Reading: Psalm 132
We heard it in Ephrathah,
we came upon it in the fields of Jaar:
“Let us go to his dwelling place,
let us worship at his footstool, saying,
‘Arise, LORD, and come to your resting place,
you and the ark of your might.
May your priests be clothed with your righteousness;
may your faithful people sing for joy.’”
For the sake of your servant David,
do not reject your anointed one (NIV).
David’s commitment and zeal for the presence of the LORD drew others to worship God. That’s what the opening lines of today’s reading are saying: We heard it in Ephrathah, we came upon it in the fields of Jaar: “Let us go to his dwelling place, let us worship at his footstool…”
We should never underestimate the power of our personal witness for Christ. Our zeal for God and love for His house can act as a magnet to draw others to worship Him. David’s self-denial in pursuit of God resulted in others discovering the power and grace of the LORD. By bringing the Ark of the Covenant to Zion, the City of David, David was declaring that he wanted the LORD in his home. He wanted Him close at hand—at the center of the government he was establishing over the land. See 2 Samuel 6.
Do we want God in our home? Is the LORD at the command center of your life and your daily affairs? Genuine worship brings God to the center. It removes the distance between us and God. The Psalms of Ascent are all about removing the distance between us and our Creator. They’re about drawing near.
The psalmist goes on to offer this prayer. “‘May your priests be clothed with your righteousness; may your faithful people sing for joy.’”
How are you dressed as you approach God? Apparently, clothing matters. It matters because as a redeemed child of God you are serving as a priest of the Most High. The apostle, Peter reminds us of our corporate calling and responsibility. But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light (1 Peter 2:9).
So then as priests offering sacrifices of praise, we have an opportunity to approach God. But how should we be clothed, you ask? St. Paul provides the answer. So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ (Galatians 3:26-27). As a blood-bought believer you are clothed with the righteousness of Christ. That’s a garment that never grows old or wears out.
Response: Father God, I thank you for covering me with a garment of righteousness. It’s the supreme righteousness of Jesus. Help me to serve and worship you daily with a grateful heart. Amen.
Your Turn: Are you drawing near to God? Do you see yourself as part of a royal priesthood?
Reading: Psalm 112
Praise the LORD.
Blessed are those who fear the LORD,
who find great delight in his commands.
Their children will be mighty in the land;
the generation of the upright will be blessed.
Wealth and riches are in their houses,
and their righteousness endures forever.
Even in darkness light dawns for the upright,
for those who are gracious and compassionate and righteous.
Good will come to those who are generous and lend freely,
who conduct their affairs with justice.
Surely the righteous will never be shaken; they will be remembered forever.
They will have no fear of bad news;
their hearts are steadfast, trusting in the LORD.
Their hearts are secure, they will have no fear;
in the end they will look in triumph on their foes.
They have freely scattered their gifts to the poor,
their righteousness endures forever;
their horn will be lifted high in honor.
The wicked will see and be vexed,
they will gnash their teeth and waste away;
the longings of the wicked will come to nothing (NIV).
Is there a blessing to be had for those who fear the LORD? Absolutely yes, according to Psalm 112! When we put the LORD first in our lives and honor Him in all we say and do, He takes note. Blessings come from the LORD. Those blessings can come in various forms.
The psalmist begins by speaking of the blessing that flows to our children. A home where the love of God reigns is blessed indeed. Children grow up in a secure environment with loving role models and that sets the stage for their advancement as adults in society. The psalmist asserts the generation of the upright will be blessed.
Are you finding great delight in the LORD’s commands? There are consequences for that. You may be blessed with wealth and riches as a result. Fearing God brings a reward, but that reward must be used wisely in the service of God and others. Good will come to those who are generous and lend freely, who conduct their affairs with justice.
But this psalm does not promise us a trouble-free life. Though bad news may come, those who fear God will trust in Him and overcome adversity. Even in darkness light dawns for the upright. Their hearts are secure, they will have no fear; in the end they will look in triumph on their foes.
Response: Father God, I thank you for every blessing that comes from fearing you and living uprightly. When my way seems dark, shine your light on me. Lead me forward in the way of Christ. Amen.
Your Turn: Have you experienced God’s blessing? Which blessings do you value most?
Reading: Psalm 107
Some sat in darkness, in utter darkness,
prisoners suffering in iron chains,
because they rebelled against God’s commands
and despised the plans of the Most High.
So he subjected them to bitter labor;
they stumbled, and there was no one to help.
Then they cried to the LORD in their trouble,
and he saved them from their distress.
He brought them out of darkness, the utter darkness,
and broke away their chains.
Let them give thanks to the LORD for his unfailing love
and his wonderful deeds for mankind,
for he breaks down gates of bronze
and cuts through bars of iron (NIV).
Darkness comes in various forms. Darkness is of course an absence of natural or artificial light. A certain amount of darkness can in fact be very pleasant. Have you ever tried to sleep in a brightly lit room? On a recent trip I was driving through the wilderness of northern Ontario with a full moon—a supermoon beaming down. On such occasions you appreciate the soothing benefits of darkness.
But spiritual darkness is another matter. In today’s vignette or snapshot from Psalm 107, we see a picture of prisoners sitting in utter darkness and subjected to bitter labor. This darkness, however, is self-inflicted, because they rebelled against God’s commands and despised the plans of the Most High.
There’s a lot of self-inflicted darkness and suffering in the world. One could argue that since the time of Adam and Eve, all suffering and spiritual darkness is in some respects self-inflicted. In our blindness and self-generated wisdom, we harm ourselves, rather than calling out to the LORD.
Have you harmed yourself by walking down a dark path? Have you despised the plans of the Most High? I have. In my foolish rebellion, I thought my plans were better than God’s plans, but God’s ways are higher than my ways and He knows the best way because He lights the way.
Sometimes we insist on generating our own light—artificial light. The religions and philosophies of this world are artificial light. We will see that they are pale imitations on that day when the sun of righteousness will rise with healing in its rays (Malachi 4:2). Nothing and no one shines like Jesus. John testifies to this truth. In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it (John 1:4-5).
Come, descendants of Jacob, let us walk in the light of the LORD (Isaiah 2:5).
Response: Father God, today I want to walk in your light. Thanks for the light of salvation that we receive in Christ our Savior. Please show me your way forward. You brighten my life. Amen.
Your Turn: Have you been guilty of generating your own light rather than calling out to the LORD?
I will praise Him!
Teach me, LORD, the way of your decrees,
that I may follow it to the end.
Give me understanding, so that I may keep your law
and obey it with all my heart.
Direct me in the path of your commands,
for there I find delight.
Turn my heart toward your statutes
and not toward selfish gain.
Turn my eyes away from worthless things;
preserve my life according to your word.
Fulfill your promise to your servant,
so that you may be feared.
Take away the disgrace I dread,
for your laws are good.
How I long for your precepts!
In your righteousness preserve my life.
(Psalm 119:33-40, NIV)
Reading: Psalm 103
As a father has compassion on his children,
so the LORD has compassion on those who fear him;
for he knows how we are formed,
he remembers that we are dust.
The life of mortals is like grass,
they flourish like a flower of the field;
the wind blows over it and it is gone,
and its place remembers it no more.
But from everlasting to everlasting
the LORD’s love is with those who fear him,
and his righteousness with their children’s children—
with those who keep his covenant
and remember to obey his precepts (NIV).
Last week I heard a news report that stated that new research has led astronomers to realize that there are ten times more stars in the universe than they previously estimated. A minor miscalculation you may assume. Not really!
Our own Milky Way galaxy contains about 400 billion stars of varying sizes. The most recent astronomical estimate counts 170 billion galaxies in the observable universe. To do a rough calculation of the total number of stars in the universe, you multiply 400 billion stars X 170 billion galaxies and get a number with twenty-five zeroes tacked on the end. Now that’s astronomical!
So how does that ginormous number connect with today’s reading from Psalm 103? It tells us the LORD’s concern and care for us are nothing short of astounding. The God who created all that vast array of stars cares even for you and me. As a father has compassion on his children, so the LORD has compassion on those who fear him; for he knows how we are formed, he remembers that we are dust.
Dust… We are nothing more than dust. From dust we were formed and to dust we will return. (See Genesis 3:19.) Yet despite our humble origin and our body’s grave fate, we have a God who has the compassion of a father for his children. Furthermore, this care and compassion is not fleeting; it’s eternal. Our time on earth may be transitory, but God’s love for us persists. But from everlasting to everlasting the LORD’s love is with those who fear him, and his righteousness with their children’s children—with those who keep his covenant and remember to obey his precepts.
Why would a God of such infinite capacity commit Himself to a creature of such miniscule significance? The LORD is mind-boggling; God is completely mind-boggling! You can see it in the stars. You can count it in the grains of dust—dust that the LORD loves!
Response: Father God, you are matchless. There is none like you. Your compassion is astonishing. Your grandeur is beyond my ability to even imagine. I love you, LORD. I bow in awe and amazement. Keep me in your care. Amen.
Your Turn: How big is your God? How tiny are you before this awesome God?
Reading: Psalm 98
Let the sea resound, and everything in it,
the world, and all who live in it.
Let the rivers clap their hands,
let the mountains sing together for joy;
let them sing before the LORD,
for he comes to judge the earth.
He will judge the world in righteousness
and the peoples with equity (NIV).
What comes to mind when you think of God’s judgment? Do you envision pictures of doom, gloom and destruction? If that’s your response, you are not alone, but maybe you have the wrong set of pictures? Maybe you have a wrong understanding of God? Should the redeemed live in dread of God’s judgment?
Psalm 98 is a joyous anthem of praise to God—praise for the salvation the LORD has won for us. The psalmist begins this psalm by calling us to sing to the LORD a new song. In today’s reading, that call for praise and worship is extended to all of nature. Let the sea resound, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it. Let the rivers clap their hands; let the mountains sing together for joy.
Have you seen any mountains singing for joy? Have you heard the rivers clap their hands? I love the pictures such thoughts put in my mind. In reality all of creation is speaking daily. The earth, sea and sky are telling of God’s mercy and glory. The setting sun shouts out the praises of God. Can you hear it?
According to the psalmist, there is a cause for this great celebration by the sea, the rivers and the mountains. These elements of creation are celebrating because the LORD is coming to judge the earth. He will judge the world in righteousness and the peoples with equity. In other words God’s judgment should bring joy not dread. The LORD will set things right.
For far too long we have lived in a world of injustice, suffering and death. When the LORD comes, He will bring all this pain and perversity to an end. The environmental degradation that we have caused will come to an end. The Eden that was lost because of mans’ sin will be restored. Once again we will have access to the Tree of Life. Best of all we will walk in sweet communion with our heavenly Father. All this is possible because of the suffering, death and resurrection of Jesus. The power of sin was broken at the cross. Since God’s coming judgment will bring about all this glorious restoration, why wouldn’t we join the mountains as they sing for joy?
Many of us have a wrong understanding of God and a wrong understanding of the purpose for His judgment. His judgments are good. They bring about peace—the shalom of God. Here in Psalm 98 we have the promise of His word on that. He will judge the world in righteousness and the peoples with equity.
Response: LORD God, in the past I have dreaded your judgment, but now I recognize your goodness. Come quickly, Lord Jesus. I want to see this world set right through your power and grace. Amen.
Your Turn: Do you fear God’s judgment? Is that always a good thing? Can it be misunderstood?
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Reading: Psalm 98
Sing to the LORD a new song,
for he has done marvelous things;
his right hand and his holy arm
have worked salvation for him.
The LORD has made his salvation known
and revealed his righteousness to the nations.
He has remembered his love
and his faithfulness to Israel;
all the ends of the earth have seen
the salvation of our God.
Shout for joy to the LORD, all the earth,
burst into jubilant song with music;
make music to the LORD with the harp,
with the harp and the sound of singing,
with trumpets and the blast of the ram’s horn—
shout for joy before the LORD, the King (NIV).
Once again in Psalm 98 the psalmist calls us to break forth with a new song of praise to our God. This call to worship is a frequent theme in many psalms. In this case the cause for worship is well worth noting. We are to worship in music and song because of the salvation of our God. The LORD has made his salvation known and revealed his righteousness to the nations. He has remembered his love and his faithfulness to Israel; all the ends of the earth have seen the salvation of our God.
To some extent these words trouble me. What salvation is the psalmist talking about? Is he referring to the miraculous redemption and rescue of Israel from slavery in Egypt? That’s the most significant act of national salvation in the Old Testament. On the other hand, the psalmist could be referring to the restoration of the Jewish nation after the destruction of the temple and the Babylonian captivity. Again this is a very significant event that was witnessed by the surrounding nations. Since we do not have a timeline or date for when this psalm was written, we are left guessing the answer.
For the New Testament believer we see the fulfillment of this psalm in the salvation that was won for us by Christ at the cross. There the ancient powers of sin, hell and the grave were defeated. Death itself was vanquished through the resurrection of Jesus. In reality, the true enemies of the people of God are not foreigners or foreign nations. Our enemies are spiritual; they lurk within—within us. Salvation from those enemies was purchased at the cross with the precious blood of Jesus.
Now here is a bizarre twist. Salvation arrives with our surrender. It arrives when we surrender our lives to our Savior and kneel before our King on a cross. That’s a salvation worth singing about!
Response: LORD God, I am so grateful for the salvation you purchased for me through the blood of Jesus. I want all the ends of the earth to know about that great salvation. Thank you, Jesus. Amen.
Your Turn: Have you knelt before the King on a cross? Take some time to do that now.
Reading: Psalm 97
The LORD reigns, let the earth be glad;
let the distant shores rejoice.
Clouds and thick darkness surround him;
righteousness and justice are the foundation of his throne.
Fire goes before him
and consumes his foes on every side.
His lightning lights up the world;
the earth sees and trembles.
The mountains melt like wax before the LORD,
before the Lord of all the earth.
The heavens proclaim his righteousness,
and all peoples see his glory.
All who worship images are put to shame,
those who boast in idols—
worship him, all you gods! (NIV).
Who is in charge here? In any situation, that’s a legitimate question. There are always a variety of authorities in any given situation. A while back I watched Prince William and his family get off a plane in Victoria, BC. On the tarmac the royal family was first greeted by the Governor General, then by the Prime Minister of Canada, then the Lieutenant Governor of the British Columbia and finally, the Premier of the province. They were all lined up according to proper protocol. Yes, there are a variety of authorities all deserving respect. But this question remains. Who is in charge here?
The authorities of this world have jurisdiction over a certain geographic area or realm. Some authorities govern well and in others rule as despots who plunder the wealth of the nation. But Psalm 97 reminds us that there is one great authority who rules over all. The LORD reigns, let the earth be glad; let the distant shores rejoice.
The earth can be glad and the distant shores can rejoice because this King, this heaven-dwelling authority rules well. He does not plunder His faithful people and bring them to ruin. He reigns supreme from on high. Clouds and thick darkness surround him; righteousness and justice are the foundation of his throne.
We can rest assured that the LORD will do what is right. He is allied with goodness, mercy and truth. That’s why justice is the foundation of His throne. We should not fear His judgments because they are right and good. Yes, the authors of evil should be afraid, but if we have done right, we can count on the LORD as our defender. Now here is a proclamation that we all should heed. The heavens proclaim his righteousness and all peoples see his glory.
Response: LORD God, it is my prayer that all people will see your glory and bow before you, the magnificent King of Righteousness. Extend your reign I pray. Let the distant shores rejoice because you reign. Amen.
Your Turn: Is the Lord Jesus reigning over you and your home? Who has jurisdiction there?
Reading: Psalm 94
Who will rise up for me against the wicked?
Who will take a stand for me against evildoers?
Unless the LORD had given me help,
I would soon have dwelt in the silence of death.
When I said, “My foot is slipping,”
your unfailing love, LORD, supported me.
When anxiety was great within me,
your consolation brought me joy.
Can a corrupt throne be allied with you—
a throne that brings on misery by its decrees?
The wicked band together against the righteous
and condemn the innocent to death.
But the LORD has become my fortress,
and my God the rock in whom I take refuge.
He will repay them for their sins
and destroy them for their wickedness;
the LORD our God will destroy them (NIV).
Here is a question that is well worth asking at election time, or really at any time during the life of a nation: Can a corrupt throne be allied with you—a throne that brings on misery by its decrees?
Whatever your political persuasion, this is a question that has relevance. Corruption isn’t a problem that is unique to just one party. It transcends the political spectrum. Corruption and poorly designed laws or decrees can bring misery to millions. According to the psalmist, it has happened in the past and as long as we live in a fallen world, it will continue into the future.
If we fix our eyes on the problems of this world, we can soon find ourselves in despair. Like the psalmist, in times of worry, we need to turn to the LORD. When I said, “My foot is slipping,” your unfailing love, LORD, supported me. When anxiety was great within me, your consolation brought me joy.
That’s the good news of the gospel. In times of anxiety we have someone to turn to. His name is Jesus. He was familiar with suffering and adversity. In Psalm 55 we read, “Cast your cares on the LORD and he will sustain you; he will never let the righteous be shaken” (Psalm 55:22). The apostle Peter reiterates the same thought: Cast all your anxiety on him [God] because he cares for you (1 Peter 5:7).
In times of trouble the unfailing love of the LORD will sustain you. In times of loss His consolation will bring you joy. That’s the promise of Psalm 94. It’s a promise that’s worth clinging to in good times and bad, and yes, even in election years.
Response: LORD God, I am so glad that first and foremost I live under your Kingdom rule. You are my King. I find unfailing love and consolation in knowing you. Guide the leaders of our land into paths of righteousness, wisdom and truth. Amen.
Your Turn: Are you facing adversity now? How can I pray for you?