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Archive for the ‘Psalms Commentary/Devotional’ Category

This is my first attempt at uploading audio teaching. This is being done through SoundCloud – so let’s see how it works. If you like what you hear, you may want to “follow” me on SoundCloud as Prayerlogue – or follow my blog where I will also post the teaching.

 

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How hard is it for you to see God at work in today’s culture?

Have you ever been discouraged about a turn of events? Not just when bad things happen to good people, but when very good things seem to be happening to very bad or immoral people? When it seems like justice will never be done, and the wicked get away with (sometimes literal) murder?

If you’ve ever felt that way (and who hasn’t), then you know exactly how the Psalmist felt in Psalm 73.

Psalm 73, verses 1-3, begins with what I’ve often called a “Yeah, but…” statement. The Psalmist says (to paraphrase), “Yeah I know that God is good to Israel, and especially to those with a clean and pure heart, but this is what had happened to me…” Then, he spends the next 13 verses despairing over how the wicked are getting away with everything, and, no matter how clean (pure) he tries to be, he still has problems!

“Until…” until verse 17 when we reach the “tuning point” in the Psalm.

In verse 17, we see the Psalmist’s “Ah-ha!” moment when he says, in essence, “I felt this way about what I saw, until I went into the sanctuary of God, then I perceived (or understood) their end.” Once he took his anguish to God, then his eyes were opened. Even though he was in despair, he knew enough, believed enough, to take (dare we say “drag”) his struggle into the sanctuary.  The Psalmist’s ultimate statement of faith in this Psalm is that God is good to Israel, as well as to those who have a pure heart, and when they seek God’s face, God will let them “see” Him. This is, in essence, the same thing that Jesus says in Matthew 5:8, “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.”

The Greek word for pure is kat-har-os. It means clear, pure or unalloyed. It carries with it a sense of being untainted or free from pollution. The one who is “pure in heart” will have no mixed emotions, no ulterior motives, and does not “serve two masters” (cf Matthew 6:24). When one’s heart is pure, they will be allowed to “see God.” They will not just “see God” to look at Him, or see God someday in heaven, but will see, understand, be aware, of God at work in the here and now.

They will be able to see God’s mighty hand in the circumstances of everyday life so clearly that, when others are saying “luck” or “karma” or “coincidence,” the pure in heart will be saying, “No, it’s God!” And they will know, because they will see!

 

Prayer: Almighty God, we ask that in our times of struggle You will lead us to Your sanctuary and open our eyes to see You at work. Amen.

 

 

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A Thanksgiving Devotional

Psalm 100

 

A Psalm for Thanksgiving.

1: Shout joyfully to the LORD, all the earth.

2:  Serve the LORD with gladness; Come before Him with joyful singing.

3:  Know that the LORD Himself is God; It is He who has made us, and not we ourselves; We are His people and the sheep of His pasture.

4:  Enter His gates with thanksgiving And His courts with praise. Give thanks to Him, bless His name.

5:  For the LORD is good; His lovingkindness is everlasting And His faithfulness to all generations. (NASB)

 

It’s amazing how things stick with you from your childhood. When I think of Thanksgiving, I always think of Psalm 100. When I was in the 2nd grade, we had to memorize Psalm 100 for a PTA program. So, I always equate the two.

This Psalm is a “feel good” Psalm. We read it and we “feel good”. But, when we examine it – when we meditate on it, it has so much more to say.

I don’t know about you, but I’m a very “logically minded” person – I want to know how things work, and why they are done. When my Mother wrote out her recipes for chicken ‘n dumplins and stack cake, I not only wanted the ingredients for the dish – I wanted to know why things were done the way they were. I’m the same way with scripture – it’s not enough for me to know that things are done; or how they’re done – I want to know why! This Psalm not only teaches us to give thanks – but how – and why.

The Psalm is divided into 2 sections: verses 1-3 and verses 4-5. In the first section we must come before the Lord. Verses 1-3a tell us how.

  • Verse 1: First of all we must “shout” (or “Make a joyful noise” as the KJV puts it.)
  • Who is to do this? “All the earth” (or “All ye lands.” KJV)

Everyone and every bit of creation is to (verse 2a):

  • “Serve the Lord”

How?

  • “With Gladness!”

Everyone and every bit of creation is to (verse 2b):

  • “Come before Him.”

How?

  • “With joyful singing.”

Everyone and every bit of creation is to (verse 3a):

  • “Know” – acknowledge – “that The Lord, He is God;”

Why do these things? Because He is our Creator (verse 3b):

  • “It is He who has made us, and not we ourselves;”

And (verse 3c):

  • “We are His people and the sheep of His pasture.”

So what does that really mean?

First – He is God (verse 3a)

Second – He is creator (verse 3b)

Third – He is owner (verse 3c)

Verses 4-5 tell us that not only are we to come before the Lord – but that we may; that we are allowed to come into His very presence! Again, we have what and how to do this, as well as why.

First we are to “enter His gates” – to come just inside the gate of the gardens of the palace.

How?

  • “With thanksgiving,” literally, with a thank offering.

And

  • We are to enter “His courts” – the actual grounds of the gardens.

How?

  • “With praise!” We are to extol and praise our God as we enter.

And

  • We must “Bless His name.” The Hebrew word for name is “Shem” which means a person’s character or authority – in other words – their very essence!

 

Think of it this way. We can come to the Palace, come through the door, come into the yard and come right up to His name – His very being! Hebrews 4:16 tells us that because Jesus (our Great High Priest) has triumphantly entered the realm of Heaven, we are allowed to not only come into the throne room, but we can come boldly! That’s not arrogantly – but with confidence – because Jesus is there!

And why are we allowed to do this? Verse 5: “For the Lord is good!” (Remember Jesus said, “There is none good but God.” Mark 10:18)

How is His goodness evidenced?

  • His lovingkindness (“His mercy” KJV), His hesed is everlasting. Ever-lasting; it lasts forever, through all of eternity.
  • And His faithfulness (“His truth endures” KJV) to all generations.

From the time of the Psalmist – to the time of the Saviour – to the time of the Church – to the day of His return, you can count on the Faithfulness of God.

And that is why we must thank Him!

Epilogue

Although I had most of these notes in my Bible, I actually wrote this meditation one day while sitting in the Target parking lot waiting for a dentist appointment. When I pulled out from the parking lot a song came on the radio that melted my heart. The song was, “The Wonder of it All”.

“O the wonder of it all, that God loves me…”

Tears came to my eyes along with the affirmation – “Yes! The wonder of it all, that God loves even me…”

May you have a glorious Thanksgiving!

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Prayer of Psalm 139

 

(After reading Psalm 139)

 

There is no greater place to be

than in the presence of the Lord.

There is no more fearful place to be

than in the presence of the Lord.

There is no more comforting place to be

than in the presence of the Lord.

And because I know

That God never changes

the difference has to be

In me.

 

O God! What do I bring

when I come into Your presence?

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Prayer – In the Time of Despair

You can read scripture just as well as I can, but let me direct you today to Psalm 6. I was planning on studying Psalm 6 yesterday, but God (in His Grace) directed me another way yesterday morning. Then coming to it today I found that this Word would not have spoken to me yesterday as it did this morning. I needed to hear it fresh today.

The weight seemed a little heavier this morning in praying for others, and I began to wonder if I was (like a friend says) “just worrying before the Lord” instead of really praying. Is it naivety to simply say, “You handle it Lord”? Am I just hiding my head in the sand and pretending the troubles don’t exist, if I hand them over to God? What part am I supposed to be playing in all of this?

After batting this around for a while (without coming to any real peace, but simply surrendering it) I opened my Bible to Psalm 6, and God spoke to my heart, then said, “Share this, this morning. Someone else needs to hear it, too.”

First is the Psalm (to speak to you) and them the Psalm as I prayed it.

 

Psalm 6

O LORD, don’t rebuke me in Your anger or discipline me in Your rage.

Have compassion on me, LORD, for I am weak. Heal me, LORD, for my bones are in agony.

I am sick at heart. How long, O LORD, until You restore me?

Return, O LORD, and rescue me. Save me because of Your unfailing love.

For the dead do not remember You. Who can praise You from the grave?

I am worn out from sobbing. All night I flood my bed with weeping, drenching it with my tears.

My vision is blurred by grief; my eyes are worn out because of all my enemies.

Go away, all you who do evil, for the LORD has heard my weeping.

The LORD has heard my plea; the LORD will answer my prayer.

May all my enemies be disgraced and terrified. May they suddenly turn back in shame.

 

Prayer of Psalm 6

O LORD [please] don’t rebuke me in Your anger or discipline me in Your rage [although You have every reason to.]

[Please] Have compassion on me, LORD, for I am weak.

[Please] Heal me, LORD, for my bones are in agony [I am literally aching, and]

I am sick at heart [and so confused].

How long, O LORD, until You restore me [and give me some peace of mind]?

Return, O LORD, and rescue me [from this feeling of despair].

Save me [I pray] because of Your unfailing love [I have no right to ask, other than Your hesed.].

For the dead do not remember You. Who can praise You from the grave?

I am worn out from sobbing. [Oh God… I am so tired]

All night I flood my bed with weeping, drenching it with my tears. [There are even nights that I too, cry myself to sleep]

My vision is blurred by grief; [I can’t see any way out] my eyes are worn out because of all my enemies [there is just so much to contend with!]

            [But then! A breakthrough, and a sense of peace rushes over me, and I cry out]

Go away, all you who do evil, for the LORD HAS HEARD my weeping!!!

The LORD HAS HEARD my plea; the LORD WILL ANSWER my prayer.

            [Praise the Name of the Lord!]

May all my enemies [and every situation] be [as] disgraced and terrified [as I was]

May they suddenly turn back in shame [and as they do, my problems will be insignificant when compared to the Greatness of my God!]

 

O Father, I lift up to You those in despair this morning. We seem to do this over and over, Lord. Why can’t we simply “let go, and let God…”? Or, do we feel that that is too “simplistic”? Help us, Lord, for we are weak, and too blind at times to see Your presence. Open our eyes, as you did the servant of Elisha’s, to see Your mighty host surrounding us, and to know that You hold us in the palm of Your hand. In Jesus’ Name – Amen.

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On Sunday, September 17, 2001, the Sunday after the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Centers and the Pentagon, our pastor came to the pulpit, opened his bible and read, “The fool has said in his heart, there is no God…”  With those words, my heart was raised back up and I knew – God was (and is) in control. And so, this Psalm brings me great comfort.

 

Read the words to this Psalm.

(For the choir director. A Psalm of David.)

1, The fool has said in his heart, “There is no God.” They are corrupt, they have committed abominable deeds; There is no one who does good.  

2  The LORD has looked down from heaven upon the sons of men To see if there are any who understand, Who seek after God.

3  They have all turned aside, together they have become corrupt; There is no one who does good, not even one.

4  Do all the workers of wickedness not know, Who eat up my people as they eat bread, And do not call upon the Lord?

5  There they are in great dread, For God is with the righteous generation.

6  You would put to shame the counsel of the afflicted, But the LORD is his refuge.

7  Oh, that the salvation of Israel would come out of Zion! When the LORD restores His captive people, Jacob will rejoice, Israel will be glad.

 

Psalm 14 is a personal Psalm to bring comfort to the believer. Yahweh for the Jew is like “Jesus” for us. It is personal and it is comforting.

We can break this Psalm down this way:

~Verse 1 is an overview statement or a synopsis of the situation.

~Verses 2-3 details what it is that God sees

~Verses 4-6 bring an incredulous question followed by a faith-filled answer

~Verse 7 is a cry for help and a prophecy that is as sure as if it has already happened.

 

The Psalm starts out “The fool has said in his heart, there is no God…”  Do you remember about the heart? To the Jewish way of thinking it is the seat of emotion. It represents the whole person. Proverbs 23:7 says “As [a man] thinketh in his heart – so is he”. So essentially the fool in this Psalm is saying, by his actions, “there is no God…”

When we think of the word “fool” we may think of Jesus’ words in the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5:22. He said that we must never call someone a fool or we would be “in danger of fiery hell”. I remember once when I was little I called someone a fool and my mother hit the ceiling. “Don’t you ever call anyone a fool!” She was thinking of this scripture. However the word for “fool” that Jesus used is moros from which we get our word “moron”. It means to be “morally worthless” and we can never be the judge of a person’s worth.

The word in our text for today (and its parallel text, Psalm 53:1) is the word nabal which means “wickedly stupid”. It can refer to nations (Deuteronomy 32:6) or to an individual (1 Samuel 25:25 the story of a man whose name was literally “Nabal”). Think about this: The lifestyle exhibited by the person in Psalm 14:1b (They are corrupt, they have committed abominable deeds; There is no one who does good) bears witness to his state of being in 1a (“There is no God.”). He is indeed “wickedly stupid.” This person could also be described as a “practical atheist”; no matter what the mouth may profess, the heart produces actions that are a dead giveaway to one’s real intentions. The Psalmist describes them in three ways:

  • They are corrupt

This is the same word that was used in Genesis 6:12 to describe the condition of the world when God decided to destroy it by the flood

  • they have committed abominable deeds

God hates every sin – but some sins He hates more than others; some that are described as “abominable”. Psalm 5:6 said, “The Lord abhors the man of bloodshed and deceit”.

  • And then he said, “There is no one who does good.”

As Romans 3:23 tells us that all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.

That’s a pretty dismal assessment, if we left it at that, wouldn’t you say?

 

Next we see that “The LORD has looked down from heaven upon the sons of men To see if there are any who understand” are there any who “get it”? The word also means “to act wisely”. The Lord wants to know if there are any “Who seek after God.” Now – did God have to look around to see if there were any who were good? No, of course not, but this is a poetic way of putting it in a way that we can understand.

The LORD’s assessment of whether anyone is wise, if anyone seeks God is answered with a resounding “no” in verse 3 “They have all turned aside, together they have become corrupt; There is no one who does good, not even one.”

Then the LORD asks an incredulous question. “Do all the workers of wickedness not know, who eat up my people as they eat bread, and do not call upon the Lord?”

The CEB puts it this way “Are they [just] dumb?” But the fool’s actions seem to represent apathy toward God rather than ignorance.

However (verse 5) “There they are [these wicked and corrupt] in great dread, For God is with the righteous generation. Then the Lord says to them, “You would (or you might try to) put to shame the counsel of the afflicted, But the LORD is his refuge.” What comfort we find in the words, “the LORD is their refuge” – their hiding place.

 

And finally, the Psalmist ends the song with a plea and a prophecy, “Oh, that the salvation of Israel would come out of Zion!” The “salvation of Israel” refers to the coming Messiah. Then “When” – not “if” or “might” – but “when” He comes, the LORD will change his people’s circumstances for the better “When the LORD restores His captive people, Jacob will rejoice, Israel will be glad.”

 

Happy ever after – right?

 

But… we can’t simply read this Psalm, close our bibles and walk away celebrating the “happy ever after” ending; there is one more interpretation to consider. In some translations, the words, There is in verse 1 are in italics. That indicates that in some original manuscripts, those words were absent, rendering the verse, “The fool has said in his heart ‘No God.’” Can you imagine saying “no” to God? Yet that is what the fool does by his very actions. He could be denying that there is a God, or he may be refusing to submit to the God that is there.  And so, we must examine our own hearts and ask, “Is what I am professing, consistent with how I am living? Do my very actions cry out ‘Fool!’ Am I, for all intents and purposes, a ‘practical atheist’?”

 

Prayer:

Gracious and Loving God, open my eyes to see that every action I take says something about what I profess to believe. May my actions never say “There is no God” or worse may I never say “No” to Your Word.

We look around Lord, and see so much of this – so many who deny Your existence. We can’t understand how they exist without You – and yet You allow them to not only live, but to prosper. So many times they do try to ridicule us for our faith, but we know that You are with us and You are our refuge. We also know, Lord that the “Salvation of Israel” has come out of Zion, but we know, too, that He will come again. And when He does, it will be in judgment. – and Your Word will be fulfilled.

In Jesus’ Name – Amen.

 

 

 

 

 

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Sometimes reading the Psalms is like reading someone’s private prayer journal. For instance, Psalm 119:33-38 is a plea for direction. How often do we generically pray, “Lead, guide, and direct us O Lord…” What we should be praying are specific pleas such as these:

 

Psalms 119:33-38 CEB (emphasis added)

Lord , TEACH ME what your statutes are about, and I will guard every part of them.

HELP ME understand so I can guard your Instruction and keep it with all my heart.

LEAD ME on the trail of your commandments because that is what I want.

Turn my heart TO your laws, not to greedy gain.

Turn my eyes AWAY FROM looking at worthless things. Make me live by your way.

(Then finally – the Psalmist’s declaration of faith)

Confirm your promise to your servant— the promise that is for all those who honor you.

 

Gracious God, this is my prayer today. Amen.

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