Archive for April, 2016

Psalm 121

Psalm 121 is another psalm of ascent that was sang as people walked to the temple to celebrate our great God.  This psalm focuses on God as our guardian.  “I lift up my eyes to the hills. From where does my help come? My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth”.  It’s a promise for the suffering – help comes from the Lord.  It begins with us lifting up our eyes though.  Far too often in the midst of trial or suffering we have our eyes cast down and don’t even look to the Lord for His strength and help.  We depend on self rather than claim God’s promise here.

God is faithful.  He will come to our aid, but we need to seek that help.  He is the creator of heaven and earth.  He is not limited or short of resources.  He merely needs us to look up and seek Him.  God’s help does not mean that He will always make things the way we want them to be though.  Scripture tells us “He will not let your foot be moved; he who keeps you will not slumber”.  Note it doesn’t say that He will take away all our challenges and struggles.  It doesn’t say that your circumstances will be changed.

What it does promise is that God will help us stay the course.  He’ll provide steady perseverance and strength.  The psalmist is not promising the absence of pain or even failure. But he is promising thatin the midst of adversity, the believer will be held up, not because of their own doing, but because of the preserving hand of God. No one can snatch God’s sheep out of his hand.  No one.  That is a perfect picture of God’s mercy and grace.  It is a promise that gives us courage for today and confidence for the future.  God is faithful.  He will not let our foot be moved!

Behold, he who keeps Israel will neither slumber nor sleep”.  Not only does He provide perseverance, He is constantly watching over us.  He never sleeps.  There is no hidden moments when God is not aware.  No blind spots in His coverage.  He is always there.  “The Lord is your keeper; the Lord is your shade on your right hand….The Lord will keep you from all evil; he will keep your life. The Lord will keep your going out and your coming in from this time forth and forevermore”.  He is our keeper.  He is faithful and never takes His eye off us.  His constant watchcare over us is a promise we can cling to and know to be true.  Thank you Lord for your love!

Psalm 120

Psalm 120 follows the longest chapter in all of scripture with 176 verses.  We return to the much shorter chapters with Psalm 120, which is the first of fifteen psalms entitled “A Song of Degrees” that seem to be designed for use by the people as they headed up to Jerusalem for the festivals three times a year.  The writer here calls out God’s faithfulness in the past to his requests.  “In my distress I called to the Lord, and he answered me”.  One of the best indicators of God’s future action are what He’s done in the past.  He never changes.

The psalm writer asks for deliverance from the lying lips of his enemies.  Slander and the tongue are some of the most painful of all attacks.  “Deliver me, O Lord, from lying lips, from a deceitful tongue”.  His enemy has trumped up words to attack the psalmist and is using deceit to attempt to bring him under false accusation.  The tongue is such a small part of the body, but carries such power to harm and even destroy when not bridled.  The writer asks for deliverance.  It is the same kind of attack that Jesus endured as He went to the cross, one without merit of foundation.

The author appears to be pointing out that their attempts will be in vain and have no effect.  “What shall be given to you, and what more shall be done to you, you deceitful tongue”?  Words cause pain, but God can help us rise above words and stand strong against the evil that can come with them.  “A warrior’s sharp arrows, with glowing coals of the broom tree”!  These words are like an arrow that is on fire with glowing coals from the broom tree, which burns with more intensity that any other kind of wood.  The words of deceit from the tongue are like that – they burn bright and deep.

The writer calls out two groups of people who are antagonists and fighters.  Meshech and Kedar are both places with people who had walked away from God and hated peace.  They were constantly stirring up war even though the people of Israel tried to get along with them.  They were part of God’s people, but folks who have drifted away and no longer want to be under the authority of the tribes of Israel.  The author wants peace with all of God’s people, but they are intent on war.  “I am for peace, but when I speak, they are for war”!

Psalm 119

Psalm 119 is the longest book in the Bible, by quite a bit.  Yet in the first handful of verses we get the formula for life and how we can succeed in our walk with God.  “Blessed are those whose way is blameless, who walk in the law of the Lord”! Here is the magic for blessing – be blameless in our walk.  The author goes on to write “Blessed are those who keep his testimonies, who seek him with their whole heart, who also do no wrong, but walk in his ways”!  The secret sauce isn’t all that secret.  We are to walk in obedience to God.

The writer reminds us that we need to pursue God and His Word with our whole heart.  Being a Christ Follower is not a part time gig.  It is all of us following all of Him all the time.  We don’t turn it on and off.  We don’t pull it out when it fits the situation.  We have to walk in obedience and the understanding of His guidance and will all the time.  God has a standard and it is sky high, literally.  “You have commanded your precepts to be kept diligently”.  Part time following just won’t cut it.

So what do we do?  “Oh that my ways may be steadfast in keeping your statutes”!  We obey.  It is really that simple, at least to say and know.  Doing it is a bit more challenging because we have self that gets in the way, and our enemy sitting there clapping when we begin to stray.  But the writer gives us a picture of what happens if we simply follow Jesus:

  • I will praise you with an upright heart
  • I will keep your statutes
  • I declare all the rules of your mouth
  • I delight as much as in all riches
  • I will meditate on your precepts and fix my eyes on your ways
  • I will delight in your statutes
  • I will not forget your word

Our walk with Jesus takes action on our part, and a will to do what God has told us brings blessing.  We have to move!

The psalmist also gives us a very clear admonition of how we can stay the course.  “How can a young man keep his way pure? By guarding it according to your word. With my whole heart I seek you; let me not wander from your commandments”!  We have to be in the Word so we know it and can obey it.  It is impossible to follow God and walk with Jesus effectively if we don’t learn and know God’s Word.  It is our guidebook for life.  It is the secret to His blessing.  We have to spend time with Him in it.  And then we too can say “I have stored up your word in my heart that I might not sin against you”.  The only hope of walking successfully with God is to hid His Word in our heart, just like Jesus did, so when the enemy comes to tempt us to disobey, we not only know it, but can live it and quote it!

Psalm 118

Psalm 118 begins and ends with the exact same words.  “Oh give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; for his steadfast love endures forever”!  My interpretation of these words:  God is good, all the time.  We need to remember to put God where He belongs, on the throne of our life, and He is indeed worthy of our thanks and praise.  And His goodness never ends.  Forever is a very long time, and His love and goodness lasts that long.  We never have to wonder if God loves us and if that love will manifest itself in good.  It always does!

The writer is again in deep trouble in this psalm.  “Out of my distress I called on the Lord; the Lord answered me and set me free”.  God shows up when we call.  Far too often we wait far too long to call on Him, but He is there, He is listening, and He does respond.  Do we always get the outcome we desire?  No, but that doesn’t mean God is failing to show up.  And when He does, we know this to be true.  “The Lord is on my side; I will not fear. What can man do to me”?  Man can harm our body, but God will be there to protect our spirit and soul.  He never lets go of us so we need not fear anything man might do.

It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to trust in man. It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to trust in princes”.  God’s protection and refuge is always better than any other option.  There is nothing we can run to that compares.  We are tempted to trust other people, or even those who have risen to power, but the reality is that there is nothing more reliable and dependable than taking refuge in God Himself.  He is above all.  He is over all.  He is our reliable refuge and strength.

God is all we need.  But our relationship with the Father should be more than an answer to our problems.  God wants to be in relationship with us.  He is the source of our strength and the joy in our heart.  We need to realize that He is our salvation.  “The Lord is my strength and my song; he has become my salvation”.  God is the answer to our issues of life and the world.  “You are my God, and I will give thanks to you; you are my God”.  As we walk with Him in harmony and follow His direction, we will be blessed indeed.  He is God.  We need to give Him all our adoration and praise!

Psalm 117

Psalm 117 is a mere two verses.  Psalm 117 is the middle chapter of the Bible, being the 595th Chapter. Psalm 117 is also the shortest chapter of the Bible.  Lots of uniqueness for a chapter that is so small.  Yet it also contains some powerful words.  This two-verse chapter consists of an order to joyfully praise Lord for his kindness, mercy and love. In the ESV version of the Bible, it is only 28 words long. In the original Hebrew, it shrinks further to 17 words.

Praise the LORD, all nations”!  The one who is to be praised is the LORD. LORD is translated “Jehovah” or “Yahweh” in some translations. This is the name that God used for himself, when he entered into a covenant relationship with the nation of Israel. We are commanded to praise or speak highly of the LORD, to glorify him with our speech, to boast about him. All nations has as its primary reference non-Israelites. It is sometimes translated Gentiles.  This command to praise the LORD is for all people.  We are all charged with praising the LORD – all peoples, no exceptions!

For great is his steadfast love toward us, and the faithfulness of the Lord endures forever”.  God’s love for us is great.  It is undeserved and comes as a result of the God’s mercy and grace. He gives it freely to us and it continues steadily for all time.  The faithfulness of the Lord refers to his trustworthiness. This love is based on God’s faithfulness and will last forever. It can be literally translated as lasting to the vanishing point of time. It quite simply means always. It will never come to an end!

The chapter ends with “Praise the Lord”!  That’s how this chapter begins, and now how it ends.  We learn about God through this short psalm.

  • In his attribute — he is always faithful.
  • In his revelation — always infallible.
  • In his action — always according to promise.

God is worthy of our praise.  He loves us beyond what we deserve.  He cares for us and blesses us far past what our actions would create.  He is the LORD and all people need to lift up His name!

Psalm 116

Psalm 116 is another psalm that speaks of God’s saving the author.  He plead for mercy and God responded.  And now the author promises to call on God for all his needs.  God acted and saved him.  He’ll do the same for you and me.  “Because he inclined his ear to me, therefore I will call on him as long as I live”.  We need to learn to call on God for all our needs, small and large.  He is faithful, He hears us, and He acts on our behalf when we are in relationship and following Him.  The writer was on the verge of death but God came through.

Things were desperate.  Evil was closing in.  Death was coming if God doesn’t show up.  “Then I called on the name of the Lord: “O Lord, I pray, deliver my soul”!  The prayer was simple.  It was desperate and direct.  The psalmist needs God’s hand upon his situation and God responds.  God is faithful and delivers him.  It’s a beautiful thing.  The Lord loves to care for His people.  The writer is trusting God, seeking refuge in God, and waiting for God.  God never fails.

What should be the result of God’s faithfulness to us?  Our faithfulness to Him.  “I will walk before the Lord in the land of the living”.  Our relationship is a walk with God through life.  He walks with us if we’ll only walk with Him.  The problem is that too often we want to run off and do our own thing our own way and not just walk hand in hand with Him.  We want to run ahead or run off the path and not stay connected with God, that is until we’re in trouble and need to cry out again.  How much better life would go if we’d just faithfully walk with Him as He does us.

The writer asks an important question.  “What shall I render to the Lord for all his benefits to me”?  How do we repay God for His faithfulness?  How can we even the score? What can we give back to God in return for God’s goodness and salvation?  The author gives us a glimpse:

  • I will lift up the cup of salvation
  • I will pay my vows
  • I am your servant
  • I will offer to you the sacrifice of thanksgiving
  • I will pay my vows to the Lord in the presence of all his people

We need to walk openly and loudly with the Lord.  His goodness and blessing needs to be shouted loudly in front of all!

Psalm 115

Psalm 115 is written when God’s people were afflicted and under the hand of an enemy.  But they are remembering just how powerful God is and how much they need to keep Him on His throne.  “Not to us, O Lord, not to us, but to your name give glory, for the sake of your steadfast love and your faithfulness”!  This is a great truth – praise and glory does not go to us.  God alone is worthy of our praise.  He is the focus of our adoration.  He is the recipient of glory.  Anything else is stealing God’s rightful spot.

God is in control.  “Our God is in the heavens; he does all that he pleases”.  The psalmist makes it clear the difference between God and the idols that were all around them.  God is alive and in heaven.  He takes action and does as He wished.  “Their idols are silver and gold, the work of human hands”.  Look at the limitations of idols:

  • mouths but do not speak
  • eyes but do not see
  • ears but do not hear
  • noses but do not smell
  • hands but do not feel
  • feet but do not walk
  • do not make a sound in their throat

Let’s face it – idols don’t do a thing.  They may appear real but obviously they are not.  What’s the impact of idols?  “Those who make them become like them; so do all who trust in them”.  The problem with idols is they cause us to stop following God.  They get in the way of our relationship with the only true God and keep us from walking in obedience with Him.  We make up things that these idols in our lives are – an idol can’t do anything but it somehow gives us a reason to stop worshipping God as Lord of our life and replaces Him with this worthless, dead thing.  Idolatry is deadly and separates us from God.

The writer makes it clear that we need to have an active walk with God.  Three times he implores us to “trust in the Lord”!  God is alive and active and takes action in our lives.  An idol never does – it can’t.  But as we walk with God we’re in relationship with the One who loves us.  “The Lord has remembered us….he will bless those who fear the Lord, both the small and the great”.  God blesses His people.  God pours His love on us and as a result we need to praise and honor Him.  “We will bless the Lord from this time forth and forevermore. Praise the Lord”!  Our marching orders are clear – we need to walk in obedience with God and bless His name!

Psalm 114

Psalm 114 gives more perspective on the history of God and His people and provides reason for us to praise Him.  It should be an encouragement to us as we see God at work in mighty ways to save those He loves.  As the writer recalls history, we get to see first hand the presence of God in the lives of His children.  It was personal and complete.  God fulfilled His covenant promise and cared for His people. God led them from the hands of their enemy with mighty power and in absolute triumph over all.

When Israel went out from Egypt….the sea looked and fled; Jordan turned back. The mountains skipped like rams, the hills like lambs”.  The victory over the Egyptians was impressive in itself, but consider what God really did as He set His people free.  He parted the Red Sea, He stopped the Jordan from flowing, and He controlled the mountain and hills as the people stood at the foot of the mountain as Moses received the Ten Commandments and met with God.  There is power in the hands of God.

This psalm is about God’s sovereignty and power at work in His people.  God did it then, and He is still equally at work around us today.  Today, the Christian community is both God’s sanctuary and His kingdom.  We are like the psalmist writes in verse two: “Judah became his sanctuary, Israel his dominion”.  We are now a “chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation” that Peter writes about in 1 Peter 2:9.  God is at work among us in the same way He was when Moses led God’s people from captivity.  All powerful, all knowing, and able to do whatever was needed to set His people free.

The psalmist paints a picture of God’s power.  “Tremble, O earth, at the presence of the Lord, at the presence of the God of Jacob, who turns the rock into a pool of water, the flint into a spring of water”.  The psalmist paints a picture of the earth as trembling at the presence of the Lord. This psalm calls attention to the seas, the rivers, and the mountains moving only in the presence of the Lord.  God is in absolute control.  He is the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. He is worthy to be praised.  We are called to worship and adore Him based on this history!

Psalm 113

Psalm 113 continues a very familiar theme – we need to praise the Lord. Three times in the first verse the psalmist exhorts us to praise the Lord. “Praise the Lord! Praise, O servants of the Lord, praise the name of the Lord”!  The repetition here is not a mistake.  The writer is reminding us that praising God is not something we should grow cold or callous toward.  It is our call and we must not disregard God’s glory.  God is great and worthy of our praise.  We need to be focused and fervent in our praise.

As Christ Followers, we need to be sure we spend time truly focused on praise and adoration of our Creator.  We can often get caught up in the daily grind of life and take God for granted.  We don’t stop and realize just how awesome God is because we are consumed by the activity and challenges of the day.  Chaos controls our perspective, not God’s amazing love.  Praise is a response to thinking about who God is and what He has done, as revealed in His Word and in our life.

So we need to make sure we don’t lose sight of God and who He is and where He sits in our life.  “From the rising of the sun to its setting, the name of the Lord is to be praised”!  Our praise should not be a few minutes here or there.  It is the awareness of God all around us from sun up to sun down.  It is recognizing His beauty in the world we live in.  It is seeing His hand at work in the lives of people around us, and in our own life as He moves and directs the details of life.

We should always praise God because He is great and He is gracious to anyone that calls on Him.  The psalmist makes it clear that God is not only sitting on the throne high above the nations, but He is taking action to help those in need.  He raises people up and protects them from evil.  He lifts people from the depths and sits them with princes.  God is a gracious and giving God that changes lives.  Nothing too great for Him, no one too small.  God is able, and willing, to love and care for any and all who will simply call on His name.

Psalm 112

Psalm 112 picks up right where the previous psalm ended – focused on the true source of blessing.  “Blessed is the man who fears the Lord, who greatly delights in his commandments”!  The secret to true happiness and success is knowing who God is and having a healthy and reverential fear of Him.  It’s knowing God as God and not making Him our BFF or a genie at the end of an SOS line.  God is the creator and ruler of all.  He is worthy of our praise.  And the result of that fear or reverent admiration is obedience.

Lots of people don’t like the idea of obedience.  That indicates there is a set of rules or guidelines that we have to follow.  Many prefer the concept of doing whatever seems right or feels right at the time.  But that doesn’t align with God’s standards and the very reality of sin.  Sin literally means ‘missing the mark’ which means there has to be an absolute wrong and right, there has to be an absolute standard that we’re accountable to.  Obedience to God’s commandments and will create that standard.  If we walk in obedience, blessing flows. If not, well…..

This chapter talks about mankind and what happens with we live a God honoring life. The words that describe a successful walk with God are pretty amazing.

  • His offspring will be mighty in the land
  • the upright will be blessed
  • Wealth and riches are in his house
  • his righteousness endures forever
  • Light dawns in the darkness for the upright
  • he is gracious, merciful, and righteous
  • It is well with the man who deals generously….conducts his affairs with justice
  • he will be remembered forever
  • He is not afraid of bad news
  • his heart is firm, trusting in the Lord
  • His heart is steady
  • he will not be afraid
  • he looks in triumph on his adversaries
  • He has distributed freely
  • he has given to the poor
  • his righteousness endures forever
  • his horn is exalted in honor

That is quite a list that results when we get our fear of God and our obedience to Him right.

Psalm 111 gave us a clear picture of God and his mercy, love and grace.  This chapter shows us the result of walking with Him in fear and obedience.  The outcome is overwhelming – the blessing beyond our imagination or hopes.  God is waiting for the opportunity to truly bless us indeed.  He wants to pour His goodness all over us.  It impacts not only us, but those around us and generations to come.  It is an amazing picture of His bounty and love.  But equally clear as the author closes is the flip side – that of wickedness.  “The wicked man sees it and is angry; he gnashes his teeth and melts away; the desire of the wicked will perish”!  They won’t like seeing others enjoy God’s blessing.  They will eventually perish.

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