Psalms


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 – the Word of God.  If that theme isn’t detected in its reading, then somebody isn’t paying attention.  Of the 176 verses in this Psalm, 171 of them refer to none other than the God’s Word, 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 difficult 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 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 Gentile 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. With my mouth, I will share it with even the youngest of children because I know they will understand. 

Tomorrow @ Proverbs 28

Psalms 114-116 (NLT link) 

Discover His heart: He alone deserves our praise and worship

I have never been a big American Idol fan. There, I’ve said it! I realize I’ve opened myself up to much ridicule and rejection, but that’s alright. I can take it.  From the limited Idol I’ve watched, I’ve mostly heard very bad singing and mindless pontificating from semi-qualified judges at best. Due to its vast popularity, I’m assuming very few share my viewpoint.

Moving past entertainment, I don’t really understand the whole idol thing in general.  The worship of icons, statues or any tangible thing seems so limiting.  Would something I could hold in my hand or control in any way really deserve my worship?  I don’t think so.  The writer of Psalm 115 didn’t get it either. 

@Psalm 115
“Their idols are merely things of silver and gold, shaped by human hands.  They have mouths but cannot speak, and eyes but cannot see. They have ears but cannot hear, and noses but cannot smell. They have hands but cannot feel, and feet but cannot walk, and throats but cannot make a sound. And those who make idols are just like them, as are all who trust in them.” (4-8)

The one thing these idols can do, and do very well I might add, is collect dust.  But idols come in many different shapes, from long sought-after objects to individuals who require much of our attention.  The reason we’re drawn to the tangible to give our respect and devotion is due to our humanity, our desire to touch and to hold.  However, any person, place or thing that we can hold or manipulate in any way disqualifies itself of receiving our worship and devotion.

Although these counterfeits scream for our attention and affection, the One who deserves our worship cannot fit in a box, on a shelf, in a room or…anywhere.  “How amazing are the deeds of the Lord!  All who delight in Him should ponder themEverything He does reveals His glory and majesty.  His righteousness never fails.” (111:2-3)  “He hears my voice…He bends down to listen…The Lord protects…He has saved me from death…The Lord cares deeply…” (116:1-5) “Who can be compared with the Lord our God, who is enthroned on high?” (113:5)  He hears, He protects, He saves, He cares – just to mention a few of the limitless attributes of our living God.

“Great is the Lord! He is most worthy of praise!  He is to be feared above all gods.  The gods of other nations are mere idols, but the Lord made the heavens!…Give to the Lord the glory He deserves!… Worship the Lord in all His Holy splendor.” (Psalm 96:4-9) Worship the Lord, worship the Lord alone! 

Moving Forward: Let idols and counterfeits entice all they want, I will give my devotion today to the only One who is worthy – the true and living God. 

Tomorrow @ Proverbs 26-27

Psalms 111-113 (NLT link) 

Discover His heart: He shines His light on the godly. 

@Psalm 112
No doubt over the next few months our attention will be drawn to the Dickens classic, “A Christmas Carol,” and the transformation in the life of Ebenezer Scrooge who was the antithesis of Psalm 112.  Greedy and selfish, the old man held on to every cent he had for dear life and overlooked the needs of others in the process.  Then he had an encounter with the values in life that really matter and could not keep from sharing and giving and blessing.  Anything in this life we hold too tightly will prevent us from living the generous life of one who trusts in God.

Psalm 112 is a promise of success to those who fear only God, to those who revere and respect God and do not revere or respect calamity and to those whose respect for God is reflected in their behavior.  “Light shines in the darkness for the godly.  They are generous, compassionate, and righteous.  Good comes to those who lend money generously and conduct their business fairly.” (4-5)  No Scrooges here.  Acts of generosity come from hearts that do not hold too tightly to the things they possess and from those with an eternal viewpoint.  Because of this, they live with an open hand to others.

“They do not fear bad news; they confidently trust the Lord to care for them.  They are confident and fearless and can face their foes triumphantly.” (7-8)  Only with an eternal viewpoint can we live without fear of when the next shoe will drop, what news the mail will bring or what calamity lies ahead.  Those who fear the Lord do not hold too tightly to this life, knowing it is only a temporary dwelling, a stopping point on their way to eternity. They can live with full assurance that, “God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them.” (Romans 8:28)  They do not fear bad news.

“They share freely and give generously to those in need.  Their good deeds will be remembered forever.  They will have influence and honor.  The wicked will see this and be infuriated. They will grind their teeth in anger; they will slink away, their hopes thwarted.” (9-10)  Well, if we want to see our enemy slink away in defeat, we just need to be willing to let go of the things the enemy wants.  When we give our lives and our possessions to the Lord and His purposes, the enemy has nothing to take from us.

The joy and freedom that awakened in the heart of Scrooge on Christmas morning are just a brief vignette of the joy and freedom we experience every day when we live generous lives, unencumbered by the concerns of this world.  It is a life with promise, “How joyful are those who fear the Lord and delight in obeying his commands.  Their children will be successful everywhere; an entire generation of godly people will be blessed.  They themselves will be wealthy, and their good deeds will last forever.” (1-3)

Most of us have lived long enough to know that life is not without its challenges for the godly, but those who fear and respect the Lord and obey His commands walk in the promises and blessings of the Lord that have eternal value.  Does it get any better than that?  I don’t think so. 

Moving Forward:  Moving through this day with a generous heart and hand, unencumbered and loosening the grip on all that I am and all that I possess. 

Tomorrow @ Proverbs 25

Psalms 108-110 (NLT link) 

Discover His heart: His goodness fills us with songs of praise

We’ve all heard the old joke, “Did you wake up grumpy this morning?”  “No, I just went ahead and let him sleep.”  So often God puts together a night owl and a morning person in marriage – challenges right from the start!  We all know that chipper morning person who jumps out of bed ready to take on the day, and then we know the night owl who considers morning totally unnecessary.  Some of us are both, and we burn the candle at both ends never getting enough sleep.  I love the morning, but I really don’t want to talk about it until I’ve had at least one stiff belt of coffee.  Regardless of our mindset about morning, we can open our eyes each day with a confidence in our hearts that only God can give just like David did.

@Psalm 108
“My heart is confident in you, O God; no wonder I can sing your praises with all my heart!  Wake up, lyre and harp!  I will wake the dawn with my song.” (1-2)  In Psalm 108, David repeated these verses from Psalm 57, and I think this passage bears repeating as well.  (See May 17@Psalms 57-59)  I must admit I’ve started some days with my joy being tested.  Negative thoughts and feelings have overwhelmed me. Trying to kick-start the day is like biking uphill – it’s hard work.

David expressed the right way to start the day.  He woke up confident, not in himself but confident in the One who gave him the day, “This is the day the Lord has made.  We will rejoice and be glad in it.” (Psalm 118:24)  We certainly had nothing to do with the making of this day, and if He found it valuable enough to give it to us, then we probably should be thankful for it.  David woke up thankful, “I will thank you, Lord, among all the people.  I will sing your praises among the nation.”(3)  And he woke up praising, “For your unfailing love is higher than the heavens.  Your faithfulness reaches to the clouds.  Be exalted, O God, above the highest heavens.  May your glory shine over all the earth.”(4-5)  There’s just no room for gloom or doom when we’re focused on Him.

It’s impossible to wake up grumpy when our first thoughts are on the Lord and His goodness to us, as well as taking care of our last thoughts before we fall asleep.  I often find myself singing a song I heard a few years ago, “I woke up this morning with my mind on Jesus…I saw the sunrise, and I felt the gentle breeze blow.  I woke up this morning with my mind on Jesus.” (Jordan) The best part of waking up isn’t Folgers in my cup – it’s Jesus on my mind. 

Moving Forward:  Confident, thankful, praising and with my mind on Jesus – it’s going to be a great day! 

Tomorrow @ Proverbs 23-24

Psalms 105-107 (NLT link)

Discover His heart: He will never abandon us and waits for our return when we are lost

I worked part-time at a fine jewelry store in the mall while in high school.  I learned all about diamonds and precious gems, and my little teenage heart went pitter patter whenever a couple came in to select an engagement ring.  One Friday evening the store manager asked me to deliver an expensive wedding ring on my way home after work.  It seems a couple needed it for their Saturday morning wedding.  I was happy to do so but concerned because I was unfamiliar with the area where their home was located.

Sure enough, I got lost and found myself in the seedier part of town. Sixteen-year-old girl, no cell phone back in the dark ages, $3,000 ring, nighttime and on the wrong side of the tracks – not a good scenario. I did what I only knew to do. I prayed for God to help me find my way, and He did.

Searching for landmarks I had passed, I retraced my path back to my store, the one place I knew with certainty had not moved.  I studied my directions, discovered the error of my ways and safely delivered the ring to the beaming bridegroom who was waiting for me at the door.  I was relieved and thankful that I hadn’t given up in my search, and most grateful for God’s help.  David knew something about searching with tenacity and never giving up. 

@ Psalm 105
Search for the Lord and for his strength; continually seek him.” (4)  If we find ourselves in the position of needing to search for the Lord, it could only be because we have become lost.  I mean, it’s not as though His address has changed over the last billion or so years. His address has never changed.  “For He Himself has said, ‘I will never leave you nor forsake you,’” (Hebrews 13:5, NKJV) so obviously, we are the culprits.  Sometimes we think we know a better way to go or have someone or something else we would rather follow.  Not good.

David definitely understood walking away from the Lord in a moment of defeat, but he also knew the best recourse was to run back to the Lord in repentance.  We don’t need to stay lost!  David encouraged us in this Psalm to search for Him, find our way back to Him and receive His strength to remain there.  And we can do this with confidence because Jesus also promised, “Everyone who seeks, finds.” (Matthew 7:8)

When we’re traveling and realize we’re lost, we usually look for landmarks – something familiar to us to guide us back to where we belong, and David had that covered too.  “Remember the wonders he has performed, his miracles, and the rulings he has given.” (5)  When we remember where we have been with the Lord and where His presence has touched our lives, we will find Him once again.  Sometimes it requires going back to the very beginning where our journey started with Him to realize how faithfully He has led us throughout life.

God’s Word will draw us to Him as well as our communion with Him in prayer – definite landmarks for us.  And we will also find Him in the place where the impossible becomes possible and where the unknown becomes known because He loves to reveal Himself in this way.

When we are lost or in unfamiliar territory where God seems so very far away, we should “Continually seek Him,” (4) and not be discouraged.  He hasn’t moved, left the country or abandoned us.  He rewards our efforts to find Him because He loves us so. “Anyone who wants to come to Him must believe that God exists and that He rewards those who sincerely seek him.” (Hebrews 11:6)   Found! 

Moving Forward: I’m so thankful today for our faithful God who never leaves us and longs for us to return to Him when we are lost. 

Tomorrow @ Proverbs 22

Psalms 102-104 (NLT link) 

Discover His heart: He fills our lives with love, mercy and good things

Can we really believe anything we read in the newspaper and on our computer news feeds or see on television news?  So often today the news is filled with bias and opinion, and we rarely get the straight scoop on a story.  I think of the old television police detective who would say when interviewing at a crime scene, “Just the facts, ma’am, just the facts.”  When we want to know about someone through the media, we have a hard time deciphering fact from fiction.

After all, these reporters don’t really know the individuals they are reporting about, they simply reveal facts, using the term loosely here, that they have been able to uncover.  When we read the Bible, it’s a different story.  Inspired by God’s own Spirit, the Bible is an accurate portrayal of who God is and His relationship to us and no one portrays Him any better than David.

@ Psalm 103
Psalm 103 is one of so many chapters in the Bible that helps us understand the heart of God and confirms what we already know to be true about Him through our experience.  David is not writing from hearsay or supposition.  No, David had an intimate relationship with the One he was writing about.  Some of my favorite verses about our awesome God, awesome in the truest sense of the word, are found here.  When I read them, my heart and all that I know about Him confirm their truth.

“He forgives all my sins and heals all my diseases.  He redeems me from death and crowns me with love and tender mercies.  He fills my life with good things.  My youth is renewed like the eagle’s! (3-5)  As if forgiveness of sins was not enough, He heals us and is responsible for all good things in our lives.  “The Lord is compassionate and merciful, slow to get angry and filled with unfailing love.” (8)

How One so perfect can be so unbelievably merciful to one so far from perfect is difficult to understand, but I know it to be true.  In fact, “He has removed our sins as far from us as the east is from the west.” (12)  When our thoughts turn to our failures and sins from the past, we can know that it wasn’t God who introduced them back into our lives.  He’s very forgetful that way…

“The Lord is like a father to his children, tender and compassionate to those who fear him.  For he knows how weak we are; he remembers we are only dust.” (13-14)  Many have tried to label God as uncaring and fierce, but those who really know Him have experienced His tenderness, His gentleness.  When earthly fathers have portrayed a poor example of our Heavenly Father, it’s difficult to understand how loving and tender He really is.  It’s true that a father who dearly loves his children will discipline them when necessary; and our Heavenly Father sometimes disciplines us, but He does so in love, remembering how frail we are.  This I know to be true.

After reading David’s accurate account of some of God’s attributes, we can rest assured that his information came to him first-hand and can be trusted.  But greater still is when we take this inspiration from David and experience it for ourselves.  We can know our tender, loving Father who forgives and forgets our sins because of His great mercy, who heals our bodies and who fills our lives with good things.  And that’s the straight scoop! 

Moving Forward: More in love with Him today than yesterday, I can move forward in His love and mercy, expecting good things.

Tomorrow @ Proverbs 20-21

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