I will praise Him!
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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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?
Reading: Psalm 141
Let a righteous man strike me—
that is a kindness;
let him rebuke me—
that is oil on my head.
My head will not refuse it,
for my prayer will still be
against the deeds of evildoers (NIV).
I don’t like being proven wrong. I like to think I have this world figured out. I am wise in my own eyes. A proud heart tells me I am right. Isn’t that so?
Am I the only one who suffers from this affliction—this deceptive pride that blinds me to my errors? Of course not. Human pride puts blinders over our eyes. We have trouble seeing our own faults. We often need others to gently, or sharply bring them to our attention. Better is open rebuke than hidden love (Proverbs 27:5).
Here in Psalm 141, David confesses his need for correction: Let a righteous man strike me—that is a kindness; let him rebuke me—that is oil on my head.
Do we see sharp correction as a kindness? Do we see a rebuke as a blessing like oil poured on our head? In today’s culture the thought of oil being poured on someone’s head has little appeal. But that was not the case in ancient times. Olive oil was a high-value commodity. Using it for personal grooming was considered a luxury. Only the wealthy would lavish themselves with such extravagance.
For David these words would bring back the memory of the occasion when the prophet Samuel anointed him to be king over Israel in place of King Saul. So Samuel took the horn of oil and anointed him in the presence of his brothers, and from that day on the Spirit of the Lord came powerfully upon David (1 Samuel 16:13).
Earlier, Samuel had rebuked Saul for his disobedience. See 1 Samuel 13. Saul did not receive that rebuke well. There was no repentance on his part. On the other hand years later when Nathan, the prophet, rebuked David for his sin with Bathsheba, David repented and sought the LORD with prayer and fasting. See 2 Samuel 12. The contrast between Saul’s response and David’s response to corrective rebuke is striking. David, the man after God’s own heart, repented. He received the forgiveness and mercy of God, while Saul became embittered and ultimately descended into witchcraft.
How we handle correction will determine the rise or fall of our career, our marriage, and ultimately our life with God. David learned to love rebuke. For him and for us, it can result in a course correction of eternal worth.
Response: LORD God, please correct me when I err. When others point out my faults, help me to receive that correction with grace and not anger. Lord Jesus, you alone are faultless. Forgive me. Amen.
Your Turn: Is it difficult for you to receive correction? What can make receiving correction easier?
Reading: Psalm 137
By the rivers of Babylon we sat and wept
when we remembered Zion.
There on the poplars we hung our harps,
for there our captors asked us for songs,
our tormentors demanded songs of joy;
they said, “Sing us one of the songs of Zion!”
How can we sing the songs of the LORD
while in a foreign land?
If I forget you, Jerusalem,
may my right hand forget its skill.
May my tongue cling to the roof of my mouth
if I do not remember you,
if I do not consider Jerusalem my highest joy (NIV)
Psalm 137 is distinct, because we can tell from its content that this psalm was written early during the period of the Babylonian exile. Memories of Nebuchadnezzar’s destruction of Jerusalem in 586 BC were still fresh—etched with bitterness and pain in the mind of the author.
There are two great pivot points in the history of Old Testament Israel. The first is the liberation of Israel from Egypt and the conquest of the holy land. The second is the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple, and the subsequent seventy-year exile in Babylon. The mercy and power of God brought about the first pivotal event. The disobedience and idolatry of man set in motion the catastrophe of the second event.
From its inception the Jewish nation flirted with idolatry. While Moses was receiving the Ten Commandments, the people were reveling before a golden calf. King Solomon set up idols in Jerusalem so his foreign wives could worship their gods. See 1 Kings 11:1-8. This duplicity continued generation after generation until the Babylonians swept in and destroyed Jerusalem. Harsh judgment brought change. Will harsh judgment bring change in us, or will the mercy of God bring us to repentance?
Response: Father God, I don’t want to learn things the hard way. I want to be quick to obey you. Help me to learn from the lessons of history. You are the one, true God. I worship you. Amen.
 K.R. “Dick” Iverson, Spirit Filled Life Bible, New King James Version, Jack W. Hayford, General Editor, Thomas Nelson Publishers, Nashville, TN, 1991, p. 750.
Reading: Psalm 123
A song of ascents.
I lift up my eyes to you,
to you who sit enthroned in heaven.
As the eyes of slaves look to the hand of their master,
as the eyes of a female slave look to the hand of her mistress,
so our eyes look to the LORD our God,
till he shows us his mercy.
Have mercy on us, LORD, have mercy on us,
for we have endured no end of contempt.
We have endured no end
of ridicule from the arrogant,
of contempt from the proud (NIV).
Like every parent, I have had moments when I have needed to correct my children. In my professional life as a teacher, correcting a child’s behavior was a daily, sometimes minute-to-minute occurrence. In such situations eye contact is crucial. If the child does not make eye contact with you, you are wasting your breath. Your advice—your admonition—your warning—is going nowhere. You might as well speak to the wind. But in such situations, it is essential that you speak to the heart of the child.
The eyes are the window of the heart. When someone is avoiding eye contact, in reality they are hiding their heart. They are closing their heart to you.
Of course the same principle is true when we consider our relationship with God. We need to make eye contact with the LORD. That’s why there is something truly intimate about this psalm. It’s all about making eye contact with God. It’s about opening your heart to the LORD and exposing what is deep inside you. You are showing when you lift your eyes to Him that you are ready to receive instruction. Yes, and correction too, if that is needed.
So the psalmist speaks these words: I lift up my eyes to you, to you who sit enthroned in heaven. He takes the position and the posture of a slave—a humble servant. He is looking for mercy—hoping for grace and blessing from the hand of His master.
This is perhaps the most intimate of the Songs of Ascent. Having come a great distance, the pilgrim is now in the LORD’s house. He has drawn nigh in the fullest sense. The pilgrim lifts his eyes—not to an idol, but to the LORD—the One who fills all, formed all, and transcends all. With eyes wide open he exposes his heart to God. He waits expectantly for the LORD’s instruction.
Prayer at its best is modelled for us in this psalm. It’s prayer with our eyes wide open to God. We are looking to Him for mercy, comfort, strength and direction.
Response: Father God, I come before you now. I lift up my eyes to you, to you who sit enthroned in heaven. Be merciful to me. Speak to me. Correct me, if I need correction. Give me direction. I am ready to receive instruction from you. I am your servant. Amen.
Your Turn: Are you drawing nigh to God? How do you make eye contact with God?