I will praise the LORD!
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 130
A song of ascents.
Out of the depths I cry to you, LORD;
LORD, hear my voice.
Let your ears be attentive
to my cry for mercy.
If you, LORD, kept a record of sins,
LORD, who could stand?
But with you there is forgiveness,
so that we can, with reverence, serve you (NIV).
Psalm 130 is a perfect example of a psalm that brings us into the private inner sanctum of communion with God. Here is a portrait of a fallen man—a man on his knees before his Maker, the eternal One. Hear him now as he agonizes in prayer, “Out of the depths I cry out to you, O LORD; O LORD, hear my voice. Let your ears be attentive to my cry for mercy.”
The opening lines of this psalm leave little doubt as to what has transpired. The psalmist has failed; he has missed the mark. He has transgressed, yet again. There is an abject poverty of spirit reflected in these words—a poverty that almost makes us cringe.
We do not know what sin, or list of sins has brought the psalmist to this wretched state. The transgression is left unstated. Was it anger, malice, or unbridled lust? Was it pride, greed or wilful dishonesty? Was this a transgression of the mind, of the tongue, of action or inaction? God knows.
I am always somewhat skeptical of those who claim they could never commit this or that sin. I think we rarely comprehend the depravity of our own hearts. Pushed into wrong circumstances, in the wrong environment, with the wrong peer group, who can plumb the depths to which a man or woman may sink? I can identify with the psalmist. I have added my own pile of dung to this world’s heap of moral filth. I too have found myself in the psalmist’s position, sobbing out these words, “Out of the depths I cry out to you, O LORD; O LORD, hear my voice. Let your ears be attentive to my cry for mercy.“
But despite my failings, despite my moral poverty, this great God—this God of holiness—is approachable. He is a God of mercy. The psalmist reminds himself and the LORD of His merciful nature with these words: If you, LORD, kept a record of sins, LORD, who could stand? But with you there is forgiveness, so that we can, with reverence, serve you.
I need daily reminders of God’s forgiveness and mercy. God the moral accountant is also the LORD of forgiveness. No one does forgiveness better than God. When we confess our sins, He destroys the record. What accountant does that?
Response: Father God, I thank you for forgiveness. I have failed you many times, but you are rich in mercy. You are a patient God. Thank you for destroying the record of my sins. Thank you for the blood Jesus shed so I could be washed clean. Amen.
Your Turn: Have you been guilty of digging up the record of your sins—sins that have been forgiven?
Reading: Psalm 38
For I am about to fall,
and my pain is ever with me.
I confess my iniquity;
I am troubled by my sin.
Many have become my enemies without cause;
those who hate me without reason are numerous.
Those who repay my good with evil
lodge accusations against me,
though I seek only to do what is good.
LORD, do not forsake me;
do not be far from me, my God.
Come quickly to help me,
my Lord and my Savior (NIV).
Today’s reading is the concluding portion of Psalm 38. As noted previously, this entire psalm is a lament over sin, and the trouble and affliction it has brought into David’s life. Rather than blaming others or blaming God, David takes responsibility for his self-inflicted difficulties. In anguish of spirit he cries out, “I confess my iniquity; I am troubled by my sin.”
Are you troubled by your sin, or do you revel in it? Have the consequences of sin started to bite. The writer of the Book of Hebrews tells us that Moses “chose to be mistreated along with the people of God rather than to enjoy the fleeting pleasures of sin” (Hebrews 11:25). There are pleasures in sin for a season, but the long term consequences are pain and death. It would appear from a full reading of this psalm that David is suffering some of the consequences of his misguided sin.
But David has the correct response. He confesses his sin and throws himself upon the mercies of God. Hear his humble plea, “LORD, do not forsake me; do not be far from me, my God. Come quickly to help me, my Lord and my Savior.”
God’s ears are always open to that kind of prayer. We may believe that we have fallen too far –that our sin is too great –that we have sunk too low. But God hears our cry and His grace is sufficient. His mercy knows no bounds. The blood of Christ flows to the lowest valley. He can cleanse the vilest heart, if we call out to Him.
Repentance is a wonderful gift, perhaps the greatest gift of all. At various times in his life David fell into the grip of sin. But David knew how to repent and as a result he found favor in the eyes of God. Discover the gift of repentance today. It’s more than feeling sorry for yourself. It’s a 180-degree turn from pursuing sin to pursuing God.
Response: LORD God, grant me the gift of repentance. I am thankful that Jesus died on the cross to wash me clean. Hallelujah! I want to pursue you, Lord. You are my help and my righteousness. My salvation comes from you. Amen.
Your Turn: Are you troubled by sin? Have you found a remedy?
Reading: Psalm 38
A psalm of David. A petition.
LORD, do not rebuke me in your anger
or discipline me in your wrath.
Your arrows have pierced me,
and your hand has come down on me.
Because of your wrath there is no health in my body;
there is no soundness in my bones because of my sin.
My guilt has overwhelmed me
like a burden too heavy to bear.
My wounds fester and are loathsome
because of my sinful folly.
I am bowed down and brought very low;
all day long I go about mourning.
My back is filled with searing pain;
there is no health in my body.
I am feeble and utterly crushed;
I groan in anguish of heart (NIV).
Psalm 38 is a psalm of personal lamentation. The psalmist, David, laments the state of his personal and spiritual health. Notes of joy and triumph are absent from this psalm; instead we find David in a state of deep melancholy.
What is the cause of this melancholy—this depression verging on despair? David attributes his current ill health to sin. He has sinned and is bearing the consequences of his sin. His words of confession make this perfectly clear. Because of your wrath there is no health in my body; there is no soundness in my bones because of my sin. My guilt has overwhelmed me like a burden too heavy to bear.
What a refreshingly different approach to one’s problems! Rather than blaming others or blaming God, David takes responsibility for his self-inflicted difficulties. How different from the pop-psychology of today! Rather than deal with the sin issue we are often advised to pop a pill, blame a parent, a colleague or society in general. Rather than take our problems to God the world encourages us to indulge ourselves with another bottle, another doughnut or another spouse, meanwhile, our putrid load of sin piles ever higher.
David was on the right track when he confessed his sin to the LORD. He laments, “My wounds fester and are loathsome because of my sinful folly.”
Thanks be to God! He can handle our sinful folly. He sent Jesus to die on the cross to wipe away our sins. Healing, forgiveness and redemption are available through the blood Jesus shed.
Response: LORD God, I thank you for Jesus. I am thankful that I can put my complete trust in you. You forgive me and cleanse me from all my sins. I am saved by your amazing grace not by my effort. Amen.
Your Turn: When was the last time you truly lamented over sin in your life?
Reading: Psalm 25
Good and upright is the LORD;
therefore he instructs sinners in his ways.
He guides the humble in what is right
and teaches them his way.
All the ways of the LORD are loving and faithful
toward those who keep the demands of his covenant.
For the sake of your name, LORD,
forgive my iniquity, though it is great.
Who, then, are those who fear the LORD?
He will instruct them in the ways they should choose.
They will spend their days in prosperity,
and their descendants will inherit the land.
The LORD confides in those who fear him;
he makes his covenant known to them.
My eyes are ever on the LORD,
for only he will release my feet from the snare (NIV).
Some truths are self-evident: Water flows downhill, always has and always will. Darkness is an absence of light. The first line of today’s psalm reading is also one of those self-evident truths. Good and upright is the LORD. The LORD is always good and He is always upright in all His ways. There is nothing devious or corrupt about Him. That’s simply the nature of our God.
Because the LORD is good and upright, righteousness and grace flow from His throne. The LORD instructs sinners in his ways. He guides the humble in what is right and teaches them his way. His love cascades down upon those who are humble of heart. Jesus in his earthly ministry exemplified the very nature of God, because he came as the LORD in human flesh. He said, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls” (Matthew 11:27-29).
Are you learning from Jesus? Have you positioned yourself to hear and follow him? The LORD is our teacher, but he only instructs those who humbly fear and reverence Him. The obstinate sinner has shut his ears to the voice of God. There is no guidance from heaven for him, nor does he seek it, because in rebellion he has chosen his own path.
Do you want the LORD to guide you in the decisions you face? Be of good cheer. If you fear the LORD, He will instruct you in the way you should choose. Confess your sin to Him, admit your need before Him, and then open your spirit to hear from God. We have this promise: The LORD confides in those who fear him.
Response: LORD, in humility I come before you. I need your help and guidance every moment of the day. Teach me your ways in every situation and circumstance that I face. Amen.
Your Turn: Do you routinely ask for the LORD’s guidance? How has He responded? Can you testify to situations in which the LORD has guided your steps?
Reading: Psalm 109
But you, Sovereign LORD, help me for your name’s sake;
out of the goodness of your love, deliver me.
For I am poor and needy, and my heart is wounded within me.
I fade away like an evening shadow;
I am shaken off like a locust.
My knees give way from fasting; my body is thin and gaunt.
I am an object of scorn to my accusers;
when they see me, they shake their heads.
Help me, LORD my God; save me according to your unfailing love.
Let them know that it is your hand, that you, LORD, have done it.
While they curse, may you bless;
may those who attack me be put to shame,
but may your servant rejoice.
May my accusers be clothed with disgrace
and wrapped in shame as in a cloak.
With my mouth I will greatly extol the LORD;
in the great throng of worshipers I will praise him.
For he stands at the right hand of the needy,
to save their lives from those who would condemn them (NIV).
Post-traumatic stress disorder—PTSD—its effects are real. Soldiers are returning from theatres of war looking fit and healthy, but in reality they are deeply wounded by what they have seen or participated in. Of course one does not need to go to the battle field to experience the devastating effects of PTSD. First responders and witnesses to horrific events here at home can also become wounded and scarred.
In this concluding portion of Psalm 109, David makes this confession: I am poor and needy, and my heart is wounded within me.
Our world is full of wounded people. Keep this in mind the next time you see someone in a fit of rage or self-medicating with a bottle of booze or pills or a hypodermic needle. The wounds are real. The way back to social and emotional health is often long, difficult and fraught with pain.
David, the wounded warrior, does two things that are vital for anyone who wants to recover from PTSD or any form of spiritual wounding. He admits his need. Rather than tough it out, he confesses that he is in a desperate state. I am poor and needy, and my heart is wounded within me.
Secondly, David called out to the LORD. Help me, LORD my God; save me according to your unfailing love. The LORD’s ears are always open to that kind of prayer—the prayer of the wounded.
Response: LORD, I confess events in my life have left me wounded. Heal me on the inside. Today I turn to you. I can’t do this by myself. Help me, LORD my God; save me according to your unfailing love. Amen.
Your Turn: Are there wounded people in your life? Have you been wounded?
This week’s I Love the Psalms theme is forgiveness.
I can’t see the back of my head. I was reminded of this yesterday when I was getting my haircut. After the hairdresser finished, she held up a mirror so that I could see the back of my head. To my dismay I realized I’m balding back there. The evidence of hair loss was plain to see, but until that moment I was not fully aware.
In the same way we are often blind to our own faults. We are quick to spot the faults in others, but our own character flaws and moral shortcomings go undetected. Today’s verse from the Psalms reminds us of this.
Even when we discover our faults or sins, we are usually quick to excuse ourselves. The truth is we don’t need excuses; they usually don’t hold water. We need forgiveness—God’s forgiveness. Honest confession to God and forgiveness from God liberates the soul.
Response: LORD God, help me to see my faults—not so I’ll be weighed down by guilt—but so I will be set free by your forgiveness through Jesus your Son. Amen.
Your Turn: Have you been blind to your faults? What do you do when you become aware of them?