Growing in Christ
"He opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures." Luke 24:45
Practical and Pastoral Observations on the Book of Psalms (please read each chapter slowly and meditatively before reading observations below):
This anonymous wisdom psalm stands as a doorkeeper reminding those who enter of the righteous behavior and fruitful life that are characteristic of the one who delights in God's law and character, in contract to the life and destiny of the ungodly.
The Dividing Line: God's moral law, which exists simply as a reflection of His righteous character, is the dividing line running through humanity and the eternal destiny of every individual. The Lord knows every person (v. 6) and will give each individual their due; blessing or destruction. The "way" (v.6) of each person includes their lifestyle, desires and ultimate destiny. The righteous do not believe like, behave like, or belong to the realm of the wicked. The wicked will not stand acquitted, either by the oppressed in this world or by God in the world to come. (It is significant in the spiritual journey that scoffing (v.1), is a characteristic, not of a teachable spirit but of pride, sin and wickedness. Lord, protect me from scoffing at the standards of holiness of others.)
Personal Application: (why do these statements normally begin with "I will"?)
I will delight in the law of the Lord because I delight in Him.
I will meditate (v.2) on my Father's character and ways.
I expect to be spiritually healthy and fruitful (v.3), prosperous and blessed (v.1) as I walk with Him. (The Hebrew rendered "blessed" is plural, meaning "Oh, how very happy...")
The image of a bearing-fruit tree is reminiscent of one's worldview affecting all one does. Verse 3: "(The righteous) are like trees planted by streams of water bearing fruit each season. Their leaves never wither, and they prosper in all they do."
My Prayer: Father, what a beautiful picture of your character and the truth of your ways. Thank you for making your creation, not neutral, but a moral universe. Thank you for the blessing, despite the efforts of the wicked, of following your ways. Keep me faithful by Your grace.
The Lord's King: The Lord God and His anointed one (Son, v.7, 12) are the legitimate rulers of the earth, concerted rebellion notwithstanding (v.1-3). God's representative, David in his coronation, prefiguring Jesus Christ in his resurrection (v.7-9), is given the nations to rule over in righteousness.
Rejecting the Lord's King: The "kings of the earth" (v.2) who reject the Lord and conspire to replace Him include unaccountable political, business, media or military rulers seeking to be 'gods' in their own realms. The Lord (Adonai, v.4, "the sovereign one") is eternally greater and does not take pretenders to the throne seriously (v.4: scoffs). Those who conspire against Him will come to acknowledge His superiority (v.9-12).
My Prayer: Father, may the nations lay down their rebellion and come to know, love and worship you. May I be in the vanguard, loving and worshiping you first, deeply and always.
This prophetic messianic psalm was composed to commemorate David's coronation as King to rule over Israel's golden age, but finds its fulfilment in Jesus Christ, risen King of the universe.
I will worship the Lord with reverence (v.11) and take refuge in Him (v.12). v.11: "Worship the Lord with reverence and rejoice with trembling."
Hope in the face of Overwhelming Odds - "But You, O Lord (v.3): God our Father is the source of salvation and blessing (v.8), hope and encouragement (v.3) in the face of overwhelming opposition. God is our protection from those who set themselves against us. The title of the psalm shows its context during Absalom's armed rebellion against his father (2 Samuel 15:13-17:22), perhaps the greatest treason one can experience.
The Peace and Courage of the Lord: David is discouraged by the strength of those against him (v.1) and their rejection of the Lord (v.2). However as David cries out to the Lord as his shield, glory and lifter of his head (v.3-4), the Lord meets with him and David is able to sleep (v.5) and gain courage (v.6) for the battle.
My Response: When I am overwhelmed I will stop, look to the Lord, meditate on who He is (v.3,8) and find peace and courage (v.5-6) in Him. v.3: But You, O Lord, are a shield about me, my glory, and the One who lifts my head.
My Prayer: Father, thank you for sustaining me. Thank you for calling me to look to You, to trust You, to be confident in You. "Salvation belongs to the LORD; Your blessing be upon Your people! (v.8)"
God is the true standard in a world gone astray, i.e. a world which loves what is worthless and aims at deception (v.2). In this world God sets apart the godly for Himself (v.3) to stand with Him and reflect His standard. Doing so will produce opposition from the world and distress for the believer - but God is with us, relieving us in tight places (v.1) as we call on Him.
Right Relationship with God in a world gone astray: Whether David is speaking primarily to his opponents or to himself in v. 4 I don't know, perhaps both, but such a relationship with God is vital: it is good to tremble in awe before the Living God, strong motivation not to sin (v.4), to meditate in stillness, perhaps during the sleepless night, to come to right conclusions.
Right foundations in our relationship bring great blessings: the light of God's countenance (v.6), gladness of heart (v.7), peace under pressure (v.8). Our "heart" is in scripture an image of the immaterial centre of our being; e.g. our emotions, thoughts, motivations, courage, love.
Personal Application: I will make a list of 10 things which are worth loving and 10 which are tempting but not worth loving (v.2). (A start below, your list will be different in some ways but worth crafting carefully.) I will aim at transparency and truth even when doing so humbles me. In it God is at work to do good (v.6).
My Prayer: Father, enable my heart to learn from David's who sinned like me but sought after You. I want to be set apart for You despite opposition. Fill me with gladness and peace in You.
Worth loving: God's grace and glory, Carol and family, serving the needy, sharing the Gospel with the lost, building up the Body of Christ, the Word of God, stillness for meditation (Psalm 4:4), beauty, truth, love. Not worth loving: deceptive images of others, deceptive images of self - ego/pride, money, cars or more things (materialism), empty human praise, pop culture, mainstream media pointing us to shallowness, lies and wrong directions.
The Character of Yahweh: God is righteous (v.8) and abundant in hesed loving-kindness (v.7) towards those who seek Him, protecting us from evil persons (v.4-6) as we take refuge in Him (v.11). Yahweh hears our imploring (v.2), blesses us with favour and surrounds us as with a shield (v.12).
v.11: Let all who take refuge in You be glad, let them ever sing for joy; may You shelter them, may those who love Your name exult in You.
Personal Application: I will meet with the Lord in the morning (v.3), ask specifically and watch expectantly during the day to see how God will intervene.
My Prayer: Father, each new day is a canvas on which You and I draw together. Let me begin each new day with You, drawing nothing by myself before we meet lest I spoil the day. As I seek Your face first - ask Your help, protection, guidance and intervention - I thank You for what you will do to make it a beautiful day of grace and righteousness.
Righteousness is a straight path (v.8) making it unnecessary to look around at what others do to make our decisions or to try to remember what we said about a situation rather than simply be truthful.
Psalm 6 - The first of David's "lament psalms," others are 32,38,51,102,130,143.
God remains our only hope in extremity. The cause of David's dismay to tears (v.6) and expectation of death (v.5) may have been illness, opposition from those who sought his life, or belief his calamity to be discipline from God for sin (v.1).
Anguish of soul (v.3) may be greater for those who know the Lord than those who do not because we know better is possible. It may be experienced because we are looking at the horrors of a fallen world or at our own sin. The answer however is not death (v.5) but the loving-kindness of the Lord (v.4).
Personal Application: I need and must not carry an anguished spirit alone, whether it be due to my own sin or that of others, but will take it to the Lord in a cry for help or repentance; each of which are rooted in hope and confidence in the grace, mercy and power of the Lord. v.4: Return, O Lord, rescue my soul; save me because of your loving-kindness.
My Prayer: Father, even to look to you when in mental or spiritual depression due to sin or sustained attack, I need your help. Help me call out to you in hope. Help me to confidently and persistently expect Your intervention of grace.
Psalm 7 - This is the first of David's "imprecatory psalms" in which he prays for judgement on those who seek his life (e.g. v.6-9).
Background: Cush, referred to in the title, appears to be the enemy pursuing David, perhaps one of Saul's men sent to kill David. Whatever the specific circumstance, David's life is at risk and he seeks the Lord's protection (v.1): "O Lord my God, in You I have taken refuge; save me from all those who pursue me, and deliver me."
The Lord is the shield (v.10) refuge (v.1) and righteous judge (v.11) of those who trust Him to save the upright in heart. As we embrace God's redemptive mission in our fallen world we must a) be righteous ourselves (David is willing to suffer consequences for unrighteousness) and b) accept the fact that righteousness is not enough to prevent the unrighteous from opposition.
Evil and Justice: David uses childbearing as a metaphor for evil in which the violent "travails with wickedness", "conceives mischief and brings forth falsehood" (v.14). David sees justice in the way evil returns to the evildoer (v.15-16).
I will seek to walk in the light with a righteous heart - without self-righteousness, knowing all righteousness comes from the Lord.
I will accept the consequences of my failures without complaint, looking to the Lord for forgiveness.
I will take the initiative in seeking to make peace with any who has anything against me, trusting the Lord to be my shield where I am unsuccessful.
My Prayer: Father, thank you that You are the Righteous Judge from whom alone all judges learn what is right. Father, may they, and I, look only to Your righteousness and grace. And Father, protect us from those who do as they wish.
The Glory of God: God has created the heavens and the earth is glorified in them. Though occupied by evil men (v.2 and Psalms 3-7), this is my Father's world and His majesty (v.1,9) is reflected in it and over the heavens above. From nursing babies - as He uses the weak to overthrow the mighty (v.2) - to heavenly bodies, Yahweh is glorious Lord of all.
Alone Worthy of Worship: The nations around Israel worshiped heavenly objects as deities. The sun, moon, and stars are great and awesome, yet their glory is merely the work of His hand, more reason to praise the Almighty. Today too, some worship the stars, others animals or nature, missing the Lord of Glory who alone is worthy of worship.
v.1: "O Yahweh our Lord, how majestic is Your name in all the earth, You who have displayed Your splendor above the heavens!"
The Glory of Mankind: In a surprising expression of His majesty, Yahweh created us in His own image, responsible to Him but crowned with His glory and majesty (v.5) and regent and steward of His creation (v.6). (This is sometimes termed our "cultural mandate.") The weary can envision a place of dignity in Godís world.
Personal Application: I will view myself and those around me as possessing God's image, dignity, glory and majesty. I will treat them as such. I will not allow "squatters" in my Father's world to divert my eye from His glory and that of His creation including mankind, "a little lower than God" (v.5).
My Prayer: Father thank you for this glorious corrective to the distortions around us - worldly distortions of who we are, what is glorious and just, what is the relation of mankind to God and to Your world. In this too, You are wonderfully good and glorious, bringing refreshment to the soul. O Yahweh our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth!
Thanks to God in the midst of evil: David gives thanks to the Lord for His goodness, though the wicked are many, confident in God's final justice.
Focus on the goodness of God: David's approach is not philosophical, analyzing the problem theoretically (via Greek worldview), but practical (via Hebrew worldview), thanking the Lord for protection from wicked people (v.3-6), for judging the wicked righteously (v.6, 8, 12) and for providing the oppressed a stronghold in times of trouble (v.9). David's unrelenting focus is on God, rather than on evil's rebellion against Him. David is confident of God's care for the needy and that the hope of the afflicted will not cease (v.18).
Those who conversely focus on evil cease to trust God leaving them without the protection of the only One who can do so.
I will discipline myself to focus on God rather than on the evil around us, praying as Jesus taught "deliver us from evil." (The evil one is unworthy of the attention and submission he desires (false pride). I will not provide him either.)
I will thank God from my heart for His goodness.
I will tell the next generation of His goodness so they not be left to face evil without Him.
I will not blame God for the choices of the free will He has given to man, or draw conclusions from that which has not yet happened and about which I do not yet fully know (final judgement).
My Prayer: Father, "I will be glad and exult in You; I will sing praise to Your name, O Most High" (v. 2). I thank You that You are good and that You "let the nations know they are but men" (v.20). Lord Jesus, come quickly and deliver the oppressed from the evil one and from those who do evil. Keep my heart and mind on You continually.
Psalms 9 and 10 should probably be read as one as Ps 9 includes a title and Ps 10 does not, and although several letters are missing or inverted, the two psalms connect as an acrostic of the Hebrew alphabet. The earlier Greek and Latin translations present Ps 9 and 10 as a single psalm.
God Alone is Hope of the Helpless: David calls on the Lord to protect the weak, to call into account the wicked and to restrain evil men from violence (v.14-15). The only thing that the wicked and the godly have in common is that it appears to both [the godly (v.1) and to the wicked (v.11)] that God allows the wicked a free hand against the innocent (v.8). The arrogance of the wicked (v.2) is galling and their highhandedness (v.6) appalling and distressing. Sometimes we are in danger on our own street or in cultural exile in our own nation with even its government against God's children unjustly.
Our joy lies then only in the Lord and in our hope of final victory in Him. In all circumstances, whether we live or die, our redemptive mission does not change. God is King forever (v.16), encouraging the weak (v.17) and will finally end the terror brought by evil men (v.18) forever.
Personal Application: I will call on the Lord when in distress. I will live in hope of the day when "man, who is of the earth, will terrify no more" (v.18). I will praise the Lord who remains King when the wicked nations of the earth are no more.
My Prayer: Arise, LORD! Lift up your hand, O God. Do not forget the helpless (v.12). Father, our hope is in you.
Under pressure God enables us to Stand in Trust rather than Flee - David considers the advice of well-meaning friends to flee under pressure from the wicked (v.1-3) but chooses instead to stay and take refuge in the Lord (v.1) confident that the Lord discerns rightly (v.5) and will judge the wicked (v.6). The reward of the righteous will be to see His face (v.6).
Persevering when the Foundations are Destroyed: Seeing the foundations (v.3) of society or righteous government or even a godly ministry destroyed leaves even (perhaps especially) the righteous feeling hopeless. Yet David suggests the righteous can persevere when it's easier to quit or run. This is so because our final hope is not in the certainty or even likelihood of success in our fallen world but in the Lord who is righteous and will ultimately vindicate the righteous He loves (v.7). So we run to Him for refuge and we persevere in righteousness even among the ruins of the foundations of society.
Personal Application: I will not flee or quit but look to the Lord for next steps in the midst of the rubble. I will anticipate looking upon His face in the last day, and look for His face in the midst of the struggle today, knowing His eyes behold and "test the sons of men" (v.4). The reference to God's "eyelids" seems to envision God squinting as He scrutinizes each person's behaviour and heart.
v. 4: The Lord is in His holy temple; the Lord's throne is in heaven; His eyes behold, His eyelids test the sons of men.
My Prayer: Father, the evil on earth multiplies and cries out for your justice. Yet You delay judgement which will cut off opportunity for billions to repent. Hasten the coming of Your kingdom Lord; pour out Your Spirit upon your people. Empower us for Your redemptive purposes and coming.
Overwhelmed, but God... When the ungodly are the majority around us or are in power over us (v.1-2) and when what is vile is honoured among them (v.8 ), we feel overwhelmed and even hopeless. Yet God will arise, is just and compassionate, and takes the side of the weak, needy and oppressed to protect them (Psalm 12:5). In contrast to those who lie, flatter, malign and deceive, God's words are pure and flawless, like silver refined seven times (Psalm 12:6). We have confidence in Him.
Petitioning for Justice: David asks for God's intervention against the wicked (v.3). Some are uncomfortable with psalms which include prayers for vengeance. Notice first of all, it is not humans who are to take vengeance. Secondly, because God has created a moral universe and is just, justice will come to those who continue to thumb their noses at God; to some justice will come in this life, to others only in the life to come; to most in both realms. If there were no ultimate justice, God would not be just or this would not be a moral universe.
Personal Application: I will grieve the wickedness in the world because of the godless, but not be overwhelmed. I will hope in the Lord and reflect His compassion for the weak, needy and oppressed, even when I feel that way myself. I will ask the Lord to make my words like His, flawless, true and reflecting the heart of God to call to repentance, to heal and build up.
My Prayer: Father, arise and bring justice to the earth. Bring the restoration of all things. My heart yearns for your righteousness.
The "set" of our eyes in the face of evil: As the Lord enables us to see ("enlighten my eyes" v. 3) His loving-kindness, joy in His salvation enables us to endure the evil around us until Christ's return.
David's fourfold "how long" (v.1) reflects universal human frustration. But his "I will sing to Yahweh" (v. 6) invites us also to follow him out of his and our misery as we lean on the Lord. Unless I look to the Lord I will be overwhelmed. Despair leads to death (v.3).
David's honesty with the Lord is an example me. Better an honest, though difficult, conversation, than to stop talking. The Lord wants us to seek Him. He always speaks as we seek Him persistently and listen patiently. His word is truth, gives us enlightenment (v.3) and leads us out of our darkness.
Personal Application: I will be patient with those who focus more on evil around them than on the Lord above but persist in re-pointing people away from preoccupation with evil to the Lord. v. 3: Enlighten my eyes and answer me, O LORD my God, enlighten my eyes, or I will sleep the sleep of death.
My Prayer: Father, thank you for your loving kindness and the joy of your salvation! Without You we are nothing and have nothing. May I be patient in adversity. You are our joy and source of all goodness in this life and the life to come.
Psalm 14 (& 53)
The fool says in his heart, "There is no God." The fool (v.1) in scripture is one who is morally foolish and corrupt, not mentally deficient. A person of high IQ who heeds not God's revelation as a result lacks understanding and moral direction.
The downward spiral: Rejection of God's love and authority does not make one "neutral." Rather it is a high-handed decision against God motivated at bottom by pride. This is expressed as insistence on the (self-granted) 'freedom' to do as one wishes. This in turn leads to the universal and perennial sinfulness of mankind which brings untold sorrow. There is no one so blind as one who does not want to see. (Reflections on the human cost of atheism here.)
The debate about God's existence and nature is not academic but ultimately a decision of the heart cloaked as a matter of the mind. The debate is also intensely practical having immeasurable outcomes for good or evil. Rejection of God's self-revelation in Christ leaves one without resources for answering the question.
Personal Application: I will passionately seek after God (v.2) to know His heart and ways. I will not ignore the heart in the debate about God, e.g. "what do you have in your heart against God?" Passive or active hostility against God or His people is generally rooted in pain or pride. (It is certainly not that academic and existential questions are invalid, only that they cannot be answered without God's self-revelation in Christ.) I yearn for full and final salvation coming from Zion at Christ's return.
My Prayer: Thank you Father for your promise to be with the righteous (v.5) despite the opposition of those who deny you. Thank you that you are the source of our righteousness in your character and through Christ's finished work on the cross. Lord, give your children godly wisdom as to how to respond to the mocker or any the person who desires there to be no god but themselves.
The God-Centred Person: The person who rightly relates to the Lord benefits from His presence (v.1) and in being held steady (v.5), unshaken in our fallen world, come what may. The psalm focuses on the character of one who walks with God; eleven characteristics which set apart the self-centred person from the God-centred person.
Character: These characteristics do not save us, that is by God's grace, but they reflect God's heart and ways and so glorify Him as we grow to be like Him in sanctification.
Mission: Growing in godliness is also our witness to the world in mission, saying in word and deed, essentially, "this is what the Most High God is like."
Personal Application: I will set my eyes on integrity, righteousness and truth (v.2), honor, goodness and peace (v.3), godly standards, honoring the righteous, keeping promises (v.4), rejecting greed and resisting distorted judgement 'bought' by 'gifts' (v. 5): "He who does these things will never be shaken."
My Prayer: Father, how radically the world would be changed for good if those of all creeds and none would simply focus on these 11 character traits. Thank you for empowering us not only these traits but more in the character and sacrifice of Christ.
Sufficient in Life and Death: In this psalm (which was my father's favourite), David trusts the Lord's presence and provision to be sufficient in life (vs.1-8) and in death (v.9-11). David declares his allegiance to Yahweh alone (v.2-4) who provides amply(5-6), gives right counsel (v.7), holds us firm in in difficulties (v.8) and gives joy to our hearts (v. 9).
Even in death (though David knew not yet of the resurrection of Christ), he was confident he would not be abandoned (v.10) but rather would know joy and pleasure in the Lord's presence (v.11). David like us had struggles leading to wakeful nights (v.7) but in them sought and found the Lord's wisdom and direction.
Personal Application: I will look to the Lord with gratitude and praise and in trust and confidence all the days of my life. I will look to Him rather than to the evil which stalks roundabout. I am confident in His goodness in spite of hardship and opposition. v. 11 You will make known to me the path of life; In your presence is the fullness of joy; In your right hand there are pleasures forever.
My Prayer: Father I want to see you bigger than the evil around me and to focus on your presence and love as the greater and eternal reality.
Psalm 17 is the first of several 'lament' psalms (17, 86, 90, 102, 142). The danger from evil men is not new but also often not fully appreciated by those who take for granted today's police presence, at least for those who do not live in systemically corrupt cultures. Ancient cultures had no police protection as we know it; only the wealthy hired guards or militias. The poor were powerless and defenceless.
God's character is the basis of our confidence: Yahweh's character is such that David is confident God will have a caring ear and the power to act against the wicked (v.9). David therefore asks "hear me (v.6), show your loving-kindness (v.7) keep me, hide me (v.8), deliver me" (v.13).
David does not claim sinlessness (v. 3), only that his case against those who seek him harm (v.11) is just, and asks if judgement comes, that it come from the righteous Lord (v. 2) rather than from sinful man.
Opposition and Ultimate Certainty; As we seek to serve the Lord's redemptive purposes in this life we may be confident both of His care and of opposition from those who reject God and His love for them. Such persons may make life difficult, painful or even take life from us. Even if the wicked do their worst we are confident we will see our righteous Lord when we awake (v.15).
Personal Application: I am the apple of His eye and He will hide me in the shadow of His wings (v.8). I will be at peace in Him. v. 15 As for me, I shall behold Your face in righteousness; I will be satisfied with Your likeness when I awake.
My Prayer: Father, though the wrong seems oft so strong, You are the ruler yet.
We are not autonomous: Yahweh saves those who trust and serve Him. Not only so but God is in fact angry with those who seek harm to those who love and seek Him. The images of this anger (v.7-15) portend judgement.
Some are uncomfortable with God being depicted as cunning (v. 26) but God, though integrally one, responds differently to the heart attitudes of different people (v.25-27).
But we are supremely confident: God enables David with capacities beyond his own ability (v.28-36). Amazing to me also is David's confidence in God's love: "He rescued me because He delighted in me" (v.19) and in the cleanliness of his own heart before the Lord (vs.20-24).
Personal Application: Our lives seek to reflect God's love and rescue mission we can be confident the Lord both cares for us and enables us, even beyond our ability, to be there for others. I will expect more of God again today than I expected of Him yesterday. v.31: For who is God, but Yahweh? And who is a rock except our God.
My Prayer: Father, thank you that you not only give us victory repeatedly but you "enlarge my steps under me (v.36)." Give me a heart to encourage my brothers and sisters. In Jesus name, Amen.
Natural and Special Revelation: God reveals Himself wonderfully through creation (natural revelation; vs.1-6) and His law and word (special revelation; vs.7-9).
Creation: The heavens continually broadcast God's majestic glory, power and intelligence - without words - to all who haven't set their hearts against receiving His revelation.
Scripture: For those who haven't set their hearts against Him, God adds words to restore us and give wisdom (v.7), to bring insight and joy (v.8), truth, purity and righteousness (v.9). His special revelation, adding deeper insight to natural revelation, is infinitely valuable and sweet to the heart (v.10). It brings great reward by keeping us from sins of ignorance and wilfulness (v.11-13) so our relationship with the Lord be unhindered.
My Need: I am in need of His revelation to reveal & root out sin which comes so easily to me. Especially for those seeking to extend His redemptive purpose there can be no greater need or desire.
Personal Application: I will pause when I look at nature to ask myself what I can learn about God through what I am looking at. I will use my 'eyes' (natural and spiritual) to scan, seek out and discern God's revelation of Himself in creation and scripture for the steps of my path.
v.13 "Don't let me do wrong on purpose, Lord, or let sin have control over my life." (NLT)
My Prayer: Father, may I hunger and thirst for you, eagerly scanning creation and revelation for insights into your grace and glory and loving you with all my heart. And (v.14:) Let the words of my mouth, and the meditation of my heart, be acceptable in thy sight, O LORD, my strength, and my redeemer.
Victory is from the Lord: Our God is a prayer answering God worthy of our trust and confidence. Therefore His people pray for victory as King David leads into battle (20:1-5) and express confidence in Godís coming rescue (20:6-8.
We have confidence not in physical strength (v.7) but in the Lord to enable us to stand in Him when those who look to their own strength find that strength inadequate. When the odds are against us, the Lord is for those who trust in Him. v.7 "Some trust in chariots and horses, but we trust in the name of the Lord our God."
Personal Application: When overwhelmed I will be still, turn to Him, pray, expect Him to intervene and celebrate His power and grace.
My Prayer: Father, turn my heart with confidence to You always.
Gratitude for Salvation: In this psalm David returns victorious from battle and receives honor from his people. But greater honor comes from God, who gave David blessings, life, and His presence. David therefore celebrates the grace received as he trusts in Yahweh (v.7) and His victorious strength (v.1). The image of v.3 is one of God virtually confronting David with blessing.
Refuge in the Storm: The root of the Hebrew term for "trust" (v.7) is from the image of refuge, as in trust in the protection of a cave during a storm. From this place of trust and refuge we will not slip or be shaken (v.7), but experience gladness (v.1) and even glory (v.5). All good things God gives as we ask of Him (v.2 & 4) are expressions of His salvation (v.1, 5), not only protection in the storms of life or God's greater grace beyond the grave without evil.
Prayer for All Evil to be Swept Away: Vs.8-12 anticipate a day free of evil men - a desire we share passionately in our day (e.g. www.murraymoerman.com/blog/2015.asp#Strange_and_Immoral_Silence). The flaming furnace of v.9 has long represented hell even before that term came into being.
As long as even a single enemy opposes His grace and glory, Godís kingdom is not fully present. These verses therefore ask victory over all evil in the world. Evil will end when the Most High (v.7) destroys all opposition to Himself. (v.10)
Personal Application: The Lord sustains us in our mission to reflect His character in our broken and often hostile world. So we trust in the mercy of the Lord and rejoice in the face of His sustaining presence. Just as David enjoyed victory not because of his strength or intrinsic goodness but because God honored his faith, so it is with us.
I will pray quickly and always with joy and confidence as I become aware again of my need of the Lord's salvation.
I will live both in the joy of His salvation and in the passionate desire for evil to be swept from the earth.
My Prayer: Lord, thank you for Your strength. Turn my every dark thought quickly to confident prayer and expectation of Your goodness.
The Suffering Servant: This prophetic psalm, describing crucifixion centuries before invented by the Romans (v.14-16; extreme thirst, ultimately asphyxiation, v.15, pain to hands and feet, v.16c), is one of the most quoted in the NT. Jesus cried out the words of v. 1 but details like v. 18 were carried out by men who knew not the psalm.
Hope of Salvation: David speaks prophetically also of the global worship to come (v.27-31). Following extreme affliction David anticipates worship even after death (v. 29). The God in which David has confidence is holy, enthroned upon the praises of His people (v.3) and is the same God trusted by Abraham, Isaac and Jacob (v.4-5). God hears and will rescue, even when we feel Him not.
Personal Application: I've not suffered physically as did David or Jesus. Yet I have felt despair. Overwhelmed with responsibilities, beleaguered by my own weaknesses, frustrated with my own sinful nature I have identified with the anguish of David's psalm.
But as David testifies and Jesus knew as He quoted Psalm 22 at several points from the cross, "Those who seek Him will praise the LORD Yahweh" (v.26). Likewise I have hope in Him. I will not be surprised when I see or experience suffering due to sin. The Lord is with me and with all who look to Him in suffering. I will worship Him who is enthroned on the praises of Israel;, singing or reading a worship song daily.
My Prayer: Father, though we suffer due to sin, all who worship You will be thankful and live in hope. So Lord, break through our sinfulness and bring healing to the nations through Your righteous rule.
David begins by speaking of God (vs.1-3), then to God (vs. 4-5) and ends by celebrating God's goodness forever (v.6).
God as Good Shepherd: the theme of God as provider (v.1-2), guide (v.3), protector (v.4), constant companion and friend leads in the New Testament to the revelation of God as Father. The Good Shepherd's rod (to defend against attackers) and staff (to guide his straying sheep) speaks of two vital roles in our care. In the NT it becomes clear God as Good Shepherd goes so far as to lay down his life for his sheep (John 10:17-18).
God as Gracious Host: God is also generous and hospitable host. He anoints (v.5) and provides refreshment for us as loved and honored guests. Amazingly our enemies can watch but cannot disturb His feast, perhaps prefiguring the final marriage banquet of the Lamb (Rev. 19-22).
Personal Application: Wonderful confidence wells up in those who trust and follow the Good Shepherd. I am cared for, restored and refreshed when weary, protected when attacked, guided back to righteousness when I stray into sin and Satan's snares, and content with the Lord's constant presence and provision. Even more wonderfully, this will always be (v.6).
I will be confident in the Lord always. I will follow Christ as closely as possible, step by step, as he leads me into righteousness and refreshment daily. When in danger and nearing death I will not be afraid, and like a flower to the sun, look to Him alone. v.6: I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.
My Prayer: Father, You loved me first. I love you in return with gratitude. In this joy I am content in You alone and always in the journey, at the banquet table and through the shadow of death. Help me set and keep my eyes on You, unwavering, with each step.
Approaching the God of the Scriptures: How should moderns approach scripture and be impacted by it? Psalm 24 provides an example of how we can respond as David intended, rather than (as some moderns do) requiring something of the psalm which didn't exist at the time. For example:
Creator and Lord: David affirms that God has brought about all that is (v.2) and is therefore owner of all (v.1). These truths are absolute and do not require an 'no-loose-ends' analysis of how and when creation came into being to acknowledge that we belong to God.
Clean Hands and Hearts: As our Creator and Lord we should come to God rightly (v.3-4). The call to right actions (deeds) and motives (heart) in v. 4 does not require exhaustive analysis of how our righteousness and the cross relate in the Old Testament, but simply a pure heart that seeks God's face (v.6) and a grateful acknowledgement that blessing and salvation come from the Lord (v.5).
This King of Glory - Yahweh the commander of the hosts of angels from heaven - is the Lord God Almighty to whom we lift our heads and hearts with joy and celebration (v.7-10)!
Personal Application: Because the world is made and owned by God, the earth is my home and I am at home in it, evil is ultimately an alien presence which will be routed. I will seek and continually desire to look into the face of God whose presence is my hope, comfort and consolation. (v.1: "The earth is the Lord's and everything in it for He founded it...")
I will be confident in the Lord's victory over the evil interloper, who has no right in the world of His creation and ownership, whenever I see evidence of evil's presence.
I will look instead to the face of the Lord and rejoice in His presence and glorious coming to meet us in the place of worship (his holy hill, v.3).
I will thank Him every day for the gift of His salvation (v.5).
My Prayer: Father, thank you that you made the world and own it entirely and perfectly. Thank you that I am at home in your creation and in your goodness. I welcome you, the King of Glory! I lift up my head with joy, LORD God Almighty!
God alone is our hope: He protects, guides, pardons, saves, leads us in truth. Biblical hope is not the expectation that every event will turn out well, but a lifting up our soul to the Lord (v.1) seeking in Him all we need in Him to come through the evils of this world secure in Him. In this sense in God alone we trust. This is not a superficial slogan placed on money too easily confused with the idea that God likes our country more than the country of another. Rather it is a deep dependence on the Lord whatever may come, even as we look to Him for deliverance.
Our need for God is absolute: We are sinful (v.7,11), vulnerable (v.19), ashamed (v.3,20) and - without doubt or question - without Him we perish. So our dependence on the Lord is absolute (v.11). And consequently our delight in the Lord and His salvation is absolute, complete and limitless.
Personal Application: Daily I will trust, call on, wait on, look to and learn from (v.12) the LORD the way I should go. I will set my eyes continually on Him (v.15).
v.1,2: "To You, O Lord, I lift up my soul. O my God, in You I trust." v.6,7: "Remember, O Lord, your compassion and loving-kindness...Do not remember the sins of my youth or my transgressionsÖ (Rather) according to your loving-kindness remember me..."
My Prayer: Father, remember not my sins of the past or present (v.7) but remember me through the sacrifice of Christ. Set my heart at peace in all the journey. Thank you that "all the paths of the LORD are lovingkindness and truth to those who keep His covenant and His testimonies." (v.10).
Yearning for God's Righteousness: God is righteous and calls us to His righteousness which includes moral uprightness and right relationships (reconciliation). Knowing our helplessness (without God's gracious imputed righteousness of the cross) can contribute to thinking there is nothing we can do towards our righteousness. Not so. David knows we can choose righteousness and have a responsibility to do so.
At the same time we cannot be self-righteous in the sense of thinking we have this righteousness in ourselves rather than as a gift from Him who examines us (v.2).
For this reason I will keep the Lord's loving-kindness covenant-keeping faithfulness before my eyes (v.3), knowing He is the source of the righteousness to which I have been called.
Knowing the Lord's heart and character causes me to 1. trust Him, 2. want to be like Him, 3. desirous of His correction.
Separation from Unrighteousness: David knows he has done his part (v.4-5) and seeks to remain separate from the wicked so in the day of judgement he will not be taken with them (v.9). David's desire for physical separation to ensure moral separation has it's necessity and yet cannot be absolute if we are to let our light shine.
Personal Application: I will ask the Lord to examine my mind and heart (v.2). I will stand before Him w/o pretending (v.4), open to, no, desirous of His correction. I will ask:
Lord, show me my pride so I can repent.
Show me where I see myself as better than I am.
Show me where I judge myself on my good intentions rather than by my actual behavior seen more objectively by others.
Show me where I seek to avoid accountability for my shortcomings.
My Prayer: Lord, show me Your heart that I may see what You desire and mine that I may see where I fall short and yearn more deeply to be like You.
My Hope: God is the light on my path, my only defense against temptation and every assault from the evil one, my victory over the challenges which seek to take me down, my ultimate and eternal goal and salvation (v.1). He is my protection against despair (v.13), my safe place in His presence (v.4-5), the lifter of my head (v.6) as confidence replaces fear.
Setting My Face: I seek His face (v.7) and in Him take courage (v.14). Without the Lord, I would lose and be utterly overcome. In Him I have safety and success. My highest priority then is to "seek His face" (v. 8), daily, hourly; lest I loose perspective or hope in the storm of evil in the world around me.
Personal Application: I will give unfailing priority to a morning Quiet Time, to daily prayer with Carol, to listening for You through-out the day (v.14). "Wait for the Lord; be strong and let you heart take courage; yes, wait for the Lord."
My Prayer: Lord, give me a heart that is constant in the crosswinds, cross currents and eddies of life. I look only to You.
There is no lesson in life that is more constantly before me, difficult to learn and implement in the busyness of life and pride of the human heart - and important - above all others.
God hears the cry of His people (v.6), speaks to the oppressed to give them courage (v.1). He returns to the wicked the works of their hands in recompense (v.4).
God provides for His people the strength of a fortress (v.8) and the care of a shepherd (v.9). This vital relationship keeps us from going down to Sheol (v.1).
Without Him, I am hopeless, spiritually if not physically, dead ("like those who go to the pit" v.1). With Him, I am strong in adversity and my heart is full of trust and joy (v.7).
Satan also speaks. While seeking God's voice there remains the possibility of self-deception or even the masquerading of the evil one as an angel of light, I must overcome and discern the voice of the Only True God, my savior and lover of my soul.
Practical Application: I will not only "seek His face" but do so earnestly, desperately, like a drowning man - I must hear His voice and know Him in order to truly live. I will cry Hosanna "save your people" (v.9) with those who trust You alone. "The Lord is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in Him and I am helped; therefore my heart exalts and with my song I shall thank Him." (v.7)
My Prayer: Speak Lord, for Your servant hears and is desperate for Your voice. Save Lord, for evil mounts and we perish without You.
Majesty: The glory of the Lord's splendor and holiness is worthy of worship (v.1-2). God controls and reveals Himself in nature (vs.3-9).
God's Voice Thunders Everywhere: God's voice is everywhere (v.3), it is powerful and majestic (v.4,5,7,8,9); His voice brings joy (v.6) and fear (v.9), the Lord brings strength and peace to His people (v.11). God uses the same unsurpassed strength revealed in nature to care for His people.
It is likely David's psalm was inspired by a mighty thunderstorm arising over the Mediterranean (v.3-4), breaking over the mountains of Lebanon and Sirion (Mt. Hermon) and the length of Canaan (v.5-7), and passing out of sight into the wilderness of Kadesh (v.8-9). "Flames of fire" (v.7) would refer to lightening which "breaks the cedars" (v.5).
Personal Application: God is great and awesome; I am small and powerless. I align myself with the "sons of the mighty" (v.1, which may refer to angels) who speak back to Yahweh (God's proper name is used 18 times) the glory due to his name (v.2). When a thunderstorm rolls through I will sit, watch, enter into a deep awareness of the Lord's presence and wonder. I will ascribe to the Lord glory and strength and worship Him, holy and majestic above all others and above all He has made (v.1-2).
My Prayer: Oh Father, may the earth see your glory, hear your voice, rely on You alone for strength and peace, enter into Your blessing and worship You alone - breathing or shouting - "Glory!" (v.9).
The Salvation of God: David, at the dedication of the building site of the Temple, takes time to reflect on God's goodness and salvation. He recognizes that though he had been presumptuous in his strength (v.6), it was God alone who "made his mountain to stand" (v.7) and who kept him from death (v.9) and Sheol (v.3). [Sheol is the Hebrew term for the place spirits await the day of accountability.]
God's character is displayed in His actions: Yahweh lifted David up from the pit of death and over his enemies (v.1, 3), He healed David (v.2), restored to David a shout of joy after the experience of discipline (v.5), so turning mourning into dancing (v.11). The only possible response of the soul that sees is to sing praise and not be silent (v.12)!
It is the Lord who gives prosperity (v.6) and strength (v.7) and any other marker or achievement; I have no reason for self-congratulation.
It is the Lord who keeps me alive and heals me (v.2-3); without Him I cannot draw my next breath.
It is the Lord who forgives my presumption and sin (v.5); without Him I am without hope.
It is the Lord who overcomes my despair (v.13); without Him I would be overcome. I'm grateful depression doesn't come often, and that in the Lord, I have confidence and a way through to Him.
I will look to the Lord, especially when faced with hours of darkness, and not let my praise be silent (v.12).
I will cry to the Lord for help (v.2) anticipating the "shout of joy" (v.5) which comes in the morning.
My Prayer: Lord, may it be so, that I, when reverses threaten, turn to You in hope and praise and thanksgiving, knowing always that "a shout of praise comes in the morning!" (v.5b) - and ultimately, and gloriously more so, on that "great getting up morning."
Terror on Every Side: Whether there was more 'terror on every side' (v.13) in David's day than ours we may not be able to say, but David knew the stress and it's debilitating effects, physical and spiritual (v.9-10), of the violence (v.21) and conspiracies of man (v.20). So many of God's children, and those who have not recognized Him, have experienced this wounding.
The Stronghold of His Presence: In the midst of sustained danger David asks the Lord to be his stronghold in which to find a safe place. This fortress is ultimately His presence (v.2-3,20). David commits his life into the Lord's hand (v.5) breathing the same words used by Jesus on the cross, (v.15) and expresses trust in Him who alone can save (v.6,14).
Encouraging Others: From this place of confidence in the Lord's goodness (v.19-20), David invites all who love the Lord to be strong, take courage and hope in the Lord (v.23-24). God alone is trustworthy in times of distress (v.21-22), good to those who take refuge in Him (v.19) and our only final source of courage and hope (v.23-24).
Personal Application: Though, by God's mercy alone, my experience has not been as full of imminent violence and evil as were the early years of David (then again when his own son sought his life), my trust in the Lord can be no less, and my prayer and support for the persecuted (v.15) must be all the greater.
When, borne by media reports in the day or spiritual attacks in the night, the oppression of the evil one seeks the response of despair, I will turn first and immediately to sustained worship of the LORD with all my heart. Only thereafter will I turn to rebuke Satan. I will keep the scriptures within arm's reach and read this psalm when pressed in on. I will share this psalm also with His godly ones in similar circumstances (v.23) to encourage their hearts in Him (v.24). Victory is the Lord's!
My Prayer: Father, how often You have delivered me, how often I have forgotten. Forgive me, and strengthen my trust to be constant and to rejoice in You first and always! Is trust to be without fear? Ultimately, yes, and that is where I ask the LORD to take me "in the secret place of His presence."
The Joy of Forgiveness! All humanity searches for happiness. Every time the scripture uses the word "blessed," God shows us the way: How happy is the person who doesn't try to hide his or her sin (no deceit, v.2) but freely confesses where he or she 'misses the mark' and discovers the joy of forgiveness!" David learned this the hard way but wants everyone to benefit from his pain and joy (vs.10-11). For many this is emotionally counter-intuitive, so we hide or deny our sin as long as possible, suffering unhappiness all along. But confession and forgiveness brings forth "shouts of joy" (v.11).
Necessity of Confession: The character of God is simultaneously severe against hidden sin (heavy hand, vitality drained v.4) and full of loving-kindness (v.10) towards those who acknowledge their sin. Those who sin boldly and publicly may find it easier to confess sin than those who are viewed by others or view themselves as righteous. Yet, easy or hard, if I am silent about my sin I will groan within (v.1) without end; far better to surrender my pride and know the joy forgiveness. It is not necessary to confess to the world, but first to the Lord and then to the person we've wronged. If that person can't be reached, confess to a friend or confessor.
Personal Application: I will repent and confess quickly to walk in joy and freedom! I will yearn for a clean spirit without deceit - so confession becomes the positive cleansing that draws me rather than something I resist.
My Prayer: Father, cleanse me of deceit, lies and excuses to justify myself. Show me my sin in the clean light of Your holiness - and my cowardly attempts to hide or defend it - that I may confess, repent and walk in freedom in the joy of Your presence.
Psalm 33 (Other creation psalms include Ps. 8, 19, 104, and 145.)
God is our Creator (v.6-9) and therefore knows our hearts and ways (v.13-15) better than we know ourselves. We are not saved by human strength, horses or armies [our tools and technology] (v.16-17). Rather our hope is in his loving-kindness (v.18, 22) which alone can deliver us. God loves righteousness, justice and loving kindness (v.5). His plans/mission never change (v.11). He sees into the hearts/motivations of men (v.15) and knows who trusts Him (v.18).
Many points in the Old Testament and most of the first 1000 years after Christ often looked dark, as have many points since, but the purposes of God do not change (v.11) and will be accomplished.
God as creator is not first of all about how and when God took the initiative to bring about the universe. God as our creator is important first that we know we are accountable to him as creator and owner of all and depend on him for all. Because of this our trust (v.21) is in Him (not in our circumstances or in ourselves - v.16-17). This confidence brings joy to our hearts (v.1,3,21) and praise to our lips (v.2-3).
Personal Application: I will remind my heart of my reason for joy and praise him daily in song.
My Prayer: Thank you Lord for creating and knowing me so intimately, my very thoughts and motivations. You know when I trust you and when there is joy in my heart and when my heart lacks either. Let me see You more clearly as You see me. Let me be less impressed with the imagined finality of what is going on around me. Rather I will look to You who has all in Your hands, are unchanging in your purposes and have the final Word (v.11).
Rejoicing in God our Refuge: David celebrates the Lord's salvation after his release from near certain death (1 Sam 21:10-15). David - afflicted (v.19) by Saul and Achish (the Abimelech, i.e. king of the region) - had cried out to the Lord, knowing himself to be "poor" (i.e. without the means to deliver himself, v.6), and the Lord gave David the strategy used to deliver him.
As we run to the Lord for refugee (v.8,22), we are not condemned but redeemed (v.22), His angel is near to rescue (v.7) and we "taste and see that the Lord is good (v.8)!
Pursuing God our Refuge: We also, of course, have a vital part to play in seeing God's goodness throughout our length of days. David calls us to fear (i.e. reverence) the Lord (v.11), keep our words from any taint of deceit and from speaking evil of others (v.13). Further we pursue the God of our refuge as we "depart from evil and do good, seek peace and pursue it" (v.14).
Courage is not the absence of fear but the determination to do right.
Evil itself destroys those who do evil (v.21), showing that justice is built into God's moral universe. In this truth we receive both warning against doing the evil we condemn (Romans 2) and peace, knowing justice is assured.
Personal Application: I will bless the Lord at all times (v.1). I will remain optimistic in outlook knowing God is good (v.8) and my refuge; redeeming the souls of those taking refugee in Him (v.22).
My Prayer: Father, you are good and I rejoice in you, my refuge and hope. Thank you Lord for being incarnate in this broken world; being near the brokenhearted and saving the crushed in spirit (v.18). Fill my mouth with your praise (v.1)!
Seeking Justice from God rather than Man: David is confident, though Saul and others pursue him unjustly, God is just and can be called on for justice. David therefore seeks God for justice, but himself uses no force to obtain it. (Cf. David's challenge to Saul in I Sam. 24:15.)
David's grief over his Enemies: David grieves because those who choose to be his enemies have no reason to (v.19). In fact, when they were sick, he grieved for them (v.13-14) but when David was in need (stumbled) they rejoiced (v.15), repaying evil for good (v.12). How painful this change, adding to David's sense of injustice.
Turning to the Lord: What then? David looks to Him who "delivers the afflicted from those who are too strong for him" (v.10). David asks also, rather then be judged wrongfully by his enemies, to be judged in righteousness by God (v.24).
Personal Application: Prayer and patience, while appealing my cause, is the essence of trust in God. At the same time I need to admit that while I am sometimes sinned against without cause and feel great indignation, I too have sinned against God, others and myself. I too have been unjust and need to see myself rightly. Therefore I will call to God for justice rather than taking it in my own hands. God is just and is the one from whom I may seek justice.
My Prayer: Lord, may justice and righteousness be Your throne. May Your Kingdom come fully and quickly and with great Glory! Father, give me the courage to be like You; even to repay evil with good. How difficult it is to have patience and not enter into judgment and justice myself where I have the power.
"Do not let those who are wrongfully my enemies rejoice over me." (v.19) Father, say to my soul: "I am your salvation." (v.3), "Lord, who is like You, who delivers the afflicted from him who is too strong for him." (v.10)
Psalm 36 (A wonderful expansion of Ps. 1: what an amazing, compelling, glorious contrast! Hardly noticed this psalm before, suddenly one of my favorite psalms!)
Satan's call: David, like us all, has had the experience of sin speaking into his heart (v.1). By this means Satan lies, flatters, says our sin isn't so bad, won't be found and God is not to be feared (v.1-2). The result is we cease to despise sin and even plan the wrong we do (v.4).
Who is the God who saves? Into our hearts comes the God who is loving-kindness, faithful (v.5), righteous, decides rightly (v.6), preserves, is our refuge (v.7), source of life, light (v.9), and abundant delight (v.8)! The contrast between Satan's lies seeking entry into our hearts (v.1-4) and God's glorious, saving character is so vast it's hard to imagine why we would need to be reminded to draw near to the Lord. But David knows the fickleness of the human heart and our inability to do even the right we want to do, so asks the Lord to stay near to help against evil (v.10-12).
The Role of Leadership: David central role is "Servant of the Lord" (heading, cf. 2 Sam. 3:18; 7:5,8). The role of civic leadership, as in Isaiah's Servant Songs, is first to be accountable to please God our Father, then like Jesus, to serve, even to the point of suffering, the nation as a whole and God's wandering sheep in it.
Personal Application: I will discern, reject and turn my back on transgression's voice (v.1) every time immediately. I will turn instead to praise in the Light Him who made the Light, walk and point to Him who is the Light. I will meditate on the character of Him who saves. v.9 "With You is the fountain of life; In Your Light we see light."
My Prayer: I rejoice in the Lord! What would the world be without You? Father, "Pour out your unfailing love on those who love you; give justice to those with honest hearts." (v.10).
Jot on a piece of paper two headings: "the wicked" and "the righteous" and jot characteristics of each from this psalm in the appropriate column. What is the Lord saying to you?
No Greater Contrast: many people search for a moral "middle ground" which, in scripture, cannot be found because it does not exist. The contrast between those utterly dependent on the Lord and those choosing their own way could not be greater and extends even more starkly into eternity. Our choices could not be clearer. The narrow gate (Matt 7:13-14) presents challenges but leads to life.
The Goodness of the Lord: It amazes me that the Lord delights in my progress (v.23); yet as a parent this rings true and I delight in the security of the Lord's same desire for me. There is also security in His promise to sustain (v.17), hold my hand (v.24), supply my needs (v.25), and keep me from slipping (v.31).
Personal Application: I am (not to borrow but (v.21, 26) lend, give, be gracious and a blessing to all. I am also in the Lord one who utters wisdom, speaks justice and whose step does not slip because the law of God is on my heart (v.30-31). I will be patient though the wicked grow in power and wealth. I will be satisfied, follow His path, and look to the Lord.
My Prayer: Lord, I delight myself in You knowing You give the desires of my heart (v.4) and will be my inheritance forever (v.18).
The trajectory of sin is death. Sin produces loss of health (v.3), the sense of being burdened (v.6) and loss of 'light in the eyes' (v.10) due to loss of joy and hope (v. 11). Sin results also in the aloofness of friends (v.11) and emboldening of enemies (v.12) and produces loneliness (v.13f) sorrow (v.17) and anxiety (18) to the point of despair. The end of unconfessed sin is death.
There is only One solution. David cries out to the Lord (v.1,9,15) who alone is his and our salvation (v.22); the only One who can save him and us. David's cry asks the Lord to remember and not forsake him (title and v.21) in the place sin has taken him; to forgive and to save (v.22).
We need not ask what David's sin was. It is likely something other than that spoken of against Uriah and Bathsheba (in Ps. 51). What David's sin was is not the point. Rather the point is that my sin also wounds me like arrows (v.2), crushes me like a great weight (v.2,4,6,8); against the consequences of which I have no defense (v.14).
We run from sin for these reasons and, more importantly, because the Lord graciously forgives when we confess and turn from our sin, releasing us from final condemnation. Even so, some practical consequences ('wounds,' v.5) of our sin can remain throughout our lifetime (e.g. regret, divorce, compromised physical health etc.).
Practical Application: When I sin I will not defend myself (to myself, the Lord, or those around myself) but confess quickly, running rather to the Lord for salvation (v.22).
My Prayer: "Make haste to help me, O Lord, my salvation!" (v.22) Father, make me quick to confess and repent always. And Lord, make me even quicker - at the speed of thought - to turn from temptation, reject it and turn to "whatsoever is pure, righteous..." (Phil 4:8), immediately.
David's frustration with the brevity of life (v.1-2) builds till he can hold it in no longer (v.3): there is no point in amassing wealth or stirring oneself up about things that don't last (v.6). We don't even know how long we will live (v.4), only that we are sojourners like our fathers (v.12) and will die (v.4).
We do know however that God is eternal and has put eternity into our soul, therefore in Him alone is our hope (v.7). We yearn and work and wait for Him alone.
Avoiding the Ditches: Living in the view of eternity is one of the great challenges of life. People err on either side; some don't see life's full value and waste it, a smaller number are paralyzed by the brevity of life and can't make the decisions needed to make the most of it.
Personal Application: I have very little time in which to accomplish my mission. My days are few, my life a breath (v.5). Therefore I will not make an uproar about things that mean nothing in the end (e.g. was I slighted) or amass riches (v.6) but rather devote limited resources in a focused way on that which is of eternal worth (e.g. loving God and people).
I will ask daily: "What Lord, is of eternal importance today?" I will wait for the Lord alone. I will hope in the Lord alone.
My Prayer: Jesus, enable me to see and do what lasts, cultivating fruit for eternity. Father, help me waste no time but to give my best time waiting on You who directs my steps wisely and fruitfully.
Our Experience of Desperation: Both sin of our own doing and circumstances beyond our control (v.12,17) result in the sense of being surrounded (v12), struck or imprisoned; in fact on the verge of destruction (v.1) causing all courage and hope to fail (v.12d). David calls on the Lord to deliver quickly before he is irrevocably overwhelmed (v.12, 17).
David's Knowledge of the Character of God: David has preached God's character to his people (v.9-10) as the source of faithfulness, salvation, loving kindness, truth, compassion (v.10-11).
It is this God who hears his and my cry, lifts me from bondage, sets me on a rock, fills my heart with joy (v.1-3). It is this God who seeks not mere physical sacrifice (v.6) but the simple full devotion of our hearts (v.7).
This truth David declares wholeheartedly, with joy and expectation of deliverance.
God in our Everyday life and in our Extremity: We seek the Lord not only in crisis, but continually (v.16). We love the Lord and His salvation and rejoice in Him saying "The Lord be magnified."
May I help others also see, reverence and trust the Lord (v.3). May I help others avoid the trap of self-sufficiency and, with me, of trust in what is not worthy of trust, proving to be false in time of need (v.4).
Personal Application: I will avoid sin leading to a pit of destruction (v.2). I will delight to do His will (v.8). I will turn and call quickly when I feel my feet touching quicksand (v.13). I will prepare to carry 3 tracts in local language to share.
My Prayer: Lord, "let all who seek You, rejoice and be glad in You; let those who love Your salvation say continually, "The Lord be magnified!" (v.16). Let me be among this company always, in this life and the next.
Call to Compassion: David calls worshippers to consider the helpless for the Lord loves the poor and needy and blesses - in a wonderful array of ways [e.g. protect, deliver, sustain, restore health, honor - those who care for them (v.1-3).
As I consider where best to help, I see the poor, weak, sick, discouraged, unevangelized and those for whom no one prays - all around me. Verse 1 calls me to give priority, among all these, to the most helpless among them.
David's Illness: While sick and helpless David had a visitor (v.6) who not only didn't try to help but seemed to hope David would die, possibly as punishment for a sin (v.8) which David had also considered. David sought the Lord both to forgive him (v.4) and to confound his enemies by raising him up (v.10). The greatest blessing David sought however, is the Lord himself and to be in his presence forever (v.12).
When I sin too, I wound my own soul so that it requires healing (v.4) and those around me; my sin can cause my own illness - sin afflicts body and soul, society and more.
Personal Application: I look to the Lord to raise me up and, as he does, to give me gratitude and greater compassion for those who are sick and helpless, poor or oppressed. I will be conscious of the most helpless around me, near and far; I will see them as humans like me, with the same needs and feelings - and help! I will try to help someone near and someone far each day. I seek the Lord's presence (v.12) to sustain and empower me in this, and in all of life and eternity.
My Prayer: Lord, break my self centeredness, let grace and mercy flow in a mighty stream to those around me, especially the needy and most helpless.
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