I will praise the LORD!
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 prophecies 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?
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?
Reading: Psalm 150
Praise the LORD.
Praise God in his sanctuary;
praise him in his mighty heavens.
Praise him for his acts of power;
praise him for his surpassing greatness.
Praise him with the sounding of the trumpet,
praise him with the harp and lyre,
praise him with timbrel and dancing,
praise him with the strings and pipe,
praise him with the clash of cymbals,
praise him with resounding cymbals.
Let everything that has breath praise the LORD.
Praise the LORD (NIV).*
We have reached the crescendo—the conclusion and the high point of the Book of Psalms. Hallelujah and praise the LORD!
The word praise appears thirteen times in this final psalm. The number thirteen is suggestive of Jesus and his apostles. He is at the core—the very center of God ordained worship.
Eight forms or instruments of praise are listed in this psalm. Eight is the number of new beginnings. Seven suggests completeness, so we see that God rested on the seventh day. But eight signals a new start. In the same way, these eight means or instruments of praise do not represent a complete list. They simply suggest the varied ways in which we can express our praise to the LORD. We have only just begun to discover and explore the many ways in which we can show our gratitude to our Creator.
No one—no living being—is excluded from this call to praise. Let everything that has breath praise the LORD.
This call for all the breathing to praise the LORD is truly fitting. We received our original breath from the LORD. Then the LORD God formed a man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being (Genesis 2:7). Now with our breath—our God-given breath—let us praise our Maker.
In the same way after his resurrection Jesus breathed on his disciples. Again Jesus said, “Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.” And with that he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit” (John 20:21-22).
We need the breath of God in us—the breath of the Holy Spirit in us to live—to truly live in the overcoming power and joy of the psalms. For the Holy Spirit’s presence I will praise the LORD!
Response: LORD God, I praise you. You are my strength and my song. Help me to discover new ways to praise you because you are good. Let my entire life reflect your redemptive presence in me. Amen.
Your Turn: Why are you breathing? Is praising God an integral part of your purpose?
Reading: Psalm 147
He has revealed his word to Jacob,
his laws and decrees to Israel.
He has done this for no other nation;
they do not know his laws.
Praise the LORD (NIV).*
Have you ever asked yourself this question: Where is God?
It’s a valid question. But when we ask that question, it may indicate a lack of faith or at least a level of doubt. When disaster strikes it’s not unusual to wonder, where is God in all this?
There are several theologically correct answers to that question. One could reply that God is in heaven, where He always has been. Or we could say God is everywhere because the Bible teaches that the LORD is omnipresent. See Psalm 139:7-10. Still others may say that the Lord is in their heart. St. Paul reminds us of this truth with this admonition: Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies (1 Corinthians 6:19-20).
The simple truth is God needs to reveal Himself to us. The most obvious way that God does this is through His written word. Today’s reading from Psalm 147 speaks of the importance of that revelation. He has revealed his word to Jacob, his laws and decrees to Israel. He has done this for no other nation; they do not know his laws.
But the written word of God can be nothing but dead words on a page to us unless those words are activated—made alive by the Spirit of God. We need the intervention of God—a revelation from God. When that happens, the written words dance off the page and into our hearts. The writer of Hebrews expresses it this way. For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart (Hebrews 4:12).
Just as God revealed His word to Jacob, we need God to speak to us today. He does that through His written word, but He also does that through the direct prompting of the Holy Spirit. God still speaks to people today. Are your ears open to hear His voice?
The greatest revelation of God came through the person of Jesus Christ. He is the word incarnate—the logos of God who came to dwell among us.
Where is God? He is in the person of Jesus. Jesus, come and dwell in my heart.
Response: LORD God, I need a greater revelation of you. When you show yourself to me, I am changed. Come, Lord Jesus. Invigorate my life. Help me to know you better. Speak deeply to my heart. Amen.
Your Turn: How does God speak to your heart? Has He reveal Himself to you in a variety of ways?
Reading: Psalm 143
Answer me quickly, LORD;
my spirit fails.
Do not hide your face from me
or I will be like those who go down to the pit.
Let the morning bring me word of your unfailing love,
for I have put my trust in you.
Show me the way I should go,
for to you I entrust my life.
Rescue me from my enemies, LORD,
for I hide myself in you.
Teach me to do your will,
for you are my God;
may your good Spirit
lead me on level ground (NIV).*
Can you hide in someone else? That sounds like the plot for a sci-fi thriller. Maybe I could reduce myself to the size of a microbe and be injected into another person’s body? That would truly be a mind-boggling adventure, presumably with a good outcome for all.
But here in Psalm 143, David speaks of hiding himself in the LORD. Rescue me from my enemies, LORD, for I hide myself in you.
David, please tell me how I can do that? How do I hide myself in the LORD? Actually, this idea of hiding in God is well developed throughout the psalms. David sees the LORD as his strong tower and his shelter. See Psalm 61:3. David says this of the LORD: For in the day of trouble he will keep me safe in his dwelling; he will hide me in the shelter of his sacred tent and set me high upon a rock (Psalm 27:5).
Again in Psalm 32 David makes this statement about the LORD. You are my hiding place; you will protect me from trouble and surround me with songs of deliverance (Psalm 32:7).
How do I hide myself in God? Let me suggest that it begins by immersing oneself in God’s word. Jesus is the living logos—the word of God. See John 1:1-5. But in addition to reading and receiving the written word of God, we need to connect with the Spirit of God. Our human spirit must come alive to and through the Spirit of God. Receiving Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior is not merely an intellectual experience. It is a spiritual experience—a from the inside out transformational experience.
When our human spirit comes alive to God, these words become our prayer. Teach me to do your will, for you are my God; may your good Spirit lead me on level ground.
Response: LORD God, I have put my trust in you. I want to connect with your Holy Spirit. I want to be fully alive in you, body, soul and spirit. Show me the way forward to a vibrant relationship with you. LORD, may your good Spirit lead me on level ground. Amen.
Your Turn: Has your spirit connected with God’s Spirit? Has your life been changed by that encounter?
*New International Version, Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica.
Reading: Psalm 133
A song of ascents. Of David.
How good and pleasant it is
when God’s people live together in unity!
It is like precious oil poured on the head,
running down on the beard,
running down on Aaron’s beard,
down on the collar of his robe.
It is as if the dew of Hermon
were falling on Mount Zion.
For there the LORD bestows his blessing,
even life forevermore (NIV).
Short, but powerful and evocative—that’s my description of Psalm 133. I might also add, easily read, but difficult to put into practice. Unity among the people of God is that great elusive goal that seems to always disappear around the next bend in the road just as we approach it. But there God has commanded His blessing, if we could only reach that blessed state.
The psalmist uses two metaphors to portray this good and pleasant state of affairs. The first may appear to be rather messy and wasteful. Who wants oil running down their beard and onto their clothing? But in the Old Testament, prophets, priests and kings were anointed in just this way. It symbolized the release of divine authority and power into an individual’s life. The Spirit of God was coming upon them for public service. This concept forms an effective bridge to the coming of the Holy Spirit in the Book of Acts. When the waiting disciples were of one accord, the Holy Spirit was poured upon them; the anointing came. See Acts 2.
The second metaphor signifies rejuvenation. The dew of the morning is new each day. It refreshes and revives. When our social interactions are positive and enriching, the outcome is spiritual renewal and a deep sense of belonging. Recent studies have shown that social isolation may be a greater risk factor among the elderly than smoking or heart disease. Lack of meaningful interaction with others also has a negative impact on mental and physical health.
The person who continually self-isolates is committing a slow form of suicide, both physically and spiritually. Satan loves the isolated believer—feasts on the mind of the isolated believer.
Simply put, we need each other. We need to be surrounded by loving caring relationships, at home, at work and in the church. On every level, unity of purpose coupled with unselfish love, refreshes and revives the weary soul. We all want God’s blessing. Well, here’s the key to God’s blessing. The LORD commands a blessing when God’s people live together in unity!
Response: Father God, help me sow words of love and unity. Open my eyes to see where I can bring a word of encouragement and affirmation to those around me. Make me an instrument of peace, love and unity today. Amen.
Your Turn: How can you avoid sowing seeds of discord? What can you do today to build unity or break out of self-isolation?
Reading: Psalm 119
You are my portion, LORD;
I have promised to obey your words.
I have sought your face with all my heart;
be gracious to me according to your promise.
I have considered my ways
and have turned my steps to your statutes.
I will hasten and not delay
to obey your commands.
Though the wicked bind me with ropes,
I will not forget your law.
At midnight I rise to give you thanks
for your righteous laws.
I am a friend to all who fear you,
to all who follow your precepts.
The earth is filled with your love, LORD;
teach me your decrees (NIV).
I just got a phone call from a friend that left me rather embarrassed. I was embarrassed because I had promised to call this friend, but I didn’t follow through. I can think of a half dozen excuses I could offer, but none of them hold much water. I can claim that I’m too busy, but I find time for what I consider important. To make matters worse, this forgetting to call is a recurring problem. To put it bluntly, this friendship is in jeopardy because I have repeatedly failed to keep my word.
My relationship with God also suffers when I make promises to the LORD, and then fail to deliver. I have wonderful intentions to pray—to seek God’s face—to read my Bible. But follow through? Not so much. There’s often a big gap between what we promise and what we actually deliver. The shortfall is often enormous. Of course we have our excuses—a flimsy fig leaf to cover our shame.
Today’s reading from Psalm 119 also begins with a promise: You are my portion, LORD; I have promised to obey your words.
If I were to speak those words, in the back of my mind I can hear a voice saying, “Yeah, Yeah. I’ve heard you say that before. When are you going to deliver?”
The brutal truth is I can’t deliver. On my own I cannot obey God’s word. I’ve tried and it’s impossible. I desperately need the Holy Spirit to help me day by day and moment by moment. St. Paul gives us this reminder: it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose (Philippians 2:13).
Response: Father God, help me. I want to obey your word. I want to live out the words of this psalm. I can only succeed by your grace, so give me the will to do your will. Amen.
Your Turn: Have you promised more than you can deliver? Who will help you keep your promises?
Reading: Psalm 119
Be good to your servant while I live,
that I may obey your word.
Open my eyes that I may see
wonderful things in your law.
I am a stranger on earth;
do not hide your commands from me.
My soul is consumed with longing
for your laws at all times.
You rebuke the arrogant, who are accursed,
those who stray from your commands.
Remove from me their scorn and contempt,
for I keep your statutes.
Though rulers sit together and slander me,
your servant will meditate on your decrees.
Your statutes are my delight;
they are my counselors (NIV).
My wife knows all about my blindness. Actually, it’s a condition that afflicts many men. You see I have difficulty seeing what is right in front of me. She will tell me to get a certain item from the next room, but can I find it? Of course not. Eventually, my long-suffering wife will arrive to point out the obvious. To which I will respond with, “Now, why couldn’t I see that?”
She will then reply with, “Because you’re blind.”
I’m sure domestic scenes like this are repeated in homes all over the world. But something very similar happens when we open our Bibles. We read a passage and though we take it in with our eyes, it seems the words go nowhere. The thoughts expressed by those words do not register on our minds or in our spirits. I’m ashamed to admit there are times when I have read a chapter from the Bible and walked away completely unaware of what I have read. Nothing has registered. The psalmist’s prayer in today’s reading needs to become my own: Open my eyes that I may see wonderful things in your law.
Unless God opens our eyes when we read His word, we are engaging in an exercise in futility. The Holy Spirit inspired the apostles and prophets to write the Bible, and we urgently need the same Holy Spirit to bring those words alive for us as we read. The god of this world has blinded our eyes. Often God’s truths are veiled. We need the Holy Spirit to remove that veil. Something marvelous happens when that occurs. And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit (2 Corinthians 3: 18).
Response: Father God, open my eyes and my heart to the truths of your glorious word. Day by day I want to grow in my knowledge and love for you. I need to be transformed by your Spirit. Remove the veil from my eyes. Amen.
Your Turn: Do you regularly read God’s word? Do you sometimes suffer from Bible blindness?
Finally, on this day let’s remember those who paid the ultimate price for our freedom.
Reading: Psalm 68
When you, God, went out before your people,
when you marched through the wilderness,
the earth shook, the heavens poured down rain,
before God, the One of Sinai,
before God, the God of Israel.
You gave abundant showers, O God;
you refreshed your weary inheritance.
Your people settled in it,
and from your bounty, God, you provided for the poor.
The Lord announces the word,
and the women who proclaim it are a mighty throng:
“Kings and armies flee in haste;
the women at home divide the plunder.
Even while you sleep among the sheep pens,
the wings of my dove are sheathed with silver,
its feathers with shining gold.”
When the Almighty scattered the kings in the land,
it was like snow fallen on Mount Zalmon (NIV).
Are you about to start some grand enterprise? Are you embarking on a great journey? Are you beginning a new endeavour? Maybe you are doing none of these things. Perhaps for you it’s just a regular day. There’s nothing special or grand about it at all.
But just for a moment, let’s suppose you were setting out on a magnificent, but somewhat risky adventure. What are the conditions you would like to see in place before you step out of your comfort zone and take on the very real challenges and obstacles that lie ahead?
This portion of Psalm 68 gives us a biblical answer to that question. If you are taking on the world and all it can throw at you, it’s best to have God on your side. It’s best to have the LORD going before you. He is the One who prepares the way for victory and success.
In a dry and thirst place God is our faithful provider. You gave abundant showers, O God; you refreshed your weary inheritance. Your people settled in it, and from your bounty, God, you provided for the poor.
When we step out in His will, God is at work. He has gone before us even as we sleep. He sets our enemies to flight. “Even while you sleep among the sheep pens, the wings of my dove are sheathed with silver, its feathers with shining gold.”
The dove so beautifully described here is the Holy Spirit. He circles over His people preparing the way.
Response: LORD God, as I go about my day, please go before me. Today help me to see you at work. I walk in confidence and faith because your Holy Spirit is at work even as I sleep. Thank you, Lord. Amen.
Your Turn: Can you recall times when it was apparent that God had gone before you?