I will praise Him!
Reading: Psalm 35
Contend, LORD, with those who contend with me;
fight against those who fight against me.
Take up shield and armor; arise and come to my aid.
Brandish spear and javelin against those who pursue me.
Say to me, “I am your salvation.”
May those who seek my life be disgraced and put to shame;
may those who plot my ruin be turned back in dismay.
May they be like chaff before the wind,
with the angel of the LORD driving them away;
may their path be dark and slippery,
with the angel of the LORD pursuing them (NIV).
David was a man acquainted with warfare. Throughout his life, Israel was in a prolonged struggle with its neighbours, even as it is today. From time to time this struggle would flare into open combat. Quite naturally in those times David would turn to the LORD in prayer. Psalm 35 is David’s call for help against his enemies—enemies that may be external or internal.
Who doesn’t want God on their side? The answer is obvious; we all want God’s help when we find ourselves in trouble. Therefore, David cries out: Contend, LORD, with those who contend with me; fight against those who fight against me.
But there are some questions we should ask ourselves before we enlist the LORD’s help. Am I being truthful? Is my cause just? Am I in the right? Do I know all the facts in this matter? Am I seeing this issue solely from a narrow personal perspective? Finally, we should ask ourselves if our heart is right. One can be totally right about a matter, but have a heart that is full of hate, bitterness, jealousy and anger.
God always stands on the side of truth and justice. He knows the full extent of a matter. He sees all sides, not just our perspective. We can’t fool Him or hide from His searching eyes. The LORD examines the righteous, but the wicked, those who love violence, he hates with a passion (Psalm 11:5). Therefore, we need to come before Him humbly with hearts opened wide.
David asks this of the LORD: Say to me, “I am your salvation.”
The LORD will be our salvation—He is on our side—if our hearts are open and humble before Him. David’s confession in Psalm 51 confirms this truth. My sacrifice, O God, is a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart you, God, will not despise (Psalm 51:17). In other words, God is on our side when we move to His side in honest, humble contrition.
Response: LORD God, give me a humble heart that sees beyond my narrow interests. Help me to stand for righteousness, justice and truth. First, I want to align my heart and my spirit with you. In Jesus’ name, I pray. Amen.
Your Turn: Has the LORD fought on your side? Did you need to get your heart right first?
Reading: Psalm 28
To you, LORD, I call;
you are my Rock, do not turn a deaf ear to me.
For if you remain silent,
I will be like those who go down to the pit.
Hear my cry for mercy as I call to you for help,
as I lift up my hands toward your Most Holy Place.
Do not drag me away with the wicked,
with those who do evil,
who speak cordially with their neighbors
but harbor malice in their hearts.
Repay them for their deeds and for their evil work;
repay them for what their hands have done
and bring back on them what they deserve.
Because they have no regard for the deeds of the LORD
and what his hands have done,
he will tear them down
and never build them up again (NIV).
David begins Psalm 28 with a plea for God to hear him. As the psalm progresses it becomes clear that this is a plea not only for mercy, but also for justice. Hear my cry for mercy as I call to you for help, as I lift up my hands toward your Most Holy Place. Do not drag me away with the wicked, with those who do evil, who speak cordially with their neighbors but harbor malice in their hearts.
The cry for fairness is perhaps the most universal of all human desires. What is the most oft repeated phrase is in a kindergarten class? If you guessed, “That’s not fair!” you win the gold star. A desire for equality of opportunity and fairness is simply part of our human constitution; it’s bred into us.
Governments are defeated and revolutions happen when leaders fail the test of fairness and equality under the law. But all too often we do not see justice served in this life. The murderous Pol Pot was never brought to justice though three million Cambodians died under his regime. On a personal level, you too may have suffered a grievous injustice. When we become aware of such offences and heinous crimes, David’s call for justice rings true and clear. Repay them for their deeds and for their evil work; repay them for what their hands have done and bring back on them what they deserve.
The oppressed and the oppressor will meet the God of justice in the afterlife. But the redeemed have this assurance, ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away” (Revelation 21:4).
Response: LORD God, have mercy on me. Do not drag me away with the wicked, with those who do evil. I put my trust in the redeeming sacrifice of your Son, Jesus. You are my help and salvation. Amen.
Your Turn: When you see injustice around you, do you take it to God in prayer? Are there other biblical ways to respond to injustice?
Reading: Psalm 9
Sing the praises of the LORD, enthroned in Zion;
proclaim among the nations what he has done.
For he who avenges blood remembers;
he does not ignore the cries of the afflicted.
LORD, see how my enemies persecute me!
Have mercy and lift me up from the gates of death,
that I may declare your praises in the gates of Daughter Zion,
and there rejoice in your salvation.
The nations have fallen into the pit they have dug;
their feet are caught in the net they have hidden.
The LORD is known by his acts of justice;
the wicked are ensnared by the work of their hands.
The wicked go down to the realm of the dead, all the nations that forget God.
But God will never forget the needy; the hope of the afflicted will never perish.
Arise, LORD, do not let mortals triumph;
let the nations be judged in your presence.
Strike them with terror, LORD;
let the nations know they are only mortal (NIV).
If only life was easy; if only life was just and fair! But it isn’t. Life is filled with struggles and difficulties. I’m not always treated fairly, nor are you. Here in this psalm David cries out, “LORD, see how my enemies persecute me!” You can sense the frustration in his voice. Though these words are not recorded, in the midst of his troubles he might have added, “This isn’t fair, LORD. You aren’t being fair!”
But David doesn’t say that. He assigns blame where blame is due. He blames his troubles on his enemies—his human oppressors—not on the LORD. By way of contrast, David has nothing but praise for the LORD. He declares, “Sing the praises of the LORD, enthroned in Zion; proclaim among the nations what he has done.”
If the source of your affliction is human, why are you blaming God for it? We need to always keep this statement in mind. The LORD is known by his acts of justice. In this life we may not always see His justice prevail, but rest assured on that great final Day, He will prevail. Ultimately, His justice will be seen and known by all.
In times of trouble God is our source of help and strength. Human help may fail us. Friends may let us down. We can wrongly blame the LORD for our troubles, or we can run to Him for help. In all our troubles, we must keep this promise in mind: God will never forget the needy; the hope of the afflicted will never perish.
Response: LORD, in times of trouble, you are my help. I lay my troubles and my requests before you. I wait expectantly for you. I praise you for your goodness to me even in difficult times. Amen.
Your Turn: Have you been blaming God rather than thanking Him? Take some time to praise Him.
Reading: Psalm 7
My shield is God Most High,
who saves the upright in heart.
God is a righteous judge,
a God who displays his wrath every day.
If he does not relent, he will sharpen his sword;
he will bend and string his bow.
He has prepared his deadly weapons;
he makes ready his flaming arrows.
Whoever is pregnant with evil
conceives trouble and gives birth to disillusionment.
Whoever digs a hole and scoops it out
falls into the pit they have made.
The trouble they cause recoils on them;
their violence comes down on their own heads.
I will give thanks to the LORD because of his righteousness;
I will sing the praises of the name of the LORD Most High (NIV).
Ah justice, sweet justice! When we take justice into our own hands, it always has a boomerang effect. I am reminded of Wile E. Coyote and the Roadrunner when I read these words from Psalm 7: Whoever digs a hole and scoops it out falls into the pit they have made.
In those Saturday cartoons of my youth, poor Wile E. must have dug a hundred pits and he fell into them every time. Every clever scheme backfired catastrophically. The Roadrunner always escaped. To paraphrase the words of this psalm, the trouble Wile E. caused recoiled on him; his violence came down on his own head. Even now can you picture the anvil falling on the hapless coyote, as he lies in a crumpled heap at the bottom of the canyon? The cartoonist and the psalmist must have been reading from the same script!
Somehow we often have the mistaken impression that getting even works—that scoring points at the expense of our neighbour elevates us somehow. If snide sarcasm and putdowns elevate us, then it’s the kind of elevation we often see in cartoons. Our clever, cutting remarks run us out off the edge of a cliff, and like the cartoons, there we stand in the middle of thin air—the last one to realize we are heading down fast. That’s justice, sweet justice, Psalm 7 style.
If as this psalm states, God displays his wrath every day, it’s because we reap the reward of our sinful actions. In our selfishness, we harm instead of building up those around us. We try to pull ahead by pulling others down. It’s a strategy that’s doomed to failure. It always backfires. God and the Roadrunner will see to that.
Response: Heavenly Father, today show me how I can build others up instead of tearing them down. I want to be more like you, Lord Jesus. You came to lift others up. In my interactions today, help me do the same. Amen.
Your Turn: Have you encouraged someone lately with a positive word? Did that bring a reward?
Reading: Psalm 101
Of David. A psalm.
I will sing of your love and justice;
to you, LORD, I will sing praise.
I will be careful to lead a blameless life—
when will you come to me?
I will conduct the affairs of my house
with a blameless heart.
I will not look with approval
on anything that is vile.
I hate what faithless people do;
I will have no part in it.
The perverse of heart shall be far from me;
I will have nothing to do with what is evil (NIV).
Psalm 101 is a call to action or commitment. David, the author of this psalm, commits himself to a course of action. In this short opening portion of the psalm, David makes seven ‘I will’ statements. Each commitment is life altering in some way.
The first commitment David makes is to sing of the LORD’s justice and love. He is determined to praise his God with a full, joyous awareness of the LORD’s character. This is the true starting point of any sustained relationship with God. The LORD is both loving and just. If we emphasize aspects of God’s justice too much, we risk becoming legalistic. If we focus only on the love of God, His holiness is ignored resulting in a break down in personal responsibility. Within the Godhead there exists a perfect tension between His justice and His love. As God’s servants, we do well when we recognize and maintain that tension.
Twice David uses the word blameless. I will be careful to lead a blameless life—when will you come to me? I will conduct the affairs of my house with a blameless heart. With these words, David has set for himself a high standard—an impossible standard. Did David succeed in reaching his lofty goal? The biblical record leaves no room for doubt. He failed miserably. In his affair with Bathsheba, King David was guilty of both adultery and murder.
Well, what good is there then in setting lofty goals? Why make any ‘I will’ statements, if I am doomed to fail? Why not freely look on the vile and indulge in it?
Actually, despite David’s stunning failures, there are many sound reasons for calling ourselves to a high standard. To put it bluntly, God expects it of us. He demands holiness from us—always has—always will. Will we succeed? Of course not. That’s why there’s the gift of repentance. That’s why there’s a Savior named Jesus. He’s the blameless one. I need his sinless record applied to my account.
Response: Dear God, I want my will to be conformed to your will. I want to lead a blameless life. By Jesus’ blood, grant me a blameless heart that is determined to love and serve you for all my days. Amen.
Your Turn: Should we set goals for ourselves? How do you measure the progress in your love for God?
Reading: Psalm 99
The LORD reigns,
let the nations tremble;
he sits enthroned between the cherubim,
let the earth shake.
Great is the LORD in Zion;
he is exalted over all the nations.
Let them praise your great and awesome name—
he is holy.
The King is mighty, he loves justice—
you have established equity;
in Jacob you have done
what is just and right.
Exalt the LORD our God
and worship at his footstool;
he is holy (NIV).
What does it mean to be holy? There are several shades of meaning for the word holy. It can mean being consecrated or dedicated for a special purpose. It also means righteous. But the definition that fits best in the light of Psalm 99 reads like this: awe-inspiring—having a character that evokes reverence (Encarta Dictionary).
The psalmist is effusive with his praise for the LORD, but three times in this short psalm, he centers back to this phrase: he is holy. Yes, the LORD reigns, He is righteous and exalted, but what has really caught the psalmist’s attention is the LORD’s holiness. That’s what sets Him apart and elevates Him above the stratosphere.
Has the LORD’s holiness caught your attention? Have you been filled with awe by the holiness of God? I fear that far too often we have diminished God. We have tried to make Him like us—powerful but a bit quirky—maybe short-tempered or set in His ways. What nonsense! Our God is holy. We need to wake up to that fact. It must be central to our understanding of God.
In the Beatitudes from his Sermon on the Mount Jesus said, “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God” (Matthew 5:8). To clarify, I might add that the pure in heart will see the true God, not a distorted caricature. Our sinful nature has a way of distorting our view of the LORD. That’s why personal purity and holiness are so essential. The apostle Peter provides this admonition: As obedient children, do not conform to the evil desires you had when you lived in ignorance. But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; for it is written: “Be holy, because I am holy” (1 Peter 1:14-16).
Response: LORD God, I want to see you at work in my life. Help me with the help of your Holy Spirit to clean up those areas that distort my view of you. You are holy. I worship you in the beauty of your holiness. Amen.
Your Turn: Are there times when you have seen God as short-tempered or set in His ways? Have you avoided God’s call to holiness?
Reading: Psalm 89
Righteousness and justice are the foundation of your throne;
love and faithfulness go before you.
Blessed are those who have learned to acclaim you,
who walk in the light of your presence, LORD.
They rejoice in your name all day long;
they celebrate your righteousness.
For you are their glory and strength,
and by your favor you exalt our horn.
Indeed, our shield belongs to the LORD,
our king to the Holy One of Israel (NIV).
Yesterday afternoon at about 4:30 my wife and I got a call from my son. He found himself in a difficult spot. He and his wife had just bought two swivel chairs. He had wrongly assumed that both would fit into the trunk of his car. Despite his best efforts the second chair would not fit. Could I come, pick up and deliver the second chair to their home?
My wife had a batch of homemade buns rising in the oven, so she was not available. The delivery task fell to me. So off I drove in a torrential downpour through heavy rush-hour traffic to pick up this chair. Did I resent this interruption in my schedule? Did I get all steamed up about the inconvenience? Was I upset that I was a few minutes late for dinner? No. In all seriousness, none of this bothered me because I love my son and his wife. I was glad to help. I even took a minute or two to sit in that comfy chair and appreciate their new purchase.
Today’s reading from Psalm 89 is all about a chair—a special chair. It’s called the throne of God. Unlike the rollers on the bottom of the chair that my son purchased, this chair has a foundation. It’s immovable. The psalmist makes this statement. Righteousness and justice are the foundation of your throne; love and faithfulness go before you.
The throne of God speaks of His authority. God’s authority rests squarely on His righteousness and justice. This has always been so and will be so forever. Righteousness and justice are foundational to all authority. When authorities in this world go astray and engage in unjust and immoral behavior, we find this abhorrent. We question the legitimacy of such authorities. We say they have lost the moral authority to govern.
But God does more than just sit on His throne and govern. He moves out from that throne. Again the psalmist states, “Love and faithfulness go before you.” God is active in this world. Daily the LORD demonstrates His love and faithfulness to His people and also to those who do not call on His name. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous (Matthew 5:45). Furthermore, our heavenly Father is eager to do these things because He loves us.
Response: Heavenly Father, you are good and kind to all. I thank you for your love and faithfulness. Today, I want to walk in the light of your presence, LORD, and rejoice in your name all day long. Amen.
Your Turn: Can you testify that on various occasions God’s love and faithfulness have gone before you?