Wait! Who is Blessed?

Today’s reading is Psalm 32.

I love Psalm 32, don’t you? It’s so comforting. However, most of my life, I’ve read it in a vacuum. I love it’s message about forgiveness. I bask in it and then move on. But now that we are walking through the psalms slowly, one at a time, this psalm explodes with new meaning.

Do you recall the doorway into the psalms: Psalm 1? The entire psalter started with a beatitude. “Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked…” It paints the picture of the person who doesn’t take counsel from the wicked, sinful, scoffers, but simply meditates in God’s Word. There are the blessed, and there are the wicked. And let’s face it, at the end of Psalm 1 there is a small part of us thinking, “Blessed is the man who has never violated God’s Law.”

While reading that first psalm, we might be able to convince ourselves we fit. We like God’s Word. We think about it a great deal. We try hard to follow it. However, having worked our way through all the psalms so far, we have been disabused of that notion. We aren’t perfect. We aren’t sinless. There have been plenty of times God’s law and will were not our meditation. There have been plenty of times we have listened to the counsel of the wicked. Where does that leave us?

Enter Psalm 32. “Blessed is the one whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered.” And if that wasn’t enough, there’s a second beatitude. “Blessed is the man against whom the Lord counts no iniquity, and in whose spirit there is no deceit.”

Praise God! The blessed are not the perfect, they are the forgiven.

Tomorrow’s reading is Psalm 32.

PODCAST!!!

Click here to take about 15 minutes to listen to the Text Talk conversation between Andrew Roberts and Edwin Crozier sparked by this post.

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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.

PODCAST!!!

Click here to take about 15 minutes to listen to the Text Talk conversation between Andrew Roberts and Edwin Crozier that expands on this post!

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A Prayer for the King

Today’s reading is Psalm 20.

As we’ve intimated over the past two days, Psalm 20 is a prayer for the King of Israel before he goes out to battle. It is a prayer of blessing. And what a prayer it is. Though it is spoken to the King himself, originally David, it is a prayer to God. The blessing assumes the King himself is praying and asks the Lord to answer when the King calls on Him. It is a fearful thing when the King goes out to battle. A land without a King is a like a flock without a shepherd. So, they pray for God’s protection for their King. The main prayer is seen in the requests that help come from the sanctuary and support from Zion. The prayer is not for armed reinforcements. The hope is not that more soldiers will make it to the battlefield from Jerusalem in time. No; Zion was the dwelling place of Yahweh. It was where He chose to make His name dwell from the time of David. The prayer is that Yahweh Himself will fight the battles of the King. Israel had a long history of Yahweh fighting their battles. It started with the ten plagues and the crossing of the Red Sea. We see it when Moses held up his staff with the help of Aaron and Hur and Joshua prevailed. We see it when Joshua and Israel marched around Jericho. We see it when Gideon’s 300 fought the Midianites. But we also see it when the armies of Israel just marched to battle and fought hand to hand. In all these circumstances, God was fighting for them. The assumption in the prayer is that the King’s plans and desires coincide with God’s. That his plans are for victory of God’s people. And this prayer is offered in faith because they are putting their trust in God, not in horses and chariots. Which means the prayer is also offered in obedience. In Deuteronomy 17:16, the King was precluded from multiplying horses, and in Deuteronomy 20:1-4, God told Israel not to fear when they faced large armies with horses and chariots. Thus, when Israel prayed this prayer, they could know it would be granted because they offered it in obedience and faith. What an amazing prayer Israel could offer for David and what amazing confidence they could have in their God. And as David was off with his armies, those who remained behind could prepare their banners because they knew they would be able to fly them. Praise the Lord!

Tomorrow’s reading is Psalm 20.

PODCAST!!!

Click here to take about 15 minutes and listen to the Text Talk conversation between Andrew Roberts and Edwin Crozier that expands on this post!

Continue reading “A Prayer for the King”

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.

PODCAST!!!

Click here to take about 15 minutes and listen to the Text Talk conversation between Edwin Crozier and Andrew Roberts that expands on this post.

Continue reading “Prayer: 99% of the Fight”

Second Verse, Worse than the First

Today’s reading is Psalm 10.

We don’t see it in our English translations, but Psalm 10 is linked to Psalm 9. In fact, in the Greek version of the Old Testament, they are joined together as one psalm. In the Hebrew, though they are separate psalms, they are together because they form an acrostic poem going through the Hebrew alphabet, though it is not complete. Scholars argue whether it was originally one poem broken in two for some reason by the Hebrew “editors” of the psalms, two poems melded together for some reason by Greek “editors” of the psalms, or one poem (Psalm 9) to which a later writer came along and tacked on a “second” verse (Psalm 10). Whatever the case may be, the psalms go together. There are simply too many connections between them to think they just accidentally got placed side by side in the ancient hymnal. To my mind, they are like two episodes in the same story. The first episode ends with absolute faith that God is going to do something; the second episode begins some time later, but God hasn’t done anything yet. Therefore, the situation has gone from bad to worse. The wicked have been getting away with their wickedness. The poor and needy have become poorer and needier. The afflicted have suffered worse affliction. And to add insult to injury, the psalmist has been praying in faith, but nothing has been happening. Perhaps you have been there. Perhaps you are there. Perhaps you are thinking about giving up. Perhaps you are thinking about abandoning God. You are not alone. You aren’t the first to have been in this situation, and you won’t be the last. May I encourage you to take a lesson from the Psalmist. We thought the psalmist’s faith was being tested in Psalm 9. That test has gone into overdrive in Psalm 10. But what is the psalmist still doing? Praying. Praying with more fervor, more intensity, more helplessness, more powerlessness, and more faith. After all, wouldn’t you agree it takes greater and stronger faith to keep hanging on the longer there seems to be no response? I don’t know what you are waiting on from God, but let this psalmist be your example. Keep praying. After all, there is only One who can provide your answer: God.

Tomorrow’s reading is Psalm 10.

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Our Real King

Today’s reading is Psalm 5.

David, king of Israel wrote this psalm, but when He cries out to the Lord, he says, “My King and my God.” How humbling it must be for a king to bow before another and say, “My King.” But there it is. It doesn’t matter if I’m the boss, the mayor, the CEO, the governor, a doctor, a lawyer, the President, or the Queen, I need to follow David’s example. Whatever role I play in this world, at home, on the job, in the community, there is a real King in authority over me: God. But taking this a step further, can anyone who has read John’s account of the gospel not hear the echoes of Thomas’s confession to Jesus in John 20:28? “My Lord and my God,” Thomas confessed. Yes, yes, the wording is slightly different. But notice how often “Lord” is used in Psalm 5 around David’s confession. What had Thomas come to believe having witnessed the resurrected Jesus? Jesus is King, Jesus is God, Jesus is Lord, Jesus is Yahweh. Jesus is the King and God to whom David was offering his psalm. We have a real King. His name is Yahweh; His name is Jesus. Today, let us give Him our complete allegiance.

Tomorrow’s reading is Psalm 5.

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Praying with Faith

Today’s reading is Acts 12.

I’ve heard multiple preachers really give the Jerusalem church down the road for praying without faith in Acts 12. After all, they were praying for Peter, but when Rhoda claims he’s at the gate of Mary’s house, nobody says, “Awesome! Our prayers were granted.” Rather, they say things like, “You’re out of your mind” or “It must be his messenger.” The ungodly, heathen wretches. Why were they even praying if they weren’t going to believe it when their request was granted? I hope you read those last two sentences as sarcasm; I think the claims that they were praying without faith are not entirely fair. First, are you sure they were praying for Peter to be released at all? How do you know they weren’t simply praying for Peter’s faith to remain strong in the face of this persecution? Further, have you ever noticed that the text doesn’t say directly Herod’s plan was to execute Peter, but to bring him out to the people? In other words, Herod was planning to leave Peter’s fate up to the people because he was only pursuing this course of action to please the people. With that in mind, I’m guessing the prayers of the Christians were much more along the lines of praying that either Herod would change his mind or the people could be swayed to push for Peter’s release. I’m guessing it never crossed their minds that God would respond to their prayers by miraculously releasing Peter from prison in the middle of the night. In fact, I’m guessing it never even occurred to them to pray for that. After all, it didn’t occur to Peter either–even while it was happening. Certainly, praying in faith means not being shocked when God does do what we ask (though admittedly, He does not always grant our requests). I just don’t think that was the problem here. Here, we see that praying in faith means not limiting our requests by what we can imagine God will do. Paul says God can do far more abundantly than all we ask or think (see Ephesians 3:20). We need to have the faith to pray and think BIG!!!! When everyone else is praying for Herod to change his mind, we need to have the faith to ask God to send His angel and jailbreak Peter.

Tomorrow’s reading is Acts 12.

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Friends Who Pray

Today’s reading is Acts 4.

Can you imagine what it must be like to be arrested and threatened? Once released, what would you do? Go into hiding? Get out of town? Peter and John “went to their friends.” But notice what kind of friends they had. They didn’t go to friends who merely commiserated with them. They didn’t go to friends who decided to take up arms against their enemies. They didn’t go to friends who groused and complained about how bad things were. They went to friends who prayed. Those are the kinds of friends we need to have. Those are the kinds of friends we need to be. And not the kinds of friends who simply promise to pray sometime off in the indeterminate future. Friends who drop everything and pray right then and there. That is a good kind of friend. Don’t you agree?

Tomorrow’s reading is Acts 4.

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How Bad Do You Want It?

Today’s reading is Luke 11.

One of the big mistakes we make about prayer is acting as if the prayer has only been answered if it was answered, “Yes.” If we got what we asked for, we call it an answered prayer. We need to understand that sometimes God says, “No.” That prayer is just as answered. However, there are some other answers that we often overlook, like the one demonstrated in Jesus’s story about the pestering neighbor. The neighbor bangs on the door to ask for bread, but the person in the house says, “Go away. I’m in bed.” The neighbor continues to pester until the person gets out of bed and grants the request. Have you thought about what God is demonstrating there? The point is that God’s answer sometimes isn’t “No.” Sometimes it is, “I don’t know. How bad do you want it?” Haven’t all parents learned this response at sometime. Junior, for the third time in a year, has decided he wants to pick up some expensive instrument and learn to play it. The parents know this is likely just another whim. Instead of simply granting the request to purchase a trumpet, electric guitar, drum set, they hold off. They aren’t saying No. They are actually waiting to see exactly how serious the child is. God responds that way for us at times as well. He doesn’t immediately grant the request, but neither is He actually saying No. Sometimes, He is letting us demonstrate how serious we are. So, keep praying until you realize you don’t want whatever it is you are requesting, until God grants it, or until you are absolutely certain God has said No. Sometimes He is asking, “How bad do you want it?”

Tomorrow’s reading is Luke 11.

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Withdraw and Pray

Today’s reading is Luke 5.

If you aren’t reading closely, you might miss it. It is almost a throw away statement smack in the middle of all this amazing stuff. Jesus displays power over nature with the catch of fish. He touches a leper and instead of being made unclean, He makes the leper clean. He heals a paralytic and throws down the gauntlet before the Pharisees and lawyers all in one fell swoop. He takes on the standard outlook against tax collectors and sinners by eating with sinners who were coming to Him. And He deals with hard questions like those about fasting. In all of this, we see a confident, powerful, challenging figure walking against the grain and cutting a path through the self-righteous landscape between Pharisaic Judaism and sinful apathy. How did He maintain that? The strength came from that one little statement in vs. 16. “But he would withdraw to desolate places and pray.” Life was fast paced and hectic. People were pulling on Jesus from every direction. The more He taught and worked, the more people were pulling on Him. He didn’t take sabbaticals or vacations. He didn’t escape to the man cave for “me time.” He didn’t jump on Facebook or channel surf to get away from the rat race. He withdrew and prayed. Please, don’t misunderstand. I’m not saying any of those other things are wrong all by themselves. I’m just being impressed by Jesus. I like to complain about how busy I am, but when I consider how much tv I watch and how many books I read, I’m nowhere near as busy as Jesus. Today, when I’m feeling that pressure, instead of escaping, I want to lean in to God. I want to follow in Jesus’s footsteps. I want to withdraw and pray. How about you?

Tomorrow’s reading is Luke 5.

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