Reading: Psalm 31
I hate those who cling to worthless idols;
as for me, I trust in the LORD.
I will be glad and rejoice in your love,
for you saw my affliction
and knew the anguish of my soul.
You have not given me into the hands of the enemy
but have set my feet in a spacious place (NIV).
David clearly lacked a sense of political correctness. The opening line of this psalm portion makes me want to cringe. I hate those who cling to worthless idols. What an inflammatory remark! Hate has no place in our expression of Christian faith. Didn’t David know that we are to hate the sin, but love the sinner? Perhaps we should send David off to a course in sensitivity training.
Somehow biblical David got away with making such a statement, and here we have it recorded in the pages of Holy Scripture for all to read. Hate is a less than desirable emotion. But is it warranted in certain instances? My Christian love for murdering rapists grows mighty thin at times, and I speak from a distance. If my life was directly impacted by an idolatrous, murdering rapist, I am not sure how I would respond. Christ-centred forgiveness is the right response, but gut-wrenching hate might well spring to life. My capacity for forgiveness in severe circumstances remains untested. I dare not boast in my theoretical ability to forgive.
The second part of David’s opening remark is of crucial importance. I hate those who cling to worthless idols; as for me, I trust in the LORD.
Only trust in the LORD can break the crippling bondage of sin and hate. Vengeance belongs to the LORD, not to the seething heart tortured and taunted by anger. Secular author Malcolm Gladwell explores the extraordinary power of forgiveness in his most recent book, David and Goliath. Gladwell’s thoughts and research on the topic make for an insightful read. He concludes that forgiveness has the power to turn the world upside down. That’s the power we find in the gospel. Rather than be caught in the trap of ruinous hate, through the power of Christ we have the ability to step into the liberty of forgiveness.
By the gracious Holy Spirit we have the ability to choose love over hate. David’s confession can then become our own, “I will be glad and rejoice in your love, for you saw my affliction and knew the anguish of my soul.”
When we choose love over hate, forgiveness over vengeance, trust in God over reliance on our own ability, we defeat Satan, the true enemy of our soul. Then the LORD sets us at liberty in a spacious place. With David we can declare, “You have not given me into the hands of the enemy but have set my feet in a spacious place.”
Response: LORD God, thank you for your forgiveness. Help me to practice it daily. Give me a forgiving spirit like your Son, Jesus, who forgave those who crucified him (Luke 23:34). Amen.
Your Turn: Is there someone you need to forgive? Do it today.
I will praise Him!
Satisfy us in the morning with your unfailing love,
that we may sing for joy and be glad all our days.
Make us glad for as many days as you have afflicted us,
for as many years as we have seen trouble.
May your deeds be shown to your servants,
your splendor to their children.
May the favor of the Lord our God rest on us;
establish the work of our hands for us—
yes, establish the work of our hands.
(Psalm 90:14-17, NIV)
I will praise Him!
Righteousness and justice are the foundation of your throne;
love and faithfulness go before you.
Blessed are those who have learned to acclaim you,
who walk in the light of your presence, LORD.
They rejoice in your name all day long;
they celebrate your righteousness.
(Psalm 89:14-16, NIV)
Reading: Psalm 25
In you, LORD my God, I put my trust.
I trust in you; do not let me be put to shame,
nor let my enemies triumph over me.
No one who hopes in you will ever be put to shame,
but shame will come on those
who are treacherous without cause.
Show me your ways, LORD,
teach me your paths.
Guide me in your truth and teach me,
for you are God my Savior,
and my hope is in you all day long.
Remember, LORD, your great mercy and love,
for they are from of old.
Do not remember the sins of my youth
and my rebellious ways;
according to your love remember me,
for you, LORD, are good (NIV).
Shame is often viewed as a very negative feeling, and it is. Some pop psychologists are of the opinion that this emotional response should be completely removed from our lives. They argue that it has no useful function, since it often holds us back from exploring and experimenting with new behaviors and activities in the world around us.
However, a life lived without any sense of shame is life without an active conscience. Those who lack a shame gland soon find themselves trapped in self-destructive behavior that spirals out of control. A sense of shame when we have done wrong can act as the messenger of God calling us to repentance and a change of heart.
Here in this psalm David pleads with the LORD that he will not be put to shame. That should be our prayer as well. And how can we avoid being put to shame? David gives us the answer. No one who hopes in you [the LORD] will ever be put to shame, but shame will come on those who are treacherous without cause.
If your hope is in the LORD, He will protect you from shame and disgrace. Trusting in God, rather than in ourselves is the point where freedom from shame begins. A humble teachable spirit is what God desires. Because of His great mercy and love, He forgives the sins of our youth and our rebellious ways. Praise the LORD!
Response: LORD, this is my prayer: Show me your ways, LORD, teach me your paths. Guide me in your truth and teach me, for you are God my Savior, and my hope is in you all day long. Amen.
Your Turn: How does trusting in God protect you from experiencing shame?
I will praise Him!
I will sing of the LORD’s great love forever;
with my mouth I will make your faithfulness known
through all generations.
I will declare that your love stands firm forever,
that you have established your faithfulness in heaven itself.
(Psalm 89:1-2, NIV)
I will praise Him!
Love and faithfulness meet together;
righteousness and peace kiss each other.
Faithfulness springs forth from the earth,
and righteousness looks down from heaven.
The LORD will indeed give what is good,
and our land will yield its harvest.
Righteousness goes before him
and prepares the way for his steps.
(Psalm 85:10-13, NIV)
Reading: Psalm 145
The LORD is gracious and compassionate,
slow to anger and rich in love.
The LORD is good to all;
he has compassion on all he has made.
All your works praise you, LORD;
your faithful people extol you.
They tell of the glory of your kingdom
and speak of your might,
so that all people may know of your mighty acts
and the glorious splendor of your kingdom.
Your kingdom is an everlasting kingdom,
and your dominion endures through all generations (NIV).
Adolf Hitler boasted that his rise to power would lead to the thousand-year reign of the Third Reich. Instead, his diabolical reign of terror came to an end after twelve years with millions dead and Europe lying in ruins. His brand of race-based nationalism ended in an unparalleled catastrophe.
Where did Hitler get his idea of a thousand-year reign? Undoubtedly, he stole the concept from the millennial rule of Christ, which is described in the revelation of Jesus Christ to John. Blessed and holy are those who share in the first resurrection. The second death has no power over them, but they will be priests of God and of Christ and will reign with him for a thousand years (Revelation 20:6).
The contrast between the reign of Christ and his kingdom, and the reign of a tyrant like Hitler is stunning. In today’s reading from Psalm 145 we catch a glimpse of the reign of God. All your works praise you, LORD; your faithful people extol you. They tell of the glory of your kingdom and speak of your might, so that all people may know of your mighty acts and the glorious splendor of your kingdom.
What makes the reign of God so wonderful—so glorious? The answer lies in the character of the King. The LORD is gracious and compassionate; slow to anger and rich in love. The LORD is good to all; he has compassion on all he has made.
Yes, the LORD is good to all. He is good even to the wayward and disobedient, including me. He shows compassion to those who don’t deserve it. His compassion isn’t based on race. But even more surprising, it’s not based on conduct or performance; for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23). No, God’s compassion looks beyond that. He is the God of grace—unmerited favor.
This unmerited favor flows from a King whose blood flowed to save us—flowed to purchase our redemption. A blood stained cross stood on a hill to declare these words to the world: The LORD is gracious and compassionate; slow to anger and rich in love. Have you surrendered to His love?
Response: LORD God, I thank you that I am a citizen of your kingdom. Your grace and compassion have won my heart. I want to serve you. Your dominion endures through all generations. I praise you. Amen.
Your Turn: Are you a citizen of the LORD’s kingdom—His everlasting kingdom?
Reading: Psalm 144
Part your heavens, LORD, and come down;
touch the mountains, so that they smoke.
Send forth lightning and scatter the enemy;
shoot your arrows and rout them.
Reach down your hand from on high;
deliver me and rescue me
from the mighty waters,
from the hands of foreigners
whose mouths are full of lies,
whose right hands are deceitful.
I will sing a new song to you, my God;
on the ten-stringed lyre I will make music to you,
to the One who gives victory to kings,
who delivers his servant David (NIV).
“Lord, why don’t you come and fix this mess?” Have you ever thought that thought, or voiced that prayer?
When we look at the world around us, there are a great many things that appear to be coming off the rails. This past week the abandoned body of a toddler was found in a church parking lot in Edmonton. Where are the parents? They haven’t come forward. Who would harm a child like that? Sadly, you can check the news services and see that cases like this occur all too frequently all over the globe. It appears that the love of many has grown cold. See 2 Timothy 3:1-5.
Here’s a chilling statistic. In America on average every month fifty women are shot to death by their male partners. Meanwhile gun advocates keep insisting that more guns will keep America safe—safe from whom? It seems the killers are the well-armed and well-intentioned men in our midst.
On the international scene, wars, violence and mass migration are creating havoc and instability in Europe, the Middle East and North Africa. Terrorists and dictators continually amp up their threats. Has the world gone mad?
In this context, David’s prayer in Psalm 144 makes a lot of sense. Part your heavens, LORD, and come down; touch the mountains, so that they smoke. Send forth lightning and scatter the enemy; shoot your arrows and rout them.
David is asking for the LORD to come down and fix this mess. Down through the ages believers have prayed similar prayers. Jesus did come down to fix this mess, and the world he created turned on him and had him crucified. But we can be sure a final day is coming when he returns again triumphant.
Response: LORD, I look forward to the return of Jesus. He alone can fix this mess. Lord, help me to do what I can to speed your return. Let your gospel be preached in the entire world as a witness. Amen.
Your Turn: Do you believe the Lord will fix this mess? Do we have a role to play in Christ’s return?
Reading: Psalm 140
Those who surround me proudly rear their heads;
may the mischief of their lips engulf them.
May burning coals fall on them;
may they be thrown into the fire,
into miry pits, never to rise.
May slanderers not be established in the land;
may disaster hunt down the violent.
I know that the LORD secures justice for the poor
and upholds the cause of the needy.
Surely the righteous will praise your name,
and the upright will live in your presence (NIV).
Here is an observation I have made as a result of visiting and speaking at a wide variety of churches across this continent. Christians and Christian churches in North America appear to fall into two broad camps: Those that are primarily concerned about personal salvation, and those that are concerned mainly about social justice.
There’s often a considerable amount of tension between these two camps. Both are convinced they are doing the will of God as revealed in the scriptures, and they can quote chapter and verse to back up their particular perspective. So which position is correct?
The short answer is they are both right. The eternal destination of your soul is of primary importance, but love and compassion for others is central to the entire mission of Jesus, and the full scope of the scriptures. Today’s reading from Psalm 140 reminds that issues of justice and fairness rank high with the LORD. I know that the LORD secures justice for the poor and upholds the cause of the needy.
John, the apostle, gives us this perspective: This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters. If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in that person? Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth (1 John 3:16-18).
It got very messy when Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. A lot of blood was spilled. It was brutal beyond measure—humiliation and suffering beyond measure. Our personal salvation was messy—in every way a high cost affair. Are we willing to do the same for others? That’s what John is saying when he writes and we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters. Now there’s a high calling. Do you want to change the world? It starts with a change in your heart. Jesus is in the heart changing business. I need an appointment with him. What about you?
Response: LORD God, I am selfish by nature. It’s not natural for me to think of others first. Help me to change. I want to genuinely care about others. Show me what I can to help because Jesus cares. Amen.
Your Turn: Should the church be involved in social justice issues or just stick to the salvation message?