Daily Psalms – Psalm 84

Daily Psalm Reading – Psalm 81-85

How happy are those who reside in your house,
who praise you continually. Selah

Psalm 84:4 CSB

Psalm 84, perhaps my favorite of the songs of Zion, focuses on this point. Being in the presence of God, where he resides, is our ultimate goal and longing.

The psalmist begins by proclaiming a desire to be where the presence of Yahweh is, and then moves into an almost play-by-play of a pilgrim traveling to the temple (vs. 5-10). Each verse brings us closer and closer to God’s presence until the arrival in the temple courts.

Better a day in your courts than a thousand anywhere else.
I would rather stand at the threshold of the house of my God
than live in the tents of wicked people.

Psalm 84:10 CSB

The presence of Yahweh dwelt in the temple. In the Israelite context, do draw near to God meant a pilgrimage to the temple. But to the Christian, you and I are now the temple of the Holy Spirit of God because of the atoning blood of Jesus (Eph. 2:19-22; 1 Pet. 2:4ff).

So how do we encounter the presence of God? It starts with Jesus. We can only enter through Christ. His life, ministry, death, and resurrection was the fulfillment of the promised Messiah to Israel. This fulfillment of God’s promise changed the way God interacted with his people! When we commit ourselves to Christ, God’s Spirit dwells within us, and we can and should ask God for his Spirit to be ever present and powerful in our lives. He also promises his presence when we gather together with other believers. (see Rom. 8:9ff, John 14:6-7, 1 Cor. 6:19ff, Acts 2, Luke 11:13, Matthew 18:20)

We should all long for the presence of God daily in this life, to gather in his presence with fellow believers as often as possible, and to dwell eternally in his presence in the next life.

Happy is the person who trusts in you,
LORD of Armies!

Psalm 84:12 CSB

Daily Psalms – Psalm 75

Daily Psalm Reading – Psalm 71-75

Is the judgement of God a good thing? According to Scripture, yes it is!

The judgement of God is what separates the righteous from the wicked. The judgement of God is the bringing about of God’s justice, to right the wrongs of this world, to remove the wicked from power and to exalt those who are faithful to God.

The judgement of God is a very good thing…unless you are unrighteous.

Psalm 75 begins like a praise song, and then moves into the forthcoming judgement of God. It also includes a divine speech, the words spoken by God himself.

“When I choose a time,
I will judge fairly.
When the earth and all its inhabitants shake,
I am the one who steadies its pillars.
Selah
I say to the boastful, ‘Do not boast,’
and to the wicked, ‘Do not lift up your horn.
Do not lift up your horn against heaven
or speak arrogantly.’ ”

Psalm 75:2-5 CSB

The imagery of God as judge pouring out his judgement is seen in verses 6-8. It’s not something that the wicked can escape. They will judged. But for the righteous God’s judgement brings forth praise! (v. 9)

The final promise of the Psalm is another quote from God himself about justice.

“I will cut off all the horns of the wicked,
but the horns of the righteous will be lifted up.”

Psalm 75:10 CSB

As you can see from this short Psalm, the righteous have nothing to fear when it comes to God’s judgement. It should cause thanksgiving and proclamation (v. 1), and continuous praise (v. 9) from God’s people. God has promised to judge fairly. (v. 2) God’s judgement is indeed good news!

If the judgement of God does not sound like good news, that’s a good indication that there are some changes that need to be made in your life and relationship with God. Here’s what Jesus had to say about the coming judgment.

“The Father, in fact, judges no one but has given all judgment to the Son, so that all people may honor the Son just as they honor the Father. Anyone who does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent him. Truly I tell you, anyone who hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not come under judgment but has passed from death to life.

John 5:22-24 CSB (emphasis added)

The judgement of God is good news! And Jesus has told us how not to fall under that judgement! That is very good news!

Now what are you going to do about it?

Daily Psalms – Psalm 67

Daily Psalm Reading – Psalm 66-70

Today we turn our attention to Psalm 67, a short psalm with a powerful reminder. But first a bit about poetic form.

Psalm 67, as well as a number of other Biblical passages (both poetic and not) form a chiasm or chiasmus. I use the analogy of going up and back down stairs to try to explain this. If I ascend and descend three stairs, then the pattern is thus: 1, 2, 3, 2, 1. So in a chiasm both verses on “step 1” are bookends of the poem, and are related. Same for “step 2”, and “step 3” would be the pinnacle, or main point of the poem. Psalm 67 forms a chiasm with three steps.

To show the pattern I’ll use our example of steps from above.

  • Step 1 – vs. 1-2
    • Step 2 – v. 3
      • Step 3 – v. 4
    • Step 2 – v. 5
  • Step 1 – v. 6-7

Let’s look at the relationship between each step, the main point, and what it means for us today.

May God be gracious to us and bless us;
may he make his face shine upon us
Selah
so that your way may be known on earth,
your salvation among all nations.

Psalm 67: 1-2 CSB

Notice that the purpose of the blessing to “us” is in order that God’s salvation be made to “all nations.” This is a key theme in the Hebrew Scriptures that Israel often missed. Their purpose (and ours) is to proclaim God’s good news and salvation to those who do not know him, “all” of them!

The central claim of the psalm is God’s goodness and fairness toward the nations which should result in praise of everyone!

Let the nations rejoice and shout for joy,
for you judge the peoples with fairness
and lead the nations on earth.
Selah

Psalm 67:4 CSB

This central statement about God is bracketed by step 2 in verses 3 and 5 with the same call to praise by “all the peoples.” And the psalm closes with another blessing for “all” peoples.

The earth has produced its harvest;
God, our God, blesses us.
God will bless us,
and all the ends of the earth will fear him.

Psalm 67:6-7 CSB

Over and over the psalmist reminds us that the purpose of God’s people, the purpose of God’s blessing, the knowledge of God’s salvation, and the role of God and his people in the world is to make Him known to all peoples! Every one of them!

So what are you doing to reach all peoples for God? What are you doing to teach all nations about him? How much time do you spend with those who look different than you, act different than you, believe different than you, etc?

The great fault of Israel is they chose to isolate and insulate against the world rather than reach out to them for God’s glory. Is the church today guilty of the same?

I leave you with a quote from the late British missionary to India, Lesslie Newbigin.

“Christians have no effect in the world as long as they refuse to engage the world.”

Lesslie Newbigin

Daily Psalms – Psalm 37

Daily Psalm Reading – Psalm 36-40

Today we turn our attention to Psalm 37, and I can’t think of a more appropriate psalm for God’s people today. Our culture pushes outrage at every turn. If you are not upset and furious about something then you are not “normal.” But God’s people are not called to be “normal.”

As I read through Psalm 37 today I settled on two realizations.
1) Outrage and anger only bring harm (v. 1, 7, 8, etc)
2) Yahweh will bring about justice (v. 5, 6, 9, 13, 19, 26, 28, 33, etc.)
3) We are called to be different. (v. 3-8, 27, 34, etc.)

Please do not misunderstand what I write here today. I am not saying that God’s people need to sit around and do nothing. We need to do something, but it’s probably a different something than we realize! Right now there are so called “Christian leaders” on television, radio, and the internet that are promoting outrage, bitterness, and anger over abortion, political affiliation, gun control, immigration, social justice, and any other political issue you can imagine. And it will only get worse the closer we get to an election. These actions are antithetical to Psalm 37, the teachings of Jesus, and Scripture as a whole. Consider these verses.

Do not be agitated by evildoers;
do not envy those who do wrong.
For they wither quickly like grass
and wilt like tender green plants.

Psalm 37:1-2 CSB

Be silent before the LORD and wait expectantly for him;
do not be agitated by one who prospers in his way,
by the person who carries out evil plans.
Refrain from anger and give up your rage;
do not be agitated—it can only bring harm.

Psalm 37:7-8 CSB

I could post many other examples in this psalm alone. Specifically pay attention to verse 8 again.

Refrain from anger and give up your rage;
do not be agitated—it can only bring harm.

Psalm 37:8 CSB

God says anger and rage can only bring harm. Why then would we choose to react to injustice just like the rest of the world? God through the Jesus has called us to be different!

Our world is full of injustice. Broken people treat each other in broken ways. The only One who can mend our brokenness is the only one who can restore justice to the world.

Be silent before the LORD and wait expectantly for him…

Psalm 37:7 CSB

The little that the righteous person has is better
than the abundance of many wicked people.
For the arms of the wicked will be broken,
but the LORD supports the righteous.

Psalm 37:16-17 CSB

For the LORD loves justice
and will not abandon his faithful ones.
They are kept safe forever,
but the children of the wicked will be destroyed.

Psalm 37:28 CSB

The salvation of the righteous is from the LORD,
their refuge in a time of distress.
The LORD helps and delivers them;
he will deliver them from the wicked and will save them
because they take refuge in him.

Psalm 37:39-40 CSB

Again, I could go on, but nowhere are we told that it is our own efforts that will fix all the world’s problems. Our first act in restoring justice is to plead for God to intervene. Only he can fix our brokenness.

But we are not to sit idly by and do nothing. The problem will never be solved by addressing problems the way the world does. Instead, we are called to be different. We are called to live faithfully as God’s people in a faithless world. This is one of the ways God will bring about change in the world.

Trust in the Lord and do what is good;
dwell in the land and live securely.
Take delight in the Lord,
and he will give you your heart’s desires.
Commit your way to the Lord;
trust in him, and he will act,
making your righteousness shine like the dawn,
your justice like the noonday.

Psalm 37:3-6 CSB

Turn away from evil, do what is good,
and settle permanently.
For the Lord loves justice
and will not abandon his faithful ones.
They are kept safe forever,
but the children of the wicked will be destroyed.
The righteous will inherit the land
and dwell in it permanently.

Psalm 37:27-29 CSB

In a nutshell, you are called to live a Godly life in an ungodly world. You are called to act justly, love faithfulness, and walk humbly before God (Micah 6:8). You’re called to love your enemies and pray for those who are doing wrong (Matthew 5:43-48). You are called to love God with all your everything, and love all those around you the same way (Luke 10:25-37). You are called to be different!

There’s an old saying I have grown to appreciate: “Never wrestle with a pig because you will get filthy and the pig will enjoy it.”

When we try to handle the problems of the world in the same manner the world does, we have lost our identity and ignored our calling as children of God bought with the blood of Jesus Christ.

Psalm 37 reminds us that outrage and anger can only bring harm, God is the one who can restore justice. Therefore, live as those who are called to be different. Shalom.

Daily Psalms – Psalm 82

Daily Psalm Reading – Psalm 81-85

Psalm 82 is a short psalm, but one that is debated as to its exact meaning. I’ll provide two summary explanations, the first as we traditionally view this psalm, and the second how the original readers would have likely understood this psalm. I intend later to do a more in depth analysis of this psalm and its implications on how we read the Bible, but today will serve simply to get us thinking.

The traditional reading of Psalm 82 goes something like this:

  • V. 1 states that God is present when his people gather together (“divine assembly”), and that he passes judgement upon false gods or idols (v. 1).
  • Vv. 2-4 scold the assembly for not pursuing justice in the world.
  • Verse 5 talks about the foolishness of idolatry…afterall, didn’t Paul tell us that idols aren’t anything anyway, sort of like what we read here?
  • V. 6-7 show that humans and false gods, or those who claim to be divine, will die like anyone else.
  • V. 8 calls for God to bring his judgement and acknowledges that God is over all nations, not idols.

There are variations to this view of Psalm 82, but this pretty much gives the gist of what is going on with this view. And I will say that nothing stated above is Scripturally inaccurate. God is the God of all…no idols or false gods compare. Our God will judge all. Israel failed time and again to bring about justice in the ways they dealt with others. Nothing said above is Scripturally inaccurate. What may be inaccurate is what we are missing by reading this psalm out of context with the worldview of ancient Israel, and the rest of Scripture.

If you are unfamiliar with the concept of the “Divine Council,” then this next section may really stretch your wineskins. I’m going to recommend a book up front, Unseen Realm by Dr. Michael Heiser, and you would also benefit from listening to a series of podcasts by The Bible Project called the God Series. There’s somewhere in the neighborhood of 24 hours worth of audio study and reflection on this concept. Again much more could, should, and has been said about this psalm in light of the Divine Council view. For now, I’m just cracking the door to a whole other way of seeing the Scriptures through the eyes of the ancients.

We need to lay a bit of understanding about this passage first. The Hebrew word elohim is a class of spiritual being. When you see “God” or “gods” in the text, it’s the same Hebrew word. This is a view of one elohim passing judgement upon other elohim. “God” is not a name, it’s a class of spiritual being. We tend to capitalize the “g” in God when we are referring to the God of the Bible, Yahweh (often notated in your bible as LORD).

The Divine Council helped Yahweh rule the nations. Yahweh is the God of Israel, but there was also a god of Babylon, a god of Canaan, etc. In other words, the nations and ruling bodies on earth have a spiritual elohim behind them. Read Genesis 6 with these eyes and see what you think. Again, this deserves much more than I am going to give here, but here is a brief summary of the Divine Council view of Psalm 82.

  • V. 1 shows our God (the divine name appears nowhere in this psalm), the supreme God among all gods (heavenly beings who have authority to rule portions of the earth). He pronounces judgement against their actions.
  • Vv. 2-4 recounts all of the failings that these governing gods have done. They haven’t promoted what the supreme God has commanded. The very things that Yahweh stands for in the Scriptures are being opposed by these gods.
  • V. 5 shows those who are oppressed and neglected by the gods have no direction…nobody to care for them. This lack of divine leadership has shaken the very foundations of the earth.
  • Vv. 6-7 show the Most High’s sentence against these guilty gods. They are all offspring of the Most High (Jesus being the only unique (begotten) Son – Jn. 3:16), yet they will die just like any other ruler. The same consequences for the rebellion of mankind now will fall upon the rebellion of the guilty in the Divine Council.
  • V. 8 is a call for our God, the supreme God, to bring this jugement to pass and rule over all nations.

The first response to the Divine Council reading of Scripture seems to be confusion about our God. “I thought there was only one God?” And Scripture contains verses like this:

Give thanks to the God of gods.
His faithful love endures forever.

Psalm 136:2 CSB

For even if there are so-called gods, whether in heaven or on earth—AS THERE ARE MANY “GODS” and many “lords”— YET FOR US THERE IS ONE GOD, the Father. All things are from him, and we exist for him. And there is one Lord, Jesus Christ. All things are through him, and we exist through him.

1 Corinthians 8:5-6 CSB – emphasis added

Even Scripture acknowledges there are other elohim/gods. But to us, there is only one God…or in other words, we only follow one elohim. The Elohim of elohim. We follow Yahweh alone.

So if you’ve stuck with me this far, I want to hear your take on this. Are you familiar with the concept of the Divine Council? Have you read Heiser’s book? What do you think of this understanding of Psalm 82, as well as Genesis 6? I’d love to hear your thoughts!

But whatever your take is, I hope this will at least get you to spend some time in God’s WOrd. Blessings to you today!

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.