I will praise the LORD!
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.
In some cases 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 have invade Ukraine as long range artillery flattens villages. 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?
Reading: Psalm 39
“Surely everyone goes around like a mere phantom;
in vain they rush about, heaping up wealth
without knowing whose it will finally be.
“But now, LORD, what do I look for?
My hope is in you.
Save me from all my transgressions;
do not make me the scorn of fools.
I was silent; I would not open my mouth,
for you are the one who has done this.
Remove your scourge from me;
I am overcome by the blow of your hand.
When you rebuke and discipline anyone for their sin,
you consume their wealth like a moth—surely everyone is but a breath.
“Hear my prayer, LORD, listen to my cry for help;
do not be deaf to my weeping.
I dwell with you as a foreigner, a stranger, as all my ancestors were.
Look away from me, that I may enjoy life again
before I depart and am no more” (NIV).
Today’s reading is the concluding portion of Psalm 39. In this psalm we find David in a silent, reflective mood. He contemplates the brevity of life and the certainty of the grave. In the previously posted psalm portion he prayed, “Show me, LORD, my life’s end and the number of my days; let me know how fleeting my life is.”
Why would knowing the number of our days matter? Well, it should focus our minds on making the most of the time available to us. Our days on this earth are not infinite. We are each allotted a predetermined number of days. In Psalm 139, another psalm attributed to David, we read, “Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be” (Psalm 139:16).
We have no control, or at best limited control over the number of days we live on this earth. But how and with whom we spend those days is within the range of our effective will. I can break my marital vows and my wife’s heart, or I can be true to her and my words spoken before God. I can love and raise my children in godly discipline, or I can neglect them, or alienate them through harsh punishment. I can be faithful to my Redeemer or I can turn my back on Him. These are decisions that fall within the scope of my will. In this life and the next I will be accountable for the decisions I make. Undoubtedly, this is why David cries out, “But now, LORD, what do I look for? My hope is in you. Save me from all my transgressions.”
Response: LORD God, I need your saving help. Through the redemptive blood of Jesus keep me from being trapped and controlled by my transgressions. I need your presence in my life so that I can make the most of my days. May your Kingdom rule extend to me and through me to others. Amen.
Your Turn: Do you think you would live your life differently if you knew how many days you had left?
Reading: Psalm 33
No king is saved by the size of his army;
no warrior escapes by his great strength.
A horse is a vain hope for deliverance;
despite all its great strength it cannot save.
But the eyes of the LORD are on those who fear him,
on those whose hope is in his unfailing love,
to deliver them from death
and keep them alive in famine.
We wait in hope for the LORD;
he is our help and our shield.
In him our hearts rejoice,
for we trust in his holy name.
May your unfailing love be with us, LORD,
even as we put our hope in you (NIV).
This final portion of Psalm 33 is all about hope. Life is all about hope. From the first breath we take until our last gasp, life is all about hope. Life has no meaning or purpose if we lose hope.
The essential question we must ask is where do you place your hope? All too often we place our hope in the things of this world, our resources, our ingenuity and the strength of our flesh. But the psalmist reminds us: No king is saved by the size of his army; no warrior escapes by his great strength. A horse is a vain hope for deliverance; despite all its great strength it cannot save.
Time and again throughout history the little guy has won. David defeated Goliath. The Viet Cong ousted the US Army. The Afghan rebels outlasted the armies of the USSR. Victory does not always go to the mighty. So the lament goes up, “How the mighty have fallen! The weapons of war have perished!” (2 Samuel 1:27).
Where is your hope? Where have you put your trust? The psalmist reminds us to put our hope in the LORD. Leaders come and go; nations rise and fall. Human abilities wane. “The grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of our God endures forever” (Isaiah 40:8).
Our hope and our trust must be in God and in His unfailing word.
When calamity strikes, those who maintain hope survive; those who give up hope perish. In stories of extreme survival over and over again this truth is borne out. Hope sustains the human heart, when food and water run out. When we put our trust in the LORD, we tap into a limitless supply of hope. Therefore: We wait in hope for the LORD; he is our help and our shield. In him our hearts rejoice, for we trust in his holy name.
Response: This is our prayer. May your unfailing love be with us, LORD, even as we put our hope in you. In the name of Jesus—our source of hope—who defeated death, we pray. Amen.
Your Turn: What are some sources of false hope? Why have you put your hope in God?
Reading: Psalm 25
In you, LORD my God, I put my trust.
I trust in you; do not let me be put to shame,
nor let my enemies triumph over me.
No one who hopes in you will ever be put to shame,
but shame will come on those
who are treacherous without cause.
Show me your ways, LORD,
teach me your paths.
Guide me in your truth and teach me,
for you are God my Savior,
and my hope is in you all day long.
Remember, LORD, your great mercy and love,
for they are from of old.
Do not remember the sins of my youth
and my rebellious ways;
according to your love remember me,
for you, LORD, are good (NIV).
Shame is often viewed as a very negative feeling, and it is. Some pop psychologists are of the opinion that this emotional response should be completely removed from our lives. They argue that it has no useful function, since it often holds us back from exploring and experimenting with new behaviors and activities in the world around us.
However, a life lived without any sense of shame is a life without an active conscience. Those who lack a shame gland soon find themselves trapped in self-destructive behavior that spirals out of control. A sense of shame when we have done wrong can act as the messenger of God calling us to repentance and a change of heart.
Here in this psalm, David pleads with the LORD that he will not be put to shame. That should be our prayer as well. And how can we avoid being put to shame? David gives us the answer. No one who hopes in you [the LORD] will ever be put to shame, but shame will come on those who are treacherous without cause.
If your hope is in the LORD, He will protect you from shame and disgrace. Trusting in God, rather than in ourselves is the point where freedom from shame begins. A humble teachable spirit is what God desires. Because of His great mercy and love, He forgives the sins of our youth and our rebellious ways. Praise the LORD!
Response: LORD, this is my prayer: Show me your ways, LORD, teach me your paths. Guide me in your truth and teach me, for you are God my Savior, and my hope is in you all day long. Amen.
Your Turn: How does trusting in God protect you from experiencing shame?
Reading: Psalm 130
I wait for the LORD, my whole being waits,
and in his word I put my hope.
I wait for the LORD
more than watchmen wait for the morning,
more than watchmen wait for the morning.
Israel, put your hope in the LORD,
for with the LORD is unfailing love
and with him is full redemption.
He himself will redeem Israel
from all their sins (NIV).
Psalm 130 can be divided into three distinct sections: the confessional approach, the wait, and the LORD’s response. In yesterday’s reading, we looked at the confessional approach. The psalmist came before his God and poured out his heart. In desperation he pleaded for mercy and forgiveness. At the same time he acknowledged the extreme mercy of God. He knows full well that this God forgives the undeserving.
Now, the psalmist waits: “I wait for the LORD, my soul waits, and in his word I put my hope. My soul waits for the LORD more than watchmen wait for the morning, more than watchmen wait for the morning.”
This is the step that is most frequently missing in our communion with God. We cannot wait; we rush on. We have things to do, people to see, a life to live. We have no time to wait for the LORD’s response. But without waiting, we cannot hear the LORD speaking to our hearts. The rush of life takes over. We do not hear our Savior speak the words of divine pardon. Prayer is reduced to one way communication. We speak into the silence, and allow no time for the God of silence to answer back.
But in his time of silence, the psalmist heard from God. In this third section of the psalm, the author is no longer addressing the LORD in prayer. Now he is addresses us. The wait is over. God has spoken, and now the psalmist rises to his feet. He has a message from the LORD for us—the Israel of God.
Israel, put your hope in the LORD, for with the LORD is unfailing love and with him is full redemption.
For Israel, there was a long wait. The promised Messiah was a long time in coming. The centuries slipped by. Generation after generation passed on, but the word of the LORD stood firm. A Redeemer was coming. With an uncanny accuracy the Old Testament prophets foretold the coming of the Christ. Many of those prophetic words are found within the Psalms. The Lord Jesus is our fount of hope—our Redeemer. He is love and the source of unfailing love. It is he who with his blood redeemed us, body, soul and spirit. In the person of Jesus, God took on human flesh. On the cross he fulfilled these words. “He himself will redeem Israel from all their sins.”
Response: Father God, I thank you for your prophetic word because it points to Jesus. Lord Jesus, thank you for laying down your life to redeem me, and all those who bow before you in repentance. Amen.
Your Turn: Are you taking time to listen for the voice of God in prayer?