Reading: Psalm 67
For the director of music. With stringed instruments. A psalm. A song.
May God be gracious to us and bless us
and make his face shine on us—
so that your ways may be known on earth,
your salvation among all nations.
May the peoples praise you, God;
may all the peoples praise you.
May the nations be glad and sing for joy,
for you rule the peoples with equity
and guide the nations of the earth.
May the peoples praise you, God;
may all the peoples praise you.
The land yields its harvest;
God, our God, blesses us.
May God bless us still,
so that all the ends of the earth will fear him (NIV).
This is perhaps the most evangelical of all the psalms. By that I mean there is good news in this psalm, and the good news of God’s loving-kindness, which is found here, is not to be kept to oneself. It is to be taken to the whole world. Twice within this short psalm the psalmist declares, “May the peoples praise you, God; may all the peoples praise you.”
Like any loving parent, God draws pleasure from blessing his children. But is there a divine motivation that extends beyond the family of God. As the opening verse of this psalm makes clear, God desires to bless us, so that his ways and his salvation may be known all over this world.
So then, Psalm 67 should be our prayer, not only for us, but for the world. That includes the world that does not know Jesus. May God be gracious to us and bless us and make his face shine upon us, that your ways may be known on earth, your salvation among all nations.
In other words, God’s blessing is not to be selfishly hoarded. It is to extend around the world and beyond the family of God. Is God in fact, blessing us abundantly, so that we may in turn bless others? Is he blessing us, so that we may make his salvation known among all nations? That certainly would appear to be the plan according to Psalm 67.
There is a great harvest day that is still coming on the earth. It is not a harvest of wheat, corn or rice, but a harvest of souls that will be swept into the Kingdom of God. If this psalm is to be believed, it is a harvest that is propelled and swelled by our joyous praise.
Is your thanksgiving for God’s blessing extending beyond the borders of your family?
Response: LORD God, I thank you for all the blessings you have showered on my life. Most of all I thank you for my salvation through Jesus Christ. Show me how I can extend your blessing to others. Amen.
Your Turn: Have you taken the message of God’s salvation across international borders? How?
Reading: Psalm 54
For the director of music. With stringed instruments. A maskil of David. When the Ziphites had gone to Saul and said, “Is not David hiding among us?”
Save me, O God, by your name;
vindicate me by your might.
Hear my prayer, O God;
listen to the words of my mouth.
Arrogant foes are attacking me;
ruthless people are trying to kill me—
people without regard for God.
Surely God is my help;
the Lord is the one who sustains me.
Let evil recoil on those who slander me;
in your faithfulness destroy them.
I will sacrifice a freewill offering to you;
I will praise your name, LORD, for it is good.
You have delivered me from all my troubles,
and my eyes have looked in triumph on my foes (NIV).
I like to prove that I’m right. I get a pleasure boost by showing an opponent that my skill, ability or reasoning is superior to theirs. What about you? I think it’s in our nature to stand up and crow when we score a goal, or are vindicated when challenged. Every athlete lives for that moment on top of the podium. I have a competitive spirit. I am sure the psalmist David was no different.
Once again, this is a psalm with a back story and in brief here it is: Though David was a faithful servant of his master King Saul, he was forced to flee because Saul was jealous of his success as a warrior, and was determined to hunt David down and kill him. On two occasions the Ziphites went to Saul and reported that David was hiding in their territory.
David begins this short psalm with a straightforward request: Save me, O God, by your name; vindicate me by your might.
There is something unusual about David’s prayer request. He does not seek to be vindicated by his own might. He does not ask for strength or ability so he can be avenged against his mortal enemy, instead he asks God to intervene. He asks God to win the battle on his behalf. Let’s remember that David was a warrior. Of him it was sung, “Saul has slain his thousands, and David his tens of thousands” (1 Samuel 18:7). But rather than lift a finger to harm Saul, on two occasions David spared his life. When urged to kill Saul, David replied, “The LORD forbid that I should do such a thing to my master, the LORD’s anointed…” (1 Samuel 24:6). What about you and me? Are we trying to win battles in our own strength and ability—battles that belong to the LORD?
Response: LORD God, help me to know that the battle belongs to you and you are the ultimate victor. My trust is in you. I need not prove I am right. You will have the final say. Amen.
Your Turn: Do you seek vindication on your own or do you let the LORD be your vindicator? Do you go to God in prayer and let the LORD defend you?
Reading: Psalm 21
Your hand will lay hold on all your enemies;
your right hand will seize your foes.
When you appear for battle,
you will burn them up as in a blazing furnace.
The LORD will swallow them up in his wrath,
and his fire will consume them.
You will destroy their descendants from the earth,
their posterity from mankind.
Though they plot evil against you
and devise wicked schemes, they cannot succeed.
You will make them turn their backs
when you aim at them with drawn bow.
Be exalted in your strength, LORD;
we will sing and praise your might (NIV).
I have a confession to make. The overall title of my blog is I Love the Psalms! But there are some psalms where the fondness runs very thin. That’s the case with this psalm portion. The pacifist side of me gets very uncomfortable with all this talk of God’s wrath burning like a consuming fire. My reasoning goes something like this: If God gets angry with others; I might be the next one to get burned.
In this psalm David paints a portrait of the LORD as a warrior. I’m not so sure I want to see the LORD as a fearsome warrior. I prefer to see Him as a gentle shepherd—the Good Shepherd—not a God of vengeance firing arrows at His foes. But if I have my way—if I see Him only as a meek shepherd—do I have a right picture of the LORD? Am I blind to an important side of His character? Is He both a warrior and a shepherd?
I can be guilty of shaping God according to my image—the likeness I prefer. But the god I create is not the true God. The true God is always greater, more awesome, fear-provoking, and loving than I can possibly imagine. Words on a page fall short—always fall far short—when we attempt to describe God.
As for this world, it’s inhabited by evil men. Some are heinously evil—monsters in human skin. Others by the mercy of God are filled with kindness. A measure of the grace of God is extended even to those who do not know Him. If God refused to rain judgment on the perpetrators of evil would He still be a good God? If this world were perfect, would we still long for heaven?
Who am I to judge God? Who am I to find fault with my Creator and His ways? Here is the conclusion: Ride on in the battle against evil, Warrior King. Shelter me in your arms, Good Shepherd.
Response: Heavenly Father, I confess I have an incomplete picture of you. I can never grasp or comprehend your fullness. I bow before you, LORD Almighty. In humility I worship you, the magnificent and perfect, I AM. Amen.
Your Turn: Has your picture of God changed over time? Has it become more accurate?
Reading: Psalm 106
They yoked themselves to the Baal of Peor
and ate sacrifices offered to lifeless gods;
they aroused the LORD’s anger by their wicked deeds,
and a plague broke out among them.
But Phinehas stood up and intervened,
and the plague was checked.
This was credited to him as righteousness
for endless generations to come.
By the waters of Meribah they angered the LORD,
and trouble came to Moses because of them;
for they rebelled against the Spirit of God,
and rash words came from Moses’ lips.
They did not destroy the peoples as the LORD had commanded them,
but they mingled with the nations and adopted their customs.
They worshiped their idols, which became a snare to them.
They sacrificed their sons and their daughters to false gods.
They shed innocent blood, the blood of their sons and daughters,
whom they sacrificed to the idols of Canaan,
and the land was desecrated by their blood.
They defiled themselves by what they did;
by their deeds they prostituted themselves (NIV).
Psalm 106 began with with praise, but in verse three it transitioned to this opening thought, “Blessed are those who act justly, who always do what is right.”
Now there’s a mind-blowing concept. Talk about setting the bar completely out of reach! Nobody—I repeat—nobody always does right and acts justly in every situation. Human fallibility and self-interest dictate to the contrary.
The psalmist then goes on to recount a litany of Israel’s sins. By my estimation there are nine major transgressions outlined in Israel’s history through this psalm. There’s a failure to remember God’s kindness. There’s rebellion, wickedness, idolatry, envy, sensual craving, impatience, ingratitude, unbelief, outright disobedience, bloodshed, human sacrifice and further rebellion.
What is truly remarkable about this psalm is not Israel’s sinful ways; sinful ways are common to all humanity. What is truly mind-boggling is God’s faithfulness and readiness to forgive. He hears us in our distress. He seeks out the lost and wayward. He welcomes back the sin infested prodigals knowing full well where they have been. That’s the wonder of our God. He is always, always, always ready to forgive, when we are ready to admit the error of our ways. Now that’s a reason for praise!
Response: Father God, I acknowledge that my people and my nation have been caught up in sinful ways. Please be merciful to us. We are deserving of your judgment. Forgive us through your son Jesus. Amen.
Your Turn: Are you ready to take a stand against sin in your life and community?
Reading: Psalm 80
For the director of music. To the tune of “The Lilies of the Covenant.”
Of Asaph. A psalm.
Hear us, Shepherd of Israel,
you who lead Joseph like a flock.
You who sit enthroned between the cherubim,
shine forth before Ephraim, Benjamin and Manasseh.
Awaken your might; come and save us.
Restore us, O God;
make your face shine on us,
that we may be saved.
How long, LORD God Almighty,
will your anger smolder
against the prayers of your people?
You have fed them with the bread of tears;
you have made them drink tears by the bowlful.
You have made us an object of derision to our neighbors,
and our enemies mock us.
Restore us, God Almighty;
make your face shine on us,
that we may be saved (NIV).
Have you been greeted by a happy face today? I’m talking about the ubiquitous, yellow, happy face stickers that pop up everywhere, especially in any form of online communication. 🙂 ! We all recognize that these happy faces are intended to brighten our day—make us feel happy like the smiley face shows. I’m not sure they always succeed in their objective.
Of course a bright, shining human face with a broad genuine smile is much better in communicating happiness than a symbolic sticker on a screen. Real live face time trumps online communication in every way—at least it should. Some things—most things—are communicated best fact to face.
Here in Psalm 80, the psalmist, Asaph, pleads for face time with the LORD. In fact, in the entire psalm, Asaph repeats this request three times. Restore us, O God; make your face shine on us, that we may be saved. Clearly, the psalmist is longing to see the smiley face of God—the shining face of God.
In Hebrew literature the shining face of God represents God’s favor—His grace. In reality the psalmist is pleading for God’s favor to rest on him and his people. The truth is we get nowhere without the favor of God. Unless the LORD is gracious to us, we are doomed to fail in this life and perish in eternity. It’s just that simple. We desperately need that happy face sticker from God. This should be our daily prayer: Restore us, God Almighty; make your face shine on us, that we may be saved
Response: Father God, today I need face time with you. Show me your kindness. Help me to sense you smiling down on me like a loving parent smiles down on their child. Amen.
Your Turn: Have you recently sensed God smiling down on you? How did that make you feel?