I will praise Him!
A song of ascents. Of David.
If the LORD had not been on our side—
let Israel say—
if the LORD had not been on our side
when people attacked us,
they would have swallowed us alive
when their anger flared against us;
the flood would have engulfed us,
the torrent would have swept over us,
the raging waters
would have swept us away.
Praise be to the LORD,
who has not let us be torn by their teeth.
We have escaped like a bird
from the fowler’s snare;
the snare has been broken,
and we have escaped.
Our help is in the name of the LORD,
the Maker of heaven and earth.
(Psalm 124:1-8, NIV)
Reading: Psalm 119
May my cry come before you, LORD;
give me understanding according to your word.
May my supplication come before you;
deliver me according to your promise.
May my lips overflow with praise,
for you teach me your decrees.
May my tongue sing of your word,
for all your commands are righteous.
May your hand be ready to help me,
for I have chosen your precepts.
I long for your salvation, LORD,
and your law gives me delight.
Let me live that I may praise you,
and may your laws sustain me.
I have strayed like a lost sheep.
Seek your servant,
for I have not forgotten your commands (NIV).
This is the final reading from Psalm 119. Today’s reading features Taw, the final letter in the Hebrew alphabet. Day by day we have been making our way through this acrostic poem—reading as it were from A to Z in the Hebrew language. All of it is written in praise of God’s word and His promises. It is difficult to fully appreciate the structural beauty of this lengthy poem, when it is translated into English.
This line from today’s reading is typical of the psalmist’s praise for the word of God: May my tongue sing of your word, for all your commands are righteous.
At times the psalmist appears to be proud, even boastful of his obedience to God’s word, but here at the conclusion of this magnificent poem, he takes on a more humble stance. I have strayed like a lost sheep. Seek your servant, for I have not forgotten your commands.
There is something very human about this prayer—about this ending. We are very prone to stray. The prophet Isaiah reflects on this human characteristic. We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to our own way; and the LORD has laid on him [Jesus] the iniquity of us all (Isaiah 53:6).
Jesus is our carrier—our iniquity carrier. He carried our sins to the cross where he suffered and died, so that his blood could cover those sins—my sins—your sins. But our sin carrier is also our Good Shepherd, who goes out to find those who are lost. He is the answer to the psalmist’s prayer. This is the purpose for his coming. “For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost” (Luke 19:10).
Response: Father God, I confess I am prone to stray. Help me to stay back to the straight and narrow way that leads to life. I thank you, Jesus, for seeking me and saving me by your shed blood. Amen.
Your Turn: Are you a wandering sheep? Have you been found by the Good Shepherd?
Reading: Psalm 119
ש Sin and Shin
Rulers persecute me without cause,
but my heart trembles at your word.
I rejoice in your promise
like one who finds great spoil.
I hate and detest falsehood
but I love your law.
Seven times a day I praise you
for your righteous laws.
Great peace have those who love your law,
and nothing can make them stumble.
I wait for your salvation, LORD,
and I follow your commands.
I obey your statutes,
for I love them greatly.
I obey your precepts and your statutes,
for all my ways are known to you (NIV).
We live in troubled times—times of domestic and foreign conflict. Turmoil abounds. If you follow world events, it seems we are sitting on a ticking time bomb. Problems and conflicts abound, and those conflicts spill across borders as people desperately seek a better life.
Into this world of uncertainty, the psalmist speaks these words. Great peace have those who love your law, and nothing can make them stumble.
If we are looking for peace in this world, we are sure to be disappointed. The ways of the world lead directly to conflict, as human greed and pride compete for dominance. This should not surprise us since the world and the systems of the world are controlled by our adversary, the prince of darkness.
Again the psalmist reminds us. Great peace have those who love your law, and nothing can make them stumble.
Our peace is not found in the world; it is found in loving your law, which is the word of God. The good news is that this word of God did not simply remain as pages in a book. It became flesh to live with us. The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth (John 1:14). Furthermore, Jesus, the living word, gives us this promise, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid” (John 14:27).
Response: Father God, grant me your peace. Now by faith I receive the promise of your everlasting peace. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus (Philippians 4:7). Thank you, Lord Jesus. My sins are forgiven. Amen.
Your Turn: What brings you peace? Do you need the peace of Christ?
Reading: Psalm 119
Look on my suffering and deliver me,
for I have not forgotten your law.
Defend my cause and redeem me;
preserve my life according to your promise.
Salvation is far from the wicked,
for they do not seek out your decrees.
Your compassion, LORD, is great;
preserve my life according to your laws.
Many are the foes who persecute me,
but I have not turned from your statutes.
I look on the faithless with loathing,
for they do not obey your word.
See how I love your precepts;
preserve my life, LORD, in accordance with your love.
All your words are true;
all your righteous laws are eternal (NIV).
As we draw near to the end of Psalm 119, I have a confession to make. Though in general, I love the Book of Psalms, Psalm 119 did not rank high in my affections. Though my views have changed, please bear with me now as I attempt to describe why at first I disliked this Psalm.
In my opinion the author of this psalm spends too much time posturing. He continually reminds God how good he is and how disgusting others are. Statements like this one set my teeth on edge: I look on the faithless with loathing, for they do not obey your word. See how I love your precepts; preserve my life, LORD, in accordance with your love.
Words like these remind me of the Pharisee bragging in the temple while the tax collector humbly calls out to God for mercy. Jesus concludes that the tax collector “went home justified before God. For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted” (Luke 18:14). I’m left wondering, how did the author of Psalm 119 return home? Was his prayer heard and accepted by the LORD?
The answer must be a resounding yes. Psalm 119 would not be in our Bible’s if it was not the divinely inspired word of God. So this question remains. How does the psalmist get away with using the sort of comparison that drew Jesus condemnation in his description of the Pharisee and the tax collector?
I believe the answer lies in posture. Psalm 119 is best prayed from a kneeling position. The psalmist is humbly—even desperately—calling out to God. The posture we assume influences the prayers we pray.
Response: Father God, teach me how to pray with a humble heart. Any righteousness or goodness I have comes from you. I will brag about your goodness and unfailing love for me. You are true. Amen.
Your Turn: What posture do you assume when you pray? How does your posture reflect your heart?
Reading: Psalm 119
I call with all my heart; answer me, LORD,
and I will obey your decrees.
I call out to you; save me
and I will keep your statutes.
I rise before dawn and cry for help;
I have put my hope in your word.
My eyes stay open through the watches of the night,
that I may meditate on your promises.
Hear my voice in accordance with your love;
preserve my life, LORD, according to your laws.
Those who devise wicked schemes are near,
but they are far from your law.
Yet you are near, LORD,
and all your commands are true.
Long ago I learned from your statutes
that you established them to last forever (NIV).
Meditation. It seems everyone is doing it. Have you taken up meditation? Even the Bible encourages us to meditate.
Ah, but there are some fundamental differences between transcendental meditation and the meditation that is described in the Bible. Eastern meditation, which springs from the Hindu religion, calls on the practitioner to relax and empty his or her mind.
Biblical meditation is not an emptying of the mind, or a disengagement with the thought process. Instead, it is active, concentrated thought on a topic, word or Bible verse. On an intellectual level, it has been compared to rumination—a cow chewing her cud. It involves getting the most out of what God has said—digesting His word—so it is fully incorporated into the life of the believer.
Today’s reading sheds light on the psalmist’s practice of biblical meditation: I rise before dawn and cry for help; I have put my hope in your word. My eyes stay open through the watches of the night, that I may meditate on your promises.
The psalmist is thoroughly engaged with God. He is crying out to Him. He is focussed on the word of God and His promises: I have put my hope in your word.
In the rush of life, do we stop and meditate on God’s word? Is Bible reading just a box to check off as we speed through our day? It’s the LORD who calls us aside to spend time with Him.
Response: LORD God, with all the distractions around me, I want to get in the habit of meditating on your word. Help me to focus my attention and thoughts on your promises. You are good to me. Amen.
Your Turn: Are you easily distracted from God’s word? Do you take it with you through the day?
Reading: Psalm 119
You are righteous, LORD,
and your laws are right.
The statutes you have laid down are righteous;
they are fully trustworthy.
My zeal wears me out,
for my enemies ignore your words.
Your promises have been thoroughly tested,
and your servant loves them.
Though I am lowly and despised,
I do not forget your precepts.
Your righteousness is everlasting
and your law is true.
Trouble and distress have come upon me,
but your commands give me delight.
Your statutes are always righteous;
give me understanding that I may live (NIV).
In the spring of 2015 my son bought his first new car. He was understandably proud of his purchase. The vehicle boasted great handling, exceptional fuel economy and almost zero harmful emissions. What’s not to like about a diesel-powered car like that? Volkswagen engineering was ranked among the best in the world.
Less than a year later, the illusion of zero harmful emissions came crashing down. Volkswagen had installed specially designed software to make sure its vehicles passed emissions tests, but real world, on-the-road results were totally different. The thorough testing that consumers rely on had been subverted.
Fortunately, God’s laws cannot be subverted. Humans may try, but the judge of all the earth knows all; He sees all. We can never pull a fast one on God. Today’s reading from Psalm 119 makes that perfectly clear. You are righteous, LORD, and your laws are right. The statutes you have laid down are righteous; they are fully trustworthy. The psalmist then goes on to make this assertion: Your promises have been thoroughly tested, and your servant loves them.
God’s word and His promises have been road tested by us, His people. They stand up in real life situations. The Bible—God’s word is designed to be applied. It doesn’t just work in the test lab. It works in the laboratory of life—day-to-day life, where it really counts. That’s why spending time in God’s word is so important. It becomes the roadmap for life—an abundant life—the life Jesus promised to his followers.
Response: Father God, your word and your promises stand true for all eternity. Help me to believe and live each day through the wise application of your word. Give me understanding that I may live. Amen.
Your Turn: Have you tested God’s word? Did it work for you in real life situations?
I will praise Him!
A song of ascents.
I lift up my eyes to you,
to you who sit enthroned in heaven.
As the eyes of slaves look to the hand of their master,
as the eyes of a female slave look to the hand of her mistress,
so our eyes look to the LORD our God,
till he shows us his mercy.
Have mercy on us, LORD, have mercy on us,
for we have endured no end of contempt.
We have endured no end of ridicule from the arrogant,
of contempt from the proud.
(Psalm 123:1-4, NIV)
I will praise Him!
Pray for the peace of Jerusalem:
“May those who love you be secure.
May there be peace within your walls
and security within your citadels.”
For the sake of my family and friends,
I will say, “Peace be within you.”
For the sake of the house of the LORD our God,
I will seek your prosperity.
(Psalm 122:6-9, NIV)
Reading: Psalm 119
Your statutes are wonderful;
therefore I obey them.
The unfolding of your words gives light;
it gives understanding to the simple.
I open my mouth and pant,
longing for your commands.
Turn to me and have mercy on me,
as you always do to those who love your name.
Direct my footsteps according to your word;
let no sin rule over me.
Redeem me from human oppression,
that I may obey your precepts.
Make your face shine on your servant
and teach me your decrees.
Streams of tears flow from my eyes,
for your law is not obeyed (NIV).
Slavery is distasteful. Distasteful is a rather mild term. Let’s call it what it is—an abomination. It’s difficult these days to find someone who is in favor of slavery. We all seem to be in favor of personal liberty. But are we?
While trumpeting our personal liberty, are we letting ourselves become shackled by crippling habits? We seem quite willing—maybe even eager—to let sin enslave us.
James, the brother of our Lord, provides us with this warning: When tempted, no one should say, “God is tempting me.” For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone; but each person is tempted when they are dragged away by their own evil desire and enticed. Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death (James 1:13-15).
Clearly sin has consequences. Yielding to temptations takes us down a dark path. We may think we are in control, but before long we discover we have a new master. Our sinful nature takes over. Evil desires are in control. If we persist in that pattern of behavior, the end result is a seared conscious and death.
We need a Savior to set us free. The psalmist expresses that earnest desire: Turn to me and have mercy on me, as you always do to those who love your name. Direct my footsteps according to your word; let no sin rule over me.
Is that your prayer and the desire of your heart?
Response: Father God, I need you to liberate me from every stronghold of sin. Establish within me a clean heart. Help my thoughts and actions to be pure. Lord Jesus, be my master. Amen.
Your Turn: Have you yielded control to sinful habits? Take some time to go to the cross of Jesus.