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 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

I Kings 1-4 (NLT) 

Discover His heart:  Even when others fail, He is our example of a loving father

The books of Samuel, Kings and Chronicles give the history of Israel’s kings from three different perspectives, and the many books of the prophets give additional insights to this history.  We may wonder why so much of the Bible is focused on the exploits of these kings, yet as we study them, we find their life lessons to be invaluable. 

@ I Kings 1
Chapter 1 begins with David, the mighty warrior and king of valor, near death at the age of 70.  When compared to Methuselah and others like him, this may seem fairly young to die, but we learn that the role of king did not lend itself to long life in general.  David’s challenging early years of survival and his reign as a warrior king took their toll on his life to be sure, and the disconnect he had with his family must have added to his burden.

What little we know about David’s parenting skills doesn’t speak well of him. In light of what we are able to read about them, most of the fathers in the Old Testament seemed almost clueless about raising children.  The patriarchs, kings, prophets and priests often had difficulty passing the family torch on to their sons because their devotion to God had not been accepted by their children.  Willful disobedience and rebellion seemed to be the lifestyle of the sons of many of Israel’s leaders.  What lesson can we learn from this?

Adonijah was David’s son with Haggith who was one of David’s many, many, many wives.  Because of his birth order, Adonijah “began boasting, ‘I will make myself king,’” (5) yet he and everyone else knew that David had chosen Solomon.  David was living the Absalom experience all over again with this willful, headstrong young son.  One short sentence in this chapter gives explanation as to how this son could disrespect his father by making himself the king, “Now his father, King David, had never disciplined him at any time, even by asking, ‘Why are you doing that?’”  Help.

I’ve never met a child that didn’t require discipline on occasion, and obviously Adonijah was not the exception.  No doubt Haggith’s threats of “Wait until your father gets home!” carried little weight.  King David had many wives and many children, and with his leadership demands, he probably had difficulty remembering all their names much less worrying about discipline.  However, it’s hard to understand how great leaders can ignore the welfare of their future seed.  Solomon was on the right track for much of his life and wrote most of the book of Proverbs including helpful instructions to young men, but his own son, Rehoboam, was a mess.

We may not be ruling a country, but with all our breadwinning, deal making, car pooling and errand running, the last thing we feel like doing when we finally arrive home is disciplining our children.  It’s easier to ignore the situation and hope for a better day tomorrow; but as parents, our primary role is to parent – transitive verb meaning to nurture, raise and develop.  Somebody’s got to do it, and we’re it!

So, what do we learn from this?  Ultimately, our children are responsible for their own decisions and for the course they choose for life regardless of how we have parented.  David’s lack of parenting was not helpful for some of his children, yet neither was Solomon’s advice helpful for his own offspring.

We can’t make decisions for our children when they are grown, but when they are young, we can do all that is possible through our nurturing and training to put them in a position to make good choices.  If they make poor choices, they will be without excuse with no one else to blame, and that in itself is worth all our efforts. But after spending an evening of pure joy with my children and grandchildren, I can testify that greater still is the reward that comes from our hard work as we watch our seed grow and flourish in the Lord for generations to come. 

Moving Forward:  I will do my part to establish my children and my children’s children in the Lord, doing the hard work when necessary in order to reap great rewards. 

Tomorrow @ Psalms 63-65

2 Samuel 20-24 (NLT) 

Discover His heart: His nature is forgiving and endlessly good

David may have been the original Renaissance Man – multitalented to say the least.  I’m hard pressed to think of another man who has carried the titles of shepherd, king, giant slayer, harp player, warrior, song writer and God lover.  Really. Who does all that? 

@ 2 Samuel 22
In the later years of his life, David fought a few more battles, killed a few more giants and wrote a beautiful song of praise and thanksgiving to God, almost identical to Psalm 18.  In this chapter, he listed many of the characteristics of God he had observed throughout his lifetime of intimacy with Him. “The Lord is my rock, my fortress, and my savior; my God is my rock, in whom I find protection. He is my shield, the power that saves me, and my place of safety. He is my refuge, my savior.” (2-3)

In His writing, David described a God who forgives, listens, defends, rescues, rewards, sees, shows faithfulness, reveals, enables, trains, helps, strengthens, preserves, avenges and loves.  Is this the God that I know?  Yes, yes and yes!  Because He lives with us, as we read in Exodus yesterday, we have the opportunity to observe all sides of His nature, and this is Who He is!

After reviewing David’s life for the past few weeks in our reading, including the Bathsheba incident, we may question David’s declaration of innocence in verses 21-25, “The Lord rewarded me for doing right.  He has seen my innocence.”  But this is the one characteristic of God that is the most amazing.  When we repent, and David was one who repented, He forgives and forgets.  He really does!

“He has removed our sins as far from us as the east is from the west.” (Ps103:12) God doesn’t throw our repented sins in our faces to prove a point or rehearse them to make us feel badly. We live with the consequences of sin and often have trouble forgiving and forgetting ourselves, but He moves on. He wants our relationship with Him to continue, unfettered and unblemished. David said with confidence, “Purify me from my sins, and I will be clean; wash me, and I will be whiter than snow.”(Ps51:7)

When I’m facing a difficult challenge or when life has thrown a few blows my way, I read the Psalms of David because of this expressive man’s ability to communicate the characteristics of God – He is the One who forgives, listens, defends, rescues, and the list goes on and on… 

Moving Forward: Because of God’s character, I move on with Him today as one of His forgiven, unfettered and unblemished, ever encouraged by the amazing nature of my God. 

Tomorrow @ Psalms 60-62

Psalms 57-59 (NLT) 

Discover His heart: He shelters me from all harm and places a song in my heart

When I was a very little girl, I used to run to my mom’s billowy skirt when I was afraid, embarrassed or shy.  Just like June Cleaver, mothers years ago actually wore dresses or skirts all day long at home, and my mom’s skirt often offered the security I was looking for.  I remember hiding within its folds as it wrapped itself around me.  She would reach down with a hand and caress me to let me know she was there and everything was just fine. As the years went on, I found an even greater place of safety during troubled times, a place known well to our Psalmist.

As he did through much of his life. David was living through some difficult times in these three Psalms.  In them we see his humanity, his frustration and anger at the deeds of his enemies.  We can identify with him, whether on a personal basis or in our disgust with societal evils.  David’s ability to tell God just exactly how he felt without embarrassment or fear of retribution reveals how intimate his relationship with God truly was.  Psalm 58 shows David fiercely angry with evil justices and rulers, calling for God’s judgment on them; but before long he, too, was judged for his evil deeds.  Yes, David was very human.  However, in all his troubles, he knew that God was his only hope. 

@ Psalm 57
David was in a cave hiding from King Saul, his one-time mentor, who was now gunning for him in a jealous rage.  Even when given opportunity to kill his enemy, David had chosen to hide rather than touch God’s anointed one.  In our challenges, sometimes we fight and sometimes we wait and trust. David often referred in Psalms to his hiding place, the shelter of God’s wings: “I will hide beneath the shadow of your wings until the danger passes by.” (1)  Just like David, I sometimes run to shelter myself beneath the shadow of His wings as His billowy garments wrap themselves around me.  I feel His caress and know that everything will be just fine.

Although David was surrounded by his enemies who devoured their prey and whose words cut like a sword, he proclaimed, “My heart is confident in you, O God; my heart is confident.  No wonder I can sing your praises!  Wake up my heart!..I will wake the dawn with my song.” (7-8)  If he was able to wake the dawn, then David must have known some sleepless nights.  What a victorious way to welcome the dawn, with a song from his heart!  His mind would advise him to quake with fear, to fret away the sleepless hours, but his heart was filled with a song of confident trust in God.

While I’m not so sure that hearing my early morning vocals is the way my husband wants to start his day, I’m determined to sing through those sleepless hours that I face from time to time and wake the dawn with a song of confident trust in Him.  Knowing my husband like I do, I’m fairly certain he’ll sing right along. 

Moving Forward: In the challenges I face today, whether called to fight or to shelter, I will run to Him for help.  From early morning I will sing the song of confident trust in Him. What a great day!

Tomorrow @ Job 39-40

Psalms 54-56 (NLT) 

Discover His heart: He understands our sorrows and collects our tears

When I was just a young girl, I had a friend who really let me down and I was heartbroken.  My mom consoled me by letting me know that throughout life most of my friends would let me down at one time or another and that she would too. I remember saying something along the line of, “Thanks, Mom, for that encouragement.”  She went on to say that I would let my friends down on occasion as well, and sadly, she was right.  However, she continued by saying that there was one friend who would never let me down, one that I could trust in every situation every day of my life.  Of course, that friend is Jesus.

I’ve found my mom’s words to be true.  Sometimes we disappoint each other, but today we read about David who knew rejection and pain from those who were the closest to him. The pain was unbearable.  Hopefully we’ll never experience the depth of his sorrow, but if we do, we can run for comfort to the one who will never let us down just as David did. 

@ Psalm 55
Most believe Psalm 55 to be David’s response to the rebellion of his son Absalom, and the betrayal of one of his closest advisers, Ahithophel, a story we will read in 2 Samuel 15-19.  Absalom was out to kill him and steal his throne, and rather than face his son, David cried out to God, “Oh, that I had wings like a dove; then I would fly away and rest!  I would fly far away to the quiet of the wilderness.  How quickly I would escape – far from this wild storm of hatred.” (6-8)  Unless we’ve experienced it ourselves, it’s difficult to grasp the depths of pain associated with this kind of hatred from a relative or close friend.  I, too, would want to run away rather than face this pain head on.

David’s description gives us a brief look into Jesus may have felt at the betrayal of Judas.  “It is not an enemy who taunts me—I could bear that…Instead, it is you—my equal, my companion, and close friend.  What good fellowship we once enjoyed as we walked together to the house of God.” (12-14)  I think about how the denial of Peter must have stung the heart of Jesus at the most difficult moment in His life on earth.  God understands more than we can imagine our pain when we are hurt by others.

@ Psalm 56
“You keep track of all my sorrows.  You have collected all my tears in your bottle.  You have recorded each one in your book.”  (8)  The One who knows how many hairs I have on my head, and probably the only one who knows their true color, also keeps track of all my sorrows and collects my tears.  This intimacy with my Creator and my God brings me to my knees.  How can I remain glum and sorrowful with Him on my side?  David expressed it well, “I trust in God, so why should I be afraid?  What can mere mortals do to me?” (11)

Although I’ve known my share of pain, I have not walked this path of despair to the degree of David, and none of us have experienced what Jesus did.  However, God keeps track of all our sorrows and this tells us that we are not alone. He is with us, collecting teardrops along the way.  Even in all of this pain, David encouraged, “Give your burdens to the Lord, and He will take care of you.  He will not permit the godly to slip and fall.” (55:12) 

Moving Forward: With the knowledge that He is with me and caring for me, I step out bravely today because I trust Him. 

Tomorrow @ Job 37-38