Psalm 9 is a chapter that cries out the story of God’s work around us. “He sees and sets the world’s mess right”. God is at work. “You took over and set everything right….when I needed you…..you were there…..taking charge”. What a promise. And we see that happen over and over through out scripture. God is there and shows up to make things right. He takes control of the situation because He is in control of every situation. There are no surprises. There are no things out of bounds to God’s reach. God is in control and “decides what is right for us earthlings”. That is pretty clear. He sets the rules and decides what the penalty is when we fail to do the right thing. Obedience is required. There is no pass given. “They have no excuse; the way God works is well-known”. People who think they can write their own rules and live their own lives are in for a big surprise. It doesn’t work that way. God alone is the creator, the writer of life, and the judge of our actions. For those who chose to do their own thing – the writer makes it clear what happens: “the wicked bought a one-way ticket to hell”. That is pretty strong and not something we like to think about. But let’s face it, life matters and how we live determines eternity. If we are stuck on being all about our own little self centered world, the outcome will not be what we want. If we figure out just how far off the reservation we have gone when we are in charge, and realize our need for a Savior, and come to Jesus with faith and a repentant heart – well then our eternity looks bright and exactly what we would desire it to be. So we get the opportunity to determine the outcome, just not the right to make the rules.
The writer is really happy with life. He has seen God at work. He is going to “tell His stories to everyone you meet”. How do you respond when God works in your life. I think we get a glimpse of some really good actions to take here. Check out what the psalmist does with his joy:
- I’m thanking you God from a full heart
- I’m writing the book on your wonders
- I’m whistling
- I’m laughing
- I’m jumping for joy
- I’m singing your song
The writer is ecstatic at his relationship with God. Does anyone know what God is doing in your life? Are you telling the story? Are you thankful and jumping for joy? Or do you just move on and take God’s goodness for granted? That is often the case, or there would be a whole lot more testimonies shared when Christ Follower’s are together. But more often than not, no one shares much of anything that has resulted in their life. They may not even recognize what God has done. And some even think they did it all themselves. We need to stop and take a big look at life. God is alive and well and active in our lives moment by moment. He is doing all sorts of great things. And as the writer tells us, when we go to Him we’re “never sorry you knocked”. Are you knocking on God’s door to be front and center in your life? Time to make that part of the life you live. Do it today!
Psalm 8 makes an assumption that may not be true today: “God….yours is a household name”. Is that true in your household? Is God part of the discussion – One of the family – a household name? Or do you keep that quiet – it’s personal after all – and nobodys business but your own? Too many want to keep God under wraps or not even admit that He is. Why are we hesitant to let people know about God? And even more questionable – why do we fail to talk about our relationship with Jesus? After all, we have the solution to the biggest problem in the world today – SIN. Not only the solution, but the only solution. And yet we tend to keep that quiet – to stay to ourselves – to pretend like it is some super secret that should not be discussed with others. Why? Are we ashamed to need a Savior? Are we afraid of what people will think? Our hiding the most important relationship we have is lunacy. It defies all logic. Yet we do it. We proudly wear the colors of our favorite sports teams. We aren’t afraid to align with civic groups and even churches. But when it comes to wearing Jesus publicly, we shy away. We need to be like the writer here and have God and Jesus household, workplace and lifestyle names.
The reality is that if we don’t shout out the glory of God, well it will happen anyway. The writer points out that God created the skies “dark and enormous, your handmade jewelry, moon and stars”. No one can miss God’s creation. God did choose to put us in charge of managing His creation. Some days I wonder why He made that choice knowing what He knows, but He did. We have a lot of responsibility with that. “Sheep and cattle….animals in the wild…..birds flying and fish swimming”. There is a lot of creation out there. But the creation cries out the glory of God. Scripture tells us that no one can miss God whether they have been told or not. Nature and creation shout His name. And the psalmist says that as well: “God, brilliant Lord, your name echoes around the world”. There is no secret about how the universe came to be. God put it there – spoke it into existence. He is not hiding that fact. We should not hide the fact that He is the center of our lives either. That is – unless of course – we have not placed Him there. Or we have pushed Him from that spot. Is that why we struggle to shout God’s name from where we are – because we are in a battle for control? Hmmm…..time to look in the mirror and see what the issue is.
Psalm 7 continues the discussion by the writer around his enemies and his current situation: “I am running to you for dear life”. Is that where you are – running to God because the situation is so overwhelming and you are under the gun. I think that is how many of us feel today. Life is going so quickly and is overwhelming. We can’t keep up, we don’t have the energy to fight off the enemy, and we just want to run to some peace and quiet. God is willing to be that place for us. It isn’t a sanctuary without requirements or action though. Scripture here tells us that God “gets us ready for life….probes for our soft spots….knocks off our rough edges”. He has a plan for us – godliness and holiness – and He will continue to work on us to bring us into right relationship with Him and to help us become more like Jesus every chance He has. That is one of the outcomes of the struggles and challenges in life. They are learning opportunities – teachable moments for the Father – to help bring us into a closer walk with Him. It is stated well here that “nobody gets by with anything”. Sometimes we fool ourselves into thinking we can get by with one, maybe a little one, that we know is wrong and not what God wants us to do, but He is too busy to notice isn’t He? Nope. He knows all and sees all and He knows our every move – good or bad. There are no secrets, no secret sin, no little white lie that goes unnoticed. So realize that clearly. God is in the business of holiness!
I love the image the writer paints here. He tells us the “accusers have packed the courtroom, it’s judgment time”. We will be accused many times in life for being wrong or doing evil. Sometimes by our fellow man, but always by our spiritual enemy, the devil himself. We will be attacked with lies and inuendos and false accusations. But the writer here paints the picture of God being the judge sitting on the bench. Check out what he writes: “Take your place on the bench, reach for your gavel, throw out the false charges against me…..close the book on evil, God”. How comforting to know that the judge is someone who is above reproach and will make His decision fairly. And as we learn in other parts of scripture, our representative who is interceding on our behalf is none other than Jesus, so we have the greatest on both counts. Of course we can still mess up and be in a tight spot, but at least we know the trial will be fair. God looks at our sin, the evil in our life, and is left with no choice other than to pronounce us guilty. That is, unless Jesus has become our Savior through a personal relationship with Him. Then Jesus stands between us and our sin, and God the righteous judge and covers us with His saving mercy and grace. God can no longer see our crimson stain, He only sees the blood of Jesus and will set us free. The chapter mentions our best resource to avoid these situations: “publish your mandate for us”. God has written the rule book for us to know what is expected. It is called the B-I-B-L-E and we need to read it, learn it and live it. And we also have a hotline to the author called prayer to get specifics if we need more direction. So we really have no excuse for messing up, other than our own self centered and rebellious nature. The chapter ends with these encouraging words of promise: “I’m thanking God, who makes things right. I’m singing the fame of heaven-high God”. Are you thanking God and singing His praises? You should be. If He weren’t on the throne as judge, life would have a far different outcome. We need to be grateful we serve a loving and holy God who loves us far more than we deserve. Praise God for His blessing and love!
Psalm 6 is a chapter written as the Psalmist is struggling big time. He is under attack and has really had it. “I’m tired of all this – so tired”. Do you ever feel that way? Like the world is all over you and you can’t even get a break? The writer pleads to God: “no more trips to the woodshed”. Wow – I have made that plea myself. Sometimes the difficulties in life are things I cause when I disobey and God needs to teach me some things. Often for me, it requires a 2X4 to the side of the head to get my attention. So the woodshed analogy really hits home for me. While the head is smarting from the discipline, it doesn’t really feel all that good. But after He gets my attention, I realize just how fortunate I am that He loves me that much. For my path was definitely the wrong one and the future would not have looked good at all had I been allowed to run my own way. God doesn’t get a charge out of disciplining us for no reason. He loves us and is committed to our godliness and holiness. He will continue to work on us until we respond correctly. So often people ask why His treatment is so harsh. I can tell you from experience that it often is because we don’t respond to the initial attempts to get our attention. We miss His still small voice, His quiet prodding’s, His messages from those around us, and all that remains is the woodshed. If we learn to listen and obey at first sign from Him, we could all save ourselves a lot of pain. But alas, we are hard hearted and refuse until He turns up the heat. At least that is my response far too often.
The good news is that He doesn’t give up. He is committed to us. I love how when the writer is at the bottom of the pit, when he writes “I’m no good to you dead, am I”?, that is when he begins to figure out that God is still there waiting. He calls out to God and says “God has heard my sobs”. God always hears our sobs folks. But too often we are so focused on ourselves and our own situation that we fail to even listen to His response to our sobs. But He is listening, and His heart is aching as we suffer. The reality is that once we get to the point of turning to Him and walking His path we experience what the writer does. “My requests have been granted, my prayers are answered…..my enemies disappear”. God is in the business of helping us live victoriously. But that doesn’t happen when we want to do everything our way. We will have days where we are under attack and feel like the world has caved in on us. We need to remember that rather than fight it all on our own, we need to seek God and find out if we are being disciplined, or just attacked. We certainly do have an enemy who is always pursuing our destruction. But we also have a loving God who is committed to making us the kind of person He desires. So we have to learn this lesson – to listen and seek God as our first instinct when we face difficult situations. We can respond quickly when He calls out to us, or wait for the woodshed moment. It will come. He loves us that much!
Psalm 5 has the Psalmist talking about his relationship with the Father. “Every morning I lay out the pieces of my life on the altar”. He has a pattern of seeking God and asking for God’s help in his life. He comes crying “I need your help”. It is so important that we understand that. Far too often we think we have it all under control and we only come to God when we really are in deep trouble. We keep God on the sidelines as the backup plan, but otherwise have convinced ourselves it is under control. The Psalmist gives us a clear picture of why we should spend time with God: “And here I am, your invited guest – it’s incredible”. Are you spending time with the Father? He has invited us to come to His throne and seek His face. He has told us over and over in scripture that He will be there and is listening and wants us to come and spend time with Him. That is the key to our writer here – daily habitual prayer – seeking God’s direction and “waiting for directions to get me safely through the enemy lines”. God knows the path we should take. He sees clearly the plans of the enemies in our life. We need to seek Him so we can get that information and have His clarity and know how we should move forward. Are you seeking and crying out to God? We all need to be doing this continually.
But the best part of the story here is God’s response. I love how the Message says it: “you’ll welcome us with open arms when we run for cover to you”. God is there and waiting. He wants us to come running. He wants to provide safety and answers. He will “stand guard over our celebration”. God is a personal and intimate God – if we let Him be. We just need to do our part and open our life up to Him. We need to understand His reputation and history. Scripture tells us “you are famous God, for welcoming God seekers, for decking us out in delight”. Does that excite you like it does me? God is ready to bless us indeed. He wants to give us our delight. He welcomes our coming to His throne, and is ready to protect us from evil and give us direction for life. So what’s the issue? We never ask. We never approach His throne. We never take Him at His word. We just do it on our own our own way. And then we wonder what went wrong? Why are we so slow to learn and see what God is offering us if we only come to Him? Time to get with the program and come to Him each morning and lay out our life seeking His direction and blessing. Are you doing that? If not, why not start today? God stands ready to hear us, and Jesus went to the cross to be our Intercessor and Savior. He is ready to plead our case with the Father. But we need to make that effort and come to the throne. Do it today!
The Psalmist really describes life here. He says “I’m in trouble again” as he calls out to God begging “when I call, give me answers”. Wow – that really does describe a lot of us doesn’t it? We get in a tight spot and then we go running to God. We call out and ask God to “take my side”. How He responds really is based on our relationship and the status of our heart. God is there. “He listens the split second I call to Him”. There is no question of God’s ability to hear us nor His willingness to come to our side. But the key is how we ask and what we want. Too often we are totally focused on self and what we want and not plugged into His will for our lives. We just want out of the tight jam we are in. We want to put that aside and behind us and move on to something a bit more comfortable. But the Psalmist tells us to “keep your mouth shut, and let your heart do the talking”. Our relationship with God is a heart issue, not a head and words relationship. And that is where things break down so often. We haven’t taken care of the heart. We haven’t spent time with God sharing our heart – we just run to Him with what seems to be the right answer that we dream up on our own. God is far more interested in our heart than any circumstance or situation we may find ourself in. He wants to grow our character to be like His very nature. He wants us to move toward godliness and holiness.
The chapter also asked the question “why is everyone hungry for more”? That is definitely a tendency of our society today. We never have enough stuff do we? There is always the quest to accumulate something else – to get that latest this or that – and it is a never ending race to the end. We fill our homes and garages with things we never use and don’t need. Check out what our attitude should be: “I have God’s more-than-enough”. God is really all we need. He is more than enough. He is all the fulfillment that any life should desire. This whole area of contentment is so important for us to get our arms around. Our continual desire to get more stuff just drives us away from God. It eats up our money, our time and our attention. It ties up our space and distracts us from the important. And most importantly, it doesn’t fulfill anything in the end. The writer says he gets “more joy in an ordinary day than they get in all their shopping sprees”. Buying stuff doesn’t last. It is a temporary fix that requires us to do it again and again because it is only short lived. We need to put our investment in the eternal – in things that last – in our relationship with God. That alone will allow us to say, like the Psalmist, “for you God, have put my life back together”. There is nothing we can ever buy that will fulfill us. Only God, and a relationship with His Son Jesus will fill that empty spot in our life. Stuff will never satisfy. It is a never ending quest that knows no end. But Jesus not only fills our longing but gives us an eternity that will never end. Don’t be hungry for more – be hungry for Him!
Psalm 3 talks about the reality of enemies. The Psalmist describes his as “enemies past counting…..sprouting like mushrooms”. Do you have enemies in life? Let me answer for you – yes you do. Some of us have other people right in our patch that are against us. They may be at work, or neighbors or heaven forbid in the church. These people often are driven by jealously or just plain meanness, but they don’t like us and want us to fail. We all definitely have enemies on a larger scale from around the world. They may not be specific to us in a personal way, but if they begin dropping bombs or shooting or flying planes into buildings in our country, they definitely qualify as enemies. But the biggest enemy of all, is one we can’t see. Satan is alive and well and is out to destroy us. His stated gig is to “steal, kill and destroy”. That is about as good a definition of an enemy as you can get. Someone who wants you gone. So we learn here that we need to “shout up to God”. Because with the reality of the enemy, also scripture shows us the more important truth of the victory. And here it is: “real help comes from God”. We can call out like this passage shows us: “My God, help me” and know that God is there. Does it mean that everything always works out the way we want? Not exactly. But the odds are never better for us than when we have God on our side and we hear as “His answers thunder from the holy mountain”. God is in the victory business. He does win in the end. The ending to the story has already been written. We simply need to make sure we don’t try and deal with the enemies of life on our own.
But that is usually what we do isn’t it. We run into a problem or an attack and our response is to go to battle on our own. All through scripture we see what the greatest warriors did – they stopped and prayed – they sought God’s direction for the battle – they waited upon Him. But most of us just take off and go at it alone. We don’t even bring our closest brothers and sisters in the Lord alongside us. How silly to do battle alone. What army is ever made up of one? But that is our approach because we certainly can’t let anyone know there is anything except complete happiness and love and joy in our life. Right? We don’t want anyone to know we are struggling. Hello people – if you are breathing and upright I already know you have issues and are in the midst of some battle. That is part of life. So quit trying to portray this image that you are different than all the rest of us. You aren’t and everyone know it. You need God to help give you strength and make you fearless in the battle. Scripture tells us He will “shield me on all sides…..ground my feet….lift my head high”. Can you do better than that yourself? Let me answer for you – NO you can’t. God is the answer to the struggles in life. He is the source of victory and the strength we need. He is our refuge and gives us the ability to deal with “enemy mobs coming at me from all sides”. We will fail if we take on the enemy alone. But with God, victory has already be achieved. Don’t go it alone. Run to God, run to your fellow warriors in the Body, and achieve victory. As Christ Followers we should never live in defeat. He has already won the war. We just need to let Him help us win the battles along the way too!
Psalm 2 speaks to the way we tend to think as humans. The focus is on self and what we can position ourselves for. “Earth leaders push for position…meet for summit talks”. We tend to get wrapped up in the trap of:
The three P’s that are the root of a lot of our issues today. The Psalmist calls it out here. Leaders often want to “get free of God”. After all, why do we need Him? He is a safety net for some, and totally unnecessary for others. Man tends to actually begin to believe that he is in charge – we actually begin to believe ourselves. I love how the Message phrases His response: “God breaks out laughing”. Folks – there is nothing under the sun or moon that we are in control of. We may be able to convince ourselves of it, but it is not reality. Scripture calls this “presumption”. To think that we have any real impact on what happens is a lesson in pride. God created this world, and He sits in His throne and is in absolute and complete control every moment of every day from the day He spoke it into existence through all of eternity. Thinking anything else is folly. And more importantly, it causes Him to “get good and angry”. God is not humored by our little human power grabs. He is not joyful about the way we try and take credit for His work.
The writer goes on to give us some great guidance on how we should live:
- “Use your heads
- Learn your lesson
- Worship God
Simple and common sense direction. I love Psalms for that reason. Having a relationship with God is not rocket science. It is a matter of putting Him in the right place and living for Him. It all comes down to execution. Will we recognize His power, realize His position, and understand that all our possessions are not ours but His? I love how this chapter ends: “If you make a run for God – you won’t regret it”. That is a promise and one we all need to pursue with all our hearts. It is never a mistake to seek God and run right to His throne. He is there with open arms and waiting for us. He sent Jesus to make the way. All that is left for us to do is receive His grace and accept His salvation. Then we get to the Lordship part of the relationship which is really what the Psalmist is telling us today!
Psalm 1 is a very short but powerful six verses. God identifies some characteristics of a man that He likes:
- “Don’t hang out at sin saloon (walk in the counsel of the wicked)
- Don’t slink along dead in road (stand in the path of sinners)
- Don’t go to smart mouth college” (sit in the seat of scoffers)
The Message version puts it rather bluntly, but bottom line is that God cares about who we hang out with and how we act. He tells us to stay away from the bad influences in life and watch our mouth and our actions. Life matters – what we do and who we are around makes a difference in the outcome of our life. We need to wake up and recognize that. He goes on to tell us what does make Him pleased: “you thrill in God’s Word, you chew on Scripture day and night”. In the NAS version it says “his delight is in the law of the Lord, and in His law he meditates day and night”. If you are like me, that is the version you memorized. Our road to success is to read and study God’s Word. It should be our thrill – our delight. Spending time with God should not be a chore we check off, it should be the foundation to a relationship we can’t wait to experience every day. His Word is the light to our path and the lamp for our feet. It is the roadmap to success and happiness. So why do we struggle so to actually spend time in it? Scripture tells us that those who fail to walk with Him are “mere windblown dust” on the way to Skid Row. The path for the ungodly and wicked is not a good one. But “God charts the road you take” if you are walking with Him. His Word is a key part of being on that right path.
The middle of this chapter gives a great word picture of what happens to those who are in God’s Word and in a deep relationship with Him. I love how scripture compares us to a tree: “You’re a tree replanted in Eden”. But not just any tree. Check out the description God gives of how we will perform as a tree that is rooted in His Word:
- “Bearing fresh fruit every month
- Never dropping a leaf
- Always in blossom”
Now that is one super tree. If we are walking with God and in His Word – His blessings flow as a result of our faithfulness. The NAS ends the description this way: “in whatever he does, he prospers”. Does being in God’s Word and having a deep relationship mean we will never have a tough day or fail at anything. No – but it certainly does improve the reality that with God all things are possible and He in fact not only creates the path but enables us to walk in victory along it. This chapter is one of those we need to cling to and hold on to as a promise of God’s love and investment in our lives. It does require us to do something – to chew on His Word and stay away from the wrong people and things in our lives. But it also carries the promise of His blessing which makes everything so very worthwhile. Are you a tree planted in the stream of God’s Word? Are you reading it every day and making it part of how you live? It needs to be that important – every day – to all you are and do!
Judges 21 tells the story of the aftermath of the massacre of the tribe of Benjamin. There were only a few left from their defeat – about 600 men had escaped – but the rest of the tribe had been killed. So now the dilemma – how do six hundred men build a future without any women? The men of Israel meet at Mizpah and have taken an oath that “no man among us will give his daughter to a Benjaminite in marriage”. There was no plan to allow that group to cause any more problems for the People of Israel. After all, with no wives the tribe dies out quickly. But as they sat in the presence of God, there was “widespread lamentation”. People were upset that one of the tribes was missing. It seems that the people from Jabesh Gilead had not shown up at all. As the “People of Israel were feeling sorry for Benjamin, their brothers” they decided to take matters into their own hands and try and fix the lack of wives. They had all sworn not to allow their own daughters to marry these guys, but they decided to kill all the people from Jabesh Gilead except the virgins and give those to the Benjaminites. So they did exactly that and found 400 virgins to return with and hand over to the Benjaminites. Still wasn’t enough women for them each to have a wife, so they scheme to get the rest of them a wife by kidnapping some of Shiloh girls after their dancing. They got their wives and head back to rebuild their city and begin the long process of rebuilding their tribe.
Rather scheming activity isn’t it? The final verse of Judges explains the conditions then, and far too much of our condition today. Check out how this book ends: “People did whatever they felt like doing”. Now we have the root of the problem. When left to ourselves, we do what we want and things just don’t go well. We go brain dead on what is right and wrong and quickly fall off the train of obedience. We can’t be left to do what we want. That is a plan for disaster and scripture certainly shows that over and over again. Man left to his own nature, will screw up every time. But the sentence before this close really defines the issue and the cause: “At that time there was no king in Israel”. There is a leadership void. No one is driving the bus. Scripture says it this way another place: without vision the people will perish. When we see strong leaders in scripture, people follow and if they are godly, the people walk with God. If they are evil, the people go astray and fall into sin. But when there are no leaders, the people default to evil as well and wander aimlessly missing the mark. A lack of leadership has the same effect as bad leadership. It may not happen as quickly as being led there, but eventually people seem to default to sin. That is why spiritual disciplines and leadership are so critical. If we are walking with God daily as individuals, and leading others in His ways, we can help people default to the right behavior and life. It won’t happen accidentally or left to its own accord. It takes discipline and work to stay on God’s path. Life is not about doing what we want to do, but rather doing what God wants us to do. It is not about me being me, but me living for Him. Once we lose sight of that purpose for our lives, we are in for a tough road. Are you walking with God each day? Or are you doing whatever it is you feel like doing? One is the formula for happiness and success. The second a formula for disaster. Which road will you choose?