Reading: Psalm 141
Their rulers will be thrown down from the cliffs,
and the wicked will learn that my words were well spoken.
They will say, “As one plows and breaks up the earth,
so our bones have been scattered at the mouth of the grave.”
But my eyes are fixed on you, Sovereign LORD;
in you I take refuge—do not give me over to death.
Keep me safe from the traps set by evildoers,
from the snares they have laid for me.
Let the wicked fall into their own nets,
while I pass by in safety (NIV).
King David lived in treacherous times, and the opening lines from today’s reading reflect that reality. In fact, in its entirety Psalm 141 is a prayer for protection and personal safety. David had enemies who were eager to see his demise.
On a personal level the same is true for every redeemed believer. The apostle Peter provides us with this reminder: Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour (1 Peter 5:8). Our very survival depends on heeding Peter’s advice.
David pleads for safety from the traps and snares that have been set for him. This brings to mind the word circumspect. As we move forward in life, we should be alert and circumspect. Circumspect is actually a compound Latin word. The circum portion of the word means around, or literally in a circle. The spect portion of the word means to look or see; this is the root for words such as spectacle or inspect. The circumspect person is looking around, so he does not step into the snares of the enemy.
But if we are truly circumspect, we don’t only look down for snares and traps. It is essential that we also look up. David expresses this thought with these words. But my eyes are fixed on you, Sovereign LORD; in you I take refuge—do not give me over to death.
The writer of Hebrews urges us on with these words: Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart (Hebrews 12:1-3).
During this season, when we reflect on Christ’s suffering and death, we need eyes that are fixed on him. He knows where the snares are, and he is well able to deliver us from the jaws of the enemy.
Response: Sovereign LORD, I commit my thoughts and ways to you. Guide me in the way of holiness for your name’s sake. I fix my eyes on you, Jesus, babe in a manger, suffering Savior, and risen Lord. Amen.
Your Turn: How alert are you to the devil’s tactics? Are you fixing your eyes on Jesus?
Reading: Psalm 141
A psalm of David.
I call to you, LORD, come quickly to me;
hear me when I call to you.
May my prayer be set before you like incense;
may the lifting up of my hands be like the evening sacrifice.
Set a guard over my mouth, LORD;
keep watch over the door of my lips.
Do not let my heart be drawn to what is evil
so that I take part in wicked deeds
along with those who are evildoers;
do not let me eat their delicacies (NIV).
Like so many of the psalms, Psalm 41 is a conversation with God—a prayer to the LORD—the Holy One. Prayer should be part of our daily routine, as routine as getting out of bed in the morning, and as regular as our evening meal. David, the psalmist, expresses this thought with these words: May my prayer be set before you like incense; may the lifting up of my hands be like the evening sacrifice.
In his revelation of the throne room of God, John saw our prayers being offered as incense before Jesus, the Lamb of God. And when he had taken it [the scroll], the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb. Each one had a harp and they were holding golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of God’s people (Revelations 5:8).
I find it fascinating to view our prayers being offered up in a tangible way as incense—a pleasing aroma to the LORD. See Numbers 15:1-15.
David continues his prayer with this petition: Set a guard over my mouth, LORD; keep watch over the door of my lips.
Often my mouth gets me in trouble. I say I’ll do something, and then don’t follow through. I let others down. In frustration I blurt out words that I later regret. James, the brother of Jesus, provides us with this advice. My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires (James 1:19-20).
I need a guard over my mouth. This is true in my daily conversation with others, but it’s also true of my conversations with God. I think we often pray rash prayers—prayers that in His mercy God does not answer. I think I know what is best for me only to discover after the fact, that what I thought would be a blessing is a huge detriment. My prayers can be mixed with the stench of human flesh.
Response: LORD, I want my prayers to be like sweet incense to you. Help me to pray according to your will. That means listening for your voice before I blurt out my requests. Guide my thoughts. Amen.
Your Turn: How careful are you with your prayers? Can we be too cautious in prayer?
Reading: Psalm 139
Search me, God, and know my heart;
test me and know my anxious thoughts.
See if there is any offensive way in me,
and lead me in the way everlasting (NIV).
In my opinion, Psalm 139 rates in the top ten of the 150 psalms in the Bible. Many find deep comfort and encouragement in it. It is arguably the most intimate or personal psalm. Take a minute to read the entire psalm and you will see for yourself why I draw these conclusions.The Psalm begins by pointing out the futility of fleeing from God. We can’t hide from Him though we may try. The prophet Jonah discovered this truth the hard way. In Jonah’s case, it took three days and three nights in the belly of a huge fish to come around to right perspective. See Jonah 1 & 2. How long does it take for us to realize how foolish it is to run from God? I dare say some of us sink below sea-level before the wisdom of Psalm 139 takes hold.
Though the psalmist begins by discussing the futility of hiding from God, he concludes by asking for God to search his heart. He willingly comes before the LORD and asks to be tested. That takes humility and courage—more humility and courage than many of us can muster.
Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. This appears to be a very straightforward request, but there are intricacies to this statement that deserve some careful consideration.
Does God need to search my heart? Does He need to search for anything? Not really. He already knows everything that’s there. I’m the one who doesn’t know what is in my own heart. I’m the one who is surprised when some emotion is triggered, or I react in an unpredictable or irrational way. Do I understand my heart? Do I know what is lurking down there? My knowledge is partial at best. Self-flattery and subtle forms of self-deception can blind me to what is really in my heart.
When we are asking God to search us and test us, we are really asking to begin a process of self-discovery. We are exposing our soul to God, so He can point out what is there. Then you and I can repent and turn our heart-hidden sins over to God. I cannot trust myself to see and acknowledge what is there. I need God’s help. By nature I am a hider. Jesus is the Great Seeker. Remember he came to seek and save the lost. See Luke 19:10.self-f
Jesus is the one who can see if there is any offensive way in me. He is the Good Shepherd, the one who will lead me in the way everlasting. When I freely confess my need for him, his blood cleanses me from the darkest sins. Real freedom for us begins with exposure—exposure to the penetrating searchlight of God.
Response: LORD God, you know my heart. You know what triggers my wrong responses. Search me and show me what needs to change and how to make those changes. Lead me in the way everlasting. Amen.
Your Turn: How well do you know your heart?
I will praise Him!
As for me, I call to God,
and the LORD saves me.
Evening, morning and noon
I cry out in distress,
and he hears my voice.
He rescues me unharmed
from the battle waged against me,
even though many oppose me.
(Psalm 55:16-18, NIV)
Reading: Psalm 137
By the rivers of Babylon we sat and wept
when we remembered Zion.
There on the poplars we hung our harps,
for there our captors asked us for songs,
our tormentors demanded songs of joy;
they said, “Sing us one of the songs of Zion!”
How can we sing the songs of the LORD
while in a foreign land?
If I forget you, Jerusalem,
may my right hand forget its skill.
May my tongue cling to the roof of my mouth
if I do not remember you,
if I do not consider Jerusalem
my highest joy (NIV)
It’s difficult to pinpoint the time in history when many of the Psalms were written. Many scholars believe that the Old Testament was compiled over a period of about 900 to 1,000 years. As for the Book of Psalms, there is considerable evidence to suggest that psalms were collected from three distinct periods: the reign of King David (1 Chronicles 23:5), the rule of Hezekiah (2 Chronicles 29:30), and during the leadership of Ezra and Nehemiah (Nehemiah 12:24).
Psalm 137 is distinct, because we can tell from its content that this psalm was written early during the period of the Babylonian exile. Memories of Nebuchadnezzar’s destruction of Jerusalem in 586 BC were still fresh—etched with bitterness and pain in the mind of the author.
There are two great pivot points in the history of Old Testament Israel. The first is the liberation of Israel from Egypt and the conquest of the holy land. The second is the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple, and the subsequent seventy-year exile in Babylon. The mercy and power of God brought about the first pivotal event. The disobedience and idolatry of man set in motion the catastrophe of the second event.
From its inception the Jewish nation flirted with idolatry. While Moses was receiving the Ten Commandments, the people were reveling before a golden calf. King Solomon set up idols in Jerusalem so his foreign wives could worship their gods. See 1 Kings 11:1-8. This duplicity continued generation after generation until the Babylonians swept in and destroyed Jerusalem. Judgment brought change.
Response: Father God, I don’t want to learn things the hard way. I want to be quick to obey you. Help me to learn from the lessons of history. You are the one, true God. I worship you. Amen.
Your Turn: How faithful are you to the LORD? Do other interests draw you away?
 K.R. “Dick” Iverson, Spirit Filled Life Bible, New King James Version, Jack W. Hayford, General Editor, Thomas Nelson Publishers, Nashville, TN, 1991, p. 750.
I will praise Him!
Clap your hands, all you nations;
shout to God with cries of joy.
God has ascended amid shouts of joy,
the LORD amid the sounding of trumpets.
Sing praises to God, sing praises;
sing praises to our King, sing praises.
For God is the King of all the earth;
sing to him a psalm of praise.
(Psalm 47:1, 5-7, NIV)
I will praise Him!
Come and see what the LORD has done,
the desolations he has brought on the earth.
He makes wars cease
to the ends of the earth.
He breaks the bow and shatters the spear;
he burns the shields with fire.
He says, “Be still, and know that I am God;
I will be exalted among the nations,
I will be exalted in the earth.”
The LORD Almighty is with us;
the God of Jacob is our fortress.
(Psalm 46:8-11, NIV)
Greetings to the regular readers of my daily devotionals on the Psalms. For a number of reasons I have decided to take a short break from my daily postings. This is largely due to looming deadlines on two writing projects and a rapidly approaching appointment for eye surgery.
As every juggler knows, if you have too many balls in the air, you have to let one of them drop. Reluctantly, I have decided to drop my daily devotional posts. In their place you will find a photo and a short reading from the Psalms. I typically do these short posts on the weekend, but for the next few days they will appear on regular week days as well.
One of my writing deadlines involves the final edit of my full-length Passion of Christ novel entitled, The Soldier who Killed a King.
Please click on the link to view the book cover. Kregel Publishing will be releasing this book later this year. Yes, I’m pleased about that!
Finally, on a personal note, today is my sixty-fifth birthday. My how time flies when you are having fun!
I have so much to be thankful for including good health, a great wife and a loving family. But Jesus and spiritual rebirth is the greatest gift of all. There’s a great expression from the Psalms about how that makes me feel.
Here it is: “Hallelujah!”