I will praise the LORD!
You are God my stronghold.
Why have you rejected me?
Why must I go about mourning,
oppressed by the enemy?
Send me your light and your faithful care,
let them lead me;
let them bring me to your holy mountain,
to the place where you dwell.
Then I will go to the altar of God,
to God, my joy and my delight.
I will praise you with the lyre,
O God, my God.
(Psalm 43:2-4, NIV)*
* New International Version, Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica
Reading: Psalm 9
Sing the praises of the LORD, enthroned in Zion;
proclaim among the nations what he has done.
For he who avenges blood remembers;
he does not ignore the cries of the afflicted.
LORD, see how my enemies persecute me!
Have mercy and lift me up from the gates of death,
that I may declare your praises in the gates of Daughter Zion,
and there rejoice in your salvation.
The nations have fallen into the pit they have dug;
their feet are caught in the net they have hidden.
The LORD is known by his acts of justice;
the wicked are ensnared by the work of their hands.
The wicked go down to the realm of the dead, all the nations that forget God.
But God will never forget the needy; the hope of the afflicted will never perish.
Arise, LORD, do not let mortals triumph;
let the nations be judged in your presence.
Strike them with terror, LORD;
let the nations know they are only mortal (NIV).
If only life was easy; if only life was just and fair! But it isn’t. Life is filled with struggles and difficulties. I’m not always treated fairly, nor are you. Here in this psalm David cries out, “LORD, see how my enemies persecute me!” You can sense the frustration in his voice. Though these words are not recorded, in the midst of his troubles he might have added, “This isn’t fair, LORD. You aren’t being fair!”
But David doesn’t say that. He assigns blame where blame is due. He blames his troubles on his enemies—his human oppressors—not on the LORD. By way of contrast, David has nothing but praise for the LORD. He declares, “Sing the praises of the LORD, enthroned in Zion; proclaim among the nations what he has done.”
If the source of your affliction is human, why are you blaming God for it? We need to always keep this statement in mind. The LORD is known by his acts of justice. In this life we may not always see His justice prevail, but rest assured on that great final Day, He will prevail. Ultimately, His justice will be seen and known by all.
In times of trouble God is our source of help and strength. Human help may fail us. Friends may let us down. We can wrongly blame the LORD for our troubles, or we can run to Him for help. In all our troubles, we must keep this promise in mind: God will never forget the needy; the hope of the afflicted will never perish.
Response: LORD, in times of trouble, you are my help. I lay my troubles and my requests before you. I wait expectantly for you. I praise you for your goodness to me even in difficult times. Amen.
Your Turn: Have you been blaming God rather than thanking Him? Take some time to praise Him.
Reading: Psalm 145
A psalm of praise. Of David.
I will exalt you, my God the King;
I will praise your name for ever and ever.
Every day I will praise you
and extol your name for ever and ever.
Great is the LORD and most worthy of praise;
his greatness no one can fathom.
One generation commends your works to another;
they tell of your mighty acts.
They speak of the glorious splendor of your majesty—
and I will meditate on your wonderful works.
They tell of the power of your awesome works—
and I will proclaim your great deeds.
They celebrate your abundant goodness
and joyfully sing of your righteousness (NIV).*
Have you ever tried to lift up something that is far too heavy for you? As a boy I remember trying to pick up a rock that was heavier than me. It’s a good thing that young bodies are resilient because I’m sure I would seriously harm myself, if I tried the same thing today.
If I can’t lift up a heavy rock, how can I possibly lift up God? But that is precisely what David did and is calling me to do in Psalm 145. David begins with these words: I will exalt you, my God the King; I will praise your name for ever and ever.
The key word as we begin this psalm is the word exalt. Exalt means to lift, elevate, raise or boost. How can we as mere more mortals lift, elevate, raise or boost God, the creator of the universe? Is God feeling down? Does the Almighty need me to lift Him up—to give Him a little boost? That sounds absurd, and it is absurd.
Yet here and throughout the psalms we are encouraged to praise the LORD. Does the LORD suffer from a fragile ego? Is that why He wants us to praise Him? No, that can’t be the reason we see these frequent admonitions to praise God. We can’t exalt God higher than He already is. Will praising God make Him one scintilla more holy, powerful, magnificent or loving? Of course not. The only one who is changed by praising God is us. The only one who is lifted up by exalting the LORD is you and me.
We are lifted up by lifting others. It has always been this way. Help someone, and we ourselves are helped. That’s how life works. That’s how praising God works. In this life of hardship and struggles, praise lifts my head and my heart from its burdens. I am lifted up when I lift the LORD up. And rest assured no one lifts like Him!
Response: LORD God, I just want to praise you. Great is the LORD and most worthy of praise; his greatness no one can fathom. I will meditate on your wonderful works. You LORD are the lifter of my head. Amen.
Your Turn: Does heartfelt praise for the LORD fill you with joy? Do you need a lift today?
*New International Version, Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica.
Reading: Psalm 134
A song of ascents.
Praise the LORD, all you servants of the LORD
who minister by night in the house of the LORD.
Lift up your hands in the sanctuary
and praise the LORD.
May the LORD bless you from Zion,
he who is the Maker of heaven and earth (NIV).
This is the fifteenth and final psalm in the Songs of Ascent series. In reality, this psalm is the pilgrims’ farewell offering of worship to the LORD. After a week or more in Jerusalem, the time has arrived for the pilgrims to return to their homes. But on the evening before they set out on the return journey, they make one last visit to Mount Zion and the great Temple of the LORD. There they lift their hands in praise to the God of Israel. Early next morning, they will begin the arduous journey back home. But for now, it’s time to bless the LORD and offer thanks.
It is likely that the twelve-year-old Jesus sang this psalm with his parents on the final evening of their Passover pilgrimage to Jerusalem. On the following day the family departed for Nazareth where Joseph would resume his trade as a carpenter. When they left the next morning, they assumed Jesus was traveling with them in the large company of other pilgrims from their hometown. See Luke 2:41-52.
Typically, we read this account of the lost twelve-year-old Jesus from the viewpoint of a parent. We identify with the stress of losing a child in a big city. We would title this story, “Mary and Joseph find lost Jesus.” But the story reads quite differently, when we view it from the perspective of a child trying to discover who he really is. Viewed from Jesus’ perspective the title of the story might well be, “Lost Boy finds Himself” or “Lost Boy Discovers His Divinity.”
How did Jesus discover he was the son of God? Some believers might well reason that the answer is obvious. Jesus is God; therefore, he is omniscient. The all-knowing Jesus would surely know that he was God’s son. But many theologians would beg to differ. They view the humanity of Christ as all pervasive. Jesus was 100% human and as such he needed to learn and discover his identity even as any child does.
If through the incarnation Jesus fully took on humanity, then the boy Jesus needed to discover his divine identity. It may have been written into every fiber of his being, but he still needed to discover it, just as any young musical prodigy needs to explore and discover his or her gift. All divine gifts must be discovered and developed to reach their maximum potential.
How do we discover our true identity? From the account in Luke, it would appear that the boy Jesus discovered his true identity in the House of God. Perhaps it began as he lifted his hands in worship. We cannot fully discover who we are until we discover who God is. We must know our Creator to know ourselves. Self-understanding begins with knowing whose we are. You and I belong to the Father.
Response: Father God, I thank you for loving me and inviting me into your family. Lord Jesus, thank you for purchasing my redemption. Holy Spirit, I thank you for the confirmation that I am your child. Amen.
Your Turn: Do you know who you are? How is God the Father shaping your identity?
Happy New Year!
May you see God at work in your life in 2020.
Reading: Psalm 100
A psalm. For giving grateful praise.
Shout for joy to the LORD, all the earth.
Worship the LORD with gladness;
come before him with joyful songs.
Know that the LORD is God.
It is he who made us, and we are his;
we are his people, the sheep of his pasture.
Enter his gates with thanksgiving
and his courts with praise;
give thanks to him and praise his name.
For the LORD is good and his love endures forever;
his faithfulness continues through all generations (NIV).
It’s still quite some time until Thanksgiving, but for many this is harvest time.
When you grow up on a prairie farm, as I did, you appreciate the traditional aspects of Thanksgiving all the more. You are reminded each day that the food on your table does not simply come from a store. You are actively engaged in producing the nourishment that sustains your own life. Though today may be a long way from Thanksgiving, I know I need daily reminders to be thankful. How about you?
As a youngster I sat down to many a Thanksgiving feast, and almost all the food found on that groaning table was home-grown. I watched those vegetables growing in our garden in the hot summer sun. I even pulled the weeds from around those peas. And those mashed potatoes, I helped my mother hill those tubers in the spring and then dug them up after the frost hit in the fall.
My brother loved growing pumpkins, and mom would turn his favorite into the best pumpkin pie east of the Rockies. And how can you eat pumpkin pie without a mound of whipped cream on top? Well let me tell you, it tastes even better, when just that morning you milked the cows that produced that sweet rich cream. Oh, and that huge turkey—we’ll miss that pompous strutting gobbler out by the hen-house. But I’m sure we’ll get over it, somehow. For now, let’s just dig in.
Let’s all dig in, and give thanks to the God, who made all this possible. This sumptuous feast has been brought to you by Him. Now that’s Thanksgiving!
The great God in heaven has been kind to us. He has answered our prayers. He brought the warmth of spring and the rain of heaven. He caused his face to shine upon us. The rich earth responded to his touch. It brought forth its bounty, and now around this table we have gathered together as a family to celebrate God’s great goodness to us.
As the psalmist declares, “It is he who made us, and we are his; we are his people, the sheep of his pasture.” So today with joy-filled hearts we enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise. We give thanks to him and praise his name.
Response: Heavenly Father, thank you for all your kindness. You have been so good to us! Help us to maintain an attitude of gratitude all year long and not only on Thanksgiving Day, but every day. Amen.
Your Turn: What blessings from God’s hand are you most grateful for? Say a prayer of thanks right now.
I will praise Him!
Now this I know:
The LORD gives victory to his anointed.
He answers him from his heavenly sanctuary
with the victorious power of his right hand.
Some trust in chariots and some in horses,
but we trust in the name of the LORD our God.
They are brought to their knees and fall,
but we rise up and stand firm.
LORD, give victory to the king!
Answer us when we call!
(Psalm 20:6-9, NIV)
Reading: Psalm 92
A psalm. A song. For the Sabbath day.
It is good to praise the LORD
and make music to your name, O Most High,
proclaiming your love in the morning
and your faithfulness at night,
to the music of the ten-stringed lyre
and the melody of the harp.
For you make me glad by your deeds, LORD;
I sing for joy at what your hands have done.
How great are your works, LORD,
how profound your thoughts!
Senseless people do not know,
fools do not understand,
that though the wicked spring up like grass
and all evildoers flourish,
they will be destroyed forever.
But you, LORD, are forever exalted (NIV).
Why is music such a central part of the Christian worship experience? For the answer to that question we need to look no further than the opening lines of Psalm 92. It is good to praise the LORD and make music to your name, O Most High, proclaiming your love in the morning and your faithfulness at night, to the music of the ten-stringed lyre and the melody of the harp.
To put it simply, praising the LORD is a good thing. Making music to honor the name of the Most High is a wholesome expression of our love for God. Furthermore, the LORD approves the use of musical instruments. The harp and the lyre are mentioned here, but there is no scriptural reason to limit the use of instruments.
Why do men sing love songs? Because they love the woman of their dreams—the object of their affection. The same holds true when we fall in love with God. The LORD becomes the object of our deepest affection. He is worthy of our praise.
Do you need some reasons to praise God? The psalmist provides us with some sound reasons: For you make me glad by your deeds, LORD; I sing for joy at what your hands have done. How great are your works, LORD, how profound your thoughts!
If the marvels of creation are insufficient to prompt us to praise, then consider for a moment the wonders of redemption. God sent His only begotten Son to suffer and die on our behalf. He purchased our eternal redemption with the shed blood of Jesus. Oh what love! What wondrous love! It makes me want to break out in song.
Response: LORD God, every morning I want to praise you. Thank you for the gift of music. Help me use my voice and every talent you have given me to express my praise to you. Amen.
Your Turn: Do you enjoy praising God? Do you save your praise for Sundays or is it expressed daily?
Reading: Psalm 84
For the director of music. According to gittith. Of the Sons of Korah. A psalm.
How lovely is your dwelling place, LORD Almighty!
My soul yearns, even faints,
for the courts of the LORD;
my heart and my flesh cry out for the living God.
Even the sparrow has found a home,
and the swallow a nest for herself,
where she may have her young—
a place near your altar,
LORD Almighty, my King and my God.
Blessed are those who dwell in your house;
they are ever praising you.
Blessed are those whose strength is in you,
whose hearts are set on pilgrimage.
As they pass through the Valley of Baka,
they make it a place of springs;
the autumn rains also cover it with pools.
They go from strength to strength,
till each appears before God in Zion (NIV).
Where does God live? If you were going to pay God a visit where would you go? Some of us would head off to a church. The psalmist speaks of travelling to the temple in Jerusalem. Psalm 84 was often used by pilgrims as they made the long journey to the holy city to be near to God in His temple.
When I read the phrase, “How lovely is your dwelling place, O LORD Almighty!” my mind instantly flashes to pictures of nature. I see God there, in the dazzling sunset, in the mountain grandeur, in the forest depths, in expansive prairie vistas, in the wind whipped ocean breakers, and by the sunlit babbling stream. God is there. This is His dwelling place. It is just as David declared, “The earth is the LORD‘s, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it” (Psalm 24:1).
Nature is God’s domain. He formed it, planned it, spoke it into existence. It is his dwelling place. Our attempts to create a dwelling place for him are feeble at best. After overseeing the construction of one of the seven wonders of the ancient world, King Solomon, that master temple builder of the Old Testament declared, “There is not enough room in heaven for you, LORD God. How can you possibly live on earth in this temple I have built?” (1 Kings 8:27).
But here in Psalm 84 the psalmist marvels that nature has invaded the temple. Swallows have built their nest in the temple, close by the altar of God. He exclaims, “Blessed are those who dwell in your house; they are ever praising you.” Indeed, there is no better place to be than near to the heart of God.
Response: LORD God, I want to be near to you today. I want to dwell where you are. Please come and stay with me. Be as close to me as my next breath. Amen.
Your Turn: Where are you closest to God? Do you long to be near Him?
Reading: Psalm 65
For the director of music. A psalm of David. A song.
Praise awaits you, our God, in Zion;
to you our vows will be fulfilled.
You who answer prayer,
to you all people will come.
When we were overwhelmed by sins,
you forgave our transgressions.
Blessed are those you choose and bring near to live in your courts!
We are filled with the good things of your house,
of your holy temple.
You answer us with awesome and righteous deeds,
God our Savior, the hope of all the ends of the earth
and of the farthest seas,
who formed the mountains by your power,
having armed yourself with strength,
who stilled the roaring of the seas,
the roaring of their waves, and the turmoil of the nations.
The whole earth is filled with awe at your wonders;
where morning dawns, where evening fades,
you call forth songs of joy (NIV).
There is a joyful exuberance found in Psalm 65. In some ways this psalm reminds me of a Broadway musical in that there’s an eagerness—a readiness—to burst into song. It could happen at any moment. The opening line expresses this joyous exuberance well: Praise awaits you, our God, in Zion!
What about you and me? Is there an eagerness and enthusiasm to praise God as we walk through our day? Is there a song in our hearts just aching for the moment of release? Is your heart filled with gratitude to God? If you can answer, “Yes!” then you have captured the spirit of Psalm 65.
David penned this psalm and it reflects an attitude of gratitude that is present in many of David’s psalms. David provides several reasons for his jubilant praise. First of all, our God answers prayer. He hears when we call out to Him. Over many years, on countless occasions, God has answered my prayers, sometimes in miraculous ways. Like David of old, I can’t help but be grateful.
Secondly, David was thankful for the forgiveness of his sins. There is no better feeling than knowing you have been washed clean from the inside out by the cleansing blood of the Lamb of God. And now you are accepted—welcomed with open arms into God’s family. Oh, hallelujah! I’ve been redeemed.
Finally, all of God’s creation declares his glory. Mountains, prairie, sea and sky shout out His praise!
Response: LORD God, I thank you for hearing my prayers, for forgiving my many sins, and surrounding me with the beauty of your creation. I praise the name of Jesus. Amen.
Your Turn: What blessing from God are you most thankful for?