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 (v. 15).
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 (v. 16). 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 neighbor elevates us somehow. If snide sarcasm and put-downs 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 (v. 11b), 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?
*New International Version, Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica.
Reading: Psalm 140:9-13
Those who surround me proudly rear their heads;
may the mischief of their lips engulf them.
May burning coals fall on them;
may they be thrown into the fire,
into miry pits, never to rise.
May slanderers not be established in the land;
may disaster hunt down the violent.
I know that the LORD secures justice for the poor
and upholds the cause of the needy.
Surely the righteous will praise your name,
and the upright will live in your presence (NIV).
Here is an observation I have made as a result of visiting and speaking at a wide variety of churches across this continent. Christians and Christian churches in North America appear to fall into two broad camps: Those that are primarily concerned about personal salvation, and those that are concerned mainly about social justice.
There’s often a considerable amount of tension between these two camps. Both are convinced they are doing the will of God as revealed in the scriptures, and they can quote chapter and verse to back up their particular perspective. So which position is correct?
The short answer is they are both right. The eternal destination of your soul is of primary importance, but love and compassion for others is central to the entire mission of Jesus, and the full scope of the scriptures. Today’s reading from Psalm 140 reminds that issues of justice and fairness rank high with the LORD. I know that the LORD secures justice for the poor and upholds the cause of the needy.
John, the apostle, gives us this perspective: This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters. If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in that person? Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth (1 John 3:16-18).
It got very messy when Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. A lot of blood was spilled. It was brutal beyond measure—humiliation and suffering beyond measure. Our personal salvation was messy—in every way a high cost affair. Are we willing to do the same for others? That’s what John is saying when he writes and we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters. Now there’s a high calling. Do you want to change the world? It starts with a change in your heart. Jesus is in the heart changing business. I need an appointment with him. What about you?
Response: LORD God, I am selfish by nature. It’s not natural for me to think of others first. Help me to change. I want to genuinely care about others. Show me what I can do to help because Jesus cares. Amen.
Your Turn: Should the church be involved in social justice issues or just stick to the salvation message? Should it be doing both?
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 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 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 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?
Reading: Psalm 79
A maskil of Asaph.
O God, the nations have invaded your inheritance;
they have defiled your holy temple,
they have reduced Jerusalem to rubble.
They have left the dead bodies of your servants
as food for the birds of the sky,
the flesh of your own people for the animals of the wild.
They have poured out blood like water
all around Jerusalem,
and there is no one to bury the dead.
We are objects of contempt to our neighbors,
of scorn and derision to those around us.
How long, LORD? Will you be angry forever?
How long will your jealousy burn like fire?
Pour out your wrath on the nations
that do not acknowledge you,
on the kingdoms that do not call on your name;
for they have devoured Jacob
and devastated his homeland (NIV).
Have you caught a glimpse of the devastation? It seems that the psalmist, Asaph, had a good look at it. Now take a good look at his words. They have left the dead bodies of your servants as food for the birds of the sky, the flesh of your own people for the animals of the wild. They have poured out blood like water all around Jerusalem, and there is no one to bury the dead.
This description reads like a segment of the evening newscast. Of course the newscast has plenty of disturbing visuals to go with it. When we look at conflict zones like Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan, we realize that bloodshed and violence are all too common in our world. Jihadi violence has spread to European cities too. But we don’t have to go overseas to find images of death and destruction. Just last week in my city an unarmed black man was beaten to death by two police officers. As is so often the case, the images were caught on camera. Violence and bloodshed are present in our cities too.
Has the world gone mad? Are we sinking deeper and deeper into depravity? Have our minds become numb to the carnage? Or are we joining with the psalmist in crying out, “How long, LORD?” How long will you let this insanity continue? LORD, won’t you come and fix this broken messed up world?
Our hearts cry out for justice, mercy and peace—justice for those who have been wronged, mercy for those who have been wounded and broken, and peace for all who are troubled in soul and spirit. He who testifies to these things says, “Yes, I am coming soon.” Amen. Come, Lord Jesus (Revelation 22:20).
Response: LORD God, please have mercy on the people of this world. We need you here—right here with us in this broken world. Come and fix it. Come and fix us, Lord Jesus. Amen.
Your Turn: Are you concerned about the state of your city, your country and the world?
I will praise Him!
He is a Father to the fatherless.