This morning, I will be driving to Dulles Airport in Washington DC to meet up with our team of five others wonderful people, and to catch our evening flight India. Again, I’m asking you to pray for our team as we minister to precious widows, orphans, children, pastors, and as we dedicate wells in remote villages. We also want to be a blessing and encouragement to our national partners that labor tirelessly to reach their nation for Christ. We hope to post as many daily chats updating everyone as is possible with travel and the internet. We will return on Saturday February 24th, but only for a few days. On Thursday, February 29th, we leave again for Dulles to catch an evening flight to Jordan for another 10 days, where we will be ministering to national partners, both Syrian and Iraqi refugees and many others. We will be back from that trip Saturday, March 9th. Your prayers and support are very much appreciated! Psalm 135 is a great passage to share from just before we leave on our trip, as we are reminded that the emphasis of this psalm is on praising the LORD because of who He is and what He has done for His people. Yesterday in verses 1-5, we saw how the psalmist was singing and praising the LORD for His goodness and for His “pleasant” name (v. 3). And rejoicing that the people of Israel are a chosen people and special treasure to the LORD. Today, we are His chosen ones who are also His special possession, and we can trust Him! In verses 6-12, we are reminded that God is sovereign, and He does what He pleases! He is in charge of the world, both earth and sea, and all the elements including lightning, the rain and wind. He is charge of the nations and gave the land of Canaan to Israel! In verses 13-14, the LORD personally judges His people and has compassion on them! We are His servants, and He cares for us! The LORD proves He cares for us in verses 15-18, because He is the true and living God. With minor changes, these verses are quoted from Psalm 115:4-8. Dead idols cannot speak, see, hear, or breathe, and they cannot give life to their worshipers. Because Jehovah is the living God, He speaks to us in His Word, sees us in our every circumstance, hears our prayers, and comes to us when we need the help that only He can give. But best of all, in verses 19-21, the LORD is to be praised because our God is with Us. Israel could praise the Lord because He was present with His people. No other nation could claim that distinction. His glory led Israel through the wilderness, and that glory resided in the sanctuary until God had to depart because of the nation's sins (Ezek. 7-11). What other nation had the glory of God dwelling in their midst (Psalm 63:2; Rom. 9:4)? The Lord is not a distant God; He is (Ps. 46:1). Jesus is "Immanuel—God with us" (Matt. 1:20-25; 28:20). And He has promised us, (Heb. 13:5; Gen. 28:15; Josh. 1:5; Isa. 41:10, 17). Oh, my friend, today we have so much to praise and bless the LORD for!!!! God bless!
1 Praise the LORD! Praise the name of the LORD; Praise Him, O you servants of the LORD! 2 You who stand in the house of the LORD, In the courts of the house of our God, 3 Praise the LORD, for the LORD is good; Sing praises to His name, for it is pleasant. 4 For the LORD has chosen Jacob for Himself, Israel for His special treasure. 5 For I know that the LORD is great, And our Lord is above all gods. Psalm 135 begins the last section of the book of Psalms which focuses on worship and praise of the LORD. The emphasis of this psalm is on praising the Lord because of who He is and what He has done for His people. It opens with the command to that is repeated four times. It ends and concludes with the command to "Bless the LORD,” that is also repeated four times. The name, "Jehovah" is found thirteen times in the psalm, and the familiar phrase ("hallelujah") is repeated at least six times. Psalm 135 has been called "a mosaic" because it contains numerous quotations from other parts of Scripture, no doubt collected by a temple liturgist who, led by the Spirit, put the material together for a special occasion of worship. He obviously knew the Scriptures well as he either quotes or alludes to so many of them. Psalms 135:7 is almost identical with Jeremiah 10:13. The passage contained in Psalms 135:13 is to be found in Exodus 3:15. Psalms 135:14 can be found in Deuteronomy 32:36. The closing verses, Psalms 135:8-12, are in Psalms 136 and from Psalms 135:15 to the end it appears to be a repetition of Psalms 115:1-18. I’m convinced that the LORD loves it when we repeat His own Word back to Him in our prayers, praise and worship! Some students think that the occasion was the one described in Nehemiah 9, after the walls had been rebuilt and the people gathered to read God’s Word for a fourth of a day and confess their sins for another fourth of a day. Then the leaders lead into a time of prayer that is recorded as one of the longest prayers in the Bible. In Psalm 135, verses 2 and 5, the psalmist uses the phase, "our God", which is characteristic of the book of Nehemiah (4:4, 20; 6:16; 9:32; 13:2). The Jewish people spoke of Jehovah as "our God" to affirm their separation from the false gods of the nations around them (vv. 15-18). In verses 1-4, the psalmist first acknowledges that Israel is a “chosen people and that the Lord Is “Our God”. It was God's election of Israel that set them apart from the rest of the nations, for they are "his people" (vv. 12, 14; 100:3; Deut. 32:9, 36, 43, 50). Israel is His treasured possession (v. 4; Ex. 19:5; Deut. 7:6; 14:2) and He gave them their land (v. 12). His temple stood in Jerusalem and His priests offered Him praise and sacrifices. The Jewish people were set apart to honor the name of the Lord and to bear witness to other nations that Jehovah is the one true God. Why did God choose Israel? Deuteronomy 7:6-8 tells us why: “For you are a holy people to the LORD your God; the LORD your God has chosen you to be a people for Himself, a special treasure above all the peoples on the face of the earth. The LORD did not set His love on you nor choose you because you were more in number than any other people, for you were the least of all peoples; but because the LORD loves you, and because He would keep the oath which He swore to your fathers, the LORD has brought you out with a mighty hand, and redeemed you from the house of bondage, from the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt.” The LORD chose them because (v. 3). The church today is an elect people, saved by the grace of God (Rom. 1:6; 8:30; Eph. 1:4) and called to glorify God (1 Peter 2:9-12). All believers are priests of the Lord, and we have been called to praise and worship Him, and in so doing, make His Name, Jesus, famous in all the earth! May the LORD help us to do so today! God bless!
Psalm 134 is the fifteenth and last psalm of the "Songs of Ascents" or what is also called the “Pilgrim Psalms”. The psalm closes the collection with a benediction and leads into a series of psalms that emphasize praising the Lord. It is interesting to note that when the pilgrim began his journey to Jerusalem, the first prayer of this section of psalms, Psalm 120, indicates that he was at a low point spiritually. “In my distress I cried to the LORD… Woe is me….” (vv. 1, 5). But now, in Psalm 130, having completed his time of worship and cleansing at the place of worship in Jerusalem, he loudly proclaims, A wonderful change has taken place in his life! We notice several great encouragements from this psalm. First, we have a God Who never sleeps (v. 1). As you review these fifteen psalms, you see that the pilgrims had a variety of experiences on their journey, but they arrived safely in the Holy City, fulfilled their obligations, and were now preparing to return home. It was night and they wanted to make one last visit to the temple. Directed by the high priest, the temple priests and Levites were responsible to make sure everything was in order for the next day's ministry. The pilgrims heard a temple choir singing the praises of Jehovah, and their ministry would continue all night. Pagan temples were silent at night, because their gods had to rest (1 Kings 18:27), but "He who keeps you will not slumber. Behold, He who keeps Israel shall neither slumber nor sleep" (Psalm 121:3-4). The Lord gives sleep to His beloved people, but He stays awake and guards the city and watches over the family (Ps. 127:1-2). He also hears the praises of His people. (v. 3), also made the day and the night (Gen. 1:14-19), and “the darkness and the light are both alike to Him” (Ps. 139:11-12). When we go to sleep, we know that the Father is caring for us, and when we awaken, He is there to greet us (Ps. 91:1-6). If we awaken in the night, we can fellowship with Him and meditate on His Word (Ps. 119:55, 62, 147-148). If God never slumbers nor sleeps, why should we stay awake all night, tossing and turning and fretting? "Be still, and know that I am God" (Ps. 46:10). Next, we have worship that never ends (v. 2). David arranged that the temple choirs praise the Lord day and night (Ps. 92:1-2; 1 Chron. 9:33; 23:30). While you and I are asleep in our part of the world, somewhere else on the globe, believers are worshiping God. Even more, Jesus Christ, our High Priest in heaven never ceases to intercede for us and enables us to pray and to worship. God gives us "songs in the night" (Ps. 42:8; 77:6; Job 35:10; Isa. 30:29), when circumstances are difficult and we cannot see our way. The greatest responsibility and highest privilege of individual believers and of churches is to worship God, for everything that we are and do flows out of worship. As the choir in the temple lifted their hands to heaven (see on 28:2), they were pointing to the Source of all good things and praising Him for His mercy and grace. True worshipers lift "clean hands and a pure heart" to the Lord (Ps. 24:4; James 4:8), for the Lord looks on the heart. We will worship God for all eternity (Rev. 4-5), so we had better start learning now. Finally we should realize we are blessed to be a blessing to others (v. 3). As the pilgrims left the temple, a priest on duty called, "May the Lord bless you from Zion". The pronoun "you" is singular, for the blessing of God is for each of us personally. To leave God's house with God's blessing upon us is a great privilege, but it is also a great responsibility, for we must share that blessing with others. If it is a joy to receive a blessing, it is an even greater joy to be a blessing. If the LORD who made the heaven and the earth never sleeps, and our worship never ends, then the blessing will not stop. God bless!
Psalm 133 is the fourteenth of the fifteen “Ascent Songs” or “Pilgrim Psalms” and from the title we see that the writer was David. When David became king he was 30 years old and he inherited a divided nation and almost a civil war. He first was anointed king of Judah and Benjamin and ruled in Hebron for seven-and-a-half years. But then the Lord gave him a united kingdom (2 Sam. 5; 1 Chron. 12:38-40) and he ruled over all twelve tribes from Jerusalem for the next thirty-three years. He could well have written this psalm when he began his reign in Jerusalem. The people of Israel usually journeyed to Jerusalem in family groups (see Luke 2:41-52) to observe their three special feast days, so this psalm perfectly suited the situation. It applies to individual believers and churches today, for we also have our "family quarrels" and need to learn to walk together in love. Maintaining the spiritual unity of God's people is the work of every believer, with the help of the Holy Spirit (Eph. 4:1-6). For God’s people to enjoy the pleasantness of unity we must experience at least three ministries of the Spirit that are illustrated in this psalm. In verse 1, David called the people “brethren”. The Jewish people all had a common ancestor in Abraham; they spoke a common language; they worshiped the same God; they were children of the same covenant; they shared a common land; and they were governed by the same holy law. Christians today have experienced being born again by the Holy Spirit (John 3:3-6), worship the same God, declare the same gospel message, preach from the same Scriptures, and are headed for the same heavenly city. How sad though, that there is often more division among us than unity! Yet all of us know that spiritual oneness in Christ (Gal. 3:26-29; Eph. 4:1-6) is both "good and pleasant." In verse 2, we can also experience the pleasantness of unity because we are anointed by the Holy Spirit. In the New Testament, this means that we are being filled by the Holy Spirit and under the control of the Spirit. When the high priest was anointed, the oil ran down his beard to the front of his body and over his collar. This suggests that the oil "bathed" the twelve precious stones that he wore on the breastplate over his heart, and this "bathing" is a picture of spiritual unity. When God's people walk in the Spirit, they forget about the externals and major on the eternal things of the Spirit. Externals divide us, gender, wealth, appearance, ethnic prejudices, social or political standing, while the Spirit brings us together and we glorify Christ. In verse 3, we have a beautiful illustration of being refreshed by the Holy Spirit for our daily task. The Jews were basically an agricultural people and they depended on the early and latter rains and the dew to water their crops (Deut. 11:10-17). In Scripture, dew symbolizes the life-giving Word of God (Deut. 32:2), the blessing of God that brings fruitfulness (Gen. 27:28, 39; Deut. 33:13, 28), and God's special refreshing on His people (Hos. 14:5; Zech. 8:12). How often we need the refreshment of the Holy Spirit that comes silently but bountifully, like the dew upon the grass! The dew speaks of fruitfulness and the anointing oil speaks of fragrance, for the unity of God's people is both "good and pleasant." The word “there” in verse 3 no doubt refers to Jerusalem on Mt. Zion. “Salvation is of the Jews (John 4:22). It was “there” that Jesus made the ultimate sacrifice that made it possible for us to have “peace with God”, and the experience “the blessing and life forevermore”. Both images, the oil and the dew, remind us that unity is not something that we "work up" but that God sends down by His Holy Spirit. When we get to the heavenly Zion (Heb. 12:18-29), there we will enjoy perfect unity. But why not seek to have that kind of unity today? God bless!
9 Let Your priests be clothed with righteousness, And let Your saints shout for joy. 16 I will also clothe her priests with salvation, And her saints shall shout aloud for joy. Psalm 132 is the thirteenth of the fifteen “Ascent Songs” or “Pilgrim Psalms”. Solomon was the most like writer of this psalm as he fulfilled the desire of his father David to bring the ark to Jerusalem and build the temple as a “resting place” for it. After his dedication prayer the glory of the LORD came down and filled the temple and now the visible presence of God was in the midst of the people and nation (2 Chronicles 6-7). Solomon begins the psalm in verses 1-5 asking the LORD to remember David’s desire and promise to give God His rightful place among His people. In verses 6-8, he continues by describing how they found the ark and the people were encouraged to come to Jerusalem to worship. We get the impression that the ark was almost forgotten during the years it was in the house of Abinadab in Kirjath Jearim ("city of woods"). The city was only eight miles northwest of Jerusalem, so distance was no problem. Possibly some of the people in David's hometown of Bethlehem (Ephrathah—"fruitful land") were involved in bringing the ark to Jerusalem. And now, the people felt drawn to go on pilgrimage to the city. When Solomon put the ark into the Holy of Holies, the glory of God moved in, just as when Moses dedicated the tabernacle (1 Kings 8:1-11; Ex. 40). The Lord could now "rest" in His house after many years of wandering from place to place (2 Sam. 7:6; 1 Chron. 28:2). In verses 10-12, Solomon reminded God of the covenant He made with his father David. God's covenant with David (2 Sam. 7) assured Israel that one of David's descendants would sit on the throne, and now Solomon was king, "God's anointed." So it was for David's sake, not Solomon's, that God blessed the king and the people. Ultimately, this promise was fulfilled in Jesus Christ, the Son of David, whose throne and kingdom are forever (2 Sam. 7:11-17; Acts 13:26-39; Luke 1:30-33). If David's successors wanted the blessing of God, they needed to obey the law of God. Believers today are united with the Lord in a new covenant that Jesus made in His own blood (Matt. 26:26-30; Heb. 12:24), and He will never break that covenant. The Father is faithful to His Son, and the Son is faithful to the covenant He made in His own blood. In verses 13, Solomon reminds the people that God not only chose Israel to be His people and David and his descendants to be His kings, but He chose Zion to be the site of His temple and His throne (the ark). Other nations had temples, but none of those temples had the glory of the true and living God dwelling in them. Now in verses 14-18, God speaks and reaffirmed His covenant with Israel (Lev. 26; Deut. 27-30). God promised to dwell with Israel, provide their food, bless their worship, and defeat their enemies. A (v. 17), is a symbol of power and strength, and the of the horn of David is a picture of the coming of the promised Messiah. So, the psalm ends by pointing to Jesus Christ. The psalm concerns itself with David and God's covenant with him, but it points to David's greater Son, Jesus Christ, and His covenant with His church. The psalmist was concerned about the ark of the covenant, but the ark points to Jesus Christ who today is enthroned in the Holy of Holies in heaven. We see, not the earthly Zion, but the heavenly Zion (Heb. 12:22-24), and we rejoice that we are "a kingdom of priests" because of the grace of God (Rev. 1:5-6). Today, let us give God His rightful place, worship Him joyfully, rest on His faithful covenant, and trust Him for the promised blessings for those who willingly obey His will. And then His “saints shall shout for joy”! (vv. 9, 16) God bless!
Psalm 132 is the thirteenth of the fifteen “Ascent Songs” or “Pilgrim Psalms”. The title doesn’t tell us who the writer is but from the psalm itself many have come to the conclusion that it was Solomon. Since verses 8-10 are quoted by Solomon in his prayer at the dedication of the temple (2 Chron. 6:41-42), perhaps this psalm was written for that occasion. You might also notice the references to David in Solomon's prayer (2 Chron. 6:3-11,15-17). As I read this psalm, I am reminded of the importance of the presence and the blessing of the Lord upon our lives, our families, our churches, and our nation. We might experience success and outwardly appear to have great happiness and prosperity, but unless the blessings and presence of God is there, we really have nothing worth having! When David turned the kingdom over to Solomon the borders were secure, the nation was prosperous beyond imagination, and everything was great! But the Ark of the Covenant wasn’t in its in the Holy City of Jerusalem. The Shekinah glory of God was missing. First in verses 1-5, we must make sure that God is in His rightful place in our lives and in our worship! It is interesting to note that in the 150 psalms, that this is the only psalm where the ark is mentioned. The ark represented God's throne on earth (Psalm 80:1 and 99:1), and its rightful place was in the Holy of Holies of God's sanctuary. Unless God is on the throne of our lives, no enterprise we attempt can be really successful. The ark had been in several places before Solomon put it into the temple (2 Chron. 5). The ark went before the children of Israel as they followed the cloud and pillar of fire through the wilderness, and it also went before them into the water as the people crossed the Jordan River and entered Canaan. It is possible that the ark was temporarily at Bethel (Judg. 20:27) and then Mizpah (Judg. 21:5), but it finally rested at Shiloh (1 Sam. 1-3). The wicked sons of Eli used the ark as a "good luck charm" and took it into battle against the Philistines, but the Philistines captured it (1 Sam. 4-5). Frightened by the judgments God sent, the Philistines returned the ark to the Jews, and for twenty years it rested in the house of Abinadab in Kirjath Jearim (1 Sam. 6:1-7:2). When David became king, he wanted the ark in Jerusalem and prepared a tent for it, but his first attempt failed (2 Sam. 6:1-11). The ark remained in the house of Obed-Edom for three months, and then David successfully brought God's throne to Jerusalem (2 Sam. 6:12-19; 1 Chron. 15-16). It appears that the tabernacle of Moses and its holy furniture were in Gibeon (1 Chron. 21:29). David had two great ambitions: to bring the ark to Jerusalem and then to build a glorious temple to house it. He even made a vow to the Lord, and the Lord permitted him to fulfill the first desire but not the second (2 Sam. 7). David had gone through much hardship, (v. 1), with reference to the building of the temple (v. 1; 1 Chron. 22:14), for the wealth he turned over to Solomon came from the spoils of his many battles. The worship leader called on God to "remember—pay attention to" what David had done, for humanly speaking, without David there would have been no temple. Even purchasing the property on which the temple was built cost David a great deal of pain (2 Sam. 24). Today, if we have received the Lord Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior, our vey bodies have become the temple of the Holy Spirit and God (1 Cor. 6:19-20). Are you allowing Him to sit upon the throne of your heart and direct your every decision and step in life? Do you desire and seek His presence so much that you get up early or stay up late (v. 4), to spend time in His Word and prayer, in fellowship with Him? Today, it is my prayer that all of us would make our hearts and lives a “DWELLING PLACE FOR THE MIGHTY ONE OF JACOB”! The world desperately needs to see His Glory today! God bless!
Psalm 131 is the twelfth of the fifteen “Ascent Songs” or “Pilgrim Psalms”. This is a psalm about humility. From the title we know it was written by David. If anyone in Israel had reasons to be proud, it was David. The eighth son of a common citizen, he began as a humble shepherd and yet became Israel's greatest king. A courageous soldier, a gifted general and tactician, and a sincere man of God, it was David who defeated Israel's enemies, expanded her boundaries, and amassed the wealth that Solomon used to build the temple. David was human, and like all of us, he was guilty of disobeying the Lord, but he was always repentant and sought God's merciful forgiveness. Except for a few lapses into selfishness and sin, David walked with the Lord in a humble spirit. In this brief psalm, he shares with us three essentials of a life that glorifies God and accomplishes His work on earth. In verse 1, we first learn that we need to be honest and accept ourselves. We move toward maturity when we honestly accept who we are, understand what we can do, accept both and live for God's glory. Rejecting or hating ourselves, fantasizing about ourselves, and envying others are marks of immaturity. David had seen some of this kind of behavior in his own son Absalom as well as in King Saul. A proud heart refuses to face reality, a high look covers up hidden inadequacy, and arrogant ambition impresses some people but leads ultimately to embarrassing failure (Jer. 45:5). When you accept yourself and your lot and thank God for the way He made you, you do not need to impress people. They will see your worth and love you for who you are. Spoiled children want to be seen and heard and they get involved in things they cannot handle. David did not promote himself; it was all God's doing. In verse 2, we should seek to have a humble heart and accept God's will. Hebrew children were weaned at ages three or four, and this experience marked the end of their infancy. But most children do not want to be deprived of their mother’s loving arms and satisfying breasts, and they feel rejected and unwanted. But after the crisis of birth, each child must eventually be weaned and learn the first lesson in the school of life: growing up involves painful losses that can lead to wonderful gains. If children are to grow up and not just grow old, they must be able to function apart from mother. This means weaning, going to school, choosing a vocation, and probably marrying and starting a new home. They must learn that there is a difference between cutting the apron strings and cutting the heartstrings and that these separations do not rob them of mother's love. Weaning can be painful but is necessary in life! The child that David described wept and fretted but eventually “calmed” down and accepted the inevitable. The word describes the calming of the sea or the farmer's leveling of the ground after plowing (Isa. 28:25). Instead of emotional highs and lows, the child developed a steady uniform response, indicating a giant step forward in the quest for maturity. Successful living means moving from dependence to independence, and then to interdependence, always in the will of God. Finally in verse 3, we must place our hope in the LORD as we anticipate the future (v. 3). Infants do not realize that their mother's decision is for their own good, for weaning sets them free to meet the future and make the most of it. The child may want to keep things as they are, but that way lies immaturity and tragedy. In the Christian vocabulary, hope is not "hope so" or “wishful thinking”. It is joyful anticipation of what the Lord will do in the future, based on His changeless promises. Like the child being weaned, we may fret at our present circumstances, but we know that our fretting is wrong. Today we need to remember that our present circumstances are the womb out of which new blessings and opportunities will be born (Rom. 8:28). God bless!
Psalm 130 is the eleventh of the fifteen “Ascent Songs” or “Pilgrim Psalms”. It is also the sixth of the seven Penitential Psalms. The other six are Psalms 6; 32:1-11, 38:1-22, 51:1-19, 102:1-7, 143:1-12. These are psalms where the psalmist is crying out in repentance asking for mercy for his sins and iniquities. Psalm 130 emphasizes what God does for helpless people who cry out to Him for mercy. Perhaps the Jewish pilgrims used this psalm to confess their sins and seek God's forgiveness and blessing as they made their way to the sanctuary. No matter what our need, when we call upon the Lord in faith, He hears us and makes the changes needed in our lives. In verses 1-2, the picture is that of a person drowning and unable to stand on the bottom or swim to safety. The tense of the verb "cry" indicates that the writer had been crying in the past and continued to cry out as he wrote the psalm, because without God's merciful intervention, he would die. We can cry out to God from the depths of disappointment and defeat and from the depths of fear and perplexity. Like a heavy weight, sin drags its victims to the depths, but God made us for the heights (Isa. 40:31; Col. 3:1). In verses 3-4, the psalmist moved from the sea to the courtroom, but there the sinner could not stand because of guilt. The only way we can get rid of the sin record is to come to God for His gracious forgiveness, and this forgiveness is made possible because of the work of Christ on the cross (32:1-2; Rom. 4:1-8). Sinners cannot stand before the holy Judge and argue their own case (Ps. 1:5; 143:2; Ezra 9:15; Nah. 1:6; Mal. 3:2). But God is ready to forgive (Ps. 86:5; Neh. 9:17), and faith in the Savior brings forgiveness to the soul. God casts our sins behind His back and blots them out of His book (Isa. 38:17; 43:25; 44:22). He carries them away as far as the east is from the west (Ps. 103:11-12), casts them into the sea (Micah 7:19), and holds them against us no more (Jer. 31:34; Heb. 10:17). But forgiveness is not a blessing to be taken lightly, for it cost God His Son; therefore, we ought to love and fear God (Ps. 76:7). If you take seriously the guilt of sin, you will take seriously the grace of forgiveness. In verses 5-6, we move from the courtroom to the city walls where the watchmen are alert as they peer through the darkness to detect the approach of any danger. Nothing they do can make the sun come up any sooner, but when the day dawns, the guards rejoice that the city has been safe another night. When the Lord forgives sinners, it is for them the dawning of a new day as they move out of darkness into God's marvelous light (1 Peter 2:9). The forgiven sinner is content to wait on the Lord for whatever He has planned for that day. This is not the waiting of hopeless resignation but of hopeful anticipation, for each new day brings new blessings from His hand (Ps. 119:74, 81, 82; Lam. 3:22-26). If you find yourself forgiven but still in the darkness, wait on the Lord and trust His Word, but do not try to manufacture your own light (Isa. 50:10-11). In verses 6-7, our final visit is to the slave market and the theme is redemption, which means "setting someone free by paying a price." Israel knew a great deal about God's redemption, for at the Exodus, God's power had set them free from Egyptian tyranny (Ex. 12-15). They had no hope and could not free themselves, but the Lord did it for them. He gave His people "abundant redemption" that included freedom from slavery, victory over their enemies, and a Promised Land for their home. The slave has no hope, but the child in the family looks forward to receiving an inheritance. All who trust Jesus Christ are children in God's family and not slaves, and their future is secure (Gal. 3:26-4:7). Today, as we watch and wait for His coming, despite what might be happening around us, we can also rejoice and say, “I AM FORGIVEN!!!! AND IN HIS WORD I DO HOPE!” God bless!
Psalm 129 is the tenth of the “Ascent Songs” or “Pilgrim Psalms”. The destruction of Jerusalem by the Babylonians was described by the prophets as "plowing" (vv. 3-4; Isa. 51:23; Mic. 3:12; Jer. 26:17-18), so this psalm was probably written after the exiles returned to the land. There they were surrounded by enemy people who hated them, so the theme was appropriate. The psalmist speaks for the nation and states that, no matter how severe the persecution, nothing can destroy the people of Israel. But God's church has also suffered severe persecution throughout the centuries, and faithful individual Christians face personal hostility. "Yes, and all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution" (2 Tim. 3:12). How should we respond to suffering? First, we must accept the reality of suffering in this world (vv. 1-2). Persecution is not something "strange" in the life of either Israel or the church (1 Peter 4:12). When the Lord called Abraham, He revealed that some would bless the Jews and others curse them (Gen. 12:1-3). Isaac was persecuted by Ishmael (Gen. 21:8-21; Gal. 4:21-31), and the Jews were terribly oppressed in Egypt (Hos. 11:1). However, the more they were persecuted, the more they increased (Ex. 1:9-14), and there the family of Jacob was molded into the nation of Israel. Israel has suffered more than any nation in history, yet Israel has not been destroyed! Secondly, we cannot avoid suffering, but we can benefit from it (vv. 3-4). As you read these verses, you can almost feel the sharp cutting edges of the plow. Their enemies treated Israel like dirt and walked on them! Some students see in the plowing image a picture of prisoners being whipped, leaving long deep gashes on their backs. If that is a part of the picture, then our Lord endured the same suffering. Isaiah 53:5 prophesied specifically about Christ suffering: “But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; The chastisement for our peace was upon Him, AND BY HIS STRIPES WE ARE HEALED.” The nation of Israel has been plowed long, deep, and often, but what a harvest of blessing it has brought to the world! The day came when God cut the cords that tied the oxen to the plow, and then Israel was free (see 124:7). The exiles returned to their homes wiser and better people because they had felt the pain of the plow. Instead of blaming God for their suffering, they confessed, (v. 4). The plowing image is a good one for believers today, for it reminds us that there can be a glorious harvest, but it depends on the seeds that we plant. Of itself, suffering does not produce blessing. If we plant seeds of hatred and resentment, then suffering will produce bitterness. But if we plant faith, hope, love, and the precious promises of the Word, then the harvest will bless us and help others, and it will bring glory to God. (See 1 Peter 4:12-19.) God permits people to treat us like dirt, and we must accept it, but we have the privilege of transforming it by the grace of God into character that honors the Lord. Finally, in verses 5-8, we learn from Israel to commit our suffering to the LORD. The psalmist prayed that those who hated Zion would perish quickly like the useless grass on the roof. But why would anybody want to hate the Jews? The most logical answer is that Satan hates Israel and has always been at war with her (see Rev. 12). Satan is also at war with the church (John 15:18-25; 17:14; 1 John 3:13). But God has always proven to preserve His people and when no one would say blessings upon Israel they could still say; "We bless you in the name of the Lord" (v. 8), because Israel has brought to the world the knowledge of the true and living God, the Scriptures, and the Savior. (John 4:22). Remember it is our suffering that gives us the greatest opportunities to (2 Corinthians 4:7-18). God bless!
Psalm 128 is the ninth of the “Ascent Songs” or “Pilgrim Psalms” and is a companion to Psalm 127. Because families traveled together to the annual feasts in Jerusalem, it is only right that another psalm be devoted to parents and their offspring. The previous psalm pictured children as a rich heritage and as arrows for defeating the enemy (127:3-5). This psalm uses agricultural images for both the wife and the children. In one form or another, the word "bless" is used four times. Like 127 and Jeremiah 29:4-7, this psalm deals with protection (v. 1), working (v. 2), the family (vv. 3-4, 6), and God's blessing on Jerusalem (v. 5). While the writer includes all who fear the Lord (v. 1), the psalm is addressed especially to the man of the house (v. 3). Our homes are either a place where we enjoy heaven on earth or where we experience hell on earth. In our homes with our families, we can enjoy the greatest pleasures and blessings of life, or we might experience the worst emotional, mental, and physical abuse, hurt, pain, offenses, and tragedies in life. In this psalm we also see that the welfare of the state depends on the welfare of the home, and the welfare of the home depends on the spiritual condition of the head of that home. An unspiritual father will often produce unsaved children and unsaved children will build an unstable state. That is the general principle underlying this psalm. The safety of the state depends on the sanctity of the home, and the sanctity of the home depends on the spirituality of the parents. No psalm in the Hebrew hymnbook needs to be preached in America where our homes are literally falling apart more insistently than this one. In verse 1, we have a Jewish couple who truly feared the Lord and wanted to establish a home that Jehovah could bless. To fear the Lord means to reverence Him and seek to please Him by obeying His Word. This is the Old Testament version of Matthew 6:33. It takes three to form a happy marriage: a man and woman who love the Lord and each other, and the Lord who performed the first wedding back in the Garden of Eden. In verse 2, we see where the “blessed home” is one where the family enjoys the fruit of hard-working parents. But who recognize that it is the Lord who gives His people "power to get wealth" (Deut. 8:18). How easy it is for us to think that our planning, skill, and hard work accomplished it all, but such is not the case. As we saw in the previous psalm, without the blessing of the Lord, all our labor is in vain. Each Jew was required to give tithes to the Lord, but the Lord wanted the workers to share the fruit of their labor. In verses 3-4, the family enjoys eating meals together. Both the vine and the olive tree were important to the economy of Israel, the vine providing wine and the olive tree supplying fruit and oil (104:14-15). A husband's love for his wife is illustrated by the vine and the olive tree (Song. 7:6-9). The olive shoots around the base of the parent tree, fresh and vigorous, picture the children around the family table. It takes patience to care for them as they grow, but the efforts are rewarding. In verses 5-6, we go from bride and groom to grandparents in just six verses! How time flies! Three generations are represented in the psalm, and all of them walking with the Lord. We are so prone to remember that God judges the succeeding generations if they imitate the sins of their ancestors, but we must remember that He also passes along the blessings when the ancestors have been godly. The Jewish people are proud of their heritage and want to see God's very best blessings come to Jerusalem. They realize how enriched they are from Zion. They long for each of their children to bring honor to Israel, and they pray for the peace and prosperity of Israel and Jerusalem True patriotism begins in the home, where love of God, family, and country are bound together. "Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord" (Psalm 33:12). God bless!
Psalm 127 is the eighth of the “Ascent Songs” or “Pilgrim Psalms”. It has an inscription that attributes it to Solomon as the writer. Some scholars believe that King Hezekiah is the person who organized the “Ascent Songs” for the pilgrimage of the people and for their worship when they arrived in Jerusalem. Others think that it might have been Nehemiah or Ezra who complied these fifteen psalms for the remnant returning from their captivity in Babylon. They were both rebuilding the temple and walls of Jerusalem and having to fight their distractors and enemies at the same time! Remember Nehemiah had the people hold a trowel in one hand and a sword in the other as they worked on the wall. The major message of this psalm is that is no amount of human sacrifice or toil can accomplish much unless God's blessing is upon His people. I’ll never forget an old hymn that says, “Little is much when God is in it”! But the opposite is true also, “A lot is nothing when God is not in it”! As God’s people, we are builders and more than anything else we need God’s blessings upon us as we “build and guard” in a dangerous and demanding world. Solomon was a great builder, and he must have learned this lesson that if the LORD’s blessings were not there, the builders labored in vain, and the soldiers would watch and guard in vain. God had called us to build—our lives, our homes, our churches, and the kingdom of God around the world. Before commencing His public ministry, Jesus was a carpenter (Mark 6:3), and He is currently building His church in this world (Matt. 16:18). The apostle Paul saw himself as a master builder (1 Cor. 3:10). Whether we are building structures with bricks and mortar and steel, or building lives, families, and churches with truth and love, we cannot succeed without the help of the Lord. Jesus said, (John 15:5). We must also depend on the LORD to guard what is being built! (v. 1b). Strong walls around the city and alert watchmen on those walls are essential if we are to protect what we have built. And how foolish it is to build and not protect! Many a child and many a ministry has been lost to the enemy because the watchmen did not stay awake and warn that the enemy was approaching. If parents, teachers, and church leaders do not courageously depend on the LORD through prayer and His Word to guard against the enemy, our building and battling will be in vain. If verse 1 warns against overconfidence ("We can do it without God's help!"), verse 2 warns against overwork and anxious toil ("I have to do it all right now!"). This verse does not say it is wrong for people to get up early, work hard, and make sacrifices (see 2 Thess. 3:6-15). It only warns us that our work should be a blessing we enjoy and not a burden we endure. Doing God's will is nourishment, not punishment. But the anxious laborer eatssorrow while working and sorrow while trying to rest at night as he worries about the next day. God gives us (1 Tim. 6:17). In verses 3-5, we are reminded that it does no good to build and guard our houses and cities if there are no future generations to inherit them and keep the family, city, and nation going. Children are precious—a heritage and they make the home a treasury. But they are also useful, like fruit and arrows, and make the home a garden and an armory. If we do not raise our children to know and love the truth, who will plant the seeds of truth and fight the battles against lies and evil in the years to come? It is in the family that we preserve the best of the past and invest it in the future. Every baby born is God's vote for the future of humankind and our opportunity to help make some new beginnings. May the LORD always give us grace to remember that we desperately need His blessings and “Little is much when God is in it!” God bless!
Psalm 126 is the seventh of the “Assent Songs” and the writer is anonymous. Several verses in this psalm appear to describe the return of the Jewish exiles from Babylon (Ezra 2:1; Neh. 7:6; Isa. 10:22; Jer. 22:10). Cyrus gave his decree in 537 B.C., an event prophesied by Isaiah (44:24-45:7). Jeremiah had prophesied that the captivity would be for 70 years (Jeremiah 25:11-12; 29:10). Isaiah also prophesied the joy of the people at their liberation (Isa. 48:20; 49:8-13; 51:11; 54:1; 55:10-12), and the witness of this remarkable event to the other nations (Isa. 43:10-21; 44:8, 23; 52:7-10). But once the exiles were back in their land, their joy began to subside, for life is not always easy when you are making a new beginning after a time of discipline. But life is so arranged that we must often make new beginnings, and the Lord helps us by giving us special encouragements. In the first three verses, you see the people express great joy for this new freedom! (vv. 1-3) Even though they had the prophesies and promises of Isaiah and Jeremiah, the remnant that returned to Israel could not believe they were free and felt like they were dreaming! It was too good to be true. During long years of waiting, they had dreamed of returning home, and now the dream had become reality. God in His grace had forgiven them (Isa. 40:1-2; 44:21-22) and they could make a new beginning. The Jews had lost their song in Babylon (Ps. 137:1-5), but now they were shouting, laughing, and singing! What a witness of God's faithfulness to keep His promises! The surrounding nations, some of whom hated Israel, were utterly astonished at this event, and openly confessed that the God of Israel had done great things for them. The Jews replied that indeed He had done great things for them, and they gave God the glory. Someone said, "If you can explain what is going on, God did not do it". This ought to be the confession and testimony of every believer and of every local church. And even the world will notice the difference in our lives and must acknowledge that the LORD did it! The prayer in verse four, "Bring back our captivity", can also be translated "restore our fortunes." The captivity had ended, and the Jews were praying for the blessing of the Lord on their life in the land. It was important that the people return to their land and get to work, but it was also important that God bless their work (Psalm 127:1-2). If the Lord did not keep His covenant and send the early and latter rains (Lev. 26:4; Deut. 11:10-12; 28:12), there would be no crops and their labors would have been in vain. Each raindrop was but a tiny thing, but when dropped on the earth, it was the promise of life. How gracious of the Lord to send "showers of blessing" (Ezek. 34:26) to His people! How important it is that God's people pray for His blessing and prepare themselves to receive it (2 Chron. 7:14; Mal. 3:8-12). In Scripture, water for drinking is a picture of the Spirit of God and the refreshing life that He brings to those who seek Him (John 7:37-38). After our freedom from the captivity of sin and Satan, we have the challenge of work (vv. 5-6)." (James 2:26), so after we have praised God and prayed, we must get to work, for work is a blessing, not a curse. The grain that the farmer sowed might have been used to make bread for his family, so it is no wonder he was weeping as he toiled. Tears and rejoicing often went together at that time (Ezra 3:8-13; 6:16, 22), but the farmer was trusting God to multiply the grain so that he would have both bread for his family to eat and seed to sow the next season (2 Cor. 9:10-11). Today, may the LORD give us a broken heart with tears, to take His precious seed, His Word, to share with a lost world around us! If we do this, we are promised a harvest of souls and great rejoicing, not only now but for eternity! And, "In due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart" (Galatians 6:9). God bless!
Psalm 125 is the sixth of the “Assent Songs” and the writer is anonymous, but most commentators seem to think that it was probably composed during the post-exilic period of Ezra and Nehemiah. Remember that they were the leaders who lead the captives back to their beloved “Promise Land” to rebuilt the temple and the walls of Jerusalem. Both Ezra and Nehemiah mention all sorts of people who made their work difficult for them. (Neh. 6:10-14; Ezra 9-10). Thank God for the faithful who believe God and obey His Word! Three kinds of people are mentioned in this psalm: those who trust in the Lord (v. 1), who are also called righteous and good (vv. 3-4); those who compromise with the enemy (v. 3); and those who deliberately go on the wrong path (v. 5). This psalm reminds us of the benefits that faith and faithfulness bring to God's people and we should be more determined than ever to “live by faith and not by sight or by our feelings”. When we live and walk by faith we are kept standing (vv. 1-2), and enjoy spiritual security and stability. The city of Jerusalem was firmly established and could not be shaken. For one thing, it was built on a solid foundation of rock that went deep into the ground. The city was surrounded by a number of hills. Even more, Jerusalem was home to the holy temple of Jehovah and the throne of David. God's glory and God's authority dwelt among His people. The writer did not say that God's people should be like Mount Zion but that they are like Mount Zion. As believers we are built upon the solid Rock, Jesus Christ (1 Cor. 3:11; 1 Peter 2:4-8), and He dwells within us and He surrounds us with His protection and mercy. As people of faith, we shall not be moved (16:8; 21:7; 62:6). Like Paul, we say, "None of these things move me" (Acts 20:24). We have a marvelous standing, for we stand in God's grace (Rom. 5:2; Gal. 5:1), and we stand by faith (Rom. 11:20). We take our stand on the truths of the Word of God (2 Thess. 2:15) and stand in the will of God (Col. 4:12). It is God who enables us to stand (2 Cor. 1:21, 24), and because He does, we are able to accomplish the work He wants us to do (1 Cor. 15:58). When we begin to trust ourselves or other people, and we bypass the Lord, then we begin to waver, stumble, and fall. When we live and walk by faith, we will live a life of obedience (v. 3). Israel was under Persian rule during the post-exilic years, and the Persian officers could do as they pleased. Some of the Jews became weary of this arrangement and capitulated to the Persians. "If you cannot whip them, join them." But the "scepter of wickedness" was wielded not only by Persians but also by greedy Israelites who disobeyed God's law and exploited their own people (Neh. 5). The prevalence of evil makes it easier for everybody to sin (Matt. 24:12), but the Lord will not permit this to go on forever. The people who trust God will obey His Word no matter what others may do, and they will not succumb to temptation (1 Cor. 10:13). Our faith will keep us praying, hoping and doing good (vv. 4-5). James 1 teaches us that anything that is good comes from God and is given to us when we ask by faith. In Matthew 7:11 Jesus told His disciples, “If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!” To live by faith is to keep our eyes on the Lord (123:1; Heb. 12:1-2), rest on the promises of His Word, and do what is right and good no matter what others may say or do. Faith means living without scheming. People of faith know that God will one day judge the disobedient, no matter how much they seem to get away with resisting God and abusing others. The life of faith is not easy, but the life of unbelief is much harder, in this life and in the life to come. Yes, even in the midst of adversity we can still by faith do good and enjoy peace! “Peace be upon you”! God bless!
Psalm 124 is the fifth of the “Assent Songs” and the second that is ascribed to be written by David. Remember the contempt and ridicule of Psalm 123? It has now been mixed with anger (v. 3) and become open hostility in Psalm 124. There are several occasions as to when David might have written it. After he was anointed king, it wasn’t long till Saul was trying to set traps and kill him. Or possibly, shortly after he became king, the Philistines attack Israel. Or even later when his son Absolom rose up against him. In each situation the LORD gave him deliverance and this psalm may have been his song of thanksgiving to the Lord. Some believe that Hezekiah might have used this psalm when he was attacked by the Assyrians, but God sent an angel that killed over 180,000 enemy soldiers in one night and gave deliverance. It might have been used again later when Nehemiah and the people were repairing the walls and gates of Jerusalem, the surrounding nations ridiculed them (Neh. 2:19-20; 4:1-5) and then threatened to attack them (Neh. 4:7-23). Nehemiah's words "Our God will fight for us" (Neh. 4:20) remind us of 124:1-2 and 8. We may not have entire nations and armies opposing us, but we do face emergencies that are more than we can handle. That is when we turn to the Lord for help, because He is on our side and helps us with these emergencies. In verses 1-2, we see the sudden attack of the enemy. The phrase "rose up" gives the image of a sudden ambush, a sneak attack that might have defeated Israel, except the Lord was on their side. "If God is for us, who can be against us?" (Rom. 8:31). Our enemy Satan does not give advance warning of his attacks; therefore, we must be sober and vigilant (1 Peter 5:8), put on the whole armor of God (Eph. 6:10-18), and be alert in our praying. God promised His chosen people that He would curse those who cursed them (Gen. 12:3), and He has kept that promise. If we are walking with the Lord, we need not feel unprepared for the enemy's sudden attacks. Next in verses 3-5, the enemy is pictured as a great flood overwhelming Israel. Here is a situation where we stand helpless as the problem gets worse and worse. The psalmist feared that the raging waters of persecution would sweep over him and his people and that they would be swallowed up forever. Jeremiah pictured the Babylonian captivity of Israel as Nebuchadnezzar swallowing the nation (Jer. 51:34, 44). But if the Lord is on our side, He will provide a way of escape. In verse 6, the enemy is pictured as a beast which is often a biblical picture of persecution. There are twelve words in the Hebrew language for lions, which indicates that the Jewish people in that day took wild beasts seriously. Jeremiah compared Babylon to a lion (Jer. 4:7; 51:38), and Peter compared Satan to a prowling lion (1 Peter 5:8). Like a cunning animal, Satan stalks us and waits until we have relaxed our guard, and then he pounces. But the Lord is stronger than Satan, and if we are abiding in Him, we can win the victory. Finally in verses 7-8, the enemy is pictured laying a hidden trap. We must use the Word of God to throw light on our path so we can detect and avoid the devil's traps (Psalm 119:105; 91:1-3; 1 Tim. 3:7; 6:9; 2 Tim. 2:24-26). The picture is that of a helpless bird who walked into the trap in order to eat the food. Satan always has fascinating bait to offer. The Lord may allow us to fall into a trap, but nobody can keep us when He wants us to be free. The Lord not only opened the trap but broke it so it cannot be used again! The death and resurrection of Jesus Christ has broken the dominion of sin and death, and we can walk in freedom through Jesus Christ. Praise God, we don’t need to fear! We are not helpless! Because (v. 8). And He is on our side! God bless!
Psalm 123 is the fourth of the fifteen “Ascent Psalms”, also called the “Pilgrim Psalms”. This is another of the songs of degrees which have no named authorship but as some believe it was possibly written by King Hezekiah. It definitely fits the setting of the Assyrian invasion of Judah and the encirclement of Jerusalem by the armies of Sennacherib. The immediate occasion was probably the blasphemous, contemptuous speech of Rabshakeh in which he tried to subvert the loyalty of the besieged defenders of the city (Isaiah 36-37). It is not until we read verse 4 that we discover the burden of the writer: the constant persecution of the people of Israel, being treated with scorn and contempt. Has any nation ever suffered the way Israel has suffered? During the post-exilic years, Israel also suffered the ridicule and scorn of their Gentile neighbors (Neh. 2:19; 4:1-4, 7). This psalm speaks about the God who is enthroned in heaven whose hand would work for His people, and you find both of these themes in Ezra and Nehemiah. Of course, God's people today are also suffering because of their commitment to Christ (John 16:30). According to missiologists, more Christians were martyred in the twentieth century than in all the previous centuries combined! When we find ourselves among the slandered, ridiculed, and persecuted, where do we turn for help? The psalm gives three answers to that question. FIRST, WE SHOULD LOOK BY FAITH TO GOD'S THRONE (V. 1). Of course, with our human eyes, we cannot see God on His throne, but with the eyes of faith we see Him as we believe the Word. "My eyes are toward the Lord" (Psalm 25:15). To look toward the Lord means to trust Him and turn our problems over to Him by faith. "Looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith" (Heb. 12:2). God's throne is mentioned often in the book of Psalms (9:4, 7; 11:4; 45:6; 47:8; 93:2; 97:2; 103:9), and to believers today, His throne is a throne of grace (Heb. 4:14-16). The life of faith begins by looking to the Lord by faith and trusting Him for salvation (Isa. 45:22). The life of faith continues as we keep our eyes of faith on Jesus (Heb. 12:2), and it will climax with faith becoming sight and we'll see Jesus in His glory (1 John 3:1-2). SECOND, WE SHOULD LOOK BY FAITH TO GOD'S HAND (V. 2). In eastern countries, masters often commanded their servants by means of hand signals, so the servants kept their eyes on the master's hand. This is what gave them direction for their work. But the master's hand was also the source of their provision, what they needed for their daily sustenance. Finally, the master's hand protected them in times of danger. So, it is with God's people today: our direction, provision, and protection all come from our Master's hand and His hand never fails. FINALLY, WE SHOULD LOOK FOR GOD'S MERCY AND GRACE (VV. 3-4). The exiles from Israel had spent seventy years in Babylon. Most of the older ones died and at least two new generations were born. Now, about 50,000 of these people were trying to rebuild their temple, restore their city, and revitalize their nation. This was not an easy task, and the nations around them did not want Israel back on the scene again. The Persian rulers who had promised to help them did not always keep their promises, or the local Persian officers interfered with the announced plans. It was another evidence of the hatred the Gentiles had for the Jews. (v. 3). (Neh. 2:19; 4:1-4, 7; Lam. 3:15, 30.) But God chooses and uses the despised things of this world (1 Cor. 1:28). After all, our salvation was purchased by One who was (Isa. 53:3). If you find yourself laughed at and criticized because you belong to Jesus Christ, you are part of a very elite group, and you do not have to be embarrassed or start looking for a place to hide! There is grace available at the throne of grace from the God of all grace, so lift your eyes of faith to Him. God bless!
Psalm 122 is one of the fifteen “Ascent Psalms”, also called the “Pilgrim Psalms”. From the title we know that this one was written by David along with three others. One was written by Solomon and the other ten have anonymous writers. There are many commentators that believe King Hezekiah is the person that compiled these particular psalms together to encourage the Jewish pilgrims in their worship as they came to the City of Jerusalem three times a year for the feasts of Passover, Pentecost and Tabernacles. First in verses 1-2, we see that true worship comes from having a heart for God Himself (John 4:23-24). "Let us go" sounds tame, like an invitation to a tea. "We will go" is the better translation. Whether this was an invitation to someone living far from Jerusalem, or to David living in Jerusalem, the statement expressed determination and dedication. After the tent had been set up and the ark placed in it, no doubt David frequently went there to worship God, for David's love for God's house was well-known (27:4; 65:4; 2 Sam. 7:1-3). He rejoiced at an opportunity to go with other worshipers to praise the Lord. Though he lived in the holy city, David did not take this privilege for granted, for he had a heart for God and for God's house. David was a man after God's own heart (1 Sam. 13:14). The pilgrim coming from a distance would not complain about the journey, for his heart was set on the Lord. Love makes burdens lighter and distances shorter. Next in verses 3-5, we need a heart for thanks and praise. The Lord had told His people that one day there would be a central place where they would worship (Ex. 23:14-19; Deut. 12:5-7, 11-14, 17-19; 14:23; 16:2, 16), and that place was Jerusalem. The Lord instructed David that the place on Mount Moriah where he had built the altar was to be the site for the temple (1 Chron. 21-22). When the psalmist looked at the city, he thought of unity and security. Just as the stones of the walls and houses were "bound firmly together," so the people were bound together in their worship of the Lord and their respect for the throne. But it was the praise of Jehovah that was central (v. 4). God had commanded that His people go to Jerusalem for the feasts of Passover, Pentecost, and Tabernacles (Ex. 23:14-19; John 4:20-21), and the people went as worshipers and not sightseers. In verses 6-9, we find that we need a heart for prayer. The name "Jerusalem" means "foundation of peace," and yet the city has been a center of conflict for centuries. If we understand biblical prophecy correctly, there can be no peace in Jerusalem or on earth until the Prince of Peace reigns on David's throne (Isa. 9:6-7; Luke 1:26-33). So, when we pray for the peace of Jerusalem, we are actually praying, "Thy kingdom come" (Matt. 6:10) and "Even so, come, Lord Jesus" (Rev. 22:20). Jesus wept over the city because they were ignorant of the peace God had for them (Luke 19:41-48) and had rejected their own Messiah (John 11:47-48). Our prayers must come from our heart because we love God and love His people. The "prosperity" mentioned in verse 6 does not refer to material wealth but primarily to the spiritual enrichment that comes to those who love God, His Son (born a Jew), His Word (a Jewish book), and His chosen people. "Salvation is of the Jews" (John 4:22). Christian believers have a debt to Israel for the untold spiritual wealth they have given us (Rom. 15:25-27). The emphasis here is on the city of God, the chosen people of God (vv. 6-8), and the house of God (v. 9). Today, because we are God's people, citizens of the heavenly country, we must pray for one another and for the ministry of the churches. We belong to each other, we need each other, and we must help each other. We must pray for peace within and among the churches. We must pray for the needs of "our brothers and friends," and surely, we must pray for the lost. A heart for God will surely be a heart filled with praise and prayer. God bless!
We need to remember that Psalms 120-134 are the “Pilgrim Psalms”. They have the title: "A Song of Ascents." These psalms were compiled together to be used by the Jewish pilgrims as they journeyed from their hometowns up to Jerusalem as least three times a year to worship. The pilgrims would sing or recite these songs to remind themselves of what the LORD had done for them over the centuries and that He was still their “keeper” and would protect them even on their present journey. These are psalms that we, as believers, need to keep near to our hearts and minds as we also remember that our citizenship is in heaven as we are traveling through enemy territory on the road of life during our brief time on earth! The theme of Psalm 121 is God's protection over His people. The word "keeps" (watches over) is used three times and the word “preserved” is also used three times. Safety is something about which the pilgrims would be especially concerned as they journeyed on the roads through the hill country. A pilgrim could stumble and hurt himself, or someone might suffer sunstroke, or a chilly night of camping out might give somebody a bad cold. There was always the possibility of robbers swooping down. But the message of the psalm applies to God's pilgrims today and gives us the assurances we need as we journey in this life. In verses 1-2, we are reminded that our “Father's Creation Is before us". The opening line possibly could be used to ask the question, “Will I look up to the hills to find my help?” The apostate Jews, like the pagans around them worshiped other gods at the shrines in the "high places" in the hills (2 Kings 16:4; Jer. 3:23; 13:27; 17:2; Hos. 4:11-13). But this psalmist basically answered his own question with: “No, I’m going to look beyond the hills to the God who made the hills and also the heaven and the earth!” If Jehovah created the heavens and the earth, then He is a God of power, wisdom, and glory, and we have nothing to fear. Satan and his demonic army may be at work opposing the saints, but this is still our Father's world. When the travelers caught sight of Jerusalem, situated on the mountains (87:1; 125:1-2; 133:3), they knew that God dwelt there in His sanctuary and provided the help they needed (3:4; 20:2; 46:1; 124:8; 134:3; 1 Kings 8:29-53). Everything in the heavens and on the earth, bears witness to the great Creator who is also our heavenly Father, so why should we fear? In verses 3-4, we need to remember that our "Father's eyes are upon us". The word translated "moved" means "to slip and slide, to stagger, to be shaken." How easy it would be to sprain an ankle or even fall and break a bone while walking on uneven rocky paths. The Lord is concerned about our feet and our walk. "Keep" or “preserve” means "to guard and protect". Even while we sleep, God watches over us because He does not go to sleep. In verse 5-6, we assured ourselves that our Father is not only on the throne looking down on us, but He is at our side to shield us from all harm. This does not mean that obedient believers never find themselves in difficulty or danger, or that they will never feel physical and emotional pain. The things that God permits to happen to us in His will may hurt us, but they will not harm us. Whether by day or by night, in heat or cold, whatever the changes might be, the Father's presence provides all that we need. We need not be afraid of sudden attacks that can come in the day or the night, for "the shadow of the Almighty" covers us (Ps. 91). Finally in verses 7-8, we can take comfort, and need not fear life or death, today or tomorrow, time or eternity, for we are in the loving care of the Father. "All evil" means anything that could harm us, but in His grace, He turns into good the things we think are evil (Genesis 50:20; Romans 8:28). He “preserves us forever”! Today, look up to your Creator God and remember, “The LORD is my keeper”! God bless!
Today we come to a new section of 15 exciting psalms, Psalms 120-134. Each of these psalms is called "A Song of Ascents." The Hebrew word translated "ascents” or "degrees" comes from a root that means "to go up," as ascending a stairway. Ten of the psalms are anonymous, four are attributed to David (Pss. 122, 124, 131, 133) and one to Solomon (Ps. 127). These psalms were selected to form a "hymnal" to be used by the people who went to Jerusalem for the three annual feasts (Ex. 23:14-19); Passover in spring, Pentecost in early summer, and Tabernacles in the autumn. The pilgrims sang these songs together as they journeyed in family groups to Jerusalem (Luke 2:41-52), and this helped to focus their minds on what the Lord had done for their nation. Three special themes are repeated: (1) the afflictions that Israel experienced at the hands of the other nations, (2) the gracious way God cared for and protected His chosen people, and (3) the blessing of being in Jerusalem. Israel had suffered contempt and scorn (123:3-4), near extinction (124:1-5; 130:1), traps (124:6-7), bondage (126:1, 4), and affliction (129:1-3), yet she is still here! Under the leadership of Moses, the Israelites were a nomadic people for forty years. But after they settled in Canaan, the Lord required them to go to Jerusalem three times a year. This reminded them that, spiritually speaking, they were still a pilgrim people and needed to depend on the Lord. said David in 1 Chronicles 29:15. Too many believers today want to be "settlers," not pilgrims and strangers (Heb. 11:8-10, 13-16; 1 Peter 1:1; 2:11). We are happy to settle down in our comfort zones and live as though Jesus never died, Jesus is not coming again, and our lives will never end. We are guilty of what Eugene Peterson calls "the tourist mindset," content to make occasional brief visits with the Lord that are leisurely and entertaining, all the while conforming to this world and enjoying it. In Psalm 120, we are looking at the pilgrim and where he lives. The pilgrim in this psalm said he lived "in Meshech and in Kedar." Who was Meshech? He was one of the sons of Japheth. Genesis 10:2 tells us of "the sons of Japheth; Gomer, and Magog, and Madai, and Javan, and Tubal, and Meshech, and Tiras." From the sons of Japheth came the gentile nations, and Israel today is scattered among the Gentiles throughout the world. They dwell in "Meshech" located in Asia Minor. "Kedar" was the son of Ishmael. It was located south of Israel in Arabia. Does that tell you anything? The pilgrim was living among the Arabs. How interesting is that? Notice that in verse 2 he cries, "Deliver my soul, O LORD, from lying lips and from a deceitful tongue." He was surrounded by people with mean tongues. The man who sojourned in Meshech had been maligned and lied about. I do believe that no people have been lied about, maligned, and persecuted as much as the Jews. We hear much about minority groups today, and the interesting thing is that the Jew has been able to make his way among all nations and peoples, but he has been criticized the entire time. Anti-Semitism has been real down through the ages; yet the Jew has been able to survive all of it. The Jews are a minority group among the Gentiles and among the people of the world; and they have lived in the place of gossip, quarrels, tensions, problems, and burdens. Also, this can be said of you and me. "My soul has dwelt too long with one who hates peace. I am for peace; But when I speak, they are for war.” This certainly describes the Jews' current situation. Today, like the pilgrim, we need to pray (vv. 1-2). We must trust the LORD (vv. 3-4), as the lost world lies about us. And we must patiently endure their hatred for us (vv. 5-7). And we need to remember that our citizenship is in heaven (Luke 10:20; Phil. 3:20; Heb. 12:22-24), and that should make a difference in our lives on earth. God bless!
Psalm 119:169-176 is the twenty-second stanza of this psalm, and every line or verse begins with the twenty-second letter of the Hebrew alphabet “TAV”, in the Hebrew Bible. The psalmist finishes this longest psalm and chapter in the Bible with a prayer, a plea, a cry for help. And once again, he is assured and confident that God will answer his request and meet his every need because of the promises and truths that he finds in the Word of God. Like the rest of the psalm, every verse in this closing stanza mentions and refers to “Your word”, “Your statutes”, Your commandments”, “Your precepts”, “Your salvation”, “Your law”, and It is obvious that the psalmist desperately needs God’s help and so do we! Years ago, I read that real prayer is simply a sense of helplessness and I agree! I actually wake up every morning with a plea for God’s help, and throughout the day continue to recognize that I need His help and will not make it without His help! In these verses today, the psalmist specifically recognizes his needs and asks for God’s help in several ways. First in verses 169-172, he acknowledges HIS NEED FOR GOD’S WORD. We never outgrow our need for God's Word, no matter how long we have been walking with Him. There is always something new to learn and we often see new applications of old truths. Believers who boast that they "know the Bible from cover to cover" are only revealing how little they know about God's Word, for we shall spend eternity learning from His Word. The psalmist asked for understanding and deliverance, for he knew that the truth would set him free (John 8:32). After learning the statutes of God, he began to praise the Lord, for study and worship belong together. Next, he prayed that he NEEDED GOD’S HELPING HAND (v. 173). We all know that "God is spirit" (John 4:24) and therefore does not have a body with hands, feet, and so forth. In order to reveal Himself to us, He uses the familiar to explain the unfamiliar, and therefore the Bible describes Him in human terms. The idols of the heathen have hands that do not move or feel (115:7), but God's hand is active on the behalf of His people. We are the sheep of His hand (Psalm 95:7), an image that Jesus used in John 10:28-29. He also prayed and shared HIS LONGING FOR GOD’S SALVATION (v. 174). In his case, "salvation" meant deliverance from his enemies who were threatening him, but "salvation" can mean freedom from worry, the healing of a sickness, the provision of funds to pay a bill, or deliverance from Satanic oppression. As we saw in verse 166, our ultimate salvation is the return of Jesus Christ to deliver all creation from the bondage of sin. In verse 175, he BELIEVED THAT GOD’S JUDGEMENTS WOULD HELP HIM. "Judgments" is a synonym for the Word of God, but it can also refer to the working of God's providence in this world (105:7; Rom. 11:33). Of course, the two go together, because God always obeys His own Word when He works in this world. God helps us as He arranges the affairs of this world and of our lives, for there are no accidents in the life of the believer—only appointments. Our Father watches over us and accomplishes His will (23:3; John 10:4; Rom. 8:28). Finally in verse 176, the psalmist recognizes his tendency to stray away from God like a lost sheep, and he NEEDED GOD TO SEEK HIM because he was His servant. God gives us promises and assurances so we will not despair, but He also gives us warnings that we might not presume. The psalmist was still the servant of God and not the servant of sin, and he still remembered God's Word and His commandments, so he would not stray for long. He knew that the Good Shepherd would find him and lead him back to the fold. He would anoint his wounds with healing oil and give him a long refreshing drink of water (Psalm 23). I trust that Psalm 119 has been as big a blessing to you as it has been to me, and I pray that it has encouraged you to spend time every day in God’s Word! God bless!
Psalm 119:161-168 is the twenty-first stanza of this psalm, and every line or verse begins with the twenty-first letter of the Hebrew alphabet “SHIN”, in the Hebrew Bible. During our time of study in Psalm 119, we have noticed that the writer practiced a balanced life of faith, hope and love by keeping the right perspective about life and what was going on around him. We especially notice this quality in this stanza. In verse 161-162, the psalmist kept a deep respect for God’s Word and rejoiced despite the difficult challenges he was facing. Back in verse 23, we saw that the princes, the government authorities, began their campaign against him by speaking against him (v. 23), but now they were persecuting him in a direct way. They were probably trying to destroy him financially and otherwise, but the psalmist was not afraid of his persecutors because he stood in awe of God's Word. Once again, we learn that when we fear God, we need not fear anyone else. He respected the Word and rejoiced in the Word at the same time, for the joy of the Lord and the greatness of the Lord are friends, not enemies. The princes wanted to rob him, but he found great wealth in the Word of God (see vv. 14, 72). The promises of God in the Bible are better than money in the bank, because they will never lose their value, and nobody can take them from us. In verse 163, the psalmist expressed hate for lying, falsehood and deceit but love for the Law and the truth of God’s Word. We are instructed in Psalm 97:10 to . Throughout this psalm he reminded us that he loved God's law but hated every false way (vv. 97, 104, 127-128). Here he declared that he loved God's law but hated falsehood. Revelation 21:17; 22:15 also reminds with that “whoever loves and practices a lie will not enter the heavenly city and will be banished from God's presence forever”. Today we are surrounded by the wicked “who breathe out lies”! Instead of being discouraged, we should turn to the truth of God’s law that helps us keep the right focus! In verses 164-165, we observe that the psalmist practiced praise and worship and as a result experience peace and stability. The devoted Jewish worshiper would praise God and pray three times a day (Psalm 55:17; Dan. 6:10-11), but the psalmist went beyond that and worshiped seven times a day. This phrase “seven times a day”, means "often, or “many times”, beyond what is expected." The legalist would set a goal and be proud that he reached it; the Spirit-filled believer sets no goal but goes beyond any goal he might have set. Just as prayer can bring peace to our hearts (Phil. 4:4-7), so praise can bring peace as well. Focusing on the Lord, asking for nothing, and totally lost in our praise of Him, has a way of making the problems look much smaller and the future much brighter. But praise also helps us to have poise in our Christian walk and to not stumble (Jude 24) or cause others to stumble (1 Cor. 8:13; Rom. 14:13). The singing saint is a stable saint, walking on a level path even when the enemy digs pits and sets up obstacles. Finally in verses 166-168, we find the psalmist “hoping” or literally waiting on the LORD for His salvation and deliverance. But while he was “waiting” he continued to be obedient! Like the psalmist, we are waiting for "the salvation of the Lord," when the Lord shall come and set His creation and His people free (Rom. 8:18-25; 13:11; Heb. 9:28; 1 Peter 1:9). This is the "blessed hope" that every believer anticipates and longs for (Titus 2:13). But as we wait and hope, we must walk and work, for we want to be found faithful when Jesus comes (Matt. 24:45-51). Yes, when we love His Word, we will also love His appearing (2 Tim. 4:6-8) and live like those who are ready to meet their Lord (1 John 2:28). We will keep focused on the truth of God’s Word and not be overwhelmed by the deceitfulness of the wicked all around us. God bless!
Psalm 119:153-160 is the twentieth stanza of this psalm, and every line or verse begins with the twentieth letter of the Hebrew alphabet “RESH”, in the Hebrew Bible. Have you noticed that the writer became more urgent as he drew near the end of the psalm? The Hebrew alphabet was about to end, but his trials would continue, and he needed the help of the Lord. The last three stanzas all speak of persecution and trials, yet the writer still trusted the Lord. The higher we climb on the mountain of life the tougher the journey becomes. The older we get both physically and spiritually, we notice that we need the LORD more than ever before to help us and give us strength for the journey of life. The key phrase in this stanza is (vv. 154, 156, 159), which means "give me life, lift me up and keep me going." The psalmist had prayed this prayer before (vv. 25, 37, 40, 88, 107, and 149), and the Lord had answered. Here, he not only prayed but also gave reasons why the Lord should answer. First, we can pray for HE IS OUR REDEEMER (VV. 153-155). is a request for the Lord to "see to" his needs. Abraham used this word when he answered his son's question in Genesis 22:8, "The Lord will see to it," in other words, He will provide the sacrifice. Our wonderful Lord not only "sees" the need but can "see to" providing what is needed. He is our Jehovah Jireh! "The eyes of the Lord are on the righteous, and His ears are open to their cry" (Psalm 34:15; 1 Peter 3:12). The word "redeem" speaks of the kinsman redeemer who could rescue a family member in need, as Boaz rescued Ruth. (See Lev. 25:23-34.) In His incarnation, Jesus entered the human family and became our kinsman, and in the crucifixion, He paid the price to redeem us from sin, death, and hell. " ties in with Jesus as our Kinsman Redeemer and also as our Surety (v. 122), Mediator, and Advocate, who represents us before the throne of God (1 John 2:1-2). In our affliction, it is comforting to know that the Son of God intercedes for us, hears our prayers, and meets our needs. Next, we ask the LORD to because HE IS MERCIFUL (VV. 156-158). If we prayed on the basis of our own merit, God could never answer, but we come to the Father in the name of the Son (John 14:14; 15:16) and with the help of the Spirit (Eph. 2:18; Rom. 8:26-27). God in His grace gives us what we do not deserve, and in His mercy He does not give us what we do deserve. His throne is a throne of grace where grace and mercy are abundantly available to us (Heb. 4:16). The psalmist was still disgusted with the way the unbelievers lived (v. 158; see vv. 53, 136), but their bad example did not change his own convictions. Finally, we pray “revive me”, because HIS WORD CAN BE TRUSTED (VV. 159-160). (v. 160) and this means all of it can be trusted. The totality of God's written revelation is not just true, it is truth. To love the Word is to obey it, and to obey it is to receive life from it. The Bible is not a magic book that conveys divine life to anyone who picks it up and reads it. God's living Word communicates His life and power to those who read it, meditate on it, and obey it because they love God and His Word. When Jesus raised the dead, it was through speaking the Word (Luke 7:11-17; 8:40-56; John 11:38-44; see John 5:24), and His Word gives us life today when we find ourselves in the dust (v. 25). Today, do you need strength for the journey? I assure you that you will find it as you spend time in communion with the LORD and His Word. God bless!
Psalm 119:145-152 is the nineteenth stanza of this psalm, and every line or verse begins with the nineteenth letter of the Hebrew alphabet “QOPH”, in the Hebrew Bible. The writer prayed throughout this entire psalm, but in these verses, he concentrated on prayer and cried out to God day and night. From his experience, we can learn several basic instructions about successful Biblical prayer that will “prime” our hearts to prayerfully seek the LORD! I also suggest that you read good books on prayer by authors such as Elmer Towns, Andrew Murray, E.M. Bounds, and Evelyn Christianson. In verses 145-146, we are reminded that we must PRAY WHOLEHEARTEDLY. Throughout the Scriptures we are taught that we must seek and obey God with our whole heart. John Bunyan said, "In prayer, it is better to have a heart without words than words without a heart". (141:1-2; Rev. 8:3-4). The devotion of the heart is what "ignites" our prayers and enables us to present our requests to the Lord. The phrase "and I will keep" may be translated The psalmist was not bargaining with God, "Answer my prayers and I will obey you", but dedicating himself to God to obey Him no matter how He answers his prayers. Before we can pray as we ought, we must pray for ourselves that God will give us a heart ignited by the fire of the Spirit. We should also PRAY WITHOUT CEASING ACCORDING TO THE WORD (vv. 147-148). Two important elements of successful prayer are involved here. The first is that we constantly cultivate an attitude of prayer and remain in communion with the Lord. At morning and during the watches of the night (sunset to 10 p. m., 10-2, 2 until dawn), the psalmist prayed to the Lord. Jesus called this "abiding" (John 15:1-11). To "pray without ceasing" (1 Thess. 5:17) does not mean to walk around muttering prayers. It means to "keep the receiver off the hook" so that nothing comes between the Father and us. The second element in successful prayer is the Word of God, for apart from God's Word, we cannot know God's will. Each verse in this section mentions the Scriptures and the writer's devotion to God's Word. We must balance the Word and prayer in our devotional life and ministry, for all Bible and no prayer means light without heat, but all prayer and no Bible could result in zeal without knowledge. The spiritual leaders in the early church gave themselves to prayer and the Word (Acts 6:4). When we meditate on the Word, the Father speaks to us, and when we pray, we speak to the Father. We need both instruction and intercession if we are to be balanced children of God. OUR PRAYERS SHOULD BE AN ACT OF OUR LOVE FOR THE LORD (V. 149). This verse combines both love and law, for if we love the Lord, we will keep His commandments. Too often we think of prayer as an emergency measure, rushing into God's presence and crying for help. Prayer is more than asking; prayer is loving. If we love the Word of God, we must also love the God of the Word and express that love to Him. To tell Him we love Him only because we want to receive something is to practice prayer on a juvenile level. When we share our love with the Lord, we receive new life from Him. LASTLY, WE SHOULD PRAY WITH OUR EYES OPEN (VV. 150-152). As he prayed, the psalmist saw his enemies drawing near, so he asked for God to draw near to help him. Jesus (Matt. 26:41; Mark 13:33), Paul (Col. 4:2), and Peter (1 Peter 4:7) commanded God's people to "watch and pray," to be on guard and pray with intelligence and alertness. We are soldiers in a battle and we dare not go to sleep while on duty. If we are not in the Word like we should be, it won’t be long before we will not be praying like we should be. The Word of God and prayer go hand in hand! You really can’t enjoy one without the other. God bless!
Psalm 119:137-144 is the eighteenth stanza of this psalm, and every line or verse begins with the eighteenth letter of the Hebrew alphabet “TSADHE”, in the Hebrew Bible. The Spirit of God uses the Word of God to implant faith in our hearts (Rom. 10:17), and the more we live in God's Word, the stronger our faith will become. Some people have no faith (Mark 4:40), others have little faith (Matt. 8:26; 14:31), and a few have great faith (Matt. 8:10; 15:28). Like a mustard seed, faith has life in it, and if the seed is planted and cultivated, it will grow and bear fruit (Matt. 17:20). Jesus told the two blind men in Matthew 9:29, “…According to your faith let it be to you." The message in this section of the psalm is that you can depend on the Word of God, so that you can have faith in God no matter who or what might be discouraging you. We can place our faith in God’s Word NO MATTER WHAT PEOPLE DO (VV. 137-139). The psalmist had worn himself out trying to convince people to trust God's Word, but they ignored both him and the Scriptures. He must have felt that his ministry had failed, but he had been faithful even as the Word is faithful. God and His Word are righteous and what He says is right. His Word is fully trustworthy. Though intellectual giants may attack it and even ridicule it, the Word stands and will be here long after they are dead, and their books have been forgotten. People may sin and die, but God's righteousness and righteous Word remains (vv. 137, 138, 142, 144). We can place our faith in God’s Word and trust Him NO MATTER WHAT PEOPLE SAY (VV. 140-141). Over many centuries, the Scriptures have been thoroughly tested in the fires of persecution and criticism, the way a goldsmith tests precious metals (Psalms 12:6-7; 18:30), and the Word has been found pure. One of the joys of the Christian life is to find new promises in the Word, test them in daily life, and find them trustworthy. The enemy wants us to forget the Word (v. 139), but we remember the Word and depend on it. The world may look upon God's people as but when you stand on God's promises, you are a giant. We can express our faith and trust and delight in God’s Word REGARDLESS OF HOW WE FEEL (VV. 142-143). We may experience anguish, trouble and distress, as did the psalmist, but we can still find delight in God's truth. Our feelings change but God's Word never changes. God's Word is not only true, it is truth (John 17:17). The Word of God is truth, the Son of God is truth (John 14:6), and the Spirit of God is truth (1 John 5:6). The Spirit of truth wrote the Word of truth, and that Word reveals the Son of God. When your feelings deceive you into concluding that it is not worth it to serve the Lord, immediately turn to the Scriptures and delight in your Lord. We can trust in God’s Word and live a full life NO MATTER HOW LONG WE LIVE (V. 144). Many people exist and are simply surviving but they really aren’t living. Jesus said that He came to give life and to give it more abundantly (John 10:10). Jesus is the eternal living Word of God. To build your life on God's Word means to participate in eternity (Matt. 7:24-29; 1 John 2:17). It is not the length of life but the depth of life that counts, and depth comes from laying hold of God's Word and obeying it. Jesus spent only thirty-three years on this earth, and His public ministry lasted only three years, yet He accomplished a work that is eternal. What matters is not how long we live but how we live! We don’t have to just exist and survive; we can live a life of significance every day if we determine by God’s grace to live a life of faith built on the Truth of God’s Word! God bless!
Psalm 119:129-136 is the seventeenth stanza of this psalm, and every line or verse begins with the seventeenth letter of the Hebrew alphabet “PE”, in the Hebrew Bible. Years ago, as a young believer I wrote in the front cover of my Bible these words, “This book will keep you from sin, or sin will keep you from this book”. And I’ll never forget a preacher preaching a message entitled, “Getting Used to the Dark”. In the eight verses before us today we find that the psalmist is a great example of this truth. This section begins with the wonder of God's Word and ends with the weeping of the writer because the arrogant disobey the Word. When we begin to see the beauty and wonder of the Scriptures, we also begin to understand the ugliness of sin and the cheapness of what the world has to offer. This section describes a "spiritual chain reaction" in the life of the psalmist, one that we can also experience in our lives if we ponder the wonder of God's Word. In verse 129, we see how the wonder of God’s Word leads us to obedience. The psalmist stood in awe at the wonder of God's Word—its harmony, beauty, perfection, practicality, power, and revelations. The longer I read and study the Bible, the more wonderful it becomes, and a God who wrote a book that wonderful deserves my obedience. To obey the Word is to become part of that wonder, to experience power and spiritual transformation in our lives. From verse 130, we observe that obedience leads to understanding. The light of the Word comes into our hearts and minds and brings spiritual insight and understanding (2 Cor. 4:1-6). The word is also translated as in other translations; it means "disclosure" and "opening up" as in Luke 24:32 and 35. When Spirit-led teachers and preachers "open up" the Word, then the light of God's truth shines forth and brings about spiritual transformation (v. 135; 2 Cor. 3:18). Verse 131 shows how understanding leads to deeper desire. As a suffocating person pants for air or a thirsty person for water, so the child of God pants for the Word of God, and nothing else will satisfy. Job said, "I have treasured the words of His mouth more than my necessary food" (Job 23:12). When we lose our desire for God's Word, then we are vulnerable to the substitutes the world has to offer (Isa. 55:1-2). In verse 132, the psalmist deeper desire leads to a greater love for God. Just as children long to share the love of their parents, so the child of God experiences God's love through the Word (John 14:21-24). To love God's name is to love God, for His name reveals all that He is. Then in verses 133-134, we find God's love leads to guidance and freedom. We are free to do what we ought to do rather than what we want to do! Free from sin to serve the Lord and others. Finally in verses 135-136, we experience freedom in Christ that brings us God's blessing. When God hides His face from His people, He is disciplining them (13:1; 80:3-7), but the shining of His face upon them is a sign of His blessing (4:6; 67:1; Num. 6:25). To seek His face is to seek His blessing (v. 58). As we walk with the Lord in freedom, we walk in the light and have nothing to hide. But enjoying His freedom and blessing does not eliminate the burden we carry because of the wickedness in the world (v. 136). A broken heart and a blessed heart can exist in the same person at the same time. Jeremiah wept over the sins of a nation about to be destroyed (Jer. 9:1, 18; 13:17; Lam. 1:16), and Jesus wept over Jerusalem because they had rejected Him (Luke 19:41-44). The apostle Paul wept over lost souls (Rom. 9:1-3) as well as over professed believers in the church who were living for the world and the flesh (Phil. 3:17-21). If our enjoyment of God's Word and God's gracious blessings has truly reached our hearts, then we ought to have a burden for the lost and want to try to reach them for Christ. God bless!
Psalm 119:121-128 is the sixteenth stanza of this psalm, and every line or verse begins with the sixteenth letter of the Hebrew alphabet “AYIN”, in the Hebrew Bible. For the first time, the words "oppressors" and "oppress" appear in this psalm (vv. 121-122). The word describes the abuse of power and authority, taking advantage of the underprivileged by either violence or deceit. The word includes the ideas of accusation and slander. The Jews were commanded not to oppress one another (Lev. 25:14, 17; Deut. 24:5-22), and this included the strangers in the land (Ex. 22:2; 23:9). Often, God's people suffer oppression while the guilty go free. When that happens, we need to remember the Lord and what He does for us. When we are being oppressed, we should remember that THE LORD IS THE REWARDER (V. 111). The psalmist was not boasting but affirming to the Lord that he was not guilty of anything that deserved punishment. He was a man of integrity who had a clear conscience; he had treated others justly and had practiced God's holy laws diligently. That in itself was a blessing, but God's people long to see justice reigning on the earth. When God rewards His people, it is a witness to sinners that their day of judgment is certain (Psalm 58:10-11). "Therefore do not cast away your confidence, which has great reward" (Heb. 10:35). Most of all, we need to be assured that THE LORD IS OUR SURETY (V. 122). A person became surety when he or she pledged to pay another person's debt or fulfill a promise. When Jacob refused to allow Benjamin to go to Egypt for food with his brothers, it was Judah who willingly became surety for his youngest brother (Gen. 43:1-10; 44:18-34). Judah's passionate speech before his brother in Egypt assured Joseph that Judah had truly experienced a change of heart and that it was safe to reveal his identity to the men. To become surety for a friend's debts is forbidden in Scripture, lest you end up with a burden greater than you can handle (Prov. 11:15; 17:18; 22:26-27). But the Son of God became surety for those who have trusted Him! (Heb. 7:22). No matter how many promises we might make to the Lord, we can never fulfill them. But in His death on the cross, Jesus has paid the debt for us, and in His ministry of intercession at the throne in heaven, He is our living Surety. As long as He lives, our salvation is secure, and He lives "by the power of an endless life" (Heb. 7:16). So, no matter what people do to us and no matter how we feel, our Surety is secure and we remain in the family of God. Jesus has taken the responsibility for our salvation, and He will never fail. Finally, we should remember that THE LORD IS OUR MASTER AND THE FINAL JUDGE (VV. 123-128). Whenever people attack us, they also attack the Lord, for we belong to Him. When Saul of Tarsus persecuted Christians on earth, He also persecuted their Lord in heaven (Acts 9:1-5). God cares for His servants. He does not always prevent us from being oppressed, but He always has a good reason for permitting it to happen. He is a loving Master who teaches us His will and gives us the discernment we need to handle the problems of life. Even more, He gives us promises that we can claim and thereby find the strength and wisdom we need. As God's servants, we do not live by explanations; we live by promises. In our impatience, we sometimes want God to work immediately and set everything right, but His ways and times are not always the same as ours. Faith and patience go together (Heb. 6:12), and God's delays are not God's denials. The day will come when the truth will be revealed and sin will be judged; meanwhile, instead of complaining about what we have paid or lost, let us rejoice in the wealth that we have in God's Word, wealth that can never be taken from us. All of God's precepts concerning all things are always right, so we can depend on the Scriptures and have the guidance that we need. God bless!
Psalm 119:113-120 is the fifteenth stanza of this psalm, and every line or verse begins with the fifteenth letter of the Hebrew alphabet “SAMEKH”, in the Hebrew Bible. It is obvious from this passage that the psalmist is dealing with the enemy of his fellowship with the LORD, who is trying to drag him back into the world with his lies and deceit. If the life of faith consisted only of meditating on the Word and loving God, life would be easy, but people of faith have enemies, and life in this world is not easy. "Through many tribulations we enter the kingdom of God" (Acts 14:22). In my Bible I have a name written next to verse 113 that reminds me of something that took place over 27 years ago in our ministry. I was the new pastor at Rainbow Forest in Troutville and at that time I would have everyone stand for the reading from God’s Word and we were reading eight verses each Sunday from Psalm 119. That particular Sunday we were reading Psalm 119:113-120. There was a dear lady who was a first time visitor in attendance and when we read, she was stricken with conviction that she was a double-minded person and needed to get right with the LORD. She called me that week and came in to talk with us and she received the Lord as her Savior and dedicated her life to Him. She later went overseas as a missionary and was wonderfully used of the Lord to touch many people. Wow! One verse from this passage changed a whole lot of lives for the glory of God! In these verses the psalmist gives us four assurances that will help us face the enemy with courage and win the battle. First, we can be assured that GOD PROTECTS HIS PEOPLE (VV. 113-115). The "double-minded" were the people who were undecided and therefore uncommitted to the Lord (1 Kings 18:21; James 1:8; 4:8). Today, we would call them "halfhearted." The psalmist knew that his shelter and shield was the Lord alone, and he trusted in Him. He is not hiding in the Lord from fear of facing the enemy, because he addresses the enemy in verse 115. Only in the Lord could he find the help he needed. The Lord protects us that He might equip us to face the enemy and fight the battle. The psalmist had his heart set on the Lord (v. 112), so there was no need to reconsider the matter. It was settled! Second, we can be sure that GOD UPHOLDS THE OBEDIENT (VV. 116-117). The word “uphold” in verse 116, is sometimes translated “sustain”. “Sustain" pictures the believer leaning on the Lord for support and rest, while "hold me up" in verse 117, gives the idea of giving aid and refreshment. When we feel like falling down and just giving up, the Lord comes to our aid in ways we could never fully understand. Next, we need to remember that GOD REJECTS THE WICKED (VV. 118-119). God's people in the Old Testament fought their enemies with swords and slings, but God's people today use the sword of the Spirit (Eph. 6:17; Heb. 4:12). It is a conflict between truth and lies, and God's truth must prevail. The writer described the enemy as sheep that had gone astray (vv. 10, 21, 176) and as cheap dross that must be discarded (Prov. 25:4; 26:23; Isa. 1:22, 25). God in His judgments purifies the saints but reveals the wickedness of the sinners, the way the refiner's furnace reveals the dross (Jer. 6:28-30; Ezek. 22:18-19; Mal. 3:2-3). (v. 118) means that the thoughts and plans of the wicked are based on lies, but they are only deceiving themselves because their plans will fail. Finally, we should keep in mind that GOD ALONE SHOULD BE FEARED (V. 120). The fear of the Lord is the fear that conquers every fear. (Heb. 13:6). This takes us back to verse 113: if we are single-minded, we will fear only the Lord and trust Him. (1 Samuel 17:47). God bless!
It has well been said that the greatest ability is availability along with dependability, and this especially applies to the Christian life. We want God to be faithful to us, so is it wrong for God to expect us to be faithful to Him? Faithfulness is an evidence of faith, and faith comes from hearing and receiving the Word of God (Rom. 10:17; 2 Thess. 2:13). From this stanza we learn several areas of our lives as believers that we should be faithful in. WE SHOULD HAVE FAITHFUL FEET (V. 105). Two familiar biblical images combine in this verse: life is a path (vv. 32, 35, 101, 128; 16:11; 23:3; 25:4) and God's Word is the light that helps us follow the right path (v. 130; 18:28; 19:8; 36:9; 43:3; Prov. 6:23; 2 Peter 1:19). The ancient world did not have lights such as we have today; the people carried little clay dishes containing oil, and the light illuminated the path only one step ahead. We do not see the whole route at one time, for we walk by faith when we follow the Word. Each act of obedience shows us the next step, and eventually we arrive at the appointed destination. We are told that this is "an enlightened age," but we live in a dark world (John 1:5; 3:19; 8:12; 12:46; Col. 1:13; 1 Peter 2:9) and only God's light can guide us aright. Obedience to the Word keeps us walking in the light (1 John 1:5-10). WE SHOULD HAVE FAITHFUL WORDS (VV. 106-108). Making vows constantly to the Lord will not lift us to the highest levels of Christian living (Rom. 7:14-8:4), but when we do make promises to the Lord or to our friends, we should keep them (Matt. 5:33-37; Num. 30:2; Deut. 23:21; Eccl. 5:1-7). The Holy Spirit can help us fulfill new resolutions if we depend on His power. What we say when we are praying (v. 107) should also be truthful. To talk to God piously without being willing to obey Him in the matters we are praying about is to bring hypocrisy into our fellowship with God. After we have prayed, are we available to be a part of the answer (Eph. 3:20-21)? Perhaps the highest use of speech is in the worship of the Lord (v. 108), and we must see our words as sacrifices offered to the Lord (Hos. 14:1-2; Heb. 13:15). Do we sing to Him from the heart (Eph. 5:19)? Do we mean the words that we pray, sing, and read aloud from the litany? If worship is the highest use of words, then to be careless in worship is to commit a great sin. WE SHOULD HAVE A FAITHFUL MEMORY (VV. 109-110). The Old Testament believer did not have a pocket Bible that he could consult at will, for the Scriptures were written on large scrolls and deposited with the priests. This meant that the people had to listen carefully to the public reading of the Word and remember what they heard, an art that has almost vanished today. One of the ministries of the Holy Spirit is to bring God's Word to our remembrance when we need it (John 14:25-26; 16:12-15), but we cannot remember what we have never heard and learned (v. 11; Heb. 5:12-14). The psalmist was taking risks, just as we all do as we walk through the mine fields of this world, but he knew the Word would direct him. And finally, WE SHOULD CULTIVATE A FAITHFUL HEART (VV. 111-112). What a precious treasure is the Word of God! (vv. 14, 72, 127, 162; 61:5). It is like a deep mine, filled with gold, silver, and precious gems, and we must take time to "dig" for these treasures (Prov. 2:1-9; 3:13-15; 8:10-11; 1 Cor. 3:9-23). A mere surface reading of Scripture will not put spiritual treasure into our hearts. Mining treasure is hard work, but it is joyful work when we "mine" the Bible, as the Spirit guides us into truth. Then, the Spirit helps us to "mint" the treasure so we can invest it in our lives by obedience and be a witness in the lives of others. My friend, once our hearts are set on obeying the Word, our lives will “faithfully” be on the right course (Matt. 6:33; Prov. 4:20-27). God bless!
Psalm 119:97-104 is the thirteenth stanza of this psalm, and every line or verse begins with the thirteenth letter of the Hebrew alphabet “MEM”, in the Hebrew Bible. As I read these eight verses, I couldn’t help but see a connection between this Hebrew letter “MEM” and the main theme found in them. Honestly, I have no evidence that the Hebrew letter has anything to do with this, but these eight verses are a great encouragement for us to “mem”orize and meditate daily on the Law, Commandments, Testimonies, Precepts, Judgements, the Word of God. Did you notice everyone of these descriptions of God’s Word are found in this stanza. Never have there been so many tools available for serious Bible study, and we are grateful for them. However, the Word of God is unlike any other book: we must be on good terms with the Author if we are to learn from what He has written. Our relationship to the Lord is determined by our relationship to His will, and that is determined by how we relate to His Word. Too many believers have only academic head knowledge of the Word, but they do not know how to put this knowledge into practice in the decisions of daily life. What we all need is a heart knowledge of the Word, and this means being taught by God (v. 102). Here are the conditions we must meet. WE MUST LOVE HIS WORD AND MEDITATE ON IT (VV. 97-100). We enjoy thinking about people and activities that we love, and meditation means loving the Lord by pondering His Word and allowing its truths to penetrate our hearts. (See vv. 48, 113, 127, 159, 165, 167; and 1:2.) This does not mean that we abandon our daily responsibilities or that we constantly quote Bible verses to ourselves and ignore our work. Rather, it means that our minds and hearts are so yielded to the Spirit that He can remind us of the Word when we need it and give us fresh understanding in the new challenges we face. There are many ways to learn truth. We can learn from our enemies in the encounters of life (v. 98), from our teachers in the explanations of life from books and lessons (v. 99), and from the older saints who have had the experiences of life and know the principles that work (v. 100). Joshua learned from serving with Moses, from the battles that he fought, and from the experiences, good and bad, that came to his life. But the most important thing he did was to meditate on the Word (Josh. 1:1-9), because his meditation helped him to test what he had learned in the other three "classrooms" and to put it all together into one balanced whole. God shares His truth with babes (Luke 10:21) and those who are humble enough to receive it (1 Cor. 1:18-2:8). WE MUST OBEY HIS WORD (VV. 101-102). A true student of the Word is not a person with a big head, full of all sorts of knowledge, but one who has an obedient heart and loves to do God's will. While God's truth is food for our souls, it is not a "buffet" from which we select only the things we like. If the Bible tells us something is wrong, we stay off that path. If God tells us something is right, we do not abandon it. WE MUST ENJOY HIS WORD (VV. 103-104). Honey would be the sweetest thing the psalmist could taste. However, the Word contains both sweetness and bitterness, and we must learn to receive both (19:10; 104:34; Prov. 16:24; Ezek. 2:9-3:15; Rev. 10). God's Word is pure, not defiled, and gives us the sweetness and energy we need to obey His commands. The unsaved person finds the Bible boring, but the devoted child of God feeds on the Scriptures and enjoys the sweet taste of truth. Jesus said, “The words that I speak to you are spirit and they are life” (John 6:63). May the LORD give us grace today to meditate on His Word, internalize it, and in obedience take it with us wherever we go! And then, we will be able to say with the psalmist, “For You Yourself have taught me.” God bless!
Psalm 119:89-96 is the twelfth stanza of this psalm, and every line or verse begins with the twelfth letter of the Hebrew alphabet “LAMEDH”, in the Hebrew Bible. We live in a changing world. To younger people, change is a treat, but to older folks, change is a threat. We like to relax in our comfort zone and resist the dramatic changes going on around us and within us. But if we do, we fail to grow spiritually and we miss the opportunities God gives us to reach others with the Gospel. The psalmist made some wonderful affirmations in this section, which if heeded, will anchor us to the eternal and enable us to be used of God during these turbulent times. First in verse 89, he affirms that GOD'S WORD IS SETTLED, it is the “forever” Word! Ever since Satan asked Eve, "Indeed, has God said...?" (Gen. 3:1), the enemy has been attacking the Word of God. Atheists, agnostics, philosophers, scientists, and garden-variety sinners of all kinds have ignored the Bible, laughed at it, and tried to do away with it, but it still stands. Though born in eternity, God's Word is rooted in history and speaks to every generation that will listen. The Word is (v. 152) and (v. 162). Build your life on the Word of God and you will weather all the changes of life! Next, the psalmist affirms that GOD IS FAITHFUL (v. 90a). Pause and read Psalm 90 and see what Moses had to say about the eternal God and the changes of life. From generation to generation, He is God, and we can commit ourselves, our children, our grandchildren, and our great-grandchildren to His care. Also, GOD'S CREATION IS ESTABLISHED (vv. 90b-91). Until that last day when God's fire purifies all things and He ushers in a new heaven and earth (2 Peter 3; Rev. 21-22), this present creation will stand. The laws that He built into creation will also stand, whether scientists understand them or not. People may abuse and waste the earth and its resources, but God's creation will continue to serve the Creator. Everything in creation serves the Lord except human beings made in the image of God. What a tragedy! This is still our Father's world and we can trust Him to manage it wisely. In God’s “forever Word”, we find HIS PEACE AND LIFE. (vv. 92-95). We do not go to the Bible to escape the realities of life but to be strengthened to face life and serve God effectively. We may not be able to delight in what is going on in the world, but we can delight in what God says in His Word. The Word equips us to deal with the changes of life and the crises that come. The verb "sought out" in verse 94 means "to consult, to inquire, to beat a path, to read repeatedly. The psalmist beat a path to the Bible, read it over and over, studied it, and when he had to make a decision, consulted it carefully. Philosophies change, political expedients fail, promises and contracts are broken, but the Word of God still stands. Finally, the psalmist affirms that we can TRUST GOD FOR THE IMPOSSIBLE (v. 96). Whatever mankind does will never, reach perfection, because our human work comes from our limited mind, strength, and ability. In contrast to the limits of mankind, God's Word and works have no limits. His ”, His Word is ”, limitless, boundless, immeasurable. Though Jesus lived, taught, and died in the little land of Palestine, His life and ministry have reached a whole world. We may not like all the changes going on in the world, but we need not be frustrated and afraid. God is on the throne; He holds the world in His hands; His promises can never fail; so, let's get moving and remember Ephesians 3:20, “Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us”. God bless!
81 My soul faints for Your salvation, But I hope in Your word. 82 My eyes fail from searching Your word, Saying, "When will You comfort me?" 83 For I have become like a wineskin in smoke, Yet I do not forget Your statutes. 88 Revive me according to Your lovingkindness, So that I may keep the testimony of Your mouth. Psalm 119:81-88 is the eleventh stanza of this psalm, and every line or verse begins with the eleventh letter of the Hebrew alphabet “KAPH”, in the Hebrew Bible. The focus is on the responses of the believer while he waited for the Lord to judge his enemies and deliver him from persecution and danger. His oppressors were also the enemies of the Lord and of Israel, so his concern was more than personal. Satan has been seeking to exterminate the Jews (v. 87) since the time the nation was in Egypt, and he will continue until the end-times (Rev. 12). The Christian life is a battleground, not a playground and we must expect tribulation (John 16:33). In verses 81-83, the anonymous psalmist is FAINTING BUT HOPING IN GOD’S WORD. His inner person was exhausted from longing for God to work. His eyes were strained from watching for some evidence of His presence (Lam. 2:11). He felt like a dried-up wineskin in smoke that had been thrown aside as useless. The psalmist felt like that wineskin. The smoke was the penetrating, pervasive, polluting influence of the world. He felt contaminated by its atmosphere. Worse, he felt that God could no longer use him. The wine of salvation, the water of the Word—how could it be poured out from him? The bad odor of the world spoiled everything. He needed restoration. However, he never gave up hope, for no matter how dark the hour, the future is our friend because Jesus is our Lord. I like this quote: "It is always too soon to quit". In verses 84-85, the psalmist was QUESTIONING BUT WAITING. In verse 84 he asked, (ESV), and in verses 82 and 84 he asked . These questions have often been asked by suffering saints, even by the martyrs in heaven (Rev. 6:9-11), because they are the natural response of people who are suffering. (See Jer. 12:3-4; 15:15; and 20:11-12.) It is difficult for most of us to wait for the things we can see, such as a traffic jam to end, a checkout line to speed up, an important letter or e-mail to arrive, and it is even more difficult to wait for our unseen Lord to work out His will. It is through "faith and patience" that we inherit what God has appointed for us (Hebrews 6:12). A good verse to remember in the dark times is Romans 15:4, “For whatever things were written before were written for our learning, that we through the patience and comfort of the Scriptures might have hope.” James reminds us that we should count it all joy when we face trials, tribulations and temptations, knowing that they will produce patience if we trust in the Lord (James 1:3-4). The enemy may be digging pits, but the Lord will see to it that they fall into them first (Proverbs 26:27). Finally, we find the psalmist TRUSTING AND BEING REVIVED by the thought of the LORD’s lovingkindness. (vv. 86-88). Is the enemy spreading lies about you? God's Word is dependable and can be trusted (Psalm 119:128, 142, 151, 160). Do you feel like your defeat is very near? Rest on His promises and rely on His love. Always remember when the Father allows His children to go into the furnace of affliction, He keeps His eye on the clock and His hand on the thermostat. He knows how long and how much. To walk by sight and feelings will bring us unrest and weakness, but to meditate on the Word will bring us peace and power. Once again, the psalmist prayed to be revived and the Lord gave him grace to keep the testimony of His Word (v. 88). And He will do the same for us when we trust Him! God bless!