Praying through the Psalms

Praying through the Psalms

Sunday, June 25, 2017

What is Confession and What Does It Look Like?

Psalm 38

A psalm of David. A petition.

Lord, do not rebuke me in your anger
    or discipline me in your wrath.
Your arrows have pierced me,
    and your hand has come down on me.
Because of your wrath there is no health in my body;
    there is no soundness in my bones because of my sin.
My guilt has overwhelmed me
    like a burden too heavy to bear.
My wounds fester and are loathsome
    because of my sinful folly.
I am bowed down and brought very low;
    all day long I go about mourning.
My back is filled with searing pain;
    there is no health in my body.
I am feeble and utterly crushed;
    I groan in anguish of heart.

This is one of several psalms David wrote which are called "penitential psalms".  Though David was a man after God's own heart, there are times in his life where he fell short of God's of glory.  Like Paul says in Romans 3:22, "We all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God." 

But though we all sin, some acknowledge their sin and others don't. Some get so used to sinning that they are indifferent to it.  As Paul says in 1 Timothy 4:2, "Their consciences have been seared."  Paul is teaching about the end times in this passage, when Christians will not listen to God's Word anymore, but can sin without "blinking an eye". But we see that David's response and sensitivity to sin is much different.

David describes the physical, emotional and spiritual consequences of his moral failing.  David feels the burden of guilt, and it weighs him down so much that he is brought very low. So much so that  his back is searing with pain.  Courageously He admits his sin and does not blame anyone else. He realizes that it is God's hand that is upon him.  Rather than running from God, he turns to God.  In the end David's plea to God is, 

"Lord, do not forsake me;
    do not be far from me, my God.
22 Come quickly to help me,
    my Lord and my Savior."

Though David is beside himself in light of his sin, he knows there is nowhere else to turn. His family and friends have abandoned him, and he knows his only relief can come from His Lord and Savior.  We know that David rebounded from his sinful ways to become the greatest king in Israel's history.  But it all started with his being honest with God about his sin, feeling the weight of it, and owning that he and he alone was responsible for it.  Finally, he turned and cried out to God, asking for his help and His presence to sustain him.  And God was faithful to David until the end of his life.

Have you ever felt this way?  Maybe not to the same extent as David, but still when you have fallen away from or rebelled against God, you suffered the results of a broken relationship with God.  When the Holy Spirit pokes and prods us to remind us of our sin, we can do one of two things. One, blow it off and say something like, "Well I am not so bad!" Or, "I am not as bad as so and so!"  Or we can respond to the conviction of the Holy Spirit and cry out to God realizing that it is He alone that we have offended.  When we realie it is God we are sinning against and no one else, we feel the sorrow of sin which leads us to repentance  As we respond to the Holy Spirit and receive God's forgiveness through Christ our hearts are changed from the inside out which is the fuel for the change of behavior that accompaines true repentance.  

What do you need to confess to God today?  Don't be afraid to cry out to God like David did, knowing that he will never leave or forsake you. On the contrary, times of refreshing will come upon your soul.  Your relationship with God can be restored, and you can feel once again the joy of your salvation!  Praise be to God!

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Does God Want You To Be Happy?

Psalm 37:3-4
Trust in the Lord and do good;
    dwell in the land and enjoy safe pasture.
Take delight in the Lord,
    and he will give you the desires of your heart.
“The reason many apparent Christians do not delight in God is that they do not know him very well, and the reason they do not know him very well is that they do not spend time with him.” (Boice)
This is one of my favorite psalms?  Why? We delight in a lot of things in this life, but we might think it strange to delight in the Lord?  As the commentary by Boice says, "We probably don't delight in the Lord because we don't know Him. And we don't know him because we don't spend time with him." 
To be fair the idea of delighting in someone you can't see is daunting.  But that is why God has revealed himself to us.  He has revealed Himself to us generally through His Creation.  When we look at the sun, moon and the stars, or a beautiful sunset; we see how beautiful and artistic God is. We can delight in who He is as we reflect on the beauty of what He has made.
Second, God revealed specifically who He is when He sent Jesus to the earth. Jesus said, "If you have seen me you have seen the Father." (John 14:9) Jesus came to earth to show us the Way to the Father.  Jesus spent long periods His Heavenly Father before he did anything.  The hardest part of being on the cross for Jesus was when he felt a break in His relationship with His Father and said, "My God, my God why have you forsaken me?" 
Finally, this psalm makes a promise.  If you delight yourself in God, He will give you the desires of your heart.  God wants to you feel the sense of your desires being met.  He wants us to be happy. God gave you those desires. As you delight in Him, He will meet your innermost needs, especially your need to know and be known by Him!
What do you desire most in your life?  Is God the list?  Delight yourself in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart!  This leads to true happiness in the best sense of the word.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

The Difference Between God and Us!

Psalm 36:5-9
Your love, Lord, reaches to the heavens,
    your faithfulness to the skies.
Your righteousness is like the highest mountains,
    your justice like the great deep.
    You, Lord, preserve both people and animals.
How priceless is your unfailing love, O God!
    People take refuge in the shadow of your wings.
They feast on the abundance of your house;
    you give them drink from your river of delights.
For with you is the fountain of life;
    in your light we see light.

In the first four verses we read David's description of the sinfulness of the wicked.  He describes this man as someone who has no fear of God, he flatters himself, and finally they even plot evil on their beds before they commit themselves to a sinful course.  It is at this point that David contrasts man's wickedness with God's love and mercy.

It is almost as if David cannot possibly give enough earthly expression to God's infinite qualities of love, faithfulness and righteousness.  Inspite of man's unfaithfulness, God is faithful.  Inspite of man's unrighteousness, God is righteousness.  And perhaps most importantly David says, "How priceless is God's unfailing love". This was God's "hesed" love.  His unconditional, unwavering covenant love expressed to Abraham and the people of Israel in the first covenant he made with them. Although Israel would stray from God, God continued to pursue him with his unfailing and unflinching love. 

This psalm is a foreshadowing of the revelation of God's unfailing love through His Son Jesus.  And the reality is that although David may be citing the wickedness around him, we realize in Paul's words to the Romans, "We have all sinned and fall short of the glory of God."  The contrast between the first four verses in this psalm and the next five, show the great gulf between who we are and who God is.  

As we realize we in some way fit the description of the first four verses, we can celebrate that God does for us what we cannot do for ourselves because of His great love for us!

Monday, June 19, 2017

When Your Friends Betray You, What Should You Do?

Psalm 35:11-18
11 Ruthless witnesses come forward;
     they question me on things I know nothing about.
12 They repay me evil for good
     and leave me like one bereaved.
13 Yet when they were ill, I put on sackcloth
     and humbled myself with fasting.
     When my prayers returned to me unanswered,
14 I went about mourning
      as though for my friend or brother.
     I bowed my head in grief as though weeping for my                    mother.
15 But when I stumbled, they gathered in glee;
    assailants gathered against me without my knowledge.
    They slandered me without ceasing.
16 Like the ungodly they maliciously mocked;
      they gnashed their teeth at me.
17 How long, Lord, will you look on?
     Rescue me from their ravages,
     my precious life from these lions.
18 I will give you thanks in the great assembly;
     among the throngs I will praise you.

One of the worst experiences in life is being betrayed, especially by a friend.  As David recounts today, especially by a friend who you had stood by in their time of trouble. David clearly prayed for these brothers when they were ill.  He mourned for them in sackcloth, showing the full extent of his love for them when they needed it the most. 

David Guzik says it this way in his commentary, "To be misunderstood or be made the deliberate target of false accusation is great sorrow. "

To make things worse, they were actually joyful at his downfall. They had secret meetings to talk about him to slander his name and plan his ruin.  Does it get any worse than this?  

So how does David handle it?  He cries out to the Lord to help him.  He appeals to God's mercy knowing that God sees what is going on.  Rather than try and seek retribution himself, David asks the Lord to contend with those who contend against him, and fight against those who fight against him! 

David ask the Lord to say to him, "I am your salvation."  So at the heart of his prayer, his cry out to God is to give this matter to God.  He realizes if he retaliates he will only compound the problem and repay evil for evil.  But as Paul says possibly as an application of this psalm, 

1Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. 18 If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. 19 Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,”says the Lord. 20 On the contrary:
“If your enemy is hungry, feed him;
    if he is thirsty, give him something to drink.
In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head."

21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

Paul is reflecting his Lord and Savior Jesus' response to those who unjustly treating him even unto death on a cross.  Jesus' response to those who betrayed him was, "Father forgive them for they know not what to do."

If you have someone who has betrayed you, don't be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good! 

Saturday, June 17, 2017

What Does It Mean to Magnify God?

Psalm 34:8-14

taste and see that the Lord is good;
How blessed is the man who takes refuge in Him!
O fear the Lord, you His saints;
For to those who fear Him there is no want.
10 The young lions do lack and suffer hunger;
But they who seek the Lord shall not be in want of any good thing.

11 Come, you children, listen to me;
I will teach you the fear of the Lord.
12 Who is the man who desires life
And loves length of days that he may see good?
13 Keep your tongue from evil
And your lips from speaking deceit.
14 Depart from evil and do good;
Seek peace and pursue it.

"David thought praising God was to magnify Him – that is, to make Him larger in one’s perception. Magnification does not actually make an object bigger, and we can’t make God bigger. But to magnify something or someone is to perceive it as bigger, and we must do that regarding the Lord God." (Guzik)

This is another Psalm of David, when he is hiding out in the cave of Adullum with a rag tag bunch of those fleeing from King Saul.  It was at these low points that David humbled himself and led people to praise God. David was able to "taste and see that the Lord is good".  Of course this was not to taste in a literal sense, but to experience God's spiritual presence as if were physical. 

Then, David three times tells his fellow brothers to, "Fear the Lord".  Why do you think he means?  For David to "fear the Lord" was the same as to "trust the Lord".

He describes it like this, 'Keep your tongue from evil
And your lips from speaking deceit.
14 Depart from evil and do good;
Seek peace and pursue it."

It meant both with words and actions. By avoiding evil they could pursue good. David had confidence in these desperate times, because he knew that he was living a life worthy of his calling. 

Where can a difficult time in your life result in a magnification of who God is in comparison?  As we humble ourselves he can increase as we decrease!

Friday, June 16, 2017

Worship Is Not About US!!!

Psalm 33

Sing joyfully to the Lord, you righteous;
    it is fitting for the upright to praise him.
Praise the Lord with the harp;
    make music to him on the ten-stringed lyre.
Sing to him a new song;
    play skillfully, and shout for joy.
For the  Lord he is faithful in all he does. For the Lord is    right and true. The Lord loves righteousness and justice; the earth is full of his unfailing love.

If the purest form of a hymn is praise to God for what He is and does, this is a fine example.” (Derek Kidner)

New song’ simply means that every praise song should emerge from a fresh awareness of God’s grace.” (Boice)

This is a great psalm that looks at the heart of worship and the heart of the worshipper.  We see the worshipper is full of joy, shouts and it is an expression of an inward gratitude for all God is and has done.  It looks at God's faithfulness, his unfailing love and also the beauty in His Creation that he has spoken into existence by his "word".  

The heart of worship is praising God for who is He and always will be.  Worship is not about us, but about God.  As I have said before but it bears repeating, when someone says, "I did not get a lot out of worship today", they are missing the point.  Worship focuses on God and his unchanging, immutable and ever faithful character.  

Most importantly worship is a response born out of our trusting in God and seeing His deliverance in our lives.  For the Christian it is centered in the saving work of Jesus Christ. We can never praise God enough for what He has done for us in Christ Jesus.  And in heaven we will be praising God every day in every way in His presence.  Praise be to God!

Spend some time today praising God!!!

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

The Blessing of Confession!

Psalm 32

Of David. A maskil.

Blessed is the one
    whose transgressions are forgiven,
    whose sins are covered.
Blessed is the one
    whose sin the Lord does not count against them
    and in whose spirit is no deceit.
When I kept silent,
    my bones wasted away
    through my groaning all day long.
For day and night
    your hand was heavy on me;
my strength was sapped
    as in the heat of summer.[b]
Then I acknowledged my sin to you
    and did not cover up my iniquity.
I said, “I will confess
    my transgressions to the Lord.”
And you forgave
    the guilt of my sin.

This Psalm was one of several psalms regarding how to be properly penitent with God when one walks away from His way. Though David is a man after God's own heart, he had times of stubbornness and rebellion. Specifically there is the his well known sin of his adultery with Bathsheba, and the cover up and subsequent murder of her husband Uriah.  In an attempt to cover up his sin, he multiplied his iniquity and suffered greatly from withholding his confession.  

But this psalm also proclaims the blessedness of true confession.  And specifically the blessedness of God's forgiveness and relief of the burden of carrying it inside.  David uses three different terms for God's forgiveness.  He says "forgiven", "covered", and 'does not count against him."

At the end of the day, not confessing his sin had more consequences than confessing it. Not only did it sap his energy, and take away his sleep, he had to try and cover it, which resulted in more sin.  But when he was honest with God, it brought him great joy to have his relationship with God restored.  It literally restored him body, mind and soul.   

“This was Saint Augustine’s favorite psalm. Augustine had it inscribed on the wall next to his bed before he died in order to meditate on it better.” 

Paul says in Roman 3:23, "We all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God." The reality is that we will all have times, like David, when we fall short of God's standard, which is perfection.  But the only question is will we confess and repent of it soon, so we can have our joy restored and burden lifted!!