Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Dependent On God’s Mercy

Psalm 143:1-12

A Psalm of David.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, November 28, 2016

No One But God To Trust

Psalm 142:1-7

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, November 25, 2016

Trusting God When It Seems Hopeless

Psalm 141:1-10

A Psalm of David

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, November 21, 2016

Surrounded By Wickedness

Psalm 140:1-13

To the chief Musician, A Psalm of David.

“Deliver me, O LORD, from the evil man: preserve me from the violent man; Which imagine mischiefs in their heart; continually are they gathered together for war.  They have sharpened their tongues like a serpent; adders' poison is under their lips. Selah.” (Psalm 140:1-3)

We are surrounded by evil men who seek to have everything their own way, and try to destroy anything that limits t5hem or reminds them of their limitations.  They will physically attack or kill all who oppose them.  They constantly think about ways to take advantage of other people and are constantly on the defensive, ready to go to war against anyone.  They take pleasure in saying offensive and derogatory things, and don’t care who they hurt or kill. 

“Keep me, O LORD, from the hands of the wicked; preserve me from the violent man; who have purposed to overthrow my goings.  The proud have hid a snare for me, and cords; they have spread a net by the wayside; they have set gins for me. Selah.” (Psalm 140:4-5)

The wicked and violent will do anything in their power to destroy those who do right and prevent their success.  There are so many that we are incapable of protecting ourselves from all of them.  Convinced they can succeed if they destroy the righteous, they set all kinds of traps for them from sexual and moral to financial and political.  We have to depend on the Lord to enable us to escape them all. 

“I said unto the LORD, Thou art my God: hear the voice of my supplications, O LORD.  O GOD the Lord, the strength of my salvation, thou hast covered my head in the day of battle.  Grant not, O LORD, the desires of the wicked: further not his wicked device; lest they exalt themselves. Selah.” (Psalm 140:6-8)

David reminded God, and himself that he was depending on God for help.  He is asking the God who has given him salvation and protection in battle to protect him from these spiritual and political attacks as well to prevent the wicked gaining power and taking control.  Sometimes as Christians, we become afraid God will not come to our rescue.   We need to remember how much God has already invested.  He will not forsake us now.    Romans 8:31-34 reminds us what God has done for us.  “What shall we then say to these things? If God be for us, who can be against us?  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?  Who shall lay any thing to the charge of God's elect? It is God that justifieth.  Who is he that condemneth? It is Christ that died, yea rather, that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us.”

“As for the head of those that compass me about, let the mischief of their own lips cover them.  Let burning coals fall upon them: let them be cast into the fire; into deep pits, that they rise not up again.  Let not an evil speaker be established in the earth: evil shall hunt the violent man to overthrow him.” (Psalm 140:9-11)

The wicked, who try to destroy the good, believing they can ignore God, will suffer the natural consequences of their actions, as Romans 1:22-27 tells us.  “Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools, And changed the glory of the uncorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man, and to birds, and fourfooted beasts, and creeping things.  Wherefore God also gave them up to uncleanness through the lusts of their own hearts, to dishonour their own bodies between themselves: Who changed the truth of God into a lie, and worshipped and served the creature more than the Creator, who is blessed for ever. Amen.

For this cause God gave them up unto vile affections: for even their women did change the natural use into that which is against nature: And likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust one toward another; men with men working that which is unseemly, and receiving in themselves that recompense of their error which was meet.”   Like the drug addict or alcoholic, they destroy themselves as a result of their sin. 

“I know that the LORD will maintain the cause of the afflicted, and the right of the poor.  Surely the righteous shall give thanks unto thy name: the upright shall dwell in thy presence.” (Psalm 140:12-13)

The only way the wicked can win is if they can over power God, and as John 10:27-30 tells us, God is more powerful than they are.  “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.”  We have nothing to fear.

Friday, November 11, 2016

Known By God

Psalm 139:1-24

To the chief Musician, A Psalm of David.

“O LORD, thou hast searched me, and known me.  Thou knowest my downsitting and mine uprising, thou understandest my thought afar off.  Thou compassest my path and my lying down, and art acquainted with all my ways.  For there is not a word in my tongue, but, lo, O LORD, thou knowest it altogether.  Thou hast beset me behind and before, and laid thine hand upon me.  Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is high, I cannot attain unto it.” (Psalm 139:1-6)

Sometimes we feel like no one understands us, and sometimes we don’t even understand our own motivations and thoughts.  At such times it is comforting to know that God knows and understands us even better than we understand ourselves.    He knows every time we get up in the night or when we sat down to rest.  He understands our thoughts, even before we think them.  Sometimes we say things that do not come across the way we intended, but God knows exactly what we meant and why we said what we said.  He shapes and molds us, protecting us from things that would harm us.  We can’t even begin to understand ourselves like he knows us.  How could anyone else understand us like he does?

“Whither shall I go from thy spirit? or whither shall I flee from thy presence?  If I ascend up into heaven, thou art there: if I make my bed in hell, behold, thou art there.  If I take the wings of the morning, and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea; Even there shall thy hand lead me, and thy right hand shall hold me.  If I say, Surely the darkness shall cover me; even the night shall be light about me.  Yea, the darkness hideth not from thee; but the night shineth as the day: the darkness and the light are both alike to thee.  For thou hast possessed my reins: thou hast covered me in my mother's womb.” (Psalm 139:7-13)

Sometimes we have a guilty conscience and like Adam and Eve in the garden, we try to hide ourselves from God, blaming others and avoiding other Christians and moral people.  Some people leave their families or change religions or become obsessed with making money in an effort to escape God.   Others become drug addicts or alcoholics and some commit suicide in the efforts to escape their sense of guilt.  As David points out There is nowhere they can go that God is not already there.  The things we do may prevent us from seeing God, but they do not stop him from seeing us or working in our lives.  He has known and tried to guide us from the time we were conceived.  Unfortunately, many are like an untrained horse, fighting the reins and making things worse for ourselves.  . 

“I will praise thee; for I am fearfully and wonderfully made: marvellous are thy works; and that my soul knoweth right well.  My substance was not hid from thee, when I was made in secret, and curiously wrought in the lowest parts of the earth.  Thine eyes did see my substance, yet being unperfect; and in thy book all my members were written, which in continuance were fashioned, when as yet there was none of them.  How precious also are thy thoughts unto me, O God! how great is the sum of them!  If I should count them, they are more in number than the sand: when I awake, I am still with thee.” (Psalm 139:14-16)

When we begin to understand what it took to make an organism as complex as a person is we begin to understand how powerful, intelligent, and loving God is that he worked out the details. So that we can survive in this world.  God knew exactly what would be needed at each step of our development from the time of conception to the point we are at today.  He understood the formation of our DNA and developed it when he made man from the dust of the earth, foreseeing what we would become even before we had begun to develop.  As we understand that we begin to understand how much he cared about us to make such detailed plans and preparations.    We can’t even begin to count the various things he did to create us, and it is only because he still cares about and for us that we still exist. 
“Surely thou wilt slay the wicked, O God: depart from me therefore, ye bloody men.  For they speak against thee wickedly, and thine enemies take thy name in vain.  Do not I hate them, O LORD, that hate thee? and am not I grieved with those that rise up against thee?  I hate them with perfect hatred: I count them mine enemies.” (Psalm 139:19-22)

Understanding the amount of planning and effort God has put into each individual. It is obvious that he will not allow rebellious people to destroy all his work.   He is love, and is not willing that any should be destroyed.  As a result, he must destroy those who try to destroy others.  David hated those wicked who hated God and tried to prevent people from pleasing him and was frustrated by their actions.  He considered them as his enemies, hating their actions with a godly hatred.    

Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts:  And see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.” (Psalm 139:23-24)

At the same time, David was concerned that he might develop attitudes similar to the wicked, thinking he was better.  He asks that God would examine him thoroughly and reveal anything in his own life that was wrong.  Instead of judging everyone else, we need to make sure of our own state, as Romans 14:13 tells us.  “Let us not therefore judge one another any more: but judge this rather, that no man put a stumblingblock or an occasion to fall in his brother's way.”   We can’t do much about what the wicked are doing, but we can change our own actions and attitudes, and he knows us.  We can’t fool him.  

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Thankful For God’s Word

Psalm 138:1-8

A Psalm of David

I will praise thee with my whole heart: before the gods will I sing praise unto thee.  I will worship toward thy holy temple, and praise thy name for thy lovingkindness and for thy truth: for thou hast magnified thy word above all thy name.  In the day when I cried thou answeredst me, and strengthenedst me with strength in my soul.” (Psalm 138:1-2)

David Had learned to be thankful.  It is a lesson many of have not learned.  As a result we do not realize how blessed we are, because we simply don’t take time to think about it.  David was determined to thank God, without reservation.  He would speak up even among other powers and religions to thank God for what he had done.    He would make a point of worshipping God, focusing on his Temple, and thanking him for being so kind and loving.

He was especially thankful for God’s word because it was and is completely true and valid for every age, as he stated in Psalm 119:160.  “Thy word is true from the beginning: and every one of thy righteous judgments endureth for ever.”   All of science and human learning is dependent on certain natural laws or principles always being true.  If they were not, we could never have made progress, because there would be no way of knowing what would happen when we do something.    God established those rules, and Jesus told us in Matthew 5:17-18, “Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil.  For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled.”  Those laws and principles will remain in effect until the end of the world. 

Learning and following those laws and principles had benefited David greatly, as he states in Psalm 119:98-100.  “Thou through thy commandments hast made me wiser than mine enemies: for they are ever with me.  I have more understanding than all my teachers: for thy testimonies are my meditation.    I understand more than the ancients, because I keep thy precepts.”   

“All the kings of the earth shall praise thee, O LORD, when they hear the words of thy mouth.  Yea, they shall sing in the ways of the LORD: for great is the glory of the LORD.” (Psalm 138:4-5)

The day will come when everyone from the most powerful rulers on earth to the most unknown will acknowledge God and his word and its effect on their lives.  Over five hundred years later, Isaiah would mention the same thing in Isaiah 45:23.  Paul would refer to Isaiah’s statement in Romans 14:11-12.  “For it is written, As I live, saith the Lord, every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall confess to God.   So then every one of us shall give account of himself to God.”  Fortunately, God is no respecter of persons and will not play favorites. 

“Though the LORD be high, yet hath he respect unto the lowly: but the proud he knoweth afar off. “ (Psalm 138:6)

Though God rules the universe, he will take just as much time for a homeless ne’erdo well as for the most famous celebrity.  He knows how many times those famous people have depended on ther fame to enable them to get by with things, and will not let them slide. 

“Though I walk in the midst of trouble, thou wilt revive me: thou shalt stretch forth thine hand against the wrath of mine enemies, and thy right hand shall save me.   The LORD will perfect that which concerneth me: thy mercy, O LORD, endureth for ever: forsake not the works of thine own hands.”  (Psalm 138:7-8)

Because God will be completely fair in his judgment, David had no fear about the outcome even though things might appear hopeless.   God will give him the strength to face whatever happens, and protect him from the hatred of his enemies.  He will make everything turn out for his good as Romans 8:28 promises.   “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.”    God’s mercy is eternal, and he is willing to forgive everyone who sincerely repents when they realize they have done wrong.  

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Hope Even in Despair

Psalm 137:1-9

“By the rivers of Babylon, there we sat down, yea, we wept, when we remembered Zion.  We hanged our harps upon the willows in the midst thereof.  For there they that carried us away captive required of us a song; and they that wasted us required of us mirth, saying, Sing us one of the songs of Zion.  How shall we sing the Lord's song in a strange land?” (Psalm 137:1-4)

This song was written after the destruction of Jerusalem, when the children of Israel were carried to Babylon as captives, probably around 565 BC, based on the most recent archaeological discoveries in Babylon.  When he moved the Tabernacle to Jerusalem, David had started developing a group of musicians to serve in the Temple when it was built, some five hundred years before, and the temple choir was known throughout the region. 

When the people were transported to Babylon, the Babylonians wanted to hear that famed choir.  The musicians had no interest in singing the old songs about how God blessed Israel.  Instead they went out and hid their instruments in the bushes along the river banks to stop the Babylonians from asking them to play.  They felt like God had broken all his promises and didn’t want to sing just to entertain the Babylonians.    It seemed somewhat sacrilegious to do so.    

“If I forget thee, O Jerusalem, let my right hand forget her cunning.  If I do not remember thee, let my tongue cleave to the roof of my mouth; if I prefer not Jerusalem above my chief joy.” (Psalm 137:5-6)

They remembered their history and would prefer to lose their ability to play their instruments rather than forget their history or make it just a novelty to the Babylonians.  They’d rather have their tongue stick in their mouth so they couldn’t sing than to defile their memories of Jerusalem.   Their stories and songs were sacred to them, and they did not want others to treat them as just amusing stories and songs.    

“Remember, O LORD, the children of Edom in the day of Jerusalem; who said, Raze it, raze it, even to the foundation thereof.” (Psalm 137:7)

The people of Edom were Esau’s descendants, and close relatives of  Israel, but they were some of her bitterest enemies.  When the Babylonians captured Jerusalem, the Edomites had pushed to have Jerusalem completely destroyed and every trace removed.  Though the Babylonians did destroy the city, they left the ruins behind.  The Psalmist prays that the Lord would destroy Edom as completely as they had called for Jerusalem to be destroyed.   
“O daughter of Babylon, who art to be destroyed; happy shall he be, that rewardeth thee as thou hast served us.  Happy shall he be, that taketh and dasheth thy little ones against the stones.”(Psalm 137:8-9)

Over a hundred fifty years before, Isaiah had prophesied that Israel would be taken by Babylon.  He also prophesied that one day Babylon would be destroyed and never rebuilt, in Isaiah 47-48.  The Psalmist says that the people who destroy it will be blessed to completely destroy even the babies and little children.  Though he was in despair, the Psalmist still had hope.  

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

His Mercy Endureth Forever

Psalm 136:1-26

“O give thanks unto the LORD; for he is good: for his mercy endureth for ever.  O give thanks unto the God of gods: for his mercy endureth for ever.” (Psalm 136:1-2)

Mercy means a person deliberately chooses not to extract the maximum penalty or judgment one deserves.   God is always good, willing to forgive those who are repentant and limit their punishment, and he never changes his mind or takes back his forgiveness.    He is the God of gods, and his judgments will never be set aside on appeal by some greater authority.  Every verse in this psalm thanks God for something he has done, and for the assurance that it will be true forever. 

“O give thanks to the Lord of lords: for his mercy endureth for ever.  To him who alone doeth great wonders: for his mercy endureth for ever.  To him that by wisdom made the heavens: for his mercy endureth for ever.  To him that stretched out the earth above the waters: for his mercy endureth for ever.  To him that made great lights: for his mercy endureth for ever:  The sun to rule by day: for his mercy endureth for ever:  The moon and stars to rule by night: for his mercy endureth for ever. “ (Psalm 136:3-9)

This first group of verses relate to God’s creation of the earth, and that it will last forever, following the laws he has established.  He created the earth so that the water did not cover it all, and despite the doom and gloom prophets of global warming, we need not fear the waters rising high enough to flood the world again.  We do not need to worry about the sun going out some time in the next few million years, or the planets and stars getting out of orbit and crashing into the earth.  They will keep functioning according to the principles God established at creation.  Thanks be to God, that no one will change their minds and shut it all off, because his mercy endures forever.

“To him that smote Egypt in their firstborn: for his mercy endureth for ever: And brought out Israel from among them: for his mercy endureth for ever: With a strong hand, and with a stretched out arm: for his mercy endureth for ever.  To him which divided the Red sea into parts: for his mercy endureth for ever: And made Israel to pass through the midst of it: for his mercy endureth for ever: But overthrew Pharaoh and his host in the Red sea: for his mercy endureth for ever.“ (Psalm 136:10-15)

God had delivered Israel from Egypt, sending the plagues to make the egyptians set them free, and leading them through the Red Sea.  When the Egyptians changed their mind, God caused them to be drowned in the Sea, preventing them from recapturing them.   Egypt was never able to enslave them again, even when Israel turned away from God and forgot him.  His mercy endures forever. 
“To him which led his people through the wilderness: for his mercy endureth for ever.  To him which smote great kings: for his mercy endureth for ever: And slew famous kings: for his mercy endureth for ever: Sihon king of the Amorites: for his mercy endureth for ever: And Og the king of Bashan: for his mercy endureth for ever: And gave their land for an heritage: for his mercy endureth for ever: Even an heritage unto Israel his servant: for his mercy endureth for ever.” (Psalm 136:16-22)

Despite their constant complaining and disobedience, God lead and protected Israel in the wilderness for forty years, enabling them to defeat old and well established nations with powerful armies.  As a result they were able to claim large areas on both sides of the Jordan River for themselves.  It was only through God’s mercy they were not killed for their rebellion and complaining.  Thankfully, his mercy endures forever, and God’s promises will never be taken away. 

“Who remembered us in our low estate: for his mercy endureth for ever: And hath redeemed us from our enemies: for his mercy endureth for ever.  Who giveth food to all flesh: for his mercy endureth for ever.  O give thanks unto the God of heaven: for his mercy endureth for ever.” (Psalm 1365:23-26)

Finally, God remembered how little Israel was esteemed in the world and has delivered them from their enemies’ power repeatedly.    He supplies the food for the entire world even though there are few who serve him. The entire world survives because of his mercy, and should give thanks for all he has done.  

Monday, November 7, 2016

The God We Worship

Psalm 135:1-21

“Praise ye the LORD. Praise ye the name of the LORD; praise him, O ye servants of the LORD.  Ye that stand in the house of the LORD, in the courts of the house of our God, Praise the LORD; for the LORD is good: sing praises unto his name; for it is pleasant.  For the LORD hath chosen Jacob unto himself, and Israel for his peculiar treasure.  For I know that the LORD is great, and that our Lord is above all gods.” (Psalm 135:1-5)

We ought to praise God by name so that there is no question who we are praising or of our respect for him.  To refuse to say his name in an attempt to make ourselves look more respectful is hypocritical.   People who serve him and have received his blessings ought to be glad to thank him for what he has done for them and want others to know who did it.  Among other things he has chosen them to be his special people and be treated as his children.  Knowing his power and authority ought to make us even more appreciative.

“Whatsoever the LORD pleased, that did he in heaven, and in earth, in the seas, and all deep places.  He causeth the vapours to ascend from the ends of the earth; he maketh lightnings for the rain; he bringeth the wind out of his treasuries.  Who smote the firstborn of Egypt, both of man and beast.  Who sent tokens and wonders into the midst of thee, O Egypt, upon Pharaoh, and upon all his servants.  Who smote great nations, and slew mighty kings; Sihon king of the Amorites, and Og king of Bashan, and all the kingdoms of Canaan: And gave their land for an heritage, an heritage unto Israel his people.” (Psalm 135:6-12)

God created the entire universe, not just the things here on earth.  He designed everything to follow certain natural principles, so that the water in the ocean vaporizes and rises into the atmosphere where it condenses and falls as rain to water the earth.  He causes friction between air molecules to produce lightning and thermal expansion to produce wind.    The same God caused the death angel to kill the male babies in in Egypt to die, as well as the other plagues.  He gave Israel victory over the various tribes that had originally owned Canaan giving the land to them.   

“Thy name, O LORD, endureth for ever; and thy memorial, O LORD, throughout all generations.  For the LORD will judge his people, and he will repent himself concerning his servants.” (Psalm 135:13-14)

Our God is the eternal God, and he will remain forever.  His rules and principles will last for eternity, and will judge the people of the world by his laws.  He will care for his people throughout eternity. 

“The idols of the heathen are silver and gold, the work of men's hands.   They have mouths, but they speak not; eyes have they, but they see not;  They have ears, but they hear not; neither is there any breath in their mouths.  They that make them are like unto them: so is every one that trusteth in them.” (Psalm 135:15-18)

The gods other people worship are just statues or figures made with human hands and tools from materials such as silver or gold that God made.  Though they have eyes and ears and mouths, they have no life or ability to act on their own.    The idols resemble the people who made them, but have even less power, and are not able to give those who worship them any more power than the person who made them. 

“Bless the LORD, O house of Israel: bless the LORD, O house of Aaron: Bless the LORD, O house of Levi: ye that fear the LORD, bless the LORD.  Blessed be the LORD out of Zion, which dwelleth at Jerusalem. Praise ye the LORD.” (Psalm 135:19-21)

God’s people should bless or thank the Lord for what he has done for the church as a whole.   They should also appreciate and thank him for what he has done for them individually and for their families.    Everything they have comes from him.  

Friday, November 4, 2016


Psalm 134:1-3

A Song of degrees

“Behold, bless ye the LORD, all ye servants of the LORD, which by night stand in the house of the LORD.   Lift up your hands in the sanctuary, and bless the LORD.” (Psalm 134:1-2)

As used here, to bless means to praise or glorify.   The Psalmist was blessing God for what he had done, but we Christians have even more to be thankful for.  Ephesians 1:3-8 describes some of the things he has done for us.  “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ: According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love: Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will, To the praise of the glory of his grace, wherein he hath made us accepted in the beloved.  In whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace; Wherein he hath abounded toward us in all wisdom and prudence.” 

God has given thing to assure eternal life with him in heaven, making us acceptable to him.  Titus 3:5 emphasizes, this was his decision, not ours.  “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.”  I Peter 1:3-5 makes it clear, he not only saved us, but that he also keeps us saved.  “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, which according to his abundant mercy hath begotten us again unto a lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, To an inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven for you,  Who are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.

In addition, he works in our daily life on earth.  II Corinthians 1:3-4 tells us, “Blessed be God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies, and the God of all comfort; Who comforteth us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort them which are in any trouble, by the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted of God.”

Because he has done so much for us, Hebrews 13:15 commands, “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.”  Sometimes bad things happen but Romans 8: Ro 8:28 reminds us, “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.”  Knowing that even the bad things have a good purpose, I Thessalonians 5:18 instructs, “In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.”

“The LORD that made heaven and earth bless thee out of Zion.” (Psalm 134:3)

In addition to the blessing of salvation and eternal life, God blesses us for living for him in this life.  I Timothy 4:8 tells us, “…godliness is profitable unto all things, having promise of the life that now is, and of that which is to come.”  James 1:25 tells us what is required to be godly.  “But whoso looketh into the perfect law of liberty, and continueth therein, he being not a forgetful hearer, but a doer of the work, this man shall be blessed in his deed.”  Revelation 1:3 emphasizes the need to follow his commands now.  “Blessed is he that readeth, and they that hear the words of this prophecy, and keep those things which are written therein: for the time is at hand.”

In our world we face many temptations to turn away from God.  James 1:12 promises, “Blessed is the man that endureth temptation: for when he is tried, he shall receive the crown of life, which the Lord hath promised to them that love him.”  Frequently that decision to follow God costs us economically or emotionally.  Matthew 5:10-12 promises, “Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness' sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.  Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake.  Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you.” 

Our faithfulness in trials and temptations demonstrates or right to receive God’s rewards, according to II Thessalonians 1:4-5.   “So that we ourselves glory in you in the churches of God for your patience and faith in all your persecutions and tribulations that ye endure:  Which is a manifest token of the righteous judgment of God, that ye may be counted worthy of the kingdom of God, for which ye also suffer.”

Thursday, November 3, 2016

Unity In The Spirit

Psalm 133:1-3

A Song of degrees of David

“Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity!  It is like the precious ointment upon the head, that ran down upon the beard, even Aaron's beard: that went down to the skirts of his garments; As the dew of Hermon, and as the dew that descended upon the mountains of Zion: for there the LORD commanded the blessing, even life for evermore.” (Psalm 133:1-3)

Over the years as a pastor, I have been amazed at the number of families which do not get along.  Some of them get into a fight every time they get together, while others just refuse to speak to each other.   Most of the conflicts arise over who is going to get their way.   Sometimes it develops because fo the attitudes of the father and mother toward each other, teaching the kids to be disrespectful and unkind to each other.  Other times it results from the parents playing the children against each other favoring one or the other. 

The New Testament speaks a lot about Christians being a family, and developing a proper relationship to each other.  In Luke 8:21, Jesus said, “And he answered and said unto them, My mother and my brethren are these which hear the word of God, and do it.”  Those of us who have believed in Christ and obey him are his family.  Because we are family, Jesus told us, “A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another.   By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.” in John 13:34-35. 

One of biggest causes of conflict in a family is when one of the brothers or sisters begins to boss the others around.  Jesus forbade such behavior in the church, in Matthew  20:25-27.  “ But Jesus called them unto him, and said, Ye know that the princes of the Gentiles exercise dominion over them, and they that are great exercise authority upon them.   But it shall not be so among you: but whosoever will be great among you, let him be your minister; And whosoever will be chief among you, let him be your servant.”   We are not to lord it over our fellow Christians.  Matthew  23:8-10.  “But be not ye called Rabbi: for one is your Master, even Christ; and all ye are brethren.  And call no man your father upon the earth: for one is your Father, which is in heaven.  Neither be ye called masters: for one is your Master, even Christ.”    We are to be equals in the family. 

In Ephesians 4:1-16 tells us to put forth some effort to  develop and keep unity in the church.   “I therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you that ye walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called,  With all lowliness and meekness, with longsuffering, forbearing one another in love; Endeavouring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.  There is one body, and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling;  One Lord, one faith, one baptism,  One God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all. But unto every one of us is given grace according to the measure of the gift of Christ.  Wherefore he saith, When he ascended up on high, he led captivity captive, and gave gifts unto men.  (Now that he ascended, what is it but that he also descended first into the lower parts of the earth?  He that descended is the same also that ascended up far above all heavens, that he might fill all things.)

And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ: Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ:  That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive; But speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ: From whom the whole body fitly joined together and compacted by that which every joint supplieth, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, maketh increase of the body unto the edifying of itself in love.” 

Just as the parents in the family play a major role in developing a proper attitude between the children, the Church leadership plays a major role in teaching the Christians the truth and how to get along in the church.  It is critical that the leadership have the proper attitude themselves.   Conflict between Christians is an indication of an unspiritual condition, according to I Corinthians 3:3-4.  “For ye are yet carnal: for whereas there is among you envying, and strife, and divisions, are ye not carnal, and walk as men? For while one saith, I am of Paul; and another, I am of Apollos; are ye not carnal?

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Demonstrating His Love For God

Psalm 132:1-18

Ps 132:1 A Song of degrees

“LORD, remember David, and all his afflictions: How he sware unto the LORD, and vowed unto the mighty God of Jacob; Surely I will not come into the tabernacle of my house, nor go up into my bed; I will not give sleep to mine eyes, or slumber to mine eyelids, Until I find out a place for the LORD, an habitation for the mighty God of Jacob.” (Psalm 132:1-5)

When Israel had conquered the Land of Canaan in Joshua’s day, they had erected the Tabernacle at Shiloh, where the people worshipped until the Philistines captured the Ark of the Covenant in I Samuel 4.  After its recovery, the Ark was never returned to the Tabernacle, remaining in Kirjathjearim  for over a hundred years.  During all that time the worship of the Lord had been hampered by the separation of the Ark from the Tabernacle so that some of the sacrifices could not be performed.  David had determined to reunite the Ark and the Tabernacle so that they could worship in complete accordance with God’s commands. 

“Lo, we heard of it at Ephratah: we found it in the fields of the wood.  We will go into his tabernacles: we will worship at his footstool.” (Psalm 132:6-7)

Finally David settled on making his capital the old Jebusite city called Jebus, in the area of Judah designated for the descendants of Ephratah, , the founder of Bethlehem.  He renamed the city Jerusalem, and relocated the Tabernacle to Jerusalem.  Once everything was ready, he had the Ark brought from Kirjathjearim and placed in the Tabernacle, in II Samuel 6.  From that point on they were able to worship as God had specified in Exodus and Leviticus. 

“Arise, O LORD, into thy rest; thou, and the ark of thy strength.  Let thy priests be clothed with righteousness; and let thy saints shout for joy.  For thy servant David's sake turn not away the face of thine anointed.” (Psalm 132:8-10)

The lid of the Ark, known as the Mercy seat, was the place where God had promised speak from when he spoke to Israel, and he had promised to make the Tabernacle his house.  David viewed  putting the Ark and the Tabernacle  almost like moving a loved parent into a new house.  When all their stuff is put in place it will give them the sense of being home.  David wanted God to feel at home in Jerusalem.   

“The LORD hath sworn in truth unto David; he will not turn from it; Of the fruit of thy body will I set upon thy throne.  If thy children will keep my covenant and my testimony that I shall teach them, their children shall also sit upon thy throne for evermore.” (Psalm 132:11-12)

Because of David’s desire to please God, God had promised to establish his family to rule over Israel forever, He promised that David’s children could have the same promise if they would follow God’s commands.  Unfortunately, Solomon’s family did not follow completely, and Christ came out of a different branch of David’s family. 

“For the LORD hath chosen Zion; he hath desired it for his habitation.  This is my rest for ever: here will I dwell; for I have desired it.  I will abundantly bless her provision: I will satisfy her poor with bread.  I will also clothe her priests with salvation: and her saints shall shout aloud for joy.” (Psalm 132:13-16)

God had chosen Mt. Zion, the hill in Jerusalem where the Tabernacle was set as his earthly home throughout the ages to come.  As a result, he would bless the city abundantly, so that even the poor had enough to eat.  The priests and believers would shout for joy knowing they had  salvation because they believed God.   

“There will I make the horn of David to bud: I have ordained a lamp for mine anointed.  His enemies will I clothe with shame: but upon himself shall his crown flourish.” (Psalm 132:17-18)

It would be in Jerusalem that David’s family would be blessed, with the Messiah coming from his family and ministering in Jerusalem.  Jerusalem will be the capital of Christ’s kingdom when he sets it up here on earth.  

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Humility Versus Pride

Psalm 131:1-3

A Song of degrees of David

“LORD, my heart is not haughty, nor mine eyes lofty: neither do I exercise myself in great matters, or in things too high for me.  Surely I have behaved and quieted myself, as a child that is weaned of his mother: my soul is even as a weaned child.  Let Israel hope in the LORD from henceforth and for ever.” (Psalm 131:1-3)

Huughty is a word we don’t use much but it refers to being proud and showing disdain, scorn or contempt for others.   In our modern world, pride is considered a good thing, Proverbs 16:5 warns, “Every one that is proud in heart is an abomination to the LORD: though hand join in hand, he shall not be unpunished.”   God finds pride disgusting, and will punish it, as Isaiah 10:33 makes very clear.  “Behold, the Lord, the LORD of hosts, shall lop the bough with terror: and the high ones of stature shall be hewn down, and the haughty shall be humbled.”    As a result, Proverbs 16:19 tells us, “Better it is to be of an humble spirit with the lowly, than to divide the spoil with the proud.

David makes it clear he does not think he is better or smarter than other.  Foolish people become proud and think they have all the answers.  Proverbs 14:3 tells us, “In the mouth of the foolish is a rod of pride…”  Rather than considering what others think they get angry when their ideas are questioned.  Proverbs 14:16-17 advises, “A wise man feareth, and departeth from evil: but the fool rageth, and is confident.  He that is soon angry dealeth foolishly…”   Their pride will not let them consider any other opinion, and it is a waste of time arguing with them, as Proverbs 29:9 says.  “If a wise man contendeth with a foolish man, whether he rage or laugh, there is no rest.”    Proverbs 26:12 warns, that there is little hope for a person with so much pride.  “Seest thou a man wise in his own conceit? there is more hope of a fool than of him.”  There is nothing one can do to force such a person to change his mind.  Proverbs 27;22 tells us, “Though thou shouldest bray a fool in a mortar among wheat with a pestle, yet will not his foolishness depart from him.”

 Made a point of not trying to fix things until he fully understood them and what was needed.   He realized how arrogant and foolish it was to try to solve a problem without adequate information. Proverbs 18:13 warns, “He that answereth a matter before he heareth it, it is folly and shame unto him.”  David was like a little child who had just grown enough o not need the bottle any more.  Knowing he didn’t know everything he sought to learn as much as possible, experimenting to see what happened when he took an action, rather than  committing to something that wouldn’t work.  He respected God’s knowledge and wisdom.   Proverbs 1:7 tells us, “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge: but fools despise wisdom and instruction.”  Because he understood that God made things to work in a particular manner, he tried to find out what God planned.  As Proverbs 15:14 tells us, “The heart of him that hath understanding seeketh knowledge: but the mouth of fools feedeth on foolishness.”  The humble wise person doesn’t just depend on their own ideas.  Proverbs 28:26 advises, “He that trusteth in his own heart is a fool: but whoso walketh wisely, he shall be delivered.”  David trusted in the Lord, and wanted Israel to do the same. 

The difference between a great leader such as David and most politicians is his trust in God rather than in his pride.