I will praise Him!
Reading: Psalm 39
“Surely everyone goes around like a mere phantom;
in vain they rush about, heaping up wealth
without knowing whose it will finally be.
“But now, LORD, what do I look for?
My hope is in you.
Save me from all my transgressions;
do not make me the scorn of fools.
I was silent; I would not open my mouth,
for you are the one who has done this.
Remove your scourge from me;
I am overcome by the blow of your hand.
When you rebuke and discipline anyone for their sin,
you consume their wealth like a moth—surely everyone is but a breath.
“Hear my prayer, LORD, listen to my cry for help;
do not be deaf to my weeping.
I dwell with you as a foreigner, a stranger, as all my ancestors were.
Look away from me, that I may enjoy life again
before I depart and am no more” (NIV).
Today’s reading is the concluding portion of Psalm 39. In this psalm we find David in a silent, reflective mood. He contemplates the brevity of life and the certainty of the grave. In the previously posted psalm portion he prayed, “Show me, LORD, my life’s end and the number of my days; let me know how fleeting my life is.”
Why would knowing the number of our days matter? Well, it should focus our minds on making the most of the time available to us. Our days on this earth are not infinite. We are each allotted a predetermined number of days. In Psalm 139, another psalm attributed to David, we read, “Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be” (Psalm 139:16).
We have no control or at best limited control over the number of days we live on this earth. But how and with whom we spend those days is within the range of our effective will. I can break my marital vows and my wife’s heart, or I can be true to her and my words spoken before God. I can love and raise my children in godly discipline, or I can neglect them, or alienate them through harsh punishment. I can be faithful to my Redeemer or I can turn my back on Him. These are decisions that fall within the scope of my will. In this life and the next I will be accountable for the decisions I make. Undoubtedly, this is why David cries out, “But now, LORD, what do I look for? My hope is in you. Save me from all my transgressions.”
Response: LORD God, I need your saving help. Through the redemptive blood of Jesus keep me from being trapped and controlled by my transgressions. I need your presence in my life so that I can make the most of my days. May your Kingdom rule extend to me and through me to others. Amen.
Your Turn: Do you think you would live your life differently if you knew how many days you had left?
Reading: Psalm 139
If only you, God, would slay the wicked!
Away from me, you who are bloodthirsty!
They speak of you with evil intent;
your adversaries misuse your name.
Do I not hate those who hate you, LORD,
and abhor those who are in rebellion against you?
I have nothing but hatred for them;
I count them my enemies.
As much as I love the psalms of the Bible, there are some psalms, or verses within psalms that I would just like to skip. I wish they weren’t there. Today’s reading from Psalm 139 is a prime example. The author’s words are filled with venom. Why are they even in the Bible? (Please bear with me.)Passages like today’s reading are particularly troubling in light of Jesus’ teaching in the New Testament. In his great Sermon on the Mount, he gave us this teaching: “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous” (Matthew 5:43-45).
Reconciling today’s reading from Psalm 139 with Jesus’ words makes my head hurt. Jesus calls us to an incredibly high standard—God’s standard. God shows kindness and love even to the unrighteous. They like us receive both sunshine and rain. Let’s face it, when someone hurts me, my default position is to hurt them back. That’s the natural human response. That’s the way it has been since the beginning, and the world is full of lasting scars—intergenerational scars because of it. Wounded people have been busy hurting other wounded people as hate builds on hate in the home, at work and internationally.
But Jesus came to interrupt that corrosive cycle. He asks us to counter that hurt—that slight—that injury with love. Now that’s truly revolutionary. It’s a revolt against the status quo of hatred that has poisoned human relations in our country and the world. Has someone gone out of their way to hurt you? Retaliate with an act of love. That’s what Jesus is saying.
Is that hard? Absolutely. It’s much easier to respond like the author of today’s reading from Psalm 139. So why is this portion of Psalm 139 in the Bible? Maybe it should be redacted—blacked over like a secret government file.
In reality, Psalm 139 like all the psalms, began as someone’s personal prayer—their personal interaction with God. They are pouring out their heart before God. It’s a heart that has been wounded by others. Should they bottle up those feelings and never express them to God? Of course not. We need to pour out our hurts to God. He alone can heal and change that wounded heart.
Response: LORD God, you know all my hurts. I bring them before you. Pour your love into me, so I can love my enemies. Show me the way forward. Jesus, you forgave even those who killed you. Amen.
Your Turn: Have you changed your default position from hate to love?
Reading: Psalm 139
For you created my inmost being;
you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
your works are wonderful,
I know that full well.
My frame was not hidden from you
when I was made in the secret place,
when I was woven together in the depths of the earth.
Your eyes saw my unformed body;
all the days ordained for me were written in your book
before one of them came to be.
How precious to me are your thoughts, God!
How vast is the sum of them!
Were I to count them,
they would outnumber the grains of sand—
when I awake, I am still with you (NIV).
Psalm 139 is a psalm of incredible intimacy—divine intimacy. God knows us; sees us; loves us like the LORD only can. He has known us and cared for us from the moment of conception. We need to make that statement personal, because it is personal. The Almighty has known me, and cared for me from the moment of my conception.For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.
Last week, I had lens replacement surgery on my left eye. The same surgery was done on my right eye three weeks earlier. This highly skilled tinkering with my eyes has left me in awe of the gift of sight. What a miracle! Yes, the surgeon worked wonders. My sight has been restored without the need for eyeglasses—something I have needed and have worn since the age of eight. Now for first time in 58 years, I can roll out of bed and not reach for my glasses.
What I truly appreciate is the original miracle—the gift of sight itself; a gift we are born with. Because the miracle of sight is so universal, we take it for granted. But when that precious gift is lost or threatened we appreciate it again with new eyes. I join with the psalmist in making this declaration: I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.
God took the time to knit you together in your mother’s womb. You can be sure He didn’t miss a stitch. You were formed according to His plan to live for His purpose. Wow! What an awesome privilege. And all the days ordained for [you and] me were written in [God’s] book before one of them came to be.
Response: LORD God, thank you for the gift of life, for sight, sound and touch. You thought of me. What joy that brings! Help me to live the days assigned to me with gladness and gratitude. Amen.
Your Turn: Do we take our physical gifts for granted? How do you cultivate an attitude of gratitude?