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Category: The Psalms (page 1 of 6)

Steadfast Love

In Psalm 5 David contrasts himself with the wicked. Of the wicked he says,

For you are not a God who delights in wickedness; evil may not dwell with you. The boastful shall not stand before your eyes; you hate all evildoers.
Psalm 5:4–5

Of himself, David acknowledges,

But I, through the abundance of your steadfast love, will enter your house. I will bow down toward your holy temple in the fear of you.
Psalm 5:7

David is not drawing out this contrast to make himself look good. He is acknowledging that it is only through God’s steadfast, covenental love that he is able to enter the presence of the Lord. He also acknowledges that he approaches the Lord in humility and reverence.

Throughout scripture we are reminded that our ability to have relationship with God has nothing to do with our own merits but it is simply a gift of grace. We are able to approach the Lord in confidence not because of anything that we have done but because of who He is and what He has promised.

Our confidence is in Him and Him alone. Let us enter into His presence and worship and bow down.

In Peace

I have purposed that in 2016 I will be more focused and purposeful in my prayer time. Reading Psalm 4 this morning has only served to add fuel to that fire.

The historical setting for this psalm is Absalom’s rebellion against his father, David. Consequently, David finds himself in the middle of political and relational strife not to mention, in danger of physical harm. It is in that context he writes the fourth psalm.

Answer me when I call, O God of my righteousness! You have given me relief when I was in distress. Be gracious to me and hear my prayer!
Psalm 4:1

David has cultivated a life of prayer such that it is a natural response for him to cry out to the Lord when he is in distress. He is motivated by past experiences where he has done so and God has given him relief. At this point, it’s muscle memory. In the midst of life’s storms, David has learned to pursue God in prayer.

Be angry, and do not sin; ponder in your own hearts on your beds, and be silent. Offer right sacrifices, and put your trust in the LORD.
Psalm 4:4–5

David has also learned to preach to himself and aligns his thinking such that he can rest and trust in the LORD. Rather than given in to his anger and sin, he must be still and know that God is sovereign over all things.

In peace I will both lie down and sleep; for you alone, O LORD, make me dwell in safety.
Psalm 4:8

This is my favorite part. What a wonderful thing to be able to lie down and sleep in peace. To have your heart and mind so steadied that you are able to sleep in peace. What a gift. David is able to enjoy this physical rest because he has learned to rest spiritually in the knowledge and confidence that the LORD is sovereign, the LORD is with him, and the LORD will keep him.

Applications for today:

  • Remember – one of the reasons David is so faithful to call out to the LORD is because he remembers past times when the LORD has given him relief from distress. As we take time to reflect on past evidences of the LORD’s faithfulness, we are encouraged to draw near to Him.
  • Reflect – in the midst of trouble, it is wise to still ourselves before God and reflect on what we know to be the truth of God.
  • Rest – finally we can rest in the fact that God is sovereign and mighty to save. Our trust and hope can rest firmly in Him and His all-sufficient grace.

Behind the Words

After spending the bulk of Psalm 19 acknowledging the glory of God and how His word is perfect, sure, right, pure, and that it is to be treasured and desired more than any earthly riches, David closes his prayer to the Lord in Psalm 19 by saying,

Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O LORD, my rock and my redeemer.
Psalm 19:14

David’s concern is not just the words of his prayer but the heart motivation behind his words. He doesn’t want to just say the right things, he wants to desire and believe the right things.

The Bible tells us that it is from the overflow of the heart that the mouth speaks and God’s word also says that man looks at the outward appearance (and listens to the audibly spoken words) but the Lord looks at the heart. This is what David is concerned about. Not the externals of his sacrifice to God but rather the internal, motivation of his heart.

In fact, I think David’s concern reveals where his heart is. His request is that the words of his mouth and the meditation of his heart is acceptable in the Lord’s sight. He’s not concerned with pleasing man. He’s concerned about pleasing the Lord.

How will David’s example change the way you approach the Lord in prayer? Will you seek to say the “right” things to God in prayer or will you seek to be honest and reveal your heart that He might forgive, purify, refine, and strengthen? How can you ensure that your time in prayer is an acceptable offering to the Lord?

May you boldly approach God in prayer by His grace and in the power of the Holy Spirit.

From Sorrow to Singing

While reading Psalm 13 it doesn’t take long to see that David was not in a good place mentally, emotionally, and even perhaps, spiritually. David was greatly afflicted and suffering deep distress. He was overwhelmed by the circumstances of his life and it felt like he just couldn’t catch a break. Everyone, it seemed, was against him. Even God, seemed so very far from him. God seemed to be indifferent and David wondered whether God even cared about him.

How long, O LORD? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me? How long must I take counsel in my soul and have sorrow in my heart all the day? How long shall my enemy be exalted over me?
Psalm 13:1–2

Have you ever been there? Can you empathize with David? If so, don’t stop reading now. Because by the end of the psalm, David provides an example that can be helpful to all of us. Here’s what he says:

But I have trusted in your steadfast love;
my heart shall rejoice in your salvation.
I will sing to the LORD,
because he has dealt bountifully with me.
Psalm 13:5–6

Even though nothing has changed about David’s situation, as he persevered in prayer, something has changed in his perspective and his thinking. David appears to refocus his gaze away from his present circumstances and instead focuses on God. That is one of the great things about communing with God through prayer. It can bring us into alignment with the will of God. It allows us to cast our cares on God that we might know and experience a peace that goes beyond understanding.

In this case, David is sustained by a future hope borne from past promises and evidences of God’s faithfulness. David experiences peace as he reflects on God’s “steadfast love”. This is the same steadfast love that God promised in Exodus 34 when cutting the covenant with Moses on Mt. Sinai. It is that loyal, lovingkindness in which David trusts and is sustained.

Because David knows God to be merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, he anticipates deliverance from his present troubles and commits to sing praises to the Lord.

How do you go from having sorrow in your heart all the day to rejoicing in salvation and singing to the Lord? You cry out to God in prayer. You read the Bible. You acknowledge God; who He is, what He’s done, and what He’s promised. You remember how He has proven Himself to be faithful. You trust. You hope. You rejoice. You sing to the Lord. And you do it all as you are empowered and led by the Holy Spirit, for the glory of God.

This is easier to say than it is to do. So, if you find yourself living in the first two verses of this psalm and unable to get to the last two verses, may I encourage you to not withdraw. Don’t isolate yourself. Purpose to assemble with the church on Sunday. That is one of the reasons why we gather. To mutually encourage one another. To bear one another’s burdens. To point each other to the good news that although we may have many troubles in this world, we should take heart because Jesus has overcome the world. To help each other shift the focus off ourselves and onto the old rugged cross.

I Will

I will give thanks to the LORD with my whole heart;
I will recount all of your wonderful deeds.
I will be glad and exult in you;
I will sing praise to your name, O Most High.

Psalm 9:1–2

This is how David begins his prayer. Before he pours out his complaints to God, before he asks God to do anything, before he makes his needs known, David tells God what he’s going to do.

David is very purposeful and intentional. He says, “I will”. Regardless of what happens, Lord, I will. Regardless of how this all turns out, God, I will. Regardless of your answer to my prayer, I will.

I will give thanks with my whole heart. There is nothing else that will compete for my attention or affection. I will remember and think on all of the times in the past when you have proven your faithfulness and blessed me so undeservedly, and when you have shown your might. I will rejoice in you; in who you are and what you have done. I will rejoice in the fact that you have made yourself known to me and have allowed me to call you my God. I will not delay in singing your praises. My joy is not dependent on a specific outcome or how you answer my prayer. My joy is found solely in you, oh my God. And because of who you are and what you have done, my confidence rests firmly on you.

Morning Preparations

I have previously journaled about Psalm 5 and offered my encouragement to keep a daily morning appointment with the Lord. But this morning, while reading Psalm 5, the idea of preparing a sacrifice and watching is what caught my attention.

O LORD, in the morning you hear my voice; in the morning I prepare a sacrifice for you and watch.
Psalm 5:3

I have a footnote in my Bible for the phrase “I prepare a sacrifice for you” that indicates what David is really saying here is, “I direct my prayer to you”. David, in his distress, directs his prayer to the LORD; the one who is sovereign, who cares, who is listening, and who can help. As important as that is, what he does next may be even more important. He watches.

In other words, David doesn’t just toss a prayer out there and then move forward into the day, ready to tackle whatever may come his way. He watches. He waits expectantly to see what the LORD has to say. More importantly than having God hear his voice, David wants to watch and see what the LORD has to say.

As you work to establish a habit of meeting with the LORD each morning and spending time in prayer, I encourage you to spend a good amount of time listening. Don’t just talk at God. Listen. Watch. Taste and see that the LORD is good.

The Glorious Deeds of the LORD

I will open my mouth in a parable;
I will utter dark sayings from of old,
things that we have heard and known,
that our fathers have told us.
We will not hide them from their children,
but tell to the coming generation
the glorious deeds of the LORD, and his might,
and the wonders that he has done.
Psalm 78:2-4

The oral tradition in ancient Israel was the primary means by which information was shared, communicated and passed down through the generations. Poetry, stories and songs were the primary mechanisms to circulate information across geographic, cultural and generational boundaries.

Here we see the psalmist indicating that one of the primary things they were communicating and passing down from generation to generation was stories about God; who He was, what He’s like and all the glorious deeds He has done.

His statement, “We will not hide them from their children” really stood out to me during this morning’s reading. While most of us probably aren’t doing anything to purposefully hide the testimonies of the LORD, are we doing our part to reveal them? Not hiding them is not the same as proclaiming and sharing with our children “the glorious deeds of the LORD, and his might, and the wonders that He has done”.

As I meditate on this a little bit I realize that part of being purposeful in sharing with my children the truth about the LORD is identifying all of the potential barriers to doing so. There are so many distractions in our always-connected world and busy schedules. It seems like more and more the American family is being fragmented to the point that the times where everyone is together is the exception and not the rule.

One thing we consistently do as a family is to sit down together at the dinner table. This is the one time I can count on each day where we will all be together. And consequently, it has become the time where I have my best opportunity to share the gospel with my children. Sure, there are other times where I am able to share the gospel through my daily interactions with each of my kids individually, but dinner is the time where they are all available as a captive audience to hear the same stories, to be instructed with the same truth, and to listen to the same testimonies.

Exposing our children to the wonders of God’s creation is important. Encouraging our children to read God’s word for themselves is vital. Promoting their participation in Sunday School and youth group is a good thing. But let us not forget to continually talk with them and tell them of the glorious deeds of the LORD. Let us be transparent with our children regarding how the gospel has impacted our lives and share with them the areas where God continues to sanctify. Don’t hide these things from your children.

My Goal for 2015: To Be Like a Tree

Let me start by saying “you’re wrong” to those of you who, based on the title, guessed that my goal for this new year is to leave. You’re very funny though. Actually, there is no hidden meaning in the title and I’m not even necessarily trying to be clever. I’m very serious. After spending some time this morning trying to decide what my list of resolutions or goals for the new year might look like, I’ve decided I have only one. My one and only goal for this new year is to simply be like a tree. Not just any tree though. I want to be like the kind of tree the psalmist describes in Psalm 1.

He is like a tree
planted by streams of water
that yields its fruit in its season,
and its leaf does not wither.
In all that he does, he prospers.

Psalm 1:3

To be like this tree, I first need to be like the “He” that is referenced here. The first two verses of Psalm 1 tell me that “he” refers to a man who delights in the law of the Lord and meditates on it day and night. A man who chooses to delight and meditate on the law of the Lord rather than walking in the counsel of the wicked or standing in the way of sinners or sitting in the seat of scoffers.

Jeremiah also offers a perspective on this man and provides another level of insight into what it looks and feels like to be like a tree.

He is like a tree planted by water,
that sends out its roots by the stream,
and does not fear when heat comes,
for its leaves remain green,
and is not anxious in the year of drought,
for it does not cease to bear fruit.

Jeremiah 17:8

So, how do I effectively pursue my goal of being like a tree planted by streams of water? My role is actually pretty simple and yet incredibly profound. It is not driven by feelings, trends or fads. It starts with a decision. It starts with a choice.

I choose to delight in God’s word and to meditate on it day and night. I choose to not walk in the counsel of the wicked and to not stand in the way of sinners or sit in the seat of scoffers. And by choosing to regularly submit myself to study and prayer, I trust that by God’s grace and the power of the Holy Spirit, my ability to delight in His law will continue to increase. And that is where the blessing resides; in the ability to delight in His word.

The thing I love about playing the role of the tree is that I don’t need to worry about yielding fruit or keeping my leaves from withering through my own effort or might. I just need to be planted and stay planted near the streams of water. Living water that nourishes my soul and transforms my heart and mind. And as I remain planted and continue to abide in Christ, a harvest of righteousness will be reaped and much fruit will be borne that blesses others and brings much glory to the Lord Jesus.

Although my primary motivation behind my goal for 2015 is to glorify the Lord Jesus and to serve His church, I also am aware of (and have previously experienced) the personal blessings of being like a tree. Jeremiah spoke to some of them. Specifically, not fearing when heat comes and not being anxious in the year of drought.

The person who is like a tree planted by streams of water is able to persevere and be fruitful even during trials, affliction or difficult circumstances. A tree, with it’s roots sent deep near a continual stream of live-giving water is solid, stable and steady despite how stormy it is above ground.

That is my desire for 2015. That I would enjoy an even greater delight in the law of the Lord and meditate on it day and night. That I would sink my roots deeper into the truth and reality of the gospel of Jesus Christ. That I would abide in Christ and drink deeply of His living water. That I would avail myself of the power of the Holy Spirit and live a life worthy of my calling. That I would not grow anxious or weary during times of difficulty but rather that I would draw near to God and hold fast to the Word of truth.

And finally, my greatest desire is that, in all things, I would bring much glory to God for His namesake. Amen.

Two Reasons We Can Be Thankful Every Day

Reading through Psalm 136 this morning provided a great reminder that we have reason to be continually thankful. Not only that, but we have occasion to be thankful regardless of our circumstances. Our thanksgiving should not be dependent on who we are, what we have or how we feel. Rather, our thanksgiving should hinge on the following two things that never change; (1) that God is good and (2) God’s steadfast love endures forever. That is the refrain that plays throughout the psalm and in response to every acknowledgment of who God is, what He has done and what He has promised.

In verses 4-9 we are reminded that God is the sovereign creator of all things. In verses 10-25 we are reminded of God’s deliverance of, and care for, His people.  And in response to all of that, the psalmist offers one final encouragement when he says:

Give thanks to the God of heaven,
for his steadfast love endures forever.

Psalm 136:26

It’s nice to know that regardless of what is going on in our lives, we can rest in this truth. It’s my prayer that my natural response to any and all circumstances is to use it as an occasion to give thanks to God because He is good and His steadfast love endures forever. Amen and Amen.

The discipline of praise

Like so many of David’s psalms, he spends the bulk of Psalm 59 lamenting his circumstances and requesting deliverance from his enemies. His request is not only that the Lord would protect and deliver him but also that the Lord would rouse Himself to punish all those who plot evil.

The thing I always love about David’s psalms though is that he always ends with singing praises to God.

But I will sing of your strength; I will sing aloud of your steadfast love in the morning. For you have been to me a fortress and a refuge in the day of my distress. O my Strength, I will sing praises to you, for you, O God, are my fortress, the God who shows me steadfast love.
Psalm 59:16-17

The two verses essentially repeat and reinforce the same concept; David will sing of God’s strength, steadfast love, and the fact that God has been a refuge and fortress in times of distress. This steadfast love that David highlights is the unfailing, loyal and covenant love of God. That is why David can be so confident and prepared to sing of it in the morning. He can count on it, not because he is necessarily worthy of it but rather because the one who extends the love is worthy and faithful and steadfast.

I like also how he refers to the Lord as “my Strength”. David has known God as his fortress, refuge, and ever-present help in times of trouble. Just like an air-raid siren might cause someone to seek out a physical bomb shelter, David has sought the Lord for shelter during his times of trouble and he has found that shelter to be unshakeable, strong and sure.

Reading through the psalms is always a good reminder for me to be disciplined in offering praise to the Lord regardless of my circumstances. To praise Him in the midst of my circumstances and not have my sacrifice of praise be conditional on my circumstances changing or improving. I guess that’s the beauty of serving a God that is the same yesterday, today and forever. He is always worth of praise and adoration.

It’s my prayer that I will always seek the Lord and know Him as a safe place to reside and that I will never fail to offer Him the praise that He is due.

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