Today’s verse from the Psalms.
Lord, thank you for the refreshing you bring. Your mercy is new every morning.
Reading: Psalm 31
Praise be to the LORD,
for he showed me the wonders of his love
when I was in a city under siege.
In my alarm I said,
“I am cut off from your sight!”
Yet you heard my cry for mercy
when I called to you for help.
Love the LORD, all his faithful people!
The LORD preserves those who are true to him,
but the proud he pays back in full.
Be strong and take heart,
all you who hope in the LORD (NIV).*
David ends Psalm 31 with a testimony to God’s great love and mercy. Hear his declaration: Praise be to the LORD, for he showed me the wonders of his love when I was in a city under siege. In my alarm I said, “I am cut off from your sight!” Yet you heard my cry for mercy when I called to you for help.
Are you living in a city under siege? My quick and simple answer is no. My city is not surrounded by enemy troops who are lobbing artillery shells down on my neighborhood.
While in the physical sense that may be true, in the spiritual realm my city is caught up in active warfare. Demonic forces are firing their missiles into my city. The airwaves and social media feeds are filled with smut, pornography and misinformation. In the public square Christian faith is routinely mocked and under attack. Atheists trumpet their cause with bestselling books and spew venom on any who dare to embrace the faith.
Meanwhile, pop culture plunges headlong into the deep end of Gothic horror, vampire blood lust and zombie self-identification. Then we stand back in amazement when those same young people lash out in murderous deranged madness as happened when five young people were stabbed to death in Calgary or in my hometown when an eighteen-year-old killed his mother.
When you shun God and bed down with the devil, many are going end up hurt. My city is under siege, but with the help and grace of God, I will not succumb to the enemies attack. I will emerge triumphant. David did. And here is his advice for you and me: Love the LORD, all his faithful people!
David’s advice is counter-intuitive. Take your eyes off the enemy. Don’t be mesmerized by the devil’s devices and machinations. Your salvation comes from the LORD. Set your heart and your affections on Him. The LORD preserves those who are true to him, but the proud he pays back in full. Be strong and take heart, all you who hope in the LORD.
Response: LORD God, have mercy on me. I love you, LORD. Preserve me through this current unrest and pandemic through the unfailing love of your Son, Jesus. I will be strong and take heart because I set my hope on you. Amen.
Your Turn: Do you feel that your faith is under attack? How do you respond? Do you cower or advance?
Reading: Psalm 143
A psalm of David.
LORD, hear my prayer,
listen to my cry for mercy;
in your faithfulness and righteousness come to my relief.
Do not bring your servant into judgment,
for no one living is righteous before you.
The enemy pursues me,
he crushes me to the ground;
he makes me dwell in the darkness like those long dead.
So my spirit grows faint within me;
my heart within me is dismayed.
I remember the days of long ago;
I meditate on all your works
and consider what your hands have done.
I spread out my hands to you;
I thirst for you like a parched land (NIV).*
On my best day, I need God’s mercy. On my worst day my need for outside help and mercy are evident to all. In truth, my need for the mercy of the LORD is never ending. All too often, we only call out to God in times of need or perceived difficulty. In reality our need for God’s help and mercy are constant.
Here in Psalm 143, as he so often does, David calls out for God’s mercy. In many respects David’s plea for mercy is rather repetitive throughout the psalms. Why would this be? Could it be that he is in constant need of God’s sustaining support and mercy? From the following request, we can see why David repeatedly prays for God’s mercy: Do not bring your servant into judgment, for no one living is righteous before you.
David recognized that within himself he had no righteousness. In reality this is the starting point for a life transforming relationship with God. Contrary to a good deal of modern psychology and religious philosophy, we are not okay. We have a warped nature that is inclined to sin. It delights in rebelling against God. St. Paul describes this human condition with these words. For I know that good itself does not dwell in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out (Romans 7:18).
The prophet Isaiah described this universal human condition in this way. All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags; we all shrivel up like a leaf, and like the wind our sins sweep us away (Isaiah 64:6).
Do I need God’s mercy? Yes, a thousand times yes!
Response: LORD God, I need your righteousness. My own righteousness is tainted with pride. I freely acknowledge my need for a Savior. You are my constant help. I thirst for you like a parched land. Amen.
Your Turn: Are you aware of your constant need for God’s mercy? Are you calling out to Him?
*New International Version, Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica.
Know this: If you are born again by the Spirit of God, you have received the knowledge of salvation through the forgiveness of sins.
Reading: Psalm 106
Therefore the LORD was angry with his people
and abhorred his inheritance.
He gave them into the hands of the nations,
and their foes ruled over them.
Their enemies oppressed them
and subjected them to their power.
Many times he delivered them,
but they were bent on rebellion
and they wasted away in their sin.
Yet he took note of their distress when he heard their cry;
for their sake he remembered his covenant
and out of his great love he relented.
He caused all who held them captive to show them mercy.
Save us, LORD our God, and gather us from the nations,
that we may give thanks to your holy name and glory in your praise.
Praise be to the LORD, the God of Israel,
from everlasting to everlasting.
Let all the people say, “Amen!”
Praise the LORD (NIV).
Have you ever tried to drive in a crooked nail? You are asking for trouble if you make the attempt. If the nail has even a slight bend in it, it will either buckle or be misdirected as it enters the wood. Over the years I have hammered home a lot of nails. And only straight nails stay true.
Today’s final reading from Psalm 106 reminds me of bent nails. The psalmist laments the corrupt ways of the nation of Israel despite the LORD’s mercy and patience. Many times he delivered them, but they were bent on rebellion and they wasted away in their sin.
Many people are like bent nails. Despite many blows—many hard knocks—they refuse to run true. They are bent on rebellion and they waste away in their sin. Their troubles are self-inflicted, but rather than acknowledge their errors, they blame God or others for their circumstances. Repentance or self-correction never enters their mind.
But… But God remains merciful. Yet he took note of their distress when he heard their cry; for their sake he remembered his covenant and out of his great love he relented.
Why would God have mercy on bent nails? Maybe it has something to do with the bent nails that held Jesus, His son, in place on a wooden cross. That’s where mercy flowed down over this bent nail—this flawed human. Oh, what love He showed!
Response: Father God, I give up on understanding your mercy and grace. It’s beyond comprehension. Thank you for loving me despite my sinful bent. Your love is amazing. Thank you, Jesus. Amen.
Your Turn: Is rebellion part of your nature? Can we self-correct or do we need God’s help?
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?