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 Moses

Today’s reading is Psalm 27.

Bible trivia: I asked the Lord to let me see His face. He set me on the rock. He covered me. I saw his goodness. I asked the Lord not to abandon me, but to go with me. Who am I?

That’s right! I’m Moses. We can read about this in Exodus 33-34. Israel had sinned with the golden calf and the Lord was threatening to abandon them. Moses interceded and asked to see the Lord’s glory. God explained no one could see His face and live, so He placed Moses in the cleft of the rock, covered him, then passed by and let him see His goodness. Finally, He agreed that he would go with Moses and Israel. Now, here’s the really cool part. God demonstrated His presence in Exodus 40 by having His glory fill the tent of meeting. By day it was a pillar of smoke, by night a pillar of fire.

But wait! Psalm 27 shows that it is David too. David is channeling Moses in this psalm. Why was David so completely confident in his Psalm 27 prayer? Because he knew what kind of God he served. He knew how the Lord had worked with Moses, he was certain God still worked that same way. He knew the Lord would let him see His goodness. He knew the Lord would set him on the rock and cover him with protection. He knew the Lord would not forsake and abandon him but bestow His presence and favor. It’s what God does. It’s what God has always done. It’s what He still does. Praise the Lord!!!

Tomorrow’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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What are You Praying For?

Today’s reading is Psalm 25.

Alright. I’ve got a tough and challenging question for you. First of all, let me say, if you are praying, I don’t want to say anything to discourage you. I’m super glad you have a habit of prayer. That is awesome. But now that you are praying, I want to challenge you to think about where you focus your prayers. It is true that you are allowed to bring to God whatever is on your heart. Pray for your needs and your wants. Cast all your cares upon God even when you are not sure if God would even care about that or not; lift it up to Him. He is our Abba, our Father, He wants to hear it. But this psalm presents a challenging question to me. Do I ever pray for what was top on this psalmist’s mind? Think about it, he is facing enemies who are violently hateful. And it is true that the psalmist gets around to praying for protection from them. But do you see where his prayer request first focuses? “Make me know your ways, Lord.” “Teach me your paths, Lord.” Lead me in your truth, Lord.” “Teach me, Lord.” How many of your prayers are anchored here? In fact, while the psalmist gets to talking about protection, it is very clear that the psalmist believes the protection comes not simply from God acting in the lives of the enemies. It comes from knowing the way of God. It comes from knowing God’s word and will. God protects us by showing us His path, His way. And, of course, considering Psalm 1, doesn’t that just make sense? Those who know the way of the Lord are like a tree planted by waters, but the way of the wicked perishes. Too often, I just go about studying and trying to figure things out on my own and then expecting God to pick up my messes. Perhaps I should start with, “Lord, make me to know Your way.” How about you?

Today’s reading is Psalm 25.

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But I’m a Sinner!

Today’s reading is Psalm 25.

Yesterday, we recognized a connection between Psalm 24 and who may ascend the Lord’s hill and Psalm 25, this week’s psalm. But there is another connection. It is almost as if this psalm were written or placed here as a response to the previous one. Or maybe it would be better said that it is placed here to deal with an anticipated objection. According to Psalm 24, the one who has clean hands and a pure heart can climb the Lord’s hill. In Psalm 25, we have the anticipated objection. “But what about me? I’m a sinner.” Psalm 25:7 is the first explicit mention from the psalmist of his own sinfulness (Psalm 6:1 implies it; Psalm 23:3 almost implies it). It is almost as if Psalm 25 is finally expressing the objection we’ve brought up on several occasions as we’ve gone through these psalms. I do lift my soul up to the Lord. I do trust Him. But I haven’t been perfect. I’m a sinner. My hands are befouled. My heart is defiled. I want to be clean. I want to be perfect. But I’ve blown it. What now? The great news is our God is merciful. Our God forgives. Our God loves. Our God is faithful and true to His covenant. Yes, we have failed. But we can lift our soul up to our God, seek mercy and we will go away justified. Honestly, it really defies reason. I mean, I know we’ve been trained up on 2000 years of Christianity and the love and forgiveness of the sacrifice of Jesus. But if you think about it, why would anyone expect the supreme power of the universe to be loving, merciful, and forgiving? We could much more expect Him to be exacting, demanding, and unsparing. And yet, He is not what we expect. He wants us to climb His hill and He will forgive us so we can. Praise the Lord!

Tomorrow’s reading is Psalm 25.

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The Lord’s Earth

Today’s reading is Psalm 24.

In Hebrew, the first word of Psalm 24 is Yahweh. “Yahweh’s is the earth and its fullness, the world and its inhabitants.” The emphasis is not on the earth or its fullness. It is not on the world and its inhabitants. The emphasis is on the owner: Yahweh. Yahweh owns all that is because He is the one who conquered the chaos and created the cosmos. Moses proved this in Exodus 9:29 when Yahweh was the one who started and stopped the hail, but no Egyptian god could (and that was demonstrated 10 times over). In recognizing this amazing ownership, Moses registered shock that God would settle His steadfast love on one family among mankind in Deuteronomy 10:14-15. David understood that since this was true, when he gave to God, he was only giving to God what was actually His already in 1 Chronicles 29:11-16. Based on this knowledge, Asaph grasped that God did not ask for offerings because of His own needs in Psalm 50:9-13. Because this is true, Paul was able to recognize that idols were nothing and no food actually belongs to an idol in 1 Corinthians 10:25-26. And this makes Yahweh distinct from the ancient gods. Yahweh is not a personal God. He is not a national God. He is not a territorial or regional God. He alone is God. He is not merely God on Zion, He is God everywhere. You cannot make Yahweh your God. He is your God. You can either recognize it now or recognize it later. I can tell you which one would be better. Yahweh is the only God! Hallelujah!

Tomorrow’s reading is Psalm 24.

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The Lord is My Host

Today’s reading is Psalm 23.

The Lord is my host. That imagery is not nearly as beloved today as yesterday’s shepherding imagery. However, that is exactly what our psalm moves to in vss. 5-6. I recognize and appreciate the view that the picture of shepherding persists throughout the whole psalm. And, in fact, it might. I could be wrong about this. However, as much as we can stretch the figures of vs. 5 to still apply to a shepherd with his sheep (preparing tableland pastures, anointing the head of the sheep with medicinal ointments, the cup of ointment being in abundance), these metaphors are most simply and most literally applied to the role of a host at a feast. When the Lord is our host, a sumptuous table is spread before us. Not only that, but the disturbing odors of the day in the hot sun are removed by the fragrant anointing oil that softens the skin and soothes the weariness. And the cup overflows. Like the Lord’s sheep led by the abundance of quiet waters, the Lord’s guest never waits for a refill and doesn’t have to worry that the supply of refreshment will be depleted. But as with the sheep and his Shepherd, being the guest of the Lord is not all sunshine and daisies. We feast under the threatening eyes of the enemies. We are in a scene of plenty, but there is danger. For the sheep, the rod and staff comforts. For the guest, it is goodness and mercy. And, we must recognize that goodness and mercy do not passively follow along. They pursue. They chase us down. In almost an inversion on the whole enemy picture, though enemies are present, they aren’t our pursuers. The Lord’s goodness and mercy are. So, why would I be a guest in anyone else’s house? Why would I feast with any other master? I will dwell in Yahweh’s house. After all, in His house, I lack nothing. Hallelujah!

Tomorrow’s reading is Psalm 23.

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The Lord is My Shepherd

Today’s reading is Psalm 23.

It has become, perhaps, the most beloved word picture in all of Scripture. Yahweh is my Shepherd. Because He is my Shepherd, I will not want. That is, I lack nothing. Not that I get everything I ever wanted, but I discover all the Lord provides is all I need. He provides me with comfort, contentment, peace, sustenance. He provides the safety that allows me to lie down, though I’m naturally skittish and characteristically frightful. Though I would typically drink down any muddy, parasite-infested gulp of water I can find, He leads me to quiet, still, refreshing waters. He gives guidance down good paths because it glorifies His name to do so. This is not to say that it is all sunshine and daisies or rainbows and buttercups with my Shepherd. Sometimes I wander, become downcast, get myself caught in the brambles and bushes, get bogged down in the headbutting order with my fellow sheep. It isn’t pretty. But, my Shepherd gently refreshes, renews, and restores me. Other times, He walks through the valley of the shadow of death. Death’s shadow is really, really dark and gloomy. Predators lurk everywhere. It is scary. I don’t always understand why He has led me that way. But I have learned He is still with me in the dark. His rod and staff protect me and discipline me, but it is always for my good. The Lord is my Shepherd. I’m a blessed sheep. Hallelujah!

Tomorrow’s reading is Psalm 23.

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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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A Prayer for Our Brothers and Sisters

Today’s reading is Psalm 20.

I have to make a confession. As I’ve read this psalm over and over again in preparing these posts, I’ve been reading it in an Irish accent. It just reminds me of those ancient Irish blessings/prayers. You know the ones I’m talking about:

May the road rise up to meet you. May the wind be always at your back. May the sun shine warm upon your face, the rains fall soft upon your fields, and until we meet again, may God hold you in the palm of His hand.

Irish Blessing

Of course, we can offer up an Irish blessing like that for one another. But we could never offer up the Psalm 20 blessing for one another. After all, that is a prayer for the King. Or can we? In fact, this psalm is a prayer we can offer for one another. First, we can offer it for one another because the prayer for the King was actually a prayer for the nation of followers over which the King is head. That is why vss. 7-8 moves from “you” to “we” and “us.” We trust in the Lord. When we do, it is not only the King who rises and stands upright. We do. The psalm begins with the request that the Lord will answer the King, it ends with the shift that He will answer us when we call. Second, in a very real sense, we are anointed by the Lord as well (see 1 John 2:20, 27). Thus, we are Christians or little Christs or little anointed ones (see Acts 11:26). According to 1 Peter 2:9, we Christians are a chosen race, a “royal priesthood.” That is, we are anointed priestly kings. In Revelation 1:6, we have been made “a kingdom, priests to his God and Father.” Again, we are anointed kingly priests. You don’t have to pray Psalm 20 with an Irish accent, though like the song “Be Thou My Vision,” an accent makes it more fun. However, we can and we should pray these blessings for one another. What a wonderful prayer. Would you pray it for me today? I’ll pray it for you.

Today’s reading is Psalm 21.

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