Reading: Psalm 95
Today, if only you would hear his voice,
“Do not harden your hearts as you did at Meribah,
as you did that day at Massah in the wilderness,
where your ancestors tested me;
they tried me, though they had seen what I did.
For forty years I was angry with that generation;
I said, ‘They are a people whose hearts go astray,
and they have not known my ways.’
So I declared on oath in my anger,
‘They shall never enter my rest’” (NIV).
Long before we knew about the medical condition known as hardening of the arteries, there existed another condition called hardening of the heart. Hardening of the heart is not a deadly medical condition; it’s a deadly spiritual condition. Those who suffer from hardening of the heart have a hard time hearing God, and when they do hear God, they tend to stop their ears, or they do their best to pretend that God hasn’t spoken.
Although we can safely say that this condition has existed since the human species stepped out of Eden, the first reported case of hardening of the heart occurred about 3,500 years ago. In the Book of Exodus we read that Pharaoh developed a severe case of hardening of the heart. But when Pharaoh saw that there was relief, he hardened his heart and would not listen to Moses and Aaron, just as the LORD had said (Exodus 8:15).
Time and again as the ten plagues ravaged Egypt, we read that Pharaoh hardened his heart and he would not let the people of Israel go. In several instances we read that the LORD hardened Pharaoh’s heart. But let’s be clear about this condition. Heart hardening only happens with the willing participation of the individual. Don’t go about blaming God for your hard heart. Hearts harden due to our willful disregard of God’s Spirit and His laws.
Neither should we presume that heart hardening only happens with a certain type of person. We are all prone to develop this spiritual malady. Our ancestry or genetic makeup offers no protection. The Egyptian Pharaoh developed a heart, but ultimately the Israelites—the people that the LORD pried free from Pharaoh also developed the same condition. That’s why the psalmist issues this warning: Today, if only you would hear his voice, “Do not harden your hearts as you did at Meribah, as you did that day at Massah in the wilderness, where your ancestors tested me; they tried me, though they had seen what I did.”
The key to avoiding a hard heart is hearing and heeding the voice of God. It’s just that simple.
Response: LORD, give me ears that hear your voice gently speaking to me. Give me a heart that is quick to obey. I want a tender heart that reflects your love for me and for others. I pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.
Your Turn: Does a hard heart toward others result in a hard heart toward God? What are your thoughts?
Reading: Psalm 89
How long, LORD? Will you hide yourself forever?
How long will your wrath burn like fire?
Remember how fleeting is my life.
For what futility you have created all humanity!
Who can live and not see death,
or who can escape the power of the grave?
Lord, where is your former great love,
which in your faithfulness you swore to David?
Remember, Lord, how your servant has been mocked,
how I bear in my heart the taunts of all the nations,
the taunts with which your enemies, LORD, have mocked,
with which they have mocked every step of your anointed one.
Praise be to the LORD forever!
Amen and Amen (NIV).
Many people believe that Christ is Jesus’ last name. That is not the case. The Bible does not tell us Jesus’ family name. Often he is identified by the town that he is from—Jesus of Nazareth. So what then is the significance of the word Christ or Khristos in the Greek? Christ is a title. One might even call it a job description. It means the anointed one, the one who is designated by God to rule and reign over his people. The Greek word Khristos or Christ corresponds to the Hebrew word Mashiach or Messiah. The anointed one or Christ was and is the son of David who rules over the house of Jacob and the Israel of God. Just as David was anointed to be king of Israel, Jesus is anointed to be our king.
When we read Psalm 89 with the understanding that the anointed one is also the Christ, the psalm takes on a whole new layer of meaning. Yes, during the fall of Jerusalem to the Babylonians, the anointed one was mocked. But this is also true of Jesus, the anointed Son of David, who was led off to be crucified outside the city gate. These words were fulfilled in Christ: Remember, Lord, how your servant has been mocked, how I bear in my heart the taunts of all the nations, the taunts with which your enemies, LORD, have mocked, with which they have mocked every step of your anointed one.
But there is a significant difference between the Old Testament, anointed one, and our New Testament Christ. The psalmist asks this question: Who can live and not see death, or who can escape the power of the grave?
The implicit answer is that no one can escape death and the grave. But… but there is One—One, who tasted death on our behalf—One, who escaped the power of the grave. His name is Jesus. He is the Christ, the anointed One, and our Messiah. He is the One who by virtue of the resurrection is King now and forevermore.
Response: LORD God, I thank you for Jesus, the Christ, the anointed One. Thank you for your death, burial and resurrection. I join with the psalmist in saying, “Praise be to the LORD forever! Amen and Amen.”
Your Turn: In what way is Christ a job description? What job has he done and is he doing for you?
Reading: Psalm 89
Once you spoke in a vision,
to your faithful people you said:
“I have bestowed strength on a warrior;
I have raised up a young man from among the people.
I have found David my servant; with my sacred oil I have anointed him.
My hand will sustain him; surely my arm will strengthen him.
The enemy will not get the better of him;
the wicked will not oppress him.
I will crush his foes before him and strike down his adversaries.
My faithful love will be with him,
and through my name his horn will be exalted.
I will set his hand over the sea, his right hand over the rivers.
He will call out to me, ‘You are my Father,
my God, the Rock my Savior.’
And I will appoint him to be my firstborn,
the most exalted of the kings of the earth.
I will maintain my love to him forever,
and my covenant with him will never fail.
I will establish his line forever,
his throne as long as the heavens endure (NIV).
Who is the principal figure in the Old Testament canon? Some would argue for Moses, the liberator of a nation of slaves. Others would go farther back yet to Abraham, the ancestral father of the nation of Israel. Here in Psalm 89, Ethan the Ezrahite and author of this psalm casts his vote in favor of David.
David’s name appears more frequently in the Bible than any name including the name of Jesus. Here in Psalm 89, Ethan draws a direct prophetic link to Jesus, the Son of God. He writes this about David: He will call out to me, ‘You are my Father, my God, the Rock my Savior.’ And I will appoint him to be my firstborn, the most exalted of the kings of the earth.
No other man in the Holy Scriptures can claim to be appointed as God’s firstborn. This is an honor that is reserved for David alone. But David prefigures or foreshadows Jesus, the true Son of God. Jesus was not appointed to the role of God’s son. He was conceived and born into this world as the divine Son of the Most High. Through the miracle of incarnation the son of Mary was also the Son of God and the Savior of the world. And this Mary was of royal lineage. She was a direct descendant of King David.
In Jesus Christ these words find their fulfillment: I will maintain my love to him [David] forever, and my covenant with him will never fail. I will establish his [David’s] line forever, his throne as long as the heavens endure.
Response: LORD God, I am thankful for Jesus. I am thankful that in the dark long ago you devised a plan to send a Savior to this world. You sent a better son than David. You sent Jesus. Amen.
Your Turn: Are you thankful for God’s Son? Why?
I will praise Him!
All you Israelites, trust in the LORD—
he is their help and shield.
House of Aaron, trust in the LORD—
he is their help and shield.
You who fear him, trust in the LORD—
he is their help and shield.
The LORD remembers us and will bless us:
He will bless his people Israel,
he will bless the house of Aaron,
he will bless those who fear the LORD—
small and great alike.
(Psalm 115:9-13, NIV)
I will praise Him!
When Israel came out of Egypt,
Jacob from a people of foreign tongue,
Judah became God’s sanctuary,
Israel his dominion.
The sea looked and fled,
the Jordan turned back;
the mountains leaped like rams,
the hills like lambs.
Why was it, sea, that you fled?
Why, Jordan, did you turn back?
Why, mountains, did you leap like rams,
you hills, like lambs?
Tremble, earth, at the presence of the LORD,
at the presence of the God of Jacob,
who turned the rock into a pool,
the hard rock into springs of water.
(Psalm 114, NIV)
Reading: Psalm 83
A psalm of Asaph.
O God, do not remain silent;
do not turn a deaf ear,
do not stand aloof, O God.
See how your enemies growl,
how your foes rear their heads.
With cunning they conspire against your people;
they plot against those you cherish.
“Come,” they say, “let us destroy them as a nation,
so that Israel’s name is remembered no more.”
With one mind they plot together;
they form an alliance against you—
the tents of Edom and the Ishmaelites,
of Moab and the Hagrites,
Byblos, Ammon and Amalek,
Philistia, with the people of Tyre.
Even Assyria has joined them
to reinforce Lot’s descendants (NIV).
Do you have enemies? Ancient Israel certainly did. Here in Psalm 83, Asaph lists ten traditional enemies of Israel. The psalmist clearly states the objective of these foreign powers. Their objective was the annihilation of Israel as a nation. “Come,” they say, “let us destroy them as a nation, so that Israel’s name is remembered no more.”
Though they may not have a physical form, our enemies are real. The trap called pornography is real. The idolatrous nature of greed is real. The crippling effects of resentment and bitterness are real. These sins and the demonic forces that continually prompt us to disobey God are real. They are constantly working to annihilate our faith.
Our enemies growl and like cobras they rear their heads to strike. But in our hour of need, if we call out to God, He will not stand aloof. He will deliver us. Lord, teach us to pray. Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.
Response: LORD God, we have a powerful opponent, but we have victory through your Son, the Lord Jesus Christ. I call on your awesome name. Give me victory over sin and the forces of evil that are out to destroy my life. My strength is in you. Amen.
Your Turn: Can you identify the sins and snares the enemy has set for you?
Reading: Psalm 81
For the director of music. According to gittith. Of Asaph.
Sing for joy to God our strength;
shout aloud to the God of Jacob!
Begin the music, strike the timbrel,
play the melodious harp and lyre.
Sound the ram’s horn at the New Moon,
and when the moon is full, on the day of our festival;
this is a decree for Israel, an ordinance of the God of Jacob.
When God went out against Egypt,
he established it as a statute for Joseph.
I heard an unknown voice say:
“I removed the burden from their shoulders;
their hands were set free from the basket.
In your distress you called and I rescued you,
I answered you out of a thundercloud;
I tested you at the waters of Meribah.
Hear me, my people, and I will warn you—
if you would only listen to me, Israel!
You shall have no foreign god among you;
you shall not worship any god other than me (NIV).
Psalm 81 begins with a call for God’s people to celebrate: Sing for joy to God our strength; shout aloud to the God of Jacob! Begin the music, strike the timbrel, play the melodious harp and lyre.
Why should we break forth in music and song? Well, we have a good reason to celebrate. We have been set free from our burdens. Because of the victory of Christ, we have been set free from slavery to sin. The psalmist expresses this thought with these words: I heard an unknown voice say: “I removed the burden from their shoulders; their hands were set free from the basket. In your distress you called and I rescued you.”
Who is that unknown voice? That unknown voice belongs to the LORD. He is the One who set the people free from bondage in Egypt. God went out against Egypt. He opposed the most powerful nation of the world at that time and claimed a people for Himself by rescuing them from the hand of Pharaoh.
Our heavenly Father has done the same for us. At the cost of his life, Jesus redeemed us from bondage to sin and Satan and he brought us into his Kingdom. For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins (Colossians 1:13-14). We have plenty of reasons to celebrate and break forth into music and song. Let nothing hold you back. The joy of the Lord is our strength.
Response: LORD God, I thank you for rescuing me from a life of sin and futility. I praise you for redeeming me, Lord Jesus. I rejoice in your continual goodness. Your mercies are new every morning. Amen.
Your Turn: Do you find it difficult or easy to break into song as you think of the Lord’s love for you?
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 78
But they put God to the test
and rebelled against the Most High;
they did not keep his statutes.
Like their ancestors they were disloyal and faithless,
as unreliable as a faulty bow.
They angered him with their high places;
they aroused his jealousy with their idols.
When God heard them, he was furious;
he rejected Israel completely.
He abandoned the tabernacle of Shiloh,
the tent he had set up among humans.
He sent the ark of his might into captivity,
his splendor into the hands of the enemy.
He gave his people over to the sword;
he was furious with his inheritance.
Fire consumed their young men,
and their young women had no wedding songs;
their priests were put to the sword,
and their widows could not weep (NIV).
Sin has consequences. We can pretend it isn’t so, but we’re fooling ourselves. Unchecked sin on a personal level can have devastating consequences—consequences that lead to heartache and an early grave. I think we all know individuals who became trapped in sin and wandered down a self-destructive path.
Today’s reading from Psalm 78 reminds us that a whole nation can abandon God and become mired in the consequences of sin. The nation of Israel did just that. The psalmist tells us they were disloyal and faithless, as unreliable as a faulty bow.
When Israel abandoned God, He in turn abandoned them. We read, “He rejected Israel completely. He abandoned the tabernacle of Shiloh, the tent he had set up among humans. He sent the ark of his might into captivity, his splendor into the hands of the enemy. He gave his people over to the sword; he was furious with his inheritance.”
Has God changed? If the LORD abandoned His people in ancient times, will He treat our nation—any nation that turns away from Him differently today? There are consequences for sin and that truth applies to nations too. When collectively we abandon the ways of God and the precepts He has established from the foundations of the world, we can expect dire days ahead. That’s what happened to ancient Israel, and it can happen to us today as well.
Response: LORD God, collectively as a nation, we have wandered away from you. LORD in your mercy lead us back to the center of your holy will. Give us repentant hearts that seek your face. Amen.
Your Turn: Are you concerned about the spiritual state of your nation? What are you doing about it?