Answer, LORD my God

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I will praise Him!

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Forest path — photo by David Kitz

For the director of music. A psalm of David.

How long, LORD? Will you forget me forever?
    How long will you hide your face from me?
How long must I wrestle with my thoughts
    and day after day have sorrow in my heart?
    How long will my enemy triumph over me?

Look on me and answer, LORD my God.
    Give light to my eyes, or I will sleep in death,
and my enemy will say, “I have overcome him,”
    and my foes will rejoice when I fall.

But I trust in your unfailing love;
    my heart rejoices in your salvation.
I will sing the LORD’s praise,
    for he has been good to me.

(Psalm 13:1-6, NIV)

Training my Hands for War

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Reading: Psalm 144
Of David.
(Verses 1-4)
Praise be to the LORD my Rock,
who trains my hands for war,
my fingers for battle.
He is my loving God and my fortress,
my stronghold and my deliverer,
my shield, in whom I take refuge,
who subdues peoples under me.
LORD, what are human beings that you care for them,
mere mortals that you think of them?
They are like a breath;
their days are like a fleeting shadow (NIV).

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The Vimy Memorial, Vimy Ridge, France — photo by CWGC, Milton Historical Society

Reflection
Many nations have defining battles that cement their stature as a nation. For Canada that defining battle began on April 4th, 1917. Over the next three days Canadian forces captured Vimy Ridge in northern France from the German Army. Previously, French and British forces had attempted to take the Ridge, but they were repelled.

The great battles of World War I were mired in stalemate. On the western front it is no exaggeration to say that millions of young men lost their lives for not a single meter of territory gained. How then did the Canadian troops manage to capture such a significant stronghold while suffering the loss of less than 3,500 men? A good part of the answer lies in training.

General Arthur Currie was a brilliant tactician. He had noted that in the past, battlefield advances ground to a halt when platoon commanders were killed or disabled. To overcome this predictable outcome, Currie insisted on training all his troops to reach their objective. The loss of a leader would not be a crippling blow. Every man carried a map and knew the plan to reach their objective for the day. On the day when the offensive was launched, thorough training from first man to last made all the difference. The Germans were unable to halt the steady, uphill, Canadian advance.

David, the warrior king, begins Psalm 144 with this declaration: Praise be to the LORD my Rock, who trains my hands for war, my fingers for battle.

The church of Jesus Christ is in a spiritual battle. This is the great war of the ages. Have you been trained for battle? Do you even know there is a war raging? It’s a war for the souls of men, women and children. The Lord has provided all the armor we need. See Ephesians 6:10-20. Have you been trained in the use of your equipment? Are you knowledgeable in the word of God? Are you familiar with the voice of your commanding officer? Do you have a map to your objective? Vimy Ridge wasn’t won by accident. It required careful planning. Taking territory from the prince of this world will require the same.

Response: LORD God, I need to be trained for battle. Help me to see and achieve the objectives you have set out for me. I want to hear your voice and follow your commands. Lead me to victory, Jesus. Amen.

Your Turn: Are there strongholds that God is asking you to attack? Do you have a strategy?

PSALMS ALIVE! CONNECTING HEAVEN AND EARTH

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How do you connect with God? For three thousand years, God has been connecting with humankind through the prophetic prayer, praise and poetry of the biblical Psalms.  Come follow David, the shepherd king, the man after God’s own heart, as we begin a journey to intimacy with God. Discover for yourself what a soul-bonding relations with God looks like.

As never before, let the psalms come alive for you!

In the art of effective communication, context is everything. David Kitz’s gift of communications is clearly demonstrated in Psalms Alive! as one is brought into the context in which the selected psalms were  written.

Ted Seres, NATIONAL DIRECTOR, Canadian Bible Society

Author Bio: David Kitz is an ordained minister, a teacher and an award-winning author. He is passionate about bringing the Bible to life through the medium of drama.

For more information on the PSALMS ALIVE! book visit: https://davidkitz.ca/psalms.phpJames Tht

For more information on purchasing the book  visit: https://www.davidkitz.ca/bookcart/index.php?route=product/product&product_id=62&search=psalms

 

For more information on a PSALMS ALIVE! dramatization visit: https://davidkitz.ca/psalms.php

For your name’s sake, LORD

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Reading: Psalm 143
(Verses 11-12)
For your name’s sake, LORD, preserve my life;
in your righteousness,
bring me out of trouble.
In your unfailing love,
silence my enemies;
destroy all my foes,
for I am your servant (NIV).

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Children enjoying the clear waters of Georgian Bay — photo by David Kitz

Reflection
Are you proud of your family name? To be honest on most days my family name is not a top of mind thought. But if I scratch beneath the surface, I must admit my name is important to me. I am sure your name is important to you as well. Why would that be?

The simple answer is because your name is directly linked to your reputation. A good reputation is built over a lifetime, but it can be ruined in a careless moment. The following proverb sums up the value of having a good reputation: A good name is more desirable than great riches; to be esteemed is better than silver or gold (Proverbs 22:1).

Both individuals and corporations will go to extraordinary lengths to protect their name. Walmart sued a small, family-run wool business in Canada called Woolmart, because they argued the name could be confused with Walmart. The big multinational won despite the fact that Woolmart had registered its legal name several years before Walmart opened its first store in Canada.

In today’s final reading from Psalm 143, David makes this plea: For your name’s sake, LORD, preserve my life; in your righteousness, bring me out of trouble. In your unfailing love, silence my enemies; destroy all my foes, for I am your servant. 

Will the LORD go to extraordinary lengths to uphold His name? Absolutely. When the Son of God was slandered before Pilate and then sentenced to death as a common criminal, the LORD God parted the heavens and rendered His judgment. He shook the earth, reversed death and brought Jesus back to life. For the sake of His name, the LORD would not allow His Son to remain in the mud and mire of death and disrepute. 

David bases his appeal to the Almighty on his role as a servant of God. In essence David is saying, “Come to my rescue because I am your servant. LORD, your good name will be defamed, if you don’t help me.”

Why should God answer my prayers—your prayers? Are you closely associated with the LORD? Have you fully identified with Him? Are you His servant—His child? Does the LORD’s reputation hinge on the conduct and the outcome of your life? Will He answer your prayers for the sake of His good name? How closely are you linked to God? Is He your Father or a casual acquaintance?

Response: LORD God, please help me. I am your child. I identify with you. My Savior and Lord, for your name’s sake I want to live a life that is pleasing to you and brings honor to the name of Christ. Amen.

Your Turn: Can others clearly see that you have identified yourself as a Christ follower?

Hiding Myself in the LORD

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Reading: Psalm 143
(Verses 7-10)
Answer me quickly, LORD;
my spirit fails.
Do not hide your face from me
or I will be like those who go down to the pit.
Let the morning bring me word of your unfailing love,
for I have put my trust in you.
Show me the way I should go,
for to you I entrust my life.
Rescue me from my enemies, LORD,
for I hide myself in you.
Teach me to do your will,
for you are my God;
may your good Spirit
lead me on level ground (NIV).

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Hiding in plain site — photo by David Kiz

Reflection
Can you hide in someone else? That sounds like the plot for a sci-fi thriller. Maybe I could reduce myself to the size of a microbe and be injected into another person’s body? That would truly be a mind-boggling adventure, presumably with a good outcome for all.

But here in Psalm 143, David speaks of hiding himself in the LORD. Rescue me from my enemies, LORD, for I hide myself in you.

David, please tell me how I can do that? How do I hide myself in the LORD? Actually, this idea of hiding in God is well developed throughout the psalms. David sees the LORD as his strong tower and his shelter. See Psalm 61:3. David says this of the LORD: For in the day of trouble he will keep me safe in his dwelling; he will hide me in the shelter of his sacred tent and set me high upon a rock (Psalm 27:5).

Again in Psalm 32 David makes this statement about the LORD. You are my hiding place; you will protect me from trouble and surround me with songs of deliverance (Psalm 32:7).

How do I hide myself in God? Let me suggest that it begins by immersing oneself in God’s word. Jesus is the living logos—the word of God. See John 1:1-5. But in addition to reading and receiving the written word of God, we need to connect with the Spirit of God. Our human spirit must come alive to and through the Spirit of God. Receiving Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior is not merely an intellectual experience. It is a spiritual experience—a from the inside out transformational experience.

When our human spirit comes alive to God, these words become our prayer. Teach me to do your will, for you are my God; may your good Spirit lead me on level ground.

Response: LORD God, I have put my trust in you. I want to connect with your Holy Spirit. I want to be fully alive in you, body, soul and spirit. Show me the way forward to a vibrant relationship with you. LORD, may your good Spirit lead me on level ground. Amen.

Your Turn: Has your spirit connected with God’s Spirit? Has your life been changed by that encounter?

A Cry for Mercy

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Reading: Psalm 143
A psalm of David.
(Verses 1-6)
LORD, hear my prayer,
listen to my cry for mercy;
in your faithfulness and righteousness come to my relief.
Do not bring your servant into judgment,
for no one living is righteous before you.
The enemy pursues me,
he crushes me to the ground;
he makes me dwell in the darkness like those long dead.
So my spirit grows faint within me;
my heart within me is dismayed.
I remember the days of long ago;
I meditate on all your works
and consider what your hands have done.
I spread out my hands to you;
I thirst for you like a parched land (NIV).

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I meditate on all your works — photo by David Kitz

Reflection
On my best day, I need God’s mercy. On my worst day my need for outside help and mercy are evident to all. In truth, my need for the mercy of the LORD is never ending. All too often, we only call out to God in times of need or perceived difficulty. In reality our need for God’s help and mercy are constant.

Here in Psalm 143, as he so often does, David calls out for God’s mercy. In many respects David’s plea for mercy is rather repetitive throughout the psalms. Why would this be? Could it be that he is in constant need of God’s sustaining support and mercy? From the following request, we can see why David repeatedly prays for God’s mercy: Do not bring your servant into judgment, for no one living is righteous before you.

David recognized that within himself he had no righteousness. In reality this is the starting point for a life transforming relationship with God. Contrary to a good deal of modern psychology and religious philosophy, we are not okay. We have a warped nature that is inclined to sin. It delights in rebelling against God. St. Paul describes this human condition with these words. For I know that good itself does not dwell in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out (Romans 7:18).

The prophet Isaiah described this universal human condition in this way. All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags; we all shrivel up like a leaf, and like the wind our sins sweep us away (Isaiah 64:6).

Do I need God’s mercy? Yes, a thousand times yes!

Response: LORD God, I need your righteousness. My own righteousness is tainted with pride. I freely acknowledge my need for a Savior. You are my constant help.  I thirst for you like a parched land. Amen.

Your Turn: Are you aware of your constant need for God’s mercy? Are you calling out to Him?

Freedom from my Prison

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Reading: Psalm 142
(Verses 5-7)
I cry to you, LORD;
I say, “You are my refuge,
my portion in the land of the living.”
Listen to my cry, for I am in desperate need;
rescue me from those who pursue me,
for they are too strong for me.
Set me free from my prison,
that I may praise your name.
Then the righteous will gather about me
because of your goodness to me (NIV).

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Late afternoon in Central Park, New York City — photo by David Kitz

Reflection
Though I have visited prisoners, I have never been imprisoned, at least not in the classic sense of imprisonment. But in the broader meaning of the word, we all have been confined to prisons—prisons of the mind. Some of us are prisoners of counterproductive habits, or prisoners within crippling relationships that hinder personal growth and fulfillment. Prisons come in many forms. Some of them are disguised as places of personal liberty, but all too often the thing we freely choose can become a cruel slave master.

When David prayed the words of this psalm, he was not in a prison. He was confined to a cave or the immediate region around a cave, because he was a fugitive from King Saul who was trying to kill him. He voices this prayer: Listen to my cry, for I am in desperate need; rescue me from those who pursue me, for they are too strong for me. Set me free from my prison that I may praise your name.

Are you in a prison? Is fear of discovery locking you up? Are you trapped in habits, addictions or thought patterns that are too strong for you?

David was in a weak and vulnerable position. Saul, his personal enemy had an entire army on his side. For the second time in his life, David was in what we call the classic David and Goliath situation. He was outnumbered and in every way the advantage belonged to his opponent.

In such adverse circumstances we need God on our side. We need the resources of heaven to tip the scale in our favor. That is precisely what happened in David’s case. The LORD arranged situations that gave all the advantage to David. David ended up sparing Saul’s life on two occasions. For a full account read 1 Samuel 24 & 26.

David ends this psalm with an affirmation of his faith in God. Set me free from my prison that I may praise your name. Then the righteous will gather about me because of your goodness to me. That is exactly what happened. When the LORD set David free from his prison, righteous men took note, and they rallied around David as their leader because they saw that the LORD was with him.

Response: LORD God, set me free from the negative habits and thought patterns that imprison me. Help me identify them one by one, and then help me gain the victory over them in the power of Jesus. Amen.

Your Turn: Can you identify habits or thought patterns that harm your relationships with others?

The Words of the LORD are Flawless

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I will praise Him!

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Kayaker at Tobermory, Ontario — photo by David Kitz

“Because the poor are plundered and the needy groan,
    I will now arise,” says the LORD.
    “I will protect them from those who malign them.”
And the words of the LORD are flawless,
    like silver purified in a crucible,
    like gold refined seven times.

You, LORD, will keep the needy safe
    and will protect us forever from the wicked,
who freely strut about
    when what is vile is honored by the human race.

(Psalm 12:5-8, NIV)

The Upright Will See His Face

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I will praise Him!

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The Lord is on his heavenly throne — photo by David Kitz

For the director of music. Of David.

In the LORD I take refuge.
    How then can you say to me:
    “Flee like a bird to your mountain.
For look, the wicked bend their bows;
    they set their arrows against the strings
to shoot from the shadows
    at the upright in heart.
When the foundations are being destroyed,
    what can the righteous do?”

The LORD is in his holy temple;
    the LORD is on his heavenly throne.
He observes everyone on earth;
    his eyes examine them.
The LORD examines the righteous,
    but the wicked, those who love violence,
    he hates with a passion.
On the wicked he will rain
    fiery coals and burning sulfur;
    a scorching wind will be their lot.

For the LORD is righteous,
    he loves justice;
    the upright will see his face.

(Psalm 11:1-7, NIV)

God’s Complaint Department

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Reading: Psalm 142
A maskil of David. When he was in the cave. A prayer.
(Verses 1-4)
I cry aloud to the LORD;
I lift up my voice to the LORD for mercy.
I pour out before him my complaint;
before him I tell my trouble.
When my spirit grows faint within me,
it is you who watch over my way.
In the path where I walk people have hidden a snare for me.
Look and see, there is no one at my right hand;
no one is concerned for me.
I have no refuge; no one cares for my life (NIV).

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It is you who watch over my way — photo by David Kitz

Reflection
Have you been in a cave? Despite what we read and know about cavemen, caves are not great living spaces. They are dark and dank. They may be fine places to retreat to in times of mortal danger, but they leave much to be desired as a permanent habitation.

In desperate times, people hide in caves. That’s where David found himself as he hid from his jealous master, King Saul. Though he was innocent, Saul in a jealous rage attacked David and repeatedly tried to kill him. See 1 Samuel 19:9-24. Eventually, David fled to a cave in the Desert of En Gedi. This psalm, Psalm 142, was born in a desolate place—a cave in the Desert of En Gedi. See 1 Samuel 24.

Here David hit rock bottom. From this low point in his life he called out to the LORD with these words: I cry aloud to the LORD; I lift up my voice to the LORD for mercy. I pour out before him my complaint; before him I tell my trouble. 

The Psalms are the prayer book of the Bible. With this psalm David provides us with an excellent example of prayer—prayer from the lowest position—the position of weakness and vulnerability. The future looked bleak for David. He was living the precarious life of a fugitive. At any time, he could be discovered or betrayed. Would today be his last day?

Where did David take his troubles? He took them to the LORD.

Where do you go with your troubles? Where do you take your complaints? The LORD’s complaint department is open for business. There you will find a listening ear.

There are a host of things that are unfair in this life—sometimes brutally unfair. Are we supposed to suppress our outrage? Should we hide our hurt and pretend that all is well, while on the inside the bottom is falling out of our life? No. A thousand times, no! Take it to the LORD in prayer. That’s what David did. He cried out to his God, and his God answered.

Response: LORD God, when I reach a low point you are there. Hear me when I am down. I bring my troubles and sorrows to you. They are more than I can bear. Jesus, be my burden bearer. Amen.

Your Turn: Are you in a cave or a desert place? Take some time to call out to God.