Reading: Psalm 103
As a father has compassion on his children,
so the LORD has compassion on those who fear him;
for he knows how we are formed,
he remembers that we are dust.
The life of mortals is like grass,
they flourish like a flower of the field;
the wind blows over it and it is gone,
and its place remembers it no more.
But from everlasting to everlasting
the LORD’s love is with those who fear him,
and his righteousness with their children’s children—
with those who keep his covenant
and remember to obey his precepts (NIV).
Last week I heard a news report that stated that new research has led astronomers to realize that there are ten times more stars in the universe than they previously estimated. A minor miscalculation you may assume. Not really!
Our own Milky Way galaxy contains about 400 billion stars of varying sizes. The most recent astronomical estimate counts 170 billion galaxies in the observable universe. To do a rough calculation of the total number of stars in the universe, you multiply 400 billion stars X 170 billion galaxies and get a number with twenty-five zeroes tacked on the end. Now that’s astronomical!
So how does that ginormous number connect with today’s reading from Psalm 103? It tells us the LORD’s concern and care for us are nothing short of astounding. The God who created all that vast array of stars cares even for you and me. As a father has compassion on his children, so the LORD has compassion on those who fear him; for he knows how we are formed, he remembers that we are dust.
Dust… We are nothing more than dust. From dust we were formed and to dust we will return. (See Genesis 3:19.) Yet despite our humble origin and our body’s grave fate, we have a God who has the compassion of a father for his children. Furthermore, this care and compassion is not fleeting; it’s eternal. Our time on earth may be transitory, but God’s love for us persists. But from everlasting to everlasting the LORD’s love is with those who fear him, and his righteousness with their children’s children—with those who keep his covenant and remember to obey his precepts.
Why would a God of such infinite capacity commit Himself to a creature of such miniscule significance? The LORD is mind-boggling; God is completely mind-boggling! You can see it in the stars. You can count it in the grains of dust—dust that the LORD loves!
Response: Father God, you are matchless. There is none like you. Your compassion is astonishing. Your grandeur is beyond my ability to even imagine. I love you, LORD. I bow in awe and amazement. Keep me in your care. Amen.
Your Turn: How big is your God? How tiny are you before this awesome God?
Reading: Psalm 98
Let the sea resound, and everything in it,
the world, and all who live in it.
Let the rivers clap their hands,
let the mountains sing together for joy;
let them sing before the LORD,
for he comes to judge the earth.
He will judge the world in righteousness
and the peoples with equity (NIV).
What comes to mind when you think of God’s judgment? Do you envision pictures of doom, gloom and destruction? If that’s your response, you are not alone, but maybe you have the wrong set of pictures? Maybe you have a wrong understanding of God? Should the redeemed live in dread of God’s judgment?
Psalm 98 is a joyous anthem of praise to God—praise for the salvation the LORD has won for us. The psalmist begins this psalm by calling us to sing to the LORD a new song. In today’s reading, that call for praise and worship is extended to all of nature. Let the sea resound, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it. Let the rivers clap their hands; let the mountains sing together for joy.
Have you seen any mountains singing for joy? Have you heard the rivers clap their hands? I love the pictures such thoughts put in my mind. In reality all of creation is speaking daily. The earth, sea and sky are telling of God’s mercy and glory. The setting sun shouts out the praises of God. Can you hear it?
According to the psalmist, there is a cause for this great celebration by the sea, the rivers and the mountains. These elements of creation are celebrating because the LORD is coming to judge the earth. He will judge the world in righteousness and the peoples with equity. In other words God’s judgment should bring joy not dread. The LORD will set things right.
For far too long we have lived in a world of injustice, suffering and death. When the LORD comes, He will bring all this pain and perversity to an end. The environmental degradation that we have caused will come to an end. The Eden that was lost because of mans’ sin will be restored. Once again we will have access to the Tree of Life. Best of all we will walk in sweet communion with our heavenly Father. All this is possible because of the suffering, death and resurrection of Jesus. The power of sin was broken at the cross. Since God’s coming judgment will bring about all this glorious restoration, why wouldn’t we join the mountains as they sing for joy?
Many of us have a wrong understanding of God and a wrong understanding of the purpose for His judgment. His judgments are good. They bring about peace—the shalom of God. Here in Psalm 98 we have the promise of His word on that. He will judge the world in righteousness and the peoples with equity.
Response: LORD God, in the past I have dreaded your judgment, but now I recognize your goodness. Come quickly, Lord Jesus. I want to see this world set right through your power and grace. Amen.
Your Turn: Do you fear God’s judgment? Is that always a good thing? Can it be misunderstood?
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Reading: Psalm 98
Sing to the LORD a new song,
for he has done marvelous things;
his right hand and his holy arm
have worked salvation for him.
The LORD has made his salvation known
and revealed his righteousness to the nations.
He has remembered his love
and his faithfulness to Israel;
all the ends of the earth have seen
the salvation of our God.
Shout for joy to the LORD, all the earth,
burst into jubilant song with music;
make music to the LORD with the harp,
with the harp and the sound of singing,
with trumpets and the blast of the ram’s horn—
shout for joy before the LORD, the King (NIV).
Once again in Psalm 98 the psalmist calls us to break forth with a new song of praise to our God. This call to worship is a frequent theme in many psalms. In this case the cause for worship is well worth noting. We are to worship in music and song because of the salvation of our God. The LORD has made his salvation known and revealed his righteousness to the nations. He has remembered his love and his faithfulness to Israel; all the ends of the earth have seen the salvation of our God.
To some extent these words trouble me. What salvation is the psalmist talking about? Is he referring to the miraculous redemption and rescue of Israel from slavery in Egypt? That’s the most significant act of national salvation in the Old Testament. On the other hand, the psalmist could be referring to the restoration of the Jewish nation after the destruction of the temple and the Babylonian captivity. Again this is a very significant event that was witnessed by the surrounding nations. Since we do not have a timeline or date for when this psalm was written, we are left guessing the answer.
For the New Testament believer we see the fulfillment of this psalm in the salvation that was won for us by Christ at the cross. There the ancient powers of sin, hell and the grave were defeated. Death itself was vanquished through the resurrection of Jesus. In reality, the true enemies of the people of God are not foreigners or foreign nations. Our enemies are spiritual; they lurk within—within us. Salvation from those enemies was purchased at the cross with the precious blood of Jesus.
Now here is a bizarre twist. Salvation arrives with our surrender. It arrives when we surrender our lives to our Savior and kneel before our King on a cross. That’s a salvation worth singing about!
Response: LORD God, I am so grateful for the salvation you purchased for me through the blood of Jesus. I want all the ends of the earth to know about that great salvation. Thank you, Jesus. Amen.
Your Turn: Have you knelt before the King on a cross? Take some time to do that now.
Reading: Psalm 97
The LORD reigns, let the earth be glad;
let the distant shores rejoice.
Clouds and thick darkness surround him;
righteousness and justice are the foundation of his throne.
Fire goes before him
and consumes his foes on every side.
His lightning lights up the world;
the earth sees and trembles.
The mountains melt like wax before the LORD,
before the Lord of all the earth.
The heavens proclaim his righteousness,
and all peoples see his glory.
All who worship images are put to shame,
those who boast in idols—
worship him, all you gods! (NIV).
Who is in charge here? In any situation, that’s a legitimate question. There are always a variety of authorities in any given situation. A while back I watched Prince William and his family get off a plane in Victoria, BC. On the tarmac the royal family was first greeted by the Governor General, then by the Prime Minister of Canada, then the Lieutenant Governor of the British Columbia and finally, the Premier of the province. They were all lined up according to proper protocol. Yes, there are a variety of authorities all deserving respect. But this question remains. Who is in charge here?
The authorities of this world have jurisdiction over a certain geographic area or realm. Some authorities govern well and in others rule as despots who plunder the wealth of the nation. But Psalm 97 reminds us that there is one great authority who rules over all. The LORD reigns, let the earth be glad; let the distant shores rejoice.
The earth can be glad and the distant shores can rejoice because this King, this heaven-dwelling authority rules well. He does not plunder His faithful people and bring them to ruin. He reigns supreme from on high. Clouds and thick darkness surround him; righteousness and justice are the foundation of his throne.
We can rest assured that the LORD will do what is right. He is allied with goodness, mercy and truth. That’s why justice is the foundation of His throne. We should not fear His judgments because they are right and good. Yes, the authors of evil should be afraid, but if we have done right, we can count on the LORD as our defender. Now here is a proclamation that we all should heed. The heavens proclaim his righteousness and all peoples see his glory.
Response: LORD God, it is my prayer that all people will see your glory and bow before you, the magnificent King of Righteousness. Extend your reign I pray. Let the distant shores rejoice because you reign. Amen.
Your Turn: Is the Lord Jesus reigning over you and your home? Who has jurisdiction there?
Reading: Psalm 94
Who will rise up for me against the wicked?
Who will take a stand for me against evildoers?
Unless the LORD had given me help,
I would soon have dwelt in the silence of death.
When I said, “My foot is slipping,”
your unfailing love, LORD, supported me.
When anxiety was great within me,
your consolation brought me joy.
Can a corrupt throne be allied with you—
a throne that brings on misery by its decrees?
The wicked band together against the righteous
and condemn the innocent to death.
But the LORD has become my fortress,
and my God the rock in whom I take refuge.
He will repay them for their sins
and destroy them for their wickedness;
the LORD our God will destroy them (NIV).
Here is a question that is well worth asking at election time, or really at any time during the life of a nation: Can a corrupt throne be allied with you—a throne that brings on misery by its decrees?
Whatever your political persuasion, this is a question that has relevance. Corruption isn’t a problem that is unique to just one party. It transcends the political spectrum. Corruption and poorly designed laws or decrees can bring misery to millions. According to the psalmist, it has happened in the past and as long as we live in a fallen world, it will continue into the future.
If we fix our eyes on the problems of this world, we can soon find ourselves in despair. Like the psalmist, in times of worry, we need to turn to the LORD. When I said, “My foot is slipping,” your unfailing love, LORD, supported me. When anxiety was great within me, your consolation brought me joy.
That’s the good news of the gospel. In times of anxiety we have someone to turn to. His name is Jesus. He was familiar with suffering and adversity. In Psalm 55 we read, “Cast your cares on the LORD and he will sustain you; he will never let the righteous be shaken” (Psalm 55:22). The apostle Peter reiterates the same thought: Cast all your anxiety on him [God] because he cares for you (1 Peter 5:7).
In times of trouble the unfailing love of the LORD will sustain you. In times of loss His consolation will bring you joy. That’s the promise of Psalm 94. It’s a promise that’s worth clinging to in good times and bad, and yes, even in election years.
Response: LORD God, I am so glad that first and foremost I live under your Kingdom rule. You are my King. I find unfailing love and consolation in knowing you. Guide the leaders of our land into paths of righteousness, wisdom and truth. Amen.
Your Turn: Are you facing adversity now? How can I pray for you?
Reading: Psalm 89
Righteousness and justice are the foundation of your throne;
love and faithfulness go before you.
Blessed are those who have learned to acclaim you,
who walk in the light of your presence, LORD.
They rejoice in your name all day long;
they celebrate your righteousness.
For you are their glory and strength,
and by your favor you exalt our horn.
Indeed, our shield belongs to the LORD,
our king to the Holy One of Israel (NIV).
Yesterday afternoon at about 4:30 my wife and I got a call from my son. He found himself in a difficult spot. He and his wife had just bought two swivel chairs. He had wrongly assumed that both would fit into the trunk of his car. Despite his best efforts the second chair would not fit. Could I come, pick up and deliver the second chair to their home?
My wife had a batch of homemade buns rising in the oven, so she was not available. The delivery task fell to me. So off I drove in a torrential downpour through heavy rush-hour traffic to pick up this chair. Did I resent this interruption in my schedule? Did I get all steamed up about the inconvenience? Was I upset that I was a few minutes late for dinner? No. In all seriousness, none of this bothered me because I love my son and his wife. I was glad to help. I even took a minute or two to sit in that comfy chair and appreciate their new purchase.
Today’s reading from Psalm 89 is all about a chair—a special chair. It’s called the throne of God. Unlike the rollers on the bottom of the chair that my son purchased, this chair has a foundation. It’s immovable. The psalmist makes this statement. Righteousness and justice are the foundation of your throne; love and faithfulness go before you.
The throne of God speaks of His authority. God’s authority rests squarely on His righteousness and justice. This has always been so and will be so forever. Righteousness and justice are foundational to all authority. When authorities in this world go astray and engage in unjust and immoral behavior, we find this abhorrent. We question the legitimacy of such authorities. We say they have lost the moral authority to govern.
But God does more than just sit on His throne and govern. He moves out from that throne. Again the psalmist states, “Love and faithfulness go before you.” God is active in this world. Daily the LORD demonstrates His love and faithfulness to His people and also to those who do not call on His name. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous (Matthew 5:45). Furthermore, our heavenly Father is eager to do these things because He loves us.
Response: Heavenly Father, you are good and kind to all. I thank you for your love and faithfulness. Today, I want to walk in the light of your presence, LORD, and rejoice in your name all day long. Amen.
Your Turn: Can you testify that on various occasions God’s love and faithfulness have gone before you?
Reading: Psalm 85
I will listen to what God the LORD says;
he promises peace to his people, his faithful servants—
but let them not turn to folly.
Surely his salvation is near those who fear him,
that his glory may dwell in our land.
Love and faithfulness meet together;
righteousness and peace kiss each other.
Faithfulness springs forth from the earth,
and righteousness looks down from heaven.
The LORD will indeed give what is good,
and our land will yield its harvest.
Righteousness goes before him
and prepares the way for his steps (NIV).
Psalm 85 began with the psalmist reflecting on a wonderful time of God’s favor and forgiveness. God’s grace had been abundant and a source of great joy. But that is not the present reality. It would seem that for some reason God’s hand of blessing has been lifted and the psalmist finds himself crying out for mercy and revival. Will you not revive us again, that your people may rejoice in you? Show us your unfailing love, LORD, and grant us your salvation.
Times of hardship and personal setbacks can leave us wondering if God has abandoned us. Have we sinned? Has God withdrawn His blessing from our lives? Will He shows us His kindness once again? In difficult times these questions often flood our minds.
After pleading for restoration and pouring out his troubles before God the psalmist makes this statement, “I will listen to what God the LORD says.”
Now that’s sound advice. Listening to what God says is always a good idea. It resolves inner conflict and brings peace of mind. And what does God the LORD say? “He promises peace to his people, his faithful servants—but let them not turn to folly.”
Often we feel that when things aren’t going right in our lives, we must be at fault. Perhaps we are and we should repent. But there are other times when the hardships we face are not due to sin or error on our part. Troubles and difficulties come to all of us. On such occasions the LORD promises us peace. He assures us that we are walking in His will and He is right there with us in the midst of life’s storms. Here is His promise for you: The LORD will indeed give what is good, and our land will yield its harvest. Righteousness goes before him and prepares the way for his steps.
Hang onto the righteousness of God. He is about to step into your life in a beautiful way.
Response: LORD God, I turn to you in the middle of my difficulties. Open my ears to hear your voice speaking to me. I trust you to lead me. Come and step into my life. Amen.
Your Turn: Can you recall occasions when God has stepped into your life? What did that look like?
I will praise Him!
Praise the LORD.
I will extol the LORD with all my heart
in the council of the upright and in the assembly.
Great are the works of the LORD;
they are pondered by all who delight in them.
Glorious and majestic are his deeds,
and his righteousness endures forever.
He has caused his wonders to be remembered;
the Lord is gracious and compassionate.
He provides food for those who fear him;
he remembers his covenant forever.
(Psalm 111:1-5, NIV)
Reading: Psalm 78
In spite of all this, they kept on sinning;
in spite of his wonders, they did not believe.
So he ended their days in futility
and their years in terror.
Whenever God slew them, they would seek him;
they eagerly turned to him again.
They remembered that God was their Rock,
that God Most High was their Redeemer.
But then they would flatter him with their mouths,
lying to him with their tongues;
their hearts were not loyal to him,
they were not faithful to his covenant.
Yet he was merciful;
he forgave their iniquities
and did not destroy them.
Time after time he restrained his anger
and did not stir up his full wrath.
He remembered that they were but flesh,
a passing breeze that does not return (NIV).
Psalm 78 is a lengthy indictment against the people of Israel for their unfaithfulness to the LORD. Sometimes it’s easy to forget that these were the people of God—His chosen people—yet they responded with lies, unbelief and disloyalty. If this is how the people of God conduct themselves, what are we to expect from those who do not know the LORD?
Unfortunately, the people of God today are not so different from the people of Israel 3,000 years ago. When we look about the church world, we see a plenty of division, backbiting and sin. All too often hate rules instead of love. We cover ourselves with a fig leaf of self-righteousness and then proceed to attack those who fail to meet our standard. We do all this while we are trapped in our own secret web of sin. We are determined to clean up the world while ignoring our personal pile of filth.
The words of Jesus from his Sermon on the Mount still ring true today, “How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye” (Matthew 7:4-5).
But given this deplorable state of affairs, what does the LORD do? The psalmist states, “Yet he was merciful; he forgave their iniquities and did not destroy them.” Like the people of ancient Israel, we are saved not because of our righteousness, but solely because of God’s mercy and grace.
Response: LORD God, I cannot boast because of my righteousness. You know all my shortcomings. I have an impressive pile of personal sin. Forgive me through the mercy of your son, Jesus. Amen.
Your Turn: Have you been guilty of pointing out the faults of others while ignoring your own?