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?

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