Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Psalm 131

A Childlike Faith

Surely I have calmed and quieted my soul,
Like a weaned child with his mother;
Like a weaned child is my soul within me.
~ Ps. 131:2

I never really understood those verses above until I became a mother.  When my children were babies and got hungry, they would scream and cry.  I would say to them, "Mama's coming, Mama's coming" but nothing would comfort them until the bottle was in their mouth and the milk began to fill their tummies.

But when they got to be toddlers and were "weaned" to solid food, they would sit in their high chairs and wait for me as I prepared their food.  They could see that I was getting it ready, and they were much more patient to wait - no screaming and crying because they knew they could trust me - dinner was coming!

I have written in the margin of my Bible beside Psalm 131 "full trust" - that is the picture the psalmist is trying to depict to the reader. 

My Bible also notes that a weaned child is a symbol of contentment.  The psalmist has been weaned from a self-centered life and thus finds quietness.

In yesterday's psalm, David spoke of forgiveness and celebrates the blessedness of a man whose transgressions are pardoned.  Psalm 131 is a song of humility and celebrates the blessedness of the man who is of a meek and lowly spirit.  Forgiveness should humble us.
A man does well to know his own size.  ~ Spurgeon

Neither do I concern myself with great matters,
Nor with things too profound for me.
~ Ps. 131:1
I love verse 1 - David's life is an excellent example to us of TRUSTING GOD - he didn't concern himself with things too profound to him.  He knew he was chosen by God to be king of Israel but he allowed God to move in His own time . . . David didn't push himself forward or take the throne violently.  The persecution by Saul lasted about 10 years - he left it entirely to God to remove Saul. 

Submission to God's guidance, resignation to His dispensations, contentment with that which was allotted to him, are the distinguishing traits of David's noble character.
~ Franz Delitzsch

A child's heart is one that trusts unconditionally.  Like David, may we live our lives with that quiet, contented trust in God!

WHAT CAN I LEARN ABOUT GOD THROUGH THIS PSALM:
  • God is my Heavenly Father, and I can trust Him with a childlike faith
HOW CAN I PRAISE GOD THROUGH THIS PSALM:
  • I praise God that I can trust Him as His child
  • I praise God that I don't have to concern myself with great matters that belong to God, or with things too profound for me
PRAYER:
YOUR CHILD, GOD

O God
With deep contrition
I shamefully confess
My small concept of You
My puny faith
My limited comprehension.
Forgive me, O God
And enlarge my narrow vision.
Stimulate my trust
As I concentrate on Your greatness.
Give me even now
A true perspective
Of Your majestic power
To totally transform the child
On whom You have set Your love -
The child whose name is engraved
On the palm of Your hand
The child who claims You
As her Maker and Master.
Your child, God!
Me!

~ Ruth Harms Calkin

Monday, May 30, 2011

Psalm 130

My Soul Waits for the Lord

Psalm 130 is an individual lament, known as one of the 7 penitential psalms.  In these verses, the psalmist expresses
  • his desire towards God, v 1-2

  • his repentance towards God, v 3-4

  • his attendance (waiting) upon God, v 5-6

  • his expectation from God, v 7-8

  • This Psalm, perhaps more than any other, is marked by its mountains: depth; prayer; conviction; light; hope; waiting; watching; longing; confidence; assurance; universal happiness and joy...
    James Vaughan, 1878.
    Just as the barometer marks the rising of the weather, so does this Psalm, sentence by sentence, record the progress of the soul. And you may test yourself by it, as by a rule or measure, and ask yourself at each line, "Have I reached to this? Have I reached to this?" and so take your spiritual gauge.  

    Martin Luther penned these words below in an application & interpretation of Psalm 130- Christopher Miner put it to music in 1997 and it's one of my favorites that we sing at church:

    From depths of woe I raise to Thee
    The voice of lamentation;
    Lord, turn a gracious ear to me
    And hear my supplication;
    If Thou iniquities dost mark,
    Our secret sins and misdeeds dark,
    O who shall stand before Thee?

    To wash away the crimson stain,
    Grace, grace alone availeth;
    Our works, alas! are all in vain;
    In much the best life faileth:
    No man can glory in Thy sight,
    All must alike confess Thy might,
    And live alone by mercy.

    Therefore my trust is in the Lord,
    And not in mine own merit;
    On Him my soul shall rest, His Word
    Upholds my fainting spirit:
    His promised mercy is my fort,
    My comfort, and my sweet support;
    I wait for it with patience.

    What though I wait the livelong night,
    And till the dawn appeareth,
    My heart still trusteth in His might;
    It doubteth not nor feareth:
    Do thus, O ye of Israel's seed,
    Ye of the Spirit born indeed;
    And wait till God appeareth.

    Though great our sins and sore our woes,
    His grace much more aboundeth;
    His helping love no limit knows,
    Our utmost need it soundeth.
    Our Shepherd good and true is He,
    Who will at last His Israel free.
    From all their sin and sorrow.

    Regarding verses 3-4, Spurgeon notes:  These two verses contain the sum of all the Scriptures. In the third is the form of repentance, and in the fourth the mercies of the Lord:
    If You, Lord, should mark iniquities,
    O Lord, who could stand?
    But there is forgiveness with You,
    That You may be feared.~ Psalm 130:3-4


    In verses 5 & 6, the psalmist exhorts us to wait on the Lord.  OK - those words sound great, but . . . how exactly do we do it?  What does it mean to "wait for the Lord" - Matthew Henry makes this observation:
    from Him I expect relief and comfort, believing it will come, but patiently bearing the delay of it, and resolving to look for it from no other hand.
     In practical terms, what is more certain than night and day?  We know with certainty the sun will come up in the morning . . . verse 6 reminds us:
     God's covenant is more firm than the ordinances of day and night, for they shall come to an end, but God's covenant is everlasting. 

    The Wailing Wall, Jerusalem
    Western Wall of the Temple
    God has great things in store for His people; they ought to have large expectations.
    ~ Spurgeon

    WHAT CAN I LEARN ABOUT GOD THROUGH THIS PSALM:
    • God hears my voice
    • There is forgiveness with God - He does not mark my iniquities
    • There is certainty with God - I can wait on Him with confident expectation
    • With the Lord, there is mercy
    • With the Lord is abundant redemption
    HOW CAN I PRAISE GOD THROUGH THIS PSALM:
    • I praise God that He hears my cry - that the God of the universe is attentive to my voice!
    • I praise God for His forgiveness, mercy & redemption to His people, and in my life!
    PRAYER:
         Out of the depths I have cried to You, ,O Lord - Lord, hear my voice!  Let Your ears be attentive to the voice of my supplications.
        If You, Lord, should mark my iniquities, I know there is no way I could stand before You.  I bless You for Your Son Jesus Christ and for the forgiveness that is found in Him.  For the abundant redemption for all my iniquities, my heart praises You forever. 
         Thank You, O God, that we can wait with certainty on You, that our hope in You is not in vain.  Bear me up and strengthen my heart to wait on You with patience . . . as sure as night follows day, even more sure the Creator whose hand made them both.  May I trust You more and more.  In Jesus' name I pray ~ Amen

    Sunday, May 29, 2011

    Psalm 129

    Plea of the Persecuted

    In the "degrees" of Christian virtue Psalm 129 corresponds to the tenth step, which is patience in adversity. ~ H. T. Armfield

    This psalm relates to the public concerns of God's Israel.  Scholars believe it was probably penned when they were in captivity in Babylon, or about the time of their return.  They look back with thankfulness for the former deliverances, and forward with a believing prayer for the destruction of all the enemies of Zion. 

    The psalm sings
    • the trials of Israel, v 1-3
    • the intervention of the Lord, v 4
    • the unblessed condition of Israel's foes, v. 5-8
    
    Thus, let all Your enemies perish, O Lord!
    but let those who love Him be like the sun
    When it comes out in full strength.
    ~ Judges 5:31
    


    If we be the people of God, and persist in wrestling against His enemies, we need not fear but that we shall be victorious.
     ~ Alexander Henderson
    

    Regarding verses 7 & 8, Spurgeon comments:
    In harvest times in Israel, men bless each other in the name of the Lord; but there is nothing in the course and conduct of the ungodly man to suggest the giving or receiving of a benediction.  It would be infamous to compromise the name of the righteous Jehovah by pronouncing his blessing upon unrighteous deeds.

    We see that very thing today . . . a culture compromising God's name by pronouncing God's blessing on unrighteous deeds.  Matthew Henry calls it "prostituting" God's name!  If we truly know Him . . . truly seek His will and His word, we will know and clearly discern that which is unrighteous and sinful - speak out against it and turn from it!

    WHAT CAN I LEARN ABOUT GOD THROUGH THIS PSALM:
    • God is righteous
    • God intervenes on behalf of His people
    • God will defeat His enemies
    HOW CAN I PRAISE GOD THROUGH THIS PSALM:
    • I praise God that the Lord sees my afflictions . . . and that my enemies will not ultimately prevail against me
    PRAYER:
        Heavenly Father, You know my great need.  Graciously draw near to me and protect me in the day of battle, that those evils which the craft and subtlety of the devil or others work against me may be brought to nothing and, by the provision of Your goodness, may be dispersed. ~ F. B. Meyer

    Saturday, May 28, 2011

    Psalm 128

    Blessing on the House of the God-Fearing

    This is a family-psalm in that through these verses we are taught that the prosperity of our families depends upon the blessing of God - and the only way to obtain that blessing is to live in the fear of God and in obedience to Him.

    Like all the songs of degrees, it has an eye to Zion and Jerusalem, which are both expressly mentioned, and it closes like Psalms 125, 130, and 131, with an allusion to Israel.
    Blessed is every one who fears the Lord, who walks in His ways.
    ~ Ps. 128:1
    Behold, thus shall the man be blessed who fears the Lord.
    ~ Ps. 128:4


    The fear of God is the cornerstone of all blessedness. 
    Spurgeon exhorts us to cultivate that holy fear of Jehovah which is the essence of all true religion; -- the fear of reverence, of dread to offend, of anxiety to please, and of entire submission and obedience.
    This fear of the Lord is the fit fountain of holy living: we look in vain for holiness apart from it: none but those who fear the Lord will ever walk in his ways.   ~ Spurgeon
    If the heart is joined unto God, the feet will follow hard after him.

    WHAT CAN I LEARN ABOUT GOD THROUGH THIS PSALM:
    • God blesses those who fear Him and walk in His ways
    HOW CAN I PRAISE GOD THROUGH THIS PSALM:
    • I praise the Lord for His blessings in my life!
    PRAYER: by Ruth Myers
         Dear Father, what a delight to know that as I focus on the Lord Jesus, You transform me into His image by Your Spirit within me.  You work in me that which is pleasing in Your eyes.  You strengthen my heart in every good work and every good word, so that more and more I honor Christ by the way I live. 
         Fairest Lord Jesus!  You alone are my heart's desire . . . my chief delight . . . my soul's glory, joy and crown.  Every advantage life can offer is like rubbish compared with the overwhelming gain of knowing You.  You are worthy Lord - worthy to be thanked and praised and worshipped and adored.  Amen and amen!

    Friday, May 27, 2011

    Psalm 127

    Children are God's Heritage

    Psalm 127 is a psalm for families, and also known as the "Builder's Psalm."

    Spurgeon notes that here we are taught that builders of houses and cities, systems and fortunes, empires and churches all labour in vain without the Lord; but under the divine favour they enjoy perfect rest.
    Unless the Lord builds the house,
    They labor in vain who build it.
    ~ Ps. 127:1
    My Bible notes:  Efforts to develop a family or community apart from God will lead nowhere.
    
    Come, let us build ourselves a city,
    and a tower whose top is in the heavens.
    ~ Gen. 11:4
    
    Remember the Biblical account of the Tower of Babel:  in vain the people toiled for the Lord's face was against them.  God intervened to prevent the builders of Babel from partaking of the power an glory that belongs only to Him. 

    Without God, we are nothing.  Much can be done by man; he can both labour and watch; but without the Lord he has accomplished nothing, and his wakefulness has not warded off evil.
    ~ Spurgeon
    Behold, children are a heritage from the Lord.
    ~ Ps. 127:3
    
    John Howard Hinton's daughter said to him as she knelt by his death bed:—"There is no greater blessing than for children to have godly parents." "And the next", said the dying father, with a beam of gratitude, "for parents to have godly children."—Memoir in Baptist Handbook, 1875.
    
    Sons (children), who are in the Hebrew called "builders", are set forth as building up families under the same divine blessing, to the great honour and happiness of their parents. ~ Spurgeon

    WHAT CAN I LEARN ABOUT GOD THROUGH THIS PSALM:
    • Without God, we are nothing - our toil is in vain
    • Children are a heritage from the Lord
    HOW CAN I PRAISE GOD THROUGH THIS PSALM:
    • I praise God that He comes alongside His children with His divine favor and blessing
    • I bless God and praise Him for the children He has given to me!
    PRAYER:
         I beseech You, O Lord, to bless those I love.  Minister to them as I would, could I be by their side, and better than I could because Your thoughts and ways are so much more tender and helpful than mine could be.  Keep them safe beneath Your wing.  Amen and amen!  ~ F. B. Meyer

    Thursday, May 26, 2011

    Psalm 126

    Sow in Tears . . . Reap in Joy
    A Song of Ascents

    My Bible notes that this psalm is a request for God to extend the benefits of the return from exile to more than the initial few who returned from Babylon.  The psalmist recounts the joy of those who have returned (verses 1-3) and offers a prayer and a blessing for those yet to return (verses 4-6). 

    Spurgeon offers this observation:
    We see here not only that Zion abides, but that her joy returns after sorrow.  This is a song after a great deliverance from oppression. 
    This psalm is in its right place and most fittingly follows its predecessor, for as in Ps 125:1-5, we read that the rod of the wicked shall not rest upon the lot of the righteous, we here see it removed from them to their great joy.
    The word "turn" would seem to be the keynote of the song: it is a Psalm of conversion—conversion from captivity; and it may well be used to set forth the rapture of a pardoned soul when the anger of the Lord is turned away from it.
    The Psalm divides itself into
    • a narrative (vs 1-2)
    • a song (vs 3),
    • a prayer (vs 4),
    • a promise (vs 5-6)
    This picture below of my two sons with our family pet hangs in my house, in a frame with Psalm 126:3 painted on it.  One week in December, 2005, all three in the picture came very close to death in 3 separate incidents.  Each time, God was merciful and spared them.  For that, my heart sings and I will give praise for the rest of my life for the great things God did for me and my family that week!
    The Lord has done great things for us,
    and we are filled with joy.
    Ps. 126:3

    
    
    Those who sow in tears
    Shall reap in joy.
    ~ Ps. 126:5
      Verse 5 is well known and often quoted.  Matthew Henry notes:
    There are tears which are themselves the seed that we must sow :  tears of sorrow for sin - our own and others; tears of sympathy with the afflicted church; and tears of tenderness in prayer and under the Word.
    Job, Joseph, David, and many others had harvests of joy after sorrow.  Those that sow in the tears of godly sorrow shall reap in the joy of a sealed pardon and a settled peace. ~Matthew Henry

    Though he go, though he go, and be weeping,      
    While bearing some handfuls of seed;
    He shall come, he shall come with bright singing,
    While bearing his plentiful sheaves
    ~ Ben Tehillim, in "The Book of Psalms, in English Blank Verse," 1883

    WHAT CAN I LEARN ABOUT GOD THROUGH THIS PSALM:
    • God is the rescuer of His people
    • The Lord does great things for His people, filling them with joy
    HOW CAN I PRAISE GOD THROUGH THIS PSALM:
    • I praise the Lord that He does hear the cries of His people and brings deliverance in His time
    • I praise the Lord that He does great things for His people - and am especially grateful for His mercy and lovingkindess shown to my family in December, 2005
    • I bless God that our tears are not wasted
    PRAYER:
         O Lord, You have done great things for me . . . over and over and over, filling my heart with joy.  Would you continue to show Yourself merciful to me and my family, pouring out Your blessings and lovingkindness on each one.  How I bless You that You bring deliverance to Your people . . . thank You, O God, that You are our hope. 
         Let me not dwell on the past, my Father, as though it held the best.  May I dare to believe that the best is yet to be, and that though You are filling my life with the rain of tears, every one of them will one day yield the wine of joy. (F.B. Meyer)
         In Jesus' name I pray ~ Amen

    Psalm 125

    Trust in the Lord and Abide Forever

     

     
    Matthew Henry makes this observation regarding Psalm 125:
    This short psalm may be summed up in those words of the prophet Isaiah:
    Say to the righteous that it shall be well with them . . . woe to the wicked!  It shall be ill with him. ~ Is. 3:10-11

     
    Spurgeon comments that the hill of Zion is the type of the believer's constancy, and the surrounding mountains are made emblems of the all surrounding presence of the Lord.  What beautiful imagery - if you have ever been in the mountains you know that they are all you can see - you are ever aware of them and their presence.  What strong imagery that psalmist has used to remind us of the powerful presence of God with His children!

     
    Regarding verse 3, Spurgeon also reminds us: The people of God are not to expect immunity from trial because the Lord surrounds them, for they may feel the power and persecution of the ungodly.

     
    Psalm 125 offers
    • a song of holy confidence
    • a promise
    • a prayer
    • a note of warning
    Those who trust in the Lord
    are like Mount Zion.
    ~ Ps. 125:1
    All that deal with God must deal upon trust.  ~ Matthew Henry

    That quote is simple yet profound to me - throughout this Psalms study, I have come to realize how I really need to trust God more.  I have made this my prayer several times . . . and recognize how little I truly trust God.  Or maybe I just don't trust Him to do what I want - and that's where I have found myself in my spiritual walk over the past few years - learning to want what God wants!  That total yielding to His will.  It's definitely a stretching spiritual exercise, isn't it??  I was an aerobics instructor for 9 years . . . and following every workout, I would lead my class in stretching exercises.  If you have ever done them, you know how p-a-i-n-f-u-l stretching is . . . yet so very beneficial!  As good as stretching one's muscles is for the body, so stretching one's soul is for the spirit!

    We touched on the meaning of verse 4 in our earlier study of the Psalms.  We know that no one does good, as we saw in Psalm 14:3, "There is none that does good, no not one."  The good referred to in verse 4 is that heart righteousness . . . the desire to please God and walk with Him in obedience, even though it is impossible to do perfectly.  Nehemiah the prophet expressed this sentiment at the closing of the book of Nehemiah:
    Remember me, O my God, for good!
    ~ Nehemiah 13:31

    Charles Stanord makes a great note:  The good in us is the God in us
    If there is righteousness in the heart, there will be beauty in the character.  That's a good & fit description of David, isn't it!
     
    WHAT CAN I LEARN ABOUT GOD THROUGH THIS PSALM:
    • God is trustworthy
    • Those who trusts in the Lord will abide forever
    • God's presence surrounds His people
    • The Lord will do good to those who are upright in heart
    • God will punish wickedness
    HOW CAN I PRAISE GOD THROUGH THIS PSALM:
    • I praise the Lord for His presence with His people  . . . and with me!
    • I praise God that He is worthy of my trust and faith
    • I praise God for His goodness to those who are upright in heart
    • I praise God that evil will not ultimately prevail
    PRAYER:
         O Lord, how I praise You that those who trust in You cannot be moved but will abide forever.  I pray, Father, that I will learn to trust You more and more fully.  Trust is the basis and necessary foundation for a relationship . . . and I bless You for Your great faithfulness to me. 
         O Lord, You know my wickedness and that there is no goodness in me whatsoever . . . that I am all too frequently like Paul - the good that I want to do, I don't do . . . and the things that I don't or shouldn't do, I do!  I pray that You will forgive me for my sins, which are many - and grant me great grace to be a person who is upright in heart.  I'm so far from that, and pray for Your mercy.  In Jesus' name I pray ~ Amen

     

    Wednesday, May 25, 2011

    Psalm 124

    God is On Our Side

     
    Biblical scholars believe David penned this psalm upon occasion of some great deliverance which God wrought for him and for His people.  In verses 1-5 it appears the people of God were close to the brink of ruin. 

     
    If it had not been the Lord who was on our side . . .
    then the waters would have overwhelmed us.
    ~ Ps. 124
    The descriptions the psalmist uses indicate complete helplessness . . . being overwhelmed by flood waters, a creature in the very jaws of a beast of prey, a helpless bird.  David directs us to depend upon God for help for all our personal concerns. 

    The opening verses of this psalm remind me of one of my favorite quotes by Abraham Lincoln:

    Once during the Civil War, a pious minister asked Lincoln if he believed God was on on "our side." Lincoln responded:
    "I know that God is always on the side of the right. It is my constant prayer and anxiety that I and this nation should be on the Lord's side." 
    Amen!

    WHAT CAN I LEARN ABOUT GOD THROUGH THIS PSALM:
    • The Lord is on my side!
    • My help is in God's name and no other
    HOW CAN I PRAISE GOD THROUGH THIS PSALM:
    • I praise God for His deliverance - that He is on my side!
    PRAYER:
            O Lord, if You had not been on my side, I know that my ruin would have been sure - much like the images described by David in this Psalm.  How I bless You that that the waters have not overwhelmed me, that the stream has not gone over my soul . . . How I bless You, Heavenly Father, that my help is in Your name and no other.  You who made the heavens and the earth, You who flung universes into existence, are perfectly capable of holding me.  May I feel Your grasp on all the circumstances in my life, and rest Your sovereignty.  You know my weakness and my frailty . . . Thank You, O Lord, that You are on my side!  In Jesus' name I pray ~ Amen 
     

    Tuesday, May 24, 2011

    Psalm 123

    Plea for the Mercy of God

    Biblical scholars believe this psalm was penned when the Israelites were held captive in Babylon for it was clearly penned when the church of God was brought low.  It is a prayer and plea for God's mercy.  Martin Luther states: 
    This psalm is short, and therefore a very fit example to show the force of prayer not to consist in many words, but in fervency of spirit. 
    It is well for us to pray about everything, and turn everything into prayer
    ~ Spurgeon

    Regarding verse 1 and the phrase "Unto You, I lift up my eyes,"
    The lifting up the eyes implies faith and confident persuasion that God is ready and willing to help us. The very lifting up of the bodily eyes towards heaven is an expression of this inward trust: so David in effect is saying, From Thee, Lord, I expect relief, and the fulfilling of Thy promises.   ~ T.  Manton
    WHAT CAN I LEARN ABOUT GOD THROUGH THIS PSALM:
    • God dwells in the heavens
    • God has mercy on His children who look to Him
    • God is faithful to His promises
    • God delivers His children
    HOW CAN I PRAISE GOD THROUGH THIS PSALM:
    • I praise God for His mercy shown to His children
    • I praise God for His deliverance
    PRAYER:
         Unto You I lift my eyes, O You who dwell in the heavens.  Have mercy on me, O Lord, have mercy on me!  Show Yourself and Your mercy to those I love.  How my heart blesses You for Your grace and mercy, and for the knowledge that my circumstances never escape Your gaze or Your arm of deliverance.    
         Thank You, O God, that like David I can expect You to fulfill Your promises.  May I trust You more and more.  In Jesus' name I pray ~ Amen! 
         

    Monday, May 23, 2011

    Psalm 122

    Pray for the Peace of Jersusalem
    
    Pray for the peace of Jerusalem:
    May they prosper who love you.
    Peace be within Your walls.
    ~ Ps. 122:6-7
    photo taken in Jerusalem, Israel    2011
    
    This psalm was written for the people to sing at the times of their going up to Jerusalem for the holy feasts.  It is a reminder to us today of the importance of gathering together as God's people to bring Him praise and bear Him testimony.  Spurgeon notes:
    The Israelites went up to the holy city to hear and to bear testimony. Everything in the temple was a testimony unto the Lord, and the annual journeys of the tribes to the hallowed shrine partook of the same testifying character, for these journeys were Israel's open avowal that Jehovah was their God, and that He was the one only living and true God.
    When as Christians we assemble on the Sabbath, a large part of our business is giving out and receiving testimony: we are God's witnesses; all the tribes of the one church of Jesus Christ bear witness unto the Lord.
    We traveled to Israel earlier this year, and spent the final 3 days of our trip in Jerusalem.  As our bus reached the city limits, the tour guide had this song playing loudly:

    Last night I lay a-sleeping,
    There came a dream so fair,
    I stood in old Jerusalem,
    Beside the Temple there.
    I heard the children singing,
    And ever as they sang,
    Methought the voice of angels
    From Heav'n in answer rang.

    Jerusalem, Jerusalem,
    Lift up your gates and sing;
    Hosanna in the highest,
    Hosanna to your King.

    And then methought my dream was changed,
    The streets no longer rang.
    But with a glad Hosanna
    The little children sang.
    The sun grew dark with mystery,
    The morn was cold and chill,
    But the shadow of a cross arose
    Upon a lonely hill.

    Jerusalem, Jerusalem,
    Hark, how the angels sing
    Hosanna through the ages,
    Hosanna to your King.

    Then once again the scene was changed,
    New earth there seemed to be.
    I saw the Holy City
    Beside the timeless sea.
    The light of God was on its streets,
    The gates were open wide;
    And all who would might enter
    And no one was denied.
    No need of moon nor stars by night
    Or sun to shine by day,
    It was the new Jerusalem
    That would not pass away.

    Jerusalem, Jerusalem,
    Sing for the night is o'er;
    Hosanna in the highest,
    Hosanna for ever more.
    ~ Jerusalem, The Holy City
    F. E. Weatherly

    It truly was an incredibly powerful & moving moment, and I felt chills as I beheld the City of God, the Holy City that I had read about in my Bible for all my life . . . the city where Christ actually walked, the city that He wept over, the city where He died. 

    Dr. James B. Lemeir notes this:
    It is quite probable that Jesus of Nazareth prayed this same psalm as He ascended the hill leading to Jerusalem. As the story is told in Luke's Gospel, Jesus was also full of emotion, and perhaps His eyes were full of tears, too. It had been a long journey through Galilee, Samaria and Judea-a long journey of teaching, healing, controversy and opposition. But now, but now He beholds His destination.
    Jerusalem. Jerusalem. He was there, at last. The journey was reaching its culmination. Here He was, beholding the city that is the mirror of God's life, love and Shalom-the city that symbolizes God's people, their hopes and their dreams, their history and their future.

    Now as He drew near, He saw the city and wept over it, saying,
    "If you had known, even you, especially in this your day, the things that make for your peace."
    ~ Luke 19:42

    My Bible notes that Jesus wept over the city of Jerusalem because He knew what lay ahead for Him there - that He would be rejected by the majority of the people, and because He knew that destruction lay ahead for them.

    We should pray for the peace of Jerusalem, bearing in mind that the peace Christ gives is more than the world can imagine!

    WHAT CAN I LEARN ABOUT GOD THROUGH THIS PSALM:
    • God dwells among His people - He dwelt between the cherubim in Jerusalem, and He dwells in our hearts today through His Holy Spirit
    • God's peace has come to us through His Son, Jesus Christ
    • It is God's design for His people to come together corporately and regularly to worship Him
    HOW CAN I PRAISE GOD THROUGH THIS PSALM:
    • I praise God for His presence . . . in Jerusalem, and in Memphis!
    • I praise God for His church . . . and that I live in a country where I am free to worship without fear of persecution
    PRAYER:
    Lord Jesus, I pray for
    Your one church,
    the members of which are
    scattered in many different denominations
    and over the wide world.
    We who are one with You
    must be one with each other;
    but grant that our unity
    may stand revealed
    and confessed
    so that all people may believe.

    Giver of Peace!
    May peace be in this house;
    peace be in the homes of those who love me;
    peace be with the tired workers
    and lonely pilgrims
    and sin-weary hearts;
    Your peace, Heavenly Father!
    ~ F. B. Meyer

    Sunday, May 22, 2011

    Psalm 121

    God is our Keeper
    Psalm 121 is also known as the "traveller's psalm"  because some Biblical scholars believe David penned it to be a companion on a journey.  It is one of the pilgrim songs written in the form of a dialogue, possibly between the worshipers and a priest.  The psalmist reminds us to stay ourselves upon God as a God all-sufficient for us. 
    I will lift up my eyes to the hills-
    From whence comes my help?
    My help comes from the Lord,
    Who made heaven and earth.
    ~ Ps. 121:1
    Help comes to saints only from above, they look elsewhere in vain: let us lift up our eyes with hope, expectancy, desire, and confidence.  Spurgeon goes on to remind us that these things:
    • the purposes of God;
    • the divine attributes;
    • the immutable promises;
    • the covenant, ordered in all things and sure;
    • the providence, predestination, and proved faithfulness of the Lord
    —these are the hills to which we must lift up our eyes, for from these our help must come.  
    
    He who keeps you will not slumber.
    Behold, He who keeps Israel
    Shall neither slumber or sleep.
    ~ Ps. 121:3-4
     I suffered 2 serious concussions as a young child - both times, the doctors instructed my parents to wake me every hour throughout the night to make sure I did not develop an epidural hemorrhage - bleeding between the skull & the brain.  This is the type of head injury that killed actress Natasha Richardson a few years ago.

    My parents had to keep a "night watch" over me in both instances - I still remember my dad waking me up all through the night and asking me if I knew who he was, if I could tell him my name, if I could tell him my pets' names, etc.  If my parents had fallen asleep, I could possibly have died as well. 

    Verses 3 & 4 remind us that God neither slumbers nor sleeps but keeps a constant watchcare over us.
     

    
    He will not allow your foot to be moved.~ Ps. 121:3
    Dave & Bill keeping Pop's feet from slipping
    out from under him on the slick stones
    in Jerusalem
    
    Dave & I went to Israel earlier this year with Dave's family.  It rained during one of our days in Jerusalem, and the cobblestone streets were very slick!  Pop had on shoes with leather soles, and could barely keep his feet from slipping out from under him on each step - Dave & Bill came along him on each side, holding his arms and making sure he didn't fall.  This is similar to what is described to us in verse 3 - He will not allow your foot to be moved.

    Verse 5 tell us that God is our Keeper, some translations say Protector.   The remainder of the verses remind us that continuous protection is promised against perils, where they come during day or night. 

    Protection is not only promised for the pilgrimage to the temple but for the entire pilgrimage of life - from this time forth and forevermore!

    WHAT CAN I LEARN ABOUT GOD THROUGH THIS PSALM:
    • My helps comes from the Lord, who made Heaven and earth
    • God keeps my footing sure beneath me
    • God neither slumbers nor sleeps
    • The Lord is my keeper
    • The Lord shall preserve my soul forevermore
    HOW CAN I PRAISE GOD THROUGH THIS PSALM:
    • I praise the Lord because He is my help - I need not look to any other
    • I praise God that He will not allow my foot to be moved
    • I bless God for His watchcare over me
    • I bless the Lord that He preserves my soul
    PRAYER: 
    By day and by night,
    in life and in death,
    may I ever be true to You,
    O Lover of my soul,
    my ceaseless Friend,
    my unchangeable Savior.
    Into Your hands
    I commit my soul.

    ~ F. B. Meyer
        

    Saturday, May 21, 2011

    Psalm 120

    A Cry in Distress

     
    Psalm 120 opens the first of 15 psalms known as "Songs of Ascents"  (also called 'Songs of Degrees' and 'Pilgrim Psalms').  Most Biblical scholars understand these psalms as songs sung by pilgrims as they went up to Jerusalem to celebrate the great feasts.  Thus, these psalms accompanied the "ascent" to the city of God.  Some scholars believe that specifically there were fifteen steps by which the priests ascended into the Temple, on each of which they sang one of these fifteen psalms.
     
    The City of God today
    Jerusalem, 2011



    In the 16th century, scholar Benedictine Genebrardus defined the fifteen degrees of going up out of the valley of weeping to the presence of God to be
    1. affliction,
    2. looking to God,
    3. joy in communion,
    4. invocation,
    5. thanksgiving,
    6. confidence,
    7. patient waiting for deliverance,
    8. God's grace and favour,
    9. fear of the Lord
    10. martyrdom
    11. hatred of sins
    12. humility
    13. desire for the coming of Christ
    14. concord and charity
    15. constant blessing of God
    In my distress I cried to the Lord,
    And He heard me.
    ~ Ps. 120:1
    
    The best men may sometimes be in the depths, in great trouble and affliction.  But in the greatest depths, it is our privilege that we may cry unto God and be heard.  ~ Matthew Henry
     
    My grandmother Mae loved this hymn, and would play it on the piano when she would visit our home - what a beautiful truth to remember and live by:
    
    What a friend we have in Jesus,
    all our sins and griefs to bear
    What a privilege to carry
    everything to God in prayer!
    O, what grief we often forfeit,
    O what needless pain we bear -
    All because we do not carry
    Everything to God in prayer.
    ~ Joseph Scriven 
    
    I love the words of Sarah Young in Jesus Calling as a reminder to us when when feel overwhelmed:
    Keep your eyes on Me!  Waves of adversity are washing over you, and you feel tempted to give up.  Your gravest danger is worrying about tomorrow.  If you try to carry tomorrow's burden today, you will stagger under the load and eventually fall flat.  You must discipline yourself to live within the boundaries of today.  It is in the present moment that I walk close to you, helping you carry your burdens.  Keep Your focus on My Presence in the present.
    In verse 5, the psalmist mentions Meshech and Kedar - these are references to two tribes who were a far distance apart, and suggests the barbarian-like people among whom the psalmist lived.  In spite of his efforts at peace, his enemies reacted with hostility. 

    WHAT CAN I LEARN ABOUT GOD THROUGH THIS PSALM:
    • God hears my cries of distress
    • God is my deliverer against lies & deceit
    HOW CAN I PRAISE GOD THROUGH THIS PSALM:
    •  I praise the Lord that I can carry all my burdens and griefs to Him . . . and that - as He heard the cries of David - He hears my cries today
    • I praise God that unrighteousness will not ultimately prevail against His people
    PRAYER:
         SONGS OF CELEBRATION
    ~ Ruth Harms Calkin

    With overflowing gratitude
    The Psalmist said
    "We will write songs
    To celebrate Your mighty acts!"
    Lord, on the keyboard
    Of my grateful heart
    I too have composed songs
    To celebrate Your unequaled greatness
    Your faithfulness
    Your splendor and majesty.
    Lord, the most triumphant song of all
    Exalts Your measureless love.
    With joy and adoration
    I sing it again and again.
    As long as I live, O God
    I shall continue to sing
    My songs of exuberant praise!




    Psalm 119:169-176

    TAU

     
    We wrap up Psalm 119 today - wow!  The Psalmist is approaching the end of the psalm, and his petitions gather force and fervency.  David seems to break into the inner circle of divine fellowship, which leads him to close the psalm with a vow of praise, upon his face in deepest self humiliation, begging to be sought out like a lost sheep. 
    Give me understanding according to Your word.
    ~ Ps. 119:169

     In this verse above, Spurgeon points out that this is the prayer about which the Psalmist is so exceedingly anxious.  We have seen David ask this of the Lord throughout this Psalm.  How often we make our petitions to the Lord, but do they ever include a prayer for understanding?  May we pattern our prayers in a like manner as King David, a man after God's own heart! 

    To understand spiritual things is the gift of God
    Consider what I say; and the Lord give you understanding in all things.
    ~ II Tim. 2:7

     
    Spurgeon reminds us that to have a judgment enlightened by heavenly light and conformed to divine truth is a privilege which only grace can give. Many a man who is accounted wise after the manner of this world is a fool according to the word of the Lord. May we be among those happy children who shall all be taught of the Lord. 
    
    Let Your hand become my help.
    ~ Ps. 119:173
    
    Our sufficiency is not of ourselves, but of God; to will and to do are both from Him.
    ~ Spurgeon
    WHAT CAN I LEARN ABOUT GOD THROUGH THIS PSALM:
    • God hears my cry
    • Understanding of God's word is a gift from Him
    • God is my Deliverer
    • All of God's commandments are righteousness
    • God is my help
    • God is my salvation
    • God's judgments help me
    • God seeks me like a lost sheep

    HOW CAN I PRAISE GOD THROUGH THIS PSALM:

    • I bless the Lord that He has opened my eyes and revealed Himself to me - as my Deliverer, my help, my salvation
    • I praise God that His commandments are righteousness
    • I bless God that He seeks me as His lost sheep
    PRAYER:
         Let my cry come before You, O Lord.  Would You give to me understanding according to Your word - eyes to see, ears to hear, and a heart to understand.  Teach me of Your statutes, Father - for all Your commandments are righteousness. 
         Let Your hand become my help . . . may I not look to another.  May I choose Your precepts and YOUR way, not my own or one of sin.  I pray that Your law will become my delight - O Lord.  I pray that I will choose obedience to Your word, and put to death my flesh and my self-will.  You know, O God, that like David I have gone astray like a lost sheep.  Seek Your servant, and never let me wander far from You. 
         May I praise You all the days of my life!  In Jesus' name ~ Amen

    Friday, May 20, 2011

    Psalm 119:161-168

    SHIN
    Princes persecute me without cause. 
    ~ Ps. 119:161 
    Have you ever been persecuted without cause?  Treated unjustly by someone you know - or worse, someone you trusted?  David is recounting a time when he was persecuted by his peers, but those in ruling authority.  As Spurgeon notes, "Such persons ought to have known better; they should have had sympathy with one of their own rank. A man expects a fair trial at the hand of his peers."  

     Matthew Henry shares this mindset in his commentary:
    The case is the worse if princes be the persecutors, for they have not only the sword in their hand, but they have the law on their side . . . it is sad that the power which magistrates have from God and should use for Him should ever be employed against Him. 
    It appears that the accusations brought against David are false and unfounded:
     I hate and abhor lying,
    but I love Your law.
    ~ Ps. 119:163

      Love and hatred are the leading affections of the soul - if these be fixed aright, the rest move accordingly.  Verse 163 clearly indicates they are fixed aright in David - he had a rooted antipathy to sin, and a rooted affection to the word of God.  ~ Henry

    I rejoice at Your word
    As one who find great treasure.
    ~ Ps. 119:162







    Great peace have those who love Your law,
    and nothing causes them to stumble.
    ~ Ps. 119:165

    I'm a "child of the 60's."  A new pop culture arose, and the "flower power - peace out, man!" generation swept the nation!  Flower power, hallucinogenic drugs, "free love," Woodstock, and phrases like "make love, not war!" were hip . . . and the young generation were bell-bottom, hip-hugger wearing, authority-shirking, long-haired hippies outspoken against the Vietnam war and all out searching for "peace."   How much more of a guided direction that generation might have had if they had sought peace like David . . . through God's law!
     
    Matthew Henry likens verse 165 to this Latin phrase:
    sat lucis intus - abundance of internal light
    Men who are governed by a principle of love to the word of God are "easy," they may be in great troubles without, and yet great peace within.  They will make the best of that which is, and not quarrel with anything that God does.
    Doesn't that sound like what you want your life to look like - even if there are great troubles without, you have great peace within!  Nothing knocks your feet out from under you - your footing is sure in spite of your circumstances!  How do we get this abundance of internal light?  David shows us in these stanzas:
    • Stand in awe of God's word in our hearts
    • Treasure His word
    • Love His Law
    • Keep His testimonies
    WHAT CAN I LEARN ABOUT GOD THROUGH THIS PSALM:
    • God's word is awesome
    • God's word is valued as a great treasure
    • Love of God's word brings great peace
    • God's judgments are righteous
    HOW CAN I PRAISE GOD THROUGH THIS PSALM:
    • I praise the Lord for the treasure of His word 
    • I praise the Lord that I can have internal peace in my heart & soul in spite of my circumstances - by loving His word and hiding it in my heart
     PRAYER: by Ruth Myers:
         I glorify You for the Bible - that wonderful, written revelation of You and Your plan.  As snow and rain fall from the skies to meet our needs, so You have condensed Your thoughts - which are vastly higher than all human thoughts - into written-down form.  I'm so grateful that You cared enough to communicate with us in this clear, unchanging, always-accessible way, so that Your thoughts are now available at all times to refresh and nourish and teach me  . . . and that You are still a communicating God, speaking these words to me as I am attentive to You, as I read and meditate with a listening heart.  What a privilege it is to store Your Word in my heart, where You can use it any any moment to bless me and guide me . . . to keep me from sinning against You . . . and to be a storehouse of inspired words that the Spirit can bring to my mind to help others.
         Thank You that in Your Word I can see Your face and hear Your voice.  I can discover Your will and Your patterns for living and serving.  I can develop deeper faith and  confidence.  Thank You that the Holy Spirit inspired Your Word and uses it to enlighten and guide me, and to change me more and more into Your image, form one degree of glory to another.  Amen and amen!

          
    

    Wednesday, May 18, 2011

    Psalm 119:153-160

    RESH

     
    This stanza is a "pleading" passage, and the key word of it is Consider.  With much boldness David pleads his intimate union with the Lord's cause as a reason why he should be aided. The special aid that he seeks is personal quickening, some Bible translations use the word "revival,"  for which he cries to the Lord again and again.

     

     
    Matthew Henry made a wonderful summation of David's prayer in these verses:
    • He has an eye to God's pity and prays "Consider my affliction"
    • He has an eye to God's power and prays "Deliver me"
    • He has an eye to God's righteousness and prays "plead my cause"
    • He has an eye to God's grace and prays "Revive me!"
    In verse 154 David is asking God to "plead his cause," much like a lawyer or advocate.  You know that wonderful grateful feeling you have when someone comes alongside you and takes up for you, defending you?  David is asking God to be his Advocate.  The New Living Translation states the verse this way

     
    Argue my case; take my side! Protect my life as you promised. 

     
    In John Gill's Exposition of the Bible, he remind us:
    Christ is the advocate of His people, their Redeemer, who is mighty, and thoroughly pleads their cause against the accusations of Satan, the charges of law and justice, and the condemnation of their own hearts; as well as defends their innocence from the calumnies of wicked men, and rights their wrongs, and redresses their grievances.

     

    God has promised deliverance and we may pray for it with submission to His will, and with regard to His glory, that we may serve Him the better.  ~ Spurgeon

     
    David pleads his dependence upon the word of God, and his devotedness to his conduct. "Revive" and "deliver me according to Thy word" of promise, "for I do not forget Thy precepts." The closer we cleave to the word of God, both as our rule and as our stay, the more assurance we may have of deliverance in due time. ~ M. Henry

    Great are Your tender mercies, O Lord
    ~ Ps. 119:156

     
    Have you ever had difficulty with a Bible passage?  Hard to understand or comprehend?  Maybe a passage that is telling you a certain way to live that you really don't want to apply to your life, or that you feel is "outdated" and not in sync with popular cultural views anymore?  Verse 160 is a wonderful reminder that God's word is truth in it's entirety - and that it endures forever.  It was true in David's day, and it is true in ours today.  It spans time eternal.
    
    The entirety of Your word is truth,
    And every one of Your righteous judgments endures forever.
    ~ Ps. 119:160
    WHAT CAN I LEARN ABOUT GOD THROUGH THIS PSALM:
    • God sees my afflictions and is my deliverance
    • God is my Redeemer
    • God's tender mercies are great
    • God revives me according to His lovingkindness
    • The entirety of God's word is truth
    • God's righteous judgments endure forever
    HOW CAN I PRAISE GOD THROUGH THIS PSALM:
    • I praise the Lord for His tender mercies - that He considers my afflictions and delivers me
    • I praise the Lord that He is my Advocate - He pleads my cause with those who strive against me
    • I bless God that the entirety of His word is truth . . and endures forever
    PRAYER:
         My Father, teach me to trust Your love.  May I date to believe in it when the dark clouds build as well as when the sun shines.  May I never doubt that You are doing Your best for me and that what I do not know now, I shall know hereafter.  Amen and amen!  ~ F. B. Meyer