Archive for February, 2016

Psalm 78

Psalm 78 is a history lesson of God’s goodness to His people in spite of their continual disobedience and rebellion.  The psalmist begins by reminding us to listen and learn.  “Give ear, O my people, to my teaching; incline your ears to the words of my mouth”!  God has given us plenty of sources to know Him.  We have His Word.  We have His creation.  We have the history of the world.  There is so much for us to know about God.  And He was direct when He told His people to teach the “things that we have heard and known, that our fathers have told us”.

It is our job to pass on all that knowledge to the coming generations.  Certainly in the US, the data is clear that most are no longer growing up in the knowledge of God.  But that is certainly not God’s plan.  “We will not hide them from their children, but tell to the coming generation the glorious deeds of the Lord, and his might, and the wonders that he has done.  We are to tell the story, His story because “He commanded our fathers to teach to their children, that the next generation might know them, the children yet unborn, and arise and tell them to their children”. 

 Why is it so important?  “So that they should set their hope in God and not forget the works of God, but keep his commandments; and that they should not be like their fathers, a stubborn and rebellious generation”.  It’s no wonder that young people don’t know anything about God today.  Parents and grandparents did not pass along the truth, and their lives didn’t demonstrate it either.  “They did not keep God’s covenant, but refused to walk according to his law. They forgot his works and the wonders that he had shown them”.

Scripture tells us:

  • They tested God
  • They did not remember
  • They spoke against God
  • They rebelled against the Most High God
  • They turned away
  • They acted treacherously

It’s no wonder God is tired of His people and their attitudes and actions.  They take all they can and then promptly do whatever they want.  “They tested and rebelled against the Most High God and did not keep his testimonies, but turned away and acted treacherously like their fathers”.  Oh that we can learn from their mistakes and walk in obedience with God as we teach our children of His ways!

Psalm 77

Psalm 77 is all about connecting with God and tapping into His love and power for our lives.  “I cry aloud to God, aloud to God, and he will hear me”.  I love the confidence the psalmist has here.  He doesn’t wonder if God hears.  There is no ‘might’ or ‘could’ but the reality that God will hear when we cry out to Him.  It doesn’t say God will do what we ask though.  There is a difference.  God always hears.  God responds according to His wisdom and His will, not mine.  We have to keep that difference in mind as we pray.

But God is the place for us to run when we are in trouble.  “In the day of my trouble I seek the Lord; in the night my hand is stretched out without wearying; my soul refuses to be comforted”.  Persistent prayer is one secret to getting to God’s heart.  We must not grow weary in talking with God.  He wants us to come to Him time and again with our heartfelt prayer.  Not because He can’t remember what we have already asked for.  But persistence shows the depth of our request.  Continually asking shows the power of ongoing prayer.

We are also reminded to stop, take time, and remember God.  “When I remember God, I moan; when I meditate, my spirit faints….I consider the days of old, the years long ago”.  Throughout scripture we are told to ‘remember’.  God has a long history of faithfulness.  He has a huge body of work that shows us how He does things.  We need to remember, with awe and fear, who God is and what He has done.  The psalmist says “Let me remember my song in the night; let me meditate in my heart”.

 The message continues.  “I will remember the deeds of the Lord; yes, I will remember your wonders of old. I will ponder all your work, and meditate on your mighty deeds”.  God does what He says He will do.  God never fails or lets us down.  He has created the earth and put the sun and stars in the skies.  He is faithful.  “Your way, O God, is holy. What god is great like our God? You are the God who works wonders; you have made known your might among the peoples”.  God works wonders all around us.  He always has.  Will you let Him work a wonder in your life?

Psalm 76

Psalm 76 is about the Assyrians and their war on God’s people in Judah.  They attacked, but God fought for Judah and defeated the Assyrians.  The story can be found in Isaiah and 2 Kings.  The people knew God and what He had done.  “In Judah God is known; His name is great in Israel”.  God was among His people and they knew Him well.  There certainly is a tendency in our modern world to not really know God for who He is.  We want to focus on all that He can do, but spend little time truly knowing Him.

Part of God’s protection is His commitment to the House or Temple that was built in Jerusalem.  “His abode has been established in Salem, his dwelling place in Zion”.  Here we see that there are two other names for Jerusalem: Salem and Zion.  In verse 2. “Salem” means “*peace” (or no fighting); Zion is the name of the hill where the Israelites built their temple. The temple was the place where they met to praise God.  God does not move.  He established His place and protects His people.

Glorious are you, more majestic than the mountains”.  The writer calls out the glory of God.  God isn’t just good, He is glorious and majestic and worthy of our praise.  And He is powerful as the writer describes how God intervened against the Assyrian enemy.  “At your rebuke, O God of Jacob, both rider and horse lay stunned”.  God is in control.  He has shown it over and over through history.  This event was simply another example of how He caused an enemy to go down in defeat, even though the odds were in their favor.

The psalmist calls for the people to celebrate God’s victory for them.  “Make your vows to the Lord your God and perform them; let all around him bring gifts to him who is to be feared, who cuts off the spirit of princes, who is to be feared by the kings of the earth”.  Not only do we need to recognize God’s work in our lives, we need to align in obedience to Him and walk daily with Him.  He is the source of all good.  He is the almighty and all powerful God.  We need to understand who He is and walk step by step in His footsteps.

Psalm 75

Psalm 75 is a a psalm designed for use in public worship.  The congregation begins by thanking God for all his mighty deeds. “We give thanks to you, O God; we give thanks, for your name is near. We recount your wondrous deeds”.  Thanksgiving is a key discipline in our worship of God that we need to spend time on.  Far too often, we bring large basketfuls of prayer requests to God, and maybe a thimble or two of thanksgiving and adoration.  Key to our learning to worship God is to remember what He has done.  We need to recount His deeds and give thanks for His blessing.

Judgment is coming.  “At the set time that I appoint I will judge with equity”.  This isn’t a question of if, but when.  God will measure each of us against His standard someday.  We will stand before Him and give account.  Unfortunately, on our own merit, we will fall short.  That’s why the sacrificial system was in place in the Old Testament.  But even that was inadequate, and God made the decision 2000 years ago to provide a once and for all time solution to the problem of sin and falling short of the mark.  Jesus came to earth, took on our sin, and carried it to the cross.

Our hope in standing before God is to come covered by the blood of His death, burial and resurrection.  That is our only hope.  Approaching judgment day on our own will not end well.  Standing before God covered by Jesus will produce eternal life with our Heavenly Father.  We have to take action before that day – we have to have a personal relationship with the Savior and make Him Lord of our life, but the solution to our sin problem is there and ours for the asking.  Are you ready?  God will act – the day is coming.  “All the horns of the wicked I will cut off, but the horns of the righteous shall be lifted up”.

God is in control. The only exaltation that matters is that which comes from God. The opinions of people mean nothing. “For not from the east or from the west and not from the wilderness comes lifting up, but it is God who executes judgment, putting down one and lifting up another”.  Too often we seek the approval of people in our patch.  We live life trying to impress the boss at work, or our neighbors next door.  We forget that life first needs to be about living for an audience of One!  If we get that right, everything else falls into place.  When we don’t have that focus our life is consumed with trying to meet a changing set of expectations and desires and we never are able to meet them all.  God alone is our focus.  He is our audience of One!

Psalm 74

Psalm 74 takes place in the time that followed the destruction of the nation Israel. The people were taken captive into foreign lands and the temple in Jerusalem was destroyed.  “O God, why do you cast us off forever”?   Now, with the centre of their religious life gone, the people feel cut off from God. Worse than that, the bitter years in captivity lead them to doubt God’s faithfulness.  “Remember your congregation, which you have purchased of old, which you have redeemed to be the tribe of your heritage”!

Has God forgotten his covenant with Israel? The people invite him to go and inspect the ruins of the city and the temple. Perhaps it will cause Him to remember His covenant and bring them back to home.  “Direct your steps to the perpetual ruins; the enemy has destroyed everything in the sanctuary”! They describe the scene of defilement and destruction in the temple.  The beautiful woodwork has been broken, smashed and burnt.  “All its carved wood they broke down with hatchets and hammers. They set your sanctuary on fire”.

Surely this will get God to take action. “How long, O God, is the foe to scoff? Is the enemy to revile your name forever”? Certainly, he is not lacking power, for He has demonstrated that in the past.  “Why do you hold back your hand, your right hand”?  The psalmist could not understand why God is not taking action.  After all, these are His people and He has directed the world of nature in such a way as to save Israel in the past.  “Yours is the day, yours also the night; you have established the heavenly lights and the sun”.

Why isn’t God taking action to silence those who dishonour him? The psalmist calls God to action.  “Arise, O God, defend your cause; remember how the foolish scoff at you all the day”!  Will He not save His helpless people according to the covenant He made with them many years previous?   If He will only do what He is capable of and has done many times before, God can defend His cause and rescue his people.  That’s what the psalmist is calling for – it is his hope and the desire he has for God to get involved.

Psalm 72

Psalm 72 is a psalm of Solomon.  The exact author or intent is debated, and it likely addresses Solomon in some ways, there is little doubt that the real subject of the psalm is Jesus Christ.  “Give the king your justice, O God, and your righteousness to the royal son”! Solomon began this Psalm asking God to bless him.  He wants to reign with righteousness.  And he wants to lead the people to prosperity through that righteousness and leading them in a close relationship with God.

Solomon wants to care for the people deeply.  “May he defend the cause of the poor of the people, give deliverance to the children of the needy, and crush the oppressor! May they fear you while the sun endures, and as long as the moon, throughout all generations”.  He is concerned about the down and out, the little people, and wants to see them know and walk with God for all generations.  That fear he describes is that the people of Israel – the king, his government, and the people – would fear the Lord forever, throughout all generations.

He wants total dominance.  “May all kings fall down before him, all nations serve him”!  This was prophesied in a beautiful word from the prophet Nathan, which had in mind both David’s immediate son and successor (Solomon) and David’s ultimate Son and Successor (Jesus the Messiah).  Solomon tells us of the complete and total reign that Christ will have.  He will “deliver the needy….the poor and him who has no helper….the weak and the needy….he redeems their life.”  Christ is the answer for all.  He is the solution to the needs of a broken world.

Christ is to be exalted above all.  “May his name endure forever, his fame continue as long as the sun! May people be blessed in him, all nations’ call him blessed! Blessed be the Lord, the God of Israel, who alone does wondrous things. Blessed be his glorious name forever; may the whole earth be filled with his glory”!  Solomon was moved to praise when he considered the greatness of Messiah the King. That should be our response as well to the awesome goodness of our Savior and Lord!

Psalm 71

Psalm 71 is written by a mature believer in God with a deep relationship, but there is no clear definition of who wrote it.  Some believe it was David, others someone else.  The psalm uses the same words or similar phrases as other psalms.  It is reasonable to think the author of Psalm 71 made study and meditation upon God’s Word a priority through his life, and the result is that he naturally uses the phrases and vocabulary of the Scriptures to pray and praise.  In any case, we know the author is facing some significant challenges with his enemies as he asks God to save, rescue or be his refuge.

In you, O Lord, do I take refuge; let me never be put to shame! In your righteousness deliver me and rescue me; incline your ear to me, and save me”!  Many psalms begin with the writer’s needs, and this one is no different.  It’s a plea for help and assistance.  And the focus of hope – the writer is dependent on God.  “For you, O Lord, are my hope, my trust”.  We see a weak man but one with a strong relationship with God.  He is dependent on God’s action in his life for protection and deliverance.

His enemies are many.  They not only want to destroy him, but they work together to try and make that happen.  “For my enemies speak concerning me; those who watch for my life consult together and say, God has forsaken him; pursue and seize him, for there is none to deliver him.”  Evil doesn’t act alone.  The forces of evil work together to try and destroy us.  Our enemy has made it clear the mission is to kill, steal and destroy.  Jesus felt the same attacks of the enemy in His life.

But there is maturity in this writer’s relationship with God.  Check out how he expresses praise for God’s faithfulness.  “I will hope continually and will praise you yet more and more. My mouth will tell of your righteous acts, of your deeds of salvation all the day, for their number is past my knowledge”.  The author makes it clear that he will tell the world of God’s faithfulness.  He is not shy about proclaiming God’s praise.  “I will also praise you with the harp….I will sing praises to you with the lyre….My lips will shout for joy….my tongue will talk of your righteous help all the day long”.  The writer is telling the world that God is faithful.  This comes from a deep relationship and an understanding of God’s faithfulness over time!

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