I will praise the LORD!
God is our refuge and strength,
an ever-present help in trouble.
Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way
and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea,
though its waters roar and foam
and the mountains quake with their surging.
(Psalm 46:1-3, NIV)*
* New International Version, Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica
I will praise the LORD!
Your throne, O God, will last for ever and ever;
a scepter of justice will be the scepter of your kingdom.
You love righteousness and hate wickedness;
therefore God, your God,
has set you above your companions
by anointing you with the oil of joy.
(Psalm 45:6-7, NIV)*
* New International Version, Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica
Reading: Psalm 103
As a father has compassion on his children,
so the LORD has compassion on those who fear him;
for he knows how we are formed,
he remembers that we are dust.
The life of mortals is like grass,
they flourish like a flower of the field;
the wind blows over it and it is gone,
and its place remembers it no more.
But from everlasting to everlasting
the LORD’s love is with those who fear him,
and his righteousness with their children’s children—
with those who keep his covenant
and remember to obey his precepts (NIV).
Last week I heard a news report that stated that new research has led astronomers to realize that there are ten times more stars in the universe than they previously estimated. A minor miscalculation you may assume. Not really!
Our own Milky Way galaxy contains about 400 billion stars of varying sizes. The most recent astronomical estimate counts 170 billion galaxies in the observable universe. To do a rough calculation of the total number of stars in the universe, you multiply 400 billion stars X 170 billion galaxies and get a number with twenty-five zeroes tacked on the end. Now that’s astronomical!
So how does that ginormous number connect with today’s reading from Psalm 103? It tells us the LORD’s care for us is nothing short of astounding. The God who created all that vast array of stars cares even for you and me. As a father has compassion on his children, so the LORD has compassion on those who fear him; for he knows how we are formed, he remembers that we are dust.
Dust… We are nothing more than dust. From dust we were formed and to dust we will return. (See Genesis 3:19.) Yet despite our humble origin and our body’s grave fate, we have a God who has the compassion of a father for his children. Furthermore, this care and compassion is not fleeting; it’s eternal. Our time on earth may be transitory, but God’s love for us persists. But from everlasting to everlasting the LORD’s love is with those who fear him, and his righteousness with their children’s children—with those who keep his covenant and remember to obey his precepts.
Why would a God of such infinite capacity commit Himself to a creature of such minuscule significance? The LORD is mind-boggling; God is completely mind-boggling! You can see it in the stars. You can count it in the grains of dust—dust that the LORD loves!
Response: Father God, you are matchless. There is none like you. Your compassion is astonishing. Your grandeur is beyond my ability to even imagine. I love you, LORD. I bow in awe before your everlasting majesty. Amen.
Your Turn: How big is your God? How tiny are you before this awesome God?
I will praise Him!
I call on you, my God, for you will answer me;
turn your ear to me and hear my prayer.
Show me the wonders of your great love,
you who save by your right hand
those who take refuge in you from their foes.
Keep me as the apple of your eye;
hide me in the shadow of your wings
from the wicked who are out to destroy me,
from my mortal enemies who surround me.
(Psalm 17:6-9, NIV)
Reading: Psalm 57
For the director of music. To the tune of “Do Not Destroy.”
Of David. A miktam. When he had fled from Saul into the cave.
Have mercy on me, my God, have mercy on me,
for in you I take refuge.
I will take refuge in the shadow of your wings
until the disaster has passed.
I cry out to God Most High,
to God, who vindicates me.
He sends from heaven and saves me,
rebuking those who hotly pursue me—
God sends forth his love and his faithfulness.
I am in the midst of lions;
I am forced to dwell among ravenous beasts—
men whose teeth are spears and arrows,
whose tongues are sharp swords.
Be exalted, O God, above the heavens;
let your glory be over all the earth (NIV).
Have you ever had one of those mornings where you just want to pull the covers over your head and hide away from the world? David was having one of those days when he composed Psalm 57. But in David’s case, he wasn’t just trying to avoid a snarly boss. His boss, King Saul, was hunting David down to kill him. Needless to say, there must have been some fervor in David’s plea for help. “Have mercy on me, my God, have mercy on me, for in you I take refuge. I will take refuge in the shadow of your wings until the disaster has passed.”
The phrase ‘take refuge in the shadow of your wings’ reminds me of a story etched on my mind from my childhood. My dog, Champ, absolutely loved any newborn creature on the farm. He instantly became the newborn’s defender. Generally, this worked out very well and we appreciated his hovering affection. All was fine until one day our pet bantam hen brought her newly hatched chicks to our backyard.
Champ was thrilled at the sight of these tiny fluff balls. He greeted them with a bark and vigorously wagged his tail to welcome these new arrivals. Mother hen misunderstood his intentions. She hastily gathered her chicks under her wings to defend them from this wild beast. Champ was outraged. Surely this hen had swallowed up these defenceless chicks. He began to bark at her fiercely, trying to get her off her brood. The hen simply tightened her wings down on the chicks. Laughing at the sight of this, we called off our well-intentioned but misguided dog.
Our heavenly Father is our wise and well-intentioned protector. Do we refuse His help? We are eternally safe in the shelter of His wings. Let Him draw you close today.
Response: LORD God, you are my defender. Help me daily to appreciate your love and protection. When the cruelty of this world assaults me, I find shelter under your wings. Amen.
Your Turn: Do we sometimes push away from our secure place near the heart of God?
Reading: Psalm 53
For the director of music. According to mahalath. A maskil of David.
The fool says in his heart, “There is no God.”
They are corrupt, and their ways are vile;
there is no one who does good.
God looks down from heaven on all mankind
to see if there are any who understand,
any who seek God.
Everyone has turned away, all have become corrupt;
there is no one who does good, not even one.
Do all these evildoers know nothing?
They devour my people as though eating bread;
they never call on God.
But there they are, overwhelmed with dread,
where there was nothing to dread.
God scattered the bones of those who attacked you;
you put them to shame, for God despised them.
Oh, that salvation for Israel would come out of Zion!
When God restores his people,
let Jacob rejoice and Israel be glad! (NIV).
There is something very fresh and current about Psalm 53. Though David penned this psalm in about 1000 BC, he is describing today’s world. The fools of the world in the twenty-first century are still busy spouting their lies. The fool says in his heart, “There is no God.”
The fool, using the logic of a fool, observes that there is no God. But it is God’s observations about mankind that strike me as being more accurate: They are corrupt, and their ways are vile; there is no one who does good. God looks down from heaven on all mankind to see if there are any who understand, any who seek God. Everyone has turned away, all have become corrupt; there is no one who does good, not even one.
When God is taken out of the picture, corruption runs rampant, and no set of laws or regulations will change that. The problem is not laws or regulations; the problem is the state of a person’s heart. Without the love and fear of God, restraint is cast off and everyone does what is right in their own eyes. See Judges 21:25.
You see the fool doesn’t stop at claiming there is no God. He takes matters to the next logical step. In the absence of God, he asserts that he is god. He is the master of his own domain and not accountable to anyone but himself. This quickly leads to moral rot of the worst kind, since the devious mind of man can self-justify even the most heinous crimes. On a personal level it’s a rot that we must all guard against. None of us can claim moral perfection. When we do, we turn God into a liar.
Response: LORD God of heaven and earth. I bow my knees before you. Grant me a pure heart so that I can see you at work all around me. In Jesus’ name, I pray. Amen.
Your Turn: Do believers deny the existence of God when they wilfully engage in corrupt behavior?
Reading: Psalm 50
But to the wicked person, God says:
“What right have you to recite my laws
or take my covenant on your lips?
You hate my instruction
and cast my words behind you.
When you see a thief, you join with him;
you throw in your lot with adulterers.
You use your mouth for evil
and harness your tongue to deceit.
You sit and testify against your brother
and slander your own mother’s son.
When you did these things and I kept silent,
you thought I was exactly like you.
But I now arraign you
and set my accusations before you.
“Consider this, you who forget God,
or I will tear you to pieces, with no one to rescue you:
Those who sacrifice thank offerings honor me,
and to the blameless I will show my salvation” (NIV).
I have a tendency to be forgetful. As I leave the house, it is not uncommon for me to forget some rather important items such as my wallet or my mobile phone. On our recent trip to Japan, my wife would often help me run through a checklist of essential items as we set out on an excursion. Wallet, rail pass, mobile phone and passport, all were needed. I dare not forget any of these.
But there is something more important than all of these ‘essentials’. In his conclusion to Psalm 50, the psalmist Asaph reminds us not to forget God. How often have you set out on your day only to realize that you forgot God at home? Did He even make it home with you? Maybe He’s still at church? Have you had God with you lately? Have you forgotten Him completely as you went about your business?
Forgetting God is no small matter. Here is the LORD’s response to those who forget Him: “Consider this, you who forget God, or I will tear you to pieces, with no one to rescue you: Those who sacrifice thank offerings honor me, and to the blameless I will show my salvation”
We all want to see the salvation of God, but it starts with not forgetting Him. When we do, we run the risk of becoming objects of His wrath. The wrath of God is not a popular topic these days, but a lack of popularity does not negate its reality. When we choose to ignore God, there are unpleasant consequences. This applies personally and nationally. When we turn our back on the author of our salvation, terrible things happen. When we embrace Him with thanksgiving, joy will be our portion.
Response: LORD God, let me never forget your great love for me. I want to take you with me today and every day. I am thankful for the promise of your presence. Amen.
Your Turn: Do you sometimes forget God as you begin your day?