In Darkness Light Dawns

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Reading:                                         Psalm 112

Praise the LORD.

Blessed are those who fear the LORD,
who find great delight in his commands.

Their children will be mighty in the land;
the generation of the upright will be blessed.
Wealth and riches are in their houses,
and their righteousness endures forever.
Even in darkness light dawns for the upright,
for those who are gracious and compassionate and righteous.
Good will come to those who are generous and lend freely,
who conduct their affairs with justice.

Surely the righteous will never be shaken; they will be remembered forever.
They will have no fear of bad news;
their hearts are steadfast, trusting in the L
ORD.
Their hearts are secure, they will have no fear;
in the end they will look in triumph on their foes.
They have freely scattered their gifts to the poor,
their righteousness endures forever;
their horn will be lifted high in honor.

The wicked will see and be vexed,
they will gnash their teeth and waste away;
the longings of the wicked will come to nothing
(NIV).

Reflection

Is there a blessing to be had for those who fear the LORD? Absolutely yes, according to Psalm 112! When we put the LORD first in our lives and honor Him in all we say and do, He takes note. Blessings come from the LORD. Those blessings can come in various forms.

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Winter sunrise, Grey Nuns Park, Orleans, ON — photo by David Kitz

The psalmist begins by speaking of the blessing that flows to our children. A home where the love of God reigns is blessed indeed. Children grow up in a secure environment and that sets the stage for their advancement as adults in society. The psalmist asserts the generation of the upright will be blessed.

Are you finding great delight in the LORD’s commands? There are consequences for that. You may be blessed with wealth and riches as a result. Fearing God brings a reward, but that reward must be used wisely in the service of God and others. Good will come to those who are generous and lend freely, who conduct their affairs with justice.

But this psalm does not promise us a trouble-free life. Though bad news may come, those who fear God will trust in Him and overcome adversity. Even in darkness light dawns for the upright. Their hearts are secure, they will have no fear; in the end they will look in triumph on their foes.

Response: Father God, I thank you for every blessing that comes from fearing you and living uprightly. When my way seems dark, shine your light on me. Lead me forward in the way of Christ. Amen.

Your Turn: Have you experienced God’s blessing? Which blessings do you value most?

The Better Day

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I will praise Him!

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Bilberry Creek, Orleans, ON — photo by David Kitz

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 LORD God is a sun and shield;
    the LORD bestows favor and honor;
no good thing does he withhold
    from those whose walk is blameless.

(Psalm 84:10-11 NIV)

The Wisdom in Fearing God

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Reading:                                        Psalm 111

Praise the LORD!
I will give thanks to the L
ORD with my whole heart,
in the company of the upright, in the congregation.
Great are the works of the L
ORD, studied by all who delight in them.
Full of honor and majesty is his work,
and his righteousness endures forever.
He has gained renown by his wonderful deeds;
the L
ORD is gracious and merciful.
He provides food for those who fear him; he is ever mindful of his covenant.
He has shown his people the power of his works,
in giving them the heritage of the nations.
The works of his hands are faithful and just; all his precepts are trustworthy.
They are established forever and ever,
to be performed with faithfulness and uprightness.
He sent redemption to his people; he has commanded his covenant forever.
Holy and awesome is his name.
The fear of the L
ORD is the beginning of wisdom;
all those who practice it have a good understanding.
His praise endures forever
(NIV).

Reflection

If the beginning of wisdom is the fear of the LORD, what is the end point or objective of this inducement to wisdom? I have often heard it argued that the fear of the LORD, which is frequently extolled in the Old Testament, has little to do with the common meaning for fear. We are to reverence or be in awe of the LORD, not be afraid of Him. To an extent this is true; however, I suspect that we often push this fearless approach to God too far. The Lion of the Tribe of Judah is not toothless. He has claws.

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Saskatchewan sunset near Churchbridge, SK — photo by David Kitz

A healthy dose of godly fear can prevent a massive case of sin enslavement and heartache.

The reaction of God’s people when the Ten Commandments were given at Mount Sinai is well worth noting. When the people saw the thunder and lightning and heard the trumpet and saw the mountain in smoke, they trembled with fear. They stayed at a distance and said to Moses, “Speak to us yourself and we will listen. But do not have God speak to us or we will die” (Exodus 22:18-19).

The very human fear expressed in this Exodus passage went well beyond a sense of awe and wonder. This was knee-buckling, heart-racing fear—the kind of fear that makes us dread doing anything that might offend this all-knowing, all-seeing, holy God. That’s a healthy fear—a fear that helps us to live and walk straight. Why would God want to induce this kind of fear?

God wants us to fear Him because He loves us. He wants to spare us from the agony of the terrible consequences of sin. A healthy fear of God leads us to an awe-induced love for Him. Now that’s wisdom.

Response: Father God, help me see your love for me in your commandments. In love, you correct me when I stray. Grant me understanding that comes through a healthy fear and love for you. Amen.

Your Turn: What does fearing God mean to you? Is God your chum, your friend or your master?

In the Order of Melchizedek

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Reading:                                         Psalm 110

Of David. A psalm.

The LORD says to my Lord:

“Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet.”

The LORD will extend your mighty scepter from Zion, saying,
“Rule in the midst of your enemies!”
Your troops will be willing on your day of battle.
Arrayed in holy splendor,
your young men will come to you
like dew from the morning’s womb.

The LORD has sworn and will not change his mind:
“You are a priest forever, in the order of Melchizedek.”

The Lord is at your right hand;
he will crush kings on the day of his wrath.
He will judge the nations, heaping up the dead
and crushing the rulers of the whole earth.
He will drink from a brook along the way,
and so he will lift his head high
(NIV).

Reflection

Psalm 110 is perhaps the most messianic psalm in the entire psalter. Jesus made a direct reference to the opening line of this psalm in a discussion he had with the Pharisees in the temple courts during the week of his crucifixion. See Matthew 22:41-46 and Luke 20:41-44.

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The St. Lawrence River at Gananoque, ON — photoby David Kitz

Jesus asks, “What do you think about the Messiah? Whose son is he?” In response the Pharisees answer, “The son of David.”

But Jesus refutes their answer by quoting from Psalm 110. His answer does not carry the same punch in the English language quote we see in Matthew, because we fail to see the distinction between the first ‘LORD’ and the second ‘Lord’. We see these words as synonymous, but in the original Hebrew they most certainly are not. The first LORD is Yahweh (Jehovah), but the second Lord is Adonai, the Messiah.

Speaking prophetically by the Spirit, David was referring to his Adonai—his Messiah. By quoting this scripture Jesus was affirming his designation by God as the Messiah that the Jewish nation had longed to see. The long wait was over. Jesus the Messiah was standing directly in front of Pharisees who were blind to his presence and his deity.

This Lord or Adonai is also the divinely designated priest who will present his own body as a sacrifice on the cross. The LORD has sworn and will not change his mind: “You are a priest forever, in the order of Melchizedek.” The writer of the Book of Hebrews has a great deal to say about the priesthood of Melchizedek. See Hebrews chapters 6-8. Jesus is our heaven-sent prophet, priest and king.   

Response: Father God, thank you for sending Jesus into the world to be my personal Messiah. Jesus, you suffered and died for me. Now extend your reign as conquering king over me and through me. Amen.

Your Turn: Have you bowed your knee before the Messiah King?

The Wounded Heart

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Reading:                                         Psalm 109                                                                 

 (Verses 21-31)

But you, Sovereign LORD, help me for your name’s sake;
    out of the goodness of your love, deliver me.
For I am poor and needy, and my heart is wounded within me.
 I fade away like an evening shadow;
    I am shaken off like a locust.
My knees give way from fasting; my body is thin and gaunt.
I am an object of scorn to my accusers;
    when they see me, they shake their heads.

Help me, LORD my God; save me according to your unfailing love.
Let them know that it is your hand, that you, LORD, have done it.
While they curse, may you bless;
    may those who attack me be put to shame,
    but may your servant rejoice.
May my accusers be clothed with disgrace
    and wrapped in shame as in a cloak.

With my mouth I will greatly extol the LORD;
    in the great throng of worshipers I will praise him.
For he stands at the right hand of the needy,
to save their lives from those who would condemn them (NIV).

Reflection

Post-traumatic stress disorder—PTSD—its effects are real. Soldiers are returning from theatres of war looking fit and healthy, but in reality they are deeply wounded by what they have seen or participated in. Of course one does not need to go to the battle field to experience the devastating effects of PTSD. First responders and witnesses to horrific events here at home can also become wounded and scarred.

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Prairie serenity, near Yorkton, SK — photo by David Kitz

In this concluding portion of Psalm 109, David makes this confession: I am poor and needy, and my heart is wounded within me.

Our world is full of wounded people. Keep this in mind the next time you see someone in a fit of rage or self-medicating with a bottle of booze or pills or a hypodermic needle. The wounds are real. The way back to social and emotional health is often long, difficult and fraught with pain.

David, the wounded warrior, does two things that are vital for anyone who wants to recover from PTSD or any form of spiritual wounding. He admits his need. Rather than tough it out, he confesses that he is in a desperate state. I am poor and needy, and my heart is wounded within me.

Secondly, David called out to the LORD. Help me, LORD my God; save me according to your unfailing love. The LORD’s ears are always open to that kind of prayer—the prayer of the wounded.

Response: LORD, I confess events in my life have left me wounded. Heal me on the inside. Today I turn to you. I can’t do this by myself. Help me, LORD my God; save me according to your unfailing love. Amen.

Your Turn: Are there wounded people in your life? Have you been wounded?

No Pleasure in Blessing?

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Reading:                                        Psalm 109                                                                 

 (Verses 16-20)

For he never thought of doing a kindness,
but hounded to death the poor
and the needy and the brokenhearted.
He loved to pronounce a curse—
may it come back on him.
He found no pleasure in blessing—
may it be far from him.
He wore cursing as his garment;
it entered into his body like water,
into his bones like oil.
May it be like a cloak wrapped about him,
like a belt tied forever around him.

 May this be the LORD’s payment to my accusers,
to those who speak evil of me
(NIV).

Reflection

Perhaps you have noticed that we have entered the giving season. I am of course referring to the pre-Christmas shopping binge, when gifts are purchased, wrapped and hidden away for the big celebration. Many rail against this tradition, but in reality the scriptures are filled with admonitions that encourage us to be generous and bless others. Christmas and year-end provide us with wonderful opportunities to do just that. A generous person will prosper; whoever refreshes others will be refreshed (Proverbs 11:25).

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Twin blessings, day lilies — photo by David Kitz

If we find no pleasure in giving, we may be suffering from more than a simple case of Scrooge-like stinginess. Soul sucking self-centeredness destroys us from within. It defaces the image of God that is stamped upon us from birth. God our heavenly Father is the picture of generosity. He gave His only Son for us. In light of this sacrifice, there’s something terribly wrong if we can’t spare a dime or a kind word for the less fortunate.

Today’s reading provides us with a negative contrast to the generosity of God. The individual being described withheld his blessing. He loved to pronounce a curse—may it come back on him. He found no pleasure in blessing—may it be far from him.

How generous am I with words of blessing? How generous am I with this world’s goods that have been lavished on me by a gracious Father? During this season I need to check my heart and my bank account, but above all my heart. Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously (2 Corinthians 9:6).

Am I generous with words of praise and thanks for those around me—with the clerk at the shopping mall or the life partner who shares my bed? Am I reflecting or defacing the image of God?

Response: Father God, today I want to be a blessing and pronounce a blessing on those around me. I am thankful for the generosity of your love, forgiveness and grace. It’s more than I deserve. Amen.

Your Turn: Are you careful or too lavish with your spending in the Christmas season?

Cursing in the Bible

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Reading:                      Psalm 109                                                                  

(Verses 6-15)

Appoint someone evil to oppose my enemy;     

let an accuser stand at his right hand.

When he is tried, let him be found guilty,     

and may his prayers condemn him.

May his days be few; may another take his place of leadership.

May his children be fatherless and his wife a widow.

May his children be wandering beggars;     

may they be driven from their ruined homes.

May a creditor seize all he has;     

may strangers plunder the fruits of his labor.

May no one extend kindness to him     

or take pity on his fatherless children.

May his descendants be cut off,     

their names blotted out from the next generation.

May the iniquity of his fathers be remembered before the LORD;     

may the sin of his mother never be blotted out.

May their sins always remain before the LORD,

that he may blot out their name from the earth (NIV).

Reflection

This portion of Psalm 109 contains fourteen mays of condemnation. After reading this long list of curses spoken against this unnamed individual, it becomes abundantly clear that David, the author of this psalm, was not affectionately inclined toward this man of treachery. This man, who earlier was identified as a friend, had turned against David. In the verse just prior to today’s reading, David laments, “They repay me evil for good, and hatred for my friendship” (Psalm 109:5).

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Blue heron on a misty morning, Arboretum, Ottawa, ON

Psalm 109 is called an imprecatory psalm. The word imprecatory simply is a fancy term for cursing. I am sure many Christians are unaware that there is cursing in the Bible—cursing coming from the man who penned Psalm 23—the LORD is my shepherd.

Many find the imprecatory psalms deeply troubling. I include myself in that number. Does God condone calling down curses on our enemies? What about the words of Jesus? “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that?” (Matthew 5:43-46).

I remain convinced that Jesus calls us to live on a higher plane—the plane where he dwells.

Response: Father God, I need your help. I find it easy to lash out at those who have hurt me. When I want to go for the jugular help me reach out for Jesus instead. I want to be more like you, Jesus. Amen.

Your Turn: Is there a place for the imprecatory psalms in the Bible? What purpose might they serve?