Today’s Key Verse from the Psalms.
Who brings you victory?
Reading: Psalm 25
Turn to me and be gracious to me,
for I am lonely and afflicted.
Relieve the troubles of my heart
and free me from my anguish.
Look on my affliction and my distress
and take away all my sins.
See how numerous are my enemies
and how fiercely they hate me!
Guard my life and rescue me;
do not let me be put to shame,
for I take refuge in you.
May integrity and uprightness protect me,
because my hope, LORD, is in you.
Deliver Israel, O God,
from all their troubles! (NIV)*
David begins Psalm 25 on a note of confidence, but as this psalm draws to a close he truly bears his heart. David plaintively calls out to the LORD, “Turn to me and be gracious to me, for I am lonely and afflicted.”
The warrior king let’s his guard down and we see into his soul. There is a time for putting on a brave face, and there’s a time for open and transparent honesty. Here within the context of this psalm we see both; David the brave heart and David the lonely heart. Earlier in this psalm David showed absolute confidence in his God, but now he pours out his soul in humble petition. Hear the cry of his heart, “Relieve the troubles of my heart and free me from my anguish. Look on my affliction and my distress and take away all my sins.”
David recognized his greatest need. David’s greatest need was forgiveness. That’s our greatest need too. We need the peace of mind that forgiveness brings.
David was surrounded by mortal enemies, but then so are we. The legions of hell are arrayed against the Christian believer. At this moment worldly philosophies and demonic forces are conspiring to destroy your home, your marriage and your life. Along with David we pray, “See how numerous are my enemies and how fiercely they hate me! Guard my life and rescue me; do not let me be put to shame, for I take refuge in you.”
Our hope must always be centered in the LORD. Integrity and uprightness form a wall of protection around the people of God. But our deliverance comes from the LORD. Along with David we affirm, “No one who hopes in you [LORD] will ever be put to shame.”
Response: Lord Jesus, help me to be open and transparent before you. Take away all my sins. My hope is in you. Protect me from the attacks of the enemy. During this pandemic deliver me from all my troubles. Amen.
Your Turn: How much do you need God? Do you need His forgiveness?
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 (v. 8).
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 (v. 11.
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—inter-generational 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 89
But you have rejected, you have spurned,
you have been very angry with your anointed one.
You have renounced the covenant with your servant
and have defiled his crown in the dust.
You have broken through all his walls
and reduced his strongholds to ruins.
All who pass by have plundered him;
he has become the scorn of his neighbors.
You have exalted the right hand of his foes;
you have made all his enemies rejoice.
Indeed, you have turned back the edge of his sword
and have not supported him in battle.
You have put an end to his splendor
and cast his throne to the ground.
You have cut short the days of his youth;
you have covered him with a mantle of shame (NIV).
Though we cannot be absolutely certain, it seems likely that Psalm 89 was written during the time of the Babylonian invasion of Judea. These were days of disaster brought on by idolatry as the people turned away from God. The rebellious King of Judah suffered a catastrophic defeat as the words of this psalm state: You have put an end to his splendor and cast his throne to the ground. You have cut short the days of his youth; you have covered him with a mantle of shame.
In the last few decades the church in North America has also experienced a number of defeats or setbacks. Enemies of the Christian faith have risen up and become bold in their attacks. Just as ancient Jerusalem was attacked and laid low, so too Christian belief systems have been under constant assault. The walls and strongholds of our faith have been undermined.
Two unshakeable biblical truths have come under relentless attack. The first is the truth of creation. Our God is the Creator of the universe—the source point of all matter and life. Since the days of Darwin, who incidentally believed in God, atheists have mounted a ferocious attack on this foundational truth. The Christian response has often been jingoistic or at best disjointed. A more coherent and scientifically sound defense is needed.
The second truth that has been under continual attack is the veracity of the Bible. God’s holy word is mocked and routinely discredited especially at our universities. The word of God is our stronghold. Over and over again it has been proven to be accurate, reliable and true. Archeologists and scholars have marvelled at the veracity and authenticity of God’s word. But the real proof of the inerrancy of God’s word does not come from scholarly research. It comes from the transformed lives of believers.
Response: LORD God, my trust is in you and your word. Creator God, I want my faith to be as secure for me as the earth beneath my feet and the air in my lungs. You are all around me. Thank you, Lord. Amen.
Your Turn: Have attacks on your faith caused doubt? How did you overcome?
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.”
In the spiritual realm every born-again follower of Jesus has a host of enemies who are trying to tear him down and annihilate his or her faith. Therefore, St. Paul gives us this advice: Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms (Ephesians 6:11-12).
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?