Psalms


Psalms 134-136 (NLT) 

Discover His heart: “His faithful love endures forever” 

@ Psalm 136
Psalm 136!  The perfect Psalm to read during the Thanksgiving season. Thanksgiving is the day we commemorate the early settlers of our great land who paused after a bountiful harvest to celebrate and give thanks to God for their blessings.  Unfortunately, we would be hard pressed to discover to whom they were giving thanks if searching through our current history books. The honoree is seldom mentioned.

Abraham Lincoln, the President who proclaimed the last Thursday in November as a national day of Thanksgiving, had no qualms about giving thanks where thanksgiving was due:  “I do therefore invite my fellow citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next, as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens.” (Washington, D.C., October 3, 1863)  Amen!

The writer of Psalm 136 was proclaiming thanks with an overflowing heart of praise and gratitude, and there is no doubt he knew who should receive the praise and thanksgiving as well, “Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good! His faithful love endures forever. Give thanks to the God of gods. His faithful love endures forever. Give thanks to the Lord of lords. His faithful love endures forever.” (1-3)  His praise, too, went to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens.

In verses 4-9, God receives thanks for the miraculous creator that He is. Verses 10-16, He is honored for His faithful guidance through the challenges of life.  His protection and powerful rule are praised in verses 17-22.  And in verses 23-26, God receives thanks for His personal blessings to our lives – His mercy, salvation and provision.   Each word of thanks is followed by yet another attribute of God for which to be thankful, “His faithful love endures forever.”

Our early pilgrims had survived a year of hardship and trials, but when they came through it, they were grateful to the One who had blessed them with His faithful provision.  In the midst of Civil War, Abraham Lincoln paused to give thanks to His beneficent Father.  And we, regardless of the struggles we may be facing should offer praise and thanksgiving to the One who will see us through to victory.

As we express our thanks for our country, our family and our friends, let’s thank Him for being our miraculous Creator. Let’s thank Him for His faithful guidance, His protection and His blessings. “Praise God from whom all blessings flow.  Praise Him all creatures here below…” (Doxology) 

Moving Forward: Blessed beyond measure and so very thankful for His faithful love, I praise Him today, tomorrow and every day!

Tomorrow @ Ecclesiastes 9-10

Psalms 131-133 (NLT) 

Discover His heart:  He blesses our unity with life everlasting

Olive oil has been an important commodity since early civilization and it’s still an lucrative product in Italy.  Imagine the excitement for this Italian girl to be taken by dear missionary friends to a castle in the hills of Tuscany, one with a working olive grove and press.  The kind workers allowed us to watch the oil making process from start to finish.  Yes, be still my heart!

The process was lengthy, beginning with a thorough rinsing to remove soil, then the olives were crushed and pulverized into a paste.  At the end, the paste was pressed under pressure, the vegetable water extracted and the finished product was the fragrant liquid we know and enjoy as olive oil.  Olive oil doesn’t just happen – it’s a process under pressure. 

@ Psalm 133
“How wonderful and pleasant it is when brothers live together in harmony!  For harmony is as precious as the anointing oil that was poured over Aaron’s head, that ran down his beard and onto the border of his robe.” (1-2)  This anointing oil not only went through the pressing process, but it was also combined with pure fragrances, producing an extraordinary aroma to the Lord.  In this same way, heaven is filled with a pleasing fragrance when God’s people live together in harmony and peace.  But just like the olive oil process, harmony most often results from a process under pressure.

The harmony that believers experience is the result of a process that involves lives that were once soiled by this world but are now cleansed by the blood of Jesus.  Their individual agendas and selfish goals are surrendered to the breaking or crushing process of the Holy Spirit to where their hearts are contrite to God’s desires and plans. This pressing, this process under pressure, produces a precious aroma of unified worship that pleases the Lord.  “And there the Lord has pronounced his blessing, even life everlasting.” (3)

I like to visualize the anointing of Aaron as the oil was poured saturating his hair, down his face and beard, filling every crevice, every fold of fabric and all the way down to his hem.  The oil saturated and marked the fabric, as oil will do, and left an amazing fragrance that filled the nostrils of God and everyone around Aaron.  All this was a visual and sensory reminder of God’s anointing on him. When God’s people live in harmony with love toward one another, we are marked and fragrant in a way for all those around us to sense. “Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples.” (John 13:35)

Just as the best perfumes today attract people to them, our fragrant harmony will attract to us those who have never experienced it.  They will wonder, what is that? Where can I find it?  Just as Jesus prayed for unity in John 17, when we live together as believers in harmony, God blesses our unity and lost souls are attracted to it because they find it nowhere else.  No wonder David sang, “How wonderful and pleasant it is when brothers live together in harmony!” 

Moving Forward: Along with all believers, my goal today is to be saturated and marked with the oil of harmony, so fragrant that others will be attracted to us. 

Tomorrow @ Ecclesiastes 7-8

Psalms 128-130 (NLT) 

Discover His heart:  He is faithful to His Word, and we can count on Him

When a friend let me down many years ago, I ran to my mom crying with disappointment expecting some comfort from her.  She did console me somewhat but then informed me that all my friends would probably disappoint me at one time or another when I was counting on them; and furthermore, she said I would disappoint my friends.  In fact, she confessed that she, too, would disappoint me at times, but then she said Jesus was a friend I could depend on that would never fail me.  She was right.

@ Psalm 130
A few years ago I was going through a difficult time where I really needed the Lord’s help.  I had prayed and had done all that I could do in the situation.  In my daily Bible reading I came across this scripture in Psalm 130, “I am counting on the Lord; yes, I am counting on Him.  I have put my hope in His word.” (5)  I wrote it out on note cards and placed them around my home so every where I turned I was reminded that I was trusting in the Lord, not in myself, my friends or anyone but Him.  I held on to this verse throughout the trial because of the hope that it gave me, and it carried me through to victory.

We find it easy to encourage someone to trust the Lord and to believe that they can count on Him, but so often they are hindered in trusting Him because of their past experiences.  A parent, friend, spouse or some individual they were counting on for love and support may have failed them at one time.  They find it hard to get past these moments of disappointment and really count on the Lord.  I’ve found it helpful to remember those in the Bible who faced the same thing.

Many believe that Hezekiah authored this Psalm.  He certainly was counting on the Lord to bring healing to His body when he was at death’s door, and God gave him 15 more years.  I think of the three Hebrew young men who faced the fiery furnace because of their faith but boldly declared, “O Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to defend ourselves before you. If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God whom we serve is able to save us. He will rescue us from your power, Your Majesty. But even if he doesn’t, we want to make it clear to you, Your Majesty, that we will never serve your gods or worship the gold statue you have set up.” (Daniel 3:16-18)  These young men were counting on the Lord, but regardless of the outcome, they would serve the Lord.  I’m thinking that if they were able to trust Him in their dire need, surely we, too, can trust Him in anything that we may face.

Moses at the Red Sea, Joseph in prison and so many others were counting on the Lord to show up BIG in their lives, and He did.  Once again I find myself meditating on Psalm 130:5, memorizing my commitment to His faithfulness, “I am counting on the Lord; yes, I am counting on him.  I have put my hope in his word.”  Show up BIG Lord! 

Moving Forward: Today I declare it with my mouth that I am counting on Him to help me because I have put my hope in His Word. 

Tomorrow @ Ecclesiastes 5-6

Psalms 125-127 (NLT) 

Discover His heart: He brings restoration to each life in amazing ways

Over the years many of the old masterpieces, paintings from centuries ago, have required restoration.  The process is tedious and lengthy.  It includes cleaning, x-raying the thickness of the canvas, filling in holes, removing the varnish, removing layers of deterioration and color and then product matching.  Since the artist has long since passed away, another artist is chosen to paint only the areas that are without paint, never adding paint to the master’s work.  The finished product is a beautiful restoration of a masterpiece to be enjoyed for many years to come.

Our Creator is also involved in the restoration of His masterpieces.  Sometimes the process is tedious and somewhat lengthy, but His process is not considerate of dead artists because He, of course, is the artist.  After years of exile and pain, Israel was on its way to restoration in our reading today. 

@ Psalm 126
“When the Lord brought back his exiles to Jerusalem, it was like a dream!  We were filled with laughter, and we sang for joy.  And the other nations said, ‘What amazing things the Lord has done for them.’  Yes, the Lord has done amazing things for us!  What joy!” (1-3)  The painful years of exile in Babylon had softened the hearts of the remnant  of Israel, and as they returned home, they sang songs of praise and joy.  The process had been difficult, but the Lord had done amazing things for them; and now with great hope they sang, “Restore our fortunes, Lord, as streams renew the desert.” (4)

Regardless of the damage we have caused to the masterpiece of our life, God is all about restoration.  Sometimes the process is slow as He softens our hearts and often the process is long because there is much to restore, but He longs to hear us pray like David, “Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me.  Cast me not away from thy presence; and take not thy holy spirit from me. Restore unto me the joy of thy salvation.” (Psalm 51:10-12)

Sometimes restoration can only come through our forgiveness of others.  “When Job prayed for his friends, the Lord restored his fortunes. In fact, the Lord gave him twice as much as before!” (Job 42:10) Job, Joseph, Daniel…sometimes we are damaged by the words or deeds of others, but when we forgive to the point that we are able to pray for them or bless them, restoration will come and make us like new.  God is all about restoration.

Moving Forward: I’m thinking today of the amazing things God has done for me and His willingness and ability to restore whatever I need.

Tomorrow @ Ecclesiastes 3-4

Psalm 122-124 (NLT)

Discover His heart:  He signals us with His hand of mercy as we fix our eyes on Him

I remember a movie from several years ago about a bride who left several grooms at the altar over a period of time because she got cold feet and ran away, hence the title, Runaway Bride.  The final groom devised a plan to keep her feet from running through eye contact as she walked down the aisle.  It was a great plan and all was going well until a camera flashed, she lost eye contact with the groom, and yes, she headed for the hills.  As with most romantic comedies, they eventually got married and lived happily ever after, but the movie provided a great example of what can happen when we get distracted and lose our focus. 

@ Psalm 123
“I lift my eyes to you, O God, enthroned in heaven.  We keep looking to the Lord our God for his mercy, just as servants keep their eyes on their master, as a slave girl watches her mistress for the slightest signal.” (1-2)  Servants stand ready to move, like runners at the block, anticipating the signal to run, to fetch, to do for the master.  Shifting their eyes away could cause them to miss the awaited signal, the chance to serve or even to be served by the master’s generous hand.

Whenever I faced a difficult situation in my youth, my mom always said, “Phyllis, you can’t look at circumstances. You have to keep your eyes on Jesus.”  And how right she was!  Every time I put my focus on the problem, I lost sight of my Master and His hand of mercy for my problem.  When we keep our eyes fixed on Him, just like the servant fixed on his master, we won’t miss anything God has for us and the opportunity to serve Him.

As we read in Acts 7 last week, Stephen knew where to turn his focus as the stones were flying, “But Stephen, full of the Holy Spirit, gazed steadily into heaven and saw the glory of God, and he saw Jesus standing in the place of honor at God’s right hand.” (55)  Stephen’s darkest moments was turned into a glorious light as he looked to God for His mercy. And as we recently read in Hebrews 12, “Let us run with endurance the race God has set before us.  We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith.” (1-2)  He’s our Master who signals, who initiates and perfects our faith as well as how we move in that faith.

I don’t want to miss even the slightest signal from the Lord, where He directs my life through His mercy.  Mom was right – keeping my focus on the circumstances of life will cause me to get cold feet and run.  I have to stay focused on the Lord no matter how many flashes attempt to disrupt my gaze.  I’m no Runaway Bride!  My eyes are fixed on my Groom. 

Moving Forward: I’m keeping my eyes on Jesus today, ready to serve.  I won’t look at circumstances but only to His hand of mercy for even the slightest signal. 

Tomorrow @ Ecclesiastes 1-2

Psalm 119 (NLT link)

Discover His heart: He came so that we may live free

Psalm 119!  Observations from the longest chapter in the Bible condensed to a short blog? Impossible!  This favorite Psalm of mine is also about my favorite subject; and if that theme wasn’t detected in its reading, then somebody wasn’t paying attention.  Of the 176 verses in this Psalm, 171 of them refer to none other than the Word of God, the love of it, the meditation of it, the understanding of it, the challenge of it and so much more.

My mom quoted to me from Psalm 119 regularly when I was young, especially verse 11, “I have hidden your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you.”  After the Bibles were removed from China in the last century, mom would remind me that the only scriptures that most Chinese Christians had were verses they had committed to memory and how much they cherished them.  I responded by memorizing my Sunday School verses each week because I couldn’t imagine living without God’s Word.  She often quoted another classic Psalm 119 verse, “Your word is a lamp to guide my feet and light for my path.” (105)  Even as a little child, I understood that a path could only be followed if it could be seen, and I didn’t want to get lost.

One of my personal favorites is verse 45 because it doesn’t make sense at all in the natural, yet it is so very true, “I will walk in freedom, for I have devoted myself to your commandments.”    It’s hard to understand how someone can walk in freedom but also walk in obedience to the commandments of God.  True freedom is not the ability to do only what we desire to do, something that can change from whim to whim.  True freedom is the ability to be what we were created to be.

When we walk in obedience to how the Creator directs our lives through His Word, we are not put in a position of having to live out the consequences of our sins.  We are not bound to confusion and indecision because we know how to respond to life through reading His Word.  He wrote the playbook, and we are able to fulfill our destiny through our obedience to Him with worry-free living. Freedom!

Jesus confirmed this freedom when He said, “I tell you the truth, everyone who sins is a slave of sin.  A slave is not a permanent member of the family, but a son is part of the family forever. So if the Son sets you free, you are truly free.” (John 8:34-36)  Free? Indeed!

Moving Forward:  I wouldn’t trade for anything in this world the freedom that comes from obedience to God’s commandments in His Word. I’ve hidden them in my heart and they are a continual light for my path. 

Tomorrow @ Proverbs 28-30

Psalms 117-118 (NLT link) 

Discover His heart: He is love and He is faithful

When I was young and barely able to read, my Children’s Church teacher offered a special prize to anyone who would memorize an entire chapter in the Bible and quote it within the next couple of Sundays.   I had memorized all the regular scriptures that children tend to know at this point, but this seemed impossible for me until I chanced upon Psalm 117.   It was short and sweet, and with my mom’s help, I memorized it!

There were two or three of us young ones that took the easy route and quoted Psalm 117, and we still received the prize – a miniature copy of the Book of John!  That teacher was going to get the Word of God into us one way or another. 

@ Psalm 117
“Praise the Lord, all you nations.  Praise him, all you people of the earth.  For he loves us with unfailing love; the Lord’s faithfulness endures forever.  Praise the Lord!” Psalm 117 is the shortest chapter in the Bible as well as the center chapter of the Bible.  It may be short, but it declares two unchanging characteristics of our God:  God’s love for us will never fail and His faithfulness to us will last forever. Furthermore, this love and faithfulness are not just for Israel, but for all the nations, Jew and Gentle alike!  The whole world is called to praise the Lord.

My theology at that young age in Children’s Church was not much further along than “God is Love,” but I knew what love was and I knew who God was.  The fact that His love for me would never fail has stayed with me my entire life and has carried me through many discouraging and challenging moments.

Even though we grow more sophisticated in our theology and hopefully more intimate in our relationship with God, the foundation never changes – God’s love and faithfulness will last forever and His love is for everyone.  And that message will preach to anyone, anywhere. 

Moving Forward: With my heart I will praise Him for His love and faithfulness and with my mouth I will share it with even the youngest of children because they will understand. 

Tomorrow @ Proverbs 28

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