God Will Never Forget the Needy

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I will praise Him!
He is a Father to the fatherless.

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The close of day — photo by David Kitz

The nations have fallen into the pit they have dug;
    their feet are caught in the net they have hidden.
The LORD is known by his acts of justice;
    the wicked are ensnared by the work of their hands.
The wicked go down to the realm of the dead,
    all the nations that forget God.
But God will never forget the needy;
    the hope of the afflicted will never perish.

(Psalm 9:15-18, NIV)

Be Careful What You Pray

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Reading: Psalm 78
(Verses 23-31)
Yet he gave a command to the skies above
and opened the doors of the heavens;
he rained down manna for the people to eat,
he gave them the grain of heaven.
Human beings ate the bread of angels;
he sent them all the food they could eat.
He let loose the east wind from the heavens
and by his power made the south wind blow.
He rained meat down on them like dust,
birds like sand on the seashore.
He made them come down inside their camp,
all around their tents.
They ate till they were gorged—
he had given them what they craved.
But before they turned from what they craved,
even while the food was still in their mouths,
God’s anger rose against them;
he put to death the sturdiest among them,
cutting down the young men of Israel
(NIV).

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The rotunda of the Saskatchewan Legislature — photo by David Kitz

Reflection
Several years ago I received some wise counsel from a pastor. He said, “Be careful what you pray for. You may get what you want. And that’s not always a good thing.”

What happens when we get exactly what we want? For the answer to that question we should consult with million-dollar lottery winners. Obviously, they got what they wanted when they bought their lottery ticket. Sociologists who do long-term studies on lottery winners will tell you that in some cases winning the “big one” ends in disaster. Some people have managed to fritter away millions in a perpetual party lifestyle that leaves them physically broken and bankrupt in less than five years. Others have maintained their wealth and their health, but they have become socially isolated with family relationships in ruins. Getting what we want and more than we need doesn’t always end well.

In today’s reading from Psalm 78, we learn that despite Israel’s rebellious ways, God gave the people exactly what they wanted and more than they needed. Human beings ate the bread of angels; he sent them all the food they could eat. 

The greatest temptation we face may not be denying God in the face of poverty, but rather neglecting Him in the midst of wealth. When God gives us the wealth we want, the end result may be the impoverishment of our spirit. Be careful what you pray.

Response: LORD God, help me to find my contentment in you and not in the abundance of my possessions. If your blessings come, help me to be a wise and generous manager that seeks first the Kingdom of God. Amen.

Your Turn: Have your answered prayers led to regrets later on?

Do you have grown-up faith or childlike faith?

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Reading: Psalm 78
(Verses 17-22)
But they continued to sin against him,
rebelling in the wilderness against the Most High.
They willfully put God to the test
by demanding the food they craved.
They spoke against God;
they said, “Can God really
spread a table in the wilderness?
True, he struck the rock,
and water gushed out,
streams flowed abundantly,
but can he also give us bread?
Can he supply meat for his people?”
When the Lord heard them, he was furious;
his fire broke out against Jacob,
and his wrath rose against Israel,
for they did not believe in God
or trust in his deliverance
(NIV).

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Rideau Falls — photo by David Kitz

Reflection
Psalm 78 is largely an indictment against the people of Israel for their lack of faith and their rebellious ways. As the psalmist says, “They willfully put God to the test.”

As a child I recall reading the entire book of Exodus and thinking to myself, “Wow, these people sure are dumb. How could they see God’s amazing miracles and then a few days later grumble, complain and doubt that the LORD would help them? These people are real losers!”

Then I grew up and had a family of my own. At times I saw amazing miracles and God’s supernatural provision. But guess what? When the next big difficulty arose, I found myself doubting that God would come through. I complained about the difficulty I was in and acted just like the people of Israel in the wilderness.

Oops! I thought I was different. I thought I was smarter than those spiritual dullards in the Old Testament. In reality my grownup faith was much weaker than my childhood faith. When real testing and temptation came, I was and still am, as susceptible to unbelief as any of the wandering Israelites in the wilderness. Faith is a gift from God—a wonder-filled gift that carries us through the hard times.

The indictment against Israel is that they did not believe in God or trust in his deliverance. Do I truly believe in God and trust in his deliverance? Is my faith more than a creedal statement? Does it have legs and wings to carry me through the toughest situation? Often I am more like the rebellious children of Israel than I would like to admit. How about you?

Response: LORD God, I humbly ask you for the gift of faith—faith to sustain me through the tough times ahead. You are my help, my salvation and my deliverer. I praise you for your faithfulness. Amen.

Your Turn: Do you have grown-up faith or childlike faith? Which is better?

A Review Worth Repeating

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Much thanks to west coast writer Violet Nesdoly for the following review of Psalms Alive! 

In Psalms Alive! author, pastor, and dramatist David Kitz takes us on a journey through thirteen selected psalms. In the Preface Kitz explains why he wrote the book:

“For the past number of years I have been bringing the Psalms to life for audiences through the medium of live drama. Here now in book form, from a dramatist’s perspective I provide a glimpse into the prayers and praise of the psalmists.”

Each of the book’s 26 chapters begins with the quoted scripture passage under discussion. This is followed by Kitz expanding on it in a variety of ways that include personal stories, explanations of biblical customs and settings, devotional inspiration, and a challenge to apply the scripture’s advice to life. Each chapter ends with a “Bringing Life to the Psalms” section consisting of three to four discussion and personal application questions.

Kitz’s writing is lively, picturesque, and wise. He expands liberally on the ideas presented in the Bible passage. He doesn’t leaves us in the theoretical clouds though, but makes sure his conclusions connect to everyday living. My book is full of underlined sections. Here are a few of my favourite quotes:

From the Preface: “When we handle the Word of God, we are handling life. When we take hold of the Word of God, it takes hold of us” – P. 17.

From a chapter on Psalm 19: “Your heavenly Father does not need a stethoscope to check on the condition of your heart; he needs only to listen to the words coming out of your mouth” – P. 43.

From a chapter on Psalm 103: “Relationship is always the wellspring of all revelation. It is while we are in God’s presence that we discover the mind of Christ” – P. 149.

I used this book, along with others in an online creative Bible study and found much inspiration in it for Bible art journaling. It has deepened and broadened my appreciation of the psalms discussed. It would make an excellent textbook (along with the Bible, of course) for a men’s or women’s Bible study.

For further information on this 240 page book, visit https://davidkitz.ca/psalms.php.

For information on the direct book purchase from the author, click here.

For purchase from Amazon click here.

For information on a live dramatization of the Psalms visit
https://davidkitz.ca/psalms.php.

There is no liberation like the liberation of full and free forgiveness. — David Kitz 

 

Are You Turning Back on the Day of Battle?

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Reading: Psalm 78
(Verses 9-16)
The men of Ephraim, though armed with bows,
turned back on the day of battle;
they did not keep God’s covenant
and refused to live by his law.
They forgot what he had done,
the wonders he had shown them.
He did miracles in the sight of their ancestors
in the land of Egypt, in the region of Zoan.
He divided the sea and led them through;
he made the water stand up like a wall.
He guided them with the cloud by day
and with light from the fire all night.
He split the rocks in the wilderness
and gave them water as abundant as the seas;
he brought streams out of a rocky crag
and made water flow down like rivers
(NIV).

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Gatineau Park lookout bench — photo by David Kitz

Reflection
Today’s reading from Psalm 78 discusses the cowardly behavior of the men of Ephraim. Though they were well-armed, they turned back on the day of battle. There are numerous instances in the annals of war, when a superior force was overwhelmed by fighters who were fewer in number, poorly equipped or both. Why does that happen?

Undoubtedly, armchair generals can provide a list of reasons for the poor performance of “superior forces” in a variety of historic battles. In every instance, the psychology or spirit of the troops is a contributing factor to their success or failure in war. In the case of the men of Ephraim, the psalmist tells us they did not keep God’s covenant and refused to live by his law. They forgot what he had done, the wonders he had shown them. How could this forgetfulness lead to defeat in battle?

Actually, Christian men are daily defeated in battle because they refuse to live by God’s commands and they forget that God is all-powerful. Soldiers who do not obey orders can’t be counted on in the day of battle. An army that knows its proud history is likely to rise to the occasion, rather than slink off in retreat. It has often been said that past performance is the best predictor of future results.

In the daily battles of life, how are you performing? Are you keeping God’s covenant and obeying the orders of Jesus, our commander-in-chief? Do you realize He is victorious over death, hell and the grave? He’s no third-class wimp. Compared to our Lord, Satan is the second-class wimp, and when you come under the Lord’s command you are on the winning side; so live like it and act like it. He is the miracle worker. Today, the first miracle He is working on is the transformation of your life and mine. Are you up for the challenge, or like the men of Ephraim will you turn back on the day of battle?

Response: LORD God, today I accept the challenge to follow you with all my mind, heart, soul and strength. Give me ears to hear and obey your commands. I pray in Jesus’ all-powerful name. Amen.

Your Turn: Why is daily obedience so crucial to the advancement of the kingdom of God?

Are We Listening for God?

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Reading: Psalm 78
A maskil of Asaph.
(Verses 1-8)
My people, hear my teaching;
listen to the words of my mouth.
I will open my mouth with a parable;
I will utter hidden things, things from of old—
things we have heard and known,
things our ancestors have told us.
We will not hide them from their descendants;
we will tell the next generation the praiseworthy deeds of the L
ORD,
his power, and the wonders he has done.
He decreed statutes for Jacob and established the law in Israel,
which he commanded our ancestors to teach their children,
so the next generation would know them,
even the children yet to be born,
and they in turn would tell their children.
Then they would put their trust in God
and would not forget his deeds but would keep his commands.
They would not be like their ancestors—
a stubborn and rebellious generation,
whose hearts were not loyal to God,
whose spirits were not faithful to him
(NIV).

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Crabapple blossoms — photo by David Kitz

Reflection
Psalm 78 begins with a simple imperative statement: My people, hear my teaching; listen to the words of my mouth. 

Hearing and listening are very simple commands. There is nothing particularly difficult about hearing or listening. But…but it seems most of humanity’s problems stem from not hearing or listening. Most marital breakdowns come as a result of a refusal to listen to one another. Intergenerational conflict results from a breakdown in communication. One party may be speaking, but the other party isn’t listening. Even on the international stage, when nations refuse to talk to one another, the next step is usually war.

Why do we stop listening or hearing? Is it because we don’t like what the other person is saying? How does that affect our relationship with God? Have we stopped listening to His voice because we don’t like what He says? Have we stopped listening to the voice of our conscience? Good listening starts with listening to the LORD. When our children stop listening to us we have a problem. Have we in turn listened to them? Telling the next generation the praiseworthy deeds of the LORD starts with us hearing and really listening to God. Our children are so very important to us. But it all starts with the LORD. He has something to say to you today. Are you listening?

Response: LORD God, today give me ears to hear what your Spirit is saying to me. I want a listening heart. Help me to really hear the others in my family and workplace. Thanks for listening to me. Amen.

Your Turn: At times I have not listened to God. How about you? How do we change?

Through Hell and High Water

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Reading: Psalm 77
(Verses 16-20)
The waters saw you, God,
the waters saw you and writhed;
the very depths were convulsed.
The clouds poured down water,
the heavens resounded with thunder;
your arrows flashed back and forth.
Your thunder was heard in the whirlwind,
your lightning lit up the world;
the earth trembled and quaked.
Your path led through the sea,
your way through the mighty waters,
though your footprints were not seen.
You led your people like a flock
by the hand of Moses and Aaron
(NIV).

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Forest grandeur — photo by David Kitz

Reflection
Psalm 77 began with the psalmist in a state of anguish approaching despair. He was filled with questions for the LORD—questions but no answers. This was followed by the psalmist’s decision to recall the miracle-working power of the LORD. He reflects on Israel’s release from bondage in Egypt and in today’s reading he describes their escape through the Red Sea. Your path led through the sea, your way through the mighty waters, though your footprints were not seen.

Sometimes life will bring us to difficult or even impossible situations. We can see no way forward and it’s impossible to turn back. That’s the situation the people of Israel found themselves in as they set out to escape from Egypt. The sea blocked the way before them and the Egyptian army was pursuing them from behind. They had nowhere to turn but to the LORD.

What did the LORD do? He didn’t take Israel around the problem or over it. He took them through it. We read these words: Your path led through the sea…

During the dark days of World War II, Winston Churchill gave his nation this advice, “If you are going through hell, keep going.”

Don’t stop. Don’t give up and hang your head in despair. You don’t know the moment when the LORD will intervene on your behalf. You don’t know when the sea will part. You don’t know when you will be called to follow the LORD’s invisible footprints onto the floor of the sea. That requires faith—steps of faith. And don’t dilly-dally along the way. If you are going through hell, keep going. If you are going through a personal Red Sea experience, keep going. You don’t want to be caught in the middle. That’s what happened to Egypt’s army. Have faith the LORD will bring you through, and by all means keep going. Persevere.

Response: LORD God, I am facing some difficult challenges. Give me the faith and the courage to keep going. I trust that you will bring me through—through hell and high water by the power of Jesus. Amen.

Your Turn: Are you facing difficult times? Has the LORD brought you through in the past?

A Stronghold in Times of Trouble

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I will praise Him!

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Lilacs — photo by David Kitz

The LORD reigns forever;
    he has established his throne for judgment.
He rules the world in righteousness
    and judges the peoples with equity.
The LORD is a refuge for the oppressed,
    a stronghold in times of trouble.
Those who know your name trust in you,
    for you, LORD, have never forsaken those who seek you.

(Psalm 9:7-10, NIV)