Reading: Psalm 13
For the director of music. A psalm of David.
How long, LORD? Will you forget me forever?
How long will you hide your face from me?
How long must I wrestle with my thoughts
and day after day have sorrow in my heart?
How long will my enemy triumph over me?
Look on me and answer, LORD my God.
Give light to my eyes, or I will sleep in death,
and my enemy will say, “I have overcome him,”
and my foes will rejoice when I fall.
But I trust in your unfailing love;
my heart rejoices in your salvation.
I will sing the LORD’s praise,
for he has been good to me (NIV).
Have you hit a low point in your life? Are you facing a personal downturn when nothing seems to go right? Problems may arise whether it’s in your career, your finances, your family, or your relations with others. Often difficulty in one area leads to difficulty in other aspects of life. It may seem that circumstances are conspiring to bring you down. Are you caught in a downward spiral?
David begins this psalm in such a state. His life and career appear to be in a death spiral. He pleads with God, “Give light to my eyes, or I will sleep in death, and my enemy will say, “I have overcome him,” and my foes will rejoice when I fall.”
We can learn a lot from David’s response to hard times. First he brought his problems before God. He poured out his frustration, and in desperation he called out to the LORD for help. He didn’t pretend everything was fine, when clearly they were not. Call out to God in times of trouble.
Secondly, David asked for the light of God to shine into his situation. “Give light to my eyes, or I will sleep in death…” When we are going through a dark time often we can’t see our way out. Many times the solution is right in front of our eyes, but we can’t see it. We need God to illumine our path. There is a way forward. We need Him to show us. Open your eyes to God’s solution.
Finally, David trusted in the unfailing love of God. He rejoiced in God’s salvation. God is in the rescue business. The solution had yet to arrive, but in advance David sang his praise to God. David reflected on the goodness of God. The LORD had been good and faithful in the past. David knew that God would show him His goodness once again. Trust and praise God in advance.
Response: LORD God, thank you that I can call out to you in times of trouble. Show me the way forward. Open my eyes to the help you are providing. I trust and thank and praise you in advance. Amen.
Your Turn: Has God rescued you in difficult times in the past? Trust Him to do the same now and in the future.
Reading: Psalm 9
Sing the praises of the LORD, enthroned in Zion;
proclaim among the nations what he has done.
For he who avenges blood remembers;
he does not ignore the cries of the afflicted.
LORD, see how my enemies persecute me!
Have mercy and lift me up from the gates of death,
that I may declare your praises in the gates of Daughter Zion,
and there rejoice in your salvation.
The nations have fallen into the pit they have dug;
their feet are caught in the net they have hidden.
The LORD is known by his acts of justice;
the wicked are ensnared by the work of their hands.
The wicked go down to the realm of the dead, all the nations that forget God.
But God will never forget the needy; the hope of the afflicted will never perish.
Arise, LORD, do not let mortals triumph;
let the nations be judged in your presence.
Strike them with terror, LORD;
let the nations know they are only mortal (NIV).
If only life was easy; if only life was just and fair! But it isn’t. Life is filled with struggles and difficulties. I’m not always treated fairly, nor are you. Here in this psalm David cries out, “LORD, see how my enemies persecute me!” You can sense the frustration in his voice. Though these words are not recorded, in the midst of his troubles he might have added, “This isn’t fair, LORD. You aren’t being fair!”
But David doesn’t say that. He assigns blame where blame is due. He blames his troubles on his enemies—his human oppressors—not on the LORD. By way of contrast, David has nothing but praise for the LORD. He declares, “Sing the praises of the LORD, enthroned in Zion; proclaim among the nations what he has done.”
If the source of your affliction is human, why are you blaming God for it? We need to always keep this statement in mind. The LORD is known by his acts of justice. In this life we may not always see His justice prevail, but rest assured on that great final Day, He will prevail. Ultimately, His justice will be seen and known by all.
In times of trouble God is our source of help and strength. Human help may fail us. Friends may let us down. We can wrongly blame the LORD for our troubles, or we can run to Him for help. In all our troubles, we must keep this promise in mind: God will never forget the needy; the hope of the afflicted will never perish.
Response: LORD, in times of trouble, you are my help. I lay my troubles and my requests before you. I wait expectantly for you. I praise you for your goodness to me even in difficult times. Amen.
Your Turn: Have you been blaming God rather than thanking Him? Take some time to praise Him.
The Psalms Speak to our Deepest needs!
Within the Psalms we hear the deepest longings of the human heart. Here we find the full range of human experience—an experience that brings us face to face with God. Our joys and triumphs are reflected here. Our spirits soar to the heavens, but we also plumb the depths of tragic despair. Is it any wonder then, that throughout the ages men and women have found refuge in the Psalms.
In the Psalms we find the wellspring of praise. This has been the churches’ fount of worship, from ancient hymns, to stately concertos, to modern praise choruses, they all find their source in the Psalms.
“David Kitz paints pictures with words, taking lessons from Scripture and nature to offer us a three-dimensional, multi-sensory relationship with God.” — Robert L. Briggs, Executive Vice President, American Bible Society
Yes, my devotional study, Psalms Alive! Connecting Heaven and Earth is available for purchase. Click on the link below for reviews and more details.
Reading: Psalm 150
Praise the LORD.
Praise God in his sanctuary;
praise him in his mighty heavens.
Praise him for his acts of power;
praise him for his surpassing greatness.
Praise him with the sounding of the trumpet,
praise him with the harp and lyre,
praise him with timbrel and dancing,
praise him with the strings and pipe,
praise him with the clash of cymbals,
praise him with resounding cymbals.
Let everything that has breath praise the LORD.
Praise the LORD (NIV).
We have reached the crescendo—the conclusion and the high point of the Book of Psalms. Hallelujah and praise the LORD!
The word praise appears thirteen times in this final psalm. The number thirteen is suggestive of Jesus and his apostles. He is at the core—the very center of God ordained worship.
Eight forms or instruments of praise are listed in this psalm. Eight is the number of new beginnings. Seven suggests completeness, so we see that God rested on the seventh day. But eight signals a new start. In the same way, these eight means or instruments of praise do not represent a complete list. They simply suggest the varied ways in which we can express our praise to the LORD. We have only just begun to discover and explore the many ways in which we can show our gratitude to our Creator.
No one—no living being—is excluded from this call to praise. Let everything that has breath praise the LORD.
This call for all the breathing to praise the LORD is truly fitting. We received our original breath from the LORD. Then the LORD God formed a man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being (Genesis 2:7). Now with our breath—our God-given breath—let us praise our Maker.
In the same way after his resurrection Jesus breathed on his disciples. Again Jesus said, “Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.” And with that he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit” (John 20:21-22).
We need the breath of God in us—the breath of the Holy Spirit in us to live—to truly live in the overcoming power and joy of the psalms. For the Holy Spirit’s presence I will praise the LORD!
Response: LORD God, I praise you. You are my strength and my song. Help me to discover new ways to praise you because you are good. Let my entire life reflect your redemptive presence in me. Amen.
Your Turn: Why are you breathing? Is praising God an integral part of your purpose?
crown of life, gender bias, God's word, heroes, Jesus, Old Testament history, praise, racial bias, rewriting history, Savior, spiritual warfare, sword of the Spirit, temptations, the LORD, word of God
Reading: Psalm 149
May the praise of God be in their mouths
and a double-edged sword in their hands,
to inflict vengeance on the nations
and punishment on the peoples,
to bind their kings with fetters,
their nobles with shackles of iron,
to carry out the sentence written against them—
this is the glory of all his faithful people.
Praise the LORD (NIV).
In society today there are moves afoot to rewrite history. Old monuments are being torn down or neglected. Places and buildings are being renamed because past victories or policies are now seen as oppressive or unjust. Many of the heroes of the past have lost their luster. In many cases there is sound reasoning that goes into justifying this change. Let’s face it; not every conquest was undertaken with pure motives. Not every government policy in the past was without racial or gender bias.
But are we wise when we judge people from a different era with the moral positions and perspectives of today? Do we carry our own set of biases that color our view of history? Of course we do.
We encounter the same issues when we look back at Old Testament history. It’s difficult for New Testament believers to justify Old Testament vengeance, genocide and slaughter. And yes, there’s plenty of that recorded in our Bibles. Today’s reading from Psalm 149 touches on this very point. The psalmist urges the infliction of vengeance on the nations and punishment on the peoples, to bind their kings with fetters, their nobles with shackles of iron. As followers of a gentle Jesus, who taught us to love our enemies, how are we to interpret and apply this call to action?
First, let’s realize that we are living under a new and better covenant with Jesus as our Lord and Savior. When he was arrested, Jesus told Peter to put away his sword. We do well when we heed that advice. The eager warmongers among us often need to take a chill pill. Jesus showed no tendencies to war.
But we do have a battle to fight, and we urgently need a double-edged sword. St. Paul calls it the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God (Ephesians 6:17b). How effective are you in handling the word of God? How effective are you in battling the spiritual forces and daily temptations that are arrayed against you? With the praises of God in your mouth, and the sword of the Spirit in your hand, are you propelling your way to victory in the daily grind of life? Are the joy and peace of God reigning in your life?
Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him (James 1:12).
Response: LORD God, I want to grow in my love for your word. Help me to use it wisely and deftly to the advance of your Kingdom. Lord Jesus, help me gain victory over spiritual forces that oppose me. Amen.
Your Turn: Are you developing competence in using the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God?
Reading: Psalm 149
Praise the LORD.
Sing to the LORD a new song,
his praise in the assembly of his faithful people.
Let Israel rejoice in their Maker;
let the people of Zion be glad in their King.
Let them praise his name with dancing
and make music to him with timbrel and harp.
For the LORD takes delight in his people;
he crowns the humble with victory.
Let his faithful people rejoice in this honor
and sing for joy on their beds (NIV).
I previously wrote that as we draw to the end of the Book of Psalms, we are slowly building to a crescendo of praise to the LORD. Today’s reading from Psalm 149 expands and amps up the level of praise.
For some praise to the LORD is one dimensional. It involves singing a hymn or worship chorus to the LORD in a place of worship at a designated time. Usually this simply means in church on a Sunday morning. But praise that is birthed by the Spirit of God can be much more than just that. Psalm 149 calls for a wide range of praise. It begins by calling for a new song. Sing to the LORD a new song, his praise in the assembly of his faithful people.
It would seem that the Creator would like to hear something fresh and creative. That’s so much like Him. After all, His mercies are new every morning. See Lamentations 3:22-23. Now don’t get me wrong. There is a place for the tried and true, and the old and familiar. But genuine praise is like fresh homemade bread. It’s best served warm from the oven. Stale worship invigorates no one.
Secondly, our praise for the LORD can take a variety of forms. Let Israel rejoice in their Maker; let the people of Zion be glad in their King. Let them praise his name with dancing and make music to him with timbrel and harp.
Just yesterday I watched a couple do a beautiful dance to a popular worship chorus. The words, the music, and their expressive movements, added heartfelt meaning to their praise. God was glorified in their dance. We were created to move and our posture and movements can reflect an expressive exuberance for God.
Finally, Spirit initiated praise knows no bounds. It refuses to be confined to a church building. It is after all an outward expression of a thankful heart. There is a place for praise, wherever we find ourselves, whether it’s from our bed, on a park bench, a subway car, or as we stroll down the grocery aisle. Praise the LORD!
Response: LORD God, renew in me a heart of praise. I want to lose my self-consciousness as I praise you. This is all about you. True worship is not about me. I want to praise you with my whole being. Amen.
Your Turn: Is it possible to be God focussed when we are self-focussed or self-conscious?
Reading: Psalm 148
Let them praise the name of the LORD,
for his name alone is exalted;
his splendor is above the earth and the heavens.
And he has raised up for his people a horn,
the praise of all his faithful servants,
of Israel, the people close to his heart.
Praise the LORD (NIV).
Broadly speaking I like modern translations of the Bible over the traditional King James Version, but… But sometimes the old King James just sounds better, or more familiar. Here at the close of Psalm 148 we have a case in point.
The New International Version ends the psalm with these words: Praise the LORD. The King James Version ends the psalm with Praise ye the LORD. But a more literal translation or transliteration of this final phrase is Hallelujah! The footnotes to the New American Standard Bible point out that Hallelu means praise, while JAH is the abbreviated Hebrew name for God, which is often translated Jehovah or more accurately Yahweh.
Whenever you see the phrase praise the LORD, you are actually looking at a translation of the Hebrew word hallelujah!
Hallelujah is entirely absent from the New International Version of the Bible. It has also been scrubbed from most of the other modern translations. To put it bluntly, I miss hallelujah. It has an uplifting ring to it. Hallelujah skips off the tongue like a shooting star. It bursts forth from a thankful heart like fireworks on a summer night.
For the Christian believer Christmas is the great Hallelujah! God has come to the earth and been born as a baby like you and me. This is the beginning of the great redemption story.
The resurrection is the second great Hallelujah! The Son of God was vindicated. His death was not in vain. He conquered death, our greatest foe, and now Jesus reigns on high forever. That calls for a hallelujah! And for good measure, let’s add praise the LORD too!
The one who at his birth was laid in a manger is the King of kings and the Lord of lords. As Handel’s Messiah proclaims, “He shall reign forever and ever. Hallelujah!” Let the hallelujahs resound from the earth to the heavens as we join in the song of the angels—the song of the ages.
Let them praise the name of the LORD, for his name alone is exalted; his splendor is above the earth and the heavens.
Response: LORD God, I praise you for sending Jesus. I praise you for your great plan of redemption. Jesus, I thank you for carrying my sins to Calvary. I rejoice in your resurrection victory. Hallelujah! Amen.
Your Turn: Do you enjoy Handel’s Hallelujah Chorus? What is your favorite expression of praise to God?
Reading: Psalm 148
Praise the LORD from the earth,
you great sea creatures and all ocean depths,
lightning and hail, snow and clouds,
stormy winds that do his bidding,
you mountains and all hills,
fruit trees and all cedars,
wild animals and all cattle,
small creatures and flying birds,
kings of the earth and all nations,
you princes and all rulers on earth,
young men and women,
old men and children (NIV).
Psalm 148 began with a call for praise for the LORD from the angels, who are heaven’s messengers, from the heavenly hosts and all the heavenly bodies. In today’s reading, the psalmist expands this call for praise to all the creatures of the earth, the elements of nature, wind, cloud and ocean depths, and finally to all humanity.
There is a logical progression in this call for thunderous praise. The call begins with what is distant, the galaxies and the heavenly beings, and then it descends to the earth, and finally it touches humanity. It becomes personal. We are called to praise God. Will you join the swelling chorus?
John, the beloved, gives us a picture of what heaven’s praise party looks like.
Then I looked and heard the voice of many angels, numbering thousands upon thousands, and ten thousand times ten thousand. They encircled the throne and the living creatures and the elders. In a loud voice they were saying:
“Worthy is the Lamb, who was slain,
to receive power and wealth and wisdom and strength
and honor and glory and praise!” (Revelation 5:11-12).
Our Lord taught us to pray, “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven” (Matthew 6:9b-10).
Surely, it is the will of God that He be praised and worshipped on earth just as He is around His throne in heaven. The purpose of God’s Kingdom—the Kingdom that Jesus came to establish—is to bring heaven to earth. God did not remain distant. In the person of Jesus, He came to dwell among us. He brought and is presently bringing the will of God to the earth through the Holy Spirit. For that Jesus is to be praised. Let all of creation praise Him—praise Him from the earth, because from it we were formed. Let the praise for our Lord ascend from you and me.
Response: LORD God, let your Holy Spirit be active among us. Help us to love and serve you and those around us. Help me to bring a little bit of heaven—a little bit of your will to the earth today. Amen.
Your Turn: How do you picture heaven? What does a little bit of heaven on earth look like to you?