The Two Counsellors

Today’s reading is Psalm 36.

While it is perfectly legitimate to pigeonhole the genre of a psalm as you start to study it, if you forget that the labels we attribute to psalms are not God-inspired, you can miss the trees for the forest. This happens for many with Psalm 36. Is it a wisdom psalm? Is it a praise psalm? Is it a lament? There are elements of each of these genres in this psalm. These attempts to pin down a genre cause some to suggest this psalm is a hodgepodge of multiple ancient psalms thrown together without unity.

That, however, misses the big picture of what is going on here. Once again, we are being taken back to the very first psalm. However, this time there is a twist.

In Psalm 1, the two people being counseled are contrasted: the blessed and the wicked. The blessed listen to God, the wicked listen to…well…other wicked people. In Psalm 36, the two counsellors are contrasted: God and sin.

In this psalm, David personifies sin much like Paul does in Romans 7. Sin counsels and leads. But sin’s counsel is deceptive and destructive. On the other hand, God also calls to David. David knows God’s counsel is anchored in steadfast love and faithfulness. He is no fool. He chooses God to be his counsellor. More than that, he chooses God to be his defender against Sin and those who heed its counsel.

In Psalm 1, we had a choice between ways. In Psalm 36, we have a choice between guides. Choose wisely!

Tomorrow’s reading is Psalm 36.

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The Proof is in the Pudding

Today’s reading is Psalm 34.

The editors of my Crossway ESV Bible take their title and heading for this psalm from vs. 8: “Taste and see that the Lord is good!”

David’s call to his readers is quite simply this: put the Lord to the test. Let Him make His famous pudding for you and then sit down at the table to eat it. You’ll be amazed.

Of course, the one struggle with this is that sometimes the eating process of the Lord’s pudding is a little bitter. After all, even David doesn’t claim the Lord’s people avoid affliction. Rather, “many are the afflictions of the righteous.” However, the Lord delivers the righteous from the affliction. Affliction slays the wicked.

“How do I taste and see that the Lord is good?” I’m glad you asked.

Almost every other time this idea of “tasting” comes up, it is connected to the Word. In both Job 12:11 and 34:3, the comparison is made between the palate tasting food and the ear testing words. In Hebrews 6:5, those who have tasted the heavenly gift and shared in the Holy Spirit have tasted the goodness of the word of God. Finally, in 1 Peter 2:2-3, we are to be like newborn infants longing for the pure milk of the word because we have tasted that the Lord is good. In other words, if you want to taste the goodness of the Lord, the process is simple. Do what He says.

How about today, we make it our goal to just do what the Lord says? How about we make it our goal to taste and see the Lord is good?

Tomorrow’s reading is Psalm 34.

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The Lord’s Plan

Today’s reading is Psalm 33.

“The counsel of the Lord stands forever, the plans of his heart to all generations.”

Did you catch that the psalmist purposefully contrasts the Lord’s counsels and plans with the counsels and plans of the nations and the people? Can the author of Psalm 33 have made any clearer connection back to Psalms 1 and 2 than this? Psalm 1 contrasts the counsel of the wicked with the law of God. Psalm 2 connects the counsel of the wicked to the vain plottings of the kings and nations. Now, we find it all rolled up into one statement. The Lord is bringing to nothing the plans and counsels of the nations and people, but His own plan and counsel is certain to happen. Nothing can stop it.

In fact, as much as the people and nations try to hinder the Lord’s plans, the more they actually bring His plans to fruition. Nothing and no one demonstrates that more than Jesus. In fact, that is the very point of the apostles’ prayer in Acts 4:23-31. There, they quoted Psalm 2, but now we know Psalm 2 and Psalm 33 are connected. The Jews with their San Hedrin council, their scribes, and their Pharisees conspired to bring about the demise and death of Jesus. The Romans with their governors, kings, and soldiers were the tools used by the Jews to accomplish their nefarious counsels. Yet, in the end, though they were trying to defeat Jesus, all they did was lead Him to His throne.

The apostles recognized God’s ability to bring the counsel of the nations to nothing and to frustrate the plans of the people was not just about Jesus on the cross but also about their work in the face of persecution. And that was definitely true, wasn’t it. The Jews and the Romans both tried to bring Christianity to an end through their persecutions. But instead, their persecutions just fed the flames of spiritual fervor that spread throughout the Roman Empire.

Can we recognize the same is true today? If God can take the crucifixion and turn it into a resurrection, if He can take a persecution and turn it into a dissemination, then He can take anything we deal with in our countries and turn it into victory. So many Christians are wringing their hands today as we enter a period called post-Christian by the pundits. There is no need. The same Lord who conquered chaos at the creation, who defeated Pharaoh at the Red Sea, who conquered Jericho and the Promised Land, who raised Jesus from the dead, who gave the apostles victory even as they were martyred is still God today. His plans and His counsels stand firm. May we stand in them always.

Next week’s reading is Psalm 34.

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The Lord’s Voice on Sinai

Today’s reading is Psalm 29.

While the Psalm 29 story of the storm mentions Sirion (another name for Mt. Hermon on the northern edges of Israel, see Deuteronomy 3:9), the quaking of that mountain and the flashes of fire should call to mind another historical moment of God’s powerful voice over a trembling mountain. This one is south of Israel: Mt. Sinai. We read about it in Exodus 19-20. However, I especially like how Moses describes the whole event when he retells it in Deuteronomy 5. God had called the people to be ready for the third day on which He would speak to them from the mountain. On that third day, He declared from the top of the mountain what we call The 10 Commandments. However, the people flat freak out. The cloud, the smoke, the fire, the darkness, and the thundering nature of God’s voice was more than they could stand. Moses says this is what happened: “And as soon as you heard the voice out of the midst of the darkness, while the mountain was burning with fire, you came near to me, all the heads of your tribes, and your elders. And you said, ‘Behold, the Lord our God has shown us his glory and greatness, and we have heard his voice out of the midst of the fire. This day we have seen God speak with man, and man still live. Now therefore why should we die? For this great fire will consume us. If we hear the voice of the Lord our God any more, we shall die…Go near and hear all that the Lord our God will say, and speak to us all that the Lord our God will speak to you, and we will hear and do it'” (Deuteronomy 5:23-27, ESV). Both God and Moses agreed to this plan. However, the point of all this was that “God has come to test you, that the fear of him may be before you, that you may not sin” (Exodus 20:20, ESV). In other words, the trembling of the mountain, the flashing of the fire, the thundering of the voice was intended to have one consequence. The people were supposed to recognize the power of God and His voice. This was supposed to prompt them to obey God’s voice always. Shockingly, they almost immediately forged the golden calf, a violation of commandment #2. And then later, in the wilderness of Kadesh, they refused to enter the Promised Land despite the voice of the Lord. May we learn from Israel’s failure. May we listen to the voice of God always. May we who are not in His holy temple, but are His holy temple cry out “Glory!”

Tomorrow’s reading is Psalm 29.

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The God of Thunder

Today’s reading is Psalm 29.

He’s not the god of hammers. Actually, he’s not the god of anything. He isn’t real. For those who aren’t into Marvel comics or movies, I’m talking about Thor. As Captain America said, “There’s only one God, Ma’am; and I’m pretty sure He doesn’t dress like that.” Of course, when Psalm 29 was written, no one had even heard of Thor. Ba’al on the other hand was big stuff in the nations around David. In Israel, Ba’al the god of thunder, lightning, and storms, may well have been Yahweh’s biggest competition. Some scholars suggest Psalm 29 was actually co-opted by David from Ba’al worshipers. They see David as answering the false idol worshipers by taking one of their own songs and making it about Yahweh. If that were true, that wouldn’t bother me. It wouldn’t change the message of the psalm. However, it seems to me the evidence for the claim is kind of scanty. At the same time, there is no doubt David is straight up shutting down Ba’al worship. As David describes a massive storm starting over the Mediterranean, quaking Mt. Hermon north of Israel, passing through Israel to shake the southern wilderness of Kadesh, he helps us viscerally experience the power of Yahweh’s voice. Ba’al’s voice, on the other hand, isn’t doing anything. After all, Ba’al doesn’t actually have a voice (see Psalm 115:5). Yahweh is king. Yahweh has always been king. Yahweh will always be king. Yahweh’s voice creates. Yahweh’s voice destroys. And if you want to know what it is like to hear Yahweh’s voice, go stand out in the middle of the hurricane. That is how powerful Yahweh’s voice is. Worship Him. Worship only Him.

Tomorrow’s reading is Psalm 29.

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Protect Me from Sin

Today’s reading is Psalm 19.

Yesterday, I wanted to make the connection between the Lord’s Word and our words. But to do so, I did jump over one of the most important aspects of the connection. We skipped over the important operation of the Lord’s Word in our lives and the mechanism by which it makes my words acceptable. Why do I need the Lord’s Word? Because I am a sinner. In that state, my outlook is skewed and my perspective distorted. In that state, my words and my thoughts are full of error and folly because they can be no other way. The only tool that will correct this is the Lord’s Word. Just as no one is hidden from the sun’s daily shining sermon, there is nothing in anyone of us that is hidden from the piercing glare of the Lord’s Word. The Lord’s Word uncovers my errors. The Lord’s Word unearths my secret sins. The Lord’s Word restrains me from presumptuous and rebellious sin. The Lord’s Word is what will make me blameless and keep me innocent of great transgression. As Hebrews 4:12-13 explains, the Lord’s Word is as a double-edged sword. It is living and active and is so effective it can even divide between things we aren’t even sure we know how to distinguish (for instance, the soul and the spirit). No one and nothing is hidden from its sight. We are all exposed when we open God’s Word. And that sounds painful, doesn’t it? I’ll be honest. It is. Being pruned by the two-edged sword rarely, if ever, feels pleasant in the moment. But in the end, when we are branches in The Fruitful Vine yielding the peaceful fruits of righteousness, we will rejoice with joy inexpressible. Let us cry out to God to protect us from sin, but then let us dig in to His Word and let Him do His Work with it.

Next week’s reading is Psalm 20.

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My Words

Today’s reading is Psalm 19.

Yesterday, we learned about the significant power of God’s Word. In fact, one blog post was not even remotely enough to mine the depths of what this week’s psalm shares about God’s Word. But we must move on to see the impact the Lord’s Word must have on us. The Lord’s Word is not supposed to remain in the pages of a book. If it is going to do all that David claimed, it must find its way into my mouth and my meditations. My words and my thoughts need to be anchored in it. The Lord is my Rock and my Redeemer, but only if the Lord’s Word is the bedrock upon which my life is being built, only if the Lord’s Word is the soil in which my life is planted and growing. My life is only about God if my days are spent in His Word. Don’t just read God’s Word, saturate your life with God’s Word. Let it change your words. Let it change your thoughts. Let it occupy your heart, mind, and life. There is no television show, no song on the radio, no movie, no book, no magazine, no blog, no Instagram feed so great and powerful as God’s Word. Do not let any of those things have more impact on your words and thinking today than God’s Word. You are here today. So, I assume the Lord’s Word is important to you. Keep it up. I promise you, it will be worth it.

Tomorrow’s reading is Psalm 19.

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The Lord’s Word

Today’s reading is Psalm 19.

In another study, we’ve talked about our job as a branch. That is, our job is simply to abide in Jesus, being the conduits through whom His power, strength, and life flow in order that the Vinedresser can bear fruit through us for His glory (see John 15:1-11). One of the three super-charged activities of Jesus-abiding is to abide in His Word and let His Word abide in us (John 15:7). In Psalm 19, we discover why this mutual abiding is so powerful. The psalm uses six terms to describe the Lord’s Word (Torah/Law, testimony, precept, commandment, fear, rules [ESV]). These terms encompass every aspect of the Lord’s Word from the generic to the specific (Torah to commandment), from its source to our response (God’s testimonies to our fear), from where it provides limitations to where it provides equipping (precepts to rules/judgments). This sixfold repetition is not supposed to send us down a rabbit hole of trying to figure out the nuanced differences between the terms, but rather to help us see that David is talking about the Word, all the Word, every aspect of the Word, every feature of the Word, and the Word in its entirety. The Word is perfect, sure, right, pure, clean, true. Can anything else to which we have constant physical access make these claims? Notice what the Word accomplishes. Like the good shepherd of Psalm 23:3, it revives the soul. Like the Proverbs, it wisens the simple. Like a great victory or great feast, it rejoices the heart. Like a dab of honey after a long day of battle, it enlightens the eyes (see 1 Samuel 14:24-30). Like nothing else but God alone, it endures forever and, by implication, is the means by which we will endure forever. And again, like nothing and no one but God, it is altogether righteous; that is, it sanctifies us. And David claims if a pile of gold was behind Door #1, a feast of the sweetest foods behind Door #2, and God’s Word behind Door #3, he would choose Door #3. He would choose that not because abiding in the Word would get him gold and feasting, but because the Word is greater riches and more satisfying than those other two choices. With all this on the table, why would we do anything but abide in the Word of the Lord? We can abide in no other way.

Tomorrow’s reading is Psalm 19.

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The Sun’s Daily Sermon

Today’s reading is Psalm 19.

We already know the Lord has set His glory above the heavens (Psalm 8:1). This week we learn the Lord’s glory shines from its heavenly perch down through the heavens. The sun, the moon, the stars, the vast expanse of what we moderns call space says nothing, but at the same time declares everything. And they leave every inhabitant of our world without excuse. Sadly, when many ancients looked to the heavens, they saw many gods. Instead, they should have seen the handiwork of the one God. The sun is not a god. It is the creation of God. And everyone has seen it. They have felt its warmth. They have seen its light. In fact, they have not simply seen the sun’s light, but as C.S. Lewis famously pointed out, they have seen everything else by the sun’s light. And in the sun, in the moon, in the stars, the Lord has given His testimony to everyone in the world. How can any of these things be if Someone didn’t put them there? It is the Someone behind these things that we should worship. And if Someone would put these things here so perfectly designed to care for us and provide for us, doesn’t it also stand to reason that Someone would actually want to communicate with us? Of course it does. We should be looking for that communication. The key is God has left Himself a witness. Atheists often want to claim God hasn’t spoken loudly or clearly enough. David points out He has. If we won’t hear His voice, it’s not because He hasn’t been communicating, it’s because we have closed our eyes and our ears. Let’s keep our eyes and ears open.

Tomorrow’s reading is Psalm 19.

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My Rock and My Redeemer

Today’s reading is Psalm 19.

Let’s begin this week with the end in mind. Where is this psalm going? “O Lord, my rock and my redeemer.” That sounds familiar, doesn’t it? Absolutely! It is how Psalm 18 began. Once again, we find two psalms that seem to go together. They form a wonderful package. Yes, yes, we can study them separately as individual literary units, but they are placed together because they complement each other. Back in Psalm 18, David had claimed he was blameless in vs. 23. However, in vs. 32, he also explained that he wasn’t blameless because of his own strength, but because God had equipped him with strength and made his way blameless. All in the context of God being his rock, fortress, salvation. And now we discover the nature of the Lord’s equipment and strengths. It’s the Lord’s Word! We cannot claim the Lord is our rock and redeemer if we ignore His Word. Make the Lord your Rock. Make Him your Redeemer. Get into His Word. Love it. Learn it. Live it. Then you will be like the man who builds his house on the rock and when the storms of judgment come, your house will stand. Otherwise…

Tomorrow’s reading is Psalm 19.

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