Archive for October, 2012

Psalm 37

Psalm 37 is a powerful chapter filled with promises we can cling to.  It is filled with comparison of good and evil.  We’ll focus on how God deals with those who do good, but to summarize the life of those who choose evil, the psalmist says it like this: “they will soon fade like the grass and wither like the green herb”.  They can try and do all sorts of things, but they aren’t going to be around.  They will be cast down.  They will be thrown out.  They will fade away.

The writer gives some very clear instruction for what we should do to walk with God in His ways.  Check out this guidebook for how we should live:

–       “Trust in the Lord

–       do good

–       dwell in the land

–       befriend faithfulness

–       Delight yourself in the Lord

–       Commit your way to the Lord

–       trust in him

–       Be still before the Lord

–       wait patiently for him

–       fret not yourself

–       Refrain from anger

–       forsake wrath

That is a very concise list of how we should live.  It starts with trust.  God desires a relationship with us.  He wants us to trust Him.

So what are the results when we live this way, focused on God and His righteousness.  The list of outcomes is powerful and strong.

–       “He will give you the desires of your heart

–       He will act

–       He will bring forth your righteousness as the light, and your justice as the noonday

God will move when we live for Him.  He won’t let us flounder.  He is active and alive and paying attention.  We need to wait for Him to move though.  We often get impatient.  We fret and worry and try to make things happen on our own.  Scripture tells us “those who wait for the Lord shall inherit the land”.  We need to be patient and wait!

There are many more promises in this chapter.  The tone is one of legacy.  When we live God’s way, we set up a foundation for God’s ongoing love and impact.  “The Lord knows the days of the blameless, and their heritage will remain forever”.  That is legacy – a heritage that remains forever.  “Wait for the Lord and keep his way, and he will exalt you to inherit the land”.  Legacy is not about me doing something to make it happen.  It is about living God’s way and waiting on Him to do His thing.  It is putting God’s truth in my heart and trusting Him.  “The law of his God is in his heart; his steps do not slip”.  If we want to create a legacy that is passed to our kids and grandkids and beyond, it all starts here.  It starts with walking well with the Father.  It is about living God’s way.  “The steps of a man are established by the Lord, when he delights in his way”.  God is more than willing to establish our legacy – but how we walk and live determines what that outcome is.  Are you walking with God His way?

1 Kings 2

1 Kings 2 has the transition of power from David to Solomon as David breathes his last breath.  Before he goes though, David gives Solomon these last words to heed:  “Be strong, and show yourself a man, and keep the charge of the Lord your God, walking in his ways and keeping his statutes, his commandments, his rules, and his testimonies, as it is written in the Law of Moses”.  Some pretty strong and direct instruction from dad to son.  He got very granular in his direction.  I love how he started out with the verb ‘be’.

One thing that has struck me is that we often don’t use ‘be’ because it means we have to do something to fulfill whatever follows that word.  My life goal is to be a difference.  Many would say make a difference, but the reality is that I can make a difference without doing anything myself.  I can leverage others to do great things.  But when I say my goal is to ‘be a difference’ that makes it very personal.  That is what David does here. He puts the responsibility squarely on Solomon to be.  And then he backs that up wit the reason why: “that you may prosper in all that you do and wherever you turn, that the Lord may establish his word that he spoke”.  Short interpretation – be and do to achieve God’s plan.

David dies after 40 years as ruler of the kingdom.  His kingdom was “firmly established” at this point, but it certainly has had its ups and downs.  Lots of days when David was on the run or challenged for his leadership, often by those closest to him.  But now he passes the torch to Solomon after giving his last words.  And Solomon wastes no time cleaning up daddy’s messes.  He kills his brother Adijonah who had attempted to steal the throne from him just a bit before David passes it to him.  Adijonah came to Solomon’s mother to try and get the king to allow “Abishag the Shunammite” to be his wife.  That didn’t go his way and soon Solomon sends “Benaiah the son of Jehoiada”, his appointed hatchet man, to kill him.

Solomon strips Abiathar from his role as priest, and then turns Benaiah loose to get rid of Joab who had not been loyal as leader of the army.  Joab runs to hide in the tent of meeting, but Solomon is not deterred by that move, and sends the hatchet man in to kill Joab.  Benaiah becomes the new leader of the army.  And he gives one more command  that Shimei not leave Jerusalem or face death.  Three years in, some of Shimei’s slaves ran away and he chased after them.  But upon arrival back, he too is killed because of violating the agreement.  Solomon takes control and acts quickly.  “So the kingdom was established in the hand of Solomon”.  It didn’t take long for Solomon to put his fingerprints on the kingdom he had just inherited from King David.

1 Kings 1

1 Kings 1 has some family action going on as King David is ready to pass on.  Scripture tells us “King David was old and advanced in years….he could not get warm”.  He is on his deathbed.  His second son, Adonijah, decides to make a run for the throne.  He rallied a couple of the powerful men and hired 50 men to run before him and decided to throw a party to announce what he was doing.  Not sanctioned, this is a pure power grab since David was pretty well out of commission at this point.

So Adonijah “sacrificed sheep, oxen, and fattened cattle by the Serpent’s Stone….and he invited all his brothers, the king’s sons, and all the royal officials of Judah”.  He assembled a pretty impressive guest list, and it looks like things are progressing well.   “But he did not invite Nathan the prophet or Benaiah or the mighty men or Solomon his brother”.  He knew these men would not support his hostile takeover of the throne, so he just didn’t invite them to the party.  He left them out and hoped he could pull it off without anyone crying foul.

He might have gotten away with it except that Nathan the priest was paying attention.  He intervenes and asks Bathsheba to go to David and tell him of the activity.  He then follows and verifies that David’s plan to anoint Solomon as king was being hijacked by his son Adonijah.  So David calls in the men who were not invited to the party, and asks them to anoint Solomon king.  David said “I have appointed him to be ruler over Israel and over Judah”.  David had a succession plan, and he asked his loyal men to carry that out.  It almost slipped away, and had he not been surrounded by men who were alert and loyal to his wishes, it might have slipped away from Solomon.

So they do exactly as David asked and anoint Solomon king.  “Then they blew the trumpet, and all the people said, long live King Solomon”.  Of course that noise was heard at the impostor party down the road, and they quickly got word that King David had anointed Solomon as king.  Oh how quickly the folks at Adonijah’s party fled.  They knew they had tied their chariot to the wrong horse.  King David had wise men serving him, and they took action when his wishes were being thwarted.  It is important that we surround ourselves with people who are committed to helping us achieve our plans.  That is what saved the kingdom for Solomon this day.

Psalm 117 – 118

Psalm 117 & 118 are being combined today because there is only two verses in Psalm 117.  But they are important verses.  Paul quotes the first one in Romans 15.11 as his proof that the gospel is to be preached to all people including the Gentile nations.  Some scholars say the fact there are two verses is significant in that it represents the two people that are to hear the gospel – the Jews and the Gentiles.  I’m not sure about that, but I can see that God is inclusive – “all nations….all peoples”.  And it goes on in verse two to remind us of “His steadfast love for us….faithfulness of the Lord endures forever”.  Chapter 117 begins and ends the same way: “Praise the Lord”.  That is driving home the message loud and clear with bookends!

Psalm 118 begins with words to a familiar praise song; “Oh give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; for his steadfast love endures forever”!  And the focus continues for the first few verses as it repeats the words “His steadfast love endures forever”.  That is important to remember.  God loves us.  But that love is steadfast – it doesn’t shift around like the blowing wind.  It doesn’t move or change.  It is.  God is love.  And He loves us.  And it lasts….well it lasts forever.  And forever is a very long time.  It is eternal.  God’s steadfast love for you and me is eternal.  Whoooo Hoooo!

But God’s love is more than a good feeling.  The psalmist reminds us:

–       “I called on the Lord; the Lord answered me

–       The Lord is on my side

–       The Lord is….my helper

God’s love is active.  It is alive.  He comes to our aid.  He is our refuge and strength.  “It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to trust in man”.  There is a truth we must not forget. It doesn’t matter who ‘man’ is – our mama, our papa, our best friend, our neighbor, our husband or wife – it is better to take refuge in the Lord.  God never fails.  God never leaves us hanging.  People will always let us down at some point.  But not God.

God is “my strength and my song; He has become my salvation”.  He deals with us according to how we live.  The writer reminds us that sometimes that means discipline, sometimes it requires some pain.  And ultimately, we will have to give account for our lives and the bad choices we made.  That sin leads to separation from God – it leads to death and a life apart from God.  Unless, and that is the key we have to grab onto, unless we cling to the truth of Jesus.  “The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone”.  Jesus is the cornerstone of salvation.  He is the way we deal with the sin problem we all have and become restored.  He is the way we are brought to “the gates of righteousness, that I may enter through them and give thanks to the Lord”.  Jesus is the way to eternal life.  “Oh give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; for his steadfast love endures forever”!  Have you made that choice?  That is the good choice – the one that leads us to heaven via the cross of Christ!

Psalm 116

Psalm 116 reminds us how active God is in our lives.  The psalmist tells us “He has heard my voice and my pleas for mercy….He inclined His ear to me”.  God is listening.  He hears our cries.  It is important to note that the psalmist began the chapter with “I love the Lord”.  Relationship does matter in terms of having God’s ear.  We’d be remiss to think that we can just cry out when we have an issue – not having talked with God or spent any time with Him – and expect He will respond this way.  Relationship matters.  God wants to be in relationship with us.

But if we are walking with God, if we love the Lord, we know he hears our voice.  What should we do?  “I will call on Him as long as I live” is what the writer says.  Prayer is not a list of what we want – it is the way we communicate in our relationship.  It is how we stay connected with God.  He wants us to pray to Him – to talk about what is going on in our patch and hear His love and direction for our life.  God wants that relationship.  And we can do that, we should do that.  “Gracious is the Lord, and righteous; our God is merciful”.  We serve a God that loves us, and wants to have us talk with Him.

Does God answer prayer?  Absolutely, and the psalmist lists a number of ways that has happened in his life.  “You have delivered my soul from death, my eyes from tears, my feet from stumbling”.  God is able to deal with the big stuff in life, but He also cares about the details too.  The secret to effective prayer comes right in the middle of the chapter with two simple words: “I believed”.  Faith is a key element to praying successfully.  The assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. (Heb 11:1)  Do you believe?  When you pray are you confident that God hears you and will answer your prayer – not necessarily when you want or exactly how you want it – but that He is listening and acting on your request?  He does, and belief is a key part of praying successfully!

Since God loves us and hears our prayer, how should we respond?  How should we live knowing we can come to the throne of the King and ask whatever we wish in prayer?  The psalmist tells us:

–       “I will walk before the Lord

–       I will lift up the cup of salvation

–       call on the name of the Lord

–       I will pay my vows

–       I am your servant

–       I will offer to you the sacrifice of thanksgiving

Prayer is active – it is a relationship.  It does mean we do something besides just spout off some words. It requires us to be in relationship with God and walking with Him day by day.  But the power of prayer is unlimited, and we need to be in His presence and at His feet constantly.  God loves us.  He wants to answer our prayers!

Psalm 115

Psalm 115 begins with words to a familiar praise song: “not to us, but to your name give glory”.  Although we often want to be in the center of attention and getting the praise, it doesn’t belong to us.  It is God’s. All of it is His.  And we need to give glory to His name.  Why?  Because of “your steadfast love and your faithfulness”.  God loves us always.  He is always faithful.  Those are both core to the nature of God.  And we have the opportunity to praise Him for being God.  We need to be giving Him glory!

The psalmist rhetorically asks “where is their God”?  Others have a god that doesn’t show up.  They have a god that is not alive and doesn’t do anything.  But “Our God is in the heavens; he does all that he pleases”.  Have you pondered that?  God is in heaven, and always involved.  He does what He pleases.  He is in control.  Their gods are idols of “silver and gold, the work of human hands”.  They make things to be gods.  Sometimes they believe they are god.  But nothing else stands up to the God of the universe, the Creator of all.

So what’s different:

–       “They have mouths, but do not speak

–       eyes, but do not see

–       They have ears, but do not hear

–       noses, but do not smell

–       They have hands, but do not feel

–       feet, but do not walk

–       they do not make a sound in their throat

Short translation – they are DEAD.  And when one worships or follows a dead god, and “those who make them become like them”, guess what happens.  Those people are dead too.  You can’t get eternal life through a dead god.

The psalmist tells us what we need to do: “trust in the Lord”. He says it multiple times.  Why? “He is their help and their shield”.  This is not a futile trust.  God shows up.  And not only will we receive protection, “He will bless us”.  Relationship with God brings blessing.  Our God is not dead.  He is alive and active and making things happen continually in our lives.  God is making it happen and “He will bless those who fear the Lord”.  Want to be blessed?  Trust and obey – that is the foundation for blessing.  It starts with a relationship and is fueled by our obedience.  That frees God to pour blessing all over us.  Are you living that way?

Psalm 114

Psalm 114 reminds us of the power of God’s hand as He led the people out of Egypt.  It was a miraculous journey, and God did amazing things to set them free and take them from captivity.  “Judah became His sanctuary”.  God chose to set up His true worship among the children of Israel.  He made them His people.  Israel became His chosen ones.  There is a relationship established as God rescues the people.  He loves them and leads them to freedom.

The chapter talks about two of the key events on that journey toward freedom.  First God parted the Red Sea so they could walk across on dry land before swallowing up the Egyptian army in pursuit.  It also refers to the events at Mt Horeb when a rock solved the water problems for the people on their journey.  God does miraculous things as He provides a way of escape for His people.  God provides.  Check out what the writer says about that:  “The mountains skipped like rams, the hills like lambs. What ails you, O sea, that you flee”.

God is in control.  He was then, He is now.  He has power over the mountains, the hills, the seas – whatever exists God created and controls.  He is the Almighty.  He set the people free.  When the people looked to be up against an insurmountable obstacle – the Red Sea – God showed up and parted the waters.  The sea fled at His command and provided a path of freedom.

He did it again when the people were out of water and needed a miracle.  God “rock into a pool of water, the flint into a spring of water”.  He didn’t do it once, but three times on the journey. God provides for His people.  We need to remember that He is able and does act.  We need to come to Him and be in relationship with Him.  We need to seek His face, and His hands.  We serve the same God.  He is still more than able.  The writer lists the many things that are at His command: “O sea, O Jordan, O mountains, O hills, O earth”.  How about you?  Are you in “the presence of God”.  Are you spending time with Him?

Psalm 113

Psalm 113 begins like so many of the Psalms with “Praise the Lord”!  That is how God wants us to greet Him.  With praise and adoration and the realization that He is God.  Does God need our praise?  Nope.  Does God desire our praise?  Absolutely.  And more importantly, He deserves and is worthy of our praise.  The writer reminds us “o servants of the Lord, praise the name of the Lord”.  It should be our way of life.  It should define how we interact with God.  As His people, as Christ Followers, we should praise him!

How often should we do that?  “Blessed be the name of the Lord from this time forth and forevermore”!  This is not a once and done proposition.  Not even close.  Our praise of God will be eternal.  It starts when we become His and will never end.  We’ll still be praising Him when we sit at His feet in Heaven.  So we need to get practiced up.  It is our future!  When are we to praise Him?  “From the rising of the sun to its setting, the name of the Lord is to be praised”!  This isn’t a program where we carve out a few minutes in the morning for praising Him.  This isn’t a whenever we get around to it kind of deal. God desires our praise all day every day.  He is to be part of our life from sunrise to sunset and beyond.  This is a lifestyle, not an event.

And just in case we forget why God is worthy, the psalmist reminds us again.  “The Lord is high above all nations, and his glory above the heavens”!  Praising God is not a stretch.  It isn’t something that is out there.  It is something He deserves.  He is above all.  His glory is as high as it gets.  He is worthy.  “Who is like the Lord our God, who is seated on high, who looks far down on the heavens and the earth”?  There is none like Him.  There is no one even close.  God is unique and in a class by Himself.  He is above all, in all and through all.  He is God.

But He doesn’t just sit back and watch things.  God makes things happen.  Check out how He is involved in the lives of people:

–       “He raises the poor from the dust

–       lifts the needy from the ash heap, to make them sit with princes

–       He gives the barren woman a home, making her the joyous mother of children

God is active and alive in the lives of those who trust Him.  He makes things happen. He is in control of all things.  God is alive.  He is able, more than able, to deal with any and every detail of life.  And all He wants in return from us is praise and love and obedience.  We can have a relationship with the Creator of the universe.  We just need to show up.  We just need to praise Him.  Is God in your life?  Are you praising Him?

Psalm 112

Psalm 112 contains a description of what happens when a man “fears the Lord….greatly delights in His commandments”.  If we put God where He belongs and are living in His Word, Scripture tells us good things will happen.  Check out this list:

–       “His offspring will be mighty

–       generation of the upright will be blessed

–       Wealth and riches are in his house

–       his righteousness endures forever

–       Light dawns in the darkness

–       he is gracious, merciful, and righteous

–       the righteous will never be moved

–       he will be remembered forever

–       not afraid of bad news

–       heart is firm

–       trusting in the Lord

–       heart is steady

–       will not be afraid

–       looks in triumph on his adversaries

–       distributed freely

–       given to the poor

–       righteousness endures

–       horn is exalted in honor

Does that list sound interesting to you?  What a list of attributes for one who fears the Lord and delights in His commandments.  It shows how important that relationship with God truly is.  We need to be in relationship with Him.  It starts with praising Him.  It begins when we enter into His presence with joy and thanksgiving.  We don’t’ start with our want list.  We start by praising the Lord.

But it is more than that.  Scripture here says we are blessed when we fear the Lord.  Scripture is full of instruction on the importance of fearing God.  That means we put Him in His rightful place – on the throne of the Kingdom of His creation and our life.  It means we recognize that God is God, He is just and righteous and that means things are sometimes rather bad for those who do not walk with Him in obedience.  The second quality is delighting in God’s commandments – which means His Word.  How many of us regularly read it, let alone could say we delight in it.  That means we can’t wait to get into it, we spend time there pouring over the Truth and making it our own.  We memorize and meditate and live by it.

Sounds like a lot of work eh?  But if you look at the list of things that describe the man who fears God and delights in His commandments, well the tradeoff is a very good one.  When we get that relationship right, blessing happens.  And that blessing looks amazing.  The list is long and filled with really great things.  It begins with good things for our family and continues to a lot of goodness that flows all around us.  Fearing God and being in His Word will cause us to live and do things His way.  It will cause us to make a difference in the lives of those around us.  It will be a great outcome.  Do you fear Him?  Do you delight in His commandments?  It will be so worth it when we get that right in our lives!

Psalm 111

Psalm 111 is a textbook chapter on our Lord.  The psalmist begins the way we should always come to Him, with praise.  “Praise the Lord”.  That is how we should start our morning and end our day.  God is worthy of our praise.  The writer goes on to say “I will give thanks to the Lord with my whole heart”.  This shouldn’t be a half-hearted praise.  God deserves our whole heart.  He deserves us to be all in when it comes to worshipping Him.  That means we need to pay attention so we notice all that He is doing around us.  We have to be engaged with Him to be able to give Him our whole heart.

The writer also tells us he doesn’t praise and give thanks to the Lord alone.  First note that there is a difference between praise and thanks.  Praise is when we focus on who God is – His character, His being.  Thanks is when we focus on what He does – His actions and His presence in our lives.  He deserves both and we need to make it a habit of praising and adoring Him for who He is, and thanking Him for all He does.  But the psalmist tells us he is praising and thanking the Lord “in the company of the upright, in the congregation”.  This is a corporate thing – not just something we do in private in our quiet time with God, but also when we gather together as the body.  We need to make sure we are praising God there and thanking Him for all He does among us.

Now for the textbook stuff.  The psalmist gives us a great view of why God should be praised.  Check out the description of who He is:

–       “Full of splendor and majesty is His work

–       His righteousness endures forever

–       He has caused his wondrous works to be remembered

–       the Lord is gracious and merciful

–       He provides food for those who fear Him

–       He remembers His covenant forever

–       He has shown His people the power of His works

–       giving them the inheritance of the nations

–       The works of His hands are faithful and just

–       all His precepts are trustworthy; they are established forever and ever, to be performed with faithfulness and uprightness

–       He sent redemption to his people

–       He has commanded His covenant forever

–       Holy and awesome is His name

If that isn’t enough to show you why God should be praised, you need to read it again.  God is an amazing God.  His character is beyond compare.  We need to focus on praising and worshipping Him.

The chapter ends tells us a couple things we need to do.  “Great are the works of the Lord, studied by all who delight in them”.  We need to be students of what God has been and is up to.  We need to study scripture to get the historical perspective of God and all He has done, but we also need to be studying what He is doing around us today.  We need to write down what God is doing so we can pass that on to our kids and grandkids.  God is at work today just as much as He was in the times of scripture.  We just need to make sure we are paying attention and studying both.  The ending verse sums it up: “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom; all those who practice it have a good understanding”.  We need to really understand God.  We need to fear Him, not because He is going to hurt us or cause us pain, but because He is the Almighty Creator of the universe, the First, the Last, the Great I AM.  He is large and in charge.  We need to get right in relationship with Him.  That means making Him God and making sure we know that we are not.  We are wise and have understanding when we learn to fear Him appropriately.  That happens when we have studied and understand who He is and all He has done!

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