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?
armor of God, Arthur Currie, battle, Canadian, commander, France, German Army, Lord, military training, objective, spiritual battle, spiritual warfare, stronholds, training, troops, Vimy Ridge, war, warrior, word of God, World War I
Reading: Psalm 144
Praise be to the LORD my Rock,
who trains my hands for war,
my fingers for battle.
He is my loving God and my fortress,
my stronghold and my deliverer,
my shield, in whom I take refuge,
who subdues peoples under me.
LORD, what are human beings that you care for them,
mere mortals that you think of them?
They are like a breath;
their days are like a fleeting shadow (NIV).
Many nations have defining battles that cement their stature as a nation. For Canada that defining battle began on April 4th, 1917. Over the next three days Canadian forces captured Vimy Ridge in northern France from the German Army. Previously, French and British forces had attempted to take the Ridge, but they were repelled.
The great battles of World War I were mired in stalemate. On the western front it is no exaggeration to say that millions of young men lost their lives for not a single meter of territory gained. How then did the Canadian troops manage to capture such a significant stronghold while suffering the loss of less than 3,500 men? A good part of the answer lies in training.
General Arthur Currie was a brilliant tactician. He had noted that in the past, battlefield advances ground to a halt when platoon commanders were killed or disabled. To overcome this predictable outcome, Currie insisted on training all his troops to reach their objective. The loss of a leader would not be a crippling blow. Every man carried a map and knew the plan to reach their objective for the day. On the day when the offensive was launched, thorough training from first man to last made all the difference. The Germans were unable to halt the steady, uphill, Canadian advance.
David, the warrior king, begins Psalm 144 with this declaration: Praise be to the LORD my Rock, who trains my hands for war, my fingers for battle.
The church of Jesus Christ is in a spiritual battle. This is the great war of the ages. Have you been trained for battle? Do you even know there is a war raging? It’s a war for the souls of men, women and children. The Lord has provided all the armor we need. See Ephesians 6:10-20. Have you been trained in the use of your equipment? Are you knowledgeable in the word of God? Are you familiar with the voice of your commanding officer? Do you have a map to your objective? Vimy Ridge wasn’t won by accident. It required careful planning. Taking territory from the prince of this world will require the same.
Response: LORD God, I need to be trained for battle. Help me to see and achieve the objectives you have set out for me. I want to hear your voice and follow your commands. Lead me to victory, Jesus. Amen.
Your Turn: Are there strongholds that God is asking you to attack? Do you have a strategy?
Reading: Psalm 143
Answer me quickly, LORD;
my spirit fails.
Do not hide your face from me
or I will be like those who go down to the pit.
Let the morning bring me word of your unfailing love,
for I have put my trust in you.
Show me the way I should go,
for to you I entrust my life.
Rescue me from my enemies, LORD,
for I hide myself in you.
Teach me to do your will,
for you are my God;
may your good Spirit
lead me on level ground (NIV).
Can you hide in someone else? That sounds like the plot for a sci-fi thriller. Maybe I could reduce myself to the size of a microbe and be injected into another person’s body? That would truly be a mind-boggling adventure, presumably with a good outcome for all.
But here in Psalm 143, David speaks of hiding himself in the LORD. Rescue me from my enemies, LORD, for I hide myself in you.
David, please tell me how I can do that? How do I hide myself in the LORD? Actually, this idea of hiding in God is well developed throughout the psalms. David sees the LORD as his strong tower and his shelter. See Psalm 61:3. David says this of the LORD: For in the day of trouble he will keep me safe in his dwelling; he will hide me in the shelter of his sacred tent and set me high upon a rock (Psalm 27:5).
Again in Psalm 32 David makes this statement about the LORD. You are my hiding place; you will protect me from trouble and surround me with songs of deliverance (Psalm 32:7).
How do I hide myself in God? Let me suggest that it begins by immersing oneself in God’s word. Jesus is the living logos—the word of God. See John 1:1-5. But in addition to reading and receiving the written word of God, we need to connect with the Spirit of God. Our human spirit must come alive to and through the Spirit of God. Receiving Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior is not merely an intellectual experience. It is a spiritual experience—a from the inside out transformational experience.
When our human spirit comes alive to God, these words become our prayer. Teach me to do your will, for you are my God; may your good Spirit lead me on level ground.
Response: LORD God, I have put my trust in you. I want to connect with your Holy Spirit. I want to be fully alive in you, body, soul and spirit. Show me the way forward to a vibrant relationship with you. Amen.
Your Turn: Has your spirit connected with God’s Spirit? Has your life been changed by that encounter?
I will praise Him!
Now Mary stood outside the tomb crying. As she wept, she bent over to look into the tomb and saw two angels in white, seated where Jesus’ body had been, one at the head and the other at the foot.
They asked her, “Woman, why are you crying?”
“They have taken my Lord away,” she said, “and I don’t know where they have put him.” At this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not realize that it was Jesus.
He asked her, “Woman, why are you crying? Who is it you are looking for?”
Thinking he was the gardener, she said, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will get him.”
Jesus said to her, “Mary.”
She turned toward him and cried out in Aramaic, “Rabboni!” (which means “Teacher”).
Jesus said, “Do not hold on to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father. Go instead to my brothers and tell them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’”
(John 20:11-17, NIV)
I will praise Him!
My heart, O God, is steadfast,
my heart is steadfast;
I will sing and make music.
Awake, 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, reaching to the heavens;
your faithfulness reaches to the skies.
Be exalted, O God, above the heavens;
let your glory be over all the earth.
(Psalm 57:7-11, NIV)
Reading: Psalm 139
For the director of music. Of David. A psalm.
You have searched me, LORD,
and you know me.
You know when I sit and when I rise;
you perceive my thoughts from afar.
You discern my going out and my lying down;
you are familiar with all my ways.
Before a word is on my tongue
you, LORD, know it completely.
You hem me in behind and before,
and you lay your hand upon me.
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me,
too lofty for me to attain (NIV).
Last night I got a phone call from my son. The long search was finally over. The gift had been found. This morning, I met him at church, and he gave me this semiprecious gift.
What is it you ask? It’s a necklace I purchased for my wife in a grand, continent-wide conspiracy of love. Last June my wife made a solo trip to Edmonton to visit her Dad. While there, she went shopping with one of her friends, and fell in love with a cut rock necklace. This friend secretly sent me a message inquiring if I would pay her to purchase this rare find. Without hesitation I agreed. I always find it difficult to buy jewelry for my wife. I never know what she might like. Furthermore, our 40th anniversary was coming in December. What a delightful surprise this gift would be!
A few weeks later my son and his wife went on a business trip to Edmonton and they brought the necklace back with them, and I secretly mailed the payment to our friend. All of this was working out so well—too well! Only a father and son team of bumbling males could mess this up. And they did.
June to December is a long time—enough time for me to completely forget about this necklace. We had a great anniversary celebration, but all the while I had this niggling feeling that I had forgotten something. Two weeks later I got a text message from our mutual friend in Edmonton inquiring about how Karen liked her necklace. Oops! This sent me into a frantic search for my precious gift. I must have hidden it in a safe place. In desperation I called my son. He also searched—all to no avail. We concluded that God knew exactly where the necklace was and it would be found at the right moment. Well, yesterday that moment arrived. In God’s perfect time, Karen will get her necklace.
Today’s psalm reading speaks of God searching our hearts. Does God really need to do that? I doubted it. Jesus knows exactly what is in there. See John 2:23-25. We are the ones who need to search our hearts. We don’t know what is hidden inside us. Is it rotting garbage or something precious?
Response: LORD God, turn on your light inside of me. You know my deep hurts and inner struggles. You are familiar with all my ways. Cleanse me from within. By grace and faith, I am your child. Amen.
Your Turn: Have you been hiding things from God? How foolish is that?
Reading: Psalm 126
A song of ascents.
When the LORD restored the fortunes of Zion,
we were like those who dreamed.
Our mouths were filled with laughter,
our tongues with songs of joy.
Then it was said among the nations,
“The LORD has done great things for them.”
The LORD has done great things for us,
and we are filled with joy.
Restore our fortunes, LORD,
like streams in the Negev.
Those who sow with tears
will reap with songs of joy.
Those who go out weeping,
carrying seed to sow,
will return with songs of joy,
carrying sheaves with them (NIV).
This is a psalm that has two parts—two sharply contrasting perspectives. It begins with jubilation, but it transitions to sober reflection and a prayer for restoration.
The historical context of this psalm is readily identifiable. The psalmist is commenting on the joyous return of the exiles following the seventy-year Babylonian captivity—an event that occurred in the sixth century before the birth of Christ. When the LORD restored the fortunes of Zion, we were like those who dreamed. Our mouths were filled with laughter, our tongues with songs of joy.
The LORD had brought back the people of Israel and they were filled with joy. Have you experienced the glorious liberating power of God in your life? Have you experienced the pure joy of the Lord as you realized your sins are forgiven? And oh joy—this God you serve is as near as your next breath!
I remember a time like that—a time when I was filled with the Holy Spirit. The joy I experienced was so all encompassing that I remember waking in the morning with my face muscles aching because of the smile that had been permanently etched there.
But alas, we can’t live on that mountaintop high forever. In our pilgrimage with God, we eventually reach this line in Psalm 126: Restore our fortunes, LORD, like streams in the Negev. The Negev is the parched desert region to the south of the land of Judah. Streams in the Negev are intermittent. A raging torrent one day becomes a mere trickle on the next day, and then nothing on the third day. The boisterous river of joy turns into a blank line on the desert floor. Then we join with the psalmist and pray. Restore our fortunes, LORD. Our prayer becomes a plea for a return to the joy of harvest.
Response: Father God, I thank you for times of great joy, when we experience your salvation and your felt presence. Help me to sow the seeds of your gospel message today. Amen.
Your Turn: What season are you in? What season is your church in? Is it seed planting time or harvest?