Reading: Psalm 66
I will come to your temple with burnt offerings
and fulfill my vows to you—
vows my lips promised and my mouth spoke
when I was in trouble.
I will sacrifice fat animals to you
and an offering of rams;
I will offer bulls and goats
Come and hear, all you who fear God;
let me tell you what he has done for me.
I cried out to him with my mouth;
his praise was on my tongue.
If I had cherished sin in my heart,
the Lord would not have listened;
but God has surely listened
and has heard my prayer.
Praise be to God,
who has not rejected my prayer
or withheld his love from me! (NIV)
I grew up in a family that prayed. But that statement might give you the wrong impression. It might be more accurate to say, “I grew up in a family that religiously recited prayers.”
We recited a common table prayer before every meal and the Lord’s Prayer before breakfast. My mother taught me a very scary bedtime prayer: Now I lay me down to sleep; I pray the Lord my soul to keep. If I should die before I wake, I pray the Lord my soul to take. Amen.
To a six-year-old, that’s a scary prayer. It’s enough to keep you awake lest your soul be carried off in the night, while you’re off in la-la land.
I don’t think I really prayed—prayed from the heart—until the end of my grade four school year. The memory is still fresh in my mind. The little one-room country school I attended was closing. In September I would be bussed to the big school in town. This change was frightening. The familiar was being taken away and in its place was something big, strange and intimidating. Could I survive there? Could I thrive there? These thoughts troubled me.
On my last walk home from my country school, I left the country road and walked into a grove of poplars. That’s where I prayed—not a meaningless recited prayer—but a prayer from my heart to God. I asked for wisdom, strength and God’s favour for the challenging year ahead. God answered. After all these years I can say, “Praise be to God, who has not rejected my prayer or withheld his love from me!”
Response: LORD God, thank you for answering prayer—not once but thousands of times. Again and again you have proven your love for me. You are the God who hears me. Amen.
Your Turn: When did you learn to pray from the heart? Do you remember the occasion?
Reading: Psalm 38
All my longings lie open before you, LORD;
my sighing is not hidden from you.
My heart pounds, my strength fails me;
even the light has gone from my eyes.
My friends and companions avoid me because of my wounds;
my neighbors stay far away.
Those who want to kill me set their traps,
those who would harm me talk of my ruin;
all day long they scheme and lie.
I am like the deaf, who cannot hear,
like the mute, who cannot speak;
I have become like one who does not hear,
whose mouth can offer no reply.
LORD, I wait for you; you will answer, LORD my God.
For I said, “Do not let them gloat
or exalt themselves over me when my feet slip” (NIV).
Here in Psalm 38, David has brought all his troubles before the LORD. He laments over his sin and the downcast state in which he finds himself. Hear his confession: All my longings lie open before you, LORD; my sighing is not hidden from you. My heart pounds, my strength fails me; even the light has gone from my eyes.
In humble prayer David has come before a God who always hears and sees. God hears and sees even when we wish He could not. He sees our triumphs and our failures, our victories over temptation and our slide into defeat. He hears every idle word and understands every crass and selfish thought. The LORD sees and hears. He saw Adam’s sin in the Garden before He met with him in the cool of the evening. God sees our sins long before we bow in repentance.
God sees and hears all we say and do. This should bring comfort to the soul in distress and a healthy fear to the soul tempted to sin. All my longings lie open before you, LORD: the wholesome longings and those that spring from impure motives. The LORD sees my needs and my wants, my hopes and my dreams, but more than that, God understands my motives. David brought all of this before the LORD and so should we.
Though we may not see the pain of those around us, God sees our suffering. Though we may be deaf to the needs of others, God is not deaf to our plea for help. Though we may stand mute when others need defense or encouragement, our God speaks. He does not remain silent. His Spirit speaks even to you—even to me.
Response: LORD God, speak to me when I am downcast. Lift me when I am in need. Forgive me when I fail. You are my help and my strength. LORD, I wait for you; you will answer, LORD my God. Amen.
Your Turn: How has the all-hearing, all-seeing God helped you? Take a moment to reflect on how the LORD has helped you in the past.
America, attack, Christian, David, enemies, forgiveness, forgving, Gaza, Holy Land, Israel, Jesus, peace, peacemakers, Philistines, retaliation, rockets, strength, turning the other cheek, war, weakness
Reading: Psalm 35
LORD, you have seen this; do not be silent.
Do not be far from me, Lord.
Awake, and rise to my defense!
Contend for me, my God and Lord.
Vindicate me in your righteousness, LORD my God;
do not let them gloat over me.
Do not let them think, “Aha, just what we wanted!”
or say, “We have swallowed him up” (NIV).
There’s an old saying, “The more things change, the more they stay the same.” That certainly is true of the conflict in the Holy Land. About 3,000 years ago, in David’s time the Kingdom of Israel was in a struggle for survival. Chief among its enemies were the Philistines along the Gaza coast. On the day when I originally wrote this post, Israel’s chief enemy Hamas was firing rockets into Israel from the Gaza coast.
David’s words from Psalm 35 have a present day resonance. LORD, you have seen this; do not be silent. Do not be far from me, Lord. Awake, and rise to my defense! Contend for me, my God and Lord. Many in present day Israel are praying this prayer with the fervour of those who are being attacked.
But the residents of Gaza could pray this prayer with equal fervour. Their homes and businesses are also under bombardment. Where is God in all this suffering? Whose side is He on? Many in the Christian community affirm with great confidence that God is on the side of Israel. Does that make God complicit in the deaths of innocent children in Gaza?
Jesus gave this counsel to his disciples, “You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’ But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also” (Matthew 5:38-39). Present day Israel (and America for that matter) has a well-established policy of hard-hitting retaliation when attacked. What are the long term consequences of this policy? Is the conflict resolved or is it inflamed?
Jesus’ admonition to turn the other cheek goes unheeded. Most feel that turning the other cheek implies weakness. In reality it requires far more strength, but in the end it yields the peaceable fruit of righteousness—not a righteousness that insists on its own way—but a righteousness that sees both sides of an issue and works hard for peace and reconciliation.
Jesus asks us to do the far harder thing. Retaliation is easy. It’s the natural response. Forgiving when we are wronged, that requires far more effort. Whose side is God on? He is on the side of peace. That’s something worth fighting for.
Response: Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God (Matthew 5:9). LORD God, help me to be a local peacemaker in my world today—someone who builds bridges between people and communities. Amen.
Your Turn: Forgiveness and turning the other cheek works on a personal level. Can it work on an international level as well?
I will praise Him!
The LORD reigns, he is robed in majesty;
the LORD is robed in majesty and armed with strength;
indeed, the world is established, firm and secure.
Your throne was established long ago;
you are from all eternity.
(Psalm 93:1-2, NIV)
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 21
For the director of music. A psalm of David.
The king rejoices in your strength, LORD.
How great is his joy in the victories you give!
You have granted him his heart’s desire
and have not withheld the request of his lips.
You came to greet him with rich blessings
and placed a crown of pure gold on his head.
He asked you for life, and you gave it to him—
length of days, forever and ever.
Through the victories you gave, his glory is great;
you have bestowed on him splendor and majesty.
Surely you have granted him unending blessings
and made him glad with the joy of your presence.
For the king trusts in the LORD;
through the unfailing love of the Most High
he will not be shaken (NIV).
The greatest test of a man’s character does not come during times of failure and defeat, but rather during times of success and victory. The higher a person rises the more detached he becomes from the common man’s reality. The historian Lord Acton observed that “Power corrupts; absolute power corrupts absolutely.”
Despite much opposition, conflict and affliction, David, the shepherd boy, became the King of Israel. David’s character was severely tested as he wandered as a fugitive in the wilderness, but greater testing lay ahead. David’s moral failure came at the pinnacle of his success. He passed the test in the wilderness, but failed the test in the throne room. Nothing tests a man’s mettle like success.
Despite this weakness, David knew where his strength lay. His strength came from the LORD. He knew the true source of his success. Here in Psalm 21 he testifies to why he rose to prominence: The king rejoices in your strength, LORD. How great is his joy in the victories you give!
When we achieve success, we need to cast our mind back to the reason for that success. It’s interesting to note that David did not take the credit for his victories. He attributed his accomplishments to the LORD. This is contrary to human nature. I am apt to crow about my triumphs, rather than give the credit to God. The truth is my abilities come from God and any success I achieve comes as a gift from Him. For promotion and power come from nowhere on earth, but only from God. He promotes one and deposes another (Psalm 75:6-7, TLB)
Response: Heavenly Father, help me to rightly handle the success that you bring. Lord Jesus, you are my victory over death, hell and the grave. Keep me thankful. You are more wonderful than I can imagine. I praise you. I owe any success I have achieved to you. Amen.
Your Turn: What personal success can you thank God for today? Are you giving credit where credit is due?