Reading: Psalm 145
The LORD is gracious and compassionate,
slow to anger and rich in love.
The LORD is good to all;
he has compassion on all he has made.
All your works praise you, LORD;
your faithful people extol you.
They tell of the glory of your kingdom
and speak of your might,
so that all people may know of your mighty acts
and the glorious splendor of your kingdom.
Your kingdom is an everlasting kingdom,
and your dominion endures through all generations (NIV).
Adolf Hitler boasted that his rise to power would lead to the thousand-year reign of the Third Reich. Instead, his diabolical reign of terror came to an end after twelve years with millions dead and Europe lying in ruins. His brand of race-based nationalism ended in an unparalleled catastrophe.
Where did Hitler get his idea of a thousand-year reign? Undoubtedly, he stole the concept from the millennial rule of Christ, which is described in the revelation of Jesus Christ to John. Blessed and holy are those who share in the first resurrection. The second death has no power over them, but they will be priests of God and of Christ and will reign with him for a thousand years (Revelation 20:6).
The contrast between the reign of Christ and his kingdom, and the reign of a tyrant like Hitler is stunning. In today’s reading from Psalm 145 we catch a glimpse of the reign of God. All your works praise you, LORD; your faithful people extol you. They tell of the glory of your kingdom and speak of your might, so that all people may know of your mighty acts and the glorious splendor of your kingdom.
What makes the reign of God so wonderful—so glorious? The answer lies in the character of the King. The LORD is gracious and compassionate; slow to anger and rich in love. The LORD is good to all; he has compassion on all he has made.
Yes, the LORD is good to all. He is good even to the wayward and disobedient, including me. He shows compassion to those who don’t deserve it. His compassion isn’t based on race. But even more surprising, it’s not based on conduct or performance; for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23). No, God’s compassion looks beyond that. He is the God of grace—unmerited favor.
This unmerited favor flows from a King whose blood flowed to save us—flowed to purchase our redemption. A blood stained cross stood on a hill to declare these words to the world: The LORD is gracious and compassionate; slow to anger and rich in love. Have you surrendered to His love?
Response: LORD God, I thank you that I am a citizen of your kingdom. Your grace and compassion have won my heart. I want to serve you. Your dominion endures through all generations. I praise you. Amen.
Your Turn: Are you a citizen of the LORD’s kingdom—His everlasting kingdom?
Reading: Psalm 145
A psalm of praise. Of David.
I will exalt you, my God the King;
I will praise your name for ever and ever.
Every day I will praise you
and extol your name for ever and ever.
Great is the LORD and most worthy of praise;
his greatness no one can fathom.
One generation commends your works to another;
they tell of your mighty acts.
They speak of the glorious splendor of your majesty—
and I will meditate on your wonderful works.
They tell of the power of your awesome works—
and I will proclaim your great deeds.
They celebrate your abundant goodness
and joyfully sing of your righteousness (NIV).
Have you ever tried to lift up something that is far too heavy for you? As a boy I remember trying to pick up a rock that was heavier than me. It’s a good thing that young bodies are resilient because I’m sure I would seriously harm myself, if I tried the same thing today.
If I can’t lift up a heavy rock, how can I possibly lift up God? But that is precisely what David did and is calling me to do in Psalm 145. David begins with these words: I will exalt you, my God the King; I will praise your name for ever and ever.
The key word as we begin this psalm is the word exalt. Exalt means to lift, elevate, raise or boost. How can we as mere more mortals lift, elevate, raise or boost God, the creator of the universe? Is God feeling down? Does the Almighty need me to lift Him up—to give Him a little boost? That sounds absurd, and it is absurd.
Yet here and throughout the psalms we are encouraged to praise the LORD. Does the LORD suffer from a fragile ego? Is that why He wants us to praise Him? No, that can’t be the reason we see these frequent admonitions to praise God. We can’t exalt God higher than He already is. Will praising God make Him one scintilla more holy, powerful, magnificent or loving? Of course not. The only one who is changed by praising God is us. The only one who is lifted up by exalting the LORD is you and me.
We are lifted up by lifting others. It has always been this way. Help someone, and we ourselves are helped. That’s how life works. That’s how praising God works. In this life of hardship and struggles, praise lifts my head and my heart from its burdens. I am lifted up when I lift the LORD up. No one lifts like Him!
Response: LORD God, I just want to praise you. Great is the LORD and most worthy of praise; his greatness no one can fathom. I will meditate on your wonderful works. You are the lifter of my head. Amen.
Your Turn: Does heartfelt praise for the LORD fill you with joy? Do you need a lift today?
I will praise Him!
Sing to God, you kingdoms of the earth,
sing praise to the Lord,
to him who rides across the highest heavens, the ancient heavens,
who thunders with mighty voice.
Proclaim the power of God,
whose majesty is over Israel,
whose power is in the heavens.
You, God, are awesome in your sanctuary;
the God of Israel gives power and strength to his people.
Praise be to God!
(Psalm 68:32-35, NIV)
I will praise Him!
Sing to God, sing in praise of his name,
extol him who rides on the clouds;
rejoice before him—his name is the LORD.
A father to the fatherless, a defender of widows,
is God in his holy dwelling.
God sets the lonely in families,
he leads out the prisoners with singing;
but the rebellious live in a sun-scorched land.
(Psalm 68:4-6, NIV)
Reading: Psalm 142
I cry to you, LORD;
I say, “You are my refuge,
my portion in the land of the living.”
Listen to my cry, for I am in desperate need;
rescue me from those who pursue me,
for they are too strong for me.
Set me free from my prison,
that I may praise your name.
Then the righteous will gather about me
because of your goodness to me (NIV).
Though I have visited prisoners, I have never been imprisoned, at least not in the classic sense of imprisonment. But in the broader meaning of the word, we all have been confined to prisons—prisons of the mind. Some of us are prisoners of counterproductive habits, or prisoners within crippling relationships that hinder personal growth and fulfillment. Prisons come in many forms. Some of them are disguised as places of personal liberty, but all too often the thing we freely choose can become a cruel slave master.
When David prayed the words of this psalm, he was not in a prison. He was confined to a cave or the immediate region around a cave, because he was a fugitive from King Saul who was trying to kill him. He voices this prayer: Listen to my cry, for I am in desperate need; rescue me from those who pursue me, for they are too strong for me. Set me free from my prison that I may praise your name.
Are you in a prison? Is fear of discovery locking you up? Are you trapped in habits, addictions or thought patterns that are too strong for you?
David was in a weak and vulnerable position. Saul, his personal enemy had an entire army on his side. For the second time in his life, David was in what we call the classic David and Goliath situation. He was outnumbered and in every way the advantage belonged to his opponent.
In such adverse circumstances we need God on our side. We need the resources of heaven to tip the scale in our favor. That is precisely what happened in David’s case. The LORD arranged situations that gave all the advantage to David. David ended up sparing Saul’s life on two occasions. For a full account read 1 Samuel 24 & 26.
David ends this psalm with an affirmation of his faith in God. Set me free from my prison that I may praise your name. Then the righteous will gather about me because of your goodness to me. That is exactly what happened. When the LORD set David free from his prison, righteous men took note, and they rallied around David as their leader because they saw that the LORD was with him.
Response: LORD God, set me free from the negative habits and thought patterns that imprison me. Help me identify them one by one, and then help me gain the victory over them in the power of Jesus. Amen.
Your Turn: Can you identify habits or thought patterns that harm your relationships with others?
Reading: Psalm 142
A maskil of David. When he was in the cave. A prayer.
I cry aloud to the LORD;
I lift up my voice to the LORD for mercy.
I pour out before him my complaint;
before him I tell my trouble.
When my spirit grows faint within me,
it is you who watch over my way.
In the path where I walk people have hidden a snare for me.
Look and see, there is no one at my right hand;
no one is concerned for me.
I have no refuge; no one cares for my life (NIV).
Have you been in a cave? Despite what we read and know about cavemen, caves are not great living spaces. They are dark and dank. They may be fine places to retreat to in times of mortal danger, but they leave much to be desired as a permanent habitation.In desperate times, people hide in caves. That’s where David found himself as he hid from his jealous master, King Saul. Through no fault of his own, Saul attacked David and repeatedly tried to kill him. See 1 Samuel 19:9-24. Eventually, David fled to a cave in the Desert of En Gedi. This psalm, Psalm 142, was born in a desolate place—a cave in the Desert of En Gedi. See 1 Samuel 24.
Here David hit rock bottom. From this low point in his life he called out to the LORD with these words: I cry aloud to the LORD; I lift up my voice to the LORD for mercy. I pour out before him my complaint; before him I tell my trouble.
The Psalms are the prayer book of the Bible. With this psalm David provides us with an excellent example of prayer—prayer from the lowest position—the position of weakness and vulnerability. The future looked bleak for David. He was living the precarious life of a fugitive. At any time, he could be discovered or betrayed. Would today be his last day?
Where did David take his troubles? He took them to the LORD.
Where do you go with your troubles? Where do you take your complaints? The LORD’s complaint department is open for business. There you will find a listening ear.
There is a host of things that are unfair in this life—sometimes brutally unfair. Are we supposed to suppress our outrage? Should we hide our hurt and pretend that all is well, while on the inside the bottom is falling out of our life? No. A thousand times, no! Take it to the LORD in prayer. That’s what David did. He cried out to his God, and his God answered.
Response: LORD God, when I reach a low point you are there. Hear me when I am down. I bring my troubles and sorrows to you. They are more than I can bear. Jesus, be my burden bearer. Amen.
Your Turn: Are you in a cave or a desert place? Take some time to call out to God.
Reading: Psalm 141
Their rulers will be thrown down from the cliffs,
and the wicked will learn that my words were well spoken.
They will say, “As one plows and breaks up the earth,
so our bones have been scattered at the mouth of the grave.”
But my eyes are fixed on you, Sovereign LORD;
in you I take refuge—do not give me over to death.
Keep me safe from the traps set by evildoers,
from the snares they have laid for me.
Let the wicked fall into their own nets,
while I pass by in safety (NIV).
King David lived in treacherous times, and the opening lines from today’s reading reflect that reality. In fact, in its entirety Psalm 141 is a prayer for protection and personal safety. David had enemies who were eager to see his demise.
On a personal level the same is true for every redeemed believer. The apostle Peter provides us with this reminder: Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour (1 Peter 5:8). Our very survival depends on heeding Peter’s advice.
David pleads for safety from the traps and snares that have been set for him. This brings to mind the word circumspect. As we move forward in life, we should be alert and circumspect. Circumspect is actually a compound Latin word. The circum portion of the word means around, or literally in a circle. The spect portion of the word means to look or see; this is the root for words such as spectacle or inspect. The circumspect person is looking around, so he does not step into the snares of the enemy.
But if we are truly circumspect, we don’t only look down for snares and traps. It is essential that we also look up. David expresses this thought with these words. But my eyes are fixed on you, Sovereign LORD; in you I take refuge—do not give me over to death.
The writer of Hebrews urges us on with these words: Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart (Hebrews 12:1-3).
During this season, when we reflect on Christ’s suffering and death, we need eyes that are fixed on him. He knows where the snares are, and he is well able to deliver us from the jaws of the enemy.
Response: Sovereign LORD, I commit my thoughts and ways to you. Guide me in the way of holiness for your name’s sake. I fix my eyes on you, Jesus, babe in a manger, suffering Savior, and risen Lord. Amen.
Your Turn: How alert are you to the devil’s tactics? Are you fixing your eyes on Jesus?
Reading: Psalm 141
A psalm of David.
I call to you, LORD, come quickly to me;
hear me when I call to you.
May my prayer be set before you like incense;
may the lifting up of my hands be like the evening sacrifice.
Set a guard over my mouth, LORD;
keep watch over the door of my lips.
Do not let my heart be drawn to what is evil
so that I take part in wicked deeds
along with those who are evildoers;
do not let me eat their delicacies (NIV).
Like so many of the psalms, Psalm 41 is a conversation with God—a prayer to the LORD—the Holy One. Prayer should be part of our daily routine, as routine as getting out of bed in the morning, and as regular as our evening meal. David, the psalmist, expresses this thought with these words: May my prayer be set before you like incense; may the lifting up of my hands be like the evening sacrifice.
In his revelation of the throne room of God, John saw our prayers being offered as incense before Jesus, the Lamb of God. And when he had taken it [the scroll], the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb. Each one had a harp and they were holding golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of God’s people (Revelations 5:8).
I find it fascinating to view our prayers being offered up in a tangible way as incense—a pleasing aroma to the LORD. See Numbers 15:1-15.
David continues his prayer with this petition: Set a guard over my mouth, LORD; keep watch over the door of my lips.
Often my mouth gets me in trouble. I say I’ll do something, and then don’t follow through. I let others down. In frustration I blurt out words that I later regret. James, the brother of Jesus, provides us with this advice. My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires (James 1:19-20).
I need a guard over my mouth. This is true in my daily conversation with others, but it’s also true of my conversations with God. I think we often pray rash prayers—prayers that in His mercy God does not answer. I think I know what is best for me only to discover after the fact, that what I thought would be a blessing is a huge detriment. My prayers can be mixed with the stench of human flesh.
Response: LORD, I want my prayers to be like sweet incense to you. Help me to pray according to your will. That means listening for your voice before I blurt out my requests. Guide my thoughts. Amen.
Your Turn: How careful are you with your prayers? Can we be too cautious in prayer?
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?