I will praise Him!
Reading: Psalm 45
For the director of music. To the tune of “Lilies.” Of the Sons of Korah.
A maskil. A wedding song.
My heart is stirred by a noble theme as I recite my verses for the king;
my tongue is the pen of a skillful writer.
You are the most excellent of men and your lips have been anointed with grace,
since God has blessed you forever.
Gird your sword on your side, you mighty one;
clothe yourself with splendor and majesty.
In your majesty ride forth victoriously
in the cause of truth, humility and justice;
let your right hand achieve awesome deeds.
Let your sharp arrows pierce the hearts of the king’s enemies;
let the nations fall beneath your feet.
Your throne, O God, will last for ever and ever;
a scepter of justice will be the scepter of your kingdom.
You love righteousness and hate wickedness;
therefore God, your God, has set you above your companions
by anointing you with the oil of joy.
All your robes are fragrant with myrrh and aloes and cassia;
from palaces adorned with ivory the music of the strings makes you glad.
Daughters of kings are among your honored women;
at your right hand is the royal bride in gold of Ophir (NIV).
The introductory words of Psalm 45 describe it as a wedding song, but it is not merely depicting the wedding of a commoner. This is the wedding of a king. No, this is not just a king; He is the King—the King of kings and Lord of lords. There is none like Him in heaven or on earth.
The New Testament writer of the Book of Hebrews quotes directly from this psalm: But about the Son he says, “Your throne, O God, will last for ever and ever; a scepter of justice will be the scepter of your kingdom. You have loved righteousness and hated wickedness; therefore God, your God, has set you above your companions by anointing you with the oil of joy” (Hebrews 1:8-9).
Of course, Jesus is the Son that the writer of Hebrews is referring to. The throne of Christ will last for ever and ever; His kingdom reign will never end. But how did Jesus come to occupy this exalted position? Though conceived by the Holy Spirit, He was nevertheless fully human. He was subject to the same frailties and temptations that we face.
This psalm tells us that Jesus was elevated to the highest throne because He loved righteousness and hated wickedness. Can the same be said about you and me? Do we love righteousness? Do we hate what is evil? The same oil of joy is available to those who follow in the footsteps of our Lord.
Response: LORD God, help me to love what you love and hate what you hate. Anoint me with your joy as I seek to follow you in every aspect of my life. I pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.
Your Turn: What do you love? What do you hate? Do some of these things need to change?
Reading: Psalm 37
I have seen a wicked and ruthless man
flourishing like a luxuriant native tree,
but he soon passed away and was no more;
though I looked for him, he could not be found.
Consider the blameless, observe the upright;
a future awaits those who seek peace.
But all sinners will be destroyed;
there will be no future for the wicked.
The salvation of the righteous comes from the LORD;
he is their stronghold in time of trouble.
The LORD helps them and delivers them;
he delivers them from the wicked and saves them,
because they take refuge in him (NIV).
Today’s reading is the concluding portion of Psalm 37. As noted previously, this entire psalm contrasts the life of the righteous person with the individual who pursues a life of sin and illicit gain. The righteous will receive their reward and the man who does evil will be destroyed.
We all reap what we sow. If we sow seeds of selfishness, hate and discord, we will reap a harvest of ruin. Paul, the apostle, gives us this warning, “Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. Whoever sows to please their flesh, from the flesh will reap destruction; whoever sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life” (Galatians 6:7-8).
We can readily conclude that the good man will live because of his goodness. In other words the righteous person will be saved because of his righteous deeds. But that’s not what this psalm teaches. In fact, the idea that one is saved because of one’s righteousness runs contrary to the message of this psalm and the entire counsel of Holy Scripture. The psalmist clearly states, “The salvation of the righteous comes from the LORD.”
We are not saved by our righteousness. We are saved by the LORD. It is because of His great mercy that we are saved. This aligns with New Testament teaching as Paul declares, “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast” (Ephesians 2:8-9).
Yes, we are called to live righteous lives and to do good works, but let’s not deceive ourselves into thinking that by these means we will earn our way to heaven. Jesus is the way to heaven. Our feeble efforts won’t take us very far. We need His forgiveness and the power of His redeeming blood. We are saved because we take refuge in Him.
Response: LORD God, I thank you for Jesus. I am thankful that I can put my complete trust in you. I am saved by your amazing grace not by my effort. Hallelujah! Lord Jesus, you are the way, the truth and the life (John 14:6). Amen.
Your Turn: Have you relied on your righteousness rather than God’s grace?
Reading: Psalm 36
Continue your love to those who know you,
your righteousness to the upright in heart.
May the foot of the proud not come against me,
nor the hand of the wicked drive me away.
See how the evildoers lie fallen—
thrown down, not able to rise! (NIV)
Do you know God? Are you well acquainted with Him and His ways? Are you in regular conversation with Him? I ask these questions because in this concluding portion of Psalm 36 David prays, “Continue your love to those who know you, your righteousness to the upright in heart.”
Knowing God is or should be the great quest of our lives. This is our raison d’etre—our reason for being. We were created to know and love God. The Garden of Eden was first and foremost a place of communion with God. Yet so often we see ourselves running from God, or ignoring His invitation to draw close.
Jesus gives us this warning, “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’ (Matthew 7:21-23).
From Jesus statement here, there appear to be two requirements for entering the Kingdom of Heaven: doing the will of the Father and knowing Jesus. I would argue that truly knowing Jesus helps us to discover and do the will of the Father. If you know someone really well you know what they want—what will please them—without even asking. We need to aim for that kind of intimacy with God.
We come to know the mind of God because we have drawn close to the heart of God through time spent with Him. Two-way prayer and meditation on His word acquaints us with God’s will and His ways—ways that do not change according to the whim of man.
God is not impressed by our prophetic or miraculous powers. He is not impressed by our power over demons. These after all are gifts from Him. God is impressed by our obedience as we seek His face and do His will.
Our God is faithful. He will continue His love to those who know Him. His righteousness will constantly flow to the upright in heart.
Response: LORD God, give me a humble heart that seeks after you. Show me your ways, O Lord. Give me a hunger for your word. I want to know you more and more. Help me to do the Father’s will today. In Jesus’ name, I pray. Amen.
Your Turn: How do you get to know God better? What practices or activities grow your faith and knowledge of God?
Reading: Psalm 18
He reached down from on high and took hold of me;
he drew me out of deep waters.
He rescued me from my powerful enemy,
from my foes, who were too strong for me.
They confronted me in the day of my disaster,
but the LORD was my support.
He brought me out into a spacious place;
he rescued me because he delighted in me.
The LORD has dealt with me according to my righteousness;
according to the cleanness of my hands he has rewarded me.
For I have kept the ways of the LORD;
I am not guilty of turning from my God.
All his laws are before me;
I have not turned away from his decrees.
I have been blameless before him and have kept myself from sin.
The LORD has rewarded me according to my righteousness,
according to the cleanness of my hands in his sight (NIV).
In the previous reading, David depicted the LORD as riding the wings of the wind on a thunderstorm to rescue him from his enemies. In this portion of Psalm 18, the enemy is routed and David is rescued. In triumph David declares, “They confronted me in the day of my disaster, but the LORD was my support. He brought me out into a spacious place; he rescued me because he delighted in me.”
David then goes on to assert the reason why he believes the LORD did not allow him to perish at the hands of his mortal enemies. Twice he makes this claim, “The LORD has rewarded me according to my righteousness, according to the cleanness of my hands in his sight.”
Why were clean hands so important in David’s ultimate victory? Why are clean hands so important to the LORD? Twice when David had the opportunity to cut down his enemies—the enemies who were in pursuit to kill him—David kept his hands clean. When the opportunity arose, David refused to kill jealous King Saul despite the urging of the men who were with him. He attempted reconciliation with the enemy who sought his life. See 1 Samuel 24. That takes courage and conviction.
Sometimes it takes more courage to hold your fire than press your advantage. It takes a godly conviction that God is keeping score, and He will reward the man with a clean heart and clean hands. That takes faith—faith in the unseen hand of God at work in the affairs of men. David had that kind of faith.
How about you? Are your hands clean? Are you trusting in the LORD or settling accounts your way? Faith in God calls us to a higher standard.
Response: LORD, I want clean hands and a pure heart before you. I put my trust in you. You reward those who diligently seek you. Jesus, wash me clean. I put my faith in you. Amen.
Your Turn: Does God always reward those with clean hands? How do you keep your hands clean?
Reading: Psalm 143
A psalm of David.
LORD, hear my prayer,
listen to my cry for mercy;
in your faithfulness and righteousness come to my relief.
Do not bring your servant into judgment,
for no one living is righteous before you.
The enemy pursues me,
he crushes me to the ground;
he makes me dwell in the darkness like those long dead.
So my spirit grows faint within me;
my heart within me is dismayed.
I remember the days of long ago;
I meditate on all your works
and consider what your hands have done.
I spread out my hands to you;
I thirst for you like a parched land (NIV).
On my best day, I need God’s mercy. On my worst day my need for outside help and mercy are evident to all. In truth, my need for the mercy of the LORD is never ending. All too often, we only call out to God in times of need or perceived difficulty. In reality our need for God’s help and mercy are constant.
Here in Psalm 143, as he so often does, David calls out for God’s mercy. In many respects David’s plea for mercy is rather repetitive throughout the psalms. Why would this be? Could it be that he is in constant need of God’s sustaining support and mercy? From the following request, we can see why David repeatedly prays for God’s mercy: Do not bring your servant into judgment, for no one living is righteous before you.
David recognized that within himself he had no righteousness. In reality this is the starting point for a life transforming relationship with God. Contrary to a good deal of modern psychology and religious philosophy, we are not okay. We have a warped nature that is inclined to sin. It delights in rebelling against God. St. Paul describes this human condition with these words. For I know that good itself does not dwell in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out (Romans 7:18).
The prophet Isaiah described this universal human condition in this way. All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags; we all shrivel up like a leaf, and like the wind our sins sweep us away (Isaiah 64:6).
Do I need God’s mercy? Yes, a thousand times yes!
Response: LORD God, I need your righteousness. My own righteousness is tainted with pride. I freely acknowledge my need for a Savior. You are my constant help. I thirst for you like a parched land. Amen.
Your Turn: Are you aware of your constant need for God’s mercy? Are you calling out to Him?
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?