I will praise Him!
Reading: Psalm 56
Record my misery;
list my tears on your scroll—
are they not in your record?
Then my enemies will turn back
when I call for help.
By this I will know that God is for me.
In God, whose word I praise,
in the LORD, whose word I praise—
in God I trust and am not afraid.
What can man do to me?
I am under vows to you, my God;
I will present my thank offerings to you.
For you have delivered me from death
and my feet from stumbling,
that I may walk before God
in the light of life (NIV).
Psalm 56 is a relatively short psalm. Yet in this short psalm, David repeats the phrase ‘whose word I praise’ three times. In today’s reading he states, “In God, whose word I praise, in the LORD, whose word I praise—in God I trust and am not afraid.”
For me this phrase raises a question. Whose word do I praise? Do I praise God’s word? Do I appreciate and value the written word of God? Have I made it my refuge as it was for David? Is it my sustenance? Do I feed on it daily? While fasting in the wilderness Jesus answered the tempter, “It is written, ‘One does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God’” (Matthew 4:4).
Do you trust the living, active word of God to help you today and every day? Trust really is crucial. If I don’t trust that God’s word will help, encourage, correct and sustain me, I won’t bother reading it or meditating on it. I’ll trust in my own abilities or seek direction from other sources.
Trust is crucial in election campaigns. During such campaigns politicians from a variety of parties make their pitch to the electorate. Again the fundamental question for each voter is whose word, do you trust? Politicians often promise more than they can deliver. Often I have been let down by a politician who promised to do things differently, but once in office failed to deliver, or became caught up in scandal after scandal. I presume the same disappointment holds true for many voters.
We need to remember that salvation won’t ever be achieved at the ballot box. It was achieved at the cross—only at the cross. The remedy for my sin is found there. The living word of God reminds us of that trustworthy, unchanging truth.
Response: LORD God, I put my trust in your word. I praise your life-giving word for it is good and completely trustworthy. Your word is a lamp for my feet, a light on my path (Psalm 119:105). Amen.
Your Turn: Do you make it your habit to read and meditate on the word of God?
Reading: Psalm 19
The law of the LORD is perfect,
reviving the soul.
The statutes of the LORD are trustworthy,
making wise the simple.
The precepts of the LORD are right,
giving joy to the heart.
The commands of the LORD are radiant,
giving light to the eyes.
The fear of the LORD is pure,
The decrees of the LORD are firm,
and all of them are righteous.
They are more precious than gold,
than much pure gold;
they are sweeter than honey,
than honey from the honeycomb.
By them your servant is warned;
in keeping them there is great reward (NIV).
The voice of the speaking stars (see yesterday’s reading) is now joined by the voice of the written Holy Word. If nature, specifically the sky, is the first witness to testify to the glory of God, then the scriptures—the written word of God—constitute the second great witness to speak of God’s existence. Both these great witnesses have gathered here to testify within the context of Psalm 19.
While nature speaks to us of the existence of God the creator, it is largely silent regarding the nature or character of this all-powerful supernatural being. Is He good? Is He evil? Is He indifferent to us? Is He angry with us? What is this great, overarching, omnipresent God really like? May we approach Him?
God’s word shows us the way. Here David tells us, “The law of the LORD is perfect, reviving the soul.”
The law is perfect, flawless, inerrant and infallible. Only a perfect, flawless, inerrant and infallible God can be the source of such a document. The law of the LORD that is referred to here is in fact the Bible, the Word of God. Jack Hayford in his commentary on this verse from the Psalms states, “That the ‘law of the LORD is perfect,’ is direct reference to the absolute, complete, and entire trustworthiness of the Holy Scriptures, which constitute the Bible.”
And this perfect, true and infallible law, or Word of God, has an effect. The Word of God is active. It revives the soul. God’s word literally brings souls back to spiritual life. There is great power in the written word. The word of God is redemptive, personal and transformational.
Response: LORD God, help me draw life, wisdom and joy from your word every day. Light my way. Amen.
Your Turn: Do you read God’s word daily? How has it helped you grow in faith?
Reading: Psalm 147
He strengthens the bars of your gates
and blesses your people within you.
He grants peace to your borders
and satisfies you with the finest of wheat.
He sends his command to the earth;
his word runs swiftly.
He spreads the snow like wool
and scatters the frost like ashes.
He hurls down his hail like pebbles.
Who can withstand his icy blast?
He sends his word and melts them;
he stirs up his breezes, and the waters flow (NIV).
Here in Psalm 147, the psalmist uses this metaphor to describe God’s word in action. He [the LORD] sends his command to the earth; his word runs swiftly.
We can be sure of one thing. When the word of the LORD is sent forth, it accomplishes its purpose. The prophet Isaiah wrote of that unchanging truth. As the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return to it without watering the earth and making it bud and flourish, so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater, so is my word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it (Isaiah 55:10-11).
God’s word brings blessing. That’s the picture that the psalmist paints. Isaiah uses different brush strokes, but in essence he paints a similar picture. The outpouring of the word of God onto His people brings a bountiful blessing. He strengthens the bars of your gates and blesses your people within you. He grants peace to your borders and satisfies you with the finest of wheat.
Wherever God’s word reaches, it brings new life and fullness to life. Yes, it often brings conviction of sins, but those are the dead limbs that need to be cut off so new growth can flourish. God’s word reorients my life from a path that leads to death to the way everlasting.
The inner peace and security that I need are found in the presence of the LORD. I need a constant flow of God’s word into my heart and my mind. True prosperity, healing and strength are found in the swiftly running words of God. I want to be immersed in those running words.
Response: LORD God, I treasure your commands and your words. I want your word to be active within me, cutting off those sins and habits that are unproductive, and then bringing forth new life and the fruits of righteousness, peace and joy. Thank you, Jesus. Amen.
Your Turn: Do you allow God’s word to run and play in your mind? Has a Bible verse changed your life?
Reading: Psalm 119
May my cry come before you, LORD;
give me understanding according to your word.
May my supplication come before you;
deliver me according to your promise.
May my lips overflow with praise,
for you teach me your decrees.
May my tongue sing of your word,
for all your commands are righteous.
May your hand be ready to help me,
for I have chosen your precepts.
I long for your salvation, LORD,
and your law gives me delight.
Let me live that I may praise you,
and may your laws sustain me.
I have strayed like a lost sheep.
Seek your servant,
for I have not forgotten your commands (NIV).
This is the final reading from Psalm 119. Today’s reading features Taw, the final letter in the Hebrew alphabet. Day by day we have been making our way through this acrostic poem—reading as it were from A to Z in the Hebrew language. All of it is written in praise of God’s word and His promises. It is difficult to fully appreciate the structural beauty of this lengthy poem, when it is translated into English.
This line from today’s reading is typical of the psalmist’s praise for the word of God: May my tongue sing of your word, for all your commands are righteous.
At times the psalmist appears to be proud, even boastful of his obedience to God’s word, but here at the conclusion of this magnificent poem, he takes on a more humble stance. I have strayed like a lost sheep. Seek your servant, for I have not forgotten your commands.
There is something very human about this prayer—about this ending. We are very prone to stray. The prophet Isaiah reflects on this human characteristic. We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to our own way; and the LORD has laid on him [Jesus] the iniquity of us all (Isaiah 53:6).
Jesus is our carrier—our iniquity carrier. He carried our sins to the cross where he suffered and died, so that his blood could cover those sins—my sins—your sins. But our sin carrier is also our Good Shepherd, who goes out to find those who are lost. He is the answer to the psalmist’s prayer. This is the purpose for his coming. “For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost” (Luke 19:10).
Response: Father God, I confess I am prone to stray. Help me to stay back to the straight and narrow way that leads to life. I thank you, Jesus, for seeking me and saving me by your shed blood. Amen.
Your Turn: Are you a wandering sheep? Have you been found by the Good Shepherd?
Reading: Psalm 119
ש Sin and Shin
Rulers persecute me without cause,
but my heart trembles at your word.
I rejoice in your promise
like one who finds great spoil.
I hate and detest falsehood
but I love your law.
Seven times a day I praise you
for your righteous laws.
Great peace have those who love your law,
and nothing can make them stumble.
I wait for your salvation, LORD,
and I follow your commands.
I obey your statutes,
for I love them greatly.
I obey your precepts and your statutes,
for all my ways are known to you (NIV).
We live in troubled times—times of domestic and foreign conflict. Turmoil abounds. If you follow world events, it seems we are sitting on a ticking time bomb. Problems and conflicts abound, and those conflicts spill across borders as people desperately seek a better life.
Into this world of uncertainty, the psalmist speaks these words. Great peace have those who love your law, and nothing can make them stumble.
If we are looking for peace in this world, we are sure to be disappointed. The ways of the world lead directly to conflict, as human greed and pride compete for dominance. This should not surprise us since the world and the systems of the world are controlled by our adversary, the prince of darkness.
Again the psalmist reminds us. Great peace have those who love your law, and nothing can make them stumble.
Our peace is not found in the world; it is found in loving your law, which is the word of God. The good news is that this word of God did not simply remain as pages in a book. It became flesh to live with us. The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth (John 1:14). Furthermore, Jesus, the living word, gives us this promise, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid” (John 14:27).
Response: Father God, grant me your peace. Now by faith I receive the promise of your everlasting peace. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus (Philippians 4:7). Thank you, Lord Jesus. My sins are forgiven. Amen.
Your Turn: What brings you peace? Do you need the peace of Christ?
Reading: Psalm 119
I call with all my heart; answer me, LORD,
and I will obey your decrees.
I call out to you; save me
and I will keep your statutes.
I rise before dawn and cry for help;
I have put my hope in your word.
My eyes stay open through the watches of the night,
that I may meditate on your promises.
Hear my voice in accordance with your love;
preserve my life, LORD, according to your laws.
Those who devise wicked schemes are near,
but they are far from your law.
Yet you are near, LORD,
and all your commands are true.
Long ago I learned from your statutes
that you established them to last forever (NIV).
Meditation. It seems everyone is doing it. Have you taken up meditation? Even the Bible encourages us to meditate.
Ah, but there are some fundamental differences between transcendental meditation and the meditation that is described in the Bible. Eastern meditation, which springs from the Hindu religion, calls on the practitioner to relax and empty his or her mind.
Biblical meditation is not an emptying of the mind, or a disengagement with the thought process. Instead, it is active, concentrated thought on a topic, word or Bible verse. On an intellectual level, it has been compared to rumination—a cow chewing her cud. It involves getting the most out of what God has said—digesting His word—so it is fully incorporated into the life of the believer.
Today’s reading sheds light on the psalmist’s practice of biblical meditation: I rise before dawn and cry for help; I have put my hope in your word. My eyes stay open through the watches of the night, that I may meditate on your promises.
The psalmist is thoroughly engaged with God. He is crying out to Him. He is focussed on the word of God and His promises: I have put my hope in your word.
In the rush of life, do we stop and meditate on God’s word? Is Bible reading just a box to check off as we speed through our day? It’s the LORD who calls us aside to spend time with Him.
Response: LORD God, with all the distractions around me, I want to get in the habit of meditating on your word. Help me to focus my attention and thoughts on your promises. You are good to me. Amen.
Your Turn: Are you easily distracted from God’s word? Do you take it with you through the day?
Reading: Psalm 119
I hate double-minded people,
but I love your law.
You are my refuge and my shield;
I have put my hope in your word.
Away from me, you evildoers,
that I may keep the commands of my God!
Sustain me, my God, according to your promise, and I will live;
do not let my hopes be dashed.
Uphold me, and I will be delivered;
I will always have regard for your decrees.
You reject all who stray from your decrees,
for their delusions come to nothing.
All the wicked of the earth you discard like dross;
therefore I love your statutes.
My flesh trembles in fear of you;
I stand in awe of your laws (NIV).
Our reading today from Psalm 119 begins with a rather harsh statement: I hate double-minded people, but I love your law.
You never know where you stand with a double-minded person. His opinions and his views on various topics shift, depending on who he is with or what is currently in vogue. Everything is relative, so what is wrong today might be right tomorrow depending on the circumstances of course. This fluid, shifting perspective, accurately reflects the moral tenor of our times. There is no certainty. There are no absolutes.
Psalm 119 is a direct contradiction of this world view. The author rejoices in the word of God. He exalts the LORD’s commands. My flesh trembles in fear of you; I stand in awe of your laws.
But where does that leave me? I live in a world that is trying to bend me—to distort me—so I fit into its mold. It takes real determination to resist. If I compromise my faith, I quickly become a double-minded person, unfit for the Lord’s service. I need the mind of Christ.
James has this advice for us: If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him. But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for he who doubts is like a wave of the sea driven and tossed by the wind. For let not that man suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways (James 1:5-8).
Response: Father God, I need your wisdom to live right in this world. I want to escape the corruption that is in the world by drawing close to you and obeying your holy and unchanging word. I call on you for help. Amen.
Your Turn: Do you suffer from double-mindedness? Where is your anchor?
Reading: Psalm 119
Oh, how I love your law!
I meditate on it all day long.
Your commands are always with me
and make me wiser than my enemies.
I have more insight than all my teachers,
for I meditate on your statutes.
I have more understanding than the elders,
for I obey your precepts.
I have kept my feet from every evil path
so that I might obey your word.
I have not departed from your laws,
for you yourself have taught me.
How sweet are your words to my taste,
sweeter than honey to my mouth!
I gain understanding from your precepts;
therefore I hate every wrong path (NIV).
Here’s a question for you: How do you take a bone away from a hungry dog?
Answer: You offer him a steak.
In many respects humans respond just like dogs. We won’t give up our filthy habits unless we are offered something much better. Many years back I remember a conversation with a drug addict—a former drug addict. I asked him if he found it difficult to give up his drug habit.
“No it was easy. Once I experienced the love of God—the real love of Jesus for me on the cross—it was easy. I found something so much better,” he said with a huge grin on his face.
These words from today’s reading reflect the same concept: I have not departed from your laws, for you yourself have taught me. How sweet are your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth!
It’s not hard to walk the straight and narrow when you are walking that path with the Lord—when He Himself is teaching you—when your heart is burning within you as the resurrected Jesus opens the eyes of your understanding. See Luke 24:13-32. There is a closeness in the Spirit that has no equal. Those are the moments that change you forever because you are fully with God. His word is rich. It’s nourishment to your famished soul. His love is the air you breathe.
Who here wants a dirty chewed up bone when there’s steak on offer?
Response: Father God, renew my first love for you. I want to fall in love with you again. Fill me with delight for your word and your Spirit. Completely change my affections. Amen.
Your Turn: Are you too content with your bone? Have you experienced the nearness of Jesus?