From “Me” to “Us”

Today’s reading is Psalm 31.

Track the pronouns in this psalm. Sometimes the main pronoun is the first person singular, sometimes it is the second or third person plural. That is, in some parts it is, “In you, O Lord, do I take refuge.” In other places, it is, “How abundant is your goodness, which you have…worked for those who take refuge in you.” Sometimes it is “I trust the Lord.” Other times it is “Love the Lord, all you his saints! The Lord preserves the faithful…” In this, David moves from praying about “me” the Lord’s anointed to praying about “us” the Lord’s people. This isn’t just some weird poetic thing. This is David setting himself up as the example. This is how God deals with His anointed, the head of His people. Therefore, this is how God deals with all His people. Especially when we get to the ending thoughts. David’s point is, “Look at me, people! Do you see how God has demonstrated himself faithful and loving with me? Do you see how God did deliver? I get it, I had some troubles along the way. But do you see how it ended? The same will be true for you. Hang on through the trouble. Stay faithful. Through me, God has proved Himself faithful.” We should see the same principle in our King. After all, a disciple is not above the teacher but when fully trained will become like the teacher. Do you remember what happened with Jesus? He was persecuted. He was afflicted. It even seemed that the hands of the enemies prevailed against Him. However, on the third day, He burst forth from the grave victorious. That is how the Lord gave victory to our King. We too, though the hand of the enemy seems to prevail, perhaps even killing us, will be victorious. We will also burst forth from the grave. So, commit your spirit into the Lord’s hand and hang on to Him no matter what.

Tomorrow’s reading is Psalm 31.

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Riding the Pendulum

Today’s reading is Psalm 31.

Whether this psalm and the last are placed next to each other for this purpose or not, there is a striking contrast between the two. In Psalm 30:6, David wrote, “I said in my prosperity, ‘I shall never be moved.'” in Psalm 31:22, he writes, “I had said in my alarm, ‘I am cut off from your sight.'” In the previous psalm, because of David’s confidence, pride, and swagger, the Lord hid His face and David was dismayed (though, admittedly, the ultimate outcome of that psalm is David’s deliverance). In this psalm, because of David’s humility, penitence, and prayer, the Lord delivers. This contrast shows what happens in our life. We ride the pendulum. One day, we ride high in confidence. The next, we scrape the bottom in terror. One day, our pride is getting the better of us. The next, our humility draws us closer to God. As all this is going on, this contrast draws out something we learned in Psalm 30 as well. We all want the good times, the mountaintop experiences, but often it is the valleys that teach and grow us the most. It’s hard to thank God for His testing and refining fires, but this gives us reason to count it all joy when we meet various trials. After all, the trials produce steadfastness, steadfastness grows us to maturity, maturity strengthens love, and those who love God receive the crown of life (see James 1:2-4, 12).

Tomorrow’s reading is Psalm 31.

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Channeling Jesus

Today’s reading is Psalm 27.

A really profound occurrence takes place in John 2:18-22. When asked what sign Jesus would work to demonstrate His authority to cleanse the temple, He said, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” That really confused everyone, but John goes on to explain that after Jesus was raised from the dead, the apostles understood what He meant. He wasn’t actually talking about the temple in Jerusalem, but the temple of His own body. What makes this scenario so profound is the realization that the resurrection changed everything. It changed how the apostles heard what Jesus said. It even changed how they read Scripture, including the Psalms. In fact, it should change how we read Scripture. It is true that there are some psalms that we all recognize as Messianic; that is, psalms foretelling what the Messiah would be like. There are psalms that are not as clearly foretelling, but something doesn’t seem to quite fit until the Messiah comes on the scene and fulfills the psalm literally. But there are other psalms that aren’t really foretelling anything, but once we know Jesus’s resurrection and listen to them through that filter, we hear Jesus all over them. That is Psalm 27. That is especially true when we get to “I believe that I shall look upon the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living!” When David wrote this about himself, no doubt, he was referring to the fact that God was going to grant his request. He wasn’t going to die in battle. He was going to get to Jerusalem and see the tent of the Lord again. Jesus, who was forsaken by everyone, who went to the cross at the hands of soldiers and false accusers, feared nothing. He entrusted His soul to His Father. He went to the cross and died. But on Sunday morning, He saw the goodness of Yahweh in the land of the living. He waited through the cross. He waited through the grave. He waited until the third day. And then He arose the conquering hero over sin, Satan, death, and the grave. And if this is how Yahweh delivers His one and only Son, how much more should we expect the same? David had confidence God would deliver him because of how God had worked with Moses and Joshua. We can have confidence because of how God delivered our King Jesus. No matter how dark it gets in your life, no matter how the enemy tries to blot out the sun, God is our light, He is our salvation, He is our stronghold. Hang on to Him. He will always come through. Praise the Lord!

Next week’s reading is Psalm 28.

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Channeling Joshua

Today’s reading is Psalm 27.

David begins with a declaration that Yahweh is his light, salvation, and stronghold. Because that is the case, he refuses to be afraid. But then he explains he is surrounded by armies and violent, false accusers. The psalm is a mix of confidence and at least a little fear that God is forsaking him. That is, whatever he is dealing with has gone on longer than he would expect if God was with him in this dark valley. But the psalm ends with “Wait for the Lord!” In other words, it ends with a declaration that David isn’t going to abandon his Shepherd just because the Shepherd isn’t acting on his time table. He will wait for Yahweh to act on His own timetable. And in the middle of that declaration, he does an interesting thing, he says something familiar, though in the ESV it is worded slightly differently than usual. I’ll word it the way we are used to and see if you catch it. “Wait for the Lord; be strong and courageous; wait for the Lord!” Did you get it? (Maybe the title of this post gave it away.) David is channeling Joshua. Joshua was told to be strong and courageous over and over again (Deuteronomy 31:, 7, 23; Joshua 1:6, 7, 9, 18). And so it is no surprise that in Joshua 10:25, he turns around and tells Israel to be strong and courageous. David knew God would defeat His enemies because that is what God has done over and over and over again with the enemies of His people. And He will defeat our enemies. No, that doesn’t mean God is going to take out the person who got the promotion we were hoping to get at work. But it does mean that those, whether earthly or spiritual, who rise up against us trying to pull us out of our Savior’s hands will be defeated in God’s good time. He may not do it when we expect, but wait on Him; He will do it! Praise the Lord!

Today’s reading is Psalm 27.

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David’s #1 Goal

Today’s reading is Psalm 27.

David is surrounded by enemies and violent false accusers. He is facing war. An enemy army is encamped around him. What is his #1 goal? Defeating the enemy? Saving his skin? Prolonging his life? Proving his own manliness, strength, and military might? Returning to kick back in the palace and be served by the masses? Nope! Being in the house of the Lord. Gazing on the beauty of the Lord. Seeing the face of the Lord. Immerse yourself in this picture. The commanding king is on the battlefield and what most upsets him about having to face this battle is not really his own personal danger. The most upsetting part for David is this battle keeps him away from the Lord’s house. Remember Psalm 23:6? David wanted to dwell in the house of the Lord forever. But today, an enemy army stands between him and that house. Peter tells us we can cast all our anxieties upon the Lord because He cares for us (1 Peter 5:6-7). My prayer is that I will grow to the point where I understand that the real issue with every other anxiety, every other attack, every other struggle is that they are distracting me from the beauty of the Lord and drawing me out of the house of the Lord. I pray I will grow to the point that my #1 concern, my #1 goal is to be in the Lord’s house, gazing upon His beauty and favor, glorying in the sight of His face.

Tomorrow’s reading is Psalm 27.

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The Battle Belongs to the Lord

Today’s reading is Psalm 21.

David may have been a wonderful warrior. For all I know, he may have been a superb strategist and talented tactician. He may have been truly skilled with the sword and brilliant with a bow. No doubt, it seems he was super with a sling. But when the king comes back from the battle victorious in Psalm 21, everyone knew exactly why he did. It wasn’t because of David’s skill or prowess, it was because of his God. The battle was fought in the prayer closet before stepping onto the battlefield. Therefore, the battle was won before it was even engaged. Yet, David did have to engage. When it was over, though, David shouldn’t turn to God in expectation, asking, “Did you see that? Did you see how hard I fought for you?” No, David should bow before God acknowledging the true victor: “Thank you, Lord, for fighting for me.” At the end of our battles, the trophies are not ours. They are God’s. We don’t take our victories to God as badges of our strength or accomplishment. No. We take them as reasons to praise and give thanks to the One who truly won the victories. The battles belong to the Lord. And if that is so, that doesn’t merely mean stepping onto the battlefield in faith, that means stepping off the battlefield with thanksgiving and praise. We don’t get the credit for our victories, God does. In the end, we learn the women who sang, “Saul has slain his thousands, but David his ten thousands,” caused a great deal of jealousy and turmoil for nothing. In fact, neither had slain any. Both were merely God’s weapons in the wars against His enemies. God, we thank You for fighting on our behalf. We thank you for our victories. Our enemies are too much for us. If we have cowed them today, it is because of You and You only. Thank You.

Tomorrow’s reading is Psalm 21.

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Prayer: 99% of the Fight

Today’s reading is Psalm 20.

The king has told you to get some rest. Tomorrow is going to be hard. But you can’t sleep. Tomorrow may be your last. The sentries are doing their jobs, making sure no enemy sneaks in and attacks at night. But still, you can’t leave the job up to them. You sit outside your tent watching, trying to hold down your supper, talking nervously with the other soldiers who can’t sleep either. In the distance, you see the campfires of the enemy dotting the landscape like stars across a completely clear sky. Their number suggests thousands of enemies. Not only that, they suggest thousands more than you know are on your side. Not only that, you’ve heard the stories. The enemy has horses and chariots by the thousands. They are skilled with these ancient tanks. They have plowed through other armies as a plague of locusts through fields of grain. What are you to do? Psalm 20 contains the answer. You pray! Not because you have no hope. Not because that is all that is left to you. No. You pray because your one hope is Yahweh, the God of Jacob. The God who listens in the day of distress. Your first line of defense is prayer. This is exactly the picture of Psalm 20. Israel is about to engage in battle, led by her King. But Israel does not go into battle unprepared. Oh, her preparations are not about sharpening swords or greasing chariot axles. Her preparation is prayer. Israel’s hope is not in the size of her army. Israel’s hope is not in the skill of her soldiers. Israel’s hope is not in chariots and horses. Israel’s hope is the Lord God. Therefore, victory is assured. And so, you can’t sleep. But that is okay, because you need to be awake to pray.

Tomorrow’s reading is Psalm 20.

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Why Israel Lost

Today’s reading is Psalm 15.

Have you ever thought through why Israel and Judah were driven out of the land of God’s dwelling? God had promised to dwell in their midst and plant them to dwell in their own place. Yet, they were defeated by Assyria, then Babylon, and ultimately by Rome. Psalm 15 is the answer. Do not consider Psalm 15 as merely a request for who might live on the temple mount. Rather, it is a question about who might sojourn under the protection of the Lord who dwells in the midst of His people in His Tent (tabernacle or temple) on His Holy Mountain. Jeremiah 7 brings this home. Jeremiah stands in the gate of the temple to proclaim the word of the Lord. Notice how “dwell in this place” seems to refer to dwelling in the temple in Jeremiah 7:3, but refers to the Promised Land in Jeremiah 7:7. Folks were trusting in deceptive words, “This is the temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord.” Yet they were oppressing orphans, widows, and sojourners. They stole, swore falsely, murdered. Yes, they also committed idolatry. Then they thought they could continue to sojourn under the shadow of God’s Holy Hill. They thought they could continue to find sanctuary in the temple. They thought they could continue to dwell where God had planted them. But, He explained, He would only let them dwell in this place if they changed their behavior. If not, He would destroy His own dwelling place and cast them out of the land. Why were Israel and Judah kicked out of the land? Because only Psalm 15 kind of people can sojourn under God’s protective wing. Israel and Judah were not made up of those kind of people. Psalm 15 is serious business. How have you measured up?

Tomorrow’s reading is Psalm 15.

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The Fear of Defeat

Today’s reading is Psalm 13.

David feared death in Psalm 13. He also feared defeat. Honestly, it makes me wonder if he provided this list in ascending or descending order. Did he start with his biggest fear or the smallest one. Either way, the #2 fear on the list is the fear that he will lose: “Consider and answer me, O Lord my God…lest my enemy say, ‘I have prevailed over him.'” And isn’t that exactly what Satan wants us to fear? He wants us to fear we’ve chosen the losing side. He wants us to fear that God, in the end, can’t actually win the battle. And what greater time to perpetuate that fear than in the interim? What greater time to perpetuate that fear than before God has struck the decisive blow against the enemy? In these moments, we will be tempted to switch sides, but in these moments we must remember another of David’s prayers: “Yours O Lord, is the greatness and the power and the glory and the victory and the majesty, for all that is in the heavens and in the earth is yours” (1 Chronicles 29:11). And as Proverbs 21:31 says, “The horse is made ready for the day of battle, but the victory belongs to the Lord.” Of course, I was half-joking when I asked if David was starting with his biggest fear or working up to it. 1 Corinthians 15:54-57 demonstrates these two fears are not so different. When our living is anything but Jesus Christ, death seems like the greatest loss. But when we are in Christ and our lives are focused on gaining Christ, death is no defeat. Rather, even in death we have the victory in Jesus Christ. Of course, the only way we will have this victory is through faith (1 John 5:4). No matter what it looks like today or tomorrow, we are going to win. Feel free to ask God how long it is going to be until we win, but always remember we will win. Praise the Lord!

Tomorrow’s reading is Psalm 13.

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They are but Men

Today’s reading is Psalm 9.

David had remembered how God dealt with the nations during the conquest period, driving them out before Joshua and the Israelites when they were faithful to Him. He calls on God to do the same under his own leadership. And it is something we would all do well to remember. We are but men. That is, we are but human. No matter what it looks like in this moment, do any of us remotely think we can take on God of the universe? Do any of us remotely think we can outsmart Him, outflank Him, outgun Him, outplan Him, outman Him? We all need to remember we are just humans, we are not God. And we need to remember that all those who will array themselves against us, are just people. They aren’t God. What’s the worst they can do to us? Call us names? Break our bones? Kill our bodies? Then what? They cannot take away our place in God’s kingdom. They cannot cast our souls into hell. They cannot snatch us out of God’s hands. And, as we have said earlier in the week, they would do well to remember they are but men. They would do well to remember it before God teaches it to them irrevocably. Put your faith and trust in God. Only He is God.

Next week’s reading is Psalm 10.

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