I will praise the LORD!
Reading: Psalm 104
All creatures look to you
to give them their food at the proper time.
When you give it to them, they gather it up;
when you open your hand, they are satisfied with good things.
When you hide your face, they are terrified;
when you take away their breath, they die and return to the dust.
When you send your Spirit, they are created,
and you renew the face of the ground.
May the glory of the LORD endure forever;
may the LORD rejoice in his works—
he who looks at the earth, and it trembles,
who touches the mountains, and they smoke.
I will sing to the LORD all my life;
I will sing praise to my God as long as I live.
May my meditation be pleasing to him,
as I rejoice in the LORD.
But may sinners vanish from the earth
and the wicked be no more.
Praise the LORD, my soul. Praise the LORD (NIV).
Recently, my wife and I attended the funeral of my brother-in-law, Victor. He was a man of deep faith, who was always active in the church. At no point was he ashamed to call himself a follower of his Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Victor loved his Savior and I am sure his spirit rejoiced to see Jesus face to face.
There is a line from today’s reading from Psalm 104 which is particularly relevant as we think about life and death: when you take away their breath, they die and return to the dust. When you send your Spirit, they are created, and you renew the face of the ground.
In context of this psalm, the author was speaking of all creatures, in other words the animal kingdom, but these words apply to all that breathe the breath of life, including humans. For Victor, who struggled for every breath during the last years of his life, the words of this psalm had true meaning. But the second part of this psalm reading is also pertinent in the context of a funeral: When you send your Spirit, they are created.
I believe in the resurrection of the dead. The grave is not the final end for those who have placed their faith in Christ. A great re-creation will happen. The grave could not hold Jesus, and a day is coming when it will not hold Victor, or any who have died in the faith. For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first (1 Thessalonians 4:16).
Response: Father God, send your reviving Spirit. Come, Lord Jesus. I long for your return. Amen.
Your Turn: Do you believe in the resurrection of the dead? Who do you long to greet on the other side?
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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 22
I will declare your name to my people;
in the assembly I will praise you.
You who fear the LORD, praise him!
All you descendants of Jacob, honor him!
Revere him, all you descendants of Israel!
For he has not despised or scorned
the suffering of the afflicted one;
he has not hidden his face from him
but has listened to his cry for help.
From you comes the theme of my praise in the great assembly;
before those who fear you I will fulfill my vows.
The poor will eat and be satisfied;
those who seek the LORD will praise him—
may your hearts live forever! (NIV)
In this ongoing discussion of Psalm 22 we hit a critical turning point with yesterday’s scripture reading. The humiliated, pierced and tortured Christ prays, “But you, LORD, do not be far from me. You are my strength; come quickly to help me. Deliver me from the sword, my precious life from the power of the dogs. Rescue me from the mouth of the lions; save me from the horns of the wild oxen” (Psalm 22:19-21).
God the Father answered the prayer of his suffering Son, not immediately, but three days later Jesus arose from the dead. Now he reigns triumphant over death, hell and the grave. The opening words recorded here are the resurrected Christ’s song of triumph: I will declare your name to my people; in the assembly I will praise you. You who fear the LORD, praise him! All you descendants of Jacob, honor him! Revere him, all you descendants of Israel!
And why should we praise the LORD? Here is the answer: For he has not despised or scorned the suffering of the afflicted one; he has not hidden his face from him but has listened to his cry for help.
In the context of this psalm, Christ is the afflict one. The prophet Isaiah declares, “He was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed” (Isaiah 53:5).
Yes, praise Him! We have a Savior who can fully identify with every aspect of our humanity because he was fully human. He suffered just as we suffer and in his body he experience severe loss and pain. God incarnate knows all about the human condition because He lived as a human.
But in all this Jesus is the victor. May your hearts live forever because of Jesus Christ who conquered death and lives now and forever.
Response: Father, thank you for victory over death, hell and the grave through your Son Jesus. By faith his victory becomes my victory. Hallelujah! I praise you my Lord and Savior. Amen.
Your Turn: Does the knowledge of Christ’s suffering help you in times of personal pain or loss?