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 51
Create in me a pure heart, O God,
and renew a steadfast spirit within me.
Do not cast me from your presence
or take your Holy Spirit from me.
Restore to me the joy of your salvation
and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.
Then I will teach transgressors your ways,
so that sinners will turn back to you.
Deliver me from the guilt of bloodshed, O God,
you who are God my Savior,
and my tongue will sing of your righteousness.
Open my lips, Lord, and my mouth will declare your praise.
You do not delight in sacrifice, or I would bring it;
you do not take pleasure in burnt offerings.
My sacrifice, O God, is a broken spirit;
a broken and contrite heart you, God, will not despise.
May it please you to prosper Zion,
to build up the walls of Jerusalem.
Then you will delight in the sacrifices of the righteous,
in burnt offerings offered whole;
then bulls will be offered on your altar (NIV).
I just had my morning shower. Nothing special about that—daily showers are the social norm. But they haven’t always been the norm. Step back a century and the weekly bath was the norm. Step back a thousand years and a bath was an annual event. With this lack of personal hygiene is it any wonder that epidemics ran rampant through the medieval population, and diseases like smallpox and the bubonic plague killed millions in Europe?
As a society we have embraced the concept and practice of personal hygiene. But what about spiritual hygiene? Have we embraced that as well? I fear the opposite is true. Are we routinely plunging into the deep end of a cesspool of sin? Do we mistakenly believe there are no consequences? A filthy spirit can be as deadly as bubonic plague. A host of mental, emotional and social problems are a direct result of poor spiritual hygiene. Cleanse your heart and mind and you will walk in spiritual health.
From his own cesspool of sin David cried out: Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. Do not cast me from your presence or take your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.
I don’t know about you, but daily I need to bathe in Christ’s love and forgiveness. He cleans me up.
Response: LORD God, thank you for the forgiveness you purchased for me through the shed blood of Jesus your son. I acknowledge my need for your cleansing power. Amen.
Your Turn: How is your spiritual hygiene today? How do you keep your spirit clean?
Reading: Psalm 43
Vindicate me, my God, and plead my cause
against an unfaithful nation.
Rescue me from those who are deceitful and wicked.
You are God my stronghold.
Why have you rejected me?
Why must I go about mourning,
oppressed by the enemy?
Send me your light and your faithful care,
let them lead me;
let them bring me to your holy mountain,
to the place where you dwell.
Then I will go to the altar of God,
to God, my joy and my delight.
I will praise you with the lyre, O God, my God.
Why, my soul, are you downcast?
Why so disturbed within me?
Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him,
my Savior and my God (NIV).
I want to be proven right. Over and over again I find myself pleading to be heard—pleading to be proven right. That’s what it means to be vindicated. As I look about my country—as I look about the world—and read or watch the news of the day, I see so much injustice. Senseless death and destruction are everywhere.
Courts that are intended to protect the innocent and vulnerable do the complete opposite. Evil is on a rampage. Islamic militants taunt and behead the innocent. Russian tanks invade Ukraine as long range artillery flattens villages. Bellicose dictators threaten nuclear war. Vicious rapists glory in their shame. In our cities gangster thugs roam freely.
But there is a better way—the way of the cross—the way of the Prince of Peace. Why can’t others see it? Why can’t they grasp it? Along with David we cry out, “Vindicate me, my God, and plead my cause against an unfaithful nation. Rescue me from those who are deceitful and wicked.”
In this bleak state of affairs, David appeals to the mercy of LORD, “Send me your light and your faithful care, let them lead me; let them bring me to your holy mountain, to the place where you dwell.”
David journeys to the altar. He is altered at the altar. The world is altered at the altar of God. Vindication comes at the altar. Victories over sin are won at the altar. Jesus is the sacrifice on the altar of God and when we gaze on him we are changed. Jesus said, “Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the wilderness, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, that everyone who believes may have eternal life in him” (John 3:14-15). Because of the cross—the altar of God—we have hope for the future.
Response: LORD God, alter me at the foot of the cross. I need you to change my heart, my life, my attitude. I put my hope in you, Lord. You are my Savior and my God. Amen.
Your Turn: Has your life been altered by the cross? Are you thankful for what happened there?
For my Canadian readers, I wish you a joyous Thanksgiving Day with greetings from our house to your home.
Reading: Psalm 22
For the director of music. To the tune of “The Doe of the Morning.”
A psalm of David.
My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?
Why are you so far from saving me,
so far from my cries of anguish?
My God, I cry out by day, but you do not answer,
by night, but I find no rest.
Yet you are enthroned as the Holy One;
you are the one Israel praises.
In you our ancestors put their trust;
they trusted and you delivered them.
To you they cried out and were saved;
in you they trusted and were not put to shame.
But I am a worm and not a man,
scorned by everyone, despised by the people.
All who see me mock me;
they hurl insults, shaking their heads.
“He trusts in the LORD,” they say, “let the LORD rescue him.
Let him deliver him, since he delights in him” (NIV).
Do you believe in prophecy?
Psalm 22 is the most graphic description of Christ’s crucifixion found anywhere in the Bible. Yet here it is—tucked away among the Psalms—written roughly 900 years before the birth of Christ. How can this be? During David’s time, crucifixion as a form of execution had not yet been invented. Furthermore, crucifixion is portrayed from the victim’s point of view—Jesus’ point of view.
“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” These are the words of Jesus on the cross and they form the opening line of this psalm. Of course, Jesus knew he was quoting this psalm when he cried out in anguish.
But did his arrogant mockers know that they too were fulfilling scriptural prophecy as they hurled their insults, “He trusts in the LORD,” they say, “let the LORD rescue him. Let him deliver him, since he delights in him.” These words from Psalm 22 find an uncanny parallel in the verbal abuse thrown at Jesus in Matthew 27:43 where we read, “He trusts in God. Let God rescue him now if he wants him, for he said, ‘I am the Son of God.’”
Remarkably, David saw it all. Through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, he beheld the cross nine centuries in advance. I believe in prophecies to come, because of prophesies fulfilled.
Response: Father, thank you for sending your Son Jesus to this cruel world to suffer on my behalf. Thank you that I can put my trust in Your Holy Word. It was, is and will be forever true and trustworthy. Amen.
Your Turn: Why do you have confidence in God’s word?
By Bliss Carman
In the Garden of Eden, planted by God,
There were goodly trees in the springing sod –
Trees of beauty height and grace,
To stand in splendour before His face:
Apple and hickory, ash and pear,
Oak and beech, and the tulip rare,
The trembling aspen, the noble pine,
The sweeping elm by the river line;
Trees for the birds to build and sing,
And the lilac tree for joy in spring;
Trees to turn at the frosty call
And carpet the ground for the Lord’s footfall;
Trees for fruitage and fire and shade,
Trees for the cunning builder’s trade;
Wood for the bow, the spear, and the flail,
The keel and the mast of the daring sail –
He made them of every grain and girth
For use of man in the Garden of Earth.
Then lest the soul should not lift her eyes
From the gift to the Giver of Paradise,
On the crown of a hill, for all to see,
God planted a scarlet maple tree.
This poem by New Brunswick poet Bliss Carman is posted in honour of Canada’s 150th anniversary of confederation, July 1st, 1867.
God bless Canada!
Reading: Psalm 118
The stone the builders rejected
has become the cornerstone;
the LORD has done this,
and it is marvelous in our eyes.
The LORD has done it this very day;
let us rejoice today and be glad.
LORD, save us! LORD, grant us success!
Blessed is he who comes in the name of the LORD.
From the house of the LORD we bless you.
The LORD is God,
and he has made his light shine on us.
With boughs in hand, join in the festal procession
up to the horns of the altar.
You are my God, and I will praise you;
you are my God, and I will exalt you.
Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good;
his love endures forever (NIV).\
This final reading from Psalm 118 contains one of the most profound messianic prophecies of the Old Testament. The opening sentence carries great significance: The stone the builders rejected has become the cornerstone; the LORD has done this, and it is marvelous in our eyes.
The apostle Peter identifies Jesus as the stone the builders rejected. He adds that this rejection was due to disobedience and unbelief and he quotes Isaiah 8:14 to prove his point. “[Jesus is] A stone that causes people to stumble and a rock that makes them fall.” They stumble because they disobey the message—which is also what they were destined for. But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light (1 Peter 2:8-9).
In reality our reading from Psalm 118 paints a metaphoric picture of Christ’s Passion Week. When Jesus arrived triumphant in Jerusalem on Palm Sunday he was greeted by the crowds chanting this line from Psalm 118: “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!” (Matthew 21:9). But later, Jesus, the rock of our salvation, was rejected by the religious leadership. Metaphorically, he was taken up to the horns of the altar and there on a cruel wooden cross, the Lamb of God became our sacrificial offering.
But… but praise be to God! The stone the builders rejected has become the cornerstone. This same Jesus was raised from the dead on the third day, and now he offers forgiveness and salvation for all those who put their faith in him. He is our living rock—the rock that accompanied Israel through the wilderness. See 1 Corinthians 10:1-5. Jesus is the rock on which you can build your life—your cornerstone.
Response: Father God, I thank you for your prophetic word because it points to Jesus. Lord Jesus, you are the rock solid foundation of my life. I give thanks to the LORD, for he is good! Amen.
Your Turn: Are you building on the Rock, which is Christ?
Reading: Psalm 85
I will listen to what God the LORD says;
he promises peace to his people, his faithful servants—
but let them not turn to folly.
Surely his salvation is near those who fear him,
that his glory may dwell in our land.
Love and faithfulness meet together;
righteousness and peace kiss each other.
Faithfulness springs forth from the earth,
and righteousness looks down from heaven.
The LORD will indeed give what is good,
and our land will yield its harvest.
Righteousness goes before him
and prepares the way for his steps (NIV).
Psalm 85 began with the psalmist reflecting on a wonderful time of God’s favor and forgiveness. God’s grace had been abundant and a source of great joy. But that is not the present reality. It would seem that for some reason God’s hand of blessing has been lifted and the psalmist finds himself crying out for mercy and revival. Will you not revive us again, that your people may rejoice in you? Show us your unfailing love, LORD, and grant us your salvation.
Times of hardship and personal setbacks can leave us wondering if God has abandoned us. Have we sinned? Has God withdrawn His blessing from our lives? Will He shows us His kindness once again? In difficult times these questions often flood our minds.
After pleading for restoration and pouring out his troubles before God the psalmist makes this statement, “I will listen to what God the LORD says.”
Now that’s sound advice. Listening to what God says is always a good idea. It resolves inner conflict and brings peace of mind. And what does God the LORD say? “He promises peace to his people, his faithful servants—but let them not turn to folly.”
Often we feel that when things aren’t going right in our lives, we must be at fault. Perhaps we are and we should repent. But there are other times when the hardships we face are not due to sin or error on our part. Troubles and difficulties come to all of us. On such occasions the LORD promises us peace. He assures us that we are walking in His will and He is right there with us in the midst of life’s storms. Here is His promise for you: The LORD will indeed give what is good, and our land will yield its harvest. Righteousness goes before him and prepares the way for his steps.
Hang onto the righteousness of God. He is about to step into your life in a beautiful way.
Response: LORD God, I turn to you in the middle of my difficulties. Open my ears to hear your voice speaking to me. I trust you to lead me. Come and step into my life. Amen.
Your Turn: Can you recall occasions when God has stepped into your life? What did that look like?