I will praise Him!
Reading: Psalm 140
For the director of music. A psalm of David.
Rescue me, LORD, from evildoers;
protect me from the violent,
who devise evil plans in their hearts
and stir up war every day.
They make their tongues as sharp as a serpent’s;
the poison of vipers is on their lips.
Keep me safe, LORD, from the hands of the wicked;
protect me from the violent,
who devise ways to trip my feet.
The arrogant have hidden a snare for me;
they have spread out the cords of their net
and have set traps for me along my path (NIV).
Psalm 140 is attributed to David. Our reading today is really a prayer for personal safety. David lived during a very violent time in the history of Israel and the entire eastern Mediterranean region. It was a period of technological transition from the Bronze Age to the Iron Age. Historic transitions are never smooth sailing. They are often accompanied by intense warfare, and economic and social collapse. Rival forces vie for power. Out of the ashes new leadership emerges.
That was the world that David, the shepherd boy was born into. The Philistines were the first to adopt the new iron tools, and they used their technological superiority to dominate and subjugate Israel. See 1 Samuel 13:19-22. What followed were several decades of fierce struggle, as Israel under Saul resisted the Philistines and fought back. Eventually, under David’s leadership Israel emerged triumphant. But none of this was a foregone conclusion. It was a massive struggle with much bloodshed.
David not only had foreign enemies; he also had to watch out for sedition within his own ranks. All too often the responsibilities of leadership mean walking around with a giant bullseye painted on your back. If anything goes wrong, you are the first one to be attacked by your own people. In David’s time, being the king was a high risk occupation. Assassination and revolt were common.
On a personal level, we too are in a struggle—a spiritual struggle for survival and dominion. Will the Spirit of Christ reign in us, or will we succumb to the spirit of this age? Will we take up the full armor of God and fight the good fight of faith, or will we believe the lies of the enemy and fall into a cesspool of sin and deception? Are we vigilant and constant in prayer like David, or do we lack the self-discipline that is essential for victory over the enemy of our soul?
David’s prayer should be our prayer too. Keep me safe, LORD, from the hands of the wicked; protect me from the snares that have been set to entangle me.
Response: LORD God, keep me alert. A spiritual battle is raging around me. I want to be a warrior who knows and hears his Commander. Jesus, your blood was shed to secure my victory. Thank you. Amen.
Your Turn: Are you aware of the snares that trip you up? Are you hearing the Commander’s voice?
Reading: Psalm 76
For the director of music. With stringed instruments. A psalm of Asaph. A song.
God is renowned in Judah; in Israel his name is great.
His tent is in Salem, his dwelling place in Zion.
There he broke the flashing arrows,
the shields and the swords, the weapons of war.
You are radiant with light,
more majestic than mountains rich with game.
The valiant lie plundered, they sleep their last sleep;
not one of the warriors can lift his hands.
At your rebuke, God of Jacob,
both horse and chariot lie still.
It is you alone who are to be feared.
Who can stand before you when you are angry?
From heaven you pronounced judgment,
and the land feared and was quiet—
when you, God, rose up to judge,
to save all the afflicted of the land.
Surely your wrath against mankind brings you praise,
and the survivors of your wrath are restrained.
Make vows to the LORD your God and fulfill them;
let all the neighboring lands bring gifts to the One to be feared.
He breaks the spirit of rulers; he is feared by the kings of the earth (NIV).
Has the church abandoned the fear of God? Has our messaging focussed so exclusively on the God of love and forgiveness that the very idea of cringing in fear before God is a completely foreign to us? In more general terms is fear a bad thing—an emotion we should always avoid? Is there something wrong with our relationship with God if we fear Him?
First we need to acknowledge that fear can have both good and bad consequences. A healthy fear of a sharp blade will keep me from sticking my hands under the deck of a running lawn mower. There is wisdom and there is safety in that kind of fear. But the constant fear of a violent, abusive spouse can be devastating to a person’s health and happiness. In brief, fear is essential for self-preservation, but too much of it has terrible consequences. It has a crippling effect by producing paralysis of the human spirit.
A complete lack of fear can have terrible consequences too. I still have both my hands because of a healthy fear of whirling blades. We all need a healthy fear of God. The psalmist states, “It is you alone who are to be feared.”
Jesus essentially said the same thing. “Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell” (Matthew 10:28).
Response: LORD God, you are the One I need to fear. Give me a healthy dose of fear. I want to love and fear you, so that I will walk in full obedience to your commands. Amen.
Your Turn: Is there a place for both love and healthy fear in your relationship with God?
Reading: Psalm 59
For the director of music. To the tune of “Do Not Destroy.” Of David. A miktam. When Saul had sent men to watch David’s house in order to kill him.
Deliver me from my enemies, O God;
be my fortress against those who are attacking me.
Deliver me from evildoers
and save me from those who are after my blood.
See how they lie in wait for me!
Fierce men conspire against me
for no offense or sin of mine, LORD.
I have done no wrong, yet they are ready to attack me.
Arise to help me; look on my plight!
You, LORD God Almighty, you who are the God of Israel,
rouse yourself to punish all the nations;
show no mercy to wicked traitors.
They return at evening,
snarling like dogs, and prowl about the city.
See what they spew from their mouths—
the words from their lips are sharp as swords,
and they think, “Who can hear us?”
But you laugh at them, LORD; you scoff at all those nations.
You are my strength, I watch for you;
you, God, are my fortress, my God on whom I can rely (NIV).
The back story to Psalm 59 is an episode of high drama, betrayal and treachery. Despite winning several battles as a loyal warrior for King Saul, in a fit of jealous rage Saul attempted to kill David by pinning him to a wall with his spear. David fled to his home, but his wife, Michal warned him, “If you don’t run for your life tonight, tomorrow you’ll be killed” (1 Samuel 19:11).
David made good his escape, while Michal put an idol in his bed to deceive the men who were sent to kill David. Undoubtedly, this deception bought David some precious time as he fled. It is within this context that David makes this double plea for deliverance, “Deliver me from my enemies, O God; be my fortress against those who are attacking me. Deliver me from evildoers and save me from those who are after my blood.”
Saul’s murderous attack was demonically inspired. See 1 Samuel 19:9. Christian believers today should not assume they are immune from demonic attack. Peter gives us this warning, “Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour” (1 Peter 5:8). Fortunately, we have a fortress. God is that secure fortress to whom we can flee in our time of need. Hallelujah!
Response: LORD God, when I am under attack, you are my help and defender. I run to you. Surround me and protect me by the blood of Christ. Amen.
Your Turn: Do you need the safety of God your fortress today?
This week’s I Love the Psalms theme is the word fortress.
Much of Canada has been caught up in the drama of the mass evacuation of Fort McMurray, Alberta. More than 80,000 people were forced to flee as a forest fire swept into the city destroying thousands of homes.
For many of us our home is our fortress—our place of safety and renewal. When that safe zone is destroyed, what can we do? Today’s verse from the Psalms provides an answer.
But for many in Fort McMurray, a terrible disaster did strike their home. What can these people do?
The truth of God’s word still stands firm though external forces rage. When we lose all our material wealth, what remains? Faith remains. The Word of God remains. We can run to Him. The LORD is that fortress that will never be destroyed. Run to Him for safety.
Response: LORD God, the day will come when all will be taken from me. In that day let me be found safe within your fortress. I put my faith in you. You stand firm forever. Amen.
Your Turn: Do you have a fortress to which you can run?