Reading: Psalm 99
The LORD reigns,
let the nations tremble;
he sits enthroned between the cherubim,
let the earth shake.
Great is the LORD in Zion;
he is exalted over all the nations.
Let them praise your great and awesome name—
he is holy.
The King is mighty, he loves justice—
you have established equity;
in Jacob you have done
what is just and right.
Exalt the LORD our God
and worship at his footstool;
he is holy (NIV).*
What does it mean to be holy? There are several shades of meaning for the word holy. It can mean being consecrated or dedicated for a special purpose. It also means righteous. But the definition that fits best in the light of Psalm 99 reads like this: awe-inspiring—having a character that evokes reverence (Encarta Dictionary).
The psalmist is effusive with his praise for the LORD, but three times in this short psalm, he centers back to this phrase: he is holy. Yes, the LORD reigns, He is righteous and exalted, but what has really caught the psalmist’s attention is the LORD’s holiness. That’s what sets Him apart and elevates Him above the stratosphere.
Has the LORD’s holiness caught your attention? Have you been filled with awe by the holiness of God? I fear that far too often we have diminished God. We have tried to make Him like us—powerful but a bit quirky—maybe short-tempered or set in His ways. What nonsense! Our God is holy. We need to wake up to that fact. It must be central to our understanding of God.
In the Beatitudes from his Sermon on the Mount Jesus said, “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God” (Matthew 5:8). To clarify, I might add that the pure in heart will see the true God, not a distorted caricature. Our sinful nature has a way of distorting our view of the LORD. That’s why personal purity and holiness are so essential. The apostle Peter provides this admonition: As obedient children, do not conform to the evil desires you had when you lived in ignorance. But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; for it is written: “Be holy, because I am holy” (1 Peter 1:14-16).
Response: LORD God, I want to see you at work in my life. Holy Spirit help me to clean up those areas that distort my view of you. You are holy. I worship you in the beauty of your holiness. Amen.
Your Turn: Are there times when you have seen God as short-tempered or set in His ways? Have you avoided God’s call to holiness?
* New International Version, Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica
Reading: Psalm 88
A song. A psalm of the Sons of Korah.
For the director of music.
According to mahalath leannoth.
A maskil of Heman the Ezrahite.
LORD, you are the God who saves me;
day and night I cry out to you.
May my prayer come before you;
turn your ear to my cry.
I am overwhelmed with troubles
and my life draws near to death.
I am counted among those who go down to the pit;
I am like one without strength.
I am set apart with the dead, like the slain who lie in the grave,
whom you remember no more, who are cut off from your care.
You have put me in the lowest pit, in the darkest depths.
Your wrath lies heavily on me;
you have overwhelmed me with all your waves.
You have taken from me my closest friends
and have made me repulsive to them.
I am confined and cannot escape; my eyes are dim with grief (NIV).*
There are 150 psalms in the Book of Psalms and one of the most remarkable things about them is their emotional span. They range from giddy heights of joy and praise to great depths of depression and sorrow. The full array of human emotion and experience is on display. Whatever state you find yourself in, there’s a psalm for that—a psalm for every situation and human need. If you are in desperate straits, there’s a psalm for that. If you are soaring in the presence of God, there’s a psalm for that too. They reflect our need for God and our desire to connect with Him in all of life’s experiences.
Psalm 88 is a cry for help from the deepest pit of human need. Hear the psalmist’s cry of anguish: I am overwhelmed with troubles and my life draws near to death. I am counted among those who go down to the pit; I am like one without strength. I am confined and cannot escape; my eyes are dim with grief.
For reasons that we are not told, the psalmist feels trapped in the worst of circumstances. At times I think we all have been there—feeling alone with no one to turn to. In such times, there is no one to turn to but the LORD. In our time of despair He does not reject us or turn us away. He is a God who comforts us, even as Paul, the apostle declares, “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God” (2 Corinthians 1:3-4).
If you are in the depths of depression or despair follow the example of Heman, the psalmist. Call out to God. He is listening. He reaches to the lowest pit.
Response: LORD God, I need your comfort. Hear my prayer and answer me. In this time of sorrow show me a sign of your love and favor, Lord. Amen.
Your Turn: Are you currently facing a time of trouble or sorrow? Are others praying for you?
* New International Version, Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica
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I will praise the LORD!
God has ascended amid shouts of joy,
the LORD amid the sounding of trumpets.
Sing praises to God, sing praises;
sing praises to our King, sing praises.
For God is the King of all the earth;
sing to him a psalm of praise.
(Psalm 47:5-7, NIV)*
* New International Version, Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica
I will praise Him!
For the director of music. A psalm of David.
But I trust in you, LORD;
I say, “You are my God.”
My times are in your hands;
deliver me from the hands of my enemies,
from those who pursue me.
Let your face shine on your servant;
save me in your unfailing love.
Let me not be put to shame, LORD,
for I have cried out to you;
(Psalm 31:14-17a, NIV)
Reading: Psalm 117
Praise the LORD, all you nations;
extol him, all you peoples.
For great is his love toward us,
and the faithfulness of the LORD endures forever.
Praise the LORD (NIV).
Psalm 17 is the shortest of all the psalms. It reminds me of tabasco sauce. It’s concentrated; you don’t need much to set your mouth on fire.
What’s so great—so powerful—about Psalm 117 you ask? Well in 29 short words, it sums up the call and global appeal of the entire Bible.
Let’s consider this opening sentence: Praise the LORD, all you nations; extol him, all you peoples. This call to worship is for all people; it’s universal. The message of the Bible is for all people. It’s not limited to a single nation, race or people group.
This call for universal praise is unusual because it draws all humanity into a common faith in the LORD. The Jewish faith was and is a very exclusive religion. This is the faith of the chosen people—God’s chosen people. They did not choose Him, but rather they were uniquely selected by God to bear His name before the nations of the world. Throughout the Old Testament we have a clear sense that God was dealing with his own special people, and they were to walk separate from the nations. They received God’s laws and were the guardians of His word. They were instructed not to intermarry with other nations, nor be polluted by them and their idol worship. The worshippers of Yahweh were an exclusive group, a unique people, but they were not evangelistic. They kept the message to themselves.
But here in Psalm 117 the constricted, exclusive God of the Old Testament appears to break out of His narrow nationalist cocoon. We see that He is in reality a God for all nations, not just for the descendants of Abraham. Here we catch a glimpse of the big picture—the global perspective. All the nations of the earth are to praise Him. The longstanding intent of the God Israel is that every people group should know his ways and experience His salvation.
But why should all nations praise the LORD? The second verse of this miniature psalm provides the answer. For great is his love toward us, and the faithfulness of the LORD endures forever. Where did the LORD demonstrate His great love for us? We see God’s love most vividly on the cross. There the Son of God poured out His blood to redeem men and women, boys and girls, from every nation under heaven. There love flowed down in a crimson stream. There God fulfilled His Abrahamic promise. “God himself will provide the lamb for the burnt offering, my son” (Genesis 22:8). There the prophecy of John the Baptist was achieved. “Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29).
Concentrated within the shortest Psalm is enough truth to set the world on fire.
Response: Father God, I just want to praise you. Thank you for your great love and faithfulness as revealed by Jesus on the cross. I love you, Lord Jesus. I am grateful that you love encompasses all. Amen.
Your Turn: Why is racism run contrary to anyone who claims to love God?
Reading: Psalm 113
Praise the LORD.
Praise the LORD, you his servants;
praise the name of the LORD.
Let the name of the LORD be praised,
both now and forevermore.
From the rising of the sun to the place where it sets,
the name of the LORD is to be praised.
The LORD is exalted over all the nations,
his glory above the heavens.
Who is like the LORD our God,
the One who sits enthroned on high,
who stoops down to look on the heavens and the earth?
He raises the poor from the dust
and lifts the needy from the ash heap;
he seats them with princes, with the princes of his people.
He settles the childless woman in her home
as a happy mother of children.
Praise the LORD (NIV).
In today’s reading the psalmist has a question for you and here it is: Who is like the LORD our God, the One who sits enthroned on high, who stoops down to look on the heavens and the earth?
Who indeed? Why would the exalted One, the enthroned One, stoop down? How undignified! Doesn’t the LORD know that kings and potentates don’t bend over or stoop down? They certainly don’t do that sort of thing in public—not where they can be seen by others. Rulers rule from the seat of authority. They sit; they don’t stoop down. But our God stoops down. If the truth be told, it’s even worse than that.
The LORD gets His hands dirty. Actually, He has been getting His hands dirty from the very beginning. The LORD God formed a man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being (Genesis 2:7). Now that was a failed experiment, if there ever was one. Those living, breathing dust bags showed no gratitude. They disobeyed God at the first opportunity and down through the generations, humanity has continued that pattern of disobedience.
Now in this psalm we read this: He raises the poor from the dust and lifts the needy from the ash heap. Why would God show such affection for fallen humanity—humans who keep plunging deeper into the mire? There is no greater mystery. Our God keeps finding treasures in the trash—the human trash.
Still I keep wondering why anyone would stoop so low. Why would the One, who sits enthroned on high, stoop so low to rescue a deeply flawed human like me?
Response: Father God, your love is beyond comprehension. Thank you for stooping down and involving yourself in my life. When I reach out to you, Father God, you lift me up. I praise you, LORD, for your undeserved love. Amen.
Your Turn: Has the LORD lifted you from the ash heap? How did that make you feel?
Reading: Psalm 108
Save us and help us with your right hand,
that those you love may be delivered.
God has spoken from his sanctuary:
“In triumph I will parcel out Shechem
and measure off the Valley of Sukkoth.
Gilead is mine, Manasseh is mine;
Ephraim is my helmet, Judah is my scepter.
Moab is my washbasin,
on Edom I toss my sandal;
over Philistia I shout in triumph.”
Who will bring me to the fortified city?
Who will lead me to Edom?
Is it not you, God, you who have rejected us
and no longer go out with our armies?
Give us aid against the enemy,
for human help is worthless.
With God we will gain the victory,
and he will trample down our enemies (NIV).
In today’s reading from Psalm 108, we get into the meat of David’s request or petition. He makes his plea before God: Save us and help us with your right hand that those you love may be delivered.
It’s difficult to pinpoint exactly when David penned this Psalm, but it likely came early in his reign as king over Judah or Israel. When David assumed the leadership of Judah, Israel was in dire straits. The nation had been weakened by division under King Saul. The Philistines won a major battle which resulted in the death of King Saul and his heir apparent, Prince Jonathan. The nation was divided, despondent and in disarray. Meanwhile, enemies on every side were seizing the moment to press their advantage.
In many respects Christendom and the church world finds itself in a similar position today—divided, despondent and in disarray. We need a David or a number of Davids to arise and rally God’s people against spiritual foes and machinations too numerous to mention. Where are the Davids? Are you one of them? Over a number of years through a series of battles the David of the Bible turned things around.
But we need to always keep this in mind. Though God calls various people to leadership roles, He is the One who brings victory and He is the One who deserves the credit. David clearly expressed this truth in his prayer. Give us aid against the enemy, for human help is worthless. With God we will gain the victory, and he will trample down our enemies.
We look to the LORD for victory and deliverance. David did, and so must we.
Response: Father God, I want to play my part in turning things around in your church. Today let your Kingdom come and your will be done through the power of your Holy Spirit. Amen.
Your Turn: Are you a present-day David? What has God called you to do?
Reading: Psalm 103
He made known his ways to Moses,
his deeds to the people of Israel:
The LORD is compassionate and gracious,
slow to anger, abounding in love.
He will not always accuse,
nor will he harbor his anger forever;
he does not treat us as our sins deserve
or repay us according to our iniquities.
For as high as the heavens are above the earth,
so great is his love for those who fear him;
as far as the east is from the west,
so far has he removed our transgressions from us (NIV).
Here is a little secret that will be a secret no longer: Of all the psalms, Psalm 103 is my favorite.
Why do I have such a deep love for this psalm? The answer lies in what the psalm tells us about God. The LORD is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love.
That sentence should be etched on our hearts and minds. The character of God is revealed in these traits. I stand in need of a God who has these qualities because by nature I am the polar opposite. In various situations I have lacked compassion. I have reasoned that those who suffer are getting what they deserve. Rather than extent grace, I have a tendency to be judgmental. When things don’t go my way, I can be quick tempered rather than slow to anger. I like to think I am loving, but I’m not sure others would always agree.
The amazing truth is that despite all our shortcomings God still loves you and me. He [the LORD] will not always accuse, nor will he harbor his anger forever; he does not treat us as our sins deserve or repay us according to our iniquities.
Satan is the accuser; God is the merciful forgiver. Sometimes I think in our minds we have reversed those roles. That’s why this psalm acts as such a powerful antidote to wrong thinking. Do you think God cannot forgive you because of some past transgression? Think again. Psalm 103 tells us to view God differently. He is more compassionate than we can imagine, more loving than we can fathom, more patient than we can comprehend.
For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his love for those who fear him; as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us.
Infinite—our God’s love and compassion are infinite. Enough said.
Response: Father God, because of your love, mercy and grace I want to serve you. Please accept my feeble attempts at loving you back. Your forgiveness leaves me with a debt of love I cannot pay. Amen.
Your Turn: What is your favorite psalm? Why?
Reading: Psalm 102
In the course of my life he broke my strength;
he cut short my days.
So I said:
“Do not take me away, my God, in the midst of my days;
your years go on through all generations.
In the beginning you laid the foundations of the earth,
and the heavens are the work of your hands.
They will perish, but you remain;
they will all wear out like a garment.
Like clothing you will change them
and they will be discarded.
But you remain the same,
and your years will never end.
The children of your servants will live in your presence;
their descendants will be established before you” (NIV).
We like to think that we are the captains of our own destiny—the masters of our own future—and to some extent we are. We can determine our attitude and response to many situations. But eventually the truth will hit home. Our ultimate destiny is in God’s hands. We cannot determine how tall we will grow, or the color of our eyes or our skin. These are matters that are beyond our control.
God has predetermined the number of our days on this earth. Jesus said, “Even the very hairs of your head are all numbered” (Matthew 10:30). So I also expect that God knows the exact number of breaths that you and I will breathe.
In today’s reading from Psalm 102, the psalmist is coming to grips with his own mortality. He laments: In the course of my life he [the LORD] broke my strength; he cut short my days. So I said: “Do not take me away, my God, in the midst of my days; your years go on through all generations.”
The LORD is the great everlasting constant. Our days may be numbered, but God’s are not. He is the ageless One without beginning of days or end of life. Even the earth itself may wear out, but He remains. “In the beginning you laid the foundations of the earth, and the heavens are the work of your hands. They will perish, but you remain; they will all wear out like a garment. Like clothing you will change them and they will be discarded. But you remain the same, and your years will never end.”
If even the earth will perish and wear out, what hope is there for us? But in the next breath the psalmist provides us with hope. “The children of your servants will live in your presence; their descendants will be established before you.”
Response: Father God, I want to live in your presence now and in eternity. Establish my children before you. They are gifts from your hand. You are constant and I want to live in constant praise of you. Amen.
Your Turn: Are you in control of your life or is God in control? Are you yielded to Him and ready to do His will?