I will praise Him!
Reading: Psalm 62
Surely the lowborn are but a breath,
the highborn are but a lie.
If weighed on a balance, they are nothing;
together they are only a breath.
Do not trust in extortion
or put vain hope in stolen goods;
though your riches increase,
do not set your heart on them.
One thing God has spoken,
two things I have heard:
“Power belongs to you, God,
and with you, Lord, is unfailing love”;
and, “You reward everyone
according to what they have done” (NIV).
In this life that we have been given, what things are solid? What things are sure? Not much according to the psalmist, David.
Our station in life is just a fabricated lie. At heart, the highborn are no different than the street pauper. We breathe the same air, suffer the indignities of aging, and our bodies are fated for death and decay. In his epistle, James makes our fate quite clear. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes (James 4:14b).
As for this world’s wealth, it has no lasting value. Here is sound advice—advice from this psalm that you won’t get from a financial planner: though your riches increase, do not set your heart on them.
What then should we do? How should we live? Live in the light and knowledge of eternity and the One who holds eternity in His hands. David reminds us God will…“reward everyone according to what they have done.”
In other words, how we live matters. It matters for now and eternity. That knowledge should inform and give shape to all that we say and do. But there are two additional truths that should bring meaning to our lives. One thing God has spoken, two things I have heard: “Power belongs to you, God, and with you, Lord, is unfailing love.”
God alone has the power of life, death and resurrection. And in Jesus, He demonstrated his unfailing power and love for every man, woman and child on this planet. On the cross Jesus showed his unfailing love. Other loves—human loves—may fail us, but God’s love stands firm and unwavering. In a changing world of eroding values our LORD remains firm and immovable.
Response: LORD God, thank you for the unfailing love of Jesus. You love me even when I have failed and despite my shortcomings. Help me live my life in the light of eternity. Amen.
Your Turn: Is God’s love a motivator for you to change your ways, since He never changes?
Reading: Psalm 49
For the director of music. Of the Sons of Korah. A psalm.
Hear this, all you peoples;
listen, all who live in this world,
both low and high, rich and poor alike:
My mouth will speak words of wisdom;
the meditation of my heart will give you understanding.
I will turn my ear to a proverb;
with the harp I will expound my riddle:
Why should I fear when evil days come,
when wicked deceivers surround me—
those who trust in their wealth and boast of their great riches?
No one can redeem the life of another
or give to God a ransom for them—
the ransom for a life is costly, no payment is ever enough—
so that they should live on forever and not see decay.
For all can see that the wise die,
that the foolish and the senseless also perish,
leaving their wealth to others.
Their tombs will remain their houses forever,
their dwellings for endless generations,
though they had named lands after themselves.
People, despite their wealth, do not endure;
they are like the beasts that perish (NIV).
This opening portion of Psalm 49 reminds me of that old maxim: There are only two certainties in this life: death and taxes. The same fate awaits us all; no one is spared. The Grim Reaper cuts down all without exception. The psalmist asserts the obvious: For all can see that the wise die, that the foolish and the senseless also perish, leaving their wealth to others.
But the psalmist is not entirely correct. He makes a sweeping statement that fails to account for a most unusual exception. The psalmist states: No one can redeem the life of another or give to God a ransom for them—the ransom for a life is costly, no payment is ever enough—so that they should live on forever and not see decay.
Jesus Christ is that unusual exception. He proves the psalmist wrong. Jesus paid my ransom. He redeemed my life. He went to the cross on my behalf and there he poured out his life blood so that I can live forever. Then to prove that Jesus’ sacrifice was accepted, God the Father raised Him from the dead. Death no longer has dominion over Him. Better still, those who put their trust in Jesus Christ will be raised to life on the last day. Praise be to God, who breaks the bonds of death.
Response: LORD, I thank you for the victory of Jesus! By faith I will live and reign through Him. Lord Jesus, you are my redeemer. I rejoice in your great love. Eternity is mine. I am forever grateful. Amen.
Your Turn: Jesus faced death and overcame. Will you be an overcomer too through Him?
Reading: Psalm 44
All this came upon us, though we had not forgotten you;
we had not been false to your covenant.
Our hearts had not turned back;
our feet had not strayed from your path.
But you crushed us and made us a haunt for jackals;
you covered us over with deep darkness.
If we had forgotten the name of our God
or spread out our hands to a foreign god,
would not God have discovered it,
since he knows the secrets of the heart?
Yet for your sake we face death all day long;
we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.
Awake, LORD! Why do you sleep?
Rouse yourself! Do not reject us forever.
Why do you hide your face and forget our misery and oppression?
We are brought down to the dust;
our bodies cling to the ground.
Rise up and help us; rescue us because of your unfailing love (NIV).
As previously noted, Psalm 44 begins in a very positive fashion as the psalmist recalls the goodness of the LORD and the great victories Israel has won because of the LORD’s help. But that is not the present reality. The present reality is filled with defeat, death and destruction. The psalmist moves from rejoicing over past victories to lamenting over present-day tribulations. Hear his words of anguish: Yet for your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.
What do you do in the midst of defeat? Do you put on a brave face and pretend all is going well? There may be occasions when putting on a brave face is warranted, even necessary—but inside, when we are alone with our thoughts we question why God would allow such things. Why would God allow a child to die? Why would He allow a natural disaster like an earthquake to claim countless innocent lives? Normally, these life-shattering matters don’t come with pat answers in tow. We are left in a state of grief and bewilderment.
Often believers see such events as retribution for sins committed against a holy God. But note the psalmist’s complaint: All this came upon us, though we had not forgotten you; we had not been false to your covenant. Our hearts had not turned back; our feet had not strayed from your path.
The brutal truth is bad things happen to good people. Sometimes Christians are martyred on a beach in Libya. Sometimes a cruel disease hems us in on every side and there is no escape, aside from death and heaven’s door. Sometimes all we can do is pour out our complaint before a God of unfailing love.
Response: LORD God, when life is hard, help me to remember to bring my complaints and travails to you. You are bigger than any agony or grief I may face. I call out to you, my Savior and my God. Amen.
Your Turn: In your opinion has God been unfair to you? How do you respond?
Reading: Psalm 31
But I trust in you, LORD;
I say, “You are my God.”
My times are in your hands;
deliver me from the hands of my enemies,
from those who pursue me.
Let your face shine on your servant;
save me in your unfailing love.
Let me not be put to shame, LORD,
for I have cried out to you;
but let the wicked be put to shame
and be silent in the realm of the dead.
Let their lying lips be silenced,
for with pride and contempt
they speak arrogantly against the righteous (NIV).
Reflection (I wrote this post several years ago, but the truth it contains is just as relevant today.)
Yesterday, I made a trip to the hospital to visit a neighbor from down my street who is dying due to a brain tumor. Today, I just returned from visiting another neighbor who is dying due to heart failure. About ten years ago this medical missionary had a heart transplant. Now that heart is being rejected, and she has less than a year to live. Making matters more dire, she has a thirteen-year-old son and a ten-year-old daughter.
David spoke the truth when he declared, “My times are in your hands.” We have no idea—no certainty about what tomorrow will bring. Will it bring life or death, joy or sorrow, pain or ecstasy, excitement or boredom? Our times are in His hands. We devise our plans, but ultimately the LORD determines the outcome. Many are the plans in a person’s heart, but it is the LORD’s purpose that prevails (Proverbs 19:21).
As if to prove my point, as I went on line to search for the Proverbs passage quoted above, I discovered that Canada’s former finance minister, Jim Flaherty, had suddenly died of a heart attack. While to non-Canadian readers the name Jim Flaherty may mean nothing, to those who live in the true north strong and free Mr. Flaherty was a well-known and well-respected leader who piloted Canada through the Great Recession with consummate skill. He retired just one month before his sudden passing. Mr. Flaherty’s times were in His—that is God’s hands.
But we can easily forget that our times are in God’s hands. It is God who judges: He brings one down, he exalts another (Psalm 75:7). He determines the length of our days. That’s why the opening words of this psalm portion are so important. David asserts, “But I trust in you, LORD; I say, ‘You are my God.'”
In life and in death He is Lord. Put your trust in Him for today, for tomorrow and for all eternity.
Response: LORD God, I do not know what the future holds for me, but like David, I put my trust in you. Guide me in your ways. My life is in your hands. Amen.
Your Turn: How long do you think you have on this earth? Are you ready for eternity?
Reading: Psalm 116
Precious in the sight of the LORD
is the death of his faithful servants.
Truly I am your servant, LORD;
I serve you just as my mother did;
you have freed me from my chains.
I will sacrifice a thank offering to you
and call on the name of the LORD.
I will fulfill my vows to the LORD
in the presence of all his people,
in the courts of the house of the LORD—
in your midst, Jerusalem.
Praise the LORD (NIV).
Funerals are fascinating occasions for a whole variety of reasons. Recently I have had an opportunity to attend a number of these end-of-life events. There is something bittersweet about most funerals—bitter due to the loss of a loved one—sweet because often fond memories are recalled.
The end of a life here on earth gives us an opportunity to reflect on the values that the deceased portrayed, and by extension it allows us to examine the values and qualities that shape our own lives. Our lives paint a portrait. What sort of portrait will it be?
Apparently the LORD takes note when one of His own passes on from this life. Precious in the sight of the LORD is the death of his faithful servants. Truly I am your servant, LORD; I serve you just as my mother did; you have freed me from my chains.
The word servant is significant in the passage above. It is repeated twice along with its verb form serve. Now here is a question for you. Who are you serving? Are you a servant of the LORD or are you serving only yourself?
Those who serve only themselves should expect few at their bedside as they draw their last breath. All too often their last days are spent in loneliness and bitter resentment—not so for those who spent their lives in the service of others and the LORD. They can expect to be surrounded by family and friends because they have poured out their lives in service. We reap what we sow, and when the Grim Reaper comes, those who have sown generously will be rewarded generously. God, Himself will be present!
Now we should note that genuine service to others is service to the Lord. In essence, Jesus said just that when in his parable of the final judgment he declared, “Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me” (Matthew 25:40).
Response: LORD, I want to serve you. Today please show me how I can be the best possible servant to you and those around me. Open my eyes to the needs of others. I want to serve with a heart filled with gratitude and joy. Amen.
Your Turn: Are you living a life of service? What does serving God mean for you?
Reading: Psalm 116
I love the LORD, for he heard my voice;
he heard my cry for mercy.
Because he turned his ear to me,
I will call on him as long as I live.
The cords of death entangled me,
the anguish of the grave came over me;
I was overcome by distress and sorrow.
Then I called on the name of the LORD:
“LORD, save me!”
The LORD is gracious and righteous;
our God is full of compassion.
The LORD protects the unwary;
when I was brought low, he saved me.
Return to your rest, my soul,
for the LORD has been good to you.
For you, LORD, have delivered me from death,
my eyes from tears, my feet from stumbling,
that I may walk before the LORD
in the land of the living (NIV).
Recently, on a family level I experienced the power and truth of the following words: For you, LORD, have delivered me from death, my eyes from tears, my feet from stumbling, that I may walk before the LORD in the land of the living.
Some time ago on a Saturday evening, I got a call from my brother. My alert and active, ninety-three-year-old mother had suffered a stroke. Fortunately, this happened while in hospital, as she was in recovery from having a heart pacemaker implanted. Clot dissolving drugs could be administered. But…
But my mother is a hemophiliac—a bleeder. In her case, the clot dissolvers could easily result in a brain hemorrhage leading to death. The doctors needed us to decide on a course of action. The choice was between taking no action and having my mother permanently disabled by the stroke, or administering a remedy that could kill her. This is the dilemma we faced.
We decided to have the doctors proceed with the clot dissolving drugs. We resolved to pray and trust God for the best outcome. And God answered by bringing my mother through with no symptoms of a stroke whatsoever. Zero. Two weeks later she was standing in front of her church, proudly displaying a quilt she had made to mark the 70th anniversary of the congregation. Yes, and just to remind us that this recovery was God’s doing, she had a significant bleeding incident earlier that week from her pacemaker incision. You, LORD, have delivered me from death, my eyes from tears, my feet from stumbling.
Response: Father God, I love you LORD, for you heard my voice. Over and over you have answered my prayers. You are a very merciful God. Amen.
Your Turn: Has God helped you? Has He answered your prayers? Take a moment to testify to God’s goodness.
Reading: Psalm 103
Praise the LORD, my soul;
all my inmost being, praise his holy name.
Praise the LORD, my soul,
and forget not all his benefits—
who forgives all your sins
and heals all your diseases,
who redeems your life from the pit
and crowns you with love and compassion,
who satisfies your desires with good things
so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.
The LORD works righteousness
and justice for all the oppressed (NIV).
Psalm 103 begins by David calling on his soul to praise the LORD. Many see praise and worship as a purely cathartic response to the manifest goodness of God. Something good happens to us. Unexpectedly, we get a thousand-dollar check in the mail. Quite naturally our response is praise to God.
For many people, praise to God never progresses beyond this natural, cathartic level. If God does not bless, no praise is forthcoming. Our praise for the LORD becomes, or simply remains circumstance dependent. But that was not the case with David. His praise extended beyond simple catharsis. He taught his soul to praise the LORD in all circumstances. True biblical praise and worship is after all a spiritual exercise, a discipline we grow in, just as we grow in the discipline of prayer.
The LORD, the object of our praise, does not change with our circumstances. He is forever the same. Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever (Hebrews 13:8). He is constant, hence our praise and worship of him should be constant, unaffected by weather conditions, world events, the gyrations of the stock market, our swings of mood or our personal situation.
Of course this constancy in praise is something the natural man simply rebels against. Our world needs to be right in order for us to praise God aright, or so we reason. The only problem with this logic is that the world has never been right since the Fall. Death, disease, war and misery have been raining down on the children of Adam, since wilful disobedience to God first took root among us. And this is one weather forecast, for all humanity, that is not about to change—not until Christ returns.
If we are waiting for a perfect world before we lift our voice in praise to God, we will never praise Him. In fact, if our eyes are on the world, or on ourselves, there will always be grounds to withhold our praise. But then, the whole purpose of praise and worship is to lift up our eyes. We desperately need to get our eyes off ourselves, off the world, and onto God our Maker.
Response: Father God, I genuinely want to learn to praise you in all situations. You are always good, loving and worthy of praise. Along with David I declare, “Praise the LORD, my soul!” Amen.
Your Turn: Have you learned to praise God even in difficult times?
blood of Christ, death, hell, Jesus, joy, love, love of God, New Testament, Psalm, psalmist, resurrection, Righteousness, salvation, Savior, sin, sing praise, singing, song, surrender, the cross, the grave, the LORD
Reading: Psalm 98
Sing to the LORD a new song,
for he has done marvelous things;
his right hand and his holy arm
have worked salvation for him.
The LORD has made his salvation known
and revealed his righteousness to the nations.
He has remembered his love
and his faithfulness to Israel;
all the ends of the earth have seen
the salvation of our God.
Shout for joy to the LORD, all the earth,
burst into jubilant song with music;
make music to the LORD with the harp,
with the harp and the sound of singing,
with trumpets and the blast of the ram’s horn—
shout for joy before the LORD, the King (NIV).
Once again in Psalm 98 the psalmist calls us to break forth with a new song of praise to our God. This call to worship is a frequent theme in many psalms. In this case the cause for worship is well worth noting. We are to worship in music and song because of the salvation of our God. The LORD has made his salvation known and revealed his righteousness to the nations. He has remembered his love and his faithfulness to Israel; all the ends of the earth have seen the salvation of our God.
To some extent these words trouble me. What salvation is the psalmist talking about? Is he referring to the miraculous redemption and rescue of Israel from slavery in Egypt? That’s the most significant act of national salvation in the Old Testament. On the other hand, the psalmist could be referring to the restoration of the Jewish nation after the destruction of the temple and the Babylonian captivity. Again this is a very significant event that was witnessed by the surrounding nations. Since we do not have a timeline or date for when this psalm was written, we are left guessing the answer.
For the New Testament believer we see the fulfillment of this psalm in the salvation that was won for us by Christ at the cross. There the ancient powers of sin, hell and the grave were defeated. Death itself was vanquished through the resurrection of Jesus. In reality, the true enemies of the people of God are not foreigners or foreign nations. Our enemies are spiritual; they lurk within—within us. Salvation from those enemies was purchased at the cross with the precious blood of Jesus.
Now here is a bizarre twist. Salvation arrives with our surrender. It arrives when we surrender our lives to our Savior and kneel before our King on a cross. That’s a salvation worth singing about!
Response: LORD God, I am so grateful for the salvation you purchased for me through the blood of Jesus. I want all the ends of the earth to know about that great salvation. Thank you, Jesus. Amen.
Your Turn: Have you knelt before the King on a cross? Take some time to do that now.