I will praise Him!
Reading: Psalm 96
Sing to the LORD a new song;
sing to the LORD, all the earth.
Sing to the LORD, praise his name;
proclaim his salvation day after day.
Declare his glory among the nations,
his marvelous deeds among all peoples.
For great is the LORD and most worthy of praise;
he is to be feared above all gods.
For all the gods of the nations are idols,
but the LORD made the heavens.
Splendor and majesty are before him;
strength and glory are in his sanctuary (NIV).
Who are you singing to? Let’s face it; most of us sing. We may not sing in a choir or in front of a crowd of thousands, but we sing. Maybe you sing in the shower. Maybe you just hum, whistle or sing a tune in your mind. Even though you may not fully vocalize your song, the music is still there bubbling beneath the surface.
Psalm 96 urges us to sing that song to the LORD. Sing to the LORD a new song; sing to the LORD, all the earth. Sing to the LORD, praise his name; proclaim his salvation day after day.
I believe it’s in our nature to sing. Music is after all a universal activity enjoyed by people of every race and culture. This universality begs a question: Who put that love for music and song within us?
For believers the answer is obvious. God put music in our hearts and God puts songs on our lips. We sing because we are and because God is. Music is so foundational—so fundamental to our being—that it’s hard to imagine our world without it. When we break forth in song we are doing what God designed us to do. You were designed to sing, just as you were designed to bring glory to God through the work of your hands or the fruit of your body. So let your voice bring honor, praise and glory to God. Sing out your worship with joy.
Psalm 96 is also a call for newness in worship. Why does God want a new song? Could it be because His mercy and love for us are continually renewed? In the midst of national tragedy, Jeremiah reminded us of this truth. Because of the LORD’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness (Lamentations 3:22-23).
Just as the changing seasons bring renewal to the earth and its vegetation, so too new songs of praise bring renewal to our worship. So whether you hum, whistle, or belt out songs in the choir, let your song ascend to the LORD. You are singing for Him and to Him.
Response: LORD God, I want to praise you. Give me news songs and new melodies to sing your praise. Your goodness and love abounds. Great is the LORD and most worthy of praise. Amen.
Your Turn: Do you enjoy singing? Do you like both old and new worship songs?
Reading: Psalm 95
Today, if only you would hear his voice,
“Do not harden your hearts as you did at Meribah,
as you did that day at Massah in the wilderness,
where your ancestors tested me;
they tried me, though they had seen what I did.
For forty years I was angry with that generation;
I said, ‘They are a people whose hearts go astray,
and they have not known my ways.’
So I declared on oath in my anger,
‘They shall never enter my rest’” (NIV).
Long before we knew about the medical condition known as hardening of the arteries, there existed another condition called hardening of the heart. Hardening of the heart is not a deadly medical condition; it’s a deadly spiritual condition. Those who suffer from hardening of the heart have a hard time hearing God, and when they do hear God, they tend to stop their ears, or they do their best to pretend that God hasn’t spoken.
Although we can safely say that this condition has existed since the human species stepped out of Eden, the first reported case of hardening of the heart occurred about 3,500 years ago. In the Book of Exodus we read that Pharaoh developed a severe case of hardening of the heart. But when Pharaoh saw that there was relief, he hardened his heart and would not listen to Moses and Aaron, just as the LORD had said (Exodus 8:15).
Time and again as the ten plagues ravaged Egypt, we read that Pharaoh hardened his heart and he would not let the people of Israel go. In several instances we read that the LORD hardened Pharaoh’s heart. But let’s be clear about this condition. Heart hardening only happens with the willing participation of the individual. Don’t go about blaming God for your hard heart. Hearts harden due to our willful disregard of God’s Spirit and His laws.
Neither should we presume that heart hardening only happens with a certain type of person. We are all prone to develop this spiritual malady. Our ancestry or genetic makeup offers no protection. The Egyptian Pharaoh developed a heart, but ultimately the Israelites—the people that the LORD pried free from Pharaoh also developed the same condition. That’s why the psalmist issues this warning: Today, if only you would hear his voice, “Do not harden your hearts as you did at Meribah, as you did that day at Massah in the wilderness, where your ancestors tested me; they tried me, though they had seen what I did.”
The key to avoiding a hard heart is hearing and heeding the voice of God. It’s just that simple.
Response: LORD, give me ears that hear your voice gently speaking to me. Give me a heart that is quick to obey. I want a tender heart that reflects your love for me and for others. I pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.
Your Turn: Does a hard heart toward others result in a hard heart toward God? What are your thoughts?
Reading: Psalm 95
Come, let us sing for joy to the LORD;
let us shout aloud to the Rock of our salvation.
Let us come before him with thanksgiving
and extol him with music and song.
For the LORD is the great God,
the great King above all gods.
In his hand are the depths of the earth,
and the mountain peaks belong to him.
The sea is his, for he made it,
and his hands formed the dry land.
Come, let us bow down in worship,
let us kneel before the LORD our Maker;
for he is our God
and we are the people of his pasture,
the flock under his care (NIV).
I can’t read this opening portion of Psalm 95 without the folk spiritual “He’s Got the Whole World in His Hands” springing to mind. The psalmist makes this declaration: In his hand are the depths of the earth, and the mountain peaks belong to him. The sea is his, for he made it, and his hands formed the dry land. In other words, He’s got the whole world in His hands.
There is something deeply reassuring about that thought. The great loving God, the Creator of the universe, has the whole world in His hands. But more specifically, our heavenly Father has you and me in His hands. If we grasp this biblical truth, it has broad personal implications.
Early this morning, I met with a weekly gathering of men to pray and study God’s word. One of the co-leaders of the group is going through a great personal tragedy. His young, vibrant wife is dying of pancreatic cancer. Unless the Lord miraculously intervenes, his school-age son and daughter will soon be without a mother. At the close of our meeting we placed our hands on this husband and father and prayed. The LORD has the whole world in his hands including this young family.
Do we understand the LORD’s purposes in all this? No. We would be fools to think we do. We can content ourselves in knowing that these great matters—these matters of life and death are in God’s hands. They are loving hands—hands that in the person of Jesus were scarred and pierced by nails. I’ll be content to be held in those hands.
Knowing this, let’s heed the psalmist’s call. Come, let us bow down in worship, let us kneel before the LORD our Maker; for he is our God and we are the people of his pasture, the flock under his care.
Response: LORD God, you know all things. We were created for your purpose. Help us to live our lives in service to you. We are the flock under your care. Please extend your hand of mercy and blessing to those we know who are suffering or grieving. Amen.
Your Turn: Does knowing your life is in God’s hands bring you reassurance?
Reading: Psalm 94
Who will rise up for me against the wicked?
Who will take a stand for me against evildoers?
Unless the LORD had given me help,
I would soon have dwelt in the silence of death.
When I said, “My foot is slipping,”
your unfailing love, LORD, supported me.
When anxiety was great within me,
your consolation brought me joy.
Can a corrupt throne be allied with you—
a throne that brings on misery by its decrees?
The wicked band together against the righteous
and condemn the innocent to death.
But the LORD has become my fortress,
and my God the rock in whom I take refuge.
He will repay them for their sins
and destroy them for their wickedness;
the LORD our God will destroy them (NIV).
Here is a question that is well worth asking at election time, or really at any time during the life of a nation: Can a corrupt throne be allied with you—a throne that brings on misery by its decrees?
Whatever your political persuasion, this is a question that has relevance. Corruption isn’t a problem that is unique to just one party. It transcends the political spectrum. Corruption and poorly designed laws or policies can bring misery to millions. According to the psalmist, it has happened in the past and as long as we live in a fallen world, it will continue into the future.
If we fix our eyes on the problems of this world, we can soon find ourselves in despair. Like the psalmist, in times of worry, we need to turn to the LORD. When I said, “My foot is slipping,” your unfailing love, LORD, supported me. When anxiety was great within me, your consolation brought me joy.
That’s the good news of the gospel. In times of anxiety we have someone to turn to. His name is Jesus. He was familiar with suffering and adversity. In Psalm 55 we read, “Cast your cares on the LORD and he will sustain you; he will never let the righteous be shaken” (Psalm 55:22). The apostle Peter reiterates the same thought: Cast all your anxiety on him [God] because he cares for you (1 Peter 5:7).
In times of trouble the unfailing love of the LORD will sustain you. In times of loss His consolation will bring you joy. That’s the promise of Psalm 94. It’s a promise that’s worth clinging to in good times and bad, and yes, even in election years.
Response: LORD God, I am so glad that first and foremost I live under your Kingdom rule. You are my King. I find unfailing love and consolation in knowing you. Guide the leaders of our land into paths of righteousness, wisdom and truth. Amen.
Your Turn: Are you facing adversity now? Are others supporting you in prayer?
Reading: Psalm 94
Take notice, you senseless ones among the people;
you fools, when will you become wise?
Does he who fashioned the ear not hear?
Does he who formed the eye not see?
Does he who disciplines nations not punish?
Does he who teaches mankind lack knowledge?
The LORD knows all human plans;
he knows that they are futile.
Blessed is the one you discipline, LORD,
the one you teach from your law;
you grant them relief from days of trouble,
till a pit is dug for the wicked.
For the LORD will not reject his people;
he will never forsake his inheritance.
Judgment will again be founded on righteousness,
and all the upright in heart will follow it (NIV).
Do I like discipline? Hardly. Do I like self-discipline? Not really. Discipline sounds difficult or unpleasant. Self-discipline and self-denial are twin brothers. I don’t like either of them. They are two tough customers that demand that I change, but I don’t like change. My flesh—my stubborn sinful nature—resists change.
On the other hand, do I like the fruits of self-discipline? Absolutely. Self-discipline pays huge dividends. In any field of endeavor, in due time self-discipline will bring rewards. Athletes succeed because of self-discipline. Fortunes are accumulated through self-discipline. But those same fortunes can be frittered away through a lack of discipline. Strength of character does not develop naturally; it develops through adversity and self-discipline.
Discipline comes in two forms, internally or externally. Both are needed if we are to become people of the cross. Son though he was, he [Jesus] learned obedience from what he suffered and, once made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him (Hebrews 5:8-9). If Jesus learned obedience through the discipline of suffering, should we not expect to experience the same?
Here in Psalm 94 we learn that the LORD disciplines nations. The following admonition reminds us of the vital role that discipline plays in the life of the believer: “My son, do not make light of the Lord’s discipline, and do not lose heart when he rebukes you, because the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and he chastens everyone he accepts as his son.” Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as his children. For what children are not disciplined by their father? If you are not disciplined—and everyone undergoes discipline—then you are not legitimate, not true sons and daughters at all (Hebrews 12:5-8).
Response: LORD God, I confess that I need your discipline. I want to become like your Son, Jesus. Help me to learn from the difficult experiences of life. I want to live my life as your obedient child. Amen.
Your Turn: Do you appreciate God’s discipline? Are you enjoying the fruit of self-discipline?
Reading: Psalm 94
The LORD is a God who avenges.
O God who avenges, shine forth.
Rise up, Judge of the earth;
pay back to the proud what they deserve.
How long, LORD, will the wicked,
how long will the wicked be jubilant?
They pour out arrogant words;
all the evildoers are full of boasting.
They crush your people, LORD;
they oppress your inheritance.
They slay the widow and the foreigner;
they murder the fatherless.
They say, “The LORD does not see;
the God of Jacob takes no notice” (NIV).
As I gather my thoughts to write this post there are fresh reports of renewed fighting in the Syrian conflict. Time and again aid convoys have been bombed. Recriminations fly back and forth between the warring parties; each blames the other. Meanwhile, war rages on. People starve. Refugees flee. Bombs fall from the sky and children are killed and injured.
There is a present-day relevance to Psalm 94. Its words are an ongoing reality in war-torn Syria. How long, LORD, will the wicked, how long will the wicked be jubilant? They pour out arrogant words; all the evildoers are full of boasting. They crush your people, LORD; they oppress your inheritance. They slay the widow and the foreigner; they murder the fatherless.
The Syrian conflict is now into its ninth year with no end in sight and many people are asking, “How long, LORD?”
There is so much evil in the world. Evil expresses itself most graphically during war. There are those who would like to blame God for war, but that makes no sense. Human pride, greed and cunning lead to war. Human intransigence keeps it going. We can and should pray for God to show mercy and bring peace, but ultimately human hearts must change to bring an end to war.
We are right to pray for an end to murderous regimes. Essentially that is what the psalmist is praying. Is there more we can do? Emergency aid to war-torn regions is always needed. We can open our hearts and our wallets to provide some help. When an entire nation falls into the hands of murderous thieves are there a few good Samaritans who are willing to help?
Sometimes there are no easy answers in this difficult world. Rise up, Judge of the earth!
Response: LORD God, thank you for the peace and security I enjoy. I don’t want to take my peace and prosperity for granted. Show me how I can be of help in this troubled world. Amen.
Your Turn: Should we be concerned about foreign conflicts or only pay attention to things at home?
Reading: Psalm 93
The LORD reigns, he is robed in majesty;
the LORD is robed in majesty and armed with strength;
indeed, the world is established, firm and secure.
Your throne was established long ago;
you are from all eternity.
The seas have lifted up, LORD,
the seas have lifted up their voice;
the seas have lifted up their pounding waves.
Mightier than the thunder of the great waters,
mightier than the breakers of the sea—
the LORD on high is mighty.
Your statutes, LORD, stand firm;
holiness adorns your house
for endless days (NIV).
What things in this world are majestic? As I write this post, I’m looking out across my front lawn where a squirrel is cavorting about. Are squirrels majestic? Certainly not in my opinion. In the animal kingdom perhaps lions or stallions are majestic in their bearing. Snow-covered mountain peaks may be majestic, but squirrels not so much.
Here in Psalm 93 the psalmist is trying to capture in words the might and majesty of the LORD. Surely, this is an impossible task, but the psalmist makes a valiant effort. His thoughts turn to the vast power of the sea. Mightier than the thunder of the great waters, mightier than the breakers of the sea—the LORD on high is mighty.
Of course the might of the LORD is incomparable. How can the power of the sea be compared to the power of the One who created the sea? The comparison breaks down; it is not valid. We grasp at straws when we try to capture the majesty and glory of the LORD.
According to the psalmist two things stand firm and secure, the world and the statutes of the LORD. How firm are the laws of the LORD established in your mind? In a world where moral relativism rules the day, absolutes are shunned. What may be deemed right and good today may be judged as unacceptable or reprehensible tomorrow. In our society it seems the opinion of the fickle masses determines what is good. God’s opinion—His statutes matter little.
But in reality—in this thing called eternity—there are things that never change. There are absolutes. On the day we die, ready or not, we will know and experience the absolutes of God. The unchanging God has not thrown out His moral law with yesterday’s garbage. The psalmist declares, “Your statutes, LORD, stand firm; holiness adorns your house for endless days.”
Response: LORD God, I want your holiness to adorn my house and my heart. Help me to conform to your will and your ways, rather than the other way around. You are my Lord. Reign on sovereign LORD. Reign in glorious majesty. Amen.
Your Turn: What does God’s majesty mean to you?