Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Hope Maketh Not Ashamed

Psalm 44:1-26

To the chief Musician for the sons of Korah, Maschil.

“We have heard with our ears, O God, our fathers have told us, what work thou didst in their days, in the times of old.  How thou didst drive out the heathen with thy hand, and plantedst them; how thou didst afflict the people, and cast them out.  For they got not the land in possession by their own sword, neither did their own arm save them: but thy right hand, and thine arm, and the light of thy countenance, because thou hadst a favour unto them.” (Psalm 44:1-3)

The Jews knew their history, how that God had repeatedly saved them from their enemies.  He had defeated and driven out the occupants of Canaan.  They had not gained the land through their own power or military skill, but because God acted on their behalf, favoring them over the original inhabitants. 

“Thou art my King, O God: command deliverances for Jacob.  Through thee will we push down our enemies: through thy name will we tread them under that rise up against us.  For I will not trust in my bow, neither shall my sword save me. But thou hast saved us from our enemies, and hast put them to shame that hated us.  In God we boast all the day long, and praise thy name for ever. Selah. ” (Psalm 44:4-8)

David had placed his faith in God and expected him to give the victory through his power.  He was not depending on his military power or strategies to give victory.   Time after time God had given the victory in the past, and they praised God and boasted about his deliverance.

“But thou hast cast off, and put us to shame; and goest not forth with our armies.  Thou makest us to turn back from the enemy: and they which hate us spoil for themselves.  Thou hast given us like sheep appointed for meat; and hast scattered us among the heathen.  Thou sellest thy people for nought, and dost not increase thy wealth by their price.  Thou makest us a reproach to our neighbours, a scorn and a derision to them that are round about us.  Thou makest us a byword among the heathen, a shaking of the head among the people.” (Psalm 44:9-14)

David and his men had returned to Ziklag, only to find their families had been kidnapped while they were gone in I Samuel 30.  They had been trying to do what God said, and the Amalekites had stolen everything they owned.  It seemed like there was no hope in trusting God anymore.  The Jews had rejected them and the Philistines would not stop their attacks on Israel to come to their rescue. 

“My confusion is continually before me, and the shame of my face hath covered me,  For the voice of him that reproacheth and blasphemeth; by reason of the enemy and avenger.  All this is come upon us; yet have we not forgotten thee, neither have we dealt falsely in thy covenant.  Our heart is not turned back, neither have our steps declined from thy way; Though thou hast sore broken us in the place of dragons, and covered us with the shadow of death. “ (Psalm 44:15-19)

It was really confusing to find that after all their efforts to serve God, he would allow such things to happen to them.  They had not turned their backs on him or broken his commands, even though they were forced to live in the desert, with the lizards and snakes and hide in the shadows to keep from being executed.  It was hard to understand why God allowed wicked people like the Amalekites to do such things to them. 

If we have forgotten the name of our God, or stretched out our hands to a strange god; Shall not God search this out? for he knoweth the secrets of the heart.  Yea, for thy sake are we killed all the day long; we are counted as sheep for the slaughter.  

Awake, why sleepest thou, O Lord? arise, cast us not off for ever.  Wherefore hidest thou thy face, and forgettest our affliction and our oppression?  For our soul is bowed down to the dust: our belly cleaveth unto the earth.  Arise for our help, and redeem us for thy mercies' sake. “ (Psalm 44:20-26)

If David and his men had turned their backs on God or begun worshipping other gods, they knew God would know about it because he knows the very thoughts of a person’s heart, but they were putting their lives at risk to serve and obey God.  It seemed unfair that God was allowing these things to happen.  Had he gone to sleep and forgotten about them or just decided to find someone else.  Why did it seem like he wasn’t even aware of what they were feeling?  He asks again the God intervene on their behalf.   

Christians today often come to that same point of feeling God doesn’t care and that no one else has ever had such problems.    As I Corinthians 10:13 states, “There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it.”   Though it seems we are the only ones who have had such a problem it is actually common and most other people have or will feel the same struggle.  We have the assurance God will make a way to overcome it if we trust him. 

Though they were so depressed and hurt by what had happened, David and his men trusted God  and I Samuel 30:17-19 describes the results.   “And David smote them from the twilight even unto the evening of the next day: and there escaped not a man of them, save four hundred young men, which rode upon camels, and fled.  And David recovered all that the Amalekites had carried away: and David rescued his two wives.  And there was nothing lacking to them, neither small nor great, neither sons nor daughters, neither spoil, nor any thing that they had taken to them: David recovered all.”  Though it seemed hopeless, they recovered everything that had been taken and more.     When we trust God we will always find our hope justified.

Friday, May 27, 2016

Why Be Depressed?

Psalm 43:1-5

The chapter and verse divisions were added into the scriptures long after they were originally written, for the purpose of making it easier to locate a passage.   The breaks do not necessarily follow the logical breaks in the passage, with verses frequently breaking in the middle of a sentence or chapters breaking in the middle of a story.  Unfortunately, as humans, we tend to stop at those breaks, with the result that sometimes we miss part of the story.  It was not until I began to write this blog that I realized this chapter is actually the conclusion of the previous chapter rather than a different Psalm.   

“Judge me, O God, and plead my cause against an ungodly nation: O deliver me from the deceitful and unjust man.  For thou art the God of my strength: why dost thou cast me off? why go I mourning because of the oppression of the enemy?” (Psalm 43:1-2)

David had struggled with depression, yet he knew that God would have mercy on him, forgiving his sin and imputing his faith to him for righteousness.  Though they had made many false accusations against him, he asks that God would show the truth, that by following Saul’s leadership rather than seeking God’s, Israel was sinning, trying to destroy and innocent man.  Despite his faith, he was still struggling with why God was allowing their attacks on him.  He knew God was the source of strength, but he still felt as if God had deserted him. 

Our emotional reaction to a situation often has little relation to the facts of the situation.  While it was designed to enable us to respond quickly to threats, a person must learn to channel the surge of energy into a logical solution, or one is likely to react in a counterproductive manner.  Since the emotions are always reactive rather than proactive, they frequently take time to catch up with reality, and if allowed to control our thinking, they may prevent seeing the reality.  As a result, our emotions are one of the easiest ways for Satan to gain control of our mind, keeping us depressed or angry. 

“O send out thy light and thy truth: let them lead me; let them bring me unto thy holy hill, and to thy tabernacles.  Then will I go unto the altar of God, unto God my exceeding joy: yea, upon the harp will I praise thee, O God my God.” (Psalm 43:3-4)

David prays that God would send his understanding so that he could see the truth and come to
God in appreciation and confidence.  The result would be a change in his emotions, resulting in rejoicing and praise rather than depression.   John 16:13 tells us, “Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth: for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak: and he will show you things to come.”  As we allow the Holy Spirit to show us the truth, our emotions will become far more stable, without the extremes of excitement or depression.    

“Why art thou cast down, O my soul? and why art thou disquieted within me? hope in God: for I shall yet praise him, who is the health of my countenance, and my God.” (Psalm 43:5)

God is still in control of the universe, and neither his love nor his promises have changed.   Why do our emotions lead to depression?  God will still keep his promises protecting us and guiding us.  We just need to turn to him and depend on him, letting the Holy Spirit guide us.  Either depression or extreme excitement indicate we are not walking in the Spirit.  

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Craving God’s Presence

Psalm 42:1-11

To the chief Musician, Maschil, for the sons of Korah.

“As the hart panteth after the water brooks, so panteth my soul after thee, O God.  My soul thirsteth for God, for the living God: when shall I come and appear before God?  My tears have been my meat day and night, while they continually say unto me, Where is thy God?” (Psalm 42:1-3)

Maschil means to be circumspect or intelligent.  David describes himself as longing for the presence of God like a deer which has been fleeing from her enemies or lost in the desert longs for a drink of water, wondering when she will find another drink.  The thirst has been aggravated by Satan or other people asking why God doesn’t answer or take action, with the result that he feels like the only relief has come from his own tears. 

“When I remember these things, I pour out my soul in me: for I had gone with the multitude, I went with them to the house of God, with the voice of joy and praise, with a multitude that kept holyday.  Why art thou cast down, O my soul? and why art thou disquieted in me? hope thou in God: for I shall yet praise him for the help of his countenance.” (Psalm 42:4-5)

He had been to church and had heard the promises a of God’s love and presence and had been excited to hear them, singing and praising the Lord with the rest of the crowd.  His question is why he feels so alone and unloved in the present situation?  He knows God will keep his promises, but his emotions are running wild.  Why can’t they just accept God’s promise and give him some relief? 

“O my God, my soul is cast down within me: therefore will I remember thee from the land of Jordan, and of the Hermonites, from the hill Mizar.   Deep calleth unto deep at the noise of thy waterspouts: all thy waves and thy billows are gone over me.  Yet the LORD will command his lovingkindness in the daytime, and in the night his song shall be with me, and my prayer unto the God of my life.” (Psalm 42:6-8)

Depressed by his feelings of separation from God, David deliberately chooses to remember what God has done for him in the past, in various situations.    Though it seems like he is about to drown under all his problems and what he hears sounds like there is worse to come, remembering what God has done in the past raises his hope that God will reach out to him to protect him in the day and sing a song to comfort him when he can’t see what is going on.  His prayer will be focused on God. 

“I will say unto God my rock, Why hast thou forgotten me? why go I mourning because of the oppression of the enemy?  As with a sword in my bones, mine enemies reproach me; while they say daily unto me, Where is thy God?” (Psalm 42:9-10)

Even when he remembers what God has done in the past, and has hope for the future he will still be asking why God allows him to feel deserted and alone mas a result of Satanic attacks.  The accusations and mockery of those around him still hurts like a sword in his bones.   

What David describes is a common sensation among people who serve God, but our emotions tell us  we are the only one who has ever experienced such difficulty and God has forgotten us.    I Corinthians 10:13 tells us, “There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it.”     

Other people have the same struggles we experience, and God has dealt with them before.  He will not allow us to be tested beyond what we can deal with, even though they exceed our strength, because he always provides a way for us to escape defeat and destruction.  We just need to let him show us how to get it because we can’t do it on our own.  The problem is that like a person having a panic attack, we become so focused on our emotions we cannot think logically, with the result we freeze up and are unable to respond effectively.  Satan often uses our emotions to prevent us from doing what is right. 

“Why art thou cast down, O my soul? and why art thou disquieted within me? hope thou in God: for I shall yet praise him, who is the health of my countenance, and my God.” (Psalm 42:11)

David asks why his emotions have taken over, creating depression.  In order to break the paralysis of a panic attack one must distract a person form their emotions.  In an emergency situation, a loud yell, a cup of water in the face or a slap nay be needed to distract the person quickly.  To prevent people from giving way to their panic, one can focus on solutions and actions to deal with the problem, or on what to do after the problem is resolved.    By focusing on God and the hope for the future, rather than the immediate situation, David could eliminate the depression and enjoy his life even in the midst of his problems.  We don’t have to allow our emotions to take over.   It is like taking a bottle of water with us instead of just hoping we find some.

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

There Is No Reason To Succumb To Temptation

Psalm 41:1-13

 To the chief Musician, A Psalm of David.

“Blessed is he that considereth the poor: the LORD will deliver him in time of trouble.  The LORD will preserve him, and keep him alive; and he shall be blessed upon the earth: and thou wilt not deliver him unto the will of his enemies.   The LORD will strengthen him upon the bed of languishing: thou wilt make all his bed in his sickness.” (Psalm 41:1-3)

God created mankind in his own image, and our treatment of other people is a reflection of our attitude toward him.  In Matthew 22:37-40, one of the Pharisees asked Jesus which was the most important of God’s commandments.  “Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.   This is the first and great commandment.    And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.  On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.”  All God’s law revolves around loving God and our fellow man. 

The person who cares enough to find out what those less fortunate than himself actually needed instead of just doing something demonstrates his love for both God and other people.   God will respond by protecting him in his times of trouble, enabling him to survive and prosper.   He will encourage him in times of depression and heal his diseases. 

“I said, LORD, be merciful unto me: heal my soul; for I have sinned against thee.  Mine enemies speak evil of me, When shall he die, and his name perish?  And if he come to see me, he speaketh vanity: his heart gathereth iniquity to itself; when he goeth abroad, he telleth it.  All that hate me whisper together against me: against me do they devise my hurt.  An evil disease, say they, cleaveth fast unto him: and now that he lieth he shall rise up no more.  Yea, mine own familiar friend, in whom I trusted, which did eat of my bread, hath lifted up his heel against me. “ (Psalm 41:4-9)

David was aware of his sinful nature and knew he often sinned.  He asked God to forgive and heal his emotional and psychological needs his sin produced.  His enemies slandered him and made false accusations and David asked how long they would be allowed to continue.  When they came to see him, it was not to show real concern, but to gloat and gain ammunition against him, so they can spread the slander.   They plotted to destroy his reputation, and his destruction, excusing themselves by claiming his problems were God’s judgment and that he would be destroyed.  They had even managed to influence his closest friends. 

“But thou, O LORD, be merciful unto me, and raise me up, that I may requite them.  By this I know that thou favourest me, because mine enemy doth not triumph over me.” (Psalm 41:10-11)

David asks that God would raise him up so he could repay their slanders and accusations by showing they were false.  The proof of God’s love is that despite all their efforts, enemies of god’s people are unable to get rid of them completely.   They always recover. 

“And as for me, thou upholdest me in mine integrity, and settest me before thy face for ever.  Blessed be the LORD God of Israel from everlasting, and to everlasting. Amen, and Amen.” (Psalm 41:12-13)

Even in the worst times, God enables his people to live with integrity.  I Corinthians 10:13-14 tells us, “ There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it.  Wherefore, my dearly beloved, flee from idolatry.”  There is no reason for us to give in to temptation or look elsewhere for help.  What a wonderful God we have, for all of eternity. 

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

The Richness Of God’s Blessings

Psalm 40:1-17

To the chief Musician, A Psalm of David.

“I waited patiently for the LORD; and he inclined unto me, and heard my cry.  He brought me up also out of an horrible pit, out of the miry clay, and set my feet upon a rock, and established my goings.  And he hath put a new song in my mouth, even praise unto our God: many shall see it, and fear, and shall trust in the LORD.” (Psalm 40:1-3)

David describes his experience.  He waited patiently for the Lord.  He didn’t get upset and quit because things didn’t happen when he thought they should, and God answered his prayers.  David had been in position where it looked like there was no hope and destruction was sure, but God had brought him to a place where he was out of danger able to function freely.  He had given a sense of joy so that he was singing and praising God, and it was being a testimony to many others to turn them to God. 

“Blessed is that man that maketh the LORD his trust, and respecteth not the proud, nor such as turn aside to lies.” (Psalm 40:4)

As a result of his experience, David can state with assurance that the person who places their trust in God, obeying his commands instead of depending on the leaders who think they can control everything and make their own rules or the ones who listen to liars for guidance. 

“Many, O LORD my God, are thy wonderful works which thou hast done, and thy thoughts which are to us-ward: they cannot be reckoned up in order unto thee: if I would declare and speak of them, they are more than can be numbered.  Sacrifice and offering thou didst not desire; mine ears hast thou opened: burnt offering and sin offering hast thou not required. “ (Psalm 40:5-6)

God has blessed in ways we don’t even recognize so that we can thank him for them.  It would be impossible to recount all of them to God.   He does those things because he loves us, and doesn’t demand sacrifices and offerings to get his favor.  All he wants is our obedience because we love him. 

“Then said I, Lo, I come: in the volume of the book it is written of me, I delight to do thy will, O my God: yea, thy law is within my heart.  I have preached righteousness in the great congregation: lo, I have not refrained my lips, O LORD, thou knowest.  I have not hid thy righteousness within my heart; I have declared thy faithfulness and thy salvation: I have not concealed thy lovingkindness and thy truth from the great congregation.” (Psalm 40:7-10)

As He understood what God wanted, David committed himself to doing what God wanted, as described in the scriptures.  He had learned the commandments by heart, teaching them to all the people around him boldly.  He had done his best to make sure everyone knew what God had done for him and what he expected from the people. 

“Withhold not thou thy tender mercies from me, O LORD: let thy lovingkindness and thy truth continually preserve me.  For innumerable evils have compassed me about: mine iniquities have taken hold upon me, so that I am not able to look up; they are more than the hairs of mine head: therefore my heart faileth me.  Be pleased, O LORD, to deliver me: O LORD, make haste to help me.  Let them be ashamed and confounded together that seek after my soul to destroy it; let them be driven backward and put to shame that wish me evil.  Let them be desolate for a reward of their shame that say unto me, Aha, aha.” (Psalm 40:11-15)

God has made wonderful promises to those who obey him, and David asked that God honor his promise because he had tried to obey, in spite of numerous lapses.  He was aware that God was under no obligation to fulfill those promises because he had failed so often, Just asking that God bless him anyway.  He specifically asked that those who sought to destroy him be stopped. 
“Let all those that seek thee rejoice and be glad in thee: let such as love thy salvation say continually, The LORD be magnified.” (Psalm 40:16)

He prays that all those who love the Lord and his salvation be continually aware of God’s greatness. 

“But I am poor and needy; yet the Lord thinketh upon me: thou art my help and my deliverer; make no tarrying, O my God.” (Psalm 40:17)

When David thought about what he was like, he was amazed that despite all his failures, God took an interest in him.  He went out of his way to protect and encourage Him.  He asks that God not delay his response.    

Monday, May 23, 2016

Letting God Fix the Problems

Psalm 39:1-13

To the chief Musician, even to Jeduthun, A Psalm of David.

“I said, I will take heed to my ways, that I sin not with my tongue: I will keep my mouth with a bridle, while the wicked is before me.  I was dumb with silence, I held my peace, even from good; and my sorrow was stirred.” (Psalm 39:1-2)

David wanted to do the things that were right.  He soon realized what James 3:5-10 says, that the Tongue is impossible for a person  to control completely.  “Even so the tongue is a little member, and boasteth great things. Behold, how great a matter a little fire kindleth!  And the tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity: so is the tongue among our members, that it defileth the whole body, and setteth on fire the course of nature; and it is set on fire of hell.  For every kind of beasts, and of birds, and of serpents, and of things in the sea, is tamed, and hath been tamed of mankind: But the tongue can no man tame; it is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison.  Therewith bless we God, even the Father; and therewith curse we men, which are made after the similitude of God.  Out of the same mouth proceedeth blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not so to be.”   Unfortunately, this is an area of life that is easily neglected. 

David found himself saying things that were not right despite his best efforts.     In Matthew 15:17-20, Jesus explained, “Do not ye yet understand, that whatsoever entereth in at the mouth goeth into the belly, and is cast out into the draught?  But those things which proceed out of the mouth come forth from the heart; and they defile the man.   For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies:  These are the things which defile a man: but to eat with unwashen hands defileth not a man.”  Like our actions, the words we speak are inspired by the attitude of our heart.   Most actions take a physical effort, with the result we frequently have time to stop before we perform them, but words are so easy to say they frequently slip out before we can stop them, especially when we are under pressure.

David had made a commitment to keep his mouth under control, even if it meant he could not say anything, even about good things.  The refusal to speak at all resulted in frustration and growing depression.    People need to express themselves, and when they can’t or don’t, emotional pressures build up.    David’s efforts to fix a problem by human means only made things worse. 

“My heart was hot within me, while I was musing the fire burned: then spake I with my tongue,  LORD, make me to know mine end, and the measure of my days, what it is; that I may know how frail I am.   Behold, thou hast made my days as an handbreadth; and mine age is as nothing before thee: verily every man at his best state is altogether vanity. Selah.  Surely every man walketh in a vain show: surely they are disquieted in vain: he heapeth up riches, and knoweth not who shall gather them.” (Psalm 39:3-6)

The efforts to maintain silence resulted in growing frustration and finally he could keep silence no longer.  David asked God to help him understand the end result of his life and how long it would be. So that he could understand how weak and powerless people are.   He realized our earthly life is extremely short, as compared with history, and that even a hundred years is nothing compared to eternity.   At best a man’s accomplishments produce no lasting benefit, and our efforts to gain wealth and power are only a show.  People put out all the effort to achieve these things for nothing and they have no real control over who will benefit when they die.   It is just a rat race on a treadmill, going nowhere.   

“And now, Lord, what wait I for? my hope is in thee.  Deliver me from all my transgressions: make me not the reproach of the foolish.  I was dumb, I opened not my mouth; because thou didst it.  Remove thy stroke away from me: I am consumed by the blow of thine hand.   When thou with rebukes dost correct man for iniquity, thou makest his beauty to consume away like a moth: surely every man is vanity. Selah.” (Psalm 39:7-11)

David realized his only hope was in the Lord.  The only way he could control his tongue was if God did it.  He asked God to prevent him from doing and saying things that were wrong so that the foolish people were not making fun of him.  He also asked that God end the punishment because knowing   God was disappointed with him was crushing his spirit, leaving him feeling worthless.   

“Hear my prayer, O LORD, and give ear unto my cry; hold not thy peace at my tears: for I am a stranger with thee, and a sojourner, as all my fathers were.  O spare me, that I may recover strength, before I go hence, and be no more.” (Psalm 39:12-13)

David asks that God show him his forgiveness because his happiness and his very life is based on God’s acceptance, just as was that of his ancestors.  Like a child asking a father he loves to show his love after he has been punished, he is desperate   to know he has been forgiven.   If that forgiveness was not received, like the child, David might well be swallowed up in his unhappiness and give up hope.    It is critical that the relationship be restored. 

Friday, May 20, 2016

Dealing With Guilt

Psalm 38:1-21

A Psalm of David, to bring to remembrance.

”O LORD, rebuke me not in thy wrath: neither chasten me in thy hot displeasure.  For thine arrows stick fast in me, and thy hand presseth me sore.  There is no soundness in my flesh because of thine anger; neither is there any rest in my bones because of my sin.  For mine iniquities are gone over mine head: as an heavy burden they are too heavy for me.  My wounds stink and are corrupt because of my foolishness.” (Psalm 38:1-5)

There is a tendency for Christians to begin to think of themselves as being better than other people because they no longer have all that sin.  Every once I =n a while, we need to be reminded that we are not saved because of our goodness, but because of God’s mercy and grace, as Titus 3:5 says.   “Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost.”  When we forget that, we tend to let down our guard, and get involved in sin again. 

David asks that God would not wait until he is angry to correct him, because it hurt so much to know God was upset with him and the fellowship was broken.  Once again, David had gone into sin and like a person falling unexpectedly into the river, had that panicky feeling of drowning when the water closes over his headOne wonders if perhaps this Psalm was written after David had committed adultery with Bathsheba and had her husband killed to hide it.  His guilt was a heavy burden, and he felt like someone with a putrefying wound that stunk as a result of his foolishness, leaving him feeling isolated from God. 

“I am troubled; I am bowed down greatly; I go mourning all the day long.  For my loins are filled with a loathsome disease: and there is no soundness in my flesh.  I am feeble and sore broken: I have roared by reason of the disquietness of my heart. Lord, all my desire is before thee; and my groaning is not hid from thee.  My heart panteth, my strength faileth me: as for the light of mine eyes, it also is gone from me.” (Psalm 38:6-10)

As we mentioned earlier, there is nothing harder to live with than a guilty conscience.  As a result of his sin David felt like a leper, unable to associate with others for fear of infecting them with his disease, while desperately craving human contact and reassurance.   The sense of guilt was crushing.  The momentary pleasure of the sin was far outweighed by the emotional and psychological pain it caused.   David had had a close relationship with the Lord, and his sin had separated them.  He craved restoration of that fellowship and peace with God more than anything else.  Without it his life seemed hardly worth living. 

“My lovers and my friends stand aloof from my sore; and my kinsmen stand afar off.  They also that seek after my life lay snares for me: and they that seek my hurt speak mischievous things, and imagine deceits all the day long.” (Psalm 38:11-12)

Not only had his sin broken his relationship with God, it affected his relationship with his wife and his friends and relatives.  Though they still cared about him, they were not sure where they stood or how to approach him.   His enemies seized on the opportunity to attack, setting traps, making hurtful comments, and accusing him of hiding other things, and this added to the pain of those who cared about him, resulting in their withdrawing even more.   People seldom consider how much their sin hurts those who care about them, assuming it only affects themselves.   

“But I, as a deaf man, heard not; and I was as a dumb man that openeth not his mouth.  Thus I was as a man that heareth not, and in whose mouth are no reproofs.  For in thee, O LORD, do I hope: thou wilt hear, O Lord my God.  For I said, Hear me, lest otherwise they should rejoice over me: when my foot slippeth, they magnify themselves against me.  For I am ready to halt, and my sorrow is continually before me.  For I will declare mine iniquity; I will be sorry for my sin.” (Psalm 38:13-18)

When they begin to feel the guilt and the isolation it produces, people often begin to lash out at others, blaming them for their feelings rather than accepting it as the consequence of their sin.  David chose not to focus on what people might be saying and not to get mad at them.  Instead, he put his hope in the Lord, trusting God to protect and forgive him, even when his foot had slipped.  He was constantly aware of his fault, and discouraged by it, but he was going to confess his sin in real sorrow for having done it.  He was committed to doing what I John 1:8-10 tells us.   “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.  If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.  If we say that we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.” 

Genuine repentance and confession of the sin to God is the only way to get rid of the guilt.  People who refuse to repent or admit they were wrong are stuck with their burden of guilt.  Unfortunately, popular psychology tells people their actions are not really wrong but are based on cultural norms, and thus they don’t need to repent or ask forgiveness.  While it provides a temporary relief, it does not resolve the problem, allowing the problems to accumulate and leading to depression, anger and outbreaks of violence. 

“But mine enemies are lively, and they are strong: and they that hate me wrongfully are multiplied.  They also that render evil for good are mine adversaries; because I follow the thing that good is.  Forsake me not, O LORD: O my God, be not far from me.  Make haste to help me, O Lord my salvation.” (Psalm 38:19-21)

We have real enemies in the world.  Some people take advantage of people who do what is right, and become our opposition.  We need God’s help and a sense of his closeness and guidance to keep from descending to the same level.  David asks that God not forsake him while he is struggling with his guilt. 

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Contrasting The Results Of Righteousness And Unrighteousness

Psalm 37:1-40

A Psalm of David.

“Fret not thyself because of evildoers, neither be thou envious against the workers of iniquity.  For they shall soon be cut down like the grass, and wither as the green herb.” (Psalm 37:1-2)

In this present world, we see corrupt politicians taking over our government and wicked people forcing their immorality on the nation using political office and threats to withhold funding to blackmail local entities to accept it.  Dishonest investment advisors and bankers steal billions and walk away with minimal punishment or are never prosecuted.  Pharmaceutical companies make billions on drugs that have little value, and frequently cause worse problems than the original one they were supposed to fix.   

As we see these things, it is easy to get depressed and resentful.   David tells us not to let it get to us or even consider doing the same things, because their seeming success is only temporary.  When it ends their apparent success will wither away as quickly as the grass does when you mow it.      

“Trust in the LORD, and do good; so shalt thou dwell in the land, and verily thou shalt be fed.  Delight thyself also in the LORD; and he shall give thee the desires of thine heart.  Commit thy way unto the LORD; trust also in him; and he shall bring it to pass.  And he shall bring forth thy righteousness as the light, and thy judgment as the noonday.” (Psalm 37:3-6)

Though we may not have as much as those corrupt wicked people, if we just trust God we will be able to live in our land and have food.   If we take the effort to make him our joy and pleasure, he will give us our deepest desires, making  our desires reality and exalting us for our righteousness.   

“Rest in the LORD, and wait patiently for him: fret not thyself because of him who prospereth in his way, because of the man who bringeth wicked devices to pass.  Cease from anger, and forsake wrath: fret not thyself in any wise to do evil.  For evildoers shall be cut off: but those that wait upon the LORD, they shall inherit the earth.  For yet a little while, and the wicked shall not be: yea, thou shalt diligently consider his place, and it shall not be.  But the meek shall inherit the earth; and shall delight themselves in the abundance of peace. ( Psalm 37:7-11)

Instead of trying to fix all the corruption we need to patiently wait for God to deal with those who seem to be gaining riches and power by dishonest means.  Don’t let anger or frustration lead you to do things that are wrong, such as taking matters into your own hands, because those who do evil will be destroyed, while those who wait on God to punish them will be blessed.  Though it may seem like it takes forever, their power will only be for a little while, and when they are destroyed the people the despised and abused will take over. 

“The wicked plotteth against the just, and gnasheth upon him with his teeth.  The Lord shall laugh at him: for he seeth that his day is coming.  The wicked have drawn out the sword, and have bent their bow, to cast down the poor and needy, and to slay such as be of upright conversation.  Their sword shall enter into their own heart, and their bows shall be broken.  A little that a righteous man hath is better than the riches of many wicked.  For the arms of the wicked shall be broken: but the LORD upholdeth the righteous.”(Psalm 37:12-17)

The wicked have formed a conspiracy against those who do what is right, doing everything they can to destroy them.  They have used military and political power to gain control of the poor and kill those who oppose them and live a righteous life.  God just laughs at them because he knows the outcome.  Ultimately their efforts will be turned against them and their power destroyed.  Though he may have little by comparison to those in power, it is worth more than what they have because God will protect him, enabling him to enjoy it. 

“The LORD knoweth the days of the upright: and their inheritance shall be for ever.  They shall not be ashamed in the evil time: and in the days of famine they shall be satisfied.  But the wicked shall perish, and the enemies of the LORD shall be as the fat of lambs: they shall consume; into smoke shall they consume away.” (Psalm 37:18-20)

God knows the life of those who obey him, and they will live forever.  When things go badly and the economy crashes or there is a food shortage, they will still have enough to live on.  Those who have not obeyed will die, with those who deliberately rebelled against him will be like grease dripping onto the charcoal in the barbecue, bursting into flame and leaving only smoke behind. 

“The wicked borroweth, and payeth not again: but the righteous showeth mercy, and giveth.  For such as be blessed of him shall inherit the earth; and they that be cursed of him shall be cut off.  The steps of a good man are ordered by the LORD: and he delighteth in his way.  Though he fall, he shall not be utterly cast down: for the LORD upholdeth him with his hand.” (Psalm 37:21-24)

People who borrow and make no effort to repay their debt are wicked.  Righteous people are willing to forgive, simply giving the person the item and forgetting the debt.  God will bless those who have a good relationship with the righteous, and destroy those who have been against them.  God directs the steps of good people, so that they enjoy their lives.  They may fall into hard times, but God supports them so that they can recover and are not destroyed. 

“I have been young, and now am old; yet have I not seen the righteous forsaken, nor his seed begging bread.  He is ever merciful, and lendeth; and his seed is blessed.  Depart from evil, and do good; and dwell for evermore.  For the LORD loveth judgment, and forsaketh not his saints; they are preserved for ever: but the seed of the wicked shall be cut off.  The righteous shall inherit the land, and dwell therein for ever.  The mouth of the righteous speaketh wisdom, and his tongue talketh of judgment.  The law of his God is in his heart; none of his steps shall slide.” (Psalm 37:25-31)

David was seventy when he turned the kingdom over to Solomon.  In his entire life, he had never seen God turned his back on a person who served him, nor had he ever seen a time when such people’s children needed to go begging for food.  Righteous people are always ready to forgive and share what they have, and God blesses them.  A person would be wise to avoid evil activities and focus on doing good, because God loves and blesses justice and will not turn away from his people, preserving them and giving them the land forever.   

The righteous  exhibits a wisdom and understanding of how things work the wicked do not understand, because they understand God made things to work in particular way.  The wicked think they can make up their own rules.  The righteous talks about what is really fair to everyone while the wicked focus on what benefits themselves.  The righteous is concerned about what God wants , trying to obey him, and as a result he will never  slip into wickedness or destruction. 

“The wicked watcheth the righteous, and seeketh to slay him.  The LORD will not leave him in his hand, nor condemn him when he is judged.  Wait on the LORD, and keep his way, and he shall exalt thee to inherit the land: when the wicked are cut off, thou shalt see it.” (Psalm 37:32-34)

Unlike the righteous, who looks for an opportunity to help even wicked, the wicked look for a way to destroy the righteous, either by killing him or by destroying his reputation.  God protects the righteous from the wicked, and will not condemn him, even when the world concludes he is guilty.   Just wait on the Lord and obey him.  When he destroys the wicked you will see their punishment and receive the the things they took.    
“I have seen the wicked in great power, and spreading himself like a green bay tree.   Yet he passed away, and, lo, he was not: yea, I sought him, but he could not be found.” (Psalm 37:35-36)

In his life David had seen wicked men come to great power, so they appeared invincible, yet God had destroyed them completely so that he could not even find evidence of his impact.  People had done their best to forget he ever existed. 

“Mark the perfect man, and behold the upright: for the end of that man is peace.  But the transgressors shall be destroyed together: the end of the wicked shall be cut off.  But the salvation of the righteous is of the LORD: he is their strength in the time of trouble.  And the LORD shall help them, and deliver them: he shall deliver them from the wicked, and save them, because they trust in him.” (Psalm 37:37-40)

The righteous will live out their days in peace while the wicked will all be destroyed who have worked together against God.  God is the salvation of the righteous, and their strength.  He will protect and save them because they believe his promises and obey him.    

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

The Attitude Of The Wicked

Psalm 36:1-12

To the chief Musician, A Psalm of David the servant of the LORD.

“The transgression of the wicked saith within my heart, that there is no fear of God before his eyes.  For he flattereth himself in his own eyes, until his iniquity be found to be hateful.  The words of his mouth are iniquity and deceit: he hath left off to be wise, and to do good.  He deviseth mischief upon his bed; he setteth himself in a way that is not good; he abhorreth not evil.” (Psalm 36:1-4)

As David watched the wicked he began to realize certain attitudes and activities were common to all of them.  First, there was no fear or respect for God.  They do not believe God can or will intervene.   Secondly, they tell themselves they are smarter or better than other people and thus have the right to do the things they do.   They continue doing their bad behavior, escalating until it reaches a point where people refuse to put up with it any longer.    They deliberately lie and deceive to get new victims and to conceal what they are doing, and after a while stop making any effort to do what is right.  As they get older, they become more brazen, because they have gotten by with their wickedness in the past they assume no one will do anything about it.    

While other people lie awake trying to figure out how to make things work properly, the wicked lie awake trying to figure out ways of doing evil things without getting caught.  They adopt a life style that other people see leads to trouble, and hang around people who have obviously bad attitudes and unsavory reputations, making it obvious they find evil attractive. 

“Thy mercy, O LORD, is in the heavens; and thy faithfulness reacheth unto the clouds.  Thy righteousness is like the great mountains; thy judgments are a great deep: O LORD, thou preservest man and beast.  How excellent is thy lovingkindness, O God! therefore the children of men put their trust under the shadow of thy wings.  They shall be abundantly satisfied with the fatness of thy house; and thou shalt make them drink of the river of thy pleasures.  For with thee is the fountain of life: in thy light shall we see light.” (Psalm 36:5-9)

God’s mercy is visible in the entire universe.  If current theories of evolution are true, and there is no God we should see entire galaxies vanishing into black holes on a regular basis, with no concern for anything.   God prevents it from happening, because of his mercy.  He cares and doesn’t want things to be destroyed.   That God can be depended on is obvious by the fact that he has established rules governing the natural things such as clouds, so that the moisture evaporates, then condenses to form clouds, and finally falls to the earth to repeat the process.  It has been repeated for thousands of years, and still happens the same way.
God’s righteousness is obvious from the way he punishes the evil and enables both humans and animals to continue to survive.  If there were no God and evolution were true, animals or humans would have evolved in places where there was no food for them to eat and died before they could adapt to what was available.   Because they recognize this fact every culture on earth has adopted some kind of a religion and sought to please a god of some kind.  Those who have chosen to serve and honor God will experience his blessings, being satisfied with their lives and find pleasure in life.  He is the source of life and light so that we can enjoy it. 

“O continue thy lovingkindness unto them that know thee; and thy righteousness to the upright in heart.  Let not the foot of pride come against me, and let not the hand of the wicked remove me.   There are the workers of iniquity fallen: they are cast down, and shall not be able to rise.” (Psalm 36:10-12)

David’s prayer is that God would continue to be the loving merciful God he has always been toward those who know him and try to please him.  He asks that the evil be prevented from attacking or destroying him.  People who attack those who stand for good and right are involved in doing evil things and they have brought about their own destruction, usually blaming those who do what is right.   Because they blame others and do not address their responsibility, they will be unable to recover.  It is impossible to resolve a problem without addressing what causes it.    

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Praying For Relief

Psalm 35:1-28

A Psalm of David.

“Plead my cause, O LORD, with them that strive with me: fight against them that fight against me.  Take hold of shield and buckler, and stand up for mine help.  Draw out also the spear, and stop the way against them that persecute me: say unto my soul, I am thy salvation.” (Psalm 35:1-3)

Saul had turned on David, doing everything in his power to kill him.  David asks God to intervene on his behalf, to stand like an armed guard against David’s enemies. So that they cannot get to him, while giving David the awareness that God is caring for him. 

“Let them be confounded and put to shame that seek after my soul: let them be turned back and brought to confusion that devise my hurt.  Let them be as chaff before the wind: and let the angel of the LORD chase them.  Let their way be dark and slippery: and let the angel of the LORD persecute them.  For without cause have they hid for me their net in a pit, which without cause they have digged for my soul.  Let destruction come upon him at unawares; and let his net that he hath hid catch himself: into that very destruction let him fall.” (Psalm 35:4-8)

David had done nothing to provoke Saul’s ire, yet he had sent the army to destroy him, offering rewards for his capture.  David prayed that they would find the way too dangerous to continue, and that God interfered with their efforts causing them to face destruction as result of their effort and them find themselves embarrassed for their efforts to destroy him.   

An examination of Saul’s efforts to kill David reveals that Saul’s efforts to capture David gave the Philistines the opportunity to invade the land, and Saul was forced to break off his pursuit.  Twice, David had the opportunity to kill Saul and didn’t publicly humiliating Saul that he was so obviously attempting to murder and innocent man.

“And my soul shall be joyful in the LORD: it shall rejoice in his salvation.  All my bones shall say, LORD, who is like unto thee, which deliverest the poor from him that is too strong for him, yea, the poor and the needy from him that spoileth him?” (Psalm 35:9-10)

David had refused to kill Saul and eliminate his enemy because God had chosen Saul as king.   Nevertheless, he would rejoice to have God take away the threat and give him a sense of security.    The release of stress would affect him to the core, causing even his bones to feel better. 

“False witnesses did rise up; they laid to my charge things that I knew not.  They rewarded me evil for good to the spoiling of my soul.   But as for me, when they were sick, my clothing was sackcloth: I humbled my soul with fasting; and my prayer returned into mine own bosom.  I behaved myself as though he had been my friend or brother: I bowed down heavily, as one that mourneth for his mother.

But in mine adversity they rejoiced, and gathered themselves together: yea, the abjects gathered themselves together against me, and I knew it not; they did tear me, and ceased not: With hypocritical mockers in feasts, they gnashed upon me with their teeth.” (Psalm 35:11-16)

Time after time, David had gone to the rescue of some community or city that was under attack, knowing it left him exposed to an attack by Saul.  Several times the leaders of those communities or cities then betrayed David in and attempt curry favor with Saul.  After David had protected his herds and property, Nabal accused David of being no more than a runaway slave and his men as common thieves and threw a party about having embarrassed David. 

“Lord, how long wilt thou look on? rescue my soul from their destructions, my darling from the lions.  I will give thee thanks in the great congregation: I will praise thee among much people.

Let not them that are mine enemies wrongfully rejoice over me: neither let them wink with the eye that hate me without a cause.  For they speak not peace: but they devise deceitful matters against them that are quiet in the land.  Yea, they opened their mouth wide against me, and said, Aha, aha, our eye hath seen it.” (Psalm 35:17-21)

David asks how long God will continue to ignore their treatment of him.  After all, David would praise God for deliverance, while  Nabal and others were just glorying in their ability to be hateful and rude.  They were deliberately doing wrong, scheming how to violate God’s commands and spreading false rumors.

This thou hast seen, O LORD: keep not silence: O LORD, be not far from me.  Stir up thyself, and awake to my judgment, even unto my cause, my God and my Lord.  Judge me, O LORD my God, according to thy righteousness; and let them not rejoice over me.  Let them not say in their hearts, Ah, so would we have it: let them not say, We have swallowed him up.  Let them be ashamed and brought to confusion together that rejoice at mine hurt: let them be clothed with shame and dishonour that magnify themselves against me.” (Psalm 35:22-26)

David was not telling God anything he didn’t already know.  He was just asking him to take action against the obvious wrongs that were being done.  He asks that they would not feel God was blessing their sin or brag about their successes in destroying him.  Instead he asks that they would be ashamed for having attacked him.   

“Let them shout for joy, and be glad, that favour my righteous cause: yea, let them say continually, Let the LORD be magnified, which hath pleasure in the prosperity of his servant.  And my tongue shall speak of thy righteousness and of thy praise all the day long.” (Psalm 35:27-28)

Many of the people understood that Saul’s attacks on David were unjustified and openly supported David.  He asks that they be allowed to see God’s protection and rejoice that they were right in supporting him.  David himself would testify as to how God had blessed and protected him.  

Monday, May 16, 2016

God Will Bless His People

Psalm 34:1-22

A Psalm of David, when he changed his behaviour before Abimelech; who drove him away, and he departed.

“I will bless the LORD at all times: his praise shall continually be in my mouth.  My soul shall make her boast in the LORD: the humble shall hear thereof, and be glad.  O magnify the LORD with me, and let us exalt his name together.” (Psalm 34:1-3)

It is important to understand that these titles were added later, probably when the Septuagent was translated into Greek, and were not part of the original writing.  Fearing Saul would catch him, David pretended to be insane before Achish when he realized the Philistines had recognized him.  The Abimelech of David’s day was one of the priests.   Like many other traditions, there is nothing that indicates that this psalm was written at that time.

Once again David states his intention to praise the Lord at all times.  Instead of boasting of what he he had accomplished, he would give the credit to God.  Humble people would hear how God had blessed and rejoice, having hope that he would bless them as well.   Unfortunately, when the focus becomes on leader’s abilities, those who do not have great pride doubt their abilities and lose hope.    The goal is for everyone to magnify the Lord. 

“I sought the LORD, and he heard me, and delivered me from all my fears.  They looked unto him, and were lightened: and their faces were not ashamed.  This poor man cried, and the LORD heard him, and saved him out of all his troubles.  The angel of the LORD encampeth round about them that fear him, and delivereth them.” Psalm 34:4-7)

David was speaking form his own experience.  When he sought the Lord, God heard and answered his prayers, taking away his fears.  People who trust the Lord will not be embarrassed that they trusted God and he broke his promise, no matter how unworthy they may seem.   God’s spirit is with his people at all times, ready to protect or deliver them.

“O taste and see that the LORD is good: blessed is the man that trusteth in him.  O fear the LORD, ye his saints: for there is no want to them that fear him.  The young lions do lack, and suffer hunger: but they that seek the LORD shall not want any good thing.  Come, ye children, hearken unto me: I will teach you the fear of the LORD.” (Psalm 34:8-11)

The only way to find out if you like something new is to try it.  While not everything new is good, a refusal to try them deprives us of a lot of blessings.  If people will try what God offers, they will find out they are satisfied with the result.  Even strong young lions sometimes go hungry, but God will always supply for those who trust him.  If they will come and learn, he will teach them to trust God.

“What man is he that desireth life, and loveth many days, that he may see good?  Keep thy tongue from evil, and thy lips from speaking guile.  Depart from evil, and do good; seek peace, and pursue it.” (Psalm 34:12-14)

Any person who wants to have a good life can, but there are some things that are necessary.  Jesus said we will have to give an account of every word we have spoken, even those we said without serious thought.  If we are to receive God’s blessing, we need to get our words under control, we don’t say evil things or lead others astray.  This will require a change in our heart attitude, leading to cessation of sin and an effort to do what is right, trying to get along with other people, rather than trying to get our way. 

“The eyes of the LORD are upon the righteous, and his ears are open unto their cry.  The face of the LORD is against them that do evil, to cut off the remembrance of them from the earth.” (Psalm 34:15-16)

God is constantly attuned to the needs of those who seek to please him.  He is set in opposition against those who will follow his commands , and will eventually destroy them, although he gives the a chance to change their minds before he does. 

“The righteous cry, and the LORD heareth, and delivereth them out of all their troubles.  The LORD is nigh unto them that are of a broken heart; and saveth such as be of a contrite spirit.  Many are the afflictions of the righteous: but the LORD delivereth him out of them all.  He keepeth all his bones: not one of them is broken.” (Psalm 34:17-20)

Whenever those who obey God call for help, God hears them and responds, enabling them to escape their problems.  He is close to anyone who is upset about things that are wrong in their life and wants to make real changes.   When they turn to God, people’s problems usually get worse, but they have God’s help to escape them.  They are protected from the results of things around them. 

“Evil shall slay the wicked: and they that hate the righteous shall be desolate.” (Psalm 34:21)

The consequences of their actions will destroy those who persist in rebelling against God and his command and hate those who do what is right. 

“The LORD redeemeth the soul of his servants: and none of them that trust in him shall be desolate.” (Psalm 34:22)

God has bought back the soul of those who serve him, and they will never be cast aside with nothing to show for their service.  

Friday, May 13, 2016

Singing Praise

Psalm 33:1-22

“Rejoice in the LORD, O ye righteous: for praise is comely for the upright.  Praise the LORD with harp: sing unto him with the psaltery and an instrument of ten strings.  Sing unto him a new song; play skilfully with a loud noise.  For the word of the LORD is right; and all his works are done in truth.  He loveth righteousness and judgment: the earth is full of the goodness of the LORD.” (Psalm 33:1-5)

Christians, ought to sing to God and take pleasure is speaking and singing about and to him for having forgiven their sin and loving them.   It is fitting that they sing praises to God.  Unfortunately, music is often a source of conflict in the modern churchI Corinthians 3:3 tells us, “For ye are yet carnal: for whereas there is among you envying, and strife, and divisions, are ye not carnal, and walk as men?”  The fact that the music is causing conflict proves the church or organization is following human wisdom rather than the Holy Spirit.  There are several factors that come into play as a result of this carnal state.

Many people equate certain instruments with evil refuse to allow them in church.   The instruments themselves are not evil and scripture describes the use of numerous instruments to praise God, from flutes, harps, psalteries, viols or violin like instruments, trumpets and cornets, a bagpipe like instrument called a sackbut, cymbals, and a small hand drum similar to a tambourine.  The problem is not the instrument, it is how it is used.  Even things that were designed by God to turn people to him can be used to turn them away if misused.   Inanimate objects are not in themselves inherently evil.  The use of a certain instrument should not be a cause of conflict. 

A second source of conflict is over the volume at which the music is played, and many modern musicians point to the command to play with a loud noise.  Because there were no amplifiers in that day, the volume was limited to the capabilities of the instrument itself.  For large groups to hear the instruments and be encouraged to sing along it was necessary to play loudly because God wanted to hear the people to sing praises to him.  Today, with modern amplification, the instruments and praise leaders are often so loud they drown out the people, frequently causing pain to those with sensitive ears.  A spiritual attitude would be concerned that their music not cause pain. 

The third issue is why we are singing.  We are to be singing to God, not to the crowd.  When our music and musical program designed to appeal to the crowd, or to emphasize the musical abilities of and individual or group such as a soloist or praise band, our singing is carnal rather than spiritual, even though it may produce strong emotional reactions.  People can be just as emotional over Satanic things as over Godly ones.   They are just as apt to be holding their arms in the air and swaying to the music at a concert promoting a gay or promiscuous lifestyle as they are at a Christian concert. 

The final issue we will address here is content.   Hebrews 13:15 defines praise as giving God thanks.   By him therefore let us offer the sacrifice of praise to God continually, that is, the fruit of our lips giving thanks to his name.”    Although the English word has a much broader meaning, this is the biblical definition.    Meaningful thanks always relates to specific actions, and praise of God recognizes specific things he has done.   This Psalm provides an excellent example of what real praise involves.    

“By the word of the LORD were the heavens made; and all the host of them by the breath of his mouth.  He gathereth the waters of the sea together as an heap: he layeth up the depth in storehouses.  Let all the earth fear the LORD: let all the inhabitants of the world stand in awe of him.  For he spake, and it was done; he commanded, and it stood fast.” (Psalm 33:6-9)

God created the world in a planned fashioned yet all it took was his speaking to make it happen, and he still controls it.  All mankind should stand in worship and amazement at his wonderful power.    

“The LORD bringeth the counsel of the heathen to nought: he maketh the devices of the people of none effect.  The counsel of the LORD standeth for ever, the thoughts of his heart to all generations.  Blessed is the nation whose God is the LORD; and the people whom he hath chosen for his own inheritance.” (Psalm 33:10-12)

God is far more powerful than any human entity.  He causes everything to turn out the way he planned, even using mankind’s deliberate attempts to thwart him to accomplish his plan.  His plan and laws cannot be changed.  As a result the people he has chosen are especially blessed because nothing can take away his promises. 

“The LORD looketh from heaven; he beholdeth all the sons of men.  From the place of his habitation he looketh upon all the inhabitants of the earth.  He fashioneth their hearts alike; he considereth all their works.  There is no king saved by the multitude of an host: a mighty man is not delivered by much strength.  An horse is a vain thing for safety: neither shall he deliver any by his great strength.” (Psalm 31:13-17)

As was stated in the Declaration of Independence, God created all men equal.  Though they might have different skin color or speak different languages he gave each one the same opportunity in life.  He observes what they do with the opportunity, and the outcome of their decisions is determined by God.  No king or government can survive solely on their own power or influence.  To depend on their own power or military equipment is foolish.  The fastest horses and the strongest man are still defeated by tiny things. 

“Behold, the eye of the LORD is upon them that fear him, upon them that hope in his mercy; To deliver their soul from death, and to keep them alive in famine.” (Psalm 33:18-19)

One of the most wonderful things about God is his constant attention to those who love and serve him.  They are kept by his power and led by the Holy Spirit so that they need not fear losing their salvation because of some sin they might commit.  Not only that, but they can trust him to provide their needs, even when the people around them are dying for lack of basic needs. 

“Our soul waiteth for the LORD: he is our help and our shield.  For our heart shall rejoice in him, because we have trusted in his holy name.  Let thy mercy, O LORD, be upon us, according as we hope in thee.” (Psalm 33:20-22)

Because we know that God will never change, and his plan cannot be changed except by him, we can trust him, knowing he will do what he promised.  We expect to  be rewarded in accordance with the way we have trusted him. 

Thursday, May 12, 2016

A Wise Choice

Psalm 32:1-11

A Psalm of David, Maschil.

“Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered.    Blessed is the man unto whom the LORD imputeth not iniquity, and in whose spirit there is no guile.” (Psalm 32:1-2)

The title Maschil means to be circumspect or intelligent.  Proverbs 1:7 tells us, “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge: but fools despise wisdom and instruction.”     In this Psalm, David is describing the benefits of that wisdom or intelligence involved in facing our sinful nature and confessing our sin. 

How wonderful it is to have ones sins forgiven and the penalty paid.  Even better, the very record of that sin has been expunged, and we no longer have to pretend to be good, but can live openly, without any sense of guilt or need to hide our sin from others. 

“When I kept silence, my bones waxed old through my roaring all the day long.  For day and night thy hand was heavy upon me: my moisture is turned into the drought of summer. Selah.” (Psalm 32:3-4)

As we have said before, there is nothing harder to live with than a guilty conscience, and psychology views guilt as an evil thing.    In reality, Just as physical pain warns that there is a physical problem that needs to be addressed, guilt signals that there is a spiritual problem that needs to be addressed.  Unfortunately, many people, including doctors view the pain itself as the problem and ignore the underlying problem, using painkillers or other techniques to reduce the amount of pain.   Because the underlying problem has not been resolved the use of the pain killer of other technique must be used on a regular basis, and can lead to an addiction.  Similarly, attempts to deal with guilt, treating it as an emotional problem or the result of cultural conditioning results in and ongoing need for psychological counseling or medication, and frequently leads to addiction to alcohol or other drugs, because the underlying spiritual problem has not been dealt with.

The longer David lived with his guilt the worse it became.   He became depressed, and it became harder and harder to force himself to do anything.  He felt constantly weighted down and like every bit of energy and hope was being drained away.    Finally, he took a different approach. 

“I acknowledged my sin unto thee, and mine iniquity have I not hid. I said, I will confess my transgressions unto the LORD; and thou forgavest the iniquity of my sin. Selah.” (Psalm 32:5)

Guilt is a sign of a spiritual problem, that our relationship with God has been damaged or broken.    Isaiah 59:2 tells us, “…your iniquities have separated between you and your God, and your sins have hid his face from you, that he will not hear.”  I John 1:8-10 describes what needs to be done to fix thast underlying problem.  “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.   If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.   If we say that we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.”

At first David had tried to ignore his sin and the resulting guilt, but when he confessed it, God forgave it just as he promised, and expunged the record, clearing away every trace of it.  Unfortunately, many people confess to a sinful action, without confessing to the sinful attitude that caused the action.  God is not fooled by such tricks.  Cleansing us requires the attitude being changed.  Otherwise we just commit some other sin. 

“For this shall every one that is godly pray unto thee in a time when thou mayest be found: surely in the floods of great waters they shall not come nigh unto him.” (Psalm 32:6)

Every person who is Godly prays, confessing their sin and asking forgiveness when the opportunity is still available, not waiting until they die or the Lord returns.   Once the person dies, he will not be given another chance, as Matthew 18:18 makes clear.  “Verily I say unto you, Whatsoever ye shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever ye shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.”  The decision on earth is final.  People who act while they still can need have no fear of future judgment. 

“Thou art my hiding place; thou shalt preserve me from trouble; thou shalt compass me about with songs of deliverance. Selah.

 I will instruct thee and teach thee in the way which thou shalt go: I will guide thee with mine eye.  Be ye not as the horse, or as the mule, which have no understanding: whose mouth must be held in with bit and bridle, lest they come near unto thee.” (Psalm 32:7-9)

Because he had confessed his sin and received forgiveness, David could rest in the Lord, depending on him to preserve his soul from trouble.  God promised to instruct him and guide him in the proper way, but David was expected to willingly yield so that he didn’t have to be forced to do the right thing like some animals need to control them and protect their owners.  God wants us to obey willingly. 

“Many sorrows shall be to the wicked: but he that trusteth in the LORD, mercy shall compass him about.  Be glad in the LORD, and rejoice, ye righteous: and shout for joy, all ye that are upright in heart.” (Psalm 32:10-11)

The wicked will be in constant state of turmoil and struggle, but the man that trusts God will experience God’s forgiveness and mercy, avoiding many of the natural consequences of his actions.  They should be glad and shouting for joy that they will not have to suffer the judgment they would otherwise face.    It is a wise and intelligent choice to give up our pride and confess our sin so we can receive God’s forgiveness and blessings.

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Struggling With A Sense Of Guilt

Psalm 31:1-24

To the chief Musician, A Psalm of David.

“In thee, O LORD, do I put my trust; let me never be ashamed: deliver me in thy righteousness.  Bow down thine ear to me; deliver me speedily: be thou my strong rock, for an house of defence to save me.  For thou art my rock and my fortress; therefore for thy name's sake lead me, and guide me.  Pull me out of the net that they have laid privily for me: for thou art my strength.  Into thine hand I commit my spirit: thou hast redeemed me, O LORD God of truth.” (Psalm 31:1-5)

David had committed himself to trust God in every situation.  He asks that God deliver him before he begins to question his faithfulness.  He was depending on the Lord rather than his own efforts to save him and asked that God Lead and guide him so that he could be a testimony to God.   Others had plotted to ensnare him and he needed God to prevent his being trapped.  He was depending completely on God as his redeemer. 

“I have hated them that regard lying vanities: but I trust in the LORD.  I will be glad and rejoice in thy mercy: for thou hast considered my trouble; thou hast known my soul in adversities; And hast not shut me up into the hand of the enemy: thou hast set my feet in a large room.” (Psalm 31:6-8)

David had rejected the world’s ideas about how to gain the victory, and was trusting God instead.  He believed God would deliver him and he would be able to rejoice in what God had done, because God had demonstrated his love.  God knew the things he had done under duress and still loved him, not forsaking him to his enemies.  Instead of being cornered, he had freedom to move around. 

“Have mercy upon me, O LORD, for I am in trouble: mine eye is consumed with grief, yea, my soul and my belly.  For my life is spent with grief, and my years with sighing: my strength faileth because of mine iniquity, and my bones are consumed.” (Psalm 31:9-10)

David was consumed with feelings of guilt, as he faced his problems, aware he did not deserve God’s blessings, and that grief was resulting in depression that affected him physically.  There is nothing harder to live with than a guilty conscience.   It can destroy one’s confidence and faith and leave a person emotionally paralyzed.   Understand that if we have honestly repented of our sin, God has promised to put it behind us and never remember it again.  It is not God  who keeps bringing it up.

“I was a reproach among all mine enemies, but especially among my neighbours, and a fear to mine acquaintance: they that did see me without fled from me.  I am forgotten as a dead man out of mind: I am like a broken vessel.  For I have heard the slander of many: fear was on every side: while they took counsel together against me, they devised to take away my life.” (Psalm 31:11-13)

Not only was he struggling emotionally with his sense of guilt, David found his neighbors and acquaintances avoiding him, fearing they would be embroiled in his conflicts and killed by Saul for supporting him.  They had reason for concern after Saul had the priests murdered in I Samuel 22:11-23 for having fed David.  Even people he had helped betrayed him for fear of Saul. 

“But I trusted in thee, O LORD: I said, Thou art my God.  My times are in thy hand: deliver me from the hand of mine enemies, and from them that persecute me.  Make thy face to shine upon thy servant: save me for thy mercies' sake.  Let me not be ashamed, O LORD; for I have called upon thee: let the wicked be ashamed, and let them be silent in the grave.  Let the lying lips be put to silence; which speak grievous things proudly and contemptuously against the righteous.” (Psalm 31:14-18)

David has trusted God, and the outcome is strictly up to Him.  He asks that God would bless and show favor by delivering him, and shutting up the enemies who lied about him and others who serve God.  He asks that their pride be turned to embarrassment and that they be destroyed as they though to do to David.   

“Oh how great is thy goodness, which thou hast laid up for them that fear thee; which thou hast wrought for them that trust in thee before the sons of men!  Thou shalt hide them in the secret of thy presence from the pride of man: thou shalt keep them secretly in a pavilion from the strife of tongues.  Blessed be the LORD: for he hath showed me his marvellous kindness in a strong city.  For I said in my haste, I am cut off from before thine eyes: nevertheless thou heardest the voice of my supplications when I cried unto thee.” (Psalm 31:19-22)

God has made wonderful promises to those who trust him.  He promised to hide and protect them from the pride of people and their conflicts and accusations.  Unfortunately many times promises do not live up to expectations, but God had exceeded the promises.  David had been protected, so he wasas safe as if he had been in a strong fortified city.  When he had almost given up hope and was thoroughly depressed, God heard and answered his prayer.

“O love the LORD, all ye his saints: for the LORD preserveth the faithful, and plentifully rewardeth the proud doer.  Be of good courage, and he shall strengthen your heart, all ye that hope in the LORD.”  (Psalm 31:23-24)
Christians should love the Lord with all their hearts, because he always takes care of those who believe in him, and punishes those who think they can ignore him.  If we trust him and don’t yield to our fears, he will strengthen the faith of everyone who trusts him.

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Thanking God For a Permanent Home

Psalm 30:1-12

A Psalm and Song at the dedication of the house of David.

 “I will extol thee, O LORD; for thou hast lifted me up, and hast not made my foes to rejoice over me.” (Psalm 30:1)

As the title states, this psalm was a song prepared for the dedication of David’s house in Jerusalem, after he became king.  For years he had been forced to run from Saul, unable to live openly most of the time for fear of being killed.  Time after time God protected him, delivering him when capture or death seemed inevitable, finally making him king and causing the death of his enemies.    David wanted to give God the glory and praise for what he had done on David’s behalf, and the dedication of his home offered the perfect opportunity.

“O LORD my God, I cried unto thee, and thou hast healed me.  O LORD, thou hast brought up my soul from the grave: thou hast kept me alive, that I should not go down to the pit.” (Psalm 30:3-3)

Time after time, God had heard David’s prayers and answered him.  Just at the point where it looked like David would surely be killed, God spared his life, causing Saul to miss with his spear twice, and forcing him to defend himself against the Philistines when he seemingly had David trapped.  Each time David escaped unharmed, despite Saul’s determination to kill him.

“Sing unto the LORD, O ye saints of his, and give thanks at the remembrance of his holiness.  For his anger endureth but a moment; in his favour is life: weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning.  And in my prosperity I said, I shall never be moved.” (Psalm 30:4-6)

Believers ought to sing God’s praises when they think about what he is like.  Unlike people he doesn’t hold grudges.  While he may get angry and punish us, once the punishment has accomplished its purpose, it finished, and we never suffer for it again.  When God blesses, it is literally and emotionally life.  While we may suffer for a little while, it is a fleeting thing that will end shortly.  As we see God’s blessing we realize that there is nothing that can take us away from God’s love.  We will never lose our salvation.

As Hebrews 13:5-6 tells us, we should be satisfied with what he has provided because he promised to always be there for us.  “Let your conversation be without covetousness; and be content with such things as ye have: for he hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee.  So that we may boldly say, The Lord is my helper, and I will not fear what man shall do unto me.”  We have nothing to worry about.

“LORD, by thy favour thou hast made my mountain to stand strong: thou didst hide thy face, and I was troubled.  I cried to thee, O LORD; and unto the LORD I made supplication.  What profit is there in my blood, when I go down to the pit? Shall the dust praise thee? shall it declare thy truth?  Hear, O LORD, and have mercy upon me: LORD, be thou my helper.” (Psalm 30:7-10)

When God showed his favor, David was able to be confident in his blessings, but when God stepped back it got his attention and he began to pray for restoration.    As Romans 8:32 asks, “He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things?”  After paying so much for our salvation, it doesn’t make any sense that God would throw it all away over some minor infraction on our part.  For his saints to be cast into hell would bring him no glory or praise. 

Fortunately, God understands we are just human and is willing to forgive our sin, recognizing our weakness as Hebrews 4:15-16 tells us.  “For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin.  Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.”   Because Jesus has experienced the temptations we experience, he can understand how easily we give in, and we don’t need to be afraid to ask for forgiveness or help.

Thou hast turned for me my mourning into dancing: thou hast put off my sackcloth, and girded me with gladness; To the end that my glory may sing praise to thee, and not be silent. O LORD my God, I will give thanks unto thee for ever.” (Psalm 30:11-12)

By Making him king and enabling him to build himself a home, God had turned David’s fear and worries to a time of celebration.  He was no longer embarrassed or trying to hide, but was openly enjoying his life.  God had caused it to happen so David could enjoy it and sing his praises, and he was committed to giving him thanks, to praising him forever.