this world?  Jesus had this type of anger toward sin.  "He looked around at them in anger and, deeply distressed at their stubborn hearts, said to the man, 'Stretch out your hand.' He stretched it out, and his hand was completely restored." (Mark 3:5)  Because Jesus never sinned, it was a completely pure anger.  David's hatred was, I believe, also a pure hatred.

b. He desires that wickedness be removed also from him (139:23-24)
"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."

Thought Question:  What do you think it takes before one can make this type of request to God? (Are you willing to do that yourself and to also make this type of request to God?)

 

 

"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."  If we hate sin in the ungodly, we should also just as much hate sin if it is in us.  Living in the darkness is an unwillingness to see the truth about our self.  It is an unwillingness to hear the truth from God about how He sees us.  Here, David chooses to walk in the light.  He desires that God show him any sinfulness that He sees in His life.  God has "searched" him and "knows" him. (139:1)  David asks God to reveal to him what he has found in his heart.

What a courageous and fearsome request to be made—to ask the holy God to reveal to us any unholiness in us.  What a painful surgery will result as God shows us that which He sees as ugliness in us.  "For, will you tell me that it does not happen, that even whilst men are carrying on a process of self-examination, there is a secret wish to remain ignorant of certain points, a desire not to be proved wrong when interest and inclination combine in demanding an opposite verdict. . . In searching into yourselves, you know where the tender points are and, and those points you will be apt to avoid, so as not to put yourselves to pain, nor make it evident how much you need the caustic and the knife." "Taken from the The Treasury of David by Charles Spurgeon.  He quotes Henry Melville."

It may be that what David does here is the least likely direction that anyone chooses to make.  We can be bluntly honest about others' faults, but strangely stone blind to our own faults.

In the deepest part of our understanding of ourselves, we know the motives and attitudes that are repulsive even to us.  We often do not face these dark parts of us head on.  Beyond these are the fallen parts that only God sees.  Clearly, David does choose that God would direct His flashlight in every recess of his heart so that he can begin to clean up the unholiness that is inside of him.  Are we willing to seek God's light on what He sees in our heart?  We may fool the world about what we really are like on the inside.  We may even fool ourselves.  Are we willing to end the self-deception and see ourself as we really are—see ourselves as God sees us?  "May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, O Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer." (Psalm 19:14)

PSALM 150:  A Doxology of Praise

INTRODUCTION:  "No other Psalm is quite like it for its repetition of the word, 'praise.'  None compares to the universality of the summons to honor God.  The word 'praise,' in one form or another, occurs thirteen times within the brief scope of these six verses.  Included in this count are the 'hallelujahs' [praise the Lord] which open and close the poem." "Taken from Psalm Volume 3 Songs of Discipleship by Robert Alden.  Copyright 1975 by Moody Press."

The Psalms end with a full-hearted and universal praise to God.  What is a more fitting and appropriate way to end the longest book in the Bible?  The Psalms end completely above the clouds with complete joy and praise to God for who He is.  When we see clearly Who God is, praise comes spontaneously from the deepest part of our heart.  Praise the Lord!

This Psalm could be used to teach a whole series on worship.  It gives us the where, why, how, and who of worship.

1. Praise God—Where? (150:1)
"Praise the Lord. Praise God in his sanctuary; praise him in his mighty heavens."

"The exhortation is to praise God on earth and in heaven.  That is probably the meaning of the terms 'sanctuary' and 'firmament of his power' ["his mighty heavens"].  There should be an echo in heaven of the volley of praise sung in the Temple.  And the Temple, in turn, should reverberate with the sound of the heavenly choir." "Taken from Psalm Volume 3 Songs of Discipleship by Robert Alden.  Copyright 1975 by Moody Press."

Where should we "praise God"?  Certainly it is appropriate to "praise God" in our church gatherings.  Christian astronauts have praised God in the "heavens" where no man has ever been before.  There should be no place on earth or in the "heavens" where God is not praised.  For He always deserves to be praised and He deserves to be praised everywhere.

The Jews and the Samaritans debated over where God should be worshiped—on one of the Samaritan mountains or in the Jews' Jerusalem.  Jesus gave this answer to a Samaritan women who brought up this issue to Him: "Jesus declared, 'Believe me, woman, a time is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. You Samaritans worship what you do not know; we worship what we do know, for salvation is from the Jews. Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in spirit and in truth.'" (John 4:21-24)   Where should we worship and "praise God"?  The Psalmist's answer is that we should "praise God" wherever we are.

Another interpretation of "sanctuary" and "mighty heavens" is that "praise" is to resound in the temple on earth and the temple in heaven.  We now "praise God" in our church gatherings, but one day we will join the angels and "praise God" as we gather around the throne in heaven. See Revelation 4-5

2. Praise God—Why? (150:2)
"Praise him for his acts of power; praise him for his surpassing greatness."

When I was in the Navy, I was stationed at a large U. S. Naval port.  Sometimes a mighty aircraft carrier would port there for a while.  I was in awe, as I stood and looked up at those huge ships.  Greatness brings forth awe and wonder.  God's "acts of power" and "his surpassing greatness" far surpasses even the infinite vastness of the universe.  Those who think deeply about "who God is" are appropriately filled with wonder, awe, and reverence.  If we have experienced His grace through Jesus Christ, then our hearts are also filled with a deep gratitude along with the wonder.  Our hymns reflect this wonder, gratitude, and awe.

3. Praise God—How? (150:3-5)
"Praise him with the sounding of the trumpet, praise him with the harp and lyre, praise him with tambourine and dancing, praise him with the strings and flute, praise him with the clash of cymbals, praise him with resounding cymbals."

Many have attended a production of Handel's Messiah.  As I read these words in this Psalm, it reminded me of the great feelings of "praise" to God that a full orchestra produces in me.  Instruments of every type can be used in praising God, as well as "dancing."

On our honeymoon, we went to Jamaica.  A missionary we met there took us into the jungle where she was ministering.  We will never forget the young people's worship time expressed through dancing.  God has certainly given us music and the many instruments of music to enable us to express our "praise" and gratitude for the beauty of who God is—that we might desire to be like Him in character and be drawn to live in a close relationship with Him.

Robert Alden describes these instruments in the following way:  "At the end of verse 3 come the nevel and the kinnor, both stringed instruments.  They are portable harps which vary in size and number of strings, the nevel being the larger and more complicated of the two.  The tof  (timbrel) of verse 4 is somewhat similar to a tambourine.  It belongs in the percussion family. . . . Two instruments are mentioned in the last half of verse 4.  The 'stringed instruments' (Heb., minnin) are spoken of only here and in Psalm  45:8.  The 'pipe' ('organs,' KJV) is probably a very simple flute or whistle not unlike those that children play.  Verse 5 refers to two kinds of cymbals.  The Hebrew word tsiltset sounds like the noise these devices make." "Taken from Psalm Volume 3 Songs of Discipleship by Robert Alden.  Copyright 1975 by Moody Press."

One thing is clear, every type of instrument can be used in worshiping God.  Some instruments aid in creating a mood of serenity, others aid in facilitating enthusiasm.  Both are appropriate in worshiping God.  There can be times of deep reflection accompanied by, for example, harps.  There can also be times of great enthusiasm accompanied by, for example, trumpets.  God's creativity is great; we can use that creativity that He has given to us to express our worship of Him.  But, we are told that all should be done in an orderly way. "For God is not a God of disorder but of peace. As in all the congregations of the saints," (1 Corinthians 14:33)  Nevertheless, our worship of God should not be restrained or reserved.  "There is enough in our holy faith to create and justify the utmost degree of rapturous delight." "Taken from The Treasury of David by Charles Spurgeon."

4. Praise God—Who? (150:6)
"Let everything that has breath praise the Lord. Praise the Lord."

As we take our next breath, let us remember who gave us that breath.  For every creature that breathes, each "breath" has been given to us by God.  What should be the appropriate response from all of us?  We should "praise the Lord" who gives that breath and who has given us life.  And for those of us who have believed in Jesus' death for us, He has also given us eternal life.

We wait for that day when all creation will together "praise the Lord."  "Then I looked and heard the voice of many angels, numbering thousands upon thousands, and ten thousand times ten thousand. They encircled the throne and the living creatures and the elders. In a loud voice they sang: 'Worthy is the Lamb, who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and strength and honor and glory and praise!' Then I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and on the sea, and all that is in them, singing: 'To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be praise and honor and glory and power, for ever and ever!' The four living creatures said, 'Amen,' and the elders fell down and worshiped." (Revelation 5:11-14)

Praise is not some type of obligation that we have to God.  Rather, it is what happens when the pure-hearted behold God's greatness, love, beauty, and glory.  We will not see it as a duty when we see Him.  Instead, there will be no greater joy than to express our awe of and gratitude to the wonderful God who we are finally seeing in all His glory!  We can, though, express that joyful spirit every day until the veil is completely lifted!

 

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