I will praise Him!
Reading: Psalm 140
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 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
Oh, how I love your law!
I meditate on it all day long.
Your commands are always with me
and make me wiser than my enemies.
I have more insight than all my teachers,
for I meditate on your statutes.
I have more understanding than the elders,
for I obey your precepts.
I have kept my feet from every evil path
so that I might obey your word.
I have not departed from your laws,
for you yourself have taught me.
How sweet are your words to my taste,
sweeter than honey to my mouth!
I gain understanding from your precepts;
therefore I hate every wrong path (NIV).
Here’s a question for you: How do you take a bone away from a hungry dog?
Answer: You offer him a steak.
In many respects humans respond just like dogs. We won’t give up our filthy habits unless we are offered something much better. Many years back I remember a conversation with a drug addict—a former drug addict. I asked him if he found it difficult to give up his drug habit.
“No it was easy. Once I experienced the love of God—the real love of Jesus for me on the cross—it was easy. I found something so much better,” he said with a huge grin on his face.
These words from today’s reading reflect the same concept: I have not departed from your laws, for you yourself have taught me. How sweet are your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth!
It’s not hard to walk the straight and narrow when you are walking that path with the Lord—when He Himself is teaching you—when your heart is burning within you as the resurrected Jesus opens the eyes of your understanding. See Luke 24:13-32. There is a closeness in the Spirit that has no equal. Those are the moments that change you forever because you are fully with God. His word is rich. It’s nourishment to your famished soul. His love is the air you breathe.
Who here wants a dirty chewed up bone when there’s steak on offer?
Response: Father God, renew my first love for you. I want to fall in love with you again. Fill me with delight for your word and your Spirit. Completely change my affections. Amen.
Your Turn: Are you too content with your bone? Have you experienced the nearness of Jesus?
Reading: Psalm 111
Praise the LORD!
I will give thanks to the LORD with my whole heart, |
in the company of the upright, in the congregation.
Great are the works of the LORD,
studied by all who delight in them.
Full of honor and majesty is his work,
and his righteousness endures forever.
He has gained renown by his wonderful deeds;
the LORD is gracious and merciful.
He provides food for those who fear him;
he is ever mindful of his covenant.
He has shown his people the power of his works,
in giving them the heritage of the nations.
The works of his hands are faithful and just; all his precepts are trustworthy.
They are established forever and ever,
to be performed with faithfulness and uprightness.
He sent redemption to his people; he has commanded his covenant forever.
Holy and awesome is his name.
The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom;
all those who practice it have a good understanding.
His praise endures forever (NIV).
If the beginning of wisdom is the fear of the LORD, what is the end point or objective of this inducement to wisdom? I have often heard it argued that the fear of the LORD, which is frequently extolled in the Old Testament, has little to do with the common meaning for fear. We are to reverence or be in awe of the LORD, not be afraid of Him. To an extent this is true; however, I suspect that we often push this fearless approach to God too far. The Lion of the Tribe of Judah is not toothless. He has claws.
A healthy dose of godly fear can prevent a massive case of sin enslavement and heartache.
The reaction of God’s people when the Ten Commandments were given at Mount Sinai is well worth noting. When the people saw the thunder and lightning and heard the trumpet and saw the mountain in smoke, they trembled with fear. They stayed at a distance and said to Moses, “Speak to us yourself and we will listen. But do not have God speak to us or we will die” (Exodus 22:18-19).
The very human fear expressed in this Exodus passage went well beyond a sense of awe and wonder. This was knee-buckling, heart-racing fear—the kind of fear that makes us dread doing anything that might offend this all-knowing, all-seeing, holy God. That’s a healthy fear—a fear that helps us to live and walk straight. Why would God want to induce this kind of fear?
God wants us to fear Him because He loves us. He wants to spare us from the agony of the terrible consequences of sin. A healthy fear of God leads us to an awe-induced love for Him. Now that’s wisdom
Response: Father God, help me see your love for me in your commandments. In love, you correct me when I stray. Grant me understanding that comes through a healthy fear and love for you. Amen.
Your Turn: What does fearing God mean to you? Is God your chum, your friend or your master?
Reading: Psalm 103
He made known his ways to Moses,
his deeds to the people of Israel:
The LORD is compassionate and gracious,
slow to anger, abounding in love.
He will not always accuse,
nor will he harbor his anger forever;
he does not treat us as our sins deserve
or repay us according to our iniquities.
For as high as the heavens are above the earth,
so great is his love for those who fear him;
as far as the east is from the west,
so far has he removed our transgressions from us (NIV).
Here is a little secret that will be a secret no longer: Of all the psalms, Psalm 103 is my favorite.
Why do I have such a deep love for this psalm? The answer lies in what the psalm tells us about God. The LORD is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love.
That sentence should be etched on our hearts and minds. The character of God is revealed in these traits. I stand in need of a God who has these qualities because by nature I am the polar opposite. In various situations I have lacked compassion. I have reasoned that those who suffer are getting what they deserve. Rather than extent grace, I have a tendency to be judgmental. When things don’t go my way, I can be quick tempered rather than slow to anger. I like to think I am loving, but I’m not sure others would always agree.
The amazing truth is that despite all our shortcomings God still loves you and me. He [the LORD] will not always accuse, nor will he harbor his anger forever; he does not treat us as our sins deserve or repay us according to our iniquities.
Satan is the accuser; God is the merciful forgiver. Sometimes I think in our minds we have reversed those roles. That’s why this psalm acts as such a powerful antidote to wrong thinking. Do you think God cannot forgive you because of some past transgression? Think again. Psalm 103 tells us to view God differently. He is more compassionate than we can imagine, more loving than we can fathom, more patient than we can comprehend.
For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his love for those who fear him; as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us.
Infinite—our God’s love and compassion are infinite. Enough said.
Response: Father God, because of your love, mercy and grace I want to serve you. Please accept my feeble attempts at loving you back. Your forgiveness leaves me with a debt of love I cannot pay. Amen.
Your Turn: What is your favorite psalm? Why?
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?
blood of Christ, death, hell, Jesus, joy, love, love of God, New Testament, Psalm, psalmist, resurrection, Righteousness, salvation, Savior, sin, sing praise, singing, song, surrender, the cross, the grave, the LORD
Reading: Psalm 98
Sing to the LORD a new song,
for he has done marvelous things;
his right hand and his holy arm
have worked salvation for him.
The LORD has made his salvation known
and revealed his righteousness to the nations.
He has remembered his love
and his faithfulness to Israel;
all the ends of the earth have seen
the salvation of our God.
Shout for joy to the LORD, all the earth,
burst into jubilant song with music;
make music to the LORD with the harp,
with the harp and the sound of singing,
with trumpets and the blast of the ram’s horn—
shout for joy before the LORD, the King (NIV).
Once again in Psalm 98 the psalmist calls us to break forth with a new song of praise to our God. This call to worship is a frequent theme in many psalms. In this case the cause for worship is well worth noting. We are to worship in music and song because of the salvation of our God. The LORD has made his salvation known and revealed his righteousness to the nations. He has remembered his love and his faithfulness to Israel; all the ends of the earth have seen the salvation of our God.
To some extent these words trouble me. What salvation is the psalmist talking about? Is he referring to the miraculous redemption and rescue of Israel from slavery in Egypt? That’s the most significant act of national salvation in the Old Testament. On the other hand, the psalmist could be referring to the restoration of the Jewish nation after the destruction of the temple and the Babylonian captivity. Again this is a very significant event that was witnessed by the surrounding nations. Since we do not have a timeline or date for when this psalm was written, we are left guessing the answer.
For the New Testament believer we see the fulfillment of this psalm in the salvation that was won for us by Christ at the cross. There the ancient powers of sin, hell and the grave were defeated. Death itself was vanquished through the resurrection of Jesus. In reality, the true enemies of the people of God are not foreigners or foreign nations. Our enemies are spiritual; they lurk within—within us. Salvation from those enemies was purchased at the cross with the precious blood of Jesus.
Now here is a bizarre twist. Salvation arrives with our surrender. It arrives when we surrender our lives to our Savior and kneel before our King on a cross. That’s a salvation worth singing about!
Response: LORD God, I am so grateful for the salvation you purchased for me through the blood of Jesus. I want all the ends of the earth to know about that great salvation. Thank you, Jesus. Amen.
Your Turn: Have you knelt before the King on a cross? Take some time to do that now.