Friday, July 29, 2016

Seeking God’s Help

Psalm 79:1-13

A Psalm of Asaph.

“O God, the heathen are come into thine inheritance; thy holy temple have they defiled; they have laid Jerusalem on heaps.  The dead bodies of thy servants have they given to be meat unto the fowls of the heaven, the flesh of thy saints unto the beasts of the earth.  Their blood have they shed like water round about Jerusalem; and there was none to bury them.  We are become a reproach to our neighbours, a scorn and derision to them that are round about us.” (Psalm 79:1-4)

Tradition assigns this Psalm to Asaph, but from this passage it is clear it could not have been written by the Asaph in David’s day.  Jerusalem did not become a Jewish city until after David became king, and the Temple was not built until after his death.  At no time during David’s or Solomon’s reign was Jerusalem attacked as described here so this Psalm had to be written at a much later date, after both Judah and Israel turned away.  In fact the description seems to be of the period shortly before Jerusalem was destroyed by Babylon.

Jerusalem had been attacked and thousands were dead.  The Temple had been desecrated, and there were not enough people available to bury the dead.  Judah and Jerusalem had lost all the respect the other nations had once had for them. 

“How long, LORD? wilt thou be angry for ever? shall thy jealousy burn like fire?  Pour out thy wrath upon the heathen that have not known thee, and upon the kingdoms that have not called upon thy name.  For they have devoured Jacob, and laid waste his dwelling place.” (Psalm 79:5-7)

When we are in trouble, we constantly ask how long it will last.  And here the Psalmist is asking how long God will continue to allow Jerusalem to be smitten instead of turning on those who have rejected God and destroyed Israel and Judah.  After all it seems unfair that God’s children suffer when the wicked do not.  We so easily forget God loves us and chastens us to bring us into obedience.  He gives the wicked enough rope to hang themselves, but when they are punished it is for their destruction.  They are not just corrected. 

“O remember not against us former iniquities: let thy tender mercies speedily prevent us: for we are brought very low.  Help us, O God of our salvation, for the glory of thy name: and deliver us, and purge away our sins, for thy name's sake.  Wherefore should the heathen say, Where is their God? let him be known among the heathen in our sight by the revenging of the blood of thy servants which is shed.” (Psalm 79:8-10)

He begs that God not continue to hold their past sins over them, but that he comes to their rescue because they have been severely embarrassed and humbled by what has happened.    He asks that God deliver them for his own glory and take away their sin to maintain his own reputation in the world.  Why should the unsaved be allowed to think God is powerless or doesn’t care?   By punishing those who have killed his servants, he can regain their respect. 

“Let the sighing of the prisoner come before thee; according to the greatness of thy power preserve thou those that are appointed to die; And render unto our neighbours sevenfold into their bosom their reproach, wherewith they have reproached thee, O Lord.” (Psalm 79”11-12)

He asks that God listen to the sighing and hopelessness of those who had been taken captive and intervene on behalf of those who were facing execution.   He asks that the neighbors who had been responsible for them being in their situation be repaid in full because by attacking his people they had implied he could or would do nothing.   

“So we thy people and sheep of thy pasture will give thee thanks for ever: we will show forth thy praise to all generations.” (Psalm 79:13)

As they saw his power and realized what he delivered them from, God’s people would be thankful forever, and try to ensure future generations knew his power and blessings by their teaching and leaving memorials.   God loves us immensely but sometimes our guilt makes us feel even he would not care about us anymore,  When we feel so guilty we can’t imagine him forgiving us, we can still trust God to act on our behalf simply to protect his own reputation and keep his promise.  Our hope is not dependent on our being good enough, but on God’s own nature.  He will not change or break his promise.

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Teaching Future Generations

Psalm 78:1-72

Maschil of Asaph.

“Give ear, O my people, to my law: incline your ears to the words of my mouth.  I will open my mouth in a parable: I will utter dark sayings of old:  Which we have heard and known, and our fathers have told us.  We will not hide them from their children, showing to the generation to come the praises of the LORD, and his strength, and his wonderful works that he hath done.  For he established a testimony in Jacob, and appointed a law in Israel, which he commanded our fathers, that they should make them known to their children: That the generation to come might know them, even the children which should be born; who should arise and declare them to their children: That they might set their hope in God, and not forget the works of God, but keep his commandments: And might not be as their fathers, a stubborn and rebellious generation; a generation that set not their heart aright, and whose spirit was not stedfast with God.

The children of Ephraim, being armed, and carrying bows, turned back in the day of battle.  They kept not the covenant of God, and refused to walk in his law; And forgat his works, and his wonders that he had showed them.” (Psalm 78:1-11)

The psalmist asks the people to listen as recounts the story of what God has done for them.  They need to make the story public so that future generations can know God’s power and love and understand what he expects of his people.  Without that awareness, they will be like past generations who rebelled and would not obey or follow his leading.  Joseph had been the one responsible for the establishment of Israel in Egypt, yet his Descendants, specifically the tribe of Ephraim was one of the first to turn away from God.  Years later, when the kingdom Split, they would again lead the others away from God.    It is important to understand that unless future generations are taught to serve God, it really doesn’t matter how much their parents served him.    They saw the same power the others did. 

“Marvellous things did he in the sight of their fathers, in the land of Egypt, in the field of Zoan.  He divided the sea, and caused them to pass through; and he made the waters to stand as an heap.  In the daytime also he led them with a cloud, and all the night with a light of fire.  He clave the rocks in the wilderness, and gave them drink as out of the great depths.  He brought streams also out of the rock, and caused waters to run down like rivers.” (Psalm 78:12-16)

All of Israel, including Ephraim and Manasseh experienced the miracles God did in the wilderness, from the time they left Egypt until they entered the land of Canaan.  He is making the same point Paul did in I Corinthians 10:1-5.  “Moreover, brethren, I would not that ye should be ignorant, how that all our fathers were under the cloud, and all passed through the sea; And were all baptized unto Moses in the cloud and in the sea; And did all eat the same spiritual meat; And did all drink the same spiritual drink: for they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them: and that Rock was Christ.  But with many of them God was not well pleased: for they were overthrown in the wilderness.”  Despite all they had seen many did not believe his power.

“And they sinned yet more against him by provoking the most High in the wilderness.  And they tempted God in their heart by asking meat for their lust.   Yea, they spake against God; they said, Can God furnish a table in the wilderness?  Behold, he smote the rock, that the waters gushed out, and the streams overflowed; can he give bread also? can he provide flesh for his people?” (Psalm 78:17-20)

Even though he had caused water to come out of the rock, the people doubted his ability to give them food to eat in the desert,

“Therefore the LORD heard this, and was wroth: so a fire was kindled against Jacob, and anger also came up against Israel; Because they believed not in God, and trusted not in his salvation:  Though he had commanded the clouds from above, and opened the doors of heaven,  And had rained down manna upon them to eat, and had given them of the corn of heaven.  Man did eat angels' food: he sent them meat to the full.  He caused an east wind to blow in the heaven: and by his power he brought in the south wind.  He rained flesh also upon them as dust, and feathered fowls like as the sand of the sea: And he let it fall in the midst of their camp, round about their habitations.

So they did eat, and were well filled: for he gave them their own desire; They were not estranged from their lust. But while their meat was yet in their mouths, The wrath of God came upon them, and slew the fattest of them, and smote down the chosen men of Israel.  For all this they sinned still, and believed not for his wondrous works.  Therefore their days did he consume in vanity, and their years in trouble. ” (Psalm 78:21-33)

God provided the Manna to feed them and when they complained about it, he supplied quail as they demanded.   There was so much quail, they couldn’t eat it all and after a few days it spoiled and they began to die from food poisoning. Killing the healthiest and biggest eaters.   They still didn’t believe his power, and wound up living out their lives without accomplishing their goals.    The story is a serious warning to those who demand that God give them what they want. 

“When he slew them, then they sought him: and they returned and inquired early after God.  And they remembered that God was their rock, and the high God their redeemer.  Nevertheless they did flatter him with their mouth, and they lied unto him with their tongues.  For their heart was not right with him, neither were they stedfast in his covenant.” (Psalm 78:34-37)

Like many people today, when they were in trouble, the Jews promised to obey God, and remembered all his promises and actions on their behalf.  Unfortunately their whole goal was to get what they wanted so they told God what they thought he wanted to hear, with no intention of keeping their promises.  They were not committed to obeying him. 

“But he, being full of compassion, forgave their iniquity, and destroyed them not: yea, many a time turned he his anger away, and did not stir up all his wrath.  For he remembered that they were but flesh; a wind that passeth away, and cometh not again.” (Psalm 78:39-39)

Though he knew they were lying, God honored their prayers, giving them the opportunity to change because he recognized their human nature and that they had only a very short lifespan.    Unfortunately, people often assume they are getting by with their sin because God gives them this chance, as Romans 2:4-6 tells us.  “Or despisest thou the riches of his goodness and forbearance and longsuffering; not knowing that the goodness of God leadeth thee to repentance?  But after thy hardness and impenitent heart treasurest up unto thyself wrath against the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God; Who will render to every man according to his deeds.”  

“How oft did they provoke him in the wilderness, and grieve him in the desert!  Yea, they turned back and tempted God, and limited the Holy One of Israel.  They remembered not his hand, nor the day when he delivered them from the enemy.  How he had wrought his signs in Egypt, and his wonders in the field of Zoan: And had turned their rivers into blood; and their floods, that they could not drink.  He sent divers sorts of flies among them, which devoured them; and frogs, which destroyed them.  He gave also their increase unto the caterpillar, and their labour unto the locust.  He destroyed their vines with hail, and their sycamore trees with frost.  He gave up their cattle also to the hail, and their flocks to hot thunderbolts.  He cast upon them the fierceness of his anger, wrath, and indignation, and trouble, by sending evil angels among them.  He made a way to his anger; he spared not their soul from death, but gave their life over to the pestilence; And smote all the firstborn in Egypt; the chief of their strength in the tabernacles of Ham: But made his own people to go forth like sheep, and guided them in the wilderness like a flock.

And he led them on safely, so that they feared not: but the sea overwhelmed their enemies.  And he brought them to the border of his sanctuary, even to this mountain, which his right hand had purchased. He cast out the heathen also before them, and divided them an inheritance by line, and made the tribes of Israel to dwell in their tents.  Yet they tempted and provoked the most high God, and kept not his testimonies: But turned back, and dealt unfaithfully like their fathers: they were turned aside like a deceitful bow.  For they provoked him to anger with their high places, and moved him to jealousy with their graven images.” (Psalm 78:40-58)

All the miracles God had done in Egypt and his supplying their needs in the wilderness made little or no impression.  They turned away, worshipping other Gods and following their own ideas. 

“When God heard this, he was wroth, and greatly abhorred Israel: So that he forsook the tabernacle of Shiloh, the tent which he placed among men; And delivered his strength into captivity, and his glory into the enemy's hand.  He gave his people over also unto the sword; and was wroth with his inheritance.  The fire consumed their young men; and their maidens were not given to marriage.  Their priests fell by the sword; and their widows made no lamentation.” (Psalm 78:59-64)

God  rejected the old location of the Tabernacle at Shiloh and allowed Israel to go into captivity, allowing thousands to be killed.  Even his priests were killed and no one took time to mourn them, as described in I Samuel. 

“Then the Lord awaked as one out of sleep, and like a mighty man that shouteth by reason of wine.  And he smote his enemies in the hinder parts: he put them to a perpetual reproach.  Moreover he refused the tabernacle of Joseph, and chose not the tribe of Ephraim: But chose the tribe of Judah, the mount Zion which he loved.  And he built his sanctuary like high palaces, like the earth which he hath established for ever.  He chose David also his servant, and took him from the sheepfolds: From following the ewes great with young he brought him to feed Jacob his people, and Israel his inheritance.  So he fed them according to the integrity of his heart; and guided them by the skilfulness of his hands.” (Psalm 78:65-72)

Finally, God started over with complete new leadership giving them a man from the tribe of Judah, David, who would follow God.  The Temple was placed in Jerusalem, and God blessed them under David’s leadership.  Joseph’s family had given up any claim they might have had.   Teaching future generations to serve God is crucial.  

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

A Need For Fellowship

Psalm 77:1-20

To the chief Musician, to Jeduthun, A Psalm of Asaph.

“I cried unto God with my voice, even unto God with my voice; and he gave ear unto me.  In the day of my trouble I sought the Lord: my sore ran in the night, and ceased not: my soul refused to be comforted.  I remembered God, and was troubled: I complained, and my spirit was overwhelmed. Selah.  Thou holdest mine eyes waking: I am so troubled that I cannot speak.” (Psalm 77:1-4)

Job 5:7 tells us, “…man is born unto trouble, as the sparks fly upward.”  Trouble is a natural part of life and we deal with problems every day.  Sometimes we feel like we are drowning in our trouble, and the psalmist was no different than the rest of us.   He had reached the point of blaming God for letting him suffer so much and nothing seemed to offer any relief.  Fortunately, God hears us no matter how large or urgent our problems may be or how overwhelmed we feel, but relief doesn’t always come right away.  He describes some of what he went through seeking relief.

“I have considered the days of old, the years of ancient times.  I call to remembrance my song in the night: I commune with mine own heart: and my spirit made diligent search.  Will the Lord cast off for ever? and will he be favourable no more?  Is his mercy clean gone for ever? doth his promise fail for evermore?  Hath God forgotten to be gracious? hath he in anger shut up his tender mercies? Selah.” (Psalm 77:5-9)

He looked back at how God had blessed in the past and remembered how he had rejoiced in things God had done for him, searching his memory for things he had forgotten.  He remembered that God has promised never to forget his children and will not break his promise.  He reminded himself that there is nothing we can do to destroy his love for us. 

“And I said, This is my infirmity: but I will remember the years of the right hand of the most High.  I will remember the works of the LORD: surely I will remember thy wonders of old.  I will meditate also of all thy work, and talk of thy doings.” (Psalm 77:10-12)

He finally realized the problem was his own lack of faith, not a failure on God’s part.  He was determined to keep thinking about what God had done, for himself and for Israel.  H committed to thinking about the things God had done and would do and talking about those things.   
“Thy way, O God, is in the sanctuary: who is so great a God as our God?  Thou art the God that doest wonders: thou hast declared thy strength among the people.  Thou hast with thine arm redeemed thy people, the sons of Jacob and Joseph. Selah.” (Psalm 77:13-15)

One of the most valuable things we can do when we are discouraged is to go to church, even though it seems our natural tendency is to pull away.  Hebrews 10:23-25 advises, “Let us hold fast the profession of our faith without wavering; (for he is faithful that promised;) And let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works: Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching.”   If the church is what it should be, there will be a focus on what God has done both in the past in the people’s lives.  There will be encouragement to serve God and not give up.  There will be others to help us, but if we don’t go we don’t get that encouragement. 

When he went to the sanctuary, he was reminded of all the things God does.  He saw the people showing how God had worked among them, saving them from problem after problem.  It was God, not their own effort that redeemed  them and made the difference.

“The waters saw thee, O God, the waters saw thee; they were afraid: the depths also were troubled.  The clouds poured out water: the skies sent out a sound: thine arrows also went abroad.  The voice of thy thunder was in the heaven: the lightnings lightened the world: the earth trembled and shook.  Thy way is in the sea, and thy path in the great waters, and thy footsteps are not known.  Thou leddest thy people like a flock by the hand of Moses and Aaron.” (Psalm 77:16-20)

When he went he was reminded that God worked in nature, not just in the human realm.  He controls the weather, the ocean and everything on earth, and his ways are higher than ours so that we can’t always figure out what he is doing.  He uses ordinary people like Moses or Aaron to accomplish things we cannot understand.  

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Responsibility of Rulers

Psalm 76:1-12

To the chief Musician on Neginoth, A Psalm or Song of Asaph.

“In Judah is God known: his name is great in Israel.  In Salem also is his tabernacle, and his dwelling place in Zion.  There brake he the arrows of the bow, the shield, and the sword, and the battle. Selah.” (Psalm 76:1-3)

People across America know President Obama’s name, but few, other than his neighbors in Chicago know him personally.  In the same way. God created the world, and many people know his name but few know him personally, except in Israel.  One of his special places, Salem or as it is called in the New Testament, Salim or peace was like a vacation home where he came to relax.  Zion or the temple district of Jerusalem was his everyday home, and he was well known in both places.  It was in Zion where he conducted his most important business, defeating those who fought Israel.    

“Thou art more glorious and excellent than the mountains of prey.  The stouthearted are spoiled, they have slept their sleep: and none of the men of might have found their hands.” (Psalm 76:4-5)

It is even better to be with God than on a hunting trip to the mountains to get away from the daily pressures.  Those who oppose have been defeated and lost everything.  Many have died and even those who remain have found themselves powerless, as if they had had their hands chopped off. 

“At thy rebuke, O God of Jacob, both the chariot and horse are cast into a dead sleep.  Thou, even thou, art to be feared: and who may stand in thy sight when once thou art angry?” (Psalm 76:6-7)

Just a word from God can stop even the most determined person.  God’s power is beyond comprehension and only a fool would try to stand against his anger. 

“Thou didst cause judgment to be heard from heaven; the earth feared, and was still, When God arose to judgment, to save all the meek of the earth.  Surely the wrath of man shall praise thee: the remainder of wrath shalt thou restrain.” (Psalm 76:8-10)

The first word translated Judgment means justice, while the second word  refers to delivering a verdic in a case.  God has declared what is just or right so all could know.  The whole world stood in fear when God arose to pronounce his verdict about their sin and what needed to be done to make things right for the meek, those who had been victimized.  Even those who were upset by what happened would praise God for his decision, and be prevented from trying to avenge themselves. 

“Vow, and pay unto the LORD your God: let all that be round about him bring presents unto him that ought to be feared.  He shall cut off the spirit of princes: he is terrible to the kings of the earth.” (Psalm 76:11-12)

Keep your promises to God and show him proper respect.  After all, he can totally eliminate the pride of business leaders and will judge the governments and political systems in a terrible way, holding them accountable for every action they have taken. 

Those leaders are there as representatives of God as Romans 13:1-4 tells us, and have been given special authority.  “Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God.  Whosoever therefore resisteth the power, resisteth the ordinance of God: and they that resist shall receive to themselves damnation.  For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to the evil. Wilt thou then not be afraid of the power? do that which is good, and thou shalt have praise of the same: For he is the minister of God to thee for good. But if thou do that which is evil, be afraid; for he beareth not the sword in vain: for he is the minister of God, a revenger to execute wrath upon him that doeth evil.”

Along with that special authority comes a special level of accountability, because their actions affect so many people.   James 3:1 warns, “My brethren, be not many masters, knowing that we shall receive the greater condemnation.”  Leaders, whether religious or secular, have a very high level of responsibility for their actions.  They may not be aware of the damage their actions cause, but they will still be held accountable.   Many who seek such power are unaware of the responsibility that goes with it. 

For example, in today’s world, politicians think nothing of breaking political promises or lying about things, but Revelation 21:8 declares, “…and all liars, shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone: which is the second death.”  They will be accountable for all those lies they told for political expediency, for the people who lost their homes or businesses due to their decisions or were murdered because they allowed a murderer to go free.  Their judgment will be terrible.  

Monday, July 25, 2016

A Leader’s Commitment

Psalm 75:1-10

“To the chief Musician, Altaschith, A Psalm or Song of Asaph.

The traditional title means “Thou Shall Not Destroy.”

Unto thee, O God, do we give thanks, unto thee do we give thanks: for that thy name is near thy wondrous works declare. “ (Psalm 75:1)

Everywhere we look there is evidence of God’s power and his care for us.  As Romans 1:20 says, “For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse.”  People who are observant can hardly help being thankful and praising him for the things they see in nature.    

“When I shall receive the congregation I will judge uprightly.  The earth and all the inhabitants thereof are dissolved: I bear up the pillars of it. Selah.” (Psalm 75:2-3)

Though tradition credits this song to Asaph, It appears David is speaking, before he had been made king over all Israel.  When he is crowned as their king, he promises to Judge in a proper manner, being fair to everyone involved.   God’s intention was for each person to be individually responsible for their own actions.  Israel chose to have a king to take the responsibility for them, and had chosen Saul to be their king.  This had led to a vast turning away from God.  David saw himself as responsible for teaching them to obey God and setting an example, just as pastors and teachers today are supposed to do.   

“I said unto the fools, Deal not foolishly: and to the wicked, Lift not up the horn: Lift not up your horn on high: speak not with a stiff neck.  For promotion cometh neither from the east, nor from the west, nor from the south.   But God is the judge: he putteth down one, and setteth up another.” (Psalm 75:4-7)

He has warned the foolish to think about what they are doing and understand the consequences of their actions.  He warns the wicked not to get like a young bull proudly taking on everyone around in an effort to show his strength.  Real promotion doesn’t come from earthly power but from God.  God is the one who decides who will succeed or fail. 

“For in the hand of the LORD there is a cup, and the wine is red; it is full of mixture; and he poureth out of the same: but the dregs thereof, all the wicked of the earth shall wring them out, and drink them.” (Psalm 75:8)

When grapes were squeezed by people stomping them in the wine press, the liquid was delicious and pure, but many times the dregs, what might remain in the bottom of the cup would have dead insect bodies , leaves and whatever the people treading out the grapes might have on their feet.  Those who please God will receive the pure juice, but the wicked will have to wring out all those things that settled to the bottom in an effort to get a little juice, al little pleasure. 

“But I will declare for ever; I will sing praises to the God of Jacob.  All the horns of the wicked also will I cut off; but the horns of the righteous shall be exalted.” (Psalm 75:9-10)

David is committed to keep the focus on God, constantly praising him.  He will dehorn all the wicked who try to show off their power, taking away their power, but those who do what is right will be promoted and encouraged.    

It is easy for leaders to blame their followers for the problems, but the leaders set the tone for the organization or nation.  If they are not doing what the leader thinks they should, he needs to look at his own behavior, especially if he has been there more than a year or so.  

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Begging God to Respond

Psalm 74:1-23

Maschil of Asaph.

“O God, why hast thou cast us off for ever? why doth thine anger smoke against the sheep of thy pasture?  Remember thy congregation, which thou hast purchased of old; the rod of thine inheritance, which thou hast redeemed; this mount Zion, wherein thou hast dwelt.” (Psalm 74:1-2)

The leadership of a nation or organizations establishes the attitude of the nation or organization.  King Saul repeatedly broke God’s commandments and encouraged others to do so.  As a result, after his death, it took seven years to reunite the nation.   It seemed like the struggles would never end.   The Psalmist is asking that God would remember the promises he had made when he redeemed them out of Egypt. 

“Lift up thy feet unto the perpetual desolations; even all that the enemy hath done wickedly in the sanctuary.  Thine enemies roar in the midst of thy congregations; they set up their ensigns for signs.  A man was famous according as he had lifted up axes upon the thick trees.  But now they break down the carved work thereof at once with axes and hammers.  They have cast fire into thy sanctuary, they have defiled by casting down the dwelling place of thy name to the ground.  They said in their hearts, Let us destroy them together: they have burned up all the synagogues of God in the land.” (Psalm 74:3-8)

He asks that God not punish the whole nation for the actions of a few who hated God.  They had committed sins in the very sanctuary, with Saul having the priests murdered.  They spoke out loudly against the things of God encouraging people to murder David and take property from those who didn’t do as Saul commanded.  The city of Nob had been built up and people worshipped God there, but Doeg led a group to completely destroy and burn the entire city.        

“We see not our signs: there is no more any prophet: neither is there among us any that knoweth how long.  O God, how long shall the adversary reproach? shall the enemy blaspheme thy name for ever?  Why withdrawest thou thy hand, even thy right hand? pluck it out of thy bosom.” (Psalm 74:9-11)

They were going through a period when it seemed like God was no longer directing the nation with special signs and there were no prophets led by God to tell them when the trials would end.  Would God ever intervene on their behalf?  Would the attacks on and rejection of God never end?   Why didn’t God intervene and stop the wickedness. 

“For God is my King of old, working salvation in the midst of the earth.  Thou didst divide the sea by thy strength: thou brakest the heads of the dragons in the waters.  Thou brakest the heads of leviathan in pieces, and gavest him to be meat to the people inhabiting the wilderness.  Thou didst cleave the fountain and the flood: thou driedst up mighty rivers.” (Psalm 74:12-15)

God is the same God who had delivered Israel and caused continents to separate, dividing up the seas.  He was the God who killed the dragons or dinosaurs and enabled little groups of people in the desert to eat them.  It was God who divided up the springs of water to form rivers and streams and sent the flood, and it is him who caused some rivers to become just dry washes.

“The day is thine, the night also is thine: thou hast prepared the light and the sun.  Thou hast set all the borders of the earth: thou hast made summer and winter.  Remember this, that the enemy hath reproached, O LORD, and that the foolish people have blasphemed thy name.” (Psalm 74:16-18)

God still has the power today that he had at creation.  He made the light, and the sun as a source.  He shaped adthe earth and the continents, and created the boundaries that separate between land and ocean and atmosphere, and tilted the earth’s axis to cause winter and summer. Knowing this he asks that God would realize people are denying his power and his care for his people. 

“O deliver not the soul of thy turtledove unto the multitude of the wicked: forget not the congregation of thy poor for ever.  Have respect unto the covenant: for the dark places of the earth are full of the habitations of cruelty.  O let not the oppressed return ashamed: let the poor and needy praise thy name.” (Psalm 74:19-21)

Compared to the world, his children are as weak and defenseless as the turtle dove.  He asks that God protect his lved ones from the wicked and not forget the just allow the wicked to continuously have power over the poor and weak.  Instead he asks that he remember his promises because the world is full of wickedness.  He asks that he not allow the week and abused to feel hopeless but that the poor and needy would have reason to praise him. 

“Arise, O God, plead thine own cause: remember how the foolish man reproacheth thee daily.  Forget not the voice of thine enemies: the tumult of those that rise up against thee increaseth continually.” (Psalm 74:22-23)

He asks that God would stand up for himself and show he is God.  He needs to remember Satan and his followers are constantly attacking, and only God is strong enough to defeat them.  

Monday, July 18, 2016

Tempted to Quit

Psalm 73:1-28

A Psalm of Asaph.

“Truly God is good to Israel, even to such as are of a clean heart.  But as for me, my feet were almost gone; my steps had well nigh slipped.  For I was envious at the foolish, when I saw the prosperity of the wicked.  For there are no bands in their death: but their strength is firm.  They are not in trouble as other men; neither are they plagued like other men.  Therefore pride compasseth them about as a chain; violence covereth them as a garment.” (Psalm 73:1-6)

The Psalmist knew God had blessed Israel and those who obeyed God, but he found it confusing to look at the wicked.  In fact it had reached a point where he was almost ready to give up on God, because It seemed like they were even more blessed.  Other people died of lingering sicknesses, struggled to make ends meet, or dealt with family and legal problems.  The worst people seemed to avoid all these problems.  As several writers have described Bill and Hillary Clinton, it is like they are Teflon coated and nothing sticks. 

“Their eyes stand out with fatness: they have more than heart could wish.  They are corrupt, and speak wickedly concerning oppression: they speak loftily.  They set their mouth against the heavens, and their tongue walketh through the earth.” (Psalm 73:7-9)

Not only do all the problems seem to just slide off the wicked, but they have everything they want in quantities no one could ever use.  They spend thousands of dollars on a dress or tee shirt, and live in homes that other people could not even pay the light bill for.  They constantly ignore the standards of right and wrong and joke about taking advantage of those who are less fortunate.  They don’t hesitate to speak to use gutter language or take God’s name in vain. 

“Therefore his people return hither: and waters of a full cup are wrung out to them.  And they say, How doth God know? and is there knowledge in the most High?  Behold, these are the ungodly, who prosper in the world; they increase in riches.” (Psalm 73:10-12)

By comparison, God’s people frequently find themselves forced to squeeze out their last penny to pay the bills, and begin to wonder if God even realizes the struggles the face.  Sometimes they wonder if God even cares.  Even while Christians are struggling, the wicked are getting richer, and gaining power and respect.   

“Verily I have cleansed my heart in vain, and washed my hands in innocency.  For all the day long have I been plagued, and chastened every morning.  If I say, I will speak thus; behold, I should offend against the generation of thy children.” (Psalm 73:13-15)

As he looked around, it seemed the Psalmist had wasted his time trying to please God.  It seemed like it had been foolish to do things the way God had said because it had prevented him from having what others had.  Not only that but he had spent his life concerned about not offending people and constantly dealing with guilt and even suffering for things he had done while the wicked didn’t have to deal with those things.   The psalmist’s feelings are very common, and thousands have come this same point and turned their backs on Christianity as a result. 

“When I thought to know this, it was too painful for me; Until I went into the sanctuary of God; then understood I their end.  Surely thou didst set them in slippery places: thou castedst them down into destruction.  How are they brought into desolation, as in a moment! they are utterly consumed with terrors.” (Psalm 73:16-19)

The feeling that he was depriving his family and wasting his time trying to serve God really hurt, until he went into God’s house and heard God’s word.  Then he began to understand the consequences of their actions.  Though they seem to be doing so well, they are like a gymnast on a balance beam covered with ice.  At any moment they could slip off with no warning or opportunity to prepare for the fall and be seriously injured or killed.  It will happen inevitably, no matter how skilled they may be, and when it does, their future will be completely destroyed.   Ultimately, they will be cast into the lake of fire for eternity.   

“As a dream when one awaketh; so, O Lord, when thou awakest, thou shalt despise their image.  Thus my heart was grieved, and I was pricked in my reins.  So foolish was I, and ignorant: I was as a beast before thee.” (Psalm 73:20-22)

When God addresses the situation, it will be violently like someone startled from their sleep. Angry at being disturbed.  As he understood what was happened the psalmist was saddened that he had even entertained the idea of giving up.  The very thought was as foolish as if he was some kingd of animal with no ability to thing about the consequences of his actions. 

“Nevertheless I am continually with thee: thou hast holden me by my right hand.  Thou shalt guide me with thy counsel, and afterward receive me to glory.  Whom have I in heaven but thee? and there is none upon earth that I desire beside thee.” (Psalm 73:23-25)

He had not fallen away because God held him like a parent holding the hand of a little child to keep him from danger.  Like a loving father, he can count on God to show him a safe way, and then, at the end of his life, to receive him into heaven.  As Peter 1:5 tells us, we “…are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.”  He alone is our hope for the future, either in heaven or on earth. 

“My flesh and my heart faileth: but God is the strength of my heart, and my portion for ever.  For, lo, they that are far from thee shall perish: thou hast destroyed all them that go a whoring from thee.  But it is good for me to draw near to God: I have put my trust in the Lord GOD, that I may declare all thy works.” (Psalm 73:26-28)

Sometimes our best intentions are not enough to keep us from doing things we know are wrong, and other times we simply give in to the feeling serving God is hopeless.    It is God that gives us the strength to keep trying even after we have failed.  Those who do not have his strength just continue to go away from him and will be destroyed.  Knowing we are kept by his power, we can get up and try again even after we’ve fallen, trusting him to help us, and sharing what he has done for us.  

Friday, July 15, 2016

Messiah’s Kingdom

Psalm 72:1-20

A Psalm for Solomon.

God had told David that the Messiah, Jesus Christ would be one of his descendants.  While tradition considers this a Psalm for Solomon, David’s son, the prophecies it contains seem more applicable to Christ than to Solomon. 

“Give the king thy judgments, O God, and thy righteousness unto the king's son.  He shall judge thy people with righteousness, and thy poor with judgment.  The mountains shall bring peace to the people, and the little hills, by righteousness.  He shall judge the poor of the people, he shall save the children of the needy, and shall break in pieces the oppressor.  They shall fear thee as long as the sun and moon endure, throughout all generations.  He shall come down like rain upon the mown grass: as showers that water the earth.” (Psalm 72:1-6)

Messiah will rule with a rod of iron so that injustice will be eliminated, and every decision will be based totally on truth rather than man’s opinion.  All oppression will be eliminated and the laws will apply equally to all, whether rich or poor, famous or unknown.   As a result people will turn to God throughout eternity, and his presence will be like a gentle rain, nourishing everyone and everything. 

“In his days shall the righteous flourish; and abundance of peace so long as the moon endureth.  He shall have dominion also from sea to sea, and from the river unto the ends of the earth.  They that dwell in the wilderness shall bow before him; and his enemies shall lick the dust.” (Psalm 72:7-9)

Under his administration, those who do what is right will prosper abundantly with no corrupt political or economic system taking their profits or limiting their success as long as his the earth and moon remain.  Because his kingdom will encompass the entire earth, there will be no other powers to threaten their success.  Even those who hate him will be forced to leave his people alone. 

“The kings of Tarshish and of the isles shall bring presents: the kings of Sheba and Seba shall offer gifts.  Yea, all kings shall fall down before him: all nations shall serve him.  For he shall deliver the needy when he crieth; the poor also, and him that hath no helper.” (Psalm 72:10-12)

At one time Tarshish, or present day Spain ruled much of western Europe, including France, and the British Isles.  The Isles refer to the entire Mediterranean area , and Sheba and Seba refer to groups in  Africa and Asia.    All the kings of the world will come to him in worship and submit to him, because the people know they will be heard when their own governments ignore their problems.  The governments will either comply or be removed. 
“He shall spare the poor and needy, and shall save the souls of the needy.  He shall redeem their soul from deceit and violence: and precious shall their blood be in his sight.  And he shall live, and to him shall be given of the gold of Sheba: prayer also shall be made for him continually; and daily shall he be praised.” (Psalm 72:13-15)

He will protect and care for those who are unable to help themselves and save the souls of those who turn to him for help.  He will protect them from scams and physical attacks, punishing those who kill or injure them severely.   People will pray to him and praise him every day for what he has done.

“There shall be an handful of corn in the earth upon the top of the mountains; the fruit thereof shall shake like Lebanon: and they of the city shall flourish like grass of the earth.  His name shall endure for ever: his name shall be continued as long as the sun: and men shall be blessed in him: all nations shall call him blessed.” (Psalm 72:16-17)

Even a handful of seed in a less than ideal climate will produce enough for a whole nation, with the result that there will be no shortages in the cities.  Christ’s kingdom will continue until the end of the earth, as long as the sun shines, and all the people of the earth will be blessed in him as God promised Abraham. 

“Blessed be the LORD God, the God of Israel, who only doeth wondrous things.  And blessed be his glorious name for ever: and let the whole earth be filled with his glory; Amen, and Amen.

 The prayers of David the son of Jesse are ended.” (Psalm 72:18-20)

It is only God who could make such promises and fulfill them.  David praises his name for his promises and asks that the wol earth be aware of his wonderful power and goodness.  

Thursday, July 14, 2016

A Testimony In Old Age

Psalm 71:1-24

“In thee, O LORD, do I put my trust: let me never be put to confusion.  Deliver me in thy righteousness, and cause me to escape: incline thine ear unto me, and save me.  Be thou my strong habitation, whereunto I may continually resort: thou hast given commandment to save me; for thou art my rock and my fortress.  Deliver me, O my God, out of the hand of the wicked, out of the hand of the unrighteous and cruel man.  For thou art my hope, O Lord GOD: thou art my trust from my youth.” (Psalm 71:1-5)

This Psalm was written late in David’s life, possibly about the time of Absalom’s attempt to usurp the Kingdom.   David had been trusting in god for years. And he no longer panicked when things seemed to be going the wrong way.  He asks that he never experience the confusion and panic he had felt before.  He asks that God deliver him in God’s righteousness, helping him escape the cruel and wicked people. 

“By thee have I been holden up from the womb: thou art he that took me out of my mother's bowels: my praise shall be continually of thee.  I am as a wonder unto many; but thou art my strong refuge.  Let my mouth be filled with thy praise and with thy honour all the day.  Cast me not off in the time of old age; forsake me not when my strength faileth.  For mine enemies speak against me; and they that lay wait for my soul take counsel together, Saying, God hath forsaken him: persecute and take him; for there is none to deliver him.  O God, be not far from me: O my God, make haste for my help.  Let them be confounded and consumed that are adversaries to my soul; let them be covered with reproach and dishonour that seek my hurt.” (Psalm 71:6-13)

David was aware that God had protected and cared for him from the time he was born.  Other people were amazed that the still praised God, but he knew God was still protecting him.  Younger people looked at him, seeing the results of old age and concluded that God had forgotten him and that they could now take advantage of him.   Many times scams artists and burglars target older people in the belief they will be easier to take advantage of.  He asks that God prevent that from happening, and that those who tried be embarrassed by their actions. 

“But I will hope continually, and will yet praise thee more and more.  My mouth shall show forth thy righteousness and thy salvation all the day; for I know not the numbers thereof.  I will go in the strength of the Lord GOD: I will make mention of thy righteousness, even of thine only.” (Psalm 71:14-16)

He was committed to continue trusting in God and praising him just as he had in the past.  He had no idea how long he would live but he was determined to serve God, as long as he lived, depending on God for the strength, and publicizing what God had done for him. 

“O God, thou hast taught me from my youth: and hitherto have I declared thy wondrous works.  Now also when I am old and greyheaded, O God, forsake me not; until I have showed thy strength unto this generation, and thy power to every one that is to come.” (Psalm 71:17-18)

Many older Christians become depressed over declining health and loss of friends and relatives.  The depression and bitterness turns others away from God.  David asks that he not fall into that attitude, but that he would be able to be a testimony an encouragement to the next generation and  for those who would be born in the future. 

“Thy righteousness also, O God, is very high, who hast done great things: O God, who is like unto thee!   Thou, which hast showed me great and sore troubles, shalt quicken me again, and shalt bring me up again from the depths of the earth.  Thou shalt increase my greatness, and comfort me on every side.” (Psalm 71:19-21)

Remembering what God had done for him gave David assurance he would continue to act on his behalf.  He had been through great emotional stress in the past, and God had delivered him, and expected God to prevent it turning to depression so that he didn’t feel like he had lost everything.  God would give him comfort, and might well set him in place of prominence again.    His life was not over.  God still had a purpose for him. 

“I will also praise thee with the psaltery, even thy truth, O my God: unto thee will I sing with the harp, O thou Holy One of Israel.  My lips shall greatly rejoice when I sing unto thee; and my soul, which thou hast redeemed.  My tongue also shall talk of thy righteousness all the day long: for they are confounded, for they are brought unto shame, that seek my hurt.” (Psalm 71:22-24)

When we realize God has a purpose in our life, even when our body is no longer to do the things we once did, we have reason to look forward to every day.  Like David we can praise God for the things that happen and have happened to us.     

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

A Leader’s Trials

Psalm 70:1-5

To the chief Musician, A Psalm of David, to bring to remembrance.

“Make haste, O God, to deliver me; make haste to help me, O LORD.  Let them be ashamed and confounded that seek after my soul: let them be turned backward, and put to confusion, that desire my hurt.  Let them be turned back for a reward of their shame that say, Aha, aha.” (Psalm 70:1-3)

Humans have an awareness of time that has been amplified as society and technology have made life more complex.   David had struggled with constant accusations by Saul and his followers until sometimes he felt it would never end.  He is praying that God would act quickly on his behalf, turning the accusations against those who were making them, and leaving them with nothing to say.  He sked that they would be forced to withdraw their charges and embarrassed to admit they were false.

“Let all those that seek thee rejoice and be glad in thee: and let such as love thy salvation say continually, Let God be magnified.” (Psalm 70:4)

One of David’s ongoing concerns was that those who believed in God would be encouraged rather than discouraged by what happened in David’s life.   Here he prays that they would see God’s protection and deliverance and sing God’s praises again. 

“But I am poor and needy: make haste unto me, O God: thou art my help and my deliverer; O LORD, make no tarrying.” (Psalm 70:5)

It is hard to encourage others to trust God and give thanks for their problems when you are struggling yourself.  David was needing encouragement himself, and asks that God would respond without delay, so that his own unease would not affect other people.   Leaders struggle with many of the same difficulties as their followers, but because they are in the public eye, their reactions tend to affect more people, and good leaders are concerned about what the effect will be.   There are times when it is hard and lonely being a leader, knowing one’s responsibility for setting an example.      

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Praising God In Spite of The Problems

Psalm 69:1-36

To the chief Musician upon Shoshannim, A Psalm of David.

This psalm was meant to be accompanied by the trumpet. 

Save me, O God; for the waters are come in unto my soul.  I sink in deep mire, where there is no standing: I am come into deep waters, where the floods overflow me.  I am weary of my crying: my throat is dried: mine eyes fail while I wait for my God.  They that hate me without a cause are more than the hairs of mine head: they that would destroy me, being mine enemies wrongfully, are mighty: then I restored that which I took not away.” (Psalm 69:1-4)

Like everyone, David frequently felt discouraged or depressed, and this Psalm describes one of those times.    When he started the song. He felt like a person sinking in quick sand, with the water constantly getting closer to his head.  He had cried out to God for help until his throat was raw and his eyes were tired of watching.   His enemies were attacking and accusing him, to the point he was paying things he didn’t owe to eliminate any appearance of evil. 

“O God, thou knowest my foolishness; and my sins are not hid from thee.  Let not them that wait on thee, O Lord GOD of hosts, be ashamed for my sake: let not those that seek thee be confounded for my sake, O God of Israel.  Because for thy sake I have borne reproach; shame hath covered my face.” (Psalm 69:5-7)

David was aware that his own actions might have caused some of his problems, and he asks that others who believed in God not be discouraged as a result of what was happening to him.  He has taken the blame and disgrace for God’s sake, unable to prove his innocence. 

“I am become a stranger unto my brethren, and an alien unto my mother's children.  For the zeal of thine house hath eaten me up; and the reproaches of them that reproached thee are fallen upon me.  When I wept, and chastened my soul with fasting, that was to my reproach.  I made sackcloth also my garment; and I became a proverb to them.  They that sit in the gate speak against me; and I was the song of the drunkards.” (Psalm 69:8-12)

His desire to please God and his discouragement was preventing David from being able to spend time with his brothers and sisters, and those who hated God were accusing him of doing wrong.  The harder he tried to please God, the more they accused him.  They were holding him up as a bad example and a warning against serving God.
“But as for me, my prayer is unto thee, O LORD, in an acceptable time: O God, in the multitude of thy mercy hear me, in the truth of thy salvation.  Deliver me out of the mire, and let me not sink: let me be delivered from them that hate me, and out of the deep waters.  Let not the waterflood overflow me, neither let the deep swallow me up, and let not the pit shut her mouth upon me.

Hear me, O LORD; for thy lovingkindness is good: turn unto me according to the multitude of thy tender mercies.  And hide not thy face from thy servant; for I am in trouble: hear me speedily.  Draw nigh unto my soul, and redeem it: deliver me because of mine enemies. Ps 69:19 Thou hast known my reproach, and my shame, and my dishonour: mine adversaries are all before thee.” (Psalm 69:13-19)

Despite his discouragement, David was trusting God to take care of him.   Though it wasn’t happening when he hoped, David still believed God would rescue him at the proper time.  He wouldn’t allow him to drown in his despair.  He knew God still loved him, but he would sure appreciate God acting on his behalf soon.  After all, God knew everything about him. 

“Reproach hath broken my heart; and I am full of heaviness: and I looked for some to take pity, but there was none; and for comforters, but I found none.  They gave me also gall for my meat; and in my thirst they gave me vinegar to drink.” (Psalm 69:20-21)

He was so discouraged by the accusations and kept hoping somebody would share something that would give relief.  Instead it seemed like everyone was out to push him down even further. 

“Let their table become a snare before them: and that which should have been for their welfare, let it become a trap.  Let their eyes be darkened, that they see not; and make their loins continually to shake.  Pour out thine indignation upon them, and let thy wrathful anger take hold of them.  Let their habitation be desolate; and let none dwell in their tents.  For they persecute him whom thou hast smitten; and they talk to the grief of those whom thou hast wounded.  Add iniquity unto their iniquity: and let them not come into thy righteousness.  Let them be blotted out of the book of the living, and not be written with the righteous.” (Psalm 69:22-28)

David asked that those who were so determinedly trying to destroy him begin to suffer as a result.   He prayed that the things they were counting as blessings turned out to be curses instead, and that they would find themselves in the same kind of fear he was experiencing.   He prayed they might soon know God’s judgment, because of what they were doing to a person who tried to serve God.  If they would not change, he asked that they lose their lives. 

“But I am poor and sorrowful: let thy salvation, O God, set me up on high.  I will praise the name of God with a song, and will magnify him with thanksgiving.  This also shall please the LORD better than an ox or bullock that hath horns and hoofs.

The humble shall see this, and be glad: and your heart shall live that seek God.  For the LORD heareth the poor, and despiseth not his prisoners.  Let the heaven and earth praise him, the seas, and every thing that moveth therein.  For God will save Zion, and will build the cities of Judah: that they may dwell there, and have it in possession.  The seed also of his servants shall inherit it: and they that love his name shall dwell therein. ” (Psalm 69:29-36)

He promises to serve and praise God no matter what happens, and knows that it is what God wants more than any sacrifice he could offer.  He asks that God would set him free because it would be an encouragement to others who were seeking to please God.  It would result in the entire earth praising God, not just David, and God’s people would be able to live there.  

Monday, July 11, 2016

God’s Glory Will Be Seen

Psalm 68:1-35

To the chief Musician, A Psalm or Song of David.

“Let God arise, let his enemies be scattered: let them also that hate him flee before him.  As smoke is driven away, so drive them away: as wax melteth before the fire, so let the wicked perish at the presence of God.  But let the righteous be glad; let them rejoice before God: yea, let them exceedingly rejoice.” (Psalm 68:1-3)

David sets a wonderful example of love toward God for modern Christians.  Although he was frequently concerned about his own situation. His concern that God be glorified was always uppermost in his mind.  He wanted God’s enemies to be silenced and those who loved and glorified God to be heard.   

“Sing unto God, sing praises to his name: extol him that rideth upon the heavens by his name JAH, and rejoice before him.  A father of the fatherless, and a judge of the widows, is God in his holy habitation.  God setteth the solitary in families: he bringeth out those which are bound with chains: but the rebellious dwell in a dry land.” (Psalm 68:4-6)

There should be no question who the people were praising.  He was Jehovah, or Jah, the self-existent one.   He adopts children no one else claims, and he sees that those who have no representation receive justice.    He makes those who no one else part of a family and frees those who are prisoners or slaves, while leaving those who rebel against him in a very unsatisfactory state. 

“O God, when thou wentest forth before thy people, when thou didst march through the wilderness; Selah: The earth shook, the heavens also dropped at the presence of God: even Sinai itself was moved at the presence of God, the God of Israel.  Thou, O God, didst send a plentiful rain, whereby thou didst confirm thine inheritance, when it was weary.  Thy congregation hath dwelt therein: thou, O God, hast prepared of thy goodness for the poor.” (Psalm 68:7-10)

He recounts how God had led Israel through the forty years in the wilderness, so that even mount Sinai shook.  Then when they came into the land, he blessed with ample rain and their crops were abundant, confirming that he was pleased with his people.  They had lived in the land for over six hundred years by David’s time, and had been richly blessed despite the being a small nation with no strong central government until Saul became king. 

“The Lord gave the word: great was the company of those that published it.  Kings of armies did flee apace: and she that tarried at home divided the spoil.  Though ye have lien among the pots, yet shall ye be as the wings of a dove covered with silver, and her feathers with yellow gold.  When the Almighty scattered kings in it, it was white as snow in Salmon.” (Psalm 68:11-14)

When God spoke, the nation of Israel did as he commanded, and the kings of other nations were terrified, fleeing for their lives while those who waited divided up what they left behind.  Even those who had been just servants benefited from the victories over their enemies, making them rich. 

“The hill of God is as the hill of Bashan; an high hill as the hill of Bashan.  Why leap ye, ye high hills? this is the hill which God desireth to dwell in; yea, the LORD will dwell in it for ever.  The chariots of God are twenty thousand, even thousands of angels: the Lord is among them, as in Sinai, in the holy place.

Thou hast ascended on high, thou hast led captivity captive: thou hast received gifts for men; yea, for the rebellious also, that the LORD God might dwell among them.  Blessed be the Lord, who daily loadeth us with benefits, even the God of our salvation. Selah.  He that is our God is the God of salvation; and unto GOD the Lord belong the issues from death.  But God shall wound the head of his enemies, and the hairy scalp of such an one as goeth on still in his trespasses.

The Lord said, I will bring again from Bashan, I will bring my people again from the depths of the sea: That thy foot may be dipped in the blood of thine enemies, and the tongue of thy dogs in the same.  They have seen thy goings, O God; even the goings of my God, my King, in the sanctuary.” (Psalm 68:15-24)

When the Children of Israel went into the Land of Canaan, the tribes of Reuben, Gad, and half of Manasseh were so thrilled with the land of Bashan and the area east of Jordan they had no interest in going any farther.  God has had the same attitude about the Children of Israel and their land.  He has decided to make it his capital and live there forever, and he has to power to keep it.  He has gotten the victory over sin and Satan, giving them salvation and freedom, forgiving their sin, and giving them daily blessings.  He gives eternal life, but he will destroy those who refuses to turn to him.  He will restore Israel from among all the peoples and give them victory over their enemies, just as he has done in the past. 

“The singers went before, the players on instruments followed after; among them were the damsels playing with timbrels.  Bless ye God in the congregations, even the Lord, from the fountain of Israel.  There is little Benjamin with their ruler, the princes of Judah and their council, the princes of Zebulun, and the princes of Naphtali.  Thy God hath commanded thy strength: strengthen, O God, that which thou hast wrought for us.  Because of thy temple at Jerusalem shall kings bring presents unto thee.  Rebuke the company of spearmen, the multitude of the bulls, with the calves of the people, till every one submit himself with pieces of silver: scatter thou the people that delight in war.” (Psalm 68:25-30)

When God restores Israel, it will be like it was when David brought the Ark of the Covenant to Jerusalem.  People were dancing in the streets, singing and playing instruments.  Everyone from the little tribe of Benjamin to the huge tribe of Judah will be involved.  They will all recognize their sin and turn to God, submitting themselves and following his commands.  Those who want to fight will be scattered and driven out. 

“Princes shall come out of Egypt; Ethiopia shall soon stretch out her hands unto God.  Sing unto God, ye kingdoms of the earth; O sing praises unto the Lord; Selah: To him that rideth upon the heavens of heavens, which were of old; lo, he doth send out his voice, and that a mighty voice.  Ascribe ye strength unto God: his excellency is over Israel, and his strength is in the clouds.” (Psalm 68:31-34)

Even the countries that have been Israel’s enemies, such as Egypt and Ethiopia will turn to God, with their leaders openly coming to Jerusalem to worship him.  All will recognize his power and glory.

“O God, thou art terrible out of thy holy places: the God of Israel is he that giveth strength and power unto his people. Blessed be God.” (Psalm 68:35)

It is God’s wonderful power that makes these things happen.  

Friday, July 8, 2016

Displaying God’s Power

Psalm 67:1-7

To the chief Musician on Neginoth, A Psalm or Song.

This is another Psalm or song tradition indicates was to be given to director of the string section. 

“God be merciful unto us, and bless us; and cause his face to shine upon us; Selah.  That thy way may be known upon earth, thy saving health among all nations.” (Psalm 67:1-2)

The psalmist asks that God might reveal himself to the people, forgiving their sin and blessing them.   Seeing his power and blessings would call other people’s attention to God and his laws, his forgiveness and his love so that all the nations could know him and experience his salvation.    

Other people are looking for ways to have a better life, and are strongly influenced by what they see in the lives of Christians around them.  If all they see is people who are just doing things in their own power,  they have little reason to turn to Christ, but if they see God’s power in the Christian’s life, having a real effect, they have reason to investigate further. 

“Let the people praise thee, O God; let all the people praise thee.  O let the nations be glad and sing for joy: for thou shalt judge the people righteously, and govern the nations upon earth. Selah.  Let the people praise thee, O God; let all the people praise thee.” (Psalm 67:3-5)

When the Christians are experiencing Gods presence in the lives, those around are inspired as well.  Other nations will surrender to God and worship him as well.  The attitude of those who believe will greatly affect those around them. 

“Then shall the earth yield her increase; and God, even our own God, shall bless us.  God shall bless us; and all the ends of the earth shall fear him.” (Psalm 67:6-7)

As they show their appreciation for God, he begins to bless the people in ways thatat first seem unconnected, such as making their crops more productive, and their relationship becomes more personal.  They recognize him as their personal God, not just the God who lives away up there somewhere.  

Thursday, July 7, 2016

Cause Everyone To Praise God

Psalm 66:1-20

To the chief Musician, A Song or Psalm.

“Make a joyful noise unto God, all ye lands: Sing forth the honour of his name: make his praise glorious.  Say unto God, How terrible art thou in thy works! through the greatness of thy power shall thine enemies submit themselves unto thee.  All the earth shall worship thee, and shall sing unto thee; they shall sing to thy name. Selah.” (Psalm 66:1-4)

It is by God’s power that we even exist.  Every nation on earth ought to celebrate the amazing and wonderful things God has done for them.    It is through his power that they have been able to hold their country and one day the world will realize this and worship him.

“Come and see the works of God: he is terrible in his doing toward the children of men.  He turned the sea into dry land: they went through the flood on foot: there did we rejoice in him.  He ruleth by his power for ever; his eyes behold the nations: let not the rebellious exalt themselves. Selah.   O bless our God, ye people, and make the voice of his praise to be heard: Ps 66:9 Which holdeth our soul in life, and suffereth not our feet to be moved.” (Exodus 66:5-7)

God’s people need to stop and consider the wonderful things God does on their behalf.  He enabled them to walk across the Red Sea on dry ground.  They were excited and happy at the time, but over time, the joy had faded.  God still has the same power and still works in the same way.  He knows what is going on and will not allow the wicked to take control, even in our day.  We need to stop and think about thank him for his power, realizing that he keeps us alive and protects us every day.  He will not let us down, no matter how bad things may seem. 

“For thou, O God, hast proved us: thou hast tried us, as silver is tried.  Thou broughtest us into the net; thou laidst affliction upon our loins.  Thou hast caused men to ride over our heads; we went through fire and through water: but thou broughtest us out into a wealthy place.” (Exodus 66:10-12)

The trials we have gone through have come from God.  He has purified us like silver, identifying and separating out what is not right.  The process has produced a sense of hopelessness, but the end result has been far better than where we started. 

“I will go into thy house with burnt offerings: I will pay thee my vows,  Which my lips have uttered, and my mouth hath spoken, when I was in trouble.  I will offer unto thee burnt sacrifices of fatlings, with the incense of rams; I will offer bullocks with goats. Selah.” (Psalm 66:13-15)

David would go to Gods house to celebrate, offering thanksgiving.  He will keep the promises he had made to God , even those he made when he was under duress and made the promise without considering what it would cost him.   He would not do like many do, forgetting their promises once they have attained what they wanted or changing his mind when he realized what keeping the promises would cost.   He will give the offerings regardless of the cost. 

“Come and hear, all ye that fear God, and I will declare what he hath done for my soul.  I cried unto him with my mouth, and he was extolled with my tongue.  If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear me: But verily God hath heard me; he hath attended to the voice of my prayer.  Blessed be God, which hath not turned away my prayer, nor his mercy from me.” (Psalm 66:16-20)

David wanted to share what God had done for him with others.  When he cried out God answered and he praised him for it.   The fact that God answered clearly implied that God had forgiven him of his sin, because he does not respond  to those who live a sinful lifestyle.  God had heard and answered his prayer and forgiven him.  If he would do that for David he will do it for others.  

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

The God Who Keeps Us

Psalm 65:1-13

To the chief Musician, A Psalm and Song of David.

“Praise waiteth for thee, O God, in Sion: and unto thee shall the vow be performed.  O thou that hearest prayer, unto thee shall all flesh come.” (Psalm 65:1-2)

God deserves our praise every day, but David is describing a special time of praise and worship, when he will be especially honored in Jerusalem.   People will keep their commitments to God, thankful that he hears their prayers, and even the wicked will come to worship. While he spoke of his day he also looked forward to the prophecy in Isaiah 45:23-24.  “I have sworn by myself, the word is gone out of my mouth in righteousness, and shall not return, That unto me every knee shall bow, every tongue shall swear.  Surely, shall one say, in the LORD have I righteousness and strength: even to him shall men come; and all that are incensed against him shall be ashamed.”  The prophecy is refined and repeated in Romans 14 and Philippians 2, making it clear it is about the Lord’s return.
“Iniquities prevail against me: as for our transgressions, thou shalt purge them away.  Blessed is the man whom thou choosest, and causest to approach unto thee, that he may dwell in thy courts: we shall be satisfied with the goodness of thy house, even of thy holy temple.” (Psalm 65:3-4)

Even the strongest Christian sometimes struggles with sin, as Paul describes in Romans 7:18-25.  “For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing: for to will is present with me; but how to perform that which is good I find not.   For the good that I would I do not: but the evil which I would not, that I do.  Now if I do that I would not, it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me.  I find then a law, that, when I would do good, evil is present with me.  For I delight in the law of God after the inward man: But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members.  O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death?  I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord. So then with the mind I myself serve the law of God; but with the flesh the law of sin.” 

Though we will never reach a state where we are not tempted by sin on thei earth, we have the assurance of God’s forgiveness and cleansing through Christ, as I John 1:9 promises.  The result is that we can have assurance of our eternal salvation even though we sin from time to time.   Our place in heave is assured.  John 10:27-30 makes this very clear.  “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me: And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand.  My Father, which gave them me, is greater than all; and no man is able to pluck them out of my Father's hand.  I and my Father are one.”  Our eternal security is based on God’s power to forgive rather than our good behavior.   As I Peter 1:5 puts it,  We “…are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.”

“By terrible things in righteousness wilt thou answer us, O God of our salvation; who art the confidence of all the ends of the earth, and of them that are afar off upon the sea: Which by his strength setteth fast the mountains; being girded with power: Which stilleth the noise of the seas, the noise of their waves, and the tumult of the people.   They also that dwell in the uttermost parts are afraid at thy tokens: thou makest the outgoings of the morning and evening to rejoice.“ (Psalm 65:5-7)

The God who keeps us is the same God who answers with amazing and marvelous miracles, who saves us and the entire world depends on.   He is the God who keeps the mountains standing in the proper place, and controls the waves of the sea and the conflicts and fighting among people,  frightening them with the signs of his power in nature.    

 “Thou visitest the earth, and waterest it: thou greatly enrichest it with the river of God, which is full of water: thou preparest them corn, when thou hast so provided for it.  Thou waterest the ridges thereof abundantly: thou settlest the furrows thereof: thou makest it soft with showers: thou blessest the springing thereof.  Thou crownest the year with thy goodness; and thy paths drop fatness.  They drop upon the pastures of the wilderness: and the little hills rejoice on every side.  The pastures are clothed with flocks; the valleys also are covered over with corn; they shout for joy, they also sing.” (Psalm 65:9-13)

God didn’t just set the world in motion and leave it to take care of itself.  He is actively involved in every detail.  He controls the level of the rivers, and causes food to grow where he provided water and soil for it.  He sends the rain to soften the earth and to water the plants, and causes the seeds to germinate and grow.  The year is full of good things and they overflow to those around.  The flocks grow abundantly because of his blessing and the valleys are filled with plants.  All of nature sings with pleasure.  

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

The Attitude of the Wicked

Psalm 64:1-9

To the chief Musician, A Psalm of David.

“Hear my voice, O God, in my prayer: preserve my life from fear of the enemy.  Hide me from the secret counsel of the wicked; from the insurrection of the workers of iniquity: Who whet their tongue like a sword, and bend their bows to shoot their arrows, even bitter words: That they may shoot in secret at the perfect: suddenly do they shoot at him, and fear not.” (Psalm 64:1-4)

The world uses intimidation constantly, whether it is the criminal trying to rob one, the bill collector threatening legal action or the police officer enforcing the law.  As a result people become accustomed to living with fear, dealing with it in different ways.    David prays that God would keep him from living in constant fear and turmoil.    Wicked people plot how to destroy others, and actively rebel against moral standards.  They practice shaming people and constantly make unfounded accusations in an attempt to destroy the person’s reputation, frequently posing as his friend in the process. 

“They encourage themselves in an evil matter: they commune of laying snares privily; they say, Who shall see them?  They search out iniquities; they accomplish a diligent search: both the inward thought of every one of them, and the heart, is deep.” (Psalm 64:5-6)

Wicked people encourage each other to do things they know are wrong they plot to entrap peple, and count of being able to hide what they have done.    They actively search out opportunities and ways to take advantage of others.  They conceal their plans and their real motives. 

As we look at what David says about the wicked, we see these attitudes are very prevalent in today’s society, from the rich political and business leader to the homeless person on the street corner.  It seems every effort is made to take advantage of other people, with little or no concern for how their actions affect others.  It would be easy to get depressed, worrying about what will happen next, and this is what David is asking for help to avoid. 

“But God shall shoot at them with an arrow; suddenly shall they be wounded.  So they shall make their own tongue to fall upon themselves: all that see them shall flee away.  And all men shall fear, and shall declare the work of God; for they shall wisely consider of his doing.” (Psalm 64:7-9)

God is going to deal with their wickedness, whether anyone believes it or not.    God directs every punishment to have maximum impact, and there is no possibility the wicked can avoid judgment.     They will be destroyed as a result of their own actions and statements, and will find that people avoid them.   Other people will be deterred by what happens to them and be forced to think about what is right and who God is. 

“The righteous shall be glad in the LORD, and shall trust in him; and all the upright in heart shall glory.” (Psalm 64:10)

One of the problems in American society is that we try to protect people from the consequences of their sin.  As a result others are encouraged rather than being deterred, and the guilty learns nothing.   At the same time we invent reasons for punishing those who have done nothing wrong. 

Those who want what is right will want to see the spread of evil stopped, even if it means that those who do evil are severely punished or even killed for their actions.  It is a sad commentary on modern society that we protect guilty people from the consequences of their sin.