Poetic Profound Psalms (1-41)

2005-04-21 – “Sing praise”

1 Praise the LORD.
Praise God in his sanctuary;
praise him in his mighty heavens.
2 Praise him for his acts of power;
praise him for his surpassing greatness.
3 Praise him with the sounding of the trumpet,
praise him with the harp and lyre,
4 praise him with tambourine and dancing,
praise him with the strings and flute,
5 praise him with the clash of cymbals,
praise him with resounding cymbals.
6 Let everything that has breath praise the LORD.
Praise the LORD. Psa150:1-6

For the next couple of days I’ll be reflecting on the Psalms…
Ps.150 is the grand closing crescendo of the Psalms. Here we have the thunderous summation of 150 songs and poems of praise, prayer, lament, celebration, and reflection.

The psalms are a unique part of Scripture. They are not so much God speaking to us as they are us speaking in a Holy Spirit inspired way. The Psalms tell us how we _can_ and _should_ speak to God. The psalms reflect private and corporate sorrow, individual and communal joy and worship, and they take time to look at the work of God in the incredible world we live in.

They are an awesome opportunity to enter into a range of expression and articulation in our relationship with God that we would not venture into on our own…

Take this Psalm as an example: After 149 psalms of experiencing and relating to God, the worshippers are encouraged to “give it stick.” The variety of instruments recorded there say one thing and one thing only – worship should be expressive, expansive, awesome, and amazing.

When the Pharisees tried to silence the crowds at the triumphal entry, Jesus replied “If they keep quiet, the stones will cry out!” Psalm 150 says: “You betcha!”

2005-04-22 – “Ps.1 Stand, Walk, Sit”

1 Blessed is the man
who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked
or stand in the way of sinners
or sit in the seat of mockers.
2 But his delight is in the law of the LORD,
and on his law he meditates day and night.
3 He is like a tree planted by streams of water,
which yields its fruit in season
and whose leaf does not wither.
Whatever he does prospers. Psa1:1-3

Psalm 1 has a task that is as daunting as that of Ps.150. The latter had to conclude and summarise 149 genuine interactions with God. The former’s task is to act as an introduction to this book of ‘conversations with God.’

The psalm is a wisdom psalm which means that its focus is to reflect on how we speak to God with our whole lives. It is about dealing with the realities of life in a God-honouring way and this psalm sets the tone for the whole book by showing us how we can interact with God in a practical and meaningful way.

The psalm contrasts the righteous and the wicked. We will only reflect on the righteous person’s character traits. There are three main points:

1. He doesn’t walk, stand, or sit with the wicked, the sinners, or the mockers. There is a lovely visual image here. Sin is progressive: It starts with _wicked_ inclinations, moves to _sinful_ actions, and ends in arrogant _mocking_ defiance of God. The progress of temptation is depicted too. If we _walk_ with the wicked, it is easy to walk away. When we _stand_ in conversation with the sinner, we are starting to be friendly with sin and will find it hard to start walking away. By the time we are _sitting_ down with the defiant God-mocker, we are in serious trouble.
Are you walking, standing, or sitting with a temptation at the moment?

2. In constrast to the stand-walk-sit association with evil. The righteous man’s value system comes from the principles of God’s truth. These truths need to be deeply rooted and reflected on in our lives. Regular reflection on God’s word is the key to this.

3. When we heed the warnings above, then our lives have the potential of being fruit-bearing. We will become secure in our faith and a God-honouring morality and ethic which will lead to us being well-adjusted and well-functioning in life and in relationship with God.

May we be Psalm 1 people.

2005-04-26 – “Perspective: God rules OK!”

1 Why do the nations conspire and the peoples plot in vain?
2 The kings of the earth take their stand and the rulers gather together
against the LORD and against his Anointed One.
3 “Let us break their chains,” they say, “and throw off their fetters.”
4 The One enthroned in heaven laughs; the Lord scoffs at them.
5 Then he rebukes them in his anger and terrifies them in his wrath, saying,
6 “I have installed my King on Zion, my holy hill.”

10 Therefore, you kings, be wise;be warned, you rulers of the earth.
11 Serve the LORD with fear and rejoice with trembling.
12 Kiss the Son, lest he be angry and you be destroyed in your way,
for his wrath can flare up in a moment.
Blessed are all who take refuge in him. Psa2:1-12

I would have expected a different type of Psalm to follow the introduction given by Psalm 1. In fact, a number of scholars see Ps.2 as the second half of the introduction to the Psalms. Maybe it will be most accurate to say that each “style” of Psalm will need to be introduced: There are wisdom psalms, royal psalms, lament psalms, thanksgiving psalms, and public and private versions of all these.

If the Psalms are “Conversations about and with God,” then Ps.1 reminded us that we talk to God with words and with how we live. Ps.2 (a Royal Psalm) is a reminder of _who_ it is that we are talking to.

The background of the psalm is the Coronation of a Jewish King (The “Anointed One” in vs2). In ancient times, a perfect time to hold a coup was at the crowning of a new king. This would cause the maximum chaos and represented the coup for what it was: a complete act of rebellion. The new king had not even had time to succeed or fail when the forces of chaos had already decided to unseat him.

“Why does this happen and what will be done?” asks the Psalmist. It happens because of human arrogance depicted in words like “conspire”, “plot,” “break,” and “throw off.” While God gave us freedom, peace is found in willing submission to Him. When we try to escape His plan and His purpose, chaos ensues.

The picture of God painted in vv.4-6 is an unusual response to humankind’s rebellion: God is so far above and so much more powerful than us that He can laugh at human rebellion. The clear implicaton is that He can squash the rebellious like bugs. Fortunately God’s plan is to establish a kingdom. It began with kings like Saul and David, but they were fallible and mortal. Jesus is the King who is enthroned as God’s King.

When we converse with God, we will find the freedom to “dump our buckets” and express our pain. But it happens in the context of knowing and understanding that we leave our schemes and plans behind and realise that He (not me) is King.

And while this sounds like a powerful God forcefully saying “You _will_ obey, let’s remember that John describes Jesus’ enthronement ceremony as the road up Golgotha to the Cross. Jesus said “When I am lifted up from the earth, I will draw all people unto Me.”

2005-04-28 – “Many foes”

1 O LORD, how many are my foes! How many rise up against me!
2 Many are saying of me, “God will not deliver him.”
3 But you are a shield around me, O LORD;
you bestow glory on me and lift up my head.
4 To the LORD I cry aloud,and he answers me from his holy hill.
5 I lie down and sleep; I wake again, because the LORD sustains me.
6 I will not fear the tens of thousands drawn up against me on every side.
7 Arise, O LORD! Deliver me, O my God!
Strike all my enemies on the jaw; break the teeth of the wicked.
8 From the LORD comes deliverance.
May your blessing be on your people.
Selah Psa3:1-8

This psalm has a little subscript that tells us that David composed this when he had to flee from his son Absalom who betrayed him and tried to take the throne by force. It was a traumatic time for David who really loved his son.

This psalm is a beautiful example of a lament in times of real trouble. It is an expression of “angst” and agony that is powerful in its poetry and in its brevity. In 8 short verses David expresses his pain, his desire for justice, and his hope in God.

One of the things we will have to look at here is the little word “Selah.” This word appears in a number of the Psalms and the scholars have had to scratch their heads to its meaning. Some believe that it is a musical term like the Italian “Fortissimo” or “Allegro” that give us an idea about how the next piece should be played. Others see it as a marker for a moment of silence and reflection or the repetition of the last line. Whatever the final decision is, it boils down to the fact that this word is found in a number of Psalms and that it is there to bring emphasis and to help transition from one part of the Psalm to the next.

In this psalm it breaks the poem into three parts:
1. The Psalmist is in real and heart-breaking trouble.
2. He is confident in God’s nature: God is His shield and glory, and He answers.
3. David is sure that the Lord will deliver Him in practical ways:
–> He will sleep and wake
–> The Lord will take up the battle and deliver Him
–> Evil will be dealt with
–> There will be blessing on His people

What a great Psalm for when we are in trouble!
Read the psalm again slowly. Each time you reach a Selah. Stop and reflect on the section you have just read. Then carry on and when you reach the end pray “From the Lord comes deliverance – may Your blessing be on your people”

2005-04-29 – “A dialogue in the midst of vexing times”

1 Answer me when I call to you, O my righteous God.
Give me relief from my distress; be merciful to me and hear my prayer.

*2 How long, O men, will you turn my glory into shame?
* How long will you love delusions and seek false gods? Selah

3 Know that the LORD has set apart the godly for himself;
the LORD will hear when I call to him.

*4 In your anger do not sin; when you are on your beds,
* search your hearts and be silent. Selah

5 Offer right sacrifices and trust in the LORD.

6 Many are asking, “Who can show us any good?”
Let the light of your face shine upon us, O LORD.
7 You have filled my heart with greater joy
than when their grain and new wine abound.
8 I will lie down and sleep in peace,
for you alone, O LORD, make me dwell in safety. Psa4:1-8

At first glance this psalm is not as ‘gripping’ as the ones we have read thus far. What does make it interesting is that it has two occurences of ‘Selah’ and in both cases it comes at the end of a verse that is best understood as God’s response to David’s prayer. But let’s look at the psalm verse by verse:

1 David appeals to his _righteous_ God in the midst of his distress. From the context I think it is safe to deduce that the distress has its roots in the wicked scheming of the ungodly. David is “bugged” by the chaos and twistedness of the world in which he must live. (When I look at our society that allows prisoners the right to vote and then allows unborn children only the right to be easily “terminated”, I can identify with David’s vex-edness!)

2. God’s reply does not seem helpful at first. But the question implies God’s dissatisfaction with the current status. God is unhappy with how we use His good gifts for evil and He is incensed at our arrogant idolatry. There will come a time of reckoning and God is making notes.

3. David checks his own heart and is able to affirm that his life, although not perfect, is along God’s path.

4. God then becomes more intimate in His reaching out to His people. From the warning against perversion and idolatry we move to a call to right attitudes and humility.

5. David responds by emphasising faith and sincerity in worship.

6-8 While others look for peace and goodness, David has found it in intimate relationship with God.

How do we cope with vexing, stretching times? We keep choosing a godly righteous life and pursue intimacy and integrity in our relationship with God. Peace, joy and fulfilment are the results!

2005-05-03 – “An AM prayer”

1 Give ear to my words, O LORD, consider my sighing.
2 Listen to my cry for help, my King and my God, for to you I pray.
3 In the morning, O LORD, you hear my voice;
in the morning I lay my requests before you and wait in expectation.
4 You are not a God who takes pleasure in evil; with you the wicked cannot
5 The arrogant cannot stand in your presence; you hate all who do wrong.
6 You destroy those who tell lies;
bloodthirsty and deceitful men the LORD abhors.
7 But I, by your great mercy, will come into your house;
in reverence will I bow down toward your holy temple.
8 Lead me, O LORD, in your righteousness because of my enemies–
make straight your way before me.
9 Not a word from their mouth can be trusted; their heart is filled with
Their throat is an open grave;with their tongue they speak deceit.
10 Declare them guilty, O God! Let their intrigues be their downfall.
Banish them for their many sins, for they have rebelled against you.
11 But let all who take refuge in you be glad; let them ever sing for joy.
Spread your protection over them, that those who love your name may rejoice
in you.
12 For surely, O LORD, you bless the righteous;
you surround them with your favor as with a shield. Psa5:1-11

This is a morning time prayer of David. Some commentators have suggested that
this is a prayer in wartime and that David is up early contemplating the
battle later in the day.

Whatever the context may be, there is room for us to kneel with David and pray
this prayer with him as we confront the day ahead of us.

Here are some of the highpoints:
1. David does not seem to be looking forward to the day – he is sighing and
asking for help.

2. His emphasis on the morning seems to indicatate that he has made an effort
to be with God and he is expectant.

3. The day holds moral and ethical battles ahead. In David’s case it is
possibly a real battle with a physical enemy. He differentiates himself from
them by his behaviour and as such the prayer is a prayer of commitment: David
wants to be certain that he does not look like his enemies who
- Do not want to be near God
- Tell lies and are deceitful with their grave-like throats and their
destructive deceitful tongues
- Are bloodthirsty and have hearts filled with destruction

We too will encounter evil people and evil systems and will have to make

4. David prays for guidance and wisdom and leading in the battles he must
fight and he rejoices in the protection and the favour and blessing that God
gives the righteous.

5. He is convinced that God will deal with the enemy: “Declare them
guilty…”, “Banish them…”

What does your day look like? Shouldn’t you take a moment to spend with God
and hand your moral and ethical enemies over to Him?

2005-05-04 – “Illness and Penitence”

1 O LORD, do not rebuke me in your anger or discipline me in your wrath.
2 Be merciful to me, LORD, for I am faint;
O LORD, heal me, for my bones are in agony.
3 My soul is in anguish.How long, O LORD, how long?
4 Turn, O LORD, and deliver me; save me because of your unfailing love.
5 No one remembers you when he is dead. Who praises you from the grave?
6 I am worn out from groaning;
all night long I flood my bed with weeping
and drench my couch with tears.
7 My eyes grow weak with sorrow; they fail because of all my foes.
8 Away from me, all you who do evil,for the LORD has heard my weeping.
9 The LORD has heard my cry for mercy; the LORD accepts my prayer.
10 All my enemies will be ashamed and dismayed;
they will turn back in sudden disgrace. Psa6:1-10 Psa6:1-10

At the end of a meeting I attended yesterday, I was prompted to ask the
following question: “How many of you have been seriously and ongoingly sick
for the last couple of months?” Seven out of the eight of us there had to say
yes. Another person was not at the meeting because they were not well. We did
not have time to discuss it at the meeting, but the relevance of this
mornings’ psalm really hit me between the eyes.

This is a psalm of regret and repentence, and is a plea for mercy in the
context of David being ill and his enemies taking advantage of this. The NIV
Study Bible has the following note about Psalm 6: “In early Christian
liturgical tradition it was numbered with the seven penitential psalms (the
others: Ps 32; 38; 51; 102; 130; 143).”

The Old Testament often interprets sickness as the result of sin. It is a
notion we shy away from because there is the danger that we begin to think
that every illness is the result of our own sin. We always need to remember
the various reasons why we get sick and why bad things happen to us:
1. We live in a broken world where bad things can happen to good people.
2. Sometimes bad things happen to us as the result of other people’s sin.
3. Sometimes I experience tragedy and heartache as a result of my own sin and

The good news is that God is always at work in our suffering. No matter what
the cause of our suffering, He wants to transform our pain and our heartache
and bring good out of it. He is always there to help us through our suffering
so that we develop character, are able to help others who suffer, and are
able to glorify Him in spite of suffering.

It seems that David’s sickness was brought on by guilt and separation from
God. Whether his illness was psychosomatic, whether he collapsed from the
strain and pressure of trying to do things on his own, or whether he got an
ulcer or something like that, the root seems to be a broken relationship with

Jesus reminded us that people can’t exist on bread alone, they need that
intimate connection with God through His Word. When that connection is
broken, it can result in the collapse of our moral, spiritual, or physical

David realised that his physical symptoms were a pointer to a deeper spiritual
problem. He was trying to handle his foes and his stresses in his own
strength. The net result was that he was faint, had sore bones and joints,
and had a soul that was not at peace. He was at a place where his grief over
his enemies’ attack on him had drowned out everything else and that his
problems had eclipsed his faith. His battery had run flat.

The Psalm turns as David reconnects to the powerline of God’s love. The Lord
knows my circumstances. The Lord forgives my sin. The Lord will fight my

Have you been sick a lot recently? It MAY (note the emphasis – it MAY) be the
result of us becoming so busy trying to do things in our own strength that we
have lost touch with that quiet place of connection with God. It will take
courage to admit that I have tried to take God’s place and to allow Him to
take the rightful position in my life again.

The Lord knows my circumstances. The Lord forgives my sin. The Lord will fight
my enemies.

2005-05-05 – “The prayer of the victimised”

1 O LORD my God, I take refuge in you;
save and deliver me from all who pursue me,
2 or they will tear me like a lion
and rip me to pieces with no one to rescue me.
3 O LORD my God, if I have done this
and there is guilt on my hands–
4 if I have done evil to him who is at peace with me
or without cause have robbed my foe–
5 then let my enemy pursue and overtake me;
let him trample my life to the ground and make me sleep in the dust.
6 Arise, O LORD, in your anger;
rise up against the rage of my enemies.
Awake, my God; decree justice.

9 O righteous God, who searches minds and hearts,
bring to an end the violence of the wicked and make the righteous secure.
10 My shield is God Most High, who saves the upright in heart.

16 The trouble he causes recoils on himself;
his violence comes down on his own head.

17 I will give thanks to the LORD because of his righteousness
and will sing praise to the name of the LORD Most High. Psa7:1-17

The superscription of this Psalm indicates that it is written by David about
Cush the Benjamite. Cush was probably one of King Saul’s officers who was
responsible for the relentless pursuit of David and his men in the

David writes as a man who believes he is righteous and that he is being
pursued and attacked unfairly by a relentless and evil enemy.

There are a number of things we can take from this Psalm:
* There is the sense of a relentless and ruthless enemy… He cannot escape
the pursuit of this enemy.

* David is convinced of His righteousness. He is sure that he is not guilty or
responsible of anything deserving the suffering he is enduring. He is so
convinced that his moral slate is clean enough that he can challenge anyone
to look at his life and they will find no justification for the fearsome
persecution he is experiencing.

* David appeals to God for justice in the confidence that this prayer will one
day be heard.

* David is comfortable enough in God’s presence to be able to say “Lord it
feels as though you’ve fallen asleep and not noticed that my enemy is
hounding me….” “Arise… Awake, my God; decree justice.”

* He is convinced that his enemies will be brought to justice.

It is easy to lose perspective. To become completely lost in the midst of
suffering I believe I do not deserve. David began with protestations of
innocence, he ended with his eyes on God’s righteousness and justice. He
began by saying “Why me Lord?” He ended with trust and praise.

2005-05-06 – “Feeling Small: The benefits of wonder”

1 O LORD, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth!
You have set your glory above the heavens.
2 From the lips of children and infants you have ordained praise
because of your enemies, to silence the foe and the avenger.
3 When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers,
the moon and the stars, which you have set in place,
4 what is man that you are mindful of him,
the son of man that you care for him?
5 You made him a little lower than the heavenly beings
and crowned him with glory and honor.
6 You made him ruler over the works of your hands;
you put everything under his feet:
7 all flocks and herds, and the beasts of the field,
8 the birds of the air, and the fish of the sea,
all that swim the paths of the seas.
9 O LORD, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth! Psa8:1-9

I firmly believe that one of the reasons that stress levels are higher in the
cities is that we do not have enough contact with the splendour of creation.

David takes time to absorb and be gripped by the awesome beauty of creation.
It washes over him and fills him with awe and praise. He examines the
heavens, reflects on the diversity of flocks, herds, beasts, fish, and birds,
and he realises his smallness in comparison to all that he sees.

He also realises that all of creation brings forth praise and that praise is a
powerful weapon. Even the praise of an infant is enough to silence the enemy
and the avenger. An attitude of gratitude and a spirit of praise can
powerfully transform life. His song-meditation begins and ends with the
conclusion that all that he sees brings only one conclusion: God is awesome
and majestic.

David also realises his privilege. He is small and yet God has given him such
a big role in creation. He is filled with a sense of unworthiness and humilty
as he realises his dependence on the Creator.

We don’t worship creation, but it is a powerful signpost. It orientates us and
simplifies us. It humbles us and restores a sense of wonder. Just when I
think I have God all sewn up in my neat theological concepts and principles,
I get profoundly shaken up by a thunderstorm, a sunset, or a mountain-pass
and I realise that He is God and I am not…

2005-05-10 – “God Judges and God rescues”

1 I will praise you, O LORD, with all my heart; I will tell of all your
2 I will be glad and rejoice in you; I will sing praise to your name, O Most
3 My enemies turn back; they stumble and perish before you.
4 For you have upheld my right and my cause;
you have sat on your throne, judging righteously.
5 You have rebuked the nations and destroyed the wicked;
you have blotted out their name for ever and ever.
6 Endless ruin has overtaken the enemy, you have uprooted their cities;
even the memory of them has perished.
7 The LORD reigns forever; he has established his throne for judgment.
8 He will judge the world in righteousness;
he will govern the peoples with justice.
9 The LORD is a refuge for the oppressed, a stronghold in times of trouble.
10 Those who know your name will trust in you,
for you, LORD, have never forsaken those who seek you.
11 Sing praises to the LORD, enthroned in Zion;
proclaim among the nations what he has done. Psa9:1-11

In this Psalm David is praising God and giving thanks because God has
delivered him from his enemies. The NIV Study Bible notes that no mention is
made of an explicit Israelite victory and so it is safe to assume that God
dealt with one of David’s enemies through another nation or by supernatural

We struggle with the Old Testament’s “bloodthirstiness.” It seems so harsh
that David can rejoice in the endless ruin and uprooting of a city and the
blotting out of the memory of a people. It is vital to remember that the OT
is a journey of faith which was slow to differentiate between people and the
evil that lay behind them. So it sees enemy nations as tools of evil and

David has two pictures of God:
1. God is sovereign and righteous. He _will_ judge – that is what makes Him
King! He is Most High. He reigns, judges, and governs. In the second half of
the Psalm God is described as an avenger, a just judge, and One who strikes
terror in the heart of the wicked. These images do not sit well with the
“sugar-daddy-who-benevolently-ignores-all-our-evil” theology that some people
have, but it does do justice to the fact that He is a sovereign and good
king. The key sentence is vs.16: “The LORD is known by His justice, the
wicked are ensnared by the work of _their_ hands.” (It is interesting that
there is a “Selah” -which seems to indicate a musical interlude to allow for
reflection- after this verse.)

2.God is a trustworthy refuge and stronghold who does not forsake those who
seek Him. The rest of the psalm describes Him as paying attention to the cry
of the afflicted and rescuing them. The wicked are not forgotten and the hope
of the afflicted does not perish. We can put our trust in Him!

It is God’s justice that makes Him a true king. Just when we might begin to
think that He is more judging than compassionate, we remember that Jesus died
on the cross to satisfy Divine Righteousness on our behalf. By this we know
that we can trust Him. By this we know that He will be our stronghold and
refuge if we seek Him.

2005-05-11 – “Does God hide?”

1 Why, O LORD, do you stand far off?
Why do you hide yourself in times of trouble?
2 In his arrogance the wicked man hunts down the weak,
who are caught in the schemes he devises.

14 But you, O God, _do_ see trouble and grief;
you consider it to take it in hand.
The victim commits himself to you;
you are the helper of the fatherless.
15 Break the arm of the wicked and evil man;
call him to account for his wickedness
that would not be found out.
16 The LORD is King for ever and ever;
the nations will perish from his land.
17 You hear, O LORD, the desire of the afflicted;
you encourage them, and you listen to their cry,
18 defending the fatherless and the oppressed,
in order that man, who is of the earth, may terrify no more. Psa10:1-18

The psalm is a lament against a wicked enemy. The enemy is cruel, ruthless,
arrogant, confident, powerful, abusive, and God-defiant. He is described in
detail from vv.2-13. The Psalmist struggles with the prosperity of the wicked
and the apparent absence of God. For him it feels as though God has hidden
and is far away.

For a little while the image of the enemy dominates the psalmist’s view and
there seems to be no connection to God. Verses 2-13 are an outpouring of
pain, poison, and frustration. It is as though the psalmist needs to describe
this great enemy in God’s presence and to dump his “bucket” of disappointment
and confusion.

It is when the pain has been poured out in God’s presence that the balance is
restored. The Psalmist remembers who God is and that God sees trouble and
takes it in hand. He will break the arm (symbolic of power) of the wicked and
call him to account even for the sins no-one has seen. Even nations must bow
to His power.

The psalmist gets perspective as he realises that God is king forever and He
will ultimately deal with those who are evil. He is the helper of the
fatherless and the defender of the oppressed. He is enthroned, awesome,
mighty, and eternal. He sees, defends, hears, listens, delivers, judges, and

And the enemies? They’re just human!

2005-05-12 – “Faith among the fearful”

1 In the LORD I take refuge.
How then can you say to me: “Flee like a bird to your mountain.
2 For look, the wicked bend their bows; they set their arrows against the
to shoot from the shadows at the upright in heart.
3 When the foundations are being destroyed, what can the righteous do?”

4 The LORD is in his holy temple; the LORD is on his heavenly throne.
He observes the sons of men; his eyes examine them.
5 The LORD examines the righteous,
but the wicked and those who love violence his soul hates.

6 On the wicked he will rain fiery coals and burning sulfur;
a scorching wind will be their lot.

7 For the LORD is righteous, he loves justice; upright men will see his face. Psa11:1-7

This is a simple and yet beautiful affirmation of hope and faith. It
powerfully counters a devastating and crippling force that was at work in
David’s times and is still at work today.

What am I talking about? The faith-and-hope-killing power of pessimism and
cynicism. It is all around us. I even see it when Christians get together. We
talk about crime, poverty, politics and our aches and pains to the point that
we lose energy, motivation, and hope. It is a well-known fact that good news
does not sell newspapers! There is a horrific side to our brokenness that
causes us to gravitate to negativity, doom and gloom.

(Please note that there is a difference between cynical pessimism and sharing
my pain, sorrow, and frustration with a trusted friend in an attempt to find
faith again. Cynicism and Pessimism come from pain undealt with and sorrow
not comforted)

David experienced crippling cynicism and paralysing pessimism too. Listen to
the cynics and the pessimists: “Flee! Escape! The wicked are many and you
have secret enemies that shoot from the dark sneaky places. The very fabric
of society is corrupt. So what’s the use? Just opt out!”

David’s answer?
1. There’s only one place I flee to and that’s God.
2. God is holy and righteous and He is on His throne and He sees and will
ultimately deal with the bad stuff.
3. The Lord is interested in my righteousness, it is worth pursuing, it is not
in vain.
4. When I choose faith instead of fear, when I choose God’s way instead of the
broken world’s way, I will see His face: I will have the privilege of being
intimate with Him. I will know His love and peace.

Sounds like a good deal to me!

2005-05-13 – “Word Wars”

1 Help, LORD, for the godly are no more;
the faithful have vanished from among men.
2 Everyone lies to his neighbor; their flattering lips speak with deception.
3 May the LORD cut off all flattering lips and every boastful tongue that says,
“We will triumph with our tongues; we own our lips–who is our master?”
5 “Because of the oppression of the weak and the groaning of the needy,
I will now arise,” says the LORD.
“I will protect them from those who malign them.”
6 And the words of the LORD are flawless,
like silver refined in a furnace of clay, purified seven times.
7 O LORD, you will keep us safe and protect us from such people forever.
8 The wicked freely strut about when what is vile is honored among men. Psa12:1-8

This psalm also deals with the problem of evil. The interesting emphasis here is the emphasis on language. What has worn David down is the arrogant speech of the evil ones around him. He is frustrated at their arrogant sinfulness and their prideful boasting.

The “play on words” here is the word of the wicked contrasted to the word of the Lord. God is trustworthy and pure while the wicked are arrogant and boastful. God is holy and righteous while the wicked wear us down with their arrogance and evil, their flattery and deception.

Language is a powerful thing. It can be very debilitating to be surrounded by people who use bad language and profanity, who boast of their (sinful) “exploits” and who with clever self-justification make wrong right and right wrong.

David is convinced that there will be a time where this kind of language will be silenced and only God’s Word will remain. While we wait for that day, let us take hope in the fact the language of the wicked is not a language that will last!

2005-05-17 – “Suffering time”

1 How long, O LORD? Will you forget me forever?
How long will you hide your face from me?
2 How long must I wrestle with my thoughts
and every day have sorrow in my heart?
How long will my enemy triumph over me?
3 Look on me and answer, O LORD my God.
Give light to my eyes, or I will sleep in death;
4 my enemy will say, “I have overcome him,”
and my foes will rejoice when I fall.
5 But I trust in your unfailing love; my heart rejoices in your salvation.
6 I will sing to the LORD, for he has been good to me. Psa13:1-6

One of the novel innovations of a movie that was on circuit a few years ago was a filming technique called “bullet-time.” The movie showed the action from the perspective of being able to see bullets as they flew through the air as though they had been slowed down to snails pace, allowing the hero to literally duck bullets.

In this Psalm David wrestles with the reality of “Suffering Time.” For him it feels as though the test he is going through is lasting forever and that no end is in sight. This is a classic private lament psalm, briefly, but thoroughly exploring the terrible reality of pain and sorrow and the depression one can go through in the midst of tragedy and sadness.

Let’s see how David experiences it…
1.It feels like it has been going on forever.
2.It feels as though God is intentionally hiding from him.
3.His mind is endlessly running around in circles leaving him exhausted.
4.His enemy (whether a physical enemy or his depression) keeps getting the upper hand.
5.He fears that he may get lost and succumb to the way he is feeling.
6.He doesn’t want the enemy to triumph and gloat. He realises that he will be humilated.

Have you felt like this at some point?

David makes some important choices to see him through this difficult depressive time.
1.He chooses to trust. He lights a candle of hope. He dares to believe that this “suffering time” is a distortion of reality and there will be a time that he gets through it.
2.He makes a heart decision to focus on God’s saving acts. He focuses on God’s character from what he knows rather than from what he feels.
3.He chooses to sing. Singing is something we do with our hearts and not with our heads. The wonder about singing is that the words of the songs become imprinted on our souls at a level that even our cynical thought patterns cannot erase or erode. David chooses to sing about God’s goodness and provision. Singing is something we can do in the valley even when we find it hard to pray. It is the ultimate act of faith and trust.

#Lord thank You that David’s psalm relates so closely to the blues we can go through. Thank you that even our “down”times do not catch You by surprise and that You have made provision for them. Help us to trustfully turn our hearts to You and sing of Your goodness. Amen#

2005-05-19 – “A psalm of trust”

1 Keep me safe, O God, for in you I take refuge.
2 I said to the LORD, “You are my Lord;
apart from you I have no good thing.”

5 LORD, you have assigned me my portion and my cup;
you have made my lot secure.
6 The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places;
surely I have a delightful inheritance.
7 I will praise the LORD, who counsels me;
even at night my heart instructs me.
8 I have set the LORD always before me.
Because he is at my right hand, I will not be shaken.
9 Therefore my heart is glad and my tongue rejoices;
my body also will rest secure,
10 because you will not abandon me to the grave,
nor will you let your Holy One see decay.
11 You have made known to me the path of life;
you will fill me with joy in your presence,
with eternal pleasures at your right hand. Psa16:1-11

In its little title, this psalm is called a “Miktam.” While the precise meaning of this word remains unclear. It is found elsewhere as the heading of psalms where David talks about being in dire trouble. I think it is safe to assume that this psalm is a song of faith, hope, and trust in times of trial and adversity.

The plea in this Psalm is simple: “Keep me safe, O God.” The rest of the Psalm is a celebration of God’s past provision, protection, and guidance.

After reflecting on the fact that God wil deal with the wicked and that he will have nothing to do with them (vs.3-4) David begins a process of affirming his faith and counting his blessings in every part of his life. Let’s have a look:

1. The Lord has assigned a portion and cup: I think this reaches its fullest expression in Ps.23: “You prepare a table for me in the presence of my enemies… My cup overflows.” The use of the meal analogy indicates God’s provision in the little daily things.

2. The idea of boundaries and land are an indication of David’s material success. It indicates provision and guidance in his commercial and vocational life. His future (inheritance) is secure thanks to God’s gracious providence.

3. David has learned to sleep well at night. He has allowed God’s Word to comfort and counsel him. He has filled his heart with truth so that he can answer nightmares and insomnia with the assurance of God’s love and goodness.

4. He knows and understands God’s pervasive and loving presence. God is before him and at his side. He does not have to be shaken.

And so David _chooses_ faith. He chooses to have a glad heart and a praising tongue. Even though he has to plea for help and even though he is in trouble, he knows he will not be abandoned, and he can see the hope, future, and joy that God has created him for.

The psalm is a reaffirmation of faith in the midst of trouble. In it David turns his face away from his problems to gaze at God’s goodness, provision, and love. David chooses to dwell on blessings rather than be sleepless. He chooses faith.

#Dear Lord, it seems so hard to imagine that simply being positive can help when it feels as though everything is going wrong. Please help me to _really_ see all the good You have poured into my life so that it will inspire me and help me to _choose_ faith. Amen #

2005-05-20 – “A dose of reality — a prayer of longing”

1 Hear, O LORD, my righteous plea; listen to my cry.
Give ear to my prayer– it does not rise from deceitful lips.
2 May my vindication come from you; may your eyes see what is right.
3 Though you probe my heart and examine me at night,
though you test me, you will find nothing;
I have resolved that my mouth will not sin.

6 I call on you, O God, for you will answer me;
give ear to me and hear my prayer.
7 Show the wonder of your great love,
you who save by your right hand
those who take refuge in you from their foes.
8 Keep me as the apple of your eye;
hide me in the shadow of your wings

11 They have tracked me down, they now surround me,
with eyes alert, to throw me to the ground.
12 They are like a lion hungry for prey,
like a great lion crouching in cover.

14 O LORD, by your hand save me from such men,
from men of this world whose reward is in this life.

15 And I–in righteousness I will see your face;
when I awake, I will be satisfied with seeing your likeness. Psa17:1-15

More than one person have commented on the last few devotions saying: “You make it sound so easy.” And I have to admit that I can very easily see how one can gain the impression that the Psalms are promoting a “power of positive thinking” approach.

While I am convinced that our thoughts are powerful shapers of our realities, we cannot deny that some circumstances are tough enough to make positive thinking very hard indeed. The Psalms understand this and Psalm 17 is a good example. (Although there are only excerpts of the psalm above, I have included the full text below…)

This is a prayer of David in the midst of difficult circumstances. It is a plea for help and a desperate longing for God’s intervention. David has nothing to offer except his innocence and righteousness. He is not suffering because he deserved it, but he is suffering. His prayer does not end on a triumphant note of deliverance but on a single up-look of faith.

For David this is a plea, a prayer, a call, an intercession, and a reach of faith. This is not a confident “I know everything will turn out OK” song of hope, but a gut-wrenched intercession from a soul wracked with doubt, despair, desperation and confusion. His enemies track him, surround him and desire to make prey of him. He is not as confident as he is desperate.

David is desperate for a sense of his prayer being heard, he longs for a sense of God’s love and he yearns to be reassured that he is important to his God (“Keep me as the apple of Your eye”)

His only conclusion and confidence is that he will awake to God’s goodness inspite of his circumstances. He does not yet know how he will be delivered and saved, but he will trust in God’s love and goodness. Somehow God’s nature and character gives David enough to survive on…

This psalm embraces the reality of the struggle that life sometimes is. It does not offer cheap pull-myself-up-by-my-bootlaces advice, but it does take our struggles to God’s throne and God’s grace.

#Lord help me to look to You in the midst of my struggles so that even if I struggle to have faith, I can know that You are there and that You hear me, even when I can’t pray anything more than a desperate prayer.#

1 Hear, O LORD, my righteous plea;
listen to my cry.
Give ear to my prayer–
it does not rise from deceitful lips.

PS 17:2 May my vindication come from you;
may your eyes see what is right.

PS 17:3 Though you probe my heart and examine me at night,
though you test me, you will find nothing;
I have resolved that my mouth will not sin.

PS 17:4 As for the deeds of men–
by the word of your lips
I have kept myself
from the ways of the violent.

PS 17:5 My steps have held to your paths;
my feet have not slipped.

PS 17:6 I call on you, O God, for you will answer me;
give ear to me and hear my prayer.

PS 17:7 Show the wonder of your great love,
you who save by your right hand
those who take refuge in you from their foes.

PS 17:8 Keep me as the apple of your eye;
hide me in the shadow of your wings

PS 17:9 from the wicked who assail me,
from my mortal enemies who surround me.

PS 17:10 They close up their callous hearts,
and their mouths speak with arrogance.

PS 17:11 They have tracked me down, they now surround me,
with eyes alert, to throw me to the ground.

PS 17:12 They are like a lion hungry for prey,
like a great lion crouching in cover.

PS 17:13 Rise up, O LORD, confront them, bring them down;
rescue me from the wicked by your sword.

PS 17:14 O LORD, by your hand save me from such men,
from men of this world whose reward is in this life.

You still the hunger of those you cherish;
their sons have plenty,
and they store up wealth for their children.

PS 17:15 And I–in righteousness I will see your face;
when I awake, I will be satisfied with seeing your likeness.

2005-05-24 – “My God makes me strong”

For who is God besides the LORD? And who is the Rock except our God?
It is God who arms me with strength and makes my way perfect.
He makes my feet like the feet of a deer; he enables me to stand on the heights.
He trains my hands for battle; my arms can bend a bow of bronze.
You give me your shield of victory, and your right hand sustains me;
you stoop down to make me great.
You broaden the path beneath me, so that my ankles do not turn. Psa18:31-36

This long psalm (50 verses) is David’s song of celebration after being delivered from his enemies and from King Saul. It is a vibrant song of celebration and faith. In the first few verses God is described as a rock, a fortress, a deliverer, a refuge, a shield and a stronghold.

The Psalm also features a theophany which is a natural phenomenon that points toward God’s greatness and grandeur. Psalm 29 – “God in the thunderstorm” – is the best example of this. David also recognises God’s justice and goodness and celebrates God’s righteous nature.

The portion of the Psalm that I have quoted is a piece that I have had memorised for years thanks to the music of David and Dale Garratt who sang it on one the first worship tapes that went “commercial.” It is a stunning passage that reminds us that God is not only our Deliverer, but He is our Enabler and Empowerer.

As we examine the life of David we discover that he was quite a guy. He was courageous, agile, energetic, a shrewd tactician, a thoughtful poet, a good statesman, and an intimidating warrior. David does not dwell on his own strengths but celebrates the talents, abilities, gifts, strength, skill and bravery in battle to God alone. David reflects and gives thanks to God for strength, guidance, manoeverability, and the ability to stand and be victorious.

We are very quick to take credit for successes and achievements. I wonder if David would be ok with the way some of our sports stars and actors say thanks to the “Guy upstairs.” There is so much more that he acknowledges.

God stoops down and makes us great! Never did He do that more than with His own Son who stooped down into our world and stooped to the cross and to the grave. Indeed He has made us great. I hope we can be as “uitspattig” (over-the-top, lavish, exhuberant, and extravagent) as David was in this psalm.

#Lord, David fully realised that every moment of life and breath is a gift from You. Please help me to recognise Your hand and to lavishly give exhuberant thanks for all the blessings You give! #

2005-05-25 – “Davidic Devotions”

1 The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands.
2 Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they display knowledge.
3 There is no speech or language where their voice is not heard.
4 Their voice goes out into all the earth, their words to the ends of the world.

7 The law of the LORD is perfect, reviving the soul.
The statutes of the LORD are trustworthy, making wise the simple.
8 The precepts of the LORD are right, giving joy to the heart.
The commands of the LORD are radiant, giving light to the eyes.
9 The fear of the LORD is pure, enduring forever.
The ordinances of the LORD are sure and altogether righteous.
10 They are more precious than gold, than much pure gold;
they are sweeter than honey, than honey from the comb.
11 By them is your servant warned; in keeping them there is great reward.

12 Who can discern his errors?
Forgive my hidden faults.
13 Keep your servant also from willful sins;
may they not rule over me.
Then will I be blameless,
innocent of great transgression.

14 May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart
be pleasing in your sight,
O LORD, my Rock and my Redeemer. Psa19:1-14

(This one is from the archives – a series on Significance – but I couldn’t improve on it…)
David was a man after God’s heart – David had a heart for God. This implies a vibrant and living relationship between God and David. In this sense, David’s devotional life is a key part of his significance. Many of us want to be closer to God, and many of us even try to have regular devotions. How did David go about his devotions?

He begins with CONTEMPLATION – reflecting on God’s greatness. And the beauty of creation is a good signpost! Sunrises, flowers, birds, greens, blues, reds and yellows are all tributes to the goodness of God. Creation gives David a sense of order and rhythm – It’s awesomeness (think of mountains and the sea) contrast powerfully against our finiteness and we are drawn to worship.

Next David goes to God’s Word for REFLECTION. Verses 7-10 explain the significance of God’s Word. Have a look at the nouns David uses: law, statutes, precepts, and commands. The verbs: Revive, make wise, give joy, and give light. If we are serious about getting nearer to God then we need to be treating ourselves to a regular diet of His Word. And when we do, we learn to fear(respect/reverance) God as He deserves. And we are equipped to serve God and glorify Him. While this requires commitment at first, like David we will find that it becomes precious and sweet.

David then moves to CONFESSION. This is a very honest moment where we bring ourselves to God – warts and all – confessing our need for His help.

He concludes with COMMITMENT – giving Himself to God for the day ahead. Without this step the rest is in danger of becoming an academic exercise.

#DEAR LORD bring me to a point of being able to have regular and meaningful contact with YOU. Help me to Contemplate YOUR Greatness, Reflect on YOUR truth, Confess that I need YOUR help and Commit myself in YOUR Service.#

2005-05-27 – “Prayer for the King”

1 May the LORD answer you when you are in distress;
may the name of the God of Jacob protect you.
2 May he send you help from the sanctuary
and grant you support from Zion.
3 May he remember all your sacrifices and accept your burnt offerings.
4 May he give you the desire of your heart and make all your plans succeed.
5 We will shout for joy when you are victorious
and will lift up our banners in the name of our God.
May the LORD grant all your requests.
6 Now I know that the LORD saves his anointed;
he answers him from his holy heaven
with the saving power of his right hand.
7 Some trust in chariots and some in horses,
but we trust in the name of the LORD our God.
8 They are brought to their knees and fall,
but we rise up and stand firm.
9 O LORD, save the king! Answer us when we call! Psa20:1-9

This is a prayer of David. It is probably a prayer he wrote for King Saul. There is an amazing irony here. It is a beautiful prayer and we know that David was sincere about it. Saul on the other hand, was trying to kill him. David twice had the opportunity to kill Saul and refused to do it out of respect for the kingly position.

While this is a prayer for a king, it is a prayer I often use when praying for others – we are, after all, a royal priesthood (1Pet2:9)!

There are some super insights from this prayer:
1. David prays that the King will know the fellowship and presence of God during times of trouble, that he will be able to pray and have a sense of being heard, supported, accepted and forgiven (The forgiveness is implied by the sacrifices.)

2. David’s next prayer is that the king will experience fulfilment and satisfaction. That his work will be rewarding and experience Divine Blessing.

3. There is a statement of confidence in God’s blessing and deliverance. Again there is an irony here: David was anointed by Samuel while Saul was still on the throne. David as an anointed-but-not-yet-king experienced being saved from the anointed-and-on-the-throne-king. It certainly is one of David’s characteristics that even when he became king, he was a rustic king who lived fairly simply without grandiose and extravagant buildings and palaces (this was one of Solomon’s mistakes) and that on the whole he didn’t trust in chariots and horses, but in God. (There is the one tragic occurrence where David had the fighting men counted and it resulted in a terrible plague because it showed a lack of faith.)

#Lord, help me to pray for others as sincerely as David did. Fill my heart with love and respect for those You have placed in my life, and help me to pray for them so that they will be close to You and experience fulfilment and blessing. Keep me from trusting in my own strength, and help me to hope in You. #

2005-06-01 – “Prayers answered…”

1 O LORD, the king rejoices in your strength.
How great is his joy in the victories you give!
2 You have granted him the desire of his heart
and have not withheld the request of his lips.
3 You welcomed him with rich blessings
and placed a crown of pure gold on his head.
4 He asked you for life, and you gave it to him–
length of days, for ever and ever.
5 Through the victories you gave, his glory is great;
you have bestowed on him splendor and majesty.
6 Surely you have granted him eternal blessings
and made him glad with the joy of your presence.
7 For the king trusts in the LORD;
through the unfailing love of the Most High
he will not be shaken. Psa21:1-13

This psalm rightly follows Ps.20 which is a prayer for the king. This psalm is the thanksgiving of the king who has experienced God’s blessing. It is a statement of gratitude and faith.

The mysterious “Selah” appears in this psalm again. This time it comes at the end of the fourth line. It probably indicates that the first four lines are the summation of the psalm which is unpacked in the remaining eleven verses.

From the summary (which consists of two sets of parallel lines) we see that the king recognises two things:
1.David knows that he has not succeeded in his own strength, he knows the victories he has enjoyed are through God’s help.
2.God has not simply given him what he _needs_ – he has been given the desires and dreams of his heart. He has been abundantly blessed.

The rest of the psalm expands on these blessings of success and the granting of dreams. Verses 5 and 8-12 celebrate the victories God gives him over his foes. Verses 4 and 6 are a celebration of the abundant life he has been given.

We could paraphrase vs 4 thus: “He asked You for life and You gave it to him – a long one at that!”

We easily lose sight of the blessing of life. Life with all its challenges, joys, blessings, and its length of days. It is a gift from above and it can make sense and mean something when we, like the King, “trust in the Lord, (for) through the unfailing love of the Most High, he(we) will not be shaken.”

#Lord, forgive me for being slow to give thanks more regularly. Thank You for the unfailing love which is the source of LIFE. Help me to live LIFE in capital letters and glorify You for the blessings You shower on me.#

2005-06-02 – “A cry of agony”

1 My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?
Why are you so far from saving me,
so far from the words of my groaning?
2 O my God, I cry out by day, but you do not answer,
by night, and am not silent.
3 Yet you are enthroned as the Holy One;
you are the praise of Israel.
4 In you our fathers put their trust;
they trusted and you delivered them.
5 They cried to you and were saved;
in you they trusted and were not disappointed.
6 But I am a worm and not a man,
scorned by men and despised by the people.
7 All who see me mock me;
they hurl insults, shaking their heads:
8 “He trusts in the LORD; let the LORD rescue him.
Let him deliver him, since he delights in him.” Psa22:1-8

This is the psalm that the New Testament quotes from most. It is this psalm that came to Jesus’ lips during His agony on the cross. It is this psalm that explores the depth of pain and agony and because Jesus identified with it during the crucifixion, we can understand something of what He went through.

I want to explore the Psalm from a different perspective: The presence of this psalm in the collection of Hebrew poetry is an indication that there is an amazing grasp of the reality of pain in the Scriptures. As I have stood next to the beds of those who have suffered from cancer or other pain-wracking and crippling conditions, I have often alluded to, paraphrased or read from this song of pain because it reminds the sufferer that God is not aloof from their pain, tragedy and sorrow.

The psalm wrestles with the reality of pain:
14 I am poured out like water, and all my bones are out of joint.
My heart has turned to wax; it has melted away within me.
15 My strength is dried up like a potsherd,
and my tongue sticks to the roof of my mouth;

It wrestles with the feeling of God being distant:
1 My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?
Why are you so far from saving me, so far from the words of my groaning?

It explores the sense of being victimised and exploited:
18 They divide my garments among them and cast lots for my clothing.

And then. having thoroughly identified with us in drawing from our wells of pain, the Psalmist takes us to a stronger fountain of hope and confidence:
24 For he has not despised or disdained the suffering of the afflicted one;
he has not hidden his face from him but has listened to his cry for help.

Is it possible that we might suffer? The psalms say “Yes.” Has God turned His face away when we suffer? Our feelings say “yes” but the psalms say “no!”

#Thank you Lord that suffering is not something that You ignore or belittle. Although You are not the author of suffering, You take our suffering very seriously, and ultimately embraced it in Jesus’ agony on the cross. Help me to believe these truths from Your Word.#

2005-06-03 – “Sheep need a shepherd”

1 The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not be in want.
2 He makes me lie down in green pastures,
he leads me beside quiet waters,
3 he restores my soul.
He guides me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.
4 Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil, for you are with me;
your rod and your staff, they comfort me.
5 You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies.
You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.
6 Surely goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life,
and I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever. Psa.23:1-6

It is intimidating to even attempt to comment on a psalm that is so loved and appreciated by people. There are many who know this psalm by heart and it has been a comfort for many. I’m simply going to make a few comments on some of the key features of the Psalm.

* The Palestinian shepherd does not herd or chase the sheep, he leads them. They know and follow his voice and go where he has already been. Jesus is the Good Shepherd. He does not ask us to go where He has not been.

* As sheep get heavier with wool, drinking can be very dangerous, rapidly moving water can overwhelm a wooly sheep as the wool absorbs the water very quickly and can weigh the sheep down allowing the water to sweep it away. When we listen closely to the shepherds voice, we will hear Him calling us to “come apart and rest a while” so that we can feed where we will not be overwhelmed and where our souls can be restored.

* We can be sure that He will lead us along paths of righteousness: His name is at stake. It is one of the sure ways to test whether it is God leading us or someone else. If there is a chance that His name will be dishonoured, then it is not God leading us.

* The valley of the shadow of death is a place where the sheep get jumpy and can do silly things. Our Shepherd has not only been through the valley of the shadow, He has been through the valley of Death too. We know that He will be with us. The rod (or shepherd’s crook) is used to hook around a sheep that has panicked and headed in the wrong direction. The staff is used to beat off predators. The Lord will pull us back when we are being silly and he will protect us when we are in danger.

* The imagery shifts from a shepherd to a host, and the table we come to is the table of grace and love, the table of bread and wine, body and blood. The oil is the symbol of the Spirit and we overflow with the blessings of God’s goodness, grace, and love. In that love we would dwell forever.

#Thank You Lord that You are our Shepherd. Help us to find the still waters You lead us to so that we can know Your presence in the valleys and shadows. Help us to see how our cups overflow. #

2005-06-07 – “Ancient Gates”

1 The earth is the LORD’s, and everything in it,
the world, and all who live in it;
2 for he founded it upon the seas
and established it upon the waters.
3 Who may ascend the hill of the LORD?
Who may stand in his holy place?
4 He who has clean hands and a pure heart,
who does not lift up his soul to an idol or swear by what is false.
5 He will receive blessing from the LORD and vindication from God his Savior.
6 Such is the generation of those who seek him,
who seek your face, O God of Jacob.
7 Lift up your heads, O you gates;
be lifted up, you ancient doors, that the King of glory may come in.
8 Who is this King of glory?
The LORD strong and mighty, the LORD mighty in battle.
9 Lift up your heads, O you gates;
lift them up, you ancient doors, that the King of glory may come in.
10 Who is he, this King of glory?
The LORD Almighty– he is the King of glory.
Selah Psa24:1-10

This lovely psalm which is used today as a celebration of Christ’s ascension features two Selahs and divides into two parts (each part ending with a Selah.)

The first part looks like a psalm from the Wisdom tradition. The Wisdom Psalms were hymns that reminded the people how to live well. This part of the psalm, recognises God as the sovereign source of all things and that we as human beings cannot simple assume the right to waltz into His presence.

What are the lifestyle choices of someone who can enter God’s presence? The psalm lists some:
- Clean hands and a pure heart
- No idolatry in his soul
- Absolute integrity
- Be someone who seeks God always.

I don’t know how you did, but I didn’t make it through the list. I fell short. As I come to the Selah, I know that I am in trouble!

Fortunately the second part of the Psalm describes the entry of another Person. He is the King of Glory – the Lord strong and mighty. The one we recognise as the victorious and glorious Messiah – Jesus the Son of God.

While I cannot ascend the hill of the Lord and enter through the gates alone, I can go via the work of the One who did it on my behalf. I wasn’t righteous enough to open the gates, but Jesus did it for me! So as I come to the second Selah, I praise.

# Lord, please work in me by the power of Your Spirit that I may more and more resemble those who can ascend Your holy hill. Thank you that in the meantime, I can walk in Jesus’ footsteps as He enters in glory. #

2005-06-08 – “My hope is in You”

1 To you, O LORD, I lift up my soul;
2 in you I trust, O my God.
Do not let me be put to shame, nor let my enemies triumph over me.
3 No one whose hope is in you will ever be put to shame,
but they will be put to shame who are treacherous without excuse.
4 Show me your ways, O LORD, teach me your paths;
5 guide me in your truth and teach me,
for you are God my Savior, and my hope is in you all day long.
6 Remember, O LORD, your great mercy and love,
for they are from of old.
7 Remember not the sins of my youth and my rebellious ways;
according to your love remember me, for you are good, O LORD.

This is one of my favourite psalms. It is a powerful expression of hope, a passionate plea for forgiveness, and a heartfelt cry for help. It is both desperate and confident. It is reveals David’s clear grasp of himself and his understanding of God. The psalm is an acrostic, which means that the first word of each verse begins with the next letter of the Hebrew alphabet. By doing this, David is implying that this is the A-Z on calling on God for help.

The main features of the Psalm are:
* It is an expression of trust in God. David _lifts_ his soul to God. He _trusts_ in God. He places his _hope_ in God. He opens his life to God’s guidance. He can appeal to God’s historical mercy and love and he can confess his sins. Have you ever thought what it means to _lift_ your soul to God?

* It is a confession of sin in the light of God’s mercy and forgiveness. It is a recognition of personal brokenness. In verse 11 he says “…forgive my iniquity though it is great.” The wonderful news is that when we hope in the Lord, we will not be put to shame.

* It is an affirmation of God’s goodness. As He continues in the Psalm, David affirms God’s goodness, God’s salvation, His gracious grace, and His deliverance.

* The reality of opposition. The second verse alludes to enemies. Later in the psalm, this is expanded and David pleas for divine assistance. The interesting thing is that David deals with the threat of enemies by praying for the protection offered by integrity and uprightness.

* The freedom to ask for help. David is able to ask God to intervene in his circumstances and to make a difference in his situation.

# Thank You Lord, that we can hope in You. Help us to do this sincerely. Please forgive the brokennes that we experience in ourselves. Help us to keep sight of Your goodness and may we know Your ongoing love for us. Help us to counter opposition with integrity and uprightness. #

2005-06-09 – “Integrity”

1 Vindicate me, O LORD, for I have led a blameless life;
I have trusted in the LORD without wavering.
2 Test me, O LORD, and try me, examine my heart and my mind;
3 for your love is ever before me, and I walk continually in your truth.
4 I do not sit with deceitful men, nor do I consort with hypocrites;
5 I abhor the assembly of evildoers and refuse to sit with the wicked.
6 I wash my hands in innocence, and go about your altar, O LORD,
7 proclaiming aloud your praise and telling of all your wonderful deeds.
8 I love the house where you live, O LORD, the place where your glory dwells.
9 Do not take away my soul along with sinners, my life with bloodthirsty men,
10 in whose hands are wicked schemes, whose right hands are full of bribes.
11 But I lead a blameless life; redeem me and be merciful to me.
12 My feet stand on level ground; in the great assembly I will praise the LORD. Psa26:1-12

There are a couple of psalms where David seems to be bargaining with God. In this one it seems that he is using personal holiness as a bargaining chip to buy God’s goodness. At times it even looks as though he is arrogantly saying “Look how good I am!” I think there are two key features of the psalm that give us a clue as to how to apply its truths:

Firstly: In verse 1 & 11 we have the claim “I (lead/have led) a blameless life.” These two phrases are the opening and closing brackets of a claim that boils down to be a claim of integrity.
If we summarise what is between these two “brackets” the psalm looks like this:

Vindicate me, O LORD
[for I have integrity]
redeem me and be merciful to me.
My feet stand on level ground; in the great assembly I will praise the LORD.

Secondly: Having asserted his integrity. He realises that he is on level ground – that God will treat him justly

Let’s look at his integrity claims:
1. He is not being arrogant or false – he wouldn’t dare ask God to _test_ him if he was false.

2. There are echoes of Psalm 1 in this psalm. Do you remember the righteous man who does not stand, walk, or sit with the wicked, the sinner, or the mocker? Well here we have echoes of the same righteous man. He WALKS continually in God’s truth, he does not CONSORT (stand, be associated with) hypocrites, he does not sit with deceitful wicked men.

3. I love David’s focus: “Your love is ever before me.” If we could always remember Jesus’ love for us on the cross when we deal with our fellow beings, our world would be a better place.

4. The references to hand-washing, the altar, proclaiming, and the house of the Lord are all about worship.

5. David claims to be unique and different from the wicked schemes, bribery, and violence of sinful people.

So what is integrity? According to this psalm it is watching where we stand, walk, and sit. It is being motivated and moderated by love. Integrity has roots in passionate worship and avoids the staining and straining that negative people have on us.

While I don’t have to be perfect, being a person of integrity, really does help us when we pray. It means we are not playing games with God.

# Dear Lord, Prayer and integrity go hand in hand. Help me to be more like David, so that I can pray in the knowledge that You know that I am sincere. #

2005-06-10 – “Learning to wait”

1 The LORD is my light and my salvation– whom shall I fear?
The LORD is the stronghold of my life– of whom shall I be afraid?

2 When evil men advance against me to devour my flesh,
when my enemies and my foes attack me, they will stumble and fall.
4 One thing I ask of the LORD, this is what I seek:
that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life,
to gaze upon the beauty of the LORD and to seek him in his temple.
5 For in the day of trouble he will keep me safe in his dwelling;
he will hide me in the shelter of his tabernacle and set me high upon a rock.

7 Hear my voice when I call, O LORD; be merciful to me and answer me.
8 My heart says of you, “Seek his face!” Your face, LORD, I will seek.

10 Though my father and mother forsake me, the LORD will receive me.
11 Teach me your way, O LORD; lead me in a straight path
because of my oppressors.

13 I am still confident of this:
I will see the goodness of the LORD in the land of the living.
14 Wait for the LORD; be strong and take heart
and wait for the LORD. Psa27:1-14

This psalm is a declaration of faith, an expression of longing, a plea for God’s presence, and an affirmation of confidence.

The first three verses speak of David’s faith and confidence in God’s goodness. God is light, salvation, and a stronghold. This is not only true in the good times, but in the bad times as well! Even when evil advances and enemies attack, they will stumble and fall because God is good and David is confident that God will be his shelter and strong rock.

God’s faithfulness leads to David’s longing and this is expressed in verse 4. David is so moved by God’s faithful deliverance that he cannot help himself but to worship. He wants more and more. He has tasted and seen that the Lord is good. His plea is the peace of God’s presence, the comfort of God’s company, and the abundance of God’s abiding in him. David could have had kingdoms. He asks one thing only – “Let me keep my focus on God – He will seek God’s face.”

David is unshakeably secure in God’s love. Verse 10 makes this point very clearly: In Hebrew culture it was unthinkable that parent would abandon their children. Family values were important part of the Old Testament. Even if the unthinkable happened – that Mom and Dad failed – God would not.

And so the psalm ends on a confident note: Even though David is surrounded by oppressors and difficulties He knows he will see God’s goodness and he is willing to wait. But there are two kinds of waiting. There is the helpless whining kind of faith that collapses in a heap and waits for God to pitch up and do everything. David’s faith is the kind that pushes, endures, and prevails: It is a faith and action filled waiting. David’s waiting is the “Be strong and take heart” kind of faith.

Are you a whiner or wait-er?

#Thank you Lord that you will never foresake us and that in the midst of trouble we can still experience a longing for You and a hunger for You – this hunger is the proof that our waiting is not in vain. Help us remain focussed on You.#

2005-06-13 – “Holding God’s work in high regard”

1 To you I call, O LORD my Rock; do not turn a deaf ear to me.
For if you remain silent, I will be like those who have gone down to the pit.
2 Hear my cry for mercy as I call to you for help,
as I lift up my hands toward your Most Holy Place.
3. Do not drag me away with the wicked, with those who do evil,
who speak cordially with their neighbors but harbor malice in their hearts.
4 Repay them for their deeds and for their evil work;
repay them for what their hands have done
and bring back upon them what they deserve.
5 Since they show no regard for the works of the LORD
and what his hands have done,
he will tear them down and never build them up again.
6 Praise be to the LORD, for he has heard my cry for mercy.
7 The LORD is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in him, and I am helped.
My heart leaps for joy and I will give thanks to him in song.
8 The LORD is the strength of his people,
a fortress of salvation for his anointed one.
9 Save your people and bless your inheritance;
be their shepherd and carry them forever. Psa28:1-9

The NIV Study Bible says: “Psalm 28 is a prayer for deliverance from deadly peril at the hands of malicious and God-defying enemies.”

Verses 3-5, describe the wicked, what they have done, and how they have earned God’s judgment. There is a lot that we can learn from the description of the wicked. They are evil-doers who speak with silken forked tongues and have no regard for God’s work.

What is fascinating is David’s thought progression here:
1. David is desperate for communion with God. He cannot bear the thought of God being silent. His starting point is a desperate longing for connection with a loving God.

2. He needs mercy and help because of the wicked.

3. What is interesting is that as David calls upon God, everything becomes clear. The world has shifted from imprecise murkiness to a clear contrast between God’s way and the way of evil. David is able to concisely define the wicked: They show no regard for the works of the Lord. This clear contrast between what makes the wicked wicked and what makes David faithful, is the beginning of the answer to David’s prayer. He will not be dragged away with the wicked, because he has a high regard for the works of the Lord.

4. So David is helped – God has heard his cry – He understands that he is different from the wicked. The Lord is his anchor in a world of slippery tongues. God is a rock and a fortress.

5. And so the King who has experienced God making sense of a crazy world prays for his people – that the same God, who has made things clear to him will be the people’s shepherd.

#Lord, we live in a world of changing values and forked tongues. Help us to hold Your works and Your Words in high regard, because when we do this, it straightens out our value systems and helps us to get it right. #

2005-06-14 – “A thunderstorm”

1 Ascribe to the LORD, O mighty ones, ascribe to the LORD glory and strength.
2 Ascribe to the LORD the glory due his name;
worship the LORD in the splendour of his holiness.
3 The voice of the LORD is over the waters; the God of glory thunders,
the LORD thunders over the mighty waters.
4 The voice of the LORD is powerful; the voice of the LORD is majestic.
5 The voice of the LORD breaks the cedars;
the LORD breaks in pieces the cedars of Lebanon.
6 He makes Lebanon skip like a calf, Sirion like a young wild ox.
7 The voice of the LORD strikes with flashes of lightning.
8 The voice of the LORD shakes the desert;
the LORD shakes the Desert of Kadesh.
9 The voice of the LORD twists the oaks and strips the forests bare.
And in his temple all cry, “Glory!”
10 The LORD sits enthroned over the flood;
the LORD is enthroned as King forever.
11 The LORD gives strength to his people;
the LORD blesses his people with peace. Psa29:1-11

This amazing Psalm is David’s description of a thunderstorm. The thunderstorm moves in from over the Mediterranean, moves East towards Lebanon, and comes South to Jerusalem. There are three parts to the Psalm:

1. A call to worship, awe, reverence and wonder. (Before any mention of the thunderstorm)
2. A description of the storm, with particular reference to God’s voice, the seas, the trees, and the desert.
3. The conclusions that are drawn from all of this.

Parts 2 and 3 need more explanation…
The power, majesty, and wonder of the thunderstorm are not worshipped but put in perspective: “That huge scary thunderstorm? The one that made you hide under your bed? Oh that’s just God’s voice!”

The Hebrews were scared of the sea – which is why they never became a great sea-faring nation. In the Old Testament the Cedars of Lebanon represented stability and strength. The Desert of Kadesh represented an unshakeable barrier. The storm thunders over the waters, splits the cedars, and shakes the desert. God is always greater and more powerful than the things we fear, than the false securities we put our trust in, and the barriers we think are uncrossable.

The last two lines are vital to understanding the whole psalm. The thunderstorm is a picture of God’s awe and majesty. It reminds us of the disciples in the boat, when even the fisherman in the group were afraid. The
last two lines remind us that Jesus is in the boat too… Just when we think that the God of the thunderstorm is scary and terrifying we realise that the God of the thunderstorm is the God of peace.

# Thank You Lord that the occasional thunderstorm in our lives reveals that we are not in control, and that the things we see as absolutes are still subject to Your power. Thank You that You are not only in the thunderstorm, but in our boat as well. #

2005-06-21 – “Perspective”

5 For his anger lasts only a moment, but his favor lasts a lifetime;
weeping may remain for a night, but rejoicing comes in the morning.
6 When I felt secure, I said, “I will never be shaken.”
7 O LORD, when you favored me, you made my mountain stand firm;
but when you hid your face, I was dismayed.
8 To you, O LORD, I called; to the Lord I cried for mercy:

11 You turned my wailing into dancing;
you removed my sackcloth and clothed me with joy,
12 that my heart may sing to you and not be silent.
O LORD my God, I will give you thanks forever. Psa30:1-12

This psalm has the unusual title: “For the dedication of the Temple. Of David.” This title the psalm’s biggest problem and its biggest clue. The title is problematic in that the temple did not exist in David’s time. His son Solomon would build the temple. But the title is also a clue to the historical situation of the Psalm…

The book of Chronicles describes an incident in which David sinned against God by taking a census of the fighting men. This was in direct disobedience to God’s instructions and showed that David trusted his armies rather than trusting God. This was a serious breach of faith for a king. The result was a devastating plague that affected Israel. When God showed mercy in response to David’s repentance, he bought a piece of land on which to sacrifice to God. This piece of land would become the site for the temple.

This psalm was the song of dedication for the land and a reminder of God’s goodness, holiness, and faithfulness. David recalls the pain of Divine Discipline. He has experienced the devastating consequences of faithless and godless behaviour.He has learned that anger is not God’s chosen method of operation, that mercy and not wrath is God’s forte. Even the trouble we bring on our own heads is temporary compared to the grace He wants to show us.

Verses 6,7&8 describe David’s journey:
1. He felt secure and then he became arrogant and self-sustaining: He says “I will never be shaken” and “_My_ mountain stands firm”
2. In retrospect, David knew that it was God who made his mountain stand firm, but it took God hiding His face for David to realise it.
3. He repented and called for mercy.

And God responded!
# Lord, we take you for granted so easily and it becomes all about us! Thank you that even when we turn our backs on You, You do not turn Your back on us. When we come to You in a big mess, You comfort our mourning and clothe us with joy! #

2005-06-22 – “An expression of incredible trust”

1 In you, O LORD, I have taken refuge; let me never be put to shame;
deliver me in your righteousness. 2 Turn your ear to me,
come quickly to my rescue; be my rock of refuge,
a strong fortress to save me.
3 Since you are my rock and my fortress,
for the sake of your name lead and guide me.
4 Free me from the trap that is set for me,
for you are my refuge.
5 Into your hands I commit my spirit;
redeem me, O LORD, the God of truth.

13 For I hear the slander of many;
there is terror on every side;
they conspire against me
and plot to take my life.
14 But I trust in you, O LORD;
I say, “You are my God.”
15 My times are in your hands;
deliver me from my enemies
and from those who pursue me. Psa31:1-34

When one is in desperate and dire trouble, psalm 31 is the air one breathes. This is another of the psalms that was quoted by Jesus on the cross: “Into Your hands I commit my Spirit” (vs.5)

It is a prayer David prayed when his friends abandoned him and betrayal was the order of the day. It is a desperate hungry cry for help, but it is also an awe-inspiring grip of faith. David is aware of the traps, he is aware of the dangers and the pitfalls, but his faith in God is his foundation and lifeline.

I can’t help but wonder if Jeremiah sang this psalm. There was a time when the youngsters mocked Jeremiah by calling him Magor-Missabib, which means “Terror is on every side.” (See vs 13) It turns out that only Jeremiah fully understood the tragedy and heartache that would befall Jerusalem and how true the mocking taunt would become. Yet Jeremiah expresses the same unshakeable hope when at the heart of his Lamentation (which he composed among the burning rubble that once was proud Jerusalem) he writes: “The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases. His mercies never come to an end. They are new every morning, great is Thy faithfulness Oh Lord.”

Do you remember how all the other governors plotted to trap Daniel in his prayer habit? Did Daniel sing this hymn to himself as he prepared for prayer. Did he say to himself: “I have heard the slander of many… they conspire and plot to take away my life!” And then, as he knelt, did he say: “But I trust in You – my times are in Your hands.” And do you think he could have imagined that the lions’ mouths would have been closed?

What about you? When it feels like the boss is bullying you and your friends are selling out on you, when you doubt people’s sincerity and you have felt the sting of betrayal. Our options are Faith or Cynicism? Hope or despair? Trust or Doubt. What do you do?

#Dear Lord, thank you for a psalm that captures the heartfelt reality of pain and crisis. Help me to know that You keep Your promises and close the mouths of lions.#

2005-06-24 – “Penitence”

1 Blessed is he
whose transgressions are forgiven,
whose sins are covered.
2 Blessed is the man
whose sin the LORD does not count against him
and in whose spirit is no deceit.
3 When I kept silent,
my bones wasted away
through my groaning all day long.
4 For day and night your hand was heavy upon me;
my strength was sapped as in the heat of summer.
5 Then I acknowledged my sin to you
and did not cover up my iniquity.
I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the LORD”–
and you forgave the guilt of my sin.
Selah Psa32:1-11

Thanks to the history of the reformation and the cynical view that we get in the movies, the issue of confession has a bad track record in most of our minds. Most of us operate from the three premises:

1. A theological premise: Christ died for our sins past, present, and future. Our sin has been dealt with and there is nothing that we can do to add to that.

2. A pride premise: We find it hard to acknowledge our own failures and brokeness. We avoid dealing with this at all costs.

3. A privacy premise: The idea of public confession terrifies us, but our obsession with privacy even spills over into our personal relationship with God – we don’t even want to talk to Him about our secrets.

When we sin, there are two issues to deal with: Firstly there is the legal guilt that we have. We have broken the law and a price must be paid. This price has been paid for by Jesus death on the cross, and in this sense the theological premise mentioned earlier is true. The second issue that we deal with is a personal sense of guilt and failure that we experience. This is not so much a legal issue as it is a profound sense of failure. This sense of guilt can persist even when we have been forgiven of our legal guilt. In fact, being freely forgiven even though we were in the wrong can intensify our feelings of failure and guilt.

David understood the nagging and disabling reality of guilt. He described it as bones wasting away and strength being sapped. He experienced guilt as a debilitating and draining experience. Someone once said: “We don’t break God’s Law – we break ourselves on the Law.”

The Holy Spirit convicts us of sin. His goal is not to make us feel guilty but to purify our hearts. When our sin and the underlying motives for our sin are brought into God’s loving presence, we discover healing and forgiveness that sets us free from our heartache and pain. If only the transgression is forgiven, there is a good chance that we will do it again. When we confess our sins to a loving God, we give Him access to our motives and attitudes and we can experience not only the cleansing of our legal guilt, but the healing of our inner darkness.

The New Testament says this: “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just, and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” (1John1:9) The best way to illustrate this is a weed. If you cut a weed off at ground level, it will grow again, you have to get at the roots. When we confess our sin, God forgives the transgression, but He will also start working on the “roots” that led to that sin.

Confession is not like going to the headmaster’s office. When we go in the name of the one who died for our sins, we enter the presence of One who does not condone our wrongdoing (we will feel a profound sense of embarrasment over our sin) but instead of rejecting us, He seeks to love away our brokeness.

When we confess, He forgives the _guilt_ of our sin.

# Thank you Lord that your forgiveness is not just the tearing up of the legal evidence against me, but the complete forgiveness of the broken heart that sinned. Thank you that when I talk to you about the things that I have done wrong, You lovingly dig out the roots of brokeness in me! #

2005-06-30 – “A new song”

12 Blessed is the nation whose God is the LORD,
the people he chose for his inheritance.
13 From heaven the LORD looks down and sees all mankind;
14 from his dwelling place he watches all who live on earth–
15 he who forms the hearts of all, who considers everything they do.
16 No king is saved by the size of his army;
no warrior escapes by his great strength.
17 A horse is a vain hope for deliverance;
despite all its great strength it cannot save.
18 But the eyes of the LORD are on those who fear him,
on those whose hope is in his unfailing love,
19 to deliver them from death and keep them alive in famine. Psa33:1-22

Part of this psalm’s beauty is in its structure. In the original Hebrew, it is an acrostic poem which means that each verse starts with the next letter of the 22 letter Hebrew alphabet. The other fascinating things is that we have a 3 verse intro and a 3 verse conclusion, and a main section that can be divided into two 8 verse parts. While this elegant structure is not particularly inspiring in its own right, it _does_ point to the effort and trouble the psalmist went to.

The introduction calls us to worship and the first half of the main section gives God glory on the basis of the wonder of creation. In this section we join the psalmist in wonder of the heavens and the stars and we share his amazement at the oceans.

This first section recognises God as the Creator and Ruler of Life – the author and ruler of all.

The second half of the main section (quoted above) reflects on God’s loving omniscience (all-knowingness) and on God’s sovereign criteria of selection: It is not the strong or the powerful, but those whose hearts are right and who fear and hope in the Lord.

This second half recognises that God does not simply wind up the universe and watch it tick from a comfortable distance, He connects to His creation – searching for a people who will be His. He watches over them and looks into their hearts. He is no respector of persons and is not impressed by power. He pays attention to reverent awe and hope. He delivers and rescues those who love Him and who trust in Him, giving Him all the glory.

# Father God, You are Lord of creation and Lord of my life. Help me to appreciate that creation is not about Your distance but about Your nearness. Help me to have a reverent and submissive heart. #

2005-07-01 – “Sane praise.”

1 I will extol the LORD at all times; his praise will always be on my lips.
2 My soul will boast in the LORD; let the afflicted hear and rejoice.
3 Glorify the LORD with me; let us exalt his name together.
4 I sought the LORD, and he answered me;
he delivered me from all my fears.
5 Those who look to him are radiant; their faces are never covered with shame.
6 This poor man called, and the LORD heard him;
he saved him out of all his troubles.
7 The angel of the LORD encamps around those who fear him,
and he delivers them.
8 Taste and see that the LORD is good;
blessed is the man who takes refuge in him. Psa34:1-22

David wrote this psalm after he pulled off one of the most daring and succesful undercover operations in the Old Testament. He was on the run from Saul and took refuge with the Philistine King Abimelech (aka Achish). Because the Philistines were afraid of David’s reputation and wanted to kill him, David feigned madness and was so convincing in his act that the king dismissed him as harmless.

David was then able to flee with his family and friends to Moab where his family could be sheltered. (Remember that David’s great grandmother Ruth was a Moabitess…)

This Psalm is an outburst of praise for God’s faithfulness and deliverance. It is an interesting one because it combines praise and wisdom. It moves from 8 verses of praise to 14 verses of teaching.

There is an interesting play on words in this psalm: The word for “feigning madness” has the same Hebrew root as the word for “taste.” One could interpret it as saying: “You can look like you’re going mad, or you can come and praise the Lord with me…”

The other interpretation would be along the lines of what Paul was telling the Corinthians when he said “The wisdom of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing.” Reaching out and “tasting” God’s goodness may seem like a foolish or crazy thing to do, but it is worth it:
- We are delivered from fear
- We have hope and purpose: radiant faces
- The poor are saved out of their troubles
- The reverant endangered have an angelic encampment for protection
- Those who take refuge in Him are blessed.

Does it look or feel like you are going mad?
Taste and see that God is GOOD.
It is the sanest thing you could ever do!

#Thank you Lord, that You are ever with us. Sometimes trusting you means going out on a limb and people could even think us crazy, but we know that we are not. Help us to know You and love You more! #

2005-07-12 – “The prayer of the victimised”

1 Contend, O LORD, with those who contend with me;
fight against those who fight against me.
2 Take up shield and buckler; arise and come to my aid.
3 Brandish spear and javelin against those who pursue me.
Say to my soul, “I am your salvation.”
4 May those who seek my life be disgraced and put to shame;
may those who plot my ruin be turned back in dismay.
5 May they be like chaff before the wind,
with the angel of the LORD driving them away;
6 may their path be dark and slippery,
with the angel of the LORD pursuing them.
7 Since they hid their net for me without cause
and without cause dug a pit for me,
8 may ruin overtake them by surprise–
may the net they hid entangle them,
may they fall into the pit, to their ruin.
9 Then my soul will rejoice in the LORD and delight in his salvation.
10 My whole being will exclaim,
“Who is like you, O LORD?
You rescue the poor from those too strong for them,
the poor and needy from those who rob them.” Psa35:1-10

This psalm of David is a prayer of frustration. David is in trouble… from the clues in the psalm it seems as though he has been desperately ill and that his friends have turned out to be false – instead of being concerned and praying for his recovery, they are rubbing their hands together in glee and plotting what to do after his impending demise.

What is so devastating for David is that these are people that he has only shown kindness to. Later in the psalm he remembers how he prayed in sackcloth and ashes when these friends were sick and in need. He recalls the kindness and love he has shown them and so he feels the pain of betrayal very deeply.

The psalm is divided into 3 parts.
In each part David begins by appealling to God to take action against these people.
Then he points out their evil, exposing their duplicity.
Finally he concludes with praise and adoration – a note of confidence that God will hear him.

The psalm is a powerful exploration of the pain that we feel when we are disappointed or let down by others. It identifies powerfully with our feelings of disappointment and futility. What is the point of trying to help people when they just stab you in the back?

Maybe the answer to this reality of the unfaithfulness of even our friends lies in the psalm’s unusual appeal to God to “take up arms” against David’s friends-who-are-actually-enemies. On one hand it could be seen as simple bloodlust on David’s part – that he is so angry that he simply wants to see them destroyed. On the other hand – and I am more convinced of this – there is the reality of battle that is not against flesh and blood. These people may be flesh and blood, but they are motivated by otherworldly powers and so David calls God to act against these people and the powers that are behind them.

His closing plea is that they may be put to “shame and confusion” and that they be “clothed with shame and disgrace.” It is not their destruction that he seeks, but that they would be brought to their senses.

The disciples in Acts 4 realised that the persecution they were experiencing was not about them, but about Jesus. When we experience betrayal and persecution from those we thought were friends and we are sure of our innocence as David was, then this psalm gives us good food for thought.

2005-07-14 – “The sinner, the Saviour, and the saint”

1 An oracle is within my heart concerning the sinfulness of the wicked:
There is no fear of God before his eyes.
2 For in his own eyes he flatters himself too much to detect or hate his sin.
3 The words of his mouth are wicked and deceitful;
he has ceased to be wise and to do good.
4 Even on his bed he plots evil;
he commits himself to a sinful course
and does not reject what is wrong.

5 Your love, O LORD, reaches to the heavens,
your faithfulness to the skies.
6 Your righteousness is like the mighty mountains,
your justice like the great deep.
O LORD, you preserve both man and beast.
7 How priceless is your unfailing love!
Both high and low among men
find refuge in the shadow of your wings.
8 They feast on the abundance of your house;
you give them drink from your river of delights.
9 For with you is the fountain of life;
in your light we see light.

10 Continue your love to those who know you,
your righteousness to the upright in heart.
11 May the foot of the proud not come against me,
nor the hand of the wicked drive me away.
12 See how the evildoers lie fallen– thrown down, not able to rise! Psa36:1-12

This psalm is titled: “For the Director of Music. Of David the servant of the Lord.” There are three sections to it. They can be entitled “The sinner, the Saviour, and the saint.”

An oracle is a divine truth. David has a clear insight as to the character and nature of evil. It is here to warn us what the paving stones on the road to wickedness look like:

- There is no fear of God… A wicked person tries to use God to his own advantage and twist religion to suit himself. Instead of humilty one finds pride. Instead of reverance (which is like saying “You are God and I am not!”) we find flippant familiarity with God.
- His language is filled with lies, gossip, insult, and abuse.
- His thinking processes and action bear testimony to a lost plot.
- He makes time to do evil (Even on his bed…)
- He is absorbed in and by evil – he plots and commits and he does not reject evil.

God, on the other hand, is characterised by love,faithfulness, justice and righteousness. His love is unfailing and He is the source of safety and life itself.

This presents us with a choice: The path of wickedness which is paved with arrogant independance? Or God’s road paved with love, faithfulness, righteousness, and justice -a road of life?

If it is the road of life we want, then here’s how we take it:
- We need to know Him
- We need to be upright in heart
- We need to be humble
- We need to be steadfast.

#Thank you Lord for the warning that reminds me how easy it is to walk along the path of the wicked. Thank You that you are so different from the wicked, and that you shine the Light in our darkness.#

2005-07-15 – “WIsdom about good and evil”

1 Do not fret because of evil men
or be envious of those who do wrong;
2 for like the grass they will soon wither,
like green plants they will soon die away.
3 Trust in the LORD and do good;
dwell in the land and enjoy safe pasture.
4 Delight yourself in the LORD
and he will give you the desires of your heart.
5 Commit your way to the LORD; trust in him and he will do this:
6 He will make your righteousness shine like the dawn,
the justice of your cause like the noonday sun.
7 Be still before the LORD and wait patiently for him;
do not fret when men succeed in their ways,
when they carry out their wicked schemes.
8 Refrain from anger and turn from wrath;
do not fret–it leads only to evil.
9 For evil men will be cut off,
but those who hope in the LORD will inherit the land.
10 A little while, and the wicked will be no more;
though you look for them, they will not be found.
11 But the meek will inherit the land and enjoy great peace. Psa37:1-40

If Psalm 36 highlighted the Saviour in contrast to the sinner, then this psalm is the quasi-philosophical take on the same discussion. In this Psalm (which is part of the wisdom tradition in the psalms) David is teaching a life approach with regard to the realities of evil and good in the world.

The psalm is a long psalm that has been roughly structured with a double acrostic which means that every two verses start with the next letter of the Hebrew alphabet. This kind of attention to detail is an indication that the author wanted to be thorough in his treatment of a subject and to make it easy to memorise.

There are some key attitudes to keep in mind when we reflect on the realities of good and evil in the world:

1. We easily fret about evil. It is very easy for us to take responsibility for balancing the scales. Some people have a very finely tuned sense of right and wrong. When we _can_ make a difference then we should, but when it is out of our hands, then fretting and stewing and fretting does not help… The Judge of the Earth _will_ do what is right. In this small section of the psalm we are warned twice not to fret over evil.

2. Evil will not endure forever – it has limited time. Evil men build empires they cannot rule forever and gather treasures they cannot keep. God will sort out the wicked – let’s not put them on a throne that makes them look like God.

3. Instead of being consumed with frustration over evil, we need to focus our attention on God. As we trust in Him, as we live in His presence, and as we strive to make a difference in the lives of others, it is like a new day in our lives – like the dawn that has the brightness of the noonday sun.

4. Our lives should bear the mark of patience and trust. We need to be firmly aware that God is still in control and that He will carry us through our pain and frustrations. Anger and wrath only shorten our lives and make ugly people of us.

5. Learn to be meek. The best definition I have seen on meekness goes like this: “Meekness is not weakness but controlled strength.”

There is an eternal nature around those who trust in God, wickedness is on a short leash. Life is much more meaningful when it is geared around celebrating good rather than lamenting evil. This is part of the life of faith.

# Lord, it is so easy for us to see the weeds instead of the flowers. It is easy to be cynical and to lose focus. Help us to delight in You, to commit to You and to Trust in You and become like the noonday dawn. #

2005-07-19 – “Quick help when we have failed”

1 O LORD, do not rebuke me in your anger
or discipline me in your wrath.
2 For your arrows have pierced me,
and your hand has come down upon me.
3 Because of your wrath there is no health in my body;
my bones have no soundness because of my sin.
4 My guilt has overwhelmed me
like a burden too heavy to bear.

6 I am bowed down and brought very low;
all day long I go about mourning.
7 My back is filled with searing pain;
there is no health in my body.
8 I am feeble and utterly crushed;
I groan in anguish of heart.
9 All my longings lie open before you, O Lord;
my sighing is not hidden from you.
10 My heart pounds, my strength fails me;
even the light has gone from my eyes.

17 For I am about to fall,
and my pain is ever with me.
18 I confess my iniquity;
I am troubled by my sin.
19 Many are those who are my vigorous enemies;
those who hate me without reason are numerous.
20 Those who repay my good with evil
slander me when I pursue what is good.
21 O LORD, do not forsake me; be not far from me, O my God.
22 Come quickly to help me, O Lord my Savior. Psa38:1-22

This is another pentitential psalm which powerfully explores a difficult theme… David has sinned and he speaks of his state of mind, his declining health and the difficulties he has experienced with enemies and even with his friends as a result of his sin.

This brings to the fore the difficult debate about whether these things are the consequences of our sin or whether they are God disciplining us.

There are many who struggle with the idea that God disciplines us when we sin. If God has forgiven us through Christ, surely there is no need to punish us for our sin? Why would God need to “zap” us for our wrongdoing if Christ has already paid the price? If God uses adversity to discipline us, then, when we experience hardship, should we always be looking for some sin that has caused this?

This is not a simple debate and there is not room to explore it fully here… Let us simply put the facts on the table:
1. PUNISHMENT is reserved for the unrepentant. This either happens when people face final judgment or they have hardened their hearts beyond the point where they ever want to repent.

2. Christ has paid the price for our sin and forgiveness is freely available. This does not mean we are spared the CONSEQUENCES of our actions. If I am irresponsible with my credit-card, I can be forgiven for my greediness, but I still have to pay off the debt.

3. Sometimes we continue to sin even though we are aware of the consequences and are aware that it breaks God’s heart. When this is so, God may choose to DISCIPLINE us. Discipline is an act of love and not anger. Its purpose is to bring us back – not to drive us away. To get our attention – not to harden our hearts. When God disciplines us, it is mostly that He allows us to feel the _full_ consequences of our sin. His goal is to bring us back and to teach us never to do that thing again.

One of the most significant ways in which the psalms reflect God’s discipline is that He “hides His face.” This means that God feels far away from us. We lose that comforting reassurance of His presence and love. It does NOT mean that He does not love us and that He does not see us – it is us who cannot experience Him and His love because of our sin.

David sinned. We don’t know what he did, but he is experiencing some serious health problems and opposition from friends and enemies. Some would argue that many of his symptoms are similar to the symptoms of chronic depression: sighing, mourning, backache, feeling crushed, no health in his body, palpitations, lifeless eyes. Indeed it _is_ possible that David’s guilt has thrown him into a crippling depression. This does NOT mean that all depression is the result of guilt and sin.

David realises that there is a need for him to confess and be troubled by his sin. This is the realisation that brings him back to God. He is able to call out for God’s help and salvation and know that He will forgive, restore, and renew. He asks God His Saviour to come quickly to help him and we know that Jesus literally did that – He stepped into our world and experienced CONSEQUENCES and PUNISHMENT on our behalf to save us from our sin. DISCIPLINE gets our attention so that we might see Christ.

2005-07-20 – “A twist in the tail of the tale”

6 Man is a mere phantom as he goes to and fro:
He bustles about, but only in vain;
he heaps up wealth, not knowing who will get it.
7 “But now, Lord, what do I look for?
My hope is in you.
8 Save me from all my transgressions;
do not make me the scorn of fools.
9 I was silent; I would not open my mouth,
for you are the one who has done this.
10 Remove your scourge from me;
I am overcome by the blow of your hand.
11 You rebuke and discipline men for their sin;
you consume their wealth like a moth–
each man is but a breath.
12 “Hear my prayer, O LORD,
listen to my cry for help;
be not deaf to my weeping.
For I dwell with you as an alien,
a stranger, as all my fathers were.
13 Look away from me, that I may rejoice again
before I depart and am no more.” Psa39:1-13

Have you ever experienced wanting to hide from God even while you long for Him? In this hard-to-understand psalm we see David struggling with the two sides of his heart.

There is a war that goes on in each of us. Although we are new creatures in Christ, our old person makes regular appearances and attempts at getting onto the throne of our lives. Our natural inclinations take us far from God.

Because He loves us, God wants to deal with the things in us that separate us from him. Our problem is that our flesh (the old person) wants to avoid this Divine Intrusion at all costs. Our flesh has a “eat, drink for tomorrow we die” mentality. Our flesh sees life as short and God as the fun-spoiler.

David wrestles with this. At the beginning of the Psalm he resolves not to speak wickedly with his tongue. In the end he cannot keep silent and protests that life is so short. He struggles with his sin and the shortness of life. He wrestles with the vanity and futility of life.

David hopes in God, and he is aware of his sin. He believes that the scourge (some kind of illness) he is suffering is because of his sinful behaviour. David knows that God will confront and deal with sin in his life. There is a genuine struggle in him as to whether he wants this kind of “intervention.”

The last two verses show the two sides of the struggle, and here, quite shockingly we find the psalm ending on a negative note. Verse 12 is a plea for God to intervene and help him because he feels like a stranger in God’s presence. In Verse 13, which we see a change in attitude that illustrates the struggle he is in, for David asks God to look away. Literally, David is asking God to take the spotlight off him so that his sin cannot be seen and he does not have to deal with God’s correction and discipline.

The struggle around holiness is an ongoing one, even for believers. Although we know that God’s way is best, we find it hard to stick to it. Just because the psalm illustrates the possibility of making a bad call, it is not invalid – it still contains some beautiful truths.

The mere fact that the psalm ends on this unexpected note leads us to ask the question: “What choice will we make?”

2005-07-21 – “To God who has a plan!”

1 I waited patiently for the LORD; he turned to me and heard my cry.
2 He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire;
he set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand.
3 He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God.
Many will see and fear and put their trust in the LORD.
4 Blessed is the man who makes the LORD his trust,
who does not look to the proud, to those who turn aside to false gods.
5 Many, O LORD my God, are the wonders you have done.
The things you planned for us no one can recount to you;
were I to speak and tell of them, they would be too many to declare. Psa40:1-17

Although the excerpt we are looking at does not reveal it, this psalm is a combination of praise, penitence, and petition. David ends the psalm saying:
“Yet I am poor and needy – may the Lord think of me
You are my help and deliverer – O my God do not delay.”

As we have explored David’s penitent petitions in the last two psalms, I would like to concentrate on the first part of the psalm. But first it is helpful to note the structure of the psalm as a whole.
- David starts by remembering God’s help in the past.(1-3)
- He continues by reflecting on the importance of trusting in God (4)
- He praises God who sees the picture much more clearly than we do (5)
- Then he searches his heart and finds that he has been faithful and
that his desire is toward righteousness (6-10)
- He is aware of his sin, but he is also aware of God’s mercy (11-12)
- He pleads for help in his adversity (13-17)

Can we sing eloquently of God’s faithful help in the past? One of the things I fear is that I so easily lose appreciation for God’s goodness to me.
Let’s look at what David sees:
- God has heard our cries – not necessarily when we have _wanted_ it, but when we have _needed_ it.
- He has rescued us from sin, failure, disappointment, and confusion
- He has given us a new beginning. Jesus’ love is the rock on which we stand
- He has given us a song in the heart – meaning and purpose in life
- Even people around us can see the blessings of God’s love in us.
- He has a wonderful plan for our lives!

Truly we are blessed when we trust in Him!

# Thank you Lord that You are our Rescuer and Deliverer. We know from the past that You are with us in the present and that we can trust you in the future. #

2005-07-22 – “On my sickbed”

1 Blessed is he who has regard for the weak;
the LORD delivers him in times of trouble.
2 The LORD will protect him and preserve his life;
he will bless him in the land
and not surrender him to the desire of his foes.
3 The LORD will sustain him on his sickbed
and restore him from his bed of illness.
4 I said, “O LORD, have mercy on me;
heal me, for I have sinned against you.” Psa41:1-13

The psalms are divided into 5 sections or books. The first collection consists of Psalms 1-41.
This psalm concludes the section, but it also concludes a series of four psalms that are pleas and petitions for help in times of trouble and illness.

Once again the cause of the psalm is one of David’s times of illness. The rest of the psalm recounts how David is ill and people visit him with the pretense of being concerned, but secretly wanting to see if the rumour that he is on his deathbed is true.

Verses 5 and 6 say this:
My enemies say of me in malice,
“When will he die and his name perish?”
Whenever one comes to see me,
he speaks falsely, while his heart gathers slander;
then he goes out and spreads it abroad.

For David this has turned into a struggle between good and evil, and in this struggle he is very aware of his own guilt and sinfulness and freely acknowledges this. He has failed and is guilty before God, but the difference between him and his friends-who-are-actually-adversaries is that he is willing to acknowledge his sin and need for God.

David is certain that God will rescue him. He has two reasons for his belief:
1. Those who have regard for the weak receive mercy from God. (vs.1)
2. Integrity upholds us. (vs 12: “In my integrity You uphold me.”)

David _was_ someone who had regard for the weak. King Saul who tried to kill David, left behind an heir to the throne named Mephibosheth. He was technically a threat, but he was paralysed. David allowed Mephibosheth to eat at the royal table until he died.

What is striking about this psalm is that it begins on the same note as Psalm 1: “Blessed is the man…” After 41 songs that have explored the highs and lows of life, the psalms still conclude that a life lived in God’s way brings about blessing – even in adversity!

And so David concludes with vs 13:
Praise be to the LORD, the God of Israel,
from everlasting to everlasting.
Amen and Amen.

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