Listen to what God says

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Reading:                                          Psalm 85

Verses 8-13

I will listen to what God the LORD says;
he promises peace to his people, his faithful servants—
but let them not turn to folly.
Surely his salvation is near those who fear him,
that his glory may dwell in our land.

Love and faithfulness meet together;
righteousness and peace kiss each other.
Faithfulness springs forth from the earth,
and righteousness looks down from heaven.
 The L
ORD will indeed give what is good,
and our land will yield its harvest.
Righteousness goes before him
and prepares the way for his steps
(NIV).

Reflection

Psalm 85 began with the psalmist reflecting on a wonderful time of God’s favor and forgiveness. God’s grace had been abundant and a source of great joy. But that is not the present reality. It would seem that for some reason God’s hand of blessing has been lifted and the psalmist finds himself crying out for mercy and revival. Will you not revive us again, that your people may rejoice in you? Show us your unfailing love, LORD, and grant us your salvation.

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Rock along the trail, Gatineau Park, QC — photo by David Kitz

Times of hardship and personal setbacks can leave us wondering if God has abandoned us. Have we sinned? Has God withdrawn His blessing from our lives? Will He shows us His kindness once again? In difficult times these questions often flood our minds.

After pleading for restoration and pouring out his troubles before God the psalmist makes this statement, I will listen to what God the LORD says.”

Now that’s sound advice. Listening to what God says is always a good idea. It resolves inner conflict and brings peace of mind. And what does God the LORD say? “He promises peace to his people, his faithful servants—but let them not turn to folly.”

Often we feel that when things aren’t going right in our lives, we must be at fault. Perhaps we are and we should repent. But there are other times when the hardships we face are not due to sin or error on our part. Troubles and difficulties come to all of us. On such occasions the LORD promises us peace. He assures us that we are walking in His will and He is right there with us in the midst of life’s storms. Here is His promise for you: The LORD will indeed give what is good, and our land will yield its harvest. Righteousness goes before him and prepares the way for his steps.

Hang onto the righteousness of God. He is about to step into your life in a beautiful way.

Response: LORD God, I turn to you in the middle of my difficulties. Open my ears to hear your voice speaking to me. I trust you to lead me. Come and step into my life. Amen.

Your Turn: Can you recall occasions when God has stepped into your life? What did that look like?

You Forgave Your People

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Reading:                                       Psalm 85

For the director of music. Of the Sons of Korah. A psalm.

Verses 1-7

You, LORD, showed favor to your land;
you restored the fortunes of Jacob.
You forgave the iniquity of your people
and covered all their sins.
You set aside all your wrath
and turned from your fierce anger.

 Restore us again, God our Savior,
and put away your displeasure toward us.
Will you be angry with us forever?
Will you prolong your anger through all generations?
 Will you not revive us again,
that your people may rejoice in you?
Show us your unfailing love, L
ORD,
and grant us your salvation
(NIV).

Reflection

Psalm 85 begins on a high note as the psalmist reflects on God’s goodness in the past. You, LORD, showed favor to your land; you restored the fortunes of Jacob.

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Hopewell Rocks, New Brunswick — photo by David Kitz

God’s favor is not something we earn; it is undeserved. God’s favor is synonymous with God’s grace. We may attempt to explain God’s grace, but in reality there’s no accounting for it. God showers His grace upon us, but why on us and not someone else? There is an aspect of Divine grace that we may never fully comprehend. We simply need to receive it and rejoice in God’s favor when it comes our way.

Make no mistake. God’s grace and His favor are rooted in forgiveness. Note the words of the psalmist: You forgave the iniquity of your people and covered all their sins. You set aside all your wrath and turned from your fierce anger. 

Because of our sins and disobedience, we deserved God’s wrath and anger, but instead He has shown us favor and forgiveness. How awesome is that! There is something over-the-moon wonderful about the love of God. When we experience its fullness, it puts a smile on our face and a wellspring of joy in our hearts.

But… But there is a point of transition in this psalm. The wonderful sense of nearness to God has been lost. About midway through the passage above the psalmist cries out in anguish. Restore us again, God our Savior, and put away your displeasure toward us. Will you be angry with us forever? 

We are not told what has caused this sense of separation from God. Is it sin? Is it unforeseen hardships or calamities of various kinds? Whatever the cause, the psalmist pleads for revival and a return to joy.

Response: LORD God, revive my love for you. I want to sense you near to me again—smiling down on me. Show me your favor and your unfailing love. Amen.

Your Turn: Have you lost a sense of nearness to God? Do you need a personal revival?

My Hiding Place

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Secure!   

Tornado near Wroxton Rachael

The approaching storm, near Saltcoats, SK — photo by Tracy K

We worship you, Lord,
    and we should always pray
whenever we find out that we have sinned.
    Then we won’t be swept away
    by a raging flood.
You are my hiding place!
    You protect me from trouble,
and you put songs in my heart
    because you have saved me.

(Psalm 32:6-7, CEV)

One Day in Your Courts

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Reading:                                      Psalm 84

Verses 8-12

Hear my prayer, LORD God Almighty;
listen to me, God of Jacob.
Look on our shield, O God;
look with favor on your anointed one.

Better is one day in your courts
than a thousand elsewhere;
I would rather be a doorkeeper 

in the house of my God
than dwell in the tents of the wicked.
For the L
ORD God is a sun and shield;
the L
ORD bestows favor and honor;
no good thing does he withhold
from those whose walk is blameless.

LORD Almighty,
blessed is the one who trusts in you
(NIV).

Reflection

All of Psalm 84 is written in praise of a special day—a day spent in God’s presence. Throughout this Psalm there is a longing to be with God—a desire to be close to him. So we hear the Psalmist declare, “Better is one day in your courts than a thousand elsewhere.

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Cheticamp Church, Cheticamp, NS — photo by David Kitz

If you were to plan for the best day in your life, what would that day include? What would it look like? How and where would you spend your best day? Would the LORD be at the center of it all?

Love is at the core of every special day. Think back to some of the best days of your life—days marked by joy and excitement. If you scratch beneath the surface of those days, you will find love at the core. We are in fact love starved people. We need it as much as the air we breathe. Experiments have shown that the unloved, un-caressed, unspoken to baby will die, even though all its physical needs are met. So when love comes to us, we celebrate it, frolic in it, and throw a party to announce it.

We need love. We need to receive it. We need to give it.

It was love that brought the psalmist to the House of God. It drew him like a magnet, pulled at his heart, tugged at his sleeve, and finally ushered him through the door. Love set him on this pilgrimage. It kept his weary feet moving mile after dreary mile. When he finally reached his goal—the object of his love—in wonder, we hear him exclaim, “How lovely is your dwelling place, O LORD Almighty! My soul yearns, even faints, for the courts of the LORD; my heart and flesh cry out for the living God.”

The psalmist was pursuing love with the one he loved—the LORD Almighty. Have you spent time pursuing him lately? Is a day spent with him, something you yearn for?

Response: LORD God, I love you. I know that you love me because Jesus showed the extent of your love. He reaches out to me with nail-scarred hands. I want to spend my day with you. Amen.

Your Turn: Is a day spent with Jesus, something you yearn for?

How Lovely Is Your Dwelling Place

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Reading:                                      Psalm 84

For the director of music. According to gittith. Of the Sons of Korah. A psalm.

Verses 1-7

How lovely is your dwelling place, LORD Almighty!
My soul yearns, even faints,
for the courts of the L
ORD;
my heart and my flesh cry out for the living God.
Even the sparrow has found a home,
and the swallow a nest for herself,
where she may have her young—
a place near your altar,
L
ORD Almighty, my King and my God.
Blessed are those who dwell in your house;
they are ever praising you.

Blessed are those whose strength is in you,
whose hearts are set on pilgrimage.

As they pass through the Valley of Baka,
they make it a place of springs;
the autumn rains also cover it with pools.
They go from strength to strength,
till each appears before God in Zion
(NIV).

Reflection

Where does God live? If you were going to pay God a visit where would you go? Some of us would head off to a church. The psalmist speaks of travelling to the temple in Jerusalem. Psalm 84 was often used by pilgrims as they made the long journey to the holy city to be near to God in His temple.

Gatineau Park Trail

Gatineau Park trail — photo by David Kitz

When I read the phrase, “How lovely is your dwelling place, O LORD Almighty!” my mind instantly flashes to pictures of nature. I see God there, in the dazzling sunset, in the mountain grandeur, in the forest depths, in expansive prairie vistas, in the wind whipped ocean breakers, and by the sunlit babbling stream. God is there. This is His dwelling place. It is just as David declared, “The earth is the LORD‘s, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it” (Psalm 24:1).

Nature is God’s domain. He formed it, planned it, spoke it into existence. It is his dwelling place. Our attempts to create a dwelling place for him are feeble at best. After overseeing the construction of one of the seven wonders of the ancient world, King Solomon, that master temple builder of the Old Testament declared, “There is not enough room in heaven for you, LORD God. How can you possibly live on earth in this temple I have built?” (1 Kings 8:27).

But here in Psalm 84 the psalmist marvels that nature has invaded the temple. Swallows have built their nest in the temple, close by the altar of God. He exclaims, Blessed are those who dwell in your house; they are ever praising you.” Indeed, there is no better place to be than near to the heart of God.

Response: LORD God, I want to be near to you today. I want to dwell where you are. Please come and stay with me. Be as close to me as my next breath. Amen.

Your Turn: Where are you closest to God? Do you long to be near Him?

Tumbleweeds and Chaff

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Reading:                                       Psalm 83

Verses 9-18

Do to them as you did to Midian,
as you did to Sisera and Jabin at the river Kishon,
who perished at Endor and became like dung on the ground.
Make their nobles like Oreb and Zeeb,
all their princes like Zebah and Zalmunna,
who said, “Let us take possession of the pasturelands of God.”

Make them like tumbleweed, my God,
like chaff before the wind.
As fire consumes the forest
or a flame sets the mountains ablaze,
so pursue them with your tempest
and terrify them with your storm.
Cover their faces with shame, L
ORD,
so that they will seek your name.

May they ever be ashamed and dismayed;
may they perish in disgrace.
Let them know that you, whose name is the L
ORD
that you alone are the Most High over all the earth
(NIV).

Reflection

Bible scholars believe the psalms that comprise the Book of Psalms were written over a period of about seven hundred years between 1000 BC and 300 BC. One of the challenges of writing something daily about the Psalms is discovering something personally relevant about each scripture portion. What could these ancient writings mean for me today? Is there something in there for me?

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Gatineau Park, QC — photo by David Kitz

Today’s reading illustrates this point. The psalmist is calling for the destruction of Israel’s enemies who have invaded the land and brought death and devastation. In his appeal for God’s help, the psalmist recalls the great victories the LORD wrought in the past. He prays against Israel’s enemies, Make them like tumbleweed, my God, like chaff before the wind.”

In our daily walk through life do we face enemies? Of course we do. Their names are not Sisera and Jabin or Oreb and Zeeb, but nevertheless we face enemies. They come with names like Discouragement and Depression or Complacency and Apathy. Occasionally, I run into Disappointment and Bitterness. Now those are two tough characters. If you let them take hold, they can pin you down and leave you defeated in no time.

The negative thoughts that we permit can devastate our lives as effectively as any marauding army. That’s why Asaph, the psalmist, calls on the wind of God’s Spirit to blow such enemies away. There is no value in chaff or tumbleweed. Similarly, some thoughts should have no place in our lives.    

Response: LORD God, today I choose to think thoughts that lift me up and bring me closer to you. With your help I reject those thoughts that bring me down. Holy Spirit blow through my life.  Amen.

Your Turn: What thoughts bring you down? What thoughts bring you joy and victory?

Your Enemies Growl

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Reading:                                     Psalm 83

A psalm of Asaph.

Verses 1-8

O God, do not remain silent;
do not turn a deaf ear,
do not stand aloof, O God.
See how your enemies growl,
how your foes rear their heads.
With cunning they conspire against your people;
they plot against those you cherish.
“Come,” they say, “let us destroy them as a nation,
so that Israel’s name is remembered no more.”

With one mind they plot together;
they form an alliance against you—
the tents of Edom and the Ishmaelites,
of Moab and the Hagrites,
Byblos, Ammon and Amalek,
Philistia, with the people of Tyre.

Even Assyria has joined them
to reinforce Lot’s descendants
(NIV).

Reflection

Do you have enemies? Ancient Israel certainly did. Here in Psalm 83, Asaph lists ten traditional enemies of Israel. The psalmist clearly states the objective of these foreign powers. Their objective was the annihilation of Israel as a nation. “Come,” they say, “let us destroy them as a nation, so that Israel’s name is remembered no more.”

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Old threshing machine near MacNutt, SK — photo courtesy of Donald Adam

In the spiritual realm every born-again follower of Jesus has a host of enemies who are trying to tear him down and annihilate his or her faith. Therefore, St. Paul gives us this advice:  Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms (Ephesians 6:11-12).

Though they may not have a physical form, our enemies are real. The trap called pornography is real. The idolatrous nature of greed is real. The crippling effects of resentment and bitterness are real. These sins and the demonic forces that continually prompt us to disobey God are real. They are constantly working to annihilate our faith.

Our enemies growl and they rear their heads. But in our hour of need, if we call out to God, He will not stand aloof. He will deliver us. Lord, teach us to pray. Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.

Response: LORD God, we have a powerful opponent, but we have victory through your Son, the Lord Jesus Christ. I call on your awesome name. Give me victory over sin and the forces of evil that are out to destroy my life. My strength is in you. Amen.

Your Turn: Can you identify the sins and snares the enemy has set for you?

“Gods” on a Pedestal

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Reading:                                       Psalm 82

A song. A psalm of Asaph.

God presides in the great assembly;
he renders judgment among the “gods”:

 “How long will you defend the unjust
and show partiality to the wicked?
Defend the weak and the fatherless;
uphold the cause of the poor and the oppressed.
Rescue the weak and the needy;
deliver them from the hand of the wicked.

 “The ‘gods’ know nothing, they understand nothing.
They walk about in darkness;
all the foundations of the earth are shaken.

 “I said, ‘You are “gods”;
you are all sons of the Most High.’
But you will die like mere mortals;
you will fall like every other ruler.”

Rise up, O God, judge the earth,
for all the nations are your inheritance
(NIV).

Reflection

How high is the pedestal you are standing on? Are you standing taller than the fellow beside you?

Most of us would answer that we are not standing on a pedestal, but is that the truth. If we are honest with ourselves, I think we all can admit that we have looked down on others at times. We have considered ourselves superior to some of our peers.

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The upper portion of the pedestal for the Statue of Liberty — photo by David Kitz

Here in Psalm 82, God sets us on a pedestal. He calls us gods. This is a rather backhanded compliment, because after calling us gods, the Most High calls us to account. And what must we account for? We need to account for how we treat the weak and the poor among us. Here are the actions the LORD expects from us: Defend the weak and the fatherless; uphold the cause of the poor and the oppressed.

Are we doing these things? Far too often I spend my time jacking up my pedestal—trying to get a bit of elevation over the fellow beside me. I’m too busy to help someone else who has fallen off their pedestal or the poor clod who can’t find one to stand on. You have to pity these folks—the ones who don’t have a pedestal. How can they hold their head up if they’re superior to no one?

Paul, the apostle, writes, “We do not dare to classify or compare ourselves with some who commend themselves. When they measure themselves by themselves and compare themselves with themselves, they are not wise” (2 Corinthians 10:12).

God will have the final say with mortals like me. This “god” needs to learn to serve in humility.

Response: LORD God, you are the Most High. Help me to stop comparing myself with others. All I have comes from you. Today I want to get off my pedestal and help someone else. Amen.

Your Turn: Do you compare yourself with others? Are you polishing your pedestal?

If You Love Me

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Wild flowers, Petrie Island, Ottawa, ON — photo by David Kitz

    The LORD says,
“If you love me
    and truly know who I am,
    I will rescue you and keep you safe.
 When you are in trouble, call out to me.
I will answer and be there
    to protect and honor you.
You will live a long life and see my saving power.”

(Psalm 91:14-16, CEV)

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