Reading: Psalm 103
The LORD has established his throne in heaven,
and his kingdom rules over all.
Praise the LORD, you his angels,
you mighty ones who do his bidding,
who obey his word.
Praise the LORD, all his heavenly hosts,
you his servants who do his will.
Praise the LORD, all his works
everywhere in his dominion.
Praise the LORD, my soul (NIV).
Have you ever found yourself in a chaotic situation where you immediately ask this question, “Who’s in charge here?” Sometimes I have walked into an unruly classroom where that question is very pertinent. The teacher may be nowhere in sight, or is absorbed with one or two students while bedlam reigns supreme all around. It takes very little to lose control of thirty thirteen-year-olds. Trust me on this point: It takes a wide range of skills to get a class of youngsters motivated, engaged and moving in the same direction.
Today’s reading from the psalms gives us an answer to that age old question, “Who’s in charge here?” The LORD has established his throne in heaven, and his kingdom rules over all.
So there is your answer. The LORD is in charge here. He’s in charge of everything—the orderly and the controlled, and the seemingly random. Above this world and its mixture of order, routine, bedlam and chaos, the LORD sits enthroned as ruler over all.
Often the LORD is blamed for the bedlam and the chaos, but is that a fair assessment? Yes, He could control everything—every detail, but then there would be no humans on this planet—no free moral agents. To be human is to have the ability to choose both good and evil. If God sovereignly decided that we could only do good, then we would be robotic humanoids—not true humans at all.
Can there be true love, if love is enforced from on high rather than freely chosen? Can there be genuine worship, if this divine privilege is induced by the Creator rather than willingly offered by the created? No, the LORD calls for our worship, but He forces it on no one. Forced love isn’t love at all. The God I serve is not a rapist; He is a true lover.
So I will freely join with all creation to praise Him. I will join the angels, the heavenly hosts and all his works everywhere in his dominion. I will join in praising my Creator and my Redeemer, who was born in a stable and raised high to suffer on a cross, but now His throne is established in heaven and His kingdom rules over all. He is the One I will praise. How about you?
Response: Father God, I appreciate the free will that you have given me. I choose to worship you. You are the lover of my soul. Thank you for all you have done. I owe my life to Jesus. Amen.
Your Turn: Do we choose God or does He choose us, or are both answers correct?
Reading: Psalm 103
Praise the LORD, my soul;
all my inmost being, praise his holy name.
Praise the LORD, my soul,
and forget not all his benefits—
who forgives all your sins
and heals all your diseases,
who redeems your life from the pit
and crowns you with love and compassion,
who satisfies your desires with good things
so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.
The LORD works righteousness
and justice for all the oppressed (NIV).
Psalm 103 begins by David calling on his soul to praise the LORD. Many see praise and worship as a purely cathartic response to the manifest goodness of God. Something good happens to us. Unexpectedly, we get a thousand-dollar check in the mail. Quite naturally our response is praise to God.
For many people, praise to God never progresses beyond this natural, cathartic level. If God does not bless, no praise is forthcoming. Our praise for the LORD becomes, or simply remains circumstance dependent. But that was not the case with David. His praise extended beyond simple catharsis. He taught his soul to praise the LORD in all circumstances. True biblical praise and worship is after all a spiritual exercise, a discipline we grow in, just as we grow in the discipline of prayer.
The LORD, the object of our praise, does not change with our circumstances. He is forever the same. Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever (Hebrews 13:8). He is constant, hence our praise and worship of him should be constant, unaffected by weather conditions, world events, the gyrations of the stock market, our swings of mood or our personal situation.
Of course this constancy in praise is something the natural man simply rebels against. Our world needs to be right in order for us to praise God aright, or so we reason. The only problem with this logic is that the world has never been right since the Fall. Death, disease, war and misery have been raining down on the children of Adam, since wilful disobedience to God first took root among us. And this is one weather forecast, for all humanity, that is not about to change—not until Christ returns.
If we are waiting for a perfect world before we lift our voice in praise to God, we will never praise Him. In fact, if our eyes are on the world, or on ourselves, there will always be grounds to withhold our praise. But then, the whole purpose of praise and worship is to lift up our eyes. We desperately need to get our eyes off ourselves, off the world, and onto God our Maker.
Response: Father God, I genuinely want to learn to praise you in all situations. You are always good, loving and worthy of praise. Along with David I declare, “Praise the LORD, my soul!” Amen.
Your Turn: Have you learned to praise God even in difficult times?
blood of Christ, death, hell, Jesus, joy, love, love of God, New Testament, Psalm, psalmist, resurrection, Righteousness, salvation, Savior, sin, sing praise, singing, song, surrender, the cross, the grave, the LORD
Reading: Psalm 98
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.
Shout for joy to the LORD, all the earth,
burst into jubilant song with music;
make music to the LORD with the harp,
with the harp and the sound of singing,
with trumpets and the blast of the ram’s horn—
shout for joy before the LORD, the King (NIV).
Once again in Psalm 98 the psalmist calls us to break forth with a new song of praise to our God. This call to worship is a frequent theme in many psalms. In this case the cause for worship is well worth noting. We are to worship in music and song because of the salvation of our God. 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.
To some extent these words trouble me. What salvation is the psalmist talking about? Is he referring to the miraculous redemption and rescue of Israel from slavery in Egypt? That’s the most significant act of national salvation in the Old Testament. On the other hand, the psalmist could be referring to the restoration of the Jewish nation after the destruction of the temple and the Babylonian captivity. Again this is a very significant event that was witnessed by the surrounding nations. Since we do not have a timeline or date for when this psalm was written, we are left guessing the answer.
For the New Testament believer we see the fulfillment of this psalm in the salvation that was won for us by Christ at the cross. There the ancient powers of sin, hell and the grave were defeated. Death itself was vanquished through the resurrection of Jesus. In reality, the true enemies of the people of God are not foreigners or foreign nations. Our enemies are spiritual; they lurk within—within us. Salvation from those enemies was purchased at the cross with the precious blood of Jesus.
Now here is a bizarre twist. Salvation arrives with our surrender. It arrives when we surrender our lives to our Savior and kneel before our King on a cross. That’s a salvation worth singing about!
Response: LORD God, I am so grateful for the salvation you purchased for me through the blood of Jesus. I want all the ends of the earth to know about that great salvation. Thank you, Jesus. Amen.
Your Turn: Have you knelt before the King on a cross? Take some time to do that now.
Reading: Psalm 97
Zion hears and rejoices
and the villages of Judah are glad
because of your judgments, LORD.
For you, LORD, are the Most High over all the earth;
you are exalted far above all gods.
Let those who love the LORD hate evil,
for he guards the lives of his faithful ones
and delivers them from the hand of the wicked.
Light shines on the righteous
and joy on the upright in heart.
Rejoice in the LORD, you who are righteous,
and praise his holy name (NIV).
Love and hate are two extremes—two opposites. Almost always we see love as a good thing, something to be encouraged or applauded, while hate is regarded as a universally negative emotion. But is this a correct view of love and hate?
The addict may love his crack cocaine pipe, but is that a good or wholesome kind of love? Strange as it may seem, the battered wife may love her abusive husband and yet feel locked into that relationship despite its toxic or even deadly consequences. Is that a healthy kind of love? Of course not, but the addict and the abused partner both use the term love when they describe the object of their affection.
Similarly hate—that polar opposite emotion—is universally viewed as negative. Is it wrong to hate injustice, murder or pedophilia? Of course not. Hate is the right emotional response when we see these things taking place. The devastating consequences of sin and criminal wrongdoing are repulsive. Seeing such harmful conduct should prompt us to hate those actions.
In today’s reading from Psalm 97, we see a different perspective on love and hate. Let those who love the LORD hate evil, for he guards the lives of his faithful ones and delivers them from the hand of the wicked.
Are you loving God and hating evil? All too often we see there are those in this world who love evil and hate God. Why do they hate God? Could it be because the LORD expects—no requires—better from them, and they thinking they know better, have gone their own selfish way?
Note that we are commanded to hate evil. We are not commanded to hate evildoers. God in His great mercy may yet redeem the evildoer. It is by God’s grace that we ourselves are not caught up in evil, so wisdom urges us not to be haughty. We do well to focus on loving the LORD. We can draw encouragement from these words: Light shines on the righteous and joy on the upright in heart.
Response: LORD God, teach me to identify and hate evil when I see it. I want your light to shine on me, so I can walk in the path you have set out for me. Let my love for you grow day by day. Amen.
Your Turn: Are you loving the LORD and hating evil? Do you get caught up in hating the evildoer?
Reading: Psalm 92
For surely your enemies, LORD,
surely your enemies will perish;
all evildoers will be scattered.
You have exalted my horn like that of a wild ox;
fine oils have been poured on me.
My eyes have seen the defeat of my adversaries;
my ears have heard the rout of my wicked foes.
The righteous will flourish like a palm tree,
they will grow like a cedar of Lebanon;
planted in the house of the LORD,
they will flourish in the courts of our God.
They will still bear fruit in old age,
they will stay fresh and green,
proclaiming, “The LORD is upright;
he is my Rock, and there is no wickedness in him” (NIV).
God’s people have been called or compared to many things. Often we are likened to sheep—the sheep of the LORD’s pasture. But here in Psalm 92 we are likened to trees, the palm tree, the cedar and various fruit trees.
There is a striking parallel between the tree analogy found in this psalm and a similar analogy found in Psalm 1. In both cases the righteous are compared to trees. That person [the righteous] is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither—whatever they do prospers (Psalm 1:3).
By its very nature, there is something very settled about a tree. Unlike a sheep, a tree is not prone to wander. Trees flourish or perish where they have taken root. Have you been planted in the house of the LORD? Are you staying fresh and green and flourishing in the courts of our God?
Fruitfulness begins with flowering. Is your relationship with God in the flowering stage? Have you fallen in love with Him—so in love that you radiate beauty? Are you and the message you bear attractive? Have you made yourself attractive because of your love for the Lord?
What about fruit? Are the fruits of the Spirit beginning to appear on your branches? But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law (Galatians 5:22-23).
I can’t speak for you, but I would rather be a flourishing, fruit-bearing tree in the courts of the LORD than a wayward sheep.
Response: LORD God, daily I want to grow more in love with you. Grant me a settled heart. I want my life to bear fruit that will bring honor to you. Help me to radiate your goodness and beauty. Amen.
Your Turn: How attractive is the message you bear? What signals are you sending out into the world?
Reading: Psalm 92
A psalm. A song. For the Sabbath day.
It is good to praise the LORD
and make music to your name, O Most High,
proclaiming your love in the morning
and your faithfulness at night,
to the music of the ten-stringed lyre
and the melody of the harp.
For you make me glad by your deeds, LORD;
I sing for joy at what your hands have done.
How great are your works, LORD,
how profound your thoughts!
Senseless people do not know,
fools do not understand,
that though the wicked spring up like grass
and all evildoers flourish,
they will be destroyed forever.
But you, LORD, are forever exalted (NIV).
Why is music such a central part of the Christian worship experience? For the answer to that question we need to look no further than the opening lines of Psalm 92. It is good to praise the LORD and make music to your name, O Most High, proclaiming your love in the morning and your faithfulness at night, to the music of the ten-stringed lyre and the melody of the harp.
To put it simply, praising the LORD is a good thing. Making music to honor the name of the Most High is a wholesome expression of our love for God. Furthermore, the LORD approves the use of musical instruments. The harp and the lyre are mentioned here, but there is no scriptural reason to limit the use of instruments.
Why do men sing love songs? Because they love the woman of their dreams—the object of their affection. The same holds true when we fall in love with God. The LORD becomes the object of our deepest affection. He is worthy of our praise.
Do you need some reasons to praise God? The psalmist provides us with some sound reasons: For you make me glad by your deeds, LORD; I sing for joy at what your hands have done. How great are your works, LORD, how profound your thoughts!
If the marvels of creation are insufficient to prompt us to praise, then consider for a moment the wonders of redemption. God sent His only begotten Son to suffer and die on our behalf. He purchased our eternal redemption with the shed blood of Jesus. Oh what love! What wondrous love! It makes me want to break out in song.
Response: LORD God, every morning I want to praise you. Thank you for the gift of music. Help me use my voice and every talent you have given me to express my praise to you. Amen.
Your Turn: Do you enjoy praising God? Do you save your praise for Sundays or is it expressed daily?
Reading: Psalm 89
A maskil of Ethan the Ezrahite.
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.
You said, “I have made a covenant with my chosen one,
I have sworn to David my servant,
‘I will establish your line forever
and make your throne firm through all generations’” (NIV).
The opening stanzas of Psalm 89 remind me of a little rhyme found in a children’s book. It goes like this:
“I’ll love you forever,
I’ll like you for always,
as long as I’m living
my baby you’ll be.”
The lines of that little song were first sung by Robert Munsch as he held his stillborn baby in his arms. Imagine the grief he felt when for a second time his wife gave birth to another stillborn child. Again he took that little baby in his arms and he rocked it back and forth and sang,
“I’ll love you forever,
I’ll like you for always,
as long as I’m living
my baby you’ll be.”
The bestselling children’s book Love You Forever was birthed from that heart-wrenching experience. If you are a parent or a grandparent, this little picture book should come with a warning label: Impossible to read without tearing up.
There’s an element of forever in the bond between a parent and a child. I am a father forever to my two sons, Timothy and Joshua. My love for those two boys hasn’t diminished as they have grown into young men. Though they have moved out of our home, they will be forever loved and we will be forever linked by love and faithfulness. God’s love for us is that kind of love. It’s a forever love just as the psalmist declares. I will sing of the LORD’s great love forever; with my mouth I will make your faithfulness known through all generations.
Love and faithfulness are what marriage is all about. It’s one of those forever things along with parenthood. When God is at the center, these things last forever because they don’t end at the grave. I’m so glad we have the promise that they will continue on.
Response: LORD God, I am so glad that I’m your child forever. You have loved me and welcomed me into your family. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you! Amen.
Your Turn: Will you sing of the LORD’s great love forever? Now is a great time to get started.
Reading: Psalm 84
Hear my prayer, LORD God Almighty;
listen to me, God of Jacob.
Look on our shield, O God;
look with favor on your anointed one.
Better is one day in your courts
than a thousand elsewhere;
I would rather be a doorkeeper
in the house of my God
than dwell in the tents of the wicked.
For the LORD God is a sun and shield;
the LORD bestows favor and honor;
no good thing does he withhold
from those whose walk is blameless.
blessed is the one who trusts in you (NIV).
All of Psalm 84 is written in praise of a special day—a day spent in God’s presence. Throughout this Psalm there is a longing to be with God—a desire to be close to him. So we hear the Psalmist declare, “Better is one day in your courts than a thousand elsewhere.“
If you were to plan for the best day in your life, what would that day include? What would it look like? How and where would you spend your best day? Would the LORD be at the center of it all?
Love is at the core of every special day. Think back to some of the best days of your life—days marked by joy and excitement. If you scratch beneath the surface of those days, you will find love at the core. We are in fact love starved people. We need it as much as the air we breathe. Experiments have shown that the unloved, un-caressed, unspoken to baby will die, even though all its physical needs are met. So when love comes to us, we celebrate it, frolic in it, and throw a party to announce it.
We need love. We need to receive it. We need to give it.
It was love that brought the psalmist to the House of God. It drew him like a magnet, pulled at his heart, tugged at his sleeve, and finally ushered him through the door. Love set him on this pilgrimage. It kept his weary feet moving mile after dreary mile. When he finally reached his goal—the object of his love—in wonder, we hear him exclaim, “How lovely is your dwelling place, O LORD Almighty! My soul yearns, even faints, for the courts of the LORD; my heart and flesh cry out for the living God.”
The psalmist was pursuing love with the one he loved—the LORD Almighty. Have you spent time pursuing him lately? Is a day spent with him, something you yearn for?
Response: LORD God, I love you. I know that you love me because Jesus showed the extent of your love. He reaches out to me with nail-scarred hands. I want to spend my day with you. Amen.
Your Turn: Is a day spent with Jesus, something you yearn for?