Reading: Psalm 104
He made the moon to mark the seasons,
and the sun knows when to go down.
You bring darkness, it becomes night,
and all the beasts of the forest prowl.
The lions roar for their prey
and seek their food from God.
The sun rises, and they steal away;
they return and lie down in their dens.
Then people go out to their work,
to their labor until evening.
How many are your works, LORD!
In wisdom you made them all;
the earth is full of your creatures.
There is the sea, vast and spacious,
teeming with creatures beyond number—
living things both large and small.
There the ships go to and fro,
and Leviathan, which you formed to frolic there (NIV).
There is something to be said for routine and regularity. By that I mean the whole vast rhythm of life. Today’s reading from Psalm 104 eloquently reflects the rhythm of life from sunrise to sunset and the return to sunrise once again.
This past weekend, though the calendar said mid April, we were hit hard by freezing rain, and arctic winds. Everyone is anxious for spring like weather to finally make an appearance. Enough of this snow and cold already! The seasons are changing. They always have. In this part of the world, all we can do is prepare for the transition; we can’t speed its coming or prevent it from happening.
In reality, transitions are about rest and renewal. The setting sun lets us know that it’s time to stop our labor and get the rest that is essential for our well-being. In the same way as winter approaches trees and vegetation go dormant, but after a season of rest the great spring renewal will surely come. It always has, and so it will continue until the end of time.
In the same way there is a renewal promised to us at the end this life. Resurrection happens every spring and it will happen to this old clod of earth as well. That’s the great hope we have because of Christ. The word of God has been planted in our hearts and it will bear fruit now and in eternity, which has been promised to those who believe. Do you believe? Do you have faith in the changing seasons? Do you have faith in the One who created the seasons?
Response: Father God, thank you for designing the days, months and seasons. I want to draw near to you in every season of life. How many are your works, LORD! You are worthy of all praise. Renew and refresh me in the seasons of my life. Amen.
Your Turn: What is your favorite season? Why?
Reading: Psalm 77
The waters saw you, God,
the waters saw you and writhed;
the very depths were convulsed.
The clouds poured down water,
the heavens resounded with thunder;
your arrows flashed back and forth.
Your thunder was heard in the whirlwind,
your lightning lit up the world;
the earth trembled and quaked.
Your path led through the sea,
your way through the mighty waters,
though your footprints were not seen.
You led your people like a flock
by the hand of Moses and Aaron (NIV).
Psalm 77 began with the psalmist in a state of anguish approaching despair. He was filled with questions for the LORD—questions but no answers. This was followed by the psalmist’s decision to recall the miracle-working power of the LORD. He reflects on Israel’s release from bondage in Egypt and in today’s reading he describes their escape through the Red Sea. Your path led through the sea, your way through the mighty waters, though your footprints were not seen.
Sometimes life will bring us to difficult or even impossible situations. We can see no way forward and it’s impossible to turn back. That’s the situation the people of Israel found themselves in as they set out to escape from Egypt. The sea blocked the way before them and the Egyptian army was pursuing them from behind. They had nowhere to turn but to the LORD.
What did the LORD do? He didn’t take Israel around the problem or over it. He took them through it. We read these words: Your path led through the sea…
During the dark days of World War II, Winston Churchill gave his nation this advice, “If you are going through hell, keep going.”
Don’t stop. Don’t give up and hang your head in despair. You don’t know the moment when the LORD will intervene on your behalf. You don’t know when the sea will part. You don’t know when you will be called to follow the LORD’s invisible footprints onto the floor of the sea. That requires faith—steps of faith. And don’t dilly dally along the way. If you are going through hell, keep going. If you are going through a personal Red Sea experience, keep going. You don’t want to be caught in the middle. That’s what happened to Egypt’s army. Have faith the LORD will bring you through, and by all means keep going. Persevere.
Response: LORD God, I am facing some difficult challenges. Give me the faith and the courage to keep going. I trust that you will bring me through—through hell and high water by the power of Jesus. Amen.
Your Turn: Are you facing difficult times? Has the LORD brought you through in the past?
Reading: Psalm 56
For the director of music. To the tune of “A Dove on Distant Oaks.” Of David. A miktam. When the Philistines had seized him in Gath.
Be merciful to me, my God,
for my enemies are in hot pursuit;
all day long they press their attack.
My adversaries pursue me all day long;
in their pride many are attacking me.
When I am afraid, I put my trust in you.
In God, whose word I praise—
in God I trust and am not afraid.
What can mere mortals do to me?
All day long they twist my words;
all their schemes are for my ruin.
They conspire, they lurk,
they watch my steps, hoping to take my life.
Because of their wickedness do not let them escape;
in your anger, God, bring the nations down (NIV).
In times of trouble David knew where to turn. With his enemies, the Philistines, surrounding him, he turned to God. Hear his bold confession, “When I am afraid, I put my trust in you. In God, whose word I praise—in God I trust and am not afraid. What can mere mortals do to me?”
David, the obvious answer is, “Mere mortals can torture and kill you.”
Despite this David remained confident. The Philistines could destroy his body but they could not harm his eternal spirit which was at peace—protected by God. Do you and I have the same confidence? That confidence can be ours if we put our trust in God.
Jesus warned his disciples, “Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell” (Matthew 10:28). The One we are to fear is God alone. Jesus perfectly demonstrated his trust in God the Father when he went to the cross on our behalf. There he was tortured and killed, but three days later he was vindicated by the Father, who raised him from the dead. Our redemption and salvation come from Jesus.
When we face mortal danger or a deadly prognosis may these words be on our lips and in our heart: When I am afraid, I put my trust in you. In God, whose word I praise—in God I trust and am not afraid. What can mere mortals do to me?
Response: LORD God, right now I put my faith and trust in you. By the blood of Jesus you forgive all my sins and have paid the price for my redemption. When I am afraid, I turn to you. I put my trust in you alone. Amen.
Your Turn: Who do you trust and turn to when bad news comes? Friends and family can provide support, but is your Father—your heavenly Father with you? Are you leaning into Him?
Reading: Psalm 49
This is the fate of those who trust in themselves,
and of their followers, who approve their sayings.
They are like sheep and are destined to die;
death will be their shepherd
(but the upright will prevail over them in the morning).
Their forms will decay in the grave,
far from their princely mansions.
But God will redeem me from the realm of the dead;
he will surely take me to himself.
Do not be overawed when others grow rich,
when the splendor of their houses increases;
for they will take nothing with them when they die,
their splendor will not descend with them.
Though while they live they count themselves blessed—
and people praise you when you prosper—
they will join those who have gone before them,
who will never again see the light of life.
People who have wealth but lack understanding
are like the beasts that perish (NIV).
Throughout Psalm 49 the psalmist is establishing a contrast between those who trust in themselves and the wealth they have accumulated, and those who put their trust in God. Death is the fate of all, rich and poor, wise and foolish. The grave spares no one. This is the fate of those who trust in themselves, and of their followers, who approve their sayings. They are like sheep and are destined to die; death will be their shepherd (but the upright will prevail over them in the morning).
I find great hope between the parentheses in the passage above. But the upright will prevail over them in the morning. A new day is coming—a day of resurrection—a day where justice will prevail at last. We can rest in hope that wrongs will be righted, truth will triumph over lies, and joy will snuff out sorrow. Yes, a new morning will dawn. A Redeemer is coming. Along with suffering Job believers can say, “I know that my redeemer lives, and that in the end he will stand on the earth. And after my skin has been destroyed, yet in my flesh I will see God” (Job 19:25-26).
The psalmist boldly declares where he has placed his faith: But God will redeem me from the realm of the dead; he will surely take me to himself.
Is that where you have placed your faith? Do you put your trust in Jesus, the Redeemer, who purchased your redemption with his shed blood? Death is a certainty, but so is redemption for those who put their trust in the One who died and rose again.
Response: LORD God, I thank you that Jesus, my Redeemer, lives! I put my trust in you, now and for eternity. I rest in the hope that a new day will dawn when the dead in Christ will rise. Amen.
Your Turn: Is your heart ready for that glorious day?
Reading: Psalm 34
The righteous person may have many troubles,
but the LORD delivers him from them all;
he protects all his bones,
not one of them will be broken.
Evil will slay the wicked;
the foes of the righteous will be condemned.
The LORD will rescue his servants;
no one who takes refuge in him will be condemned (NIV).
This final portion of Psalm 34 reflects David’s faith in a God who saves. He began this psalm with praise because he experienced the saving power of God. Now David states that the LORD delivers, protects and rescues. But for these words to be meaningful, the LORD must deliver, protect and rescue from various forms of trouble and adversity. There is no rescue if there is no danger. There is no deliverance if there is no oppression.
If you choose to follow the LORD, you are not guaranteed a trouble-free life. Jesus told his disciples, “In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).
Many of us believe that if we do our best to lead a good life, following the commandments as found in the Bible, God will exempt us from hardship and trouble. But Jesus, the sinless Son of God, did not have a trouble-free life. Why should we expect our lives to be trouble free? God has not promised me a trouble-free life; He has promised to be with me when trouble and adversity comes.
About three years ago a close friend of mine suffered a debilitating stroke. He lost his position as a teacher, his finances took a hit and he struggled mightily to get his mobility back. In an instant every movement became much more difficult for him—every step a monumental effort. Last week he made a startling confession. He said, “If I had it to do over, I wouldn’t go back. I wouldn’t return to my pre-stroke days. God has drawn me so much closer to Himself through this. I wouldn’t wish this on any man. But God has changed me and used me in new ways that wouldn’t have been possible unless this happened.”
All of us desperately try to avoid the furnace of affliction. It’s too hard—too unpleasant—full of things we cannot bear. But God meets us there. He bears us up on eagle’s wings. When our resources and abilities run out, He takes over. He becomes our help and our deliverer in ways we cannot fathom. God is present in times of trouble.
His promises are tried, tested and true: The LORD will rescue his servants; no one who takes refuge in him will be condemned.
Response: Heavenly Father, I can’t always see what is genuinely in my best interest, especially when that involves adversity. Be my sure help and protection in troubled times. May your unfailing love be with us, LORD, even as we put our hope in you. In Jesus’ name, we pray. Amen.
Your Turn: Has God met with you in a time of trouble? Do you know Him as your strength and rescuer in times of hardship and difficulty?