I will praise Him!
Reading: Psalm 94
The LORD is a God who avenges.
O God who avenges, shine forth.
Rise up, Judge of the earth;
pay back to the proud what they deserve.
How long, LORD, will the wicked,
how long will the wicked be jubilant?
They pour out arrogant words;
all the evildoers are full of boasting.
They crush your people, LORD;
they oppress your inheritance.
They slay the widow and the foreigner;
they murder the fatherless.
They say, “The LORD does not see;
the God of Jacob takes no notice” (NIV).
As I gather my thoughts to write this post there are fresh reports of renewed fighting in the Syrian conflict. Time and again aid convoys have been bombed. Recriminations fly back and forth between the warring parties; each blames the other. Meanwhile, war rages on. People starve. Refugees flee. Bombs fall from the sky and children are killed and injured.
There is a present-day relevance to Psalm 94. Its words are an ongoing reality in war-torn Syria. How long, LORD, will the wicked, how long will the wicked be jubilant? They pour out arrogant words; all the evildoers are full of boasting. They crush your people, LORD; they oppress your inheritance. They slay the widow and the foreigner; they murder the fatherless.
The Syrian conflict is now into its ninth year with no end in sight and many people are asking, “How long, LORD?”
There is so much evil in the world. Evil expresses itself most graphically during war. There are those who would like to blame God for war, but that makes no sense. Human pride, greed and cunning lead to war. Human intransigence keeps it going. We can and should pray for God to show mercy and bring peace, but ultimately human hearts must change to bring an end to war.
We are right to pray for an end to murderous regimes. Essentially that is what the psalmist is praying. Is there more we can do? Emergency aid to war-torn regions is always needed. We can open our hearts and our wallets to provide some help. When an entire nation falls into the hands of murderous thieves are there a few good Samaritans who are willing to help?
Sometimes there are no easy answers in this difficult world. Rise up, Judge of the earth!
Response: LORD God, thank you for the peace and security I enjoy. I don’t want to take my peace and prosperity for granted. Show me how I can be of help in this troubled world. Amen.
Your Turn: Should we be concerned about foreign conflicts or only pay attention to things at home?
Reading: Psalm 85
I will listen to what God the LORD says;
he promises peace to his people, his faithful servants—
but let them not turn to folly.
Surely his salvation is near those who fear him,
that his glory may dwell in our land.
Love and faithfulness meet together;
righteousness and peace kiss each other.
Faithfulness springs forth from the earth,
and righteousness looks down from heaven.
The LORD will indeed give what is good,
and our land will yield its harvest.
Righteousness goes before him
and prepares the way for his steps (NIV).
Psalm 85 began with the psalmist reflecting on a wonderful time of God’s favor and forgiveness. God’s grace had been abundant and a source of great joy. But that is not the present reality. It would seem that for some reason God’s hand of blessing has been lifted and the psalmist finds himself crying out for mercy and revival. Will you not revive us again, that your people may rejoice in you? Show us your unfailing love, LORD, and grant us your salvation.
Times of hardship and personal setbacks can leave us wondering if God has abandoned us. Have we sinned? Has God withdrawn His blessing from our lives? Will He shows us His kindness once again? In difficult times these questions often flood our minds.
After pleading for restoration and pouring out his troubles before God the psalmist makes this statement, “I will listen to what God the LORD says.”
Now that’s sound advice. Listening to what God says is always a good idea. It resolves inner conflict and brings peace of mind. And what does God the LORD say? “He promises peace to his people, his faithful servants—but let them not turn to folly.”
Often we feel that when things aren’t going right in our lives, we must be at fault. Perhaps we are and we should repent. But there are other times when the hardships we face are not due to sin or error on our part. Troubles and difficulties come to all of us. On such occasions the LORD promises us peace. He assures us that we are walking in His will and He is right there with us in the midst of life’s storms. Here is His promise for you: The LORD will indeed give what is good, and our land will yield its harvest. Righteousness goes before him and prepares the way for his steps.
Hang onto the righteousness of God. He is about to step into your life in a beautiful way.
Response: LORD God, I turn to you in the middle of my difficulties. Open my ears to hear your voice speaking to me. I trust you to lead me. Come and step into my life. Amen.
Your Turn: Can you recall occasions when God has stepped into your life? What did that look like?
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?
Reading: Psalm 37
The mouths of the righteous utter wisdom,
and their tongues speak what is just.
The law of their God is in their hearts;
their feet do not slip.
The wicked lie in wait for the righteous,
intent on putting them to death;
but the LORD will not leave them in the power of the wicked
or let them be condemned when brought to trial.
Hope in the LORD and keep his way.
He will exalt you to inherit the land;
when the wicked are destroyed, you will see it (NIV).
A few years ago, here in Canada’s capital we saw aspects of this psalm play out in real time. David, the psalmist states, “The wicked lie in wait for the righteous, intent on putting them to death.” A terrorist, with planned intent gunned down Corporal Nathan Cirillo, while he stood guard before the National War Memorial. This cowardly act highlights the contempt of those who celebrate evil, for those who stand for righteousness, truth and justice. The contrast between those who love peace and those who revel in violence is stark indeed.
The mouths of the righteous utter wisdom, and their tongues speak what is just. The law of their God is in their hearts; their feet do not slip.
When evil raises its brutal head, we need not be intimidated. We need to take heart. When we stand on the side of truth, justice and love, we do not stand alone. God is with us. He is on our side. He has our back. As the psalmist declares, we need to, “Hope in the LORD and keep his way.”
The way of the LORD is the way of love. Jesus said to his disciples, “No one has greater love than this—that one lays down his life for his friends” (John 15:13 NET). Jesus then went on to demonstrate that supreme love by laying down his life on the cross for our redemption.
The question we need to continually ask ourselves is what is my motivation? Am I motivated by love or am I driven by hate? Am I drawing close to the God of love and hope? Is my life a demonstration of God’s redeeming love, or am I only concerned about my selfish interests?
Corporal Nathan Cirillo laid down his life in the service of his country. Which god will you serve? Will you serve the god of self, or the selfless God—the God whose hands were pierced for you? The choice is yours.
Response: LORD God, we live in a very troubled world. When evil rises, we put our trust in you. Help me to walk in the way of love. Surround me with your peace. Keep those who serve their country safe. I pray in Jesus name. Amen.
Your Turn: How can you honor those who lay down their lives in the service of their country? What makes their sacrifice special for you?
Reading: Psalm 37
Be still before the LORD
and wait patiently for him;
do not fret when people succeed in their ways,
when they carry out their wicked schemes.
Refrain from anger and turn from wrath;
do not fret—it leads only to evil.
For those who are evil will be destroyed,
but those who hope in the LORD will inherit the land.
A little while, and the wicked will be no more;
though you look for them, they will not be found.
But the meek will inherit the land
and enjoy peace and prosperity (NIV).
When I consider this passage from Psalm 37, two thoughts stand out: Be still before the LORD and wait patiently for him and do not fret—it leads only to evil.
My natural tendency is not to wait or be still. I tend to fret and worry and then charge ahead simultaneously in different directions. Trust me; it’s hard to go in different directions at the same time. The end result is usually a bad case of self-inflicted paralysis, which often results in—you guessed it—a renewed bout of fret and worry. When will I learn? When will we learn?
Being still before the LORD requires practice. It is a learned response, not a natural reaction. When we wait for the LORD we show that we trust Him. We know that He has not forgotten us or the problems we face. In every situation He has our best interests in mind, even if we don’t understand the reasons, causes or solutions to our difficulties.
By being still and waiting before the LORD we demonstrate that we don’t have the answer within in ourselves. The answer—the solution—lies in Him. If we wait patiently, He will show us the way. And having waited patiently for Him, we can move forward with confidence when He gives us the green light.
It is quite likely that Jesus had the words of this psalm in mind when he gave these instructions in his Sermon on the Mount: “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?” Matthew 6:25-27.
We are to live in quiet confidence. In this psalm we read this promise, “But the meek will inherit the land and enjoy peace and prosperity.” We can put our trust in the God who stands behind that promise.
Response: LORD God, help me to trust you today. Give me a peaceful heart that I may wait patiently for you even when the storms of life descend. I pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.
Your Turn: Do you tend to fret? Does quiet prayer still your worries?
Reading: Psalm 35
LORD, you have seen this; do not be silent.
Do not be far from me, Lord.
Awake, and rise to my defense!
Contend for me, my God and Lord.
Vindicate me in your righteousness, LORD my God;
do not let them gloat over me.
Do not let them think, “Aha, just what we wanted!”
or say, “We have swallowed him up” (NIV).
There’s an old saying, “The more things change, the more they stay the same.” That certainly is true of the conflict in the Holy Land. About 3,000 years ago, in David’s time the Kingdom of Israel was in a struggle for survival. Chief among its enemies were the Philistines along the Gaza coast. On the day I wrote this post, Israel’s chief enemy Hamas was firing rockets into Israel from the Gaza coast.
David’s words from Psalm 35 have a present day resonance. LORD, you have seen this; do not be silent. Do not be far from me, Lord. Awake, and rise to my defense! Contend for me, my God and Lord. Many in present day Israel are praying this prayer with the fervour of those who are being attacked.
But the residents of Gaza could pray this prayer with equal fervour. Their homes and businesses are also under bombardment. Where is God in all this suffering? Whose side is He on? Many in the Christian community affirm with great confidence that God is on the side of Israel. Does that make God complicit in the deaths of innocent children in Gaza?
Jesus gave this counsel to his disciples, “You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’ But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also” (Matthew 5:38-39). Present day Israel (and America for that matter) has a well-established policy of hard-hitting retaliation when attacked. What are the long term consequences of this policy? Is the conflict resolved or is it inflamed?
Jesus’ admonition to turn the other cheek goes unheeded. Most feel that turning the other cheek implies weakness. In reality it requires far more strength, but in the end it yields the peaceable fruit of righteousness—not a righteousness that insists on its own way—but a righteousness that sees both sides of an issue and works hard for peace and reconciliation.
Jesus asks us to do the far harder thing. Retaliation is easy. It’s the natural response. Forgiving when we are wronged, that requires far more effort. Whose side is God on? He is on the side of peace. That’s something worth fighting for.
Response: Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God (Matthew 5:9). LORD God, help me to be a local peacemaker in my world today—someone who builds bridges between people and communities. Amen.
Your Turn: Forgiveness and turning the other cheek works on a personal level. Can it work on an international level as well?
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 29
A psalm of David.
Ascribe to the LORD, you heavenly beings,
ascribe to the LORD glory and strength.
Ascribe to the LORD the glory due his name;
worship the LORD in the splendor of his holiness.
The voice of the LORD is over the waters; the God of glory thunders,
the LORD thunders over the mighty waters.
The voice of the LORD is powerful; the voice of the LORD is majestic.
The voice of the LORD breaks the cedars;
the LORD breaks in pieces the cedars of Lebanon.
He makes Lebanon leap like a calf, Sirion like a young wild ox.
The voice of the LORD strikes with flashes of lightning.
The voice of the LORD shakes the desert;
the LORD shakes the Desert of Kadesh.
The voice of the LORD twists the oaks and strips the forests bare.
And in his temple all cry, “Glory!”
The LORD sits enthroned over the flood; the LORD is enthroned as King forever.
The LORD gives strength to his people; the LORD blesses his people with peace (NIV).
In Psalm 29 we see and hear the LORD, the God of the storm. There is an evocative poetic style to this psalm that helps the reader to picture the fury of the approaching tempest. But we not only see the flashes of lightning and the power of the wind, we also hear the booming thunder as it shakes the desert. The voice of the LORD twists the oaks and strips the forests bare. And in his temple all cry, “Glory!”
Nine times the psalmist repeats the phrase the voice of the LORD. In this psalm, the voice of the LORD is a very active force. The voice of the LORD thunders, breaks, strikes, shakes, twists and strips. The voice of the LORD is powerful; the voice of the LORD is majestic.
The voice of the LORD spoke the world into existence, set the planets in their orbits, and scattered the starry hosts across the heavens. A thunderstorm sweeping down from Lebanon is as nothing to Him.
But the LORD of the storm is also the LORD of peace. One day on the Sea of Galilee Jesus our Lord brought peace to the storm. A furious squall came up, and the waves broke over the boat, so that it was nearly swamped. Jesus was in the stern, sleeping on a cushion. The disciples woke him and said to him, “Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?”
He got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, “Quiet! Be still!” Then the wind died down and it was completely calm (Mark 4:37-39).
Response: You are the LORD of the storm and the LORD of peace. When storms arise in my life help me to trust you completely. Lord Jesus, grant me peace in the midst of the storm. Amen.
Your Turn: Jesus says to us, “Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?” (Mark 4:40). Are you hearing him?