Abandoning the Fear of God

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Reading: Psalm 76
For the director of music. With stringed instruments.
A psalm of Asaph. A song.
God is renowned in Judah; in Israel his name is great.
His tent is in Salem, his dwelling place in Zion.
There he broke the flashing arrows,
the shields and the swords, the weapons of war.
You are radiant with light,
more majestic than mountains rich with game.
The valiant lie plundered, they sleep their last sleep;
not one of the warriors can lift his hands.
At your rebuke, God of Jacob,
both horse and chariot lie still.
It is you alone who are to be feared.
Who can stand before you when you are angry?
From heaven you pronounced judgment,
and the land feared and was quiet—
when you, God, rose up to judge,
to save all the afflicted of the land.
Surely your wrath against mankind brings you praise,
and the survivors of your wrath are restrained.
Make vows to the LORD your God and fulfill them;
let all the neighboring lands bring gifts to the One to be feared.
He breaks the spirit of rulers; he is feared by the kings of the earth
(NIV).*

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Leaf strewn beach — photo by David Kitz

Reflection
Has the church abandoned the fear of God? Has our messaging focused so exclusively on the God of love and forgiveness that the very idea of cringing in fear before God is a completely foreign to us? In more general terms is fear a bad thing—an emotion we should always avoid? Is there something wrong with our relationship with God if we fear Him? 

First we need to acknowledge that fear can have both good and bad consequences. A healthy fear of a sharp blade will keep me from sticking my hands under the deck of a running lawnmower. There is wisdom and there is safety in that kind of fear. But the constant fear of a violent, abusive spouse can be devastating to a person’s health and happiness. In brief, fear is essential for self-preservation, but too much of it has terrible consequences. It has a crippling effect by producing paralysis of the human spirit.

A complete lack of fear can have terrible consequences too. I still have both my hands because of a healthy fear of whirling blades. We all need a healthy fear of God. The psalmist states, It is you alone who are to be feared.”

Jesus essentially said the same thing. “Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell” (Matthew 10:28).  

Response: LORD God, you are the One I need to fear. Give me a healthy dose of fear. I want to love and fear you, so that I will walk in full obedience to your commands. Amen.

Your Turn: Is there a place for both love and healthy fear in your relationship with God?

* New International Version, Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica

Some good news: The first volume of 365 Days through the Psalms by award-winning author David Kitz will be published in November, 2020, by Elk Lake Publishing. Two additional volumes will follow in 2021 to complete the three volume set of devotions from the Psalms.

God’s Name—a Meaningless Expression?

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Reading: Psalm 75
For the director of music. To the tune of “Do Not Destroy.” A psalm of Asaph. A song.
We praise you, God, we praise you, for your Name is near;
people tell of your wonderful deeds.
You say, “I choose the appointed time;
it is I who judge with equity.
When the earth and all its people quake,
it is I who hold its pillars firm.
To the arrogant I say, ‘Boast no more,’
and to the wicked, ‘Do not lift up your horns.
Do not lift your horns against heaven;
do not speak so defiantly.’”
No one from the east or the west
or from the desert can exalt themselves.
It is God who judges: He brings one down, he exalts another.
In the hand of the Lord is a cup
full of foaming wine mixed with spices;
he pours it out, and all the wicked of the earth
drink it down to its very dregs.
As for me, I will declare this forever;
I will sing praise to the God of Jacob,
who says, “I will cut off the horns of all the wicked,
but the horns of the righteous will be lifted up”
(NIV).*

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Autumn morning mist — photo by David Kitz

Reflection
I find the opening verse of this psalm to be very thought-provoking. Let’s take a moment to consider it: We praise you, God, we praise you, for your Name is near; people tell of your wonderful deeds.

Ask yourself how many, “Oh my G*ds!” do you hear in a day? How many “OMGs” do you see posted on Facebook? I dare say quite a few. Are these exclamations expressed in praise to God? Of course not. They are meaningless expressions of surprise—or are they?

They are meaningless expressions to those that believe this command from the LORD is a meaningless expression. “You shall not misuse the name of the LORD your God, for the LORD will not hold anyone guiltless who misuses his name” (Exodus 20:7, NIV).

The Common English Bible translates this command with these words, “Do not use the LORD your God’s name as if it were of no significance; the LORD won’t forgive anyone who uses his name that way” (Exodus 20:7, CEB).

God’s commands are not meaningless expressions. There is power in the name of the LORD (Yahweh). Perhaps we need this reminder. It is God who judges: He brings one down, he exalts another.

Response: LORD God, I want to treat your Name with the respect and honor it deserves. Please forgive me if I have misused your name in any way. I pray in the powerful name of Jesus. Amen.

Your Turn: Why do you think the LORD (Yahweh) makes a big deal about His name? Why is it important?

* New International Version, Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica

Some good news: The first volume of 365 Days through the Psalms by award-winning author David Kitz will be published in November, 2020, by Elk Lake Publishing. Two additional volumes will follow in 2021 to complete the three volume set of devotions from the Psalms.

Tossing Away the Wisdom of the Ages

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Reading: Psalm 74
(Verses 18-23)
Remember how the enemy has mocked you, LORD,
how foolish people have reviled your name.
Do not hand over the life of your dove to wild beasts;
do not forget the lives of your afflicted people forever.
Have regard for your covenant,
because haunts of violence fill the dark places of the land.
Do not let the oppressed retreat in disgrace;
may the poor and needy praise your name.
Rise up, O God,
and defend your cause;
remember how fools mock you all day long.
Do not ignore the clamor of your adversaries,
the uproar of your enemies,
which rises continually (NIV).*

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Early morning mist on the Ottawa River — Photo by David Kitz

Reflection
Psalm 74 was born in a time of disaster and distress. The enemies of the people of God had triumphed. The sanctuary had been destroyed and God was openly mocked. If the LORD was all powerful, why didn’t He prevent this disaster? Why didn’t He shelter His people from this violent storm? There are no quick easy answers to such questions.

Today many of God’s people are living the reality of Psalm 74. Throughout the Middle East, the birth-place of Christianity, churches have been destroyed. Young Christian men have been martyred. Women and girls have been raped and sold into slavery. The pleas expressed in this psalm are an urgent reality. Do not hand over the life of your dove to wild beasts; do not forget the lives of your afflicted people forever.

But we need not live in a land ravaged by jihadists to feel the sting of the LORD’s enemies. Daily at our universities and through various media the Christian faith is mocked. Believers are treated as imbeciles and those who stand for righteousness are ridiculed. We are not being thrown to the lions, but the wisdom of the ages is being tossed on the dung heap, so the godless can pursue their sin without the voice of conscience nattering in the background.

Over all this dissonance the voice of the psalmist—the voice of the martyr—the voice of the believer—cries out: Rise up, O God, and defend your cause; remember how fools mock you all day long. Do not ignore the clamor of your adversaries, the uproar of your enemies, which rises continually.

The help of man, though it has value, falls short. We need the help of God. The whispered voice of God has more power than the most eloquent spokesman. Know this child of God: The day will come. The LORD will arise.

Response: LORD God, defend the helpless. Arise and save your people here in our nation and abroad. Show yourself strong by turning back the enemies of the cross. Our hope is in you. Amen.

Your Turn: Are you confident that God will arise and defend His people? Why is our hope in Him secure?

* New International Version, Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica

Some good news: The first volume of 365 Days through the Psalms by award-winning author David Kitz will be published in November, 2020, by Elk Lake Publishing. Two additional volumes will follow in 2021 to complete the three volume set of devotions from the Psalms.

Watching for Signs

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Reading: Psalm 74
(Verses 9-17)
We are given no signs from God;
no prophets are left,
and none of us knows how long this will be.
How long will the enemy mock you, God?
Will the foe revile your name forever?
Why do you hold back your hand, your right hand?
Take it from the folds of your garment and destroy them!
But God is my King from long ago;
he brings salvation on the earth.
It was you who split open the sea by your power;
you broke the heads of the monster in the waters.
It was you who crushed the heads of Leviathan
and gave it as food to the creatures of the desert.
It was you who opened up springs and streams;
you dried up the ever-flowing rivers.
The day is yours, and yours also the night;
you established the sun and moon.
It was you who set all the boundaries of the earth;
you made both summer and winter
(NIV).*

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Petrie Island marsh — photo by David Kitz

Reflection
Do you watch for road signs? I’m inclined to say yes, of course I do. But if I am traveling through a familiar neighborhood or to a familiar location, I pay very little attention to road signs. After all, I know where I am going and how to get there. But put me in unfamiliar territory without a GPS, and the situation changes dramatically. I am hunting for road signs like a hungry, sharp-eyed hawk hunts for field mice. Every sign is spotted well in advance; the details are read and repeated to cement them into my memory. Landmarks and the appearance of the terrain are memorized for future reference. I do all this because I don’t like being lost.

In our reading from Psalm 74, the psalmist finds himself in unfamiliar territory. The nation has been invaded and the enemy has desecrated the temple. This is an enormous loss. But beyond the loss, there appears to be no way forward. The psalmist laments, We are given no signs from God; no prophets are left, and none of us knows how long this will be. How long will the enemy mock you, God?”

When I am lost, I watch for signs. But in this situation God gave no signs. After the psalmist pours out his complaint before God, he does not stay there. He goes on to recall the miraculous works of God. He reminds God of His interventions into the affairs of humankind. He makes this bold personal declaration, “But God is my King from long ago; he brings salvation on the earth.”

As we pray for our nation, we would do well to pattern our prayers on Psalm 74.

Response: LORD God, you see the sins of our nation. Bring us back to you. You are the Almighty God. You do not change. Bring your salvation on the earth even as you did long ago. You are my King. Amen.

Your Turn: Is it helpful to recall God’s mighty deeds in your life? Will our nation return to God?

* New International Version, Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica

Some good news: The first volume of 365 Days through the Psalms by award-winning author David Kitz will be published in November, 2020, by Elk Lake Publishing. Two additional volumes will follow in 2021 to complete the three volume set of devotions from the Psalms.

Heart Issues

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In the introduction to 365 Days through the Psalms, which will be released about a month from now, I make this statement, “Whatever state you find yourself in, there’s a psalm for that—a psalm for every situation and human need.”

When you make statements like that you can expect your words to be put to the test. And they have!

This summer on July 16th, I collapsed on the floor of my study, and was rushed to hospital by ambulance. On July 24th, I had open-heart valve repair surgery. Three of my heart’s four valves needed repair.

The recovery process has been long, slow and painful, but it’s now apparent the worst is behind me.

What have I learned during that time? It can be summarized in the verse pictured below. Psalm 73_26 (4)

When your flesh and your heart fail, is God there to receive you—to strengthen you?

From personal experience, I can now say, “Yes, He is. God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.”

This verse from the Psalms speaks of resilience—a resilience that comes from a relationship with God. He is after all the God of resurrection and restoration. It’s this heaven-born resilience that we all need during these trying times of economic woes and pandemic setbacks.

My collapse this summer came as a shock, but it wasn’t totally unexpected. For my entire adult life, I was aware that I had heart issues. At age seventeen in preparation for college entrance, I was diagnosed with a barely perceptible heart murmur, technically called a mitral valve prolapse. None of this hindered my involvement in sports or fitness activities. In fact, later in life, my cardiologist encouraged me to stay active and go jogging.

I largely followed that advice. In the months and days before my collapse, I was averaging 10,000 steps per day on a weekly basis. The day before my first fainting spell I did 41 pushups extending myself out from the seat of a chair. Not too shabby for a 68 year-old man.

Suddenly, despite superior fitness, my flesh and my heart failed me. Did my heart fail me during an exercise routine? No. I collapsed while sitting at my desk staring at a computer screen. Apparently, sudden reversals like this are common for people with heart valve disfunctions.

The road to recovery has been hard on this old body—despite my recovery being aided by overall fitness before my collapse.

When your heart and flesh fail God is free to step in. You have nothing left. The reserve you need doesn’t come from within. It comes directly from Him. “Underneath are the everlasting arms.” See Deuteronomy 33:26-28.

Heart issues are best left in His hands.

Psalm 73_26