I will praise the LORD!
Reading: Psalm 140
I say to the LORD, “You are my God.”
Hear, LORD, my cry for mercy.
Sovereign LORD, my strong deliverer,
you shield my head in the day of battle.
Do not grant the wicked their desires, LORD;
do not let their plans succeed (NIV).
On a beautiful spring evening almost twenty years ago, I went for a bicycle ride with my fourteen-year-old son, Josh. At that time, there were some wonderful mountain bike trails on a forest-covered escarpment above our home. After exploring these trails for a while the time came for us to return home.
We crossed to the opposite side of the paved road and began our descent down the hill. Of course our bikes began to pick up speed—no pedaling needed. There was a traffic light at the bottom of the hill where we needed to make a right turn down our street. Soon Josh was well ahead of me. He went sailing around that corner at top speed and launched himself and his bike onto the sidewalk. What Josh could not see due to a tall hedge was the minivan pulling into the intersection directly ahead.
Boom! His bike collided with the back wheel and side of the minivan. Next, I see Josh’s body flying over the roof of the van. I expect to find him dead or disabled on the other side of the vehicle. Not so. Miraculously, not so! He was shaken but conscious. We rushed him to a hospital to have him checked. No signs of concussion were detected. Answered prayer, and his bicycle helmet saved him. The minivan owner was not so fortunate. Josh’s head dented the rear roof column. Body shop repairs cost $1,600.
David voices this prayer in today’s reading from Psalm 140: Sovereign LORD, my strong deliverer, you shield my head in the day of battle.
Is your head shielded? It’s your body’s most crucial asset. You can lose a limb—several limbs—and survive. But your head is essential. A lot of Christians are losing the battle for their heads these days. By that I mean we are filling our minds with the philosophical garbage and filth of this world. Many of the most active sites on the World Wide Web are porn sites. Christian men are particularly vulnerable.
Paul, the apostle, admonishes us: Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes (Ephesians 6:11). One of the most important elements of that armor is the helmet of salvation. Are you certain of your salvation? Our salvation is as certain as the blood of Christ. It’s as certain as the empty tomb. But if we do not guard our minds and our eyes, which are the gateway to the mind, we can quickly find ourselves vulnerable. We need self-control and God’s help—His shielding. It doesn’t take long to pick up speed when your mind starts rolling downhill. Is your helmet on?
Response: Sovereign LORD, my strong deliverer, you shield my head in the day of battle. Do not grant the wicked their desires, LORD; do not let their plans succeed. I put on the helmet of salvation. I commit my thoughts and ways to you. Amen.
Your Turn: How vulnerable are you to attacks from the enemy? Are you holding your ground?
Today I came upon this 5 star book review on the Barnes & Noble website. What follows is a duplicate of that post:
I received a copy of THE SOLDIER WHO KILLED A KING: A TRUE RETELLING OF THE PASSION by David Kitz from Kregel Publications in exchange for an honest review. This is a standalone book.
This book…wow. Subject matter aside, it blew me away. The writing is superb. It feels as if you are watching a movie, but a 4D movie. (This would make a great Broadway play.) It puts you in the scene. You taste and feel and smell. You are transported back in time. You get to really know the characters as if they were people living on your block. You travel back in time to the first-century world and experience it all.
Now for the subject matter. According to the blurb: A stunning story of Holy Week through the eyes of a Roman centurion. The centurion is Marcus Longinus.
This story shows the events leading up to the Passion Week. This is a new take on a story that has been told many times. I admit to thinking it might “just be another one.” If you hesitate because of that, you’re missing out. This is historical Christian fiction at its finest. I highly recommend it for your collection. — Anonymous
To purchase though Christianbook.com click here.
Reading: Psalm 140
For the director of music. A psalm of David.
Rescue me, LORD, from evildoers;
protect me from the violent,
who devise evil plans in their hearts
and stir up war every day.
They make their tongues as sharp as a serpent’s;
the poison of vipers is on their lips.
Keep me safe, LORD, from the hands of the wicked;
protect me from the violent,
who devise ways to trip my feet.
The arrogant have hidden a snare for me;
they have spread out the cords of their net
and have set traps for me along my path (NIV).
Psalm 140 is attributed to David. Our reading today is really a prayer for personal safety. David lived during a very violent time in the history of Israel and the entire eastern Mediterranean region. It was a period of technological transition from the Bronze Age to the Iron Age. Historic transitions are never smooth sailing. They are often accompanied by intense warfare, and economic and social collapse. Rival forces vie for power. Out of the ashes new leadership emerges.
That was the world that David, the shepherd boy was born into. The Philistines were the first to adopt the new iron tools, and they used their technological superiority to dominate and subjugate Israel. See 1 Samuel 13:19-22. What followed were several decades of fierce struggle, as Israel under Saul resisted the Philistines and fought back. Eventually, under David’s leadership Israel emerged triumphant. But none of this was a foregone conclusion. It was a massive struggle with much bloodshed.
David not only had foreign enemies; he also had to watch out for sedition within his own ranks. All too often the responsibilities of leadership mean walking around with a giant bulls-eye painted on your back. If anything goes wrong, you are the first one to be attacked by your own people. In David’s time, being the king was a high risk occupation. Assassination and revolt were common.
On a personal level, we too are in a struggle—a spiritual struggle for survival and dominion. Will the Spirit of Christ reign in us, or will we succumb to the spirit of this age? Will we take up the full armor of God and fight the good fight of faith, or will we believe the lies of the enemy and fall into a cesspool of sin and deception? Are we vigilant and constant in prayer like David, or do we lack the self-discipline that is essential for victory over the enemy of our soul?
David’s prayer should be our prayer too. Keep me safe, LORD, from the hands of the wicked; protect me from the snares that have been set to entangle me.
Response: LORD God, keep me alert. A spiritual battle is raging around me. I want to be a warrior who knows and hears his Commander. Jesus, your blood was shed to secure my victory. Thank you. Amen.
Your Turn: Are you aware of the snares that trip you up? Are you hearing the Commander’s voice?
Reading: Psalm 139
Search me, God, and know my heart;
test me and know my anxious thoughts.
See if there is any offensive way in me,
and lead me in the way everlasting (NIV).
In my opinion, Psalm 139 rates in the top ten of the 150 psalms in the Bible. Many find deep comfort and encouragement in it. It is arguably the most intimate or personal psalm. Take a minute to read the entire psalm and you will see for yourself why I draw these conclusions.
The Psalm begins by pointing out the futility of fleeing from God. We can’t hide from Him though we may try. The prophet Jonah discovered this truth the hard way. In Jonah’s case, it took three days and three nights in the belly of a huge fish to come around to right perspective. See Jonah 1 & 2. How long does it take for us to realize how foolish it is to run from God? I dare say some of us sink below sea-level before the wisdom of Psalm 139 takes hold.
Though the psalmist begins by discussing the futility of hiding from God, he concludes by asking for God to search his heart. He willingly comes before the LORD and asks to be tested. That takes humility and courage—more humility and courage than many of us can muster.
Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. This appears to be a very straightforward request, but there are intricacies to this statement that deserve some careful consideration.
Does God need to search my heart? Does He need to search for anything? Not really. He already knows everything that’s there. I’m the one who doesn’t know what is in my own heart. I’m the one who is surprised when some emotion is triggered, or I react in an unpredictable or irrational way. Do I understand my heart? Do I know what is lurking down there? My knowledge is partial at best. Self-flattery and subtle forms of self-deception can blind me to what is really in my heart.
When we are asking God to search us and test us, we are really asking to begin a process of self-discovery. We are exposing our soul to God, so He can point out what is there. Then you and I can repent and turn our heart-hidden sins over to God. I cannot trust myself to see and acknowledge what is there. I need God’s help. By nature I am a hider. Jesus is the Great Seeker. Remember he came to seek and save the lost. See Luke 19:10.
Jesus is the one who can see if there is any offensive way in me. He is the Good Shepherd, the one who will lead me in the way everlasting. When I freely confess my need for him, his blood cleanses me from the darkest sins. Real freedom for us begins with exposure—exposure to the penetrating searchlight of God.
Response: LORD God, you know my heart. You know what triggers my wrong responses. Search me and show me what needs to change and how to make those changes. Lead me in the way everlasting. Amen.
Your Turn: How well do you know your heart?
Reading: Psalm 139
If only you, God, would slay the wicked!
Away from me, you who are bloodthirsty!
They speak of you with evil intent;
your adversaries misuse your name.
Do I not hate those who hate you, LORD,
and abhor those who are in rebellion against you?
I have nothing but hatred for them;
I count them my enemies.
As much as I love the psalms of the Bible, there are some psalms, or verses within psalms that I would just like to skip. I wish they weren’t there. Today’s reading from Psalm 139 is a prime example. The author’s words are filled with venom. Why are they even in the Bible? (Please bear with me.)
Passages like today’s reading are particularly troubling in light of Jesus’ teaching in the New Testament. In his great Sermon on the Mount, he gave us this teaching: “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous” (Matthew 5:43-45).
Reconciling today’s reading from Psalm 139 with Jesus’ words makes my head hurt. Jesus calls us to an incredibly high standard—God’s standard. God shows kindness and love even to the unrighteous. They like us receive both sunshine and rain. Let’s face it, when someone hurts me, my default position is to hurt them back. That’s the natural human response. That’s the way it has been since the beginning, and the world is full of lasting scars—inter-generational scars because of it. Wounded people have been busy hurting other wounded people as hate builds on hate in the home, at work and internationally.
But Jesus came to interrupt that corrosive cycle. He asks us to counter that hurt—that slight—that injury with love. Now that’s truly revolutionary. It’s a revolt against the status quo of hatred that has poisoned human relations in our country and the world. Has someone gone out of their way to hurt you? Retaliate with an act of love. That’s what Jesus is saying.
Is that hard? Absolutely. It’s much easier to respond like the author of today’s reading from Psalm 139. So why is this portion of Psalm 139 in the Bible? Maybe it should be redacted—blacked over like a secret government file.
In reality, Psalm 139 like all the psalms, began as someone’s personal prayer—their personal interaction with God. They are pouring out their heart before God. It’s a heart that has been wounded by others. Should they bottle up those feelings and never express them to God? Of course not. We need to pour out our hurts to God. He alone can heal and change that wounded heart.
Response: LORD God, you know all my hurts. I bring them before you. Pour your love into me, so I can love my enemies. Show me the way forward. Jesus, you forgave even those who killed you. Amen.
Your Turn: Have you changed your default position from hate to love?
Reading: Psalm 139
For you created my inmost being;
you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
your works are wonderful,
I know that full well.
My frame was not hidden from you
when I was made in the secret place,
when I was woven together in the depths of the earth.
Your eyes saw my unformed body;
all the days ordained for me were written in your book
before one of them came to be.
How precious to me are your thoughts, God!
How vast is the sum of them!
Were I to count them,
they would outnumber the grains of sand—
when I awake, I am still with you (NIV).
Psalm 139 is a psalm of incredible intimacy—divine intimacy. God knows us; sees us; loves us like the LORD only can. He has known us and cared for us from the moment of conception. We need to make that statement personal, because it is personal. The Almighty has known me, and cared for me from the moment of my conception.
For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.
Last week, I had lens replacement surgery on my left eye. The same surgery was done on my right eye three weeks earlier. This highly skilled tinkering with my eyes has left me in awe of the gift of sight. What a miracle! Yes, the surgeon worked wonders. My sight has been restored without the need for eyeglasses—something I have needed and have worn since the age of eight. Now for first time in 58 years, I can roll out of bed and not reach for my glasses.
What I truly appreciate is the original miracle—the gift of sight itself; a gift we are born with. Because the miracle of sight is so universal, we take it for granted. But when that precious gift is lost or threatened we appreciate it again with new eyes. I join with the psalmist in making this declaration: I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.
God took the time to knit you together in your mother’s womb. You can be sure He didn’t miss a stitch. You were formed according to His plan to live for His purpose. Wow! What an awesome privilege. And all the days ordained for [you and] me were written in [God’s] book before one of them came to be.
Response: LORD God, thank you for the gift of life, for sight, sound and touch. You thought of me. What joy that brings! Help me to live the days assigned to me with gladness and gratitude. Amen.
Your Turn: Do we take our physical gifts for granted? How do you cultivate an attitude of gratitude?