Reading: Psalm 39
“Surely everyone goes around like a mere phantom;
in vain they rush about, heaping up wealth
without knowing whose it will finally be.
“But now, LORD, what do I look for?
My hope is in you.
Save me from all my transgressions;
do not make me the scorn of fools.
I was silent; I would not open my mouth,
for you are the one who has done this.
Remove your scourge from me;
I am overcome by the blow of your hand.
When you rebuke and discipline anyone for their sin,
you consume their wealth like a moth—surely everyone is but a breath.
“Hear my prayer, LORD, listen to my cry for help;
do not be deaf to my weeping.
I dwell with you as a foreigner, a stranger, as all my ancestors were.
Look away from me, that I may enjoy life again
before I depart and am no more” (NIV).
Today’s reading is the concluding portion of Psalm 39. In this psalm we find David in a silent, reflective mood. He contemplates the brevity of life and the certainty of the grave. In the previously posted psalm portion he prayed, “Show me, LORD, my life’s end and the number of my days; let me know how fleeting my life is.”
Why would knowing the number of our days matter? Well, it should focus our minds on making the most of the time available to us. Our days on this earth are not infinite. We are each allotted a predetermined number of days. In Psalm 139, another psalm attributed to David, we read, “Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be” (Psalm 139:16).
We have no control or at best limited control over the number of days we live on this earth. But how and with whom we spend those days is within the range of our effective will. I can break my marital vows and my wife’s heart, or I can be true to her and my words spoken before God. I can love and raise my children in godly discipline, or I can neglect them, or alienate them through harsh punishment. I can be faithful to my Redeemer or I can turn my back on Him. These are decisions that fall within the scope of my will. In this life and the next I will be accountable for the decisions I make. Undoubtedly, this is why David cries out, “But now, LORD, what do I look for? My hope is in you. Save me from all my transgressions.”
Response: LORD God, I need your saving help. Through the redemptive blood of Jesus keep me from being trapped and controlled by my transgressions. I need your presence in my life so that I can make the most of my days. May your Kingdom rule extend to me and through me to others. Amen.
Your Turn: Do you think you would live your life differently if you knew how many days you had left?
Reading: Psalm 36
Continue your love to those who know you,
your righteousness to the upright in heart.
May the foot of the proud not come against me,
nor the hand of the wicked drive me away.
See how the evildoers lie fallen—
thrown down, not able to rise! (NIV)
Do you know God? Are you well acquainted with Him and His ways? Are you in regular conversation with Him? I ask these questions because in this concluding portion of Psalm 36 David prays, “Continue your love to those who know you, your righteousness to the upright in heart.”
Knowing God is or should be the great quest of our lives. This is our raison d’etre—our reason for being. We were created to know and love God. The Garden of Eden was first and foremost a place of communion with God. Yet so often we see ourselves running from God, or ignoring His invitation to draw close.
Jesus gives us this warning, “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’ (Matthew 7:21-23).
From Jesus statement here, there appear to be two requirements for entering the Kingdom of Heaven: doing the will of the Father and knowing Jesus. I would argue that truly knowing Jesus helps us to discover and do the will of the Father. If you know someone really well you know what they want—what will please them—without even asking. We need to aim for that kind of intimacy with God.
We come to know the mind of God because we have drawn close to the heart of God through time spent with Him. Two-way prayer and meditation on His word acquaints us with God’s will and His ways—ways that do not change according to the whim of man.
God is not impressed by our prophetic or miraculous powers. He is not impressed by our power over demons. These after all are gifts from Him. God is impressed by our obedience as we seek His face and do His will.
Our God is faithful. He will continue His love to those who know Him. His righteousness will constantly flow to the upright in heart.
Response: LORD God, give me a humble heart that seeks after you. Show me your ways, O Lord. Give me a hunger for your word. I want to know you more and more. Help me to do the Father’s will today. In Jesus’ name, I pray. Amen.
Your Turn: How do you get to know God better? What practices or activities grow your faith and knowledge of God?
Reading: Psalm 31
But I trust in you, LORD;
I say, “You are my God.”
My times are in your hands;
deliver me from the hands of my enemies,
from those who pursue me.
Let your face shine on your servant;
save me in your unfailing love.
Let me not be put to shame, LORD,
for I have cried out to you;
but let the wicked be put to shame
and be silent in the realm of the dead.
Let their lying lips be silenced,
for with pride and contempt
they speak arrogantly against the righteous (NIV).
Yesterday I made a trip to the hospital to visit a neighbor from down my street who is dying due to a brain tumor. Today, I just returned from visiting another neighbor who is dying due to heart failure. About ten years ago this medical missionary had a heart transplant. Now that heart is being rejected, and she has less than a year to live. Making matters more dire, she has a thirteen-year-old son and a ten-year-old daughter.
David spoke the truth when he declared, “My times are in your hands.” We have no idea—no certainty about what tomorrow will bring. Will it bring life or death, joy or sorrow, pain or ecstasy, excitement or boredom? Our times are in His hands. We devise our plans, but ultimately the LORD determines the outcome. Many are the plans in a person’s heart, but it is the LORD’s purpose that prevails (Proverbs 19:21).
As if to prove my point, as I went on line to search for the Proverbs passage quoted above, I discovered that Canada’s former finance minister, Jim Flaherty, had suddenly died of a heart attack. While to non-Canadian readers the name Jim Flaherty may mean nothing, to those who live in the true north strong and free Mr. Flaherty was a well-known and well-respected leader who piloted Canada through the Great Recession with consummate skill. He retired just one month before his sudden passing. Mr. Flaherty’s times were in His—that is God’s hands.
But we can easily forget that our times are in God’s hands. It is God who judges: He brings one down, he exalts another (Psalm 75:7). He determines the length of our days. That’s why the opening words of this psalm portion are so important. David asserts, “But I trust in you, LORD; I say, ‘You are my God.'”
In life and in death He is Lord. Put your trust in Him for today, for tomorrow and for all eternity.
Response: LORD God, I do not know what the future holds for me, but like David, I put my trust in you. Guide me in your ways. My life is in your hands. Amen.
Your Turn: How long do you think you have on this earth? Are you ready for eternity?
Postscript: This post was originally written three years ago. Both neighbors to whom I referred have passed away. The cancer patient died a few months later, but the heart transplant recipient survived until this spring.
I will praise Him!
Among the gods there is none like you, Lord;
no deeds can compare with yours.
All the nations you have made
will come and worship before you, Lord;
they will bring glory to your name.
For you are great and do marvelous deeds;
you alone are God.
(Psalm 86:8-10, NIV)
By Bliss Carman
In the Garden of Eden, planted by God,
There were goodly trees in the springing sod –
Trees of beauty height and grace,
To stand in splendour before His face:
Apple and hickory, ash and pear,
Oak and beech, and the tulip rare,
The trembling aspen, the noble pine,
The sweeping elm by the river line;
Trees for the birds to build and sing,
And the lilac tree for joy in spring;
Trees to turn at the frosty call
And carpet the ground for the Lord’s footfall;
Trees for fruitage and fire and shade,
Trees for the cunning builder’s trade;
Wood for the bow, the spear, and the flail,
The keel and the mast of the daring sail –
He made them of every grain and girth
For use of man in the Garden of Earth.
Then lest the soul should not lift her eyes
From the gift to the Giver of Paradise,
On the crown of a hill, for all to see,
God planted a scarlet maple tree.
This poem by New Brunswick poet Bliss Carman is posted in honour of Canada’s 150th anniversary of confederation, July 1st, 1867.
God bless Canada!
I will praise Him!
Guard my life, for I am faithful to you;
save your servant who trusts in you.
You are my God; have mercy on me, Lord,
for I call to you all day long.
Bring joy to your servant, Lord,
for I put my trust in you.
(Psalm 86:2-4, NIV)
I will praise Him!
But may all who seek you
rejoice and be glad in you;
may those who long for your saving help always say,
“The LORD is great!”
But as for me, I am poor and needy;
come quickly to me, O God.
You are my help and my deliverer;
LORD, do not delay.
(Psalm 70:4-5, NIV)
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?