I will praise Him!
Reading: Psalm 102
Let this be written for a future generation,
that a people not yet created may praise the LORD:
“The LORD looked down from his sanctuary on high,
from heaven he viewed the earth,
to hear the groans of the prisoners
and release those condemned to death.”
So the name of the LORD will be declared in Zion
and his praise in Jerusalem
when the peoples and the kingdoms
assemble to worship the LORD (NIV).
Time capsules are a fascinating idea. They can tell us a great deal about what people at a certain point in history considered important or indicative of that particular time. What was significant in the lives of people 100 years ago? A time capsule gives us a glimpse into that long ago period. For instance, a time capsule from 1959 might contain a hula-hoop, but the significance of that craze might well be lost on the current generation of young people.
In some respects, this reading from Psalm 102 acts as a time capsule. It is a written testimony of what the LORD has done. “The LORD looked down from his sanctuary on high, from heaven he viewed the earth,
to hear the groans of the prisoners and release those condemned to death.”
Generation after generation of Bible readers has read this written testimony. They know that the LORD hears the groans of prisoners and sets them free. But this testimony doesn’t end there. It doesn’t end there because the LORD has not stopped listening and acting. He continues to do these things today.
I can personally testify to being set free from the bondage of sin. I know that due to my sinful nature I was condemned to die. But Jesus suffered the punishment I deserve on my behalf. When I called out to God, He heard my cry and set me free from the death penalty I was living under. My body may perish, but through the blood shed by Jesus and the work of the Holy Spirit, I have eternal life. That’s my testimony. That’s the time capsule message I want to send to the next generation and beyond.
By the way, my testimony is not unique. Millions of people around the world can testify to the life changing power of the LORD. They all have time capsule testimonies that they want to send to a generation as yet unborn.
What about you? Do you have a testimony to God’s redeeming forgiveness and power? It might be worth your time to write it down. We overcome the attacks of the enemy by the words of our testimony. You have a story to tell. It’s a time capsule with contents far more valuable than a hula-hoop.
Response: Heavenly Father, I thank you for your intervention in my life. You have given me a story to tell—a testimony to your amazing grace. Help me to carry that testimony to a future generation—a generation that is not yet born. Amen.
Your Turn: Have you testified to the saving power of Jesus? How has the Lord changed your life?
Reading: Psalm 99
Moses and Aaron were among his priests,
Samuel was among those who called on his name;
they called on the LORD
and he answered them.
He spoke to them from the pillar of cloud;
they kept his statutes and the decrees he gave them.
LORD our God,
you answered them;
you were to Israel a forgiving God,
though you punished their misdeeds.
Exalt the LORD our God
and worship at his holy mountain,
for the LORD our God is holy (NIV).
David’s name appears in the text of several of the psalms, but this is the only psalm that lists other heroes of the faith. Moses, Aaron and Samuel, three heavy hitters of the Old Testament, are honored here. They are honored because they called on the LORD and he answered them.
I could quibble with the choice of these three. Moses struck the rock in anger when he was told to speak to it and thereby bring forth water for the people. As a consequence, he was not allowed to enter the Promised Land. Aaron gave into the people’s will and fashioned an idol—the golden calf. Samuel appointed Saul as the first king of Israel—a man who became a disappointing, disastrous leader who descended into witchcraft.
But… But then can I claim to be error free in the way I have lived my life? Like Moses I have lost my patience in more than one situation. If God treated me like Moses, there would be little hope of me reaching the Promised Land. Like Aaron I have a tendency to be led astray by the crowd, and like the prophet Samuel, at times I have backed people who stumbled badly and betrayed the Lord.
I have not lived a flawless life. That’s why I take comfort in these words: LORD our God, you answered them; you were to Israel a forgiving God, though you punished their misdeeds.
I need a forgiving God. I need a God who forgives my transgressions—those times when I think I know better, but of course I’m wrong. And if I am truly honest, I also admit that I need a God who punishes my misdeeds. If there are no consequences for my wrong doing, my transgressions will escalate. I need the discipline of the LORD, or I will go astray by following my own selfish desires. Just like the ancient people of Israel I need to live under the wise and loving rule of a holy God. How about you? Do you need a forgiving God?
Response: LORD God, you are holy. I want to live in a way that honors you. You know my failings and shortcomings. Forgive me as I call on you. I am needy, but in you I find all that I need. Amen.
Your Turn: If there were no consequences for sin would that change your life and conduct? Do you fear the consequences that come from wrong doing?
Reading: Psalm 85
For the director of music. Of the Sons of Korah. A psalm.
You, LORD, showed favor to your land;
you restored the fortunes of Jacob.
You forgave the iniquity of your people
and covered all their sins.
You set aside all your wrath
and turned from your fierce anger.
Restore us again, God our Savior,
and put away your displeasure toward us.
Will you be angry with us forever?
Will you prolong your anger through all generations?
Will you not revive us again,
that your people may rejoice in you?
Show us your unfailing love, LORD,
and grant us your salvation (NIV).
Psalm 85 begins on a high note as the psalmist reflects on God’s goodness in the past. You, LORD, showed favor to your land; you restored the fortunes of Jacob.
God’s favor is not something we earn; it is undeserved. God’s favor is synonymous with God’s grace. We may attempt to explain God’s grace, but in reality there’s no accounting for it. God showers His grace upon us, but why on us and not someone else? There is an aspect of Divine grace that we may never fully comprehend. We simply need to receive it and rejoice in God’s favor when it comes our way.
Make no mistake. God’s grace and His favor are rooted in forgiveness. Note the words of the psalmist: You forgave the iniquity of your people and covered all their sins. You set aside all your wrath and turned from your fierce anger.
Because of our sins and disobedience, we deserve God’s wrath and anger, but instead He has shown us favor and forgiveness. How awesome is that! There is something over-the-moon wonderful about the love of God. When we experience its fullness, it puts a smile on our face and a wellspring of joy in our hearts.
But… But there is a point of transition in this psalm. The wonderful sense of nearness to God has been lost. About midway through the passage above the psalmist cries out in anguish. Restore us again, God our Savior, and put away your displeasure toward us. Will you be angry with us forever?
We are not told what has caused this sense of separation from God. Is it sin? Is it unforeseen hardships or calamities of various kinds? Whatever the cause, the psalmist pleads for revival and a return to joy.
Response: LORD God, revive my love for you. I want to sense you near to me again—smiling down on me. Show me your favor and your unfailing love. Let me know your grace. Amen.
Your Turn: Have you lost a sense of nearness to God? What can you do to restore it?
Reading: Psalm 78
In spite of all this, they kept on sinning;
in spite of his wonders, they did not believe.
So he ended their days in futility
and their years in terror.
Whenever God slew them, they would seek him;
they eagerly turned to him again.
They remembered that God was their Rock,
that God Most High was their Redeemer.
But then they would flatter him with their mouths,
lying to him with their tongues;
their hearts were not loyal to him,
they were not faithful to his covenant.
Yet he was merciful;
he forgave their iniquities
and did not destroy them.
Time after time he restrained his anger
and did not stir up his full wrath.
He remembered that they were but flesh,
a passing breeze that does not return (NIV).
Psalm 78 is a lengthy indictment against the people of Israel for their unfaithfulness to the LORD. Sometimes it’s easy to forget that these were the people of God—His chosen people—yet they responded with lies, unbelief and disloyalty. If this is how the people of God conduct themselves, what are we to expect from those who do not know the LORD?
Unfortunately, the people of God today are not so different from the people of Israel 3,000 years ago. When we look about the church world, we see a plenty of division, backbiting and sin. All too often hate rules instead of love. We cover ourselves with a fig leaf of self-righteousness and then proceed to attack those who fail to meet our standard. We do all this while we are trapped in our own secret web of sin. We are determined to clean up the world while ignoring our personal pile of filth.
The words of Jesus from his Sermon on the Mount still ring true today, “How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye” (Matthew 7:4-5).
But given this deplorable state of affairs, what does the LORD do? The psalmist states, “Yet he was merciful; he forgave their iniquities and did not destroy them.” Like the people of ancient Israel, we are saved not because of our righteousness, but solely because of God’s mercy and grace.
Response: LORD God, I cannot boast because of my righteousness. You know all my shortcomings. I have an impressive pile of personal sin. Forgive me through the mercy of your son, Jesus. Amen.
Your Turn: Have you been guilty of pointing out the faults of others while ignoring your own?
Reading: Psalm 65
For the director of music. A psalm of David. A song.
Praise awaits you, our God, in Zion;
to you our vows will be fulfilled.
You who answer prayer,
to you all people will come.
When we were overwhelmed by sins,
you forgave our transgressions.
Blessed are those you choose and bring near to live in your courts!
We are filled with the good things of your house,
of your holy temple.
You answer us with awesome and righteous deeds,
God our Savior, the hope of all the ends of the earth
and of the farthest seas,
who formed the mountains by your power,
having armed yourself with strength,
who stilled the roaring of the seas,
the roaring of their waves, and the turmoil of the nations.
The whole earth is filled with awe at your wonders;
where morning dawns, where evening fades,
you call forth songs of joy (NIV).
There is a joyful exuberance found in Psalm 65. In some ways this psalm reminds me of a Broadway musical in that there’s an eagerness—a readiness—to burst into song. It could happen at any moment. The opening line expresses this joyous exuberance well: Praise awaits you, our God, in Zion!
What about you and me? Is there an eagerness and enthusiasm to praise God as we walk through our day? Is there a song in our hearts just aching for the moment of release? Is your heart filled with gratitude to God? If you can answer, “Yes!” then you have captured the spirit of Psalm 65.
David penned this psalm and it reflects an attitude of gratitude that is present in many of David’s psalms. David provides several reasons for his jubilant praise. First of all, our God answers prayer. He hears when we call out to Him. Over many years, on countless occasions, God has answered my prayers, sometimes in miraculous ways. Like David of old, I can’t help but be grateful.
Secondly, David was thankful for the forgiveness of his sins. There is no better feeling than knowing you have been washed clean from the inside out by the cleansing blood of the Lamb of God. And now you are accepted—welcomed with open arms into God’s family. Oh, hallelujah! I’ve been redeemed.
Finally, all of God’s creation declares his glory. Mountains, prairie, sea and sky shout out His praise!
Response: LORD God, I thank you for hearing my prayers, for forgiving my many sins, and surrounding me with the beauty of your creation. I praise the name of Jesus. Amen.
Your Turn: What blessing from God are you most thankful for?
Reading: Psalm 37
The blameless spend their days under the LORD’s care,
and their inheritance will endure forever.
In times of disaster they will not wither;
in days of famine they will enjoy plenty.
But the wicked will perish:
Though the LORD’s enemies are like the flowers of the field,
they will be consumed, they will go up in smoke.
The wicked borrow and do not repay,
but the righteous give generously;
those the LORD blesses will inherit the land,
but those he curses will be destroyed (NIV).
I have heard it said that there are two kinds of people in the world—givers and takers. Notice I didn’t say givers and receivers. We all are receivers from the first breath we take, as we receive love and nourishment from our mothers. But there is a subtle but important difference between receiving and taking. The receiver takes what is freely offered. The taker takes regardless if it is offered or not.
Takers feel the world owes them something. Givers owe a debt of love and make regular payments on that debt. The apostle Paul urges us, “Owe no one anything except to love one another, for he who loves another has fulfilled the law” (Romans 13:8 NKJV).
Here in Psalm 37 David declares: The wicked borrow and do not repay, but the righteous give generously. There is something counterintuitive about generosity. Generosity breeds prosperity, whereas hoarding leads to poverty. One person gives freely, yet gains even more; another withholds unduly, but comes to poverty. A generous person will prosper; whoever refreshes others will be refreshed. One person gives freely, yet gains even more; another withholds unduly, but comes to poverty (Proverbs 11:24-25 NIV).
Why is this the case? Job gives us this nugget of wisdom, “Anyone who withholds kindness from a friend forsakes the fear of the Almighty (Job 6:14). The Almighty oversees our lives. He sees when we withhold kindness from a friend and He sees when we give generously. He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him (Hebrews 11:6 NKJV).
A generous spirit reflects the Spirit of God, who freely gives us all things, including His Son. His Son generously gave his life for our redemption, and for the forgiveness of our sins. Forgiveness is freely offered. It’s free for the taking from a lavishly generous God. Have you received what He offers?
Our amazing God turns takers into givers. Saul of Tarsus was a taker, but when he encountered Jesus on the road to Damascus, he became a giver—a forgiven giver. Saul became Paul. Hate turned to love. Taking from the world turned to giving.
Response: LORD God, turn me around. Help me to be generous with those in need. You gave so much to me. Now help me be a giver—a reflection of you in the world. I pray in Jesus name. Amen.
Your Turn: Can we give without receiving? Which comes first?
Reading: Psalm 31
I hate those who cling to worthless idols;
as for me, I trust in the LORD.
I will be glad and rejoice in your love,
for you saw my affliction
and knew the anguish of my soul.
You have not given me into the hands of the enemy
but have set my feet in a spacious place (NIV).
David clearly lacked a sense of political correctness. The opening line of this psalm portion makes me want to cringe. I hate those who cling to worthless idols. What an inflammatory remark! Hate has no place in our expression of Christian faith. Didn’t David know that we are to hate the sin, but love the sinner? Perhaps we should send David off to a course in sensitivity training.
Somehow biblical David got away with making such a statement, and here we have it recorded in the pages of Holy Scripture for all to read. Hate is a less than desirable emotion. But is it warranted in certain instances? My Christian love for murdering rapists grows mighty thin at times, and I speak from a distance. If my life was directly impacted by an idolatrous, murdering rapist, I am not sure how I would respond. Christ-centred forgiveness is the right response, but gut-wrenching hate might well spring to life. My capacity for forgiveness in severe circumstances remains untested. I dare not boast in my theoretical ability to forgive.
The second part of David’s opening remark is of crucial importance. I hate those who cling to worthless idols; as for me, I trust in the LORD.
Only trust in the LORD can break the crippling bondage of sin and hate. Vengeance belongs to the LORD, not to the seething heart tortured and taunted by anger. Secular author Malcolm Gladwell explores the extraordinary power of forgiveness in his most recent book, David and Goliath. Gladwell’s thoughts and research on the topic make for an insightful read. He concludes that forgiveness has the power to turn the world upside down. That’s the power we find in the gospel. Rather than be caught in the trap of ruinous hate, through the power of Christ we have the ability to step into the liberty of forgiveness.
By the gracious Holy Spirit we have the ability to choose love over hate. David’s confession can then become our own, “I will be glad and rejoice in your love, for you saw my affliction and knew the anguish of my soul.”
When we choose love over hate, forgiveness over vengeance, trust in God over reliance on our own ability, we defeat Satan, the true enemy of our soul. Then the LORD sets us at liberty in a spacious place. With David we can declare, “You have not given me into the hands of the enemy but have set my feet in a spacious place.”
Response: LORD God, thank you for your forgiveness. Help me to practice it daily. Give me a forgiving spirit like your Son, Jesus, who forgave those who crucified him (Luke 23:34). Amen.
Your Turn: Is there someone you need to forgive? Do it today.
Reading: Psalm 31
For the director of music. A psalm of David.
In you, LORD, I have taken refuge;
let me never be put to shame;
deliver me in your righteousness.
Turn your ear to me,
come quickly to my rescue;
be my rock of refuge,
a strong fortress to save me.
Since you are my rock and my fortress,
for the sake of your name lead and guide me.
Keep me free from the trap that is set for me,
for you are my refuge.
Into your hands I commit my spirit;
deliver me, LORD, my faithful God (NIV).
We all need a place of refuge. Here as David begins Psalm 31, he pleads with God to hear him, and become a rock of refuge for him. Turn your ear to me, come quickly to my rescue; be my rock of refuge, a strong fortress to save me.
David spent many of his early years fleeing from King Saul. At other times the Philistines were a threat. There were many occasions in which David needed a fortress—a rock of refuge from his enemies. Often he found himself calling out for the LORD to rescue him.
Are we any different? We may not have physical enemies who are seeking to kill us, but in the spiritual realm the demonic forces of hell are constantly seeking opportunities to trip us up, so that they can launch their vicious assault. Trouble and affliction comes to every human life. We are not immune simply because we have put our faith in Christ. We too need a safe place—a rock of refuge.
But the rock to which we flee is not an inanimate object, fixed and unmoving. No, we come to the living rock which is Christ. He travels with us on this earthly pilgrimage. The apostle, Paul reminds us that even the people of Israel wandering in the wilderness were not alone. They all ate the same spiritual food and drank the same spiritual drink; for they drank from the spiritual rock that accompanied them, and that rock was Christ (1 Corinthians 10:3-4).
The veins of that rock were opened wide for us. Jesus bled and died so that we could experience new life and complete forgiveness. As he hung dying, Jesus called out to his Father with the words of this psalm, “Into your hands I commit my spirit.” Now daily that living rock accompanies you. He is the fount of forgiveness and a sure refuge in a time of need. Have you put your trust in him for your salvation now and in eternity?
Response: LORD God, I thank you for Jesus. You alone are my rock and my eternal fortress. Guide my spirit into the right path today. Keep me safe from the traps of the enemy. I trust in you. Amen.
Your Turn: Is Jesus your living rock? Why is the analogy of Jesus as a rock a comfort to you?
Reading: Psalm 19
But who can discern their own errors?
Forgive my hidden faults.
Keep your servant also from willful sins;
may they not rule over me.
Then I will be blameless,
innocent of great transgression.
May these words of my mouth
and this meditation of my heart
be pleasing in your sight,
LORD, my Rock and my Redeemer (NIV).
What is your response to God’s word and His voice as it speaks to your heart? In this final portion of Psalm 19 we see David’s response to God. God has been doing the talking thus far. The LORD has been speaking to David through the stars, through the night sky, and the blazing heat of the sun—the first witness. He has spoken to him through the Word of God—His written revelation—the second witness. Now as this Psalm draws to a close, we hear David responding back to God.
In actuality, David is responding to the third witness. His heart is bearing witness to the reality of God. His conscience is convicting him of his sin and of the righteousness of God. We all have this third witness within us—a witness that will not be silenced, though we may try to drown out this inner voice of the Spirit. The Holy Spirit is at work in every case when we respond in a right way to God.
If along with David, we have heard the voices of the first and second witness, then there is only one appropriate response. It is the response recorded here in Holy Scriptures. If we see and grasp the awesome power and majesty of God, if through His word we have glimpsed His holiness, then we are brought low. We are humbled before him. Our greatest achievements are nothing. Our pride dissolves. Our weakness, our smallness is self-evident in the presence of the LORD of heaven and earth. We are exposed; our sin is exposed before this holy, magnificent God.
Along with David we cry out, “But who can discern their own errors? Forgive my hidden faults. Keep your servant also from willful sins; may they not rule over me.”
If we perceive God correctly, and if we assess ourselves accurately and honestly, then we quickly realize our greatest need. Our greatest need is for forgiveness. This is the solid bedrock on which any human relationship with God is built.
Here is the truth. I need forgiveness. My failings and shortcomings are many. What about you?
Response: Heavenly Father, please forgive my sins. Often I have lived according to my will, not yours. Forgive my selfish ways. May these words of my mouth and this meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, LORD, my Rock and my Redeemer. Amen.
Your Turn: Have you confessed your hidden sins, and admitted your need for a Savior from yourself?