I will praise Him!
I seek you with all my heart;
do not let me stray from your commands.
I have hidden your word in my heart
that I might not sin against you.
Praise be to you, LORD;
teach me your decrees.
(Psalm 119:10-12 NIV)
Wishing you God’s grace and peace in 2017!
Reading: Psalm 108
A song. A psalm of David.
My heart, O God, is steadfast;
I will sing and make music with all my soul.
Awake, harp and lyre!
I will awaken the dawn.
I will praise you, LORD, among the nations;
I will sing of you among the peoples.
For great is your love, higher than the heavens;
your faithfulness reaches to the skies.
Be exalted, O God, above the heavens;
let your glory be over all the earth (NIV).
This morning did you awaken the dawn or did the dawn awaken you? For those who are early risers awakening the dawn becomes much easier as the days get shorter and we approach the winter solstice. I confess that this morning and most autumn mornings I am awake before sunrise.
There is something quite magical about watching the sunrise and spread its golden rays across the eastern sky. I was treated to a magnificent sunrise display last Monday. I was driving east across the prairies and as each mile slipped by the glory along the horizon grew more and more intense. I pity the poor atheist who has no one to praise when he beholds such a display.
For believers, praise for our God springs naturally from our lips when we see God paint the sky with splendor. In such moments David’s call to worship becomes our own: Awake, harp and lyre! I will awaken the dawn. I will praise you, LORD, among the nations; I will sing of you among the peoples.
Can you picture David taking up his harp and breaking into song as he locks his eyes on the rising sun? David was a most remarkable character. What sets David apart from other individuals we meet in the pages of scripture? He was a man of spectacular failings. His adulterous affair with Bathsheba and the treacherous means he used to dispatch her husband stand out. But there’s nothing remarkable about spectacular failings and shortcomings. These are common to man.
What stands out about David’s character is his steadfastness to the LORD. The opening lines of Psalm 109 hold the key to understanding David’s overcoming nature. My heart, O God, is steadfast; I will sing and make music with all my soul.
Despite his failings, David remained steadfast in his love for God. Secondly, he was wholehearted in his praise for God. When things came off the rails, he did not turn away from the LORD or stop praising Him. He repented and God forgave him. Then David gave thanks. David’s example is there for us to follow.
Response: LORD God, I always want to have a thankful heart that is quick to praise you. Help me to be steadfast in love and praise even when the way ahead is difficult. You are my help and my glory. Amen.
Your Turn: What does being steadfast look like for you?
I will praise Him!
Teach me your way, LORD,
that I may rely on your faithfulness;
give me an undivided heart,
that I may fear your name.
I will praise you, Lord my God, with all my heart;
I will glorify your name forever.
For great is your love toward me;
you have delivered me from the depths,
from the realm of the dead.
(Psalm 86:11-13 NIV)
Reading: Psalm 78
Then the Lord awoke as from sleep,
as a warrior wakes from the stupor of wine.
He beat back his enemies;
he put them to everlasting shame.
Then he rejected the tents of Joseph,
he did not choose the tribe of Ephraim;
but he chose the tribe of Judah,
Mount Zion, which he loved.
He built his sanctuary like the heights,
like the earth that he established forever.
He chose David his servant
and took him from the sheep pens;
from tending the sheep he brought him
to be the shepherd of his people Jacob,
of Israel his inheritance.
And David shepherded them with integrity of heart;
with skillful hands he led them (NIV).
Up to this point Psalm 78 has catalogued a long list of Israel’s transgressions. They have been a stubborn and rebellious people who have been unfaithful to the LORD. They have been unfaithful despite His mercy and the miracles He has performed on their behalf. Now this final portion of the psalm represents a turning point in the history of the nation.
Once again, the LORD intervened in the affairs of Israel. He chose David his servant and took him from the sheep pens; from tending the sheep he brought him to be the shepherd of his people Jacob, of Israel his inheritance.
God chose a man; He chose a leader. Often the LORD chooses the most unlikely candidates for leadership. He did not go to the palace; He went to the sheep pen. He overlooked Jonathan, the courageous royal son of Saul, and instead He called out David, the youngest son of Jesse—a man after God’s own heart.
What does God consider when He looks for a leader? When selecting the next king, the prophet Samuel was told, “The LORD does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart” (1 Samuel 16:7). The LORD is not looking for physical strength or a handsome face, but he is looking for integrity of heart.
That should give hope to every one of us. I cannot change my stature or significantly alter my appearance, but through repentance and faith I can change the condition of my heart.
Response: LORD God, I want a heart of integrity—a heart that is pleasing to you. Help me to become an instrument that you will use for your good purpose in this strife-torn world. Amen.
Your Turn: Can we change our hearts or is that God’s job? What role do we play?
Reading: Psalm 17
A prayer of David. Verses 1-9
Hear me, LORD, my plea is just; listen to my cry.
Hear my prayer—it does not rise from deceitful lips.
Let my vindication come from you; may your eyes see what is right.
Though you probe my heart, though you examine me at night and test me,
you will find that I have planned no evil; my mouth has not transgressed.
Though people tried to bribe me,
I have kept myself from the ways of the violent
through what your lips have commanded.
My steps have held to your paths; my feet have not stumbled.
I call on you, my God, for you will answer me;
turn your ear to me and hear my prayer.
Show me the wonders of your great love,
you who save by your right hand those who take refuge in you from their foes.
Keep me as the apple of your eye;
hide me in the shadow of your wings
from the wicked who are out to destroy me,
from my mortal enemies who surround me. (NIV)
“Are you up for the test? The exam schedule has been posted. Have you prepared? Are you ready for it?” Words like those can produce feelings of dread or anxious thoughts, especially for university students. If you have studied and prepared yourself well, you can have a measure of confidence. But some uncertainty always remains.
In today’s psalm, David welcomes God’s examination. He states, “Though you probe my heart, though you examine me at night and test me, you will find that I have planned no evil; my mouth has not transgressed.”
David had nothing to hide. His conscience was clear; therefore he did not dread God’s probing. He knew that an examination of his heart would result in vindication. He would be proven right and just before his Maker.
Check your heart. Better yet, allow God to check it regularly. Be open and transparent before Him. It’s the only way I know to keep a clean heart and a right mind before God and others. The LORD is the best heart doctor available, and He does home visits if we invite Him in.
Only when our hearts and minds are open and right before God can we pray, “Keep me as the apple of your eye; hide me in the shadow of your wings.
Response: Heavenly Father, probe my heart so that I can repent of anything that displeases you. I want to bring only joy and pleasure to the heart of my Father. Amen.
Your Turn: Why do we resist allowing God to examine our heart issues?