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?
* New International Version, Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica
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?
* New International Version, Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica
Reading: Psalm 130
A song of ascents.
Out of the depths I cry to you, LORD;
LORD, hear my voice.
Let your ears be attentive
to my cry for mercy.
If you, LORD, kept a record of sins,
LORD, who could stand?
But with you there is forgiveness,
so that we can, with reverence, serve you (NIV).
Psalm 130 is a perfect example of a psalm that brings us into the private inner sanctum of communion with God. Here is a portrait of a fallen man—a man on his knees before his Maker, the eternal One. Hear him now as he agonizes in prayer, “Out of the depths I cry out to you, O LORD; O LORD, hear my voice. Let your ears be attentive to my cry for mercy.”
The opening lines of this psalm leave little doubt as to what has transpired. The psalmist has failed; he has missed the mark. He has transgressed, yet again. There is an abject poverty of spirit reflected in these words—a poverty that almost makes us cringe.
We do not know what sin, or list of sins has brought the psalmist to this wretched state. The transgression is left unstated. Was it anger, malice, or unbridled lust? Was it pride, greed or willful dishonesty? Was this a transgression of the mind, of the tongue, of action or inaction? God knows.
I am always somewhat skeptical of those who claim they could never commit this or that sin. I think we rarely comprehend the depravity of our own hearts. Pushed into wrong circumstances, in the wrong environment, with the wrong peer group, who can plumb the depths to which a man or woman may sink? I can identify with the psalmist. I have added my own pile of dung to this world’s heap of moral filth. I too have found myself in the psalmist’s position, sobbing out these words, “Out of the depths I cry out to you, O LORD; O LORD, hear my voice. Let your ears be attentive to my cry for mercy.“
But despite my failings, despite my moral poverty, this great God—this God of holiness—is approachable. He is a God of mercy. The psalmist reminds himself and the LORD of His merciful nature with these words: If you, LORD, kept a record of sins, LORD, who could stand? But with you there is forgiveness, so that we can, with reverence, serve you.
I need daily reminders of God’s forgiveness and mercy. God the moral accountant is also the LORD of forgiveness. No one does forgiveness better than God. When we confess our sins, He destroys the record. What accountant does that?
Response: Father God, I thank you for forgiveness. I have failed you many times, but you are rich in mercy. You are a patient God. Thank you for destroying the record of my sins. Thank you for the blood Jesus shed so I could be washed clean. Amen.
Your Turn: Have you been guilty of digging up the record of your sins—sins that have been forgiven?
I will praise the LORD!
Of David. A maskil.
When I kept silent,
my bones wasted away
through my groaning all day long.
For day and night
your hand was heavy on me;
my strength was sapped
as in the heat of summer.
Then I acknowledged my sin to you
and did not cover up my iniquity.
I said, “I will confess
my transgressions to the LORD.”
And you forgave
the guilt of my sin.
(Psalm 32:3-5, NIV)
I will praise Him!
Good and upright is the LORD;
therefore he instructs sinners in his ways.
He guides the humble in what is right
and teaches them his way.
All the ways of the LORD are loving and faithful
toward those who keep the demands of his covenant.
For the sake of your name, LORD,
forgive my iniquity, though it is great.
(Psalm 25:8-11, NIV)
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?