Praying through the Psalms

Praying through the Psalms

Friday, October 13, 2017

How Does God View Time??

Psalm 90
A thousand years in your sight
    are like a day that has just gone by,
    or like a watch in the night.
Yet you sweep people away in the sleep of death—
    they are like the new grass of the morning:
In the morning it springs up new,
    but by evening it is dry and withered.

You often hear the phrase "a day is like a thousand years in your sight".  

The idea is that God is outside space and time and so he sees everything from the aspect of eternity.  He knows the beginning and the end, the alpha and the omega.  If he didn't he would not be God.  If God did not know something God would not be "all-knowing", and therefore not be God.  As such God is sovereign over all things.  

We live mired in space in time.  In this psalm Moses is in the middle of the wildnerness wanderings after Israel was delivered by God miraculously through the Red Sea.  But Moses cannot see where they are going or when they are going to get there.  He is saying, "You delivered us from the Egyptians to rot out there!"  It is in this humble place that he writes the psalm. Read the whole psalm to get a better feel for his lament. 

Another commentator says it this way, 

"He is raised above Time, and that none of the terms in which men describe duration have any meaning for Him. A thousand years, which to a man seem so long, are to Him dwindled to nothing, in comparison with the eternity of His being. As Peter has said, the converse must also be true, and ‘one day with the Lord is like a thousand years.’” (Maclaren)

Although we live one day at a time, as one of my pastors said, "We must keep one eye on eternity."  This helps us not get mired in day to day difficulties and annoyances.  We can live for things that will make a difference in all of eternity.  Although God knows what that will be, we don't.  Therefore, we can live our lives for the purpose of things that will outlast us. 

Then every day with our Lord in heaven will be like a thousand years!

Saturday, October 7, 2017

Why God Never Gives Up on You!

Psalm 89

"If his sons forsake my law
    and do not follow my statutes,
31 if they violate my decrees
    and fail to keep my commands,
32 I will punish their sin with the rod,
    their iniquity with flogging;
33 but I will not take my love from him,
    nor will I ever betray my faithfulness.
34 I will not violate my covenant
    or alter what my lips have uttered.
35 Once for all, I have sworn by my holiness—
    and I will not lie to David—
36 that his line will continue forever
    and his throne endure before me like the sun;
37 it will be established forever like the moon,
    the faithful witness in the sky.”

The psalmist spends many verses describing the faithfulness and  mightiness of God. He talks about the covenant God has made with his servant and king David, which he will bless through David's line forever. God chose David to be His anointed one, and God will be with him in all He does. Even though David will falter, God's steadfast love will last forever.

But then the tone of the psalm changes as we see above.Despite God's faithfulness to Israel, when they violate His covenant He will not spare the rod.He will discipline them. But next we see God's character, "But I will not take my love from them.  I will not violate my covenant." 

One cannot overemphasize how important these words are about God's character.  You could summarize it by saying, "God is faithful when we are not!"
But we also see that God is not unwilling to discipline His people when they violate the covenant He has made with Israel.  As Israel rebels more and more against God's covenant, God will allow them to be judged by other nations.  We see this had happened when the psalm says, 

You have exalted the right hand of his foes;
    you have made all his enemies rejoice.
43 Indeed, you have turned back the edge of his sword
    and have not supported him in battle.
44 You have put an end to his splendor
    and cast his throne to the ground.
45 You have cut short the days of his youth;
    you have covered him with a mantle of shame.

So if this is how God dealt with His chosen Ones, what does this say about how He will deal with us?  I think first of all we need to cling to the promise where he says, "I will never take my love from them."  Though God may punish our sinful ways, he will never forsake His love for us.  But God also loves us enough to discipline us when we violate His laws. We might say God allows the consequences of our actions to teach us a lesson.  In the case of Israel, God had to teach them a very hard lesson and even seemingly abandon them.  Yet, He never gives up on His people and He never gives up on us. 

When we see how much God loves us and never gives up on us, doesn't make you want to serve Him more as a sign of your great love for him?  We can love him because He first loved us. 

Friday, October 6, 2017

You don't need to "sugarcoat" your prayers!

Psalm 88

Lord, you are the God who saves me;
    day and night I cry out to you.
May my prayer come before you;
    turn your ear to my cry.
I am overwhelmed with troubles
    and my life draws near to death.
I am counted among those who go down to the pit;
    I am like one without strength.
I am set apart with the dead,
    like the slain who lie in the grave,
whom you remember no more,
    who are cut off from your care.
You have put me in the lowest pit,
    in the darkest depths.
Your wrath lies heavily on me;
    you have overwhelmed me with all your waves.
You have taken from me my closest friends
    and have made me repulsive to them.
I am confined and cannot escape;
    my eyes are dim with grief.

I dare you to read the rest of this psalm. Why? Because it is one of the saddest, most depressing psalms in the bible.  The psalm is attributed to "Heman", a song writer in the temple, and the grandson of Samuel the prophet.

In this Psalm, Heman makes a map of his life’s history, he puts down all the dark places through which he has traveled. He mentions his sins, his sorrows, his hopes (if he had any), his fears, his woos, and so on. Now, that is real prayer, laying your case before the Lord.” (Charles Spurgeon)

So what are we to make of this psalm>  First of all it is very honest.  Heman does not try to "sugarcoat" what he is going through.  I like that about this psalm.  Sometimes in the church I think we always think we have to sound and look happy. And when we are not, there is something spiritually wrong with us.  When one reads the psalms, we can see this is not the case.  Heman bares all of his soul in this agonizing "lament".  

The only positive, hopeful thing Heman says is in verse 1, "You are the God who saves me."  After that it is all downhill.  Within his grief, Heman is not only sad about God not hearing him or comforting him, but even his friends have abandoned him. I would imagine for anyone who has cried out to God in this way, and not heard from him would at the very least need some good friends to listen and support him.  

Although the Old Testament speaks of salvation and the afterlife, you don't get the sense the psalmist has that hope within him.  You can see that he doesn't have a lot of hope in eternal in the psalm,

Do you show your wonders to the dead?
    Do their spirits rise up and praise you?
11 Is your love declared in the grave,
    your faithfulness in Destruction?
12 Are your wonders known in the place of darkness,
    or your righteous deeds in the land of oblivion?

So as New Testament Christians, who are saved by Jesus' death, and have the assurance of life after death by his glorious resurrection, what can we learn from this psalm?

1. It is okay to be down and to express your disappointment to God.  God can handle it.  You don't have to "sugarcoat" your prayers to Him, or anyone else for that matter.  In these times of sorrow, by being honest with God, we can grow closer to Him, just like when a friend listens to you vent about a situation weighing heavily on you.

2. Thank God for the hope we have in Jesus Christ.  Although the psalmist knew the God who saves him, he still did not yet have the hope of the resurrection.  We do. It is the hope and power of the resurrection through the Holy Spirit that sustain us in times of weariness.

So I don't know where you are at today? But God cares and you don't need to hold back.  Heman sure didn't! 

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

The City of God

Psalm 87

Of the Sons of Korah. A psalm. A song.

He has founded his city on the holy mountain.
The Lord loves the gates of Zion
    more than all the other dwellings of Jacob.
Glorious things are said of you,
    city of God:
“I will record Rahab and Babylon
    among those who acknowledge me—
Philistia too, and Tyre, along with Cush—
    and will say, ‘This one was born in Zion.’”
Indeed, of Zion it will be said,
    “This one and that one were born in her,
    and the Most High himself will establish her.”
The Lord will write in the register of the peoples:
    “This one was born in Zion.”
As they make music they will sing,
    “All my fountains are in you.”

The psalmist talks about the city of Zion, which is a term that has been used in many ways throughout the years. It is most commonly associated with the city of Jerusalem.  Literally the place is located South of Mount Moriah, as a small fortress that David conquered when Israel took over the promised land.  Mount Moriah is also called the Temple Mount, which is one of the most contested pieces of land on this earth, as it is a profoundly sacred place to the three major world religions: Judaism, Islam and Christianity.  

Most importantly God has "founded" this city as the center of his redemptive work.  It was called David's city after the greatest king of Israel, from whose line the Messiah came. In it God's holy temple was built for Him to dwell in the Holy of holies.  It was where special feasts prescribed in the Old Testament were all held, as pilgrims came from all over the world to honor God. Jesus lamented, "O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones God's messengers! How often I have wanted to gather your children together as a hen protects her chicks beneath her wings, but you wouldn't let me."  Jerusalem was the ultimately destination where Jesus would die for the sins of the world.   

Today the word "Zionist" often stands for the "Zionist movement" started in the late 19th century in an effort to establish a Jewish state for the Jewish people in Palestine. In 1948, the Zionist movement declared the re-establishment of the State of Israel, following the UN plan for the partition of Palestine. In the Mormon faith, Zion is a utopian-like place where the righteous dwell together in complete unity.  

But we know from scripture that although God came into a specific space and time to reveal Himself, Jerusalem is representative of a future place where all believers will dwell with God in heaven.  In the book of Revelation, John tells of the "New Jersualem", which will come down out of heaven.  It is literally "heaven on earth".  This is also called "the heavenly Jerusalem", and the "city of God". 

Just as Jesus came in a body, so one day we will dwell bodily with God in a physical place.  We will not be floating spiritual beings, but residents in the City of God.  I hope there are no taxes there. LOL

As Paul says in Philippians 3:20, "But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ!

Saturday, September 30, 2017

How Does Our Prayer Reflect What We Think of God?

Psalm 86

A prayer of David.

Hear me, Lord, and answer me,
    for I am poor and needy.
Guard my life, for I am faithful to you;
    save your servant who trusts in you.
You are my God; have mercy on me, Lord,
    for I call to you all day long.
Bring joy to your servant, Lord,
    for I put my trust in you.

As in many of the psalms of David, we see his intimate prayer life and how he relies on God for everything in his life.  David starts his petition by showing humility by saying that he is "poor" and "needy".  He acknowledges that without God's help he has nothing.  Importantly David expresses this prayer as evidence of his trust in the LORD.  At the end of the day, prayer shows we are trusting in God.  Prayer is saying, "God I need you to help me in my time of need.  I will rely on you to take care of me and no one else."  

David asks God to meet his need in prayer, not only for his own good, but also that he might glorify God through it.  He says, 

"I will praise you, Lord my God, with all my heart; I will glorify your name forever."

Not only does David trust in God, but he wants others to know God can be trusted. His God is far superior to the pagan gods others trust in. Finally, David ends the psalm by appealing to God's unchanging nature and character which he sums up like this, 

"But you, Lord, are a compassionate and gracious God,
    slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness."

David throughout his life has seen these qualities in the God he serves.  He has relied on them in the past to deliver him, and has no reason to doubt that God will not exhibit these qualities going forward.  David knows that even when he makes a mistakes, and he made some big ones, that God is "slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love."  Bottom line: God keeps His promises to His people. 

Where do you need to cry out to God in prayer?  Where do you feel like you are being attacked by your foes?  Where is God calling you to be faithful in this area of your life?  How can knowing how God has been merciful and faithful to you in the past, give you peace that He will honor you now?

Thursday, September 28, 2017

Where Mercy and Truth Meet!

10 10 Mercy and truth have met together;
Righteousness and peace have kissed.
11 Truth shall spring out of the earth,
And righteousness shall look down from heaven.
12 Yes, the Lord will give what is good;
And our land will yield its increase.
13 Righteousness will go before Him,
And shall make His footsteps our pathway.

We often think that mercy and truth don't go together too well.  Mercy is giving people what they don't deserve, and truth is giving people what they do deserve.  What gives?  How can God be both merciful and gracious and truthful and righteous?  

One of the ways we can know this is that none of us are righteous.  None of us follow the truth all the time. When we sin, God is justified in His sentence.  The wages of sin is death.  But the free gift of God is mercy, because of His great love for us.  Though we deserve punishment God has mercy on us and forgives us.  Earlier in the psalm it said,

"You have forgiven the iniquity of Your people;
You have covered all their sin. 
You have taken away all Your wrath;
You have turned from the fierceness of Your anger."

The context of this psalm is the people of Israel after they had forsaken God.  God had judged them and they were in exile because of their sin.  But the psalmist knew that because of God's great love that He would restore His people.  But to do this their sin needed to be covered. In the garden of Eden, Adam and Eve put on garments from animal skins to cover up their sin against God.  

But God has covered up our sins and blotted out the stain of our iniquities.  God has cleaned us up through who He sends in the New Testament, His one and only Son.  When John the Baptist saw Jesus he said, "Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world." 

John says this about Jesus, who is a reflection of God's mercy and truth.  He said, "The Word became flesh dwelt among us full of grace and truth."

Why is this important? God has to be truthful toward us. But because mercy and truth have met together, God pours our His blessing on us and we can walk in His righteousness which light up our pathway all the way to heaven!

Sunday, September 24, 2017

Meeting With the Living God!

Psalm 84

For the director of music. According to gittith.[b] Of the Sons of Korah. A psalm.

How lovely is your dwelling place,
    Lord Almighty!
My soul yearns, even faints,
    for the courts of the Lord;
my heart and my flesh cry out
    for the living God.
Even the sparrow has found a home,
    and the swallow a nest for herself,
    where she may have her young—
a place near your altar,
    Lord Almighty, my King and my God.
Blessed are those who dwell in your house;
    they are ever praising you.

We all have our favorite places we like to go to.  Maybe it is a cabin near a lake, or a beach house by the ocean.  It is usually a place where you get away from it all and enjoy time with nature, family and possibly a few good friends.  One thing is for sure, when we leave that place we usually feel refreshed and replenished.  

The psalmist talks about another place of rest and replenishment.  He calls it the "court of the living God", or "His dwelling place". In the Old Testament, God promised to meet the Israelites in the temple. In the temple they met the "living God". They got a glimpse of God's glory, even though God had to protect them from it because He is so holy.  But the psalmist finds it such an important place he says that "his soul yearns, even faints to be in it."  At the end of the psalm he says, "Better is one day in your courts than a thousand elsewhere."  Bottom line is his meeting with God was one of the best things in his life and he would virtually do anything to make it happen.  

I wonder if my soul yearns and faints for the living God.  Or, have I become content going through the motions in worship. Do I really expect to meet God in worship on Sundays?  Do I pray for those who lead worship to draw me into God's presence by the power of the Holy Spirit? Do I spend time preparing myself to be in God's presence?  Do I take time to confess my sin as I encounter His holiness?  And finally, do I receive the precious grace of God as I encounter it proclaimed, receive it personally in the bread broken and wine poured out for the forgiveness of my sin. 

The psalmist says that those who take this posture in worship are blessed.  Let's make time to come into God's presence this week. Whether it be in church as we worship together, in bible study as we study together, or in our private prayer time with God.  Better is one day in His courts than a thousand elsewhere! You can count on it!