I Love Your Friends!

Today’s reading is Psalm 26.

We mentioned Psalm 1 yesterday. Remember it again today. That psalm made a distinction between the blessed and the wicked. But there is more to the choice than just being the blessed or being the wicked. David understands that if He is going to dwell in the Lord’s holy habitation at the summit of the Lord’s holy hill, he has to be careful who his friends are. In Psalm 15, another psalm that questions who can dwell in the Lord’s house (similar to Psalm 24), David recorded that the holy hill dweller is one “in whose eyes a vile person is despised, but who honors those who fear the Lord.” In a day and age, such as our own, dominated by the concept of tolerance, we can lose sight of the fact that the Lord does not tolerate everyone. Those who pursue what is false, hypocrites, evildoers, and those who practice wickedness are not tolerated by the Lord in His own house. And while nothing makes God happier than for these to repent, submit to Him, and then come live with Him, nothing will make God bring these into His house while they continue in their sin. And so, back to Psalm 1, the person who walks with the wicked, hangs out with the sinful, settles down with scoffers will not be blessed. David loves Yahweh. He loves worshiping Yahweh. He loves those who worship Yahweh in truth. He knows that if he hangs out with the impenitently sinful and rebellious now, he will be hanging out with them for eternity. He loves the Lord and those who love the Lord. He loves the Lord’s friends. While we can never go out of the world (see 1 Corinthians 5:10), and while we certainly must develop relationships with the impenitently sinful in order to lead them to repentance, we must make sure our closest relationships are those who have their closest relationship with Yahweh. And doesn’t that just make sense? I mean, it is kind of hard to dwell in Yahweh’s house if I’m having to constantly abandon it to hang out with my best friends. Who are your best friends?

Tomorrow’s reading is Psalm 26.

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I Love Your Grace!

Today’s reading is Psalm 26.

As we recognized yesterday, David loves the Lord’s house. This sets this psalm up in the middle of a series of psalms starting with Psalm 23. The Shepherd’s psalm ends with the declaration, “I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.” But who gets to actually dwell in that house? Psalm 24 provides the answer: one who has clean hands and pure heart. But wait, I’ve already messed that up. Is there any hope for me? Psalm 25, the first psalm to explicitly mention the psalmist’s own personal sin, anticipates and answers that objection. Our God is merciful, gracious, abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness (reminding us of God’s own declaration in Exodus 34:6-7). Because of God’s mercy and grace, I can climb His holy Hill and dwell in His house despite my failures and sins. And now Psalm 26 talks about life in God’s house. Before we jump to David’s integrity (a topic for tomorrow), notice how David actually got into God’s house. “Your steadfast love is before my eyes, and I walk in your faithfulness.” In whose faithfulness? David’s faithfulness? No, in God’s. This is another reference back to Exodus 34:6-7. In other words, David isn’t saying, “I’ve been so amazing, I deserve to be in Your house, Lord.” He is remembering the principles we learned in the previous psalm. He has walked in the Lord’s love and faithfulness. He has called on God’s mercy and grace. As Psalm 5:7 explained, David has entered the Lord’s house not because of his own awesomeness, but “through the abundance of your steadfast love.” It is no wonder that David’s prayer about his own integrity still ends with a request for God to “be gracious to me.” The only way to dwell in God’s house is by His grace. Don’t you just love God’s grace? David did. Praise the Lord!

Tomorrow’s reading is Psalm 26.

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I Love Your House!

Today’s reading is Psalm 26.

Have you ever walked into a friend’s house for the first time and just been blown away? It’s layout is cool. The d├ęcor is fabulous. It’s cozy. You just love it. You wish it was yours, and you start mentally jotting down ideas about how to improve your house. Psalm 26 is all about that. Except it isn’t simply a friend’s house, it is the Lord’s house. “O Lord, I love the habitation of your house and the place where your glory dwells.” For David, this referred to the tabernacle. After Solomon, it spoke of the temple. But for us, it is the church of the Lord Jesus Christ. Ephesians 2:19-22 demonstrates that the collection of all Christians whether Jews or Gentiles is the temple of the Lord. Ephesians 3:19 is the prayer that this modern temple will be filled with the fullness of God, that is, being filled with His glory. While this refers to the universal church, the sum collection of all disciples of all places and of all times, we mostly interact with this temple at a congregational level. Don’t misunderstand, I’m not saying each congregation is a temple of the Lord, but our interaction with the temple (the universal church) is on that congregational level (the local church). This entire psalm is about “going to church.” No, it isn’t about going to a church’s building. Rather, it is about gathering with the church, the assembly, the brothers and sisters. It is about gathering to worship the Lord God with our spiritual family. Whether we are gathering to pray, sing, read Scripture, break the Bread of Life, or break the bread of communion, or a combination of these things, David demonstrates the attitude we should have. Do you look forward to Sunday? Do you look forward to congregational gatherings, classes, worship, singings, prayings just because it is time with God’s church, time in God’s house, time in the midst of God’s glory? Or is it a checklist item you want to mark off as quickly as possible and get out of the way so you can get on with all the other things you think are more important? No doubt. It’s a growth process. But may we all get to where we can say, “I love Your house, Lord!”

Tomorrow’s reading is Psalm 26.

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A Reason to Pray

Today’s reading is Psalm 25.

Today, I want to share with you the second most important lesson I’ve ever learned about prayer. The most important lesson is that prayer, whatever aspect of prayer I’m practicing, is always about God’s glory and not mine. We find that all over the psalms. But the second most important lesson is demonstrated in this psalm. Many commentators talk about how hard it is to get a hold of this psalm. Is it a lament? Is it a meditation? Is it a prayer? Is it a praise? They struggle with the outline and wonder at the mixture of prayer and meditation. But the reality is this psalmist is not only teaching prayer, but teaching one of the number one keys to effective praying. This psalm goes back and forth between prayer to God and meditation on God because the psalmist is praying and then meditating on the reason for the prayer. This is part of prayer that I skipped for a very long time. When we plan our praying and embark on a prayer, we should consider, what about God would remotely make Him willing to respond to what I’m praying right now? What about God’s character, nature, word, will, promises leads me to believe God will remotely want to respond to what I’m laying out before Him? The psalmist anticipates a problem with his trek up God’s holy hill. I’m a sinner. He knows the only way to deal with that is if God forgives him. But why would God do that? Why should the psalmist remotely expect God to respond to the request to “Remember not the sins of my youth”? Why should the psalmist remotely expect God to forgive his sins and then protect him from his enemies? Because of Exodus 34:6-7. Because God had revealed to Moses and to Israel His very nature. His character. His name. His name is merciful and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, forgiving transgression, iniquity, and sin. And so the psalmist has a reason to pray this prayer. “Don’t remember my sins, Lord. Remember Your name.” And therefore, the psalmist asks the Lord to act for His name’s sake and pardon his guilt. That was the psalmist’s reason for this prayer. When you bow, what is the reason God should or would respond to the request you are making? Think it through. Tie it to the Biblical reason, and then offer it up to God. You’ll be amazed at what this practice will do to improve your praying.

Today’s reading is Psalm 26.

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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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Unto You, O Lord!

Today’s reading is Psalm 25.

The previous psalm explained that whoever lifts up his soul to what is false is not allowed to ascend the holy hill of Yahweh. As if in response, this psalm begins with a clear “To You, O Lord, I lift up my soul.” In the previous psalm, this kind of person would receive blessing and righteousness from the Lord. In this psalm, the psalmist is asking the Lord to hold true to His word. “Let me not be put to shame; let not my enemies exult over me.” However, it is more than a request, it is also a confident assertion. “Indeed, none who wait for you shall be put to shame.” He ends this psalm the same place he begins. His foes are many. They are violent and hateful. But he takes refuge in the Lord and waits on Him. Therefore, he asks and expects the Lord to guard his soul and keep him from shame. Today, we recognize that suffering and struggle, whether from enemies or from some other source, isn’t an indication of shame nor does it lead to shame. Paul tells us our suffering produces endurance, our endurance produces character, character produces hope, and our hope does not put us to shame. Further, we are confident this is true because God’s love has been poured into our hearts and the Holy Spirit has been given to us (Romans 5:3-5). The next time you sing “Unto thee, O Lord,” remember there is no shame with the Lord. Praise the Lord!

Tomorrow’s reading is Psalm 25.

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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 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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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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Where is Your Portion

Today’s reading is Psalm 17.

What an amazing contrast we find between Psalm 16 and Psalm 17. In Psalm 16, David proclaims that the Lord is his portion. In Psalm 17, we meet David’s enemies whose portion is in this life. But their portion in this life is pretty shocking. It is children and lots of money to leave them. Now that’s a shock because we like to claim that the righteous will leave an inheritance to their children’s children. After all, Proverbs 13:22 says that is the case, doesn’t it? Do these passages contradict each other? No. The proverb is pointing out that God often blesses the righteous with such an inheritance. Sadly, some people see the proverb and then make leaving an inheritance to their children’s children their pursuit and proof of their righteousness. When they do that, even if they are going to church and proclaiming God’s blessing, they moved their portion to this life. Further, and even more sadly, they have a tendency to convince their infants that the better inheritance is their financial abundance rather than the Lord. But David knew what was the best portion and the best inheritance. Have you figured it out yet?

Tomorrow’s reading is Psalm 17.

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