Daily Psalms – Psalm 76

Daily Psalm Reading – Psalm 76-80

Thank you to those who have reached out over the last week. It was pretty crazy with travel and family commitments. But now we return to our (mostly) daily posts from Psalms. Today we focus on Psalm 76.

Psalm 76 is a song of peace and salvation, though it may not look like it upon initial reading. It’s easy to read about Zion here and think this song is only about Jerusalem, the promised land, or some battle fought there. But we forget that Zion serves as a symbol for God’s sovereignty in all times and all places. That includes the world we live in today, as well as the new heavens and new earth to come (Rev. 21:1-4).

With this view of the Psalm, we are introduced to a God who is sovereign and is on a mission!

There he shatters the bow’s flaming arrows,
the shield, the sword, and the weapons of war.

Psalm 76:3 CSB

Where God is sovereign (which is everywhere) he is in the business of peace. This includes caring after the widow, orphan, and foreigner (Deut. 10:18), but also includes ending, and eliminating war (Isa. 2:4). It is God who shelters us and shatters the enemies efforts.

In verse 6 the psalmist reminds us of God’s efforts in the past, specifically the Exodus when Israel couldn’t fight, but God fought for them hurling horse and rider in the sea (Ex. 15:1). We are reminded through verses 7-10 of God’s might and justice that cannot be stopped (“Who can stand before you?”). And finally the summarizing point of the psalm:

Make and keep your vows
to the LORD your God;
let all who are around him bring tribute
to the awe-inspiring one.
He humbles the spirit of leaders;
he is feared by the kings of the earth.

Psalm 76:11-12 CSB

We must respond to the fact that God is sovereign in all the world! This isn’t some nugget of knowledge to stash away in our brains for future use. This is a call to live our lives in submission to him. God’s sovereignty should affect our interactions with others, our approach to the world, our pursuit of peace, the way we lead, the way we govern, the way we worship…the list is endless. God’s sovereignty should touch every aspect of our lives. And if it doesn’t, then we are living in rebellion against God. I’d like to share a quote from the New Interpreter’s Bible Commentary on this psalm:

“…Psalm 76 is finally an invitation to live under God’s sovereignty (v. 11), to adopt God’s values and God’s ways (vv. 8-9). But to stand for justice and peace in a world filled with war and injustice requires a particular understanding of sovereignty. God’s sovereignty is exercised not as sheer force but as the power of love. The world does not understand this kind of power, but it is power nonetheless (see 1 Cor 1:25). The invitation in v. 11 is ultimately an invitation to respond to God’s love.”

New Interpreter’s Bible Commentary – Vol. III, pg. 514

We have been invited to stand with God, or stand against him. To live under his reign, or in opposition to it. The choice is ours. To quote the old hymn, “What will your answer be?”

Daily Psalms – Psalm 22

Daily Psalm Reading – Psalm 21-25

Psalm 22 is a psalm every follower of Jesus should meditate on frequently. It’s one of my “go to” places for meditation on the crucifixion of Jesus. Just a quick reading should draw the minds of most people to the cross, but the writers of the Gospel specifically wanted their readers to recognize that Jesus was the suffering Messiah of Psalm 22. The Gospels quote this psalm extensively throughout the Passion narrative.

My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?

Psalm 22:1 CSB

Matthew 27:46 and Mark 15:33 include Jesus quoting these words from the cross. I read somewhere that this psalm was “the death psalm” and every devout Jew wanted to die while reciting it. But I think there’s more to this quote than just that. When the one who had no sin was made sin for our benefit (2 Cor. 5:21), it distanced Jesus from the Father in a way he had never experienced. A closeness we can only dream of was destroyed because of our sin. And in that moment Jesus felt the distance, felt alone, and felt abandoned.

Everyone who sees me mocks me;
they sneer and shake their heads:
“He relies on the Lord;
let him save him;
let the Lord rescue him,
since he takes pleasure in him.”

Psalm 22:7-8 CSB

Matthew 27:39-44, Mark 15:29, and Luke 23:35 all include elements of these mockers shaking their heads and hurling insults. Part of the crucifixion process was public shaming. If they wanted you dead they could just use a sword. Crucifixion usually lasted a long time and included being stripped naked (see 22:17), as well as insults from accusers being hurled upon you as you died.

It’s always struck me that Jesus could have done exactly what the accusers said. “Let the LORD rescue him.” It certainly could have happened, but would the accusers really have believed? And if Jesus did come down from the cross and the accusers did believe, then our sin would remain because Jesus would not have conquered death. No doubt Jesus wanted them to believe, and Satan knew that too. Even on the cross there is a temptation for Jesus to take the easy way out. Yet his love for us held him there.

My strength is dried up like baked clay;
my tongue sticks to the roof of my mouth.
You put me into the dust of death.

Psalm 22:15 CSB

NIV renders the first line of this verse: “My mouth is dried up like a potsherd…” but both translations show that there seems to be a dry mouth at play. No doubt Jesus would have been dehydrated and thirsty. John 19:28 recalls Jesus crying out because of thirst.

For dogs have surrounded me;
a gang of evildoers has closed in on me;
they pierced my hands and my feet.

Psalm 22:16 CSB

We read verse 16 and instantly think of the cross. What we may not realize is that crucifixion wasn’t even invented when this psalm was written! What would it mean to pierce hand and foot? The Holy Spirit knew as he inspired these words to be written in a time when they didn’t make sense in their immediate context.

They divided my garments among themselves,
and they cast lots for my clothing.

Psalm 22:18 CSB

All four Gospels include this detail about the soldiers at the foot of the cross. (Mt. 27:35, Mk. 15:24, Lk. 23:34, Jn. 19:23-24) Cloth was valuable. Jesus certainly didn’t have much in the way of earthly possessions, and even what he had was taken from him. Afterall, what good will clothes do for a dead man?

They will come and declare his righteousness;
to a people yet to be born
they will declare what he has done.

Psalm 22:31 CSB

We now have the responsibility of fulfilling Psalm 22. Jesus went to the cross for us. We don’t have to worry about that part. But we do have the responsibility to tell future generations of his goodness! We must declare what Jesus has done!

Every verse of this psalm points to something in the ministry, death, or resurrection of Jesus. I praise God for passages like this that tell the story of the Messiah hundreds of years before his birth. Now let us tell his story hundreds of years after his death and resurrection! Blessings.

Daily Psalms – Psalm 19

Daily Psalm Reading – Psalm 16-20

This month I’m reading through the Psalms in my CSB (Christian Standard Bible) translation. It’s an updated version of the Holman Christian Standard Bible. I appreciate reading the Bible in various translations because it helps me see nuances in the text that I miss when I stay with one translation. Your mileage may vary, however. Just giving you the heads up that the Scriptures I quote will come from the CSB this month.

Psalm 19 points out very clearly that Yahweh is knowable from the evidence in his creation. It doesn’t require a seminary degree to understand and learn about him. Just look at nature!

The heavens declare the glory of God, 
and the expanse proclaims the work of his hands. 
Day after day they pour out speech; 
night after night they communicate knowledge. 
There is no speech; there are no words; 
their voice is not heard. 
Their message has gone out to the whole earth, 
and their words to the ends of the world. 

Psalm 19:1-4 CSB

Even though creation cannot speak, it is still proclaiming the “message” of our God. But creation isn’t the only knowledge we have of Yahweh. We learn and are transformed by his instruction and testimony (v. 7), his precepts and commands (v. 8), and through the fear the LORD, and his ordinances (v. 9).

The psalmist reminds us that this isn’t a burden, but rather a desirable and sweet pursuit that leads to an abundant reward. (v. 10-11) The psalm closes with a brief prayer asking for forgiveness and concludes with a brief benediction focusing on the psalm itself.

I believe Psalm 19 to be an excellent reminder of how we are to live our lives. My wife and I frequently remind our children to “look for God” in various situations. Did you see anyone acting in a godly way? Can you see where God did something big? Who is acting like Jesus in this situation?

One of the blessings of living in West Texas is the amazing sunrises and even better sunsets. It’s hard to look into the sky in the morning or night and not see our God’s majesty. I sometimes wonder if we would do a better job caring for creation if we remembered that it reflects the glory of the creator.

We need to study the Scriptures to understand more fully how we are to reflect the image of our God in this world. The Bible isn’t a tiresome rule book; it is a story that equips you to live the life you were made for. Learn that story. Embrace it, and live it out as a testimony to the power and sovereignty of our God.

Finally, we need to be repentant of both willful and unintentional sins. Some of us just bounce through life with very little thought to how our decisions and actions reflect upon the reputation of Jesus in the world. I believe one of the biggest barriers to non believers coming to Christ is how un-christlike Christians tend to be. We need to remember that when we claim to follow Jesus, our actions teach others about him. Let’s make sure we’re teaching them the right lesson.

The psalmist reminds us that we even need forgiveness from our “hidden faults.” Perhaps this is secret sin, but I take it as the wrongs we do every day that we don’t even realize. Who have I harmed unintentionally? Who have I cheated by not thinking? Again, what message does it send to the server at the restaurant when you come to eat after worship with your family, you demand lots of attention at your table, and then you don’t leave a tip? Is that what we want people to know about Jesus?

My prayer is that we can all let our lives be “the message” that goes out into the whole earth. Let our words and our actions be an accurate testimony to what Jesus has done in our lives. Let us truly love our neighbor as ourselves in every aspect of life. Let us do so humbly, and joyfully!

May the words of my mouth
and the meditation of my heart
be acceptable to you,
Lord, my rock and my Redeemer.

Psalm 19:14 CSB

Daily Psalms – Psalm 146

Daily Psalm Reading – Psalm 146-150

Psalm 146 is one of my favorites. As the psalter comes to a close today, we are reminded of many important beliefs and practices through these praise psalms.

I attended a funeral service yesterday that was life changing for all who were present. It was a celebration of a Christ-centered life well lived. As I read this psalm this morning I couldn’t help but recall all of these themes from yesterday’s service.

I will praise the LORD all my life;
    I will sing praise to my God as long as I live.

Psalm 146:2 NIV

We are called to praise our God as long as we live, no matter what life holds. In the good times and the bad, in joy and sorrow, in health and in death, we are to praise God!

Do not put your trust in princes,
    in human beings, who cannot save.
When their spirit departs, they return to the ground;
    on that very day their plans come to nothing.

Psalm 146:3-4 NIV

Life is short. We are all from dust and to dust return. Nothing in this life lasts, therefore our trust should be in God alone.

He is the Maker of heaven and earth,
    the sea, and everything in them—
    he remains faithful forever.

Psalm 146:6 NIV

This is difficult to remember at times. When chaos seems to affect our lives it’s difficult to remember God is faithful. Yet he always has, and always will be faithful and we are called to join him in this faithfulness. No matter what life hands, no matter how much hurt or pain or destruction comes in this life, God is faithful. We are called to be faithful as he is faithful.

The LORD watches over the foreigner
    and sustains the fatherless and the widow,
    but he frustrates the ways of the wicked.

Psalm 146:9 NIV

This is a key theme throughout the Hebrew Scriptures. God is one who looks after the widow, orphan, and foreigner. We are called to do the same. God is compassionate and cares for those in need. We are called to do the same.

Today I am thankful for who God is and for what he has done. Though I don’t always understand why things work out the way they do, he is sovereign and faithful. He loves the sinners and abhors the sin. He cares for the needy and those whom society has forgotten. He is faithful forever, and loves us in spite of our faults. And he calls us to be just like him. And for that we praise the LORD.

The Elephant In The Room

There’s an old story of three blind men who are led to different parts of an elephant. One feels the tail and thinks it’s a paint brush. One feels the leg and thinks it’s a tree. One feels the ear and thinks it is a large leaf. By the information that each person had they made their best judgement. But when they got together and compared information they realized that none of them had the full picture. Then they worked together to find the head which clearly revealed that there was an elephant in the room.

This Sunday we will be exploring 4 difficult texts that address women serving in the church (1 Corinthians 11 & 14, 1 Timothy 2 & 5). Much confusion and hurt has come from attempts to apply these texts in the history of the church. What is ok to do? What is not ok to do? And often we judge people who come to a different understanding that we do. Many times I’ve heard disagreements over Scripture summarized by someone saying, “They just don’t follow the plain reading of Scripture.” But do any of us really do that?

I think the bigger issue is not the texts themselves, but how we read those texts. All of us come to Scripture with existing biases. I read Scripture through the eyes of a white, middle class, married father of three, living in rural West Texas. That is my perspective. Someone who is middle eastern, impoverished, single, living in Europe will naturally see things differently than I do simply because of their background and surroundings. They view the world differently than I do, and that’s a good thing!

Proverbs reminds us that there is wisdom in having “many advisors” when seeking to make decisions. If I am looking at something alone, I only see things from my point of view. But if I talk about it with others who have differing views I can begin to see more of the picture.

Some have suggested that addressing controversial texts does no good. “It means what it says and says what it means, and that settles it!” But it doesn’t settle things, does it? The greatest clarity of Scripture I have ever found has come when discussing the text with people who have differing views. Though I may not agree with everything they see, I always walk away with a greater understanding of their view, my view, and most importantly the text. Just this week a new detail stood out to me in 1 Timothy 2 because I was talking with someone about the text. I’ve been reading 1 Timothy several times a week for nearly a year, and I noticed something I had never considered before because I was willing to sit down and discuss the text with someone.

I have no doubt that Sunday morning God is going to do powerful things for us, and through us as we study his word together. I also believe that all of us will see things that we haven’t seen in these texts before. My prayer is that we all listen to the voices of “many advisors,” reexamine our view in light of others, but most importantly we consider what the Scripture actually says, and grow in the grace and wisdom of the Lord. And when we do this cooperatively in community, maybe then we will better identify the elephant in the room.

See you Sunday!

Daily Psalms – Psalm 133

Daily Psalm Reading – Psalm 131-135

Today we conclude the psalms of ascents, and continue toward the end of book 5. Have you noticed how this portion of the psalter focuses far more on praise and worship than lament? Psalm 133 has been a favorite of mine since the first time I encountered it. Let’s look at it together.

How good and pleasant it is
    when God’s people live together in unity!

Psalm 133:1 NIV

Unity in God is a blessing that descends to us from our God. Keep in mind this is a psalm of ascent, so this is sung as people from all over go up together to worship. In the context of ancient Israel, this is a reminder, or a pleading for the whole of Israel to be unified. Today all of Christendom needs to hear this plead. As Paul would remind us:

There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.

Ephesians 4:4-6 NIV

Our English translations miss a little theme here in verses 2-3. NIV uses “running down”, “running down,” and “falling on” throughout this Psalm. It’s the same Hebrew word each time , “yarad” which is “descending.”

The imagery of mountains could either be people of high standing (Mt. Hermon the highest mountain) and Mount Zion (much lower in elevation but obviously of great importance to God), or people from the northern kingdom (Hermon) and people from Judah (Zion).

Whatever the psalmist intended, it is clearly a blessing from on high when all who follow our God are one. This blessing is like an anointing that descends to lower places from the head to the beard to the collar. The same blessing descends on the elevated like Mount Hermon and also descends on the lower Mount Zion.

Don’t forget that God blesses the high and the lowly. Our churches are not to be country clubs or exclusive holy huddles/cliques where the select few get to hang out. It is for everyone, high or low, to come together in unity.

“For there the LORD bestows his blessing, even life forevermore.”

Psalm 133:3 NIV

Blessings to you.

DAILY PSALM – PSALM 121

Daily Psalm Reading – 121-125

I lift up my eyes to the mountains—
    where does my help come from?
My help comes from the LORD,
    the Maker of heaven and earth.

Psalm 121:1-2 NIV

Saturday night in our family devotional we discussed Romans 14:7-8. The question I asked of my family was, “What is our only hope in life and death?” Answer: Our Savior, Jesus Christ.

Yesterday as I gathered to worship with my church family, I was reminded of these verses. We sang a newer song called In the Harbor (All Will Be Well) where I was reminded once again that we have no hope unless we are anchored in the Lord.

This morning begins the songs of ascent in our psalm reading. The first song of ascent, Psalm 121 reminds me once again that my help comes from Yahweh.

This psalm is antithetical to diest view. If you are unfamiliar with the term, deists believe there is a divine being, but he is completely removed from the world and has nothing to do with it. A popular illustration of this view is this god as a clockmaker. He makes the clock, winds it, sits it on a shelf, and has nothing more to do with it. This is not our God!

Each phrase of the psalm reminds us of Yahweh’s involvement in our lives. He won’t let our foot slip (v. 3), he watches over his people (v. 4), he gives us shade (v. 5), keeps us from harm (v. 6), watches over our lives (v. 7), and will do so forever more (v. 8).

Don’t believe the lie that God is in retirement, no longer in the God business, or not involved with us in any way. That view is inaccurate and unscriptural! He is the only source of our hope. He is the only one who cares for and sustains us. Without him we would be nothing, but in him we have everything we need. As the old song says, “There is a God, He is alive, in Him we live, and we survive.”

My prayer is that we all see God at work in our lives, in our families, and in our communities today. Look for him, for he is there!