Praying through the Psalms

Praying through the Psalms

Saturday, August 19, 2017

Hurry Up God!

Psalm 70
For the director of music. Of David. A petition.
Hasten, O God, to save me;
    come quickly, Lord, to help me.
May those who want to take my life
    be put to shame and confusion;
may all who desire my ruin
    be turned back in disgrace.
May those who say to me, “Aha! Aha!”
    turn back because of their shame.
But may all who seek you
    rejoice and be glad in you;
may those who long for your saving help always say,
  “The Lord is great!”
But as for me, I am poor and needy;
    come quickly to me, O God.
You are my help and my deliverer;
    Lord, do not delay.

We live in a world of instant gratification.  We want things and we want them now.  If we have to wait at “fast food” drive-through, we get quickly miffed at how long it is taking.  With cell phones we can text, tweet and post and get replies in moments.  But when we pray to God, it doesn’t work that way.  God does not act on our whims or “text” prayers.  God listens for sure, but He answers in His timing not ours.  And this is for our own good.

In today’s psalm, David twice says, “come quickly” to me. Lord, “do not delay”.  More than anything David is urgently asking God to save him from his enemies.  I think when David says “hasten” and “do not delay”, he is not so much questioning God’s ability to act and act fast, but calling out to God fervently.  He knows God can do anything and in His timing, he is just asking God to come quickly.  I don’t see anything wrong in that. 

It is usually when we are in trouble that we ask God to come quickly.  When we pray in this way we are expressing our trust in God, and that He is the only one who can save us albeit in His timing.  Notice too by crying out to God, David does not take revenge against those who are ridiculing him. It shows he is relying on God no matter how long it takes. 

Where do you need God to “come quickly” in your life?  In our instant gratification culture, God may not instantly answer your prayer, but know God hears your prayer and it is just a matter of time before He answers it.        

Friday, August 18, 2017

When I Was Sinking Down, Sinking Down!

Psalm 69
For the director of music. To the tune of “Lilies.” Of David.
Save me, O God,
    for the waters have come up to my neck.
I sink in the miry depths,
    where there is no foothold.
I have come into the deep waters;
    the floods engulf me.
I am worn out calling for help;
    my throat is parched.
My eyes fail,
    looking for my God.
Those who hate me without reason
    outnumber the hairs of my head;
many are my enemies without cause,
    those who seek to destroy me.
I am forced to restore
    what I did not steal.

There are many times David felt extreme sorrow, and felt abandoned by everyone including his friends.  Even when he did something he felt was for God, he was unjustly treated and unfairly persecuted.  David compares the despair he felt to slow rising of the waters up to his neck.  And like sinking into mud like quicksand, with no firm footing.  And finally, the sudden flood which comes suddenly and creates instant fear and leaves David crying out for help. 

In addition, we see his physical symptoms.  His throat is parched from crying out, and his eyes are weary for looking for God.  David is crying out in the depth of his being.  If you read the rest of the psalm, there are things that David cries out that we hear in Jesus’ own betrayal and suffering before he died on the cross.  For example, in verse 21, “They put gall in my food, and gave me vinegar for my thirst.”  Since David was the greatest king in Israel, he was a forerunner of the King of kings. Finally, we see the deep trust David has in the Lord when he states,

29 But as for me, afflicted and in pain—
    may your salvation, God, protect me.
30 I will praise God’s name in song
    and glorify him with thanksgiving.

There are times when we feel we are being engulfed by turmoil and racked with anxiety and fear.  Or, flooded with grief and tears.  There are times when even those who we trust seem absent, or worse yet have turned on us.  But the fact is in times like this we can cry out to God to deliver us.  It gives me a great sense of strength when I am in a crisis big or small to know that I can cry out to God and he will deliver me.  Not always in the way I think he should, but he is always there to be my rock.  When we seem to be sinking, we can reach up to the Rock that is above us.  He will never move.  Then, like David we can praise and thank God for never leaving or forsaking us!

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Strength in Compassion!

Psalm 68

4Sing to God, sing in praise of his name,
    extol him who rides on the clouds;
    rejoice before him—his name is the Lord.
5 A father to the fatherless, a defender of widows,
    is God in his holy dwelling.
6 God sets the lonely in families,
    he leads out the prisoners with singing;
    but the rebellious live in a sun-scorched land.
7 When you, God, went out before your people,
    when you marched through the wilderness,
8 the earth shook, the heavens poured down rain,
    before God, the One of Sinai,
    before God, the God of Israel.
9 You gave abundant showers, O God;
    you refreshed your weary inheritance.
10 Your people settled in it,
    and from your bounty, God, you provided for the poor.

The context of this psalm most commentators agree is the procession of the ark of the covenant to the temple in Jerusalem.  The ark represented God’s image and invisible presence.  He also celebrates the victories God gave to Israel as it escaped slavery in Egypt. David lifts up the transcendence of God who rides on the clouds, shakes the earth, and pours down rain from heaven. 

But I think the most poignant aspect of this psalm is even in His greatness God cares for the poor, the widows, and orphans.  He is the ultimate combination of strength and compassion.  God brought down the high and mighty and gave grace to the humble.  God often used the weak to bring down the strong.  In providing for all the people, God provided for the poor.

Jesus and the incarnation of God, was also a model of strength and tenderness.  He was the powerful “Lion of Judah” and the innocent “Lamb of God”. Ultimately Jesus showed his strength by willingly laying down his life for the all of us who were impoverished in spirit. Paul picked up on this in Corinthians when he says, “I will boast in my weakness, because in my weakness God is shown to be strong.”    

So, what does this mean for us?  As Christ followers, Jesus calls us to take up our cross and follow Him daily.  To take up our cross means to die to pride and selfishness and serve the least and the lost.  Of all people, Christians should be most concerned about the downtrodden and those who have no rights.  The unborn, children and women in slavery, and elders who are being abused.     

Monday, August 14, 2017

What is a Blessing????

Psalm 67:1-5
May God be gracious to us and bless us
    and make his face shine on us—
2 so that your ways may be known on earth,
    your salvation among all nations.
3 May the peoples praise you, God;
    may all the peoples praise you.
4 May the nations be glad and sing for joy,
    for you rule the peoples with equity
    and guide the nations of the earth.
5 May the peoples praise you, God;
    may all the peoples praise you.

Psalm 67 contains part of the blessing God commanded Aaron gave to the people of Israel.  This comes from Numbers 6:24-26, “The LORD bless you and keep you: The LORD make his face to shine upon you, and be gracious to you: The LORD lift up his countenance upon you, and give you peace.”  It is called the “Aaronic blessing”, and in many Protestant and Catholic churches it is said at the end of the worship service/mass.  It is usually called the “Benediction”, which means “good word!”. The idea is when the Pastor raises his hands and says the Aaronic blessing, he is literally putting God’s blessing upon the people. 

In the context of this psalm, David says that part of the purpose of being blessed is making God’s ways known.  We often here the phrase, “We are blessed to be a blessing!”  As God blesses us and His face shines on us, and we reflect His glory.  Much like when the disciples came down from the Transfiguration and saw Jesus shine, and Moses came down from Mount Sinai shining with God’s glory. When we encounter God’s presence and pleasure we shine! 

When Jesus spoke on the Sermon on the Mount in the “Beattitudes”, he used the phrase “blessed are those…” nine times.  Eugene Petersen says this word is best translated “happy …”.  This happiness is a deeper than a “worldly” happiness, but a deep, inner joy we might call “true happiness”. 

I don’t know about you, but I think there is a huge need in our society and in our church to give and receive blessing.  The blessing can also be accompanied with a tracing of the cross on someone’s forehead with the words, “You have been marked by the cross of Christ, and sealed by the Holy Spirit forever”.  What a great thing for parents to do with their kids every night before they go to bed. 

Here is a good question for all of us to ponder.  Are we a blessing in people’s lives? Meaning, when we are with others do they feel blessed by God through us? Receive God’s blessing wherever you are right now!

Now may the Lord bless you and keep you.  The Lord make his face to shine upon you.  The Lord look upon you with favor and grant you His peace, in the name of the Father, Son and  Holy Spirit!

Saturday, August 12, 2017

The Perfect Antidote to Worry!

Psalm 66:5-7
5 Come and see what God has done,
    his awesome deeds for mankind!
6 He turned the sea into dry land,
    they passed through the waters on foot—
    come, let us rejoice in him.
7 He rules forever by his power,
    his eyes watch the nations—
    let not the rebellious rise up against him.

This psalm is all about giving God worship for all He has done, all of who He is, and His control of the future.  As we reflect on God’s faithfulness, we are led to trust in him whatever the future brings. This is especially true when we go through trials and testing.  Here is what one person has said regarding God’s work in history,

God’s work is never antiquated. It is all a revelation of eternal activities. What He has been, He is. What He did, He does. Therefore, faith may feed on all the records of old time, and expect the repetition of all that they contain.” (Maclaren)”

One of the purposes of the Sacrament of Holy Communion during our worship service is it is the central act of remembering what Jesus did for us. The bread and the wine are a living remembrance of Jesus’ death on the cross, a participation of Jesus’ real presence among us, and a foretaste of the feast to come.  As we bring our sins to the altar, we remember what Jesus has done for us, receive his forgiveness, and come forth in new life. 

Worry is a common thing we all experience. Worry is usually related to a negative future outcome that is out of our control.  The more we obsess about it, the more the anxiety begins to control us.  An antidote to worry is consciously remembering what God has done for us in the past and His promise to always be with us in the future.  When we read the bible, we are reminded of his great deeds.  As we pray we are reminded of His presence and care for us. As we fellowship with others we are encouraged and built up. 

Where in your life are you tempted to fret about something that may or may not happen?  As David says today, “Come and see what God has done, his awesome deeds for mankind.”  

Thursday, August 10, 2017

How Can You Prove the Existence of God?

Psalm 65:5-8

“You answer us with awesome and righteous deeds, God our Savior, the hope of all the ends of the earth and of the farthest seas, who formed the mountains by your power, having armed yourself with strength, who stilled the roaring of the seas, the roaring of their waves, and the turmoil of the nations.The whole earth is filled with awe at your wonders; where morning dawns, where evening fades, you call forth songs of joy.”

How can you prove the existence of God?  Some people say it is not possible.  In a literal sense this is probably true.  But there are very few things we can prove without some degree of uncertainty, however small that is.  For instance in a court of law, while someone might get convicted of a crime, there is always some small degree to which the conviction could be wrong.  An eyewitness who lied. A DNA sample that was tainted. A case of mistaken identity.   

While at the end of the day although you cannot literally see God, you have to make your decision on whether or not you believe in God by the evidence you can see.  In the psalm today, David says, "God answers us with his awesome and righteous deeds."  He gives several examples of the greatness of God like: creating the ends of the earth and seas, forming the mountains by his power, and the awe and wonder of a morning dawn and evening fading away.  

So how then you say does this prove the existence of God?  There are only two explanations for the wonders we see in our world.  One, there is a God who made it.  Or secondly, it came into existence by accident which set in motion what we see around us by some sort of evolutionary process.  If one advocates the latter explanation, one would need evidence to prove how that random accident came about. And the process by which the beauty which ensued came to be because of that random process. Importantly the question one must answer if they believe everything came into existence by some random process is, "How did order come disorder. How did beauty come from evolution. How was something made from nothing"  How can someone argue something came from nothing.  And if there is something, where did something come from.  Anything created needs a creator, it doesn't just appear out of nowhere.  

Notice I am using an entirely rational argument.  If you are purely rational person you have to pick one or the other, unless you really just don't care.  But assuming you do care, while we may not be able to prove the existence of God in a purely scientific way, at the end of the day one has to make a decision based on the evidence they do have.  We all have the same evidence, the creation all around us. It screams of a Creator.  But then again God will never force anyone to believe in Him.  

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Watch Your Back!

Psalm 64:2-6

Hide me from the conspiracy of the wicked,
    from the plots of evildoers.
3 They sharpen their tongues like swords
    and aim cruel words like deadly arrows.
4 They shoot from ambush at the innocent;
    they shoot suddenly, without fear.
5 They encourage each other in evil plans,
    they talk about hiding their snares;
    they say, “Who will see it?”
6 They plot injustice and say,
    “We have devised a perfect plan!”Surely the human mind and heart are cunning.

We often here the words, "watch your back!".  The idea is that one needs to be always looking in the rear view mirror to protect themselves.  If one can see their enemy they can protect themselves and even fight back, but when you get ambushed without warning you are in trouble.

The people David was fighting were constantly plotting their plans for his destruction.  He could really never be at peace, not knowing what was waiting around every corner and every turn.  Worst of all, his enemies think because what they are doing is done in secret, they won't get caught.  They think their human plans will never be discovered, even by God.  Though David feels very vulnerable, he trusts in a God who is bigger, smarter and more powerful than his enemies.  He says about this God,

But God will shoot them with his arrows;
    they will suddenly be struck down.
He will turn their own tongues against them
    and bring them to ruin;
    all who see them will shake their heads in scorn.
All people will fear;
    they will proclaim the works of God
    and ponder what he has done.

As believers we have an enemy that is trying to ambush us.  His name is the devil and he seeks to destroy us in cunning and baffling ways.  Paul reminds us in Ephesians that our battle is not against flesh and blood, but against principalites of this present darkness. Therefore he tells us to put on the "full armor of God". (Ephesians 6:12-13)

While Christians do not need to be paranoid about the evil one, we must realize that as we grow in Christ, we will face spiritual battles. But, "Greater is He who is in us, than He who is in the world."   1 John 4:4  God has got your back and His given you the Holy Spirit so you can discern when evil is in your midst.