Today’s verse from the Psalms.
Lord God, I thank you for your saving help.
Jesus, I give you praise.
Reading: Psalm 59
God will go before me
and will let me gloat over those who slander me.
But do not kill them, Lord our shield,
or my people will forget.
In your might uproot them and bring them down.
For the sins of their mouths, for the words of their lips,
let them be caught in their pride.
For the curses and lies they utter,
consume them in your wrath,
consume them till they are no more.
Then it will be known to the ends of the earth
that God rules over Jacob.
They return at evening, snarling like dogs,
and prowl about the city.
They wander about for food
and howl if not satisfied.
But I will sing of your strength,
in the morning I will sing of your love;
for you are my fortress, my refuge in times of trouble.
You are my strength, I sing praise to you;
you, God, are my fortress, my God on whom I can rely (NIV).*
David began Psalm 59 in great distress, fleeing for his life, and calling out for God’s deliverance. But as is often the case in the Psalms, there is a transition point. What began with desperate pleading on David’s part, ends with confident faith and praise to God for His unfailing help. Apparently, David met with God. The LORD heard his cry and answered him. David makes this assertion, “God will go before me…”
Can you make that assertion too? Have you met with God in prayer? Have you poured out your heart before Him? What is more important, has God answered you? Above all, true prayer is a two-way communication. Have you taken time to listen for His voice? Is He going before you?
There are many who assert that prayer is the answer. That’s nonsense! Prayer is not the answer. God is the answer. What we need is God. We need to hear the Holy Spirit speaking into our spirits when we pray. Prayer is simply a means to connect with God. Prayer is part of the divine equation. But it’s God whom we seek. He is the solution—the eternal amen—the reward at the end of the quest.
David learned how to seek God through prayer, praise and worship. He was taught by God. God will teach us too, if we will take the time to seek Him with all our heart. Then we can say, “You are my strength, I sing praise to you; you, God, are my fortress, my God on whom I can rely.”
Response: LORD God, teach me to pray like David prayed. Give me ears to hear your voice when I come before you. Direct my thoughts into the path you have chosen for me. Amen.
Your Turn: Has God spoken to you at various times?
Some good news: The first volume of 365 Days through the Psalms by award-winning author David Kitz will be published in November, 2020, by Elk Lake Publishing. Two additional volumes will follow in 2021 to complete the three volume set of devotions from the Psalms.
Reading: Psalm 34
Taste and see that the LORD is good;
blessed is the one who takes refuge in him.
Fear the LORD, you his holy people,
for those who fear him lack nothing.
The lions may grow weak and hungry,
but those who seek the LORD lack no good thing.
Come, my children, listen to me;
I will teach you the fear of the LORD.
Whoever of you loves life
and desires to see many good days,
keep your tongue from evil
and your lips from telling lies.
Turn from evil and do good;
seek peace and pursue it (NIV).*
What a strange command! David begins this portion of Psalm 34 by urging us to “Taste and see that the LORD is good.”
One can logically argue that of the five senses taste is the most intimate. I can see, hear, and even smell someone at a distance. Touch of course requires direct contact, but to taste someone or something, I must take it or them into my mouth. That’s intimate.
How then do I, “Taste and see that the LORD is good?” If I can’t see, hear, smell or touch the LORD, how can I possibly taste Him? David goes on to state, “Blessed is the one who takes refuge in him [the LORD]. Notice David did not say we are blessed if we take refuge with the LORD. We are to take refuge in Him. That requires a higher level of intimacy—a marital kind of intimacy.
Do I taste and see that the LORD is good? Do I take refuge in Him? Do I actively seek God? John Ortberg in his book Know Doubt tells us that C.S. Lewis said that speaking of man’s search for God always sounded to him like speaking of the mouse’s search for the cat. The mouse hides from the cat because he fears the cat may require his life. We avoid God for the same reason. If you find God, He may ask for your life. Are you willing to give it up to Him?
But Jesus was willing to give his life for you. He willingly suffered, bled and died on a cross so that you might have eternal life. The big cat—the Lion of the Tribe of Judah—lay down his life for the mouse, even a mangy mouse like me. That’s real love. Now Jesus invites us to come and dine. Jesus said, “Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise them up at the last day. For my flesh is real food and my blood is real drink. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me, and I in them” (John 6:54-56).
Response: Heavenly Father, thank you for sending Jesus. Thank you, Jesus for laying down your life for me. Through the sacrifice of your body and blood I can truly taste and see that the LORD is good. Amen.
Your Turn: Do you seek God or avoid Him? Why?
Reading: Psalm 32
Therefore let everyone who is godly pray to you,
while you may be found;
surely when the mighty waters rise,
they will not reach him.
You are my hiding place;
you will protect me from trouble
and surround me with songs of deliverance (NIV).*
In the previous stanza of this psalm, David received the amazing dam-busting forgiveness of God. He has just experienced a wonderful release from a load of guilt. But now in his next breath he has some advice for us, and here it is. Therefore let everyone who is godly pray to you, while you may be found.
We are to pray to God while He may be found. This raises some interesting questions. Is God unavailable at times? If God cannot be found, is He hiding? Furthermore, if God is hiding, where does He hide?
At this point I feel like jumping to my feet, like a lawyer pleading a case in the court of reason, and shouting out, “I object! All that David has told us about God so far would lead us to believe that God is always close at hand. Didn’t David testify to this earlier in Psalm twenty-three? He said the following words about the LORD his shepherd: Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me. And now it seems David is telling us that there are times when God cannot be found. Which is it David? It can’t be both.”
Ah, but it is both. This is one of those great divine paradoxes. The God, who is near, even in my heart, can also be distant—light years away, both in time and space. There exists a perceived distance between us that can vary according to the state of my heart—according to the state of my relationship with God.
The fact remains that we cannot see God though we see evidence of His handiwork all around us. Our infinitely complex human bodies and finely tuned senses are themselves proof of His existence, yet Him we cannot see. He is a hidden God, and when we walk beside Him, we walk by faith and not by sight.
Repeatedly in the scriptures we are commanded to seek after the LORD. I find this to be a rather curious expression. We cannot see God, and yet we are commanded to seek Him, as though He might suddenly appear over the next hill, or around the next bend in the road. Suddenly, in unexpected ways, we may encounter God.
In reality the Psalms are all about encounters with God. Psalm nineteen began that way. Suddenly the starry hosts began talking to David about God, declaring His glory. We may pick up the Bible, and suddenly it speaks to our deepest need—the need of the moment, and we know that this is the voice of God with a word specifically for us today. Even the ungodly people of this world recognize that people encounter God. They use expressions like, “He found God,” to describe someone’s conversion to faith in Christ. The LORD invites us to play the most amazing game: Hide ‘n’ seek with God.
Response: LORD God, I want to seek after you. Show yourself to me today in this grand adventure called life. I want to have an encounter with you. I want to know what it means to be found by you. Amen.
Your Turn: Have you had a recent encounter with God? Do you sense His nearness or distance?
Reading: Psalm 14
For the director of music. Of David.
The fool says in his heart, “There is no God.”
They are corrupt, their deeds are vile;
there is no one who does good.
The LORD looks down from heaven on all mankind
to see if there are any who understand, any who seek God.
All have turned away, all have become corrupt;
there is no one who does good, not even one.
Do all these evildoers know nothing?
They devour my people as though eating bread;
they never call on the LORD.
But there they are, overwhelmed with dread,
for God is present in the company of the righteous.
You evildoers frustrate the plans of the poor,
but the LORD is their refuge.
Oh, that salvation for Israel would come out of Zion!
When the LORD restores his people,
let Jacob rejoice and Israel be glad! (NIV)*
Apparently, atheism is not a modern phenomenon. Three thousand years ago in David’s time, there were people who said in their heart, “There is no God.” Atheism has a long and ignoble pedigree. I say ignoble because as David observes, it is the fool who says, “There is no God.”
There is a footnote in my Bible indicating that the word translated in this psalm as fool denotes someone who is morally deficient. David goes on to describe this moral deficiency. He uses the words corrupt and vile. In fact there is a complete absence of anything good. But this isn’t just David’s indictment against a few errant atheists; this is the LORD’s view of all mankind. All have turned away, all have become corrupt; there is no one who does good, not even one. In the New Testament, Paul the Apostle quotes from this psalm in his epistle to the Romans as he outlines the depravity of humanity.
Is there a link between unbelief and the sinful state of the human soul? Does sin breed unbelief? There is ample biblical and anecdotal evidence that it does. When Adam and Eve sinned, in an instant, they turned from God seekers to God avoiders. Add a little more sin, and it’s only a short step for a God avoider to become a God denier.
We deny the existence of God to avoid accountability for our sin. We foolishly assume since we can’t see God, He can’t see us and our misdeeds. Better yet, why not pretend that God doesn’t exist? Then we are at liberty to sin as much as we please without fear of God’s judgment. That sounds like morally deficient reasoning to me. The fool fools only himself.
Response: Father, I want to seek you always, especially when I sin. That’s when I need you most. You have the remedy for my sin—the blood of Jesus. You forgive me and clean me up. Amen.
Your Turn: Does sinful conduct affect or infect your belief system? How does sin cloud our reasoning?
Reading: Psalm 10
Why, LORD, do you stand far off?
Why do you hide yourself in times of trouble?
In his arrogance the wicked man hunts down the weak,
who are caught in the schemes he devises.
He boasts about the cravings of his heart;
he blesses the greedy and reviles the LORD.
In his pride the wicked man does not seek him;
in all his thoughts there is no room for God (NIV).
When I wrote these thoughts on Psalm 10, outside my window snow was drifting down and appropriate or not, my mind returned to our not-so-long-ago rendezvous with Christmas. Ah, Christmas! I love the significance of the season—time spent with family and thoughts of a babe–our Savior–in a manger.
But for many what a mangled wreck—what a gross distortion—this celebration of Christ’s birth has become. For millions of people, this commercial bonanza is completely devoid of any spiritual meaning. It is nothing more than a buying and selling frenzy—a pursuit of trinkets signifying nothing—nothing of eternal value.
In this psalm we see the deceptive signs—the misdirected signs of that season. Through clever advertising and marketing schemes we too were hunted down by the top-level merchandisers of this world. Perhaps you were caught in the schemes they devised. Rather than being a season where we seek the LORD, we too can fall into a trap. We can find ourselves boasting about the cravings of our heart. As the Psalmist says, we bless the greedy and in so doing, we revile the LORD.
The words of the Psalmist ring true, “In his pride the wicked man does not seek him; in all his thoughts there is no room for God.”
No room for God… in today’s world? In a perverse way it seems rather appropriate. There was no room for God in Bethlehem on the night Jesus was born. No room for God… no room for the Maker and Savior of the universe! That sounds insane, but then it seems we live in a world gone mad.
For you and me, it doesn’t have to be that way. While there was no room for God incarnate in Bethlehem, the magi were busy seeking Him. They were hungry to know more about this Redeemer of Israel and they crossed deserts to reach Him. They came to bow down and worship that babe in a manger.
Regardless of the season, or the season of our lives, you and I can set our hearts to be God seekers. In this season of testing, let’s set our hearts to seek after the LORD.
Response: Jesus, I seek after you. Open my eyes to see you at work today. You are not distant from me in time or space. Show up in my world today. I wait expectantly for you. Amen.
Your Turn: Have you seen Jesus in others? How can you seek God throughout the week? What would seeking God look like for you?