Reading: Psalm 61
For the director of music. With stringed instruments. Of David.
Hear my cry, O God; listen to my prayer.
From the ends of the earth I call to you,
I call as my heart grows faint;
lead me to the rock that is higher than I.
For you have been my refuge,
a strong tower against the foe.
I long to dwell in your tent forever
and take refuge in the shelter of your wings.
For you, God, have heard my vows;
you have given me the heritage of those who fear your name.
Increase the days of the king’s life,
his years for many generations.
May he be enthroned in God’s presence forever;
appoint your love and faithfulness to protect him.
Then I will ever sing in praise of your name
and fulfill my vows day after day (NIV).
When I reflect on Psalm 61, it’s about distance—distance to God. There’s an old saying that goes like this, “If at one time you were close to God, but now He is far away, who is the one who moved?”
As is so often the case, this psalm begins with David crying out to God. It would seem David is not at home. He is calling out from the ends of the earth. From biblical history we know that David was not a world traveller. He never ventured beyond the traditional territory of Israel, so in this psalm where exactly are the ends of the earth?If I have offended my wife and the issue has not been resolved, we can be sleeping in the same bed, but there is a distance between us. Though she is physically present there is a gulf between us. Spiritually and emotionally we are on opposite sides of the planet. I might as well be on the other end of the earth.
The same can be true of our relationship with God. God, the LORD, the Creator of the ends of the earth is always close at hand. He is present and evident in His creation. But beyond that He has promised to dwell within every believer. We have Jesus’ promise on this. “The Spirit will show you what is true. The people of this world cannot accept the Spirit, because they don’t see or know him. But you know the Spirit, who is with you and will keep on living in you” (John 14:17 CEV).
That means we can call out to God with confidence. He is more than nearby; He is within us helping to form the words of our prayers. We can draw close. David reminds us that we can take refuge in the shelter of your wings.
Response: LORD God, help me to draw near to you. Thank you for the indwelling Holy Spirit. You have been my refuge, a strong tower against the foe. Amen.
Your Turn: What creates distance between you and God? What draws you close?
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?
I will praise Him!
Come, let us sing for joy to the LORD;
let us shout aloud to the Rock of our salvation.
Let us come before him with thanksgiving
and extol him with music and song.
For the LORD is the great God,
the great King above all gods.
In his hand are the depths of the earth,
and the mountain peaks belong to him.
The sea is his, for he made it,
and his hands formed the dry land.
(Psalm 95:1-5, NIV)
Ark of the Covenant, brokenhearted, Creator, David, Gatineau, God, human body, image of God, Jacques Cartier Park, Jesus, Mercy Seat, picturing God, righteous, seeing God, seeking God, Sistine Chapel, the LORD
Reading: Psalm 34
The eyes of the LORD are on the righteous,
and his ears are attentive to their cry;
but the face of the LORD is against those who do evil,
to blot out their name from the earth.
The righteous cry out, and the LORD hears them;
he delivers them from all their troubles.
The LORD is close to the broken-hearted
and saves those who are crushed in spirit (NIV).
In the previous post on Psalm 34 I asked the question, “How do we God?” Remember David invites us in Psalm 34:8 to “Taste and see that the LORD is good.”
As this psalm continues David again invites us to take a closer look at God. He reminds us that, “The eyes of the LORD are on the righteous, and his ears are attentive to their cry; but the face of the LORD is against those who do evil to blot out their name from the earth.”
In this passage David depicts the LORD as having eyes, ears and a face. I always have trouble picturing God. This inability does not stem from a lack of imagination. It comes from the knowledge that God is a spirit. How do you picture something that has no physical substance or form?
But picturing God comes with further difficulties. We are specifically forbidden to create an image or likeness of God. The God of the Hebrews sat on the Mercy Seat on the Ark of the Covenant between two cherubim. But there was no image or statue there. To create an image or statue would be blasphemous. For that reason I find Michelangelo’s painting on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel offensive. I am not offended by the depiction of a naked Adam. I’m offended by the portrayal of an old grey-haired man as God. How dare he create an image of God? I am similarly troubled by any artistic rendering of God the Father. God is so far beyond human that to render Him as having a human form demeans His Majesty.
But that’s what makes the incarnation so spectacular. This God of no fixed form took on material reality. In the person of Jesus, He became a man with eyes, ears and a human face. The God who sees all and hears all limited himself to a human body. The Creator took on the form and limitations of a creature—limitations that encompass betrayal, pain and death. In the body of Jesus, the Creator God, who sees and hears, experienced our reality—our humanity.
The psalmist, David declares, “The righteous cry out, and the LORD hears them; he delivers them from all their troubles. The LORD is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.”
The LORD is close to the broken-hearted because in the form of Christ his heart was broken. He experienced the pain that touches you and more. His eyes are on you. He is listening when you cry out.
Response: Hear my prayer, Lord. I seek your face. Be my healer, my redeemer and deliverer. In Jesus’ name, who defeated death, I pray. Amen.
Your Turn: Do you have a picture of God? How does God look to you?
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?
Reading: Psalm 29
A psalm of David.
Ascribe to the LORD, you heavenly beings,
ascribe to the LORD glory and strength.
Ascribe to the LORD the glory due his name;
worship the LORD in the splendor of his holiness.
The voice of the LORD is over the waters; the God of glory thunders,
the LORD thunders over the mighty waters.
The voice of the LORD is powerful; the voice of the LORD is majestic.
The voice of the LORD breaks the cedars;
the LORD breaks in pieces the cedars of Lebanon.
He makes Lebanon leap like a calf, Sirion like a young wild ox.
The voice of the LORD strikes with flashes of lightning.
The voice of the LORD shakes the desert;
the LORD shakes the Desert of Kadesh.
The voice of the LORD twists the oaks and strips the forests bare.
And in his temple all cry, “Glory!”
The LORD sits enthroned over the flood; the LORD is enthroned as King forever.
The LORD gives strength to his people; the LORD blesses his people with peace (NIV).
In Psalm 29 we see and hear the LORD, the God of the storm. There is an evocative poetic style to this psalm that helps the reader to picture the fury of the approaching tempest. But we not only see the flashes of lightning and the power of the wind, we also hear the booming thunder as it shakes the desert. The voice of the LORD twists the oaks and strips the forests bare. And in his temple all cry, “Glory!”
Nine times the psalmist repeats the phrase the voice of the LORD. In this psalm, the voice of the LORD is a very active force. The voice of the LORD thunders, breaks, strikes, shakes, twists and strips. The voice of the LORD is powerful; the voice of the LORD is majestic.
The voice of the LORD spoke the world into existence, set the planets in their orbits, and scattered the starry hosts across the heavens. A thunderstorm sweeping down from Lebanon is as nothing to Him.
But the LORD of the storm is also the LORD of peace. One day on the Sea of Galilee Jesus our Lord brought peace to the storm. A furious squall came up, and the waves broke over the boat, so that it was nearly swamped. Jesus was in the stern, sleeping on a cushion. The disciples woke him and said to him, “Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?”
He got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, “Quiet! Be still!” Then the wind died down and it was completely calm (Mark 4:37-39).
Response: You are the LORD of the storm and the LORD of peace. When storms arise in my life help me to trust you completely. Lord Jesus, grant me peace in the midst of the storm. Amen.
Your Turn: Jesus says to us, “Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?” (Mark 4:40). Are you hearing him?
Of David. A psalm.
The earth is the LORD’s, and everything in it,
the world, and all who live in it;
for he founded it on the seas
and established it on the waters.
Who may ascend the mountain of the LORD?
Who may stand in his holy place?
The one who has clean hands and a pure heart,
who does not trust in an idol
or swear by a false god.
They will receive blessing from the LORD
and vindication from God their Savior.
Such is the generation of those who seek him,
who seek your face, God of Jacob (NIV).
Psalm 24 begins by establishing the sovereignty of the LORD. He alone is to be worshipped because the LORD is the Creator of all things. The earth is the LORD’s, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it; for he founded it on the seas and established it on the waters.
David then goes on to ask two very pertinent questions. Who may ascend the mountain of the LORD? Who may stand in his holy place?
Can anyone approach this great Sovereign God? Are there any preconditions that we need to meet? According to David, the answer is yes. The one who has clean hands and a pure heart, who does not trust in an idol or swear by a false god.
David, I have a problem with that answer. You see my hands aren’t always clean, and my heart isn’t always pure. How then can I approach the LORD? In fact, my problem is a universal problem. In Psalm 14:2-3, we read this indictment against humanity: The LORD 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.
Is this generation seeking the LORD? With rare exceptions the answer is no. It has always been thus. The harsh words of Psalm 14 ring just as true now as they did in David’s time. But there are those who break the mold of this world—those who have received the forgiveness and cleansing of God. They will receive blessing from the LORD and vindication from God their Savior. Such is the generation of those who seek him, who seek your face, God of Jacob.
Those who have been cleansed by the blood of the Lamb of God may freely approach the throne of God. I want to be numbered among that generation.
Response: Lord Jesus, I thank you for your suffering and death on the cross. Your blood cleanses my hands and purifies my heart. Today I want to seek you. In your great mercy reveal yourself to me. Amen.
Your Turn: Are you a God seeker? On what basis do you approach the Sovereign LORD?