You Must Go Through the Door

Today’s reading is Psalm 36.

Do you remember that song, “It’s so high, you can’t get over it. So low, you can’t get under it. So wide, you can’t get it around it. You must go through the door”? There have been different versions of this with different emphases throughout the years. Some versions refer to heaven, some to God’s love, some to the church, but they all essentially make the same point. You either enter by the door, or you’re stuck on the outside.

I can’t help but think of this song when I read Psalm 36. God’s steadfast love and faithfulness are so high they extend to the heavens and to the clouds. That is, you can’t get over them. His righteousness is high and wide like a mountain range. You can’t get over it or around it. His judgments are so deep they are like…well…the great deep. That is, you can’t plumb their depths even if you were to swim to the bottom of the ocean. You can’t get under them. (I admit it, I might be stretching to make the point about width, but surely you can still hear the song in this psalm.)

Look, you can try all you want to sneak in, over, around, under, but there is only one way. Just walk through the door into God’s steadfast love, faithfulness, righteousness, and judgments. David even provides a hint of this when he says, “Man and beast you save, O Lord.” Can you think of the event to which David is referring? Of course, the flood, when God saved man and beast in the Ark.

Do you get the picture? You either get into God and His Ark of safety His way, or you are going to be on the outside in the rain. There is no sneaky, cunning, crafty, stealthy way to get what God is offering. You won’t make an end run around God’s will and word. You might as well just do what He says. Give Him your allegiance. Take shelter under His wings. There is no other place of safety.

Tomorrow’s reading is Psalm 36.

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On Fear and Wisdom

Today’s reading is Psalm 34.

I understand why we do it, but I sometimes wonder if the modern attempt to classify psalms doesn’t miss the boat. “This psalm is a communal lament.” “That psalm is an individual praise.” “This other psalm is a Messianic psalm.” “That one is a wisdom psalm.” It is amazing to me the number of times the commentators have to say, “This psalm is hard to classify. It has some qualities of this kind of psalm, but also some qualities of that kind of psalm.” Honestly, it’s almost like they have forgotten that the Psalms didn’t come with a guide book explaining the various kinds of psalms and all their characteristics. From beginning to end all those systems of classifications are man made. They don’t tell us so much about the psalm we are studying as they tell us about our modern penchant to need to organize, classify, systematize, and order. If we are not careful, we may end up reading the psalms through our modern eyes and missing what the original authors intended.

This is another one of those psalms we classifiers struggle with. Is it a praise psalm or is it a wisdom psalm? David praises God, he calls all of his readers to praise God with him. It’s a praise psalm, right? But wait, based on the praise he teaches his audience how to live. It’s a wisdom psalm, right? Maybe it’s both. Or maybe, we just have to realize God didn’t label these psalms, and we don’t have to either.

I’ll tell you what we can see in this psalm no matter what we label it. David says, “Come, O children, listen to me; I will teach you the fear of the Lord” (vs. 11, ESV). In our modern day, we struggle with being taught to fear the Lord. However, ancient wisdom said we should fear the Lord, and we need to be taught how. Apparently, despite our modern conceptions of fear, it isn’t a natural reaction to the power of God, it is a learned response to the truth of God. Proverbs 15:33 says the fear of the Lord is instruction in wisdom. Psalm 111:10; Proverbs 1:7, and Proverbs 9:10 all claim the fear of the Lord is the beginning of the wisdom.

What does fearing the Lord look like? I can tell you this: it doesn’t look like cowering in your closet, hoping the Lord will ignore you or forget you are hiding there. It looks like keeping your tongue from evil and deceit, turning away from evil, doing good, seeking peace and pursuing it. For more on this, you might want to read the New Testament letter from James.

Tomorrow’s reading is Psalm 34.

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Who is the Lord?

Today’s reading is Psalm 33.

As we learned yesterday, the storm is thundering, the battle is raging, survival is in doubt. Yet, Psalm 33 praises and worships the Lord. Why? Who is this Lord that He should be praised?

First of all, He exists. Psalm 33 removes the notion of naturalism and materialism. It explains that something, or rather Someone, exists beyond what we can feel and touch. Everything that has a beginning has a cause. The heavens, the sea, the land have a beginning. Their cause? The Creator Lord.

Second, He is distinct. Psalm 33 destroys the notion of pantheism, that God is actually the sum total of all things in existence. Rather, there is creation and there is Creator. He is separate and distinct. We don’t search for the divine within us as if we are somehow God or part of God. We listen for His Word that directs us just as His Word brought everything into existence.

Third, He is invisible. Psalm 33 abandons the idolatrous and pagan notion that we must see some representative of God. The hosts of the heavens, the sun, moon, stars are not God or gods; they are creations of God. They aren’t representatives of God; they are the handiwork of God. I do not see God when I look to the hosts of heaven. However, I see evidence for the God I cannot see. The star is not God, but the star could not exist without God.

Fourth, He is involved. Psalm 33 rules out the notion of Deism, that God started the whole universe on some kind of perpetual motion course and is now just watching it play out. No. He actually gets involved in the plans of the nations and peoples. He frustrates those that are against His will. He bestows love on those that go along with His will. He is involved.

Fifth, He is unparalleled. Psalm 33 overthrows the notion of a weak God. No one and no thing can overpower God. In fact, no one and no thing that has any power has it apart from God. We do not have to worry that God is going to lose. He has no equal. He has no true rival.

Sixth, He is love. Psalm 33 squashes the notion that God is morally defective. His steadfast love is seen throughout the world. But this is not because everything that happens to everyone is enjoyable. This is because God is working out His loving plan through everything that happens to everyone.

Seventh, He is discerning. Psalm 33 obliterates the notion that God is indiscriminate. Yes, He loves all people. Yes, He invites all people. But He does not welcome all people. He does not receive all people. Rather, He delivers those who put their hope and their trust in Him. Those who ignore His pleas or twist His Word and Will to their own pleasure will not receive the blessings of His steadfast love. But those who trust, fear, and love Him will be blessed by Him.

No doubt, there is so much more we could say about the Lord. We could probably even say more from Psalm 33. But this is surely enough for us to see a God worthy of praise and worship. Don’t you think?

Tomorrow’s reading is Psalm 33.

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But Where’s Jesus?

Today’s reading is Psalm 32.

I see your hand in the back there. You have a question? “But where’s Jesus?” you ask. That is a very good question. I’ve made it pretty clear we ought to be able to find Jesus in most, if not all, the psalms. Do we find Him in this one? Absolutely.

I think the key to finding Jesus is in vs. 6:

“Therefore let everyone who is godly offer prayer to you at a time when you may be found…”

Psalm 32:6

Who are these “godly” people? On the one hand that just doesn’t make sense. We are talking about sinners reaching out to find God and confess their ungodliness to Him. How can David call them godly?

The term here translates the Hebrew “chasid.” That is an adjective form of the much more well-known “chesed.” “Chesed” is that word translated steadfast love, loyal love, lovingkindness. It is the covenant love God has for His people (see Exodus 34:6-7). Once I grasp that, I see that “godly” does not actually refer to those who have always and only behaved in a godly fashion. Rather, the godly are the covenant people who are subjects of God’s covenant love. In other words, not just anyone gets to cry out in confession to God and get forgiveness. Only those who are part of God’s covenant, the godly, can do so.

Obviously, in this one little post, I don’t have time or room to trace out the progression from the covenant at Sinai to the covenant at Zion. But even those covenant people under the law of Moses actually only found forgiveness because of the blood of Jesus Christ. It is only because of the covenant God offers through Jesus Christ that anyone can have the forgiveness this psalm talks about. And, only the people who are in covenant with God through Jesus Christ experience this covenant love of forgiveness today.

Where is Jesus in this psalm? He is the foundation of it. He is the basis of it. Without Him, this psalm simply isn’t true. But because of Him, it is. Because of Him and His sacrifice, when we His people confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins.

Praise the Lord!

Next week’s reading is Psalm 33.

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The Lord’s Anger

Today’s reading is Psalm 30.

Why should the saints praise the Lord and give thanks to His holy name? Because His anger is for a moment, but His favor lasts a lifetime. Weeping may tarry for the night, but joy comes with the morning. Well, this doesn’t sound like the Lord’s anger at all, does it? God’s wrath and judgment are eternal. If we face the judgment outside of Jesus, it is going to be a forever issue. How can David say it only lasts for a moment? Is he saying God is one of those flash in the pan folks who can’t control His anger, it bursts forth like an eruption, but then He backs off? Is Yahweh fickle like Baal, Zeus, and other pagan gods? You never know what will cause Him to explode or how long it will last? No. David isn’t saying any of these things. David is remembering his own covenant with Yahweh that is also Israel’s covenant. In 2 Samuel 7:14-15, the Lord covenanted with David saying, “I will be to him a father, and he shall be to me a son. When he commits iniquity, I will discipline him with the rod of men, with the stripes of men, but my steadfast love will not depart from him, as I took it from Saul, whom I put away from before you.” Look again at Psalm 30:4. This is the reason the Lord’s saints can praise and give thanks. Not just anyone can praise and thank God for this. Sometimes we, the Lord’s saints, do things worthy of the Lord’s anger. In these times, like a loving Father, He disciplines us (see Hebrews 12:4-11). However, He knows our frame. He remembers we are but dust (see Psalm 103:14). He does not carry on in His anger forever. He doesn’t bear a grudge against us. Rather, in love, He restores us and brings His favor to us. And the moments of discipline develop within us peaceful fruits of righteousness for which we can rejoice. In other words, we can give thanks and praise God because with us, His saints, He doesn’t use His anger to merely vent His spleen. He uses it as a tool for our discipline, our growth, our good which will lead us to rejoice in the long run. What an amazing Abba, Father God we have. Praise the Lord!

Tomorrow’s reading is Psalm 30.

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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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