Reading: Psalm 41
All my enemies whisper together against me;
they imagine the worst for me, saying,
“A vile disease has afflicted him;
he will never get up from the place where he lies.”
Even my close friend, someone I trusted,
one who shared my bread,
has turned against me.
But may you have mercy on me, LORD;
raise me up, that I may repay them.
I know that you are pleased with me,
for my enemy does not triumph over me.
Because of my integrity you uphold me
and set me in your presence forever.
Praise be to the LORD, the God of Israel,
from everlasting to everlasting.
Amen and Amen (NIV).
This concluding portion of Psalm 41 comes with a prophetic twist. You need not take my word for it. As he sat with his disciples at the Last Supper, Jesus himself said he was fulfilling the words of this psalm.
“I am not referring to all of you; I know those I have chosen. But this is to fulfill this passage of Scripture: ‘He who shared my bread has turned against me.’ I am telling you now before it happens, so that when it does happen you will believe that I am who I am. Very truly I tell you, whoever accepts anyone I send accepts me; and whoever accepts me accepts the one who sent me.”
After he had said this, Jesus was troubled in spirit and testified, “Very truly I tell you, one of you is going to betray me” (John 13:18-21).
The psalmist, David experienced the heartbreak of betrayal. It was betrayal of the worst kind. Not only did David’s friends turn on him, but his own son, Absalom, sought to snatch the throne in a bloody coup—an act of open rebellion. See 2 Samuel 15-18.
David was betrayed by his son, Absalom; Jesus was betrayed by his friend and disciple, Judas Iscariot. But Jesus stayed loyal to his heavenly Father. He willingly went to the cross when he could have resisted arrest. He rebuked Peter for using his sword. “Put your sword back in its place,” Jesus said to him, “for all who draw the sword will die by the sword. Do you think I cannot call on my Father, and he will at once put at my disposal more than twelve legions of angels?” (Matthew 26:52-53).
Jesus experienced the resurrection truth of David’s words. Because of my integrity you uphold me and set me in your presence forever. Praise be to the LORD, the God of Israel, from everlasting to everlasting. Amen and Amen.
Response: LORD, I thank you for Jesus. Through Jesus I can overcome all things, even betrayal. Amen.
Your Turn: Have you experienced betrayal? Has the LORD upheld your cause?
Reading: Psalm 107
Some sat in darkness, in utter darkness,
prisoners suffering in iron chains,
because they rebelled against God’s commands
and despised the plans of the Most High.
So he subjected them to bitter labor;
they stumbled, and there was no one to help.
Then they cried to the LORD in their trouble,
and he saved them from their distress.
He brought them out of darkness, the utter darkness,
and broke away their chains.
Let them give thanks to the LORD for his unfailing love
and his wonderful deeds for mankind,
for he breaks down gates of bronze
and cuts through bars of iron (NIV).
Darkness comes in various forms. Darkness is of course an absence of natural or artificial light. A certain amount of darkness can in fact be very pleasant. Have you ever tried to sleep in a brightly lit room? Last night I was driving through the wilderness of northern Ontario with a full moon—a super moon beaming down. On such occasions you appreciate the soothing benefits of darkness.
But spiritual darkness is another matter. In today’s vignette or snapshot from Psalm 107, we see a picture of prisoners sitting in utter darkness and subjected to bitter labor. This darkness, however, is self-inflicted, because they rebelled against God’s commands and despised the plans of the Most High.
There’s a lot of self-inflicted darkness and suffering in the world. One could argue that since the time of Adam and Eve, all suffering and spiritual darkness is in some respects self-inflicted. In our blindness and self-generated wisdom, we harm ourselves, rather than calling out to the LORD.
Have you harmed yourself by walking down a dark path? Have you despised the plans of the Most High? I have. In my foolish rebellion, I thought my plans were better than God’s plans, but God’s ways are higher than my ways and He knows the best way because He lights the way.
Sometimes we insist on generating our own light—artificial light. The religions and philosophies of this world are artificial light. We will see that they are pale imitations on that day when the sun of righteousness will rise with healing in its rays (Malachi 4:2). Nothing and no one shines like Jesus. John testifies to this truth. In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it (John 1:4-5).
Come, descendants of Jacob, let us walk in the light of the LORD (Isaiah 2:5).
Response: Father God, today I want to walk in your light. Thanks for light of salvation in Christ. Amen.
Your Turn: Have you been guilty of generating your own light rather than calling out to the LORD?
Reading: Psalm 106
Therefore the LORD was angry with his people
and abhorred his inheritance.
He gave them into the hands of the nations,
and their foes ruled over them.
Their enemies oppressed them
and subjected them to their power.
Many times he delivered them,
but they were bent on rebellion
and they wasted away in their sin.
Yet he took note of their distress when he heard their cry;
for their sake he remembered his covenant
and out of his great love he relented.
He caused all who held them captive to show them mercy.
Save us, LORD our God, and gather us from the nations,
that we may give thanks to your holy name and glory in your praise.
Praise be to the LORD, the God of Israel,
from everlasting to everlasting.
Let all the people say, “Amen!”
Praise the LORD (NIV).
Have you ever tried to drive in a crooked nail? You are asking for trouble if you make the attempt. If the nail has even a slight bend in it, it will either buckle or be misdirected as it enters the wood. Over the years I have hammered home a lot of nails. And only straight nails stay true.
Today’s final reading from Psalm 106 reminds me of bent nails. The psalmist laments the corrupt ways of the nation of Israel despite the LORD’s mercy and patience. Many times he delivered them, but they were bent on rebellion and they wasted away in their sin.
Many people are like bent nails. Despite many blows they refuse to run true. They are bent on rebellion and they waste away in their sin. Their troubles are self-inflicted, but rather than acknowledge their errors, they blame God or others for their circumstances. Repentance or self-correction never enters their mind.
But… But God remains merciful. Yet he took note of their distress when he heard their cry; for their sake he remembered his covenant and out of his great love he relented.
Why would God have mercy on bent nails? Maybe it has something to do with the bent nails that held Jesus, His son, in place on a wooden cross. That’s where mercy flowed down over this bent nail.
Response: Father God, I give up on understanding your mercy and grace. It’s beyond comprehension. Thank you for loving me despite my sinful bent. Your love is amazing. Thank you, Jesus. Amen.
Your Turn: Is rebellion part of your nature? Can we self-correct or do we need God’s help?
Reading: Psalm 81
I am the LORD your God,
who brought you up out of Egypt.
Open wide your mouth and I will fill it.
“But my people would not listen to me;
Israel would not submit to me.
So I gave them over to their stubborn hearts
to follow their own devices.
“If my people would only listen to me,
if Israel would only follow my ways,
how quickly I would subdue their enemies
and turn my hand against their foes!
Those who hate the LORD would cringe before him,
and their punishment would last forever.
But you would be fed with the finest of wheat;
with honey from the rock I would satisfy you” (NIV).
In this concluding portion of Psalm 81, the LORD sets out two possible courses of action for the people of Israel. They can refuse to listen to God, persist in their stubborn ways and reap the devastating consequences, or they can submit to the LORD and be rewarded for their obedience.
God is for us; He is on our side. But we must decide to be on His side. He will fight for us—on our behalf—if we make the right decision. Take a look at this promise. “If my people would only listen to me, if Israel would only follow my ways, how quickly I would subdue their enemies and turn my hand against their foes!”
But the LORD doesn’t just promise victory over our foes. He promises to richly provide for us and bless us. “But you would be fed with the finest of wheat; with honey from the rock I would satisfy you.”
The benefits of following the LORD are clearly stated and obvious. They are obvious when we examine the word of God, but they are obvious as well from human experience. I know many individuals who have resisted the will of God for their lives and their way has been marked by hardship and tragedy—much of it by their own choice. The rebellious soul chooses to walk a rocky road. God sets the lonely in families; he leads out the prisoners with singing; but the rebellious live in a sun-scorched land (Psalm 68:6).
What choices are you making? Are you choosing God’s ways? Are you listening to Him? We can choose a rocky road in a sun scorched land or we can choose to be fed with honey from the rock. There are rich rewards when we make the right choice.
Response: LORD God, today I choose to follow you. I want to be on your side, rooting for the right team. I trust the promises in your word. You bring me victory, provision and joy. Amen.
Your Turn: Have you struggled in obeying God? How do you turn rebellion into submission to God’s will?