Friday, December 9, 2016

God Loves His People

Psalm 147:1-20

“Praise ye the LORD: for it is good to sing praises unto our God; for it is pleasant; and praise is comely.” (Psalm 147:1)

I Thessalonians 5:18 commands, “In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.”  The David practiced this every day as we have seen throughout the book of Psalms.  Simply taking the time to give thanks and praise improves our attitude about our life by focusing our attention on the good rather than the bad.   In a world filled with negative attitudes it is a very attractive attitude. 

“The LORD doth build up Jerusalem: he gathereth together the outcasts of Israel.  He healeth the broken in heart, and bindeth up their wounds.  He telleth the number of the stars; he calleth them all by their names.  Great is our Lord, and of great power: his understanding is infinite.” (Psalm 147:2-5)

God  had done and still does wonderful things of r Israel, restoring their homeland and allowing their people to return.  He heals broken hearts for all his people, on an individual basis, even though he rules the universe, knowing all the stars by name and how many there are.  He has infinite knowledge, so that he is able to keep track of everything and power to deal with them all. 

“The LORD lifteth up the meek: he casteth the wicked down to the ground.  Sing unto the LORD with thanksgiving; sing praise upon the harp unto our God: Who covereth the heaven with clouds, who prepareth rain for the earth, who maketh grass to grow upon the mountains.  He giveth to the beast his food, and to the young ravens which cry.” (Psalm 147:6-9)

Because he has that infinite knowledge and cares for each one, God can deal with each individual, blessing those who are not focused on themselves , while punishing those who do evil.  Weshould sing thanksgiving to God, because he is one who sends the rain when it is needed, and makes the grass and trees grow on the mountains.   As a result, the animals and birds have food, as do humans.    

“He delighteth not in the strength of the horse: he taketh not pleasure in the legs of a man.   The LORD taketh pleasure in them that fear him, in those that hope in his mercy.” (Psalm 147:10-11)

Humans get caught up in the strength and power of a horse or some machine, or focus on the athletic ability of an athlete, but God is not impressed because it was him who enabled them to have the strength and skill.  Instead, he is pleased that people respect him enough to obey his commands and trust him to make things work as they should. 

“Praise the LORD, O Jerusalem; praise thy God, O Zion.  For he hath strengthened the bars of thy gates; he hath blessed thy children within thee.  He maketh peace in thy borders, and filleth thee with the finest of the wheat.  He sendeth forth his commandment upon earth: his word runneth very swiftly.  He giveth snow like wool: he scattereth the hoarfrost like ashes.  He casteth forth his ice like morsels: who can stand before his cold?  He sendeth out his word, and melteth them: he causeth his wind to blow, and the waters flow.” (Psalm 147:12-18)

God has blessed us in so many ways.  He has enabled us to protect ourselves, He has given us the love of our families, and given us peace and freedom to live.  He provides us with healthy food, and  He controls the weather and can respond to our needs instantly, causing snow and frost to fall, or the ice to melt at his will. 

“He showeth his word unto Jacob, his statutes and his judgments unto Israel.  He hath not dealt so with any nation: and as for his judgments, they have not known them. Praise ye the LORD.” (Psalm 147:19-20)

He has blessed his people in a way others have not been blessed, giving them his word so they can know what is right in any situation, while others are limited by the constraints of their conscience and understanding.    As Romans 4:11-13 makes clear, those who believe are heirs to the same promises to Abraham as those who were born into Israel, although they are not heirs of the later promises to his descendants.  “ And he (Abraham) received the sign of circumcision, a seal of the righteousness of the faith which he had yet being uncircumcised: that he might be the father of all them that believe, though they be not circumcised; that righteousness might be imputed unto them also: And the father of circumcision to them who are not of the circumcision only, but who also walk in the steps of that faith of our father Abraham, which he had being yet uncircumcised.  For the promise, that he should be the heir of the world, was not to Abraham, or to his seed, through the law, but through the righteousness of faith.”

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Depending on God Rather Than Man

Psalm 146:1-10

“Praise ye the LORD. Praise the LORD, O my soul.  While I live will I praise the LORD: I will sing praises unto my God while I have any being.” (Psalm 146:1-2)

The psalmist is committed to thanking God  with everything he has and everything he is for as long as he lives on this earth and right on into eternity, for as long as he exists. 

“Put not your trust in princes, nor in the son of man, in whom there is no help.  His breath goeth forth, he returneth to his earth; in that very day his thoughts perish.” (Psalm 146:3-4)

Because so many people have placed their hope in a political candidate, whether Hilary Clinton or Donald Trump, Trump’s victory has caused a huge uproar, with riots and efforts to overthrow his victory by pressuring the Electors, forcing recounts and threatening to kill Trump.  The reality is that neither Trump nor Clinton have the ability to fix the problems.    They have only human powers, and either candidate could die unexpectedly of a myriad of causes.  When they die, every plan and dream they had ceases to exist, as someone else takes the lead.  At best their efforts to make things better are only a momentary change.  The conflict reveals how completely America has placed their hope in man rather than in God. 

“Happy is he that hath the God of Jacob for his help, whose hope is in the LORD his God: Which made heaven, and earth, the sea, and all that therein is: which keepeth truth for ever: Which executeth judgment for the oppressed: which giveth food to the hungry.  The LORD looseth the prisoners: The LORD openeth the eyes of the blind: the LORD raiseth them that are bowed down: the LORD loveth the righteous: The LORD preserveth the strangers; he relieveth the fatherless and widow: but the way of the wicked he turneth upside down.” (Psalm 146:5-9)

The person who places their faith in God has nothing to fear.  God has the power to create the universe, and everything in it.  He is the one who established the laws of nature and enforces them.  He is the one who  judges the wicked and sees that justice is received.  He provides food for those who are hungry and sets those who are oppressed free.    His is the one heals the blind and the sick and protects the alien or foreigner.   He intervenes on behalf of the orphans and widows, but he causes the wicked to suffer the consequences of their actions, turning their plans into disasters.  He has perfect knowledge and infinite power.  Human leaders have only limited power and knowledge, so that even when they try they cannot accomplish what is needed. 

"The LORD shall reign for ever, even thy God, O Zion, unto all generations. Praise ye the LORD.” (Psalm 146:10)

God will not die or be replaced by another leader.  He will retain power forever, so that the rules will not be constantly changing as they do under our present system.  Thank god that he has tohe power to do what is needed for eternity.  We have nothing to fear if he is our God, if we have placed our trust in him.  We have reason to be afraid if our faith is in man.  

Friday, December 2, 2016

God’s Eternal Glory

Psalm 145:1-21

David's Psalm of praise.

“I will extol thee, my God, O king; and I will bless thy name for ever and ever.  Every day will I bless thee; and I will praise thy name for ever and ever.  Great is the LORD, and greatly to be praised; and his greatness is unsearchable.  One generation shall praise thy works to another, and shall declare thy mighty acts.” (Psalm 145:1-4)

David has committed to making gods praises known for as long as he lived.  It would be impossible to exaggerate his greatness, because it cannot measured.  The older generation should pass their knowledge of his greatness along to the next generation and ensure it will never be forgotten.   

“I will speak of the glorious honour of thy majesty, and of thy wondrous works.  And men shall speak of the might of thy terrible acts: and I will declare thy greatness.  They shall abundantly utter the memory of thy great goodness, and shall sing of thy righteousness.” (Psalm 145:5-7)

God is glorious in majesty, ruling over the entire universe, and does miraculous things.  Everyone will speak of the amazing and frightening things he has done, while David will speak of his greatness in protecting him.  Everyone will speak of god’s goodness and his justice. 

“The LORD is gracious, and full of compassion; slow to anger, and of great mercy.  The LORD is good to all: and his tender mercies are over all his works.  All thy works shall praise thee, O LORD; and thy saints shall bless thee.  They shall speak of the glory of thy kingdom, and talk of thy power; To make known to the sons of men his mighty acts, and the glorious majesty of his kingdom.  Thy kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and thy dominion endureth throughout all generations.” (Psalm 145:8-13)

God gives people far better than they deserve, having compassion on them in difficulty.  He does not get angry easily and is willing to forgive even the worst if they will accept responsibility for their sin and change.  That opportunity is open to everyone.  Even those who reject his mercy will one day admit he gave them the chance, and those who trust him will thank him for it.  They will talk about the richness and wonder of his kingdom, and his power.  They will tell everyone of what his kingdom is like, like someone who visits a foreign land talks about the things they saw there.  Other kingdoms eventually are overthrown but God’s kingdom will only grow in power for eternity. 

“The LORD upholdeth all that fall, and raiseth up all those that be bowed down.  The eyes of all wait upon thee; and thou givest them their meat in due season.  Thou openest thine hand, and satisfiest the desire of every living thing.” (Psalm 145:14-16)

Like a father holding his children’s hands, God will catch everyone that stumbles and falls, and will reach down for those who bow in shame or discouragement.  Everyone who depends on him will have what they need when it is needed.  He will give enough to satisfy the desires of every living thing. 

“The LORD is righteous in all his ways, and holy in all his works.  The LORD is nigh unto all them that call upon him, to all that call upon him in truth.  He will fulfil the desire of them that fear him: he also will hear their cry, and will save them.  The LORD preserveth all them that love him: but all the wicked will he destroy.” (Psalm 145:17-20)

Everything God does is done properly and in a way that is fair to everyone involved.   His door is open and he listens to everyone who honestly seeks his help.  Those who respect him will find their desires are satisfied, and he will rescue them when they ask for help.  He protects everyone who loves him, but those who refuse to do what is right will be destroyed. 

“My mouth shall speak the praise of the LORD: and let all flesh bless his holy name for ever and ever.” (Psalm 145:21)

David was committed to thanking God, but ultimately every living thing will praise him as well, as Philippians 2:9-10 tells us.  “Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name: That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth.”  Even the wicked will have to admit he is righteous and good.  

Thursday, December 1, 2016

God’s Love For Mankind

Psalm 144:1-15

A Psalm of David.

“Blessed be the LORD my strength, which teacheth my hands to war, and my fingers to fight: My goodness, and my fortress; my high tower, and my deliverer; my shield, and he in whom I trust; who subdueth my people under me. “ (Psalm 144:1-2)

David is expressing his thanks to God for everything he has done for him.  Hwe has taught David to plan and given him the skills to gain victory in war.  He has provided him with protection from his enemies and rescued him from situations where he could not do anything for himself.  He has caused the people to submit and follow David willingly, and led him in the best ways, and finally, he has counted David a good man, not imputing his sins to his account. 

“LORD, what is man, that thou takest knowledge of him! or the son of man, that thou makest account of him!  Man is like to vanity: his days are as a shadow that passeth away.  Bow thy heavens, O LORD, and come down: touch the mountains, and they shall smoke.  Cast forth lightning, and scatter them: shoot out thine arrows, and destroy them.” (Psalm 144:3-6)

What is surprising is that the God who created the universe and everything in it would take notice of an individual person, to care for him and protect him.  After all, he is such an insignificant part of creation, and his life only lasts a few years, leaving little or no imprint behind.  As some have written, a man’s death has little more lasting impact than pulling one’s finger out of a container of water.  The hole fills instantly.

God, on the other hand causes the mountains to break into flame just by touching them.  He can rearrange the stars and planets, and causes the thunder and lightning that can destroy everything it strikes.  Why should God pay any attention to mankind, yet he has intervened on David’s behalf repeatedly.

“Send thine hand from above; rid me, and deliver me out of great waters, from the hand of strange children; Whose mouth speaketh vanity, and their right hand is a right hand of falsehood.” (Psalm 144:7-8)

Though he understands how little he deserves it, David also understands that God Cares, and asks that he would reach down and help him, pulling him out of the swamp and drying him off, delivering him from their enemies who were lying about him and threatening to destroy him. 

“I will sing a new song unto thee, O God: upon a psaltery and an instrument of ten strings will I sing praises unto thee.  It is he that giveth salvation unto kings: who delivereth David his servant from the hurtful sword.” (Psalm 144:9-10)

David will sing songs of praise to God using a psaltery and  an instrument with ten strings which might have been a lyre, a harp, or a hammered dulcimer.  The key point is that he would take the trouble to thank God for his blessings, giving his salvation to both kings and common shepherds, and saving David from injury or death by the sword. 

“Rid me, and deliver me from the hand of strange children, whose mouth speaketh vanity, and their right hand is a right hand of falsehood: That our sons may be as plants grown up in their youth; that our daughters may be as corner stones, polished after the similitude of a palace: That our garners may be full, affording all manner of store: that our sheep may bring forth thousands and ten thousands in our streets: That our oxen may be strong to labour; that there be no breaking in, nor going out; that there be no complaining in our streets.” (Psalm 144:11-14)

He prays that God would get rid of their enemies who made such wicked claims and constantly threatened so that their children could grow up without fear of attack and have a real childhood.  He prayed that their daughters might be able to dress nicely and enjoy their lives,  He aslso prayed that they would have an abundance of food and supplies to last from season to season, and that the livestock would be healthy and prolific, that the the work animals be strong, so that there  would be no legitimate complaining in the streets. 

“Happy is that people, that is in such a case: yea, happy is that people, whose God is the LORD.” (Psalm 144:15)

A people who experienced such blessings from God should consider themselves richly blessed, because he is their God and cares about them.  Most people in the world never experience such blessings, and life is an everyday struggle to survive.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Dependent On God’s Mercy

Psalm 143:1-12

A Psalm of David.

“Hear my prayer, O LORD, give ear to my supplications: in thy faithfulness answer me, and in thy righteousness.  And enter not into judgment with thy servant: for in thy sight shall no man living be justified.” (Psalm 143:1-2)

David was praying, asking for God’s mercy, with the full understanding that as a human, he did not deserve God’s blessings.  No human being deserves God’s mercy and grace, as 3:10-12 tells us.  “As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one: There is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God.  They are all gone out of the way, they are together become unprofitable; there is none that doeth good, no, not one.”  He asks that God not judge him because he knows he will not measure up to his standards any better than anyone else.  As Romans 3:23 says,  “For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God.”  He is totally dependent on the righteousness of god to understand the truth and decide what should happen. 

“For the enemy hath persecuted my soul; he hath smitten my life down to the ground; he hath made me to dwell in darkness, as those that have been long dead.  Therefore is my spirit overwhelmed within me; my heart within me is desolate.” (Psalm 143:3-4)

David was praying because he knew he had no power to escape his enemies’ attacks by himself.  The Jews had long used natural caves as burying places, and David had been driven to hiding in caves like he was already dead.   He was overwhelmed with depression and loneliness.
“I remember the days of old; I meditate on all thy works; I muse on the work of thy hands.  I stretch forth my hands unto thee: my soul thirsteth after thee, as a thirsty land. Selah.” (Psalm 143:5-6)

In the midst of his depression and loneliness, he thought about the miraculous things God had done in the past and how he had delivered others.   As a result, he felt impelled to reach out to God in prayer.  He longed for a sense of God’s presence like a person longs for a drink when they have no water. 

“Hear me speedily, O LORD: my spirit faileth: hide not thy face from me, lest I be like unto them that go down into the pit.  Cause me to hear thy lovingkindness in the morning; for in thee do I trust: cause me to know the way wherein I should walk; for I lift up my soul unto thee.” (Psalm 143:7-8)

Emotionally, David recognized his weakness and asked that God respond before he sank into depression like others and turned away from God.  He prayed for an awareness of God’s love and presence, because he was putting his faith in him, focusing in what he had promised, and asking for his direction.

“Deliver me, O LORD, from mine enemies: I flee unto thee to hide me.  Teach me to do thy will; for thou art my God: thy spirit is good; lead me into the land of uprightness.  Quicken me, O LORD, for thy name's sake: for thy righteousness' sake bring my soul out of trouble.  And of thy mercy cut off mine enemies, and destroy all them that afflict my soul: for I am thy servant.” (Psalm 143:9-12)

He asks that God would enable him to escape his enemies, because he was coming to him for asking to be taught to do what pleases God because he knew God was good and would lead him to what was right.  He prayed that God would make his spirit alive to God’s presence and take away the emotional turmoil, while punishing those who hated him and sought to destroy him simply because he was giving himself to God.

Monday, November 28, 2016

No One But God To Trust

Psalm 142:1-7

Maschil of David; A Prayer when he was in the cave.

“I cried unto the LORD with my voice; with my voice unto the LORD did I make my supplication.  I poured out my complaint before him; I showed before him my trouble.” (Psalm 142:1-2)

Maschil means “to be circumspect”, to act wisely.  Tradition has placed this Psalm as being about the time when David was hiding in the cave to escape Saul.  David had been forced to flee from Saul to save his own life.  He fled to the Philistines but was recognized and forced to go back into Israel, as we see in I Samuel 22:1.  At the time he had almost no followers and there was no one but God to help him.  He poured out his soul, reminding him that he had done nothing to cause Saul to hate and fear him.    

“When my spirit was overwhelmed within me, then thou knewest my path. In the way wherein I walked have they privily laid a snare for me.” (Psalm 142:3)

David had been overwhelmed by the danger, and had no idea which way to go, yet God knew exactly where he needed to go to help him avoid the traps that Saul was setting to catch him. 

“I looked on my right hand, and beheld, but there was no man that would know me: refuge failed me; no man cared for my soul.” (Psalm 142:4)

Saul had murdered the priests for helping him and no one else dared admit they knew him for fear of being killed.  At the time David felt completely alone, although a few days later, his brothers and many people who had been displaced by Saul began to join him in the wilderness. 

“I cried unto thee, O LORD: I said, Thou art my refuge and my portion in the land of the living.  Attend unto my cry; for I am brought very low: deliver me from my persecutors; for they are stronger than I.” (Psalm 142:5-6)

David had been King Saul’s son in law, and one of his highly respected generals, but now was a fugitive with a death warrant hanging over him.  God was his only hope at the time.  He begged God to listen to him because he had lost everything.  He asks that he be delivered from the threat.  Saul and his army were much more powerful than David, and without God’s help, there was no way to escape.   

“Bring my soul out of prison, that I may praise thy name: the righteous shall compass me about; for thou shalt deal bountifully with me.” (Psalm 142:7)

David couldn’t even escape to the west because the Philistines posed just as much of a threat as Saul and his army.  His freedom was just as restricted as if he had been in a literal jail.  David asked tha God would deliver him from that prison, setting him free to publicly praise God’s name again and surrounding him with other people who worshiped and obeyed God.  David expected God to keep that promise, and as we see I Samuel 22:2, people began to come to him, although it would be several years before he would be completely free to go where he wanted.  

Friday, November 25, 2016

Trusting God When It Seems Hopeless

Psalm 141:1-10

A Psalm of David

“LORD, I cry unto thee: make haste unto me; give ear unto my voice, when I cry unto thee.  Let my prayer be set forth before thee as incense; and the lifting up of my hands as the evening sacrifice.” (Psalm 141:1-2)

As humans, we have very limited understanding of what is going on around us.  By the time we recognize a potential problem, it appears as a huge problem, and we cry out desperately unto God for a solution.   David was no different than the rest of us.  He asked that God respond quickly to his prayer, and that his prayers be as precious to God as the incense which was offered on the altar of incense or his holding up his hands in supplication as the offering of the evening sacrifice.    

“Set a watch, O LORD, before my mouth; keep the door of my lips.  Incline not my heart to any evil thing, to practice wicked works with men that work iniquity: and let me not eat of their dainties.” (Psalm 141:3-4)

Because we know so little, we over react to things that happen. And David was afraid he would say or do things that were offensive to God in an effort to escape some threat.  So often our fear leads us into sin, and David did not want to fall into that trap. 

“Let the righteous smite me; it shall be a kindness: and let him reprove me; it shall be an excellent oil, which shall not break my head: for yet my prayer also shall be in their calamities.  When their judges are overthrown in stony places, they shall hear my words; for they are sweet.” (Psalm 141:5-6)

He would rather be punished by righteous men who would act for his good, painful as it might be.  Like a parent spanking a child to stop him from doing something dangerous to prevent his doing something worse in the future which might result in his death or imprisonment, he would accept their desire to help him and consider it a blessing.  He would continue to pray for them in love when they had problems, and would encourage them with pleasant words. 
“Our bones are scattered at the grave's mouth, as when one cutteth and cleaveth wood upon the earth.  But mine eyes are unto thee, O GOD the Lord: in thee is my trust; leave not my soul destitute.  Keep me from the snares which they have laid for me, and the gins of the workers of iniquity.  Let the wicked fall into their own nets, whilst that I withal escape.” (Psalm 141:7-10)

Though it seemed hopeless, and like their bones were scattered around like wood chips where someone chopped wood, David was still looking to God for help, trusting he would act on his behalf.  He asked that God enable him to avoid the traps the wicked had set for him, and cause them to fall into the traps themselves, while he escaped them.    After all, God knows every trap that has been set for us and exactly what will be needed to escape it.