Reading: Psalm 18
For the director of music. Of David the servant of the LORD.
He sang to the LORD the words of this song
when the LORD delivered him from the hand of all his enemies
and from the hand of Saul. He said:
I love you, LORD, my strength.
The LORD is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer;
my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge,
my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.
I called to the LORD, who is worthy of praise,
and I have been saved from my enemies.
The cords of death entangled me;
the torrents of destruction overwhelmed me.
The cords of the grave coiled around me;
the snares of death confronted me (NIV).
Psalm 18 is one of the longer psalms in the Book of Psalms. Step by step, day by day we will glean wisdom from the psalmist, David, as we make our way through this psalm.
In many respects Psalm 18 is a psalm of culmination. The introductory note tells us that David composed and sang this psalm when the LORD delivered him from the hand of all his enemies and from the hand of Saul. For many long years David had been fleeing for his life from his master King Saul. At long last, after repeatedly calling on God in great distress, David has triumphed. And now through the words of this psalm, he gives all the credit and all the glory to God.
Notice the list of attributes that David ascribes to the LORD: my strength, my rock, my fortress, my deliverer, my God, my rock, my shield, my salvation and my stronghold. To David the LORD had proven Himself repeatedly during years of hard times to be the embodiment of each of those attributes. If you call on Him, the LORD can be all of those things for you as well.
Did you notice that my rock is the only attribute that is repeated in this list? Why repeat the phrase my rock? In the prophetic realm, during all those years of severe testing, Christ was the rock on which David took his stand. David did not build his life on the shifting sands of public opinion or popularity. He built his life on Christ. A thousand years in advance, David was putting into practice the words of Jesus, “Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock” (Matthew 7:24-25).
Now that’s wisdom—applied wisdom for the ages!
Response: Heavenly Father, help me daily to build my life on the rock, Christ Jesus. Lord Jesus, you are my fortress, my salvation and my stronghold. I put my full trust in you. Amen.
Your Turn: How is God like a rock in your life? Has He sustained you during difficult times? Is He helping you through tough times right now, or has He already turned the tide in your favor?
I will praise Him!
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.
(Psalm 85:8-9, NIV)
Reading: Psalm 147
He covers the sky with clouds;
he supplies the earth with rain
and makes grass grow on the hills.
He provides food for the cattle
and for the young ravens when they call.
His pleasure is not in the strength of the horse,
nor his delight in the legs of the warrior;
the LORD delights in those who fear him,
who put their hope in his unfailing love.
Extol the LORD, Jerusalem;
praise your God, Zion (NIV).
I grew up on a farm on the prairies. During the hot summer it was not unusual for rain to be in short supply, but rain is essential for growing field crops of any kind.
As a child one of my favorite garden projects was growing watermelons. Two key ingredients are needed if you want to grow watermelons: lots of direct sunlight and a plentiful supply of water. I could count on the sunlight pouring down from the sky, but rain was far less dependable. There may be afternoon thundershowers, but they were often of the hit and miss variety. All too often on the thundershower scoreboard, we scored a miss. In such conditions daily watering was essential.
Each of my watermelon plants could count on a daily supply of a gallon of water. Barring a major downpour, I was their supplier. I brought my plants pails of water from the well. By September all the hard work of summer began to pay off. The garden-grown watermelons were delicious and juicy beyond compare.
Today’s reading from Psalm 147 reminds us that the LORD is our supplier. He covers the sky with clouds; he supplies the earth with rain and makes grass grow on the hills.
The LORD is the ultimate supplier of all things, rain and sunshine and life itself. All He asks is that we fear Him—honor Him with the respect He deserves. The LORD delights in those who fear him, who put their hope in his unfailing love.
I need a daily supplier. I need a supply of daily bread—those necessary things that sustain life. But beyond that, I also need less tangible things like love, encouragement and peace of mind. Sometimes those things fall from the sky. But there are other times when I need to go to the well—the well of my salvation. There is a supply of grace stored up there for me to access. “The LORD, the LORD himself, is my strength and my defense; he has become my salvation.” With joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation (Isaiah 12:2b-3).
Response: LORD God, I am thankful that you are my supplier. You provide for all my needs and many of my desires as well. Your grace is abundant. You are my salvation and source of joy. Amen.
Your Turn: Do you have a steady supplier? Do you have access to the well of salvation?
Reading: Psalm 140
Those who surround me proudly rear their heads;
may the mischief of their lips engulf them.
May burning coals fall on them;
may they be thrown into the fire,
into miry pits, never to rise.
May slanderers not be established in the land;
may disaster hunt down the violent.
I know that the LORD secures justice for the poor
and upholds the cause of the needy.
Surely the righteous will praise your name,
and the upright will live in your presence (NIV).
Here is an observation I have made as a result of visiting and speaking at a wide variety of churches across this continent. Christians and Christian churches in North America appear to fall into two broad camps: Those that are primarily concerned about personal salvation, and those that are concerned mainly about social justice.
There’s often a considerable amount of tension between these two camps. Both are convinced they are doing the will of God as revealed in the scriptures, and they can quote chapter and verse to back up their particular perspective. So which position is correct?
The short answer is they are both right. The eternal destination of your soul is of primary importance, but love and compassion for others is central to the entire mission of Jesus, and the full scope of the scriptures. Today’s reading from Psalm 140 reminds that issues of justice and fairness rank high with the LORD. I know that the LORD secures justice for the poor and upholds the cause of the needy.
John, the apostle, gives us this perspective: This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters. If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in that person? Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth (1 John 3:16-18).
It got very messy when Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. A lot of blood was spilled. It was brutal beyond measure—humiliation and suffering beyond measure. Our personal salvation was messy—in every way a high cost affair. Are we willing to do the same for others? That’s what John is saying when he writes and we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters. Now there’s a high calling. Do you want to change the world? It starts with a change in your heart. Jesus is in the heart changing business. I need an appointment with him. What about you?
Response: LORD God, I am selfish by nature. It’s not natural for me to think of others first. Help me to change. I want to genuinely care about others. Show me what I can to help because Jesus cares. Amen.
Your Turn: Should the church be involved in social justice issues or just stick to the salvation message?
I will praise Him!
Yes, my soul, find rest in God;
my hope comes from him.
Truly he is my rock and my salvation;
he is my fortress, I will not be shaken.
My salvation and my honor depend on God;
he is my mighty rock, my refuge.
Trust in him at all times, you people;
pour out your hearts to him,
for God is our refuge.
(Psalm 62:5-8, NIV)
I will praise Him!
Create in me a pure heart, O God,
and renew a steadfast spirit within me.
Do not cast me from your presence
or take your Holy Spirit from me.
Restore to me the joy of your salvation
and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.
(Psalm 51:10-12, NIV)
Reading: Psalm 135
He struck down the firstborn of Egypt,
the firstborn of people and animals.
He sent his signs and wonders into your midst, Egypt,
against Pharaoh and all his servants.
He struck down many nations
and killed mighty kings—
Sihon king of the Amorites,
Og king of Bashan,
and all the kings of Canaan—
and he gave their land as an inheritance,
an inheritance to his people Israel.
Your name, LORD, endures forever,
your renown, LORD, through all generations.
For the LORD will vindicate his people
and have compassion on his servants (NIV).
Psalm 135 began with a call for the LORD’s people to praise Him. For the LORD has chosen Jacob to be his own, Israel to be his treasured possession.
In today’s reading, the psalmist recounts how Israel came to be God’s treasured possession. It happened as the result of a great cosmic struggle. The descendants of the patriarch Israel (who was also called Jacob) were enslaved in Egypt. There they toiled under cruel taskmasters until by the hand of Moses the LORD sent his signs and wonders into their midst. After ten terrible plagues, Pharaoh finally relented and set God’s people free. Nevertheless, Pharaoh changed his mind and sent his army to pursue Israel. Again at the Red Sea, the LORD intervened. He parted the sea, for His chosen people, but brought it crashing down upon Egypt’s army.
Make no mistake; you too are part of a great cosmic struggle. You were born into a world that is under the control of Satan. Jesus called our adversary the ruler, or prince of this world (John 16:11). We were born under Satan’s authority and within his domain just as the Hebrew children were born into a state slavery in the land of Egypt. As we grow up, Satan has his taskmasters, who set us to work doing his bidding. It begins as we bow to peer pressure, but soon those things we choose begin to assert control. We can soon find ourselves in a downward spiral, imprisoned by sinful habits.
Only Jesus can liberate us from this bondage. At the cross he paid the full price for our redemption. Crossing the Red Sea foreshadows the New Testament sacrament of baptism. It signals our break with the old life—the old bondage. See 1 Corinthians 10:1-4. We have a new master now. His name is Jesus. He is the great liberator. He liberates us from the bondage of sin, and the taunts of the Accuser, who insists that we will never be good enough. But Jesus is our sufficiency. By his grace we are saved.
Response: Father God, I thank you for liberation. Through Jesus you freed me from the bondage of sin. I am eternally grateful. Fill me with the joy of your salvation. You saved me. Hallelujah! Amen.
Your Turn: Have you been liberated from the bondage of sin?
Reading: Psalm 116
I trusted in the LORD when I said,
“I am greatly afflicted”;
in my alarm I said, “Everyone is a liar.”
What shall I return to the LORD
for all his goodness to me?
I will lift up the cup of salvation
and call on the name of the LORD.
I will fulfill my vows to the LORD
in the presence of all his people (NIV).
This morning started out a bit different. Rather than beginning my day with a hot cup of coffee, I had a few sips of water and then headed off for some blood tests. I missed that cup of coffee, but in reality going without it was no great hardship. Some view their morning shot of caffeine like a cup of salvation—early morning salvation. Today’s reading from Psalm 116 speaks of the cup of salvation. I’m sure the psalmist wasn’t speaking of his morning cup of java. What was he speaking of?
The psalmist lifts up the cup of salvation and calls on the name of the LORD in response to this question: What shall I return to the LORD for all his goodness to me? The psalmist lifts up his cup as an expression of thanksgiving to the LORD for the salvation he has received from God.
But salvation came at a price. To purchase our salvation, Jesus lifted up a cup and brought it to his lips. It was a cup of unimaginable suffering. In the Garden of Gethsemane he prayed, “Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done” (Luke 22:42). He was referring to the anguish he would endure. In the hours that followed, Jesus drained that cup of suffering dry, even as his body was drained of blood on a cruel Roman cross.
In the great plan of redemption, Jesus’ cup of suffering became for us a cup of salvation. He drank it down to save us from the cruel consequences of our sin. Jesus assumed the full penalty of our disobedience, rebellion and devious ways. But now by faith, we can become active recipients of the salvation that he won on our behalf.
The next time you bring the communion cup to your lips you are remembering—acknowledging in a tangible way—that Jesus’ blood was shed for you. Salvation came through a cup of suffering. We can rejoice in that truth because early on a Sunday morning Jesus’ dead body was jolted back to life. He was resurrected by the power of the Father, and one day the body of every believer will be resurrected too.
Tomorrow morning, I’ll return to my usual routine and I’ll enjoy my hot cup of coffee. But the cup I savour most is the cup the Lord provides—the cup of salvation.
Response: Lord Jesus, I thank you for your sacrifice. You gave yourself fully for me. On a crude wooden cross you purchased my salvation. Today, help me fulfill my vows to the LORD. Amen.
Your Turn: Which cup do you appreciate most?