Reading: Psalm 41
For the director of music. A psalm of David.
Blessed are those who have regard for the weak;
the LORD delivers them in times of trouble.
The LORD protects and preserves them—
they are counted among the blessed in the land—
he does not give them over to the desire of their foes.
The LORD sustains them on their sickbed
and restores them from their bed of illness.
I said, “Have mercy on me, LORD;
heal me, for I have sinned against you.”
My enemies say of me in malice,
“When will he die and his name perish?”
When one of them comes to see me,
he speaks falsely, while his heart gathers slander;
then he goes out and spreads it around (NIV).
Psalm 41 reminds us that compassion and empathy are at the core of what it means to be a follower of the LORD. David begins this psalm with this declaration, “Blessed are those who have regard for the weak.”
Social justice and care for the poor are not small matters in eyes of LORD. Ancient Israel was destroyed and went into exile because of their disregard for the poor. The LORD enters into judgment against the elders and leaders of his people: “It is you who have ruined my vineyard; the plunder from the poor is in your houses. What do you mean by crushing my people and grinding the faces of the poor?” declares the LORD, the LORD Almighty (Isaiah 3:14-15).
Why is regard for the weak so pivotal in having a right relationship with God? Lack of care or empathy for the needy is based on a kind of self-deception. In arrogance we see ourselves as better than those who are weak or needy. Yet if we examine ourselves, we have all gone through times when we were weak and needy. Sometimes we may need a reminder that our current state of self-sufficiency can come to an end in a moment.
This morning I very nearly hit a pedestrian as she rushed across the street. I sounded my horn thinking she was in error. A quick glance showed she was crossing with the walk light. I was the one in error. I had completely missed a red light. I was the one in need of correction and forgiveness.
Are you doing well now? Praise God. The day will come when you need His help and protection. Do you see someone in need? Help as you are able. The day will come when you will need forgiveness and the help that you have offered others.
Response: LORD God, forgive me when I have looked down on others in need. Open my eyes to someone I may help today. In Jesus name I pray. Amen.
Your Turn: How do you keep yourself from the deception of pride?
I will praise Him!
Sing to the LORD a new song,
for he has done marvelous things;
his right hand and his holy arm
have worked salvation for him.
The LORD has made his salvation known
and revealed his righteousness to the nations.
He has remembered his love
and his faithfulness to Israel;
all the ends of the earth have seen
the salvation of our God.
(Psalm 98:1-3, NIV)
America, attack, Christian, David, enemies, forgiveness, forgving, Gaza, Holy Land, Israel, Jesus, peace, peacemakers, Philistines, retaliation, rockets, strength, turning the other cheek, war, weakness
Reading: Psalm 35
LORD, you have seen this; do not be silent.
Do not be far from me, Lord.
Awake, and rise to my defense!
Contend for me, my God and Lord.
Vindicate me in your righteousness, LORD my God;
do not let them gloat over me.
Do not let them think, “Aha, just what we wanted!”
or say, “We have swallowed him up” (NIV).
There’s an old saying, “The more things change, the more they stay the same.” That certainly is true of the conflict in the Holy Land. About 3,000 years ago, in David’s time the Kingdom of Israel was in a struggle for survival. Chief among its enemies were the Philistines along the Gaza coast. On the day when I originally wrote this post, Israel’s chief enemy Hamas was firing rockets into Israel from the Gaza coast.
David’s words from Psalm 35 have a present day resonance. LORD, you have seen this; do not be silent. Do not be far from me, Lord. Awake, and rise to my defense! Contend for me, my God and Lord. Many in present day Israel are praying this prayer with the fervour of those who are being attacked.
But the residents of Gaza could pray this prayer with equal fervour. Their homes and businesses are also under bombardment. Where is God in all this suffering? Whose side is He on? Many in the Christian community affirm with great confidence that God is on the side of Israel. Does that make God complicit in the deaths of innocent children in Gaza?
Jesus gave this counsel to his disciples, “You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’ But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also” (Matthew 5:38-39). Present day Israel (and America for that matter) has a well-established policy of hard-hitting retaliation when attacked. What are the long term consequences of this policy? Is the conflict resolved or is it inflamed?
Jesus’ admonition to turn the other cheek goes unheeded. Most feel that turning the other cheek implies weakness. In reality it requires far more strength, but in the end it yields the peaceable fruit of righteousness—not a righteousness that insists on its own way—but a righteousness that sees both sides of an issue and works hard for peace and reconciliation.
Jesus asks us to do the far harder thing. Retaliation is easy. It’s the natural response. Forgiving when we are wronged, that requires far more effort. Whose side is God on? He is on the side of peace. That’s something worth fighting for.
Response: Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God (Matthew 5:9). LORD God, help me to be a local peacemaker in my world today—someone who builds bridges between people and communities. Amen.
Your Turn: Forgiveness and turning the other cheek works on a personal level. Can it work on an international level as well?
Reading: Psalm 9
For the director of music. To the tune of “The Death of the Son.” A psalm of David.
I will give thanks to you, LORD, with all my heart;
I will tell of all your wonderful deeds.
I will be glad and rejoice in you;
I will sing the praises of your name, O Most High.
My enemies turn back; they stumble and perish before you.
For you have upheld my right and my cause,
sitting enthroned as the righteous judge.
You have rebuked the nations and destroyed the wicked;
you have blotted out their name forever and ever.
Endless ruin has overtaken my enemies, you have uprooted their cities;
even the memory of them has perished.
The LORD reigns forever; he has established his throne for judgment.
He rules the world in righteousness and judges the peoples with equity.
The LORD is a refuge for the oppressed, a stronghold in times of trouble.
Those who know your name trust in you,
for you, LORD, have never forsaken those who seek you (NIV).
Without question David was a man of war. After all, this was the man who as a strapping young teenager slew Goliath, the gigantic champion of the Philistines. Later he led King Saul’s army as they went out to do battle with the enemies of Israel. Eventually when David became King, he secured Israel’s borders and greatly expanded its territory through conquest. David knew a few things about bloodshed and war, and he had more than a few enemies.
It should not surprise us then that the language of warfare and talk of enemies and destruction should appear in the psalms that he wrote. David wrote, sang and spoke of the things he knew and experienced. He was personally involved in life and death struggles. Consequently, he was a man of violence, who lived and survived through violent times.
But he loved God. Sometimes it’s hard to reconcile the slay-my-enemies David with the LORD-is-my-shepherd David. It’s as though two contradictory Davids are living in one body. But then I look at myself—deep within myself. Am I any different? There are more than a few contradictory elements at work within me. The real warfare is within the human spirit. Will I yield to the Spirit of God, or to the foul spirit of this world, or my own selfish pride?
Like David I simply need God. I need to praise and exalt Him over all else. When I do that I gain perspective—the right perspective. With David I can say, “Those who know your name trust in you, for you, LORD, have never forsaken those who seek you.”
Response: I praise you, LORD and I seek you. Along with David I can say you have upheld me in difficult times. Be the master within me. I will be glad and rejoice in you; I will sing the praises of your name, O Most High. Amen.
Your Turn: Have you yielded to the LORD? Is He winning the warfare within?
Reading: Psalm 147
Praise the LORD.
How good it is to sing praises to our God,
how pleasant and fitting to praise him!
The LORD builds up Jerusalem;
he gathers the exiles of Israel.
He heals the brokenhearted
and binds up their wounds (NIV).
There are a lot of brokenhearted people in this world. No, I’m not talking about sports fans who have suffered heartbreak because their team has lost. I’m talking about the more serious issues that arise—the loss of a home, a career, or a family member. I’m talking about those devastating life events from which full recovery may never be possible.
Today’s evening news carried the story of a woman who had lost her home due to severe flooding throughout our region. There she stood with her voice breaking as she described all the work she and her husband had put into their lovely home. Looking beyond her you could see nothing but brown water lapping against the sides of her house. Everything they had worked for was ruined.
Every Friday morning for a dozen years I have been meeting with a group of men who have entered into a covenant to grow stronger in their relationship with the Lord. We are accountable to one another in our commitment to grow in love and service to Jesus. But faithful commitment to the Lord provides us with no guarantee against personal heartbreak.
One of the leaders of our group lost his wife last fall due to pancreatic cancer. Now Chris must cope with the loss of his wife while also providing care and comfort for his young son and his teenage daughter. That’s heartbreaking. That’s a daunting task!
I’m not sure that I could cope with that level of loss.
In today’s reading from Psalm 147, we see a call to praise coupled with a promise that the LORD will build up, restore, and heal the heartbroken. The LORD builds up Jerusalem; he gathers the exiles of Israel. He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.
I need words like that. I need healing words. The wounded need healing words. As God’s people we need to give and receive words that comfort the grieving, build up the downcast, and minister healing to the wounded. All too often our tongues do more harm than good. Too often we speak words of judgment, when we should leave judgment to the LORD.
Today, remember there are a lot of brokenhearted people in this world.
Response: LORD God, heal my hurts so I can help heal the hurts of others. I pray that your people will find comfort in your word. May your words bring health and healing. You are worthy of praise. Amen.
Your Turn: How can we bind up the wounds of others? Do you have wounds that need healing?
Reading: Psalm 137
By the rivers of Babylon we sat and wept
when we remembered Zion.
There on the poplars we hung our harps,
for there our captors asked us for songs,
our tormentors demanded songs of joy;
they said, “Sing us one of the songs of Zion!”
How can we sing the songs of the LORD
while in a foreign land?
If I forget you, Jerusalem,
may my right hand forget its skill.
May my tongue cling to the roof of my mouth
if I do not remember you,
if I do not consider Jerusalem
my highest joy (NIV)
It’s difficult to pinpoint the time in history when many of the Psalms were written. Many scholars believe that the Old Testament was compiled over a period of about 900 to 1,000 years. As for the Book of Psalms, there is considerable evidence to suggest that psalms were collected from three distinct periods: the reign of King David (1 Chronicles 23:5), the rule of Hezekiah (2 Chronicles 29:30), and during the leadership of Ezra and Nehemiah (Nehemiah 12:24).
Psalm 137 is distinct, because we can tell from its content that this psalm was written early during the period of the Babylonian exile. Memories of Nebuchadnezzar’s destruction of Jerusalem in 586 BC were still fresh—etched with bitterness and pain in the mind of the author.
There are two great pivot points in the history of Old Testament Israel. The first is the liberation of Israel from Egypt and the conquest of the holy land. The second is the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple, and the subsequent seventy-year exile in Babylon. The mercy and power of God brought about the first pivotal event. The disobedience and idolatry of man set in motion the catastrophe of the second event.
From its inception the Jewish nation flirted with idolatry. While Moses was receiving the Ten Commandments, the people were reveling before a golden calf. King Solomon set up idols in Jerusalem so his foreign wives could worship their gods. See 1 Kings 11:1-8. This duplicity continued generation after generation until the Babylonians swept in and destroyed Jerusalem. Judgment brought change.
Response: Father God, I don’t want to learn things the hard way. I want to be quick to obey you. Help me to learn from the lessons of history. You are the one, true God. I worship you. Amen.
Your Turn: How faithful are you to the LORD? Do other interests draw you away?
 K.R. “Dick” Iverson, Spirit Filled Life Bible, New King James Version, Jack W. Hayford, General Editor, Thomas Nelson Publishers, Nashville, TN, 1991, p. 750.
Reading: Psalm 130
I wait for the LORD, my whole being waits,
and in his word I put my hope.
I wait for the LORD
more than watchmen wait for the morning,
more than watchmen wait for the morning.
Israel, put your hope in the LORD,
for with the LORD is unfailing love
and with him is full redemption.
He himself will redeem Israel
from all their sins (NIV).
Psalm 130 can be divided into three distinct sections: the confessional approach, the wait, and the LORD’s response. In yesterday’s reading, we looked at the confessional approach. The psalmist came before his God and poured out his heart. In desperation he pleaded for mercy and forgiveness. At the same time he acknowledged the extreme mercy of God. He knows full well that this God forgives the undeserving.
Now, the psalmist waits: “I wait for the LORD, my soul waits, and in his word I put my hope. My soul waits for the LORD more than watchmen wait for the morning, more than watchmen wait for the morning.”
This is the step that is most frequently missing in our communion with God. We cannot wait; we rush on. We have things to do, people to see, a life to live. We have no time to wait for the LORD’s response. But without waiting, we cannot hear the LORD speaking to our hearts. The rush of life takes over. We do not hear our Savior speak the words of divine pardon. Prayer is reduced to one way communication. We speak into the silence, and allow no time for the God of silence to answer back.
But in his time of silence, the psalmist heard from God. In this third section of the psalm, the author is no longer addressing the LORD in prayer. Now he is addresses us. The wait is over. God has spoken, and now the psalmist rises to his feet. He has a message from the LORD for us—the Israel of God.
Israel, put your hope in the LORD, for with the LORD is unfailing love and with him is full redemption.
For Israel, there was a long wait. The promised Messiah was a long time in coming. The centuries slipped by. Generation after generation passed on, but the word of the LORD stood firm. A Redeemer was coming. With an uncanny accuracy the Old Testament prophets foretold the coming of the Christ. Many of those prophetic words are found in the Psalms. The Lord Jesus is our fount of hope—our Redeemer. He is love and the source of unfailing love. It is he who with his blood redeemed us, body, soul and spirit. In the person of Jesus, God took on human flesh. On the cross he fulfilled these words. “He himself will redeem Israel from all their sins.”
Now that’s a heaven sent valentine!
Response: Father God, I thank you for your prophetic word because it points to Jesus. Lord Jesus, thank you for laying down your life to redeem me, and all those who bow before you in repentance. Amen.
Your Turn: Are you taking time to listen for the voice of God in prayer?
Reading: Psalm 122
A song of ascents. Of David.
I rejoiced with those who said to me,
“Let us go to the house of the LORD.”
Our feet are standing in your gates, Jerusalem.
Jerusalem is built like a city
that is closely compacted together.
That is where the tribes go up—
the tribes of the LORD—
to praise the name of the LORD
according to the statute given to Israel.
There stand the thrones for judgment,
the thrones of the house of David.
Pray for the peace of Jerusalem:
“May those who love you be secure.
May there be peace within your walls
and security within your citadels.”
For the sake of my family and friends,
I will say, “Peace be within you.”
For the sake of the house of the LORD our God,
I will seek your prosperity (NIV).
This third psalm in the Song of Ascents series is a psalm of arrival. The pilgrims have arrived at Jerusalem the destination of their pilgrimage. The following statement makes it clear that the weary travelers have arrived: Our feet are standing in your gates, Jerusalem. Jerusalem is built like a city that is closely compacted together. That is where the tribes go up—the tribes of the LORD—to praise the name of the LORD according to the statute given to Israel.
It should be noted that this pilgrimage to Jerusalem was not merely an event for the occasional tourist. As the psalmist states, he came to praise the name of the LORD according to the statute given to Israel. In fact, this pilgrimage to the holy city was required according to the Law of Moses. Three times a year all your men are to appear before the Sovereign Lord, the God of Israel. I will drive out nations before you and enlarge your territory, and no one will covet your land when you go up three times each year to appear before the Lord your God (Deuteronomy 34-23-24).
Our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, frequently made this journey to fulfill the requirements of the Law. The first reference to this pilgrimage is found in the account of the twelve-year-old Jesus remaining in the city after his parents had left to return to Galilee (Luke 2:41-50). His last pilgrimage to celebrate the Passover ended with his crucifixion and resurrection.
With the psalmist we join in praying for the peace of Jerusalem, and peace within the church of God.
Response: Father God, we pray for your peace—the shalom of God. May your peace come to Jerusalem, and to all of Israel, and especially to all the followers of your dear son, Jesus. Amen.
Your Turn: Do you regularly pray for peace in the house of the LORD our God?
Reading: Psalm 115
Not to us, LORD, not to us
but to your name be the glory,
because of your love and faithfulness.
Why do the nations say,
“Where is their God?”
Our God is in heaven; he does whatever pleases him.
But their idols are silver and gold,
made by human hands.
They have mouths, but cannot speak,
eyes, but cannot see.
They have ears, but cannot hear,
noses, but cannot smell.
They have hands, but cannot feel,
feet, but cannot walk,
nor can they utter a sound with their throats.
Those who make them will be like them,
and so will all who trust in them (NIV).
Where are your idols? “I have none,” you say. Are you sure? Most readers of this post would deny being idol worshippers, but perhaps we have more idols than we care to admit.
Idolatry was commonly practiced during Israel’s kingdom era. In Old Testament times, the nations around God’s people all practiced various forms of idol worship. One might assume that God’s redeemed people, who were rescued from slavery, would have nothing to do with such vile practices. But you would be wrong. Time and again Israel fell into idolatry.
King Solomon, who was revered for his wisdom, is a prime example of someone who condoned idol worship. Here’s what we read about this ‘esteemed’ leader: On a hill east of Jerusalem, Solomon built a high place for Chemosh the detestable god of Moab, and for Molek the detestable god of the Ammonites. He did the same for all his foreign wives, who burned incense and offered sacrifices to their gods (1 Kings 11:7-8).
When leaders go astray, there will be many who follow. In the church today we have many leaders who have fallen captive to the god of Mammon—material goods. Jesus said, “No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money” (Matthew 6:24).
Before we claim to be free from idols, we need to examine our hearts. Are we yielding to the Holy Spirit, or are we controlled by our desire for what this world has to offer?
Response: Father God, show me if there are idols in my life. In love, correct me when I stray. I want to serve you—put you first in my life. Lord Jesus, be my master. Amen.
Your Turn: Are there other things that can become idols in your life?