I will praise Him!
Reading: Psalm 68
For the director of music. Of David. A psalm. A song.
May God arise, may his enemies be scattered;
may his foes flee before him.
May you blow them away like smoke—
as wax melts before the fire,
may the wicked perish before God.
But may the righteous be glad
and rejoice before God;
may they be happy and joyful.
Sing to God, sing in praise of his name,
extol him who rides on the clouds;
rejoice before him—his name is the LORD.
A father to the fatherless, a defender of widows,
is God in his holy dwelling.
God sets the lonely in families,
he leads out the prisoners with singing;
but the rebellious live in a sun-scorched land (NIV).
Anyone who has read through the Book of Psalms will readily admit there is a great deal of variety from psalm to psalm. Some psalms are filled with joyous praise, while others are personal or even national laments. Some are filled with humble contrition, while others call for retribution against one’s foes. Each psalm is reflective of the state the psalmist finds himself in. In this respect the psalms act as a Spirit-inspired mirror of the human condition. The highs and lows of life are reflected there.
Psalm 68 is a hymn of triumph—national triumph. Think of it as a triumphant processional song. The enemies have been vanquished and God’s army has returned victorious. May God arise, may his enemies be scattered; may his foes flee before him.
Because God has won the victory, His people can rejoice before Him. Sing to God, sing in praise of his name, extol him who rides on the clouds; rejoice before him—his name is the LORD.
In his lifetime David experienced many victories over his foes, but he did not take credit for his successes. He knew that his triumphs came from the LORD. God was his personal defender—but God was and is also the defender of the fatherless and the widow.
We too have experienced a great victory. It was won for us on Mount Calvary. Satan and the power of sin and death were defeated there. Jesus triumphed over hell and the grave through his resurrection. Now that victory is ours by faith. Rejoice before him—his name is the LORD!
Response: LORD God, I thank you for the victory Jesus won on my behalf at the cross. I praise you for your unconditional love. Help me walk triumphantly in life today because of you, Lord Jesus. Amen.
Your Turn: Are you experiencing victory today? Allow the eternal significance of Christ’s victory permeate your heart and mind.
Reading: Psalm 60
For the director of music. To the tune of “The Lily of the Covenant.”
A miktam of David. For teaching.
When he fought Aram Naharaim and Aram Zobah,
and when Joab returned
and struck down twelve thousand Edomites in the Valley of Salt.
You have rejected us, God, and burst upon us;
you have been angry—now restore us!
You have shaken the land and torn it open;
mend its fractures, for it is quaking.
You have shown your people desperate times;
you have given us wine that makes us stagger.
But for those who fear you, you have raised a banner
to be unfurled against the bow.
Save us and help us with your right hand,
that those you love may be delivered.
God has spoken from his sanctuary:
“In triumph I will parcel out Shechem
and measure off the Valley of Sukkoth.
Gilead is mine, and Manasseh is mine;
Ephraim is my helmet, Judah is my scepter.
Moab is my washbasin, on Edom I toss my sandal;
over Philistia I shout in triumph.”
Who will bring me to the fortified city?
Who will lead me to Edom?
Is it not you, God, you who have now rejected us
and no longer go out with our armies?
Give us aid against the enemy, for human help is worthless.
With God we will gain the victory,
and he will trample down our enemies (NIV).
David was Israel’s great warrior king. Through conquest he expanded and secured the nation’s territory against enemies who for generations had ravaged the land. His success as a warrior is fully reflected in the words of Psalm 60. Conquerors often boast of their accomplishments, but David does not take the credit for his victories. He attributes his success to God. He asserts, “With God we will gain the victory, and he will trample down our enemies.”
On a personal level, we too have enemies who ravage and sabotage the excellent plan God has for our lives. Many a Christian is fighting a personal war with lust and pornography, pride, greed and envy. These are enemies of the soul that rob us of spiritual vitality, leaving us bereft of the fruits of the Spirit. The battle is real. We are in desperate need of victory, but many lack even the will to fight. Over you God speaks from His sanctuary. Victory is available. Hear and believe these words: With God we will gain the victory, and he will trample down our enemies.
Response: LORD God, help me to put on the armor of God and voice the battle cry. You are my strength. Victory is mine in my personal battle through the all-powerful name of Jesus. Jesus, on my behalf you conquered death and the powers of darkness. Amen.
Your Turn: Have you identified the personal enemies of your soul? Have you taken up the battle cry?
Reading: Psalm 58
For the director of music. To the tune of “Do Not Destroy.”
Of David. A miktam.
Do you rulers indeed speak justly?
Do you judge people with equity?
No, in your heart you devise injustice,
and your hands mete out violence on the earth.
Even from birth the wicked go astray;
from the womb they are wayward, spreading lies.
Their venom is like the venom of a snake,
like that of a cobra that has stopped its ears,
that will not heed the tune of the charmer,
however skillful the enchanter may be.
Break the teeth in their mouths, O God;
LORD, tear out the fangs of those lions!
Let them vanish like water that flows away;
when they draw the bow, let their arrows fall short.
May they be like a slug that melts away as it moves along,
like a stillborn child that never sees the sun.
Before your pots can feel the heat of the thorns—
whether they be green or dry—the wicked will be swept away.
The righteous will be glad when they are avenged,
when they dip their feet in the blood of the wicked.
Then people will say, “Surely the righteous still are rewarded;
surely there is a God who judges the earth” (NIV).
The overall title of my devotional posts is, ‘I Love the Psalms’. Do I love Psalm 58? Ah, not so much. There is a term for this type of psalm. It’s called an imprecatory psalm. According to Wikipedia imprecatory psalms “are those that invoke judgment, calamity, or curses, upon one’s enemies or those perceived as the enemies of God.”
Currently, I don’t feel an urge to call down curses on others. I am at peace with those around me. That’s a good thing and I praise God for the joy and security I experience. In such an environment imprecatory psalms are completely out of place. They do not reflect my current reality.
But what if my reality was completely different? What if my son had been killed by ISIS militants? What if my daughter had been kidnapped and raped by jihadists? Or closer to home—what if my unarmed, teenage son was shot by police? I would be outraged. I would call for divine justice. In times such as these, the imprecatory psalms have profound resonance. We want and need a God who will judge the earth. At such times, we call on a God who cares to rise up and act on our behalf. In the face of injustice and cruelty, anger can be an appropriate response—a godly response. Our God is angered by cruelty.
Response: LORD God, in a world filled with injustice, we call on you to help and defend the innocent. Help the victims of violence and war and bring the perpetrators to justice. Amen.
Your Turn: Have you been praying for Christian communities ravaged by war in countries like Nigeria, Iraq and Syria? Do you bottle up your anger or release it to God through prayer?
Reading: Psalm 5
Lead me, LORD, in your righteousness
because of my enemies—
make your way straight before me.
Not a word from their mouth can be trusted;
their heart is filled with malice.
Their throat is an open grave;
with their tongues they tell lies.
Declare them guilty, O God!
Let their intrigues be their downfall.
Banish them for their many sins,
for they have rebelled against you.
But let all who take refuge in you be glad;
let them ever sing for joy.
Spread your protection over them,
that those who love your name may rejoice in you (NIV).
How good is your eyesight? Is it 20/20? How well do you score on an eye exam? I recently had elective lens replacement surgery. I simply got tired of wearing glasses. They were the bane of my childhood. I was an active lad and in those early years I can’t begin to count the number of times I broke or damaged the frames.
Going without glasses was not an option. I was practically blind without them; everything was a blur.
Today’s reading from Psalm 5 begins with David making this request: Lead me, LORD, in your righteousness because of my enemies—make your way straight before me.
Trust me on this point. If you can’t see clearly, you may need someone to lead you. David recognized his need. Because of his enemies, he needed the LORD to lead him. He knew his enemies were waiting to ambush him at any moment. But where were they? Enemies in hiding are not easily spotted. That’s why like David, we need the LORD. He sees everything.
My greatest enemies are not parading around out in the open. They are lurking within. Pride and selfish ambition come dressed up in various disguises. It’s easy to justify that lingering eye or that wayward glance. Somehow we have 20/20 vision for that sort of thing.
The truth is I too need the LORD to lead me because of the enemies of my soul. How about you? Now here is the outcome we want: But let all who take refuge in you be glad; let them ever sing for joy. Spread your protection over them that those who love your name may rejoice in you.
Response: LORD God, lead me. I can’t see the dangers ahead. Often I am unaware of the enemies that are trying to undermine my life and my love for you. Go before me. Show me the way, Lord Jesus, because you are the way. Amen.
Your Turn: How is your spiritual vision? Can you see the enemies that derail your progress?
Reading: Psalm 139
If only you, God, would slay the wicked!
Away from me, you who are bloodthirsty!
They speak of you with evil intent;
your adversaries misuse your name.
Do I not hate those who hate you, LORD,
and abhor those who are in rebellion against you?
I have nothing but hatred for them;
I count them my enemies.
As much as I love the psalms of the Bible, there are some psalms, or verses within psalms that I would just like to skip. I wish they weren’t there. Today’s reading from Psalm 139 is a prime example. The author’s words are filled with venom. Why are they even in the Bible? (Please bear with me.)
Passages like today’s reading are particularly troubling in light of Jesus’ teaching in the New Testament. In his great Sermon on the Mount, he gave us this teaching: “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous” (Matthew 5:43-45).
Reconciling today’s reading from Psalm 139 with Jesus’ words makes my head hurt. Jesus calls us to an incredibly high standard—God’s standard. God shows kindness and love even to the unrighteous. They like us receive both sunshine and rain. Let’s face it, when someone hurts me, my default position is to hurt them back. That’s the natural human response. That’s the way it has been since the beginning, and the world is full of lasting scars—intergenerational scars because of it. Wounded people have been busy hurting other wounded people as hate builds on hate in the home, at work and internationally.
But Jesus came to interrupt that corrosive cycle. He asks us to counter that hurt—that slight—that injury with love. Now that’s truly revolutionary. It’s a revolt against the status quo of hatred that has poisoned human relations in our country and the world. Has someone gone out of their way to hurt you? Retaliate with an act of love. That’s what Jesus is saying.
Is that hard? Absolutely. It’s much easier to respond like the author of today’s reading from Psalm 139. So why is this portion of Psalm 139 in the Bible? Maybe it should be redacted—blacked over like a secret government file.
In reality, Psalm 139 like all the psalms, began as someone’s personal prayer—their personal interaction with God. They are pouring out their heart before God. It’s a heart that has been wounded by others. Should they bottle up those feelings and never express them to God? Of course not. We need to pour out our hurts to God. He alone can heal and change that wounded heart.
Response: LORD God, you know all my hurts. I bring them before you. Pour your love into me, so I can love my enemies. Show me the way forward. Jesus, you forgave even those who killed you. Amen.
Your Turn: Have you changed your default position from hate to love?
Reading: Psalm 109
Appoint someone evil to oppose my enemy;
let an accuser stand at his right hand.
When he is tried, let him be found guilty,
and may his prayers condemn him.
May his days be few;
may another take his place of leadership.
May his children be fatherless and his wife a widow.
May his children be wandering beggars;
may they be driven from their ruined homes.
May a creditor seize all he has;
may strangers plunder the fruits of his labor.
May no one extend kindness to him
or take pity on his fatherless children.
May his descendants be cut off,
their names blotted out from the next generation.
May the iniquity of his fathers be remembered before the LORD;
may the sin of his mother never be blotted out.
May their sins always remain before the LORD,
that he may blot out their name from the earth (NIV).
This portion of Psalm 109 contains fourteen mays of condemnation. After reading this long list of curses spoken against this unnamed individual, it becomes abundantly clear that David, the author of this psalm, was not affectionately inclined toward this man of treachery. This man, who earlier was identified as a friend, had turned against David. In the verse just prior to today’s reading, David laments, “They repay me evil for good, and hatred for my friendship” (Psalm 109:5).
Psalm 109 is called an imprecatory psalm. The word imprecatory simply is a fancy term for cursing. I am sure many Christians are unaware that there is cursing in the Bible—cursing coming from the man who penned Psalm 23—the LORD is my shepherd.
Many find the imprecatory psalms deeply troubling. I include myself in that number. Does God condone calling down curses on our enemies? What about the words of Jesus? “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that?” (Matthew 5:43-46).
I remain convinced that Jesus calls us to live on a higher plane—the plane where he dwells. This requires grace—more grace than I can muster.
Response: Father God, I need your help. I find it easy to lash out at those who have hurt me. When I want to go for the jugular help me reach out for the wisdom and compassion of Jesus instead. I want to be more like you, Jesus. Amen.
Your Turn: Is there a place for the imprecatory psalms in the Bible? What purpose might they serve?
Reading: Psalm 83
Do to them as you did to Midian,
as you did to Sisera and Jabin at the river Kishon,
who perished at Endor and became like dung on the ground.
Make their nobles like Oreb and Zeeb,
all their princes like Zebah and Zalmunna,
who said, “Let us take possession of the pasturelands of God.”
Make them like tumbleweed, my God,
like chaff before the wind.
As fire consumes the forest
or a flame sets the mountains ablaze,
so pursue them with your tempest
and terrify them with your storm.
Cover their faces with shame, LORD,
so that they will seek your name.
May they ever be ashamed and dismayed;
may they perish in disgrace.
Let them know that you, whose name is the LORD—
that you alone are the Most High over all the earth (NIV).
Bible scholars believe the psalms that comprise the Book of Psalms were written over a period of about seven hundred years between 1000 BC and 300 BC. One of the challenges of writing something daily about the Psalms is discovering something personally relevant about each scripture portion. What could these ancient writings mean for me today? Is there something in there for me—something relevant for my walk with the LORD?
Today’s reading illustrates this point. The psalmist is calling for the destruction of Israel’s enemies who have invaded the land and brought death and devastation. In his appeal for God’s help, the psalmist recalls the great victories the LORD wrought in the past. He prays against Israel’s enemies, “Make them like tumbleweed, my God, like chaff before the wind.”
In our daily walk through life do we face enemies? Of course we do. Their names are not Sisera and Jabin or Oreb and Zeeb, but nevertheless we face enemies. They come with names like Discouragement and Depression or Complacency and Apathy. Occasionally, I run into Disappointment and Bitterness. Now those are two tough characters. If you let them take hold, they can pin you down and leave you defeated in no time.
The negative thoughts that we permit can devastate our lives as effectively as any marauding army. That’s why Asaph, the psalmist, calls on the wind of God’s Spirit to blow such enemies away. There is no value in chaff or tumbleweed. Similarly, some thoughts simply should have no place in our lives.
Response: LORD God, today I choose to think thoughts that lift me up and bring me closer to you. With your help I reject those thoughts that bring me down. Holy Spirit blow through my life. Amen.
Your Turn: What thoughts bring you down? What thoughts bring you joy and victory?
Reading: Psalm 83
A psalm of Asaph.
O God, do not remain silent;
do not turn a deaf ear,
do not stand aloof, O God.
See how your enemies growl,
how your foes rear their heads.
With cunning they conspire against your people;
they plot against those you cherish.
“Come,” they say, “let us destroy them as a nation,
so that Israel’s name is remembered no more.”
With one mind they plot together;
they form an alliance against you—
the tents of Edom and the Ishmaelites,
of Moab and the Hagrites,
Byblos, Ammon and Amalek,
Philistia, with the people of Tyre.
Even Assyria has joined them
to reinforce Lot’s descendants (NIV).
Do you have enemies? Ancient Israel certainly did. Here in Psalm 83, Asaph lists ten traditional enemies of Israel. The psalmist clearly states the objective of these foreign powers. Their objective was the annihilation of Israel as a nation. “Come,” they say, “let us destroy them as a nation, so that Israel’s name is remembered no more.”
Though they may not have a physical form, our enemies are real. The trap called pornography is real. The idolatrous nature of greed is real. The crippling effects of resentment and bitterness are real. These sins and the demonic forces that continually prompt us to disobey God are real. They are constantly working to annihilate our faith.
Our enemies growl and like cobras they rear their heads to strike. But in our hour of need, if we call out to God, He will not stand aloof. He will deliver us. Lord, teach us to pray. Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.
Response: LORD God, we have a powerful opponent, but we have victory through your Son, the Lord Jesus Christ. I call on your awesome name. Give me victory over sin and the forces of evil that are out to destroy my life. My strength is in you. Amen.
Your Turn: Can you identify the sins and snares the enemy has set for you?