I will praise Him!
Reading: Psalm 106
Praise the LORD.
Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good;
his love endures forever.
Who can proclaim the mighty acts of the LORD
or fully declare his praise?
Blessed are those who act justly,
who always do what is right.
Remember me, LORD, when you show favor to your people,
come to my aid when you save them,
that I may enjoy the prosperity of your chosen ones,
that I may share in the joy of your nation
and join your inheritance in giving praise (NIV).
Let’s face the truth. We all want to live a blessed life. We desire God’s blessing, whether we clearly state it in those terms or not. In today’s reading, the psalmist begins Psalm 106 with a flurry of praise for the LORD. Then he makes this statement: Blessed are those who act justly, who always do what is right.
I confess that I have a problem with that statement. I am certain there is great blessing in acting justly and doing what is right. My problem is with the word always. I’m not an always kind of guy. I would be far more comfortable if the verse read like this: Blessed are those who act justly, who ‘usually’ do what is right. I think I can achieve ‘usually’, but ‘always’ is setting the bar higher than I can achieve. I would like a little wiggle room, LORD.
It would appear that the psalmist was of a similar persuasion, because in the following verse he asks for the favor of the LORD. We desperately need the LORD’s favor because we cannot always achieve the high mark of God’s righteousness and justice. We fall short.
Consider the psalmist’s plea: Remember me, LORD, when you show favor to your people, come to my aid when you save them, that I may enjoy the prosperity of your chosen ones, that I may share in the joy of your nation and join your inheritance in giving praise.
In reality, this is a prayer for inclusion. The psalmist wants to be included with all those who experience the salvation and blessing of the LORD. He wants to be one of the chosen ones. I am reminded of the words of that old gospel spiritual ‘When the Saints Go Marching In.’ O Lord, I want to be among the number, when the saints go marching in!
Our shortcomings or sins exclude us, but it is the grace of God—His unmerited favor—that includes us. It has always been this way. We are a people—a nation—in need of God’s favor. Our efforts and good intentions fall short. We need to rely on God’s favor. He is the true source of blessing.
Response: Father God, I call on you. Look on me with favor. I know I fall short of your standard. I need your mercy. I depend on you. I know my efforts are inadequate. I rely on your grace. Amen.
Your Turn: Are you an always, a usually, or a sometimes kind of person, when it comes to doing right?
Reading: Psalm 102
But you, LORD, sit enthroned forever;
your renown endures through all generations.
You will arise and have compassion on Zion,
for it is time to show favor to her;
the appointed time has come.
For her stones are dear to your servants;
her very dust moves them to pity.
The nations will fear the name of the LORD,
all the kings of the earth will revere your glory.
For the LORD will rebuild Zion
and appear in his glory.
He will respond to the prayer of the destitute;
he will not despise their plea (NIV).
Psalm 102 begins as a lament, but today’s reading is drawn from the mid portion of the psalm, and rather than despair and grief, this section is filled with hope and promise. Though at present we may be plagued by troubles, a turning point is coming. This is the hope we have when we truly know our God.
Despite experiencing the troubles and difficulties of an afflicted person, this is the psalmist’s personal confession: But you, LORD, sit enthroned forever; your renown endures through all generations. You will arise and have compassion on Zion, for it is time to show favor to her; the appointed time has come.
What about you and me? Is the LORD enthroned as the Lord of my life? Is He calling the shots? Have I stopped to listen for His voice, or do I simply plunge ahead into my day without giving any thought to His will or His plans for me?
By the way the LORD has plans for you that are nothing short of amazing. Here’s a look at the LORD’s plans according to Psalm 102: You will arise and have compassion on Zion, for it is time to show favor to her; the appointed time has come.
This is the promise that we all have as believers. A time is coming when the LORD will show us His favor. It is an appointed time. You can be sure that the LORD keeps His appointments. He will show up in our lives to favor us—to bestow His grace. What a magnificent promise that is!
Do I know when that appointed time will come? No, I don’t. It’s the LORD’s appointment, not mine. He will arise and show compassion on His people. My responsibility is to be numbered among His people—the faithful ones of Zion. That brings us back to considering who is enthroned as the King of our lives. Lord Jesus, this is my confession: I want you enthroned in my heart forever.
Response: Heavenly Father, reign in my life. Jesus, you are King forever. I bow my knee to you. Give me ears that hear what you are saying to me today and always. I wait with faith and expectation for you to show me your favor? Amen.
Your Turn: Have you experienced the Lord’s favor? What did that look like?
Reading: Psalm 90
Relent, LORD! How long will it be?
Have compassion on your servants.
Satisfy us in the morning with your unfailing love,
that we may sing for joy and be glad all our days.
Make us glad for as many days as you have afflicted us,
for as many years as we have seen trouble.
May your deeds be shown to your servants,
your splendor to their children.
May the favor of the Lord our God rest on us;
establish the work of our hands for us—
yes, establish the work of our hands (NIV).
Does your work have value and meaning? I certainly hope it does. There is nothing quite as frustrating as spending long hours working on something and then realizing it’s useless or unappreciated.
In many ways our work defines us. Frequently, we identify people by their work. Bob, the plumber, Susan, the teacher, and Troy, the accountant are examples of this tendency. It shouldn’t surprise us then to hear this request at the conclusion of Psalm 90: May the favor of the Lord our God rest on us; establish the work of our hands for us—yes, establish the work of our hands.
Some people are of the opinion that work is a result of the curse, but that is not true. Before our first parents fell into sin they had a work assignment from their Creator. The LORD God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it (Genesis 2:15). The requirement, or should I say blessing of work, preceded mankind’s fall into sin. The consequence of sin simply meant that work would become more arduous and prone to frustration. Weeds would grow; harvests would fail.
We all need the favor of the Lord our God to rest on us. Usually God’s favor is synonymous with God’s grace. It’s not earned; it’s freely given. In this case the Hebrew word that is translated here as favor could also be translated as beauty. God’s gracious favor is perhaps the most beautiful attribute of our LORD. Without His favor our work will not be established. It will have no lasting worth, value or beauty.
Today as you set your day or your work week into motion, make this your prayer: May the favor of the Lord our God rest on us; establish the work of our hands for us—yes, establish the work of our hands.
When the day is done and my head hits the pillow I want to know that the work I accomplished that day has value and meaning. Better yet, I would like that work to have eternal worth. Only God can establish that lasting worth. Commit your work into His hands.
Response: LORD God, I often become impatient or frustrated with my work. Open my eyes to see how you are working in me and through me as I go about my daily tasks. Help me to have an eternal perspective. Lord, establish the work of my hands. Amen.
Your Turn: Do you feel that your work is worthwhile? What brings you joy in work?
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?
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 80
For the director of music. To the tune of “The Lilies of the Covenant.”
Of Asaph. A psalm.
Hear us, Shepherd of Israel,
you who lead Joseph like a flock.
You who sit enthroned between the cherubim,
shine forth before Ephraim, Benjamin and Manasseh.
Awaken your might; come and save us.
Restore us, O God;
make your face shine on us,
that we may be saved.
How long, LORD God Almighty,
will your anger smolder
against the prayers of your people?
You have fed them with the bread of tears;
you have made them drink tears by the bowlful.
You have made us an object of derision to our neighbors,
and our enemies mock us.
Restore us, God Almighty;
make your face shine on us,
that we may be saved (NIV).
Have you been greeted by a happy face today? I’m talking about the ubiquitous, yellow, happy face stickers that pop up everywhere, especially in any form of online communication. J,J,J! We all recognize that these happy faces are intended to brighten our day—make us feel happy like the smiley face shows. I’m not sure they always succeed in their objective.
Of course a bright, shining human face with a broad genuine smile is much better in communicating happiness than a symbolic sticker on a screen. Real live face time trumps online communication in every way—at least it should. Some things—most things—are communicated best face to face.
Here in Psalm 80, the psalmist, Asaph, pleads for face time with the LORD. In fact, in the entire psalm, Asaph repeats this request three times. Restore us, O God; make your face shine on us, that we may be saved. Clearly, the psalmist is longing to see the smiley face of God—the shining face of God.
In Hebrew literature the shining face of God represents God’s favor—His grace. In reality the psalmist is pleading for God’s favor to rest on him and his people. The truth is we get nowhere without the favor of God. Unless the LORD is gracious to us, we are doomed to fail in this life and perish in eternity. It’s just that simple. We desperately need that happy face sticker from God. This should be our daily prayer: Restore us, God Almighty; make your face shine on us, that we may be saved
Response: Father God, today I need face time with you. Show me your kindness. Help me to sense you smiling down on me like a loving parent smiles down on their child. Thanks for your grace. Amen.
Your Turn: Have you recently sensed God smiling down on you? How did that make you feel?
Reading: Psalm 78
He prepared a path for his anger;
he did not spare them from death
but gave them over to the plague.
He struck down all the firstborn of Egypt,
the firstfruits of manhood in the tents of Ham.
But he brought his people out like a flock;
he led them like sheep through the wilderness.
He guided them safely, so they were unafraid;
but the sea engulfed their enemies.
And so he brought them to the border of his holy land,
to the hill country his right hand had taken.
He drove out nations before them
and allotted their lands to them as an inheritance;
he settled the tribes of Israel in their homes (NIV).
Understanding God’s choice is not a simple matter. Today’s reading from Psalm 78 draws our attention to the choices God makes. Why did God choose the people of Israel? Why did He decide to get behind this rebellious people? Why did the LORD throw His active support behind a slave revolt? Why did He show mercy to Israel, but pour out His wrath on Egypt?
Of course we can ask the same questions on a personal level. Why did God choose to save me from my personal pile of sin and destructive habits? Why did He show me the incredible love of Jesus through his death on the cross? Why did the message of the gospel touch me so deeply and transform me so radically, while it bounced off others around me like a babble of meaningless words?
We may never know the answers to these questions. What I do know is that God did not choose the best and the greatest when He chose Israel. Furthermore, at this present time, God overlooked the best and the greatest and instead He chose you and me. St. Paul writes, “My dear friends, remember what you were when God chose you. The people of this world didn’t think that many of you were wise. Only a few of you were in places of power, and not many of you came from important families. But God chose the foolish things of this world to put the wise to shame. He chose the weak things of this world to put the powerful to shame” (1 Corinthians 1:26-27, CEV).
St. Paul writes, “The god who rules this world has blinded the minds of unbelievers. They cannot see the light, which is the good news about our glorious Christ, who shows what God is like” (2 Corinthians 4:4). Why does the light go on for some, but not for others? We could spend an eternity pondering these questions and not arrive at a satisfactory answer. Ultimately, we must allow God to be God. We did not choose Him, but rather He chose us and for that we can be eternally grateful.
Response: LORD God, I am thankful that your Spirit sought me out and drew me to the cross of Jesus. I bow before you in praise and gratitude. I pray that you will show the same mercy to many others. Give me a heart of compassion for those who have not experienced your saving grace. Amen.
Your Turn: Do you understand God’s sovereign choice? How do you respond?
Reading: Psalm 69
But I pray to you, LORD,
in the time of your favor;
in your great love, O God,
answer me with your sure salvation.
Rescue me from the mire,
do not let me sink;
deliver me from those who hate me,
from the deep waters.
Do not let the floodwaters engulf me
or the depths swallow me up
or the pit close its mouth over me.
Answer me, LORD, out of the goodness of your love;
in your great mercy turn to me.
Do not hide your face from your servant;
answer me quickly, for I am in trouble.
Come near and rescue me;
deliver me because of my foes (NIV).
I have a confession to make and here it is: I don’t understand God.
Maybe a better way of putting this is to say that I have a limited understanding of God. Yes, I have studied a lot about God, and I have written a lot about Him, but my understanding is small—minuscule beside an all-knowing God of infinite wisdom.
In particular I do not understand God’s timing. When I pray, I want prompt answers. I run my life by a clock and a schedule, but God seems quite unimpressed by my propensity for planning. He’s been known to show up when I least expect Him. Furthermore, when I desperately want Him to put in an appearance, He usually keeps me waiting.
God can be unpredictable like a bad date. Speaking of a date, dear Lord, is that answer I want coming tomorrow, next week or next year?
Apparently I’m in good company. David seemed to have the same problem with God. Hear his plea, “But I pray to you, LORD, in the time of your favor; in your great love, O God, answer me with your sure salvation.“
There’s one thing I know. God is not my heavenly bellhop. But amazing things happen in the time of God’s favor. So like David, I’ll call out to Him. I’ll wait for Him. He is well worth waiting for, because when the LORD shows up everything changes. I change; the world changes.
Response: LORD God, favor me. Show up in your perfect timing. I need you now. I need you always. You know best. Teach me patience and grant me peace. Answer me with your sure salvation. Amen.
Your Turn: Are you like me? Do you sometimes get impatient with God?
Reading: Psalm 40
Do not withhold your mercy from me, LORD;
may your love and faithfulness always protect me.
For troubles without number surround me;
my sins have overtaken me, and I cannot see.
They are more than the hairs of my head,
and my heart fails within me.
Be pleased to save me, LORD;
come quickly, LORD, to help me.
May all who want to take my life
be put to shame and confusion;
may all who desire my ruin be turned back in disgrace.
May those who say to me, “Aha! Aha!”
be appalled at their own shame.
But may all who seek you rejoice and be glad in you;
may those who long for your saving help always say,
“The LORD is great!”
But as for me, I am poor and needy; may the LORD think of me.
You are my help and my deliverer; you are my God, do not delay (NIV).
David begins Psalm 40 by praising the LORD for rescuing him from the slimy pit of the past. But David ends this psalm with a fresh appeal for God’s mercy. Do not withhold your mercy from me, LORD may your love and faithfulness always protect me.
As we move forward, it is only fitting that we take time to praise God for what He has done for us in the past. Let us never forget that the LORD’s faithfulness has brought us to this point. We are not where we are today because of our own cleverness, effort or ability. Every talent we have is a gift from God; every breath we take is a gift from the Giver of Life.
Yet again David appeals for God’s salvation. Be pleased to save me, LORD; come quickly, LORD, to help me.
By the grace of God I have experienced an initial point of salvation, just like David, but my salvation needs to be renewed from time to time. We all need to experience fresh surges of God’s grace and love. Grace (charis) in the full New Testament sense means much more than just unmerited favor. It means we are recipients of God’s providential gifting and power to live a maximized life under His caring guidance. There’s something supernatural about grace. It goes beyond human ability or ingenuity because it comes from the LORD, the Maker of heaven and earth. When we call out to God as David did, we are tapping into an ocean full of help, strength and possibilities beyond fathoming.
May that grace, that charis of God, be with you and upon you in the days ahead.
Response: LORD God, I need you as I face the days ahead. Equip me with divine grace and ability for each day through the love and power of Jesus. Amen.
Your Turn: Have you experienced God’s grace in the past week—the past year?