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?
* New International Version, Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica
Some good news: The first volume of 365 Days through the Psalms by award-winning author David Kitz will be published in November, 2020, by Elk Lake Publishing. Two additional volumes will follow in 2021 to complete the three volume set.
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?
* New International Version, Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica
Because of open heart surgery, publication of 365 Days through the Psalms by award-winning author David Kitz has been delayed until later this year or 2021. In due course, 365 Days through the Psalms will be published by Elk Lake Publishing. In the interim, please pray for my return to good health.
Reading: Psalm 21
Your hand will lay hold on all your enemies;
your right hand will seize your foes.
When you appear for battle,
you will burn them up as in a blazing furnace.
The LORD will swallow them up in his wrath,
and his fire will consume them.
You will destroy their descendants from the earth,
their posterity from mankind.
Though they plot evil against you
and devise wicked schemes, they cannot succeed.
You will make them turn their backs
when you aim at them with drawn bow.
Be exalted in your strength, LORD;
we will sing and praise your might (NIV).*
I have a confession to make. The overall title of my blog is I Love the Psalms! But there are some psalms where the fondness runs very thin. That’s the case with this psalm portion. The pacifist side of me gets very uncomfortable with all this talk of God’s wrath burning like a consuming fire. My reasoning goes something like this: If God gets angry with others; I might be the next one dropped in the toaster.
In this psalm David paints a portrait of the LORD as a warrior. I’m not so sure I want to see the LORD as a fearsome warrior. I prefer to see Him as a gentle shepherd—the Good Shepherd—not a God of vengeance firing arrows at His foes. But if I have my way—if I see Him only as a meek shepherd—do I have a right picture of the LORD? Am I blind to an important side of His character? Is He both a warrior and a shepherd?
I can be guilty of shaping God according to my image—the likeness I prefer. But the god I create is not the true God. The true God is always greater, more awesome, fear-provoking, and loving than I can possibly imagine. Words on a page fall short—always fall far short—when we attempt to describe God.
As for this world, it’s inhabited by evil men. Some are heinously evil—monsters in human skin. Others by the mercy of God are filled with kindness. A measure of the grace of God is extended even to those who do not know Him. If God refused to rain judgment on the perpetrators of evil would He still be a good God? If this world were perfect, would we still long for heaven?
Who am I to judge God? Who am I to find fault with my Creator and His ways? Here is the conclusion: Ride on in the battle against evil, Warrior King. Shelter me in your arms, Good Shepherd.
Response: Heavenly Father, I confess I have an incomplete picture of you. I can never grasp or comprehend your fullness. I bow before you, LORD Almighty. In humility I worship you, the magnificent and perfect, I AM. Amen.
Your Turn: Has your picture of God changed over time? How has it become more biblically accurate?
* New International Version, Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica
Reading: Psalm 147
Praise the LORD.
How good it is to sing praises to our God,
how pleasant and fitting to praise him!
The LORD builds up Jerusalem;
he gathers the exiles of Israel.
He heals the brokenhearted
and binds up their wounds (NIV).*
There are a lot of brokenhearted people in this world. No, I’m not talking about sports fans who have suffered heartbreak because their team has lost. I’m talking about the more serious issues that arise—the loss of a home, a career, or a family member. I’m talking about those devastating life events from which full recovery may never be possible.
Today’s evening news carried the story of a woman who had lost her home due to severe flooding throughout our region. There she stood with her voice breaking as she described all the work she and her husband had put into their lovely home. Looking beyond her you could see nothing but brown water lapping against the sides of her house. Everything they had worked for was ruined.
Every Friday morning for a dozen years I have been meeting with a group of men who have entered into a covenant to grow stronger in their relationship with the Lord. We are accountable to one another in our commitment to grow in love and service to Jesus. But faithful commitment to the Lord provides us with no guarantee against personal heartbreak.
One of the leaders of our group lost his wife due to pancreatic cancer. Now Chris must cope with the loss of his wife while also providing care and comfort for his young son and his teenage daughter. That’s heartbreaking. That’s a daunting task!
I’m not sure that I could cope with that level of loss.
In today’s reading from Psalm 147, we see a call to praise coupled with a promise that the LORD will build up, restore, and heal the heartbroken. The LORD builds up Jerusalem; he gathers the exiles of Israel. He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.
I need words like that. I need healing words. The wounded need healing words. As God’s people we need to give and receive words that comfort the grieving, build up the downcast, and minister healing to the wounded. All too often our tongues do more harm than good. Too often we speak words of judgment, when we should leave judgment to the LORD.
Today, remember there are a lot of brokenhearted people in this world.
Response: LORD God, heal my hurts so I can help heal the hurts of others. I pray that your people will find comfort in your word. May your words bring health and healing. You are worthy of praise. Amen.
Your Turn: How can we bind up the wounds of others? Do you have wounds that need healing?
*New International Version, Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica.
Reading: Psalm 137
By the rivers of Babylon we sat and wept
when we remembered Zion.
There on the poplars we hung our harps,
for there our captors asked us for songs,
our tormentors demanded songs of joy;
they said, “Sing us one of the songs of Zion!”
How can we sing the songs of the LORD
while in a foreign land?
If I forget you, Jerusalem,
may my right hand forget its skill.
May my tongue cling to the roof of my mouth
if I do not remember you,
if I do not consider Jerusalem my highest joy (NIV)
It’s difficult to pinpoint the time in history when many of the Psalms were written. Many scholars believe that the Old Testament was compiled over a period of about 900 to 1,000 years. As for the Book of Psalms, there is considerable evidence to suggest that psalms were collected from three distinct periods: the reign of King David (1 Chronicles 23:5), the rule of Hezekiah (2 Chronicles 29:30), and during the leadership of Ezra and Nehemiah (Nehemiah 12:24).
Psalm 137 is distinct, because we can tell from its content that this psalm was written early during the period of the Babylonian exile. Memories of Nebuchadnezzar’s destruction of Jerusalem in 586 BC were still fresh—etched with bitterness and pain in the mind of the author.
There are two great pivot points in the history of Old Testament Israel. The first is the liberation of Israel from Egypt and the subsequent conquest of the holy land. The second is the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple, which was followed by the seventy-year exile in Babylon. The mercy and power of God brought about the first pivotal event. The disobedience and idolatry of man set in motion the catastrophe of the second event.
From its inception the Jewish nation flirted with idolatry. While Moses was receiving the Ten Commandments, the people were reveling before a golden calf. King Solomon set up idols in Jerusalem so his foreign wives could worship their gods. See 1 Kings 11:1-8. This duplicity continued generation after generation until the Babylonians swept in and destroyed Jerusalem. Harsh judgment brought change. Will harsh judgment bring change in us, or will the mercy of God bring us to repentance?
Response: Father God, I don’t want to learn things the hard way. I want to be quick to obey you. Help me to learn from the lessons of history. You are the one, true God. I worship you. Amen.
 K.R. “Dick” Iverson, Spirit Filled Life Bible, New King James Version, Jack W. Hayford, General Editor, Thomas Nelson Publishers, Nashville, TN, 1991, p. 750.
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 and violence abound. Sexual perversion is promoted—gets top billing—is openly applauded. Plutocrats with their extravagant wealth rule the roost, while the hardworking poor struggle to feed their families. On the international stage dictators and warmongers parade about freely, while oppressing their own people, and slaughtering any who would dare to raise their voice to oppose them.
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?
Happy Thanksgiving to all my American readers!
Enter his gates with thanksgiving
and his courts with praise;
give thanks to him and praise his name.
For the Lord is good and his love endures forever;
his faithfulness continues through all generations.
(Psalm 100:4-5, NIV)
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?
I will praise Him!