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?
Reading: Psalm 119
May my cry come before you, LORD;
give me understanding according to your word.
May my supplication come before you;
deliver me according to your promise.
May my lips overflow with praise,
for you teach me your decrees.
May my tongue sing of your word,
for all your commands are righteous.
May your hand be ready to help me,
for I have chosen your precepts.
I long for your salvation, LORD,
and your law gives me delight.
Let me live that I may praise you,
and may your laws sustain me.
I have strayed like a lost sheep.
Seek your servant,
for I have not forgotten your commands (NIV).
This is the final reading from Psalm 119. Today’s reading features Taw, the final letter in the Hebrew alphabet. Day by day we have been making our way through this acrostic poem—reading as it were from A to Z in the Hebrew language. All of it is written in praise of God’s word and His promises. It is difficult to fully appreciate the structural beauty of this lengthy poem, when it is translated into English.
This line from today’s reading is typical of the psalmist’s praise for the word of God: May my tongue sing of your word, for all your commands are righteous.
At times the psalmist appears to be proud, even boastful of his obedience to God’s word, but here at the conclusion of this magnificent poem, he takes on a more humble stance. I have strayed like a lost sheep. Seek your servant, for I have not forgotten your commands.
There is something very human about this prayer—about this ending. We are very prone to stray. The prophet Isaiah reflects on this human characteristic. We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to our own way; and the LORD has laid on him [Jesus] the iniquity of us all (Isaiah 53:6).
Jesus is our carrier—our iniquity carrier. He carried our sins to the cross where he suffered and died, so that his blood could cover those sins—my sins—your sins. But our sin carrier is also our Good Shepherd, who goes out to find those who are lost. He is the answer to the psalmist’s prayer. This is the purpose for his coming. “For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost” (Luke 19:10).
Response: Father God, I confess I am prone to stray. Help me to stay to the straight and narrow way that leads to life. I thank you, Jesus, for seeking me and saving me by your shed blood. Amen.
Your Turn: Are you a wandering sheep? Have you been found by the Good Shepherd?
I have said,
“Only you are my Lord!
Every good thing I have
is a gift from you” (Psalm 16:2, CEV).
This week’s I Love the Psalms theme is goodness.
Today’s verse from the Psalms fills me with gratitude. I have said, “Only you are my Lord! Every good thing I have is a gift from you”(Psalms 16:2, CEV).
If you haven’t said these words, you probably have thought them.
Every good thing I have is a gift from the Lord—every ability, every talent, every joy. Chief among those good things is the gift of life itself. After the resurrection, Peter called Jesus the author of life (Acts 3:15, NIV).
Now with the psalmist we can say, “Only you are my Lord!”
Response: LORD God, thank you for all the gifts you have given me. You are good and you have been good to me. Most of all I thank you for Jesus, the author of life. Amen.
Your Turn: What gifts are you thankful for today?
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. Prayer and meditation on His word acquaints us with His will and His ways.
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 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 grow your faith and knowledge of God?
Reading: Psalm 7
A shiggaion of David, which he sang to the Lord concerning Cush, a Benjamite.
LORD my God, I take refuge in you;
save and deliver me from all who pursue me,
or they will tear me apart like a lion
and rip me to pieces with no one to rescue me.
LORD my God, if I have done this and there is guilt on my hands—
if I have repaid my ally with evil or without cause have robbed my foe—
then let my enemy pursue and overtake me;
let him trample my life to the ground and make me sleep in the dust.
Arise, LORD, in your anger; rise up against the rage of my enemies.
Awake, my God; decree justice.
Let the assembled peoples gather around you,
while you sit enthroned over them on high.
Let the LORD judge the peoples.
Vindicate me, LORD, according to my righteousness,
according to my integrity, O Most High.
Bring to an end the violence of the wicked and make the righteous secure—
you, the righteous God who probes minds and hearts. (NIV)
Have you ever been falsely accused? Have you been accused of wrong doing by someone you consider a friend? That can be a deeply hurtful experience. In the context of this psalm, that’s the situation that David finds himself in. He stands accused of repaying his ally with evil.
How did David respond? Did he strike down his accuser? Remember that David is the king. It is within his power to act – to unleash his vengeance. Is that his just and righteous response? No, he takes his case before the LORD. In prayer he declares, “Let the LORD judge the peoples.” He invites God to judge him. He presents his case before the righteous God who probes minds and hearts.
That takes some courage; that takes some integrity. That takes a level of faith and transparency that we often see lacking in men of position and power. Are you willing to let God probe your heart and your mind? What might He find hidden away in there?
The writer of the Book of Hebrews reminds us about the power of God’s word, “For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart” (Hebrews 4:12).
David was a man of God. He submitted his heart and mind to the all-seeing eye of God. He wanted the sin source cut off within him. Righteous judgment begins when God and His word gain entry to your heart.
Response: LORD, I open my heart and my mind to your probing. Help me repent where needed. Amen.
Your Turn: Are you transparent before God? Why do we think we can hide something from God?
- He Hears (remnantposts.wordpress.com)