Reading: Psalm 1
Blessed is the one
who does not walk in step with the wicked
or stand in the way that sinners take
or sit in the company of mockers,
but whose delight is in the law of the LORD,
and who meditates on his law day and night.
That person is like a tree planted by streams of water,
which yields its fruit in season
and whose leaf does not wither—
whatever they do prospers.
Not so the wicked!
They are like chaff that the wind blows away.
Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment,
nor sinners in the assembly of the righteous.
For the LORD watches over the way of the righteous,
but the way of the wicked leads to destruction (NIV).
Have you ever noticed the prominent role that trees play in the Bible? The creation account in Genesis begins with God planting two very special trees in the Garden of Eden: the Tree of Life and the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. After our first parent’s disobedience, we were banned from access the Tree of Life. But the amazing, good news of the Bible is that at the end of the book, in the last chapter of the Book of Revelation, God restores our access to the Tree of Life (Revelations 22:1-5).
In a very real sense the Bible is a story about trees.
Here in the very first Psalm, the life of the righteous is compared to a fruit-bearing tree, flourishing by streams of water. The psalmist presents a picture of tranquil beauty. Is that a picture of my life? Sometimes I feel more like windblown chaff—rather worthless and lacking a sense of direction.
But that’s where the other tree at the heart of the Bible comes into play. It stands on a hill called Calvary. There my Savior bled and died. There he showed me my true worth. There my sins were washed away, never to be remembered again. That’s where I became righteous, not by works that I had done, but by the grace and forgiveness of Christ.
What a beautiful tree! The tree on Mount Calvary isn’t beautiful because of its leaves. It’s beautiful because of its fruit—the fruit of redemption purchased by the blood of Jesus. My righteousness is solely due to him.
Response: Dear Lord Jesus, thank you for your sacrifice. Help me to always remember that you are the true source of my righteousness. At your prompting help me to rid myself of the worthless chaff in my life. Wind of God, blow on me. Water of life, refresh my soul. May I be fruitful, Lord, for you. Amen.
Your Turn: Have you knelt before the tree on Mount Calvary?
Reading: Psalm 141
Let a righteous man strike me—
that is a kindness;
let him rebuke me—
that is oil on my head.
My head will not refuse it,
for my prayer will still be
against the deeds of evildoers (NIV).
I don’t like being proven wrong. I like to think I have this world figured out. I am wise in my own eyes. A proud heart tells me I am right. Isn’t that so?
Am I the only one who suffers from this affliction—this deceptive pride that blinds me to my errors? Of course not. Human pride puts blinders over our eyes. We have trouble seeing our own faults. We often need others to gently, or sharply bring them to our attention. Better is open rebuke than hidden love (Proverbs 27:5).
Here in Psalm 141, David confesses his need for correction: Let a righteous man strike me—that is a kindness; let him rebuke me—that is oil on my head.
Do we see sharp correction as a kindness? Do we see a rebuke as a blessing like oil poured on our head? In today’s culture the thought of oil being poured on someone’s head has little appeal. But that was not the case in ancient times. Olive oil was a high-value commodity. Using it for personal grooming was considered a luxury. Only the wealthy would lavish themselves with such extravagance.
For David these words would bring back the memory of the occasion when the prophet Samuel anointed him to be king over Israel in place of King Saul. So Samuel took the horn of oil and anointed him in the presence of his brothers, and from that day on the Spirit of the Lord came powerfully upon David (1 Samuel 16:13).
Earlier, Samuel had rebuked Saul for his disobedience. See 1 Samuel 13. Saul did not receive that rebuke well. There was no repentance on his part. On the other hand years later when Nathan, the prophet, rebuked David for his sin with Bathsheba, David repented and sought the LORD with prayer and fasting. See 2 Samuel 12. The contrast between Saul’s response and David’s response to corrective rebuke is striking. David, the man after God’s own heart, received forgiveness and the mercy of God, while Saul became embittered and ultimately descended into witchcraft.
How we handle correction will determine the rise or fall of our career, our marriage, and ultimately our life with God. David learned to love rebuke. For him and for us, it can result in a course correction of eternal worth.
Response: LORD God, please correct me when I err. When others point out my faults, help me to receive that correction with grace and not anger. Lord Jesus, you alone are faultless. Forgive me. Amen.
Your Turn: Is it difficult for you to receive correction? What can make receiving correction easier?
I will praise Him!
Praise awaits you, our God, in Zion;
to you our vows will be fulfilled.
You who answer prayer,
to you all people will come.
When we were overwhelmed by sins,
you forgave our transgressions.
Blessed are those you choose
and bring near to live in your courts!
We are filled with the good things of your house,
of your holy temple.
(Psalm 65:1-4, NIV)
Later this year, Kregel Publishing will be releasing my Passion of Christ novel entitled “The Soldier Who Killed a King.” I was able to meet an editing deadline on this book yesterday, but I was unable to do my regular, full-length Psalms post for today. I hope to resume my devotional posts soon. — David Kitz
I will praise Him!
Do not hold against us the sins of past generations;
may your mercy come quickly to meet us,
for we are in desperate need.
Help us, God our Savior,
for the glory of your name;
deliver us and forgive our sins
for your name’s sake.
Why should the nations say,
“Where is their God?”
(Psalm 77:8-10, NIV)
Reading: Psalm 130
A song of ascents.
Out of the depths I cry to you, LORD;
LORD, hear my voice.
Let your ears be attentive
to my cry for mercy.
If you, LORD, kept a record of sins,
LORD, who could stand?
But with you there is forgiveness,
so that we can, with reverence, serve you (NIV).
Psalm 130 is a perfect example of a psalm that brings us into the private inner sanctum of communion with God. Here is a portrait of a fallen man—a man on his knees before his Maker, the eternal One. Hear him now as he agonizes in prayer, “Out of the depths I cry out to you, O LORD; O LORD, hear my voice. Let your ears be attentive to my cry for mercy.”
The opening lines of this psalm leave little doubt as to what has transpired. The psalmist has failed; he has missed the mark. He has transgressed, yet again. There is an abject poverty of spirit reflected in these words—a poverty that almost makes us cringe.
We do not know what sin, or list of sins has brought the psalmist to this wretched state. The transgression is left unstated. Was it anger, malice, or unbridled lust? Was it pride, greed or wilful dishonesty? Was this a transgression of the mind, of the tongue, of action or inaction? God knows.
I am always somewhat skeptical of those who claim they could never commit this or that sin. I think we rarely comprehend the depravity of our own hearts. Pushed into wrong circumstances, in the wrong environment, with the wrong peer group, who can plumb the depths to which a man or woman may sink? I can identify with the psalmist. I have added my own pile of dung to this world’s heap of moral filth. I too have found myself in the psalmist’s position, sobbing out these words, “Out of the depths I cry out to you, O LORD; O LORD, hear my voice. Let your ears be attentive to my cry for mercy.“
But despite my failings, despite my moral poverty, this great God—this God of holiness—is approachable. He is a God of mercy. The psalmist reminds himself and the LORD of His merciful nature with these words: If you, LORD, kept a record of sins, LORD, who could stand? But with you there is forgiveness, so that we can, with reverence, serve you.
I need daily reminders of God’s forgiveness and mercy. God the moral accountant is also the LORD of forgiveness. No one does forgiveness better than God. When we confess our sins, He destroys the record. What accountant does that?
Response: Father God, I thank you for forgiveness. I have failed you many times, but you are rich in mercy. You are a patient God. Thank you for destroying the record of my sins. Amen.
Your Turn: Have you been guilty of digging up the record of your sins—sins that have been forgiven?
Reading: Psalm 106
They yoked themselves to the Baal of Peor
and ate sacrifices offered to lifeless gods;
they aroused the LORD’s anger by their wicked deeds,
and a plague broke out among them.
But Phinehas stood up and intervened,
and the plague was checked.
This was credited to him as righteousness
for endless generations to come.
By the waters of Meribah they angered the LORD,
and trouble came to Moses because of them;
for they rebelled against the Spirit of God,
and rash words came from Moses’ lips.
They did not destroy the peoples as the LORD had commanded them,
but they mingled with the nations and adopted their customs.
They worshiped their idols, which became a snare to them.
They sacrificed their sons and their daughters to false gods.
They shed innocent blood, the blood of their sons and daughters,
whom they sacrificed to the idols of Canaan,
and the land was desecrated by their blood.
They defiled themselves by what they did;
by their deeds they prostituted themselves (NIV).
Psalm 106 began with with praise, but in verse three it transitioned to this opening thought, “Blessed are those who act justly, who always do what is right.”
Now there’s a mind-blowing concept. Talk about setting the bar completely out of reach! Nobody—I repeat—nobody always does right and acts justly in every situation. Human fallibility and self-interest dictate to the contrary.
The psalmist then goes on to recount a litany of Israel’s sins. By my estimation there are nine major transgressions outlined in Israel’s history through this psalm. There’s a failure to remember God’s kindness. There’s rebellion, wickedness, idolatry, envy, sensual craving, impatience, ingratitude, unbelief, outright disobedience, bloodshed, human sacrifice and further rebellion.
What is truly remarkable about this psalm is not Israel’s sinful ways; sinful ways are common to all humanity. What is truly mind-boggling is God’s faithfulness and readiness to forgive. He hears us in our distress. He seeks out the lost and wayward. He welcomes back the sin infested prodigals knowing full well where they have been. That’s the wonder of our God. He is always, always, always ready to forgive, when we are ready to admit the error of our ways. Now that’s a reason for praise!
Response: Father God, I acknowledge that my people and my nation have been caught up in sinful ways. Please be merciful to us. We are deserving of your judgment. Forgive us through your son Jesus. Amen.
Your Turn: Are you ready to take a stand against sin in your life and community?
Reading: Psalm 103
He made known his ways to Moses,
his deeds to the people of Israel:
The LORD is compassionate and gracious,
slow to anger, abounding in love.
He will not always accuse,
nor will he harbor his anger forever;
he does not treat us as our sins deserve
or repay us according to our iniquities.
For as high as the heavens are above the earth,
so great is his love for those who fear him;
as far as the east is from the west,
so far has he removed our transgressions from us (NIV).
Here is a little secret that will be a secret no longer: Of all the psalms, Psalm 103 is my favorite.
Why do I have such a deep love for this psalm? The answer lies in what the psalm tells us about God. The LORD is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love.
That sentence should be etched on our hearts and minds. The character of God is revealed in these traits. I stand in need of a God who has these qualities because by nature I am the polar opposite. In various situations I have lacked compassion. I have reasoned that those who suffer are getting what they deserve. Rather than extent grace, I have a tendency to be judgmental. When things don’t go my way, I can be quick tempered rather than slow to anger. I like to think I am loving, but I’m not sure others would always agree.
The amazing truth is that despite all our shortcomings God still loves you and me. He [the LORD] will not always accuse, nor will he harbor his anger forever; he does not treat us as our sins deserve or repay us according to our iniquities.
Satan is the accuser; God is the merciful forgiver. Sometimes I think in our minds we have reversed those roles. That’s why this psalm acts as such a powerful antidote to wrong thinking. Do you think God cannot forgive you because of some past transgression? Think again. Psalm 103 tells us to view God differently. He is more compassionate than we can imagine, more loving than we can fathom, more patient than we can comprehend.
For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his love for those who fear him; as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us.
Infinite—our God’s love and compassion are infinite. Enough said.
Response: Father God, because of your love, mercy and grace I want to serve you. Please accept my feeble attempts at loving you back. Your forgiveness leaves me with a debt of love I cannot pay. Amen.
Your Turn: What is your favorite psalm? Why?
I will praise Him!
Praise the LORD, my soul;
all my inmost being, praise his holy name.
Praise the LORD, my soul,
and forget not all his benefits—
who forgives all your sins
and heals all your diseases,
who redeems your life from the pit
and crowns you with love and compassion,
who satisfies your desires with good things
so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.
(Psalm 103:1-5 NIV)
Reading: Psalm 99
Moses and Aaron were among his priests,
Samuel was among those who called on his name;
they called on the LORD
and he answered them.
He spoke to them from the pillar of cloud;
they kept his statutes and the decrees he gave them.
LORD our God,
you answered them;
you were to Israel a forgiving God,
though you punished their misdeeds.
Exalt the LORD our God
and worship at his holy mountain,
for the LORD our God is holy (NIV).
David’s name appears in the text of several of the psalms, but this is the only psalm that lists other heroes of the faith. Moses, Aaron and Samuel, three heavy hitters of the Old Testament, are honored here. They are honored because they called on the LORD and he answered them.
I could quibble with the choice of these three. Moses struck the rock in anger when he was told to speak to it and thereby bring forth water for the people. As a consequence, he was not allowed to enter the Promised Land. Aaron gave into the people’s will and fashioned an idol—the golden calf. Samuel appointed Saul as the first king of Israel—a man who became a disappointing, disastrous leader who descended into witchcraft.
But… But then can I claim to be error free in the way I have lived my life? Like Moses I have lost my patience in more than one situation. If God treated me like Moses, there would be little hope of me reaching the Promised Land. Like Aaron I have a tendency to be led astray by the crowd, and like the prophet Samuel, at times I have backed people who stumbled badly and betrayed the Lord.
I have not lived a flawless life. That’s why I take comfort in these words: LORD our God, you answered them; you were to Israel a forgiving God, though you punished their misdeeds.
I need a forgiving God. I need a God who forgives my transgressions—those times when I think I know better, but of course I’m wrong. And if I am truly honest, I also admit that I need a God who punishes my misdeeds. If there are no consequences for my wrong doing, my transgressions will escalate. I need the discipline of the LORD, or I will go astray by following my own selfish desires. Just like the ancient people of Israel I need to live under the wise and loving rule of a holy God. How about you? Do you need a forgiving God?
Response: LORD God, you are holy. I want to live in a way that honors you. You know my failings and shortcomings. Forgive me as I call on you. I am needy. Amen.
Your Turn: If there were no consequences for sin would that change your life and conduct?