Reading: Psalm 143
A psalm of David.
LORD, hear my prayer,
listen to my cry for mercy;
in your faithfulness and righteousness come to my relief.
Do not bring your servant into judgment,
for no one living is righteous before you.
The enemy pursues me,
he crushes me to the ground;
he makes me dwell in the darkness like those long dead.
So my spirit grows faint within me;
my heart within me is dismayed.
I remember the days of long ago;
I meditate on all your works
and consider what your hands have done.
I spread out my hands to you;
I thirst for you like a parched land (NIV).
On my best day, I need God’s mercy. On my worst day my need for outside help and mercy are evident to all. In truth, my need for the mercy of the LORD is never ending. All too often, we only call out to God in times of need or perceived difficulty. In reality our need for God’s help and mercy are constant.Here in Psalm 143, as he so often does, David calls out for God’s mercy. In many respects David’s plea for mercy is rather repetitive throughout the psalms. Why would this be? Could it be that he is in constant need of God’s sustaining support and mercy? From the following request, we can see why David repeatedly prays for God’s mercy: Do not bring your servant into judgment, for no one living is righteous before you.
David recognized that within himself he had no righteousness. In reality this is the starting point for a life transforming relationship with God. Contrary to a good deal of modern psychology and religious philosophy, we are not okay. We have a warped nature that is inclined to sin. It delights in rebelling against God. St. Paul describes this human condition with these words. For I know that good itself does not dwell in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out (Romans 7:18).
The prophet Isaiah described this universal human condition in this way. All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags; we all shrivel up like a leaf, and like the wind our sins sweep us away (Isaiah 64:6).
Do I need God’s mercy? Yes, a thousand times yes!
Response: LORD God, I need your righteousness. My own righteousness is tainted with pride. I freely acknowledge my need for a Savior. You are my constant help. I thirst for you like a parched land. Amen.
Your Turn: Are you aware of your constant need for God’s mercy? Are you calling out to Him?
I will praise Him!
Within your temple, O God,
we meditate on your unfailing love.
Like your name, O God,
your praise reaches to the ends of the earth;
your right hand is filled with righteousness.
Mount Zion rejoices,
the villages of Judah are glad
because of your judgments.
(Psalm 48:9-11, NIV)
I will praise Him!
Sing joyfully to the LORD, you righteous;
it is fitting for the upright to praise him.
Praise the LORD with the harp;
make music to him on the ten-stringed lyre.
Sing to him a new song;
play skillfully, and shout for joy.
For the word of the LORD is right and true;
he is faithful in all he does.
The LORD loves righteousness and justice;
the earth is full of his unfailing love.
(Psalm 33:1-5, NIV)
Reading: Psalm 132
We heard it in Ephrathah,
we came upon it in the fields of Jaar:
“Let us go to his dwelling place,
let us worship at his footstool, saying,
‘Arise, LORD, and come to your resting place,
you and the ark of your might.
May your priests be clothed with your righteousness;
may your faithful people sing for joy.’”
For the sake of your servant David,
do not reject your anointed one (NIV).
David’s commitment and zeal for the presence of the LORD drew others to worship God. That’s what the opening lines of today’s reading are saying: We heard it in Ephrathah, we came upon it in the fields of Jaar: “Let us go to his dwelling place, let us worship at his footstool…”
We should never underestimate the power of our personal witness for Christ. Our zeal for God and love for His house can act as a magnet to draw others to worship Him. David’s self-denial in pursuit of God resulted in others discovering the power and grace of the LORD. By bringing the Ark of the Covenant to Zion, the City of David, David was declaring that he wanted the LORD in his home. He wanted Him close at hand—at the center of the government he was establishing over the land. See 2 Samuel 6.
Do we want God in our home? Is the LORD at the command center of your life and your daily affairs? Genuine worship brings God to the center. It removes the distance between us and God.
The psalmist goes on to offer this prayer. “‘May your priests be clothed with your righteousness; may your faithful people sing for joy.’”
How are you dressed as you approach God? Apparently, clothing matters. It matters because as a redeemed child of God you are serving as a priest of the Most High. The apostle, Peter reminds us of our corporate calling and responsibility. But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light (1 Peter 2:9).
So then as priests offering sacrifices of praise, we have an opportunity to approach God. But how should we be clothed, you ask? St. Paul provides the answer. So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ (Galatians 3:26-27). As a blood-bought believer you are clothed with the righteousness of Christ.
Response: Father God, I thank you for covering me with a garment of righteousness. It’s the supreme righteousness of Jesus. Help me to serve and worship you daily with a grateful heart. Amen.
Your Turn: Are you drawing near to God? Do you see yourself as part of a royal priesthood?
I will praise Him!
The LORD reigns forever;
he has established his throne for judgment.
He rules the world in righteousness
and judges the peoples with equity.
The LORD is a refuge for the oppressed,
a stronghold in times of trouble.
Those who know your name trust in you,
for you, LORD, have never forsaken those who seek you.
(Psalm 9:7-10, NIV)
Reading: Psalm 118
Shouts of joy and victory
resound in the tents of the righteous:
“The LORD’s right hand has done mighty things!
The LORD’s right hand is lifted high;
the LORD’s right hand has done mighty things!”
I will not die but live,
and will proclaim what the LORD has done.
The LORD has chastened me severely,
but he has not given me over to death.
Open for me the gates of the righteous;
I will enter and give thanks to the LORD.
This is the gate of the LORD
through which the righteous may enter.
I will give you thanks, for you answered me;
you have become my salvation (NIV).
Are you left handed? Today in western cultures being left handed presents some challenges since many devices are designed with right-handed people in mind. Try finding left-handed scissors next time you’re at a store. Good luck with that! Oh, and if you find them, expect to pay three times the price of a right-handed model. Often lefties don’t have it so good.
Even today in Middle Eastern cultures being born left handed presents an enormous challenge. The right hand is used for eating food; the left hand is used for personal hygiene—bottom wiping. You dare not reverse that assigned role. Toddlers are strictly trained in this cultural practice. Usually left-handed children are forced to switch so they conform to the social norm. Making this switch plays havoc with the developing brain and often results in speech impediments such as stuttering, since this transition requires a complete rewiring of the child’s brain.
The Bible was written by Holy Spirit inspired authors, but like authors today they were not blank slates. They wrote from their cultural perspective to the people of their time. As a result, readers today can easily miss or misunderstand concepts that were readily understood in their original context.
The significance of the right hand is one of those culturally important concepts that we often pass over with little thought. The Bible is replete with references to the right hand or specifically God’s right hand. So what’s the big deal, we think to ourselves. But in Middle Eastern culture the right hand holds great significance. This is the hand of righteousness, honor and blessing. Thus, there is immense significance in this statement: “The LORD’s right hand has done mighty things! The LORD’s right hand is lifted high; the LORD’s right hand has done mighty things!”
Response: Father God, extend your right hand of blessing over me. Work on my behalf. Show me your mercy, your power and glory. Again and again I will give you thanks, for you answered me. Amen.
Your Turn: Are you like the psalmist? Has the LORD spared your life for a purpose?
Reading: Psalm 106
Praise the LORD.
Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good;
his love endures forever.
Who can proclaim the mighty acts of the LORD
or fully declare his praise?
Blessed are those who act justly,
who always do what is right.
Remember me, LORD, when you show favor to your people,
come to my aid when you save them,
that I may enjoy the prosperity of your chosen ones,
that I may share in the joy of your nation
and join your inheritance in giving praise (NIV).
Let’s face the truth. We all want to live a blessed life. We desire God’s blessing, whether we clearly state it in those terms or not. In today’s reading, the psalmist begins Psalm 106 with a flurry of praise for the LORD. Then he makes this statement: Blessed are those who act justly, who always do what is right.
I confess that I have a problem with that statement. I am certain there is great blessing in acting justly and doing what is right. My problem is with the word always. I’m not an always kind of guy. I would be far more comfortable if the verse read like this: Blessed are those who act justly, who ‘usually’ do what is right. I think I can achieve ‘usually’, but ‘always’ is setting the bar higher than I can achieve. I would like a little wiggle room, LORD.
It would appear that the psalmist was of a similar persuasion, because in the following verse he asks for the favor of the LORD. We desperately need the LORD’s favor because we cannot always achieve the high mark of God’s righteousness and justice. We fall short.
Consider the psalmist’s plea: Remember me, LORD, when you show favor to your people, come to my aid when you save them, that I may enjoy the prosperity of your chosen ones, that I may share in the joy of your nation and join your inheritance in giving praise.
In reality, this is a prayer for inclusion. The psalmist wants to be included with all those who experience the salvation and blessing of the LORD. He wants to be one of the chosen ones. I am reminded of the words of that old gospel spiritual ‘When the Saints Go Marching In.’ O Lord, I want to be among the number, when the saints go marching in!
Our shortcomings or sins exclude us, but it is the grace of God—His unmerited favor—that includes us. It has always been this way. We are a people—a nation—in need of God’s favor. Our efforts and good intentions fall short. We need to rely on God’s favor. He is the true source of blessing.
Response: Father God, I call on you. Look on me with favor. I know I fall short of your standard. I call on you. I depend on you. I know my efforts are inadequate. I rely on your grace. Amen.
Your Turn: Are you an always, a usually, or a sometimes kind of person, when it comes to doing right?
I will praise Him!
Your love, LORD, reaches to the heavens,
your faithfulness to the skies.
Your righteousness is like the highest mountains,
your justice like the great deep.
You, LORD, preserve both people and animals.
How priceless is your unfailing love, O God!
(Psalm 36:5-7 NIV)
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 week ago 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 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. 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?