Reading: Psalm 37
The LORD makes firm the steps
of the one who delights in him;
though he may stumble, he will not fall,
for the LORD upholds him with his hand.
I was young and now I am old,
yet I have never seen the righteous forsaken
or their children begging bread.
They are always generous and lend freely;
their children will be a blessing.
Turn from evil and do good;
then you will dwell in the land forever.
For the LORD loves the just
and will not forsake his faithful ones.
Wrongdoers will be completely destroyed;
the offspring of the wicked will perish.
The righteous will inherit the land
and dwell in it forever (NIV).*
According to Psalm 37 there is a string of blessings that is bequeathed to the righteous. We are kept safe—held secure in the palm of God’s hand. Furthermore these blessings are inter-generational. The children of the righteous are blessed, so they can be a blessing to their parents and others.
As parents and grandparents can attest, children can be a great blessing, or if they are corrupted by rebellion and disobedience they can become a curse, making life difficult for all around them.
Much of the trouble in the world today is self-inflicted. By choosing the path of anger, selfishness and resentment, we heap sorrow on our own head. Conversely, if we choose to follow the LORD along the path of love, generosity and forgiveness, we set ourselves up to receive blessings from our heavenly Father.
Down through the ages, David’s admonition rings true: Turn from evil and do good; then you will dwell in the land forever.
But God’s blessings rest on a premise, and here it is: The LORD makes firm the steps of the one who delights in him.
The question we need to continually ask ourselves is “Am I delighting myself in the LORD? Is He my chief joy in life? Do I hunger for His word and His presence in my life? Do I long for times of sweet communion with Him?
Response: LORD God, help me to delight myself in you. May I love what you love. Help me to position myself to receive your blessings. I pray in Jesus name. Amen.
Your Turn: Are you living proof of God’s inter-generational blessing on those who delight in Him?
* New International Version, Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica
Reading: Psalm 20
For the director of music. A psalm of David.
May the LORD answer you when you are in distress;
may the name of the God of Jacob protect you.
May he send you help from the sanctuary
and grant you support from Zion.
May he remember all your sacrifices
and accept your burnt offerings.
May he give you the desire of your heart
and make all your plans succeed.
May we shout for joy over your victory
and lift up our banners in the name of our God.
May the LORD grant all your requests.
Now this I know:
The LORD gives victory to his anointed.
He answers him from his heavenly sanctuary
with the victorious power of his right hand.
Some trust in chariots and some in horses,
but we trust in the name of the LORD our God.
They are brought to their knees and fall, but we rise up and stand firm.
LORD, give victory to the king! Answer us when we call! (NIV)*
There’s an old saying that’s attributed to St. Augustine, “Pray as if everything depends on God. Work as if everything depends on you.” Here in Psalm 20, in the form of a prayer David captures the essence of that thought. But David is not praying for himself. He is praying for your success. Hear his words: May he [the LORD] give you the desire of your heart and make all your plans succeed. May we shout for joy over your victory and lift up our banners in the name of our God. May the LORD grant all your requests.
David’s prayer on behalf of others brings a measure of conviction to my heart. How much time do I spend praying for the success of others? I tend to be rather selfish in my prayer requests. Do I want personal victories more than corporate or team success? Am I earnest in my desire to see others grow and prosper or is there a root of jealous envy that restricts my prayers on their behalf? Do I speak words of blessing over those around me? Do I inwardly rejoice when my brother stumbles, because it leaves me looking successful where he has failed?
The opening half of this psalm is intended as a spoken blessing over the life of my brother and my friend. Take a moment right now and substitute your friend’s name into this Psalm wherever the word you appears. Now speak the opening lines of this psalm as a blessing over your friend’s life. Finally, trust in the LORD your God to work on behalf of your friend or family member. We serve a God who brings victory.
Response: Heavenly Father, I repent of jealousy and envy. Help me speak words of blessing over those around me. I trust you. You are the true source of health and blessing in this world. Amen.
Your Turn: Whose life can you speak God’s blessing into today? Are there family members, friends or colleagues that need the blessing of God?
* New International Version, Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica
Reading: Psalm 133
A song of ascents. Of David.
How good and pleasant it is
when God’s people live together in unity!
It is like precious oil poured on the head,
running down on the beard,
running down on Aaron’s beard,
down on the collar of his robe.
It is as if the dew of Hermon
were falling on Mount Zion.
For there the LORD bestows his blessing,
even life forevermore (NIV).
Short, but powerful and evocative—that’s my description of Psalm 133. I might also add, easily read, but difficult to put into practice. Unity among the people of God is that great elusive goal that seems to always disappear around the next bend in the road just as we approach it. But there God has commanded His blessing, if we could only reach that blessed state.
The psalmist uses two metaphors to portray this good and pleasant state of affairs. The first may appear to be rather messy and wasteful. Who wants oil running down their beard and onto their clothing? But in the Old Testament, prophets, priests and kings were anointed in just this way. It symbolized the release of divine authority and power into an individual’s life. The Spirit of God was coming upon them for public service. This concept forms an effective bridge to the coming of the Holy Spirit in the Book of Acts. When the waiting disciples were of one accord, the Holy Spirit was poured upon them; the anointing came. See Acts 2.
The second metaphor signifies rejuvenation. The dew of the morning is new each day. It refreshes and revives. When our social interactions are positive and enriching, the outcome is spiritual renewal and a deep sense of belonging. Recent studies have shown that social isolation may be a greater risk factor among the elderly than smoking or heart disease. Lack of meaningful interaction with others also has a negative impact on mental and physical health.
The person who continually self-isolates is committing a slow form of suicide, both physically and spiritually. Satan loves the isolated believer—feasts on the mind of the isolated believer.
Simply put, we need each other. We need to be surrounded by loving caring relationships, at home, at work and in the church. On every level, unity of purpose coupled with unselfish love, refreshes and revives the weary soul. We all want God’s blessing. Well, here’s the key to God’s blessing. The LORD commands a blessing when God’s people live together in unity!
Response: Father God, help me sow words of love and unity. Open my eyes to see where I can bring a word of encouragement and affirmation to those around me. Make me an instrument of peace, love and unity today. Amen.
Your Turn: How can you avoid sowing seeds of discord? What can you do today to build unity or break out of self-isolation?
Reading: Psalm 128
A song of ascents.
Blessed are all who fear the LORD,
who walk in obedience to him.
You will eat the fruit of your labor;
blessings and prosperity will be yours.
Your wife will be like a fruitful vine
within your house;
your children will be like olive shoots
around your table.
Yes, this will be the blessing
for the man who fears the LORD.
May the LORD bless you from Zion;
may you see the prosperity of Jerusalem
all the days of your life.
May you live to see your children’s children—
peace be on Israel (NIV).
I got an unexpected call from my son yesterday morning. “Can we have lunch together today?” he asked.
“Sure,” I responded without hesitation. Who can say no to such a request? We went out to a pizza place for their buffet lunch. We enjoyed a leisurely conversation. There was no urgency to our discussion. He shared a few minor work frustrations, while I did the same. This was simply a father and son enjoying each other’s company, talking a little sports and discussing whatever came to mind.
According to Psalm 128, I was appreciating one of the olive shoots around my table. Now that’s a unique way to view your son or daughter. Children are a blessing, and when adult children enjoy spending time with their parents that’s a double blessing. At a time when many adult children are estranged from their parents or separated by long distances, the opportunity to spend time together at the drop of a hat is a real blessing. As a parent you are enjoying the fruit of your labor. You are reaping the rewards from years spent pouring into the lives of your children.
This is the ninth psalm of the series of psalms known as Songs of Ascent or Psalms of Ascent. These were psalms used by pilgrims as they made the annual trek to Jerusalem for celebrations such as the Feast of Tabernacles or the Passover.
In some respects, these ancient holy days roughly correspond to our present day holidays such as Easter, Thanksgiving and Christmas. Families today often make long journeys to celebrate together what at their core are religious holidays. Family togetherness is a central feature of such events. We should not be surprised then that this entire psalm highlights the blessings of family unity.
It should be noted that the blessings of family begin with obedience and the fear of the LORD.
Response: Father God, I love my family. I am so blessed to have children who love you, Lord. Watch over them, I pray. Keep their hearts tender before you. Help them to daily hear your voice. Guide their steps. Amen.
Your Turn: Are you estranged from family members? Can you build a bridge back to that loved one?
Reading: Psalm 118
Shouts of joy and victory
resound in the tents of the righteous:
“The LORD’s right hand has done mighty things!
The LORD’s right hand is lifted high;
the LORD’s right hand has done mighty things!”
I will not die but live,
and will proclaim what the LORD has done.
The LORD has chastened me severely,
but he has not given me over to death.
Open for me the gates of the righteous;
I will enter and give thanks to the LORD.
This is the gate of the LORD
through which the righteous may enter.
I will give you thanks, for you answered me;
you have become my salvation (NIV).
Are you left handed? Today in western cultures being left handed presents some challenges since many devices are designed with right-handed people in mind. Try finding left-handed scissors next time you’re at a store. Good luck with that! Oh, and if you find them, expect to pay three times the price of a right-handed model. Often lefties don’t have it so good.
Even today in Middle Eastern cultures being born left handed presents an enormous challenge. The right hand is used for eating food; the left hand is used for personal hygiene—bottom wiping. You dare not reverse that assigned role. Toddlers are strictly trained in this cultural practice. Usually left-handed children are forced to switch so they conform to the social norm. Making this switch plays havoc with the developing brain and often results in speech impediments such as stuttering, since this transition requires a complete rewiring of the child’s brain.
The Bible was written by Holy Spirit inspired authors, but like authors today they were not blank slates. They wrote from their cultural perspective to the people of their time. As a result, readers today can easily miss or misunderstand concepts that were readily understood in their original context.
The significance of the right hand is one of those culturally important concepts that we often pass over with little thought. The Bible is replete with references to the right hand or specifically God’s right hand. So what’s the big deal, we think to ourselves. But in Middle Eastern culture the right hand holds great significance. This is the hand of righteousness, honor and blessing. Thus, there is immense significance in this statement: “The LORD’s right hand has done mighty things! The LORD’s right hand is lifted high; the LORD’s right hand has done mighty things!”
Response: Father God, extend your right hand of blessing over me. Work on my behalf. Show me your mercy, your power and glory. Again and again I will give you thanks, for you answered me. Amen.
Your Turn: Are you like the psalmist? Has the LORD spared your life for a purpose? Has God lifted His right hand to save and bless you?
Reading: Psalm 109
For he never thought of doing a kindness,
but hounded to death the poor
and the needy and the brokenhearted.
He loved to pronounce a curse—
may it come back on him.
He found no pleasure in blessing—
may it be far from him.
He wore cursing as his garment;
it entered into his body like water,
into his bones like oil.
May it be like a cloak wrapped about him,
like a belt tied forever around him.
May this be the LORD’s payment to my accusers,
to those who speak evil of me (NIV).
In just a few months we will be entered the giving season. I am of course referring to the pre-Christmas shopping binge, when gifts are purchased, wrapped and hidden away for the big celebration. Many rail against this tradition, but in reality the scriptures are filled with admonitions that encourage us to be generous and bless others. Christmas and year-end provide us with wonderful opportunities to do just that. A generous person will prosper; whoever refreshes others will be refreshed (Proverbs 11:25).
If we find no pleasure in giving, we may be suffering from more than a simple case of Scrooge-like stinginess. Soul sucking self-centeredness destroys us from within. It defaces the image of God that is stamped upon us from birth. God our heavenly Father is the picture of generosity. He gave His only Son for us. In light of this sacrifice, there’s something terribly wrong if we can’t spare a dime or a kind word for the less fortunate. Generosity is never out of season.
Today’s reading provides us with a negative contrast to the generosity of God. The individual being described withheld his blessing. He loved to pronounce a curse—may it come back on him. He found no pleasure in blessing—may it be far from him.
How generous am I with words of blessing? How generous am I with this world’s goods that have been lavished on me by a gracious Father? Now and in pre-Christmas season I need to check my heart and my bank account, but above all my heart. Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously (2 Corinthians 9:6).
Am I generous with words of praise and thanks for those around me—with the clerk at the shopping mall or the life partner who shares my bed? Am I reflecting or defacing the image of God?
Response: Father God, today I want to be a blessing and pronounce a blessing on those around me. Over the years others have blessed me. I am thankful for them, and the generosity of your love, forgiveness and grace. It’s far more than I deserve. Amen.
Your Turn: Are you too tightfisted or too lavish with your giving?
I will praise Him!
Of David. A psalm.
The earth is the LORD’s, and everything in it,
the world, and all who live in it;
for he founded it on the seas
and established it on the waters.
Who may ascend the mountain of the LORD?
Who may stand in his holy place?
The one who has clean hands and a pure heart,
who does not trust in an idol
or swear by a false god.
They will receive blessing from the LORD
and vindication from God their Savior.
Such is the generation of those who seek him,
who seek your face, God of Jacob.
(Psalm 24:1-6, NIV)
Reading: Psalm 72
For he will deliver the needy who cry out,
the afflicted who have no one to help.
He will take pity on the weak and the needy
and save the needy from death.
He will rescue them from oppression and violence,
for precious is their blood in his sight. Long may he live!
May gold from Sheba be given him.
May people ever pray for him
and bless him all day long.
May grain abound throughout the land;
on the tops of the hills may it sway.
May the crops flourish like Lebanon
and thrive like the grass of the field.
May his name endure forever;
may it continue as long as the sun.
Then all nations will be blessed through him,
and they will call him blessed.
Praise be to the LORD God, the God of Israel,
who alone does marvelous deeds.
Praise be to his glorious name forever;
may the whole earth be filled with his glory. Amen and Amen.
This concludes the prayers of David son of Jesse (NIV).
This is the concluding portion of Solomon’s prayer. Many scholars view this as David’s prayer for Solomon, rather than a prayer written by Solomon. In either case, it is a prayer calling for God’s blessing on the king and the nation. This brings us to a question. What is the purpose of God’s blessing? Is it only for personal benefit?
The answer can be found in the first few lines above. The righteous king is blessed and given wealth and authority so that he can be a blessing to others. He will take pity on the weak and the needy and save the needy from death. He will rescue them from oppression and violence, for precious is their blood in his sight.
The great danger for any of us is that when blessings come, we accumulate these blessings for ourselves alone. Along with God’s blessings comes a responsibility to share and identify with those in need within our borders and beyond. We serve a God with a big heart. His love extends far beyond our narrow interests. God blesses His people abundantly, so that we can in turn bless others.
What a privilege we have to reflect the LORD’s character in a hurting world!
Response: LORD God, help me to see my many blessings as a gift from you. Show me today how I can be a blessing to others. You are my source. Lord, give me a generous spirit like you have. Amen.
Your Turn: Are you tempted to keep all of God’s blessings for yourself? How generous is your spirit?
I will praise Him!