Great is the LORD!

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Reading:                                         Psalm 145

A psalm of praise. Of David.

(Verses 1-7)
I will exalt you, my God the King;
I will praise your name for ever and ever.
Every day I will praise you
and extol your name for ever and ever.
Great is the LORD and most worthy of praise;
his greatness no one can fathom.
One generation commends your works to another;
they tell of your mighty acts.
They speak of the glorious splendor of your majesty—
and I will meditate on your wonderful works.
They tell of the power of your awesome works—
and I will proclaim your great deeds.
They celebrate your abundant goodness
and joyfully sing of your righteousness (NIV).

Reflection

Have you ever tried to lift up something that is far too heavy for you? As a boy I remember trying to pick up a rock that was heavier than me. It’s a good thing that young bodies are resilient because I’m sure I would seriously harm myself, if I tried the same thing today.

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All creation speaks its praise — photo courtesy of Karen Kitz

If I can’t lift up a heavy rock, how can I possibly lift up God? But that is precisely what David did and is calling me to do in Psalm 145. David begins with these words: I will exalt you, my God the King; I will praise your name for ever and ever.

The key word as we begin this psalm is the word exalt. Exalt means to lift, elevate, raise or boost. How can we as mere more mortals lift, elevate, raise or boost God, the creator of the universe? Is God feeling down? Does the Almighty need me to lift Him up—to give Him a little boost? That sounds absurd, and it is absurd.

Yet here and throughout the psalms we are encouraged to praise the LORD. Does the LORD suffer from a fragile ego? Is that why He wants us to praise Him? No, that can’t be the reason we see these frequent admonitions to praise God. We can’t exalt God higher than He already is. Will praising God make Him one scintilla more holy, powerful, magnificent or loving? Of course not. The only one who is changed by praising God is us. The only one who is lifted up by exalting the LORD is you and me.

We are lifted up by lifting others. It has always been this way. Help someone, and we ourselves are helped. That’s how life works. That’s how praising God works. In this life of hardship and struggles, praise lifts my head and my heart from its burdens. I am lifted up when I lift the LORD up. No one lifts like Him!

Response: LORD God, I just want to praise you. Great is the LORD and most worthy of praise; his greatness no one can fathom. I will meditate on your wonderful works. You are the lifter of my head. Amen.

Your Turn: Does heartfelt praise for the LORD fill you with joy? Do you need a lift today?

Sons and Daughters; Plants and Pillars

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Reading:                                         Psalm 144

(Verses 10-15)
From the deadly sword deliver me;
rescue me from the hands of foreigners
whose mouths are full of lies,
whose right hands are deceitful.
Then our sons in their youth
will be like well-nurtured plants,
and our daughters will be like pillars
carved to adorn a palace.
Our barns will be filled with every kind of provision.
Our sheep will increase by thousands,
by tens of thousands in our fields;
our oxen will draw heavy loads.
There will be no breaching of walls,
no going into captivity,
no cry of distress in our streets.
Blessed is the people of whom this is true;
blessed is the people whose God is the LORD (NIV)

Reflection

Yesterday, my afternoon work routine was interrupted by visitors. First my oldest son dropped in. My wife and I worked to quickly put together a delicious lunch. After the meal we talked business for about an hour. Tim wanted some help and advice with his market gardening enterprise. It’s challenging work and the busy spring season will soon be here.

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The planting of the Lord — photo by David Kitz

Not long after, my youngest son and his wife dropped over for a visit. Their spring and summer schedule includes working tours to locations in the Yukon, the US, western Canada and the British Isles. They will be doing live history shows at museums and historic homes on two continents.

After everyone left I said, “I didn’t get much work done this afternoon.”

My wife replied, “You got the most important thing done—time with your family. You need to appreciate these times. You won’t be seeing them much this summer.”

Of course she is right. Time spent with family is precious. You can sense that same appreciation of family in today’s reading from Psalm 144. David, the psalmist, makes this observation: Then our sons in their youth will be like well-nurtured plants, and our daughters will be like pillars carved to adorn a palace. Our barns will be filled with every kind of provision.

That’s what I want for my family. We want peace and prosperity. These are blessings that come to us from the good hand of God. Yesterday I experience these things. Together, we are truly blessed.

Response: LORD God, I thank you for my family. In them and through them I am blessed beyond measure. You have been very kind to us. Blessed are the people whose God is the LORD. Amen.

Your Turn: Do you see your family as a blessing, or as a burden? How can you show your appreciation?

Come Down, LORD

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Reading:                                         Psalm 144

(Verses 5-10)

Part your heavens, LORD, and come down;
touch the mountains, so that they smoke.
Send forth lightning and scatter the enemy;
shoot your arrows and rout them.
Reach down your hand from on high;
deliver me and rescue me
from the mighty waters,
from the hands of foreigners
whose mouths are full of lies,
whose right hands are deceitful.
I will sing a new song to you, my God;
on the ten-stringed lyre I will make music to you,
to the One who gives victory to kings,
who delivers his servant David (NIV).

Reflection

“Lord, why don’t you come and fix this mess?” Have you ever thought that thought, or voiced that prayer?

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Red sunset — photo courtesy of Donald Adam

When we look at the world around us, there are a great many things that appear to be coming off the rails. This past week the abandoned body of a toddler was found in a church parking lot in Edmonton. Where are the parents? They haven’t come forward. Who would harm a child like that? Sadly, you can check the news services and see that cases like this occur all too frequently all over the globe. It appears that the love of many has grown cold. See 2 Timothy 3:1-5.

Here’s a chilling statistic. In America on average every month fifty women are shot to death by their male partners. Meanwhile gun advocates keep insisting that more guns will keep America safe—safe from whom? It seems the killers are the well-armed and well-intentioned men in our midst.

On the international scene, wars, violence and mass migration are creating havoc and instability in Europe, the Middle East and North Africa. Terrorists and dictators continually amp up their threats. Has the world gone mad?

In this context, David’s prayer in Psalm 144 makes a lot of sense. Part your heavens, LORD, and come down; touch the mountains, so that they smoke. Send forth lightning and scatter the enemy; shoot your arrows and rout them.

David is asking for the LORD to come down and fix this mess. Down through the ages believers have prayed similar prayers. Jesus did come down to fix this mess, and the world he created turned on him and had him crucified. But we can be sure a final day is coming when he returns again triumphant.

Response: LORD, I look forward to the return of Jesus. He alone can fix this mess. Lord, help me to do what I can to speed your return. Let your gospel be preached in the entire world as a witness. Amen.

Your Turn: Do you believe the Lord will fix this mess? Do we have a role to play in Christ’s return?

Train my Hands for War

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Reading:                                        Psalm 144

Of David.

(Verses 1-4)
Praise be to the LORD my Rock,
who trains my hands for war,
my fingers for battle.
He is my loving God and my fortress,
my stronghold and my deliverer,
my shield, in whom I take refuge,
who subdues peoples under me.
LORD, what are human beings that you care for them,
mere mortals that you think of them?
They are like a breath;
their days are like a fleeting shadow (NIV).

Reflection

Many nations have defining battles that cement their stature as a nation. For Canada that defining battle began on April 4th, 1917. Over the next three days Canadian forces captured Vimy Ridge in northern France from the German Army. Previously, French and British forces had attempted to take the Ridge, but they were repelled.

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The Vimy Memorial, Vimy Ridge, France — photo by CWGC, Milton Historical Society

The great battles of World War I were mired in stalemate. On the western front it is no exaggeration to say that millions of young men lost their lives for not a single meter of territory gained. How then did the Canadian troops manage to capture such a significant stronghold while suffering the loss of less than 3,500 men? A good part of the answer lies in training.

General Arthur Currie was a brilliant tactician. He had noted that in the past, battlefield advances ground to a halt when platoon commanders were killed or disabled. To overcome this predictable outcome, Currie insisted on training all his troops to reach their objective. The loss of a leader would not be a crippling blow. Every man carried a map and knew the plan to reach their objective for the day. On the day when the offensive was launched, thorough training from first man to last made all the difference. The Germans were unable to halt the steady, uphill, Canadian advance.

David, the warrior king, begins Psalm 144 with this declaration: Praise be to the LORD my Rock, who trains my hands for war, my fingers for battle.

The church of Jesus Christ is in a spiritual battle. This is the great war of the ages. Have you been trained for battle? Do you even know there is a war raging? It’s a war for the souls of men, women and children. The Lord has provided all the armor we need. See Ephesians 6:10-20. Have you been trained in the use of your equipment? Are you knowledgeable in the word of God? Are you familiar with the voice of your commanding officer? Do you have a map to your objective? Vimy Ridge wasn’t won by accident. It required careful planning. Taking territory from the prince of this world will require the same.

Response: LORD God, I need to be trained for battle. Help me to see and achieve the objectives you have set out for me. I want to hear your voice and follow your commands. Lead me to victory, Jesus. Amen.

Your Turn: Are there strongholds that God is asking you to attack? Do you have a strategy?

Proclaim the Power of God

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I will praise Him!

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Ottawa River’ Orleans, ON — photo by David Kitz

Sing to God, you kingdoms of the earth,
    sing praise to the Lord,
to him who rides across the highest heavens, the ancient heavens,
    who thunders with mighty voice.
Proclaim the power of God,
    whose majesty is over Israel,
    whose power is in the heavens.
You, God, are awesome in your sanctuary;
    the God of Israel gives power and strength to his people.

Praise be to God!

(Psalm 68:32-35, NIV)

Sing to God

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I will praise Him!

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Manitoba sunrise — photo by David Kitz

Sing to God, sing in praise of his name,
    extol him who rides on the clouds;
    rejoice before him—his name is the LORD.
A father to the fatherless, a defender of widows,
    is God in his holy dwelling.
God sets the lonely in families,
    he leads out the prisoners with singing;
    but the rebellious live in a sun-scorched land.

(Psalm 68:4-6, NIV)

For Your Name’s Sake

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Reading:                                        Psalm 143

(Verses 11-12)
For your name’s sake, LORD, preserve my life;
in your righteousness,
bring me out of trouble.
In your unfailing love,
silence my enemies;
destroy all my foes,
for I am your servant (NIV).

Reflection

Are you proud of your family name? To be honest on most days my family name is not a top of mind thought. But if I scratch beneath the surface, I must admit my name is important to me. I am sure your name is important to you as well. Why would that be?

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The angel wing of dawn — photo courtesy of Eric Wright

The simple answer is because your name is directly linked to your reputation. A good reputation is built over a lifetime, but it can be ruined in a careless moment. The following proverb sums up the value of having a good reputation: A good name is more desirable than great riches; to be esteemed is better than silver or gold (Proverbs 22:1).

Both individuals and corporations will go to extraordinary lengths to protect their name. Walmart sued a small, family-run wool business in Canada called Woolmart, because they argued the name could be confused with Walmart. The big multinational won despite the fact that Woolmart had registered its legal name several years before Walmart opened its first store in Canada.

In today’s final reading from Psalm 143, David makes this plea: For your name’s sake, LORD, preserve my life; in your righteousness, bring me out of trouble. In your unfailing love, silence my enemies; destroy all my foes, for I am your servant.

Will the LORD go to extraordinary lengths to uphold His name? Absolutely. When the Son of God was slandered before Pilate and then sentenced to death as a common criminal, the LORD God parted the heavens and rendered His judgment. He shook the earth, reversed death and brought Jesus back to life. For the sake of His name, the LORD would not allow His Son to remain in the mud and mire of death and disrepute.

David bases his appeal to the Almighty on his role as a servant of God. In essence David is saying, “Come to my rescue because I am your servant. LORD, your good name will be defamed, if you don’t help me.”

Why should God answer my prayers—your prayers? Are you closely associated with the LORD? Have you fully identified with Him? Are you His servant—His child? Does the LORD’s reputation hinge on the conduct and the outcome of your life? Will He answer your prayers for the sake of His good name? How closely are you linked God? Is He your Father or a casual acquaintance?

Response: LORD God, please help me. I am your child. I identify with you. My Savior and Lord, for your names sake I want to live a life that is pleasing to you and brings honor to the name of Christ. Amen.

Your Turn: Can others clearly see that you have identified yourself as a Christ follower?

Hiding in You

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Reading:                                        Psalm 143

(Verses 7-10)
Answer me quickly, LORD;
my spirit fails.
Do not hide your face from me
or I will be like those who go down to the pit.
Let the morning bring me word of your unfailing love,
for I have put my trust in you.
Show me the way I should go,
for to you I entrust my life.
Rescue me from my enemies, LORD,
for I hide myself in you.
Teach me to do your will,
for you are my God;
may your good Spirit
lead me on level ground (NIV).

Reflection

Can you hide in someone else? That sounds like the plot for a sci-fi thriller. Maybe I could reduce myself to the size of a microbe and be injected into another person’s body? That would truly be a mind-boggling adventure, presumably with a good outcome for all.

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Easter bouquet — photo by David Kitz

But here in Psalm 143, David speaks of hiding himself in the LORD. Rescue me from my enemies, LORD, for I hide myself in you.

David, please tell me how I can do that? How do I hide myself in the LORD? Actually, this idea of hiding in God is well developed throughout the psalms. David sees the LORD as his strong tower and his shelter. See Psalm 61:3. David says this of the LORD: For in the day of trouble he will keep me safe in his dwelling; he will hide me in the shelter of his sacred tent and set me high upon a rock (Psalm 27:5).

Again in Psalm 32 David makes this statement about the LORD. You are my hiding place; you will protect me from trouble and surround me with songs of deliverance (Psalm 32:7).

How do I hide myself in God? Let me suggest that it begins by immersing oneself in God’s word. Jesus is the living logos—the word of God. See John 1:1-5. But in addition to reading and receiving the written word of God, we need to connect with the Spirit of God. Our human spirit must come alive to and through the Spirit of God. Receiving Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior is not merely an intellectual experience. It is a spiritual experience—a from the inside out transformational experience.

When our human spirit comes alive to God, these words become our prayer. Teach me to do your will, for you are my God; may your good Spirit lead me on level ground.

Response: LORD God, I have put my trust in you. I want to connect with your Holy Spirit. I want to be fully alive in you, body, soul and spirit. Show me the way forward to a vibrant relationship with you. Amen.

Your Turn: Has your spirit connected with God’s Spirit? Has your life been changed by that encounter?

No One Righteous

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Reading:                                       Psalm 143

A psalm of David.
(Verses 1-6)
LORD, hear my prayer,
listen to my cry for mercy;
in your faithfulness and righteousness come to my relief.
Do not bring your servant into judgment,
for no one living is righteous before you.
The enemy pursues me,
he crushes me to the ground;
he makes me dwell in the darkness like those long dead.
So my spirit grows faint within me;
my heart within me is dismayed.
I remember the days of long ago;
I meditate on all your works
and consider what your hands have done.
I spread out my hands to you;
I thirst for you like a parched land (NIV).

Reflection

On my best day, I need God’s mercy. On my worst day my need for outside help and mercy are evident to all. In truth, my need for the mercy of the LORD is never ending. All too often, we only call out to God in times of need or perceived difficulty. In reality our need for God’s help and mercy are constant.

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The last of the forest melt, Gatineau Park, QC — photo by David Kitz

Here in Psalm 143, as he so often does, David calls out for God’s mercy. In many respects David’s plea for mercy is rather repetitive throughout the psalms. Why would this be? Could it be that he is in constant need of God’s sustaining support and mercy? From the following request, we can see why David repeatedly prays for God’s mercy: Do not bring your servant into judgment, for no one living is righteous before you.

David recognized that within himself he had no righteousness. In reality this is the starting point for a life transforming relationship with God. Contrary to a good deal of modern psychology and religious philosophy, we are not okay. We have a warped nature that is inclined to sin. It delights in rebelling against God. St. Paul describes this human condition with these words. For I know that good itself does not dwell in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out (Romans 7:18).

The prophet Isaiah described this universal human condition in this way. All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags; we all shrivel up like a leaf, and like the wind our sins sweep us away (Isaiah 64:6).

Do I need God’s mercy? Yes, a thousand times yes!

Response: LORD God, I need your righteousness. My own righteousness is tainted with pride. I freely acknowledge my need for a Savior. You are my constant help.  I thirst for you like a parched land. Amen.

Your Turn: Are you aware of your constant need for God’s mercy? Are you calling out to Him?

Free from my Prison

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Reading:                                         Psalm 142

(Verses 5-7)
I cry to you, LORD;
I say, “You are my refuge,
my portion in the land of the living.”
Listen to my cry, for I am in desperate need;
rescue me from those who pursue me,
for they are too strong for me.
Set me free from my prison,
that I may praise your name.
Then the righteous will gather about me
because of your goodness to me (NIV).

Reflection

Though I have visited prisoners, I have never been imprisoned, at least not in the classic sense of imprisonment. But in the broader meaning of the word, we all have been confined to prisons—prisons of the mind. Some of us are prisoners of counterproductive habits, or prisoners within crippling relationships that hinder personal growth and fulfillment. Prisons come in many forms. Some of them are disguised as places of personal liberty, but all too often the thing we freely choose can become a cruel slave master.

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‘Sky root’ behind the National Gallery of Canada — photo by David Kitz

When David prayed the words of this psalm, he was not in a prison. He was confined to a cave or the immediate region around a cave, because he was a fugitive from King Saul who was trying to kill him. He voices this prayer: Listen to my cry, for I am in desperate need; rescue me from those who pursue me, for they are too strong for me. Set me free from my prison that I may praise your name.

Are you in a prison? Is fear of discovery locking you up? Are you trapped in habits, addictions or thought patterns that are too strong for you?

David was in a weak and vulnerable position. Saul, his personal enemy had an entire army on his side. For the second time in his life, David was in what we call the classic David and Goliath situation. He was outnumbered and in every way the advantage belonged to his opponent.

In such adverse circumstances we need God on our side. We need the resources of heaven to tip the scale in our favor. That is precisely what happened in David’s case. The LORD arranged situations that gave all the advantage to David. David ended up sparing Saul’s life on two occasions. For a full account read 1 Samuel 24 & 26.

David ends this psalm with an affirmation of his faith in God. Set me free from my prison that I may praise your name. Then the righteous will gather about me because of your goodness to me. That is exactly what happened. When the LORD set David free from his prison, righteous men took note, and they rallied around David as their leader because they saw that the LORD was with him.

Response: LORD God, set me free from the negative habits and thought patterns that imprison me. Help me identify them one by one, and then help me gain the victory over them in the power of Jesus. Amen.

Your Turn: Can you identify habits or thought patterns that harm your relationships with others?