Praying through the Psalms

Praying through the Psalms

Friday, July 21, 2017

"But as for Me, I Will Trust in You!" - David in Psalm 55

Psalm 55
20 My companion attacks his friends;
    he violates his covenant.
21 His talk is smooth as butter,
    yet war is in his heart;
his words are more soothing than oil,
    yet they are drawn swords.
22 Cast your cares on the Lord
    and he will sustain you;
he will never let
    the righteous be shaken.
23 But you, God, will bring down the wicked
    into the pit of decay;
the bloodthirsty and deceitful
    will not live out half their days.
But as for me, I trust in you.

In this psalm, David bemoans a friend who betrayed him in a dramatic way.  Many think it was his friend Absalom, or some other close advisor who turned on David. In this psalm goes David goes from fear (verses 1-8), to fury (verses 9-15), and finally to faith (verses 16-23). (Morgan)

Ultimately David relies on God to calm his fears and he relinquishes judgment to Him as well. He uses a phrase that is picked up in the New Testament, "Cast your cares on the Lord". And then he adds a promise, "And he will sustain you."  Notice he does not say that God will completely remove everything David is struggling with, but that God will sustain him.  David realizes that the circumstances may or may not change, but that God is the one he can count on.  Though a close friend let him down, God never will. 

As Guzik says,  "David had hope and confidence because he was persuaded that his fate did not rest in the hands of treacherous men. God was still Lord over all, and God had the final word on whether the righteous would be moved or not."

Finally, notice one thing. David does not mention this person's name. He did not lower himself to his enemies tactics.  How could he do this?  Because he trusted in God to defend him.  Fear and anger are two of the strongest emotions we have as humans.  David experienced both of them viscerally in this psalm.  But in the midst of this one senses David's calm resolve. This is summarized as he ends the psalm with,  "But as for me, I trust in you." David can't control what his enemy does, but "as for him", he is going to trust in the Lord.  After all, that is all that he can control.  

What cares do you have?  Maybe they involve a relational difficulty, or another area of your life where you have reason to fear.  Take some time to cast your cares on the Lord, because He cares for you.  Release them to Him, and He will guard your heart and mind in Christ Jesus. 

Thursday, July 20, 2017

How To Handle Those Who Betray You?

Save me, O God, by your name;

    vindicate me by your might.

Hear my prayer, O God;
    listen to the words of my mouth.
Arrogant foes are attacking me;
    ruthless people are trying to kill me
    people without regard for God.
Surely God is my help;
    the Lord is the one who sustains me.
Let evil recoil on those who slander me;
    in your faithfulness destroy them.
I will sacrifice a freewill offering to you;
    I will praise your name, Lord, for it is good.

You have delivered me from all my troubles,
    and my eyes have looked in triumph on my foes.

Here is the context of this psalm. "There were actually two times the Ziphites betrayed David unto King Saul, first in 1 Samuel 23 and the second in 1 Samuel 26. David escaped both times, but the circumstances of this Psalm seem to best fit the circumstances of 1 Samuel 23, when David learned of the Ziphite betrayal but before the deliverance of God was displayed (1 Samuel 23:26-29)

In both cases after God delivered him from these betrayals David had a chance to kill Saul, but he did not.  After realizing God had delivered him justly, he trusted God would handle Saul's own sin.  What strikes me in this psalm is how much trust David has in God.  Despite David's circumstances he knows God has delivered him before and he will deliver him again.  

David's attitude is best summed by this line in the psalm, 
"Surely God is my help; the Lord is the one who sustains me."

The question we might ask ourselves is, "Where am I being treated unfairly?" Or, "How could those I trusted do this to me?" For David to be betrayed by both the Ziphites, who were Israelites descended from his house, and King Saul; was a pretty big deal.  But he had a big God to trust in and he knew that God would deliver him.

May we have as much confidence in God to deliver us in our circumstances and also to give a willing and free sacrifice of praise to us. A freewill sacrifice wasn't required in the Jewish faith it was done in gratitude for what God had done.    

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

How Can Someone Deny God?

Psalm 53
For the director of music. According to mahalath. A maskil of David.
The fool says in his heart,
 “There is no God.”
They are corrupt, and their ways are vile;
    there is no one who does good.
God looks down from heaven
    on all mankind
to see if there are any who understand,
    any who seek God.
Everyone has turned away, all have become corrupt;
    there is no one who does good,
    not even one.
Do all these evildoers know nothing?
They devour my people as though eating bread;
    they never call on God.
But there they are, overwhelmed with dread,
    where there was nothing to dread.
God scattered the bones of those who attacked you;
    you put them to shame, for God despised them.
Oh, that salvation for Israel would come out of Zion!
    When God restores his people,
    let Jacob rejoice and Israel be glad!

As David describes those who reject God, he calls them “fools”.  He believes the evidence for God is so clear, he can’t believe they would be so ignorant. 

There are many powerful arguments for the existence of God; among them are these:
· The Cosmological ArgumentThe existence of the universe means there must be a creator God.

· The Teleological Argument: The existence of design in the universe means there must be a designer God.

· The Anthropological Argument: The unique nature and character of humanity means there must be a relational God.

· The Moral Argument: The existence of morality means there must be a governing God.

David also makes the argument that “no one is righteous”.  Paul repeats this in Romans 5 when he says, “There is none who is righteous, no not even one.” He says all have turned away and become corrupt.  The problem with the evil doers is that they don’t even care. They are not even open to believe in God, or the salvation he might bring.  They have become hardened to spiritual matters. But David also looks forward to God’s deliverance from our inherent sinful nature when he says in verse 6,

 Oh, that salvation for Israel would come out of Zion!
    When God restores his people,
    let Jacob rejoice and Israel be glad!

Today we have been shown the salvation God has brought in the person of his Son.  But there are still fools today that say there is no god.  Despite all the evidence they reject all the arguments posed above.  No matter how logical it is for God to exist, they deny him to their own destruction. 

So what can we do? Understand our own sinfulness and our own need for God’s salvation through Christ.  Pray for those who don’t know God that the Holy Spirit would open their hearts to the reality of God.  Live lives that honor and glorify God in our words and deeds.  Though we are not righteous, there is a Righteous One and thanks be to God for Him!

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Taking the Long View

Psalm 52:8-9
But I am like an olive tree
    flourishing in the house of God;
I trust in God’s unfailing love
    for ever and ever.
For what you have done I will always praise you
    in the presence of your faithful people.
And I will hope in your name,
    for your name is good.

Here is the context of this psalm:

The terrible events that prompted this chapter are recorded in 1 Samuel 21 and 22. Doeg informed Saul regarding David’s presence at the tabernacle of God and regarding the help he received from the priest there. In an evil and paranoid response, Saul sent Doeg to kill the priests and others at the tabernacle, and Doeg did – 85 people in total (1 Samuel 22:18-19).

In this psalm, David is comparing himself with the evil acts of Doeg.  While Doeg's acts desecrated the temple, David was like a healthy tree in the house of the Lord.  The root of Doeg's evil led to destruction, but David's trust in the Lord would cause him to flourish in God's house forever.  The olive tree is one of the longest living trees.  David uses this metaphor to show that the person who trusts in God's unfailing love will endure, but the man who does evil will be extinuguished and cut down swiftly.  

Though the person who does evil may escape justice in this life, one day he will be judged for the life he has lived.   When we see evil people seemingly winning in this life, we must remember their apparent success will be short lived.  David trusts in the goodness of God and waits on God to him to vindicate him.  

So the question is when you are wronged, where do you turn?  Will you take the long view and trust in God's unfailing love and unflinching justice?  The apparent success of those who hurt you will be short lived, but your faithfulness will be remembered forever. 

Monday, July 17, 2017

What Can We Learn from David's Confession

Psalm 51

For the director of music. A psalm of David. When the prophet Nathan came to him after David had committed adultery with Bathsheba.

Have mercy on me, O God,
    according to your unfailing love;
according to your great compassion
    blot out my transgressions.
Wash away all my iniquity
    and cleanse me from my sin.
For I know my transgressions,
    and my sin is always before me.
Against you, you only, have I sinned
    and done what is evil in your sight;
so you are right in your verdict
    and justified when you judge.
Surely I was sinful at birth,
    sinful from the time my mother conceived me.
Yet you desired faithfulness even in the womb;
    you taught me wisdom in that secret place.

This is the famous passage expressing King David's remorse over his sin of adultery with Bathsheba.  He was confronted by the prophet Nathan and he came to his senses, and confessed his sin to God.  There are many aspects of his confession worth noting. 

First, he appeals to God's mercy and compassion.  Since he was guilty as charged, he knew that his only recourse was to ask God for mercy.  And the root of God's mercy was his unfailing love. He is referring to God's covenant love, when he established his covenant with Abraham.  He chose Abraham and was faithful to him, even when he was unfaithful.  When Israel sinned, God had mercy on them when they turned back to him. He knew that he needed forgiveness, and the only one who could credit his debt was God.  This looks forward to when God blotted out our sin because of Jesus' death on our behalf.  Notice the combination of God's mercy plus a covering of the sin, or a cleansing of inquity.  Better said, somebody had to pay for the sin, it wouldn't just go away.  It had to be dealt with because God is a just God.  

Second, David knew he was a sinful human being, and his action had flowed out of his sinful nature, which he had since birth.  David wasn't trivializing or rationalizing his sin, he was acknowledging his sinfulness before a holy God. He also realized that although his sin greatly damaged his relationships, it was against God alone that he sinned.  He knew first and foremost his sin was against God.  

In the end, David paid a heavy price for his sin, but his relationship with God was restored. Through God's grace he continued to be king over Israel.  David reminds us that our sin is first against God.  Our only recourse is to ask God for mercy.  Now that Jesus has been revealed as "the once and for all sacrifice for our sin", we go to God through him.  It was through what Jesus did on the cross that he blotted out our transgressions.  It was the death Jesus died in our place, that God could wash our iniquities.  

Take some time today to thank God for his mercy and unfailing love. Although our God is just and holy, thank God for our sake he is compassionate and merciful.  This is why it is so important to show mercy and compassion to others.

Saturday, July 15, 2017

Are You Going Through the Motions ???

Psalm 50:7-15 
“Listen, my people, and I will speak;
    I will testify against you, Israel:
    I am God, your God.
I bring no charges against you concerning your sacrifices
    or concerning your burnt offerings, which are ever before me.
I have no need of a bull from your stall
    or of goats from your pens,
10 for every animal of the forest is mine,
    and the cattle on a thousand hills.
11 I know every bird in the mountains,
    and the insects in the fields are mine.
12 If I were hungry I would not tell you,
    for the world is mine, and all that is in it.
13 Do I eat the flesh of bulls
    or drink the blood of goats?
14 “Sacrifice thank offerings to God,
    fulfill your vows to the Most High,
15 and call on me in the day of trouble;
    I will deliver you, and you will honor me.”

In this psalm, the writer focuses on the offerings that are pleasing to God. It wasn't as if the people had not brought the animals for sacrifices required by God's law.  But it was the way they were sacrificing the bulls and goats that offended God. As the psalmist says, after all it is not as if God needed any animals for his own pleasure.  And in a classic line, 

"for every animal of the forest is mine,
    and the cattle on a thousand hills.
11 I know every bird in the mountains,
    and the insects in the fields are mine."   
Here is what was wrong with their sacrifices ...
"The sacrifices under the Jewish law were of God’s appointment; but now that the people began to put their trust in them, God despised them.” (Clarke)
What he intended for their instruction, they made their confidence.” (Spurgeon)
What is the bottom line?  God wants are our hearts more than anything. Worshipping God is putting our trust in Him, because He has given us everything we need. God promises that when we call on him in the time of trouble, he will deliver us.
Where have your spiritual disciplines designed to bring you closer to God become dull or lacking your passion? Where are you going through the motions?  God doesn't need our worship attendance, giving or prayers?  These are the means for us to express our need for Him and trust in His promises that He has made to us which are ultimately all fulfilled in His Son, Jesus Christ.     

Thursday, July 13, 2017

You Can't Take It With You

Psalm 49
This is the fate of those who trust in themselves,
    and of their followers, who approve their sayings.[d]
14 They are like sheep and are destined to die;
    death will be their shepherd
    (but the upright will prevail over them in the morning).
Their forms will decay in the grave,
    far from their princely mansions.
15 But God will redeem me from the realm of the dead;
    he will surely take me to himself.
16 Do not be overawed when others grow rich,
    when the splendor of their houses increases;
17 for they will take nothing with them when they die,
    their splendor will not descend with them.
18 Though while they live they count themselves blessed—
    and people praise you when you prosper—
19 they will join those who have gone before them,
    who will never again see the light of life.

This psalm contrasts the end of those who trust in riches, with those who trust in God. The psalmist even echoes the familiar saying, "For they will take nothing with them when they die."  Though they will seem prosperous in this life, it does not make it to the grave.   
"Voltaire was a French atheist and enemy of Christianity and his popularity made him very wealthy. “Yet when Voltaire came to die, it is reported that he cried to his doctor in pained desperation, ‘I will give you half of all I possess if you will give me six months more of life.'” Voltaire died in despair." (Boice)

By contrary to the despair when the person who loved riches dies, the psalmist trusts that God will redeem him from the dead.  Literally the psalmist trusts in faith that his body will not rot in the grave, but he will be resurrected he will be with God.  Although he might have not have known God's plan of redemption through Jesus, he knew he needed to trust in God alone.  He realized that cost of redeeming a human life was so high that only God could pay for it.   

Importantly being wealthy is not a sin.  One commentator says it this way, "Though the Bible presents several godly rich men to us (such as Abraham and King David who by modern measures would probably be billionaires), they were men who still trusted in the Lord and made their boast in Him."  (Guzik) There are plenty of similar examples today!

What are you trusting in? Are you trusting in things that you cannot take with you when you die?  Or maybe a better question, "Are you storing up a treasure here on earth or in heaven?"  I think Jesus might have said something like that!