I will praise Him!
Reading: Psalm 118
It is better to take refuge in the LORD
than to trust in humans.
It is better to take refuge in the LORD
than to trust in princes.
All the nations surrounded me,
but in the name of the LORD I cut them down.
They surrounded me on every side,
but in the name of the LORD I cut them down.
They swarmed around me like bees,
but they were consumed as quickly as burning thorns;
in the name of the LORD I cut them down.
I was pushed back and about to fall,
but the LORD helped me.
The LORD is my strength and my defense;
he has become my salvation (NIV).
Psalm 118 is perhaps the most militant psalm in the Bible. The psalmist assumes a combative stance. He is ready to take on the world and everything his adversaries can toss at him. These are the words of a fighter—a courageous warrior: All the nations surrounded me, but in the name of the LORD I cut them down. They surrounded me on every side, but in the name of the LORD I cut them down.
Some may find the aggressive words of this psalm offensive. To be frank, I prefer the more passive psalms that speak of quiet waters, grassy hills and star-filled night skies, but life is more than tranquil repose. It also includes moments of conflict and combat. As the author of Ecclesiastes reminds us, “There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens: a time to love and a time to hate, a time for war and a time for peace” (Ecclesiastes 3:1, 9). There is a time to be conciliatory, but there also are times when we need to stand our ground and defend our faith and our way of life.
Joshua is a Bible character who exemplifies the attitude and intent of this psalm. He was a man on a mission. His mission, assigned to him by God, was the conquest of Canaan. If you read the Book of Joshua, you will discover that he pursued his mission with a ruthless passion that ultimately brought victory and success. In his farewell speech to the nation, Joshua had these words of advice: “The LORD has driven out before you great and powerful nations; to this day no one has been able to withstand you. One of you routs a thousand, because the LORD your God fights for you, just as he promised. So be very careful to love the LORD your God” (Joshua 23:9-11).
The God of peace is also the God who fights for you. Very little in this life is accomplished without rugged determination and a fighting spirit. Joshua proved that great nation-changing things are possible when we move forward with courage and tap into the power of God.
Response: Father God, there are battles that you want me to fight. Help me to personally tap into your power. Give me courage to stand for you and your truth though a thousand oppose me. Amen.
Your Turn: Are there great things that God has called you to accomplish? Is He fighting for you?
Reading: Psalm 106
We have sinned, even as our ancestors did;
we have done wrong and acted wickedly.
When our ancestors were in Egypt,
they gave no thought to your miracles;
they did not remember your many kindnesses,
and they rebelled by the sea, the Red Sea.
Yet he saved them for his name’s sake,
to make his mighty power known.
He rebuked the Red Sea, and it dried up;
he led them through the depths as through a desert.
He saved them from the hand of the foe;
from the hand of the enemy he redeemed them.
The waters covered their adversaries;
not one of them survived.
Then they believed his promises and sang his praise.
But they soon forgot what he had done
and did not wait for his plan to unfold.
In the desert they gave in to their craving;
in the wilderness they put God to the test.
So he gave them what they asked for,
but sent a wasting disease among them (NIV).
Psalm 106 begins with the psalmist pleading for God’s favor. He longs to be included among the blessed, who are saved and numbered among the LORD’s chosen ones. But in today’s reading we discovered the terrible truth. Sinful conduct has been rampant among God’s people; therefore, the psalmist makes this confession. We have sinned, even as our ancestors did; we have done wrong and acted wickedly.
As this psalm progresses, the psalmist catalogs an ever growing list of transgressions. But what sets this downward progression into motion is a bout of forgetfulness. The psalmist laments, they did not remember your many kindnesses, and they rebelled by the sea, the Red Sea. Later he comments: But they soon forgot what he had done and did not wait for his plan to unfold.
Usually we do not consider forgetfulness to be a sin. But there is such a thing as willful forgetfulness. We remember those things we consider important. We forget the trivial—those things we consider of little significance. The redeemed people of Israel experienced the wonder-working power of God, yet they treated these events as though they were of little significance. They failed to grasp the paramount significance of these events and as result they stumbled into grumbling and disobedience. Do we grasp the significance of God’s interaction with us? The great Creator reaches out to us. There’s nothing insignificant in that. These are the high points in our sojourn through this life.
Response: Father God, I want to treasure the experiences I have with you. Each one is significant as you guide me in your way. Help me be attentive to your voice, your word and your Spirit. Amen.
Your Turn: Have you been guilty of forgetting those times when God has spoken to you?
Reading: Psalm 33
By the word of the LORD the heavens were made,
their starry host by the breath of his mouth.
He gathers the waters of the sea into jars;
he puts the deep into storehouses.
Let all the earth fear the LORD;
let all the people of the world revere him.
For he spoke, and it came to be;
he commanded, and it stood firm (NIV).
Have you ever considered the creative power of words? Words change the world. They bring order out of chaos. Words shine the light of day into the darkness of this world. From the very beginning words have been imbued with divine power. The psalmist reminds us, “By the word of the LORD the heavens were made, their starry host by the breath of his mouth.”
But it’s not only God’s words that have this vast power. Our words—human words, whether spoken written or thought have enormous power too. Adam’s first job assignment was to speak words—to name the animals. Now the LORD God had formed out of the ground all the wild animals and all the birds in the sky. He brought them to the man to see what he would name them; and whatever the man called each living creature, that was its name. So the man gave names to all the livestock, the birds in the sky and all the wild animals (Genesis 2: 19-20).
Strangely, God didn’t do what every parent does. He didn’t tell Adam what the animals were called. Adam told God their names. By so doing, God vested mankind with the power of language. Life is what we call it. Our words describe the world and give meaning to it.
Through our words we bring order and make sense of the world around us. As a writer I am continually processing and attempting to make sense of this chaotic thing called life. I do it with words. From the beginning of time, by divine command that’s what we are called to do. We are to speak order into chaos— speak accuracy and clarity into this world’s muddled reality.
With our words we shine the light of truth onto a situation. With words we write laws, administer justice and design government. With words we woo and romance and vow our love to one another. Our words create imaginary realms into which we can travel—words that transport. With our words we have the power to elevate the human spirit, or crush someone to the point of suicide.
Finally, there is something innately prophetic about our words. What we think, speak and write is potent. It has within in it the latent ability to become reality. Therefore, we need to guard our lips. See James 3:1-12. The psalmist reminds us not only of the power of the word of the LORD, but also our own words. For he spoke, and it came to be; he commanded, and it stood firm.
Response: LORD God, help me give careful consideration to my words. Today, may my words, whether written or spoken, be a creative force for good in Jesus’ name. Amen.
Your Turn: How has God used your words for good lately? Are your words bringing order out of chaos?
Reading: Psalm 26
LORD, I love the house where you live,
the place where your glory dwells.
Do not take away my soul along with sinners,
my life with those who are bloodthirsty,
in whose hands are wicked schemes,
whose right hands are full of bribes.
I lead a blameless life;
deliver me and be merciful to me.
My feet stand on level ground;
in the great congregation I will praise the LORD (NIV).
In America, Canada and much of the western world, people have been abandoning the house of God in droves. In the most recent census survey, by far the largest growth has been among those who identify themselves as having no religion. This move to “no religion” is most pronounced among our young people. There are many factors that have led to this decline. Perhaps a hard look in the mirror is needed for us to see what we are doing wrong. Jesus attracted people. Why are his followers today repelling people?
David had a completely different attitude toward the house of God. Hear the cry of his heart, “LORD, I love the house where you live, the place where your glory dwells.”
No one had to drag David to the LORD’s house. He was eager to meet with God there. Really, that’s the secret. If God is in the house—if His glory is present—it will be hard to keep people away. The question we need to be asking ourselves is, “Is God in the house? Is His glory dwelling here among us?”
If God is truly, tangibly present among you, look out! The transformational power of God will overwhelm individuals and ignite the congregation. I have seen it happen and there is no experience quite like it.
I live in expectation of His appearing among us. The living Christ visits His church. Are you anticipating His coming? Have you set the table for Him? Have you prepared your heart and your mind? Have you put out the welcome mat?
All too often church has become program maintenance. The focus is entirely wrong. Church in its most vibrant form is God dwelling among us—God breathing upon us. That was the Book of Acts Church. That’s the church I love. When we have found that place—when we experience the LORD of that place—we will join David in declaring, “My feet stand on level ground; in the great congregation I will praise the LORD.”
Response: Come, Lord Jesus, dwell among. This is my confession: “LORD, I love the house where you live, the place where your glory dwells.” Lord come and dwell in my local congregation. Manifest your presence there, so that many will see it and be changed by your Spirit. Amen.
Your Turn: Do you love the house of God? Why or Why not? Is God showing up at your church? What are you doing to make the place ready for Him?
Reading: Psalm 89
The heavens praise your wonders, LORD,
your faithfulness too, in the assembly of the holy ones.
For who in the skies above can compare with the LORD?
Who is like the LORD among the heavenly beings?
In the council of the holy ones God is greatly feared;
he is more awesome than all who surround him.
Who is like you, LORD God Almighty?
You, LORD, are mighty, and your faithfulness surrounds you.
You rule over the surging sea;
when its waves mount up, you still them.
You crushed Rahab like one of the slain;
with your strong arm you scattered your enemies.
The heavens are yours, and yours also the earth;
you founded the world and all that is in it.
You created the north and the south;
Tabor and Hermon sing for joy at your name.
Your arm is endowed with power;
your hand is strong, your right hand exalted (NIV).
At this point memories of the Olympics are in the past. We can talk ourselves into believing that those golden podium moments will last forever, but they don’t. They are highlights in athletic achievement and well worth celebrating. In some events world records have been set, but in due time they will be broken. It seems they always are.
How do we determine gold medal performances? By comparison of course. That’s what Olympic competition is all about. The results of a team or athlete are compared with others in their field. Though many compete on the local, national and world stage, only the very best bring home Olympic gold.
That’s how winners are determined on the human level—the world level. But what about the heavenly level—the spiritual level? How are the best and most powerful determined there? In our reading from Psalm 89, the psalmist attempts to come up with an answer.
For who in the skies above can compare with the LORD? Who is like the LORD among the heavenly beings? In the council of the holy ones God is greatly feared; he is more awesome than all who surround him.
Who is like you, LORD God Almighty?
The truth is obvious. There is no point in comparison. The LORD God Almighty is incomparable. He wins every race since He is enthroned beyond time. As the Creator, He is the source—the starting point—of all power in heaven and on earth. His wisdom is so beyond the best human mind. He is incomparable!
Response: LORD God, I marvel at your wisdom and power. But most of all I marvel at your love—love that encompasses all—even me. Help me to excel at pleasing you. Thank you, LORD! Amen.
Your Turn: Do you enjoy watching the Olympics? Is there value in competition?
affliction, character, faith, God, God of miracles, hope, Jesus, meditate, miracles, Most High, persecution, perseverance, power of God, psalmist, purified, remember, remembering, Suffering, tested, the LORD
Reading: Psalm 77
Then I thought, “To this I will appeal:
the years when the Most High stretched out his right hand.
I will remember the deeds of the LORD;
yes, I will remember your miracles of long ago.
I will consider all your works
and meditate on all your mighty deeds.”
Your ways, God, are holy.
What god is as great as our God?
You are the God who performs miracles;
you display your power among the peoples.
With your mighty arm you redeemed your people,
the descendants of Jacob and Joseph (NIV).
Psalm 77 began with the psalmist in a state of anguish approaching despair. He was filled with questions for the LORD—questions but no answers. This brings us to our reading for today. After pouring out his complaint, the psalmist recalls the mighty works of the LORD.
“To this I will appeal: the years when the Most High stretched out his right hand. I will remember the deeds of the LORD; yes, I will remember your miracles of long ago. I will consider all your works and meditate on all your mighty deeds.”
When in doubt, remember. In a time of suffering, remember. When troubles assail from every side, remember. What should we remember? Remember the God who performs miracles. Remember that He is your personal redeemer. The blood Jesus shed was for you. The resurrection he accomplished was for you. The forgiveness he offers is for you.
During trying times, I will consider all your works and meditate on all your mighty deeds.
Our faith isn’t tested and purified in the good times while the choir sings sweetly in the background. Faith is tested and purified in the furnace of affliction. There’s no lineup of volunteers signing up for affliction. The gospel that is often presented today is branded as affliction-free. But Jesus gave no such promise. He promised persecution to those who leave all to follow him. (See Mark 10:29-31).
Paul, the apostle, makes this assertion: We also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us (Romans 5:3-5).
As you face difficult times, reflect on the ever-present, never-changing, miracle-working power of God.
Response: LORD God, you are at work on my behalf even when I can’t see it. I believe in you, the miracle-working God. May my meditation center on you and your word, because your word brings light. Amen.
Your Turn: Does God have your attention when you are in trouble or pain?
Reading: Psalm 62
Surely the lowborn are but a breath,
the highborn are but a lie.
If weighed on a balance, they are nothing;
together they are only a breath.
Do not trust in extortion
or put vain hope in stolen goods;
though your riches increase,
do not set your heart on them.
One thing God has spoken,
two things I have heard:
“Power belongs to you, God,
and with you, Lord, is unfailing love”;
and, “You reward everyone
according to what they have done” (NIV).
In this life that we have been given, what things are solid? What things are sure? Not much according to the psalmist, David.
As for this world’s wealth, it has no lasting value. Here is sound advice—advice from this psalm that you won’t get from a financial planner: though your riches increase, do not set your heart on them.
What then should we do? How should we live? Live in the light and knowledge of eternity and the One who holds eternity in His hands. David reminds us God will…“reward everyone according to what they have done.”
In other words, how we live matters. It matters for now and eternity. That knowledge should inform and give shape to all that we say and do. But there are two additional truths that should bring meaning to our lives. One thing God has spoken, two things I have heard: “Power belongs to you, God, and with you, Lord, is unfailing love.”
God alone has the power of life, death and resurrection. And in Jesus, He demonstrated his unfailing power and love for every man, woman and child on this planet. On the cross Jesus showed his unfailing love. Other loves—human loves—may fail us, but God’s love stands firm and unwavering. In a changing world of eroding values our LORD remains firm and immovable.
Response: LORD God, thank you for the unfailing love of Jesus. You love me even when I have failed and despite my shortcomings. Help me live my life in the light of eternity. Amen.
Your Turn: Is God’s love a motivator for you to change your ways, since He never changes?