Reading: Psalm 56
For the director of music. To the tune of “A Dove on Distant Oaks.” Of David. A miktam. When the Philistines had seized him in Gath.
Be merciful to me, my God,
for my enemies are in hot pursuit;
all day long they press their attack.
My adversaries pursue me all day long;
in their pride many are attacking me.
When I am afraid, I put my trust in you.
In God, whose word I praise—
in God I trust and am not afraid.
What can mere mortals do to me?
All day long they twist my words;
all their schemes are for my ruin.
They conspire, they lurk,
they watch my steps, hoping to take my life.
Because of their wickedness do not let them escape;
in your anger, God, bring the nations down (NIV).
In times of trouble David knew where to turn. With his enemies, the Philistines, surrounding him, he turned to God. Hear his bold confession, “When I am afraid, I put my trust in you. In God, whose word I praise—in God I trust and am not afraid. What can mere mortals do to me?”
David, the obvious answer is, “Mere mortals can torture and kill you.”
Despite this David remained confident. The Philistines could destroy his body but they could not harm his eternal spirit which was at peace—protected by God. Do you and I have the same confidence? That confidence can be ours if we put our trust in God.
Jesus warned his disciples, “Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell” (Matthew 10:28). The One we are to fear is God alone. Jesus perfectly demonstrated his trust in God the Father when he went to the cross on our behalf. There he was tortured and killed, but three days later he was vindicated by the Father, who raised him from the dead. Our redemption and salvation come from Jesus.
When we face mortal danger or a deadly prognosis may these words be on our lips and in our heart: When I am afraid, I put my trust in you. In God, whose word I praise—in God I trust and am not afraid. What can mere mortals do to me?
Response: LORD God, right now I put my faith and trust in you. By the blood of Jesus you forgive all my sins and have paid the price for my redemption. When I am afraid, I turn to you. I put my trust in you alone. Amen.
Your Turn: Who do you trust and turn to when bad news comes? Friends and family can provide support, but is your Father—your heavenly Father with you? Are you leaning into Him?
Reading: Psalm 36
For the director of music. Of David the servant of the LORD.
I have a message from God in my heart
concerning the sinfulness of the wicked:
There is no fear of God
before their eyes.
In their own eyes they flatter themselves
too much to detect or hate their sin.
The words of their mouths are wicked and deceitful;
they fail to act wisely or do good.
Even on their beds they plot evil;
they commit themselves to a sinful course
and do not reject what is wrong (NIV).
Psalm 36 is a psalm of contrasts. David compares the wickedness of man with the amazing goodness of God. This opening portion of the Psalm 36 touches only on the depravity of man. The picture we see of ourselves is not particularly flattering.
According to David the problem begins with our eyes. He states, “There is no fear of God before their eyes. In their own eyes they flatter themselves too much to detect or hate their sin.”
The sinful person has a vision problem. He cannot see the dire consequences of his sin. Sin exacts a terrible price. Consider the lives wrecked by addiction to alcohol, drugs or pornography. Furthermore, the damage is not limited to those caught in the terrible grip of sin. It overflows and contaminates all those around. Sin blinds the eyes so we cannot see the suffering we are causing to ourselves and others.
Over time, even so called “small” sins can exact a heavy toll on our lives. Often in subtle ways sin robs us of intimacy, peace and joy. While we are blind to the problem, sin interferes with our relationship with God and those who are near to us. Daily, one should be asking oneself, do I have the right view of myself. In my mind am I flattering myself too much to detect or hate my sin? Have I become blind to my faults—faults that may be obvious to others?
There is a biblical prescription for the blindness caused by our sinful condition. The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom; all who follow his precepts have good understanding (Psalm 111:10). The fear of the LORD opens our eyes. The fear of the LORD leads to repentance and the fear of the LORD enlightens our understanding.
What is keeping you from intimacy, joy and peace? Is it a plethora of secret sins that blind and bind you into unhealthy patterns of thinking? Ask God to give you a right view—an unflattering view of yourself—so that with His help you can change.
Response: LORD God, help me to see a true picture of myself. If I see sin in my life, help me to change. Grant me the gift of repentance through Jesus, who loved me to the point of death on a cross. Amen.
Your Turn: In our mind, all of us flatter ourselves. How do you maintain a right picture of yourself?
blessed, blood, body, body and blood, C.S. Lewis, cat and mouse, fear, fearing God, five senses, flesh, God, Green's Creek, Jesus, John Ortberg, Know Doubt, Lion of the tribe of Judah, refuge, sacrifice, taste, the LORD, touch
Reading: Psalm 34
Taste and see that the LORD is good;
blessed is the one who takes refuge in him.
Fear the LORD, you his holy people,
for those who fear him lack nothing.
The lions may grow weak and hungry,
but those who seek the LORD lack no good thing.
Come, my children, listen to me;
I will teach you the fear of the LORD.
Whoever of you loves life
and desires to see many good days,
keep your tongue from evil
and your lips from telling lies.
Turn from evil and do good;
seek peace and pursue it (NIV).
What a strange command! David begins this portion of Psalm 34 by urging us to “Taste and see that the LORD is good.”
One can logically argue that of the five senses taste is the most intimate. I can see, hear, and even smell someone at a distance. Touch of course requires direct contact, but to taste someone or something, I must take it or them into my mouth. That’s intimate.
How then do I, “Taste and see that the LORD is good?” If I can’t see, hear, smell or touch the LORD, how can I possibly taste Him? David goes on to state, “Blessed is the one who takes refuge in him [the LORD]. Notice David did not say we are blessed if we take refuge with the LORD. We are to take refuge in Him. That requires a higher level of intimacy—a marital kind of intimacy.
Do I taste and see that the LORD is good? Do I take refuge in Him? Do I actively seek God? John Ortberg in his book Know Doubt tells us that C.S. Lewis said that speaking of man’s search for God always sounded to him like speaking of the mouse’s search for the cat. The mouse hides from the cat because he fears the cat may require his life. We avoid God for the same reason. If you find God, He may ask for your life. Are you willing to give it up to Him?
But Jesus was willing to give his life for you. He willingly suffered, bled and died on a cross so that you might have eternal life. The big cat—the Lion of the Tribe of Judah—lay down his life for the mouse, even a mangy mosacriuse like me. That’s real love. Now Jesus invites us to come and dine. Jesus said, “Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise them up at the last day. For my flesh is real food and my blood is real drink. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me, and I in them” (John 6:54-56).
Response: Heavenly Father, thank you for sending Jesus. Thank you, Jesus for laying down your life for me. Through the sacrifice of your body and blood I can truly taste and see that the LORD is good. Amen.
Your Turn: Do you seek God or avoid Him? Why?
Reading: Psalm 27
The LORD is my light and my salvation –
Whom shall I fear?
The LORD is the stronghold of my life –
Of whom shall I be afraid?
When evil men advance against me to devour my flesh,
When my enemies and foes attack me,
They will stumble and fall.
Though an army besiege me,
My heart will not fear;
Though war break out against me
Even then will I be confident (NIV).
Are you afraid of the dark? That may seem like a rather empty-headed question? Most adults have overcome their fear of the dark a long time ago, back in the dark ages of childhood. But have you really overcome your fear of dark places?
I would like to suggest that we have not overcome that most basic of fears. We have only learned to mask our fears and conveniently avoid those dark unknown recesses. Our fear of the dark is at its core a fear of the unknown. Hidden out there in the dark unknown regions is a whole battalion of hidden risks—the lurking boogeymen—who keep us close to home, who keep us on the well-beaten path, the well-marked path, a path of no-risk and least-resistance. How often do you dare to go where others have never gone? Are you still certain that you are not afraid of the dark?
In this psalm, David, the fearless warrior, reveals the secret to his victorious life—a life spent overcoming insurmountable obstacles. With reckless confidence this insignificant, no-rank shepherd boy took on the Goliaths of his time, and he rose to each and every challenge, time after time throughout his storied career.
So then, what was the secret to David’s success? It resides in his overwhelming confidence in the LORD. Surely, common sense would dictate that a wet-behind-the-ears shepherd boy is no match for an experienced warrior, such as the towering Goliath. But David exudes confidence: The LORD is my light and my salvation—whom shall I fear? The LORD is the stronghold of my life—of whom shall I be afraid?
David was not afraid of the dark, or the giant, or the Philistine army arrayed against him. He feared only the LORD. The LORD was his light in a dark place. The LORD was his salvation in every battle and his deliverance in every hostile situation. David feared the LORD. He bowed in reverential awe before Him. He allied himself with the LORD his Maker. That’s an unbeatable combination.
Response: Lord Jesus, help me to truly walk in confident faith. I ally myself with you. You are my light and my salvation. Help me now to face my day and my future with confidence that comes from you, my Savior. Amen.
Your Turn: How often do you take a plunge into the unknown? Is God asking you to take a step of faith?
I will praise Him!
I will listen to what God the LORD says;
he promises peace to his people, his faithful servants—but let them not turn to folly.
Surely his salvation is near those who fear him,
that his glory may dwell in our land.
(Psalm 85:8-9, NIV)
Reading: Psalm 128
A song of ascents.
Blessed are all who fear the LORD,
who walk in obedience to him.
You will eat the fruit of your labor;
blessings and prosperity will be yours.
Your wife will be like a fruitful vine
within your house;
your children will be like olive shoots
around your table.
Yes, this will be the blessing
for the man who fears the LORD.
May the LORD bless you from Zion;
may you see the prosperity of Jerusalem
all the days of your life.
May you live to see your children’s children—
peace be on Israel (NIV).
I got an unexpected call from my son this morning. “Can we have lunch together today?” he asked.
“Sure,” I responded without hesitation. Who can say no to such a request? We went out to a pizza place for their buffet lunch. We enjoyed a leisurely conversation. There was no urgency to our discussion. He shared a few minor work frustrations, while I did the same. This was simply a father and son enjoying each other’s company, talking a little sports and discussing whatever came to mind.
According to Psalm 128, I was appreciating one of the olive shoots around my table. Now that’s a unique way to view your son or daughter. Children are a blessing, and when adult children enjoy spending time with their parents that’s a double blessing. At a time when many adult children are estranged from their parents or separated by long distances, the opportunity to spend time together at the drop of a hat is a real blessing. As a parent you are enjoying the fruit of your labor. You are reaping the rewards from years spent pouring into the lives of your children.
This is the ninth psalm of the series of psalms known as Songs of Ascent or Psalms of Ascent. These were psalms used by pilgrims as they made the annual trek to Jerusalem for celebrations such as the Feast of Tabernacles or the Passover. In some respects, these ancient holy days correspond to our present day holidays such as Thanksgiving or Christmas. Families today often make long journeys to celebrate together what at their core are religious holidays. Family togetherness is a central feature of such events. We should not be surprised then that this entire psalm highlights the blessings of family unity.
It should be noted that the blessings of family begin with obedience and the fear of the LORD.
Response: Father God, I love my family. I am so blessed to have children who love you, Lord. Watch over them, I pray. Keep their hearts tender before you. Help them to daily hear your voice. Amen.
Your Turn: Are you estranged from family members? Can you build a bridge back to that loved one?
Reading: Psalm 111
Praise the LORD!
I will give thanks to the LORD with my whole heart,
in the company of the upright, in the congregation.
Great are the works of the LORD, 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 LORD 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 LORD is the beginning of wisdom;
all those who practice it have a good understanding.
His praise endures forever (NIV).
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.
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?