Psalm 138 is quite a contrast from the previous chapter. It begins with “Thank you….everything in me says thank you”. What a way to begin. And it frankly is how our days should start. We need to wake up thanking God. Whether we are a morning person or not, we need to start the day recognizing that everything that has been or will be has been because of His goodness. Every good and perfect gift came from Him. We need to “kneel in worship….say it again….thank you”. Can you see how that should be part of our daily routine? “Thank you for your love…thank you for your faithfulness”. Our psalmist calls out two of God’s character traits – love and faithfulness. Definitely two things that we should be thankful for as they are defining qualities of our God. Do you recognize Him? Do you see just how blessed we are to be able to have a relationship with this God?
The writer also calls out another quality of God – His holiness. “Most holy is your name….most holy is your Word”. God is a holy God and expects the same from us. That alone should cause us to latch on and connect with Him. We won’t achieve that on our own. He alone can help us move toward holiness as we become more like Him. But check out the response the psalmist gets: “The moment I called out, you stepped in; you made my life large with strength”. Did you catch that? God is listening and waiting to respond to us. And He does step into our lives and have an impact. He is the one who makes “life large” and gives us the ability to do far more than we can do on our own. He alone is the one who makes good things happen. Are you connected with the King? We should cry out just like the psalmist “finish what you started in me God”. He has a plan. It is in motion. We need to walk with Him as He completes His work in us!
Psalm 137 shows the very raw and real emotion to a time of captivity and destruction. The writer is responding to memories of days gone by when bad things happened and people were sad. “We sat on the banks….we cried and cried”. Not a very uplifting set of words. Sometimes we want to think that bad things won’t happen. We want to believe that only good things happen to those who love God. That isn’t always how it works out. There are dark days when things don’t go as we might like. There are difficult seasons that we all have to walk through. The good news is that we never walk them alone. God never leaves us nor forsakes us. He is always by our side. Our psalmist talks about “remembering the good old days”. We do need to remember – scripture tells us that often. We need to consider what God has done in the past and realize that He is the same yesterday, today and forever. We need to hang on to His nature and character when things begin to get difficult. We should never live in the past, but we certainly need to remember the past. It gives us perspective for the future. God’s given us a record of His Story that shows us how He is. We can take comfort in knowing Him. Our own journal of our part in His Story also is important to remember. That is why journaling is so critical. It gives us a place to refer back to in order to discover how God has worked in the past.
Our writer asks this question: “how could we ever sing God’s song in this wasteland”? Sometimes it seems like there is no way for us to be joyful in our current circumstances. Sometimes the weight of the situation is overwhelming. And the reality is that we may be unable to sing God’s praises at that time. We may struggle to be able to find joy inside us. But God does know our pain. He does understand our situation. And He will receive all our attempts to communicate with Him. We just need to cry out. We need to reach to the skies and let God know we are here and no matter what is happening, we recognize that He is God and we trust Him. No matter what…..no matter how bad it seems…..we know that He is in charge. Easier said than done for sure. But God is God even when it doesn’t feel like it. Fortunately His position is not impacted by our feelings. He is God all the time!
Psalm 136 lists a litany of things that God has done. It is a psalm of thanksgiving. Line after line of God’s faithfulness to His people. It starts with these words: “Thank God”. When did you last do that? When did you last stop and think about just how much He loves us and how everything that happens comes from Him? The writer here makes a list of things God has done. He calls out the very nature and character of God, and the creator God. He gives us a history reminder of His faithfulness through the ages. The list is long and powerful. After each statement the writer says these words: “His love never quits”. What a promise and fact. God’s love never does quit. It has been since the beginning of time, and it will continue for as long as eternity is – which is quite a while. God loves us. He has demonstrated it faithfully and continues to do so in your life and mine moment by moment and day by day. God loves us. It is that simple. God always loves us. But I think the psalmist said it best in his list so rather than me saying more – check out the long list of why we need to thank God. “His love never quits”.
- He deserves your thanks
- Thank the God of all gods
- Thank the Lord of all lords
- Thank the miracle-working God
- The God whose skill formed the cosmos
- The God who laid out earth on ocean foundations
- The God who filled the skies with light
- The sun to watch over the day
- Moon and stars as guardians of the night
- The God who struck down the Egyptian firstborn
- And rescued Israel from Egypt’s oppression
- Took Israel in hand with his powerful hand
- Split the Red Sea right in half
- Led Israel right through the middle
- Dumped Pharaoh and his army in the sea
- The God who marched his people through the desert
- Smashed huge kingdoms right and left
- Struck down the famous kings
- Struck Sihon the Amorite king
- Struck Og the Bashanite king
- Then distributed their land as booty
- Handed the land over to Israel
- God remembered us when we were down
- Rescued us from the trampling boot
- Takes care of everyone in time of need
- Thank God, who did it all
Twenty six reasons why we should thank God! His love never quits!
Psalm 135 gives us a lot of insight into just how awesome God is. Scripture tells us “He does just as He pleases – however, wherever, whenever”. I love the way the Message states that. God does what He is going to do without regard to what anyone else thinks. He doesn’t need to check in and see if it is ok. This is His universe, His plan, and it happens His way. Period and end of story. So what does that look like? Well our author tells us: “He makes the weather…..He struck down the Egyptian firstborn….He made Egypt sit up and take notice….confronted Pharaoh…..struck down great nations…..slew mighty kings……turned their land over”. What comes to mind when you read about what God has done? Limitless….unstoppable…..in His time……done His way……Majestic? God is all that and so much more. He has no limits. He has no resource restrictions. He is so vast and powerful and almighty there is nothing that even slows Him down. What He says happens, just like it did when He spoke the universe into existence. God is still in charge. And then these words really drive that home: “God, your name is eternal….God, you’ll never be out of date”. Some think that God was just for Bible times but let me assure you He is every bit as alive and in control today as He was when He created all this a long time ago. He is just as much your God and mine as He was to Adam and Abraham and Noah and Jacob and David. He is the same – that is what eternal means. God never changes. Scripture tells us that over and over in many ways.
SO what is he doing? “God stands up for His people…..holds the hands of His people”. God is very much in the middle of your life and mine. He is absolutely in control of every detail whether it feels like it or we notice it or not. What we think and feel does not change the facts and reality that God is in control. The writer contrasts that with the “gods” – little “g” for human made and human controlled – which are “mere trinkets….chiseled mouths….carved ears…..dead wood”. DO you see the comparison? God is in control and has been for eternity. Compare that with the gods we allow to get in the middle of our lives that have no power of control, just suck away our life, money and time and destroy relationships and good things. Lots of common things can become god in our life – TV, work, money, another person – anything we worship and put in a place that should be reserved for the one true God who created it all. Here is the sad truth of our little gods – “those who make and trust them become like them”. Hello – did you catch that. If we push God out of His rightful place in our life and replace Him with some human god we latch onto – we become as ineffective and worthless spiritually as whatever it is we allow to take a place in our life. We are like dead wood. We need to focus and stay connected to God and Him alone. And how do we do that? We get some ideas here: “Praise the name of GOD, praise the works of GOD….Shout ” Hallelujah!”…..sing anthems”. We need to put Him on the throne of our life and treat His as He is – King of Kings and Lord of Lords. We need to make Him the only God we serve – not one among a bunch of stuff. “And why? Because GOD chose…..embraced”. We get the answer to the why it matters question. God doesn’t deserve to be God because we decide so. He already is because He is. He should be God because in spite of who we are and all the ways we fail – well He still chose to love us. He chose to accept and embrace us in spite of ourselves. He allows us to come into an eternal relationship with Him because He chose, not because we decide. Do you see that gift? God doesn’t owe us….we don’t deserve Him. But His nature is to love and to draw us to Himself. That is why Jesus was sent to live on earth and go to the cross. To bridge the gap between our pathetic attempts to live a holy life and God’s expectations. Without that, our future would be pretty dim. But God chose and embraces us by sending Christ to the cross to take away our sin if we have a personal relationship with Him. God is so good. Do you know Him? If not, make it a priority to do it today!
Psalm 133 and 134 are both short little chapters that contain a couple of very important messages. In 133, we read these words: “How wonderful, how beautiful, when brothers and sisters get along”. We could get caught up trying to determine whether this refers to physical brothers and sisters or is targeting spiritual siblings. Bottom line – it doesn’t really matter because God wants us to have good relationships with both. God is all about relationships. He is totally focused on people and how we relate to one another. When we have our relationships in order – it is wonderful and beautiful. It is what He desires. And why does this fall apart some times? Because of self. People get focused on themselves rather than others and pride gets in the way. I have seen so many broken relationships where folks can’t even remember why they don’t like someone except there was something back somewhere that happened. God is in the restoration and reconciliation business. With us first in our relationship with Him through Christ, but secondly between brothers and sisters. It is His heart.
In Psalm 134 we are told to “bless God….lift your praising hands”. We could get into a theological discussion about how we praise God. As a conservative Baptist boy, raising hands has never really been my thing. But the message here is clear – we need to recognize that our God is the center of this universe and we need to put Him where He belongs – on the throne of our life and our attention. How do we bless God? By praising Him. By acknowledging who He is and the place He has in our lives and the world we live in. When is the last time you took time to praise Him. Really focus on just how awesome our God is and how blessed we are to be able to have a personal relationship with the Creator. “God who made heaven and earth” is seeking our praise. We can bless Him if we only will. Are you blessing God through praising Him? Are you blessing Him by getting along with your brothers and sisters? We need to make it priority. Other things will always crowd it out unless we focus on putting God first!
Psalm 132 is an interaction between David and God about their relationship. Isn’t that what it all boils down to – our relationship with God? David and God had a vow – they were connected through a mutual promise to one another – and that covenant really set the stage for everything that happened. David puts it this way: “I’m not going home, and I’m not going to bed, I’m not going to sleep, not even take time to rest, until I find a home for God, a house for the strong God of Jacob”. Talk about single minded focus on the relationship. David was not content to be separated from God. He is focused on being in that relationship. And he wasn’t about to sleep, or rest or even go home until God was there with him. He was passionate to be in God’s presence and have God with him. Are you focused on that? Do you pursue God without allowing anything else to get in the way, even sleep and rest? That is the kind of heart that God desires us to have. That we are so focused on being with Him that we will make it priority above all else, even self. It should be number one on our list when we get up each day. How will I connect with God? How will I dwell with Him today?
David tells us that they were going to “worship at God’s footstool”. They were going to be in His presence. How do you view your relationship? Is it something that you focus on going to Him to be at His feet, or is the approach here I am God, come sit here and wait til I can squeeze in a quick prayer or fleeting thought about you. Who fits whose schedule in your life? Do you have a habit of coming into God’s presence and being focused on His plan and His timeline and His will? Or are you coming to the throne when you need Him with your list of what you want done? Do you see a disconnect here? God is not our genie sitting around waiting for us to find a minute to let Him know what we want. That is not how it works. God is the Creator of the universe, the Controller of all things, the Master of everything, and sometimes we treat Him like our own personal assistant that we can cry out to when and if it fits our needs. Oh that we would get the heart of David and make Him our only pursuit. God never turns from us. He is pursuing us with all His heart all the time. Just like He tells David that He has made a place for him, and will take care of him, God wants to abundantly bless us the same way. It is His plan. We need to be in relationship so we don’t miss it!
Psalm 131 is really a short chapter – three simple verses – but oozing with the kind of heart that God desires us to have. David is sharing a look at his innermost being – and it gives us insight into why he was called a man after God’s own heart. He sets the tone as one of humility. This is not about a great warrior and king tooting his own horn and taking credit for all he has done. This is a humble man who realizes it is not about him, but about the One he serves. Check out what he says he does not do here as he addresses God:
- “I’m not trying to rule the roost
- I don’t want to be king of the mountain
- I haven’t meddled where I have no business
- I haven’t fantasized grandiose plans”
Sound like you? Doesn’t really sound all that much like me. I tend to want to be in charge and determine what happens. I seem to think I can take care of things myself. God is just a safety net for when it gets past my ability to handle things on my own. Oh that we would learn the humility of David and put God in His right place in our lives as ruler and king. Oh that we would keep our sticky fingers where they belong rather than meddling where they don’t, and that we would follow His plans rather than dreaming up our own. Can you envision life if we lived it like David?
But wait, there’s more to learn here as David tells us what he does do. Check this out:
- “I’ve kept my feet on the ground
- I’ve cultivated a quiet heart
- I’m like a baby content in its mother’s arms”
Can you see how he lives? Feet solid on the ground – quiet heart – content to be in God’s care and following His lead. David has learned what we all need to – it’s not about me. It is about God and His plan for my life. It is about me lining up with what God wants to do in and through me. It is all about trusting Him and walking in obedience to His lead. We get it all backwards today, certainly in our country. We think church is about serving our needs and wishes. We think life is about making us comfortable and giving us pleasure. We think relationships are designed as things to meet our needs. The focus David has is not self – it is God. We need to get the scope moved from me to Thee. We need to understand that God is the center of our universe and He alone is where we better focus and be spending our energy. Are you there? What has to change so you can be one who is after God’s heart?
Psalm 130 is a desperate cry for help. Our psalmist is struggling with the circumstances of life: “the bottom has fallen out of life”. Have you been there? I sure have, and I do what our writer did – I cry out: “hear my cry for help”. Know what the good news is with that? God does hear our cry. He is listening and will hear us. Sometimes we wait far too long before we cry out. We want to handle it ourselves. We fall into the trap that we shouldn’t need any help. We should be able to handle whatever life throws at us. Not exactly true, but that is what the voice in our head tells us, isn’t it? We can’t handle life alone. We need to be surrounded by others on this journey we can lean on and depend to come along side us. But more importantly we need to realize that God is there to help us as well. The purpose of the body of Christ – His church – is to help us deal with the curveballs that life throws our way.
This chapter also reminds us that God is all about restoring us. “As it turns out, forgiveness is your habit”. God is in the business of helping us overcome our sinful ways and bringing us back into right relationship. We need to confess, repent and put on new ways, but God wants to help us get cleaned up and on track. Part of that process is to do what the psalmist does – to make “my life a prayer…and wait for what He’ll say and do”. We need to be in relationship and listening to what God intends for us. We see these key words: “waiting and watching” several times in this chapter. Too often we are not about waiting at all, and really don’t watch for what God is doing either. Our plan is for God to wait on us and to watch what we are doing and just bless that. We get that backward. It isn’t that God is supposed to take His cues from what we are doing. It is the other way around. We are to live in relationship waiting on and watching what God is up to so we can join Him. Not the other way around. When we do it His way then “God’s arrival comes love….God’s arrival comes generous redemption”. Good things happen when we do things His way. When we try and force Him to bless our way, well the results may not be as desired. Life will throw us some difficult days. We need to be in prayer, get lined up with God’s plan, allow Him to purify us from our sin, and wait and watch for what He is doing so we can join Him. If we do that – love and redemption will come. That is a great place to be!
Psalm 129 gives us a reminder that there is a battle that rages around us on a spiritual level. Our writer points out that it has been going on for a long time, and will continue until the end of time. The struggle between good and evil never ends. And we are in the middle of that as believers. The church is in the sights of the enemy as the target. “They’ve kicked me around…..but they never could keep me down”. Ever feel like that? That you are being kicked and hit and beat on? It is real, and it comes from the desire to destroy all things good and of God. The strategy is to wear out God’s people and tear them down slowly and over time. That is the way the enemy fights – sometimes head on directly against us – but often just continually picking away at us to try and wear us out and cause us to fall over time. We need to remember that God build the church on a rock that does not move. We need to hang on to the truth that God is the same yesterday, today and forever. And even when it seems like we can’t go on – He will come alongside us to lift us up and carry us forward. After the psalmist has been pummeled he tells us “then God ripped the harnesses”. God is there ready to come to our side and help us succeed. He is our source of power.
The chapter also reminds us that the harvest will come, even when the enemy designs it to fail. The yield comes from God, and He alone determines what it will be. We need to be ready to gather it – to harvest the crop in due time and to take in what He provides for us. That picture speaks loud and clear to me as an Iowa farmboy. God alone can grow the harvest. We may plant, till, cultivate, watch and pray. But the Lord of the Harvest makes it grow. And it is He alone – the enemies may want to go destroy it – but God alone controls the harvest. God will provide. We need to join Him in the harvest and bless Him for what He provides. “We bless you in God’s name”. God has been faithful to provide no matter what the enemy has in mind. Remember that the opposition is “like grass in shallow ground that withers before harvest”. While it sometimes seems the enemy is strong – they can’t last as long as the power and strength and blessing of our God. We serve an amazing and mighty God who will triumph over evil. We just need to walk faithfully in obedience as we trust Him. Our God reigns!
Psalm 128 is a happy little chapter that really tells us how blessed we are to be able to walk with God. It reminds us that part of being successful in that walk is the need to “fear God”. That theme happens over and over in scripture. God is in control, and our recognition of that and living life respectful of that truth is so key to us enjoying all God has for us. “All you who fear God, how blessed are you”. I am confident that most of us really don’t realize just how blessed we are to have a relationship with God – the Creator of the universe – in a personal way. It is such a blessing for us to be able to come to His throne and receive His goodness and blessing. And when we listen to His direction, when we follow His lead – “how happily you walk on His smooth straight road”. Now there is a promise we should grab onto and hold on tightly. God has a plan for us to follow. When we build a personal walk with Him, when we are listening to His leading and walking in His ways, life goes more smoothly. He blesses us. Doesn’t mean it will be exactly what we want, but it will be everything He wants us to have. Then we can “enjoy the blessing…..revel in the goodness”. That is such a welcome concept for most of us who struggle with life day to day on our own steam. We battle the bills and the chaos and often don’t seem to get around to enjoying much of anything. Ever feel that way? Well God has a better plan, and we need to walk with Him to experience it.
The author points out just how blessed we are to have kids in our lives. They are what makes “your household lush as a vineyard”. But they too are gifts from God’s hand – His blessing and goodness to us. We tend to take credit for a lot of what God does, and the miracle of life is definitely one of those things that is all His. There is no way that man could assemble and create the miracle that happens through birth. We need to “stand in awe of God’s Yes”. He is the One in control. He is the source of life and every good thing that flows into it. He is the great I Am. As the chapter closes, the psalmist reminds us of one key truth that I am so glad to be able to be part of: “and enjoy your grandchildren”. What a blessing it is to have grandkids. What a joy to see young life and to once again have to answer all those questions of why and how and why not. God has created an amazing universe for us to be part of. He has blessed us indeed and we too often miss the blessing because we get caught up in the minutia of life. Fear God, and enjoy His blessing!