I will praise the LORD!
Reading: Psalm 119
How can a young person stay on the path of purity?
By living according to your word.
I seek you with all my heart;
do not let me stray from your commands.
I have hidden your word in my heart
that I might not sin against you.
Praise be to you, LORD;
teach me your decrees.
With my lips I recount
all the laws that come from your mouth.
I rejoice in following your statutes
as one rejoices in great riches.
I meditate on your precepts
and consider your ways.
I delight in your decrees;
I will not neglect your word (NIV).
In the age of the internet and one-click-away pornographic websites, the opening question in today’s reading from Psalm 119 has never been more salient. How can a young person stay on the path of purity?
Why would a young man want to keep his way pure? Why not chase every skirt in town? Why not have some fun? Why not eat, drink and be merry? We only pass through this life once. Why not live it up?
But if the God of the universe has called men and women into relationship with Him, then purity and holiness are at the very core of that relationship. If we are called to be with God—to dwell in harmony with Him—then we must embrace holiness. To embrace God is to embrace holiness. Those sin spots have got to go. If we are to walk with God, we must willingly walk away from mind and soul-fouling sin.
The writer of the Book of Hebrews urges on the young faith runners with these words: Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God (Hebrews 12:1-2, NIV).
In a world awash in pornography, we all need fixed eyes—eyes fixed on Jesus—eyes that see the cross— eyes that see the blood-drenched cross. Purity comes at a price. It cost the heavenly Father the life of His very own Son. A young man named Jesus—in flesh like my own—in skin like my own—poured out his life’s blood to make me pure. Fix your eyes on Him!
Response: LORD, I want to live my life according to your word. I seek you with all my heart; do not let me stray from your commands. I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you. Amen.
Your Turn: Do you struggle with impure thoughts? Are you neglecting God’s word? How can we overcome?
Reading: Psalm 106
We have sinned, even as our ancestors did;
we have done wrong and acted wickedly.
When our ancestors were in Egypt,
they gave no thought to your miracles;
they did not remember your many kindnesses,
and they rebelled by the sea, the Red Sea.
Yet he saved them for his name’s sake,
to make his mighty power known.
He rebuked the Red Sea, and it dried up;
he led them through the depths as through a desert.
He saved them from the hand of the foe;
from the hand of the enemy he redeemed them.
The waters covered their adversaries;
not one of them survived.
Then they believed his promises and sang his praise.
But they soon forgot what he had done
and did not wait for his plan to unfold.
In the desert they gave in to their craving;
in the wilderness they put God to the test.
So he gave them what they asked for,
but sent a wasting disease among them (NIV).
Psalm 106 begins with the psalmist pleading for God’s favor. He longs to be included among the blessed, who are saved and numbered among the LORD’s chosen ones. But in today’s reading we discovered the terrible truth. Sinful conduct has been rampant among God’s people; therefore, the psalmist makes this confession. We have sinned, even as our ancestors did; we have done wrong and acted wickedly.
As this psalm progresses, the psalmist catalogs an ever growing list of transgressions. But what sets this downward progression into motion is a bout of forgetfulness. The psalmist laments, they did not remember your many kindnesses, and they rebelled by the sea, the Red Sea. Later he comments: But they soon forgot what he had done and did not wait for his plan to unfold.
Usually we do not consider forgetfulness to be a sin. But there is such a thing as willful forgetfulness. We remember those things we consider important. We forget the trivial—those things we consider of little significance. The redeemed people of Israel experienced the wonder-working power of God, yet they treated these events as though they were of little significance. They failed to grasp the paramount significance of these events and as result they stumbled into grumbling and disobedience. Do we grasp the significance of God’s interaction with us? The great Creator reaches out to us. There’s nothing insignificant in that. These are the high points in our sojourn through this life.
Response: Father God, I want to treasure the experiences I have with you. Each one is significant as you guide me in your way. Help me be attentive to your voice, your word and your Spirit. Amen.
Your Turn: Have you been guilty of forgetting those times when God has spoken to you?
Reading: Psalm 78
But they put God to the test
and rebelled against the Most High;
they did not keep his statutes.
Like their ancestors they were disloyal and faithless,
as unreliable as a faulty bow.
They angered him with their high places;
they aroused his jealousy with their idols.
When God heard them, he was furious;
he rejected Israel completely.
He abandoned the tabernacle of Shiloh,
the tent he had set up among humans.
He sent the ark of his might into captivity,
his splendor into the hands of the enemy.
He gave his people over to the sword;
he was furious with his inheritance.
Fire consumed their young men,
and their young women had no wedding songs;
their priests were put to the sword,
and their widows could not weep (NIV).
Sin has consequences. We can pretend it isn’t so, but we’re fooling ourselves. Unchecked sin on a personal level can have devastating consequences—consequences that lead to heartache and an early grave. I think we all know individuals who became trapped in sin and wandered down a self-destructive path.
Today’s reading from Psalm 78 reminds us that a whole nation can abandon God and become mired in the consequences of sin. The nation of Israel did just that. The psalmist tells us they were disloyal and faithless, as unreliable as a faulty bow.
When Israel abandoned God, He in turn abandoned them. We read, “He rejected Israel completely. He abandoned the tabernacle of Shiloh, the tent he had set up among humans. He sent the ark of his might into captivity, his splendor into the hands of the enemy. He gave his people over to the sword; he was furious with his inheritance.”
Has God changed? If the LORD abandoned His people in ancient times, will He treat our nation—any nation that turns away from Him differently today? There are consequences for sin and that truth applies to nations too. When collectively we abandon the ways of God and the precepts He has established from the foundations of the world, we can expect dire days ahead. That’s what happened to ancient Israel, and it can happen to us today as well.
Response: LORD God, collectively as a nation, we have wandered away from you. LORD in your mercy lead us back to the center of your holy will. Give us repentant hearts that seek your face. Amen.
Your Turn: Are you concerned about the spiritual state of your nation? What are you doing about it?
Reading: Psalm 78
In spite of all this, they kept on sinning;
in spite of his wonders, they did not believe.
So he ended their days in futility
and their years in terror.
Whenever God slew them, they would seek him;
they eagerly turned to him again.
They remembered that God was their Rock,
that God Most High was their Redeemer.
But then they would flatter him with their mouths,
lying to him with their tongues;
their hearts were not loyal to him,
they were not faithful to his covenant.
Yet he was merciful;
he forgave their iniquities
and did not destroy them.
Time after time he restrained his anger
and did not stir up his full wrath.
He remembered that they were but flesh,
a passing breeze that does not return (NIV).
Psalm 78 is a lengthy indictment against the people of Israel for their unfaithfulness to the LORD. Sometimes it’s easy to forget that these were the people of God—His chosen people—yet they responded with lies, unbelief and disloyalty. If this is how the people of God conduct themselves, what are we to expect from those who do not know the LORD?
Unfortunately, the people of God today are not so different from the people of Israel 3,000 years ago. When we look about the church world, we see a plenty of division, backbiting and sin. All too often hate rules instead of love. We cover ourselves with a fig leaf of self-righteousness and then proceed to attack those who fail to meet our standard. We do all this while we are trapped in our own secret web of sin. We are determined to clean up the world while ignoring our personal pile of filth.
The words of Jesus from his Sermon on the Mount still ring true today, “How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye” (Matthew 7:4-5).
But given this deplorable state of affairs, what does the LORD do? The psalmist states, “Yet he was merciful; he forgave their iniquities and did not destroy them.” Like the people of ancient Israel, we are saved not because of our righteousness, but solely because of God’s mercy and grace.
Response: LORD God, I cannot boast because of my righteousness. You know all my shortcomings. I have an impressive pile of personal sin. Forgive me through the mercy of your son, Jesus. Amen.
Your Turn: Have you been guilty of pointing out the faults of others while ignoring your own?
Reading: Psalm 51
For the director of music. A psalm of David.
When the prophet Nathan came to him after
David had committed adultery with Bathsheba.
Have mercy on me, O God, according to your unfailing love;
according to your great compassion blot out my transgressions.
Wash away all my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin.
For I know my transgressions,
and my sin is always before me.
Against you, you only, have I sinned
and done what is evil in your sight;
so you are right in your verdict and justified when you judge.
Surely I was sinful at birth,
sinful from the time my mother conceived me.
Yet you desired faithfulness even in the womb;
you taught me wisdom in that secret place.
Cleanse me with hyssop, and I will be clean;
wash me, and I will be whiter than snow.
Let me hear joy and gladness;
let the bones you have crushed rejoice.
Hide your face from my sins and blot out all my iniquity (NIV).
Psalm 51 is the great repentance psalm. Nothing matches the deep contrition expressed here by David. There can be little doubt that David was truly remorseful for what he had done. He says it with words, but according to the Scriptures, his actions which followed also revealed a repentant heart. There is no blame shifting here; David takes full responsibility for his actions. Hear his humble plea: For I know my transgressions and my sin is always before me. Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight; so you are right in your verdict and justified when you judge.
When Saul and Jonathan were slain in battle by the Philistines, David composed this lament. “Your glory, O Israel, lies slain upon your high places! How the mighty have fallen!” (2 Samuel 1:19 NRSV). David might well have sung this lament for himself. Here he was the vaunted King of Israel, the LORD’s anointed, and he had a fellow soldier murdered to cover up the adulterous affair he was having with this loyal soldier’s wife. This was the conduct of David—the man of God! Yes. “How the mighty have fallen!”
The amazing part of this story is not David’s sin or the depths of his depravity. The amazing part is that he repented—earnestly repented. In our day leader after leader has been caught red-handed in unscrupulous practices. But do they repent? Do they come clean and change their ways? Not likely. Most often they continue in denial. Those with absolute power continue to govern ruthlessly. Nathan, the prophet, was fortunate that King David heard the voice of God speaking through a human vessel. David was quick to humble himself and repent. How do you respond when confronted with your sin?
Response: LORD God, I want to be like David—quick to acknowledge my sin and repent. Grant me a soft heart—a sensitive heart—a repentant heart in Jesus’ name. Amen.
Your Turn: How can we maintain a repentant heart before God? What hinders repentance?
Reading: Psalm 38
For I am about to fall,
and my pain is ever with me.
I confess my iniquity;
I am troubled by my sin.
Many have become my enemies without cause;
those who hate me without reason are numerous.
Those who repay my good with evil
lodge accusations against me,
though I seek only to do what is good.
LORD, do not forsake me;
do not be far from me, my God.
Come quickly to help me,
my Lord and my Savior (NIV).
Today’s reading is the concluding portion of Psalm 38. As noted previously, this entire psalm is a lament over sin, and the trouble and affliction it has brought into David’s life. Rather than blaming others or blaming God, David takes responsibility for his self-inflicted difficulties. In anguish of spirit he cries out, “I confess my iniquity; I am troubled by my sin.”
Are you troubled by your sin, or do you revel in it? Have the consequences of sin started to bite. The writer of the Book of Hebrews tells us that Moses “chose to be mistreated along with the people of God rather than to enjoy the fleeting pleasures of sin” (Hebrews 11:25). There are pleasures in sin for a season, but the long term consequences are pain and death. It would appear from a full reading of this psalm that David is suffering some of the consequences of his misguided sin.
But David has the correct response. He confesses his sin and throws himself upon the mercies of God. Hear his humble plea, “LORD, do not forsake me; do not be far from me, my God. Come quickly to help me, my Lord and my Savior.”
God’s ears are always open to that kind of prayer. We may believe that we have fallen too far –that our sin is too great –that we have sunk too low. But God hears our cry and His grace is sufficient. His mercy knows no bounds. The blood of Christ flows to the lowest valley. He can cleanse the vilest heart, if we call out to Him.
Repentance is a wonderful gift, perhaps the greatest gift of all. At various times in his life David fell into the grip of sin. But David knew how to repent and as a result he found favor in the eyes of God. Discover the gift of repentance today. It’s more than feeling sorry for yourself. It’s a 180-degree turn from pursuing sin to pursuing God.
Response: LORD God, grant me the gift of repentance. I am thankful that Jesus died on the cross to wash me clean. Hallelujah! I want to pursue you, Lord. You are my help and my righteousness. My salvation comes from you. Amen.
Your Turn: Are you troubled by sin? Have you found a remedy?
Reading: Psalm 38
A psalm of David. A petition.
LORD, do not rebuke me in your anger
or discipline me in your wrath.
Your arrows have pierced me,
and your hand has come down on me.
Because of your wrath there is no health in my body;
there is no soundness in my bones because of my sin.
My guilt has overwhelmed me
like a burden too heavy to bear.
My wounds fester and are loathsome
because of my sinful folly.
I am bowed down and brought very low;
all day long I go about mourning.
My back is filled with searing pain;
there is no health in my body.
I am feeble and utterly crushed;
I groan in anguish of heart (NIV).
Psalm 38 is a psalm of personal lamentation. The psalmist, David, laments the state of his personal and spiritual health. Notes of joy and triumph are absent from this psalm; instead we find David in a state of deep melancholy.
What is the cause of this melancholy—this depression verging on despair? David attributes his current ill health to sin. He has sinned and is bearing the consequences of his sin. His words of confession make this perfectly clear. Because of your wrath there is no health in my body; there is no soundness in my bones because of my sin. My guilt has overwhelmed me like a burden too heavy to bear.
What a refreshingly different approach to one’s problems! Rather than blaming others or blaming God, David takes responsibility for his self-inflicted difficulties. How different from the pop-psychology of today! Rather than deal with the sin issue we are often advised to pop a pill, blame a parent, a colleague or society in general. Rather than take our problems to God the world encourages us to indulge ourselves with another bottle, another doughnut or another spouse, meanwhile, our putrid load of sin piles ever higher.
David was on the right track when he confessed his sin to the LORD. He laments, “My wounds fester and are loathsome because of my sinful folly.”
Thanks be to God! He can handle our sinful folly. He sent Jesus to die on the cross to wipe away our sins. Healing, forgiveness and redemption are available through the blood Jesus shed.
Response: LORD God, I thank you for Jesus. I am thankful that I can put my complete trust in you. You forgive me and cleanse me from all my sins. I am saved by your amazing grace not by my effort. Amen.
Your Turn: When was the last time you truly lamented over sin in your life?
Reading: Psalm 37
The wicked plot against the righteous
and gnash their teeth at them;
but the LORD laughs at the wicked,
for he knows their day is coming.
The wicked draw the sword
and bend the bow
to bring down the poor and needy,
to slay those whose ways are upright.
But their swords will pierce their own hearts,
and their bows will be broken.
Better the little that the righteous have
than the wealth of many wicked;
for the power of the wicked will be broken,
but the LORD upholds the righteous (NIV).
As stated in my first post on Psalm 37, this psalm is a stark night and day comparison of the life of the evil person with the life of the individual who does right in God’s eyes. The contrast is profound.
I cannot read the passage above without thinking of the evil that is loose in the world today. Here in Canada in recent years, we had the trial of Luka Magnotta for his slaying of Jun Lin, a Chinese born university student. Magnotta posted his killing of Lin with an icepick on YouTube. After dismembering his body Magnotta mailed various body parts to schools and political party headquarters.
In Iraq and Syria, ISIS militants defiantly beheaded journalists and international aid workers in a cowardly display of their depravity. Any who hold different religious views have been executed, their women raped, their children enslaved. It appears we live in a wicked world where hatred and evil are trumpeted as worthy pursuits—pursuits that attract adoring young fanatics.
The opening line of this psalm posting is as true today as when it was written three thousand years ago. The wicked plot against the righteous and gnash their teeth at them… The wicked draw the sword and bend the bow to bring down the poor and needy, to slay those whose ways are upright.
The sin process is still at work in the hearts of men. When tempted, no one should say, “God is tempting me.” For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone; but each person is tempted when they are dragged away by their own evil desire and enticed. Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death (James 1:13-15).
But thanks be to God! We have this promise: for the power of the wicked will be broken, but the LORD upholds the righteous. God will uphold us as we put our trust in Him.
Response: LORD God, you are my upholder—my help in evil times, in times of trouble. I put my trust in you. Hold me in the palm of your hand. I pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.
Your Turn: How do you fight evil? Where does it start? We must examine our hearts.
Reading: Psalm 36
For the director of music. Of David the servant of the LORD.
I have a message from God in my heart
concerning the sinfulness of the wicked:
There is no fear of God
before their eyes.
In their own eyes they flatter themselves
too much to detect or hate their sin.
The words of their mouths are wicked and deceitful;
they fail to act wisely or do good.
Even on their beds they plot evil;
they commit themselves to a sinful course
and do not reject what is wrong (NIV).
Psalm 36 is a psalm of contrasts. David compares the wickedness of man with the amazing goodness of God. This opening portion of the Psalm 36 touches only on the depravity of man. The picture we see of ourselves is not particularly flattering.
According to David the problem begins with our eyes. He states, “There is no fear of God before their eyes. In their own eyes they flatter themselves too much to detect or hate their sin.”
The sinful person has a vision problem. He cannot see the dire consequences of his sin. Sin exacts a terrible price. Consider the lives wrecked by addiction to alcohol, drugs or pornography. Furthermore, the damage is not limited to those caught in the terrible grip of sin. It overflows and contaminates all those around. Sin blinds the eyes so we cannot see the suffering we are causing to ourselves and others.
Over time, even so called “small” sins can exact a heavy toll on our lives. Often in subtle ways sin robs us of intimacy, peace and joy. While we are blind to the problem, sin interferes with our relationship with God and those who are near to us. Daily, one should be asking oneself, do I have the right view of myself. In my mind am I flattering myself too much to detect or hate my sin? Have I become blind to my faults—faults that may be obvious to others?
There is a biblical prescription for the blindness caused by our sinful condition. The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom; all who follow his precepts have good understanding (Psalm 111:10). The fear of the LORD opens our eyes. The fear of the LORD leads to repentance and the fear of the LORD enlightens our understanding.
What is keeping you from intimacy, joy and peace? Is it a plethora of secret sins that blind and bind you into unhealthy patterns of thinking? Ask God to give you a right view—an unflattering view of yourself—so that with His help you can change.
Response: LORD God, help me to see a true picture of myself. If I see sin in my life, help me to change. Grant me the gift of repentance through Jesus, who loved me to the point of death on a cross. Amen.
Your Turn: In our mind, all of us flatter ourselves. How do you maintain a right picture of yourself?