Psalms


Psalms 81-83 (NLT link) 

Discover His heart: “God presides over heaven’s court” and He will judge the judges 

@Psalm 82
Raise your hand if you think the judicial system of our government is always strong, ethical and carries out moral judgments at all times?  I’m sure the response was weak.  Just like our challenges today, Asaph was having trouble finding honorable judges in Israel, “How long will you hand down unjust decisions by favoring the wicked?  Give justice to the poor and the orphan; uphold the rights of the oppressed and the destitute.  Rescue the poor and helpless; deliver them from the grasp of evil people.”(2-4)  Sounds like an indictment and a mandate all in one.

Needless to say, the judicial branch of the government that interprets and carries out the laws of the land is a powerful entity.  Only when those judgments are based on God’s moral laws can we as Christians be certain that justice has prevailed rather than opinions, social dictates and godless influences.  While many fine judges carry out their responsibilities across our land, I’m concerned just like Asaph about the decisions of judges that favor the wicked and fail to uphold the rights of our belief, traditional families, unborn babies and vulnerable children.

Psalm 82 makes it clear that God is the judge of the judges, and their day in court will come one day.  “God presides over heaven’s court…you will die like mere mortals and fall like every other ruler. Rise up, O God, and judge the earth, for all the nations belong to you.” (1,7-8)  God always has the last word, but in the meantime what can we do?

Clearly, making careful decisions at the ballot box instead of mindlessly approving judicial appointments is a start, as well as voicing our concerns to our local, state and federal government leadership when immoral judgments are made.

Even more important is praying for them, “I urge, then, first of all, that requests, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for everyone—for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. This is good, and pleases God our Savior, who wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.” (1 Timothy 2:1-4)  Our prayers may turn the hearts of immoral or complacent judges to the saving knowledge of God’s truth, and when that happens, we can be assured that we will remain one nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and JUSTICE for all. Sounds like a guarantee, a vow…a pledge! 

Moving Forward: I will pray that my judgments today are pure as I preside over my little sphere of influence and I will pray for those with great influence and judgment over my nation. 

Tomorrow @ Proverbs 10

Psalm 78-80 (NLT link) 

Discover His heart: He longs to restore our hearts and our land

Recently I heard a speaker at church share a portion of his life story, and I thought he was telling my story because our early years were similar.  I understood so well the feelings he was sharing and the gratitude of God’s faithfulness to him.  I sense this same familiarity when I read Psalm 80, not on a personal level but about my nation. 

@ Psalm 80
Asaph, or one of his descendants, wrote this song of prayer probably after the fall of his nation, Israel, to Babylon.  Israel had worshipped many gods through the years, but Asaph made it abundantly clear that his song was to the true and living God, “Please listen, O Shepherd of Israel…O God, enthroned above the cherubim, display your radiant glory…Show us your mighty power.  Come to rescue us!” (1-2)  He was calling on the God who was their Shepherd, the God who sat above the cherubim of the Ark, on the mercyseat, and he was crying for mercy.

In his Psalm, Asaph reminded God of how He brought His people out of Egypt and planted them in Israel like a grapevine that rooted and filled the land, but because of their sin, He broke down their walls of protection and they were devoured by their enemy.  “Come back, we beg you, O God of Heaven’s Armies.  Look down from heaven and see our plight.  Take care of this grapevine that you yourself have planted” (14-15) was Asaph’s desperate plea for the salvation of God’s people.  Would I be so bold to compare my nation’s state of affairs today to God’s chosen people?  Well, in a sense, yes I would.

True American history tells me that our forefathers left a land overseas where they felt in bondage to prescribed worship.  With Divine providence, they were planted in a new land, dug deep their roots and filled the land.  Their nation was based on the principles and guidelines of God’s Word, the Bible, with a commitment that all men could worship, or not worship, as they desired.

Factual history tells me that my early leaders sought God’s direction for everything including the laws that would govern their new land, and they put God’s words in their documents, on their monuments and throughout their White House.  They trusted Him to be their Foundation that would not crumble.

Sadly, through the years we have come to worship many other things and have been weakened by those who would once again like to control who and how we worship, an enemy slowly chipping away at our Foundation.  This is the condition the Israelites found themselves in before their enemy captured them and took them away to Babylon. But here is the difference between then and now:  I’m not leaving!

I’m not forsaking this land that I believe was ordained by God to be His tool to share eternal freedom through Jesus to the world. I’m offering now, not when it is too late, my song of prayer to God, my Shepherd, Who sits on the mercyseat, “Turn us again to yourself, O God.  Make your face shine down upon us.  Only then will we be saved.” (3,7,19)   Before you do anything, God, turn us again to you, our Foundation, and then shine your grace and mercy on us to save us.

According to God’s Word, He will answer this prayer, “If my people who are called by my name will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sins and restore their land.” (2 Chronicles 7:14) Who will join me? 

Moving Forward: In celebration of our Day of Independence this week, how can I help but pray for our nation to return to its roots, founded on Him.  “Revive us so we can call on your name once more.” (18) 

Tomorrow @ Proverbs 8-9

Psalms 75-77 (NLT link) 

Discover His heart:  He hears our distress call and answers with wonderful deeds 

@ Psalm 77
Asaph the temple choir director and worship leader was in a bad way.  When God’s instrument for worship is distressed, the entire body can easily be affected.  According to history, many of the Psalms of Asaph and his descendants were written during enemy invasions of Israel; but whether his distress was personal or about his nation, he was troubled.  Thankfully, he knew where to go for help.

“When I was in deep trouble, I searched for the Lord.  All night long I prayed, with hands lifted toward heaven, but my soul was not comforted.” (2)  Asaph did not seek distractions to help him get through his distress, no comic relief or sleep meds for him.  He searched for the Lord and prayed earnestly all night; however, peace did not come. If we’ve been there, we understand his struggle – doing all that we know to do, but seemingly to no avail.  He got to the point where he cried out, “I am too distressed even to pray!” (4)  I’ve been there also…not fun.

Asaph reflected on the way things used to be and on what he had lost, and this brought no comfort at all.  In fact, it caused him to question God’s integrity.  Over verses 7-9, Asaph asks several questions, “Has the Lord rejected me forever?”  God would never reject anyone who is searching for Him.  “Will He never again be kind to me?”  God is mercy and kindness.  “Is His unfailing love gone forever?”  A dichotomy at best, how can unfailing love be gone forever?

Asaph continued his questions, “Have His promises permanently failed?” One might expect lightening to strike for a question like this, but God was full of mercy and kindness to Asaph. God is faithful to His promises. David answered this question when he wrote, “I praise your name for your unfailing love and faithfulness; for your promises are backed by all the honor of your name.”(Psalm 138:2)  “Has God forgotten to be gracious?”  How could God forget anything!  “Has He slammed the door on His compassion?”  God is love and compassion.

Peace finally came to Asaph when he turned his focus to all the great things that God had done. “But then I recall all you have done, O Lord; I remember your wonderful deeds of long ago.  They are constantly in my thoughts.  I cannot stop thinking about your mighty works.” (11-12)  I have been here as well, and I feel the faith rising in Asaph!  Then he recounted the great miracle in Israel’s history, “When the Red Sea saw you, O God, it waters looked and trembled!…Your road led through the seas…a pathway no one knew was there!” (16,19)  Victory! He will do the miraculous on our behalf. It doesn’t matter the cause of our distress as much as it does our response to it.

Remembering what was and wallowing in self-pity will never bring us peace.  But remembering His faithfulness in times past, how our troubles “trembled” at the sight of Almighty God and how He provided the victory that no one else could have seen will bring peace to our hearts and the faith to believe that victory is in sight.  God has an unlimited number of ways to answer our heart’s cry – we need trust Him for just one.

Moving Forward:  Regardless of what I may face today, I will focus not on what was but on Who is my answer, “In my distress I prayed to the Lord, and the Lord answered me.” (Psalm 118:5) 

Tomorrow @ Proverbs 7

Psalms 72-74 (NLT link) 

Discover His heart: He leads us to our glorious destiny regardless of how things may seem

@ Psalm 73
Psalm 73 was written by Asaph who was a Levite appointed by David to direct the choirs, and in this role, he composed psalms, songs and played the cymbals.  He was one that we would say “grew up in the church,” and as a Levite, he more than likely understood the sacrifice involved in serving the Lord.

By the manner he began his psalm, we can sense his love for God and his desire to view God and His goodness in the proper perspective, but it didn’t take him long to get to the heart of the issue that was troubling him.  “For I envied the proud when I saw them prosper despite their wickedness.  They seem to live such painless lives…they don’t have troubles like other people.” (3-5)

When I read this Psalm, I immediately wanted to remind Asaph that things are not always how they seem to be.  I’ve lived on the planet long enough to see that “He gives his sunlight to both the evil and the good, and he sends rain on the just and the unjust alike.” (Matthew 5:45)  We should never judge an individual’s trouble factor by how things appear. In fact, prosperity often brings greater, more intense troubles.  We seldom are aware of the family issues, health problems and immense stress levels that those around us are facing.  I’ve known many wealthy parents who would trade all they owned for the salvation of their children.  Everyone has trouble.

“Camp’s not fair!  Camp’s not fair!” was the slogan at one of our youth camps one year.  A camper had expressed to the camp director that camp was not fair because of something that had happened that he didn’t like.  Well, camp wasn’t always fair, but then neither is life, and the director grabbed that comment and turned it into a chant for the week.  We laughed at the injustice of it all, and we also learned that things were not always as unjust as they seemed.  Most importantly, we learned to roll with it.

However, Asaph was not rolling with it. “Look at these wicked people – enjoying a life of ease while their riches multiply.  Did I keep my heart pure for nothing?  Did I keep myself innocent for no reason?…I tried to understand why the wicked prosper.  But what a difficult task it is!” (13-16)  Asaph even began to question His walk with God and the injustice of it all, something that can happen regardless of how long we know Him.

How do we move past injustice?  “Then I went into your sanctuary, O God, and I finally understood the destiny of the wicked.” (17)  A trip to His sanctuary was the answer!  He now viewed life through the enlightened eyes of grace, no longer through eyes of envy.

The presence of the Lord changes everything.  It opens our eyes to truth, removes bitterness and resentment, floods us with His peace and moves our understanding to the eternal side of living.  “Then I realized that my heart was bitter, and I was all torn up inside.  I was so foolish and ignorant…Yet I still belong to you; you hold my right hand.  You guide me with your counsel, leading me to a glorious destiny.”  Well, it just doesn’t get much better than that!

Life may not seem fair, but He is always fair and just. When we focus on the eternal side of living, rather than the here and now, our thoughts and deeds are influenced by those things with eternal value, and we find that a trip to His sanctuary is a worthwhile journey. 

Moving Forward: Regardless of the injustice in this world that surrounds me today, I will focus on those things of eternal value.  Life may not seem fair, but He is! 

Tomorrow @ Proverbs 5-6

Psalms 69-71 (NLT link) 

Discover His heart: He hears our desperate cries for help and rescues us by His saving power 

@ Psalm 69
“Save me, O God, for the floodwaters are up to my neck.  Deeper and deeper I sink into the mire; I can’t find a foothold…” (1-2) Talk about a sinking feeling!  Whenever I read this Psalm, my mind goes back to a hot summer night in my early teen years. Occasionally after church on Sunday evenings a group of us gathered at Cedar Lake for a refreshing nighttime swim.  I never ventured far from the shore because my swimming ability was mediocre at best, but one night without realizing it I floated out to an area known for drop-offs.  When I went to stand, nothing was there!  I couldn’t find a foothold and down I went, swallowing half the lake in the process.

Somehow I kicked myself to the surface, gasping for air and flailing in pure panic, and then down again I went.  On my third time down, certain that I heard the old hymn, Coming home, coming home.  Lord I’m coming home, I stuck my arm up as high as I could in hopes that someone would see it and rescue me.  Obviously, someone did.  I felt tight fingers grab my wrist and pull me up out of the deep water.  My friend saw my splashing and saved me.

There are moments in life when we feel like we are going down for the third time, panicked and overwhelmed by our situation and not able to find a foothold anywhere. This was how David was feeling in this Psalm.  Surrounded by those who hated him without cause (4), even his own brothers, David cried out to God for help from their slander, lies and persecution.  He was sinking fast. It’s no wonder this is the most quoted Psalm in the New Testament by the likes of Jesus, Paul, John and Peter, men who understood unjustified persecution. Like me, David was waiting for that hand to reach down and pull him from the deep water and rescue him.

“I endure insults for your sake…Zeal for your house consumes me, and the insults of those who insult you fall on me.” (7,9)  Taking a stand for righteousness and for the principles of God often result in hatred and persecution from those who hate God.  I remember reading the news report a few years ago of 19 young men gunned down in a Mexican Teen Challenge Center, a place where young men are delivered from drugs and alcohol.  The drug lords had their revenge.  Each day Christians around the world are persecuted and killed for their faith in God.  At times, many of them experience the fear and panic that David expressed.

We hardly know what persecution for one’s faith is like in this country.  It usually comes in the form of bias or alienation from neighbors or co-workers, and they can make life very difficult.  But make no mistake, there are many influential leaders who hate us because of our faith and who would like to stop us or even harm us.  The time may come when we feel like the floodwaters are up to our necks as well.

In the days ahead, our strategy should not be to give up and sink.  Had I not made a commotion to stay afloat years ago, I would not be here today.  Just as my friend responded to my desperate situation, God will respond to our cries for help.  “Answer my prayers, O Lord, for your unfailing love is wonderful. Take care of me…come and redeem me; free me from my enemies…Rescue me, O God, by your saving power.”(16,18,29) 

Moving Forward: Although some have perished for their faith, I will not give up today.  I pray that my desperate cries will cause His hand to reach down and rescue believers everywhere from those who hate and want to do harm. 

Tomorrow @ Proverbs 4

Psalms 66-68 (NLT) 

Discover His heart: He listens to our prayers offered from a pure heart 

@ Psalm 66
“Come and listen, all you who fear God, and I will tell you what He did for me.  For I cried out to Him for help, praising Him as I spoke.  If I had not confessed the sin in my heart the Lord would not have listened.”(16-18)  Every time I read this passage my mind goes back to an occasion several years ago when this truth became reality to me.

Sitting in a Sunday morning service where Tom was ministering, I noticed during the praise and worship time that many others were experiencing a tremendous blessing from the Lord, but I was not.  I knew His presence was there by the response of the worshipers, yet I was not experiencing the fullness of His presence that comes when He inhabits our praises.  I just needed to focus more on Him, I thought, but nothing helped.  Finally, I cried out in my spirit, “What is it, Lord?”  Immediately, the response came, “You judged.”  And, of course, I knew what He meant.

The night before we attended a gathering of people I assumed to be Christians, and some activities occurred that caused little red flag alerts to pop up.  I know all the scriptures about our role as fruit inspectors, etc., but I was visiting a different culture with many new Christians, really knowing only a very few.  In a split second, I had made a negative judgment in my heart about their commitment to the Lord.  While I never expressed my viewpoint to anyone, I withdrew and instead of being a source of light in their lives at that moment or in the future, I blew out my candle.

Let me just say, the youth and young adult culture today look and act dissimilar to anything we have known in our lifetime.  Tattoos, piercings, rap and spin are common in the Christian culture as well as in the secular.  It really is impossible for us to be a light and compass for them if we are too busy judging them.

Well, I repented that morning, my praise reached His throne and His wonderful presence immediately flooded my space.  I could say with the Psalmist, “But God did listen! He paid attention to my prayer.  Praise God, who did not ignore my prayer or withdraw his unfailing love from me.” (19-20) Like the old saying God loves us just as we are, but loves us too much to leave us like that.  It wasn’t that He didn’t love me that morning, but I know He was displeased with my response the night before.  It hindered the fellowship with Him I desired, and He wanted to restore our relationship.

We’ve been reading in Exodus and will continue to read in Leviticus about the prerequisites of the priests before they entered the Holy Place.  They were arduous with detailed washing, purifying, abstentions and just a long list of requirements in order to enter God’s presence.  Because of Christ and the Holy Spirit dwelling in us, these rules of law are no longer necessary.  However, they most definitely reveal how God desires for us to enter His presence with our praises and prayers – with clean hands and pure hearts. “Blessed are the pure in heart for they shall see God.”(Matthew 5:8)  I want to see Him, to sense Him and to know Him, and I don’t want anything in my heart to hinder it, ever. 

Moving Forward:  My heart today, “A pure heart, that’s what I long for, a heart that follows hard after thee…a sweet aroma of worship that rises to your throne.” (A Pure Heart, R. Nelson) 

Tomorrow @ Proverbs 2-3

Psalms 63-65 (NLT)

Discover His heart: He fills us with songs in the night

The prescription for a good night’s sleep according to experts is: No coffee after 3:00 p.m., no eating after 6:00 p.m. and no exercise after 8:00 p.m.  If these were truly the prerequisites to sleeping at night then Europeans, South Americans and sport figures would never get any rest.  However, I must agree that when I am troubled about something or going through a challenging situation, these stimulants certainly aren’t helpful.

Some moments in life require more than a healthy dose of chamomile tea to bring rest to the body and peace to the soul.  It was David who gave the prescription for a peaceful night, with or without sleep. 

@ Psalm 63
Most believe David wrote this Psalm during a most difficult time in his life and while hiding from those involved in Absalom’s rebellion who were seeking to kill him.  Away from home, lonely and vulnerable, David could think of only one comfort and that was his God. We just may find ourselves in this position at some point in life, when God is the only comfort and solution to our illness, abandonment, threat or pain, when there is no help, but God.

David did not have an immediate answer to his dilemma so he focused on what he did have.  He had his God, “I have seen you in your sanctuary and gazed upon your power and glory.” (2)  He had his song, “I will praise you as long as I live, and in your name I will lift up my hands…with singing lips my mouth will praise you.” (4-5). And he had his joy, “Because you are my helper, I sing for joy in the shadow of your wings.” (7)  Our situation may not be anything to sing a joyful song about, but we have our God, and He alone is something to sing about!

“I lie awake thinking of you, meditating on you through the night.  Because you are my helper, I sing for joy in the shadow of your wings.  I cling to you; your strong right hand holds me securely.”(6-8) Oh, those nights of tossing and turning can be endless and lonely.  Our sleepless nights may be caused by too much coffee or a very poor mattress as those cute little sheep in the commercials suggest, but so often these restless nights are caused by difficult moments like David was experiencing.

Counting sheep may be helpful, but I’d rather count on the Shepherd.  “I lie awake thinking of You, meditating on You through the night,” the One who has helped me in times past, the One who knows the future, the One who loves me, the One who fills me with songs in the night. 

Moving Forward:  Regardless of what I may face today, God is my helper and nothing compares to Him!  And because of Him, I have a song and I have joy!  “I cling to you; your strong right hand holds me securely.”

Tomorrow @ Proverbs 1

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