I will praise Him!
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 116
I trusted in the LORD when I said,
“I am greatly afflicted”;
in my alarm I said, “Everyone is a liar.”
What shall I return to the LORD
for all his goodness to me?
I will lift up the cup of salvation
and call on the name of the LORD.
I will fulfill my vows to the LORD
in the presence of all his people (NIV).
Today started a bit different. Rather than beginning my day with a hot cup of coffee, I had a few sips of water and then headed off for some blood tests. I missed that cup of coffee, but in reality going without it was no great hardship. Some view their morning shot of caffeine like a cup of salvation—early morning salvation. Today’s reading from Psalm 116 speaks of the cup of salvation. I’m sure the psalmist wasn’t speaking of his morning cup of java. What was he speaking of?
The psalmist lifts up the cup of salvation and calls on the name of the LORD in response to this question: What shall I return to the LORD for all his goodness to me? The psalmist lifts up his cup as an expression of thanksgiving to the LORD for the salvation he has received from God.
But salvation came at a price. To purchase our salvation, Jesus lifted up a cup and brought it to his lips. It was a cup of unimaginable suffering. In the Garden of Gethsemane he prayed, “Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done” (Luke 22:42). He was referring to the anguish he would endure. In the hours that followed, Jesus drained that cup of suffering dry, even as his body was drained of blood on a cruel Roman cross.
In the great plan of redemption, Jesus’ cup of suffering became for us a cup of salvation. He drank it down to save us from the cruel consequences of our sin. Jesus assumed the full penalty of our disobedience, rebellion and devious ways. But now by faith, we can become active recipients of the salvation that he won on our behalf.
The next time you bring the communion cup to your lips you are remembering—acknowledging in a tangible way—that Jesus’ blood was shed for you. Salvation came through a cup of suffering. We can rejoice in that truth because early on a Sunday morning Jesus’ dead body was jolted back to life. He was resurrected by the power of the Father, and one day the body of every believer will be resurrected too. In that moment we will experience the fullness of our salvation.
Tomorrow morning, I’ll return to my usual routine and I’ll enjoy my hot cup of coffee. But the cup I savour most is the cup the Lord provides—the cup of salvation.
Response: Lord Jesus, I thank you for your sacrifice. You gave yourself fully for me. On a crude wooden cross you purchased my salvation. Today, help me fulfill my vows to the LORD. Amen.
Your Turn: Which cup do you appreciate most? How can you show your appreciation?
Reading: Psalm 114
When Israel came out of Egypt,
Jacob from a people of foreign tongue,
Judah became God’s sanctuary,
Israel his dominion.
The sea looked and fled,
the Jordan turned back;
the mountains leaped like rams,
the hills like lambs.
Why was it, sea, that you fled?
Why, Jordan, did you turn back?
Why, mountains, did you leap like rams,
you hills, like lambs?
Tremble, earth, at the presence of the Lord,
at the presence of the God of Jacob,
who turned the rock into a pool,
the hard rock into springs of water (NIV).
“Why?” A four-year-old’s favourite question is, “Why?” Here in Psalm 114, the psalmist has some why questions as well. “Why did the sea flee? Why did the Jordan River turn back? Why did those mountains and hills seem to skip and dance? Why?”
The answer of course is because of the jaw-dropping, eye-popping, heart-stopping power of God. God caused the sea to flee. He caused the Jordan to turn back. He caused mountains and hills to skip about and frolic like yearling lambs set free from the stall. What an awesome display! What an awesome God!
Psalm 114 is all about the overwhelming power of God. It is a grand portrayal of the pivotal event in the Old Testament Scriptures. Here within a few short verses we catch a panoramic view of God’s might on display, starting with Israel’s escape from Egypt, to their arrival in the Promised Land.
Why did the miracle-working LORD make the sea flee? Was it simply to display His awe-inducing power? Was it simply to create excitement among the million or more mortals, who were eyewitnesses to this divine wonder? In the Exodus account, the reason for this miraculous intervention is stated clearly: That day the LORD saved Israel from the hand of the Egyptians, and Israel saw the Egyptians lying dead on the shore. And when the Israelites saw the great power of the LORD displayed against the Egyptians, the people feared the LORD and put their trust in him and in Moses his servant (Exodus 14:30-31).
This power display had one primary purpose. That purpose was salvation. The LORD wanted to save people—His covenant people—from the vicious clutches of oppression and a tyranny. In short, the LORD works wonders so that He can save people—so He can bring them into His Kingdom—so they can escape the sin systems of this world, and come under His loving rule.
Response: Father God, thank you for going all out to save me through the death and resurrection of your Son, Jesus. What a display of your love and power! Help me to love, fear and trust you. Amen.
Your Turn: Why did God save you? Is there a reason for His mercy?
Reading: Psalm 105
He called down famine on the land
and destroyed all their supplies of food;
and he sent a man before them—
Joseph, sold as a slave.
They bruised his feet with shackles,
his neck was put in irons,
till what he foretold came to pass,
till the word of the LORD proved him true.
The king sent and released him,
the ruler of peoples set him free.
He made him master of his household,
ruler over all he possessed,
to instruct his princes as he pleased
and teach his elders wisdom (NIV).
Here is a question for you. Is bad news always bad news, or is it good news in disguise?
Sometimes what initially appears to be a very bad change of circumstances can over time turn out for the better. The story of the patriarch, Joseph, illustrates this truth perfectly. No one would be foolish enough to call Joseph’s betrayal by his brothers a good news event. Being sold as a foreign slave in Egypt was in many respects a death sentence. How could something good or meaningful come from the life of an obscure young slave?
But that obscure young slave rose above his circumstances and changed the course of nations. His faith and actions more than three millennia ago still have ramifications for us today. How would Egypt have survived seven years of famine without the foresight and wisdom of Joseph? Would there be a Jewish nation today without the guiding hand of Joseph, who was strategically positioned at such a critical time in history?
What began as a bad news story, turned into the salvation of a nation. Joseph told his brothers, “You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives” (Genesis 50:20).
Sometimes I wonder what thoughts, hopes and dreams sustained Joseph during his darkest hours. God most certainly was with him. He did not go down to Egypt alone. When we receive bad news, is it always genuinely bad? If God is with us in the hard times, great good may yet come from our most negative experiences. He is a redemptive God who turns darkness to light, mourning to gladness, and curses into blessings. Surely, this is why St. Paul admonishes us with these words: give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus (1 Thessalonians 5:18).
Response: Father God, when bad news comes give me a thankful heart and a right perspective. Your ways are higher than mine. You know the end before the beginning starts. I choose to trust you. Amen.
Your Turn: Over time has the Lord turned bad news into good news for you?
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?
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 91
If you say, “The LORD is my refuge,”
and you make the Most High your dwelling,
no harm will overtake you,
no disaster will come near your tent.
For he will command his angels concerning you
to guard you in all your ways;
they will lift you up in their hands,
so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.
You will tread on the lion and the cobra;
you will trample the great lion and the serpent.
“Because he loves me,” says the LORD, “I will rescue him;
I will protect him, for he acknowledges my name.
He will call on me, and I will answer him;
I will be with him in trouble,
I will deliver him and honor him.
With long life I will satisfy him
and show him my salvation” (NIV).
Let’s be honest. We all want it. We all want satisfaction. For our sex-obsessed society that can only mean one thing, but in reality personal satisfaction encompasses so many facets of life. I want a satisfying meal when I sit down to dinner this evening. I want satisfactory service at the restaurant, at the auto repair shop and on the plane that I’m catching tomorrow. Above all else I want a satisfying life.
This may come as a surprise to many people, but the simple truth is God wants to give you a satisfying life. Here is the long list of promises that the LORD promises to undertake on your behalf. “Because he loves me,” says the LORD, “I will rescue him; I will protect him, for he acknowledges my name. He will call on me, and I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble, I will deliver him and honor him. With long life I will satisfy him and show him my salvation”
In summary, we will be protected and rescued. Our prayers will be answered. We will know God’s presence in times of trouble. And just imagine this; the LORD will honor us. Consider for a moment the implications of that. Furthermore, we are promised eternal salvation, and in the here and now, we will have a long and satisfying life.
That sounds like an amazing offer and it truly is. But there are two conditions attached. We need to say, “The LORD is my refuge.” In other word we need to confess our dependence on God, and then we must make the Most High our dwelling. We need to live in God, not our own little world, but rather His world with our minds and hearts set on Him. That will take a decision that is renewed daily. Are you ready for that kind of commitment? Are you ready for that kind of satisfaction?
Response: LORD, you are such a good God. I don’t deserve your goodness and love and yet you continually pour out your blessings. I love you, LORD. I want to dwell in you now and always. Amen.
Your Turn: What do you think it means to dwell in God?