I will praise Him!
Reading: Psalm 97
Zion hears and rejoices
and the villages of Judah are glad
because of your judgments, LORD.
For you, LORD, are the Most High over all the earth;
you are exalted far above all gods.
Let those who love the LORD hate evil,
for he guards the lives of his faithful ones
and delivers them from the hand of the wicked.
Light shines on the righteous
and joy on the upright in heart.
Rejoice in the LORD, you who are righteous,
and praise his holy name (NIV).
Love and hate are two extremes—two opposites. Almost always we see love as a good thing, something to be encouraged or applauded, while hate is regarded as a universally negative emotion. But is this a correct view of love and hate?
The addict may love his crack cocaine pipe, but is that a good or wholesome kind of love? Strange as it may seem, the battered wife may love her abusive husband and yet feel locked into that relationship despite its toxic or even deadly consequences. Is that a healthy kind of love? Of course not, but the addict and the abused partner both use the term love when they describe the object of their affection.
Similarly hate—that polar opposite emotion—is universally viewed as negative. Is it wrong to hate injustice, murder or pedophilia? Of course not. Hate is the right emotional response when we see these things taking place. The devastating consequences of sin and criminal wrongdoing are repulsive. Seeing such harmful conduct should prompt us to hate those actions.
In today’s reading from Psalm 97, we see a different perspective on love and hate. Let those who love the LORD hate evil, for he guards the lives of his faithful ones and delivers them from the hand of the wicked.
Are you loving God and hating evil? All too often we see there are those in this world who love evil and hate God. Why do they hate God? Could it be because the LORD expects—no requires—better from them, and they thinking they know better, have gone their own selfish way?
Note that we are commanded to hate evil. We are not commanded to hate evildoers. God in His great mercy may yet redeem the evildoer. It is by God’s grace that we ourselves are not caught up in evil, so wisdom urges us not to be haughty. We do well to focus on loving the LORD. We can draw encouragement from these words: Light shines on the righteous and joy on the upright in heart.
Response: LORD God, teach me to identify and hate evil when I see it. I want your light to shine on me, so I can walk in the path you have set out for me. Let my love for you grow day by day. Amen.
Your Turn: Are you loving the LORD and hating evil? Do you get caught up in hating the evildoer?
Reading: Psalm 78
In spite of all this, they kept on sinning;
in spite of his wonders, they did not believe.
So he ended their days in futility
and their years in terror.
Whenever God slew them, they would seek him;
they eagerly turned to him again.
They remembered that God was their Rock,
that God Most High was their Redeemer.
But then they would flatter him with their mouths,
lying to him with their tongues;
their hearts were not loyal to him,
they were not faithful to his covenant.
Yet he was merciful;
he forgave their iniquities
and did not destroy them.
Time after time he restrained his anger
and did not stir up his full wrath.
He remembered that they were but flesh,
a passing breeze that does not return (NIV).
Psalm 78 is a lengthy indictment against the people of Israel for their unfaithfulness to the LORD. Sometimes it’s easy to forget that these were the people of God—His chosen people—yet they responded with lies, unbelief and disloyalty. If this is how the people of God conduct themselves, what are we to expect from those who do not know the LORD?
Unfortunately, the people of God today are not so different from the people of Israel 3,000 years ago. When we look about the church world, we see a plenty of division, backbiting and sin. All too often hate rules instead of love. We cover ourselves with a fig leaf of self-righteousness and then proceed to attack those who fail to meet our standard. We do all this while we are trapped in our own secret web of sin. We are determined to clean up the world while ignoring our personal pile of filth.
The words of Jesus from his Sermon on the Mount still ring true today, “How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye” (Matthew 7:4-5).
But given this deplorable state of affairs, what does the LORD do? The psalmist states, “Yet he was merciful; he forgave their iniquities and did not destroy them.” Like the people of ancient Israel, we are saved not because of our righteousness, but solely because of God’s mercy and grace.
Response: LORD God, I cannot boast because of my righteousness. You know all my shortcomings. I have an impressive pile of personal sin. Forgive me through the mercy of your son, Jesus. Amen.
Your Turn: Have you been guilty of pointing out the faults of others while ignoring your own?
Reading: Psalm 69
For the director of music. To the tune of “Lilies.” Of David.
Save me, O God,
for the waters have come up to my neck.
I sink in the miry depths,
where there is no foothold.
I have come into the deep waters;
the floods engulf me.
I am worn out calling for help;
my throat is parched.
My eyes fail, looking for my God.
Those who hate me without reason
outnumber the hairs of my head;
many are my enemies without cause,
those who seek to destroy me.
I am forced to restore
what I did not steal.
You, God, know my folly;
my guilt is not hidden from you (NIV).
Above all else Psalm 69 is a plea for help. Save me, O God, for the waters have come up to my neck.
Have you ever been neck deep in trouble? I’ve been there and it’s not an entirely pleasant experience. I recall hanging upside down in my car, which was sitting on its roof in a snow-covered ditch. My wife was suspended upside down in the driver’s seat beside me.
Suddenly finding yourself upside down after a high-speed-icy skid can be unsettling. I recall unfastening my seatbelt so I could reverse my position and sit upright on the interior of the car roof. Opening the car doors was impossible due to the snow jammed up on the outside. There we sat, trapped, car tires in the air, as the sun began to set.
We had two life lines: a mobile phone and a direct line to Jesus. Both worked flawlessly. Within minutes a young couple helped us out of the car. Later that evening we drove our flipped car back into the city undamaged. There was nothing to indicate we were in a rollover, not even a scratch on the car body.
This true account serves as a reminder to me that God hears us when we pray. When we are in over our head—when we are neck deep and beyond—we can call out to God.
God did not save us because we are faultless. As the psalmist says, “You, God, know my folly; my guilt is not hidden from you.” God saves us because of His great mercy.
Response: LORD God, thank you for showing us mercy when we don’t deserve it. Thank you for coming to rescue the likes of me. For this mercy and a thousand more, I give you thanks. Amen.
Your Turn: Has the Lord helped you when you were neck deep in trouble?
Reading: Psalm 31
How abundant are the good things
that you have stored up for those who fear you,
that you bestow in the sight of all,
on those who take refuge in you.
In the shelter of your presence you hide them
from all human intrigues;
you keep them safe in your dwelling
from accusing tongues (NIV).
Our view of God is of crucial importance. It will greatly influence how we live our lives on planet earth. Is He a divine ogre waiting to pounce on us for the slightest transgression? Is He aloof, hard of hearing, out of touch and out of reach? Does He stand opposed to your wishes and dreams—the nagging heavenly parent who frowns at your ambitions?
That’s not David’s view of God. He saw a caring LORD of heaven and earth, who was only too eager to bless those who sought refuge in Him. That’s why David exclaims, “How abundant are the good things that you have stored up for those who fear you that you bestow in the sight of all, on those who take refuge in you.”
Think of it for a moment: God has a storehouse of good things just waiting for you. He has prepared a whole series of blessings that He will lavish on those who fear Him. Furthermore, the LORD will bestow those blessings in the sight of all—on all who seek shelter in the shadow of His wings. Now that’s a picture of an amazing God.
What might some of those good things be? First and foremost the LORD has an abundance of mercy set aside just for you. In the midst of unparalleled disaster, as a witness to the destruction of Jerusalem, the prophet Jeremiah rightly discerned the heart of the LORD. Through the LORD’s mercies we are not consumed, because His compassions fail not. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness (Lamentations 3:22-23). For Jeremiah God was good all the time, even in disaster.
God has an abundance of love, peace and joy set aside just for you. Tap into it; drink deep of it. It’s there for you. For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit, because anyone who serves Christ in this way is pleasing to God and receives human approval (Romans 14:17-18).
We serve a generous God—a God of grace who extends unmerited favor to us. In your mind, stop limiting His blessings. They are abundant, they are stored up for you and they will manifest in the lives of those who love and fear Him.
Response: LORD God, thank you for all the good things you have stored up for me, both temporal and spiritual. I rejoice in you! You are a generous God lavishing mercy on me through your son, Jesus. Amen.
Your Turn: How do you see God? Do you have the right perspective of Him? Is He opposed to your wishes and dreams?
Reading: Psalm 30
When I felt secure, I said,
“I will never be shaken.”
LORD, when you favored me,
you made my royal mountain stand firm;
but when you hid your face, I was dismayed.
To you, LORD, I called;
to the LORD I cried for mercy:
“What is gained if I am silenced,
if I go down to the pit?
Will the dust praise you?
Will it proclaim your faithfulness?
Hear, LORD, and be merciful to me;
LORD, be my help.”
You turned my wailing into dancing;
you removed my sackcloth and clothed me with joy,
that my heart may sing your praises and not be silent.
LORD my God, I will praise you forever (NIV).
Every psalm in the Book of Psalms reveals to us an aspect or characteristic of God. Here in Psalm 30, we see the LORD God of mercy, redemption and sudden turn-a-rounds.
We all go through times of triumph as well as times of deep discouragement. My emotional life often swings between these two extremes. Some days my glass is half full; on other days it is half empty. My faith level soars and plummets, often quite abruptly depending on circumstances. David also experienced these swings between optimism and pessimism. They are a trademark of his psalms. Perhaps that’s why I love them. They reflect my own life experience.
In the opening lines of today’s reading, David swings between a position of utter confidence and security to a position of shaken dismay. When trouble or disaster strikes we may well ask, “Where is God in all this?” Like David we may call out, “What is gained if I am silenced, if I go down to the pit? Will the dust praise you? Will it proclaim your faithfulness? Hear, LORD, and be merciful to me; LORD, be my help.”
God is always on His throne even in 2019. He is not caught by surprise when you lose your job, a relationship breaks down or you suffer a great loss. He remains secure, but more than that He is a God of great mercy and sudden turn-a-rounds. He is the LORD God of resurrection. He turned the disciples mourning into dancing when He raised Jesus from the dead. Always, always, always remember He can do the same for you. In the course of this psalm He turned David around. Jesus is the resurrection artist. And furthermore remember this: Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever (Hebrews 13:8).
Response: You turned my wailing into dancing; you removed my sackcloth and clothed me with joy, that my heart may sing your praises and not be silent. LORD my God, I will praise you forever. Amen.
Your Turn: Has God turned around a seemingly impossible situation for you? Take a moment to remind yourself of those God sent turn-a-rounds.
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?
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