Clean Hands

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Reading:                                          Psalm 18

Verses 16-24

He reached down from on high and took hold of me;
he drew me out of deep waters.
He rescued me from my powerful enemy,
from my foes, who were too strong for me.
They confronted me in the day of my disaster,
but the L
ORD was my support.
He brought me out into a spacious place;
he rescued me because he delighted in me.

The LORD has dealt with me according to my righteousness;
according to the cleanness of my hands he has rewarded me.
For I have kept the ways of the L
ORD;
I am not guilty of turning from my God.
All his laws are before me;
I have not turned away from his decrees.
I have been blameless before him and have kept myself from sin.
The L
ORD has rewarded me according to my righteousness,
according to the cleanness of my hands in his sight
(NIV).

Reflection
In the previous reading, David depicted the LORD as riding the wings of the wind on a thunderstorm to rescue him from his enemies. In this portion of Psalm 18, the enemy is routed and David is rescued. In triumph David declares, “They confronted me in the day of my disaster, but the LORD was my support. He brought me out into a spacious place; he rescued me because he delighted in me.”

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He brought me to a spacious place, Kapuskasing, ON — photo by David Kitz

David then goes on to assert the reason why he believes the LORD did not allow him to perish at the hands of his mortal enemies. Twice he makes this claim, “The LORD has rewarded me according to my righteousness, according to the cleanness of my hands in his sight.”

Why were clean hands so important in David’s ultimate victory? Why are clean hands so important to the LORD? Twice when David had the opportunity to cut down his enemies—the enemies who were in pursuit to kill him—David kept his hands clean. When the opportunity arose, David refused to kill jealous King Saul despite the urging of the men who were with him. He attempted reconciliation with the enemy who sought his life. See 1 Samuel 24. That takes courage and conviction.

Sometimes it takes more courage to hold your fire than press your advantage. It takes a godly conviction that God is keeping score, and He will reward the man with a clean heart and clean hands. That takes faith—faith in the unseen hand of God at work in the affairs of men. David had that kind of faith.

How about you? Are your hands clean? Are you trusting in the LORD or settling accounts your way? Faith in God calls us to a higher standard.

Response: LORD, I want clean hands and a pure heart before you. I put my trust in you. You reward those who diligently seek you. Jesus, wash me clean. I put my faith in you. Amen.

Your Turn: Does God always reward those with clean hands? How do you keep your hands clean?

The LORD Thunders from Heaven

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Reading:                                          Psalm 18

Verses 6-15

In my distress I called to the LORD; I cried to my God for help.
From his temple he heard my voice; my cry came before him, into his ears.
The earth trembled and quaked, and the foundations of the mountains shook;
they trembled because he was angry.
Smoke rose from his nostrils; consuming fire came from his mouth,
burning coals blazed out of it.
He parted the heavens and came down; dark clouds were under his feet.
He mounted the cherubim and flew; he soared on the wings of the wind.
He made darkness his covering, his canopy around him—
the dark rain clouds of the sky.
Out of the brightness of his presence clouds advanced,
with hailstones and bolts of lightning.
The L
ORD thundered from heaven; the voice of the Most High resounded.
He shot his arrows and scattered the enemy, with great bolts of lightning he routed them.
The valleys of the sea were exposed
and the foundations of the earth laid bare at your rebuke, L
ORD,
at the blast of breath from your nostrils
(NIV).

Reflection
Maybe you are like me? I love thunderstorms. But watching a thunderstorm in a city is like watching a Christmas light display in broad daylight. There’s something missing. There’s no sense of broad expanse or sweeping grandeur.

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A passing evening shower — photo by David Kitz

I grew up on the prairies and for sheer awe there’s nothing quite like viewing a thunderstorm slowly building in the western sky. There you are on a slow moving tractor working a field. There’s you, there’s miles of flat land, and there’s the sky. And the most active thing is the sky. Sometimes the storm clouds can hang there boiling and brooding for hours—lightning flashing in the distance. Then suddenly the air changes, the wind picks up, and look out! Lightning! Thunder! Fierce gusts of wind. Rain. Hail. It all comes at you—comes at you with a vengeance.

I love a thunderstorm. It puts me in my place. It lets me see who I am. I am a small man in a big world—a world I cannot control. I’m a man at the mercy of God. I’m always at the mercy of God whether I see the storm clouds building or not.

In this psalm, David pictures the LORD riding the wings of the wind, thundering from heaven, not to harm him, but storming in to rescue him in response to his cry for help. That’s my God. That’s the picture of God that I need etched onto my mind. He is the God who hears and answers, the God who helps in times of need. In a vast world, He hears the cry of little, insignificant me. I love a thunderstorm. It lets me see the LORD’s love and grace.

Response: Heavenly Father, may I always see you as my helper. Ride to my rescue when times are tough and I am in need. You are my help and defender. You are worthy of my praise. Amen.

Your Turn: Do the storms of life help you see God at work around you?

Our Rock

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Reading:                                            Psalm 18

For the director of music. Of David the servant of the LORD.
He sang to the LORD the words of this song
when the LORD delivered him from the hand of all his enemies
and from the hand of Saul. He said:
Verses 1-5

I love you, LORD, my strength.
 The LORD is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer;
my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge,
my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.
I called to the L
ORD, who is worthy of praise,
and I have been saved from my enemies.
The cords of death entangled me;
the torrents of destruction overwhelmed me.
 The cords of the grave coiled around me;
the snares of death confronted me
(NIV).

Reflection

Psalm 18 is one of the longer psalms in the Book of Psalms. Step by step, day by day we will glean wisdom from the psalmist, David, as we make our way through this psalm.

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Early morning Petrie Island reflections — photo by David Kitz

In many respects Psalm 18 is a psalm of culmination. The introductory note tells us that David composed and sang this psalm when the LORD delivered him from the hand of all his enemies and from the hand of Saul. For many long years David had been fleeing for his life from his master King Saul. At long last, after repeatedly calling on God in great distress, David has triumphed. And now through the words of this psalm, he gives all the credit and all the glory to God.

Notice the list of attributes that David ascribes to the LORD: my strength, my rock, my fortress, my deliverer, my God, my rock, my shield, my salvation and my stronghold. To David the LORD had proven Himself repeatedly during years of hard times to be the embodiment of each of those attributes. If you call on Him, the LORD can be all of those things for you as well.

Did you notice that my rock is the only attribute that is repeated in this list? Why repeat the phrase my rock? In the prophetic realm, during all those years of severe testing, Christ was the rock on which David took his stand. David did not build his life on the shifting sands of public opinion or popularity. He built his life on Christ. A thousand years in advance, David was putting into practice the words of Jesus, “Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock.  The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock” (Matthew 7:24-25).

Now that’s wisdom—applied wisdom for the ages!

Response: Heavenly Father, help me daily to build my life on the rock, Christ Jesus. Lord Jesus, you are my fortress, my salvation and my stronghold. I put my full trust in you. Amen.

Your Turn: How is God like a rock in your life? Has He sustained you during difficult times? Is He helping you through tough times right now, or has He already turned the tide in your favor?

Our God’s Counterattack

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Reading:                                           Psalm 17

Verses 10-15
They close up their callous hearts,
and their mouths speak with arrogance.
They have tracked me down; they now surround me,
with eyes alert, to throw me to the ground.
They are like a lion hungry for prey,
like a fierce lion crouching in cover.
Rise up, L
ORD, confront them, bring them down;
with your sword rescue me from the wicked.
By your hand save me from such people, L
ORD,
from those of this world whose reward is in this life.
May what you have stored up for the wicked fill their bellies;
may their children gorge themselves on it,
and may there be leftovers for their little ones.
As for me, I will be vindicated and will see your face;
when I awake, I will be satisfied with seeing your likeness
(NIV).

Reflection
In this world there are those who have a callous heart—a heart that is indifferent to our pain, and the suffering of others. Here in Psalm 17, David finds himself surrounded by such people—people who were ready and willing to tear him down. This is a very difficult place to find yourself. This is why David cries out to the LORD for vindication. Earlier in this Psalm he pleads, Let my vindication come from you; may your eyes see what is right.

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I will be satisfied with seeing your likeness — photo by David Kitz

David’s response in this very trying situation is highly instructive. He does not try to defend himself. He does not plan a personal counterattack. He has no personal plan for revenge. What tactic does he use? He calls out to the LORD, “Rise up, LORD, confront them, bring them down; with your sword rescue me from the wicked.”

David, the mighty warrior, refuses to use his own sword. Instead he calls on the LORD to draw His sword and rise to his defence. That takes a lot of faith and a lot of trust in God. When surrounded and attacked my natural response is to rise up in hostile indignation. I’m inclined to counterattack with all guns blazing. But David held his peace. He did not rely on his abilities. He fled to God. There he lay out his complaint and asked God to intervene. When King Saul maliciously attacked him, David did not seek revenge. He allowed the LORD to take up his cause and deal with Saul. See 1 Samuel 26.

David’s confidence was fully in the LORD. Finally in this psalm, he declares his confidence with these words: As for me, I will be vindicated and will see your face; when I awake, I will be satisfied with seeing your likeness.

How confident are you in God’s saving intervention on your behalf?

Response: Heavenly Father, help me to seek vindication from you. Help me put my troubles in your hands. Rise up and come to my defense. Today, I trust in you to act on my behalf. Amen.

Your Turn: Do you seek revenge when others have hurt you? Have you asked God to intervene?

The One Who Trusts in You

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I will praise Him!

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Petrie Island sunset — 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.

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

(Psalm 84:10-12, NIV)

Heart Exams

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Reading:                                          Psalm 17

A prayer of David.
Verses 1-9

Hear me, LORD, my plea is just; listen to my cry.
Hear my prayer—it does not rise from deceitful lips.
Let my vindication come from you; may your eyes see what is right.

Though you probe my heart, though you examine me at night and test me,
you will find that I have planned no evil; my mouth has not transgressed.
Though people tried to bribe me,
I have kept myself from the ways of the violent
through what your lips have commanded.
My steps have held to your paths; my feet have not stumbled.

I call on you, my God, for you will answer me;
turn your ear to me and hear my prayer.
Show me the wonders of your great love,
you who save by your right hand those who take refuge in you from their foes.
Keep me as the apple of your eye;
hide me in the shadow of your wings
from the wicked who are out to destroy me,
from my mortal enemies who surround me
(NIV).

Reflection

“Are you up for the test? The exam schedule has been posted. Have you prepared? Are you ready for it?” Words like those can produce feelings of dread or anxious thoughts, especially for high school or university students. If you have studied and prepared yourself well, you can have a measure of confidence. But some uncertainty always remains.

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Petrie Island morning — photo by David Kitz

In today’s psalm, David welcomes God’s examination. He states, Though you probe my heart, though you examine me at night and test me, you will find that I have planned no evil; my mouth has not transgressed.”

David had nothing to hide. His conscience was clear; therefore he did not dread God’s probing. He knew that an examination of his heart would result in vindication. He would be proven right and just before his Maker. Do you and I have the same confidence?

Check your heart. Better yet, allow God to check it regularly. Be open and transparent before Him. It’s the only way I know to keep a clean heart and a right mind before God and others. The LORD is the best heart doctor available, and He does home visits if we invite Him in.

Only when our hearts and minds are open and right before God can we freely pray, “Keep me as the apple of your eye; hide me in the shadow of your wings.

Response: Heavenly Father, probe my heart so that I can repent of anything that displeases you. I want to bring only joy and pleasure to the heart of my Father. Amen.

Your Turn: Why do we resist allowing God to examine our heart issues? Are we afraid of what He may find?

Eating and Drinking in God

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Reading:                                         Psalm 16

A miktam of David.

Keep me safe, my God, for in you I take refuge.
I say to the L
ORD, “You are my Lord;
apart from you I have no good thing.”
I say of the holy people who are in the land,
“They are the noble ones in whom is all my delight.”
Those who run after other gods will suffer more and more.
I will not pour out libations of blood to such gods
or take up their names on my lips.
L
ORD, you alone are my portion and my cup;
you make my lot secure.
The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places;
surely I have a delightful inheritance.
I will praise the L
ORD, who counsels me;
even at night my heart instructs me.
I keep my eyes always on the L
ORD.
With him at my right hand, I will not be shaken
(NIV).

Reflection
In seed form all of the great truths of the New Testament are rooted in the Psalms. Psalm sixteen perfectly illustrates this little known fact. At the start of this psalm David declares, “You are my Lord; apart from you I have no good thing.”

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Drinking in the peace of God — photo by David Kitz

In his epistle to the Romans, Paul writes, “For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh) nothing good dwells; for to will is present with me, but how to perform what is good I do not find.” His words are a rough paraphrase of David’s opening thoughts in Psalm 16. All of Romans chapter seven reflects our great need for our God and Saviour. Without Jesus there is no redemption and no hope for victory over sin. But with Paul we can joyfully conclude, “Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord!” (Romans 7:25).

We find ourselves in full agreement with David’s words, “LORD, you alone are my portion and my cup; you make my lot secure.” Our Savior is our portion and cup—our food and drink. He alone is our cup of salvation. Unless we eat and drink of Him we die. David eloquently expresses his communion with the LORD; David ate and drank in the LORD and so must we. In seed form David grasped the New Testament concept of communion.

Jesus was echoing David’s thoughts when he said, “Very truly I tell you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise them up at the last day” (John 6:53-54).

Response: Heavenly Father, I want to live my life in constant communion with you. I want to live in your presence and eat and drink of you, Lord Jesus. I know apart from you I have no good thing. You are my portion and my cup. I give you thanks. Amen.

Your Turn: How are you eating and drinking in God today? How does that concept become a reality?

Where I Live

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Reading:                                         Psalm 15

A psalm of David.

LORD, who may dwell in your sacred tent?
Who may live on your holy mountain?
The one whose walk is blameless,
who does what is righteous,
who speaks the truth from their heart;
whose tongue utters no slander,
who does no wrong to a neighbor,
and casts no slur on others;
who despises a vile person
but honors those who fear the L
ORD;
who keeps an oath even when it hurts,
and does not change their mind;
who lends money to the poor without interest;
who does not accept a bribe against the innocent.
Whoever does these things
will never be shaken
(NIV).

Reflection

Where are you living? Please note, I did not ask, “What is your address?”

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Quiet waters, Petrie Island, Orleans, ON — photo by David Kitz

For the Old Testament believer, God had an address. He lived in the Tent of Meeting on Mount Zion in Jerusalem. Later this was the location of the great temple built by Solomon. But this entire psalm is based on the premise that we can live in the presence of God. Why else would David ask, “LORD, who may dwell in your sacred tent? Who may live on your holy mountain?”

It would appear that wherever we are, it is possible to live one’s life in the conscious presence of the LORD. What an awesome privilege. But how is that possible? On an intellectual level, this is a no brainer. God is present everywhere. We are continually living our lives in full view of an omnipresent God.

Am I always aware of His presence? No, not always.

What can I do to change that? The psalmist lists some requirements for living in the LORD’s presence. Apparently, God is vitally concerned with the way we walk out our life of faith—the words we speak, and our interactions with neighbours and friends. The list of requirements found in this psalm is all about practical day to day living, being true to our word, loving our neighbour, and being generous to those in need.

The day is coming when I will meet the LORD face to face, but can I see Him before that final day? Do I see Him in the face of my neighbour?

Response: Heavenly Father, I don’t want to come for an occasional visit. I want to live in your presence now and in eternity. Today, help me interact with others with the knowledge that you are watching every thought, word and action. I’m living with you. Amen.

Your Turn: When are you most conscious of God’s presence in your life?

The Fool Fools only Himself

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Reading:                                            Psalm 14

For the director of music. Of David.

The fool says in his heart, “There is no God.”
They are corrupt, their deeds are vile;
there is no one who does good.
The L
ORD looks down from heaven on all mankind
to see if there are any who understand, any who seek God.
All have turned away, all have become corrupt;
there is no one who does good, not even one.
Do all these evildoers know nothing?
They devour my people as though eating bread;
they never call on the L
ORD.
But there they are, overwhelmed with dread,
for God is present in the company of the righteous.
You evildoers frustrate the plans of the poor,
but the L
ORD is their refuge.
Oh, that salvation for Israel would come out of Zion!
When the L
ORD restores his people,
let Jacob rejoice and Israel be glad!
(NIV)

Reflection
Apparently, atheism is not a modern phenomenon. Three thousand years ago in David’s time, there were people who said in their heart, “There is no God.” Atheism has a long and ignoble pedigree. I say ignoble because as David observes, it is the fool who says, “There is no God.”

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Reflected clouds, Orleans, ON — photo by David Kitz

There is a footnote in my Bible indicating that the word translated in this psalm as fool denotes someone who is morally deficient. David goes on to describe this moral deficiency. He uses the words corrupt and vile. In fact there is a complete absence of anything good. But this isn’t just David’s indictment against a few errant atheists; this is the LORD’s view of all mankind. All have turned away, all have become corrupt; there is no one who does good, not even one. In the New Testament, Paul the Apostle quotes from this psalm in his epistle to the Romans as he outlines the depravity of humanity.

Is there a link between unbelief and the sinful state of the human soul? Does sin breed unbelief? There is ample biblical and anecdotal evidence that it does. When Adam and Eve sinned, in an instant, they turned from God seekers to God avoiders. Add a little more sin, and it’s only a short step for a God avoider to become a God denier.

We deny the existence of God to avoid accountability for our sin. We foolishly assume that since we can’t see God, He can’t see us and our misdeeds. Better yet, why not pretend that God doesn’t exist? Then we are at liberty to sin as much as we please without fear of God’s judgment. That sounds like morally deficient reasoning to me. The fool fools only himself.

Response: Father, I want to seek you always, especially when I sin. That’s when I need you most. You have the remedy for my sin—the blood of Jesus. You forgive me and clean me up. Amen.

Your Turn: Does sinful conduct affect or infect your belief system? Does sin cloud our reasoning?