Reading: Psalm 36
Your love, LORD, reaches to the heavens,
your faithfulness to the skies.
Your righteousness is like the highest mountains,
your justice like the great deep.
You, LORD, preserve both people and animals.
How priceless is your unfailing love, O God!
People take refuge in the shadow of your wings.
They feast on the abundance of your house;
you give them drink from your river of delights.
For with you is the fountain of life;
in your light we see light (NIV).
As mentioned in my previous post, Psalm 36 is a psalm of contrasts. David compares the wickedness of man with the amazing goodness of God. The opening portion of Psalm 36 touches on the depravity of man. In today’s reading we behold the awesome love and kindness of God.
Your love, LORD, reaches to the heavens, your faithfulness to the skies. Your righteousness is like the highest mountains, your justice like the great deep. The beautiful poetry of those words sends me off on a Rocky Mountain high.
God’s love is reflected in the beauty of his creation. He nestled us into a world of incredible beauty and variety. From the grandeur of the mountains to the minute sea fauna, God is there—sustaining all—reigning over all. You, LORD, preserve both people and animals. How priceless is your unfailing love, O God!
God’s unfailing love stands in sharp contrast to man’s rapacious capacity for hate and destruction. We glory in war, death and bloodshed as though these are great accomplishments, when in fact they are a failure in love and forgiveness—the attributes of God. Yet despite these failures God showers us with His love and goodness. People take refuge in the shadow of your wings. They feast on the abundance of your house; you give them drink from your river of delights.
It is worth noting that God is the source of the river of delights. Just as any good father enjoys bringing pleasure to his children, so too our Heavenly Father delights in bringing joy to us. He is not stingy in His love, but overflowing with generosity, in many cases providing more than we can handle.
For with you is the fountain of life; in your light we see light. The LORD is the author and source of all life. “God saw all that he had made, and it was very good. And there was evening, and there was morning—the sixth day” (Genesis 1:31). Only in Him and through Him do we see the light of day and the light of life. To God be praise forever more!
Response: LORD God, thank you, thank you, thank you for your great love and faithfulness to me. Let your light shine in me and through me today. In Jesus’ name, I pray. Amen.
Your Turn: Have you been drinking from God’s river of delights?
Reading: Psalm 33
By the word of the LORD the heavens were made,
their starry host by the breath of his mouth.
He gathers the waters of the sea into jars;
he puts the deep into storehouses.
Let all the earth fear the LORD;
let all the people of the world revere him.
For he spoke, and it came to be;
he commanded, and it stood firm (NIV).
Have you ever considered the creative power of words? Words change the world. They bring order out of chaos. Words shine the light of day into the darkness of this world. From the very beginning words have been imbued with divine power. The psalmist reminds us, “By the word of the LORD the heavens were made, their starry host by the breath of his mouth.”
But it’s not only God’s words that have this vast power. Our words—human words, whether spoken written or thought have enormous power too. Adam’s first job assignment was to speak words—to name the animals. Now the LORD God had formed out of the ground all the wild animals and all the birds in the sky. He brought them to the man to see what he would name them; and whatever the man called each living creature, that was its name. So the man gave names to all the livestock, the birds in the sky and all the wild animals (Genesis 2: 19-20).
Strangely, God didn’t do what every parent does. He didn’t tell Adam what the animals were called. Adam told God their names. By so doing, God vested mankind with the power of language. Life is what we call it.
Our words describe the world and give meaning to it. Through our words we bring order and make sense of the world around us. As a writer I am continually processing and attempting to make sense of this chaotic thing called life. I do it with words. From the beginning of time, by divine command that’s what we are called to do. We are to speak order into chaos—speak accuracy and clarity into this world’s muddled reality.
With our words we shine the light of truth onto a situation. With words we write laws, administer justice and design government. With words we woo and romance and vow our love to one another. Our words create imaginary realms into which we can travel—words that transport. With our words we have the power to elevate the human spirit, or crush someone to the point of suicide.
Finally, there is something innately prophetic about our words. What we think, speak and write is potent. It has within in it the latent ability to become reality. Therefore, we need to guard our lips. See James 3:1-12. The psalmist reminds us not only of the power of the word of the LORD, but also our own words. For he spoke, and it came to be; he commanded, and it stood firm.
Response: LORD God, help me give careful consideration to my words. Today, may my words, whether written spoken or thought, be a creative force for good in Jesus’ name. Amen.
Your Turn: How has God used your words for good lately? Are your words bringing order out of chaos?
I will praise Him!
For you make me glad by your deeds, LORD;
I sing for joy at what your hands have done.
How great are your works, LORD,
how profound your thoughts!
Senseless people do not know,
fools do not understand,
that though the wicked spring up like grass
and all evildoers flourish,
they will be destroyed forever.
But you, LORD, are forever exalted.
(Psalm 92:4-8, NIV)
I will praise Him!
The heavens are yours, and yours also the earth;
you founded the world and all that is in it.
You created the north and the south;
Tabor and Hermon sing for joy at your name.
Your arm is endowed with power;
your hand is strong, your right hand exalted.
(Psalm 89:11-13, NIV)
By Bliss Carman
In the Garden of Eden, planted by God,
There were goodly trees in the springing sod –
Trees of beauty height and grace,
To stand in splendour before His face:
Apple and hickory, ash and pear,
Oak and beech, and the tulip rare,
The trembling aspen, the noble pine,
The sweeping elm by the river line;
Trees for the birds to build and sing,
And the lilac tree for joy in spring;
Trees to turn at the frosty call
And carpet the ground for the Lord’s footfall;
Trees for fruitage and fire and shade,
Trees for the cunning builder’s trade;
Wood for the bow, the spear, and the flail,
The keel and the mast of the daring sail –
He made them of every grain and girth
For use of man in the Garden of Earth.
Then lest the soul should not lift her eyes
From the gift to the Giver of Paradise,
On the crown of a hill, for all to see,
God planted a scarlet maple tree.
This poem by New Brunswick poet Bliss Carman is posted in honour of Canada’s 150th anniversary of confederation, July 1st, 1867.
God bless Canada!
Reading: Psalm 19
For the director of music. A psalm of David.
The heavens declare the glory of God;
the skies proclaim the work of his hands.
Day after day they pour forth speech;
night after night they reveal knowledge.
They have no speech, they use no words;
no sound is heard from them.
Yet their voice goes out into all the earth,
their words to the ends of the world.
In the heavens God has pitched a tent for the sun.
It is like a bridegroom coming out of his chamber,
like a champion rejoicing to run his course.
It rises at one end of the heavens
and makes its circuit to the other;
nothing is deprived of its warmth (NIV).
When was the last time you went for a walk beneath a canopy of stars? Now, I’m not talking about catching a fleeting glimpse of a dozen or so stars, obscured by the incessant glare of city street lights. I’m talking about walking beneath a canopy of stars, visible in their myriads, stretching from horizon to horizon. Now that’s a truly awe inspiring experience!
That’s where David begins this Psalm. He begins it beneath the stars. He begins it beneath a sky so big it reduces any who behold it to a mere speck of insignificance—a speck below the glorious vastness above. Can you see him standing there—the youthful shepherd, on the Judean hillside, gazing into the face of eternity?
And eternity is talking. The sky is talking to him. What is it saying? Can you hear its words? David can. He hears it pouring forth speech. And it’s not just the night sky that’s talking to him. The heavens are speaking continually, day and night. This is an endless conversation heard around the world.
You see the sky speaks in a language understood by all. Who has not stopped and stood in wonder at the sight of a dazzling sunset, marvelled at the shafts of light beaming down from behind a thunderhead, been amazed by the appearance of a rainbow, or perhaps you have seen the aurora whirl and dance across the northern sky?
These experiences are universal. They are available to all, on every continent, in every nation, to every language and people group. The sky is talking. Are you listening? Do you understand the words?
Response: Heavenly Father, help me hear your voice speaking to me in nature. Open my eyes and my ears to the glory of your creation. You are more wonderful than I can imagine. I praise you for all your marvelous works. Amen.
Your Turn: Does God speak to you through the beauty of nature? Have you paused recently to wonder at the majesty of His creation?
Reading: Psalm 148
Praise the LORD from the earth,
you great sea creatures and all ocean depths,
lightning and hail, snow and clouds,
stormy winds that do his bidding,
you mountains and all hills,
fruit trees and all cedars,
wild animals and all cattle,
small creatures and flying birds,
kings of the earth and all nations,
you princes and all rulers on earth,
young men and women,
old men and children (NIV).
Psalm 148 began with a call for praise for the LORD from the angels, who are heaven’s messengers, from the heavenly hosts and all the heavenly bodies. In today’s reading, the psalmist expands this call for praise to all the creatures of the earth, the elements of nature, wind, cloud and ocean depths, and finally to all humanity.
There is a logical progression in this call for thunderous praise. The call begins with what is distant, the galaxies and the heavenly beings, and then it descends to the earth, and finally it touches humanity. It becomes personal. We are called to praise God. Will you join the swelling chorus?
John, the beloved, gives us a picture of what heaven’s praise party looks like.
Then I looked and heard the voice of many angels, numbering thousands upon thousands, and ten thousand times ten thousand. They encircled the throne and the living creatures and the elders. In a loud voice they were saying:
“Worthy is the Lamb, who was slain,
to receive power and wealth and wisdom and strength
and honor and glory and praise!” (Revelation 5:11-12).
Our Lord taught us to pray, “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven” (Matthew 6:9b-10).
Surely, it is the will of God that He be praised and worshipped on earth just as He is around His throne in heaven. The purpose of God’s Kingdom—the Kingdom that Jesus came to establish—is to bring heaven to earth. God did not remain distant. In the person of Jesus, He came to dwell among us. He brought and is presently bringing the will of God to the earth through the Holy Spirit. For that Jesus is to be praised. Let all of creation praise Him—praise Him from the earth, because from it we were formed. Let the praise for our Lord ascend from you and me.
Response: LORD God, let your Holy Spirit be active among us. Help us to love and serve you and those around us. Help me to bring a little bit of heaven—a little bit of your will to the earth today. Amen.
Your Turn: How do you picture heaven? What does a little bit of heaven on earth look like to you?
Reading: Psalm 148
Praise the LORD.
Praise the LORD from the heavens;
praise him in the heights above.
Praise him, all his angels;
praise him, all his heavenly hosts.
Praise him, sun and moon;
praise him, all you shining stars.
Praise him, you highest heavens
and you waters above the skies.
Let them praise the name of the LORD,
for at his command they were created,
and he established them for ever and ever—
he issued a decree that will never pass away (NIV).
As we draw to the end of the Book of Psalms, we are slowly building to a crescendo. It’s a crescendo of praise for the LORD. Today’s reading from Psalm 148 represents another stepping stone in that rising crescendo of praise.
The word praise appears nine times in this six-verse portion of the psalm. The psalmist repeatedly calls for all of creation to praise the LORD—to praise him. In today’s reading the call to praise is focused on the heavenly realm. You would think that the angels and the heavenly hosts would need no reminder to praise the LORD, but nevertheless the psalmist calls on them to praise their Creator. Praise him, all his angels; praise him, all his heavenly hosts. Praise him, sun and moon; praise him, all you shining stars.
If the angels need a praise prompter, then I know that I certainly do. There are days when I have a greater tendency to complain than to praise. If I am feeling a bit out of sorts or experiencing discomfort, it doesn’t take much to trip me into full-blown, grumble mode with a side order of self-pity tacked on for good measure. Praise for the LORD is a distant thought or a faint memory.
But has God changed? Has His mercy been diminished because I have a grumbly tummy or a kink in my neck? Of course not. The LORD is constantly worthy of praise—even in hard times—especially in hard times. In hard times I need to change my focus. I need to lift up my eyes to the heavens. I need to see the big picture rather than be caught up in the trifling details of my life. God is still on His throne even if I burn the toast or spill that glass of milk. Praise has greater significance at such times because it springs from a troubled heart—an overcoming heart.
In the midst of his great suffering, Job made this declaration about his faithfulness to the LORD, “Though he slay me, yet will I hope in him” (Job 13:15a). The LORD, our great Creator, remains worthy of praise.
Response: LORD God, give me a heart that is eager to praise you—even in hard times—especially in hard times. Your constant care for us does not change. Let my praise for you be just as constant. Amen.
Your Turn: Do you have a greater tendency to grumble or praise? Can you change that tendency?
Reading: Psalm 147
He determines the number of the stars
and calls them each by name.
Great is our Lord and mighty in power;
his understanding has no limit.
The LORD sustains the humble
but casts the wicked to the ground.
Sing to the LORD with grateful praise;
make music to our God on the harp (NIV).
How many stars are there in the Milky Way galaxy? According to astronomers the answers is somewhere between 100 billion and 400 billion. That’s quite a wide range. If we don’t know the number of stars in our own galaxy, how can we possibly know the total number of stars in the universe?
The difficulty of this calculation has not stopped scientists from coming up with an estimate. There are about two trillion galaxies in the known universe, so multiplying the number of stars in an average size galaxy by two trillion will give us an answer. Using these figures the total number of stars is 1 with twenty-four zeroes after it. But astronomers admit the actual number could well be ten times higher.
We need to understand today’s reading from Psalm 147 in the light of this astronomical number. He [the LORD] determines the number of the stars and calls them each by name. Great is our Lord and mighty in power; his understanding has no limit.
The size of the universe blows my mind. It is so beyond comprehension in size and scope that we are left staggered and breathless. We can’t begin to take in the smallest fraction of it. But our great Lord knows the name of every star. If the universe is so big then it’s painfully obvious that my concept of God is far too small. He boggles the brain. The word awesome doesn’t begin to capture His greatness. He is truly limitless in time and space.
Knowing the greatness of God and his created universe should leave us in wonder about the next statement in this psalm. The LORD sustains the humble but casts the wicked to the ground.
Why would this great limitless God care about me and the state of my heart and mind? Why would He consider me significant? Why would He care for me? He has galaxies to tend to.
But He cares. This great, limitless God cares for the likes of you and me. Now that’s the wonder of it all. That’s the biggest wow in the universe. I’ll never get over His love—the love that hung suspended between heaven and earth on a wooden cross. That’s love—limitless love.
Response: LORD God, I can’t begin to fathom your greatness. You are far too wonderful for me. I don’t deserve a moment of your thoughts. But you did so much more. You sent Jesus. Thank you for your creation and your great redemption. Amen.
Your Turn: How big is your God? Does He fill your universe?