Reading: Psalm 81
For the director of music. According to gittith. Of Asaph.
Sing for joy to God our strength;
shout aloud to the God of Jacob!
Begin the music, strike the timbrel,
play the melodious harp and lyre.
Sound the ram’s horn at the New Moon,
and when the moon is full, on the day of our festival;
this is a decree for Israel, an ordinance of the God of Jacob.
When God went out against Egypt,
he established it as a statute for Joseph.
I heard an unknown voice say:
“I removed the burden from their shoulders;
their hands were set free from the basket.
In your distress you called and I rescued you,
I answered you out of a thundercloud;
I tested you at the waters of Meribah.
Hear me, my people, and I will warn you—
if you would only listen to me, Israel!
You shall have no foreign god among you;
you shall not worship any god other than me (NIV).
Psalm 81 begins with a call for God’s people to celebrate: Sing for joy to God our strength; shout aloud to the God of Jacob! Begin the music, strike the timbrel, play the melodious harp and lyre.
Why should we break forth in music and song? Well, we have a good reason to celebrate. We have been set free from our burdens. Because of the victory of Christ, we have been set free from slavery to sin. The psalmist expresses this thought with these words: I heard an unknown voice say: “I removed the burden from their shoulders; their hands were set free from the basket. In your distress you called and I rescued you.”
Who is that unknown voice? That unknown voice belongs to the LORD. He is the One who set the people free from bondage in Egypt. God went out against Egypt. He opposed the most powerful nation of the world at that time and claimed a people for Himself by rescuing them from the hand of Pharaoh.
Our heavenly Father has done the same for us. At the cost of his life, Jesus redeemed us from bondage to sin and Satan and he brought us into his Kingdom. For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins (Colossians 1:13-14). We have plenty of reasons to celebrate and break forth into music and song. Let nothing hold you back. The joy of the Lord is our strength.
Response: LORD God, I thank you for rescuing me from a life of sin and futility. I praise you for redeeming me, Lord Jesus. I rejoice in your continual goodness. Your mercies are new every morning. Amen.
Your Turn: Do you find it difficult or easy to break into song as you think of the Lord’s love for you?
Reading: Psalm 71
Your righteousness, God, reaches to the heavens,
you who have done great things.
Who is like you, God?
Though you have made me see troubles,
many and bitter, you will restore my life again;
from the depths of the earth
you will again bring me up.
You will increase my honor
and comfort me once more.
I will praise you with the harp
for your faithfulness, my God;
I will sing praise to you with the lyre,
Holy One of Israel.
My lips will shout for joy when I sing praise to you—
I whom you have delivered.
My tongue will tell of your righteous acts all day long,
for those who wanted to harm me
have been put to shame and confusion (NIV).
Typically Christians view resurrection as a New Testament concept, but here in the conclusion to Psalm 71, we can see that the Old Testament psalmist had a solid grasp of resurrection truths. Consider his words. Though you have made me see troubles, many and bitter, you will restore my life again; from the depths of the earth you will again bring me up.
That sounds like resurrection to me. Jesus fulfilled the prophetic words of the psalmist when he stepped out of the tomb on resurrection morning. Elsewhere David spoke prophetically of Christ and his resurrection when he wrote, “I am your chosen one. You won’t leave me in the grave or let my body decay” (Psalm 16:10).
Peter sited this verse as proof of Jesus’ resurrection when he preached to the crowd that gathered on the Day of Pentecost. See Acts 2:22-36.
The promise of the resurrection filled the psalmist with hope and it should do the same for us. Because Jesus is alive now, we too will be raised to life. That thought should buoy us on tough days. When we lose a loved one, whose faith was rooted in God’s redeeming love, we can rest assured that our farewell is not forever. We will see them again at the resurrection. On that great day we can join with the psalmist and declare, “My lips will shout for joy when I sing praise to you—I whom you have delivered.”
Response: LORD God, thank you for the promise of resurrection. Thank you for the hope we have in Jesus. Through Jesus’ shed blood we have redemption, and the forgiveness that makes resurrection possible. Hallelujah! Amen.
Your Turn: Why is the resurrection meaningful to you?
Reading: Psalm 56
For the director of music. To the tune of “A Dove on Distant Oaks.” Of David. A miktam. When the Philistines had seized him in Gath.
Be merciful to me, my God,
for my enemies are in hot pursuit;
all day long they press their attack.
My adversaries pursue me all day long;
in their pride many are attacking me.
When I am afraid, I put my trust in you.
In God, whose word I praise—
in God I trust and am not afraid.
What can mere mortals do to me?
All day long they twist my words;
all their schemes are for my ruin.
They conspire, they lurk,
they watch my steps, hoping to take my life.
Because of their wickedness do not let them escape;
in your anger, God, bring the nations down (NIV).
In times of trouble David knew where to turn. With his enemies, the Philistines, surrounding him, he turned to God. Hear his bold confession, “When I am afraid, I put my trust in you. In God, whose word I praise—in God I trust and am not afraid. What can mere mortals do to me?”
David, the obvious answer is, “Mere mortals can torture and kill you.”
Despite this David remained confident. The Philistines could destroy his body but they could not harm his eternal spirit which was at peace—protected by God. Do you and I have the same confidence? That confidence can be ours if we put our trust in God.
Jesus warned his disciples, “Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell” (Matthew 10:28). The One we are to fear is God alone. Jesus perfectly demonstrated his trust in God the Father when he went to the cross on our behalf. There he was tortured and killed, but three days later he was vindicated by the Father, who raised him from the dead. Our redemption and salvation come from Jesus.
When we face mortal danger or a deadly prognosis may these words be on our lips and in our heart: When I am afraid, I put my trust in you. In God, whose word I praise—in God I trust and am not afraid. What can mere mortals do to me?
Response: LORD God, right now I put my faith and trust in you. By the blood of Jesus you forgive all my sins and have paid the price for my redemption. When I am afraid, I turn to you. I put my trust in you alone. Amen.
Your Turn: Who do you trust and turn to when bad news comes? Friends and family can provide support, but is your Father—your heavenly Father with you? Are you leaning into Him?
Reading: Psalm 40
Sacrifice and offering you did not desire—
but my ears you have opened—
burnt offerings and sin offerings you did not require.
Then I said, “Here I am, I have come—
it is written about me in the scroll.
I desire to do your will, my God;
your law is within my heart.”
I proclaim your saving acts in the great assembly;
I do not seal my lips, LORD, as you know.
I do not hide your righteousness in my heart;
I speak of your faithfulness and your saving help.
I do not conceal your love and your faithfulness
from the great assembly (NIV).
The first half of today’s psalm reading is quoted directly in Hebrews 10:5-7. The writer of the Book of Hebrews saw Jesus as the prophetic fulfillment of this passage. Jesus became the necessary sacrifice for the sins of the world. When God came to earth in bodily form as the babe of Bethlehem, He came clothed in humanity. Jesus came with his ears wide open to the voice of his heavenly Father. He came to do His Father’s will. For Jesus the Father’s will meant going to the whipping post and climbing the hill of Golgotha to die in agony on the cross. That was the sacrifice the Father desired.
Has God opened your ears to His voice? Have you loved God until it hurt? It hurt Jesus to do His Father’s will. If we are Jesus’ disciples, should we expect better treatment than our Master? Often what we hear preached is a sugar-coated gospel that asks little of us. Jesus asked his disciples for their lives. He said, “Anyone who loves their father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves their son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. Whoever does not take up their cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds their life will lose it, and whoever loses their life for my sake will find it” (Matthew 10:37-39).
Have you lost your life for the sake of Jesus? Now, that’s a high calling with a steep price attached.
Are your ears open to God’s calling? There are times when I don’t want to hear God’s voice. That’s why I don’t seek Him in prayer. He may tell me something I don’t want to hear. All too often, I am His reluctant servant. I would rather do my will than His will. He must change my desires. My desires must become His desires. Only then can I serve with joy. Jesus’ desire was always to do his Father’s will. From an early age he was about his Father’s business, fulfilling His Father’s plan for His life.
Whose plan are you following?
Response: LORD God, help me to truly hear and obey your voice. I want to be your disciple, Lord Jesus. Thank you for your great sacrifice by which you purchased my redemption. Amen.
Your Turn: Have you heard God’s voice and walked away? He doesn’t give up easily. He remains faithful. He renews His call.
Reading: Psalm 30
When I felt secure, I said,
“I will never be shaken.”
LORD, when you favored me,
you made my royal mountain stand firm;
but when you hid your face, I was dismayed.
To you, LORD, I called;
to the LORD I cried for mercy:
“What is gained if I am silenced,
if I go down to the pit?
Will the dust praise you?
Will it proclaim your faithfulness?
Hear, LORD, and be merciful to me;
LORD, be my help.”
You turned my wailing into dancing;
you removed my sackcloth and clothed me with joy,
that my heart may sing your praises and not be silent.
LORD my God, I will praise you forever (NIV).
Every psalm in the Book of Psalms reveals to us an aspect or characteristic of God. Here in Psalm 30, we see the LORD God of mercy, redemption and sudden turn-a-rounds.
We all go through times of triumph as well as times of deep discouragement. My emotional life often swings between these two extremes. Some days my glass is half full; on other days it is half empty. My faith level soars and plummets, often quite abruptly depending on circumstances. David also experienced these swings between optimism and pessimism. They are a trademark of his psalms. Perhaps that’s why I love them. They reflect my own life experience.
In the opening lines of today’s reading, David swings between a position of utter confidence and security to a position of shaken dismay. When trouble or disaster strikes we may well ask, “Where is God in all this?” Like David we may call out, “What is gained if I am silenced, if I go down to the pit? Will the dust praise you? Will it proclaim your faithfulness? Hear, LORD, and be merciful to me; LORD, be my help.”
God is always on His throne. He is not caught by surprise when you lose your job, a relationship breaks down or you suffer a great loss. He remains secure, but more than that He is a God of great mercy and sudden turn-a-rounds. He is the LORD God of resurrection. He turned the disciples mourning into dancing when He raised Jesus from the dead. Always, always, always remember He can do the same for you. In the course of this psalm He turned David around. Jesus is the resurrection artist. And furthermore remember this: Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever (Hebrews 13:8).
Response: You turned my wailing into dancing; you removed my sackcloth and clothed me with joy, that my heart may sing your praises and not be silent. LORD my God, I will praise you forever. Amen.
Your Turn: Has God turned around a seemingly impossible situation for you? Take a moment to remind yourself of those God sent turn-a-rounds.
Reading: Psalm 30
A psalm. A song. For the dedication of the temple. Of David.
I will exalt you, LORD,
for you lifted me out of the depths
and did not let my enemies gloat over me.
LORD my God, I called to you for help,
and you healed me.
You, LORD, brought me up from the realm of the dead;
you spared me from going down to the pit.
Sing the praises of the LORD, you his faithful people;
praise his holy name.
For his anger lasts only a moment,
but his favor lasts a lifetime;
weeping may stay for the night,
but rejoicing comes in the morning (NIV).
If you ever want an excuse to break out in praise, just read the opening lines of Psalm 30. There are plenty of excellent reasons to praise God, and David gives us several of them right here. I will exalt you, LORD, for you lifted me out of the depths and did not let my enemies gloat over me.
The LORD has lifted me out of the depths of sin and the Slough of Despond on more than one occasion. Furthermore, the LORD provides more than just forgiveness. He also gives victory over the sin and the discouragement that entraps us. Through the death and resurrection of Jesus, He has defeated the minions of hell. Praise the LORD!
LORD my God, I called to you for help, and you healed me. If you enjoy good health, praise the LORD. He is your healer. Whether through miraculous means or natural process God is our healer, and we can thank Him for the strength, energy and rejuvenation He brings into our lives. Praise the LORD!
You, LORD, brought me up from the realm of the dead; you spared me from going down to the pit. In Ephesians, chapter two, Paul tells us that we were dead in trespasses and sins. But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus (Ephesians 2:4-7). Praise the LORD!
We serve a God of mercy, redemption and turn-a-rounds. He turns our mourning into dancing. See Psalm 30:11. For his anger lasts only a moment, but his favor lasts a lifetime; weeping may stay for the night, but rejoicing comes in the morning. Praise the LORD!
Response: LORD God, I thank you for your mercy and grace. I praise you for being my healer. You are good to me in more ways than I can count. Thank you. You are worthy of continual praise. Amen.
Your Turn: What can you praise God for today? How numerous are your blessings?
Reading: Psalm 22
Dogs surround me,
a pack of villains encircles me;
they pierce my hands and my feet.
All my bones are on display;
people stare and gloat over me.
They divide my clothes among them
and cast lots for my garment.
But you, LORD, do not be far from me.
You are my strength; come quickly to help me.
Deliver me from the sword,
my precious life from the power of the dogs.
Rescue me from the mouth of the lions;
save me from the horns of the wild oxen (NIV).
The title notes to Psalm 22 state, “A psalm of David.” But while this is David’s psalm, it’s entirely about Jesus—about our Savior’s personal thoughts and experience—about his suffering and death. Nowhere is this expressed more clearly than in the opening lines posted above: Dogs surround me, a pack of villains encircles me; they pierce my hands and my feet.
On the rock hill called Golgotha, surrounded by his taunting enemies, Jesus is stripped naked. His hands and feet are pierced as he is nailed to the cross and lifted up for the whole world to see. The helpless Christ silently laments, “All my bones are on display; people stare and gloat over me.”
All four Gospels record what happens next. The soldiers divide up Jesus clothes and gamble for his seamless garment. “Let’s not tear it,” they said to one another. “Let’s decide by lot who will get it.” This happened that the scripture might be fulfilled that said, “They divided my clothes among them and cast lots for my garment.” So this is what the soldiers did (John 19:24).
Thoughtless Roman soldiers fulfilled what David penned nine centuries earlier. But was Jesus truly helpless? If he was helpless, he was helpless by design. If he was forsaken by his Father, he was forsaken by choice—his choice. This was a course of action that Jesus willingly chose. He lay down his life. The Lamb of God suffered and died that our sins might be atoned, that we may receive a full pardon. Redemption has come; the price has been paid in full—paid in blood.
The turning point in this psalm is found in the last stanza above. With unvoiced words Jesus cries out to be rescued and delivered from death. Three days later his prayer was answered through his bodily resurrection. Ultimately, Jesus triumphed over death, hell and the grave. By faith his suffering brings our redemption and victory.
Response: Lord Jesus, my thanks flows to you. You were forsaken that I might have eternal life. Thank you for thinking of me rather than of yourself. You deserve all praise. Amen.
Your Turn: What is the right response to the love Jesus showed?
Reading: Psalm 22
Yet you brought me out of the womb;
you made me trust in you, even at my mother’s breast.
From birth I was cast on you;
from my mother’s womb you have been my God.
Do not be far from me,
for trouble is near and there is no one to help.
Many bulls surround me;
strong bulls of Bashan encircle me.
Roaring lions that tear their prey
open their mouths wide against me.
I am poured out like water,
and all my bones are out of joint.
My heart has turned to wax; it has melted within me.
My mouth is dried up like a potsherd,
and my tongue sticks to the roof of my mouth;
you lay me in the dust of death (NIV).
As we continue this meditation on Psalm 22, it is essential that we bear in mind that prophetically this is the crucifixion psalm. As stated in my previous post, the crucifixion is portrayed from the victim’s point of view—Jesus’ point of view. Through the poetic medium of this psalm, Jesus is speaking. He is describing his thoughts amid the horror of his excruciating affliction.
I recently read an account of the disastrous Dieppe Raid of 1942. In one scene from the carnage on the Normandy beach, a horribly-mangled, mortally-wounded young man is trapped in coils of razor wire. With his last desperate breaths what does he do? He cries out for his mother. In the pain of death the thoughts of grown men often turn to the soothing remembrance of their mother’s love. For our Savior it was no different. But from birth Jesus put his trust in God. Yet you brought me out of the womb; you made me trust in you, even at my mother’s breast. From birth I was cast on you; from my mother’s womb you have been my God.
As Jesus hangs pinned to the cross, he is encircled by his accusers—strong bulls of Bashan—who hurl insults at him. Peering down at his mangled and bleeding body he laments, I am poured out like water, and all my bones are out of joint. My heart has turned to wax; it has melted within me.
As the heat of the day builds, the trickle of blood continues and severe dehydration sets in. He cries out, “I thirst!” (John 19:28). This is our Savior’s confession—his stark reality—a reality he endured for our redemption. My mouth is dried up like a potsherd, and my tongue sticks to the roof of my mouth; you lay me in the dust of death.
Response: Father God, thank you for sending your Son Jesus to this cruel world to suffer on my behalf. Your unconditional love for me was demonstrated on the cross for all to see. I thank you. Amen.
Your Turn: What does Jesus suffering mean for you?
Reading: Psalm 1
Blessed is the one
who does not walk in step with the wicked
or stand in the way that sinners take
or sit in the company of mockers,
but whose delight is in the law of the LORD,
and who meditates on his law day and night.
That person 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.
Not so the wicked!
They are like chaff that the wind blows away.
Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment,
nor sinners in the assembly of the righteous.
For the LORD watches over the way of the righteous,
but the way of the wicked leads to destruction (NIV).
Have you ever noticed the prominent role that trees play in the Bible? The creation account in Genesis begins with God planting two very special trees in the Garden of Eden: the Tree of Life and the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. After our first parent’s disobedience, we were banned from access the Tree of Life. But the amazing, good news of the Bible is that at the end of the book, in the last chapter of the Book of Revelation, God restores our access to the Tree of Life (Revelations 22:1-5).
In a very real sense the Bible is a story about trees.
Here in the very first Psalm, the life of the righteous is compared to a fruit-bearing tree, flourishing by streams of water. The psalmist presents a picture of tranquil beauty. Is that a picture of my life? Sometimes I feel more like windblown chaff—rather worthless and lacking a sense of direction.
But that’s where the other tree at the heart of the Bible comes into play. It stands on a hill called Calvary. There my Savior bled and died. There he showed me my true worth. There my sins were washed away, never to be remembered again. That’s where I became righteous, not by works that I had done, but by the grace and forgiveness of Christ.
What a beautiful tree! The tree on Mount Calvary isn’t beautiful because of its leaves. It’s beautiful because of its fruit—the fruit of redemption purchased by the blood of Jesus. My righteousness is solely due to him.
Response: Dear Lord Jesus, thank you for your sacrifice. Help me to always remember that you are the true source of my righteousness. At your prompting help me to rid myself of the worthless chaff in my life. Wind of God, blow on me. Water of life, refresh my soul. May I be fruitful, Lord, for you. Amen.
Your Turn: Have you knelt before the tree on Mount Calvary?