I will praise Him!
Reading: Psalm 58
For the director of music. To the tune of “Do Not Destroy.”
Of David. A miktam.
Do you rulers indeed speak justly?
Do you judge people with equity?
No, in your heart you devise injustice,
and your hands mete out violence on the earth.
Even from birth the wicked go astray;
from the womb they are wayward, spreading lies.
Their venom is like the venom of a snake,
like that of a cobra that has stopped its ears,
that will not heed the tune of the charmer,
however skillful the enchanter may be.
Break the teeth in their mouths, O God;
LORD, tear out the fangs of those lions!
Let them vanish like water that flows away;
when they draw the bow, let their arrows fall short.
May they be like a slug that melts away as it moves along,
like a stillborn child that never sees the sun.
Before your pots can feel the heat of the thorns—
whether they be green or dry—the wicked will be swept away.
The righteous will be glad when they are avenged,
when they dip their feet in the blood of the wicked.
Then people will say, “Surely the righteous still are rewarded;
surely there is a God who judges the earth” (NIV).
The overall title of my devotional posts is, ‘I Love the Psalms’. Do I love Psalm 58? Ah, not so much. There is a term for this type of psalm. It’s called an imprecatory psalm. According to Wikipedia imprecatory psalms “are those that invoke judgment, calamity, or curses, upon one’s enemies or those perceived as the enemies of God.”
Currently, I don’t feel an urge to call down curses on others. I am at peace with those around me. That’s a good thing and I praise God for the joy and security I experience. In such an environment imprecatory psalms are completely out of place. They do not reflect my current reality.
But what if my reality was completely different? What if my son had been killed by ISIS militants? What if my daughter had been kidnapped and raped by jihadists? Or closer to home—what if my unarmed, teenage son was shot by police? I would be outraged. I would call for divine justice. In times such as these, the imprecatory psalms have profound resonance. We want and need a God who will judge the earth. At such times, we call on a God who cares to rise up and act on our behalf. In the face of injustice and cruelty, anger can be an appropriate response—a godly response. Our God is angered by cruelty.
Response: LORD God, in a world filled with injustice, we call on you to help and defend the innocent. Help the victims of violence and war and bring the perpetrators to justice. Amen.
Your Turn: Have you been praying for Christian communities ravaged by war in countries like Nigeria, Iraq and Syria? Do you bottle up your anger or release it to God through prayer?
Reading: Psalm 50
A psalm of Asaph.
The Mighty One, God, the LORD,
speaks and summons the earth
from the rising of the sun to where it sets.
From Zion, perfect in beauty,
God shines forth.
Our God comes and will not be silent;
a fire devours before him,
and around him a tempest rages.
He summons the heavens above,
and the earth, that he may judge his people:
“Gather to me this consecrated people,
who made a covenant with me by sacrifice.”
And the heavens proclaim his righteousness,
for he is a God of justice (NIV).
Psalm 50 begins by reminding us that Judgment Day is coming. A great summoning will take place. We will all gather before the throne of God. Rich and poor, the powerful and the weak, the living and the dead—all will gather before the LORD. None are excused. The Mighty One, God, the LORD, speaks and summons the earth from the rising of the sun to where it sets.
On the day before his crucifixion Jesus elaborated at some length on this great summoning. For some it will be a day of joy and gladness; for others it will be a day of dread and sorrow. “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his glorious throne. All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left” (Matthew 25:31-33).
What kind of day will it be for you?
It will certainly be a day of justice. The world is crying out for justice. All too often in this world—in this life—there is no such thing. The innocent suffer, while the perpetrators get off free. They gloat in their pride, while swaddled in luxury. On that great day—that Judgment Day—the tables will be turned. The great Judge of all the earth will see to that. And so He should. Since the fall of man, the world is crying out for justice.
It is well worth noting that in his account of Judgment Day, Jesus decides if we will enter into bliss or torment based on how we treat others. He states, “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me’ (Matthew 25:40).
Response: LORD God, help me to live my life in joyous preparation for that great summoning when wrong will be made right. Help me to be merciful so that I will receive your mercy in Jesus’ name. Amen.
Your Turn: How can we prepare our hearts and live our lives aright in the knowledge that Judgment Day is coming?
Reading: Psalm 119
I have done what is righteous and just;
do not leave me to my oppressors.
Ensure your servant’s well-being;
do not let the arrogant oppress me.
My eyes fail, looking for your salvation,
looking for your righteous promise.
Deal with your servant according to your love
and teach me your decrees.
I am your servant; give me discernment
that I may understand your statutes.
Because I love your commands
more than gold, more than pure gold,
and because I consider all your precepts right,
I hate every wrong path (NIV).
Do you have a negative view of judgment—God’s judgment? Do you cringe at the thought? If you are guilty of wrongdoing, you should cringe. But if you have been harmed by wrongdoers you have solid grounds to welcome God’s judgment. Our sense of justice calls for the intervention of a righteous judge.
There is none more righteous than the LORD—none more worthy to sit as judge. For this reason the psalmist calls for God to act. It is time for you to act, LORD; your law is being broken.
As we look about our world, as we listen to newscasts, it becomes increasingly apparent that it’s time for God to act. Lawlessness, hate, and violence abound. Sexual perversion is promoted—gets top billing—is openly applauded. Plutocrats with their extravagant wealth rule the roost, while the poor struggle to feed their families. On the international stage dictators and warmongers parade about freely, while oppressing their own people. Those who would dare to oppose them are imprisoned or slaughtered.
This injustice was brought into sharp focus last week through a series of interviews I had in Athens with Turkish refugees fleeing from the Erdogan government.
Where is the justice? Where is truth and right judgment in all this? Where is the LORD? Daily, the prayer on our lips should be this: It is time for you to act, LORD; your law is being broken.
It’s time for evil and crooked dealings to be exposed. It’s time for the light of day to reveal what has been done in secret. It’s time for the righteous Judge—the Judge of all the earth—to act.
On a personal level, like the psalmist, let this be the cry of our hearts: Deal with your servant according to your love and teach me your decrees. The prophet Hosea also has a fitting word for us. But you must return to your God; maintain love and justice, and wait for your God always (Hosea 12:6).
Response: LORD God, I see the corruption that is in the world. Keep me from it. It is time for you to act, LORD; your law is being broken. Please show mercy and grace to those who call out to you. Amen.
Your Turn: Are you troubled by the lawlessness and injustice in society? Where do you turn?
Reading: Psalm 101
Whoever slanders their neighbor in secret,
I will put to silence;
whoever has haughty eyes and a proud heart,
I will not tolerate.
My eyes will be on the faithful in the land,
that they may dwell with me;
the one whose walk is blameless
will minister to me.
No one who practices deceit
will dwell in my house;
no one who speaks falsely
will stand in my presence.
Every morning I will put to silence
all the wicked in the land;
I will cut off every evildoer
from the city of the LORD (NIV).
One of the roles of a king in ancient Israel was to render judgment in difficult civil cases. In fact, judges ruled Israel for about 400 years before the first king was anointed; hence the judicial role was of great significance during the early years of Israel’s kingdom period.
This reading from Psalm 101 should be viewed as King David’s commitment to his judicial role. He was determined to govern wisely, and for him that meant identifying and siding with those who do right. My eyes will be on the faithful in the land, that they may dwell with me; the one whose walk is blameless will minister to me.
Choosing the right kind of people to associate with is of great importance. This is not about the economic strata you occupy. Typically, rich people associate only with other rich people; similarly lower class people have friends of the same social standing. But honesty and integrity cross these artificial socioeconomic lines. There are crooks and swindlers among the rich and among the poor. In the same way there are honest people of integrity at the extremes of both wealth and poverty.
David’s objective was to raise the integrity bar. He had no patience for lies or deceit. What kind of people do you enjoy hanging around with? Do they prompt you to walk with them in a blameless way, or do they drag you down in the gutter? Do they prompt you to good deeds or tempt you into a crooked path? It has often been said that we are known by the friends we choose. Are you a friend of God? James has this admonition for us: Don’t you know that if you love the world, you are God’s enemies? And if you decide to be a friend of the world, you make yourself an enemy of God (James 4:4, CEV).
Response: Heavenly Father, I want to be your friend. I want to love you because you first loved me and showed that love through your son, Jesus. Help me to choose my friends wisely as I let your life and joy shine through me. Amen.
Your Turn: Do your friends encourage you in your faith walk? Are you letting light shine?
Reading: Psalm 98
Let the sea resound, and everything in it,
the world, and all who live in it.
Let the rivers clap their hands,
let the mountains sing together for joy;
let them sing before the LORD,
for he comes to judge the earth.
He will judge the world in righteousness
and the peoples with equity (NIV).
What comes to mind when you think of God’s judgment? Do you envision pictures of doom, gloom and destruction? If that’s your response, you are not alone, but maybe you have the wrong set of pictures? Maybe you have a wrong understanding of God? Should the redeemed live in dread of God’s judgment?
Psalm 98 is a joyous anthem of praise to God—praise for the salvation the LORD has won for us. The psalmist begins this psalm by calling us to sing to the LORD a new song. In today’s reading, that call for praise and worship is extended to all of nature. Let the sea resound, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it. Let the rivers clap their hands; let the mountains sing together for joy.
Have you seen any mountains singing for joy? Have you heard the rivers clap their hands? I love the pictures such thoughts put in my mind. In reality all of creation is speaking daily. The earth, sea and sky are telling of God’s mercy and glory. The setting sun shouts out the praises of God. Can you hear it?
According to the psalmist, there is a cause for this great celebration by the sea, the rivers and the mountains. These elements of creation are celebrating because the LORD is coming to judge the earth. He will judge the world in righteousness and the peoples with equity. In other words God’s judgment should bring joy not dread. The LORD will set things right.
For far too long we have lived in a world of injustice, suffering and death. When the LORD comes, He will bring all this pain and perversity to an end. The environmental degradation that we have caused will come to an end. The Eden that was lost because of mans’ sin will be restored. Once again we will have access to the Tree of Life. Best of all we will walk in sweet communion with our heavenly Father. All this is possible because of the suffering, death and resurrection of Jesus. The power of sin was broken at the cross. Since God’s coming judgment will bring about all this glorious restoration, why wouldn’t we join the mountains as they sing for joy?
Many of us have a wrong understanding of God and a wrong understanding of the purpose for His judgment. His judgments are good. They bring about peace—the shalom of God. Here in Psalm 98 we have the promise of His word on that. He will judge the world in righteousness and the peoples with equity.
Response: LORD God, in the past I have dreaded your judgment, but now I recognize your goodness. Come quickly, Lord Jesus. I want to see this world set right through your power and grace. Amen.
Your Turn: Do you fear God’s judgment? Is that always a good thing? Can it be misunderstood?
Reading: Psalm 97
The LORD reigns, let the earth be glad;
let the distant shores rejoice.
Clouds and thick darkness surround him;
righteousness and justice are the foundation of his throne.
Fire goes before him
and consumes his foes on every side.
His lightning lights up the world;
the earth sees and trembles.
The mountains melt like wax before the LORD,
before the Lord of all the earth.
The heavens proclaim his righteousness,
and all peoples see his glory.
All who worship images are put to shame,
those who boast in idols—
worship him, all you gods! (NIV).
Who is in charge here? In any situation, that’s a legitimate question. There are always a variety of authorities in any given situation. A while back I watched Prince William and his family get off a plane in Victoria, BC. On the tarmac the royal family was first greeted by the Governor General, then by the Prime Minister of Canada, then the Lieutenant Governor of the British Columbia and finally, the Premier of the province. They were all lined up according to proper protocol. Yes, there are a variety of authorities all deserving respect. But this question remains. Who is in charge here?
The authorities of this world have jurisdiction over a certain geographic area or realm. Some authorities govern well and in others rule as despots who plunder the wealth of the nation. But Psalm 97 reminds us that there is one great authority who rules over all. The LORD reigns, let the earth be glad; let the distant shores rejoice.
The earth can be glad and the distant shores can rejoice because this King, this heaven-dwelling authority rules well. He does not plunder His faithful people and bring them to ruin. He reigns supreme from on high. Clouds and thick darkness surround him; righteousness and justice are the foundation of his throne.
We can rest assured that the LORD will do what is right. He is allied with goodness, mercy and truth. That’s why justice is the foundation of His throne. We should not fear His judgments because they are right and good. Yes, the authors of evil should be afraid, but if we have done right, we can count on the LORD as our defender. Now here is a proclamation that we all should heed. The heavens proclaim his righteousness and all peoples see his glory.
Response: LORD God, it is my prayer that all people will see your glory and bow before you, the magnificent King of Righteousness. Extend your reign I pray. Let the distant shores rejoice because you reign. Amen.
Your Turn: Is the Lord Jesus reigning over you and your home? Who has jurisdiction there?
Reading: Psalm 82
A song. A psalm of Asaph.
God presides in the great assembly;
he renders judgment among the “gods”:
“How long will you defend the unjust
and show partiality to the wicked?
Defend the weak and the fatherless;
uphold the cause of the poor and the oppressed.
Rescue the weak and the needy;
deliver them from the hand of the wicked.
“The ‘gods’ know nothing, they understand nothing.
They walk about in darkness;
all the foundations of the earth are shaken.
“I said, ‘You are “gods”;
you are all sons of the Most High.’
But you will die like mere mortals;
you will fall like every other ruler.”
Rise up, O God, judge the earth,
for all the nations are your inheritance (NIV).
How high is the pedestal you are standing on? Are you standing taller than the fellow beside you?
Most of us would answer that we are not standing on a pedestal, but is that the truth. If we are honest with ourselves, I think we all can admit that we have looked down on others at times. We have considered ourselves superior to most of our peers.
Here in Psalm 82, God sets us on a pedestal. He calls us gods. This is a rather backhanded compliment, because after calling us gods, the Most High calls us to account. And what must we account for? We need to account for how we treat the weak and the poor among us. Here are the actions the LORD expects from us: Defend the weak and the fatherless; uphold the cause of the poor and the oppressed.
Are we doing these things? Far too often I spend my time jacking up my pedestal—trying to get a bit of elevation over the fellow beside me. I’m too busy to help someone else who has fallen off their pedestal or the poor clod who can’t find one to stand on. You have to pity these folks—the ones who don’t have a pedestal. How can they hold their head up if they’re superior to no one?
Paul, the apostle, writes, “We do not dare to classify or compare ourselves with some who commend themselves. When they measure themselves by themselves and compare themselves with themselves, they are not wise” (2 Corinthians 10:12).
God will have the final say with mortals like me. This “god” needs to learn to serve in humility.
Response: LORD, you are the Most High. Help me to stop comparing myself with others. All I have comes from you. Today I want to get off my pedestal and help someone else. Show me how, Lord. Amen.
Your Turn: Do you compare yourself with others? Are you polishing your pedestal?