Stay Cool

Today’s reading is Psalm 37.

When I hear “fret not,” as the first words of this psalm are translated in the ESV, I think about getting anxious and worried. However, the term is literally about heat. It is more like, “Don’t get overheated.” And that picture had a similar connotation for the Hebrews as it does for us. Heat accompanies anger. We might say things like, “Don’t get fired up.” Or “Don’t get hot under the collar.” In fact, this word is translated as “kindled” in several places when it talks about anger being “kindled” (see Psalm 106:40; 124:3).

Can you understand why someone might get angry when they see wicked people? Of course, we might get angry at the wicked themselves. When they perform their wickedness, it is an affront to God and it is often hurtful to us. Remember in Psalm 35 when we noticed the connection to David’s anger at Nabal? Just looking at external circumstances, Nabal appeared to be blessed while David appeared to be cursed. After all, Nabal had a fantastic, thriving ranch. David was on the run. When Nabal, that worthless, wicked fellow, refused to help David, David was incensed. His anger burned. And can’t we understand it? Aren’t we almost alongside him, egging him on? He almost took vengeance and vindication into his own hands. By God’s providence, Abigail intervened and cooled David’s anger. It was a blessing. Then God dealt with Nabal. He had been spreading like a green tree, 10 days later he could not be found and his wife was marrying David.

However, is there anyone else with whom we might become angry when the wicked appear blessed? Of course, we might get angry with God. He promised that we, His people, the righteous who worship Him and honor the work of His hands would be the green trees, blessed and fruitful. When we are on the run under the oppressive hand of the wicked, we may begin to believe God isn’t holding up His end of the covenant. And that is angering.

Psalm 1 was the gateway to the psalms explaining that those who meditate on God’s law are the blessed trees, and those who don’t are wicked chaff that get blown away. Psalm 37 brings in the healthy dose of reality that this distinction doesn’t always take place immediately. Even Psalm 1 was actually talking about what was to come at the end of the paths we chose, not the beginning. In fact, if it happened at the beginning, the choice of sin wouldn’t even be tempting, would it?

Whether we are talking about our reaction against the wicked themselves or against God who seems to be letting the wicked slide, we need to remember James’s teaching in James 1:20:

The anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God.

So, when you see the wicked prosper, stay cool. God will deal with it in His time.

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.

Discuss the Following Questions with Your Family

  1. What are your initial reactions to the psalm and the written devo above?
  2. Why is it so easy to get angry at the wicked people and at God when we see wicked people seem to be blessed?
  3. What kind of sins can seething in our anger lead to? (Hint: you might look at Ephesians 4:26-27, 31-32)
  4. In Psalm 37:1-9, David gives five positive statements about what we should do instead of fretting or getting overheated. What are they? How do we do them?
  5. What do you think we should pray for and about in light of this psalm and our discussion today?

When the Wicked Look Like the Blessed

Today’s reading is Psalm 37.

David says:

I have seen a wicked, ruthless man,
spreading himself like a green laurel tree.

Wait! What? That’s not right. Wicked people are chaff driven by the wind. They are not green trees, spreading out and growing. Just reread Psalm 1.

Yet, David has seen wicked trees. They look a lot like the fruitful trees of the blessed. They have their eye on the blessed, the righteous. They are doing what they can to afflict the righteous, to cut them off, to put them to death. All the while parading about like blessed trees. However, they are diseased.

David’s wise lesson on this? Don’t fret. They may look like a tree for a short time. But give it some time; the wicked tree will disappear. That is, though it appears to be a solid, stable tree, it will demonstrate that it is actually no more substantial than the chaff the wind blows away.

In fact, we Christians might remember Jesus’s own teaching here. You will know the tree by its fruit. And the tree that doesn’t produce healthy fruit gets cut down and thrown into the fire (see Matthew 7: 17-20).

When you see the wicked looking like the blessed, don’t get bent out of shape. Just wait on the Lord. He’ll set things to rights in His time. And those who are His will be the ones truly blessed.

Tomorrow’s reading is Psalm 37.

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.

Discuss the following questions with your family.

  1. What are your initial reactions to the psalm and the written devo above?
  2. Have you ever seen a time when wicked people looked like they were blessed?
  3. How does Satan use these seemingly blessed wicked people as a threat to God’s people?
  4. How does Jesus’s teaching in Matthew 7:17-20 help you respond when you see wicked people who appear blessed?
  5. What do you think we should pray for and about in light of this psalm and our discussion today?

Like King, Like People

Today’s reading is Psalm 37.

Do you remember how last week we recognized that Psalm 36 carried us back to Psalm 1? Psalm 1 contrasted two people, two ways, and two destinations. Psalm 36 contrasted two counsellors or guides: Transgression and Yahweh.

At this point in our study of the Psalms, will it surprise you to discover Psalm 37 carries us back to Psalm 2? In Psalm 2, David, the King, the Lord’s anointed is promised victory. Other kings and nations scoff at David and Yahweh. But Yahweh laughs in the heavens at their fruitless and powerless plots to escape the plans of Yahweh. They have but one choice. Give allegiance to the Lord’s anointed or perish in judgment.

Psalm 37:12-13 makes the connection most clearly:

The wicked plots against the righteous
and gnashes his teeth at him,
but the Lord laughs at the wicked,
for he sees that his day is coming.

In other words, this wisdom poem proclaims to the reader, “Do you remember how God was going to bless your King? Guess what! He’s doing the same for you. Like King, Like People.”

Today, spend some time thinking about your King. How did God treat Him? What was God’s plan for Him? How did God ultimately bless and give Him victory? Then meditate on what that means for you and me, His people.

Praise the Lord!

Tomorrow’s reading is Psalm 37.

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.

A New Approach

Starting today, we will take a new approach to this section that has historically been devoted to “A Word for Our Kids.” Rather than providing a second message of devotion, trying to focus more on children, we want to help you as parents lead a spiritual discussion with your children, helping you develop your skills of spiritual conversation with your family. We pray this is a blessing for your family.

Discuss the Following Questions with Your Family

  1. What are your initial reactions to the psalm and the written devo above?
  2. Do you think it is important for us to repeatedly notice all the connections between the various psalms? Especially the connections back to the first two psalms? Why or why not?
  3. Who is our King and how was He treated? What does that suggest about what we will likely face in life?
  4. How did God vindicate our King? What does this suggest about how and when God will ultimately vindicate us?
  5. What do you think we should pray for and about in light of this psalm and our discussion today?

Impenitence and Imprecation

Today’s reading is Psalm 35.

We call them imprecatory psalms. They give us no end of consternation. To imprecate someone is to invoke a curse on them. Thus, imprecatory psalms are psalms that call for people to be cursed by God. Jesus tells us to love our enemies, to pray for them, to bless them. Rather than wanting them to be judged and condemned, we should want them to repent and be justified. Yet, David calls down the curses of God on his enemies. What is that about?

While there are quite a few statements that are imprecatory in the Psalms, there are only a handful of psalms that get so deep into this that the psalm is called imprecatory. Psalm 35 is pretty universally accepted as being one of those psalms.

David asks God to take a spear and javelin (some translations say battle-axe) against his pursuers. He wants them to be driven away like chaff. He wants their way to become dark and slippery. He wants destruction to come on them. He wants them to fall into their own pits. Let’s be honest. That’s pretty intense.

While some take Psalm 35 as the first of the imprecatory psalms. Others attribute that honor to Psalm 7. Obviously, these psalms didn’t come labeled with our modern labels. Whether Psalm 7 is the first imprecatory psalm or not, there is a statement in that psalm we need to remember with all of the imprecatory psalms and statements we read.

If a man does not repent, God will whet his sword; he has bent and readied his bow; he has prepared for him his deadly weapons, making his arrows fiery shafts.

Psalm 7:12-13

It is interesting to note that Psalm 7 goes on to say of the wicked, “He makes a pit, digging it out, and falls into the hole that he has made. His mischief returns upon his own head, and on his own skull his violence descends.” This sounds a great deal like the imprecations of Psalm 35:7-8.

There are many things we can say about imprecations in the psalms, but at the top of the list needs to be this. Very early in the Psalms, the template for curses and imprecations is established. These curses are for those who refuse to repent. Underlying every imprecation is the understanding that just as we were forgiven when we repented, if others repent, they will be forgiven. Undergirding every imprecation is the understanding that the one praying the imprecation would rather see repentance in others, just as God allowed it in us.

However, if someone continues impenitently in rebellion against God and in their attacks on God’s people, then cursing is what will come. While our first line of prayer for people is for their salvation and well-being, as David’s was in Psalm 35:13-14, we recognize it is right to pray for God to bring justice for God’s people and bring judgment on the impenitent enemies of God’s people (see Paul in 2 Timothy 4:14; 1 Corinthians 16:22; Galatians 1:8-9; Revelation 6:10).

And, of course, it is always proper to notice that these imprecations are not saints meting out their personal revenge on others. In each case, these writers are leaving room for the judgment of God. They are bringing these prayers to God for Him to answer in the way He sees as best.

Tomorrow’s reading is Psalm 35.

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!

Continue reading “Impenitence and Imprecation”

A Real-Life Psalm

Today’s reading is Psalm 35.

I can’t prove it. However, I’m convinced our psalm is anchored in the real-life events of 1 Samuel 24. Saul was hunting David down. Somehow, in a cave in the wilderness of Engedi, Saul ended up in the exact same cave where David and his men were hiding out. Despite the urging of David’s men, he decided not to attack Saul, the Lord’s anointed.

Notice some connections between the record of the event and our psalm. In 1 Samuel 24:12, David says, “May the Lord judged between me and you, may the Lord avenge me against you, but my hand shall not be against you” (ESV). Psalm 35 begins, “Contend, O Lord, with those who contend with me; fight against those who fight against me.” First, recognize the call upon the Lord to do the heavy lifting here. But, and this is really compelling. In both cases, the first phrases are judicial terms (Judge, contend). In the second, they are combat terms (avenge, fight).

In 1 Samuel 24:9, David asks Saul why he is listening to men who are lying about him. In Psalm 35:11, David writes about the malicious witnesses who are testifying against him falsely.

In 1 Samuel 24:17, Saul admits to David, “You are more righteous than I, for you have repaid me good, whereas I have repaid you evil” (ESV). In Psalm 35:12, David claims, “They repay me evil for good” (ESV).

In Psalm 35:21-22, David makes a play on words out of the eyes and things being seen. In our psalm, he speaks of the lies of the false witnesses who claim to have seen some things. But then he drives home what God had actually seen. In 1 Samuel 24:10, David makes a clear claim about what Saul’s eyes had seen as part of his defense.

Thus, Psalm 35 is a meditation and series of prayers anchored in real-life events. Doesn’t it stand to reason then, that we can make some real-life application of this psalm for our own lives?

If there is one real-life application we should get out of David’s experience in the Engedi cave and this series of prayers he wrote about the experience, we must trust the Lord to fight our battles. We must leave vengeance to the Lord. I know we struggle with imprecatory psalms. We’ll talk more about that in later posts. But notice, despite what David asks God to do, when we look at this in the context of real-life, David didn’t take vengeance, he left it to the Lord.

This is even more noticeable in 1 Samuel when we go to the next chapter. That is where David almost lost this high ground. He almost took his own vengeance on Nabal, but was stopped by Nabal’s wise wife, Abigail. In fact, we may recognize some connections with this story as well. Abigail argues against David trying to work salvation for himself (1 Samuel 25:31). In our psalm, David asks God to declare, “I am your salvation!” (Psalm 35:3). According to 1 Samuel 25:39, Nabal had received his own evil on his own head. In Psalm 35:7-8, David prayed that his enemies would fall into the pit they had dug and be caught in the net they had laid. Further, in this story we find another reference to a man repaying evil for David’s good (see 1 Samuel 25:21). Finally, David sought peace for Nabal and his men (1 Samuel 25:6-8). But Nabal did not speak peace back to David. Psalm 35:20 refers to those who do not speak peace to those who are quiet in the land. Real-life events. A real-life psalm.

God is our real-life salvation, our real-life deliverer, our real-life avenger. We must trust Him. We must put the real-life judgment of our enemies into His hands. He will do what is right in our real lives.

Tomorrow’s reading is Psalm 35.

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.

Continue reading “A Real-Life Psalm”

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.

PODCAST!!!

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

Continue reading “The Battle Belongs to the Lord”

In God’s Armor

Today’s reading is Psalm 18.

Under the New Covenant, we talk a great deal about God’s armor (see Ephesians 6:10-18). We know about the belt of truth, breastplate of righteousness, gospel shoes, helmet of salvation, shield of faith, sword of the Word. Here in Psalm 18, we get to see the warrior on the battlefield in all that armor. Feet set secure on the broad places arranged by God so they won’t slip. Hands trained for war that can bend a bow of bronze. Support of God that shields from enemy’s attacks. These complementary images (the New Testament armor picture and the Old Testament battle image) should inform each other. That is, because we know Ephesians 6, we know the armor that makes the battle in Psalm 18 successful. Because we know Psalm 18, we know what the fight in the Ephesians 6 actually looks like. But there is another aspect of seeing these passages in light of each other. In Psalm 18, David said he needed the Lord in the battle because “my strong enemy…those who hated me…were too mighty for me” (Psalm 18:17). In Psalm 18, we envision Saul, Goliath, Doeg, Philistine armies. We live in a day and age that doesn’t include those kinds of enemies. We might view Psalm 18 as a wonderful poem for an ancient bygone day of violence that we don’t experience, until we go back to Ephesians 6 and discover we are smack in the middle of those days. We have enemies among the rulers, authorities, cosmic powers over this present darkness, spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. Our enemies are arrayed against us. We can’t see them, but they are there. And they are too mighty for us. However, with God on our side, training us for battle, equipping us with His armor, we can run against a troop. We can leap walls and tall buildings. We can chase down our enemies as they turn their backs on us. We can beat them fine as dust. We can do all of this not because our enemies are weak or because we are strong. We can do all of this because our God is amazing. Praise the Lord!

Tomorrow’s reading is Psalm 18.

Continue reading “In God’s Armor”

But David Always Fled to the Mountains!

Today’s reading is Psalm 11.

So, I’m struggling with what many commentaries say about this psalm. Over and over, they claim David is being given advice to flee to the mountains when he is being attacked, but he refuses. My one problem with this is David always fled to the mountains. When Saul was threatening him, he literally fled to and hid in the mountains. When Absalom conspired against him, David fled across the Jordan. Trying to make this a literal counsel received by David that he rejected will only work if we assume there was some other time of attack not recorded in the Scripture in which David decided not to flee. Which leaves me asking, what on earth is this about? Perhaps it isn’t intended to be taken literally, but metaphorically. That is, perhaps the point of the psalm is not about some time David refused to run to the mountains, but rather a time when he refused to take refuge in himself. Perhaps it is a time when the counselors were claiming God was no longer on David’s side, the foundations had collapsed, the righteous can no longer rely on being righteous. But David refused. Relying on God when Saul was chasing him meant hiding in the mountains and in other places. Relying on God when Absalom was conspiring against him meant fleeing across the Jordan. What neither time meant was deciding to fight his own way. With Saul, it didn’t mean striking God’s anointed, even when a good opportunity presented itself. With Absalom, it didn’t mean killing folks like Shimei along the way. Even when counselors were concerned that God was no longer looking out for David and it was time for him to look out for himself, David put his trust in the Lord. I need to do the same. How about you?

Tomorrow’s reading is Psalm 11

Continue reading “But David Always Fled to the Mountains!”

Innocent Suffering

Today’s reading is Psalm 7.

I have to admit that this psalm has given me trouble for a long time. It’s author is David. He is facing trouble from enemies. In the face of this, he has the nerve to say, “If there is wrong in my hands, if I have repaid my friend with evil…” and then later “judge me, O Lord, according to my righteousness and according to the integrity that is in me.” This is David. You know; the guy who committed immorality with Bathsheba and then murdered Uriah to cover it up. How can he say these things? First, keep in mind what we’ve said about psalms in earlier posts. They are snapshots of moments, not overarching, general doctrinal explanations about how things work. With that in mind, it is very likely this psalm was written before David’s immorality with Bathsheba. As stated in yesterday’s post, this was very likely written when David was being chased by Saul and other members of his family. However, even if it was written later, it is most certain that Cush, as a Benjamite, is not bringing charges and attacks against David because of his sin with Bathsheba, but is bringing charges and attacks against David for stealing the throne from Saul and his son Ish-bosheth. And what a great lesson this psalm brings to us. It is true no one is righteous save Jesus Christ alone. It is not possible that David was writing these things in the general sense of claiming complete personal righteousness. But sometimes we are facing attacks that go beyond our guilt or we are facing attacks for things we didn’t actually do. Sometimes we really are suffering innocently. And we really are allowed to say so and ask God to do something about it. In other words, just because you are suffering, doesn’t mean it is punishment from the Lord. You don’t have to go trolling around trying to figure out what you did to deserve this particular suffering. As we read through these psalms and piece them together, we are learning that whatever the situation, whether I’m guilty or whether I’m innocent, I’m allowed to pray and take my concerns to God. So are you. Praise the Lord!

Tomorrow’s reading is Psalm 7.

Continue reading “Innocent Suffering”

Who on Earth is Cush?

Today’s reading is Psalm 7.

This week’s psalm comes complete with a heading to explain the situational context of the psalm. But there is a problem. We have absolutely no idea who Cush was. This is the only place in the Bible this guy is mentioned. (He is most definitely not the other Cush mentioned in Scripture who is the son of Ham and the grandson of Noah.) Students of the psalms make some guesses. One is that Cush may be another name for Shimei the Benjamite who cursed David as he was fleeing Absalom (2 Samuel 16:5-8). However, the psalm itself, with David’s declarations of innocence, doesn’t really fit that situation. Some suggest it is King Saul and is a play on the fact that Saul is the son of Kish. Others point out there is no justifiable evidence for such wordplay. Further, it doesn’t seem that David, who in all other ways gave respect to Saul as the Lord’s anointed, would write this psalm about him. A third option is to simply claim it is someone from a time in David’s life that isn’t recorded for us in Scripture. The fourth, and the one I like the best, narrows that last option down to one of Saul’s family members during the time Saul was chasing David (see 1 Samuel 22:6-10). All of this speculation is neat and gives us something to think about, but perhaps the greatest point to recognize in this is understanding God doesn’t answer every possible question we might ever have. Imagine how big the Bible would have to be if that had been God’s goal. God has given us all we need to know. We can speculate on other things, but in the end, we can trust God that we have what we need to know about this psalm, about serving God, about David, about Jesus, about all things. Let’s trust the Lord and the grace He has given us through His Word. His grace is sufficient. His Word is sufficient. Praise the Lord!

Tomorrow’s reading is Psalm 7.

Continue reading “Who on Earth is Cush?”