I Love Your Ways!

Today’s reading is Psalm 26.

Do you recall how the Psalms began? “Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers, but his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night” (Psalm 1:1-2, ESV). Psalm 26 is David’s declaration that he is choosing the right path. He is not walking in the counsel of the wicked, standing in the way of sinners, or sitting in the seat of scoffers. He is walking in his integrity. Before we object too much, as I am usually wont to do, we should be aware God himself testified David walked in integrity in 1 Kings 9:4. I love Dale Ralph Davis’s explanation of this, “One might say he is not claiming to be without fault but without apostasy.” David refuses to turn to another god. He refuses to worship at another temple. He refuses to be guided by another’s counsel. He may not always quite live up to the standards of his God, but he always uses Yahweh’s standards as his guide, counsel, and meditation. And when he stumbles in his walk, it will always be the Lord’s counsel that calls him back and brings him to repentance. Therefore, this psalm begins and ends with a walk in integrity. He trusts the Lord and love’s living in the Lord’s house, so he will love and will walk the Lord’s way. This reminds us that God’s grace (yesterday’s love) is not cheap, and that there is another facet of His nature as declared in Exodus 34:6-7. God’s love not only abounds to the thousandth generation of those who love Him, but He will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the father’s iniquity on the children to the fourth generation. In other words, if I enter the Lord’s house and then start bringing rebellion, falsehood, stubbornness, idolatry, wickedness into it, He will kick me out. He will forgive my sin if I bring it to Him in humble submission. He will not forgive my sin if I decide that I’m just going to continue in it while I live in His house. Sadly, many people love the Lord’s house and His grace, but they do not love His ways. They want to walk their own ways, but still end up in the Lord’s house. It simply doesn’t work like that. If you love the Lord’s house, you must love the Lord’s ways. They go together. And He is ready to lead us in those paths of righteousness for His name’s sake. Praise the Lord!

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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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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Do Not Be Deceived, Judgment Comes

Today’s reading is Psalm 21.

In the first half of Psalm 21, the psalmist is looking back. The king having come home victorious, the psalmist is acknowledging God’s part in the victory. However, beginning in vs. 8, the psalmist looks ahead. The past victory is a sign, a down payment if you will, of what is to come. It is unclear whether the speaker is addressing Yahweh, simply asserting faith regarding what He will do, or if he is addressing the king, encouraging him with what Yahweh will do through him. Either way, the message is the same. “Enemies Beware!” It is as if to say to everyone of the enemies, “Did you see what just happened to my last enemy? That is what is coming for you.” Having been raised up on the love of Jesus, it is hard for us to stomach this kind of psalm. And yet, we need to understand that being an enemy of Jesus is a serious affront. It is a crime against not only humanity, but against heaven. It is a sin of truly extravagant proportions. Jesus’s love was offered to find escape from this judgment. Those, however, who ignore His love and choose rather to stiff arm Him and spit in His face will be judged. Don’t be deceived. It is coming and it won’t be pleasant. It will be awful. Don’t joke about it. Don’t dismiss it. Don’t ignore it. Don’t procrastinate preparing for it. In the end, the battle does belong to the Lord. You can’t defeat Him. I encourage you if you haven’t already done so, surrender. Lay down your weapons. Put down your defenses. Surrender your allegiance. The only way to victory is to grant that God wins and defect to His side. Don’t delay. Judgment comes.

Tomorrow’s reading is Psalm 21.

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Distinct Love

Today’s reading is Psalm 17.

David asked God to “Wondrously show your steadfast love” (vs. 7). The word translated “Wondrously show” however is used in only a few other places. We find it three times during the plagues on Egypt (Exodus 8:22; 9:4; 11:7). Each time it refers to how God made a distinction between Israel and Egypt, punishing Egypt and preserving Israel. In Exodus 33:16, Moses claimed it was by God going with Israel that they were made distinct (that’s our word). Then in Psalm 4:3, we learned that God had set apart (that’s our word) the godly for Himself. In other words, David isn’t simply asking God to love him. David is asking God to show the entire world that it matters who your God is. David is asking God to repeat history. He is asking God to do for him what God did for Moses and Israel when in Egypt and when entering the Promised Land. David is asking God to demonstrate a distinct love. God loves everyone. God has demonstrated His love for everyone. But for His chosen people, He demonstrates a love that shows them to be distinct, to have a special relationship with Him. And while it may sound self-serving to pray that God would distinguish us, His chosen and special people, with a distinct kind of love, it is actually exactly what the world needs to see. The world needs to see that it really does matter who your God is. Perhaps we should spend more time praying that God would make a distinction. Perhaps we should spend more time asking God to distinguish us from the world by His love. The fact is, He only has His covenant love for His covenant people. Why not ask Him to demonstrate it? That may be the only way some people will learn their need and develop a desire to take God up on His covenant.

Tomorrow’s reading is Psalm 17.

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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 Lord Loves the Upright

Today’s reading is Psalm 11.

Obviously, in an absolute sense, the Lord loves everybody. So it bothers us to hear He loves the righteous. Further, it really bothers us to hear that God hates the wicked. To us, that just doesn’t sound like God at all. However, in this psalm the use of hate is not to be take an as absolute, but as a relative. It’s like Luke 14:26, in which Luke records Jesus as saying we are supposed to hate our family. However, in Matthew 10:37, the same scenario is recorded as Jesus saying we must not love our family more than Jesus. Luke’s record of that event is not saying we are to absolutely hate our family. Rather, our love for Jesus is to be so great compared to our feelings for our family that what we feel for our parents, siblings, and even spouse looks like hate. In Psalm 11, the “hate” of God is not that He simply and absolutely hates wicked people. He actually loves them. He loves them so much He sent Jesus to die for them. He loves them so much He offered up a propitiation for them. But those who reject the sacrifice of Jesus, pursuing and persisting in guilt will be judged. That is what is meant by God’s hate in this psalm. He is righteous. He loves uprightness. That is, He blesses and rewards it. He loves the upright. That is, He blesses and rewards those who find uprightness in Him through Jesus. But He hates wickedness. That is, He judges, condemns, and punishes it. He hates the wicked. That is, He judges, condemns, and punishes the wicked. This is one of the foundations that has not been destroyed. As we learned earlier in the week, it would be silly for David, or anyone, to pursue and persist in wicked behavior because it is a foundation that God hates the wicked and loves the upright. That is, it is a foundation that God judges, condemns, and punishes the wicked and blesses and rewards the upright. Therefore, David will not abandon this foundation. We had better not either.

Next week’s reading is Psalm 12.

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The Lord is Righteous

Today’s reading is Psalm 11.

The third foundation David will not abandon and that has not been destroyed is the righteousness of God. That righteousness is demonstrated by God living according to His name. His name declares that He is merciful, gracious, slow to anger, abounding in steadfast love, abounding in faithfulness, and forgiving. However, it also declares that He will by no means clear the guilty (Exodus 34:6-7). Those who abandon God’s moral principles, pursuing and persisting in guilt will be judged. God’s righteousness is not primarily a declaration that God is always right. Rather, it is a declaration that God always lives according to His name. It would be folly for David to abandon God while he is living in the crucible of God’s testing. Why? Because He will always live according to His name. Everyone who abandons God, turns away from Him, pursues and persists in guilt, gets judged. Every single one. There are no exceptions, not even for David, King of Israel. God will rain down coals of fire and send scorching winds upon the one who loves and persists in violence. This means two things for David. First, the people who are pursuing violence toward him may appear to be getting away with it for now, but David knows in the end, the righteous God always judges those who love violence. Second, he wants no part of their sin. He doesn’t want to respond to them in like manner because he is no exception to God’s righteousness. It’s a foundation. God is righteous. And that is exactly the way we want Him to be.

Tomorrow’s reading is Psalm 11.

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Those Who Know Your Name

Today’s reading is Psalm 9.

“Those who know your name put their trust in you”? What is that about? Yahweh? I Am that I Am? Those who know those words put their trust in God? What is it about that name? Actually, David isn’t referring to the Tetragrammaton, the four Hebrew letter combination that represents God’s name. Actually, David is referring to God’s proclamation of what His name means found in Exodus 34:6-7: “The Lord, the Lord, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, but who will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children and the children’s children, to the third and the fourth generation” (ESV). Those who know these things about God trust Him. They rely on Him. They turn to Him even when they have sinned. They turn to Him even when they know they don’t deserve it. They know that no matter what it looks like in the moments of battle, God has not forsaken them. Even when it looks like the battle tides have turned against them, they know who their God is. They know His name. They know His nature. They know that even if it looks like the needy have been forgotten, it will not always be that way. They know that even if it looks like the guilty are getting away with it, it will not always be that way. They know that God, in His time works together all things for good for those who love Him. So they hang on to Him. Only those who don’t know His name forsake Him. Then, of course, as His name says, He will not clear their guilt, but will visit their iniquity on them. Know God’s name. Trust God’s name. God will save His people for His name’s sake. Praise the Lord!

Tomorrow’s reading is Psalm 9.

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